UNESCO Unveils 18 New Geoparks: From Dinosaur Treasures to Monastic Marvels, Discover Nature’s Tapestry

A selection of 18 new geological sites, spanning from the dinosaur-rich landscapes of Brazil to the majestic monasteries of Meteora, has recently been unveiled by UNESCO, accentuating the intricate blend of natural wonders, cultural significance, and intangible heritage within specific regions.

Catering to the interests of travelers seeking profound encounters with geology, culture, and sustainability, UNESCO’s latest announcement adds to the global roster of 213 designated Global Geoparks, representing 48 nations worldwide.

António Abreu, director of the Division of Ecological and Earth Sciences at UNESCO, elaborates on the significance of these geoparks, stating, “UNESCO Global Geoparks represent landscapes where internationally significant geological heritage intertwines with human history and supports rich biodiversity.”

Five of these newly designated geoparks offer unique narratives:

1.Uberaba, Brazil:Dubbed the “Land of the Giants,” this geopark, situated in southeast Brazil, is home to rich palaeontological treasures, boasting impressive geological formations like the Serra da Galga and Serra Geral mountain ranges. These formations, shaped by ancient volcanic activities, narrate tales of prehistoric life through over 10,000 fossils. Moreover, the area’s 19th-Century farming practices, employing a breed of cattle with lower CO2 emissions, contribute to ecological preservation.

2.Biokovo-Imotski Lakes, Croatia:This Croatian geopark comprises two distinct geological marvels – the Biokovo mountain range and the captivating Red and Blue Lakes at Imotski. Biokovo offers diverse outdoor activities within its Nature Park, while the lakes, nestled within Europe’s deepest karst lake crater, boast vibrant hues and intriguing formations. Man-made attractions, including medieval tombstones and a modern glass skywalk, enrich the geopark’s cultural tapestry.

3.Meteora Pyli, Greece:Situated in Greece’s Thessaly region, Meteora Pyli presents a fusion of nature and culture. Towering sandstone columns host Byzantine-era monasteries, while nearby geological wonders like the Tafoni formations of Kalambaka and the biodiverse Pindos Mountains provide enriching experiences for visitors.

4.Longyan, China:Central to China’s Hakka culture, Longyan in Fujian Province showcases distinctive roundhouse-style buildings and age-old traditions. The geopark encompasses natural forests teeming with endemic flora and fauna, including the Chinese yew tree and the South China tiger, safeguarded under the shadow of Meihuashan Mountain.

5.South Fyn Archipelago, Denmark:This drowned ice age landscape, aptly called the “Garden of Denmark,” features around 55 islands and islets, offering prime sailing waters and a thriving marine ecosystem. Visitors can engage in various activities, from island hopping to supporting local farms, epitomizing the area’s historical and future significance.

These geoparks encapsulate a harmonious blend of geological wonders, cultural heritage, and ecological significance, offering immersive experiences for travelers seeking enriching encounters with our planet’s diverse landscapes.

International Booker Prize 2024: Diverse Narratives and Global Perspectives Shine on Shortlist

Six different languages, six distinct countries, and three continents feature in the novels shortlisted for this year’s International Booker Prize, showcasing a rich tapestry of cultures, styles, and human experiences.

Eleanor Wachtel, Chair of judges for the 2024 International Booker Prize, highlighted the transformative power of novels, stating, “Novels carry us to places where we might never set foot and connect us with new sensations and memories.” She emphasized the shortlist’s ability to transport readers across vast mental landscapes, often intertwining personal lives with political contexts in innovative ways.

The shortlist for the International Booker Prize 2024 includes:

“Not a River” by Selva Almada, translated from Spanish by Annie McDermott: The narrative revolves around two men and a deceased friend’s teenage son embarking on a fishing expedition. Themes of masculinity, guilt, desire, and societal suspicion permeate this story, described as “prophetic,” “ghostlike,” and “a punch in the gut.”

“Kairos” by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated from German by Michael Hofmann: Erpenbeck describes “Kairos” as a tale of both personal love and the unraveling of a political system. Reviewer Lily Meyer notes its ability to reflect and magnify generational and geopolitical divides.

“Crooked Plow” by Itamar Viera Junior, translated from Portuguese by Johnny Lorenz: Two sisters discover a mysterious knife under their grandmother’s bed, leading to a narrative blending magical and social realism. Set amidst Brazil’s poorest region, the novel emphasizes the importance of preserving history and protecting the land.

“Mater 2-10” by Hwang Sok-yong, translated from Korean by Sora Kim-Russell and Youngjae Josephine Bae: Hwang Sok-yong’s ninth translated work, this novel portrays the lives of ordinary Koreans spanning the Japanese colonial era to the twenty-first century.

“What I’d Rather Not Think About” by Jente Posthuma, translated from Dutch by Sarah Timmer Harvey: The protagonist, a twin grappling with the recent suicide of their sibling, navigates personal grief. Posthuma’s novel is lauded for its authenticity and poignant narrative style.

“The Details” by la Genberg, translated from Swedish by Kira Josefsson: Beginning amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, this novel explores themes of relationships, memory, and time. Praised for its mesmerizing prose, “The Details” offers a profound exploration of human connection.

The winner of the International Booker Prize 2024 will be revealed at a ceremony on May 21 at London’s Tate Modern. The £50,000 prize money will be evenly split between the author and translator(s), with shortlisted authors and translators sharing a £5,000 prize. The event will be livestreamed on the Booker Prizes’ channels, with YouTuber Jack Edwards hosting.

Georgi Gospodinov and translator Angela Rodel clinched last year’s International Booker Prize for their novel “Time Shelter.”

YouTube Under Fire: Approval of Election Disinformation Ads Raises Concerns Ahead of Indian Polls

YouTube has greenlit numerous advertisements endorsing voter suppression and inciting violence ahead of India’s upcoming election, according to a recent investigation conducted by rights organizations Global Witness and Access Now, exclusively revealed to TIME.

India, renowned as the world’s largest democracy, is poised to conduct its election across seven phases from April 19 to June 1 of this year. Voters will determine whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi secures a third term or faces a setback to his Hindu nationalist agenda. With over half the global population participating in around 65 national elections this year, India’s election stands out as the largest and a pivotal test for social media platforms in combatting election misinformation, especially following industry-wide layoffs.

In a bid to assess YouTube’s efficacy in curbing disinformation, Global Witness and Access Now submitted 48 ads featuring election-related content banned by YouTube rules, written in Hindi, Telugu, and English. Surprisingly, within a 24-hour review window, YouTube gave the green light to all ads. Although the ads were withdrawn before publication, raising concerns about YouTube’s ability to halt the dissemination of paid disinformation during a significant global election. Namrata Maheshwari, senior policy counsel at Access Now, expressed disappointment, highlighting the broader issue of YouTube’s focus on particular countries.

Google refuted the report’s methodology, claiming it applies policies consistently worldwide and defended its enforcement process. The company asserted that none of the ads were published, and emphasized multiple layers of review to ensure policy compliance. YouTube’s massive user base in India, with over 450 million users, positions it as the second-most-popular tech platform after WhatsApp. Unlike WhatsApp, YouTube offers targeted advertising tools, which contributed to its substantial $9.2 billion ad revenue in the final quarter of 2023.

Some approved ads contained false information aimed at voter suppression, falsely stating ID requirements or suggesting voting by text message. Others hinted at violence, targeting religious communities or alleging electoral fraud hotspots. This report highlights a concerning global divide in platform enforcement against election disinformation, with the south often receiving less attention than the north.

The report’s authors contested Google’s response, arguing that the damage is already done once ads go live, even if later removed. They urged YouTube to enhance its efforts against disinformation before the Indian election begins. The organizations called for various measures, including evaluating the ad approval process, ensuring adequate resources for content moderation in local languages, and conducting an independent human rights impact assessment.

Henry Peck from Global Witness suggested recent layoffs in YouTube’s trust and safety division might have exacerbated the situation. Although Google didn’t disclose specific impacts of layoffs on ad review teams, they assured significant investments in countering election disinformation and highlighted a dedicated team for Indian languages.

As the election approaches, there’s an urgent need for YouTube to bolster its defenses against disinformation, ensuring a fair and transparent electoral process.

Global Security Landscape Shifts: Nations Adapt to Rising Threats with Defense Spending Surge and Strategic Alliances

The resurgence of major power competition worldwide is prompting nations to adjust their strategies, leading to significant shifts in alliances and defense spending from regions spanning Europe to the Indo-Pacific to the Middle East.

The impact of this shift is particularly noticeable in countries like Sweden and Japan, which are undertaking substantial measures to counter growing threats from Russia and China.

U.S. Admiral John Aquilino, head of Indo-Pacific Command, emphasized the severity of the security landscape, stating, “I’ve described the security environment as the most dangerous I’ve seen in 40 years in uniform.”

As tensions escalate, defense expenditures globally have seen a notable increase. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, global defense spending surged by 9 percent last year, reaching $2.2 trillion.

The majority of nations witnessed a rise in defense spending from 2021 to 2023. European countries collectively elevated their spending from around $350 billion in 2021 to over $388 billion in 2023, while Asian nations increased theirs from over $500 billion to surpassing $510 billion during the same period.

Public perception mirrors the escalating tensions, with an Ipsos poll from November revealing that 84 percent of respondents across 30 countries believe the world is growing more perilous.

Smaller Baltic nations are bolstering their defenses against potential Russian aggression. Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, alarmed by signs of a Russian military buildup reminiscent of the Soviet era, have agreed to establish a common defense line comprising bunkers and other defensive structures.

Further north, Finland and Sweden have opted to align with the Western security alliance NATO in response to Russia’s incursions. Sweden’s decision marks a significant departure from its longstanding policy of neutrality, spanning over 200 years. Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson emphasized that joining NATO was a “natural” step to safeguard their freedom and democracy.

The move reflects the profound shift in the security environment, characterized by Minna Ålander, a nonresident fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), as “huge” and indicative of unprecedented uncertainty, surpassing even the complexities of the Cold War era.

Finland’s application to NATO further propelled Sweden’s decision, underscoring the tangible threat posed by Russia’s actions and its impact on European security dynamics.

NATO members are committing to ramp up defense spending to meet the longstanding target of dedicating 2 percent of economic output to defense. However, achieving this target has been a point of contention, with former President Trump expressing willingness to allow Russia leeway with countries failing to meet their financial commitments to NATO.

Ålander highlighted the profound shockwaves triggered by Trump’s remarks in Europe, prompting a renewed commitment to defense spending and individual national security, amid concerns about potential vulnerabilities should a future U.S. administration adopt a hostile stance.

The European Union, alongside NATO, acknowledges the imperative to bolster security measures, advocating for increased collaboration on security challenges and a surge in defense spending. European Council President Charles Michel emphasized the need for a “real paradigm shift” to fortify the EU’s defense readiness in the face of the gravest security threat since World War II.

However, some analysts caution against the militarization of Europe, advocating for alternative approaches focused on arms control treaties akin to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

In the Indo-Pacific region, the rivalry between the U.S. and China intensifies, particularly amid concerns over a potential Chinese incursion into Taiwan and North Korea’s escalating belligerence towards the U.S. and South Korea.

The U.S. is fortifying alliances in the region and augmenting its presence to deter Beijing from any aggressive actions against Taiwan, potentially slated for 2027, as per Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s directive.

Last year, the U.S. reached agreements with the Philippines to establish four new bases and deepened defense cooperation with Vietnam. The AUKUS pact, a major Indo-Pacific alliance between the U.S., Australia, and the U.K., aims to enhance defense capabilities and advance advanced weapon development.

Japan emerges as a pivotal partner for the U.S. in countering China and North Korea, with Tokyo undergoing a strategic shift, doubling its defense budget by 2027 and relaxing restrictions on the export of lethal weapons.

The changing political landscape within Japan, marked by diminishing pro-Beijing factions and a younger generation more attuned to the contemporary geopolitical realities, has propelled Tokyo towards a more assertive defense posture.

Additionally, Japan’s pivotal role in the trilateral alliance with the U.S. and South Korea underscores its growing significance as a strategic ally in the region.

In the Middle East, escalating tensions with Iran have raised fears of a major regional conflict, particularly amid a recent conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, exacerbating hostilities between Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Israel’s defense minister warned of an impending conflict with Iran, reflecting growing concerns about Tehran’s regional ambitions and its proxies’ increasing proximity to Israel’s borders.

The potential for a conflict between Israel and Hezbollah could have far-reaching consequences, potentially sparking a broader regional crisis with implications for global security.

In response, the U.S. may seek to solidify alliances with Arab nations in the region to prepare for a potential confrontation with Iran, reflecting a broader trend towards coalition-building in the face of escalating geopolitical tensions.

Francis Scott Key Bridge Collapse Halts Marine Traffic at Port of Baltimore, Disrupts Supply Chains

Marine activity near the Port of Baltimore has ground to a halt following the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge on Tuesday, an incident poised to disrupt shipping and logistical networks.

A significant container vessel collided with a support column shortly before 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday, resulting in the bridge plummeting into the Patapsco River. Officials have reported the successful rescue of two individuals, but tragically, six others are presumed deceased following their fall into the river.

Analysts are scrutinizing the potential ramifications of the incident on a crucial hub for automobile imports. While Baltimore’s port may not be the largest in the nation, it boasts the highest throughput of car and light truck shipments.

According to Abe Eshkenazi, who leads the Association for Supply Chain Management, certain automakers may be compelled to reroute their shipments to alternate East Coast ports such as those in New York, New Jersey, or Roanoke, Virginia. This redirection carries the risk of transporting goods further from their intended destinations, potentially inflating costs. Eshkenazi notes, “In the short term, we’re going to have to address the ships that are already in port that can’t get out. And then similarly, we have a number of ships that are already in transit that are scheduled to come into the port that can’t get in.”

The repercussions of the bridge collapse extend beyond automotive imports, impacting coal and sugar shipments as well as the operations of warehouses and trucking companies in the Baltimore area.

However, the collapse of the bridge is not anticipated to exert a substantial influence on global shipping, which is already contending with pressures stemming from attacks by Houthi militants in the Red Sea and a drought in Panama leading to congestion at the Panama Canal.

Catholic media in India mourns revolutionary editor’s death

New Delhi, March 28, 2024:Catholic communicators in India have mourned the death of James Kottoor, a former editor of the Chennai-based New Leader publication and a prolific writer who helped spread the Vatican II reforms in India.

Kottoor died March 27 in Kochi, Kerala, where he was spending his retired life. He was 89. He is survived by his wife Agnes and three daughters who are nurses settled in the United States, and a son who is a doctor.

He was born on August 18, 1934, in Kottayam, Kerala. He edited The New Leader during 1967-1975.

He was also the editor-in-chief of the Church Citizens’ Voice, a portal. He regularly contributed to Matters India until a few years ago.

A former priest of Madras-Mylapore, he obtained a doctorate in theology from Rome’s Pontifical Urban University and Bachelors in Journalism, at Marquette University in the US.

Father D Amudhan, a former president of the Indian Catholic Press Association (ICPA), expressed sadness over Kottoor’s death. “He was the editor of the New Leader when I met him in 1973. Under his editorship the New Leader was a widely read and well liked Catholic weekly,” Father Amudhan told Matters India March 28.

According to the 80-year-old priest of Thanjavur diocese, Kottoor’s “constructive criticism and bold proposals were an eye opener in the Indian church. He was one of the few who openly and positively contributed for the reforms of the Vatican Council to spread in the country.”

Salesian Father C M Paul, a former president of the Signis India, says Kottoor was known and respected for his progressive stance and critical analysis of societal and political matters from a Catholic perspective. “He was my inspiration when I took charge as the editor of the Herald weekly of Calcutta in 1989,” Father Paul told Matters India.

Father Paul too agrees that Kottoor, during his tenure as editor, was known for his bold and outspoken editorial style, often addressing controversial topics such as corruption, social justice, gender equality and religious reform within the Catholic Church.

He gained recognition for his advocacy for the rights of marginalized communities and his efforts to promote dialogue and reform within the Church hierarchy, the Salesian priest added.

Kottoor’s writings, Father Paul added, often reflected his deep concern for the poor, and he used his platform to raise awareness about issues such as poverty, caste discrimination, and human rights abuses.

“He was also known for his criticism of religious fundamentalism and his calls for greater accountability and transparency within religious institutions,” he added.

ICPA’s current president Ignatius Gonsalves, mourning Kottoor’s death, hailed the veteran journalist who clamoured for reform in the Church, especially among his own community of Kananites.

This former priest “was fiercely committed to the Church and the Gospel values. Until recently he was active with his website called “Church Citizens Voice.” survived by his and their four children.

Kottoor encouraged the formation of an association of former priests and nuns and addressed its conference at Kochi on February 28, 2015.

Virat Kohli’s Milestone Century Propels RCB to Victory in T20 Clash Against Punjab Kings

Proving his mettle and solidifying his candidacy for the forthcoming T20 World Cup, Virat Kohli showcased his prowess by notching up his 100th 50-plus score in T20 matches during the Royal Challengers Bangalore’s pursuit of 177 runs against Punjab Kings in Bengaluru, as reported on Monday.

Chris Gayle currently holds the record for the most 50-plus scores in T20 cricket, achieving this milestone in 110 matches, closely followed by David Warner with 109 matches to his credit. Kohli now stands third on this leaderboard, accomplishing the feat in 100 matches. Notably, he becomes the first Indian cricketer to achieve this milestone, countering critics who doubted his suitability for inclusion in the T20 World Cup squad.

The former captain of RCB displayed his batting prowess with a blistering knock of 77 runs off 49 deliveries, embellished with 11 boundaries and two maximums. Kohli’s departure saw RCB positioned at 130/5 in 16 overs, requiring a further 47 runs from 24 balls to secure victory. Throughout the match, Kohli emerged as the lone standout performer for his team, especially given RCB’s faltering start with early dismissals of Faf du Plesis (3), Cameron Green (3), Rajat Patidar (18), and Glenn Maxwell (3).

Despite the setbacks, Kohli exhibited composure and drew upon his experience to keep the scoreboard ticking in RCB’s favor.

In the initial innings, Shikhar Dhawan’s contribution of 45 runs off 37 deliveries propelled Punjab Kings to a total of 176/6 in their allotted 20 overs. Despite the early loss of his opening partner Jonny Bairstow (8), the PBKS skipper orchestrated a recovery alongside number three batsman Prabhsimran Singh (25). Additionally, noteworthy contributions from Sam Curran (23), Jitesh Sharma (27), and Shashank Singh (21) bolstered PBKS’ innings. Mohammed Siraj and Glenn Maxwell made significant impacts for RCB’s bowling department, claiming two wickets each.

Reflecting on PBKS’ innings, all-rounder Sam Curran remarked, “It is probably slightly under par. But it (the surface) is not a belter, good finish by the boys and a few early wickets can get us back. They bowled really with the new ball and there was some help for the spinners. We are going out there with a plan and make 176 enough.”

Cargo Ship Collides with Key Bridge in Baltimore: Crew Safe, Emergency Declared

In the early hours of March 26, a cargo ship carrying a crew of 22 Indians collided with a pillar of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland.

The Singapore-based Synergy Marine Group, the charter manager of the cargo ship, confirmed that all crew members were safe, and there were no casualties.

Reports indicate that the ship struck a column of the bridge, causing it to fall into the water. Rescue operations are ongoing, and both city and state officials have declared a state of emergency in response to the incident.

The shipping company issued a statement regarding the collision, stating, “Owners and managers of the Singapore-flagged container ship ‘DALI’ (IMO 9697428) report that the vessel collided with one of the pillars of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, Baltimore whilst under pilotage with two pilots onboard, at approximately 01:30 local time on 26th March.”

The statement also confirmed that all crew members, including the two pilots, were safe, with no injuries or pollution reported. The exact cause of the collision is still under investigation, but initial findings suggest that the crew issued a distress call, indicating a loss of power and propulsion before the collision.

The company stated that it has informed the US Coast Guard and local officials and is fully cooperating with government agencies. Details about the ship’s capacity were also provided, noting it as a 10,000 TEU vessel with 4,679 TEU onboard, outbound from Baltimore to Colombo.

Maryland Governor Wes Moore mentioned on social media platform X that the ship had lost power before the collision. He stated that his office is in communication with the US Transportation secretary and fire emergency personnel to coordinate response efforts.

Authorities at the Patapsco River Baltimore Port have suspended vessel traffic until further notice, stating, “At this time, we do not know how long vessel traffic will be suspended. As soon as that is determined, we will provide an update.”

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott declared a local state of emergency following the collapse of the Key Bridge. He assured the public that resources were being mobilized swiftly to address the crisis and ensure community safety and well-being.

Fear Among Christians Rises in India as Election Looms

KANDHAMAL, India: In India’s Kandhamal district, the scars of brutal attacks on Christians 16 years ago still linger, evoking fear and uncertainty among the minority community. As the country braces for upcoming elections with Prime Minister Narendra Modi expected to secure another term, many Christians worry about the resurgence of violence and persecution.

The 2008 attacks, triggered by the murder of a Hindu priest, left a devastating impact, with mobs targeting Christians and leaving scores dead. Survivors like Deepti recall the horrors of that time, including incidents of gang rape and widespread sexual assault.

Last year, the Vatican initiated the beatification process for 35 individuals killed in the violence, offering a glimmer of hope for the community. However, for many, the trauma persists, overshadowing any sense of closure or justice.

The looming elections add to the apprehension, especially amid concerns of rising Hindu nationalism and the BJP’s alleged agenda to convert India into a Hindu state. Reports of attacks against Christians across the country further fuel anxiety, with memories of past atrocities still fresh.

Despite reassurances from political leaders, including Modi, many Christians remain wary, fearing a repeat of past violence. The recent inauguration of a temple in Ayodhya, a site marked by historical religious tensions, served as a stark reminder of the challenges faced by religious minorities in India.

While efforts are made to foster inclusivity and dispel fears, the specter of communal discord looms large, casting a shadow of doubt on the promise of religious freedom and harmony in the country. As Kandhamal’s survivors navigate between fear and hope, the road ahead remains uncertain, with the need for genuine reconciliation and peace more urgent than ever.

Syro-Malabar Archbishop Urges Voters to Prioritize Minority Protection in 2024 Elections Amid Rising Attacks

The Major Archbishop of the influential Syro-Malabar Church, Mar Raphael Thattil, has urged citizens to cast their votes in favor of parties that prioritize the protection of minorities and uphold the Constitution, as the nation prepares for the 2024 general elections.

Speaking to reporters at an event, Thattil expressed concern over a recent report by a Christian forum revealing 161 reported attacks on Christians in 2024. He described the findings as “painful” and highlighted the significance of the Constitution in safeguarding citizens’ rights. He mentioned assurances from the Prime Minister and the government regarding taking strict actions in response to such incidents.

“The reports on the rise in attacks are painful, especially when we have a strong Constitution which provides us our rights. The Prime Minister, when we met him, and the government had assured stern action,” said Thattil.

When questioned about the approaching Lok Sabha elections, Thattil emphasized the importance of voting for candidates who prioritize protecting minorities and upholding the Constitution.

“Everyone can vote according to their wish. But personally, I would say, people should vote for those who protect minorities and the Constitution,” he stated.

Regarding the increasing attacks on the Christian community, Thattil advised members to remain composed while urging the government to take necessary measures to ensure the safety of the victims.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission of India has scheduled April 26 as the polling date for Kerala’s 20 Lok Sabha constituencies.

Unveiling Savarkar: A Nuanced Biopic Explores India’s Controversial Freedom Fighter

The latest biographical film on Savarkar offers a compelling narrative, catering not just to his admirers but also to those unfamiliar with his legacy or critical of it. It delves into the complexities of Savarkar’s life, highlighting his pivotal role in India’s struggle for independence and the sacrifices he made. Despite facing a decade of harsh imprisonment in the British penal colony of Kālā Pānī, Savarkar remained steadfast in his commitment to the cause.

While some may argue that the film portrays Savarkar in a glorified light, it undeniably presents factual accounts that challenge common perceptions. A central theme of the biopic is the contrast between Mahatma Gandhi and Savarkar, emphasizing their differing approaches to achieving Indian independence. Unlike Gandhi’s advocacy for non-violence, Savarkar championed armed resistance, earning him the fear of the British authorities.

Savarkar’s redefinition of the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny as the First War of Indian Independence and his inspiration drawn from figures like Mazzini are depicted in the film. It also explores his establishment of “Abhinav Bharat,” mirroring Mazzini’s “Young Italy,” to promote nationalist sentiment and unity.

Despite covering a vast expanse of history, the film maintains a brisk pace, though some editing could have streamlined the narrative. Portrayals of historical figures such as Gandhi and Churchill occasionally border on caricature, detracting from the otherwise factual presentation.

The harrowing experiences of Savarkar in Kālā Pānī, including torture and encounters with brutal jailers, are vividly depicted. While the extensive portrayal of torture may seem excessive, it underscores the exceptional suffering endured by Savarkar, orchestrated by fellow Indians under British direction.

The biopic raises pertinent questions about the legitimacy of resistance against colonial oppression. It suggests that India’s independence ultimately came through the threat of violence, forcing the British to recognize the futility of continued colonial rule.

A notable aspect addressed in the film is Savarkar’s infamous mercy petition, contextualizing it within his broader strategy for the freedom struggle. His pragmatic approach, rooted in legal training, aimed to secure the release of all prisoners, prioritizing the larger cause over personal liberty.

Furthermore, the film challenges misconceptions about Savarkar’s Hindutva ideology, portraying it as inclusive rather than exclusionary. According to Savarkar, anyone identifying with the Indian homeland and culture could be considered a Hindu, irrespective of religious affiliation.

In essence, the Savarkar biopic offers a nuanced portrayal of a controversial figure in Indian history, inviting viewers to reassess their perspectives on his contributions to the nation’s freedom struggle. Whether one admires or opposes Savarkar’s ideology, the film provides valuable insights into a pivotal era of Indian history.

 Economic Impact of High-Earning Indian Expatriates

Shubhangi Sharma, a resident of Berlin, prepares for a vibrant Holi celebration, emblematic of the growing trend among high-earning Indians settling abroad to infuse billions into local economies. Sharma’s forthcoming festivities reflect a significant economic footprint, as she plans to spend approximately €200 to host friends, purchase Holi paint, and adorn traditional attire procured during her visits to Delhi.

As a microbiologist married to a tech professional, Sharma epitomizes a demographic capable of indulging in traditional festivals and luxury living, attributing their financial freedom to their relocation to countries like Germany. She remarks, “I moved my investments from India to Germany, so now all my savings are here, and I enjoy investing money in different stock profiles and different exchange-traded funds (ETFs).”

The surge in skilled Indian migration to Germany, facilitated by relaxed visa regulations, mirrors broader global trends. Indians, particularly in fields such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), are becoming the top immigrant earners in Europe’s largest economy, with a median monthly wage of €4,974.

The diaspora’s economic influence extends beyond Germany, with approximately 18 million Indians residing overseas, spanning continents. This dispersion contributes to a significant global economic footprint, as highlighted by economist V N Balasubramanyam: “Both in terms of the global economy and their own purchasing power, the impact is substantial.”

Remittance payments to India, a key economic driver, reached record highs in 2023, reflecting the diaspora’s financial contributions. However, the economic impact transcends remittances, encompassing investments, entrepreneurship, and skill enhancement within industries such as IT and pharmaceuticals.

In the United States, Indians emerge as the highest-earning ethnic minority group, wielding considerable buying power and driving demand in real estate markets. Similar patterns manifest in countries like the UK, Singapore, and the Gulf, indicating a global trend of Indian diaspora investment.

Strategic financial planning characterizes the diaspora’s approach to wealth management, with a focus on low-risk investments and retirement planning. Approximately 25% of non-resident Indians prefer conservative investment options, demonstrating a prudent approach to capital retention and growth.

Analysts anticipate continued global resonance of the Indian diaspora’s economic story, contingent upon political dynamics and visa policies. Balasubramanyam observes, “The economic power of the Indian diaspora will continue to increase and be substantial,” emphasizing the potential for joint ventures and investment back into India.

This economic narrative is propelled by a cohort of young, ambitious professionals navigating open-market policies across multiple countries. Dutta notes, “They are young people in the 30s who still have decades of work life ahead, are super ambitious and aspirational,” underscoring their potential to shape global economies.

In a digitalized, globalized context, the economic impact of high-earning Indian expatriates resonates across borders, promising continued contributions to global markets and investment landscapes.

Moscow Mourns: Tragic Concert Hall Attack Claims 137 Lives, Sparks Nationwide Grief and International Concern

Russia is observing a day of mourning following a tragic incident that claimed the lives of at least 137 individuals during a crowded concert at Moscow’s Crocus City Hall on Friday evening. Flags across the nation fly at half-mast, numerous events have been canceled, and TV schedules have been adjusted in light of the somber occasion.

The assault, perpetrated by gunmen who entered the venue, resulted in more than 140 people sustaining injuries as they fired indiscriminately before setting the hall ablaze. The Islamic State (IS) group has claimed responsibility for the attack, with Amaq, the IS media outlet, posting an image purportedly depicting the four masked assailants involved. However, Russian authorities have not officially commented on IS’s assertion.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared that all four perpetrators have been apprehended. Images released by Russia’s Investigative Committee showed the detainees being escorted into a building, restrained and blindfolded. President Putin condemned the massacre as a “barbaric terrorist act,” echoing earlier statements by Russian security services that the assailants may have attempted to flee to Ukraine.

However, Ukraine swiftly dismissed any involvement, labeling such claims as “absurd.” Andriy Yusov, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian military intelligence directorate, refuted suggestions of a link to Ukraine, stating that such a notion would imply the attackers were either “stupid or suicidal.” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Putin of attempting to shift blame onto Ukraine, criticizing his silence in addressing the Russian populace in the aftermath of the tragedy.

BBC Verify has corroborated details of two of the alleged attackers seen in the IS video with images of the arrested suspects circulating on pro-Kremlin Telegram channels. The US National Security Council revealed it had previously alerted Russia to a potential IS threat targeting “large gatherings,” including concerts, in Moscow. The Kremlin dismissed this warning as “propaganda” and an attempt by the US to interfere in Russian affairs.

The White House condemned the attack, describing IS as a “common terrorist enemy” that must be defeated globally. Reports of the assault inside Crocus City Hall emerged around 20:00 local time on Friday, as thousands gathered for a rock concert by veteran band Picnic. Videos posted online captured the chaos as gunmen opened fire, prompting panic among attendees who sought refuge wherever possible.

Eyewitness accounts described the assailants methodically targeting individuals, with some concertgoers attempting to escape to the basement or roof. Anastasia Rodionova, who attended the concert, recalled the terrifying scene of gunmen gunning down victims in silence. Vitaly, another witness, observed the attackers throwing petrol bombs before chaos ensued.

Outside the hall, smoke billowed into the sky as flames engulfed the roof and facade. Reports indicated explosions that shattered glass on the building’s upper floors. Special forces units swiftly responded, storming the venue as medical personnel and numerous ambulances rushed to the scene. Helicopters circled overhead, aiding efforts to extinguish the fire.

The Russian Investigative Committee confirmed that the attackers used flammable liquid to ignite portions of the concert hall. They attributed the victims’ deaths to gunshot wounds and poisoning from smoke inhalation. On Saturday, a makeshift memorial emerged outside the venue, where mourners lit candles and laid flowers. Across Moscow and other cities, electronic billboards displayed a single burning candle alongside the word “Skorbim” – “we mourn.”

Manhunt Underway for Squatters Suspected in Gruesome Manhattan Murder

Authorities are currently in pursuit of two individuals believed to be involved in the brutal murder of a 52-year-old woman whose body was discovered concealed in a duffel bag within her deceased mother’s luxurious Manhattan residence last week, as stated by law enforcement officials on Thursday.

The victim, identified as Nadia Vitel, reportedly encountered the assailants while she was preparing her late mother’s 19th-floor apartment on East 31st Street for the occupancy of a family friend upon her recent arrival from Spain. According to police, Vitel was subjected to a vicious assault by the perpetrators upon discovering them unlawfully occupying the premises.

“We believe that some squatters took the apartment over and this woman came home … and walked in on the squatters that were there,” stated NYPD Chief of Detectives Joseph Kenny.

The suspects, whose identities have not been disclosed by the NYPD, were captured on surveillance footage fleeing the scene following the murder, absconding in the victim’s Lexus SUV. Their escape led them across state lines, culminating in a crash in Lower Paxton Township, Pennsylvania.

Despite the occurrence of the incident, authorities were not notified until the subsequent day, as Pennsylvania law enforcement officials did not promptly run the license plates to ascertain the vehicle’s connection to a homicide, explained Kenny.

The fugitives, who are still at large as of Thursday, reportedly attempted to procure a new vehicle for $1,000 from various local car dealerships subsequent to the collision.

These developments transpired subsequent to the grim discovery made by Vitel’s 19-year-old son, Michael Medvedev, who stumbled upon his mother’s lifeless body inside the apartment with the assistance of the building’s superintendent after being unable to contact her for 48 hours.

“As they’re getting ready to leave, the son opens up the closet door near the front door and discovers the duffel bag with a foot sticking out,” recounted Kenny.

The duration of time the perpetrators had been occupying the apartment prior to Vitel’s encounter with them remains unclear, as does the method by which they gained entry into the premises.

“The apartment itself is very unique in that there’s no front door to the apartment. You take an elevator up and then you key your way in. The elevator is actually your front door,” explained Kenny, emphasizing the upscale nature of the residence.

Although the identities of the two suspects have not been divulged by law enforcement, insider sources have previously described them as a man and woman in their twenties.

“As of right now, we have probable cause, we have two subjects, we have the Regional Fugitive Task Force actively hunting as we speak,” asserted Kenny, noting that one of the squatters has a prior arrest record.

Speculation Mounts as Aaron Taylor-Johnson Emerges as Frontrunner for Next James Bond

Speculation surrounding the next actor to portray the iconic character of James Bond is once again reaching a fever pitch, with reports suggesting that British actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson has been offered the role. The Sun has stated that the actor, known for his roles in films like Kick-Ass and various Marvel movies, has received a formal offer to step into the shoes of the famed 007 spy, a role previously inhabited by Daniel Craig. Craig’s departure from the franchise in 2021, after a tenure spanning five films over 16 years, has opened the door for a new face to grace the screen as Bond in the upcoming 26th installment following “No Time to Die.”

Although The BBC has approached Taylor-Johnson for confirmation, Eon Productions, the entity behind the Bond films, has declined to comment on the swirling speculation. However, an insider associated with the production informed BBC News that there’s “no truth in the rumours.” Speculation regarding the coveted role has been circulating for quite some time, and Taylor-Johnson himself acknowledged the buzz in an interview with Numero magazine, expressing his appreciation for the recognition, stating it was “charming and wonderful” that people envisioned him in the role of Bond. He embraced the notion as a compliment, further fueling anticipation.

Taylor-Johnson, aged 33, who notably portrayed John Lennon in the biopic “Nowhere Boy” in 2009, has emerged as a frontrunner according to bookmakers. His diverse acting portfolio includes acclaimed performances in films such as “Nocturnal Animals,” for which he garnered a Golden Globe in 2017, as well as “Anna Karenina,” “Godzilla,” and “Tenet.”

The anticipation over who will assume the mantle of 007 has led to a plethora of names being tossed into the ring over the past few years. Mark O’Connell, author of “Catching Bullets: Memoirs of a Bond Fan,” emphasized the multifaceted nature of the role, stressing that the ideal candidate must encompass qualities beyond mere on-screen charisma, serving as an ambassador for the franchise and British culture itself. O’Connell emphasized the necessity for the actor to possess global recognition and command attention on the grandest of scales.

Among the contenders, Henry Cavill, known for his roles in “Superman” and “Mission: Impossible,” stands out as a favorite. Cavill, who previously expressed his enthusiasm for the role, described the prospect as “very, very exciting” in an interview with GQ in 2020. Another contender, 32-year-old Damson Idris, gained prominence for his role in the US TV crime drama “Snowfall” and Netflix’s “Outside the Wire.” James Norton, recognized for his work in stage productions like “A Little Life” and films such as “Little Women,” also garners attention as a potential candidate. Norton, aged 38, has showcased his acting prowess in various gritty TV dramas, though he remains modest regarding speculation about his suitability for the role, deeming it “very flattering” yet speculative.

The pool of potential Bonds extends further, with names like Tom Hardy, Idris Elba, and Chris Evans also entering discussions. Elba, however, acknowledged concerns regarding his age, suggesting that at 51, he might be deemed “too old” for the role, particularly considering the longevity associated with portraying Bond. Producers, as history shows, may not always opt for the most high-profile actor, as evidenced by the selection of Daniel Craig, whose name initially wasn’t at the forefront following Pierce Brosnan’s departure from the franchise in 2002.

Speaking of Brosnan, the former Bond recently expressed his endorsement for fellow Irishman Cillian Murphy, citing him as a “magnificent” choice for the role. Brosnan had previously lauded Regé-Jean Page, of “Bridgerton” fame, as a “wonderful” potential Bond. As the speculation continues to swirl and discussions regarding the next 007 persist, the anticipation only intensifies, leaving fans eager to see who will ultimately assume the iconic mantle of James Bond.

Standing up for my belief system

In the quiet corners of Assam, where the lush greenery meets the vibrant culture of its people,lies a tale of dedication, faith, and unwavering commitment. It is a tale woven through the corridors of schools, where knowledge blossoms and futures take shape. And in this tale, I find myself as both witness and participant, a humble servant in the grand tapestry of education and enlightenment.

My journey has taken me through the hallowed halls of Dokmoka Krist Jyoti School, Assumption School Chokihola, Holy Family School Japrajan, and besides being an acting principal of Don Bosco School, Diphu, St.Joseph School Dolomora, Principal of St.Mary’s School Diphu,Principal of Little Flower School Manja, Principal of Kristu Jayanti School Dhansiri, Principal of St. Mary’s School Daldali and many others scattered across the landscape of Assam. As a teacher, as an acting principal-I have walked these paths with reverence and purpose, knowing thet each step I take is a step towards shaping young minds and nurturing the seeds of wisdom within them.

But beyond the titles and the roles, there lies a deeper truth that guodes me- the truth of my faith, the truth of my calling. As a Catholic priest, In wear my cassock not just as a uniform but as a symbol of my commitment to the priesthood of Jesus Christ, It is a mantle of responsibility, a reminder of thge sacred duty bestowed upon me to serve others with love, compassion, and humility.

In a world where divisiveness and discord seem to be on the rise, I am confronted with a choice – to stand idly by or to speak out, to conform to the status quo or to challenge it. And I choose the latter, not out of defiance, but out of a deep-rooted belief in the values that I hold dear. For I believe that true courage lies not in the absence of fear,but in the willingness to stand up for what is right, no matter the cost.

I have seen the status of famous figures that adorn our government buildings, parks, and memorials – figures who have shaped the destiny of our nation and left an indelible mark on history. And just as we honour and commemorate these individuals, so too do Christians honor and preserve the memory of the saints who have walked before us. They are beacons of light in a world shrouded in darkness, guiding us with their examples of faith, courage, and selflessness.

But amidst the noise and clamor of the world, I am reminded of the simple yet profound teachings of Jesus Christ – to love one another, to treat others as we would like to be treated, to uphold the dignity and worth of every human being. And so, I stand resolute in my commitment to these values, ready to defend them with every fiber of my being.
To my students, to their parents, to all who call Assam home – I urge you to embrace the sacredness of our constitution and the magnanimity of Christian works. For it is through these principles that we can build a society rooted in justice, equality, and compassion.

And as I reflect on the countless lives that have passed through the doors of our schools, I am filled with a sense of gratitude and humility. For it is in the faces of these young minds that I see the hope and promise of a brighter future – a future built on the foundation of humanity, decency, and mutual respect.

So let us rise above the divisions that threaten to tear us apart. Let us stand together as one community, United in our shared humanity and our common purpose. For only then can we truly safeguard the values that define us as a people, and only then can we fulfill the promise of a better tomorrow for generations to come.

Indian Data Journalist Dies in Tragic New York City Apartment Fire

A tragic fire at St. Nicholas Place in Harlem, New York, claimed the life of a 27-year-old Indian man, identified as Fazil Khan. The Indian Consulate in New York released a statement extending condolences and confirming their engagement with Khan’s family and friends. Their statement, as reported on X, expressed deep sorrow over Khan’s demise and assured continued support in repatriating his remains to India.

Fazil Khan, an alumnus of Columbia Journalism School, worked as a data journalist at The Hechinger Report, a media outlet in New York focusing on educational innovation and inequality. Khan had relocated to New York in 2020 to pursue his graduate studies at Columbia University, according to his LinkedIn profile.

The Hechinger Report also mourned Khan’s loss, describing him as a “great colleague and a wonderful person” in their statement following the tragic incident. They expressed profound sadness over his passing and extended sympathies to his family.

According to the Indian Express, the New York City Fire Department attributed the fire’s cause to a lithium-ion battery, terming it “devastating.” Firefighters responded to the scene at approximately 2:14 pm on Feb 23, finding several individuals on the fire escape and others hanging out of windows on the fifth floor. A total of 18 individuals were identified as patients, with four in critical condition. The incident remains under investigation.

The FDNY detailed the rescue efforts, indicating that three firefighters utilized a lifesaving rope to reach victims trapped on the fifth floor, successfully evacuating them. Among the 18 patients, 12 were transported for medical attention, with four in critical condition. Tragically, one individual succumbed to injuries at the hospital. The fire’s cause is still being investigated, as noted in the FDNY’s post on X.

Jury Awards E. Jean Carroll $83.3 Million in Defamation Suit Against Donald Trump

A jury rendered a substantial verdict of $83.3 million to E. Jean Carroll on Friday, serving as a resounding rebuke to former President Donald Trump for his persistent attacks against the veteran advice columnist on social media, stemming from her allegations of sexual assault against him in a Manhattan store.

This latest award, combined with a prior $5 million verdict for sexual assault and defamation last year from a separate jury in Carroll’s case, brings the total amount Trump owes her to $88.3 million. Trump, vehemently protesting the decision, declared his intention to appeal.

The 80-year-old Carroll, visibly moved, held her lawyers’ hands tightly and smiled upon hearing the verdict delivered by the anonymous jury comprised of seven men and two women. Following the decision, she shared an emotional embrace with her legal team.

While Carroll declined to comment upon leaving the Manhattan federal courthouse, she later released a statement through her publicist, celebrating the victory as not just her own but as a triumph for all women who refuse to be silenced in the face of adversity: “This is a great victory for every woman who stands up when she’s been knocked down, and a huge defeat for every bully who has tried to keep a woman down.”

Trump had attended the trial earlier in the day but stormed out during the closing arguments made by Carroll’s attorney. He returned for his attorney’s closing argument and part of the deliberations but departed the courthouse half an hour before the verdict was announced. Expressing his outrage shortly after the decision, he criticized the legal system, branding it as “out of control” and manipulated for political ends.

His lawyer, Alina Habba, attributed the verdict to strategic forum-shopping by Trump’s adversaries, stating, “It will not deter us. We will keep fighting. And, I assure you, we didn’t win today, but we will win.”

The trial’s conclusion coincides with Trump’s continued pursuit of the Republican presidential nomination for the third consecutive time. Throughout, he has sought to portray his legal battles and vulnerabilities as evidence of a biased political system, resonating with his steadfast supporters.

Despite Trump’s efforts to deflect attention from the verdict, his former rival in the Republican primaries, Nikki Haley, highlighted the financial implications of the decision, diverting focus from pressing national issues.

With the civil case brought by Carroll concluded, Trump still faces 91 criminal charges across four indictments, including allegations of attempting to overturn the 2020 presidential election, mishandling classified documents, and orchestrating hush payments to a porn star.

This marks the second time in less than a year that a civil jury has ruled on Carroll’s allegations stemming from a 1996 encounter with Trump at a Manhattan department store. In May, a jury awarded Carroll $5 million, finding Trump liable for sexual abuse and defamation, albeit not for rape. Trump is appealing that decision as well.

Trump’s legal challenges extend beyond the Carroll case; he awaits a verdict in a New York civil fraud trial, where state prosecutors seek the return of $370 million in alleged ill-gotten gains.

Regarding Trump’s financial capacity to meet the mounting legal obligations, he has claimed assets of approximately $294 million in cash or equivalents, as reported in his most recent financial statement.

Trump’s absence from the initial Carroll trial was followed by his insistence on testifying in the second trial, although the judge limited his testimony, citing missed opportunities to contest Carroll’s allegations. During his brief appearance on the witness stand, Trump denied assaulting Carroll, subsequently lamenting the proceedings, asserting, “this is not America.”

In this recent trial, the jury was tasked solely with determining the damages owed by Trump for two statements he made as president regarding Carroll’s allegations. They were not asked to reevaluate the veracity of the assault claim itself.

In her closing argument, Carroll’s attorney, Roberta Kaplan, sought substantial compensatory and punitive damages, urging the jury to penalize Trump sufficiently to deter future defamation. The jury awarded $18.3 million in compensatory damages and an additional $65 million in punitive damages, aimed at curbing Trump’s disparaging behavior.

Kaplan highlighted Trump’s vast wealth and the need to hold him accountable for his actions, emphasizing the significance of punitive damages in restoring Carroll’s reputation and protecting her from ongoing harassment.

Trump, visibly agitated during Kaplan’s address, abruptly left the courtroom, prompting a rebuke from the judge. Throughout the trial, Trump tested the judge’s patience, leading to warnings of expulsion for disruptive behavior.

Carroll testified to the detrimental impact of Trump’s statements on her life, citing death threats and the need for increased security measures. She emphasized her quest to restore her reputation tarnished by Trump’s allegations.

In contrast, Trump’s lawyer argued that Carroll had profited from her accusations and achieved the fame she desired, suggesting no damages were warranted.

Ultimately, the jury’s verdict stands as a significant legal blow to Trump, underscoring the consequences of his actions and the importance of accountability in matters of defamation and assault.

The makers of the unconventional superhero film ‘American Sikh’

(RNS) — Once the idea for Sikh Captain America — a turbaned, bearded version of the Marvel comic hero — was born, it took more than a year for him to appear on the streets of his native New York City.

The creation of Vishavjit Singh, a writer and illustrator in Harlem, and the photographer Fiona Aboud, who was working on a photo project, “Sikhs: An American Portrait,” the character is a social experiment about what it means to be American, and to be Sikh in America. Now, it is also a short animated film by Singh and Ryan Westra that recently premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.

The film tells the true story of Singh, 52, who, besides inventing Sikhtoons.com in the face of anti-Sikh bigotry after 9/11, is a performance artist and diversity speaker. After a lifetime of facing prejudice, self-doubt and violence, his animated self, as in life, finally finds acceptance in a superhero costume. He first drew Captain America in a turban and beard in 2011, but it took almost a year after Aboud discovered the character to convince Singh to step out as Sikh Captain America on the streets, where his mission is to tackle bias and intolerance, powered by his humor, turban, beard and storytelling prowess.

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Picture: Religion News

I had the opportunity to speak with Singh and Westra to discuss the what, why and how of “American Sikh.” This interview has been adapted for clarity and concision.

How did this film come together?

RW: In 2014, as my very last student project in film school, I happened to be assigned to do a live action documentary about Vishavjit’s work as Sikh Captain America. While shooting that project (“Red, White, and Beard”), I was so impressed by Vishavjit’s ability to inspire people to open up about their stereotypes and biases in a positive way. Yet as we wrapped the shoot, I watched a stranger on the street call Vishavjit “Osama bin Laden,” moments after changing out of his superhero costume.

It was a shocking juxtaposition to witness, and it made Vishavjit’s work even more impactful to me. Ever since then, I had been interested in working with Vishavjit again on a more in-depth and ambitious project. In 2019, I reached out with the idea of doing an animated short about his life and, more broadly, the struggles that the Sikh community has gone through.

What do you hope the film will accomplish?

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Picture: Religion

RW: In a recent interview, our incredible executive producer, Vikas Khanna, had a beautiful answer to this question. He said, “I believe that the answer to hate cannot be hate.” With the difficult times we are facing right now around the world, I think now, more than ever, is a perfect time for us to gain greater understanding, empathy and compassion for those around us.

VS: I’ve spent years traveling around the nation visiting schools, companies and government agencies to share my story and create a space for conversations about identity, bias, vulnerability and transformative power of art. I hope in amplifying this message via an animated film, we can encourage others to do the same with their story.

I hope this film opens doors for the most underrepresented and misrepresented stories to be shared across American media, cultural and entertainment landscape.

RW: Unfortunately, especially since 9/11, turbans and beards have been villainized and portrayed as un-American in the media. Sikh Captain America challenges those stereotypes in a lighthearted, creative and familiar way. Our hope is that this image sticks with people, and they are able to walk away with a greater empathy for all Americans who, as Vishavjit says, “look a little different.”

What’s been most gratifying so far now that audiences have seen the movie?

VS: Hearing feedback from people from varying backgrounds about connections they find with my story.

RW: It’s extremely exciting to be working with Vishavjit on such a historic project. Never has an American Sikh story reached this level of prominence. With so little representation in the media, it’s exciting that we have the privilege of introducing Vishavjit’s beautiful religion and work to so many for the first time.

How does this film depict Sikh characters differently than other media?

VS: Much of the Sikh media I’ve seen has been created by Sikhs for Sikhs. This film is meant for people who maybe have had little to no experience with Sikhs. It’s created with a national audience in mind and tells a story that is relatable to many Americans, not just Sikhs.

What were some of the biggest challenges to pulling this story together?

VS: With animation being extremely expensive, we had a lot of back and forth narrowing down the few key chapters of my life to tell the most compelling and concise story. There were 30 different cuts of the film that we user-tested on Ryan’s friends and family who knew nothing about me or Sikhism at all. This helped us pick the most impactful moments. But there are a few poignant moments and experiences that did not make it into the final version of the film that I typically include in my life story.

Did you ever doubt that animation was the right medium?

VS: We knew there are two major tragedies that are part of this story — the 1984 genocidal massacre of Sikhs in India, which I survived, and the post-9/11 hate/bias crime wave, which targeted many Sikhs, including me. One of the main reasons we chose animation was it allowed us to showcase these tragedies without overwhelming the viewer.

RW: We didn’t want the tone to focus too much on tragedy, but rather leave the audience feeling inspired and encouraged at the end.

Where do you go from here?

VS: The “American Sikh” has had an amazing journey on the film festival circuit. We always wanted this film to be accessible to American and global audiences. Ryan and I are also writing pitches for full-length films and series. We would love to tell a more comprehensive American story with a Sikh lead character.

RW: We are interested in working together again on a longer and more ambitious project featuring a Sikh lead character. We want to make Sikh characters a part of the bigger cultural landscape we see in all media — not just exclusively Sikh stories.

Microsoft’s Satya Nadella Crowned CNN Business CEO of the Year for Pioneering AI Revolution and Navigating Industry Challenges

In the epoch dominated by artificial intelligence, Microsoft emerged as a trailblazer, making substantial strides under the visionary leadership of CEO Satya Nadella. In a decisive move in 2023, Nadella orchestrated a multi-billion dollar investment in AI, swiftly integrating AI tools like ChatGPT into Microsoft’s product suite ahead of competitors. This strategic maneuver propelled the company back into the limelight as a tech innovator, marking a departure from its historical success anchored in Windows. Evidently, Wall Street took notice, with Microsoft’s stock witnessing an impressive 55% surge throughout the year.

Recognizing Nadella’s exceptional achievements, CNN Business bestowed upon him the prestigious title of CEO of the Year, outshining formidable contenders like Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, and Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang. Nadella, reflecting on the significance of AI in 2023, remarked, “We’re no longer just talking about innovation in the abstract; we’re seeing real product-making, deployment, and productivity gains.”

CNN Business, in its annual tradition of selecting an individual whose executive prowess stands out, acknowledged Nadella’s pivotal role in shaping the trajectory of AI, the most groundbreaking innovation from Silicon Valley in decades. Gil Luria, a senior research analyst at DA Davidson, lauded Nadella’s ability to steer Microsoft into the AI era, describing it as “nothing short of remarkable.”

Nadella’s journey is a testament to his transformative leadership. Born in India, he arrived in the United States in the late 1980s for a master’s in computer science at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, followed by an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. His ascent at Microsoft began in 1992, an era when the company faced regulatory scrutiny as a monopoly. Upon assuming the role of CEO almost a decade ago, Nadella inherited a company known for its sluggish response to major trends such as mobile technology. His 2017 book, “Hit Refresh,” detailed the internal overhaul he spearheaded, reworking teams and products to foster collaboration.

A pivotal moment in Nadella’s leadership unfolded with the company’s partnership with OpenAI in 2016. This collaboration allowed OpenAI to operate its technology on Microsoft’s Azure cloud servers, a synergy that culminated in a massive $13 billion investment in OpenAI. The subsequent launch of ChatGPT in November 2022 facilitated the integration of AI-powered versions of Microsoft’s flagship products, breathing new life into their software offerings. Nadella’s swift commercialization of these tools positioned Microsoft ahead of competitors like Google and Amazon, catalyzing an industry-wide arms race.

Despite Nadella’s overall successful year, a challenging episode tested his leadership skills. The sudden removal of OpenAI’s Altman, a key figure in the AI landscape, cast a shadow over Microsoft’s plans. Nadella, who learned about Altman’s ousting just before the public announcement, swiftly responded by offering Altman and co-founder Greg Brockman positions at Microsoft. This diplomatic move not only salvaged the situation but also enhanced Microsoft’s standing with a crucial partner.

Stuart Carlaw, Chief Research Officer at ABI Research, attributes Nadella’s success to his unwavering focus on people and outcomes. Carlaw notes, “His approach to the mechanics of leadership remains people-driven.” Takeshi Numoto, Microsoft’s Chief Marketing Officer, observed an internal culture shift, describing the company as feeling “fresh” and “energizing.” Nadella emphasized his commitment to empowering individuals and organizations as Microsoft continues to develop and deploy new products.

Looking ahead, Nadella envisions a future where AI-powered products empower 8 billion people worldwide. He sees possibilities like personalized tutors, medical guidance from virtual doctors, and mentors offering advice at a global scale. However, the challenge lies in making these AI-powered products profitable, a hurdle not unique to Nadella but shared by many in the tech industry.

As Nadella charts Microsoft’s course into 2024 and beyond, the spotlight remains on whether he can translate the promise of AI into sustainable financial success. In the words of Stuart Carlaw, “You are only as good as your last results release,” acknowledging the ongoing challenge faced by leaders navigating the rapidly evolving landscape of artificial intelligence.

Sikh International Film Festival 2023: A Cinematic Journey of Sikh Heritage and Diversity Captivates New York City Audience

New York, NY – December 16, 2023: In the bustling heart of the city that never sleeps, the Sikh International Film Festival 2023 unfurled a spellbinding tale of Sikh heritage and cultural diversity at the prestigious Rubin Museum on December 16th. This year’s festival treated the audience to an enchanting journey through impactful stories, with standout films like

“Baywatana: Without a Country’, directed by high school students from Boston”, explored the plight of Sikhs and Hindus in Taliban-era Afghanistan.

“American Sikh”, is a true story of Indian American Sikh who was trying to assimilate with the Americans. The Oscar qualified animated short film is a story of American Sikh Hero Vishvajit Singh and Produced by Guneet Monga Kapoor – Oscar-winning producer (The Elephant Whisperers) and Michelin-starred chef-filmmaker Vikas Khanna and directed and illustrated by American Sikh Hero Vishavjit Singh and Ryan Westra.  Vikas Khanna said, “One of the highlights of screening ‘American Sikh’ at Sikh International Film Festival was engaging the little ones and the youth who could see themselves reflected in our film. Their dreams and hopes keep me inspired.”

“Colonel Kalsi: Beyond the Call”: is another true story of a Sikh young Kamal Kalsi who fought to serve in the US Army with his turban and beard. The film explores themes of diversity, sacrifice, faith, identity and resilience. Colonel Kalsi expressed, “Serving in the Army with my unique camo turban and beard was a profound experience of celebrating my Sikh identity while embodying the spirit of American patriotism…”

As the curtains closed on these impactful narratives, the festival featured over 10 films, covering a diverse range of topics from current affairs to historical perspectives. Teji Bindra (Founder and President of Sikh Art & Film Foundation), Mandeep Sobti (Senior VP and Chair of Finance), Dr Paul Johar (Chair SAFF – Film Festival), Harmeet Bharara ( Former Chair FF and Gala), Hansdip Bindra ( Head of PR and Marketing), expressed their satisfaction with the films that captivated a packed auditorium at the Rubin Museum in Manhattan.

Teji Bindra emphasized, “Sikh Art & Film Foundation has been at the forefront in bringing better awareness of Sikhs through films and arts for the past 17 years. We are pleased with the fantastic movies showcased this year.”

Dr. Paul Johar added, “This year’s Sikh International Film Festival showcased a powerful lineup addressing contemporary Sikh Diaspora issues, delved into the challenges faced by the community. “Amardeep Singh’s documentary, “Oneness in Diversity: Elixir of Guru Nanak and the Indic Saints,” intertwined memories of Saints and Sufi mystics, emphasizing the essential theme of oneness and diversity. The festival, with its captivating stories and impactful quotes from filmmakers, not only celebrated Sikh culture but also provided a dynamic platform for filmmakers to showcase their artistry.

The Sikh International Film Festival, originating in 2004, has been a cultural beacon, fostering awareness of Sikh culture through films and arts. As the curtains closed on this year’s festival, the organizers expressed gratitude to viewers for their unwavering support, marking a significant chapter in the festival’s journey. The success of SIFF 2023 promises an even brighter future, continuing to celebrate Sikh heritage and diversity through the captivating lens of cinema.

Website: http://sikharts.com/film-festival.html

For further information or media inquiries, please contact:

Contact: Neeta Bhasin | Phone: 516-343-0181

Email: [email protected]

Republicans Form Congressional Hindu Caucus

House Republican Conference Chair, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik officially launched the Congressional Hindu Caucus (CHC), in the presence of fellow Republican lawmakers and 600 Hindu American Leaders from around the country, on November 15, 2023, at The Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill.

The event hosted by the Republican Hindu Coalition (RHC) and its Chairman and CHC’s Policy Advisor, Shalabh “Shalli” Kumar, also celebrated Diwali along with CHC’s Co-Chairs Elise Stefanik and Pete Sessions, along with lawmakers and community members.

“And for each of you here from the Republican Hindu Caucus, your core values of free enterprise, fiscal discipline, family values, and a firm foreign policy not only guide the Hindu American community, but our central tenets shared and fought by House Republicans and Republicans across America,” noted Stefanik while adding “That is why, today, I am so excited to announce the official launch of the Congressional Hindu Caucus in the United States Congress with my good friend and Co-Chair Pete Sessions.”

Stefanik said, “As we conclude Diwali festivities, we have the joyous reminder of the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. This guidance must remain at the core of our mission each and every day as we tackle the very great challenges in front of us,” and reminded everyone of the ongoing battle between Israel and Hamas.

Commending the role of Hindu Americans for their support to Israeli and Jewish friends, she said both India and the United States form a “unified force to counter terrorism.” “Countering communist China’s malign influence, collaborating on technological development and security cooperation, and supporting a free and open Indo-Pacific must remain top priorities,” added Stefanik while talking about US-India jointly tackling China. “To do so, we will continue to pursue policies that encourage and enhance trade between the United States and India, decrease India’s reliance on Russian and Chinese made defense equipment and increase collaboration and joint quad and bilateral military exercises.”

Republicans Form Congressional Hindu Caucus

She urged that the “United States and India can continue to pursue a strong foreign policy [stance] to combat aggression, discourage authoritarian regimes and contain territorial expansions,” adding House Republicans and CHC should join forces with millions of Hindu Americans nationwide and lawmakers on Capitol Hill. It is also vital to fortify connections and further amplify the considerable achievements established by Shalli, RHC, President Trump, and Prime Minister Modi, she added.

Stefanik also recalled that President Trump was the first Presidential candidate to acknowledge the noteworthy achievements of Hindu Americans during a 2016 rally in New Jersey. She noted that during the rally Trump said in Hindi “Ab Ki Baar Trump Sarkar” which went viral with 1.2 billion views around the world. She went on to say “Ab Ki Baar Republican Sarkar,” on behalf of the House Republicans.

Commending second-generation Hindu Americans for their “significant impact on American society, business, culture, and American history,” she continued “From all over the world your unique experiences have shaped and influenced our country, continuing the time-honored tradition of American exceptionalism and the American dream.”

CHC’s Co-chair, Congressman Pete Sessions, said, “The things that the Republican Party teaches today are the same things that Ronald Reagan taught also… that we will stand with our allies. And America will stand with its allies like we’re doing not just with India, but also with Israel.

Praising the work of Hindu Americans, Sessions said “Shalli Kumar, Elise Stefanik, and I will be taking our message around the United States. And we intend to take not only our candidates, but we intend to take our members, some 150, who represent people [from] all over this country and include Hindu Americans in that political relationship to reshape our world and our country,” while asking the help of Hindu Americans to share and spread the message.

Kumar emphasized, “This will be one of the largest caucuses in the US Congress that would be actively engaged in enacting legislation and passing resolutions important to the Hindu American community,” while highlighting the “impressive educational and professional achievements of the Hindu American community,” said a press statement from RHC.

Notably, Congressman Shri Thanedar also launched a Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, and Jain American Congressional Caucus on September 29, 2023. “We should really fight against hatred in the world. We should fight against bigotry, and we need to unite and lift people. We need to foster understanding, promote inclusion, and take affirmative policy actions” Thanedar said after launching the Caucus.

A congressional caucus is a group of members of the United States Congress that meet to pursue common legislative objectives. Shalabh “Shalli” Kumar, an Indian-American is the founder of the Republican Hindu Coalition. Shalabh Kumar said more than 150 members of the US House of Representatives have committed to becoming members of the Congressional Hindu Caucus.

This would make it one of the largest caucuses in the US Congress that would be actively engaged in enacting legislation and passing resolutions important to the Hindu American community, Kumar added.

GOPIO Joins with Stamford Muticultural Council and the Public Library to Celebrate Diwali

Diwali, the Indian Festival of Lights, was celebrated by the Connecticut chapter of GOPIO (Global Organization of People of Indian Origin) in partnership with the Ferguson library and the Stamford Mayor’s Multicultural Council (MMC) with traditional music, dance, Mehendi, Indian snacks and a rangoli exhibition.

GOPIO Joins with Stamford Muticultural Council and the Public Library to Celebrate Diwali 3The highly successful Diwali program for the 3rd year in a row, was presented with 75 artists to a houseful crowd on November 19th at the Ferguson Library in Stamford, Connecticut. The GOPIO chapter has been promoting the soft power of India and the indian Diaspora to the larger society since 2006.

Diwali, which is a major festival in the Indian sub-continent, celebrates the victory of good over evil, light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance. It is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains all over the world. Diwali is now a public holiday in many US towns and cities including New York. Last week New York State Governor Kathy Hochul declared Diwali as a holiday in the state.

At the Connecticut program, performances by local dance schools showcased the diversity of India with classical, fusion, folk as well as Bollywood dances. Indian delicaciesserved after the event were enjoyed by all.

Mahesh Jhangiani, Executive Vice President of the GOPIO-Connecticut chapter told the audience  that as aGOPIO Joins with Stamford Muticultural Council and the Public Library to Celebrate Diwali registered 501(c)3 non-profit, GOPIO serves as a non-partisan, secular, civic and community service organization – promoting awareness of Indian culture, customs and contributions of people of Indian origin through community programs, forums, events and youth activities.  “We seek to strengthen partnerships and create an ongoing dialogue with local communities,” said Jhangiani.

Prachi Narayan, Vice-President of GOPIO-CT introduced the Stamford Mayor’s multicultural council team; Chair Eva Weller, Secretary Ana Gallegos and Members Sandra and Sonal, as well as Yelena Clompus, who is also the Cultural Programs Manager at Stamford’s Ferguson Library, who coordinated the program from the library. The rest of the GOPIO-CT team Anita and Ambrish Mathur, Sonali Zullurwar, Ashvini Persaud, Prasad Chintalapudi, Manish Maheshwari and Yashasvi Jhangiani were present helping run the event smoothly. The cultural program was put together by Mrs Jhangiani.

The event was a culmination of the flawless team work between three organizations. Everyone came together to spend the afternoon immersed in the culture, heritage and colors of the Diwali, the festival of lights.

The Macallan 1926 Single Malt Breaks Auction Records, Fetching $2.7 Million

In a historic moment for the world of spirits, a rare bottle of The Macallan 1926 single malt whisky has shattered records, fetching an astounding $2.7 million (£2.1 million) at a recent Sotheby’s auction. This sale not only establishes a new benchmark for the most expensive wine or spirit ever sold at auction but also highlights the unparalleled allure of this sought-after Scotch whisky.

Sotheby’s, the renowned auction house, orchestrated the sale on a Saturday, with the Macallan 1926 single malt exceeding its estimated price, selling for more than double the initial valuation. Jonny Fowle, the head of whisky at Sotheby’s, provided a tantalizing preview of the prized bottle, revealing, “It’s very rich, it’s got a lot of dried fruit as you would expect, a lot of spice, a lot of wood,” according to statements made to the AFP news agency.

This particular Macallan 1926 single malt spent an impressive 60 years maturing in dark oak sherry casks before being bottled in 1986, adding to its mystique and rarity. Only 40 bottles were produced, and these were reportedly not made available for public purchase. Instead, select bottles were offered exclusively to The Macallan’s top clients. Over the years, whenever these elusive bottles have surfaced at auctions, they have consistently generated extraordinary results. In a comparable instance in 2019, a similar bottle commanded an impressive £1.5 million.

Expressing the significance of The Macallan 1926, Mr. Fowle emphasized, “It is the one whisky that every auctioneer wants to sell and every collector wants to own,” underscoring its iconic status in the world of rare spirits.

Sotheby’s provided additional insights into the distinctive labeling of the 40 bottles from the 1926 cask. The bottles were marked in various ways, with two lacking any labels, up to 14 adorned with the iconic Fine and Rare labels, and 12 receiving labels designed by renowned pop artist Sir Peter Blake. Another set of 12 bottles, including the record-breaking one sold recently, featured labels crafted by Italian painter Valerio Adami.

The Adami-designed bottles, known as The Macallan Adami 1926, hold particular intrigue. The article notes that it remains uncertain how many of these 12 bottles still exist today. One was reportedly lost in a devastating earthquake in Japan in 2011, and there are indications that at least one more has been opened and enjoyed, adding an element of mystery to the limited availability of this prized whisky.

The sale of The Macallan 1926 single malt at a staggering $2.7 million not only sets a new record for the most expensive wine or spirit sold at auction but also underscores the enduring fascination and desirability of this exceptional Scotch whisky. With its rich history, unique maturation process, and limited availability, each bottle of The Macallan 1926 represents a rare and coveted piece of spirits history.

Gender Disparities in U.S. Life Expectancy: A Deep Dive into the Latest Research

Recent research published on November 13 in JAMA Internal Medicine reveals a concerning trend in U.S. life expectancy, highlighting a growing gender disparity. As of 2021, women in the United States are projected to outlive men by approximately six years, according to the study. This revelation comes amid a broader decline in overall life expectancy, which currently hovers around 76 years. The study sheds light on the contributing factors and emphasizes the need for targeted interventions to address the root causes behind this growing divide.

Gender-Based Life Expectancy Gap:

The gender-based life expectancy gap in the U.S. has reached its widest point since 1996, with women surpassing men in longevity. In 2021, U.S. men had a life expectancy of 73.5 years, in contrast to 79.3 years for women. Historically, women have tended to live longer than men, influenced by both biological and behavioral factors. Hormonal differences and healthier lifestyle choices, such as more frequent doctor visits and lower rates of smoking and excessive drinking among women, have contributed to this trend.

Pre-existing Trend and Acceleration:

The widening gender gap did not emerge solely in response to the COVID-19 pandemic; rather, it began before the pandemic and accelerated from 2019 to 2021. The authors of the study highlight that deaths from COVID-19 and unintentional injuries, including accidental drug overdoses, were the primary drivers behind this acceleration. However, differential rates of homicide, heart disease, and suicides also played a role in this disturbing trend.

Causes of Widening Gap:

The report identifies specific causes contributing to the widening gender-based life expectancy gap. Notably, deaths from COVID-19 and unintentional injuries, categorized to include drug overdoses, were major contributors. Men were disproportionately affected by these causes, as established by existing data that highlights higher mortality rates among men compared to women. In 2021, heart disease, COVID-19, and unintentional injuries ranked among the top five causes of death, underscoring the gravity of the situation.

The Role of Behavioral and Biological Factors:

While the study emphasizes the impact of external factors such as the pandemic and unintentional injuries, it also underscores the enduring influence of behavioral and biological differences. Men’s higher susceptibility to deaths from homicide, heart disease, and suicide compared to women contributes significantly to the widening gender gap. Recognizing and addressing these factors is crucial for developing effective strategies to mitigate the disparities.

Factors Mitigating the Gender Gap:

The authors acknowledge that certain factors helped mitigate the gender gap, preventing it from widening even further. Increases in maternal mortality and decreases in cancer deaths among men had a balancing effect. These findings highlight the complexity of the forces at play and underscore the need for a nuanced understanding of the multiple factors influencing life expectancy.

Implications for Public Health:

The research underscores the ongoing importance of addressing the impact of COVID-19 on life expectancy. Limiting the spread of the virus remains a critical priority. Additionally, the study emphasizes the need for comprehensive strategies to improve national mental health and prevent drug overdoses and suicides, often labeled as “deaths of despair” by experts. These interventions are crucial for addressing the root causes of the widening gender-based life expectancy gap.

The latest research on U.S. life expectancy reveals a disconcerting trend, with women projected to live significantly longer than men. While external factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic and unintentional injuries contribute to this widening gap, behavioral and biological differences also play a crucial role. Understanding the multifaceted nature of these influences is essential for developing targeted interventions to address the root causes and promote a more equitable and healthier society. As the findings highlight, a comprehensive approach that addresses both pandemic-related challenges and longstanding health disparities is imperative for improving overall life expectancy and well-being in the United States.

FDA Proposes Banning Brominated Vegetable Oil from US Food Products

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has put forward a proposal to discontinue the use of brominated vegetable oil (BVO) as an additive in food products across the nation. This move is in response to concerns about its safety and follows California’s recent ban on BVO, making it the first state in the US to do so. It’s worth noting that BVO is already prohibited in Europe and Japan.

James Jones, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for human foods, stated, “The agency concluded that the intended use of BVO in food is no longer considered safe after the results of studies conducted in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health … found the potential for adverse health effects in humans.”

Brominated vegetable oil is a substance created by modifying vegetable oil with bromine, a pungent, deep red chemical. It is typically used as an emulsifier in citrus-flavored beverages to prevent the separation of flavoring. Bromine is also commonly found in flame retardants.

While BVO is still used in some products, especially in sodas, the number of items containing this additive has decreased over the years due to previous restrictions by the FDA. In the 1970s, the FDA reevaluated BVO and determined that it was no longer “Generally Recognized as Safe,” leading to increased regulation of its use.

Furthermore, market pressure and consumer awareness played a significant role in companies voluntarily removing BVO from their products. A petition in 2012 with over 200,000 signatures highlighted the health concerns associated with this ingredient.

Health Risks Associated with Brominated Vegetable Oil

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit organization focused on consumer health and environmental issues, has identified several health risks linked to BVO. These include damage to the nervous system, headaches, irritation of the skin and mucous membranes, fatigue, loss of muscle coordination, and memory problems. BVO can also accumulate in the body over time.

While the studies that prompted the FDA’s decision were conducted on animals, they revealed negative health effects at levels that closely approximate real-world human exposure. One of the observed harms includes toxic effects on the thyroid gland, which is responsible for producing hormones critical for regulating blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature, and metabolism.

The proposal by the FDA to ban BVO is currently open for public comment until January 17, 2024, and it will undergo a review process before a final decision is made. In the meantime, consumers who wish to avoid BVO in their food products are advised to carefully check ingredient lists before making purchases.

Scott Faber, the senior vice president for government affairs at the EWG, expressed his support for the FDA’s move, stating, “Today’s announcement will ensure everyone has access to products that don’t contain BVO.” James Jones of the FDA emphasized that this proposed ban is a result of the agency’s commitment to monitoring emerging evidence and taking regulatory action when safety concerns arise.

Gun Violence in the United States: A Deeply Divisive Issue

Israel’s leadership has issued strong statements regarding their intentions in the conflict with Hamas in Gaza. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared, “Every Hamas member is a dead man,” in response to a brutal attack by the militant group that left over 1,400 people dead. The Israeli government aims to dismantle Hamas’s “terror machine” and political structure. The military operation, known as Operation Swords of Iron, is expected to be more ambitious and lengthy than previous engagements in Gaza.

The operation’s goals, however, raise questions about their feasibility and the potential risks involved. To fully dismantle Hamas, a group rooted in extremist Islamic ideology and part of the Muslim Brotherhood, is seen as highly complex. Amir Bar Shalom, a military analyst, suggests that the more realistic objective may be weakening Hamas to limit its operational capabilities.

Hamas is not just a military organization; it also has a significant social welfare infrastructure with tens of thousands of members. Destroying Hamas entirely would mean uprooting an ideological idea that has influenced Islamist movements globally. The primary aim for Israel is to disable Hamas’s military capacity, preventing it from threatening or harming Israeli civilians.

The ground invasion poses numerous challenges and risks. Hamas’s armed wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, is prepared for Israeli offensive actions with explosive devices, ambush plans, and a network of tunnels for attacks. Previous conflicts in Gaza have resulted in heavy losses for Israeli infantry battalions and civilian casualties.

The Israeli government has demanded the evacuation of the northern half of the Gaza Strip as a precaution. International pressure for a ceasefire is growing as the conflict continues, leading to a rising death toll, shortages of essential resources, and UN warnings of a potential humanitarian catastrophe.

Yossi Melman, a prominent security and intelligence journalist, notes that Israel currently believes it has international support but acknowledges that this might change if the situation deteriorates. He suggests that Israel’s allies might intervene if the conflict leads to mass starvation or an extended occupation of Gaza.

The operation’s complexity is heightened by the presence of hostages, including both Israelis and foreign citizens. The release of these hostages is a matter of concern for several governments, including the US, France, and the UK. The Israeli government faces the difficult choice of prioritizing hostage safety or causing as much harm as possible to Hamas.

The pressure on Israel’s leaders is mounting as families of hostages make emotional appeals. It’s worth noting that a previous prisoner exchange in 2011 led to the release of Yahya Sinwar, who has since become Hamas’s political leader in Gaza. This experience might influence Israel’s decisions regarding future prisoner releases.

The duration and outcome of a ground offensive in Gaza are closely watched not only by Israel but also by its neighbors. Egypt, in particular, is under pressure due to the humanitarian crisis at the Rafah border crossing with Gaza, where limited aid is entering while foreign nationals and Palestinians with foreign passports seek to leave.

Ofir Winter from Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies points out that as Gazans suffer from the Israeli military campaign, Egypt is compelled to appear supportive of Palestinians. However, this doesn’t translate into Egypt allowing a mass influx of Gazans into northern Sinai. President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has warned against such a move, as it could trigger massive protests in Egypt.

Jordan’s King Abdullah has also drawn a “red line” concerning any attempt to push Palestinian refugees out of Gaza, asserting that there would be no acceptance of refugees in Jordan or Egypt.

On Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, there have been cross-border attacks involving Hezbollah, an Islamist militant group. Communities on both sides have been evacuated, but it hasn’t escalated into a new front against Israel.

Iran, Hezbollah’s primary sponsor, is threatening to open “new fronts” against Israel, prompting a warning from US President Joe Biden against exploiting the situation.

The US has deployed two aircraft carriers, the USS Gerald Ford and USS Eisenhower, to the eastern Mediterranean, and placed 2,000 troops on alert to respond to unfolding events.

The question of Israel’s endgame for Gaza looms if Hamas were significantly weakened. Israel withdrew its army and settlers from Gaza in 2005, and it has no intention of returning as an occupying force. President Joe Biden emphasizes that this would be a mistake.

However, a power vacuum in Gaza could pose serious risks. Shifting power could potentially pave the way for the gradual return of the Palestinian Authority (PA), which was ousted from Gaza by Hamas in 2007. While the PA currently controls parts of the West Bank, its presence is weak there, and persuading it to return to Gaza would be highly complicated.

The international community might provide an interim solution, similar to when the UN administered Kosovo after Serbian forces withdrew in 1999. However, the UN faces significant mistrust in Israel.

Another option is to establish an administration in Gaza, managed by mayors, tribes, clans, and non-governmental organizations, with the involvement of Egypt, the US, the PA, and other Arab states.

Egypt’s president has shown little interest in controlling Gaza but has emphasized that if a “demilitarized Palestinian state had been created long ago in negotiations, there would not be a war now.”

Rebuilding Gaza’s devastated infrastructure will be a pressing issue. Israel will likely seek tighter restrictions on “dual-use goods” entering Gaza, items with both military and civilian purposes. There are also calls for an expanded buffer zone along the Gaza fence to enhance the protection of Israeli communities.

Regardless of the war’s outcome, Israel will be determined to prevent a similar attack in the future.

Jaishankar Emphasizes India’s Consistent Stance on Terrorism and Sound International Judgments

India’s External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar, emphasized the importance of India maintaining a consistent stance on terrorism, regardless of where it occurs. He made these remarks in the context of India’s recent abstention from a UN resolution related to the Israel-Hamas conflict. Jaishankar highlighted the need for India to uphold its credibility in addressing terrorism, considering its status as a victim of such acts.

During the UN vote, India supported Canada’s proposal to amend the resolution by including language condemning Hamas. However, since this amendment was not adopted, India chose to abstain from voting. Yojana Patel, Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, underscored the global nature of terrorism, emphasizing that it transcends borders, nations, and races. She called for a unified, zero-tolerance approach to terrorism, regardless of differences.

Speaking at an event in Bhopal, Jaishankar elaborated on India’s foreign policy stances. He drew parallels between the importance of good governance domestically and making sound judgments on international matters. Jaishankar cited the example of India’s stance on purchasing oil from Russia. Despite international pressure, India stood firm on its decision, which ultimately protected its citizens from the adverse effects of higher oil prices and inflation.

Jaishankar pointed out that some European countries, which had advised against buying Russian oil, themselves continued to do so to shield their populations from negative consequences. He acknowledged that India faces pressure from the international community but emphasized that a strong and good government should prioritize the welfare of its people.

Jaishankar emphasized the need for India to maintain a consistent stance on terrorism, irrespective of where it occurs, to safeguard its credibility. He also highlighted the importance of making sound decisions on international matters, citing the example of India’s oil purchases from Russia and the government’s responsibility to protect its citizens’ interests.

A Fresh Face at the Helm: New House Speaker’s Vision for America

Mike Johnson, the freshly minted House speaker, is undergoing a swift transformation from relative anonymity to the highest-ranking elected Republican in the nation. In a candid conversation with Sean Hannity on Fox News, Johnson offered insights into his perspective, deeply rooted in the Bible, addressing concerns regarding his past opposition to LGBTQ rights, keeping his stance against abortion rights vague, and expressing his intention to tighten House rules to protect his position.

Despite these issues, Johnson’s immediate priority is negotiation with the White House on funding bills, with a clear message that Republican support comes with conditions.

Financial Wrangling: A Potential Shutdown and Ukraine Aid

Johnson emphasized his stance on budget cuts when it comes to funding the government, making it clear that he will insist on reductions when government funding lapses in less than three weeks. Given the current state of short-term funding bills, Johnson did not rule out the possibility of another stopgap measure when funding expires on November 17. Although he did not endorse a specific plan, Johnson and Hannity discussed a Republican proposal for an 8% cut in government spending, a measure unlikely to gain White House or Senate approval.

Johnson’s commitment to Ukraine’s support was evident, as he advocated for more funding to help Ukraine resist Russian aggression. However, he outlined 12 specific demands that Republicans would like to see met to ensure the effective use of these funds. The extent of aid that Republicans are willing to provide remains uncertain, considering the White House’s request for over $60 billion.

Furthermore, Johnson stressed that Republicans will not simply pass a bill providing additional funding to Ukraine and Israel without a catch. They will insist on separating these two issues and will demand budget cuts elsewhere in exchange for the $14.3 billion earmarked for Israel.

Congressional Oversight of Military Action: A Potential Shift

In a possible shift from the past, Johnson suggested that Republicans might attempt to restrict President Joe Biden’s authority to deploy U.S. military forces in the Middle East. Historically, every president since George W. Bush has relied on executive power to deploy troops for counterterrorism efforts. Johnson indicated that if U.S. troops were needed to rescue American hostages in Israel, Congress should have a say in the decision, emphasizing the limited authority of the executive branch without congressional consent.

Blaming the Human Heart, Not Guns

Regarding mass shootings and gun control, Johnson dismissed the idea that guns are responsible for these tragic events, arguing that the root cause lies in the human heart. He compared regulating guns to regulating vehicles, as both could potentially be used for harm. While he mentioned that he would consider legislation related to mental health, he didn’t go into specifics.

Respect for Biden Amid Criticism of His Leadership

Despite criticism of President Biden’s leadership, Johnson expressed respect for Biden’s position as the head of the nation. He acknowledged that while he might disagree with some of Biden’s policies, the presidency deserves respect. However, he agreed with Hannity that Biden’s mental acuity has declined in recent years, a point frequently raised by Republicans to question Biden’s leadership.

Core Principles of Conservatism: Guiding Johnson’s Approach

Johnson laid out a set of core principles he follows in both his speech to fellow lawmakers and his interview with Hannity. These principles, which he defines as “core principles of American conservatism,” include individual freedom, limited government, the rule of law, peace through strength, fiscal responsibility, free markets, and human dignity. Johnson intends to use these principles to counter the push towards what he sees as European-style socialism and to convince Democrats of his perspective.

A Worldview Rooted in the Bible

During his conversation with Hannity, Johnson addressed past writings and positions on LGBTQ rights that seem out of step with current societal norms. He clarified that many of his previous positions were based on religious freedom and emphasized his commitment to following the rule of law and treating all individuals with respect. He defended his beliefs and mentioned that his worldview is deeply rooted in the Bible.

Culture War Issues Take a Back Seat

While Johnson has not ruled out pushing for legislation related to gender or abortion rights, he asserted that there are more pressing issues to address, such as Israel, Ukraine, China, Iran, the economy, the border, and the fentanyl epidemic. Johnson considers these matters to be of higher priority, dismissing others as politically motivated attacks.

A Call for Opportunity and Collaboration

Johnson urged Democrats to give him a chance and expressed the hope that they would work together to address the nation’s challenges. Democrats will need to cooperate with him to pass legislation, making collaboration essential.

In his swift rise to prominence, Mike Johnson brings a unique blend of conservative values, religious conviction, and a focus on key national issues. His vision for America and his leadership style will undoubtedly be put to the test as he navigates the complex and often contentious world of politics in the United States.

Pope’s Vatican Summit Concludes: No Decision on Women Deacons, LGBTQ Catholics Not Mentioned

Pope Francis’ significant summit addressing the future of the Catholic Church concluded on October 28, but it deferred a decision on the potential ordination of women as deacons and did not openly acknowledge the profound tensions that arose during a month of discussions regarding the Church’s approach to LGBTQ members.

A comprehensive 41-page report, ratified and unveiled that evening, recommended that the findings from prior papal and theological commissions on women’s ordination as deacons should be presented for further evaluation at the forthcoming Synod of Bishops, scheduled for October 2024. The report, titled “A synodal church in mission,” came after an intense month of deliberations at the Vatican among approximately 450 participants, focusing on significant issues, including the involvement of women in church ministries, clerical sexual abuse, and improved inclusivity for LGBTQ Catholics.

In contrast to previous documents leading up to this closely-watched assembly, the synthesis report adopts a much more cautious tone. Although it proposes 81 ideas, they often remain quite open-ended or general, and the text calls for further theological or canonical exploration, evaluation, or deliberation on numerous occasions.

Pope Francis officially launched his “synod on synodality” in 2021, a multiyear, multi-phase process aimed at exploring how the Church’s ministries and structures can become more inclusive. The newly released report outlines areas of agreement, topics for consideration, and ideas discussed during this month’s assembly, expected to set the stage for ongoing debates in the year leading up to next year’s assembly.

The participants voted on each paragraph of the final text through the early evening of October 28, requiring a two-thirds majority of the voting members for passage. The paragraphs primarily concerning the possibility of women becoming deacons faced substantial opposition. One was approved by a vote of 277-69, while the other received approval with a vote of 279-67. A paragraph addressing clerical celibacy also faced significant opposition but was passed with a vote of 291-55.

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, one of the leading organizers of the synod, expressed his amazement that many people had voted in favor of the paragraphs discussing women’s leadership in the Church, suggesting that resistance might not be as significant as previously thought.

Regarding LGBTQ Catholics, Cardinal Mario Grech, who heads the Vatican’s synod office, emphasized the need to “respect everyone’s pace” and clarified that having a stronger voice does not guarantee success.

Jesuit Fr. James Martin, a popular spiritual author and editor of the LGBTQ Catholic publication Outreach, who participated in the synod as a voting member, expressed disappointment but not surprise regarding the outcome for LGBTQ Catholics. He wished that some of the open and candid discussions had been included in the final synthesis.

For the first time in the history of the Synod of Bishops, about 50 women were granted voting rights by Pope Francis at this assembly. While the final report they contributed to did not immediately call for the ordination of women as deacons or even mention the ordination of women as priests, it contained explicit language about the role of women in church leadership.

The text acknowledged that women in the assembly spoke of a Church harmed by clericalism, a chauvinistic mentality, and inappropriate expressions of authority. The assembly also made a “clear request” for the recognition and appreciation of women’s contributions and an increase in their pastoral leadership.

The report also asked how the Church can incorporate more women into existing ministries and raised the question of discerning new ministries and the process for doing so.

On the topic of ordaining women as deacons, the report took a balanced approach, acknowledging that some found it “unacceptable” due to a perceived break with tradition, while others viewed it as a way to respond to the signs of the times and revitalize the Church. Pope Francis had previously formed two special commissions to examine the historical aspects of ordaining women as deacons, although the results of these commissions have not been made public.

The report emphasizes the need to continue theological and pastoral research on women’s access to the diaconate, drawing on the results of the special commissions established by Pope Francis. It suggests that the outcomes of this research should be presented at the next session of the assembly.

The report also underscores the necessity for addressing employment injustices and unfair compensation for women in the Church, particularly those in consecrated life, who are often treated as inexpensive labor. Additionally, it proposes a review of liturgical texts and church documents to ensure gender-inclusive language and narratives that reflect women’s experiences.

The synod brought to the forefront emotional discussions on the Church’s response to LGBTQ Catholics, including the tragic testimonial of a bisexual woman who took her own life after feeling rejected by the Church. However, the final report mostly glosses over the tensions that arose on this matter.

Addressing issues related to sexuality and identity, the report acknowledges that these issues raise “new questions.” It emphasizes the importance of “listening and accompanying” such individuals or couples and cautions against using language or making “simplistic judgments” that could harm individuals and the Church.

The report reflects the deep sense of love, mercy, and compassion expressed during the assembly for those who have felt hurt or neglected by the Church. It highlights the need for a safe and welcoming place where individuals can be heard and respected without fear of judgment.

Despite this, the final report notably does not use the acronym “LGBT” or the word “gay.” This decision follows active debate during the synod discussions over the appropriateness of such language. While Vatican documents have used the term “LGBT” for at least five years, the report refrains from doing so.

Regarding the ongoing crisis of clergy sexual abuse, the report suggests creating additional structures to prevent abuse, including the possibility of establishing a new body to review abuse cases, separate from the bishops.

The report recognizes the challenge faced by many bishops in handling abuse cases and proposes exploring the appropriateness of assigning the judicial task to another body. It also recommends providing women with the necessary training to serve as judges in all canonical processes.

The report emphasizes the role of lay people in advising church leaders and makes recommendations for Vatican officials. It briefly touches on the issue of clerical celibacy.

In the section addressing the role of bishops, the report stresses that a bishop’s ministry is truly synodal when it includes co-responsibility, listening to the faithful People of God, and humility and conversion in liturgical celebrations. It proposes making episcopal councils, lay-led groups advising bishops, mandatory, instead of optional as it is now.

The report also suggests reviewing the criteria for selecting priests to become bishops and expanding consultation with the faithful People of God, including lay individuals and consecrated persons.

In terms of the pope and the Vatican’s role in governing the global church, the report recommends enhanced consultation with local bishops. It raises the question of whether curial officials, typically appointed as cardinals by the pope, need to be bishops.

The text addresses various social issues, including climate change and Laudate Deum, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on environmental matters. It also discusses the Church’s relationships with Indigenous peoples, migrants, refugees, and those living in poverty. The report addresses the persistent issue of racism and calls for dialogue and discernment on racial justice.

Among other proposals in the final report:

– Creating new approaches to pastoral engagement with Indigenous peoples, focusing on collaboration rather than actions done to or for them.

– Establishing a permanent council of leaders of Eastern Rite Catholic Churches to advise the pope.

– Inviting more delegates from other Christian denominations to the October 2024 assembly.

– Expressing a desire for a common date to celebrate Easter in Catholic and other Christian churches.

The report briefly touches on clerical celibacy, acknowledging that different opinions exist on the topic. It recognizes the value of celibacy as a profound witness to Christ but also suggests further consideration of its theological appropriateness for priestly ministry in the Latin Church.

Elon Musk’s Vision for X: Transforming It into the Ultimate Financial Hub

Elon Musk has ambitious plans to transform X into the central hub for all things financial in people’s lives. He anticipates that these new features will be unveiled by the close of 2024. Musk shared his vision with X employees during a recent company-wide meeting, expressing his belief that users will be astounded by the platform’s capabilities.

In Musk’s words, “When I say payments, I actually mean someone’s entire financial life. If it involves money, it’ll be on our platform. Money or securities or whatever. So, it’s not just like send $20 to my friend. I’m talking about, like, you won’t need a bank account.”

Linda Yaccarino, the CEO of X, echoes this sentiment, stating that the company envisions this development as a full-fledged opportunity that could come to fruition in 2024. Musk reiterated his optimism by declaring, “It would blow my mind if we don’t have that rolled out by the end of next year.”

To achieve this transformation, the company is actively working to secure money transmission licenses across the United States. Musk has expressed his hopes of obtaining the remaining licenses that X needs in the coming months.

Musk has previously outlined his intention to mold X into a comprehensive financial center. He even renamed Twitter after his online bank from the dot-com era, X.com, which later became part of PayPal. His plans encompass a wide array of financial services, including high-yield money market accounts, debit cards, checks, and loan services, all with the ultimate goal of enabling users to send money globally in an instant and in real-time.

Musk couldn’t help but reflect on the original X.com vision during the internal meeting. “The X/PayPal product roadmap was written by myself and David Sacks actually in July of 2000,” Musk revealed. “And for some reason PayPal, once it became eBay, not only did they not implement the rest of the list, but they actually rolled back a bunch of key features, which is crazy. So PayPal is actually a less complete product than what we came up with in July of 2000, so 23 years ago.”

The vision of transforming X into a comprehensive financial services hub aligns with Musk’s broader goal of making the platform an “everything app,” similar to super apps like WeChat in China. These super apps offer users a one-stop destination for a range of services, from shopping to transportation, and more.

However, Musk is well aware that achieving this vision will be no easy task. Convincing users of the necessity and advantages of such a platform is just one of the many challenges. Gaining their trust to entrust X with their entire financial lives is another significant hurdle.

Scientists Confirm What’s Inside The Moon

The verdict is in, and it appears the Moon is not composed of green cheese, as the age-old saying humorously suggested. An extensive investigation published in May has yielded intriguing insights into the Moon’s composition. It turns out that the inner core of the Moon is a solid sphere with a density similar to that of iron. This discovery has the potential to resolve a long-standing debate regarding the Moon’s inner core, shedding light on its history and, by extension, the history of the Solar System.

A team led by astronomer Arthur Briaud from the French National Centre for Scientific Research in France presented their findings. They asserted, “Our results question the evolution of the Moon’s magnetic field thanks to its demonstration of the existence of the inner core and support a global mantle overturn scenario that brings substantial insights on the timeline of the lunar bombardment in the first billion years of the Solar System.”

To gain insight into the interior composition of celestial bodies within the Solar System, scientists typically rely on seismic data. By analyzing the way acoustic waves generated by seismic events travel through and interact with materials inside planets or moons, researchers can create detailed interior maps of these objects.

In the case of the Moon, seismic data collected during the Apollo missions has been available, but its resolution was insufficient for accurately determining the state of the Moon’s inner core. While the presence of a fluid outer core was known, the exact nature of the Moon’s core remained a subject of debate, with models proposing both a solid inner core and an entirely fluid core appearing to fit the available Apollo data.

To definitively settle this question, Briaud and his team compiled data from various space missions and lunar laser ranging experiments to create a comprehensive profile of several lunar characteristics. These included the extent of the Moon’s deformation caused by its gravitational interactions with Earth, variations in its distance from Earth, and its overall density.

The researchers then conducted modeling experiments involving different core compositions to determine which one aligned most closely with the observed data. Their analysis yielded several significant findings.

Firstly, the models that best matched the known properties of the Moon suggested active overturn processes occurring deep within the lunar mantle. This phenomenon involves denser material inside the Moon moving toward its center, while less dense material rises upward. This activity has long been proposed as a potential explanation for the presence of certain elements in lunar volcanic regions, and the team’s research adds further evidence in favor of this hypothesis.

Additionally, the study revealed that the lunar core closely resembles that of Earth, featuring an outer fluid layer and a solid inner core. According to their modeling, the outer core has a radius of approximately 362 kilometers (225 miles), while the inner core has a radius of around 258 kilometers (160 miles). This inner core’s density was estimated to be approximately 7,822 kilograms per cubic meter, remarkably close to that of iron.

Interestingly, in 2011, a team led by NASA Marshall planetary scientist Renee Weber arrived at a similar conclusion using advanced seismological techniques applied to Apollo mission data. They identified evidence of a solid inner core with a radius of approximately 240 kilometers and a density of about 8,000 kilograms per cubic meter. Briaud and his team view their findings as confirmation of these earlier results, forming a compelling case for the presence of an Earth-like core within the Moon.

The implications of this discovery extend to the Moon’s evolution. It is known that shortly after its formation, the Moon possessed a robust magnetic field, which began to decline approximately 3.2 billion years ago. The existence and composition of the lunar core are closely linked to the origin and eventual disappearance of this magnetic field. Understanding these factors could provide valuable insights into the Moon’s history and its magnetic past.

As humanity looks forward to returning to the Moon in the near future, seismic verification of these findings may not be far off. This exciting revelation about the Moon’s inner core composition brings us one step closer to unraveling the mysteries of our celestial neighbor and the broader history of our Solar System.

Indian Lawmakers Conclude Session in Old Parliament Building Amid Controversy Over New Facility

Indian lawmakers have wrapped up their final session in the current Parliament building before relocating to a new facility, in response to a call from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. During the
session, Modi celebrated India's parliamentary history and highlighted the recently concluded Group of 20 (G20) summit.

This move comes after major opposition parties boycotted the inauguration of the new Parliament back in May, deeming it extravagant. It marked a rare instance of unity against Modi’s Hindu nationalist ruling party, which has held power for nine years and is now seeking a third term in the upcoming elections.

The new Parliament building, characterized by its triangular shape, came with an estimated price tag of $120 million. It’s a part of a broader $2.8 billion renovation project in central New Delhi, aimed at modernizing British-era offices and residences. This comprehensive initiative, known as the “Central Vista” spans over 3.2 kilometers (1.9 miles) and encompasses new government ministry and department buildings, as well as Modi’s upcoming private residence.

During his speech in the lower house, Modi praised his government for its role in the G20 summit. This summit witnessed India’s pivotal role in brokering compromises among divergent
global powers on crucial global matters. Modi specifically underscored India's efforts in bringing the African Union into the G20 fold. He also mentioned the recent successful lunar mission, in which India’s spacecraft landed near the moon’s southern pole.

Modi’s address didn’t solely focus on recent achievements; he also delved into Parliament’s historical significance and highlighted some major decisions made by his government within the parliamentary context.

The announcement of this five-day special session last month drew criticism from opposition lawmakers, who argued that the Modi government had not been transparent about its
parliamentary agenda. Only last week did the government release a "tentative list" that outlined four proposed bills, including a contentious one expected to alter the process of appointing India’s chief election officer.

The new Parliament building is situated in close proximity to the old one, a circular structure designed by British architects in the early 20th century. The new facility, spanning four stories,
boasts a total of 1,272 seats across two chambers, nearly 500 more than the previous one.

A Nobel For Illuminating Electron

Scientists Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz and Anne L’Huillier won the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physics for creating incredibly short pulses of light that can capture processes inside atoms and molecules, in work which could advance medical diagnostics and electronics.

The discovery

The trio was honoured for experimental methods that generate pulses of light that last attoseconds.

To understand how an electron travels, the scientists had to look at an extremely short time period — one-quintillionth of a second (known as an attosecond) — just like photographers use a quick shutter speed while photographing hummingbirds.

Applications

At this point, this science is about understanding our universe, but the hope is that it will eventually have many practical applications in electronics, diagnosing diseases and basic chemistry.

Potential applications of the discovery include medical diagnostics, where the shortest pulses can be used to identify molecules, and in electronics for understanding and controlling how electrons behave in a particular material.

Meet the scientists

Agostini, a French-American, works at the Ohio State University in Columbus. Krausz, who was born in Hungary, is director at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany, as well as professor at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet in Munich. French-born L’Huillier is a professor at Lund University in Sweden.

And the money

The three will share the 11 million Swedish kronor (USD 1 million) drawn from a bequest left by the award’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, who died in 1896. The prize money was raised by 1 million kronor this year because of the plunging value of the Swedish currency.

Last year’s winner

Three scientists Alain Aspect (France), John Clauser (US) and Anton Zeilinger (Austria) jointly won the physics prize in 2022 for groundbreaking work in the field of quantum entanglement, where two particles are linked regardless of the space between them – something that unsettled Einstein himself who once referred to it as “spooky action at a distance”.

Modi Government Seeks Detailed Report On Anti-Christian Violence

The Indian government’s Minority Commission has called upon a Christian organization to provide a comprehensive report regarding the violence against Christians, following the group’s appeal for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s involvement five months ago.

On September 21, during a meeting in New Delhi, the National Commission for Minorities requested the United Christian Forum (UCF), an ecumenical entity, to submit this report within one month. Commission chairman, Sardar Iqbal Singh Lalpura, conveyed that they intend to conduct their own examination based on the UCF’s report and will subsequently present a comprehensive report to Prime Minister Modi. Christian leader A. C. Michael, who led the delegation, confirmed this development.

The UCF initiated this request for Prime Minister Modi’s intervention to address the escalating violence against Christians following Modi’s visit to the Sacred Heart Cathedral in New Delhi on Easter Sunday, April 9.

The UCF, responsible for documenting incidents of violence against Christians in India, asserts that attacks have surged, particularly after 11 of India’s 28 states introduced extensive anti-conversion laws. Most of these states are governed by Modi’s pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). According to Michael, these anti-conversion laws contradict the essence of Article 25, which guarantees religious freedom for Indians. He added that these laws are often misused by fringe pro-Hindu groups to target Christians.

The forum contends that governmental indifference contributes to the rise in anti-Christian violence. They reported 525 incidents of violence across 23 Indian states up until August this year, compared to 505 incidents for the entire previous year.

The delegation included John Dayal, the spokesperson of the All India Catholic Union, as well as UCF executive members Tehmina Arora and Siju Thomas.

Picture: UCAN

Michael remarked positively on the meeting with Lalpura, expressing encouragement. Lalpura assured the Christian leaders that the commission would address the growing persecution of Christians and urged them to dispatch fact-finding teams to areas affected by violence.

Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, ranks highest in incidents of violence against Christians, followed by Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand in central India. Uttar Pradesh is governed by the BJP, which also wields significant influence in the two central Indian states.

In Uttar Pradesh, Christians constitute a mere 0.18 percent of the state’s 200 million population, with the majority being Hindus. Generally, Christian presence is less than one percent in central and northern Indian states.

Christians in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand primarily belong to tribal communities, and Hindu groups aligned with the BJP have launched a nationwide campaign called “Ghar Vapasi” (returning home) to convert them to Hinduism.

Michael stated that their forthcoming report would encompass comprehensive details of every recorded anti-Christian incident. It will also address the anti-conversion laws, violent assaults on Christians, and issues related to reservation status, all of which are pressing concerns for the Christian community in India.

Christian leaders have expressed that their community feels marginalized. For instance, the National Minorities Commission currently lacks a Christian member, although it includes representatives from Buddhist and Sikh backgrounds. Indian Christians outnumber adherents of these religions.

Lalpura pledged to expedite the appointment of a Christian member, according to Michael. In their letter to Prime Minister Modi, the UCF called for the inclusion of Dalits (formerly known as untouchables) and tribal Christians in India’s affirmative action policies. Such policies reserve quotas in government jobs, educational institutions, and legislative bodies to integrate these marginalized groups into society. Despite recommendations from various committees, successive governments have denied reservation status to Christians, arguing that Christianity does not have a caste system, and therefore, there cannot be Dalits among Christians.

25th September, 2023

Set between Casablanca and Chefchaouen, Morocco

When Father thinks about the topic, his lips start to bloat, like he is having an allergic reaction. His face seals up. He is not ready to say the words.

It is the evening, and they are in their quaint little home, in their suburb of Casablanca. Carpets are strewn across the living room. There are paintings on the walls from various periods of art from Europe. Porcelain vases decorate the tables as well as the tops of the counters. A plush red sofa worn out from decades of use is on one side of Father.

Mother sits on it. Her hair is uncovered, and she is looking at him. The television is on, the soaps blaring loudly, and yet her attention is on him.

This is the home they have made together. He should feel like he is able to express anything.

He loves his wife. He trusts her. They have grown to be comfortable together as husband and wife, but over the past few years, it feels like something has shifted.

Father’s lips remain puckered together.

He isn’t ready to say it, but he knows that he has to.

3 September, 1977

When Ayoub first visited the city of Chefchaouen, he could not help but note how different it was despite being tens of kilometres away from his village. The buildings were painted an ebullient blue, they bobbed against the coasts of the hills like floating seagulls. The weather was also so cold. There was a difference of almost ten degrees Celsius because of the height in the Rif Mountains, and Ayoub, not accustomed to that, shivered in his thob.

He was visiting this city that he was a foreigner to because he was arranged to marry a beautiful woman, Mahnoor. And much like the surprise of a full moon in the sky, when Mahnoor emerged to serve his family mint tea as they gathered in her family’s common room, she made him smile.

She was so quiet. She barely spoke, as was the tradition of most women of that time. But despite their parents mostly talking around them, finalising when the marriage would be and how it ought to be, Mahnoor would look up every so often to make eye contact with Ayoub. Whenever she did, Ayoub felt something burn deep inside of him, and a part of her spirit exhaled out of his mouth. Love, this had to be that emotion. Or an attraction, a power, some sort of inexplicable feeling that drew him to her. Mahnoor had such expressive eyes. Sometimes they expressed confusion as to why Ayoub was looking at her so strongly, sometimes annoyance at the way all of this was proceeding, and sometimes it was an earnestness, an openness, a sense that every aspect of her could be revealed without her ever opening her mouth.

As the brothers took a shared taxi back to their home village, in the direction of Tetouan, his eyes stared aimlessly out the window as his younger brother, Zouhair, teased him.

All he could feel was happiness that the meeting between the families had gone well, and that he’d soon come to know this woman as his wife.

25 September, 2023

There they were again, staring at each other, not saying a single word, as had become their habit. Finally, Mother said:

« .You want to say something .Je sais que ç’est vrai .So, you should say what you are thinking .Or I will make a guess »

8 November, 1977

Mahnoor and Ayoub were standing against the pillars of her family’s riad. It was the night before the khutuba, or the engagement ceremony, which would confirm that Ayoub and Mahnoor were to be wed. It was beginning to snow though it had yet to pile up. Ayoub shivered, nearly dropping his packet of cigarettes as his hands twitched in the cold. Mahnoor looked comfortable in her red flowing kaftan. Then she said, out of nowhere, « .You are not close to your family »

It was said so abruptly that Ayoub interpreted it as an accusation. Warmth flooded all over his body, and his brown cheeks reddened. He no longer felt the cold.

Mahnoor chuckled. « .I guessed it .I am good at guessing .My father used to say I possess special intuitions » She started walking around the pillar, circling it, the red of her kaftan a crimson contrast with the white arabesques on the windowsills behind her. « .I knew you were not close to your family because I am the same way .Or rather, I was close to my family when it was my family .The father you met is not my actual father .My father is no more .My mother married again .These people you are meeting are people I myself barely know .I love my mother, but she is the only one I have left .Everyone else is a stranger .You also talk to your family members like strangers, so I wondered to what extent you knew them »

Ayoub stared at his cigarette. He was unsure how to respond. She was right about how he felt about his family, but the reasons were completely different. He wondered if he should go out of his way to explain how he felt about his family, or if he should express sympathy for her situation.

When he finished his cigarette, a completely different question came to him.

« ؟Why are you telling me this »

Mahnoor stopped pacing about and turned to face him.

« .You are to be my husband .I should feel comfortable saying anything to you .I will also be your wife .No matter what it is, you should be able to express any thought to me ؟Isn’t this how a husband and wife should behave »

Ayoub nodded, but it was not his genuine response. In all honesty Ayoub never expressed what he actually thought. This was because he came from a family in which no one ever talked about their emotions. They were not of the habit to say things directly. Instead they spoke superficially, about the crops of the day, the state of the animals, when food would be prepared.

Ayoub’s legs were shaking. His eyes remained cast downwards as the cigarette smoke around him curled.

Then Ayoub felt hands on his cheeks. They were warm like summer sunlight after one woke from a long nap.

Mahnoor was staring at him, forcing him to meet her eyes.

« .Don’t be scared when you talk to me » she said. « ؟What are you thinking .Tell me »

25 September, 2023

Father and Mother’s eyes met. It was funny how much things could change. Father had pushed himself into speaking more openly with Mother, and it had filled him with joy, but as the years passed, old habits returned and he got used to Mother mostly complaining or gossiping about others while he just silently listened. It was starting to become rare in his old age, as it had been in his younger days, for him to state exactly and succinctly what he was feeling.

And so Mother and Father continued to sit in silence.

Mother turned back towards the television, rolling her eyebrows. Father thought she was going to turn off the sound. Certainly she was fiddling with her remote, but then she pointed it towards him.

« .If you’re not going to say it, I will »

 10 July, 1978 

« ؟So, you want us to live in Casablanca » Mahnoor asked Ayoub while they were in bed. She was playing with his chest hair.

Ayoub balled his hands together and rested them on his belly. « .Casablanca is the richest city of the country .We will do well there »

« ؟And you want to live with your mother’s brother »

« .He has been kind enough to invite us .I think it would benefit us to consider it »

She stopped her fingers. « ؟And what if I don’t agree »

Ayoub shifted so that he was no longer lying on his belly. He propped himself up on the pillows and looked at his wife quizzically, the light of the lantern making the curls of his beard appear in the shadow like smoke wisps. « ؟ And why would you not want to go »

« .I do not trust him »

Father was offended. He shouted, « .He is my uncle .He is my mother’s own brother .I have known him all my life .By saying you don’t trust him, it is saying you don’t trust me as well »

Mahnoor was startled. She put some distance between herself and Ayoub, also sitting herself up, no longer covered by the blanket. She put her hand up as if she were pausing an advance « .Ana asif .I did not mean to offend you .Ana asif .But you should learn to listen to your wife »

Ayoub had not realised that he had raised his voice. It was only as he saw Mahnoor get out of bed and head towards the mirror that he understood the extent to which he had frightened her. Their marriage was new. They had known each other for less than a year. Ayoub was not temperamental, but he felt threatened. He had not thought that what he was suggesting would become a discussion.

Ayoub had a choice. He could be like a typical man of the family—yell at his wife, claim his wife had no place in the decisions he made.

Instead he came up to his wife, naked in the mirror, and stroked her hair. He started massaging her neck, moving his hands suavely down her back. As his hands went lower and lower, Mahnoor bit her lip and rolled her neck. He wrapped his arms around his wife and started kissing her on her shoulder and pinching her nipples.

« .Ana asif htaa »

He then lowered himself to the floor, kissed his wife’s heels, and made her forget about the previous conversation.

25 September, 2023

As if unleashing a great weight off her chest, Mother began, « .When I was getting married to you, I thought I was marrying a man .Now it often feels like I married a goat .You are stubborn for no reason .You needlessly cause conflict .You are often silent .I want to talk to a husband .I do not want to talk to a goat »

If Father had been younger, he would have been offended by such comments. But with the many decades that the two had come to know each other, Father was used to it. He rolled his eyes and gazed out their window.

They didn’t have the best view of Casablanca. Casablanca was a city of many high-rises and fancy buildings. Their building was one of the best ones, but they were only on the second floor, and their view faced out onto a very meagre lane where there was a butchery, with flies swarming around the trash bins and their chopped-up lamb chunks. Father normally despised this view, but it somehow summed up his feelings of the moment: hung out to dry, battered, and torn. Refusing to look back at Mother, he followed his gaze to the bakery, then to the hovels, and he thought back to the time when they had first moved in.

ZEE5 Global announces ‘Gadar 2’ starring Sunny Deol and Ameesha Patel

Global, 4th October 2023: ZEE5 Global, the world’s largest streaming platform for South Asian content,  announces the world digital premiere of the biggest Hindi blockbuster of the year, ‘Gadar 2’ today. After a successful theatrical run collecting 63M USD in India and still counting, Gadar 2 is set for another successful innings on ZEE5 Global on 6th October. Produced by Zee Studios and directed by Anil Sharma, the superhit sequel to the 2001 hit ‘Gadar’ will see Sunny Deol, Ameesha Patel and Utkarsh Sharma reprise their roles as Tara Singh, Sakeena and Charanjeet “Jeete” Singh respectively.

Gadar 2 brings back India’s most loved family of Tara, Sakeena & Jeete; 22 years after its predecessor. Set against the backdrop of Indo-Pakistan war of 1971, Tara Singh, once again, will face every enemy to protect the honor of his country and family. This time, the narrative will delve deeper into the enduring love of Tara Singh and Sakeena and additionally, will see a strong father-son bond between Tara Singh and Charanjeet as the latter lands in Pakistan and ends up being caught and tortured. While the last time, Tara Singh visited Pakistan to get his wife back, this time, he will return to rescue his son.

So, gear up for bigger, better and bolder action sequences from Sunny Deol and a repeat of his most popular dialogue “Hindustan zindabad tha, zindabad hai aur zindabad rahega” which will continue to echo in every Hindustani’s heart for a long time. The movie will also see Sunny Deol reprise his famous handpump scene and sing and dance to the original chartbusters (from the 2001 film) like ‘Udd Jaa Kaale Kaava’, ‘Main Nikla Gaddi Leke’ and recreate the same magic from 2001.

Archana Anand, Chief Business Officer, ZEE5 Global said, “Bollywood blockbusters have always transcended geographical boundaries and resonated with global viewers through their powerful and emotionally charged stories. With the World Digital Premiere of Gadar 2, ZEE5 Global is thrilled to present our global viewers with the sequel to one of Hindi cinema’s all-time blockbuster hits that has captivated audiences for over 22 years”.

Shariq Patel, CBO, Zee Studios said, “Gadar 2 brought back India’s most loved family of Tara Singh, Sakeena and Jeete; 22 years after its predecessor. Hindustan Ka Asli Blockbuster will make history once more with its digital premiere on ZEE5 Global”.

Sunny Deol said, “We are absolutely delighted with the overwhelming response that ‘Gadar 2’ has received in theatres. Now with its World Digital Premiere on ZEE5 Global, I am very excited for the movie to reach a wider, global audience. Gadar 2 is a perfect family entertainer which will keep the viewers completely engaged and entertained. I urge everyone to watch it if you haven’t already and watch it again if you have”.

Ameesha Patel said, “Sakeena is a character who has stayed with me throughout my career, and I was so excited to revisit her in ‘Gadar 2.’ The chemistry between Tara and Sakeena is timeless, and the sequel reignites that magic for our fans. ZEE5 Global’s platform allows us to connect with a global audience, and I’m thrilled that viewers from around the world will have the opportunity to witness this epic love story, all over again but with more twists and action”.

Director Anil Sharma said, “The story of ‘Gadar’ is etched in the memories of every movie lover and with Gadar 2, we have tried to recreate the same magic. I am beyond thrilled that Gadar 2 has become one of the most successful Hindi films of all time and now with its World Digital Premiere on ZEE5 Global, I hope that the film breaks more records and reaches more people across the world”.

 ‘Gadar 2’ is set for its World Digital Premiere on ZEE5 Global from 6th October 2023!

Viewers can catch ZEE5 Global’s unmissable slate and stock up on their yearlong entertainment by subscribing to the Annual pack and grabbing the limited-time special offer price.

Users can download the ZEE5 Global app from Google Play Store / iOS App Store. It is available on Roku devices, Apple TVs, Android TVs, Amazon Fire TV and Samsung Smart TVs and on www.ZEE5.com

ZEE5 Global is the digital entertainment destination launched by Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (ZEEL), a global Media and Entertainment powerhouse. The platform launched across 190+ countries in October 2018 and has content across 18 languages: Hindi, English, Bengali, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Marathi, Oriya, Bhojpuri, Gujarati, Punjabi, including six international languages Malay, Thai, Bahasa, Urdu, Bangla and Arabic. ZEE5 Global is home to 200,000+ hours of on-demand content. The platform brings together the best of Originals, Movies and TV Shows, Music, Health and Lifestyle content in one destination. In addition, ZEE5 Global offers features like 15 navigational languages, content download options and Voice Search.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Detects Clues of Ocean-Covered Exoplanet Hosting Possible Life

In a groundbreaking discovery, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has unveiled intriguing evidence hinting at the existence of a distant exoplanet located approximately 120 light years away, which might be enveloped by an expansive ocean—raising the possibility of life beyond our solar system.

The telescope’s observations have identified the presence of dimethyl sulfide (DMS) on this distant celestial body known as K2-18 b. Notably, DMS is a molecule that, as far as we know from Earth, can solely be generated by living organisms. In addition to DMS, the research also detected the presence of methane and carbon dioxide within the exoplanet’s atmosphere. These findings collectively suggest that K2-18 b could potentially qualify as a “Hycean” planet—characterized by a hydrogen-rich atmosphere and a surface concealed beneath a substantial ocean.

Situated within the habitable zone of its host star—an intriguing red dwarf star inhabiting the Leo constellation—K2-18 b is positioned at a distance where it receives an adequate amount of radiation from its host star, potentially fostering conditions suitable for the presence of liquid water on its surface. Although the discovery of K2-18 b initially dates back to NASA’s K2 mission’s identification in 2015, it is only through the James Webb Telescope’s meticulous observations that the existence of these significant molecules has been unveiled, generating considerable excitement within the scientific community.

K2-18 b: An Enigmatic Ocean World

Described as an exoplanet falling within the category of “sub-Neptunes,” K2-18 b’s size ranges between that of Earth and Neptune. These sub-Neptunes are a distinct class of exoplanets that stand apart from any celestial bodies within our own solar system, thereby necessitating conjecture and inference in the absence of direct comparative data.

As NASA aptly highlights, “Although this kind of planet does not exist in our solar system, sub-Neptunes are the most common type of planet known so far in the galaxy.” Subhajit Sarkar, a researcher from Cardiff University and co-author of a yet-to-undergo-peer-review study on this discovery, emphasizes, “We have obtained the most detailed spectrum of a habitable-zone sub-Neptune to date, and this allowed us to work out the molecules that exist in its atmosphere.”

Nonetheless, it is crucial to temper enthusiasm, as it is still premature to definitively assert that K2-18 b is teeming with life. The researchers involved in this groundbreaking discovery underscore the pressing need for additional data to affirm these findings.

Nikku Madhusudhan, the team lead and a professor at the University of Cambridge, expressed the weighty responsibility that accompanies such a profound claim, stating, “If confirmed, it would be a huge deal, and I feel a responsibility to get this right if we are making such a big claim.” Fortunately, this need for further data is soon to be addressed, thanks to the James Webb Space Telescope’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) spectrograph, which is already poised to provide valuable additional insights.

The Quest for Extraterrestrial Life

The implications of this discovery extend beyond the boundaries of our current understanding of planetary diversity. Madhusudhan affirms, “Our ultimate goal is the identification of life on a habitable exoplanet, which would transform our understanding of our place in the universe.” He underscores the promise that these findings hold for advancing our comprehension of Hycean worlds and their potential for sustaining life—a pursuit that has long fascinated scientists and now takes a significant step forward with the revelations brought to light by the James Webb Space Telescope.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has uncovered compelling evidence suggesting the presence of a distant exoplanet, K2-18 b, positioned within its host star’s habitable zone. The detection of dimethyl sulfide (DMS), methane, and carbon dioxide in its atmosphere hints at the possibility of K2-18 b being a “Hycean” planet, characterized by a substantial ocean and a hydrogen-rich atmosphere. While these findings spark excitement about the potential for extraterrestrial life, scientists emphasize the need for further data and caution against prematurely drawing conclusions about the existence of life on this intriguing celestial body. The James Webb Space Telescope’s ongoing observations with the MIRI spectrograph promise to shed more light on the enigmatic world of K2-18 b and its suitability for hosting life, marking a significant step in our quest to uncover the mysteries of the cosmos.

Human Activities Push Earth Past 6 Planetary Boundaries, Posing Existential Risks

In a groundbreaking study, it has been revealed that humanity has transgressed six out of nine planetary boundaries crucial for preserving Earth’s stability and resilience. The study, published in Science Advances, identifies these six boundaries as climate change, biosphere integrity (encompassing genetic diversity and ecosystem energy), land system change, freshwater alteration (encompassing shifts in the entire terrestrial water cycle), biogeochemical flows (covering nutrient cycles), and novel entities (including microplastics, endocrine disruptors, and organic pollutants).

Drawing a striking analogy, Katherine Richardson, the author of the study from the University of Copenhagen, likened these planetary boundaries to blood pressure, stating, “If your BP is over 120/80, it is not a guarantee of a heart attack but it raises the risk. The same is true here — the breaching of individual boundaries does not imply immediate disaster but raises the risk of setting processes in motion that are likely to dramatically and irreversibly change the overall environmental conditions on Earth to one that no longer supports civilization as we know it.”

This research marks an update to the planetary boundaries framework, which was initially introduced in 2009 to delineate the environmental constraints within which humanity can safely function. Katherine Richardson emphasized the necessity of revising the framework to align with our evolving comprehension of Earth’s system dynamics and human impacts on it.

Conducted by 29 scientists from eight countries, this is the third iteration of the framework. The researchers commenced by identifying the processes in Earth’s ecosystem that have played a pivotal role in maintaining favorable conditions for human habitation over the past 12,000 years—a period renowned for its environmental stability and warmth.

Subsequently, they evaluated the extent to which human activities have disrupted these processes and pinpointed the threshold at which these disruptions heighten the likelihood of substantial and irreversible transformations in Earth’s overall conditions. To facilitate their analysis, computer simulations were employed.

The results unveiled that humans triggered breaches in two of the planet’s safety measures—climate and land systems—in 1988, placing us at imminent risk of systemic upheaval. Specifically, the researchers set the planetary boundary for atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration and radiative forcing, which represents the magnitude of the energy imbalance in the atmosphere, at 350 parts per million (ppm) and 1 Watt per square meter (Wm−2) respectively. Presently, these values stand at 417 ppm and 2.91 Wm−2.

Regarding land system changes, the study assessed the global forested land area as a percentage of the original forest cover boundary, which was originally estimated at 75 percent. However, the current global value has plummeted below this safe threshold, registering at 60 percent.

For biosphere integrity, the researchers set a limit of fewer than 10 extinctions per million species-years. Alas, their conservative estimations indicated that the actual extinction rate far surpassed this boundary, standing at over 100 extinctions per million species-years. At present, approximately one million out of the eight million plant and animal species are threatened with extinction, with over 10 percent of genetic diversity within these species lost over the past 150 years.

The second facet of biosphere integrity pertains to the energy accessible to ecosystems, known as net primary production (NPP). It represents the difference between the amount of carbon generated through photosynthesis and the amount expended during respiration. Currently, humans are appropriating roughly 30 percent of the energy that was available to support biodiversity.

This comprehensive study serves as an alarming reminder of the perilous path humanity is treading concerning the environment. It highlights the urgency for concerted global action to reverse these boundary transgressions and safeguard the planet’s delicate equilibrium. Without immediate and effective measures, the risk of triggering irreversible changes that threaten civilization as we know it becomes increasingly substantial.

AIA-NY honors six at glittering Benefit Gala

Tagline: Highlights of the Deepavali Fest on October 1 released

Hicksville, NY: The Association of Indians in America (AIA-NY) held its Benefit Gala under the Presidentship of Dr Jagdish Gupta to raise funds for the iconic Deepavali Fest at South Street Seaport in Manhattan on October 1.

The glittering gala was held on September 17 in the chandeliered ballroom of the newly opened Pearl Banquet Hall in Hicksville, NY. It was attended by over 200 prominent people including past presidents of AIA and advisory board members.

The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Asmita and Arun Bhatia, Founder and CEO of the Arun Bhatia Development Organization. Excellence in Healthcare Administration Award was given to  David Seligman, Deputy Regional Executive Director for Northwell Health Western Region.

Dr V. K. Raju, Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology at West Virginia University was honored for Excellence in Ophthalmological Surgery & Prevention of Childhood Blindness. On his behalf, his daughter Dr Leela V. Raju, herself  an eminent ophthalmologist, accepted the award.

Dr Subhash Kini, Director, Center for Bariatric and Minimally Invasive Surgery, Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai (Morningside), received the Excellence in Bariatric & Minimally Invasive/Robotic Surgery Award.  Businesswoman/Entrepreneur Award went to Sharda Haridas Kotahwala, for their family business in Diamond & Precious Stone Jewelry business. Dr Saurabh Lodha, of the Department of Dermatology, Columbia University, was given the Excellence in Dermatology – Special Young Physician Award.

New York Life Insurance Company, a major sponsor of AIA’s  Deepavali Festival, was honored for Community Service  Excellence. NY Life’s Corporate Vice President, Srinivas Ranga received the plaque.

In his President’s address, Dr Gupta said that the honorees tonight are the crème de la crème of our community, including physician leaders, philanthropists, educators, and entrepreneurs.

Dr Gupta, an eminent gastroenterologist who took over as AIA-NY president on June 2, emphasized that “AIA-NY has been organizing the Deepavali Festival in New York for the past 36 years, and it has become an iconic event, attended by thousands of people from the Tri-State area, including both Indians and non-Indians.

Highlights of the free-to-public Deepavali festival at South Street Seaport on October 1 include: Children’s Program (1.30-3 pm), Nach Inferno (4-5.30 pm), VIP Hour (3.30 – 5 pm), and the finale – Fireworks on East River at 7 pm. Many lawmakers,  dignitaries and entertainers are expected to participate. Print and electronic media are invited to cover the mega event.

At the gala, Dr Gupta congratulated the community as Diwali has been declared a school holiday in New York City. “Over the years, it has come to symbolize our culture and heritage in the USA  as Diwali is a manifestation of Indian culture.”

Dr Samin Sharma, Advisor and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of AIA-NY, in his address, highlighted the stellar achievements and contributions of Indian Americans, particularly in healthcare.

Citations for AIA-NY from Indian Consul General Randhir Jaiswal, Nassau County Chairman Bruce Blakeman, and New York State Senator Kevin Thomas were received by Dr Gupta.

AIA Board members at the gala included Dr Samin Sharma, Dr Nirmal Mattoo, Animesh Goenka, Dr Shashi Shah, Dr Buddhadev Manvar, Sunil Modi and Smiti Khanna. Past Presidents in attendance included Harish Thakkar, and Dr Narinder Kukar.

Nilima Madan was the Gala Chair.

Dr Gupta, former President of IALI, AAPI-QLI and Nargis Dutt Memorial Foundation, thanked Fareportal-CheapOair/Qatar Airways Alliance, New York Life, Mount Sinai Hospital, and the Northwell Health System for their generous contributions toward Deepavali Fest.

A sumptuous dinner followed.

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ZEE5 Global announces the World Digital Premiere of hit Kannada campus comedy

'Hostel Hudugaru Bekagiddare'

India to be added to JPMorgan’s emerging-market bond index

India will be added to JPMorgan’s emerging market government bond index next year, paving the way for more foreign inflows to the number-five economy.

“Inclusion is expected to drive at least $21 billion of inflows from foreign investors, and if other index providers follow suit, the effects could be amplified further. Simply put, this will likely drive yields down for IGBs and provide some support the rupee at the same time,” said Jennifer Taylor, head of emerging market debt at State Street Global Advisors.

The yield on the 10-year Indian government bond was 7.16% on Friday.

She noted the Reserve Bank of India first started courting index providers in 2019.

The key move came in 2020 when India created its fully accessible route, or FAR, bond market, said Lee Collins, head of index fixed income at Legal & General Investment Management. He said the FAR bond issuance has added meaningful daily liquidity.

“Our view is that the [Indian] market can offer an attractive yield, volatility and maximum drawdown levels that are more akin to lower yielding, higher rated issuers such as the U.S. and China, as well as low levels of correlation to other emerging and developed market issuers,” he added.

The iShares JPMorgan USD emerging market bond ETF has slipped 1% this year.

The S&P BSE Sensex index closed Friday with a small loss, but is down just 2% from its record high.

Hostel Hudugaru Bekagiddare is exclusively streaming on ZEE5 Global

Global, 15th September 2023: ZEE5 Global, the world’s largest streaming platform for South Asian content, is bringing forth the exclusive world digital premiere of the popular campus comedy film, ‘Hostel Hudugaru Bekagiddare’. Directed by debutant Nithin Krishnamurthy, the film stars debutants Prajwal BP, Manjunath Nayaka, Rakesh Rajkumar, Srivatsa and Tejas Jayanna Urs, while Rishab Shetty, Pawan Kumar, Shine Shetty and Ramya make cameo appearances. With an impressive performance at the box office, the Kannada film became much talked about in the industry and now, with its world digital premiere on ZEE5 Global, for those who haven’t watched it yet, this is your golden chance.

With a stellar cast and witty narrative, ‘Hostel Hudugaru Bekagiddare’ is a true cinematic treasure that beautifully captures the essence of college life amusingly and engagingly. The story unfolds within the confines of a boys’ hostel, taking place over the course of a single night. It weaves a comical narrative of mischief and camaraderie as a student’s imaginative script becomes intertwined with real-life occurrences. This collision of fantasy and reality leads to unexpected and hilarious outcomes, blurring the lines between the two worlds. The outcome is a comedy that assures you a delightful and laughter-packed experience, promising an enjoyable journey.

With an IMDB rating of 8.1, ‘Hostel Hudugaru Bekagiddare’ is the biggest blockbuster of Kannada cinema this year. Following its highly successful theatrical run, the movie is now poised to reach a broader audience through its world digital premiere on ZEE5 Global. Produced by Prajwal BP, Varun Kumar, Nithin Krishnamurthy, and Arvind K Kashyap under the Gulmohar Films and Varun Studios banner and presented by Rakshit Shetty under Paramvah Pictures banner, Hostel Hudugaru Bekagiddare is a must watch black comedy film which will make for a perfect weekend watch.

Archana Anand, Chief Business Officer, ZEE5 Global, said, “Comedy as a genre has seen significant traction in the US with a 92% y-o-y growth. ‘Hostel Hudugaru Bekagiddare,’ the hit Kannada campus comedy is a strong addition to our rich Kannada library that is sure to strike a nostalgic chord amongst viewers and help them relive their college memories.”

Nithin Krishnamurthy, Director of Hostel Hudugaru Bekagiddaresaid, “I am absolutely thrilled by the overwhelming response ‘Hostel Hudugaru Bekagiddare’ has received since its theatrical release. As a first-time director, seeing the film connect with audiences and bring a smile to their face is a dream come true. The journey of making this movie has been a labor of love, and I am humbled by the support it has garnered. The digital premiere on ZEE5 Global will now allow even more people to be part of the mad riot that this film is. I am grateful for the support of the cast, crew, and everyone who has embraced the film, and I look forward to sharing more stories that resonate with audiences in the future.”

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How Canada became embroiled in diplomatic spat over killing of Sikh separatist Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke of ‘credible allegations’ of Indian involvement in a Sikh leader’s death.

How Canada became embroiled in diplomatic spat over killing of Sikh separatist

(The Conversation) — India and Canada have engaged in tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions as part of an escalating row over the killing of a Sikh separatist leader on Canadian soil.

The expulsions follow claims by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that there are “credible allegations” linking the Indian government of Narendra Modi with the death of Hardeep Singh Nijjar. Nijjar, a prominent member of the Khalistan movement seeking to create an independent Sikh homeland in the Indian state of Punjab, was shot dead on June 18, 2023, outside a Sikh cultural center in Surrey, British Columbia.

With tensions between the two countries rising, The Conversation reached out to Mark Juergensmeyer – an expert on religious violence and Sikh nationalism – at the University of California, Santa Barbara, to bring context to a diplomatic spat few saw coming.

1. What is the Khalistan movement?

“Khalistan” means “the land of the pure,” though in this context the term “khalsa” refers broadly to the religious community of Sikhs, and the term “Khalistan” implies that they should have their own nation. The likely location for this nation would be in Punjab state in northern India where 18 million Sikhs live. A further 8 million Sikhs live elsewhere in India and abroad, mainly in the U.K., the U.S. and Canada.

Picture : Bloomberg

The idea for an independent land for Sikhs goes back to pre-partition India, when the concept of a separate land for Muslims in India was being considered.

Some Sikhs at that time thought that if Muslims could have “Pakistan” – the state that emerged through partition in 1947 – then there should also be a “Sikhistan,” or “Khalistan.” That idea was rejected by the Indian government, and instead the Sikhs became a part of the state of Punjab. At that time the boundaries of the Punjab were drawn in such a way that the Sikhs were not in the majority.

But Sikhs persisted, in part because one of the central tenets of the faith is “miri-piri” – the idea that religious and political leadership are merged. In their 500-year history, Sikhs have had their own kingdom, have fought against Moghul rule and constituted the backbone of the army under India’s colonial and independent rule.

In the 1960s, the idea of a separate homeland for Sikhs reemerged and formed part of the demand for redrawing the boundaries of Punjab state so that Sikhs would be in the majority. The protests were successful, and the Indian government created Punjabi Suba, a state whose boundaries included speakers of the Punjabi language used by most Sikhs. They now compose 58% of the population of the revised Punjab.

The notion of a “Khalistan” separate from India resurfaced in a dramatic way in the large-scale militant uprising that erupted in the Punjab in the 1980s. Many of those Sikhs who joined the militant movement did so because they wanted an independent Sikh nation, not just a Sikh-majority Indian state.

2. Why is the Indian government especially concerned about it now?

The Sikh uprising in the 1980s was a violent encounter between the Indian armed police and militant young Sikhs, many of whom still harbored a yearning for a separate state in Punjab.

AP Photo/Sondeep Shanker

Picture : RNS

Thousands of lives were lost on both sides in violent encounters between the Sikh militants and security forces. The conflict came to a head in 1984 when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi launched Operation Blue Star to liberate the Sikh’s Golden Temple from militants in the pilgrimage center of Amritsar and capture or kill the figurehead of the Khalistan movement, Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. He was killed in the attack, and Sikhs around the world were incensed that their sacred place was violated by police action. Indira Gandhi was assassinated in retaliation by Sikh members of her own bodyguard.

In recent years, several firebrand Sikh activists in India have reasserted the idea of Khalistan, and the Indian government fears a return of the violence and militancy of the 1980s. The government of Narendra Modi wants to nip the movement in the bud before it gets too large and extreme.

3. What is the connection between the Khalistan movement and Canada?

After the Sikh uprising was crushed in the early 1990s, many Sikh activists fled India and went to Canada, where they were welcomed by a large Sikh community – many of whom had been sympathetic to the Khalistan idea. A sizable expatriate community of Sikhs has been growing in the country since the early 20th century, especially in British Columbia and Ontario.

Sikhs have been attracted to Canada not only because of its economic opportunities but also because of the freedom to develop their own ideas of Sikh community. Though support for Khalistan is illegal in India, in Canada Sikh activists are able to speak freely and organize for the cause.

Though Khalistan would be in India, the Canadian movement in favor of it helps to cement the diaspora Sikh identity and give the Canadian activists a sense of connection to the Indian homeland.

4. Has the Canadian government been sympathetic to the Khalistan movement?

The diaspora community of Sikhs constitutes 2.1% of Canada’s population – a higher percentage of the total population than in India. They make up a significant voting block in the country and carry political clout. In fact, there are more Sikhs in Canada’s cabinet than in India’s.

Although Trudeau has assured the Indian government that any acts of violence will be punished, he also has reassured Canadians that he respects free speech and the rights of Sikhs to speak and organize freely as long as they do not violate Canadian laws.

5. What is the broader context of Canada-India relations?

The Bharata Janata Party, or BJP, of India’s Prime Minister Modi tends to support Hindu nationalism.

Recently, the Modi government used “Bharat” rather than “India” when referring to the country while hosting the G20 conference, attended by President Joe Biden, among other world dignitaries. “Bharat” is the preference of Hindu nationalists. This privileging, along with an increase in hate crimes, has led to an environment of fear and distrust among minorities, including Sikhs and Muslims, in India.

Considering the high percentage of Sikhs in Canada’s population, Trudeau understandably wants to assert the rights of Sikhs and show disapproval of the drift toward Hindu nationalism in India.

And this isn’t the only time that Trudeau and Modi have clashed over the issue. In 2018, Trudeau was condemned in India for his friendship with Jaspal Singh Atwal, a Khalistani supporter in Canada who was convicted of attempting to assassinate the chief minister of Punjab.

Yet both countries have reasons to try to move on from the current diplomatic contretemps. India and Canada have close trading ties and common strategic concerns with relationship to China. It is likely that, in time, both sides will find ways to cool down the tensions from this difficult incident.

(Mark Juergensmeyer, Professor of Sociology and Global Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of TheUNN.) (How Canada became embroiled in diplomatic spat over killing of Sikh separatist (religionnews.com)

Ten Indians in TIME’s AI 2023 List

From 18-year-old Sneha Revanaur- Founder of Encode Justice working towards AI regulation in the US to veteran business leaders like Romesh and Sunil Wadhwani- co founders of non-profit Wadhwani AI– ten stellar Indian and Indian American men and women, social and business entrepreneurs, researchers and academics are in Time’s AI (artificial intelligence) 2023 list.

From running an ethical business using AI to uplift underserved communities to use of AI in medicine and bioscience and from the need for involvement of the younger demographics in AI regulation to an AI non-profit working towards solving persistent global developmental challenges-the spectrum of initiatives being run by these men and women are vast and varied in impact and scale.

Romesh and Sunil Wadhwani

Indiaspora members and billionaire brother duo Romesh and Sunil Wadhwani joined hands to channel AI towards solving global development challenges, especially in nations where people live on less than $5 a day.

They have set up Wadhwani AI-  an independent nonprofit institute developing AI-based solutions for underserved communities in developing countries. A total sum of $60 million has been committed to date towards the varied initiatives of the Mumbai-based non-profit.

Wadhwani AI devotes its AI development efforts to pioneering an ecosystem of scalable solutions in health care, education, and agriculture sectors for underserved communities by partnering with governments and nonprofits across Asia, Africa and Latin America. The initiative also includes a new $5 million program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“We thought that in the U.S., China, and Europe, AI is being leveraged to help people who are already well-off,” says Sunil Wadhwani in the Time interview, “but maybe we can make India the global leader in applying AI for social good.”

The institute partners with Indian State and Central governments to identify use cases, collect data, conduct pilots and deploy solutions. Some of the strategic programs of the institute include enabling frontline healthcare workers to feel digitally confident to engage with AI-based technology solutions, irrespective of their education, skills, and environment and developing multiple interventions across the TB care cascade and helping India’s National TB Elimination Programme (NTEP) become AI-ready.

The Wadhwani brothers said in the Time interview that India, with a diverse population of 1.4 billion, perfectly suits the Wadhwani Institute’s mission of altruistic research. “Other countries simply don’t have the combination of capabilities or opportunities that India has,” says Romesh Wadhwani.

Sneha Revanaur

Encode Justice is a youth-led, AI-focused civil-society group. It was founded by Revanaur (from San Jose, California) in 2020 to mobilize younger generations in the golden state against Proposition 25, a ballot measure that aimed to replace cash bail with a risk-based algorithm.

After the initiative was defeated, the group focused on educating and galvanizing peers around AI policy advocacy. The group now has 800 young members in 30 countries around the world and is compared to the preceding youth-led climate and gun-control movements.

At the urging of many in the AI industry, Washington appears to be moving fast on AI regulation.

This summer, Revanur helped organize an open letter urging congressional leaders and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to include more young people on AI oversight and advisory boards. Soon after, she was invited to attend a roundtable discussion on AI hosted by Vice President Kamala Harris.

Manu Chopra

Friend of Indiaspora, Manu Chopra, co-founded Karya with Vivek Seshadri with an ambitious vision of setting up a network of ethical data usage where data can both financially and technologically empower traditionally underserved communities.

The USD $100 billion data generation industry offers the opportunity to create this ecosystem and impact the lives of millions of people.

Currently, most dataset generation work goes to urban communities or are outsourced to Kenya or the Philippines- where workers are often exploited; offered sub-minimum wages and are often overworked. Median hourly wages are estimated at $0.1-0.5 per hour, while datasets sell for over 200x this price. “With AI, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to move millions of rural Indians out of poverty, sustainably.  At Karya, we are reimagining how AI models are trained. In an industry where for-profit companies pay data workers an average of 10 – 20 cents per hour, we pay our workers 50 times the industry standard, a minimum wage of USD 5/ hour,” tells Chopra.

Karya strives to be an ethical and high-quality AI/ML data company in the world, creating a win-win solution for both technology companies and data workers. Their ambitious goal is to use digital work to economically impact 100 million rural Indians by 2030. Currently Karya employs 30,000 workers.

“We work with over 200 of India’s top non-profits, self help groups and FPOs (farmer collectives) across 22 states in India to identify worker communities who would benefit the most from Karya’s work opportunities, tells Chopra. Karya has multiple on-going and up-coming projects across several states in rural India.

Tushita Gupta

Tushita Gupta co-founded Refiberd with Sarika Bajaj in 2020 with the goal of bringing the cutting-edge of AI research to the fashion industry to help solve the global textile waste crisis.

From their deep research backgrounds in artificial intelligence and textile engineering, the founders believe in the power of technology to unlock a 100% circular economy.

Gupta is the CTO at Refibred and  is a patent-pending AI scientist. She previously worked on drug discovery. She has a Bachelors and Masters from Carnegie Mellon.

The amount of textiles trashed in the U.S. has almost doubled in recent years, going from nearly 9,500 tons in 2000 to just over 17,000 tons in 2018, according to the latest government data. And the vast majority of this—about 85%—goes to landfill or is incinerated rather than being recycled or donated.

The California-based company aims to provide the most accurate summary of what types of materials are in any given textile item. Successful recycling depends on knowing what something is made of, so that items can be precisely sorted into like materials. This is particularly true for chemical recycling—which breaks down synthetic materials like nylon and polyester that were once impossible to recycle. Once the materials are recycled, they can be remade into fabric for new textiles—cutting waste and encouraging circularity in the fashion industry.

In January, Refiberd raised over $3.4 million in seed funding, and it’s now running a series of pilot projects in the U.S. and Europe. Four companies are sending Refiberd a couple hundred pounds of textile waste to sort.

Neal Khosla

Another Indian American with a checkered legacy working to utilize AI in the healthcare space is Neal Khosla-CEO and co-founder of Curai Health, the AI-assisted telehealth startup that the 30-year-old Khosla co-founded in 2017.

Curai is beyond your standard subscription-based virtual care service.

The company charges $15 a month (if the cost isn’t covered by their employer) for users to text 24/7 with health care professionals who can answer questions, create care plans, write prescriptions, and, if necessary, refer users to specialists.

Curai’s AI essentially functions as an assistant for doctors, handling straightforward tasks to free up their time for more complex work. For example, collecting the information patients provide during their intake questionnaires or sending a follow-up message after the conversation to see how a patient is doing.

Utilizing the power of AI in this way allows the  clinicians working with Curai to see many more patients.

So far, the startup has received more than $50 million in funding from General Catalyst, Morningside Ventures, and Khosla Ventures, the firm founded by Khosla’s father, the billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla.

Pushmeet Kohli

Pushmeet Kohli is the Vice President of Research at Google DeepMind. He leads both Google DeepMind’s AI for Science project that uses AI to solve scientific grand challenges, and its Responsible and Reliable AI team, which monitors and regulates  DeepMind’s AI systems.

Kohli joined DeepMind in 2017 and soon set up the Safe and Reliable AI team, which later changed its name. (DeepMind merged with a division of Google in April to become Google DeepMind.)

Some of the projects of the two teams he leads, includes AlphaFold, used by over 1 million researchers. It can predict the structures of proteins from their amino-acid structure in seconds- a previously time intensive task that took months or years. Better understanding of protein structures will accelerate drug discovery and may pave the way for further scientific breakthroughs.

Recently, Kohli’s AI for Science team also announced AlphaTensor, an AI system that builds on AlphaZero, which shows extraordinary performance across a range of games including Go, and can discover new algorithms.

He thinks that AI, by improving our understanding of the world, will ultimately solve more problems than it creates. He views the complex challenges he hopes AI will help address, such as climate change and pandemics.

Kalika Bali

Kalika Bali is a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research in Bangalore working in the areas of Machine Learning, Natural Language Systems and Applications, and Technology for Emerging Markets. Her research interests are Speech and Language Technology  especially in the use of linguistic models for building technology that offers a more natural Human-Computer and Computer-Mediated interactions.

She is currently working on Project Mélange  to understand, process and generate Code-mixed language data for both text and speech. Code-mixing or use of multiple languages in a single conversation  is a phenomenon that is observed in all multilingual societies. Though Code-mixing has been studied in the past as a feature of conversational speech, the rapid rise of social-media and other online forums has made it a common phenomenon for text as well. Conversational speech applications, like personal assistants and speech-to-speech translations, make it vital to model this in speech also.

“Recently, I have become interested in how social and pragmatic functions affect language use, in code-mixed as well as monolingual conversations, and how to build effective computational models of sociolinguistics and pragmatics that can lead to more aware Artificial Intelligence,” reads Bali’s bio on the Microsoft site.

“I am also very passionate about NLP and Speech technology for Indian Languages. I believe that local language technology, especially with speech interfaces, can help millions of people gain entry into a world that is till now almost inaccessible to them. I have served, and continue to serve, on several government and other committees that work on Indian Language Technologies and Linguistic Resources and Standards for NLP/Speech.”

Arvind Narayanan and Sayash Kapoor

Arvind Narayanan is a professor of computer science at Princeton University and the director of the Center for Information Technology Policy.

He co-authored a textbook on fairness and machine learning and is currently co-authoring a book on AI Snake Oil with Sayash Kapoor, one of his Ph.D. students.

The book that will be published next year was inspired after a talk that he gave in 2019 titled “How to recognize AI snake oil” went viral and the slides were downloaded tens of thousands of times and his tweets were viewed by millions.

Narayanan has led the Princeton Web Transparency and Accountability Project to uncover how companies collect and use our personal information. His work was among the first to show how machine learning reflects cultural stereotypes, and his doctoral research showed the fundamental limits of de-identification. Narayanan is a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), twice a recipient of the Privacy Enhancing Technologies Award, and thrice a recipient of the Privacy Papers for Policy Makers Award.
Narayanan and Kapoor have been sharing their ideas as they develop and comment on recent developments in AI on their Substack, AI Snake Oil. (Courtesy: Indiaspora.com)

Moon’s Drift Impact’s Earth’s Day Length

In a revelation that challenges our understanding of Earth’s relationship with its celestial companion, the Moon, scientists have determined that our lunar neighbor is gradually moving away from Earth, leading to a subtle yet significant transformation in the length of our planet’s days.

This remarkable discovery sheds light on a phenomenon that unfolds over millions of years, offering a glimpse into the complex dynamics between Earth and its only natural satellite.

Picture : The US Sun

A recent investigation conducted by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison delves into the geological history of our planet, focusing on rock formations dating back a staggering 90 million years. This exploration of Earth’s ancient interactions with the Moon, approximately 1.4 billion years ago, has unveiled the astonishing fact that the Moon is steadily distancing itself from Earth, an ongoing process occurring at a rate of 3.82 centimeters per year. The consequences of this gradual lunar retreat will become increasingly apparent in the distant future, as Earth’s days are poised to extend to 25 hours in the span of 200 million years.

Professor Stephen Meyers, a prominent figure in the field of geoscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, likens this phenomenon to a figure skater slowing down as they extend their arms during a spin.

He elucidates, “As the moon moves away, the Earth is like a spinning figure skater who slows down as they stretch their arms out.”

This analogy vividly illustrates the intricate interplay between Earth and the Moon, a dynamic that has captivated scientists seeking to comprehend the distant past while simultaneously expanding our grasp of geological time scales.

This revelation, however, is not the sole development challenging our perception of the Moon. Recent breakthroughs stemming from China’s space program have unearthed a treasure trove of secrets hidden beneath the lunar surface, spanning billions of years.

These concealed structures offer tantalizing glimpses into the Moon’s enigmatic history, providing invaluable insights for researchers endeavoring to reconstruct the lunar past.

The Moon’s slow and steady journey away from Earth, as unveiled by the meticulous study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, promises to reshape our understanding of our planet’s celestial partner. This ongoing celestial dance, which unfolds over geological epochs, will ultimately extend Earth’s days to 25 hours in the distant future.

Concurrently, China’s space program has unearthed lunar mysteries buried deep beneath the Moon’s surface, offering a fresh perspective on its intriguing past. Together, these revelations propel us into a realm where the Earth-Moon relationship is unveiled in all its complexity, providing a fascinating glimpse into the celestial mechanics that have shaped our planet and its only natural satellite.

Fed To Start Cutting Interest Rates In 2024

The Federal Reserve has concluded its interest rate hikes and is expected to reduce them by approximately one percentage point in the coming year, as indicated by leading economists at some of North America’s largest banks.

While it’s likely that the United States will avoid a recession, the latest projections from the American Bankers Association’s Economic Advisory Committee suggest a significant slowdown in economic growth in the upcoming quarters. This slowdown is expected to result in higher unemployment rates and a decrease in inflation.

Simona Mocuta, the chair of the 14-member committee and chief economist at State Street Global Advisors, stated, “Given both demonstrated and anticipated progress on inflation, the majority of the committee members believe the Fed’s tightening cycle has run its course.”

The upcoming Federal Reserve meeting is anticipated to see no change in interest rates, although there is a division among investors regarding the possibility of a rate increase later in the year.

Picture : S & P Global

The ABA advisory committee comprises economists from major institutions such as JPMorgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo & Co. Their forecasts are regularly presented to Fed Chair Jerome Powell and other members of the central bank’s board in Washington.

According to their median forecast, the committee anticipates that economic growth will decelerate to less than an annualized rate of 1% in the next three quarters due to previous interest rate hikes by the Fed and tightening credit conditions.

The committee’s projections also indicate that unemployment is expected to climb to 4.4% by the end of the next year, up from 3.8% in August. Additionally, consumer price inflation is forecasted to decrease from 3.2% in July to 2.2%.

Simona Mocuta noted during a Zoom press conference, “As a consensus among the committee, the likelihood of a soft economic landing has significantly improved in the short term. However, there are lingering concerns about the sustainability of the remarkable resilience that the economy has exhibited thus far.” The committee assesses the probability of a recession next year to be just under 50%.

The Rise of Asia’s Super Rich Population

Despite experiencing an 11 percent decline in its population of ultra-wealthy individuals in 2022, Asia still maintains a larger number of such individuals compared to Europe. These ultra-wealthy individuals are defined as those whose net worth exceeds $30 million.

The World Ultra Wealth 2023 report by Altrata reveals that Asia surpassed Europe in the number of ultra-wealthy individuals for the first time in 2019. Analysts project that Asia’s global share of ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs) will continue to expand in the coming years and could reach 29 percent by 2027, a significant increase from the 15 percent recorded in 2004. This growth is expected to come at the expense of Europe, which is anticipated to witness a decline in its share of global UHNWIs, dropping from 41.4 percent in 2004 to 25 percent by 2027.

While the populations of ultra-wealthy individuals are projected to rise across all regions worldwide, Asia is poised for the most substantial growth over the next five years, with numbers surging from 395,070 to 528,100. This surge can be attributed in part to India’s expanding economy and a growing trend among businesses to diversify their supply chains away from the Chinese mainland. Instead, they are relocating their industrial, logistical, and real estate operations to other Asian markets.

As depicted in the chart below, North America is expected to maintain its position as the region accounting for approximately 35 percent of global UHNW wealth by 2027. Meanwhile, Europe is projected to lag behind these two regions in terms of UHNW wealth, although it will still experience an overall increase in cumulative wealth.

According to the report, the global population of ultra-wealthy individuals is set to reach 528,100 people by 2027, a substantial increase from the 133,000 reported in 2022.

Turmeric Is Key To Indigestion Treatment

A promising solution for indigestion may already be lurking in your kitchen spice rack, as indicated by a recent study. Published in the medical journal BMJ, this study, which unveiled its findings on Monday, investigated the response of over 150 individuals with dyspepsia (commonly referred to as indigestion) to three different treatments: the medication omeprazole, turmeric containing curcumin, and a combination of the two.

Omeprazole is a widely used drug known for its effectiveness in treating specific heart and esophageal conditions by reducing stomach acid levels, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The participants’ symptoms, which encompassed stomach pain, bloating, nausea, and an early sense of fullness, were assessed at the 28th and 56th day of the treatment. This evaluation utilized the Severity of Dyspepsia Assessment, a questionnaire designed to gauge the severity of indigestion.

The study’s outcomes revealed no significant distinctions in symptom alleviation among the groups receiving omeprazole, turmeric, or the combination of both treatments.

Picture: Business Insider

Dr. Krit Pongpirul, the lead author of the study and an associate professor in the department of preventive and social medicine at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, remarked, “In addition to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, curcumin/turmeric could be a viable option for treating dyspepsia with comparable efficacy to omeprazole.”

Turmeric has a longstanding history of medicinal use in Southeast Asia for addressing stomach discomfort and various inflammatory conditions. In the United States, it has primarily served as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant dietary supplement for alleviating conditions such as osteoarthritis and irritable bowel syndrome.

However, this clinical trial marks the first instance in which curcumin/turmeric has been directly compared to omeprazole in the treatment of dyspepsia, according to Pongpirul.

Turmeric’s Impact on Indigestion and Ongoing Questions

The exploration of turmeric’s influence on indigestion is a logical step since its constituent, curcumin, has been extensively studied in various inflammatory conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease and arthritis, according to Dr. Yuying Luo, a gastroenterologist and assistant professor of gastroenterology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. Some studies have even shown that curcumin can be beneficial when used alongside other medications.

Nevertheless, Luo raised a few queries regarding the new study. She pointed out that the scale employed by the researchers to assess symptoms is not the most commonly used one for gauging indigestion improvement. She also expressed a desire to see more frequent symptom measurements.

“I don’t think this single study alone provides sufficient grounds for me to make a recommendation. Proceed with caution,” she cautioned. However, she added that given the extensive ongoing research on the compound’s impact on various inflammatory conditions, more insights may emerge soon.

Luo emphasized the importance of consulting with a healthcare professional before increasing turmeric consumption in your diet for improved digestion. She highlighted a few case studies indicating liver injury associated with curcumin and the necessity of ensuring that turmeric does not interact adversely with any other medications you may be taking.

Pongpirul echoed these sentiments, stating, “Consumers should be aware of side effects of curcumin extracts such as allergy and bleeding risk, especially for those who take anticoagulant or antiplatelet medications.” He added that curcumin and turmeric are generally considered safe when consumed in the typical amounts found in food.

Typically, turmeric spices contain around 3% curcumin, as per a 2009 study. The 2-gram dose administered in this study is relatively low when compared to the curcumin extracts commonly found in supplements, according to Pongpirul. Therefore, if one of the treatments, turmeric or omeprazole, proves to be equally effective in reducing the risk of side effects, taking both may not be necessary.

While Luo awaits further studies before recommending turmeric as a treatment, she suggested discussing the option with your healthcare provider in conjunction with your current medications. However, she advised giving each alternative two to four weeks to assess their full impact, noting that not all patients respond identically to medications, which is a common challenge in treating disorders.

Biden Supports World Bank For A Bigger Role On The Global Stage

World leaders have issued a call for the expansion of the World Bank to enhance its lending capacity. However, the bank has underscored that this expansion hinges on securing funding from the private sector, as reported in a recent statement.

The President of the World Bank, Ajay Banga, conveyed that the institution’s focus has broadened beyond poverty eradication to encompass pressing global challenges such as pandemics, climate change, and food security. In an exclusive interview with CNBC’s Tanvir Gill during the Group of 20 (G20) leaders’ summit in New Delhi, Banga emphasized the need for private sector involvement. He stated, “There’s no way there’s enough money in the multilateral development bank, or even in governments… that can drive the kinds of changes we need for this polycrisis. Getting the private sectors’ capital and ingenuity into the game is going to be very important.”

Banga further elaborated on the bank’s efforts to boost its lending capacity, stating, “We are digging deep to boost our lending capacity, but we are going further, creating new mechanisms that would allow us to do even more.” He shared these insights during the G20 leaders’ summit, highlighting the bank’s commitment to expanding concessional financing to assist more low-income countries in achieving their goals. Additionally, he mentioned a creative approach to fostering international cooperation in addressing shared challenges.

At the summit, U.S. President Joe Biden echoed the sentiment that the World Bank cannot tackle these challenges alone. Biden called on G20 leaders to provide increased support to the World Bank and other multilateral development banks over the next year, with the goal of enhancing the institution’s capacity to aid low and middle-income nations.

To achieve this objective, Biden requested Congress to allocate more than $25 billion in additional financing for the World Bank. This financial injection is expected to empower the bank to further assist developing countries in their pursuit of development and economic objectives. The White House noted that this initiative would strengthen the World Bank and enable it to provide resources at the scale and speed required to address global challenges and meet the urgent needs of the poorest countries.

The World Bank, originally established in 1944 to support post-World War II reconstruction in Europe and Japan, has evolved significantly over the years. It began with just 38 member nations and has since expanded to include a majority of the world’s countries.

Biden’s administration has previously emphasized the need to provide developing countries with alternative funding sources to reduce their reliance on China and support their recovery from the effects of Russia’s war on Ukraine. As part of this effort, the administration sought $3.3 billion to bolster development and infrastructure finance provided by the World Bank.

In addition to increasing resources for poverty reduction in developing countries, the expansion of the World Bank also aims to assist these nations in transitioning to renewable energy sources. President Banga expressed his vision of securing funds for renewable energy initiatives, which could potentially attract private sector investments at ratios of one-to-one, two-to-one, or even three-to-one. He highlighted the enthusiasm of investors to engage in renewable energy projects in developing countries, emphasizing their confidence in the profitability of ventures related to solar, wind, and geothermal energy.

Both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have pledged to strengthen their partnership to support countries facing challenges related to debt, sustainability, and digital transformation. In a separate interview with CNBC’s Martin Soong at the G20 summit, the IMF’s Managing Director, Kristalina Georgieva, emphasized the evolving landscape of global lending institutions. She stressed the importance of addressing the pressing issue of mounting debt, with approximately 25% of emerging market debt approaching distressed levels. Georgieva highlighted the increasing number of low-income countries experiencing or nearing financial distress.

Georgieva further emphasized the complementary roles of the World Bank and the IMF, explaining that the World Bank possesses deep sectoral expertise that the IMF does not. The IMF’s strengths lie in advising on fiscal policies to facilitate the transition to a digital economy, assessing new types of risks, including those associated with cryptocurrencies and climate change, and utilizing data to inform policymakers on current and future concerns.

In conclusion, the call for the World Bank’s expansion to confront global challenges beyond poverty eradication has garnered support from world leaders, including President Biden. The key to realizing this expansion lies in securing private sector funding. As the institution evolves to address a broader array of global issues, it aims to provide increased concessional financing to low-income countries while fostering international cooperation.

The World Bank’s expansion also aims to support developing nations in their transition to renewable energy sources. Moreover, the partnership between the World Bank and the IMF is set to strengthen, with a focus on addressing debt-related challenges and promoting synergies to tackle global issues effectively. These developments reflect the changing landscape of international financial institutions and their commitment to working together for the greater good.

Republicans Launch Formal Impeachment Inquiry Into President Biden

In a surprising turn of events, Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced on Tuesday last week that he was instructing House Republicans to initiate an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden. Speaking from the U.S. Capitol, McCarthy delivered a concise formal statement, stating, “Today, I am directing our House committee to open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.” McCarthy chose not to field questions from the assembled reporters.

McCarthy’s previous stance had suggested that there would be a full House vote to initiate an impeachment inquiry, as had been the practice in previous instances. However, as of Tuesday, it appeared that McCarthy did not have the necessary support to hold such a vote. A spokesperson for McCarthy confirmed that there would not be a vote to kickstart the impeachment inquiry.

This move had been foreshadowed by McCarthy for several weeks. Part of the motivation appeared to be an effort to appease staunch GOP members and gain access to financial records and documents related to President Biden and his son, Hunter. McCarthy elucidated his rationale on Tuesday, saying, “This logical next step will give our committees the full power to gather the full facts and answers for the American public. That’s exactly what we want to know—the answers. I believe the president would want to answer these questions and allegations as well.”

The individuals selected to lead the impeachment inquiry were also disclosed by McCarthy. He designated House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith for this role.

Picture: NPR

House Republicans had been engaged in investigations for several months, attempting to establish links between President Biden and his son’s business dealings. However, no concrete evidence of wrongdoing by the president had been uncovered. McCarthy revealed that House Republicans, during the August recess, had come across what he termed as “serious and credible allegations into President Biden’s conduct.” When viewed collectively, these allegations painted a picture, in McCarthy’s words, of “a culture of corruption.”

Speaker McCarthy emphasized the gravity of his decision, stating, “I do not make this decision lightly. Regardless of your party, or who you voted for, these facts concern all Americans.”

Responding to McCarthy’s call for a formal impeachment inquiry into President Biden, White House spokesperson Ian Sams commented, “House Republicans have been investigating the President for 9 months, and they’ve turned up no evidence of wrongdoing. His own GOP members have said so. He vowed to hold a vote to open impeachment, now he flip-flopped because he doesn’t have support. Extreme politics at its worst.”

Hunter Biden’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, expressed his perspective on McCarthy’s actions, saying, “McCarthy has shown he will do anything to hold on to his gavel,” including launching an impeachment inquiry “based on repackaged, inaccurate conspiracies about Hunter Biden and his legitimate business activities.”

After leaving the House floor, McCarthy spoke to reporters once more, reiterating the importance of initiating an impeachment inquiry as a means to access more information. When asked if he believed President Biden had committed an impeachable offense, McCarthy replied, “All I’ve said is an impeachment inquiry allows us to get answers to get questions that are out there. Don’t you think the public wants answers?”

Former President Donald Trump had privately discussed an impeachment inquiry into President Biden with House Republicans, according to sources. Rep. Elise Stefanik, a member of Republican leadership, spoke with Trump and updated him on the impeachment inquiry on Tuesday afternoon, according to two sources.

Senate Republicans are scheduled to be briefed by Reps. Jordan and Comer during their lunch on Wednesday, confirming the seriousness of the matter. This briefing will be the first direct exposure to the evidence that Jordan and Comer claim to have uncovered, which could be pivotal for senators seeking more information about the House’s findings before making decisions on supporting further actions.

In a joint statement, Comer, Jordan, and Smith expressed their support for the impeachment inquiry, asserting, “The House Committees on Oversight and Accountability, Judiciary, and Ways and Means will continue to work to follow the facts to ensure President Biden is held accountable for abusing public office for his family’s financial gain. The American people demand and deserve answers, transparency, and accountability for this blatant abuse of public office.”

Sen. Mitt Romney, one of seven Senate Republicans who voted in 2021 to remove former President Donald Trump from office due to his involvement in the January 6 insurrection, endorsed the use of an impeachment inquiry to gain access to more information regarding President Biden’s business dealings. Romney explained, “The fact that the White House has been singularly silent and has coddled Hunter Biden suggests an inquiry is not inappropriate. That’s very different than an impeachment, an actual impeachment would require the evidence of a high crime or misdemeanor that has not been alleged. But inquiring is something the president and the White House could have avoided.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley, who has been investigating Hunter Biden’s business dealings for years, emphasized the distinction between an inquiry and an impeachment, stating, “An inquiry is an inquiry, it’s not an impeachment. And it seems to me it will open up an avenue to get a lot of information that we feel we’ve been stonewalled.”

Regarding the impeachment inquiry’s timing, this development arises as McCarthy aims to prevent a potential revolt from conservative hardliners and avert a government shutdown.

The House resumed its session on Tuesday, facing an impending September 30 deadline to pass a spending measure to keep the government operational. House Republican leaders are currently considering the passage of a continuing resolution, or a short-term funding extension, to provide additional time for negotiations on a comprehensive appropriations package.

However, members of the House Freedom Caucus, the same group that previously opposed McCarthy’s bid for the speakership and his debt limit agreement with President Biden, have indicated that they would not endorse a continuing resolution unless it includes specific provisions related to border security and the “weaponization of the DOJ.” Additionally, the group opposes further aid to Ukraine, potentially setting the House at odds with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.

In the midst of this tension, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz publicly threatened to initiate a motion to vacate against McCarthy. Such a motion would compel a vote to determine McCarthy’s continued tenure as speaker. McCarthy downplayed the threat when speaking to reporters on Monday evening, stating that Gaetz “should go ahead and do it… Matt’s, Matt.” Gaetz reiterated this warning during a floor speech shortly after McCarthy’s announcement regarding the impeachment inquiry, describing McCarthy’s move as a “baby step” in response to pressure from House conservatives.

Another Planet May Have Rare Oceans And A Possible Sign Of Life

Water might be present on the surface of an enormous celestial body located approximately 120 light-years away from Earth, as per recent discoveries made by the James Webb Space Telescope. This space-based observatory, renowned for its advanced astronomical capabilities, has unearthed intriguing clues indicating that the exoplanet K2-18b could possess essential characteristics conducive to the existence of water and potentially life.

K2-18b is situated in close proximity to the cool dwarf star K2-18, occupying what scientists refer to as the “habitable” or “Goldilocks” zone around the star. This zone is deemed suitable for supporting liquid water and, consequently, life. In terms of mass, K2-18b is approximately 8.6 times that of Earth. An extensive analysis of the observations made by the Webb telescope has disclosed the presence of substantial quantities of methane and carbon dioxide in the exoplanet’s atmosphere.

The detection of these carbon-based molecules, coupled with a limited presence of ammonia, suggests the potential existence of an atmosphere rich in hydrogen encompassing an oceanic world, according to a statement from NASA. Carbon, recognized as the fundamental building block of life on Earth, has sparked significant interest among scientists exploring extraterrestrial environments.

Picture: Waay-tv

This intriguing journey into the possibility of water and life on K2-18b began with the Hubble Space Telescope, which initially detected indications of water vapor in the exoplanet’s atmosphere. This discovery, detailed in a September 2019 study, served as a catalyst for intensified investigation into K2-18b’s unique attributes.

The Webb telescope, with its capacity to detect infrared light that escapes human perception, embarked on a quest to precisely identify the elements present within the planet’s atmosphere. The most recent findings from these observations also suggest the potential presence of a distinctive molecule known as dimethyl sulfide on K2-18b.

Dimethyl sulfide on Earth is exclusively produced by living organisms, primarily phytoplankton in marine environments, according to NASA. However, researchers remain cautious in their assertions, emphasizing that further investigation is necessary to confirm the existence of dimethyl sulfide on K2-18b. Moreover, even if the presence of this chemical compound is corroborated, it does not guarantee the existence of life forms on the exoplanet.

Despite the absence of definitive claims regarding alien life on K2-18b, this new evidence serves to broaden our comprehension of exoplanets resembling K2-18b. The insights gleaned from the examination of its atmospheric composition indicate that it might belong to a category known as “Hycean exoplanets.” These hypothetical celestial bodies are characterized by high temperatures, extensive oceanic coverage, and hydrogen-rich atmospheres.

The existence of liquid oceans on Hycean exoplanets offers the potential for sustaining life, although there are lingering uncertainties about their habitability. A study published in The Astrophysical Journal in August points out that these planets could undergo a severe greenhouse effect, potentially rendering them inhospitable.

It is important to note that there are currently no confirmed instances of Hycean exoplanets. Furthermore, K2-18b is an extraordinary entity within our own solar system, which makes planets resembling it poorly understood, as acknowledged by NASA. The scientific community is actively engaged in debating the nature of their atmospheres, as highlighted in a NASA news release.

Nonetheless, scientists involved in the analysis of the recent observations of K2-18b emphasize the significance of unraveling its mysteries. Nikku Madhusudhan, an astronomer and professor of astrophysics and exoplanetary science at the University of Cambridge, who is the lead author of the forthcoming scientific paper detailing these findings, suggests that while further research is required to substantiate the presence of dimethyl sulfide and its implications, the results constitute a promising step in comprehending Hycean worlds. Madhusudhan articulated, “Our ultimate goal is the identification of life on a habitable exoplanet, which would transform our understanding of our place in the universe. Our findings are a promising step towards a deeper understanding of Hycean worlds in this quest.”

In pursuit of this quest for knowledge, researchers intend to leverage the capabilities of the Webb telescope to conduct additional investigations of this distant exoplanet. These subsequent efforts aim to validate and expand upon the newly uncovered insights. Savvas Constantinou, a doctoral student of astrophysics at the University of Cambridge and a co-author of the latest study, noted, “These results are the product of just two observations of K2-18 b, with many more on the way. This means our work here is but an early demonstration of what Webb can observe in habitable-zone exoplanets.”

In summary, the James Webb Space Telescope’s observations have ignited tantalizing possibilities regarding the presence of water and potentially life on the exoplanet K2-18b, situated in the habitable zone of the star K2-18. While this evidence offers promising insights into the composition of its atmosphere, researchers remain cautious about making definitive claims regarding the existence of life on this distant celestial body. Nonetheless, the pursuit of knowledge regarding exoplanets like K2-18b continues to drive scientific exploration and expand our understanding of the universe.

G20 Summit Showcases India’s Fence-Sitting Foreign Policy

As the Group of 20 summit commenced, India’s Foreign Minister, S. Jaishankar, emphasized India’s role in promoting geopolitical harmony amidst the backdrop of intensifying great power rivalry. During the conclusion of contentious negotiations over the joint leaders’ declaration in New Delhi, Jaishankar acknowledged the challenge of leading a “very broad, very diverse” group of member states and stated, “There’s a spectrum of views and interests out there that we have tried to harmonize to produce the declaration.”

The focal point of this “spectrum of views” revolved primarily around Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with G20 officials striving to find common ground. Since the commencement of the conflict in early 2022, India had consistently advocated for a peaceful resolution while refraining from overtly condemning Russia. India shares a long history of partnership with Russia and depends on the country for weapons and affordable oil shipments.

While the G20 traditionally serves as a forum for economic and developmental discussions, recent years have witnessed the intrusion of geopolitical concerns into its agenda. As the summit approached, analysts anticipated difficulties in reaching a consensus on the statement’s wording, especially with the U.S. advocating for a clear denunciation of Russia’s invasion.

Ultimately, the declaration produced was largely influenced by India’s discreet diplomatic efforts, reflecting the host country’s balanced foreign policy approach. The declaration refrains from direct condemnation of Russia and instead includes a general summary of the United Nations’ principles, emphasizing the avoidance of force for territorial acquisition by states. It also acknowledges the human suffering and adverse impacts of the conflict in Ukraine. This stance marked a contrast from the previous year’s declaration, which expressed strong condemnation of Russia’s aggression and demanded its unconditional withdrawal from Ukrainian territory.

Another significant outcome of the summit was the African Union’s admission as a full member of the G20. This accomplishment was part of India’s concerted efforts to engage with developing countries in what it terms a “multialignment” strategy. In a world where the U.S. and China vie for global influence, India is seizing the opportunity to emerge as an alternative, focusing on the Global South and representing it in a polarized international order. This position echoes India’s stance during much of the Cold War when Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru helped establish the nonaligned movement, representing the “Third World” as a neutral force amid competing ideological blocs.

While some Asian countries like Japan and South Korea are strengthening their ties with the U.S. in response to China’s rise, India is pursuing a policy of hedging its bets. India’s role in mediating disagreements among G20 members regarding Russia’s Ukraine war could be seen as a pivotal moment in its ascent as a dealmaker and champion of a more flexible international order.

Harsh V. Pant, a professor of international relations at King’s College London and vice president of studies and foreign policy at the Observer Research Foundation, noted, “In some ways, the Global South approach that India has favored has [caught on], and that’s one metric of success. As major powers contest and compete, India will be more favorably positioned as a country that has channels of communication open with different stakeholders.”

Supporters of India’s “multialignment” foreign policy highlight its economic benefits. India has procured discounted Russian crude oil following Western sanctions on Russian oil exports. This affordable oil has significantly contributed to India’s economic growth, with K.C. Ramesh, executive director of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, India’s largest oil company, affirming its positive impact.

Despite criticism from Western nations regarding its oil imports from Russia, India’s relations with the U.S. and the West have remained intact. In fact, India has witnessed a surge in exports to the U.S. over the past two years, with the U.S. surpassing China to become India’s largest trading partner in 2022, according to data from the Indian Commerce Ministry. Harsh V. Pant observed, “Despite Ukraine, India’s ties with the U.S. and West have not really suffered. You see greater acceptance of the logic of India’s position today.”

Vincent Magwenya, a spokesperson for South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, commended India for setting an attractive example for developing countries. He remarked, “We have expressly stated that we are not aligned to any particular global power, so what India has done is very much in line with our own foreign policy.”

Despite championing the cause of the Global South, India remains part of the U.S.-led Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), which includes Australia and Japan. Additionally, India is a member of the China- and Russia-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization, emphasizing its commitment to engaging with partners globally based on national interests. In an interview with Nikkei Asia before his participation as a special guest at the Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated, “As a member of the Global South, our interest in any plurilateral setting is to serve as a bridge between diverse voices and contribute to a constructive and positive agenda.”

The compromise regarding the language concerning Russia’s Ukraine invasion aligns with India’s broader diplomatic pattern, prioritizing tangible benefits such as trade and infrastructure that directly enhance domestic prosperity over ideological commitments and shared values in international relations. Praveen Donthi, senior analyst for India at the International Crisis Group, noted the divergence between the so-called rules-based international order and India’s pragmatic approach. He emphasized that India positions itself as a narrative shaper, a voice of the Global South, and an independent force pursuing multialignment.

Alongside the leaders’ statement on Russia’s Ukraine invasion, Prime Minister Modi worked on several deals during the G20 summit. This included a railway and ports project aimed at connecting the Middle East and South Asia, offering an alternative to China’s Belt and Road initiative. The project involves various partners, including the European Union, the U.S., and Saudi Arabia, demonstrating India’s proactive approach to regional connectivity and economic cooperation.

The Challenges of India’s Diplomatic Role

In the aftermath of a recent leaders’ declaration, Indian officials have found themselves fielding questions regarding a notable shift in language compared to the previous year’s G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia. While last year’s statement explicitly mentioned Russia in the context of the ongoing war and its impact on global stability, the current declaration, issued from New Delhi, takes a different approach. When asked about this divergence, India’s External Affairs Minister, Jaishankar, offered a succinct response: “I can only say Bali was Bali and New Delhi is New Delhi. Bali was a year ago, the situation was different. Many things have happened since then.”

This shift in rhetoric reflects India’s evolving role on the global stage, as it joins other non-Western countries in presenting an alternative vision of international relations. According to Sarang Shidore, director of the Global South Program at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, this new vision seeks to forge “alternative, more equitable pathways to development that plug existing gaps in the U.S.-led order.” It’s a vision that resonates with many nations in the Global South, offering an alternative perspective on global governance.

However, not all experts in international relations are convinced that India’s newfound prominence will be sustainable. The ongoing war in Ukraine and the intensifying superpower rivalry between the United States and China have placed India in a position where it is courted from all sides. Yet, the durability of India’s current status remains uncertain unless it can establish relationships founded on shared values and principles rather than short-term expediency.

Sumit Ganguly, an expert on Indian foreign policy at Indiana University, points out that while Jaishankar and Prime Minister Modi are skillfully leveraging their relationships with global powers, the lack of durable ties based on values and shared beliefs may prove detrimental in the long run. In essence, building genuine friendships, rather than transactional alliances, should be India’s focus.

India’s need for true allies becomes particularly evident in light of escalating tensions with China, centered around the Himalayan border. The violent clashes in 2020 resulted in casualties on both sides and underscored the seriousness of the border dispute. In the face of an increasingly assertive China, India’s strategy of deliberate nonalignment stands in stark contrast to the recent foreign policy approaches of other Asian powers, such as Japan and South Korea.

Picture : CSIS

Japan and South Korea, despite historical tensions stemming from Japan’s occupation of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945, have taken steps to deepen their security ties with each other and with the United States. They emphasize the importance of a “rules-based international order,” a stark contrast to India’s nonaligned stance.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, known for his strict adherence to rules and principles, cites common values of democracy and global trade as the basis for deeper cooperation between Japan and South Korea. The two nations also face shared threats from China and North Korea, which continues to advance its weapons programs. In an unexpected turn, Yoon took part in a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and U.S. President Joe Biden in which they agreed to share real-time information on North Korean missiles. Such cooperation would have been unthinkable a few years ago.

The emphasis on alliances among democracies is closely tied to growing concerns about China’s intentions and actions. As Park Hwee-rak, a professor of political science at Kookmin University in Seoul, points out, China has failed to convince South Korea and other neighbors of its commitment to democracy and regional leadership. Consequently, the U.S. appears to be the only reliable partner for democracies like South Korea, which cannot be replaced by China.

Turning our focus back to India, the G20 summit held significant importance for Prime Minister Modi. It allowed him to project an image of a strong and influential India just ahead of general elections. Modi’s investment in the G20 summit was, in part, aimed at presenting an India that diverges from the daily struggles experienced by many of its citizens. Despite longstanding expectations of India becoming Asia’s economic powerhouse, some analysts argue that Indian policymakers have failed to foster a robust middle class, and the country still lags behind in key measures of well-being, including access to food and medical care.

Critics of Modi’s leadership argue that his control over the country is characterized less by harmony and more by division and fear. In the weeks leading up to the G20 Summit, India was marred by incidents such as a mob setting fire to a mosque near New Delhi and violent clashes in Manipur. Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi has been among those criticizing Modi for failing to quell such violence, alleging that his politics of Hindu supremacism have fueled social unrest.

Despite Modi’s rhetoric about spearheading an alternative diplomatic approach and bridging the gap between the Global South and industrialized nations, his primary focus appears to be harnessing foreign policy for domestic political gains. As noted by the International Crisis Group’s Donthi, the government excels at offering intangible benefits such as boosting India’s global prestige while constantly strategizing to secure electoral victories.

India’s evolving role on the global stage, as seen through its participation in the G20 summit, signifies a departure from previous diplomatic approaches. While India’s nonaligned stance and emphasis on alternative visions of international relations may hold appeal for some nations, the sustainability of its newfound prominence remains uncertain. Building lasting relationships based on shared values and principles, rather than mere expediency, will be key to India’s success in the complex world of international diplomacy.

“Can’t Prosecute Journalists For False Reports”

Shielding right to free speech of journalists, the Supreme Court of India said it would be “egregious” to prosecute journalists for false statements in their reports and protected the three Editors Guild of India (EGI) members from arrest in the FIRs lodged against them for a controversial report on media coverage and government handling of ethnic clashes in Manipur.

The court stated that prosecuting journalists for false statements in their reports would be “egregious” and that even if the report was false, journalists cannot be prosecuted under Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code.

A Meitei NGO, which had lodged the FIRs against the EGI members, opposed the journalists’ plea for revoking the FIRs alleging that the report was full of falsehoods propagated by the Kuki side which deepened the ethnic divide and fuelled violence.

A bench led by CJI DY Chandrachud said, “It would be egregious to prosecute journalists under Section 153A of IPC (promoting enmity between communities) for false statements in their reports. The report may be right or wrong. But that is what free speech is all about.”

The CJI added, “Your [the NGO’s] entire complaint is a counter narrative of the government. Assuming that the EGI report is false, it is not an offence under Section 153A. A false statement in an article (by a journalist) is not an offence under Section 153A. There are falsehoods in articles published across the country every day, do we prosecute all journalists under Section 153A?”

Solicitor general Tushar Mehta said, “My only worry is that any organisation now can put up a fact-finding committee, file a report and place it alongside the counter views and then come before the SC seeking quashing of the FIR. With this (kind of report), we may not be able to control the narrative building by both sides. Anyone or a team of people can go, put out a particular view and then say it would put counter views alongside the report.”

The CJI said, “The Army wrote to the EGI and complained of biased or one-sided reporting of the ethnic violence. The Army invited them. They went to the ground and submitted a report.”

The bench asked the Meitei NGO’s counsel Guru Krishna Kumar to file its response to the EGI’s plea for quashing of the FIR after EGI counsel Shyam Divan repeatedly said that lodging of FIRs had a chilling effect on free speech of journalists.

It’s noteworthy that in April 2018, the Modi government stated, it will deny government access to journalists who publish fake news, the information ministry had announced. Journalists found guilty of writing or broadcasting fake news will have their government accreditation withdrawn for a limited period or permanently, depending on the frequency of violations, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry said

Journalists and opposition parties described the new rules as an effort by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to control the press.Critics labelled this an attack on the freedom of the press in the world’s largest democracy.

Picture : Reddit

Is Using The 14th Amendment To Disqualify Trump Is Anti-Democratic?

Efforts to prevent former President Donald Trump from appearing on the 2024 ballot under the 14th Amendment are gaining momentum, but they are met with resistance from election officials and legal scholars who express concerns about the anti-democratic nature of such actions.

Two conservative members of the Federalist Society recently supported the idea that Trump could be disqualified, leading to two substantial challenges to his eligibility. In Colorado, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) filed a lawsuit on behalf of six Republican and unaffiliated voters in state court. Meanwhile, in Minnesota, the organization Free Speech for People initiated a legal challenge on behalf of a group of voters in the state’s Supreme Court. Both lawsuits argue that Trump would be ineligible to hold federal office again under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.

Section 3 of the 14th Amendment states that a candidate can be disqualified if they “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against” the United States or provided “aid or comfort to the enemies thereof,” unless granted amnesty by a two-thirds vote of Congress. Trump has vigorously opposed these efforts, labeling them as “election interference” and asserting his innocence.

Despite mounting challenges in various states like Michigan, Virginia, and Connecticut, where secretaries of state are urged to remove Trump from the ballots, New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan, a Republican, emphasized that he lacks the legal authority to do so. He stated, “There is nothing in our state statute that gives the secretary of state discretion in entertaining qualification issues.”

Several Republican officials, including Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Gabriel Sterling, have also spoken out against disqualifying candidates through partisan actions. Raffensperger, who faced pressure from Trump during the 2020 election, warned against using the 14th Amendment as a means to bypass the ballot box. Sterling stressed the importance of trusting the voters and the potential danger of setting a precedent by interpreting the Constitution in a way that removes candidates.

Michigan’s Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson echoed this sentiment, writing in an op-ed for the Washington Post that the decision on Trump’s eligibility ultimately rests with the courts. She emphasized that, unless a court rules otherwise, Trump will be on the Republican presidential primary ballot in Michigan in 2024.

The interpretation of the term ‘insurrection’ is a central issue in these debates. While Section 3 of the 14th Amendment was originally used to disqualify individuals who held roles in the Confederacy after the Civil War, some legal scholars question whether the events of January 6, when a mob of Trump supporters attacked the Capitol, constitute an insurrection within the constitutional definition.

Gerard Magliocca, an expert on the 14th Amendment from Indiana University, raised questions about whether the Capitol attack equates to the scale of the South’s armed rebellion. He also noted that because Trump has never been criminally charged for inciting insurrection or rebellion, some opponents argue that this weakens any case for disqualification under the 14th Amendment.

Michael McConnell, a professor at Stanford Law School, emphasized that interpreting the term “engage” in the context of insurrection might require more than mere verbal support. He pointed out that Trump was not physically present at the Capitol when the violence occurred and that his speech alone might not be sufficient evidence of direct involvement.

Gabriel Sterling, the Georgia elections official, anticipates that courts would consider the absence of a criminal conviction as a significant reason against disqualification. He explained that if someone were convicted of insurrection, that would be a different scenario, but it does not apply to Trump’s case.

On the contrary, McConnell argued that Trump’s ineligibility under the 14th Amendment does not necessarily hinge on a criminal conviction for insurrection. He stated that it is not a requirement for Section 3 to apply, citing historical examples where individuals were disqualified after the Civil War without criminal charges or convictions.

Efforts to disqualify Donald Trump from the 2024 ballot under the 14th Amendment are gaining traction in various states, but they face opposition from election officials and legal scholars who raise concerns about the interpretation of the term ‘insurrection’ and the potential precedent-setting nature of such actions. The debate over Trump’s eligibility is likely to continue in the courts, with the ultimate decision resting on legal interpretations and judgments. Efforts to prevent former President Donald Trump from appearing on the 2024 ballot under the 14th Amendment are gaining momentum, but they are met with resistance from election officials and legal scholars who express concerns about the anti-democratic nature of such actions.

Concerns Surrounding Trump’s Ballot Access

Efforts to bar Donald Trump from running in state primaries face substantial practical hurdles, including potential countersuits and unsympathetic courts. Even if these efforts were to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, success is far from guaranteed. Moreover, it’s essential to recognize that the ongoing challenges pertain to Trump’s participation in primary elections, which are distinct from the actual presidential election. Primaries determine the nominees for the Democratic and Republican parties, not the president.

Professor McConnell from Stanford University highlights the complexity of this issue, stating, “Even if a state like Colorado were to prevent Donald Trump from participating in the primary election for the presidency, there is no mechanism to prevent the Republican National Convention from nominating him as their candidate. So, even if these groups were to succeed legally, it remains unclear what tangible impact it would have.”

He also underscores the speculative nature of these actions, emphasizing that the high degree of confidence exhibited by some individuals is unwarranted. This situation presents a unique challenge, with historical precedents dating back over a century, leaving many uncertainties. In essence, we find ourselves navigating uncharted territory in the realm of election law.

\While concerns about Trump’s participation in primary elections persist, it’s crucial to remain cognizant of the practical obstacles that lie ahead. These efforts are met with legal complexities, and their ultimate impact remains uncertain in the broader context of American presidential elections.

Global Indian Council (GIC) inducted the Women Empowerment team.

Women Empowerment  is one of Global Indian Council’s 16 centers of excellence. Hosted by the chairperson Sosamma Andrews. stated, “Countries should act to empower women and should take steps to eliminate inequalities between men and women as soon as possible by promoting the fulfillment of women’s potential through education, skill development, and employment, giving paramount importance to the elimination of poverty, illiteracy, and ill health among women”.

The meeting commenced with both National Anthems sung by Riya Alexander.

All the women empowerment committee members self introduced each other.

Global General Secretary Sudhir Nambiar, in his welcome address, explained the functioning of GIC.

Global President PC Mathew made the Presidential address and also conducted the Oath Ceremony of the members of the newly inducted Center of Excellence.

Cochair Dr. Alice Mathew. while emphasising the significance of Women Empowerment said “if she can have her PhD at the age of 60, we all can do great things”.

Picture: TheUNN

Dr. Anna George, guest of honor and dynamite key note speaker, who is also the President of indian nurses association shared the story of God took a day off to create women. When you start an important job in life we take enough rest. That important job was to create a woman etc.

Dr.Tara Shajan, GIC Global Treasurer and NYC city director of nursing felicitated the entire COE.She said “Let’s celebrate the achievements of women and work towards breaking barriers, fostering leadership, and ensuring their voices are heard”.

At his felicitations by cabinet member Tom George Kolath extended his congratulation to all the members of Center of Excellence Women empowerment. He mentioned “Education is one of the most important means of empowering women with the knowledge, skills and self-confidence necessary to participate fully in the development process”.

NY chapter president Dr. Anil Paulose said, we as Indians traditionally come from a patriarchal society. Women didn’t have similar freedom and privileges as men, but that has changed quickly. He presented some statistics as good sign,  when we connect the Women Empowerment.

CoE Business Excellence Chair Dr. Raj Mohan Pillai emphasized the importance of women’s empowerment, quoting the story of his energetic mother in a successful family business.

Cochair Dr. Jobey Jacob being a paediatrician  she appreciated GIC’s involvement in these area and offered all her support.

Sunitha Flowerhill, Shyla Pillay( Australia), and Santy Mathew (Kerala) also conveyed their appreciation for the team. In addition, Leela Marett, (Fokana), Dr. Shyla Roshin, Sumodh ( Pampa Assn. President), Divya Warrier, Saju Thomas, Komal Khatri, Andrews Kunnupurath ( GIC Brand Ambassador, NY), Dr. T P Narayanankutty (GIC Margialized Community Chairman) joined to felicitate the Newly inducted team.

Sivakumar, Indian Railway loco-pilot and environmentalist mentioned how women empowerment is important.

Indu Jaiswal Congratulated this COE and mentioned this center is going to enlighten not only the GIC but the entire community.

Members if the GIC Cabinet and Executive Committee also feucitated the team of Women Empowerment.

Usha George, Cochair of health and wellness CoE did the Vote of Thanks and mentioned “The full participation and partnership of both women and men is required in productive and reproductive life, including shared responsibilities for the care and nurturing of children and maintenance of the household activities”

Amala Benny, as Emcee, introduced the speakers and coordinated the meeting.

17 September, 2023: The State of Things set in Mare D Albert, Mauritiu

If things had been the way they normally were, Mother would have stopped by the old purohit and chatted with him. He would have greeted her with a namaskar, she would have taken both hands and clasped them in a prayer stance to show respect, and then the formalities would have ended. Mother would have asked the purohit how his family was doing, the purohit would have asked Mother how her son was managing. The purohit would have shared some shlokas for Mother to reflect on, Mother would have offered to bring him some of the gateau she was learning to make from the recipes on French television. They would have smiled at each other, shared an « au revoir » or an « à la prochaine. »

But now the purohit was no longer at the temple, and Mother stared dejectedly at the new purohit who chanted under the murti of Hanuman, not exchanging with him a single glance.

« C’est très dépressif. »

Mother took a far look to the other side of the pink wall to see that it was Deepika. Deepika, the wife of that vile dentist who often showed off his Chevrolet bought from Quebec. Deepika, that woman who wore a flower dress that revealed all her cleavage, yet had the nerve to put kum kum on her head after genuflecting to the murti, showing it off. Deepika, that sixty-something who swore like an Arab from Marseilles.

Of course Mother came towards her to exchange kisses on the cheeks.

« Bonsoir. »

« Bonsoir. »

« Comment vas-tu, mon amis? »

« Très bien. Et toi? »

It was all pleasantries, all niceties. It pained Mother to even fake a smile towards a woman who had done nothing but wrong her, and it pained her equally to see how well Deepika smiled in her direction. Did she not even feel guilt for the time after the Sankranti puja when she told everyone that Mother’s son was gay? No, this wasn’t a naive smile. No, there was a sense of justice and pride in her demeanour. Most likely she had felt like it was a rumour that had ought to be spread.

And then Deepika said, de nouveau « C’est très dépressif, what has happened to the pastor. »

Mother said « Oui, » only because she was not sure what to say. Mother and the purohit had had an exceptionally close relationship, and she still felt upset knowing that his life had since turned upside down, over a rumour, as well, about his supposed sexual involvement with an underage girl. But Mother did not trust Deepika, and she was not going to share her opinion on the circumstance.

Deepika pressed « Do you know what has happened to him? »

Mother said « Non. Do you? »

« Non. But it is all so sad. »

« Oui. »

Deepika looked left and right to see if anyone was coming from either sides of the wall. When she saw that it was only the two of them, Deepika came a little closer to whisper « You know he deserved it. »

Mother felt her muscles tense from her neck to her shoulders. Anger coursed through her body.

She felt like she could spit down Deepika’s blouse and get away with it.

Deepika went on « He was a paedophile. A paedophile! In our community, can you imagine? And you shared so many secrets of your life with him? I wondered what it was you said… »

Mother smiled, wrinkling her eyes so that her crow’s feet were like arrows pointing against her.

« It is ironic you are implying what you are implying. You know that our purohit was the first person I talked to when I found out about my son. Do you know what he did? No, he did not spread rumours or make fun of me behind my back, like you would have liked. He came to my home and held my hand as I sobbed uncontrollably for hours. He helped me control my breathing. He reminded me to repeat my shlokas. He did not pass judgement. He did not even talk until I was ready to speak. He is that kind of a man. He is calm and giving to everyone. It is not just me who feels this way. Vatsala has known the man since childhood and says he never behaved inappropriately with anyone. Our neighbour Naveen says that he loaned some money to his family and never accepted any payment back. If you came to the temple more often, you would know none of us believe these accusations. But you…yes, you certainly would believe in these rumours… »

Mother had to stop herself from saying more. The blood was pumping so hard in her neck that she could feel it twisting her muscles. Her back was so tense that any abrupt movement was causing it to ache.

And Deepika wasn’t worth it. Mother knew that Deepika had spread the rumours about Son’s sexuality because she was a bitter contentious woman, who never appreciated Mother even when she went out of her way to include her in her friend circle, and for many years.

Mother continued « I give my faith and trust to those who put in their time with me. I stand with the people who have stood up for me. If he says he never touched the girl, I believe him. It is as simple as that. »

Deepika said « That is fair. I personally believe in the girl and her parents, as I do in Viveka and Ananda, who said they were touched in the same way. But you are allowed to believe what you believe. » She tugged down at her blouse, liberating herself of some of the sweat of the heat.

Mother said « Oui. » A new bhajan was being sung. It prompted Mother to remember all the times she would listen to her purohit as these devotional songs played in the background. She could smell the incense just as she could smell the sweat that came off her purohit’s skin. She felt lost in the calm of prayer. She breathed, cleared her throat, and told herself that if she wanted to respect what her purohit had taught her, it was best to move on. For the sake of changing the topic, Mother asked « What are your plans for the rest of the day? »

Deepika’s response was interesting. Mother rarely initiated small talk with Deepika, and she certainly never asked her about her plans for the day. Deepika looked perplexed, her eyes calculating what it was that Mother was trying to get at. When Deepika couldn’t find an answer, her glance turned uncertain. She merely reversed the question to Mother. « Well, what are your plans for the rest of the day? »

« Nothing » Mother said without a pause. She had no shame in admitting it. It was the truth. Their house was just on the other side of this potholed bend of a road. Every day, she walked to the other side of it, did puja at the temple, came back, and spent the rest of the day at her window, cooking, cleaning, staring out into the sea.

Deepika looked like she was cooking up all sorts of things in her head. She probably wanted to tell Mother that her husband and her were off to Port Louis to have a fine five-star meal, or that she was going to be visited by loved ones, or even a youngster whom she was having an affair with.

Or, perhaps Deepika’s life was just as boring as Mother’s. She remembered how a few years ago Deepika would chase her to hang out, wanting to do just anything with anyone in a group of friends who were really just tolerating her.

Mother cleared her throat. « I know we haven’t talked much in a while. I didn’t like how you tried to drag my son’s name through the mud. »

Deepika was not responding, so Mother tilted her head and continued « You used to hang out with me and my friends. I remember this. Well, after what you said, my friends did not talk to me for some months. It was hard. But now, we are back to speaking. Time heals, as does friendship. It is quite nice. Do you have any friends like that? »

Mother smiled. It was not an intentional or put-on smile. It was one that arose naturally as she mused over the situation. She asked with genuine curiosity « Why did you want to start a rumour about me? Why did you want me to suffer so badly? »

Deepika was unable to form an answer. It would have been easy for Mother to keep going, to retaliate, to point out that Deepika was lonely and envious of Mother’s friends. But Mother had her smile, and she found it enough. She looked outside the door of the humble, pink cottage that the mandir was stored in. The clouds were pewter, the sea was grey, and it was quite windy.

Mother knew that Deepika lived in the same subdivision as her. She said « It is going to rain soon. I think I will get going. » She made no pretence of inviting her along.

Deepika faked a head bob, tilting her head back and forth the way an Indian from the subcontinent would, as Mother took her leave.

It was the first time Mother had allowed herself to finish a conversation with Deepika on her terms. And for that, despite the wind and the abnormal chill that the clouds had brought over the pavement, she found herself smiling on.

Menendez Accused of Brazen Bribery Plot, Taking Cash and Gold

Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a Democrat, faced serious charges on Friday, accused of accepting substantial bribes, including gold bullion bars, to leverage his influence both domestically and internationally.

A three-count federal indictment unveiled a audacious scheme that unfolded during clandestine dinners, through text messages, and on encrypted calls, much of it focused on increasing U.S. support for Egypt and assisting New Jersey businessmen.

Mr. Menendez’s spouse, Nadine Menendez, is alleged to have acted as an intermediary, relaying messages to American-Egyptian businessman Wael Hana, known for his close ties to Egyptian military and intelligence figures. In one text message to an Egyptian general, Mr. Hana referred to Senator Menendez, who wielded significant influence over military sales, financing, and aid, as “our man.”

In a robust response to the charges, Senator Menendez expressed confidence that the matter would be “successfully resolved once all of the facts are presented.”

The charges filed on Friday paint a picture of a mingling of New Jersey’s rough-and-tumble backroom politics and delicate Middle Eastern security concerns. These allegations represent the latest chapter in a long political career that took Senator Menendez, the child of Cuban immigrants, from the Union City, New Jersey, school board to the hallowed halls of the Senate. His career has been marked by accusations of corruption and an earlier federal indictment that resulted in a hung jury.

These new charges not only jeopardize Mr. Menendez’s considerable political influence but also his personal freedom.

Governor Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey, a close Democratic ally, called for Senator Menendez’s resignation, a call echoed by numerous political leaders across the state. Senator Menendez, however, rebuffed these demands, asserting in a statement on Friday evening, “I’m not going anywhere.”

In accordance with Senate Democratic rules, Senator Menendez did notify Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York that he would step down as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Picture : NYT

The indictment goes beyond allegations of corruption related to foreign aid. Senator Menendez is accused of using his position to manipulate criminal investigations involving two other New Jersey businessmen, one of whom had long been a fundraiser for him. In furtherance of this goal, the Senator recommended that President Biden nominate attorney Philip R. Sellinger as the U.S. attorney for New Jersey, believing that he could influence Sellinger’s handling of the fundraiser’s case. However, Sellinger, who ultimately assumed the role, remained unswayed by Senator Menendez’s efforts, according to prosecutors.

Additionally, Senator Menendez stands accused of interfering in an investigation by the New Jersey attorney general’s office by offering “advice and pressure” in an attempt to persuade a senior prosecutor to show leniency in the case of two associates of an individual who gifted Ms. Menendez a Mercedes-Benz convertible. The prosecutor deemed Senator Menendez’s actions “inappropriate” and declined to intervene, as stated in the indictment.

In return for these actions, the indictment alleges that the Senator and his spouse received cash, gold, contributions toward a home mortgage, the luxury car, and other valuable items. The day after a trip to Egypt in 2021, Senator Menendez reportedly conducted an internet search inquiring “how much is one kilo of gold worth.”

During a news conference announcing the charges, Damian Williams, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, contended that Senator Menendez’s actions were intended to benefit a select few.

Williams noted that Senator Menendez’s Senate website explicitly outlined the types of services he would not provide due to their impropriety, including influencing private business matters and interfering in judicial matters and criminal trials.

“Constituent service is part of any legislator’s job – Senator Menendez is no different,” Williams remarked. However, he added, “Behind the scenes, Senator Menendez was doing those things for certain people – the people who were bribing him and his wife.”

Shortly after the news conference, Senator Menendez issued a vehement one-page rebuttal of the charges, attributing them to unidentified “forces behind the scenes” that have consistently attempted to silence him and undermine his political career.

“The excesses of these prosecutors are evident,” he asserted. “They have misrepresented the standard work of a congressional office. Moreover, not content with making false accusations against me, they have attacked my wife for the longstanding friendships she had prior to our meeting.”

David Schertler, Ms. Menendez’s attorney, affirmed that his client had not violated any laws.

“Mrs. Menendez denies any criminal wrongdoing and will vigorously contest these charges in court,” Mr. Schertler stated.

These charges against Senator Menendez, aged 69, and others come after a lengthy investigation by the FBI and federal prosecutors in Manhattan, nearly six years following his previous trial on unrelated corruption allegations, which resulted in a hung jury.

James Smith, who leads the New York FBI office, expressed on Friday that the conduct outlined in the indictment “erodes the public’s trust in our government system and unfairly tarnishes the reputations of honest and dedicated public servants who faithfully carry out their duties every day.”

The businessmen named in the indictment, which was unsealed in Manhattan federal court, include Mr. Hana, a close friend of Ms. Menendez who founded a halal meat certification company; Fred Daibes, a New Jersey real estate developer and a fundraiser for Senator Menendez; and Jose Uribe, involved in the trucking and insurance sectors.

The 39-page indictment levels charges of conspiracy to commit bribery and conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud against the Senator, his wife, and the businessmen. It further accuses Senator Menendez and his spouse of conspiracy to commit extortion under the color of official right, signifying their use of his official position to coerce individuals into providing something of value.

In a recent indictment, Ms. Menendez once boasted that her actions would elevate Mr. Hana’s status above that of the Egyptian president.

Back in 2018, when Ms. Menendez, aged 56, and Mr. Hana were in the early stages of their relationship, they orchestrated meetings and dinners with Egyptian officials, with the involvement of Mr. Menendez. During these encounters, the Egyptian officials presented requests related to foreign military sales and financing, among other matters. In exchange for Mr. Menendez’s commitment to facilitate such transactions, the indictment revealed that Mr. Hana promised to employ Ms. Menendez in a role where she would perform minimal or no work.

Following one meeting with Egyptian officials, Mr. Menendez managed to obtain sensitive, nonpublic information about the staffing and nationalities of individuals serving at the U.S. Embassy in Egypt from the State Department. This information was considered highly confidential, and its disclosure could pose security risks. Mr. Menendez shared this information via text with Ms. Menendez, who then forwarded it to Mr. Hana. Subsequently, Mr. Hana transmitted it to an Egyptian official.

Around the same time, during a dinner engagement, Mr. Menendez disclosed additional nonpublic details regarding United States military aid. Shortly afterward, Mr. Hana communicated with another Egyptian official, informing them that the embargo on small arms and ammunition to Egypt had been lifted, enabling sales, including sniper rifles.

The indictment further exposed the close rapport cultivated by Ms. Menendez and Mr. Hana between her husband and Egyptian officials. On one occasion, Mr. Menendez convened a meeting in his Senate office with Ms. Menendez, Mr. Hana, and an Egyptian intelligence officer to address a human rights issue impacting aid to Egypt. Later that evening, the group reconvened for dinner at a Washington steakhouse.

In 2019, Mr. Hana established IS EG Halal, his company. Within a year, the Egyptian government designated it as the sole entity authorized to certify the preparation of halal meat according to Islamic law for imports to Egypt from any part of the world.

When a high-ranking official at the U.S. Department of Agriculture voiced concerns about this monopoly’s impact on U.S. interests, Mr. Menendez personally contacted the official. He insisted that the U.S.D.A. cease its opposition to IS EG Halal’s exclusive status as a halal certifier, as detailed in the indictment. The halal company served as a source of revenue for Mr. Hana, allowing him to fulfill the bribe payments he had committed to.

The indictment also highlighted the involvement of Mr. Daibes and Mr. Uribe, the other businessmen facing charges in this case, in providing payments to Ms. Menendez.

In 2019, Ms. Menendez expressed frustration to her husband regarding an expected check that had not arrived. She texted Mr. Menendez, stating, “I am soooooo upset,” and mentioned that Mr. Hana had not left her an envelope. She inquired about whether she should contact Mr. Daibes, to which Mr. Menendez responded, “No, you should not text or email.”

Shortly afterward, Ms. Menendez reached out to Mr. Daibes, leading Mr. Hana’s company to issue a $10,000 check to a consulting firm owned by Ms. Menendez.

During a search of the Menendez’s residence in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., and a safe deposit box registered in Ms. Menendez’s name, investigators discovered $550,000 in cash. A significant portion of this money was concealed within clothing, closets, and a safe. Some of the cash was stored in envelopes bearing the fingerprints or DNA of Mr. Daibes or his unidentified driver.

In addition to the cash, investigators located over $100,000 worth of gold bars, with photographs of some of these bars included in the indictment.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Hana commented that, following an initial review of the charges, they found them to be without merit. Mr. Daibes’s lawyer, Tim Donohue, expressed confidence that Mr. Daibes would be completely exonerated from all charges. As of now, there has been no response from Mr. Uribe’s representative.

Senator Menendez, his wife, and their three co-defendants are scheduled to appear in Manhattan federal court soon, as confirmed by Nicholas Biase, a spokesperson for the Southern District.

This isn’t Senator Menendez’s first legal encounter. In 2015, he faced bribery charges in New Jersey, involving a purported scheme with a wealthy eye doctor to exchange political favors for gifts valued at nearly $1 million. These gifts included luxurious Caribbean vacations and campaign contributions. His corruption trial in 2017 ended in a mistrial after the jury failed to reach a verdict. The judge later acquitted Mr. Menendez of several charges, and the Justice Department dismissed the rest.

Friday’s indictment reverberated across Washington and New Jersey, with calls for Senator Menendez to step down emerging from members of his own party and Congress. Notably, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, a close ally of Mr. Menendez, has remained silent on the allegations and resignation demands.

Senator Menendez is already facing at least one Democratic challenger in his bid for a fourth Senate term, with the Republican mayor of Mendham Borough, N.J., also announcing her intention to compete for the seat. If Senator Menendez were to resign, as Governor Murphy has proposed, the governor would appoint a replacement.

Governor Murphy commented on the charges, stating, “These are serious charges that implicate national security and the integrity of our criminal justice system. The alleged facts are so serious that they compromise the ability of Senator Menendez to effectively represent the people of our state.”

 

New York Climate Week Made One Thing Clear: Climate Action is Complicated

When reporting on unfolding news events, one of the primary challenges lies in crafting a coherent narrative amidst the complexities of reality. In New York this week, a convergence of government officials, corporate leaders, and civil society figures gathered to discuss the pressing issue of climate change. This assembly, known as New York Climate Week, is not a conventional conference but rather a series of meetings and ancillary events coinciding with the United Nations General Assembly. While some may question the efficacy of such gatherings,
they offer valuable insights into the perspectives and strategies of those engaged in tackling climate-related challenges.

The landscape of climate action is undeniably intricate and multifaceted. On one hand, the transition towards a more sustainable future is making notable progress. Investment in clean energy has surged in recent years, and despite resistance to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives, corporations continue to invest in decarbonization. On the other hand, a complex web of political and economic obstacles has cast a shadow over efforts to enact more ambitious climate policies. Corporations, once enthusiastic about making substantial commitments to combat climate change, have encountered the stark reality that implementation is far more challenging than making announcements.

TIME

Oliver Bäte, the CEO of the German financial services firm Allianz, articulated this predicament at the United Nations, stating, "The long era of robust economic growth, low inflation, and
geopolitical stability is over. Suddenly, fighting climate change has become an ever greater challenge." These hurdles are disconcerting for those concerned about the escalating threat of
rising temperatures and the attendant risks to humanity. However, an alternative perspective suggests that these challenges signify the full-scale initiation of the energy transition, and our
response to them will be pivotal.

To comprehend this dual narrative, it is beneficial to examine the actions of both the private sector and government independently.

In the private sector, a growing cohort of companies has made bold pledges to achieve decarbonization in the coming decades. These commitments garnered acclaim upon their initial announcement. However, the time has come for these companies to translate their promises into tangible results. Many businesses began with the low-hanging fruit, such as procuring renewable
energy and enhancing energy efficiency. Nonetheless, achieving the necessary emissions reductions to fulfill their commitments often demands substantial effort. This entails devising novel business models and products rather than simply refining existing ones. Concurrently, rising interest rates and disruptions in supply chains stemming from the pandemic have complicated matters. Companies are now competing for limited supplies of low-carbon materials, exemplified by manufacturers vying for a restricted quantity of low-carbon steel. During discussions in New York, corporate executives underscored their commitments while expressing a sense that the current political and economic climate has impeded progress. The political landscape presents a similar labyrinth of challenges. Some heads of state arrived in New York to announce fresh commitments to combat climate change. Others advocated for combining ambition with realism, with pragmatism emerging as a central theme, as exemplified by the official from the United Arab Emirates tasked with leading this years’s U.N. climate conference. Conversely, some leaders chose not to attend at all, as demonstrated by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who declared this week that the UK should temper its climate efforts. In a way, these setbacks are a natural consequence of progress. Political and business leaders must collaboratively navigate these hurdles to sustain momentum. It’s a task that no conference or summit can fully resolve.

Why India’s Women’s Reservation Bill Is a Major Step Forward

India took a significant stride towards gender equality this week as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during a special parliamentary session, unveiled a bill that aims to reserve one-third of
seats in the more influential lower house and state legislative assemblies for women. Modi, while introducing the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam, or Women’s Reservation Bill, declared this momentous occasion, saying, “This is a historic moment, this is a moment of pride for us.”

A similar bill was initially proposed in September 1996, with successive Indian governments attempting but failing to pass it into law due to strong opposition from conservative heartland
parties. In 2010, Mulayam Singh Yadav, a leader of the socialist Samajwadi Party, voiced the sentiment of wanting reservations for women from minority and backward classes before endorsing such a bill: “We are not anti-women.”

After 27 years in the making, the Women’s Reservation Bill achieved near-unanimous approval in the lower house on Wednesday, before smoothly passing through the upper house late Thursday. The bill now awaits the President's signature to become law.

“U.N. Women applauds the passage of the bill," stated Kanta Singh, a country representative from the international agency, describing it as “one of the most progressive and transformative pieces of legislation that would bring women into the highest decision-making bodies." As per Reuters, women currently occupy a mere 15% of seats in the lower house, with only 82 out of 550 seats held by women. This number further decreases in the upper house, where women occupy just 12% of the seats, accounting for 31 out of 250. A 2015 Report on the Status of Women in India by the Ministry of Women and Child Development highlighted the dismal representation of women in parliament and state assemblies, especially in senior decision-making positions.

MINT

Apart from parliament, India has seen only one woman Prime Minister and two female Presidents since gaining independence in 1947. Furthermore, only 15 women have served as Chief Ministers. This record has placed India, often referred to as the world’s largest democracy, near the bottom of the global list concerning gender parity in legislatures. The country ranks 141
out of 185 in the World Economic Forum's latest Global Gender Gap Report.

Nevertheless, there has been a seven-fold increase in the number of women contesting elections since the 1950s. However, economist Shamika Ravi, a member of the Indian government’s Economic Advisory Council, notes that most women run as independent candidates and often face significant barriers to entering politics or assuming leadership roles, including the need for substantial campaign funding and political party backing.

Ravi believes that the new bill, which establishes a legally-binding target for the number of women lawmakers by 2029, will incentivize political parties to be more gender-inclusive and appoint more women to leadership positions.

This legislation comes at a time when women in India have been actively engaged as voters, constituting nearly half of India's 950 million registered voters—a number that has consistently grown over the last two decades. Studies have indicated that women tend to vote differently from men. For instance, in a 2005 hung election in the northern state of Bihar, Ravi found that women supported a new set of candidates, signaling a desire for change, while men generally voted for the status quo.

Supporters of the bill argue that quotas for women have already yielded positive results at the local level after their introduction in 1993. Ambar Kumar Ghosh from the Observer Researcher Foundation, a New Delhi-based think tank, notes that women now occupy around 44% of seats in local assemblies, showcasing significant progress in women’s political empowerment at the grassroots level. This achievement, Ghosh says, places India among the world’s leading nations in facilitating women's political empowerment at the local level, surpassing countries like France, the U.K., Germany, and Japan.

This landmark bill comes just months before India's next general elections, scheduled for May 2024, during which Modi will seek his third term in office. Its passage in the lower house sparked an eight-hour debate, with opposition parties, led by the Indian National Congress, engaged in a heated battle over who deserves credit for this historic legislation.

Sonia Gandhi, a former leader of Congress, asserted the bill as “ours”and stated,”I must say it be a victory for the Congress Party if the bill is finally passed.” Economist Shamika Ravi views this contention positively, suggesting that it signifies broad ownership of the idea of women’s  reservation, potentially leading to increased opportunities for women from various political parties during election time.

How the U.N. Plans to Shape the Future of AI

The United Nations General Assembly convened this week in New York, and during the proceedings, the U.N. Secretary-General’s technology envoy, Amandeep Gill, organized an event titled “Governing AI for Humanity.” The purpose of this gathering was to engage in discussions regarding the potential risks associated with AI and the complex challenges of fostering international cooperation in the realm of artificial intelligence.

Secretary-General António Guterres and Gill share the belief that establishing a new U.N. agency will become necessary to facilitate global collaboration in the management of this influential technology. However, the precise objectives and structure of this new entity have yet to be determined. Some observers express skepticism, noting that ambitious initiatives for worldwide cooperation often struggle to garner the support of influential nations.

Gill has previously spearheaded efforts to enhance the safety of advanced technologies. He chaired the Group of Governmental Experts for the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, a forum where the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots aimed to convince governments to prohibit the development of lethal autonomous weapons systems. Unfortunately, this campaign failed to gain traction, particularly with major global powers like the United States and Russia. Now, Gill is leading an even more ambitious endeavor to promote international collaboration in the field of AI.

The pace of AI development has been astonishing in recent years, and experts anticipate that this progress will continue at an accelerated rate. The repercussions of AI innovation extend far beyond the borders of the countries where it is developed, prompting leaders and technologists to advocate for global cooperation in addressing AI-related issues.

In July, at a meeting of the U.N. Security Council, Secretary-General Guterres made the case for the United Nations as the ideal platform for fostering such cooperation. The next step in establishing a U.N. AI agency is the formation of a High-Level Advisory Body on Artificial Intelligence, the membership of which will be announced in October.

Gill, who previously served as the executive director of the U.N. High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation from 2018 to 2019, assumed the role of tech envoy in June 2022. In August of the same year, the tech envoy’s office initiated the selection process for experts to serve on the High-Level Advisory Body on Artificial Intelligence, inviting nominations from the public.

A separate call for nominations, reviewed by TIME, was circulated among member states and outlined the terms of reference for the Body. These terms specified that the Body would comprise up to 32 members from diverse sectors, ensuring a mix of genders, ages, geographic representation, and areas of expertise.

Picture : Reuters

In an interview with TIME on August 30, Gill revealed that his office had received over 1,600 nominations through the public call for nominations. When combined with nominations from member states, the total number is expected to exceed 2,000. Gill explained that, in collaboration with other U.N. organizations, his office will create a shortlist from which the Secretary-General will select the final 32 members. The Body is scheduled to convene for the first time in October.

The terms of reference, as seen in the document shared with TIME and confirmed by Gill, outline the Body’s responsibilities. It mandates the Body to produce an interim report by December 31, 2023, presenting a high-level analysis of options for the international governance of artificial intelligence. A second report, due by August 31, 2024, may provide detailed recommendations concerning the functions, structure, and timeline for a new international agency dedicated to the governance of artificial intelligence.

Aki Enkenberg, the team lead for innovation and digital cooperation at Finland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs, expressed reservations about specifying that the Body should offer recommendations regarding a new international agency. Enkenberg argues that much of the necessary international governance for AI could be facilitated by existing U.N. bodies, suggesting that an assessment of potential gaps in the U.N. system should have been conducted before proposing the establishment of a new agency. Gill countered this by denying that the terms of reference predispose the Body to advocate for a new agency.

When questioned about whether the advisory body’s size might make it unwieldy and potentially allow the secretariat to exert undue influence over the report’s content, Gill emphasized that the secretariat has no intentions of swaying the Body’s findings.

Looking ahead to September 2024, the U.N. will host its Summit of the Future. By that time, Gill hopes that the findings of the High-Level Advisory Body will provide member states with the necessary information to determine whether and how they should support the establishment of a U.N. AI agency. Gill views this summit as an opportune moment for leaders to make decisions on this matter, describing it as a “leaders-level opportunity.”

In a blog post released in May, top executives from OpenAI, the organization responsible for ChatGPT, raised the notion that a future AI governance system might resemble the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). They argued that as AI systems become more sophisticated, there may be a need for an international authority to ensure their safe development and deployment. The post stated, “Any [superintelligence] effort above a certain capability (or resources like compute) threshold will need to be subject to an international authority that can inspect systems, require audits, test for compliance with safety standards, place restrictions on degrees of deployment and levels of security.”

The IAEA, established in 1957, conducts inspections to prevent non-nuclear weapon states from developing nuclear weapons and supports the peaceful use of nuclear energy through technical cooperation.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed support for the idea of an AI agency akin to the IAEA, stating in June, “I would be favorable to the idea that we could have an artificial intelligence agency …inspired by what the international agency of atomic energy is today.”

However, replicating the IAEA model for AI governance is just one possibility. A paper published in July by researchers from Google DeepMind, OpenAI, and various academic and nonprofit institutions laid out four potential forms an international AI body could take, each not mutually exclusive.

One proposal is to establish an IAEA-like agency that develops industry-wide standards and monitors compliance with those standards. Another option is to create an organization resembling the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which facilitates expert consensus on technical AI issues. The report also suggests an international partnership between public and private sectors, ensuring equitable access to beneficial AI, similar to the Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, model for vaccines. Lastly, the report mentions the possibility of international collaboration on AI safety research, akin to the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).

Dr. James Gill, who led the interview with TIME, noted that the High-Level Advisory Body must decide which model, if any, is most appropriate. He believes that the fourth option, an international research effort, could involve a U.N. agency in addressing potential AI risks.

However, some experts argue that establishing an IAEA-like agency for AI might face resistance from policymakers. This is because it would necessitate countries like the U.S. and China to grant international inspectors full access to their advanced AI labs to mitigate unforeseen risks.

Bill Drexel, an associate fellow at the Center for a New American Security, highlights that current levels of international cooperation on managing potentially hazardous technologies are at a historic low. He suggests that it might require a significant AI-related incident to generate the political will needed for a substantial international agreement. In the interim, setting up an international body, either through the U.N. or via smaller multilateral or bilateral groups, with minimal obligations on participants could lay the groundwork for more substantial cooperation if the need arises.

Gill, drawing from his expertise as a nuclear historian, concurs with this approach. He emphasizes that while the history of the IAEA might not be directly applicable, there’s a possibility to establish international controls should AI risks become more pronounced.

An alternative governance model, with the potential for future expansion, is proposed in a white paper from August, authored by researchers from academic, nonprofit, and Microsoft. It suggests the creation of an International AI Organization (IAIO) to collaborate with national regulators on setting standards and certifying jurisdictions instead of individually monitoring AI companies. Under this model, governments would enforce these standards by permitting only those companies operating in jurisdictions that meet these standards to access their domestic markets. They would also restrict exports of AI components, such as computing chips, to countries failing to meet these standards.

Robert Trager, one of the lead authors of the white paper, believes that jurisdictional certification makes this arrangement less intrusive, making it more appealing to powerful countries. Given the global nature of AI safety risks, it’s crucial for countries developing advanced AI systems, particularly the U.S. and China, to be part of any international agreement.

Sihao Huang, a researcher at the University of Oxford focusing on AI governance in Beijing, argues that a narrow focus on shared issues, such as assessing models for biosecurity risks, will be necessary for China’s participation in an international agreement.

However, Russia’s stance remains resistant to the idea of supranational oversight bodies for AI. Dmitry Polyanskiy, first deputy permanent representative of the Russian Federation to the U.N., expressed opposition to such bodies during a U.N. Security Council meeting in July.

Although the International Civilian Aviation Organization and the International Maritime Organization, which served as inspiration for the IAIO, are U.N. agencies, Trager suggests that the U.N. is not the only potential host for such governance efforts. He argues that multiple models could involve a wide range of stakeholders in AI governance.

Bill Drexel emphasizes that international cooperation can be slow and inefficient. Instead, he suggests considering bilateral or more limited multilateral forums for governing advanced AI systems, allowing for scalability with the expansion of involved companies.

Gill maintains that the U.N., as a universal intergovernmental organization with experience in managing new technologies, is well-positioned to host a treaty or organization for AI governance.

While previous attempts to manage AI internationally, like the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, may have faltered due to idealism, Trager insists that the global community must continue trying to address AI governance. He acknowledges the complexity of the world but sees a window of opportunity for meaningful progress.

Why the INDIA Alliance Is Right in Boycotting Pro-Government Media

The INDIA opposition alliance has revealed a list of 14 news television anchors whose shows their representatives will boycott. While no specific reason was initially provided, several opposition leaders have referred to this group as the “WhatsApp group of the BJP Media Cell.”

The arguments against this boycott encompass various concerns, notably those related to press freedom and historical references to the “Emergency” era. It’s important to examine the available evidence that suggests certain anchors and TV stations function as extensions of the government.

On June 19, 2020, Arvind Gunasekar, a correspondent for NDTV, tweeted the contents of a note provided by the government to journalists as “talking points” following an all-party meeting regarding the Chinese intrusion issue. This meeting featured Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assertion that there had been no intrusion by China in eastern Ladakh.

The talking points presented by the Modi government aimed at shaping media headlines, emphasizing India’s support for the Prime Minister and downplaying Congress’s efforts to create divisions. Channels adhered to these instructions, evident in the subsequent Times Now prime-time debate titled “All parties unite behind India but Sonia Gandhi won’t slam China?” and Republic TV’s debates with headlines like “Unarmed with fact, Congress insults Army” and “Is there a ‘special relation’ between the Congress and China?”

During the months of May, June, and July, Times Now conducted 33 prime-time debates critical of the opposition, while none critiqued the actions of the Narendra Modi government. Similarly, Republic TV held 47 debates criticizing the opposition and none addressing the government’s actions or the economic recession. This period coincided with a 21-day consecutive increase in petrol and diesel prices.

On June 16, India reported the loss of 20 soldiers in the Galwan Valley in Ladakh during hand-to-hand combat with Chinese forces. Concurrently, daily Covid-19 infections surged from 2,300 cases on May 1 to over 57,000 daily cases by July 31. However, the focus of the “debates” remained skewed.

Subsequently, the Indian Journalism Review published another note that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had circulated to television channels, directing their focus. The note highlighted PM Modi’s leadership in pushing back China and promoting the concept of Atma Nirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India). Times Now and Republic TV responded with debates echoing these sentiments.

Analysts, including political scientist Christophe Jaffrelot and data analyst Vihang Jumle, examined Republic TV’s content in a study published at the end of 2020. They concluded that Republic TV’s debates consistently favored the Modi government, BJP ideology, and policies while neglecting crucial issues like the economy, education, and health. The study found that almost fifty percent of Republic TV’s political debates criticized the Opposition, with none supporting it.

To revisit the initial question—what evidence suggests that certain anchors and TV stations function as extensions of the government—the evidence is quite clear for those willing to seek it. The opposition’s decision to boycott these anchors and shows appears justified, given their perception of a rigged media landscape. One can only hope, although optimism is limited, that this action serves as a corrective measure for the media’s current state of affairs, which has had detrimental effects on the nation.

USA to host 2024 ICC Mens T20 World Cup

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has revealed that the United States will be the inaugural host of the T20 World Cup, with venues in Grand Prairie, Dallas, Broward County, Florida, and Nassau County, New York, all playing pivotal roles.

In a landmark decision made by the ICC Board in November 2021, both the United States and the West Indies were jointly selected to co-host this prestigious tournament. The tournament will feature not only the three designated stadiums in the US but also additional venues like George Mason University in Washington for pre-event matches and training.

To accommodate the anticipated high attendance during the matches, the ICC plans to deploy modular stadium technology. An official ICC release reveals that they have initiated the process to construct a modular stadium with a seating capacity of 34,000 in Eisenhower Park, a dedicated sports and events facility located in Nassau County, New York.

Pending final approvals, modular stadium solutions are poised to augment seating, media facilities, and premium hospitality amenities in Grand Prairie and Broward County.

ICC Chief Executive Geoff Allardice shared his excitement about the selection of venues for what promises to be the most extensive ICC Men’s T20 World Cup to date. He commented, “We’re thrilled to unveil the three USA venues that will host a portion of the largest-ever ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, featuring 20 teams competing for the coveted trophy. The USA represents a strategically vital market, and these venues provide an exceptional opportunity for us to make a significant impact in the world’s largest sports market.”

Picture : ICC Cricket

Regarding the deployment of cutting-edge technology, Chief Executive Allardice expressed, “We are tremendously enthusiastic about the prospect of utilizing modular stadium technology to showcase world-class cricket in a location that has not previously hosted an ICC global event, affording cricket enthusiasts in the USA the unique opportunity to witness the world’s top talent in their own backyard.”

He went on to elaborate, “This technology has been successfully employed at prior ICC events to expand venue capacities, and it is routinely utilized in other prominent sports worldwide. In the USA, it will enable us to enhance the size of the venues in both Dallas and Florida, ultimately creating what promises to be a remarkable venue in New York.”

This development marks a historic moment for cricket in the United States, as the nation prepares to embrace the sport on a global stage. The ICC’s choice of American venues and state-of-the-art stadium technology reflects their commitment to making this T20 World Cup a memorable and groundbreaking event for cricket fans in the United States and around the world.

India stops new visas for Canadians, asks Ottawa to downsize missions as spat worsens

India has taken a significant step in the ongoing dispute with Canada, suspending the issuance of new visas for Canadian citizens and calling for a reduction in Canada’s diplomatic presence within India. This development follows accusations made by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, linking India to the murder of a Sikh separatist. The situation has led to heightened tensions between the two countries, resulting in diplomatic expulsions and travel advisories.

The Indian Foreign Ministry expressed its willingness to investigate specific information related to the allegations but noted that Canada has not shared any such information thus far. This move to suspend new visas for a Western country is an unprecedented action and represents a low point in India-Canada relations.

This decision came shortly after Canada’s high commission in India disclosed plans to “adjust” its staff presence due to threats received by some diplomats on social media platforms. The nature of these threats was not specified, and India has assured full security and support for foreign diplomats within its borders.

Indian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi cited “security threats” to staff at Indian consulates in Canada as the reason for suspending new visa issuances to Canadian citizens. However, the exact nature of these security threats was not detailed. In response, Canadian Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc asserted that Canada is a safe country and stated that the security situation would be regularly reviewed.

Canada has been a significant source of foreign tourists to India, with 350,000 visitors in 2019. However, this number decreased due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The recent escalation in tensions began when Prime Minister Trudeau announced that Canada was investigating “credible allegations” of Indian government involvement in the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in British Columbia in June. The Indian government vehemently denied any connection to the alleged murder, and Canadian officials have not provided specific reasons for their suspicions regarding India’s involvement.

Both countries have engaged in tit-for-tat expulsions of senior diplomats and issued reciprocal travel advisories as a result of this dispute. India has expressed its readiness to examine any specific information but has not received such information from Canada. The issue has also been discussed with key allies in intelligence sharing, including the Five Eyes alliance comprising the United States, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, with these countries expressing concerns.

In response to questions regarding the impact of this dispute on global standing, Bagchi stated that Canada should be concerned about damage to its reputation rather than India. He pointed out India’s concerns regarding Canada’s reputation as a safe haven for terrorists, extremists, and organized crime and highlighted India’s previous requests for action against over 20 individuals.

India has not provided specific details of acts of terrorism carried out by Sikh separatists against its interests in Canada.

Canada has a significant Sikh population, with around 770,000 individuals identifying as Sikh in the 2021 census. Although the Sikh insurgency in Punjab in the 1980s and 1990s has largely dissipated in India, small groups in various countries, including Canada, continue to support the separatist demand for an independent Sikh state called Khalistan.

The dispute also poses a threat to trade ties, with talks on a proposed trade deal frozen in recent weeks. Canada is India’s 17th largest foreign investor, and Canadian portfolio investors have invested substantial sums in Indian financial markets. Additionally, India has been the largest source of international students in Canada since 2018, with their numbers rising by 47% in 2022 to nearly 320,000.

Industry estimates suggest that the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between Canada and India could potentially increase two-way trade by as much as $6.5 billion.

US Senator Menendez charged with bribery, says he will not resign

U.S. Senator Bob Menendez and his spouse have been hit with charges of accepting bribes from three New Jersey businessmen, potentially complicating the Democrats’ efforts to maintain their narrow Senate majority in the upcoming elections.

Menendez has temporarily stepped down from his role as the chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee until the case is resolved, according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Schumer emphasized Menendez’s right to due process in a statement.

The U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan has alleged that Menendez, aged 69, received hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and gold bars in exchange for leveraging his power and influence as New Jersey’s senior senator to benefit Egypt’s government and obstruct investigations into the businessmen.

Menendez has been a significant ally to President Joe Biden in the administration’s efforts to regain U.S. influence globally, garner support for congressional aid to Ukraine, and counter the rise of China.

Calls for Menendez’s resignation have come from prominent Democratic figures, including New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, as well as other Democratic state officials and members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Murphy, who would appoint a temporary replacement if Menendez resigns, stated, “The alleged facts are so serious that they compromise the ability of Senator Menendez to effectively represent the people of our state.”

However, Menendez has firmly stated that he has no intention of resigning. He asserted, “It is not lost on me how quickly some are rushing to judge a Latino and push him out of his seat. I am not going anywhere.”

Prosecutors are aiming to have Menendez forfeit assets, including his New Jersey residence, a 2019 Mercedes-Benz convertible, and approximately $566,000 in cash, gold bars, and funds from a bank account. The indictment includes images of gold bars seized from Menendez’s home and envelopes filled with cash discovered in jackets bearing his name in his closet. Prosecutors claim to have found over $480,000 in cash in his residence.

 Damian Williams, the chief federal prosecutor in Manhattan, pointed out that Menendez’s website clearly states that as a senator, he cannot exert influence to favor individuals or intervene in private business matters. Williams stated, “Behind the scenes, Senator Menendez was doing those things for certain people – the people that were bribing him and his wife.” He confirmed that the investigation is ongoing.

Menendez countered the allegations, asserting that prosecutors had misrepresented routine legislative work. He stated, “The excesses of these prosecutors are apparent. The facts are not as presented.”

Nadine Menendez, aged 56, who has been married to the senator since 2020, has denied any wrongdoing. Her lawyer stated that she would vigorously defend against the allegations in court.

This investigation marks the third time that Menendez has been scrutinized by federal prosecutors, though he has never been convicted. In January 2018, federal prosecutors in New Jersey dropped a case in which Menendez was charged with accepting private flights, campaign contributions, and other bribes in exchange for official favors. A trial in 2017 on these charges ended in a jury deadlock. He was also investigated in 2006.

Senate Democratic rules stipulate that any member charged with a felony must relinquish their leadership position, with the option to resume it if found not guilty. Senator Ben Cardin is expected to step in as foreign relations chairman, as he did after Menendez was indicted in 2015. Menendez, currently in his third term, has expressed his intention to seek re-election next year.

While an investigation could potentially complicate the Democrats’ efforts to expand their narrow 51-49 seat majority in the 100-member Senate, it’s worth noting that New Jersey has not elected a Republican senator since 1972.

Menendez, of Cuban American heritage, has been a staunch opponent among Biden’s fellow Democrats regarding any softening of policies towards Cuba and Venezuela. He has also been one of the Senate’s most vocal critics of Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, particularly opposing major weapons deals for the kingdom.

Criminal charges against members of the 100-seat Senate are relatively uncommon. Former Republican Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska was found guilty of corruption in 2008, but the conviction was later overturned due to prosecutorial misconduct. Republican Senator Larry Craig of Idaho was arrested for lewd conduct in a bathroom in 2007 and pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct.

In addition to Menendez, his wife, Bob and Nadine Menendez, the businessmen involved in this case – Wael Hana, Jose Uribe, and Fred Daibes – are scheduled to appear in Manhattan federal court on September 27 to face charges of conspiracy to commit bribery and conspiracy to commit honest services fraud.

Both Bob and Nadine Menendez also face one count each of conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right. While they could potentially face up to 45 years in prison if convicted, any sentence would ultimately be determined by a judge and is likely to be much shorter.

According to the indictment, Hana, originally from Egypt, arranged meetings in 2018 between the senator and Egyptian officials, during which officials pressured Menendez to approve military aid that the U.S. had withheld due to concerns about Egypt’s human rights record. In return, Hana, aged 40, placed Nadine Menendez on the payroll of a company he controlled, which had exclusive rights to certify halal meat shipments from the U.S. to Egypt.

Later, the senator sought to influence the U.S. Department of Agriculture to refrain from taking any action that would interfere with the company’s monopoly status, according to the indictment.

“We are still reviewing the charges but based upon our initial review, they have absolutely no merit,” a spokesperson for Hana stated in response.

The Egyptian embassy in Washington has not yet responded to requests for comment.

Prosecutors allege that Uribe, who worked in the trucking and insurance industries, provided Nadine Menendez with $15,000 in cash to assist in purchasing a Mercedes-Benz convertible. This occurred after her husband had asked an official at the New Jersey attorney general’s office to resolve fraud investigations into Uribe’s associates favorably.

Daibes, a real estate developer, reportedly gave Menendez gold bars and cash after the senator attempted to influence a federal criminal case in New Jersey involving Daibes, who had allegedly obtained loans under false pretenses. Daibes pleaded guilty and received a probationary sentence.

Attorneys for Uribe and Daibes have not immediately responded to requests for comment.

Under Pope Francis, the College of Cardinals has become less European

In the world of the Roman Catholic Church, the appointment of cardinals plays a critical role in shaping the future leadership and direction of the faith. Pope Francis, since his election in 2013, has not only exercised this power to select cardinals but has strategically altered the geographical balance of power within the College of Cardinals, moving it away from its traditional European stronghold and toward regions in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

In late September, a momentous ceremony will unfold in Vatican City as 18 new voting cardinals are installed. This event marks a pivotal moment in the composition of the College of Cardinals, which will soon have 136 members under the age of 80, eligible to participate in the election of the next pope. A comparison of the regional distribution of voting cardinals reveals the transformation that has occurred since Pope Francis assumed his role a decade ago:

– The Asia-Pacific region’s share of voting-age cardinals will rise from 9% in 2013 to 18%.

– The Latin American-Caribbean region will experience a modest increase from 16% to 18%.

– Sub-Saharan Africa will see its representation grow from 9% to 13%.

– Europe’s presence will significantly decline from 52% to 39%.

– North America’s influence will diminish slightly, falling from 12% to 10%.

– The Middle East-North Africa region will have the smallest share, decreasing from 2% to 1%.

It’s worth noting that this count of 136 voting cardinals excludes Patrick D’Rozario, who has held his cardinal position since 2016 but turns 80 just one day after the upcoming September 30th ceremony.

Analyzing Pope Francis’ Cardinal Selections Over Time

Despite these significant shifts, Pope Francis, an Argentine and the first non-European pope since the eighth century, has still appointed more cardinals from Europe than any other region. Among the 98 voting-age cardinals named by Francis during his papacy (including the 18 cardinals-elect), the breakdown is as follows:

– Europe holds the majority with 38%.

– Latin America and the Caribbean represent 20%.

– The Asia-Pacific region comprises 19%.

– Sub-Saharan Africa contributes 13%.

– North America has 7%.

– The Middle East-North Africa region accounts for 2%.

Collectively, cardinals selected by Pope Francis will constitute a substantial 72% majority among the 136 voting members of the College of Cardinals after the September 30th ceremony. The remainder were appointed by Pope Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II.

Taking a closer look at the geographical origins of the new 18 voting-age cardinals to be installed on September 30th reveals a diverse composition:

– Nine cardinals will represent European countries, including France (2 cardinals-elect), Italy (2), Spain (2), Poland (1), Portugal (1), and Switzerland (1).

– Four cardinals will hail from Latin America and Caribbean nations, including Argentina (2), Colombia (1), and Peru (1).

– Three cardinals will represent countries in sub-Saharan Africa: South Africa, South Sudan, and Tanzania.

– Two cardinals will come from Asia-Pacific countries: China and Malaysia.

Cardinals and the Global Catholic Population

Vatican data from 2021 indicates that Europe is home to 21% of the global Catholic population. Despite this proportion, Europe remains significantly overrepresented among voting cardinals, constituting 39% of their ranks. In contrast, the Latin America-Caribbean region, which accounted for 41% of the worldwide Catholic population as of 2021, possesses only 18% of the voting cardinals. This disparity underscores the evolving dynamics within the Catholic Church’s leadership structure, influenced by Pope Francis’ strategic selection of cardinals.

Pope Francis’ efforts to shift the balance of power within the College of Cardinals reflect a broader vision of inclusivity and representation, acknowledging the growing significance of regions outside Europe in the global Catholic community. As these changes continue to take root, they are likely to have a lasting impact on the future leadership and direction of the Roman Catholic Church.

Nurse Practitioners Sue California for the Right to Use “Doctor” Title

Three nurse practitioners who hold doctorates of nursing practice are taking legal action against the state of California, asserting their right to be addressed as “doctor.” They argue that a longstanding California statute, which exclusively permits California-licensed allopathic and osteopathic physicians to use the titles “doctor” and “Dr.,” violates the Constitution. This statute, in place since at least 1937, was initially intended to prevent patient confusion regarding their healthcare providers’ educational backgrounds.

Physicians, on the other hand, oppose this claim, emphasizing that the extent of physician education and practical training surpasses that of nurses. They argue that the law is essential to prevent patient confusion about the qualifications of those treating them. Furthermore, physicians contend that surveys corroborate patients’ preference to reserve the titles “doctor” or “Dr.” exclusively for MDs and DOs.

Picture : Nurse Journal

The Litigation Center of the American Medical Association and State Medical Societies, along with the California Medical Association (CMA), have submitted an amicus brief in support of the state’s request for the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California Riverside Division to dismiss the lawsuit, Palmer et al. v. Bonta et al. They urge the court to uphold the law’s constitutionality, citing precedent. A hearing on the motion to dismiss is scheduled for September 18.

The amicus brief argues, “Physicians today are educated and trained differently and more deeply and robustly than any other professional healthcare provider; and industry practice and the law continues to place physicians at the center of medical care.” It asserts that the public still perceives physicians as the cornerstone of healthcare and closely associates the terms “doctor” or “Dr.” with them.

Dr. Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, President of the AMA, emphasized the importance of clarity and transparency in healthcare providers. He pointed out that patients face increasing difficulties in identifying their physicians when non-physician healthcare professionals use titles traditionally associated with physicians. Laws such as California’s “truth-in-advertising” law have been instrumental in preventing confusion and protecting patients from potential harm.

Dr. Ehrenfeld stated, “It is imperative that we follow precedent and keep these laws in place to ensure patients have the basic information they need to make informed decisions about their healthcare.”

The AMA’s stance aligns with its commitment to combatting scope creep and preserving the role of physicians as leaders in patient care. The AMA emphasizes that patients deserve care led by physicians, who are among the most highly educated, trained, and skilled healthcare professionals.

Physician training includes leadership skills, the ability to coordinate healthcare teams, problem-solving for complex medical issues, the identification of critical diagnoses, and timely treatment decision-making. Physicians are trained not only for routine matters but also for handling intricate medical cases. Furthermore, most physicians undergo extended training, such as three-to-seven-year residencies, post-residency fellowships, or other subspecialty clinical training. They must also fulfill continuing medical education requirements and often meet the American Board of Medical Specialties’ criteria to maintain board certification.

In contrast, the amicus brief argues that nurse practitioners’ training falls short of a physician’s education and training. Nurse practitioner programs cover less material than medical school, are less science-oriented, and lack comparable depth.

The legal battle between nurse practitioners and physicians in California raises essential questions about the appropriate use of the title “doctor” in the healthcare profession. It hinges on whether nurse practitioners with doctorates of nursing practice should be allowed to use this title, as they believe they have earned the right to do so, or if the law should continue to restrict its use to allopathic and osteopathic physicians to prevent patient confusion. This lawsuit’s outcome will likely have significant implications for healthcare providers and patients in California and potentially beyond.

Indian Medical Graduates Can Now Practise In US, Australia, Canada

The National Medical Commission (NMC) in India has achieved a significant milestone by obtaining the prestigious World Federation for Medical Education (WFME) Recognition Status for a period of ten years, as announced in a statement from the Union Health Ministry.

This recognition from WFME carries substantial implications, allowing Indian medical graduates to pursue advanced training and professional practice in countries that require WFME recognition, including the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Under this accreditation, all 706 existing medical colleges are now WFME-accredited, and any new medical colleges established over the next decade will automatically gain WFME
accreditation. This development positions India as an appealing destination for international students, owing to its globally acknowledged educational standards.

Beyond the international appeal, the NMC's attainment of WFME recognition promises to elevate the quality and standards of medical education in India by aligning them with the highest
global benchmarks and best practices.

Furthermore, this achievement is expected to enhance the global recognition and reputation of Indian medical institutions and professionals. It will facilitate academic collaborations and
exchanges, fostering continuous improvement and innovation in medical education while nurturing a culture of quality assurance among medical educators and institutions.

The World Federation for Medical Education (WFME) is a worldwide organization dedicated to improving the quality of medical education on a global scale. Its mission centers around
advancing healthcare for all by promoting the highest scientific and ethical standards in medical education, as highlighted in the Health Ministry’s press release.

The press release also underscores the crucial role of the Education Commission on Foreign Medical Education (ECFMG) in the United States. The ECFMG is the primary governing body
responsible for overseeing policies and regulations concerning the licensing of International Medical Graduates (IMGs) in the United States.

To be eligible to take the United States Medical Licensing Examinations (USMLEs) and apply for residency programs, all IMGs must be certified by the ECFMG. Typically, this certification
occurs after completing the second year of a medical program and before attempting the USMLE Step 1 examination.

In 2010, the ECFMG introduced a new requirement, originally scheduled for implementation in 2023 but postponed to 2024 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This requirement mandates that
“beginning in 2024, individuals seeking ECFMG Certification must be enrolled in or have graduated from a medical school accredited by an accrediting agency officially recognized by the
World Federation for Medical Education (WFME).”

The WFME recognition process involves a fee of Rs 4,98,5142 ($60,000) per medical college. This fee covers the expenses associated with site visits by assessment teams, including their
travel and accommodation.

To put this into perspective, the total cost for all 706 medical colleges in India to undergo the WFME recognition process would amount to approximately Rs 351.9 crore ($4,23,60,000).
Notably, the NMC’s achievement of WFME recognition applies to all medical colleges under its jurisdiction.

In conclusion, the National Medical Commission’s attainment of WFME Recognition Status is a significant milestone for the Indian medical education system. It not only opens doors for Indian medical graduates to pursue opportunities abroad but also promises to elevate the quality of medical education in the country to international standards. This achievement is a testament to
India’s commitment to excellence in medical education and its aspiration to be a global hub for medical studies.

The Highest Paid CEOs of S&P 500 Companies in 2022

The S&P 500, a renowned benchmark index in the U.S. stock market, hosts some of the world’s most valuable companies. Naturally, the CEOs of these firms command substantial compensation packages. But what exactly do these packages consist of? And do these CEOs consistently receive the compensation they are promised, or does it fluctuate with the stock market’s ups and downs?

Today, we present an infographic based on data sourced from The Wall Street Journal. It highlights the top-earning CEOs of S&P 500 companies in 2022 and delves into the components of their compensation.

The 20 CEOs with the Highest Compensation

The compensation packages for CEOs of S&P 500 companies encompass more than just base salaries. They typically include bonuses, stock awards, and various incentives. Let’s take a look at the highest-paid CEOs of S&P 500 companies in 2022, along with the sectors they represent.

 

  1. Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet (Google’s parent company), led the pack with an impressive compensation package valued at approximately $226 million. This staggering sum exceeded Google’s median employee compensation by over 800 times. Pichai’s package comprised an annual salary of $2 million, a $6 million security allowance, and stock awards valued at $218 million.

 

  1. Michael Rapino, CEO of Live Nation Entertainment, saw his awarded pay package soar to $139 million in 2022, up from nearly $14 million the previous year. This substantial increase included stock awards initially valued at $116 million.

 

  1. Tech giants Apple and Broadcom also featured prominently. Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, received a compensation package worth $99 million in 2022, while Hock Tan, President and CEO of Broadcom, was awarded $61 million.

Other notable CEOs on the list included Peter Zaffino of global insurance giant AIG and Netflix’s co-CEOs, Ted Sarandos and Reed Hastings. Hastings experienced a $10 million increase in his compensation in the preceding year but stepped down from his role in January 2023.

A Halt in the Rise of Median CEO Income

Over the past decade, the median pay for CEOs across S&P 500 companies has doubled. In 2021, this figure reached a peak of $14.7 million. However, in 2022, the median CEO compensation package plateaued for the first time in ten years, dipping slightly to $14.5 million.

Compensation That Reflects Market Performance

Compensation packages linked to market valuations mean that these CEOs may receive more or less than their designated pay. This discrepancy arises because most stock awards are not immediately granted upon announcement; rather, they vest over time, making them susceptible to fluctuations in share prices.

In 2022, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) introduced new disclosure regulations, requiring companies to report the realized value of executive pay packages, aptly named “compensation actually paid.” According to The Wall Street Journal’s report, many of the highest-paid S&P 500 CEOs in 2022 received considerably smaller pay packages due to market swings.

For instance, Sundar Pichai ultimately received approximately $116 million as the value of Alphabet’s stock decreased when his grants vested. Similarly, Michael Rapino received nearly $36 million, even though his stock awards will continue vesting over the next five years.

It’s worth noting that, in 2022, several CEOs of energy companies, including Exxon Mobil and Chevron, outshone many of the top-paid S&P 500 CEOs. This was largely due to the surge in their companies’ stock prices during that year.

Conclusion

The compensation of CEOs at S&P 500 companies is a subject of great interest and scrutiny. While these executives command significant pay packages, the actual amounts they receive can fluctuate substantially based on market conditions. The introduction of new disclosure rules by the SEC sheds light on the realized value of executive pay, highlighting the impact of market dynamics on CEO compensation. As we move forward, it will be interesting to see how these trends evolve and whether CEOs’ earnings continue to mirror the performance of their companies’ stock.

Picture : Visual Capitalist

 

UNESCO Just Added 27 New World Heritage Sites for 2023

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) revealed 27 new additions to its prestigious World Heritage Site list on Monday. These newly designated sites encompass a wide array of culturally significant areas, including revered temples in Cambodia, ancient tea forests in China, and historic European towns. Moreover, the committee expanded several existing heritage sites, such as the Andrefana Dry Forests in Madagascar, Vietnam’s Cat Ba Archipelago in Ha Long Bay, and additional sections of the ancient Hyrcanian Forests in Azerbaijan.

The World Heritage Committee convened in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to deliberate on the selection of these sites. Committee members had to make their choices from a pool of global nominations
submitted over the course of 2022 and 2023.

To earn a coveted spot on this prestigious list, a natural or cultural site must possess exceptional universal value and fulfill at least one of ten other specific criteria for selection. These criteria
include representing a ” masterpiece of human creative genius ” or showcasing ” areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance.”

Additionally, the recent meeting of the committee saw the addition of several Ukrainian sites to the Endangered List due to the ongoing Russian invasion in Ukraine. Notable entries on this list
include Kyiv’s Saint Sophia Cathedral and its associated monastic structures, along with the historic city center of L’viv. UNESCO expressed concerns about the vulnerability of these sites to direct attacks and the collateral damage caused by bombings in these cities.

Pattadakal, Karnataka, India – April 24 2013: The temples and shrines at Pattadakal temple complex, dating to the 7th – 8th century, the early Chalukya period.

The committee’s session is scheduled to continue until September 25, potentially allowing for the addition of more sites to the World Heritage roster. Here is a comprehensive list of the latest

UNESCO World Heritage Sites added in 2023:
1. Koh Ker archaeological site in Cambodia
2. Santiniketan, West Bengal, India
3. Old Tea Forests of the Jingmai Mountain in Pu’er, China
4. Mongolia’s Deer Stone Monuments
5. Korea’s Gaya Tumuli burial mounds
6. Türkiye’s archaeological site of Gordion
7. Germany’s Jewish medieval historic center of Erfurt
8. Architecture of the town of Kaunas, Lithuania

9. Guatemala’s National Archaeological Park Tak’alik Ab’aj
10. Old town of Kuldīga, Latvia
11. Prehistoric Sites of Talayotic Menorca
12. The Zarafshan-Karakum Corridor of the Silk Road
13. Ethiopia’s Gedeo Cultural Landscape
14. Iran’s Persian Caravanserai
15. Canada’s Tr’ondëk-Klondike region
16. The Czech town of Žatec and its tradition of Saaz Hops
17. Ancient Jericho/Tell es-Sultan
18. “Köç Yolu” Transhumance Route in Azerbaijan
19. Djerba in Tunisia
20. India’s Sacred Ensembles of the Hoysalas
21. Indonesia’s Cosmological Axis of Yogyakarta
22. Bale Mountains National Park in Ethiopia
23. The Forest Massif of Odzala-Kokoua in Congo
24. Volcanoes and forests of Mount Pelée and pitons of Martinique
25. Viking-age ring fortresses in Denmark
26. The Maison Carrée of Nîmes, France
27. Russia’s Astronomical Observatories of Kazan Federal University
These remarkable additions to the UNESCO World Heritage List showcase the rich tapestry of cultural and natural heritage found across the globe. Each site represents a unique facet of human
history, creativity, and the natural world, underscoring their outstanding universal value for future generations.

UNESCO Announces Inclusion of 13 New Sites in World Heritage List

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia – The 45th session of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, held from September 10 to 25, 2023, saw representatives from 21 member states come together to make significant additions and extensions to the World Heritage List. These decisions aim to provide legal protection to ancient and unique sites in various countries, including China, India, Ethiopia, Iran, Azerbaijan, and the Palestinian Territory of the West Bank. Additionally, several Ukrainian sites in Kyiv and Lviv have been added to the List of World Heritage in Danger. Below are details of the newly included sites:

1.Palestine – Ancient Jericho/Tell es-Sultan

Tell es-Sultan, situated in the Jordan Valley, holds evidence of human activity dating back to the 9th-8th millennium BC. The site reveals Neolithic religious practices and urban planning from the Early Bronze Age, showcasing the evolution of a complex Canaanite city-state in the Middle Bronze Age.

2.Iran (Islamic Republic of) – The Persian Caravanserai

This property encompasses 54 caravanserais, providing shelter, food, and water for travelers in ancient Iran. These caravanserais showcase diverse architectural styles, adaptations to climate, and construction materials, representing invaluable examples of Iranian heritage.

3.China – Cultural Landscape of Old Tea Forests of the Jingmai Mountain in Pu’er

Developed over a thousand years by the Blang and Dai peoples, Jingmai Mountain in southwestern China is a traditional tea production area. It features traditional villages surrounded by old tea groves, forests, and tea plantations, with Indigenous communities preserving a unique cultivation method aligned with the mountain’s ecosystem and climate.

4.Azerbaijan – Cultural Landscape of Khinalig People and Köç Yolu Transhumance Route

The Khinalig Cultural Landscape, located in northern Azerbaijan, is home to the semi-nomadic Khinalig people. Their unique culture centers around seasonal migration between summer and winter pastures along the 200-kilometer-long Köç Yolu (Migration Route), encompassing high-altitude summer pastures, agricultural terraces, and more.

5.Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan – Silk Roads: Zarafshan-Karakum Corridor

The 866-kilometer-long Zarafshan-Karakum Corridor in Central Asia played a pivotal role in Silk Road trade between the East and West from the 2nd century BCE to the 16th century CE. It served as a melting pot of cultures, religions, sciences, and technologies, with people from diverse backgrounds contributing to its rich history.

6.Germany – Jewish-Medieval Heritage of Erfurt

Erfurt’s medieval historic center comprises the Old Synagogue, the Mikveh, and the Stone House, illustrating the coexistence of the local Jewish community with the Christian majority during the Middle Ages, from the 11th to the mid-14th century.

7.Denmark – Viking-Age Ring Fortresses

Built between 970 and 980 CE, these five circular forts constructed by the Vikings share a common design. Positioned near key land and sea routes, they were designed for defense and symbolize the power and centralized rule of the Jelling Dynasty in late 10th-century Denmark.

8.Canada – Tr’ondëk-Klondike

Tr’ondëk-Klondike, in northwestern Canada, witnessed how Indigenous people adapted to the profound changes brought about by the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 19th century. It showcases interactions between Indigenous communities and white settlers, as well as the adaptations made by the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in people.

9.Republic of Korea – Gaya Tumuli

This property comprises archaeological cemetery sites with burial mounds from the Gaya Confederacy, which existed in southern Korea from the 1st to the 6th centuries CE. The unique political system and cultural evolution of the Gaya Confederacy are evident in the distribution of cemeteries, burial types, and grave goods.

10.Mongolia – Deer Stone Monuments and Related Sites of Bronze Age

These ancient deer stones, located in central Mongolia, were used for ceremonial and funerary practices from about 1200 to 600 BCE. They are often found in complexes alongside large burial mounds and sacrificial altars, reflecting the cultural heritage of Eurasian Bronze Age nomads.

11.Cambodia – Koh Ker: Archaeological Site of Ancient Lingapura or Chok Gargyar

Koh Ker in Cambodia is a sacred complex of temples, shrines, sculptures, inscriptions, and ruins. It served as one of the capitals of the Khmer Empire and showcases distinctive urban planning, artistic expression, and construction techniques.

12.Ethiopia – The Gedeo Cultural Landscape

Located on the steep slopes of the Ethiopian highlands, the Gedeo Region is characterized by agroforestry practices, sacred forests, and megalithic monuments. It highlights the rich traditional knowledge of forest management and rituals associated with the Gedeo religion.

13.India – Santiniketan

Founded by Rabindranath Tagore in 1901, Santiniketan in rural West Bengal is a boarding school and arts center rooted in ancient Indian traditions. It represents a unique approach to pan-Asian modernity, incorporating elements from across the region’s ancient, medieval, and folk traditions.

14. Latvia – Old Town of Kuldīga

Kuldīga’s old town in Latvia is a well-preserved example of a traditional urban settlement that evolved into a significant administrative center of the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia from the 16th to 18th centuries. Its architecture reflects the rich exchange between local and traveling craftsmen from the Baltic Sea region.

UNESCO’s latest additions to the World Heritage List are a testament to the cultural, historical, and natural diversity of these remarkable sites, underscoring the importance of their preservation for future generations.

UNESCO Just Added 27 New World Heritage Sites for 2023

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) revealed 27 new additions to its prestigious World Heritage Site list on Monday. These newly designated sites encompass a wide array of culturally significant areas, including revered temples in Cambodia, ancient tea forests in China, and historic European towns. Moreover, the committee expanded several existing heritage sites, such as the Andrefana Dry Forests in Madagascar, Vietnam’s Cat Ba Archipelago in Ha Long Bay, and additional sections of the ancient Hyrcanian Forests in Azerbaijan.

The World Heritage Committee convened in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to deliberate on the selection of these sites. Committee members had to make their choices from a pool of global nominations submitted over the course of 2022 and 2023.

To earn a coveted spot on this prestigious list, a natural or cultural site must possess exceptional universal value and fulfill at least one of ten other specific criteria for selection. These criteria include representing a “masterpiece of human creative genius” or showcasing “areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance.”

Additionally, the recent meeting of the committee saw the addition of several Ukrainian sites to the Endangered List due to the ongoing Russian invasion in Ukraine. Notable entries on this list include Kyiv’s Saint Sophia Cathedral and its associated monastic structures, along with the historic city center of L’viv. UNESCO expressed concerns about the vulnerability of these sites to direct attacks and the collateral damage caused by bombings in these cities.

The committee’s session is scheduled to continue until September 25, potentially allowing for the addition of more sites to the World Heritage roster. Here is a comprehensive list of the latest UNESCO World Heritage Sites added in 2023:

  1. Koh Ker archaeological site in Cambodia
  2. Santiniketan, West Bengal, India
  3. Old Tea Forests of the Jingmai Mountain in Pu’er, China
  4. Mongolia’s Deer Stone Monuments
  5. Korea’s Gaya Tumuli burial mounds
  6. Türkiye’s archaeological site of Gordion
  7. Germany’s Jewish medieval historic center of Erfurt
  8. Architecture of the town of Kaunas, Lithuania
  9. Guatemala’s National Archaeological Park Tak’alik Ab’aj
  10. Old town of Kuldīga, Latvia
  11. Prehistoric Sites of Talayotic Menorca
  12. The Zarafshan-Karakum Corridor of the Silk Road
  13. Ethiopia’s Gedeo Cultural Landscape
  14. Iran’s Persian Caravanserai
  15. Canada’s Tr’ondëk-Klondike region
  16. The Czech town of Žatec and its tradition of Saaz Hops
  17. Ancient Jericho/Tell es-Sultan
  18. “Köç Yolu” Transhumance Route in Azerbaijan
  19. Djerba in Tunisia
  20. India’s Sacred Ensembles of the Hoysalas
  21. Indonesia’s Cosmological Axis of Yogyakarta
  22. Bale Mountains National Park in Ethiopia
  23. The Forest Massif of Odzala-Kokoua in Congo
  24. Volcanoes and forests of Mount Pelée and pitons of Martinique
  25. Viking-age ring fortresses in Denmark
  26. The Maison Carrée of Nîmes, France
  27. Russia’s Astronomical Observatories of Kazan Federal University

These remarkable additions to the UNESCO World Heritage List showcase the rich tapestry of cultural and natural heritage found across the globe. Each site represents a unique facet of human history, creativity, and the natural world, underscoring their outstanding universal value for future generations.

 

Tributes paid to India’s parliament at special session

Indian legislators, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have paid their respects to the country’s historic parliament building in anticipation of their move to a new facility. These
members of parliament made their remarks during the inaugural day of a special parliamentary session convened by the government, set to span a week.

Although the new parliament building was inaugurated by Mr. Modi in May, it had not yet been used for any legislative business until now. The session will transition to the new premises on Tuesday, following an event dedicated to celebrating the legacy of the old parliament.

This unique session occurs amidst criticism from opposition leaders who argue that the government has not been transparent about the full agenda for the week. The government has announced that eight bills are slated for discussion during this session. However, it’s important to note that this agenda could potentially change or expand as the week progresses.

Opposition figures have raised questions about the necessity of this special session to discuss these bills, given that MPs are already scheduled to convene later in the year for the customary winter session of parliament. Traditionally, Indian lawmakers meet for regular parliamentary business three times a year, encompassing a budget session, a monsoon session, and a winter session.

Prime Minister Modi initiated the special session on Monday by commemorating the parliament’s legacy since 1947, when India gained independence from British rule. The government has organized numerous events to mark the 75th anniversary of India’s independence. During his speech, Modi described the departure from the old parliament as an “emotional moment”, highlighting the building’s rich history and its continued inspiration for future generations. He stated, “The biggest achievement of this parliament is that it has kept people’s faith in democracy alive” while also mentioning India’s successful Moon landing and hosting of the G20 summit.

Some opposition leaders shared their personal reminiscences of the old parliament while taking swipes at Mr. Modi’s government, alleging that it avoids answering questions and targets
political rivals.

In preparation for the special session, Mr. Modi had indicated that its duration might be “short” but would include “historic decisions” Special sessions are relatively rare occurrences in Indian parliamentary history. According to legislative expert Chakshu Roy, they are typically convened “for specific occasions, like commemorating parliamentary or national milestones.”

The announcement of this session last month had triggered criticism from opposition leaders,who raised concerns about the government's secrecy regarding the agenda. It also sparked intense speculation, with some pundits speculating that the government might call for early elections or consider changing the country's name from India to Bharat (following a controversy over a possible name change).
Other speculations included the possibility of the government introducing a landmark bill reserving seats for women in state legislatures and parliament. In response, some opposition
lawmakers held protests outside parliament on Monday, advocating for the introduction of such a bill.

However, the government has yet to confirm any of these speculations. Last week, after weeks of opposition criticism, the government released a “tentative agenda” for the session, which included four bills for debate. Among them was a controversial bill that would alter the process for appointing India's chief election commissioner.

Opposition parties have strongly objected to this bill, characterizing it as “undemocratic” and asserting that it would diminish the independence of the Election Commission and its officials. However, it’s worth noting that this particular bill was not part of the list provided to opposition leaders during an all-party meeting on Sunday.

The 10 Most Important AI Trends For 2024 Everyone Must Be Ready For Now

The pace of artificial intelligence (AI) advancement and its integration into our daily lives is expected to accelerate significantly in 2024. As companies unlock its potential, individuals harness it to enhance productivity, and lawmakers grapple with regulatory concerns, AI is poised to become increasingly ubiquitous in various aspects of our existence. However, it is crucial to address challenges related to trust, bias, accessibility, and regulation to fully unlock AI’s potential as we progress through the next decade.

“Hopefully, 2024 will see us making headway towards solving some of the thorny issues around this technology. Though barriers to entry due to cost and ease of use may have crumbled in recent years, there are still issues around trust, bias, accessibility, and regulation,” notes an industry expert.

Picture : Analyst Insight

Advancements in Generative AI Beyond Chatbots and Images

The next generation of generative AI tools is expected to surpass the capabilities of chatbots and image generators that captivated and occasionally unnerved us in 2023. These advancements will extend to generative video and music creators, which are becoming more powerful and user-friendly. We anticipate these tools will be integrated into creative platforms and productivity applications, much like the integration of ChatGPT technology this year. Additionally, new and exciting applications will emerge, including generative design tools and voice synthesizers. Distinguishing between real and computer-generated content will become an increasingly valuable skill.

Ethical Considerations in AI Development and Deployment

The disruptive potential of AI necessitates its responsible development and utilization to minimize harm. Known issues such as bias, lack of transparency, potential job displacement, and concerns about control will continue to be addressed in 2024. The demand for AI ethicists will rise as businesses demonstrate adherence to ethical standards and implement appropriate safeguards.

AI’s Role in Enhancing Customer Service

AI is poised to transform customer service by automating routine tasks and freeing up human resources for complex, critical issues. AI can triage initial contact calls, provide personalized solutions to common problems, and generate reports summarizing customer interactions. A survey conducted by the Boston Consulting Group indicates that 95 percent of customer service leaders expect AI bots to serve customers within the next three years.

Augmentation of Human Intelligence in the Workplace

In 2024, the ability to augment human intelligence and capabilities for faster, more efficient, and safer job performance will be a valuable workplace skill. Professionals across various domains, such as legal, medical, and coding, will use AI to streamline tasks like summarizing case law, generating medical notes, and writing software. Students and job seekers will also benefit from AI in organizing notes, conducting research, and crafting resumes and cover letters.

Integration of AI into Apps

The integration of generative AI features into software and applications will continue in 2024. Major players like Bing, Google, Office, Snapchat, Expedia, and Coursera have embraced chatbot functionality to enhance customer experiences. Concerns over data protection and customer privacy will gradually be addressed as AI providers adapt their services to meet market demands. For instance, Adobe has integrated generative AI into its Firefly design tools, addressing concerns about copyright and ownership.

Low-Code and No-Code Software Engineering

The use of low-code and no-code tools for application development is expected to increase, with generative AI tools like ChatGPT enabling rapid application creation and testing. While coding and software engineering jobs won’t disappear in 2024, opportunities will abound for individuals with creative problem-solving skills and ideas.

Diverse Job Opportunities in AI

The AI job landscape in 2024 will expand to accommodate various roles beyond traditional computer science. Prompt engineers, AI managers, project managers, trainers, and ethicists will play critical roles in the AI workforce. Technical roles like AI engineering and DevOps will also see growth, offering exciting career prospects.

Quantum AI’s Emerging Role

Although not an immediate concern for everyone, quantum computing, capable of accelerating certain compute-intensive tasks, will find applications in AI. Quantum algorithms, which leverage qubits that exist in multiple states simultaneously, offer increased efficiency for problems like optimization. In 2024, expect progress in applying quantum computing to power larger and more complex neural networks and algorithms.

Upskilling for the AI Era

Understanding AI’s impact on your profession and acquiring the ability to leverage AI tools effectively will be crucial for career advancement in 2024. Forward-looking employers will integrate AI skills into education and training programs. For those seeking self-improvement, numerous online resources are available, many of which are free.

AI Legislation and Regulation

As AI’s game-changing potential becomes evident, legislators are beginning to address regulatory frameworks. China has already implemented laws to curb non-consensual deepfakes, while the EU, US, and India are developing their own regulations. In the UK, a bill is proposed for 2024, and the EU anticipates an act in place by early 2025. These legislations aim to strike a balance between safeguarding citizens from negative AI impacts and fostering innovation and commerce. Debates over the boundaries of regulation will likely be a prominent political discourse in 2024.

In conclusion, 2024 promises to be a pivotal year in the evolution of artificial intelligence. While AI’s integration into various aspects of our lives accelerates, addressing ethical concerns, enhancing customer service, upskilling the workforce, and navigating regulatory challenges will be critical for realizing its full potential in the years to come.

NARI SHAKTI VANDAN ABHINIYAM:Women’s Reservation Bill Passes In Lok Sabha.

Justice for Indian women is elevated and recognized. The Women’s Reservation Bill, a significant Constitutional Amendment Bill that provides 33% reservation to women in Parliament and State Assemblies, passes in Lok Sabha. The Lok Sabha manually voted, 454 MPs voted in favor of the bill, and two MPs voted against it. ( except for raising the salaries and privileges of MPs, there always will be opposition to everything. Fortunately, only two were against this bill!).

It was introduced in the Lok Sabha yesterday during the ongoing special session of Parliament.

Taking forward the resolution of women-led development, our government today passed a prominent Constitutional Amendment Bill. The purpose of this Bill is to expand the participation of women in Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabhas.”

The salient features of this Bill are as follows:

The Women’s Reservation Bill is named Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam, the first bill tabled in the new Parliament building.

The bill has proposed that the reservation would continue for 15 years and that there would be a quota for SCs and STs within the reserved seats for women.

The reservation will come into effect after a delimitation exercise and will continue for 15 years.

As per existing law, the next delimitation exercise can only be conducted after the first census to be taken post-2026, which means that the bill cannot become law until at least 2027. Some reports have suggested that the women’s quota may be implemented by the 2029 Lok Sabha elections.

Once the bill becomes an Act, of the total seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the House of Assembly, 33% will be set aside for women belonging to these communities.

The number of women members in the Lok Sabha will rise to 181 from 82 currently once the women’s reservation bill comes into force, law minister Arjun Ram Meghwal said.

Rotation of seats reserved for women in Lok Sabha, legislative assemblies, and the assembly of the National Capital Territory of Delhi would take effect after each subsequent exercise of delimitation, to be determined by the parliament, according to the bill.

The statement of objects and reasons of the bill noted that the true empowerment of women will require greater in the decision-making process.

“The women of India will now have a role to play in policymaking,” says Home Minister Amit Shah on the Women’s Reservation Bill. Of course, it is bringing a drastic progress in the women empowerment in India.

ZEE5 Global announces the much-awaited sequel of the successful romantic thriller series Duranga

~ Directed by Rohan Sippy, the second season will witness a face-off between Amit Sadh and Gulshan Devaiah’s characters ~

Global, 21st September 2023: ZEE5 Global, the world’s largest streaming platform for South Asian content, announces the second season of the much-awaited series, ‘Duranga’. The official adaptation of the Korean show, ‘Flower of Evil’, Duranga S1 went on to become a much-loved romantic thriller series. It kept the audiences hooked to their screens with the constant twists and turns. Now the second season will see the return of Gulshan Devaiah, Drashti Dhami, Barkha Sen Gupta, Rajesh Khattar reprising their respective roles and it will see Amit Sadh play a critical lead role.

Produced by Goldie Behl’s Rose Audio Visuals and directed by Rohan Sippy, Duranga S2 will witness the real Sammit Patel [Played by Amit Sadh] wake up from coma and go after Abhishek Banne [played by Gulshan Devaiah] who has been living as Sammit Patel. Amit Sadh will be seen portraying a critical role, challenging Gulshan Devaiah to put everything at stake to protect his family. These three central characters’ aims will collide during this season and keep the viewers on the edge of their seats.

Archana Anand, Chief Business Officer, ZEE5 Global said, “The success of the first season of Duranga served as a testament to the increasing appetite for thrillers on the platform. We are happy to now announce the much-awaited second season of the series for our viewers. We are confident that this season will raise the bar for romantic thrillers for viewers across the globe.”

Producer Goldie Behlsaid, “I am grateful for the overwhelming reaction to season 1 of Duranga. I am even more excited for season 2 which is sharper, stronger and has far more twists and turns. Season 1 ended on a cliffhanger where we saw the character of Amit Sadh coming out of a coma. Season 2 takes off from there but in a far more complex and entertaining manner. It’s been a pleasure collaborating with Rohan Sippy, Drashti Dhami, Gulshan Devaiah and Amit Sadh; all brilliant at their craft. A heartfelt thank you to ZEE5 Global and Nimisha Pandey who have been excellent to work with. I cannot wait for the audience to savour this season”.

Director Rohan Sippysaid, “I’m very thankful that I got an opportunity to work once again with Rose & ZEE5 Global, this time to take a successful franchise like Duranga forward. The cast and crew have worked very hard in all departments to add even more excitement and emotional engagement this time around, and we can’t wait to share it with the audience very soon!”.

Watch the romantic thriller series ‘Duranga 2 coming soon on ZEE5 Global

Viewers can catch ZEE5 Global’s unmissable slate and stock up on their yearlong entertainment by subscribing to the Annual pack and grabbing the limited-time special offer price.

Users can download the ZEE5 Global app from Google Play Store / iOS App Store. It is available on Roku devices, Apple TVs, Android TVs, Amazon Fire TV and Samsung Smart TVs and on www.ZEE5.com

About ZEE5 Global

ZEE5 Global is the digital entertainment destination launched by Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (ZEEL), a global Media and Entertainment powerhouse. The platform launched across 190+ countries in October 2018 and has content across 18 languages: Hindi, English, Bengali, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Marathi, Oriya, Bhojpuri, Gujarati, Punjabi, including six international languages Malay, Thai, Bahasa, Urdu, Bangla and Arabic. ZEE5 Global is home to 200,000+ hours of on-demand content. The platform brings together the best of Originals, Movies and TV Shows, Music, Health and Lifestyle content in one destination. In addition, ZEE5 Global offers features like 15 navigational languages, content download options, seamless video playback and Voice Search.

ZEE5 Global Twitter: https://twitter.com/ZEE5GlobalCorp

ZEE5 Global LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/ZEE5 Global/

ZEE5 Global announces the World Digital Premiere of hit Kannada campus comedy ‘Hostel Hudugaru Bekagiddare’

Medical bills

The Biden administration has unveiled new proposals to remove medical bills from credit reports. White House officials on Thursday said they are pursuing the effort to lessen Americans’
medical debt burden as millions of people contend with the higher cost of living and historic inflation. Medical debt has lowered people’s credit scores, which affects their ability to buy a
home, get a mortgage or own a small business, Vice President Kamala Harris said in a call with reporters announcing the initiative. If the rule is finalized, consumer credit companies would be
barred from including medical debt and collection information on reports that creditors use to make underwriting decisions.

Vivek Ramaswamy has better chance at presidency against Trump than Nikki Haley:Poll

Ramaswamy has a better chance of winning the primary against Trump as compared to Haley but the results were reversed if the Indian Americans were to contest Biden

The latest Harvard/CAPS Harris Poll, a monthly collaboration between the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard (CAPS) and the Harris Poll and HarrisX, revealed that if it came down to a one-on-one between Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy against former President Donald Trump, Ramaswamy had a better chance at winning.

Picture : ABC News

If the Republican party primary is down to two choices, Nikki Haley and Donald Trump, 38 per cent of the respondents said they would vote for the former while 62 per cent  chose Trump. For the same question but with Ramaswamy and Trump as choices, the results were 40 and 60 per cent respectively.

For the same question, Trump held the maximum amount of votes, i.e. 30 per cent, with DeSantis in position two with 7 per cent of the votes, followed by the two Indian American candidates.

The results of Haley and Ramaswamy’s favorability among voters was flipped if they were to compete against President Joe Biden. In head-to-head presidential matchups, Biden would lose the election to Haley by 4 per cent, and Ramaswamy trails behind Biden by 2 per cent, as per poll results.

Human Brain Acts Like Super Computer: Advanced Calculations in Human Perception

Researchers have revealed that the human brain naturally conducts complex calculations, akin to high-powered computers, through a process known as Bayesian inference. This innate ability enables us to swiftly and accurately interpret our environment by blending prior knowledge with new evidence. The study underscores how the structure of our brain’s visual system is inherently geared to perform Bayesian computations on the sensory information it receives, offering potential breakthroughs in fields ranging from artificial intelligence (AI) to therapeutic strategies in clinical neurology.

Key Points:

  1. Human Brain’s Utilization of Bayesian Inference: Human brains employ Bayesian inference, a statistical technique, to effectively merge prior knowledge with incoming data, facilitating efficient environmental interpretation.
  2. Inherent Brain Structure for Bayesian Computations:The research suggests that our brain’s visual system possesses an intrinsic structure and connections that enable it to carry out Bayesian computations naturally.
  3. Broad Implications for Multiple Fields:This discovery holds significance in diverse domains, including AI, where replicating these brain functions can revolutionize machine learning, as well as in innovative therapeutic approaches in neurology.

In a study published in the journal Nature Communications, scientists from the University of Sydney, University of Queensland, and University of Cambridge developed a specialized mathematical model that closely mirrors the brain’s functioning when processing visual information. This model encompassed all the necessary elements for conducting Bayesian inference.

Bayesian inference is a statistical method that combines prior knowledge with fresh evidence to make informed guesses. For instance, if you possess knowledge of what a dog looks like and encounter a furry, four-legged creature, you might use your prior knowledge to infer that it’s a dog.

This inherent capability empowers individuals to interpret their surroundings with remarkable precision and speed, in contrast to machines that can struggle with basic CAPTCHA security measures when asked to identify objects like fire hydrants in a set of images.

Dr. Reuben Rideaux, the study’s senior investigator from the University of Sydney’s School of Psychology, remarked, “Despite the conceptual appeal and explanatory power of the Bayesian approach, how the brain calculates probabilities is largely mysterious.”

“Our new study sheds light on this mystery. We discovered that the basic structure and connections within our brain’s visual system are set up in a way that allows it to perform Bayesian inference on the sensory data it receives.”

“What makes this finding significant is the confirmation that our brains have an inherent design that allows this advanced form of processing, enabling us to interpret our surroundings more effectively.”

The study’s findings not only validate existing theories about the brain’s utilization of Bayesian-like inference but also introduce opportunities for further research and innovation. The brain’s natural capacity for Bayesian inference could be harnessed for practical applications that benefit society.

Dr. Rideaux stated, “Our research, while primarily focused on visual perception, holds broader implications across the spectrum of neuroscience and psychology.”

Picture : ScienceABC

“By comprehending the fundamental mechanisms that the brain employs to process and make sense of sensory data, we can lay the groundwork for advancements in fields ranging from artificial intelligence, where emulating such brain functions can transform machine learning, to clinical neurology, potentially offering new strategies for therapeutic interventions in the future.”

The research team, led by Dr. William Harrison, made this breakthrough by recording brain activity in volunteers as they passively viewed specially designed displays meant to evoke specific neural signals related to visual processing. Subsequently, they formulated mathematical models to compare various competing hypotheses regarding how the human brain perceives visual information.

Chuck Schumer says Musk, Gates express nned to regulate AI

The nation’s largest technology leaders tentatively endorsed the concept of government oversight for artificial intelligence during a unique closed-door gathering in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday. However, reaching a consensus on the nature of regulation and the political path to legislation remains a formidable challenge.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who convened this private session on Capitol Hill as part of his initiative to regulate artificial intelligence, disclosed that he posed a fundamental question to the nearly two dozen tech executives, advocates, and skeptics present: Should the government have a role in supervising artificial intelligence? He reported that “every single person raised their hands, even though they had diverse views.”

Among the topics under discussion were the potential establishment of an independent agency to oversee specific aspects of the rapidly advancing technology, methods for enhancing corporate transparency, and strategies for maintaining the United States’ competitive edge over nations like China.

Picture : NBC

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and X, emphasized the importance of having a “referee” in the field of AI, characterizing the discussion as a “very civilized discussion, actually, among some of the smartest people in the world.” While Schumer welcomed the input of these tech executives, he emphasized that he may not necessarily follow their advice as he collaborates with fellow senators on the challenging endeavor of imposing some level of oversight on this burgeoning sector.

Schumer asserted that Congress should maximize the benefits of AI while minimizing its potential drawbacks, including bias, job displacement, and doomsday scenarios. He noted, “Only government can be there to put in guardrails.”

Prominent tech leaders like Mark Zuckerberg of Meta, former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai attended the meeting. Musk believed that this gathering “might go down in history as being very important for the future of civilization.”

However, before any regulatory framework can be established, lawmakers must first reach a consensus on whether to regulate AI and what form that regulation should take.

Historically, Congress has struggled to effectively regulate emerging technologies, and the tech industry has largely operated without significant government oversight for decades. Previous attempts to enact legislation related to social media, particularly in terms of privacy standards, have failed.

Schumer, who has made AI a top priority, acknowledged that regulating artificial intelligence is one of the most complex challenges Congress has faced. He cited its technical complexity, rapid evolution, and far-reaching global impact as reasons for the difficulty.

The release of ChatGPT less than a year ago has spurred businesses to implement new generative AI tools that can create human-like text, program computer code, and generate novel multimedia content. This has heightened concerns about potential societal harms and has led to calls for greater transparency in data collection and usage.

Republican Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota, who co-led the meeting with Schumer, stressed the need for Congress to proactively address AI’s positive developments while addressing concerns regarding data transparency and privacy.

During the meeting, participants, including Musk and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, raised existential risks associated with AI. Zuckerberg brought up the issue of closed versus “open source” AI models, while Gates discussed addressing hunger. IBM CEO Arvind Krishna expressed opposition to certain proposals favored by other companies, which would necessitate licenses.

The potential establishment of a regulatory agency was a significant topic of discussion. Schumer acknowledged that this remains one of the most pressing questions to be addressed. Musk, in particular, expressed confidence in the likelihood of creating such an agency.

Outside the meeting, Google CEO Pichai expressed general support for Washington’s involvement in AI regulation, emphasizing the importance of government’s role in innovation and safeguarding the technology.

However, some senators criticized the closed-door nature of the meeting and called for tech executives to testify in a public forum. Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, for instance, opted not to attend, characterizing it as a “giant cocktail party for big tech.” Hawley has partnered with Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut to introduce legislation requiring tech companies to seek licenses for high-risk AI systems.

Critics also expressed concerns that the event may have disproportionately prioritized the interests of large corporations over the broader public. Sarah Myers West, managing director of the nonprofit AI Now Institute, noted that the combined net worth of the attendees exceeded $550 billion, making it challenging to represent the broader public adequately.

In the United States, major tech companies have expressed support for AI regulations, though consensus on the specifics remains elusive. Similarly, while members of Congress agree on the need for legislation, divergent opinions on the appropriate course of action persist.

Partisan differences have emerged, with some lawmakers focusing on the risk of overregulation while others prioritize addressing potential AI-related risks. These divisions often align with party affiliations.

Some concrete proposals have already been put forth, including Senator Amy Klobuchar’s legislation that would require disclaimers for AI-generated election ads featuring deceptive content. Schumer indicated the need for swift action before the next presidential election.

Senators Hawley and Blumenthal have proposed a broader approach, which would establish a government oversight authority with the power to assess certain AI systems for potential harms prior to granting licenses.

While figures like Elon Musk have raised concerns akin to those seen in science fiction about losing control to advanced AI systems, Deborah Raji, the sole academic participant at the forum, emphasized real-world harms already occurring. She stressed the importance of balancing perspectives and priorities as senators work toward new legislation.

Some Republicans remain cautious about mirroring the European Union’s approach, as the EU recently implemented comprehensive rules for artificial intelligence. These rules classify AI products and services into four risk levels, ranging from minimal to unacceptable. A group of European corporations has urged EU leaders to reconsider these rules, arguing that they could hinder the ability of companies within the 27-nation bloc to compete internationally in generative AI usage.

Ravindra Jadeja Is 2nd Indian To Achieve ODI All-Round Feat

In their final Asia Cup Super 4 match, Team India continued their remarkable performance against Bangladesh in Colombo. Opting to bowl first, India dismantled an erratic Bangladeshi batting order, reducing them to 59/4 in 14 overs. Although Bangladesh briefly rallied with captain Shakib Al Hasan (80) and Towhid Hridoy (54) providing resistance, Shakib’s dismissal just after the drinks break in the 33rd over triggered yet another collapse. In the very next over, Ravindra Jadeja dismissed the new batter, Shamim Hossain, achieving a significant milestone in his ODI career.

This dismissal marked Jadeja’s 200th wicket in the ODI format, placing him in an elite group alongside the legendary former Indian captain, Kapil Dev, as the only two Indians to have both 200 wickets and over 2000 runs in ODIs. Among international cricketers, Jadeja joined the esteemed ranks of Sanath Jayasuriya, Shahid Afridi, Shakib Al Hasan, and Daniel Vettori, all of whom have accomplished this remarkable feat.

Jadeja’s achievement also made him the seventh Indian bowler to reach the coveted 200-wicket milestone in ODIs. In this illustrious list, he joins Anil Kumble (337), Javagal Srinath (315), Ajit Agarkar (288), Zaheer Khan (282), Harbhajan Singh (269), and the aforementioned Kapil Dev (251).

Picture: TV News

Kapil Dev, with a career spanning 253 wickets and 3783 runs in 225 ODI matches, was a true pioneer, becoming the first Indian bowler to reach the 250-wicket mark in ODIs. In contrast, Jadeja’s bowling record stands at 200 wickets in 174 ODI innings, with an average of 36.83 and an economy rate of 4.89.

Moreover, Jadeja’s contributions with the bat in ODIs have been equally noteworthy. He has accumulated 2578 runs from 123 innings, boasting an impressive average of 32.22 and securing 13 half-centuries.

In their final Super 4 clash against Bangladesh, Team India chose to rest several key players, including star batsman Virat Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, and Hardik Pandya. Despite these absences, India secured their spot in the final, where they will face Sri Lanka, who clinched a thrilling 2-wicket victory in a last-ball finish against Pakistan in their previous match.

How Hunter Biden Charges Will Impact Biden

In the realm of politics today, there exist two distinct Americas, each harboring its own set of grievances and suspicions. One segment is deeply distressed and appalled by the 91 federal and state criminal charges looming over the former President, Donald Trump. They perceive this as the result of a vast conspiracy masterminded by what they view as a politicized Department of Justice under President Joe Biden’s leadership.

Conversely, the other America firmly believes that this very Department of Justice has spent an unfair five years relentlessly pursuing Hunter Biden, the President’s son, for alleged misconduct related to his tax affairs and his past struggles as a self-proclaimed, repentant drug addict. In essence, both sides of the political spectrum contend that the department responsible for upholding the nation’s laws has fallen under the sway of its ideological opponents and has become irreversibly entangled in politics.

In response to the news of Hunter Biden’s indictment on three federal gun-related charges, his legal counsel fired back by accusing the prosecutor of yielding to “improper and partisan interference” from Republicans who support Donald Trump. On the other side of the aisle, Andy Biggs, a conservative member of Congress, suggested that these charges were merely a smokescreen to create the illusion of impartiality within the justice department. He stated, “Don’t fall for it. They’re trying to protect him from way more serious charges coming his way!” via X, previously known as Twitter.

While Hunter Biden’s legal issues are undoubtedly a personal setback for his father and family, their implications extend far beyond their immediate circle. Republicans have long regarded the President’s son as a potential vulnerability. Exploiting this vulnerability not only has the potential to provoke a strong reaction from Joe Biden but also serves as a means to divert attention from their own challenges regarding legal issues surrounding Donald Trump.

Moreover, it’s worth noting that a substantial portion of Democrats, when asked, do not express enthusiasm about Joe Biden’s candidacy for the 2024 presidential race. For some, Hunter Biden’s troubles provide yet another reason to push for the 80-year-old President to make way for the next generation.

Picture : TIME

All these dynamics collectively signify that the outcome of Hunter Biden’s case will be a pivotal factor in what promises to be a tumultuous election year. However, Republicans find themselves in a somewhat precarious position. While it is true that the three felony charges related to firearms are serious, and further charges might surface in connection to Hunter Biden’s tax matters and foreign dealings, none of it currently appears to approach the scale and quantity of alleged crimes associated with Donald Trump.

Hence, any attempt by Republicans to weaponize Hunter Biden’s legal issues might inadvertently invite comparisons between the two cases. Additionally, Democrats are likely to emphasize that Hunter Biden is not a candidate for any public office, let alone the presidency of the United States.

An intriguing aspect of Hunter Biden’s legal situation is that his lawyers appear to believe that the previously collapsed plea deal from July could potentially be revived. They also suggest that recent expansions of Second Amendment rights by various courts might factor into his defense. After all, there is nothing in the Constitution that bars individuals with a history of drug addiction from bearing arms. This irony isn’t lost, given the general stance of most Democrats on gun control.

The indictment against Hunter Biden was unveiled just days after Kevin McCarthy, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, announced an impeachment inquiry into President Biden—a move that the White House promptly dismissed as a political maneuver. McCarthy cited “serious and credible allegations” related to the Biden family’s business dealings and the President’s conduct. Republicans are hopeful that this new inquiry will implicate the President in allegations of power abuse and corruption.

However, to date, seven months of investigations into Hunter Biden have yielded only fragments of information from former business associates, an FBI informant, and a couple of IRS agents. Nothing substantial has emerged that could be considered a smoking gun. It remains uncertain whether, as subpoenas start flying, the slim Republican majority in the House would secure an impeachment vote if the inquiry reaches that stage.

What is undeniably clear is that the once well-defined boundary between the political and legal systems has become increasingly blurred. According to Randy Zelin, an adjunct professor of law at Cornell Law School, “Somebody woke up one day and said, boy I have a new toy and that is called the federal criminal justice system, where I’m going to use the criminal system to punish people who don’t agree with my politics.” He goes on to express deep concern about how this ongoing battle is tearing the country apart.

Vivek Ramaswamy Wants End To H-1B Visa System

Calling the much sought-after H-1B visa system “indentured servitude”, Indian-American GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy has pledged to get rid of it if voted to power in 2024, Politico reported.

Having himself used the system 29 times in the past to hire highly-skilled professionals for his pharma company, Ramaswamy said that the temporary worker visas system is “bad for everyone involved”, and the US needs to eliminate chain-based migration.

“The lottery system needs to be replaced by actual meritocratic admission. It’s a form of indentured servitude that only accrues to the benefit of the company that sponsored an H-1B immigrant. I’ll gut it,” the Politico quoted the 38-year-old entrepreneur as saying.

“The people who come as family members are not the meritocratic immigrants who make skills-based contributions to this country,” Ramaswamy, born to immigrant parents from Kerala, added.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services approved 29 applications for Ramaswamy’s former company, Roivant Sciences, to hire employees under H-1B visas from 2018 through 2023, the report said.

“As the largest organization of members currently on H1B visa stuck in green card backlogs, we completely agree with @VivekGRamaswamy & others willing to speak the truth: H1B visa is, in fact, indentured servitude that only benefits the company that sponsors the visa, but is bad for everyone else. We agree — it is time to gut H1B,” US-based non-profit, Immigration Voice, wrote on X (formerly Twitter).

Stating that Ramaswamy has grabbed headlines for his restrictionist immigration policy agenda, the Politico said that “his rhetoric has at times gone farther than the other GOP candidates, as he calls for lottery-based visas, such as the H-1B worker visas, to be replaced with ‘meritocratic” admission’”.

He has also said that he would deport US-born children of undocumented immigrants.

The H-1B visa allows companies and other employers in the US to temporarily employ foreign workers in occupations that require the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialised knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or higher in the specific specialty, or its equivalent.

Every year the US gives 65,000 H-1B visas open to all and 20,000 to those with advanced US degrees. Indians are the biggest beneficiaries of the H-1B visas getting about 75 per cent of them, according to the US government.

In July 2023, Indian American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi introduced legislation proposing to double the annual intake of foreign workers on H-1B visas from 65,000 to 130,000.

Earlier this year, bipartisan legislation was introduced in the US Senate to reform and close loopholes in the H-1B visa programme, created to complement America’s high-skilled workforce. (IANS)

FIA-Chicago Holds Indian Independence Day Event

The Federation of Indian Associations, Chicago (FIA) hosted a Spectacular and Grand celebration, “Ae Mere Watan” to commemorate India’s 77th Independence Day – Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav with patriotic fervor on 15th September 2023 at the most upcoming and sought after, state of the art banquet hall, The Matrix Club, at Naperville, IL. The FIA led by Founder President & Chairman Sunil Shah, and Current President Vinita Gulabani, Past President Neil Khot, Founder and Past President Onkar Singh Sangha and the entire Board of Directors created an atmosphere of patriotism with an India centric program that enthralled the attending guests during the first half, followed by a musical extravaganza, the Sahir Ludhianvi Show, Directed by Milind Oak and facilitated by Madan Kulkarni and produced by Niche’ entertainment during the second half, post a sumptuous and delicious dinner.

The program started with a Bharat Natyam dance by Board member Bharatnatyam exponent and choreographer Pika Munshi. Then Sunil Shah & Vinita Gulabani were invited for a welcome address. Then Larry Herman, Mayor Oakbrook was invited to speak and present awards, along with Sunil & Vinita at the FIA Team Recognition Ceremony where all the hardworking FIA Team members received a Medal of Excellence and an Appreciation Certificate.

Asian Media USA

The auspicious tradition of lamp lighting ceremony was also held by the FIA Leadership and the entire Board. along with Larry Herman and other dignitaries present. A beautiful rendition of the American and Indian National Anthem was presented by Samaira Bongale and Sahiba Sidhu respectively. Famous Chicago Singer Nipa Shah also sang the Ae Mere Pyare Watan song.  There was also a beautiful Welcome Dance by Team Laya choreographed by Priyanka Parekh.

Chairman and Founder President Sunil Shah in his welcome speech, said, “Because of the unforeseen circumstances we had to celebrate Independence Day in September. But the fervor, love for motherland & tribute to martyrs is not limited to one day, month but it’s to be celebrated every day. “ He thanked the team members, Advisory Board members & sponsors for their ongoing support. And he welcomed & appreciated the dedication and commitment of President Vinita Gulabani.”

Dignitaries welcomed on the stage were Scott Wehrli, Mayor Naperville, followed by FIA Advisory Board: Aishwarya Sharma,  Ajieet Singh, Anil Loomba, Asha Oraskar, Bhupendra Beri,  Brij Sharma, Hitesh Bhatt, Jasbir Suga, Keerthi Reevori, Manish Gandhi, Nag Jaiswal, Pinky Thakkar, Pradeep Shukla, Suresh Bodiwala, Syed Hussaini, Vinoz Chanamolu,  Yogi Bhardwaj. The FIA Past Presidents were also invited and acknowledged: Sunil Shah, Onkar Sanga, Rita Singh, Dhitu Bhagwakar, Mukesh Shah, Neil Khot, Ninad Daftari, Gurmeet Singh, Hitesh Gandhi. All the organizations, including the State and Regional  organizations were  also appreciated for their participation and support.

The prestigious FIA Community Leadership Awards were presented to: Vinita Gulabani, Chintan Patel, Pinkyben & Dinesh Bhai Thakkar, Santosh Kumar MAFS, Dr Asha Anil Oroskar with OROCHEM, American Dog Movie /Neil Khot, Rajeev Sharma, Dr Alamdar Badar, Jane Lee Remax, Venkat Talari, Eggholic Bhagyesh Patel & Lav Patel, Brij Sharma, Dr Bhupinder Beri, Sona Shah, Harry Mohan, Syed Hussaini, Ajeet Singh IABC, Manoj Mulki Rani Foods, Sanjay Vishnu Panjwani / All About Furniture, Global Eye – Dr.  Vijay Prabhakar, DABUR / BADSHAH- Rickie Singh.

FIA Appreciation awards were presented to FIA Team Members: Dhitu Bhagwakar, Mukesh Shah, Hemendra Shah. Media Appreciation Awards were presented to: Vandana Jhingan, Suresh Bodiwala, Harry Sidhu, Prachi Jaitly and Phani Krishna, Desi Talk & Hi India.

A medley of patriotic songs was presented by the talented FIA singers: Pratibha Jairath, Geetanaji Maru, Jitendra Bulsara, Swapnil Sahu, Ravi Tokala, who regaled the audience with their singing. The Grand Finale was truly Grand in every sense of the Word, Sahir – A Tribute to the legendary Bollywood poet & Lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi, a show directed by Milind Oak, narrated by Nachiket Devasthali and supported by the amazingly talented singers: Abhilasha Chellam, Rasika Ganoo and Dhawal Chandwadkar, along with their team of musicians. The event was well attended by about 550 plus people including the who’s who of the Indian Community. The singers par excellence and Sahir team took to the stage after the dinner and enthralled the audience until midnight for almost three hours belting out the most famous and melodious Sahir songs. Everyone present praised the talented artists and said that they would love to come back and attend again! The FIA would like to thank all the vendors who set up booths and provided the food samples.  The Emcees to the event were Richa Chand, Anu Malhotra, Pratibha Jairath, Suchitra Kukreja and Chandini Duvuri.

Biden Administration’s Initiatives Lead to Surge in Student Loan Forgiveness Approvals

The Biden administration has reported a significant increase in student loan forgiveness approvals, benefiting hundreds of thousands of borrowers, thanks to initiatives aimed at enhancing the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. PSLF is a crucial federal student loan forgiveness program that can erase a borrower’s federal student loan debt after 120 “qualifying payments,” equivalent to ten years. However, the PSLF program has long struggled with poor administration, insufficient oversight, resulting in errors, rejections, and approval rates that never exceeded single-digit percentages.

But following a series of reforms initiated by the Biden administration, the approval rates for student loan forgiveness under PSLF have seen a remarkable surge. The U.S. Department of Education stated in a Tuesday announcement, “The Biden-Harris Administration has already approved… $45.7 billion for 662,000 public servants through improvements to Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).” Furthermore, additional loan forgiveness is expected as these initiatives continue to unfold.

The first of these PSLF improvements, known as the Limited PSLF Waiver, was introduced in 2021. This one-time initiative relaxed the criteria for qualifying PSLF payments, expanding the scope of what could be counted toward loan forgiveness under the program. Previously, only payments made on Direct federal student loans under a 10-year Standard or income-driven repayment (IDR) plan were eligible for loan forgiveness. However, the Limited PSLF Waiver extended eligibility to include almost any period of repayment on any federal student loan, dating back to October 2007, when PSLF was initially established.

The IDR Account Adjustment, an ongoing program, subsequently extended many of the benefits of the Limited PSLF Waiver. While much attention has been given to student loan forgiveness for borrowers on 20- or 25-year repayment plans, it’s important to note that the IDR Account Adjustment can also benefit PSLF borrowers. This adjustment further broadened the range of payments and situations that can count toward student loan forgiveness. It even allows for the crediting of some periods of deferment, forbearance, and recent defaults for borrowers engaged in qualifying employment. The Education Department is implementing this adjustment gradually, and borrowers are receiving PSLF credit and associated loan forgiveness approvals throughout early 2024.

For some borrowers, the federal Direct consolidation program may be necessary to qualify for or maximize the PSLF benefits under the IDR Account Adjustment. Fortunately, there is still time to consolidate loans to take advantage of this adjustment, with the consolidation window closing on December 31, 2023.

On July 1, the U.S. Department of Education implemented new PSLF regulations, intended to provide more enduring benefits to borrowers seeking loan forgiveness through the program. These new rules partially formalize certain aspects of the temporary waiver and adjustment initiatives. They permit specific periods of deferment and forbearance to be counted toward loan forgiveness under PSLF. The reforms also ensure that borrowers can retain some PSLF credit after consolidation, a change from the past where consolidation would erase a borrower’s PSLF credit. Moreover, borrowers now have the option to “buy back” past periods that might not have previously qualified for loan forgiveness.

The new regulations additionally simplify and expand the definition of qualifying PSLF employment, particularly for non-full-time employees, specific contracted workers in limited scenarios, and adjunct faculty. Furthermore, the regulations relax the definition of a qualifying payment, allowing borrowers to make prepayments or lump-sum payments in certain circumstances.

The Biden administration’s initiatives have had a profound impact on student loan forgiveness under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. These efforts have led to a substantial increase in approvals, providing substantial relief to borrowers burdened by student loan debt. The Limited PSLF Waiver, IDR Account Adjustment, and new PSLF regulations collectively represent a concerted effort to address the historical challenges associated with the PSLF program, making it more accessible and beneficial to a broader range of borrowers.

Srimati Radha Rani and Sri Krishna Play by ISKCON Youth

Once, during the month of Kartika on the occasion of the Deepavali festival at Giriraja-Govardhana, the Vrajavasis were busily absorbed in decorating their cows and other animals with various kinds of ornaments. The gopis also brought various ornaments from their homes to decorate the cows. Sri Radhika and Her girlfriends sat on the madhavi terrace near the Malyaharini-kunda making several kinds of beautiful pearl ornaments. Meanwhile Sri Krsna arrived there, having heard of Srimati Radhika’s activities from the mouth of parrot Vicaksana, and asked for some pearls to decorate only 4 horns of His favorite cows Hamsi and Harini. However, Radhika and Her gopi friends laughed at Him proudly saying that their pearls are most precious. They are not ordinary to decorate cows. They are meant only for great queens like them.

Sri Krsna decides to grow His own Pearl garden. He returned home where He asked for some pearls from Mother Yasoda. Then He and His friends planted them near the bank of the Yamuna, and regularly watered them with milk from His own goshala.

In a few days extremely beautiful pearls grew in abundance. All including mother Yashoda , Krsna’s father Nana Baba and all the villagers were amazed. When gopis  saw this astonishing field of pearls , they requested some pearls from Sri Krishna. Now it was Krishna and His friends’ turn to make fun of them and reject pearls to them.

Picture : Asian Media USA

Since the gopis wanted the same quality of pearls, they consulted with a senior friend Nandimukhi and secretly brought pearls from their homes and took pearls from their own jewelry. They began to sow them as Sri Krsna had done. They irrigated the field with an abundance of not only cow’s milk but ghee and butter too as advised by Nandinukhi. After a few days, their pearls sprouted, but to their surprise, only into thorny creepers. The gopis became worried as they brought all the pearls from their homes for planting. They told Sri Krsna what had happened, and asked Him for some of His pearls. But Krsna, the crown jewel of rasikas, took a lot of pleasure in bargaining with them and teasing them to the extent that Srimati Radha just asks Gopis to leave the place and not argue with the cheaters. Finally He lovingly prepared beautiful necklaces from His exquisite pearls for all the Gopis and went to present them along with His sakhas. All the Gopis were extremely happy to receive such wonderful necklaces and wanted to reciprocate to Krishna by preparing delicious food.

Malyaharini-kunda received its name by virtue of this confidential pastime. Our main objective of performing such beautiful pastimes of Krishna are to give the kids an experience of sweet activities of the God. And to show how Lord Krishna, although the Supreme Controller , creator and master of the universe (Bhagavad Gita 10.8) takes pleasure in sweetly playing with His devotees just like we do. He is a person and we are Meade in His image. We enjoy what he enjoys by understanding the sweetness of Krishna, kids can easily take His shelter by remembering Him in challenging times and think of Him as their close loving friend.

The various characters were played by the following kids: Narrator , Anshika – Radha, Radhika – Krishna, Ramakrishna – Chitralekha, Swarna – Vishakha, Mamata – Lalita, Krsangi – Vishal, Advay – Subal, Gaura – Ujjval, ChItanya – Madhu, Devansh – Kanchan lata, Dyuti – Champak Lata, Aadya – Chandramukhi, Ananya – Nandimukhi, Meera – Tungavidya, Radha – Yashoda, Sanya – Malati older Gopi, Dr. Sapna Patel

Janaki older Gopi, Amara dd – Sundar older Gopa, Dayaram Prabhu – Nand Baba, Dushyant Prabhu,

Krishna Temple of Midwest Celebrates Janmashtami

Janmashtami, the appearance day of Lord Krishna was celebrated on Wednesday 6th September 2023 at ISKCON Chicago located at 1716 W Lunt Ave, Chicago, IL. The appearance day anniversary of Srila Prabhupada, the founder acharya of ISKCON (the International Society for Krishna Consciousness) was also celebrated on the following day. The two-day celebration was attended by over a thousand Chicagoans from various cultures.

The festival was attended by the Consulate General of India, Somnath Ghosh and his wife, Anindita Ghosh. Mr. Somnath Ghosh urged the devotees to pray to the Lord “to become better devotees to serve mankind.”

Picture : Asian Media USA

Bhailal Patel, one of the notable community leaders said, “This is the first temple of Chicago and was established in 1972 in Evanston.” Sri Sri Kisora-Kisori was the first Deities of Radha Krishna in the Midwest that were brought in 1972 with the inspiration and efforts of Srila Prabhupada and his disciples. The temple also celebrated their 50th anniversary this year in June commemorating the dedication of the devotees for bringing the teachings of Lord Krishna to the West. “Our world today needs this spiritual knowledge to find the deep internal satisfaction and happiness that we are all looking for.” said the temple priest, Nama Ruci das.

The altar was gorgeously decorated with fresh flowers and vases. The main deities on the altar, Sri Sri Kisora Kisori, looked elegant in their embroidered brown and blue dresses. Lord Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra were on the altar to the right and Sri Sri Gaura Nitai were on the left. They wore garlands of roses and blue orchids in the morning and pink lotuses at night. On the right of the altar was a swing for Lord Krishna and a deity of Srila Prabhupada was on a large simhasana (royal seat) across the temple hall.

Picture : Asian Media USA

Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, “yadā yadā hi dharmasya glānir bhavati bhārata abhyutthānam adharmasya tadātmānaṁ sṛjāmy aham” “Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion – at that time I descend Myself.” The festival is a celebration of Lord Krishna’s descent into this world. His Holiness Radhanath Swami, one of the prominent spiritual leaders, said, “Krishna comes into this world out of his compassion for all living beings.” The teachings of Lord Krishna are found in the Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam. His Holiness Romapada Swami, one of the leaders in ISKCON, requested the devotees to imbibe the teachings given by Lord Krishna by studying the Srimad Bhagavatam.

Devotees celebrated the festival by fasting, bathing the Deity (Abhishek), by performing kirtan and reading from the Bhagavad Gita. The main attractions of the program include Mangala aarti (a ceremonial welcome of the Lord before sunrise), darshan aarti, chanting, drama and Maha aarti at midnight.

The festive mood was enhanced by the melodious songs glorifying the pastimes of Krishna. The devotees wore traditional dhotis and colorful saris and played traditional musical instruments like harmonium, mrdanga and kartal for the pleasure of the Lord. The festival was followed by a sumptuous vegetarian feast for all the guests.

ISNA’s 60th Annual Convention Held in Chicago

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) rolled out its high profile 60th Annual Convention and attracted Thousands of Enthusiastic Participants at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois (5555 N. River Road, Rosemont, IL 60018). “A Multifaceted #ISNA60 Convention was inaugurated by around 40 elected officials and community leaders followed by Friday prayer by thousands of participants.

Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) convention is widely regarded as the largest annual gathering of Muslims in America. It attracts thousands of participants and serves as a social and spiritual event for the betterment of our community. In addition to Muslim Americans, the convention attracts people of other faiths, international delegations, and officials from local, state, and federal government, including heads of state said Mir Khan, Chairman, Steering Committee, ISNA.

Picture : TheUNN

“ISNA’s Convention is more than simply a coming together of Muslim community. Our goal is to unite people across different faiths and backgrounds in the spirit of peace and better understanding”, said Safa Zarzour, ISNA President, in his Inaugural Address. Continuing his address, he said that even though the Convention is by Muslims, it is for everyone. “This is not just a Muslim event, but this is an American event”, he stated and added that the Convention provides a platform to Muslims, guests from other faith communities, families, businesses and non-profit organizations to network and exchange ideas. 

This year’s theme, “60 years of service: Navigating the way forward”, he added, was largely centered on how faith can inspire the community to bring positive social change in response to challenges and injustices of all forms. “The Convention was a great opportunity to look back and celebrate our accomplishments and successes as an American Muslim community and at the same also look ahead to address some of the challenges we face as a community in North America”, he concluded with a sense of optimism.

Picture : TheUNN

“ISNA had a rich list of 200 renowned speakers, scholars, community leaders, and public servants to address Convention attendees. Remarks from Congressman Ro Khanna (Rep. California 17th District), Congresswoman Summer Lee, Khizr Khan (Goldstar Father and Presidential Medal of Honor Recipient) Comedian Preacher Moss & other national Muslim entertainers offering their signature acts. Film Festival featuring Muslim American filmmakers tackling relevant issues facing Muslim Americans. One of the largest Muslim Matrimonial events in the US Renowned speakers like Hamza Yusuf, Zaid Shakir & Yasir Qadhi addressing evolving Muslim issues.

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, was the keynote speaker during the Community Service Recognition Luncheon which honored Dr.Ihsan Bagby for his lifetime dedication to serving the community. Mazen Basrawi from the white house read a special letter from POTUS, building interfaith relationships and social justice advocacy, said Mr. Azhar Azeez, board member and former President, ISNA. Over 40% convention speakers were females that included well known academics and scholars like Dr. Rani Awad, Dr. Ingrid Mattson, Ustadha Lehsa Prime, Ustadha Muslema Perumal, Ustadha Yasmin Mogahed and others, Azeez added. Complementing the main ISNA offering of programs, there were conferences hosted by MSA of US & Canada.

ISNA is the largest and oldest Islamic umbrella organization in North America. Its mission is to foster the development of the Muslim community, interfaith relations, civic engagement, and better understanding of Islam at an international level, representing the voices of Muslim Americans, said Basharat Saleem, Executive Director, ISNA. The roots of ISNA were laid in 1963 by the Muslim Students Association of the US and Canada (now MSA-National). In everything that ISNA does, the effort is not just to unite and strengthen the Muslim community and their trust in Allah, but also ISNA is actively building bridges of understanding, communication, reconciliation, and cooperation with the mainstream faith and other communities.

11th Annual IndiaFest Wisconsin India Day Celebrated

In 2023, India celebrated the 77th independence from Britain and IndiaFest Wisconsin celebration marked its 11th year. On Saturday Aug 26th, festivities in Wisconsin began in Menomonee Falls downtown village park, Waukesha county, with the parade by the children and guests invoking deity Ganesh followed by hoisting of the tricolor flag of India. This was followed by the rendition of the national anthems of both countries, India (largest democracy) and the United States (oldest democracy), in the presence of dignitaries and leaders of our community. Ganesh Vandana, devotional and patriotic performances followed.

Lamp is known as ‘Deepak’, ‘Jyot’ or ‘Jyoti’ which represents Agni (fire element). ‘Divine Light’ symbolizes abundance, prosperity, wealth, and knowledge. The lighting of an oil lamp is regarded as bowing down to knowledge. Significance of oil lamp lighting is to remove darkness, ignorance, and unhappiness, spreading Almighty’s grace and divinity by seeking blessings.

Picture : IndiaFestWI

India Day celebration at IndiaFest Wisconsin 2023 was graced by State Senator Dan Knodl, State Representative Paul Melotik, Waukesha County Supervisor Jacob LaFontain, Menomonee Falls Village President Jeremy Waltz, and Chair of Republican Party Congressional District 4 Bob Spindell. Presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, Governor of Wisconsin Tony Evers, Mayor of Milwaukee Cavalier Johnson, Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley, US Senator Ron Johnson, State Senator Chris Larson, Consul General of India (Midwest) Somnath Ghosh, Honorary Consul General of Bangladesh Monir Choudhury, Honorary Consul General of Nepal Marvin A. Brustin and Brookfield Mayor Steven Ponto were among the invitees. Both the country’s flags India and the United States were highlighted throughout the celebration, signifying the strong India-US relationship, denoting the largest and oldest democracy of the world with love and respect.

Picture : IndiaFestWI

A number of organizations, including Wisdom Infotech, Trayix, Codeworks, Airport Animal Hospital, West Allis Veterinary Clinic, Elite Bar & Grill, Chicago Association of Rajasthanis in America, Sri Gayethri Foods, Pro-life Wisconsin, Planned Parenthood, Asian American Store Owners Association, supported and contributed to India Day celebration at IndiaFest Wisconsin 2023. Vendors included Chic Sari from Green Bay, Kumar Juice Catering Service from Chicago, Labourers of Christ from Michigan and restaurants and clothing businesses from the broader Milwaukee and Waukesha region. IndiaFest Wisconsin was adorned with Mehendi (henna), threading, sari, kurti shopping, bounce house for children etc. IndiaFest Wisconsin is blessed to have a few individual donors as well.

Although the entire setup done by volunteers got ruined by heavy rain and wind the previous night and all things got soaked, we believe perhaps Bhagwan Shiva protected us and blessed the celebration from up above. The entire celebration on Saturday had no drop of rain and everyone had a great time learning about Indian culture. Help from above was noticed.

Officially, Aug 15th, 2023 was proclaimed as INDIA DAY in Wisconsin by Governor Tony Evers, in Milwaukee County by County Executive David Crowley, and in Waukesha County by County Executive Paul Farrow. Proclamations attached.

Governor of Wisconsin Tony Evers proclaimed, “in addition to commemorating India’s independence, India Day provides an opportunity for all Wisconsinites to learn about Indian culture and its incredible diversity of language, region, and religion and to strengthen the bonds between the Indian community and others.”

U.S. Senator Ron Johnson congratulated and stated, “Congratulations on the 11th year of IndiaFest Wisconsin as well as the 77th Independence Day of India! Your dedication and efforts to bring visibility to the Indian Community of Wisconsin is to be commended. Thank you for your commitment to educating the greater Wisconsin community about the rich culture, traditions and heritage of India.”

Senator Dan Knodl applauded efforts of Spindle India, Inc., by stating “I applaud founder Purnima Nath, IndiaFest Wisconsin and the organization Spindle India, Inc., for their tremendous community service over the past decade in strengthening the India-US relationship and bringing visibility to Indian culture and heritage in Wisconsin.”

Since 2018, Spindle India, Inc., worked tirelessly with the Governor of Wisconsin’s office to obtain proclamation for India day in Wisconsin. We thank former governor Scott Walker and current Governor Tony Evers for their support and acknowledgment.

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley proclaimed, “Milwaukee County recognizes IndiaFest Wisconsin and Spindle India, Inc., for their invaluable contribution of community service to Milwaukee County and joins all Wisconsinites in celebrating and appreciating India Day, Indian Culture, and the Indian community in Milwaukee County.” Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow proclaimed, “acknowledging the contribution of Spindle India, Inc., towards bringing communities together and bringing visibility of Indian community, culture, heritage, history and civilization.”

Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow proclaimed, “acknowledging the contribution of Spindle India, Inc., towards bringing communities together and bringing visibility of Indian community, culture, heritage, history and civilization”.

Honorary Consul General of Nepal Marvin A. Brustin congratulated Spindle India, Inc. for the celebration of India and bringing communities together. Mr. Brustin stated, “As many of you know, India and Nepal share an open border and many common traditions. In my capacity of Honorary Consul General, I have had the privilege of learning more about both these ancient and remarkable cultures, and hope that spirit of openness and cooperation we often see between them will be present here in the US as well, allowing us to continue work together for our respective countries mutual benefit.”

Mayor of Brookfield Steven Ponto applauded the Indian community for placing emphasis on education and also congratulated Spindle India, Inc for its volunteering initiative.

“Spindle India, Inc, is an ultra-small volunteer-run nonprofit organization run in borrowed garage-space with big dreams and goals. Since 2013, Spindle India, Inc., strived hard to bring communities together regardless of the challenges of resources and funding, without cutting any corners. I am grateful to the universe for allowing me to be the custodian of this organization and her vision.”, stated Purnima Nath, Founder of Spindle India, Inc.

IndiaFest Wisconsin showcased ancient Indic culture, heritage and civilization through demonstrations of traditional clothing, music, dance, food, displays, decor, explanations, and art forms. Many local talents from across the broader Milwaukee, Waukesha and Racine area displayed art forms through music and dance. Kathak Dancer Natalia Armacanqui of Kallpa House of Spirit Dances from Madison and students from Milwaukee’s Aparna’s Dance Studio performed traditional, devotional, classical (Bharatnatyam) and contemporary dance forms. Mahijit Virdi, Abhijit Virdi, Manoj Tripathi from greaterMilwaukee and Racine counties and Special guest Dr. Neelima Sharma from India renditioned Bollywood’s old and contemporary music numbers. For the first time, IndiaFest Wisconsin illustrated a unique experience of the Folk Fusion of Indian and South American (Ecuadorian) Instruments by Victor Murillo from Ecuador, Indrajit Banerjee from India on Sitar, an eons-old Indian stringed instrument, and Jason McKinsey on Drums and tabla from Texas. Contemporary Bollywood music was performed by the Bollywood Orchestra of Archana Gauswami and Ajay Patel from India. IndiaFest Wisconsin was enriched by performers from various countries, India, Nepal, America, Ecuador and so on.

IndiaFest Wisconsin showcased the culture, history, and heritage of India’s ancient Indic civilization through art forms, food, music, dance and decor Ancient Indic culture is promoted through displays of traditional clothing, explanations, and displays of arts. First time IndiaFest Wisconsin showcased Folk Fusion of Indian and South American (Ecuadorian) Instruments by Victor Murillo, Indrajit Banerjee (Sitar, an eons-old Indian stringed instrument) and Jason McKinsey (Drums and tabla). Contemporary Bollywood music was performed by the Orchestra from India.

A few volunteers were kind enough to lend a few hands during their busy schedule to bring this festival in the land of Wisconsin are MaryJo Thompson, Gerald Knoch, Jenn Dedrick, Shubhra Prasad, Bharat Prasad, Ashita Verma, Jayanti Roy, Arnab Bag and Aparna Bag. These volunteers are not paid for whatever time, energy they dedicated for the cause of promoting Indian culture, heritage and civilization through IndiaFest. Without the help of their time and energy IndiaFest Wisconsin would not have been possible.

IndiaFest Wisconsin is an opportunity to get a glimpse of the warmth, breadth, and depth of India, launched by Spindle India, Inc, a nonprofit organization, founded by Purnima Nath. IndiaFest Wisconsin is an inclusive platform that transcends religion, region, language, culture, community, borders and political bias to promote true diversity, equality, and the value of inclusion and coexistence, that is a fundamental principle of ancient Hindu culture of India (Bharat = Hindustan).

Founder and Chairwoman of Spindle India, Inc., Ms. Purnima Nath, who serves as volunteer President and produces IndiaFest Wisconsin to promote Indian culture and heritage says, “in America, people do not know much about Indian culture beyond a few popular food items such as curry, samosa, or naan. We are more than that. Inventions, discoveries, ideologies, acceptance, tolerance, oldest-living surviving ancient civilization which has not been accepted by the world yet. Sadly, there are many misconceptions about India, the Indian community, and the ancient Indic civilization in the United States. Through such avenues and platforms, we can break barriers of cultural differences and communicate about the oldest-living-surviving Indian civilization through education and learning, and connecting with a broader community that fosters understanding. We hope this opens up the possibility of opening doors to potential wider acceptance of our community and incredible culture.”

How The ‘Model Minority’ Myth Led One Indian American Family To Unravel

Prachi Gupta’s family appeared to embody the quintessential American Dream from an outsider’s perspective. Her father, a doctor, her mother, a devoted homemaker, and Prachi and her brother Yush were both high-achieving individuals. They enjoyed the comforts of a spacious five-bedroom home in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Gupta was raised with the belief that their prosperity was a testament to their diligent work ethic and adherence to Indian cultural values.

However, beneath this façade, Gupta reveals a different, more tumultuous narrative in her new memoir titled “They Called Us Exceptional.” She describes how her father’s temper and strict rules created a turbulent atmosphere at home, causing Gupta to grapple with the stark contrast between her family’s inner dysfunction and the picture-perfect image they presented to the world.

Gupta discusses the impact of this dichotomy on her identity, stating, “If you believe that success and achievement are integral to your core identity, any challenges, traumas, or hardships you face are internalized as personal failures. This compels us to conceal anything imperfect about ourselves.”

In her memoir, Gupta delves into how each member of her family coped with the turmoil at home in their own way. Her mother chose to tolerate her husband’s manipulative behavior despite enduring mistreatment. Gupta herself rejected the toxic dynamics she had once accepted, leading to her estrangement from her family. Her brother, on the other hand, learned to bury his emotions, ultimately embarking on a path that, according to Gupta, led to his tragic demise.

Gupta’s book is a deeply personal exploration that combines her own narrative with historical insights and cultural analysis. It sheds light on how the weight of the “model minority” stereotype contributed to the unraveling of her family.

CNN recently interviewed Gupta to discuss the motivation behind her book, the tragic event that inspired it, and the authenticity of the American Dream. Below is an edited excerpt of their conversation:

What inspired you to write this book?

“In 2017, my brother Yush passed away. At the time, we had been estranged for two years, but prior to our estrangement, we had shared an incredibly close bond. He was only 18 months younger than me, and for most of our lives, we were best friends. His unexpected and untimely death, caused by complications after cosmetic limb-lengthening surgery, initiated my journey into writing this book. I needed to comprehend who he had become and the decisions that had led him down this path.

Part of the reason for our estrangement was my strong feminist beliefs and his adoption of men’s rights views. When he passed away, I wrote an essay titled ‘Stories About My Brother,’ which was published on Jezebel in 2019. The response to this essay was overwhelming. I heard from immigrant mothers who were unaware of the challenges their children were facing and decided to discuss mental health with them. Sisters who shared complicated relationships with their brothers found solace in my words, and Asian American men indicated that they were heading down a similar path as my brother but reconsidered their choices after reading my essay. Men from various backgrounds confessed that they had battled depression without ever acknowledging it before.

Realizing the shared struggles and isolation that so many people experienced, I felt compelled to share my complete story. There was much more to tell about how the culture we live in encourages us to distance ourselves from our true selves and communities in pursuit of success and achievement. I believe that if my brother and I had been exposed to this narrative earlier in life, our relationship might have endured, and he might have made different decisions that could have saved his life.”

Why did your and your brother’s paths diverge so dramatically in adulthood?

“We grew up in the same household but had vastly different experiences. Our family adhered to traditional gender roles, and this created a divide between my brother and me. I witnessed the injustice of these roles and how I was treated differently due to my gender. He absorbed messages about masculinity and the expectations placed on men. He learned not to express his emotions, avoid discussing feelings, and felt pressure to be a provider.

These differing expectations, coupled with our dysfunctional family dynamics, pushed us further apart as we grew older. I questioned the family system and sought to understand why things were the way they were, while he leaned into his traditional role. This friction became the source of our estrangement, and we were unable to reconcile our differences.”

You documented many painful events in your book as they were happening. Did you always intend to write a book about your family?

“I always felt a need to document what was happening in some way. Writing was my means of making sense of the world around me. I grew up in a volatile household where reality could change in an instant. My father would alter facts, and suddenly, I’d be told that certain events didn’t occur, despite my clear recollection of them. I constantly questioned my sanity, and writing served as a way to preserve my memories. Documenting everything felt essential to my survival. However, I never initially planned to write a memoir or a personal account. My intention was to use these observations to create fictional narratives in the future.

After Yush’s passing, I didn’t want to relegate him to a hypothetical concept. I wanted to honor his memory and shed light on the real harm caused by the ideologies he had embraced. These pressures are genuine, and they have genuine repercussions on our bodies, lives, and relationships. We often discuss these issues abstractly, but they played a role in my brother’s tragic end. I wanted people to understand that these pressures are real and have real consequences.”

In your book, you often avoid using terms like “abuse” or “domestic violence” to describe what happened in your family. Can you explain why?

“Yes, that was intentional. I found empowerment in labeling these dynamics as abusive and toxic because it helped me distance myself from them. However, these situations are far from black-and-white or straightforward. Experiencing such situations is disorienting, especially when the person hurting you is someone you deeply love. It’s not easy to simply categorize it as ‘abuse’ and move on.

I also wanted to convey what it feels like to be in such a situation. When we use terms like ‘abuse’ or ‘domestic violence,’ everyone has a different mental image. Many people primarily associate physical abuse with these terms, but psychological and emotional abuse exist on a spectrum. We lack effective ways to discuss these forms of abuse and their consequences.”

Your book is framed as a letter to your mother. Why did you choose this format?”After Yush’s death, I wanted more than anything to reconnect with my parents. I wished to keep Yush’s memory alive through our relationship. However, this proved challenging.

I often contemplated mortality following his passing and didn’t want to leave my mother in the dark about who I truly am, on my terms. I wanted to explain to her why our relationship remained distant and clarify that it had nothing to do with my love for her. It was a difficult conversation to have in person, so I felt compelled to write it down.”

Have your parents read the book?

“I’m not certain. I did send them a letter before the book’s publication, but I’m unsure whether my mother has read it or not. I agonized over this decision but ultimately felt that it was necessary. After my brother’s death, I needed to find meaning in his passing. (Courtesy: TIME)

India Rebuffed Requests For More Press Access Ahead Of G20 Summit

Reporters accompanying President Joe Biden to the G20 summit in India did not have the opportunity to ask questions to President Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during their meeting in New Delhi. The White House confirmed this decision despite repeated requests for increased press access.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan explained that this meeting was unique because it would take place at the prime minister’s residence, unlike the typical bilateral visits to India where meetings are held in the prime minister’s office. He mentioned that Prime Minister Modi had set specific protocols for the meeting.

Picture : KTVZ

Sullivan acknowledged that the administration had pushed for a pool spray of the meeting, as is customary when President Biden hosts foreign leaders at the White House. He humorously remarked, “We spend our lives asking for pool sprays and other things” for reporters.

Prime Minister Modi, who has faced criticism from press freedom organizations for his government’s crackdown on independent reporting, has rarely taken questions from the press since assuming office.

During a state visit in June, Modi agreed to participate in a news conference at the White House after extensive negotiations between the two sides. Initially, Indian officials were hesitant about the White House’s insistence on holding a news conference.

The Biden administration has been keen to highlight the President’s willingness to address press freedom and humanitarian issues under Modi’s rule. During Modi’s visit in June, six Democratic lawmakers boycotted his address to Congress, citing concerns about India’s treatment of Muslim minorities.

However, President Biden warmly welcomed Prime Minister Modi to the White House during the visit, hosting a formal state dinner in his honor, emphasizing the shared commitment to democracy between the two nations.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stated that the administration was making every effort to ensure media access to the President during his trip to India for the G20 summit. Several officials, including Sullivan, White House Communications Director Ben LaBolt, Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer, and Deputy Assistant to the President Kurt Campbell, contacted their Indian counterparts to advocate for increased press access, but their efforts were apparently unsuccessful.

Jean-Pierre noted, “We have reached out, we have made the request multiple times and at different pressure points.” She emphasized that the administration had been working diligently to ensure a smooth trip for everyone involved and left it to the Indian government to respond.

She added, “Look, we are all trying to do our best, at the behest of the president, to get this done – and so we’re gonna keep working on it.”

Instead of addressing reporters after the G20 summit’s conclusion in New Delhi, President Biden will hold a news conference in Vietnam, where it is deemed “easier” for him to take questions from reporters.

Jean-Pierre explained the decision by stating that it was logistically simpler to hold the press conference in Vietnam and that it would not change anything, as it would have been a solo press conference by the President regardless.

Regarding formal engagements with world leaders during the G20 summit, Sullivan indicated that there would likely be few formal meetings. He said, “I can’t confirm any (bilateral meetings), and to be honest with you, I think you will not see, because of the way the schedule was structured, a significant number of formal engagements with other leaders.” Instead, most of the interactions with other leaders would be informal and on the margins, rather than formal sit-down meetings.

Indian American Judge Moxila Upadhyaya Presides Over Trump Arraignment

Former US President Donald Trump appeared in federal court on August 3, facing charges related to his alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Former US President Donald Trump appeared in the US District Court in Washington in connection with charges of his alleged attempts to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. The charges were filed as part of special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into the matter.

Trump is facing a total of four counts: conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy against rights. The former President appeared before Indian American Magistrate Judge Moxila A. Upadhyaya, who presided over his third arraignment.

Picture : TheUNN

Judge Upadhyaya served as a law clerk to Eric T. Washington, former Chief Judge of the D.C. Court of Appeals. She also practised complex commercial and administrative litigation at Venable LLP’s Washington, D.C. office. Upadhyay dedicated her pro bono efforts to representing indigent clients in post-conviction proceedings.

Throughout her career, Upadhyaya has been actively involved in the legal community. She served as the co-chair of the D.C. Bar Litigation Section Steering Committee and contributed to organizations such as the D.C. Access to Justice Foundation and Council for Court Excellence. Her commitment to upholding the law and ensuring access to justice has made her a respected figure in the legal sphere.

Judge Upadhyaya, who traces her roots to the Gujarat state of India received a Bachelor of Journalism from the Missouri School of Journalism and a Bachelor of Arts with honors in Latin from the University of Missouri. She went on to earn her J.D. from the American University, Washington College of Law, where she earned accolades for her trial work and was a valued member of the Administrative Law Review.

Rise of Indian Americans

The rapid rise of Indian Americans from politics to administration, entrepreneurship to technology, medicine to hospitality, science to academia has put the global spotlight like never before on the high-achieving four million-plus strong diaspora.

The community happens to be the most educated with the highest median income in the US, with an average household earning of $123,700 — making them the top earners in the US among other Asians in the country.

As the profile of the Indian American community — now the second-largest immigrant group in the US — has grown, so too has its economic, political, and social influence, according to a recent Carnegie Endowment study.

In 2010, only 18 per cent of Americans saw India as “very important” to the United States, according to The Chicago Council survey.

Now, India is perceived by Americans as their seventh favourite nation in the world, with 70 per cent of people viewing India favourably in 2023, says a Gallup survey.

Picture : TheUNN

Much of how America views India today can be attributed to the success of this community, which according to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has played a significant role in the all-round development of the nation they live in and also strengthened the India-US relationship.

The fifth largest economy of the world, India today is seen in the US as a strong bilateral partner sharing common democratic values with broad-based and multi-sectoral cooperation in sectors like trade and investment, defence and security, education, science and technology, cyber security, etc.

American businesses heavily rely on highly-skilled workers from India to fill the gaps in IT and engineering sectors via the H-1B visa programme. These visa holders create prospects for US citizens, by enabling companies to invest in domestic operations instead of sending jobs abroad.

As US Ambassador Eric Garcetti recently said: “India is a place where dreams become reality every day. Our counties have so much in common. Indian dreams and American dreams are two sides of the same coin.”

Addressing the 2019 Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, then Foreign Minister late Sushma Swaraj had noted that while the Indian diaspora started migrating centuries ago, it was the migration of the educated, highly-skilled and dynamic young Indians that brought laurels to India.

The dominance of Sundar Pichai, Satya Nadella, and Parag Agarwal in the IT sector has strengthened the image of India in the US as a technology powerhouse and a source of quality human resources.

With US Vice President Kamala Harris sitting atop the political ladder, the US House of Representatives has five Indian Americans — Ami Bera, Ro Khanna, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Pramila Jayapal and Shri Thanedar.

There are close to 60 Indian-American CEOs in Fortune 500. Even though Indians are just 1 per cent of the American population, they are more than 10 per cent of the Fortune 500 CEOs with the likes of Laxman Narasimhan (Starbucks) and Raj Subramaniam (FedEx).

The US now has 20,000 Indian-American professors and at least a third of companies in the Silicon Valley that come for funding, and have an Indian American co-founder, according to Indiaspora founder M.R. Rangaswami.

According to foreign policy experts, it is the success of this community, which has dramatically changed the US perception of Indians and India, with its ability to spread Indian soft power, lobby for India’s national interests, and contribute economically to their mother country’s rise.

As part of “soft diplomacy”, Indian-Americans played a pivotal role in the fructification of the historic Indo-US nuclear deal in 2005.

The community also urged the political establishment — right from the Oval Office down to statehouses — to send aid worth at least half-a-billion dollars to India during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

India’s Rising Population & Its March Towards World’s Second Largest Economy

(IPS) – This year, India surpassed China as the world’s most populous nation. China is expected to overtake the US as the world’s largest economy by 2035, but its population will likely continue to decline, while India’s will continue to grow.

India is projected to surpass 1.5 billion people by the end of this decade, reaching 1.7 billion people by 2064. Goldman Sachs analysts recently predicted India will be the world’s second-largest economy by 2075.

India’s population growth is widely touted as an economic opportunity to be seized, a chance for India to press its advantage as the most populous nation on Earth, with the greatest proportion of working age people.

For example, there have been recent calls for India to take the helm as a world leader in steel production. Demand for steel is expected to surge as India’s population grows, and more steel production capacity could boost India’s economy.

But there is more to population growth than just bigger markets and workforces. The same population growth that drives up demand also puts immense pressure on environmental, education, and health infrastructure.

For example, it will increasingly strain access to clean water, threatening drinking water safety and sanitation for communities. It could also lead to shortages in teachers and schools, and scarcity of medical professionals and health facilities.

So, as India’s population grows, it’s imperative that we balance its economic development with the well-being of its people. Sabina Dewan, a senior visiting fellow at the Center for Policy Research, says population growth could be a “tremendous productive force for the economy” but economic growth “hinges on providing good quality, productive, and well-remunerated jobs.” As Wilson Center scholar Jennifer Sciubba put it, “We’ve got 1.4 billion people in India, and it’s up to India to decide whether or not that becomes a resource or a burden.”

How population growth ultimately impacts people depends on how government, civil society, and society as a whole address its challenges and capitalize on its benefits. One key aspect of this is upholding people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

As India’s population expands, the number of people of child-bearing age will continue to grow, and the stakes of SRHR will get higher. Studies show access to comprehensive SRHR services is key for health and well-being and helps women and girls reach their educational and economic goals. It also enables them to delay and space childbearing, moderating population growth and easing pressure on natural resources and infrastructure.

Currently, women and girls in India do not have sufficient access to SRHR services. Two million adolescent Indian women have an unmet need for modern contraception. A staggering 78% of abortions among adolescents are unsafe, leading to an elevated risk of complications.

And as India’s population grows, it also raises the stakes of gender discrimination and achieving gender equity. Without sufficient investment in the health and rights and women and girls, population growth is likely to exacerbate existing gender disparities.

But when women gain access to more education, economic opportunity, and family planning resources, it leads to greater economic participation and prosperity. Research finds such programs can help lift people out of poverty, improving their standard of living and contributing to a more inclusive economy.

In order to leverage the demographic dividend from population growth, in addition to manufacturing, transportation, energy, and digital infrastructure, India’s government should invest in its people.

It should focus on skill development and quality education programs that include women and girls, with emphasis on vocational training and technical education to equip the workforce with the skills the rapidly changing job market demands.

India’s rapid population growth is neither a blessing nor a curse, neither utopian opportunity nor dystopian destiny. Instead, it’s a blend of challenges and possibilities. The outcome for people depends on the actions we take and the investments we make.

Conventional investments like ramping up steel production may raise India’s GDP, but won’t by themselves make people happier or healthier, or lead to greater productivity and prosperity in the long run.

For that we’ll need a comprehensive approach, including policies and investments that prioritize SRHR, gender equity, education, and health. That’s the pathway towards beneficial economic growth, sustainable development, and a more balanced, prosperous future.

Taira Bhargava is a Stanback Reproductive Health Research fellow at the Population Institute in Washington, DC. Hailing from New Delhi, India, she is a rising junior at Duke University, studying Human Biology and Environmental Science. (IPS UN Bureau)

357 Churches in India Set On Fire With the Support of the Authorities

(ZENIT News) The Thursday, 20th July the monsoon session of India’s parliament was disrupted by politicians demanding an emergency debate on a video footage of two women being led naked by a mob in Manipur – before they were gang raped, according to reports.

The event occurred on 4th May, the day after the uprisings which spiraled into violence against the Christian-majority Kuki and Naga ethnic groups broke out, but the footage only surfaced on the web (Wednesday, 19th July).

Although reports have not confirmed that the women were Christian, they belong to the Kuki ethnic group. Last week, senior BJP politician R Vanramchhuanga resigned over his party’s failure to condemn violence against Christians.

In his resignation letter, dated 13th July, Vanramchhuanga wrote that even though 357 churches and other buildings belonging to Christian organizations had been destroyed by Meitei militants in Manipur that BJP leaders from local and national governments had not spoken out against the targeting of Christians.

Christians belonging to the Meitei ethnic group were also targeted during the attacks. The vicious persecution in India’s Manipur state – where hundreds of churches have been destroyed – has entered a new stage as a video showing women being paraded naked went viral.

Vanramchhuanga, the former BJP vice president in Mizoram which neighbors Manipur, expressed the view that there was political support for the violence against religious and ethnic minority groups.

He wrote: “I do believe that massive demolition of Christian Churches in Manipur was supported by the state and central authorities”.

Earlier India’s PM Narendra Modi responded to parliamentarians’ outrage over the footage of the two women by condemning the incident. He said: “I assure the nation, no guilty will be spared. The law will take its course with all its might. What happened with the daughters of Manipur can never be forgiven.”

According to the Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum: “The gang rape of the women happened after the village was burnt down and two men – one middle-aged and another a teenager – were beaten to death by the mob.” The incidents occurred in B Phainom village in Kangpokpi District.

Fednow Instant Payment Service For Banks Launched

(AP) — The Federal Reserve launched a new instant payment service Thursday. FedNow allows banks and credit unions to sign up to send real-time payments so they can offer customers a quicker way to send money between banks.

FedNow, which was first announced in 2019, published a list of banks and credit unions that are already signed up to the service. However, it might take longer for customers to be able to use the service with their bank.

Here’s what you need to know about FedNow.

HOW DOES FEDNOW WORK?

FedNow offers instant payment services for banks and credit unions to transfer money for their customers. Unlike other private money-transferring services like PayPal or Venmo, FedNow services are not offered to customers directly through a third-party app or website. The services will only be available through banks or credit unions. However, once banks have adopted FedNow, they’re expected to make it available on their websites and apps.

Once a bank offers the FedNow services, customers will be able to send money instantly. The service is also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Among the banks that will offer the FedNow services soon are Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase.

WHY DID THE FED CREATE FEDNOW?

By creating FedNow, the Fed is making it quicker and more accessible for people to send and receive online payments. The Fed is also catching up with other countries that already have real-time payment systems like FedNow, including England, China, Sweden and India.

FedNow will also equip banks with tools to identify and combat fraud attempts. These tools include the ability for banks to flag suspicious accounts and limit the amount and frequency of payments by those accounts.

WHO CAN USE FEDNOW?

Customers, including individuals and businesses, whose banks or credit unions offer FedNow services will be able to send and receive money in real-time. If, for example, a customer wants to send money to a friend, both people have to bank with institutions that offer FedNow services.

WHAT ARE SOME SCENARIOS WHERE I CAN USE FEDNOW?

Given the speed of transactions, this service can be beneficial for customers in many ways.

Here are some examples:

— If your employer sends your paycheck through FedNow, the paycheck will be able to clear in seconds rather than days.

— If you forgot to pay your rent until the last minute, you will be able to send the money late at night without waiting to have it cleared the next business day.

WHEN WILL FEDNOW BE AVAILABLE TO ME?

FedNow is now live but it might take months or years for customers to be able to use this service, it all depends on when your bank makes it available.

WILL MY PRIVACY BE PROTECTED WITH FEDNOW?

The Federal Reserve and the FedNow service cannot access people’s bank accounts and it doesn’t have the authority for additional surveillance, according to Fed officials.

WILL FEDNOW REPLACE VENMO, PAYPAY OR OTHER SERVICES?

There are key differences between the FedNow service and apps such as Venmo and PayPal. FedNow is a service offered directly to banks and not to customers, which means FedNow does not have an app or website where customers will be able to send money to each other.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FEDNOW AND ZELLE?

AND ZELLE?

While both FedNow and Zelle allow customers to make online transactions, there are some key differences. Zelle is a private app that works with some financial institutions while FedNow is backed by the Federal Reserve and is envisioned to be adopted by the majority of banks in the country.

Zelle lets you send and receive money instantly but the money might not be available for customers until days after the transaction. With FedNow, the Fed says the money will be available within seconds. Zelle has a customer-facing platform that allows customers to send money through their app while FedNow will not directly interact with customers but rather offer the services to banks.

WILL FEDNOW REPLACE CASH?

Fed officials have stressed FedNow is unrelated to the notion of a government-run digital currency, which social media users also falsely claim would lead to the elimination of cash.

“The Federal Reserve has made no decision on issuing a central bank digital currency (CBDC) & would not do so without clear support from Congress and executive branch, ideally in the form of a specific authorizing law,” the agency wrote in a series of tweets in April “A CBDC would not replace cash or other payment options.”

IOCUSA Leaders Interact With K. Raju, National Coordinator- SC, ST, OBC And Minority Department Of AICC

IOCUSA leaders met with Shri. K. Raju, who is the National Coordinator of the Indian National Congress for SC/ST/OBC and Minority Affairs and exchanged views on how to improve the messaging to the Diaspora while increasing the reach of the organization. Mr. Raju, formerly an IAS officer, resigned from service in 2013 to join the Congress party. Prior to his resignation from service, he served as Additional Secretary, Govt of India at the National Advisory Council (NAC) headed by Smt. Sonia Gandhi.

IOCUSA team headed by President Mr. Mohinder Singh Gilzian and Vice-Chair George Abraham briefed him on the activities of the IOCUSA and assured him of our support and commitment as the Congress party is at the forefront of fighting for the cause of the common man. The meeting also assessed the deteriorating situation in India as regards democracy and religious freedom.

Raju applauded the grand reception organized for Rahul Gandhi and said, “Rahul Gandhi spoke to the Diaspora from the depths of his heart.” He also urged the Diaspora to make use of the technologies available to counter the false messaging and propaganda emanating from the BJP circles.

Phuman Singh, Chairman, Punjab Chapter, Rajeswar Reddy Gangasani, President, Telangana Chapter, Sharath Chandra and  Baldev Randhawa also participated in the discussions.

Comedian Rajiv Satyal Set to Tape Hollywood Special

(Los Angeles, CA) International veteran comedian Rajiv Satyal is recording his long-anticipated full-length standup special.  It’s taking place at The Bourbon Room in Hollywood on Thursday, July 27.

Satyal’s 2-min video, I AM INDIAN, has been viewed over 100 million times across online platforms.  The video was used to introduce Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Shanghai and in Dubai.  Satyal emceed Modi’s 2015 speech in San Jose in front of 17,000 people.

The Burbank-based comedian has been busy hosting his online talk show, What Do You Bring to the Table?  Between that and his red carpet interviews, he has chatted 1:1 with Deepak Chopra, Malala Yousafzai, Marisa Tomei, Paul Reiser, Hasan Minhaj, Lilly Singh, Kumail Nanjiani, Matt Walsh, and Danny Pudi.

In 2009, Satyal was the first person to perform an hour of standup comedy anywhere in India.  He has now performed in 11 states across India.  Satyal is the only person ever to perform standup comedy on all seven continents.

In fact, Satyal has interviewed more high-profile South Asian American celebrities than anyone and has done a lot of work in the South Asian community, hosting many charity events for Pratham, the Hindu American Foundation, and 23 events for Akshaya Patra.

For a year, he has brought the community together with his monthly Entertainment Meet-Ups that assemble creatives and businesspeople in the Industry.

Satyal’s team is confident in their plan to submit this 75-min set to streamers NetflixAmazon, and Max.  After all, in May, Satyal filmed a special for Dry Bar Comedy, one of the hottest outlets in standup.

Because Satyal has worked in offices, in cubicles, on factory floors, on TV sets, and on stages, he possesses a deep understanding of everything from current events to history to social justice issues to leadership to romantic relationships.  It’s like he’s got a permanent 5-TB hard drive wired to his head.

Satyal tapped his vast network and enlisted 35 of his closest friends (including Russell Peters, Maz Jobrani, et al) to help him assemble a 90-sec promo video.

Two of LA’s hottest DJs will spin before and after Satyal’s set to keep the event moving.  Satyal elaborated, “Post-pandy… OK, in non-Zoomer language:  after the pandemic, it seems like the right time.  Dress up:  you might end up on camera.  It’s gonna be a party.  It’s about relieving and reliving.

This allows parents responsible for kids at home to relieve their babysitters and allows non-parents to relive their college years by raging on a Thursday.  Well, irresponsible parents, too. Like me.  What I bring to the table is that, once you walk out of the room — hopefully at the end of the show and not in the middle — you feel like you really got to know me.”

Still a few tickets left.  Get yours now before they run out.

  • Rajiv Satyal will perform “Let Me Be Clear” at The Bourbon Room.
  • Location:  Near Hollywood and Vine.  6356 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028.  
  • One night only:  Thursday, July 27, 2023.  
  • Doors at 7:00 PM, Showtime at 8:00 PM.  DJ at 10:00 PM.  
  • Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door.  
  • Venue is 21+.  
  • All info/tickets:  com.
  • All assets are here on Dropbox.
  • Additional info and pics at com/bio

Over 150 US Senators and Representatives Expected at ITServe Alliance’s Capitol Hill Day on July 18th-19th, 2023

(Washington, DC — July 6, 2023) “Following the success of our virtual Capitol Hill events in 2021 and 2022, ITServe Alliance is excited to host its first-ever in-person Capitol Hill Day in Washington, DC on July 18th-19th, 20023,” said Siva Moopanar, Director of ITServe Alliance Policy Advocacy Committee (PAC). “The conference will have participation by over 150 US Representatives and Senators, including influential committee chairs and members, whose decisions impact our businesses.”

Established a year ago, ITServe Connected PAC’s major goal has been to educate lawmakers and the greater community, using digital and traditional methods on the benefits of the H1-B program and eliminate misconceptions by meeting, collaborating, and lobbying with Congressmen and Senators to work together to help write and amend laws that are favorable to our members’ business interests.

ITServe Alliance has been consistently working to protect the needs of its members,” said Sateesh R. Nagilla, Connected PAC Board Chair. To that end, ITServe Alliance has been Lobbying with the Lawmakers on behalf of its members on Capitol Hill and with the US Administration.  Capitol Day will be the perfect way for ITServe Alliance to use its collective voice to communicate with policymakers on the issues that are important to our members.

According to the organizers, a Congressional Reception is planned to be held on July 18th from 5 pm to 7 pm. The daylong event on July 19th from 9 am to 5 pm will feature Capitol Hill Meetings with interactive sessions with US Congressmen and Senators.

A major objective of Capitol Hill Day is to showcase to the lawmakers some of the significant contributions of the ITServe members to the country’s economy through Technology & Innovation, local employment, and STEM education. The event will also address key concerns faced by small businesses, including high-skilled immigration reform.

Stressing the need for and importance of ITServe, Vinay Mahajan, President of ITServe said, “ITServe Alliance’s Capitol Hill Day will serve as a powerful platform in educating policymakers on the issues that are important to our members and the business community, ensuring our needs and views are reflected in policy debates and outcomes.”

ITServe’s vision has been to empower local communities by creating, retaining, and fostering employment opportunities within the United States. Moreover, ITServe is committed to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and actively contributes to local communities nationwide, particularly in the realm of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education.

Among the several initiatives, ITserve has supported the HIRE ACT Bill (High Skilled Immigration Reform for Employment), introduced in Congress in December 2022. Innovation, STEM education, and avoiding brain drain are the highlights of the Bill. It has advocated to have the STEM graduates with U.S master’s Degrees and/or Ph.D. holders from the H1-B CAP quota removed and make it unlimited to retain the top talent & innovation in the Country.”

Another area, where ITServe has focused is the STEM Program to promote the “American Ingenuity Account” to fund State-administered grants for STEM education and worker training.  Enhancing the current H1-B CAP limits – from   65,000 to 130,000 per year has been a major area where ITServe has placed its efforts in the past years.

Urging ITServe members to be active and work collaboratively in making this important event successful, Vinod Babu Uppu, ITServe Governing Board Chair said, “It’s our collective voice. I call upon every member to be part of this important event, advocate for ITServe, and make our voices heard in the corridors of power. Also, if you have a relationship with a member of Congress or their staff, please enter that information too.  Through your help we will be able to accomplish our goals through grassroots and advocacy.”

Jagadeesh Mosali, President-Elect of ITServe, while summarizing the importance of Capitol Hill Day said, “ITServe Alliance is consistently working to protect its members’ needs. To that end, ITServe Alliance, through its PAC team, is advocating on Capitol Hill and with the Administration.  ITServe Alliance will use its collective voice to communicate with policymakers on important issues to its members.”

ITServe Alliance comprises of small and medium-sized businesses that fulfill the growing demand for highly skilled professionals in America. Its members play a crucial role in developing and maintaining essential IT systems for corporations, governments, and various organizations. For information on ITServe and its many noble initiatives, please visit: www.itserve.org

Rep. Shri Thanedar Co-Sponsors Bill To Eliminate Visa Backlogs, Advocates For Merit-Based Immigration

Indian-American Congressman Shri Thanedar has announced his co-sponsorship of the to address the long-standing Green Card backlog and create a merit-based immigration system. The bill, introduced by Congressman Larry Bucshon and Raja Krishnamoorthi, seeks to recapture unused employment-based Green Cards and exempt them from per-country caps. With an estimated 1.6 million individuals in the employment-based Green Card backlog, the bill aims to alleviate hardships for skilled workers, including many Indians, while meeting the demand for immigrants in American businesses.

“Proud to co-sponsor the H.R. 1535 Eliminating Backlogs Act of 2023, bipartisan legislation which increases employment-based immigration visas. Immigration needs to be merit-based, not dictated by arbitrary caps,” Thanedar tweeted on Thursday.

The Congressman had earlier said that the long Green Card backlog is creating hardships for skilled workers, including Indians, at a time when American businesses need more immigrants.

According to estimates, there are only six available workers for every 10 job openings in the US.

The bill, introduced by Congressmen Larry Bucshon and Raja Krishnamoorthi on March 10, would recapture the unused employment-based Green Cards accumulated over the past three decades, going back to 1992 when the current Green Card allotment system took effect.

Unused Green Cards are the ones left unissued due to bureaucratic delays and slow USCIS processing.

In addition, the bill would exempt these recaptured Green Cards from the 7 per cent per-country cap.

As a consequence of numerical limits, per-country caps, and administrative delays, the employment-based Green Card backlog reached 1.6 million by the end of Fiscal Year 2022, according to National Immigration Forum.

The US sets aside 140,000 employment-based green cards for skilled, unskilled, and professional workers from all around the world every year.

In addition to the numerical limit, Congress has put a limit on the maximum number of Green Cards that can be allocated to nationals of a particular country.

As per the existing federal law, individuals from any one country cannot be issued more than 7 per cent of the total number of Green Cards each year.

The existence of these per-country caps means that individuals from countries with high numbers of Green Card applicants, such as India, China, Mexico, and the Philippines, face backlogs lasting years or even decades.

I Lived As A Monk And Studied Zen For 20 Years—Here’s The No. 1 Thing People Miss When They Talk About Happiness

Many of us are taught to believe that we need to be in perfect control of our lives in order to be successful or accepted. But that mindset made me unhappy for years.

Growing up nonbinary, I spent a lot of time escaping to an imaginary world where I controlled everything, including what other people thought of me. I constantly chased this idea that if I could just get that boyfriend, that job, or that money and acclaim, I could finally relax and be happy.

To break this toxic mental habit, I did something drastic: I moved to the woods and lived amongst a community of Buddhists, and have since spent 20 years studying Zen Buddhism.

At the monastery, I learned a valuable lesson about happiness that people often overlook: We can’t control everything that happens to us, but we can control how we treat ourselves. Allowing ourselves to feel happy, no matter what our life looks like, is the key to real happiness.

Why struggling for control won’t make you happier

When you hold on to the need for control, you start to feel responsible for all outcomes of your life. But can you really control what people think of you, or who does or doesn’t give you a chance, or who you’ll date, or where you’ll get a job?

You might have some say in these things, but so much of life is unpredictable — and that’s part of what makes it beautiful. Unpredictability connects us all.

Another problem with the need to control is that it makes you constantly chase after a life you aren’t living, making it hard to appreciate the one you already have.

For example, right now, you might be worried about about finding the perfect partner. In a few years, it might be finding the perfect job.

How to let go of the desire to control

If you free yourself from the need to control everything, you can experience more happiness and gratitude in the present.

Here are some ways to get started:

1. Stop and reflect.

Think about all the ways you’re focusing on an imaginary future instead of the present.

Ask yourself:

  • Do you sometimes let your need to control the future get in the way of you enjoying the present moment? When do you tend to do that, and why?
  • It is essential to honor your dreams, but how can you put some of that energy into the most important things in your life today?
  • What can you be grateful for right now?

2. Redefine unrealistic expectations you set for yourself.

Find that voice in your head that keeps reminding you of the need for control. Tell that voice, in no uncertain terms, that you are not living to impress it.

Can you imagine living a life where that inner voice is irrelevant? Instead, can you direct that energy towards something that will give you a sense of joy or peace?

3. Allow yourself to be happy in the present moment.

Close your eyes, take three slow breaths, and give yourself permission to feel happy.

If you find yourself struggling, think about why that is. I’ve found that when people think about giving up control and letting life guide them, fear can get in their way.

There will always be stressful situations that need your attention, like taking care of the people in your life. But you can let happiness in by shifting your focus from future-oriented fears to the present.

You deserve to roll with the life you’ve got. You deserve to flow with the unexpected and not “have it all together.”

(Jeffrey Marsh is one of the world’s foremost commentators on nonbinary identity and activism. His short-form videos have garnered over one billion views. Jeffrey’s ”How to Be You″ was the first nonbinary memoir, and he is the first nonbinary author to sign a book deal with any “Big 5″ publisher worldwide. His  latest book, ”Take Your Own Advice,” is out now.)

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