Canada Plans To Reduce The Express Entry Wait Time To Six Months

Canada said it will expedite Express Entry applications most of which will be resolved in 6 months. This will begin once Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) resumes Express Entry invitations to Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), Canadian experience Class (CEC) and Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) candidates in early July.

The pandemic delayed immigration services causing some applicants to wait as long as two years for IRCC to finalise their permanent residency status. Express Entry applications took 6 months or less before the pandemic. A majority of applicants enter Canada via the Express Entry route.

Canada paused the entry of immigrants through the FSWP invitations in December 2020 and CEC applications in September 2021.

The development comes at a time of jobs glut in Canada with 800,000 job vacancies being reported. The country is witnessing record low unemployment.

Canada earlier announced a hike in the amount of settlement funds required to be shown for some Express Entry applicants. The changes apply only to FTSP without a valid job offer in Canada. Those with valid job offers and CEC candidates have been exempted.

Express Entry candidates who are eligible for FSWP and the CEC will be invited to apply in July.

FSWP and FSTP candidates who do not have a job offer in Canada typically require to show funds $13,310 and $3586 per family member.

According to data released by the Canadian government, Canada’s immigration backlog surpassed 2.1 million in April across all lines of business.

Canada has announced that it will speed the processing of Express Entry applications, saying that the majority of new applications will be processed within six months.

In early July, the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will start sending Express Entry invitations to candidates in the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), Canadian Experience Class (CEC), and Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP).

Abortion Ruling Leak Did Little To Change Americans’ Voting Intentions

When the leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization hit the press, suggesting the court is likely to overturn the Roe v. Wade precedent guaranteeing women the right to abortions, much of the conversation focused on how such a ruling would give Democrats a boost in the 2022 congressional elections.

However, despite intense political discourse in the media, the leak does not appear to have changed the minds of voters about the importance of the abortion issue. The finding is part of a forthcoming study conducted by marketing researchers at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of California, Los Angeles.

The research also highlights how Democrats might better frame the abortion issue to attract new supporters and motivate their base ahead of elections.

Anticipating a controversial summer ruling in the Dobbs case, Raphael Thomadsen and Song Yao at WashU’s Olin Business School and Robert Zeithammer at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, surveyed 350 potential voters — prior to the May 2 leak — about their support for hypothetical candidates based on salient issues including taxes, illegal immigration, climate change, health insurance, poverty and abortion. According to the authors, an advantage of this conjoint style of polling is that it reveals not only which candidate the respondent supports, but also how strongly the respondent feels about each issue.

Shortly after the leak, the team surveyed potential voters again — 300 in all — to see how the news had affected candidate preference. Even before the leak, abortion was an important issue to most voters. The polls showed that abortion had, on average, a 30% weight in respondents’ candidate preference.

Much to their surprise, though, the authors discovered the leak did not significantly increase the weight voters place on abortion in comparison with other issues the poll considered. For Democrats, that number remained steady at 32% following the leak. For Republicans, that number dipped modestly from 29% to 27% following the leak.

“While the average importance of abortion to voters was incredibly consistent, there is some evidence that abortion became slightly less important of an issue to Republicans after the leak, although the shift is still fairly small,” said Yao, associate professor of marketing at Olin Business School.

“Further, we see that abortion became a more important issue for voters who voted for someone other than Biden or Trump,” Yao said. “However, that group represents just under 2% of the voting population, so even if the Democrats captured these individuals’ votes, it would be hard to see the impact of this shift in the balance of power that would emerge this fall.”

According to Thomadsen, professor of marketing at Olin Business School, there are two issues with the way that Democrats are trying to frame the abortion debate to gain an electoral advantage.

“First, we see the Democrats trying to brand the Republicans as being anti-choice. However, this preference is already baked into the support that Democrats and Republicans are currently getting,” Thomadsen said.

“What would really change the abortion debate, however, is that Americans, as a whole, are strongly against abortion prohibitions in the case of rape, incest or to save the health of a mother. Even many Republicans would prefer abortion being legal for a short amount of time — we tested 12 weeks — to having no exceptions made to the law.”

The team’s most recent simulations suggest that if Democrats can paint the Republican-enacted laws as not allowing for these exceptions, they could increase their net electoral advantage by up to 6%.

“This 6% would reflect a small increase in Democratic votes, but a sizable shift in Republicans who would decide not to vote,” Thomadsen said.

‘Even many Republicans would prefer abortion being legal for a short amount of time — we tested 12 weeks — to having no exceptions made to the law.’

Democrats also need to include men in their abortion messaging, Thomadsen said.

“Abortion is framed as an issue for women. However, we find that men are nearly as passionate — and pro-choice — about abortion as women,” he said. “While abortion is an issue about women’s rights, it is important for Democrats to use the issue to rally both men and women, not just women.”

Finally, Thomadsen noted that Democrats also could make inroads with voters on economic issues.

“While the focus of this study was to see how Americans’ preferences shifted toward abortion, we also measured the preferences for many other policies,” he said.  

“We find that fixing health insurance by expanding Medicare to everyone who is not insured is fairly popular,” Thomadsen said. “Similarly, if the Democrats proposed cutting taxes, that would also bring a lot of support.

“This could be done in a very progressive way. For example, reducing each household’s taxes by $2,000, and providing refundable tax credits for those who owe less than a full $2,000 in taxes, is a very popular idea.” Republicans also gain from lowering taxes, Thomadsen noted, but that is baked into their status quo numbers.

A.R. Rahman Pitches For Indian Movies Not To Limit To Only Indian Stories

During the inauguration of the India pavilion at Cannes 2022 on Wednesday, Academy Award winner A.R. Rahman explained why we should tell stories about West and try to break the boundaries.

“I can’t say much because I’ve been in the industry for almost 40 years – ten years of playing outside as a musician and 30 years as a composer. I was a director for the sensory cinematic experience,” he said.

Rahman further shared that despite the fact we have our stories to tell, we must not restrict ourselves.

“Even though we have so many stories, we should tell stories about the West because we have a narrative about the West. We should be doing that.”

“The West does Gandhi, he (Shekhar Kapur) is the man who has done ‘Elizabeth: The Virgin Queen’. I am super inspired by him,” he added while hinting towards filmmaker Shekhar Kapur.

On the reason for choosing English language for his film, he elaborated: “The reason why I did this in the English language and for an international audience was to see if it is possible to break those boundaries and set a new path. Even if we fail it’s fine. I am talking about Le Musk, the sensory cinematic experience in Cannes XR. I want to thank my whole team, and please do check it out and see how we can improve and celebrate it. God bless you all. Thank you so much.”

The Indian delegation led by I&B Minister Anurag Thakur was present for the inauguration of the Indian pavilion at the ongoing Cannes Film Festival in France.

Deepika Padukone is attending the festival as a jury member, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Kamal Haasan, R Madhavan, Shekhar Kapur and Tamannaah Bhatia are among the Indian celebrities attending the 75th edition of the film festival. (IANS)

Monkeypox Due To Risky Sexual Behavior, Expert Says

A leading adviser to the World Health Organization described the unprecedented outbreak of the rare disease monkeypox in developed countries as “a random event” that might be explained by risky sexual behavior at two recent mass events in Europe.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Dr. David Heymann, who formerly headed WHO’s emergencies department, said the leading theory to explain the spread of the disease was sexual transmission among gay and bisexual men at two raves held in Spain and Belgium. Monkeypox has not previously triggered widespread outbreaks beyond Africa, where it is endemic in animals.

“We know monkeypox can spread when there is close contact with the lesions of someone who is infected, and it looks like sexual contact has now amplified that transmission,” said Heymann.

That marks a significant departure from the disease’s typical pattern of spread in central and western Africa, where people are mainly infected by animals like wild rodents and primates and outbreaks have not spread across borders.

To date, WHO has recorded more than 90 cases of monkeypox in a dozen countries including Britain, Spain, Israel, France, Switzerland, the U.S. and Australia.

Madrid’s senior health official said on Monday that the Spanish capital has recorded 30 confirmed cases so far. Enrique Ruiz Escudero said authorities are investigating possible links between a recent Gay Pride event in the Canary Islands, which drew some 80,000 people, and cases at a Madrid sauna.

Heymann chaired an urgent meeting of WHO’s advisory group on infectious disease threats on Friday to assess the ongoing epidemic and said there was no evidence to suggest that monkeypox might have mutated into a more infectious form.

Monkeypox typically causes fever, chills, rash, and lesions on the face or genitals. It can be spread through close contact with an infected person or their clothing or bedsheets, but sexual transmission has not yet been documented. Most people recover from the disease within several weeks without requiring hospitalization. Vaccines against smallpox, a related disease, are also effective in preventing monkeypox and some antiviral drugs are being developed.

The disease can be fatal in about 10% of infections, but no deaths have been reported among the current cases.

WHO said the outbreak is “atypical” and said the fact that cases are being seen in so many different countries suggests the disease may have been silently spreading for some time. The agency’s Europe director warned that as summer begins across the continent, mass gatherings, festivals and parties could accelerate the spread of monkeypox.

Other scientists have pointed out that it will be difficult to disentangle whether it is sex itself or the close contact related to sex that has driven the recent spread of monkeypox across Europe.

“By nature, sexual activity involves intimate contact, which one would expect to increase the likelihood of transmission, whatever a person’s sexual orientation and irrespective of the mode of transmission,” said Mike Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London.

On Sunday, the chief medical adviser of Britain’s Health Security Agency, Dr. Susan Hopkins, said she expected more monkeypox cases to be identified in the country “on a daily basis.” U.K. officials have said “a notable proportion” of the cases in Britain and Europe have been in young men with no history of travel to Africa and who are gay, bisexual or have sex with men. Authorities in Portugal and Spain also said their cases were in men who mostly had sex with other men and whose infections were picked up when they sought help for lesions at sexual health clinics.

Heymann, who is also a professor of infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the monkeypox outbreak was likely a random event that might be traceable to a single infection.

“It’s very possible there was somebody who got infected, developed lesions on the genitals, hands or somewhere else, and then spread it to others when there was sexual or close, physical contact,” Heymann hypothesized. “And then there were these international events that seeded the outbreak around the world, into the U.S. and other European countries.” He emphasized that the disease was unlikely to trigger widespread transmission.

“This is not COVID,” he said. “We need to slow it down, but it does not spread in the air and we have vaccines to protect against it.”

Heymann said studies should be conducted rapidly to determine if monkeypox could be spread by people without symptoms and that populations at risk of the disease should take precautions to protect themselves.

US Commission Votes To Process All Green Card Applications Within 6 Months

A presidential advisory commission has unanimously voted to recommend US President Joe Biden to proc­ess all applications for green cards or permanent residen­cy within six months, a pr­oposal if adopted is likely to bring cheers to the hundreds and thousands of Indian-Americans including those waiting for it for decades.

A Green Card, known officially as a Permanent Resident Card, is a document issued to immigrants to the US as evidence that the bearer has been granted the privilege of residing permanently in the US.

Indian IT professionals, most of whom are highly skilled and come to the US mainly on the H-1B work visas, are the worst sufferers of the current immigration system which imposes a seven per cent per country quota on allotment of the coveted Green Card or permanent legal residency.

The recommendations of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian America­ns, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (PACAANHPI) are to be sent to the White House now for approval. If adopted, it is is likely to bring cheers to the hundreds and thousands of Indian-Americans and those waiting, some even for decades, for a Green Card.

A proposal on the issue was moved by eminent Indian-American community leader Ajay Jain Bhutoria during the meeting of the PACAANHPI, during which all its 25 commissioners unanimously approved it.

The proceedings of the meeting here in the national capital were webcast live last week.

To reduce the pending Green Card backlog, the advisory commission recommended the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to review their processes, systems and policies and establish new internal cycle time goals by streamlining processes, removing redundant steps if any, automating any manual approvals, improving their internal dashboards and reporting system and enhancing policies.

The recommendations aim to reduce the cycle time for processing all forms related to family-based Green Card applications, DACA renewals and all other Green Card applications within six months and issue adjudicate decisions within six months of applications received by it.

The commission recommended National Visa Center (NVC) State Department facility to hire additional officers to increase their capacity to process Green Card applications interviews by 100 per cent in three months from August 2022, and to increase Green Card Card applications visa interviews and adjudicate decisions by 150 per cent up from capacity of 32,439 in April 2022 by April 2023.

Thereafter Green Card visa interviews and visa processing timeline should be a maximum of six months, it said. Aimed at making it easier for the immigrants to stay and work in the country, the commission recommended that the USCIS should review requests for work permits, travel documents and temporary status extensions or changes within three months and adjudicate decisions.

Only 65,452 family preference green cards were issued in fiscal 2021 out of the annual 226,000 green cards available, leaving hundreds of thousands of green cards unused (with many likely to be permanently wasted in the future) and keeping many more families needlessly separated.

There were 421,358 pending interviews in April compared to 436,700 in March, said the policy paper by Bhutoria. Noting that while the US population has grown substantially in recent decades, the immigration system has not changed to keep pace, he said. The annual levels of immigration were established in the early 1990s and have remained largely unchanged since then, he said.

To make matters worse, the method used to calculate the annual number of employment-and-family-based immigration is deeply flawed, and has led to family-based immigration levels being set at their absolute minimum every year for the past 20 years, while hundreds of thousands of green cards for family members go wasted, never used by any individuals when they could be used to reunite families instead, Bhutoria said.

Covid Has Claimed Over 1 Million Lives In US Alone

More than one million people have now died of Covid-19 in the US since the pandemic’s start, according to Tuesday data from Johns Hopkins University — a reminder the pandemic is not over even as much of the country pushes to move away from Covid-19 measures.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the number of Covid-19 deaths in the US was about 32% higher than reported between February 2020 and September 2021. Provisional data from the CDC also shows the US surpassed the death milestone during the week ending on May 14, and a CNN analysis of data released by the agency shows that severe outcomes disproportionately affected older Americans and minority populations.

About three-quarters of all Covid-19 deaths have been among seniors, including more than a quarter among people 85 and older, according to CDC data. And while racial and ethnic disparities have lessened over the course of the pandemic, the risk of dying from Covid-19 has been about two times higher for Blacks, Hispanics and American Indians compared to Whites in the US.

Last week, President Joe Biden issued a proclamation marking a million deaths and ordered the American flag to fly half-staff, writing that the nation “must not grow numb to such sorrow.”

“To heal, we must remember,” the President said in a statement. “We must remain vigilant against this pandemic and do everything we can to save as many lives as possible.”

And it all comes as Covid-19 cases are rising again across the country, with reported infections more than doubling over the past month in the US overall. New York City reached the “high” Covid-19 alert level, indicating high community spread and “substantial pressure on the health care system,” officials said, and encouraged people to wear high-quality masks in all public indoor settings and crowded outdoor spaces, regardless of whether vaccination status is known.

Across the world, there have been more than 524 million cases reported of the virus since the pandemic’s start — more than 82 million of which have been in the US.

Grim milestones throughout the pandemic

The World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020.

  • The US reported its first 100,000 deaths about two and a half months later, by May 23, 2020, according to Johns Hopkins.
  • There had been 200,000 deaths reported about four months after that, by September 22, 2020.
  • There were 300,000 deaths reported less than three months after that, by December 12, 2020.
  • There were 400,000 deaths reported about a month later, by January 17, 2021.
  • There were 500,000 deaths reported about another month after that, by February 21, 2021.
  • There were 600,000 deaths reported about four months later, by June 16, 2021.
  • There were 700,000 deaths reported about three and half months after that, by October 1, 2021.
  • There were 800,000 deaths reported about two and a half months after that, by December 13, 2021.
  • Less than two months later on February 4, the US reported a total of 900,334 deaths.

Overall, death rates have been higher in the Northeast region of the country and lowest in the West, according to JHU data.

But at the state level, death rates have been highest in Mississippi, Arizona and Oklahoma — each with more than 400 total Covid-19 deaths for every 100,000 people — compared with Vermont and Hawaii, which have had about 100 deaths for every 100,000 people.

Globally, there have been more than 6.2 million reported Covid-19 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins data.

Vaccinations have saved millions of lives

Vaccinations for the virus have saved millions of lives, but about half of all Covid-19 deaths in the US have happened over the past year — when vaccines were already widely available for everyone age 5 and older.

And though the government has not shared an official estimate of how many vaccinated people have died of Covid-19, a CNN analysis of CDC data shows that deaths in recent months have been much more evenly split between vaccinated and unvaccinated people as highly transmissible variants take hold, vaccine protection wanes and booster uptake stagnates.

But the risk of dying from Covid-19 is still about five times higher for unvaccinated people than it is for vaccinated people, according to the CDC.

And evidence continues to build around the critical importance of booster shots.

Of those vaccinated people who died from a breakthrough case of Covid-19 in January and February, less than a third had gotten a booster shot, according to a CNN analysis of data from the CDC. The remaining two-thirds had only received their primary series.

Devasahayam Pillai, Who Fought Scourge Of Casteism Made Saint By Vatican

Devasahayam Pillai, who converted from Hinduism to Christianity in the 18th century in the then kingdom of Travancore in what is now Kerala, was declared a saint by Pope Francis at the Vatican Sunday, the first Indian layman to be so venerated by the Catholic Church. Devasahayam, also known as Lazarus, was canonized at a ceremony for what the Vatican calls “enduring increasing hardships”.

“This sainthood is an invitation for us to live and lead a life free of discrimination,” said Father John Kulandai, who attended the canonisation at the Vatican as a key member of the team in Kanyakumari that worked on this matter. The original invitation from the Vatican had mentioned Devasahayam’s former caste “Pillai”. However, following protests that adding the caste name defeats the purpose of what Devasahayam stood for, the Vatican removed it, NDTV said.

“Saint Devasahayam stood for equality and fought against casteism and communalism. His sainthood comes at a time India is facing a surge in communalism,” said retired Indian civil servant M G Devasahayam, who had written to the Vatican, seeking removal of Devasahayam’s caste name.

“This canonization is a great opportunity for the Church to stand against the prevailing communal poison. The church should have made this a people’s movement, but they failed and made it a clergy-centric event,” he added.

The announcement comes at a time when the Christian community has been under assault in parts of southern India from Hindu chauvinists who have been accusing the Church of using their missionary work to convert poor and vulnerable Hindus and have attacked many churches.

Born Neelakandan Pillai in Hindu upper caste family in present-day Kanyakumari, he worked at Travancore palace. In 1745, he converted to Christianity and took the names of Devasahayam and Lazarus. He went on to fight against caste discrimination among Hindus and was persecuted and then killed.

In 2012, the Vatican recognized his martyrdom after a rigorous process. Devasahayam was chosen for the sainthood after a woman in her seventh month of pregnancy testified to a “miracle” after praying to him in 2013.

The woman said that her foetus had been declared “medically dead” and that there was no movement. However, she said, she experienced movement “after praying to the martyr”. The Vatican accepted this and recognized Devasahayam for sainthood, NDTV said quoting Church sources.

India Is Committed To Spread Teachings Of Buddha Across World

The India government is committed to spread the teaching of Lord Buddha in every corner of the world, said Union Culture Minister G. Kishan Reddy on Monday. He was speaking at an event to celebrate Vaishakh Buddha Poornima here.

On the occasion of the 2,566th Vaishakh Buddha Poornima, also called the Triple Day of Vesak to mark the day of Lord Buddha’s birth, enlightenment & passing, the Ministry of Culture with its grantee body ‘International Buddhist Confederation’ organised the function in New Delhi. The programme showcased the life and teachings of Gautam Buddha.

“Buddha’s followers are spread across the world, but around 90 per cent of them are from Southeast Asia and East Asia. Buddhists visit India as pilgrimage from every corner of the world. We are working to bring 25 lakh Buddhists every year in India,” said Reddy.

He said that Indian government is working on mission mode with state governments to develop Buddha Circuit.

Under this circuit, different types of activities like connectivity, infrastructure development, logistics, cultural research centre, heritage, communications are being undertaken on mission mode, he added.

“During the US visit in September 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi brought 157 artefacts and antiquities. Out of total artefacts brought back, 16 relate to Buddhism. We want to bring all artefacts and antiquities related to Buddhism India from wherever they are,” said the Culture Minister.

Talking about the teachings of Buddha, Reddy said that it teaches us to respect the nature.

“His teachings show the path that goes beyond sorrow and grief and inspire to be an ideal man,” he added.

“Any country, small or big, aspires to become a powerful nation, only path is to follow the teachings of Buddha. Buddha’s path is universal path which is middle path,” said Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju, who was also present on the occasion. (IANS)

Abortion Debate Divides A Deeply Divided Nation

The leaked news about the reported Supreme Court decision to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide,  based on the Constitution that protects a pregnant woman’s right to choose abortion without excessive government restriction, has divided the nation, which has been already polarized and divided in recent times.

As per reports, a draft opinion written by conservative US Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito is expected to fundamentally alter reproductive rights, states’ authority and American politics, startled Supreme Court lawyers, court experts, members of Congress and journalists. “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” the draft opinion states. It was signed by Justice Samuel Alito, a member of the court’s 6-3 conservative majority who was appointed by former President George W. Bush.

If the nation is divided on one of the most important cases that has been debated in the top Court, the justices who occupy the highest court are even more divided on the case and its implications for the millions of women who are impacted by the court that has once again proved to be a political organization, based on the ideologies of the Justices rather than the true spirit of the Constitution.

As per the leaked documents, all the Republican appointed Justices on the Court, except Chief Justice John Roberts are said to be in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade, and in the process denying women their right decide on their health and wellbeing. The justices voting with Alito are all Justices appointed by Republican Presidents: Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanagh, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett.

The Democratic-appointed justices on the court, Stephen Breyer, who will retire this summer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, are working on one or more dissents, Politico reported, noting that Chief Justice John Roberts’ ultimate vote is unclear.

According to CNN sources, Roberts did not want to overturn Roe and would likely side with Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor. Instead, he is willing to uphold the Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, per the report.

Overturning Roe would strike down what many abortion rights defenders, including Supreme Court justices appointed by presidents of both political parties, have long described as settled law. It would limit access to abortions across much of the country, including parts of the South and Midwest. In at least 13 states, abortion would immediately become illegal. As Alito’s opinion notes, the ruling would allow each state to set its own laws and restrictions. One of those restrictions deals with medication abortion, accompanied by criminal penalties.

“The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion,” the Alito draft states. “Roe and [1992’s Planned Parenthood v.] Casey arrogated that authority. We now overrule those decisions and return that authority to the people and their elected representatives.”

The draft opinion in effect states there is no constitutional right to abortion services and would allow individual states to more heavily regulate or outright ban the procedure.

“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” it states, referencing the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey that affirmed Roe’s finding of a constitutional right to abortion services but allowed states to place some constraints on the practice. “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

The document was labeled a “1st Draft” of the “Opinion of the Court” in a case challenging Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks, a case known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

An AP-NORC poll in December found that Democrats increasingly see protecting abortion rights as a high priority for the government. Other polling shows relatively few Americans want to see Roe overturned. In 2020, AP VoteCast found that 69% of voters in the presidential election said the Supreme Court should leave the Roe v. Wade decision as is; just 29% said the court should overturn the decision. In general, AP-NORC polling finds a majority of the public favors abortion being legal in most or all cases.

Still, when asked about abortion policy generally, Americans have nuanced attitudes on the issue, and many don’t think that abortion should be possible after the first trimester or that women should be able to obtain a legal abortion for any reason.

Alito, in the draft, said the court can’t predict how the public might react and shouldn’t try. “We cannot allow our decisions to be affected by any extraneous influences such as concern about the public’s reaction to our work,” Alito wrote in the draft opinion, according to Politico.

People on both sides of the issue quickly gathered outside the Supreme Court waving signs and chanting on a balmy spring night, following the release of the Politico report.

Planned Parenthood, in a statement late Monday, said, “The leaked opinion is horrifying and unprecedented, and it confirms our worst fears.”  A majority of Americans oppose overturning the 49-year-old ruling, according to recent surveys. A CNN poll in January found that 69 percent of respondents were against doing away with Roe while 30 percent were in favor.

The leak jumpstarted the intense political reverberations that the high court’s ultimate decision was expected to have in the midterm election year. Already, politicians on both sides of the aisle were seizing on the report to fundraise and energize their supporters on either side of the hot-button issue.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), in a joint statement, said a majority vote to overturn Roe “would go down as an abomination,” adding that it would be “one of the worst and most damaging decisions in modern history.”

Senate Judiciary Committee member Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) tweeted Monday night that the published Alito opinion pointed to a role for Congress. “It is a fundamental right for a woman to make her own health decisions. We must protect the right to choose and codify Roe v Wade into law,” she said.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, also a Democrat, said people seeking abortions could head to New York. “For anyone who needs access to care, our state will welcome you with open arms. Abortion will always be safe & accessible in New York,” Hochul said in a tweet.

On the GOP side, lawmakers were incensed with the disclosure of the high court’s draft. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said that the court and the Justice Department “must get to the bottom of this leak immediately using every investigative tool necessary” (The Hill).

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch said in a statement, “We will let the Supreme Court speak for itself and wait for the Court’s official opinion.” But local officials were praising the draft. “This puts the decision making back into the hands of the states, which is where it should have always been,” said Mississippi state Rep. Becky Currie.

A decision to overrule Roe would lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states and could have huge ramifications for this year’s elections. But it’s unclear if the draft represents the court’s final word on the matter — opinions often change in ways big and small in the drafting process. The court is expected to rule on the case before its term ends in late June or early July.

Indian Americans Condemn Connecticut Statement On ‘Sikh Independence’

Several groups of Indian Americans have come together to condemn a statement by the Connecticut State General Assembly purporting to show support for what it called the “Declaration of Sikh Independence.”

The Indian Consulate General in New York has described it an attempt to use the name of the Assembly to “promote bigotry and hatred. We condemn the so-called citation of the General Assembly of the State of Connecticut in the USA regarding an illegal act.” It said that the Consulate and the Embassy in Washington “will take up this issue appropriately with the concerned US lawmakers”.

The Consulate said that the adoption of the General Assembly’s statement “is an attempt by some mischievous elements to use the name of the Assembly for their nefarious purposes. These vested interests seek to divide communities and promote bigotry and hatred”.

“Their agenda of violence has no place in democratic societies like the USA and India.”

Thomas Abraham, the Chairman of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin said that the group’s Connecticut chapter will meet the legislators behind the statement and explain the situation. He deplored the statement calling it “terrible”. Abraham, who is based in Connecticut, said that a “fringe group got it adopted at the tail-end of the Assembly session without the knowledge of most elected officials”.

Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) – Connecticut Chapter has deplored the citation by a few members of Connecticut General Assembly congratulating declaration of Sikh Independence.  “This initiative is from a few fringe elements who have no interest in the State of Connecticut, but promoting their own personal divisive agenda,” said Dr. Thomas Abraham, Chairman of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin and Trustee of GOPIO-CT.

“Indian American community in Connecticut consists of Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Parsees. All these communities live together as one Indian community and Connecticut state has no business to comment on issues pertaining to local issues in India or supporting fringe elements to promote their divisive agenda,” Dr. Abraham added. “There are 20 million Sikhs living peacefully with all other communities all over India and this citation goes against the integrity of India,” said Ashok Nichani, President of GOPIO-CT

The statement by the CT Assembly attributed to the Democratic Party-controlled State General Assembly comprising both the House of Representatives and the Senate was read out at a ceremony in front of the Norwich City Hall on April 29, according to a video by TV84, a New York Punjabi online media.

“Connecticut General Assembly offers its sincerest congratulations to the World Sikh Parliament in recognition of the 36th anniversary of the declaration of Sikh Independence”, said the statement purportedly signed by Senate President Pro-tem Mark Looney, Speaker Matthew Ridder and Secretary of State Denise Merril, according to the video.

“We join with you and your friends and family in commemorating the historic resolution passed on April 29th 1986 by the collective Sikh nation,” it added. The World Sikh Parliament is a Khalistani organization.

The Day newspaper in New London said that Democrat Swaranjit Singh, who is a Norwich Alderman (the equivalent of council member), participated in the observances in Norwich. The newspaper said that World Sikh Parliament leaders hoisted what it called a “Punjab flag” in front of the City Hall.

As of May 1, the General Assembly statement could not be found in its online records or on the websites of legislators who could have sponsored it. Nor were there any US media reports about the statement.

Sikh issues have come up in the past in Connecticut. Its legislature passed a resolution in 2018 declaring November 1 as “Sikh Genocide Remembrance Day” for those killed in the 1984 Indian government action against Sikh separatists in the Golden Temple.

The public library in Norwich put up a “1984 Sikh Genocide Memorial” that featured a large portrait of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the Khalistan separatist leader in 2019.

But the display donated by Swaranjit Singh was removed within weeks after the Indian consulate protested. Last month, a Sikh issue also made it to the US House of Representatives in Washington.

On April 18, Massachusetts Democrat member of the House Richard Neal made a statement wishing the World Sikh Parliament for Baisakhi and declared: “Despite their beliefs of good-will, Sikhs have been subjected to violence and have fought relentlessly to defend their faith, most notably in 1984 with Sikh genocide during the anti-Sikh riots in India”.

The statement is in the Congressional Record and it is not clear if he actually made it on the House floor or if it was added to the record as many such statements are because of the tight schedule of Congress.

GOPIO-CT Outreaches To Indian American Academics In Connecticut

As part of the GOPIO-CT’s outreach to the university faculty, the chapter joined hands with Quinnipiac University for a Meet and Greet Program on Friday, April 22nd at Clarion Hotel in Hamden, CT. It was an event where GOPIO members and other community organization representatives had a networking reception and an open mike interaction followed by an Indian dinner. Academics were from Quinnipiac, Yale, University of Connecticut and University of New Haven. This is first time Indian American and Indic academics from these schools came together on a Pan-Indian platform.

After the networking Meet and Greet, the program started with a welcome by GOPIO-CT Executive Vice President Prasad Chintalapudi who then introduced GOPIO Founder and current Chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham. Dr. Abraham, spoke on the journey of GOPIO over the years since 1989 and how, the Indian Diaspora community which was outside the political mainstream in many countries changed over to political mainstream in countries with large Diaspora population.

Dr. Abraham also spoke on the Welcome Dinner for new students from India at the UConn Business School at Stamford and Hartford campuses organized by GOPIO-CT and hoping to do the same in the Hamden/New Haven area.

Dr. Abraham also mentioned that the Indian Am3rican academics could play important roles in correcting misinformation on India and the Indian American community, as for example the recent statement by University of Pennsylvania professor Amy Wax.

This program to reach the academics was initiated by GOPIO-CT Board Member Prof. Sujata Gadkar-Wilcox, who has also been a Democratic Party candidate from the assembly district in Trumbull.

“It is a pleasure to have faculty members from Quinnipiac University, Yale University, the University of New Haven, and from the greater South Asian community come together to discuss shared connections and opportunities for collaboration and we look forward to hosting future events that will incorporate students and continue to build programming that serves the local community and highlights the many important contributions of the South Asian community in Connecticut,” said Prof. Gadkar-Wilcox.

Academics who participated included Prof. Ravi Dhar, American behavioral scientist, an expert in consumer behavior and branding, currently the George Rogers Clark Professor of Management and Marketing at Yale School of Management; Prof. K. Sudhir, James L Frank Professor of Private Enterprise, Management and Marketing & Director of the Yale China India Insights Program (CIIP) Yale School of Management; Prof. Shyam Sunder, James L. Frank Professor Emeritus of Accounting, Economics and Finance, Yale School of Management; Prof. Ramesh Subramanian, Gabriel Ferrucci Prof of Computer Information Systems, Quinnipiac; Asha Rangappa, Former FBI agent, Senior lecturer at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, and a commentator on CNN; Kamal Upadhyaya; Professor of Economics and Business Analytics, University of New Haven; Prof. Narasimahan Srinivasan, Associate Professor Marketing, UConn School of Business; Prof. Ewa Callahan, Associate Professor of Interactive Media and Design, Quinnipiac; and Prof. Mohammad Elahee, Professor of International Business, Quinnipiac.

Connecticut Association of Physicians of India (CAPI) was also represented at the event with Dr. Subbarao Bollepalli (Former President of CAPI), Dr. Veena Vani and Drs. Raminder (Micky) and Rachna Walia. The program was sponsored by Wire and Plastics Machinery manufacturer Rakesh Narang and his wife Neelam along with Prof. Wyn Gadkar-Wilcox who is Professor of History & Non-western Cultures, Western Connecticut University.

In the interactive session many new ideas were shared. Plans are ahead to continue this network and to organize a Welcome Dinner for the new students from India in September in central Connecticut and at the UConn, Storrs campus.

Over the last 16 years, GOPIO-CT, a chapter of GOPIO International has become an active and dynamic organization hosting interactive sessions with policy makers and academicians, community events, youth mentoring and networking workshops, and working with other area organizations to help create a better future. GOPIO-CT – Global Organization of People of Indian Origin – serves as a non-partisan, secular, civic and community service organization – promoting awareness of Indian culture, customs and contributions of the Indian Diaspora through community programs, forums, events and youth activities. It seeks to strengthen partnerships and create an ongoing dialogue with local communities.

FIA Celebrates Gujarat Maharashtra Day

The Federation of Indian Association and the Indian Consulate celebrated Gujarat Maharashtra Day on May 1. 2022 at the Indian Consulate premises in New York as part of the ongoing celebrations of ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ commemorating 75 years of Indian Independence.

The chief guests to grace the occasion were  Ms. Archana Joglekar – a celebrated actress, director & a renowned Kathak exponent, and Ms. Kaajal Oza Vaidya – a noted author, scriptwriter, radio jockey, and a motivational speaker.

The event was attended by Hon Consul General Sh. Randhir Jaswal, Hon DCG Dr. Varun Jep, FIA President Mr. Kenny Desai, FIA Chairman Mr. Ankur Vaidya, Padma Shri Sh. H R Shah, Padamshri Dr. Sudhir Parikh, Mayor of Edison Mr. Sam Joshi and FIA’s Srujal Parikh, Alok Kumar. Smt Smita Miki Patel amongst others.

Hon CG Shree Randhir Jaswal welcomed the guests and said that the Indian Diaspora from both the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra, not only in America but in other countries as well, continues to contribute towards the economic and social progress of the countries they live in.

Hon DCG Dr. Varun Jep, in his speech said that people from both the states are leaders in Finance, Business, Entrepreneurship and they also stand out for their rich cultural traditions and heritage.

FIA president Mr. Kenny Desai said that the state of Gujarat is the ‘Karambhoomi’ of Lord Krishna and has been the land of many notable figures hailing from different fields like Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Bhakt Narsi Mehta, Vikram Sarabhai, PM Sh Narender Modi, and the Industrial houses of Ambanis and Adanis. He mentioned that Mahrashtra has been the guardian of Hindu Sanatan Dharam and have produced bravehearts like Chattrapati Shivaji, Baji Rao Peshwa and Ahilyabai Holkar. He said that people from both states have contributed to the Economic, Industrial and Financial growth of India.

FIA Chairman Mr. Ankur Vaidya in his speech said that he was born and brought up in Baroda in Gujarat which had a significant Maharashtrian Influence and as such had the best of both cultures. He also emphasized the need to engage other Indian Communities and have events and gatherings where all the members from the various Indian communities can participate. He said that Hon CG Sh Jaiswal has done a tremendous job in this direction to bring the communities together. He also lauded the efforts of the officials and staff of the Indian Consulate for doing an unprecedented job and in being accessible to all.

One minute silence was observed in the memory of founding member, Past President and Vice Chairman Emeritus Late Mr. Yashpal Soi. Mr. Vaidya remembered him for his selfless service and dedication to the cause of FIA and lamented the loss FIA has suffered in his passing away.

Guru Archana Joglekar spoke about the folk of Maharashtra. She explained in detail about the culture and folk tradition of Maharashtra. She also spoke about the shared culture of both states.

Kajal Oza Vaidya said that both the states should be seen in unison and commended the fact that the twin states took to the path of progress and development and have excelled in the fields of enterprise, culture, commerce, and entertainment. She said that today’s gathering is proof of the fact that our country lives in our hearts.

Padma Shri Mr. H R Shah said that he is honored to be there for the event and gave a brief outline of the history behind the Gujarat Maharashtra day when the 2 states came into being. Ms. Sam Joshi Mayor of Edison said that it was an honor to be present and spoke about his vision to have a satellite office of IIT India in Edison. He thanked the FIA for their initiatives which go a long way in keeping the Indian Community in touch with their Indian roots.

Event Chair, Past President, and member of Board of Trustees of FIA,  Sh. Srujal Parikh said it’s a great honor to celebrate the event and took pride in the fact that Gujarat is the Land of Lord Krishna & Mahatma Gandhi. He recognized and felicitated the sponsors, supporters, partner associations, and members in their effort to make the event successful

Padma Shri Sudhir Parikh said that he shares a personal bond with Maharshtra as he did his schooling from Mumbai. He attributed his success to the State of Gujarat as it accorded him his higher education

The audiences were regaled with cultural performances from both the states and especially the ‘Garbha’ and ‘Laavni’ which they thoroughly enjoyed. The Maharashtrian folk dance was performed by the students of ‘Archana Nritalya’ which is run by Guru Archana Joglekar.

AAPI Presents A Five-Week Webinar On Meditation Practices

American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) in collaboration with the Heartfulness Institute organized a five-week webinar, from March 20th to April 17th on Heartfulness Meditation Practices, guided by Revered Kamlesh D. Patel (DAAJI), who is the Heartfulness Global Guide, and initiated by Dr. Anupama Gotimukula President of AAPI and Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect of AAPI. The Heartfulness Institute has held a series of wellness lectures that provide meaningful practices to AAPI physicians and continuing medical education credits.

AAPI members, including Dr. Chandra Koneru,  Dr. Murthy Gokula, Dr. Jayaram Thimmapuram, and Dr. Kunal Desai, who have been engaging in heart-based meditation for decades presented and led the hundreds of AAPI members who had joined in and participated in the webinars.

“The Covid pandemic has impacted all aspects of human life as never been before,” said Dr. Gotimukula.  “The past two years have been challenging to everyone, particularly those who are assigned with the responsibility of caring for the sick, especially as millions have been impacted by the big pandemic. There has been a noticeable rise in burn out among healthcare professionals,” she pointed out.

AAPI, the largest ethnic medical organization in the country, representing the interests of over 100,000 physicians of Indian origin, has been focusing on ways to help AAPI members, who have been in the forefront helping millions of patients around the nation, to take care of self and find satisfaction and happiness in the challenging situations they are in, while serving hundreds of patients everyday of their dedicated and noble profession, Dr. Anupama Gotimukula said.

In this context, in partnership with the Heartfulness Institute, AAPI has embarked on a mission to educate its members and provide opportunities to promote self-care, improve physician wellness, and reduce burnout.

“Our physician members have worked very hard during the covid 19 pandemic. The Heartfulness Meditation has allowed AAPI to serve these hard working members who are our COVID 19 Heroes.  It is a perfect time to heal the healers with a special focus on wellness as we rejuvenate and relax,” said Dr. Ravi Kolli, who, along with several AAPI members visited and experienced Heartfulness Meditation at the Kanha Shantivanam on the outskirts of Hyderabad, during the Global Healthcare Summit organized by AAPI in January this year.

The Heartfulness Institute is a not-for-profit organization established in 130 countries that provides meditation techniques that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep, enhance emotional intelligence, and explore the depth of human consciousness.

The Heartfulness Institute’s mission is “to offer all humanity a simple and effective set of practices for relaxation, meditation, regulating the mind, and building inner strength and attitudes to create a lasting sense of fulfillment and overall, wellbeing.”

“Our practices include heart-based meditation,” said Dr. Chandra Koneru, an Internal Medicine Professional, AAPI member, and Heartfulness Trainer. “Our values align with the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) mission to facilitate and enable Indian physicians to improve patient care and engage in research that brings distinctive contributions from India.”

The first webinar session led by Dr. Koneru was an introduction to Heartfulness practices: “A Program Overview: Why Meditate? Health, Happiness, and Harmony.”  Dr. Koneru said, “Meditation unleashes the potential within us that we never before knew.” He shared with the audience the values of meditation, how meditation translates to evidence-based health outcomes, and how the harmony and happiness that meditation can evoke in physicians can have a ripple effect on their patients.

Dr. Koneru explained the relaxation techniques physicians can practice to create restorative and refreshing energy boosts. He outlined what it means to connect with the heart, fix your thoughts, and allow divine energy to fill the heart through a practical demonstration. “Heartfulness relaxation techniques remove stress and tension from the body, calm the nervous system, and settle our breathing habits,” he said.

Dr. Koneru also discussed meditation methods, centering oneself, and finding inner stillness and contentment. Heartfulness meditation is supported by the ancient yogic technique of Pranahuti, which allows us to dive deeper into the heart from the outset., he added.

Dr. Murthy Gokula, M.D., C.M.D., DipABLM, Family Medicine, Geriatrics & Lifestyle Medicine, AAPI member, and Heartfulness Trainer, while leading the discussion on “Rejuvenation: Adding Lightness, Joy, and a Carefree Attitude to Life” spoke about the rejuvenation technique, which involves a well-established scientific methodology using guided imagery to remove the day’s stressful impressions and undesirable interactions.

Dr. Gokula said, “Cleaning purifies the mind of all its complexities and heaviness, allowing you to feel light in your approach to life. This 30-minute practice will detox your mind. After the rejuvenation technique, you will return to a simpler and more balanced state. Every cell of your body will emanate simplicity, lightness, and purity.”

Dr. Jayaram Thimmapuram, Internal Medicine, AAPI member, and Heartfulness Trainer, who spoke about “Inner Connect and Good Sleep and Cultivate Meditative Mind, Heartful Living” in two separate sessions, said, “Our quality of sleep and sleeping habits shape our physical and mental health. Our attention, intention, and attitude at bedtime play a significant role in transforming ourselves. With a proper attitude of humility, love, and openness to change, improving our sleeping habits can transform our lives.”

According to him, “Cultivating a meditative mindset is an outcome of meditative practices. A meditative mind is a dynamic state of inner stillness that progressively fills our life with contentment, calmness, compassion, courage, and clarity.”

Dr. Kunal Desai, an Infectious Disease Specialist, AAPI member, and Heartfulness Trainer, while addressing the participants on “Tips for Deeper Meditation Experience” stated that the best way to experience meditation and find purpose is to focus on health-related benefits like stress improvement, sleep quality improvement, and anxiety reduction. He suggested adopting an approach of sitting silently at your desk for a few minutes to focus inwardly. “This small practice can pave the way for more mindfulness and intentional acting. He also advocated for small moments of meditation before bed, prayer, and diary writing to focus on meditation,” Dr. Desai said.  “With interest and the right attitude, you can evaluate yourself to see that you will evolve to find the real purpose of your life,” he added.

Dr. Ranga Reddy, a Past AAPI President stated, “I have been with AAPI for over 25 years. This is the first time AAPI has collaborated with the Heartfulness program to bring awareness to physicians about the benefits of meditation in reducing stress and anxiety and improving patient care during these trying times. I hope AAPI will continue this collaboration to bring harmony and happiness to physicians, patients, and the public to create a healthy and peaceful society for the greater good.”

Dr. Rida Khan, who had attended the webinar, while sharing the impact it had on him, stated, “I have always been a meditation aficionado, so it was heartening to discover that it could be a continuing medical education activity. The practical meditation sessions taught the techniques in real-time and backed them with scientific, informative, and journal club-style didactics.”

Dr. Khan went on to state, “No doctor should battle the vicissitudes of the work of a physician alone. Introducing physicians to meditation provides a powerful tool to help alleviate stress, maintain stability, and enhance fulfillment in their lives.  It helps to meditate in groups to protect your practice from lapsing, receive regular feedback, and exchange intellectually stimulating ideas. Meeting like-minded people in your field broadens your perspective of how a physician should and could be. As a newly minted physician myself, I find it invaluable to have those role models in my life.”

What was begun as a five week series has been planned to be extended for a longer as the AAPI members have shared for the need and expressing as to how the sessions have helped them personally and professionally.

“Heartfulness meditation practices are offered free of cost. By connecting with a local trainer at one of our 6,000 global Heart Spots, you can dive deeper into meditation with free assistance from a certified Heartfulness trainer,” Dr. Gokula added. For more details, please visit: https://heartspots.heartfulness.org. To connect with a virtual trainer, download the Heart-In-Tune app at  https://www.heartintune.org.

For more information on AAPI and its several noble initiatives in the past 40 years, please visit: www.aapiusa.org

AAPI/CAPI CT Organizes Blood Donation Drive At Middletown Temple

The Connecticut Chapter of The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (CAPI) in partnership with the local American Red Cross, Middle Town  Hindu Temple and the national American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) organized a Blood Donation Drive at the Middletown Hindu Temple on Saturday, April 30th.

Led by Dr. Sushil Gupta President of CAPI, the 2nd blood donation drive by CAPI in the past few months has been inspired by the call by Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of national AAPI, who is leading AAPI in its efforts to host Blood Donation Drive in as amnay as 75 cities across the United States, to commemorate India’s 75 years of Independence.

“In line with the national AAPI’s motto, we at CAPI are happy to join in several other AAPI Chapters and lead this noble initiative to donate blood with the objective of saving lives around the nation,” said Dr. Sushil Gupta, President of CAPI. “We plan to organize future blood drives in other parts of Connecticut in the near future.”

Dr. Gupta expressed gratitude to “Drs. Subbarao Bollepalli, Sujata Prasad, Jaya, Daptardar, Viji Kurup from CAPI, who had volunteered to organize this event and made it successful.” He also thanked Hari Krishna, President of the Middletown Hindu Temple Board and Kiran Pyneni, who had helped to provide the venue and made all the arrangements for the blood drive.

“It is a spot exemplar as a ‘team work’ dedicated to the social welfare and happiness of the community,” said Dr. Jaya Daptardar, an organizer of the event and had donated blood during the highly successful event. “The Blood Drive, while honoring India on her 75th year of Independence, has been dedicated to the Fallen Heroes, who have sacrificed their lives to save the lives of others infected with the deadly Covid pandemic,” Dr. Jaya Daptardar added.

Drs. Sushil Gupta, Jaya Daptardar and Prasad Sureddy, in addition to  coordinating the efforts and organized the successful Blood Drive, also donated Blood during the Drive.

“I am grateful to the dozens of local AAPI Chapters including CAPI for initiating and organizing the Blood Donation Drives and Stem Cell Registration across the nation, in honor of the Fallen Heroes of Covid-19, and as India is celebrating 75 years of our Independence. I am so proud that we have taken this initiative to organize AAPI Blood Donation Drives in 75 cities across the nation,” said Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI,) the largest ethnic organization in the United States.

Each blood component of a whole blood transfusion can help up to three different people. Pointing to the fact that Blood cannot be manufactured despite medical and technological advances. The only way we can give blood to those who need it is through donation. It doesn’t cost us anything to donate but your donation saves lives. Blood is needed every two seconds, said Dr. Meher Medavaram, Chair of AAPI’s national blood donation drive.

CAPI was formed with the objective of promoting charitable and philanthropic activities; communicating with other Indian associations in North America to promote cultural and social events, and fostering a relationship with future generations of physicians of Indian Ancestry. For more details of CAPI membership please visit: https://capionline.com

USCIS Announces Work Visas Validity To Be Extended From 180 Days To 540 Days

Under the new temporary rule announced by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service early May, certain categories of work visas will automatically extend validity of their work authorization from 180 days to 540 days starting May 4, 2022.

As per USCIS’s guidelines, “This rule temporarily amends existing Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations to provide that the automatic extension period applicable to expiring Employment Authorization Documents (Forms I-766 or EADs) for certain renewal applicants who have filed Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, will be increased from up to 180 days to up to 540 days from the expiration date stated on their EADs.”

This new rule brings hope to some of the thousands of Indians working in the U.S. As Partner and Attorney Min Kim of Chugh LLP explains, “The temporary rule should primarily help foreign nationals with an EAD incidental to a filed and pending AOS application as EAD adjudications have routinely taken much longer than 180 days given the unprecedented backlogs at the Service Centers in recent months.”

Now, an AOS applicant, or an eligible H-4 spouse, or L-2 spouse among other eligible EAD applicants, can be assured that there will be minimal concern of an employment-gap in their work authorization as they await their renewed EAD cards to arrive, Kim explains.

But he does remind those in line that, “Once again, the expansion of the auto-extension rule does not make more people eligible for this benefit, but for those who do fall in the bucket of eligible EAD applicants, it helps stabilize their ability to remain in the U.S. and continue to work.”

Background For last several years USCIS processing delays have caused the spouses of H, L and E visa holders to quit their jobs and wait over a year in most cases for their employment authorization document renewals caused by USCIS processing delays.

These are doctors, nurse practitioners, engineers, teachers, media professionals, et al, who could have continued serving our communities but could not for no fault of theirs.

Kimberly Hernandez, 21, of Arlington, Va., stands in the center of Mount Pleasant Street as the march heads toward the White House on Thursday. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Sarah L. Voisin

They did everything by the book, filed their papers six months ahead of time, and continued to look at processing times which increased from 90 days in pre-Covid era to 1.7 years in current times.

In March 2022, USCIS announced it wishes to implement premium processing to reduce some of the backlog. While USCIS will begin premium processing for various categories in October 2022, the announcement came with a start date in 2025 for H, L and E visa categories. Why this differential treatment with the spouse of visa holders?

A welcome change with a caveat The new temporary rule is welcomed by employers and attorneys but does nothing much for the community affected most by USCIS’s processing delays – certain spouses of high skilled immigrant visa holders from highly populated countries like India and China, under H, L and E categories. These visa holders still need a valid I-94 to benefit from USCIS’s new temporary regulation which means they must have a valid underlying visa.

Nevertheless, Managing Partner and Attorney Diya Mathews of Chugh LLP gives a qualified welcome to the change and questions the delays.

“The extension of another 180 days for pending EAD applications is a welcome move by the DHS. However, this is still simply a stop-gap measure. DHS needs to look into why the adjudication of a 765 application, especially when it’s a renewal, should take as much time as it currently does. Is DHS really so backlogged that it cannot ensure that EAD adjudications in under 6 months?”

Things were different at one point in the past. “It used to be that if your EAD application was not adjudicated in 6 months, you could go to the local Field office and get an interim EAD,” Mathews recalls.

H4 EAD visa holders from across the country met with staff at the Office of Management and Budget in Washington, D.C. in 2019, to advocate against rescinding employment authorization. Photo: courtesy Neha Mahajan/Skilled Immigrants In America.

“That provision has been taken away. We have clients who now have to jump through the hoops so they don’t lose their jobs navigating this byzantine EAD adjudication system,” she notes.

And Department of Homeland Security apparently has a mechanism for expediting deserving cases, “but it’s the rare case that actually meet their criteria for expedited processing,” Mathews says adding that while these interim measures are helpful to a limited extent, DHS needs to address the underlying issues and work on improving the case processing times for these applications.

The H, L and E visa holders have two options: They step outside of United States and reenter with their visas stamped,

Wait for their visas to be approved by USCIS which at the moment is neck deep with over 1.5 million pending work permits.

Recently, USCIS Director Ur Jaddou noted that there are 1.5 million work permits requests pending approval.

Since the beginning of Covid, U.S. consulates and embassies across the world are not yet working in full capacity and dates are periodically released by State Department. It is a simple case where demand is higher than the supply. Social media support groups on WhatsApp and Telegram are filled with folks anxiously looking for a date to get their visa stamped!

Salman Rushdie, Sabyasachi Mukherjee Among Inducted Into American Academy Of Arts & Sciences

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences elected several Indians from around the world to be members of the august body which was established in 1780, and which “honors excellence and convenes leaders to examine new ideas and address issues of importance to the nation and the world, and advance the public good.”

The list which was announced April 28, 2022, contained Indians from U.S., U.K. and India in several fields of endeavor ranging from science to arts and humanities.

This year’s election of 261 new members includes at least 14 persons of Indian descent. “We are celebrating a depth of achievements in a breadth of areas,” David Oxtoby, president of the American Academy is quoted saying in the press release. “These individuals excel in ways that excite us and inspire us at a time when recognizing excellence, commending expertise, and working toward the common good is absolutely essential to realizing a better future.”

The new members join the likes of Benjamin Franklin (elected 1781) and Alexander Hamilton (1791) in the eighteenth century; Ralph Waldo Emerson (1864), Maria Mitchell (1848), and Charles Darwin (1874) in the nineteenth; Albert Einstein (1924), Robert Frost (1931), Margaret Mead (1948), Milton Friedman (1959), Martin Luther King, Jr. (1966), Stephen Hawking (1984), and Condoleezza Rice (1997) in the twentieth; and more recently Jennifer Doudna (2003), Bryan Stevenson (2014), M. Temple Grandin (2016), John Legend (2017), Viet Thanh Nguyen (2018), James Fallows (2019), Joan Baez (2020), and Sanjay Gupta (2021).

This year’s list of artists, scholars, scientists, and leaders in the public, non-profit, and private sectors elected to the Academy include the following of Indian descent:

Physics – Ramamoorthy Ramesh, University of California, Berkeley

Physics – Shamit Kachru, Stanford University

Engineering and Technology- Nilay Shah (IHM), Imperial College London

Computer Science –George Varghese, University of California, Los Angeles

Cellular and Developmental Biology- Arshad B. Desai, University of California, San Diego

Cellular and Developmental Biology- Harmit Singh Malik, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Evolution and Ecology- Maharaj K. Pandit (IHM) , University of Delhi

Medical Sciences – Abraham C. Verghese, Stanford School of Medicine

Economics – Rohini Pande, Yale University

Philosophy and Religious Studies – Jamsheed K. Choksy, Indiana University

Philosophy and Religious Studies – Archana Venkatesan, University of California, Davis

Literature – Salman Rushdie

Visual Arts – Sabyasachi Mukherjee (IHM), Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalay

Scientific, Cultural and Nonprofit Leadership – Maya Ajmera Society for Science

Petition In Indian Court To Search Taj Mahal For Hindu Idols And Inscriptions

A petition has been filed in the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court seeking directives to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to open 20 rooms inside the Taj Mahal in Agra to ascertain whether the Hindu idols and inscriptions are hidden there.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) media in-charge of Ayodhya district, Dr Rajneesh Singh has filed the petition which is yet to come up for hearing.

“There is an old controversy related to the Taj Mahal. Around 20 rooms in Taj Mahal are locked and no one is allowed to enter. It is believed that in these rooms there are idols of Hindu gods and scriptures,” said Dr Rajneesh Singh.

“I have filed a petition in the high court seeking directives to ASI to open these rooms to ascertain facts. There is no harm in opening these rooms and setting to rest all controversies,” said Singh on Sunday.

In the plea, the petitioner has sought directives from the court to the state government to constitute a committee that would examine these rooms and look for any evidence related with the Hindu idols or scriptures there.

Rajneesh Singh said he has been trying to ascertain facts about the 20 locked rooms of Taj Mahal since 2020 through the Right to Information Act (RTI).

Singh had filed an RTI in 2020 with the Union ministry of Culture seeking information about the rooms. “Since 2020, I have been trying to ascertain facts about the locked rooms of Taj Mahal. I had filed an RTI. Replying to the RTI, the Union ministry of Culture informed the Central Information Commission (in Delhi) that these rooms were locked due to security reasons and no detail was provided about these rooms,” he added.

“In the RTI, I had sought details about the locked rooms (what is inside them) and directives to open them,” Singh said. “When all my efforts failed then I have approached the Lucknow high court seeking directives to the government to open these rooms and constitute a fact-finding committee to find out whether Hindu gods and scriptures are inside them,” he added.

It may be pointed out that several right-wing organisations claim Taj Mahal to be Tejo Mahalaya, a Hindu temple. (IANS)

Indian-American Women Launch Digital Platform To Screen Films

A group of Indian-American entrepreneurs launched a video conference platform, where filmmakers from Hollywood and Indian cinema can screen their own cinematic content.

The USP of this initiative, ‘We Must Meet’ is that it can live stream political events, Town Halls, sports events, and concerts, which can be accessed by up to 30,000 people at the same time.

‘We Must Meet’ content will comprise international as well as regional projects. It will be driven by an annual subscription model and is being launched in India and globally.

Kimberly Guilfoyle, former US President Donald Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign adviser, has announced her involvement with ‘We Must Meet,’ a new digital platform launched by a group of women of Indian descent. The technological initiative is said to be the first video conferencing platform that can also function as an OTT platform, allowing Hollywood and Indian filmmakers to screen their own cinematic content.

Elaborating on the platform, Manju Mason, who has conceptualized ‘We Must Meet’, said in a statement: “The software has been entirely developed in the United States and is community-based. It will change the way people will meet and host business meetings.”

The platform is powered and managed by the technology company Iotum. The company announced that We Must Meet is soon going to launch We Must Meet Theme Parks, Boutique Hotels, resorts, and restaurants under the same brand.

The move comes at a time when India’s OTT market is growing fast and has the potential to become the largest in the world.

Indian Rupee Falls To The Lowest

The Indian rupee extended its losses and touched an all-time low of 77.42 against the US dollar in early trade on Monday, May 10th.

The Indian currency is weighed by the strength of the American currency in the overseas market and continued foreign fund outflows. Further, rupee slipped on surge in crude oil prices

Foreign institutional investors were net sellers in the capital market on Friday, as they offloaded shares worth Rs 5,517.08 crore, as per stock exchange data. They have been selling equities constantly in the recent months.

Rupee has been under-pressure after global central banks started normalising policy and last week RBI too started raising key interest rates.

On Friday, the rupee had slumped 55 paise to close at 76.90 against the US dollar.

“Local units are also hit by haven dollar flows, higher global rates due to rising inflation and risk-off sentiments. Weakness in Chinese yuan, which fell to its weakest level since November 2020, also weighing on regional currencies,” said Dilip Parmar, Retail Research Analyst at HDFC Securities.

So far this year, foreign institutions have withdrawn a total of nearly $19 billion from domestic equities and debt markets, Parmar said.

Parmar sees near term depreciation in rupee could continue for a few more days with lower side limited in the range of 77.70 to 78. In the event of unwinding, the rupee could see levels of 77 to 76.70.

According to Sugandha Sachdeva, VP-Commodity and Currency Research at Religare Broking, the Indian rupee has plummeted to record lows amid the deteriorating risk sentiments and the unrelenting spree of overseas outflows from the domestic equities.

Besides, an unabated rise in the dollar index towards a two-decade high, soaring US treasury yields and crude prices, all of them have worked their way to push the domestic currency on a downward trajectory, Sachdeva told IANS.

“Markets are concerned about the spiralling inflation and prospects of an aggressive tightening path that continues to threaten the growth outlook, leading to safe-haven flows in the greenback.”

Also, hardening crude oil prices as the EU is moving ahead to impose an embargo on Russian oil are roiling the sentiments, leading to worries about the widening current account deficit and exacerbating the pressure on the domestic currency.

Going ahead, as the Indian rupee has breached the previous all-time lows of the 77.14-mark, it seems poised to witness further depreciation towards the 78-mark in the near term.

Sachdeva, however, anticipates that RBI will intervene around the 78-mark to curb excessive depreciation in the Indian currency.

According to experts, this depreciation is caused by the strength of the American currency in the overseas market and continuous foreign fund outflows from the Indian market. Some also attribute the fall of the rupee to rising crude oil prices globally due to the Russia-Ukraine crisis and the COVID induced lockdown in Shanghai.

India Regulates ‘Ayurveda Aahara’

The Centre, with the ‘Food Safety and Standards (Ayurveda Aahara) Regulations, 2022’, has brought certain checks on Ayurveda Ahara, the food prepared in accordance with the recipes or ingredients or processes as described in the authoritative books of Ayurveda.

Among the important regulations is that the labeling cannot claim to cure or treat any human disease, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) said.

This is applicable to food business operators who would be required to formulate Ayurveda Aahara in accordance with the categories and requirements as mentioned in the Regulations.

“However, this Ayurveda Aahara cannot be manufactured for infants up to 24 months age,” said an official from FSSAI about the Regulations put out in public domain by way of a notification late on Sunday night.

The government also clarified that packed food items used in day to day life for dietary purposes, such as pulses, rice, floor or vegetables etc. shall not be covered under this.

The Regulations also mention specific labeling and demand the manufacturer to use only that with specifications such as intended purpose, target consumer group and/or recommended duration etc.

It mentions a list of 32 additive items that are permitted in the Ayurveda Aahara. These include Guar Arabic/Acacia Gum, Konjac Flour, Jaggery, Mollasses, Paprika/Paprika Extract/Paprika Oleoresin and Caramel plain among others.

There are 71 authoritative books mentioned as part of the regulation, which also mentions the categories of Ayurveda Aahara and regulatory requirements. The Regulations also mention permissible contaminants and its maximum limits.

MPs From India Visit Chicago University To Discuss Energy And Environment

A delegation comprising nine MPs from different states and various parties is visiting University of Chicago scholars, policymakers, and opinion leaders in Chicago currently for a knowledge exchange programme on energy and environment.

The Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) India is hosting the delegates at the University of Chicago “with an aim to augment the capacity of India’s political leadership in advancing policies that provide lasting environmental benefits” between May 8 and 12.

“Some MPs reached on May 7 and some on May 8. Their formal engagements start on Monday Chicago time,” an EPIC official told IANS here on Monday.

This is the third edition of the Legislator’s Programme. The MPs include Rajya Sabha members Amar Patnaik (Biju Janata Dal), Priyanka Chaturvedi (Shiv Sena) and C.M. Ramesh (Bharatiya Janata Party), and Lok Sabha members Brijender Singh, Shivkumar Udasi , Rahul Kaswan, Heena Gavit (all Bharatiya Janata Party), Kotagiri Sridhar (YSR Congress Party), and Ritesh Pandey (Bahujan Samaj Party).

“Innovative policies work when policymakers are ready to experiment. From our working for several years in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Odisha, Bihar, and other Indian states, we know that Indian lawmakers have been at the forefront of trying groundbreaking policies to balance India’s growth story and environmental concerns. Therefore, we are thrilled to learn and share best practices with Indian MPs and join them in accelerating positive change for citizens across India,” Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and director of EPIC, said.

The Indian MPs would interact with the University of Chicago faculty and experts on wide-ranging policy areas, including climate policy, carbon markets, air pollution, and water quality. They will also have an interaction with young minds studying at the University of Chicago.

“As we learn from the experiences of our MPs, we are also trying to share EPIC’s global and India-specific research findings to co-identify priorities and solutions that may be implemented in individual constituencies. The goal is also to carry out groundbreaking research that addresses global and local challenges,” EPIC India’s Executive Director, Sidhartha Vermani said.

India’s Covid-19 Death Tally Estimated To Over 4.74 Million; WHO

A World Health Organisation (WHO) report on excess COVID-19 mortality has estimated 4.74 million deaths for India in 2020 and 2021, nearly 10 times higher than the country’s official coronavirus toll of 4.84 lakh during the two years.

India, according to the report, had the highest excess COVID-19 deaths, followed by Russia and Indonesia. Globally, the world health body has estimated that almost three times more people have died of COVID-19 than the official data.

As per the UN body, there were 14.9 million excess deaths associated with COVID-19 by end-2021. The official count of deaths directly attributable to COVID-19 and reported to WHO in that period — from January 2020 to the end of December 2021 — is slightly more than 5.4 million. This means that the estimated toll is 9.5 million higher than the recorded fatalities.

Health ministers of several Indian states, cutting across party lines, appear to be united in questioning the veracity of the World Health Organization (WHO) report on Covid-19 fatalities worldwide, with India’s fatality count pegged at 4.74 million between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021 — labelling it “fabricated” and “devoid of facts”.

But why is the death tally doubtful?

The WHO report isn’t the first to question the death tally due to Covid-19 in India. Earlier too, several reports have come out with estimates of India’s Covid-19 death toll that has been at wide variance with the official figures. According to a University of Washington’s Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, India’s fatality count due to the pandemic between March 2020 and early May 2021 stood at 6.54 lakh. A New York Times analysis, based on sero surveys, put the figure at closer to 4.2 million, up to May 24 last year while another study by The Lancet pegged the number at 4.07 million, between January 2020 and December 2021.

The gaps: 8% of all deaths in India are never registered, according to government data with just 20% of deaths being medically certified. In certain states like Bihar, Nagaland and Manipur, the registration of deaths with the civil registration system (CRS) is less than 50%. In fact, just one state — Goa — has a 100% record in registering all its deaths with the CRS. The Centre and the states, while dismissing WHO’s report, cited the death registration figures from the CRS to buttress their claims that India’s official Covid-19 fatality count is up to date.

Counting methodology: In the initial days of the pandemic, in 2020, only those people who tested positive for Covid-19 and later succumbed to it were counted as pandemic casualties. All those who may have died without being tested, whether at home or in a hospital — testing facilities were limited leading to delays in getting test reports — but who may have shown clear symptoms of the disease, as also those who had underlying health conditions such as diabetes or weakened immune systems due to cancer treatments were not counted as Covid-19 fatalities.

Revised guidelines following a direction by the Supreme Court, to both the Centre and the states to be more liberal in recording Covid-19 deaths coupled with the apex court’s order for paying Rs 50,000 as compensation for Covid-19 deaths led to a surge in claims being filed, which were higher than the official death count in several states, such as Gujarat. Some states, such as Kerala, have in fact regularly carried out ‘reconciliation’ exercises to update their official fatality figures.

People Of All Faiths Celebrate Eid- Ul-Fitr

Chicago IL: The Chicago community, belonging to all faiths, came together to celebrate Eid ul Fitr, with great enthusiasm and reverence, at Falak Banquets. The event was attended by large number of ‘who is who’, representing public offices at the City and State level. Mr. Iftekhar Shareef, Mr. Altaf Bukhari, Mr. Rezwan-ul-Haq, Dr. Tajamul Hussain, Mr. Asad Khan, Mr. Khaja Moinuddin, Mr. Ashfaq Hussain Syed, Mr. Kader Sakkaria and Mr. Khurram Syed hosted the colorful Eid event.

Speaking on this occasion, Mr. Iftekhar Shareef, Community leader said, with a sense of pride, that America is unique and exceptional in its equal respect for all religions. He said that understanding different religions and respecting them has been the hallmark of American culture.

Dr. Tajamul Hussain, said all religions teach love and empathy and we have to build bridges and spread love. He opined that practicing these values is the need of the hour for giving a big boost to mutual co- existence, especially in the present times, which are characterized by increasing distances among people professing different faiths. “My hometown is Hyderabad in India, which is known for “Ganga Jamuni Tahzeeb’, that is, a fusion of elements of different religions”, he added.

Asad Khan, Community leader, said that Chicago is well-known for exceptionally good relations among people belonging to different religions, regions, and nations. “This unique characteristic has mainly contributed for the emergence of Chicago as the best place to live.

Rezwan-ul-Haq, said that all human beings belong to one race and, therefore, love is the single language, which even blind can speak and deaf can hear. He stated that Eid ul Fitr celebrates the value of unity. Khaja Moinuddin, Community leader, emphasized the beauty of the US in general and Chicago in particular which is grounded in principles of diversity and acceptance of fellow Americans.

Ashfaq Syed underlined the importance of building better understanding among people belonging to different backgrounds and thereby contributing to the continuous development of the US on all fronts. Kader Sakkaria, Community leader, said that India believes in the traditional values of giving utmost respect for the religions of others. “The Indian Americans, by practicing this great value, have been enriching the social fabric of the US”, he added.

Altaf Bukhari, Community leader who was dressed in the unique Indian attire said it is important to have interfaith events for all communities. Khurram Syed, Community leader, welcomed the guests for joining the Eid al Fitr celebrations during a busy mother day weekend, when many have family commitments and plans.

The Chicago Eid Committee presented awards to the community leaders for their excellent service to the community of Chicago and Dr. Suresh Reddy, Dr Rajiv Kandala, Rezwanul Haque, Saima Azfar, Shalini Gupta and Rajendra Singh Mago were awarded. The book release of A.Q. Siddiqui was also done by the Chicago Eid Committee and Mr. Siddiqui signed the copies for the community.

An array of eminent persons from different walks of life, including elected officials and many community leaders spoke on the occasion and underlined the need for more and more such occasions for enabling people, belonging to different backgrounds, to interact and understand others’ faiths in their true and total frame of reference. Samreen Khan & Sariq Bukhari were the MC’s and thanked all the guests who attended the Eid celebration. The Live band and singers were outstanding.

Vatican Astrophysicists Offer New Way To Study Gravity After The Big Bang

Two Catholic priests, both astrophysicists from the Vatican Observatory, have suggested a radically new mathematical approach to studying the initial moments following the Big Bang that gave birth to our universe.

Little is known about the first seconds of the universe’s existence, and one of the deeper puzzles is accounting for the role gravity played in those early moments. The Rev. Gabriele Gionti, a Jesuit, and the Rev. Matteo Galaverni, a priest in the Diocese of Reggio Emilia-Guastalla in Northern Italy, set out to propose a new technique that explains how gravity might have behaved as the cosmos expanded rapidly at its inception.

Their research, published in the prestigious Physical Review D journal on April 15, proposes an alternative to the Jordans-Brans-Dicke theory of gravitation, which solves difficulties with Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity in describing gravity after the Big Bang, but which has its own inconsistencies.

Einstein’s theory works well in explaining the way matter behaves on a large scale but clashes with the way quantum physics describes the gravity among the smallest observable particles. For years, Gionti has attempted to reconcile the two.

The priests’ work is “a tassel within this search that the scientific community has been conducting for many years on quantum gravity, meaning that gravity is capable of affecting (matter) even at a very, very small scale,” said Galaverni in a Zoom interview conducted by RNS with the two priests on Thursday (May 5).

“We realized that within limits, when the gravitational constant is very high, it’s possible for the speed of light to go to zero, meaning that nothing propagates because gravity is too high,” said Gionti.

“This might be a way to explain what happened after the Big Bang,” he said. In layman’s terms, Gionti said, “It’s like being in a theater, and until now we have seen the musicians and the orchestra with our eyes. Now with gravitational waves we can also hear the music. This is revolutionizing and will revolutionize the next decades of astronomy,” he added.

Gionti clarified that their “research is based on a very speculative and theoretical mathematical approach,” which will have to be tested in its physical and observable consequences.

They wrote their theory at the Specola Vaticana, the Vatican Observatory in Castel Gandolfo, the pope’s summer residence, drawing up their abstract calculations both on computers and  blackboards as they compared and discussed their ideas.

Pope Leo XIII created the Specola in 1918 “in a time of modernism where society accused the church of obscurantism,” Gionti said. The Vatican trials against astronomers and thinkers like Galileo Galilei and Giordano Bruni in the 16th century had pegged the Catholic Church as a “determined opponent to scientific progress,” he explained.

“The Vatican created the Vatican observatory for priests, nuns and religious to prove to the world that the church directly contributed to science by providing it with an astronomical observatory that worked scientifically like all other observatories,” Gionti said.

Gionti and Galaverni’s work stands on the shoulders of great scientists as well as on the work of religious people. It was a diocesan priest from Belgium, Georges Lemaître, who first theorized the Big Bang in the early 20th century. Numerous priests and religious contributed to today’s understanding of gravity and astronomy. The Jesuit Angelo Secchi laid out the principles for how we classify stars today from the roof of the Church of St. Ignatius in Rome.

Science and religion are “two complementary approaches that must be respected in their diversity,” Galaverni said, who added that studying the universe is “not something that proves my faith, it’s something that enriches it.”

“Science also teaches me a certain humility in looking at the universe and recognizing our smallness and seeing the greatness of God in this,” he added. While studying the laws of physics and nature, the universe seems harmonious and well-ordered, he said, adding that “for someone of faith it’s an easy step to recognize in this order the footprint of God.”

Their work has been well received by their scientific peers, “but we are not finished yet. There are other questions that we haven’t answered,” Gionti said.

Dilip Chauhan Appointed Deputy Commissioner In New York Mayor’s Office

New York Mayor Eric Adams office announced the appointment of Dilip Chauhan as the Deputy Commissioner, Trade, Investment, and Innovation for International Affairs, thus, adding a leading South Asian to his team and 1st to the coveted position. Mr. Chauhan’s primary goal is to work to attract and retain businesses and foreign direct investments in the city as it recovers from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thanking the Mayor in a statement, Mr. Chauhan said he is honored to have been entrusted with the importance task of establishing strong relationships between New York City, the diplomatic corps, and the international business community. He will work to amplify New York City as a global economic center and a hub for innovation, Mr. Chauhan added.

“Specifically, I will work to attract and retain businesses and foreign direct investments across our five boroughs as we recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said in the statement, adding that through the management of relationships with Consulates, the United Nations, Permanent Missions, and Trade Commissions, he will ensure New Yorkers benefit from the City’s innovative economic programs, including the Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprises.

In addition, he will also focus on strengthening partnerships related to Smart Cities, Sister Cities agreements, crypto-related developments and cross-state international business development, he added in the statement.

Mr. Chauhan comes to the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs from the Brooklyn President’s office, where he served as the Executive Director of Southeast and Asian Affairs. As the Executive Director, he worked towards empowering the South and Asian communities in Brooklyn.

Previously, Mr. Chauhan lead the Minority Affairs office in Nassau County in New York  as Deputy Controller, the first South Asian to hold this office. In that role, he worked on setting guidelines, and was able to empower the Community for proper participation of MWBE businesses. He contributed to this effort by arranging different boot camps for small businesses, which created community awareness and participation campaigns, and built lasting strategic partnerships with various community organizations.

November 12, 2016, was declared as “Dilip Chauhan Day” in sixth US Congressional District New York in “honor of his work”.

India’s Pharma Exports Rise 103% In 8 Years

India’s pharma exports have witnessed a growth of 103 per cent since 2013-14 from Rs 90,415 crore to Rs 1,83,422 crore in 2021-22. The exports achieved in 2021-22 is the Pharma Sector’s best export performance ever and is a remarkable growth with exports growing by almost USD 10 billion in eight years, said Ministry of Commerce & Industry in a statement on Sunday.

Highlighting the achievement in a tweet, the Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal said: “India’s booming drugs & pharmaceuticals exports more than double in 2021-22 compared to 2013-14. Under the active leadership of PM @NarendraModi ji, India is serving as ‘Pharmacy of the World”.

The pharma exports in 2021-22 sustained a positive growth despite the global trade disruptions and drop in demand for COVID related medicines. The trade balance continues to be in India’s favour, with a surplus of USD 15175.81 Million, said the ministry.

India ranks third worldwide for production by volume and 14th by value. Indian pharma companies have made global mark with 60 per cent of the world’s vaccines and 20 per cent of generic medicines coming from India.

The share of pharmaceutical and drugs in India’s global exports is 5.92 per cent. The formulations and biologicals continue to account for a major share of 73.31 per cent in total exports, followed by Bulk drugs and drug intermediates with exports of USD 4437.64 million. India’s top five pharma export destinations are the US, UK, South Africa, Russia and Nigeria. (IANS)

Nand Mulchandani Named Chief Technology Officer Of CIA

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director William J. Burns has announced the appointment of Nand Mulchandani to serve as the US spy agency’s first-ever Chief Technology Officer (CTO).

With more than 25 years’ experience working in Silicon Valley as well as the Department of Defense (DoD), Mulchandani brings substantial private sector, startup, and government expertise the CIA said in a statement.

As the CTO, Mulchandani will ensure the Agency is leveraging cutting-edge innovations and scanning the horizon for tomorrow’s innovations to further CIA’s mission. “Since my confirmation, I have prioritized focusing on technology and the new CTO position is a very important part of that effort. I am delighted Nand has joined our team and will bring his extensive experience to this crucial new role,” said Burns.

Prior to joining CIA, Mulchandani most recently served as the CTO and Acting Director of DoD’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center. He also co-founded and was CEO of several successful startups Oblix (acquired by Oracle), Determina (acquired by VMWare), OpenDNS (acquired by Cisco), and ScaleXtreme (acquired by Citrix).

He has a degree in Computer Science and Math from Cornell University, a Master of Science degree in Management from Stanford University and a Master in Public Administration degree from Harvard University.

“I am honored to join CIA in this role and look forward to working with the Agency’s incredible team of technologists and domain experts who already deliver world-class intelligence and capabilities to help build a comprehensive technology strategy that delivers exciting capabilities working closely with industry and partners,” said Mulchandani.

US Economy Shrinks By 1.4% In 2022 Amid Omicron Surge

The US economy shrank at an annual rate of 1.4 per cent in the first quarter as effects of the Omicron surge start to show up, the US Commerce Department reported.

The latest data marks the economy’s first contraction since the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the country in early 2020, Xinhua news agency reported.

“In the first quarter, an increase in Covid-19 cases related to the Omicron variant resulted in continued restrictions and disruptions in the operations of establishments in some parts of the country,” the department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) said in an “advance” estimate.

The BEA noted that government assistance payments in the form of forgivable loans to businesses, grants to state and local governments, and social benefits to households “all decreased as provisions of several federal programs expired or tapered off”.

The decrease in real gross domestic product reflected declines in private inventory investment, exports, federal government spending, and state and local government spending, while imports — a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased, the report showed.

Personal consumption expenditures, non-residential fixed investment and residential fixed investment increased, it added.

The US economy contracted in the first quarter as inflation remained elevated at levels not seen in four decades.

The March consumer price index surged 8.5 per cent from a year earlier, the largest 12-month increase since the period ending December 1981, according to data from the Labour Department. That compared with a 7.9 per cent year-on-year gain in February.

Since the March policy meeting, a flurry of comments from US Federal Reserve officials indicated that the urgency for rate hikes is growing, and the central bank is prepared to take more aggressive actions going forward.

Diane Swonk, Chief Economist at major accounting firm Grant Thornton, noted in a recent analysis that as the Fed moves forward with more aggressive rate hikes to combat surging inflation, “what was the strongest and fastest recovery on record may soon be among the shortest.”

Even Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, who argued that soft, or at least softish landings have been relatively common in the US monetary history, noted that no one expects that bringing about a soft landing will be straightforward or easy in the current context. “It’s going to be very challenging,” Powell said.

Former US Treasury Secretary, Lawrence Summers also pointed out that in the past decades, when inflation was above 4 per cent and unemployment was below 4 per cent, the US economy usually fell into recession within two years, which means the Fed’s task would be very difficult.

“A growth recession is likely; unemployment will rise,” Swonk said, adding, “Those waiting for a recession to hire workers may find themselves without the jobs they had hoped to fill.”

India’s Attempt To Marry Biometric And Voter ID Databases

Over the past decade, the Indian government has assembled a sprawling biometric database designed to improve the delivery of social services to the country’s more than 1 billion citizens. The Aadhaar database is one of the world’s largest biometric identity programs and has been credited with making it easier for Indians to access subsidies and pension payments. Using fingerprints and iris scans, Aadhaar has made it possible for the government to verify the identity of the country’s residents with relative ease. Now, the Election Commission of India wants to link their voter registration database with Aadhaar, a move that would have profound consequences not only for the privacy of Indian citizens but for the future of biometric databases worldwide.

As it stands, the Election Commission of India (EC) stores its voter registration information in its own database and has its own verification tools. However, the Election Commission of India believes Aadhaar can offer increased protections against fraud and registration errors. In August, the Government of India, on behalf of the EC, approached the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the body that administers Aadhaar, with a proposal to integrate the two databases. In December 2021, the Lok Sabha passed the Election Laws Amendment Bill, which creates a legal framework for integrating the two systems. Opposition groups argue that the bill will face serious legal hurdles.

The Aadhaar-EPIC controversy illustrates the serious problems that can arise when large biometric identity databases are expanded beyond their remit. Far from making India’s elections more secure, the marriage of the two systems could lead to disenfranchisement and increased voter microtargeting. With countries around the world launching or already administering biometric databases, India’s efforts to marry its biometric identification system to its voter registration database will provide an important precedent for how governments deploy such systems. India’s experience with biometric identification systems should be a lesson for policymakers overseeing similar efforts about the importance of investing in the security of the information ecosystem in which biometric and voting data is housed, how access to this data is regulated and monitored, and how the technology is actually deployed in voter registration and identification.

A global democratic leader

As the world’s largest democracy and an exporter of voting technology, India’s approach to electoral management is likely to influence how other countries run their elections. It was a mere decade ago that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described India’s election commission as the “the global gold standard for running elections” and observed that the commission “is already sharing best practices with counterparts in other countries, including Egypt and Iraq.” Today, India is an exporter of technology used to administer elections, and decisions made in India regarding the administration of domestic elections are likely to influence its peers.

The Aadhaar-EPIC controversy touches on two issues of concern to policymakers and scholars interested in the ways that biometric technologies are being integrated into electoral processes and democratic governance more broadly. The first is the global spread of biometric identity databases. According to the World Privacy Forum, 160 countries collect biometric data for national ID systems. Even when these systems work as intended, critics argue that they become tools of state surveillance creating “risks to privacy and anonymity” and conditioning “citizens into participating in their own surveillance and social control.” And these systems often do not work as intended. Their data ecosystems are often insecure and unregulated, consisting of multiple private and public actors, networks, and databases. This creates opportunities for private actors to access personal data, making them an attractive target for malicious hackers. They can also be exclusionary, placing undue burdens on rural and urban poor to take time off work, travel, and produce papers in order to get IDs. When biometric indicators change, a person’s identity could effectively be lost.

The second issue is the integration of biometrics into voter registration and identification systems. According to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, 50 of the 176 democracies in their database use some form of biometrics to verify the identity of voters. The reasons for using biometrics are straightforward. Ideally, they curb fraud, eliminate multiple registrations, and make elections more secure and efficient. In practice, however, the utility of these systems depends on the context in which they are deployed, such as the independence of a given country’s electoral management body, poll policy and training, civic education and voter confidence, and overall cost. Moreover, election management bodies often do not have the expertise or resources to design and implement their own biometric systems and are thus reliant on private actors to install and manage these systems. These private actors further complicate the information ecosystem in which personal data circulates.

The EC argues that integrating Aadhaar and EPIC is important for two main reasons. First, it will eliminate fraudulent and duplicate registrations, which can bog down electoral administration, slow voting times, and in some cases affect electoral outcomes. Second, it will make it easier for migrant laborers to vote as it would allow them to walk into any polling station, have their identity verified, and then cast a ballot in their home election.

Critics of the move contend that the union of the two systems poses major risks. Civil society actors and journalists have argued that not only is the move unnecessary, but that it could also threaten voter privacy and lead to mass disenfranchisement and fraud. Most recently, a group of 500 prominent citizens and 23 civil society organizations signed a statement decrying the EC’s proposal, calling it “a dangerous idea which can fundamentally alter the structure of our democracy.”

The Aadhaar ecosystem

Launched in 2010 by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), Aadhaar was initially designed as a voluntary system for verifying the identities of Indian residents. Explicitly not a citizenship card, Aadhaar aimed to ease access to welfare services such as pension systems, cooking gas subsidies, and income taxes by providing people a simple mechanism for confirming their identity. Enrollees receive a unique 12-digit ID number in exchange for some simple demographic information and two forms of biometric identification: a fingerprint and an iris scan.

But Aadhaar quickly expanded past its initial remit and became a quasi-mandatory form of identity for accessing social services. Aadhaar’s rapid and largely unregulated expansion has resulted in data leaks, an inability to access government services, and degraded biometrics and loss of identity. Aadhaar’s rapid expansion spurred a series of legal challenges that were resolved in 2018, when India’s Supreme Court validated Aadhaar’s constitutionality but limited its use to certain kinds of welfare programs. Critics of Aadhaar continue to attack the system’s security and data gathering procedures and argue that Aadhaar is a tool of state surveillance that makes it harder for the poor to receive benefits. (For an in-depth history of the Aadhaar controversy see here.)

Researchers have identified myriad issues with Aadhaar but two are particularly relevant to its integration with EPIC. The first is the lack of data standards in Aadhaar’s enrollment process. This process usually involves three actors: the UIDAI, registrars, and enrollment agencies (EA). First, the UIDAI signs a memoranda of understanding with a government agency, a public service undertaking (a company that’s ownership is split between the state and private entities), or other organization granting them the authority to enroll people in Aadhaar. Registrars then farm out enrollment to an EA. These agencies use UIDAI-approved software and biometric devices to register people for Aadhaar. While EAs use certified equipment and software, there is no standardized approach to data collection. EAs have significant discretion as to what kinds of documents they can accept to identify someone for Aadhaar enrollment. This creates possibilities for data-entry errors and corruption in the Aadhaar registration system, causing a host of issues that range from failure to receive pension payments and other welfare benefits to identity theft and the public exposure of personal information.

The second relevant issue is a lack of transparency and accountability in how Aadhaar’s data is handled when it is seeded with other databases. In 2017, for example, in a report for the Center for Internet and Society, Amber Sinha and Srinivas Kodali analyzed publicly available datasets from four schemes seeded with Aadhaar. They found 100-135 million Aadhaar numbers and 100 million bank account numbers disclosed across the four schemes. Incidents such as this emphasize that Aadhaar’s insecure ecosystem creates real-world harms for Indian citizens. The original intent behind Aadhaar was to create a simple system for verifying the identity of Indian citizen’s trying to access government services. However, data leaks and inappropriately handled data have led to many accounts of personal information being exposed. A recent audit of the UIDAI by India’s Comptroller and General Auditor (CAG) found that the organization had failed to properly regulate its client vendors and ensure the security of their data vaults. The report also found many instances of duplicate and incomplete registrations. The audit also criticized the UIDAI for failing to ensure the quality of biometrics and making cardholders responsible for fees associated with updating poorly taken biometrics. “The lack of accountability is an inherent feature of the Aadhaar system,” Apar Gupta of the Internet Freedom Foundation, said in reacting to the audit. “The findings of the CAG audit confirm ground level studies of junk enrollments, faulty and low-quality demographic and biometric data.” The insecurity of the Aadhaar system along with the UIDAI’s lack of accountability should make the Election Commission wary of partnering with them.

Aadhaar, the EC, and mass disenfranchisement

Aadhaar’s insecure ecosystem, lack of data standards, and the UIDAI’s lack of transparency and accountability have led researchers like Vibhav Mariwala and Prakhar Misra to argue that the marriage of Aadhaar and EPIC will exacerbate the principal problem it is intended to solve: voter disenfranchisement and registration irregularities. Mariwala and Misra’s concerns stem not just from the extant issues with Aadhaar, but also from the Election Commission’s first attempt to combine the databases. In 2015, the Election Commission launched its first attempt to marry Aadhaar and EPIC—an initiative known as the National Electoral Roll and Purification Program (NERPAP). NERPAP only operated for a few months before being halted by a Supreme Court decision that limited the use of Aadhaar to four specific welfare schemes. In the brief period it was operational, NERPAP linked the registration information of 320 million voters to their Aadhaar number—but also disenfranchised 3 million voters.

In the aftermath of NERPAP, controversy arose over whether or not the EC had actually received consent from voters to link their EPIC data with Aadhaar. At the time, the Election Commission claimed that the only mechanism for linking the two systems was the National Voters Service Portal. When voters logged in, they could voluntarily choose to link their accounts to Aadhaar. Four years later, these claims were challenged when over 3 million voters showed up to cast ballots in the state of Telangana only to find their names deleted from the polls. In the ensuing scandal, multiple right to information requests filed after the election in four states revealed that the EC pursued several tactics to rapidly seed the EPIC database with Aadhaar. According to reports in Scroll.in and The Wire, these tactics included accessing other national databases, enlisting local election officials to gather Aadhaar numbers during registration processes, and using the UIDAI’s DBT Seeding Data Viewer (DSDV) tool, which allowed the EC to search Aadhaar records and view non-biometric Aadhaar data side by side with voter ID information. In each of these cases, consent was sketchy at best and was certainly not attained in the straightforward way that the EC claimed.

The controversy also forced the EC to admit that voter names were deleted during NERPAP in 2015. In this case, the software that was used to link Aadhaar and EPIC deleted supposedly duplicate voters without verifying that they were in fact duplicate registrations. In the ensuing controversy, the EC did not reveal how its software identified duplicate registrations and insisted that despite the mass deletion, this type of de-duplication process needed to be carried out across the country. Critics of the government’s effort to marry Aadhaar and EPIC fear that another such mass deletion could take place if the government is allowed to once more attempt to combine the two databases. While it is difficult to gauge the likelihood of another mass deletion, the Election Commission’s lack of transparency about the first linkage, their continued unwillingness to spell out how EPIC will be connected to Aadhaar certainly raises red flags. These concerns are heightened by the serious security concerns plaguing the Aadhaar ecosystem.

Aadhaar, EPIC, and microtargeting

As it stands, voter data in India is easily available online, but because it isn’t machine readable, it is difficult to microtarget voters. The lack of machine-readable data is exacerbated by the fact many people have the same name, and sometimes those names are spelled differently across different databases. Marrying EPIC and Aadhaar would solve both these problems. As Anuj Srivas writes in The Wire, it would make matching one’s voter information with information in a wide array of other databases easy because Aadhaar allows identification across databases. The marriage of the two databases could thus lead to increased opportunities for microtargeting by the sitting government.

The possibility of microtargeting in India would seriously threaten the secrecy of the ballot. Each polling station in India serves approximately 3000 voters, and polling stations have to be within two kilometers of a voter’s home—making it fairly easy to determine whom a given voter cast their ballot for if microtargeting data is available. Moreover, microtargeting at this level could allow government actors to direct specific policies toward groups of local beneficiaries, as Aadhaar is primarily used to deliver government services. For example, these techniques could potentially allow a ruling party to target welfare schemes and infrastructure projects to specific polling communities. This might sound far-fetched, but in the run-up to the 2019 general election, the ruling BJP openly engaged in poll-based, benefit-focused campaigning. If the BJP were able to further tailor this kind of campaigning to smaller communities, it would allow them to consolidate their base and gain new voters.

Researchers warn that political microtargeting could result in a loss of privacy and exposure to selective information, providing fertile ground for mis- and dis-information to spread and polarization to increase. The fact that voters are typically unaware that they are being targeted undermines their ability to determine which information is relevant to them. Private companies often carry out microtargeting on behalf of political parties, and as digital intermediaries, the companies are not subject to the transparency and accountability mechanisms assigned to traditional political actors. It is important to note, however, that the actual efficacy of political microtargeting is debatable. As Jessica Baldwin-Philippi, the political communications scholar, notes, it is important to separate theoretical concerns about microtargeting from analyses of their actual impact. With that distinction in mind, marrying EPIC with Aadhaar has the potential to facilitate problematic forms of microtargeting. Or as Retired Supreme Court Justice, B.N. Srikrishna provocatively summed up these concerns: “Instead of having a Cambridge Analytica you’ll have a Delhi Analytica, a Mumbai Analytica, a Calcutta Analytica. That is the danger.”

Conclusion

The EPIC-Aadhaar controversy has serious implications for global actors interested in identification technologies, e-governance, and electoral processes. First, it provides additional evidence that national biometric identity databases are at best problematic, especially when they expand far past their initial remit. Second, it adds a list of contextual factors that need to be considered when gauging the utility of using biometrics in electoral processes. These factors include the security of the information ecosystem in which biometric voting data is housed, how access to this data is regulated and monitored, and how the technology is actually deployed in voter registration and identification. Finally, the introduction of biometrics into electoral processes could lead to their integration into the actual voting process. For example, the EC revealed that it was developing blockchain voting technology with the Indian Institutes of Technology in Madras and Chennai for use as early as the 2024 general election. Blockchain voting technology would use biometric data to confirm voter’s identity, meaning that they would need an Aadhaar number to cast their ballot. Using biometric data in this way would heighten concerns about mass disenfranchisement and electoral transparency.

Patrick Jones is a scholar of emerging media and digital technologies and received his PhD from the University of Oregon in 2020.

Biden Plans $3.1 Billion Investment For Electric Car Batteries

The Biden administration has announced it will begin a $3.1 billion plan to boost domestic manufacturing of batteries, in a broader effort to shift the country away from gas-powered cars to electric vehicles.

The electrification of the transportation sector will be critical to mitigating human-caused climate change. The transportation sector is one of the largest contributors to U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, representing roughly one-third of emissions each year.

The funding will support grants aimed at building, retooling or expanding manufacturing of batteries and battery components, as well as establishing battery recycling facilities, according to the Department of Energy. The grants will be funded through President Joe Biden’s $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law, which includes more than $7 billion to bolster the country’s battery supply chain.

The move comes after the president in April invoked the Defense Production Act to encourage domestic production of minerals required to make batteries for EVs and long-term energy storage. That order could help companies receive federal funding for feasibility studies on projects that extract materials for EV production, such as lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite and manganese.

“These made-in-America batteries are going to help reduce emissions and create opportunities across the country,” White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy said during a call with reporters on Monday.

The White House, which has set a goal of 50% electric vehicle sales by 2030, is also working to construct a national network of EV charging stations and to create tax incentives for consumers who buy EVs. The administration has also pledged to replace its federal fleet of 600,000 cars and trucks to electric power by 2035.

The U.S. is the world’s third-largest market for EVs, behind China and Europe. Just 4% of new cars sold in the U.S. last year were electric, according to market research company Canalys.

“Positioning the United States front and center in meeting the growing demand for advanced batteries is how we boost our competitiveness and electrify our transportation system,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm said in a statement on Monday.

New York City Raises COVID-19 Alert Level To ‘Medium’

As new Omicron variants further infiltrate the U.S., a jumble of signals suggest the latest increase in Covid-19 infections hasn’t sparked a commensurate surge in severe illness even as risks remain.

Covid-19 virus levels detected in wastewater in the Northeast, the first region to see significant concentrations of the easily transmitted Omicron BA.2 variant, appear to have flattened out in the past two weeks. Covid-19 hospital admissions have risen in the region, but they remain far below levels during earlier surges that indicated widespread severe illness and taxed healthcare facilities.

New York City raised its COVID-19 alert level from “low” to “medium,” amid a rise in cases in the city. The move did not trigger any major new restrictions, but it is a sign of the continued risk from the virus and an uptick in cases that has also been seen on a national level.

If the alert level rises again, to “high,” then the city will consider bringing back its mask mandate for indoor settings, according to New York’s color-coded system.

“If you are at a higher risk for severe disease due to age, underlying health conditions or because you are unvaccinated, consider additional precautions such as avoiding crowded indoor gatherings,” New York City Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan tweeted Monday in announcing the move.

“We continue to strongly recommend all New Yorkers wear a mask in public indoor settings,” he added.  Cases have ticked up in New York City to around 2,300 per day, according to a New York Times tracker, though there is no sign of a steep spike like there was over the winter.

Hospitalizations in the city have also ticked up but are still at relatively low levels.

Nationally, most of the country is in a “low” risk level, as classified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with small clusters of “high” risk in areas like upstate New York, meaning the metrics there call for mask-wearing indoors.

Cases nationally are also ticking up, but are not spiking like they did over the winter, and hospitalizations are at one of their lowest levels of the pandemic.

White House officials have pointed to booster shots and treatments like the Pfizer pill Paxlovid as allowing for a different phase of managing the virus, where cases much more rarely lead to severe disease.

The uptick in New York and nationally has been fueled by a more transmissible subvariant of omicron known as BA.2. New York health officials have also pointed to another subvariant, known as BA.2.12.1, as helping fuel cases there.

Oceans’ Memory Decline Due To Global Warming

Most of the world’s oceans are steadily losing their year-to-year ‘memory’ under global warming, researchers have warned.

Ocean memory decline is found as a collective response across the climate models to human-induced warming. As greenhouse-gas concentrations continue to rise, such memory decline will become increasingly evident.

The study published in the journal Science Advances compared the fast weather fluctuations of the atmosphere to find that the slowly varying ocean exhibits strong persistence, or “memory,” meaning the ocean temperature tomorrow is likely to look a lot like it does today, with only slight changes.

“We discovered this phenomenon by examining the similarity in ocean surface temperature from one year to the next as a simple metric for ocean memory,” said Hui Shi, lead author and researcher at the Farallon Institute in Petaluma, California. “It’s almost as if the ocean is developing amnesia.”

Ocean memory is found to be related to the thickness of the uppermost layer of the ocean, known as the mixed layer. Deeper mixed layers have greater heat content, which confers more thermal inertia that translates into memory.

However, the mixed layer over most oceans will become shallower in response to continued anthropogenic warming, resulting in a decline in ocean memory.

Along with ocean memory decline, the thinning mixed layer is also found to increase the random fluctuations of the sea surface temperature.

As a result, although the ocean will not become much more variable from one year to the next in the future, the fraction of helpful signals for prediction largely reduces.

“Reduced ocean memory together with increased random fluctuations suggest intrinsic changes in the system and new challenges in prediction under warming,” said Fei-Fei Jin, an atmospheric sciences professor at the University of Hawaii.

Ocean memory loss doesn’t just impact the prediction of physical variables, but could also influence the way we manage sensitive marine ecosystems.

Besides ocean prediction, forecasting land-based impacts on temperature, precipitation as well as extreme events might also be affected by ocean memory decline due to their dependence on the persistence of sea surface temperature as a predictability source, the team said. (IANS)

Biden’s Approval Ratings Rise, GOP Preferred On Economy, Poll Finds

Republicans lose ground when it comes to which party voters see themselves casting ballots for in November and the parties are now at rough parity. President Biden’s standing with Americans has improved slightly over the past two months, but he remains in negative territory in most assessments of his performance in office and Republicans hold substantial advantages over Democrats on key economic indicators that are shaping the midterm election year, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The new survey, while better for the president and his party than his low point two months ago, nonetheless underscores the head winds Democratic candidates are facing ahead of the November balloting. With a 42 percent approval rating overall, Biden gets low marks on his handling of the economy and inflation and Republicans are significantly more trusted than Democrats on both measures.

More than 9 in 10 Americans say they are concerned, at minimum, about the rate of inflation, which has been at a 40-year high in recent months. That includes 44 percent who categorize themselves as “upset.” Republicans are far more likely to call themselves upset over inflation than either independents or Democrats.

At the same time, half of all Americans (50 percent) say good-paying jobs are easy to find in their communities, findings that reflect the unemployment rate standing near a half-century low and, anecdotally, the many “hiring” signs in business windows across the country. A lesser 43 percent say those jobs are hard to find. Republicans, who generally rate the economy more negatively than Democrats, are, perhaps surprisingly, more likely to say good-paying jobs are easy to find.

In a positive indicator for Biden and his party, the Post-ABC poll also shows Democrats moving to rough parity with Republicans on intentions to vote in House races in November, often seen as a key indicator of the size of the potential shifts in the balance of power. Republicans need a net gain of five seats to capture control of the House from the Democrats, which would allow them to block Biden’s agenda for the last half of his term.

Today, 46 percent of registered voters say they would vote for the Democrat in their congressional district, compared with 45 percent who say they would vote for the Republican. Based on historical patterns, Democrats would likely need a bigger advantage to avoid losing their majority.

Yet last fall, Republicans held a 10-point edge and in February led by seven points on this question, known as the generic ballot. Nearly all of the change since February is the result of a shift toward the Democrats among self-identified independents, a group that can be volatile in public opinion polls.

Democrats have a 12-point margin among voters ages 18 to 39; in February, those voters were split about evenly between the two parties. Democrats have an advantage with these younger voters even though they disapprove of Biden’s performance by a 13-point margin, 52 percent to 39 percent.

The same pattern appears among independent registered voters. This group disapproves of Biden by a 21-point margin but splits 42-42 on the congressional vote.

Despite the vanishing gap between the two sides on which party people say they will support in November, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents continue to say they are more certain to vote in November than Democrats, by a margin of 10 percentage points in the latest poll.

Biden’s overall approval rating among voting-age adults is five points higher than in February, when 37 percent of Americans said they approved of his job performance. His disapproval rate is now at 52 percent, slightly lower than February’s 55 percent, but that shift is within the margin of error. He has ticked up among men and women and shown improvement among independents and slight improvement among Democrats — but has made no gains among Republicans.

Still, there is a significant difference in the passions people bring to their assessments of the president. Overall, 42 percent say they strongly disapprove of his job performance, while 21 percent say they strongly approve.

Biden gets higher marks for his handling of the war in Ukraine than two months ago — up from 33 percent approval in February to 42 percent in the latest survey. But 47 percent disapprove, identical to February. The improvement is due primarily to a drop in the percentage of people who had no opinion two months ago.

An even bigger change comes in assessments of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Currently, 51 percent approve of his performance in this area, compared with 44 percent in February. Overall there has been a shift of 14 points in two months, taking Biden from negative to positive territory on the coronavirus, and the approval level is now similar to where he stood last September.

On the economy, however, there has been no real change, as 38 percent say they approve of Biden’s handling compared with 37 percent two months ago. His ratings on job creation are better but still net negative overall, with 41 percent approving and 46 percent disapproving.

Biden’s worst ratings come on the dominant issue of inflation, with 68 percent saying they disapprove compared with 28 percent who give him positive marks. The president is notably weak on this issue among independents, who could hold the key to the outcome in many contested House and Senate races in November. Just over 1 in 5 independents, 22 percent, say they approve of how Biden has been dealing with rising prices.

Each political party enjoys advantages in how the public sees their ability to deal with different issues and problems, but Republicans hold the edge on some of the issues that are driving the election.

On the economy, 50 percent of Americans say they trust the Republican Party to do a better job, compared with 36 percent who say they trust the Democratic Party more. On inflation, 50 percent say they trust the GOP more compared with 31 percent who say that of the Democrats. Republicans hold a 12-point advantage (47 percent to 35 percent) on the issue of crime, which many GOP candidates are stressing in their campaigns.

On immigration, the public is closely divided, with 43 percent saying they trust Republicans and 40 percent saying they trust Democrats. Republicans and Democrats are deeply polarized on this issue while independents are evenly split, with 39 percent saying they trust Democrats and 39 percent siding with the GOP.

Education issues came to the forefront of political debate over the past year and played a role in the victory of Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) last November. Democrats were put on the defensive over a variety of aspects of education, from the teaching of the history of racism to the role of parents in school curriculums to school closings and mask mandates due to the pandemic.

Democrats long have held an advantage on the issue of education, but that eroded in Post-ABC surveys after last November’s elections and in February, with Democrats holding just a three-point advantage in both cases. The new poll finds Democrats with an eight-point advantage (47 percent to 39 percent). While an improvement, the margin is still significantly smaller than the average advantage Democrats had in polls dating back to 1990.

The biggest Democratic advantages are on the issue of equal treatment of racial and ethnic groups (52 percent to 31 percent over Republicans) and on equal treatment of groups regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity (55 percent to 26 percent).

The latter have become political flash points, with Republican governors and Republican-led legislatures moving to restrict discussion of gender issues to schoolchildren and taking action to bar transgender students from participating in school sports.

With the Supreme Court nearing a decision on Mississippi’s restrictive abortion law, Americans say they trust Democrats more than Republicans to deal with the issue, by 47 percent to 37 percent.

Democrats regained a slight advantage in party identification after losing ground over the past year. The current poll finds 48 percent identifying as Democrats or leaning Democratic, which is identical to last April but up from a low of 43 percent in February. Meanwhile, 43 percent identify as Republicans or Republican leaners, ticking down slightly from 46 percent in February but still above the 40 percent mark of one year ago.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted April 24-28 among a random national sample of 1,004 adults, reached on cellphones and landlines. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for overall results and among the sample of 907 registered voters.

MR. MALCOLM’S LIST Opens In Theaters On July 1st

Popular international actor Freida Pinto’s newest film MR. MALCOLM’S LIST will release exclusively in North American theaters on July 1st. The acclaimed actress stars in the film and also is an Executive Producer as well.

In the short film, or more precisely the Overture, (the film conceives the first ten minutes of the feature), the year is 1818. A wealthy, young lady named Julia engages in courtship with a mysterious wealthy suitor, Mr. Malcolm, unaware that he has a list of qualities required of a future wife.

He’s “the biggest catch of the season,” but when Julia learns that she doesn’t meet one of the qualifications on Mr. Malcolm’s list, she begins to plot her revenge.

When she fails to meet an item on his list of requirements for a bride, Julia Thistlewaite (Zawe Ashton) is jilted by London’s most eligible bachelor, Mr. Malcolm (Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù). Feeling humiliated and determined to exact revenge, she convinces her friend Selina Dalton (Freida Pinto) to play the role of his ideal match. Soon, Mr. Malcolm wonders whether he’s found the perfect woman…or the perfect hoax. Also starring Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Ashley Park, with Theo James.

The story comes from Suzanne Allain, author of historical romantic comedy novels. Years after writing her second novel Mr. Malcolm’s List, a “blend of Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde, and P.G. Wodehouse,” Allain adapted it into a screenplay.

In 2015, after reading the script, Warner Brothers offered Allain a blind script deal – an opportunity to collaborate in the future on an unspecified project – but they didn’t actually purchase the rights to “Mr. Malcolm’s List.”MALCOLM’S LIST is directed by Emma Holly Jones. Cast include: Freida Pinto, Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Ashley Park, with Zawe Ashton, and Theo James. Social tag: #MrMalcolmsList

Manushi Chhillar Is Humbled With The Acclaim That She Has Been Getting From The Trailer Of Prithviraj

Superstar Akshay Kumar and gorgeous Bollywood debutant Manushi Chhillar starrer, Yash Raj Films’ first historical, Prithviraj, which is based on the life and valour of the fearless and mighty King Prithviraj Chauhan. Akshay is essaying the role of the legendary warrior who fought valiantly to protect India from the merciless invader Muhammad of Ghor. Manushi is playing the role of Prithviraj’s beloved Princess Sanyogita and she is thrilled that audiences are appreciating her unanimously in the trailer.

Manushi says, “It is amazing that people are appreciating my performance from what they have seen and experienced in the Prithviraj trailer. This is a dream come true of a debut for me and I’m hugely grateful that I’m getting to bring Princess Sanyogita’s life come alive on the big screen.”

She adds, “A debut like this, opposite one of the biggest superstars of the country like Akshay Kumar, is a lot of responsibility and I think I have given my everything to ensure that I play this role with utmost sincerity and dedication. So, the reaction of the audience that I’m getting today is humbling.”

Manushi further says, “My phone is buzzing with positivity from people on social media and my forever supportive fans. It’s a hugely happy moment of my career and I’m cherishing this thoroughly.”

Prithviraj has been directed by Dr. Chandraprakash Dwivedi, who is best known for directing the television epic Chanakya and the critically acclaimed film Pinjar. The ethereally gorgeous Manushi’s launch is definitely one of the most awaited debuts of 2022. The film is set to release on June 3 in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu.

Akshay Kumar Is Overwhelmed With Positive Response For PRITHVIRAJ

Superstar Akshay Kumar’s next is Yash Raj Films’ first historical, Prithviraj, which is based on the life and valour of the fearless and mighty King Prithviraj Chauhan. He is essaying the role of the legendary warrior who fought valiantly to protect India from the merciless invader Muhammad of Ghor. Akshay is thrilled with the incredibly positive response to the trailer of the film that was launched yesterday and feels humbled that people have connected to the most glorious tribute to the brave warrior who needs to be celebrated.

Akshay says, “I’m thrilled with the response to the trailer of Prithviraj. We wanted to give a glorious and the most authentic tribute to the incredibly valiant Samrat Prithviraj Chauhan and I’m so happy that the trailer has resonated with the audience. It’s amazing to see how people want to know more about the valour of the mighty king and we are humbled that we have been able to make people across the world want to know more about the Samrat.”

He adds, “I’m humbled that people are appreciating my craft and our efforts because we have given it our all to bring Samrat Prithviraj Chauhan to life on screen. It has truly been an honour to play a man who stood for his country, no matter what the consequence.”

Akshay further states, “I share this moment of joy with my director Dr. Chandraprakash Dwivedi, my producer Aditya Chopra, my co-star Manushi Chhillar, who is debuting in the film, and the brilliant Sanjay Dutt and Sonu Sood and all the actors and technicians who have believed in the mission to make Prithviraj an important film for this generation.”

Prithviraj has been directed by Dr. Chandraprakash Dwivedi, who is best known for directing the television epic Chanakya and the critically acclaimed film Pinjar. The ethereally gorgeous Manushi Chhillar plays the role of King Prithviraj’s beloved Sanyogita and her launch is definitely one of the most awaited debuts of 2022. The film is set to release on June 3 in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu.

Punjabi Association (Mpa) Pays Tribute To He Martyrs Of The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre

Chicago IL: The celebration of Punjabi Virsa (Punjabi Heritage) organized by the Midwest Punjabi Association (MPA) in collaboration with the Consulate General of India set the precedent for paying the perfect tribute to the martyrs of the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. The event was organized on May 1st, 2022 at Ashton Place, Willowbrook, IL as part of the Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav to celebrate Vaisakhi and pay tribute to the martyrs of the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre.

Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, CG Amit Kumar, Mayor Rodney Craig, Mayor Tom Daily, Mayor Dr. Gopal Lalmalani, trustee Syed Hussaini along with other elected officials and community leaders graced the event.  Mr. Gurmeet Singh Dhalwan, President, Midwest Punjabi Association gave a brief introduction of the event and briefed the guests about the past activities and upcoming initiatives of Midwest Punjabi Association. He proudly mentioned the guidance given by Mr.Ranjit Singh.

He said keeping in mind the spirit of Ek Bharat Shresth Bhara , Midwest Punjabi Association has decided to pay tribute One author from Punjabi ,one from regional language and one from regional language and one from our national language Hindi. We will continue and take forward the spirit of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav in all years to come.We all know Gurmeet Singh Dhalwan is a well-known name in the media industry and the Founder President of Adbhhut Media Newspaper and Channel. Dhalwan is an entrepreneur with more than two decades of experience in wholesale & retail business. He is the Founder President of Midwest Punjabi Association, (MPA) a Non-Profit Organization. He is also a member of cultural inclusion and diversity committee/commission Village of Hanover Park, IL. He is a community leader, social worker, and a Philanthropist.

CG Amit Kumar in his inaugural remarks commended the organizers for their unique initiative to throw light on the tragic event through writings and reflections of noted authors like Sardar Nanak Singh, Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore and Subhadra Kumari Chauhan.  He spoke about the impact of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre on the national freedom struggle with the public sentiment across the length and breadth of India turning decisively against the colonial rule.

The master of the ceremony was Prachi Jaitly. The program started with rendition of Gurbani Kirtan by Bhai Jagat Singh Dilliwale and Bhai Bhagat Singh Chicagowale, followed by presentations / recital of Gurudev Tagore’s poems and poems from the Punjabi collection of poems Khooni Vaisakhi, written by Sardar Nanak Singh. A message from Amb (Retd) Navdeep Singh Suri, who is Nanak Singh’s grandson and who translated the poems into English, was played. Navdeep Suri,s video message was followed by the beautiful poetic tribute skillfully crafted by Charandeep Singh along with some of the finests poetic talents like Raj laly Batala, Jasbir kaur Mann, Rakesh Malhotra, Dr. Taufiq Ansari Ahmed, Dr. Afzal-ur-Rehman Afsar, Rakind Kaur, and Suneeta Malhotra. The narration of the performance was done by Prachi Jaitly.

There was also a Kathak dance performance by Shiwali Varshney Tenner based on the poem “Jallianwale Bagh mein Basant” written by Subhadra Kumari Chauhan and a poetry session with local prominent poets of Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi. Bratasree Roy Biswas is also performed Indian classical dance ‘Rabindra Natya Nritya’ which is a form of dance drama based on poems, song and novels composed by the Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore from Bengal. The performance depicted how the epic author had returned his knighthood in protest of the Jallianwalan Bagh massacre in the 1919.

Adding more spark to the event Gurmeet and team proudly announced the launch of his sparkling logo ‘GSD’ in the presence of dignitaries and remarkable organizations from Chicagoland. Logo is the actual reflection of though and dreams.The logo was initially acknowledged with greetings from legendary actor Kamal Hasan and was further showered with best wishes & initials of local guests of honor, congratulating the new founder-president as he embarks on his new venture. Participating Indian American associations included the FIA-1980; Artists Association of North America, Bengali Association of Greater Chicago (BAGC), Punjabi Cultural Society,Michigan; Kalman de Ang Sang; Urdu Samaj of Chicago; Dramatech of America; Guru Ladho Re Seva Society, Wisconsin; Swera (Sikh Women Era); and Punjabi Americans Organization (PAO) Saneevani4U; etc.

The Jallianwala Bagh massacre took place on 13 April 1919. A large peaceful crowd had gathered at the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, Punjab to protest against the oppressive Rowlatt Act. In response to the public gathering, general Dyer surrounded the protesters. The Jallianwala Bagh could only be exited on one side, as its other three sides were enclosed by buildings. After blocking the exit with his troops, he ordered them to shoot at the crowd, continuing to fire even as the protestors tried to flee. The troops kept on firing until their ammunition was exhausted. Estimates of those killed vary between 379 and 1500+ people and over 1,200 other people were injured of whom 192 were seriously injured.

It was one-of-a-kind programs that was purely dedicated to Jallianwala massacre victims and paying tribute to their sacrifice with pure patriotism. A special tribute was paid to the former MPA Vice President Alok Suri who passed away recently. The event was supported and sponsored by Anil and Chandni Kalra of Northwest Realty, Pinky Dinesh Thakkar, Syed Hussaini, Standard Home Care, Amrik Singh of Amar Carpet, Iftekar Sharif, Jesse Singh, Remax, Anil Loomba, HMSI, Brij Sharma of Powervolt, Ashton Place, Puneet Sawhney, Lucky Sahota, Dr Vikram Gill.

Mira Nair’s MISSISSIPPI MASALA At Kick Off 8th Annual DFW SAFF

The 8th annual DFW South Asian Film Festival, presented by Toyota USA, will KICK OFF its festival week with a SPECIAL SCREENING of the restored 4K version of Mira Nair‘s ground-breaking film MISSISSIPPI MASALA, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year!

Synopsis: The vibrant cultures of India, Uganda, and the American South are blended and simmered into a rich and fragrant fusion feast in Mira Nair’s luminous look at the complexities of love in the modern melting pot. Years after her Indian family was forced to flee their home in Uganda by the dictatorship of Idi Amin, twenty something Mina (Sarita Choudhury) finds herself helping to run a motel in the faraway land of Mississippi. It’s there that a passionate romance with the charming Black carpet cleaner Demetrius (Denzel Washington) challenges the prejudices of their conservative families and exposes the rifts between the region’s Indian and African American communities. Tackling thorny issues of racism, colorism, culture clash, and displacement with big-hearted humor and keen insight, Nair serves up a sweet, sexy, and radical celebration of love’s power to break down the barriers between us. Watch trailer HERE.

*The screening will take place on Monday, May 16th at 7:30 p.m. at the Alamo Drafthouse Dallas / Fort Worth (6770 Abrams Road, Dallas, TX 75231).

To purchase tickets for this stand alone screening, please go HERE. Join us afterwards for a drink and a nibble at the bar, so that we can share highlights about the upcoming #dfwsaff2022. Our entire schedule and festival lineup (May 20 to 22 at Grandscape in The Colony) is available HERE.

Toyota To Invest $ 624 Million In India

Toyota Group plans to invest 48 billion Indian rupees ($624 million) to make electric vehicle components in India, as the Japanese carmaker works toward carbon neutrality by 2050.

Toyota Kirloskar Motor and Toyota Kirloskar Auto Parts signed a memorandum of understanding with the southern state of Karnataka to invest 41 billion Indian rupees, the group said in a statement Saturday. The rest will come from Toyota Industries Engine India.

Toyota is aligning its own green targets with India’s ambitions of becoming a manufacturing hub though the switch to clean transport in the South Asian nation is slower than other countries such as China and the U.S. Expensive price tags, lack of options in electric models and insufficient charging stations have led to sluggish adoption of battery vehicles in India.

“From a direct employment point of view, we are looking at around 3,500 new jobs,” Toyota Kirloskar executive vice president Vikram Gulati told the Press Trust of India in an interview. “As the supply chain system builds, we expect much more to come in later.”

He added that the company would be moving toward a new area of technology — electrified powertrain parts — with production set to start in the “very near-term.”

Indian automakers could generate $20 billion in revenue from electric vehicles between now and fiscal year 2026, according to forecast by Crisil. By 2040, 53% of new automobile sales in India will be electric, compared with 77% in China, according to BloombergNEF.

Eid-Ul-Fitr Celebrations Held In Naperville

On Monday May 2nd,2022 Muslims from all over the Naperville and suburb areas joyfully bustled into the Embassy suites and two locations of ICN to join the celebrations of Eid Ul-Fitr. While there were various venues that held Eid prayers throughout the region, the largest turnouts were at the Naperville where arrangements for Eid prayers were made by the Islamic Center of Naperville (ICN) in five spells, at 7:30 am, at 8:30 am, 9:00 am,10: 00 am, and at 11:30 am. The Imam for the first session of the Eid prayers was Shayakh Ismail Al-Qadhi, Shayakh Omar Hedroug, for second session, Dr. Abdullah Ansari for the Third session, Shayakh Rizwan Ali for the fourth session and Wali Khan for the fifth session. Over 8000 devout Muslims, including prominent Businessmen, Professionals, and Community Leaders, attended the Eid prayers.

 

Women in vibrant colored dresses, men in ethnic outfits and children, smiling and laughing, filled the parking lots and poured into all the three locations. Volunteers of the Eid Committee of the ICN open-heartedly welcomed the incoming persons so as to ensure that every one of them was able to partake in the Eid prayers, without any inconvenience. Despite the large numbers, the volunteers of the ICN and board members were able to direct the crowds effortlessly and efficiently.

 

Imam and Residential Scholar of the ICN, Rizwan Ali, delivered an inspiring talk the peace and tranquility people achieved during the month of Ramadan. This happiness was due to many factors, but he emphasized the importance of leaving sin and being consistent, sincere, and dedicated to continuing the good deeds established during Ramadan. He gave practical ways that people can make fasting, attending the Mosques, reciting the Quran, and giving charity part of their lives even after Ramadan. He also prayed for the volunteers that made Ramadan possible in the community and those who were sick and unable to attend, and those facing difficulties and hardships locally and abroad. He ended by encouraging the congregation to rejoice and celebrate the day of Eid by giving gifts and having fun. 

 

Mr. Kashif Fakhruddin, President, ICN, stated that the month of Ramadan is a blessed month in which the Holy Quran was revealed. He stated that the month of Ramadan is an occasion for spiritual uplifting, softening the heart and humbling oneself, sharing and caring, seeking forgiveness from Allah SWT, extending forgiveness to others, and seeking mercy of Allah SWT and praying for the same to others. “The ICN community, which comprises over 4,500 families, representing heritages from many different countries, addresses the needs of Muslims as well as those who belong to other religions. ICN works very closely with people of other faiths to serve humanity and encourages its members to follow the principles of Tolerance, Justice, Peace and Progress”, added Kashif Fakhruddin.

 

“The sacred month of Ramadan is a time of sacrifice and reflection. Ramadan offers an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to peace and justice through the power of faith. Ramadan reminds us that our common bonds far outweigh our differences. I wish everyone a blessed and meaningful Eid-ul-Fitr.  We extend our warmest wishes to the Muslim community of Illinois on this occasion”, said Board members of ICN.

Google Picks Archana Gulati As India Policy Head

Alphabet Inc’s Google has hired a new public policy head in India, Archana Gulati, who previously worked at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s federal think-tank and the country’s antitrust watchdog, a source with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

A number of Indian government officials have been hired by Big Tech companies which are battling tighter data and privacy regulation, as well as competition law scrutiny, under Modi’s federal government.

Gulati is a long-term Indian government employee, having worked until March 2021 as a joint secretary for digital communications at Modi’s federal think tank, Niti Aayog, a body that is critical to government’s policy making across sectors.

Before that, between 2014 and 2016, she worked as a senior official at India’s antitrust body, the Competition Commission of India, according to her LinkedIn profile.

A Google India spokesperson confirmed the development to Reuters, but did not elaborate. Gulati did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The source declined to be named as the hiring decision was not public.

India’s antitrust watchdog is currently looking into Google’s business conduct in the market of smart TVs, its Android operating system as well as its in-app payments system.

Last year, Meta Platforms Inc hired Rajiv Aggarwal – who spent years working in India’s federal and state governments – as its head of policy.

Another former Indian antitrust and federal government official, Anand Jha, in 2019 joined Walmart as India public policy officer. He currently manages government relations for Blackstone in India.

AAHOA Celebrates the Retirement of J.W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr., with Lifetime Achievement Award

AAHOA celebrated the career of J.W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr., as he retired as Marriott International Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board on May 6th As stated by Marriott International, “he leaves the company after 66 years of unparalleled service and leadership.” 

During AAHOACON22 last month, Mr. Marriott was presented with the AAHOA Lifetime Achievement Award, which is given to an individual whose contributions and dedication to the hotel industry have spanned their entire career.

Individuals are honored with this prestigious award because they raise up not only their own organizations, but everyone in the profession.

“Anyone could recite and recount his many achievements, innovations, and the legacy he has established over the course of his career,” said AAHOA Chairman Neal Patel. ”But, for AAHOA Members, he is defined by the courage, empathy, and strength of character he has displayed through his many leadership roles with Marriott International.”

Marriott, like AAHOA, has a rich history and a family tradition of passing down a legacy. As a young teenager, Mr. Marriott worked for his father, doing odd jobs in the business to help out. Many of AAHOA’s hoteliers and members can relate to that – many of them growing up in their parent’s hotels and working toward achieving the American Dream.

“Because of his unique and visionary contributions to the hospitality industry, on behalf of AAHOA’s more than 20,000 members, we are honored to present Mr. Marriott with the AAHOA Lifetime Achievement Award,” Patel said.

AAHOA congratulates Mr. Marriott for an incredible career that will leave a lasting impact on the industry for generations to come and also congratulates David S. Marriott for assuming the position as Marriott International’s Chairman of the Board. 

“We look forward to continuing our strong partnership with Marriott under David’s leadership, and we thank Mr. Marriott for all he has done for our industry and our members,” Patel said. 

Dr. Vishweshwar R. Ranga Elected Chair, AAPI Board of Trustees

A practicing Internal Medicine Specialist from Las Vegas affiliated with multiple local area hospitals, Dr. Vishweshwar R. Ranga has been elected Chairman of Board of Trustees of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin for the year 2022-23.

Dr. Ranga with more than 35 years of experience in the medical field, has been associated with AAPI since his early days as a Resident in New York. “Since moving to the United States to pursue my career as a physician I have been closely following the entire spectrum of health care in the world’s largest economy,” recalls Dr. Ranga.

A team player and dedicated to the growth of AAPI, Dr. Ranga says, he wants continue to work with the team and ensure that AAPI’s voice is heard wherever relevant decisions are made that impact the physician community.

“My initiation into the Association of Physicians of Indian Origin to work on the membership drive and its directory during my residency at Mount Vernon Hospital in New York helped me understand more deeply the importance of community involvement and practices dear to this noble profession,”  Dr. Ranga says, who has worked hard towards the growth of this organization under the leadership of various presidents.

A medical degree holder from the Medical Academy of Sofia, Bulgaria, Dr. Ranga says, “AAPI is very close to my heart and I want to see it as more of an inclusive outfit, making a clarion call to physicians of Indian origin serving in some of the remote areas of the country to be part of this great organization and be driving forces of change.”

Dr. Ranga, who is known for his organizational skills helped to put together various national and regional AAPI events.

He has worked on several AAPI Committees including: AAPI Bylaws Committee, Membership Committee, Awards Committee, and Publications Committee.

Dr. Ranga has been recognized for his kindness, medical skills and going beyond the call of duty. “I was in good hands with him. I almost died from a car hitting me in a crosswalk. This man visited me every single day for one month. That is something I will never forget. Thank you, Dr. Ranga. Mom misses you,” Mike Cappello, a former patient of Dr. Ranga wrote on Social Media.

A visionary, Dr. Ranga began to work closely and encourage the second-generation Indian American physicians to be an active part of AAPI. In appreciation of his efforts, contributions and enormous support, YPS/MSRF recognized Dr. Ranga by making him the mentor of the group.

“My goal in the coming year is to formalize and create AAPI leadership academy working with executives from American College of Physicians for the development of leadership roles for all AAPI members. I want to work hard to engage young physicians and attract them to AAPI. They are the future of AAPI.” the newly elected Chair of AAPI BOT, says.

Jaishankar’s Tough Talk On India’s Foreign Policy Priorities

Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has had geopolitical, military, and economic consequences for every nation on earth. The economic consequences is impacting every market and causing disruptions that will take time to recover. More than anything else, the invasion is causing a massive humanitarian crisis. Over two months into the war, with no end to the war in sight, the impact of the war has been felt in every corner of the earth.

As in any war, uncertainty of the outcome of this violent conflict is high. The escalation of conflict has triggered an immediate and steep rise in humanitarian needs as essential supplies and services are disrupted and civilians flee the fighting. The UN estimates that 12 million people inside Ukraine will need relief and protection, while more than 4 million Ukrainian refugees may need protection and assistance in neighboring countries in the coming months.

“I am here to focus on ways on how the UN can expand support for the people of Ukraine, saving lives, reduce suffering and help find the path of peace. I want the Ukrainian people to know that the world sees you, hears you, and is in awe of your resilience and resolve, UN Secretary-General António Guterres in remarks at a press encounter with the President of Ukraine in Kyiv, said on April 28th.

Countries across the globe have reacted to this situation in ways that suit their interests, based on their long standing relationship with Russia and the Western Alliance led by the United States. The message of the United Nations General Assembly is loud and clear:  End hostilities in Ukraine — now. Silence the guns — now. Open the door to dialogue and diplomacy — now.

President Joe Biden has condemned Russia for an “unprovoked and unjustified attack” on Ukraine while promising that his country and its allies “will hold Russia accountable”.

The Group of Seven industrialised nations strongly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and said they would bring forward severe and coordinated economic and financial sanctions against Moscow.

“This crisis is a serious threat to the rules-based international order, with ramifications well beyond Europe,” the G7 leaders said in a joint statement, adding Russian President Vladimir Putin had re-introduced war to the European continent.

A majority of the nations at the United Nations were  unanimous in their condemnation of Russia’s unprovoked invasion and the implications of its war crimes on the innocent. However, India, the rising power on world stage, abstained on all the 12 United Nations resolutions condemning the invasion. Its initial statements at the UN Security Council were decidedly mild, while the Indian ambassador did not even mention Russia by name, and avoided criticizing Russia for the invasion. Another major world player, China rejected calling Russia’s moves on Ukraine an “invasion” and urged all sides to exercise restraint.

There has been mounting pressure on India to condemn Russia. The Western nations have implied that there could be consequences for India’s ambivalence. Shortly after the invasion, U.S. President Joe Biden warned, “Any nation that countenances Russia’s naked aggression against Ukraine will be stained by association.” During a virtual meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in early April, Biden pressed India to align itself with the Western nations in condemning Russia. Despite leaders from several Western during their recent visits to New Delhi expressing understanding for the Indian position, India has not heeded to the wishes of the West.

India has been focused on seeking to establish itself as a major player on the world stage, trying to be a moderate voice on international affairs, responding to the new realities of the world, establishing friendship with the US, sometimes in its own terms, less reliant on Russia and diversifying its dependence for military needs and trade with multiple nations.

India’s career diplomat turned politician, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has been talking tough on India’s position on Russia-Ukraine conflict. While responding to questions from world leaders on the crisis Jaishankar pointed to challenges in Asia and India’s neighborhood — in Afghanistan, and from China — and said it was a “wake-up call” for Europe to look at these instances where “problems have been happening”.

For instance, in response to Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt at the Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi last week, Jaishankar said, “You talked about Ukraine. I remember less than a year ago what happened in Afghanistan, where the entire civil society was thrown under the bus by the world. We in Asia face our own sets of challenges, which often has an impact on the rules-based order.”

“For India, the past week, without a doubt, belonged to external affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. It is hard to recall another foreign affairs minister who articulated India’s views so firmly and well in international for a,” Sandipan Deb  wrote in the popular magazine, The Mint.

“In recent weeks, Jaishankar has been sharp in his comments on Europe. In Washington DC, he said India’s total purchase of Russian energy for the month was “less than what Europe does in an afternoon”. Days earlier, speaking on the issue of sanctions as British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss listened, he said “it looks like a campaign,” Deb pointed out.

According to Jaishankar, India is prepared to take a much bigger role in global affairs and would help the world with more supplies of wheat to tame food inflation if WTO rules allow. He asserted the West has been oblivious to the pressing challenges facing Asia including last year’s events in Afghanistan and the continuous pressure on the rules-based order in the region.

However, while refraining from condemning Russia and not offering to mediate in the conflict just as some other neutral nations have done, it has been noted by analysts on foreign policy that  India is abdicating its rising role as a model democracy and world leader.

“Despite the rhetorical care the administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has adopted to appear neutral, the time may have come for India, in its own interest, to rethink its stance,” Shashi Tharoor, an opposition member of India’s Parliament, a former Undersecretary General of the United Nations, who has served as Minister of the Government of India and Chair of the Indian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote in “Foreign Affairs.”

In recent days, India, still without naming Russia has criticized what is being done in Ukraine, in an effort to uphold the principles of international law India has traditionally upheld, especially, respect for the UN Charter and the sovereignty of states, the inviolability of borders, and opposition to the use of force to resolve political issues.

While pointing to the remarks by diplomat Shivshankar Menon, who stated, “Asia’s sense of its own difference—its focus on stability, trade, and the bottom line that has served Asian countries so well in the last 40 years,” Tharoor rightly says, “But it would be wrong to look at the reluctance to take sides that India and other developing countries in Asia have shown and conclude that a faraway war in Europe simply does not matter to the rest of the world. India’s dilemma is more complicated than its repeated abstentions on the Ukraine question imply, and it illustrates why the world order cannot simply remain what it was before the invasion.”

While describing India’s growing importance on world stage, Tharoor pointed out how in recent years has gained prominence and admiration. Tharoor wrote, India became a founding member of the G-20 when that organization was established in 1999; concluded a nuclear deal with the United States in 2005 that was portrayed as enshrining an “Indian exception”; took over the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2006, dubbing itself “the world’s fastest-growing free market democracy”; won then President Barack Obama’s endorsement of India’s claims to a permanent seat on the UN Security Council in 2010; got the UN to adopt an International Day of Yoga in 2015, showcasing its cultural soft power; and joined the quadrilateral security dialogue with the United States, Australia, and Japan known as the Quad.

With India’s recent stand in failing to condemn and isolate Russia, there are fears that India may face consequences for its ambivalence. Shortly after the invasion, U.S. President Joe Biden warned, “Any nation that countenances Russia’s naked aggression against Ukraine will be stained by association.”

“India’s lack of influence on Russia and failure to take a clear stand on the war have also undermined its case for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council,” Tharoor writes.

One way for India to salvage its reputation in the West would be to leverage its nonaligned position to play peacemaker on Ukraine. Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba had asked “India to use all influence in its relations with Russia to force it to cease military aggression against Ukraine.”

I am reminded of what Jaishankar elaborated in what has come to be called the “Jaishankar doctrine” in his 2020 book The India Way: Strategies for an Uncertain World. “Asserting national interests and securing strategic goals through various means is the dharma of a state,” he wrote. India must discard “political romanticism” and think in realpolitik terms. There are no true friends or allies; the world is a “transactional bazaar”, a fact that India has long been in denial of. In this marketplace, India must advance and maximize its “national interests by identifying and exploiting opportunities created by global contradictions,” he wrote.

If that principle “no true friends or allies” in the world market place, it is time for India to come out of the shadow of past dependence on Soviet Union and show the world that India stands with truth, condemn aggression, deny autocracy and tyranny, respect true freedom, human rights and true democracy, and stand with and lead by example in India and around the world, India respects and appreciates freedom and democracy in letter and spirit.

Dr. Joseph M. Chalil, Novo Integrated Sciences’ Chief Medical Officer, Selected As Top Physician Of The Year By IAOTP

Dr. Joseph M. Chalil, MD, MBA, FACHE, Chief Medical Officer of Novo Integrated Sciences, Inc. (Novo). Global Healthcare Executive and Best-Selling Author, has been selected as Top Physician of the Year for 2022 by the International Association of Top Professionals (IAOTP) for his outstanding leadership, dedication, and innovative medical contributions.

Novo Integrated Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ: NVOS) (the “Company” or “Novo”) , pioneering a holistic approach to patient-first health and wellness through a multidisciplinary healthcare ecosystem of multiple patient and consumer touchpoints for services and product innovation, made the announcement last week

While inclusion with the International Association of Top Professionals is an honor in itself, only a few members in each discipline are chosen for this distinction. These special honorees are distinguished based on their professional accomplishments, academic achievements, leadership abilities, other affiliations, and contributions to their communities. All honorees are invited to attend the IAOTP’s annual awards gala at the end of this year for a night to honor their achievements.

Stephanie Cirami, IAOTP President, stated, “We are honored to have Dr. Chalil as part of our IAOTP family. He is brilliant at what he does, has a unique understanding of health policies, and a diverse medical background. We know he will be an amazing asset to our network of professionals.”

Dr. Chalil has over 20 years of professional experience in health policy, medical affairs, and clinical development with an emphasis on both healthcare delivery and biotechnology. Previously, Dr. Chalil has held roles of increasing responsibility at DBV Technologies, Boehringer Ingelheim, Abbott Laboratories, and Hoffmann-La Roche. Dr. Chalil was the honored recipient of the AAPI Presidential Award (2015) and the Boehringer President’s Club Award for 2011, 2014, and 2015. Dr. Chalil was also recognized and honored with the 2013 Outstanding 50 Asian Americans in Business Award.

Dr. Chalil is an author of several scientific and research papers in international publications. He is also the Chairman of the Complex Health Systems Advisory Board, H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, and a member of Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Allopathic Medicine Executive Leadership Council. A veteran of the U.S. Navy Medical Corps, he is board certified in healthcare management. He has been awarded a Fellowship by the American College of Healthcare Executives, an international professional society of more than 40,000 healthcare executives who lead hospitals, healthcare systems, and other healthcare organizations. Additionally, Dr. Chalil is the former Chairman of the Indo-American Press Club. He is an expert in U.S. healthcare policy and a strong advocate for patient-centered care. A strong proponent of providing healthcare access to everyone, Dr. Chalil’s new book, Beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic: Envisioning a Better World by Transforming the Future of Healthcare, is on Amazon’s Best Sellers List.

For more information on Dr. Chalil, please visit: https://www.linkedin.com/in/drchalil/

The International Association of Top Professionals (IAOTP) is an international boutique networking organization that handpicks the world’s finest, most prestigious top professionals from different industries. These top professionals are given an opportunity to collaborate, share their ideas, be keynote speakers, and to help influence others in their fields. This organization is not a membership that anyone can join. You must be asked by the President or be nominated by a distinguished honorary member after a brief interview.

Novo Integrated Sciences, Inc. is pioneering a holistic approach to patient-first health and wellness through a multidisciplinary healthcare ecosystem of multiple patient and consumer touchpoints for services and product innovation. Novo offers an essential and differentiated solution to deliver, or intend to deliver, these services and products through the integration of medical technology, diagnostic and therapeutic solutions, and rehabilitative science.

The Company’s decentralized healthcare business model is centered on three primary pillars to best support the transformation of non-catastrophic healthcare delivery to patients and consumers.

Innovation through science combined with the integration of sophisticated, secure technology assures Novo Integrated Sciences of continued cutting-edge advancement in patient first platforms.

For more information concerning Novo Integrated Sciences, please visit www.novointegrated.com. For more information on Novo Healthnet Limited, Novo’s wholly owned subsidiary, please visit www.novohealthnet.com.

Five Ways Elon Musk Can Transform Twitter

News that Elon Musk bought Twitter could usher in substantial changes for the social media platform. Given its influential role in public conversation and policy actions, a shift in management control could have substantial consequences for the role of social media. Here are five things that could happen under Musk’s ownership.

Weaken Content Moderation in Name of Free Speech

Musk brings a strong free speech perspective that likely would alter some of the firm’s current content moderation policies. In the face of public concern over extremism, violence, hate speech, and false information, Twitter and other large social media platforms have strengthened their content moderation policies to remove content that encourages violence or spreads misinformation.

While many of those worried about the corrosive impact of social media on national and global discourse have applauded these moves, some free speech advocates have questioned these practices on grounds that more, not less speech, is desired—and that private companies shouldn’t be the arbiters of truth and justice.

Musk himself has advocated for stronger protections of freedom of speech on social media platforms and presumably would move the company closer to his perspective when he becomes its new owner. He likely would remove some of the content moderation practices and be less likely to remove tweets that, to him, fall within a gray area.

Bring Donald Trump Back to Twitter

One winner of an ownership change could be former President Donald Trump. Right now, Twitter has imposed a lifetime ban on Trump due to his role in inciting violence on January 6, 2021. After protesters stormed the Capitol and temporarily stopped Congress’ presidential election certification, Twitter executives said Trump had violated its terms of service and kicked him off the platform.

But under Musk, the company could revisit that decision and reinstate the former president on the grounds he is a leading public figure, has important things to say, and is a likely presidential candidate in 2024. If reinstated, that would give Trump a large megaphone to proclaim his views, spread lies and misinformation about the integrity of the 2020 election, and inflame public passions. The consequence could be sharper polarization, more intense partisanship, and a rise of political extremism.

Cozy Up to China

Unlike many leaders of large businesses, Musk has cultivated close ties with China and is building a large Tesla plant there. China is a global leader in the manufacturing of electric vehicle batteries, and Musk has expanded his dealings with China despite human rights concerns and fair labor practices.

The impact of an ownership change could be a different perspective on geopolitics than currently is the case. Musk could push policies that are more sympathetic to China, less restrictive towards Russia, or less supportive of human rights and environmental protection. He could introduce algorithms that favor content with a particular foreign policy take to the exclusion of alternative viewpoints.  To his credit, though, Musk has promised to “open up” the algorithms so that they are more transparent. That would be a positive move for the social media platform.

Weaken accountability by taking company private

Musk plans to take Twitter private when he assumes ownership. If that became the case, there would be less public transparency about what happens, fewer reporting requirements, and more secrecy in regard to corporate practices. One of the byproducts of being a private firm is less oversight by government agencies and more freedom to make decisions. With a company as influential as Twitter, that could have ramifications for public discussion and electoral discourse.

Encourage space travel and push for AI limits

New management likely would push the platform towards Musk’s well-known personal interests in space travel and antipathy towards AI. SpaceX already is a leader in private space exploration and Musk himself has talked about colonizing Mars and building a life presence beyond planet Earth. He likely would encourage space tourism in line with his business interests, and encourage people to think more broadly about the future of humanity. It is an open question how Twitter would deal with possible conflicts of interest with Musk’s other business holdings, but that is something that should be clarified during the regulatory review of this transaction.

In addition, Musk is on record as worrying about artificial intelligence and fearing its capacity to enslave humanity. He wants to put the brakes on the rapid expansion of AI without appropriate human safeguards. While advocates can debate the merits of either stance, there is little doubt that ownership of Twitter would put Musk in a stronger position to influence public discussions and shape policy towards AI and other emerging technologies.

Emmanuel Macron’s Reelection In France To Make Him A Powerful Player In EU

Soon after his victory was announced, French President Emmanuel Macron took the stage to the sound of the European Union’s anthem, the “Ode to Joy.” The symbolism was strong: The 44-year-old centrist’s election to a second term bolsters his standing as a senior player in Europe.

Macron is now expected to push for strengthening the 27-nation bloc and throw all his weight behind efforts to put an end to the war in Ukraine.

In his victory speech Sunday evening, he thanked the majority of French voters who chose him and vowed to lead a project for “a stronger Europe.”

“Europe is a framework for peace and stability. It’s our safer asset for today and tomorrow,” he said at a campaign rally in Strasbourg, home to the European Parliament. “Europe is what’s protecting us from crisis and war.”

Angela Merkel’s departure in December after 16 years as Germany’s chancellor, in addition to the United Kingdom’s exit from the bloc in 2020, positioned Macron to play a dominant role in the EU, where the Franco-German relationship is key.

Boosted by his victory, Macron figures to be in the spotlight when he pays an expected visit to Berlin in the coming days to meet with new Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who has had a low-profile debut on the international stage. French presidents traditionally make their first post-election trip abroad to Germany as a celebration of the countries’ friendship after multiple wars.

Ukraine will be at the top of the agenda for the encounter with Scholz, whose spokesman, Steffen Hebestreit, praised Macron’s victory over far-right, nationalist rival Marine Le Pen as “a good day for Europe.” Hebestreit added: “The French people made a good choice.”

France holds the rotating presidency of the European Council until June 30. Macron is scheduled to make a speech on Europe on May 9 in Strasbourg.

At some point, he may also travel to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Macron has long advocated for the EU to take more responsibility for its own defense, something he sees as complementary to the NATO alliance, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has only further strengthened that argument.

His victory “means the pursuit of an ambitious project for Europe,” said Tara Varma, who heads the Paris office of the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank.

“He will be advocating to double down on the European sovereignty agenda: on tech, on defense, on fighting economic coercion,” she said.

Varma added that an upcoming conference on the Western Balkans to be organized in June will provide “an opportunity to start rethinking the EU’s enlargement policy.”

Georgina Wright, director of the Europe Program at the Paris-based think tank Institut Montaigne, said that “Europe will obviously continue to be a key and central pillar to Macron’s mandate. I suspect he wants to go further and faster than he has in the past five years.”

However, he may encounter “tricky discussions” ahead, she said.

The introduction of a bloc-wide minimum wage, a carbon tax on imports and fiscal reform are among the main policies France wants to promote. France also wants to accelerate talks on a stalled overhaul of the EU’s asylum system.

To achieve such progress on touchy topics, Macron will need to seek international consensus among his counterparts.

“His challenge would be to get others to follow him,” Wright said. “He really needs to get Germany on board.”

But challenges loom. The leaders of Hungary and Poland, at loggerheads with Brussels over their rule of law standards, have expressed strong disagreement with Macron in the past. Tensions with Britain over the post-Brexit deal and migrants crossing the English Channel, meanwhile, are unlikely to calm down.

“Macron won’t have everything his own way,” said Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform. “Some Central and Eastern European member states will oppose French policies, the British will remain a headache and the Germans may thwart some French ideas.”

Areas of Franco-German divergence include key topics such as energy strategy. Macron is pushing to promote nuclear power as a way of becoming greener and more energy-independent, while Scholz’s government plans to shut down Germany’s last nuclear plants this year.

Germany is also expected to oppose a French proposal involving the use of shared EU debt for an investment plan aimed at coping with the impact of the war in Ukraine. The proposal is modeled on the unprecedented plan launched to get the bloc through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Macron may find a key ally in Italian Premier Mario Draghi, who has been pushing for tighter ties with Paris, including a pact signed with Macron in Rome last fall that was meant to establish Italy and France as the new motor of EU cooperation.

In congratulatory remarks following Macron’s reelection, Draghi emphasized the role of both countries, “working side by side with all of the other partners” to construct a stronger EU.

Inter-faith Iftar Held In Chicago, Brings Together Leaders of South Asian Origin, Representing Major Religions, Seeking Unity

“At the core of all the faith systems and traditions is the recognition that we are all in this together and that we need to love and support one another to live in harmony and peace in an environmentally sustainable world,” said Dr. Suresh Reddy, past President of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, and current Town Trustee Member of Oak Brook in Illinois. Quoting the United Nations, the Hyderabad-born physician and community leader said, “Our world continues to be beset by conflict and intolerance with an increasing number of violent spots in a hostile and unwelcoming world around us. The need for spiritual guidance has never been greater.”

Recognizing the imperative need for dialogue and appreciation among different faiths and religions to enhance mutual understanding, harmony and cooperation among people, an Interfaith Iftar was hosted by Dr. Suresh Reddy, Dr. Anuja Gupta, and Shri Ashfaq Hussain Syed, under the auspices of Verandah Community Outreach on April 25th in Hanover Park, near Chicago, in Illinois. Dr. Suresh Reddy, born and grew up in from Hyderabad, India, a city of many religions, shared his own experiences of Iftar celebrations while growing up in Hyderabad.

Dozens of community leaders and friends of South Asian Origin came together with the hope of fostering unity amongst the people of diverse communities and to help foster fellowship and oneness, said Ashfaq Syed, while underlining the importance of unity and one community & humanity. “The purpose was to celebrate Iftar together and reflect on how we can unifying and support our community to heal after this long and difficult pandemic. Our hope is to continue these thoughtful conversations throughout the year to build bridges that are long lasting.”

Dr. Anuja Gupta welcomed the guests and shared her experience of Ramadan back in Mumbai, India. “It is imperative that we double our efforts to spread the message of good neighborliness based on our common humanity, a message shared by all faith traditions,” she said.

Iftar is the fast-breaking meal observed each evening at sundown during the holy month of Ramadan.  The Interfaith Iftar Dinner is an opportunity for the community to join our Muslim friends for an evening meal as they break their Ramadan fast, added Ashfaq Syed.  Ramadan is a time of revelation and a time of disruption, he said, in which Muslims draw near to God by breaking away from the distractions of the world.

The participants had Iftar, prayer and enjoyed the dinner together, a traditional meal, along with presentations by community peacemakers.

Swami Ishatmanada, Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago,  community leaders from Palatine Gurudwara, Pastor Larry Bullock and Azam Nizamuddin spoke about the need for fostering unity, harmony and understanding each other’s culture and faith.

“We fast from all the things that are getting in our way,” they said. “We fast from our own sense of egocentric centrality in the universe. We fast from the habits of mind and habits of being that get in our way — or in other people’s way — in terms of the spiritual life.”

They stressed the importance of interfaith cooperation and compassion and shared about their  work in supporting peoples of all faiths around the world. We need to be grounded in our own faith. To listen to them and be compassionate. “We need to have self-care and keep our spirits high, have a positive attitude and we can overcome violence and hatred in the name of religion,” they underscored.

34th Sikh Day Parade In New York Showcases Sikh Traditions, Culture

Tens of thousands of people joined in at the 34th Sikh Day Parade including some high-profile politicians, as it marched from 37th Street and Madison to 25th Street in New York City, on Saturday, April 23rd, showcasing the rich traditions and cultural history of Sikh religion.

Thousands crowded the sidewalks to watch floats and performers, as well as the Guru Granth Sahib, being carried on Manhattan’s famous street, as navy blue, yellow, orange and white traditional dresses and flags dominated the colorful landscape amidst the sky scrapers.

The Sikh Parade returned to the Big Apple after being on hiatus for the past two-years due to COVID-19. The Parade had added poignancy and significance in light of recent violent incidents in which Sikhs have been attacked in their own residential areas and near Gurudwaras over the last few weeks.

The event comes in the wake of several recent violent attacks against members of the Sikh community in Queens. Singh is hoping the parade can serve as a bridge for New Yorkers that are not quite familiar. Organizers say despite being one of the oldest immigrant communities in this nation, hate crimes and school bullying still single out their members.

The parade, resplendent with floats and performers in traditional dresses, witnessed the holy book Guru Granth Sahib being carried down from Manhattan. Flags in navy blue, yellow, orange, and white were carried by the participants of the procession.

More than 24 Gurdwaras from around the tri-state area and Washington DC took part, and around 30,000 to 35,000 from the community walked the route, Harpreet Singh Toor, chairman of Public Policy and External Affairs of the Sikh Cultural Society which organized the march told the media.

Music and vibrant decorations adorned floats all throughout the parade. Many Sikh members wearing traditional colored garments and turbans. “It’s a symbol so mostly you will see people today especially wearing blue or yellow turbans otherwise you can wear any color — there is no issue with that,” said Hirdepal Singh member of the Sikh Cultural Society in Queens.

Deep tradition and customs were also on full display in the street to the amazement of onlookers like Pier Smith. “I was just texting my daughter, this is why I love New York, never boring, never goes to sleep — always exciting,” said Smith.

United States Senator Charles Schumer and New York City Mayor Eric Adams also attended the parade. State Assembly woman Jenifer Rajkumar, the first Punjabi person elected to New York State office, was also present.

A New York Police Department band also walked in the parade. The NYPD had also imposed traffic restrictions for Saturday, in view of the parade. Jaspreet Singh, a staff attorney with United Sikhs, estimated there were about 80,000 Sikhs living in New York City, in a 2010 interview with the New York Public Radio.

Vidya Jyoti Inaugurated in Chiacgo

Vidya Jyoti, a newly formed non-profit organization, held a glittering Inaugural Gala on Sunday, April 24, 2022, at Embassy Suites in Naperville, Illinois. The vision of Vidya Jyoti is that every child in India can realize her/his dreams and break the cycle of poverty by having easy access to quality education, The mission of Vidya Jyoti is to channel funds from generous and committed donors of North America to dedicated and bright students in India who are facing financial barriers in their educational journey.

Thanking the community for its love and support, Pratibha Jairath, Founding President of Vidya Jyoti, welcomed the 300 strong audience. The Gala attracted social and business leaders from around the Chicago area. The chief guest for the gala was the philanthropist Mr. Anil Loomba, CEO of Home Mortgage Solutions, inc.

“It is a dream come true,” said Pratibha in her welcome address. “It is gratifying to see so many others share this vision of raising funds to help underprivileged children in India.” Madhu Uppal, the Founding Vice-President, in her address reminded the audience of the Hindu belief of Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam, to look at the world as one family and think of world’s children as our children.

Dr. Santosh Kumar, CEO of Metropolitan Asian Family, in her Keynote address spoke about her own journey and credited education for helping her reach her present position.  Mrs. Malti Loomba, retired Director of Schools in India, accompanied by her son Mr. Anil Loomba, performed the ribbon cutting ceremony and offered her blessings to this noble effort. She spoke about her own experiences as teacher, principal and, finally, director and noted the need for support for the many families with limited means. She also extended her willingness to help guide Vidya Jyoti’s work.

Among the dignitaries present were Dr. Gopal Lalmalani, Mayor, Village of Oak Brook, Judge Kavita Athanikar, Circuit Court Judge, Mrs. Shweta Baid, Alderwoman, City of Aurora, Mrs. Meghana Bansal, Trustee for Wheatland Township and Kevin Morrison, Cook County Commissioner. Each offered their congratulations and extended their best wishes for success to Vidya Jyoti.

Vidya Jyoti recognized the tremendous support of the many sponsors including Grand Sponsors Dr. Bhupinder Beri, Mr. Sanjiv Gulati, Mr. Vimal Jairath and Mr. Bill Lyon as well as Benefactors Mrs. Anita Beri, Dr. Inshu Belani, Mr. Ramesh Mehra, Mrs. Sarita Sood, Mr. Anil Sharma (of Toronto, Canada), Dr. Sarbjit Bhandal, Mrs. Pratibha Jairath and Mr. Brij Sharma. The evening also included introduction of all sponsors and the Board of Vidya Jyoti.

The highlight of the evening was the presentation of plaques to 18 champions of education who have achieved great success in their profession and businesses. After receiving a bouquet of flowers from a family member, these awardees walked the red carpet to receive their plaques that recognized them for their Exceptional Leadership and Service for Education.

The evening also included a dance drama focusing on the theme of transformational power of education, thrilling Polish, Irish and Mexican dances in traditional costumes, and a mesmerizing Tabla Jugalbandi. The entertainment was topped off with a traditional Kathak dance. Another highlight was auction with MacDougall and other gowns, Aspen stay package and a lot more.

“The event exceeded every expectation that we had had,” remarked Pratibha. “Everything proceeded smoothly, for which I must thank our Board, all the volunteers as well as all the others whose work made it a very successful evening.”

Telugu Association of Greater Chicago (TAGC) Celebrates Ugadi and Srirama Navami

Telugu Association of Greater Chicago (TAGC), the first Telugu organization in North America has celebrated this year Ugadi and Srirama Navami on April 16th,2022 at Hemmens Auditorium, Elgin. TAGC is devoted to the awareness and promotion of Telugu Heritage and Culture in the Midwest region headquartered in Chicago, the association was originally founded in 1971 and it recently completed its golden jubilee celebration and entered its 51st year.

Over seven hundred Indian origin members participated in this Ugadi event. Program started with prayer song by Singer Ramya and lighting the inauguration lamp by Smt.Uma Avadhuta President of TAGC 2022. Cultural Chair Prasanna Kandukuri and Co chairs Swetha Chinnari, Sireesha Rebbapragada and Shailja Bethi with all the board members were present on the stage. Anchor Lavanya Guduru came all the way from Atlanta to host the show. Unni Vitta also accompanied Lavanya to make the show more entertaining.

Cultural programs mesmerized the audience with the varieties and the digital projection made the programs livelier. More than 300 kids and Adults participated in the event. Few highlights of the programs were Ramayana, Hanuman Chalisa, Lazy dance by adults, Ugadi theme dances and Senior’s dance etc. Audience enjoyed each and every program with applauds. Cultural committee with the help of others Bod’s Archana Podduturi and Sirisha Madduri ran the program very smoothly. Swaralaya team of singers Ravi Thokala, Mani Thellapragada, Sowjanya and Archana entertained the crowd with their melodious voice and got new energy into the auditorium.

Youth Committee chair Prashanth thanked Youth volunteers and mentioned about their tireless volunteering who were present at the event from the beginning and till the end to help all the areas membership, cultural and food to finish on time.

Decoration was one of the highlights of the event. Star beam event planners decorated the hall and the Lobby with photo booth portraying Ramanavami. Decoration chair Neelima Cheikycharla did a wonderful job in planning the decoration. Membership desk was managed and run smoothly by membership chair Madhavi Konakalla, treasurer Santosh Konduri and Jt. treasurer Sridhar Alavala. Other Board members Siva Desu, Shashi Chava, Srikanth Bethi also helped the team.

Food committee Chair Srinivas Adepu and co-chair Ramakanth Jonnala with team Vijay Beeram, Ramana Kalva, Prashanth Madavarapu and other volunteers did a wonderful job in serving dinner for such a mass crowd in the allocated time. Tasty dinner was served with a variety of food items from Krishna caterers, Naperville. People enjoyed the Centerpiece fountains with Ugadi pachadi and Panakam, Bhakshalu, vada, mango pulihora etc. Got exceptionally good appreciation from everyone.

Apart from Cultural programs on completing 50 years TAGC released a souvenir book showing the journey of the organization. Manasa Lathupalli and team did an excellent job in putting all 50 years memories together in the form of book. Venkat Gunuganti 2021 president released the book along with long time sponsors and past Executive committee members and Souvenir committee members.

TAGC president Uma Avadhuta thanked Past President Venkat Gunuganti and President elect Parameshwar Yarasani, Executive Committee, Board of directors and Volunteers who worked hard for months in planning to make the event grand success. She also thanked all the sponsors, donors and all the youth volunteers who helped in the success of the event. She also thanked all the participants, parents, teachers and guests for their enthusiastic show and support throughout the evening.

Suresh Prabhu, India’s Eminent Parliamentarian Honored In Chicago

Indian American Business Council [IABC] hosted a rousing reception in honor of distinguished visiting Member of Parliament & Former Central Minister Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu at a ceremony held in Downer’s grove, Illinois on April 20, 2022. The reception attracted a great host of community’s prominent organizational leaders who paid glowing tributes to Suresh Prabhu for his exemplary services as the former central minister and as a renowned Indian parliamentarian who leaves behind indelible footprints for his sterling reputation as a man of impeccable integrity.

Ajeet Singh, IABC President & principal host – welcoming the gathering of the distinguished guests – heaped a generous measure of praise on Suresh Prabhu for his illustrious record of accomplishment of remarkable distinction and the honor with which he served the government of India spanning decades with spotless integrity coupled with unwavering devotion to the principles of honesty.  Dr. Sreenivas Reddy, Chair of the Illinois Medical Board – in his remarks – extolled the yeoman leadership of Suresh Prabhu and described him as a highly admired Indian statesman who played a significant role serving as the Indian Emissary and Sherpa at the G20 & G7 Summit. Dr. Sreenivas Reddy added that he leaves behind enduring footprints with his groundbreaking program initiatives that are directed towards the welfare of the citizens and the betterment of the poor.

Dr. Bharat Barai speaking ‘live’ from a remote location hailed Suresh Prabhu for his exceptional leadership and his vision and thanked him for his extraordinary services to the people of India. Dr. Bharat Barai thanked Suresh Prabhu for presiding over some of the most significant portfolios of Railways, Civil Aviation and Commerce & Industry with absolute distinction.

Dr. Suresh Reddy, Trustee Oakbrook Village introduced Suresh Prabhu as a visionary who presided over as central minister with remarkable honor and lauded him for his distinguished credentials that propelled him to the league of top three Indian leaders in Asia.

Shweta Baid, Alderwoman, City of Aurora, Meghna Bansal, Trustee, Wheatland Township and Judge Kavita Athanikar joined with their gracious remarks extolling the leadership of Suresh Prabhu.

Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu in his comprehensive remarks thanked Indian American Business Council [IABC] for hosting such a warm reception and said he is deeply touched by the lavish outpouring of honor and acclamation.  He commended the role of NRI’s in fostering historic Indo-US relations, which he added largely due to your unwavering ambassadorial efforts.

Suresh Prabhu presented a detailed historical overview that shaped India and he delved extensively on education. Suresh Prabhu indicated that he is collaborating with American universities to foster a larger and wider scope of learning in the University he founded.  He said India’s role in a 21st-century world is that of immense responsibility and it is our duty to align the objectives of our institutions to the larger vision of the nation. Suresh Prabhu added that the university he founded is based on the principles of social impact and development. As an institution, my focus is on high-impact areas such as entrepreneurship, healthcare, creativity, education, and leadership. Our great ethos and culture of inquiry have to be explored and applied in a modern sense. Education is the medium to do this, he added.

Earlier, Keerthi Kumar Ravoori, IABC’s Chair in his remarks described Suresh Prabhu a passionate votary of reforms who relentlessly strived to redefine the parameters of growth ushering positive transformation in the Indian society. Gerard Moore, Staff Director for Congressman Danny Davis presented Suresh Prabhu with the congressional proclamation that chronicled his invaluable contributions to the people of India. Vinesh Virani, IABC’s Executive Vice President conducted the question & answer session and while proposing the vote of thanks recognized and acknowledged the presence of many organizational leaders for their presence to honor Suresh Prabhu.

Several other prominent organizational leaders who spoke at the reception including Dr. Vemuri Murthy, Harish Kolasani, Krishna Bansal, Harendra Mangrola, Rakesh Malhotra, Sanjay Shah, Shiveda, Hema Virani, Nirav Patel, Subu Nagasubramaniam, Manoj Singamsetti,, Ganesh Kar, Hema Virani, JD Digsnvker and Rohit Joshi.

Nuclear Expert Cautions Against Unfamiliar New Nuclear Age

High-tech advances in weapons technologies and a return of ‘great power nuclear politics’, risk the world ‘sleepwalking’ into a nuclear age vastly different from the established order of the Cold War, according to new research undertaken at the University of Leicester.

Andrew Futter, Professor of International Politics at the University of Leicester, makes the warning in a research paper for the Hiroshima Organization for Global Peace (HOPe), published today (Friday).

While stockpiles are much reduced from the peak of up to 70,000 nuclear weapons seen in the 1980s, progress in a number of new or ‘disruptive’ technologies threatens to fundamentally change the central pillars on which nuclear order, stability and risk reduction are based.

Modern nuclear weapons – acknowledged to be held by nine countries including the USA, Russia and UK – are more capable and more precise than their Cold War counterparts, and at the same time, are being augmented by a new suite of strategic non-nuclear weapons that might be used against or instead of nuclear weapons.

Advances in offensive capabilities have, however, been matched in increasingly sophisticated sensing, tracking and processing technologies designed to detect, prevent and in some cases respond to a nuclear strike – often using Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Professor Futter said: “While we’ve seen a substantial reduction in the number of nuclear weapons held across the world, it’s important to remember that this reduction came about as much as a result of rationalisation than a genuine drive to disarm. After all, you can’t destroy a city twice, and it takes an enormous amount of money to build and maintain this technology.

“We’ve seen massive advances in the capabilities of these weapons and their support systems in the 30 years since the end of the Cold War, and there’s a danger that this means the established rulebook of nuclear doctrine could be thrown out of the window.”

However, there are potential political solutions as the world prepares to enter what Professor Futter terms a ‘Third Nuclear Age’. He continued: “Choosing the correct pathway for our nuclear future was hard enough in the past and there is no suggestion it will become any easier as we move into a new, potentially more complex and dynamic chapter in the nuclear story.

“Policy proposals to manage the challenges of the Third Nuclear Age are therefore inherently bound by whether one believes the best approach is to take our nuclear world as it is and seek to manage it through restraint, arms control, and norms; or whether it is possible to transition to a world where nuclear weapons no longer exist through sustained moral, ethical, legal and perhaps technological pressure.”

Deterrence, Disruptive Technology and Disarmament in the Third Nuclear Age’ is published by the Hiroshima Organization for Global Peace.

Disruptive Technologies and Nuclear Risks: What’s New and What Matters’, in which Professor Futter further explores the themes of new nuclear capabilities and their impact, is published in the journal Survival.

The Third Nuclear Age research project is funded by the European Research Council. Find out more at thirdnuclearage.com.

Plan To Digitally Connect Temples With Devotees Launched

Through its ‘India Spiritual Journey’ initiative, Koo, a Made-in-India social media platform, has enabled devotees to connect digitally with temples and spiritual centers across India. The first leg of the Journey, covering 4000 kilometers, will bring prominent temples and spiritual centers from Uttarakhand closer to devotees digitally. This is a first-of-its-kind initiative by an Indian social media platform.

Over the last two years, e-darshans have increased significantly on social media as a result of pandemic-induced lockdowns and temporary closures of temples. With spirituality and related topics being among the most searched topics on the internet, this campaign will enable spiritual leaders and temple trusts to connect with devotees across India, share updates, and engage with followers in their native language – all in real time.

Pratik Khedkar, an avid biker and Koo employee, will ride 4000 kilometres from Madhya Pradesh to Uttarakhand. Pratik will visit key pilgrimage sites in the Himalayan state, including Haridwar, Rishikesh, Uttarkashi, Gangotri, Yamunotri, and Badrinath, as part of Koo’s Operations Team. The journey will come to an end at Gaurikund, the base camp for the Kedarnath trek. This campaign, which has the support of Uttarakhand Tourism, aims to assist temple trusts and spiritual centres across the state in harnessing the social media revolution that is currently transforming the world. The ‘India Spiritual Journey’ will be gradually expanded to pilgrimage sites throughout India.

Pratik said as he rode his bike around the region, “I am grateful to Koo for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this campaign.” ‘India Spiritual Journey’ has helped me rediscover myself and connect with spiritually inclined people. We hope to bring this experience to millions of Koo users through this campaign. The experience of travelling through some of India’s most remote areas, surrounded by majestic snow-capped mountains, pine forests, and ancient temples, has been nothing short of divine.”

On the platform, Koo has over 100 verified spiritual accounts, including those of prominent gurus such as Swami Avdheshanand Giri, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev. In the last quarter, the platform saw a 50 per cent increase in verified spiritual accounts. By utilising the platform’s unique multi-lingual feature, spiritual leaders actively koo and interact with their followers in local languages. The feature enables real-time translation of messages across the platform’s current slew of languages, thereby broadening reach. Chat Rooms and Live features contribute to a stronger digital connection between temples and devotees, with over 47 per cent of spiritual accounts gaining more followers on Koo than on any other microblogging platform in India.

A New Dawn In Indo-UK Relationship

In Persian there is an old proverb: “Amad’an, nashist’am, ghuft’am, barkhas’tam’”, meaning “they came, they sat, they talked and then dispersed”. It actually means to say that nothing substantial was achieved by the visit or the talks. The same could be said about UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s recent visit to India, after his two previous trips scheduled last year were cancelled due to Covid-19 pandemic.

The diplomacy nowadays, thrives on optics. On this count the BoJo visit clicked all the boxes, but was also marred by angry reactions on the social media on photos showing him in the driver’s seat at a JCB bulldozer. Perhaps his advisers were unable to connect the continuing controversy over bulldozers being used by the establishment against the minorities across India, or his close connections with the owner of the JCB, Anthony Bamford, an old Conservative Party donor and supporter, overweighed the local sensibilities.

The Gujarat leg of his visit, a carbon copy of his Home Secretary Priti Patel’s 2015 trip to the state, was in essence aimed at garnering the support of the Gujarati electorate back home, keeping an eye on his uncertain political future.

In Gujarat he also met Gautam Adani at his company’s head quarters. BoJo described the feeling of being in Ahmedabad similar to as those of Sachin Tendulkar and Amitabh Bachchan, two Indian icons used for boosting his own public image and trying to resonate or connect with the Indian audiences.

In New Delhi, he referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a “khaas dost” and continuously as Narendra during his speech at Hyderabad House. But no more “khaas” treatment to the Indian demands of a relaxed visa regime and post study work for the Indian students, an indication towards which was given in Ahmedabad, but not granted finally.

Bilateral Cooperation

His main focus remained the FTA between the two countries, as he expected to take back home something substantial in economic terms, particularly after his failed Brexit strategy. He urged the negotiators on both sides to hasten the pace of negotiations so as to have a final document ready for signing by Diwali in October. Certainly an over ambitious demand for an agreement, which has been under negotiations for more than last ten years.

Though the Indian side stated that it would demonstrate the same speed and urgency that it did in concluding recent FTAs with the UAE and Australia in recent months, yet nothing can’t be said for sure about an Indo-UK FTA, as there are many thorny issues on both sides.

British trade with India, the world’s second-most populous country with nearly 1.3 billion people, was worth 23 billion pounds ($29.93 billion) in 2019, much lower than the UK’s trade with some much smaller economies such as Ireland and India’s trade with smaller countries like Belgium which stands at 18 billion pounds.

Russian-Ukraine War

In addition, though not expressed overtly by the British side and neither by BoJo, the Russia-Ukraine war had an ominous shadow over the visit. Though his foreign secretary was very firmly told by New Delhi just 22 days before his visit that India is not going to change stand on its ties with Russia, BoJo thought he might be able to convince New Delhi to do so.

However, predicting the Indian response he had set the tone for this when even before meeting Modi he had said that he understands India’s historic ties with Russia, but still chose to lecture New Delhi on its relationship with ‘autocratic’ states, though this time also New Delhi politely stood its ground.

The manner in which the visit was seen by both sides, was remarkable by the manner in which the two prime ministers delivered their speeches at Hyderabad House. While BoJo avoided mentioning Russia, Modi reaffirmed the ties with Russia.

India-focused issues

Though the British side is referring to a host of agreements signed in different sectors, and BoJo’s statements on counter-terrorism task force being constituted and against the Indian economic fugitives currently at home in the UK, everyone is certain that they are just mere words, nothing substantial. His announcement of One billion pounds trade deals and creating 11,000 jobs is just peanuts for India.

Both sides also agreed to deepen bilateral defence and security cooperation. India welcomed Britain’s Indo-Pacific tilt and joining the Indo-Pacific Economic Initiative; on its part Britain announced the decision to ease the transfer of defence equipment and technology for India and also for developing an advanced jet fighter. But overall, nothing concrete was inked down by both the sides and the technology transfer could be viewed as just a gimmick to wean India away from Russia.

Overall, the two sides showed commitment to joint research, development and production of advanced weapons and related technologies. The two Prime Ministers also issued a statement on strengthening partnership in cyber-security domain, and plans to boost cooperation on mitigating climate change and promoting clean energy. But these agreements should be seen as just part of a normal bureaucratic visit.

The visit seems to be a hastily stitched plan, with no long-term goals and no narrative setting, and was unable to achieve anything bilaterally. In the end BoJo was unable to get anything substantial from India and his political troubles back home persists. The coming days will show how he’ll be able to deal with them and survive as even his closest Asian origin lieutenants like Rishi Sunak and Priti Patel, who were predicted to take over from him, are facing politically damaging controversies of their own.

India Deemed A ‘Country Of Particular Concern’ Over Religious Freedom Violations

A US watchdog has for the second year running recommended that the State Department should designate India as a “country of particular concern”, a category it uses for countries whose governments engage in “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations” of religious freedoms.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has recommended this designation for 15 countries in its annual report for 2022 released on April 25.

Ten of them were declared countries of particular concern by the State Department in 2021 — Myanmar, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. The rest were Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, Syria and Vietnam.

The USCIRF report also recommended in the case of India that the US should impose “targeted sanctions on individuals and entities responsible for severe violations of religious freedom by freezing those individuals’ or entities’ assets and/or barring their entry into the United States”.

In 2021, the report said in its key findings, “The Indian government escalated its promotion and enforcement of policies — including those promoting a Hindu-nationalist agenda — that negatively affected Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, and other religious minorities. The government continued to systemize its ideological vision of a Hindu state at both the national and state levels through the use of both existing and new laws and structural changes hostile to the country’s religious minorities”.

The report added: “In 2021, the Indian government repressed critical voices — especially religious minorities and those reporting on and advocating for them — through harassment, investigation, detention, and prosecution under laws such as the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the Sedition Law.”

The USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan US federal government agency created by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act. It monitors the state of religious freedom around the world and makes policy recommendations to the president, secretary of state and congress.

The USCIRF had made the same recommendation for India — to be declared a country of particular concern — in 2021 as well, but it was not accepted. The commission’s recommendations are not binding on the US government or the Congress. The State Department compiles its own international religious freedom report every year.

“We are disheartened by the deterioration of freedom of religion or belief in some countries, especially Afghanistan under the Taliban’s de facto government since August. Religious minorities have faced harassment, detention, and even death due to their faith or beliefs, and years of progress toward more equitable access to education and representation of women and girls have disappeared,” USCIRF Chair Nadine Maenza said in a statement announcing the release of the 2022 report.

Trump Held In Contempt For Failing To Comply With NY AG Subpoena

A New York state judge has found former President Trump in contempt of court for not turning over documents after he was ordered to comply with a subpoena from the New York attorney general’s office.

New York Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron ordered Trump to pay $10,000 a day until he’s shown that he’s complied with the document demands.

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) applauded the ruling. “Today, justice prevailed,” James said in a statement. “For years, Donald Trump has tried to evade the law and stop our lawful investigation into him and his company’s financial dealings. Today’s ruling makes clear: No one is above the law.”

Engoron had rejected Trump’s challenge to the subpoena for his records and testimony in February, ordering the former president to sit for a deposition and turn over any requested records in his control. Trump appealed the part of the ruling requiring him to be deposed, but didn’t challenge the order to turn over documents.

Alina Habba, Trump’s attorney, said the former president will appeal Engoron’s contempt ruling. “We respectfully disagree with the court’s decision,” Habba said in a statement. “All documents responsive to the subpoena were produced to the attorney general months ago. The only issue raised by the attorney general at today’s hearing was with an affidavit submitted which copied the form mandated by the attorney general. This does not even come close to meeting the standard on a motion for contempt and, thus, we intend to appeal.”

Earlier this month, James’s office asked Engoron to hold Trump in contempt after he blew a deadline for providing the documents and said that the former president’s attorney had even objected to the terms of the subpoena weeks after the judge found it to be valid.

Derek Chauvin asks court to overturn conviction in George Floyd killing Trump appeals NY judge’s contempt ruling

“Mr. Trump’s purported ‘Response’ violates the Court’s order; it is not full compliance, or any degree of compliance, but simply more delay and obfuscation,” James’s office wrote in its contempt motion.
Trump’s attorney Alina Habba told the court that a search for any relevant documents in Trump’s possession found that they were all under the control of his company.

“After conducting a diligent search and review, Respondent’s counsel determined that Respondent was not in possession of any documents responsive to the Subpoena and that all potentially responsive documents were in the possession, custody or control of the Trump Organization,” Habba wrote in a court filing last week.

India-USA Healthcare Partnership Planned During AAPI’s 40th Convention

Coming from India, a nation that has given much to the world, today physicians of Indian origin have become a powerful influence in healthcare across the world. Nowhere is their authority more keenly felt than in the United States, where Indians make up the largest non-Caucasian segment of the American medical community. The overrepresentation of Indians in the field of medicine is striking – in practical terms, one out of seven patients is seen by doctor of in of Indian Heritage in the United States. They provide medical care to the most diverse population base of over 40 million in the US.

Not satisfied with their professional growth and the service they provide to their patients around the world, they are at the forefront, sharing their knowledge and expertise with others, especially those physicians and leaders in the medical field from India.

Since its inception four decades ago, the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) has grown and is strong today and is the largest ethnic medical organization in the United States, representing the interests of over 100,000 physicians of Indian Origin in the US and is the powerful voice here in the US and back home in India.

Their contributions to their motherland and the United States have been enormous. Physicians of Indian origin are well known around the world for their compassion, passion for patient care, medical skills, research, and leadership. They have excelled in their fields of medicine and thus have earned a name for themselves through hard work, commitment, and dedication to their profession and the people they are committed to serving.

Through various projects and programs, AAPI has been leading healthcare initiatives and contributing significantly to offering education, training, and healthcare collaboration with Not-for-profit and government agencies across the nation. The flagship Global Healthcare Summit organized in India every year has been lauded for the tangible contributions AAPI continues to provide impacting almost every field of healthcare in India.

There is no instant solution for India’s myriad problems. But by collaborating with the governments both nationally and at state levels, and working with the government and NGOs, physicians of Indian origin can make a huge difference.

“AAPI in its unique way has made immense contributions to helping our motherland during the crisis and played a significant role in saving lives,” says Anupama Gotimukula, President, of AAPI. “Today, this esteemed panel is convened to nurture, and further, this collaboration between two of the world’s most challenging healthcare systems in the world’s two greatest democracies.”

Realizing this great mission, AAPI is for the first time organizing an In-Person Plenary Session on India-USA Healthcare Partnership With the Health Minister Of India, Mansukh Mandaviya (invited but awaiting confirmation from his office) during the 40th Annual Convention of AAPI on Saturday, June 25, 2022, at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, San Antonio, TX, said Dr. Jayesh Shah, Chair, AAPI Convention & Past President, AAPI.

The Panel Discussion is being moderated by Dr. Sweta Bansal and Dr. Rajeev Suri, Co-Chairs of the AAPI Convention Committees. The invited panelists include Dr. Rahul Gupta, US Drug Czar; Honorable Taranjit Sandhu, Ambassador of India; Hon. Aseem R Mahajan, Consul General of India in Houston; Senator John Cornyn;  Rep. Raja Krishnamurthy, US congressman; Rep. Joaquin Castro, US Congressman; Rep. Ami Bera, US Congressman; Dr. Dwarkanath Reddy, GHS 2022 India Chair; Navdeep S. Jaikaria, Ph.D., Founder, Chairman & CEO, SGN Nanopharma Inc., GAPIO President, BAPIO President, and All AAPI Alumni Chapter Presidents.

The role being played by the AAPI Charitable Foundation has been very significant, says, Dr. Surendra Purohit, Chair, AAPI Charitable Foundation. He will provide an update on the “Role of AAPI’s free clinics in India in the last 40 years.”

Recalling the many noble initiatives of AAPI, benefitting India during the Covid Pandemic, Dr. Sujeet Punnam, said, “Diseases do not have borders and collaboration in healthcare globally is necessary for the survival of humanity. It is this reality that the recent pandemic has engraved on our collective conscience.” The panel on “The Covid Crisis – AAPI physicians’ response during the largest global pandemic in over a century” will be led by Drs. Sujit Punnam, Amit Chakraborthy, & Raj Bhayani. Sewa International, which has been collaborating with AAPI in reaching the needed supplies to the neediest in India will be represented by Arun Kankani, President of Sewa International.

Dr. Lokesh Edara, Chair, Global Medical Education, who has been very instrumental in medical education, who is well recognized by NMC and medical education boards in India,  will share his persistent efforts in the past three years, and how every Medical School in India will have Emergency Medicine and Family Medicine at Post Graduate Medicine Program in India.

Dr. Thakor Patel will provide an update on AAPI Sevak Project, which has been serving millions of people across the many states in India. A new initiative under the current leadership of AAPI has been “Adopt 75 Villages” in India commemorating the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence and providing much-needed Healthcare Screening for chronic diseases, A Rural Health Project involving 75 Villages in several states. Dr. Satheesh Kathula, who has adopted his Village and believes “Over time, an improved village could lead to an improved region, state and country” will present this new program, whose focus is “prevention is better than cure.”

During the most recent Global Healthcare Summit in Hyderabad in 2022, AAPI had organized camps for Screening for Cervical Cancer and Vaccinations to prevent cervical cancer for 100 young women in Hyderabad. Dr. Meetha Singh, who has been part of the program will brief the audience on this new initiative, benefitting women.

TB Eradication Program by a committed team led by Dr. Manoj Jain in collaboration with USAID and now actively functioning in several states in India will be a topic for discussion during the plenary session.

Dr. Gotimukula, President of AAPI urges “AAPI members to consider joining this movement by participating and leading the India-US Healthcare Partnership. AAPI will work with you in coordinating the efforts and through the support system we have in several states, will help you achieve this goal of giving back to our motherland.” For more details, please do visit: www. aapiusa.org

Dr. Vishweshwar R. Ranga Elected Chair, AAPI Board of Trustees

A practicing Internal Medicine Specialist from Las Vegas affiliated with multiple local area hospitals, Dr. Vishweshwar R. Ranga has been elected Chairman of Board of Trustees of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin for the year 2022-23.

Dr. Ranga with more than 35 years of experience in the medical field, has been associated with AAPI since his early days as a Resident in New York. “Since moving to the United States to pursue my career as a physician I have been closely following the entire spectrum of health care in the world’s largest economy,” recalls Dr. Ranga.

A team player and dedicated to the growth of AAPI, Dr. Ranga says, he wants continue to work with the team and ensure that AAPI’s voice is heard wherever relevant decisions are made that impact the physician community.

“My initiation into the Association of Physicians of Indian Origin to work on the membership drive and its directory during my residency at Mount Vernon Hospital in New York helped me understand more deeply the importance of community involvement and practices dear to this noble profession,”  Dr. Ranga says, who has worked hard towards the growth of this organization under the leadership of various presidents.

A medical degree holder from the Medical Academy of Sofia, Bulgaria, Dr. Ranga says, “AAPI is very close to my heart and I want to see it as more of an inclusive outfit, making a clarion call to physicians of Indian origin serving in some of the remote areas of the country to be part of this great organization and be driving forces of change.”

Dr. Ranga, who is known for his organizational skills helped to put together various national and regional AAPI events.

He has worked on several AAPI Committees including: AAPI Bylaws Committee, Membership Committee, Awards Committee, and Publications Committee.  Dr. Ranga has been recognized for his kindness, medical skills and going beyond the call of duty.  “I was in good hands with him. I almost died from a car hitting me in a crosswalk. This man visited me every single day for one month. That is something I will never forget. Thank you, Dr. Ranga. Mom misses you,” Mike Cappello, a former patient of Dr. Ranga wrote on Social Media.

A visionary, Dr. Ranga began to work closely and encourage the second-generation Indian American physicians to be an active part of AAPI. In appreciation of his efforts, contributions and enormous support, YPS/MSRF recognized Dr. Ranga by making him the mentor of the group.

“My goal in the coming year is to formalize and create AAPI leadership academy working with executives from American College of Physicians for the development of leadership roles for all AAPI members. I want to work hard to engage young physicians and attract them to AAPI. They are the future of AAPI.” the newly elected Chair of AAPI BOT, says.

FDA Approves COVID-19 Treatment Remdesivir For Young Kids

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday gave its first full approval for a COVID-19 treatment for children under 12.  The agency granted approval to the treatment remdesivir, also known as Veklury, made by Gilead Sciences, which has already been approved as a treatment for adults.

The treatment was earlier under emergency use authorization for children. Full approval from the FDA provides a more formal and higher level of endorsement than emergency authorization.

Still, the FDA stressed that remdesivir is not a replacement for vaccination, and there is still no authorized vaccine for children under 5, a source of stress and disappointment for some parents.

Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the chair of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, earlier on Monday requested an FDA briefing on the agency’s progress on authorizing a vaccine for children under five.

Authorization for the Pfizer vaccine for young kids could come in June, though previous timelines have been pushed back before.

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While the virus is generally less dangerous in children, the FDA noted severe illness can still result.   “As COVID-19 can cause severe illness in children, some of whom do not currently have a vaccination option, there continues to be a need for safe and effective COVID-19 treatment options for this population,” said Patrizia Cavazzoni, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Today’s approval of the first COVID-19 therapeutic for this population demonstrates the agency’s commitment to that need.”

The approval covers children 28 days and older who weigh at least 3 kilograms and are either hospitalized or at high-risk of severe illness.

Tags also known as Veklury Coronavirus COVID-19 FDA Food and Drug Administration Gilead Sciences James Clyburn made by Gilead Sciences Pandemic Remdesivir The agency granted approval to the treatment remdesivir Veklury

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AYUSH Visa To Be Introduced By India

India is increasingly becoming a healthcare destination for millions of people seeking affordable, quality and effective healthcare services for people from around the world. Keeping in mind the rising demand of traditional medicine, the special AYUSH visa category has been introduced for foreign nationals who want to come to India for AYUSH therapy and invest in the sector.

During the inauguration of the Global AYUSH Investment and Innovation Summit at Gandhinagar in Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India is going to introduce a special AYUSH visa category for foreign nationals who want to come to the country to take advantage of traditional medicine.

The Prime Minister announced that the central government will implement a specific AYUSH hallmark that will be affixed to the best grade AYUSH items manufactured in India. He said that the manufacturing of AYUSH medications, vitamins, and cosmetics is already booming in India, and that the opportunities for investment and innovation in the sector of AYUSH are infinite.

“With this visa, it will make travel easier for accessing Ayush therapies (in India),” said PM Modi while speaking at the inaugural session of the Global Ayush Investment and Innovation Summit 2022 at Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar. He added that the Centre has a plethora of initiatives to encourage and promote the Ayush sector, including the establishment of a digital portal to connect medicinal plant farmers with Ayush product manufacturers.

World Health Organization (WHO) chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, Union Ayush Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel were present at the session.

Adding that investment summits are key in taking any sector forward, Modi highlighted that the idea for an Ayush summit came to him during Covid-19 “when there was widespread panic across the world”. “We saw how ayurvedic medicines, Ayush kada and many such other products were aiding people to increase immunity. During the times of Covid-19, turmeric export from India increased manifold. Innovation and investment increase the capability of any sector manifold. It is time now to increase investment as much as possible in the Ayush sector,” said Modi.

India’s First International Cruise Conference To Be Held In Mumbai

Giving a boost to both the shipping and tourism sectors, India will host the first-ever Incredible India International Cruise Conference in May, 2022 months before the commissioning of the iconic cruise terminal in Mumbai.

On May 14-15, the Mumbai Port Authority (MPA) will hold the event in India’s financial capital. Mumbai will open the first-of-its-kind iconic sea cruise terminal in July 2024.

The conference will also showcase ports on the west coast, such as Mumbai, Goa, Kochi, New Mangalore, and Lakshadweep, as well as Kolkata, Visakhapatnam, Chennai, and Andaman as cruise centers of the country.

The two-day event in Mumbai is being organised by the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, Mumbai Port Authority, and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

The Minister noted during a news conference in Mumbai that the Indian cruise market had the potential to develop tenfold over the next decade, owing to increased demand and disposable incomes.

According to the minister, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship Sagarmala programme connects the ports of Chennai, Vizag, and Andaman with Goa, which attracts the most tourists.

Sarbananda Sonowal also revealed the Conference’s brochure, logo, and mascot, Captain Cruzo. During the press conference, he also launched the event website, www.iiicc2022.in. The focus of the conference will be on Developing India as a Cruise Hub.

Dr. Sanjeev Ranjan, Secretary of the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, Rajiv Jalota, Chairman of the Mumbai Port Authority, and Sanjay Bandopadhyay, Chairman of the Inland Waterways Authority of India, all spoke at the event.

400 Ragis Perform Kirtan On Red Fort During 400th Prakash Parv Celebration Of Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur

Joyful and spiritual vibes filled the atmosphere when a Kirtan reverberated through the lawns of the Red Fort during the celebration of the 400th Parv of the 9th Guru of Sikhism, Guru Tegh Bahadur on  April 21, 2022.

400 ragis performed Sabad Kirtan on this auspicious occasion. This program was organized in coordination with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in attendance, as were Union Ministers Hardeep Singh Puri and G Kishan Reddy. Harjot Bains, Punjab’s tourism minister, Manjinder Singh Sirsa, and Harmeet Singh Kalka, president of the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee, were also in attendance.

As per reports, the crowd swelled with excitement as Modi entered the beautifully lit and decorated ground covering his head with a saffron color cloth. Modi, who was clad in white kurta and churidar, bowed his head in front of the Guru Granth Sahib thrice and prayed before the almighty. PM Modi said, Hearty congratulations to all of you, to all the people who have faith in Guruvani all over the world, to all the countrymen on the occasion of Prakash parv.

A magnificent stage, which was made of myriad colours of flowers, including rose, marigold, tulip and others, was set up in the middle where Guru Granth Sahib was kept. Two more huge stages were set up on both sides of the Guru Granth Sahib where 400 Ragis performed Kirtan in unison with large LED screens in the background.

Modi sat on the ground and listened to the Kirtan. The crowd was getting frenzy to catch a glimpse of the prime minister and shouted “Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal” slogan from the background.

Modi started and ended his speech with “Wahe Guru ji ka Khalsa, Wahe Guru ji ki Fateh”. As Modi came to speak on the dais, the people stood at their place and started shouting “Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal”. Security personnel and volunteers deployed there had to toil hard to control the swelling crowd.

In the middle, where Guru Granth Sahib was kept, a gorgeous stage composed of various colours of flowers, including rose, marigold, tulip, and others, was built up. On both sides of the Guru Granth Sahib, two more massive stages were built up, with 400 Ragis performing Kirtan in unison in front of gigantic LED screens.

“It is a very special moment for us as we are celebrating the 400th Prakash Parv of Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur at Red Fort. It is the same place from where the very order of executing our 9th Guru Sri Tegh Bahadur was issued by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. “What else can we ask for?” said Dileep Singh Sandhu, a septuagenarian who attended the event.

Modi emphasized the historical significance of the Red Fort, which he claimed has witnessed Guru Tegh Bahadur’s sacrifices. Another observer stated that it was the first time that such a large-scale gathering was staged on the Red Fort lawns to commemorate any Sikh Guru’s birth anniversary.

“Today, my excitement knows no bounds as Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur’s heroic story is being told at the very place where his execution was ordered. “It’s a proud time for me,” Ramneek Kaur, another Janakpuri visitor, said. Artefacts relating to Guru Tegh Bahadur and his life events were displayed in a museum put up on the Red Fort lawns.

UN Chief And Putin Agree On Key Ukraine Evacuation

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Russian President Vladimir Putin met one-on-one Tuesday for the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine, and the United Nations said they agreed on arranging evacuations from a besieged steel plant in the battered city of Mariupol.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the Russian leader and U.N. chief discussed “proposals for humanitarian assistance and evacuation of civilians from conflict zones, namely in relation to the situation in Mariupol.”

They also agreed in principle, he said, that the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross should be involved in the evacuation of civilians from the Azovstal steel complex where Ukrainian defenders in the southeastern city are making a dogged stand.

Discussions will be held with the U.N. humanitarian office and the Russian Defense Ministry on the evacuation, Dujarric said.

Guterres criticized Russia’s military action in Ukraine as a flagrant violation of its neighbor’s territorial integrity and urged Russia to allow the evacuation of civilians trapped at the steel mill.

Putin responded by claiming that Russian troops have offered humanitarian corridors to civilians holed up at the plant. But, he said, the Ukrainian defenders of the plant were using civilians as shields and not allowing them to leave.

The sprawling Azovstal site has been almost completely destroyed by Russian attacks, but it is the last pocket of organized Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol. An estimated 2,000 soldiers and 1,000 civilians are said to be holed up in fortified positions underneath the wrecked structures.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Monday ahead of Guterres’ visit, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba noted the failure of other foreign officials who visited Moscow to achieve results, and he urged the U.N. chief to press Russia for an evacuation of Mariupol. “This is really something that the U.N. is capable to do,” Kuleba said.

Guterres flew to Rzeszow, Poland, from Moscow late Tuesday and was met by Polish President Andrzej Duda. He is to go to Kyiv for meetings Thursday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Kuleba, and his meeting with Putin is expected to top the agenda.

Many analysts have low expectations for Guterres’ diplomatic foray into the Ukraine war. But U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq was unusually optimistic Monday ahead of the Moscow meetings, telling reporters Guterres “thinks there is an opportunity now” and “will make the most” of his time on the ground talking to the leaders and see what can be achieved.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, Guterres has accused the Russians of violating the U.N. Charter, which calls for peaceful settlement of disputes.

He also has repeatedly called for a cessation of hostilities, most recently appealing unsuccessfully last Tuesday for a four-day “humanitarian pause” leading up to the Orthodox Easter holiday on Sunday.

The U.N. crisis coordinator in Ukraine, Amin Awad, followed up Sunday by calling for an immediate halt to fighting in Mariupol to allow an estimated 100,000 trapped civilians to evacuate.

Guterres said at a news conference after meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov earlier Tuesday that safe and effective humanitarian corridors are urgently needed to evacuate civilians and deliver aid.

To deal with “the crisis within a crisis in Mariupol,” he proposed coordination between the U.N., Red Cross, and Ukrainian and Russian forces to enable the evacuation of civilians who want to leave “both inside and outside the Azovstal plant and in the city, in any direction they choose, and to deliver the humanitarian aid required.”

The U.N. chief also proposed establishing a Humanitarian Contact Group comprising Russia, Ukraine and the United Nations “to look for opportunities for the opening of safe corridors, with local cessations of hostilities, and to guarantee that they are actually effective.”

Dujarric made no mention of a broader evacuation of civilians from Mariupol or Guterres’ Humanitarian Contact Group, but getting civilians out of the steel plant would be an important step.

On Saturday, a Ukrainian military unit released a video reportedly taken two days earlier in which women and children holed up underground in the plant, some for as long as two months, said they longed to see the sun.

Vision Improvement Is Long-Lasting With Treatment For Blinding Blood Vessel Condition

New research shows that a treatment for retinal vein occlusion yields long-lasting vision gains, with visual acuity remaining significantly above baseline at five years. However, many patients require ongoing treatment. Retinal vein occlusion is one of the most common blinding conditions in the United States; without treatment, central retinal vein occlusion (CRVO), the most severe type of retinal vein occlusion often leads to significant and permanent vision loss. A report on five-year outcomes of the Study of Comparative Treatments for Retinal Vein Occlusion 2 (SCORE2), was published April 21 in American Journal of Ophthalmology. SCORE2 was funded in part by the National Eye Institute (NEI), a part of the National Institutes of Health.

Retinal vein occlusion is caused by a blockage of the veins carrying blood away from the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. This blockage can lead to macular edema where fluid becomes trapped within and under the retina, leading to rapid and severe loss of visual acuity. Without treatment, this condition typically leads to permanent loss of vision. The most effective treatment, injections of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) drugs, helps control blood vessel leakage and swelling in the retina.

“While anti-VEGF therapy is associated with significant improvement in both retinal swelling and visual acuity in patients with central or hemi-retinal vein occlusion, our findings show that most of the patients followed still required treatment to control the macular edema for at least five years,” said Ingrid U. Scott, M.D., M.P.H., Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, chair of the study. “This demonstrates the importance of continued monitoring of these patients.”

In 2017, SCORE2 clinical trial investigators reported that two types of anti-VEGF treatment were equally effective at improving visual acuity in people with macular edema due to CRVO or hemi-retinal vein occlusion (HRVO). CRVO affects the entire retina, while HRVO generally affects about half of the retina. Half of the study participants had been given Avastin (bevacizumab) while the other half received Eylea (aflibercept). Both drugs were administered by injection once per month for six months. At the six-month mark, the vision of participants in both groups had, on average, improved over three lines on an eye chart.

As detailed in this new report, the study investigators followed SCORE2 participants for five years, collecting information about their visual acuity, treatments, and whether their macular edema had resolved. After the initial 12-month study period, participants were treated at their physician’s discretion. Most physicians reduced the frequency of anti-VEGF injections and some switched their patients to the other anti-VEGF drug. At five years, many participants had lost some visual acuity when compared to their acuity at the 12-month mark; however, they retained on average three lines of improvement, compared to their acuity at the beginning of the study.

“It was surprising to us that despite many participants still needing treatment after five years, their visual acuity outcome remained very good,” said Michael Ip, M.D., co-chair of the study from Doheny Eye Institute, University of California Los Angeles. “In comparison to this treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration, where initial vision improvements fade over time, these results are quite favorable.”

“This five-year study tells us a lot about what’s happening with retinal vein occlusion patients in the real world,” said Scott. “Prior to this study, retinal vein occlusion was widely considered an acute illness. This study shows that RVO is a chronic disease. It also underscores the importance of disease monitoring and individualized treatment to achieve the best possible vision.”

“The SCORE2 study provides invaluable data to guide clinicians and their patients toward informed decisions regarding treatment for retinal vein occlusion,” said NEI Director Michael F. Chiang, M.D.

The SCORE2 study was funded by NEI and Research to Prevent Blindness. Study drugs were provided by Regeneron, Inc and Allergan, Inc. Clinical trial number: NCT01969708.

Reference: Scott IU, VanVeldhuisen PC, Oden NL, Ip MS, Blodi BA, for the SCORE2 Investigator Group. “Month 60 Outcomes after Treatment Initiation with Anti-VEGF Therapy for Macular Edema due to Central or Hemi-Retinal Vein Occlusion.” American Journal of Ophthalmology. April 21, 2022 DOI: 10.1016/j.ajo.2022.04.001

NEI leads the federal government’s research on the visual system and eye diseases. NEI supports basic and clinical science programs to develop sight-saving treatments and address special needs of people with vision loss. For more information, visit https://www.nei.nih.gov.

Gautam Adani Is World’s 5th Richest Person

Gautam Adani, the Indian infrastructure mogul, became the richest Asian billionaire in history earlier this month–and he’s kept on climbing, reported Forbes magazine.

“Adani has now passed Warren Buffett to become the 5th richest person in the world,” said Forbes, estimating that the 59-year-old Adani has a net worth of $123.7 billion, as of Friday’s market close, edging out the $121.7 billion fortune of Buffett, who is 91.

Worth $8.9 billion just two years ago, Adani’s fortune spiked to an estimated $50.5 billion in March 2021 because of his skyrocketing share prices–then nearly doubled by March 2022, to an estimated $90 billion, as Adani Group stocks rose even further, according to Forbes.

“Adani’s estimated $123.7 billion net worth makes him the richest person in India, $19 billion wealthier than the country’s number 2, Mukesh Ambani (who’s worth an estimated $104.7 billion). He surpasses Buffett as shares of the famed investor’s Berkshire Hathaway dropped by 2% on Friday amid a broad drop in the U.S. stock market,” said Forbes.

There are now only four people on the planet richer than Adani, according to Forbes’ real-time billionaire tracker: Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates (worth an estimated $130.2 billion), French luxury goods king Bernard Arnault ($167.9 billion), Amazon founder Jeff Bezos ($170.2 billion) and Tesla and SpaceX chief Elon Musk ($269.7 billion), according to Forbes.

World today has 2,668 billionaires, including 236 newcomers—far fewer than last year’s 493

Forbes’ 36th annual World’s Billionaires List, released earlier this month, reveals 2,668 billionaires, including 236 newcomers—far fewer than last year’s 493.

Elon Musk tops the World’s Billionaires ranking for the first time ever, with an estimated net worth of $219 billion. Altogether the total net worth of the world’s billionaires is $12.7 trillion, down from last year’s $13.1 trillion.

Following last year’s record-breaking number of billionaires, the past 12 months have proven to be more volatile. The number of billionaires fell to 2,668, down from 2,755 last year. A total of 329 people dropped off the list this year—the most in a single year since the 2009 financial crisis.

“The tumultuous stock market contributed to sharp declines in the fortunes of many of the world’s richest,” said Kerry A. Dolan, Assistant Managing Editor of Wealth, Forbes. “Still, more than 1,000 billionaires got wealthier over the past year. The top 20 richest alone are worth a combined $2 trillion, up from $1.8 trillion in 2021.”

Key facts for the 2022 World’s Billionaires list:

  • Top Five: Tesla’s Elon Musk tops the list, unseating Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who drops to the No. 2 spot after spending the past four years as the richest person in the world. Bernard Arnault of LVMH remains at No. 3, followed by Bill Gates at No. 4. Rounding out the top five is Warren Buffett, who rejoins the top five after falling to No. 6 last year.
  • Newcomers: Among the list of notable newcomers are Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson(No.1929); OpenSea founders Devin Finzer and Alex Atallah (Nos. 1397); social media and e-commerce tycoon Miranda Qu (No. 1645) and pop star and cosmetics mogul Rihanna (No. 1729).
  • Self-Made: Of the total 2,668 people on the 2022 ranking, 1,891 are self-made billionaires, who founded or cofounded a company or established their own fortune (as opposed to inheriting it).
  • Women: There are 327 women billionaires, including 16 who share a fortune with a spouse, child or sibling, down from 328 in 2021.
  • Globally: Regionally, Asia-Pacific boasts the most billionaires, with 1,088, followed by the United States, with 735, and Europe, with 592.
  • Drop-offs: The war in Ukraine, a Chinese tech crackdown and slipping stock prices pushed 329 people off the World’s Billionaires list this year, including 169 one-hit wonders who were part of last year’s record 493 newcomers.

To view the full list, visit www.forbes.com/billionaires.

The 2022 Billionaires issue features five consecutive covers, including:

  • Igor Bukhman: When Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, Igor Bukhman, the Russia-born billionaire founder of gaming company Playrix, found himself with thousands of employees divided by the frontlines. His internal battlefield offers lessons for us all.
  • Ken Griffin: War in Europe. The China-Russia alliance. De-dollarization. Ken Griffin, Wall Street’s billionaire kingpin, is making the best out of the worst of times.
  • Tope Awotona: Awotona built Calendly out of frustration. Now the scheduling app is worth $3 billion—and the subject of a heated Twitter spat among Silicon Valley elite.
  • Ryan Breslow: Bolt cofounder Ryan Breslow has boosted the value of his fintech to the moon by promising an Amazon-style checkout to millions of online retailers. Now the new billionaire is making a lot of noise—and some powerful enemies—challenging the tech industry’s culture and ethics.
  • Falguni Nayar: A decade ago, when she was 49, Nayar left behind her investment banking career to launch beauty-and-fashion retailer Nykaa. She took it public in November and is now India’s richest self-made woman. Nykaa, which means “one in the spotlight,” currently sells more than 4,000 brands online and in its 102 stores.

The Forbes World’s Billionaires list is a snapshot of wealth using stock prices and currency exchange rates from March 11, 2022.

Indian Election Commission Plans Postal Ballots For Overseas Voters

The Election Commission of India has said that its contemplating postal ballots for overseas voters, an official statement said on Friday.

During his recent visit to South Africa and interaction with the members of the Indian community there, Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra urged the community to register as overseas voters as the present numbers are abysmally low. He also shared with the members that extension of Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS) facility to overseas voters is being contemplated.

The Election Commission delegation, led by the CEC, visited South Africa and Mauritius from April 9-19.

During this visit, a series of meetings were held with the Election Commissions of South Africa and Mauritius as well as interactions with the large NRI community in the two countries. Both Election Management Bodies are also MOU partners with ECI.

The three countries share a relationship which is fundamental, unique and rooted in the collective experiences and cumulative strength of their people, the statement said.

As the Association of World Election Bodies (A-WEB), which provides a unique platform for exchange of knowledge and information between its members, completes 10 years of its foundation and steps into a new decade, the meeting was positioned at the right juncture wherein it was time to reflect on the way forward for A-WEB as an organisation, it said.

“During the meeting, it was acknowledged that this umbrella organisation had EMBs with a lot of experience and expertise which could assist and advise those EMBs who were looking for further development and upgradation of their systems. It was felt that the focus must now be on increasing membership and enhancing the sense of belonging of the members. More avenues must be explored so that the members can interact and meet more often,” the CEC said.

Sushil Chandra said that South Africa has made big strides in democracy and would be hosting the next General Assembly of AWEB in October 2022. India has a very intense and active association with AWEB and both it and South Africa are its founding members. (IANS)

Treatment Of Muslims In India Has Echoes From The Holocaust, Says Genocide Expert

Washington, DC– The Indian government is gearing up for genocide of Muslims similar to the Holocaust through discriminatory policies and acts of state-sponsored violence, said Dr. Ellen Kennedy, founder and Executive Director of World Without Genocide, during a Congressional Briefing on April 26.

“I speak to you as a Jew… We must pay attention to what is happening to Muslims in India today because it is beginning to echo what happened to Europe’s Jews 80 years ago,” said Dr. Kennedy, while speaking on the decision of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to recommend India as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) in its 2022 annual report for egregious violations of religious freedom for the third year in a row.

Drawing parallels between the Indian government’s policies of forced statelessness for Muslims and Nazi Germany’s Nuremberg laws, Dr. Kennedy stated that India’s growing Hindu extremist movement had “created anti-Muslim hate and official support and impunity for anti-Muslim violence.”

“In the past few months, violence against Muslims in India has escalated to the point that the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum ranks India second in the world in this year’s Early Warning statistical risk assessment second in the world. Dr. Gregory Stanton of Genocide Watch warns that a genocide of Muslims in India is about to take place,” she said.

Professor Rohit Chopra, academic and author, drew attention to the infiltration of the Hindu supremacist ideology in all levels of the government, legacy media, and social media.

“What has happened is essentially the BJP has fused with the Indian state… This is extremely, extremely alarming because it actually not just excuses violence or turns a blind eye to it, but actually calls upon Hindus to perform violence against Muslims… as proof of being a good Indian and being a good Hindu. Lower level leaders have openly bayed for Muslim blood and nothing has happened to them,” he said.

“[Hindu nationalists] defy their Constitution… by devoting themselves to creating a Hindu nationalist state where Hindu people have more rights than anyone else. And they will do anything, including the barring of non-Hindu visitors to India… to carry out their discriminatory and violent practices,” said Rev. Peter Cook, Executive Director of the New York State Council of Churches.

“USCIRF has made this recommendation three years in a row, and things are getting worse, not better, for religious minorities in India… Congress must hold hearings on human rights in India. Through its power of the purse, Congress can condition foreign and security aid to India based on religious freedom issues,” said Ria Chakrabarty, Policy Director at Hindus for Human Rights.

“Nearly every single pillar of democracy in India seems to have crumbled under the weight of Hindu nationalism…  United States foreign policy is going to suffer immeasurably if it continues to behave in an ostrich-like manner and ignore the violations of human rights and religious freedom in India,” said Ajit Sahi, Advocacy Director at Indian American Muslim Council.

The briefing was co-hosted by Genocide Watch, World Without Genocide, Indian American Muslim Council, Hindus for Human Rights, International Christian Concern, Jubilee Campaign,  21Wilberforce, Dalit Solidarity Forum, New York State Council of Churches, Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America, India Civil Watch International, Center for Pluralism, American Muslim Institution, Students Against Hindutva Ideology, International Society for Peace and Justice, The Humanism Project and Association of Indian Muslims of America.

HinduPACT Demands USCIRF Stop Outsourcing its Research on India to the “Islamist Lobby”

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has again recommended placing India on the “blacklist” as a “Country of Particular Concern (CPC), a practice that began in 2020. HinduPACT condemns the continued outsourcing of the USCIRF report and recommendations on India, comparing it to propaganda narratives provided by Jamaat-e-Islami linked groups.”

Utsav Chakrabarti, Executive Director of HinduPACT said, “This year’s report follows a pattern of reports that have appeared in previous years. Based on publicly available information on topics like Citizen’s Amendment Act (CAA) and Kashmir, the USCIRF report is a ‘copy-and-paste’ of talking points peddled by an agglomeration of Islamist groups working with radical Islamist-linked group “Justice for All”, on whose platform USCIRF commissioners are known to appear regularly.

Ironically, the USCIRF report chose to use images of Sikh victims of Islamist terror, and Muslim Afghan women – living peacefully in India – who fled their nation at the onset of the Taliban’s takeover, protesting with signs in English and Pashto (in October 2021) to demand better rights for women in Afghanistan, on its cover page.

Ajay Shah, President of World Hindu Council of America (VHPA) and Convenor of HinduPACT, sharply criticized the report and said, “It is now obvious that the USCIRF has been taken over by the Indophobic and Hinduphobic members. Many of these members have attended India and Hindu bashing events. It is no surprise that their selective observations are meant to promote a political agenda and further their electoral reach in selected communities.” He further asked: “If for example, Sikhs were discriminated against in India, why did the Afghan Sikhs fleeing the Taliban seek refuge in India taking advantage of preferential immigration that USCIRF criticizes? Why would the report ignore the violence against Hindus in West Bengal, Rajasthan, or Kerala? And why would they report on a purely internal economic issue of India such as ‘Farm Bills’?” Shah concluded, “We are confident that the State Department will reject this religious fundamentalist driven, corrupt NGO-promoted report on India.”

We hope that USCIRF will regain some of its credibility in future reports, if it refrains from becoming an instrument of propaganda promotion targeting democratically elected leaders in diverse, peaceful multi-ethnic countries around the world, HinduPact said in a statement.

A French Nun Who Enjoys Chocolate And Wine Is The Oldest Living Person

A 118-year-old nun living in a nursing home in southern France has become the world’s oldest living person, according to the Guinness World Records.

Sister André is also the oldest nun ever, according to a statement released by Guinness on Monday, April 25th.

Born as Lucile Randon on February 11, 1904, Sister André has dedicated most of her life to religious service, the statement said. Before becoming a Catholic nun, she looked after children during World War II and then spent 28 years caring for orphans and elderly people at a hospital.

Sister André, who lives near the French city of Toulon, is also the world’s oldest Covid-19 survivor. The Guinness World Records statement said she tested positive for the virus at the beginning of 2021, but recovered fully within three weeks, just in time for her 117th birthday.

In an interview with the French TV channel RMC Story on Tuesday, Sister André appeared to have mixed feelings about becoming the new oldest living person.

“I feel I would be better off in heaven, but the good Lord doesn’t want me yet,” she said, calling the title a “sad honor.” However, she also expressed her joy at being “pampered” by her family.

Sister André enjoys chocolate and wine — and drinks a glass every day — her nursing home, Résidence Catherine Labouré, confirmed to CNN.

When she turned 118 earlier this year, the elderly nun received a handwritten birthday note from French President Emmanuel Macron — the 18th French president of her lifetime — according to a tweet from the nursing home. There have also been 10 different Popes presiding over the Catholic Church since she was born.

Sister André became the world’s eldest following the death of Kane Tanaka, a Japanese woman previously certified as the world’s oldest person, who died at the age of 119 on April 19.

World’s oldest person, Kane Tanaka, died in Japan aged 119. The title of oldest person ever recorded also belongs to a French woman. Born on February 21, 1875, Jeanne Louise Calment’s life spanned 122 years and 164 days, according to the Guinness World Records statement.

US Home Prices Rose By 20% In One Year

Prices rose 19.8% year-over-year in February, an even higher rate than the 19.2% growth seen in January, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller US National Home Price Index.

Phoenix, Tampa and Miami reported the highest year-over-year gains among the 20 US cities tracked by the index. Phoenix led the way for the 33rd consecutive month with home prices rising 32.9% from the year before. It was followed by Tampa and Miami, which saw 32.6% and 29.7% gains, respectively.

All 20 cities reported price increases in the year ending February 2022. In January, 16 cities saw year-over-year growth. Prices were strongest in the South and Southeast, but every region continued to show big gains.

“US home prices continued to advance at a very rapid pace in February,” said Craig J. Lazzara, managing director at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “That level of price growth suggests broad strength in the housing market, which is exactly what we continue to observe.”

Although Lazarra noted that rising inflation, further interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve and rising mortgage rates may soon take the momentum out of the housing market.

The imbalance between strong demand from prospective buyers and insufficient supply of available homes has also been pushing home prices higher, said George Ratiu, manager of economic research for Realtor.com

“Today’s S&P Case-Shiller Index highlights a housing market experiencing a renewed sense of urgency in February, as buyers worked through a small number of homes for sale in an effort to get ahead of surging mortgage rates,” he said.

While inventory has increased a bit since February, according to the National Association of Realtors, there are several other changes that have taken place since then, too.

Real estate markets have seen supply-chain disruptions from the war in Ukraine. Mortgage rates have also been rising fast, climbing above 5% for the first time since 2010. In addition, a strong labor market is driving wages and inflation higher, he said.

“For buyers, the jumps in prices and mortgage rates translated into sticker shock,” said Ratiu.

For a median-priced home financed with a 30-year loan, the monthly payment is $550 higher than a year ago, he said.

But with more inventory expected to come onto the market this spring and rising mortgage rates, housing analysts are expecting to see a cool-off in demand.

“Many buyers are deciding to take a step back and re-evaluate their budgets and timelines,” said Ratiu.

Netflix Collaborates With India To Honor Real-Life Heroes

Streaming giant Netflix and The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting have joined hands to honour unique real-life stories of extraordinary individuals through a series of inspiring short videos titled Azadi Ki Amrit Kahaniyan. This was launched today in the presence of Shri Anurag Thakur, Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Govt. of India.

‘Azadi ki Amrit Kahaniya’ narrated by Neena Gupta, will chronicle the incredible journeys of those individuals who cracked the glass barrier in their respective industries, ranging from science to sports.

In conjunction with OTT giant Netflix, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I & B) released ‘Azadi Ki Amrit Kahaniyan,’ a short video series to honor real-life stories of those individuals who cracked the glass barrier in their respective fields, ranging from science to sports. It was disclosed at the event that Neena Gupta would be narrating these stories. The freshly announced series is a part of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, which commemorates India’s 75th anniversary of independence.

Bela Bajaria, Global Head of TV, Netflix, who was also present at the event, said, “Great stories can come from anywhere and are ever so inspiring when they are about people who rise against the odds. In partnership with The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Azadi Ki Amrit Kahaniyan focuses on celebrating remarkable individuals and their stories that can inspire people in India and around the world.”

Narrated by acclaimed actress Neena Gupta, these short videos capture the remarkable journey of these individuals and how they broke the glass ceiling in their respective fields, ranging from science to sports. Here is what these achievers had to say about what Azadi (freedom) means to them personally.

“If something hasn’t been attempted, it doesn’t mean you cannot do it. To me, Azadi means facing a raging fire.” — Harshini Kanheker, India’s first female firefighter.

“From water comes life, and water is life. I flow free like a river and will continue to protect and serve water, that’s Azadi to me.” — Basanti Devi, Environmentalist and protector of the Kosi river ecosystem.

“If women hold the power to create life, women also hold the power to save lives. If I have to put my life at stake to save other lives, I wouldn’t think twice.”  — Poonam Nautiyal walked miles across the Bageshwar district in Uttarakhand to vaccinate thousands of people living in remote areas.

“Being a scientist, every moment is a learning curve. We need to face challenges, and we need to learn. I always say that science has no gender, and Azadi is when we take our nation to new horizons.” — Tessy Thomas, the “Missile Woman of India”, is the first-ever woman scientist to head a missile project in India.

“I am a force of nature, I can scale great heights, and my journey has just begun. Azadi means to make your way up in the world.” — Anshu Jamsenpa, the first woman in the world to summit Mount Everest twice in 5 days.

“When you dream something out of the box, it’s very important to push the norms. Azadi is to be one with the wind.” — Aarohi Pandit, the world’s youngest person and first woman pilot to cross the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean solo in a light-sport aircraft.

“You have the right to dream, and the right to achieve your dream. Just like the waves, be patient, be consistent, and never look back. To me, Azadi is to take a bit of the ocean wherever I go.”— Tanvi Jagadish, India’s first competitive woman stand-up paddleboarder. The videos are now available on the Ministry’s social media platforms and Doordarshan.

Bitcoin Miners Seek Ways To Dump Fossil Fuels

For the past year a company that “mines” cryptocurrency had what seemed the ideal location for its thousands of power-thirsty computers working around the clock to verify bitcoin transactions: the grounds of a coal-fired power plant in rural Montana.

But with the cryptocurrency industry under increasing pressure to rein in the environmental impact of its massive electricity consumption, Marathon Digital Holdings made the decision to pack up its computers, called miners, and relocate them to a wind farm in Texas.

“For us, it just came down to the fact that we don’t want to be operating on fossil fuels,” said company CEO Fred Thiel.

In the world of bitcoin mining, access to cheap and reliable electricity is everything. But many economists and environmentalists have warned that as the still widely misunderstood digital currency grows in price — and with it popularity — the process of mining that is central to its existence and value is becoming increasingly energy intensive and potentially unsustainable.

The Hardin Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant that is also home to the cryptocurrency “mining” operation Big Horn Data Hub, is seen on April 20, 2022, in Hardin, Mont. Energy from burning coal is used to power thousands of computers that are kept on site to produce the digital currency known as bitcoins. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown)

Bitcoin was was created in 2009 as a new way of paying for things that would not be subject to central banks or government oversight. While it has yet to widely catch on as a method of payment, it has seen its popularity as a speculative investment surge despite volatility that can cause its price to swing wildly. In March 2020, one bitcoin was worth just over $5,000. That surged to a record of more than $67,000 in November 2021 before falling to just over $35,000 in January.

Central to bitcoin’s technology is the process through which transactions are verified and then recorded on what’s known as the blockchain. Computers connected to the bitcoin network race to solve complex mathematical calculations that verify the transactions, with the winner earning newly minted bitcoins as a reward. Currently, when a machine solves the puzzle, its owner is rewarded with 6.25 bitcoins — worth about $260,000 total. The system is calibrated to release 6.25 bitcoins every 10 minutes.

When bitcoin was first invented it was possible to solve the puzzles using a regular home computer, but the technology was designed so problems become harder to solve as more miners work on them. Those mining today use specialized machines that have no monitors and look more like a high-tech fan than a traditional computer. The amount of energy used by computers to solve the puzzles grows as more computers join the effort and puzzles are made more difficult.

Marathon Digital, for example, currently has about 37,000 miners, but hopes to have 199,000 online by early next year, the company said.

Determining how much energy the industry uses is difficult because not all mining companies report their use and some operations are mobile, moving storage containers full of miners around the country chasing low-cost power.

The Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index estimates bitcoin mining used about 109 terrawatt hours of electricity over the past year — close to the amount used in Virginia in 2020, according to the U.S. Energy Information Center. The current usage rate would work out to 143 TWh over a full year, or about the amount used by Ohio or New York state in 2020.

Cambridge’s estimate does not include energy used to mine other cryptocurrencies.

A key moment in the debate over bitcoin’s energy use came last spring, when just weeks after Tesla Motors said it was buying $1.5 billion in bitcoin and would also accept the digital currency as payment for electric vehicles, CEO Elon Musk joined critics in calling out the industry’s energy use and said the company would no longer be taking it as payment.

Some want the government to step in with regulation. In New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul is being pressured to declare a moratorium on the so-called proof-of-work mining method — the one bitcoin uses — and to deny an air quality permit for a project at a retrofitted coal-fired power plant that runs on natural gas.

A New York State judge recently ruled the project would not impact the air or water of nearby Seneca Lake. “Repowering or expanding coal and gas plants to make fake money in the middle of a climate crisis is literally insane,” Yvonne Taylor, vice president of Seneca Lake Guardians, said in a statement.

Anne Hedges with the Montana Environmental Information Center said that before Marathon Digital showed up, environmental groups had expected the coal-fired power plant in Hardin, Montana, to close.

“It was a death watch,” Hedges said. “We were getting their quarterly reports. We were looking at how much they were operating. We were seeing it continue to decline year after year — and last year that totally changed. It would have gone out of existence but for bitcoin.”

The cryptocurrency industry “needs to find a way to reduce its energy demand,” and needs to be regulated, Hedges said. “That’s all there is to it. This is unsustainable.”

Some say the solution is to switch from proof-of-work verification to proof-of-stake verification, which is already used by some cryptocurrencies. With proof of stake, verification of digital currency transfers is assigned to computers, rather than having them compete. People or groups that stake more of their cryptocurrency are more likely to get the work — and the reward.

While the method uses far less electricity, some critics argue proof-of-stake blockchains are less secure. Some companies in the industry acknowledge there is a problem and are committing to achieving net-zero emissions — adding no greenhouse gases to the atmosphere — from the electricity they use by 2030 by signing onto a Crypto Climate Accord, modeled after the Paris Climate Agreement.

“All crypto communities should work together, with urgency, to ensure crypto does not further exacerbate global warming, but instead becomes a net positive contributor to the vital transition to a low carbon global economy,” the accord states.

Marathon Digital is one of several companies pinning its hopes on tapping into excess renewable energy from solar and wind farms in Texas. Earlier this month the companies Blockstream Mining and Block, formerly Square, announced they were breaking ground in Texas on a small, off-the-grid mining facility using Tesla solar panels and batteries.

“This is a step to proving our thesis that bitcoin mining can fund zero-emission power infrastructure,” said Adam Back, CEO and co-founder of Blockstream.

Companies argue that cryptocurrency mining can provide an economic incentive to build more renewable energy projects and help stabilize power grids. Miners give renewable energy generators a guaranteed customer, making it easier for the projects to get financing and generate power at their full capacity.

The mining companies are able to contract for lower-priced energy because “all the energy they use can be shut off and given back to the grid at a moment’s notice,” said Thiel.

In Pennsylvania, Stronghold Digital is cleaning up hundreds of years of coal waste by burning it to create what the state classifies as renewable energy that can be sent to the grid or used in bitcoin mining, depending on power demands.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection is a partner in the work, which uses relatively new technology to burn the waste coal more efficiently and with fewer emissions. Left alone, piles of waste coal can catch fire and burn for years, releasing greenhouse gases. When wet, the waste coal leaches acid into area waterways.

After using the coal waste to generate electricity, what’s left is “toxicity-free fly ash,” which is registered by the state as a clean fertilizer, Stronghold Digital spokesperson Naomi Harrington said.

As Marathon Digital gradually moves its 30,000 miners out of Montana, it’s leaving behind tens of millions of dollars in mining infrastructure behind.

Just because Marathon doesn’t want to use coal-fired power anymore doesn’t mean there won’t be another bitcoin miner to take its place. Thiel said he assumes the power plant owners will find a company to do just that. “No reason not to,” he said.

Data Security: More Privacy On The Smartphone

Privacy on the smartphone is possible, as is shown by the Privacy Friendly Apps (PFAs) for Android: Together with students, the SECUSO research group of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) has developed more than 30 apps for Android phones. They request authorizations required for functioning only and do not contain any tracking mechanisms. For these PFAs, SECUSO has now been granted the first Digital Autonomy Award by the Digital Autonomy Hub that is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

Every day, we all are feeding our smartphones with large data volumes: We are having conversations in the form of words, texts, and images, we are storing notes, photos, and videos. We are planning appointments and administrating contacts. Access to these partly highly sensitive data is subject to so-called authorizations. For example, any app accessing the camera needs the respective authorization. During installation or in other contexts, however, many apps request authorizations to access private smartphone data, although this is not required for their functioning. Some weather apps or QR code scanners, for instance, request access to the address book or to private photos. In addition, many apps contain so-called trackers that continuously collect data, analyze the user behavior, and create profiles of persons without them being aware of it. The data collected can be used for targeted advertising, but may also be stolen by hackers.

Students Are Largely Involved in the Development of Apps

The PFAs developed by KIT’s research group SECUSO (Security – Usability – Society) guarantee more privacy. The research group headed by Professor Melanie Volkamer is affiliated to KIT’s Institute of Applied Informatics and Formal Description Methods. Students were and are significantly involved in the development of PFAs suited for Android smartphones. “Through programming exercises or graduation theses, students come to know security and privacy aspects of Android app development,” Volkamer says. “Still, the challenge is to combine app development with academic education. Students without the relevant experience should also be able to take part.”

The PFAs only request the authorizations required for functioning, do not contain any tracking mechanisms, and, hence, do not collect any usage data. “The data collected are stored locally on the smartphone,” says Christopher Beckmann. The scientist is member of the SECUSO research group and responsible for the Privacy Friendly Apps Lab. “Clearly defined data will be transmitted to third providers only, if this is absolutely necessary for functioning.” The source code of every PFA is published on the GitHub platform.

Apps Range from the Pedometer to the Password Generator

Currently, more than 30 PFAs are offered in the areas of tools, fitness and health, games, and security, including a flashlight, to-do-list, pedometer, active break, sudoku, mental arithmetic trainer, password generator, and WiFi manager. For its PFAs, SECUSO has now received the Digital Autonomy Award that is granted for the first time in 2022 by the Digital Autonomy Hub. It coordinates an interdisciplinary network of 43 institutes and organization, is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research under the program “Miteinander durch Innovation” (together through innovation), and implemented by the Gesellschaft für Informatik e.V. (Society for Informatics) and AlgorithmWatch.

It is SECUSO’s declared goal to continuously further develop the PFAs and to expand the group of users. For this reason, SECUSO looks for interested persons, who wish to help the Privacy Friendly Apps team by supporting one or several apps or by providing staff or funds.