Dr. Fauci Favors In-Person School In The Fall

A surge in new coronavirus cases has gripped the U.S. as school officials weigh spring semester reopening plans against the backdrop of a global pandemic. The decision to bring students back for in-person instruction is chief among their concerns. But even as case numbers climb, infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci is in favor of keeping schools open. In an interview Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” Fauci said to “close the bars and keep the schools open,” Business Insider reported.

“Obviously, you don’t have one size fits all,” he said. “But as I said in the past, the default position should be to try as best as possible within reason to keep the children in school, or to get them back to school.” In the wake of new mask guidance from the CDC, Dr. Anthony Fauci appeared on CNN to talk about the emerging science surrounding COVID-19 vaccinations and what Americans can expect as society attempts a partial return to normal.

Dr. Anthony Fauci stated that he agrees with new guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which recommends a return to in-person school for children this fall.“I think that the message from the CDC is clear and I totally agree with them,” Fauci told the media. “We want all the children back in in-person classes in the fall term.” CNN’s Jake Tapper concluded his interview Thursday with specific questions about the nation’s students and schools: “Both CDC Director Walensky and the president of the American Federation of Teachers are now saying that schools in the fall should be 100 percent open and in-person, five days a week. Do you agree — and if that’s the plan should it be formalized so schools and parents should start preparing? Yeah I agree with that,” Fauci replied. “I believe the schools should be open five days, full blast, just the way it was before — that we really have to do that by the time we get to the fall.”

“The re-opening of schools was associated with very few COVID-19 outbreaks after easing of national lockdown in England,” Public Health England and other experts wrote in the report, according to the Post. A study issued in August by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control found something similar. Citing the study, The New York Times reported children accounted for fewer than 5% of all coronavirus cases reported in the European Union and Britain. The agency also said shutting down schools would be “unlikely to provide significant additional protection of children’s health.”

That’s in-part why schools in England stayed open when an influx of new COVID-19 cases prompted Prime Minister Boris Johnson to institute a second nationwide lockdown in October. The lockdown expires Dec. 2. Germany, which was looked to as a leader in COVID-19 testing and virus containment early in the pandemic, has done the same with its schools.

The guidance places in-person learning as the priority this fall even if not all mitigation measures can be implemented. It also encourages vaccination for all eligible people.“Obviously, depending upon the age of the children, some will be vaccinated, some not. Those who are not vaccinated should be wearing masks,” said Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “The CDC says they’d like to maintain the three-foot distance and if they can’t, they’re going to work around it, do other things, make sure there is good ventilation. The message is loud and clear: come the fall, we want the children back in school,” he added.

President Biden Cancels Trump Proposal To Time-Limit Student Visas

Giving much needed relief to the students from abroad who spent millions to study, graduate and contribute to the US economy, US President Joe Biden’s administration has announced it is cancelling a proposal by his predecessor Donald Trump to limit student visas to a four-year term for scholars from India and most other countries. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published the decision on Tuesday and said that it would also drop the proposed limits on visa for journalists.

The DHS said that it had received about 32,000 public comments, of which 99 per cent were critical of the proposal made by the Trump administration last September and, therefore, it was withdrawing the proposed changes. It said that it “is concerned that the changes proposed unnecessarily impede access to immigration benefits.” By keeping the current visa regulations, students on F and J visas would be able to keep their visas in the US as long as they are continuing their studies and journalists on I visas while keeping their jobs.

If the changes had gone through, they would have had to apply to the Citizenship and Immigration Service for extensions or leave the country and apply to the Customs and Border Protection agency for readmission. The Trump administration proposal would have further reduced the limits on student visas to two years for certain countries a large number of whose citizens were overstaying their visas. The DHS reported that those opposing the time limit said “would significantly burden the foreign students, exchange scholars, (and) foreign media representatives” and “impose exorbitant costs.”

“Higher education groups were alarmed by the plan to change the policy, which, they argued, would create uncertainty and confusion for students who would have to navigate a burdensome and costly new reapplication process in order to continue their studies in the US,” Inside Higher Education reported. The businesses that wrote in against the proposal said that “many noncitizens may not be able to apply for an extension of stay or have it approved in a timely fashion, thereby delaying the possible start dates of employees and/or cause them to lose potential job candidates,” the DHS added.

The DHS, however, said that it still supports the goal of the proposal, which was “to protect the integrity of programmers that admit nonimmigrants in the F, J, and I” visa categories and would analyses it while ensuring that it conformed to Biden’s executive order issued in February on “restoring faith in our legal immigration systems.” Typically, students in PhD or research programmers or pursuing other advanced degrees require more than four years. Students transitioning to practical training programmes could also be affected, impacting businesses that rely on foreign students to power their development. (IANS) . The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has said that it would also drop the proposed limits on visa for journalists. The DHS said that it had received about 32,000 public comments, of which 99 per cent were critical of the proposal made by the Trump administration last September and, therefore, it was withdrawing the proposed changes.

Chaitra Thummala Is Runner Up In Scripps National Spelling Bee

Chaitra Thummala, 12, sixth grader from San Francisco, California’s Gale Ranch Middle School, and Zaila Avant-garde, 14, from New Orleans fought it out, though in a friendly fashion, high-fiving each other as they battled for the crown. But it was Zaila Avant-garde who won the top prize. Zaila won it by spelling ‘murraya’ correctly, a word that refers to a tropical Asiatic and Australian tree species. For the first time in the Scripps National Spelling Bee’s 96-year history, an African American has taken home the top prize.

In the round just before the last, Thummala incorrectly spelt the word neroli oil (an essential oil from flowers, mainly the sour orange, which is used in cologne and as a flavoring), leaving the field open for Avant-garde. In all. There were nine Indian-Americans were among the finalists at the Scripps National Spelling Bee July 8, 2021, which also saw a visit from First Lady Jill Biden. The winner receives numerous prizes including $50,000 in cash;the official championship trophy, a cash prize and reference library from Merriam-Webster; more reference works valued at $2,500; and a 3-year membership to the Britannica Online Premium.

According to her bio on the National Spelling Bee website,”Thummala Chaitra loves music and traveling. She recently got a baby brother who she loves playing with along with her little sister. She wants to go to Santorini, Greece. Her favorite books are Dancing at the Pity Party by Tyler Feder and The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson. She has won awards at her local Science Olympiad and Math Olympiad.”

A spelling bee is a contest in which participants must spell aloud words announced by a judge. The high-profile Scripps National Spelling Bee is closely followed by students and their parents across the US and the finals are broadcast on prime-time television. This year, the winner got a cash prize of $50,000. Of the 11 finalists of the Scripps spelling bee held in the ESPN Sports Complex in Florida’s Orlando, Florida, nine were Indian-Americans. In the final round, Avant-garde was pitted against Chaitra Thummula from California, who dropped out after being unable to spell “neroli oil” correctly. Avant-garde scored her victory after spelling the word “Murraya”, a genus of tropical Australian trees.

First lady Jill Biden, an educator herself, was there to witness the drama. The competition this year was fierce, with new rules to raise the bar. Each level had an additional “word meaning” round to test vocabulary. The threat of a “spell-off” loomed over the finalists. Past years ended in ties — a record eight spellers won in 2019 — but this year, a new rule said that spellers who remain at the end of the allotted time have 90 seconds to spell as many words as they can from a predetermined spell-off list of words. But there was no need for a tie-breaker, to the chagrin of some rapt spectators: Avant-garde handily out spelled the competition.

As it turns out, Avant-garde excels at much more than spelling. She holds three Guinness World Records for her skills in dribbling six basketballs simultaneously, the most basketball bounces and bounce juggles. The teenager is a champion basketball player and has said that she hopes to compete in the Women’s National Basketball Association when she grows up. Ahead of the spelling bee finals, ESPN shared a video of Avant-garde playing basketball. Since members of the Indian-American community have been winning the competition since 2008, Avant-garde’s win stood out. There has been only one Black winner of the competition so far, a student from Jamaica in 1998.

Avant-garde – whose father changed her last name from Heard as a mark of respect to jazz musician John Coltrane – said she hoped that more members of the African-American community will be inspired to participate in the competition. “Maybe they don’t have the money to pay $600 for a spelling program, they don’t have access to that,” she said told the Associated Press. After her victory, Avant-garde said that had taken up competitive spelling only two years ago. “Spelling is really a side thing I do,” she told the Associated Press. “It’s like a little hors d’ouevre. But basketball’s like the main dish.”

The finalists included –

Roy Seligman, 12, from Nassau, The Bahamas. Sponsored by The Ministry of Education.

Bhavana Madini, 13, from New York. Sponsored by NYC Regional Spelling Bee.

Sreethan Gajula, 14, from Charlotte, North Carolina. Sponsored by the Carolina Panthers.

Ashrita Gandhari, 14, from Leesburg, Virginia. Sponsored by Loudoun County Public Schools.

Avani Joshi, 13, from Loves Park, Illinois. Sponsored by Boone-Winnebago Regional Office of Education.

Zaila Avant-garde, 14, from New Orleans. Sponsored by New Orleans Chapter of The Links.

Vivinsha Veduru, 10, from Fort Worth, Texas. Sponsored by Texas Christian University.

Dhroov Bharatia, 12, from Dallas. Sponsored by Dallas Sports Commission.

Vihaan Sibal, 12, from Waco, Texas. Sponsored by Rapoport Holdings, LLC.

Akshainie Kamma, 13, from Austin, Texas. Sponsored by West Austin Chamber of Commerce.

Chaitra Thummala, 12, from San Francisco. Sponsored by Bay Area Regional Spelling Bee.

9 Of 11 US Spelling Bee Finalists Are Of Indian Origin

Nine Indian American kids proficiently advanced through all virtual rounds, while only two American kids made it to the US Spelling Bee annual contest. The 11 spellers will compete for the champion title during the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee Finals on July 8.

Nine of the 11 finalists for this year’s US Spelling Bee contest are Indian-Americans, reflecting the dominance young kids from the small ethnic community have had on this prestigious and high-pressure endurance test for more than a decade now. The 11 spellers, of which nine are Indian-Americans, will compete for the champion title during the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee Finals on July 8, a statement said on Monday. The Indian American children made it to the 2021 Finalists after advancing the tough three levels of competition hosted virtually: The Preliminaries on June 12, the Quarterfinals on June 15, and the Semifinals on June 27. The national finalists, aged 9 to 15, come from at least 50 US states and the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and Department of Defense Schools in Europe, according to US broadcasters.

As many as 209 spellers competed on a national level, of those the 9 Indian American children qualified for semifinals held on June 27 Sunday from 7 to 11 pm on ESPN America for the championship trophy.  During the in-person finals, the Bee will have the option of activating a spell-off if needed. The spell-off would be activated in the closing minutes of the competition if a champion has not yet been declared in a traditional, one-person, one-word round, it said. “We are honored to introduce our 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee Finalists. Round after round, this group of spellers proved their mettle, and we look forward to seeing them show off their knowledge and hard work as they square off against the dictionary on the national stage,” said Dr J Michael Durnil, executive director of the Bee.

“Congratulations to all of this year’s 209 national qualifiers – they’ve persevered over a year that has been challenging in many ways, and our team is proud to have witnessed their journey,” he said. The National Bee is a high-profile, high-pressure endurance test as much as a nerd spelling match and spellers spend months preparing for it. The final rounds of this year’s contest will be hosted in person at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida, and will be broadcast live in prime time on ESPN2.

The 11 finalists are Roy Seligman, 12, from Nassau, The Bahamas; BhavanaMadini, 13, from New York; SreethanGajula, 14, from Charlotte, North Carolina; Ashrita Gandhari, 14, from Leesburg, Virginia; Avani Joshi, 13, from Illinois; Zaila Avant-garde, 14, from New Orleans; VivinshaVeduru, 10, from Texas; DhroovBharatia, 12, from Dallas; Vihaan Sibal, 12, from Texas; AkshainieKamma, 13, from Texas and Chaitra Thummala, 12, from San Francisco. Over the past 20 years, Indian-Americans have been dominating the Spelling Bee contest even though they comprise only about 1 per cent of the US population.

In 2016, the Scripps National Spelling Bee was won by Indian American kids, NiharJanga, aged 11, from Texas, and JairamHathwar, aged 13, from New York. In 2017, the national spelling bee finals were bagged by AksharaPaimagam of Randolph Middle School of Indian origin. Meanwhile, the 2015 annual spelling bee contest was won by Gokul Venkatachalam and Vanya Shivashankar, both Indian American students, while Vanya’s older sister Kavya has won the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2009.

The other Indian kids to win the popular contest are AnsunSujoe and SriramHathwar in the year 2014, Arvind Mahankali in 2013, SnigdhaNandipati in 2012, Sukanya Roy in 2011 and AnamikaVeeramani in 2010. The Indian American Children have been qualifying for the US national spelling bee contest leaving their American friends behind with chances of more than 80 percent of them even winning, for the past several years. Interestingly, these Indian origin children comprise less than 1% of the total American school’s population. The Bee was cancelled in 2020 due to the coronaviruspandemic. But there were eight co-champions in 2019, seven of whom were Indian-Americans, bringing the total number of Indian-American champions since 1999 to 26.

The show will also be broadcast LIVE prime time on ESPN2 at 8 pm ET. Those with no cable subscription can watch it on FuboTV, or Hulu streaming service, and Sling. One could also tune into the updates on the spellers’ official Instagram, or Twitter handle.

List of the 11 finalists for the  US Spelling Bee contest 2021:

  1. Roy Seligman, 12, from Nassau, The Bahamas
  2. BhavanaMadini, 13, from New York
  3. SreethanGajula, 14, from Charlotte, North Carolina
  4. Ashrita Gandhari, 14, from Leesburg, Virginia
  5. Avani Joshi, 13, from Illinois
  6. Zaila Avant-garde, 14, from New Orleans
  7. VivinshaVeduru, 10, from Texas
  8. DhroovBharatia, 12, from Dallas
  9. Vihaan Sibal, 12, from Texas
  10. AkshainieKamma, 13, from Texas

Chaitra Thummala, 12, from San Francisco

Financial Literacy Movement Launched By Sal Khan & Others

A group of business, sports, entertainment and nonprofit leaders, including Khan Academy’s Indian American founder and chief executive officer Sal Khan, has banded together to launch the “Financial Literacy for All” initiative. The initiative, which launched June 21, will support embedding financial literacy into American culture. This 10-year commitment will reach millions of youth and working adults enabling them to achieve greater financial success for themselves and their families, according to a news release.

In addition to Khan, the group includes Doug McMillon, CEO of Walmart; Bob Chapek, CEO of The Walt Disney Company; Brian Moynihan, chairman and CEO of Bank of America; Rosalind Brewer, CEO of Walgreens; Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Air Lines; Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL; Adam Silver, commissioner of the NBA; Tony Ressler, executive chair of Ares Management and principal owner of the Atlanta Hawks; and John Hope Bryant, chair and CEO of Operation HOPE. McMillon and Bryant will serve as co-chairs of “Financial Literacy for All,” with expectation that the initiative will expand as additional organizations sign on.

“I believe we are in a moment in history, where the public and private sector can join together to help every American reach their potential and fully participate in the greatest economy on earth,” said Bryant. “With this initiative, we are not just seeking to change America’s relationship with their finances, but to change their mindset on what they can accomplish.” “Financial well-being begins with good pay and benefits, but it also includes real opportunity for career growth and access to tools and resources that help manage daily financial needs, build greater financial resiliency and plan for retirement.” added McMillon. “We are inspired by Operation Hope’s vision and look forward to collaborating with other major employers to discover new and better ways to support and engage our associates along their individual financial well-being journey.”

Underscoring the need for financial literacy, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s current Investor Education Foundation survey found that only one-third of U.S. residents surveyed could answer basic questions about interest rates, financial risk and mortgage rates—down by nearly one-quarter from 2009, according to the release. In addition, the cost of financial illiteracy to U.S. citizens is estimated to be $415 billion for 2020, according to a recent study by National Financial Educators Council.

Given the importance and societal impact of financial literacy and with a goal to expand people’s access to opportunities, these organizations are acting now—leveraging their collective innovative and creative expertise as well as their daily interaction with millions of employees, clients, customers and suppliers to spur a national movement of financial capability, it said. This alignment of vision and mission is supported by making financial literacy easier to understand and generating public awareness of its importance by directly connecting with working adults; and providing targeted outreach to middle and high school students as well as those attending community college and four-year universities with innovative outreach and existing “Best Practices.”

Specific steps include promotion of a recently launched educational video series from Walmart that will reach more than a million of its associates; all 80,000 Delta people in the U.S. will have access to in-person and/or virtual Operation HOPE coaches and curriculum starting July 12; and Bank of America will expand access to its award-winning Better Money Habits platform, the release noted.

NASA’s Stunning Image Of The Spiral Galaxy NGC 4680

NASA has shared an image of the spiral galaxy NGC 4680 in all its glory. The image has been taken by the Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3.

NASA has shared a stunning image of the spiral galaxy NGC 4680 in all its glory. The image is said to have been taken by the Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3. The NGC 4680 galaxy had earlier made news in 1997, as it played host to a supernova explosion known as SN 1997bp according to NASA. The supernova had been identified by Australian amateur astronomer Robert Evans who is said to have identified  42 supernova explosions.

NASA states that the NGC 4680 is a tricky galaxy to classify. The space agency further states that this is because the galaxy is sometimes referred to as a spiral galaxy, but it is also sometimes classified as a lenticular galaxy. Lenticular galaxies are said to fall somewhere in between spiral galaxies and elliptical galaxies. The NGC 4680 galaxy is said to have distinguishable spiral arms that are not clearly defined, and the tip of one arm appears very diffuse.

NASA says that Galaxies are not static, and their morphologies vary throughout their lifetimes. Over time, Spiral galaxies are believed to evolve into elliptical galaxies. NASA states that this is most likely due to the galaxies merging with one another, causing them to lose their distinctive spiral structures.//www.instagram.com/embed.js

 

Cutting Edge CMEs, Spiritual, Healthcare, Business & Political Leaders At AAPI’s 39th Annual Convention In Atlanta

(Chicago, IL: June 9, 2021) “An impressive array of Bollywood stars, leaders in healthcare, business, spiritual, and political realms are planned to address and enrich the participants at the 39th Annual AAPI Convention & Scientific Assembly to be held from July 2nd to July 5th, 2021 at the fabulous and world famous Omni Atlanta at CNN Center and Georgia World Congress Center,” Dr. SudhakarJonnalagadda, President of American association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) announced here today.

The annual convention this year is being organized by AAPI’s Atlanta Chapter, chaired by Dr. SreeniGangasani. “The convention team is working hard and over time, to provide a delightful three days of events packed with educational CME credits, world-class entertainment, leadership seminars, networking opportunities, exhibits, and more,” Dr. Gangasani said. “This meeting offers a rich educational and entertainment programs featuring the latest scientific research and advances in clinical practice. In addition, physicians and healthcare professionals from across the country will convene to develop health policy agendas and encourage legislative priorities for the upcoming year.”

Planned to have a limited number of participants due to the ongoing Coivd pandemic and taking into account the safety of those attending, including Physicians, Academicians, Researchers and Medical students, “the annual convention offers extensive academic presentations, recognition of achievements and achievers, and professional networking at the alumni and evening social events,” said Dr. Sajani Shah, Chair of AAPI BOT.

Honorable Brian Porter Kemp, Governor of Georgia; Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, US Senators from the state of Georgia; Stacy Abrams, Georgia’s Democratic Party leader; and,Keisha Lance Bottom, Mayor of Atlanta are among the political leaders, who will address the audience.  Sri Dananpani, a well known Hindu Priest, Entrepreneur and a former Monk will enlighten the audience with his wisdom.

Dr. AnupamaGotimukula, President-Elect of AAPI, said, the delegates at the convention will have Eight Hours of CMEs, coordinated by AAPI CME Chair, Dr. Krishan Kumar, Dr. Vemuri Murthy, Advisor & CME Program Director, and Dr. Sudha  Tata, Convention CME Chair, focusing on themes such as how to take care of self and find satisfaction and happiness in the challenging situations they are in, while serving hundreds of patients everyday of their dedicated and noble profession, said Dr. Raghu Lolabhattu, Convention Vice Chair.

Accordingly, some of the major themes as part of the CME sessions include: Pursuit of Happiness In MedicineBurnout Prevention and Wellness in PhysiciansEasy Life of a Hospitalist: An Illusion; and, Meditation and Mindfulness. Other themes at the CME include; Type 2 Diabetes in South Asians – the Unresolved Questions; and, Cardio-oncology: Clinical Practice and Echocardiography.

According to Dr. Ravi Kolli, Vice President of AAPI, an exciting Bollywood HungamaDhumDhamaDhum will feature popular stars Kosha Pandya, Rex D’Souza and Shilpi Paul. Talented artists VidyaVox and Ravi Drums will lead the cultural programs. Traditional DandiyaRaas will be led by AAPI’s own Garba King, Dr. DhirenBuch with live music by Aradhana Music Group of Los Angeles. World renowned fashion designer Ghazala Khan-choreographed Fashion Show by beautiful and talented local artists will be a treat to the hearts and souls of all the participants.

The popular and much loved Mehfil E Khaas will give the AAPI members and families a platform to showcase their talents impromptu, in music, dance, jokes and SheroShayari in an informal setting,” said Dr. Amit Chakrabarty, Secretary of AAPI and coordinator of the Mehfil E Khaas. “Pick up the Mic and you are the Star,” he added. Dr. SatheeshKathula, Treasurer of AAPI said, “The Future of Healthcare” will be discussed at the popular CEO Forum with expert participants from Healthcare, Technological, and Finance industries and moderated by  Dr. N. Neealagaru,  will share their expertise in ways to establishing and leading successful businesses, healthcare practice, managing investment and creating an ideal lifestyle.

The Women’s Forum, led by Drs. AnjanaSamadhar, Uma jonnalagadda, and UdayaShivangi, will feature Ambassador Nikki Haley, Keisha Lance Bottoms, Mayor of Atlanta, Dr. Swati Kulkarni, India’s Consular General in Atlanta, Dr. Susan Bailey, President of American Medical Asociation, Dr. RenuKhator, President & Chancellor of University of Houston; Adv. Sheela Murthy, Founder & President of Murthy Law Form; Prof. Amita Sehgal, Professor of Neuroscience at UPENN, Dr. NahidBhadella, Director of Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases Policy &Reasearch; and, Dr. Mona Khanna, Emmy Award Winning Journalist.

Representing the interests of the over 100,000 physicians of Indian origin, leaders of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), the largest ethnic organization of physicians, for 39 years, AAPI Convention has provided a venue for medical education programs and symposia with world renowned physicians on the cutting edge of medicine.“Physicians and healthcare professionals from across the country and internationally will convene and participate in the scholarly exchange of medical advances, to develop health policy agendas, and to encourage legislative priorities in the coming year. We look forward to seeing you in Atlanta!” said Dr. Jonnalagadda. For more details, and sponsorship opportunities, please visit:  www.aapiconvention.org   and www.aapiusa.org

Students Vaccinated In India Need To Revaccinate To Enter U.S. Colleges

Since this March, over 400 U.S. colleges and universities have announced students should get Covid-19 vaccinations, ahead of the fall semester, but those who have been inoculated with India’s indigenous Covaxin or the Russian-made Sputnik V are being asked to revaccinate as these vaccines have not yet been approved by the World Health Organization. Rukmini Callimachi reports in the The New York Times that MilloniDoshi, a 25-year-old student from India, who is due to start her master’s degree this fall at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, has been administered two doses of Covaxin. Now, Columbia has told her that she will need to be revaccinated with a different vaccine once she arrives on campus.

“I am just concerned about taking two different vaccines. They said the application process would be the toughest part of the cycle, but it’s really been all of this that has been uncertain and anxiety-inducing,” Doshi wrote via a messaging app.Campuses are proposing different measures, out of which the more complicated scenario is if students received a vaccine that has not been approved by the WHO, like Sputnik or Covaxin. Many colleges are proposing that those students will need to be revaccinated, which presents both medical and logistical conundrums.

This is primarily because no data exists on whether combing vaccines from different companies is safe. “Since Covid-19 vaccines are not interchangeable, the safety and effectiveness of receiving two different Covid-19 vaccines have not been studied,” said Kristen Nordlund, spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Nordlund also advised that people vaccinated outside the U.S. with a vaccine not authorized by WHO should wait for a minimum of 28 days before taking the first dose of one of the Food and Drug Administration-sanctioned vaccines.

American students have access to the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, three of the eight doses authorized by the global health body. This disparity could hinder colleges that have made it a major priority to retain international students, who brought in close to $39 billion in tuition dollars in the year before the pandemic, according to an analysis.”Universities want to enroll international students because they add diversity to the campus community — and they bring money. It’s why this has been a subject of intense discussion,” said Terry W Hartle, senior vice president at the American Council on Education.

According to The New York Times, the situation is particularly challenging for students from India, which sends around 200,000 international students to American colleges every year. It is becoming increasingly hard to secure an appointment for a vaccine that will be accepted by American campuses.”Every day, we get 10 to 15 messages and inquiries, saying ‘What does this mean? How does this impact me?'” said Sudhanshu Kaushik, who runs the North American Association of Indian Students, which is working to help fellow students.

Indiana University’s vice president for international affairs, Hannah Buxbaum, said that the administrators of the institution are working overtime to answer the roughly 200 phone calls and 300 emails that are pouring in every day from the university’s roughly 6,000 students overseas.”Ringing off the hook doesn’t begin to describe. There is no question that there is anxiety and concern among our international students,” she said.

Many universities are only accepting the students who have been vaccinated with a WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccine. At Columbia, where one-third of the student body is from overseas, international students will be asked to present either their WHO booklet or a letter from a physician confirming they have received the requisite doses of one of the vaccines vetted by the world body, said Donna Lynne, the chief operating officer of the university’s medical center.Callimachi wrote in The New York Times that those who will not succeed in securing a vaccine before the start of the fall semester are facing a potentially problematic process.

Many universities were vague on how they plan to deal with the logistical complexity of spacing out these unrelated vaccines, beyond saying that they planned to accommodate students undergoing this process, reports The New York Times.At least six regional governments in India have announced emergency clinics in the past week to vaccine students going to U.S. universities, in the wake of mounting pressure from confused and anxious students, wrote Callimachi.However, Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech June 3 said that biopharmaceutical company Ocugen Inc. will have exclusive co-development, manufacturing, and commercialization rights of its COVID-19 vaccine Covaxin in Canada, in addition to its existing U.S. rights.

FAFSA Verification: An Undue Burden For Students And Public Colleges

As colleges start planning their return to in-person learning in the fall, the college admissions season is well underway. College-intending students are currently navigating access to the financial aid critical to affording college. This year, nearly 20 million new and returning students will apply for federal financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is notoriously time consuming. Yet, for many who complete the FAFSA, the process of accessing financial aid is far from over. Particularly for students from under-resourced and minoritized groups, their FAFSA has a good chance of being flagged for further scrutiny, jeopardizing the aid they qualify for.

Each year, the U.S. Education Department (ED) flags millions of students to undergo an audit of their FAFSA through a process termed verification. Verification requires students to further attest to—and, in some cases, prove—that the information reported on their FAFSA is accurate. ED’s stated goal of verification is to make sure that the nearly $41 billion in federal financial aid is going to students who are rightly entitled to it.Verification can take many forms. From relatively quick tasks, such as verifying family size, to more time-consuming actions, such as proving a parent’s unemployment status with a notarized letter. If students fail to complete verification, they may fail to receive federal aid and, in some cases, also become ineligible for institutional or state aid.

ED selects around 25% of all FAFSA filers for verification. This rate strikes us as surprisingly high, especially in contrast to the less than 2% of federal tax returns selected for audit annually. The verification rate is nearly three times higher (60%) for the 34% of under-resourced students who qualify for federal need-based Pell Grants. Even more concerning is when the nearly 25% of Pell-eligible FAFSA fillers flagged for verification fail to complete the process and therefore lose out on thousands in federal aid. By definition, students eligible for Pell Grants must “display exceptional financial need.” Still, verification requires these students to go to great lengths to prove repeatedly that they are poor.

What about the administrative burden to the colleges and universities these students attend? In a newly published paper, we consider the magnitude of these institutional costs. Although the federal government selects students for verification, the process is otherwise decentralized, with college financial aid offices bearing responsibility for administering the process.

We estimate that responsibility for this step in the financial aid process alone costs U.S. colleges nearly $500 million annually. This is roughly equal to an additional 130,000 Pell Grants for under-resourced students. Compared to the backdrop of $41 billion in financial aid, $500 million may seem like a reasonable expenditure. However, this cost is not borne equally by all institutions. We estimate that community colleges—which serve a disproportionate share of Pell recipients—spend almost a quarter of their financial-aid-office operating budget on verification procedures alone, compared to only 1% at private universities. To put this one-quarter figure into perspective, it is equivalent to three full-time staff members devoted to verification instead of other services, such as financial aid counseling. Such counseling might support students to seek emergency aid when faced with economic setbacks that could otherwise hinder their postsecondary progress, a frequent occurrence at public colleges.

ED has recently announced a decrease in the verification rate for next year’s FAFSA filers to 18%. Alongside it, ED has also announced simplifications to the FAFSA, including a reduction in the number of items it includes. These are moves in the right direction; however, if procedures for verification selection remain unchanged, the process will still place demands disproportionately on under-resourced students and the institutions they attend. These are the same students and institutions hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The resulting economic hardship faced by these students and their families undoubtedly will create increased pressure on financial aid offices.

Of course, ED’s role is to be a responsible steward of the tax dollars devoted to federal financial aid. However, evidence suggests that current audit procedures do little to change financial aid eligibility for those who complete verification. Further, any audit system should attend to inequitable distribution of burden to institutions.

To offer some final perspective, why should the federal government require burdensome verification procedures for low-income college students at nearly 20 times the rate at which federal tax returns are selected for audit? If the federal government instead focused on recuperating unpaid federal income taxes just among the top 1% of earners, federal revenue would increase by an estimated $175 billion—more than four times the total federal grant aid allocation every year. That would be an effort well spent.

The Mysterious Origin Of The Northern Lights Has Been Proven

The aurora borealis, or northern lights, could easily be described as Earth’s greatest light show. A phenomenon that’s exclusive to the higher latitudes has had scientists in awe and wonder for centuries.A group of physicists from the University of Iowa have finally proven that the “most brilliant auroras are produced by powerful electromagnetic waves during geomagnetic storms,” according to a newly released study.

The study shows that these phenomena, also known as Alfven waves, accelerate electrons toward Earth, causing the particles to produce the light show we know as the northern light. The aurora borealis lights up the night sky in Iceland. “Measurements revealed this small population of electrons undergoes ‘resonant acceleration’ by the Alfven wave’s electric field, similar to a surfer catching a wave and being continually accelerated as the surfer moves along with the wave,” said Greg Howes, associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Iowa and co-author of the study.

This idea of electrons “surfing” on the electric field is a theory first introduced in 1946 by a Russian physicist, Lev Landau, that was named Landau damping. His theory has now been proven.Recreating the northern lights Scientists have understood for decades how the aurora most likely is created, but they have now been able to simulate it, for the first time, in a lab at the Large Plasma Device (LPD) in UCLA’s Basic Plasma Science Facility.Scientists used a 20-meter-long chamber to recreate Earth’s magnetic field using the powerful magnetic field coils on UCLA’s LPD. Inside the chamber, scientists generated a plasma similar to what exists in space near the Earth.

“Using a specially designed antenna, we launched Alfven waves down the machine, much like shaking a garden hose up and down quickly, and watching the wave travel along the hose,” said Howes. As they began to experience the electrons “surfing” along the wave, they used another specialized instrument to measure how those electrons were gaining energy from the wave.

Although the experiment didn’t recreate the colorful shimmer we see in the sky, “our measurements in the laboratory clearly agreed with predictions from computer simulations and mathematical calculations, proving that electrons surfing on Alfven waves can accelerate the electrons (up to speeds of 45 million mph) that cause the aurora,” said Howes.

“These experiments let us make the key measurements that show that the space measurements and theory do, indeed, explain a major way in which the aurora are created,” said Craig Kletzing, the study co-author.Space scientists around the country were ecstatic to hear the news. “I was tremendously excited! It is a very rare thing to see a laboratory experiment that validates a theory or model concerning the space environment,” said Patrick Koehn, a scientist in the Heliophysics Division of NASA. “Space is simply too big to easily simulate in the lab.”

Koehn said he believes being able to understand the acceleration mechanism for the aurora-causing electrons will be helpful in many studies in the future.”It does help us understand space weather better! The electron acceleration mechanism verified by this project is at work elsewhere in the solar system, so it will find many applications in space physics. It will be of use in space weather forecasting as well, something that NASA is very interested in,” Koehn said in an email to CNN.

A long way to goNow that the theory of how the illuminating aurora is created has been proven, there’s still a long way to go in forecasting how strong each storm will be.”Predicting how strong a particular geomagnetic storm will be, based on observations of the Sun and measurements from spacecraft between the Earth and the Sun, remains an unsolved challenge,” said Howes in an email.”We have established the link of electrons surfing on Alfven waves about 10,000 miles above the Earth’s surface, and now we must learn how to predict the strength of those Alfven waves using spacecraft observations,” he added.

Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified the affiliation of the physicists who wrote the study. They are from the University of Iowa.

Drug-Resistant Fungal Infections Pose Threat ToIndia Patients

In May, a middle-aged-man suffering from Covid-19 was admitted in an intensive care unit (ICU) of a hospital in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata.As his condition deteriorated, the patient was put on a ventilator. He was administered steroids, a life-saving treatment for severe and critically ill Covid-19 patients. But experts say the drug also reduces immunity and pushes up blood sugar levels in patients. After a prolonged stay in the ICU, the patient had recovered and was ready to go home when doctors found he was infected with a deadly, drug-resistant fungus.

Candida auris (C. auris), discovered a little over a decade ago, is one of the world’s most feared hospital microbes. This bloodstream infection is the most frequently detected germ in critical-care units around the world and has a mortality rate of around 70%.”We are seeing an increased number of patients with the infection during the second wave of Covid-19. There are a lot of sick people in the ICUs and many of them are on high steroid doses. That could be the reason,” Dr Om Srivastava, a Mumbai-based infectious diseases specialist, said.

What are the fungal infections on the rise?

As the second wave washes over India and severely ill patients clog the ICUs, doctors are seeing an uptick in a host of dangerous fungal infections.First, there was an outbreak of mucormycosis or the black-fungus, a rare but dangerous infection, which affects the nose, eye and sometimes the brain. Some 12,000 cases and more than 200 deaths from the disease have been already recorded.

Now doctors are reporting a rise in other deadly fungal infections in Covid-19 patients, mostly after a week or 10 days of stay in the ICU.There are two species of Candida fungi – auris and albicans – and they can be fatal for human beings. Aspergillus, which is another kind of fungi group, affects the lungs, and it can also be fatal.

Of the more than five million types of fungi, Candida and Aspergillus are the two major groups which cause a lot of human deaths.Candida is a germ that can be present on many surfaces, like shower curtains, computer screens, doctor’s stethoscopes and railings of railway carriages.Doctors say C. auris frequently causes bloodstream infections, but can also infect the respiratory system, the central nervous system and internal organs, as well as the skin.

Aspergillus also remains in the environment and is often found in heating or air conditioning systems. Normally our immunity helps prevent the entry of the fungal spores in the respiratory tract.But in patients suffering from Covid-19, the fungus, helped by the damage done to the skin, blood vessel walls and other linings of the airway by the coronavirus, manages to enter the respiratory tract.This infection affects about 20% to 30% of the severely ill, mechanically ventilated Covid-19 patients, according to Dr SP Kalantri, medical superintendent of the 1,000-bed non-profit Kasturba Hospital in Wardha, Maharashtra state.

What are the symptoms of the infections?

Symptoms of some fungal diseases can be similar to those of Covid-19, including fever, cough, and shortness of breath.For superficial Candida infections, symptoms include a white coloured thrush – hence sometimes it is called the “white fungus” – in nose, mouth, lungs and stomach or nail beds.For a more invasive form of infection – when the bug travels into the blood – the symptoms are often a fall in blood pressure, fever, abdominal pain and urinary tract infections.

Why are these infections happening?

At least 5% of Covid-19 patients become critically ill and require intensive-care treatment, sometimes for a long period.Experts say that those who are put on mechanical ventilation are always at greater risk of developing bacterial or fungal infections.Lowered infection control in crowded intensive-care units during the pandemic is a major reason, say doctors.Overworked staff in clunky protective gear, increased use of major fluid tubes, decrease in hand washing compliance and changes in cleaning and disinfection practices contribute to lower infection control”With a prolonged pandemic, complacency and fatigue has set in among healthcare workers. Infection control practices have gone down. That is the major cause,” says DrArunalokeChakrabarti, president of the International Society of Human and Animal Mycology.

There are other reasons too.

Overuse of steroids and other drugs, which weaken the body’s immune system, and underlying conditions make Covid-19 patients in critical care more prone to such infections.”These fungi typically cause infections after the body’s immune system is suppressed significantly. They are also known as opportunistic infections,” says Dr Zachary Rubin, an immunologist.Dr Rubin says patients with HIV/Aids have a significantly increased risk of getting sick with such fungi. “These fungal diseases are normally rare in association with Covid-19, but are becoming increasingly more common in India.”

Diagnosis is not easy – testing typically requires a specimen from deep in the lungs. And the drugs are expensive.”It is very worrying and frustrating for the doctors treating these infections. It is a triple whammy – the patient’s lungs are already damaged by Covid-19, they have bacterial infections and now the fungal infections,” says DrKalantri. “It is almost like fighting a losing battle.”

Covid and (Lack of) Management and Acceleration of the Crisis in India

A summary of the presentation/talk by this writer via a Zoom Meeting at an Online Interaction with Shri DIGVIJAYA SINGH,” Senior Congress Leader & Member of Indian Parliament, Rajya Sabha on “PANDEMIC EFFECT ON URORGNIZED SECTOR AND CONGRESS RESPONSE,” organized by All India Unorganized Workers Congress in India on Sunday, May 23rd, 2021.

During the meeting, Mr. Arbind Singh, National Chairman of AIUWC welcomed the participants and invited Ajay Ghosh,  Chief Editor of the Universal News Network and BasvarajSankin, Head of Indian Overseas Congress in Spain to address the audience. Mr. Anshu Antony, Chair of the All India National Congress Party’s Training Wing introduced Mr. Ghosh to the audience.

Following the presentations, Mr. DigvijaySingh addressed the audience and responded to the concerns shared by the members of AIUWC, during which Mr. Singh responded to questions raised by AIUWC state presidents and Regional Coordinators.Below is the detailed address by Mr. Ajay Ghosh at the Event:

Covid-19 is notoriously hard to control, and political leaders are only part of the calculus when it comes to pandemic management. However, where leaders of the nations have responded adequately and planned and executed actions to prevent the spread and mitigate and eradicate the pandemic, the cases have been well contained. New Zeeland, Taiwan, Denmark, and some of the European countries and the United States under the current Biden administration are such examples of visionary leadership, protecting the people and saving lives from the pandenmic.

The US under Trump, several south American nations and India fall under the category of those world leaders who have made little effort to combat outbreaks in their country, whether by downplaying the pandemic’s severity, disregarding science or ignoring critical health interventions like vaccines, social distancing and masks.

India, which has been a shining example of development, freedom and fast growth, is the new epicenter of the global pandemic, recording some 400,000 new cases per day by May 2021. However grim, this statistic fails to capture the sheer horror unfolding there. Covid-19 patients are dying in hospitals because doctors have no oxygen to give and no lifesaving drugs that could save millions of lives. The sick are turned away from clinics that have no free beds.

In January 2021, Modi declared at a global forum that India had “saved humanity … by containing corona effectively.” In March, his health minister proclaimed that the pandemic was reaching an “endgame.” Covid-19 was actually gaining strength in India and worldwide—but his government made no preparations for possible contingencies, such as the emergence of a deadlier and more contagious Covid-19 variant.

The net result of such complacency and lack of vision and planning: Covid pandemic is killing thousands daily, crushing India’s modest health system, causing crippling shortages of doctors, nurses, medicines, even oxygen. Hospitals and medical professionals have put out urgent notices that they were unable to cope with the rush of patients.

How did we land here facing such a critical stage?

With India experiencing a devastating second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, questions are being asked about how the country — which is home to the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer — got to this tragic point.The second wave of Covid-19, with the spiraling cases and deaths across cities and towns, making India currently the world’s worst pandemic-affected country, have now dented India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s image in India and around the world for the poor vision, poor planning, and mismanagement of the most deadly virus in over a century.

India is now in a living hell. A new “double mutant” variant, named B.1.617, has emerged in a devastating coronavirus second wave which has seen hospitals run out of beds and oxygen. Mortuaries are so full that bodies are justify to decompose at home.A recent story in TIME magazine titled, “’This Is Hell.’ Prime Minister Modi’s Failure to Lead Is Deepening India’s COVID-19 Crisis” pointed out how India has mismanaged and sent misleading messages.

After declaring ‘victory’ over Covi, the Prime Minister and other political leadership spent their time organizing a blitzkrieg of election rallies in West Bengal and Assam without wearing masks and while exhorting large crowds to gather.When Covid was spreading rapidly in several states, killing thousands daily, the BJP leaders led by Modi were campaigning in poll bound states neglecting the responsibility to coordinate efforts to contain the spread of the deadly virus.

The Guardian newspaper wrote: “Like Donald Trump, Mr Modi would not give up campaigning while the pandemic raged. India went ahead with five state elections in April, and an unmasked MrModi held huge rallies. Mr Modi’s brand of Indian exceptionalism bred complacency. A presumption of national greatness has led to a lack of preparedness, most notably in vaccine production.”

People are dying in their hundreds in India because of a lack of medical oxygen and other supplies in the country’s overloaded hospitals. An investigation by Indian news website Scroll.in revealed that the country’s government waited until October 2020, eight months after the pandemic began, to invite bids for a $27 million contract to place oxygen generation systems inside more than 150 district hospitals. Six months later, most still aren’t up and running. Several states across the nation have expressed despair as most hospitals have run short of Oxygen.

Modi also allowed a religious festival that draws millions to proceed from January to March. Public health officials now believe the festival may have been a super-spreader event and was “an enormous mistake.”“The Uttarakhand chief minister declared on March 20, “nobody will be stopped in the name of COVID-19 as we are sure the faith in God will overcome the fear of the virus.” Hundreds of thousands of Hindu devotees showed up each day for a dip in the Ganges as part of the KumbhMela pilgrimage in Haridwar, Uttarakhand.

There has been certainly a big lapse from the complacent government and the general public, paying scant regard for the social-distance norms while the state machinery ignored enforcing norms.International media have criticized Indian states for attempting to hide the death rate. In the state of Uttar Pradesh workers were pictured covering the crematorium with tin sheets. The Wire news portal published an article titled, “Varanasi: Cremation, Burial Grounds Show About 50% of COVID-19 Deaths Aren’t Officially Recorded.”

In Gujarat, the Prime Minister’s home state, crematoriums are burning day and night, while the state refuses to acknowledge the high number of deaths. The Gujarat high court has demanded the state government reveal the accurate count of COVID-19 patients and deaths.The government is blatantly lying on official figures of the grim reality.As Modi touted his successes last year, India—the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer—sent over 100 million vaccine doses to 68 countries around the world. Yet just 1.9% of India’s 1.3 billion people had been fully inoculated against COVID-19 by early May.

In the race to produce and secure vaccines for Indians, Modi regime failed miserably. India invested too little in vaccine against Covid production. While epidemiologists, specialists and opposition leaders have long urged Modi to give approvals for foreign vaccines, the decision to give emergency use license to the Russian manufactured Sputnik V vaccine was only taken in the second week of April.Indian government had ordered 21 million doses of Covishield from the Serum Institute at the end of February this year but didn’t indicate when or if it would buy more, then it ordered an additional 110 million doses in March 2021 when infections started to rise.

When the vaccine rollout slowed, there was no effort or coordination with the states as Modi’s cabinet indulged in a blame game with ministers from opposition parties.Against the skepticism for vaccines by a vast majority of Indians, Modi government has done too little to reinforce public health messaging. The vaccine rollout became a global PR campaign for Modi’s leadership—in March, an Indo-Canadian group sponsored billboards erected in Canada thanking Modi for exporting Indian-made vaccines abroad—even while many Indians were apprehensive about their efficacy and side effects.

While the pandemic is raging across the nation and India is seeking help, medical and financial, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of the new Parliament building and a new Residence for the Prime Minister at an estimated cost of Rs. 971 crore. Why is the Modi Government spending billions of Dollars on the project, which could be better directed to fighting COVID-19 and repairing the pandemic-battered economy.

The sudden and abrupt lock down promulgated by Modi even before the 1st wave of the pandemic hit India caused enormous problems for millions of poor. It lies with the upper-middle-class Indians who were last year banging plates from their high-rise windows and lighting candles to praise Modi and celebrate the success of the unplanned lockdown—while poor migrant workers lost their jobs and had to leave the cities. While the rich booked themselves in hospitals using their contacts, the govt. cared little to alleviate the sufferings of the millions of the daily wage earners did not offer any monetary help.

While people are seeking help desperately, India has shut down its doors to get help by and through the NGOs abroad. The government of India implemented a set of bureaucratic regulations by amending a law called Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) in the middle of the pandemic. Hundreds of charities and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) across India are now required to have special permission under this law to receive any donations from overseas.

The new amendment put in place last September mandates the charities to open a new bank account at a particular New Delhi branch of the State Bank of India before March 31, 2021, regardless of where the charity is located or operating from. Though many charities have managed to open this account in New Delhi, they have run into bottlenecks and red tape. As a result they are unable to receive much needed funds to help the suffering  people in the middle of this pandemic.

The current stringent FCRA rules that were put in place by the Government are jeopardizing many donor’s plans to provide equipment like oxygen concentrators and other essential supplies from around the world in providing needed help to hospitals especially in rural areas.

Many Indian-American community and charity organizations in the United States say they are not able to send funds to NGO partners in India thanks to a newly amended law even as that country gasps from a tsunami of a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.Many US-based non-profits said the Narendra Modi government’s action in regulating of foreign funds was arbitrary.The NGO members and have also pointed to the alleged slow processing of paperwork by State Bank of India (SBI), and are asking the Indian government to revise the deadline so that they can help the country in its time of acute need. Earlier, donations could be received in any bank where the NGO had a designated FCRA account.

NGOs now cannot sub grant their foreign contributions to another NGO even if they have FCRA registrations as was the case earlier. This has been a blow for many NGOs who have been working collaboratively on various programs and projects. Thisd impedesCovid relief work, including making direct cash transfer to low-income families of the Covid deceased, often an earning member.

GOPIO chapters in India are yet to get the permission FCRA. For example, it is going to be more than two years since GOPIO-Kochi, a duly registered nonprofit organization, applied to receive funds from outside, especially from GOPIO International which collected funds for the 2018 Kerala flood relief. The chapter’s application is still pending and we have not been able to send the money collected to our chapter yet.

A large number of nonprofit community organizations are raising funds for India, including to send oxygen concentrators which are badly needed all over India. The government must immediately remove all hurdles to get this medical equipment and supplies to the hospitals which need them urgently.

Suppressing Truth and Penalizing Media and Voice of the Public:

At times, Prime Minister Narendra Modis government has seemed more intent on removing criticism on Twitter than trying to control the Covid-19 pandemic, a premier medical journal The Lancet has said in an editorial. “Modi’s actions in attempting to stifle criticism and open discussion during the crisis are inexcusable,” Lancet said.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) estimates that India will see a staggering 1 million deaths from Covid-19 by August 1.If that outcome was to happen, Modi’s government would be responsible for presiding over a self-inflicted national catastrophe,” Lancet said in a scathing criticism of the government.

India squandered its early successes in controlling Covid-19. Until April, the government’s Covid-19 taskforce had not met in months. The consequences of that decision are clear before us, and India must now restructure its response while the crisis rages. The success of that effort will depend on the government owning up to its mistakes, providing responsible leadership and transparency, and implementing a public health response that has science at its heart.

But above all it lies with Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, who calls himself the servant of 1.3 billion Indians, yet who has criminally abdicated his responsibility. At this critical juncture in its history, Indians have been left to fend for ourselves

Mismanagement?

  1. Complacency and lack of visionby the Indian Govt.
  2. Poor planning and lack of preparedness
  3. Lack of transparency and lack of foresight
  4. Intimidating and penalizing critics, including the media and those expressing their views on social media platforms
  5. Favoritism and lack of will to help the poor and the powerless: siding with the businesses and political supporters at the cost of the poor
  6. Blaming the opposition and those who criticize the government rather than an attitude of dialogue, open mindedness, collaboration, and cooperation
  7. An attitude of “I know it all” rather than the willingness to listen to the scientific community and professionals, and make amends for the wrongs committed
  8. Suppressing and denying the NGOs, particularly the minority communities from receiving foreign funds through the short sighted FCRA regulations, and in the process denying much needed help to millions who would have benefitted from such resources from abroad
  9. Lack of political will to contain market forces from hijacking medical supplies and hiking up the prizesfor essential medical suplies
  10. Prioritizing the image of the party and the leaders in power over the needs of the nation of the people.
  11. Lack of thoughtfulness and taking decisions arbitrarily and abruptly not reflecting on the consequences of govt. actions on millions of people

Some Suggestions For Action

  1. India must reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission as much as possible by educating the public about the necessity of masking, social distancing, halting mass gatherings, quarantine, and testing
  2. Transparent: as cases continue to mount, the government must publish accurate data in a timely manner, and forthrightly explain to the public what is happening and what is needed to bend the epidemic curve, including the possibility of a new federal lockdown
  3. Genome sequencing needs to be expanded to better track, understand and control emerging and more transmissible SARS-CoV-2 variants
  4. The botched vaccination campaign must be rationalized and implemented with all due speed. Increasing vaccine supply (some of which should come from abroad) and setting up a distribution campaign that can cover not just urban but also rural and poorer citizens, who constitute more than 65 per cent of the population (over 800 million people).
  5. The government must work with local and primary healthcare centers that know their communities and create an equitable distribution system for the vaccine.
  6. Expand the production and supply of oxygen and import while lifting unnecessary restrictions
  7. Stop middlemen and business from raising the prizes of medical supplies, oxygen and much needed treatment for Covid, at this hour of crisis. Punish those who inflate the prize of these essentials
  8. Open more centers, use schools and other institutes in every village and town to provide health care and treat covid patients
  9. India has a large number of medical professionals. Use the newly graduates and who are in the final years of Medical schools and Nursing programs to fill the shortage of medical professionals to treat covid patients
  10. There are thousands of not for profit organization and individuals abroad who want to help their suffering sisters and brothers in India. Make it easier for them help India as she bleeds. Relax FCRA rules and make it easier for them to send money.
  11. India Needs to act on a war footing, using all possible resources and work collaboratively, using all sections, the political parties, the ruling and the opposition together, the medical professionals, hospitals and academicians, research institutes, the media and the public, in a transparent manner, putting the safety, security and well being of the people before that of the interests of the ruling party.

AAPI’s 39th Annual Convention Will Be Held from July 2nd to 5th

“The 39th Annual AAPI Convention & Scientific Assembly will be held from July 2nd to July 5th, 2021 at the fabulous and world famous Omni Atlanta at CNN Center and Georgia World Congress Center,” Dr. SudhakarJonnalagadda, President of American association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) announced here today.

Planned to have a limited number of attendance due to the ongoing Coivd pandemic and the taking into account the safety of the participants, including Physicians, Academicians, Researchers and Medical students, “the annual convention offers extensive academic presentations, recognition of achievements and achievers, and professional networking at the alumni and evening social events,” said Dr. Sajani Shah, Chair of AAPI BOT.

The annual convention this year is being organized by AAPI’s Atlanta Chapter, headed by Dr. SreeniGangasani. “The convention team is working hard and over time, to provide a delightful three days of events packed with educational CME credits, world-class entertainment, leadership seminars, networking opportunities, exhibits, and more,” Dr. Gangasani said. “This meeting offers a rich educational program featuring the latest scientific research and advances in clinical practice. In addition, physicians and healthcare professionals from across the country will convene to develop health policy agendas and encourage legislative priorities for the upcoming year.”

As though responding to the growing need: “Physician, heal thyself,” especially when there are growing signs of burn out among physicians, AAPI is focusing on themes such as how to take care of self and find satisfaction and happiness in the challenging situations they are in, while serving hundreds of patients everyday of their dedicated and noble profession, Dr. AnupamaGotimukula, President-Elect of AAPI said.

Accordingly, some of the major themes as part of the CME sessions include: Pursuit of Happiness In Medicine; Burnout Prevention and Wellness in Physicians; Easy Life of a Hospitalist: An Illusion; and, Meditation and Mindfulness. Other themes at the CME include:;  Type 2 Diabetes in South Asians – the Unresolved Questions; and, Cardio-oncology: Clinical Practice and Echocardiography, Dr. Ravi Kolli, Vice President of AAPI elaborated.

In addition to offering over 12 hours of cutting edge CMEs to the physicians, the convention will have CEOs Forum, fabulous entertainment, and women’s leadership forum, the convention will be addressed by senior world leaders, including US Senators, Presidential candidates, Governors, Congressmen, and celebrities from the Hollywood and Bollywood world, Dr. Amit Chakrbarty, Secretary of AAPI said.

According to Dr. SatheeshKathula, Treasurer of AAPI, “The AAPI Convention offers an opportunity to meet, interact and network directly with the physicians and leaders in healthcare industry, who are competent and committed in their fields and play an integral part in the decision-making process regarding new products and services.”

Representing the interests of the over 100,000 physicians of Indian origin, leaders of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), the largest ethnic organization of physicians, for 37 years, AAPI Convention has provided a venue for medical education programs and symposia with world renowned physicians on the cutting edge of medicine.

“Physicians and healthcare professionals from across the country and internationally will convene and participate in the scholarly exchange of medical advances, to develop health policy agendas, and to encourage legislative priorities in the coming year. We look forward to seeing you in Atlanta!” said Dr. Jonnalagadda. For more details, and sponsorship opportunities, please visit:  www.aapiconvention.org   and www.aapiusa.org

AAPI’s Premier Academic Journal (JAAPI) Inaugurated By Dr. Susan R. Bailey, AMA President

Many years of meticulous planning, hard work and concerted efforts by several leaders have resulted in American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) launching its own premier academic initiative, Journal of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (JAAPI) today, Dr. SudhakarJonnalagadda.

“Many years of meticulous planning, hard work and concerted efforts by several leaders have resulted in American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) launching its own premier academic initiative, Journal of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (JAAPI) today,” Dr. SudhakarJonnalagadda, President of AAPI said in his opening remarks. Describing the inauguration of JAAPI as “a historical milestone for AAPI” Dr. Jonnalagadda said, “We are deeply honored to have Dr. Bailey inaugurate JAAPI tonight.”

Dr. Susan R. Bailey, President of American Medication Association (AMA), who was the Chief Guest and Distinguished speaker at the launch event, inaugurated JAAPI on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 during a solemn virtual ceremony, attended by hundreds of AAPI members and supporters from around the nation.Dr. Susan R. Bailey, while inaugurating JAAPI said, “It’s my pleasure to celebrate the launch of JAAPI. On behalf of AMA we congratulate AAPI for this new initiative, which will be a great source of medical education. We applaud you and looking forward to reading your great contributions in the years to come.”

Dr. Sajani Shah, Chair of AAPI BOT,  while describing the launch of JAAPI as a “Monumental moment for all at AAPI,” said,  “As a second generation physician of Indian Origin, we are excited at AAPI launching its own Medical Journal. I want to congratulate AAPI for launching a scientific journal that will help writers in the US, in India and around the world.”Dr. AnupamaGotimukula, President-Elect of AAPI while congratulating the AAPI family said, “This is the fruit of our team work and it’s a good opportunity for the members of AAPI to contribute scientific articles, and make it better as we move on.”

“This is a historical milestone in the annals of AAPI. The foundation for this milestone was laid one year ago in February 2020 by our visionary leaders, Drs. SudhakarJonnalagadda and Suresh Reddy,” said Dr. Bellomkonda Kishore, the Founding Editor in Chief of JAAPI said.  Describing the vision and the efforts that have given shape to the launching of JAAPI, Dr. Kishore said, “A Peer Review Journal needs group synergy and cultivation of the culture of peer-review process and publication. It is like agriculture – crop after crop. But the very fact that we are able to assemble a passionate and diligent team of editorial board members, and developed the required group synergy and culture bringing out the journal as planned, itself is a sign that AAPI has reached a level of academic maturity, capability and perfection.”

Dr. Kishore is hopeful that the talented and dedicated Editorial Team will be able to “sustain the journal, and take it to new heights over time.” The inaugural issue of JAAPI has “excellent contributions by eminent physicians and scientists, and has come out beyond our expectations and in an outstanding manner. We are committed to maintain the same standards in the future. Excellence and thoroughness are our motto.”

After one year of publication, JAAPI will be registered with MEDLINE so that it will be indexed in PubMed and other databases. JAAPI is a fully Open Access journal with no manuscript submission or publication charges. And we welcome articles by authors from all over the world without any restrictions. We are also open to eminent academicians wishing to join the editorial board. Details are provided in the journal. JAAPI follows next generation peer-review model by which it discloses the identity of editors and reviewers after publication, but the review process itself is blind. This will give due credit to editors and reviewers, and also ensures fair review process. The cover page is designed to reflect the heart of AAPI, an association of Indian American Physicians – with colors of the flag of India, our motherland, on top and the red and white stripes of American flag, over which the AAPI emblem rests, indicating the way we adopted this Great Land, Dr. Kishore explained.

Dr. Vemuri S. Murthy, an Adjunct Faculty in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, an Advisor to the Journal of AAPI, and Chairman of the AAPI Webinar CME Committee and Program Director of the CME Program, introduced Dr. Bailey to the audience.

“Physician Leadership In Times of Crisis & Transition” was the theme of an hour long CME presented by Dr. Bailey at the conclusion of the JAAPI launch ceremony. The insightful and practically oriented CME was organized by American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, in affiliation with Chicago Medical Society and in association with Indian American Medical Association of Illinois IAMA (IL.)

In her address, Dr. Bailey shared with AAPI members as to how the pandemic has “ tested physicians as never been before. My heart breaks for what I see is happening in India,” she said. Describing Covid as a grave threat, Dr. Bailey said, “It needs to be addressed globally. I hope the current US administration can render all possible help to India and other nations.” Acknowledging that physicians “have the power to bring in changes to the delivery of healthcare,” Dr. Bailey thanked all the medical professionals. “Your work has been extraordinary. Many have died serving the sick and worked tirelessly to help the sick. AMA has stood with them every step of the way, by offering evidence based support to all healthcare professionals.

While extending full support for the strengthening of Affordable Care Act, Dr. Bailey said, AMA has advocated for loans and financial help to physicians and for PPE and vaccine development and its distribution.  “Vaccination has helped us but we are still far away. The need is to have maximum people to be vaccinated. This gives us an opportunity to be vaccine ambassadors by advocating for vaccination,” she said.

Dr. SunitaKanumury moderated the Q&A at the end of the presentation by Dr. Susan Bailey. Dr. Kanumury is an AAPI Delegate to AMA and a past President of AAPI. Dr.Kanumury is a practicing Allergy and Immunology specialist in Livingston, New Jersey, with multiple Hospital Affiliations.

Dr. Murthy congratulated the Editor-in-Chief, “Dr. Kishore Bellamkonda, whose vision and energetic leadership resulted in the AAPI’s Academic Emblem, JAAPI.” On behalf of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin and other Medical Societies, and the JAAPI Committee. Dr. Murthy expressed deep appreciation and thanked Dr. Susan R. Bailey, Dr. Peter C. Agre, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry 2003; Dr. Mario R.Capecchi, Nobel Laureate in Medicine or Physiology 2007; Dr. Mitchell S.V. Elkind, President, American Heart Association, and Dr. Nageshwar Reddy, Director, Asian Institute of Gastroenterology, for their immense support and help.For more information on AAPI and to read the inaugural edition of JAAPI, please visit: www.aapiusa.org

 

Treatments For Covid-19

The world remains in turmoil over SARS-CoV-2. But, ground-breaking progress in global vaccination has been made in India through Covishield and Covaxin.

Multiple scientific advances in the 21st century have given us a lifeline in nature’s arms race. The world, however, remains in turmoil over SARS-CoV-2, which is continuing to plague even our largest economies, with India being no exception. Ground-breaking progress in global vaccination has been made in India through Covishield and Covaxin. Despite this progress, the country now has the highest per-day rate of positive cases in the world. Furthermore, it is unlikely that vaccines will reach most of the population necessary to stop the spread of the virus. Another major problem in India is for the critically ill with Covid-19, who require mechanical ventilation, as ventilators and trained operators are in short supply in India’s overtaxed hospital system. Beyond this, the mortality rate with invasive mechanical ventilation is at 70%. Both grim facts highlight the overwhelming need to avoid invasive mechanical ventilation. What can India do to combat this? The answer lies within a diversified approach to target treatment of Covid-19 rather than solely addressing infection prevention.

WHAT TOOLS DO WE HAVE TO TREAT COVID-19?
The repurposing of previously used drugs is of great value to patients within our suffocating healthcare systems. Remdesivir, an antiviral treatment previously used for SARS and MERS, has been applied to Covid-19 patients. The efficacy of remdesivir’s five- to ten-day treatment course in hospitalized Covid-19 patients has been globally debated by leading international health care organizations and scientists. The drug demonstrated improvement in recovery in a randomized, double-blind clinical trial versus a placebo group. The US Food and Drug Administration granted the drug emergency use authorization in October 2020 for Covid-19 patients requiring hospitalization. Marketed as Veklury™, remdesivir has recently been approved in India. Manufacture and distributions have been significantly accelerated by scaling up batch sizes, contracting local manufacturers, and adding production facilities. The opportunity exists to curb the damage of SARS-CoV-2 if the region is willing to adapt its current practices to the rapidly changing needs.

Dexamethasone, an inexpensive corticosteroid, is an older drug that has been found most beneficial in hospitalized patients who require invasive mechanical ventilation. Yet, when given too early in Covid-19, for example, when supplemental oxygen is not required, dexamethasone may be detrimental. Dexamethasone may also be inappropriate for use in patients that have co-morbidities such as obesity and diabetes. Dexamethasone has been used to reduce cellular immune responses and treat patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). It is now repurposed to combat severe symptoms of Covid-19 and is one tool in the Covid-19 treatment armamentarium.

With the crisis pushing us to innovate, we are learning about newer drugs that can fight the virus’ effects. One such promising medication is lenzilumab, a drug created by Humanigen, based in the United States. Lenzilumab targets the initiation of “cytokine storm,” the hyper inflammation consequent to SARS-Cov-2 infection that leads to critical illness in many patients. In the LIVE-AIR phase 3 clinical trial, lenzilumab improved the likelihood of survival and/or ventilation by 54%, over and above remdesivir and dexamethasone, in newly hospitalized Covid-19 patients, who required supplemental oxygen but had not yet progressed to invasive mechanical ventilation. The effect of this one-day treatment was most beneficial in patients who were less than 85 years old and had a biomarker of early hyperinflammatory response; in which lenzilumab improved the likelihood of survival and/or ventilation by nearly three-fold.
Other innovative treatments include tocilizumab (Regeneron) and otilimab (Glaxo Smith Kline). Tocilizumab works on a downstream mediator in the cytokine storm. The open-label RECOVERY study showed that tocilizumab improved survival and other clinical outcomes in hospitalized Covid-19 patients who required respiratory support. However, results from other trials are conflicting, including one that found no benefit in clinical status or survival. Otilimab, like lenzilumab, also targets the early steps in cytokine storm. Otilimab failed to achieve its primary endpoint in a clinical trial, but an exploratory analysis found that it provided benefit in hospitalized, ventilated Covid-19 patients who were over 70 years of age—an effect that is being explored in an additional clinical trial.

WHAT CAN BE DONE?
To date, more than 20 million confirmed cases of coronavirus are reported in India, with an exponential increase in cases over the past month. More than 222,408 people have died, but survivors, funeral directors, and scientists say the actual numbers of infections and deaths in India may be many times more than the reported figures. Therapies, which are quick and easy to administer, can help countries struggling to contain SARS-CoV-2. A new urgency to investigate alternative treatments for Covid-19 is imperative, as this pandemic is suspected of remaining present for several years.
Lessons are to be learned from the case of Hepatitis C. While vaccines for Hepatitis A and B are available and frequently used, the Hepatitis C virus constantly mutates and has escaped the development of an effective vaccine. However, Hepatitis C treatment has been successfully developed. So why should approaches to Covid-19 be different?

WHAT IS THERE TO OVERCOME?
A big consideration for our political leaders is the size of the problem. India’s mammoth population is its biggest resource and one of its greatest challenges. The vaccination process is slow and tedious. With our limited understanding of the virus, it will not be long before we see newer mutations arise, which would require boosters to mediate. Once vaccinated, populations will require following up and, given the geographical challenges, will push back recovery many years.
Another significant challenge the country faces is the daily mortality figures. Symptoms of Covid have an uncanny resemblance to that of many common tropical diseases. It is not the system’s failure but the success of a virus that has been baffling epidemiologists at every corner. Our reality may be far worse than what we perceive it to be. Unaccounted deaths from people dying at home, on the way to hospitals, and the streets remain unaccounted in the national statistics as many are untested for Covid due to test shortages. If there is a drug accessible at local pharmacies, it can reduce these unaccounted deaths—these precious lives.

THE WAY FORWARD
Locking down India for Covid-19 is an untenable answer, as this approach previously almost collapsed the economy. Therefore, prevention and treatments are required and need to be delivered to hospitals and the populace. Inefficiencies in the logistical process of drug and oxygen manufacture and distribution should be at the top of the government’s plan.
It is time to reform the Drugs and Cosmetics Act of 1940 and Rules 1945. Covid-19 drugs, especially those showing efficacy in phase 3 of trials, under reliable international health authorities, should be given conditional approval in India immediately by the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI). Data needs to be collected as done with the NIH in the US and NHS in the UK, and drug efficacy and side effects reported publicly. Manufacturers such as Regeneron, Humanigen, Pfizer, and GSK should be encouraged to produce in India for the local population. We should end this over-reliance on vaccines and focus on treatments. Such open-minded approval processes will decrease dependency on a single solution, give our system more breathing room and drive down prices for life-saving medications.
The biggest democracy in the world needs just as many options when the matter is of saving its own citizens’ lives.

Prof (Dr) Joseph M. Chalil is an Adjunct Professor & Chair of the Complex Health Systems advisory board at Nova Southeastern University’s School of Business; Chairman of the Indo-American Press Club, and The Universal News Network publisher. He recently published a best seller book, “Beyond the Covid-19 Pandemic: Envisioning a Better World by Transforming the Future of Healthcare”.

Over 40 Aligarh Muslim University Faculty Members Succumb To Covid-19

More than 40 serving and retired faculty members, plus several non-teaching staffers of the Aligarh Muslim University have succumbed to Covid-19. Each day, the graph is going up.

Vice Chancellor Tariq Mansoor lost his elder brother a few days ago. On Saturday, the dean of the Law faculty died.A large number of staffers are under treatment at the Jawahar Lal Nehru Medical College hospital of the AMU.Social activist Prof Jasim Mohammad told IANS, “The university administration had failed, the medical college system has collapsed. The VC has not even bothered to ask for Oxygen. He has not sought help from any quarters. May be a hundred have already died and in another one month, there could be another 100 deaths, if conditions do not improve.”The number of deaths could be much higher, but the university officials could not give the exact numbers.

The campus is deserted and there are no classes. Most hostellers have justify, said Zeeshan, an official of the university.Several faculty members have justify Aligarh. One member, now in Tamil Nadu, told IANS, “In addition to the pandemic spreading its wings wide, there was a total psychological breakdown, despair and also a degree of disgust.”Quite a few retired faculty members who justify Aligarh have died in their home towns like Bhopal, Hyderabad.

Jasim has sought critical information from the VC through an RTI. He has asked the VC about the shortages of medicines, Oxygen, ambulances etc.Locals allege that the university administration despite all the resources, has been caught napping.
No special mechanism or arrangements have been put in place. Due to the fear of infection, people are shunning going to the medical college for vaccination.

“Fear is rampant. The winds of despair and gloom sweep the campus. The central government should step in and control the worsening situation,” says a local student.
So far it is not clear how many of the deceased were vaccinated, though it is widely accepted that there have been a few deaths due to Covid-morbidities and age.

According to the district administration, on May 8, there were 417 fresh cases, 295 were discharged. Local medical circles confirmed the situation was really alarming. (IANS)

Moderna Says, Booster Shots of Its COVID-19 Vaccine Is Effective Against Virus Variants

In a press release on May 5, Moderna reported the first results of any vaccine maker from studies on booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines, which some experts believe might be necessary in a year or so to keep COVID-19 under control. Based on current research, people vaccinated with the existing, authorized shot from Moderna appear to have a diminished response to the variant viruses—although it’s still sufficient to protect against serious COVID-19 illness. Still, public health experts are concerned that the variant viruses could break through that vaccine protection and start causing more infections.

The company is testing three ways to add a third dose to its current two-dose regimen to potentially increase protection against new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. In its recent press release, Moderna reports on two of those strategies: adding a third dose of the existing vaccine, at half the dosage of the shots currently in use, and adding to the current two-shot regimen a third dose of a new vaccine the company developed specifically against the variant B.1.351 first identified in South Africa. Moderna is also investigating a combined vaccine booster that includes doses of both the existing vaccine and the new variant one—no results from that study are available yet.

Both of the two strategies included in the recent press release are aimed at enhancing the body’s immune response to the South African variant, as well as to another one that was detected in Brazil, called P.1. Moderna reports that both approaches appear to boost immune responses. Two weeks after receiving either the halved dose of the existing vaccine or the dose of the new variant vaccine, serum taken from vaccinated people in the study was able to neutralize lab versions of the mutated version of the SARS-CoV-2 virus at levels similar to or higher than against the non-variant strain.

Moderna says that the boost with the new vaccine, which was designed to target the South African variant—perhaps unsurprisingly generated higher virus-neutralizing activity against the B.1.351 variant compared to the approach that used a third dose of the original vaccine. The Phase 2 study is ongoing, so final Phase 3 data will be available in coming months.

While Harvard Introduces Covid-19 Vax Requirement For Students, Will Others Follow Soon?

Students at the Harvard University in the US will be required to be vaccinated against Covid-19 at the start of the new term later this year. “To reach the high levels of vaccination needed to protect our community, Harvard will require Covid vaccination for all students who will be on campus this fall,” the elite university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, announced on Wednesday.

According to the statement, exceptions would only be granted for medical or religious reasons. Previously, a number of other Ivy League universities such as Yale, Columbia and Princeton had already introduced such a vaccination requirement.

Before returning to campus, students must have completed their vaccination with a vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the World Health Organization (WHO).

This means at least two weeks must have passed since the last vaccine dose was administered, the statement added. International students and others who do not have access to a vaccine before the autumn will be offered vaccination by the university upon their arrival.

Founded in 1636, Harvard University is considered one of the elite schools in the US, producing several presidents and dozens of Nobel laureates, among others.

More than 23,000 students are currently enrolled at the private university, which is known for its rigorous admissions standards.

Sharks Use Earth’s Magnetic Fields To Find Their Way Home

Newswise — Each year, many shark species migrate hundreds of miles, traversing ocean waters to return to the same spot year after year. Now, Florida State University researchers have found that sharks likely use the Earth’s magnetic fields to help guide them on these long-distance journeys.

“Sharks use map-like information from the geomagnetic field as a navigational aid,” said Bryan Keller, a recent Ph.D. graduate who conducted his research at the FSU Coastal and Marine Laboratory. “This ability is useful for navigation and possibly maintaining population structure.”

The research team’s work is published the latest issue of Current Biology.

Researchers have known that some shark species migrate long distances annually in response to seasonal changes in the environment, prey availability or for reproductive functions, such as finding mates or giving birth. They also knew that sharks are sensitive to electromagnetic fields and thought that there may be a connection with their migration patterns.

Keller specifically examined a group of bonnethead sharks that spend the summer off the coast of the FSU Coastal and Marine Laboratory before migrating south for the winter. Other populations of bonnetheads have been shown to undertake migrations over 620 miles roundtrip.

“That’s not bad for a shark that is only 2 to 3 feet long,” said Dean Grubbs, associate director of research for the  laboratory. “Many shark species display similar migration patterns. The question is how do they find their way back to that same estuary year after year.”

Though scientists had theorized about a potential connection between electromagnetic fields and migration, Keller, Grubbs and their colleagues had to find a way to prove it.

Researchers exposed 20 juvenile, wild-caught bonnetheads to magnetic conditions representing locations hundreds of miles away from where the sharks were captured.

Scientists predicted that if the sharks used the magnetic conditions as a directional tool that they would naturally orient north when exposed to the southern magnetic field. They also predicted that the sharks would have no preference in their orientation when exposed to the magnetic field that matched the field of their capture site.

Both predictions were borne out in the experiments.

“For 50 years, scientists have hypothesized that sharks use the magnetic field as a navigational aid,” Keller said. “This theory has been so popular because sharks, skates and rays have been shown to be very sensitive to magnetic fields. They have also been trained to react to unique geomagnetic signatures, so we know they are capable of detecting and reacting to variation in the magnetic field.”

Co-authors of this study are Nathan Putnam from 2LGL Ecological Research Associates, David Portnoy from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and Tim Murphy from the FSU-headquartered National High Magnetic Field Laboratory.

This work was supported by the Save Our Seas Foundation and the FSU Coastal and Marine Laboratory.

Book, “India And Asian Geopolitics: The Past, Present” By Shivshankar Menon Shows Light At Modern India’s Role In Asia’s And The Broader World

One of India’s most distinguished foreign policy thinkers addresses the many questions facing India as it seeks to find its way in the increasingly complex world of Asian geopolitics. A former Indian foreign secretary and national security adviser, Shivshankar Menon traces India’s approach to the shifting regional landscape since its independence in 1947. From its leading role in the “nonaligned” movement during the cold war to its current status as a perceived counterweight to China, India often has been an after-thought for global leaders—until they realize how much they needed it.

Examining India’s own policy choices throughout its history, Menon focuses in particular on India’s responses to the rise of China, as well as other regional powers. Menon also looks to the future and analyzes how India’s policies are likely to evolve in response to current and new challenges.

As India grows economically and gains new stature across the globe, both its domestic preoccupations and international choices become more significant. India itself will become more affected by what happens in the world around it. Menon makes a powerful geopolitical case for an India increasingly and positively engaged in Asia and the broader world in pursuit of a pluralistic, open, and inclusive world order.

Shivshankar Menon is a Distinguished Fellow at CSEP and a Visiting Professor at Ashoka University. His long career in public service spans diplomacy, national security, atomic energy, disarmament policy, and India’s relations with its neighbours and major global powers. Menon served as national security advisor to the Indian Prime Minister from January 2010 to May 2014. He currently serves as chairman of the advisory board of the Institute of Chinese Studies in New Delhi. He was also a Distinguished Fellow with Brookings India. He is the author of “Choices: Inside the Making of Indian Foreign Policy” published by the Brookings Press and Penguin Random House in 2016. His new book, “India and Asian Geopolitics; The Past, Present” is likely to be out in 2021.

Menon has previously served as foreign secretary of India from October 2006 to August 2009 and as ambassador and high commissioner of India to Israel (1995-1997), Sri Lanka (1997-2000), China (2000-2003) and Pakistan (2003-2006). From 2008 to 2014, he was also a member of India’s Atomic Energy Commission. A career diplomat, he also served in India’s missions to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Geneva and the United Nations in New York.

As high commissioner of India to Pakistan, Menon restored high commissioner level relations after a gap of a year and a half and initiated what is so far the best period in the two countries’ relationship. He also served as India’s ambassador to China, restoring relations following the India nuclear weapons tests of 1998. During his work as high commissioner of India to Sri Lanka, he was responsible for the free trade agreement with Sri Lanka. Menon was the second Indian ambassador to Israel and oversaw the beginning of the now flourishing India-Israel defence and intelligence relationship.

During his service in the Ministry of External Affairs from 1992 to 1995, Menon negotiated the first boundary related agreement between the Republic of India and the People’s Republic of China, the root of the subsequent series of agreements that have maintained peace on the border despite ongoing boundary disputes. He also served as special representative of the prime minister of India on the boundary issue from 2010 to 2014, and has dealt with the India-China boundary and India-China relations since 1974.

Menon has been a Richard Wilhelm Fellow at the Center for International Studies at MIT and Fisher Family Fellow at the Belfer Center, Harvard University. In 2010, he was chosen by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the world’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers.” He attended the Scindia School, Gwalior and St. Stephens College of the University of Delhi, where he studied ancient Indian history and Chinese. He speaks Chinese and some German.

Praise of India and Asian Geopolitics

“In this brilliant examination of India’s recent past as an Asian power, the distinguished Indian diplomat Shivshankar Menon gives us much to consider about its future as well. His evocation of India as central to Asia’s geopolitics and yet also set apart from it is a major contribution to our understanding of this great, rising power in this Asian century.”
—Nicholas Burns, former U.S. under secretary of state; professor, Harvard University

“This book is a tour de force by one of today’s most perceptive strategic thinkers. Menon deftly surveys how India has navigated its geopolitical environment in the past, while illuminating the international landscape and challenges it faces today. Anyone interested in Asia’s future should read this book.”
—M. Taylor Fravel, Arthur and Ruth Sloan Professor of Political Science, and director, Security Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

“An important work that restores India into the Asian story, and a timely reminder that active engagement with Asia and the world will not just be a choice, but also a necessity for New Delhi.”
—Tanvi Madan, senior fellow and director of the India Project, the Brookings Institution

“Shivshankar Menon is one of the most distinguished diplomats in the world. In his latest book, he has brilliantly laid out the stages of India from independence to the rise of Modi. When he looks to history, he focuses on Asian geopolitics. But when he turns to the future, he opens the aperture to the global trend of illiberality. He believes India, with no existential outside threat and a vast diversity in its populace, can afford expansive rights of all its citizens.”
—Strobe Talbott, distinguished fellow, the Brookings Institution; U.S. deputy secretary of state (1994–2001)

India and Asian Geopolitics: The past, present by Shivshankar Menon (Brookings Institution Press, Washington DC, 2021) may, at first glance, appear to be primarily on India. But it is about Asia as a whole, its past, present and future in the context of global developments.”
Eurasia Review

Unrestricted Warfare: China’s Master Plan to Destroy America

A sobering and fascinating study on war in the modern era, Unrestricted Warfare carefully explores strategies that militarily and politically disadvantaged nations might take in order to successfully attack a geopolitical super-power like the United States. American military doctrine is typically led by technology; a new class of weapon or vehicle is developed, which allows or encourages an adjustment in strategy. Military strategists Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui argue that this dynamic is a crucial weakness in the American military, and that this blind spot with regard to alternative forms warfare could be effectively exploited by enemies. Unrestricted Warfare concerns the many ways in which this might occur, and, in turn, suggests what the United States might do to defend itself.

The traditional mentality that offensive action is limited to military action is no longer adequate given the range of contemporary threats and the rising costs-both in dollars and lives lost-of traditional warfare. Instead, Liang and Xiangsui suggest the significance of alternatives to direct military confrontation, including international policy, economic warfare, attacks on digital infrastructure and networks, and terrorism. Even a relatively insignificant state can incapacitate a far more powerful enemy by applying pressure to their economic and political systems. Exploring each of these considerations with remarkable insight and clarity, Unrestricted Warfare is an engaging evaluation of our geopolitical future.

More relevant than ever, this interesting handbook on modern all-enveloping warfare was first published in China in 1999. Re-digitized from the 2004 Filament Books edition, this new edition contains specific methods for American troops, government, academia, and business circles for dealing with unrestricted warfare.

Coauthored by Major General Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, the book has been required reading at West Point. The People’s Liberation Army manual for asymmetric warfare details the waging of war, strategically and tactically, using weapons not limited to bullets, bombs, missiles, and artillery shells. The two PLA officers who advocated the strategy set forth in the following pages argue that modern warfare, in ways not too dissimilar from Sun Tzu’s Art of War, is about impeding the enemy’s ability to wage war and to defend itself against a barrage of attacks against its economy, its civil institutions, its governmental structures, and its actual belief system.

This is not a manual for achieving an overnight victory. Rather, it is a recipe for a slow but inexorable assault on an enemy’s institutions, often without the enemy’s knowledge that it is even being attacked. As Sun Tzu once wrote, “If one party is at war with another, and the other party does not realize it is at war, the party who knows it’s at war almost always has the advantage and usually wins.” And this is the strategy set forth in *Unrestricted Warfare,* waging a war on an adversary with methods so covert at first and seemingly so benign that the party being attacked does not realize it’s being attacked.

In the age of the worldwide internet, what seems like the free flow of information is also an open door policy for one country to insert its propaganda into the thinking and belief systems of its enemy. Do we consider Vladimir Putin’s Russia to be a friend to the United States? Are we really that naïve? Voting constituencies might have very legitimate reasons to support the politicians of their choice, but when those choices are based on the flow of absolutely false information inimical to the best interests of that population, it is an example of the success of asymmetric or unrestricted warfare, in essence, propaganda war. The Russians have been experts at this since the days of the czar, and since the experiments of Pavlov and his dogs have mastered the art of getting the responses they want from the stimuli they inject into their subjects’ thought patterns. In this past election cycle, it worked.

As you read the following pages, a manual for the military humbling of the United States through nonmilitary means that most Americans will not even realize, you should understand that this is not just a “what if,” but a reality. It is happening now even as North Korea’s Kim blusters about sending missiles towards Guam and Donald Trump responds by rattling his own saber in its scabbard. China, meanwhile, watches while its enemy is engaged with a tiny country that has the means to send nuclear tipped ICBMs to American cities. If North Korea attacks Guam or Pearl Harbor and the United States responds, who benefits? Not North Korea, not South Korea, not the United States. China benefits when U.S. Naval facilities on Guam or at Pearl Harbor are damaged so that the American presence in the Pacific is diminished to the point of incapacity.

Readers, therefore, should take this little manual as a dire warning. Complacency cripples. Hubris kills. And blindness without guidance usually leads one into the nearest wall if not hurtling down a flight of stairs. Thus, although this book was written almost twenty years ago, it should be regarded as the playbook for the destruction of not only the United States, but of western democracies in general.

Let this be the Last Medical Oxygen Crisis in India

The problem is not a shortage of medical oxygen but the supply chain of delivering it to the patient bedside in a hospital. A routine site at all major Indian hospitals is the large oxygen cylinders delivering oxygen to patients at the bedside, says Dr. Joseph Chalil.

International media is filled with headlines such as “Indian COVID-19 Patients Die as Ventilators Run Out of Oxygen” and showing images of people with empty oxygen cylinders crowding refilling facilities in Uttar Pradesh for their relatives in hospitals. The last such news was from Pakistan in December 2020 when six COVID-19 patients died in Khyber teaching hospital in Peshawar.

India has a daily production capacity of at least 7,100 tons of oxygen, including for industrial use, which appears to be more than enough to meet current demand. The problem is not a shortage of medical oxygen but the supply chain of delivering it to the patient bedside in a hospital. A routine site at all major Indian hospitals is the large oxygen cylinders delivering oxygen to patients at the bedside. Yet this is something you never see in a western hospital. All American hospitals have central piping, which delivers oxygen to the patient bedside from a Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) Oxygen Plant attached to each hospital. This is one of the building permit requirements for a new hospital in the USA. Medical oxygen can easily be manufactured from surrounding air.

Among the most significant challenges early in the COVID-19 Pandemic was the shortage of essential supplies like personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators. These products are tied to supply chains that stretch worldwide, and the Pandemic highlighted their fragility and susceptibility to significant disruptions. As China, a leading global exporter, dealt with the Pandemic in its early days, it was forced to shut down manufacturing, leaving the rest of the world scrambling to address its rapidly shifting supply needs.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also given a call for self-reliance – an ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ where he talks of integrating India with the world moving away from isolation but from a position of internal strength. The aim is to make India and its citizens independent and self-reliant in all senses. Mr. Modi further outlined five pillars of Aatma Nirbhar Bharat – Economy, Infrastructure, System, Vibrant Demography, and Demand. India demonstrated its ability to go from producing zero PPE kits pre- COVID to producing millions of kits and exporting them today as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Let us also make our hospitals self-reliant in Medical Oxygen production.

A vision for the future of health-conscious manufacturing

A supply chain that depends on domestic manufacturing is part of our strategic healthcare plan for the future. In the book *Beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic*, we outline a 33-33-33 Buy Local Policy, which involves increased purchases of local products while allowing purchasers flexibility to tap into the global marketplace. In the plan, healthcare systems would be required to buy 33% of their products locally within their region, 33% of their products within the country, and 33% from outside. This policy aims to create a flexible supply chain that could be ramped up to deal with emergencies.

Self-reliance has always been an Indian (The Swadeshi Movement) virtue and the key to India’s success and development. Suppose one supply chain is cut off due to war, natural disaster, or bioterrorism; there are other options to maintain and sustain supply chains. This will also ensure that the dependency on one particular source for anything essential is minimized. Domestic manufacturing is vital for job creation and a strong economy, and it’s also essential for national security.

AirSep Corporation of New York has installed PSA Medical Oxygen Systems in more than 4,500 hospitals in nearly 50 countries worldwide, including several hospitals in India, to meet their central pipeline and other oxygen needs. These generators and plants operate automatically to supply patient, surgical, and critical care units in medical facilities, military field hospitals, on-site emergency preparedness centers, and disaster-relief efforts. There are several other manufacturers with similar technologies.

Supply chain policy does not have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. That is to say, we should neither import everything nor should we import nothing. Currently, however, we are too reliant on imports in some areas, which hurt us during the early days of this Pandemic. More steps must be taken to create reserves of supplies and manufacturing capacity, similar to the U.S. strategic oil reserves or the Indian strategic food reserves.

India should invest in mobile containerized, turnkey packaged oxygen systems that are ideal for locations where a compressed air supply is limited or unavailable. These units can be truck mounted and moved to areas of shortage or pandemic hot spots. Containerized units can also be used for military applications as well. The oxygen generator within a containerized unit produces oxygen from an air compressor that is included in the package. These rugged systems can perform in extreme temperatures, high humidity conditions, and at high elevations.

Let this be the Last Medical Oxygen Crisis in India. Let us not scramble our resources; purchasing compressed liquid oxygen from Russia or China, which at best is a temporary fix but will arrive too late for our patients’ bedside in Delhi. Let us retrofit our hospitals with central oxygen piping
and support installing hospital oxygen plants and backup systems. Domestic production policies of all medical supplies will lead to job creation and positively impact the environment, reducing the distance oxygen and other supplies must travel from manufacturer to end-user. Local production is also a necessary part of national defense in a world where bioterrorism is an ever-present possibility—the military, for its part, has demonstrated the importance of not centralizing any aspect of its supply chain to one region or country.

India can lead the way globally by building supply chains that incorporate local manufacturing that can be ramped up to address critical needs. This goal recognizes that global supply chains can be broken, and alternatives need to be in place. When countries take these lessons and models to heart and use them to craft policy, their citizens can benefit from a common-sense approach that empowers us to mitigate challenges—everything from a natural disaster or political upheaval to a once-in-a-100-year pandemic.

(Prof. (Dr.) Joseph M. Chalil is an Adjunct Professor & Chair of the Complex Health Systems advisory board at Nova Southeastern University’s School of Business; Chairman of the Indo-American Press Club, and The Universal News Network publisher. He recently published a Best Seller Book – “Beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic: Envisioning a Better World by Transforming the Future of Healthcare.”)

AAPI Coordinates Efforts to Help India As Covid Ravages Communities

As AAPI is leading several efforts to support, coordinate and reach the much needed help in this hour of need, leading international media, including the Washington Post, The New York Times and CNN have recognized AAPI among the major resource groups to reach help India as people are impacted by Covid as never been in human history.

India has seen a cataclysmic coronavirus surge over the past week, reporting nearly 350,000 new coronavirus cases per day, with the real figure probably much higher. The spike in infections has led to deadly shortages of oxygen, ambulances and hospital beds. Countries around the world have pledged to send aid in the form of medical supplies and vaccine doses, but urgent requests for ventilators and intensive care unit beds continue to flood social media.

“Thanks to you, the generous and compassionate members, and others as well, AAPI has been able and continues to make progress in its efforts to deal with an unfolding and out of control COVID 19 crises in India,” said Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, President, AAPI here today.  “As we pledged, we are able to very quickly secure the much needed and in demand O2 concentrators through our reliable and committed partner (SEWA International). We have shipped by air freight, the first batch of 1,000 of the O2 Concentrators on 4/29/21.”

Stating that AAPI in collaboration with its partners on ground in India “have identified destinations based on urgency and acute need for the medical equipment to be able to serve and save as many lives as quickly, and to prevent avoidable catastrophe for the simple lack of O2,” Dr. Jonnalagadda said, “We have no doubt, this is just the beginning of a long road ahead. We are assessing the situation on the ground constantly and coordinating with various local task forces and teams.”

Dr. Sajani Shah, Chair of AAPI BOT, said, “We have a team of volunteers and support and guidance of experienced leaders, who have come forward to enable and empower our efforts to curtail this crisis. We urge all of you to stay engaged and connect with us whenever you have any good suggestions and feedback to help us understand the ground realities quickly and fully. So, we can be more effective and efficient to tackle the problems.”

Educating the public and the physicians in India is vital to combat the virus,” says Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President-Elect of AAPI. She has reached out to the Indian media across the platform offering regular series of educational materials to be published in India for the use and implementation of effective ways to treat patients who are mpacted by Covid.

“On behalf of AAPI leadership, we would like to have a series of educational messages to the communities on Covid to address the concerns of the public and medical community during the pandemic time as we recognize our role is to educate communities. Through this voluntary project from our members, we can help educate the people first. Allay their fears. Explain and educate them about the disease and on ways to combat the virus.”

Dr. Ravi Kolli, Vice President of AAPI, while expressing gratitude to AAPI members, “request you to continue your support and contributions to take our activities to the next level of helping secure much needed ventilators, which will also be critically scarce as the morbidity and hospitalization surge, out matching the supplies.  Again, we want to reiterate that all of you, the members of AAPI inspire and motivate us and you are the true wind beneath our wings in this movement. We will leave no stone unturned to seek solutions and rise to the occasion. Let us all do our duty and be a beacon of hope and resolve to maintain the momentum to conquer the Himalayan challenge ahead of us.”

As India’s health-care system buckles under pressure, American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), the largest ethnic medical organization in the United States , representing the over 80,000 strong Indian American physician community in the US, has risen to the occasion and is leading several efforts to support, coordinate and reach the much needed help in this hour of need. Some of the leading international media, including the Washington Post, The New York Times and CNN have recognized AAPI and have urged AAPI among some of the major resource groups to reach help to the communities across India as they are impacted by Covid as never been in human history.

“Indeed a proud moment for AAPI,” said Dr. Amit Chakrabarthy, Secretary of AAPI. “The tireless efforts of the AAPI leadership and members, who have spent sleepless nights coordinating relief efforts for  India has been recognized by the prestigious New York Times as the second most prominent international organization in this effort (after UNICEF)!!! This is a proud moment for all of us.  Please continue to support and donate at aapiusa.org.”

Dr. Jonnalagadda announced that “AAPI is facilitating interaction between US and Indian doctors to advise them about the evidence based protocols to treat COVID-19 patients. We evaluated 3 HIPPA compliant telehealth platforms to treat patients in India. AAPI is also working on relaxing the restrictions on US physicians to treat patients in India. I want to thank Dr. Anupama Gotiumukaua, Dr. Ravi Kolli, Dr. Amit Chakrabarthy and Dr. Satiheesh Kathula for their efforts in coordinating various sources and resources in this fight against the pandemic.”

In its efforts to serve as a physician on humanitarian grounds to help patients in India, AAPI has identified and facilitates the following platforms/links to those who want the Telehealth established platforms: http://Mdtok.com/dr/Covid and www.eGobalDoctors.com

AAPI encourages using this route because they give global malpractice coverage: They offer free service for 1-3 months for our physicians to help Indian patients, as  these platforms serve and help become every Indian American physician to be a registered physician in India, by renewing your India licenses ASAP and can start your services; Getting more info from different resources as well to get our services reach Indian patients  as every resource is being tapped to help India in this crisis situation.

AAPI is in constant touch with Indian Embassy, Indian Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan to see how best “we can help our motherland during this horrific pandemic. AAPI has written to a letter Prime Minister of India, Shri. Narendra Modi to lock down the country to contain the spread of the virus, and to ramp up the vaccinations.”

“AAPI has been in the forefront to help India to combat the pandemic,” said Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Treasurer of India. “Thousands of people, both members of AAPI and non-members have come forward to donate money by putting trust in AAPI. We will try our best to be transparent and make sure that your donations will make some impact. I really want to thank all the donors who supported us unconditionally.”

It’s devastating to see millions of people are being impacted by Covid in India, especially many of the friends and families of AAPI members are suffering from Covid disease and dying now. In this context, AAPI would like to help India big way, said Dr. Jonnalagadda: “AAPI is collaborating with UNICEF, SEWA International and other like minded organizations.  AAPI is also urging all Community leaders to educate their members to be on Alert to avoid spread of the virus.” For more information on AAPI and its efforts to coordinate services for the people of India, please visit: www.aapiusa.org

World Press Freedom Day 2021

World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in December 1993, following the recommendation of UNESCO’s General Conference. Since then, 3 May, the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek is celebrated worldwide as World Press Freedom Day.

After 30 years, the historic connection made between the freedom to seek, impart and receive information and the public good remains as relevant as it was at the time of its signing.

According to United Nations, May 3rd acts as a reminder to governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom. It is also a day of reflection among media professionals about issues of press freedom and professional ethics. It is an opportunity to: celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom; assess the state of press freedom throughout the world; defend the media from attacks on their independence; and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

World Press Day is a reminder to governments of their commitment to press freedom. This year’s World Press Freedom Day theme: “Information as a Public Good.”
It serves as a call to affirm the importance of cherishing information as a public good.

It is vital to have access to reliable information – especially in an era of misinformation.

Today, journalism is restricted in well over two thirds of the globe.

The 2021 World Press Freedom Index: journalism is “totally blocked or seriously impeded” in 73 nations.

“The pandemic has been used as grounds to block journalists’ access to information sources, and reporting in the field,” Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Secretary-General Christophe Deloire

According to RSF, authoritarian regimes have used the pandemic to “perfect their methods of totalitarian control of information.”

‘Dictatorial democracies’ have used coronavirus as a pretext for imposing especially repressive legislation combining propaganda with suppression of dissent.

In Egypt, the government banned publication of non-government pandemic figures and arrested people for circulating figures larger than the official numbers.

In Zimbabwe, an investigative reporter was arrested after exposing a scandal related to the procurement of COVID- 19 supplies.

Tanzania, the former president imposed an information blackout on the pandemic before he died in March 2021. Even in Norway, journalists have faced difficulty accessing pandemic-related government information.

Thailand, the Philippines, Cambodia and Indonesia adopted extremely draconian laws in the spring of 2020 criminalizing any criticism of the government’s actions.

Press freedom in Myanmar has also become increasingly strained since the military deposed its democratically elected government in February.

Despite Africa being the most violent continent for journalists, but several countries showed significant improvements in press freedom, according to RSF.

Europe and the Americas are the most favorable regions for press freedom, according to RSF.

Deepika Shares Mental Health Helpline Contacts To Deal With Crisis

Bollywood star Deepika Padukone on Sunday shared a list of verified mental health helplines on Instagram, highlighting the significance of strong mental and emotional health in the time of surging Covid pandemic.

“As millions of us (me and my family included) strive to stay afloat, let us not forget that our emotional well-being in this current crisis, is equally important! Remember, You Are Not Alone. We are in this together. And most importantly, there is HOPE! #YouAreNotAlone @tlllfoundation,” she wrote, along with 12 slides in varied shades of pink that contain the essential numbers.

Several Bollywood stars have been using their social media platforms to pitch in with assistance for the Covid-affected over the past few days. These include Alia Bhatt, John Abraham, Katrina Kaif, Vicky Kaushal, Taapsee Pannu and Bhumi Pednekar among others.

Almost every B-Town celebrity has also been appealing on social media to encourage fans to help in whatever way possible, not to pay heed to rumours and stay safe. (IANS)

At ASEI’s 2021 AI Summit, AI For Social Good, Data & Ethics Highlighted

The American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin (ASEI) convened an AI Summit with a number of researchers, authors, speakers and experts covering Artificial Intelligence  from multiple perspectives: Augmented Intelligence with Data, AI/ML Solutions for social benefit and Artificial Intelligence Applications for the enterprise & AI Ethics on April 24th, 2021.

Opening the summit, Divya Ashok, who serves as VP of Innovation and Strategy at Salesforce, introduced the AI Summit Chair Piyush Malik who has been working in the Data & AI domain for over 25 years, currently as the Senior Vice President at SpringML, a Google partner startup in Silicon Valley. Piyush gave a bird’s eye view of the AI landscape, the real life and enterprise application opportunities as well as set the stage for the plenary segment where the theme was AI for Society. He recognized  the  contributions of AI pioneer technologists and Turing awardees over the past 7 decades including Prof  Raj Reddy, the first Asian and the only Indian origin person to have won the Nobel prize of computing (i.e. Turing Award for AI) in 1994 long before the current euphoria over AI was commonplace.

  Vilas Dhar,  President and Trustee of the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation (PJMF), gave a message of support from PJMF to ASEI as we work towards our shared vision for AI – powered yet human-centric ethical endeavor for the benefit of society as we  explore the future of meaningful work through youth empowerment. PJMF is a 21st century philanthropy advancing artificial intelligence (AI) and data solutions to create a thriving, equitable, and sustainable future for all. Vilas, a biomedical engineer by initial training is an entrepreneur, technologist, and human rights advocate with a lifelong commitment to creating more robust, human-centered social institutions. His message of support for AI for social benefit  and data philanthropy fostered through interactions with ASEI leadership was complemented by the next speaker Dr Sundar Sundareshwaran, AI Fellow at the World Economic Forum (WEF) where PJMF is a supporter.

At WEF, Dr Sundar is co-creating a governance framework with a multi-stakeholder community for the use of Chatbots in healthcare amongst other initiatives which he talked about in detail having an impact in the COVID era.  Sundar  represents Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings Corporation in his role at WEF’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. He  is a seasoned technologist with research, development, P&L and executive leadership experience. With a Master’s degree in Natural Language Understanding and a PhD in Computer Vision, Sundar has made numerous research contributions in robotics, neural networks, human computer interaction, virtual/augmented reality and autonomous vehicles. His plenary talk at the AI summit gave a broader view of the Policy impact AI is having at the World stage and he welcomed the opportunity for ASEI members to join hands in making the world a better place through fair use of AI rather than fearing from it. On behalf of ASEI, Piyush portrayed the excitement of being able to work with evangelists, policymakers, data and AI professionals and social changemakers at the WEF and PJMF.

In the next section of the summit three  authors spoke about their respective work and the impact each of them are having in the field of AI.  Anyone who has tried to learn GCP or machine learning with Google technologies would have seen Dr Valiappa (Lak) Lakshmanan  in action via his Coursera lessons and courses. Lak as he is popularly known, serves as the Director for Data Analytics and AI Solutions at  Google Cloud. Previously as a Director at the Climate Corporation, he led a team of data scientists building probabilistic estimates of past, current and future weather. Currently with his team he  builds software solutions for business problems using Google Cloud’s data analytics and machine learning products but he is very passionate about AI for Social good on which he spoke at length. Real world proof points and examples in the field of flood control, agriculture, healthcare etc were shared with the summit audience which resulted in a lot of interactive chats and Q&A.

ASEI Michigan chapter president Muthu Sivanantham introduced and facilitated discussion with the next two speakers.  Dr Raj Ramesh, a TEDx speaker who happens to have a doctorate in AI was the next author to speak. He has broad experience with digital transformation and helps  organizations bring together complementary strengths of machines and humans to effect grand change.  His talk featuring interesting doodles and interactive audience participation surveys was patterned on his recent book, “AI & You” and he advised how to co-exist with machines by sharing  how to think, thrive, and transform in an AI driven future.

“AI will present a lot of opportunities in the future.  Sure, some jobs will be replaced, but each of us can leverage our knowledge, passion, and experience to position ourselves at the forefront of this cognitive revolution” – Dr Raj Ramesh at the ASEI AI Summit

The next speaker Ashish Bansal with his cool demeanour brought to light an example of how rubber meets the road in AI though Models in Natural Language Processing. NLP is a topic of increasing attention given the recent popularity of Open AI’s GPT3 model and discussions of “AI creating AI”. Ashish has previously worked in AI/ML  & Recommendation systems  for Twitter and Capital One and currently is a Director at  Twitch. His recent book Natural Language Processing with Tensorflow was discussed in brief as well.

Final section of the AI Summit was the “Women in Data & AI” segment facilitated  by Vatsala Upadhya and featured a lively and colorful “Ethics in AI” discussion between  Dr Sindhu Joseph, CEO of Cognicor with 6 Patents in AI, and Bala Sahejpal, SVP at DataRobot with Piyanka Jain, President and CEO of Aryng moderating

Issues of bias, reproducibility , transparency and equity and inclusion in  data and AI from people of color perspective was discussed as well as importance of governance and building checks and balances in the development and testing of AI systems was deliberated

Bala is an accomplished leader with over 25 years of experience and a proven ability in leading cross functional global teams for building Data and Analytics solutions delivering enterprise success while securing multimillion-dollar savings for diverse business functions. She shared what made her interested in AI infused  automation and drove her towards joining DataRobot after stints at Cisco/Appdynamics, Juniper and Netapp.

Piyanka has two Master’s degrees, with her thesis involving applied mathematics and statistics. Before founding Aryng, she was the Head of Business Analytics at PayPal-North America.She happens to be a bestselling author of “Behind every Good Decision”  and a regular contributor to Forbes, HBR, InsideHR, TDWI, Experian, Modern Workplace, Predictive Analytics World, etc. Her efforts over the years have driven $1b+ in business impact for her clients. Injecting her 20+ years of Data & Analytics experience during the panel discussion, she said “As AI becomes more prevalent, AI literacy for leaders and AI governance are two ‘must-haves’ to truly capitalize on the power of AI to drive significant business value while staying clear of AI fiasco like Tay”

Recounting the challenges that are faced in the adoption of ethical AI, Dr. Sindhu Joseph, founder, and CEO of CogniCor, which provides a digital assistant platform for financial services, said – “AI is not just scaling solutions, but amplifying the historic biases embedded in our society. Given that the most popular branch of AI namely ML/DL learns its models from historic observations, our inherent biases make their way into the data sets, making a small, select, and often homogeneous group of developers, organizations as guardians of fairness.”

 This session underscored the need for diversity in organizations and in startups developing AI algorithms and attention and investment in branches of AI that have the potential to bring about fairness.

The interactive Q&A sessions and chat texts continued to buzz throughout the nearly 4 hour conference with an engaged audience. The most interesting audience questions and some early bird participants won 10 books courtesy the three  authors and publishers. Proposing the vote of thanks, Raju Sreewastava, CEO of Big Data Trunk announced the list of winners.

The AI Summit showed the attendees the depth of AI/ML experience and thought leadership amongst Indian diaspora & ASEI members and gave a glimpse of the richness of  its collaborations with national and international professional bodies.

As is evident from recent events and newsletters, ASEI has had a fantastic 2021 so far with a large number of activities and new programmes such as MentorConnect, UniversityConnect and YouthPrograms to serve its members’ interests and build the next generation of engineers and technologists.

The American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin (ASEI) is a not-for-profitorganization that provides a platform for networking, career advancement,community service, mentoring and technology exchange for professionals,students and businesses in the United States and abroad. Members are guidedby several objectives, including the creation of an open, inclusive, andtransparent organization; providing positive role models, awarding scholarships,and remaining socially responsible. ASEI was founded in 1983 in Detroit,Michigan by a handful of visionaries. Today, the organization  has active chaptersin Michigan, Southern California, Silicon Valley, San Diego, and Washington, DC with more in the pipeline.

Youth Demand Action on Nature, Following IUCN’s First-Ever Global Youth Summit

Following almost two weeks of talks on issues such as climate change, innovation, marine conservation and social justice, thousands of young people from across the globe concluded the first-ever International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) One Nature One Future Global Youth Summit with a list of demands for action on nature.

Under three umbrella themes of diversity, accessibility and intersectionality, they are calling on countries and corporations to invest the required resources to redress environmental racism and climate injustice, create green jobs, engage communities for biodiversity protection, safeguard the ocean, realise gender equality for climate change mitigation and empower underrepresented voices in environmental policymaking.

“Young people talk about these key demands that they have and most of the time, they are criticised for always saying ‘I want this,’ and are told ‘but you’re not even sure you know what you can do,’” Global South Focal Point for the Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN) Swetha Stotra Bhashyam told IPS. “So we linked our demands to our own actions through our ‘Your Promise, Our Future’ campaign and are showing world leaders what we are doing for the world and then asking them what they are going to do for us and our future.”

Bhashyam is one of the young people dedicated to climate and conservation action. A zoologist who once studied rare species from the field in India, she told IPS that while she hoped to someday return to wildlife studies and research, her skills in advocacy and rallying young people are urgently needed. Through her work with GYBN, the youth constituency recognised under the Convention on Biological Diversity, she stated proudly that the network has truly become ‘grassroots,’ with 46 national chapters. She said the IUCN Global Youth Summit, which took place from Apr. 5 to 16,  gave youth networks like hers an unprecedented platform to reach tens of thousands of the world’s youth.

“The Summit was able to create spaces for young people to voice their opinions. We in the biodiversity space have these spaces, but cannot reach the numbers that IUCN can. IUCN not only reached a larger subset of youth, but gave us an open space to talk about critical issues,” she said. “They even let us write a blog about it on their main IUCN page. It’s called IUCN Crossroads. They tried to ensure that the voice of young people was really mainstream in those two weeks.”

The United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, told IPS that the Summit achieved an important goal of bringing institutions and political conversations closer to young people. During her tenure, Wickramanayake has advocated for a common set of principles for youth engagement within the UN system, based on rights, safety and adequate financing. She said it is important for institutions to open their doors to meaningful engagement with young people.

“I remember in 8th or 9th grade in one of our biology classes, we were taught about endangered animal species. We learned about this organisation called IUCN, which works on biodiversity. In my head, this was a big organisation that was out of my reach as a young person.

“But having the opportunity to attend the IUCN Summit, even virtually, engage with its officials and engage with other young people, really gave me and perhaps gave other young people a sense of belonging and a sense of taking us closer to institutions trying to achieve the same goals as we are as youth advocates.”

The Youth Envoy said the Summit was timely for young people, allowing them to meet virtually following a particularly difficult year and during a pandemic that has cost them jobs, education opportunities and raised anxieties.

“Youth activists felt that the momentum we had created from years of campaigning, protesting and striking school would be diluted because of this uncertainty and postponement of big negotiations. In order to keep the momentum high and maintain the pressure on institutions and governments, summits like this one are extremely important,” Wickramanayake said.

Global Youth Summit speakers during live sessions and intergenerational dialogues. Courtesy: International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

Other outcomes of the Global Youth Summit included calls to:

  • advance food sovereignty for marginalised communities, which included recommendations to promote climate-smart farming techniques through direct access to funding for marginalised communities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and extreme events,
  • motivate creative responses to the climate emergency, and
  • engineer sustainable futures through citizen science, which included recommendations to develop accessible education materials that promote the idea that everyone can participate in data collection and scientific knowledge creation.

The event was billed as not just a summit, but an experience. There were a number of sessions live streamed over the two weeks, including on youth engagement in conservation governance, a live story slam event, yoga as well as a session on how to start up and scale up a sustainable lifestyle business. There were also various networking sessions.

Diana Garlytska of Lithuania represented Coalition WILD, as the co-chair of the youth-led organisation, which works to create lasting youth leadership for the planet.

She told IPS the Summit was a “very powerful and immersive experience”.

“I am impressed at how knowledgeable the young people of different ages were. Many spoke about recycling projects and entrepreneurship activities from their own experiences. Others shared ideas on how to use different art forms for communicating climate emergencies. Somehow, the conversation I most vividly remember was on how to disclose environmental issues in theatrical performances. I’m taking that with me as food for thought,” Garlytska said.

For Emmanuel Sindikubwabo of Rwanda’s reforestation and youth environmental education organisation We Do GREEN, the Summit provided excellent networking opportunities.

“I truly believe that youth around the world are better connected because of the Summit. It’s scary because so much is going wrong because of the pandemic, but exciting because there was this invitation to collaborate. There is a lot of youth action taking place already. We need to do better at showcasing and supporting it,” he told IPS.

Sindikubwabo said he is ready to implement what he learned at the Summit.

“The IUCN Global Youth Summit has provided my team and I at We Do GREEN new insight and perspective from the global youth community that will be useful to redefine our programming in Rwanda….as the world faces the triple-crises; climate, nature and poverty, we made a lot of new connections that will make a significant positive change in our communities and nation in the near future.”

The Global Youth Summit took place less than six months before the IUCN World Conservation Congress, scheduled forSep. 3 to 11. Its outcomes will be presented at the Congress.

Reflecting on the just-concluded event, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth is hoping to see more of these events.

“I would like to see that this becomes the norm. This was IUCN’s first youth summit, which is great and I hope that it will not be the last, that it will just be a beginning of a longer conversation and more sustainable conversation with young people on IUCN… its work, its strategies, policies and negotiations,” Wickramanayake said.

AAPI Begins Campaign For Medical Oxygen, Tele-Consult & Educational Webinars to Help Combat Covid -19 In India

(Chicago, IL: April 27th, 2021) “In the past week, we have been receiving nothing but mind numbing news from many countries around the world, particularly in India, the land of our birth,” stated Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalgadda, President of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (APPI) the largest ethnic medical organization in the country. Pointing to the fact that the statistics are chilling,

Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, while referring to the several proactive steps in educating their members and the general public about the disease, the preventive steps that needs to be taken at this time and most importantly, they are using all their contacts and resources at the hospital administrative and government levels to facilitate treatment protocols to be in place at the various hospitals in the US and in India, urged AAPI members and the general public to step up and donate generously as India, our motherland is facing one of the most serious health crisis in decades. “This is the time for immediate AAPI action. As doctors, we all share a visceral urge to do something about it,” he added.

Dr. Jonnalagadda said, “We have located a source manufacturer that supplies Oxygen concentrators each of which can save several lives in India. The cost of each unit is around $500.00. The Indian Embassy and Consulates have been extremely helpful, and will assist in the rapid shipping and customs regulations of these lifesaving units.

Dr. Jonnalagadda announced that “AAPI with the collaboration of numerous members/Chapters has placed orders for securing and delivering oxygen concentrators for 200 units to be delivered direct to hospitals in India with the help of SEWA  International, a reliable non-profit organization”

Describing the current trend/spike in Covid cases in India as “the worst nightmare” Dr. Sajni Shah, Chair of AAPI BOT pointed out, “This is a far cry from the picture a few months ago about our motherland India, which depicted the virus to be on the decline.”

Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President-Elect, who is leading the AAPI Initiative to help and support plans to help the physicians and the people in India, at the conclusion of the brain storming session with hundreds of AAPI members, said: “Thank you and it was good to listen to every  physician from US and India how to execute our professional services to patients in India.” Summarizing the deliberations, Dr. Gotimukula said: 1. Groups of physicians will form smaller groups with Indian physicians in your own state/region, and do it yourselves in your own language, and can use the model that are already in place for Tele-Consult. The Google sheet prepared by AAPI has the list of volunteers and we will update it regularly. 2. We have 3 Telehealth platforms that have been identified and it is a free service to physicians from India/US and patients; 1. EglobalDoctors.com; 2. http://Mdtok.com; and, 3. Click2clinic.com. Apps are available on iOS and Android.

In addition, with the purpose of educating AAPI members and their counterparts in India,  AAPI is organizing educational webinars with small group of doctors on zoom. Dr. Gotimukula urged the physician fraternity of the need to educate your communities of the need to double masking and for “everyone must take the vaccine to reduce the intensity of disease if we become Covid positive.”  AAPI is offering MD-To-MD zoom chats and discussions about one’s patients, disease, course of medicines, and progress daily 7-8 am IST/9:30-10:30 am EST

Dr. Ravi Kolli, Vice President of AAPI said, “It is particularly painful and frightening, that the sudden widespread and intense shortage of the basic commodity we take for granted at all levels of management of this deadly disease, both at home, in an ambulance or at the health care facility  — that of OXYGEN. AAPI members have risen upto the occasion and are offering the much needed services to their motherland in several ways, individually and collectively.”

Dr. Amit Chakrabarty, Secretary of SAAPI said, “The AAPI Executive Committee, the Board of Trustees, and the AAPI Charitable Foundation are working together to get the initial order of two hundred units immediately, to jump start our response. he detailed about the exciting project, tele-consulting services for Indian doctors. “We had an officers’ meeting discussing the pros and cons of Covid tele consulting services and especially liability issues.  We are extremely delighted about the overwhelming response to this.”

Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Treasurer of AAPI said, “Time is of the essence and we need to act fast to save lives. I strongly urge each AAPI member to please rise to the occasion and contribute money and time generously to help the needy. Dr. Kathula thanked all the volunteers and tele-health platform companies for sharing platforms and offering services at no cost to AAPI members, Indian doctors and patients for treating COVID-19. For more details, please visit: AAPI website: www.appiusa.org

World Moving Towards a “Devastating Marriage” of Artificial Intelligence & Weapons of War

STOCKHOLM, Apr 16 2021 (IPS) – Landmines are among the most insidious and cruel weapons of all, because they do not distinguish between armed soldiers, civilians or even children.

According to the Landmine Monitor 2020, explosive devices hidden in the ground killed or injured at least 5,554 people worldwide last year alone — that’s an average of 15 deaths and serious injuries per day.

With her International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), Professor Jody Williams (70) has been advocating a ban on landmines for almost 30 years, and she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for her commitment.

Excerpts from the interview:

Professor Williams, thank you for taking the time for this interview with the Faces of Peace initiative. To begin, we would first of all like to ask you: What does “peace” mean for you personally?

WILLIAMS: Peace is not simply the absence of armed conflict. That is the baseline on which sustainable peace can be built. For me, sustainable peace is peace built on human security, not national security. We do not need more, “modernized” nuclear weapons.

We do not need fully autonomous weapons that on their own can target and kill human beings. We need to use our resources so that the needs of people are met, not the needs of arms producers.

People should be able to live dignified lives, with equal access to education, health care, housing, etc. We need to focus on human security for sustainable peace, not national security to protect the infrastructure of the state. Peace and security should be people centered!

On 3 December 1997, 122 states signed the treaty for the banning of landmines. You and your campaign received the Nobel Peace Prize for this. How did you, as an American, come on the topic of landmines?

WILLIAMS: Actually, I was asked by two organizations – the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation and a German humanitarian relief organization, “Medico International” – if I thought I could create an international coalition of nongovernmental organizations to pressure governments to ban antipersonnel landmines.

It was an amazing challenge that totally sparked my interest so I accepted that challenge and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines was born. Today, some 164 nations are part of the Mine Ban Treaty.

Speaking of the Landmine Monitor 2020: With 5,554 dead, the global death toll remains high 23 years after the ban on landmines. Is this a sobering figure? What else can the international community do?

WILLIAMS: It is a very sobering question and demonstrates how long it takes to clean up the mess as chaos caused by war and violence. The international community must maintain its focus on supporting countries still plagued with landmines and that are working on mine-clearance.

The danger of landmines – especially improvised explosive devices – still exists. And the world has not become more peaceful anyway. What are the biggest threats to peace in 2021?

WILLIAMS: To my mind, the global obsession with weapons and violence while at the same time painting people who believe that peace is possible as intellectual “light weights” who don’t understand the harsh reality of the world are the two sides of the double-edged sword that keeps the world believing that only more weapons will keep us safe.

The biggest threats are the “modernization” of nuclear weapons and the new “revolution” of weapons – killer robots. The weapons are fully autonomous and can target and kill human beings on their own. A devastating “marriage” of artificial intelligence and weapons of war!

Bombs do not kill ideology: Just in office, U.S. President Joe Biden ordered an airstrike in Syria – and another was called off at the last minute. What are your thoughts about that?

WILLIAMS: As you point out, bombs cannot kill ideology. In fact, bombing and other acts of violence can strengthen ideological conviction and make recruiting new people easier. I did not support Obama’s extensive use of drone warfare either.

And speaking of Joe Biden: The US has so far not signed the Ottawa Convention. What do you think the chances are of this happening during Joe Biden’s presidency? Does the world need US leadership?

WILLIAMS: I cannot predict what Biden will do regarding the Mine Ban Treaty. But it is very likely he will roll back Trump’s policy and align his administration’s policy with that of the Obama administration, which brought the US very close to compliance with the treaty even if it was not signed.

Professor Williams, you are also chair of the Nobel Women’s Initiative. What exactly does this initiative do and how can one support your important work?

WILLIAMS: The Nobel Women’s Initiative was launched in 2006. It brings together five women recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize, who use our influence and access to shine a spotlight on grassroots women’s organizations in conflict areas around the world working for sustainable peace with justice and equality.

*About the Faces of Democracy and Faces of Peace initiatives:

With almost 100 prominent figures from politics, business, the media and society – including the former President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Norway Erna Solberg, the President of the Republic of Estonia Kersti Kaljulaid, the German Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas and OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger – the Faces of Democracy initiative is now in its fifth year of existence.

The first “faces” of the 2019 founded Faces of Peace initiative are SIPRI Director Dan Smith, the Chairman of the Atlantic Brücke e.V. Sigmar Gabriel, the OSCE CiO 2019 and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic Miroslav Lajčák and the Chief of Staff of the 69th Submarine Brigade of the Northern Fleet Vasili A. Arkhipov.

(Sven Lilienström: The writer is Founder of the Faces of Democracy initiative & Faces of Peace initiative.)

First Ever Human-Monkey Embryos Created To Help Produce Organs For Transplants

Scientists have successfully created the first embryos containing both human and monkey cells, an important step in helping researchers find ways to produce organs for transplants. The results of the groundbreaking experiment, published Thursday in the journal Cell, describe the first mixed-species embryos known as chimeras.

The research team in China was led by Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, who has previously experimented with human and pig embryos. The team injected 25 human stem cells into the embryos of macaque monkeys.

“My first question is: Why?” said Kirstin Matthews, a fellow for science and technology at Rice University’s Baker Institute. “I think the public is going to be concerned, and I am as well, that we’re just kind of pushing forward with science without having a proper conversation about what we should or should not do.”

Still, the scientists who conducted the research, and some other bioethicists defended the experiment. “This is one of the major problems in medicine — organ transplantation,” said Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a professor in the Gene Expression Laboratory of the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences in La Jolla, Calif., and a co-author of the Cell study. “The demand for that is much higher than the supply.”

“I don’t see this type of research being ethically problematic,” said Insoo Hyun, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University and Harvard University. “It’s aimed at lofty humanitarian goals.”

Thousands of people die every year in the United States waiting for an organ transplant, Hyun noted. So, in recent years, some researchers in the U.S. and beyond have been injecting human stem cells into sheep and pig embryos to see if they might eventually grow human organs in such animals for transplantation.

But so far, that approach hasn’t worked. So Belmonte teamed up with scientists in China and elsewhere to try something different. The researchers injected 25 cells known as induced pluripotent stem cells from humans — commonly called iPS cells — into embryos from macaque monkeys, which are much more closely genetically related to humans than are sheep and pigs.

After one day, the researchers reported, they were able to detect human cells growing in 132 of the embryos and were able study the embryos for up to 19 days. That enabled the scientists to learn more about how animal cells and human cells communicate, an important step toward eventually helping researchers find new ways to grow organs for transplantation in other animals, Belmonte said.

“This knowledge will allow us to go back now and try to re-engineer these pathways that are successful for allowing appropriate development of human cells in these other animals,” Belmonte told NPR. “We are very, very excited.”

Such mixed-species embryos are known as chimeras, named for the fire-breathing creature from Greek mythology that is part lion, part goat and part snake.

“Our goal is not to generate any new organism, any monster,” Belmonte said. “And we are not doing anything like that. We are trying to understand how cells from different organisms communicate with one another.”

In addition, Belmonte said he hopes this kind of work could lead to new insights into early human development, aging and the underlying causes of cancer and other disease.

However, there are several concerns that using human cells in this way could produce animals that have human sperm or eggs. “Nobody really wants monkeys walking around with human eggs and human sperm inside them,” said Hank Greely, a Stanford University bioethicist who co-wrote an article in the same issue of the journal that critiques the line of research while noting that this particular study was ethically done. “Because if a monkey with human sperm meets a monkey with human eggs, nobody wants a human embryo inside a monkey’s uterus.”

Belmonte acknowledges the ethical concerns. But he stresses that his team has no intention of trying to create animals with the part-human, part-monkey embryos, or even to try to grow human organs in such a closely related species. He said his team consulted closely with bioethicists, including Greely.

Greely said he hopes the work will spur a more general debate about how far scientists should be allowed to go with this kind of research. “I don’t think we’re on the edge of beyond the Planet of the Apes. I think rogue scientists are few and far between. But they’re not zero,” Greely said. “So I do think it’s an appropriate time for us to start thinking about, ‘Should we ever let these go beyond a petri dish?’ “

For several years, the National Institutes of Health has been weighing the idea of lifting a ban on funding for this kind of research but has been waiting for new guidelines, which are expected to come out next month, from the International Society for Stem Cell Research.

The notion of using organs from animals for transplants has also long raised concerns about spreading viruses from animals to humans. So, if the current research comes to fruition, steps would have to be taken to reduce that infection risk, scientists said, such as carefully sequestering animals used for that purpose and screening any organs used for transplantation.

MIT Scientists Study Spider Web Structure By Translating It Into Music

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have turned spider webs into music — creating an eerie soundtrack that could help them better understand how the arachnids spin their complex creations and even how they communicate.

The MIT team worked with Berlin-based artist Tomás Saraceno to take two-dimensional laser scans of a spider web, which were stitched together and converted into a mathematical model that could recreate the web in 3D in virtual reality. They also worked with MIT’s music department to create the harplike virtual instrument.

These spiders lack ears. But they can hear you, study says. “Even though the web looks really random, there actually are a lot of internal structures and you can visualize them and you can look at them, but it’s really hard to grasp for the human imagination or human brain to understand all these structural details,” said MIT engineering professor Markus Buehler, who presented the work on Monday at a virtual meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Listening to the music while moving through the VR spider web lets you see and hear these structural changes and gives a better idea of how spiders see the world, he told CNN.

“Spiders have very keen vibrational sensors, they use vibrations as a way to orient themselves, to communicate with other spiders and so the idea of thinking literally like a spider would experience the world was something that was very obvious to us as spider material scientists,” Buehler said.

Spiders are able to build their webs without scaffolding or supports, so having a better idea of how they work could lead to the development of advanced new 3D printing techniques, he said.

They scanned the web while the spider was building it and Buehler compared it to a stringed instrument that changes as the structure becomes more complex. “While you’re playing the guitar, suddenly you’re going to have new strings appear and emerge and grow,” he said.

Buehler said they’ve recorded the vibrations spiders create during different activities, such as building a web, courtship signals and communicating with other spiders, and are using artificial intelligence to create synthetic versions.

“We’re beginning to perhaps be able to speak the language of a spider,” he said. “The hope is that we can then play these back to the web structure to enhance the ability to communicate with the spider and perhaps induce the spider to act in a certain way, to respond to the signals in a certain way.”

He said that work is still in progress and that they’ve had to shut down their lab because of the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition to the scientific value, Buehler said the webs are musically interesting and that you can hear the melodies the spider creates during construction.

“It’s unusual and eerie and scary, but ultimately beautiful,” he said. Members of the team have done live musical performances by playing and manipulating the VR web, while musicians jam along on human instruments.

“The reason why I did that is I wanted to be able to transfer information really from the spider perspective, which is very atonal and weird and spooky, if you wish, to something that is more human,” Buehler said.

US Halts Johnson & Johnson Vaccinations After Rare Clotting Cases

The US Federal health officials called for a halt in the use of the company’s coronavirus vaccine while they study serious illnesses that developed in six American women.Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine came to a sudden halt across the country on Tuesday after federal health agencies called for a pause in the vaccine’s use as they examine a rare blood-clotting disorder that emerged in six recipients.
All six were women between the ages of 18 and 48, and all developed the illness within one to three weeks of vaccination. One woman in Virginia died, and a second woman in Nebraska has been hospitalized in critical condition.

More than seven million people in the United States have received Johnson & Johnson shots so far, and another 10 million doses have been shipped out to the states, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.“We are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution,” Dr. Peter Marks, the director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, and Dr. Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy director of the C.D.C., said in a joint statement. “Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare.”

The following statement is attributed to Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research and Dr. Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director of the CDC:As of April 12, more than 6.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine have been administered in the U.S. CDC and FDA are reviewing data involving six reported U.S. cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the J&J vaccine. In these cases, a type of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) was seen in combination with low levels of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia). All six cases occurred among women between the ages of 18 and 48, and symptoms occurred 6 to 13 days after vaccination. Treatment of this specific type of blood clot is different from the treatment that might typically be administered. Usually, an anticoagulant drug called heparin is used to treat blood clots. In this setting, administration of heparin may be dangerous, and alternative treatments need to be given.

CDC will convene a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on Wednesday to further review these cases and assess their potential significance. FDA will review that analysis as it also investigates these cases. Until that process is complete, we are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution. This is important, in part, to ensure that the health care provider community is aware of the potential for these adverse events and can plan for proper recognition and management due to the unique treatment required with this type of blood clot.

Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare. COVID-19 vaccine safety is a top priority for the federal government, and we take all reports of health problems following COVID-19 vaccination very seriously. People who have received the J&J vaccine who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider. Health care providers are asked to report adverse events to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System at https://vaers.hhs.gov/reportevent.html.

CDC and FDA will provide additional information and answer questions later today at a media briefing. A recordingExternal Link Disclaimer of that media call is available on the FDA’s YouTube channel.The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

Trainings for Sikh Awareness at Major Hospital System

April 9, 2021 (Philadelphia, PA) — Sikh Coalition Legal Client and Community Services Manager Aasees Kaur facilitated a virtual presentation on Sikhism in partnership with Jefferson Health. The interactive session covered the basics of the Sikh faith and community, and was attended by at least 50 Jefferson clinical health team members, including doctors, nurses, techs, med students, and others.

Jefferson Health is a network of five hospitals in Philadelphia and New Jersey; with almost 1,000 licensed beds between them, the facilities also serve as teaching hospitals for Thomas Jefferson University. For the last two years, the Sikh Coalition has been working with the Jefferson Health team to provide information about the Sikh faith and community, as well as recommending best practices for respectfully engaging Sikh patients and visitors; this relationship-building work facilitated the training opportunity.

Yesterday’s training follows another successful presentation, specifically for security personnel regarding the Sikh articles of faith, delivered by the Sikh Coalition’s legal team in August of 2020. Both trainings were recorded, and the footage will be made available to thousands of Jefferson employees at future orientations; additionally, the Sikh Coalition has been invited back to give this Sikh awareness training on an annual basis.

“It is important for current and future medical professionals to understand the needs of diverse communities to provide a culturally competent environment of care,” said Kaur. “The Sikh Coalition continues to offer our training services to a wide range of public and private organizations to raise Sikh awareness across society and ensure that Sikhs are able to practice their faith without issue in all aspects of their daily lives.”

If you are affiliated with a healthcare network and would like to facilitate a Sikh awareness presentation for your team, please contact us at [email protected] In addition to facilitating these presentations, the Sikh Coalition has increased our work with healthcare providers in the past year given the COVID-19 pandemic. Working with the North American Sikh Medical and Dental Association, we have fought to ensure that Sikh healthcare providers on the frontlines are able to maintain their articles of faith and have access to the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need; we also produced a guide to Sikhi for non-Sikh healthcare providers, and continue to curate COVID-19 vaccine safety and availability information along with partner organizations.

India Launches App That Teaches Sanskrit

Indian government has launched first-ever app that enables the user to learn Sanskrit, the ancient language of the country. The app created by Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) has been named ‘Little Guru’.

The app aims to make learning Sanskrit easy and entertaining by ‘gamifying’ it. It has been developed by Bengaluru-based company Gamapp sportswizz. The app is available on Google Play Store.

“Little guru is a beautiful symbol of what we proposed to do in teaching to people across the world. This app will help students, teachers, monks…to be able to get an app that will help them learn easier at their own pace, whatever time they want. It helps you do better,” said Dinesh Patnaik, director general of ICCR.

“We realised something, we need something more modern, more up to date. Which works with technology, to bring this ancient language to the people…We decided to use modern-day tools like machine learning, AI, and gaming techniques. Gaming techniques help in bringing life to language,” he said.

Sankrit is often called the ‘language of the Gods’ in Indian culture. ICCR has been providing Sanskrit books and other material to help people learn the language. ICCR comes under India’s Ministry of External Affairs. It also deputes teachers, professors to universities and institutes.

Indian diaspora as well as foreigners have been requesting ICCR for assistance in Sanskrit learning. Many Buddhist, Jain and other religious texts are in Sanskrit. There has been great demand from some countries for assistance in learning the language.

Many Indian languages like Bengali, Tamil, Marathi use Sanskrit as a base.

A number of universities teaching Sanskrit across the world have been keen for an app that helps not only the current students but also other young scholars who wish to learn Sanskrit before joining universities.

NASA Shares Data Of Mars Mission With India

The U.S. space agency NASA has exchanged data of its current Mars mission with its counterparts in China, India, the UAE and the European Space Agency to lower the risk of a collision as their spacecraft were also currently hovering the red planet, a media report said on March 31.

The purpose of exchanges was to lower the risk of a collision, as their spacecraft are orbiting the red planet, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported, quoting a NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) statement as saying.

“To assure the safety of our respective missions, NASA is coordinating with the UAE, European Space Agency, Indian Space Research Organisation and the China National Space Administration, all of which have spacecraft in orbit around Mars, to exchange information on our respective Mars missions to ensure the safety of our respective spacecraft,” NASA’s statement said.

“This limited exchange of information is consistent with customary good practices used to ensure effective communication among satellite operators and spacecraft safety in orbit,” the report said.

ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission, Mangalyaan, spacecraft remained in Mars orbit since it entered there in 2014.. India is the first Asian country to successfully send a spacecraft to Mars. NASA’s Perseverance has landed on Mars last month and its rover is currently exploring its surface, while China’s Tianwen-1 consisting of an orbiter, a lander and a rover, entered the parking lot of orbit around Mars on February 24 and expected to land there in the next few months.

United Arab Emirates (UAE) spacecraft, Hope, is also orbiting the Mars planet. There are two spacecraft from the European Space Agency in the Martian orbit, the report said. For information exchange cooperation with China, NASA had sought approval from the U.S. Congress and spoke to CNSA, the U.S. space agency confirmed on Monday, the Post report said.

Previously the U.S., Russia, EU besides India have succeeded in sending spacecraft to Mars regarded as the most complex space mission. Indian education success a model for replication, finds UK’s race report

Indian pupils tend to perform well in education and also go on to have high average incomes as a result, a model that needs further research to be replicated across other ethnicities, finds a new review set up by Prime Minister Boris Johnson into the UK’s racial disparities.

The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report released on Wednesday concluded that class differences had overtaken racial disparity as an impact on life chances in the UK and overall found the country to be fairer even though overt racism remained a reality, particularly online.(Shutterstock)

Indian pupils tend to perform well in education and also go on to have high average incomes as a result, a model that needs further research to be replicated across other ethnicities, finds a new review set up by Prime Minister Boris Johnson into the UK’s racial disparities.

The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report released on Wednesday concluded that class differences had overtaken racial disparity as an impact on life chances in the UK and overall found the country to be fairer even though overt racism remained a reality, particularly online.

One of its central recommendations includes discontinuation of the term BAME, which stands for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic, as no longer “helpful” and proposes references such as British Indian instead.

“It is the commission’s belief that educational success should be celebrated, replicated and used as an exemplar to inspire all pupils across the UK. Evidence shows that certain ethnic groups such as Black African, Indian and Bangladeshi pupils perform better than White British group, once socio-economic status is taken into consideration,” reads the report, chaired by education consultant Dr Tony Sewell.

“This outstanding performance is in part due to what is termed ‘immigrant optimism’: a phenomenon where recent immigrants devote themselves more to education than the native population because they lack financial capital and see education as a way out of poverty. In practice, this means there are significant factors at play that can help groups overcome their socio-economic status and succeed,” it reads.

The 258-page report recommends the Department for Education (DfE) must invest in “meaningful and substantial research” to understand and replicate the underlying factors that drive the success of the high performance of pupils from different ethnicities, such as British Indians.

“In fact, as of 2019, the ethnicity pay gap – taking the median hourly earnings of all ethnic minority groups and the White group – is down to just 2.3 per cent and the White Irish, Chinese and Indian ethnic groups are on average earning notably more than the White British average,” it adds.

Biography Of Last Travancore Ruler Silent On His Dewan’s Machinations

A biography of the last Maharaja of Travancore that attempts to provide an “authentic” account of his accession and his legacy is, however, silent on the shenanigans of his Dewan, Sir C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar, to retain the independence of the province in 1947 and his deal with the British to export the states valuable mineral resources, while the author obfuscated on the two issues in an interview with IANS.

Opinion is divided over whether the Dewan should only be seen as a wily strategist trying to position his state globally by leveraging its mineral resources — monazite sands in Travancore were said to be exceptionally rich in thorium and uranium. The other view was that he was manipulative, feisty and virtually ran the state and dominated the ruler, IANS had reported in November 2020.

“The bottomline, though, was that he was sharp and prescient enough to realise that the rare earth material was a strategic resource that would give Travancore a leg up in directly dealing with western powers, bypassing the Indian state, at a time when they were trying to build their arsenal against the backdrop of the Cold War. Hence, in its efforts to stay independent, it was expected that the British would be benign towards him and Travancore because of the thorium deposits,” the IANS story said.

Veteran editor Sandeep Bamzai’s book “Princestan, how Nehru, Patel and Mountbatten made India”, revealed for the first time the full story of how Jawaharlal Nehru scuppered Ramaswami Aiyar’s plans for Travancore’s independence on the back this strategic power as the ambitious Dewan worked on a deal with Lord Wavell, the Viceroy.

Thus, the question that was posed to Aswathi Thirunal Gouri Lakshmi Bayi, the niece of Travancore’s last Maharaja, Sree Chithira Thirunal, and the author of the book “History Liberated” (Konark) was: There are plenty of references to CP Ramaswami Aiyar but the book is silent on his attempts to compel the Maharaja to opt for Independence and his pact with the British to export a valuable mineral.

The answer: Sir C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Did Not compel the Maharaja to opt for independent Travancore. There are quite a lot of references on independent Travancore in the book itself, so I would request the interested party to go through it. Such an important decision, which is a moot decision, a fundamental decision, affecting the very existence of Travancore, such an important decision can never be one-sided. And to say that Sir CP compelled is also wrong. Whatever very important decisions were taken were taken after much care, after much thought and mutual discussion. It was not a dictatorship or of somebody sitting and just ordering about. It is not like that at all. It (topic) is a very huge area, and I have to my best ability dealt with it in the book.

“I have not gone too much into detail about the valuable mineral export etc, and I did not try to also because maybe did not occur to me at the time, that is one aspect of it. If it had maybe I would have included it. Secondly, the book was becoming quite voluminous even as it is. Somehow I think it did not strike me perhaps. I have no real explanation for that,” Lakshmi Bayi added.

The author was also silent on the road ahead after a Supreme Court judgement, in the wake of a decade-long battle, giving the erstwhile royal family a greater say in the running of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, considered one of the richest in the world because of the treasures it holds, and how this wealth could be utilised in a fruitful manner.

“I do not wish to respond to questions relating to the temple or whatever the wealth that it possesses, or its administration – all those things are not part of this book. Only one correction is regarding ‘treasure’. ‘How can the temple’s treasure’- treasure is a misrepresentation because whatever is a treasure, maybe I am wrong, if I’m wrong I may be forgiven and corrected. Treasure is normally found underground, or at least it is something which is stumbled upon, accidentally, nobody knows about it, and it comes as a huge surprise or whatever it is. Here, that the temple had this wealth was very much known. If it is treasure then the state can claim part of it. This (the temple vault) is not treasure, it is wealth. That is the difference. There is a difference in the nuances in wealth and treasure, it is not just nuances, the dictionary meaning of the two are different as well,” Lakshmi Bayi replied.

Still, “History Liberated” would be of interest to the lay reader as it provides a peep into the past of the Travancore royal family, which traces its lineage to the Chera dynasty that has its roots in the early centuries of the Common Era.

The last Maharaja, Sree Chithira Thirunal (1912-1991), had ascended the throne in September 1924 when he was just over 11-years-old (after his maternal great uncle Sree Moolom Thirunal passed away), but the reins of the kingdom were placed in the hands of his aunt, the Senior Rani Setu Lakshmi Bayi, who ruled the kingdom as Regent till he would come of age, i.e. after he turned 18.

However, this set off a tug-of-war in the royal household, between the two factions – one belonging to the Senior Rani Setu Lakshmi Bayi and the other to the Junior Rani, Setu Parvathi Bayi (Sree Chithira Thirunal’s mother). There were thinly concealed attempts to prolong the Regency by the faction related to the Senior Rani, by portraying the young Maharaja as mentally unfit to rule, to the British colonial powers who would take the final call on whether to invest Chithira Thirunal with full powers. There were also three alleged attempts on the life of the young prince.

However, the plans fell through after Chithira Thirunal proved his intelligence and ability to govern during a meeting with the then Viceroy, Lord Willingdon, who appreciated the young Maharaja’s mental acumen and declared him fit to rule. Chithira Thirunal was invested with full powers as king in November 1931.

The author then details some of the major steps taken by the young Maharaja – like the epoch-making Temple Entry Proclamation Act in 1936, a major social reform that won praise from Mahatma Gandhi himself. The Act opened up the doors of Hindu temples to all castes, doing away with the earlier system of barring those from lower castes from entering the temples.

Chithira Thirunal also set up Travancore University in 1937, launched the Sri Chitra Tirunal Medical Centre, which even today is a premier medical institute in Kerala, the Travancore Bank- which later became the State Bank of Travancore – and launched a host of other reform measures to help his people.

Chithira Thirunal was the Maharaja of Travancore till August 1949, after which he was appointed Rajpramukh of the united states of Travancore and Cochin. He had signed the Instrument of Accession in August 1947, along with the 500 plus other princely states. His role of Rajpramukh ended with the birth of Kerala state in 1956.

“Many people have been for quite some years asking me to write a book on Maharaja Chithira Thirunal, who was so dearly beloved to the people of this land, whose memory even today brings tears to the eyes of many of the senior people; even to the young people who have never known him, for many of them he is so special. But I had been putting it away due to a number of reasons; but as the years progressed, I felt that if we do not do something and write when we are able to, if in my generation somebody does not write there would be nothing very authentic about Maharaja, my maternal uncle, and his mother, Maharani Setu Parvathi Bayi, my grandmother,” the author told IANS. (IANS)

How Did Covid-19 Originate? WHO Has Possible Answers

Following a month-long fact-finding mission in China, a World Health Organization (WHO) team investigating the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic concluded that the virus probably originated in bats and passed to people through an intermediate animal.

More than a year after Covid-19 touched off the worst pandemic in more than a century, scientists have yet to determine its origins. The closest related viruses to SARS-CoV-2 were found in bats more than 1,000 miles from the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the disease erupted in late 2019. Initially, cases were tied to a fresh food market and possibly the wildlife sold there. Other theories allege the virus accidentally escaped from a nearby research laboratory, or entered China via imported frozen food. Amid all the posturing and finger-pointing, governments and scientists agree that deciphering the creation story is key to reducing the risk of future pandemics.

Following a month-long fact-finding mission in China, a World Health Organization (WHO) team investigating the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic concluded that the virus probably originated in bats and passed to people through an intermediate animal. But fundamental questions remain about when, where and how SARS-CoV-2 first infected people.

To trace the virus’s origin, it’s crucial to pin down exactly when the first cases occurred in people. The WHO team established that the first person known to have COVID-19 was an office worker in Wuhan with no recent travel history, who began showing symptoms on 8 December 2019, says Peter Ben Embarek, a food-safety scientist at the WHO in Geneva, Switzerland, who led the investigation. But the virus was probably spreading in the city before that, because it was well-established by later that month, he says.

While the World Health Organization (WHO) report on the origins of the novel coronavirus was released on March 30th, 2020, the draft report has said that the laboratory origin theory of SARS-Cov-2 — that it was leaked from a laboratory — is “extremely unlikely”. According to a report by CNN, which says that it has reviewed the draft report, the virus started spreading probably a month or two before December 2019, when it first came into notice.

Markets that sold animals — some dead, some alive — in December 2019 have emerged as a probable source of the coronavirus pandemic in a major investigation organized by the World Health Organization (WHO).That investigation winnowed out alternative hypotheses on when and where the pandemic arose, concluding that the virus probably didn’t spread widely before December or escape from a laboratory. The investigation report, released today, also takes a deep look at the likely role of markets — including the Huanan market in Wuhan, to which many of the first known COVID-19 infections are linked.Of the four possible scenarios on how Covid-19 spread, the draft says the most likely way the pandemic started would have been through an intermediate wild animal which may have been captured and raised on a farm, via a bat, which is considered the most likely origin. However, the report says “the possible intermediate host of SARS-CoV-2 remains elusive”.

Another way the virus could have spread may have been through direct transmission form an infected animal, such as a bat or a pangolin. The report also considers the possibility of the virus having spread from frozen or chilled food, though it says “there is no conclusive evidence for foodborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and the probability of a cold-chain contamination with the virus from a reservoir is very low”.
The report, prepared by a joint team of Chinese and international researchers, also looked at the role of Huanan seafood market in Wuhan and said that since there’s evidence of the virus circulating even before the outbreak at the market, which may be ascribed to the crowds gathered there, “Huanan market was not the original source of the outbreak”. The report advises more testing of blood samples taken and stored before the first report of outbreak in December 2019 as well as more testing of animals from Southeast Asia.

“We could show the virus was circulating in the market as early as December 2019,” says the WHO’s Peter Ben Embarek, who co-led the investigation. He adds that this investigation is far from the last. “A lot of good leads were suggested in this report, and we anticipate that many, if not all of them, will be followed through because we owe it to the world to understand what happened, why and how to prevent it from happening again”.

Eddie Holmes, a virologist at the University of Sydney in Australia, says that the report does a good job of laying out what’s known about the early days of the pandemic — and notes that it suggests next steps for study. “There was clearly a lot of transmission at the market,” he says. “To me, looking at live-animal markets and animal farming should be the focus going forward.”

Nevertheless, exactly what happened at the Huanan market remains unknown. Genomic analyses and inferences based on the origins of other diseases suggest that an intermediate animal — possibly one sold at markets — passed SARS-CoV-2 to humans after becoming infected with a predecessor coronavirus in bats. But inconclusive doesn’t mean impossible. Analysts say, there will be more work to come. “This report is a very important beginning, but it is not the end.”

What happened to MARS’s water? Is It still trapped there?

Newswise — Billions of years ago, the Red Planet was far more blue; according to evidence still found on the surface, abundant water flowed across Mars and forming pools, lakes, and deep oceans. The question, then, is where did all that water go?

The answer: nowhere. According to new research from Caltech and JPL, a significant portion of Mars’s water–between 30 and 99 percent–is trapped within minerals in the planet’s crust. The research challenges the current theory that the Red Planet’s water escaped into space.

The Caltech/JPL team found that around four billion years ago, Mars was home to enough water to have covered the whole planet in an ocean about 100 to 1,500 meters deep; a volume roughly equivalent to half of Earth’s Atlantic Ocean. But, by a billion years later, the planet was as dry as it is today. Previously, scientists seeking to explain what happened to the flowing water on Mars had suggested that it escaped into space, victim of Mars’s low gravity. Though some water did indeed leave Mars this way, it now appears that such an escape cannot account for most of the water loss.

“Atmospheric escape doesn’t fully explain the data that we have for how much water actually once existed on Mars,” says Caltech PhD candidate Eva Scheller (MS ’20), lead author of a paper on the research that was published by the journal Science on March 16 and presented the same day at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC). Scheller’s co-authors are Bethany Ehlmann, professor of planetary science and associate director for the Keck Institute for Space Studies; Yuk Yung, professor of planetary science and JPL senior research scientist; Caltech graduate student Danica Adams; and Renyu Hu, JPL research scientist. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

The team studied the quantity of water on Mars over time in all its forms (vapor, liquid, and ice) and the chemical composition of the planet’s current atmosphere and crust through the analysis of meteorites as well as using data provided by Mars rovers and orbiters, looking in particular at the ratio of deuterium to hydrogen (D/H).

Water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen: H2O. Not all hydrogen atoms are created equal, however. There are two stable isotopes of hydrogen. The vast majority of hydrogen atoms have just one proton within the atomic nucleus, while a tiny fraction (about 0.02 percent) exist as deuterium, or so-called “heavy” hydrogen, which has a proton and a neutron in the nucleus.

The lighter-weight hydrogen (also known as protium) has an easier time escaping the planet’s gravity into space than its heavier counterpart. Because of this, the escape of a planet’s water via the upper atmosphere would leave a telltale signature on the ratio of deuterium to hydrogen in the planet’s atmosphere: there would be an outsized portion of deuterium left behind.

However, the loss of water solely through the atmosphere cannot explain both the observed deuterium to hydrogen signal in the Martian atmosphere and large amounts of water in the past. Instead, the study proposes that a combination of two mechanisms–the trapping of water in minerals in the planet’s crust and the loss of water to the atmosphere–can explain the observed deuterium-to-hydrogen signal within the Martian atmosphere.

When water interacts with rock, chemical weathering forms clays and other hydrous minerals that contain water as part of their mineral structure. This process occurs on Earth as well as on Mars. Because Earth is tectonically active, old crust continually melts into the mantle and forms new crust at plate boundaries, recycling water and other molecules back into the atmosphere through volcanism. Mars, however, is mostly tectonically inactive, and so the “drying” of the surface, once it occurs, is permanent.

“Atmospheric escape clearly had a role in water loss, but findings from the last decade of Mars missions have pointed to the fact that there was this huge reservoir of ancient hydrated minerals whose formation certainly decreased water availability over time,” says Ehlmann.

“All of this water was sequestered fairly early on, and then never cycled back out,” Scheller says. The research, which relied on data from meteorites, telescopes, satellite observations, and samples analyzed by rovers on Mars, illustrates the importance of having multiple ways of probing the Red Planet, she says.

Ehlmann, Hu, and Yung previously collaborated on research that seeks to understand the habitability of Mars by tracing the history of carbon, since carbon dioxide is the principal constituent of the atmosphere. Next, the team plans to continue to use isotopic and mineral composition data to determine the fate of nitrogen and sulfur-bearing minerals. In addition, Scheller plans to continue examining the processes by which Mars’s surface water was lost to the crust using laboratory experiments that simulate Martian weathering processes, as well as through observations of ancient crust by the Perseverance rover. Scheller and Ehlmann will also aid in Mars 2020 operations to collect rock samples for return to Earth that will allow the researchers and their colleagues to test these hypotheses about the drivers of climate change on Mars.

The paper, titled “Long-term Drying of Mars Caused by Sequestration of Ocean-scale Volumes of Water in the Crust,” published in Science on 16 March 2021. This work was supported by a NASA Habitable Worlds award, a NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship (NESSF) award, and a NASA Future Investigator in NASA Earth and Space Science and Technology (FINESST) award.

It Is Dangerous To Speak Up In India Today.’ What the Resignations of 2 Academics Show About Freedom of Expression Under Modi Regime

Two prominent academics stepped down from their positions at one of India’s most respected universities this week, shining a spotlight on the state of academic freedom and a widening crackdown on dissent under the Hindu nationalist ruling party.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta resigned from his position as a professor of political science at Ashoka University near Delhi on Monday. In his letter of resignation, reproduced online Thursday, Mehta suggested that he had been forced to step down because of indirect pressure by the Indian government. In newspaper columns and academic work, Mehta had been critical of the majoritarianism of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Arvind Subramanian, an economics professor at Ashoka who once served as chief economic adviser to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, also resigned from his position on Thursday in solidarity with Mehta, calling his treatment an affront to “academic expression and freedom.”

The resignations are the latest example of what observers say is a tightening of academic freedoms, and dissent more broadly, driven by the ruling Hindu nationalist BJP. In 2020, the U.S. NGO Freedom House down-ranked India’s academic freedom score from three to two out of a possible four, “due to rising intimidation in recent years that is aimed at controlling academic discussion of politically sensitive topics.”

Police have also increasingly used sedition and anti-terror legislation to intimidate academics, journalists and activists, says Harsh Mander, a prominent academic who has been on the receiving end of government intimidation. “The government feels now that its only opposition is some voices in academia and civil society, and they are the only barriers to recasting India into a Hindu supremacist nation,” says Mander, who was charged with incitement to violence for a speech he made at a peaceful anti-government protest in 2019. “They have used many tactics to create fear.”

In his resignation letter, Mehta suggested that he had been forced to step down because of indirect pressure on Ashoka University from the Indian government. “After a meeting with [the university’s] Founders it has become abundantly clear to me that my association with the university may be considered a political liability,” he wrote. “My public writing in support of a politics that tries to honor constitutional values of freedom and equal respect for all citizens, is perceived to carry risks for the university. In the interests of the university I resign.”

The founders of Ashoka, a privately-funded university established in 2014 as India’s answer to the Ivy League, had told Mehta in a meeting that his criticism of the Indian government was threatening the planned expansion of the university, according to an Ashoka employee with knowledge of the conversation, who requested anonymity out of concern for their job.

Neither Ashoka University nor the Indian government responded to TIME’s requests for comment. But in response to a similar allegation reported by the Edict, Ashoka’s student newspaper, a co-founder of the university said the Edict’s article was “factually inaccurate.” Mehta did not respond to a request for comment.

Mehta was formerly the university’s vice-chancellor, its highest academic post, until he stepped down in 2019. At the time, he cited personal reasons, but many have speculated that there was political pressure then, too. “That step sat uneasily for many of us, because it appeared that this was part of an escalating strategy where public intellectuals, civil society advocates, and human rights defenders who are progressive, liberal, with a certain idea of the free university and freedom of speech in a democratic society, were being identified, discouraged, and targeted,” says Angana Chatterji of the Center for Race and Gender at the University of California, Berkeley. “The government wants to send a message that it’s not just state institutions, [but] any institution that takes a position critical of the government [that] will be viewed and treated as unacceptable.”

Subramanian, the other academic who resigned from Ashoka on Thursday, cited the alleged pressure on Mehta as a reason for stepping down. “That someone of such integrity and eminence, who embodied the vision underlying Ashoka, felt compelled to leave is troubling,” wrote the prominent professor of economics. “That even Ashoka—with its private status and backing by private capital—can no longer provide a space for academic expression and freedom is ominously disturbing.” Subramanian has been a critic of the government’s economic policies since stepping down from his role as an economic adviser in 2018. He did not respond to a request for comment.

For Chatterji, an Indian academic based in California whose work has focused on the rise of Hindu nationalism in India, the experience of intimidation is personal. In 2008, police attempted to charge her with inciting violence against the state, citing an article she had authored that investigated unmarked graves in Kashmir, where the Indian government has been blamed for human rights abuses in its decades-long counterinsurgency campaign. That was before the BJP came to power in 2014 — but since the party was elected, Chatterji says, she has often found it difficult to return home to India from the U.S. because of threats from individuals associated with Hindu nationalist organizations.

Other areas of civil society are also facing censure in India. In 2020, the government forced the Indian branch of Amnesty International to cease its work in the country, after it publicly criticized the government’s human rights record. “In a myriad of ways, people are being harassed, subdued, subjugated in India today,” Chatterji says. “It is dangerous to speak up in India today.”

One Year Of Living In The Shadow Of A Pandemic

Today, March 11, marks one year since the World Health Organization declared Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, a pandemic. In the first months of 2020, as the unprecedented health crisis rapidly crossed borders — China, Italy, Spain, South Korea, Japan and soon, the United States — it started to take the shape of a looming, global threat. Something beyond an epidemic.

As I researched, I was surprised to learn that there was no universally agreed-upon definition of “pandemic.” But an increasing number of medical experts and public health officials I spoke with were telling me that the rapidly unfolding situation fit the bill.

Loosely speaking, a pandemic is an outbreak of a virus that can cause illness or death, where there is sustained person-to-person transmission of that virus, and evidence of its spread in different geographic locations. Check, check and check.

Still, to call it a pandemic felt momentous and weighty. It was not a decision CNN (or I, personally) took lightly — we didn’t want to panic people — be we felt we had to call it what it was. And so we did that on March 9.

To be fair, WHO had been sounding the alarm steadily for nearly six weeks, since January 30, 2020, when the director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, declared the situation a “public health emergency of international concern” — the highest level of health alert under international law. The definition is “an extraordinary event that may constitute a public health risk to other countries through international spread of disease and may require an international coordinated response.”

For this symbolic anniversary, I spoke to Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead for the coronavirus response, to reflect on the year of the pandemic and beyond.

Different countries, different responses, different outcomes

Van Kerkhove — who said WHO tries to do for the world what the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does for the US — told me the goal of a public health emergency of international concern is to raise the alarm before you’re in an actual pandemic, when there’s still time to possibly prevent and, at any rate, prepare for what is to come. Similarly, for more than a year now, WHO has been trying to change the trajectory of the pandemic through, among other things, expertise, guidance, advice and support as well as frequent news conferences.

While every country has responded to the emerging threat in its own way, some countries took the early warnings more seriously, she said.

“It wasn’t about rich or poor countries. It was about experience. It was about those countries that knew the threat that this was; they heeded our warnings,” said Van Kerkhove. That experience came from dealing with previous infectious outbreaks, such as SARS, MERS and Ebola. And those countries quickly implemented strong public health measures, mobilized community health workers, contact tracers and lab technicians.

Van Kerkhove points to places like South Korea, Japan and Nigeria — all of which managed to keep transmission of this novel virus relatively under control.

For me, South Korea has been one of the clearest examples of success. It reported its first case of Covid-19 on January 20, 2020, hours before the United States confirmed its first case on January 21.

But the two countries have ended up in wildly divergent places: The US has more than 29 million total reported cases and more than half a million deaths. South Korea? Fewer than 100,000 cases and less than 2,000 deaths. You can’t dismiss that as the US having a higher population than South Korea, because when you look at the per capita deaths per 100,000 population, the US has more than 161 compared with South Korea’s 3.

Van Kerkhove said South Korea learned lessons from the 2015 MERS outbreak. “What they learned from that was to rebuild their system and enhance their public health system, which was utilized during this pandemic,” she said.

As an example, she pointed to what unfolded in the city of Daegu, when there was a big outbreak linked to church activity in February. “The case numbers were seemingly out of control,” she said. “And Korea turned it around.”

How did they do it? By being strategic and leveraging the tools they had at their disposal, Van Kerkhove said. “They looked at the situation that they were in. They enhanced their cluster investigation. … They ramped up their screening capacity, their testing capacity. They used quarantine effectively and they brought that outbreak under control. But at one point in time, it seemed almost impossible — and they turned it around,” she said.

She added that other countries have turned things around too, for example, Cambodia, Thailand, Rwanda, and South Africa, even with the emergence of a more-contagious variant there. “The resilience of people is what is encouraging and inspiring,” she said.

What has often struck me is that while infectious disease outbreaks typically crush poorer countries, this novel coronavirus has disproportionately affected many of the world’s wealthiest nations. Consider there are close to 9,000 cases per 100,000 people in the United States. Compare that to India, where it’s about a 10th of that, even though they have some of the most population-dense areas in the world.

As they say, money can’t buy everything, especially good health. “You can have really, really good medical systems in countries … the best treatments in the world. But that doesn’t make up for the fundamentals of public health,” Van Kerkhove said.

Variants and vaccines

Now that we are in the second year of the pandemic, the cavalry in the form of vaccines has arrived. But with it, a more contagious and, possibly in some cases, a more deadly enemy. New variants of the virus are decimating cities in Brazil; different variants have raged through the United Kingdom and South Africa. And they are establishing themselves in this country, too.

This can be addressed by providing better vaccine access to underserved countries. According to the People’s Vaccine Alliance, a global vaccine watchdog group, rich nations are now vaccinating one person every second while the majority of the poorest nations have yet to administer a single dose.

But that’s changing, thanks to COVAX, a global initiative that promotes equitable access for developing nations to Covid-19 vaccines. Led by the WHO and other organizations, COVAX delivered 20 million vaccine doses to 20 countries last week during the first week of distribution, according to WHO Director-General Tedros. An additional 14.4 million vaccine doses are slated to go out this week to an another 31 countries. “We are all part of this global community. Every life on this planet matters,” said Van Kerkhove. “Everyone on this planet deserves to be protected.”

Shot by shot, the world is beginning to see some hope. And those countries that did heed the WHO’s warnings, and followed public health guidance, are giving us a glimpse into a post pandemic life.

“I have glimmers of hope in many countries around the world,” Van Kerkhove said, pointing to places such as Australia, New Zealand, China and Japan. “I see societies that are opened up. I see sporting events that are happening. I see a resilient community that is living their life, that has driven transmission down in some situations to zero.”

Van Kerkhove, I and many others have been humbled by this virus — a virus that taught us that rich and poor doesn’t matter, borders don’t matter, and that unexpected things can and do happen. She and I both hope that all nations, but especially Western ones, use the unfortunate lessons we’ve all been forced to learn to put the systems in place so that we are in a better position to meet the next unexpected event, the next pandemic, the next infectious pathogen — because surely this one won’t be the last.

(CNN Health’s Andrea Kane and Amanda Sealy contributed to this report.)

Cholesterol, Hypertension, Diabetes On The Rise In India

While alcohol intake and thyroid issues among Indians seem to have reduced over the past year, a new health report has detailed a concerning increase in levels of blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes, despite fitness and health becoming a nationwide area of interest during the Covid-19 lockdown.

As per the Health Risk Assessment (HRA) Score, 1 in 2 Indians is either in the ‘High Risk’ or ‘Borderline’ category. This is a massive 12 per cent improvement from last year’s figures where 62 per cent Indians fell into the ‘Unhealthy’ category.

According to GOQii’s latest India Fit Report 2021, majority of people can become healthy by making few adjustments to their lifestyle. Reduction in commute time and lockdown probably allowed Indians to focus more on their health and making their immune system stronger. From a gender wise perspective, men are healthier in comparison to women. From an age wise perspective, the younger generation is unhealthier in comparison to the older generation.

Blood Pressure

About 15 per cent of users have reported high BP in 2020 in comparison to 13.4 per cent in 2019. This figure, according to the report, has steadily increased over the last 4 years. About 35 per cent users also reported this disease runs in the family which is a significant figure. Blood pressure cases among older adults are just triple of those in adults. Safe to say, then, that people above 45 are at more risk of having hypertension.

Diabetes

An analysis conducted by a full-stack digital ecosystem for diabetes care and management revealed that the average pre-pandemic fasting sugar levels in January till mid-February was 138 mg/dl whereas in March till mid-April it rose to 165 mg/dl. One-third claim this disease runs in the family. The percentage of those suffering from diabetes went triple, from adults to older adults.

Cholesterol

About 13 per cent users reported high cholesterol, a figure that has remained stable for the past two years. On the other hand, only 4 per cent mentioned they had heart issues which is a major decrease from 8.6 per cent in 2019.

Alcohol

Figures for drinking have reduced for almost all of the age groups and across a majority of cities. Many reasons can be accounted for the same. To start with, the biggest reason can be the onset of the nationwide lockdown because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Travelling was restricted and all the major places where usually people used to drink earlier like cafes, restaurants, bars etc. were shut down. All of these cumulatively decreased the drinking of the people as the only option they were left with was to drink at home, which was not a feasible option for a lot of people. Some comfortably did that, while a majority were not that comfortable in drinking amid their family members and hence the number reduced this year.

As compared to last year’s data, there is a significant reduction in the number of people falling sick in every age category this year. This could be due to the increased awareness in people regarding immunity levels through healthy lifestyle and nutrition food choices. The dip in pollution levels across the nation could also be a reason for this.

The report also revealed that stress levels remained high throughout the year. The survey outcome highlighted a rise in stress index from 4.98 in Mid-year to 5.11 at end of the year. Forty-five per cent are currently plagued with depression.

City-wise, Surat, Jaipur and Patna are the top 3 healthiest cities in India, respectively, as revealed by the survey whereas Lucknow, Kolkata and Chennai are the unhealthiest. (IANS)

AAPI Recommits To Its Seven Pillars of Lifestyle Magic NObesity Revolution – Wear Yellow Campaign On World Obesity Day

Obesity has been identified as a leading cause for early death as it leads to hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, heart attacks, strokes, some kinds of cancer and adversely affecting almost all organs in the human body. Describing Obesity as a major disease, World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized that PREVENTION is the most feasible option for curbing the obesity epidemic. Parents, schools, communities, states and countries can help make the Healthy choice the Easy choice.

American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), the largest ethnic medical organization in the United States has been in the forefront for the past several years, spreading this message of healthy living.  Continuing with the goal of creating awareness by educating the public and healthcare professionals, AAPI has initiated several programs and campaigns, creating awareness on Obesity and ways to prevent it. As per World Health Organisation (WHO), since 1975, the rate of obesity has tripled. People from all ages and both developed and developing countries are affected by obesity.

“Today, March 4th is being observed across the world across as the World Obesity Day, AAPI, who has been a leader in Obesity campaign, urges and want to encourage practices among people that can help them in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight,” said Dr. Sudhakart Jonnalagadda, President of AAPI.  “I am grateful to the several AAPI leaders and the dozens of AAPI Chapters from across the nation for taking on this role of educating to empower, and for participating in and spreading this noble message, and creating awareness on the need for Living Well.”

Historically, AAPI has been observing January 7th, 2021 as the Global Wear Yellow Day for Obesity Awareness & Health, showcasing Yellow for Energy, Motivation, Hope, Optimism, Joy and Happiness. AAPI’s theme and campaign is: AAPI’s Workplace Wellness – BMI Day; focusing on the Seven Pillars of Lifestyle Magic NObesity Revolution – Wear Yellow.  I want to stress today that it is a conscious choice by every one of us to “Be Healthy, Be Happy.” And, the  “Secret to Living Longer is to Eat half, Walk double, Laugh triple and Love without measure.”

Major contributors for the success of AAPI’s obesity awareness campaign over the years include, Dr. Uma Koduri, who had organized the pilot programs for childhood obesity in USA since 2013, childhood obesity in India in 2015 and Veteran obesity in USA in 2017 with the help of Drs. Sanku Rao, Jayesh Shah, Aruna Venkatesh for childhood obesity, Vikas Khurana, Satheesh Kathula for Veteran obesity, and Janaki Srinath, Uma Chitra, Avanti Rao for childhood obesity in India.

Presently, AAPI Obesity Committee’s Chair is Dr. Uma Koduri and co-chairs are Drs. Padmaja Adusumili (Veteran obesity), Pooja Kinkabwala (Childhood obesity) and Uma Jonnalagadda (Adult obesity) with chief advisors Dr. Kishore Bellamkonda and Dr. Lokesh Edara.

“AAPI has embarked on an ambitious plan, launching Global Obesity Awareness Campaign 2021,” said Dr. Uma Koduri, Founder of NObesity Revolution, Chair of National AAPI Obesity Committee, and Founding President of AAPI Tulsa Chapter. According to Dr. Koduri, “AAPI began the *GO YELLOW* campaign on Jan 7th with the mission to educate the public on: *G – Get your BMI* (measure height, weight and calculate your BMI…ask google to calculate for you ���); and, *O*- *Own your Lifestyle.  It’s up to you. No one can do it for you*. Loose weight, exercise, eat healthy – whole food, plant predominant diet. *YELLOW – energy, motivation hope,  optimism, joy and happiness*.”

“I am proud to announce today that we have been successful in successful in making this a global a reality by 12-12-2020 by covering 100 cities in USA, 100 cities in India and 100 countries around the World, including on the 7th continent on Earth, the Antarctica,” Dr. Koduri, who has been in the forefront of the obesity awareness campaign for years now, explained. “What had started off in 2011 at 11-11-11-11-11-11 seconds as AAPI Health Walkathons were held in all 5 Continents – Australia, Asia, Africa, Europe and North America was successfully completed in 2020 by Obesity Walkathons by Dr. Suresh Reddy in the remaining 2 Continents – South America and Antarctica,” Dr. Koduri added.

 

“While following in the footsteps of American Heart Association initiatives, “National Wear Red Day, on the first Friday in February,” which has become an annual campaign to raise awareness about heart disease in women, AAPI is leading a campaign to create awareness on Obesity,” said Dr. Sajani Shah, Chairwoman of AAPI BOT.

Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President-Elect of AAPI said, “With obesity proving to be a major epidemic affecting nearly one third of the nation’s population, we have a responsibility to save future generations by decreasing childhood obesity. And therefore, we at AAPI are proud to undertake this national educational tour around the United States, impacting thousands of children and their families.”

According to Dr. Ravi Kolli, Vice President of AAPI, “AAPI has it’s chapters in almost every city and town of USA. With this extensive network around the nation, we should be able to spread the message on obesity by following the template plan. We are also exploring the use of social media and phone ‘apps’ as healthy lifestyle tools.”

“As a professional organization that represents the interests of over 100,000 physicians of Indian origin, who are practicing Medicine in the United States, one of our primary goals is to educate the public on diseases and their impact on health. The Obesity campaign by AAPI is yet another major role we have been focusing on,” said Dr. Amit Chakrabarty, Secretary of AAPI.

Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Treasurer of AAPI, said, “AAPI has taken this initiative as a “main stream” issue in both children and adults, in the US and in India. AAPI has helped organize several childhood obesity and veterans obesity programs across the US. We have the right team to take this project forward. I urge all AAPI members, their families and the members of the larger society to make a commitment today to adapt the motto: Experience the Lifestyle Magic, making this Year 2021 and beyond to be Healthy and Prosperous For You and For Every One Around You.”

“The impact and role of AAPI in influencing policy makers and the public is ever more urgent today. AAPI being the largest ethnic medical organization in USA and the second largest organized medical association after AMA, we have the power and responsibility to influence the state and the public through education for health promotion and disease prevention. Hence AAPI is trying ‘To Educate to Empower’ as ‘An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure.’ In this context, AAPI is in the process of getting Wear Yellow for Obesity Awareness Proclamation from the White House so it can be implemented nationwide. So far, we got official proclamations from   Mayors from several States,” he added.

AAPI is a forum to facilitate and enable Indian American Physicians to excel in patient care, teaching and research and to pursue their aspirations in professional and community affairs. For more details on AAPI’s Global Obesity Awareness Campaign,   please visit: www.aapiusa.org

12 Indian Institutions Among Top 100 In World

This year, 12 Indian institutions have made it to the top 100 of the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2021. These are IIT Bombay, IIT Delhi, IIT Madras, IIT Kharagpur, IISC Bangalore, IIT Guwahati, IIM Bangalore, IIM Ahmedabad, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Anna University, University of Delhi, and O P Jindal University.

Among these, IIT Madras has been ranked 30th in the world for Petroleum Engineering, IIT Bombay has been ranked 41st and IIT Kharagpur 44th for Minerals and Mining Engineering, and the University of Delhi has been ranked 50th in the world for Development Studies.

Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal on Thursday said the reforms made by the government in higher education has improved representation of Indian institutions in globally acclaimed rankings.

“Over the last few years, the government’s continuous focus on improvement and reform in Indian higher education has resulted in significant improvement in the representation of Indian institutions in globally acclaimed and reputed rankings like QS,” the Union education minister said at the unveiling of the QS World University Rankings by Subject (2021).

“India’s higher education system plays a vital role in driving the nation’s competitiveness. Today, India is a leading nation with the highest number of higher education institutions across the globe with significant progress in the last few years in terms of enrolment in higher education which now stands at 37.4 million,” Pokhriyal said.

About the government’s efforts towards minimising the gender gap in higher education, he said women constituted 48.6 per cent of the total enrolment. The minister also said that the ‘National Education Policy’ is aimed at transforming Indian higher education into a knowledge superpower in the 21st century.

“NEP has a forward-looking vision for holistic and multidisciplinary education, eliminating the rigid separation of streams. It paves the way for internationalisation of education and encourages top world-ranked universities to open campuses in India,” Pokhriyal said. He also stressed on the active participation of all stakeholders in the implementation of the policy.

The First Gandhi King Legacy Roundtable Summit Launched

The First Gandhi King Legacy Roundtable Summit was organized by the U.S. Congressional Multi Advisory Task Force (MEATF) of Congressman Danny K Davis in cooperation with Metropolitan Asian Family Services (MAFS) on Friday February 26 from 12 noon to 4pm.

Vasavi Chakka, Commissioner, Naperville Sister Cities Commission moderating the Summit stated that this Summit is being held to Commemorate the Black History Month and Mahatma Gandhi’s73 Death Anniversary with the theme being, “Challenges of the Behavioral Health Crisis during the COVID pandemic.

Dr. Mrs Santosh Kumar, Founder Executive Director of Metropolitan Asian Family Services welcoming the Roundtable Summit stakeholders said that this is the first time a Gandhi King Roundtable Summit is being held in Illinois State and stressed that the Summit is addressing the important issue of Behavioral Health and how to improve and increase the Behavioral Health Resources in our communities which is the most effective way to continue the legacy of the legends Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. Vijay Prabhakar, Founder Chairman of Congressman Danny K Davis’s Multi Ethnic Advisory Task Force in his opening remarks credited India’s Consul General at Chicago Amit Kumar for conceiving this historic Summit to honor Gandhi King’s Legacy. Dr. Vijay Prabhakar, a public health expert said that America will face the gravest challenge from the behavioral health crisis in 2030 and hence all concerned citizens, elected officials, behavioral healthcare providers and other stakeholders should form a broad framework to work towards seriously addressing the challenges of behavioral healthcare.

Ambassador Amit Kumar, Consul General of India at Chicago inaugurating the Summit said the greatest testament of the Gandhi King Legacy is the current strong ties between India, the largest democracy and USA, the Oldest democracy, at the highest levels and recalled the role of India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership during the COVID pandemic. The supply of Indian made vaccines to several countries recently is yet another glowing example of India’s Prime Minister Modi’s global leadership, he added. CG Kumar thanked the organizers for hosting the Roundtable Summit on the Legacy of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King and to commemorate the Black History Month.

He recalled that their life, message and philosophy continue to inspire us all, that life of Mahatma Gandhi was very closely followed in the US, referred to the historic visit of Dr. King to India in 1959 and efforts to spread the legacy of these two leaders. He referred to the Gandhi-King Scholarly Initiative Act passed by the US Congress in 2020 that was initiated by late Congressman John Lewis, another iconic figure in the civil rights movement. He thanked Representative Danny K Davis, for his strong support to India-US ties, and recalled his initiative to establish the Multi-Ethnic Advisory Task Force a decade ago to empower different ethnic communities in his district. He also acknowledged the exemplary contribution of the Indian American community in helping local communities in several ways during the Covid-19 period.”

  1. S. Congressman Danny K. Davis’s Multi Ethnic Advisory Task Force saluted India’s Consul General Amit Kumar for his vision in conceiving this Gandhi King Legacy Summit as a tribute to two great legends. The month of February is officially observed as BLACK HISTORY MONTH throughout United States and Gandhi’s 73rd Death Anniversary (Punyatihi /Shaheed Diwas) was on January 30. U.S. Congressman’s Multi Ethnic Advisory Task Force presented Consul General Amit Kumar with an Official plaque for his initiative in conceiving this historic epoch making event. A brief video of Martin Luther King Jr speaking on Mahatma Gandhi was screened followed by Dr. Sriram Sonty, eminent Ophthalmologist, the Vice President of The Gandhi Memorial, Chicago eloquently describing the GANDH-KING Connection and its relevance to the present day.

Consul General of India Amit Kumar along with Consul General of Japan Kenichi Okada at Chicago jointly presented the Gandhi King Legacy Award of Excellence 2021 to Dr. Steve Munsey, Founder, Family Christian Center, Munster, Indiana for his extraordinary leadership to the underserved communities of Northwest Indiana and the City of Chicago during COVID pandemic from June 2020 to present. Dr. Steve Munsey, Author, Pastor, Creative Director, and Producer giving the Dr. Gandhi King Legacy Oration 2021 extolled all the leaders to emulate the virtues of these two great legends by their actions in their day to day lives and implement life transforming programs with purposeful goals. Dr. Munsey spoke about the need to make Behavioral Health Care affordable and accessible to all especially the vulnerable sections of the community now.

Marvin Lindsey, CEO, Community Behavioral HealthCare Association of Illinois delivered the Key Note Address. U.S. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (8th-IL) in his remarks said, “I don’t need to tell you that this is Black History Month and this month, we celebrate the legacy of Dr. King And I don’t need to tell you that Dr. King was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi of India. Now today, we are coming together to celebrate this joint legacy , one of nonviolence, one of justice, one of making sure everyone has a seat at the table, and that no one is on the menu . That is what today’s roundtable is all about.

  1. S. Congressman Danny K Davis in his presidential address at the Summit commended India’s Consul General at Chicago Amit Kumar for initiating this Gandhi King Legacy Roundtable Summit which is most apt and very timely for our Communities to heal. “Martin Luther King Jr. was a disciple of Gandhi. A Lot of Gandhi’s teachings was put into practice by Martin Luther king Jr. . So it is important that our elected leaders and Community leaders adapt and enrich the same partnership between African and Indian communities here in Chicago and beyond. I applaud Dr. Vijay Prabhakar, the creative public health expert and founder of my Multi Ethnic Advisory Task Force (MEATF ) along with Mrs Santosh Kumar, Executive Director of Metropolitan Asian Family Services of Illinois(MAFS) for recognizing the importance of the Gandhi King relationship and for continuing their legacy in this dynamic environment. We need to strengthen this partnership among our ethnic communities. I am waiting to hear about the outcomes of this Summit and will work towards supporting the Summit’s recommendations.”, added Congressman Danny Davis.

Dr. David Albert, Director, Division of Mental Health, Illinois Department of Human Services gave the Call to Action. Dr. David Albert said that the State Of Illinois runs Seven Psychiatric hospitals and funds 207 Community Mental Health Centers in the State of Illinois. Dr. Albert said that during the COVID pandemic, the need for special attention to the Senior Population and the Youth /Students population is engaging the department.

The Gandhi King Legacy Roundtable Summit 2021 unanimously resolved to establish a Citizens Action Alliance For Behavioral Healthcare (CAABH) to nurture, enrich and empower behavioral healthcare providers while spreading awareness of behavioral healthcare resources in our communities. The Summit further resolved to launch a monthly publication on behavioral healthcare resources that features op-ed column by elected representatives, showcase community behavioral health programs, informative clinical updates and latest community behavioral health resource tools. The Summit called for monthly town hall meets of elected representatives, community leaders, behavioral healthcare providers and concerned citizens for behavioral healthcare as a constructive follow up.

Dr Vijay Prabhakar , Founder Chairman of U.S. Congressman Danny K Davis’s Multi Ethnic Advisory Task Force named Ms. Twin Green, CEO of THE LINK & OPTION Center, South Holland, IL as C.A.A. B.H.’s Ambassador for Southland of Illinois at the closing session of the Summit. Dr. Vijay Prabhakar thanked Dr. Terrence Chiramel of American Association of Multi Ethnic Physicians AAMEP-USA, Ms. Alli Dhanaraj of American Multi Ethnic Coalition AMEC, Charlie Dressner , Chief of Business Development, MEDSTAR Laboratory, Hillside, IL, Ms. Neelam Desai, Manager, MAFS Naperville Office, Adam Feldman, Senior VP, Ensoftek Inc, and Anil Kumar of The Global Eye, Digital News Magazine for all their support in organizing this First Gandhi King Roundtable Summit.

Consul General Of Japan in Chicago, Kenichi Okada presented the Congressional MEATF Citations to MAFS Mahatma Gandhi Medal of Excellence 2020 recipients and Dr. Mrs Santosh Kumar, Founder of MAFS honored eight individuals with the MAFS Gandhi Medal of Excellence 2020. The 2020 MAFS Gandhi Medal of Excellence recipients who were honored are Dr. Tariq Butt, President , Chicago Medical Society , Dr David Albert , Director, Division of Mental Health , Illinois Department of Human Services , Donald Dew , President, Habilitative Systems Institute, Chicago , Professor Benneth Lee, Founder National Alliance for the Empowerment of the Formerly Incarcerated, (NAEFI ), Ms. Arloa Sutter, Founder-Executive Director, Breakthrough Ministries, Chicago , Albert Holmes, Founder CEO, Elite House of Sober Living, Chicago Heights, IL, Ms. Vinita Gulabani , President, Indian American Cultural Association, Downers Grove, IL and Luke Tharasri, President, Maximon Behavioral Health , Los Angeles.

Dr. Sreenivas Reddy, Vice Chair, Illinois Physician Disciplinary Board in his Closing remarks envisaged that this Gandhi King Legacy initiative on Behavioral Healthcare should be implemented globally and thanked the organizers Multi Ethnic Advisory Task Force of Congressman Davis (MEATF), Metropolitan Asian Family Services (MAFS) and THE GLOBAL EYE, Digital News Magazine for hosting this historic Summit. Dr Reddy further added that the presence of the Visionary Consul General of India Amit Kumar and the energetic Consul General Of Japan Kenichi Okada is the new beginnings for a global collective action on behavioral healthcare.

Global Encyclopedia On Ramayana To Release On Saturday

The government in Uttar Pradesh is going to give a unique gift to Ram devotees across the world. The first edition of the Global Encyclopaedia of the Ramayana is ready for publication.

Chief minister Yogi Adityanath will release the historical edition on the occasion of Janaki Navami on Saturday.

The version of the Global Encyclopaedia of the Ramayana, prepared by the Ayodhya Research Institute, will also be launched as an e-book.

The first edition of the Encyclopaedia will be released in the English language. A month later, the first edition in Hindi and Tamil languages will be published.

The Uttar Pradesh Department of Culture, in collaboration with the Ministry of External Affairs, is involved in this mega project by combining the tangible and intangible legacy of the Ramayana from 205 countries of the world.

For this, a workshop was organised by the department which included 70 scholars from West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Tripura, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Delhi.

According to Shishir, Director of Culture, Uttar Pradesh, there is a plan to publish the Ramayana Encyclopaedia in 200 volumes.

For this, the Ayodhya Research Institute has set up a board of editors and advisors around the country and the world. The first edition has been designed by the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur.

The publication of Ramayana will also be released in Oriya, Malayalam, Urdu and Assamese languages along with the first edition of the Global Ramayan Encyclopaedia.

Also, the oldest and authentic book about Ayodhya, ‘Ayodhya Mahatma’ will be released in the English language to expand it globally.

It was in May 2018, that the chief minister had directed to conduct a survey and publication of all the Ramayana sites of the world at the review meeting of Ayodhya Research Institute, Ayodhya.

Globally, evidence of the Ramayana’s tangible heritage, architecture, sculpture and painting is found in countries around the world including Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and Europe since about 5000 years ago.

According to the scholars, almost all countries of Europe accepted Ram as their first ancestor.

Scholars claim that ‘Ram Takht’ was received in Gandhara region in 2500 BC and many villages in Gandhar have their names on Ram and Sita.

Taxila is named after the elder son of Bharat, Taksh.

The entire Gandhara region of Pakistan is rich in Ramayana culture.

According to scholars, there is evidence of a Ramayana civilisation in Italy before the Roman civilization in Europe. Vatican City, France, Germany, Netherlands also have elements of this culture. (IANS)

Scientists Talked To People In Their Dreams. They Answered

Researchers say two-way communication is possible with people who are asleep and dreaming.  Specifically, with people who are lucid dreaming — that is, dreaming while being aware you’re dreaming.

In separate experiments, scientists in the U.S., France, Germany and the Netherlands asked people simple questions while they slept. Sleepers would respond by moving their eyes or twitching their faces in a certain way to indicate their answers.

“Since the ’80s, we’ve known that lucid dreamers can communicate out of dreams by using these signals,” says Karen Konkoly, a Ph.D. student at Northwestern University who is the first author on the study published this month in Current Biology.

“But we were wondering, can we also communicate in? Can we ask people questions that they could actually hear in their dreams that we could kind of have a more meaningful conversation?”

They were studying rapid-eye-movement sleep, which is the stage of sleep where people dream most vividly. In REM sleep, “every muscle in your body is completely paralyzed, except you can twitch and you can move your eyes,” Konkoly tells Scott Simon on Weekend Edition. “So if you become lucid in a dream and you want to communicate, then when people are dreaming, they just look left-right, left-right, really dramatically. And then we know that they’re communicating out.”

Lucid dreaming is not common. So to study it, researchers recruited people who had experience with it and also trained people to try to make lucid dreaming more likely.

Before the participants went to sleep, they were also trained on how to communicate their answers. Special sensors measured people’s eye movements or experts would judge their facial movements.

For example, a typical question would be to ask what is 8 minus 6. A 19-year-old American man was able to respond by moving his eyes left-right, left-right — two times — to signal “2.” Researchers asked the question again, and he moved his eyes the same way two times again.

Out of the 158 trials among 36 participants, about 18% of the time, they were able to give correct answers. In another 18%, it wasn’t clear whether participants were responding or not. They were wrong 3% of the time. Most often, 61%, participants didn’t respond at all.

For the people dreaming, they didn’t always interpret the questions they were hearing as a simple question from researchers. “Sometimes stimuli were perceived as coming from outside the dream, but other times, the stimuli emanated from elements of the dream, contextualized in a way that made sense in relation to ongoing dream content,” the researchers write. One participant “heard the questions transposed over their dream as though it was God talking to them,” Konkoly says.

The researchers write that their findings present “new opportunities for gaining real-time information about dreaming, and for modifying the course of a dream” and “could usher in a new era of investigations into sleep and into the enigmatic cognitive dimensions of sleep.”

Konkoly says there’s the possibility of one day doing a sort of “dream therapy” for talking down people experiencing lucid nightmares.

And if more reliable communication methods can be worked out, it could help people with creative activities and ideas. “People often use lucid dreaming or dreaming for a kind of artistic, creative inspiration,” she says. “But in that dream state, your resources thus far are only the ones that you have in the dream.”

So with the help of an awake person, Konkoly says it could be possible to “combine those logical advantages of wake with the creative advantages of dreams and maybe have some more applications.”

(Samantha Balaban and Ed McNulty produced and edited the audio interview. Courtesy: NPR)

U.S. Citizenship Act of 202 Benefits for Indian Americans Awaiting Path to Legal Status

According to the State Department, Indians with advanced degrees whose immigration applications were approved in 2009 and skilled workers and professionals whose applications were okayed in 2010 are still waiting for their green cards because each country regardless of size are allowed only 26,000 green cards each year, except for Canada and Mexico. Those wait times are only for those who applications are already approved, and it could run to centuries for those in the immigration queue.

 

Republican Senator Mike Lee has said that the wait times for Indian professionals stuck in the “awful, hellish green card backlog” because their applications are awaiting approval the wait is 195 years and could go up to 450 years in ten years without reforms. According to the think tank Cato Institute 200,000 Indian professionals in the green card pipeline would die of old age before their turn.

There are nearly 500,000 illegal immigrants from India and many Dreamers would benefit if the bill passes. The children under the category are known as “Dreamers” for their pursuit of the American Dream, which was initially part of the Obama Plan, which Trump had sought to cancel.

 

The bill introduced by Senator Bob Menendez and House of Representatives member Linda Sanchez seeks to remove the annual limits on green cards for each country, a measure that would allow more immigration from India.

 

The Bill wants to allow more permanent immigrant status or green cards for professional Indians, who have the longest wait for immigration, and cut their wait times. For some of those professionals, as per current wait period, it is as long as 80 years, due to cap on country-based Green based Green Card System.

 

Another important part of the bill that is more widely welcomed by the South Asian community is the provision to help children of those on H1-B professional employment visas who would have become ineligible for green cards if they reach 21 years before their parents qualify for immigration. They would be allowed to continue with H1-B visas. Under current regulations, the children lose their right to remain in the US when they turn 21 years if their parents are still waiting for green cards. Spouses of H1-B workers would also be allowed to work, a provision that former President Donald Trump tried to revoke.

 

Rep. Sanchez said in a statement that the reforms would grow “our economy by making changes to the employment-based immigration system, eliminating per-country caps, making it easier for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) advanced degree holders from US universities to stay, improving access to green cards for workers in lower-wage industries, and giving dependents of H-1B holders work authorization, and preventing children of H-1B holders from aging out of the system”.

 

It would also “create a pilot program to stimulate regional economic development and (it) incentivizes higher wages for non-immigrant, high-skilled visas to prevent unfair competition with American workers,” she added. The wage provision would set higher minimum wages for H1-B workers on par with prevailing local wages for comparable jobs.

 

Benefitting the relatives of immigrants, the Bill will allow them into the US to join their families while they await their green cards. Introducing the bill, Menendez said, “We have an economic and moral imperative to pass big, bold and inclusive immigration reform that leaves no one behind.”

 

The Bill has been widely recognized by the South Asian community in the US. Anirban Das, president of Skilled Immigrants in America (SIIA), an advocacy organization for H-1B visa holders and families, said, “The bill has some good points that we have always pushed for like eliminating country caps, exempting PhDs from American universities in STEM fields. At the same time, we are obviously concerned by the size of the bill,” Das told News India Times. “Things always get sticky with such bills with lots of amendments that eventually kill the bill.”

 

Das notes that currently there are around 1 million Indian immigrants in the backlog, or an estimated 300,000 families. Since 2010, no one has been given their green card. “It will take anywhere to 150 years for an Indian who files for a Green Card now  to get it, so they do not  have a chance,” Das notes.

SAALT, a coalition of South Asians in the US in a statement has welcomed the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021. “Today, marks the introduction of the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, by Representative Sanchez (D-CA-38) and Senator Menendez (D-NJ). The bill is a historic piece of legislation that proposes a pathway to citizenship for 11 million immigrants, including more than 650,000 undocumented South Asians.”

AAPI’s Global Healthcare Summit 2021 To Be Held in Vaizag, Andhra Pradesh

The 14th annual Global Healthcare Summit (GHS) 2021, organized by the Association of American Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) in collaboration with the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, will be held at the prestigious Novotel, Visakhapatnam, India from April 30th to May 3rd, 2021.

 

The groundbreaking Summit from April 30th to May 3rd, 2021 will discuss ways to bring the most innovative, efficient and cost effective healthcare solutions for India.

 

“Harnessing the power of Indian doctors worldwide, the AAPI Global Healthcare Summit platform has evolved with the support of prominent global and Indian medical associations,” says Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalgadda, President of AAPI. In addition, several international healthcare industry partners are looking for opportunities to participate at this event for greater collaboration on Research & Development and philanthropic engagements, he adds.

 

According to him, “Senior leaders from leading healthcare organizations such as pharmaceuticals, device and medical equipment manufacturers and major medical teaching institutions, hospitals and from the Ministries – Health, External/Overseas Affairs and regulatory bodies are collaborating with AAPI with the ultimate goal to provide access to high quality and affordable healthcare to all people of India.”

 

While elaborating on the themes and areas that are going to be covered during the Summit, Dr. Sajani Shah, Chair of AAPI BOT, says, “In our efforts to realize the core mission of AAPI, which is to share the best from leading experts from around the world, to collaborate on clinical challenges, research and development, philanthropy, policy and standards formulation, the Summit in Visakhapatnam will have clinical tracks that are of vital to healthcare in India.”

 

Chronic diseases, notably diabetes, cardiovascular, hypertension, COPD, oncology, maternal and infant mortality, and emerging ones – trauma and head injury, transplant and minimally invasive robotic surgeries are only some of those that are going to be covered during this Summit. An exclusive Healthcare CEO forum brings the healthcare industry perspective, with senior Government officials, both Union and State providing the legislative wisdom. Hands-on workshops provide supervised skill transfer.

 

Dr. Prasad Chalasani, Chair of AAPI GHS USA 2021 says, “With over 200 physicians from the United States, the Summit is expected to be attended by nearly 1,000 delegates from around the world. AAPI Global Healthcare Summit (GHS) will have many new initiatives and also will be carrying the torch of ongoing projects undertaken by AAPI’s past leaders.”

 

Dr. Ravi Raju, Chair of GHS India, “Healthcare in India is one of the largest sectors, in terms of revenue and employment.  India is making significant improvements in the healthcare infrastructure and is building modern medical facilities throughout India. Indian doctors have made tremendous progress in the 21st century and India is now being touted as a medical tourism hub”

 

While elaborating the objectives of the Summit, Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President-Elect of AAPI, says, “This innovative Summit is aimed at advancing the accessibility, affordability and the quality of world-class healthcare to the people of India. Among other areas, the Summit will focus on prevention, diagnosis, treatment options and share ways to truly improve healthcare transcending global boundaries.”

 

According to Dr. Ravi Kolli, Vice President of AAPI, “This international health care summit is a progressive transformation from the first Indo-US Healthcare Summit launched by AAPI USA in 2007. Since then, AAPI has organized 13 Indo – US/Global Healthcare Summits and developed strategic alliances with various organizations.”

 

Dr. Amit Chakrabarty, Secretary of AAPI, says, “It is these learning and relationships that have now enabled AAPI and participating organizations to plan ahead and prepare for an outstanding event that is expected to have over 300 very prominent and talented physicians and surgeons of Indian origin from around the world and are very passionate about serving their homeland, Mother India.”

 

Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Treasurer of AAPI, says, “With the changing trends and statistics in healthcare, both in India and US, we are refocusing our mission and vision, AAPI would like to make a positive and meaningful impact on the healthcare delivery system both in the US and in India,”

 

“Being organized at this critical phase, GHS 2021 is aimed at exploring possibilities for greater collaboration and cooperation between the physicians and health care providers in India with those of Indian origin and major health-care providers abroad,” Dr. Jonnalagadda said. For more information, please visit www.aapiusa.org 

 

The COVID-19 Virus Is Mutating. What Does That Mean for Vaccines?

As we enter the second year of living with the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the virus is celebrating its invasion of the world’s population with yet more mutated forms that help it to spread more easily from person to person.

 

One, first detected in the U.K. in December, has already raised alarms about whether the COVID-19 virus is now escaping from the protection that vaccines just being rolled out now might provide. The variant has also been found in the U.S. Already, U.K. officials have tightened lockdowns in England, Scotland and Wales, and over the holidays, more than 40 countries banned travelers from the region in an effort to keep the new strain from spreading to other parts of the world.

 

Health officials are also concerned about a different strain found in South Africa that could become more resistant to vaccine protection. This variant includes a few mutations in key areas that antibodies, generated by the vaccine, target.

 

Exactly how the new strains affect people who are infected—such as whether they develop more severe symptoms—and whether they can lead to more hospitalizations and deaths, aren’t clear yet. But scientists are ramping up efforts to genetically sequence more samples from infected patients to learn how widespread they are. So far, there are enough hints to worry public health experts.

 

The fact that SARS-CoV-2 is morphing into potentially more dangerous strains isn’t a surprise. Viruses mutate. They must, in order to make up for a critical omission in their makeup. Unlike other pathogens such as bacteria, fungi and parasites, viruses have none of the machinery needed to make more copies of themselves, so they cannot reproduce on their own. They rely fully on hijacking the reproductive tools of the cells they infect in order to generate their progeny.

 

Being such freeloaders means they can’t be picky about their hosts, and must make do with whatever cellular equipment they can find. That generally leads to a flurry of mistakes when they sneak in to copy their genetic code; as a result, viruses have among the sloppiest genomes among microbes.

 

The bulk of these mistakes are meaningless—false starts and dead ends—that have no impact on humans. But as more mistakes are made, the chances that one will make the virus better at slipping from one person to another, or pumping out more copies of itself, increase dramatically.

 

Fortunately, coronaviruses in particular generate these genetic mistakes more slowly than their cousins like influenza and HIV—scientists sequencing thousands of samples of SARS-CoV-2 from COVID-19 patients found that the virus makes about two errors a month. Still, that’s led so far to about 12,000 known mutations in SARS-CoV-2, according to GISAID, a public genetic database of the virus. And some, by sheer chance, end up creating a greater public health threat.

 

Just a few months after SARS-CoV-2 was identified in China last January, for example, a new variant, called D614G, superseded the original strain. This new version became the dominant one that infected much of Europe, North America and South America. Virus experts are still uncertain over how important D614G, named for where the mutation is located on the viral genome, has been when it comes to human disease. But so far, blood samples from people infected with the strain show that the virus can still be neutralized by the immune system.

 

That means that the current vaccines being rolled out around the world can also protect against this strain, since the shots were designed to generate similar immune responses in the body. “If the public is concerned about whether vaccine immunity is able to cover this variant, the answer is going to be yes,” says Ralph Baric, professor or epidemiology, microbiology and immunology at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, who has studied coronaviruses for several decades.

 

The so-called N501Y variant (some health officials are also calling it B.1.1.7.), which was recently detected in the U.K. and the U.S., may be a different story. Based on lab and animal studies, researchers believe this strain can spread more easily between people. That’s not a surprise, says Baric, since to this point, most of the world’s population has not been exposed to SARS-CoV-2.

 

That means that for now, the strains that are better at hopping from one person to another will have the advantage in spreading their genetic code. But as more people get vaccinated and protected against the virus, that may change. “Selection conditions for virus evolution right now favor rapid transmission,” he says. “But as more and more of the human population become immune, the selection pressures change. And we don’t know which direction the virus will go.”

 

In a worst case scenario, those changes could push the virus to become resistant to the immune cells generated by currently available vaccines. The current mutants are the virus’ first attempts to maximize its co-opting of the human population as viral copying machines. But they could also serve as a backbone on which SARS-CoV-2 builds a more sustained and stable takeover.

 

Like a prisoner planning a jailbreak, the virus is biding its time and chipping away at the defenses the human immune system has constructed. For example, the virus may mutate in a way that changes the makeup of its spike proteins—the part of the virus where the immune system’s antibodies attempt to stick to in order to neutralize the virus. And that one mutation may not be enough to protect the virus from those antibodies. But two or three might.

 

The biggest concern right now, says Baric, is that there are already two or three variants of SARS-CoV-2 that have mutations in just such places, “where additional mutations can make a more significant change in terms of transmissibility or virulence.”

The best way to monitor that evolution is by sequencing the virus in as many people who are infected, as often as possible.

 

Only by tracking how SARS-CoV-2 is changing can scientists hope to stay ahead of the most dangerous and potentially more lethal mutations. In Nov., the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) launched a sequencing program that will ask each state to send 10 samples every other week from people who have been infected, in order to more consistently track any changes in SARS-CoV-2’s genome. But it’s a voluntary program. “It’s still not a national effort, it’s voluntary, and there is no dedicated funding for it,” says Baric.

 

“Come on, we’re in the 21st century—let’s enter the 21st century.”

Without substantial federal funding dedicated specifically to sequencing SARS-CoV-2 genomes, most of the work in the U.S. is currently being done by scientists at academic centers like the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and the University of Washington. Since early last year, the CDC has been working to better characterize SARS-CoV-2 viruses from patient samples in partnership with some of these academic labs, as well as state and local health departments and commercial diagnostic companies, in the SARS-CoV-2 Sequencing for Public Health Emergency Response, Epidemiology and Surveillance (SPHERES) consortium.

 

“If we sequence one out of 200 cases then we’re missing a lot of information,” says Baric. “If we’re sequencing about 20% of cases, then we might start to see something and we would be in the ball game to find new variants. We probably could be doing a better job of that here in the U.S.”

 

Other countries are also working on this effort. The U.K. has long been a leader in genetic sequencing, and likely because of their efforts were able to identify the new variant relatively quickly after it emerged. Globally, scientists have also been posting genetic sequences from SARS-CoV-2 to the public GISAID database.

 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and chief medical advisor to President-elect Joe Biden, says that his teams are sequencing and studying the new variants to better understand what effect they might have on disease, how close they might be to causing more severe illness and, more importantly as more people get vaccinated, whether the new variants can escape the protection of the vaccines we know work today.

The good news is that if the mutant strains do become resistant to the current vaccines, the mRNA technology behind the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna should enable the companies to develop new shots without the same lengthy developing and testing that the originals required. “The mRNA platform is eminently flexible to turn around,” says Fauci.

 

If a new vaccine were needed, it would be treated by the Food and Drug Administration as a strain change in the virus target, similar to how flu shots are modified every year. “You could get that out pretty quickly,” says Fauci, after showing in tests with a few dozen people that the new vaccine produced satisfactory amounts of antibodies and protection against the mutant virus.

 

Tracking every change the virus makes will be critical to buying the time needed to shift vaccine targets before SARS-CoV-2 leaps too far ahead for scientists to catch up. “We are taking [these variants] seriously and will be following them closely to make sure we don’t miss anything,” says Fauci.

Protein Slowing Down Covid Spread In Asia?

A team of scientists from the National Institute of Biomedical Genomics in Kalyani, West Bengal, have found a biological reason for the slower spread of a mutant of coronavirus in Asia compared to the West. They explained how higher levels of a human protein — neutrophil elastase — helps the virus to enter the human cell, multiply and also spread faster from infected individuals.

However, this protein is kept in check by the biological system, which produces another protein called alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT). AAT deficiency leads to higher levels of neutrophil elastase in the cells, which in turn helps in faster spread of the virus. This deficiency is known to be much higher in Europe and America than among Asians. The study has been published in the journal Infection, Genetics and Evolution.

The team of scientists led by Nidhan Biswas and Partha Majumder observed that the rate of the spread of the mutant virus — D614G — has been non-uniform across geographical regions. The researchers say that, “…in order to reach 50% relative frequency, the 614G subtype took significantly longer time in East Asia (5.5 months) compared to Europe (2.15 months) as well as North America (2.83 months).”

The researchers linked the differential spread to an additional cleavage site created by the D614G mutant virus, for entry into the human cell.

“However, some naturally-occurring mutations in the AAT-producing gene results in deficiency of the AAT protein,” said Majumder. “This deficiency is known to be much higher in the Caucasians of Europe and America than among Asians. While we used AAT deficiency data from East Asia, along with North America and Europe, for the study, considering the pace at which the coronavirus is spreading, the numbers are representative of other Asian regions too, including India.”

Per their data, AAT deficiency is the least in East Asian countries — 8 per 1,000 individuals in Malaysia, 5.4 per 1,000 in South Korea, 2.5 in Singapore. On the other hand, 67.3 in per 1,000 individuals in Spain are AAT deficient, 34.6 in the UK and 51.9 in France and in the US it is prevalent in 29 individuals among 1,000.

WMC America Region announces Student Engagement Program (SEP).

World Malayalee Council (WNC),  the largest and oldest Kerala diaspora fraternity institution announced the initiative formulated to engage school going children in Middle and High schools through volunteering & leadership activities by focusing academically and socially, Thomas Philip, AR Chair; Sudhir Nambiar, AR President; Pinto Kannampally, AR General Secretary; and Cecil Cherian, Treasurer, jointly announced here last week.

The initiative intends to assist expat Malayalee children connect and fasten their heritage roots enabling successful adaptation to their homeland on  academics, civic, social and cultural ends. With the resourceful assistance of mentors who have proven excellence in their own respective professional and personal careers, WMC envisions to have an organized, structured reachout enabling the younger generation, the access of vetted and validated resource people-pool and programs. Felicitating professional advancements through volunteering opportunity is the integral part of this program.

This initiative aims at delivering individual as well group attention and guidance to enrollees in overall academic merit and professional success. Further the opportunity to volunteer and to the access of resources, the SEP participants shall be advantaged with the global exchange opportunities of the Malayalee fraternity – one of the most successful diaspora, internationally. Nambiar, American Region President, said.

WMC is the only Indian diaspora institution partnered and endorsed by the US Census Bureau. Having been approved as the credentialing partner for The US President’s Volunteer Certifying program, SEP enrollees will get increased, exclusive opportunities to reputed external organizations, proudly highlighted Mr. Pinto Kannampally, General Secretary of the Region.

The following are the key specs of the WMC SEP program:

  1. Opportunity to obtain validated academic advisement, mentors and professional opportunities.
  2. Automatically become a Volunteer of WMC SEP with Student’s wing activities and earn legible volunteer hours.
  3. US President’s Volunteer Service Awards is readily available to certify your credentials from WMC & other organizations.
    4. Network with meritorious Malayalee fellow students across America – An opportunity to exchange Views, Ideas, Tips – uplifting each other.
  4. Secured & validated opportunities to build quality friendships and a chance to know people before you meet them on campuses across the Nation!
  5. Become a Student leader in WMC Student’s wing.

WMC Global Chairman Dr. PA Ibrahim Haji, and President Gopala Pillai, extended congratulatory notes to the American Regional leadership in conceiving such a far reaching & futuristic initiative that has the potential to touch so many young lives affirmatively. Global V.P Org. Dev. Mr. P.C. Mathew stated his hopes that youngsters as well parents shall come forward recognizing the extra-mile travelled by the AR team to enable educative & volunteering opportunities to our diaspora families in the USA.

Instituted in the year 1995, by Late Dr. T. N. Seshan, – the iconic CEC of India, as WMC founding Chairman WMC is envisioned and committed to universal brotherhood of professional Malayalees. For more information please  visit www.WMCAmerica.org/SEP

India’s Village Teacher Wins $1 Million Prize For World’s Most ‘Exceptional’ Educator

In 2010, Indian teacher Ranjitsinh Disale heard that one of his teenage female students was going to marry a man in his 30s.

“I directly went to the girl’s house and told her father, ‘You cannot do this,’ ” says Disale, 32, who currently teaches third- and fourth-graders at a government school in Paritewadi, a small village in western India.

When the father didn’t agree, Disale called the police because child marriage is illegal in India. Together they counseled the father. Finally, he called off the wedding.

It’s actions like this that helped earn Disale the title of the world’s most “exceptional teacher.”

In December, Disale won the $1 million Global Teacher Prize, an annual award sponsored by the Varkey Foundation, a U.K.-based nonprofit working to improve access to education for underprivileged children, and by UNESCO, the U.N. agency for education, science and culture. He was one of more than 12,000 teachers from over 140 countries nominated for the prize.

The organizations praise Disale for going above and beyond his job description. Over the years, he has learned a new language, invented ways to help students learn with technology and even endured attacks — all to ensure his students, especially girls, can keep learning.

“[Disale has] transformed the life chances of young girls,” the Varkey Foundation said in a statement. “The impact of [his] interventions has been extraordinary: There are now no teenage marriages in the village and 100% attendance by girls at the school.”

Disale was declared the winner at a virtual ceremony broadcast from London. When British actor and comedian Stephen Fry announced his name, Disale, at home in India, screamed in excitement and hugged his overjoyed parents seated on either side of him. Congratulatory messages poured in from politicians including former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan and even the Dalai Lama.

His students rejoiced, too.

“They were dancing in celebration and they kept saying, ‘Sir, we are proud of you,’ ” says Disale. “That’s the biggest moment for a teacher, I can’t express that feeling in words.”

Disale hadn’t always planned to be a teacher. He was studying to be an engineer but dropped out because of bullying by his peers. He enrolled in a teacher training course on his father’s suggestion and was posted to Paritewadi in 2009 for his first assignment.

His classroom was overrun by cows and buffaloes. A farmer had turned it into a cattle shed and refused to leave.

“I had to register a police complaint,” says Disale. “[The farmer] would shout at me and throw stones at my bike.”

Even bigger challenges lay ahead.

Most of Disale’s students come from low-income families who depend on farming. Many belong to tribal communities where early marriage is common.

“They feel that girls are just made for [marrying],” says Disale.

Disale also says many parents thought school was a waste of money for their kids because they see even educated people struggling to get jobs.

“They felt the better option is to take the children to the farm [to work] so that they get some experience,” says Disale.

So Disale set out to change their mindset. When his students didn’t show up to class, Disale says he would go to the fields to talk to their parents. He learned their native language Kannada to gain their trust and translated the curriculum from Marathi, a language some students did not speak, into Kannada.

To further boost student attendance, around 2010, he introduced technology in the classroom.

He bought a new laptop with money from his dad and would show movies and play songs for his young students. “When they went back home, they would start talking about it with their friends who would then get interested in coming to school,” says Disale.

Once he had his students’ attention, he would play educational videos and songs that covered topics in their curriculum.

But some parents were still not sending their kids, particularly girls, to school, he says.

So Disale came up with a way to get the school curriculum to the girls.

He started making digital versions of his lesson plans. He created PowerPoint presentations, translated educational videos from YouTube and made videos of his classroom lectures. He called parents with female students at home to drop by the school on the weekends so he could transfer the digital files from his laptop to their mobile devices. His elementary school students, many of whom are mobile savvy, could then use their parents’ devices to keep up with what Disale was teaching in class — and Internet connectivity, he says, is good in the village.

There was one problem. The files were sometimes not supported by the mobile devices or would get corrupted during the transfer. So in 2014, Disale devised a workaround: He would make the videos, links, audio files and homework available to download over the Internet using QR codes, or quick response codes. He would print stickers with the QR codes and distribute them among his students.

The students were particularly interested in videos of Disale teaching lessons that they had trouble understanding, says Disale. It was used not just by kids at home, but also by kids coming to school, too. If they had a doubt or question about what they learned in class, they could revisit Disale’s recorded lectures.

“It was like a miracle,” says Disale, adding that the academic performance of his students, especially girls, improved drastically.

For this reason, he proposed the idea of QR-coded textbooks to the government in Maharashtra, the state where Paritewadi is located. And in 2017, the government announced it would introduce textbooks with QR codes in the entire state. The codes link to supplementary teaching materials, such as explanatory videos, for students who need a bit more help in grasping concepts in the book.

As for Disale, the QR codes in the textbooks proved to be a blessing when schools closed during the coronavirus lockdown. His students were able to continue doing their work from home on mobile phones and switch to virtual learning easily.

“The lockdown has taught us that we cannot rely on traditional ways of teaching,” says Disale. “Technology should be an integral part of teaching.”

What differentiates Disale from other teachers is that he did not depend on the system but paved his own way to fulfill his role as a teacher, says Francis Joseph, co-founder of an education nonprofit called School Leaders Network. He has known Disale for several years.

Government schoolteachers in India often lack motivation, says Joseph, because they get paid whether students learn or not. No one questions them. Teacher truancy is also common. According to a 2016 World Bank report, nearly 24% of teachers in some 1,300 Indian villages surveyed were absent during unannounced visits.

“You just need some champions [like Disale] to lead a revolution in increasing the motivation and interest among other teachers,” says Joseph.

Disale says he’s now working on a project to promote world peace by connecting tens of thousands of students from conflict zones around the world. The Let’s Cross the Borders project is a six-week program in which students are matched with a “peace buddy” from another country via Skype. Students interact with their buddies, prepare presentations and listen to guest speakers together to understand their similarities.

When he was named the winner, Disale announced that he would share half of his $1 million prize with the other nine finalists who come from different parts of the world including Italy, Vietnam, Brazil and Nigeria. He says he will use his share of the prize to build a network of like-minded teachers in India who are passionate about innovation in learning.

“I want to see many Ranjitsinh Disales from India,” he says.

The Impact of the U.S. Re-engaging with the World Health Organization

Newswise — The United States will begin participating in an international collaboration to distribute COVID-19 vaccines more equitably around the world after President Joe Biden reversed the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the World Health Organization on his first day in office.

Richard Marlink, the director of Rutgers Global Health Institute, discusses the impact COVAX, the global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines, will have on ending the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthening global health.

What is the significance of the U.S. move to reverse its withdrawal from the World Health Organization?

Part of it is symbolic. It was one of the very first acts of Biden’s presidency, and that sends an important message that the U.S. is prioritizing global health and a multilateral approach.

But in practical terms, the U.S. contributes significant funding and leadership resources to the World Health Organization. Historically, the U.S. has been the WHO’s largest donor. We are in the worst pandemic the world has seen in 100 years, and we will need all the world’s strongest resources to pull ourselves out of it.

One very concrete example is that the U.S. has finally agreed to participate in COVAX, which is co-led by the WHO. This commitment by the U.S. will strengthen efforts to distribute vaccines in countries that otherwise have no or very limited access.

COVID-19 has killed more people in the U.S. than in any other country, and most U.S. citizens are not yet vaccinated. Why is it a good thing to divert attention and resources to other countries?

There are two very good reasons to do this: one altruistic and the other selfish. First of all, it’s the right thing to do. All lives are valuable; someone who was fortunate enough to be born in a wealthy country should not have better access to health and quality health care than one who was not.

Second, the lack of a global vaccine strategy actually lengthens the pandemic. It is not possible to eradicate a virus this infectious in just one country. SARS-CoV-2 and its variants have demonstrated that they are fast, efficient travelers. As long as this virus continues infecting people, it will continue mutating, creating the more infectious variants. That puts all of us at risk. We won’t be protected until all countries are protected.

Given the criticisms the World Health Organization has faced for its response to the pandemic, is staying involved ultimately going to benefit the U.S.?

U.S. participation makes the World Health Organization stronger and gives us a seat at the table in creating important solutions, now and for the future. What improvements can we make to our pandemic alert system? How do we prepare for the next pandemic? How do we build resilience?

With the rate of global travel and instant worldwide communication we have today, unilateralism is not only ill-advised; it’s impossible. We’re all breathing the same air, so to speak. And infectious diseases are just one example of how global health issues affect us all.

What other issues are most in need of worldwide solutions?

Well, first, the impact of this pandemic will go far beyond the more than the 100 million people infected. By the time it’s over, how many businesses will have closed? How many more people will be food insecure or suffering mental health impacts? How many children will have suffered education losses because virtual education wasn’t a viable option for them, and how many will have dropped out? These are far-reaching problems with long-term effects on health in every country.

Second, there are the issues that existed long before the pandemic, and have even grown worse during the pandemic. Disparities in access to health care, or to the conditions necessary for good health, are limiting entire communities — and many countries — from realizing their potential. These disparities have economic and social costs, not to mention the fact that it is heartbreaking to know that there are places in the world where people are dying of completely curable and preventable conditions.

The U.S. can and should be a leader in solving these problems. The best way to do that is to work with the primary organization that’s set up to address human health across all borders, worldwide. Most health problems know no borders. We are all in this together.

New CDC Director Outlines 6 Big Fixes Needed To Crush COVID-19

As newly appointed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, steps into her new role leading the agency, the to-do list is long. Stay on top of breaking news, discover great discussions and never miss an update with our new and improved channels and tools.

Help get a pandemic under control. Create an equitable health system. Bolster public health infrastructure. Improve communication and combat misinformation circulating on social media and elsewhere. Build relationships with people at the state, community and tribal levels. Boost internal morale for scientists at the agency. Assess the collateral damage of the past year, including falling behind on childhood immunizations. And more.

Dr. Walensky, who heads to the CDC after serving as a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and practicing as an infectious disease physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, is ready for the challenge.

“I’m calling it my midcareer residency. I’m going to dive in. I got called during a code and when you get called during a code, your job is to be there to help,” Dr. Walensky told viewers during a JAMA Network™ livestreamed interview on the eve of her officially taking over as the CDC’s new director.

Combating COVID-19

On her first day on the job, Dr. Walensky announced that as a protective public health measure, she will extend the order that temporarily halts residential eviction until at least March 31. She said in a statement that the pandemic is a historic threat to the nation’s health and that it has “triggered a housing affordability crisis that disproportionately affects some communities.” Learn more with the AMA about why eviction moratorium key weapon in the pandemic fight.

In the livestreamed interview led by Howard Bauchner, MD, editor-in-chief of JAMA and senior vice president of AMA scientific publications and multimedia applications, Dr. Walensky talked about key areas that need improvement to help crush the pandemic and secure longer-lasting public health gains.

Vaccines. President Joe Biden is aiming to have the nation reach 100 million doses administered within his first 100 days in office, a goal she believes is attainable. Dr. Walensky said more thought should be devoted to vaccine eligibility to hit the sweet spot between supply on the shelf and the number of people eligible.

Vaccinators. Dr. Walensky said the U.S. must ensure there are enough people who can administer vaccinations, which means looking broadly for help from medical military, Public Health Service Commissioned Corps members, medical students and nursing students, dentists, veterinarians and more.

Vaccination sites. A four-pronged approach to reach people is being worked on: Community vaccination centers, such as stadiums and gymnasiums; mobile units to do the outreach to communities that otherwise wouldn’t be reached; federally qualified health centers; and a pharmacy program.

Collaboration. The federal government needs to work with the states, offering support and resources available from the national level to help get vaccines distributed. Dr. Walensky said the role of the federal government will be to step in and ask each state “What is the help you need?”

Public health investment. The pandemic has laid bare the nation’s frail public health infrastructure. “We need to fix that public health infrastructure and we need resources to do it,” Dr. Walensky said. “One of my challenges is to make sure Congress knows and understands that we are in this because we had warning for many, many other public health scares over the last 20 years and we didn’t fix our public health infrastructure and our data infrastructure.”

Agency morale. Internally, Dr. Walensky said she needs to figure out how to make sure the CDC’s many talented scientists—who fortunately have not left in a mass exodus—understand and feel the value that should be given to them.

“They’ve been diminished. I think they’ve been muzzled. Science hasn’t been heard. This top-tier agency, world renowned, hasn’t really been appreciated over the past four years … I have to fix that,” she said. “I need to make sure that those voices get heard again—that I’m leading with trust.”

Public communication. Lastly, the CDC must better communicate with the American people: “I want to be able to convey in layman’s terms what the science shows, when guidelines change. … And not just me, but subject-matter experts who can convey that.” Subscribe to the “Conversations with Dr. Bauchner” podcast. Each week, he interviews leading researchers and thinkers in health care about their recent JAMA articles.

The AMA has created a COVID-19 vaccine resource center that features an array of information relevant to physicians about the development and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. The AMA also partnered with the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration to provide a series of educational webinars that help explain the process of vaccine development and offer a deeper dive into the data to understand safety and efficacy results. These webinars are also available on the AMA COVID-19 vaccine resource center.

(Picture: AP News)

Five Indian Colleges In Top 100, ISB Offers Best Course In Country

Globally, Insead based in France and Singapore is ranked as the top B-school followed by London Business School, and the University of Chicago: Booth. Even as European colleges have got the top places, it’s the US-based institutes which have continued to retain their dominance over the ranking index.

FT Global MBA ranking 2021: The Indian School of Business (ISB) is ranked as the best institute in India by the Financial Times’ Global MBA rankings which lists the top 100 MBA courses offered across the world. ISB has taken the 23rd spot across the globe. A total of five institutes from India have been ranked among the best 100 MBA colleges in the world. Apart from ISB, the rest of the representations from India are from the IIMs.

Globally, Insead — based in France and Singapore — is ranked as the top B-school followed by London Business School, and the University of Chicago: Booth. Even as European colleges have got the top places, it’s the US-based institutes which have continued to retain their dominance over the ranking index. A total of 9 out of the top 20 institutes are from the US.

Here’s the list of top B-schools in India –

Rank 23: Indian School of Business
Rank 35: IIM Bangalore
Rank 44: IIM Calcutta
Rank 48: IIM Ahmedabad
Rank 94: IIM Indore

Top 10 in the world –

Rank 1: Insead
Rank 2: London Business School
Rank 3: University of Chicago: Booth
Rank 4: Iese Business School
Rank 5: Yale School of Management
Rank 6: Northwestern University: Kellogg
Rank 7: Ceibs
Rank 8: HEC Paris
Rank 9: Duke University: Fuqua
Rank 10: Dartmouth College: Tuck

The ranking is calculated based on the salaries drawn by the alumni three years after graduation, quality of research, value for money, among others. This year, Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton have suspended participation.

(Picture: Indian Express)

Biden Administration Withdraws Yale Admissions Lawsuit Alleging Discrimination Against Asian Americans

In another reversal of Trump-era policy, the Biden administration Feb. 3 dropped its discrimination lawsuit against Yale University that alleged the Ivy League school was illegally discriminating against Asian American and white applicants. Federal prosecutors said the Justice Department’s underlying investigation, aimed at ensuring Yale complies with federal anti-discrimination laws, continues.

The government accused Yale in October of violating civil rights laws because it “discriminates based on race and national origin in its undergraduate admissions process, and that race is the determinative factor in hundreds of admissions decisions each year.” The investigation stemmed from a 2016 complaint by the New Jersey-based Asian American Coalition for Education coalition against Yale, Brown and Dartmouth. Yale said its practices comply with decades of Supreme Court precedent and that it looks at “the whole person” when deciding which applicants to admit.

“We were part of the Asian American Coalition for Education in Harvard Case and the Indian Americans students would like to see equal opportunity with students of other races, period,” said Dr. Thomas Abraham Chairman of the Global organization of People of Indian Origin.  “We have no problem, if African and Hispanic students are given due considerations to increase their admission rate, however, in the open competition, all races should be treated equally,” Dr. Abraham added.

A department spokesperson said in a statement that it was dropping the suit “in light of all available facts, circumstances, and legal developments” but didn’t specify further. The government also notified Yale that it had withdrawn its determination letter that the university discriminated based on race and national origin. Yale was gratified and pleased by those two developments, spokesperson Karen Peart said.

But Swan Lee, a co-founder of the group behind the complaint, called it “a racist decision because it preserves discrimination in education. It’s a setback in our fight against racial discrimination against Asian Americans in education.”

The change in administrations brought an end to the suit, but the challenge to college admissions policies that take race into account is alive in a case against Harvard’s practices. The challengers have lost at each round in the lower courts, but their appeal is expected in the coming weeks at the Supreme Court, where a conservative majority may well be more receptive.

“The challenge to race-based affirmative action in higher education will continue regardless of any change in the Department of Justice,” said Edward Blum, the president of Students for Fair Admissions, which filed the lawsuit against Harvard. The department, under President Donald Trump, had backed the challenge in the lower courts.

The Yale investigation also found that the university used race as a factor in multiple steps of the admissions process and that Yale “racially balances its classes.”

The Supreme Court has ruled colleges and universities may consider race in admissions decisions but has said that must be done in a narrowly tailored way to promote diversity and should be limited in time. Schools also bear the burden of showing why their consideration of race is appropriate.

“I am totally shocked by the Biden DOJ’s hasty decision to drop the Yale lawsuit, only eight days after President Biden signed an executive order claiming to combat anti-Asian discrimination,” said Yukong Zhao, the president of the Asian American Coalition for Education.

But the decision was lauded by other civil rights groups, including one run by the Biden administration’s incoming assistant attorney general for civil rights.

“It has been proven in the courts that race-conscious admissions programs are lawful, and Black students and other students of color who come from all walks of life can rest a little easier knowing our government is looking to lift them up, not divide and suppress,” said David Hinojosa, director of the Educational Opportunities Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. The group’s president, Kristen Clarke, is Biden’s nominee to run the Justice Department’s civil rights division.

Biden’s Justice Department is working to undo Trump policies, including “zero tolerance,” the immigration policy that was responsible for family separations. Also on Feb. 3, the Supreme Court agreed to requests from the Biden administration to put off arguments in two challenges to Trump-era policies involving the U.S.-Mexico border wall and asylum-seekers as Biden works to change the policies that had been challenged in court.

(Associated Press writers Mark Sherman, Collin Binkley in Boston, and Dave Collins in Hartford, Connecticut, contributed to this report.)

8-Year-Old Indian Boy In Johns Hopkins ‘Brightest Students In The World’ List

Advay Misra, 8, an Indian student in New York, has been named among 1,400 of the “brightest students in the world” by the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY) in Baltimore which counts among its alumni the founders of Facebook and Google, Rhodes Scholars and MacArthur Fellows.

Hopkins said Misra, a student at PS 59 Beekman Hill International Elementary School, was honoured for “exceptional performance on the SAT, ACT, or similar assessment” taken by 15,000 students in grades two through eight as part of CTY’s Talent Search program. Test scores are based on above-grade level testing.

“It was a little hard…um, the verbal part but the mathematics part wasn’t as hard,” Misra told IANS, over phone. Misra said he took “some practice tests to get familiar” with the Johns Hopkins test but “didn’t have to do a lot of preparation.”

Misra credits his “mom!” for his academic smarts. The 8-year-old cheerfully rattled off his bucket list of favourite geek outs: “Reading, Python programming and Khan Academy videos.”

When contacted by IANS, Hopkins did not confirm how many Indians or Indian Americans took the test but said “several” students were living in India during the testing period.

More than 15,000 students from the US, Europe and 70 other countries in grades two through eight tested through CTY’s Talent Search over 12 months ending June 2020. Nearly 1,400 students finished in the top 9 per cent, like Advay Misra. Five test takers got a perfect score on the reading or math section. More than 160 testers under age 13 scored 700 or higher on the math or verbal section of the SAT.

“This is especially commendable in a year that has been difficult for students everywhere. The global pandemic has affected nearly every part of your lives, from daily school routines to the special celebrations you look forward to all year. Nonetheless, you have demonstrated outstanding academic potential, and we hope you and your family will take the time to celebrate it together,” said Dr. Virginia Roach, CTY’s Executive Director, in a prepared statement that IANS has reviewed.

According to the Hopkins CTY site, the center’s origin story goes back to the late 70s when a seventh grade boy from Baltimore had exhausted all options for math courses he could take at school by the time he was thirteen and a professor of psychology at Johns Hopkins then designed above grade level courses that could challenge gifted students around the world. (IANS)

(Picture: EWOKE TV)

Applications Surge After Big-Name Colleges Halt SAT And ACT Testing Rules

The University of Virginia drew a record 48,000 applications for the next class in Charlottesville – about 15 percent more than the year before.
Freshman applications to the University of California at Berkeley crossed into six figures for the first time, totaling more than 112,000, up 28 percent. Harvard University’s total spiked to an all-time high of 57,000. That’s up 42 percent.
The sudden explosion in demand for these and other big-name schools is another ripple effect of the coronavirus pandemic that could reshape college admissions for many years to come. The pandemic has given huge – and in some places, decisive – momentum to a movement to reduce or even eliminate the use of admissions testing at highly competitive colleges and universities. That, in turn, has lured more applicants to the upper tier of the market. U-Va. and Harvard were among a large bloc of schools that temporarily suspended their requirements for SAT or ACT scores because the public health emergency prevented many college-bound students from taking the exams. Students could choose whether to send scores to these schools under a policy known as “test-optional.”
On Friday, U-Va. President James Ryan said the public university will extend its test-optional policy for another two years, covering students who are now sophomores and juniors in high school.
“We believe this is a reasonable and humane response to one pressure that our prospective students are facing as a result of COVID-19,” Ryan said in a statement. “We want students to focus on things they can control: doing their best in school; cultivating their curiosity; contributing to their families, schools, and communities. In a moment where so many things are uncertain, we hope this decision makes the admissions process more accessible and equitable for students who are considering the University of Virginia.”
Harvard said Friday it will be test-optional for one more year – covering those who are now high school juniors – and reiterated that those who do not submit scores “will not be disadvantaged in the application process.”
UC-Berkeley has taken a more radical step. It removed the SAT and ACT from admission decisions, a policy known as “test-free” or “test-blind.” A state court last fall ordered the UC system to apply that policy across all its campuses for this year’s applicants. The system’s approach to admission testing for coming years is still in some flux, but the UC governing board voted last spring to phase out the SAT and ACT.
The College Board, which owns the SAT, said it supports “flexibility in admissions during the pandemic.” The rival ACT takes much the same position.
“I think a lot of schools are going to stay test-optional,” said ACT chief executive Janet Godwin. But she said research shows that “higher ed still does see value in scores for a whole bunch of reasons.”
Testing, she said, helps colleges connect with potential applicants and vice versa. She said she worries that many students might miss out on opportunities if they don’t take an admission test. Access and equity, she said, are “the driving force behind everything we do.” About a quarter million students are registered for the ACT’s next test date on Feb. 6.
Overall, the strength of the student pipeline into higher education during the pandemic appears uneven.
The Common Application, an online portal for hundreds of colleges and universities, reports that about 1 million students applied this year ahead of January deadlines. Application totals fell modestly at public universities with fewer than 10,000 undergraduates and at small private colleges that tend to admit most applicants.
There was also a 2 percent dip in applicants with enough financial need to receive fee waivers, and a 3 percent drop in those who would be among the first in their families to go to college. Jenny Rickard, president and chief executive of the Common App, said she was “very concerned” about those declines.
But the Common App found a surge of applications to schools with national and global reputations. At large public universities, including state flagships, totals rose more than 11 percent. At private schools with more selective admissions, they rose more than 17 percent.
Shifts in admissions testing policy, experts say, played a key role.
“This barrier, i.e. standardized testing, was taken down, and maybe some students put their hats in the ring who otherwise wouldn’t have,” said Eric Furda, who recently stepped down after 12 years as dean of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania.
Test-optional policies have helped hundreds of thousands of students this year who struggled to find a time and a place to take the SAT or ACT. But advocates say they also are helping students realize that their courses and grades in high school are what matter most.
Stephanie Sylla, 17, a high school senior from Woodbridge, Va., spent months last year preparing to take the SAT in August. Sylla said she went “hard core” starting in June, practicing as much as two hours a day, reading test-preparation books, getting the feel of the three-hour exam. She wanted a score to align with her credentials as a student with a strong grade-point average, a transcript full of challenging classes and time spent on extracurricular activities such as debate and varsity volleyball. A daughter of immigrants from the West African nation of Guinea, Sylla said college is vital to her and her family. Shortly before the test date, she got an email saying her SAT session had been canceled because of the pandemic.
She tried to register for a September session but found nothing available. It sunk in for her that she could forgo testing. Initially skeptical of test-optional policies, she had learned more about the issue from a U-Va. admissions officer who assured Sylla and other classmates that applications would be judged, regardless of whether they submitted a score, on the strength of their entire academic record and other accomplishments and life experiences.
So Sylla has applied, without scores, to U-Va. and a range of other competitive schools. The test-optional policy, she said, “really changed my perspective on how I look at my achievements.” What she has done in and out of school is enough, she said, to give a picture of her college potential. “It’s really helped build confidence in what I’ve been able to do.”
Some schools, such as Bowdoin College in Maine, have been test-optional for decades, while others joined the movement more recently, including the University of Chicago in 2018. But the pandemic has accelerated the trend. Many universities launched multiyear experiments with test-optional policies last year or ended testing requirements permanently.
Several ultra-selective schools that had announced one-year pauses in testing requirements are extending those measures. Williams and Amherst colleges, prominent liberal arts schools, will be test-optional for those applying to enter in 2022 and 2023. Columbia and Cornell universities, like Harvard, have suspended testing requirements for the 2022 cycle, and others in the Ivy League appear likely to follow suit.
“All of the challenges that we saw last year still remain,” said Logan Powell, dean of admission at Brown University. Powell said Brown’s applications under the test-optional process are up 26 percent, with gains across demographic groups including first-generation students.
Cornell said it received 17,000 more applications than the year before. That was a major increase, although 2020 figures were not immediately available for comparison. Jonathan Burdick, the vice provost for enrollment, said applications rose from first-generation, low-income, rural, Black and Hispanic groups. Some of Cornell’s programs, in business, agriculture and architecture, are experimenting with test-blind admission.
“We’re accumulating great information about how students respond and how to conduct whole-person reviews with either far fewer or no SAT/ACT scores,” Burdick wrote in an email. “We expect to put this new knowledge to use as we consider how to continue reducing admission barriers while maintaining highly selective standards over the next couple of years.”
This month, Pennsylvania State University added two years to its test-optional policy. What was once a pandemic-driven emergency measure has become, effectively, a longer-term experiment for the public university. Applications to the Penn State flagship campus are way up, said Robert Springall, executive director of undergraduate admissions. More than half of the 78,000 applicants did not submit scores.
“We wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to really think and assess how the first test-optional cohort does,” Springall said. Two more years, he said, “gives us the opportunity to really do a fair assessment.”
Maryland higher education officials will soon weigh testing policies for coming years. The University of Maryland at College Park reports that applications in this test-optional year surpassed 41,000, up more than 25 percent. Just over half did not send SAT or ACT scores. “We are seeing increases across the spectrum in diverse applicants,” said James Massey, U-Md.’ s director of undergraduate admissions. “We’re happy to have a deeper pool, obviously, as most institutions would be.”
(Picture: Times Herald)

College Campuses Are COVID-19 Super-spreaders

Newswise — College campuses are at risk of becoming COVID-19 superspreaders for their entire county, according to a new vast study which shows the striking danger of the first two weeks of school in particular.

Looking at 30 campuses across the nation with the highest amount of reported cases, experts saw that over half of the institutions had spikes – at their peak – which were well above 1,000 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people per week within the first two weeks of class.

In some colleges, one in five students had been infected with the virus by the end of the fall term. Four institutions had over 5,000 cases.

In 17 of the campuses monitored, a new computer model developed by scientists at Stanford University shows outbreaks translated directly into peaks of infection within their home counties.

Out today, the team’s research – published in the peer-reviewed journal Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering – crucially shows, however, that tight outbreak management, for example the immediate transition from in person to all online learning, can reduce the peaks within about two weeks.

Lead author Hannah Lu, from Stanford’s Energy Resources Engineering program, says the incidence levels of 1,000 cases per 100,000 people per week – when compared to the first and second waves of the pandemic with peak incidences of 70 to 150 – means colleges are at real risk of developing an extreme incidence of COVID-19.

“Policy makers often use an incidence of 50 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people per week as a threshold for high risk counties, states, or countries. All 30 institutions in our study exceeded this value, three even by two orders of that magnitude,” she states.

“The number of students who had become infected just throughout the fall is more than twice of the national average since the beginning of the outbreak of 5.3%, with 17.3 million reported cases at a population of 328.2 million.

“At the University of Notre Dame, for instance, all 12,607 students were tested before the beginning of class and only nine had tested positive. Less than two weeks into the term, the seven-day incidence was 3083, with a reproduction number R0 of 3.29.

“However,” she adds, “with around 90 reported deaths nationwide, mainly college employees and not students, the campus-related death rate of 0.02% remains well below the average death rate of COVID-19.”

Members of the research team used advanced modelling, which assesses the real-time epidemiology of the COVID-19 outbreak using an SEIR (susceptible, exposed, infectious, and recovered) model to map how the disease spread across the campuses.

They drew COVID-19 case reports from 30 publicly available college dashboards across the United States throughout the fall of 2020. These institutions were either teaching in person, online or a hybrid of both. They selected colleges for which case numbers are reported on a daily basis and the total cumulative case number exceeded 100. During this time window, the nationwide number of new cases had dropped below 50,000 per day.

A limitation of this study is that the true on-campus student population was often unreported and had to be approximated by the total fall quarter enrollment. “This likely underestimates of the real maximum incidence and the fraction of on-campus students that have been affected by the virus,” the authors state.

Senior author, Ellen Kuhl, adds: “Strikingly, these local campus outbreaks rapidly spread across the entire county and triggered a peak in new infections in neighbouring communities in more than half of the cases.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that these initial college outbreaks are unrelated to the national outbreak dynamics. Instead, they are independent local events driven by campus reopening and inviting students back to campus.

“Our results confirm the widespread fear in early fall that colleges could become the new hot spots of COVID-19 transmission. But, at the same time, college administrators should be applauded for their rapid responses to successfully manage local outbreaks.”

All reported campuses pursued regular surveillance testing, weekly or even twice per week, combined with aggressive test-trace-isolate strategies.

“The majority of colleges and universities were able to rapidly manage their outbreaks and suppress campus-wide infections, while the neighbouring communities were less successful in controlling the spread of the virus. As a result, for most institutions, the outbreak dynamics remained manageable throughout the entire fall of 2020 with narrow spikes of less than 300 cases per day,” Lu states.

The team believes that this methodology, in combination with continuing online learning, is the best way to prevent college sites from becoming the major hub of the disease.

“Our study suggests that tight test-trace-isolate strategies, flexible transition to online instruction, and-most importantly-compliance with local regulations will be critical to ensure a safe campus reopening after the winter break,” she added.

Professor Kuhl concludes: “We anticipate that the most important aspect upon campus reopening within the coming weeks will be the human factor. Unfortunately, the fall term has shown that the best of all strategies can become meaningless if people do not follow the recommendations.”

(Picture Curtesy: ABC News)

A Rift In The Retina May Help Repair The Optic Nerve

Newswise — In experiments in mouse tissues and human cells, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers say they have found that removing a membrane that lines the back of the eye may improve the success rate for regrowing nerve cells damaged by blinding diseases. The findings are specifically aimed at discovering new ways to reverse vision loss caused by glaucoma and other diseases that affect the optic nerve, the information highway from the eye to the brain.

“The idea of restoring vision to someone who has lost it from optic nerve disease has been considered science fiction for decades. But in the last five years, stem cell biology has reached a point where it’s feasible,” says Thomas Johnson, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The research was published Jan. 12 in the journal Stem Cell Reports.

A human eye has more than 1 million small nerve cells, called retinal ganglion cells, that transmit signals from light-collecting cells called photoreceptors in the back of the eye to the brain. Retinal ganglion cells send out long arms, or axons, that bundle together with other retinal ganglion cell projections, forming the optic nerve that leads to the brain.

When the eye is subjected to high pressure, as occurs in glaucoma, it damages and eventually kills retinal ganglion cells. In other conditions, inflammation, blocked blood vessels, or tumors can kill retinal ganglion cells. Once they die, retinal ganglion cells don’t regenerate.

“That’s why it is so important to detect glaucoma early,” says Johnson. “We know a lot about how to treat glaucoma and help nerve cells survive an injury, but once the cells die off, the damage to someone’s vision becomes permanent.”

Johnson is a member of a team of researchers at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute looking for ways scientists can repair or replace lost optic neurons by growing new cells. 

In the current study, Johnson and his team grew mouse retinas in a laboratory dish and tracked what happens when they added human retinal ganglion cells, derived from human embryonic stem cells, to the surface of the mouse retinas. They found that most of the transplanted human cells were unable to integrate into the retinal tissue, which contains several layers of cells.

“The transplanted cells clumped together rather than dispersing from one another like on a living retina,” says Johnson.

However, the researchers found that a small number of transplanted retinal cells were able to settle uniformly into certain areas of the mouse retina. Looking more closely, the areas where the transplanted cells integrated well aligned with locations where the researchers had to make incisions into the mouse retinas to get them to lie flat in the culture dish. At these incision points, some of the transplanted cells were able to crawl into the retina and integrate themselves in the proper place within the tissue.

“This suggested that there was some type of barrier that had been broken by these incisions,” Johnson says. “If we could find a way to remove it, we may have more success with transplantation.”

It turns out that the barrier is a well-known anatomical structure of the retina, called the internal limiting membrane. It’s a translucent connective tissue created by the retina’s cells to separate the fluid of the eye from the retina.

After using an enzyme to loosen the connective fibers of the internal limiting membrane, the researchers removed the membrane and applied the transplanted human cells to the retinas. They found that most of the transplanted retinal ganglion cells grew in a more normal pattern, integrating themselves more fully. The transplanted cells also showed signs of establishing new nerve connections to the rest of the retinal structure when compared with retinas that had intact membranes.

“These findings suggest that altering the internal limiting membrane may be a necessary step in our aim to regrow new cells in damaged retinas,” says Johnson.

The researchers plan to continue investigating the development of transplanted retinal ganglion cells to determine the factors they need to function once integrated into the retina.

Other researchers involved in the study include Kevin Zhang, Caitlyn Tuffy, Joseph Mertz, Sarah Quillen, Laurence Wechsler, Harry Quigley and Donald Zack of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

This work was funded by the National Eye Institute (K12EY015025, K08EY031801, R01EY002120, P30EY001765), the ARVO Dr. David L. Epstein Award, Research to Prevent Blindness, the American Glaucoma Society, the Johns Hopkins Physician Scientist Training Program, and generous gifts from the Guerrieri Family Foundation, the Gilbert Family Foundation, and the Marion & Robert Rosenthal Family Foundation. The authors declare no competing interests.

(Picture Credit: Thomas Johnson and Johns Hopkins Medicine. Transplanted retinal ganglion cells marked with a fluorescent tag.)

Indian AmericanWins Prestigious Infosys Prize In Mathematical Sciences

Sourav Chatterjee, a world-renowned mathematician, and a professor of mathematics and statistics at Stanford University’s School of Humanities and Sciences, has been awarded a prestigious mathematics prize – Infosys Prize in Mathematical Sciences.

Now for his contribution to mathematics, the Infosys Science Foundation, awarded Chatterjee the prestigious Infosys Prize in Mathematical Sciences, which is a $100,000 reward.

The award aims to recognize outstanding researchers and scientists around the world. Through the award, the Foundation aims to encourage the spread of science in India, particularly among young people.

“I’m very honored and humbled to receive this prize,” said Chatterjee, who first came to Stanford as a doctoral student in 2002 after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Indian Statistical Institute in Kolkata. “It means a lot to be recognized by the group of esteemed mathematicians assembled by The Infosys Science Foundation, and I feel encouraged to continue pushing ahead with my research.”

Deeply embedded in probability and statistics, Chatterjee’s work has had significant impacts not only in mathematics but also broadly in physics, technology and other fields. Across his many papers, Chatterjee has devised novel mathematical approaches for scientists to apply in their own research.

“One of the big guiding practices in my work has been making mathematical tools other people can use,” Chatterjee said.

Topics that have benefitted from his mathematical insights include occurrences of rare events, the dynamics of social as well as technological networks, the behavior of magnets and efforts to further solidify a mathematical basis for quantum mechanics.

Chatterjee enjoys the challenge of breaking down a problem to its tiniest form and figuring out a fresh perspective. Reflecting both this range of applications and the helpfulness of Chatterjee’s work, the jury of the Infosys Science Foundation, composed of academics from around the world, described Chatterjee as “one of the most versatile probabilists of his generation” and praised his “formidable problem-solving powers.”

Chatterjee completed his Bachelor and Master of Statistics from Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata. Later he moved to Standford to complete his Ph.D in 2005, where he worked under the supervision of PersiDiaconis, another renowned mathematician.

Chatterjee later joined University of California, Berkeley, as a Visiting Assistant Professor, then received a tenure-track Assistant Professor position in 2006.

(Picture Courtesy: Stanford News)

Pfizer, Moderna Vaccines May Vanquish Covid Today, Cancer Tomorrow

The night is darkest just before dawn, they say. Dark it certainly is right now. The more contagious variants of SARS-CoV-2 coming out of the U.K. and South Africa will make the pandemic worse before mass vaccination can make it better.

But take another look at some of these new vaccines. And then contemplate the dawn to come — not just its first rays in the coming months but also the bright light of future years and decades. It looks increasingly plausible that the same weapons we’ll use to defeat Covid-19 can also vanquish even grimmer reapers — including cancer, which kills almost 10 million people a year.

The most promising Covid vaccines use nucleic acids called messenger RNA, or mRNA. One vaccine comes from the German firm BioNTech SE and its U.S. partner Pfizer Inc. The other is from the U.S. companyModerna Inc. (its original spelling was ModeRNA, its ticker is MRNA). Another is on the way from CureVac NV, also based in Germany.

Ordinary vaccines tend to be inactivated or weakened viruses which, when injected into the body, stimulate an immune response that can later protect against the live pathogen. But the process of making such vaccines requires various chemicals and cell cultures. This takes time and provides opportunities for contamination.

mRNA vaccines don’t have these problems. They instruct the body itself to make the offending proteins — in this case, the ones that wrap around the viral RNA of SARS-CoV-2. The immune system then homes in on these antigens, practicing for the day when the same proteins show up with the coronavirus attached.

Therein lies mRNA’s bigger promise: It can tell our cells to make whatever protein we want. That includes the antigens of many other diseases besides Covid-19.

In its day-to-day function, mRNA takes instructions from its molecular cousin, the DNA in our cell nuclei. Stretches of the genome are copied, which the mRNA carries into the cytoplasm, where little cellular factories called ribosomes use the information to churn out proteins.

BioNTech and Moderna shortcut this process, by skipping the whole fiddly business in the nucleus with the DNA. Instead, they first figure out what protein they want — for example, a spike on the coat around a virus. Then they look at the sequence of amino acids that makes this protein. From that they derive the precise instructions the mRNA must give.

This process can be relatively fast, which is why it took less than a year to make the vaccines, a pace previously unimaginable. It’s also genetically safe — mRNA can’t go back into the nucleus and accidentally insert genes into our DNA.

Researchers since the 1970s have had a hunch that you can use this technique to fight all sorts of maladies. But as usual in science, you need huge amounts of money, time and patience to sort out all the intermediary problems. After a decade of enthusiasm, mRNA became academically unfashionable in the 1990s. Progress seemed halting. The main obstacle was that injecting mRNA into animals often caused fatal inflammation.

Enter KatalinKariko — a Hungarian scientist who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1980s and has heroically devoted her entire career to mRNA, through its ups and downs. In the 1990s, she lost her funding, was demoted, had her salary cut and suffered other setbacks. But she stuck with it. And then, after battling cancer herself, she made the crucial breakthrough.

In the 2000s, she and her research partner realized that swapping out uridine, one of mRNA’s “letters,” avoided causing inflammation without otherwise compromising the code. The mice stayed alive.

Her study was read by a scientist at Stanford University, Derrick Rossi, who later co-founded Moderna. It also came to the attention of UgurSahin and OzlemTureci, two oncologists who are husband and wife and co-founded BioNTech. They licensed Kariko’s technology and hired her. From the start, they were most interested in curing cancer.

Today’s weapons against cancer will one day seem as primitive an idea as flint axes in a surgery room. To kill a malignant tumor, you generally zap it with radiation or chemicals, damaging lots of other tissue in the process.

The better way to fight cancer, Sahin and Tureci realized, is to treat each tumor as genetically unique and to train the immune systems of individual patients against that specific enemy. A perfect job for mRNA. You find the antigen, get its fingerprint, reverse-engineer the cellular instructions to target the culprit and let the body do the rest.

Take a look at the pipelines of Moderna and BioNTech. They include drug trials for treating cancers of the breast, prostate, skin, pancreas, brain, lung and other tissues, as well as vaccines against everything from influenza to Zika and rabies. The prospects appear good.

Progress, admittedly, has been slow. Part of the explanation Sahin and Tureci give is that investors in this sector must put up oodles of capital and then wait for more than a decade, first for the trials, then for regulatory approvals. In the past, too few were in the mood.

Covid-19, fingers crossed, may turbo-charge all these processes. The pandemic has led to a grand debut of mRNA vaccines and their definitive proof of concept. Already, there are murmurs about a Nobel Prize for Kariko. Henceforth, mRNA will have no problems getting money, attention or enthusiasm — from investors, regulators and policymakers.

That doesn’t mean the last stretch will be easy. But in this dark hour, it’s permissible to bask in the light that’s dawning.

(Story Courtesy: Business Standard; Picture Courtesy: Moneyweb)

2021: Year of Living Dangerously?

Goodbye 2020, but unfortunately, not good riddance, as we all have to live with its legacy. It has been a disastrous year for much of the world for various reasons, Elizabeth II’s annus horribilis. The crisis has exposed previously unacknowledged realities, including frailties and vulnerabilities.
For many countries, the tragedy is all the greater as some leaders had set national aspirations for 2020, suggested by the number’s association with perfect vision. But their failures are no reason to reject national projects. As Helen Keller, the deaf and blind author activist, noted a century ago, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight, but no vision.”
After JFK’s assassination in November 1963 ended US opposition to Western intervention in Indonesia, President Sukarno warned his nation in August 1964 that it would be ‘living dangerously’, vivere pericoloso, in the year ahead. A year later, a bloody Western-backed military coup had deposed him, taking up to a million lives, with many more ruined.
Further economic slowdown
Lacklustre economic growth after the 2009 Great Recession has been worsened in recent years by growing international tensions largely associated with US-China relations, Brexit and slowing US and world growth although stock markets continued to bubble.
Economic growth has slowed unevenly, with Asia slowing less than Europe, Latin America and even the US. With effective early pre-emptive measures, much of East Asia began to recover before mid-2020. Meanwhile, most other economies slowed, although some picked up later, thanks to successful initial contagion containment as well as adequate relief and recovery measures.
International trade has been picking up rapidly, accelerating rebounds in heavily trading economies. Commodity prices, except for fossil fuels, have largely recovered, perhaps due to major financial investments by investment banks and hedge funds, buoying stock and commodity prices since late March.
Very low US, EU and Japanese interest rates have thus sustained asset market bubbles. Meanwhile, new arbitrage opportunities, largely involving emerging market economies, have strengthened developing countries’ foreign reserves and exchange rates, thus mitigating external debt burdens.
Unbiased virus, biased responses
The pandemic worsened poverty, hunger and vulnerability by squeezing jobs, livelihoods and earnings of hundreds of millions of families. As economic activities resumed, production, distribution and supply barriers, constrained fiscal means, reduced demand, debt, unemployment, as well as reduced and uncertain incomes and spending have become more pronounced.
While many governments initially provided some relief, these have generally been more modest and temporary in developing countries. Past budget deficits, debt, tax incentives and the need for good credit ratings have all been invoked to justify spending cuts and fiscal consolidation.
Meanwhile, pandemic relief funds have been abused by corporations, typically at the expense of less influential victims with more modest, vulnerable and precarious livelihoods. Many of the super-rich got even richer, with the US’s 651 billionaires making over US$1 trillion.
On the pretext of saving or making jobs, existing social, including job protection has been eroded. But despite hopes raised by vaccine development, the crisis is still far from over.
Don’t cry for me, says Argentina
Meanwhile, intellectual property blocks more affordable production for all. Pharmaceutical companies insist that without the exhorbitant monopoly profits from intellectual property, needed tests, treatments and vaccines would never be developed. Meanwhile, a proposed patent waiver for Covid-19 vaccines has been blocked by the US and its rich allies at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Hence, mass vaccination is likely to be very uneven and limited by intellectual property, national strategic considerations (‘vaccine nationalism’), prohibitive costs, fiscal and other constraints. Already, the rich have booked up almost all early vaccine supplies.
The main challenge then is fiscal. Economic slowdowns have reduced tax revenues, requiring more domestic debt to increase spending needed to ensure the recessions do not become protracted depressions. Meanwhile, rising debt-to-GDP ratios and increased foreign debt have long constrained bolder fiscal efforts.
But despite the urgent need for more fiscal resources, we are told that if the richest are required to pay more taxes, even on windfall profits, they will have no incentive to ‘save’ the rest of us. Nevertheless, new wealth taxes have just passed in Argentina.
This time is different
As the pandemic economic impacts began to loom large, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva quickly offered debt relief for low-income countries on terms much better than the G20’s miserly proposal.
Unlike well-meaning debt-fixated researchers and campaigners, even new World Bank chief economist, erstwhile debt hawk Carmen Reinhart has urged, “First you worry about fighting the war, then you figure out how to pay for it”.
Nobel laureate Amartya Sen is concerned that “in the policies against the present pandemic, equity has not been a particularly noticeable priority… Instead, the focus has been on drastic control and sudden lockdowns…with little attention paid to labourers who lose their jobs or the many migrant workers, the poorest of the poor, who are kept hundreds of miles from their homes”.
COVID-19 may still bring major reforms, such as Roosevelt’s New Deal response to the Great Depression. But now, it seems likely to usher in a world where insecurity and unpredictability define the new normal. While professing to protect victims’ interests, ethno-populism blames ‘Others’ as the enemy responsible.
Still, many hope for a silver lining. Sen suggests that “a better society can emerge from the lockdowns”, as happened after World War Two, with greater welfare state provisioning and labour protections in much of the West and agrarian reforms in East Asia. But there is nothing to guarantee a better ‘new normal’.
Beyond neoliberalism?
For many, Joe Biden’s election to succeed Trump is being celebrated as a resurgent triumph for neoliberalism, enabling the US and the rest of the world to return to ‘business as usual’.
Incredibly, another Nobel laureate Michael Spence has even called for structural adjustment programme conditionalities for countries seeking help from the Bank and Fund, repudiating the Bank’s Growth Commission he once chaired, i.e., which found that seemingly fair, often well-intentioned conditionalities had resulted in “lost decades” of development.
But thankfully, there is widespread recognition that all is not well in the world neoliberalism and Western dominance created. Incredibly, Klaus Schwab, transnational capitalism’s high priest, has conceded, “the neoliberalist … approach centers on the notion that the market knows best, that the ‘business of business is business’…Those dogmatic beliefs have proved wrong”.
Instead, he advised, “We must move on from neoliberalism in the post-COVID era”, recognising: “Free-market fundamentalism has eroded worker rights and economic security, triggered a deregulatory race to the bottom and ruinous tax competition, and enabled the emergence of massive new global monopolies. Trade, taxation, and competition rules that reflect decades of neoliberal influence will now have to be revised”.
Will we ever learn?
The philosopher Santayana once warned, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Hegel had observed earlier that history repeats itself, to which Marx added, “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce”. Nevertheless, hope remains an incurable disease that keeps us all striving and struggling.
As FDR reminded his supporters, no progressive policies will come about simply by relying on the goodwill of those in authority. Instead, they will only be enacted and implemented thanks to popular pressure from below. As Ben Phillips has put it, “the story of 2021 has not yet been written: we can write it; we can right it”.

Anshumali Shrivastava Discovers New Way to Filter Fake News

Using machine learning, a team of U.S. researchers led by Indian American computer scientist Anshumali Shrivastava at Rice University has discovered an efficient way for social media companies to keep misinformation from spreading online.
Their method applies machine learning in a smarter way to improve the performance of Bloom filters, a widely used technique devised a half-century ago.
Using test databases of fake news stories and computer viruses, Shrivastava and statistics graduate student Zhenwei Dai showed their Adaptive Learned Bloom Filter required 50 percent less memory to achieve the same level of performance as learned Bloom filters.
To explain their filtering approach, Shrivastava and Dai cited some data from Twitter.
The social media giant recently revealed that its users added about 500 million tweets a day, and tweets typically appeared online one second after a user hit send.
“Around the time of the election they were getting about 10,000 tweets a second, and with a one-second latency that’s about six tweets per millisecond,” Shrivastava said.
“If you want to apply a filter that reads every tweet and flags the ones with information that’s known to be fake, your flagging mechanism cannot be slower than six milliseconds or you will fall behind and never catch up.”
If flagged tweets are sent for an additional, manual review, it’s also vitally important to have a low false-positive rate.
In other words, you need to minimize how many genuine tweets are flagged by mistake.
“If your false-positive rate is as low as 0.1%, even then you are mistakenly flagging 10 tweets per second, or more than 800,000 per day, for manual review,” Shrivastava said.
“This is precisely why most of the traditional AI-only approaches are prohibitive for controlling the misinformation.”
The new approach to scanning social media is outlined in a study presented at the online-only 2020 Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS 2020).
Shrivastava said Twitter doesn’t disclose its methods for filtering tweets, but they are believed to employ a Bloom filter, a low-memory technique invented in 1970 for checking to see if a specific data element, like a piece of computer code, is part of a known set of elements, like a database of known computer viruses.
A Bloom filter is guaranteed to find all code that matches the database, but it records some false positives too.
“A Bloom filter allows to you check tweets very quickly, in a millionth of a second or less. If it says a tweet is clean, that it does not match anything in your database of misinformation, that’s 100% guaranteed,” Shrivastava noted.
Within the past three years, researchers have offered various schemes for using machine learning to augment Bloom filters and improve their efficiency.
“When people use machine learning models today, they waste a lot of useful information that’s coming from the machine learning model,” Dai said.

Why Does Early Treatment of COVID Matter?

Hooray for COVID Vaccines:  An Ounce of Prevention of COVID is Worth a Pound of Cure.  Let’s Use That Same Rationale for People Who Already Have COVID. 
To be a proponent for early treatment of coronavirus infection shouldn’t automatically mean there is a disregard for the much-needed prevention efforts represented by the mRNA vaccines.  This should not be an “either-or” argument.  Though there are some who have concerns about the rapid release and production of these novel vaccine interventions, no one can question that we are indeed in a public health crisis and an urgent and expedited effort is what is absolutely warranted (i.e., Operation Warp Speed is actually a fitting name for the rapid response).  We get it.  However, the broad media coverage on the vaccines seems to obscure any discussion or consideration of formal early treatment interventions for the COVID-positive patient before hospitalization is absolutely required.  Early treatment intervention of COVID has the potential to save lives, reduce hospital burden and reduce the need to limit a hospital’s capacity to render other standards of care such as routine surgical interventions. 
The death rate of COVID is actually much lower than the actual infection rate, something like only 2% or a little less than 3% maximum.  This is a good thing, unless the death rate includes one of your loved ones; then 2% doesn’t seem so negligible.  Regardless, complications of COVID can be really challenging for clinicians and downright scary for the rest of the public.  It’s been stated at least 10% of COVID survivors develop after effects for up to 6 months or more.  Early treatment intervention could potentially reduce the risk of these complications by reducing the progression of COVID to the most serious symptoms and a drastic dash to the local E.D. requiring hospital admission as a minimum, intubation for mechanical ventilation as a maximum.
The reports abound of hospital capacities stretched to their limits and physicians and other clinicians pushed beyond their normal capacities to perform, amidst caring for patients who were originally told to go home and manage on their own, until they have difficulty breathing (of course).  Really?  This is not the best we can do nor should it be the only consideration.  
Let’s take the Ohio State University (OSU) COVID-athlete study into perspective: 26 student athletes who recovered from COVID.  Some had symptoms and some actually were asymptomatic (meaning no headache, fever, sniffles or cough, etc.).  Myocarditis was observed in 4, or 15%, of these student athletes and in 8, or 30%, the student athletes were observed to have developed cardiac scar tissue.  If this is the impact of COVID on young and healthy student athletes (some of whom never developed symptoms), just waiting around until you can’t breathe really shouldn’t be the only outpatient option.  
Rather than waiting around for approval from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), physicians should at least begin to treat the symptoms of COVID in recognition of the over-activation of the inflammatory response is a signal for an advancement of the COVID assault on our bodies.  The forecasted intention should be to prevent the COVID-triggered advancement in inflammatory response. So, doctors, what’s the rationale for awaiting a rushed emergency room visit versus a purposeful effort to prevent the mad dash to the E.R. in the first place?   Shouldn’t we be activated in preventing this progression of an unchecked inflammatory response (especially since we already know how to keep it from happening)?  We must believe in ourselves and standardize an approach to common COVID symptoms using the current medications already in our FDA-indicated/FDA-approved arsenal.
If we were living in a house and heard the alarm sound from the smoke detector, there is no way we would say that there has to be a flame before we take any action (whatsoever).  There is no way you would acknowledge that the smoke will transition from a flame to a full-on blaze and only then determine the fire department should be called.  Doctor, you would pursue a focused effort to ensure the origin of the smoke was determined and then implement swift action to address whatever caused the smoke in the first place.  We would want to make sure the smoke never, ever became a flame and the flame allowed to become the dreaded blaze.  Yes, without a doubt, we Early Interventionists are grateful for the new COVID vaccines.  The vaccines are a brilliant and valiant effort at a much-needed, long-awaited prevention effort to interrupt the plaque of COVID across our great nation and our world.  Nevertheless, these COVID vaccines are not destined for people who already have COVID (at home or in the hospital); the people who are sick at home need prevention too- prevention from hospitalization.  Today, as we exhale and celebrate the release of the vaccine to prevent COVID, there are tens of thousands of Americans who are already COVID-positive and not yet hospitalized.  By the way, are you wondering about the great mutations?

If You Defend the Body, the Strain Won’t Matter 
 
Treating symptomatic expressions of COVID, before hospital admission, bypasses the need for a specific COVID regimen per se.  If your patient has a fever, you address it.  If there is evidence of pulmonary dysfunction (like coughing or symptoms of bronchitis, for instance), you would treat it with the standard go-to corticosteroid that you normally would (i.e., prednisone or methylprednisolone).  If there is a concern that steroids could further suppress the immune response, then boost the immune system as a precaution.  Is anybody concerned that there is now a whole multiple of new COVID strains reported?  If we focus on active management of the symptoms (within FDA-indications and -approval, of course) we have a strong likelihood of avoiding the most severe consequences of the infection.  Perhaps if we can limit the development of COVID complications in the body, the variations of the strain shouldn’t matter.  These efforts are only until the rest of the country has access to the vaccines.  However, if essential workers and long-term care, or nursing home, residents are the appropriate priority, there has to be a mitigation plan for treating COVID patients until all who want to be vaccinated can receive the vaccine.  Otherwise, are folks to simply try to avoid COVID infection until their vaccine number is called up in April?
We simply must reconsider the intentional plan that says “do nothing until…” it’s a mad panic and rush to the emergency room.  The ounce of prevention, to avoid the ambulance, is early treatment intervention of COVID before the infection progresses to the point where hospitalization is required.  As staggering as the death toll, the numbers do indeed reflect that more are infected and survive from COVID than those who die from COVID.  Nevertheless, there is little comfort in numbers when someone you love and care about is taken from you so tragically and often without any gift of closure in sharing a loving goodbye.  Early medicinal intervention in COVID infections as a measure of prevention, against the progression of COVID complications, is critical.  Different clinicians have varied approaches towards this end (i.e., Ivermectin, ICAM-similar regimens , etc.) and I have no particular preference.  I’m simply grateful they recognize the need to intervene early is undeniable.  

Take care of all who want the highly valued prevention effort of the vaccines as soon as possible, but plese don’t forget the folks who already have COVID.  Just like the flu vaccines are for people who have not yet contracted the flu, the COVID vaccines are destined for people who have not contracted the COVID infection.  Right now, prior to hospitalization, the best effort a COVID patient can obtain is probably thoughts and prayers because their told to ‘go home and come to the E.D. if you get worse or sick or have trouble breathing.  However, more and more clinicians have determined that the COVID patient deserves a valiant effort at prevention as well.  Let’s not forget, an ounce of prevention could be a great alternative to the need for a COVID ambulance.   
(By An Anonymous Healthcare Provider)

Applications To Medical School Up Big. Is It The “Fauci Effect”?

“Now more than ever we need your talent, your energy, your resolve and your character.” Those were the words Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said last spring to new medical school graduates as part of the AMA’s “Tribute to the Medical School Class of 2020.”
FAQs about med school
Get answers to all your biggest questions about getting into medical school, the application process, the MCAT and more. 
It appears another flock of potential physicians may have been listening, however. With medical school applications up nearly 20% from last year, some are attributing that bounce to the “Fauci effect,” in essence crediting the nation’s most famous and most visible physician with inspiring a new generation.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the number of students applying to enter medical school in 2021 is up 18% from this time last year. The bump is unprecedented, and the reasons behind it are not entirely clear.
“This large of an increase is unprecedented,” said Geoffrey Young, PhD, the AAMC’s senior director of student affairs and programs. ”We can’t say for sure why so many more students have applied this year. Some students may have had more time for applications and preparing for the MCAT exam after their college courses went online. Some may have been motivated by seeing heroic doctors on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
At Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine (OU), one of 37 member schools of the AMA Accelerating Change in Medical Education Consortium, the number of applications received to date—a 14% year-to -date increase—has surpassed the number received in the entire 2020 cycle, with two months before the application submission deadline.
“The fact that we as a society are dealing with this pandemic and people are seeing the challenges that our health care workforce are dealing with, and the pain and suffering of those who deal with COVID, it certainly could have fanned the flames for applicants who were thinking about a career in medicine,” said John D. Schriner, PhD, an associate dean for admissions and student affairs at OU. “They want to make a difference similar to what Dr. Fauci is saying.”
Other factors to which the spike could be attributed include an unfriendly economic climate for new graduates and more time to prepare applications.
“It is certainly encouraging to see an increase in applicants to medical school, and there are likely multiple drivers involved,” said Kimberly Lomis, MD, the AMA’s vice president for undergraduate medical education innovations. “The pandemic disrupted many students’ intended plans and has caused all to reconsider their educational and career options. Medicine needs people inclined to step up in times of crisis, and current medical students across the country demonstrated that ethos this year.”
At the November 2020 AMA Special Meeting, Dr. Fauci gave an exclusive interview to AMA Executive Vice President and CEO James L. Madara, MD. Read more about Dr. Fauci’s 2021 forecast on COVID-19 vaccines, treatments.
In interviews, Dr. Fauci has downplayed his impact on the application increase. Schriner isn’t so sure, however.
“There are a lot of great physicians who inspire students to go toward medicine and make a difference,” Schriner said. “Dr. Fauci is such an inspiring figure, a trusted figure. I think there may be something to it.”
While the factors contributing to the increase in applications are likely manyfold, the pandemic has caused an increase, Schriner says, in applicant altruism. And it has done so at a needed time— according to data published this year by the AAMC, the United States could see an estimated shortage of between 54,100 and 139,000 physicians, including shortfalls in both primary and specialty care, by 2033.
“Folks are just seeing such suffering and such sacrifice on the part of the patients and their families, and also the sacrifice and suffering made by the health care delivery team,” Schriner said. “There’s an altruistic spirit that is reflected in the increase in applications.”
Medicine can be a career that is both challenging and highly rewarding but figuring out a medical school’s prerequisites and navigating the application process can be a challenge into itself. The AMA premed glossary guide has the answers to frequently asked questions about medical school, the application process, the MCAT and more.

From Polio To The COVID Vaccine, Dr. Peter Salk Sees Great Progress

(NPR Editor’s Note: As this year winds down, we’re looking back at some people we spoke to earlier in 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic was in its early stages. Now that there’s a vaccine, we wanted to check in with someone whose family has a long history with vaccines.
When I spoke to Dr. Peter Salk back in May, he told me the tale of receiving an early polio vaccine – the one invented by his father, Dr. Jonas Salk.
“I just hated injections. And my father came home with polio vaccine and some syringes and needles that he sterilized on the kitchen stove by boiling in water, lined us kids up and then administered the vaccine,” Salk said. “Somehow the needle must have missed a nerve, and I didn’t feel it. And so that has fixed that moment in my mind.”
Peter Salk was just 9 when he got that shot in 1953 at the family home outside Pittsburgh.
At that time, polio terrorized the country every summer. In the worst single year, 1952, nearly 60,000 children were infected. Many were paralyzed, and more than 3,000 died. Frightened parents kept their children away from swimming pools, movie theaters and other public places.
The vaccine helped eradicate polio, made his father world famous, and shaped Peter Salk’s own life — he also became a doctor of infectious diseases.
Yet when we talked last spring, Peter Salk was worried about the race for a COVID-19 vaccine. He feared corners might be cut. He noted that his father, who died in 1995, needed seven years to develop a vaccine that was both effective and safe.
“What concerns me is knowing that, in the past, there have been unexpected things that have taken place with vaccines that had not been foreseen,” Salk said at the time.
Back in the 1950s, one bad batch of the polio vaccine was blamed for 10 deaths, 200 cases of paralysis and for making many Americans wary of getting the shot.
But in a recent phone chat with Salk at his home in San Diego, he was very upbeat about the COVID vaccine. “I was bowled over when the first news came out about the Pfizer, BioNTech results and being somewhere on the order of 95 percent effective,” he said. “I just had a really strong emotional reaction that I totally had not anticipated.”
He’s following the vaccine news closely and has been hugely impressed by the development of a vaccine in less than a year. There could still be hiccups, he said, but none that can’t be solved. “In my mind, so far, so good,” he said.
Dr. Salk is a bit concerned about the number of people who are reluctant, or outright opposed, to getting the vaccine. But he believes those numbers will shrink as people see the benefits. And, he said, this “vaccine hesitancy” is nothing new.
“I was surprised when I first learned a few months ago about a Gallup poll in 1954 that indicated that about half the population did not want the polio vaccine,” he said.
That was the year before the U.S. government authorized nationwide use. In the end, most everyone received it. The current pandemic has sharply curtailed Salk’s movements. He’s still a part-time professor of infectious diseases at the University of Pittsburgh, and has stopped traveling there.
He spends most of his time at home and says his aching knees, as well as the threat of the virus, keep him from getting out much in the neighborhood.
“My wife [Ellen] and I have been extremely careful during this whole period,” he said. “I’m probably going to continue to do social distancing and wear masks and take the precautions that I’ve been taking really until this thing is practically gone.”
Dr. Salk was at the front of the line when he got the polio vaccine as a kid. And he’s eager to get the new vaccine. But at age 76, and in good health overall, he said he’s content to wait his turn.
“We’re going to be somewhere down the line” when it comes to the vaccine, he said. “As far as I’m concerned, that’s fine with me. I think it’s really important to prioritize the limited supply of vaccine.”
As a nation, he predicts it could take until the end of 2021 before life returns to normal for the country as a whole. Until then, he’ll be playing it safe. “I’m not ready to throw away the mask,” he said.

The Rate Of The Universe’s Expansion Explained

Newswise —A combination of astrophysical measurements has allowed researchers to put new constraints on the radius of a typical neutron star and provide a novel calculation of the Hubble constant that indicates the rate at which the universe is expanding.
“We studied signals that came from various sources, for example recently observed mergers of neutron stars,” said Ingo Tews, a theorist in Nuclear and Particle Physics, Astrophysics and Cosmology group at Los Alamos National Laboratory, who worked with an international collaboration of researchers on the analysis to appear in the journal Science on December 18. “We jointly analyzed gravitational-wave signals and electromagnetic emissions from the mergers, and combined them with previous mass measurements of pulsars or recent results from NASA’s Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer. We find that the radius of a typical neutron star is about 11.75 kilometers and the Hubble constant is approximately 66.2 kilometers per second per megaparsec.”
Combining signals to gain insight into distant astrophysical phenomena is known in the field as multi-messenger astronomy. In this case, the researchers’ multi-messenger analysis allowed them to restrict the uncertainty of their estimate of neutron star radii to within 800 meters.
Their novel approach to measuring the Hubble constant contributes to a debate that has arisen from other, competing determinations of the universe’s expansion. Measurements based on observations of exploding stars known as supernovae are currently at odds with those that come from looking at the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), which is essentially the left over energy from the Big Bang. The uncertainties in the new multimessenger Hubble calculation are too large to definitively resolve the disagreement, but the measurement is slightly more supportive of the CMB approach.
Tews’ primary scientific role in the study was to provide the input from nuclear theory calculations that are the starting point of the analysis. His seven collaborators on the paper comprise an international team of scientists from Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, France, and the United States.
Los Alamos National Laboratory, a multidisciplinary research institution engaged in strategic science on behalf of national security, is managed by Triad, a public service oriented, national security science organization equally owned by its three founding members: Battelle Memorial Institute (Battelle), the Texas A&M University System (TAMUS), and the Regents of the University of California (UC) for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.
Los Alamos enhances national security by ensuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile, developing technologies to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction, and solving problems related to energy, environment, infrastructure, health, and global security concerns.

Endowed Chair in Hindu and Jain Studies Established at University of California

Since antiquity, according to religious studies scholars, two of the world’s oldest traditions, Hinduism and Jainism, co-existed on the Indian subcontinent. They share many spiritual practices, philosophical paradigms and ethical principles while simultaneously maintaining their unique, independent identities.
Over two dozen families, individuals and foundations have come together to create the Endowed Chair in Jain and Hindu Dharma at Fresno State. The groundbreaking partnership between the Jain and Hindu communities and the University underscores a mutual commitment to educating current and future generations of students about the principles of nonviolence, dharma (virtue, duty), justice, pluralist philosophy, the interconnectedness of all beings and care for the environment through Hindu-Jain texts, philosophies and traditions.
Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro called the partnership historic. “The California State University has never seen a partnership like this one with the Jain and Hindu communities. I’m very pleased that this has happened at Fresno State. It establishes a model for other campuses in the CSU and around the country to do the same.”
“Because of the beautiful Peace Garden and what it represents here, we feel California State University, Fresno is the rightful place for this endowed chair. How beautiful and remarkable it is that both traditions will now be represented, taught and researched at Fresno State,” said Dr. Sulekh Jain, of Las Vegas, who has a prominent role in developing Jain education in the United States. “This is the first joint chair in the two traditions, not only in North America, but most probably in the whole world. This is historic.”
“Like two rivers running parallel and at times intertwined create a rich ecosystem, Hinduism (traditionally known as Sanatana Dharma) and Jainism (Jain Dharma), originated on the Indian subcontinent, for over three millennia serve as a model to building pluralistic and peaceful relations,” explained Dr. Veena Howard, a Fresno State religious studies professor. “Mahatma Gandhi was a product of both Jain and Hindu traditions and teachings. Gandhi was born in a Hindu family but was strongly influenced and molded by Jain friends, monks and Jain vows.”
Dr. Jasvant Modi, of Los Angeles, a prominent Jain philanthropist and supporter of this chair, added, “We hope that the younger generation, when they come to the college, they’re exposed to this philosophy as we know that Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and others followed a nonviolent way of solving the countries and the world’s problems.”
Monika Joshi, of Clovis, who collaborated with other local Hindu community members, expressed her enthusiasm. “In today’s world with conflict, fear and division, it becomes essential to explore and share the teachings of Hindu Dharma that have existed for thousands of years. Mutual respect, truth within and working towards eternal happiness are the core values of Hinduism that can pave the way for unity as a common goal for all.”
Dr. Harsh Saigal, a Hindu leader in Fresno, added, “We are proud to give back to the Valley that has given us so much.”
The Endowed Chair in Jain and Hindu Dharma will be housed in the Department of Philosophy in the College of Arts and Humanities and will be an integral part of the University’s religious studies program. A professor who is an expert in both the Jain and Hindu Dharma traditions will be appointed as interim chair in 2021.
“The chair will teach Jainism and Hinduism, furthering Fresno State’s efforts to promote understanding of religions and communities. The teaching of these ancient traditions reflects our community’s diversity and our donors’ trust in the value and impact of Fresno State’s programs,” said Dr. Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval, Fresno State provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.
Additionally, the endowed chair also will support Jain and Hindu scholarly endeavors for students, including scholarships, stipends and research funds. For the professor who holds the chair, the funds may support research and academic publications, conference travel and campus-sponsored events.
“We are so grateful to the unprecedented number of generous donors who have collaborated to create this remarkable gift,” said Dr. Honora Chapman, interim dean of the College of Arts and Humanities. “This new chair represents an enhanced opportunity for Fresno State’s students to learn how they can change their own lives and the world through pursuing Jain and Hindu enlightenment in their studies while putting nonviolence and peace into action.”
The Jain and Hindu community leaders and organizations that generously donated include J.P. Sethi, the Ravi & Naina Patel Foundation, Dr. Harsh Saigal, Anil Mehta, Dr. Vinod K. Gupta, Dina Bahl, Bankim Dalal, Dr. Girish Patel, Vardhaman Charitable Foundation, Andy Chhikara, Dr. Prem Kamboj, Dr. Madhav Suri, Dr. Krish Rajani, Monika Joshi, Ela and Bhavesh Muni, Rama Ambati, Dr. Shashi Sharma, Dr. Dinesh Sharma, Dilbagh Ghilawat, Sangita and Yogesh Shah, Rita and Narendra Parson, Komal and Prashant Desai, Kala and Surendra Jain, the Wadher Family Foundation, Dr. Sulekh Jain, Ronak and Mitul Shah, and Pinal and Hardik Modi.

AAPI To Observe January 7th As Global Wear Yellow Day For Obesity Awareness & Health

(Chicago: IL: December 20, 2020) Obesity has been identified as a leading cause for early death as it leads to hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, heart attacks, strokes, some kinds of cancer and adversely affecting almost all organs in the human body. Describing Obesity as a major disease, World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized that PREVENTION is the most feasible option for curbing the obesity epidemic. Parents, schools, communities, states and countries can help make the Healthy choice the Easy choice.

Continuing with the goal of creating awareness by educating the public and healthcare professionals, American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) is observing January 7th, 2021  as the Global Wear Yellow Day for Obesity Awareness & Health, showcasing Yellow for Energy, Motivation, Hope, Optimism, Joy and Happiness. AAPI’s theme and campaign around the world is to: “Be Healthy, Be Happy.” And, the  “Secret to Living Longer is to Eat half, Walk double, Laugh triple and Love without measure.”

During an educational webinar on NObesity held on December 12th, 2020 and led by internationally renowned healthcare leaders, Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, President of AAPI said, “The impact and role of AAPI in influencing policy makers and the public is ever more urgent today. AAPI being the largest ethnic medical organization in USA and the second largest organized medical association after AMA, we have the power and responsibility to influence the state and the public through education for health promotion and disease prevention. Hence AAPI is trying ‘To Educate to Empower’ as ‘An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure.’ In this context, AAPI is in the process of getting Wear Yellow for Obesity Awareness Proclamation from the White House so it can be implemented nationwide. So far, we got official proclamations from   Mayors from several States,” he added.

The interactive webinar was moderated by Dr. Uma Jonnaladadda, Chair of AAPI’s Physicians Section; Board Certified Family Medicine Secretary, GAPIO, and AAPI’s First Lady. Other moderators were: Dr. Padmaja Adusumilli, and Dr. Pooja Kinkhabwala.

The eminent speakers at the Webinar included: Muamer Dajdic, a Motivational Educator, who had struggled with obesity his whole life. He shared with the audience his own inspiriting life’s story of how weighing nearly 500 lbs, with obesity almost killing him, he lost over 300 lbs. in 1.5 years. The author of an upcoming book: The Healthy Living Process, he earned the Melting Snowman nickname & set out on a mission to help 100 000 000 people across the world overcome obesity & maintain a healthy body for life.

Kevin J. Finn, Ph.D., a Professor of Kinesiology in the School of Nutrition, Kinesiology, and Psychological Science at the University of Central Missouri, addressed the audience on “Exercise is Medicine” stressing the importance of including daily activities that enhance one’s health. Swarna Mandali, a well known Nutritionist, having obtained a Doctoral Degree from Oklahoma University, with having extensive experience in Neutrino Counseling, and serving as an Educator on Medical Nutrition, spoke about “Partaking Portions: Road to Prevention” shedding light on practical ways to manage food intake, especially among South Asians and their food habits.

Dr. Hira Nair, a Professor of Psychology at Kansas City Kansas Community College, the Coordinator of the Teacher Education Program, believes that education is transformative and psychology prepares students to live an introspective and collaborative life. She has recently joined efforts with AAPI to educate the local community about food addiction and anti-obesity. She works tirelessly on social justice issues within the context of the community, and around the globe. She shared with the audience, her own experiences while actively participating in building community awareness of important global issues such as hunger and the importance of educating the girl child.

Major contributors for the success of AAPI’s obesity awareness campaign over the years include, Dr. Uma Koduri, who had organized the pilot programs for childhood obesity in USA since 2013, childhood obesity in India in 2015 and Veteran obesity in USA in 2017 with the help of Drs. Sanku Rao, Jayesh Shah, Aruna Venkatesh for childhood obesity, Vikas Khurana, Satheesh Kathula for Veteran obesity, and Janaki Srinath, Uma Chitra, Avanti Rao for childhood obesity in India.

Presently, AAPI Obesity Committee’s Chair is Dr. Uma Koduri and co-chairs are Drs. Padmaja Adusumili (Veteran obesity), Pooja Kinkabwala (Childhood obesity) and Uma Jonnalagadda (Adult obesity) with chief advisors Dr. Kishore Bellamkonda and Dr. Lokesh Edara.
“American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) has embarked on an ambitious plan, launching Global Obesity Awareness Campaign 2021,” said Dr. Uma Koduri, Founder of NObesity Revolution, Chair of National AAPI Obesity Committee, and Founding President of AAPI Tulsa Chapter. According to Dr. Koduri, “AAPI will *GO YELLOW* on first Thursday, Jan 7, 2021 (Thursday is a working day,  so tell your colleagues at work to wear yellow that day): *G – Get your BMI* (measure height, weight and calculate your BMI…ask google to calculate for you 😊); and, *O*- *Own your Lifestyle.  It’s up to you. No one can do it for you*. Loose weight, exercise, eat healthy – whole food, plant predominant diet. *YELLOW – energy, motivation  hope,  optimism, joy and happiness*.”

“I am proud to announce today that we have been successful in successful in making this a global a reality by 12-12-2020 by covering 100 cities in USA, 100 cities in India and 100 countries around the World, including on the 7th continent on Earth, the Antarctica,” Dr. Koduri, who has been in the forefront of the obesity awareness campaign for years now, explained. “What had started off in 2011 at 11-11-11-11-11-11 seconds as AAPI Health Walkathons were held in all 5 Continents – Australia, Asia, Africa, Europe and North America was successfully completed in 2020 by Obesity Walkathons by Dr. Suresh Reddy in the remaining 2 Continents – South America and Antarctica,” Dr. Koduri added.

 “While following in the footsteps of American Heart Association initiatives, “National Wear Red Day, on the first Friday in February,” which has become an annual campaign to raise awareness about heart disease in women, AAPI is leading a campaign to create awareness on Obesity,” said Dr. Sajani Shah, Chairwoman of AAPI BOT.

Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President-Elect of AAPI said, “With obesity proving to be a major epidemic affecting nearly one third of the nation’s population, we have a responsibility to save future generations by decreasing childhood obesity. And therefore, we at AAPI are proud to undertake this national educational tour around the United States, impacting thousands of children and their families.”

According to Dr. Ravi Kolli, Vice President of AAPI, “AAPI has it’s chapters in almost every city and town of USA. With this extensive network around the nation, we should be able to spread the message on obesity by following the template plan. We are also exploring the use of social media and phone ‘apps’ as healthy lifestyle tools.”

“As a professional organization that represents the interests of over 100,000 physicians of Indian origin, who are practicing Medicine in the United States, one of our primary goals is to educate the public on diseases and their impact on health. The Obesity campaign by AAPI is yet another major role we have been focusing on,” said Dr. Amit Chakrabarty, Secretary of AAPI.
Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Treasurer of AAPI, said, “AAPI has taken this initiative as a “main stream” issue in both children and adults, in the US and in India. AAPI has helped organize several childhood obesity and veterans obesity programs across the US. We have the right team to take this project forward”.

AAPI is a forum to facilitate and enable Indian American Physicians to excel in patient care, teaching and research and to pursue their aspirations in professional and community affairs. For more details on AAPI’s Global Obesity Awareness Campaign,   please visit: www.aapiusa.org

Biden Leads the Way with Receiving COVID-19 Vaccine

President-elect Joe Biden received his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on December 21st in front of cameras to help build confidence in the vaccine across the country.
Biden joined a list of high-profile politicians and millions of other font line healthcare workers and Seniors across the nation, vaccinated Dressed in a navy blue mock turtleneck and wearing two masks, Biden pushed up his left sleeve for the vaccination at ChristianaCare’s Christiana Hospital in Newark, Delaware.

“I’m doing this to demonstrate that people should be prepared, when it’s available, to take the vaccine. There’s nothing to worry about. I’m looking forward to the second shot,” Biden said shortly after receiving his vaccination.

“We owe these folks an awful lot. The scientists and the people who put this together and frontline workers, the people who were the ones who actually did the clinical work, it’s just amazing,” Biden said. “We owe you big, we really do.”

Biden’s vaccination comes as a second coronavirus vaccine, produced by Moderna, has begun to be distributed across the country, and as the death toll from the virus nears 320,000 Americans.
As the number of Covid-19 cases reported in the United States passed 18 million, the second vaccine given emergency authorization was being administered Monday for the first time outside of clinical trials.

One of the first people to get a public dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine was a doctor in Texas who has gone to work, fighting the virus for 277 consecutive days. “This is like having gold,” Dr. Joseph Varon told CNN as he held a box of doses shortly before he was vaccinated. “I don’t cry, but I came very close … You know how many lives you can save with this?”

The president-elect said the Trump administration “deserves some credit” for getting the vaccine and distribution off the ground with Operation Warp Speed, but stressed that while the vaccines marked progress, the country needs to continue taking precautions to slow the spread of coronavirus, particularly around the upcoming holidays.

“I don’t want to sound like a sour note here, but I hope people listen to all of the experts and the Dr. Faucis on … talking about the need to wear masks during this Christmas and New Year’s holidays. Wear masks, socially distance. And if you don’t have to travel, don’t travel. Don’t travel. It’s really important because we’re still in the thick of this,” Biden said

Biden, 78, had long promised to take the vaccine if advised by Dr. Fauci to do so. In an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” last week, Fauci recommended Biden receive the vaccine as soon as possible.

“Dr. Fauci recommends I get the vaccine sooner than later. I want to just make sure we do it by the numbers, and we do it — but when I do it, you’ll have notice and we’ll do it publicly. Thank you,” Biden told reporters last Tuesday.

Vice President-elect Harris and her husband, incoming second gentleman Doug Emhoff, are also expected to receive the vaccine at a later date.

“Consistent with security and medical protocols, the Vice President will not receive the vaccine at the same time as the president. We expect she and Mr. Emhoff will receive their first dose of the vaccine the following week, and we will have additional details on that next week,” the incoming White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said Friday.

Biden joins several political leaders who have received the vaccine, including Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and several members of Congress.

One politician yet to take the vaccine is President Donald Trump, who has largely been out of public sight since the two COVID-19 vaccines have received emergency use authorization from the FDA.

As of Monday morning more than 614,000 Americans have received a vaccine shot, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Covid Data Tracker.
Most Americans will have to wait months before getting their inoculations.

In the meantime, new infections, hospitalizations and deaths keep soaring, prompting health experts to urge the public to stay home this Christmas week.
“This is really not the time to be traveling,” epidemiologist Dr. Celine Gounder said.
But millions of airline passengers ignored such advice and traveled over the weekend.
Now travelers risk getting infected with a variant of coronavirus that might be even more contagious.

Beyond Covid-19, A Book By Dr. Chalil & Ambassador Kapur Is Now On “Amazon Best Sellers List”

(New York, NY: November 29th, 2020) Beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic: Envisioning a Better World by Transforming the Future of Healthcare, authored by Ambassador Pradeep Kapur, a practitioner of Public Policy, and Dr. Joseph Chalil, an expert in healthcare policy, is now on Amazon’s Best Sellers List.

Around the world, providing quality and affordable healthcare remains a challenge. As the COVID-19 pandemic began, it quickly became apparent that public policy and current healthcare systems were ill-prepared to deal with the challenges. Ambassador Kapur and Dr. Chalil discuss the lessons learned and the way ahead in the book, Beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic: Envisioning a Better World by Transforming the Future of Healthcare.

The authors offer sustainable and revolutionary solutions to change healthcare delivery in the United States and a model for other countries. With a combination of a public SafetyNet and free-market competition, they offer their “Grand Plan.” The advances and adoption of current and new technology will revolutionize the field of healthcare. They offer critical strategies that countries can adopt during natural disasters, wars, or a pandemic.

The authors focus on breaking the chain of employer-based health insurance, where your health insurance is not tied to your employment. Too often, the benefits of providing healthcare for all is lost in discussions about health insurance. Yet, this book does not allow these issues to control the analysis of healthcare delivery.

This book offers practical solutions, addressing citizens’ needs now and into the future while empowering them to be more responsible for their health. As envisioned by the authors, the emerging global scenarios address healthcare needs, education, and sustainable lifestyle choices, reducing the need for more intensive and costly interventions to improve the overall quality of life. There is a roadmap for U.N. and WHO, which are not living up to their initial promise, beyond just reform. They challenge the world to have the political consensus to create meaningful change for all, both in the United States, the United Nations, and around the globe.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that ensuring affordable and timely access to health care is a priority for all. It has shown us the limitations of each country in combating a healthcare crisis like the one we are experiencing today. As the pandemic began, it quickly became apparent that public policy and current healthcare systems were ill-prepared to deal with a pandemic’s challenges. Providing quality and affordable healthcare remains a challenge.

Esteemed personalities worldwide have much acclaimed the timely and insightful edition of the book released in October this year. Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, a globally revered spiritual and humanitarian leader, wrote: “Ambassador Pradeep Kapur and Dr. Joseph Chalil discuss the lessons learned in the book, Beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic: Envisioning a Better World by Transforming the Future of Healthcare. The authors offer sustainable and revolutionary solutions to change healthcare delivery in the United States and a model for other countries. With a combination of a public SafetyNet and free-market competition, they offer their “Grand Plan.” The advances and adoption of current and new technology will revolutionize the field of healthcare. They offer critical strategies that countries can adopt during natural disasters, wars, or a pandemic.”

The authors are will donating the profits from the sale of their book to AAPI Charitable Foundation and WHEELS!

Ambassador Pradeep Kapur is an acknowledged “luminary diplomat,” with a distinguished career working with leaders and policymakers in different continents of the world: Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, and South America. He was the author and editor of many books. Kapur was Ambassador of India to Chile and Cambodia and Secretary at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs before joining as an academic in reputed universities in the USA and India. A graduate of the globally acclaimed Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi (IIT-D), he is Executive Director of Smart Village Development Fund (SVDF); International Economic Strategic Advisor, Intellect Design Arena; and Chairman, Advisory Council, DiplomacyIndia.com. His healthcare contributions include setting up of BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences in Eastern Nepal, which is acclaimed as an exemplary bilateral India Nepal initiative.

Dr. Joseph Chalil, an author of several scientific and research papers in international publications, is the Chairman of the Complex Health Systems Advisory Board, H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship at Nova Southeastern University in Florida and a member of Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Allopathic Medicine (NSU MD) Executive Leadership Council. A veteran of the U.S. Navy Medical Corps, he is board certified in healthcare management. He has been awarded a Fellowship by the American College of Healthcare Executives, an international professional society of more than 40,000 healthcare executives who lead hospitals, healthcare systems, and other healthcare organizations. Dr. Chalil is the Chairman of the Indo American Press Club (IAPC). He is an expert in U.S. healthcare policy and a strong advocate for patient-centered care. With years of experience working in the U.S. healthcare system, he discusses healthcare delivery challenges, including providing quality, affordable patient care to all and alternate templates for health insurance.

The authors challenge the world to have the political consensus to create meaningful change for all, both in the United States, the United Nations, and around the globe. For more information, please visit https://beyondcovidbook.com.

Merriam-Webster’s Top Word Of 2020

If you were to choose a word that rose above most in 2020, which word would it be? Ding, ding, ding: Merriam-Webster on Monday announced “pandemic” as its 2020 word of the year.  “That probably isn’t a big shock,” Peter Sokolowski, editor at large for Merriam-Webster, told The Associated Press.

“Often the big news story has a technical word that’s associated with it and in this case, the word pandemic is not just technical but has become general. It’s probably the word by which we’ll refer to this period in the future,” he said.

The word took on urgent specificity in March, when the coronavirus crisis was designated a pandemic, but it started to trend up on Merriam-Webster.com as early January and again in February when the first U.S. deaths and outbreaks on cruise ships occurred.

On March 11, when the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic, lookups on the site for pandemic spiked hugely. Site interest for the word has remained significantly high through the year, Sokolowski said.

By huge, Sokolowski means searches for pandemic on March 11 were 115,806% higher than lookups experienced on the same date last year.

Pandemic, with roots in Latin and Greek, is a combination of “pan,” for all, and “demos,” for people or population. The latter is the same root of “democracy,” Sokolowski noted. The word pandemic dates to the mid-1600s, used broadly for “universal” and more specifically to disease in a medical text in the 1660s, he said.  That was after the plagues of the Middle Ages, Sokolowski said.

He attributes the lookup traffic for pandemic not entirely to searchers who didn’t know what it meant but also to those on the hunt for more detail, or for inspiration or comfort.

“We see that the word love is looked up around Valentine’s Day and the word cornucopia is looked up at Thanksgiving,” Sokolowski said. “We see a word like surreal spiking when a moment of national tragedy or shock occurs. It’s the idea of dictionaries being the beginning of putting your thoughts in order.”

Merriam-Webster acted quickly in March to add and update entries on its site for words related to the pandemic. While “coronavirus” had been in the dictionary for decades, “COVID-19” was coined in February. Thirty-four days later, Merriam-Webster had it up online, along with a couple dozen other entries that were revised to reflect the health emergency. “That’s the shortest period of time we’ve ever seen a word go from coinage to entry,” Sokolowski said. “The word had this urgency.”

Coronavirus was among runners up for word of the year as it jumped into the mainstream. Quarantine, asymptomatic, mamba, kraken, defund, antebellum, irregardless, icon, schadenfreude and malarkey were also runners up based on lookup spikes around specific events.

Particularly interesting to word nerds like Sokolowski, a lexicographer, is quarantine. With Italian roots, it was used during the Black Death of the 1300s for the period of time a new ship coming into port would have to wait outside a city to prevent disease. The “quar” in quarantine derives from 40, for the 40 days required.

Spikes for mamba occurred after the January death of Kobe Bryant, whose nickname was the Black Mamba. A mass of lookups occurred for kraken in July after Seattle’s new National Hockey League franchise chose the mythical sea monster as its name, urged along by fans.

Country group Lady Antebellum’s name change to Lady A drove dictionary interest in June, while malarkey got a boost from President-elect Joe Biden, who’s fond of using the word. Icon was front and center in headlines after the deaths of U.S. Rep. John Lewis and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. The Merriam-Webster site has about 40 million unique monthly users and about 100 million monthly page views.

(By LEANNE ITALIE)