Chicago Rowdies Beat Chicago Hurricanes In Cricket

Chicago Rowdies have been victorious in the three prior games that they have played, and Hurricanes came into their third game winning their past two games. This truly looked like a clash of the titans. Both teams have only local players vying for the topmost slot, and both teams are known to put their heart out when they compete.

Rowdies won the toss and decided to bat first. Skokie ground has proven to be favorable to the team batting first fifty percent of the time, which is not something you look past when you want to win. Pruthvish, captain of Hurricanes was not very pleased with the outcome of the toss but nevertheless took the field with his playing 11 to prove their might.

Rowdies’ openers Ahsan Syed and Wasim Patel both started off slow but steady. Garv the young gun who is only 17 looked like he was dominating the batters with Pruthvish providing ample support from the other end. But the Rowdies batters couldn’t be silenced past the third over. The fourth over yielded ten plus runs while the fifth was a devastating blow to the Hurricanes. Garv conceded 25 runs in the fifth over which accelerated the momentum for Rowdies. The initial partnership between Ahsan and Wasim yielded 59 runs. After Wasim’s departure the middle order did not rack up much in terms of partnership or runs. Liyakat Raja came in late but his contribution of 39 runs of mere 18 balls pushed the team total to 176 runs.

Urvish Desai’s spectacular bowling performance was the saving grace for Hurricanes. He hauled 4 wickets in 4 overs at a very economical rate of 3.25. Hardik Patel picked up 2 wickets at only 5.75. Salman Ahmed proved a little expensive but still managed to pick up 2 wickets. Garv and Pruthvish were on the more expensive side, both going for more than 11.00.

 With a solid total to chase the Hurricanes sent in Urvish Desai and Sunny Bhati. Urvish succumbed to a slow short ball and got out cheaply. Salman Ahmed who came in next put up a decent partnership with Sunny for 25 runs. Pruthvish and Sunny put together 41 runs but then succumbed to Liyakat. Sargam, Jay, and Jash did not do much damage. Aditya’s performance provided a glimmer of hope with his stellar 26 runs of 10 balls which was not enough to swing the game in the Hurricanes’ favor.

 Score: Chicago Rowdies: 176/9(20.0 Overs) Chicago Hurricanes: 158/8(20.0 Overs)Result: Chicago Rowdies won by 18 Run(s); Player of the Match: Liyakat Raja

Air India To Induct Wide-Body Aircraft

With a view to expand its network, Air India has planned to induct wide-body aircraft into its fleet. Total 10 grounded aircrafts will be brought back into service by early 2023, reporst suggested.

A wide-body aircraft is generally deployed on International routes as its bigger fuel tank allows it to travel on long-haul international routes like India-US and India-Canada.

Air India’s wide-body fleet currently stands at 43 aircraft, of which 33 are operational. This is a significant improvement from 28 aircraft that the airline was operating till recently,” said the airline.

The airline on Sunday also announced that it will operate daily flights between Delhi and Vancouver (Canada) from August 31 onwards. Currently, it operates Delhi-Vancouver service three times per week. Frequency on this route has been increased keeping in view the growing traffic between India and Canada and has been enabled by the return to service of the wide-body Boeing 777-300 ER aircraft.

The airline said that Boeing has been working closely with Air India following its acquisition by Tata Group to restore aircraft that had been grounded for prolonged periods due to the Covid-19 pandemic and other reasons.

“The progressive restoration of these aircraft has already allowed Air India to increase schedule resilience and will allow further frequency and network increases over the coming months,” it added.

It was on January 27 this year when the Tata Group took control of Air India after successfully winning the bid for the airline on October 8 last year. Air India’s newly appointed CMD Campbell Wilson had in the last week of July asked the airline’s Integrated Operations Control Center (IOCC), which is the “nerve centre” of any carrier, to report directly to him and give recommendations on how to improve the on-time performance. Wilson said in a statement that the increase of frequency on Delhi-Vancouver route marks the first step in restoring Air India’s fleet and international network.

Rising Global Temperatures Impact Children’s Fitness

Record levels of obesity and physical inactivity among children mean they are set to bear the brunt of poorer health effects from rising global temperatures, warns a new comprehensive review of studies.

While physical fitness is key to tolerating higher temperatures, children are more obese and less fit than ever before, argues Dr Shawnda Morrison, an environmental exercise physiologist, from Slovenia’s University of Ljubljana.

This could put them at greater risk of suffering heat-related health problems, such as dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

She noted that current climate change policies fail to adequately address child health needs and that encouraging children to make exercise part of their everyday lives must be prioritised if they are to cope with living in a hotter world.

In the peer-reviewed journal Temperature, her team assessed a comprehensive review of over 150 medical and scientific studies into how children maintain physical activity, exercise, cope with heat, and how this might change as global temperatures rise.

The research, she highlights includes a study of 457 primary school 5-12 year old boys in Thailand, which found that overweight youngsters were more than twice as likely to have difficulty regulating their body temperature as those of normal weight when exercising outdoors.

In another study, data from emergency departments at children’s hospitals in the US, found attendance was higher during hotter days. Younger children were particularly likely to need emergency care.

The research also found children’s aerobic fitness is 30 per cent lower than that of their parents at the same age.

There are rapid declines in children’s physical activity globally, especially over the last 30 years.

Most children are not meeting the World Health Organization’s guideline of performing an average of at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day.

Physical inactivity was accelerated, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic when schools and other societal infrastructures were closed.

Higher temperatures and changes in weather patterns are projected to also lead to outbreaks of new diseases entering the human population. If there are more movement restrictions put in place to contain the novel diseases, this will have potentially devastating consequences to children’s physical fitness, mental and physical health.

“Yet, as the world warms, children are the least fit they have ever been. It is imperative that children are encouraged to do daily physical activity to build up, and maintain, their fitness, so that they enjoy moving their bodies and it doesn’t feel like ‘work’ or ‘a chore’ to them,” Morrison said. (IANS)

FBI Raids Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago Resort In Palm Beach, Florida

Former President Donald Trump has reported that the FBI “raided” his home at Mar-a-Lago in Florida and even cracked his safe on Monday, August 8th. The search was reportedly tied to classified information Trump allegedly took with him from the White House to his Palm Beach resort in January 2021. The search was as part of an investigation into the handling of presidential documents, including classified documents, that may have been brought there when he left the White House, media reports stated. 

Trump said in a statement that Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach was “occupied by a large group of FBI agents”. Monday’s search was reportedly connected to an investigation into Mr Trump’s handling of official papers. “These are dark times for our nation,” Mr Trump’s statement said. “Nothing like this has ever happened to a president of the United States before.”

Neither the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) nor the justice department have commented on the reported search. According to reports, the former President was at Trump Tower in New York when the search warrant was executed. In February, the National Archives previously said at least 15 boxes of White House records were recovered from the resort — including some that were classified. 

According to BBC reports, an unnamed law enforcement official has reportedly told CBS News, that the Secret Service was notified shortly before the warrant was served around 10:00 local time (14:00 GMT), and that agents protecting Trump helped the FBI investigators.

BBC report also stated, several boxes were taken away, the source said, adding that no doors were kicked down and that the raid had concluded by the late afternoon. A federal search warrant must be signed by a judge. Though such a warrant does not suggest that criminal charges are expected, law enforcement agencies must first demonstrate the possibility that evidence of illegality will be found.

Trump said he had co-operated with all relevant government agencies and so the “unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate”. He said it amounted to “prosecutorial misconduct” and “the weaponisation of the justice system” to prevent him from running for the White House again. “Such an assault could only take place in broken, Third-World countries,” he said. “Sadly, America has now become one of those countries, corrupt at a level not seen before. 

There has never been a search warrant quite like this in American history, Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg told the BBC, describing it it as “a big deal”. American presidents are required by the Presidential Records Act (PRA) to transfer all of their letters, work documents and emails to the National Archives (NA). 

Trump lawyer Christina Bobb, who said she was present for Monday’s search, told NBC News that Trump and his team have been “cooperative with FBI and DOJ officials every step of the way,” while adding that the bureau “did conduct an unannounced raid and seized paper.”

A senior law enforcement official in Florida confirmed that there was “law enforcement activity” at Mar-a-Largo on Monday. The White House said it was not given a heads up. “We did not have notice of the reported action and would refer you to the Justice Department for any additional information,” a White House official said.

There are also other federal laws regarding the handling of classified documents. In February, the National Archives said it had retrieved 15 boxes of papers from Mar-a-Lago, which Mr Trump should have turned over when he left the White House. The agency later told Congress the boxes included “items marked as classified national security information”.

In addition, photos have apparently revealed Trump’s habit of flushing key White House documents down the toilet. The extraordinary move to search the home of a former president comes as Trump’s legal problems continue on multiple fronts. Trump is also expected in the coming months to announce he will launch another bid for the White House in 2024.

Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Vice President of AAPI Hosts Legendary Cricketer Sunil Gavaskar, Raising $54,000 Towards Heart to Heart Foundation

Legendary Cricket Star Sunil Gavaskar, well known around the world as an inspirational speaker, philanthropist, and the chairman of H2H Foundation has been on a Tour across the United States raising funds for Heart to Heart Foundation, which supports children with congenital heart diseases in India. 

As a part of the fundraising tour, Gavaskar graced the home of Dr. Satheesh Kathula, an eminent Oncologist and the Vice President of AAPI. Several physicians and business leaders attended the fundraiser and they collectively raised $54,000, which supports 27 open heart surgeries. 

“It was a memorable experience hosting the legend and raising funds for a great cause” Dr. Kathula said. “Mr. Gavaskar has really been spending his personal time and going one city to another to help children in need which is quite remarkable and commendable” he added. “He is one of the most humble people I have ever met” said Dr. Kathula. He thanked all the donors who made this possible with their generous contributions. 

During the Meet & Greet event with Sunil Gavaskar, recipient of Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan awards for his contributions to Indian cricket inspired the hearts and souls of participants by telling us how India remains the world capital for Congenital Heart Disease (CHD), with 300,000 children born each year.

Without medical/surgical care, over 25% of children die before their 1st birthday, contributing to over 10% of the Infant Mortality Rate and resulting in 250+ children dying every day; many more die in infancy or the preschool ages. Only a small fraction of children with CHD can afford the cardiac surgery, which can cost over $100,000 in the United States.

With frugal innovations in CHD care H2H Foundation has reduced the average cost of an open-heart surgery to only $2000$  per patient, which would otherwise be $75,000 to $125,000 in the United States and $5,000 to $9,000 in India. Gavaskar has personally sponsored 34 surgeries to match his 34 test centuries. The legendary cricket master is touring the United States to raise awareness and funds to support the cause. 

Heart to Heart (H2H) Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to saving the lives of children born with CHD, by providing FREE pediatric cardiac surgeries in collaboration with the group of Sai Sanjeevini Hospitals in India. Since February 2014, these hospitals have also been providing primary, secondary, and tertiary healthcare exclusively to children with CHD and over 10,000 surgeries have been performed free of cost. 10,000 is also the number of innings played by Gavaskar. Additionally, for every test century, he has scored he has personally funded the same number of surgeries.

Gavaskar was the keynote speaker at the recently concluded AAPI Convention in San Antonio,  Gavaskar referred to his association with the “Heart to Heart Foundation” and how the Foundation is touching many hearts around the world. Gavaskar said “I really want to thank all the donors who opened their heart to help the children in need.”

India Top Country Of Origin For Immigrant Founders Of US Unicorns

Over half of America’s start-ups (319 out of 582 or 55 per cent) valued at $1 billion or more have been founded by immigrants. As the country of origin for immigrant founders in the US, Indians top the charts with 66 companies. Israelis followed suit with the second highest number of billion-dollar companies at 54.  

A study published by the National Foundation for American Policy on Tuesday, 26 July, has found that “India, with 66 companies, is the leading country of origin for the immigrant founders of US billion-dollar companies.” India, at 66, is followed by Israel, whose immigrants have founded 54 unicorns.

And Israel is followed by “the United Kingdom (27), Canada (22), China (21), France (18), Germany (15), Russia (11), Ukraine (10), Iran (8), Australia (7), Romania (6), Italy (6), Poland (6), Nigeria (6), South Korea (5), New Zealand (5), Pakistan (5) Argentina (5), Brazil (5), Spain (4), Portugal (4), Denmark (4) and several other countries.” 

Only companies that are startups valued at $1 billion or more are included in the list. The report also identified 10 founders who founded two or more unicorns. These included Elon Musk, Mohit Aron, Jyoti Bansal, Ashutosh Garg, Ajeet Singh, Al Goldstein, Noubar Afeyan, Ignacio Martinez, Ion Stoica and Sebastian Thrun. Four of the 10 founders were born in India before immigrating to the US.  

As per this report, the collective value of the unicorns founded by immigrants stood at $1.2 trillion. This is more than the companies listed on major stock markets like Brazil Stock Exchange ($925 billion); Madrid Stock Exchange ($727 billion); Singapore Exchange ($679 billion); Indonesia Exchange ($620 billion); Stock Exchange of Thailand ($613 billion); Moscow Exchange ($579 billion); Italian Stock Exchange ($507 billion); and Mexican Stock Exchange ($498 billion). 

Interestingly, immigrant-founded American companies like SpaceX ($125 billion), Stripe ($95 billion), Instacart ($39 billion), Databricks ($38 billion), Epic Games ($31.5 billion), Miro ($17.5 billion) and Discord ($15 billion) have the highest valuations.

Australia’s Deakin University Announces Scholarships To Honor 75 Years Of India’s Independence

Deakin University, Australia, has announced its Research Scholarships Program 2023, which offers 100% tuition fee waiver to twenty high-achieving Indian students for the full duration of their onshore higher degree by research studies at the university. Among the top 1% universities for global research impact and a 100% Excellence in Research Australia (ERA), Deakin University remains committed to partnering with India and giving back to Indian students to open a world of opportunity with a research scholarship.

The scholarship recipients will receive a 100% tuition fee waiver and an annual stipend of up to INR 15 lacs for full-time, on-campus study for up to three years. Additionally, students will also be eligible to receive a one-time relocation allowance of up to INR 1.5 lacs and health insurance cover for the duration of their student visa. Through these scholarships, students will be able to re-imagine their careers, connect with industry, and create an impact alongside world-leading researchers at Victoria’s number one university for overall employment.

Deakin’s strategic research and innovation centers help to solve global challenges guided by the five impact themes of advancing society and culture, building safe and secure communities, improving health and wellbeing, enabling a sustainable world, and designing smarter technologies. With a diverse range of research areas, close links with industry, and first-class facilities, Deakin’s research create a real-world, far-reaching impact. In recent times, Deakin’s Recycling and Renewable Energy Commercialization Hub (REACH), Australia’s largest recycling and clean energy advanced manufacturing ecosystem, was awarded a $50 million Australian government Trailblazer Universities Program grant to facilitate research that will play a crucial role in driving Australia’s green manufacturing revolution.

Professor Julie Owens, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research, Deakin University, said, “At Deakin, we focus on promoting research that will have a positive impact on our local and global communities. Through the Research Scholarships Program, we will provide passionate students with the opportunity to focus on making an original and significant contribution in their chosen area of research.”

Professor Bas Baskaran, Pro Vice – Chancellor International Research Partnerships, Deakin University, added, “We have had deep connections with India for almost three decades and our collaborations with eminent institutes in the region have led to exceptional innovation and research over the years. In recognition of India’s 75th year of Independence and 28 years of Deakin University’s presence and engagement in India, Deakin’s Research Scholarships Program aim to provide Indian students with an opportunity to study with our vibrant research community in Australia and pursue meaningful research that can provide solutions to global challenges.” .

Applications for the scholarship are open for students meeting the below eligibility criteria:

  • A Master’s degree with at least two-thirds of the degree comprising a thesis graded at 80% and above
  • A Master’s degree by coursework or graduate diploma, which includes a research project or thesis of 10,000 to 20,000 words, and 80% and above standard and research methodology units
  • Relevant postgraduate research experience
  • Independently refereed journal articles, publications, or conference papers
  • Professional reporting or prior learning
  • Research-related awards or prizes
  • IELTS/TOEFL scores are mandatory

About Deakin University

Established in 1974, Deakin University successfully combines excellence in teaching, research and effective partnerships with industry and government to deliver high quality courses and undertake research that makes a difference to the domestic and international communities it serves.

Deakin’s South Asia operations commenced in 1994 at New Delhi, India, making it one of the first overseas education providers to establish operations in this region. Across India, Deakin engages with the government, industry, and academia to share its vibrant culture of education and research.

The last date to submit the application is 15th October 2022. For more information about Deakin University Research Scholarships Program 2023, please visit https://deakinuniversity.in/research/.  You can also email [email protected] or call the Deakin South Asia Office, New Delhi at +91-(0)11-26544766.

10 Years After Shooting, Wisconsin Sikhs Lead Interfaith Conversation On Safety

By, Silma Suba  At RNS

(Interfaith America) — On the eve of the 10-year anniversary of the fatal mass shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, more than 100 interfaith leaders, policymakers, White House officials, law enforcement officials and educators convened Thursday night (Aug. 4) at city hall in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, for an interfaith panel discussion on protecting places of worship from hate crimes. 

The panel was a part of the Healing from Hate & Protecting Places of Worship Forum, a memorial of the tragedy at the gurdwara (as Sikhs call their houses of worship) organized by the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee in partnership with the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, Sikh Coalition and Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

The forum was a part of a series of events these groups are hosting this week to honor the victims of the shooting: Sita Singh, 41; Ranjit Singh, 49; Prakash Singh, 39; Paramjit Kaur, 41; Suveg Singh Khattra, 84; Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65; and Baba Punjab Singh, 72.     

“Being here is incredibly moving because people have turned their pain into purpose in a way that none of us could have predicted,” Melissa Rogers, executive director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, said after the forum.  

The interfaith panel, moderated by former U.S. attorney James Santelle, included Pardeep Kaleka, executive director of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee; Walter Lanier, CEO of the African American Leadership Alliance of Milwaukee; Ahmed Quereshi, president of the Islamic Society of Milwaukee; and Ari Friedman, director of security and community properties at the Milwaukee Jewish Federation. 

In the decade since the Oak Creek shooting, hate crimes against places of worship have been on the rise. Between 2018 and February 2020, mass shootings caused by religious hate increased by 17%.

As attacks have increased, synagogues, churches, mosques, gurdwaras and other places of worship have increased surveillance and security at their doors.  

“We’ve developed an usher and greeters’ program where volunteers, who are not security people, but an extra set of eyes and ears, are trained to interact with the people as they come in, in a friendly manner,” Friedman said. The volunteers, he said, look out for nonverbal cues and other indicators to gauge if there is any need for concern. 

In addition to securing their gates, the faith leaders said it’s important to include their congregations in conversations about safety and security.  

Lanier said he uses biblical references to emphasize the importance of protecting oneself from harm. 

“There’s a New Testament narrative where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead,” Lanier told the gathering. “Some religious leaders were mad … and they said we’re going to move off. We’re not going to put ourselves in the way of danger. But we’re going to use wisdom in this moment, and pull ourselves back. It was really important to frame up for the congregation that this is biblical, this is within the wheelhouse of our faith.”

Not every place of worship can afford to hire security, and, the Milwaukee Islamic Center’s Quereshi noted, in some cases it’s even illegal to do so. Quereshi added that many faith leaders face the challenge of balancing a fundamental belief that places of worship should welcome everyone with an urgent need to protect themselves and their community. 

Lanier said it’s important for people to look out for not just their own but other communities as well. “It’s like being in a neighborhood. It can’t be that I’m just going to look out for my house and not worry about what’s happening at your house … let’s get together like this evening so that we can share resources, information, best practices, collaborate and have a narrative and have a critical mass of people who are on the same page and sharing similar messages.”

Kaleka, whose father was one of the seven victims at Oak Creek a decade ago, said one of the lessons the Sikh community learned that day was how everyone can keep moving forward with compassion while also learning to fortify their walls.  

“In all communities who are targeted, we have been blessed to be surrounded by love, by compassion, by kindness,” Kaleka told the audience. “We could have left whatever happened as whatever happened, but you all made the conscious choice of being here because of seven people who died, but you would not let hope die. And we’re here 10 years later, simply because of that.”  (A version of this article originally appeared on Interfaith America magazine.)

Stars Shed Light On Why Stellar Populations Are So Similar In Milky Way By Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences

Scientists have uncovered what sets the masses of stars, a mystery that has captivated astrophysicists for decades. Their answer? Stars, themselves. 

Newswise — Scientists have uncovered what sets the masses of stars, a mystery that has captivated astrophysicists for decades. Their answer? Stars, themselves.  

Using highly detailed simulations, a collaborative team led by researchers from the University of Texas at Austin has made a breakthrough discovery that star formation is a self-regulatory process, knowledge that may allow researchers to understand star formation within our own and far away galaxies. 

The study was published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The collaborative team also included experts from Carnegie Observatories, Northwestern University, Harvard University and the California Institute of Technology

Stars form within giant clouds that consist of cold gas and dust. Slowly, gravitational attraction pulls far-flung specks of this gas and dust together, forming dense clumps in which material falls inwards, compressing to high densities and producing heat: a newborn star.

Surrounding each of these “protostars” is a rotating disk of gas and dust. Every planet in our solar system was once specks in such a disk around our newborn sun. Whether planets orbiting a star could host life is dependent on the mass of the star and how it formed. Therefore, understanding star formation is crucial to determine where life can form in the universe.  

 “Stars are the atoms of the galaxy,” said Stella Offner, an associate professor of astronomy at UT Austin’s College of Natural Sciences and Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences. “Their mass distribution dictates whether planets will be born and if life could develop.

Every subfield of astronomy depends on the mass distribution of stars — what we call the initial mass function (IMF) — which has proved challenging for scientists to be able to model correctly. Stars much bigger than our sun are rare, making up only 1% of newborn stars. And, for every one of these stars, there are up to 10 sun-like stars and 30 dwarf stars. Observations found that no matter where we look in the Milky Way, these ratios (i.e., the IMF) are the same, for both newly formed star clusters and for those that are billions of years old.

This is the mystery of the IMF. Every population of stars in our galaxy, and in all the dwarf galaxies that surround us, has this same balance, even though their stars were born under wildly different conditions over billions of years. In theory, the IMF should vary dramatically, but it is virtually universal, which has puzzled astronomers for decades.

“For a long time, we have been asking why,” said Dávid Guszejnov, STARFORGE project lead and postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Astronomy at UT Austin. “Our simulations followed stars from birth to the natural endpoint of their formation to solve this mystery.” 

The STARFORGE Project is a multi-institution initiative, co-lead by UT Austin and the Carnegie Observatories. The research was completed on two of the most powerful supercomputers in the world: Frontera and Stampede2 of UT Austin’s Texas Advanced Computing Center

One of the greatest challenges in studying star formation is the enormous dynamic range of the problem, an example of which is stellar feedback: where individual stars can affect their parent clouds, which are 100 million times larger than they are.

“Even the largest supercomputer and best code could not cover the entire dynamic range, but TACC supercomputers are powerful enough that we can capture a sufficient amount to identify individual stars forming in the simulation.”

These simulations are the first to follow the formation of individual stars in a collapsing giant cloud while also capturing how these newly formed stars interact with their surroundings by giving off light and shedding mass via jets and winds, a phenomenon referred to as “stellar feedback.”

“We have discovered that star formation is a self-regulating process,” Guszejnov said. “Stars that form in wildly different environments have a similar IMF, because stellar feedback, which opposes gravity, also acts differently, pushing stellar masses toward the same mass distribution.”

The collaboration was funded by the National Science Foundation, NASA, the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, XSEDE, Northwestern’s Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics, and the Harvard Institute for Theory and Computation.

You can view this YouTube video of a 360-degree kinematic map of a star formation simulation from the STARFORGE team. 

After US Senate Passes Historic Inflation Reduction Act, Congress To Take Up The Bill

Schumer and Senator Joe Manchin clinched an unexpected deal on the massive over $485 billion bill that would combat climate change, reduce prescription drug prices and lower the federal deficit

The US Congress moved much closer to the passage of President Joe Biden’s much articulated but modified Build Back Better (BBB) initiative on climate, healthcare and tax spending as bleary-eyed Senators worked through a series of amendments to a wide-ranging bill that was eventually adopted by the Senate with 50 votes plus the tie breaking ballot by Vice President Kamala Harris.

For Democrats, the long hours paid off when the Senate on Sunday, August 7th eventually passed the inflation reduction bill originally proposed by Biden and adopted with several amendments, including those by Senators Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema on the financial provisions, media reports said. The Senate saw a rare weekend session for the Democrats push hard to pass their ambitious bill known before leaving Capitol Hill for their traditional August recess.

According to media reports, Democrats advanced the bill, called the Inflation Reduction Act, through the budget reconciliation process, which means they had to clear a few procedural hurdles to send the bill to the House for expected passage and eventually the President’s desk. “The Democrats in our Senate caucus have stayed unified throughout the night,” Senator Chris Coons told ABC News during a break between votes.

“Every single amendment vote of the dozens we’ve taken so far we’ve defeated Republican efforts to knock down this important, even landmark piece of legislation that will reduce prescription drug prices, reduce health care costs, reduce the deficit and make a big down payment on combating climate change.”

Also speaking to ABC News, South Dakota Republican Mike Rounds said party members would keep fighting passage of the bill. “It’s not going to do much to help inflation. We’re still going to have a problem there,” he also said on the Sunday show. “And yet at the same time, they’re going to be collecting about real close to $740 billion in new tax revenue over the next supposedly 5 to 10 years, but most certainly it’s not going to help get us through a tight time in which we’re worried about coming out of a recession.”

What’s the budget reconciliation process?

Senate Democrats used the budget reconciliation process to move the bill, allowing them to avoid the 60-vote threshold to overcome a Republican filibuster. The process allowed the bill to pass with 50 votes, meaning all they needed was a strict-party line vote with their 50-50 majority (Vice President Harris cast the tie-breaking vote). No Republicans supported the final version.

The process had one major caveat — provisions in the bill must be related to the budget in some capacity. Any bill that is on track to reconciliation must first go through the Senate Parliamentarian, who combs through the bill for any violation of what’s been dubbed the Byrd Rule. It was named after Virginia Democratic Senator Harry F. Byrd, considered a fiscal hawk.

On Saturday morning, Democrats got a good start with the good news when Parliamentarian Elizabeth Macdonough deemed that reconciliation could be applied to large parts of the bill regarding climate initiatives and allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug costs for seniors.

“We are one step closer to finally taking on Big Pharma and lowering Rx drug prices for millions of Americans,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.

Last week, Schumer and Senator Joe Manchin clinched an unexpected deal on the massive over $485 billion bill that would combat climate change, reduce prescription drug prices and lower the federal deficit.

The New York Times described the Democrats’ victory as being within a shouting distance of getting the climate change bill endorsed which has wide ranging provisions on carbon emissions and tax breaks for using non fossil fuels and electric vehicles instead of gasoline driven cars.

On Saturday evening, the Senate agreed by a party-line vote of 50-50 with Harris breaking the tie and starting what could have been up to 20 hours of debate, equally divided between Democrats and Republicans. But leaders of both parties opted to move straight to votes on amendments after only a few hours of debate.

Later in the night, Democrats received more welcome news as Schumer’s office announced that the Congressional Budget Office confirmed that the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 meets reconciliation instructions, allowing the bill to move forward on the Senate floor.

The bill will “lower costs for American families. It’s going to address some of the basic need’s families have been having for generations in terms of daily costs of life that are too expensive that are going to be lowered because of this work”, Harris told reporters after casting the tie-breaking vote.

Once debate ended, a “Vote-a-Rama” on amendments to the bill began. Independent Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders, a former presidential candidate, had called the voting process a circus of “Vote-a-Rama” after he was disappointed that Schumer had made the BBB initiative tepid with the amendments of Manchin and Sinema.

What’s a “Vote-a-Rama”?

In a “Vote-a-Rama”, Senators can offer up an unlimited number of amendments to a bill but the process is expedited. There is only one minute allocated for debate, equally divided between both sides. Then, Senators are given 10 minutes to vote. This process repeats for every single amendment. The first amendment was offered by Sanders, shortly after 11.30 p.m. Saturday. His proposal would have sped up Medicare’s ability to negotiate lower pharmaceutical costs and expanded the list of drugs on which they could impose price caps. It failed 99-1.

The Senate last held a “Vote-a-Rama” a year ago when it adopted a budget resolution for fiscal year 2022. In that instance, Senators offered up 43 amendments for a vote, leading to a session that lasted around 14 hours.

This weekend’s “Vote-a-Rama” was even longer, lasting nearly 16 hours before a final vote was held. The majority of amendments were proposed by Republicans, on issues like the IRS, energy production, and immigration. Many failed 50-50 with no Senator crossing party lines.

Sanders proposed the most amendments on the Democratic side of the aisle. None of the amendments overnight passed. Republicans blocked a proposed $35 cap on insulin copays on Sunday morning, arguing the scope of the cap didn’t fall under reconciliation. The amendment only targets the insulin cap on private insurers; Democrats’ plan to lower insulin costs under Medicare remains intact.

Ten Republican Senators needed to vote with Democrats to protect the cap, but only seven voted to keep the cap in place: Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Dan Sullivan of Alaska.

Just when the end of amendment votes became imminent on Sunday afternoon, Senate Minority Whip John Thune began negotiations with Sinema to exempt some businesses owned by private equity from the 15 per cent corporate income tax. Democratic Senators Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Mark Kelly of Arizona, Jon Ossoff of Georgia, Jacky Rosen of Nevada and Raphael Warnock of Georgia joined Sinema and all Republicans senators in support, with the amendment passing 57-43.

The exemptions eliminate $35 billion in revenue from the bill — which has been a sticking point for Manchin, who has prioritized deficit savings throughout months of negotiations. To offset the lost revenue, Senator Mark Warner offered an amendment to extend loss limitations that some businesses can use for tax deductions. The amendment passed by a party-line vote before the bill moved for final passage.

What’s the point of it? Most amendments from Republicans, who were furious over the deal which was negotiated without their input.

Republican-proposed amendments mostly failed, with the exception of Thune’s amendment exempting some businesses from the 15 per cent corporate tax rate. But the “Vote-a-Rama” allowed Republicans to make Democrats vote on tough issues that could be used for ads on the campaign trail this fall.

The deal also incited the anger of some on the left, who have criticized the bill’s investment in new fossil fuel development a concession likely due to the importance natural gas and coal are to the economy of Manchin’s home state.

Sanders on the Senate floor last week had urged lawmakers “to do everything possible to take on the greed of the fossil fuel industry”, and promised to offer an amendment nixing fossil fuel investments in the bill. ((IANS)

Celebrating 75 Years of U.S.-India Partnership

By, Amy Hariani, Senior Advisor, U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC), U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Over the past 75 years, India has emerged as the fastest growing large economy in the world, and the partnership between the United States and India has grown to be predominately characterized by alignment in objectives, values, and vision.

This year, we celebrate 75 years of Indian Independence, and of diplomatic relations between the two largest democracies and market economies in the world. In those 75 years, India has emerged as the fastest growing large economy in the world, and the partnership between the United States and India has grown to be predominately characterized by alignment in objectives, values, and vision.   

While today our relationship is characterized by convergence, in the mid-20th century, the bilateral relationship was strained by the logic of a Cold-War geopolitical landscape and India’s experiments with an import-substitution development pathway. Bilateral trade was minimal, and the contours of the relationship were need-based.  

However, even in those days, there was a vision that the U.S. and India were destined for greater cooperation. With the Indo-Pakistan War presenting a historical low-point to U.S.-India relations in the 1970’s, there was a recognition by both governments that the commercial relationship would need to pull the diplomatic, that the business community—as it often does—needed to lead.   

That’s why in 1975, the U.S. and Indian Governments urged the formation of the U.S.-India Business Council to forge stronger trade and investment ties that could serve as the foundation of a productive partnership. The Council’s formation is the embodiment of the optimism that underpins this relationship. In the 47 years of our operation—and especially in the last three decades—we’ve seen tremendous development of our commercial and strategic partnership, and the increasing interdependence of the latter and former.  

In 1991, India dismantled the License Raj (a baroque system of commercial licenses and permits), navigated its balance of payments crisis, and began lowering import tariffs  

In 2007, Australia, India, Japan and the United States initiated the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue  

In 2008, the U.S. and India launched the Civil Nuclear Agreement and the U.S.-India CEO forum  

In 2016, the U.S. and India signed the foundational defense agreements, committing to cooperation on logistics, secure communication, and geospatial intelligence  

During my tenure at USIBC, I’ve been one of the first to taste sweet India-sourced alphonso mangos on U.S. soil; proudly watched as U.S. pharmaceutical and insurance companies deepened their investments in India as FDI rules were liberalized; and walked with Indian executives and American governors as they visited potential manufacturing sites for lasting Indian investments into the United States. In the past 20 years, India’s FDI flows have expanded 20 times and the U.S. contributes to 18% percent of them.  

As our commercial ties have strengthened, so has our relationship as strategic partners. U.S.-India defense trade has increased from near zero in 2008 to over $20 billion in the last decade; today India is characterized as a major defense partner and net security provider in the Indo-Pacific.   

During the pandemic, I participated in the unprecedented cooperation between the U.S. and India on global vaccination and pandemic relief. I still remember those early days when a group of global CEOs watched as the second wave of COVID unfolded in India, and I witnessed their determination to help.  Again, business was leading the way. I saw our members mobilize over $46 million to assist India in its COVID-19 response. The USIBC team was proud to facilitate the logistics around the delivery and installation of 1,000 ventilators, procured by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. India donated 1.8 million units of lifesaving Personal Protective Equipment to the United States in our time of need – a true signal that we depend on each other.  

The U.S.-India economic corridor has emerged from the pandemic with a renewed focus to expand that spirit of cooperation across sectors, and the past two years have seen both sides double down on our partnership for the global good.   

In 1949, just two years after Indian Independence, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru told U.S. President Truman: 

“I trust that these two republics of the Western World & the Eastern World will find many ways of working together in friendly and fruitful cooperation to our mutual advantage, and for the good of humanity.”

Seventy-five years after Indian Independence, I think you will agree that Prime Minister Nehru’s vision has been realized—the U.S.-India partnership is one of global good. I am the wife of Indian American—fondly called a “Bahu” at home; just like any good family relationship, there have been times of ease and times of strain between our partner nations, but throughout our difficulties we have remained committed to one another, and to a convergent economic agenda that has benefitted our 1.7 billion people.   

This is an opportune time to reflect upon and celebrate what the U.S. and India have achieved in our 75-year relationship, and how we can maximize the next 75 years of our partnership for global good. That’s why we’ve chosen the theme of our 47th India Ideas Summit and Annual General Meeting to be Maximizing the Next 75 Years of U.S.-India Prosperity.    

I hope you will join me and the rest of USIBC in congratulating India on 75 years of Independence, in reflecting on the importance of our maturing trade and commercial ties, and in celebrating the ideas, the innovations, and the intrepid spirit of our peoples at the USIBC Annual Meeting and Ideas Summit September 6-7. We have made tremendous progress together, but if the last 75 years is any indication, we are just getting started.  

(This blog is the first in a series of pieces that highlight the benefits of U.S.-India economic relations, published by U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC), U.S. Chamber of Commerce)

Har Ghar Tiranga: Indian Flag On Every Home This Independence Day

As part of the 75th Independence Day this year, the government of India has launched the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign as part of which, Indians have been urged to display or hoist the national flag at their homes between August 13 and 15

As part of the 75th Independence Day this year, the government of India has launched the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign as part of which, citizens have been urged to display or hoist the national flag at their homes between August 13 and 15. In addition, the Ministry of Culture has launched a website under the Har Ghar Tiranga campaign that allows Indians to pin a tricolour at their location, which will be considered virtual hoisting.  

Reports stated,, over 12.5 million Tricolours have been pinned. “Get featured on our website by pinning a flag in Hotspot Location,” the website said. Also, participants can send their selfies with the national flag to participate in the initiative. The selfies will be displayed on the website. Over 3 million Indians have sent their selfies to the ministry.

The ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign, part of the Centre’s ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ initiative to celebrate the country’s 75 years of Independence, was launched last month. Launching the campaign, Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India had said in a tweet that it will “deepen our connect with the national flag”. The idea behind the initiative is to invoke a sense of ownership in the people and to celebrate Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav in the spirit of Jan Bhagidari (community participation). 

“Today, 22nd July has a special relevance in our history. It was on this day in 1947 that our National Flag was adopted. Sharing some interesting nuggets from history including details of the committee associated with our Tricolour and the first Tricolour unfurled by Pandit Nehru,” the PM wrote in a tweet. 

On July 22, 1947, the Constituent Assembly adopted our National Flag. The flag that was finally chosen underwent several changes since it was originally designed by Pingali Venkayya in 1923. Since Independence, our relationship with the flag had been more formal and institutional rather than personal. 

The initiative aims to encourage people to bring our flag into our homes and hoist it to mark the 75th year of India’s Independence. Various events involving people from all walks of life will be organised at various locations connected with the freedom struggle. This will allow the new generation to discover the many threads of our freedom struggle, while older generations and communities reconnect to the events that led to a free India. 

As this is a ground-up initiative, the role of the government has been that of a facilitator. An initiative of such magnitude requires meticulous planning and execution.  “The Central Theme of the program is to inspire every Indian to hoist the National Flag at their home and to invoke the feeling of patriotism in the hearts of the citizen and promote awareness about our National Flag,” the Ministry of Finance said in a notification.

Since the dawn of civilization, flags have had a special place as a symbol of belonging and protection and to rally people together. Stretching back to times immemorial, flags have been a part of the Indian tradition, symbolizing glory and dharma.

Therefore, it is not surprising when this tradition is continued while building India as a modern nation state, drawing from her civilizational ethos. The flag, therefore, is not just a vision for the future, but the values and foundations of our rich and illustrious past.

Slowdown In Home Prices Broke Record In June

Annual home price growth dropped by nearly 2 percentage points in June, the largest single-month slowdown on record, according to new research. 

 Black Knight, a real estate software and analytics company that has been tracking the metric since the early 1970s, found that annual home price growth fell from
19.3 percent in May to 17.3 percent in June as the Federal Reserve continued hiking interest rates to cool off demand. 

  • Existing home sales have fallen for five consecutive months as record prices and those higher interest rates drive more Americans out of the market. Black Knight’s analysis found that seasonally adjusted home sales were down by more than 21 percent since the start of the year. 
  • Slowing sales have led to recent inventory increases, according to Black Knight, but nationally, the United States still faces a shortage of 716,000 home listings. The company estimates it would take more than a year for inventory levels to fully normalize even with record increases. 

“While this was the sharpest cooling on record nationally, we’d need six more months of this kind of deceleration for price growth to return to long-run averages,” said Ben Graboske, the president of Black Knight’s data and analytics division. (The Hill)

Al Qaeda Leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri Killed In US Strike

The United States killed the leader of al Qaeda, Ayman Al Zawahri in a “successful” counterterrorism operation in Afghanistan over the weekend that senior Biden administration officials say “deals a significant blow” to the terror network and degrades its ability to operate, including against the U.S. homeland, media reports stated.

The operation marks a major milestone for the U.S. Al-Zawahiri succeeded Osama bin Laden as the leader of the terror group in 2011 and helped lead the September 11, 2001, terror attacks against the U.S. 

 President Biden spoke to the American people to announce the strike, saying Monday: “the United States continues to demonstrate our resolve and our capacity to defend the American people against those who seek to do us harm. You know, we make it clear again tonight that no matter how long it takes, no matter where you hide, if you are a threat to our people, the United States will find you and take you out.”

Biden said U.S. intelligence officials tracked al-Zawahri to a home in downtown Kabul where he was hiding out with his family. The president approved the operation last week and it was carried out on Sunday.

Al-Zawahiri, who was 71, had been rumored to be dead but appeared in a video on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 last year.  The Associated Press first reported that a U.S. operation had killed al-Zawahiri. 

“Over the weekend, the United States conducted a counterterrorism operation against a significant al Qaeda target in Afghanistan,” a senior administration official said Monday, without naming Zawahiri as the target. “The operation was successful and there were no civilian casualties.”

The news was particularly notable coming so close to the one-year anniversary of the chaotic U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan. Al-Zawahiri’s killing represents a major success for the U.S. government and Biden is likely to point to it as an illustration that the U.S. does not need to be engaged in combat in order to take down threats to the homeland.

The United States government, on July 30 at 9:48 p.m. ET, and 6:18 a.m. Kabul time, undertook a “precision counterterrorism operation,” killing Al Zawahiri, who served as Usama bin Laden’s deputy during the 9/11 attacks, and as his successor in 2011, following bin Laden’s death.

A US official said that the U.S. government identified Zawahiri at a location in Kabul. “The Al Zawahiri family exercised longstanding terrorist tradecraft that we assessed was designed to prevent anyone from following them to Zawahiri,” the official explained, noting that the government identified Zawahiri’s wife, daughter and her children at a safe house in Kabul this year.

The official explained that “only a very small and select group of officials at key agencies were brought into the process and the deliberations at the early stage” and briefed on the developing intelligence.

“The president convened over the course of the last few weeks several meetings with his key advisers and cabinet members to carefully scrutinize the intelligence and evaluate the best course of action for targeting Zawahri,” the official explained, noting that Biden received updated on the developments of the targets throughout May and June.

“We are confident through our intelligence sources and methods, including multiple streams of intelligence, that we killed Zawahiri and no other individual,” the official said, noting that members of his family were present “in other parts of the safe house at the time of the strike and were purposefully not targeted and were unharmed.”

Completing Rotation In Less Than 24-Hours, Earth Creates Record For Shortest Day

On July 29, the Earth broke its record for the shortest day as it completed a full spin in 1.59 milliseconds less than its standard 24-hour rotation.  

The planet recently has been increasing its speed. Back in 2020, the Earth saw its shortest month that has ever been recorded since the 1960s. On July 19 of that year, the shortest of all time was measured. It was 1.47 milliseconds shorter than a typical 24-hour day, according to a report by The Independent

The next year, the planet continued to spin at a generally increased rate, but it did not break any records. However, according to Interesting Engineering (IE), a 50-year phase of shorter days may be starting right now. 

Scientists are still to figure out the cause of the differing speed of Earth’s spin. But scientists speculate that this could be because of processes in the inner or outer layers of the core, oceans, tides or even changes in climate. 

Some researchers also believe that this could be related to the movement of Earth’s geographic poles across its surface, known as the “Chandler wobble”. In simpler words, this is similar to the quiver one sees when a spinning top starts gaining momentum or slows down, according to scientists Leonid Zotov, Christian Bizouard, and Nikolay Sidorenkov. 

As per the Independent, if the Earth continues to spin at an increasing rate it could lead to the introduction of the negative leap seconds, in a bid to keep the rate that the Earth orbits the Sun consistent with the measurement from atomic clocks. 

However, the negative leap second would have potentially confusing consequences for smartphones, computers and communications systems. Citing a Meta blog, the outlet reported that the leap second “mainly benefits scientists and astronomers” but that it is a “risky practice that does more harm than good”.

This is because the clock progresses from 23:59:59 to 23:59:60 before resetting to 00:00:00. A time jump like this can, therefore, crash programs and corrupt data due to the timestamps on the data storage. 

Meta also said that should a negative leap second occur, the clock will change from 23:59:58 to 00:00:00, and this could have a “devastating effect” on the software relying on timers and schedulers. According to IE, to solve this, international timekeepers may need to add a negative leap second – a “drop second”.

Notably, Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), the primary time standard by which the world regulates clocks and time, has already been updated with a leap second 27 times.

Pope Francis Wants To Slow Down As Health Declines

(RNS) — On his return flight from a six-day “penitential pilgrimage” to apologize to the Indigenous people of Canada on Friday, Pope Francis spoke about his health struggles and what their implications might be for the future of his papacy.

“I don’t think I can continue going on trips with the same pace I had in the past. At my age and with my limitations, I need to save energy in order to serve the church,” the pope told reporters aboard the papal plane, while being seated for the first time during the traditional inflight press conference.

“On the other hand, I might need to think about the possibility of stepping aside. It wouldn’t be a catastrophe. The pope can change, that is not a problem,” he added.

Francis traveled throughout the vast country July 24-29, meeting with First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities in on their own lands. From Edmonton to Quebec City to the far-northern island city of Iqaluit, the pope embarked and disembarked the plane by using a lift and met with Indigenous people on his wheelchair.

Despite the obvious toll the trip had on the pontiff, he appeared lively and energetic during the press conference aboard the papal plane, addressing a wide range of issues. Speaking to journalists, the pope reflected on the pressing issues of his trip by condemning as “evil and unjust” the papal justification for colonialism in the past, enshrined through the Doctrine of Discovery. He described the forceful assimilation of Indigenous people and the attempted erasure of their culture as genocide.

“It’s a genocide,” Francis said, referring to the state and church led practice of “taking away children, changing the culture, the mentality and the conditions and a race” of Indigenous people. The pope said he apologized and condemned the role the church played in the administration of residential schools, which often forcibly removed children from their families and traditions.

The pope said the papal bulls that in the past provided a justification for the colonization and forceful conversion of Indigenous lands were “grievous” and suggested the Vatican is working to amend the Doctrine of Discovery. He encouraged “going back and fixing the wrong that was done” but underlined that colonization continues today in new forms of homogenization and extinction of local diversity.

As an example, Francis spoke about the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar who “don’t have citizenship rights and are considered inferior.”

The papal trip to Canada focused especially on St. Anne, the grandmother of Jesus and a beloved figure in Catholic Indigenous communities. The pope underlined the important “role of women in the transmission and development of the faith.”

“The church is a woman. The church is a wife. The Church is not a man,” he said, adding that the vision of the church as a mother must prevail above any “macho power.”

As many women in the world fight for reproductive rights, Pope Francis weighed in on contraceptives, which were deemed “intrinsically wrong” by the church following Paul VI’s controversial 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, On Human Life, because they deny an openness to life.

“When dogma or morality develop it’s a good thing,” the pope said, before signaling some possibility of developing a revised Catholic doctrine on contraceptives, while insisting this must be done within the church and respecting tradition. “A church that doesn’t develop its thinking in an ecclesial sense is a church that goes backward,” he added.

He pointed to recent changes in Catholic teaching concerning the death penalty and the possession of nuclear weapons, which were once widely accepted within the church and later deemed “immoral” by Pope Francis.

The Vatican think-tank on bioethics, the Pontifical Academy for Life, recently published a book where some theologians argued in favor of developing the church’s teaching on contraceptives. Archival recordings show that Pope John Paul I had reservations regarding a total ban on artificial birth control.

“One cannot do theology with a ‘no’ in front of them,” the pope said, adding that “theological development must be open, because that’s what it’s for, and the magisterium serves to understand the limitations.”

He described as a “sin” the tendency of some “backwardists” who, while claiming to follow tradition, end up sustaining a “dead faith.” While encouraging the development of Catholic docrine, Francis said it must be done in line with tradition and with the church as a whole as enshrined by the early Christian monk Vincent of Lérins.

The pope also addressed a recent Vatican letter that pulled the brakes on a summit of bishops and lay faithful in Germany, which among other things was advocating for changes in Catholic teaching to be more welcoming toward LGBTQ couples and women. Francis said the letter was an “office mistake” because it was meant to be signed by the Vatican Secretariat of State and that he already said all he meant to say about the German synodal assembly in a 2021 letter.

Francis described his trip to Canada “as a bit of a test” to understand what future papal visits might be like. He said the effects of the anesthesia he underwent for his intestinal operation in July of last year led to a slow recovery. But the pope said he still intends to visit the embattled city of Kyiv in Ukraine once the logistics are determined.

He also said he is willing to go to Kazakhstan for an interreligious conference where Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill is scheduled to attend, adding “it would be a tranquil trip with little movement.”

He said he wishes to visit the African states of South Sudan and the Central African Republic of Congo, since he had to cancel his scheduled trip in early July due to his knee pain.

The pope spoke about the papacy as a “work, a function and a service” and did not exclude that God might one day ask him to retire.

“As an hypothesis, if the Lord tells me something I must discern what the Lord wants and it might be that the Lord wants me to take a step back,” he said. The pope’s decision to host a gathering of cardinals, or concistory, at the Vatican in the unusual month of August has spurred rumors Francis might be paving the road for the next pope. Asked about what he would like to see in his successor, Francis said it’s best to leave the decision to “the work of the Holy Spirit.”

Ellora Caves Has Hydraulic Lift to Help Visitors

The ancient Ellora Caves in the state of Maharashtra will become the first monument in India to have a hydraulic lift to facilitate easy movement of people in wheelchairs, according to a statement by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). 

The invaluable ensemble of 34 caves at Ellora in the Charanandri hills of western India’s Maharashtra State not only symbolize a unique artistic creation and a technological exploit but, with its sanctuaries devoted to Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, it illustrates the spirit of tolerance that was characteristic of ancient India. 

The caves, which have temples dedicated to Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism, also house the largest rock-cut Shiva temple, called Kailasa Temple in Cave 16. Since it’s located in village Verul in Maharashtra, with Leni being the local word for caves, they are also called Verul Leni.

The 34 monasteries and temples, extending over more than 2 km, were dug side by side in the wall of a high basalt cliff, not far from Aurangabad, in Maharashtra. Ellora, with its uninterrupted sequence of monuments dating from A.D. 600 to 1000, brings the civilization of ancient India to life. 

As per traditions, the rock-cut activity was carried out in three phases from the 6th century to the 12th century. The earliest caves (caves 1–12), excavated between the 5th and 8th centuries, reflect the Mahayana philosophy of Buddhism then prevalent in this region. The Brahmanical group of caves (caves 13–29), including the renowned Kailasa temple (cave 16), was excavated between the 7th and 10th centuries. The last phase, between the 9th and 12th centuries, saw the excavation of a group of caves (caves 30–34) reflecting Jaina philosophy.

The UNESCO sates: “The ensemble of Ellora is a unique artistic achievement, a masterpiece of human creative genius. If one considers only the work of excavating the rock, a monument such as the Kailasa Temple is a technological exploit without equal. However, this temple, which transposes models from “constructed” architecture, offers an extraordinary repertory of sculpted and painted forms of a very high plastic quality and an encyclopaedic program.”

According to analysts, the authenticity of Ellora Caves is expressed through the architectural forms and designs such as the viharas (monasteries), chaityagriha (sanctuary), and monolithic temples belonging to three different faiths. The materials, locations, and natural setting also play significant roles in determining the authenticity of the property. The Ellora Caves are authentic in terms of the forms and designs, materials and substance, and locations and setting of paintings, rock-cut architecture, sculptures, and unfinished temples of three different faiths, i.e. Buddhism, Brahmanism, and Jainism.

How To Understand Mixed Signals From US Economy

By, Paul Wiseman

(AP) — The U.S. economy is caught in an awkward, painful place. A confusing one, too. Growth appears to be sputtering, home sales are tumbling and economists warn of a potential recession ahead. But consumers are still spending, businesses keep posting profits and the economy keeps adding hundreds of thousands of jobs each month.

In the midst of it all, prices have accelerated to four-decade highs, and the Federal Reserve is desperately trying to douse the inflationary flames with higher interest rates. That’s making borrowing more expensive for households and businesses.

The Fed hopes to pull off the triple axel of central banking: Slow the economy just enough to curb inflation without causing a recession. Many economists doubt the Fed can manage that feat, a so-called soft landing.

Surging inflation is most often a side effect of a red-hot economy, not the current tepid pace of growth. Today’s economic moment conjures dark memories of the 1970s, when scorching inflation co-existed, in a kind of toxic brew, with slow growth. It hatched an ugly new term: stagflation.

The United States isn’t there yet. Though growth appears to be faltering, the job market still looks quite strong. And consumers, whose spending accounts for nearly 70% of economic output, are still spending, though at a slower pace.

So the Fed and economic forecasters are stuck in uncharted territory. They have no experience analyzing the economic damage from a global pandemic. The results so far have been humbling. They failed to anticipate the economy’s blazing recovery from the 2020 recession — or the raging inflation it unleashed.

Even after inflation accelerated in spring of last year, Fed Chair Jerome Powell and many other forecasters downplayed the price surge as merely a “transitory” consequence of supply bottlenecks that would fade soon. It didn’t.

Now the central bank is playing catch-up. It’s raised its benchmark short-term interest rate three times since March. Last month, the Fed increased its rate by three-quarters of a percentage point, its biggest hike since 1994. The Fed’s policymaking committee is expected to announce another three-quarter-point hike Wednesday.

Economists now worry that the Fed, having underestimated inflation, will overreact and drive rates ever higher, imperiling the economy. They caution the Fed against tightening credit too aggressively.

“We don’t think a sledgehammer is necessary,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said this week.

Here’s a look at the economic vital signs that are sending frustratingly mixed signals to policymakers, businesses and forecasters:

THE OVERALL ECONOMY

As measured by the nation’s gross domestic product — the broadest gauge of output — the economy has looked positively sickly so far this year. And steadily higher borrowing rates, engineered by the Fed, threaten to make things worse.

“Recession is likely,” said Vincent Reinhart, a former Fed economist who is now chief economist at Dreyfus and Mellon.

After growing at a 37-year high 5.7% last year, the economy shrank at a 1.6% annual pace from January through March. For the April-June quarter, forecasters surveyed by the data firm FactSet estimate that growth equaled a scant 0.95% annual rate from April through June. (The government will issue its first estimate of April-June growth on Thursday.)

Some economists foresee another economic contraction for the second quarter. If that happened, it would further escalate recession fears. One informal definition of recession is two straight quarters of declining GDP. Yet that definition isn’t the one that counts.

The most widely accepted authority is the National Bureau of Economic Research, whose Business Cycle Dating Committee assesses a wide range of factors before declaring the death of an economic expansion and the birth of a recession. It defines a recession as “a significant decline in economic activity that is spread across the economy and that lasts more than a few months.”

In any case, the economic drop in the January-March quarter looked worse than it actually was. It was caused by factors that don’t mirror the economy’s underlying health: A widening trade deficit, reflecting consumers’ robust appetite for imports, shaved 3.2 percentage points off first-quarter growth. A post-holiday-season drop in company inventories subtracted an additional 0.4 percentage point.

Consumer spending, measured at a modest 1.8% annual rate from January through March, is still growing. Americans are losing confidence, though: Their assessment of economic conditions six months from now has reached its lowest point since 2013 in June, according to the Conference Board, a research group.

INFLATION

What’s agitating consumers is no secret: They’re reeling from painful prices at gasoline stations, grocery stores and auto dealerships.

The Labor Department’s consumer price index skyrocketed 9.1% in June from a year earlier, a pace not seen since 1981. The price of gasoline has jumped 61% over the past year, airfares 34%, eggs 33%.

And despite widespread pay raises, prices are surging faster than wages. In June, average hourly earnings slid 3.6% from a year earlier adjusting for inflation, the 15th straight monthly drop from a year earlier.

And on Monday, Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, lowered its profit outlook, saying that higher gas and food prices were forcing shoppers to spend less on many discretionary items, like new clothing.

The price spikes have been ignited by a combination of brisk consumer demand and global shortages of factory parts, food, energy and labor. And so the Fed is now aggressively raising rates.

“There is a risk of overdoing it,” warned Ellen Gaske, an economist at PGIM Fixed Income. “Because inflation is so bad right now, they are focused on the here and now of each monthly CPI report. The latest one showed no letup.’’

Despite inflation, rate hikes and declining consumer confidence, one thing has remained solid: The job market, the most crucial pillar of the economy. Employers added a record 6.7 million jobs last year. And so far this year, they’re adding an average of 457,000 more each month.

The unemployment rate, at 3.6% for four straight months, is near a half-century low. Employers have posted at least 11 million job openings for six consecutive months. The government says there are two job openings, on average, for every unemployed American, the highest such ratio on record.

Job security and the opportunity to advance to better positions are providing the confidence and financial wherewithal for Americans to spend and keep the job machine churning. (Courtesy: Associated Press)

Monkeypox Declared A Public Health Emergency In New York City

Officials in New York City have declared a public health emergency due to the spread of the monkeypox virus Saturday, calling the city “the epicenter” of the outbreak. 

The announcement Saturday by Mayor Eric Adams and health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan said as many as 150,000 city residents could be at risk of infection. The declaration will allow officials to issue emergency orders under the city health code and amend code provisions to implement measures to help slow the spread. 

In the last two days, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a state disaster emergency declaration and the state health department called monkeypox an “imminent threat to public health.” 

New York had recorded 1,345 cases as of Friday, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. California had the second-most, with 799.

“We will continue to work with our federal partners to secure more doses as soon as they become available,” Adams and Vasan said in the statement. “This outbreak must be met with urgency, action, and resources, both nationally and globally, and this declaration of a public health emergency reflects the seriousness of the moment.”

The World Health Organization declared monkeypox a global health emergency on July 23 and San Francisco’s mayor on Thursday announced a state of emergency over the growing number of cases. The once-rare disease has been established in parts of central and west Africa for decades but was not known to spark large outbreaks beyond the continent or to spread widely among people until May, when authorities detected dozens of epidemics in Europe, North America and elsewhere.

To date, there have been more than 22,000 monkeypox cases reported in nearly 80 countries since May, with about 75 suspected deaths in Africa, mostly in Nigeria and Congo. On Friday, Brazil and Spain reported deaths linked to monkeypox, the first reported outside Africa. Spain reported a second monkeypox death Saturday.

The virus spreads through prolonged and close skin-to-skin contact as well as sharing bedding, towels and clothing. In Europe and North America, it has spread primarily among men who have sex with men, though health officials emphasize that the virus can infect anyone. 

The type of monkeypox virus identified in this outbreak is rarely fatal, and people usually recover within weeks. But the lesions and blisters caused by the virus are painful. 

A “slow and bureaucratic” response that has led to monkeypox spreading rapidly across the US – with more than 1,000 cases in New York City alone – reveals just how badly battered local health agencies have been since the pandemic, advocates have said.

Once a rare African virus, monkeypox has taken hold across the ragged patchwork of city, county, state and federal agencies that make up the US public health infrastructure.

David Harvey, the executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, said: “Unfortunately, delayed actions mean monkeypox has spread within the gay community and among other men who have sex with men.

“This outbreak has grown to be a public health crisis in America. We are still in a very chaotic situation at the state and local level with an organized response.”

What’s behind the chaos? Many observers point to how Covid-19 reshaped the landscape for public health officials. Once considered neutral arbiters of information, many health officials were politically attacked following mask and vaccination policies.

What else is contributing to the delays? The situation was not helped as resources that had once been devoted to programs, including tracking communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis, and running routine vaccination clinics, were suddenly diverted to Covid. (With Inputs From AP)

Nomad Fashion Show Mixes Ancient With Modern

On the shore of one of the world’s deepest lakes, high up in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, models strutted and sashayed in outfits mixing the ancient and modern at the World Nomads Fashion festival.

The event, now in its third year, drew designers and fashion-industry figures from about 20 countries to shimmering Lake Issyk-Kul to admire outfits drawing on Kyrgyzstan’s millennia-old nomadic culture. 

The stiletto heels worn by some models wouldn’t be suitable for a proper nomad, but some of their elaborate headdresses that seemed to mimic the horns of cattle were takes on traditional nomad costume. Swirling, voluminous skirts featured in many of the outfits, either elaborately patterned or in blocks of vivid color.

“The World Nomad Fashion Festival is the first and only project in Central Asia and some European countries that glorifies the civilization of nomads,” the event’s founder, Nazira Begim, said. 

Along with the couture, the show offered visitors the chance to see an array of yurts — the wood-framed tents of skin or felt characteristic of nomads — and brightly colored carpets.

“It was created in 2019. This idea belongs to me. The project is one of my old dreams. When I organized it for the first time, without knowing anyone personally, I invited designers from 17 countries and held it also on the shores of Issyk-Kul lake,” Begim added. Ms Begim is keen to spotlight Kyrgyzstan’s fashion industry. (Associated Press)

US House Panel Advances Prior Authorization Relief Bill For Seniors

By, American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO)

Newswise — The House Ways and Means Committee has voted unanimously to advance the Improving Seniors’ Timely Access to Care Act of 2022 (H.R. 8487), positioning the bill for passage in Congress possibly this fall. The bill would reform prior authorization under the Medicare Advantage program to help ensure America’s seniors get the care they need when they need it.

Support for this commonsense legislation is overwhelming. The bill has more than 330 cosponsors in the House and Senate, and has been endorsed by more 500 organizations, including the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and more 30 additional ophthalmic subspecialty and state societies.

recent report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General underscored the need for reform, finding that Medicare Advantage plans have denied prior authorization requests that met Medicare coverage rules.

The bill was introduced by Reps. Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Mike Kelly (R-PA), Ami Bera, MD, (D-CA), and Larry Bucshon, MD, (R-IN). If enacted, the Improving Seniors’ Timely Access to Care Act would streamline and standardize prior authorization in the Medicare Advantage (MA) program, providing much-needed oversight and transparency while protecting beneficiaries from unnecessary care delays and denials. The legislation would improve prior authorization in MA plans by:

Establishing an electronic prior authorization (ePA) program;

Standardizing and streamlining the prior authorization process for routinely approved services, including establishing a list of services eligible for real-time prior authorization decisions;

Ensuring prior authorization requests are reviewed by qualified medical personnel; and

Increasing transparency around MA prior authorization requirements and their use.

This bill has been years in the making. The Academy is a founding member of the Regulatory Relief Coalition, a group of sixteen national physician specialty and two allied organizations advocating for a reduction in Medicare program regulatory burdens to protect patients’ timely access to care and allow physicians to spend more time with their patients. We thank the bill’s sponsors, as well as the chair and ranking member of House Ways and Means Committee, Reps. Richie Neal (D-MA) and Kevin Brady (R-TX).

“We believe this bill will help remove some of the unnecessary red tape that overburdens our healthcare system and prevents us from providing the care America’s seniors need when they need it,” said David Glasser, MD, the Academy’s secretary for Federal Affairs. “We’re confident that when this bill comes to the House floor, Congress will agree with these commonsense reforms.”

Temperature Rise To Cause Larger Extinction Of Species

By, Tohoku University

Newswise — A professor emeritus at Tohoku University has unearthed evidence pointing to a strong relationship between the magnitude of mass extinctions and global temperature changes in geologic times.

The research was published in the journal Biogeosciences on July, 22, 2022.

Abrupt climate change, accompanied by environmental destruction from large volcanic eruptions and meteorites, has caused major mass extinctions throughout the Phanerozoic Eon – covering 539 million years to the present.

To date, there have been few quantitative evaluations of the relationship between land temperature anomalies and terrestrial animal extinctions. Moreover, marine animals and terrestrial animals have experienced divergent extinction rates, and this phenomenon remains under-explored.

Professor Emeritus Kunio Kaiho demonstrated that marine invertebrates and terrestrial tetrapods’ extinction rates corresponded to deviations in global and habitat surface temperatures, regardless of whether it was cooling or warming. Loss of species during the ‘big five’ major extinctions correlated with a > 7°C global cooling and a > 7-9°C global warming for marine animals, and a > 7°C global cooling and a > ~7°C global warming for terrestrial tetrapods.

“These findings indicate that the bigger the shifts in climate, the larger the mass extinction,” Kaiho said. “They also tell us that any prospective extinction related to human activity will not be of the same proportions when the extinction magnitude changes in conjunction with global surface temperature anomaly.”

Kaiho cites an earlier study, which claimed a 5.2°C temperature increase in average global temperature would result in a mass extinction event comparable to previous ones. Yet, based on this study’s analysis, the temperature will need to change by 9°C, and this will not appear until 2500 in a worst-case scenario.

“Although predicting the extent of future extinctions is difficult because causes will differ from preceding ones, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that any forthcoming extinction will not reach past magnitudes if global surface temperature anomalies and other environmental anomalies correspondingly change,” Kaiho said.

Kaiho also found a lower tolerance for terrestrial tetrapods than marine animals for global warming events. However, marine animals had a smaller tolerance to the same habitat temperature changes than terrestrial animals. This is because the temperature anomaly on land is 2.2 times higher than sea surface temperature. These phenomena fit ongoing extinction patterns.

Looking ahead, Kaiho seeks to predict future animal extinction magnitudes occurring between 2000-2500.

India, UAE and France Hold 1st Ever Trilateral Cooperation Meet

In their efforts to enhance collaboration in areas of mutual collaboration, India, the UAE and France held their first trilateral meet to explore potential cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region. Potential points of cooperation that were discussed include maritime security, disaster relief, blue economy and regional connectivity, food and energy security and more. 

The Indian side of the talk was led by Sandeep Chakravorty, Joint Secretary (Europe West) and Shri Vipul, Joint Secretary (Gulf), MEA. This was the second meeting of its kind involving both India and the UAE, who are also part of I2 U2 (India-Israel-United States of America-UAE).

“A trilateral meeting of the ‘Focal Points’ of India, France and the United Arab Emirates was held today,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said.

The resolve of the three countries to boost cooperation in the Indo-Pacific under the trilateral framework comes amid increasing global concern over China’s growing military muscle-flexing in the region.

“The three sides exchanged perspectives on the Indo-Pacific region and explored the potential areas of trilateral cooperation, including maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, blue economy, regional connectivity, cooperation in multilateral fora, energy and food security, innovation and startups, supply chain resilience and cultural and people-to-people cooperation,” the MEA said.

“They also discussed the next steps to be taken for furthering trilateral cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region,” it said in a statement.

Badminton Star Tanisha Crasto Given Golden Visa From The UAE

Tanisha Crasto of Indian heritage, one of the best new-generation badminton players, is the latest recipient of the UAE’s prestigious ‘Golden Visa’, an honor which is also awarded to elite athletes in recognition of their contribution to the sport.

At 19-years-old, she is one of the youngest beneficiaries of the visa, which grants her a guaranteed 10 years of residency in the country. Crasto is also considered one of the best new-generation badminton players, and the Golden Visa is often awarded to elite athletes such as herself in recognition of their contribution to the sport. 

“What’s really special is that my visa lists me as a ‘professional athlete’ which is fantastic and really motivates me.” she said. “Previously my visa said ‘no employment.’ Now that I have the Golden Visa, I will be looking to play a lot more tournaments around the world. It’s going to be a great help because I travel out of Dubai for a lot of tournaments and now that I have the visa I can come and go freely.”

Tanisha, who was born in Dubai to Indian parents from Goa and studied at the Indian High School, Dubai, thanked the Dubai Sports Council for helping her secure the much sought-after 10-year visa.

“When I approached the Dubai Sports Council officials to enquire whether I was eligible for a Golden Visa, they responded positively and, before I knew it, called to say that my request had been approved,” she said.

Tanisha, who is essentially a specialist doubles and mixed-double player, says she can now turn her attention to improving her game and pursuing her lifetime ambition.

“My dream has always been the same — to win an Olympic gold medal,” she said. “But you can say that my current goal is to win a medal at the World Championships. That’s my immediate target.” The WBF World Championships take place in Tokyo, from August 21-28.

Tanisha, who trains under the watchful eye of former All England champion and current India coach Pullela Gopichand, explained why she essentially plays the doubles format.

“When I was younger, there were not enough players to play singles in Dubai,” she said. “So I used to play together with my Dad. Then over the years, I discovered that doubles was my calling.”

Tanisha is the first to admit that there is still a lot of improvement necessary in her game, to take it to the next level, and is prepared to work hard to achieve it.

“You never stop learning,” she acknowledges. “I believe I have so much more to learn about the game and I am confident that by training hard and with top players, I can grow my game, further.”

Tanisha joins a roll call of top sportsmen and celebrities who have been given a UAE Golden Visa including Portuguese football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, celebrated Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani and Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan.

Shailen P. Bhatt Named As Administrator Of The Federal Highway Administration

Shailen P. Bhatt has been nominated as the administrator of the Federal Highway Administration of the US Department of Transportation, according to a White House press release. If Bhatt’s nomination is confirmed, he will become one of over 50 Indian Americans who are serving in the Biden administration, which is a record for any US administration. 

U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, applauded President Biden’s nomination of Shailen Bhatt to serve as Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

Bhatt is Senior Vice President of Global Transportation Innovation and Alternative Delivery at AECOM, a  consulting firm.  Bhatt previously served as the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Transportation, and as a presidential appointee at the U.S. Department of Transportation. 

According to a White House release,  “Bhatt spearheaded innovative solutions, collaborations, and partnerships to support the delivery of safe, sustainable, and cost-effective transportation systems for the 21st century. He previously worked as the CEO of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America, Chair of the Board of Directors for the National Operations Center of Excellence (NOCoE), Chair of the Executive Committee of the I-95 Corridor Coalition, and was a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Automotive and Personal Transport.”

“From the day he took office, President Biden has made rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure—and doing so in a way that reduces emissions, boosts resilience, improves safety, and connects communities—a top priority. After much consideration, I’m delighted to see him nominate such a thoughtful, accomplished person to be the Administrator of the FHWA.

“Shailen Bhatt’s resume is nearly perfect for leading a transportation agency with such a critical infrastructure mission. In addition to serving as a presidential appointee at the U.S. Department of Transportation, he has also experience at the state level, leading the Colorado and Delaware Departments of Transportation. I have a long history of working with Shailen, and he is an outstanding choice. I’m confident that he won’t need any on-the-job training and look forward to doing my part to expeditiously advance his nomination and confirm him for this important role.”

Bhatt was one of a number of people brought in by the administration of Gov. Jack Markell, who departed from the usual pattern of governors not looking outside the state for administrative talent. Markell’s predecessor John Carney has mainly relied on current state employees to fill cabinet posts. 

Bhatt shared Markell’s love of bicycling that, along with Congressional action, led to the continuing expansion of the trail system in Delaware.   Bhatt dealt with numerous  issues at   DelDOT, which had seen its share of scandals and controversies that included a questionable real estate transaction in Milford involving a wholesale beer distributor during the tenure of the late Gov. Ruth Ann Minner.

Aruna Miller Poised To Be Lieutenant Governor of Maryland

With opinion polls heavily favoring Democrats, Indian American Aruna Miller is likely to be elected as the next Lieutenant Governor of Maryland in November as best-selling author Wes Moore’s running mate.

In a competitive race for the nomination, army veteran Moore bested former Labor Secretary and DNC Chairman Tom Perez in addition to the Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot in the Democratic gubernatorial primary last week.

Aruna is the former Executive Director of Indian American Impact, and has previously served as a Representative for Maryland’s 15th District in the Maryland House of Delegates. Moore stated that he is “absolutely ecstatic and humbled to go on this journey with Aruna Miller.” 

Moore and Miller will face Republican candidate Dan Cox — who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump — and his running mate Gordana Schifanelli in the November election.

If the pair wins, Moore will become the first African-American governor of Maryland and Miller the first Indian American to be elected lieutenant governor of any state.

Moore, who is also the former CEO of Robin Hood Foundation, said he was “absolutely ecstatic and humbled to go on this journey with Aruna Miller.”

“On behalf of my family and my incredible running mate @ArunaMiller, THANK YOU,” he tweeted. “The stakes could not be higher, but together, we’ll meet this moment with urgency and leadership. Maryland WILL be a state where we leave no one behind.
#MooreForMaryland”

The Cook Political Report suggests that the Maryland governor’s race would be solidly Democrat, according to NBC News. If opinion polls hold, Moore would most likely succeed Republican Governor Larry Hogan

According to Moore, Miller “is a seasoned legislator who has fought for families in Montgomery County and across the entire state of Maryland in the House of Delegates.”

Born in Hyderabad, Miller immigrated to the United States when she was seven years old. She became a US citizen in 2000.

Miller represented District 15 in the Maryland State House from 2010 to 2018 with four years on the House Ways and Means Committee and four years on the Appropriations Committee.

As a delegate, she worked to invest in STEM education, streamline the regulatory process for small businesses and was a champion for working families, survivors of domestic abuse, and the environment.

She worked for over 30 years as a civil and transportation engineer in Montgomery County helping improve the safety of the public and alleviate traffic, and creating equitable transportation access to connect people to opportunities.

In her 2018 bid for Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, Miller came in second out of eight candidates and earned endorsements from EMILY’s List, the National Education Association, Sierra Club, CASA of Maryland, 314 Action, End Citizens United, and others.

She lives in the 6th District with her husband David, and her mother Hema. Aruna and David have three adult daughters — Meena, Chloe, and Sasha.

Laxmi, The Leading South Asian Food Brand Celebrates 50 Years Of Bringing ‘Home’ To You!

For many cultures and its people, the primary language of love is food. Mostly all immigrant families ensure their roots remain firm is by filling their dinner tables with dishes that represent their home countries Cooking ethnic foods allows them to experience a sense of comfort and belonging which is then passed down to generations keeping traditions alive!

For over 50 years Laxmi has done just this – enabled millions of South Asian families stay connected to their roots by providing them quality ingredients to help them cook their traditional dishes and experience home away from home.

Established in 1970 in Jackson Heights, NY by G.L. Soni and his brother K.L. Soni, the impetus for their business venture , House of Spices was Mrs. Shobhna Soni who was tired of eating yogurt and potatoes as a new bride in a new country. This gave these entrepreneurs the idea to start a business that would bring Indian ingredients like daal and spices to the USA and allow the diaspora here to enjoy the taste of home. But it didn’t stop with dals and spices – their business soon expanded to include flours, rice, oil, ghee, juices and many other traditional ingredients essential for South Asian cooking. Their success was unstoppable, and the House of Spices’ flagship brand ‘Laxmi’ became a household name in no time. 

As their family expanded so did their business and along with their children, the founders nurtured a growing line of products with a vast distribution network all over North America. Time flew and the torch was passed on to Neil and Amrapali Soni. They recognized the hard work and passion that built the business and decided to enhance the Laxmi brand by giving it a new look.

These exciting brand building efforts led to a logo update and the signing of Bollywood Superstar Shilpa Shetty as its brand ambassador. Ms. Shetty, who is known for her holistic approach to diet, nutrition, and fitness was the perfect choice to represent the renewed look for Laxmi, priming it for a perfect 50thth birthday celebration. The innovation continues with a new product lines that have been recently introduced on shelves throughout North America. Laxmi has now forayed into the convenience food category with a frozen range of products that includes vegetables, Samosas, Naan’s and many more items to be added to the roster in the following months. 

According to Neil and Amrapali Soni, this journey to 50 would not have been possible without the support of the South Asian community. The family has never lost sight of this unwavering support and offer their utmost gratitude to the community for their loyalty over 5 decades. Many ingredients make this company special, but the one that got them to the top has consistently been their passion for providing quality products to their customers. The Soni family’s vision for their business continues to put quality at the forefront of everything they do and carry on the tradition of excellence. 

To mark this legacy milestone ,Laxmi is currently Celebrating #50YearsOfLaxmi campaign. When asked about the campaign Suhasinee Patil ,VP Marketing shared that as Laxmi turns 50 we wanted to honor our consumers and our community by inviting them to share stories about their journey in US. We truly believe our success and the community success go hand in hand. Thus the next time you eat something that reminds you of someone, don’t just remember them, reach out to them.  And when you do, we would love to hear about your food memories. …

For more information on the contest and exciting prizes, please visit www.laxmihos.com and share your stories by submitting a video and using hashtags to participate: #LaxmiYadoonKiRecipe; #50YearsOfLaxmi; #ReachOutWithLaxmi

Virginia Becomes First State to Declare October as Hindu Heritage Month

The Virginia State Legislature and Senate have both, unanimously passed a resolution declaring, in perpetuity, October as Hindu Heritage Month. The passing of resolution VA HJ141 which had been introduced by State Delegate Suhas Subramanyam was greeted with great excitement by the Indian American community.

The Hindu American Foundation which took the lead, on July 12 tweeted, “We thank the Virginia Hindu community and partners for helping make this happen,” while its Associate Director of Policy Research, Anita Joshi, credited Subramanyam and advocate Rajesh Gooty for the development.

Launched in 2021, Hindu Heritage Month is the global coming together of Hindus in October each year, to celebrate their rich heritage. October was chosen as it typically hosts an array of festivals like Navaratri, Dusshera, and Deepavali that are celebrated by the diverse communities per their Hindu calendars.

The President of the Vedic Friends Association, Balabhadra Bhattacarya Dasa, speaking on the importance of the initiative said, it would go toward dispelling misinformation and “provide a resource to educate, inform, and inspire not only non-Hindus but encourage Hindus, especially the younger Hindu generation.”

Thara Narasimhan, President, Hindus of Greater Houston also emphasized the importance of the event, pointing out that the synthesis of various languages and traditions that has happened through the ages has given shape to what is recognized as Indian culture today and HMM provides an avenue to showcase this unique openness and abidance of ‘unity in diversity.’

Dr. Jai Bansal, Vice President of Education at the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America, coordinator for the Hindu Heritage Month movement, noted that the dream to make it a truly global event was slowly getting realized with organizations from Australia, Thailand, Indonesia, Nepal, South Africa, Germany, Norway and many other countries signing up as partners.

Long Island, N.Y. Plans India Day Parade USA For August 7th

India Day Parade USA, which organizes the India Day Parade of Long Island set for August 7, 2022, in Hicksville, N.Y., announced July 28, that India’s Deputy Consul General in New York, Dr Varun Jeph, will join as Grand Marshal. The announcement was made at a press conference held at the Mint Restaurant July 26.

announced the details of their 11th India Day Parade in which interest is soaring as famous Bollywood actress and sportsperson Prachi Tehlan will be the Celebrity Grand Marshal, and Guests of Honor are the singing sensation Shibani Kashyap who will perform for an hour on stage, Hollywood/Bollywood actor Prashantt Gupta who will do a surprise act, and Naveen Shah, President of Navika group.

Highlighting the Unity in Diversity theme of the parade, there will be banners of all 28 states of India, and “India lovers” have been requested to walk behind the banners of their respective states and come dressed up in their state’s traditional attire, organizers said. Many lawmakers from Long Island and New York have confirmed their participation in the parade, Goyal said.

Past President Mukesh Modi announced that Padma Shri Sudhir Parikh, Chairman of Parikh Worldwide Media, will join the parade with his wife Dr. Sudha Parikh. Attendees were informed of a parade route change. Starting at 2 pm from Hicksville Community Center at Carl Street West, the parade will go along Broadway North before turning left on John Street to culminate at 125 West John Street, where the food and other stalls will be set up as well as a children’s carnival area. There is ample LIRR parking nearby.

Parade organizers thanked the officials of Nassau County and Town of Oyster Bay for their cooperation in holding a safe and successful parade. Harry Malhotra, director South Asian Business & Development, Town of Oyster Bay, who shared the stage at the event, promised all help.

Tabla performance by Aryan Rishi at the meeting to announce details of Aug. 7, 2022, India Day Parade in Long Island. Photo: IDP USA

Other speakers urged the community to come to the parade which this year, is also celebrating the 75th anniversary of India’s independence. Raffle tickets will be sold with attractive prizes such as laptops and large TV sets.

Speakers at the well-attended dinner event included IDP Chair Indu Jaiswal, Past President Beena Kothari, Senior Vice President Bina Sabapathy, and Vice President Roopam Maini. Sunil Hali of Radio Zindagi and The Indian Eye and realtor Raj Jaggi also spoke.

Prominent attendees included representatives from ITV Gold/Parikh Worldwide Media, and two candidates for the New York State Assembly Vibhuti Jha and Sanjeep Jindal.

A tabla performance was given by Aryan Rishi. Indian and American national anthems were sung by Anoushka Rishi, accompanied by Aryan Shah on saxophone.

Modi To Skip UNGA 2022

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not scheduled to be at the high-level UN General Assembly session in September this year but two newly elected leaders of troubled South Asian countries, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Sri Lanka’s President Ranil Wickremesinghe, are among the scheduled participants, media reports here stated.

Prime Ministers Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh, Sher Bahadur Deuba of Nepal and Lotay Tshering of Bhutan are also listed to be speakers during the 2022 General Assembly of thew world body.

The Taliban regime, which is not recognized by any country, does not have a slot, nor does anyone from the government of ousted President Ashraf Ghani, which still in effect holds the country’s seat at the UN.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar is likely to be the possible speaker at the UN, representing India, according to the roster of speakers available Wednesday at the United Nations.

Modi has so far addressed the General Assembly four times in person and once by video. He skipped the meeting in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

In a sign of the world emerging from the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic, all the speeches will be in person at this year’s session that begins on September 20, Paulina Kubiak, the spokesperson for Assembly President Abdulla Shahid, said on Wednesday.

The high-level session went all virtual in 2020 and turned hybrid last year with some speaking remotely and others like Modi attending in person.

The leaders are scheduled in a hierarchical order starting with the 101 heads of state, followed by prime ministers, the deputies, the ministers and others.

Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, which will take up a chunk of the session’s bandwidth, is scheduled to be at the meeting this year.

Raghuram Rajan Warns Turning Minority Into 2nd Class Citizens Will Divide India

Former Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan has said India’s future lies in strengthening liberal democracy and its institutions as it is essential for achieving economic growth.

Warning against majoritarianism, he said Sri Lanka was an example of what happens when a country’s politicians try to deflect a job crisis by targeting minorities.

Speaking at the 5th conclave of All India Professionals Congress, a wing of the Congress party, in Raipur, he said any attempt to turn a large minority into “second class citizens” will divide the country.

Rajan was speaking on the topic ‘Why liberal democracy is needed for India’s economic development’.

“.What is happening to liberal democracy in this country and is it really that necessary for Indian development? … We absolutely must strengthen it. There is a feeling among some quarters in India today that democracy holds back India … India needs strong, even authoritarian, leadership with few checks and balances on it to grow and we seem to be drifting in this direction,” Mr Rajan said.

“I believe this argument is totally wrong. It’s based on an outdated model of development that emphasizes goods and capital, not people and ideas,” said the former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund.

The under-performance of the country in terms of economic growth “seems to indicate the path we are going on needs rethinking,” he said.

The former RBI governor further said that “our future lies in strengthening our liberal democracy and its institutions, not weakening them, and this is in fact essential for our growth.”

Elaborating on why majoritarian authoritarianism must be defeated, he said any attempt to “make second class citizens of a large minority will divide the country and create internal resentment.” It will also make the country vulnerable to foreign meddling, Me Rajan added.

Referring to the ongoing crisis in Sri Lanka, he said the island nation was seeing the “consequences when a country’s politicians try to deflect from the inability to create jobs by attacking a minority.” This does not lead to any good, he said.

Liberalism was not an entire religion and the essence of every major religion was to seek out that which is good in everyone, which, in many ways, was also the essence of liberal democracy, Mr Rajan said.

Claiming that India’s slow growth was not just due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Rajan said the country’s underperformance predated it.

“Indeed for about a decade, probably since the onset of the global financial crisis, we haven’t been doing as well as we could. The key measure of this underperformance is our inability to create the good jobs that our youth need,” the former RBI governor said.

Citing the strident protests against the Centre’s ‘Agniveer’ military recruitment scheme, Mr Rajan said it suggested how hungry the youths were for jobs.

“Just a while ago you saw 12.5 million applicants for 35,000 railway jobs. It is particularly worrisome when India has a scarcity of jobs even when so many women are not working outside their homes. India’s female labour force participation is among the lowest in G-20 at 20.3 percent as in 2019,” he pointed out.

Talking about the “vision of growth” of the current government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said it centres around the term ‘atmanirbhar’ or self-reliance.

“Now, to the extent it emphasizes better connectivity, better logistics, better roads and devotes more resources to it, in some way this (atmanirbhar vision) seems the continuation of the past reformed decades. And that’s good,” he said.

But, the former RBI governor said, in many ways a look at what ‘atmanirbhar’ is trying to achieve takes one back to an early and failed past where the focus was on physical capital and not human capital, on protection and subsidies and not on liberalization, on choosing favourites to win rather than letting the most capable succeed.

Asserting that there was a misplaced sense of priorities, Mr Rajan said the nation was not spending enough on education, with tragic consequences.

“Many (children) not having been to school for two years are dropping out. Their human capital, which is their and our most important asset in the coming years, is something we are neglecting. We are failing them by not devoting enough resources to remedial education,” Mr Rajan said.

Billionaires Grow, India Shrinks: Triumph Of Crony Capitalism

By, Jaswant Kaur At The Indian Currents

Around two months ago, India’s fastest growing businessman remarked that if India became a USD 30-trillion-economy by 2050, no one would go to bed on an empty stomach. 

While speaking at a conclave, Gautam Adani said, “We are around 10,000 days away from the year 2050. Over this period, I anticipate we’ll add about USD 25 trillion to our economy. This translates to an addition of USD 2.5 billion to the GDP every day. I also anticipate that over this period, we’ll have eradicated all forms of poverty.” 

He anticipated that the stock markets would add about USD 40 trillion in market capitalisation, which translated to an addition of USD 4 billion every day until 2050. “Uplifting the lives of 1.4 billion may feel like a marathon in the short run, but it’s a sprint in the long run,” concluded Adani. 

Well, those who attended the conclave would have actually felt that the person, who is now a frontrunner for the richest person in the world, also thinks of the poor. We can only wish that India’s growth story could also lead to the growth of each and every fellow citizen. However, it all seems to be a figment of the imagination! 

Incidentally, the industrialist, who runs a slew of businesses from airports to ports to power generation to distribution to cement manufacturing to infrastructure development, has added USD 49 billion to his wealth in 2021! The figure is much higher than the world’s two richest persons – Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos – at that time. Jeff Bezos has moved to the third position recently. 

In fact, during 2020 when the entire world came to a standstill due to the pandemic, Adani’s wealth grew at a much higher speed than the coronavirus! Immediately before the onset of the pandemic, he bought a lavish bungalow at one of the posh localities of the national capital. Unlike Ambani’s Antilia, not much has been written about his bungalow. However, the land size is much bigger than that of Ambani, if reports are to be believed. 

In the month of February, Adani overtook Ambani to become Asia’s richest person. His net worth stood at USD 88.5 billion at that time. In a matter of five months, it stands at USD 115.5 billion! Be that as it may, his growth rate is certainly exponential!

Of late, Forbes has placed him at the fourth place in the list of world’s richest people. Incidentally, he just crossed Bill Gates, who has been donating his wealth to charity and who wishes to be kicked off this list. 

Let us see how India’s economy fared during the last two years. The continuous lockdown in the year 2020 followed by the second wave in a few months from the unlock phase, had jolted the Indian economy. Despite this, we are termed as the fastest growing country. However, there is a caveat to this statement.

The combined fiscal deficit of the Centre and the states is more than 10 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. It only means that the government had to print more money to keep the machinery called the Indian economy going. It is an established fact that growth at the cost of fiscal consolidation is not a good practice.

We saw a similar trend in the pre-liberalisation period. In fact, India has registered a growth rate of 5.3 percent in the 1980s. However, high fiscal deficit had brought the country on the verge of bankruptcy. High fiscal deficit increases the current account deficit leading to inflation and exhaustion of foreign reserves.

During 2020-21, the Centre had a fiscal deficit of 9.6 percent, understandably to combat the emergency posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The economic slowdown had impacted the revenue. The government had no option but to print more money. The deficit was reduced to 6.9 percent in 2021-22. The finance minister has projected it to be at 6.4 percent, which is at a higher end.

Of late, a lot is being talked about global recession in view of the Russia-Ukraine war. Experts in our country have been maintaining a stand that the Indian economy is strong enough to bear this jolt. At least the economic facts do not validate such statements.

One, foreign investors have been exiting the Indian market. Resultantly, the current value of the Rupee has gone down considerably. The exchange value of the dollar has touched Rs. 80. Generally, recession is tackled by printing more money, which means higher fiscal deficit. In the current scenario, where fiscal deficit is already high, it will be suicidal to increase it to the levels of the covid year.

A government which believes in populism will find it tempting to print more money for political reasons, a move which may not gel well with the foreign investors. The rupee may further plunge, giving way to inflation, making people at the bottom of the pyramid more vulnerable.

While people like Adani may continue to make wealth, the poor will become poorer day by day. The last few years beginning with demonetisation, imposition of GST, the sudden economic closure due to the pandemic, have affected the poor badly. The ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine has triggered retail inflation. Items of daily use have become expensive. Fuel prices have touched new heights.

On the top of it, the government’s decision to levy taxes on essential items will only make their life miserable. If one looks at the latest unemployment data released by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), it has shot up to 7.8 percent in June, with a loss of 13 million jobs, mainly in the agriculture sector. Not only this, 2.5 million people lost jobs amongst the salaried employees.

The government reduced the demand for armed personnel of late by announcing a new scheme. The job opportunities in the private equity-funded market have also started reducing. The situation is all-the-more worrying. High inflation coupled with reducing income levels, will only add more people to below the poverty line, increasing the pressure on government-funded schemes like the national food security act (NFSA), NREGA etc.

This only means more fiscal deficit, malnutrition, impacting the lives of children, women and the elderly. The youth who is left with no avenues to earn a livelihood, is more likely to contribute to social evils like drug addiction, crime etc. Uneducated, unskilled, unemployable youth will only add on to the economic burden. Unlike Japan, India will not be able to leverage this period when the young population is higher than ageing ones.

A report from the international food policy research (IFPRI) published a few days ago should set the alarm bells ringing. The institute has estimated that India’s food production is likely to reduce by 16 percent due to climate change. We have already witnessed the plunge in wheat production this year forcing us to stop exports. The quantity of wheat being distributed through the public distribution systems under schemes like NFSA have also been reduced. At many places, wheat has been completely replaced by rice and other cereals.

In view of the current circumstances, the IFPRI has also estimated that the number of people at risk for hunger is expected to increase by 23 percent. In fact, 73.9 million people are expected to be at risk in 2030. The report says that if the effect of climate change is factored in, the number is likely to increase to 90.6 million people in India coupled with reduction in food production. Globally, the production may increase considerably by 2050 but unfortunately people affected by hunger are expected to increase by 500 million people!

One can easily imagine how defective government policies, where the rich are favoured at the cost of the poor, will make the poor poorer year on year. It is because of this reason that India’s growth story has not been able to transform the lives of the marginalised and the underserved.

When it comes to the poor, the government looks at them from the lens of potential voters not as growth catalysts. The likes of Nirav Modi, Vijaya Mallya etc. enjoy the clout to exploit the system to their favour while the common man struggles to get a loan approved for setting up his enterprise.

As far as Adani’s statement is concerned, it certainly speaks about a world that seems to be Utopian. We can only imagine a world where no one sleeps with an empty stomach. It can only happen if the government does a serious introspection, introduces taxes to regulate the unquestioned growth of a few and invests the money for the benefit of the poor, something on the lines of Thomas Pikkety’s world as presented in his book “Capitalism in 21st Century”.

As of now “Sabka saath, Sabka vikas, Sabka vishwas” is a mere slogan, aimed at winning votes of the people not their hearts. We are set to see the rise of Adanis and Ambanis but not of the poor, who will remain trapped in the inter-generational cycle of poverty.

Rishi Sunak, Kamala Harris And The Rise Of The New Model Minority

By, Saif Shain At Outlook

Rishi Sunak is the latest poster boy for Indian success stories abroad. The chancellor of the exchequer until recently, he could well become Britain’s next prime minister. He and his parents featured in a 2001 BBC documentary series about the middle classes. Sunak, who had been educated at the prestigious Winchester College, bragged on camera he had friends among the British aristocracy and upper class — but, he stressed, “not working class”.

In the two decades since that interview — whose clips are currently doing the rounds on Twitter and TikTok — Sunak has assiduously maintained his select company. After graduating from Oxford and Stanford universities, he advised investment banks and hedge funds before becoming a Member of Parliament from the “safe” Conservative Party seat of Richmond in Northern Yorkshire. Somewhere in between, he also got married to the daughter of Infosys founder NR Narayana Murthy. The couple are counted among Britain’s richest people today.

Sunak is among a clutch of political figures of Indian origin who have recently risen to prominence in the West. These include British home secretary Priti Patel, US ex-governors and presidential hopefuls Nikki Haley and Bobby Jindal and, most notably, US Vice President Kamala Harris. Their ascent is viewed either as epitomizing the intelligence and industry of Indians that makes them stand out everywhere — or as evidence of the prospects inherent in “inclusive” Western societies, which enable immigrants and people of color to achieve their potential. But as Sunak’s story suggests, the truth is quite the opposite. 

The newfound success of Indians reflects how the opportunity structure of Western liberal democracies rewards the privileged and the powerful — or those who serve their interests. At the same time, it illustrates how the politics of identity is abused to undermine any possibility of change.

The families of many of these political prodigies moved to the US or the UK in the 1950s and 1960s. This was a time of upheaval in both countries, which forced them to relax their immigration laws — although for different reasons. Britain, no longer the colonial power it used to be, needed more people from erstwhile colonies to rebuild after the Second World War. The US not only faced the challenge of the Cold War but also growing domestic discontent in the form of Black Americans taking to the streets to demand equal rights. A 1965 US law overturned several provisions that had curtailed immigration from non-European countries. Ostensibly meant to showcase the US as the land of the free, the new policy insidiously encouraged the expansion of non-Black minorities as a means of containing the civil rights movement.

It went hand-in-hand with a concerted campaign to typecast East Asian immigrants as the “model minority”. Soon after the immigration act was passed, the New York Times published an article praising Japanese Americans for achieving great success, measured in terms of higher education and low crime rates and contrasted directly with the failures of the ”problem minority”, viz. Blacks. Similar eulogies were sung for the Chinese Americans.

Virtually overnight, the same East Asians who had been regarded for more than a century as the “yellow peril” morphed into pliant, law-abiding, productive members of society who ought to serve as an exemplar for other minorities. The purpose behind the model minority stereotype was to discredit the demands of the civil rights movement by blaming Black Americans for all their suffering — whitewashing the history of slavery and segregation. The tag also served to divide minority groups and derail the possibility of multi-ethnic mobilisation.

Sixty years later, as the US simmers with chants of Black Lives Matter and China’s rise as a global power has once more transformed East Asians into the yellow peril, it is Indians who have emerged as the new model minority.

They do meet the requisite criteria. Nearly 79 percent of Indian Americans aged 25 or over have a bachelor’s degree, compared with just 33 percent on average for other communities, according to the 2019 census. Indians are also more likely to be employed than others and typically work in high-paying sectors. As a result, Indian households had a median income of $132,000, more than double the median for other immigrant groups combined.

These statistics are touted as proof that hard work can lead anyone to success in the US — the quintessence of the so-called American Dream. As Haley once said, “We’re just good at being Americans.”

But the figures hide more than they reveal. Comparing Indians and other communities is much like comparing proverbial apples and oranges. Many Indians in the US come from privileged sections of Indian society or the Indian diaspora. The vast majority have arrived in recent years. And they have migrated by choice, typically to take up plum jobs in management, business, science and technology, and the like — or to study and then take up plum jobs in these sectors.

This history is quite different from, say, the centuries of systematic persecution experienced by Black Americans initially brought to the US as slaves from Africa or the genocide that Native Americans had to live through. Talking about Jindal or Haley or Harris’s success as though it is exclusively Indian also disregards the progress on civil rights made possible by the political struggles of other minorities — struggles that Indians did not participate in but benefit from today.

This is not to suggest that Indian Americans do not experience prejudice — they do, and it is on the rise by all accounts. Nor does it imply that Indians do not work hard or do not deserve their success. But the glowing achievements of an already well-to-do community are mobilised to shade the injustices that other minorities are speaking out against. One moneyed Indian political figure after another, belonging to one mainstream political party or the other, is unveiled as an acceptable alternative to the uncomfortable politics of protest and grassroots mobilisation that Black Lives Matter represents.

Education, income and a general unwillingness to cause “trouble” even when dealing with racist violence has allowed Indians in the US to take on the mantle of the new model minority — especially at this moment of renewed racial angst that bears parallels with the civil rights era. A similar shift has occurred in Britain too, where Hindus and Sikhs are now regarded as part of the “middle classes” — in other words, the mainstream of British society.

The policy positions of these Indian politicians give the lie to claims that their rise somehow represents the cause of inclusivity and social justice. As governor of Louisiana, Jindal cut taxes on business investments while making it harder for the poor to receive healthcare. Haley, a fellow Republican, has supported the flying of racist Confederate flags. Meanwhile, Harris, a Democrat, fought to ensure more and more people — many of whom tend to be Black or other minorities — remained inside privately owned prisons while serving as attorney general of California.

The hypocrisy of these political leaders who hail from immigrant families is perhaps most evident when it comes to immigration policy. Jindal and Haley have supported a slew of laws that make immigration to the US difficult and the life of immigrants harder. While touring Latin American countries as vice president, Harris told would-be migrants, “Do not come. Do not come.” Across the pond, Patel is widely regarded as imposing a ruthless regime against immigrants and asylum seekers, especially during the Covid19 pandemic — bordering on illegality and termed by a judge as “extremely troubling”.

While champions of identity politics might celebrate the ascendance of Sunak and his ilk to the upper echelons of power in Western capitals, the success of these “different-looking” individuals is unlikely to make any difference. If anything, it shores up power and privilege within these liberal democracies. It also illustrates the emptiness of the liberal promise of representation, which barters the struggle for social change with the success of a few individuals who pride themselves in having no working-class friends.

A Proactive Approach Toward Addressing The Challenges Of The Metaverse Landry Signé And Hanna Dooley At Brookings

When the science fiction writer Neal Stephenson first coined the term “metaverse” in 1992, the world of virtual reality-enabled computing that he imagined was still a long way off. But with virtual reality—and the computing infrastructure that enables it—making significant improvements in recent years, the interactive and embodied internet that Stephenson imagined is now closer to reality. 

Today, computer science researchers conceive of the metaverse as a “network of interconnected virtual worlds” using three-dimensional platforms where humans interact with digital content and with each other, forming an “ecosystem where digital and physical worlds collide”. By relying on a combination of augmented, mixed, and virtual reality to move from the 2D version of the internet to a 3D shared space, the metaverse aims at an internet that is interoperable and synchronous.  

The metaverse promises to connect devices to humans and humans to each other in ways that threatens to transform economic and social relations. As a result, it is critical that policymakers and technology companies collaborate to write the rules of the road for the metaverse. The potentially disruptive qualities of the metaverse are illustrative of how the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) will likely transform how humans work, entertain, conduct business, and socialize. The scale of this disruption means that policymakers need to adopt a proactive approach in thinking about how these technologies are likely to change our society rather than attempting to address harms once they are widespread. Especially given the recent drawdowns in the technology industry, the impending buildout of the metaverse also offers a rare opportunity to design a system that is more equitable from the start—in contrast to past paradigms like Web 2.0.  

The promise of the metaverse 

Depending on how it develops, the metaverse could have profound impacts on business and the global economy, though, so far, the development of the metaverse has been driven by applications in entertainment. Firms like Roblox, Epic Games, and, increasingly, Meta and Microsoft are pouring huge sums into developing interactive online spaces that have many of the characteristics of the metaverse. As the metaverse develops, it may provide useful applications in other fields. 

Metaverse technologies can accelerate skill development, for example, through realistic, 3D simulations and can better connect regions and communities to these resources. Already, the UK government is investing in medical training using augmented reality for frontline nurses. As users live greater portions of their lives in the metaverse and carry out transactions there, a larger share of economic life may be transacted via cryptocurrencies, a shift that has the potential to transform the global economy.

Local governments can use the metaverse and its technologies to better serve their constituents in the short and long term by directly connecting more people to services and by having tools to better develop and update city infrastructure and plan for the future. By using “digital twins”—digital representations of real-world objects—metaverse technologies can be used to simulate proposals for urban redevelopment projects. The Boston Planning and Development Agency, for example, uses a digital twin of the city to simulate how water and sewer systems affect the physical landscape of the city, while Singapore uses a digital twin to visualize the effects of population increases on the city and its resources.  

Given its uncertain future and lack of a concrete definition, it is difficult to estimate the economic impact of the metaverse, yet market research groups, investors, and banks have predicted high speeds of growth in the next 4 to 8 years, with estimates for the global market value of metaverse-related technologies ranging from $700 billion up to $13 trillion. Using a narrow definition of the metaverse, CitiBank estimates the total addressable market value of metaverse technologies will be between $1 and $2 trillion by 2030. Using a broader definition of the metaverse results in a market value between $8 and $13 trillion by 2030.  

Wider accessibility to skills, as well as the blending of physical and digital worlds, will bring new and potentially more productive types of jobs and make them available to a wider range of people. Due to the pandemic, remote work opened up work opportunities for people around the world who no longer had to rely on being physically present. The metaverse has the potential to enhance these benefits and remove some of the drawbacks of remote work by increasing connection and collaboration between teams.

The metaverse could bring positive benefits for the planet as well, such as saving resources and reducing physical consumption and waste if social and business events are held virtually. Using the metaverse to create immersive and complex simulations related to biodiversity and climate change could better educate people about global change, increase access to and protect vulnerable biodiversity sites, and include more global and diverse voices in research and discussion about environmental science and sustainability.  

The metaverse also can bring opportunities to address global challenges that require collaboration. Diplomacy through metaverse technologies could allow smaller or less powerful countries to be better connected to countries and people, allowing for new alliances, collaborations, and services. Barbados announced in 2021 that they will be the first country to open a virtual embassy within the metaverse platform, Decentraland, opening the possibility for other countries to embrace the metaverse as a means for international relations. None of these benefits are guaranteed, but using metaverse technologies to connect countries, communities, and individuals to resources and services in an immersive way has the potential to contribute to a more equitable and sustainable future across all aspects of society.  

Challenges posed by the metaverse 

The effects of the metaverse transcend borders and include risks to safety, privacy, work, resources, and inequality. These are issues raised by today’s technology as well, but the greater connectivity and integration of the metaverse threatens to either exacerbate or change their character.  

Because the metaverse provides a more immersive experience, it is crucial that the safety concerns it raises are proactively addressed. The everyday abuse that users experience online today will only be worsened once such activities are experienced in VR and AR environments. Researchers have found that users experience abuse in these environments as “far more traumatic than in other digital worlds,” as the human brain can perceive virtual threats through immersive technology as actual threats. Online harassment, especially of women, has been prevalent since the internet’s inception and is happening in VR/AR environments already, with women reporting that they experience discrimination and violence in the virtual world more intensely than in other digital fora. At their best, advances in haptic and virtual technologies could help people feel more connected; at their worst, misuse could cause more realistic harm with little consequence to the perpetrator. Research has shown that online harassment disproportionately targets minorities, and these inequalities are likely to be replicated in the metaverse. Without policies to prevent such abuse, safety in the metaverse will likely be a barrier to widespread adoption.  

The amount and type of data that is created and collected through metaverse technologies results in major privacy challenges. With users interacting with content and other users in a 3D environment, metaverse technologies are likely to collect highly detailed data on users and their interactions in a far more intrusive way than current online platforms. To describe the combination of behavioral and anatomical information collected in the metaverse, one Harvard researcher coined the term “biometric psychography” to describe how this data might provide insight into a user’s feelings and their potential causes. Data can be collected on eye tracking, facial scans, and other bodily responses that can be linked to an individual’s identity. When used for good, this data could lead to innovative and personalized experiences, but the potential exploitation and sale of this data leads to major privacy and human rights concerns. The potential value of this data creates major cybersecurity risks, as malicious hackers would be keen to obtain it.  

The disruptions to work and the economy in the metaverse raises risks as well. The potential for further automation of jobs and the emergence of new jobs will be a challenge for those who are not prepared with adequate skills or guidance for transitioning out of these jobs. The widespread use of cryptocurrencies whose values are far from stable and that lack robust regulatory regimes may undermine trust in metaverse economies. The recent history of cryptocurrencies demonstrates that these digital currencies are quite vulnerable to theft, posing yet another barrier to adoption.  

Given how computationally intensive metaverse technologies are, the energy demand to power these technologies is significant—so much so that one senior Intel executive predicted that the metaverse will require a 1000x increase on our current computing power. If the electricity to support this increase in computing power is not supplied by sustainable sources, the metaverse will drastically increase greenhouse gas emissions with extreme negative effects on the environment, making it critical that it is powered by alternative energy sources to manage its carbon footprint.  

The metaverse also risks exacerbating global inequalities. Given its reliance on the interaction between new and existing technologies, the metaverse may first benefit countries, companies, and people who already in possession of its enabling technologies, infrastructure, and skills. This could result in early adopters capturing a majority of the benefits. Countries who supply the necessary infrastructure may also have greater control over the technology and how it develops. If the metaverse continues to grow and include more aspects of society from work to socializing, countries and communities already lagging behind in technology and internet adoption will be further isolated. As the metaverse attempts to create a virtual world that more accurately reflects the real world, already-existing power dynamics and inequality in the real world may be replicated in the metaverse.  

The way toward a more equitable metaverse   

The metaverse is currently not controlled by any one platform, and its early developers are operating under different incentives and regulations, which is likely to lead to market domination and insufficient privacy and safety protocols. To mitigate the evolving risks and capture the potential opportunities, key players—including the major tech companies, governments, developers, and users—must collaborate to co-develop regulations, align incentives, and create a governance framework now, rather than reacting to challenges that emerge later. Proactive strategies will be key to ensure that companies, users, governments, and experts are operating on a level playing field and create strategies to address safety and privacy concerns while still encouraging innovation. 

Dealing with safety concerns within the metaverse will likely need a completely new approach—rather than adopting safety protocols from the currently existing internet. The immersive nature of the metaverse means that not only content but also behavior will need to be monitored and regulated. Regulation in other digital environments is often reactive and provides punishments after a violation, but the metaverse is likely to require incentives for positive behavior combined with effective mechanisms to report, prevent, and act on negative behaviorNorms may need to be created, agreed upon by users, and enforced by moderators. Balancing privacy with moderation will be a challenge, and moderation mechanisms should be discussed between platform developers, legal experts, and human rights experts.  

Privacy mitigation will also need to be co-developed to ensure that data is safely handled. Companies and governments must examine potential vulnerabilities related to infrastructure and applications and adopt security practices such as breach notification and response, malware protection, and multi-factor authentication. As the metaverse and its platforms continue to develop across borders, data and privacy law will need to be examined and evaluated to address likely conflicts related to biometric data. Laws specific to metaverse technologies will likely need to be created and agreed upon internationally, instead of relying on existing statutes related to the internet. While laws and governance structures are developed, codes of conduct and voluntary constraints are likely to serve an important stop-gap function. Industry-wide codes of conduct could help provide a baseline for companies who are creating metaverse platforms or wish to be part of one to agree upon basic rules and be able to work together as they develop.    

The rules of the metaverse are being written by its early adopters, which threatens to exclude key voicesOther players beyond tech-developers and governments have a role in the development of the metaverse as well, including financial institutions, mental-health professionals, sustainability experts, and civil rights activist. The scientific community will have an important role to play in studying regulatory mechanisms and governance structures, the effects of immersive technology on the brain, and sustainability. Maintaining diversity will be critical to preventing the metaverse from replicating the injustices and inequalities of the non-virtual world. Companies and governments alike should focus on policies that will contribute to a democratic approach in the development of the metaverse—including pushing for open-source standards and interoperability—to make sure the metaverse is not dominated by a select group of major technology companies whose incentives do not align with other members of society.  

If developed with people and progress in mind, the metaverse and its technologies have the potential to enrich real lives with greater access to knowledge, experiences, and human connection. There is ample opportunity for accessibility, development, and equitable growth through the metaverse, but these can only be seized with proactive and strategic collaboration, planning, and action.    

(Landry Signé is executive director and professor at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, a senior fellow in the Global Economy and Development Program and the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution, a distinguished fellow at Stanford University, and founding director of the Fourth Industrial Revolution Initiative. Hanna Dooley is a policy analyst at Arizona State University.

44th FIDE Chess Olympiad Inaugurated In Chennai, India

The 44th FIDE Chess Olympiad was inaugurated on July 28 at the Nehru Indoor Stadium in Chennai with fanfare, in the presence of Narendra Modi, the prime minister of India, and M.K. Stalin, the chief minister of the state of Tamil Nadu, the main initiator of the event. 

A total of 187 teams in the open section will vie for the Hamilton-Russell Cup, and 162 teams in the women’s section for the Vera Menchik Cup, while the best combined results of a nation in both the sections will decide the winner of the Nona Gaprindashvili Trophy.

The Olympiad having over 2000 participants is being held for the first time in India, famously known as the birthplace of Chess. Addressing the gathering, the PM welcomed the players from different countries and expressed happiness that this year’s Olympiad is special as it is coinciding with the Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav celebrations along with setting its own records.

From Napier Bridge to Guindy, from Adyar to Tambaram, the chess buzz has never enveloped Chennai as it has now. The evening witnessed a march-past of the participating teams and was a sound and music spectacle to behold.

A week ago, a video anthem was released wherein A R Rahman and Chief Minister M K Stalin are walking along Napier Bridge, which is painted black and white to resemble the squares on a chess board. Both are clad in all-white, flanked by dancers in black, resembling the pieces on a board, humming the anthem and shyly jiving.

The former world champion and one of Chennai’s own, Viswanathan Anand, could not hide his excitement. “I have never seen the city so excited about chess. I was so happy to see the bridge painted black and white and I am sure that everyone in the city would know about the Chess Olympiad,” he said.

Into the melee dropped superstar Rajinikanth, when he invited fledgling chess stars R Praggnanandhaa and his sister R Vaishali as well as their parents to his house. If the confluence of the biggest politician in the state, the biggest actor and the biggest music composer does not strike a chord, perhaps nothing would. The ambitious Tamil Nadu government, riding a wave of goodwill since the curbing of the pandemic, has pulled no shutters to celebrate the Olympiad.

World Champion Magnus Carlsen, too, was blown away by the city decked up to celebrate. “Tamil Nadu or say Chennai is the hottest hub of chess in the world now. So just to be there and be a part of the chess celebration is a reason in itself,” said Carlsen, who has abdicated his crown, announcing recently that he would no longer participate in the World Championship.

The grand old International Master Manuel Aaron, who began the city’s first chess club in 1972 at the Soviet Centre for Culture Studies, where Anand polished his game, feels his life is fulfilled. “I have never seen the city celebrating chess as passionately as they have now. I feel very fortunate that I could in some way contribute to the game’s following and popularity in the city. The popularity of the game will soar even further,” he said.

This is perhaps the impact that the Tamil Nadu government had envisaged when they began an aggressive push for the Olympiad — to stretch the game to the deep reaches of the city, those locales where chess is barely played, leave alone followed. The locality around the Napier Bridge that connects Fort St George and Marina Beach is not where you find children playing chess in every house. It’s not where you want to find your children, either. Not too long ago, driving at night along the bridge was considered dangerous, replete with stories of snatchers, pickpockets and even ghosts of British soldiers. Painting the bridge like a chess board is a metaphor, too.

It is undisputed that Chennai has been churning out Grandmasters more frequently than any other city in the country — 24 out of 73, apart from seven Women Grandmasters, 34 International Masters, 10,000-odd registered players — with a throbbing chess culture and history. But the game really is not as mainstream as it is hyped up to be. It is this gulf between the mass and the niche that the Chess Olympiad seeks to bridge.

Every pillar and post reminds you of the Olympiad. The faces of DMK luminaries, from the ruling party’s founder C N Anna Durai to former CM M Karunanidhi and now Stalin to the emerging Udhayanidhi Maran have been embossed onto a chess board. In every speech Stalin makes, there is a chess analogy or reference.

 “Every one in the city is a king or a queen,” he said in a function. He has invited a clutch of ministers from neighboring states, and the buzz is that there might even be an alliance between him and his Telangana counterpart K Chandrashekar Rao. The only unhappy faces, so far, are in the city’s BJP unit, which has been demanding that photos of Prime Minister Narendra Modi be added to the hoardings. Chess is no stranger to politics, after the numerous proxy wars on the board in the Cold War Era.

This edition of the Olympiad, from July 28 to August 10, is the first the country is hosting. India are seeded second in the open segment, fielding six teams, three each in men and women’s sections, with top-seeded USA and third-placed Norway, helmed by Carlsen, expected to put up a stiff challenge. But the gold that India shared with Russia in the last edition has infused a sense of optimism that they will win the Olympiad at home.

So much so that about 300 km from Chennai, in Thirupoovanur, a 14th-Century Shiva temple has gathered sudden attention because it’s called “Sathuranga Vallabhanathar”, literally translated as “King of Chess”. The story goes that the temple was built at the location where Shiva beat the daughter of the local king in a game of chess (“sathurangam” in Tamil) to marry her, an avatar of Parvathi. Add divinity to the mix, and this Olympiad has the makings of a wholesome blockbuster, a mass entertainer. Or as the Chennaities call it: “Mass-u!” (With inputs from The Indian Express)

Modi Govt. Criticized For “Relentless Campaign Of Vendetta Against Its Political Opponents”

Several Opposition Parties in India have strongly criticized the Narendra Modi led  Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Government for targeting its opponents and critics, saying that Modi has “unleashed a relentless campaign of vendetta against its political opponents and critics through the mischievous misuse of investigative agencies”

“Prominent leaders of a number of political parties have been deliberately targeted and subjected to harassment in an unprecedented manner. We condemn this and resolve to continue and intensify our collective fight against the anti-people, anti-farmers, and anti-Constitution policies of the Modi government that is destroying the social fabric of our society,” a statement issued by the Opposition parties said.

The Modi regime’s attack against members of the Indian parliament has led to rising concerns over a shrinking political state and the backsliding towards an authoritarian state.

After questioning Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the Congress Party for three full days, each day for as many as 10 hours,  India’s Enforcement Directorate (ED) has now targeted Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the Opposition party. 

In a show of strength, the Congress staged street protests and its leaders courted arrest across the country last week as the party chief Sonia Gandhi was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a money laundering case related to the National Herald newspaper.

Gandhi, who was recovering from Covid, was summoned again on July 25. The 75-year-old replied to dozens of questions last week, media reports stated. According to Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, the ED said it had nothing to ask of her either Thursday or Friday. After which Sonia Gandhi said she was willing to appear on July 25th, he said. The Congress party slammed the agency’s action against its top leadership and termed it “political vendetta”.

“All Congress MPs and CWC members have courted mass arrest outside our party headquarters in a show of collective solidarity with Sonia Gandhi, a target of ‘Vishguru’s’ political vendetta,” said Congress general secretary Ramesh.

Leaders of 13 political parties, including the DMK, Shiv Sena, RJD and the Left, met at Parliament House and issued a statement accusing the government of unleashing a “relentless campaign of vendetta against its political opponents and critics through the mischievous misuse of investigative agencies”.

According to reports, an alarmingly high volume of cases register by the ED in recent years. The total number of cases registered by the ED under the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA) and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA) has jumped almost three times in the first three years of the second term of the BJP-led government (2019-20 to 2021-22) as compared to the corresponding period in its first term (2014-15 to 2016-17), as per the data shared by India’s Minister of State for Finance Pankaj Chaudhary in a written reply to Lok Sabha on July 25, 2022. 

The ED registered 14,143 cases under FEMA and PMLA between 2019-20 and 2021-22, as compared to 4,913 cases in 2014-15 to 2016-17 — an increase of over 187 per cent. The break-up shows that 11,420 FEMA cases were taken up for investigation in the first three years of the second term, up from 4,424 cases in the first three years of the first term — an increase of over 158 per cent. The cases registered under PMLA increased by more than five times in this period — from 489 between 2014-15 to 2016-17 to 2,723 in 2019-20 to 2021-22 — a jump of over 456 per cent. According to the year-wise data, 2021-22 saw the highest number of money laundering and foreign exchange violation cases in the last eight years of the Modi government. In 2020-21, the ED filed 5,313 cases under FEMA (the previous high was 3,627 cases in 2017-18); and 1,180 under PMLA (up from 981 in 2020-21).

Another tool used by the Indian Government in recent years to contain dissent has been the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). As per the submission by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) before the Parliament on July 20, 2022, there is  a huge gap between the number of persons who are under-trial and those who have been either convicted or acquitted under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in the country during 2016-2020.

Out of 6,482 persons under trial, only 80 persons have been convicted and 116 have been acquitted. The increasing number of persons undertrial is concerning and is a poor reflection on the Indian judicial system.It suggests that the law is merely enabling their continued incarceration. “Thus, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, (UAPA) is allegedly being misused to incarcerate political dissidents by a vindictive regime,” critics pointed out.

Frank Islam Appointed By Biden To Be On The Commission On Presidential Scholars

Indian American Frank Islam will be one of the 21 members of the Commission on Presidential Scholars. Islam will be a part of the 21-member commission which includes prominent Americans from different walks of life. According to the White House press release, the commission will be led by Margaret Aitken Haggerty, a communications professional who served as the spokesperson and press secretary for Biden during his Senate days.

The Commission on Presidential Scholars is responsible for selecting 161 Presidential Scholars from academics, the arts, career, and technical education.

Islam is currently the head of the FI Investment Group which is a private investment holding company. Previously, he owned an information technology firm called QSS Group which he sold in 2007. He has also served on several boards and advisory councils such as the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the U.N. Foundation, the US Institute of Peace, and the Woodrow Wilson Center.

Moreover, Islam has been a part of the boards and councils at different universities including John HopkinsAmerican University, George Mason University, the University of Maryland, and Harvard University, according to the White House press release.

A prolific writer, Islam has also written about American politics for The Quint. In an interview with the American Bazaar, Islam expressed that the new appointment was an honor. “I look forward to serving on the Commission with the other members and collaborating with them to choose Scholars who will use this experience and already impressive accomplishments in order to build an even stronger and better America,” Islam said. 

Islam has authored books on the American political landscape, including: Working the Pivot Points: To Make America Work Again and Renewing the American Dream: A Citizen’s Guide for Restoring Our Competitive Advantage

He is a regular blogger on Medium and has been contributing to the Huffington Post for almost a decade. In 2018, Islam created the Frank Islam Institute for 21st Century Citizenship which tackles the civic engagement deficit and challenges to democracy within the US and on a global scale through its website and monthly newsletter.

Born in Aligarh, India, Islam moved to the United States in early 1970s to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Colorado, in Boulder. After earning a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science from the university, he worked for different companies for 20 years before creating his own, the QSS Group.

After exiting from the QSS, Islam and his wife, Debbie Driesman built a philanthropic foundation with an aim to promote education, art and culture, and peace and conflict-resolution.

Currently residing in Potomac, Maryland, just outside of Washington DC, Islam is a popular Democratic donor, and has raised millions of dollars for Democratic presidential nominees including Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton, and Joe Biden. (Courtesy: The Quint)

TiE-Boston Elects Tech Entrepreneur Yash Shah As 13th President

TiE Boston, one of the region’s largest and leading-edge organizations supporting the Massachusetts entrepreneurial ecosystem and connecting entrepreneurs, executives, and venture capitalists, today announced that tech entrepreneur and senior business executive Yash Shah has commenced his term as the 13th President of TiE Boston.

Beginning July 1, 2022, Shah will serve for a two-year term, during which he plans to boost the organization’s outreach to early entrepreneurs, emerging entrepreneurs, and established entrepreneurs, a 3E blueprint  that will also inspire more engagement from its charter members.

“I am excited to see Yash Shah at the helm of TiE Boston,” said TiE Boston Founding President and philanthropist Desh Deshpande. “He is a seasoned entrepreneur and brings both the historical involvement from the last 25 years of TiE Boston, as well as the vision for the future that is needed for the years to come.”

Shah says he is thrilled to serve TiE Boston and lay the foundation for the next 25 years in the rapidly changing technological and business landscape in both Massachusetts and the world.

“As we celebrate TiE Boston’s 25th anniversary this year, we have also started to think about how we can make this organization more relevant to the local entrepreneurial ecosystem for the next 25 years and beyond,” said Shah . “My immediate goal to make a sustained effort to reach out to like-minded communities across New England and make TiE Boston a major resource and networking platform for budding, established, and future entrepreneurs.”

Shah replaces former TiE Boston President Anu Chitrapu, whose two-year term ended on June 30, 2022.

“I am excited about the election of Yash Shah as the next President of TiE Boston,” said Chitrapu. “His vast entrepreneurial and investment experience promises substantive impact on our programs and the entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

Shah is a serial entrepreneur, angel investor, product advisor, and business executive with over 25 years of IT and software industry experience.  He is also on the advisory boards of several software startups around the world.

“I am honored at the opportunity to build on the incredible work done by TiE Boston’s founders, past presidents, and charter members. Passion for entrepreneurship runs deep in me, as demonstrated by my two decades of association with TiE Boston and starting multiple ventures of my own,” added Shah.

As a dynamic and successful entrepreneur, Shah co-founded Jeavio, a venture services firm and plays a critical leadership role in its vision and strategy. He is also the Chief Technology Officer of SevOne, which was recently sold to IBM. In addition, he is a Founding Member of the TiE Boston Foundation, an active member of TiE Boston Angels, and a TiE ScaleUp Mentor.

Yosh Rozen, CEO of Partrunner, said, “I’m excited to see Yash take over the TiE Boston Presidency. He has been a mentor to my company Partrunner since our participation in the TIE Boston ScaleUp program. Yash’s leadership at TiE Boston will be immensely valuable as an enabler for future entrepreneurs.”

TiE Boston is the second oldest and second largest TiE chapter and currently has around 170 charter members in Massachusetts, who have founded signature Boston companies creating $50B+ in shareholder value and thousands of hi-tech jobs. A charter membership to TiE Boston provides access to TiE’s global network of over 15000 entrepreneurs, professionals, industry leaders, and investors, across 64 chapters worldwide.

​Founded in 1997, TiE Boston connects tomorrow’s founders with today’s entrepreneurs, executives and venture capitalists. Operating for 25 years now, TiE Boston’s unparalleled network of successful, serial entrepreneurs are deeply engaged and committed to giving back to the community by providing mentorship, tactical advice, and expertise to rising entrepreneurs through signature programs.

TiE Boston Angels provides funding and advice to early-stage companies. Since its inception, $18+ Million has been invested in 60+ companies, through a network of over 90+ investors. Industries represented include technology, healthcare, clean tech and more.

TiE Boston ScaleUp is an accelerator program that enables “Seed to Series A” companies overcome typical barriers to growth by guiding them to optimize their strategic positioning, operations, sales and competitive advantage. Participating startups have access to top mentors from Boston who have successfully scaled and exited their own companies. Since inception, ScaleUp has accelerated 107 startups through 8 cohorts. 63% are female-founded companies and the program has seen 5 exits till date.

TiE Young Entrepreneurs (TYE) fosters the next generation of leaders through the transformative experience of building a startup. This extracurricular program for exceptional high school students provides participants with the essential business and leadership skills to prepare them to succeed in college and beyond. Since inception, close to 500 students have successfully completed the program, with 90% reporting that TYE influenced a career path in STEM and 40% reporting that they founded a company as an adult. 

Other high-impact initiatives from TiE Boston include TiECON East, the largest entrepreneurial conference on the East Coast, TiE Boston Women, and TiE Boston University

When Will The Indian Rupee Stop Falling?

The Indian Rupee breached the psychological 80-mark for the first time against the US dollar on Tuesday, July 18th, declining to 80.06 per Dollar. The Reserve Bank of India intervened in the currency market to help the Rupee steady after hitting seven straight intraday record lows. A recovery in domestic shares also favored the Indian currency.

According analysts, a wobbly global macroeconomic environment marked by a spell of monetary tightening unleashed, firstly, by the Federal Reserve and being mimicked in earnest by the major central bank governors across the globe has led to an exodus of hot money from developing economies to the “safe haven” of the Dollar. The scenario is compounded further by record-breaking crude oil prices, which balloon India’s imports, diminish the cumulative value of India’s exports and widen our trade deficit.

It is a regular demand-supply market. Currently, there is a greater demand for Dollars than there is for the Rupee. Two factors have pushed demand — India’s current account deficit has sharply widened particularly after Russia invaded Ukraine, and investment in the Indian economy has fallen due to heavy flight of funds in recent months.

Depreciation of the Rupee makes imported items — including petrol and mobile phones — and gives India’s export a competitive edge. But India is a net importer. For those eyeing a trip abroad, earlier budgets on food, boarding, and transportation will now fall short – leaving one with the option to either expand their budgets or opt for countries where the rupee commands a stronger position compared to their domestic currencies.

The dollar has been appreciating against all currencies including the Euro. Market watchers, in fact, say that the Rupee has fared better compared to other currencies including the Euro.

In FY’22, as per the provisional figures released by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), India’s current account deficit widened to $38.7 billion from a surplus of $23.9 billion in the previous FY. 

A widening current account deficit indicates that Indians have been converting more of their rupees into dollars to complete trade and investment transactions consequently spiking up the demand for dollars. It doesn’t help that foreign institutional investors (FIIs) have been dumping Indian equities after a strong bullish spell, and making a beeline for US treasury notes and bonds.

The RBI has intervened by selling Dollars to check the Rupee’s slide. Else, the free market would have seen a further weaker Rupee. The current exchange market scenarios suggest that the rupee’s fall may continue for a few more months, breaching even the 82-mark. Congress leader Shashi Tharoor took a dig at the Rupee’s slide saying a “strong government” is “giving us a weaker Rupee”.

Allu Arjun To Lead India Day Parade In New York

Popular Telugu actor Allu Arjun, who starred in the hit film Pushpa will lead the annual India Day Parade in New York next month organized by the Federation of Indian Associations, a leading Indian diaspora organization, as India marks 75th year of Independence. The Federation of Indian Associations — New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — have planned grand events in the coming weeks and months to celebrate India’s 75 years of Independence —  Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav.

According to reports, Super Star Allu Arjun will be the Grand Marshall of the India Day Parade in New York City on August 21. Allu Arjun, the Grand Marshal, will lead the parade along with NYC Mayor Eric Adams and a host of other celebrities and distinguished participants.

The FIA India Day parade is considered the largest parade outside India to mark the country’s independence and brings together thousands of members of the diaspora.

FIA President, Kenny Desai, during the fourth Parade Council Meeting, announced details of the FIA’s planned grand events lined up for the celebration of India’s 75 years of Independence -Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav.

he annual cultural events runthrough several streets of Madison Avenue in the heart of Manhattan, featuring tableaux by various Indian-American organizations, marching bands, police contingents and cultural performances by young Indian-American children.

FIA Chairman Ankur Vaidya welcomed the announcement of Arjun as FIA’s 40th Grand Marshal and complimented the mega star for his kindness and patriotism towards the motherland. “There is palpable excitement in the Indian-American community to welcome the popular superstar and FIA will ensure he feels at home in the US,” Vaidya said.

Previously, actors Arjun Rampal, Abhishek Bachchan, and Baahubali actors Rana Daggubati and Tamannaah Bhatia, as well as Sunny Deol and Raveena Tandon have attended the parade.

163,370 Indians Renounced Indian Passport in 2021

As many as 163,370 Indians gave up their Indian passports in 2021 — the highest since 2015, the Indian Government told Parliament last week. This number was 144,017 in 2019 and 85,256 in Covid-impacted 2020. 

While 41 Indian citizens based in Pakistan gave up their Indian citizenship in 2021, compared to only seven in 2020, 326 living in the UAE renounced their Indian passports.

Data provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs in Lok Sabha disclosed that the US was the top choice with almost half of Indians – 78,284 – preferring to become US citizens.

Overall, 932,276 Indians renounced their citizenships in favor of other countries between 2015 and 2021 — including 1,31,489 in 2015; 1,41,603 in 2016; 1,33,049 in 2017 and 1,34,561 in 2018.

Those giving up their Indian citizenship cited “personal” reasons for renouncing their home country. Indian laws don’t allow dual citizenship. 

India stands at the 84th position in the Henley’s and Partners’ passport index. A higher rank means easy visa and less bureaucratic delays in international travels.

Almost half — 78,284 — became US citizens in 2021 compared to 30,828 in 2020 and 61,683 in 2019. All of them were already based in the US. The other top destination countries were Australia (23,533), Canada (21,597), the UK (14,637), Italy (5,987), New Zealand (2,643) and Singapore (2,516).

Of the 10,645 foreign nationals who applied for Indian citizenship between 2016 and 2020 — 7,782 were from Pakistan and 795 were Afghanistan — 4,177 persons were granted Indian citizenship by the government.

Global Population Projected To Exceed 8 Billion In 2022; Half Live In 7 Countries

By Conrad Hackett

The world’s population will cross 8 billion in November, according to recently released projections from the United Nations. And more than half of all people live in just seven countries.

China has the world’s largest population (1.426 billion), but India (1.417 billion) is expected to claim this title next year. The next five most populous nations – the United States, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria and Brazil – together have fewer people than India or China. In fact, China’s population is greater than the entire population of Europe (744 million) or the Americas (1.04 billion) and roughly equivalent to that of all nations in Africa (1.427 billion).

As recently as 2015, half the world’s population was concentrated in just six countries – the same as above, with the exception of Nigeria, which was then the seventh most populous country and has since passed Brazil to move into sixth place. Recent population growth, however, has been faster in the rest of the world than in these nations, meaning that the top six now hold slightly less than half (49%) of the world’s people. Including Brazil’s 215 million people puts the world’s seven most populous countries at 51.7% of the global population.

In the UN’s “medium” scenario for future population growth – its middle-of-the-road estimate – the global population is expected to reach 9.7 billion in 2050 and 10.4 billion in 2100. Growth is expected to be concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa, where an estimated 29% of all the world’s births happened last year. The 2021 total fertility rate in sub-Saharan Africa, 4.6 births per woman, is double the global average of 2.3 births per woman and triple the average in Europe and Northern America (1.5) and in Eastern and South-Eastern Asia (also 1.5).

Under Pope Francis, The College Of Cardinals Has Become Less European

By, Jeff Diamant

Unless his reign is short, a Roman Catholic pontiff typically appoints a majority of the men who vote for his successor. But Pope Francis’ additions to the College of Cardinals since his election in 2013 also have served another purpose – tilting the leadership structure of the Roman Catholic Church away from its historic European base and toward developing nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The pope recently announced that he will appoint 16 new voting cardinals (in addition to five other cardinals who are 80 or older and therefore ineligible to vote). After this latest group is officially installed at an Aug. 27 ceremony in Vatican City, the College of Cardinals will have 132 voting members, 40% of whom are European, down from 52% in 2013. 

How we did this

Francis’ appointments (including the recently announced future cardinals) have increased the overall representation of the Asia-Pacific region within the body of voting cardinals from 9% in 2013 to 17% in 2022, while increasing the representation of sub-Saharan Africa from 9% to 12%. These figures include cardinals who were named by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II.

Francis, an Argentinian who is the first pope from outside Europe since the eighth century, still has picked more cardinals from Europe than from any other region. Of the 83 newly appointed or currently eligible voting cardinals Francis has named so far during his papacy, 34% are from Europe, 22% from the Asia-Pacific region, 20% from Latin America and the Caribbean, 13% from sub-Saharan Africa, 8% from North America and 2% from the Middle East-North Africa region. Altogether, these cardinals appointed by Francis will make up a majority (63%) of the 132 voting members of the College of Cardinals after the Aug. 27 installation ceremony.

Among the 16 future cardinal electors Francis has chosen this year, four will represent Europe (Italy, Spain, France and the United Kingdom). Six will represent the Asia-Pacific region (two from India and one each from East Timor, Mongolia, Singapore and South Korea). Three other future cardinal electors are from Latin America and the Caribbean (two from Brazil and one from Paraguay). Two are from sub-Saharan Africa (Ghana and Nigeria) and one is from North America (U.S.-born Robert McElroy, archbishop of San Diego).

Given that, as of 2010, only about a quarter (24%) of the global Catholic population lives in Europe, the continent remains heavily overrepresented among voting cardinals. By this measure, the most underrepresented region within the church’s leadership – even with Francis’ new picks – is Latin America and the Caribbean, which is home to 39% of the worldwide Catholic population (again, as of 2010) but has only 18% of the cardinals.

India Aims To Fly Indian Flag Atop 200 Million Houses On Independence Day

According to the newly launched “Har Ghar Tiranga” nationwide campaign, the Indian government plans to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Indian Independence by flying the Indian Flag, called Tiranga (tricolor) atop 200 million houses all across the country. According to Home Minister Amit Shah the campaign was devised to instill the spirit of patriotism into the hearts and minds of the people, media reports stated. 

In a communication to all ministries, the Cabinet secretary’s office has mandated ministries to ask their officers and employees to hoist the national flag in the run-up to the 76th Independence Day celebrations, people in the know of the developments said. 

This is the first time central government officials have been mandated to hoist the flag at their homes. The development comes amid the government’s ongoing ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ program, which is aimed at encouraging citizens to hoist the national flag in their homes.

Central government officials will have to hoist the tricolour at their homes and offices during 13-15 August as part of the ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ celebrations.

The Vision Of A World Divided Into Two Blocs: China & Russia Vs Europe & The United States

(IPS) – For years, Russia’s relations with the European Union and the United States have been one of the main areas of conflict in the media. Washington and Brussels accuse Moscow of manipulation and disinformation and, after the invasion of Ukraine, decided to close their media outlets to Russian companies.
Excerpts from the Q&A: 

Q: What do you think about the way this issue has been handled and what repercussions could it have on the management of the media, especially non-mainstream media such as Inter Press Service (IPS) or OtherNews?

A: Information has always been used by power, both economic and political. Information is, by definition, top-down. Whoever transmits it, whether in print form in newspapers and magazines, or in electronic form on radio and TV, sends it to an audience that cannot intervene in the process. That is why power has always tried to use it. 

The Gutenberg era represented by this phenomenon lasted six centuries. Communication, which is a more recent phenomenon and which until now has only been possible with the Internet, is different. Communication is horizontal: I am a receiver, but I can also be a sender. There, power has much more power. 

The media that provide information are closer and closer to power, they are no longer a business, and every year they are less and less powerful. And politics today is increasingly oriented towards social media. The most recent example was former US President Donald Trump, who had 80 million followers with Twitter (during his tenure at the White House) and completely gave up control of the media. (Trump was permanently banned from twitter in January 2021, right after he supported the attack on the capitol. So, Trump doesn’t actually have any twitter followers now.).

It must be added, however, that the Internet has been captured by the market, which has eliminated the horizontality we all hailed in the beginning. Today we have moved from the era of Gutenberg to the era of Zuckerberg, and we users are data, not people. 

This is of great importance for young people, who today find themselves involved in vertically created turmoil, brought about by search engines, which divide users into affinity groups, thus eliminating dialogue, because when someone from part A meets someone from part B, they clash, end up insulting each other, without listening or sharing. And search engines, in order to keep the user, prioritise what generates the most impact, so that the strangest news ends up taking precedence. 

The extreme polarisation of America would not have been possible without social media. Newspapers increasingly focus on events and abandon processes, and international relations cannot be understood without analysing the process in which events take place. 

In Nairobi in 1973 there were 75 foreign correspondents; today there are three. No European TV has correspondents in Africa. It is therefore easy for a government to decide to expel correspondents, but it is almost impossible to shut down social networks, even if autocratic governments try to do so. That is why the Russian public knows little about the reality of the war. 

But if someone is determined, they can always find a way to overcome censorship, even if it is a skill of the young, the old are not on the Internet and still rely on traditional media.

In Italy, the main daily newspaper, Il Corriere della Sera, had the front page for forty days with a nine-column headline dedicated to Ukraine. This was followed by the first twenty pages, all dedicated to Ukraine. The rest of the world had disappeared. And the same happened with most of the European media. 

Only with the French elections were newspapers forced to give significant space to Macron and not Zelensky. In this respect, representatives of the quality American press, such as the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, have been more balanced. Of course, the longer the war goes on, the more the repetition of events in the media becomes insufficient. 

But the European press, like Europe itself, has sided with NATO, and with little argument. In Russia, of course, the press has been an amplifier for the government. The US media, for its part, often at odds with the government on domestic and national issues, tends to support the official foreign policy position. Factors such as national identity, nationalism and a lack of knowledge of international realities in newsrooms come into play.

It was surprising to see the European press become a megaphone of NATO positions. Putin was demonized as was Hitler, and Zelensky praised as a Greek hero. The Russians are portrayed as barbarians killing Minos. There has never been any negative news about Ukrainians, when in war violence and dereliction of ethics are inevitable and unfortunately widespread. 

It is as if the Cold War has never ended, and we are ready to accept an escalation that can become scorching hot. GDP has contracted, the cost of living is rising, inflation is on the rise, and so far, there has been no reaction. This is really surprising. 

For OtherNews, which is a news service on global issues, it was a very complex challenge. OtherNews represents a new design. The idea is that the non-profit association is owned by the readers, who can become members by paying a modest annual fee of 50 euros. 

They elect the board of directors and discuss the editorial line, thus guaranteeing full independence and a pluralistic and inclusive line. There are 12,000 readers, in 82 countries around the world: academics, international civil servants, global civil society activists, etc.

Q: How would you define the role of the media in covering the conflict between Ukraine and Russia?

A: The war in Ukraine is exclusively an affair of the global North. The global South is only a victim of the increase in food, energy and transport. In Africa it has reached 45% of the population. Articles from the North were criticized by readers from the South and vice versa. 

OtherNews lost almost 300 readers, almost all from the North, for publishing articles that criticized or questioned the war. I believe that this North-South divide will increase with the explosion of the multipolar world, as the values on which multilateralism was based are disappearing. 

An ‘active non-alignment’ could be recreated, which the press in Europe and the US will struggle to understand. The West still believes it is the centre of the world, the United States in particular.

But today, mainly because of the need to prioritise national interests over international cooperation, a path opened by (former President Ronald) Reagan and (former British Prime Minister Margaret) Thatcher in 1981, we have moved from a multilateral to a multipolar world. In the Bush junior era, neo-conservatives preached the arrival of an American century, that the US should remain the dominant power. Since then, the US has lost in every conflict it has been involved in, from Iraq to Afghanistan. 

And Trump took the logic of the end of multilateralism to the extreme, advising all countries to put their own interests first. Today the result is that the multipolar world is not based on the idea of international cooperation for peace and development, but on the most brutal competition. 

And Biden now wants to revive multilateralism. But it is too late. Biden will lose the mid-term elections in November and become a lame duck, with a Congress of Trumpist Republicans vetoing everything. And in 2024 Trump is likely to return, and this whole NATO boom will go into deep crisis. But until November, if the war does not escalate and remain as it is, the European press will basically keep the war helmet on.

Q: After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the identity of the international blocs seems to have reconfigured: on the one hand, the United States and the European Union, which defend the liberal tradition, have drawn a very wide dividing line, at home and abroad, between ‘pro-Russian’ and ‘pro-democratic’; on the other hand, Russia, China and their allies are considered ‘illiberal’. What do you think of this construction and what can it lead to in the future?

A: This vision of a world divided into two blocs, China and Russia on one side and liberal democracies, Europe and the United States, on the other, is an easy illusion to see. In this multipolar world, countries stand alone. 

A good example is Turkey, which is part of NATO, but does not participate in the embargo against Russia and is very close to China. Or India, which continues to buy Russian arms, is on China’s New Silk Road, but does not want any problems with the US. Indonesia, which has always been a loyal US ally, continues to maintain Putin’s participation in G20 despite US protests. 

And also in Europe: Hungary and Poland are openly defying Brussels, splitting into a pro-NATO Poland and a pro-Russia Hungary. Saudi Arabia, Washington’s great ally, ignores Biden’s request to increase oil production, despite having been invited to the summit of democratic countries convened by Biden. This homogeneous bloc of liberal countries is a good marketing slogan, but it crumbles at the slightest analysis.

Q: How do you see the impact of US domestic political polarization on the international scene? Why?

A: The Cold War was a confrontation between two political and ideological visions that clashed in a proxy war. America is no longer Kennedy’s America and it is no longer Obama’s America. It is a country where political polarization has reached unprecedented extremes. In 1980, 12% of Democrats and 15% of Republicans told the Pew Institute that they would not want their daughter to marry a man of the other party. Today it is 91% of Democrats and 96% of Republicans. 

And the US Supreme Court is already part of this polarization. 72% of Republicans believe Trump was a victim of electoral fraud. And the crowd that stormed the Capitol is described by the Republican Party as a ‘display of political opinion’. Is this the exemplary leader of democracy’s fight against the world’s dictators? And we are only at the beginning of a process of radicalization. 

Right-wing states, with the endorsement of the Supreme Court, are banning abortion, reducing social protections, minority voting power and changing schoolbooks. With the return of Trump, or Trumpism, in two years the coexistence between the two camps will become even more difficult and few will see America as the beacon of the free world. And that won’t matter much to Trump either.

Q: What lessons do you see for Latin America, both politically and economically, after Donald Trump’s four years in office? And for Europe?

A: My opinion is that there will be great chaos in international relations, with a growing power struggle between the United States and China, with Russia, which we had the intelligence to push into Beijing’s arms. Of course, this struggle will be disguised as something political, but in reality, it will be a pure struggle for economic and military hegemony. 

It is a fight that the US cannot win. And China is a self-referential country that has never left its borders and has built walls to keep the enemy out. While the US has exploited its soft power, its music, food, clothing, sports and lifestyle, China has little interest in this kind of imperialism. 

I have been going to China since 1958 and have always been struck by how little they care to make a foreigner understand Chinese culture. But there are tens of thousands of Chinese students studying abroad, while the same cannot be said of Americans. The two countries are two big islands, which consider themselves surrounded by inferior nations. 

Latin America has always been considered a second-rate region by the US, despite many declarations, and I doubt that China sees the region beyond its raw materials and Latin Americans beyond its buyers.

My opinion, especially in light of Trump’s experience, is that Latin America should adopt a policy of active non-alignment, declaring that it will not get involved in a proxy war that is not in its interest, and that it will do exactly what the multipolar dynamic advises: put its interests as a region first. 

This would give it greater consideration and weight in international negotiations, and a clear advantage in a world divided by the New Cold War that is brewing. A war that, unlike the current NATO war against Russia, cannot be military, because it would mean the destruction of the planet. Of course, history and the present do not help to have great faith in the intelligence of power.

The big problem is that Latin America continues to be a continent divided by the inability to leave behind the experience of its ancestors. It is the most homogeneous region in the world, much more so than Asia and Africa, and in some ways more so than Europe and the United States, since the latter are experiencing a real disintegration. 

However, the Latin American integration process has been an optical illusion. Latin America is a region of permanent political experimentation, which has stifled any economic logic due to the rivalry between successive presidents, between whom there is a constant change of compass. 

I fear that instead of putting up a united front in the face of the next cold war, they will allow themselves to be bought off individually, convinced that they are doing what is best for their country. The only thing that can change the situation is a great popular movement. But this has always been directed at global issues, such as women or the environment, and of course at national issues: never at regional issues. 

And in the press, the issue of integration has at best been relegated to its bureaucratic aspects, to the various bodies that have sprung up and failed in modern times. So, in my opinion, I don’t think we have learnt a real lesson from what has happened in the world since the fall of the Berlin Wall to express an inclusive regional policy, with a strong identity, and which places us as important players in the inter-national arena of this century.

(Sebastián Do Rosario and Federico Larsen are researchers at the Institute for International Relations of Mar del Plata, Argentina. The interview was first published in the newsletter of the Institute.. Courtesy: IPS UN Bureau)

In Efforts To Restrict Dissent, India Fines Amnesty India International

Amnesty India International has been critical of India and its human rights violations for several years. The annual reports by the agency that monitors violations by the state/federal government agencies across the nation have come under fire by the ruling party led by Narendra Modi.

The harassment of the Amnesty India International by the Indian Government agencies has led to the suspension of its activities in India in September 2020. “Because of the bank freeze, Amnesty International India has been forced to cease work in India,” reports pointed out. 

Now, as per the latest reports, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) of India has imposed penalties of Rs. 51 crore and Rs 10 crore, respectively, on Amnesty India and its former head Aakar Patel, citing violations of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).

The agency said in a statement that Amnesty International UK had been remitting large foreign contributions “through its Indian entities (non-FCRA companies) following the FDI route in order to evade the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA)” and expand its activities in India.

This was despite the Home Ministry’s denial of prior registration or permissions to Amnesty International India Foundation Trust and other trusts under the FCRA, it said in a statement last week.

“The Adjudicating Authority of Directorate of Enforcement (ED) has adjudicated a Show Cause Notice issued to M/s Amnesty India International Pvt. Ltd.(AIIPL) and its CEO Shri Aakar Patel for contravention of the provisions of The Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA) and imposed penalty to the tune of Rs. 51.72 crore and ₹10 crore respectively,” said the ED statement.

The funds were transferred to “expand its NGO activities in India, despite the denial of prior registration or permissions to Amnesty International India Foundation Trust (AIIFT) and other trusts under FCRA by Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. of India”, the ED statement said.

In 2018, ED began conducting searches of properties of Amnesty India over allegations that AIIPL was formed to receive foreign funding, violating FCRA rules. In 2019, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed a case against the NGO alleging violation of foreign exchange rules.

In 2020, the Executive Director of Amnesty International India Avinash Kumar stated: “The continuing crackdown on Amnesty International India over the last two years and the complete freezing of bank accounts is not accidental. The constant harassment by government agencies including the Enforcement Directorate is a result of our unequivocal calls for transparency in the government, more recently for accountability of the Delhi police and the Government of India regarding the grave human rights violations in Delhi riots and Jammu & Kashmir. For a movement that has done nothing but raise its voices against injustice, this latest attack is akin to freezing dissent.”

Desi Dating Service For South Asians In North America Launched

In the age of dating apps for adults, the platform specially caters to South Asian families in the diaspora that are looking for suitable marriage prospects within their own community.

Texas-based, Indian-American entrepreneur Radha Patel has launched, ‘The Auntie Network’, a tech-driven online desi dating platform for South Asian singles and families in North America.

The Auntie Network is based on the traditional South Asian system of matchmaking and aims to provide its users with suitable dating or marriage prospects from among the Desi diaspora community in the States.

“For decades, the Sima Aunties (Indian Matchmaking on Netflix) of the world have leveraged their networks to introduce single men and women to prospective life partners,” said Patel, founder and CEO of The Auntie Network and happily-married mother of two.

“Now, imagine if we could all harness the power of our inner Sima Aunties and had access to a network of singles all over North America, and eventually from the diaspora around the world,” she said.

“Just like grooming a child into an adult takes a village, finding that adult his/her plus one for life also takes a village,” Patel said. “Our platform aims to provide a safe, secure, sophisticated village for Indian singles who don’t cringe at the thought of a digitally-arranged marriage.”

Here is a step by guide to using ‘The Auntie Network’:

Step 1: Create an account at www.theauntienetwork.com

Start by making your own “parent” account. This is how you will talk to the parents of prospective matches and share profiles with your kids.

Step 2: Search the network

Find eligible matches by location, community, and many other search options. Save and favorite profiles or share potential matches with your children.

Step 3: Meet other aunties & uncles

Get to know parents of eligible singles and determine together if your children are a good match. Involve your kids as little or as much as they want in the search process.

Step 4: Introduce your kids

Recommend hand picked matches for your kids. They can talk to one another & decide if this is their life partner. Help make your family complete because after all… Auntie knows best! Membership varies from $0 to $30 a month, depending on the level of services selected.

The Auntie Network is currently live and family members can sign up for a free one month trial at www.theauntienetwork.com

Anti-Hindu Hate Speech On Social Media Platforms Spikes

A new report by researchers at Rutgers University at New Brunswick and the non-profit Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI) has found that there is a rapid increase in anti-Hindu hate speech on social media platforms in the United States and that this potentially puts thousands of people of the Hindu community at risk.

“Our analysis demonstrates that there is an alarming, recent rise in the use of key terms — particularly, anti-Hindu slurs and slogans — that both connote and disseminate Hinduphobia on popular social media platforms,” the report said. “Accompanying this increase is the proliferation of anti-Hindu genocidal memes in Islamist, white nationalist, and other extremist sub-networks online. While such developments are often mistakenly categorized as anti-Indian xenophobia, we show that the specific content of these memes, hashtags, and derogatory messages very clearly targets decidedly Hindu symbols, practices, and livelihoods. In so doing, these online communities are adapting a pre-existing, albeit understudied, playbook of Hinduphobic tropes to a new sphere of communication.”

The research was led by Prasiddha Sudhakar, an analyst at the Network Contagion lab. Her co-authors were Dr. Joel Finkelstein, Chief Science Officer and Director, Network Contagion Research Institute and Senior Research Fellow, Miller Center for Community Protection and Resilience, Rutgers University; Dr. Lee Jussim, Chair, Distinguished Professor, Department of Psychology, Rutgers University; Dr. Parth Parihar, Postdoctoral Fellow, Wallis Institute of Political Economy, University of Rochester;
Denver Riggleman, Former Congressman and Fellow and Visiting Scholar, Miller Center for Community Protection and Resilience, Rutgers University.

In its executive summary, the report says, “Hinduphobic tropes such as the portrayal of Hindus as fundamentally heretical evil, dirty, tyrannical, genocidal, irredeemable or disloyal — are prominent across the ideological spectrum and are being deployed by fringe web communities and state actors alike. Despite violent and genocidal implications of Hinduphobia, it has largely been understudied, dismissed, or even denied in the public sphere. This report applies large scale quantitative methods to examine the spread of anti-Hindu disinformation within a wide variety of social media platforms and showcases an explosion of anti-Hindu tropes. Though confined largely to street-level groups and enthusiasts in the recent past, Hinduphobia is now exploding across entire Web communities across millions of comments, interactions and impressions in both mainstream and extremist platforms.”

Sudhakar was quoted by KQED, “I wouldn’t say I was surprised, given that there’s been a massive rise in all forms of ethnic hatred, whether it’s antisemitism, or Islamophobia, or anti-Asian hate.”

The report found that there is a spike in anti-Hindu phraseology in the United States, beginning in the fall of 2021 on social media platforms such as 4chan, Gab, Twitter, TikTok and Telegram.

The report said that NCRI detected recent surges in derogatory posts toward Hindus present in subcultural social media platforms including 4Chan, Telegram, and Gab.

“We found anti-Hindu memes, hashtags, and slogans growing prolifically across these fringe online platforms as well as Twitter. NCRI’s previous analysis shows that extremist content targeting specific vulnerable communities on social media are upstream predictors of real world violence against those communities. State actors use Hinduphobic tropes as part of large scale information operations. (Courtesy: Indica News)

Southern Indian Films Sweep 68th National Film Awards Suriya, Ajay Devgn Share Best Actor Title

(IANS) Director Sudha Kongara’s ‘Soorarai Pottru’, which was partly inspired by events from the life of Captain G.R. Gopinath, founder of India’s first budget airline, swept five National Awards, including those for Best Feature Film, Best Actor and Best Actress at the 68th National Film Awards. The awards were announced in New Delhi on Friday.

Malayalam actress and playback singer Aparna Balamurali, who played the female lead in the film, was named Best Actress, and Suriya, who played the male lead, share the Best Actor honour with Ajay Devgn for Om Raut’s ‘Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior’.

‘Tanhaji’ also took home the award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment.

But it was the day of ‘Soorarai Pottru’. It fetched music director and actor G.V. Prakash the Best Background Music award. The award for Best Music Direction (Songs) went to Thaman for the Allu Arjun superhit Telugu film ‘Ala Vaikunthapurramlo’.

‘Soorarai Pottru’, which is now being remade in Hindi, also won the award for Best Screenplay for Shalini Usha Nair and Sudha Kongara.

Critically acclaimed Malayalam superhit film ‘Ayyappanum Koshiyum’ also scored handsomely at the awards, fetching the late Sachidanandan K.R. the Best Director Award.

The film also won awards for Best Action Direction and Best Female Playback Singer. Rajasekhar, Mafia Sasi and Supreme Sundar, who did the stunt direction for the film, will collect the action award. The Best Female Playback Singer award went to Nanchamma.

Biju Menon, who came up with a sterling performance in ‘Ayyappanum Koshiyum’, got the Best Supporting Actor award. The Best Supporting Actress went to Lakshmi Priya Chandramouli for her fine performance in Vasanth’s Tamil film ‘Sivaranjaniyum Innum Sila Pengallum’.

‘Sivaranjaniyum Innum Sila Pengallum’ put up a stellar show as well, winning Best Editing, which went to Sreekar Prasad. The film also won the award for the Best Feature Film in Tamil.

Sandhya Raju won the Award for Best Choreography for the Telugu film ‘Natyam’, which also took home the award for the Best Makeup Artist.

Director Sagar Puranik’s ‘Dollu’, produced by Wadeeyar Movies, got the Best Kannada Feature Film award. Jobin Jayan won the award for Best Location Sound Recordist under the Best Audiography Award for the same film.

The Indira Gandhi Award for Best Debut Film of a Director went to Madonne Ashwin for the Tamil film ‘Mandela’.

UN To Host Over 190 World Leaders – Despite Threats From A Deadly New Covid-19 Variant

IPS UN Bureau Report

(IPS) – The United Nations is planning to host a high-level “in-person” General Assembly session, September 20-26, with over 190 world leaders and delegates listed to speak, including heads of state, heads of government, high-ranking ministers and senior officials.

The world body is apparently on a risky path, with hundreds of delegates due in New York for the opening of the 77th session—and, most worryingly, at a time when a new Covid-19 variant BA.5 is sweeping across the United States, including New York.

In a letter addressed to the President of the General Assembly, E. Courtenay Rattray Chef de Cabinet, says “while there is strong support for the return to a pre-pandemic General Debate, as reflected by the level of inscriptions by Member States in the provisional list of speakers– and an improvement in the environment as compared to the last two years– we also recognize that we are not free from the Coronavirus and its impact.”

“As such, there is a need to be prudent in our facilitation of the General Debate and High-level Week.” 

Under a business-as-usual scenario, occupancy at UN Headquarters will increase significantly this September, particularly in meeting rooms and in the General Assembly and Conference buildings. 

“With a view to mitigating this impact, our planning assumptions reflect an emphasis on basic protective measures and a decrease in the number of attendees, as much as reasonably possible”, the letter said. 

On July 21, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre formally announced that US President Joe Biden, who is scheduled to address the General Assembly on September 20, tested positive for COVID-19. 

“He is fully vaccinated and twice boosted and experiencing very mild symptoms. He has begun taking Paxlovid. Consistent with CDC guidelines, he will isolate at the White House and will continue to carry out all of his duties fully during that time,” she added. 

In a July 20 report, Cable News Network (CNN) said “in the United States, BA.5 has become the dominant strain and is driving a significant spike in cases — more than 120,000 a day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), though experts say that number may be more like 1 million, given the underreporting of home test results. 

Europe, meanwhile, has seen a tripling of new Covid-19 infections over the past six weeks, with nearly 3 million reported last week, accounting for almost half of all new cases worldwide. Hospital admissions in Europe over the same period have doubled. 

“The end of the last remaining restrictions on international travel and return of large gatherings, like music festivals, are among the factors helping the virus to spread, experts say. And the number of cases may actually be higher than data shows because countries have significantly pared back testing and surveillance, making it difficult to judge the true extent of the current surge’, said CNN.

Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the spike in infections was a harbinger of an even worse situation to come, calling on countries to urgently reintroduce mitigation strategies before it was too late.

“It’s now abundantly clear we’re in a similar situation to last summer — only this time the ongoing Covid-19 wave is being propelled by sub-lineages of the Omicron variant, notably BA.2 and BA.5, with each dominant sub-lineage of Omicron showing clear transmission advantages over the previously circulating viruses,” WHO’s regional director for Europe, Hans Kluge, said in a statement.   

Though intensive care admissions remain relatively low, as infection rates rise among older populations, deaths are mounting — almost 3,000 people a week are dying from Covid in Europe.

But in order to protect delegates and staff alike, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, having considered the recommendations of the UN’s Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Committee, has decided on the following guidelines:

** As a condition of entry to the compound, all persons will be required to attest that they have not had symptoms of, or been diagnosed with, COVID-19 in the last 5 days. 

** Masks are to be worn by all attendees at all times when indoors, except when directly addressing a meeting or consuming food/beverages. 

** Apart from a limited number of high-level side events, for which preparations are well under way, side events are to be conducted virtually or off-site. 

** United Nations departments and offices will not be hosting or co-hosting in-person side events or luncheons during the high-level week.

** Bilateral booths will be available with seating for 2 principals and 6 advisers (3 per side).

** Permanent Missions are encouraged to manage COVID-19 cases and determine any subsequent action regarding case exposures among their own attendees and guests, including notification to other delegations or to the President of the General Assembly.

** United Nations staff who are not required to be on-site to support the proceedings will be mandated to work remotely for the full week. 

Further information, including the number of access cards provided for the General Assembly Hall, will be contained in an Information Note for delegations that will be issued as A/INF/77/4.

“The Organization will continue to closely monitor the COVID-19 metrics in New York City. Therefore, the steps outlined above remain subject to modification should conditions change, as the Secretariat continues to ensure that the work of the Organization is conducted as safely and effectively as possible,” letter said. 

After several on-again, off-again pandemic lockdowns, the United Nations returned to near-normal beginning March 2022.

A circular from Guterres said “based on the new guidelines, we are now able to institute associated changes in our workplace, returning to full operational capability while still prioritizing the health and safety of personnel, and balancing the operational needs of the Organization”.

Guided by the Senior Emergency Policy Team and the Occupational Safety and Health Committee in New York, mask use was voluntary throughout the UN building and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), mostly denied entry since March 2020, were given access to the UN premises.

Pope Francis Urges International Cooperation For Saving The Earth

(RNS) — Pope Francis made an impassioned appeal for the environment on Thursday (July 21), urging countries to divest from fossil fuels as temperatures rise all over the globe and put vulnerable communities at risk.

“If we learn how to listen, we can hear in the voice of creation a kind of dissonance. On the one hand, we can hear a sweet song in praise of our beloved Creator; on the other, an anguished plea, lamenting our mistreatment of this, our common home,” the pope said in a video message presented at a Vatican news conference.

“It is necessary for all of us to act decisively,” he said, “for we are reaching a breaking point.” 

Francis urged nations to cooperate on four principles that combine the need to “combat the loss of biodiversity” while giving “priority to people in vulnerable situations.”

Francis praised the “demanding” goals set out by the Paris Agreement to limit Earth’s temperature increase to1.5 degrees Celsius and said that the COP27 summit of world leaders in Egypt in November as well as the COP15 meeting on biodiversity in Canada in December represent opportunities for nations to come together in combating climate change and the extinction of species.

On July 8, the Vatican joined the United Nations Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement.

Francis urged Catholics to listen to the cry of the Earth, “prey to our consumerist excesses,” and all creatures “at the mercy of our tyrannical anthropocentricism.” The pope remembered the many poor and Indigenous peoples in the world who most directly feel the impact of drought, flooding, hurricanes and heat waves.

“Finally, there is the plea of our children,” Francis said. “Feeling menaced by shortsighted and selfish actions, today’s young people are crying out, anxiously asking us adults to do everything possible to prevent, or at least limit, the collapse of our planet’s ecosystems.”

He underlined the fact that richer countries have an “ecological debt” to the world, as they have polluted the air and water more than their poorer neighbors in the last two centuries. They must therefore shoulder the costs not only within their borders, but for those nations “which are already experiencing most of the burden of the climate crisis.”

At the same time, he added, poorer countries still have a responsibility since “delay on the part of others can never justify our own failure to act.”

Pope Francis delivers his blessing as he recites the Angelus noon prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St.Peter’s Square, at the Vatican, July 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Since 2015, the Catholic Church has participated in an ecumenical event called the Season of Creation, which starts this year on Sept. 1 with the World Day for the Care of Creation and ends on Oct. 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of the environment. The ecumenical effort, whose slogan is “Listen to the environment,” urges people to pray and reflect on the environment with an emphasis on the concerns of Indigenous peoples and the communities suffering the most due to climate change.

Cardinal Michael Czerny, who heads the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, presented the pope’s message for this year’s Season of Creation at Thursday’s news conference, saying: “Enough is enough. All new exploration and production of coal, oil and gas must immediately end, and existing production of fossil fuels must be urgently phased out.”

Czerny said the Vatican backed the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, meant to work alongside the already existing Paris Agreement with an eye to holding countries and companies accountable for their dependence on fossil fuels. It is supported by Nobel Peace Prize winners, academics and a growing number of political and religious leaders.

It also focuses on ensuring that the energy transition doesn’t harm the livelihoods of workers and Indigenous peoples.

Czerny echoed Francis’ appeal that the signers to international accords aimed at reducing reliance on fossil fuels fully commit to their goals. He also praised Catholic institutions that have already done so. He joined the pope in calling for a U.N. agreement to protect the Earth and its oceans so that “ravaged ecosystems” can be restored while “upholding the rights of Indigenous peoples.”

As heat waves rage across Europe and water grows scarce in more and more places, Christina Leaño, associate director of the Laudato Si’ Movement, which aims to realize the vision laid out in Francis’ 2016 “green encyclical,” said that her group will bring their message to the upcoming U.N. summits.

In a statement on Thursday, Leaño called for “a necessary community reconversion to adopt a new multilateral agreement that will stop the destruction of ecosystems and the extinction of species.”

The Laudato Si’ Movement will also call for “more ambitious national contributions to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero as soon as possible,” she said.

Neeraj Chopra Wins Silver At World Athletics Championships

India’s Neeraj Chopra scripted yet another history, becoming only the second Indian to bag a podium finish to win a silver medal in the World Athletics Championships 2022.  World Athletics Championships are being held at Eugene, Oregon.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics javelin throw champion won the country’s only second medal at the World Athletics Championships, finishing with a historic silver in the men’s javelin final. The reigning World Champion Anderson Peters of Grenada, who took gold with a humongous throw of 90.54m.

Chopra’s throw of 88.13m in his fourth attempt secured him not only a podium finish but also ended India’s 29-year-long wait for a medal at the World’s after Anju Bobby George’s bronze medal finish in the women’s long jump way back in 2003. The legendary long jumper Anju Bobby George was the first Indian to win a medal — bronze — in the World Championships in the 2003 edition in Paris, France.

He is the first male track and field Indian athlete to win a medal at the World Championships, ending 19-year-long wait for a medal at the worlds. Chopra’s best effort of 88.13m in the final at the Hayward Field was short of Anderson Peters’ gold medal-winning mark of 90.54m. Tokyo 2020 silver medallist Jakub Vadlejch won the bronze with 88.09m. The 24-year old athlete earlier made the cut for the final courtesy an 88.39m mark in the qualification.

Chopra started with a foul throw and then registered 82.39m with his second attempt. He improved with his third attempt, when he threw the javelin 86.37m. He was still not set for a medal, but he registered a throw of 88.13m with his fourth attempt to shoot up to second place from fourth. His fifth and sixth attempts were foul throws. At the Tokyo Olympics last year, Chopra became only the second Indian to win an individual gold in the Olympics after shooter Abhinav Bindra, who clinched the yellow metal in 2008 Beijing Games.

Besides Neeraj, India’s second participant in the event Rohit Yadav bowed out finishing 10th with a best throw of 78.62m. Rohit’s first throw reached 77.96m, before he improved on it marginally by hitting the 78.05m mark. In what would turn out to be his third and final attempt, Rohit finished with his best effort of the competition but would overall be disappointed with his performance as he had had recorded a season’s and personal best of 82.54m while winning a silver at the National Inter-State Championships last month.

Most People Have Confidence In Kamala Harris Across 18 Surveyed Countries

By, Aidan Connaughton At PEW Research

A median of 55% of adults in these countries have confidence in Harris to do the right thing regarding world affairs, including half or more who hold that view in 14 countries. Confidence in Harris is particularly high in Sweden, where 77% of adults view her positively.

Trust in Harris is lowest in Hungary, where only 23% say they have confidence in the vice president to do the right thing regarding world affairs. Hungary is also the country where the greatest share did not answer the question (36%).

Confidence in Harris is roughly comparable to international confidence in U.S. President Joe Biden, as well as French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. A median of about six-in-ten have confidence in each of those three leaders to do the right thing regarding world affairs – slightly more than the median of 55% who have confidence in the U.S. vice president. Harris’s ratings far outpace those of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is seen positively by a median of 18% of adults, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is seen positively by a median of just 9% across the surveyed countries.

Harris has taken on a variety of internationally focused responsibilities during her time as vice president. Those responsibilities have included a high-profile trip to Europe at the beginning of the war in Ukraine and coordination of relations with Central American leaders to stem the flow of migrants coming to the southern border of the United States.

Confidence in Harris is tied to gender in some countries, with women significantly more likely than men to express confidence in her handling of world affairs. For example, 68% of Canadian women have a positive view of Harris, while only about half of Canadian men (51%) say the same. Significant differences between men and women also appear in Singapore, Australia, Italy, Malaysia, Sweden and the Netherlands.

In some countries, older people are more likely to have confidence in Harris than younger people. This age gap is largest in Belgium, where 73% of those ages 50 and older have confidence in Harris, compared with just 51% of 18- to 29-year-olds. Older people are also more likely to have confidence in the U.S. vice president in Canada, France, Germany and Greece. In Singapore, Poland and Malaysia, the opposite is true: Younger people report more confidence in Harris than older people. Older adults in Malaysia are also less likely to provide a response to the question.

Ideology is also related to views of Harris in some places. In six countries, those who place themselves on the ideological left are significantly more likely than those on the right to have confidence in Harris. Greece is the only country where the reverse is true: 54% of Greeks on the ideological right are confident in Harris, compared with just 32% of those on the left.

In addition to gender, age and ideological differences in some places, views of Harris are closely related to views of the U.S. president.

For example, people in Sweden, the Netherlands and Poland report some of the most positive views of Harris, with around seven-in-ten or more saying they’re confident in her to do the right thing regarding world affairs. People in these countries also report some of the highest levels of confidence in Biden. On the opposite end of the spectrum, people in Hungary are the least likely to express confidence in both Harris and Biden.

Trump ‘Chose Not To Act’ As Mob Terrorized The Capitol

(AP) — Despite desperate pleas from aides, allies, a Republican congressional leader and even his family, Donald Trump refused to call off the Jan. 6 mob attack on the Capitol, instead “pouring gasoline on the fire” by aggressively tweeting his false claims of a stolen election and celebrating his crowd of supporters as “very special,” the House investigating committee showed Thursday night.

The next day, he declared anew, “I don’t want to say the election is over.” That was in a previously unaired outtake of an address to the nation he was to give, shown at the prime-time hearing of the committee. 

The panel documented how for some 187 minutes, from the time Trump left a rally stage sending his supporters to the Capitol to the time he ultimately appeared in the Rose Garden video that day, nothing could compel the defeated president to act. Instead, he watched the violence unfold on TV.

“President Trump didn’t fail to act,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a fellow Republican but frequent Trump critic who flew combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. “He chose not to act.”

After months of work and weeks of hearings, the prime-time session started the way the committee began — laying blame for the deadly attack on Trump himself for summoning the mob to Washington and sending them to Capitol Hill.

The defeated president turned his supporters’ “love of country into a weapon,” said the panel’s Republican vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming.

Far from finishing its work after Thursday’s hearing, probably the last of the summer, the panel will start up again in September as more witnesses and information emerge. Cheney said “the dam has begun to break” on revealing what happened that fateful day, at the White House as well as in the violence at the Capitol.

“Donald Trump made a purposeful choice to violate his oath of office,” Cheney declared.

“Every American must consider this: Can a president who is willing to make the choices Donald Trump made during the violence of Jan. 6 ever be trusted in any position of authority in our great nation?” she asked.

Trump, who is considering another White House run, dismissed the committee as a “Kangaroo court,” and name-called the panel and witnesses for “many lies and misrepresentations.”

Plunging into its second prime-time hearing on the Capitol attack, the committee aimed to show a “minute by minute” accounting of Trump’s actions with new testimony, including from two White House aides, never-before-heard security radio transmissions of Secret Service officers fearing for their lives and behind-the-scenes discussions at the White House. 

With the Capitol siege raging, Trump was “giving the green light” to his supporters by tweeting condemnation of Vice President Mike Pence’s refusal to go along with his plan to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s victory, a former White House aide told the committee.

Two aides resigned on the spot. 

“I thought that Jan. 6 2021, was one of the darkest days in our nation’s history,” Sarah Matthews told the panel. “And President Trump was treating it as a celebratory occasion. So it just further cemented my decision to resign.”

The committee played audio of Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reacting with surprise to the president’s inaction during the attack. 

 “You’re the commander-in-chief. You’ve got an assault going on on the Capitol of the United States of America. And there’s Nothing? No call? Nothing, Zero?” he said.

On Jan. 6, an irate Trump demanded to be taken to the Capitol after his supporters had stormed the building, well aware of the deadly attack, but his security team refused.

“Within 15 minutes of leaving the stage, President Trump knew that the Capitol was besieged and under attack,” said Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va.

At the Capitol, the mob was chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” testified Matt Pottinger, the former deputy national security adviser, as Trump tweeted his condemnation of his vice president.

Pottinger, testifying Thursday, said that when he saw Trump’s tweet he immediately decided to resign, as did Matthews, who said she was a lifelong Republican but could not go along with what was going on. She was the witness who called the tweet “a green light” and “pouring gasoline on the fire.”

Meanwhile, recordings of Secret Service radio transmissions revealed agents at the Capitol trying to whisk Pence to safety amid the mayhem and asking for messages to be relayed telling their own families goodbye.

The panel showed previously unseen testimony from the president’s son, Donald Trump, Jr., with a text message to his father’s chief of staff Mark Meadows urging the president to call off the mob.

Pope Francis Offers Historic Apology For ‘Devastating’ Abuses In Canada

Pope Francis issued a historic apology on July 25th for the Catholic Church’s cooperation with Canada’s “catastrophic” policy of Indigenous residential schools, saying the forced assimilation of Native peoples into Christian society destroyed their cultures, severed families and marginalized generations in ways still being felt today.

“I am sorry,” Francis said, to applause from school survivors and Indigenous community members gathered at a former residential school south of Edmonton, Alberta, the first event of Francis’ weeklong “penitential pilgrimage” to Canada.

The morning after he arrived in the country, Francis traveled to the lands of four Cree nations to pray at a cemetery. Four chiefs then escorted the pontiff in his wheelchair to powwow ceremonial grounds where he delivered the long-sought apology and was given a feathered headdress.

“I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the Indigenous peoples,” Francis said near the site of the former Ermineskin Indian Residential School, now largely torn down.

His words went beyond his earlier apology for the “deplorable” acts of missionaries and instead took responsibility for the church’s institutional cooperation with the “catastrophic” assimilation policy, which Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission said amounted to a “cultural genocide.”

More than 150,000 native children in Canada were forced to attend state-funded Christian schools from the 19th century until the 1970s in an effort to isolate them from the influence of their homes and culture. The aim was to Christianize and assimilate them into mainstream society, which previous Canadian governments considered superior.

The Canadian government has admitted that physical and sexual abuse was rampant at the schools, with students beaten for speaking their native languages. That legacy of that abuse and isolation from family has been cited by Indigenous leaders as a root cause of the epidemic rates of alcohol and drug addiction now on Canadian reservations.

The discoveries of hundreds of potential burial sites at former schools in the past year drew international attention to the legacy of the schools in Canada and their counterparts in the United States. The discoveries prompted Francis to comply with the truth commission’s call for him to apologize on Canadian soil for the Catholic Church’s role; Catholic religious orders operated 66 of the 139 schools in Canada.

Many in the crowd Monday wore traditional dress, including colorful ribbon skirts and vests with Native motifs. Others donned orange shirts, which have become a symbol of residential school survivors, recalling the story of one woman whose favorite orange shirt, a gift from her grandmother, was confiscated when she arrived at a school and replaced with a uniform.

Despite the solemnity of the event, the atmosphere seemed at times joyful: Chiefs processed into the site venue to a hypnotic drumbeat, elders danced and the crowd cheered and chanted war songs, victory songs and finally a healing song.

One of the hosts of the event, Chief Randy Ermineskin of the Ermineskin Cree Nation, said some had chosen to stay away — and that that was understandable. But he said it was nevertheless a historic, important day for his people.

“My late family members are not here with us anymore, my parents went to residential school, I went to residential school,” he told The Associated Press as he waited for Francis to arrive. “I know they’re with me, they’re listening, they’re watching.”

Felisha Crier Hosein traveled from Florida to attend in the place of her mother, who helped create the museum for the nearby Samson Cree Nation and had planned to attend, but died in May.

“I came here to represent her and to be here for the elders and the community,” said Hosein, who wore one of her mother’s colorful ribbon skirts.

“Sorry is not going to make what happened go away,” she said. “But it means a lot to the elders.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who last year voiced an apology for the “incredibly harmful government policy” in organizing the residential school system, was also attending along with the governor general and other officials.

As part of a lawsuit settlement involving the government, churches and approximately 90,000 survivors, Canada paid reparations that amounted to billions of dollars being transferred to Indigenous communities. Canada’s Catholic Church says its dioceses and religious orders have provided more than $50 million in cash and in-kind contributions and hope to add $30 million more over the next five years.

While the pope acknowledged institutional blame, he also made clear that Catholic missionaries were merely cooperating with and implementing the government policy of assimilation, which he termed the “colonizing mentality of the powers.”

“I ask forgiveness, in particular, for the ways in which many members of the Church and of religious communities cooperated, not least through their indifference, in projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation promoted by the governments of that time, which culminated in the system of residential schools,” he said.

He said the policy marginalized generations, suppressed Indigenous languages, severed families, led to physical, verbal, psychological and spiritual abuse and “indelibly affected relationships between parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren.” He called for further investigation, a possible reference to Indigenous demands for further access to church records and personnel files of the priests and nuns to identify who was responsible for the abuses.

“Although Christian charity was not absent, and there were many outstanding instances of devotion and care for children, the overall effects of the policies linked to the residential schools were catastrophic,” Francis said. ” What our Christian faith tells us is that this was a disastrous error, incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The first pope from the Americas was determined to make this trip, even though torn knee ligaments forced him to cancel a visit to Africa earlier this month.

The six-day visit — which will also include other former school sites in Alberta, Quebec City and Iqaluit, Nunavut, in the far north — follows meetings Francis held in the spring at the Vatican with delegations from the First Nations, Metis and Inuit. Those meetings culminated with an April 1 apology for the “deplorable” abuses committed by some Catholic missionaries in residential schools and Francis’ promise to deliver an apology in person on Canadian soil.

Francis recalled that during in April, one of the delegations gave him a set of beaded moccasins as a symbol of the children who never returned from the schools, and asked him to return them in Canada. Francis said in these months they had “kept alive my sense of sorrow, indignation and shame” but that in returning them he hoped they could also represent a path to walk together.

Event organizers said they would do everything possible to make sure survivors could attend the event, busing them in and offering mental health counselors to be on hand knowing that the event could be traumatic for some.

Francis acknowledged that the memories could trigger old wounds, and that even his mere presence there could be traumatic, but he said remembering was important to prevent indifference.

“It is necessary to remember how the policies of assimilation and enfranchisement, which also included the residential school system, were devastating for the people of these lands,” he said.

Later Monday, Francis was scheduled to visit Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples, a Catholic parish in Edmonton oriented toward Indigenous people and culture. The church, whose sanctuary was dedicated last week after being restored from a fire, incorporates Indigenous language and customs in liturgy. 

(Courtesy: NPR: https://www.npr.org/2022/07/25/1113378991/pope-apology-canada-indigenous-schools)

AAPI’s Cervical Cancer Vaccination Program Concludes In Hyderabad

“The HPV Vaccination Initiative to prevent HPV related cancers including Cervical cancer was started by the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), in collaboration with Tanvir Foundation concluded successfully in Hyderabad with a virtual program attended by leadership of AAPI and local participation by leadership of IMA Telangana on July 17th,” said Dr. Ravi Kolli, President of AAPI. “It was heartening to be part of this noble initiative’s concluding ceremony virtually,’ he added. 

The first of a kind program administered free HPV vaccines to the poor and underserved adolescent girls at the local Tanvir Hospital in Srinagar Colony, Hyderabad in India with the objective of preventing HPV related cancers, including cervical cancer, which is a leading cause of cancer deaths among women in India. The initial launch of the program was held on January 9th, 2022, during the 15th annual Global Healthcare Summit in Hyderabad at Tanvir Hospital, Hyderabad, India under the leadership of Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, Immediate past president of AAPI. “AAPI is happy to initiate the HPV Vaccine Program, We at AAPI, in keeping with our efforts and initiatives to educate, create awareness and provide support on disease prevention,” Dr. Gotimukula, past-president of AAPI said. 

The HPV vaccination program requires two doses of the vaccine to prevent cancer. The 2nd phase of the free vaccination camp was conducted on July 17th, 2022 at Tanvir Hospital, Hyderabad, with the lighting of the traditional lamp by  Dr. Sampath Rao, Presidentn of  IMATelangan, Dr. Raghunandan, President  of IMA North,  Dr. Surendranath, Secretary of IMA Telangana, Dr. Meeta Singh, and Dr. Naunihal Singh of Tanvir Hospital who administered second dose of HPV vaccine to the 100 adolescent girls, completing the vaccination program

AAPI Advisor Dr. Dwarakanatha Reddy said, “If vaccination programs are effectively implemented, approximately 90 percent of invasive cervical cancer cases worldwide could be prevented, in addition to the majority of precancerous lesions.”  

Usually, cervical cancer develops slowly over time, and another powerful preventive measure is Pap test screening, a procedure during which cells are collected from the surface of the cervix and examined. The Pap test can both detect cancer at an early stage, treatment outcomes tend to be better. 

 Dr. V. Ranga, Chair, Board of Trustees pointed out: “Once a leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States, today, screening and prevention have greatly reduced the impact of this form of cancer. Increasing screening and prevention are key components of the effort to eradicate cervical cancer.” Since almost all cases of the disease are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, vaccines that protect against the virus could prevent the vast majority of cases. 

Dr. Anjana Samaddar, President-Elect of AAPI said, “Cervical cancer could be the first cancer EVER in the world to be eliminated, if: 90 % of girls are vaccinated; 70% of women are screened; and, 90% of women with cervical disease receive treatment. This is an important step towards reaching goal,” she pointed out. 

While elaborating the objectives of the Summit, Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Vice President of AAPI, said, “In addition to Cervical cancer, GHS 2022 provided education  on: Chronic diseases which can be prevented- notably diabetes, cardiovascular, hypertension, COPD, oncology, maternal and infant mortality, lifestyle changes,  geriatrics, management of neurological emergencies, ENLS, a certification course”. 

“In coordination with the local organizers, AAPI donated the funds for the HPV Vaccination, a total of 200 doses for the vaccine for 100 children from the state of Telangana,” said Dr. Meher Medavaram, an organizer of the program, and the Secretary of AAPI. “AAPI’s this new initiative through education and awareness programs is aimed at helping save millions of lives in India,” she added. 

According to The American Cancer Society, Cervical Cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women. The cervical cancer death rate dropped significantly with the increased use of the Pap test for screening. Expressing confidence, Dr. Udaya Shivangi, Chair of AAPI’s GHS in Hyderabad, said, “Together we can all bring awareness in the community to prevent Cervical Cancer in India which is 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths in women!” 

 “Through Continuing Medical Education and non-CME seminars by experts in their fields, AAPI provides comprehensive and current reviews and guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of various disease states to reduce morbidity and mortality and achieve cost effective quality care outcomes,” said Dr. Sumul Raval, Treasurer of AAPI. 

Dr. Ravi Kolli, President of AAPI believes, “Cervical Cancer is preventable through  HPV Vaccination and Early Pap smears and cervical examinations. Justifiably so, one of our preventive campaign goals has been to provide education and vaccination for prevention of Cervical Cancer in India.”  For more information, please visit www.aapiusa.org

US Dollar Gains Are Boon To Americans Traveling Abroad

The surging value of the U.S. dollar in recent weeks is a boon to the American traveler, who will get more bang for their buck overseas despite surging inflation at home.  

But a strong American currency could limit international visitors to the U.S., where tourism firms are still licking their wounds from the height of the pandemic.  

The dollar recently hit parity with the euro for the first time in two decades, making trips to Europe 10 to 15 percent less expensive for Americans than at the same time last year.  

The dollar is also soaring in destinations like Thailand, India and South Korea — countries with ample tourism interest from Americans and relatively weaker economic growth than the U.S. 

“With the rising cost of travel, the strong U.S. dollar is a net positive amidst all the disruption in the industry,” said Erika Richter, vice president of communications at the American Society of Travel Advisors.  Richter noted that Americans are spending 11 percent more on travel compared to 2019. 

The idea of a strong dollar might seem like a farce to Americans after annual inflation hit 9.1 percent in June and the price of gas and food rose far faster. But the dollar has still become more valuable abroad even as it yields less in goods and services at home. 

Demand for the U.S. dollar in other countries has skyrocketed amid concerns about a global recession caused by high inflation, the war in Ukraine and lingering COVID-19 supply shocks.  

While the U.S. is not immune from those threats, the economy has held up far stronger than other nations, making its currency more valuable abroad. The dollar is also used as the world’s reserve currency, meaning foreign individuals and companies will often boost their holdings and conduct transactions in dollars to protect themselves from financial shocks. 

The strength of the U.S. economy has allowed the Federal Reserve to boost interest rates at a much faster pace. That makes the U.S. dollar more expensive to acquire — and more valuable in other countries. 

“A stronger dollar benefits American households directly if they want to travel to Europe, as the relative cost of everything is cheaper. It also makes imports cheaper for American households and businesses,” explained Angel Talavera, head of European economics at Oxford Economics. 

Half of American travelers say high prices kept them from traveling in June, up 8 percentage points from the previous month, according to a recent survey from Destination Analysts. 

But favorable exchange rates blunt the impact of inflation, which has risen at similar rates to the U.S. in Europe. Expedia data found that searches for summer trips to popular European destinations such as Paris, Frankfurt, Brussels, Amsterdam and Dublin rose by double digits last week. Copenhagen, Athens and Madrid saw similar increases in lodging interest, according to Hotels.com. 

“The U.S. has never really developed its tourism infrastructure the way Europe has, so a lot of our inventory sold out months ago,” said Leslie Overton, an advisor at travel firm Fora. “While I’m not saying either is cheap, Europe might be considered more competitive than some of the higher end product here in the U.S. right now.” 

One dollar buys roughly 15 percent more than it did one year ago in the 19 European countries that use the euro. The dollar is trading at its highest ever level against India’s rupee and Thailand’s baht. The Mexican peso and Canadian dollar have remained mostly flat.  

But currency fluctuations won’t help much with soaring airfares. While domestic airfare is 13 percent higher than pre-pandemic levels, international flights are 22 percent pricier, according to data from travel firm Hopper. 

Those traveling to parts of Europe face a heightened risk of delays or cancellations.  London’s Heathrow Airport on Wednesday asked airlines to stop selling summer tickets after staffing shortages forced the airport to delay roughly half of its flights this month. The Netherlands’ largest airport is similarly making large cuts to its flight schedules, driving up prices.  

Conversely, the strength of the dollar will make trips to the U.S. far more expensive for many international travelers, potentially weakening the U.S. tourism industry as it aims to claw back some of the millions of jobs lost during the pandemic.  

A stronger U.S. dollar also boosts pressure on global economies to raise their own interest rates to keep up, a force that raises the risk of a severe global recession that could bounce back to the U.S. in dangerous ways. 

The U.S. welcomed 22.1 million inbound travelers in 2021 — down 79 percent from 2019 — amid COVID-19 travel restrictions that lasted throughout most of the year, according to the International Trade Administration. The agency found that the lack of tourism in the U.S. in the first year of the pandemic accounted for 56 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product decline.

UN Report Says, Women In Healthcare Paid 24% Less Than Men

Although women represent 67 per cent of workers in the healthcare sector globally, they are paid 24 per cent less than their male counterparts, according to the first-ever global sectoral gender pay gap report co-developed by the International Labour Organisation and the World Health Organization.

The report documents a raw gender pay gap of roughly 20 percentage points which jumps to 24 percentage points when factors such as age, education and working time are taken into account.

It noted that Covid-19 shone a light on the critical importance of health and care workers, who were applauded and celebrated. But the pandemic also laid bare the extent of inequalities, notably the gender pay gap, that workers in this highly feminized sector have been facing for decades.

While much of this gap is unexplained, the UN agencies said it is perhaps due to discrimination towards women. The report also revealed that wages in health and care tend to be lower overall when compared with other sectors, which is consistent with the finding that wages often are lower in areas where women are predominant.

“The health and care sector has endured low pay in general, stubbornly large gender pay gaps, and very demanding working conditions. The Covid-19 pandemic clearly exposed this situation while also demonstrating how vital the sector and its workers are in keeping families, societies and economies going,” said Manuela Tomei, Director of Conditions of Work and Equality Department at the ILO, in a statement.

The report also found a wide variation in gender pay gaps in different countries, indicating that these gaps are not inevitable and that more can be done to close the divide.

Within countries, gender pay gaps tend to be wider in higher pay categories, where men are over-represented, while women are over-represented in the lower pay categories.

Mothers working in the health and care sector also appear to suffer additional penalties, with gender pay gaps significantly increasing during a woman’s reproductive years and persisting throughout the rest of her working life.

A more equitable sharing of family duties between men and women could lead to women making different job choices, according to the report.

Tomei expressed hope that the report will spark dialogue and policy action as there will be no inclusive, resilient and sustainable post-pandemic recovery without a stronger health and care sector.

“We cannot have better-quality health and care services without better and fairer working conditions, including fairer wages, for health and care workers, the majority of whom are women,” she said. (IANS)

Will Eye Drops Replace Reading Glasses?

The US has approved a new type of eye drop which they say could eliminate the need for reading glasses, media reports here say. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) recently approved the use of an eye drop designed to improve age-related near-vision, reports Express.co.uk.

Called Vuity, the drop is applied to each eye once a day and starts working within 15 minutes of application. The makers say each drop lasts for at least six hours. As per the report, the drug is a formulation of a well-known compound known as pilocarpine.

The prescription medication Vuity treats age-related blurry vision, also known as presbyopia.  It’s a condition common enough to affect approximately 128 million people in the United States as the muscles in the eyes require more effort to focus.

Although the condition is common, it doesn’t mean we have to live with it. For people tired of always looking for reading glasses or squinting their eyes trying to read a product label, a daily dose of Vuity could help.

The researchers behind Vuity designed it to allow for the eye drop to rapidly adjust to the pH of the tear film. What the drop does is take advantage of the eye’s ability to reduce pupil size, improve near-vision whilst maintaining distance vision.

The drop has been found to be most effective for those between the ages of 40 and 55. Results have come from two randomized control trials on 750 subjects, the report said.

It was during these studies that Vuity was observed to start working within 15 minutes of application.

In a positive piece of news, the drops were found to result in no serious side effects. However, some patients experienced mild headaches and eye redness. (IANS)

The Million Missing Workers Could Solve America’s Labor Shortages

By Dany Bahar And Pedro Casas-Alatriste

The recent tragedy of the death of over 50 migrants in an abandoned overheated truck in Texas forces us to reevaluate whether there is a better way for the United States—and there must be—to deal with the immigrants trying to reach the country.  

This reevaluation includes not only adopting a more humanitarian approach to border policies, but also challenging preconceived ideas about these immigrants, which will allow us to embrace them as they are: much-needed workers that can complement the American workforce. 

A ‘help wanted’ sign is posted in front of restaurant on February 4, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. – The United States added an unexpectedly robust 467,000 jobs in January, according to Labor Department data released today that also significantly raised employment increases for November and December. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

Our argument is simple; the U.S. workforce is aging and cannot meet the economy’s capacity. Yet, for nearly 20 years, U.S. authorities have deported over 1 million immigrants originally from Central America’s Northern Triangle to their home countries through Mexico. But these potential workers are essential to the U.S. right now: Historically immigrants have been young and have joined the workforce in occupations that very few Americans are able or willing to fill today.  

The need to fill these occupations is evident from the market forces that continue to attract immigrants from Mexico and Central America, despite the incredible and increasing difficulties they face crossing the border. On the Mexican side, the use of “coyotes” (people smugglers) has gone up by 30 percent⁠—from about 45 percent in the second half of 2020 to nearly 60 percent in the last quarter of 2020⁠—as measured by surveys of returned Mexican migrants

According to these surveys, coyotes charged sums close to $6,000 per person smuggled in 2019, though that cost is reported to have gone down in 2020, presumably because of the slowdown in crossing caused by COVID-19. Nevertheless, the mere existence of this illicit market on the border is, arguably, a result of the dramatic increase in U.S. efforts—and resources—to stop this migration. In May 2022, U.S. Customs and Border Protection registered 240,000 encounters that month, up nearly 70 percent from May 2019, putting fiscal year 2022 on track to hit a record number of border encounters in recent history.  

Despite the conditions at the border, a deep dive into the data speaks for itself on the need for the U.S. to drastically redesign its migration policy with respect to Mexico and Central America and to put forward legal pathways for immigrants to enter and work in the United States instead of trying to apprehend them at the border.  

Let’s first look at the current American reality. According to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were over 11.2 million job openings (May 2022). In the construction industry, there were an estimated 434,000 job openings (May 2022), yet there were just 389,000 unemployed in that same industry (June 2022). In other words, there is a shortage of almost 50,000 workers. In retail trade, the gap is even wider. With 1.14 million job openings and 720,000 unemployed, there is a labor supply deficit of 420,000 people. If that’s still not surprising enough: The number of unemployed people in the accommodation and food services industry is 565,000, while the number of job openings totaled 1.4 million. Even if every worker in that industry were employed, there would still be 835,000 job openings.

From a broader perspective, in just 12 years, adults 65 and older will outnumber children under 18 for the first time in the history of the United States. And shortly after, by 2040, projections suggest the country will have 2.1 workers per Social Security beneficiary. According to these calculations, the system needs at least 2.8 workers per Social Security beneficiary to maintain its economic feasibility.

Let’s now add into the equation some stylized facts about the 1 million workers that the U.S. has deported back to Central America since 2009. The data comes from representative surveys carried out by Colegio de la Frontera, a Mexican research institution that surveys deportees from the U.S. in Mexico’s south border on their way back to their home countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.  

The vast majority of these deportees are men and have a high school diploma or less, according to the most recent data from 2019. They are also overwhelmingly young—with nearly 90 percent of them between the ages 15 to 39 and 65 percent being between the ages 15 to 29. Compare this to all other migrants in the U.S. who have a median age of 46 years.  

Among the deportees that gathered some work experience in the U.S. during their stay (the ones who stayed for longer, naturally), they worked in a very diverse set of occupations that, ironically, have remarkable overlap with the occupations in high demand right now in the U.S. For instance, about 60 percent were in the construction industry, about 20 percent worked in services (such as the food industry), nearly 10 percent worked in industry, and 8 percent were technicians and administrative staff.

Migrants on the U.S. southern border are able and capable of filling labor gaps in the American economy if they are given the chance, particularly in fundamental occupations like the ones we document above. Moreover, perhaps with some skills training, they could fill other in-demand occupations, too.

American politicians and policymakers must act to transform the energy and resources poured into keeping these immigrants away into creating enough legal pathways for these migrants to join the American labor force without further delay. These migrants are already paying enormous costs, endangering their lives, and taking massive risks to come to America, which is a testament to their need and determination.

If the United States wants to grow and compete in the global economy, immigration—including that from the Northern Triangle—is part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Meteoric Rise In Number Of Americans Injecting Drugs

A recently released study by the Coalition for Applied Modeling for Prevention (CAMP) and funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlights the colossal rise in injection drug use (IDU) in the United States in recent years.

CAMP’s study estimates that in the last decade, IDU has gone up exponentially. The most recent data, from 2018, estimated that approximately 4 million Americans injected drugs. This is a five-fold increase from the last approximation, in 2011.

The burden of fatal and nonfatal overdoses among those who inject drugs has also gone up sharply, according to CAMP’s research. Injection-related overdose deaths tripled from 2007 to 2018. Data also shows that there are about 40 nonfatal overdoses for every fatal overdose of IDU. 

“Our estimate of the number of people who inject drugs in the U.S. indicates that services need to be substantially expanded — this includes services to meet harm-reduction needs and efforts to reduce escalating rates of overdose mortality, as well as services to address the spread of infectious diseases,” said Heather Bradley, a lead author of a study that CAMP cited in its findings.

The CDC warns that “people who inject drugs are at high risk for HIV if they use needles, syringes, or other drug injection equipment.” 

The CDC estimates that a third of people who inject drugs share syringes, needles or other drug injection equipment. 

Biden administration under pressure to up Ukraine’s rocket firepower Zelensky warns of ‘media terror’ of propaganda, disinformation amid Russian invasion 

Though new cases of HIV are down overall, the CDC reports that about 10 percent of new HIV cases in the United States are people who inject drugs.

Hepatitis C cases have also skyrocketed in recent years. According to the CDC, in 2011 there were an estimated 2,700 cases of hepatitis C, and in 2019 the number leapt up to approximately 57,500.

The CAMP researchers note the findings in the study “provide valuable insight” to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on IDU in the U.S. and give researchers and public health officials information they can use to try to implement harm reduction in IDU. 

Tags CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; CDC drug trafficking drugs Drugs hiv illegal drug use injection drug use United States 

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Sri Lanka Seeks Way Forward After President Quits

Sri Lanka is seeking a way out of political and economic chaos after its President Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigned and fled the country. Two days after former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled Sri Lanka, his two brothers – former PM Mahinda Rajapaksa and former finance minister Basil Rajapaksa – were barred from leaving the island nation until July 28.

The country’s Supreme Court on Friday passed an order during the hearing of a petition filed by Transparency International, a global NGO, alleging that these persons were directly responsible for the unsustainability of Sri Lanka’s foreign debt, its debt default and the current economic crisis.

Acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in as Sri Lanka’s acting president on July 15th after parliament accepted the resignation of Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Secret vote: For the first time since 1978, Sri Lanka will elect its next president through a secret vote by the MPs and not through a popular mandate, on July 20. The new president will serve the remaining tenure of Gotabaya Rajapaksa till November 2024.

Sigh of relief: Rajapaksa’s departure from office marks a major victory for the anti-government protesters, who for months have demanded his removal. “We are so happy today that he resigned and we feel that when we, the people, come together, we can do everything,” said Arunanandan, 34, a school teacher told Reuters. “We are the real power in this country.” 

As people celebrated in the streets, Parliament Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana promised a swift and transparent political process that should be done within a week.

The new president could appoint a new prime minister, who would then have to be approved by Parliament. After Rajapaksa resigned, pressure on the prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, was rising.

In a televised statement, Wickremesinghe said he would initiate steps to change the constitution to curb presidential powers and strengthen Parliament, restore law and order and take legal action against “insurgents.”

It was unclear to whom he was referring, although he said true protesters would not have gotten involved in clashes Wednesday night near Parliament, where many soldiers reportedly were injured.

The process of parliament electing a new president began on Saturday, with MPs expected to take a vote on 20 July. The initial formal meeting lasted just 13 minutes, with a letter being read out from Mr Rajapaska defending his record.

“It is a matter of personal satisfaction for me that I was able to protect our people from the pandemic despite the economic crisis we were already facing,” he wrote.

According to news agency AFP, more than 16,500 people died during the pandemic in Sri Lanka, while the country’s official foreign exchange reserves dropped from $7.5bn (£6.3bn) to just $1m during his tenure.

After being sworn in as interim leader, Mr Wickremesinghe promised to act quickly to put a democratically elected president in place. “I will take immediate steps to establish the rule of law and peace in the country. I accept 100% the right to peaceful protests. But some are trying to do acts of sabotage,” he said.

Meanwhile, Singapore says ousted president Rajapaksa did not ask for political asylum when he arrived there.  The former president, who arrived with his wife and two bodyguards, no longer has legal immunity as a head of state and his position is now more precarious as he tries to find a safe country to shelter in. 

He is expected to stay in Singapore for some time before possibly moving to the United Arab Emirates, Sri Lankan security sources told AFP news agency.

Dalai Lama Pitches For Meaningful Autonomy For Tibet

Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama has said on July 14th that he is not seeking separation of his homeland from China but is seeking meaningful autonomy inside China rather than independence as he arrived in Jammu from Dharamshala. 

The Dalai Lama said only a few Chinese hardliners considered him to be a separatist. “Some hardliners in China think I’m a separatist,” Dalai Lama said, adding that there are now more and more Chinese people who are realizing that the Dalai Lama is not seeking independence but only a ‘meaningful’ autonomy inside China to preserve Tibetan Buddhist culture.

“People in China are increasingly realizing that I am not seeking the independence of Tibet, but autonomy and preservation of its Buddhist culture,” he told the media in Jammu.

The Nobel Peace Laureate traveled to Ladakh in India on Friday, July 15th, where he is going to stay for a month to deliver discourses and meet followers.

After a long hiatus, the Dalai Lama is making his first visit outside his headquarters in Himachal Pradesh’s Mcleodganj since leaving Bodh Gaya in January 2020 ahead of the Covid-19 pandemic’s outbreak. 

In response to a query about China objecting to his journey to Ladakh, the spiritual head of Tibet responded and denied the claims made by Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, who had told the media that the 14th Dalai Lama was an anti-China separatist.

The visit of the Dalai Lama is expected to enrage China because Beijing recently chastised Prime Minister Modi for sending birthday congratulations to the Dalai Lama, who just celebrated his 87th birthday, saying that India should cease interfering in China‘s domestic affairs using Tibet-related matters.

The famed Thiksay monastery in Leh is among the places the Dalai Lama is scheduled to visit on his journey.

The Dalai Lama is treated as a guest in India, according to the government’s consistent policy, the External Affairs Ministry stated in response to China’s complaint.

Ever since the Dalai Lama sought refuge in India, Beijing has been critical of him. The Tibetan spiritual leader had to seek refuge in India in the 1950s when China invaded Tibet and called it as part of China. The Dalai Lama wanted to promote a halfway settlement with China to settle the Tibet problem amicably.

India and China have been at odds since April 2020 about Chinese Army violations in the Finger area, Galwan Valley, Hot Springs, and Kongrung Nala, among other places. After intense battles with Chinese forces in the Galwan Valley in June 2020, the situation deteriorated. It is important to note that the 16th round of Corps Commander-level discussions between China and India, which are scheduled to begin on July 17, is taking place just three days after this visit.

Wishing To Be Off Billionaires List, Bill Gates Donates $20 Billion To Foundation

That’s Bill Gates’ estimated net worth, making him the world’s fourth-richest person — but he doesn’t intend to rank that high forever. On Wednesday, the Microsoft co-founder said he wants to “move down and eventually off of the list of the world’s richest people” because he feels “obligated to return his resources to society.” 

On the same day, Gates moved $20 billion of his wealth into the endowment of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the largest philanthropies in the world. The foundation plans to increase its payouts from nearly $6 billion to $9 billion each year by 2026. 

Bill Gates is moving $20 billion of his wealth into the endowment of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is ramping up its spending in the face of global challenges, including the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, media reports said. 

The foundation, one of the world’s largest philanthropies, plans to increase its payouts by 50 per cent over pre-pandemic levels, from nearly $6 billion to $9 billion each year by 2026. The foundation is primarily focused on charitable giving that’s aimed at improving global health, gender equality and education, among other issues, CNN reported.

The Microsoft co-founder and his ex-wife, Melinda French Gates, have both pledged to donate the vast majority of their wealth to the foundation they established together 20 years ago, as well as to other philanthropic endeavours.

The couple announced their divorce in May 2021, saying they would work together as co-chairs under a two-year trial period. At the end of that trial, French Gates has the option to resign and receive a payout from her former husband, who would remain in charge of the foundation.

With an estimated net worth of around $ 114 billion, Bill Gates is currently the world’s fourth-richest person, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index, with most of his wealth tied to Microsoft shares.

But he doesn’t intend to rank that high forever. “I will move down and eventually off of the list of the world’s richest people,” Gates wrote in a blog.

“I have an obligation to return my resources to society in ways that have the greatest impact for improving lives. I hope others in positions of great wealth and privilege will step up in this moment too,” he said, CNN reported. (IANS)

Naureen Hassan Appointed President Of UBS Americas

Swiss financial services giant, UBS has confirmed that Naureen Hassan, an Indian American will succeed UBS Americas’ long-time chief, Tom Naratil as the President of UBS Americas in October this year. Currently, Hassan is the first VP and Chief Operating Officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. UBS Americas is a subsidiary of Switzerland-based UBS Group, one of the word’s largest wealth managers. 

Tom Naratil, an industry veteran who spent more than two decades at UBS, will step down from his current role as Co-President of Global Wealth Management and President of UBS Americas. Additionally, the financial firm noted that Naureen Hassan will succeed Naratil as the President of UBS Americas while Iqbal Khan will join UBS as the President of Global Wealth Management.

Hassan began her career as a business analyst at McKinsey & Company, and prior to joining the New York Fed, she was the Chief Digital Officer of Morgan Stanley. The details shared by UBS show that Naureen Hassan, who will become a member of UBS’ Group Executive Board on 3 October 2022, will play an important role in the expansion of the company in the region. Hassan will join UBS from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York where she has been working as the First Vice President and Chief Operating Officer since March 2021.

“I am delighted to welcome Naureen Hassan to UBS as President UBS Americas and to congratulate Iqbal on his expanded role as sole President Global Wealth Management. I also want to personally thank Tom for his leadership and significant contributions to UBS over the past four decades. He’s been a champion of our strategy and transformation and a vocal advocate of our diversity initiatives. I wish him all the best in his future endeavors,” Ralph Hamers, the Group Chief Executive Officer at UBS, said.

Effective 3 October 2022, Khan will become the sole President of Global Wealth Management at UBS. Khan has been associated with UBS since 2019. In the recent announcement, the Group CEO of UBS highlighted the strategic importance of the Global Wealth Management business for the company’s growth.

“Our Global Wealth Management business and our Americas region are strategically important, and both offer significant growth opportunities for us. I am confident that Naureen and Iqbal will build upon Tom’s success and continue to deliver for our clients and achieve our strategic ambitions,” Hamers added.

3 Indian-Origin Scientists Part Of James Webb Telescope Team

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) released  last week several images, the sharpest images of the universe by the James Webb Space Telescope. The $10 billion telescope is considered to be the most powerful space science telescope ever built. 

Behind the telescope were three Indian-origin scientists – Hashima Hasan, Kalyani Sukhatme, and Kartik Sheth. The three Indian-origin scientists and experts are part of the team responsible for NASA’s recently released ‘Deepest Images’ of the Universe, media reports here suggest. 

Dr. Hashima Hasan, originally from Lucknow, is the Deputy Project Scientist of the James Webb Space Telescope. Kalyani Sukhatme was the Project Manager for the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI), which is one of the four science instruments used on the telescope. Kartik Sheth is a program scientist in the astrophysics division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. Along with the James Webb Space Telescope, he has also worked on SOFIA, Spitzer and the Origins Space Telescope and the Hubble fellowship program.

In a press release, NASA stated that the telescope has ‘produced the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe to date’. “These images are going to remind the world that America can do big things, and remind the American people – especially our children – that there’s nothing beyond our capacity. We can see possibilities no one has ever seen before. We can go places no one has ever gone before,” said President Biden in the NASA press release.

In a video published by NASA, Dr Hasan spoke about how she got interested in space. “I grew up in India, and first got fascinated with space when my grandmother took us all to the backyard to see Sputnik. I was five at that time. I was really excited and wanted to become a scientist,” said Hasan.

She did her undergraduate at Aligarh Muslim University and studied at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai. She also worked at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC). She received her doctorate from Oxford University in Theoretical Nuclear Physics.
She joined NASA in 1994 and has been a program scientist for several missions.

Kalyani Sukhatme was the Project Manager for the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI), one of the instruments on the telescope. According to the website, Kalyani Sukhatme was the project manager for the Mid-Infrared Instrument or MIRI, one of the four science instruments on the James Webb Space Telescope. She now works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology.

She grew up in Mumbai and did her Bachelors in Technology (BTech) from IIT Bombay. Post that, she did her Master’s in physics and Doctorate in physics from University of California. She joined NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) as a postdoctoral fellow in 1998.

She won the European Space Agency James Webb Space Telescope award for significant achievement in 2012. She took over as MIRI project manager at JPL in April 2010. She has contributed to the technology development of infrared detectors and their operation for spaceflight missions.

Kartik Sheth is a program scientist in the astrophysics division within NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. His current portfolio includes the James Webb Space Telescope, SOFIA, Spitzer and the Origins Space Telescope, and the Hubble fellowship program.

“For the past seven years, he has been a program scientist in both the Astrophysics and Earth Science Divisions at NASA, overseeing space missions, and research and development programs in cutting-edge technology and working towards some of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals,” according to NASA.

He did MS and PhD in Astrophysics from the University of Maryland. He worked at Caltech before joining NASA. He was a tenured astronomer at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville. In 2022, he received NASA’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award for his work leading the Anti-Racism Action group.

The James Webb Space Telescope’s first stunning images of the distant universe have been followed up by something a little closer to home.  Data collected during the telescope’s commissioning period, before its science operations officially started on July 12, have been released on the Space Telescope Science Institute’s website. The publicly available data is now ready for scientists around the world to study.

That data includes new images of Jupiter, which were taken while the space observatory’s instruments were still being tested.  “Combined with the deep field images released the other day, these images of Jupiter demonstrate the full grasp of what Webb can observe, from the faintest, most distant observable galaxies to planets in our own cosmic backyard that you can see with the naked eye from your actual backyard,” said Bryan Holler, a scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, in a statement.

Consulate India In New York Organizes Roadshow On One-District-One-Product

The Consulate General of India in New York, in partnership with the Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) and Invest India, held a Roadshow on One-District-One-Product (ODOP) on July 12th, 2022. The show was attended by stakeholders from the food, hospitality, textiles and relevant business sectors.  

Consul General Shri Randhir Jaiwal gave the opening remarks, talking about the importance of the ODOP initiative and detailing the uniqueness of the products. From Araku coffee, with its distinctive texture, flavour and aroma, to the SIMFED turmeric from the organic state of Sikkim, he talked about the individuality and exclusivity of the items at display.

Joint Secretary from DPIIT, Ms. Manmeet Nanda familiarised the audience with the ODOP initiative and its vision. She elaborated that the whole idea of the initiative is to showcase unique products from different district of India, and that this stems from the mandate of Aatmanirbhar Bharat, focusing on a resilient India that is recognized as a brand globally. Expanding on the same, she talked about the vision of promoting sustainable trade along with creating a direct market link between the makers and buyers of these unique products. 

Explaining the progress that the initiative has made thus far, Ms. Nanda highlighted that more than 700 products with a unique quality and a large export potential have been identified till date. Each product tells a story – a story of creation, craftsmanship, tradition, custom, and people. Today, India’s unique products have ties all over the world. Farmers in Jammu and Kashmir sell walnuts to distant countries like Europe, and international brands sell Indian Pashmina stoles.

Representatives of Invest India took forward the discourse and emphasized the four pillars of the ODOP initiative – ecommerce, marketing, licensing, and selling and trade.

Different products from different parts of the country were showcased, ranging from cardamom tea, millet pasta, saffron, ginger flakes and more. From the north, the range extended from walnut wood carvings to Basohli paintings. From the state of Rajasthan, items of blue pottery were displayed. From the North-East, the variety consisted of coffee, jewellery, and special silks such as Eri Silk and some non-violent silk products. The non-violent silk items are so called as their production does not involve harming of silk worms.

Members of the diaspora were urged to promote products from their districts and adopt the vision of the ODOP scheme.  They were urged to promote ODOP products through gift giving, socially as well as officially.  Earlier, the Consulate had organized a display of ODOP products at Times Square during International Day of Yoga celebrations on 21 June 2022.

Mandovi Menon Among Asia Society’s Class of 2022

Mandovi Menon, creative director, writer, and media entrepreneur from India is among the Asia Society’s 40 young leaders from across the world who will form the newest class of the Asia 21 Young Leaders Network, joining an unparalleled network of over 1,000 individuals in politics, business, arts, education, sustainability, and technology. 

The Class of 2022 features a diverse mix of leaders representing 26 different countries and includes journalists, human rights advocates, entrepreneurs, fiction writers, politicians, and more. Together, they will form an integral part of the Asia Society family as the newest cohort of its signature young leaders initiative, embody the organization’s mission to navigate shared futures, and actively contribute in taking the network to new heights. 

“Drawing on their personal expertise and leveraging the collective power of the Asia 21 network, the class of 2022 will actively contribute in shaping a more peaceful, prosperous, and secure future for all,” said Asia Society President and CEO Kevin Rudd. “We are delighted to play our part in connecting individuals who share common values and desire to make this world a better place.”

Other members of the incoming class include Hajra Khan, captain of Pakistan’s national football team and founder of the Fortis Sports Academy; Fumino Sugiyama, restaurateur and LGBTQ activist and co-representative of Tokyo Rainbow Pride; Si Thura, executive director of Myanmar’s Community Partners International; Mandovi Menon, creative director, writer, and media entrepreneur from India; Sopheak Chak, executive director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights; Alexandre Chenesseau, managing director at Evercore; Guo Dong, associate director of the Research Program on Sustainability and Management at Columbia University; and James Griffin, minister of the environment, New South Wales, Australia. You can access biographies of all 40 members of the Class of 2022 at AsiaSociety.org/Asia21.

After a two-year hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the annual Asia 21 Young Leaders Summit will resume this year with an in-person convening hosted by Asia Society Japan from December 2 to December 4, 2022. The conference, centered around the theme of “leading in a world of competing values,” will include panel discussions, lectures, and special events in Tokyo, and will feature members of the new class as well as Asia 21 alumni. They will share best practices in leadership and explore opportunities to work collaboratively across borders and sectors to create positive impact. The sessions will also address diversity, equity, and integration through art, education, policy, leadership opportunities, and entrepreneurship.

According to LinkedIn, Mandovi is a creative director, writer and media entrepreneur who is passionate about using innovative storytelling to spark meaningful change. She believes that expressing creativity freely, with integrity, is at the heart of building a more inclusive world.

She is best known for having built multiple digital platforms and campaigns of repute over the past decade, which continue to create social impact and shape Indian youth culture significantly. In 2013, she co-founded her first media company, Homegrown—a pioneering platform that changed the way we speak to and about young Indians. Under her leadership, the platform earned a reputation for diverse, original storytelling that wasn’t afraid to take on the taboo, while continuously tackling pressing issues like juvenile justice, women’s rights, and sexual health. She conceptualised and led many digital campaigns and IPs for development sector clients like UNICEF, Dasra, & No Country For Women, as well as leading brands like Nike, adidas, HDFC Life and Puma (amongst others) during her time here.

Since moving on, she’s built three other first-of-its-kind media platforms, two of which focus specifically on children’s rights. One is Apalam Chapalam—a multi-lingual storytelling channel that caters to urban, underprivileged children in lockdown. In under a year, stories have been watched 200000+ times, and reached thousands of children in need. The second is ‘The Minor Project’—a dynamic public dialogue initiative to help end violence against children for Unicef India and Leher NGO. The third is a contemporary print publication from India called ‘The Dirty Magazine,’ where she helps create its vision as its Creative Director (Culture) & Features Editor.

Mandovi also continues to pursue various independent projects developing branding, identity & strategy for clients, as well as her own work as an artist and children’s book writer. She has a series of commissioned children’s stories and poetry due to be published in the coming year.

As a creative leader, she’s been honoured on Forbes Asia’s 30 under 30 list, Vogue Global Network’s ’50 Young Trailblazers Around The World,’ Lured Magazine’s ’15 Creatives Defining the New India’ amongst many other well-known publications for her work in Media, Communications and Culture-Building in India. She’s also regularly tapped as a credible source for how youth culture & youth identity is evolving in India today.

Oberoi Hotels & Resorts Gets Yet Another Feather In Its Cap

Travel + Recreation The World’s Best Awards in the United States are among the most prestigious in the travel industry, as readers define excellence in hospitality and travel.

In a Readers’ Poll conducted by Travel + Leisure magazine, Oberoi Hotels & Resorts received this recognition from 9.5 million readers.

Vikram Oberoi, CEO and MD, The Oberoi Group further added, “The awards are an affirmation of Oberoi Hotels & Resorts unwavering commitment towards offering guests exceptional facilities and unparalleled levels of service. Our founder Rai Bahadur M.S. Oberoi and Mr. P.R.S. Oberoi our former Chairman and mentor have always maintained that people are our most important asset – time and again our colleagues live up to this enduring belief.”

Arjun Oberoi, Executive Chairman, The Oberoi Group said, “We are delighted to receive this prestigious award and honoured to have contributed in our own small way to the ‘Make in India’ initiative. My heartfelt gratitude to our valued guests for their continued support and our exceptional colleagues for their dedication and commitment to excellence.”

Travel + Leisure, US, the world’s most influential travel brand, provides insider access to destinations around the world through a signature blend of smart advice, immersive photography, expert reporting, and award-winning coverage of hotels, food, design, style, culture, and trends. (IANS)

What Does It Mean To Be A ‘Person’?

The fundamental issue at stake in abortion debates is personhood, which is viewed differently around the world, an anthropologist writes. Opponents and proponents of abortion rights often frame their positions in terms of two fundamental values: “life” or “choice.”

However, many defenders of “life” are comfortable with taking human life in situations such as war or capital punishment. Many on the side of “choice” advocate for government regulation of guns or mandates on masking and vaccines.

As I see it, “life” and “choice” are not, in and of themselves, really the issue. The central question is what – or who – constitutes a person

This question has long preoccupied anthropologists, particularly those like me who specialize in the study of non-European religions. Some ideas usually taken for granted in the United States and Europe about what it means to be a person are, quite simply, not shared with followers of other religious traditions and cultures.

Ideas about personhood in U.S. culture are largely a product of Christianity, in which personhood is inextricably tied to the notion of the soul. Only a being who possesses a soul is a person, and personhood is treated as a black-and-white matter: Either a being has a soul or it does not.

As a specialist of religion in Africa, I have become aware of religious traditions that treat personhood in very different and more nuanced ways. The majority of people in Africa identify as Muslim or Christian, but indigenous religions remain widespread, and many view personhood as a process rather than a once-and-for-all phenomenon.

Gradual personhood

This is well illustrated by beliefs about babies in the Beng culture of Côte d’Ivoire, which anthropologist Alma Gottlieb details in her remarkable 2004 ethnography, “The Afterlife Is Where We Come From.”

For Beng, all babies are reincarnations of people who recently died. They emerge from a place called “wrugbe,” which is simultaneously the afterlife and a sort of before-life.

The idea that babies are reincarnations, especially of ancestors, is hardly specific to the Beng – or to African religions, for that matter. Indeed, a newborn has not really left “wrugbe” until her cut umbilical cord has dried out and fallen off. Only then is the infant considered in any sense a person. If she dies beforehand, she does not receive any sort of funeral. Even afterward, until children are several years old, people believe they remain poised between “wrugbe” and the world of ordinary humans.

For Beng and many other peoples, rituals mark the development of personhood. Some cultures believe children do not fully have a gender until they have undergone initiation. The process of initiation itself is a symbolic death and rebirth, as though the initiate becomes a new person. In some societies – for example Tallensi of northern Ghana – if an individual ever achieves full personhood, it is only after death, when they become an ancestor, fully involved in the lives of their descendants.

Initiates are welcomed back from an initiation school by their friends and families in Orange Farm, South Africa.
Lucky Maibi/Daily Sun/Gallo Images via Getty Images

Not just humans

“Persons” are not even necessarily human. In Mande cultures in West Africa, such as the Dyula communities where I have done research, every clan is associated with a “ntana,” a large and dangerous wild animal species: lions, leopards, elephants, crocodiles or pythons, for example. Members of the species are considered persons, but only for individuals in the associated clan.

Each one has a story about the origins of their relationship with their ntana – typically of how the ancestor of the species rescued the ancestor of the clan, such as by pulling him out of a pit into which he had fallen. Members of the clan must not kill or eat their ntana, and contact with or even sight of the remains of the dead animal is considered dangerous.

Two aspects of personhood stand out in particular when we compare how paradigms vary from culture to culture.

First, personhood is sometimes viewed as a process, not a steady state, and is not something each individual automatically possessed. Second, personhood is not a purely individual phenomenon, but intrinsically caught up in social relationships – especially between parents, siblings and children; between spouses and in-laws; and between the living and the dead. Christianity, on the other hand, emphasizes the soul and individual salvation: A being either possesses a soul or doesn’t, and this soul’s salvation or damnation is the individual’s responsibility.

In Christian-majority societies, it may not always be apparent to what extent our taken-for-granted notions of personhood derive from a Christian foundation, until they’re compared with other religious traditions. From my perspective, to embed these ideas into law – notably by banning abortion or even allowing its prohibition – is to embed theology into legal principle.

(Robert Launay, Professor of Anthropology, Northwestern University. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)

Does Immigration Help Developing Countries?

Many talented brains from developing nations like India, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Pakistan have been immigrating to economically progressive and highly developed nations for many years.

They migrate in search of a good quality of life, world-class education for their children, and social security perks, including disability and maternity benefits, unemployment allowance, employment insurance, and other attractive benefits.

This is primarily why many choose to become permanent residents of developed nations such as Canada, the USA, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. But the youth and skilled professionals who have moved to these nations have also brought in foreign remittances and a good deal of foreign exchange that helps boost the economy and development of a country that is still wanting and in its development stage.

Contributing back home

Many immigrants with well-paying jobs in these overseas nations help their relatives, parents, and near and dear ones by sending them money for assistance. Even students who study in developed nations return home with great knowledge and expertise. They even impart their expertise and aid in medicine, engineering, technology, and other professions.

Immigrants in other nations make it up to their home nations by keeping the foreign remittances flowing. Many of these remittances help ease the constraints of credit in rural areas. It helps accelerate human capital with improved health and educational facilities besides a good lifestyle. Many immigrants who return to their nations build hotels, hospitals, schools, and places of public worship or institution.

In many cases, they make significant donations to charities, which greatly help uplift the poor and marginal areas back in their home countries. Because of their contribution, many needy and underprivileged people find a vehicle and means to make their dreams come true. Immigration has been an excellent life-changer for many people who cannot find adequate help, but through the financial assistance from these immigrants, they find a way to live the life they deserve. (IANS)

US FDA Likely To Approve Over-The-Counter Birth Control Pill

Amid the US Supreme Court’s decision to ban abortion in the country, the Food and Drug Administration is considering to approve the first-ever over the counter (OTC) birth control pill.

Two companies — French drugmaker HRA Pharma and US-based Cadence Health — have approached the FDA to authorise their pill for OTC-sales in the US.

HRA Pharma has applied for an Rx-to-OTC switch for Opill, a progestin – only daily birth control pill (also referred to as a mini pill or non-estrogen pill).

The pill has already been approved for use in the US since 1973, but only with a prescription. If approved, this would be the first daily birth control pill available OTC without a prescription in the US, the company said in a statement.

“This historic application marks a groundbreaking moment in contraceptive access and reproductive equity in the US,” said Frederique Welgryn, Chief Strategic Operations and Innovation Officer at HRA Pharma, in the statement.

“More than 60 years ago, prescription birth control pills in the US empowered women to plan if and when they want to get pregnant. Moving a safe and effective prescription birth control pill to OTC will help even more women and people access contraception without facing unnecessary barriers,” Welgryn added.

Cadence, whose pill is a combination of progestin and oestrogen plans to submit an application in the coming year, The New York Times reported.

While both companies have been in discussions with the FDA for years, the timing of the HRA Pharma application is “a really sad coincidence,” Welgryntold The Times. “Birth control is not a solution for abortion access,” she stressed.

The FDA is expected to take around 10 months to make a decision on HRA Pharma’s application, media reports said.

Meanwhile, major medical organisations, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Family Physicians, have expressed support for moving birth control pills OTC.

Earlier this year, the US House of Democrats also signed a letter to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf requesting a “timely review” of applications to make birth control pills available OTC, and more than 100 Democrats have signed on to a bill to make health insurance companies cover the cost of OTC birth control, The Times reported. (IANS)

Vatican Names 3 Women To Office That Vets Bishop Nominations

Pope Francis on Wednesday named three women to serve as members of the Vatican office that vets bishop nominations, in another first for women to have a say in Catholic Church governance.

The new members are Sister Raffaella Petrini, who already holds a high-ranking Vatican position as the secretary general of the Vatican City State, which runs the Vatican Museums and other administrative parts of the territory.

Also named was Sister Yvonne Reungoat, former superior general of the Daughters of Mary the Helper, a religious order also known as the Salesian Sisters; as well as a laywoman, Maria Lia Zervino, president of a Catholic women’s umbrella group, the World Union of Female Catholic Organizations.

The dicastery’s members, who include cardinals, bishops and now women, meet periodically to evaluate proposed new bishops whose names are forwarded by Vatican ambassadors.

The Dicastery for Bishops oversees the work of most of the church’s 5,300 bishops, who run dioceses around the world. The dicastery’s members, who include cardinals, bishops and now women, meet periodically to evaluate proposed new bishops whose names are forwarded by Vatican ambassadors. The ambassadors usually come up with three candidates for each opening after consulting with local church members.

The pope still makes the final call and can bypass candidates proposed by his ambassadors and then vetted by the dicastery. But the addition of women into the consultation process is nevertheless significant and a response to calls to break up the all-male clerical hierarchy of the Holy See and demands that women have a greater say in church decision-making.

Church doctrine reserves the priesthood for men, given Christ’s apostles were male. Women have often complained they have a second-class status in the church, even though they do the lion’s share of its work running schools, hospitals and passing the faith from generation to generation.

Kerala, Ahmedabad Named By TIME Among 50 Extraordinary Destinations

The Kerala tourism department and Ahemedabad in the state of Gujarat have been elavated over TIME magazine shortlist as among the 50 extraordinary destinations in the world to explore in 2022.

Kerala’s Tourism minister Mohammed Riyaz told media persons that the recognition is a result of the hard work of the tourism department and the new policies and programmes in the sector.

Kerala is ranked ninth in the “World’s Greatest Places 2022” list as an eco-tourism spot. The US magazine wrote that Kerala has spectacular beaches and lush backwaters, temples, and palaces and is known as ‘God’s Own Country’ with good reason.

The new project of the tourism department ‘Karavan Meadows’ also finds a mention in the TIME magazine report which is considered by the department as a recognition of its caravan tourism project.

The magazine said that just like the houseboat tourism promoted by the state, caravan tourism is also expected to follow suit with a similar promise of sustainable tourism.

TIME magazine introduced the World’s Greatest Places of 2022 and said, “As persistent as the challenges of life in 2022 is the hope that understanding and human connection can be found through travel. So, with much of the global population now vaccinated against COVID-19, world travellers are again hitting the road—and the skies. The hospitality industry is reopening and excited to safely welcome them and revitalize local communities.”

Ras al Khaimah (UAE), Park City (Utah, US), Galapagos Islands, Dolni Moravo of Czech Republic, Seoul, Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Doha, and Detroit are ranked above Kerala in the TIME magazine report. (IANS)

TIME described Kerala as ‘one of India’s most beautiful states.’ “With spectacular beaches and lush backwaters, temples, and palaces, it’s known as “God’s own country” for good reason,” TIME magazine’s poignant description of the state reads.

It described Ahmedabad as India’s first UNESCO World Heritage City, and a city which “boasts both ancient landmarks and contemporary innovations that make it a mecca for cultural tourism, from the serene Gandhi Ashram that sits on 36 acres on the banks of the Sabarmati River to Navratri, a vibrant nine-day celebration (this year from Sept. 26 to Oct. 5) billed as the longest dance festival in the world.”

A Digital News Policy Overhaul In India

The government of India wants Big Tech majors Google, Meta, Microsoft, Apple, Twitter, and Amazon to pay Indian publishers and media companies from their revenues for using their content in a new move to overhaul the digital news business in India.

This comes over a year after the publishers in India decided to follow the examples of countries like Australia when they asked social media giants such as Google to pay for their content. The Indian Newspaper Society in February asked Google to compensate Indian newspapers for using their content and insisted that the global search giant increase the publisher share of advertising revenue to 85 per cent.

The move comes as the government aims to regulate digital media in India with the Registration of Press and Periodicals Bill that may be introduced in the upcoming Parliament session.

It proposes the registration, for the first time, of digital media, which has not been defined by any law or any government regulation till now, and also punitive action for “violations”.

Digital news publishers will now have to register with the Press Registrar General within 90 days of the law coming into effect. There will be an appellate board with the Press Council of India chairperson as its chief to redress any grievances.

An earlier attempt to regulate digital media by the government under Information Technology rules in 2019 had sparked a huge controversy. Back then, the draft bill had defined digital media news as news in digitised format that can be transmitted over the internet and includes text, video, audio and graphics.

If the Registration of Press and Periodicals Bill gets Parliament’s nod, it will replace the British-era Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867 that was meant for regulating newspapers and printing presses in India. (Courtesy: TOI)

Republican Governors Planning 2024 Run Aren’t Rushing Abortion Laws

By, Stephen Groves

(AP) — Gov. Kristi Noem had pledged to “immediately” call a special legislative session to “guarantee that every unborn child has a right to life in South Dakota” if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. But nearly three weeks after that ruling, the first-term Republican remains unusually quiet about exactly what she wants lawmakers to pass.

Noem, widely considered a potential 2024 presidential candidate, isn’t the only GOP governor with national ambitions who followed up calls for swift action with hesitance when justices ended the constitutional right to abortion that had been in place for nearly 50 years.

In Arkansas, which like South Dakota had an abortion ban immediately triggered by the court’s ruling, Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said he does not plan to put abortion on the agenda of next month’s special session focused on tax cuts. And in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis, a top potential White House contender also running for reelection, has shied away from detailing whether he will push to completely ban abortions despite a pledge to “expand pro-life protections.”

Noem has given no indication of the date, proposals or whether a special session will even happen to anyone beyond a small group of Statehouse leaders. When asked whether the governor still plans to call lawmakers back to the Capitol, her office this week referred to a June statement that indicated it was being planned for “later this year.”

It’s a change of tack from when the Supreme Court’s decision first leaked in May and the governor fired off a tweet saying she would “immediately call for a special session to save lives” if Roe was overturned. The enthusiasm placed Noem, the first woman to hold the governor’s office in South Dakota, in a prominent spot in the anti-abortion movement.

However, as the abortion ban became reality last month, Noem kept her plans a secret besides saying “there is more work to do” and pledging “to help mothers in crisis.”

Some conservatives in the South Dakota Legislature wanted to take aggressive action, including trying to stop organizations or companies from paying for women to travel out of state for an abortion, changing the criminal punishment for performing an abortion and possibly clarifying state law to ensure the ban didn’t affect other medical procedures.

Republican state Sen. Brock Greenfield said many South Dakota lawmakers attending the state party’s convention on June 24, the same day as the Supreme Court ruling, expected Noem would call them back to Pierre this week for a special session, but “obviously that hasn’t come to fruition.”

“It might not be a bad idea to just let the dust settle and proceed very carefully, very strategically as we go forward,” said Greenfield, a former executive director of the state’s most influential anti-abortion group, South Dakota Right to Life.

The caution reflects the evolving landscape of abortion politics, as Republicans navigate an issue that threatens to divide the party while giving Democrats a potential election-year boost.

Nationwide polling conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research before the Supreme Court ruling to overturn Roe showed it was unpopular, with a majority of Americans wanting to see the court leave the precedent intact. Subsequent polling since the ruling showed that a growing number of Americans, particularly Democrats, cited abortion or women’s rights as priorities at the ballot box.

In political battleground states, some other prominent GOP governors — including possible White House contenders — haven’t charged to enact abortion bans.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has said he considers the abortion question settled in his state, pointing to a 1991 law that protects abortion rights. However, he has resisted efforts by the Democratic-controlled legislature to expand abortion access.

Virginia’s Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, also considered a potential presidential contender, wants lawmakers in the politically divided General Assembly to take up legislation next year, saying he personally would favor banning most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. 

During an online forum with abortion opponents he said he would “gleefully” sign any bill “to protect life” but acknowledged that Virginia’s political reality might require compromise.  “My goal is that we … in fact get a bill to sign,” he said. “It won’t be the bill that we all want.”

In the wake of South Dakota banning abortions, Noem took a softer approach on the issue by launching a website for pregnant women. She even seemed warm to the idea of pushing for state-backed paid family leave.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who is in a closely watched gubernatorial race with Democrat Beto O’Rourke, took a similar approach to the high court ruling that could make it the most populous state to ban abortions. He issued a statement saying Texas “prioritized supporting women’s healthcare and expectant mothers” and pointed to efforts to expand programs for women’s health as well as fund organizations that dissuade women from having an abortion.

States with the nation’s strictest abortion laws, such as Texas and South Dakota, also have some of the worst rates of first-trimester prenatal care, as well as uninsured children in poverty, according to an AP analysis of federal data.

South Dakota Right to Life’s current executive director Dale Bartscher suggested Noem’s action in a special session could be part of a turn in strategy: “An entirely new pro-life movement has just begun — we stand ready to serve women, the unborn and families.” He said he had been communicating with the governor’s office on her plans but declined to detail them.

But Noem in recent weeks has faced questioning for her stance that the only exception to the state’s abortion ban should be to save the life of a mother, even if she has been raped, became pregnant through incest or is a child. 

It’s also not clear where she stands on some conservative lawmakers’ desire to target organizations and companies that are helping women leave the state to access abortion services — a proposition that could undermine Noem’s efforts to attract businesses to the state.

Brockfield warned that a special legislative session could result in “a whole lot of arguments over whether we’re going too far, or whether we haven’t gone far enough.”

At the same time, abortion rights protesters have shown up at Noem’s campaign office and named her in chants decrying the state’s ban. They see momentum growing for an effort to restore some abortion rights in the state through a 2024 ballot measure, pointing out that South Dakota voters in 2006 and 2008 rejected Republican state lawmakers’ efforts to ban the procedure.

“I’ve lived in this state my whole life and I’ve never seen people show up to protest for this issue like they have in recent weeks,” said Kim Floren, who helps run an abortion access fund called Justice Empowerment N

The fund has also been strategizing for a special session, including hiring legal representation and planning protests in Pierre, Floren said.

Their desires may be dismissed in South Dakota’s Statehouse, where Republicans hold 90% of seats, but abortion rights advocates say there is a fresh urgency in alerting voters to the potential impact of the state abortion ban.

“We’re going to see people die,” said Callan Baxter, president of the South Dakota chapter of the National Organization for Women. “We’re going to see some real life consequences and the exposure is going to have a big impact legislatively going forward.”

Pakistan Is 2nd Worst Country On Global Gender Gap Index

Pakistan has been ranked as the second-worst country in terms of gender parity, placed 145 out of 146 states, in the latest Global Gender Gap Report released by the World Economic Forum on Wednesday, Dawn reported.

The report ranks 146 countries, of which the top five are Iceland, Finland, Norway, New Zealand and Sweden, while the five worst ones are Afghanistan, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran and Chad.

According to the report, the global gender gap has been closed by 68.1 per cent in 2022. “At the current rate, it will take 132 years to reach full parity. This represents a slight four-year improvement compared to the 2021 estimate (136 years to parity).”

However, the report noted that in the trends leading up to 2020, the gender gap was set to close within 100 years.

Pakistan was among the five countries with a gender gap greater than 5 per cent, with the other countries being Qatar, Azerbaijan, China and India, Dawn reported.

The report stated that Pakistan has closed 56.4 per cent of the gender gap in 2022 — the highest overall level of parity the country has posted since the report launched in 2006.

Pakistan was also ranked as the second-worst country in the region. According to the report, Bangladesh, which is ranked 71 globally, is the top country in the region, followed by Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bhutan, India, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Dawn reported.

South Asia has the widest gender gap on the economic participation and opportunity subindex, having closed only 35.7 per cent of it, the report stated. While the overall score improved compared to last year, “considerable country divergences” downgraded South Asia’s ranking among regions.

“Highly populated countries are for the most part driving variation within this subindex. For example, increases in the share of women in professional and technical roles were most notable in Nepal, Bangladesh and India. On the other hand, the shares in Iran, Pakistan and Maldives regressed, with less impact on overall regional performance.”

South Asia has one of the lowest regional gender parity scores for the health and survival subindex, at 94.2 per cent, the report stated.

“In this subindex, only Sri Lanka has closed its gender gap, while Afghanistan, Pakistan and India are among the worst-performing countries globally.

South Asia has the fourth-highest regional performance on the political empowerment subindex, having achieved 26.3 per cent of gender parity. The movement stems in part from the reduction of gender gap scores in countries where women’s share of years in political leadership for the past 50 years is reduced, for example in India, according to the report, Dawn reported. (IANS)

US Inflation Hits 40-Year-High, At 9.1% In June

U.S. inflation surged to a new four-decade high in June because of rising prices for gas, food and rent, squeezing household budgets and pressuring the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates aggressively — trends that raise the risk of a recession.

The government’s consumer price index soared 9.1% over the past year, the biggest yearly increase since 1981, with nearly half of the increase due to higher energy costs. 

Lower-income and Black and Hispanic American have been hit especially hard, since a disproportionate share of their income goes toward essentials such as transportation, housing and food. But with the cost of many goods and services rising faster than average incomes, a vast majority of Americans are feeling the pinch in their daily routines.

For 72-year-old Marcia Freeman, who is retired and lives off of a pension, there is no escape from rising expenses.

“Everything goes up, including cheaper items like store brands,” said Freeman, who visited a food bank near Atlanta this week to try and gain control of her grocery costs. Grocery prices have jumped 12% in the past year, the steepest climb since 1979.

Accelerating inflation is a vexing problem for the Federal Reserve, too. The Fed is already engaged in the fastest series of interest rate hikes in three decades, which it hopes will cool inflation by tamping down borrowing and spending by consumers and businesses.

The U.S. economy shrank in the first three months of the year, and many analysts believe the trend continued in the second quarter.

“The Fed’s rate hikes are doing what they are supposed to do, which is kill off demand,” said Megan Greene, global chief economist at the Kroll Institute. “The trick is if they kill off too much and we get a recession.” 

The likelihood of larger rate hikes this year pushed stock indexes lower in afternoon trading. The central bank is expected to raise its key short-term rate later this month by a hefty three-quarters of a point, as it did last month.

As consumers’ confidence in the economy declines, so have President Joe Biden’s approval ratings, posing a major political threat to Democrats in the November congressional elections. Forty percent of adults said in a June AP-NORC poll that they thought tackling inflation should be a top government priority this year, up from just 14% who said so in December.

After years of low prices, a swift rebound from the 2020 pandemic recession — combined with supply-chain snags — ignited inflation.

Consumers unleashed a wave of pent-up spending, spurred by vast federal aid, ultra-low borrowing costs and savings they had built up while hunkering down. As home-bound Americans spent heavily on furniture, appliances and exercise equipment, factories and shipping companies struggled to keep up and prices for goods soared. Russia’s war against Ukraine further magnified energy and food prices.

In recent months, as COVID fears have receded, consumer spending has gradually shifted away from goods and toward services. Yet rather than pulling down inflation by reducing goods prices, the cost of furniture, cars, and other items has kept rising, while restaurant costs, rents and other services are also getting more expensive.

The year-over-year leap in consumer prices last month followed an 8.6% annual jump in May. From May to June, prices rose 1.3%, following a 1% increase from April to May.

Fuelled by increase in the prices of oil, shelter and food, the inflation rate in the US rose to 9.1 per cent in June. The inflation rate rise was the largest 12-month increase since the period ending November 1981.

The US Bureau of Labour Statistics said: “Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 9.1 percent before seasonal adjustment.”

“The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 1.3 per cent in June on a seasonally adjusted basis after rising 1.0 per cent in May,” it said.

According to the Bureau, the increase was broad-based, with the indexes for gasoline, shelter, and food being the largest contributors.

The energy index rose 7.5 per cent over the month and contributed nearly half of the all items increase, with the gasoline index rising 11.2 per cent and the other major component indexes also rising.

The food index rose 1.0 percent in June, as did the food at home index.

The all items – less food and energy – index rose 5.9 per cent over the last 12 months. The energy index rose 41.6 percent over the last year, the largest 12-month increase since the period ending April 1980.

The food index increased 10.4 per cent for the 12-months ending June, the largest 12-month increase since the period ending February 1981. (IANS)

Stone Pillar Found In Tamil Nadu May Shed Light On India’s Oldest Jewish Synagogue

An ancient stone pillar dating back to the 13th century CE in southern India was found containing inscriptions relating to the area’s old Jewish community, according to Indian media reports.

History and archaeology researchers stumbled upon a 13 AD stone pillar, which reportedly had information on Jewish trade links, in Tamil Nadu’s Ramanathapuram district.

Scholars and students of the Ramanathapuram Archaeological Research Foundation said that the stone pillar, which was unearthed at Valantharavai in Ramanathapuram, is a pointer to the trade that had taken place in this area with foreign areas.

The pillar is three feet long and one foot wide and on all four sides, there are inscriptions. The first side, according to scholars, has 21 Tamil lines, the second side has 14 lines while the third side has 15 lines. The inscriptions on the fourth side are not clear.

On the eastern side of the pillar, details of Valaicherry and narrow way are inscribed, while on the southern side, the estates of Thirumudhucholasilai Chettiar, Pathinenbhumi Jeyabalan and Koothan Devanar are mentioned, and Nalu Natani Sona sandhi, Srichola peruntheru, tharisapalli wall, Pizhar Palli, tharisapalli south wall are inscribed on the western side.

“Suthapalli is a Jewish worship place. The trade guild of Ainutruvar had built a Palli (church) for Jews in Periyapattinam. A Hebrew epitaph of a Jewish woman named Mariam at Periyapattinam is mentioned in the Archaeological Survey of India’s Annual Report on Epigraphy 1946-47,” he explained. Nalu Natani Sona sandhi is said to be a meeting place for nanadesi (Tamil word: Nalu Natani) traders.

“There are places and gardens here that once belonged to the trade guilds of Ainutruvar, Pathinenbhumi, and Nanadesi. Based on the writing style, the inscription apparently dates between 1200-1250 AD,” he added.

“The inscriptions begin with ‘swasti shri’ and mention the boundaries of the land donated to Suthapalli or Ainutruvan Perumpalli,” scholar and Ramanathapuram Archaeological Research Foundation President V. Rajaguru told IANS.

He said that Suthapalli is a Jewish worship place and according to the Archeological Survey of India records on epigraphy had mentioned a Hebrew epitaph of a Jewish woman named Mariam at Periapattanam. He also said that based on the writing style the inscriptions apparently dated between 1200-1250 AD. 

As per reports, considering how vast India is and the varying backgrounds of these communities, they formed some distinct traditions, learning different languages and so on. One of these Jewish communities were known as the Jews of Madras, also known as the Chennai Jews. These consisted of Paradesi Jews, meaning Jews who came to India following the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, with the world Paradesi being derived from a Malayalam word for “foreign.”

As they came to India following the Alhambra Decree expelling all Jews from Spain, these Jews were largely Sephardi, and as such had many links to other Sephardi Jewish communities. In particular, the Paradesi Jews who came to Madras – now Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu – tended to work as traders and merchants and spoke Ladino, though they soon learned Tamil.

Today, this community largely no longer exists. In fact, it was reported in 2020 that Tamil Nadu’s last Jewish family left.

However, while this is the longest and most established Jewish presence in Tamil Nadu, it doesn’t seem to be the earliest. After all, the Paradesi Jews only came to Tamil Nadu in the 15th and 16th centuries, whereas this latest finding is several hundred years older.

Three of the other groups of Jews in India claim to have been there longer. The Bnei Menashe and Bene Ephraim Jews are both groups who converted to Judaism but claim ancestry from the 10 lost tribes.

Another relevant group were the Nagercoil Jews: Arabian Jews who supposedly came to India around 52 CE and were known to have been as far south as Cochin, also in southern India. But overall, Jewish history in India may predate most of these groups.

The Cochin Jews traditionally date their arrival in the subcontinent during the reign of King Solomon, specifically some immigrating after the destruction of the First Temple. There are records that seem to show the presence of Jews near Cochin after the destruction of the Second Temple, as well, but the first significant piece of evidence is a trade deed from 849 CE with a Hebrew signature among it.

“Jewish trade links with southern India going back to 9-10th centuries (CE) are well established and documented,” Indian Ambassador to Israel Sanjeev Singla said in an emailed statement. “During his historic visit to Israel in July 2017, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had gifted a replica of two copper plates one of which was inscribed in mid-9th century in an ancient Tamil script and is believed to be the earliest documentation of Jewish trade with India.”

These copper plates are arguably the most famous relic relating to the presence of Jews in Cochin, which are a royal charter given to Jewish merchant Joseph Rabban, who was involved with the Anjuvannam, around 1,000 CE and is clear evidence of Jewish presence in the area.

Noably, Cochin is located in the modern state of Kerala, itself one of the southernmost states of India directly bordering Tamil Nadu.

The stone pillar

The stone was supposedly brought to the area where it was discovered by a resident of nearby Valanthariai 80 years ago for use in construction.

It was now found by Ramanathapuram Archaeological Research Foundation president V Rajaguru, who claimed that the stone was being used to wash clothes, according to a report in the Times of India.

According to Rajaguru, the stone had 50 total inscriptions, though one side of it had its inscriptions destroyed.

The text, analyzed by epigraphist S. Rajagopal, reportedly spoke of a trade guild known as Ainnurruvar constructing Suthapalli in the Ramanathapuram district, specifically in the port village of Periyapattinam, as well as further mentions to the construction of Tharisapalli and Pizharpalli.

Now, what does this mean?

First off, the Ainnurruvar are a well-known medieval merchant guild from Tamil Nadu who were one of the most prominent merchant guilds of their era – and merchant guilds already had significant influence at this time.

Several inscriptions have been found attesting to their existence and activities, and they were heavily intertwined with the expansion of the Chola Empire and have even been found in faraway Sumatra in modern-day Indonesia.

They also were known to have operated around the same time as the Anjuvannam, another merchant guild that mainly consisted of non-Indian traders, which usually included Arabs and Persians – specifically including Syrian Christians, Muslims, Zoroastrians and Jews. 

Next there is the term Suthapalli.  Note that the inscription was written in Tamil. As such, the exact spelling of these transliterations may differ.

This is important because Suthapalli may actually be pronounced as Yudapalli, due to how the Tamil language works. The suffix “palli” means place of worship that were not temples associated with Shaivism and Vaishnavism, with Yudapalli therefore meaning Jewish place of worship.

This is further supported by other lines in the text. Tharisapalli is known from other evidence in Kerala and is considered to be a Syrian Christian church.

Pizharpalli, meanwhile, is Islamic and, according to reports, likely refers to Periyapattinam’s Jalal Jamal Mosque.

We can see more evidence for this in Malayalam, where “palli” is also used to refer to an Abrahamic house of worship. There, a synagogue would have been called Jootha Palli.

“The recent archaeological discoveries in Ramanathapuram are yet another proof of the fact that the Jewish community lived peacefully in India throughout the years.”

The implications of the findings

Though the Chennai Jews would not properly arrive in Tamil Nadu for some time, the activity of Jewish merchants and the prominence of the Cochin Jewish community shows that it is far from unfeasible. 

Interestingly, the Cochin Jews built a number of synagogues in Kerala throughout their history, supposedly including in the 12th and 13th centuries. However, this is backed by some shaky evidence rooted in oral tradition rather than archaeological findings.

Currently, despite the long presence of the Cochin Jewish community in the area, the oldest known synagogue in recorded history in southern India was the Kochangadi Synagogue, built in what is believed to have been in the 1340s CE.

However, the synagogue was eventually destroyed, believed to have been by Tipu Sultan’s troops during the Second Anglo-Mysore War in the late 18th century.

It was never rebuilt, though a stone from it containing a Hebrew inscription about it, including year of construction, was taken by the community and later used in the wall of another synagogue – today, it can be found in the Paradesi Synagogue in Mattancherry Jew Town in Kerala.

The Kochangadi stone is the oldest known Jewish relic from an Indian synagogue. However, with the discovery of this stone pillar in Tamil Nadu, that might not be the case much longer.

According to reports citing Rajaguru, the inscription on the stone dates between 1200 and 1250 CE. As such, it would indicate that a synagogue was built in Periyapattinam before the Kochangadi Synagogue was built.

And this isn’t too unfeasible either. Periyapattinam is a historic port city and the Ramanathapuram district was visited by several well-known historic travelers and chroniclers, such as Marco Polo. As such, it was a well-known place for merchants – the kind of place Jews would have been found.

But it is likely that this synagogue is no longer around. What fate befell it, though, remains a mystery. It is still proof, though, of how far back the Jewish community in India goes.

“The recent archaeological discoveries in Ramanathapuram are yet another proof of the fact that the Jewish community lived peacefully in India throughout the years,” the Israeli Embassy in India said in a statement following these discoveries. “The foundation of the strong friendship between Israel and India were laid centuries ago and it is part of the basis of our relations in modern days.”  (With inputs from Jerusalem Post)

Americans Are Discontented With Biden, Economy, State Of The Country

The summer of 2022 is a season of deepening and widespread discontent, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS. The survey finds the public’s outlook on the state of the country the worst it’s been since 2009, while its view on the economy is the worst since 2011. And nearly 7 in 10 say President Joe Biden hasn’t paid enough attention to the nation’s most pressing problems. 

Biden’s approval rating in the poll stands at 38%, with 62% disapproving. His approval ratings for handling the economy (30%) and inflation (25%) are notably lower. Rising costs are a primary economic pressure for most Americans: 75% call inflation and the cost of living the most important economic problem facing their family. Last summer, that figure stood at 43%.

With midterm elections approaching, the poll finds no indication that Biden’s standing with the public is improving — and among some critical constituencies, it is worsening. Among Democrats, for example, Biden’s approval numbers have softened by 13 points since the spring (from 86% in a late April through early May poll to 73% now), while his numbers among independents and Republicans have held about even. Biden’s approval rating among Democrats for handling the economy is also on the decline (62% approve, down from 71% this spring). And on inflation, it is barely above water (51% of Democrats approve, 47% disapprove).

Among people of color, 45% now approve of Biden’s overall performance, down from 54% in the spring. That decline includes a 6-point dip among Black adults and a 9-point decline among Hispanic adults. Biden’s approval ratings for handling the economy and inflation now break negative among Black adults, who have been among the President’s strongest backers (47% approve and 52% disapprove on the economy, while 34% approve and 65% disapprove on inflation).

Few Americans who approve of Biden’s overall performance say they do so strongly. Overall, just 12% strongly approve of the way Biden is handling the presidency compared with 43% who say they strongly disapprove of his work. Only 28% of Democrats strongly approve, while among Republicans, strong disapproval is nearly universal at 84%. 

The public’s perceptions of the economy and of how things are going in the country overall are deeply negative and worsening. Since the spring, the share saying things are going badly for the country has climbed 11 points to 79%, the highest since February 2009, and shy of the all-time worst reached in November 2008 by just four points. That shift comes largely among Democrats. Just 38% of Democrats now say things are going well in the country, down from 61% this spring. Likewise, there’s been a steep drop among people of color, from 41% saying things were going well in the spring to 27% now. 

Only 18% of Americans describe the nation’s economy as in good shape, while 82% say economic conditions are poor. About 4 in 10 (41%) describe the economy as “very poor,” up 11 points since the spring and nearly doubled since December. As some economists warn of a looming recession, most Americans think the country is already there. The poll finds 64% of Americans feel the economy is currently in a recession, higher than the shares who said so just ahead of the Great Recession (46% felt that way in October 2007) and a recession that began in 2001 (44% said the country was already in a recession in February ’01). Majorities across parties say the country is already in a recession, including 56% of Democrats, 63% of independents and 76% of Republicans. 

Asked to name the biggest economic problem facing their family today, 75% call out an issue related to the cost of living or inflation, including 38% who mentioned inflation and rising costs generally, 29% who mention gas prices, and 18% who mention the cost of food. All of those figures have increased sharply since last summer. One poll participant said, “Prices on everything just keeps getting higher and higher. is it going to stop?” Another said, “I work 40+ hours and can barely afford to survive. With the price of gas and price of food so high, I don’t see how anyone can have extra money to do anything other than work.” And a third participant said, “Inflation causes so much pain with everything we buy and everything we do.” 

While the public’s attention has shifted sharply to inflation, few think the President’s focus has followed. In the poll, 68% say Biden has not paid enough attention to the country’s most important problems, up from 58% who said so last November. That outpaces the previous high in CNN polling saying a President’s attention has been misplaced (59% saying Donald Trump hadn’t paid attention to the most important problems in late summer 2017). 

On this question too, Biden is losing ground among his core support groups. Among Democrats, 57% say he has the right priorities, down nearly 20 points from 75% last fall. Among people of color, just 35% say he has the right priorities, and among those younger than 35, only 23% say the President has the right focus. 

The poll finds Biden’s approval ratings for handling immigration (39%) and the situation in Ukraine (46%) outperforming those for economic issues, but majorities disapprove on both issues. 

The survey also suggests both the President’s and vice president’s personal favorability has taken a hit. A year and a half ago, just before their inauguration, 59% held a favorable opinion of Biden and 51% had a favorable view of Kamala Harris. Now, those figures stand at 36% and 32% respectively. Meanwhile, the public’s view of first lady Jill Biden is mixed: 34% have a favorable opinion, 29% unfavorable and 37% are unsure how they feel about her. 

The new CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS June 13 through July 13 among a random national sample of 1,459 adults initially reached by mail, and is the third survey CNN has conducted using this methodology. Surveys were either conducted online or by telephone with a live interviewer. (Courtesy; www.cnn.com)

280,000 Green Cards Up For Grabs Before September Deadline

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is racing against time to issue 280,000 green cards before the fiscal year ends on September 30.

While closures and limited operations at US embassies and consular offices through the pandemic led to high numbers of available employment-based green cards, as of mid-June 2022, USCIS and the US Department of State (DOS) have used significantly more visas than at the same point in FY 2021. USCIS alone using more than twice as many visas on a weekly basis than it was at this point in FY 2021.

Through May 31, 2022, the two agencies have combined to use 149,733 employment-based immigrant visas. “We remain committed to taking every viable policy and procedural action to maximize our use of all available visas by the end of the fiscal year,” the USCIS said in a statement.

Data from the US visa office shows that the US government had 66,781 unused employment-based green cards in the 2021 fiscal year, even as 1.4 million immigrants are queued up for it. A majority of these are Indians, who have been stuck in the green card backlog for years.

“We remain committed to taking every viable policy and procedural action to maximize our use of all available visas by the end of the fiscal year,” the USCIS said in a statement.

Data from the US visa office shows that the US government had 66,781 unused employment-based green cards in the 2021 fiscal year, even as 1.4 million immigrants are queued up for it. A majority of these are Indians, who have been stuck in the green card backlog for years.

USCIS eventually issued 180,000 green cards last year—more than a typical year but still falling short of the total available. The processing time for employer sponsored green cards crossed the three-year wait time in 2022.

Doordarshan Launches “Swaraj,” A 75-Episode Serial On India’s Freedom Struggle

Coinciding with Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, Doordarshan is all set to come up with a 75-episode series titled Swaraj, which will narrate the untold stories of unsung heroes of India. According to reports, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) has launched the promo of Doordarshan’s mega historical show titled “Swaraj- Bharat Ke Swatantrata Sangram Ki Samagra Gatha” on July 15,2022.

The 75-episode docu-drama series will depict India’s freedom struggle from the 15th century when Vasco da Gama first reached India to 1947 when the country got independence. “This serial will bring to life several aspects of Indian history while featuring the lives and sacrifices of lesser known heroes,” a press release noted.

Among the new content, Swaraj, a 75-episodes mega show illustrating the glorious history of India’s freedom struggle and lesser-known tales about Indian history would be aired soon. The series will showcase India’s historical journey from 1498 when Vasco da Gama first reached India to 1947 when the country got independence. The popular film actor, Manoj Joshi, plays a stellar role as the narrator (sutradhar) of the serial. The serial has grand production quality and promises to be a visual treat.

Swaraj is to be launched on 14th August 2022 in Hindi on DD National and subsequently in several regional languages for telecast on the regional network of Doordarshan. Its audio version will be broadcast on the All India Radio network as well. Speaking during the promo launch, Anurag Singh Thakur said “The promo is not only a glimpse of what was envisioned during the freedom struggle but it is also a glimpse of what will be the New Doordarshan of New India.” 

He said that from Chitrahar to Samachar, the programs of DD used to have quality. The minister added, “We will ensure that it is further enhanced in the coming years.” He appreciated the efforts of the research and advisory team of ‘Swaraj’ for continuing their work despite the COVID-19 pandemic. He also emphasised that the telecast of Swaraj in 10 languages will amplify its accessibility for all. The minister congratulated the whole team of Doordarshan and All India Radio on the successful launch. Secretary, Ministry of I&B, Apurva Chandra, who also attended the launch event said, “On the occasion of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, it is a matter of great joy that through the serial youth will come to know about the contribution of people who made sacrifices in the freedom struggle.” He also said that Prasar Bharati is fulfilling its mandate of wholesome entertainment through such high-quality serials for its viewers. Member, Swaraj Advisory Committee, Jawahar Lal Kaul in his address stressed the point that unsung and lesser-known heroes of India’s freedom struggle from all the regions must be remembered for their supreme sacrifice for Swaraj. He said that the deep research and study by the Swaraj Advisory Committee enriched the content for the production of the serial.

12 Indian Basketball Players Make History While Competing For $1 Million On ESPN

For the FIRST TIME in international sports history, 12 Indian-origin athletes from around the globe will compete in the highest stakes basketball tournament in the world. 

India Rising is fondly nicknamed “The Avengers of Brown Basketball” by co-founder, former assistant coach of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings and current Egyptian national team head coach Roy Rana. The team will be one of 64 competing in The Basketball Tournament (TBT), a single-elimination, eight-region competition that tips off on Friday, June 22 at 7 p.m. EST in Syracuse, NY, on ESPN, who will award the 2022 champion $1 million. 

“I spent most of my life praying, waiting, hoping, dreaming to see people who looked like me on these sports channels, and I’m done waiting,” said Gautam Kapur, co-founder and general manager of India Rising and former strategy manager at the NBA. “Growing up, I was always tall and naturally gravitated to basketball, but didn’t really have any role models who looked like me. Now, there are more than 60 professional, Indian-origin ballers worldwide, and nobody knows they exist. India Rising, the new home for brown athletes, aims to change that.”

“There are a lot of talented guys on this team, and this is only the beginning,” said Josh Sharma, India Rising’s seven-foot forward and former Stanford University Cardinal. “So, I think this is going to be that stepping stone for not only everybody on the team but the next generation of Indian ballers, so that the world recognizes the talent coming out of our community.”

This historic All-Star roster represents a diverse pool of talent from all corners of the world, including the NBA, G League, NBL (England, Australia), USports (Canada), 3×3 Leagues and multiple FIBA national teams.

“Winning games is our main priority right now, and secondly, it’s creating a sense of community for (Indian) athletes,” said Navin Ramharak, India Rising COO. “We’re creating a brotherhood and that goes beyond the game of basketball. Our third, and most important, goal is defeating cultural stereotypes. You don’t even need to necessarily win games to defeat stereotypes, but it helps the narrative tremendously. We want to start a cultural movement that if you’re Indian and looking to move into athletics, there’s a home for you to play and a community for you to belong.”

India Rising is currently fundraising to shoot a documentary series about their journey at the TBT, as well as the larger story of brown athletes in the international basketball ecosystem. To get involved or for more information, please visit the organization’s website www.indiarising.co

India Rising squares off against Syracuse Alumni team Boeheim’s Army
(No. 1 seed & defending champions of TBT 2021) in Game One on Friday, June 22, 2022 at 7 p.m. EST on ESPN. More than 15 million fans are expected to tune in!

Voice Of Dissent Is Necessary For A Healthy Democracy

A Delhi court In India granted bail to Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair in the case involving his 2018-tweet. The court invoked Hindu religion in its bail order to argue that his tweet did not appear violative of Section 153A (communal enmity) and 295A IPC (insulting religion).

He had posted an image from the 1983-movie Kissi Se Na Kehna, showing a hotel’s name changing from Honeymoon Hotel to Hanuman Hotel. He wrote: “Before 2014: Honeymoon Hotel. After 2014: Hanuman Hotel.”

“The voice of dissent is necessary for healthy democracy. Therefore, merely for the criticism of any political parties it is not justified to invoke Section 153A and 295A of Indian Penal Code,” the court said.

Zubair continues to be in jail over other FIRs registered against him in Uttar Pradesh, where he is facing six cases in Hathras (two), Ghaziabad, Muzaffarnagar, Lakhimpur Kheri, and Sitapur over his tweet or calling certain persons “hatemongers”.

“Hindu religion is one of the oldest religions and most tolerant. The followers of the Hindu religion are also tolerant. Hindu religion is so tolerant that its followers proudly name their institution/organization/facilities in the name of their Holy God or Goddess,” the court said.

“Naming of an institute, facility or organization or child in the name of Hindu deity on the face of it is not violative of Section 153A and 295A IPC, unless the same is done with malice/guilty intention.”

The court noted that the police have not identified the Twitter users who complained saying they were offended by Zubair’s tweet. “The statement of this aggrieved person/witness under Section 161 CrPC is not yet recorded. The police have failed to record the statement under the Section.”

On the charge of illegal foreign contribution, the court observed that prima facie the accused has taken all the safeguard to prevent the receipt of any foreign contribution.

India Hammer England By 5 Wickets, Win Series 2-1

Hardik Pandya’s impressive all-round show along with Rishabh Pant’s fantastic maiden century in the 50-over cricket helped India thrash England by five wickets in the third and final ODI and win the three-match series 2-1 at Old Trafford, here on Sunday.

All-rounder Hardik Pandya (4/24) and leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal’s (3/60) superb bowling efforts helped India bowl out England for 259 in 45.5 overs.

Skipper Jos Buttler played a vital knock (60 off 80) for England, who were invited to bat first by India captain Rohit Sharma. Apart from Buttler, Jason Roy (41), Moeen Ali (34), and Craig Overton (32) were the other main contributors with the bat for the hosts. Besides Pandya and Chahal, Mohammed Siraj (2/66), and Ravindra Jadeja (1/21) were the other wicket-takers for India.

Chasing a challenging total, India were in deep, deep trouble at 72-4 in 16.2 overs after losing the wickets of Shikhar Dhawan (1), Rohit Sharma (17), Virat Kohli (17), Suryakumar Yadav (16).

But Hardik and Pant batted sensibly, found regular boundaries and stitched a match-winning stand of 133 runs. Pandya (71 off 55) got out in the 36th over of the innings when India needed 55 runs.

However, Pant became even more aggressive and went on to hit his first ODI century. He remained not out (125 off 113) and along with Ravindra Jadeja (7 not out off 15) helped India to a thumping five-wicket victory in 42.1 overs.

Reece Topley (3/35) was England’s most successful bowler while Brydon Carse (1/45) and Craig Overton (1/54) also chipped in with one wicket each.

Brief scores: England 259 all out in 45.5 overs (Jos Buttler 60, Jason Roy 41; Hardik Pandya 4/24, Yuzvendra Chahal 3/60) lost to India 261-5 in 42.1 Overs (Rishabh Pant 125 not out, Hardik Pandya 71; Reece Topley 3/35) by five wickets.

India Elects New President

India held Presidential Elections on July 18th, 2022 with 99.18 percent voter turnout from the eligible voters to elect a new ceremonial head of the largest democracy in the world. The ruling coalition led by Shri Narendra Modi supported NDA candidate Droupadi Murmu has a clear edge over the Opposition nominee Yashwant Sinha as over 60 per cent votes are expected to be cast in her favor. With NDA Presidential candidate Droupadi Murmu set for a near-certain win, she will be the 15th President of the Republic of India. 

As per media reports, over 99 per cent of the total 4,796 electors cast their votes in the presidential poll held at the Parliament House and the state legislative assemblies.  As many as 10 states and the Union Territory of Puducherry recorded a 100 per cent turnout.

Secretary General of Rajya Sabha PC Mody on Monday informed that out of the 736 electors comprising 727 MPs and 9 Legislative Assembly members, who were permitted by ECI to vote, 730 electors comprising 721 MPs & 9 Legislative Assembly members cast their votes. He also said that elector turnout was at 99.18%.

National Democratic Alliance (NDA) candidate Droupadi Murmu has a clear edge over Sinha as over 60 per cent of votes are expected to be polled in her favor. She has the support of BJD, YSRCP, BSP, AIADMK, TDP, JD(S), Shiromani Akali Dal, Shiv Sena and JMM.  If elected, she will become the first woman from the tribal community to hold the country’s top constitutional post.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, chief ministers from across the country, and other MPs and MLAs cast their votes on Monday morning. In all, around 4,800 MPs and MLAs have cast their votes to elect the 15th President of India. The counting of votes will take place on July 21 while the next President will take oath on July 25.

Appealing to lawmakers for support, Opposition nominee Yashwant Sinha stated, “I have repeatedly said that this election is very important as it will decide the direction as to whether democracy will remain in India or will slowly end.” 

BJP MP and film actor Sunny Deol and Union Minister Sanjay Dhotre were among those who missed casting their votes in the presidential poll. While Deol is abroad for medical treatment, Dhotre is in the ICU. Two MPs each from BJP and Shiv Sena, and one each from the BSP, Congress, SP and AIMIM were among those who did not cast their votes during the election, media reports stated.

BSP leader Atul Singh who is in jail could not vote. Shiv Sena leaders, Gajanan Kirtikar and Hemant Godse, also did not vote. AIMIM leader Imtiyaz Jaleel also was among the eight who did not vote. Senior leaders like Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman came in a PPE, while former PM Manmohan Singh and SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav came in wheelchairs to cast their votes. 

Droupadi Murmu, a tribal leader from Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district to trace her journey, is said to be the first girl in her village to go to college to now being possibly India’s first tribal president. Murmu is a former Governor of Jharkhand and a former Odisha minister. If elected, she will be the first tribal President of India and the country’s second female President.

The current President, Ram Nath Kovind, who was elected the 14th President in 2017, will remain President till July 24th 2022. As the country will get a new President on July 25th, here is a list of the previous Presidents, who occupied the Presidential Palace, Raisina Hill at the heart of India’s capital, New Delhi. 

Rajendra Prasad (1950 – 1962): Rajendra Prasad was the first President of Independent India and stayed in office for the longest term of around 12 years. Post the completion of his tenure, he quit the Congress and set up new guidelines for parliamentarians which are still followed. Prasad played a major role in forming the Bihari Students Conference in 1906 and served as the president of the Constituent Assembly that drafted the Constitution of India.

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1962 – 1967): September 5, the birthday of Radhakrishnan, one of the most learned scholars and statesmen of the nation, is celebrated as ‘Teacher’s Day’ in India. He was one of the first to receive the Bharat Ratna, in 1954, and was also the first to lead the line of five Presidents to receive the Bharat Ratna till now. Shortly before his death in 1975, he was honoured with the Templeton Prize for his work.

Dr. Zakir Hussain (1967 – 1969): Dr. Hussain was the country’s first Muslim president, who occupied the office for the shortest period. His untimely death two years after being elected made VV Giri the first acting president of India.

Varahagiri Venkata Giri (1969-1974): Giri resigned two months after being appointed as the acting President of India, following the death of Dr. Zakir Hussaian as he wanted to become an elected President. He was later elected as the fourth President of India in 1969.

Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed (1974 – 1977): Ahmed served as the President of India during the time of Emergency. He was the second Muslim to be elected as the President of India and also the second to die in state.

Neelam Sanjiva Reddy (1977 – 1982): Reddy was the sixth President of India and the first to be elected unopposed and the youngest to occupy Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Giani Zail Singh (1982 – 1987): The only Sikh President of India till now, Singh also served as the Chief Minister of Punjab.

Ramaswamy Venkataraman (1987 – 1992): As a President of India, Venkataraman had the distinction of working with four Prime Ministers. Before being elected as the President, Venkataraman served a stint as the Governor of the International Monetary Fund, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the Asian Development Bank.

Shankar Dayal Sharma (1992 – 1997): Shankar Dayal Sharma served as the eighth Vice-President of India and was the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh state.

Kocheril Raman Narayanan (1997 – 2002): Popularly known as KR Narayanan, he was the first Dalit-origin President of India. Narayanan, who formerly served as a diplomat, served as India’s ambassador to China and the United States.

APJ Abdul Kalam (2002 – 2007): Known for his role in the development of India’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs, APJ Abdul Kalam was the first scientist to become a President in 2002.

Pratibha Patil (2007 – 2012): Pratibha Patil was the first woman to become the President of India.

Pranab Mukherjee (2012 – 2017): Pranab Mukherjee served as the 13th President of India. Before entering into politics, Mukherjee worked as a lecturer and journalist. Mukherjee is the only President who served all the major portfolios as the Centre – Foreign, Defense, Commerce and Finance – at different times in his political career.

2 Billion Covid Vaccinations Given In India

India celebrated its dedication commitment to prevent Covid virus as it has now provided over two billion Billion Vaccines to its 1.4 billion people. Celebrations were across the nation, after India administered 2 billion doses of vaccinations against COVID-19. 

According to reports compiled by Reuters, Macau kicked off an 11th round of COVID-19 testing for residents on Monday, as the world’s biggest casino hub extended a lockdown of casinos and other businesses in the fight on its worst outbreak since the pandemic began.

DEATHS AND INFECTIONS

ASIA-PACIFIC

* The Indian government’s COVID-19 vaccinations hit 2 billion on Sunday, July 17yj with booster doses underway for all adults, as daily infections hit four-month high, official data showed.

* Japan’s daily COVID-19 infections hit a record of more than 110,000, Jiji news agency reported on Saturday. Faced with a seventh COVID wave, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has urged the public to exercise maximum vigilance.

* Shanghai will require residents across nine of the city’s districts and some smaller areas to undergo testing for COVID-19 over July 19-21 in an effort to stem any community spread of the virus, the city government said.

* North Korea is on the path to “finally defuse” a crisis stemming from its first acknowledged outbreak of COVID-19, the state news agency said, while Asian neighbours battle a fresh wave of infections driven by Omicron subvariants.

* China reported 598 new coronavirus cases for July 17, of which 167 were symptomatic and 431 were asymptomatic, the National Health Commission said.

EUROPE

* An estimated 3.5 million people in Britain had COVID-19 in the latest week of available data, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said on Friday, up nearly 30% on the 2.7 million recorded in the previous week.

* British athlete Morgan Lake was forced to pull out of the World Championships in Eugene, Oregon on Saturday after the 25-year-old tested positive for COVID-19.

* The Czech Republic will begin offering a second COVID-19 boosters from July 18, recommending the shot for people over 60 and those in risk groups, the Health Ministry said.

AMERICAS

* Canada authorized Moderna Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine for babies as young as 6 months old, making it the country’s first vaccine against coronavirus for children under 5, Health Canada said.

MEDICAL DEVELOPMENTS* Patients with long COVID may see some improvement after breathing pure oxygen in a high-air-pressure environment, according to data from a small Israeli trial.

* The European Medicines Agency identified severe allergic reactions as potential side-effects of Novavax Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine, a day after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorised the use of the shot.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

* China’s economy is facing pressure due to COVID-19 and external shocks, and the central bank will “increase implementation of prudent monetary policy” to support the real economy, China’s central bank Governor Yi Gang said.

* New Zealand’s consumer prices rose at their fastest pace in three decades, beating forecasts and raising the prospect of an unprecedented 75-basis-point interest rate hike at the central bank’s policy meeting next month.

* Asian shares inched higher on Monday following a much-needed bounce on Wall Street, but nerves are stretched ahead of a near-certain interest rate hike in Europe and another round of corporate earnings reports.

(Compiled by Rashmi Aich; editing by Uttaresh.V of Reuters: https://apac1.apps.cp.thomsonreuters.com/cms/?navid=1592404098 for a case tracker and summary of news.)

How India Keeps Both US And Russia Happy

The US House of Representatives has passed by voice vote a legislative amendment that approves waiver to New Delhi against the punitive CAATSA sanctions for its purchase of the S-400 missile defense system from Russia. However, the waiver will become effective only if the US Senate clears the amendment and the President signs it.

The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act or CAATSA is a tough US law that authorises Washington to impose sanctions on countries that purchase major defence hardware from Russia in response to the latter’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections.

The Trump administration sanctioned Turkey, a NATO ally, for purchasing the S-400 air defence systems from Russia.

In the face of a two-front military threat from China and Pakistan, India is procuring the Russian-made S-400 surface to-air missiles as part of a $5 billion deal signed in 2018. The systems will be deployed along northern and western borders.

The S-400 TRIUMF is considered one of the advanced air defense systems in the world. The long-range missile is capable of intercepting up to 36 targets simultaneously including aircraft, ballistic and cruise missiles.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs has said that New Delhi is pursuing an independent foreign policy and its defense acquisitions are guided by its national security interests.

India has abstained from voting against Russia, its trusted defence partner, at the UN over the issue of Ukraine war. At the same time, it has remained aligned with the US to counter China in the Indo-Pacific. Seen from this perspective, the CAATSA waiver could be a big boost for India’s strategic autonomy.

The US House of Representatives on Thursday passed a legislation measure that will urge the Biden administration to waive sanctions on India for purchasing Russian S-400 missile defence systems.

The measure passed in a voice vote as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2023 (the defense budget). To make it to President Joe Biden’s desk for enactment, it must be a part of the final legislation that comes out of a process called reconciliation in which bills passed by the House and Senate are made into one.

India is potentially facing US sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) for its purchase of the Russian 3-400s. The 2017 law seeks to punish Russia for the 2016 election interference and other issues by scaring away buyers of its defence equipment with the threat of secondary sanctions. China and Turkey, a NATO ally, are the only two countries sanctioned by the US under this law yet.

India has started receiving these systems, which technically should have triggered CAATSA sanctions, but the Biden administration has not publicly declared its intentions, either way.

The amendment that passed Thursday was introduced by Ro Khanna, an Indian American lawmaker from California who is now widely believed to be considering a run for the White House in 2024 if Biden decides to not run again.

“The United States must stand with India in the face of escalating aggression from China. As Vice Chair of the India Caucus, I have been working to strengthen the partnership between our countries and ensure that India can defend itself along the Indian Chinese border,” Khanna said in a statement. “This amendment is of the utmost importance, and I am proud to see it pass the House on a bipartisan basis.”

The amendment says India relies on Russian weapons because it faces “immediate and serious regional border threats” from China. And the US should take further steps to encourage India to accelerate its “transition off Russian-built weapons and defense systems”.

The amendment argues then that it’s in the best interest of the US and the US-India partnership to waive the sanction. “While India faces immediate needs to maintain its heavily Russian-built weapons systems, a waiver to sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act during this transition period is in the best interests of the United States and the United States-India defense partnership to deter aggressors in light of Russia and China’s close partnership,” it said as approved.

Talk of impending CAATSA sanctions has dogged India-US engagements from the time the law was enacted in 2017, under the Trump administration; it was a bipartisan congressional initiative and then President Donald Trump had no option but to sign. Then Defense Secretary James Mattis and then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had publicly pressed lawmakers to exempt India and other countries that used to be too heavily reliant on Russian military hardware.

Speculation about sanctions picked up in recent months as India began receiving the missiles. But there has been no public indication that the administration is considering them.

Rishi Sunak’s Rise Mirrors Britain’s New Growing Diversity

It could be called democracy’s diversity, or even colonialism’s counterblast. The race to succeed UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson by becoming the new leader of the Conservative Party, which espoused the Empire, imperialism and British national identity, has been swamped with contenders from former colonies in Asia and Africa. And at the end of the preliminary rounds, the son of immigrants from British East Africa was on top.

Rishi Sunak, UK’s former Chancellor of the Exchequer, or Finance Minister, whose sudden resignation set in motion the circumstances that forced an intransigent Johnson to finally bow out, has emerged the main contender at the end of two rounds of voting by the 358 Conservative MPs.

Picking up a quarter of the votes in the first round, he became the only one to get over three digits in the second round — and is followed by three women present and former ministers.

The initial race had a ethnically diverse list of candidates — British Pakistani ministers Sajid Javid and Rehman Chishti, Sunak’s Iraqi Kurd-born successor Nadhim Zahawi, Attorney General Suella Braverman, whose family’s roots are in Goa, and Nigerian-origin former minister Kemi Badenoch.

Sunak and Braverman’s fellow Indian-origin Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, chose to sit it out.

Javid and Chishti failed to get enough traction to even figure in the race, Zahawi bowed out after the first round, and Braverman after the second, leaving Sunak and Badenoch to contend against Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, and Tom Tugendhat, the backbench MP, who happens to be half-French.

It’s early days for Sunak, who has emphasised that identity of a person born in the UK but with origins elsewhere matters to him. He has to remain in the reckoning till there are only two contenders left in the race, at which point the decision will be left to the rank-and-file Conservative Party members across the cities, shires, hills and dales across the British Isles.

Suave, efficient, but also controversy-ridden, the former US-based investment banker, hedge fund operator, and three-time MP still has a chance to become the first non-ethnic Briton to become Prime Minister.

This, though, will not be entirely unusual — for such staunch British PMs as Winston Churchill and Harold Macmillan happened to be half-American (on their mothers’ side) and Johnson was born in the US, becoming the first non-UK-born Prime Minister since Andrew Bonar Law nearly a century ago (Bonar Law, however, was born in Canada, which was a part of the Empire.)

Born in Southhampton on May 12, 1980, Sunak is the son of (the then British) Kenya-born Yashvir Sunak and his wife, Tanganyika-born Usha, who grandparents were born in the Punjab Province of British India, and migrated to East Africa, and from there to the UK in the 1960s.

“My parents emigrated here, so you’ve got this generation of people who are born here, their parents were not born here, and they’ve come to this country to make a life,” he said in an interview with the BBC in 2019.

“In terms of cultural upbringing, I’d be at the temple at the weekend — I’m a Hindu — but I’d also be at (Southampton Football Club) the Saints game as well on a Saturday — you do everything, you do both,” he said, also revealing that he was fortunate not to have endured a lot of racism growing up, save for one incident, when he was with his younger siblings.

With his father a general practitioner, and his mother, a pharmacist, he had an easy childhood. He studied at a prep school in Hampshire, and then he was at the prestigious Winchester College, where he was head boy and editor of the school paper; during vacations, he worked at local curry restaurant.

Oxford was the next stop and he graduated in 2001. The same year, he was interviewed along with his parents for the BBC documentary “Middle Classes: Their Rise and Sprawl”. He was an analyst at investment bank Goldman Sachs till 2004, and then a hedge fund management firm till 2009, when he left to join former colleagues at a new hedge fund launched in October 2010.

In 2009, he married Akshata, daughter of Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy and writer Sudha Murthy, who’s also the chairperson of the Infosys Foundation. Sunak and Akshata have two daughters.

Engaged with the Conservative Party since his Oxford days, Sunak got into politics full-time in 2014 when was selected for the Richmond seat in north Yorkshire — one of the safest Conservative seats, which has been held by the party for more than a century — and won it in the 2015 elections by nearly 20,000 votes.

He retained it in the 2017, and 2019 elections, with increased majorities. His predecessor as Richmond MP was William Hague, now Baron Hague of Richmond, who held important cabinet position, Including Foreign Secretary, and was Leader of the House of Commons,

A staunch proponent of “Leave” in the Brexit referendum of 2016 and subsequent parliamentary votes, Sunak’s first government job was Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Local Government (2018-19) in the Theresa May government and then as Chief Secretary to the Treasury (2019-20) in the government of Johnson, whose leadership bid he had supported.

He replaced his boss Javid as Chancellor of the Exchequer in 2020, and while he mostly earned plaudits for steering the government’s economic response to the effects of the Covid-19 lockdown, he also became the first Chancellor to be found to have broken the law while in office by breaching lockdown norms.

His wife’s non-domicile status, which let her save huge amount of taxes in the country, also became a major controversy for him.

It is Sunak’s “treachery”, which set off the spate of resignations that forced Johnson’s resignation, that may just queer his chances to become Prime Minister. (IANS)

Takeaways from Biden’s Middle East trip

By, Alex Gangitano, Morgan Chalfant and Brett Samuels At The Hill

President Biden on Saturday, July 13th capped his first trip to the Middle East since taking office, a four-day visit that saw both progress and controversy.

The president met with Israeli officials to promote ties between the U.S. and Israel, as well as Palestinian officials amid efforts to maintain peace and foster collaboration in the region.

And Biden, who pledged on the campaign trail to make Saudi Arabia a global pariah over human rights violations, met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other officials about energy and defense issues, highlighting the way political realities have necessitated cooperation between the U.S. and the kingdom.

Here are five takeaways from Biden’s trip:

Biden wades into controversy with Saudi crown prince

Biden and his team had for weeks disputed that he was meeting with the Saudi crown prince, instead arguing Crown Prince Mohammed would merely be present at meetings with other leaders.

But one of the defining images of the trip depicted Biden fist-bumping the crown prince, prompting outrage from critics who raised concerns about his involvement in the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 

U.S. intelligence had concluded in a report released this year that the crown prince was involved in the plot to kill Khashoggi, an outspoken critic of the country.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) tweeted that the fist bump was a “visual reminder of the continuing grip oil-rich autocrats have on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.” Washington Post publisher Fred Ryan called the fist bump “shameful.”

A short time after the greeting, the president sat across a table from the crown prince as part of a meeting with Saudi leaders.

Biden later told reporters he raised Khashoggi’s murder at the very start of the meeting, and that he told the crown prince that he believed him responsible for Khashoggi’s death.

“I said, very straightforwardly, for an American president to be silent on the issue of human rights is inconsistent with who we are and who I am,” Biden said. “I’ll always stand up for our values.”

A White House fact sheet said that Biden in his meetings “received commitments with respect to reforms and institutional safeguards in place to guard against any such conduct in the future.”

No immediate breakthroughs on oil 

Biden emerged from his meetings in Saudi Arabia without an immediate deliverable on oil production, but he expressed optimism that oil-producing nations would take steps to boost the global supply in the coming months. 

White House officials downplayed the significance high gas prices would play in Biden’s trip, but high gas prices in the U.S. and global energy disruptions from Russia’s war in Ukraine were widely seen as primary motivators for the trip to Saudi Arabia, one of the biggest oil producers.

The president said in remarks Friday evening that he and Saudi ministers, as well as the crown prince, “had a good discussion on ensuring global energy security and adequate oil supplies.”

“I’m doing all I can to increase supply for the United States of America, which I expect to happen,” Biden said in remarks from Jeddah. “The Saudis share that urgency and based on our discussions today I expect we’ll see further steps in the coming weeks.”

The White House also emphasized a new framework between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia on clean energy production.

Experts said Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia was unlikely to produce any major announcement on oil production on its own, but that the president could nudge the kingdom in the hopes of a future move to free up more supply.

The White House is eyeing an August meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC+), a group of roughly a dozen nations that influence global oil supply, saying any major announcement would likely stem from that meeting.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Friday that any concrete action on oil supplies would need to result from a decision by OPEC+, of which Saudi Arabia is a de facto leader. 

During his meeting Saturday with the Gulf Cooperation Council, Biden said the nations agree on the need to ensure “adequate supplies to meet global needs” adding he was looking “forward to seeing what’s coming in the coming months.” 

Saudi Arabia, Israel inch toward normalization

Biden tried to carry on the work of his predecessor, former President Trump, to help Israel normalize relations with other Arab nations. His trip to the Middle East saw a modest, but meaningful, step in that direction. 

Saudi Arabia opened its airspace to all airlines, including those flying to and from Israel. The step was hailed by the White House as an important sign of progress toward normalization. Saudi Arabia is also reportedly going to allow direct flights from Israel transporting Muslims making the pilgrimage to Mecca. 

“This is the first tangible step on the path of what I hope will eventually be a broader normalization of relations,” Biden told reporters on Friday following meetings with Saudi officials. 

Biden in Israel also said he strongly supports the Abraham Accords, promoting the Trump-era normalization declarations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain that the Biden administration hopes to expand to other Arab nations. 

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid called the Saudi announcement a positive “first step” and said the Israeli government would “continue working with necessary caution, for the sake of Israel’s economy, security and the good of our citizens.” 

Biden tries to display toughness on Iran

Biden sought to assure Israel that the U.S. is committed to its security and preventing a nuclear Iran, while vowing to continue diplomatic efforts to piece back together the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.  

Speaking alongside Lapid at a press conference Thursday, Biden affirmed his belief that diplomacy remained the best path to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon but said the U.S. wouldn’t “wait forever” for Iran to return to the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

“We’re not circling a date on the calendar. The deal is on the table. Should the Iranians choose to take it, we’re ready for a compliance-for-compliance return,” Sullivan told reporters on Friday, adding that the U.S. was not waiting to put “further economic pressure” on Iran even as Biden seeks a return to the deal. 

Israel is opposed to the Obama-era nuclear deal, from which Trump withdrew the U.S. in 2018. The cracks between the two countries over Iran were on display at Thursday’s press conference, as Lapid said at the same press conference that “diplomacy will not stop them.”

“The only thing that will stop Iran is knowing that if they continue to develop their nuclear program the free world will use force,” Lapid said. 

In an interview with Israel’s Channel 12, Biden said the U.S. was willing to use force to prevent a nuclear Iran but only as a “last resort.” In a joint declaration signed by Biden and Lapid, the U.S. said it is “prepared to use all elements of its national power” to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. 

Biden’s domestic agenda takes hit while he’s overseas

Biden’s trip came as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) delivered a tough blow to his agenda, saying he would reject the climate spending and tax hikes on the wealthy in the budget reconciliation package.

The president in response called on the Senate to move forward with the slimmed-down health only reconciliation package before August recess since Manchin said he would only support a provision to lower prescription drug prices and a two-year extension of expiring health insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.  

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is pushing to move the reconciliation package to the floor before September. Biden vowed while on his trip to move on his climate agenda through executive action if it doesn’t pass in the Senate, which came during his conversations with Saudi leadership over energy security.

Gas prices in the U.S. have remained high, although are declining, but new inflation data this week showed that annual inflation hit 9.1 percent in June, the highest rate of price growth since November 1981. 

Biden returned to Washington with a sinking approval rating and support for his reelection in 2024 reaching record-lows among Democrats.

AAHOA Announces 2 Key Leadership Positions to Help Propel the Association Forward

AAHOA, the nation’s largest hotel owners association, announced today the promotion of Heather Carnes to EVP, Communications, and Chief Strategy Officer, and the hiring of Phelps Hope as its new EVP, Operations, and Chief Development Officer.

Following the announcement of Laura Lee Blake being named as AAHOA President & CEO in May 2022, these advancements further underscore the association’s aggressive and ambitious plans for the future, which include identifying and securing key leaders to carry out its strategic plan. 

Carnes has been a key member of the AAHOA team for three years and has dedicated nearly her entire career to the association space. During her tenure with AAHOA, she has garnered the respect of her team, AAHOA staff, volunteer leaders, and AAHOA partners, and continues to be a positive influence on the organization as a whole. 

In her new role, Carnes will focus on organizational strategy, marketing and communications, organizational culture and HR, education/program development, and strategic partnerships.

“It’s an incredibly important time for AAHOA and our industry,” Carnes said, who previously served as AAHOA’s VP of Marketing and Communications. “I’m thrilled to be moving into this new role where I can have an even greater impact on the organization, our overall strategic initiatives, and working alongside Laura Lee, Phelps, and the rest of the AAHOA team to make big things happen on behalf of our nearly 20,000 hotelier members.”

In addition to the promotion of Carnes, the hiring of Hope will continue to establish AAHOA as the industry leader in hosting top-quality and widely attended conventions, regional meetings, trade shows, town halls, and related meeting events. 

Hope brings more than 40 years of hotel, meetings, events, and tradeshow management experience to AAHOA.

Since 2005, Hope served as Senior Vice President, Meetings & Expositions, for Kellen Company – one of the world’s largest providers of management and services to associations and trade organizations – where he was responsible for the management of the meetings, events, and tradeshow division, overseeing more than 300 events annually and over $30M in client account revenues. 

Hope has held key positions both in Australia and the United States with Marriott, Sheraton, Hilton, and Loews Hotels, developing an in-depth understanding of hotel sales and operations. 

“AAHOA is a strong organization that is known for bringing the industry together,” Hope said. “To officially join the AAHOA team provides a great opportunity for me to  bring my breadth of experience in hospitality, event production, and association management full circle.”

Hope is a Certified Meetings Professional (CMP) and is familiar with every nuance of the meetings, tradeshow, and events production process, in addition to innovative ideas to grow the business, generate revenue, and service AAHOA’s Industry Partners and Vendor Members at the highest level.

In his new role at AAHOA, Hope will primarily focus on operations and development, including leading and structuring the teams concerning conventions, events, business development, membership growth and strategy, as well as technology and associated financing.

“As AAHOA continues to grow and advance, we need a top team of executive leaders to guide and promote the team members, as well as to initiate and establish the methods and framework to ensure success,” said AAHOA President & CEO Laura Lee Blake. “I have no doubt that Phelps and Heather will be successful in helping AAHOA reach new heights as they embrace their new roles and responsibilities.  This is just the beginning as we continue making plans for increased successes and achievements for our future.”

Blake will continue to directly oversee AAHOA’s legal, governance, government affairs, and franchise relations departments with the support of Hope and Carnes.

“It bears repeating that this is a new day and a new start for AAHOA,” Blake said. With Carnes and Hope taking their places as EVPs for AAHOA, their leadership skills will help AAHOA build a strong foundation, and I am delighted they will be assisting us in continuing to transform the vision of AAHOA into reality.”   

AAHOA is the largest hotel owners association in the nation, with Member-owned properties representing a significant part of the U.S. economy. AAHOA’s 20,000 members own 60% of the hotels in the United States and are responsible for 1.7% of the nation’s GDP. More than one million employees work at AAHOA member-owned hotels, earning $47 billion annually, and member-owned hotels support 4.2 million U.S. jobs across all sectors of the hospitality industry. AAHOA’s mission is to advance and protect the business interests of hotel owners through advocacy, industry leadership, professional development, member benefits, and community engagement.

‘83’ To Be Celebrated At Indian Film Festival Of Melbourne

Legendary cricketer Kapil Dev will be seen gracing the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne 2022. Coming back after 2 years of virtually organizing the event, IFFM will now be physically held in the Australian city from August 12th to 20th, and the former Indian captain will be attending the event to celebrate Kabir Khan’s sports drama 83, which witnessed its theatrical release last year on December 24. The movie revolves around the journey of India’s cricket squad led by Kapil Dev.

While expressing his emotions about being part of one of the world’s leading and biggest Indian film festivals, the legendary cricket star told the news agency, ANI, “I look forward to being part of IFFM 2022. It’s a great platform for celebrating the best in Indian cinema. I truly do believe that sports and cinema are two major cultural experiences for not only Indians but various communities and countries that bind us together.”

With over 100 films in 23 different languages chosen for the festival, the lineup is more diverse than ever. The line-up this year is more diverse than ever before with over 100 films in 23 languages having been selected for the festival. 

The Movie 83, directed by Kabir Khan, will be celebrated at IFFM and the festival has invited legendary cricketer Kapil Dev to be the guest of honor. 

In 2019, IFFM was hosted by Indian celebrities such as Shahrukh Khan, Arjun Kapoor, Tabu, Vijay Sethupathi, Rima Das, Zoya Akhtar, and Karan Johar among others before the world was struck by a virus. The festival will take place in Melbourne from August 12-20.

Pointing out that cinema and sports are something that binds people together irrespective of several differences, Kapil Dev added, “It’s something for decades now that has united people. It’s a deep-rooted emotional connection and love we have for both cinema and sports, and when they come together it’s a rewarding experience for everyone.”

Reema Rasool From Long Island Runs for U.S. Congress on Democratic Ballot

Just as the first Muslim American female, Kamala Khan aka Ms Marvel, uses her super powers to take the world by storm in the Marvel Comic Universe on Disney+, real-life Muslim American superhero Reema Rasool fights against inequality and advocates for justice on behalf of her almost 800,000 constituents on the Northern Shore of Long Island and Northeast Queens. 

Rasool is a first generation American, the daughter of Drs. Shama and Ayaz Rasool, who immigrated to NY-3 from Srinagar, Kashmir in 1974. A life-long NY-3 resident, Rasool is a serial entrepreneur and successful business woman who advocates for small business owners. A mother of two teenage boys, Rasool is the FIRST Muslim American woman on the ballot for the Nassau County Democrats on Long Island, where she ran for the Oyster Bay Town Board in 2021.

Rasool is a graduate of New York University and the founder of South Asian Young Women Entrepreneurs (SAY WE), a national not-for-profit trade association that educates, supports, and advocates for women in business. Rasool is also the founder and principal of LUXE Consulting Groupe, an international financial marketing firm that specializes in the niche field of U.S. infrastructure investments by foreign nationals. LUXE has offices in India and the UAE.

Rasool is running for Congress to lower taxes, support small business owners by redefining the tax code, fight for education equity for children, keep communities safe, and ensure healthcare for all. The Democratic Primary for New York’s 3rd Congressional District is slated for Tuesday, August 23, 2022. Rasool is running against FIVE other candidates. To better understand her campaign platforms, please click HERE.

India’s Population Will Be Larger Than China’s In 2023

India is set to become the world’s most populous country next year, overtaking China with its 1.4bn people, according to UN figures.  On World Population Day, the United Nations has released a report projecting India to surpass China as the world’s most populous country next year. It further stated that the world population is forecast to reach eight billion by mid-November 2022.

By this November, the planet will be home to 8 Billion people. That overall population milestone “is a reminder of our shared responsibility to care for our planet and a moment to reflect on where we still fall short of our commitments to one another,” Secretary General Antonio Guterres said, without citing specifics.

“This is an occasion to celebrate our diversity, recognize our common humanity, and marvel at advancements in health that have extended lifespans and dramatically reduced maternal and child mortality rates,” he added.

 But population growth is not as rapid as it used to be.  It is now at its slowest rate since 1950 and is set to peak, says the UN, around the 2080s at about 10.4bn though some demographers believe that could happen even sooner.

Currently, with 4.7 billion Asia is the most populous continent and has 61 per cent of the global population,17 per cent reside in Africa (1.3 billion), 10 per cent in Europe (750 million), 8 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean (650 million), and the remaining 5 per cent in Northern America (370 million) and Oceania (43 million). 

According to World Population Prospects 2019, China with a 1.44 billion population and India with 1.39 billion are the two most populous countries in the world, representing 19 and 18 per cent of the world’s population, respectively. However, by around 2023, India’s population will overtake China to become the most populous country with China’s population projected to decrease by 31.4 million, or around 2.2 per cent, between 2019 and 2050.But the population of the world is expanding unevenly.

More than half the growth we will see in the next 30 years will happen in just eight countries – the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and Tanzania.

At the same time, some of the world’s most developed economies are already seeing population decline as fertility rates fall below 2.1 children per woman, which is known as the “replacement rate”. In 61 countries, the report says, populations will decline by at least 1% by 2050.

With one of the lowest fertility rates in the world (at 1.15 children per woman), China has announced that its population is due to start declining next year – much earlier than previously thought. That is despite the country abandoning its one child policy in 2016 and introducing incentives for couples to have two or more children.

As India’s population continues to grow it will almost certainly overtake China as the country with the biggest population in the world. 

Fertility rates are falling globally – even in many of the countries where the population is expanding. That is because, as previous generations expand, there are more people having children, even if individually those people are having fewer children than their parents did.

Growth is also largely thanks to developments in medicine and science which mean that more children are surviving into adulthood and more adults into old age. That pattern is likely to continue, which means that by 2050 the global average life expectancy will be around 77.2 years.

But this pattern means that the share of the global population aged 65 years or above is projected to rise from 10% this year to 16% in 2050. Again the distribution will be unequal with some countries, in East Asia and Western Europe, already seeing more extremes in ageing.

Sri Lanka In Political Vacuum As Talks Go On Amid Crisis

By, KRISHAN FRANCIS

(AP) — Sri Lanka was in a political vacuum for a second day Monday with opposition leaders yet to agree on who should replace its roundly rejected leaders, whose residences are occupied by protesters angry over the country’s deep economic woes. 

Protesters remained in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s residence, his seaside office and the prime minister’s official home, which they stormed on Saturday demanding the two leaders step down. It marked the most dramatic day of protests during three months of a relentless crisis that has pushed many to the brink to despair amid acute shortages of fuel, food, medicine and other necessities. 

The protesters, who come from all walks of life, vowed to stay put until the resignations of the leaders are official. 

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said Saturday he would leave office once a new government is in place, and hours later the speaker of Parliament said Rajapaksa would step down Wednesday. 

Wickremesinghe’s office said Monday that Rajapaksa had confirmed his earlier decision to resign on Wednesday.

Also Monday, a group of nine Cabinet ministers announced they will quit immediately to make way for an all-party government, outgoing Justice Minister Wijayadasa Rajapakshe said. Wickremesinghe’s office said meanwhile that another group that met the prime minister decided to stay on until a new government is formed.

The president hasn’t been seen or heard publicly since Saturday and his location is unknown. But his office said Sunday that he ordered the immediate distribution of a cooking gas consignment to the public, suggesting that he was still at work.

Opposition party leaders have been in discussion to form an alternative unity government, an urgent requirement of a bankrupt nation to continue discussions with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout program. 

Lawmaker Udaya Gammanpila said the main opposition United People’s Front and lawmakers who have defected Rajapaksa’s ruling coalition have had discussions and agreed to work together. Main opposition leader Sajith Premadasa and Dullas Alahapperuma, who was a minister under Rajapaksa, have been proposed to take over as president and prime minister and have been asked to decide on how to share the positions before a meeting with the parliamentary speaker later Monday.

“We can’t be in an anarchical condition. We have to somehow reach a consensus today,” Gammanpila said.

Opposition parties are also concerned over military leaders making statements about public security in the absence of a civil administration. 

Lawmakers have discussed Chief of Defense Staff Gen. Shavendra Silva’s statement over the weekend calling on people’s cooperation to maintain law and order, said Kavinda Makalanda, spokesperson for Premadasa.

“A civil administration is the need, not the military in a democratic country,” Makalanda said.

If opposition parties fail to form a government by the time Rajapaksa resigns, Wickremesinghe as prime minister will become acting president under the constitution. However, in line with the protesters’ demand, opposition parties are keen on not allowing him take over even as acting president.

They say Wickremesinghe should promptly resign and allow Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena take over as acting president — the next in line according to the constitution. 

Rajapaksa appointed Wickremesinghe as prime minister in May in an effort to solve the shortages and start economic recovery. But delays in alleviating the shortages of basic supplies has turned public anger against him with protesters accusing him of protecting the president.

Wickremesinghe had been part of crucial talks with the IMF for a bailout program and with the World Food Program to prepare for a predicted food crisis. The government must submit a plan on debt sustainability to the IMF in August before reaching an agreement.

Sri Lanka is relying on aid from India and other nations as leaders try to negotiate a bailout with the IMF. Wickremesinghe said recently that negotiations with the IMF were complex because Sri Lanka was now a bankrupt state.

Sri Lanka announced in April that it was suspending repayment of foreign loans due to a foreign currency shortage. Its total foreign debt amounts to $51 billion, of which it must repay $28 billion by the end of 2027.

Months of demonstrations have all but dismantled the Rajapaksa political dynasty, which has ruled Sri Lanka for most of the past two decades but is accused by protesters of mismanagement and corruption.

New Coronavirus Mutant Raises Concerns In India And Beyond

By, Laura Ungar & Aniruddha Ghosal

The quickly changing coronavirus has spawned yet another super contagious omicron mutant that’s worrying scientists as it gains ground in India and pops up in numerous other countries, including the United States.

Scientists say the variant – called BA.2.75 – may be able to spread rapidly and get around immunity from vaccines and previous infection. It’s unclear whether it could cause more serious disease than other omicron variants, including the globally prominent BA.5.

“It’s still really early on for us to draw too many conclusions,” said Matthew Binnicker, director of clinical virology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “But it does look like, especially in India, the rates of transmission are showing kind of that exponential increase.” Whether it will outcompete BA.5, he said, is yet to be determined. 

Still, the fact that it has already been detected in many parts of the world even with lower levels of viral surveillance “is an early indication it is spreading,” said Shishi Luo, head of infectious diseases for Helix, a company that supplies viral sequencing information to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The latest mutant has been spotted in several distant states in India, and appears to be spreading faster than other variants there, said Lipi Thukral, a scientist at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology in New Delhi. It’s also been detected in about 10 other countries, including Australia, Germany, the United Kingdom and Canada. Two cases were recently identified on the West Coast of the U.S., and Helix identified a third U.S. case last week. Fueling experts’ concerns are a large number of mutations separating this new variant from omicron predecessors. Some of those mutations are in areas that relate to the spike protein and could allow the virus to bind onto cells more efficiently, Binnicker said. 

Another concern is that the genetic tweaks may make it easier for the virus to skirt past antibodies — protective proteins made by the body in response to a vaccine or infection from an earlier variant. 

But experts say vaccines and boosters are still the best defense against severe COVID-19. In the fall it’s likely the U.S. will see updated formulations of the vaccine being developed that target more recent omicron strains.

“Some may say, ‘Well, vaccination and boosting hasn’t prevented people from getting infected.’ And, yes, that is true,” he said. “But what we have seen is that the rates of people ending up in the hospital and dying have significantly decreased. As more people have been vaccinated, boosted or naturally infected, we are starting to see the background levels of immunity worldwide creep up.”

It may take several weeks to get a sense of whether the latest omicron mutant may affect the trajectory of the pandemic. Meanwhile Dr. Gagandeep Kang, who studies viruses at India’s Christian Medical College in Vellore, said the growing concern over the variant underlines the need for more sustained efforts to track and trace viruses that combine genetic efforts with real world information about who is getting sick and how badly. “It is important that surveillance isn’t a start-stop strategy,” she said.

Luo said BA.2.75 is another reminder that the coronavirus is continually evolving – and spreading. 

“We would like to return to pre-pandemic life, but we still need to be careful,” she said. “ We need to accept that we’re now living with a higher level of risk than we used to.”

Sen. Schumer Keen On Passing Budegt Reconciliation Bill This Summer

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is making a last-ditch effort to pass a budget reconciliation bill during the July and early August work period.   

Schumer and centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) have made progress on proposals to lower the cost of prescription drugs, extend Medicare’s solvency and raise taxes on some high-income earners. 

  • The bill would include a 3.8 percent tax on individuals earning more than $400,000 and couples earning more than $500,000 from pass-through businesses.  
  • Schumer and Manchin have not announced whether the package will include provisions to fight climate change such as clean energy manufacturing tax credits. 
  • Whether the climate piece gets done will depend largely on how many concessions Manchin will insist on for the fossil fuel industry, one source said. 

Sam Runyon, a spokesperson for Manchin, said her boss is glad that Democrats have agreed on a prescription drug proposal that they could pass with a simple-majority vote under special budget rules.  “Sen. Manchin has long advocated for proposals that would lower prescription drug costs for seniors and his support for this proposal has never been in question. He’s glad that all 50 Democrats agree,” she said. 

But the Manchin aide waved off speculation that Schumer and Manchin are close to a deal on a broader reconciliation package that would include bold proposals to tackle global warming, a top priority of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and other Senate Democrats.   

According The Hill, the budget reconciliation instructions will expire at the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, which is the drop-dead deadline. Schumer is hoping to get the bill finalized before the August recess, but it’s competing with other key measures, including a bipartisan bill to boost U.S. competitiveness with China. 

Sam Runyon, a spokesperson for Manchin, said her boss is glad that Democrats have agreed on a prescription drug proposal that they could pass with a simple-majority vote under special budget rules.  

“Sen. Manchin has long advocated for proposals that would lower prescription drug costs for seniors and his support for this proposal has never been in question. He’s glad that all 50 Democrats agree,” she said. 

But the Manchin aide waved off speculation that Schumer and Manchin are close to a deal on a broader reconciliation package that would include bold proposals to tackle global warming, a top priority of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and other Senate Democrats.

India Uniquely Placed To Take Advantage Of Phenomenal Changes In Tech, Trade, Skilled Manpower: Bimal Jalan

Very few developing countries are as well placed as India to take advantage of the phenomenal changes that have occurred in production technologies, international trade, capital movement and deployment of skilled manpower, former RBI Governor Bimal Jalan writes in a new book “From Dependence To Self-Reliance – Mapping India’s Rise As A Global Superpower” (Rupa) that builds on his three earlier books on the same theme.

“In view of these advantages, India is in a position to accelerate the growth rate of the economy to 7-8 per cent per annum over the next 25 years. The higher the growth of the economy, the greater is the capacity of the government to finance expenditure for essential social services.

“The combination of higher government expenditure on the provision of social services will provide higher growth in employment opportunities which will have a decisive impact in reducing poverty levels,” asserts Jalan, a former Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, a nominated Member of Parliament from 2003-2009 and India’s representative on the Boards of the IMF and the World Bank.

The conditions for this are extremely favourable for the first time in almost 40 years as with a single-party majority in Parliament the government’s political profile has undergone a major change as it can now launch political reforms without relying on the discretionary powers of members belonging to other parties.

In recent years, Jalan writes, “an even more phenomenal change from India’s point of view is the growing role of skills-based services in determining the comparative advantage of economies. The development of certain services is now considered as one of the preconditions for economic growth, and not one of its consequences. The boundary between goods and services is also gradually disappearing, as services of various kinds are delinked from the manufacturing process and have become essential elements of the productive structure”.

This change has been brought about by unprecedented and unforeseen advances in computer and communication technology in the last four decades, Jalan writes, adding that an important aspect of the ‘services revolution’ is that geography and levels of industrialisation are no longer the primary determinants of the location of facilities for the production of services.

“As a result, the traditional role of developing countries is also changing – from mere recipients to important providers of long-distance services. India, too, has participated in this scenario, and exports of certain services (for example, software) are expanding faster than the overall trade. The potential for expansion of jobs and incomes in the services sector is truly immense,” Jalan maintains.

From India’s point of view, some of the recent global developments which provide opportunities for substantial growth are:

The fastest-growing segment of services being knowledge-based, such as professional and technical services, India has a tremendous advantage in the supply of such services because of the highly developed structure of technological and educational institutions, and lower labour costs.

Progress in IT is making it increasingly possible to unbundle the production and consumption of information-intensive service activities. Outsourcing of these activities has become feasible.

Unlike most other prices, world prices of transport and communication services have fallen dramatically as provided by the Internet, which now links millions of computers across the world.

Technological innovation is expanding opportunities for services to be embedded in goods that are traded internationally. Thus, India does not necessarily have to be a low-cost producer of certain types of goods (such as computers or discs) before it can become an efficient supplier of service embodied in them (such as software or music).

There is also a structural shift in the pattern of demand in industrial countries in favour of services. This means that in the future, the growth in exports of developing countries will depend less on natural resource endowments and more on efficiency in, providing services and service-intensive goods.

Against this backdrop, the book is divided into 10 chapters in three sections – Economy, Governance and Politics.

The first chapter on ‘Current Situation and Future Prospects’ notes that on any global indicator of economic well-being – be it adult literacy, infant mortality, life expectancy or gender bias – India’s actual performance remains among the bottom one-third among developing countries and that a lot remains to be done before India is able to exploit the new opportunities to realise its full potential in the future.

The next chapter on ‘Science and Development’ notes that India has come a long way in its quest for scientific pursuit, both in the material and intellectual spheres and now has the talent, the skills and the resources to be at the forefront of the technological revolution taking place in the new growth sectors of the global economy.

The third chapter on ‘Information Technology and Banking’ notes that while there are new opportunities for savers and investors to deal directly with each other rather than through the banking system, this poses a challenge, particularly for public sector banks.

The last chapter in Section 1 – ‘India’s Stand in the 21st century – focuses on the prospects for India’s balance of payments and how resources for greater investment in social sectors can be generated by substantially raising literacy rates and healthcare.

Chapter 5 in Section 2 focuses on the role of ‘The Public Sector’, noting that the government should set standards of service, monitor performance of public enterprises and ensure access to the poor. A reduction in the role of the public sector in the economy is also desirable.

Chapter 6 is on ‘Goods and Services’ and outlines a number of issues that need to be tackled to improve agricultural growth and the income of farmers over time while the last chapter in this section is titled ‘Finance and Development: Which Way Now?’ and discusses in detail the shifting paradigm of finance and development and how it has affected the past, present and future of the nation.

Section 3 on ‘Politics’ has three chapters: ‘The Politics of Power’ (Chapter 8), ‘Political Opportunism’ (Chapter 9) and ‘Politics and Economics’ (Chapter 10). It discusses issues like centralisation of political power and public dissavings (spending that is greater than income), the bias among elected representatives at different levels to divest resources under a government programme to their own villages, constituencies and States, and practical and pragmatic core changes to help bridge the gap between politics and economics so that India can realise its full potential for the benefit of all its people.

It also suggests changes in parliamentary procedures to enable the two Houses more effectively discharge the functions assigned to them by the Constitution – for instance, the ad hoc and sudden suspension of rules of business, as was done on August 26, 2004 to pass the budget must be eschewed, except in an emergency.

Also, a vital political imperative for the future is to reduce the role of small parties in Parliament and legislatures and their influence in determining the government’s economic agenda.

“The only constraint in our country’s economic future is the lack of a strong political will to move ahead decisively to overcome the shortcomings in the policies and administrative practices of the past. It is to be hoped that such a consensus will emerge, and India can take its rightful place as one of the leading economies in the world in the twenty-first century,” Jalan writes. (IANS)

‘Thor: Love And Thunder’ Nets Rs 64.80 Cr In First 4 Days

By, Akshay Acharya

Even as Bollywood still struggles at the box office, Hollywood and South Indian tentpoles continue to soar to unprecedented heights.

The recently released superhero film ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’, led by a shirtless Chris Hemsworth and Christian Bale thrown in for good measure, netted Rs 64.80 crore domestically (Rs 83.61 crore minus GST) in the first four days of its theatrical run, according to trade sources.

Considering that the much-hyped Akshay Kumar-starrer ‘Samrat Prithviraj’, to quote figures from the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), was able to gross Rs 82.3 crore during its entire theatrical run, despite being made tax-free in three major states, the movie-going public in India clearly like their superheroes to be winners.

Independent film trade analyst Sumit Kadel, commenting on the figures, said ‘Thor’ has seen fifth-highest opening weekend ever for a Hollywood film in India.

“From Bollywood, only the Kartik Aaryan-starrer ‘Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2’ managed to net Rs 65 crore in its opening weekend”, he said. He credited the powerful cast of ‘Thor’ and the brand value of Marvel Studios for pulling in the crowds.

Even the sleeper hit, ‘The Kashmir Files’, had a lukewarm opening weekend, but picked up because of the positive word-of-mouth. ‘The Kashmir Files’, ‘Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2’ and ‘Gangubai Kathiawadi’ are the only Hindi films in the IMDb Top 10.

The Indian box-office numbers for ‘Thor’, incidentally, mirrored those of the United States, where the film raked in $143 million in its opening weekend, making it the third most profitable release after ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ ($187.4 million) and ‘Jurassic World Dominion’ ($145 million).

Will ‘Thor’ be able to sustain its opening surge? It is likely to see a drop in collections, but it will still cross the safe zone of Rs 100 crore. That will be significantly behind the Rs 217.52 crore made by ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’, but closer to Rs 127.31 crore garnered by ‘Dr Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ — both films are Marvel releases, incidentally.

So, how are Bollywood’s forthcoming big releases likely to fare in this market? According to Kadel, ‘Shamshera’ may bring some respite, given that it’s an ‘event film’ and the buzz around its music can ensure a good opening.

The stakes, though, are high for both Ranbir Kapoor, who is returning to the big screen after four years, and YRF, the Aditya Chopra-helmed production house which has seen three of its recent releases — ‘Bunty Aur Babli 2’, ‘Jayeshbhai Jordaar’, and ‘Samrat Prithviraj’ getting mauled at the box office.

Talking about Mani Ratnam’s upcoming epic, ‘Ponniyin Selvan: I’, Kadel said the film has been mounted on a grand scale with a good cast to back up the high production values. It is most likely to further strengthen South Indian cinema’s grip on the pan-India box office.

As for the clash that will unfold next month with the release of the Aamir Khan-starrer ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’ and Akshay Kumar’s ‘Raksha Bandhan’ on the Independence Day long weekend, both films will offer tough competition to each other, but will either make the box office ring with joy? (IANS)

‘Squid Game,’ ‘Abbott Elementary’ Vying For Emmy Nominations

(AP) — “Succession” and “Ted Lasso” are in the hunt for Emmy nominations that could add to their previous trophy hauls, but they’re up against hungry newcomers.

When the bids are announced Tuesday, the social satire “Succession,” a 2020 top-drama winner, may face a showdown with “Squid Game.” The South Korean hit about a brutal survival contest is vying to become the first non-English language Emmy nominee.

A formerly sunken boat sits upright into the air with its stern stuck in the mud along the shoreline of Lake Mead at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Wednesday, June 22, 2022, near Boulder City, Nev. Lake Mead water has dropped to levels it hasn’t been since the lake initially filled over 80 years ago. (AP Photo/John Locher)

The Emmys once were dominated by broadcast networks and then cable, with the rise of streaming services changing the balance of power and perhaps the awards themselves. The possibility of Netflix’s “Squid Game” joining the Emmy mix is the result of streaming’s global marketplace focus.

Other possible drama contenders include the modern Western “Yellowstone,” workplace thriller “Severance” and “Yellowjackets,” a hybrid survival and coming-of-age tale. 

Potential competition for “Ted Lasso,” which claimed seven trophies including best comedy last year, includes the inaugural seasons of “Abbott Elementary” and “Only Murders in the Building” — both popular and critical successes.

Jean Smart, last year’s best comedy actress winner for “Hacks,” is in the running for a nod again, as is the series, with “Ted Lasso” star Jason Sudeikis hoping to repeat his 2021 comedy actor win. Bill Hader is chasing a third award in the category for “Barry.”

“The Crown,” which dominated the 2021 drama awards, wasn’t televised within the eligibility period and is sitting this year out.

JB Smoove (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), Melissa Fumero (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”) and Television Academy Chairman and CEO Frank Scherma were to announce the nominees. The Emmy ceremony is set for Sept. 12 and will air on NBC, with a host yet to be announced. (For more on this year’s Emmy Awards, visit: www.apnews.com/EmmyAwards)