Ketanji Brown Jackson, 1st Black Woman Is Now A US Supreme Court Justice

Ketanji Brown Jackson was sworn in Thursday, June 30th as an associate justice to the United States Supreme Court, making history as the first Black woman on the highest court in the nation.

Jackson, 51, joins the court as its 116th member amid a time of heightened scrutiny of the court over recent decisions and the American public’s low confidence in the Supreme Court.

“With a full heart, I accept the solemn responsibility of supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States and administering justice without fear or favor, so help me God. I am truly grateful to be part of the promise of our great Nation,” Jackson said in a statement.  

In April, she was confirmed 53-47 by the Senate to the high court after a series of contentious hearings, where Republicans tried to paint her as soft on crime and Democrats praised her judicial record. During the confirmation hearing, she vowed to be fair and impartial as justice in deciding the law. 

“I have been a judge for nearly a decade now, and I take that responsibility and my duty to be independent very seriously. I decide cases from a neutral posture. I evaluate the facts, and I interpret and apply the law to the facts of the case before me, without fear or favor, consistent with my judicial oath,” she said in her opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I know that my role as a judge is a limited one — that the Constitution empowers me only to decide cases and controversies that are properly presented. And I know that my judicial role is further constrained by careful adherence to precedent.”

President Joe Biden, who nominated Jackson but was not in attendance during her swearing in as he returned from the G7 and NATO summits in Europe, said in a statement later Thursday that “her historic swearing in today represents a profound step forward for our nation, for all the young, Black girls who now see themselves reflected on our highest court, and for all of us as Americans.”

Standing on the shoulders of her role models

Born in Washington, DC, on September 14, 1970, Jackson was raised in Miami, where she attended high school and participated in debate tournaments. Her love for debate led to her Harvard University, where she graduated magna cum laude in 1992 and cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1996. She was also supervising editor of the Harvard Law Review.

After college, the Harvard Law graduate not only clerked for Breyer but also Judge Bruce M. Selya, a federal judge in Massachusetts, and US District Judge Patti Saris in Massachusetts. She also worked as an assistant special counsel for the United States Sentencing Commission from 2003-2005 before becoming an assistant federal public defender and later vice chair and commissioner of the commission. In 2013, she was confirmed a United States District Judge under then-President Barack Obama before being confirmed a judge for the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 2021. 

As a judge in DC — where some of the most politically charged cases are filed — Jackson issued notable rulings touching on Congress’ ability to investigate the White House. As a district court judge, she wrote a 2019 opinion siding with House lawmakers who sought the testimony of then-White House Counsel Don McGahn. Last year, she was on the unanimous circuit panel that ordered disclosure of certain Trump White House documents to the House January 6 committee.

A former federal public defender, Jackson sat on lower US courts for nearly a decade. As a judge, some other notable cases she has in her record are a 2018 case brought federal employee unions where she blocked parts of executive orders issued by then-President Donald Trump, and a case where she ruled against Trump policies that expand the categories of non-citizens who could be subject to expedited removal procedures without being able to appear before a judge.

Jackson penned more than 500 opinions in the eight years she spent on the district court.

During her Senate confirmation hearings, Republicans heavily scrutinized Jackson’s record, asserting she was too lenient in sentencing child pornography cases in which Jackson and Democrats forcefully pushed back on the accusations. At one point during the hearings, Jackson became visibly emotional and wiped away tears as New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, a Democrat, talked about her path to the nomination and the obstacles she has had to overcome.

“My parents grew up in a time in this country in which Black children and White children were not allowed to go to school together,” Jackson told Booker after the senator asked what values her parents had impressed upon her. “They taught me hard work. They taught me perseverance. They taught me that anything is possible in this great country.”

After her confirmation to the high court, Jackson marked her historic nomination in a speech at the White House in which she celebrated the “hope and promise” of a nation and said her confirmation “all Americans can take great pride” in.

“I am standing on the shoulders of my own role models, generations of Americans who never had anything close to this kind of opportunity, but who got up every day and went to work believing in the promise of America. Showing others through their determination and, yes, their perseverance that good, good things can be done in this great country,” Jackson said. Quoting the late poet Maya Angelou, she continued, “I do so now while bringing the gifts my ancestors gave. I am the dream and the hope of the slave.”

She has emphasized her family and faith, saying her life “had been blessed beyond measure.” She has been married to Patrick, whom she met in college, for 25 years and they have two children, Leila and Talia. (Courtesy: CNN.COM)

Khushi Patel From UK Is Crowned Miss India Worldwide 2022

Khushi Patel, a biomedical student from England was crowned Miss India Worldwide 2022 during a glittering ceremony of the longest-running Indian beauty pageant outside of India, on Sunday, June 25th, 2002 at the Royal Alberts Palace in New Jersey, organized by the India Festival Committee (IFC), which has been running the competition for the past 29 years.

Vaidehi Dongre of Michigan was declared the first runner-up, while the second runner-up title went to Shrutika Mane of Australia. The top 12 competitors at the pageant were the champions of other international competitions.

Patel, a biomedical sciences major with a psychology minor, expressed her happiness at having won the Miss India Worldwide 2022 competition. The model, who also has a clothing company, intends to participate in numerous charity events and support developing nations throughout the course of the upcoming year.

The Miss Teen India Worldwide 2022 title went to Roshani Razack from Guyana, while Navya Paingol, a University of Michigan, Ann Arbor student was the first runner-up. The second runner-up award went to Chiquita Malaha of Suriname. School teacher Swathy Vimalkumar of Connecticut won the Mrs. India Worldwide title.

Patel, who is majoring in biomedical sciences and minoring in psychology, expressed her happiness at winning the Miss India Worldwide 2022 competition. The model also has a clothing company, and “intends to participate in numerous charity events and assist third-world countries over the next twelve months,” as reported by the Press Trust of India. Over the next one year, the model, who also owns a clothing store, plans to do a lot of charity events and help third-world countries.

This year’s pageant was hosted three years after the last one, which was held in September 2019 at the Leela Hotel in Mumbai. “Pandemic has changed the way we think and live,” said IFC chairman Dharmatma Saran.

Dharmatma Saran, chairman and founder of the New York based India Cultural Festival (IFC) that organizes the trail blazing Miss India Worldwide, is a pioneer in entertainment, holding Indian pageants and fashion shows in the USA and worldwide.

In 1990, DharmatmaSaran, decided to take the pageant one step further to an international level and started The First Miss India Worldwide Pageant to identify and honor beauties of Indian origin the world over and the show graduated to become the top most international Indian pageant on the earth. “For the first time ever, Asian-Indian communities from all over the world came together in New York for this event,” says Saran with a sense of pride. “To the best of our knowledge, no other ethnic organi¬zation has ever conducted a pageant of this magnitude on an international level.”

The pageant was an instant success and was acclaimed as “the most glamorous Indian function in the world.”

The annual pageants started in a basement in New York in 1980 with the first ever Miss India New York and Miss India USA, has evolved and expanded, nowincorporating and having membershipfrom over 40 countries, that promote Indian heritage and providing a platform for people of Indian origin to unite and showcase their talents, skills and beauty.

The pageants aim to honor achievement, to celebrate our culture in many ways, among them, the ability to meet people, make friends, to respect and be respected, to continually strive to improve standards, and to live a life as close to the laws of nature.

The IFC selects distinguished local organizations in various parts of the world and authorizes them to conduct national pageants in their respective countries. The India Festival Committee, started in 1974 in a most humble way, has come a long way. While seeking to collaborate with internationally reputed groups, Saran joined hands with the Times of India group’s Femina that runs the beauty pageants in India until 1997.

Most of these women have set their sights on professions like medicine, public relations and the law. The contest gives them a chance to take a detour and explore their Indian identities through colorful Indian attire and dance. Many of them have set their eyes on Bollywood and Hollywood, and participating in the pageants is a stepping stone for many to climb up the ladder in the world of fashion, silver screen, politics and charity.

Saran has become an internationally well-known leader in promoting pageantry around the world. Support came from most unexpected quarters. Noted actress, social worker, feminist and leader, Shabana Azmi, who is known to blast all beauty pageants, endorsed Saran’s show as noble as it helped funds for the deserving children.

The IFC motivates andguides its winners and contestants to take up charitable causes. Many of our past winners have raised substantial amount of money for various charities, especially for handicapped children,” says Saran.

Saran and the pageant are “very proud of the fact that we have been able to provide a common platform for the international Indian community through pageantry. We are equally proud of the fact that we have been able to imbibe Indian values, traditions and culture among the youth of Indian origin around the world. We have also been successful in promoting Indian performing arts in the world.”

“AAPI has created a great track record, initiating several programs benefitting AAPI members and the larger community,” Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, Declares in Her Farewell Address

(San Antonio, TX. June 26, 2022) “This year, AAPI has created a great track record,” declared Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, the immediate Past President of AAPI in her farewell presidential address on the final day of her Presidency during the 40th annual convention of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) in San Antonio, TX on June 25th, 2022. “Our leadership team has worked diligently on so many wonderful projects and activities including educational, philanthropic, legislative, networking, and many more activities benefitting our members and communities. This has been possible because of the incredible work and support from the dedicated team of leaders, members, and our supporting office staff,” the only 4th woman President of AAPI in the four decades long history of AAPI, said.

During a solemn ceremony, she handed over the presidency to Dr. Ravi Kolli as the next President of AAPI, the largest Ethnic Medical Organization in the United States, representing over 120,,000 physicians of Indian Origin, who have grown stronger and have become a powerful force and stronger voice  in the United States making a unique identity for themselves. Dr. Gotimukula gave the gavel to Dr. Ravi Kolli during the presidential induction ceremony attended by over 1,000 AAPI delegates and distinguished guests.

In her inaugural address a year ago, Dr. Gotimukula, the leader of the largest ethnic medical organization in the United States, had said: “I like to hope. I am a passionate people-person with a smiling calm personality. I strive to be an empathetic team leader and good listener, always seeking and doing my best in achieving the set goals. Thanks  Dr. Gotimukula had promised “to make AAPI a premium  healthcare leader, working towards reforms to the current healthcare system to help reduce the healthcare costs. I want to build a strong support system to protect the IMG physicians and their issues and help with physician burnout. I will further the existing educational goals and charitable goals and engage member physicians to support these goals.”

At the end of her Presidency, this soft spoken, gentle and visionary leader, Dr. Gotimukula, the only 4th woman president in the four decades old history of AAPI, has been proud that under her presidency, AAPI has been strengthened and grown, and reached newer heights.

Education has been a key area where Dr. Gotimukula’s focus has been during her year-long Presidency. “More than 45 CME credit hours have been provided by outstanding speakers all year and provided cutting edge CMEs to members.” She thanked the Chicago Medical Society, Dr. Vemuri Murthy, Dr. Amit Chakraborty, CME Chair  and Dr. Sagar Galvankar, & Co-Chair for their diligent efforts. In addition, AAPI members were offered Financial educational sessions on ways to wisely invest and improve their financial health. Thanks to our sponsors who supported these sessions. Dr. Sunita Kanumuri and team  were instrumental in organizing Healthcare Reforms Webinars, addressing health equity and disparities and physician burnout.

“Latte with Legislators” has been a new and pioneering program under Dr. Gotimukula’s leadership. Senator Dick Durbin, the High Ranking Senator from Illinois along with Rep. Mary Newman, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthy, Rep. Danny Davis, Rep. Don Young, Rep. Alma Adams, and Rep. Frank Pallone addressed the AAPI members exclusively and answered questions on healthcare reforms and ways to make healthcare affordable, addressing the Medicare payment cuts for physicians, IMG issues of Green Card Backlogs, etc. Dr. Suresh Reddy and Dr. Sumul Raval organized these productive sessions for members.

“The Leadership Seminar on “Advocacy as a Critical Component of Patient Care: Why Physician Advocacy Matters and How to Succeed it” was addressed by Clarence Brown, MD, and Erin O’Brien, was coordinated by Dr. Meher Medavaram and the Illinois State Medical Society,’ said Dr. Gotimukula. The AAPI Women’s Committee organized two-panel discussions with motivational speakers on the “Domestic Violence Awareness” and “Women’s Health and Wellbeing,” which were coordinated by Dr. Seema Arora and the entire women’s committee.

Under her leadership, AAPI had two Family CME Trips: Serengeti National Park, Tanzania in July 2021, and to Peru in April 2022. “Both were beautiful rejuvenating breaks for our hardworking physicians and their families. We provided a total of 10 CME credits to the attendees during these trips,” Dr. Gotimukula said.

The Global Health Summit held in Hyderabad in January 20022 has been a major achievement under Dr. Gotimukula, focusing on “Prevention is better than Cure.” The GHS included a well-organized CEO forum with a panel of eminent healthcare leaders from the US and India, reinforcing the need for preventive care rather than disease management, to control the non-communicable diseases which are the biggest silent killers.

Dr. Gotimukula said, “AAPI presented a report to the Prime Minister of India with an emphasis on initiating an “Indian Preventive Health Task Force” with the development of Annual Preventive Healthcare Screening Guidelines for early disease detection and prevention, emphasizing disease prevention as more vital than disease cure. GHS organized panel discussions on medical education reforms to help establish Family Medicine, Emergency Medicine, and Palliative Medicine specialty PG courses in every medical college and to change the examination pattern from essay questions to all MCQ testing. The Women’s Forum with the theme ‘Women Who Inspire’ with inspirational speakers who came from both continents was outstanding under the leadership of Dr. Udaya Shivangi and Dr. Dwaraknatha Reddy Duvvuru.”

Dr. Gotimukula led AAPI leadership was able to establish Collaboration and multiple medical organizations – ACP – FSMB – ECFMG – NMC (India) – IMA (India)  GAPIO – UNICEF – Red Cross Society – CWC – Lifestyle Medicine – MDTok – Apollo 2nd Consult. “These connections and collaborations are vital for us to stay connected and make a powerful impact on our communities,” Dr. Gotimukula  assured.

A major theme under Dr. Gotimukula  has been initiating programs and activities that benefit not only AAPI members, but also the larger society. “It’s been an immense satisfaction to me leading AAPI’s charitable activities this year with service as one of our motto Dr. Gotimukula said. “Despite the Covid challenges of Delta and Omicron waves, in spite of limited resources, AAPI blood donation drives were done in over 30 cities with several of them organizing multiple events. . The same cities remained motivated and doing another round of blood donation drives. With the Red Cross Society partnership, we can reach many more cities in near future and continue the good work.”

Dr. Gotimukula had special emphasis on “Adopt a village” Rural Preventive Healthcare Screening Initiative in India, where free health screening camps with free physician consultations were done in 29 Indian rural villages in the middle of Delta and Omicron waves with additional 25 villages are pending to get initiated soon in all states. In her efforts for “Free for Life” Fight Human Trafficking in India, AAPI raised and donated $75,000 during the Fall Fund Raising Gala with the AAPI Nashville host chapter at our Fall GB meeting, Dr. Dotimukula said.

During the Global Health Summit in January 2022, an Awareness and Prevention Initiative for Cervical Cancer in India was conducted. AAPI donated 100 free HPV vaccinations to needy children in India. During the Spring GB meeting and Gala an awareness for Women’s Breast Cancer was conducted. Spring Fundraising gala along with IAMA/ IAMA CF-supported free Mammograms for underserved women in Chicago was also completed. AAPI supported “H2H Foundation” (Founded by Padma Shri Padma Bhushan, Little Master Sunil Gavaskar) to perform heart surgery for the poor and needy children. Each surgery costs $2,000. Fundraising for this event is done during the AAPI convention in San Antonio to support 25 – 50 needy below poverty kids born with congenital heart disease.

Continuing the efforts towards the Covid-19 Fund – Post-Covid Relief Activities, AAPI has raised over $5 million during the delta wave in India. “The ongoing Covid-19 relief work in India is in progress, donating lifesaving equipment to support critically ill patients – Biochemical Analyzers, Ventilators, Oxygen Flow Meters, and Oxygen Plants,” Dr. Gotimukula pointed out. “The funds will continue to support Covid patients in rural hospitals. AAPI is prepared to support and help any deadly Covid wave in near future in India.”

Describing it to be a “historic 40th annual convention celebrating 40 years of AAPI and India’s 75 years of Independence in collaboration with the Indian Consulate / Embassy with invited dignitaries from the US and India,” Dr. Gotimukula expressed gratitude to “the entire AAPI leadership and members for their participation in AAPI activities, making AAPI stronger than ever and bringing a strong impact to the communities we live in and globally as well.”

The leadership team under her Presidency included: Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect of AAPI; Dr. Anjana Samaddar , Vice President; Dr. Satheesh Kathula Secretary; Dr. Krishan Kumar, Treasurer of AAPI. Dr. Kusum Punjabi served as the Chair of BOT. Dr. Gotimukula honored Dr. Udaya Shivangi, Dr. Sujeeth Punnam, Dr. Dwarkanath Reddy and AAPI’s Legal Advisor with Presidential Awards for their dedication and support during her presidency.

Dr. Anjana Sammadar, who has been serving AAPI as the Vice President in the current year also did not face elections, as she automatically becomes the President-Elect of AAPI for the coming year. Dr. Ravi Kolli will have a dynamic and diverse team comprising of Dr. Anjana Samaddar as the President-Elect, Dr. Satheesh Kathula as the Vice President; Dr. Meherbala Medavaram as the Secretary; Dr. Sumul Raval as the Treasurer; Dr. V. Ranga – as the Chair, Board of Trustees; Dr. Pooja Kinkhabwala – President, Young Physicians Section; and, Dr. Ammu Susheela, President, Medical Student/Residents & Fellows Section. Dr. Gotimukula will continue to guide AAPI as the Immediate past President of AAPI. For more details, please visit:  www.aapiconvention.org  and www.aapiusa.org

Dharmatma Saran Plans Miss/Mrs./Teen India Worldwide 2022 In New Jersey

Imbibing Indian values, traditions and culture among the youth of Indian origin through Worldwide Pageants, under the dynamic leadership of Dharmatma Saran, chairman and founder of the New York based India Cultural Festival (IFC), the 29th annual Miss India Worldwide, the 5th Mrs. India Worldwide and the 2nd Miss Teen India Worldwide is being organized at the Royal Alberts Palace in Edison, New Jersey on Friday, June 24th, 2022.

To be attended by dozens of talented and adorable young women of Indian origin from around the world, the pageants will be a treat to the hearts and souls of all participants, showcasing their talents, skills and love for art, music, philanthropy and Indian culture.

The young beauty queens will come together on stage to celebrate Indian culture and traditions during the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence, after a weeklong intense practice with celebrity Bollywood choreographers Sandip Soparrkar and Aleysia Rau, New York City Tour and pre-contests.

The annual pageants started in a basement in New York in 1980 with the first ever Miss India New York and Miss India USA, has evolved and expanded, now incorporating and having membership from over 40 countries, that promote Indian heritage and providing a platform for people of Indian origin to unite and showcase their talents, skills and beauty.

Dharmatma Saran, chairman and founder of the New York based India Cultural Festival (IFC) that organizes the trail blazing Miss India Worldwide, is a pioneer in entertainment, holding Indian pageants and fashion shows in the USA and worldwide.

In 1990, Dharmatma Saran, decided to take the pageant one step further to an international level and started The First Miss India Worldwide Pageant to identify and honor beauties of Indian origin the world over and the show graduated to become the top most international Indian pageant on the earth. “For the first time ever, Asian-Indian communities from all over the world came together in New York for this event,” says Saran with a sense of pride. “To the best of our knowledge, no other ethnic organi¬zation has ever conducted a pageant of this magnitude on an international level.”

The pageant was an instant success and was acclaimed as “the most glamorous Indian function in the world.”

“When Miss India New York started in 1980, I had perhaps not even in my wildest dreams imagined that in less than twenty years, we would fledge out to be a mass movement with affiliates in over 40 countries, let alone that we would one day have a live internet webcast and broadcast our most prestigious function, the Miss India Worldwide, to an audience of over 300 million people!”

The pageants aim to honor achievement, to celebrate our culture in many ways, among them, the ability to meet people, make friends, to respect and be respected, to continually strive to improve standards, and to live a life as close to the laws of nature.

In line with other prestigious international pageants, IFC started staging Miss India Worldwide in various parts of the world. In 1997, the pageant was organized in Bombay to salute India on its 50th anniversary of Independence. In the year 1998, the pageant was organized, in associa¬tion with UTV International, in the exotic and beautiful city of Singapore, South Afrcia, Malyasia, UAE, Surinam and several other states in the US.

The IFC selects distinguished local organizations in various parts of the world and authorizes them to conduct national pageants in their respective countries. The India Festival Committee, started in 1974 in a most humble way, has come a long way. While seeking to collaborate with internationally reputed groups, Saran joined hands with the Times of India group’s Femina that runs the beauty pageants in India until 1997.

The contestants in all the pageants are of Indian origin, between the ages of 18 and 28, and are citizens, residents, or born in the country which they represent. The pageant consists of four segments – Evening Gown, Ethnic Wear, Talent and Question-Answer. The winners of all the various national pageants from all over the world vie for the glamorous and prestigious title of the Miss India Worldwide.

Saran and the pageant are “very proud of the fact that we have been able to provide a common platform for the international Indian community through pageantry. We are equally proud of the fact that we have been able to imbibe Indian values, traditions and culture among the youth of Indian origin around the world. We have also been successful in promoting Indian performing arts in the world.”

In fact, motherland, culture and India are the words repeatedly invoked by most con¬testants. Clearly, this pageant was also about roots and identity. “We will never permit vulgarity and bikini wearing in our competitions. We don’t believe in the axiom, shorter the dress, greater will be the chances of winning the prize. We are very conservative in that. We only showcase the best of Indian culture and not the skin. We strongly oppose exhibiting women in a cheap manner on the dais,” Saran said adding that his shows are always meant for the entire family.

In the year 2016, saran introduced, on popular demand, the First Ever Mrs. India Worldwide, which has been received with enthusiasm from around the world. This is a pageant that provides married Indian women around the world with a platform, where they would get an opportunity to “Make a difference in the world.”

Most of these women have set their sights on professions like medicine, public relations and the law. The contest gave them a chance to take a de¬tour and explore their Indian identities through colorful Indian attire and dance. Many of them have set their eyes on Bollywood and Hollywood, and participating in the pageants is a stepping stone for many to climb up the ladder in the world of fashion, silver screen, politics and charity.

Saran has become an internationally well-known leader in promoting pageantry around the world. Support came from most unexpected quarters. Noted actress, social worker, feminist and leader, Shabana Azmi, who is known to blast all beauty pageants, endorsed Saran’s show as noble as it helped funds for the deserving children.

“The IFC motivates and guides its winners and contestants to take up charitable causes. Many of our past winners have raised substantial amount of money for various charities, especially for handicapped children,” says Saran.

IFC has used the title to raise funds for the poor and the needy. Saran has been successful in combining beauty with char¬ity. It was Saran’s dream that beauty works for a good cause. Bela Bajaria, one of his highly successful beauty queens from Los Angeles, has collected $35,000 each year for the Hand and Heart for the Handicapped for many years to help disabled children in US and India. Another successful Miss India Hong Kong collected $100,000 in a charity ball to help the helpless people.

Saran credits the success of the pageantry to his family and a team of hard working people. “I don’t know how I would have fared but for the unstinted support of Air India. Also my friends former News India editor John Perry; President of Jackson Heights Merchants Association V.N. Prakash; TV Asia Chairman Padmashree H.R. Shah, Bombay Broadcasting’s Giri Raj; and all the successive Indian Consuls General have stood with me.” he recalls with gratitude.

Saran is blessed with an understanding wife Neelam. She has been a source of great strength and support to him from the day one. His two daughters, Neema and Ankeeta have always been of great support and assistance.

Saran contributions to Indian culture has been appreciated and recognized by various organizations around the world and he has been acclaimed as “India’s cultural ambassador to the world.” He has traveled with his wife Neelam to various countries to start Indian pageant.

Recently he was awarded Bharat Gaurav Award held at the headquarters of United Nations in New York. As Farook Khan, Chairman of Miss India-South Africa Corporation, says, “The Miss India-Worldwide Pageant has developed further into a grandiose platform of unity through culture over the few short years it has been in existence. It has become an event which is boundless and this has become a reality due to the foresight and vision of dedicated men and women who came to the United States of America to start a new life and to carry all that India has to and will continue to offer.”

To quote Khan, “At one time, the pageant was regarded as a beauty contest, it no longer suffers from this narrow reputation. It has fledged out to be a mass international movement which honors the perform¬ing arts, develops finesse as a way of life and puts into communities a sense of compassion.”

Saran and his dedicated band of men and women have inspired people around the world to participate in a truly remarkable spectacle that enjoys the status of a truly bound¬less Festival of good. The Miss India Worldwide is such a hallmark, it is not just a beauty pageant.

Sopen Shah Nominated By President Biden As U.S. Attorney For Wisconsin

Sopen Shah has been named as a US Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, which includes Madison, and other areas in the state and will be based in Milwaukee.  As per a White House statement, Shah and the other nominees were chosen for their “devotion to enforcing the law, their professionalism, their experience and credentials, their dedication to pursuing equal justice for all,

Shah was among the attorneys nominated by the bipartisan Wisconsin Federal Nominating Commission, headed by Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, and Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh. She would succeed Scott Blader as the Madison U.S. attorney. Blader, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, resigned in 2021. Longtime Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim O’Shea is currently in charge of the office on a temporary basis.

Shah is a 2015 graduate of Yale Law School and an associate attorney in the Madison office of the law firm of Perkins Coie, where she specializes in business litigation and in appeals, issues and strategy, according to the firm’s website. Last year, she represented the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Party of Wisconsin in a voting case which, in a span of three weeks, went from U.S. District Court in Madison to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Shah also served as a law clerk for Judge Debra Ann Livingston on the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and Judge Amul R Thapar on the US District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky.

Shah has been a Counsel at Perkins Coie LLP since 2019. Previously, she was a deputy solicitor general of Wisconsin from 2017 to 2019. If Shah is confirmed by the US Senate, she would be only the second woman to lead the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Madison after Peg Lautenschlager, who led the office during the presidency of Bill Clinton, from 1993 to 2001.

Elizabeth II’s 70 Years As Queen Of England And Head Of The Church Of England

If you want to understand a nation, listen to its national anthem. “The Star-Spangled Banner” urges Americans to look out for the flag that waves over “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” “La Marseillaise,” the anthem of republican France, calls its citizens to arms. But the UK’s national anthem is a prayer, urging God to “save” — grant long life to — the queen.

It’s a clear sign that in Britain, the head of state, the country and faith are inextricably linked. This week “God Save the Queen” has been ringing out across Britain as the country has marked the 70th anniversary of the accession of Elizabeth II, the longest-serving English monarch.

When Elizabeth came to the throne in 1952, Britain was still being rebuilt after the end of World War II and its heavy bombing campaigns; Winston Churchill was prime minister and the country still had an empire. The young queen’s coronation suggested a new era — as the millions of television sets purchased to watch the live broadcast of the ceremony from London’s Westminster Abbey signaled.

But the coronation itself was steeped in tradition and confirmed the continuing intertwining of the monarchy and religion. The ceremony can be traced back more than 1,000 years and involves the anointing of the monarch who commits his or herself to a life of service to God and the people through sacred promises. One of those, to uphold the Protestant religion, is also a reminder of the religious divisions of the past.

The queen’s two titles of Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England, given to her at her accession, also owe their existence to Reformation history. Defender of the Faith was first bestowed on Henry VIII by a grateful pope for the English king’s rebuttal of the teachings of Martin Luther, a title that Henry defiantly held onto even after breaking with Rome to found the Church of England. He made himself head, while his daughter, the first Elizabeth, called herself Supreme Governor of the Church of England, saying Jesus Christ was its head.

Today, the role of Supreme Governor indicates the British monarch retains a constitutional role regarding the established Church of England but does not govern or manage it. The modern Elizabeth has left that to the bishops, although she addresses general synods and has a role as a listener and guide to her primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

But while Defender of the Faith has been over the years an inherited title and little more, Elizabeth II appears to have embraced it and made it her own, speaking out very openly in recent years about her own Christian faith and explaining how it has provided the framework of her life.

She has done this mostly through the medium of her annual Christmas message, a tradition begun by her grandfather, George V, in 1932, and continued by her father, George VI. Her early Christmas Day broadcasts were platitudinous — the holidays as an occasion for family was a frequent theme. In 2000, however, she spoke of the Millennium as the 2,000-year anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ, “who was destined to change the course of our history.”

She went on to speak very personally and frankly about her faith: “For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ’s words and example.” Similar sentiments have been aired at Christmas ever since.

God did get significant mention along the way. In 1947, when she was 21 and six years from becoming queen, Elizabeth broadcast a public commitment, saying: “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service … God help me to make good my vow.”

As she planned her coronation with dress fittings, selecting music and getting the crown jewels from their display in the Tower of London, there were also sessions with then-Archbishop of Canterbury Geoffrey Fisher, who provided her with a book of special prayers — a volume she keeps to this day among her most treasured possessions.

The spiritual foundations of the British monarchy are to be found in Scripture’s ideas about humility and wisdom being the great virtues of kings. Then there are the Gospels, with accounts of Jesus, the servant king, who has come to serve others. Key passages on this theme, from the Gospels of John and Matthew, are read at a Maundy Thursday service where the queen distributes gifts to elderly people, an ancient ceremony meant to imitate Christ serving his disciples by washing their feet.

The queen also leads the nation at regular services honoring the war dead, or offering thanksgiving for her jubilees, but worship is not, for her, only a public show. She has attended church regularly throughout her life and is said to have an uncomplicated, Bible and prayer-book based faith.

That love of the Bible was something she shared with the American evangelist Billy Graham, whom she invited to preach for her on several occasions (though the close friendship the Netflix series “The Crown” suggested between them seems far-fetched). She relies on the deans of Windsor — the clerics who run St George’s Chapel, at Windsor Castle, where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle married — for spiritual solace.

Her husband, the late Duke of Edinburgh, and her son, Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, always displayed a more intellectual curiosity about religion, including a great interest in both other Christian denominations and other faiths. Over the years, as Britain has become increasingly diverse, Elizabeth has expressed an increasing openness as well. She has encouraged members of all faiths to be present at great church occasions during her reign and in the annual Commonwealth Day service held at Westminster Abbey. She regularly meets different faith leaders, including five popes — a remarkable turnaround for a monarchy that once broke so spectacularly from Rome — though she has not gone so far as to ask other religious leaders to play any sort of role for her, such as be a chaplain.

There has been talk of disestablishment of the Church of England, even in Anglican circles, with some concern it privileges one religious group above others in an increasingly diverse nation. Disestablishment would unravel the connection between the monarch, the Church of England and the state, which survives in Britain since the time of the Reformation. Change would mean the removal of Church of England bishops from the House of Lords, although there has been little call for this from other faiths. Rather, they prefer representation of faith at the highest levels of the British Parliament.

But that issue of privileging seemed apparent when the queen spoke at Lambeth Palace in 2012, suggesting the Church of England might act as a sort of umbrella under which other faiths might shelter, by saying Anglicanism “has a duty to protect the free practice of all other faiths in this country.”

The importance of other faiths was expressed Friday morning at the Platinum Jubilee thanksgiving service at St Paul’s Cathedral, in London, where not only leaders of Christian denominations but of other faiths were present, including Buddhists and Jews.

One major difference at today’s thanksgiving service compared to previous ones for her reign’s major anniversaries was the frequent references to looking after God’s creation. In the twilight years of her reign, she is coming to share Prince Charles’ interest in the environment, but placing it firmly within her Christian concerns.

Attention is inevitably turning now to the next reign, with speculation about how much of an Anglican ceremony the next coronation will be. The Church of England will undoubtedly take the lead, but just as Princess Diana’s Westminster Abbey funeral combined tradition and innovation, as Commonwealth Day services have done for years, the next coronation will most likely offer that blend, too.

Charles once said he would become Defender of Faith, rather than Defender of the Faith, expressing concern that he needed to recognize the changing religious nature of Britain. He has since retracted this, indicating he will adopt the traditional title. Even so, he has engaged frequently with other faiths, particularly Judaism and Islam.

His interest in Islam has in part been aesthetic, with a particular appreciation for Islamic art and architecture, but he has also commented on its metaphysical, holistic view of the world and humanity’s place in it, even as he has also expressed concerns about the radicalization of young people. While this interest in Islam and an awareness of the growing population of Muslims in Britain has led to his support for Islamic organizations, such as the Centre for Islamic Studies at the University of Oxford, in more recent years he has reined back on it a little and instead become far more outspoken about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East.

The Prince of Wales has undoubtedly been innovative in his work, creating charities that work with young people, and championing the environment. But he likes tradition, too, be it church music or the Book of Common Prayer. All signs are that his coronation will be like the man, with an innovative sheen on ancient tradition and a sincere regard for faith in diverse Britain.

 Catherine Pepinster is the author of “Defenders of the Faith – the British Monarchy, Religion and the Next Coronation,” published by Hodder and Stoughton.

Pamela Kwatra From New Jersey Honored With The Lifetime Achievement Award

Pamela  Kwatra, a trailblazer and the only Indian American woman recipient of the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor award in 2008, was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award during a solemn awards ceremony jointly organized by The Consulate General of India in New York and The Indo-American Press Club (IAPC), the largest organization of Indian descent journalists operating in North America , at the Indian Consulate, New York, NY on Saturday, May 21st, 2022.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was the guest of honor at the IAPC Induction Ceremony and the Awards Nite Gala presented the award at the Grand Ballroom of the Consulate in New York, which was attended by several community leaders, elected officials, diplomats, media personnel and professionals.

Calling her a “highly accomplished leader” Mayor Bill de Blasio praised her contributions to the larger American society and to the Indian American community. Mayor Bill de Blasio showered praises on Ms. Kwatra for taking up on herself a key role in his election campaign that no other individual has been able to do.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, while congratulating Pam Kwatra on receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award, described her as “a trailblazing businesswoman, a community leader, and a political force with executive chops. No wonder she worked on important projects in my administration at my request. I also came to know that her involvement with the community spans across culture, art & literature – preserving and promoting abroad the rich and varied culture of India.”

While extending his greetings to IAPC, the Mayor said, “Congratulations are due to IAPC for doing a good job, to Kamlesh Mehta, its new Board Chairman, new committee members and all the honorees. We will continue to support this media organization.”

Eric Kumar, a major supporter to IAPC introduced Mayor Bill DeBlasio. In his address, he described how closely Mayor Bill DeBlasio worked with the Indian American communities and made a law to support Ethnic Media.

Ambassador Randhir Jaiswal, Consul General of India, who was the chief guest presented the award to the other awardees with the Lifetime Achievement Award, including  Dr. Thomas Abraham, Dr. Sudhir Parikh, and Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of AAPI.

The awards ceremony was part of the Induction Ceremony of IAPC’s new office bearers, including Chairman Kamlesh C Mehta and Secretary Ajay Ghosh of IAPC Board of Directors, and members of the IAPC National Executive Committee led by President Aashmeeta Yogiraj and General Secretary CG Daniel.

In her acceptance Speech, Ms. Kwatra said, “I am truly honored to be chosen by the Indo-American Press Club for the Life Time Achievement Award. Your presence and this special occasion, receiving this honor makes its truly a memorable moment and I want to thank Kamlesh ji and the entire IAPC office bearers for bestowing this honor on me today, and wishing you, all the very best.”

While urging the media to a more active role, Ms. Kwatra said, “While the political and racial differences divide us, the role of the media is all the more important in keeping us all aware of and educating us about the need for a just and equitable world.”

While commenting on one of the hot button issues that is deeply diving the nation, Ms. Kawatra said, “We are concerned about the media reports about the Supreme Court draft to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide, based on the Constitution that protects a pregnant woman’s right to choose abortion without excessive government restriction. We are worried about women being denied the right to her own health needs.”

She called upon Media to play a very critical role, “especially in these challenging timers, as the world is faced with the once in a century health crisis with the ongoing pandemic.  Organization such as the IAPC can play a major role in helping heal and unite the nation. Wishing you all the very best. Congratulations to all honorees today and best wishes to the new leadership of IAPC.”

Pam Kwatra has a proud record of civic-social and professional accomplishments and recognition. She was the first woman to launch an Indian American advertising, marketing and PR company, Kripari Marketing in 1992. Pam always keeps the interest of the community and society above personal interest. She has supported numerous community projects for decades and has personally supported many Indian victims of domestic violence in the US.  A member of and leader of several Indian American organizations,  active in politics and grass root organizations, Ms. Kwatra is a graduate of Delhi University.

Under “South Asians 4 Better New York” (SA4BNY) founded by her, she has held fundraisers for Gov. Cuomo, Public Advocate “Tish” James, Congresswoman Grace Meng, District Attorney Kenneth Thompson, John Liu, and NYC Council candidate Ali Najmi. Her involvement with the community also spans across culture, art & literature – preserving and promoting the rich and varied culture of India, abroad.

Ms. Kwatra has served on NYC boards like Mayor’s Fund, City Center of Music & Drama Inc., New York City Ballet, David H Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. She was also nominated to the NYC Democratic National Committee 2016 Convention. Pam has launched several successful cultural programs and dance dramas at the United Nations. She also organized two book reading events at the UN – Kiran Bedi’s biography and Kathleen Kennedy’s “Failing America’s Faithful”.

She is the recipient of “Mother Teresa Award” in 2011 in India. Special Recognition at the event was given to: Ambassador Randhir Jaiswal, Consul General of India in New York for his vision, dedication and community service; Mayor Bill De Blasio, Former Mayor Of New York City, for Excellence in Public Service and Leadership; Dr. Prabhakar Kore, Member of Parliament, India, for his distinguished services in Education and Public Services; and Kevin Thomas, New York State Senator For excellence in Community Service and leadership.

The induction ceremony was attended by elite members and community leaders, including, Padma Shri Dr. Nori, Kenny Desai of FIA,  Girish Patel of BAPS, Girish Shah of Jain Samaj, Babu Stephen, former Chairman of IAPC, Shashi Malik of Long Island Association. Harish Thakkar of the American Indian Association, Ravi Bhooplapur of Xavier University,  Dr. Neeta Jain, Nilima Madan, Darshan Singh Bagga, Arvind Vora of Shanti Fund,  and Vipul Dev, the Consular  at CGI.

At AAPI’s Popular Women’s Forum Trailblazing Titans To Share Their Tales

“During the 40th annual convention in San Antonio, Tx leading women leaders in pharmaceuticals, academic and private settings will inspires us with how they tackled the hurdles,” said Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, the only 4th Woman President of AAPI in the four decades-long history, a Woman Leader, who has made huge contributions to AAPI in her own unassuming manner, while taking AAPI to newer heights.

Organized by the Texas Chapter of AAPI, the 40th Annual Convention and Scientific Sessions of the American Association of Physicians of Indian origin (AAPI) will be held from June 23-26, 2022 in the historic city of San Antonio, Texas

The Women’s Forum organized by The Convention Committee led by Dr. Chaithanya Mallikarjun, Chair with its Members: Dr. Heta Javeri, Dr. Ruchi Kaushik, Dr. Hetal Gadhia, and Dr. Dharam Kaushik, has put together a galaxy of successful women, who will share with the AAPI delegates their own stories of growing up and facing challenges with conviction and courage, and have today become role models for other women around the world.

Dr. Chaithanya Mallikarjun, Chair of Women’s Forum Convention Committee, while announcing that the much anticipated Women’s Forum will be held on Saturday June 25th said, “The Women’s Forum will have a panel of “Women Who Inspire” from all walks of life who have achieved extraordinary feats in each of their phenomenal lives. This exhilarating forum has been organized with the objective of bringing together some of the most accomplished women under one roof who are role models for all other women around the world.”

The confirmed panelists at the prestigious Women’s Forum include: Dr. Juby A. Jacob-Nara, a Public Health Physician, Vice President and Head of Global Medical Respiratory Allergy & Gastroenterology (Sanofi-Genzyme) who has been a part of over 50 new medicines successfully launched including vaccines in the US and globally; Dr. K. Guntupalli, Endowed Professor for Pulmonary Disorders, Baylor College of Medicine; Dr. Sowjanya Mohan, Group Chief Medical Officer, Texas Group/Tenet Health; and, Ms. Rosemary Hickman, Semmes Foundation Education Manager at the Mcnay Art Museum.

Dr. Seema Arora, Chair, AAPI National Women’s Committee, a Past Chair Board of Trustees of AAPI, said, “The Women’s Forum will have a panel of “Women Who Inspire” from all walks of life who have achieved extraordinary feats in each of their phenomenal lives. This exhilarating forum is being organized with the objective of bringing together some of the most accomplished women under one roof who are role models for all other women around the world.”

Dr. Udaya Shivangi, Advisor to AAPI Women’s Forum underscored the importance of the Women’s Forum in AAPI Convention and how it has evolved and today it’s one of the much sought after event, with distinguished panelists on the Forum. “The Women’s Forum is where successful and powerful women come and share their life’s dreams, challenges and this empower and inspire other women. Today’s Forum is about how career changes by women affect t them and the larger society.”

Dr. Jayesh Shah, Convention Chair and past President of AAPI said in Texan style. “It is with great pleasure that I, along with the San Antonio -2022 Convention Team, welcome you to the 40th AAPI Annual Convention in San Antonio, the 8th largest city in the US. I still have vivid memories of inviting you to San Antonio in 2014. This is going to be the 4th convention in Texas.”

Representing the interests of the over 100,000 physicians of Indian origin, leaders of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), the largest ethnic organization of physicians, for 40 years. For more details, please visit:  https://aapisummit.org/www.aapiusa.org

Priyanka Chopra Blasts ‘Shameful’ Indian Body Spray Ad Promoting Rape Culture

A television commercial for a male body spray has been taken off the air in India, after critics said it made light of gang rape.

Bollywood celebrities including Priyanka Chopra, Richa Chadha and Farhan Khan are among those to have lambasted the commercial for Layer’r Shot, a brand of male fragrance, calling it “shameful,” “disgusting” and “incredibly tasteless.”

Its controversial advert shows four men appearing to stalk a frightened-looking woman in a store before cutting to one of the men saying, “We’re four, there’s one, who takes the shot?”

Only when the woman turns round does it become clear they are talking about the body spray — which one of the men then takes from a store shelf and uses.

The commercial caused a storm on social media, where critics including various celebrities blasted its innuendo as making light of rape.

Many said the timing of the advert made it particularly insensitive, as it was broadcast just a week after a case in which a 17-year-old was allegedly raped by five men in the southern city of Hyderabad — the latest in a series of high-profile crimes against women and minority groups across the country.

“This advertisement is clearly promoting sexual violence against women and girls and promoting a rapist mentality among men. The advertisement is cringeworthy and should not be allowed to be played on mass media,” wrote Swati Maliwal, chairwoman of the Delhi Commission for Women, to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on Saturday.

Within 24 hours, the ministry had taken the commercial off the air and asked Twitter and YouTube to remove it from their platforms.

In an email to Twitter, the ministry said the videos were “detrimental to the portrayal of women in the interest of decency and morality” and violated the digital media ethics code.

In a statement Monday, Layer’r Shot apologized for the television advertisements, saying that they “never intended to hurt anyone’s sentiments or feelings or outrage any woman’s modesty or promote any sort of culture, as wrongly perceived by some.”

The brand said it had voluntarily asked all its media partners to stop broadcasting the advertisements from Saturday with immediate effect.

Even after the commercial was taken down, it continued to cause a controversy. Actress Richa Chadha was among those registering her disgust, calling the makers of the commercial “filth.” “Creatives, script, agency, client, casting… does everyone think rape is a joke?,” Chadha tweeted.

Responding to Chadha’s Tweet, Quantico star Priyanka Chopra called the ad “shameful and disgusting” and said she was glad that the ministry has taken it down. Film writer and director Farhan Khan also slammed the advertisement.

“What incredibly tasteless and twisted minds it must take to think up, approve and create these stinking body spray ‘gang rape’ innuendo ads. Shameful,” tweeted Khan, who is also a United Nations Women’s Goodwill Ambassador.

Actress Swara Bhasker said both the perfume brand and its marketing agency had been “tone deaf” given the alleged gang rape of the teenager in an upscale part of Hyderabad last Saturday.

The case has shocked the state of Telangana, of which Hyderabad is the capital. Telangana’s home minister Mohammed Mahmood Ali said on Saturday that “strong action will be taken against all the offenders, irrespective of their background.”  It was “a ghastly incident,” the minister tweeted on Saturday.

Sudha Acharya Honored By New York’s Queens Borough President At AAPI Heritage Month Celebration

Sudha Acharya, Executive Director of South Asian Council for Social Service was honored by Queens Borough President Donovan Richards at the office’s first ever in-person AAPI Heritage Month celebration on May 19th. The celebrations held at Queens Borough Hall was attended by several and community members, who enjoyed diverse performances and remarks from local leaders.

Sudha was honored for her leadership and positive impact on the AAPI community as part of her work with SACSS, along with fellow AAPI leaders: the Coalition of Asian-American IPA, Nurse Potri Ranka Manis, and Peter Yoon, President of the Korean American Association of Greater New York.

Sudha Acharya has been active in the community for forty years. Twenty-one years ago, she co-founded SACSS and led the organization’s growth from a one-room organization with two staff to a thriving community center with more than 20 staff.

Acharya’s work has been recognized with many awards, including the Union Square Award, the India Abroad Gopal Raju Award for Community Service, and the Change Maker Award from Domestic Harmony Foundation. She has a Master’s Degree in English Literature and Financial Management.

“Her 35 years of active work in the community tells a story of grueling work towards betterment of the South Asian immigrant population and ensuring their basic needs to food and information don’t go unrepresented,” wrote SEEMA, a magazine that profiled her work recently.

Acharya has served in the city and state level health coalitions, and held many leadership positions. These include being president of the Federation of Indian Associations of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut (FIA), and chair of the Board of Trustees of the National Federation of Indian American Associations (NFIA).

SACSS responds to the needs of South Asians and all immigrants, many of whom do not speak English, are unaware of services available to them, and experience isolation after arriving in the US. Acharya represents the interests of these immigrants and advocates at the City and State level for them.

SACSS currently focuses on healthcare access and literacy, senior support, civic engagement, and food security, offering services in 18 languages. In 2016, SACSS started the first food pantry to serve culturally appropriate food. Under Acharya’s leadership, SACSS was one of the most influential organizations that kept thousands of people fed and connected to critical services during the pandemic.

Acharya represents the All India Women’s Conference (AIWC) at the United Nations, where AIWC has consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council. Acharya works at the international policy level on issues affecting women’s physical, economic, and social well-being. The staff at SACSS speak 18 languages, 12 of those being South Asian. “If one family comes out satisfied, they spread the word. And that’s how we grow. This year, we have
already assisted 30,000 families,” Archaya told the media.

The ASHA Workers Won A Huge WHO Honor. They’d Like A Raise, Too

India’s task force of over a million female health-care workers has won a prestigious award from one of the highest institutions in global health. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with a cash prize. “Awards don’t fill stomachs,” says Archana Ghugare, 42, a health-care worker from Pavnar, a village in the state of Maharashtra.

Ghugare works as an ASHA, short for Accredited Social Health Activists. It’s a program run by India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare that provides health care to rural and low-income communities in the country. They are not medical professionals but are entrusted with a long list of crucial health-care responsibilities, from advising new mothers about breastfeeding to raising awareness about COVID vaccines.

On May 22, the ASHA workers were named one of six recipients of the World Health Organization’s Global Health Leaders Awards — sharing the honor with such luminaries as the late Dr. Paul Farmer. The annual prize, created in 2019, recognizes individuals and groups that have made significant contributions to global health.

But while an honor is satisfying, the pay for these workers is not. They earn around $60 a month on average and have few benefits. In recent years, the government has raised monthly pay by a few tens of dollars, but workers say this is still too low. Many ASHAs, as the workers are known, and those in the global health community hope this moment can put pressure on the government to bump up their salaries, among other job improvements.

Indeed, pay equity has been an ongoing issue. Over the past two years, ASHAs across India have held several protests, including one during the pandemic in 2020, demanding better wages and safer working environments.

“Let’s hope the award draws attention to their working conditions,” tweeted Jim Campbell, director of the WHO’s Health Workforce program.

Despite their dissatisfaction with pay, many ASHAs take great pride in their work. True to the spirit of their acronym (asha means “hope” in some Indian languages), the workers represent hope for better health care, particularly for many of India’s underserved populations.

NPR spoke to three ASHAs about their day-to-day tasks and aspirations — and their reaction to the WHO honor.

‘We aren’t asking for much’

Ramrati Chauhan, a community health worker from the city of Palwal, keeps a diary of inspiring stories about the people she’s helped. She reads it when she feels disheartened about her job.

Ramrati Chauhan, a 42-year-old ASHA from the city of Palwal in Haryana state, says she gets very attached to the pregnant women she assists.

One time, a woman suddenly went into labor. Chauhan, who is not a midwife, couldn’t reach the woman in time to get her to a hospital — and the woman lost her baby due to complications. “I felt deep remorse” for not being able to help her, says Chauhan.

So when the woman became pregnant again, Chauhan made sure to visit her every day for the entire nine months of her pregnancy — and counseled her repeatedly about childbearing do’s and don’ts. There were complications during that delivery too — but this time Chauhan was there to get the woman to the hospital on time, and she gave birth to a healthy baby boy.

“When I pass their house now, the woman points to me and tells her son, ‘That’s your mother too. She saved your life,’ ” says Chauhan. Chauhan says she writes down important moments like these in a diary to read when she feels disheartened about her job.

“We have to struggle [with the government] to get a raise of even $20 to $25” a month, she says. She currently makes about $100 a month. Payment varies across states and depends on how many additional duties a worker carries out.

And when the pandemic first started, she says the government didn’t give her much safety equipment — even though she had to check on people who had tested positive for COVID. “We sewed our own masks,” she says.

The WHO award isn’t a first for ASHAs, says Chauhan, adding that local governments and municipalities have honored them several times. True recognition, she says, would be if the government recognizes ASHAs as full time workers instead of volunteers, and provides them with a steady salary, pension and other benefits.

“We aren’t asking for much,” Chauhan says. “Only what is commensurate with our hard work.”

‘People trust me because I’m an ASHA worker’

When the ASHA program began in 2005, the health workers were envisaged as volunteers working about 2 to 3 hours a day and a bit extra on some days, according to the National Health Mission, a program that’s part of India’s Ministry of Health. But over the years, ASHAs say their responsibilities have increased multifold.

At the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, Archana Ghugare says she was working 14 hours a day. And even today, she’s got a full workload. She’s been going door-to-door to identify people in the community who have a variety of medical needs, from pregnant people to kids under the age of 14 eligible for COVID vaccinations.

“If the government is getting so many things done from us, shouldn’t we get something in return?” asks Ghugare. Payments are frequently late, she says, sometimes by as much as 6 months. She’s worried about how she’ll pay for the education of her two daughters, one of whom has a speech and hearing disability.

In tough times Ghugare tries to remember why she started doing this job in the first place. Several years ago, a dying HIV-positive woman told Ghugare her last wish — for Ghugare to take care of her young daughter. After the woman’s death, Ghugare didn’t adopt or raise her, but gathered donations from villagers to fund the girl’s education. Now she’s 22 and studying to be a nurse, says Ghugare. “People trust me because I’m an ASHA worker, and that trust shouldn’t be broken,” she says.

‘We are being exploited’

Veena Dyani says there’s so much work she has to do as an ASHA that she sometimes asks her older children to help her complete her paperwork.  Veena Dyani, a 37-year-old ASHA from Nainidanda at the foot of the Himalayas, has a packed schedule.

Her day typically starts at 4 a.m. After preparing meals for her three older children and her in-laws who live with her, she sets out for home visits. Routine duties include weighing newborns and handing out vitamin and folic acid tablets to pregnant women.

To do her job, she sometimes has to enlist the aid of others. In the hilly jungles around Dyani’s remote village, there’s risk of attacks by wild animals. So whenever she has to walk through the woods to visit households on the other side, she pays a villager from her own pocket to accompany her for safety.

And if her kids don’t have schoolwork, they help out, too. At the end of the workday, Dyani has to organize the data she’s collected on her patients — what ailments they have, what treatments they need and demographic details, for example. Her children, ages 15, 17 and 20, sometimes write the data in notebooks to be submitted to her bosses.

Lately, her boss has been asking her to file this information online and take photos of the health-care meetings she holds in the community.

This frustrates her. “How [are we supposed to] do this online work? Not all ASHAs have money to buy a good enough smartphone,” says Dyani, who uses a basic cellphone. Only some states provide ASHAs with smartphones. Many years ago a politician in her state had promised to provide tablets to the ASHAs — but that hasn’t happened, she says.

To make matters worse, the last time she received a payment, about $65, was in February. She’s a widow, so she really needs the money to support her family.

“We are being exploited,” she says, adding that she could probably make more as a day laborer. But she sticks around, she says, because she likes the work.

When news of the WHO award broke, her WhatsApp group of ASHAs lit up with congratulatory messages. Recognition or no recognition, she says she will continue to do her job — and raise her voice for her rights. “The ASHA herself [can’t] lose hope,” she says.

Deepika Padukone In A Fusion Saree At Cannes 2022

The red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival is one of the most glamorous in the world of showbiz and Deepika Padukone, who was a jury member this year, had multiple occasions to showcase her sartorial picks. And so for the final leg of her this year’s Cannes festivities at the closing ceremony on Saturday, May 29th the actress made it count and how.

For the closing ceremony, the actress showed up in a ruffled white saree by Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla. She accessorized with an equally stunning pearl necklace. Her kohl rimmed eyes, contoured cheeks finished off the look.

Deepika Padukone, who is serving on the jury of the 75th Cannes Film Festival, said in an exclusive interview to ‘Variety’ that it “gives me goosebumps every single time I walk into the Palais and we leave — it gives me goosebumps because every single person on that seat is there to celebrate cinema”.

Deepika was familiar with the work of some of her fellow jurors, including Asghar Farhadi and Rebecca Hall, but not all. “I wasn’t entirely familiar with all of them, as is the case with all of the jurors,” Deepika told IANS. “I think what all of us did was to actually read up on our fellow jury members and watch some of their work. So, even when you deliberate, you understand where they’re coming from, or what kind of cinema speaks to them.”

The actor sees being on the Cannes jury as a natural progression of her journey, but at the same time being invited came as a surprise to her. “They (the festival management) seem so convinced about why they made that decision. And it makes me sit back and think sometimes maybe I’ve not given myself enough credit,” she said, adding: “If I’ve landed here today, without even realising it, I must be doing something right.”

The actor has just wrapped Siddharth Anand’s “Pathaan”, alongside Shah Rukh Khan and John Abraham, and is working on “Project K” by Nag Ashwin. Next up is the Indian remake of “The Intern”, alongside Amitabh Bachchan, which she is also producing via her KA Productions along with Warner Bros. and Sunir Kheterpal for Athena.

Cannes, meanwhile, is going to become a regular mid-year holiday destination for Deepika and her husband, Bollywood star Ranveer Singh, reports ‘Variety’. Her jury service allows them access to the jury box in future years.

“We just come here for two weeks, nobody needs to know,” Deepika said. “Watch movies, sneak in, sneak out. We’ll be like kids in a candy store.”

Actress Deepika Padukone has worked towards normalizing mental health to enlighten everyone that mental illness is not always critical, but can be the reason our daily lives includes so much stress.

The actress now features in a Yoga Campaign, Yoga Make Space, leveraging an initiative which revolves around mental health and fitness. adidas and Deepika together celebrating what brings different people to the mat, no matter their background, ability, or reason to practice.

The Yoga Make Space collection has been consciously crafted, inspired by the elements of nature and aims to support through every move and practice, with apparel for women and men.

When did you start practicing yoga?

Deepika: I started practising yoga with consistency about two years ago after what felt like a deep inner calling. At around the same time, I was also offered a movie where I was given the role of a yoga instructor. In short, it was an inner calling mixed with the professional requirement that eventually pushed me to look for the right instructor and get going on my yoga journey.

What is the connection between nature and practising yoga?

Deepika: The beauty of yoga, apart from its numerous benefits, is that you can practice it in absolutely any space, in any part of the world. We often talk about being self-reliant. Yoga is one such practice. All you need is your mind and your body.

What are your thoughts on the benefit of practising yoga?

Deepika: I have, over the years, been exposed to many different types of workouts, exercises and practices. However, practising yoga, makes me feel the most centred, balanced and grounded. Feeling alive and connected from within, like I am in control, is something I have never experienced in any other practice, except for in yoga.

What does ‘make space’ means to her?

Deepika: adidas’ Yoga Make Space has not only given me a chance to talk about fitness but it is also giving me a space to discuss mental health which society still feels afraid of. When I hear the term ‘make space’ it reminds me of postures that I hold for a minute. Sometimes more. And when you truly tune in, you feel your body opening up and oxygen running into your bloodstream. That, for me, is making space within my body.

Geetanjali Shree’s “Tomb Of Sand” Becomes First Novel Translated From Hindi To Win International Booker Prize

Geetanjali Shree’s ‘Tomb of Sand’, translated from Hindi by Daisy Rockwell, has won the International Booker, the first novel translated from Hindi to win the coveted
£50,000 prize.

Shree and Rockwell winning the prize not only marks the award’s first Hindi winner, but also the first time a book originally written in any Indian language has won, reports the Guardian.

Titled ‘Ret Samadhi’ (Rajkamal Prakashan) in Hindi, the book centers around a north Indian 80-year-old woman who slips into a deep depression after the death of her husband and then resurfaces to gain a new lease on life. Her determination to fly in the face of convention – including striking up a friendship with a transgender person – confuses her bohemian daughter, who is used to thinking of herself as the more ‘modern’ of the two.

To her family’s consternation, she insists on travelling to Pakistan, simultaneously confronting the unresolved trauma of her teenage experiences of partition, and re-evaluating what it means to be a mother, a daughter, a woman, and a feminist.

For someone who stormed the Hindi literary scene with her debut novel ‘Mai’, as a writer, it becomes part of one’s unconscious and subconscious to look, hear, smell, and see stories around you, in you. “So there is some, still inarticulated, but full life, circulating inside you all the time. And the moment happens, not quite by your choice when the muse bends over you and something begins to unravel and pen comes to paper.

Many variables come together and a work emerges, triggered by any small or big thing. In the case of ‘Ret Samadhi’, the image of an old woman lying with her back turned to everyone in a joint family and apparently with no interest in living any longer, set me off. My curiosity grew as to is she turning her back on the world and life or preparing to get up into a rejuvenated, reinvented new life! From there the novel took off. It was a long journey full of fun, pain, joy, anxieties, the works,” Geethanjali said in an earlier interview.

The author is clear that writing must never be extraneously motivated or influenced. “I write to express as best as I can, as creatively and sensitively as I can, and that is the only expectation I am propelled by. I let no one tell me what, when, how I must write.”

Adding that awards, praise and are extraneous to this basic activity, and are incidental, she said: “Of course, if they are positive, it adds a new dimension to my happiness and fulfilment, but, they are not and never will be my impetus.”

Shree, whose works have been widely translated into different languages including French, German, Korean and Serbian, feels that translation is dialogue and communication. It is never a fixed, frozen and complete exchange. “It is ongoing, live and enriching – some things are explained better, some remain confounding, just as in any communication. Some things may also get lost, but some things also get added. Just as when two people talk, they enrich each other and enlarge each other’s way of seeing, being, and experiencing, so is also the communication underway in translation.

The gains of it are immense. One cannot fear it for the risks that may be in there too. Communication is worth it, risky or not! Dialogue, which is what translation is, is the best thing in human life and the way forward.”

Stressing that it is extremely important that the author and translator share a rapport, Shree said: “You need a rapport which establishes that both of you share the same wavelength, sensibility, values. If a fanatic, narrow-minded, purist picks up my book for translation, it is, without doubt, a recipe for disaster.”

Speaking about her process, the author, who has also been actively associated with theatre – in 1989, a group of theatre artists, writers, musicians and painters got together to form ‘Vivadi’, said: “My writing is the process. Except that I must work regularly and for long hours, there are no rules about it. I have no set formula and like to let the dynamics of unfurling a beginning and issues it throws up take over and take me across a variegated terrain.”

Deriving her characters from the physical world and space within — “a mix of both. And such a mix that even if they relate to recognisable things/people somewhere, they are fictional,” she feels that there is a need not just for translations into English but also and as much for translations across South Asian languages.

“Is English going to be the only language in which all other literature has to be accessed? One, what about those who are not well versed in it; two, we surely want a multilingual, multicultural scene where many languages are in dialogue with many others, not English alone becoming the overarching big language and all others aspiring to get access within it.”

The author, who has also finished another novel, said: “For some years it has been sitting on my table, ready and waiting. One of these days I will pick it up and hand it to the publisher.”

Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President Of AAPI Presented With The Lifetime Achievement Award By IAPC

Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President Of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award during a solemn awards ceremony jointly organized by The Consulate General of India in New York and The Indo-American Press Club (IAPC), the largest organization of Indian descent journalists operating in North America , at the Indian Consulate, New York, NY on Saturday, May 21st, 2022.

Ambassador Randhir Jaiswal, Consul General of India, who was the chief guest presented the award at the Grand Ballroom of the Consulate in New York, which was attended by several community leaders, elected officials, diplomats, media personnel and professionals.

Other awardees who were honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award included:  Dr. Thomas Abraham, Dr. Sudhir Parikh, and Pamela Kwatra. The event, which was attended by several dignitaries, including former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio; Dr. Prabhakar Kore, Member of Parliament, India;  Kevin Thomas, New York State Senator; and several other elected officials.

The awards ceremony was part of the Induction Ceremony of IAPC’s new office bearers, including Chairman Kamlesh C Mehta and Secretary Ajay Ghosh of IAPC Board of Directors, and members of the IAPC National Executive Committee led by President Aashmeeta Yogiraj and General Secretary CG Daniel.

Dr. Anupama Gotimukula is the only 4th Woman elected to be the President of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin in its nearly four decades-long history.

A resident of San Antonio, TX, Dr. Gotimukula  is a board-certified Pediatric Anesthesiologist, practicing since 2007, and is affiliated with Christus Santa Rosa, Baptist and Methodist Healthcare systems in San Antonio.

In her acceptance Speech, Dr. Gotimukula shared with the audience about the many initiatives AAPI has taken up during the past one year. Under her dynamic and inspiring leadership, “AAPI has grown and reached new heights. The Global Healthcare Summit in Hyderabad, held under challenging Covid situations has been historic in nature. The Blood Donation Drive in 75 Cities across the US commemorating the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence has been highly praised by all,” she said.

Her goals on “Prevention is better than Cure” are resonating in India through the “Adopt a Village” preventive healthcare screening initiative of non communicable diseases. A report from AAPI was submitted to the Indian Government to establish the “Indian Preventive Health Task Force “ to help frame screening guidelines for all non communicable diseases like Diabetes, Hypertension, cancer screening etc., sje said.

Under her leadership, several new programs have been initiated, benefiting AAPI members and the larger communities in the United States and India. Dr. Gotimukula urged the media to focus on the many positive things that are happening around the world, rather than focus on negativity that destroys human freedom, liberty and unity.

The closing ceremony included scintillating dances traditional folk dances and fast moving Bollywood dances by The Arya School of Dance and was followed by a sumptuous dinner. The hybrid event was also streamed simultaneously on social media platforms.

WHO Honors 1 Million ASHA Volunteers

India’s one million all-women ASHA volunteers were honored by the World Health Organization on Sunday, May 21st for their “crucial role” in providing direct access to healthcare facilities in rural areas and their indefatigable efforts to rein in the coronavirus pandemic in the country. They were praised for their contributions in providing basic health care services to the rural population of India.

WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, announced the group of over a million government volunteers, as one of the six recipients of the World Health Organization Director-General’s Global Health Leaders Awards recognizing their outstanding contributions to advancing global health, demonstrated leadership and commitment to regional health issues.

Dr Tedros decides on the awardees for the World Health Organisation Director-General’s Global Health Leaders Awards. The ceremony for the awards, which were established in 2019, was part of the live-streamed high-level opening session of the 75th World Health Assembly.

“Among the honorees is ASHA, which means hope in Hindi. The more than 1 million female volunteers in India were honored for their crucial role in linking the community with the health system, to ensure those living in rural poverty get access to primary health care services, as shown throughout the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said. PM Modi also hailed the selfless service of the Asha Volunteers and congratulated them as their efforts were recognized by WHO.

Accredited Social Health Activists — or ASHA volunteers — are Indian government’s affiliated health-care workers who are the first point of contact in rural India. Most of them gained spotlight during the peak of the pandemic in India for conducting door-to-door checks to trace coronavirus patients. ASHA – means ‘hope’ in Hindi. These health workers provide maternal care & immunization for children against vaccine-preventable diseases; community health care; treatment for hypertension & tuberculosis & core areas of health promotion for nutrition, sanitation & healthy living.

Americans’ Views On Abortion, 1995-2022

While public support for legal abortion has fluctuated some in two decades of polling, it has remained relatively stable over the past several years. Currently, 61% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 37% say it should be illegal in all or most cases.

Views on abortion by religious affiliation, 2022

About three-quarters of White evangelical Protestants (74%) think abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.

By contrast, 84% of religiously unaffiliated Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, as do 66% of Black Protestants, 60% of White Protestants who are not evangelical, and 56% of Catholics.

Views on abortion by party identification, 2022

Six-in-ten Republicans and those who lean toward the Republican Party (60%) say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. By contrast, 80% of Democrats and those who lean toward the Democratic Party say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Views on abortion by political party and ideology, 2022

Conservative Republicans and Republican leaners are far more likely to say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases than to say that it should be legal (72% vs. 27%). Among moderate and liberal Republicans, 60% say abortion should be legal, while 38% say it should be illegal.

The vast majority of liberal Democrats and Democratic leaners support legal abortion (90%), as do seven-in-ten conservative and moderate Democrats (72%).

Views on abortion by gender, 2022

Majorities of both men and women express support for legal abortion, though women are somewhat more likely than men to hold this view (63% vs. 58%).

Views on abortion by race and ethnicity, 2022

Majorities of adults across racial and ethnic groups express support for legal abortion. About three-quarters of Asian (74%) and two-thirds of Black adults (68%) say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, as do 60% of Hispanic adults and 59% of White adults.

Views on abortion by age, 2022

Among adults under age 30, 74% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, as do  62% of adults in their 30s and 40s. Among those in their 50s and early 60s, 55% express support for legal abortion, as do 54% of those ages 65 and older.

Views on abortion by level of education, 2022

Two-thirds of college graduates (66%) say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, as do 63% of those with some college education. Among those with a high school degree or less education, 54% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 44% say it should be illegal in all or most cases.

Source:  The PEW Survey conducted March 7-13, 2022. Trend lines show aggregated data from polls conducted in each year. Data from 2019 and later come from Pew Research Center’s online American Trends Panel; prior data from telephone surveys. See report for more details on changes in survey mode. Question wording can be found here, and information on the Pew Research Center’s polling methodology can be found here. White, Black and Asian adults include those who report being one race and are not Hispanic. Hispanics are of any race. Estimates for Asian adults are representative of English speakers only.

Aishwarya Rai’s Cannes Designer Says, ‘Petal’ Dress Represents Hope, Birth, And Beauty

For her second walk on the red carpet on the second day of the 75th Cannes Film Festival in Paris, Bollywood icon Aishwarya Rai Bachchan chose a shell pink and silver Gaurav Gupta couture gown.

Inspired by the birth of Venus, the goddess of beauty and love, the gown celebrates pure artistic couture and creates an unforgettable fashion moment on the red carpet. Keeping the hair and make up minimal, the Bollywood actress choose to wear her tresses to one side and kept her look natural.

Gaurav Gupta, who designed Aishwarya’s dress, which featured a mermaid-style silhouette and a shell-shaped structure on its back, has now revealed the thought process and the hard work that went into designing the unique dress.

He said that he wanted to create something special for Aishwarya, as Cannes 2022 marked her 20th year at the festival. The designer said that with Aishwarya’s gown, he wanted to share a message of hope, birth, and beauty after the tough times the world has faced in recent years.

Gaurav told PTI, “We wanted something which denotes hope, birth and beauty.

After all the world has gone through in the past few years, we wanted to celebrate life and art.” The designer also noted that the gown was his interpretation of Italian also Sandro Botticelli’s famous painting Birth of Venus, with the shell like structure behind the shoulder symbolising Venus’s rise from the scalloped shell.

He said, “Aishwarya is a complete woman and a beautiful person. As I got to know her through the process, I discovered a wonderful, spiritual person who is really connected to her soul and is elegant. That purity in the absolute sense of beauty inspired me to think of the concept of the Birth of Venus.”

The designer reported that it took 20 days and over 100 craftspeople to create the outfit as they made sure not to disappoint ‘one of the most beautiful women in the world.’ He added that Aishwarya herself was involved in the creative process right from the beginning.

Talking about Aishwarya’s stardom at the festival, Gaurav said, “The frenzy, the love, that Aishwarya receives here, it’s almost madness. People couldn’t stop screaming her name out loud and the fanfare was insane. So just to see that frenzy, it fills you with joy… She is a phenomenon in Cannes. It’s like a real-life film in itself.”

After attending the Cannes Film Festival, Aishwarya returned to Mumbai with her husband Abhishek Bachchan and daughter Aaradhya Bachchan on Saturday night. She will next be seen in Mani Ratnam’s Ponniyin Selvan.

Recently, musical sensation Cardi B. also choose to wear the Indian designer’s creation in her latest music video and single release.

Indian-American Women Launch Digital Platform To Screen Films

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Google Picks Archana Gulati As India Policy Head

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A French Nun Who Enjoys Chocolate And Wine Is The Oldest Living Person

A 118-year-old nun living in a nursing home in southern France has become the world’s oldest living person, according to the Guinness World Records.

Sister André is also the oldest nun ever, according to a statement released by Guinness on Monday, April 25th.

Born as Lucile Randon on February 11, 1904, Sister André has dedicated most of her life to religious service, the statement said. Before becoming a Catholic nun, she looked after children during World War II and then spent 28 years caring for orphans and elderly people at a hospital.

Sister André, who lives near the French city of Toulon, is also the world’s oldest Covid-19 survivor. The Guinness World Records statement said she tested positive for the virus at the beginning of 2021, but recovered fully within three weeks, just in time for her 117th birthday.

In an interview with the French TV channel RMC Story on Tuesday, Sister André appeared to have mixed feelings about becoming the new oldest living person.

“I feel I would be better off in heaven, but the good Lord doesn’t want me yet,” she said, calling the title a “sad honor.” However, she also expressed her joy at being “pampered” by her family.

Sister André enjoys chocolate and wine — and drinks a glass every day — her nursing home, Résidence Catherine Labouré, confirmed to CNN.

When she turned 118 earlier this year, the elderly nun received a handwritten birthday note from French President Emmanuel Macron — the 18th French president of her lifetime — according to a tweet from the nursing home. There have also been 10 different Popes presiding over the Catholic Church since she was born.

Sister André became the world’s eldest following the death of Kane Tanaka, a Japanese woman previously certified as the world’s oldest person, who died at the age of 119 on April 19.

World’s oldest person, Kane Tanaka, died in Japan aged 119. The title of oldest person ever recorded also belongs to a French woman. Born on February 21, 1875, Jeanne Louise Calment’s life spanned 122 years and 164 days, according to the Guinness World Records statement.

Rachna Sachdeva Nominated As Ambassador To Mali

President Joe Biden has nominated Indian-American diplomat Rachna Sachdeva Korhonen as his envoy to Mali, the White House said on April 15th.

A career member of the US Foreign Service, Korhonen currently serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary and the Executive Director of the combined Executive Offices of the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs and the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs.

She has previously had assignments at the US Embassy in Kuwait and the US Consulate General in Mumbai. She was the Consul General and Principal Officer of the US Consulate in Dharan, Saudi Arabia.

She also led the Management Section of the US Embassy in Colombo, and, in Washington, she served as a Special Assistant to the Under Secretary for Management.

Among her other assignments, Korhonen was the Supervisory General Services Officer and Senior Human Resources Officer at the US Embassy in Riyadh, and the Political Chief of the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kirkuk, Iraq.

A New Jersey native, Korhonen has a bachelors in Computer Science and Mathematics and worked in the corporate sector before joining the State Department.

Korhonen’s is the third nomination of an Indian American to the office of Ambassador. Biden has also nominated Puneet Talwar to Morocco and Shefali Razdan Duggal to the Netherlands.

Youth Icon’s Fight For Rights Among India’s Destitute

Pooja Shukla, 25, a socialist candidate, has lost her maiden elections to the provincial parliament in Uttar Pradesh (UP), India. But Shukla is no loser.

A day after the results were announced on March 10, Shukla was back to a rousing reception in her constituency in North Lucknow to thank her supporters for polling 1,04,527 votes for her.

She was with the people again on March 18 on Holi, the festival of colour held annually to celebrate the end of winter and in anticipation of new beginnings.

Shukla told the IPS that she was hoping to win. Of course, she is disappointed, but electoral defeat would not stop her from continuing her struggle to get economic and social justice for the people of her constituency.

Although Shukla belongs to the upper caste community of Brahmins, she has worked hard to develop a personal connection with a cross-section of those who live in North Lucknow, one of the city’s nine constituencies. Lucknow is the capital of UP, the country’s largest, but economically and socially, it is one of its least developed states. More than 400,000 voters are registered in North Lucknow, nearly half of whom are impoverished women.

The constituency is home to Muslims, upper-caste Hindus and thousands of impoverished people belonging to communities who have been living for decades in makeshift shanties, often on the bank of open drains. Some are daily wage earners, and others are without paid work.

Shukla won hearts because she has knocked on every door in North Lucknow and continues to spend time with citizens.

“I have visited every single home in every single neighbourhood in North Lucknow. I will continue to do so as I really care for members of all communities that reside within my constituency,” Shukla adds.

This first-time contestant had faced Dr Neeraj Bora, a seasoned politician from the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), a right-wing party. Despite the formidable challenge, Shukla was leading on the day the votes were counted. She was ahead before her rival finally defeated her by 33,985 votes until noon.

Out of 403 seats in the UP-state parliament, the socialists won 111 seats. The Samajwadi Party (SP) of socialists came a distant second to BJP’s 255 seats, but the party has emerged as the largest opposition party in UP.

This was a golden opportunity to strengthen democracy by converting the numbers won by the SP into a viable opposition to the ruling party, Shukla believes. A well-meaning, vocal opposition is needed, she says, when the ruling party seems to want to wash its hands of all its social responsibility in favour of outsourcing businesses and privatising even essential services like education, health, and employment opportunities.

“Democratic values strengthen when the opposition to the ruling party is strong,” says Shukla, who believes that elections are held to elect representatives who will provide affordable homes, education, and health facilities to voters.

Shukla feels that socially conscious people don’t have to be Marxists to dream of justice in society. The desire to want to see all citizens cared for fairly and equally by the state is a desire of all decent human beings.

Shukla was the youngest candidate in the polls, nursing a constituency that is a sprawling, chaotic cluster of college campuses, traffic jams, markets spilling from every corner and rows of slums with open drains that overflow and swallow up lives during rainfall.

Her dream is to invite educationists to open model public schools for the majority of the poor people in her constituency. She wants low-cost houses for the poor and free health services. She says that time is on her side. She will find many more opportunities to contest elections.

“To win elections is important for me as I want to be a lawmaker and make sure that people-friendly legislation is passed in parliament to protect the interest of the most vulnerable in the country,” Shukla says.

Until she makes it to parliament, she plans to work tirelessly to raise literacy in her constituency and lower the poverty rate. She wants clean drinking water, cleaner drains, and better roads. Women’s safety is her priority, as is a regular and fair wage for the many communities of artisans like potters and weavers.

Shukla has witnessed the police lathi-charge citizens who dared to ask the government for jobs. Social activists have been jailed, kicked around, and beaten in lockdown for participating in protests and questioning the government in UP. There are countless incidents of gruesome crimes perpetrated against women.

Most political parties want women’s votes but are reluctant to share power with them. Therefore, politics in UP today is a constant struggle for any woman who joins the male-dominated world of politics. Shukla’s biggest strength is her belief in herself.

The daughter of a small property dealer, Shukla, learnt to be fearless from Beena, her mother. At first, Beena wanted her to marry a suitable Brahmin boy. However, the constant cry to marry died down after she decided to contest the elections.

Her parents suggested that Shukla choose a more respectable profession like teaching instead. The parents were pained when she was jailed in 2019, and countless criminal cases were filed against her for participating in street demonstrations.

Shukla is the eldest of three sisters, and she feels responsible for her siblings. The family reminded her she was a role model, but she refused to give up her politics. Her determination to remain engaged in public life is less frowned upon now. At least her immediate family members and neighbours are supportive. She is no longer considered a black sheep within the Brahmin community that sees itself as exceptionally respectable.

Shukla has been in the limelight since 2017 when she and fellow students waved black flags at the motor convoy of those in power. She was part of a group of students protesting against the use of Lucknow University funds for a political party event.

She was angry when jailed for protesting peacefully. After 20 days in jail, the University refused her admission for postgraduate studies. Shukla started a hunger strike and forced the University to allow all the students to continue their studies.

Today she is a youth icon. She has emerged as a leader and a role model not just for her siblings but for thousands of other youngsters, students, women and some male members of society.

Shukla says that she stands for a democratic, secular and inclusive India. How will she realise her dream in the cutthroat political culture where all that matters is power and money?

There is no substitute for commitment and hard work, she says with a smile. (IPS UN Bureau Report)

Ketanji Brown Jackson Will Join More Diverse And Conservative High Court

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will join a Supreme Court that is both more diverse than ever and more conservative than it’s been since the 1930s.

She’s likely to be on the losing end of a bunch of important cases, including examinations of the role of race in college admissions and voting rights that the high court, with its 6-3 conservative majority, will take up next term.

Jackson, 51, is the first Black woman confirmed to the Supreme Court following Thursday’s 53-47 vote by the Senate. She won’t join the court for several months, until Justice Stephen Breyer retires once the court wraps up its work for the summer — including its verdict on whether to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling on abortion rights.

When Jackson takes the bench as a justice for the first time, in October, she will be one of four women and two Black justices — both high court firsts.

And the nine-member court as a whole will be younger than it’s been for nearly 30 years, when Breyer, now 83, came on board.

Among the younger justices are three appointees of former President Donald Trump, and the court’s historic diversity won’t obscure its conservative tilt.

In Breyer’s final term, the conservative justices already have left their mark even before deciding major cases on abortion, guns, religion and climate change. By 5-4 or 6-3 votes, they allowed an unusual Texas law to remain in effect that bans abortions after roughly six weeks; stopped the

Biden administration from requiring large employers to have a workforce that is vaccinated against COVID-19 or be masked and tested; and left in place redrawn Alabama congressional districts that a lower court with two Trump appointees found shortchanged Black voters in violation of federal law.

Jackson’s replacement of Breyer, for whom she once worked as a law clerk, won’t alter that Supreme Court math.

“She’s just going to be swimming against the tide every day. That’s a lot to take on,” said Robin Walker Sterling, a Northwestern University law professor.

But Jackson’s presence could make a difference in the perspective she brings and how she expresses herself in her opinions, said Payvand Ahdout, a University of Virginia law professor.

Jackson, who was raised in Miami, may see the high court’s cases about race “from the lens of being a Black woman who grew up in the South. She has an opportunity early on to show how representation matters,” Ahdout said.

During her Senate confirmation hearings, Jackson pledged to sit out the court’s consideration of Harvard’s admissions program, since she is a member of its board of overseers. But the court could split off a second case involving a challenge to the University of North Carolina’s admissions process, which might allow her to weigh in on the issue.

“Historically, the court goes to some length to try to get as much participation as possible. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see the two dealt with separately,” said Ahdout, who was a clerk to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg the last time the court dealt with race in college admissions, in 2016. Just seven justices took part in that case, because Justice Antonin Scalia died before it was decided and Justice Elena Kagan had been involved as a Justice Department official before joining the court.

For now, Jackson might not have much to do. She remains a judge on the federal appeals court in Washington, but she stepped away from cases there when President Joe Biden nominated her to the Supreme Court in February and will continue to do so, a White House official said.

That could reduce the number of times Jackson has to recuse herself from any of her old cases that later make their way to the Supreme Court.

Breyer said in January that he would retire once his successor had been confirmed, but not before the end of the term. With a bare Senate majority, Democrats didn’t want to risk waiting until the summer for confirmation hearings and a vote.

That leaves Jackson in a situation that is “unprecedented in modern times,” said Marin Levy, a Duke University law professor who studies the federal judiciary.

Most new justices begin work a few days after they are confirmed, Levy said. Justice Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in to the court just a few hours after his tumultuous Senate vote.

Jackson could spend time arranging for her clerks and other staff for the Supreme Court, and closing down her current office.

But she won’t have to find new housing or upend the lives of her husband and children. Her new workplace is less than a mile from the court of appeals.

Veena Reddy Assumes Charge As USAID Mission Director to India

Veena Reddy, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, has arrived in New Delhi to take charge as the new Mission Director for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in India.  In her role as the Mission Director, Reddy will lead USAID’s operations in India and Bhutan.

In connection with her appointment, Reddy stated, “For the past seven decades, USAID has partnered with the people and Government of India to build a peaceful and prosperous society. During that time our partnership has evolved, and I look forward to further strengthening our relationship.  The challenges faced by all during the COVID-19 pandemic have taken an enormous human and economic toll on India and beyond.  I am confident that with the strength and warmth of the U.S.-India partnership, we will continue to move forward on the road to prosperity.”

Interim US Ambassador to India, Atul Keshap expressed his pride and admiration that another Indian American will lead a critical Mission component, reflecting the accomplishments of Indian Americans in all walks of life in America.

Reddy brings with her a rich background in development and diplomacy.  Born in Andhra Pradesh, India, she is the first Indian American to lead USAID in India and Bhutan.

Reddy has had an extensive career as a U.S. foreign service officer, serving as USAID’s Mission Director in Cambodia; USAID’s Deputy Mission Director in Haiti; and in Washington, D.C. as an Assistant General Counsel, covering legal matters for USAID’s programs in Asia and the Middle East.  Before embarking on a career of federal government service, Ms. Reddy was a corporate attorney in New York, London, and Los Angeles.  Reddy holds a Doctor of Jurisprudence from Columbia University School of Law and an M.A. and B.A. from the University of Chicago.

“USAID is committed to supporting India in achieving its development goals, supporting clean energy and environmental reform, combating climate challenges, improving health, encouraging inclusive economic growth, and bolstering the COVID-19 response,” said a press release issued by the organization.  Recognizing India’s leadership, USAID is working with the Government of India, the private sector, and civil society to test and scale innovative development solutions in India, as well as regionally and globally.

Chai With Manju Celebrates 10th Anniversary

“Chai with Manju” a celebrity series of interviews and features, one of the most watched in the New England region, where she featured celebrities and spiritual leaders such as Sadhguru, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the Kennedys and the like, is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Over the past decade, Dr. Manju Sheth’s popular show, “Chai With Manju” on digital platforms, including on www.theunn.com with  celebrity interview series, has become one of the much talked about media features, bringing a wide range of exciting guests.

With hundreds of interviews and millions of viewers–first in the print and later in videos—Chai with Manju has spotlighted guests from almost every aspect of life: from musicians and spiritual leaders to academics and entrepreneurs and from politicians and diplomats to local heroes.

A physician by profession, having a passion for the media and with a deep commitment to serve the larger humanity and with a special focus on women’s empowerment, Dr. Manju Sheth is a Board Certified Internist, currently serving patients at Beth Israel Lahey Hospital.in the Boston Region in Massachusetts.

Dr. Sheth wears many hats to her credit. A multi-tasker and with full of energy, Dr. Sheth says, “If you want to do something in life then you will find a way.” It has not been easy to be “a physician, mother, media personality, and be involved in our vibrant New England community and the media world, but each of my involvements is truly important to me, and I give my full heart and energy to each of them. I always remind myself, that anything worth having has to be worked for.”

As the celebrity show Sushil Tuli, founder and CEO of Massachusetts-based Leader Bank, said that the Chai with Manju team over these years has done commendable work in bringing to its viewers and readers information, reports and opinions so vital in this age of media on social, business and cultural developments.

“Chai with Manju joins the pantheon of radio/TV programs such as Larry King Live and Fresh Air by Terry Gross,” said Brian Pereira, President, CEO and Board Member of Visterra Inc, and a member of the Board at American India Foundation, known as AIF.  “Ten years have passed in a blink of the eye, and we look forward to be educated and entertained for 10 more years.”

Desh Deshpande, a philanthropist, mentor, a successful serial entrepreneur, venture capitalist and author of “On Entrepreneurship and Impact”, urged Dr. Sheth to continue her “excellent work and bring us the insights of amazing people in the world.”

“It is a bold step for a doctor to venture into media.  Dr. Manju Sheth jumped in ten years ago and has brought many in-depth conversations with many distinguished individuals to us,” said Mr. Deshpande. “I cannot think of a single distinguished person who has stepped on the Boston soil and have not had Chai with Manju.”

“Chai with Manju has been a significant part of Indian Community in USA and around the world,” Mr. Tuli said. “I would like to congratulate Dr. Manju Sheth on their 10th anniversary of Chai with Manju. Dr. Manju Sheth has always been very enthusiastic about presenting personalities/speakers to keep the community informed about what is happening around us in this world”. Tuli asked Dr. Sheth to continue bringing the good stories and keep expanding viewership. TiE Boston President Anu Chitrapu said that Chai with Manju has evolved into a world-class series during the last 10 years.

Dr. Sheth was the co-founder and CEO of INE MultiMedia, a non-profit organization devoted to promoting and supporting charitable organizations, art, culture, education and empowerment through workshops, seminars and multimedia. Dr. Sheth is a former trustee of the Indian-American Forum for Political Education. Dr. Sheth is very dedicated to the education of the community about health related issues, and is also the producer and chair of the annual free mega Health & Wellness Expo.

Chai with Manju is created and hosted by Dr. Manju Sheth, MD, a physician at Beth Israel Lahey Health and Atrius Health, and is produced by Upendra Mishra, publisher of INDIA New England News, IndUS Business Journal, Life Sciences Times and Boston Real Estate Times.

“Manju’s eclectic selection of interviewees, thorough preparation ahead of the show and deft handling of the conversation has made her show a must-listen for the New England Indian community and beyond,” added Mr. Pereira.

“I want to extend my gratitude to my producer, Upendra Mishra, for always having faith in me and to all my viewers/readers for their love and welcoming me into their homes through my videos,” said Dr. Sheth. “I am so thankful to all the celebrities who have let me have a window into their life with these special interviews. We are looking forward to having a big celebration soon.”

Do Women Live Longer Than Men?

The numbers don’t lie: women tend to live longer than men. The average American man will live to age 76, according to the latest CDC figures, while the average woman in America will live to age 81.

And a woman’s extra years tend to be healthy ones. The World Health Organization’s HALE index, which calculates the number of years a man or woman can expect to live without a major disease or injury, finds that American men can look forward to 67 healthy years, while American women will enjoy 70 years of “full heath.”

This male-female lifespan gap is not a new phenomenon; experts have known about it for decades. It’s also not restricted to Americans. “This gender gap in life expectancy is true for all societies, and it is also true for the great apes,” says Dr. Perminder Sachdev, a professor of neuropsychiatry at the University of New South Wales in Australia who has studied human longevity.

Why do women tend to outlive men? Sachdev says there are a few popular theories—some to do with biology, and some to do with behavior.

“Men are more likely to smoke, drink excessively and be overweight,” he says. “They are also less likely to seek medical help early, and, if diagnosed with a disease, they are more likely to be non-adherent to treatment.” On top of all that, he says, men are more likely to take life-threatening risks and to die in car accidents, brawls or gun fights.

There’s evidence that a man’s biology—namely, his elevated levels of the male sex hormone testosterone—may lead him into the kind of trouble that could shorten his life. Research from Duke University has found that elevated testosterone levels are associated with risky behaviors.

Experts say testosterone may abbreviate a man’s lifespan in other ways. “Male sex hormones decrease immune function and increase the risk for cardiovascular diseases,” says Kyung-Jin Min, a professor of biological sciences at Inha University in South Korea.

In a 2012 study published in the journal Current Biology, Min and his colleagues examined the historical health records of 81 Korean eunuchs: men who were castrated as children, and who therefore stopped producing much testosterone. They found the eunuchs tended to live about 14 to 19 years longer than uncastrated men who shared their same socio-economic status.

While the links between testosterone and immune function aren’t clear, Min’s study points to lab research showing that testosterone may block the release of some disease-fighting immune cells. On the other hand, there’s also a good amount of research linking low levels of testosterone to heart disease and poor health outcomes in men, so the relationships between testosterone and a man’s health are complex.

It may well be that a man’s hormones aren’t to blame; instead, a woman’s hormones may offer her some added lifespan benefits.

“Estrogen appears to be protective—it has been shown to have an antioxidant role,” says Sachdev. A 2013 review in the International Journal of Endocrinology found evidence that estrogen can prevent the kind of DNA damage that leads to disease. That review also turned up evidence that estrogen can help maintain normal, healthy cell function.

These sorts of findings help explain the male-female longevity gap. But why would evolution and natural selection instill women, but not men, with these life-extending attributes?

“All this is entirely speculative,” Sachdev says, but it may have to do with a female’s historical role as child-rearer. “Once children are born, men are disposable,” he says. “But the robust body of the mother is important for the survival of the offspring.” A woman’s body has evolved to withstand and bounce back from the physical trauma of pregnancy and childbirth, as well as the demands of breastfeeding—challenges to which a male’s body is never exposed. As the saying goes, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. And for women, that strength may translate to a longer, healthier life.

Youth Icon’s Fight for Rights Among India’s Destitute

Pooja Shukla, 25, a socialist candidate, has lost her maiden elections to the provincial parliament in Uttar Pradesh (UP), India. But Shukla is no loser.  A day after the results were announced on March 10, Shukla was back to a rousing reception in her constituency in North Lucknow to thank her supporters for polling 1,04,527 votes for her.

She was with the people again on March 18 on Holi, the festival of colour held annually to celebrate the end of winter and in anticipation of new beginnings. Shukla told the IPS that she was hoping to win. Of course, she is disappointed, but electoral defeat would not stop her from continuing her struggle to get economic and social justice for the people of her constituency.

Although Shukla belongs to the upper caste community of Brahmins, she has worked hard to develop a personal connection with a cross-section of those who live in North Lucknow, one of the city’s nine constituencies. Lucknow is the capital of UP, the country’s largest, but economically and socially, it is one of its least developed states. More than 400,000 voters are registered in North Lucknow, nearly half of whom are impoverished women.

The constituency is home to Muslims, upper-caste Hindus and thousands of impoverished people belonging to communities who have been living for decades in makeshift shanties, often on the bank of open drains. Some are daily wage earners, and others are without paid work.

Shukla won hearts because she has knocked on every door in North Lucknow and continues to spend time with citizens. “I have visited every single home in every single neighbourhood in North Lucknow. I will continue to do so as I really care for members of all communities that reside within my constituency,” Shukla adds.

This first-time contestant had faced Dr Neeraj Bora, a seasoned politician from the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), a right-wing party. Despite the formidable challenge, Shukla was leading on the day the votes were counted. She was ahead before her rival finally defeated her by 33,985 votes until noon.

Out of 403 seats in the UP-state parliament, the socialists won 111 seats. The Samajwadi Party (SP) of socialists came a distant second to BJP’s 255 seats, but the party has emerged as the largest opposition party in UP.

This was a golden opportunity to strengthen democracy by converting the numbers won by the SP into a viable opposition to the ruling party, Shukla believes. A well-meaning, vocal opposition is needed, she says, when the ruling party seems to want to wash its hands of all its social responsibility in favour of outsourcing businesses and privatising even essential services like education, health, and employment opportunities.

“Democratic values strengthen when the opposition to the ruling party is strong,” says Shukla, who believes that elections are held to elect representatives who will provide affordable homes, education, and health facilities to voters.

Shukla feels that socially conscious people don’t have to be Marxists to dream of justice in society. The desire to want to see all citizens cared for fairly and equally by the state is a desire of all decent human beings.

Shukla was the youngest candidate in the polls, nursing a constituency that is a sprawling, chaotic cluster of college campuses, traffic jams, markets spilling from every corner and rows of slums with open drains that overflow and swallow up lives during rainfall.

Her dream is to invite educationists to open model public schools for the majority of the poor people in her constituency. She wants low-cost houses for the poor and free health services. She says that time is on her side. She will find many more opportunities to contest elections.

“To win elections is important for me as I want to be a lawmaker and make sure that people-friendly legislation is passed in parliament to protect the interest of the most vulnerable in the country,” Shukla says.

Until she makes it to parliament, she plans to work tirelessly to raise literacy in her constituency and lower the poverty rate. She wants clean drinking water, cleaner drains, and better roads. Women’s safety is her priority, as is a regular and fair wage for the many communities of artisans like potters and weavers.

Shukla has witnessed the police lathi-charge citizens who dared to ask the government for jobs. Social activists have been jailed, kicked around, and beaten in lockdown for participating in protests and questioning the government in UP. There are countless incidents of gruesome crimes perpetrated against women.

Most political parties want women’s votes but are reluctant to share power with them. Therefore, politics in UP today is a constant struggle for any woman who joins the male-dominated world of politics. Shukla’s biggest strength is her belief in herself.

The daughter of a small property dealer, Shukla, learnt to be fearless from Beena, her mother. At first, Beena wanted her to marry a suitable Brahmin boy. However, the constant cry to marry died down after she decided to contest the elections.

Her parents suggested that Shukla choose a more respectable profession like teaching instead. The parents were pained when she was jailed in 2019, and countless criminal cases were filed against her for participating in street demonstrations.

Shukla is the eldest of three sisters, and she feels responsible for her siblings. The family reminded her she was a role model, but she refused to give up her politics. Her determination to remain engaged in public life is less frowned upon now. At least her immediate family members and neighbours are supportive. She is no longer considered a black sheep within the Brahmin community that sees itself as exceptionally respectable.

Shukla has been in the limelight since 2017 when she and fellow students waved black flags at the motor convoy of those in power. She was part of a group of students protesting against the use of Lucknow University funds for a political party event.

She was angry when jailed for protesting peacefully. After 20 days in jail, the University refused her admission for postgraduate studies. Shukla started a hunger strike and forced the University to allow all the students to continue their studies.

Today she is a youth icon. She has emerged as a leader and a role model not just for her siblings but for thousands of other youngsters, students, women and some male members of society.

Shukla says that she stands for a democratic, secular and inclusive India. How will she realise her dream in the cutthroat political culture where all that matters is power and money?

There is no substitute for commitment and hard work, she says with a smile.

11th Outstanding Women’s Achievements Awards Gala Held On Long Island, NY

Honorable Jennifer Desena, Supervisor Town of North Hempstead, Town Clerk Ragini Srivastava, Senior Council woman Dorothy Goosby, Town of Hempstead, Nassau County Legislator Rose Walker, Glen cove Mayor Pam Panzenback  and  several elected officials, Bobby Kumar Kalotee, Founding Member of IAF, and Community Leaders, joined in the Metropolitan in Glen cove  for Eleventh Outstanding Womens Achievements Awards Gala on a cool Sunday  Evening, March 27, 2022.

Everyone present at the auditorium felt the pride and achievements regarding the theme of the program. The attendance of Honorees and members of Indian American Community filled up the Ballroom, with extremely accomplished and elite members, who is who of the society gathered for one singular purpose, to be the part of and to celebrate 11th Outstanding Women’s Achievements Gala, part of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day Celebrations

IAF (Indian American Forum) led by Indu Jaiswal, known for her strong commitment and dedication to the community cause was the organizing force behind the gala.  This year well known Community Leader Shammi Singh was the Chairperson of the Gala. Shammi Singh was represented by Rohini Singh in her remarks welcomed all the guests congratulated all the honorees and praised their efforts in achieving such success. American National Anthem and Indian National Anthems started the program. Mistress of Ceremonies Aashmeeta Yogiraj Sandhu from JUS PUNJABI. Made the evening enjoyable.

Program started with Ganesh Vandana sung by Vandana Jauhar, Dance performances presented by students of Nartan Rang Dance Academy, well-known Choreographers Swati Vaishnav and Mukthambar Fine Arts Inc., Tribute paid to Late Lata Mangeshkar Jee by Sunita Sadhnani. Chanbir Kaur Sethi, Roopam Maini, Inesha Singh, Rohini Singh and Dr Prachi Dua, Dr Pallavi Manvar Singh and Mrs Ratna Bhalla, coordinated a brief Q&A session with the honorees discussing and emphasizing their accomplishments.

Several Elected officials present congratulated the honorees on their achievements and success, also presented them with citations. congratulated all honorees and acknowledged the efforts of IAF Team. Seven distinguished women who had excelled in their profession and community services were presented with Outstanding Women’s achievements Awards

NISHA KUMAR BEHRINGER is strategic, and shareholder focused Chief Financial Officer, independent Director, and merger acquisitions executive with over two decades track record. She is formerly a Managing Director and the Chief Financial and Chief Compliance Officer of Greenbriar Equity Group L.P. a private equity firm for investments.

KALPANA BHANDARKAR currently residing in Nassau County has nearly twenty years of experience in Health Care and civic engagement.  Kalpana has dedicated her professional career in improving access to Quality health care for people living in low resource setting. Over past several years Kalpana has focused her work with Long Island based organizations, serving as co-chair of the Board of ERASE Racism, an advocacy organization focused on fair housing and equitable education for all residents statewide

NEETA BHASIN is the President of ASB Communications, the power of multicultural marketing company. ASB Communications is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this Year. Neeta Bhasin has served the Community through her TV shows, NEETA BHASIN SHOW on social media since last two Years. She started Event Guru Worldwide, the company that created history in 2013 by conceptualizing and producing the 2nd biggest event after New Tear’s eyeball drop-in Times square> DIWALI at Times Square

BEENA KOTHARI having lived in Long Island for over 30 years. Her association, interactions contributions with Indian and American communities has been very extensive, valuable, and memorable and inclusive of all. She has several accomplishments within various social and cultural nonprofit leadership capacities. She firmly believes sin VASUDHAIVA KUTUMBAKAM meaning the world in ONE Family.

DR PREETI MEHTA is the founder of Digestive Disease Care, one of the Largest Gastroenterology [ practices expanding from Queens to Nassau and Suffolk, she is well renowned in the field of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. Charitable work and giving back to the communities’ top priorities of Dr Mehta., She supports Charities dedicated for children and women education

RAGINI SRIVASTAV Town Clerk. Town of North Hempstead. Is serving her first term as Town Clerk of Town of North Hempstead, a time honored and historic function for the township since its founding in 1784.Town Clerk Srivastava is proud of The Town of North Hempstead and the unique characteristics of our villages and services

MALINI RUDRA is a junior at Williams College. She is 21 Years old, graduated from Syosset High School, she is Co-Captain of the Williams College Golf Team, which is ranked no 1 in NCAA Div. 111 Athletics. Malini has tremendous success in Golf. She won or placed top 5 in numerous tournaments locally as well a nationally Since 7th grade Malini was selected as part of the Syosset Girls Varsity Team, she is winner of Several Golf Championships. Malini also serves as a Board member of the Children’s Hope Teen Chapter and helped raise funds for under privileged in Long Island. Malini acknowledged the award with a video message. She was playing in a Golf Tournament in California.

Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby from Town of Hempstead was all in praises for the efforts of Indian American Forum and Indian American Community. She congratulated all honorees and stressed the importance of role women are playing in this world.  Citations of behalf of Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, Nassau County Legislator Ms. Rose Walker, Town of Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin and Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino and Suffolk County Executive Steve Vallone. Were presented to all Honorees

Among those present during the event were Bobby Kumar Kalotee Founder of IAF and Chair of Nassau County Human right Commissioner, Board of Trustees, Dr Azad Anand,  Dr Urmilesh Arya, Dr Bhupendra Patel, Mr Mohinder Singh Taneja, Board members Beena Kothari, Bina Sabapathy, Jyoti Gupta ,Indu Gajwani  Anu Gulati,, Roopam Maini, Chanbir Kaur Sethi, Rohini Singh, Anuj Rihal, Inesha Singh, Dr Prachi Dua, Dr Pallavi Manvar Singh, Ratna Bhalla, Anju Sharma, Sanju Sharma Mr Sunny Thakkar , Jasbir Jay Singh, Indu Gajwani, Bina Sabapathy and  Gala Chairperson Shammi Singh, Volunteers, sponsors , Media Partners  and Many others helped in making the event a grand success.

It was indeed a highly successful evening, showcasing and honoring outstanding women achievers, who are successful in business, cultural, professional, education, medical. Community and social services.

Talking To Maya

Maya Varadaraj and Maya Shah will discuss Varadaraj’s latest solo exhibition, Accident Of Birth  on Saturday, April 9th, at 4:00 PM, at the Aicon Gallery and live on Instagram.

Varadaraj’s exhibition explores experiences as a South Asian woman brought up in a Hindu family, and how various biologies, societies, histories, and families inform womanhood.

Maya Varadaraj is an interdisciplinary artist, receiving her BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design before completing a Master’s Degree at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Varadaraj’s work has been exhibited internationally at Vitra Design Museum, Museo Del Disseny Barcelona, Nature Morte, Sapar Contemporary, Salone De Mobile, Mana Contemporary, and Medium Tings among others. She has been featured in publications such as Juxtapoz, Platform Magazine, and We Make Money Not Art.

Maya Shah is an art advisor, curator, and cultural producer based in New York City. Trained as an architect, her collaborative design work as Project Director for the International Design Clinic, has been exhibited in the U.S. Pavilion at the 13th International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale and the Museum of Modern Art as part of “Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanism for Expanding Megacities”.

As a specialist in Modern, Contemporary, and Emerging Art, Maya has held leadership roles at auction houses and art advisory firms in Philadelphia and New York City. She currently works with a vetted team of specialists in direct support of artists, collectors and institutions, providing a wide range of management, advisory, and curatorial services.

According to Maya Varadaraj, “This exhibition is a love letter to myself, my life, my family, and the moments that have led me here.  My work is analytical, though in this case, I’ve turned my focus inward. Experiencing all the aspects of womanhood, its glory, and its upset, has me analyzing the characteristic pain and tribulations tied so critically to being female. As women, our intense ordeals could, perhaps, be explained by our biologies, societies, histories, and families. In my particular case as a South Asian woman brought up in a Hindu family, a lot of my experiences can be made reasonable through philosophies from Eastern thought. Karma, for example, the belief that actions from the past or ancestral baggage lead to present experiences.

“An unexpected event last year shrouded my life in loss. This event was not the hardest loss I’ve ever felt, but it was certainly the most unique. Looking for solace, I recalled moments of joy, comedy, and memories that might give meaning to this inexplicable loss. These intangible moments became intertwined and indistinguishable from my reality – this occurrence of loss then, as a consequence, was not unimaginable. It became a sequential part of my life, my family history, and the culmination of this series of work.

“I mined my family photographs, selecting moments that could have been catalysts for my present life – a visualization of my karma if you will. Images of my parents as children, a survey of female family members, my grandfather active and alive. I pull these characters out of their setting and reposition them to serve me in my search for meaning. I use text to communicate with versions of these characters that no longer exist, but still play a vital role in shaping my identity. In these images, histories emerge in clothes, hairstyles, gestures, and habits. To determine the reasons and circumstances that have come to be. So here it is, an analysis of my Accident of Birth…”

50% Of Women Face False Positive Mammograms After 10 Years Of Annual Screening

Newswise — A study led by UC Davis Health has found that half of all women will experience at least one false positive mammogram over a decade of annual breast cancer screening with digital breast tomosynthesis (3D mammography). The risk of false positive results after 10 years of screening is considerably lower in women screened every other year. A false positive is when a mammogram is flagged as abnormal, but there is no cancer in the breast. The study was published today in JAMA Network Open.

It also showed that repeated breast cancer screening with 3D mammography only modestly decreases the chance of having a false positive result compared with the standard digital 2D mammography. Other factors more strongly linked to a lower false positive risk included screening every other year and having non-dense breasts. Older women were also less likely to have a false positive result.

“The screening technology did not have the largest impact on reducing false positives,” said Michael Bissell, epidemiologist in the UC Davis Department of Public Health Sciences and co-first author of the study. “Findings from our study highlight the importance of patient-provider discussions around personalized health. It is important to consider a patient’s preferences and risk factors when deciding on screening interval and modality.”

False positive mammograms are common

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death for women in the U.S. Early detection using screening mammography is a key strategy to lower the risk of advanced breast cancer and death from this disease.

A false positive result is a positive screening mammography assessment that leads to more diagnostic work-up but no diagnosis of breast cancer. When abnormalities are found on a mammogram, the patient is recalled for additional imaging and follow-up tests. If found to be cancer-free at the end of diagnostic evaluation and for one year after her recall, the patient is considered to have received a false positive result.

“Despite the important benefit of screening mammography in reducing breast cancer mortality, it can lead to extra imaging and biopsy procedures, financial and opportunity costs, and patient anxiety,” said Diana Miglioretti, professor and division chief of biostatistics at the UC Davis Department of Public Health Sciences, UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center researcher and senior author of the study.

False positive results are common. While around 12% of 2D screening mammograms are recalled for more work-up, only 4.4% of those recalls, or 0.5% overall, conclude with a cancer diagnosis.

“To detect breast cancer early, we need to be careful and investigate any potentially abnormal findings. So, women should not be worried if recalled for additional imaging or biopsy. The vast majority of these results are found to be benign,” said Thao-Quyen Ho, radiologist at the University Medical Center in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, research fellow at UC Davis School of Medicine and co-first author on the study.

Analyzing mammograms for false positive results

The researchers analyzed data collected by the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium on 3 million screening mammograms for 903,495 women aged 40–79 years. The screenings were performed between 2005-2018 at 126 radiology facilities.

The study evaluated screening modality, screening interval, age and breast density. It estimated the cumulative risk that a woman would receive at least one false positive recall over 10 years of annual or biennial (every other year) screening. It also assessed the risks of a false positive that resulted in a recommendation to repeat imaging within six months (short interval follow-up) and separately, in a biopsy recommendation.

Mammography versus tomosynthesis for breast cancer screening

The study found that the probability of receiving at least one false positive recall over a 10-year period was slightly lower with 3D than 2D digital mammography. The decrease in false positives with 3D vs. 2D mammography was greatest for women with non-dense breasts and those who had annual screenings.

The researchers estimated that over 10 years of annual tomosynthesis screening, 50% of women will experience at least one false positive recall, 17% a false positive short-interval follow-up recommendation, and 11% a false positive biopsy recommendation. This is compared to 56% of women screened with 2D digital mammograms having a false positive recall, 18% a short-interval follow-up recommendation, and 12% a biopsy recommendation.

Regardless of the type of screening, false positive results were substantially lower for older than younger age groups and women with entirely fatty versus extremely dense breasts.

Annual versus biennial breast cancer screening

The study also estimated 10-year risks for annual vs. biennial screenings. It found that screening every other year showed a considerably lower probability of at least one false positive result than annual mammograms over ten years of screening. This finding was observed for both 3D and 2D mammography.

“We were surprised that the newer 3D technology in breast cancer screening does not substantially reduce the risk of having a false positive result after 10 years of screening; however, chances of false positives are much lower with repeated biennial vs. annual screening,” said Ho.

For short-interval follow-up recommendations, 17% of women undergoing annual 3D mammography are estimated to have at least one false positive over 10 years, compared to just 10% of those undergoing biennial screening. False positive benign biopsy recommendations are estimated to occur in 11% of women receiving annual 3D mammograms but in only 7% of those screened every two years.

After 10 years of annual screening, the risk of a false positive result was lower in 3D than 2D mammography for all outcomes. For biennial screening, the risk of a false positive recall was lower with 3D mammography. There was no difference in short interval follow-up or biopsy recommendations.

The other authors on this study are: Karla Kerlikowske and Jeffrey A. Tice at the University of California, San Francisco; Rebecca A. Hubbard at the University of Pennsylvania; Brian L. Sprague at the University of Vermont; Christoph I. Lee at the University of Washington and Hutchinson Institute for Cancer Outcomes Research; and Anna N. A. Tosteson at Dartmouth College and Norris Cotton Cancer Center.  Miglioretti is also an affiliate investigator with UC Davis Center for Healthcare Policy and Research and Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research.

How Do Indians View Gender Roles In Families And Society: PEW Study

Today, Indians are largely accepting of women as political leaders, according to a Pew Research Center survey of nearly 30,000 Indian adults. Yet, in domestic settings, Indians tend to say men should have more prominent roles than women. For example, about nine-in-ten Indians agree with the notion that a wife must always obey her husband, including nearly two-thirds who completely agree with this sentiment.

Indian adults nearly universally say it is important for women to have the same rights as men, including eight-in-ten who say this is very important. At the same time, however, there are circumstances when Indians feel men should receive preferential treatment: 80% agree with the idea that “when there are few jobs, men should have more rights to a job than women,” according to a new Pew Research Center report.

The report, based on a face-to-face survey of 29,999 Indian adults fielded between late 2019 and early 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic, looks at how Indians view gender roles at home and in society more generally. The survey, which was also the basis for a 2021 report on religion in India, was conducted by local interviewers in 17 languages and covered nearly all of India’s states and union territories.

Here are key findings from the report.

  1. Indians broadly accept women as political leaders. India has a long history of women holding political power, from the 1966 election of Indira Gandhi, one of the world’s first woman prime ministers, to other well-known figures, such as Jayalalitha, Mamata Banerjee and Sushma Swaraj.

The survey results reflect this comfort with women in politics. Most adults say that women and men make equally good political leaders (55%) or that women generally make better leaders than men (14%). Only a quarter of Indian adults take the position that men tend to make better political leaders than women.

  1. While most Indians say that men and women should share some family responsibilities, many still support traditional gender roles. For instance, 62% of adults say both men and women should be responsible for taking care of children, while roughly a third of adults (34%) feel that child care should be handled primarily by women. Similarly, a slim majority (54%) say that both men and women in families should be responsible for earning money, yet many Indians (43%) see this as mainly the obligation of men.

Meanwhile, nearly nine-in-ten Indians (87%) completely or mostly agree with the notion that “a wife must always obey her husband.” This includes a majority of Indians (64%) who completely agree with this sentiment. Women are only modestly less likely than men to say that wives should obey their husbands in all situations, and most Indian women express total agreement with this sentiment (61% vs. 67% among men). (Throughout this report, differences in opinion between men and women are modest. In other words, Indian women typically are not much more likely than Indian men to express egalitarian views on gender roles.)

  1. An overwhelming majority of Indian adults say it is very important for families to have both sons and daughters, and a substantial share are accepting of sex-selective abortion. Indians are united in the view that it is very important for a family to have at least one son (94%) and, separately, a daughter (90%). Historically in Indian society, though, families have tended to place higher value on their sons than their daughters, a custom broadly referred to as “son preference.” One enduring manifestation of son preference has been the illegal practice of sex-selective abortions – using ultrasound or other tests to learn the sex of a fetus and terminating the pregnancy if the fetus is female.

The survey finds that four-in-ten Indians say it is either “completely acceptable” or “somewhat acceptable” to “get a checkup using modern methods to balance the number of girls and boys in the family,” a euphemism that connotes sex-selective abortion. In contrast, roughly half of adults (53%) say that this practice is either somewhat or completely unacceptable.

  1. Most Indians (63%) say sons should be primarily responsible for parents’ last rites or burial rituals, although attitudes differ significantly across religious groups. Religious funeral practices for loved ones are widely seen as very important in India, and at least according to Hindu tradition, sons must perform last rites for a parent to ensure freedom for the soul in the afterlife.

Most Muslims (74%), Jains (67%) and Hindus (63%) say sons should be primarily responsible for funeral rituals, but far fewer Sikhs (29%), Christians (44%) and Buddhists (46%) expect this from sons. (Muslims and Christians were asked about “burial rituals,” while all other respondents were asked about “last rites.”) Instead, Sikhs, Christians and Buddhists are more likely to say that both sons and daughters should be responsible for their parents’ last rites. Very few Indians, regardless of religion, say daughters should be primarily responsible for funeral rituals.

  1. Muslims are more likely than other Indians to support traditional gender roles in families, while Sikhs are often the least likely community to hold such views. For example, while most Indian Muslims (61%) say that men in a family should be primarily responsible for earning money, just 17% of Sikhs say this. And Muslims are more than twice as likely as Sikhs to assign sons the primary responsibility of caring for aging parents (43% vs. 17%).
  2. Indians favor teaching boys to respect women as a way to improve women’s safety. As described in a previous Pew Research Center report, roughly three-quarters of Indian adults (76%) say violence against women is a “very big problem” in their country. Police cases registered as “crimes against women” nearly doubled between 2010 and 2019, and rapes and murders of women have led to massive protests across India. The survey asked respondents which of two options is more important to improve the safety of women in their community: teaching boys to respect all women or teaching girls to behave appropriately.

About half of Indians (51%) say it is more important to teach boys to respect all women, while roughly a quarter (26%) say it is more important to teach girls to behave appropriately. An additional quarter of Indian adults don’t take a clear position between those two options, instead voicing that some combination of the two approaches is necessary, that improved law and order through policing will improve the situation, or that women are already safe.

  1. Compared with people in other countries around the world, Indians have relatively traditional views on gender roles. Although Indian adults are roughly in line with the global median in their support for equal rights for women, by two other measures the Indian public appears much more conservative, according to a series of other surveys conducted by the Center in recent years.

Only one out of 61 countries surveyed has a higher share of adults than in India who agree completely with the notion that men should have greater rights to a job than women when jobs are scarce. And just two out of 34 countries surveyed exceed India in the shares who say a marriage is more satisfying if the husband provides for the family and the wife takes care of the house and children. On this question, the percentage of Indians who take this view (40%) is well above the global median (23%).

Shree Saini Crowned First Runner-Up At Miss World Pageant

Shree Saini, a former Miss India USA and Miss India Worldwide, has been crowned as the first runner-up at 70th edition of the Miss World 2021 pageant held in San Juan, Puerto Rico at the Coca-Cola Music Hall, on Wednesday, March 16th, 2022. The 26-year-old Ludhiana-born Indian American represented the United States at the beauty pageant.

Karolina Bielawska of Poland was crowned Miss World 2021, which was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Karolina is currently pursuing her Master’s in Management and hopes to get a PhD too, according to the Miss World organization.

Introducing the winners, Miss World organization tweeted: “Our newly crowned Miss World Karolina Bielawska from Poland with 1st Runner Up Shree Saini from US 2nd Runner up Olivia Yace from Côte d’Ivoire.”

Toni-Ann Singh, Miss World 2020, also graced the event by performing a special number ‘The Prayer’ to show her support for Ukraine in the midst of its conflict with Russia. “Our current Miss World Toni-Ann Singh performs ‘The Prayer’ as we light candles around the world to stand with Ukraine. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house #mwcandlesforukraine.” tweeted from Miss World’s handle.

Beautiful, compassionate, talented, ambitious, gentle, humble, determined and dedicated to achieving the lofty goals in life, she has set before herself at a very young age, Shree Saini is a woman with a golden heart.

Shree Saini is from Punjab’s Ludhiana, but moved to Washington, DC with her family when she was five. Shree grew up in Moses Lake in Washington state, has been living with a pacemaker since the age of 12. With a heartbeat rate of 20 per minute, doctors ruled her out for her first love — ballet. But, literally dancing against all odds, Saini became a trained ballerina and has been accepted as a trainee by the prestigious Joffrey Ballet, based out of Chicago.

The story of Shree is one of resilience over adversities that would daunt even the sturdiest individuals. In October 2019, Saini collapsed right before the final night of the Miss World America competition, where she eventually got to wear the crown, which she accepted from Miss World 1997 Diana Hayden.

Taking to Instagram that evening, Saini’s mother, Ekta Saini, said that doctors had kept her daughter on “cardiac arrest watch” because just 1 per cent of individuals around the world get a pacemaker implant. Undeterred by the episode, Saini went on to be crowned Miss World America 2020.

Before she left for Miss World earlier this month, Saini shared a “global message of hope and resilience” in which spoke about how she survived a “major rollover car accident that left my face with bleeding wounds” while she was still in university.

Recalling that horrific episode, Saini wrote: “I no longer had my face. I couldn’t even recognise myself. I couldn’t even cry because my tears would burn as they would pass down my wounds. It was the most excruciating pain I had ever endured.”

The Instagram post, which went viral after Saini became the first runner-up at Miss World 2021, concluded with her urging her social media followers “to keep being solution-oriented … to never lose sight of hope … to have a possibility mindset … and to apply solutions to everyday difficulties”.

Shree was crowned Miss World America 2021 in Los Angeles, CA on Saturday, October 2nd, 2021. Diana Hayden crowned Shree Saini, who is also the first Indian-origin contestant to represent America on a global stage. “I am happy and quite nervous. I can’t express my feelings (in words). All the credit goes to my parents, especially my mother because of whose support I am here. Thank you Miss World America for this honor,” Shree Saini said in her statement, after the crowning moment. Saini wrote on her Instagram, “I am the first American of Indian origin and first Asian to be crowned Miss World America.”

An advocate for heart health, Saini has had a permanent pacemaker since she was 12 and overcame a major car accident which left her with burns all over her face. But she rarely if ever lets any of that hold her back or define her.

Shree Saini, who has been recognized by several organizations and states and world renowned persons for her work and is aspiring to be an actor, told this writer during a recent interview “I am now “Miss World America Washington,” which is preliminary to Miss World America and Miss World! Miss World Titles have been won by Aishwarya Rai and Priyanka Chopra. It’s the largest and the most philanthropic pageant, having raised 1.3 billion dollars for charities around the world. And I want to promote the many charitable initiatives this noble organization does all around the world.”

The official Instagram handle of Miss World America shared the news with a caption that read as, “Shree, who is currently Miss World America Washington, also holds the prestigious position of “MWA National Beauty with a Purpose Ambassador,” a position she earned by working tirelessly to help those less fortunate and in need. Among her many accomplishments, her work has been recognized by UNICEF, Doctors without Borders, Susan G Komen, and many others. We are certain Shree will continue to immaculately embody Beauty With A Purpose, and no doubt will be successful in raising awareness and attention to the Miss World America mission. Stay tuned and follow the Miss World America 2021 journey!”

Shree Saini has also been crowned Miss India Worldwide 2018 at a pageant held in the Fords City of New Jersey. “My dance journey began when I was only 3 years old, but a substantial part of my dance journey was filled with both physical and emotional hardships. When I was 12, I was diagnosed with a complete heart block. I had to get a pacemaker surgery. The average age of a pacemaker recipient is age 80. Cardiologists told me I could never dance again,” Shree had noted on her social media.

Instead of giving up, Shree Saini went back to dance class with her left arm tied up in a cast and practiced up to 6 hours a day in order to regain her strength. Saini noted on media that even though “dance is a very competitive, cut-throat, high stakes sport”, she wants to “encourage teachers, students, parents to always be uplifting, emphatic, especially when it’s difficult. Real Love takes courage.”

Saini, who has studied at Harvard, has been trained in acting at the Yale actors conservatory. The Punjab native, who moved to Washington State when she was seven, experienced hardships while in high school, where she was bullied. For years, she said, she felt like an outcast at school for being a person of color. Shree has created an app on emotional heath at Stanford University. She has given hundreds of presentations in over 80 cities and six countries and written about 400 articles in newspapers on emotional fitness, via her non-profit shareesaini.org.

Shree says, “The best award is knowing that YOU made a POSITIVE difference in someone else’s life. A girl recently approached me after a talk and started crying. She mentioned that she had followed my journey for a while and felt encouraged to pursue her dreams, despite obstacles. I gave her a big HUG and started to tear up as well. WOW. Your positive words and actions do make a positive difference. Keep being EXTRA LOVING AND ENCOURAGING.

Being uprooted from one’s culture and dear ones was undoubtedly a major challenge. She had to experience hardships while in high school, where she was bullied. Young Shree fought bravely a heart ailment which required her to use a pacemaker. Shree, who had a pacemaker implanted at the age of 12 and was told that she would never be able to dance, is an inspiration for all. “I practice dance almost every day for several hours,” Shree says, pointing to the pacemaker she carries with her all the time.

After doctors diagnosed her with a congenital heart defect at the age of 12, Saini recalls how she struggled to adapt to the life-changing situation of needing a pacemaker while still in middle school, especially when other students did not treat her kindly as a result. “I truly believe your legacy is defined by how you make others feel and the positive difference you make in your lifetime,” said Shree, who started her non-profit organization, when she was 15. Shree said it was her dream to compete for a world title, which was started when she was in the elementary school.

“I have been the target of brutal emotional bullying. I was ridiculed in the most subtle ways, which is why I so often talk about ‘nonverbal’ bullying. For example, there were many instances where I was left out of events or edited out of pictures, and daily ‘whispered about’ by others. As a result of this treatment, there were many times when I would cry in my school’s restrooms or come home in tears after dance class… yet I persevered.

“My family helped me endure,” she explains. “My mom said, ‘the way people treat you has nothing to do with you, but has everything to do with them.’ She empowered me to step up and be even more compassionate towards those who hurt me, and to never give up on my true belief in always being kind.”

In order to reprogram her brain towards more positive thoughts and reach an understanding of how she could find inner peace in spite of all the negativity, she read extensively. “I read books and essays on achieving a more powerful mindset, responding to acts of hate with compassion, and the true value of emotional fitness and what can be done to address the lack of education around it. From what I have learned, I have formed my personal mantra: ‘Giving powerful responses to life’s struggles while being a positive contributor to every situation.’”

After dealing with her own personal experiences, Saini penciled her thoughts in a journal, which she said helped change her from a victim to an empowered young woman. The journals in her diary turned to newspaper clippings in local papers in Washington. “In a society mainly obsessed with physical fitness, emotional problems are dismissed,” noted the young activist. “Emotional well-being is necessary to have a healthy body and mind,” she says.

These experiences did not deter young Shree from pursuing her life’s mission.  “My journey went from a silent sufferer to a bitter person and finally an enabled victor,” she says. “If anything, the physical challenges and social pressures fueled her – all the way to the Joffrey Ballet and beyond, including winning the title of Miss India USA.”

Shree gives credit to her parents, Sanjay and Ekta Saini, who have not only supported her dreams, but have gone beyond to help her succeed at every step of the way. Pointing to her mother, Ekta, Shree says, “My mother is my role model, who has been with me, supported me and have encouraged me to work hard and realize my dreams.”

Regarding her future goals and ambitions, Shree is candid about her choices. If good offers come her way, Shree is open to acting in movies, whether it be in Bollywood or Hollywood. Another effective way to showcase her talents and still more importantly, another way to champion and spread her message for a better, just and peaceful world. “Meanwhile, I want to continue working on my nonprofit and become an ambassador of emotional health by continuing to visit as many places as possible, spreading my positive message of hope,” Saini says.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Im7eb8b68Ek

TAGC Women’s Day Includes A Variety Of Activities And Fashion Competition

Telugu Association of Greater Chicago (TAGC) the first Telugu organization in the USA, celebrated Women’s Day on March 6th,2022 at Monty’s Elegant banquets in Bensenville, IL. TAGC is devoted to the awareness and promotion of Telugu Heritage and Culture in the Midwest region headquartered in Chicago, The association was originally founded in 1971 and it  recently completed its golden jubilee celebration and entered into its 51st year.

Over 350 women of Indian origin participated in this women’s day event. Program started with a devotional song by Singer Ramya and lighting the lamp by Uma Avadhuta, President of TAGC 2022, Women’s Day Chairs Sirisha Madduri, Archana Podduturi and Co chairs Ramya Nagulavancha, Ramya Kapila and Deepa Gudipally. All the other women’s Bod’s Vinitha Podduturi, Manasa Lattupalli, Neelima Cheikicharla, Prasanna Kandukuri and Madhavi Konakalla were also present. This year’s theme was Retro Style where all the ladies came out in their best retro looks. All the ladies were excited to show off their beautiful outfits and style. Anchor Sahithya Vinjamuri was an addition to enthusiasm in ladies.

Speaker Deepthi Suri provided very valuable information and great insight on the benefits of Ayurveda in our daily lives. Several fun filled activities were meticulously planned and executed to create a joyful atmosphere in the event that were thoroughly enjoyed by all the ladies after 2 years of pandemic situation. Special games like selfie Lele, Bomma blockbuster and Naari Shakthi by co-chairs engaged and entertained everyone.

Continuing with the core values and traditions of TAGC, this year also the members raised money for a non-profit organization named Suguna Foundation with operations in west Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, India which supports care and living for needy seniors.  There was an overwhelming response and contribution this year which is among one of the top fundraising amounts. Regal Jewelers sponsored gold and silver coins for raffle tickets. Special gifts from India to attended TAGC members was an additional attraction of the event.

First time in the last 50 years TAGC conducted Mrs. TAGC competition which received a huge response from everyone. Judges Prachi Jaitly, Vasavi Chakka and Neelam Saboo coordinated talent and question rounds to finalize on winners. Swetha Chinnari was the title winner and Poonam Patil and Archana Ramakrishna were the first and second runners ups respectively.

All members enjoyed the sumptuous snacks and dinner sponsored by Hyderabad House in Schaumburg, IL. Food Chair Srinivas Adepu and Co.chair Rama Kanth Jonnala coordinated very well and organized the food. Membership chair Madhavi Konakalla with the help of Manasa Lattupalli helped at the front desk in registrations and took it very smoothly. Treasurer Santosh Konduri, Jt treasurer Sridhar Alavala and Secretary Pandu Ranga Reddy were also present to help in checking in all the ladies. Decoration team chair Neelima Cheikicharla did an excellent job in coordinating with the decoration team. Retro style photo booth was the highlight of the event. Event ended with cake cutting and DJ by Pranav Sai with technical help by Srikanth Bethi.

TAGC president Uma Avadhuta thanked Past President Venkat Gunuganti and President elect Parameshwar Yarasani and also involved Board members and Volunteers to make the event grand success and congratulated all the beauty contest winners. She also thanked all the sponsors for the event and donors who gave the donations for a great cause.

Maneesh Media, International University of Vedic Wellness Present Book Launch At Women’s Day Celebration

Maneesh Media along with International University of Vedic Wellness unveiled a spectacular event to commemorate the International Women’s Day celebration and the launch of Maneesh Media’s new book, “India Calling 2022” on March 8th, 2022 at the Marriot in Hoffman Estates, IL. India Calling 2022 is a new book celebrating India’s Prime Minister, Modiji’s mother Heeraben Modi who is 102 years of age! This book also depicts the 113 magnificent foreign trips of the Indian Prime Minister Modiji and the outcome of those trips during his leadership

The International Women’s Day is celebrated across the world to honor the remarkable hard work and achievements of women in every field. This extraordinary event also acknowledged women’s empowerment by honoring the significant efforts of women to make the world a better place to live in. A life of dignity is the birthright of every woman. Women’s empowerment is key to advancing the development of every country. Empowered women contribute to the health and productivity of whole families and communities and improved prospects for the next generation.

Dr. Mrs. Santosh Kulshrestha Kumar – Founding Executive Director, of Metropolitan Asian Family Services, Universal Metro Asian Services, and International University of Vedic Wellness, along with Mr. Chandmal Kumawat – Chairman of Maneesh Media partnered and made possible this historic event. Dr. Mrs, Kumar was named as “Mother Theresa of Chicago” for her dedication to fulfilling the needs of the downtrodden and her selfless community service for more than 40 years. Through her organizations, Dr. Mrs. Kumar has Established a proven successful multi, disciplinary pathway to the empowerment of Seniors Citizens over the past 30 years.

Mrs. Kumar has provided a broad framework for collective action for senior citizens to nurture their innate talents, enrich their groundbreaking ideas and engage in innovative experiences which has become a global model. She has achieved this by providing critically needed services to multiethnic senior citizen population especially the Indian diaspora with employment opportunities, creating more than 10,000 jobs per year, homecare services to over 10,000 homebound seniors mostly Indian diaspora every year by integrating state of art technology with a human touch in this digital age. Her model of service is being replicated in several parts of the world including India.

Mrs Santosh Kumar who established a global network and a functional platform, took painstaking efforts to propagate and promote India’s Prime Minister Modi New India in USA and India. Mrs Santosh Kumar motivated and sensitized the Indian Americans and the gatekeepers of minority communities in India to Prime Minister Modis Vision for Development of all. Mrs Santosh Kumar is a beacon of hope and lighthouse of service and care to the vulnerable Indian American Senior Population during this COVID 19 Pandemic.

International University of Vedic Wellness Center’s mission is to provide wisdom, peace, and stability through ancient knowledge, consequently, leading to a stress-free and pain-free lifestyle for all. Attaining this kind of lifestyle will aid in sustaining a more stable and peaceful world and avoid wars in the present time like the Russia/Ukraine War!!!

The event commenced with the lighting of the lamp by Dr. Mrs. Santosh Kumar, Mr. Neil Khot, Mr. Kishor Mehta, Acharya Rohit Joshi, Dr. Rakesh Asthana, Mr. Chandmal Kumawat and Ms. Marta Pereya. Roshita Pandey and Radhika Subramanian did a great job of compering. Dr. Mrs. Santosh Kumar began her welcoming speech by shedding light on the importance of women and encouraged every woman to stand for her rights. She soulfully thanked Mrs. Heeraben Modi for providing to the world such a treasure, Prime Minister Modiji! She praised Modiji for he lives the philosophy of ancient Vedas which believes that the whole world is one family living in Peace, Harmony, and Prosperity!

Priya, 28-Year-Old, Sworn In As Chennai’s Youngest Mayor

Priya Rajan, a Dalit woman, has become the youngest mayor of Chennai (formerly Madras), the fourth-largest city in India with a population of around 10 million.

Rajan, 28, a postgraduate in commerce, was sworn in on March 4 as the 49th mayor of the city.

Welcoming the appointment, Father Vincent Chinnadurai, the former spokesperson of the Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council, said it was a remarkable moment for Dalit women.

“We appreciate the state government for this bold move. I am sure more women will feel inspired by Priya Rajan,” he added.

Chennai, the state capital of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, is a hub for education, health, information technology and automobile industries.

Considered the second-oldest city council in the world after London, the Greater Chennai Corporation was formed in 1668 by the erstwhile East India Company, which founded it in 1640 as a trading post.

It is an important milestone in Tamil Nadu’s political history that a Dalit woman is being placed as mayor of this big city. It is a sign of empowerment of a marginalized community

The state’s ruling DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam or Dravidian Progressive Front) under the leadership of Chief Minister Muthuvel Karunanidhi Stalin, 68, won a landslide victory in the polls held on Feb. 19 after a gap of 11 years.

Rajan, a member of DMK, is also the third woman to hold this prestigious post and joins 10 women across the state who have been elected as mayors and chairpersons in various small cities and towns.

Capuchin Father Kulandai Swamy told UCA News: “It is an important milestone in Tamil Nadu’s political history that a Dalit woman is being placed as mayor of this big city. It is a sign of empowerment of a marginalized community.”

Father Swamy, a known social activist, said Rajan’s appointment “will blunt the [pro-Hindu] BJP’s communal propaganda in Tamil Nadu as it shows the willingness of Dravidian parties to uplift the Dalits.”

According to the modern Panchayat Raj system, the local body administrative system followed in India since 1992, the head of a city or town or village council is elected from among the elected members.

In Tamil Nadu, half the posts of heads of city corporations and town municipalities are reserved for women and other marginalized sections of society.

The post of Chennai mayor was reserved for a woman belonging to the Dalit (formerly untouchable) caste.

Empowering Dalits will not only improve their social stature but also reduce the atrocities perpetrated on them to a certain extent

Savukku Shankar, a political critic, told UCA News that “reserving the Chennai mayor’s post for a Dalit woman is a very important decision as regards empowerment of the marginalized.”

In the absence of a reservation policy, known as India’s affirmative action program, a Dalit becoming the elected head of a major city would have remained a dream only, Shankar said.

“Empowering Dalits will not only improve their social stature but also reduce the atrocities perpetrated on them to a certain extent. Such an affirmative action will go a long way in bringing Dalits to the mainstream,” he added.

According to the national census figures for 2021, Dalits make up 25 percent of India’s approximately 1.3 billion people. It is said that nearly 70 percent of Indian Christians come from Dalit castes.

At Vatican Women’s Day Event, A Call For Female Voices In Peace Talks

As European nations attempt to defend Ukraine without being pulled into a war, an ecumenical group of women representing charitable organizations around the world called for more female representation in peace talks and negotiations.

The occasion was an event called “Church and Society: Women as Builders of Dialogue,” organized by Caritas Internationalis, a global network of Catholic humanitarian organizations, and hosted by the British Embassy to the Holy See for International Women’s Day.

In a conflict shaping up as a face-off between Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, known for posing shirtless and riding bears, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has captivated the world with his sometimes swaggering rhetoric, several of the women at Tuesday’s event noted the absence of women in the peace negotiations. 

Advocating for a peace process that is more diverse, Susana Raffalli, a nutrition adviser at Caritas Venezuela, who appeared via Zoom, was one of several speakers who praised women’s emphasis on dialogue. Women tend to be more concerned with “actually bringing commitments and agreements toward peace,” Raffalli said. In Venezuela, she said, women are more conscious of vulnerable populations’ stake in the peace process.

Tetiana Stawnychy, the president of Caritas in Ukraine, highlighted the tremendous efforts made by women on the front lines in Ukraine and in other conflict zones, including those working as first responders and as civilians to help the most vulnerable.

When war breaks out women are often portrayed chiefly as victims, said Rita Rhayem, a health and HIV adviser for Caritas Internationalis, and that obscures their role as first responders. To maximize women’s contribution to conflict resolution, she added, leaders need to “remove the barriers that confine women” and allow them to take public roles in responding to war.

Maria Immonen, director of the Department for World Service of the Lutheran World Federation, urged institutions and governments to uphold their commitments to promote female leadership, “ensuring that they have equal access to the tables where discussions are had and decisions are made.”

Aloysius John, the secretary-general of Caritas Internationalis and one of the few men to address the conference, said it is essential to reevaluate “the place and role of women in our societies,” not only at negotiation tables but wherever war has touched people’s lives.  

In this Feb. 15, 2021, file photo, Rohingya refugees headed to the Bhasan Char island prepare to board navy vessels from the southeastern port city of Chattogram, Bangladesh. (AP Photo, File)

Just returned from camps in Bangladesh, where Rohingya Muslims, forced from their homes in Myanmar, live in challenging conditions, John said he witnessed firsthand “the important role the women in these camps are playing to be constructors of dialogue and harmony.”

The Catholic Church is reexamining the role of women in its own institutions. Pope Francis has begun an ambitious project known as the Synod on Synodality aimed at reorienting the church’s power structures to focus on the needs of marginalized people, including women. The three-year consultations will result in a 2023 summit of bishops at the Vatican.

“If you really want to listen to the poorest then you have to listen to the women,” said Sister Nathalie Becquart, the undersecretary overseeing the synod and the first woman to hold such a post. Becquart described the synod as “a sandbox for women,” where new models for female inclusion can be developed and put into action.

Women’s Voices Raised Against Hate In India

More and more women from different walks of life and corners of the world are raising their voices against the treatment of minorities in India today.

“Unity and the safety of citizens is the first and foremost condition of a country’s security,” Roop Rekha Varma, former vice-chancellor of Lucknow University (LU), told IPS.

With Ramesh Dixit, a former professor LU, Varma walked into a local police station to file a police report against hate speech against those who have threatened to kill Muslims in India.

In a recent case, provocative speeches allegedly calling for a genocide of Muslims were made at a December 2021 conclave held in the Himalayan town of Haridwar.

“If 100 of us become soldiers and are prepared to kill two million (Muslims), then we will win … protect India, and make it a Hindu nation,” said Pooja Shakun Pandey, a senior member of the right-wing Hindu Mahasabha political party in a video recording of the event.

Pandey, Wasim Rizvi alias Jitendra Narayan Tyagi, Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati, and Sagar Sindhu Maharaj are facing hate speech charges for their utterances.

Varma is shocked at rising incidents of unprovoked targeting of Muslims, including Muslim women, in recent times.

Sunita Viswanath, founder and executive director of Hindus for Human Rights, a US-based civil society organization, is equally anxious.

“Muslim women in India are being barred from entering college for wearing the hijab. This is a country where the Prime Minister rode to power promising equal rights for women. Clearly, not everyone is equal. If this is not apartheid, please tell what is,” Viswanath says. She referred to the controversy that erupted in January when a government-run college in the Udupi district of Karnataka state barred girls from attending lectures for wearing headscarves. The matter is now under judicial review.

Along with 16 other civil society organizations in the US, Viswanath organized two Congressional briefings on India’s treatment of Muslims.

“We are US citizens of Indian origin, and we have the power to influence and to move US lawmakers and the Biden Administrations to speak out,” says Viswanath on social media. She feels that the world needs to understand that something is wrong in India, that India is on a perilous path.

“India’s tryst with hate is on overdrive. The only way we can fight systematic hate is to stand by India’s tried and tested secular fabric,” Saumya Bajaj told IPS on the phone. Bajaj is associated with Gurgaon Nagrik Ekta Manch (GNEM), a Delhi-based group for unity among citizens.

“Terrorizing Muslims and Christians on a daily basis seems to be the new norm. We, as citizens, can no longer afford to remain silent spectators to this macabre celebration of hate engulfing us?” reads a circular, inviting citizens to say no to hate mongers.

GNEM demands that the police investigate all violence cases against fellow citizens, including online abuse. Nayantara Sahgal, 94, an award-winning Indian, says she does not recognize the new India.

“Today, that India is disappearing. My country is unrecognizable. It seems like a foreign country full of hatred and exclusion. There is a deep slide in democracy. It is utterly despairing. Yet we cannot be silent. A writer has to speak loud and clear,” the former vice president of PEN International said in a recent interview.

Booker Prize-winning author and essayist Arundhati Roy fears that Hindu nationalism could break India into little pieces like Yugoslavia and Russia. The hope is that ultimately the Indian people will resist what she calls the fascism of the ruling party.

Sahgal is pinning her hopes on the elections in five Indian states, including Uttar Pradesh (UP), until March 7.

In UP, interfaith marriages have been restricted in recent times. Muslim men married to Hindu women have been harassed by vigilante mobs and often arrested by the police. Many online attempts to humiliate and terrorize Muslim women continue.

Sahgal is the daughter of Vijay Laxmi Pandit, sister of Jawaharlal Nehru, first prime minister of independent India. She is also the widow of the late bureaucrat Edward Nirmal Mangat Rai, an Indian Christian. Today she is concerned about the safety of her Christian relatives and Muslim friends as incidents of majoritarian hate against minorities peak.

Sabika Naqvi, community and advocacy head at The Fearless Collective, says that vocal and assertive Muslim women have woken up in India to find their names on Auctioning apps – from Sulli Deals over the last two years to Bulli Bai. The call to rape and kill Muslim women is routine, and efforts to dehumanize Muslim women is on the rise, she says.

“They fear our ability to write, to speak, to journal, to dream, articulate, assert, organize, and fiercely fight the oppressors. They either sexualize us, try to act as our messiahs or plot to kill. But we are here to conquer the world. We are lawyers, poets, journalists, actors, activists, entrepreneurs, scholars and much more,” says Naqvi, adding that this is not just a ‘prank’ or mere ‘bullying’ but harassment that Muslim women face every day.

The Fearless Collective is a movement that helps citizens move from fear to love through the creation of participatory art in public space.

Naqvi feels that the time has come to speak up and ensure that solidarity voices are louder than those who support hatred.

Huma Abedin Steps Out, Brings Her Memoir To Abu Dhabi

There’s no easy way to tell Huma Abedin’s story. So, she’s telling it herself, bringing her voice to an international stage in the United Arab Emirates and speaking about her recently published memoir.

For more than two decades, Abedin has been the ever-loyal aide to Hillary Clinton, starting as a young intern to the First Lady in 1996 and rising to become her advisor and trusted confidante as Clinton became senator, secretary of state and, ultimately, the Democratic presidential nominee.

“I was kind of the invisible staff person behind the primary person. And I liked it,” Abedin told The Associated Press during a visit to Abu Dhabi on Monday. “I loved the work and decided after a while that a lot of other people were telling my story and I would choose to reclaim that history myself. And if I didn’t write it, somebody else would.”

For someone content to play the supporting act, she appears comfortable now stepping out into the spotlight with her memoir titled: “Both/And: A Life in Many Worlds”, even if it means confronting the judgement and shame she’s faced over her marriage to former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner, whose confiscated laptop roiled Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Abedin’s professional and personal life collided in 2016 when Weiner’s contact with a 15-year-old girl prompted the FBI to open an investigation because emails Clinton had sent to Abedin were found on a laptop federal agents had seized from him. He was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison over his messages to the young girl. Following his release, he is now planning to host a weekly radio show.

To tell her own story, Abedin, 46, penned a memoir just under 500 pages long. Or, as she puts it: “I vomited on paper. All of my feelings, all of my emotions, all of the ‘Why did she stay? Why did she go? Did she change the outcome of the 2016 election?’”

One review of her book in the Guardian describes reading about her courtship to Weiner, who was her first love, as “watching a horror film and screaming at the heroine not to go into the haunted house, while knowing that, of course, she will.”

Abedin, though, is quick to point out that her life has also been filled with extraordinary moments and privilege.

“I was never the smartest, prettiest, best in anything. I knew one thing, though. When I walked into the White House in 1996, I was prepared to outwork anybody and hard work got me to where I am,” she said.

Born in the United States, Abedin moved to Saudi Arabia with her Indian father and Pakistani mother as a toddler and lived there until college, visiting the U.S. during summer breaks. That experience and background made her a “novelty” in Washington’s political circles, she said.

Her Muslim faith and family were what she leaned on the most during her darkest days.  “My parents very much, you know, taught us what our identity was and that was number one, you’re an American, number two, you’re a Muslim — and everything else is background music,” she said. “As long as you had that grounding, as long as you had that place where you knew you could draw strength, where you knew you had a strong family to support you, everything was going to be OK.”

Abedin’s interview with the AP came after she took the stage for the the inaugural Forbes 30/50 Summit. Donning an emerald-colored dress, her raven hair flowing in soft curls, her presence drew young female admirers and requests for selfies and photos.

All the while, she kept a watchful eye over her 10-year-old son with her on the trip, letting him know she would be nearby for another interview.

“When Anthony was in prison for almost two years, and I really was a single parent and did not have (my son’s) father around, I have to tell you, it was really, really hard,” she said. “I mean, there were days where I wasn’t even sure I’d get through the day.”

Abedin lost her father at a young age to illness and wants her son to grow up knowing his. She said it took hard work to get to a place where both she and Weiner are present in their son’s life, despite their separation since 2016.

“Even though his father and I are not together and will not be together, we will be in each other’s lives forever and we had to figure out how to work together,” she said.

Abedin remains Clinton’s chief of staff, a role that keeps her busy.  “We are partners in crime — in adventures that is,” Abedin says oft her relationship with Clinton. Abedin is currently working on a show for Apple TV+ based on Clinton’s book with daughter, Chelsea, called “The Book of Gutsy Women”.

Abedin and Clinton shared a stage last year for the first time at a 92nd Street Y event, with Clinton supporting Abedin as she talked about her book, which is full of praise and admiration for her boss. Clinton said the FBI investigation during the final weeks of her campaign impacted the outcome of the election, which Donald Trump won. She said she felt angry and bewildered by the FBI probe, but never considered firing Abedin, despite people urging her to.

“Everybody supporting me knew this was a particularly damaging event, but why would I fire Huma? So, of course I didn’t. And wouldn’t, at all,” Clinton said.

Abedin, too, told the AP she remains unflinchingly loyal to Clinton.

“I’m lucky, you know, she’s a friend and mentor, a boss, and she’s always been there for me, and I’m always going to be there for her,” Abedin said.

AAHOA Board Members On The Strides Women Have Made In Hospitality Industry

The March issue of Today’s Hotelier magazine is on newsstands everywhere, and in honor of Women’s History Month, AAHOA Female Director Eastern Division Lina Patel and AAHOA Female Director Western Division Tejal N. Patel are featured on the cover. In the cover story, Lina and Tejal share their perspectives and insights on the strides women have made in the industry and the progress still to come for the association.

As is true for numerous industries, leadership positions across many facets of hospitality have long been dominated by men. But times are changing, and women make up growing per-centages of leadership positions at hotels, within the brands, at supplier companies, and pretty much everywhere else. And groups such as the Castell Project have put considerable effort into accelerating the numbers of women in hospitality leadership and owner-ship. AAHOA also is on the front lines of this fight, its members are playing an increasingly important role in leading the industry forward in the march toward gender equality in leadership.

Here, we feature perspectives from two women who hold leadership positions within AAHOA. They stand on the shoulders of those who came before them while carrying the torch for those who will come after.

By LINA PATEL, CHO, FEMALE DIRECTOR EASTERN DIVISION

After immigrating from India to the U.S. in the early 1980s with my parents, I practically grew up in a hotel. Like many AAHOA Members, I cleaned rooms, did the laundry, worked front desk shifts, and even mowed the lawn. I vividly remember coming home after school and immediately racing to the hotel lobby to begin my shift. Today, countless shifts and many years later, I’m the owner and operator of a Days Inn by Wyndham in Cincinnati, OH, and my portfolio includes Wyndham, Marriott, Choice, and IHG properties across the Eastern U.S.

I’m also privileged to serve on the board of the Franchise Advisory Council for Days Inn, where I help fine- tune brand standards before passing them to hotel owners with the goals of maximizing revenue, saving money, and providing resources needed to operate their hotels efficiently. Through my time in this industry, I’ve become experienced in negotiating and forming international business partnerships, and I started an international company catering to international extreme adventure travel, Himalayan Glacier Trekking, in 2010.

As a second-generation hotelier, I have faced more challenges than I care to recount here, and I don’t cite my accomplishments to brag. Instead, they demonstrate the difficulties that many of us have faced on our ascent into leadership. And while the journey certainly isn’t easy for anyone in this industry, women undeniably face additional obstacles. However, as Michelle Obama said, “There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.” The women of AAHOA are always ready to board the limitless learning platform provided by AAHOA, and there are many examples besides myself of women who are breaking down barriers and helping to level the playing field.

“I have faced more challenges than I care to recount here, and I don’t cite my accomplishments to brag. Instead, they demonstrate the difficulties that many of us have faced on our ascent into leadership.”

As an AAHOA Board Member and industry veteran, I want to help create opportunities for women hoteliers and provide a platform for us to learn from and inspire each other, and set everyone up for years of progress and success. For example, my team and I have hosted more than 45 women hotelier education and networking sessions across the nation, planned three women hotelier conferences, and hosted five brand-development days and six educational sessions at national conventions with 1,200 women attendees being the largest educational session on the AAHOA platform!

AAHOA provides opportunities for women hoteliers to build relationships with local officials and decision makers in our local governments to ensure they understand our businesses and our industry. Without question, women play an important role in the hospitality industry, and especially in the families of so many AAHOA Members. Although many of our mothers and sisters played an equal role in helping these businesses succeed, we have yet to see enough women serving in prominent industry roles, but I’m proud that AAHOA strives to lead by example and counts growing numbers of women leaders among its membership.

Women are the backbone of America’s hotel industry, and they remain underrepresented in the industry. AAHOA is committed to changing that, as its initiatives to help women hoteliers take their rightful place in our industry started with education and networking events. When we all work together, the opportunities are limitless.

By TEJAL N. PATEL, CHO, CHIA, FEMALE DIRECTOR WESTERN DIVISION

AAHOA Members represent the heart of the hotel industry. They are the owners and operators of more than 60% of all hotels in the country that not only provide jobs for their employees but also invest in their local communities. Their hotels are more than places where people sleep; they’re gathering spaces, community centers, and often sources of support for those who need it most.

When you walk into an American hotel, you’re most likely walking into the life’s work of an AAHOA Member, whose contributions help strengthen the economy.

Since the 1940s, Asian-American hoteliers have been planting the seeds critical to the growth and success of the industry generation after generation. The entrepreneurs of this diaspora are the American Dream personified. They are AAHOA.

The association will continue promoting and protecting the interests of its members through advocacy efforts, as it has for the past 30-plus years. However, as we enter this “rebuilding/recovery” phase, AAHOA Members are at an important juncture that will shape the industry during the next five years and beyond.

Poor prospecting of hospitality labor, increase in costs, and supply chain problems are just a handful of the myriad issues owners face. Furthermore, the need for hotel franchising reform has only been amplified by frustrated franchisees.

Our industry is no stranger to downturns and adverse circumstances. Resiliency is a key pillar of our entrepreneurial spirit. AAHOA has gone through bumps, yet we have come so far since we were founded. But, there is still work left to do.

There are many potential challenges that could threaten industry recovery, but none is more threatening than a lack of unity and teamwork from all fronts. The ability to put ego aside and seek out other ideas from others – whether inside or outside of our industry – is key to getting the best results.

“To excel today and tomorrow, each AAHOA Member must continue to learn and grow in unity.”

Success comes not just from constantly working hard and thinking strategically but working on the right things at the right time. It’s easy to tear each other down when someone has a different perspective than you or challenges your thinking.

But, that’s the critical point that allows us to collectively make impactful change. Most of our membership is rooted in the South-Asian diaspora, yet there is diversity among us. It’s important to understand that there are many different ways of thinking, and our diversity is what enables us to do great things together, united.

The impact of AAHOA Members during the past 30 years has been tremendous.

AAHOA Members were the first to own their hotels and take control of their destinies. AAHOA Members were among the first to embrace technology, globalization, and franchising. AAHOA Members took control of their businesses and turned them into profit-generating assets. They expanded their businesses, brought in new blood, and raised capital to acquire and build more hotels.

To excel today and tomorrow, each AAHOA Member must continue to learn and grow in unity. It is my sincere hope we all come together and focus on the future trajectory of our industry and association. I also hope our members’ presence will be felt in every facet of hospitality: from the guestroom to the boardroom to the halls of Congress.

In India, Head Coverings Are Worn By Most Women, Including Roughly Six-In-Ten Hindus

In recent weeks, protests in India over Muslim headscarves in schools have gained international attention. The controversy began when a high school in the Southern state of Karnataka banned hijabs in classrooms, and demonstrations have since spread to other states. The Karnataka High Court has been deliberating the legality of the school ban and is due to issue a verdict soon.

Head coverings are relatively common among Indian women. About six-in-ten women in India (61%) say they keep the practice of covering their heads outside of their homes, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2019-2020. That includes a majority of Hindu women (59%), and roughly equal shares of Muslim (89%) and Sikh women (86%) – although the exact type of head covering can vary significantly among and within religious groups.

India’s adult population is 81% Hindu and 13% Muslim, according to the latest census conducted in 2011. Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains account for most of the remaining 6%. The Center’s survey only included adults ages 18 and older and does not show what share of school-aged girls wear head coverings.

How we did this

There are regional differences among Indian women when it comes to head coverings. The practice is especially common in the largely Hindi-speaking regions in the Northern, Central and Eastern parts of the country. In the states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, roughly nine-in-ten women say they wear head coverings in public. In stark contrast, fewer women in the South say they cover their heads in public, including just 16% in the state of Tamil Nadu.

These regional differences are largely driven by Hindu women, as Muslim women tend to keep the practice of covering their heads in public regardless of what region they live in. This leads to large differences between Muslims and Hindus in the South in particular.

In the South, 83% of Muslim women say they cover their heads, compared with 22% of Hindu women. In the Northern region, meanwhile, roughly equal shares of Muslim (85%) and Hindu (82%) women say they cover their heads in public.

Within the South, the state of Karnataka stands out for its relatively high share of women who wear head coverings. More than four-in-ten women in Karnataka (44%) say they wear one, compared with 26% in neighboring Andhra Pradesh, 29% in Telangana and even fewer in the states of Kerala (17%) and Tamil Nadu (16%).

A majority of Muslim women in Karnataka say they cover their heads (71%), compared with 42% of Hindu women who say this.

Nationally, head coverings tend to be more common among women who are older, married, more religious and who have less formal educational attainment. The practice is also more prevalent in rural areas.

But in the South, age, education and other demographic differences are less of a factor in whether or not women cover their heads. Religion, however, does make a difference: Muslim women and women who are more devout are likelier to cover their heads in public. Among women in the South who say religion is very important in their lives, 29% say they cover their heads in public, compared with 18% who say religion is less important in their lives.

Headscarf wearing also varies by political affiliation. Even though some proponents of the hijab ban have been described as supporters of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), women with favorable attitudes toward India’s ruling party are actually more inclined to wear head coverings in public than women who do not favor the governing party. This is true nationally, and in the South. Among Indians overall, 66% of women who have a positive view of the ruling BJP party say they cover their heads outside their home, compared with 53% among those who view the party unfavorably. This correlation may – at least in part – be tied to the fact that BJP supporters tend to be more religious.

Celebrating 70 Long Years on British Throne: ‘Remarkable’ Queen Elizabeth

The Prince of Wales paid tribute to the Queen on her Platinum Jubilee for the “remarkable achievement” of reaching 70 years on the throne. Prince Charles welcomed his mother’s wish that Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, be known as Queen Consort when he becomes King.

He said he and his wife were “deeply conscious of the honor”. The Queen is the first British monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee, and spent the day privately. In a message marking the 70th anniversary of her reign, the Queen said it was her “sincere wish” that Camilla would have that title.

Prince Charles said in a statement: “The Queen’s devotion to the welfare of all her people inspires still greater admiration with each passing year.

“We are deeply conscious of the honour represented by my mother’s wish. As we have sought together to serve and support Her Majesty and the people of our communities, my darling wife has been my own steadfast support throughout.”

The Queen’s reign began when she was 25 years old, following the death of her father, George VI, on 6 February 1952.

The monarch said that, 70 years on, the day is one she remembers “as much for the death of my father, King George VI, as for the start of my reign”.

The 95-year-old said in a written message to the nation: “I would like to express my thanks to you all for your support. I remain eternally grateful for, and humbled by, the loyalty and affection that you continue to give me.”

The Jubilee is the monarch’s first without the Duke of Edinburgh, her husband of 73 years, who died last year.

She reflected on how much she had gained from support given “unselfishly” by Prince Philip and thanked the goodwill shown to her by “all nationalities, faiths and ages in this country”.

The Queen signed off the message: “Your servant Elizabeth R.”

Camilla, the future Queen Consort

Since marrying into the Royal Family 17 years ago, Camilla has grown into her role as a senior royal.

The path to public acceptance has been at times rocky, and at first Camilla was a controversial figure who was blamed by some for the end of the prince’s first marriage to Princess Diana.

In 1994, Charles admitted to adultery with Camilla, but said it came after his marriage to Diana had “irretrievably broken down”.

It was not until 1999 when she and Charles went public with their romance,

Since then, Camilla has won over a cautious public. She has been praised for championing her own causes and interests, including supporting literacy charities, animal welfare and organizations helping victims of domestic abuse.

Many have congratulated the Queen on this historic day, including Boris Johnson, Theresa May and David Cameron – three of the 14 British prime ministers to occupy No 10 during her reign.

Mr Johnson posted on Twitter: “I pay tribute to her many years of service and look forward to coming together as a country to celebrate her historic reign in the summer.”

His predecessor, Mrs May, described the monarch as “an extraordinary woman, who has dedicated her life to the service of her people and our family of nations”.

Mr Cameron said: “There can be no finer example of dignified public duty and service.”

Leader of the opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, echoed these sentiments, saying he would like to express his “deepest thanks” for 70 years of “unparalleled public service”.

The Labor leader added: “Her Majesty The Queen has been one vital and valued constant in an ever-changing world, representing security and stability for our country, during the ups and downs of the last seven decades.”

A message from the White House said the Queen had, over her 70-year reign, “strengthened the ties of friendship, shared ideals, and faith in democracy that forever unite our countries”.

The Queen used the eve of her Jubilee to directly address the unresolved question of Camilla’s future title.

Nitu Chandra Bags Two More Hollywood Films

Actor Nitu Chandra marked her Hollywood film debut with Never Back Down: Revolt last year. One of the female leads in the film, she was seen engaging in high-octane combat sequences. Currently being managed by late actor Irrfan’s team in Los Angeles, USA, she has bagged two more Hollywood projects. And she insists on playing parts that doesn’t represent Indians in a skewed manner.

S The actor says that she turned down Hollywood offers that represented Indians in a not so positive light; also talks about Indian actors appearing in blink-and-you-miss-it roles in international projects

he tells us, “I’ve denied two projects where Indians weren’t represented in a very positive light. I don’t want to do anything that maligns our identity. I want three billion global Indians to be proud of me.”

Indian actors, who have been a part of Hollywood projects over the last few years, have often been trolled for their blink-and-you-miss-it appearances in them. Talking about it, Chandra says, “There have been films where they’ve done a two-minute or a five-minute role. But they were hugely publicised and hyped, and the audiences were promised something big. And since we, Indians, are very emotional, we were disappointed after the watching those films.”

But the 37-year-old actor wants to change that with her choices: “I’ve been listening to interviews where Indian actors say that they’re happy to be a small part of a project, but I was very proud to be one of the main leads in a commercial Hollywood film.”

To focus on her career in the West, Chandra has bought a home in LA and is planning to buy a house in London, UK, too. “I want to work everywhere in the world, across languages. I did a Greek film (Block 12; 2016) too where I did a lot of action,” she says, adding, “I often thought why not go out and grab opportunities all over the globe? As women, we’re so strong, and I believe we can achieve whatever we aim for.”

Indian American Woman To Serve As Judge In New Jersey Municipal Court

The first female Indian American judge Dipti Vaid Dedhia is nominated for the post of Judge in Edison Municipal Court by Edison Mayor Sam Joshi.

“We should all be happy about Dedhia’s appointment.” Mayor Joshi said, “Our Council members unanimously approved this nomination.”

Dipti Vaid Dedhia was nominated by Edison Mayor Sam Joshi.

“Dedhia’s appointment broke a glass ceiling that we should all be proud of. Our Council members supported this nomination unanimously,” Mayor Joshi said in an official statement.

Formerly the Deputy Attorney General in Employment Counsel and Labor for the State of New Jersey, Dedhia graduated from George Washington University before receiving her Juris Doctor from Seton Hall University of Law. She has spent decades litigating complex employment matters, investigating complaints involving violations of law or policy, and representing the governor’s office of Employee Relations in arbitrating grievances between the administration and labor unions, according to a statement released after the meeting.

“When I was young, I didn’t know what I wanted to do for my career, but I had two amazing parents who motivated me to strive for a life of significance and conscience. In recognition of their immense impact on my life, one of my main goals in my new role is to be an example to the youth of today. My message to them is simple: though the path may not be clear as you stand here today, your goals are attainable. Achieving your dreams through courage, kindness, and perseverance is not a cliche – I am living proof,” Dedhia said in the statement.

Dedhia was the recipient of the Most Successful Mediator Award in the Passaic County Superior Court Clerk’s Program, in addition to her years of expertise offering legal advise on labor laws, anti-discrimination rules, prevailing pay regulations, and best employment practices.

Indian American Dipti Vaid Dedhia has become the first female South Asian municipal court judge in Edison and New Jersey’s history with the Edison Township Council confirming her nomination.

“Dedhia’s appointment broke a glass ceiling that we should all be proud of,” stated Edison’s first South Asian Mayor Sam Joshi, who had nominated her. “She is the most qualified and ready for the job.”

“It was truly my honor and privilege to nominate Dipti Vaid Dedhia as Edison’s next municipal court judge. Our Council members supported this nomination unanimously,” Joshi said after the confirmation vote Jan 26.

Born in London, Dedhia, a wife and mother of three, moved to New Jersey with her parents at the age of 2 and has lived in the state for the past 36 years, including 20 in Edison.

Formerly the Deputy Attorney General in Employment Counsel and Labor for the State of New Jersey, Dedhia graduated from George Washington University before receiving her Juris Doctor from Seton Hall University of Law.

She has spent decades litigating complex employment matters, investigating complaints involving violations of law or policy, and representing the governor’s office of Employee Relations in arbitrating grievances between the administration and labor unions, according to an official statement.

“When I was young, I didn’t know what I wanted to do for my career, but I had two amazing parents who motivated me to strive for a life of significance and conscience,” Dedhia stated. “In recognition of their immense impact on my life, one of my main goals in my new role is to be an example to the youth of today.

“My message to them is simple: though the path may not be clear as you stand here today, your goals are attainable. Achieving your dreams through courage, kindness, and perseverance is not a cliche – I am living proof,” she stated.

Dedhia was a recipient of the Most Successful Mediator Award in the Passaic County Superior Court Clerk’s Program. She has participated in national civil rights competition and is certified in deposition skills by the National Institute of Trial Advocacy.

Dedhia is a frequent contributor to Huffington Post, Brown Girl Magazine and the Aerogram, according to the township.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal Works Towards Changing the Uneven Impact of Climate Change

The research showing how climate change-related events disproportionately affect vulnerable communities is staggering. From New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to New York City after Superstorm Sandy, extreme weather events tend to hit minority communities hardest. A 2019 study found that Black Americans living in communities hit by disasters over the study period lost nearly $20,000 in wealth—whereas their white counterparts gained more than $126,000 as investment flowed and communities rebuilt.

New legislation unveiled Tuesday last week by Washington Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal aims to turn that grim reality on its head with a slate of initiatives designed not only to mitigate the damage caused by climate-related disasters to vulnerable communities but also to turn the wave of investment that comes after a disaster into a bright spot for them.

“One of the things we really want to fix is how the resources get distributed: who gets the jobs, how do we make sure that those jobs are well paid, and that it becomes an opportunity to—wait for it—build back better in those communities,” says Jayapal.

Jayapal’s legislation, which draws on consultation with a range of environmental groups, contains a laundry list of policies with that aim in mind. The bill would establish a grant program for states, local governments and nonprofits to create jobs in “climate resilience” with a requirement that the recipients commit to employing a diverse workforce. These jobs include things like preemptive climate resilience work—think of retrofitting and restoration that helps soften the blow of a major disaster—as well as jobs that follow the storm, like clean up and debris removal. These industries already exist in some parts of the country, but worker protections are uneven. The bill’s text say that this grant program could create one million jobs annually that provide for worker safety and benefits.

The legislation would also provide funding for local governments to come up with their own resilience plans—and require them to address the disparate challenges faced by the most vulnerable communities. A new Office of Climate Resilience at the White House would serve as a hub for the federal government’s coordination with vulnerable communities.

Jayapal unveiled the bill Tuesday morning with 30 progressive Democrats as co-sponsors, but, with provisions like a loosening of immigration rules for climate resilience workers, it faces a tough road to pass as written in the politically divided Congress. Even so, Jayapal says elements of the 131-page bill can shape discussions on a range of other active policy discussions. The proposal could, for example, inform how Congress structures a Civilian Climate Corps, a proposed federal program to put Americans to work on climate projects that already was included in the climate and social spending bill that passed the House of Representatives in the fall. Other elements could help support the Biden Administration’s Justice40 initiative, which requires 40% of the benefits of federal climate investment to benefit disadvantaged communities. “This is actually laying out a vision,” she says.

That vision leaves much of the details to states, cities and communities—and that’s sort of the point. Activists have spent years calling on government to pay closer attention to environmental justice issues while also demanding solutions that empower local leaders.

Beyond the substance of the bill, the legislation would also deliver some political benefits, helping people connect the hundreds of billions of dollars that the Biden Administration hopes to spend on climate measures to the everyday lives of key constituents.

“If people feel like they’re never being considered, that frontline communities are never being considered, or that fossil fuel workers are never being considered, their lives and livelihoods are not being considered, we will lose them politically,” says Jayapal. “They will either go to another party, depending on where they are or they just won’t come out and vote.”

Queen Elizabeth II – Queen of Unique Qualities

No doubt, across the Commonwealth countries or the English speaking world, the only one person known and honored as “the Queen” is Queen Elizabeth II of United Kingdom. She is remarkably a great personality of numerous specialities, February 8th, on this day in 1952  Elizabeth II was proclaimed “The Queen” of Britain.

Queen Elizabeth II became the longest-ruling British monarch during 2015, when she surpassed the ruling of her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria. She is also the first monarch to celebrated the Sapphire Jubilee, which marks 65 Years of throne, and now on great 70 years, by this February 8th.

Surprisingly the Queen Elizabeth II doesn’t use and old alarm clock. Instead Her Majesty wakes up every morning by hearing the bagpiper, playing outside of her window for 15 minutes daily morning at 9 am.

Though Indians fought against British rulers by Quit India Movement, and chased them out, we cannot forget the good things they did in India; and no doubt still we respect the Queen for the highest official position she holds.

The Queen undergone homeschooling by Britain’s best tutors. She mastered constitutional history and law as preparation for her future role, and took lessons in religion from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

She has so many special privileges, and she doesn’t need a driver’s license, a license plate, or a passport, which makes her position unique. In other words, since all British Passpirts are issued in the name of the Queen, she herself doesn’t need or have one. And the Queen also doesn’t require a driver’s license to drive or a license plate on her car.

You might wonder to note that the Queen gets about 200-300 letters every day. She reads a few by herself and then has staff members respond.

She was the First Lady of the Royal Family to join the Armed Services as a full-time active member. She had the privilege of learning and speaking French from French and Belgian governesses at a young age.

Another thing is about her celebrating her birthday twice. On April 21, 1926, she was born but has two recognized birthdays. The first is the actual anniversary of the day she was born (April 21) and another day as her “official” birthday, when the weather is better, for the Trooping the Colour parade. The tradition was started in 1748 with King George II.

To buy the material needed to create her beautiful wedding dress, the Queen spent her rationing coupons and the British government gifted her 200 coupons Her beautiful iconic dress featured a 13-foot-long train with over 10,000 seed pearls imported from the US.

All whales, swans and dolphins in the U.K. waters belong to the Queen since the early twelfth century.The Queen is the owner of an apartment in New York City too. It is reported that in 2015, Her Majesty purchased an $8 million, 3,000-square-foot modern penthouse in United Nations Plaza in New York City.

You wish to hear about Her Majesty’s drinking habits. “Before lunch a gin and Dubonnet, added with a slice of lemon and too much of ice, is her favorite. With lunch, she will take wine and a dry Martini and a glass of champagne in the evening.”

Her purse is not just to keep any money or other belongings, but it is used as a gadget to signal her staff. Just like we hold the smartphone always, the Queen is spotted only with her handbag. It is said that when ishe places her bag on the table, it is an indication that she wants to go within five minutes. If she puts her bag on the floor, it is a negative indication that she’s not enjoying the conversation and wants to be escorted out at the earliest..

In 2004, the Queen hosted a “first ever ladies only event” to celebrate “Women of Achievement” Luncheon at Buckingham Palace. She is patient enough to sit for over 129 portraits during these years of her reign.

Queen Elizabeth II, has a diamond jewelry collection quite as vast, historic and intentionally impressive, as mentioned while she celebrated her 95th birthday in 2021. Her collections include many deeply personal pieces such as the wide diamond bracelet she received from her beloved Prince Philip, who died on April 9.

Even the monarch goes undercover sometimes in public. On a recent low-key trip to Scotland, she met some (ignorant)American tourists while walking. When the tourists asked if she lived locally, she mentioned that she had a house nearby, and when asked if she’d ever met the Queen, she simply pointed at her security and said, “No, but he has!”. Yes, “The Queen” is bold, beautiful and hilarious too!. Long live the Legend- The Queen Elizabeth II!

Documentary ‘Writing With Fire Shines’ Light On The Only All-Women News Outlet In India

It’s 2016 and inside a newsroom in India, a group of rural female journalists are discussing why they need to pivot away from print reporting to digital. It’s a conversation that would feel familiar to journalists across the world—except many of the reporters at the online news outlet Khabar Lahariya have never even touched a smartphone, let alone used it to capture video. “I’m scared,” one woman says, noting that she is still learning how to report for print. Another explains that she doesn’t even use the phone her family has for fear she may damage it. But as time goes on, they learn anyway.

When filmmakers Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh sat in on this conversation at Khabar Lahariya, it confirmed that they had stumbled upon something special. A year earlier, they set out to create the documentary Writing With Fire, which closely follows a handful of Khabar Lahariya’s journalists from 2016 through 2019. The film marks the married couple’s first feature debut and was made by their production company Black Ticket Films, which focuses on social justice issues.

Khabar Lahariya’s journalists report on illegal mining, rape cases, subpar sanitation, elections and religious polarization in their local communities in Uttar Pradesh, India—the country’s most populous state and one with significant caste discrimination and high rates of crimes against women. The award-winning film, which premiered at Sundance in January 2021, was recently shortlisted for an Oscar in the ‘Documentary Feature’ category. In a group interview with TIME staff on Jan. 20, and in later follow-up conversations, Thomas and Ghosh shared how they approached the story and their experiences working on the film and releasing it during the pandemic. “We wanted the audience to have an immersive experience of what it means being a Dalit woman journalist working in Uttar Pradesh,” Ghosh says.

The women at Khabar Lahariya, which translates to ‘Waves of News’ are predominantly Dalit—among one of the most marginalized groups in India, which includes individuals oppressed as lower-caste or those falling outside the caste system altogether.

The central character of Writing With Fire is Meera Devi, who is the outlet’s chief reporter when the documentary begins. (She is now bureau chief.) Devi is a charismatic leader who is deeply invested in the growth of the journalists working for her and the stories she tells. In one scene, Devi—who is Dalit herself—visits a Dalit neighborhood as part of her reporting on the national government’s Swachh Bharat Mission, which had promised universal sanitation for all Indians. She asks a woman whose family still has to defecate outside their home whether she thinks the government is lying when they say they have fulfilled this promise. “Look at the condition of my house. We have to take our children to the forest, even at night,” the woman responds. When Devi asks another Dalit family why their home is so far outside the main village, they say it’s because other communities consider them impure.

Devi and her family also face discrimination, too. She says in the film that her daughter’s classmate started mocking her upon learning that she was Dalit. “I tell my daughters their caste identity will always follow them. This is how our society is structured. But it’s important to challenge the system,” Devi says.

Devi serves as a dedicated mentor to those working under her, teaching them everything from how to use a smartphone and recognize the English alphabet to thinking critically about angles and framing. In one scene, she sits a junior reporter, Shyamkali, down to explain why her story about a religious guru could inadvertently promote his work and gloss over how some have used their status to sexually exploit women.

Initially, Shyamkali is one of the members of the newsroom who struggles most with her work. (In another scene, editors say she has a low monthly publication count.) But by the end of the film, her impactful reporting on a rape case leads to the arrest of the alleged perpetrator—a testament to her growth under Devi’s guidance. “The rigor with which they have trained each other is so strong and deep,” Ghosh says.

Devi approaches her interviews with a genuine curiosity, even when she may not agree with the views of those she is interviewing. “As journalists they are looking at the deep wounds of India with a compassionate lens, with a genuine intention to understand the world,” Thomas says. In one scene, she asks a man why he is wearing political insignia at a religious festival. When he responds saying that God doesn’t discriminate between the political and non political, she gently asks what has God got to do with politics.

While the film unpacks serious issues such as caste oppression and violence against women, the female reporters who drive the story maintain their spirits while out in the field. Part of that was by design: Thomas says she was tired of one-dimensional stories about female suffering that fail to portray the warmth and complexities of female solidarity. “People come in thinking that this is going to be a dark, heavy social justice film coming out of India and then they experience the intelligence, wit and acumen of these women and they’re like whoa,” Ghosh says. “The film wouldn’t be half as powerful without that.”

Thomas says the film also illustrates the importance of diverse newsrooms. In India, many newsrooms are dominated by dominant caste men. Meanwhile, at Khabar Lahariya, many of the reporters are survivors of the kinds of trauma and challenges that they write about in their stories. “They come from the communities that they report on. There is this added sense of: if I don’t show up at this place, at this time, tomorrow, nobody else will,” Thomas says.

The documentary notes upon closing that more than 40 journalists have been killed since 2014 in India, making it one of the deadliest countries to practice journalism.

Thomas and Ghosh hope the film moves viewers to consider how they can support independent local media, wherever they live. “The fourth estate, globally, is under duress and it’s important for citizens to champion its values, to find journalists and institutions whose work they believe in and find a way to support them,” Ghosh says.

Khabar Lahariya had already been operating for more than a decade when the filmmakers arrived to document their work. Now, their Youtube channel has almost 550,000 subscribers, their team is growing, and they are closely following this year’s elections in Uttar Pradesh.

Asked whether the filmmakers’ presence may have influenced Khabar Lahariya’s successful trajectory, they were clear that it was a coincidence “They’re a juggernaut. There was no stopping them,” Ghosh says. “It was like, this train is moving. Do you want to hop on or not?”

Sex Ratio Improves To 1,020 Females Per 1,000 Males In India

The number of females per 1,000 males in the country has risen from 991 in 2015-16 to 1,020 in 2019-21, as per the Economic Survey tabled in the Parliament on Monday.

The sex ratio at birth, i.e., female children per 1,000 male children born in the last five years, has also grown from 919 in 2015-16 to 929 in 2019-21, the Survey noted.

To prevent gender biased sex selective elimination and survival and protection of the girl child, the government has made specific interventions through the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ (BBBP) scheme.

Sex ratio at birth for children born in the last five years has improved in 2019-21 from 2015-16 in all states except for Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Meghalaya, Goa and Nagaland, the Survey said.

The total fertility rate (TFR), which is an average number of children per women, has also come down to 2 in 2019-21 from 2.2 in 2015-16, as per the Survey.

The total fertility rate has even come down below the replacement level of fertility (2.1 children per woman) in the country, the Survey said.

In all the states and UTs except for Manipur, Meghalaya, Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh, the replacement level of fertility has been achieved.

Increasing the use of contraceptives, especially the modern methods, better family planning, and girl education have possibly contributed to the decline in the fertility rate, the Survey noted.

It also outlined that the family planning method has increased from 53.5 per cent in 2015-16 to 66.7 per cent in 2019-21. Significant improvement has also been observed in the infrastructure and services reaching to the public, such as institutional delivery, among others.

As per the report, institutional delivery has increased to 88.6 per cent in 2019-21 compared to 78.9 per cent in 2015-16. (IANS)

Women Leaders Inspire With Share Personal Life Stories At Women’s Forum During AAPI’s Global Healthcare Summit

“A woman is defined by her courage and self-confidence,” Dr. Tejaswini Manogna, Miss India-Earth 2019 and the titleholder of Divine Miss Earth India 2019, in her eloquent and inspiring keynote address at the Women’s Forum told the hundreds of AAPI delegates during the Global Healthcare Summit in Hyderabad earlier this month. “Be brave to voice your choices and do not give up your goals. Speak up. Do not suffer in silence. Be bold and brave to voice your opinion. If a woman can lead at home, she can lead the world. Dream to do something for others. If I can do it, you all can do it,” Dr. Tejaswini Manogna said.

The Women’s Forum organized by Dr. Seema Arora, Dr. Udaya Shivangi, Dr. Meher Medavaram, Dr. Malati Mehta and Dr. Uma Jonnalagadda, had a galaxy of successful women, who shared with the AAPI delegates their own stories of growing up and facing challenges with conviction and courage, and have today become role models for other women around the world.

The Women’s Forum had Dr. Meenacshi Martin, a practicing consultant Psychiatrist and award winning Theater Artist, Film, Television and Netflix Actress; Dr. Juby A. Jacob-Nara, a Public Health Physician, Vice President and Head of Global Medical Respiratory Allergy & Gastroenterology (Sanofi-Genzyme) who has been a part of over 50 new medicines successfully launched including vaccines in the US and globally; Dr. Shantha Kumari, a senior gynecologist and laparoscopic surgeon, committed to have ‘Cancer Mukt Bharat’ by 2030, to elevate women’s health globally and to stop violence against women; Preity Üpala, a former investment banker turned into ‘Thought Leader, Media Entrepreneur’ and a Miss India International, based in Hollywood, California, is a Geo-political Expert, award-winning International Columnist, and director of The Omnia Institute and, Dr. Tejaswini Manogna, Miss India-Earth 2019 is an Indian model and beauty pageant titleholder. A medical doctor by profession, she won the title of Divine Miss Earth India 2019 and represented India at the 19th edition of the Miss Earth pageant held at Parañaque City, in the Philippines

Miss India-Earth 2019, in her keynote address at the Women’s Forum during the 15th annual GHS 2022 organized by the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) in Hyderabad, India, referred to how the “Nature has given us, the women a bigger responsibility of being a mother, who has a huge influence on one’s children.” Stating that her own mother “taught me the value of simple living and high thinking. She did the best to give me the best in life and gave me the path, and attitude of never giving up. Be grounded and humble in spite of all the accruements,” she said.

Telling the audience that she has the vision to be “the voice and be the ambassador for the youth,” Dr. Manogna, the young and charming young leader said, “This vision has given me the inspiration to wear many hats and achieve many things in life.”

Preity Üpala, the Host of a popular show called ‘The Preity Experience’ shared with the audience, her own personal life and stated: “IWhat has inspired me in my life and how my life can be of inspiring to all. In the 21st century, we need to redefine empowerment. Be proud of where you come from and our culture and we have much to teach the world.” While describing that “A woman is a like a tea bag, we would know only when she is in hot water,” she said: “Women are the future of the world.”

She stressed the need for understanding the importance of “Culture, which is my upbringing and values. Power is how you can be in harmony within you and with the others; Dharma, which is the purpose and the path that help make an impact; And, finally,  Fulfilment, which is in the journey but not at the end. Leave the world a better place than you had inherited and have the joy of making a positive impact,” she told the AAPI delegates.

Dr. Shantha Kumari, President of Federation of Obstetric & Gynecological Societies of India, the Treasurer of the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics urged her fellow women to “Have the courage to say NO to violence against women. Women across the world are being impacted by violence. If you have the will, you can do it. Encouraged all women to do regular cervical cancer screening to avoid cancer, which will result in ‘Cancer Mukht Bharat.

She advocated for involving local leaders who can help make changes. DHEERA in collaboration with WHO and UNICEF is now offering online certification courses.  Stating that “Women in India are more empowered than women in many other countries of the world,” she said, “Women should have the right to choose her life, when to do marry, give birth to child and raise them.”  Partnering with men, she called upon women to “create awareness about the need for gender neutrality. “You will be empowered only when you can help empower others,” she said.

Dr. Juby A. Jacob-Nara, Vice President and Head of Global Medical Respiratory Allergy & Gastroenterology at Sanofi-Genzyme told the AAPI delegates: “I am here to represent women across the world.” Born in New Delhi to a mother who was extremely poor, but worked hard and became a Nurse and immigrated to the US. “Despite the many hardships, she helped us get the best education and that brought about changes. Mother is the key pillar in one’s life, and let us continue to elevate her.” Stating that, “prevention is more worth than treatment” she said, “Empower. Educate. And, Inform about the need to prevent illnesses.”

Dr. Meenacshi Martin, an award winning Theater Artist, Film, Television and Netflix Actress, shared with the audience her own personal story of how born and  raised in a remote village in India, facing numerous challenges at early ages of life, has helped her achieve many things in life today. Faced with numerous road blocks and overcoming them bravely in life, she told the audience how being a full time mother to a son with cerebral palsy, she has been able to pursue her goals in life, fulfilling her passion for Medicine and acting, all going together. She said, “As we grow and mature, our goals keep changing. We, the women are very adaptive. When faced with resistance or failures, challenges or pushed to the wall, we are forced to react.  Everyone gets that inner courage when you are faced with challenges and pushed to the corner.”

Dr. Seema Arora, Chair, AAPI National Women’s Committee, a Past Chair Board of Trustees of AAPI, and a strong advocate of women empowerment and has been playing an active role in uplifting women in various walks of life, in her introductory remarks, gave an  overview of the programs organized by the Women’s Forum, with focus on “women who inspire.” Introducing the panelists, she called them, “an inspiration to the world.”

Dr. Arora said, “The Women’s Forum had a panel of “Women Who Inspire” from all walks of life who have achieved extraordinary feats in each of their phenomenal lives. This exhilarating forum has been organized with the objective of bringing together some of the most accomplished women under one roof who are role models for all other women around the world.”

Quoting the famous and inspiring words of Mother Teresa, ‘I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples,’ Dr. Meher Medavaram, Chair of GHS Women’s Forum, and the regional director for AAPI Northeast central division, Illinois Indiana and Wisconsin, said, “This is precisely what some of these amazing women leaders are going to shed light in the women’s forum at the GHS summit!”

Dr. Shivangi, Advisor to AAPI Women’s Forum underscored the importance of the Women’s Forum in AAPI convention and Global Healthcare Summit, and how it has evolved and today it’s one of the much sought after event, with distinguished panelists on the Forum. “The Women’s Forum is where successful and powerful women come and share their life’s dreams, challenges and this empower and inspire other women. Today’s Forum is about how career changes by women affect t them and the larger society.”

In her concluding remarks, summarizing the inspiring life stories of brave women who have shown the path to many others around the world, overcoming the challenges, Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, the only 4th Woman President of AAPI in the past four decades, said, “That was amazing to hear your personal stories of inspiration.” Reflecting her own life, the Woman Leader, who has made huge contributions to AAPI in her own unassuming manner, while taking AAPI to newer heights, said, “I look at myself and say, ‘you can do it, if only you put your heart and soul into it.’ Nothing is impossible. Impress yourself and be proud of your own self.”

Representing the interests of the over 100,000 physicians of Indian origin, leaders of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), the largest ethnic organization of physicians, for 40 years. For more details, please visit:  https://aapisummit.org/www.aapiusa.org

Smriti Mandhana Wins ICC Women’s Cricketer Of The Year

The 25-year-old is only the second player, after Australian allrounder Ellyse Perry, to win the highest individual distinction in the women’s overall category of the annual ICC awards more than once. She was also named in the ICC Women’s T20I Team of the Year.

Mandhana, who was named ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year and ODI Cricketer of the Year in 2018, pipped fellow opening batters Tammy Beaumont of England, Lizelle Lee (South Africa) and Gaby Lewis (Ireland) to the the Rachael Heyhoe-Flint Trophy. Jhulan Goswami, who won the same award in 2007, is the only other Indian woman to ever win an ICC annual award.

The stats: In 2021, since India’s return to cricket on March 7 following a 364-day gap from the international scene — primarily because of the pandemic — Mandhana scored 855 runs in 22 international matches across three series, at an average of 38.86, posting a century and five fifties.

Mandhana was named the Player of the Match for her maiden Test hundred — 127 during India’s maiden women’s day-night Test, which they drew against Australia at Gold Coast.

Pakistan left-arm pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi was named the ICC Men’s Cricketer of the Year. He was awarded the Sir Garfield Sobers Award for taking 78 wickets across formats in 36 internationals at an average of 22.20 in 2021.

Her 15-ball 29 and fifty in the T20I series went in vain though as India fell short in both the matches and lost the series 2-1.
The Southpaw was in good touch in the series against Australia, starting with the ODI series where she scored 86 in the second ODI.

She compiled a brilliant century in the only Test (the first of her career), and was awarded the Player of the Match. She scored her second T20I fifty of the year in the final T20I, though India fell short and lost the series 2-0.

Mandhana made India’s first-ever pink-ball Test even more memorable by smashing her maiden century in the longest format.

Inspiring Art Entrepreneur Archana Srivastava Shares How Art Is A Medium To Empower Women And Communities

“To me, preparing and letting women to make vital decisions in their life and in society is women’s empowerment . I seek to empower women through my work.” Today’s woman dreamer, Archana Srivastava, is a dynamic, renowned Mumbai-based artist, with a passion for highlighting history and tradition. Archana shares her view as art as a medium for empowerment, and her dream for her art career (such as her interest in NFTs, digital, and 3D art). She also reflects on her experiences as the wife of a senior bureaucrat. A relatable and creative journey, enjoy Archana’s story!

1) Tell us your story. You are an artist deeply rooted in Indian history and tradition, and your work is across mediums. You have had multiple solo art exhibitions as well and have had multiple recognitions for your work. What inspired you to become an artist? What inspires you creatively?

Since childhood I was passionate about art and art was like ‘Therapy’ to me. Born in a family which thrived on art and culture, it was an easy choice for me to draw, sketch, colour and paint. In early childhood days, I started drawing on slate (writing board), paper, walls and floors as soon as I could hold crayon or chalk in my hands. My family saw great potential in me and my parents would encourage me to draw/paint and to participate in school, district-level and regional competitions. Winning in such competitions encouraged me to paint more. I was a sincere student and excelled in academics. Often my study hours will get stretched and I would get exhausted. I would then draw on my practice notebook a face, figure, landscape or still life. As a result each of my practice notebook would have multiple figures and forms drawn on the last many pages. In fact often the pages with drawings would outnumber the pages with writings.

I was happy doing well in academics and pursuing art as well. My academic orientation helped me complete Ph.D in History and I started teaching graduate and post-graduate students as guest faculty in various colleges and universities off and on.

As far as the art was concerned, formal training was never an issue as my elder sister is into serious painting and my mother is also an artist. Plus over the years I have had the good fortune of learning from national and international-level award-winning artists, professors of reputed art schools on one to one basis informally. They did teach me technicalities of art but asked me to remain original in my imagination. In fact, everyone of them without exception encouraged me to have my own style. Thus I am one of those fortunate souls who learnt everything about art without joining an art school full time. Gradually, guests and visitors visiting my home would look at paintings at my place and ask me to have a public display of my artworks. Encouraged by their persuasion, I booked a reputed art gallery in Mumbai in 1999 and started working diligently towards my first solo exhibition. The exhibition was very well-received and thus began my journey as professional artist. I took up art as my profession with great enthusiasm and gusto, becoming a full-time artist and a part-time academician.

Thus art which began as ‘therepy’ became ‘thoughtful’ as I consider art to be a subtle form of expression. Through art intangible subjects can be made understandable. My art is mostly thematic and message-oriented. I enjoy portraying the complex messages contained in the ‘verses of ‘Bhagvad Gita’ and ‘Sufi poetry’ etc. I try to depict the‘non-obvious’ metaphorically, thus making it understandable.

2) You received the “Woman of Excellence Award 2020” from the Indian Achievers’ Forum. How do you define women empowerment? Do you seek to empower women through your work?

According to me, preparing and letting women to make vital decisions in their life and in society is women’s empowerment .

Raising the status of women through education, awareness, literacy, skill-development, training etc. and in turn making them self-reliant (financially, emotionally, socially and physically) constitute a major part of women empowerment.

Yes, I do seek to empower women through my work! I had made a whole series on rural Indian women. Basically, I tried to draw attention to their problems and generate awareness regarding their plight.

During my stay at several districts of Maharashtra, India I tried to solve their problems by connecting them to various NGOs, making them aware of the various women-oriented govt. schemes as well as their rights and above all, making them aware of the protection provided to them under law.

Right now, as CEO and Founder of ArtSage Pvt. Ltd. I am focusing on uplifting the condition of women artists and artisans of India.

3) Your husband is also a highly respected bureaucrat in Mumbai India. Very exciting – what does the life of a wife of a bureaucrat entail? What were some key learnings?

Being wife a of a senior and well-respected bureaucrat is both satisfying and challenging. Satisfying, as it gives you enormous opportunities to look at various problems and strengths of the country closely. It also gives you various opportunities and roles to work for the society directly or indirectly. Challenging, as it requires acting absolutely responsibly. One has to shift from one district to the other district owing to various transfers and handle many things single-handedly owing to the hectic nature of the spouse’s job. Bureaucrats are called backbone of the nation. While you are supporting and informally advising the policy-makers and law-enforcers, you can’t afford to be anything but responsible.

Given the integral role the spouse plays in the future of an individual’s life, career and field, it is important for a spouse of a bureaucrat to be level-headed, mature, dependable and conscientious. A supportive atmosphere at home can make one calm and stable to make positive and impactful decisions which can benefit society/ city/state/country.

The key learning from the experience has been that it is absolutely necessary for the wives of the bureaucrats to have their own identity. Bureaucrats and their families are closely observed and followed by many (especially at the district-level postings). Somewhere you are also being looked at as a role model. It would be a failure to derive your identity just from your man. That’s what women empowerment is all about and one can’t just preach it ; one has to practice it too. Secondly, a confident individual with a sense of worth and purpose will make a better companion and counsel than someone who is bitter having low sense of worth and nagging sense of unfulfilled potential.

4) You have recently started working on promoting the work of folk artists in India .Tell us more about that.

As CEO and Founder of ArtSage Pvt. Ltd. I aim to safeguard the interest of the folk and tribal artists and artisans of India. Folk and tribal art of India is rich in tradition and heritage and celebrated throughout the world. But unfortunately the condition of the artists and artisans is far from pleasant. They rarely get their due. Their artworks are bought at a very low price and sold at insanely high price at regional, national and international markets. Many of them quit their rich traditional/family art and opt for menial jobs in the villages. As far as some folk-arts are concerned, there are only a few families left in the country which pursue them. These art-forms need to be conserved and preserved. For that, it is very necessary to protect the artists from being exploited and support them in various ways. ArtSage Pvt. Ltd. is committed to doing that. It plans to help

them by providing resources, giving access to the technology to work more efficiently , helping them upgrade their skills, giving them platform to sell their artworks, creating awareness about the value of their art in public through workshops and symposiums and enriching their lives as a whole.

5) As the platform for women dreamers, what is your next big dream? What are you focusing on for your next exhibition?

As an entrepreneur, I dream to see ArtSage Pvt. Ltd. realising our vision to bring about a sense of creativity & learning in folk and tribal artists in India and attaining our mission to create opportunities for them. I also dream to make ArtSage Pvt. Ltd. a commercially viable venture.

As an artist my dream is to go three-dimensional and digital.

For my next exhibition, I am planning to convey/portray my thoughts in 3D as well. With this idea I plan to have installations alongside the paintings. Installation art is an art-genre of three- dimensional works that are often walked around and contemplated.

One can discriminate installation art from sculpture art (which is also 3D) owing to its complete unified experience, rather than a display of individual artworks which are separate from each other.

I plan to have installations that are both interactive and immersive.

Also I am really fascinated by the idea of NFT art as an emerging trend and plan to create digital artworks which can be exclusive collectible NFTs.

Priyanka Chopra On The Cover of Famed Vanity Fair Magazine

Priyanka Chopra has achieved what every star anywhere in the world aspires for — to be on the cover of ‘Vanity Fair’. She’s on the cover of the February 2022 edition of the magazine celebrated internationally as much for its in-depth articles as for its cutting-edge photography.

Unveiling the cover, ‘Vanity Fair’ tweeted: “After a journey into ‘The Matrix’, the actor enters 2022 with her cup overflowing –reflecting on her storied Hindi film industry career, marriage, and creating a path for herself in Hollywood.” Looking artfully messy, a sultry Priyanka appears on the cover in an off-shoulder, off-white ruffled dress from Fendi.

The magazine, previously edited by celebrity journalists such as Tina Brown and Graydon Carter (who’s played by Jeff Bridges in the film ‘How to Lose Friends and Alienate People’), is now helmed by Radhika Jones, an Indian American.

Describing her as “a driven woman who has transcended what’s previously been possible for an Indian actor in Hollywood,” the ‘Vanity Fair’ cover story goes on to say: “She is an outsider who broke down barriers and built a place for herself within the walls of Hollywood. Now she’s on a mission to welcome others in.”

Priyanka, notes the article that traces her life’s story from her days at the Army Public School, Bareilly, will finally be playing lead film roles as she had in India” with the rom-com ‘Text for You’ and Amazon’s ambitious spy series ‘Citadel’ later this year.

And about her own story, especially her rise to stardom in Hollywood, Priyanka says: “It’s taken a lot of pavement pounding to be able to get people’s attention, and to be able to get an acceptance of the fact that someone like me can be the lead of a Hollywood feature.”

She adds (and the sentiment will go down well back home): “There’s very few of us from South Asia who get to do that. I hope that the part that I play in it will sort of push the envelope a little bit.”

As A Controversial Verdict Acquits Bishop Franco, Groups Vouch To Take The Case To High Court

A Kerala court on Friday acquitted former Jalandhar bishop Franco Mulakkal, who is accused of raping a nun 13 times over three years in a convent, citing lack of evidence in a case that shone a spotlight on violence against women in religious institutions.

Stating that  “in-fight and rivalry and group fights of the nuns, and the desire for power, position and control over the congregation” were evident in the case, a trial court in Kerala Friday acquitted Franco Mulakkal, the former Jalandhar Bishop of the Catholic Church, of all charges in the alleged rape of a nun. The high-profile case had led to an unprecedented public protest in Kerala more than three years ago by other nuns in support of the complainant.

Bishop Mulakkal, who became the first Indian Catholic bishop to be arrested for rape in 2018, was accused by a 50-year old nun of raping her 13 times between 2014 and 2016. Mulakkal faced a slew of charges, including wrongful confinement, unnatural sex, rape of a woman incapable of giving consent and criminal intimidation.

The Court order last week said that “This court is unable to place reliance on the solitary testimony of PW1 and to hold the accused guilty of the offences charged against him”. Mulakkal was present in the courtroom when the verdict was pronounced. He later broke down in the corridor outside, hugged his lawyers, and told reporters before leaving the premises: “Daivathinu sthuthi’ (Praise the Lord).”

According to the Kottayam Additional Sessions Judge G Gopakumar, “This is a case in which the grain and chaff are inextricably mixed up. It is impossible to separate the grain from the chaff. There are exaggerations and embellishments in the version of the victim. She has also made every attempt to hide certain facts. It is also evident that the victim was swayed under the influence of others who had other vested interest in the matter,” Gopakumar wrote in a 289-page order.

However, one of the nuns who had spearheaded the protest against Mulakkal, Sister Anupama, expressed disbelief at the verdict. Speaking to reporters with tears in her eyes, she said: “We cannot believe this verdict. We will continue this fight until the day our fellow sister gets justice, even if it means we have to die. All the testimonies were in our favour so we don’t know what happened in court. We will definitely appeal in the higher court.”

S Harisankar, the former Kottayam district police chief under whose leadership the investigation was conducted, described the verdict as “extremely unfortunate”. He added, “We had fully expected a conviction. This verdict will be a surprise for the entire Indian legal system. it was after suffering huge psychological pressure that the survivor disclosed the assault to her fellow nuns” and that the verdict would “send a wrong message to society”.

The allegations against Mulakkal (57) came to light in June 2018 when a senior nun, belonging to the order of Missionaries of Jesus, submitted a complaint to the Kottayam police chief, accusing the bishop of raping her and subjecting her to unnatural sex 13 times between 2014 and 2016 at a convent in the district.

Subsequently, an FIR was filed against Mulakkal on charges of rape at the police station in Kuravilangad, where the convent is located. Mulakkal denied the charges and described the complaint as a “retaliatory act” for disciplinary action taken earlier against the complainant in an unrelated incident.

In September that year, a public square in front of the Kerala High Court premises in Kochi saw unprecedented scenes as five Catholic nuns, who were close to the complainant, sat on an indefinite hunger strike demanding the arrest of the bishop.

On September 21, 2018, the police arrested Mulakkal and booked him on rape charges, in the first such action against a Catholic bishop in the country. Mulakkal was released on bail nearly a month later, and divested of his responsibilities as bishop in the Jalandhar diocese.

In April 2019, a Special Investigation Team of the Kerala Police filed a 2,000-page chargesheet against Mulakkal. The trial commenced in November 2019, with the prosecution listing 83 witnesses of whom 39 were examined during the trial. A number of senior figures from the Church, including Major Archbishop of Syro-Malabar Church Cardinal George Alencherry, and 11 priests and 25 nuns were among the witnesses.

Mulakkal, who had first applied to the sessions court for a discharge without facing trial by alleging that the charges were fabricated, also saw his petition challenging the sessions court’s dismissal of his discharge plea being dismissed by both the Kerala High Court and the Supreme Court, which said it was devoid of merits.

He also sought the High Court’s intervention in deferring the trial due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which was also rejected on the grounds that adjournments in a trial need to be restricted.

The nun alleged that she had first approached the church’s senior officials, including the Pope but had not received any response, though the Vatican removed him from the diocese’s administrative roles.

The nun has also been at the receiving end of threats from powerful figures within the Catholic establishment who even came down hard on her supporters including one — Sister Lucy Kalappura — who was not only evicted from her convent but also had her membership of the congregation revoked.

A group of nuns of the Kuravilangad Convent in Kerala, who helped the victim, said they couldn’t believe the verdict.  “We will fight it out till the end. We are ready to die to uphold our cause. Till the end, everything was fine and we have no idea what happened later. We will stay at the convent as we are not scared of our death,” said a teary-eyed Sister Anupama, who was the public face of the years-long battle. She alleged that the trial court refused to hear hapless wails of a victim who can’t even speak loud.

Women Who Win Organization Donates Over 300 Pairs Of Shoes To Refugees

As Boston gets colder by the day and the snow falls all around, many of us strap on our favorite winter boots, keeping our feet warm and protected. However, in our very own greater Boston community, there are hundreds of people (women, men, children) without a good quality pair of shoes in their closets, unknowingly exposing themselves to foot conditions like frostbite and other dangerous infections. An often overlooked problem, our Boston-based nonprofit women empowerment organization, Women Who Win, wanted to help solve this issue through launching an exciting philanthropic initiative, The Shoe Project.

This Holiday Season, the Women Who Win team spearheaded shoe donations and also provided foot health educational materials  to Boston populations in dire need, including Haitian refugees, women’s shelter residents, and adult day health centers. They partnered with renowned companies and organizations including Hoka Apparel to ensure we are providing high-quality, podiatrist approved shoes.

Haitain refugees have faced a significant plight, and there are hundreds of them across Massachusetts, struggling to find basic essentials. A major humanitarian crisis around the world and in our neck of the woods, the Women Who Win team excitedly joined the Gift of Gratitude project on December 19th, an event where they provided vaccine clinics, and other basic essentials like blankets etc. to Haitians in need. We led a shoe donation drive at the event with the Indian Medical Association of New England (IMANE), and were able to donate over 150 shoes to these refugees. The First Haitian-American City Councilor of Boston Ruthzee Louijeane stated, “It was really wonderful to see communities coming together to support our immigrants. We are in a difficult season right now that really asks us to look out for each other. Few things demonstrate that more than welcoming the stranger in our midst.”

Women’s shelters also expressed a strong need for new shoes for their residents. We organized donations with the St Patricks Shelter in Somerville Massachusetts, and at the Forever Young Adult Day Care in Hyde Park. Residents at the shelter often work 2 jobs a day to make ends meet, in worn-out shoes putting their feet at risk and discomfort. The women were elated to receive a new pair of shoes for the new year, and felt empowered and equipped in their new footwear. The thrill of a new pair of shoes is one we can all relate too, and we were excited to provide this feeling to over 150 women across these shelters.

The Shoe Project is a philanthropic initiative under Women Who Win, a nonprofit organization founded by three Boston residents, Dr. Manju Sheth, Dr. Deepa Jhaveri, and Shaleen Sheth. Dr Manju Sheth is a physician at Beth Israel Lahey health with a passion for media. She is president and Co- founder of INE multimedia and Women Who Win. Dr. Deepa Jhaveri is a podiatrist and the President-Elect of the Indian Medical Association of New England. Shaleen Sheth is a co-founder of Women Who Win with a passion for technology and nonprofit leadership. The Shoe Project was born with the mission to empower communities one step at a time.

The Shoe Project has worked with and been supported by IMANE, Boston Medical Center, the APMA (American Podiatric Medical Association), Deckers X Lab, Hoka Apparel, Lion’s Club, and Rotary Club.  Our co-founder, Dr. Deepa Jhaveri, a podiatrist states, “this project is very close to my heart as it ties in my profession and my Indian roots to create an immense impact in the daily lives of hundreds of people by preventing limb threatening foot infections. This project has also created a buzz in the podiatry community, particularly with Indian-American podiatrists as well as major footwear companies who have offered tremendous support for this initiative.”

To support The Shoe Project and Donate Shoes to a Local Community in Need with Women Who Win, visit them here

Meera Joshi Appointed Deputy Mayor Of New York

New York City’s Mayor-elect Eric Adams has chosen Indian-American Meera Joshi to serve as his Deputy Mayor for Operations, charting yet another historic milestone for the Indian-American community but also for one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world.

Joshi, who previously served as head of the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission for five years, will be one of five women Deputy Mayors that Adams announced December 20, 2021. She will start in the new position around the end of January according to news reports.

“As Deputy Mayor for Operations, Meera Joshi will ensure that our City is able to respond in real time to meet and exceed the needs of every community and be a model of excellence for all urban centers,” Mayor-elect Adams tweeted. Mayor Adams created more history by announcing five women as his Deputy Mayors to administer the city.

Mayor-elect Adams, when announcing his five women deputies, tweeted out the following message – “For us to ensure that NYC recovers quickly while addressing the inequalities athat plagued us well before COVID-19 struck, we must have top leadership that can both deliver for and is representative of New Yorkers.”

“I am deeply honored to be selected by Mayor-elect Adams to carry out his mission together to build the heart and soul of New York, its infrastructure and its operations,” Joshi said in the Politico article. The publication also reported that Joshi thanked President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for appointing her to the FMCSA role.

During her time as FMCSA’s acting administrator, Joshi said she wanted to eliminate truck drivers’ stressors and to make truck driver a more attractive long-term career. In November, she attended the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association Board of Directors meeting via videoconference.

“Some of the items that continuously come up since I started in January are all focused around the work-life balance of a truck driver,” she said. “We’re focused on safety, and to the extent that the work-life conditions aren’t there or they are not habitable, it does have a tremendous impact on safety. Overworked truck drivers, drivers who are dealing with roads and bridges that aren’t kept up, not having an adequate parking area, not having clean bathrooms, having to wait excessively while loading or unloading and not being paid.

“These are all stressors that we believe – and I think we will find agreement within this room – that have a direct connection to safety. So we’re focused on addressing some of these critical issues that underpin the ability of the industry to function safely on the nation’s roadways.”

Joshi is currently the Deputy Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Most recently Joshi served as General Manager of the New York office of Sam Schwartz Transportation Consultants, and before that as chief regulator of New York City’s for hire vehicle industry.

“Under her leadership, New York City mandated the reporting of granular trip data from large app operators, which informed landmark data-driven safety reforms, enforceable pay standards for drivers and meaningful access to service for the disabled,” her profile on the transportation.gov says.

Joshi was named deputy administrator of FMCSA, which made her the de facto leader of the agency on Jan. 21. In April, President Joe Biden nominated Joshi to take the permanent role as administrator of the FMCSA. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee advanced Joshi’s nomination through a 22-6 roll call in October. However, Joshi’s confirmation still hadn’t been approved by the full Senate.

Politico reported on Dec. 20 that Joshi will become New York City Mayor-elect Eric Adams’ deputy mayor of operations after he is sworn in on Jan. 1. Prior to being nominated by Biden, Joshi had been serving as acting head of FMCSA from January 20, 2021.

Joshi is not afraid to confront those in power when she disagrees, or make challenging decisions such as leaving the federal administration to take on a city job, albeit one that relates to an iconic global metropolis and financial capital of the world.

In 2019, when she was New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commissioner, she publicly disagreed with Mayor Bill de Blasio over a congestion fee he was planning to levy, and resigned. The Wall Street Journal in its headline said, “Resignation of NYC Taxi and Limousine Chief Shakes Industry,” indicating her influence. Joshi called the fee “potentially devastating” for cabdrivers.

Following her decision to accept Mayor-elect Adams’ appointment, the FMCSA praised her tenure at the federal level. “Meera Joshi has led FMCSA through historic times—as an unprecedented global pandemic, countless natural disasters, a cyberattack on a major domestic pipeline, and widespread workforce shortages challenged the freight economy in ways never before seen,” American Trucking Association President and CEO Chris Spear said in a statement following reports that Joshi will be leaving the Biden administration, reported fleetowner.com news site.

Spear went on to say, “Throughout her tenure, the trucking industry has found Deputy Administrator Joshi to be a candid, collaborative, and valued partner in government,” Spear added. “Her use of data and stakeholder input drove a sound policy process designed to meet real-world needs. Her leadership has helped to ensure our industry could continue to safely serve the American people and meet the demands of the economy during these incredible times.”

Joshi was born in Philadelphia, PA, and grew up there. She did her B.A. in Sociology from the University of Pennsylvania, and her got her law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1995.

In its biography for the nomination, the White House noted her experience of more than 16 years leading government oversight agencies. Apart from being Chair and CEO of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, the nation’s largest for-hire transportation regulator where she spearheaded novel Vision Zero campaigns using data tools to keep high risk drivers and unsafe vehicles off the road, the White House said.

She also led landmark policy, including establishing robust open transportation data standards for app based providers; enacting the nation’s first for-hire driver pay protection program and providing broad access to for-hire transportation for passengers who use wheelchairsk, the Biden administration noted.

Prior to transportation regulation, Joshi was the Inspector General for New York City’s Department of Corrections, responsible for investigation of corruption and criminality at all levels of New York City’s jail operations. She was also the First Deputy Executive Director of New York City’s Civilian Complaint Review Board, leading investigations of police misconduct.

In addition to her government positions, Joshi served as General Manager for the New York Office of Sam Schwartz Transportation Consultants, and was a visiting scholar at New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal Lays Out ‘Whole-Of-Government Approach’ On Biden Agenda

Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) on Wednesday urged lawmakers and the White House to take a “whole-of-government approach” to advancing President Biden’s agenda.

“Today, the elected leadership of the Congressional Progressive Caucus is calling on the President and all Democrats who believe in the need to Build Back Better for climate, care, immigrants, and those seeking economic dignity and opportunity to come together and deliver for the American people,” Jayapal said in a statement.

The statement comes after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said he was opposed to Democrats’ massive social spending and climate package, known as the Build Back Better Act. Manchin, a moderate, cited concerns about inflation and the national debt.

Jayapal said congressional Democrats should continue to prioritize passing a version of the Build Back Better Act. She said that a revised bill should keep as much of the legislation that the House passed in November as possible intact, and shouldn’t be narrower than the $1.75 trillion framework the White House released in October.

“We have worked too long and too hard to give up now, and we have no intention of doing so,” Jayapal said.

Jayapal also said the White House should take a series of executive actions while negotiations on legislation continue, echoing comments she made to reporters earlier in the week.

“The Progressive Caucus will soon release a comprehensive vision for this plan of action, which will include immediate focus on actions that lower costs, protect the health of every family who calls America home in this time of surging omicron cases, and show the world that America is serious about our leadership on climate action,” she said.

Jayapal also called for federal action on voting rights. “We are encouraged by the dogged determination of our Senate colleagues to achieve this top priority, and progressives in the House remain committed to seeing it through,” she said.

India To Raise Marriage Age For Women To 21

The Cabinet Union Cabinet has cleared a bill that proposes to raise the legal age of marriage for women from 18 to 21, bringing it in line with the men’s. The government is expected to bring before the parliament amendments to the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, Special Marriage Act, and the Hindu Marriage Act.

It’s based on the recommendation of an expert panel headed by MP Jaya Jaitly and NITI Aayog member Dr. Vinod K. Paul.  The 10-member task force was formed by the union government on June 4.

PM Narendra Modi had also said during his Independence Day speech that the legal age of marriage should be raised from 18 to 21 for women for the “health of daughters and sisters” and to prevent malnutrition

The amendments could be placed before the parliament as early as this winter session, TOI reports. A scourge Currently, the legal age for marriage is 18 for women and 21 for men. Yet, according to the National Family Health Survey 2015-16, 26.8% of women aged 20-24 were married before they turned 18.

Several studies have linked child marriage to maternal mortality, malnutrition of the child and poverty. Maternal mortality rate is the number of maternal deaths for every 100,000 children born.

For instance, sustained campaigns and policies such as making the legal age of marriage at 18 have helped reduce India’s maternal mortality rate from 677 in 1980 to about 145 now.

But… The NFHS data show that penalising marriage under 18 has not stopped the practice. Experts, therefore, say raising the age to 21 will, therefore, not truly serve the purpose as educational and welfare schemes would. Data protection panel: Social media should be publishers

The joint parliamentary committee’s report on the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, was tabled before both Houses of Parliament on Thursday. The 542-page report was finalised after nearly two years of deliberation.
It recommends.declare all social media platforms as ‘publishers’.widen the scope of the Bill to include non-personal data. 81 recommendations for modifications and over 150 drafting corrections and improvements in various clauses of the bill.

Rare cooperation Congress MP Jairam Ramesh tabled the report in Rajya Sabha amidst opposition protests demanding the revocation of suspension of 12 MPs and sacking of junior home minister Ajay Mishra Teni.

BJP’s PP Chaudhary, the chairman of the committee, tabled the report in Lok Sabha. “This report shows that if the chairman is cooperative, (and) the government is accommodative, the opposition is responsive,” Ramesh said.

And dissent The report contains seven dissent notes, one each by Congress MPs Jairam Ramesh, Manish Tewari, Vivek Tankha and Gaurav Gogoi, TMC’s Mahua Moitra, BSP’s Ritesh Pandey and BJD’s Amar Patnaik.

Among other things, they flag the “unbridled powers” certain sections of the Bill accord to the union government, including the power to exempt any government agency from the entire Act.

What now?

Under Parliamentary rules, the bill as amended by the JPC is considered draft legislation that will need to be cleared by Cabinet before it returns to Parliament for passage.

The Union cabinet may accept the draft as it is. It could also move official amendments to the Bill tabled by the committee.

Can Pope Francis Make Real Change For Women? Vatican Women Leaders Assess His Chances

A panel of women who have attained leadership positions in the Catholic Church met on Thursday (Dec. 16) to discuss Pope Francis’ ambitious plan to reform the power structures in the church, raising questions about female ordination, the role of bishops and the need for women theologians.

In October, Francis launched a churchwide consultation process titled “For a synodal Church — Communion, Participation and Mission,” commonly known as the Synod on Synodality. The three-year process, which will conclude with a summit of bishops at the Vatican in 2023, is intended to engage every level of the Catholic Church, from parishes to bishops’ conferences.

The pope’s project, if successful, is poised to increase the participation of the most marginalized groups in the church, including women.

“Our role is to invite more and more women in, into the process, into the conversation and reflection,” said Sr. Patricia Murray, executive secretary of the International Union of Superiors General and a member of the spirituality commission of the Synod. “Particularly those who feel very much neglected, or that the church has forgotten about them or feel estranged from the church.”

Hosted by the Australian embassy to the Holy See, Georgetown University and the Jesuit magazine Civiltà Cattolica, Thursday’s “Women in Synodality” event also included Sr. Nathalie Bequart, the first female undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops; Myriam Wijlens, one of the church’s few female canon lawyers and a consultant to the Synod of Bishops.

At the meeting there were also Sr. Béatrice Faye, a member of the Theological Commission of the synod and member of the Groupe Africain de Recherche en Philosophie Interculturelle, and Susan Pascoe, who works on the Methodology Commission of the Synod and is the President of the Australian Council for International Development.

Many of those following the event via Zoom voiced doubts about how much women will be heard in the synodal process, and particularly whether bishops will accept the shared decision-making that Francis envisions.

“These are very important questions,” replied Wijlens. “What does it meant to be a bishop in a synod?” She noted that when bishops convene at the Vatican, they express not their own views, she added, but they have a responsibility to give voice to the joys and the challenges of the faithful in their community.

“Theologically the idea would be that the bishop would be a witness to the faith of his own church and not speak of his own faith,” Wijlens said. “I do hope the bishops have the courage and the braveness to say: ‘This is what the people in my church believe and what they want to share with the rest of the community.’”

In 2018, America magazine published a groundbreaking study by the Georgetown University Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, or CARA, which showed that more than 70% of young women in the United States were drifting away from the Catholic Church, and at a much higher rate than men.

The report found that 38% of the respondents left because they disagreed with church teaching, while 23% objected to the status of women in the church.

More than four years after America’s report, many more women occupy leadership roles in the church and at the Vatican, but little has changed in terms of linking the traditions of the faith into the concerns of modern-day women.

Wijlens said that the church can do more than listen; she suggested that promoting female theologians and canon lawyers might deepen the understanding of traditional Catholic beliefs about gender.

“I think we are losing in the church a high number of highly trained women, and it’s because they feel that they are not being heard,” she said, suggesting that canon law faculties should reach out to women and help them achieve this expensive and specialized training.

Murray talked about recent reports of physical, sexual and psychological abuse of religious sisters, reports that have also undermined the credibility of the church’s commitment to women. “If we do not listen to the pain that has been suffered, we won’t see where we are individually called to change and called to conversion,” she said. “I think if we fail to do that, the synodal journey will seem to be incomplete.”

Murray also said that it’s important for the synod to address female ordination and the diaconate for women, topics usually set aside when discussing the role of women in the church.

While Francis has said that the ordination of women to the priesthood is out of the question, he created two commissions to study the possibility of women becoming deacons, who may not perform the sacraments but serve at Mass and preach the homily.

“We are looking at a reevaluation of all the roles in the Catholic Church,” Murray said, especially when it comes to different forms of ministry in various parts of the world. “It’s a long journey,” she added, and “this is not for the faint hearted, it’s not for quick and easy answers.”

Online Scammers Target Prominent Indian Female Media Personalities With Promises Of Jobs At Harvard: NYT

Several prominent female journalists and media personalities in India including ex-NDTV anchor Nidhi Razdan have been targeted by online scammers with promises of prestigious jobs at Harvard, the New York Times reported on Thursday.

While the identity of the scammers remains a mystery, the incidents have raised questions about why Harvard — despite its reputation for fiercely protecting its brand — “did not act to stop the scam, even after being explicitly warned about it” by one of the victims, the Times said.

Another target was a spokeswoman for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, Nighat Abbass. When the scammers pushed for her passport details and other personal information, she checked directly with one of the Harvard administrators included on the emails.

That administrator, Bailey Payne, a programme coordinator in the office of Harvard’s vice provost for international affairs, responded, saying the official invitation that appeared to have been sent from her Harvard.edu email address was fake.

When Payne asked Abbass if she would like to share more information, Abbass sent in a trove – the phone number from the U.A.E., the emails, screenshots of the fake Harvard documents and hotel booking records. But it’s not clear what action, if any, Harvard took, the Times said. Payne did not respond to requests for comment.

Jason Newton, a Harvard spokesman, declined to comment on what the university did with the information Abbass provided, the paper said. The first known target was outspoken female journalist Rohini Singh, who received a Twitter message from someone calling himself Tauseef Ahmad in mid-August 2019.

Ahmad invited her to participate in a high-powered media conference. Harvard would pick up all expenses. She, however, grew suspicious after Ahmad connected her to a colleague, introduced as Alex Hirschman, who wrote to her from a Gmail account rather than an official Harvard.edu email address.

Singh ceased communication. The next target was another female journalist, Zainab Sikander, who too received a Twitter message on August 22, 2019 from Ahmad, inviting her to participate in a high-powered media conference at Harvard.

It was the same message sent to Singh, the Times said. When she asked for a formal invite from a dean, it never came. Sikander then broke off contact as well. The next target was another female journalist working at a prominent Indian publication.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, she said she quickly broke off contact after getting suspicious about the scammer’s U.A.E. phone number. In late November 2019, the hackers were well practised when they reached out to Razdan, a news anchor at the apex of her career.

She received the first email on November 14, 2019, from an earnest sounding student – Melissa Reeve – inviting her to a Harvard media seminar. She was then introduced, by email, to another student, Tauseef Ahmad. When he said there might be a journalism job available at Harvard, Razdan let her hopes soar.

The next thing Razdan knew, she was interviewing with someone claiming to be Bharat Anand, the name of a real vice provost at Harvard. She never saw him, though. The interview was by phone. “This is where I feel I really messed up,” she said. “I should have insisted it be a video call.”

The scammers were taking bolder steps to impersonate Harvard. They bought a website from GoDaddy, HarvardCareer.com, in January 2020 and set up a Microsoft email server that would soon allow them to send messages stamped with Harvard’s name.

Unlike earlier owners of the domain, they opted for privacy protection that obscured their names from public registries of website owners, the Times said.

Razdan was then asked for references. Each of the people Razdan enlisted received an official looking email from HarvardCareer.com with a web link to upload a recommendation.

Harvard says it fiercely protects its trademark, employing software to detect new websites that infringe on its brand, but Newton, the university spokesman, declined to say if it had detected HarvardCareer.com, the Times said.

The scammers continued to use it to send emails, capitalising on Harvard’s reputation. They also copied employment documents from Harvard’s official website, using them as fodder as the scam advanced, the Times said.

In February 2020, right before Covid-19 exploded across the world, Razdan was told the job was hers. She received a lengthy contract that included everything from arbitration clauses to details about dental insurance. In June 2020, she announced to the world, via Twitter, about her move to join Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences as an Associate Professor teaching journalism.

Online classes were supposed to start in September. Right before classes were to begin, she received an email saying there was a delay because of Covid-19. The scammers would use the pandemic many times as an excuse for delays or slip-ups. They also asked her to install Team Viewer, which is software that enables computers to connect to each other.

Team Viewer would allow the scammers to access files on her laptop, but Razdan didn’t know that. Trying to be helpful, she downloaded the software. The scammers played off Razdan’s eagerness to connect with faculty members. Several times they invited her to do a video call with Emma Densch, a real dean at Harvard.But the calls kept getting cancelled at the last minute.

By December, Razdan began to get annoyed at what she thought was flakiness. She reached out to officials in Harvard’s human resources department. They didn’t write back. She then emailed Densch’s office directly, asking about the cancelled video calls. Densch’s assistant wrote back that Razdan was never on the dean’s schedule.

The assistant then asked: Who were you talking to? Razdan sent in a flurry of correspondence, including her signed contract. That’s when she received the shocking email in the middle of the night. Just like Abbass, she urged Harvard to investigate, emailing the university that “Someone/group of people have been impersonating senior Harvard officials and forging their signatures, and must be brought to book.”

She said Harvard never wrote back, the Times reported. She turned to Jiten Jain, the director of a cybersecurity firm in India called Voyager Infosec, to perform a forensic analysis of her laptop and devices. Jain, who shared his findings with The New York Times, said Razdan’s email account had likely been hacked.

Worse, Jain found remnants of a suspicious installer file on her computer, a sign that malware may have been installed. Razdan has filed an FIR with the Delhi Police which is investigating the hoax. It is still uncertain why Razdan and the other women were targeted, according to the Times report.

Usmani was speaking to IPS in an exclusive interview in Uttar Pradesh (UP) – the largest state in India with a population of about 240 million, of which 44 million are Muslims. Half of the Muslim population in the state are women.

Usmani, a director at the UNFPA headquarters in New York, originates from UP. She wonders how such a large number of people have remained invisible in this day and age of technology.

She said that a chance remark made by a journalist in New York led her to start the Rising Beyond the Ceiling (RBTC) initiative in UP, her place of birth. The male journalist told her that she was the first Indian Muslim woman he had spoken to in his life.

Celebrating the success of Indian Muslim women and the publication of a book, Rising Beyond the Ceiling were (back) computer science engineer Sameena Bano, and drone pilot Mohsina Mirza with (front) educationalist Dr Farzana Madni and biotechnologist Seema Wahab. Credit: Mehru Jaffer

Long after her meeting with the journalist, Usmani could not stop thinking of how millions of Indian Muslims remain unknown despite their creative contributions to society.

Colourful and inspiring images of countless Muslim women she knows flashed across her mind. She decided to share her troubling thoughts with other female friends and family members.

Usmani has over 25 years of experience in policy and programming leadership, focusing on women and girls and their reproductive health and rights. She reached out to like-minded women in UP, and within days a team of six professional Muslim women was formed.

The RBTC initiative is referred to as the team’s ‘COVID’ baby because it was initiated in early 2020 at the peak of the second wave of the deadly pandemic in India.

“Our brief was to work online and to scout and profile 100 Muslim women in UP. The purpose was to document the inspiring lives led by some Indian Muslim women,” Sabiha Ahmad, team coordinator and social activist, told IPS.

The idea of documenting the extraordinary lives of Indian Muslim women was born out of the urgent need to change the stereotypical narrative about women by women.

The team liked the idea of getting women to build an alternative narrative of each other by curating real-life stories of successful Muslim women in all their diversity.

The goal was to make these lives visible and drive a new narrative around Indian Muslim women. The result was a 173-page book. It documents the women from the state who drones and aeroplanes, weave carpets, serve in the police and army, write books and poetry, paint and bag trophies in tennis and snooker competitions.

There are profiles of politicians, trendsetters, doctors, entrepreneurs, and corporate professionals who met in Lucknow recently to celebrate the RBTC book and meet each other in person.

Usmani used her latest visit to Lucknow to release Rising Beyond The Ceiling formally. The directory details the lives of 100 Indian Muslim women whose inspiring stories shatter the stereotypical narrative a group perceived as primitive, veiled and suffering.

Faiza Abbasi, 47, contributor and co-editor, says the RBTC directory dares to write a different story. It is a step by women to celebrate each other. “We come forward to highlight each other’s achievements and to take the road our grannies left untrodden,” smiles Abbasi.

Abbasi is an educationist, environmentalist, and outstanding public speaker with a popular YouTube channel. She recalls how her father celebrated her birth by distributing sweetmeats to family and friends. However, an elderly aunt questioned the festivities. The aunt asked why the energy and resources were being wasted, and a fuss made over the birth of a girl?

Not used to the relatively progressive environment of today, many women still hesitate to celebrate their achievements. “We at RBTC want to celebrate and to learn to appreciate each other,” assures Abbasi. The RBTC promises to branch out its research analysis and documentation to other Indian states to document the successes of Muslim women.

The work of RBTC is vital at a time when the majority of Muslim women in India are the most disadvantaged. Statistical and micro studies on Muslim women show that they are economically impoverished and politically marginalised.

India’s Muslims See Politics Behind Marriage Law Move

The Indian government’s decision to raise the marriageable age for women to 21 from the current 18 irrespective of caste, creed, and religion has evoked strong reactions from sociopolitical groups and Muslim leaders.

There is also a view that the move is political as this could polarize voters in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is desperate to retain power in the polls early next year.

The influential All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has urged the Narendra Modi-led dispensation to refrain from fixing any age of marriage and termed it as interference in personal liberty.

“Marriage is a very important requirement for human life but no age of marriage can be fixed as it is also an issue related to the protection of moral values,” said Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rahmani, general secretary of AIMPLB.

He also asserted that any new laws to fix an age would be “useless and harmful laws.”

The marriageable age for women has been fixed at 18 since 1978, but the norm applied to Hindus and Christians.

The government should have done it five years before … why today just on the eve of elections? It is because women are now educated and know how to fight for their rights

“It is a futile exercise. The government should instead focus on helping and educating a girl before she attains the age of 18,” said Muslim lawmaker and Hyderabad-based leader Asaduddin Owaisi.

Smriti Irani, the federal minister for women and child development, introduced the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, in the lower house on Dec. 21.

As expected, there was no consensus or unanimity on the draft law from Congress and other parties at the stage of introduction itself.

“The government has neither spoken to any stakeholder nor consulted any state government.  We demand that the bill be referred to a standing committee of parliament,” said Congress floor leader Adhir Chowdhury.

India’s Harnaaz Sandhu Is Crowned Miss Universe 2021

Harnaaz Sandhu of India was crowned the 70th Miss Universe 2021 on Sunday, December 12th topping a field of some 80 contestants in a pageant that was touched by politics and the pandemic. The previously reigning Miss Universe, Andrea Meza of Mexico, crowned her successor, a Bollywood actress, in the Israeli Red Sea resort town of Eilat.

Harnaaz Sandhu, the Punjabi film actress and an alumna of Chandigarh’s Post Graduate Government College, Sector 11, won the coveted crown 21 years after Lara Dutta won the title in 2000. The 21-year old is described on the Miss Universe website as “a strong advocate for women’s empowerment, particularly their constitutional rights to education, careers, and their freedom of choice.”

In a glittery show held in Eilat overnight for a live prime time broadcast in the US, Miss India took a jaunt around the stage as directed by host Steve Harvey after he announced she had won the Miss Universe 2021 competition.

Sandhu was surrounded by 79 other pageant participants who stood in the background as gold confetti rained down and the crowd cheered while last year’s winner put a crown on her head.

Hailing from Punjab, India, Sandhu beat out Nadia Ferreira also known as Miss Paraguay who placed as runner up, and third choice winner Lalela Mswane, also known as Miss South Africa. Miss India is a model, recently having acted in two Punjabi films, studied information technology and is now working on a master’s degree.

Judges on the panel included some heavy hitters like Lori Harvey, Steve Harvey’s model-actress daughter who owns her own skincare line; Miss Universe 2016 Iris Mittenaere of France; actresses Rena Sofer, Urvashi Rautela, Marian Rivera, Adamari López; and supermodel Adriana Lima.

Contestants participated in a series of competitions including swimsuit, evening-wear and rounds of questions. The queens held their composure on stage following three weeks of 3 a.m. wake-ups, late nights and touring the country.

The final question – “What advice would you give to young women watching on how to deal with the pressures they face today?” – was asked to each of the last three women standing. While one contestant was answering, the other two wore soundproof earphones so as not to be affected by their competitors’ answers.

Sandhu replied by saying women need to believe in themselves and speak out in order to rise above the pressures of today’s world.

Israel’s international pop sensation Noa Kirel opened the night with a full dance routine equipped with a backup crew wearing sparkly dresses. The American pop star JoJo performed various numbers throughout the night as women paraded around the stage in evening gowns behind her.

Miss India told the media after the pageant ended that her favorite part of touring Israel was getting into the water and swimming with dolphins at Dolphin Reef in Eilat.

“There are a lot [of memories] and that was one of my favorites. Israel is a beautiful country and the people are so warm, and that’s what I love about Israel,” Sandhu said.

Days before she was crowned Miss Universe, Harnaaz Sandhu, 21, wrote on Instagram the words, “India, this one’s for you.” The days of waiting anxiously, working hard to perfect the deliveries to be made, the walk, the talk, learning to expect the unexpected, all part of this 70th pageant, are over.

On her Instagram site, Sandhu wrote, “It’s been 74 days since the day I was chosen to represent India at Miss Universe 2021. It’s been a ride full of love, fun and immense hard work,” Sandhu. “As I set to walk out on that stage today as ‘India’, I carry with me your prayers & love. Thank you to my family for standing by me, today & always. Thank you to all my panelists & designers who have put together so beautifully this woman who now stands in front of you. Thank you everyone. It would not have been possible without you,” she added, ending with the unforgettable words, “India, this one’s for you.”

Professionally, Sandhu is an actor with two Punjabi LMS (Local Movie Showtimes) slated for release in 2022 and hopes to essay characters in LMS that break stereotypes that the world has of women, the bio says.

Growing up under the wings of a mother who is a physician, specializing in gynecology, Sandhu, appears to have been inspired by her mother’s example, as a woman “who broke generations of patriarchy to become a successful gynecologist and led her family.”

Sandhu grew up working with her mother at health camps addressing women’s health and menstrual hygiene, “at the same time deeply conscious of the privilege her mother’s struggles have gifted her.”

She also draws inspiration from Bollywood-Hollywood actor Priyanka Chopra, who is her favorite actor. In her spare time, Sandhu enjoys the company of friends, loves yoga, dancing, cooking, horse riding, and playing chess. She loves swimming. She believes in the saying – “Great things happen to those who don’t stop believing, trying, learning, and being grateful.”

She also stated that she was looking forward to strengthening relations between Israel and India and was super excited about the challenge. She said, “I have to bring back the crown home.” The Bollywood aspirant has kept her word and made India proud. Sandhu said, “One must keep growing through life as we all learn something every day. To believe in yourself is the key to success. I represented myself as the best version of myself.”

Sandhu believes that pageants are a platform where women come forward to celebrate sisterhood and womanhood and people across the world celebrate their beauty queens and their successes with great pride. “According to me, it’s all about being true to the self and people around you will definitely look at that spark in you,” she stated.

The 21-year-old’s winning response to a question on climate change — “This is the time to take action and talk less. … Prevent and protect is better than repair and repent” — helped her clinch the coveted title.

Sandhu’s final statement at the pageant was about the pressures that young people face across societies today. She said: “The biggest pressure the youth of today is facing is to believe in themselves, to know that you are unique and that’s what makes you beautiful. Stop comparing yourselves with others and let’s talk about more important things that’s happening worldwide.
“This is what you need to understand. Come out, speak for yourselves because you are the leader of your life, you are the voice of your own. I believed in myself and that’s why I am standing here today.”

Indra Nooyi Discusses Life Experiences With Indian American Community

The Connecticut Chapter of the Global organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO-CT) and the India Cultural Center (ICC) of Greenwich, Milan Cultural Association of Hartford and Ascend Connecticut/Westchester Chapter co-hosted a program ‘A Conversation with Indra Nooyi’ December 4, 2021, at The Village, near Star Point in Stamford, Connecticut, USA.

It was a sold-out program, according to a press release, to hear the famous Indian-American CEO, who is a national icon in the U.S., especially for women and immigrants to this country.

Nooyi’s memoir, My Life in Full: Work, Family and Our Future. Was published recently, and discussions at the meeting revolved around the book as well as on life in general for the Indian-American community.

Raised in a traditional home in South India, Nooyi broke many stereotypes to become the first woman to head PepsiCo and enhance the company’s image and revenues, all while raising a family in Connecticut.

A graduate of the Yale School of Management, Nooyi joined PepsiCo in 2019 and was there for 24 years. In her book, Indra Nooyi shares these experiences and ideas of how to balance work and family for women.

At the Dec. 4 event, Nooyi spoke on her life from coming to the U.S. and climbing the ladder to become the first Indian CEO of a Fortune 50 company, at the same time managing her family and helping society at large.

The discussion was moderated by ICC Director Mudita Bhargava, who asked a range of questions. Bhargava is also a Vice Chairman of the Connecticut Democratic Party.

Greenwich high school seniors Maya Hirani and Veda Swaminathan introduced Moderator Bhargava and Speaker Indra Nooyi.

“Family is the most important unit that exists, however, families are fragile and can be messy at times, but it is better to keep it intact,” Nooyi is quoted saying at the meeting. On women’s empowerment, Nooyi said, “It is very important for the women to be educated and be financially independent.”

A sold-out audience for the Dec. 4, 2021, event hosted in Connecticut by GOPIO and several other organizations, to discuss former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi’s new book. Photo courtesy GOPIO “Women are making a difference, for example, 70% of female students in High Schools are valedictorians and they get whole 1 point more in GPA, 47% of MIT students are women and more that 50% graduates are women,” Nooyi added.

On the role of technology in our lives, Nooyi said that one needs to juggle priorities to balance work and families. On mental health, Nooyi has said “There’s a stigma attached to it, we deny this issue, however we should talk about mental health and support those dealing with it.”

On rising upward in your profession, Nooyi recommended, “Put your hand up for the most difficult assignment because then you’ll leave the mark and you’ll be remembered.” The vote of thanks was offered by GOPIO-CT Vice President Dr. Jaya Daptardar. The book Indra Nooyi – My Life in Full: Work, Family and Our Future is available from Amazon.

Chief Justice John Roberts Warns Anti-Abortion Supreme Court Justices

The chief justice of the United States, John Roberts, has warned that the Supreme Court risks losing its own authority if it allows states to circumvent the courts as Texas did with its near-total abortion ban.

In a strongly worded opinion joined by the high court’s three liberal justices, Roberts wrote that the “clear purpose and actual effect” of the Texas law was “to nullify this Court’s rulings.” That, he said, undermines the Constitution and the fundamental role of the Supreme Court and the court system as a whole.

The opinion was a remarkable plea by the chief justice to his colleagues on the court to resist the efforts by right-wing lawmakers to get around court decisions they dislike, in this case Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that made abortion legal in the United States, within limits. But in this case, his urgent request was largely ignored by the other justices on the court who were appointed by Republicans.

His point to them was that the court system should decide what the law is, and it should resist efforts like that of the Texas Legislature to get around the courts by limiting the ability of abortion providers to sue.

It is a basic principle, he wrote, “that the Constitution is the ‘fundamental and paramount law of the nation,’ and ‘[i]t is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.'” He cited as proof the landmark 1803 Marbury v. Madison case, which established the principle of judicial review, allowing the court to nullify laws that violate the Constitution.

“If the legislatures of the several states may, at will, annul the judgments of the courts of the United States, and destroy the rights acquired under those judgments, the Constitution itself becomes a solemn mockery,” he said, quoting the 1809 U.S. v. Peters case, which found that state legislatures can’t overrule federal courts. “The nature of the federal right infringed does not matter; it is the role of the Supreme Court in our constitutional system that is at stake.”

The Texas law, which took effect in September, delegates enforcement to any person, anywhere, who can sue any doctor performing an abortion or anyone who aids in the procedure. That makes it virtually impossible for abortion providers to sue the state to block the law, S.B. 8. Texas has argued that the law’s opponents had no legal authority to sue the state because S.B. 8 does not give state officials any role in enforcing the restriction.

Roberts has said that politics has no place at the Supreme Court and has made it clear he will resist efforts to draw the court into partisan cultural fights, fearing that the perception of partisanship will undermine the court’s legitimacy.

With the court now having a 6-3 conservative supermajority, Roberts wound up siding with the three liberal justices: Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. The addition of three justices by former President Donald Trump meant Roberts could not find another vote for his position, leaving him largely in the minority in the abortion ruling.

Melissa Murray, a law professor at New York University, said Friday on MSNBC that “the real question here is whether or not Chief Justice John Roberts is chief justice in principle as well as name.”

“The question here is how can he reign in that hardcore conservative bloc of the court?” she asked. “And it seemed obvious last week in oral arguments, and this week — in terms of how these opinions are written, and where the chief justice finds himself — that maybe he’s having a hard time keeping all of the conservative bloc in line.”

The Supreme Court ruling Friday said that abortion providers in Texas can move forward with their lawsuit challenging S.B. 8 along a very narrow path. But it kept the law in effect while the court battle unfolds, which abortion rights supporters said would prevent large numbers of low-income Texas women from obtaining abortions during the legal fight.

In Hinduism, women create spaces for their own leadership

Hindu Women Globally Lead By Building Communities, Taking On Positions In Organizations And Passing On Knowledge

When Sushma Dwivedi started seriously thinking about performing wedding rites and other Hindu religious blessings in New York City and elsewhere, she knew who she needed to talk to — her grandmother.

Together, they went through the mantras that are recited by pandits, the priests who perform Hindu religious rituals, to find the ones that resonated with what Dwivedi was trying to do — offer Hindu blessings and services that were welcoming of all, irrespective of gender identity, sexual orientation, race, any of it.

Her grandmother isn’t a pandit — in India, as well as in Indian diaspora communities, that’s been a domain that is largely populated by men, with cultural mores at play. But she had a wealth of religious knowledge, of ritual, of proper pronunciation, to share with her granddaughter.

And that her grandmother played an integral role in Dwivedi’s understanding and practice of Hinduism reflects a larger religious reality. Those who study the religion and its traditions say that while there aren’t a lot of women priests (although that is changing in India and in other places), women in Hinduism globally continue to take on leadership roles in other ways — building communities, taking on positions in organizations, passing on knowledge.

“We just jammed together and sort of went through scriptures. … And in that sense, that’s the ‘old school’-est Hindu way on Earth, right? You pass it down,” Dwivedi said.

After all, it was through her grandparents, immigrants from India, that Dwivedi had been exposed to Hinduism while growing up in Canada. They helped build a Hindu mandir, or temple, in their Montreal community, and made the religion an integral part of her life from childhood.

Hinduism encompasses a range of practices and philosophies, and has a pantheon of divine figures encompassing both male and female. People can call themselves Hindus and yet practice in different ways from each other. There is no central authority, like an equivalent to the role the pope plays in Catholicism.

So leadership, in India as well as Indian immigrant communities, is decentralized and diverse, encompassing religious scholars, Hindu temple boards and more, said Vasudha Narayanan, a religion professor at the University of Florida who studies Hinduism in India and in the Indian diaspora. “I would also say that women sometimes create the spaces where they can be leaders in all these other ways,” she said.

Dr. Uma Mysorekar, president of the Hindu Temple Society of North America, poses for a portrait at their offices in New York City on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. Mysorekar got involved with the temple in the mid-1980s and has been part of its administration for years, as it expanded its facilities as well as its programming. (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

They’re women like Dr. Uma Mysorekar, who serves as president of the Hindu Temple Society of North America. It runs one of the oldest Hindu temples in the United States in the Flushing section of New York City’s Queens borough.

Mysorekar, trained as a physician, got involved with the temple in the mid-1980s, and has been part of its administration for years, as it expanded its facilities as well as its programming. There are programs for seniors as well as young adults; the temple kitchen is available on food delivery apps.

Being an administrator wasn’t her intention when she started, Mysorekar said. “I didn’t get involved to become a president. But when the circumstances were forced in, I did accept that challenge.” She’s convinced that in Hinduism, women can be leaders simply by virtue of their ability to communicate the faith to others, notably to children.

“How many women have led … going back to times immemorial, and what they have contributed, it should give you that exemplary feeling,” she said. “It’s not that women have to be priests to be leaders, women have to be able to spread the teachings.”

And in this modern age, when so much vital activity occurs online, women are making a difference there, too, said Dheepa Sundaram, assistant professor of Hindu studies, critical theory and digital religion at the University of Denver (and a contributor to Religion News Service).

“If you look at social media spaces, you see a lot of women leading different kinds of groups now,” she said.

She pointed to shubhpuja.com as an example, a site co-founded by a woman, Saumya Vardhan, that allows people all over the world to connect with pandits in India, who perform pujas, the religious rituals, that can be seen via videoconferencing.

“We’re seeing women carve out different spaces in the spirituality ecosystem to find a way to actually gain power in that ecosystem,” she said.

And there are examples of women making inroads even when it comes to being pandits, of pushing back against patriarchal restraints.

Manisha Shete, a practicing Hindu priest, smiles as she performs posthumous rituals for her client’s mother at a residence in Pune, India, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. Shete, who first began to officiate at religious ceremonies in 2008, said demand is growing and “people have started accepting women priests.” (AP Photo/Abhijit Bhatlekar)

Manisha Shete, 51, a female priest who has been working as the coordinator at Jnana Prabodhini, a Hindu reformist school in Pune in western India that trains men and women to perform rituals, first began to officiate at religious ceremonies in 2008.

Her aspirations stemmed in part from an interest in India’s ancient scriptures; after getting married, she studied “After my wedding, I studied Indology — the history, culture, languages and literature of India. During my research work at the Sanskrit language department in Jnana Prabodhini … I felt that I can do this and I should do it. It was my favorite subject,” Shete told The Associated Press.

Shete said at her school in Pune, where the course for the priesthood can extend up to 18 months, 80% of the students were women, including many who had been housewives and many others who voluntarily their jobs to enter the school.

She said the demand for female priests is growing in urban areas, especially among young women, and she often gets requests even from Indian families overseas to conduct rituals. “People have started accepting women priests. Every reform comes with some obstacles. But it is happening.”

Miss America Turns 100. Will She Last Another 100 Years?

As Miss America turns 100, a major question remains unanswered: Is she still relevant?

The glitzy competition, born from a 1921 Atlantic City beauty contest just a year after women were given the right to vote, maintains a complicated presence in American culture that has undergone multiple waves of feminism.

Participation and viewership has dropped since its 1960s heyday. When the next Miss America is crowned Thursday, her coronation will only be available to stream via NBC’s Peacock service, shunted from her primetime broadcast throne.

Faithful Miss America organizers and enthusiasts contend the annual ritual is here to stay and will keep changing with the times. And even though they may not have indeed devised a plan for world peace, many participants say the organization — a large provider of scholarship assistance to young women — has been life-altering, opening doors for them professionally and personally. Others should have the same opportunities, they say.

“I think that people have the wrong idea about what Miss America is all about because it’s not just about getting dressed up and being prim and proper and being perfect on stage,” said Miss America 2004 Ericka Dunlap, who graduated from college debt-free, founded a public relations firm and became a TV personality.

Fans of Miss America often cheer on their state’s contender like they would for a local sports team. Yet some have voiced disappointment about the competition’s attempts to adapt to contemporary mores.

“It’s in kind of a bind because as it tries to progress, it not only loses its original identity, but becomes less entertaining to the people who like to watch it,” said Margot Mifflin, author of “Looking for Miss America: A Pageant’s 100–Year Quest to Define Womanhood.”

Fans, she said, are split over the trajectory of the competition — no longer a “pageant.” Some want it to be about “beauty and fitness” while others embrace the move toward focusing on leadership, talent and communication skills, she said.

Meanwhile, the competition is still engulfed by calls for greater diversity.

In the late 1930s, 40s and 50s, “rule number seven,” stated contestants had to be “of good health and of the white race.”

1968 saw a Miss Black America Contest, held to revolt against the lack of diversity, as well as a protest by several hundred women organized by the feminist group New York Radical Women, which called Miss America “an image that oppresses women in every area in which it purports to represent us.”

It wasn’t until 1984 that the first Black Miss America, Vanessa Williams, was crowned — and she relinquished her title over a nude photo scandal, receiving an apology from the organization only in 2015. At least 11 minority women have won the title in all.

Miss America President and CEO Shantel Krebs, a former South Dakota secretary of state who does not take a salary, contends the Miss America organization is “committed to diversity, equity and inclusion.”

She said the event has been at “the center of social issues” over the past 100 years, noting winners have taken on causes including HIV/AIDS awareness and the scourge of opioid abuse. But Mifflin notes the modernization of the competition has happened “well behind the broader culture in terms of women’s progress.”

It wasn’t until 2018 that the judging on physical appearance was eliminated, with the help of Miss America 1989 Gretchen Carlson.

Carlson, who stepped down as board chair in 2019, was part of an all-female leadership team that took over following an email scandal in which male leaders insulted former Miss Americas, denigrating their appearance, intelligence and even their sex lives. While some welcomed the changes as a way to make the event more relevant, many state organizations rebelled against the new leadership team.

“I say in the book that it’s always been in dialogue with feminism, but behind feminism,” Mifflin said of the Miss America competition. “So it always seems like it’s trying to catch up.”

Dunlap, the seventh Black Miss America, believes the competition — which she has no problem calling a pageant — needs to become more diverse in order to remain relevant. She noted, for example, there have been no winners of Hispanic origin.

She said more needs to be done to help young women of color get involved at the local level, such as helping them cover the high costs of participating — including developing their talents and buying gowns — so they can pursue the same life-changing opportunities.

This year, the nonprofit organization — run by an ardent group of volunteers at the national, state and local levels — announced the top scholarship awarded at the Dec. 16 finale will double to $100,000. The change was made possible by a donation from Miss America 1996 Shawntel Smith Wuerch and her husband Ryan Wuerch. According to the organization, a total of $435,500 in scholarship money will be distributed in this year’s competition, while more than $5 million is awarded annually through national, state and local programs.

Dunlap hopes that instead of looking for what she calls an “it girl” who can attract hits on social media, the Miss America organization in the coming years focuses on the promoting the “longevity of the organization.” Krebs says organizers are doing just that, noting the number of annual participants increased from about 5,000 to 6,500 after the 2018 changes.

“I just feel like there’s mixed messaging on whether or not you can be beautiful and attractive and also still be intelligent. And I just think that’s silly to me,” Dunlap said. “It’s like women can only do one thing, so pick a side. And that’s not true.”

It’s unclear if the decision to move the competition online says more about the fate of broadcast television than Miss America. NBCUniversal Media has been bullish about its streaming service and Krebs insisted the move to streaming was the organization’s decision and it had nothing to do with viewership numbers.

In 2019, the Miss America finale on NBC drew 3.6 million viewers, an all-time low. In contrast, the 1954 competition attracted 27 million viewers when there was much less competition for eyeballs.

“If you say you want to be around the next 100 years, we absolutely had the desire to be streamed because that is where our future is,” Krebs said, noting how younger people — and keep in mind, Miss America contestants must be between the ages of 17 and 25 — are less likely to have access to broadcast television.

Some fear moving online may spell the downfall of what’s often dubbed “the first reality TV show,” which started airing live in 1954.

“We have witnessed the demise of a historic event that helped shape Americans’ lifetimes,” one fan proclaimed on Facebook. Another agreed with Krebs, predicting “the audience we can reach is greater than ever now!”

Yet another fan, still upset the event is no longer in Atlantic City — it moved to a Connecticut casino in 2019 — wrote: “Unfortunately after 100 years it seems to have run its course.”

Penn State Names Neeli Bendapudi As Next President

Neeli Bendapudi, currently president and professor of marketing at the University of Louisville, Kentucky, has been unanimously named Penn State’s next president by the Penn State Board of Trustees on Dec. 9. When she begins her appointment as Penn State’s 19th president in spring 2022, she will make history as the first woman and person of color to serve as the University’s president.

Bendapudi, currently the 18th president of the University of Louisville, is a recognized leader in higher education who specializes in marketing and consumer behavior. With a nearly 30-year career in academia, Bendapudi has taught marketing and served in a variety of administrative roles over the years, including as provost and executive vice chancellor at the University of Kansas, dean of the School of Business at the University of Kansas, and founding director of the Initiative for Managing Services at Ohio State University. With a focus on collaboration and development, Bendapudi has dedicated her career to student success, fostering inclusivity, and creating opportunities for students, faculty and staff to thrive.

“Penn State is a world-class university, and I couldn’t be prouder and more excited to join this vibrant community of outstanding students, faculty, staff and alumni throughout the commonwealth and beyond.”

Neeli Bendapudi, Penn State president-elect

“Penn State is a world-class university, and I couldn’t be prouder and more excited to join this vibrant community of outstanding students, faculty, staff and alumni throughout the commonwealth and beyond,” Bendapudi said. “Thank you to the Penn State community and Board of Trustees. I am grateful for this opportunity and will make it my mission to help Penn State reach new heights across each of our campuses.”

After a comprehensive national search, Bendapudi was announced as the University’s next president during a Dec. 9 special meeting of the Board of Trustees following an extensive vetting process and overwhelming support from the Presidential Recruitment and Selection Committee, an 18-member group with student, faculty, staff and trustee representatives. She will succeed President Eric J. Barron, who will retire after serving Penn State for more than 30 years in various roles, including most recently as president since 2014.

“We are proud to welcome Dr. Bendapudi to Penn State. She is a dynamic and innovative leader who has dedicated nearly her entire professional life to higher education and is prepared to help our University advance in the ways we support students, create new knowledge and serve society,” said Matt Schuyler, chair of the Board of Trustees. “I want to extend my appreciation on behalf of the entire Board of Trustees to the many Penn State community members who participated in this selection process. Your engagement served as a critical framework throughout the search and has helped lead us to this exciting new chapter in Penn State’s history.”

Schuyler thanks President Barron for his years of dedicated service and has noted there will be a seamless transition between the two leaders.

“President Barron’s impact can be felt in every facet of the University, throughout the state of Pennsylvania and beyond,” Schuyler said. “His steadfast commitment to our students, faculty and staff; dedication to opening pathways to a Penn State education; passion for research and entrepreneurial innovation; and leadership during challenging times have been unwavering. Dr. Barron will leave our University in a most-desirable position for any leader to further our goals and mission.”

About Penn State’s 19th president

Following a rigorous interview process — including special small-group meetings with select faculty members — the full Board of Trustees interviewed and selected Bendapudi to be the University’s next president.

“We found Neeli Bendapudi to be an incredibly thoughtful, strategic leader with an inspiring breadth and depth of experiences in academia and research. As an accomplished leader, she will bring a forward-looking perspective to the presidency while remaining grounded in the important connections with our students. The qualities of a 21st-century academic leader — commitments to excellence, equity and opportunity — are second nature to Dr. Bendapudi,” said Nina Jablonski, Evan Pugh University Professor of Anthropology and member of the Presidential Recruitment and Selection Committee. “I am honored to have served Penn State in this capacity, alongside my dedicated colleagues. We committed ourselves to recommending the best individual for this vital position.”

The board and committee were very impressed with Bendapudi’s commitment to research, innovation and economic development, and also to how her experiences and vision align with Penn State’s modern land-grant mission and values, according to Schuyler.

“Thank you to the many students, faculty, staff and trustees who served on the Presidential Recruitment and Selection Committee and Next Gen Penn State Advisory Group, including the outstanding leadership from trustees Mark H. Dambly, David Kleppinger and Julie Anna Potts throughout this process,” Schuyler said. “Your collective dedication has resulted in an exceptional new president for Penn State, and I am thrilled to be able to begin working with her as our president-elect.”

Following Barron’s retirement announcement, the Board of Trustees moved forward with a phased approach to select a new University leader and named the Presidential Recruitment and Selection Committee to lead the search with support from executive search firm Spencer Stuart. During a listening phase in the spring, Penn State community members shared their input and recommendations resulting in a Next Gen Penn State report that was used to inform the presidential position profile. The official search launched in July 2021 and throughout the fall the Presidential Recruitment and Selection Committee developed a pool of the highest-quality candidates, with deliberate effort to identify diverse, high-performing candidates across genders and backgrounds.

“It was a privilege to serve the University in this capacity on behalf of my fellow students and peers,” said Erin Boas, undergraduate student member of the Presidential Recruitment and Selection Committee and president of the University Park Undergraduate Association. “I couldn’t be more excited to welcome Dr. Bendapudi to Penn State. She is a charismatic, transformational leader who cares deeply about students and has committed herself to advancing all aspects of the student experience.”

Leena Nair Named CEO Of French Luxury Group Chanel

Leena Nair (52), who was named the new global CEO of French fashion house Chanel on Tuesday, said that she is humbled and honored to be appointed the global Chief Executive Officer of Chanel, which is an iconic and admired company.

In a rare move for the tightly-controlled fashion house, picking the consumer goods veteran to run one of the world’s biggest luxury groups sends a positive and inclusive message, setting the pace in an industry reeling under pressure to show a more inclusive and accepting approach.

“I am so inspired by what Chanel stands for. It is a company that believes in the freedom of creation, in cultivating human potential and in acting to have a positive impact in the world,” Nair tweeted.

The Indian born British national has been given the charge of ensuring Chanel’s “long term success as a private company”, it said in a statement, recognising Nair as a “visionary leader whose ability to champion a long-term, purpose-driven agenda is matched with a consistently strong record of business outcomes”.

Renowned for its women’s pantsuits, tweeds and famous handbags, Chanel was founded in 1910 by the legendary Gabrielle Chanel, fondly called “Coco” Chanel. What started out as a hat boutique in Paris became synonymous with French chic and Parisienne style.

From 2016 to date, Alain Wertheimer, who owns Chanel with his brother Gerard Wertheimer, temporarily took on the CEO’s job till a suitable candidate was found. The 73-year-old French billionaire will take on the role of global Executive Chairman.

Nair’s 30-year-long career at Unilever comes to an end with her as the chief of human resources and a member of the company’s executive committee. Unilever’s CEO, Alan Jope, thanked her for her “outstanding contribution”, adding that she “has been a pioneer through her career… a driving force on our (Uniliver’s) equity, diversity and inclusion agenda… she has played a critical role in building our purpose-led, future-fit organisation.” Nair will now be based out of London and will join the luxury house at the end of January. (IANS)

AAPI Initiates “Awareness Campaign On Cervical Cancer Prevention With HPV Vaccination In Children” During Global Healthcare Summit In Hyderabad

“January is #CervicalCancer Awareness Month!,” Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of Association of American Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) said here today. “At AAPI, in keeping with our efforts and initiatives to educate and create awareness on disease prevention, we are planning to focus on bringing awareness of Cervical Cancer in India during the upcoming Global Healthcare Summit (GHS) 2022 at the Hotel Avasa in Hyderabad, India from January 5th to 7th, 2022.

Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect of AAPI, said, “Our theme for GHS 2022 is: ‘Prevention Better than Cure.” Cervical Cancer is preventable through Vaccination and Early Pap smears and cervical examinations. Justifiably so, one of our preventive campaign goals this year is to provide education and prevention of  Cervical Cancer in India.”

According to The American Cancer Society, Cervical Cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women. The cervical cancer death rate dropped significantly with the increased use of the Pap test for screening. Cervical cancer is among a number of cancers that can be caused by infections with pathogens – bacteria, viruses, and parasites.

Dr. Udhaya Shivangi, Chair of AAPI GHS 2022 said, “If vaccination programs are effectively implemented, approximately 90 percent of invasive cervical cancer cases worldwide could be prevented, in addition to the majority of precancerous lesions. We want to sponsor a minimum of 100 free vaccines among High School children during our Global Healthcare Summit. We urge all AAPI members and leaders, to join us in this fight to eradicate Cervical Cancer.”

Quoting research studies, Dr. Kusum Punjabi, Chair of AAPI BOT, said, “Cervical cancer could be the first cancer EVER in the world to be eliminated, if: 90 % of girls are vaccinated; 70% of women are screened; and, 90% of women with cervical disease receive treatment. GHS 2022 will be a forum to educate and create awareness about this deadly disease that can be prevented.”

Once a leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States. Today, screening and prevention have greatly reduced the impact of this form of cancer. Increasing screening and prevention are key components of the effort to eradicate cervical cancer. Since almost all cases of the disease are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, vaccines that protect against the virus could prevent the vast majority of cases. Moreover, regular Pap tests can catch – and lead to treatment of – the disease at the precancerous stage.

“AAPI’s this new initiative will help save millions of lives in India” Dr. Meher Medavaram, a key organizer of GHS 2022 pointed out. “Usually cervical cancer develops slowly over time, and another powerful preventive measure is Pap test screening, a procedure during which cells are collected from the surface of the cervix and examined. The Pap test can both detect cancer at an early stage, when treatment outcomes tend to be better, and detect precancerous abnormalities, which can then be treated to prevent them from developing into cancers.”

Dr. Anjana Samadder, Vice President of AAPI, said, “In addition to Cervical cancer, GHS 2022 will also focus on: Chronic diseases which can be prevented- notably diabetes, cardiovascular, hypertension, COPD, oncology, maternal and infant mortality, Mmanagement of neurological emergencies ENLS a certification course  are only some of those that are going to be covered during this Summit.”

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

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

There are several AAPI leaders who are working hard to make the GHS a memorable event, said Dr. Gotimukula. “Among them, I want to recognize Dr. Sujeeth Punnam, US Coordinator, Dr. Dwarkananda Reddy, GHS Indian Coordinator; Dr. Lokesh Edara, Chair Global Medical Education; Dr. Prabhakar Sharma, CME Chair, Dr. Prabhat Sinha, Chair Sponsorships and Exhibits, Dr. Seema Arora, Chair of Women’s Forum; Dr. Joseph M. Chalil, Chair of CEO Forum; Dr. Belani Kumar, Chair of the Medical Students Research Poster presentations; Dr. Lakshmi Thirunagari and Coordinators of Medical Jeopardy.

Expressing confidence, Dr. Gotimukula, the 4th ever Woman President in the four decades long history of AAPI, the largest ethnic medical organization in the United States, said, “Together we can all bring the awareness in the community to prevent Cervical Cancer in India which is 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths in women!” For more information, please visit www.aapiusa.org/ https://summit.aapiusa.org

Gita Gopinath Promoted As First Deputy Managing Director At IMF

Indian-American Gita Gopinath, the chief economist of International Monetary Fund, is being promoted as IMF’s First Deputy Managing Director, the fund announced last week. She would replace Geoffrey Okamoto who plans to leave the Fund early next year. Ms. Gopinath, who was scheduled to return to her academic position at Harvard University in January 2022, has served as the IMF’s chief economist for three years. Gopinath was to return to her position as John Zwaanstra Professor of International Studies and of Economics, Harvard University in January 2022.

“Both Geoffrey and Gita are tremendous colleagues — I am sad to see Geoffrey go but, at the same time, I am delighted that Gita has decided to stay and accept the new responsibility of being our FDMD,” said Kristalina Georgieva, IMF’s Managing Director.

Ms. Georgieva said Ms. Gopinath’s contribution to the Fund’s work has already been exceptional, especially her “intellectual leadership in helping the global economy and the Fund to navigate the twists and turns of the worst economic crisis of our lives.”

She also said Ms. Gopinath — the first female chief economist in IMF history — has garnered respect and admiration across member countries and the institution with a proven track record in leading analytically rigorous work on a broad range of issues.

The IMF has had 10 occupants of the FDMD chair since the position was created in 1949. Each – only one of them a woman – has been a citizen of the US. Gopinath too is a US citizen.

Noteworthy that Gopinath wasn’t always the topper type she became as an economics undergraduate in Delhi’s Lady Shriram College. Till her Class 7, she was at around 45 per cent and then toyed with the idea of professional sports. Also, she briefly showed up for modelling.

In an interview to an Indian weekly some years back, her mother, V.C. Vijayalakshmi, had talked of the ascent since Class 7: “The girl who used to score 45 per cent till class seven, started scoring 90 per cent.”

Then a good science intermediate degree at Maharaja PU in Mysore and topping Delhi University in BA. “She created quite a flutter by bagging the gold medal as LSR had beaten St Stephen’s for the first time, and by just two marks.” Like many kids her age in India, Gopinath also entertained ideas of taking the civil services exam and MBA too.

Today, the IMF MD spoke of the struggling Class 7 student thus: “…given that the pandemic has led to an increase in the scale and scope of the macroeconomic challenges facing our member countries, I believe that Gita – universally recognised as one of the world’s leading macroeconomists – has precisely the expertise that we need for the FDMD role at this point. Indeed, her particular skill set – combined with her years of experience at the Fund as Chief Economist – make her uniquely well qualified. She is the right person at the right time.”

Georgieva, a Bulgarian economist, noted Gopinath’s contribution has already been exceptional, especially her “intellectual leadership in helping the global economy and the Fund to navigate the twists and turns of the worst economic crisis of our lives”.

She said Gopinath – also the first female Chief Economist in IMF history – has garnered respect and admiration across our member countries and the institution, with a proven track record in leading analytically rigorous work on a broad range of issues.

Georgieva said that the IMF’s Research Department had gone from “strength to strength”, particularly highlighting its contributions in multilateral surveillance via The World Economic Outlook, a new analytical approach to help countries respond to international capital flows (the integrated policy framework), and work on a Pandemic Plan to end the Covid-19 crisis by setting targets to vaccinate the world at feasible cost.

Born in Kolkata, Gopinath will take the lead on surveillance and related policies, oversee research and flagship publications and help foster standards for Fund publications.

Gopinath has a Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University in 2001 after the B.A. from LSR and M.A. degrees from Delhi School of Economics and University of Washington. She is the younger of two daughters of T.V. Gopinath and Vijayalakshmi. They are both from Kannur, Kerala and settled in Mysuru.

Kamala Harris, First Ever Woman To Hold Presidential Powers In US

Vice President Kamala Harris became the first ever woman in the history of the United States to be given the Presidential powers, while President Joe Biden underwent a regular health check. Harris, 57, was in control for 85 minutes, while Biden was placed under anaesthesia for a routine colonoscopy on Friday, November 14th. Harris, the first woman, person of color and person of Indian American descent to be vice president, made history during the short time she is serving as acting president.

Biden’s doctor released a statement after the operation, saying he was healthy and able to execute his duties. The medical examination came on the eve of the president’s 79th birthday.

Harris carried out her duties from her office in the West Wing of the White House, officials said.

She is the first woman – and the first black and South Asian American – to be elected US vice-president.

President Joe Biden will briefly transfer power to Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday when he undergoes a “routine colonoscopy” at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the White House had announced.

Pursuant to the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, Biden signed a letter to the president pro tempore of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives saying he is unable to discharge his duties while under anesthesia, making Harris the acting president, and will send them another letter upon the conclusion of the procedure to resume his duties.

Biden drove early Nov. 19 morning to the medical center in the Washington suburbs for his first routine physical exam as president. Press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden would be under anesthesia during the procedure and would transfer power to Harris.

“As was the case when President George W. Bush had the same procedure in 2002 and 2007, and following the process set out in the Constitution, President Biden will transfer power to the Vice President for the brief period of time when he is under anesthesia,” she said. “The Vice President will work from her office in the West Wing during this time.”

Biden, 78, had his last full exam in December 2019, when doctors found the former vice president to be “healthy, vigorous” and “fit to successfully execute the duties of the Presidency,” according to a doctor’s report at the time. Biden, who turns 79 Nov. 20, is the oldest person to serve as president, and interest in his health has been high since he declared his candidacy for the White House in 2019.

Dr. Kevin O’Connor, who has been Biden’s primary care physician since 2009, wrote in a three-page note that the then-presidential candidate was in overall good shape.

In that report, O’Connor said that since 2003, Biden has had episodes of atrial fibrillation, a type of irregular heartbeat that’s potentially serious but treatable. At the time, O’Connor cited a list of tests that showed Biden’s heart was functioning normally and his only needed care was a blood thinner to prevent the most worrisome risk, blood clots or stroke.

Biden had a brush with death in 1988, requiring surgery to repair two brain aneurysms, weak bulges in arteries, one of them leaking. Biden has never had a recurrence, his doctor said, citing a test in 2014 that examined his arteries

Biden Nominates Geeta Rao Gupta As Ambassador-At-Large For Global Women’s Issues

President Joe Biden nominated Indian-American  Geeta Rao Gupta, of Virginia, to be Ambassador at Large for Global Women’s Issues, Nov. 15, 2021. Rao Gupta will have to be cleared by the U.S. Senate before taking up the position.

She is currently Senior Fellow at the United Nations Foundation and Founder and Senior Advisor to the 3D Program for Girls and Women. Rao Gupta is also Senior Advisor to Co-Impact, a global philanthropic collaborative for systems change, with a core focus on gender equality and women’s leadership.

Additionally, she is a member of the WHO Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee for health emergencies, Chairs the Advisory Board of WomenLift Health, an initiative to promote women’s leadership in global health, and in 2019 was a lead author for the Lancet Series on Gender Equality, Norms and Health.

From 2011 to 2016, Rao Gupta served as Deputy Executive Director at UNICEF and for a year before that was a senior fellow at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Prior to that, for over a decade, she was the president of the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) based in Washington, D.C. Rao Gupta earned a Ph.D. in Psychology from Bangalore University and an M.Phil. and M.A. from the University of Delhi.

Mythili Sankaran And Serrena Iyer Featured Among Forbes ‘Culture 50 Champions’

Forbes magazine recently announced its Culture 50 Champions, with Indian Americans Mythili Sankaran and Serrena Iyer among the honorees. The list honors Black and Brown industry leaders for their standout impact and service in underserved communities.

From tech innovators and TV executives to social justice activists and physicists, these 50 Champions are not only excelling in their fields, but they’re using their platforms to actively shift the narrative of overlooked and underserved communities, the magazine said.

“The champions on this list are not only driving their respective fields forward, but they’re effecting real change in Black and Brown communities by increasing access to their crafts, using their voices and resources to invest in underserved communities, and intentionally building community to eradicate the racial wealth gap and create Black generational wealth,” Ali Jackson-Jolley, assistant managing editor of Forbes, said in a statement.

The Culture 50 Champions list is broken down into three categories: Superstars; Blazing Stars; and Rising Stars. A strategic leader and angel fund investor, Sankaran is the co-founder and CEO of neythri.org, a professional network for South Asian women aimed at connecting them to the resources they need.

Forbes says that amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Sankaran “led her 2,000-member organization in hosting 100 events aimed at connecting women in business to the resources they need.” In March 2021, she also launched the Neythri Futures Fund, a venture fund that positions South Asian women as key stakeholders and investors, it said.

She currently works as an independent advisor and consulting CXO to early-stage startups and advises them on operations, product ideation, fundraising, and business development.

She is a member of several women-led investor networks that support women entrepreneurs and is actively involved in several non-profits focused on girls’ education. She serves on the Regional Board of Room to Read and is a mentor for the Duke Technology Scholars program and a global advisor to How Women Lead, her bio said. Sankaran has a master’s degree in physics from Texas Tech University and an Executive MBA certificate from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Iyer, who works at Netflix’s animation strategy department, is head of development at Off Their Plate’s Los Angeles branch. OTP is a volunteer corps of professionals, entrepreneurs, engineers and creatives working to build a more equitable food economy by empowering restaurant owners to cook nutritious meals that are donated to food-insecure communities, the bio notes.

Iyer told Voyage LA that she had only been in Los Angeles for a year and a half when the COVID-19 crisis hit.

“In the first couple weeks, I noticed classmates posting about Off Their Plate in other cities,” she said. She said OTP was launched in Boston, Massachusetts, on March 15, by her “incredible HBS (Harvard Business School) classmate, Natalie Guo.”

She told Voyage LA that when she read about OTP, she thought “it was an incredibly elegant way to help a lot of people.” When she messaged Guo to suggest a restaurant in Los Angeles, Iyer found out that the nonprofit had “just launched” in the city, and were looking for someone to take over running and growing the operation. That’s when Iyer joined them.

“Given I still have a day job that I love, I was a bit daunted by the task,” she told Voyage LA, adding that she realized “this was one of the most impactful ways I could personally help fight this crisis that’s affecting so many people. So I felt compelled to jump in and do my best.”

Calling it her “one of the most rewarding experiences.”

Iyer told Voyage LA of the growth OTP LA has made in a short time. “In only a few short weeks, our LA team has grown to be 25-strong, made up of folks ranging from management consultants and lawyers, to culinary students and college freshmen, every single one of them, an unpaid volunteer balancing OTP with work or school,” she said. “Because of this team and the broader OTP movement, we’ve grown rapidly. We are working with 25 hospitals/health clinics and 19 restaurants across the county,” according to the report.

Dr. Soumya Swaminathan’s Take on Global Trends In Covid-19 Infections

Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, a chief scientist for the World Health Organization (WHO), told the media recently that vaccinations are not enough to end the pandemic.

She called for expanded vaccine equity and sharing of tools in poorer countries to prevent the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and its continued mutation.

Vaccines are effective, but ‘not 100%’

“Vaccination is just one tool. It’s not a silver bullet,” she told DW. “Vaccines are very effective against protecting against severe disease…But vaccines are not 100% effective against infection.”

Although breakthrough infections remain rare, being vaccinated does not mean a person cannot pass the virus to someone else at higher risk.

“You still see countries today with high rates of vaccination and still having increasing rates of infection,” Swaminathan explained. “And the higher the rates of transmission, the danger is that you’re generating new variants, which are then going to come back and infect those people, even if you are vaccinated. There’s really a strong scientific argument to be made for continuing to use the other measures until everyone around the world is protected.”

Concerning trends from Europe suggest that the world needs to step up vaccination campaigns and ensure high coverage, said World Health Organization Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan on Wednesday.

The health expert took to Twitter to note that there has been a global increase in cases in Europe, Americas and Western Pacific regions. However, deaths have plateaued at around 50,000 a week, she said. Dr. Swaminathan reiterated the need to ensure adherence to social distancing, wearing masks in public places, and following Covid-19 protocol as per norms.

Dr. Swaminathan’s warnings comes amidst worries of India facing a third wave of Covid-19 infections. The last big spike in infections and deaths were observed in May 2021, leading to a shortage of hospital beds and over-burdening of medical facilities. Since then, however, India has stepped up its vaccination program. Yet, only 27% of the population is fully vaccinated till date.

Here are three trends to note, as per the WHO chief:

1. Europe sees spike in cases, deaths

Sharing a graph showing the progress of the infections and deaths in the European Region since January 2020, Dr. Swaminathan wrote on Twitter, “Very concerning trends from Europe. 8% increase of cases and 5% increase in deaths. We need to step up vaccination campaigns and ensure high coverage first among the elderly and vulnerable. Also, continue masking, don’t crowd in unventilated places and stay home if sick.”

2. Most deaths among the unvaccinated

Dr. Swaminathan said that the deaths are mostly concentrated among the unvaccinated. Over 35% of population in the European region remains to be fully vaccinated.

“Most deaths are in the unvaccinated in all countries. We need use the vaccine supplies for primary courses and save lives,” she wrote on Twitter.

3. Delta variant still dominant

Dr. Swaminathan added that delta variant of coronavirus accounts for 99.7% of viral subtypes in the last two weeks.

“#Delta variant accounts for 99.7% of viral subtypes in @GISAID over past 60 days. In South America there is still some Mu and Lambda circulating. #AY4.2 sub lineage may have some transmission advantage & needs watching,” she wrote.

With rise in coronavirus cases, Europe has become the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic again. This has prompted some governments to consider re-imposing unpopular lockdowns.

Malala Yousafzai Is Married

The 24-year-old Pakistani activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner made the announcement on Instagram Tuesday last week that she has tied the knot, just months after she told British Vogue that she wasn’t sure if she would every marry.

“Today marks a precious day in my life,” she wrote on Instagram. “Asser and I tied the knot to be partners for life. We celebrated a small nikkah ceremony at home in Birmingham with our families. Please send us your prayers. We are excited to walk together for the journey ahead.”

Yousafzai’s parents, Ziauddin Yousafzai and Toor Pekai Yousafzai, shared their excitement along with some photos by Malala’s friend, photographer Malin Fezehai.  “It is beyond words,” Ziauddin Yousafzai tweeted. “Toor Pekai and I are overwhelmed with joy and gratitude. Alhamdulillah.”

Malala talked with British Vogue earlier this year about her feelings toward marriage, saying her parents had an “arranged love marriage” but expressing doubt about whether she would ever marry. “I still don’t understand why people have to get married,” she said. “If you want to have a person in your life, why do you have to sign marriage papers, why can’t it just be a partnership?”

Her parents disagreed with that notion.  “My mum is like, ‘Don’t you dare say anything like that! You have to get married, marriage is beautiful,'” she said.  She added that her father has received emails from men in Pakistan who wanted to marry her.  “Even until my second year of university, I just thought, ‘I’m never going to get married, never going to have kids — just going to do my work,'” she said. “‘I’m going to be happy and live with my family forever.’ I didn’t realize that you’re not the same person all the time. You change as well and you’re growing.”

Yousafzai is known for her advocacy work on behalf of girls and women, particularly in stressing education for girls across the world.  She became a well-known activist after delivering an inspiring speech at the United Nations when she survived being shot in the head by the Taliban in Pakistan. She was 15 at the time and was shot because she simply was a girl pursuing an education.

Yousafzai is still is dealing with the effects of the shooting, as she shared in August that she underwent her sixth surgery as a result of the near-fatal injury she suffered nine years ago. She also spoke up for the women and girls of Afghanistan who are once again under Taliban rule after the withdrawal of U.S. forces.

Sarala Vidya Nagala Confirmed As Federal Judge In Connecticut

Sarala Vidya Nagala, the first ever Indian American has been confirmed as a federal judge in Connecticut by the US Senate on Oct. 27, 2021. The United States Senate confirmed the Indian-American for a U.S. District Court judge in Connecticut making her the first ever person of Indian origin to be a U.S. District Court Judge in Connecticut’s federal bench for a lifetime appointment, the Hartford Courant noted.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarala Vidya Nagala, a career prosecutor, was among several of President Joe Biden’s nominees to be confirmed last week. The 38-year old Nagala was born in North Dakota and educated in Stanford University and University of California.

When she was nominated this June, Nagala was the Deputy Chief of the Major Crimes Unit in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Connecticut, a role she has held since 2017.

Nagala joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2012, and has served in a number of leadership roles in the office, including as Hate Crimes Coordinator.

Previously, Nagala was in private practice as an associate at Munger, Tolles, & Olson in San Francisco, California from 2009 to 2012.

She began her legal career as a law clerk for Judge Susan Graber on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit from 2008 to 2009.

The Hartford Courant quoted University of Richmond law professor Car Tobias saying, “Nagala brings long experience as a federal prosecutor,” noting that the hearing in the U.S. Senate had gone smoothly and their was strong support for her nomination in the upper chamber on Capitol Hill.

Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, Democrats from Connecticut, who recommended Nagala for the nomination, put out a statement Oct. 27, applauded the Senate for confirming her.

She was confirmed in a 52-46 vote with 47 Democrats, 3 Republicans and 2 Independents voting in her favor, according to Ballotpedia’s breakdown of votes.

“Sarala Nagala brings a deep understanding of the criminal justice system to the federal bench, and I was proud to vote to confirm her nomination as a judge for the District of Connecticut. Her years as a federal prosecutor and commitment to her community will prove invaluable to this new role. I’m glad to see her confirmed by the full Senate,” said Murphy.

“Today’s bipartisan confirmation of Sarala Nagala is a testament to her commitment to public service and fidelity to the rule of law,” said Blumenthal. “Her experience as a federal prosecutor fighting the evils of human trafficking and hate crimes will have an immediate impact on our federal bench, where she will now serve as the first Article III judge of Asian and South Asian descent in the District of Connecticut.”

Hindu Women’s Network Launched In Chicago

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America, VHPA, also referred to as the World Hindu Council of America, announced the launch of the Chicagoland chapter of Hindu Women’s Network Oct. 23, 2021, at Gaylord India Restaurant, Chicago, IL.

According to a press release from VHPA, a group of 40 Hindu women met at the Gaylord India Restaurant in Chicago and announced the formation of the Chicagoland Chapter of “Hindu Women’s Network. The meeting was addressed by an invited panel of three women who have achieved success in the fields of medicine, media and politics.

There was invited panel of three women from the Hindu Community who have achieved success in fields of Medicine, Media and Politics.

Dr. Panna Barai MD from Munster Indiana was the Keynote speaker as she has been associated with VHPA since past 40-plus years, and gave her blessing and message of Nari Shakti to take charge as Hindus in America are now in 3rd and 4th Generation, and there are many areas where women need support at home and in professional lives and keeping it balanced.

Mrs. Vandana Jhingan TV Asia correspondent/Journalist and US Media bureau chief for “Hindi Khabar” gave a very passionate speech on topic of Hindu Women and Media portrayal.

Jhingan talked about influence of media on young Hindu females and what we should be aware of. She talked about journalistic ethics and importance of reporting events not creating news and sharing opinions. She also shared a video of an independent movie made by US Producer which is held by Indian Censor board, freedom of sharing a point of view is blocked and why the topic of the movie most related to the young Hindu girls.

Meghna Bansal, Trustee of the Wheatland Township and a owner manager of a Technology company, talked about importance of involvement in the local politics. Her point was simple “you might not be interested in politics, but politics is making decisions which impact all of you”. Her journey from India and moving to USA over 25 years back and how she got involved with local homeowners association and progression from there to Local Township Trustee position.

The event was organized Vishwa Hindu Parishad Chicago chapter’s women’s group. Mrs. Anisha S. Shah, Ms. Neela Patel, Mrs. Hetal N. Pate, Mrs. Nimisha K. Patel, Mrs. Yashswaini Desai, and Mrs. Preet Mittal. Hindu Women’s Network invites women from all walks of life to join this movement and help with community building projects.

Indonesian Former President’s Daughter Embraces Hinduism

A daughter of Indonesia’s first president, Soekarno, has converted from Islam to Hinduism during a ceremony in the predominantly Hindu province of Bali. Diah Mutiara Sukmawati Soekarnoputri, Soekarno’s third daughter, officially became a Hindu on Oct. 26 during the ceremony called a Sudhi Wadani at the Soekarno Center in Buleleng district.

It took place amid tight security on what was her 70th birthday and was attended by only around 50 guests — mostly family members — due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It was reported that Sukmawati, the founder of the Indonesian National Party and sister of the country’s fifth president, Megawati Soekarnoputri, decided to become a Hindu because her Balinese grandmother had been a devotee.

Her conversion also comes a couple of years after she was accused of making “blasphemous” remarks about Islam.

In 2018, she was reported to police by several groups over a poem she wrote and read out at a fashion event. She allegedly mocked Sharia law, the niqab face veil and the Muslim call to prayer.

In 2019, she was reported to the police again over a speech she gave to mark National Heroes Day in which she supposedly compared her father with the Prophet Muhammad.

“Who fought for [Indonesia’s] independence in the 20th century, the Prophet Muhammad or Soekarno?” she said.

Prior to this, she was also overheard asking “Which one is better, Pancasila or the Quran?” referring to the national state ideology and Islam’s holy book. Police, however, dropped the cases, citing a lack of evidence.

Novel Chaidir Hasan Bamukmin, a lawyer who filed one of the complaints in 2019, said he was not surprised by her conversion.

“I should be grateful, though, that she finally has made her religious feelings clear. I was so confused about her religion before. It was said she was a Muslim, but she insulted Islam,” he told UCA News.

Abdul Mu’ti, general secretary of Muhammadiyah, the second-largest Islamic organization in Indonesia, said he respected Sukmawati’s conversion. “It is her decision. She has chosen Hinduism. I hope she will feel at peace and find joy,” he told UCA News.

Anita Anand Appointed Canada’s Defense Minister

Indian-origin Canadian politician Anita Anand was appointed as the country’s new Defence Minister in a Cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on October 26th, over a month after his Liberal Party returned to power in the snap polls and amid calls for major military reforms.

Anand, 54, will replace long-time defense minister Indian-origin Harjit Sajjan, whose handling of the military sexual misconduct crisis has been under criticism.

Sajjan has been appointed as Minister of International Development Agency, a report in the National Post newspaper said. The new Cabinet maintains gender balance and has 38 members, up one person from before the election, it said.

According to a report in Global News, Anand has been touted as a strong contender for weeks among defence industry experts who said that moving her into the role would send a powerful signal to survivors and victims of military sexual misconduct that the government is serious about implementing major reforms.

The Canadian military is facing intense public and political pressure to change its culture and create better systems for both preventing and handling sexual misconduct allegations, it said.

Anand has a deep background as a corporate lawyer and has worked extensively on corporate governance, which refers specifically to the laws and rules in place to manage the operations of businesses, the report said.

Anand, along with Sajjan and Bardish Chagger were the three Indo-Canadian ministers in the dissolved Cabinet who emerged victorious in the parliamentary polls last month.

Anand was declared the winner in Oakville with a nearly 46 per cent vote share; a significant development for Canada’s vaccine minister.

She was first elected as a rookie Member of Parliament in 2019 representing Oakville in Ontario province and served as procurement minister throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. She quickly became in charge of the country’s efforts to secure COVID-19 vaccines and was often on the campaign trail with Trudeau.

In her role as former Minister of Public Services and Procurement, she played a very public role in the Liberal response to the health crisis. “I’m just ecstatic, she had said after her win, thanking the volunteers who had worked extremely hard as a team for five weeks straight, she was quoted as saying by the Oakville News.

Supreme Court To Hear Arguments On Stringent Texas Abortion Law

The Conservative led US Supreme Court will hear a challenge to a Texas law in November this year regarding the ban disallowing abortions after as early as six weeks of pregnancy. The court deferred a request from the Biden administration to block enforcement of the law by vacating a lower court’s ruling. The Texas’s new law prohibits abortions to be performed in the state after a fetal heartbeat is detected. In a dissenting note, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, argued that “I cannot capture the totality of this harm in these pages. The impact is catastrophic.”

The hearings will take place one month before the Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in another pivotal abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, which directly challenges the abortion-rights precedent established in 1973 under Roe v. Wade. The court announced on Friday its decision to hear arguments over whether the Biden administration had the right to sue to end enforcement of the law, Sotomayor indicated that she would already have gone further and blocked it.

While Sotomayor agreed with the court’s decision to hear arguments, she reiterated her view that the law should never have been allowed to remain in place.  “These ruinous effects were foreseeable and intentional,” she wrote.

In early September, the high court ruled 5-4 to allow the new law to stay in place, but Sotomayor penned a scathing dissent that called the court’s refusal to strike down the law “stunning.” “This equates to a near-categorical ban on abortions beginning six weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period, before many women realize they are pregnant, and months before fetal viability,” she wrote.

Justice Samuel Alito, who is assigned to handle requests from Texas, on Friday also granted a petition from the Department of Justice to have the court hear its challenge of S.B. 8 this term. But the question before the court in that case is limited to whether the federal government has the power to stop state officials or private parties from enforcing Texas’ law. S.B. 8 took effect in September after the Supreme Court declined an emergency request to block it. The law bans most abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which occurs as early as the sixth week of gestation.

That cutoff — when many women do not yet know they are pregnant — is significantly narrower than the window of time to get an abortion allowed under Roe. Rather than task state officials with enforcing the ban, S.B. 8 delegates that power to private citizens, who are allowed to sue, for at least $10,000, anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion.

The Justice Department and other critics, including Sotomayor, say the law establishes a private “bounty hunter” system that is designed to prevent courts from intervening. On September 1, the Supreme Court agreed to allow the law to go into effect, splitting bitterly in a 5-4 order released late at night on the court’s emergency docket. Liberal Justices Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Sotomayor blasted the timing in a dissent.

They said the court’s “shadow-docket decision making” had become more “unreasoned, inconsistent and impossible to defend.” Polls released afterward showed that public opinion of the court had fallen to a new low. Less than one-third of the country believes that the landmark opinion should be overturned.

Neera Tanden Named As Biden’s Staff Secretary

Neera Tanden, the former president of the Center for American Progress whose nomination as White House budget director was pulled earlier this year, has been named President Joe Biden’s staff secretary, a White House official confirmed Friday.

Tanden has been working in the White House since May as a senior adviser to the president. Her added responsibility as the staff secretary is to control the flow of documents to Biden and other senior staff.

“The Staff Secretary role is the central nervous system of the White House and moves the decision-making process and manages a wide variety of issues for the President,” a White House official said in a statement. The role, a senior position, was once held by now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and John Podesta, who later served as then-President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff.

Tanden will replace Jessica Hertz, a former Obama administration attorney who worked more recently in the government affairs office of Facebook. White House officials have praised Hertz as a highly regarded, well-liked member of the team.

Tanden, an Indian American, will be the first woman of color to hold the position. She is well known in Washington as a policy wonk and political strategist. She came to the White House from the Center for American Progress, the liberal think tank, where she had served most recently as president and CEO and before that as a deputy to Podesta, the think tank’s founder.

Biden nominated Tanden last year to become his director of the Office of Management and Budget, but the White House withdrew her nomination in March after it became clear that she lacked the votes to get Senate confirmation. Multiple lawmakers, including Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., objected to partisan comments she had previously made on social media.

Tanden previously served as a senior adviser for health reform at the Department of Health and Human Services and a policy adviser to the 2008 presidential campaigns of both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

In the Biden White House, Tanden has helped lead the external political effort to pass the Biden economic agenda. She has also been overseeing a review of the U.S. Digital Service, a group of technologists who design and maintain the federal government’s technology infrastructure.

Meanwhile, Biden announced his choice of two other Indian-Americans to hold high office in his administration. They include Ambassador Vinai Thummalapally to the U.S. Trade and Development Agency; and Ravi Chaudhary as Assistant Secretary in the U.S. Air Force.

While Thummalapally does not need confirmation, the nomination of Chaudhary will have to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Thummalapally, the first Indian-American to be appointed as Ambassador in the history of this country, will now serve as the Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, the White House announced Oct. 18, 2021.

Chaudhary previously served as a Senior Executive at the U.S. Department of Transportation where he was Director of Advanced Programs and Innovation, Office of Commercial Space, at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

In this role, he was responsible for the execution of advanced development and research programs in support of the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation mission. While at DOT, he also served as the Executive Director, Regions and Center Operations, where he was responsible for integration and support of aviation operations in nine regions located nationwide.

Tamannaah Among Most Influential Social Media Stars In Southern India

Tamannah Bhatia is one of the most famous actresses of the South. With her alluring personality and mesmerizing presence, Tamannah has gained a vast section of fandom. Her social media profiles indicate the kind of followers the actress has gained over the years. In a recent survey by Forbes India, Tamannah stands in the tenth position in the list of the most influential social media stars (South India). Forbes India has released the results of their recent survey, by calculating the Instagram influence using various metrics. They released the list of Top 30 Most Influential South Actors on Social Media.

Tamannah, who topped as the tenth most influential social media star, expressed her happiness over achieving the feat. The actress also shares the credit with her fans and followers, who she thinks is the main reason behind her success. Forbes India considered the Instagram activity of celebrities from Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, and Malayalam film industries over the most recent 25 posts. The influence is represented through Qoruz Score, using a digital tool which calculates the score based on the likes, number of followers, video views, and other social media activity.

Tamanna Bhatia is an Indian film actress born in Mumbai, India. She made her acting debut in 2005 with Hindi film Chand Sa Roshan Chehra (2005). Also in 2005, she made her Telugu debut with movie Sree (2005). In 2006, she appeared in her first Tamil film, Kedi (2006). In 2007, she starred in two films, Happy Days (2007) and Kalloori (2007), which both earned her critical acclaim. With many commercial successes like Padikathavan, Ayan, Paiyaa and Siruthai, she established herself as one of the leading actresses in the south Indian film industry.

Tamannaah was first found in the 2003 movie Enakku 20 Unakku 18, coordinated by Jyothi Krishna. She postulated the role of Trisha’s companion at 13 years old. In 2005, at 15 years old, she worked the female lead in Chand Sa Roshan Chehra, which was an Industry failure in the cinema world. That year, she made her exordium in Telugu film with Sri and Tamil film with Kedi in 2006.

Tamannaah played the role of a model exhibiting up in different TV commercials. She is embracing famous brands like Celkon Mobiles, Fanta, and Chandrika Ayurvedic cleanser and also the brand ambassador of the Salem predicated jewelry retailer AVR and Khazana Jewellery. Prior to entering the Film industry, she adscititiously acted in Tamil ads like Shakthi Masala, Power Soap, and Sun Direct. She supplementally worked with Virat Kohli for a promotion shoot of Celkon Mobile. In 2014, she presented in a PETA ad, inspiriting shoppers to buy beauty care products that have not been endeavored on animals. In Walk 2015, she adscititiously marked as a brand ambassador for channel Zee Telugu.

“While I’m Alive, I’ll Keep Speaking” Journalist Rana Ayyub’s Fight to Expose the Truth in India

For the last several months, every time Rana Ayyub’s phone or doorbell rings, she has felt a pang of fear. Could this be the day the Indian government finally throws her in prison—or worse?

In early October, Ayyub was rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night with a suspected heart attack. She remembers screaming to doctors in her hospital bed: “I’m dying.” The scare turned out to be a palpitation, and she was prescribed blood pressure medication. “It happened because I was fearful of my life,” Ayyub, 37, says in a phone interview with TIME two weeks later. “I was just tired of this existence.”

Ayyub is one of India’s most famous journalists, and a thorn in the side of the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. She rose to prominence after she self-published Gujarat Files, a 2016 book about the 2002 violence in the state of Gujarat that left at least 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus dead. Ayyub’s work accused Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat, and his allies of being complicit in the anti-Muslim violence and included undercover audio recordings of politicians in India’s now-ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. (Modi has never been formally charged and has said his government used its “full strength” to “do the right thing.”)

Since then, Ayyub has struggled to find editors at mainstream Indian publications willing to publish her work. This summer, she joined the American newsletter platform her Substack. She also writes a regular column for the Washington Post, and has occasionally written for TIME, including a TIME cover story in April highlighting the Modi government’s mismanagement of the country’s devastating second wave of COVID-19. And for the past several months, she has endured an escalating campaign of intimidation from Indian authorities and supporters of the ruling party.

“Of all the cases of journalists we work on around the world, at the moment Rana is one of my top concerns,” says Rebecca Vincent, the director of international campaigns at rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF). “The hate she’s facing has been escalating for years but it’s so intense at the moment. We have a history of journalists being killed with impunity in India, and frankly it’s very possible that could be repeated. When I receive urgent calls from Rana, my immediate instinct is concern for her life.” The Indian government should know, Vincent says, that the world’s eyes are watching out for Ayyub’s safety. “If something happens to her, it will be very obvious where it came from and why,” she says.

Although India is often called the world’s largest democracy, U.S.-based nonprofit Freedom House downgraded India from “free” to “partly free” in March, citing a decline in civil liberties since Modi came to power in 2014, including the intimidation of journalists and activists. Independent journalists, especially women, face particularly intense harassment, abuse and rape threats.

In 2017, prominent journalist Gauri Lankesh, known for her outspoken criticism of the Hindu nationalist government, was shot dead in Bangalore. RSF notes that India “is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists trying to do their job properly” and the group’s annual World Press Freedom Index ranks India at 142 out of 180 countries.

Modi’s government set up a committee in 2020 to improve India’s ranking; the committee said in March that the RSF methodology lacked transparency and identified a “Western bias” in the index. (India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting did not reply to a request for comment.)

Ayyub is used to living on the edge. In 2018, for example, BJP supporters shared on social media a pornographic video doctored to include Ayyub’s face in an attempt to discredit her. For more than four years, she has received a barrage of anonymous death and rape threats on her social media. But for the last several months, she has been the victim of a campaign of intimidation by Indian authorities that has taken even her by surprise.

In June, the Uttar Pradesh police opened an investigation into Ayyub and other Muslim journalists after they tweeted a video showing a violent attack against a Muslim man. Police and government officials said the man’s claim was faked and police accused Ayyub and several others of attempting to “create animosity between Hindus and Muslims,” saying they did “not make an attempt to establish truth in the case.” In a statement at the time, the Uttar Pradesh government said it placed “absolute sanctity to rule of law, civil liberties and freedom of expression” and the investigation was not lodged “due to any witch-hunt.”

In June, the central government’s Income Tax Department sent Ayyub a summons, investigating her income in relation to her fundraising for COVID-19. (During the height of India’s pandemic earlier this spring, she traveled the country distributing humanitarian aid that she had raised funds for via her online following.) Shortly after, the Enforcement Directorate began investigating Ayyub’s foreign sources of income. Ayyub describes the accusations as baseless. She says she has been followed in the street by mysterious cars, and that she has been forced to disclose to authorities confidential information and emails, including with her editors. On Sept. 27, she filed an appeal against the Income Tax Department, where her case is pending. (The department did not respond to TIME’s request for comment.)

After an experience being tailed by an unknown car for 90 minutes in Mumbai, Ayyub wrote a letter for one of her family members to publish in the event of her death. “It just says that in case anything happens to me, I don’t want you to let my death go in vain,” she says. “I want the future generation of journalists, writers, activists to know that even if my life is short-lived, it’s a fight worth fighting. While I’m alive, I’ll keep speaking.”

Press freedom is under growing threat around the world. In October, the Nobel Committee awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize to journalists Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia, editors-in-chief of independent publications who have each faced state-sanctioned intimidation for daring to stand up to authoritarian regimes. Ayyub has spoken to Ressa and gathers strength from knowing that others like her are going through similar trials. She welcomes the recognition for Ressa and Muratov, and sees parallels between their countries and India. (The Philippines is ranked at 138 on the World Press Freedom Index, while Russia is at 150.) “It has given so many of us the courage to fight,” she says of the Nobel Peace Prize going to embattled journalists. “It felt like it was for each one of us.”

But Ayyub is no editor-in-chief. She is a single journalist working mostly alone, without institutional support, and largely for international publications. This makes her particularly vulnerable, but also more determined. “If anything, what they are doing to me has made me realize that my words count, and they are having an impact,” she says.

After Ayyub’s heart scare in early October, her 75-year-old father suggested the family leave the country. His daughter refused. “I love this country more than I can ever explain,” she told TIME. “If I hated it, I would have left a long time ago. Our forefathers, our freedom fighters, fought the British to give us this independent India, this grand idea of a democracy. And I’m fighting for this very idea.”

APPLE Showcases Women Techies Of Indian Origin On World Stage

It was Indian-origin women techies’ turn to take the centre-stage as Apple unveiled its next line-up of products, including an all-powerful MacBook Pro with new M1 chips, next-generation AirPods and other products and services.

After Apple CEO Tim Cook set the tone late on Monday, Susmita Dutta who is engineering program manager for SoC (system-on-chip) for audio products, introduced the next-generation AirPods, featuring spatial audio, industry-leading sound, longer battery life and an all-new design during the ‘Unleashed’ event at Apple Park in Cupertino, California.

According to her LinkedIn profile, Dutta joined Apple nearly four years ago as system test design lead, before being elevated as audio engineering program manager. She earlier worked at GE Healthcare for more than seven years as lead system designer (ABUS Ultrasound) in California.

A Madras University graduate in engineering, Dutta now has more than 16 years of system and hardware engineering experience, specifically in systems engineering methodology, test design and mass production of low and high-volume products.

After next-gen AirPods was the turn of new and all-powerful MacBook Pro with next-gen M1 chips, and Shruti Haldea from the Mac team joined the stage with top company executives, taking the audience through the machine meant for developers, filmmakers, creators and innovators.

Working at Apple for more than 12 years, Haldea joined the tech giant as global supply manager and became product line manager for Pro Mac in 2019. An MBA from Harvard Business School, she introduced the world to game-changing MacBook Pro with M1 Pro and M1 Max that deliver extraordinary performance and battery life, and features the world’s best notebook display.

The new MacBook Pro features a stunning Liquid Retina XDR display, a wide range of ports for advanced connectivity, a 1080p FaceTime HD camera and the best audio system in a notebook. Combined with macOS Monterey, which is engineered down to its core to take full advantage of M1 Pro and M1 Max, the user experience is simply unrivaled for developers, photographers, filmmakers, 3D artists, scientists and music producers.

In April 2021, Apple’s ‘Spring Loaded’ event saw Navpreet Kaloty, a dashing Sikh, who mesmerized the audience with his iMac presentation. A Bachelor of Applied Science in mechanical engineering from the University of Waterloo in the US, Kaloty looks after Mac architecture as an engineering program manager at Apple’s Cupertino headquarters. He interned for some time with the product management team for operational excellence at electric car maker Tesla.

Pope Francis Calls For Greater Female Leadership Ahead Of G-20 Summit

(RNS) — In a message read by his secretary of state to a women’s advocacy group meeting ahead of the G-20 summit, Pope Francis called for greater female leadership in world affairs on Monday (Oct. 18), telling the Women’s Forum G-20 that “our world needs the collaboration of women, their leadership and their abilities, as well as their intuition and their dedication.”

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, read the pontiff’s message by video to a special two-day gathering in Milan of the Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society, founded by Publicis public relations to highlight women’s voices in government and diplomacy. The forum is taking place days before the summit in Rome of the heads of state of the world’s largest economies. Before the event, Francis is scheduled to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden for the first time since his election.

The Catholic Church has a complicated track record on the question of women’s participation and leadership. While there is no shortage of strong female figures in the church, some lament the lack of women’s involvement in decision-making in an institution that doesn’t allow them to become priests, bishops, cardinals or popes. In the message, Francis quoted his predecessor St. John Paul II, who in 1995 wrote a letter to women, “Mulieris Dignitatem,” that was interpreted by many as a manifesto for further female inclusion in the church. (John Paul II was also responsible for answering with a definitive “no” the question of female ordination.)

Francis opened two commissions, one in 2016 and another in 2020, to study the possibility of allowing women to become deacons — clergy who can preach but cannot perform the sacraments. Since becoming pope, he has appointed more than a dozen women to positions of influence and leadership in the Vatican. In early October, the pope launched a two-year synodal process, in which the faithful will be called to discuss, debate and express their views on the most pressing issues facing the Catholic Church. When the world’s Catholic bishops convene in Rome in 2023 to vote on the issues raised in the process, only one woman, Sister Nathalie Becquart, whom Pope Francis appointed as undersecretary to the synod of bishops, will be allowed to vote.

The message Parolin read quoted some of Francis’ earlier speeches praising “the irreplaceable contribution of women in building a world that can be a home for all” and their ability to be “concrete and know how to weave life’s threads with quiet patience.” It is with this constant weaving, it said, that women promote a sense of “selflessness” that is capable of looking beyond the myopic approach solely centered on immediate profit. The contribution of women is essential “in the efforts for the care of our common home.”

While the pope noted men’s and women’s “respective characteristics,” his message said both sexes are “called to embrace their common vocation to be active builders of society.” The pope’s speech ended with an emphatic appeal calling for the education of every girl in the world: “I would like to seize this opportunity to reiterate a strong encouragement that every girl and young woman in every country may have access to quality education so that each of them may flourish, expand their own potential and talents, and dedicate themselves to the development and progress of cohesive societies.”

Sukriti And Prakriti Kakkar Light Up Iconic Times Square Billboard In New York

Singing sisters Sukriti Kakkar and Prakriti Kakkar have rendered absolute magic to many melodies turning them into dreamy affairs with their ethereal voices. And now, the twins have made it to the famed New York Times Square billboard. The appearance comes as a part of an initiative that supports equity for women in music on the global canvas.

The two took to Instagram to share the news with their fans. They captioned the post, “YA GIRLS MADE IT TO A BILLBOARD IN TimesSquare ???? This day will always be remembered. #SuPraInNY ?? Thank you @spotify and @spotifyindia for making this possible! Big love to our @vyrloriginals fam and @bandbaaja ????”

Sukriti and Prakriti’s rendezvous with international acclaim happened earlier this year when the sisters collaborated with global musical sensation Dua Lipa. Their track, the Hindi remix version of ‘Levitating’ with Dua Lipa turned out to be an absolute blockbuster and topped the charts for several months.

Continuing the streak of international fame, the singing twins featured on the most coveted billboard. They featured alongside names such as Vladivojna La Chia, Maria Jose Llergo making them the only Indians to be a part of this list which comes across as a huge honour not just to both of them but also for the country and the Indian music fraternity.

Talking to IANS, an extremely elated Sukriti said, “There are dreams that one always sets out with, especially at the start of our careers. The Times Square billboard was surely always a part of that dream for us and seeing it come to life, it is a surreal moment for us.”

She adds that the fact they got featured on the billboard for an important cause is what makes it all the more special. “Apart from pinching ourselves, and actually seeing the image of us on the billboard, the fact that it is for a cause that is to encourage equity for women in music globally, makes it even more special”, she added.

For Prakriti, it’s about making a difference through their voice both literally and metaphorically, as she says, “Representation of women in music, locally as well as globally has reached an all new platform of equity. Women deserve to be paid as much as men, given the same treatment as male singers and this association was just to empower that.”

“It has made it to the most viewed billboard in the world, Times Square and we are so proud to be a part of this. As Indian artistes, and also as young women, it is important for one to always believe in equity in order to see it becoming our reality,” Prakriti concluded.

AAPI’s Panel Discussion Explores Ways To “End Domestic Violence”

An international web-conference on Ways to Prevent Domestic Violence, with renowned speakers from across the United States and India was organized by the Women’s Committee of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) on Sunday, October 17th, 2021.

Describing Domestic Violence as “a serious public health concern” Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of AAPI, in her welcome address said, “October is Domestic Awareness Month. Nearly one in four women and one in seven men in the U.S. have experienced physical violence at the hands of their domestic partners, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The very important discussion today with an experts panel is aimed at helping AAPI members and the larger society to learn on ways to help promote healthy, respectful and nonviolent relationships.”

Dr. Seema Arora, past AAPI BOT Chair and currently serving as AAPI Women’s Committee Chair, introduced the panelists, and explained the significance of the Color Purple, which is a symbol of courage. Setting the stage and the context for this very important area of concern, Dr. Arora said, “October is ‘Domestic Violence Awareness’ month.  AAPI women’s physicians committee is trying to increase awareness towards this very prevalent but subdued age old problem that can affect any gender, race, region & socio-economic strata in a panel discussion with renowned panelists from around the world.”

Lata Rao, a Domestic Violence Survivor and Domestic Violence Advocate, referring briefly to her life in the past, focused more on her efforts to prevent domestic violence.  Describing her past and the “most dreadful events” she had experienced in her life, impacting her physical, emotional and mental wellbeing, she said, “I wanted to do something for myself” starting her own business which was resented by her ex- spouse.  “I encourage women not to be what I went through” but to be more independent. She told the audience how meeting with mentors and having a support system gradually changed her life, while forgiving and staying positive helped me start a new phase in her life. “Today, I use my experiences as a tool to support and educate other women,” Ms. Rao said.

Dr. Preeti Saran, Domestic Violence Survivor and currently practicing Family Medicine & Obesity Specialist at RNJ Barnabas Hospital, New Jersey, pointed out that Domestic Violence is prevalent in all parts of the world. Sharing her own life’s challenges and abuses, Dr. Saran said, “Coming from very traditional society back in India, initially I thought it was happening to me because of my background.” Married to a dominant person, who was demanding, but suspicious and with trust issues, she had suffered immensely with insecurity and complexities of married life with intimidation and fearful for her own life. But she was able to turn her life around and has made a positive impact in the society. “Now, I am to reach out to other women who need support,” she said.

Dr. Meher Medavaram, a member of AAPI’s Women’s Committee introduced Deanne Mazzochi, Illinois State Representative, Attorney Life Science Law.  Rep. Mazzochi shared with the audience about her work as a state legislator and as an attorney who works with women and families, ensuring the safety of those in DV situations. She described the many laws and legal systems that are available to victims of DV in the state of Illinois. She advocated that one should “ensure that you have a safe place to live,” if and when you want to leave an unhealthy relationship.

Dr. Manju Sheth, an Internist, practicing Medicine at Beth Israel Lahey, MA, Chair and Advisory Board Member at SAHELI, Member of Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence, President of “Women Who Win,” urged fellow physicians “to stay vigilant and collaborate” and look for signs/red flags to identify violence “as the patients can present with a multitude of unrelated symptoms that only compassionate questions can reveal clearly.”

“Women are very reluctant to speak to you and we often notice PTSD, trauma, depression and anxiety.” She told the Fellow physicians to be prepared to collaborate with: Medical, Psychological professionals and refer for services. Dr. Sheth pointed to SAHELI, a very well known organization for its work, providing psychiatric and other services to victims of DV in the Boston region.

Dr. Saraswati Muppana while introducing Dr. Eshita Chakrabarti wanted to know the role of media in supporting survivors of DV. Dr. Eshita Chakrabarti, drawing from her own personal experiences told about the powerful medium of the Media, which has been instrumental and can be used an effective tool to educate the society about the impact of and to prevent Domestic Violence.

Dr. Malti Mehta, who has worked with “Battered Women” introduced Dr. Nandita Palshetkar Chair of GAPIO Women’s Forum and Medical Director, IVF & Infertility Centers, India and serving as the President of Federation of OB/GYN Society of India. Dr. Palshetkar shared her insights and offered a global perspective and how the pandemic has contributed to increase in incidents of Domestic Violence. “Nearly one third of women across the world face Shadow Pandemic Domestic Violence.”

Dr. Udhaya Shivangi, AAPI Mississippi Chapter president, in her remarks said, “The best way to fight this issue is to talk about it, create awareness and share resources to recognize the signs and take steps for prevention and protection. ASHIANA is one such organization that helps empower domestic violence survivors to achieve self sufficiency with a culturally sensitive approach for the past 25 years helping South Asians in USA.

“The best way is to create awareness and provide resources and help lead the victims of Domestic Violence to be strong and independent and safe,” said Jaya Nelliot, a Board Member and Outreach Director of ASHIANA has been passionate about serving the community, and been actively involved with ASHIANA since 2009. Describing DV as a “pandemic,” she provided an introduction to the mission of and the broad spectrum of work ASHIANA does among South Asians in the North America.

Dr. Hetal Gor, a member of AAPI Women’s Committee  introduced Navneet Bhalla, International Human Rights Law, UK and the Executive Director of Manavi Women’s Organization, NJ. Bhalla spoke about the legal support with an in-house staff attorney being provided by MANAVI to victims of Domestic Violence in its 35 year long history in the United Kingdom. Drawing from personal experiences, how often abusers frame and falsely charge victims as criminals and threaten deportation. “MANAVI supports such victims and help them gain justice and needed services. We take a survivor-center approach to understand and to provide support them holistically,” she said. For more information on AAPI and its programs, please visit: www.aapiusa.org

Is Sonia Gandhi Returning To Lead Congress Party Actively?

In her address to the powerful Congress Working Committee on Saturday, October 16, 2021, Congress president Sonia Gandhi indulged in some plain speak, saying she is a “full-time and hands-on party president”. Reacting to comments by some G-23 leaders that the party needs an active president, Sonia said, “I am, if you will allow me to say so, a full-time and hands on Congress President.”

“In the last two years, a large number of our colleagues, particularly the younger ones have taken on leadership roles in taking party policies and programmes to the people — whether it be the agitation of farmers, provision of relief during the pandemic, highlighting issues of concern to youth and women, atrocities on Dalits, Adivasis and minorities, price rise, and the destruction of the public sector,” the Congress president said during her opening address.

She added, “Never have we let issues of public importance and concern go unaddressed. You are aware that I have been taking them up with the Prime Minister as have Manmohan Singh and Rahul ji. I have been interacting with like-minded political parties regularly. We have issued joint statements on national issues and coordinated our strategy in Parliament as well.”

She further said, “I have always appreciated frankness. There is no need to speak to me through the media. So let us all have a free and honest discussion. But what should get communicated outside the four walls of this room is the collective decision of the CWC.”

Kapil Sibal, one of the G 23 leaders, had said during a press conference last month: “In our party, at the moment, there is no president, so we don’t know who is taking these decisions. We know and yet we don’t know.”

On the eve of the meeting, several Congress leaders, including members of the Group of 23 who have been seeking sweeping changes in the party structure, argued that the party should not go in for polls now.

Gandhi, while referring to organizational elections for electing a new president, said, “The entire organization wants a revival of the Congress.  But this requires unity and keeping the Party’s interests paramount. Above all, it requires self-control and discipline.”

She added, “I am acutely conscious of the fact that I have been interim Congress President ever since the CWC, asked me to return in this capacity in 2019. We had thereafter, you may recall, finalized a roadmap for electing a regular President by June 30th 2021.  But the second wave of Covid-19 overtook the country and this deadline was extended indefinitely by the CWC in its meeting held on May 10, 2021.  Today is the occasion for bringing clarity once and for all. A Schedule for full-fledged organizational elections is before you.”

Leading upto the first meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) in five months on Saturday, the chances of the party announcing organizational elections, including to the post of party president, seemed bleak. On the eve of the meeting, several Congress leaders, including members of the Group of 23 who have been seeking sweeping changes in the party structure, argued that the party should not go in for polls now and should focus on the forthcoming Assembly elections in five states.

“There is again election in some states. There will be continuously elections in one or the other state or group of states till 2024. I think the party’s priority should be to win these elections or consolidating our position, instead of thinking of these issues. There are challenges before the party and there are bigger challenges before the nation… There are issues of democratic values, the issue of weaker sections, unemployment… economy is in a very bad shape. All these things are very dear to the Congress. I think we should focus on these issues and on winning elections in the states. Everybody realises this… But anyway, if the party feels there should be elections, we are ready for elections also,” CWC member Harish Rawat told The Indian Express.

Some of the leaders of the G-23, however, added that the CWC can decide the timeline for holding the membership drive, which was last held in 2016-17, in the run up to the organisational elections.

“We have not had a membership drive for five-six years. So how can we hold organisational elections? We will have to hold the membership drive first. But the coming Assembly elections are the priority. We can discuss the schedule (for organisational elections). But first the membership drive will have to begin at some point of time,” a G-23 leader said.

Pope Francis Welcomes US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi At The Vatican Biden To Meet The Pontiff on October 29th

Pope Francis granted a private audience in the Vatican to U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Saturday, October 9th during her recent visit to Italy.

It has been reported that President Biden will meet with Francis on October 29th. While serving as the U.S. Vice President, Biden had met with Pope Francis for the first time in September 2015, when the pope visited the United States to attend the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

The following year, on April 29, 2016, Biden went to the Vatican for a summit on regenerative medicine, where he praised Pope Francis and advocated for a global push to cure cancer. Biden had opened his speech at the Vatican by recalling how, while visiting the United States the previous September, Pope Francis had comforted him after the loss of his eldest son Beau, who passed away the previous summer at the age of 46 from brain cancer.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Rome for a gathering of legislative leaders of G20 countries ahead of the U.N. Climate Change Summit in Scotland later this month. “It was a spiritual, personal and official honor to have an audience with His Holiness Pope Francis this morning,” the speaker said in a statement.

Francis’ private meeting with Pelosi, a Catholic and a defender of abortion rights, came as American Catholic bishops consider how to press the church’s teaching against abortion while the country’s second Catholic president, Joe Biden, heads an avowedly pro-choice Democratic administration

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But Francis has cautioned the American bishops — who have debated whether to deny Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians — not to move too quickly and has repeatedly signaled he does not want the Eucharist to become a political weapon. Flying home from his papal visit to central Europe on Sept. 15, he noted that he has never denied the Eucharist to anyone and that bishops risk becoming embroiled in “political problems” when they don’t act “like shepherds.”

The issue, which dominated the bishops’ national meeting in June, was spurred in part by criticism of pro-choice Catholic leaders by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, who has advocated denying Communion to pro-choice elected officials based in his archdiocese — which would include Pelosi. On Sept. 29, after a bill aimed at overcoming a Texas law severely restricting abortion passed the House, Cordileone asked Catholics to pray for a “conversion of heart” for Pelosi and other Democratic representatives.

The speaker, in her statement on the meeting, emphasized the pontiff’s support for measures to combat climate change. “His Holiness’s encyclical Laudato Si’ is a powerful challenge to the global community to act decisively on the climate crisis with special attention to the most vulnerable communities.”  She went on to praise “the immense moral clarity and urgency that His Holiness continues to bring to the climate crisis.”

Pelosi also met with the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, a department created by Francis five years ago to oversee the church’s efforts on issues such as migrants, prisoners, the unemployed and other marginalized people, as well as victims of armed conflict, natural disasters, slavery and torture. The meetings came as President Joe Biden announced his intention to nominate former lawmaker and anti-abortion Democrat Joseph Donnelly to serve as his Vatican ambassador.

Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel met Thursday, October 7th with Pope Francis and Italian Premier Mario Draghi, who paid tribute to her “calm, determined” leadership even during difficult years for Europe and the common currency. Merkel herself has called this her farewell bilateral trip to Italy as chancellor, and her unusually long 45-minute papal audience and glowing tribute from Draghi indicated her Roman counterparts wanted to pay their respects, too. Merkel and her outgoing government will stay in office on a caretaker basis until a new administration is in place, a process that could take weeks or months.

Kajol and Revathy Collaborate For Film, The Last Hurrah

Famed Bollywood veteran actress Kajol is collaborating with actress-turned-director Revathy for her upcoming new film, The Last Hurrah. Taking to Instgaram on Thursday, the My Name Is Khan  actress shared the exciting news with her fans and posted an adorable click with the 2 States actress.

Calling it an inspiring story, Kajol, 47, captioned the picture as, “So happy to announce my next film with the super awesome Revathi directing me.. called ‘The Last Hurrah’. A heartwarming story that made me instantly say YES! Can I hear a “Yipppeee” please.

Described as a big moment for the Bollywood world, the two extraordinary talents collaborating to create something remarkable has created much enthusiasm among millions of their fans worldwide.  Both have created milestones with their work in the Indian film industry and this dream team is going to create an inspiring story with their upcoming film, “The Last Hurrah.”

Inspired by a true story and real characters, “The Last Hurrah” tells a tale of an exemplary mother, Sujata, who battled the most challenging situations one can face with a smile. The film is currently in pre-production and will soon go on floors.Talking about her first collaboration with Kajol and choosing this story for her, Revathy shares, “Sujata’s journey is extremely close to my heart. It’s not only relatable but also inspiring. When Suuraj, Shraddha and I were discussing this film, Kajol was the first person who came to mind. Her soft yet energetic eyes and her beautiful smile will make you believe that anything is possible and that is exactly how Sujata is. I am very excited for this collaboration and to be working with Kajol for this heartening story.”

Elated to come together with Revathy, Kajol adds, “When I heard the story of “The Last Hurrah,” I could instantly connect with Sujata and I thought her journey was incredibly inspiring. I think it’s a beautiful journey and it deserves to be shared with everyone. And to have Revathy direct me for this story gives me more strength to play Sujata and showcase her strengths.”

Bringing together the dynamic new duo, Revathy and Kajol, producers Suuraj Singh and Shraddha Agrawal say, “We think it is a coup for us to be able to get these two powerhouses. With Revathy’s nuanced direction and Kajol’s outstanding performance, we are sure that this film is going to touch many hearts.”

Produced under the banner of Blive Productions and Take 23 Studios, the film is written by Sammeer Arora.

Day Of The Girl Child: A Digital Generation Where Every Girl Counts

The theme of this year’s annual International Day of the Girl Child, on October 11, “Digital generation. Our generation.”, recognizes the digital transformation brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. But while the pandemic accelerated the transition to online learning, working and networking, it also accelerated women and girl’s risk of being left behind In 2020, more than 60 million women in Europe and Central Asia (ECA) had no access to the mobile internet and so, were more likely than men to miss out on learning and working opportunities.

Access, ownership and use of digital tools are not gender-neutral: For instance, parents may be stricter with girls than boys in the use of mobile phones and activities that require the use of the internet, while households with limited computing resources might redirect these to boys and men over girls and women, often tasked with domestic chores and unpaid work. Factors such as affordability and cost also affect women and girls disproportionally. Moreover, social norms, gender bias and a lack of support from the family and teachers often dissuade girls and women from choosing education programmes in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and from pursuing careers in these fields.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, one in three girls report being discouraged by their families from choosing STEM subjects more broadly at university, while in Ukraine 23 percent of women aged 15-24 report a lack of self-confidence as the main reason for not pursuing a career in technology. With fewer women pursuing STEM fields, the scarcity of women role models for the younger generation persists, reinforcing the problem.

Gender equality in STEM

We must all join forces to advance gender equality in STEM. Measures include removing gender stereotypes in education, raising awareness and promoting STEM subjects to girls and women, and offering career guidance to encourage girls to consider studying in fields dominated by men. Our regional advocacy platform, STEM4All, is engaging with multiple partners – from policymakers and academic institutions to women and girls themselves– in sharing knowledge, building coalitions and making connections to advance gender equality in STEM.

Earlier this year, the platform facilitated a ‘Girls in Tech: Central Asia’ event, which brought together leaders from the tech industry and ICT role models to share experiences and offer advice to more than 120 girls and women in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. One of our goals in the platform is to profile high-impact initiatives by our partners, government, and the private sector. For instance, the Engineer Girls of Turkey project is a wonderful model of how we can increase the employability of qualified women in engineering with scholarships, internships and mentoring, and coaching support.

In Azerbaijan, UNDP has partnered with USAID in piloting a nine-month mentorship programme to equip young women and girls with tools and advice to progress in STEM fields. The platform is powered by the Accelerator Labs, a UNDP learning network created to accelerate progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Future of work

While the demand for workers in STEM occupations is only expected to grow in the future, in Europe and Central Asia, the share of women researchers in engineering and technology crosses 40 percent only in a few countries. The number of women in computer science is also particularly low compared to men: women are only 18 percent of ICT specialists in the EU, while just 16 percent of founders in the ICT and tech fields in Southern Caucasus and Western CIS are women.

Cultural and social norms, a lack of childcare support, and inadequate parental leave policies are major barriers to women entering and progressing in careers of their choice. These obstacles are amplified manifold in STEM fields, whose men-dominated workplaces and entrenched gender stereotypes present formidable impediments for many talented women. Gender equality in STEM and in the future of work is a goal unto itself. We cannot deny half of humanity the opportunity to enter and succeed in this high-growth sector which powers the green and digital transition. But there are also compelling economic and social reasons for us to strive towards this goal.

In the EU, for example, closing the gender gap in STEM could lead to an additional 1.2 million jobs. More women graduating in STEM subjects and choosing careers in higher-wage sectors can gradually increase their average earnings, helping to close the gender wage gap. The world and the future of work need women’s skills and perspectives, talent and leadership, as much as those of men. This requires all our concerted actions to close the gender digital gap and leverage the power of technology to advance girls’ and women’s education, leadership and equal future.

Anuradha Palakurthi To Release “Durga Maa Elo Re” Bengali

Award-winning Indian American singer Anuradha Palakurthi “Juju” will release her first Bengali video song on Oct. 8, 2021, just before the start of the festive Durga Pooja and Diwali season. The song is produced in collaboration with Bollywood singer Mika Singh and Bappa B. Lahiri.

Here are details about the upcoming song: Durga Maa Elo Re is a Bengali dance number and the first in that language for Juju. The song is a tribute to the Goddess Durga and celebrates the joyful Dussehra season. In addition to Juju’s melodious singing, the song is a visual treat, featuring Bengali actress Tina Dutta.

Singers: Mika Singh and Anuradha Juju Palakurthi

Music: Bappa B. Lahiri

Percs: Shivmani

Featuring: Tina Dutta

Video: Ravi and Yashika in Mumbai

Video: Deepa Jacob and Jaison Jose, Cocoon Media in Boston

Director of Photography: Abhishek Basu

Lyrics: Lipi

“For many centuries Bengal blended tradition and modernity to perfection. This amalgam is in full splendor during Durga Pooja and is celebrated across the world,” said Juju, who is also the founder of Boston-based Juju Productions. “I’m excited to have sung my first Bengali song and with Mika Singh. Our dear friend Drummer Shivamani’s magic added to Bappa B. Lahiri’s composition. Bengali actress Tina Dutta acted in the Abhishek Basu’s directed song-video.”

Ms. Dutta said the song took her down memory lane of Durga Puja and the streets of Kolkata. “I’m excited as this is my first music video and it is very different. The song took me back to my own memories of Durga Puja and Kolkata and hence I was all the more excited when I heard the track,” said Ms. Dutta. “I’m glad that my first music video happens to be one in my native language and the team is fabulous. From Mika Singh, Anuradha Juju to Bappa B. Lahiri, each and every person associated with the project has a wealth of work but each of us had the hunger to do something new and different. I am really excited and looking forward to this one.”

On a personal level, Juju said that she was excited to have sung her first Bengali song.

“This song is happy, vibrant and captures the essence of Durga ‘Poojo’. I hope you all enjoy it and may the Goddess Durga bless us all this Vijayadashami.”

Juju is known for her versatility, as no genre is beyond her vocal range- be it a Film Song, Classical, Bhajan, Sufi, Ghazal, or Pop. She has sung in numerous languages and recently added Bengali to her repertoire.

The video will release on Oct. 8, 2021.

Juju Productions is a Boston-based music and video production company, where artists and singers work with Anuradha Palakurthi-Juju work to produce creative, innovative musical endeavors. It creates music that attracts global audiences, transcends national and cultural boundaries while rooted in evolving Indian traditions.

Shree Saini Is Crowned Miss World America 2021

Indian-American Shree Saini from Washington State was crowned Miss World America 2021 at a glittering pageant held at Miss World America headquarters in Los Angeles, CA on Saturday, October 2nd, 2021. Diana Hayden crowned Shree Saini, who is also the first Indian-origin contestant to represent America on a global stage.

“I am happy and quite nervous. I can’t express my feelings (in words). All the credit goes to my parents, especially my mother because of whose support I am here. Thank you Miss World America for this honor,” Shree Saini said in her statement, after the crowning moment. Saini wrote on her Instagram, “I am the first American of Indian origin and first Asian to be crowned Miss World America.”  An advocate for heart health, Saini has had a permanent pacemaker since she was 12 and overcame a major car accident which left her with burns all over her face. But she rarely if ever lets any of that hold her back or define her.

Saini, who has been recognized by several organizations and states and world renowned persons for her work and is aspiring to be an actor, told this writer during a recent interview “I am now “Miss World America Washington,” which is preliminary to Miss World America and Miss World! Miss World Titles have been won by Aishwarya Rai and Priyanka Chopra. It’s the largest and the most philanthropic pageant, having raised 1.3 billion dollars for charities around the world. And I want to promote the many charitable initiatives this noble organization does all around the world.”

The official Instagram handle of Miss World America shared the news with a caption that read as, “Shree, who is currently Miss World America Washington, also holds the prestigious position of “MWA National Beauty with a Purpose Ambassador,” a position she earned by working tirelessly to help those less fortunate and in need. Among her many accomplishments, her work has been recognized by UNICEF, Doctors without Borders, Susan G Komen, and many others. We are certain Shree will continue to immaculately embody Beauty With A Purpose, and no doubt will be successful in raising awareness and attention to the Miss World America mission. Stay tuned and follow the Miss World America 2021 journey!”

Shree Saini has also been crowned Miss India Worldwide 2018 at a pageant held in the Fords City of New Jersey. “My dance journey began when I was only 3 years old, but a substantial part of my dance journey was filled with both physical and emotional hardships. When I was 12, I was diagnosed with a complete heart block. I had to get a pacemaker surgery. The average age of a pacemaker recipient is age 80. Cardiologists told me I could never dance again,” Shree had noted on her social media.

Instead of giving up, Shree Saini went back to dance class with her left arm tied up in a cast and practiced up to 6 hours a day in order to regain her strength. Saini noted on media that even though “dance is a very competitive, cut-throat, high stakes sport”, she wants to “encourage teachers, students, parents to always be uplifting, emphatic, especially when it’s difficult. Real Love takes courage.”

Saini, who has studied at Harvard, has been trained in acting at the Yale actors conservatory. The Punjab native, who moved to Washington State when she was seven, experienced hardships while in high school, where she was bullied. For years, she said, she felt like an outcast at school for being a person of color. Shree has created an app on emotional heath at Stanford University. She has given hundreds of presentations in over 80 cities and six countries and written about 400 articles in newspapers on emotional fitness, via her non-profit shareesaini.org.

Shree says, “The best award is knowing that YOU made a POSITIVE difference in someone else’s life. A girl recently approached me after a talk and started crying. She mentioned that she had followed my journey for a while and felt encouraged to pursue her dreams, despite obstacles. I gave her a big HUG and started to tear up as well. WOW. Your positive words and actions do make a positive difference. Keep being EXTRA LOVING AND ENCOURAGING.

Beautiful, compassionate, talented, ambitious, gentle, humble, determined and dedicated to achieving the lofty goals, she has set before herself at a very young age, Shree Saini is a woman with a golden heart. Shree from the state of Washington was born in India. She immigrated to the United States as a toddler.

Being uprooted from one’s culture and dear ones was undoubtedly a major challenge. She had to experience hardships while in high school, where she was bullied. Young Shree fought bravely a heart ailment which required her to use a pacemaker. Shree, who had a pacemaker implanted at the age of 12 and was told that she would never be able to dance, is an inspiration for all. “I practice dance almost every day for several hours,” Shree says, pointing to the pacemaker she carries with her all the time.

After doctors diagnosed her with a congenital heart defect at the age of 12, Saini recalls how she struggled to adapt to the life-changing situation of needing a pacemaker while still in middle school, especially when other students did not treat her kindly as a result. “I truly believe your legacy is defined by how you make others feel and the positive difference you make in your lifetime,” said Shree, who started her non-profit organization, when she was 15. Shree said it was her dream to compete for a world title, which was started when she was in the elementary school.

“I have been the target of brutal emotional bullying. I was ridiculed in the most subtle ways, which is why I so often talk about ‘nonverbal’ bullying. For example, there were many instances where I was left out of events or edited out of pictures, and daily ‘whispered about’ by others. As a result of this treatment, there were many times when I would cry in my school’s restrooms or come home in tears after dance class… yet I persevered.

“My family helped me endure,” she explains. “My mom said, ‘the way people treat you has nothing to do with you, but has everything to do with them.’ She empowered me to step up and be even more compassionate towards those who hurt me, and to never give up on my true belief in always being kind.”

In order to reprogram her brain towards more positive thoughts and reach an understanding of how she could find inner peace in spite of all the negativity, she read extensively. “I read books and essays on achieving a more powerful mindset, responding to acts of hate with compassion, and the true value of emotional fitness and what can be done to address the lack of education around it. From what I have learned, I have formed my personal mantra: ‘Giving powerful responses to life’s struggles while being a positive contributor to every situation.’”

After dealing with her own personal experiences, Saini penciled her thoughts in a journal, which she said helped change her from a victim to an empowered young woman. The journals in her diary turned to newspaper clippings in local papers in Washington. “In a society mainly obsessed with physical fitness, emotional problems are dismissed,” noted the young activist. “Emotional well-being is necessary to have a healthy body and mind,” she says.

These experiences did not deter young Shree from pursuing her life’s mission.  “My journey went from a silent sufferer to a bitter person and finally an enabled victor,” she says. “If anything, the physical challenges and social pressures fueled her – all the way to the Joffrey Ballet and beyond, including winning the title of Miss India USA.”

Shree gives credit to her parents, Sanjay and Ekta Saini, who have not only supported her dreams, but have gone beyond to help her succeed at every step of the way. Pointing to her mother, Ekta, Shree says, “My mother is my role model, who has been with me, supported me and have encouraged me to work hard and realize my dreams.”

Regarding her future goals and ambitions, Shree is candid about her choices. If good offers come her way, Shree is open to acting in movies, whether it be in Bollywood or Hollywood. Another effective way to showcase her talents and still more importantly, another way to champion and spread her message for a better, just and peaceful world. “Meanwhile, I want to continue working on my nonprofit and become an ambassador of emotional health by continuing to visit as many places as possible, spreading my positive message of hope,” Saini says.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal Keeps Progressive Voices Together To Obtain Equity For All Americans

The strong group of Progressives in the US House of Representatives, led by the lone Indian American Congresswoman wants assurances that the spending plan, is certain to be supported by the entire Democratic caucus both in the Senate and the House

On Friday, October 1st, after President Joe Biden met with the Democratic lawmakers on the Hill, Representative Pramila Jayapal, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), highlighted her group’s growing prominence and leverage in Capitol Hill politics: “In the House,” she said, “everybody is a Joe Manchin.”

Progressives claimed victory after a planned infrastructure vote was delayed following their united front to oppose the $1 trillion bill without assurances about the fate of the accompanying Democratic spending plan last week. The move highlighted the growing power of leftwing Democrats, and sent a strong message to the rest of their party: You can’t get one bill without the other. West Virginia senator Manchin and his fellow holdout Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona might hold the cards in the 50-50 US Senate, but in the lower chamber at least the progressives were in the driving seat.

The strong group of Progressives in the US House of Representatives, led by the lone Indian American Congresswoman want assurances that the spending plan, which forms the core of Biden’s domestic policy agenda, includes ambitious spending on universal pre-K, childcare funding, tuition-free community college, home health care, and climate change prevention, is certain to be supported by the entire Democratic caucus both in the Senate and the House. Despite Democratic leadership’s attempts to push through the infrastructure bill alone, the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) vowed to withhold their votes unless they got assurances about the larger spending bill.

For weeks, progressive lawmakers in Congress have been threatening to sink the bipartisan infrastructure bill if they were not given certain guarantees about a larger social spending bill. And for weeks, many of their colleagues thought they were bluffing. “The progressive movement has not had this type of power in Washington since the 1960s,” says Joseph Geevarghese, Executive Director of Our Revolution, a political group that grew out of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ first presidential campaign.

The move illuminated how the newly powerful progressive movement can shape the way Biden’s agenda moves through Congress, with the power to delay or even block some moderate priorities. The progressive movement has been building in influence and organizing capacity since 2016, when Sanders’ insurgent presidential campaign breathed new life into the grassroots left. The progressive caucus has frequently threatened to withhold votes over ideological differences with more moderate Democrats, but usually failed to actually stop a major agenda item. Now, the once-fledgling progressive wing of the Democratic party has become a political force strong enough to resist the will of moderates and its own party’s leaders.

The CPC is larger and stronger than ever before, emboldened by an organized network of leftwing organizations like Our Revolution that have been creating outside pressure on all lawmakers in the party. But CPC members were also in sync with the President, who supported the goal to pass the Build Back Better plan alongside the infrastructure bill. Aides to influential progressives said they had not been pressured by either House leadership or the White House to support infrastructure without the spending bill.

The fact that the progressive position is in line with Biden’s agenda strengthened the caucus’s resolve. That unity comes after a concerted effort by both sides during the 2020 Democratic primary to bridge the party’s internal divisions: Biden moved to the left on some issues like climate and childcare, while progressives accepted that he would never support Medicare for All. That hard-won alignment, progressives say, is why they’re fighting so hard to protect the President’s Build Back Better Plan, which includes ambitious spending on many of their longstanding policy goals.  “This is not a progressive agenda. We are fighting for the ‘build back better’ agenda, which is the President’s agenda,” Rep. Ilhan Omar, the whip of the CPC, told reporters on Thursday.

Senate Democrats could, in theory, pass the bill without any Republican support due to a legislative loophole allowing them to advance budgetary issues with a simple majority. But garnering support from all 50 Democratic Senators depends in large part on the votes of the two most moderate Senate Democrats, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, both of whom have said that the $3.5 trillion spending framework is too high. Politico reported on Thursday that Manchin told Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer this summer he wouldn’t support a reconciliation bill exceeding $1.5 trillion—news that could mean that Democrats have to shave roughly $2 trillion in spending from the existing package.

Acknowledging that her party held the House by only a small margin, Jayapal noted that every member wielded make-or-break powers. And by flexing their muscles and forcing House speaker Nancy Pelosi to push back a planned vote on the trillion-dollar infrastructure bill, the group was signaling it was no longer on the fringe of the Democratic caucus, but front and center, guiding its direction.

Jayapal, who was born in India and immigrated to the US four decades ago at the age of 16, has been a key architect in the rise of the progressives during Biden’s presidency. The unofficial coach to the so-called “Squad” of neoteric young women elected to Congress in 2018, including its most prominent members Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, she has spent much of the summer defending the administration’s ambitious infrastructure and social agendas.

At the same time she made it clear that the 96-member CPC would hold firm in the face of pressure from Manchin and other Senate and House moderates to reduce the price tag of the agenda, as proved when Thursday’s vote was delayed. It is that tenacity that has helped her emerge as a key player in the infrastructure and $3.5tn social package negotiations, and by extension an influential figure in the future successes or failures of Biden’s wider manifesto.

She said on Friday she had been in almost constant contact with the White House and Democratic congressional leaders. “We are making sure we’re holding up the women who need childcare, the families who need childcare, unpaid leave, the folks who need climate change addressed, housing, immigration,” she told reporters.

The congresswoman released the following statement following her meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House last week: “I want to thank President Biden for inviting us to the White House and for continuing to fight for his visionary Build Back Better agenda that people throughout this country want, need, and deserve. We had a very productive and necessary conversation about the urgent need to deliver long-overdue investments — not only in roads and bridges, but also in child care, paid leave, health care, climate action, affordable housing, and education.

“As I did yesterday with Speaker Pelosi, I reiterated what I have consistently said: progressives will vote for both bills because we proudly support the President’s entire Build Back Better package, but that a majority of our 96-member caucus will only vote for the small infrastructure bill after the Build Back Better Act passes. This is the President’s agenda, this is the Democratic agenda, and this is what we promised voters when they delivered us the House, the Senate, and the White House. We agree with President Biden that, ‘We can do this. We have to do this. We will do this.’ We remain strongly committed to continuing these discussions so we are able to deliver these two important bills to his desk.”

Jayapal’s supporters credit her communication skills combined with a hard-nosed determination for maneuvering her caucus into its new authoritative role. She told reporters last week that her message for anybody doubting that the group would block the infrastructure bill unless the social package passed was: “Try us.”

“Pramila has turned the CPC into a strong political force by keeping everyone informed, having people talk through the issues and then make real commitments,” the Massachusetts senator and fellow progressive Elizabeth Warren told the New Republic. “That force is now being felt when the leadership promised that all the pieces would move together. The CPC is holding that leadership accountable.”

“There’s sometimes frustration, but we’re all part of the Democratic party, this is the Democratic agenda, it’s the president’s agenda and we’re excited to be fighting for the same thing. I’ve been here four and a half years. I still find it strange, but things only happen here when there’s urgency and some reason for people to be at the table. We’ve seen more progress in the last 48 hours than we have seen in a long time.”

During 16 Years Of Leading Germany, Angela Merkel Made Europe More Resilient

Germany’s election on Sept. 26 ended without a clear winner, but one thing at least is certain: Angela Merkel will soon exit the political stage she has occupied for the past 16 years, kick starting much debate about her legacy for Germany, and for the world.

Comparisons with her mentor and predecessor Helmut Kohl, who led Germany through reunification, are as inevitable as they are unfair. Her critics say that, though a formidable historical figure, she has accomplished nothing that can equal the leadership of Kohl. But the demands of their eras were entirely different. To understand that is to recognize Merkel’s lasting achievement.

In 1990, a heady sense of opportunity in both West and East Germany created the public support that Helmut Kohl needed to take on one of the most ambitious and complex global governing challenges since the end of World War II. Over the Merkel era of the past 16 years, by contrast, Germans (and Europeans generally) have needed a thoughtful, flexible problem-solver to guide them through a debt emergency, a surge of migrants from the Middle East, and the deadliest global pandemic in a century. In the process, Angela Merkel helped save the European Union. That’s an accomplishment that deserves lasting respect.

Convinced that a strong and cohesive E.U. would be good for her country, the German Chancellor bridged the gaps and cut the deals, sometimes over the objections of her own finance minister, that helped Europe’s most deeply indebted countries survive the 2010-2012 sovereign debt crisis. Merkel kept her word that Germany would lead the way in coping with the 2015-2016 surge in migrants by welcoming more than one million desperate people into her country. In response to the pandemic and the need for a bold economic recovery plan, she shifted German opinion on the need for common European debt.

All of these decisions remain highly controversial. Her critics say they have fed public cynicism about the E.U. and fueled the populism that has threatened in recent years to poison its politics. But without Angela Merkel, and her willingness to take on more costs and risks so that others could take less, the E.U. might have lost much more than Britain.

Her leadership has also been good for most Germans. Some 70 percent now say they’re happy with their economic circumstances. Much of that success might have happened without her, powered by new opportunities for Germany to export to China after it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, and by cheap labor provided by workers from the former Warsaw Pact countries of Eastern Europe, which joined the E.U. just a year before Merkel became chancellor.

But Merkel’s ability to manage emergencies has helped keep Germany’s economic engine humming, and one of the results is a surge in the number of jobs across Germany, especially for women. Unemployment is now near its lowest point of the Merkel era. In addition, a balanced budget law enacted in 2009 has helped keep public debt low.

There is much more Merkel could have done, to be sure. By balancing its books, Germany has invested far less than it might have in the transition from carbon-based to renewable energy. While some credit Merkel for using Japan’s 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster to transition Germany away from nuclear power, the country’s carbon emissions remain high by European standards.

Though Merkel remains popular, her party doesn’t. She leaves with an 80 percent approval rating even as her party is in historic decline. The vote share of the center-right alliance she led slid from 41.5 percent in 2013 to 33 percent in 2017. In the Sept. 26 election, the CDU-CSU fared even worse, securing just over 24 percent and finishing narrowly behind their center-left rivals the SPD. Whoever emerges as the next chancellor will be seen by most Germans as a pale shadow of her leadership.

Not only is Merkel a tough act to follow in Germany, there is no one else now in Europe who can match her tenacity and resilience either. In particular, French President Emmanuel Macron, facing a re-election campaign next year, inspires too much mistrust, including in France, to inherit Merkel’s ability to guide combative European leaders toward agreement.  Fortunately, Merkel has strengthened Europe itself by showing other leaders that compromise is possible for the good of all. That makes future crises less likely – a legacy worth celebrating

Nita Patel Elected President of IEEE Computer Society

Nita Patel, P.E, senior director at the Engineering Lead Design Center-Farmington at Otis, an IEEE Foundation director, and a mentor for several IEEE Women in Engineering summits, has been elected president of The IEEE Computer Society  for 2023. The Indian American engineer is active with multiple IEEE CS committees, the IEEE Industry Engagement Committee, several IEEE Women in Engineering committees, and the IEEE New Hampshire executive committee, according to a press release. She will serve as the 2023 IEEE CS president for a one-year term beginning Jan. 1, 2023. The president oversees IEEE CS programs and operations.

Patel garnered 3,277 votes, compared with 1,791 votes cast for Dimitrios Serpanos, who is a professor at the University of Patras and the president of the Computer Technology Institute, Greece, added the release. Patel leads a critical part of Otis’ global engineering development, providing a wide range of new product capabilities in connected, smart, IoT-based platforms. She was previously with L3Harris where she was senior director, engineering, and led multi-disciplinary, embedded-software design teams in innovative research and new product development, for which she was recognized for significant technical contributions as 2014 L3 Engineer of the Year and 2011 New Hampshire Engineer of the Year.

Patel has served as 1st vice president of the Computer Society, served a three-year term on the Computer Society Board of Governors, founded and led the first five years of the IEEE Women in Engineering International Leadership Conference, served as Women in Engineering International Chair for which she received the 2014 Larry K Wilson Transnational Award for distinguished contributions to IEEE global activities, served on the Eta Kappa Nu Board of Governors and was IEEE-USA VP of Communications and Public Awareness, according to the release.

Outside of IEEE, she is an active leader within Toastmasters International and the United States Chess Federation. Patel received her MS degree in computer engineering, BS in electrical engineering and BS in mathematics from Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Patel noted in her campaign statement that she plans to focus on the following: Nurturing membership growth through conferences, standards and services; Providing access to critical technology to our members through leading publications, continuing education, and energized Technical Communities; Optimizing chapter activities worldwide to expand and strengthen communities within the Computer Society by sharing best practices, by encouraging opportunities to get involved and by developing future leaders; and Increasing volunteer impact by evaluating our tools, processes, and services to make them as simple, relevant and accessible as possible, by developing student and early-career professionals and by expanding the inclusiveness of our volunteer teams.

In other news, Saurabh Bagchi of Purdue University was elected a member of the Board of Governors. The IEEE Computer Society is the world’s home for computer science, engineering, and technology, it said. A global leader in providing access to computer science research, analysis, and information, the IEEE Computer Society offers a comprehensive array of unmatched products, services, and opportunities for individuals at all stages of their professional careers. Known as the premier organization that empowers the people who drive technology, the IEEE Computer Society offers international conferences, peer-reviewed publications, a unique digital library, and training programs.

Deepti Navaratna To Perform At Parliament Of World’s Religions

Deepti Navaratna, a former Boston resident and now the current Regional Director of Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, has been invited to perform at the prestigious Parliament of the World’s Religions scheduled to be held on Oct 18.

She is a trained Carnatic singer from Bengaluru who is set to become the first female artist from India bestowed with the honour of performing at an event at the Parliament of the World’s Religions. She will be staging aspects of her concert “The Dialogues with the Divine” — a specially curated musical experience that amalgamates sacred music from various faiths.

Navaratna, trained as a neuro-scientist, came up with the concept of this concert to explore the similarity of the cognitive effect of sacred music on a varied audience. She wanted to explore the idea of introducing unfamiliar religious identities to an uninformed audience while basing it on common denominators of prayers and mindfulness.

“The Dialogues with the Divine” project was created for the greater goal of cultural diplomacy. It will combine sacred music from seven major religions across the world with sacred text to create this experience,” she says.

“It will include the following — The Yin Factor: Shakti — Shekinah (Hinduism- Judaism), Praying for Transcendence: Piyut and Prarthana — (Judaism-Hinduism), Unforming Godliness: Shabad and Kriti (Sikhism-Hinduism), Unboxing the Heart: Heart Sutra and Chant (Buddhism and Christianity), Inner Guru: Antaratama and Assisi – (Christianity and Hinduism), Zikr and Zen — (Sufi Islam and Shinto faith),” Navaratna added.

All sacred music from around the world has the power to rewire the human brain towards universal love chemically and structurally. Instead of shying away from sacred texts and music, they are being used to encourage and negotiate better inter-cultural understanding among inter-religious identities. It showcases the commons of our relations with a higher power, she says.

Owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, the conference will be conducted virtually this year. Navaratna and her artists will be telecasting their performance from Bengaluru.

Navaratna has travelled to multiple places for her concert and the experience has been unparalleled for the audience. The scheduled programme is an amalgamation of cultures — five Hindu children will sing a Yiddish song in a Jewish temple accompanied by the south Indian drum and north Indian Sarod.

An African American gospel singer wrapped in a sari teaches ‘Amazing Grace’ to more than 20 Hindu men and women. A Jewish cantor and a Hindu singer are accompanied by a violinist from Libya and a drummer from Palestine as they sing in Sanskrit which is part of the concert. (IANS)

Prime Minister Modi Meets With Vice President Kamala Harris

“India, of course, is a very important partner to the United States.  Throughout our history, our nations have worked together, have stood together to make our world a safer and stronger world,” Harris said

In what can be considered a historic moment, American Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Indian-American in the history of this country to occupy that position, held a one-on-one meeting Sept. 23, 2021, with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was visiting the United States for bilateral, multilateral and United Nations General Assembly meetings from Sept. 22-25.

Harris praised India for stepping forward to help other countries with vaccines at the outset of the pandemic. Prime Minister Modi praised the leadership of the new administration in overcoming challenges besetting the country.

“India, of course, is a very important partner to the United States.  Throughout our history, our nations have worked together, have stood together to make our world a safer and stronger world,” Harris said in her opening remarks at the White House meeting. “Early in the pandemic, India was a vital source of vaccines for other countries.  When India experienced a surge of COVID in the country, the United States was very proud to support India in its need and responsibility to vaccinate its people,” the Vice President said.

The bilateral discussions between the two delegations, were “substantive” and lasted more than an hour, Foreign Secretary Harsh V. Shringla said at a press briefing later on. Subjects discussed ranged from Covid-19, climate change, terrorism, education exchange, technology cooperation, space and cyber technologies in particular. In the context of terrorism, Shringla said, Vice President Harris recognized the terror elements operating from Pakistan. She noted that both U.S. and India had been the victims of terrorism for decades, and urged Pakistan to restrain terror elements active within its borders.

Modi’s comments lauded the work of the new administration. “President Biden and yourself, you took up the leadership of the United States in a very challenging atmosphere and challenging times, but within a very short period of time, you have had many achievements to your credit, whether that be COVID, climate, or the Quad.  On all these issues, the United States has taken very important initiatives,” said Modi.
Harris welcomed India resuming vaccine exports, and expressed admiration for the 1 million a day vaccines being administered in that country. On the issue of the climate crisis, she said, “I know that India and you take this issue quite seriously.  The President and I believe very strongly that the United States working together with India can have not only a profound impact on the people of our respective nations, but on the world itself,” Harris said.

And as it relates to the Indo-Pacific, “the United States, like India, feels very strongly about the pride of being a member of the Indo-Pacific, but also the fragility and the importance and strength as well of those relationships, including maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific,” she said.

Neither leader mentioned China by name although it is concern over that Asian giant’s potential ambitions in the Indian and Pacific oceans that has led to The Quad coming together.

Harris also addressed the issue of human rights, saying, “it is imperative that we defend democratic principles and institutions within our respective countries and around the world and that we maintain what we must do to strengthen democracies at home. And it is incumbent on our nations to, of course, protect democracies in the best interest of the people of our countries,” she said.

The two leaders also dwelt on the personal connection that Harris has to India where her mother immigrated to the U.S. and where the Vice President’s extended family lives. “I know from personal experience and from my family of the commitment of the Indian people to democracy and to freedom and to the work that may be done and can be done to imagine and then actually achieve our vision for democratic principles and institutions,” Harris said.

Modi recalled their past telephone conversation when the Biden administration came into office in January this year. “We had a detailed discussion at that time.  And the way you spoke to me so warmly and so naturally, I will always remember that.  Thank you so much,” said Modi, adding that it felt “like a family, the sense of kinship and so warmly you extended a helping hand, the words that you chose when you spoke to me… I will always remember that…”

“Between India and the U.S., there are very vibrant and strong people-to-people connections that we have.  You know that all too well.  More than 4 million people of Indian origin, the Indian community is a bridge between our two countries — a bridge of friendship.  And their contribution to the economies and societies of both our countries is indeed very praiseworthy,” Modi said, and her election to the high office was “such an important and historic event.”

“I am completely confident that under President Biden and your leadership, our bilateral relationship will touch new heights,” Modi asserted, adding that people in India were waiting to welcome Harris, extending her a special invited to visit India.

Ananya Birla Announces Debut Album, ‘Bombay Basement’

Singer-songwriter Ananya Birla announced her debut album ‘Bombay Basement’. Ahead of the full release of the album, Ananya released the music video of the lead track ‘When I’m Alone’ on Tuesday night. The video also marks her maiden innings as a music video director Recently Ananya teamed up with AR Rahman for the official Cheer4India song of the Indian contingent for the Tokyo Olympics, ‘Hindustani Way’.

Elaborating on how the album shaped up, Ananya informed, “Bombay Basement’ was borne out of a jam session in the basement of my Bombay residence, with a couple of friends. I had a lot I wanted to write about and share and it all just kind of clicked.” Including the lead track, there are six songs in the album – ‘Give Me Up’, ‘Deny Me’, ‘Do It Anyway’, ‘Tu Hi Mera Ghar’ and ‘Old Me’. “The range of the songs take you through multiple shared emotions but through the lens of my individual experiences.”

The entire album which was conjured up during the pandemic, hints at themes such as self-love, racial discrimination and toxic relationships in a nonconformist manner. Weaving in influences of breakbeat, pop, jazz, blues and R&B, the catalogue of radio-ready jams showcases Ananya’s sonic evolution whilst attempting to break free from the confines of language and genre.

“Over the last few months, I’ve witnessed a number of life-altering experiences that nudged me to retrospect on the experiences that have shaped me. Life is a series of transactions, some that occur to shape you and some that teach you how change is the only constant,” she expressed.

Elaborating further, what the other music videos from the album have in store, she said, “In the accompanying music videos I’ve tried to lend a more personalized touch and give my fans a slightly unrestricted access into my personal space. I’m excited to see what my fans think of it.” The self-taught santoor and guitar player has been propelled from low-key gigs around London to performing at some of Asia’s biggest music events including Global Citizen, Oktoberfest and Sunburn, and opening for artists like Wiz Khalifa and Coldplay.

Her songs, ‘Let There Be Love’ and its remix version, ‘Day Goes By’ with Jamaican-American Sean Kingston, was well-received around the world. The other hit songs to her credit are ‘Hold On’, ‘Meant To Be’, ‘Circles’, ‘Livin’ the Life’ (remixed by Afrojack), ‘Better’. Her first EP ‘Fingerprint’ with UMG and Island Records, included the single ‘Blackout’ featuring Nigerian hip-hop singers Vector and WurlD. ‘Bombay Basement’, will be released on her YouTube channel and across all major streaming platforms every week throughout October 2021.(IANS)

Padma Lakshmi Honored at Creative Coalition Television Humanitarian Awards

Padma Lakshmi, host of the Bravo TV show, “Top Chef,” is among those who are the winners of the seventh annual Creative Coalition Television Humanitarian Awards. Lakshmi has been nominated for an Emmy in the category of Outstanding Host for a Reality-Competition Program. At the Creative Coalition Television Humanitarian Awards, held in-person on Sept. 18 in Los Angeles, Lakshmi appeared virtually to accept the award for her work with the Endometriosis Foundation of America.

“I wanted to start the foundation so that we could raise awareness so that we could increase funding on a federal level, so that we could lobby insurance companies to pay for women getting checked out properly,” she was quoted as saying by Variety. “I don’t want any young woman in the next generation to go through what I and millions of women have gone through.”

Among this year’s honorees, Borstein were recognized for her work with the National Hemophilia Foundation; Hartley will be recognized for his work with Operation Therapy; Lakshmi was recognized for her work with the Endometriosis Foundation Of America; Rodriguez was recognized for her activism on behalf of the transgender community; and Snow was recognized for her work with September Letters. Emmy-nominated actor Yvette Nicole Brown received the Your Voice Carries Weight Award for her advocacy in obesity awareness.

“The stars honored at The Creative Coalition’s TV Humanitarian Awards represent some of today’s most impactful artists using their platforms to move positive change forward,” said The Creative Coalition CEO Robin Bronk. “In the wake of the pandemic, it’s now more important than ever that we seize on the power of the arts to make a difference — and The Creative Coalition will continue to lead the way.”

Padma Lakshmi is a model, actress and television host. Her parents divorced when she was just two years old and Lakshmi was raised in the United States with her mother. After a modeling agent discovered her in Spain, Lakshmi modeled for famous designers and appeared in a few movies. Known for her love of food, she has published several cookbooks and hosted the reality show Top Chef.

Lakshmi attended Clark University in Massachusetts, starting as a psychology major before graduating in 1992 with a bachelor’s degree in theater. While studying abroad in Spain, Lakshmi was spotted by a modeling scout in a Madrid bar. She soon began traveling the world as a model for designers like Armani, Versace and Ralph Lauren. “I was the first Indian model to have a career in Paris, Milan and New York,” she said. Her studies and background prepared her well for an international career—in addition to English, Lakshmi speaks Spanish, Italian, Hindi and Tamil.

Priyanka Chopra’s Show, ‘The Activist’ Changes After Criticism

Priyanka Chopra Jonas has apologised over her role on upcoming TV show The Activist, after the series received criticism online. Following the backlash, CBS announced this week that The Activist would be changing format from a reality show to a documentary special. Now, Priyanka, who was originally set to be a judge and co-host on the show along with Usher and Julianne Hough, has responded to the criticism herself. In a statement shared on Instagram, Priyanka apologised for her involvement in the series, saying, “The show got it wrong, and I’m sorry that my participation in it disappointed many of you,” telling critics, “You were heard”.

According to Variety, the makers of the upcoming project have shifted its five-episode format to a one-time documentary special. For the unversed, “The Activist” aims to pit several activists and public figures against each other in order to promote their causes on social media with the goal of securing the highest amount of funding to win the game. Many social media users have called out the competitive series, which has Chopra, Usher, and Julianne Hough as hosts. They slammed the show for being tone-deaf and insensitive. Amid the ongoing criticism, CBS and producing partners Global Citizen and Live Nation issued a statement announcing the change in the show’s format.

“‘The Activist’ was designed to show a wide audience the passion, long hours, and ingenuity that activists put into changing the world, hopefully inspiring others to do the same. However, it has become apparent the format of the show as announced distracts from the vital work these incredible activists do in their communities every day. The push for global change is not a competition and requires a global effort,” the statement read. “As a result, we are changing the format to remove the competitive element and reimagining the concept into a primetime documentary special (air date to be announced); it will showcase the tireless work of six activists and the impact they have advocating for causes they deeply believe in. Each activist will be awarded a cash grant for the organization of their choice, as was planned for the original show,” the statement continued.

Global Citizen has apologized to people for hurting their sentiments. “Global activism centers on collaboration and cooperation, not competition. We apologize to the activists, hosts, and the larger activist community – we got it wrong. It is our responsibility to use this platform in the most effective way to realize change and elevate the incredible activists dedicating their lives to progress all around the world,” the organization said in a separate statement. The documentary version is expected to focus on the same activists but without the challenges or evaluations.

Kamala Harris, Narendra Modi, Mamata Banerjee, Manjusha Kulkarni On TIME’s List of ‘100 Most Influential People’

Vice President Kamala Harris and community activist Manjusha Kulkarni, co-founder of the Web portal Stop AAPI Hate, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee are among those of Indian Origin  in Time Magazine’s list of “100 Most Influential People” released Sept. 15, 2021. While Kulkarni is listed among Icons, Harris figures among Leaders with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Pune-based Adar Poonawalla, chief executive officer of the Serum Institute of India, which has manufactured more than 100 million doses of the Oxford/Astra Zeneca Covid-19 vaccine each month since April is the other Indian on the list. He figures among Pioneers. Poonawalla was listed in the Pioneers section, alongside singer Billie Eilish, attorney Ben Crump, who represented George Floyd’s family in a wrongful death suit, and several others.

Kulkarni and Stop AAPI Hate co-founders Cynthia Choi and Russell Jeung were named in the “Icons” section of the list, alongside Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, pop singers Britney Spears and Dolly Parton, Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; and Russian opposition leader Alexie Navalny, among others. “In a turbulent year, as the U.S. has seen a surge in racist, anti-Asian attacks—from terrifying assaults on senior citizens to the tragic mass shooting in Atlanta—no coalition has been more impactful in raising awareness of this violence than Stop AAPI Hate.” wrote poet Kathy Park Hong, in Time Magazine’s tribute to the founders of Stop AAPI Hate.

“Since its start, the organization has logged more than 9,000 anti-Asian acts of hate, harassment, discrimination and assault across the country,” Hong said, noting that the Web portal allows Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to file firsthand accounts of racism they had experienced. And its leaders have locked arms with other BIPOC organizations to find restorative justice measures so that civil rights—for all vulnerable groups—receive the protection they deserve,” wrote Hong. The portal allows victims of hate crimes and bias-motivated incidents to report the attack in one of several languages, including Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu.  “This represents the strength of our community members who bravely shared their stories with us. My hope is that we’re embarking on a movement, bringing all parts of our community together,” she said.

The hate violence against the community has lessened somewhat as President Joe Biden took office and declared that AAPI hate would not be tolerated. However, said Kulkarni, the Biden administration has — to a lesser extent — engaged in some finger-pointing regarding the Covid-19 pandemic, as did his predecessor Donald Trump. Specifically, Biden asked the intelligence community to look into rumors of the coronavirus being released by a lab in China. “He gave credence to outrageous claims which could put people at harm,” stated Kulkarni. Modi, Banerjee, and Harris were listed in the Leaders section of the list, alongside Biden, Trump, journalist Tucker Carlson, Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost her bid to become the governor of Georgia; Congresswoman Liz Cheney, a Republican from Wyoming who supported the impeachment of Trump; Centers for Disease Control director Rochelle Walensky; and White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, among others.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote the tribute to Harris. “When Kamala Harris became Vice President, America took a glorious step into the future. Children in America were awakened to new possibilities. People around the world saw America in a new light. There was joy in the air, not just because Kamala Harris was the first woman and first Black person and first Asian person to become Vice President, but because the country saw what Joe Biden knew: that Kamala Harris was the best.” “I have known the Vice President for a long time. We are Californians with a common motivation: family. The Vice President’s mother raised her two daughters as she worked as a scientist to cure breast cancer. Her mother’s self-determination drives the Vice President’s work—whether that is providing tangible relief to families, lifting up women in the workforce or defending the right to vote. The Vice President wants everyone to have the opportunity to determine their future,” wrote Pelosi.