Are Women Happier Than Men? Do Gender Rights Make A Difference?

I have been working on well-being and happiness in economics for more than two decades. The research—based on the work of scholars around the world—finds consistent patterns in the determinants of life satisfaction across millions of respondents. These include income (yes it matters but not as much as you might think), health (matters a lot), employment, families and friendships, and age (there is a mid-life dip in well-being that holds across most people and countries around the world). A question that always comes up, though, is “are women happier than men?” The answer is “yes, but it’s complicated”—and at times in surprising ways.

In a 2013 study of happiness and gender, based on Gallup World Poll data for 160 countries, Soumya Chattopadhyay and I explored that basic question. Women around the world report higher levels of life satisfaction than men, but at the same time report more daily stress. And while this finding holds across countries on average, it does not hold in countries where gender rights are compromised, as in much of the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. The gap between women and men’s well-being is greater (e.g., women are that much happier than men) in wealthier contexts, among more educated and older cohorts, and in urban areas. While there seems to be a modest gender difference in life satisfaction, it does not hold when women’s rights are compromised.

We also found that the typically positive links between life satisfaction and marriage were much weaker in the same countries with compromised gender rights, where marriage is often an imposed norm rather than a choice. Indeed, it was the married men who were happier than the unmarried in these countries, not the married women. More generally, the common finding that married people are happier than non-married people is in part due to selection bias: happier people are more likely to get married. By construction most cross-section studies—which are at one point in time—are simply comparing the higher happiness levels of those individuals who married each other versus those who did not marry.

As Claudia Senik and colleagues find, the actual effects of getting married (which we can explore with over-time data on the same people) last approximately 18 months, after which people adapt to their pre-marriage happiness levels. Meanwhile, divorce (in rich countries) is most common when there are asymmetries in happiness levels within couples; in other words it seems that it is better to have two happy people or two unhappy people married to each other, rather than one happy and one unhappy person in the same partnership. Unhappily married women in countries with compromised gender rights, meanwhile, are much less likely to be able to divorce if they would like to.

The logical conclusion, then, is that once women’s rights improve, their life satisfaction levels will increase. Yet while women’s rights undoubtedly improved with a host of changes that occurred during the 1970s, there was a “paradox of declining female happiness” in the decades after gender rights improved, as found by Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers. Rafael Levine and Alois Stutzer (2010) discovered a similar pattern in Switzerland, one of the last wealthy countries to give women the right to vote in 1971 (!). A national referendum (common for the Swiss) was passed in 1981 that mandated equal pay for equal work, giving them a natural experiment to explore its effects on gender differences in well-being. The authors were able to compare the differences in cantons that voted for the amendment versus those that did not. One would think that women would be happier in the cantons that voted for equal pay. Instead, the opposite occured and female happiness fell precisely in those cantons, compared to in those that did not vote for equal pay.

What explains this? First, these trends reversed over time. A later study of women’s happiness in the U.S. based on data that covered a later time period—1985 to 2005—by Chris Herbst  found that men’s happiness declined more than women’s in that period, beginning in the late 1980s, while the decline for women slowed down significantly, reversing the gender gap in happiness. And over time in Switzerland, the differences across the cantons also declined. One reason for the initial decline is that when unequal gender rights are amended with legislation, established gender norms lag, and that may be particularly strong within households, creating new tensions, especially for working women.

My own experience, entering the labor force in the 1980s and having children in the 1990s was that being a full-time working mother was often seen as a choice between being a “good” mother and working. Many of my impressive colleagues and predecessors at Brookings—such as Alice Rivlin, Belle Sawhill, and Janet Yellen—no doubt faced even more such challenges in previous decades. By now, that choice seems a straw man. College completion and full-time work are now the rule rather than the exception for most women (at least those with means).

The gaps in well-being between unemployed and out-of-labor-force women and their counterparts in other labor market categories are much smaller than those for men.

Indeed, in the U.S. today, there is much more concern about declining male happiness and, more importantly, hope—particularly among less-than-college-educated white men. Kelsey O’Connor and I, based on data from the Panel Survey of Income Dynamics for the U.S., find that individuals born in the 1930s and 1940s who reported to be optimistic in their twenties were much more likely to still be alive in 2015 than were non-optimists. While optimism among women and African Americans gradually increased after gender and civil rights improved (again with a lag) the one group that decreased in optimism was less-than-college-educated white men. And since that time, minorities have continued to make gradual progress on both education and health fronts, while discrimination decreased (but certainly did not disappear), and more women entered the labor market.

The decline in men’s well-being began in the late 1970s, coinciding with the first decline of manufacturing, and has continued since. The erosion of stable blue-collar jobs due to both changes in labor market demand and supply (individuals with only a high school education do not have the skills to compete in today’s labor markets) has been a major factor in this trend. The trend is starkest for white men who previously had privileged access to good blue-collar jobs and to a stable middle-class existence—and that existence was very much a part of their identity as breadwinners. Not surprisingly, men suffer greater drops in well-being when they become unemployed than do women.

In contrast, the gaps in well-being between unemployed and out-of-labor-force women and their counterparts in other labor market categories are much smaller than those for men. This is likely due to women’s ability to multitask and to have multiple identities as mothers or caregivers, among other things, in addition to working. While that is often stress inducing, it also seems to be (somewhat) protective of psychological well-being.

These well-being declines matter to life outcomes. Less-than-college-educated white men—and particularly those who are unemployed or out of the labor force—are overrepresented in the crisis of deaths of despair (premature mortality due to suicide, drug overdose, and liver disease) that has taken over 1 million lives in the U.S. in the past two decades.

In sum, in wealthy places women’s happiness is typically higher than men’s, even when they are in less privileged jobs and lifestyles. Yet in many developing countries where women’s rights are compromised, women do not experience that same happiness differential. In addition, strong gender norms—which are preclusive of women giving honest responses—can affect the accuracy of their life satisfaction scores. Malorie Montgomery tests for this bias using vignette research. This approach asks respondents to rank their expected happiness in a series of different scenarios (in this case a range of lifestyles involving different levels of freedom and opportunities for women). She finds that women’s rankings of the desirability of these lifestyles often differ markedly from their general life satisfaction scores. Adjusting for this bias, she finds that the around-the-world gender gap in well-being remains but is substantially smaller, driven by countries where strong gender norms preclude honest life satisfaction reports.

While women’s rights have advanced a great deal in most wealthy countries, there are still many poor women around the world whose lives—and well-being—will remain compromised for the foreseeable future. And, as the trajectory of those countries who have already improved equity in gender rights shows, the process is far from simple and does not end with legal changes alone.

This piece is part of 19A: The Brookings Gender Equality Series.

Pistachio & Chewy Strawberry Shortbread Cookies (Eggless)

These cookies are not only pretty but tastes yum and with a texture so light that it’s an absolute delight in your mouth. This melt-in-your-mouth texture with crunchy pistachios and chewy dry strawberries are irresistible. Do give it a try! How I developed this recipe- I had been looking for a shortbread recipe that calls for a perfect ratio of flour:butter:sugar giving the right texture and sweetness; which would also not spread out on baking that is retains its shape on baking. And I achieved that after many trials with this recipe. It’s adorned with the prettiest additions- green pistas and jewel red strawberries, making it a must try recipe to treat your family right! What’s special about this recipe- Texture & Sweetness- This light shortbread is not just a buttery goodness, but also not sick sweet. Pistachios & Strawberries- This green & red jewels add to the awesomeness of this shortbread. Pistachios not only add crunch to the cookies but are one of the most healthiest nuts loaded with good fats and calcium. Strawberries on other hand have berrylicious vitamins and antioxidants also adding a tart-chewiness to the cookie. What you’ll need- 3/4 cup raw pistachios, chopped 3/4 cup chewy dry strawberries, chopped 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar1/2 teaspoon salt How to make-

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degree Celsius.
  • Toast and chop the pistachios till lightly browned. Chop the strawberries and pistachios.
  • Mix up the butter, sugar & flour in a stand mixer with paddle attachment until combined into an even dough.
  • Add in the pistachios and strawberries. Mix well.
  • Chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour until the dough is flexible and non-sticky, so that you could now roll them out (~half inch thick) and cut into floral or round shaped cookies as you prefer.
  • Bake on a lined preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. Until lightly browned on the edges.
  • Let them cool for 5 minutes on the tray out of the oven and then completely cool them on a wire rack before transferring them into a cookie jar.

 Notes, tips and suggestions- . You could use different types of your favourite dry fruits in this recipe- I would suggest one type of nut and a dry berry substitutes in the place of pistas and strawberries. e.g. cashews & raisins, almonds & cranberries.etc. . These cookies keep good in an airtight container at room temperature for almost a week.

Punjabi Aloo Mutter Samosa

Samosas are an all-time favourite snack mostly for the Indians. And no one could resist a bite of hot and crispy samosas especially on a rainy day. These samosas are quite different from my caramelised onion & beef samosa recipe as this is very Punjabi and tastes very desi too. It’s a party snack, yummy appetiser and a mid-day treat.. How I developed this recipe- The authentic indian samosa is hard to get even at renowned Indian restaurants. And that’s because Indians have samosas in many different forms- veg/non-veg, different wrappers.etc. Even I have tasted this versatility many times. This Punjabi samosa won my heart for its great ajwain-ghee flavoured crispy wrap and of-course the easy filling. And I guarantee that this will be the best Punjabi samosa you’ll ever make, as I learnt it referring to a Punjabi Chef’s tutorial. What’s special about this recipe– Ghee- Also known as ‘clarified butter’ does not only possess quite a lot of medicinal properties but also has an unique flavour that contributes to the authentic Indian flavour. Ajwain & jeera- Both these spices aid in better digestion and fight flatulence during the digestion of potato and white flour. Yummy filling- Potatoes, green chillies, peas sautéed and mildly spiced makes the easiest and scrumptious filling ever that can be made with the simplest and most humble ingredients from your kitchen pantry. What you’ll need- For the filling-. 2 medium-sized boiled, peeled & chopped potatoes . 1 finely chopped long green chilli. 1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves. 1/4 cup frozen green peas. 1/2of an onion, chopped . 1-inch ginger, grated. 1 teaspoon minced garlic . 1/2 tsp cumin powder. 1/2 tsp red chilli powder . 1/2 tsp coriander powder . 1/4 tsp cumin seeds.  1/4 tsp mustard seeds. Juice from 1/2 a lime. 2 tablespoons vegetable oil like sunflower/canola. 1 teaspoon ghee. Salt to taste. Oil for frying  For the wrap-. 1 cup refined white wheat flour . 3 teaspoons of ghee. Half teaspoon ajwain seeds. Half teaspoon salt . Water -as required  How to make – For the filling-. Splutter the cumin & mustard seeds heating the oil and sauté onion, garlic, ginger & green chillies till onion turns light golden.. Add the spice powders and sauté for a minute till the raw smell goes.. Now add potatoes, green peas, lime juice , ghee, coriander and salt to taste.. Cook for a minute, mash a bit, turn of the heat and let it cool completely. For the wrap-. Combine the dry ingredients , add ghee to it and rub with your fingers for a fine bread-like mix.. Add water in tablespoons just enough to knead to a dough.. Cover and rest this for 20 minutes. Preparing samosas-. Roll out the dough into a log, cut out 6 equal pieces and roll these into individual balls.. Roll out each into palm-sized circles and cut it into halves (semicircles). Wet the straight-side (diameter)of the semicircular dough piece with few drops of water and fold it into a cone.. Fill these cones with the potatoes-peas filling and seal the top sticking together the dough flaps to a straight line with a few drop of water.. This recipe makes a total of 12 samosas.. Deep fry these heating vegetable oil and drain onto a paper towel.. Serve hot with chutney. Notes, tips & suggestions- . You could always make the dough & filling ahead. Keep these frozen and thaw before using. The dough stays good frozen for 6 months and the filling for a week.. This samosa tastes heavenly with mint-coriander chutney/ sweet & spicy tamarind chutney as dips.

Weight-watcher’s Garlic & Scrambled Egg Brown Rice

This is a super healthy recipe for fit-eaters who looks for protein & fibre in everything they eat. It’s not just wholesome but very tasty that I’m very sure that this easy recipe is something everyone would want to follow  often. How I developed this recipe- I had been into a lot of desserts nowadays satisfying my sweet-toothed family’s all kinds of sugar cravings. First because people are mostly home during these corona days and secondly because I love making desserts so much that I never miss an opportunity to make them. Due to all these, everyone started gaining weight and we were forced to decide to cut sugar, fibre less carbs (white flour, white rice..) etc.Egg fried rice is one of my family’s all-time dishes, but everyone were missing it soo badly over the past few days due to the newly set dietary restrictions.This is what made me think about a new healthier version of this classic dish with the wholesome goodness of brown rice and added proteins. What’s special about this recipe- Brown rice- This gluten-free fibre-rice diabetic friendly substitute for regular white rice is easy to make and is highly nutritious. High protein- This is a protein packed recipe as it includes eggs and peas, thus helping in maintaining muscle mass and staying slim-fit. You could also add blanched spinach for added protein. Good fats- Even though only a very little oil is used in this recipe, the oil used are of healthy fats, such as peanut oil & sesame oil. What you’ll need- . 1 cup brown rice, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes & drained . 3 cups water. Half teaspoon salt . 2 tablespoons chopped shallots . 2 tablespoons chopped spring onions (bulbous white bottom part). 1 tablespoon minced garlic . 1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger . 2 finely chopped green chillies . 1/3 cup frozen green peas / frozen or canned edamame .2-3 beaten eggs- with a pinch of salt and pepper.. 1-2 teaspoons soy sauce. 1-2 teaspoons fish sauce. 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine/ sherry/ Shaoxing (optional). 1 teaspoon white vinegar . 2 tablespoons peanut oil. 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil. 2 tablespoons chopped spring onion greens . 1-2 teaspoons white sesame. 1 tablespoon chopped garlic . 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves (& stems). Extra 1 tablespoon peanut oil How to make- . Heat 3 cups of water with salt until it reaches a rolling boil. Now add the rice,  cover & cook on simmering after it starts to boil again with the rice in the pot.. Cook the rice like this for 15 minutes and turn of the heat after fluffing up the rice a bit. You would notice that a few tablespoons of water is still left in the bottom of the pan. But don’t worry, because the rice will keep on cooking in the residual heat with the lid on, even after you take it off from the heat and thus, all the water will be absorbed after a few more minutes.. Scramble the eggs in a non-stick wok, heating a little oil and keep it aside, transferring to a bowl.. Now sauté the shallots,spring onion whites, green chillies, green peas, ginger and minced garlic for a minute.. Add the pepper, sauces, wine & vinegar. . Stir in the cooked rice and combine everything on low heat.  Check salt level and add more soy sauce/fish sauce into the rice, at this point, if needed.. Now stir in the eggs and spring onion greens. . Finally brown the chopped garlic in a smaller pan with little oil and stir in the chopped coriander leaves into this garlic. .Top the rice with this browned garlic mix, drizzle with toasted sesame oil and sprinkle white sesame on top before serving. Notes, tips and suggestions- . It’s more easier and tastier to use rice that’s cooked a day ahead and refrigerated overnight.. For a vegan option you substitute eggs with tofu scrambled the same way and omit fish sauce by adding 2 teaspoons of extra soy sauce. 

Top Technologist Simplifies Ventilator By Inventing An Affordable Design

Ravinder Pal Singh, shies away from attention, despite the fact that he’s one of the world’s most sought out experts in the field of Artificial Intelligence, Innovation and Robotics. Ravinder Pal Singh (Ravi), is an award winning Technologist, Rescue Pilot and Angel Investor with several patents. As an inventor, engineer, investor, highly sought global speaker and storyteller, his body of work focuses on making a difference within acute constraints of culture and cash, mostly via commodity technology. Ravi’s latest invention is arguably the world’s most affordable ventilator and what has fuelled him, in his own words, is – “Fear of human contact is not sustainable for civilization. Everyone has to contribute to overcome this fatigue and fatality of fear”.
 
His latest visionary creation is a blueprint to help humanity in the fight for survival against one of the most challenging health crises in the recent past. The impact of COVID-19 has prompted a reluctant but much needed change. According to Ravi, the cost of life should not come at the price of lifestyle. Intent for compassion has to translate into actual actions by everyone and everywhere and every day.
 
Disparity and imbalance take resources away from most people to live a basic life, so a minority can afford an expensive (lavish) lifestyle, and this is no longer sustainable. Secondly, the world, till now, has been driven by collaboration of conflict (potential of war) and/or economics (fiscal prudence), which should be changed towards collaboration to survive, keeping health as a priority. Healthcare infrastructures across countries needs to be revisited and global uniformity has to be established.
 
Thirdly, how we design our lives – places where we live, places where we work, places where we interact – should all change. The glorification of creating mega cities is no longer sustainable. In fact, the history of the demise of past civilizations has a commonality of 4 factors — A combination of an epidemic plus population movements plus the pressure urbanization put on rural lifestyles as well as climate change. There is still merit in non-political Gandhian theories based on – De-centralization and Micro Markets, Rural development (ideal cluster of villages), Self-sufficiency while living harmoniously with nature and a greater equity or “distributive justice via creating institutions than solely profit driven businesses.
 
The inspiration for Ravi’s latest invention came from his own experience at the frontlines. The world faces a severe and acute public health emergency due to the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic. It is a stark truth that COVID-19 can require patients to be on ventilators for significant periods of time and that hospitals can only accommodate a finite number of patients at once. Ventilator shortages are an unfortunate reality as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to worsen globally.
 
Ventilators are expensive pieces of machinery to maintain, store and operate. They also require ongoing monitoring by health-care professionals. To solve the above situation, Ravi has invented and prototyped an affordable ventilator for all, using a minimalistic design which can be easily operated by anyone. The key design element is the ability to build it quickly for mass production so governments around the world can encourage existing industrial setups and start-ups to manufacture them locally to help save lives.
 
Ravi was baffled with the thought of why one would require an engineering degree to design, produce and manufacture a ventilator.  He has built two different working prototypes on common platform design.
 
The first version is the simplest and is an extremely portable ventilator, one which is intuitive, can be used by anyone and fundamentally takes air from the atmosphere, extracts oxygen, controls pressure and pushes the output to the lungs. The second one is an advanced version of this particular ventilator.
 
It is on a similar design platform which converges artificial intelligence with electrical, mechanical, electronics and instrumentation,  with the capability to supply pure oxygen. It has self calibration capabilities, a machine learning algorithm to adjust the air flow according to the needs and the resistive nature of the lungs of any patient. Both of them are based on common platform design thinking and that’s the real beauty of his patented design and platform thinking. The reason to work and produce outcomes has become purified through the stark reality of death. Driving Ravi’s imagination and the core to all of his inventions is the burning desire to create a meaningful body of work through compassion oriented design and architectural forms.
 
Ravinder Pal Singh (Ravi) is a Harvard Alumni and Award Winning Engineer with over several hundred Global Recognitions and Patents. His body of work, mostly 1st in the world, is making a difference within acute constraints of culture and cash via commodity technology. He has been acknowledged as one of the world’s top 10 Robotics Designers, #1 Artificial Intelligence Leaders in Asia and featured as one of the world’s top 25 CIOs. Ravi is currently employed as the Chief Innovation and Information Officer at Tata Singapore Airlines (Vistara). Ravi is the advisor to a board of nine enterprises where incubation and differentiation is a core necessity and challenge. He sits on the advisory council of three global research firms where he contributes in predicting practical future automation use cases and respective technologies.email: [email protected]: www.ravinps.com
 

Life in the era of COVID-19

Chicago IL: It has been a topsy-turvy start to the third decade of this century. COVID-19 has brought with it many disruptions. Coronavirus has significantly changed the contours of professional life. These days, home is the new office. The Internet is the new meeting room.

For the time being, office breaks with colleagues are history. I have also been adapting to these changes. Most meetings, be it with minister colleagues, officials and world leaders, are now via video conferencing.

In order to get ground level feedback from various stakeholders, there have been videoconference meetings with several sections of society. There were extensive interactions with NGOs, civil society groups and community organisations. There was an interaction with Radio Jockeys too. Besides that, I have been making numerous phone calls daily, taking feedback from different sections of society.

One is seeing the ways through which people are continuing their work in these times. There are a few creative videos by our film stars conveying a relevant message of staying home. Our singers did an online concert. Chess players played chess digitally and through that contributed to the fight against COVID-19. Quite innovative!

The work place is getting Digital First. And, why not?
After all, the most transformational impact of Technology often happens in the lives of the poor. It is technology that demolishes bureaucratic hierarchies, eliminates middlemen and accelerates welfare measures.

Let me give you an example.

Life in the era of COVID-19When we got the opportunity to serve in 2014, we started connecting Indians, especially the poor with their Jan Dhan Account, Aadhar & Mobile number. This seemingly simple connection has not only stopped corruption and rent seeking that was going on for decades, but has also enabled the Government to transfer money at the click of a button. This click of a button has replaced multiple levels of hierarchies on the file and also weeks of delay.

India has perhaps the largest such infrastructure in the world. This infrastructure has helped us tremendously in transferring money directly and immediately to the poor and needy, benefiting crores of families, during the COVID-19 situation.

Another case in point is the education sector. There are many outstanding professionals already innovating in this sector. Invigorating technology in this sector has its benefits. The Government of India has also undertaken efforts such as the DIKSHA Portal, to help teachers and boost e-learning. There is SWAYAM, aimed at improving access, equity and quality of education. E-Pathshala, which is available in many languages, enables access to various e-books and such learning material.

Today, the world is in pursuit of new business models. India, a youthful nation known for its innovative zeal can take the lead in providing a new work culture. I envision this new business and work culture being redefined on the following vowels. I call them- vowels of the new normal- because like vowels in the English language, these would become essential ingredients of any business model in the post-COVID world.

Adaptability:

The need of the hour is to think of business and lifestyle models that are easily adaptable.
Doing so would mean that even in a time of crisis, our offices, businesses and commerce could get moving faster, ensuring loss of life does not occur.

Embracing digital payments is a prime example of adaptability. Shop owners big and small should invest in digital tools that keep commerce connected, especially in times of crisis. India is already witnessing an encouraging surge in digital transactions.
Another example is telemedicine. We are already seeing several consultations without actually going to the clinic or hospital. Again, this is a positive sign. Can we think of business models to help further telemedicine across the world?

Efficiency:

Perhaps, this is the time to think of reimagining what we refer to as being efficient.
Efficiency cannot only be about- how much time was spent in the office.
We should perhaps think of models where productivity and efficiency matter more than appearance of effort.
The emphasis should be on completing a task in the specified time frame.

Inclusivity:

Life in the era of COVID-19Let us develop business models that attach primacy to care for the poor, the most vulnerable as well as our planet.
We have made major progress in combating climate change. Mother Nature has demonstrated to us her magnificence, showing us how quickly it can flourish when human activity is slower. There is a significant future in developing technologies and practices that reduce our impact on the planet. Do more with less.
COVID-19 has made us realise the need to work on health solutions at low cost and large scale. We can become a guiding light for global efforts to ensure the health and well being of humanity.
We should invest in innovations to make sure our farmers have access to information, machinery, and markets no matter what the situation, that our citizens have access to essential goods.

Opportunity:

Every crisis brings with it an opportunity. COVID-19 is no different.
Let us evaluate what might be the new opportunities/growth areas that would emerge now.
Rather than playing catch up, India must be ahead of the curve in the post-COVID world. Let us think about how our people, our skills sets, our core capabilities can be used in doing so.

Universalism:

COVID-19 does not see race, religion, colour, caste, creed, language or border before striking.
Our response and conduct thereafter should attach primacy to unity and brotherhood.
We are in this together.

Unlike previous moments in history, when countries or societies faced off against each other, today we are together facing a common challenge. The future will be about togetherness and resilience.

The next big ideas from India should find global relevance and application. They should have the ability to drive a positive change not merely for India but for the entire humankind.
Logistics was previously only seen through the prism of physical infrastructure – roads, warehouses, ports. But logistical experts these days can control global supply chains through the comfort of their own homes.

India, with the right blend of the physical and the virtual can emerge as the global nerve centre of complex modern multinational supply chains in the post COVID-19 world. Let us rise to that occasion and seize this opportunity.

I urge you all to think about this and contribute to the discourse.
he shift from BYOD to WFH brings new challenges to balance the official and personal. Whatever be the case, devote time to fitness and exercising.

Try Yoga as a means to improve physical and mental wellbeing.
Traditional medicine systems of India are known to help keep the body fit. The Ayush Ministry has come out with a protocol that would help in staying healthy. Have a look at these as well.

Lastly, and importantly, please download Aarogya Setu Mobile App. This is a futuristic App that leverages technology to help contain the possible spread of COVID-19.

Photographs and Press release by: Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi

Federation of Indian Associations Chicago celebrates India’s 71st Republic day & hosts the largest Health Fair event in Midwest

“Only a life lived for others is a life lived worthwhile….” – Albert Einstein

Chicago IL:  Federation of Indian Associations (FIA) of Chicago celebrated India’s 71st Republic Day & hosted one of the largest Healthcare Fair Event on Saturday, Jan 25th, 2020, at Rana Reagan Community Center at Carol Stream, IL.

 Keeping its past 10 year long tradition of serving the community, following its mantra, of ‘United We Stand’ and ‘We Serve!’, FIA Chicago, successfully hosted its yearly Healthcare Fair Event on the occasion of India’s Republic Day. In spite of all of us being away from our own homeland, we were blessed to be able to celebrate this very special day, when India officially got its Constitution on Jan 26, 1950, and the spirit of India with the same enthusiasm and excitement, in the country that we love and have now embraced as our home.

Over 600 people attended and availed the services provided; including 100 plus blood testing was done. One can imagine how popular this event is amongst our senior citizens, just by looking at the registration lines which started forming at 8:30am, a half hour earlier, then the scheduled start time of 9:00am. But Team FIA was ready to welcome the guests and the service providers and medical Camp personnel since 8:00am. Pratibha Jairath, Sonia Luther, Richa Chand, Vineeta Gulabani, Varsha Visal, Hema Shastri, Dr Kamal Patel, Vaishal Talati, Sunil Shah, Neil Khot, Gurmeet Singh Dhalwan, Ninad Daftari, Shital Daftari, Anu Malhotra & Bharat Malhotra, Ruchi Dabral, Bharatbhai, Haribhai and several volunteers from BSC group were seen receiving and greeting the  doctors and service providers and the other guests as well, and helping fill out with Patient registration forms, and finding their designated spots & booths. FIA leadership Team, led by Sunil Shah, Gurmeet Singh Dhalwan, Neil Khot were seen visiting each and every booth, and greeting and thanking them for their support.

Healthcare Fair section of the program, Medical Camp (Internal Medicine, Cardiology, Dentist, Phlebotomy Blood Draws, Alternate Medicine Homeopathy /Ayurveda, Nutritionist & Dietician, Registered Nurse Practitioners consultations, Scans/Imaging, Blood Glucose & Cholesterol tests, Back and Shoulder Massage Treatment), Passport and Visa Counseling and Guidance Services, Tax Consultation, Social Security, Yoga/Meditation, Mental Health, Suicide Prevention and Medicare Benefits & Community Services were provided. Food & snacks were also provided to the attending guests. This was a FREE event with no charges or costs to the guests.

A Special Educational Lecture series presented by the specialists was also a part of the Healthcare Fair Event this year. Topics & presenters included: Cardiology – Dr Paul Nguyen, Dietician – Shweta Sheth, Deepti Singh Suri, Homeopathy – Vidya Joshi, Yoga/Meditation – Anu Malhotra.

With high spirits and keeping the ‘Josh High! ‘ as well, Republic Day Cultural Program, began promptly at 12:00pm, enthusiastically hosted by the Masters of Ceremony Richa Chand & Varsha Visal. There were presentations of US. National anthem (by Malavika Gopal) and Indian National anthem (by Pushpaben Parikh), followed by a beautifully choreographed patriotic Welcome Dance, “Ae Watan” (choreography by Sridevi Ram Pandalai, and performers were: Sarirha Srijith, Nisha Roy, Prathiba Varun, Swetha JayaPrakash, Sandra Suresh).

A beautiful Lamp Lighting ceremony was performed by the dignitaries present at the event, Sunil Shah, Founder President of FIA Chicago, Chief Guest, Consul General Sudhakar Dalela, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, Onkar Singh Sangha, Founder & Past President, Gurmeet Singh Dhalwan,  President 2020, Smt. Prem  Kaur, Mother to Incoming President 2020, Pinky & Dinesh Thakkar, Guest of Honor, Ninad Daftari, President 2019, Dhitu Bhagwakar, Rita Singh, Sunny Kular, Neil Khot, Founding Members & Past Presidents, Amarjeet Singh, Founder & President Wheaton Gurudwara belonging to Sikh Religious Society, Chicago, IL ,  Haribhai Patel, President BSC group, Dr Kamal Patel, Executive VP, Amit Jhingran, CEO State Bank of India, Nimish Jani, Schaumburg Township, Krishna Bansal, Commissioner at Naperville Planning. And Advisory Board Members, Syed Hussaini, Asha Oroskar, Brij Sharma, Aishwarya Sharma, Pradeep Shukla, Keerthi Reevori.

Welcome Speeches by the FIA leadership was followed by the Introduction of FIA Board, and all FIA members were requested to join on the stage and a group picture was taken. As is the tradition for a Republic Day Cultural event, there were many inspiring speeches delivered throughout the program, including a few notable ones by Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi and Consul General Sudhakar Dalela, both a keynote speaker at the Republic Day Event. Hanover Park Mayor, Rodney Craig & Trustee Herb Porter also spoke about the Indo-American community and their contributions.

Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi and Consul General Sudhakar Dalela helped in the inauguration of the FIA Souvenir Book and distribution of the Wheelchairs and Walkers to the needy. One Wheel Chair was received by Bharatiya Senior Citizens Group and the second one was received by Wheaton Gurudwara, IL.

There were important announcements made for the upcoming FIA Events, Indian Heritage Night celebrations, along with Windy City Bulls basketball game on February 23, 2020 at Sears Center Arena and Holi event on March 21, 2020 at DuPage Fairgrounds. For the Awards & Recognitions during the cultural program, Consul General Shri Sudhakar Dalela was felicitated and presented with a recognition plaque for Consul General Chicago’s continued support and whole-hearted participation in FIA’s numerous community service endeavors.

Guest of Honor, Pinky Thakkar & Dinesh Thakkar was also invited and recognized for their wonderful support and were presented with a recognition plaque as well. All the Sponsors and Service Providers and Supporters who helped out for this special event, were also called upon one by one, and were presented with the recognition plaques, as a token of FIA’s appreciation towards their generous support and help with the cause. Certificates were also given to all the cultural program performers, and the volunteers who helped out with this event.

To mark the conclusion of this beautiful and grand event to celebrate India’s 71st Republic Day, Anu Malhotra, Director FIA, gave Vote of Thanks, to all the guests, FIA’s senior leadership for facilitating and creating such wonderful opportunities for our community. She thanked Dr Pardeep Sood, Dr Tariq Ahmed, Dr Naveed Saeed, Dr. Huma Vaid, Dr. Mona Ghosh, Dr. Rakesh Nambiyar, Dr. Usha Kartan, Dr. Madhu Sharma, Dr. Sanjeev, Dr Niranjana Shah, Dr Utpal Parekh, Dr Imaad Shaikh, Dr. Aslam Qazi, Dr. Harpreet Singh, Dr Paul Nguyen, Dr Sara Alfano, Dr. Rubina Nguyen with S.C.A.R.F. group and others for their valuable time and service. She also thanked Promila Kumar, Shree Gurusamy, Raman Patel, Anu Bangaley, Amandeep Gill, Kinnari, Patrick, Chinttal Mehta, Chirag Patel, Prakruti Patel, Vidya Joshi, Deepti Singh Suri, Sweta Sheth, Pradeep Shukla and Consulate general of India, and all the sponsors and supporters. Only some mentioned here from the long list of all our wonderful sponsors/supporters: Syed Hussaini, VP Wintrust, Amit Jhingran, CEO State Bank of India, Pinky Thakkar & Dinesh Thakkar, Jigar’s Kitchen, Anil R Shah from World Money Exchange, MEDSTAR, Neal Patel for providing medical supplies, Dr. Neelam Bala Bhardwaj for donating Wheel Chairs and Walkers, and BSC group and committee members for all of their wonderful support to make this event a huge success.

Florida and Florida Real Estate Part I – Benefits of Buying Real Estate in Florida

By Chacko Zachariah,

(Mr. Chacko Zachariah is a Licensed Real Estate Broker and Realtor, Fabulous Homes, Inc., 954-491-7600, [email protected])

Florida means “full of flowers”, and it was named in honor of Spain’s Easter celebration known as “Pascua Florida,” or “Feast of Flowers” by the Spanish conqueror and explorer, Juan Ponce de Leon. On April 2, 1513, during Easter week (Passion week), which in Spanish is “Pascua Florida” or “La Pascua de la Florida” (in English “Flowery Easter”; as Easter is celebrated in spring and flowers are in bloom), he discovered the Florida peninsula, claimed it for Spain and named it “La Florida”, even though various American Indian Tribes had been living here for centuries.

La Florida (Spanish Florida) included the present State of Florida plus large parts of several of the southeastern states of the United States and remained a Spanish Colony as part of the Captaincy General of Cuba under the Spanish Empire for a period of over 200 years. Spanish settlers started settling in La Florida, introduced Christianity to La Florida, converted some of the native Americans to Christianity, and thus Spain became the first country to establish Christianity in North America.

The city of Saint Augustine in northeast Florida was the capital of La Florida for over 200 years and is the oldest European settlement in North America. After the British and French colonization of America, Spain lost most of the northern parts of La Florida.  Spain eventually sold what remained of La Florida to the United States, which later became its 27th State, the State of Florida, in 1845. Presently, Florida is referred to as the ‘Sunshine State’ for its year round sunshine, great weather, beautiful beaches, and landscape.

Florida is a peninsula surrounded on three sides by water – the Atlantic Ocean on the east, the Straits of Florida on the south, and the Gulf of Mexico on the west, with beautiful beaches all around the coast making it truly a paradise. Thus it is surrounded by beautiful beaches on three sides for you to enjoy. Additionally, there are numerous bodies of water in the interior, including several lakes, canals, bays, and rivers, and some of these canals and rivers connect to the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico at various inlets along the coasts.

This combination makes it a recreational paradise for Swimming, Boating, Yachting, Fishing, Vacationing, Relaxing, as well as for Sporting events and living here yearround.  Its climate and beauty is akin to that of Kerala, except that Kerala has mountains while the only mountains you come across in Florida are a couple of ‘waste mountains’ created  from waste dumps. (Kerala is India’s southwestern coastal state and is considered one of the most exotic places on earth. Kerala has Arabian Sea to its west, the Indian Ocean to its south, and mountains called the Western Ghats to its east.) Then there is the Everglades running along the middle of Southern Florida and ending at the Florida Bay. Everglades is a natural wetlands ecosystem which happens to be a very unique ecosystem in the world where numerous species of plants and animals have been coexisting in harmony for thousands of years.

Florida is indeed one of the most beautiful and exotic places that God created; it is a land of milk and honey.

Tax Benefits of Living, Working, Doing Business, and Owning Real Estate in Florida

Florida is the one of the very few states in USA that has NO State or Local Income Taxes. Further, with the new US Tax laws enacted in 2017, most people in the USA are encountering double taxation, while Florida is the one of the very few states in the USA where you can escape all or some of the double taxation and save money and thus avoid some of the adverse effects from the restrictions placed on the SALT (Sales And Local Tax) deduction. SALT tax includes the State and Local (City) Income Taxes, the Local Sales Taxes, and the Real Property Taxes. Thus, with these new restrictions placed on the SALT deduction, most people are now taxed TWICE on the same EARNED income.  (The famous Boston Tea Party during our Independence struggle almost 250 years ago was on “Taxation Without Representation”.)

Further, Florida offers property owners several other great tax benefits through Homestead Exemptions, Portability Law Provisions, “Save Our Homes” Laws, etc., some of which are available only in Florida.

This has set off a migration to Florida of the well to do and the wealthy who are snatching up fabulous properties at bargain prices as they can now save large amounts in taxes since they don’t have to pay any state or local income taxes, obtain tax savings from Homestead Exemptions, Portability Law Provisions, “Save Our Homes” Laws, etc.

As you can see Florida is the only state in the USA that also offers that combination of beautiful beaches, coastlines, weather, and resort style living, while also offering all the amenities that you can think of as well as all these tax savings that you obtain from owning Florida Real Estate.

Florida’s Economy and its Real Estate

Along these coasts of Florida’s beautiful waterways line fabulous residential and commercial properties – spectacular homes, condominiums, apartments, hotels, restaurants, shopping centers, office buildings, mixed use properties, etc., and you will also find innumerable numbers of boats, yachts, and marinas lined up along the banks and coasts of these waterways.  By night fall, several of these coastal areas light up like Paris, the city of lights.

Even though, tourism had been one of the main engines that drove Florida’s economy in the past, it is now very diversified with significant contributions from recreational and entertainment facilities, agriculture, farming, ranching, cruises, shipping, construction, banking and finance, world renowned education, healthcare, science, and research establishments, manufacturing, military bases, world renowned art, antique, auto, boat, design, and home shows, air and sea shows, conventions, and so forth.

Florida used to be just a seasonal tourist and retirement place, but that had been changing rapidly in the past four decades and is now an year-round destination. People have been migrating to Florida in large numbers for its beautiful beaches and weather, spectacular waterways, status as a “no state and local income tax” state, thriving year round trade and commerce, jobs, access to world class universities, colleges and healthcare facilities, the availability of spectacular residences, hotels, restaurants, existence of myriad of cultures and cuisines, access to travel to anywhere in the world by air, sea, and land.

Further, in the past three decades Florida has become the gateway to the Caribbean, Central America, and South America for banking, finance, trade, and other businesses. As a result, several US and European Companies have set up their Southern Headquarters in South Florida for conducting their businesses in various countries in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.  Further, many countries in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America have set up their Consulates in South Florida.

With the availability and accessibility to almost everything through the web for the past several years, people now live, work, and play here in Florida year round while conducting most businesses. This has accelerated the migration of the wealthy and the well to do to Florida.  Florida’s population has now grown to over 22 Million

Cosmopolitan Character of Florida and its Influence on its Economy, Culture, and Vibrancy.

Florida has a very diverse population of people from all over the world. As stated above, Florida used to be a Spanish Colony. Several areas of Florida have become cosmopolitan as they have significant numbers of people from all over the world and from different backgrounds and cultures living in harmony and making it a better place to live. Of these areas, Southeast Florida is the most cosmopolitan.

Southeast Florida consists of the three major metropolitan areas of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Palm Beach, which are three adjacent coastal cities, with Fort Lauderdale sandwiched between Miami to the south and Palm Beach to its north.

Southeast Florida, is akin to the French Riviera, but it is a much better and cheaper place to live as you have access to all your needs year-round from world class facilities. Cost of living is much cheaper and prices for most things, especially Real Estate, is only a fraction of what you have to pay in other similar places around the world. In addition, you enjoy the safety, security, and stability of being part of the USA while living on a peninsula.

Southeast Florida is a multi-cultural melting pot made possible by a very diverse population coming together from various cultural and racial backgrounds and ethnicities from several parts of the world and making it their home while cultivating and enjoying different traditions, practices, ideas, beliefs, and religions, and speaking several languages. Sprinkled throughout the area are numerous restaurants and shops offering a myriad of cuisines and foods from various parts of the world, shops offering variety of arts and crafts, clothes and wares, as well as art galleries and museums showcasing art from around the world..

Throughout the year there are numerous lively multi-ethnic festivals, shows, celebrations, and parades, music and concerts all showing the vibrancy of the presence of different cultures from around the world which provide great vibrancy to the area while making Florida a great place to live, work, and play. You also get to enjoy great nightlife, watch amateur and professional sports, you name it, it is here. In a nut shell it is a vibrant cosmopolitan environment and region.

These show what a beautiful and vibrant place Florida is to live and work. Residential properties along Florida’s coastal regions sell for anywhere from the US $300,000s to 100 Million Dollars. Coming up in this series of articles we will elaborate on these and other topics in relation to real estate.

Next in Part II of this series on ”Florida and Florida Real Estate” will be a brief explanation of the Tax Savings and Benefits of owning Florida Real Estate: the SALT tax, Homestead Exemption, Portability Law Provisions, “Save Our Homes” Laws, and other Tax Benefits for owning Residential and Commercial Properties in Florida.

Chacko Zachariah, has been a Licensed Real Estate Broker and Realtor with Fabulous Homes, Inc., in Florida selling Luxury Homes, Condominiums, Commercial, and Industrial Properties for over the past 30 years.  He can be reached at 954-491-7600 or [email protected] .

IndiaFest Milwaukee; State of Wisconsin Experienced Essence of India On 7th annual celebration of “India”

Governor Tony Evers has declared Aug 15th, 2019 as the ‘India Day’ in State of Wisconsin, honoring India; recognizing, certifying and endorsing the efforts brought by IndiaFest Milwaukee, a massive community building initiative launched by Spindle India, Inc., in 2013. Former Governor Scott Walker had also recognized and declared August 15th as the ‘India Day’ in Wisconsin in 2018. We celebrated the official India Day of Wisconsin on Aug 17th at IndiaFest Milwaukee, making it a significant milestone, one of its kinds.
“IndiaFest Milwaukee is the largest celebration of India Day in the State of Wisconsin…in addition to celebrating Indian culture, IndiaFest Milwaukee provides a platform for collaboration, connection, education and growth by providing a space for cultural exchange and appreciation; and promotes diversity, inclusion, community, culture and education in Milwaukee by establishing a broad and collective appreciation of India Day, Indian culture and the Indian community”, exclaimed Governor Tony Evers.
“Wisconsin is proud to have IndiaFest Milwaukee, a collaborative and educational service that has been bringing communities together for five years beyond cultures, boundaries, languages, religions and regions; Indian-American’s contribution to the culture, educational and economic fabric of the state of Wisconsin is tremendous”, said former Governor Scott Walker.
Wisconsin Department of Tourism, Travel Wisconsin’s continued support and alliance marks a critical partnership symbolizing the focus around positive economic impact. Travel Wisconsin promotes Wisconsin as a premier travel destination for fun.
Mayor of Milwaukee, Tom Barrett commended Spindle India, Inc. & IndiaFest Milwaukee for dedicated service and leadership, recognized its outstanding contributions to the community and proclaimed Aug 15th, 2019 as the INDIA DAY throughout City of Milwaukee.
US Senator Ron Johnson issued a certificate of special senatorial recognition, presented to Spindle India, Inc., in recognition of 7th Annual IndiaFest Milwaukee with a remark, “Thank you for your continued dedication and efforts to bring visibility to the Indian Community of Milwaukee”. “All the acknowledgements and recognitions are tremendous milestones and proud moment for every member of South Asian Indian population in Wisconsin and beyond”, expressed Founder,
Chairwoman, and President of Spindle India, Inc., Purnima Nath. “We are weaving happiness, as we bring people and organizations together. Our goal is to weave India’s colorful cultural threads into the rich multicultural tapestry of American culture”, she remarked. Each state and union territories of India has a unique combination of languages, traditions, religions, clothing, and history, comparable to countries in Europe. “This myriad of diversity comes together in our celebration,” Nath said. “Diversity is the blood of globalism. Inclusiveness is the mantra of acceptance”, she adds.
“In Brookfield, we have a growing population of people with Indian heritage and I personally greatly appreciate the emphasis, which that heritage places on education. Many students of Indian background do exceptionally well in both our public and private schools. I believe this is because of the strong emphasis, which the Indian culture places, on education and parental involvement in the learning process.”, narrated Mayor of Brookfield, Steve Ponto.
This 7th annual grand scale celebration of “India” (#IFM2019), the official India Day of State of Wisconsin (#IndiaDayWI), inaugurated with observing India’s independence day with hoisting and honoring India’s tricolor flag flying high with the people of Wisconsin and many dignitaries of the community. National anthem of India sung by Children of Hindi School of Wisconsin touched hearts of all. Joseph Scala, an Appleton resident sung American National Anthem beautifully. Patriotic songs and dance by our young children honoring India made it extra special that connected people to our mother land.
IndiaFest Milwaukee 2019 is the most vibrant and exciting experience of “India”, aesthetically, visually, from sound byte to taste buds that tingles all senses with 210+ cultural program participants, 10+ hours of non-stop cultural programs, henna, jewelry, clothing, authentic cuisine & special children entertainment. 3 back-to-back concerts by internationally renowned artists kept everyone occupied. Classical tranquil concert was beautifully executed by Santoor Maestro Nanda Kishore Muley, Indrajot Banerjee in Sitar accompanied by Gouri Sankar Karmakar in Tabla. An amazing fusion of eastern and western instruments by Wahh Fusion Band with Shankh Lahiri (Tabla), Peter Mongaya (Guitar), Jason McKenzie (Drums), Seth Lynn (bass), Indrajit Banerjee (Sitar) and finally Bollywood Hungama beats by Celebrity DJ Dharak was amazingly executed. In the 2nd “IFM Got Talent” Nikita Singhal team of children aged from 5 to 13 years old that presented ‘Cultural Diversity of India’ theme grabbed the 1st prize, following Susan Abraham’s performance at 2nd place; and Ananya Rasal scoring 3rd prize.
Vinu Saravana, Neha Patil, Manu Saravana won 1st, 2nd & 3rd prize in children category in 5th Wisconsin Indian Singing Idol. Faiz Ahmad won 1st prize, followed by Manoj Tripathi and Ravi Nandan in 2nd and 3rd place respectively, in the adult category.
In children category of 4th Wisconsin Indian Dancing Idol, Aishwarya School of dance group grabbed both 1st & 2nd prizes, following the team of Sirisha Kota at 3rd prize. Manpreet Kaur & team and Ria Lahoti & team won 1st and 2nd in youth category team respectively. Ramesh Kindre & team, Bubusuhas Mullaveedu & team, Bhaktilata Sahoo & team scored 1st, 2nd & 3rd prize, respectively, in the adult category.
Supriya Vidwan, Kavita Tawadare and Bhanu Lavanya Arasada were the judges for Singing competitions and Meera Viruru, Drisya Raghuram and Anu Kelkar played the judges roles for dancing competitions.
Second year in a row, “Nepal” was featured at IFM2019 prominently, through cultural representations and exhibition. We thank Milwaukee Nepali Community for their kind engagement and superb collaboration.
Many talented dancers surprised the audience with impromptu flash mobs of Garba too. Vibrant, beautiful, bright and gorgeous traditional to contemporary attire and costumes, which is beyond the fashion or style statement, dressed the occasion in classic, timeless yet fashionable statements. IFM2015 launched DJ K, and he was back to support IFM2019 once again, all the way from San Francisco. Bollywood dance gets the biggest and popular presence, as it appears to have stolen many hearts of our community for its energy and fun, by now.
Authentic Indian cuisine, classical to contemporary music and dance illustrate culture of different Indian states & regions. A cause that is bringing business and people together, by relentlessly promoting Diversity, Inclusion, Culture, Collaboration and Education (#DICCE). Professional development, youth engagement, and service commitment are the primary concentration of work; and it was evident on the day. Play area, children’s activities, bouncy house, arts and craft area surrounded the children entertainment area, all planned and executed by Youth Volunteers (with the supervision of adults), Anoushka & Alabhya Prasad, Neha & Megha Patil.
Henna art, Chalk arts, Dhol were staple at this festival. IFM don’t just bring visibility to the people, organization or businesses that participates in the event; we go above and beyond! At the CBS TV live preview show of IndiaFest Milwaukee, prominent visibility was given to a local dance schools and students.
IFM2019 was supported by State Bank of Chilton, Trayix, Travel Wisconsin, Visit Milwaukee, Wisconsin Public Radio, India Garden, Sikh Religious Society of Wisconsin, Inc., Wisdom Infotech, ABC, CBS, 103.7 KISS FM, 99.1 MIX, La Mega Spanish Radio channel has supported IFM2019. Key volunteers contributed towards success of the event are Shubhra & Bharat Prasad, Ravi Shankar Kummary, Manju Patil, Balaji Rangachari, Ashita Verma and Phoua Vang.
We had extreme pleasure of presence of some of the dignitaries and community leaders amongst us. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Brookfield Mayor Steve Ponto, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, Senator Chris Larson – District 7, Alderman Tony Zielinski, Vanessa Lianas  office of US Senator Tammy Baldwin, Danyell Tremmel – office of US Senator Ron Johnson, Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly, Milwaukee county Judge Paul Dedinsky & judge Dan Gabler were some of them.
Consul General of India, Sudhakar Dalela thanked and congratulated and complimented us for working with the vibrant Indian American community of Milwaukee to organize IndiaFest every year to showcase India and its rich cultural heritage, traditions and values.

Non Violence on Lord Mahavir and Gandhi birth anniversaries

International Ahimsa Foundation USA celebrated Non Violence “A Message of Lord Mahavir” on his 2618th birth anniversary and also commemorated the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
The event was held at the Consulate General of India in New York, The Master of Ceremonies were Shanie Persaud, Adeen and Shelly Jain. The event began with the American National Anthem sung by Shruti Goyal and followed by the Indian National Anthem by melodious Dr. Smita Guha.
Over 200 guests attended the event from the Indian American community, foreign press, and diplomatic missions and consulates from Italy, Bangladesh, Japan, Georgia and Indonesia.
The evening was graced by distinguished special guests. Among them were the Hon. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Guest Speaker Professor Lawrence A. Babb of Amherst College, Jessica Schaowski, Mayor’s office representative, Hon. Assemblyman David Weprin, and Hon. NYS Senator John Liu, Hon. NYS Senator Kevin Thomas and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney who introduced a bill in the US House of Representatives to posthumously present the Congressional Gold Medal to Mahatma Gandhi in recognition of his promotion of nonviolence, said Gandhi has been a “truly inspirational leader, historic figure”.
Mahatma Gandhi was “transformational in so many ways” and an inspiration to all Americans and people across the world, Maloney said. She said Mandela and King both attributed their philosophy of non-violence and their leadership to Mahatma Gandhi and both are recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal.
“Already Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King have received the Medal. It’s only right that the inspirational leader for both of them was Mahatma Gandhi and so he should receive this award,” Congresswoman added.
Ms. Maloney, who spearheaded efforts to have the US Postal Service issue the first Diwali Stamp, urged members of the Indian-American community to reach out to the Congress members and friends across the nation to co-sponsor the legislation to honor Gandhi with the Congressional medal.
“We are working to get the Senate sponsor. We must pass it this year and honour his leadership and his gift to the world,” she said, adding that “we should all work together and have a day of National Service in this special year for Gandhi and to remember him, she said.
“There is not enough that we can do to remember and say thank you to Gandhi for his life’s work, for his gift of non-violent ways of handling problems.” Gandhi brought independence to India with non-violence and recognizing his contributions to values in America, Ms. Maloney said she introduced the bill last year to give him the greatest honour that can be bestowed by the US Congress on an individual.
The medal will “honour his leadership” and his gift to the world of inspiring with his principles of non-violence, Maloney echoed. Other keynote speakers were the Hon, Consul General Sandeep Chakravorty and Samani Malay Pragyaji and Samani Neeti Pragyaji of Jain Vishwa Bharati of North America.
Consul General Sandeep Chakravorty said Gandhi himself was deeply influenced by the work and principle of civil disobedience of American poet and philosopher Henry David Thoreau, emulating it in his life. “Gandhi was deeply influenced by Thoreau and it shows in his life and work. Our freedom fighters were also deeply influenced by the American independence movement and the Constitution,” he said.
Maloney added that India and the US, the world’s largest democracy and the oldest democracies, have several commonalities, share the same values and have been allies across the spectrum. She said that paying homage to the memory and teachings of Lord Mahavir, she said she was not aware that one of Mahavir’s most important message is ‘Live and let live.’ “This slogan is one of the most famous quotes in America.”
The celebration of Non Violence ‘A message of Lord Mahavir and Mahatma Gandhi began with a lamp lighting ceremony with Navkar Mantra by Samani Malay Pragyaji and Samani Neeti Pragyaji joined by the distinguished guest and Consul General Sandeep Chakravorty, Mrs Taruna Chakravorty and Dr. Neeta Jain, President and Founder of International Ahimsa Foundation.
Dr. Neeta Jain gave welcome remarks and reiterated the importance of Non Violence and teachings of Lord Mahavir and Mahatma Gandhi, now more than ever before, and emphasized why and what motivated her to start the IAF organization.
Dr. Jain, the only female Indian-American elected official in New York City, was recently nominated by the Consul General of India in NY, Ambassador Sandeep Chakravorty, and was honored by the Society of Foreign Consuls in New York, Inc. on International Women’s Day for her tireless work in the South Asian Community. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney was the special guest of the evening, joined Consul General Chakravorty and Dr. Neeta Jain, and other distinguished guests in the lamp lighting ceremony.
Consul General Chakravorty was the keynote speaker and Professor Lawrence A. Babb the guest speaker who delivered special remarks and was honored by IAF and CG of India for his scholarship and research work on India. Special remarks also delivered by Jessica Schaowski, the Mayor’s office representative, Hon Assemblyman David Weprin, Senator John C Liu, Kevin Thomas and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.
Samani Malay Pragyaji and Samani Niti Pragyaji of Jain Vishwa Bharati of North America also delivered special remarks and graced the evening with Shanti Ki Preksha (Peace Meditation) chants along with the guests.
The guests were entertained by colorful cultural performances throughout the evening by artists and performers from Manglastak Rhythm Dance Academy by Angel Shah, Saurya Doshi, Siddharth Doshi and Shiv Ajmeri and Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram Mahatma Gandhi’s prayer song by United Nations International School, directed by Ms. Ellen Cava.
Hon. Judge Deborah Taylor of The Honorable Society of the Inner Temple presented a video telecast commentary on Mahatma Gandhi.
Consul General Chakravorty, along with Dr. Jain and Vice President of IAF Dr. Raj Bhayani honored the dignitaries –NYS elected officials and the distinguished guests from the diplomatic community CG of Bangladesh Sadia Faizunnesa, Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the UN Toshiya Hoshino and Mrs. Hoshino, Ms. Annavaleria Guazzieri, Head of Education Section, Consulate General of Italy to NY, Mr. Giampiero Biagioli, Prof of Linguistics at Rutgers University Italian Studies, Civil Servant at Italian Foreign Ministry, Ms. Emanuela Costa, Italian Language teacher, and Selene Candido, Italian language teacher at Scuola d’ Italia with a shawl and IAF Prayer book.
The finale performance Ghoomar was presented by Rhythm Dance Academy. Artists  Khushi Ojha, Jigna Ojha, Nidhi Parikh, Aditi Parikh, Krishna Patel, Jedlina Sarita, Ashmita Saha and Krisha Patel captivated the audience. Vice President of IAF Dr. Raj Bhayani delivered acknowledged the presence of Foreign media from Italy, US, Turkey, Germany, Hungary, China, South Africa, Poland and India.
Dr. Jain gave special thanks to the Consul General and his staff who worked tirelessly and gave unprecedented full support to organize and hosted the IAF Non Violence event and the presence of all elected officials and all guests who were present. The event was generously supported by the media sponsors JITO, JAINA, South Asian Times, TV Asia, PTC, ITV Gold and Parikh Media. The evening began with special Jain vegetarian reception and concluded with Jain vegetarian dinner and desserts
 International Ahimsa Foundation Inc. was formed in 2012 to spread the message of non-violence and peace from Jain principles to the community. The goal of the foundation has been to promote the teachings of non-violence and peace in thought and action by providing dialogue, peace-building activities, and civic engagement across cultures. The Foundation hopes to encourage students and the community at large to get involved in creating a better world

Religious freedom conditions in India on a downward trend in 2018: US Commission Report

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recently released an annual report that examines the state of religious freedom in several countries around the world, including India. The countries are categorised into two tiers, with India once again being placed in Tier 2, “for engaging in or tolerating religious freedom violations that meet at least one of the elements of the “systematic, ongoing, egregious” standard for designation as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA),” the report states. In its key findings, it notes that India saw religious freedom conditions continued on a downward trend in 2018, noting that last year, “approximately one-third of state governments increasingly enforced anti-con- version and/or anti-cow slaughter laws discriminatorily against non-Hindus and Dalits alike.”

The report adds that, in 2018, “approximately one-third of state governments increasingly enforced anti-con- version and/or anti-cow slaughter laws discriminatorily against non-Hindus and Dalits alike,” and notes that Christians were also the targets were mob violence “under accusations of forced or induced religious conversion.” Moreover, the report notes that in cases involving mob violence against a person over false accusations of forced conversion of cow slaughter, “police investigations and prosecutions often were not adequately pursued.”

In its key findings for India, the report takes note of the Supreme Court of India’s highlighting of “deteriorating conditions for religious freedom in some states” in 2018, stating that the court concluded that “certain state governments were not doing enough to stop violence against religious minorities, and in some extreme cases, impunity was being granted to criminals engaging in violence.” The report also highlights Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence on these issues, saying he “seldom made statements decrying mob violence,” and noting that “certain members of his political party have affiliations with Hindu extremist groups and used inflammatory language about religious minorities publicly.” These were some of the points the report notes to explain why India was once again termed a Tier 2 country.

The report outlines recommendations to the United States’ government, saying that it should “press the Indian government to allow a USCIRF delegation to visit the country and meet with stakeholders to evaluate conditions for freedom of religion or belief in India”. It calls for working with the Indian government to formulate a years-long strategy to curb religion-driven hate crimes by “pressing state governments” to prosecute public figures, including government officials, “who incite violence against religious minority groups through public speeches or articles.” The recommendations for this strategy also include bolstering the training and capacity of state and central police forces to prevent and punish instances of religious violence, encouraging the passage of the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2018, and assisting the law ministry to work with states to increase prosecution of hate crimes and hate speech targeting religious minorities, among others.

The report says that the conditions for religious freedom have declined in the last decade, stating, “A multifaceted campaign by Hindu nationalist groups like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sang (RSS), Sangh Parivar, and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) to alienate non-Hindus or lower-caste Hindus is a significant contributor to the rise of religious violence and persecution.” It notes that in 2017, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) “reported that communal violence increased significantly during 2016,” highlighting that human rights organisations criticised the NCRB last year not adequately including data on mob violence or lynching. Given this, “the NCRB delayed its 2018 report to collect data on nearly 30 new crime categories, which will include hate crimes, lynching, and crimes based on fake news,” the report states.

The report notes that in 2018, Minister of State at the Ministry of Home Affairs Hansraj Ahir told Parliament that 111 people were killed and 2,384 people were wounded in 822 communal clashes in 2017. By contrast, in 2016, 86 people were killed and 2,321 were injured in 703 clashes, the report offers, later adding that independent organisations that monitor hate crimes found that 2018 saw more than 90 religion-based hate crimes that resulted in 30 deaths and many more injuries. However, the report also notes that in December 2018, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that communal attacks had declined 12%, compared to the peak in 2017.

The report also notes how “institutional challenges” have contributed to religious freedom concerns, with “the police and courts overwhelmed,” and highlighting how “worsening income inequality has left more Indians suffering from poverty and has exacerbated his- torical conditions of inequality for certain religious and social minorities.”

The report takes note of anti-conversion laws that are in force in seven states in India, noting that the fundamental right to freedom of religion “includes the ability to manifest one’s beliefs through expression intended to persuade another individual to change his or her religious beliefs or affiliation voluntarily.” The report outlines that in 2018, anti-conversion laws were primarily enforced against Christians and Muslims who were proselytising, and says that religious minority leaders and others were also arrested under these laws. It highlights the case of Hadiya, whose marriage had been embroiled in accusations of ‘love jihad’. The report does not mention this phrase, but takes note of “inflammatory allegations of an organized campaign to coerce Hindu women to marry Muslim men and convert to Islam,” stating that the National Investigation Agency investigated this alleged campaign and eventually concluded that there was no evidence for it. Meanwhile, the report mentions ‘ghar wapsi’ ceremonies, in which those born as Hindus who converted to another religion are converted back, stating that “In some cases, these conversion ceremonies reportedly involve force or coercion,” but noting that it is difficult to determine if such conversions are voluntary or not.

Notably, the report, while discussing the role of Hindutva/Hindu extremist groups, highlights that “moderate and extreme forces within the Hindutva movement point to the rise in the Muslim population from constituting 10 percent of the national population in 1951 to 14 percent in 2011, which in their view necessitates “mitigation” against the growing Muslim community.” It later takes note of the fact that numerous cities have been renamed, such as Allahabad and Faizabad, abandoning the names that had been given during the Mughal period, stating that this “has been perceived as an effort to erase or downplay the influence of non-Hindus in Indian his- tory and as an attack on Muslims within India today.”

The report also discusses cow vigilantism, noting that “cow protection” mobs, “a new phenomenon,” have engaged in more than 100 attacks since May 2015 that have led to 44 deaths and around 300 people being injured. “In 2018 alone, cow protection lynch mobs killed at least 13 people and injured 57 in 31 incidents.” It also takes note of hate crimes against religious minorities, including anti-Muslim rhetoric in West Bengal in April 2018, threats against Christians in Tamil Nadu in October 2018.

Per the report, impunity for large-scale incidents of communal violence persists in India, “without proper accountability or recompense.” Probes and prosecution of those allegedly responsible have been “ineffective” or “absent,” and victims have said that the government has not adequately helped in rebuilding “destroyed neighborhoods, homes, and places of worship.” The report emphasises that while the Supreme Court and fact-finding commissions “have noted common characteristics and causes of such violence, including incitement to violence against religious minorities by politicians or religious leaders,” the failure “to address those common characteristics and causes or to hold perpetrators accountable have contributed to a culture of impunity for such violence.”

Other than incidents and threats that are communal, the report also discusses the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 1976, and details how it has been used to target non-governmental organisations “with missionary and human rights portfolios,” who have been banned from operating in India. It notes that in November 2018, the government “demanded that 1,775 organizations provide further explanation for their failure to submit use of foreign funds over the last six years; these organizations included many non-Hindu religious groups, some Hindu trusts managing major temples, and secular human rights groups.” The report explains that some Hindus, including some “Hindutva extremists,” “perceive Christian missionaries converting Dalits to be particularly threatening, as there are nearly 200 million Dalits in India,” adding, “Many observers assert that it was this fear of mass conversion that led to the 2017 shutdown of Com- passion International, a U.S.-based Christian charity, which provided services to nearly 150,000 Indian children.”

The report also has a section on Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC), which has jeopardized the Indian citizenship of more than four million people. “Widespread concerns have been raised that the NRC update is an intentional effort to discriminate and/ or has the effect of discriminating against Muslims, and that the discretion given to local authorities in the verification process and in identifying perceived foreigners to be excluded from the draft list will be abused,” it notes. It also highlights the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, saying that “concerns about the targeting of Muslims through the citizenship process were separately exacerbated” by its introduction and passage in the Lok Sabha; the bill, which would have provided citizenship to migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan “as long as they were not Muslim,” was dropped in the Rajya Sabha in February 2019, after the reporting period.

The report also discusses religious freedom for women, highlighting the Kathua case, in which an eight-year-old child was “abducted, gang-raped, and murdered as a message and threat to her Muslim nomadic community in Kashmir.” It notes that a priest, his son and a special police officer were charged in the case, and other police officials were charged with covering up the crimes. The report notes that while many protested the incident, “several others organized in support of the men charged, including members of the BJP.” It also highlights the Sabarimala Temple case, saying that following the Supreme Court’s ruling that adult women be permitted to enter the temple, “women attempting to enter the temple were physically attacked and others who publicly stated that they would try to enter the temple received hate mes- sages including death threats both online and in-person.”

The report also mentions a handful of positive developments with regards to religious freedom in India, such as the decline in communal violence in 2018, and the Supreme Court’s directive to the state and central governments to tackle mob violence, asking them to “pursue an 11-point plan, including compensation to hate crime victims, fast-tracking prosecutions, assigning senior police officers to deal with communal issues, and other provisions.” The report also mentions some progress in mob violence cases, citing June 2017’s Alimuddin Ansari lynching case, in which 11 accused were sentenced to life imprisonment in March 2018. Per the report, the Ministry of Minority Affairs was also granted a 12% increase in its budget.

Separately, Tenzin Dorjee, chair of the USCIRF, wrote a note in which he disagreed that religious freedom in India was deteriorating, stating, “While India must address issues related to religious freedom, I respectfully dissent on the views that India’s religious freedom conditions continued on a downward trend, the government allowed and encouraged mob violence against religious minorities, and some states are involved in ‘systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.’” He notes that in the 30+ years he spent living in India as Tibetan refugee, he “mostly witnessed the best of India and sometimes worst due to intractable interreligious conflicts.” He acknowledges that “religious divides and power struggles” resulted in the Partition of India and Pakistan, and also “contribute to egregious violations of religious freedom and tragedies,” but says that in spite of these concerns, “India exists as a multifaith and secular country.” Dorjee says that as a Tibetan refugee, “the most vulnerable minority among all minorities” in Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh, where he lived, he “experienced full religious freedom,” citing China’s systematic attacks on the Tibetan community in comparison. Dorjee also highlighted isolated incidents of religious harmony, such as a Muslim village donating land and money to build a Hindu temple, and a Hindu head priest carrying a Dalit youth on his shoulders into the Chilkur Balaji Temple’s inner sanctum amid cheers from a huge crowd. He takes note of Nathowal village in Punjab, where Hindu and Sikh communities helped rebuild an old mosque, and Muslims and Hindus helped work at a Sikh gurudwara. “People in this village reported to the Times of India that they celebrated together annual multifaith festivals such as Diwali, Dusshera, Rakhi, Eid, and Gurupurab,” Dorjee writes, opining that such “stories speak for India’s multi- faith civilization, religious freedom, and interreligious harmony.” He ends with an appeal to the Indian government “to continuously respect religious freedom and strive to promote India as a vibrant country of and for the multifaith people.”

The complete report may be read here. The section on India is on pages 174-181.
https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/2019USCIRFAnnualReport.pdf

Bernie Sanders announces candidacy for U.S. presidency in 2020

Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent and 2016 Democratic primary runner-up, whose populist policy agenda has helped push the party to the left, announced on Tuesday, February 19th that he was running for president again, embarking on a bid that would test whether he could retain the anti-establishment appeal he enjoyed with many liberal voters three years ago.

A self-styled democratic socialist whose calls for “Medicare for all,” a $15 minimum wage and zero college tuition and higher taxes on the rich, have become pillars of the party’s left wing, Mr. Sanders is among the best-known politicians to join an already crowded Democratic field and one of the most outspoken against President Trump, whom he has repeatedly called a “pathological liar” and a “racist.”

“Hi, I’m Bernie Sanders. I’m running for President,” Mr. Sanders said in a video and email sent to supporters on Tuesday, in which he also asked them to be part of an “unprecedented grassroots campaign”. Mr. Sanders had raised some $230 million, mostly through small donations in 2016.

“Our campaign is not only about defeating Donald Trump, the most dangerous President in modern American history,” Mr Sanders said in the video. “ It is not only about winning the Democratic nomination and the general election. Our campaign is about transforming our country and creating a government based on the principles of economic, social, racial and environmental justice.”

 “Three years ago, during our 2016 campaign, when we brought forth our progressive agenda we were told that our ideas were ‘radical’ and ‘extreme,’” Mr. Sanders said on Tuesday in an early-morning email to supporters, citing those health, economic and education policies as well as combating climate change and raising taxes on wealthy Americans.

“Well, three years have come and gone. And, as result of millions of Americans standing up and fighting back, all of these policies and more are now supported by a majority of Americans,” he said.

The nature of the race has changed markedly in just three years. In 2016, Mr. Sanders was pushing progressive policies and his main opponent for the Democratic nomination, Hilary Clinton, was an establishment candidate. In 2020, Mr. Sanders will run in a less ideologically unique space — a result of his own policy agenda and presence on the national stage.

At least two of those who had endorsed Mr. Sanders previously — Tulsi Gabbard, Congresswoman from Hawaii, and author Marianne Williamson — will now compete with him for the Democratic ticket.

 Sanders will start with several advantages, including the foundation of a 50-state organization; a massive lead among low-dollar donors that is roughly equivalent to the donor base of all the other Democratic hopefuls combined; and a cache of fervent, unwavering supporters. A coveted speaker, he is still capable of electrifying crowds in a way few politicians can. He enjoys wide name recognition, and several early polls on the 2020 race had Mr. Sanders running second behind former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

“Our campaign is about taking on the powerful special interests that dominate our economic and political life. I’m talking about Wall Street, the health insurance companies, the drug companies, the fossil fuel industry, the military-industrial complex, the private prison industry, and the large multinational corporations that exert such an enormous influence over our lives,” said Mr. Sanders, who has projected himself as a candidate for working class Americans and against entrenched Washington interests.

Mr. Sanders referred to e-commerce giant Amazon paying “nothing in federal income taxes” and the “grotesque” income inequalities in American society. He called for an end to racism, sexism, homophobia, religious bigotry and an end to voter suppression and gerrymandering [manipulating the boundaries of an electoral constituency in an electorally strategic manner].

“We are running against a President who is a pathological liar, a fraud, a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe, and someone who is undermining American democracy as he leads us in an authoritarian direction,” Mr. Sanders said.

If he wins, Mr. Sanders , at 77, will be the oldest candidate on the Democratic ticket. Yet, he is highly popular among young voters and won the under-30 vote in 2016 against Ms. Clinton. However, Mr. Sanders fared badly last time with African American and women voters. Ms. Clinton won South Carolina — where some 60% of Democratic voters are black — by almost 50 points. Mr. Sanders visited South Carolina on Martin Luther King Jr. day at the end of January and met with lawmakers and others, and delivered a speech in honour of Dr. King.

There are other vulnerabilities in the Sanders campaign. His opponents will likely bring up his voting record on gun control — he received support from the NRA as a Congressman in 1990 for voting against wait times for those wanting to buy handguns. Mr. Sanders is also likely to be challenged on reports of harassment of female workers by their colleagues and pay disparities in the Sanders campaign in 2016.

“I certainly apologize to any woman who felt she was not treated appropriately, and of course, if I run we will do better the next time,” Mr. Sanders had said.

A recent Morning Consult nationwide poll of democratic primary voters put Mr. Sanders in second place, winning 22% of primary voters and behind former Vice-President Joe Biden (29%). Indian and African American candidate Kamala Harris came in third at 13%.

US lawmakers reach border security deal averting another shutdown

A group of Democrats and Republicans in the US House and Senate have reached an agreement in principle over border security to fund the US government and avert another partial shutdown.

The agreement contains only a fraction of the money President Donald Trump wants for his promised border wall and does not mention a concrete barrier. The deal still needs to be approved by Congress and signed by the president.

Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Trump said of the deal: “I can’t say I’m happy, I can’t say I’m thrilled.”

He told reporters he would have a meeting about the agreement later on Tuesday.

The Democrats – who now control the House of Representatives – have refused to approve the $5.7bn for Mr Trump’s wall on the border with Mexico, one of his key campaign pledges.

Lawmakers expressed optimism that a bill would be approved by Friday when funding runs out for some federal agencies. The previous shutdown – the longest in US history – lasted 35 days and cost the country’s economy an estimated $11bn.

Details have yet to be released but aides familiar with the negotiations say it includes $1.375bn in funding for 55 miles (88km) of new fencing at the border, a small part of the more than 2,000 miles promised by the president.

The barrier would be built in the Rio Grande Valley, in Texas, using existing designs, such as metal slats, instead of the concrete wall that Mr Trump had demanded.

There was also an agreement to reduce the number of beds in detention centers to 40,250 from the current 49,057, reports say.

The talks had reached an impasse earlier with Republicans strongly rejecting Democrats’ demands for a limit to the number of undocumented migrants already in the US who could be detained by immigration authorities.

The deal was struck in a closed-door meeting in Washington on Monday evening after several hours of talks.

“We got an agreement on all of it,” Republican Senator Richard Shelby said. “Our staffs are going to be working feverishly to put all the particulars together. We believe that if this becomes law, it’ll keep open the government.”

But, by Monday night, some of the president’s conservative allies had already denounced the deal, with Fox News commentator Sean Hannity calling it a “garbage compromise”. House Freedom Caucus leader Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina said the agreement failed “to address the critical priorities outlined by Border Patrol Chiefs”.

In a crowded stadium with banners saying “Finish the Wall” in El Paso, in Texas on Monday night, Mr Trump told supporters: “Walls work… Walls save lives.”

He repeated that a border fence in the city, opposite Ciudad Juárez in Mexico, “made a big difference”, even though critics reject his claim as exaggerated and based on misleading data.

“We need the wall, and it has to be built,” said Mr Trump, who has previously threatened to declare a national emergency and fund the wall without Congress.

The idea, however, is disliked even by some fellow Republicans, and Democrats are likely to challenge it in the courts.

The president has backed away from calls to make Mexico pay for a concrete wall, a point he repeatedly made during his presidential campaign, and has already acknowledged that the barrier to be built may not be made of concrete.

A Grand Christmas celebrations in Chicago unveils the essence & spirit of Christmas

With the symphonic choir presenting melodious Christmas carols eclipsed only by the grand entry of huge convoy of Kerala Drum beats headed by fully attired dancing Santa Claus kicked-off a spectacular Christmas Nite Banquet at the colorfully decked Meadows Club on December 14, 2018 in Rolling Meadows, IL.

The mesmerizing high-decibel sounds of Kerala drum beats reverberating the hall joyfully unveiled the grand evening of great festive fervor which was followed by dazzling dance performances and musical carols each heartwarmingly unveiled the profoundly beautiful story of Christmas spectacularly depicted through songs, dance and music.

The Christmas Nite Banquet hosted under the aegis of South Asian Christian Cultural Association [SACCA] attracted a great host of elected officials headed by U.S. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, State Senator-elect Ram Villivalam, Oakbrook Mayor Dr. Gopal Lalmalani, Bishop Mar Jacob Angadiath, Air-India’s Chief Malini Vaidyanathan,  Redberri Corp CEO Deepakant Vyas joined by large number of business and community leaders including SBI Manager Amit Jihngran,  PM Mortgage CEO Ashok Lakshmanan, Joyallukas Jewelers Manager Justin Joseph, SBI-VP Deepa Nath, Ajeet Singh, Harish Kolasani, Prachi Jaitley and Dhitu Bhagvakar.

The glittering banquet set off in motion with lamp lighting ceremony lead by U.S.Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi who in his remarks applauded the organizers and extolled the spirit of Christmas, which he emphasized, fosters peace, goodwill and love. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi who inspired a new generation of new leaders added that he would like to see a public figure emerging from the south Indian Christian community. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi publicly acknowledged and thanked Gladson Varghese and Keerthi Kumar Ravoori and his team for hosting this grand event celebrating the essence of Christmas.

Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi presented special plaques of appreciation to Mr. Ashok Lakshmanan, Mr. Amit Jhingran, State Bank of India and Joseph of Joyallukas Jewelry.  Malini Vaidyanathan of Air-India was honored with floral bouquets for her outstanding support to the community events and projects.

State Senator Ram Villivalam [elect] presented seasons’ greetings and thanked the community for all the support he has received in his electoral victory as the new State Senator in the 8th Senatorial district.

Bishop Jacob Angadiath gave an uplifting Christmas sermonette that presented the central theme of the birth of Jesus Christ, which he said, is very foundation of Christmas. Bishop Angadiath said Christmas exemplifies love, peace, joy and hope. Anto Kavalackal presented an introduction to Bishop.

The highlight of the evening was ethereally melodious carols and anthems presented by the acclaimed St. Thomas Marthoma Church choir with over 30 singers directed by Choir Director Jacob George in a repertoire performance enhanced by candlelit ambience with a sparkling collection of timeless carols evoked sustained applause and some standing ovation. Young dancers who put grace, beauty and emotions in their dances illustrating the story of Christmas beautifully presented the evening’s dance presentations from Kala Dance Academy choreographed by Ruth Varghese and Surya Dance Academy.

Earlier, Gladson Varghese, Chairman welcomed the elected officials and thanked the gathering of families of all faiths for unitedly celebrating Christmas with a greater sense of appreciation, love and understanding. Keerthi Kumar Ravoori, Banquet Convener presiding over the evening’s banquet served as the emcee, introduced the chief guests, and elected officials. Keerthi Ravoori called the Christmas banquet a celebration of inter-faith unity during this festive season. Emmanuel Neela, President SACCA presented seasonal remarks and outlined future programs; while Vasanth Charles presented an overview of the history of South Asian Christian Cultural Assn [SACCA] and Satish Dadepogu proposed a vote of thanks.  Margaret Sanyogita Charles, Shirley Kalvakota & Persis Dadepogu led the lamp-lighting ceremony and intermittently took to the stage in the honoring ceremonies presenting shawl and flower bouquets to Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi in appreciation of his gracious presence and support; to State Senator [elect] Ram Villivalam on his recent electoral victory and to Shree Guruswamy for presenting beautiful cultural dance presentations and Oakbrook Mayor Dr. Gopal Lalmalani.

Johnson Kodipally, Merari Bushpaka, Vijay, Michael Konda, Tony Chettupally, Mohit, and Sheetal & Komal Panchal presented the Telugu carols; while Rev. Rajamani Gonu, Rev. Dr. David Vidyasagar, Rev. Omega Verma, Dan Williams, and Prem presented the closing Christmas Skit with musical score by Michael Konda.

Diwali and Annakut Celebrated at BAPS Shri Swaminaryan Mandirs across North America

Chicago IL: A glittering array of twinkles filled the night as traditional candles were lit by devotees. The ancient tradition of lighting candles, or divos, during Diwali symbolizes the transition from darkness to light. While the divos lit on Diwali erase physical darkness, the festival’s rich traditions and rituals go deeper – inviting individuals to make efforts in removing darkness in the forms of anger, envy, greed, arrogance, and resentment.  Diwali presents a time to reflect and introspect.

The five days of Diwali (including the Hindu New Year) are rich in cultural traditions and rituals that symbolize new beginnings and a renewed commitment to family. The bright colors of Rangoli (intricate designs made of colored powder), the lighting of divos, and the elaborate variety of vegetarian foods offered to God (in a display called an Annakut), all mark a renewal of the good within and the goodwill towards everything around us. Diwali presents Hindus with an opportunity to connect with and celebrate the traditions of their roots with great fanfare.

Offering his prayers to Bhagwan Swaminarayan, His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj, guru and current spiritual leader of BAPS, prayed for devotees around the world for continued personal, and professional growth in this new year. Mahant Swami Maharaj took the occasion of Diwali to remind individuals and families about the importance of leading spiritually-centric lives, grounded in strong values and increased attachment to God.

This year, BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandirs across North America marked the auspicious festival of Diwali and its associated five days of celebrations with an elaborate Annakut, lighted divos, fireworks, and even a special children’s Diwali celebration.

For many visitors, the most popular attraction and a highlight of the festivities is the Annakut festival on the fifth day. As practiced by BAPS Swaminarayan Mandirs, the Annakut is a unique and awe-inspiring sight of devotion where hundreds of different traditional Indian foods and even some fusions with western cuisine are prepared by devotees in the community and arranged in front of the Mandir’s sacred images. In the evening, the offered dishes are served at dinner to everyone.

Vandan Shah said, “Diwali is all about good food, family gatherings, crackers, and I love it because of the excitement that fills the air when the festival nears. After coming to the Diwali Celebrations at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Robbinsville, I felt like I was in India. I experienced Indian culture while getting a taste of fine Indian cuisine. I truly felt at home.”

“Being away from India, I brought my children to the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Edison, NJ so they can learn about Diwali and our rich tradition”, said, Dinesh Prajapati.

In addition to the Annakut, the BAPS’ Diwali celebrations featured spiritual and cultural themed events, which engaged both children and adults, in order to bring positive energy into the New Year.  Furthermore, visitors and members learned about scriptural events related to Diwali, and observed traditions such as rangolis and other traditional forms of decorations. Finally, all children were invited to participate in a children’s fair and Kids Diwali Celebration which included food, games and fun activities.  Attractions included a fireworks display.

The celebrations were open to all. Visitors participated in celebration activities, offered prayers for new beginnings and had the opportunity to taste in the delicious offerings of the Annakut.

The BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) is a worldwide spiritual and humanitarian organization that is dedicated to community service, peace, and harmony. Motivated by Hindu principles, BAPS strives to care for the world by caring for societies, families, and individuals. Through various spiritual and humanitarian activities, BAPS endeavors to develop better citizens of tomorrow with high esteem for their roots and culture. Its 3,300 international centers support these character-building activities. Under the guidance and leadership of His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj, BAPS aspires to build a community that is free of addictions as well as morally, ethically and spiritually pure. For more details, please visit www.baps.org.

His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj is the sixth and current spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. He was ordained a swami by Yogiji Maharaj in 1961 and named Sadhu Keshavjivandas. As he was appointed the head (Mahant) of the Mandir in Mumbai, he became known as Mahant Swami. His devout, humble and service-focused life earned him the innermost blessings of Yogiji Maharaj and Pramukh Swami Maharaj. Mahant Swami Maharaj travels throughout the world inspiring people through his insightful spiritual discourses and disciplined conduct. His virtuous lifestyle and profound devotion to Bhagwan Swaminarayan and gurus are ideals toward which devotees strive. Mahant Swami Maharaj became the guru and President of BAPS upon Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s passing in 2016.

Pramukh Swami Maharaj was the fifth spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. Under his leadership, BAPS grew into an international spiritual and humanitarian organization with over 3,300 centers worldwide. He dedicated his life to the well-being of others, traveling throughout the world to foster love, peace, harmony, righteousness, faith in God, and service to humanity. With genuine care and compassion, he reached out to all members of society irrespective of class, color, or age. Recognized and respected as one of India’s greatest spiritual teachers, he lived by and promoted the principle: “In the joy of others, lies our own.”

Multi Ethnic Advisory Task Force Hosts 8th Annual Congressional award function with Glittering of Chicago stars

Chicago IL: On behalf of Multi Ethnic Advisory Task Force (MEATF), I like to express my appreciation and thank so many people who worked so hard to make our 8th Annual Congressional Awards Gala a grand success. U.S. Congressman Danny K. Davis’s 7th Congressional District-Illinois’s Multi Ethnic Advisory Task Force hosted the Eighth Annual Awards Gala on Sunday October 28, 2018 at 5 pm at Meadows’s Club, Rolling Meadows, Illinois.  The Annual Awards Gala attracts Elected Officials, Community Leaders, Educators, Hospital CEOs, Professionals, Businessmen and Businesswoman from all walks of life from 24 different ethnic communities.  425 prominent citizens were in attendance at the Congressional Gala.

Since last Eight Years with blessings form the Honorable Congressman Danny K Davis and under the leadership of Dr. Vijay Prabhakar who founded this Organization.

One of the highlights of this year’s Gala included the recognition of the Consul Generals of 6 countries at Chicago, “A Congressional Salute to Consulate Generals”  “including the Consulate Generals of India, Japan, Turkey, China, Indonesia and Ukraine. Colorful dances from various countries and Singing made the event electrifying, exuberant and lively. Audience was really appreciating every items presented.

Attendance of our vibrant Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi from 8th Congressional District of IL made event more pleasant and successful.

One of the prominent political from India, a first female BJP Tamilnadu President, Dr. Tamilisai Soundarrajan specially took her time out of her busy schedule to receive the “International Rising Star” Award.

My special thanks to Congressman, Danny, Davis, His lovely wife Ms. Vera Davis, Congressman Raja Krishnamoothi, Our visionary leader Dr. Vijay Prabhakar, Gala Czar Dr. Zenobia Sowell, Program Chair, Clearance Beals, Banquet Chair, Vijender Doma, Communication Chair Nagendran Sripada, Mrs. Chand Nasim, Banquet co-chair, Our TV anchors Saurin Thakkar and Shirley Kalvakota, and all other MEATF team members who work so hard.

I like to extend my Congratulation to all Awardees and Award Presenters to name few, Well -known Kennedy Family, Dr, Wasiullah Khan, Chancellor of East-West University, Martino Wim Tangkar, Mr. Moti Agarwal, Sunil Shah, Hema Shastri, Dr. Xingwu Wang, Vishal Chhabria, Jayanta Mukharjee, Metin Serbest, Dr. Srinivas Reddy. Presenters;, Gerard and Hadiya Moorer, State Rep. Melissa Conyears Ervin, Alderman Jason Ervin, Dr. Barakat, Santosh Kumar, Dr. Clyde Rivers, Kevin Bailey, Shree Guruswamy and many more …

Music Moghul award was given to Mr. Dexter Dale by the first lady, a famous Singer of Chicago Padma Mehta. Her two line rendition of Bollywood romantic Song was well appreciated by the audience.

“Sri Guru Sai Leela” Outstanding performance by Students of Acharya Performing Arts Academy

Students of Acharya Performing Arts Academy under the guidance and direction of teacher/Guru Vidushi Asha Adiga Acharya recreated the divine moments that occurred before 100 years through “Sri Guru Sai Leela” dance drama on Vijayadashami celebration and Shiradi Sai baba 100th Samadi celebration, which was Oct 20th Saturday around 6pm at Aurora IL Sai baba temple.

In the dance drama, the performers enacted 5 heavenly stories extracted from the ‘Holy Sai Satcharithra’. The stories in which Shiradi Sai Baba taught his miraculous lessons through practical life experience. The morals and values that we have learned from Baba stores will be ever pervading in our minds building us as wise strong and compassionate humans.

The dance drama was directed and choreographed by Vidushi Guru Asha Adiga Acharya. Dance drama was performed by Acharya performing arts academy senior dance and music disciple with a live orchestra.

Acharya performing arts academy senior disciple Khristi Blocton very well performed the role of Shiradi sai baba, Madhavilatha Gali and Sharmila Chelladurai were also one of the main dance performers in the dance drama.

In the live orchestra singing and Nattuvangam was done by Vidushi Guru Asha Adiga Acharya, Violin – Rishabh Ranganathan, Mridangam – Soham Kaje, Harmonium – Muralidhara Kaje, Tabala – Srikumar Raja.

Celebrating Queen’s 90th Birthday, Veeraswamy in London Attracts Indian Food Lovers to Join In Its Own 90th Anniversary

We are proud to join in the grand celebration to mark the milestone event in the life of Britain’s longest – serving monarch, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth as the world celebrates her 90th birthday,”  declared Camellia Panjabi, co-owner Camellia Panjabi, a world-renowned expert on Indian food.  “It’s another milestone for us as the prestigious Veeraswamy restaurant in London, the oldest Indian Restaurant in the world, turned 90-years-old this year.”

Situated in a prime location overlooking London’s Regent Street, Veeraswamy has been offering the finest classical Indian cuisine since 1926.  As the first of its kind, it is celebrated as a great historical restaurant of London and certainly as the grand dame of Indian restaurants and is known for its refined cuisine and opulent Raj-inspired style. It has always exuded a great deal of glamour.

Veeraswamy Old Photo - 1920s
Veeraswamy Old Photo – 1920s

Opened by Edward Palmer, the great-grandson of an English military strategist and an Indian exotic Mughal princess, Veeraswamy, in its early years, served cuisine of the entire Indian sub-continent.  Palmer himself was a retired British Indian Army officer and in 1924 – 5 had run the Indian section at the British Empire Exhibition, Wembley, where his company, E.P. Veeraswamy & Co., Indian Food Specialists, sold spices, chutneys and curry pastes and ran an Indian café.

A few years later the restaurant was taken over by Sir William Seaward in 1930, an English Member of Parliament. Throughout the 1930s during the Great Depression trade was very difficult, but the owners used great resourcefulness and came through the challenging times.  In the 1940s and 1950s the restaurant became a great success.

From then on, the Veerasawmy was wildly successful and continued to attract a celebrity clientele until the 1960s when it started to decline.

Raj Kachori
Raj Kachori

The first ever curry in a can was introduced under Veeraswamy Food Products brand in the early 1950s.  The restaurant was sold by Sir William in 1967.  The food products business under the Veeraswamy name continued to be owned by the couple into the 1990s.

In 1996, the restaurant was bought by Namita Panjabi and Ranjit Mathrani, then owners of a successful Indian restaurant called Chutney Mary in Kings road Chelsea.  The next 18 months were to see more changes than during the previous 70 years. The restaurant décor was completely updated and adopted an ultramodern theme in the late 1990s; however for its 80th anniversary in 2006, it was redecorated in the opulent 1920s motif.

Veeraswamy is currently owned by the Chutney Mary group whose owners’ profile now includes Chutney Mary, Amaya and Masala Zone chain.  The Company bought back the brand Veeraswamy of pickles, curry pastes and chutneys which is now marketed in the UK and worldwide by BARTS U.K.

Veeraswamy Present
Veeraswamy Present

In recent decades, based on the popularity of authentic Indian food in the UK, Veeraswamy serves a menu of regional Indian cuisines,  including dishes from Punjab, Lucknow, Kashmir, Kerala and Goa.  “You can taste all varieties of freshly made food under one roof, elegantly served,” says Panjabi.

Camellia Panjabi, who is the author of “50 Great Curries of India,”  which has sold over 1.5 million copies, which describes the secrets to creating authentic Indian curries at home, oversees the menu at Veeraswamy.

The menu is different from other Indian restaurants and really interesting.  This is the place to experience classic Indian dishes that you may not even find easily even on  restaurant menus in India;  there are also some amazing modern  creations as you relax in opulent Raj-inspired surroundings.

Veeraswamy Prawn Tandoori
Veeraswamy Prawn Tandoori

To celebrate its 90th year, the menu has incorporated a few dishes from the Royal Palace Kitchens of India – from the Nizams of Hyderabad’s Palace kitchen and the Royal Palace at Patiala.

National Geographic claims that Veeraswamy is among the 10 best “destination and special restaurants” in the world.  It’s high-class, high value fine dining right in London’s West End.  Described as one of the least expensive restaurant on National Geographic’s list of the Top Ten Destination Restaurants on Earth,  and as one of the most mind-blowing meals one has ever experienced in life.  For more information and to visit the oldest and the finest Indian Restaurant in the world, please visit: http://www.veeraswamy.com

‘Ms. Marvel’ aka ‘Kamala Khan’ Based on Indo-Pak Partition

Marvel aka Kamala Khan has soared in popularity ever since she was introduced by Marvel Comics in 2013. With their latest comic, Marvel traces the roots of the Pakistani-American superhero from New Jersey, and to our surprise it dates back to the Indo-Pak partition.

The first few pages of the comic have recently been released and they show Kamala’s parents, Kareem and Aisha, as Indian Muslims in Bombay in 1947 when the largest human migration in history was underway. They are en route to the newly found Pakistan. Kamala is a fictional superheroine appearing in comic books published by Marvel Comics.

The appearance of the characters – bold gold bangles and shalwar kameez paired with a dupatta – depicts the Muslims of the subcontinent, the Express Tribune reported. In the comic book, Kamala’s parents are anticipating her birth as her mother asks God for a sign that will reassure her of her child’s safe future in Pakistan.

Created by editors Sana Amanat and Stephen Wacker, and written by G. Willow Wilson and artist Adrian Alphona, Kamala is Marvel’s first Muslim character to headline a comic book. Kamala first made her appearance in Captain Marvel #14 (August 2013) before taking over the Ms. Marvel comic book series in February 2014.

CMEs, CEO/Leadership/Women’s Forums, Spiritual Discourses, Educational Seminars, Fashion Show, Mega Entertainment, Awards, Contests, Speeches, & Networking mark AAPI’s 34th annual convention in New York

New York, NY: July 4th, 2016: CMEs, CEO/Leadership/Women’s Forums, Spiritual Discourses, Educational Seminars, Fashion Show, Mega Entertainment, Awards, Contests, Speeches, & Networking were some of the highlights of the 34thannual convention of 34th annual convention of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) at the Marriott Marquis on Times Square, New York City from June 30th to July 4th, 2016.

Attended by a record 2,000 delegates from across the nation, the spectacular event was a way of showcasing the strength and achievements of the more than 100,000 physicians of Indian origin who have earned a name for themselves in this country with their hard work, excellence, compassionate care, academic and scientific endeavors.

Dr. Lodha, who was administered the oath of office as the President of AAPI during the 34th annual convention in New York on July 3rd, 2016 vowed to take the more than three decades old organization to the new heights and “bring all the AAPI Chapters, Regions, Members of the Executive Committee and Board of Trustees to work cohesively and unitedly for the success of AAPI and the realization of its noble mission.”

Acknowledging that leading AAPI is a daunting challenge, Dr. Lodha said, “I’m very honored, privileged and consider myself fortunate to announce that I have an excellent group of dedicated, hardworking, and loyal officers and executive committee members who are with me to take AAPI to new heights.”

Dr. Lodha received the gavel from Dr. Seema Jain, the out-going president of AAPI as the more than 2,000 delegates cheered loudly, greeting the new President of AAPI, the largest ethnic medical association in the United States. Along with him, Dr. Gautam Samadder as President-Elect, Dr. Naresh Parikh as Vice President, Dr. Suresh Reddy as Secretary, and Dr. Manju Sachdev as the Treasurer of AAPI, assumed charge in the presence of leading luminaries from across the nation. Dr. Madhu Agarwal assumed charge as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, AAPI by the out-going chairman, Dr. Aravind Pillai. He stressed the importance of having YPS president Aditya Desai and MSRF President Atul Nakshi along with a diversified group of regional directors. “Their leadership will help us move forward with our current and future initiatives.”

In his keynote address on the final nite, Preeth Barara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York said, “Welcome to my jurisdiction,” to all the AAPI delegates from across the nation, and added, “It’s an honor to be with the greatest selection of Indian Americans gathered in one place, except for in a spelling bee.”  He said, he wanted to address two problems: One affecting people’s physical body and the other affecting the political body. Both are central to our wellbeing, he said …describing personal experiences…I am glad about the way people are responding today to . Opiate addiction, as we are aware that thousands of people are dying of this epidemic.

He advocated the physicians to be in the front line treating this epidemic. He drew the attention of the community to the dangers of over prescribing. “This epidemic is killing our children.” He suggested that physicians educate the patients and the community; provide treatment…we need to get them out of the addiction, he said and added, if the insurance companies are denying they should be scrutinized; and finally, he asked the physicians to “look at your own profession. You are uniquely placed to work with this kind of problem. In a very passionate way, Barara advocated with the AAPI members to be aware of and work towards stopping hate crimes involving South Asian community. “Anything is possible in America, which is like no other place on earth. I am filled with ambition and optimism,” he added.

In her welcome address, Dr. Seema Jain, President of AAPI, reminded AAPI delegates from across the nation of the historic nature of the convention. “The Future is now– Its time to step up to a new era of innovation through a new age of digital healthcare that transcends biological and chemical medicine into the future. As physicians we must be equipped to tackle the next generation’s unique set of challenges and opportunities in healthcare,” Dr. Seema Jain said.

The convention began here with a panel discussion on “Health Care 2020 & Beyond,” moderated by CNN anchor, Dr. Fareed Zakaria and in an interview style open forum by US Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, as well as CEO Forums featuring healthcare leaders on Thursday June 30, 2016. The two hours long discussions were very well attended by a packed audience in rapt silence and attention. The session for the day on “Health Care 2020 & Beyond” moderated by Dr. Fareed Zakaria, had featured Bob Oliver; Omar Ishrak; Michael Antoniades; and Dr. Arthur Klein;.Deepak Nath.

In conversation with Dr. Fareed Zakaria, US Surgeon General – Dr. Vivek Murthy shared with an enthusiastic audience about his background, key public health initiatives, including disease prevention through healthy eating, active living, need for sleep, wise use of modern technologies, and emotional well-being. Describing the importance of his upcoming health education report from his office on the need for ensuring health equity for all communities and fighting off threats to health drugs and addiction, Dr. Murthy said, “How the nation looks at addiction is very important and it can help prevent addiction.” Commenting that incarceration is not a solution to drug addiction, he said, “it adds to the problem.” He said, “If you help change people’s attitudes, we can help solve the problem.” Dr. Murthy had some very important tips on ways to healthy living, which was much appreciated by one and all.

With ribbon cutting and lighting of the traditional lamp below a beautifully decorated arch, Ambassador Arun Singh, India’s Ambassador to the United States, officially inaugurated the annual event of the physicians of Indian origin. In his opening remarks, Ambassador Singh praised the many contributions of AAPI members in the United States and back home in India. “You have excelled in your fields of medicine, and thus make significant contributions through hard work, commitment and dedication to your profession and the people you are committed to serve,” he said. While conveying his greetings and best wishes to AAPI leaders for the success of the convention, Ambassador described the fast growing health sector, particularly the pharmaceutic industry in India.

In his passionate address, Dr. Prasad Srinivasan, a State Representative of the state of Connecticut, challenged his colleagues in the medical profession to be hardworking, dedicated to public cause, family-oriented and stay focused, which are keys to becoming state and national elected officials. “We have the choice to be at the table or on the table. Given our heritage, we the Indian Americans belong at the table. Get actively involved in the affairs of the local community and that’s the path to larger role in the nation,” he said.

India’s Consul General in New York, Ambassador Riva Ganguly Das, lauded the many initiatives AAPI both in India and the United States, while wishing them a successful convention.

Congressman Lee Zeldin, said, Physicians of Indian origin are well known around the world for their compassion, passion for patient care, medical skills, research, and leadership. “Indian-Americans constitute about one percent of the country’s population, but you account for nine percent of the American doctors and physicians, serving one out of seven patients being treated across the nation.”

The convention was packed with back to back seminars and CMEs and conferences, including Auxiliary/Spouse Program, Diamond Selection Activity, India Global Engagement Innovation and Entrepreneur Seminar, and inspiring speeches at the Leadership Seminar on “Aligning management thinking with patient care: Building an effective medical practice” by Dr. Dipak Jain and “Should I encourage my child to go to medical school?  The future of medical education and medicine as a profession, and Rutgers’ plans as a case study?” by Dr. Brian Storm.

“This is the best of all Leadership Seminars by AAPI,” Dr. Seema Jain declared after the inspirational speeches. During the delicious Dinner Reception, delegates were treated with “Regional Flavors of India.”

The days were filled with back to back CMEs on cutting edge technologies, modern trends in diagnosing treating patients. This CME program has been jointly sponsored by the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin and has been designed to meet the educational needs of Primary Care physicians – Internists, Family Practitioners, Pediatricians, and Specialists – Cardiology, Oncology, Endocrinology, Surgery and other specialties involved in the care of patients with Atrial Fibrillation, HIV disease, Diabetes, Dyslipidemia, Depression, Prostate and Hematologic malignancies and Back pain.

“What we call feeling healthy, is not just the absence of disease, but having a sense of wholeness within us.  If we feel like a complete being in our body, mind and spirit, that is when we are truly healthy,” Sadhguru, founder of Founder of Isha Foundation, told a packed audience, who came to receive his words of wisdom and blessings. Sadhguru, dressed in his long robe and sash, was addressing the delegates at the annual convention of Physicians of Indian Origin on July 2nd, at the Marriott Marquis in New York City on “Life Sense: Technologies for Wellbeing.” Sadhguru’s wit and piercing logic provoked and broadened the thoughts and perception of life of every participant.

Other events included a session by AAPI Charitable Foundation on ways to give back to one’s motherland and the adopted land. Winners of the Research/Poster Presentation were recognized during the AAPI Executive Committee Recognition Lunch, during which, delegates had an opportunity to hear from Dr. Vas Narasimhan, Global Head Drug Development and Chief Medical Officer, Novartis, Switzerland; Arthur Klien, Medical President at Mt. Sinai Medical Center; Eric Paterson, US VP Diversity Dealer Relations; and Ramakrishna of the Ramakrishna Hospital in Tamil Nadu, India.

Dr. Charanji Rihal of the Mayo Clinic addressed the audience on “Effect of Affordable Care Act on Physicians Healthcare Provider and Hospital Systems,” while Naveen Jain, Founder & CEO Blue Dot, spoke passionately about “Future of Healthcare in the world of Exponential Technologies” Other speakers of the day included, Dr. Chandy Abraham, CEO, Cayman Hospital.

Shankar Mahadevan, Sunidhi Chauhan, Aditya Narayan and Indian Idol Juniors, took the AAPI delegates by storm. “Each of the three mega stars led a group of talented artists and stars from Bollywood and from the United States,” said Dr. Ratan Mirchandani, Chair of the Entertainment Committee for AAPI Convention. “With 12 leading stars to entertain in one weekend during AAPI convention in the Big Apple, this mega event was truly historic,” he added.

The delegates were treated with scintillating entertainment performance by Bollywood singer Sunidhi Chauhan. Young artists, including Aditya Narayan and Indian Idol Junior Group from India showcased their talents before a packed audience beyond mid-night. The grand finale was a live performance by Shankar Mahadevan and team, showcasing their musical talents before a lively audience.

This year’s Fashion Show was led by Rohini Bedi. The much sought after South Asian designer Rohini Bedi from California presented  her exclusive collection 2016, The Colors Of India. Rohini’s collection infused the vibrant colors of the East and the jaw dropping designs that rocked the runways in the West.

As women, you burn yourselves in the process of accomplishing things in life, Chandrika Tandon, a 2011 GRAMMY nominated artist and a Billboard Nominee for top 40 Women in Music 2011, told a packed audience at the Women’s Forum. Being a wife, mother, businesswoman, artiste, each role she plays is so demanding. But, Tandon said, she was able to all of them. Tandon suggested that everyone needs to have the courage that comes from competence; the courage that comes from compassion; and, the courage that comes from contemplation. Woman is a powerful force that can move everything. One must believe that I am the power. I am the light.”

Kim Guadagno, Lt. Governor of New Jersey, Dr. Sherine Gabriel, Dean  of Rutgers RWJM School & CEO Rutgers RWJM Group, and Aroon Shivdasani, President of Indo-American Arts Council, shared with the audience their own personal experiences of being a woman. “We all need to have a sense of humor, especially when you have so many roles to play in life and each one is so demanding.”

Dr. Rita Ahuja, Chairwoman of the convention said, “For the very first time in the history of AAPI, both the President and the Convention Chair are women. We are so fortunate to have Dr. Seema Jain as the President of AAPI.” The annual convention this year was organized by AAPI’s New Jersey Chapter.

Dr. Ajay Lodha invited all AAPI members to be part of the new journey, and participate in the upcoming two major evets, he has planned to organize. The Global Healthcare Summit will be held in Udaiipur, Rajasthan from December 28-30, 2016. The 35th AAPI Convention will be held at the Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey from June 21-25, 2017. “A new era has begun. AAPI will continue to discover her own potential to be an active and vital player in shaping the landscape of national healthcare delivery system with a focus on health maintenance than disease intervention,” Dr. Lodha said.  For more details, please visit: www.aapiconvention.org

“Woman is a powerful force that can move everything” Chandrika Tandon tells at AAPI’s Women’s Forum

New York, NY: July 3rd, 2016: As women, you burn yourselves in the process of accomplishing things in life, Chandrika Tandon, a 2011 GRAMMY nominated artist and a Billboard Nominee for top 40 Women in Music 2011, told a packed audience at the Women’s Forum during the 34th annual Convention of 34th annual convention of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) at the Marriott Marquis on Times Square, New York City on July 2nd, 2016.

In her opening remarks, Dr. Seema Jain, adhered to the 4 Es, she had presented as the major themes on her inaugural day a year ago, Excellence of Education, Enlightenment, Evolution, and Empowerment of women, stated that “There is a need for empowerment of women, which means women should be respected at work and at corporate and Boardroom table. One would treat them with respect just as you would treat your mom, wife, sister, and daughter.”

Chandrika Tandon addressing the audience
Chandrika Tandon addressing the audience

Stating that she is the 3rd woman president in the 34 year-old long history of AAPI, Dr. Jain said, “In spite of the many challenges, we have been able to achieve great things.” Reminding the audience about the tradition of woman being considered a goddess in the Indian tradition, she said, “You go to the temple to pray to the goddess, and that devotion to women must be translated into real life.”

Dr. Rita Ahuja, Chairwoman of the convention said, “For the very first time in the history of AAPI, both the President and the Convention Chair are women. We are so fortunate to have Dr. Seema Jain as the President of AAPI.”

Tandon, who was the keynote speaker at the Women’s Forum, is Chairman of her financial advisory firm, Tandon Capital Associates, Inc. She has worked with more than 40 financial and service institutions all over the world and has spearheaded projects that involved major financial and operational restructuring, global and domestic strategy, and broad-based culture change. Prior to that, she was a partner at McKinsey and Company.

Being a wife, mother, businesswoman, artiste, each role she plays is so demanding. But, Tandon said, she was able to all of them. “I made major tradeoffs. Life as founder-chairman of my company was brutal: Restructuring an Australian company, I’d fly 32 hours to Brisbane, stay nine days, talk to my nine-year-old via nightly video-conference, micro-arranging her schedule. Returning home, I’d talk to my Brisbane team and work non-stop negotiating other clients. I wasn’t the emotionally available mother I wanted to be. Flying 32 hours every nine days took a toll. Then, I was offered a multimillion-dollar deal, spending four days a week in Europe. I considered it, crying non-stop. I had done mega jobs, working with billionaires, flying on private planes. It was emotionally and intellectually heady. Professionally and personally, it was catastrophic. Suddenly, I had no identity: a top businesswoman, unsure I even had a business. I went into myself, came to a new way of seeing “success” as freedom to do what I wanted. I got into spirituality, searched for answers, for purpose. My life had been other-directed. I re-examined my values: What’s important?”

Organizers and AAPI leaders at the Women’s Forum, during AAPI’s 34th convention in New York
Organizers and AAPI leaders at the Women’s Forum, during AAPI’s 34th convention in New York

Kim Guadagno, Lt. Governor of New Jersey, a panelists on the Women’s Forum stressed the need for women to be more educated than men. She drew the attention of the audience to a New York Times story stating that there are there are more Johns in higher positions in healthcare than all women put together. When asked about the need for legislation, she said, “There are enough policies but, all of us need to implement those policies to avoid discrimination.” She underscored the need “knowing your rights and use them always in the right way is so important.” While stating that “It’s a challenge to play multiple roles,” she shared with the audience about her own personal life when she stayed home for eight years to take care of her three children, she said, ”I gave up my job to care for the family needs.” But it worked well.” According to her, “The biggest challenge is to keep fighting. Women need to support each other and applaud each other’s victory. If you are not doing it no one is going to do it for yourself,” she told the audience.

Dr. Sherine Gabriel, Dean  of Rutgers RWJM School & CEO Rutgers RWJM Group, another panelist said, “We have come a long way. There are about 50 percent women in med schools, but the irony is that the board rooms do not have enough women. We have a long way to go on that end.” Her tips for women to succeed and be independent and be able to take charge, are: Be authentic; Be passionate; Be prepared to walk an extra mile; and, Be unstoppable in spite of hurdles. “You know where you want to go and never give up. Choose your partner wisely, who is wlling to share responsibilities with you and someone who can always willing to step up to the occasion.” Stressing the need for compromise, she said, “I strongly believe in promoting equality. You are the role models for all of us here. Keep fighting and  support one another.”

Aroon Shivdasani, President of Indo-American Arts Council, shared with the audience her own personal experiences of being called by people as “Fakir of New York City,” who always for the sake of art, and for the sake of the not -for-profit organizations, appeal for financial support. “I lead a not-for-profit and being a woman I am not taken seriously because I am always begging. When you lead a nonprofit, you get to lead and touch so many lives. A lot of people who come out and do these noble endeavors, they do this out of need. It’s not a hobby,” she said.

When asked about the need to choose one’s partner wisely, she said, “Being an Indian woman is so different.” She recommended that  “Be sure of what you want to be and be passionate about what you want to achieve. Believe in yourself and go ahead and do it.” She admitted that “women have the corner on guilt. We do it to ourselves. We all need to have a sense of humor, especially when you have so many roles to play in life and each one is so demanding.”

Standing ovation for the women speakers during Women’s Forum
Standing ovation for the women speakers during Women’s Forum

Dr. Rachana Kulkarni, Co-Chair of Women’s Forum, who moderated the panel discussion pointed out how women are being judged differently than men in almost every aspect of life. “People’s expectations are weaved into the culture. There is an unconscious gender bias. And I tell my son, not to dependent on women in life.”

Sunanad Gaur, Co-Chair of Women’s Forum, in her opening remarks, stated that there are as many as 70% of the healthcare jobs are held by women, but only a handful of jobs in Board “there is an unconscious structural bias. There is a need for looking within and identify ways to move forward in order to be agents of change from within.

Dr. Udaya Shivangi, Co-Chair of Women’s Forum, stressed the need for enhancing professional growth without compromising one’s family, values and interests in life. She shared with the audience how how her mother inspired her to dream and work towards realizing her dreams.

Sharing with the audience about her own life story, which has been an inspiration to millions, Tandon said, “We lived with my grandfather who read to us every night — Shakespeare, English poetry. He made you feel you can be anything you want. It was inconceivable that I’d apply to IIM, or get in. What I got from my grandfather was inner unstoppability. Many people are smarter, more talented. I have inner strength.”

It had been a struggle at every stage of her life. “I fought to go to college, went on a hunger strike for business school until my mother agreed to let me go. A I’d followed my career mindlessly — among the youngest in my IIM class, accepted into Citibank (which took three out of 116 applicants), then McKinsey’s, and my own business. I never stopped. But I wasn’t focused on the lack, I focused on the possibility.”

Organizers and AAPI leaders at the Women’s Forum, during AAPI’s 34th convention in New York
Organizers and AAPI leaders at the Women’s Forum, during AAPI’s 34th convention in New York

After much soul searching, she said, “My happiest times were around music.” Despite dizzy business success, Chandrika Tandon’s first love remains music, a passion which came from her mother. She remembers that he mother would switch on the radio at 5 am in the morning.
In the US, to learn music from a master she would leave home at 4 in the morning for a two hour session between 6 to 8 am. She wanted to be home by the time her daughter woke up. Then she started travelling with her music teachers and would squeeze in lessons between business meetings. She was nominated for GRAMMY for her album. Her philanthropy has been inspirational. “support education, wellness and arts. It’s about making life full and enriching in one’s days here. I’m happy I turned away from the work. I’m blessed to have the freedom to choose how I want to spend my days.

Tandon suggested that everyone needs to have the courage that comes from competence; the courage that comes from compassion; and, the courage that comes from contemplation.” Indian women give up anything for others, she said. “Compassion and karma are tied together. We cannot change others. If you cannot take yourself seriously how can others take you seriously?” she asked the delegates. She told the women in attendance, “We are technically brilliant. But our soft skills are terrible,” noting that “our emotional intelligence is the real problem.” She said, “Woman is a powerful force that can move everything. One must believe that I am the power. I am the light.”

Ambassador Arun Singh inaugurates AAPI’s 34th annual convention in New York City

With ribbon cutting and lighting of the traditional lamp below a beautifully decorated arch, Ambassador Arun Singh, India’s Ambassador to the United States, officially inaugurated the 34th annual convention of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) at the Marriott Marquis on Times Square, New York City on July 1st, 2016.

In her warm welcome address, Dr. Seema Jain, President of AAPI, reminded the nearly 1,500 AAPI delegates from across the nation of the historic nature of the convention. “Members of AAPI have both collectively and individually been engaged in addressing the huge healthcare related needs of our motherland, India for several decades, by organizing, supporting, partnering and collaborating with local groups in India and making a difference in their villages, cities or states,” Dr. Seema Jain said.

In his opening remarks, Ambassador Singh praised the many contributions of AAPI members in the United States and back home in India. “You have excelled in your fields of medicine, and thus make significant contributions through hard work, commitment and dedication to your profession and the people you are committed to serve,” he said. While conveying his greetings and best wishes to AAPI leaders for the success of the convention, Ambassador described the fast growing health sector, particularly the pharmaceutic industry in India.

Ambassador Arun Singh said, the Indian pharmaceuticals market is growing rapidly, from US$ 6 billion in 2005 to US$ 55 billion by 2020. He also allured to the fact that by 2020, India is likely to be among the top three pharmaceutical markets by incremental growth and sixth largest market globally in absolute size. “Branded generics dominate the pharmaceuticals market, constituting nearly 70 to 80 per cent of the market. India is the largest provider of generic drugs globally with the Indian generics accounting for 20 per cent of global exports in terms of volume,” he said. India’s cost of production is significantly lower than that of the US   and almost half of that of Europe. It gives a competitive edge to India over others, he said.

In his passionate address, Dr. Prasad Srinivasan, a State Representative of the state of Connecticut, challenged his colleagues in the medical profession to be hardworking, dedicated to public cause, family-oriented and stay focused, which are keys to becoming state and national elected officials. “We have the choice to be at the table or on the table. Given our heritage, we the Indian Americans belong at the table. Get actively involved in the affairs of the local community and that’s the path to larger role in the nation,” he said.

India’s Consul General in New York, Ambassador Riva Ganguly Das, lauded the many initiatives AAPI both in India and the United States, while wishing them a successful convention.

At the Business Meeting, Congressman Lee Zeldin, said, Physicians of Indian origin are well known around the world for their compassion, passion for patient care, medical skills, research, and leadership. “Indian-Americans constitute about one percent of the country’s population, but you account for nine percent of the American doctors and physicians, serving one out of seven patients being treated across the nation.” He praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his inspiring address to the US Congress and his ale leadership, steering the largest democracy in the world to new heights.

The day was packed with back to back seminars and CMEs and conferences, including Auxiliary/Spouse Program, Diamond Selection Activity, India Global Engagement Innovation and Entrepreneur Seminar, and inspiring speeches at the Leadership Seminar on “Aligning management thinking with patient care: Building an effective medical practice” by Dr. Dipak Jain and “Should I encourage my child to go to medical school?  The future of medical education and medicine as a profession, and Rutgers’ plans as a case study?” by Dr. Brian Storm. This is the best of all Leadership Seminars by AAPI,” Dr. Seema Jain declared after the inspirational speeches. During the delicious Dinner Reception, delegates were treated with “Regional Flavors of India.”

This CME program is being jointly sponsored the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin and has been designed to meet the educational needs of Primary Care physicians – Internists, Family Practitioners, Pediatricians, and Specialists – Cardiology, Oncology, Endocrinology, Surgery and other specialties involved in the care of patients with Atrial Fibrillation, HIV disease, Diabetes, Dyslipidemia, Depression, Prostate and Hematologic malignancies and Back pain.

Dr. Rita Ahuja, Chair of the Convention Committee, said, CMEs provided 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, enabling the attendees to gain an understanding of the causation, diagnosis and the best clinical practices for the management of the diverse group of diseases discussed during this program. AAPI members get 10 hours of CME credit hours for attending in these sessions led by world’s leading thought leaders, physicians and healthcare industry leaders.

During the luncheon, AAPI honored AAPI members, who had worked hard to make the convention a memorable one for all. At the dinner reception, past Presidents of AAPI were honored for their leadership and dedication to the growth and wellbeing of the 34-yr old organization that represents the interests of over 100,000 physicians of Indian origin in this country. Out-going Board of Trustee members were also honored with plaques for their contributions to the growth of the organization. For

Dr. Charanji Rihalof the Mayo Clinic addressed the audience on “Effect of Affordable Care Act on Physicians Healthcare Provider and Hospital Systems,” while Naveen Jain, Founder & CEO Blue Dot, spoke passionaletly about “Future of Healthcare in the world of Exponential Technologies” Other speakers of the day included, Dr. Chandy Abraham, CEO, Cayman Hospital. The evening ended with a scintilatin g entertainment performance by Bollywood singer Sunidhi Chauhan. For more information on AAPI and the 34th convention, please visit: www.aapiconvention.org

34th Annual AAPI Convention & Scientific Assembly kicks off with Dr. Fareed Zakaria leading panel featuring major healthcare leaders on “Health Care 2020 & Beyond”

New York City – June 30, 2016: The 34th annual Convention of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) began here with a panel discussion on “Health Care 2020 & Beyond,” moderated by CNN anchor, Dr. Fareed Zakaria and in an interview style open forum by US Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, as well as CEO Forums featuring healthcare leaders began at the Marquis Ballroom, Marriott Marquis, in Manhattan, NY on Thursday June 30, 2016,

In her welcome address, Dr. Seema Jain, President of AAPI, said, “This journey that was started in June of 2015 with a clear purpose of 4 E’s: Excellence of Education, Empowerment, Enlightenment, and Evolution, today’s launch of the FIRST CEO Forum discussing “HealthCare 2020 & Beyond” is another major milestone in our progress, taking AAPI to the next level and mainstream.”

A section of the audience listening to Dr. Zakaria and Dr. Murthy on June 30th at Marriott Hotel in New York City during 34th annual convention by AAPI
A section of the audience listening to Dr. Zakaria and Dr. Murthy on June 30th at Marriott Hotel in New York City during 34th annual convention by AAPI

Describing today’s events to be a “special day in the history of AAPI,” referred to it as “vision being realized.” She said, “It has been my dream to have a high level CEO Forum from all sections of healthcare, featuring leading CEOs from hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, academicians, intellectuals and physicians, who will focus on the changing trends in the healthcare sector and how they impact the providers, hospitals and corporations as well as the patients.”

Delivery and access of Healthcare in the United States and around the world is rapidly changing, leading to many describing the healthcare environment as dynamic, complex, and highly uncertain. The manner in which the health care environment is perceived and characterized is important for several reasons. Higher-performing health care providers and organizations are those that are, among other characteristics, able to understand and manage uncertainty and ambiguity in their environments. The Affordable Care Act designed to provide an opportunity to reinvent the health care delivery system to make it more accessible, patient-centered, and comprehensive, with an emphasis on prevention and primary care is under attack and depending on the outcome of the elections it may change.

CEO Forum on Healthcare in progress
CEO Forum on Healthcare in progress

In this context, through the two CEO Forums being held simultaneously, the AAPI delegates from across the nation had an opportunity to understand the major global developments in the rapidly changing healthcare sector, with an emphasis on new ideas and innovative solutions to America’s complex healthcare related issues. The Forum also offered insights into managing efficiently the growing costs in the delivery of healthcare services.

In his opening remarks, Anwar Feroz, AAPI’s Honorary Advisor, said, “The CEO Forum will educate the audience on the changing trends in the healthcare sector and how they impact the providers, hospitals and corporations as well as the patients. The Forum will also offer insights into managing efficiently the growing costs in the delivery of healthcare services.”

The panel on Hospital & Technology Leaders &CEOs Description featured: Dr. Arthur Klein, President Mt. Sinai Health Network. Michael Antoniades, President and Chief Executive Officer, RWJUH, New Brunswick; Dr. Ram Raju, President and CEO, New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation; Dr. Philip O. Ozuah, Executive V. P. and Chief Operating Officer of Montefiore Medical Center;  Dr. Leslie D. Hirsch, President St. Peters Healthcare System; Dr. Shafiq Rab, CIO, Hackensack Healthcare System; Dr. Kevin J. Slavin, President & CEO of St Joseph’s Health System; Amit Limaye, President, Logistical Solutions Inc. AC Birox; Ritesh Patel SVP DIGI; and Aamir Siddiqi, General Manager, TRICE Technologies

The panel on Medical Devices, Technology and Pharmaceutical Leaders &CEO’s Forum was addressed  by Bob Oliver, President & CEO Otsuka America; Omar Ishrak, Chairman & CEO Medtronic; Dr. Vasant (Vas) Narasimhan, Global Head Drug Development and Chief Medical Officer,Novartis; Dr. Freda C. Lewis-Hall, Chief Medical Officer, Pfizer; Deepak Nath, President, Abbott Vascular / Senior Vice President, Abbott Laboratories; Dr Shalabh Jain CEO Hyalo Technologies; Dr Ketan Mehta, CEO Neil Med; Naveen Jain, Founder & Executive Chairman – Moon Express; and Dr.Srijoy Mahapatra, MD Vice President, Clinical, Medical and Scientific Affairs, St. Jude Medical.

The over two hours long discussions were very well attended by a packed audience in rapt silence nd attention. The final session for the day on “Health Care 2020 & Beyond” moderated by Dr. Fareed Zakaria, had featured Bob Oliver; Omar Ishrak; Michael Antoniades; and Dr. Arthur Klein;.Deepak Nath.

Dr. Vivek Murthy in conversation with Dr. Fareed Zakaria on the inaugural day of the 34th annual convention by AAPI
Dr. Vivek Murthy in conversation with Dr. Fareed Zakaria on the inaugural day of the 34th annual convention by AAPI

In conversation with Dr. Fareed Zakaria, US Surgeon General – Dr. Vivek Murthy shared with an enthusiastic audience about his background, key public health initiatives, including disease prevention through healthy eating, active living, need for sleep, wise use of modern technologies, and emotional well-being. Describing the importance of his upcoming health education report from his office on the need for ensuring health equity for all communities and fighting off threats to health drugs and addiction, Dr. Murthy said, “How the nation looks at addiction is very important and it can help prevent addiction.” Commenting that incarceration is not a solution to drug addiction, he said, “it adds to the problem.” He said, “If you help change people’s attitudes, we can help solve the problem.” Dr. Murthy had some very important tips on ways to healthy living, which was much appreciated by one and all.

The annual convention this year is being organized by AAPI’s New Jersey Chapter. Elaborating on the efforts and preparations that have been devoted to put together this unique event, Dr. Rita Ahuja, Chairwoman of the 2016 Annual Convention, said. “We have been working hard to put together an attractive program for our annual get together, educational activity and family enjoyment. I and the Co-Chairs are fortunate to have a dedicated team of convention committee members from the Tri-State region have worked hard to organize this historical event in the heart of New York City,” she said. For more details, and sponsorship opportunities, please visit:  www.aapiconvention.org

Stan Lee’s Indian superhero ‘Chakra’ now in Bollywood film

Comic book legend Stan Lee, whose creations include ‘X-Men’ the ‘Incredible Hulk’ and ‘Iron Man’ among others is now planning to release his first Indian superhero-based film ‘Chakra the Invincible’ set in Mumbai and directed by Vikramaditya Motwane.

Graphic India, a character entertainment company, and Lee’s POW! Entertainment today announced a partnership with Phantom Films, to begin pre-production on the live-action theatrical film for ‘Chakra The Invincible.’ Chakra has been created by Lee along with Graphic Co-Founder and CEO, Sharad Devarajan.

“I’m a fan of Bollywood films and am really excited about launching ‘Chakra the Invincible’ as my first Bollywood superhero movie,” Lee, Chief Creative Officer at POW! Entertainment said in a statement.

Lee helped spawn some of the world’s most popular comic book heroes — The Amazing Spider—Man, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and many more, which now dominate the film industry. The upcoming Hollywood flick ‘X-Men: Age of Apocalypse’ is based on another of Lee’s creations.

“Vikramaditya is an amazingly talented filmmaker who I have no doubt can make the Chakra film a massive hit in India and around the world. I only hope he remembers to include my cameo!,” Lee said. Unlike the animated kids property, the film version of ’Chakra’ is set to feature an older version of the character in his twenties, set against the spectacular backdrop of Mumbai.

Motwane who has directed ‘Lootera’ and ‘Udaan’ said it was an “honor and an absolute delight to be making a film based on a Stan Lee character. We’re very excited and we hope to take comic book filmmaking to the next level with Chakra. And no, we won’t forget Stan’s cameo…” he said.

“Stan Lee’s characters have generated $15 billion at the global box office, creating some of the most beloved icons in entertainment. More people likely know the face of Spider-Man than they do the Mona Lisa,” said Graphic’s CEO Devarajan.

’Chakra The Invincible’ was originally launched as a children’s animated film on Cartoon Network India two years ago, with three new animated TV movies currently in production to be released on Cartoon Network and Toonami later this year.

“In the same way the West has created superheroes or Japan created anime, India has the potential to become one of the biggest creative exporters in the years ahead and bring a new creative voice to the global stage,” stated Devarajan. “After all, it wasn’t just Japanese kids who made Pokemon a success, it was every kid.”

Devarajan is also the co-founder of Liquid Comics, a digital entertainment company that creates content for publishing, theatrical films, animation and games. He was previously CEO of Virgin Comics, which he co-founded with Sir Richard Branson, author Deepak Chopra, Gotham Chopra and filmmaker Shekhar Kapur, and was the co-creator of the acclaimed “Spider-Man: India” comic series from Marvel. He holds a BFA from Syracuse University and an MBA from Columbia University.

The media entrepreneur, also an adjunct professor at Columbia Business School, is an executive producer/producer on a number of theatrical live-action films and television projects, including the film adaptation of “The Leaves” with Lionsgate/Summit; “Ramayan 3392AD” with Mandalay Entertainment; “Dominion: Dinosaurs Versus Aliens,” with filmmaker Barry Sonnenfeld; and “Sadhu: Warrior,” for which he also co-wrote the screenplay and is in development with producer Mark Canton (“300” films, “Immortals”).

Devarajan explained that just like the western superhero, which was really redefined in the 60s by Lee and his creative partners, and drew inspiration from the existing socio-political scenarios, Graphic India “wants to allow creators to tap into today’s culture, contemporary issues, hopes, dreams and fears” to serve as the source of inspiration for their characters and stories. Devarajan said Chakra speaks to the story of this generation – the story of globalization — and that’s what makes Chakra “so special” to him.

Dr. Rita Ahuja, Convention Chair, praises dedicated team of convention committees

(New York, NY – June 20, 2016): The 34th annual Convention & Scientific Assembly by American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) to be held at the Marriott Marquis, Time Square in New York from June 30-July 4, 2016, offers an exciting venue to interact with leading physicians, health professionals, academicians, and scientists of Indian origin. Physicians and healthcare professionals from across the country convene and participate in the scholarly exchange of medical advances, to develop health policy agendas, and to encourage legislative priorities in the coming year.

“For the very first time in the history of AAPI, both the President and the Convention Chair are women,” pointed out Dr. Seema Jain, Dr. President of AAPI. “We are so fortunate to have Dr. Rita Ahuja to chair the prestigious convention. She brings with her a wealth of knowledge as she has chaired two successful conventions in the past in New York. As an inspiring leader, Dr. Ahuja has led the Federation of Tristate AAPI, and has served as a member of the Board of Trustees, AAPI. And, she has a very dynamic team with her to make this event successful in every way.”

The annual convention this year is being organized by AAPI’s New Jersey Chapter. Elaborating on the efforts and preparations that have been devoted to put together this unique event, Dr. Rita Ahuja, Chairwoman of the 2016 Annual Convention, said. “We have been working hard to put together an attractive program for our annual get together, educational activity and family enjoyment. I and the Co-Chairs are fortunate to have a dedicated team of convention committee members from the Tri-State region helping us. We are expecting a record turnout and hence I would encourage early registration to avoid later disappointment. A pool of dedicated AAPI leaders are working hard to make the Convention a unique event for all the participants,” she said.

“AAPI members represent a variety of important medical specialties. Sponsors will be able to take advantage of the many sponsorship packages at the 34th annual convention, creating high-powered exposure to the highly coveted demographic of AAPI’s membership,” Dr. Seema Jain said.

Prominent among those who will attend and address the delegates from across the nation are: Dr. Vivek Murthy, US Surgeon General; Fareed Zakaria, CNN TV Host; Hon. Bill de Blasio, Mayor of NY; Hon. Arun Kumar Singh, Ambassador of India to the United States; Dr. Chandy Abraham, CEO, Cayman Hospital; Dr. Charanji Rihal of the Mayo Clinic; Dr. Vas Narasimhan Global Head Drug Development and Chief Medical Officer,  Novartis, Switzerland; Arthur Klien, Medical President, Mt. Sinai Medical Center; Eric Paterson, US VP Diversity Dealer Relations; Ramakrishna of the Ramakrishna Hospital; Preet Bharara, US Attorney; Dr. Brian Storm, Chancellor, Rutgers; and Chandrika Tandon, a Business Woman and Philanthropist.

In addition to the exhibition hall featuring large exhibit booth spaces in which the healthcare industry will have the opportunity to engage, inform and educate the physicians directly through one on one, hands on product demonstrations and discussions, there will be focused group and specialty Product Theater, Interactive Medical Device Trade Show, and special exhibition area for new innovations by young physicians.

“The essence of AAPI is educational,” Dr. Seema Jain, said. “That translates into numerous Continuing Medical Education and non-CME seminars by experts in their fields. CME 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.”

“The major attractions include 10 hours of cutting-edge CME with renowned speakers, CEO Forum, Innovation Forum, Entrepreneur Forum, Women’s Forum, Men’s Forum, and Product Theaters to highlight the newest advances in patient care and medical technology. Alumni meetings for networking, also an AAPI-India Strategic Engagement Forum to showcase the AAPI initiatives in India like Trauma Brain Injury Guidelines, MoU on TB Eradication in India and recognition of AAPI Award winners will make this Convention unique,” Dr. Sanjay Jain, Chief Coordinating Officer of the Convention, said.

According to Dr. Jagat Narula, MD, CME Co-Chair, “The multidisciplinary CME conference during the convention allows specialists and primary care physicians to interact in an academic forum. World-renowned speakers will discuss gaps between current and best practice of wide-ranging topics of CME sessions.” Dr. Atul Prakash and Dr. Moiz, CME committee members have worked together with Dr. Narula to put together the CME sessions.

The organizing committees are led by Dr. Thomas Alapatt, Host City Chair for the Convention;  Dr. Sanjay Jain, Media Chair & Exhibit Hall Co-Chair; Anand Sahu, MD, Banquet Co-Chair: Dr. Virendra Sethi, Food & Catering Co-Chair: Dr. Kishore Ahuja, Dr. Mathew, Dr. Ratan Mirchandani, Entertanment Co-Chair; Sudhir Parikh, MD, Political Alliance Co-Chair; Suneet Verma, MD, Website Chair; Chand Rohatgi, MD, Registration Co-Chair; Tarun Shah, MD, Souvenir Co-Chair; Dr. Jayesh Kanuga, Dr. Chitra Kumar, Dr. Shobna Patel; Dr. Parminder Grewal, Dr. Hetal Gor; and Dr. Gaurav Gupta.

Ambassador Arun Singh, India’s Envoy to the United States, who is a keynoter speaker at the Convention had inaugurated the curtain raiser for the 34th annual convention of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) during a solemn ceremony at the Ballroom of the Indian Consulate in New York on Friday, February 12, 2016.

“Many of the physicians who will attend this convention have excelled in different specialties and subspecialties and occupy high positions as faculty members of medical schools, heads of departments, and executives of hospital staff. The AAPI Convention offers an opportunity to meet directly with these physicians who are leaders in their fields and play an integral part in the decision-making process regarding new products and services,” Dr. Aravind Pillai, Chair of the BOT, said.

“Physicians and healthcare professionals from across the country and internationally will convene and participate in the scholarly exchange of medical advances, to develop health policy agendas, and to encourage legislative priorities in the coming year. We look forward to seeing you in New York!” said Dr. Thomas Alapatt, Host City Chair for the Convention.

Chandrika Tandon will lead the Women’s Forum. The panelists on the Forum include, Kim Guadagno, Lt. Governor of New Jersey; Dr. Sherine Gabriel, Dean  of Rutgers RWJM School & CEO Rutgers RWJM Group; and  Dr. Maina Chawla Singh, Professor at American University in  Washington, DC and Scholar in Residence.

Shankar Mahadevan, Sunidhi Chauhan, Aditya Narayan and Indian Idol Juniors, are all set to take the AAPI delegates by storm during the 34th annual convention. “Each of the three mega stars will lead a group of talented artists and stars from Bollywood and from the United States,” said Dr. Ratan Mirchandani, Chair of the Entertainment Committee for AAPI Convention. “With 12 leading stars to entertain in one weekend during AAPI convention in the Big Apple, this mega event will truly be historic,” he added.

Understanding the inherent humanity that unites all nations, religions and cultures, Sadhguru is recognized for his pioneering efforts to nurture global harmony, Dr. Seema Jain, President of American association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), said today, while announcing the 1.5 hours of CME to be led by Sadhguru during Convention in New York.

After years of sitting on the political sidelines, Indian-Americans – affluent, educated and doubling in number every 10 years – are starting to flex their muscles in Washington, says Sudhir Parikh, MD, Political Alliance Co-Chair.  A matrimonial session for all ages is an added attraction for all.

This year’s Fashion Show, “The Colors Of India,” is being led by Rohini Bedi, an exclusive Indian fashion designer from California. Rohini Bedi has been custom designing and selling her label throughout various boutiques in India and worldwide. According to Dr. Hetal Gor, Co-Chair of the Committee on Entertainment, “The Fashion Show will have beautiful dancers, dancing to Caribean, Brazil, Hawaian dances, Fusion/Jazz/ Tap dancing, Kathak Dance with a grand finale will be breathtaking performances by Sonali Bhendre.”

Fareed Zakaria, a world renowned journalist and author will lead this in-depth Healthcare 2020 CEO Forum by AAPI, which will look at the major global developments in the rapidly changing healthcare sector, with an emphasis on new ideas and innovative solutions to America’s complex healthcare related issues.

“We are proud to have the Fareed Zakaria leading this prestigious forum,” says Dr. Seema Jain, President of AAPI. “Representatives from the healthcare industry, including leading CEOs from hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, academicians, intellectuals and physicians, who will focus on the changing trends in the healthcare sector and how they impact the providers, hospitals and corporations as well as the patients. The Forum will also offer insights into managing efficiently the growing costs in the delivery of healthcare services,” she added.  Anwar Feroz, AAPI’s Honorary Advisor, says, “The CEO Forum will focus on the changing trends in the healthcare sector and how they impact the providers, hospitals and corporations as well as the patients. The Forum will also offer insights into managing efficiently the growing costs in the delivery of healthcare services.”

AAPI’s mission is to provide a forum to facilitate and enable Indian American physicians to excel inpatient care, teaching and research, and to pursue their aspirations in professional and community affairs. 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 34 years, AAPI Convention has provided a venue for medical education programs and symposia with world renowned physicians on the cutting edge of medicine.

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 34 years, AAPI Convention has provided a venue for medical education programs and symposia with world renowned physicians on the cutting edge of medicine.

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

For More Details, please contact:

Ajay Ghosh

Media Coordinator, AAPI

Phone # (203) 583-6750

Email: [email protected]

Tata Trusts, Chicago university tie up to work on Indian development challenges

A new initiative between Tata Trusts and the University of Chicago will collaborate in ideation and solution-seeking to complex developmental challenges in crucial areas like sanitation, energy and the environment, a US don of Indian origin who heads the venture said.

“We are planning a three-year pilot of a new integrated approach to development work. We will work in a few verticals to start– health, water and sanitation and energy and the environment,” Anup Malani, faculty director of the newly-created Tata Centre for Development at the University of Chicago (UChicago), told IANS in an interview.

The health vertical will examine healthcare access through insurance with projects in Karnataka and Andra Pradesh. The water and sanitation vertical will begin a major project on decentralised irrigation with water tanks in Telangana. The energy and environment vertical will examine projects to improve reporting of emissions by plants in Gujurat and Maharashtra, to provide rural electrical power via solar microgrids in Bihar, and to encourage individuals to pay for better electricity supply in Bihar.

“We will also work on ideation — the generation of new solutions to development challenges — through two additional projects. We will support an Urban Challenge in Delhi that asks NGOs and government officials to propose new ways to tackle air pollution,” Malani, the Lee and Brena Freeman Professor at the UChicago Law School and Professor at the Pritzker School of Medicine, explained.

“We will also support a partnership between the UChicago’s International Innovation Corps (IIC) and OpenIDEO, a division of the design consulting firm IDEO, to use OpenIDEO internet based platform to crowdsource solutions to, for example, urban sanitation problems, and then to pilot those solutions using IIC teams in collaboration with municipal governments,” he added.

Malani, the co-founder of the IIC and principal investigator on the Indian Health Insurance Experiment, a 12,000-household study of health insurance in Karnataka, also elaborated on how the initiative will work in the southern state.

“First, the TCD will take on a large randomised control trial to examine the benefits and costs of expanding the government’s largest secondary hospital care insurance programme, the Rastriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), to Above-Poverty-Line (APL) households, a group not currently eligible for RSBY and underserved by commercial insurers.

“Second, it will send an IIC team to work with the Suvarna Arogya Suraksha Trust (SAST), which operates both RSBY and the Vajypayee Arogyashree (a tertiary care hospital insurance scheme) to help improve the implementation of those schemes,” Malani said.

Indian Priest Presents Paper on Hansen’s Disease During Symposium in Rome

Rev. Dr. Arputham Arulsamy, Assistant to Director-General, participated at the International Symposium “Towards Holistic Care for People with Hansen’s Disease, Respectful of Their Dignity” at Vatican City from June 9-10, 2016. The symposium was organized by Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, the Good Samaritan Foundation, and the Nippon Foundation.

In his presentation he stated: “The current status of Hansen’s disease (Leprosy) in India and the exemplary exertion of the Catholic Church to reach out to the Socially Excluded people affected by Hansen’s Disease”. He endorsed also the significant mission accomplished by the member institutions of the Catholic Health Association of India (CHAI), to get rid of Hansen’s disease and its boundless initiatives to collectively participate in eradicating this disease.

Rev. Dr. Arputham Arulsamy graduated with a Doctoral degree in Education from Fordham University in New York in 2015. Belonging to the state of Tamil Nadu in India, Dr. Arulsamy is a Catholic priest dedicated his life to work for the Tribal people in the state of Orissa, India.

How SC immigration verdict affects South Asians waiting in line for legal immigrant status

Asians now represent about a third of the foreign-born population in America—equal with the Mexican foreign-born population. The Asian countries with the largest growth are India (306 percent), South Korea (249 percent), and China (148 percent). They also represent 14 percent of the unauthorized population. That number, according to analysts, will grow in the coming decade. According to reports, if one were to compare with that of 1990, India’s unauthorized U.S. immigration growth far outpaces any other country’s, reaching 914 percent.

In the 1990s, the unauthorized population in America doubled from 3.5 to 7 million. It reached its apogee in 2007 at 12.2 million. Then the recession hit. For example, in 1990, there were an estimated 28,000 unauthorized immigrants from India in the U.S. There’s now more than 284,000. Those numbers mirror the rising share of legal Indian immigrants coming to the U.S., and also America’s growing Indian-American population.

On Thursday, June 16th, The United Supreme Court, the nation’s highest court, declined to authorize the deportation-relief programs that had been proposed by President Barack Obama. In the immigration case, the court blocked Obama’s executive decision that permitted about four million illegal immigrants whose children were born in the US to remain in the country and be exempt from deportation.

Texas led 26 states in challenging Obama’s decision to bypass the US Congress to launch the first phase of his immigration reform aimed at eventually allowing as many as 11 million people who are living here illegally to stay on.

How SC immigration verdict affects South Asians waiting in line for legal immigrant statusThe 4-4 Supreme Court ruling continues an injunction that started 16 months ago against the implementation of Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans program and an expanded version of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The court’s liberals and conservatives deadlocked, leaving in place a lower court’s decision that the president exceeded his powers in issuing the directive.

The verdict is going to affect the large illegal Indian Americans, just as the way they will impact millions of other illegals living in this country.

For millions of the affected families, the Supreme Court deadlock means continued uncertainty about building a stable life in the United States. “Unauthorized immigrant parents have a lot of problems with autonomy at work, their working conditions, not being paid,” Randy Capps, director of U.S. research for the Migration Policy Institute, said. “One would assume that, under the DAPA program, these things would improve.”

In a region filled with immigrants from around the world, the Supreme Court action also affects families from other parts of Latin America, Africa, South Asia, the Middle East and Europe. For instance, a little town, Flushing in Queens, NY is estimated to have around 40,000 undocumented people live in her district. The nation is home to more than 11.1 million undocumented immigrants as per the Pew Hispanic Center in a latest report. This is roughly the equivalent of the entire population of Ohio, the seventh-most populous state in the U.S.

A report released last November by Detention Watch Network, a national coalition working for the reform of the U.S. deportation system, lists the Hudson County Jail in New Jersey as one of the ten worst detention centers in the country. People reported waiting up to months for medical care. They complained about inedible food, the use of solitary confinement as punishment, and denied access to legal assistance

Asian undocumented immigrants have traditionally been less visible and vocal than their Hispanic counterparts. Most of the undocumented immigrants who have gone public in the media about their status are Hispanic. In contrast, one rarely sees Asians talking about the issue on television. Asian undocumented immigrants are usually more economically solvent and upwardly mobile than their Latino counterparts.

According to SAALT, there are about 4.3 million South Asians in the US. Since 2000 the South Asian community as a whole grew 81% over a ten year period. The four largest South Asian groups in America are the Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Sri Lankan communities.

South Asians live primarily in metropolitan areas on the East and West coasts. The metropolitan areas with the largest South Asian population are: New York/New Jersey, San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, Los Angeles and the Washington DC Metro Area.

In New York City, the Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi communities are among the six largest Asian American groups. South Asians were also the fastest growing Asian group in California in 2000.

There are sizable emerging populations in various parts of the United States, including Houston, Atlanta, and Seattle. 30% of South Asians are naturalized, while 45% of South Asians are not naturalized. Indians are reportedly, the fastest growing undocumented community in the United States between 2000 and 2006.

According to the 2000 US Census, 1/3 of South Asians living between 50%-125% of the poverty line are children. Nearly two-thirds of Bangladeshi seniors live below 200% of the poverty line. Since 2000, unauthorized immigration from Asia has grown at rates much faster than from Mexico and Central America. That’s according to a new report by the Migration Policy Institute. So Trump will need to amend his ideas for “securing our nation’s borders.”

At 6 million, Mexicans still represent the majority of the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the country. But the percentage of those arriving has slowed since the recession. During that time, however, Asian unauthorized immigration has increased considerably. From 2000 to 2013, it increased 202 percent, according to the report.

The court ruling on illegal immigration has left undocumented immigrants and their advocates despondent. “It’s absolutely crushing,” said Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, legal director of the Center for Legal Justice. “For so many people, this has been their chance at stability.”

Randy Capps said the deferred action programs carried more than just the promise of temporary protections against being deported. It would significantly expand economic and educational opportunities for people who are in the country illegally, and ultimately could positively benefit up to 10 million people, including undocumented immigrants and their relatives, according to a study done by Capps’s organization and the Washington-based Urban Institute.

Rupee to be Asia’s biggest underperformer in near-term: Divya Devesh

Indian Rupee will see a sharp fall (around Rs 69-70 levels) as compared to other Asian counterparts and the RBI’s measures to soothe the depreciating rupee will be closely watched, says Divya Devesh of Standard Chartered Bank.

The volatility seen in the rupee is a knee-jerk reaction post Raghuram Rajan’s bow-out, said Divya Devesh of Standard Chartered Bank. The massive amounts of policy credibility that Rajan has built up in the last 3 years will take a hit, he added.

Uncertainty over who will take over as the next RBI governor and Brexit will also give quivers to the rupee, he maintained. “Rupee will see a sharp fall (around Rs 69-70 levels) as compared to other Asian counterparts and will continue to be the biggest underperformer in the near-term,” said Devesh.

RBI’s measures to soothe the depreciating rupee will be closely watched, he added. In an interview on CNBC-TV18, Devesh referred to the announcement over the weekend of RBI chief Raghuram Rajan’s exit is negative for the currency but global markets today, some of the concerns around Brexit seem to be easing off slightly and as a result of that we have seen little bit of weakness against the dollar and that is why dollar rupee after that initial move higher has retraced slightly.

According to Devesh, in terms of the impact of the announcement on the currency; we are basically looking at three channels. First, Dr. Rajan has built-up massive amount of policy credibility over the last two years and that is definitely going to take a hit. Second, investors generally do not like uncertainty and since we do not yet know who the next Governor is going to be or even when the announcement is going to come through – that is a negative as well for the currency. Third, in terms of timing of the announcement just a few days ahead of the Brexit vote, that also adds to the negativity for the currency in the very near term. So near term we still think that rupee is going to be one of the underperformers in Asia.

Devesh says, in either case irrespective of what the Brexit outcome is, the rupee is going to underperform. “If in case the vote is for a leave, we should see a sharp selloff in the rupee which would be more exaggerated than other currencies in the region, but even in case we see a remain vote and we see a brief risk rally after that, I think INR is again going to underperform the rest of the region as some of the uncertainty around some of the other news will still remain and as a result of that I do not think we will see much gains in the INR,” he says.

The exit of Britain from EuroIt will “be a massive risk off kind of an environment and liquidity is going to be quite terrible as well,” Devesh says. “I think we will most likely be seeing new all time high for the rupee. There might be some resistance from the central bank in terms of trying to limit the upside but if it is a secular dollar, Asia move higher, I do not think the central bank will draw line in the sand. Therefore, I do think that will probably break to new highs for dollar-rupee in case we do see Brexit.” According to him, the Rupee is going to be anywhere between 69-70/USD.

Freida Pinto, Michelle Obama join hands for ‘Let Girls Learn’ initiative

Actress Freida Pinto has joined hands with the Michelle Obama, the First Lady for Let Girls Learn – a government initiative aimed at helping girls obtain quality education. Freida, along with Michelle Obama, her daughters Sasha and Malia, their grandmother Marian Robinson – will travel to Liberia, Morocco and Spain at the end of June and early July as part of the Let Girls Learn initiative, a statement issued on behalf of the ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ actress, stated.

The focus of the trip, which includes Monrovia, Marrakesh and Madrid, is for them to speak to young girls about the importance of education and staying in school. Starting with Liberia, Freida and Michelle will take part in a discussion which will cover the educational barriers girls face in the country.

In Liberia, Pinto, 31, and Obama will take part in a discussion, which will cover the educational barriers girls face in the country. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will meet with the First Lady and Pinto. Next, in Morocco, Hollywood star Meryl Streep will be seen joining Michelle and Freida to discuss the challenges women in the African country deal with on a regular basis.

Freida Pinto, Michelle Obama join hands for 'Let Girls Learn' initiativePinto, who became popular after her award winning role in Slumdog Millionaire, recently launched a women’s empowerment project at the 69th Cannes International Film Festival. As Plan International’s Girls’ Rights Ambassador, Freida Pinto is fast following in the humanitarian footsteps of Hollywood starlets like Angelina Jolie, Emma Watson and Beyonce, using their fame to help shine a spotlight on issues affecting women and girls around the world.

In a recent interview, Pinto said, “There are events in history that should have shaped the future for women differently, but they haven’t so far and that’s been frustrating. But now there’s a huge amount of awareness and technology has made it possible for people to come together and not isolate their struggles. The struggles of a girl from Africa aren’t that different to those of a girl in India, and in turn, a girl in America. No matter how modern and educated she might think her community or society is, there’s still sexual violence against women, there’s still rape. I think technology has made it easier for people to come together, and their voices are united and louder than ever before.”

Acknowledging that she always knew that she was “born more privileged than some of the girls who I’ve met through Plan,” Pinto believes that she feels “that protection, comfort and privilege I had growing up is something that every girl should have. We’re not asking for a luxury car or a big home, we’re just saying that girls should be able to go to school. That’s not a big ask. There’s a domino effect that may start small but before we know it, we can have an impact on a whole community, then a whole nation, then the world will catch up. We have to start small though.”

Pinto, who had travelled to some of the poorer nations advocating for women’s ruights and education, recalls her earlier trip to Sierra Leone, “where I met one little girl at a school, during a class discussion about what the children wanted to become when they were older. This girl said to me that she’d like to become a finance minister. I was like, ‘Wow, that’s kinda boring but great!’ I asked her why and she said: ‘Because my country does not know how to spend their money on what they should be spending it on, and I would like to help them do that.’ These girls have no choice but to be aware of what’s going on around them and so many of them are using this knowledge to their advantage, which is really inspiring.”

Kunoor Ojha: Sanders’ top student organizer, hired by Clinton campaign

Kunoor Ojha, an Indian American, who was previously part of the 74-year-old Bernie Sanders campaign, will serve on Clinton’s campaign as the national campus and student organizing director. In an ongoing effort to extend her campaign’s reach into the younger demographic, Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton and her campaign team announced June 9 it hired Indian American

Clinton’s announcement of the Illinois-based youth activist Ojha’s hire came hours after President Barack Obama virtually extinguished Sanders’ run for the White House by endorsing his former secretary of state.

Ojha began her political activism as a field organizer on the ‘Obama for America’ campaign in Chicago in 2011, and worked in various state-level campaigns before joining the Sanders bandwagon in 2015. The campaign’s outreach to students, fuelled primarily by the pledge to make college tuition free, saw America’s youth flock to him.

Sanders attracted more support from voters under 30 years old than Clinton and Donald Trump put together — 71 percent in a two-vote race — which kept him in the nomination hunt long after it became clear he wouldn’t make the cut.

Early in the race, Sanders was beating Clinton 84-to-14 among Democrats under 29. Even in the 30-to-44 demographic, he had a 21 percent lead. It was only in the 45-to-64 age group that Clinton retrieved ground (58 percent to 35 percent), increasing it to 69 percent to 26 percent in the 65 and up age group.

Now the Clinton campaign is moving quickly to ensure that the Sanders’ youth brigade remains firmly in the Democratic fold. Although there is little danger of them bolting to the Trump camp — a Harvard Institute of Politics poll earlier this year found 61 percent of voters under 30 would back Clinton, compared to 25 percent for Trump in a two-way race — they want to ensure a high youth turnout. That’s where Ojha comes in.

Ojha has plenty of experience in this area, having worked as a field director for political campaigns tasked with organizing volunteers and ensuring Election Day turn-out. Of course, it will need a lot more to win over the youth, many of whom believe Clinton is part of the “establishment” regardless of political colors.

Kunoor Ojha, the first senior aide to move from the Sanders campaign to Clinton’s, will join Anne Hubert, formerly of Viacom, and Sarah Audelo, who’s worked as a political and field director at Rock the Vote. Hubert will be advising Clinton on multiplatform messaging, outreach and producing content for younger voters. Hubert has also worked in development and programming for MTV and mtvU, MTV’s college network. Ojha will serve as national campus and student organizing director.

GOPIO-CT honors 5 & gives 4 college scholarships at 10th annual gala

(Stamford, CT: June 19, 2016) It was a memorable evening in every possible way. The Ballroom at The Hilton Hotel in Stamford, CT was filled with more than 200 invited guests from across the state of Connecticut, including community leaders, elected officials, and honorees and their families on Saturday, June 18, 2016. The event was the 10th annual Gala and awards nite organized by The Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO)-Connecticut Chapter honoring five for their achievements and contributions to the community: The gala included a cocktail reception, dinner, music, live DJ and dances by participants, eloquent speeches, touching life-stories and inspiring narratives on the lives of the five distinguished honorees.

Prominent among those who had attended and spoke at the annual gala included, Congressman Jim Himes, Stamford Mayor David Martin, Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling, Connecticut State Senators Tony Hwang and Toni Boucher and CT State Assemblyman Dan Carter.

David Smith being recognized with the Friend of GOPIO and the Indian Community award
David Smith being recognized with the Friend of GOPIO and the Indian Community award

Sachin Lawande, President and CEO of Visteon Corporation (Van Buren, MI), was recognized for his achievement as a Corporate Leader. Visteon is one of the world’s leading suppliers of vehicle cockpit electronics, serving auto manufacturers around the globe. Sachin was described to be leading a rapid evolution of electronics technology and software to meet the demands of the connected car era. In his response, Laweande, while thanking GOPIO-CT, he said, “May this award given to me today be an inspiration to the younger generation.”

Anjali Sharma, a Greenwich resident, was honored for Community Service and promoting philanthropy. Anjali, a Trustee of AIF, has worked tirelessly to as a humanist and philanthropist to promote India’s development. She won the loudest applause from the audience for her simple narration of the many effort she and her organization do to bring a little cheer in the lives of hundreds of people in India she has been instrumental in touching with her monetary help. While acknowledging the award, Sharma applauded GOPIUO and said, “Your efforts show that you are working to have our community integrated with the mainstream world.”

Annapurna Duleep, a  former Norwalk Councilwoman, was recognized for her contributions and achievements in Political Involvement. Anna is the first woman and South Asian to be elected Sheriff of Norwalk City in 2014.  She is an ardent proponent of gun control.  Duleep urged the participants and the larger Indian American community to “Join with me in the effort to take the community to the next level.”

GOPIO-CT President’s Young Professional Achiever Award was given to Roopa Modha of Shelton, who has been working tirelessly to promote women’s issues using her legal expertise to further women’s causes. Her commitment is to empower women and bring the issues of domestic violence and rape into the public domain. A lawyer by profession, She attended the White House’s United State of Women Summit in 2016.

Dr. Thomas Abraham, Founder President of GOPIO International who is also a Trustee of GOPIO-CT, while introducing, David Smith, FACHE of Stamford Hospital as the recipient of the Friend of GOPIO and the Indian American community award, said, “For the first time, GOPIO-CT is recognizing an employee of an institution. Mr. Smith currently serves as Senior Vice President, Strategy and Chief Strategy and Network Development Officer at Stamford Health, Stamford, Connecticut.  He has worked in the Health Care Sector for over 35 years.  He is an ardent supporter of good health and healthy food habits. David has supported Indian-American community for many years.” In his response, shared with the audience as to how he developed an increasing taste for India and the people from this large nation. He spoke about his his close association with many people of Indian origin in the US.

GOPIO-CT honors 5 & gives 4 college scholarships at 10th annual gala
Award recepients at the 10th annual gala by GOPIO-CT

GOPIO-CT President’s Young Professional Achiever Award was given to  Roopa Modha, who has been working tirelessly to promote women’s issues using her legal expertise to further women’s causes. Her commitment is to empower women and bring the issues of domestic violence and rape into the public domain. In her passionate address, Modha hoped that “this award will inspire many more to join in the efforts to make a just world.” She urged the audience to “be passionate about making a positive impact on others.”

For the second year in a row, GOPIO-CT Scholarship for College Tuitions were given to Gunja Shah, a prospective student at Massachussetts College of Pharmacy; Tanusri Balla, entering University of Pennsylvania; Nikita Jaaswal, who has enrolled to begin her studies at University of California; and Sirin Vahora, amother of two, who has accepted into Norwalk Community Ciollege’s Nursing Program. GOPIO-CT Scholarship Committee consisted of Sanjay Santhanam (Chairman), Hari Srinivasan, Tara Sharma, and Priya Easwaran coordinated GOPIO-CT efforts and led the fund-raising at the event to expand the scholarship to other parts of Connecticut in the coming years.

Proclamations from Governor Malloy, Mayor David Martin, and US Senator Richard Bllomenthal to the awardees were read out at the awards ceremony.  In welcoming the guests and dignitaries, Shelly Nichani, President of GOPIO-CT said “We are celebrating the achievements of five distinguished individuals and the award is a reflection of their remarkable accomplishments and commendable services.” He said, over the last ten years, GOPIO-CT has become an active and dynamic organization hosting interactive sessions with policy makers and academicians, community events, youth mentoring and networking workshops, and working with other area organizations to help create a better future.

Congressman Jim Himes, who represents Connecticut’s 4th District in the United States House of Representatives, where he is serving his fourth term, said he was delighted to be at the event to honor the accomplishments of so many talented individuals. He complimented the Indian-American community as the highly educated 3.2 million strong, making tremendous contributions to the economic quality of this country.

“You are the community. You are not part of the community,” Mayor David Martin told the Indian Americans. Pointing to the historic nature of the upcoming general elections in November, Mayor Martin urged the members to register and vote, and thus become ensure that your voices are heard.”

Mayor Harry Rilling said  “I am honored to be here to celebrate among friends and am thankful for the warm welcome the Indian community has always extended to me and my family.” He also congratulated GOPIO-CT for its 10 years of service and bringing the Indian community together.

A section of the audience at the 10th annual gala of GOPIO-CT
A section of the audience at the 10th annual gala of GOPIO-CT

Niraj Baxi, the President of International GOPIO congratulated the awardees for “bringing honor to your Indian heritage. We are all very proud of you.” He said he was “delighted to be part of the celebration in Connecticut honoring distinguished Indian-Americans and David Smith, a Friend of GOPIO.”

Over the last 10 years, GOPIO-CT, a chapter of GOPIO International has become an active and dynamic organization hosting interactive sessions with policy makers and academicians, community events, youth mentoring and networking workshops, and working with other area organizations to help create a better future. GOPIO-CT – Global Organization of People of Indian Origin – serves as a non-partisan, secular, civic and community service organization – promoting awareness of Indian culture, customs and contributions of PIOs through community programs, forums, events and youth activities.

2nd annual International Day of Yoga celebrations create awareness on the importance of yoga

As a part of our effort to mark the second International Day of Yoga, numerous yoga related activities and programs are being organized across the United States and around the world. Yoga is an ancient physical, mental and spiritual practice that originated in India. The word ‘yoga’ derives from Sanskrit and means to join or to unite, symbolizing the union of body and consciousness.

June 21st, international yoga day is practiced in various forms around the world and continues to grow in popularity. Recognizing its universal appeal, on 11 December 2014, the United Nations proclaimed 21 June as International Yoga Day by resolution 69/131. International Yoga Day aims to raise awareness worldwide of the many benefits of practicing yoga.

The draft resolution establishing the International Day of Yoga was proposed by India and endorsed by a record 175 member states. The proposal was first introduced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address during the opening of the 69th session of the General Assembly, in which he said: “Yoga is an invaluable gift from our ancient tradition. Yoga embodies unity of mind and body, thought and action … a holistic approach [that] is valuable to our health and our well-being. Yoga is not just about exercise; it is a way to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.”

The resolution notes “the importance of individuals and populations making healthier choices and following lifestyle patterns that foster good health.” In this regard, the World Health Organization has also urged its member states to help their citizens reduce physical inactivity, which is among the top ten leading causes of death worldwide, and a key risk factor for non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes.

But yoga is more than a physical activity. In his statement before the vote on the resolution, the President of the 69th session of the General Assembly, Sam Kutesa emphasized this point: “For centuries, people from all walks of life have practiced yoga, recognizing its unique embodiment of unity between mind and body. Yoga brings thought and action together in harmony.”

In a statement UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also pointed out the global benefits of Yoga: “Yoga is a sport that can contribute to development and peace. Yoga can even help people in emergency situations to find relief from stress.”

In the words of one of its most famous practitioners, the late B. K. S. Iyengar, “Yoga cultivates the ways of maintaining a balanced attitude in day-to-day life and endows skill in the performance of one’s actions.”

The United Nations where it all began a year ago has had its own events marking this very important day in human history. Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations New York led the celebrations at the world headquarters of the world body.

” This year’s observance of the International Day of Yoga highlights the important role healthy living plays in the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals, adopted last year by all 193 United Nations Member States,” said BAN KI-MOON, United Nations Secretary-General.

Moon said, Yoga is an ancient physical, mental and spiritual practice that originated in India and is now practiced in various forms around the world. The word ‘yoga’ derives from Sanskrit and means to join or to unite, symbolizing the union of body and consciousness. Yoga balances body and soul, physical health and mental well-being. It promotes harmony among people, and between ourselves and the natural world. Recognizing its universal appeal, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 21 June as the International Day of Yoga.

In the New York region, the Indian Consulate with the association of local Indian – American community is organizing more than 35 events spanning from Boston, MA, to Columbus, OH. The 2nd international yoga day celebrations started on Saturday, June 18th.

The Consulate General of India in association with Sahaja Yoga hosted an event on Tuesday 21 June 2016 at the Consulate General of India, New York. The event on June 21 in the Consulate was presided over by Ambassador Consul General Riva Ganguly Das. Sahaja Yoga led yoga and meditation session which was followed by a demonstration of yoga on poles by Mallakhamb Federation USA. Tanya Wells performed a live music concert.

At the Woodrow Wilson Middle School, Edison NJ, the celebrations continued all day. The two international airports, EWR and JFK, had their own celebrations on June 21st and 22nd with the Newark EWR Terminal B, Level 3 Door 1and at the JFK Terminal 4 Arrivals, becoming the centers of yoga.

Gary Winkler led yoga on all day June 20th at the iconic Times Square. Yoga was held at the Hindu Temple of North America on June 19th from 9:30am to 2:00pm. The Art of Living Foundation had led the celebrations on June 18th at the Art of Living Center in New York City.

The Art of Living also conducted International Yoga day at Boston, with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar leading the celebrations and yoga sessions. For more information on the program, please visit the Consulate’s website:www.indiacgny.org

Let us care for creation, Pope tells Jains

Adherents of Jainism, an ancient Indian religion, emphasize non-violence, reject the idea of a Creator, and believe in the eternity of the universe. Pope Francis received representatives of the Institute of Jainology of London on June 1 and emphasized the importance of caring for creation as for a mother or sister, “with tenderness and with peace.”

Adherents of Jainism, an ancient Indian religion, emphasize non-violence, reject the idea of a Creator, and believe in the eternity of the universe. “Creation is the mirror of God, it is the mirror of the Creator, it is the mirror of nature, of all nature, it is the life of nature and also our mirror,” the Pope said to the representatives, who had gathered in Paul VI Audience Hall.

On the previous day, representative of the Institute of Jainology and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue met for the third time since 1995 and discussed the topic “taking care of the earth, the home of the human family.”

Indian National Overseas Congress, USA Welcomes New Indian Consul General Ambassador Riva Ganguly Das

After extending a very warm welcome and offering a hand of friendship and cooperation to the new Indian Consul General, the senior leaders of the Indian National Overseas Congress, USA wished her all the success in her stewardship of the consulate office in New York.  The officials expressed pride and praised her credentials and the high reputation of which she came to New York. The meeting took place on May 31, 2016, at the Consulate in New York.

It was made known by INOC, USA that Capt. Amarinder Singh’s visit to New York had unfortunately delayed their formal courtesy visit to the Ambassador despite the fact that many of its officials had already had the benefit of meeting her earlier at other functions.

The Ambassador treated the group to high tea and listened earnestly to the work INOC, USA was routinely performing in helping the Indian diaspora vis-a-vis services meted out by the Indian government and how they could remain compliant with the requirement of the Indian government regulations relating to items such as, passports, visas, financial transactions, Income taxes, land use, inheritances, and marriages, apart from helping in building bridges and good relations between India and USA. The Ambassador stated that her door is always open, and she is all ears to any suggestion or concerns we may have in which the Consulate could play a constructive role.

The Chairman, Mr. George Abraham, traced the history of INOC, USA, and the rapport that it has had with New Delhi.  The President Mr. Mohinder Singh Gilzian mentioned some of the problems several of the Indians here were facing due to lack of local immigrant status. Secretary-General Mr. Harbachan Singh expressed general satisfaction in the improved quality and speed in which the consulate services were currently being rendered and discussed the need for India to continue to build its case for the permanent UN Security Council seat and to pursue it actively.  Others discussed how INOC, USA could collaborate on a host of other items with the Consulate, which could benefit the Indian diaspora as well as fulfill their desire to show their love and respect their mother country.   The meeting concluded with the intention to remain in close contact in pursuing many of the pending issues. The delegation also included Malini Shah (Chairperson, Women’s Forum), Tejinder Gill (President, Punjab Chapter) and Girish Vaidya (Executive Committee Member).

Email Data of 272.3 Million Stolen Accounts Hacked: On Sale For $1

Hundreds of millions of hacked usernames and passwords of email accounts, including those from Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are being traded in Russia’s criminal underworld, Alex Holden, founder and chief information security officer of Hold Security, a security expert is reported to have told Reuters.

Described to be one of the biggest stashes of stolen credentials to be uncovered since cyberattacks hit major US banks and retailers two years ago, the discovery of 272.3 million stolen accounts included a majority of users of Mail.ru, Russia’s most popular email service, and other email users, has sent shock waves across the world.

The latest discovery came after Hold Security researchers found a young Russian hacker bragging in an online forum that he had collected and was ready to give away a far larger number of stolen credentials that ended up totaling 1.17 billion records.

Yahoo Mail credentials numbered 40 million, or 15 per cent of the 272 million unique IDs discovered. Meanwhile, 33 million, or 12 per cent, were Microsoft Hotmail accounts and 9 per cent, or nearly 24 million, were Gmail, according to Holden. Thousands of other stolen username/password combinations appear to belong to employees of some of the largest US banking, manufacturing and retail companies, he said.

After eliminating duplicates, Holden said, the cache contained nearly 57 million Mail.ru accounts – a big chunk of the 64 million monthly active email users Mail.ru said it had at the end of last year. It also included tens of millions of credentials for the world’s three big email providers, Gmail, Microsoft and Yahoo, plus hundreds of thousands of accounts at German and Chinese email providers. “This information is potent. It is floating around in the underground and this person has shown he’s willing to give the data away to people who are nice to him,” said Holden, the former chief security officer at US brokerage RW Baird. “These credentials can be abused multiple times,” he said.

As per reports, Holden was previously instrumental in uncovering some of the world’s biggest known data breaches, affecting tens of millions of users at Adobe Systems, JPMorgan and Target and exposing them to subsequent cyber crimes.

Mysteriously, the hacker asked just 50 Roubles — less than $1 — for the entire trove, but gave up the dataset after Hold researchers agreed to post favorable comments about him in hacker forums, Holden said. He said his company’s policy is to refuse to pay for stolen data.

Such large-scale data breaches can be used to engineer further break-ins or phishing attacks by reaching the universe of contacts tied to each compromised account, multiplying the risks of financial theft or reputational damage across the web.

Hackers know users cling to favourite passwords, resisting admonitions to change credentials regularly and make them more complex. It’s why attackers reuse old passwords found on one account to try to break into other accounts of the same user. After being informed of the potential breach of email credentials, Mail.ru Mail.ru said in a statement emailed to Reuters: “We are now checking, whether any combinations of usernames/passwords match users’ e-mails and are still active.

A Microsoft spokesman said stolen online credentials was an unfortunate reality. “Microsoft has security measures in place to detect account compromise and requires additional information to verify the account owner and help them regain sole access.” Stolen online account credentials are to blame for 22 per cent of big data breaches, according to a recent survey of 325 computer professionals by the Cloud Security Alliance.

Ro Khanna Leads Mike Honda to Win California’s 17th Congressional District Primary

Rohit Khanna, an Indian American attorney from Fremont, CA is reported to have won the primary with the narrowest of victories over incumbent Mike Honda in the primary elections on June 7 in his fight for California’s 17th Congressional District where. Khanna totaled 38.3 percent of the vote while Honda earned 38.1 percent. A total of 33,785 voters sided with the 39-year-old challenger, 177 more than Honda’s 33,608 votes.

“This is an astounding upset and an amazing victory for the people of the 17th District,” Khanna said in a written statement. The 17th Congressional District covers Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Santa Clara, north San Jose, Milpitas, Fremont and Newark. “The people want a representative in Congress that is ready to get to work for them.”

The grassroots campaign has flipped the recorded net contributions in Honda’s favor, but because the Democratic incumbent is battling the House Ethics Committee for allegations he had congressional aides perform campaign work during government business hours, the candidates’ cash-in-hand was heavily tilted in Khanna’s favor, $1.96 million to $792,208, according to recent financing reports.

In the 2014 primary election, Honda handily defeated Khanna by more than 20 percent of the vote. The two met again in the general election later that year, with Khanna gaining significant ground. Honda ultimately won the election by a mere 3.6 percent.

“This year, Democrats, Republicans and Independents, alike, sent a strong message,” Khanna said. “The time for politicians that use their office to help themselves and their donors, but not their constituents, is up; the time for politicians that take money from PACs and lobbyists is up; the time for politicians that don’t have the energy, desire or ability to reach across the aisle and get things done is up.”

Meanwhile, Honda delivered a business-as-usual approach in an emailed statement, focusing on his campaign rather than the results. “This campaign and my commitment to public service has always been about expanding opportunities for Silicon Valley’s families,” Honda said. “I am incredibly proud of my track record of delivering for workers, seniors and middle class families. As a senior appropriator I’ve been able to secure millions in funding for the nanotechnology industry and $900 million in funding for (Bay Area Rapid Transit) and other critical investments across the district.”

The incumbent added, “With individuals ready to trample on the middle class bank rolling my opponent’s campaign, we know that this is going to be one of the closest congressional races in the country. I am ready to fight tooth and nail between now and Nov. 8 so I can continue delivering for middle class families and turning progressive ideals into results.”

While celebrating the victory in the primary, Khanna understands there’s ground to be gained if he expects another win in November. “There’s still more work to do on this campaign in the coming months. … With our upset last night, we’re more strongly positioned at the beginning of the general election this year,” he said, adding that with continued support in the grassroots approach, “we’ll celebrate another win in November.”

Rohit “Ro” Khanna is an American teacher, lawyer and politician. He served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the United States Department of Commerce under President Barack Obama. Khanna is a member of the Democratic Party and was an unsuccessful candidate for the United States House of Representatives in California’s 17th District, which encompasses a large part of Silicon Valley, including Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Cupertino, north San Jose, Milpitas, Fremont and Newark.

Shankar Mahadevan, Sunidhi Chauhan, Aditya Narayan To Enthrall Audience At AAPI’s 34th Annual Convention in New York

New York, NY: Shankar Mahadevan, Sunidhi Chauhan, Aditya Narayan and Indian Idol Juniors, are all set to take the AAPI delegates by storm during the 34th annual convention organized by the American Association of Physicians of Indian origin (AAPI) at the Marriott Marquis, Time Square in New York from June 30-July 4, 2016.

“Each of the three mega stars will lead a group of talented artists and stars from Bollywood and from the United States,” said Dr. Ratan Mirchandani, Chair of the Entertainment Committee for AAPI Convention. “With 12 leading stars to entertain in one weekend during AAPI convention in the Big Apple, this mega event will truly be historic,” he added.

“In addition to live entertainment by famous Bollywood stars, the 2016 AAPI Annual Convention & Scientific Assembly offers an exciting venue to interact with leading physicians, health professionals, academicians, and scientists of Indian origin,” said Dr. Seema Jain, President of AAPI. “Physicians and healthcare professionals from across the country will convene and participate in the scholarly exchange of medical advances, to develop health policy agendas, and to encourage legislative priorities in the coming year.”

The annual convention this year is being organized by AAPI’s New Jersey Chapter. Elaborating on the efforts and preparations that have been devoted to put together this unique event, Dr. Rita Ahuja, Chairwoman of the 2016 Annual Convention, says, “We are expecting to have a record attendance of more than 2,000 delegates including Physicians, Academicians, Researchers and Medical students at the convention,” she adds.

Shankar Mahadevan will be accompanied by his son Sidharth Mahadevan, along with Antra Mitra and Sukriti Kakkar, who are well known in the Music industry as the “Young Generation Artists.” They will perform live at the much anticipated AAPI’s annual convention. An accomplished musician in Tamil cinema, Shankar is a part of the Shankar Ehsaan Loy trio team that provides music to Bollywood films. Though a software engineer by profession and having worked with Oracle Corporation, Shankar’s interest in music made him venture into the field of music. He got his first award as a playback singer in Chennai film music, collaborating with A. R. Rahman and winning a National Film Award for his song in Kandukondain Kandukondain. Since then, he has given hundreds of enchating numbers to the Bollywood world. The grand finale of the AAPI convention will be by Shankar Mahadevan and his team, who will take the audience to the memory line of Bollywood music on the final night, before a packed audience.

Sunidhi Chauhan, the young and talented artist behind the hit evergreen numbers like ‘Dhoom machale dhoom’, ‘Sheila ki jawaani’, ‘Beedi jalaile’ and many more, will be performing live on Friday, July 1st. Sunidhi Chauhan is an Indian playback singer, who is famous for her songs in Bollywood. She has also recorded songs for Oriya, Punjabi, Marathi, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Bengali, Assamese and Nepali films. She first got recognized through the music show Meri Aawaz Suno. She entered into the world of playback singing with the 1996 Bollywood film, Shastra. Later she sang for the films like Gang, Veergati, Dahek, Bade Dilwala, Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat and Samar. Just at the age of nineteen, Chauhan had lent her voice to over 350 songs. She made her International debut with the song Heartbeat, a collaboration with Enrique Iglesias.

Aditya Narayan, an actor, television host, music composer and singer, made his first screen debut with Ram Gopal Varma’s Rangeela in which he also got an opportunity to sing with Asha Bhonsle, will anchor the show by the Indian Idol Juniors. “For the first time in history, the winners of the Indian Idol Juniors are performing on a stage program,” said Dr. Mirchandani. Ananaya Narayanan, Nityashree, Nahid, Moti Khan, and Vaishnav, the last five finalists on  the Indian Idol show will performed live, showcasing their talents on July 2nd.

Aditya Narayan, who was born in Mumbai, was raised into a musical family as his father, Udit Narayan, the famous playback singer and mother Deepa Narayan. Zee TV is working on launching the next season of its most popular singing talent show Sa Re Ga Ma Pa. And the iconic show will be once again hosted by singer-actor Aditya Narayan.

Fashion Show by talented young artists from across the country will cake walk on July 3rd.

Dr. Seema Jain, who assumed charge of this premier ethnic organization representing 100,000 physicians and residents, gave credit to the support of AAPI executive committee, hard work of local Chapter members, and the organizing committee chaired by Dr. Rita Ahuja.  “Success of credit goes to the entire national organizing committee, AAPI executive committee, and Board of Trustees and all the AAPI members,” she said.

AAPI is a forum to facilitate and enable Indian American Physicians to excel in patient care, teaching and research and to pursue their aspirations in professional and community affairs. For more details, and sponsorship opportunities, please visit:  www.aapiconvention.org   and www.aapiusa.org

New Media Film Fest Lineup Includes ‘Nepal Heroes,’ ‘The Achiever’

Over one hundred films, including Indian and other South Asian films, have been selected to be screened June 7-9 at the Landmark Theater in Los Angeles, during the seventh annual New Media Film Festival, which celebrates the ever-changing world of new media.

Indian director Aaditi Dutt’s short film, “Nepal Heroes,” which has won accolades at other film festivals, including the IndieFEST Film Awards, will be screened in the Socially Responsible Content category. The 3:39 minute film, which Dutt wrote, traces how ordinary people came together to make an extraordinary difference in helping the people of Nepal recover from the April 2015 earthquake.

Also featuring in the same category is a three-minute music video, called “Anti-Street Harassment PSA.” Directed by Katherine Filaseta, the video, inspired by Bollywood, depicts a woman walking down the street. This short public service announcement makes a statement about street harassment in New York City through a re-appropriation of the lyrics of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” by Alycia Lang. Anita Singh is the assistant director of this short, while the director of photography is Srinath Ravichandran. Abhinav Chintakunta has co-edited the video with Filaseta.

“Four Million Threads” a 48-second short produced and filmed by U.S. filmmaker Jackie Hurwitz, is an interactive journey into Bangladesh’s garment industry: the women joining the workforce, the managers on the top floor, and the disaster that changed them all.

The Web series category will showcase a one-minute micro documentary series, “One Minute Meal: Ganesha’s Favorite Meal.” In one minute, Director James Boo takes the viewers to a celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi in Queens, New York City, which includes a peek into the rituals, prayers, songs, dances, and food.

“The Achiever,” by filmmaker Nardeep Khurmi, has been selected in the Web series category. “The Achiever” is the story of a man who puts little effort in to life and gets by on even smaller victories.

A three-minute-long animated film by UK filmmaker Roxi Khan, “Save My Soul,” will be screened in the Machinima category. The premise of the film is: A very important decision must be made via text message. If they choose riches, someone will die; if they reject riches, no one will die but they will not be rich — the countdown has begun!

“Save My Soul,” “The Achiever,” “1 Minute Meal: Ganesha’s Favorite Meal” and “Four Million Threads” will see their world premiere at the fest.

Human right violations, intolerance major irritants on Modi’s visit to USA

Religious intolerance and violence, constraining minority rights and the restrictions on civil society organizations in India have become major irritants on otherwise successful Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s three-day visit to the U.S. The issues are reported to have featured prominently in the conversation between Modi and President Barack Obama, according to senior U.S. administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. However, responding to a question whether human rights issues came up during the talks, Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar, however, said: “No, I do not believe the subject came up today in the discussions.”

A number of Indian American groups have also protested against Modi’s visit to the US Capital. A group of Sikhs from across the nation also staged a protest against Modi in front of the White House, even as the Indian Premier was meeting with the US President.

Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations has called for a Prayer Vigil across the US Capitol during Indian Prime Minister Modi’s speech to the US Congress. In a statement issued, here, FIACONA stated that while FIACONA has welcomed Modi to Washington in the past when he was elected
Prime Minister of India, however, this Prayer Vigil is organized to pray for the people of India who are being harassed, intimidated and attacked by Modi’s followers. “Modi continues to be silent about the violence against Christians. Modi has failed in his constitutional obligation to protect the lives and property of all citizens, including the Christians,” the statement stated.

Human right violations, intolerance major irritants on Modi’s visit to USAJust as Modi and Obama were concluding their discussions, the U.S. Congress Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission began a hearing on “the current state of human rights in India, challenges to fundamental freedoms, and opportunities for advancement” on Tuesday.

“…In spite of…constitutional protections, religious minority communities, including Sikhs, have experienced harassment and violence, often at the hands of Hindu nationalist groups, while impunity for the perpetrators of the violence persists. State-level “anti-conversion” laws allow government officials to decide whether conversions from Hinduism are legal – but choosing a religion is a private act that should not be subject to government regulation,” James P. McGovern, co-chairman of the Commission said.

Deposing before the Commission as a witness, Musaddique Thange of the Indian American Muslim Council said: “The Prime Minister who is able to tweet birthday greetings to prominent people, took months before he even addressed the attacks on five churches and a Christian school, and even then his words fell short of an unequivocal condemnation. Modi’s response to the campaign of forced conversions to Hinduism, launched by extremist organizations like Vishwa Hindu Parishad, was to challenge the opposition to support the anti-conversion law that is generally implemented in a way that seeks to curb conversions out of Hinduism.”

In a related development, a group of 18 bi-partisan members of the U.S. House of Representatives wrote to Speaker Paul Ryan, ahead of Modi’s address to the joint session of the Congress on Wednesday urging him to prioritize religious freedom in India during his meeting with Mr. Modi, “especially in light of ongoing violence and harassment against religious minorities, including Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, and Sikhs”.

The group led by Republican Trent Franks and Democrat Betty McCollum, wrote: “Religious minority communities — including Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, and Sikhs — have endured ongoing violence and harassment for decades in India, and continue to live in a climate where known perpetrators commit violence with impunity. It is in the best interest of the United States and India to reaffirm religious freedom as a shared value in this growing partnership, and ensure that conversation concerning justice and accountability for such horrific acts of violence continues.”

A U.S. official who briefed the media said these issues came up while the leaders discussed the rise of extremism. “While enhancing security measures, democratic freedoms must be protected. Issues related to the role CSOs, violence against minority communities were discussed in the context of the rise of extremism, and how this can be tackled in a democratic society,” the official said. The official said democracies have a particular challenge in dealing with extremism, as it has to deal with the problem without negating freedoms.

Clinton clinches historic Democratic nomination – Sanders vows to fight on

Hillary Clinton clinched the Democratic presidential nomination on Tuesday, June 7 becoming the first woman in American history to top the ticket of a major political party and putting immediate pressure on primary rival Bernie Sanders to step aside.

Hillary Clinton celebrated her triumph as the first woman to lead a major party in a race for the White House, scoring big wins in California and New Jersey, New Mexico, and North Dakota to cement her grip on the 2016 Democratic Party presidential nomination. The former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state spoke to supporters at a raucous event in Brooklyn, New York, and placed her achievement in the context of the long history of the women’s rights movement. “Thanks to you, we have reached a milestone,” Clinton said in a speech. “We all owe so much to who came before.”

Marking the historic moment, Clinton said: “This campaign is about making sure there are no ceilings, no limits on any of us.” She also congratulated Sanders, calling his campaign and the debate he brought about income inequality good for the party – while also saying this is a moment to “come together.”

The Vermont senator has, however, vowed to keep fighting for “every delegate.” Far from bowing out, he vowed to campaign through the final primary next Tuesday in Washington, D.C., and then “take our fight for social, economic, racial and environmental justice to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,” the site of the convention.

She will become the first female nominee for a major US political party. Clinton had reached the threshold with a big win in Puerto Rico and a burst of last-minute support from super-delegates, AP said late on Monday night. Superdelegates are party insiders who can pledge their support for a candidate ahead of the convention but do not formally vote for them until the convention itself.

It has taken a long 227 years to get even this far. George Washington was elected president of a newly independent America in 1789. Forty-three men later (42 of them white) Hillary Clinton makes history today by being the first female nominee for the White House.

Hillary Clinton, a former secretary of state, New York senator and First Lady, leads Sanders by over three million votes, 291 pledged delegates and 523 super-delegates, according to AP’s count. She has won 33 caucuses and primaries to his 25 victories.

Sanders has argued that super-delegates — elected officials and other party leaders who are not bound to vote for the candidate their state selected in its primary contest — should not be counted in the final tally even if they have made formal commitments to individual candidates.

His campaign believes that they can still put the nomination within reach for the Vermont senator by convincing Clinton-backing super-delegates to switch their support to Sanders, who they note performs better than Clinton in hypothetical head-to-head contests against GOP presumptive nominee Donald Trump.

In a potential move toward reconciliation, the White House revealed that President Obama called both Clinton and Sanders Tuesday night – and plans to meet with Sanders at the White House on Thursday, June 9 to discuss “how to build on the extraordinary work he has done to engage millions of Democratic voters.”

Kamala Harris wins California Senate primary convincingly

Kamala Harris, the first ever person of Indian Origin to win a state wide election in the state of California, was declared the winner of the Senate primary in California early Wednesday, June 8th morning, handily beating her competition with 40 percent of the vote with over 80 percent of precincts reporting, according to the Associated Press.

Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D) was trailing far behind Harris with 18 percent of the vote, but she was still in second place. If that result holds, it means the two Democratic women would face off against each other in November for the seat of retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer (D). In third place as the early returns were being counted was Duf Sundheim, the former California Republican party chair. The top two vote-getters, regardless of party, advance to the general election.

Harris, 51, the state’s attorney general, was easily the top vote-getter among a field of 34 candidates. “I am just thrilled. I am a proud daughter of California and I cannot be more proud than I am tonight,” Harris said in San Francisco. “We have run a campaign, and we will continue to run a campaign, that is about fighting for the ideals of our country. We have so many challenges as a country and we are prepared to lead,” she said, citing passing comprehensive immigration reform, combating climate change, reforming the criminal justice system and “eliminating that income divide that is making so many families suffer.”

Harris has been campaigning across the golden state to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer. Karris, a progressive, has always been in the forefront of Civil Rights, Equality and Openness. Harris used herself as an example, saying that she never would have been elected were it not for the educational opportunities she received because of the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling that found segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional. Harris said that ruling allowed her to be a member of the second class that integrated Berkeley public schools in the 1960s.

She is a graduate of Howard University in Washington, D.C., and earned her law degree at UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. Harris as a veteran prosecutor and astute, ambitious political leader. Harris also has been a strong Obama supporter since he was a U.S. Senate candidate from Illinois.

For more than a decade, she worked as a prosecutor in Alameda County and San Francisco, and tried cases involving charges of drunk driving, sex crimes, assault and homicide. Her transition to electoral politics began in 2003 during her successful campaign to unseat San Francisco Dist. Atty. Terence Hallinan. Harris was elected attorney general in 2010, narrowly beating L.A. County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, a Republican. She was reelected in 2014 by a wide margin.

Her parents divorced when Harris was a toddler and her late mother, who was a breast cancer researcher at UC Berkeley, raised Harris and her sister, Maya, to be proud African American women during a tumultuous time in the United States. Harris was a student in the second class to integrate Berkeley’s public schools in the late 1960s. Her sister has served as advisor to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

Harris’ national profile got a boost when Obama gave her a speaking role at the Democratic National Convention in 2012. The headlines continued in 2013 when Obama apologized publicly for having described her as “the best-looking” attorney general in the country.

Throughout her political career, Harris has articulated clear positions on many controversial, divisive issues that could come before the nation’s high court. Harris favors the protection of abortion rights, an end to the federal ban on medical marijuana and a path to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally. She backs major changes in the criminal justice system, in part to address racial disparities, including shorter sentences for low-level drug crimes and a shift in government funding from prisons to crime prevention.

As attorney general, Harris has taken actions conservatives would no doubt take issue with during a Senate confirmation hearing, should one ever occur: She refused to defend Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that outlawed same-sex marriage in California until the U.S. Supreme Court found it unconstitutional. Harris defended a state law that required members of public employee unions to help pay for collective bargaining.

“I’m not surprised. She’s a representative of the best of California. She’s been a marvelous attorney general, and she’ll be an exceptional senator,” said California state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, on the Associated Press naming Kamala Harris the first-place finisher in the U.S. Senate primary

Harris and Sanchez each drew national attention and support because each is poised to make history if elected: Harris would be only the second black woman and the first woman of Indian heritage elected to the Senate, and Sanchez would be one of the first Latinas.

In the Senate race, Harris, a native of Oakland and a former San Francisco district attorney, jumped into the race immediately after Boxer announced she was leaving the Senate at the end of her fourth term. She won the endorsement of the California Democratic Party, and two weeks ago Gov. Jerry Brown (D) gave her his blessing. Harris also has been backed by some of the state’s largest labor unions, the Congressional Black Caucus’s PAC and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Historic Modi visit boosts bilateral ties between India & USA

India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, making his second visit to the White House in two years, and his fourth visit to the United States since he was elected Prime Minister of India only two years ago, announced a crucial step toward ratification of the Paris Agreement to limit greenhouse gases, bringing the accord close to full implementation, giving a jolt of momentum to the international fight to curb global warming.

President Barack Obama welcomed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the White House for their seventh meeting since Modi took office in 2014, underscoring the warm relationship between the two leaders and the world’s largest democracies. Modi is to address the U.S. Congress on Wednesday. “We discussed how we can, as quickly as possible, bring the Paris Agreement into force,” Obama told reporters during talks in the Oval Office.

So far, countries representing about 50 percent of global emissions have announced that they will submit legal paperwork to the United Nations documenting their compliance with the deal. The pact will become binding when at least 55 countries representing 55 percent of global emissions formally join. The inclusion of India, the world’s third-largest emitter after China and the United States, would guarantee that the deal will go into effect before the next American president takes office.

Historic Modi visit boosts bilateral ties between India & USAPrime Minister Narendra Modi, who had arrived in Washington, DC June 6 on a three-day visit, met with Obama at the White House in the morning, and the two then had a working lunch. The two countries also pledged to expand military cooperation and outlined principles for cooperation on cyber issues.

Following the meeting, the leaders of the world’s largest democracies also announced the agreement to cut the use of hydrofluorocarbons, potent planet-warming chemicals produced by coolants in refrigerators and air-conditioners.

Both the nations announced that they intended to complete a deal in which India will buy six nuclear reactors from Westinghouse by June 2017, fulfilling an agreement struck in 2005 by President George W. Bush. The price is still under discussion, but more difficult issues like liability have been resolved. Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Washington, DC June 6 on a three-day visit.

Economic cooperation was also on the list for Tuesday’s meeting, with Modi expected to meet with business leaders. India has the world’s fastest-growing large economy, but it is not growing fast enough to provide jobs to even a significant fraction of the one million people entering the work force there every month.

U.S. Ambassador to India Richard Verma and Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Biswal were among the top officials present at the base to receive Prime Minister Modi.

“India and USA are natural partners, two vibrant democracies that celebrate their diversity and pluralism. Strong India-USA ties benefit not only our two nations but also the entire world,” Modi had said.

Interview: Sudarsan Raghavan on Afghanistan’s ‘Pivotal Transformations’

For a year beginning in late 2014, Sudarsan Raghavan wrote a series of dispatches from Afghanistan for the Washington Post that, through their examination of daily life in the country, transcended conventional stories of war, poverty, and instability. In one particularly memorable article, Raghavan profiled Sara Bahayi, Afghanistan’s only female taxi driver; in another, he explained how years of occupation has left a large American cultural footprint in cities like Kabul.

On Thursday, May 26, Sudarsan Raghavan appeared in conversation at Asia Society in New York with Marcus Brauchli and John Hockenberry to discuss his award-winning reporting in Afghanistan. The event will be available worldwide via free live webcast.Learn more

Interview: Sudarsan Raghavan on Afghanistan's 'Pivotal Transformations'In recognition of his exemplary reporting from Afghanistan, Asia Society last month awarded Raghavan with its 2016 Osborn Elliott Prize, an honor recognizing excellent reporting on Asia. On Thursday, Raghavan — now the Post’s Cairo bureau chief — will appear in conversation with Marcus Brauchli, the Jury Chair for the Oz Elliott Prize and a veteran journalist, and John Hockenberry, host of The Takeaway for PRI and WYNC, at Asia Society in New York.

Asia Blog recently caught up with Raghavan to talk about the challenge of reporting in Afghanistan, the resilience of the Taliban and why, despite the country’s struggles, he remains optimistic about its future. The conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.

Your dispatches from Afghanistan go beyond military battles and political intrigue and get into daily life in the country. What was the most challenging aspect of reporting in Afghanistan?

The most challenging aspect is getting to the epicenter of the story. With the Taliban controlling or present in more areas now than at any time since 2001, it’s become increasingly dangerous and risky to travel outside Kabul. And with most U.S. troops departed, the availability of military embeds — which most Western journalists once relied on for reaching remote areas — has drastically shrunk.

Trips outside Kabul required careful, often extensive, planning and research. It meant cultivating trustworthy tribal elders, as well as Afghan military commanders and officials, to help get into certain areas. It also required at times passing through or near Taliban and ISIS areas. In Helmand Province, for example, the Taliban were literally walking distance away from many frontline positions I visited. Whenever I traveled, I wore an Afghan salwar kameez to help blend into the landscape.

The reporting, I believe, was worth the risk. It was essential to uncovering the truth unfolding on the ground, to portraying the daily struggles of ordinary Afghans and giving them a voice.

What surprised you the most from your time in the country? What’s something that a typical newspaper reader in the United States may not realize about Afghanistan?

Good question. I was surprised by the extent to which urban Afghans were influenced by American culture. It’s quite normal to hear anti-American sentiments, and the collective sense among Afghans is that they’ve not benefited from the tens of billions spent by the United States to improve their lives. Still, I’ve met Afghan teens into skateboarding, Afghan rappers who love Eminem. There’s a George Bush Market (named after “W”) where you can buy wrap-around Oakley sunglasses. There are even regular Texas hold-em poker games run by Afghans in Kabul!

I was also surprised by how organized and vocal Afghans have become, especially the long-oppressed Hazara ethnic minority. It’s not uncommon these days to see massive protests in the streets against government policies and alleged abuses. But I remember visiting Afghanistan when the Taliban emerged in the mid-1990s, and again after the 9/11 attacks and the 2004 elections, and they were quite subdued compared to these days.

Has the 15-year presence of the U.S. Military — as well as billions of dollars in reconstruction and aid — had a positive effect on the country? Is Afghanistan at all a better place now than 2001?

It’s a mixed picture, leaning more to the negative than positive. Speak to the average Afghan, and he or she will tell you that they have seen little impact on their lives from America’s billions in reconstruction and aid. Instead, the common refrain is that much of the money has been wasted or stolen by corrupt officials and contractors. And there’s much truth to this. Just look at the scores of reports from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the U.S. government’s watchdog agency, which details the immense extent to which U.S. taxpayer dollars have been misspent in Afghanistan.

Many Afghans still remember with fondness the days of the Soviet occupation of the 1980s. That’s because the Soviets built apartment complexes, factories, universities, and other buildings that still stand today and are used by countless Afghans. The American intervention, many Afghans believe, will not leave anything of much permanence, at least visibly. However, there has been at least one positive impact of American aid: a vibrant, free Afghan media. In 2001, when the Taliban regime was toppled, there was no independent media. Today, there are hundreds of print, TV, and radio outlets across the country. The vast majority were initially funded by U.S. aid, and continue to be supported today.

American aid officials consider the independent press to be among, if the not the most, significant legacy that the United States will leave behind. But even this achievement is under threat. Both the Taliban and the government are increasingly targeting Afghanistan’s journalists. Many have fled the country or have decided to censor themselves. And as the U.S. departs, the money to fund journalism is shrinking. Most of these media outlets are unlikely to survive, unless they find other sources of funding.

What do you think most accounts for the resilience of the Taliban?

I think Pakistan has provided the Afghan Taliban with the sanctuary and support that allows them to be resilient. It’s no surprise that Taliban leader Mullah Mansour was allegedly killed by a U.S. drone strike inside the Baluchistan region of Pakistan. Secondly, the Afghan security forces, riddled with corruption and low morale, has struggled to fight the Taliban. That has allowed the Taliban to launch successful offensives and seize areas. Today, the insurgents are showing a battle discipline and initiative far superior than the U.S.-trained and equipped Afghan forces. The militants are also well-funded, deriving revenues from opium cultivation and smuggling, as well as marble and gemstone mining and exacting taxes in areas they control. The Afghan central government’s constant infighting also helps the Taliban survive.

Is there an optimistic case for Afghanistan?

Afghanistan has long been an important part of my adult life. I wrote my first-ever story — on Afghan war orphans — when I was working for a French NGO in Peshawar. That was in 1992, and since then I’ve been making repeated trips back to the country, covering all its pivotal transformations. So I want to believe that one day Afghanistan will become peaceful again. I want to feel optimism. But every time I return, I see new players — and old ones — seeking power and wealth, driven by tribal and regional loyalties with little care for the nation. And by now, 24 years since I first wrote that story, I have met several generations of ordinary Afghans shattered by war, corruption, and poor leadership.

At the same time, I’ve met incredible Afghans who are struggling to improve their lives against all odds, like the country’s only female taxi driver in Mazar-e-Sharif. I’ve met young Afghans educated in the U.S. and Europe who are now back in their homeland trying to make a difference. I’ve met countless others with big dreams. As long as such Afghans continue to believe in themselves and work towards improving their country, there will always be hope for Afghanistan.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta second most popular doctor in US

New York: Indian-American neurosurgeon, Dr. Sanjay Gupta has emerged as the second most popular doctor in the US on Twitter, with over two million followers on the micro-blogging website, a new study has found. The #DocsOnTwitter study by researchers at Augustana University in the US analyzed tweeting habits of medical professionals in the country from 2006 to 2015. Gupta, with 2,031,428 followers on Twitter, serves as associate chief of the neurosurgery service at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia and as assistant professor of neurosurgery at the Emory University School of Medicine.

Gupta, 46, is best known as the chief medical correspondent for CNN and has won multiple Emmy awards. He also uses his Twitter account primarily for professional use, giving his opinions and medical advice. ”We just wanted to see how doctors are engaging with other people on Twitter,” Paige Schwitters, an Augustana student who contributed to the report, was quoted as saying by ‘argusleader.com’. The group worked with internet research firm BrightPlanet to evaluate Tweets and break the accounts down by age and gender.

The researchers sorted through 4,500 users. The most followed Twitter accounts belonged to celebrities, public figures or TV personalities. The top three followed doctors on Twitter are: Dr. Drew Pinsky (@drdrew) with 3.18 million followers, Dr. Gupta (@drsanjaygupta) who has 2.03 million followers, followed by Dr. Asa Andrew (@drasa) with 1.03 million followers. Drew with 3,183,017 followers, is an American board-certified internist, addiction medicine specialist and a media personality.

Researchers analysed about 3.4 million tweets to determine when and how physicians were most likely to use Twitter. The study also shows doctors are using Twitter on the go and are less likely to use the micro blogging site for legal reasons. Many avoid announcing their personal business on social media because of rules for patient privacy and insurance, according to the report.

“We just wanted to see how doctors are engaging with other people on Twitter,” one of the researchers, Paige Schwitters, was quoted as saying by Argus Leader, part of the US Today network.

Gupta joined CNN in the summer of 2001. “Gupta, a practicing neurosurgeon, plays an integral role in CNN’s reporting on health and medical news for all of CNN’s shows domestically and internationally, and contributes to CNN.com,” according to his biography mentioned in CNN.

“His medical training and public health policy experience distinguishes his reporting from war zones and natural disasters, as well as on a range of medical and scientific topics, including the recent Ebola outbreak, brain injury, disaster recovery, health care reform, fitness, military medicine, and HIV/AIDS,” it added.

Five arrested for fraud in IRS Phone scams

WASHINGTON — J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), announced the arrests of five individuals based upon criminal complaints alleging that they were involved in schemes to impersonate Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents and use the threat of arrest to obtain money from victims by falsely representing that the victims owed back taxes or other fees.

TIGTA agents arrested the five suspects in Miami, FL, without incident on May 23, 2016, for wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. According to the court documents, the suspects are responsible for almost $2 million in schemes that defrauded more than 1,500 victims.

“These arrests indicate that TIGTA is making significant progress in our investigation of the IRS impersonation scam that continues to sweep the country, resulting in reported taxpayer losses of more than $36 million, averaging more than $5,700 in losses per taxpayer,” the Inspector General said. “The scammers are relentless and so are we,” he added. “Our investigators will not rest until we have brought each individual involved to justice.”

The five individuals are: Jennifer Valerino Nunez, Dennis Delgado Caballero, Arnoldo Perez Mirabal, Yaritza Espinosa Diaz, and Roberto Fontanella Caballero. The criminal complaints were filed with the following courts: the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota on May 18, 2016 (Yaritza Diaz and Roberto Caballero); the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas on May 16, 2016 (Arnoldo Mirabal); and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas on May 10, 2016 (Jennifer Nunez and Dennis Caballero).

According to the court documents, the suspects knowingly conspired with others to commit wire fraud by falsely impersonating IRS agents and demanding money under such false pretenses. Victims received telephone calls from people claiming to be from the IRS, who told them the IRS would arrest them if they did not make payment immediately. The callers made these threats and used other methods of intimidation to persuade the victims to wire money, utilizing MoneyGram, Walmart–2–Walmart, and other wire services.

“No legitimate United States Treasury or IRS official will demand that anyone make payments via MoneyGram, Western Union, Walmart–2–Walmart, or any other money wiring method, for any debt to the IRS or the Department of the Treasury,” George said.

“Nor will the Department of the Treasury demand that anyone pay a debt or secure one by using iTunes cards or other prepaid debit cards,” he said, adding, “Hang up on these fraudulent callers and go to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) scam reporting page to report the call.”

Investigators verified the identity of the suspects and their activities through a variety of investigative procedures. TIGTA Special Agents conducted the investigations that led to the arrests of the suspects. TIGTA received assistance in one of the investigations from the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging led by Chairman Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Ranking Member Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri). The suspects have been referred to the appropriate Office of the U.S. Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice, for prosecution and additional legal action.

Ro Khanna confident of winning Primary in California

Ro Khanna is in a pitched battle against an eight-term Democrat, who has been in public office for 35 years, is confident of winning the California’s 17th Congressional District Primaries on June 7.

Now, according to a San Francisco Bay Area CBS affiliate, KPIX polls, the already hotly-contested race for the highly contested seat may be tighter than expected. Honda is said to have had 31 percent support and 25 percent polled for the challenger Ro Khanna, shrinking the lead to 6 percent.

In 2014, Honda had led Khanna by 20 percentage points in the polls leading up to the Primaries. However, Khanna fell short to Honda for the 17th Congressional District seat by only 3.6 percent in the General Elections.

Honda, who is now entrenched in an ongoing ethics investigation by the House Ethics Committee, had narrowly beat the Indian American attorney from Fremont, Calif., in the 2014 race for the same seat. “Congressman Honda and his office gave special favors to donors,” Khanna said in the KPIX report. “So it started as this investigation about the mingling of staff but it became something much worse.”

Throughout the campaign, Khanna has steadfastly turned away donations from lobbyists, corporations and Political Action Committees, signing a pledge in refusal of their money. That comes at a cost, with funding increasingly hard to come by, Khanna said in the report. He added that only nine people running for federal offices throughout the country are doing what he is doing.

Despite that, Khanna has outraised Honda and holds nearly $2 million in the bank while Honda, needing to spend much of his raised money on legal fees, has roughly $800,000 cash in hand. Khanna has been endorsed by many who previously sided with Honda in 2014, such as California Secretary of State Alex Padilla and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. President Barack Obama abstained from making an endorsement, previously having endorsed Honda.

“The difference between this cycle and last is Ro Khanna now has a new line of attack, and he was only within striking distance last election,” said one Bay Area Democrat who has not endorsed in the race. “It’s going to be close.”

Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, a Khanna supporter, believes that Silicon Valley voters are paying close attention to the Honda ethics probe. “For the people that come to this Valley to start businesses, they know the big competitive advantage is the rule of law, transparency, honesty, a level playing field and merit — not who you know,” Rosen said. “It’s merit that rises to the top, and Ro is a person of merit.”

Khanna, who spent a couple of years in Washington as a deputy assistant secretary in Obama’s Commerce Department, lost to Honda last cycle by just 3.6 percentage points. But for Khanna, the son of Indian immigrants, there is a risk of going too negative this time around.

Meanwhile, it was ironic that some members of the Indian American community gathered at the Zutshi home on May 15 for a “meet and greet” event supporting Mike Honda. The event was co-hosted by state Senator Bob Wieckowski, Toni Shellen and Jeevan Zutshi. “Unlike his competitor, a perennial candidate, Mike Honda has a fabulous record of service,” Jeevan Zutshi told the gathering.

His views were echoed by other Indian Americans present who felt that Indian American candidates must not run against those who have served the Indian American community for decades, according to a press release. Other activists who spoke were Tara Sreekrishnan, Jean Holmes, Henry Hutchins, Tejinder Dhami, Bridgette Hendrikson and Kameshwar Eranki.

California’s 17th Congressional District includes much of California’s Silicon Valley cities such as Sunnyvale, Cupertino and Santa Clara, as well as north San Jose, Milpitas, Fremont and Newark. Khanna and Honda are expected to have a rare intraparty battle in November, with both progressive candidates expected to advance past California’s June 7 primary, in which the top two candidates move on to the general election regardless of party.

Rishi Nair wins 28th annual National Geographic Bee contest

Rishi Nair, a 12-year-old Indian American kid, was declared the winner of the 28th annual contests of the 2016 National Geographic Bee contests held on May 25 in Washington, D.C.

Making the contest historic was the fact that at the National Geographic Bee competition Indian-origin contestants maintained their dominance by sweeping all the top three slots. Saketh Jonnalagadda and Kapil Nathan were the other two young prodigies who won the second and their places respectively at the prestigious competition.

Indian-American students continued their dominance at the prestigious national bee competitions with seven out of 10 finalists made it to this year’s National Geographic Bee championship hailing from the community. This is the fifth consecutive year that an Indian- American has won the prestigious national tournament. Last year Karan Menon had won the competition. The 1st prize carried a cash award of $ 50,000, a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society and an all-expenses paid trip to Alaska for a Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic eight-day adventure.

A sixth grader at Williams Magnet Middle School, Nair, by winning the 28th annual event, will join in the National Geographic Sea Lion expedition, and will include a stop at Glacier Bay National Park, in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. Jonnalagadda, the 2nd prize winner, is an eighth grader at Stony Brook Middle School, earned a $25,000 college scholarship. Nathan, the 3rd place winner, is a sixth grader at Brock’s Gap Intermediate School who was also a top 10 finalists in 2015, earned a $10,000 college scholarship.

Nair, a sixth grader from Florida took top honors, beating a total of 3 million students from 11,000 schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, U.S. Atlantic and Pacific territories and Department of Defense Dependents Schools who had taken part in the 2016 bee. Earlier, the winners of 54 state-level competitions convened in the nation’s capital May 23 for a preliminary round to determine the finalists. Seven of the 10 finalists who competed for the bee’s ultimate prize were Indian Americans.

The final question, which clinched the win for Nair, was: “A new marine sanctuary will protect sharks and other wildlife around Isla Wolf in which archipelago in the Pacific Ocean?”. The answer was: “Galapagos Islands”.  Nair, whose parents hail from Kerala, is the second Florida student to win the National Geographic Bee. In 2010, eighth-grader Aadith Moorthy of Palm Harbor was the national champion. Rahul Nagvekar in 2012, Sathwik Karnik in 2013, Akhil Rekulapelli in 2014 and Karan Menon in 2015 were the previous four winners.

The seven other finalists, which included Indian Americans Rishi Kumar, 10, of Maryland; Pranay Varada, 13, of Irving, Texas; Samanyu Dixit, 12, of Matthews, N.C.; and Ashwin Sivakumar, 11, of Beaverton, Ore., each won $500 for making it to the top 10.

The final round, moderated by humorist and journalist Mo Rocca, between Nair and Jonnalagadda consisted of seven questions. The eventual winner got off to an early lead by correctly answering “Switzerland” to the question, “The Gotthard Base Tunnel, expected to open in early June, will be the world’s longest rail tunnel. This tunnel is located in which country?”

Nihar Janga, youngest winner on record of Scripps National Spelling Bee Contest

Nihar Janga, at age 11, made record by becoming the youngest winner of the bee on record at the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee, which ended in a tie for the third consecutive year, with Jairam Hathwar and Nihar Janga declared co-champions after a roller-coaster finish. Jairam, 13, is the younger brother of 2014 co-champion Sriram Hathwar.

“I’m just speechless. I can’t say anything,” Nihar said as he hoisted the trophy. “I mean, I’m only in fifth grade.” The 11-year-old breezed up to the microphone with confidence, and most of his words, he knew right away. He looked like the strongest speller onstage, stronger even than his eventual co-champion, 13-year-old Jairam Hathwar, a blue-chip speller whose older brother hoisted the trophy two years ago.

Nihar, from Austin, Texas; and Jairam, from Painted Post, New York, were declared co-champions. It was the third year in a row that the bee ended in a tie. Scripps made the bee, broadcast on ESPN, tougher after two consecutive ties, forcing the last two spellers to get through three times as many words as in years past.

Bee organizers insisted they’d be OK with another tie, but they changed the rules to make it less likely. Instead of a pre-determined list of 25 “championship words” for the final three spellers, the bee instead forced the top three to go through up to 25 rounds. And the difficulty of the words could be adjusted as necessary.

Third-place finisher Snehaa Kumar of Folsom, Calif,, bowed out in the first championship round. Nihar and Jairam had to spell 24 words apiece before it was over. Nihar and Jairam have grown close over the past year, communicating mostly online. They chatted while others were spelling, high-fived after their words and embraced after they won. The timing of Nihar’s misses was almost too perfect to believe, and Nihar denied afterward that he misspelled on purpose. He said he just didn’t know the words.

“I wanted to win, but at the same time, I felt really bad for Jairam,” he said. Both were inspired by their favorite athletes. As the confetti fell, Nihar crossed his arms in homage to Dez Bryant’s touchdown celebrations. The Dallas Cowboys receiver responded with a congratulatory tweet.

Jairam, whose dad takes him to play golf when he’s had enough spelling practice, channeled his favorite player, Jordan Spieth. “When he hits a bad shot, he always bounces back, on the next shot or the next hole,” Jairam said. “When I missed those two words, I didn’t let them get to my head, and I just focused on the next word.”

This was the 89th bee, and while Scripps’ records from early years are incomplete, the youngest known champion was Wendy Guey, who won 20 years ago at age 12. The last to win in his first attempt was Pratyush Buddiga in 2002.

Nihar said he didn’t feel pressure to become the youngest winner for two reasons. First, he never expected to win. Second, most of the crowd’s attention was on an even younger speller: 6-year-old Akash Vukoti. “He did pretty good for a first-grader,” Nihar said. “He’s going to go places.”

Nihar and Jairam’s parents are immigrants from south India, continuing a remarkable run of success for Indian American spellers that began in 1999 with Nupur Lala’s victory, which was later featured in the documentary “Spellbound.” The bee has produced Indian American champions for nine straight years and 14 out of the last 18.

Divya Nag, Amit Agarwal among top 10 ‘Most Creative People in Business’ List

Indian Americans Divya Nag and Amit Agarwal have made it to the top 10 on the Fast Company’s 100 “Most Creative People in Business” list. The annual list, in its eighth year dating back to 2009, was released May 16.

Nag was ranked No. 2 on the list, just behind composer, lyricist and performer Lin-Manuel Miranda. She was selected “for moving Apple into the doctor’s office,” according to the Fast Company piece.

She leads the team at Apple that created ResearchKit, an open-source developer toolbox that piggybacked on the company’s HealthKit framework — which allows users to store and share health data — to allow doctors and researchers to create apps that make it easy to participate in medical research, Fast Company explained.

“Through Apple’s new CareKit tools, doctors can automatically alert outpatients when it’s time to take their medications or exercise — while patients can reciprocate with continual updates on their condition,” Fast Company wrote. “Doctors and hospitals are already using CareKit apps to provide better care, staying in touch with post-surgery patients, and there are countless applications for monitoring diabetes, mental health, pregnancy and more,” it added.

Nag dropped out of Stanford and founded Stem Cell Theranostics, a company dedicated toward revolutionizing the drug discovery process. Additionally, she founded StartX Med in 2012 and served as the chief product officer and head of network management and R&D at StartX.

Coming in at No. 10 on the list is Agarwal, who made the list “for extending Amazon’s reach, one vendor at a time,” Fast Company said. Agarwal has been a staple at Amazon since 1999. The IIT Kanpur and Stanford University graduate started with the e-commerce company as a software developer. Throughout his career he has held various roles, including managing director of the Bangalore-based development center, shadow and technical adviser to the CEO, vice president of international expansion and his current role of vice president and country manager at Amazon India.

“In less than three years, Agarwal grew the division to become competitive with homegrown rivals Flipkart and Snapdeal, and is using the country’s underdeveloped logistics and payment infrastructure to his advantage,” Fast Company wrote. He has also established many “India first” innovations, it added.

San Francisco-based Kakul Srivastava was slotted in at No. 25 on Fast Company’s list. The publication said she earned a spot “for seeing the people behind the code.” The MIT and U.C. Berkeley graduate serves as the vice president of product management at GitHub, as well as on the Cure Violence advisory board. Previously, she served as CEO at Project Sublime, product manager at Adobe Systems and chief product officer at WeWork, as well as executive positions with Yahoo, Tiny Speck Inc., Tomfoolery Inc. and Flikr.

“Historically, GitHub users have been engineers working together on open-source projects, but Srivastava is rethinking its capabilities for the masses, in an era when everyone from farmers to animators is learning to program,” Fast Company wrote. Among her additions to the company are word processor-style editing tools and easier ways for members to help improve their code.

Yoga guru Baba Ramdev, who founded Haridwar, India-based Patanjali Ayurved in 2006, was No. 27 on the publication’s most creative list. Fast Company slotted him in the top 30 “for disrupting India’s $49 billion consumer packaged goods market.”

Patanjali Ayurved makes many products, including spices, soaps and cosmetics. Ramdev has helped expand the brand’s product line and “is making global firms like Procter & Gamble and Unilever squirm,” it said.

At No. 65 on the Most Creative People in Business list was Mountain View, Calif.-based Confluent co-founder and chief technology officer Neha Narkhede. She made the list “for teaching businesses to read Kafka.”

Among the companies who rely on software co-developed by Narkhede are Netflix and CA Technologies. The six-year-old Apache Kafka technology, which funnels data from disparate sources of information — web analytics, sales data and social media — into a single stream that employees can use to build or enhance their projects, has become “so integral to the tech world that Silicon Valley engineers brandish Kafka expertise on their resumes,” Fast Company said.

Apple is in India for Next Thousand Years, Says CEO Tim Cook

“I am looking at India holistically and we are here for the next thousand years,” Apple CEO Tim Cook emphasized May 20 as the 55-year-old chief of Cupertino-based tech giant entered the final leg of his four-day India tour. Apple, which recently announced that it’s going to open offices in India with more than 4,000 jobs dedicated to working on Apple Maps, said that it’s going to stay in India for the foreseeable future and far beyond.

In an interview with the media, Cook said: “India is much more strategic. We are thinking about a really long innings in the country. We are here for next thousand years. We are not making the most but the best. We will never make a product that we are not proud of.”

“Apple has a bright future for retail in India. We will sell pre-owned phones with a new warranty. We want India to have best Apple products,” he stressed, adding that he instantly feels like he belongs here in India. When asked about China, Cook said: “India is different than China,” adding that the announcements about Apps development facility in Bengaluru and Maps Development Centre in Hyderabad were just the beginning.

“We are in India for the next thousand years,” Tim Cook said. “Our horizon is very long. We are focused on best, not most. So it doesn’t bother me that we don’t have top market share.”

“If you think about automobiles, brands like Lexus and Mercedes have been selling certified pre-owned cars,” Cook explained. “We have this program in the U.S. and in most parts of the world. When they are sold, they are sold with warranty, just like a new product. We would never sell a product that we didn’t think was right.” Cook also said Apple is going to “logically look at” manufacturing iPhones in India, too.

Sadhguru To Address Delegates On Need To Build A Culture Of Health In Society During AAPI’s 34th Annual AAPI Convention in New York

(New York, NY: May 19, 2016): Understanding the inherent humanity that unites all nations, religions and cultures, Sadhguru is recognized for his pioneering efforts to nurture global harmony, Dr. Seema Jain, President of American association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), said today, while announcing the 1.5 hours of CME to be led by Sadhguru during AAPI’s 34th Convention in New York.

AAPI’s 34th annual convention will be held at the Marriott Marquis, Time Square in New York from June 30-July 4, 2016. Expected to have a record attendance of more than 2,000 delegates including Physicians, Academicians, Researchers and Medical students, “the annual convention offers extensive academic presentations, recognition of achievements and achievers, and professional networking at the alumni and evening social events,” she added.

Having Sadhguru at the Convention with his unique ability to make the ancient yogic sciences relevant to contemporary minds, and acts as a bridge to the deeper dimensions of life, will make the convention and the delegates from across the nation richer, in so many ways, said, Dr. Rita Ahuaja, Chairwoman of the Convention. “His approach does not ascribe to any belief system, but offers methods for self-transformation that are both proven and powerful,” Dr. Ahuja added.

Named one of India’s 50 most influential people, Sadhguru is a realized Yogi and mystic who works tirelessly towards the physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing of all. Sadhguru’s work has deeply touched the lives of millions worldwide through his transformational programs.

“We need to create a culture of Health in society, instead of investing in just healthcare,” Sadhguru says. “What we call feeling healthy, is not just the absence of disease, but having a sense of wholeness within us.  If we feel like a complete being in our body, mind and spirit, that is when we are truly healthy.”

An author, poet and internationally renowned speaker, Sadhguru’s wit and piercing logic provoke and broaden our thoughts and perception of life. Sadhguru has been an influential voice at major global forums including the United Nations, World Economic Forum, the UK House of Lords, TED among many others.

Just as he has stated, “Your success in this world essentially depends on how well you can harness the prowess of this body and this mind,” Sadhguru believes in dedicating his life for the service of humanity. He established Isha Foundation, a non-profit organization supported by over three million volunteers worldwide. From powerful yoga programs to large-scale humanitarian projects for rural upliftment, education for the underprivileged, environmental restoration, as well as holistic and healthy living, the foundation’s activities are designed to create an inclusive culture and establish global harmony.

His fundamental vision is to offer the science of inner wellbeing to every human being – a science vitally helping realize the ultimate potential within. From this vision stem a multitude of projects, programs, and methods, all towards the same aim: to raise every human being to the peak of their potential, be exuberant, all-inclusive, in harmony within themselves and the world.

Perhaps Sadhguru’s mission is most succinctly summarized in his own paradoxical words: “I have no mission of my own. It is just that when you see a certain need around you, you do what you can do – that’s all. But I have a dream, that someday, walking on a street anywhere in the world, I would be able to meet lots of enlightened or realized beings. That would be the greatest blessing to happen to the world.”

The annual convention this year is being organized by AAPI’s New Jersey Chapter. In addition to offering over 12 hours of cutting edge CMEs to the physicians, the event will have 12 hours of product theaters/promotional opportunities, six plenary sessions, a first ever multi-segment CEOs Forum, and a first ever women’s leadership forum. The convention will be addressed by senior world leaders, including US Senators, Presidential candidates, Nobel Lauretes, Governors, Congressmen, and celebrities from the Hollywood and Bollywood world.

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 34 years, AAPI Convention has provided a venue for medical education programs and symposia with world renowned physicians on the cutting edge of medicine.

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

RUMC Names Cardiac Cath Lab After Dr. Samala Swamy

New York: The Cardiac Catheterization Lab of the Richmond University Medical Center was dedicated in honor of Dr. Samala Swamy, who has been a leading cardiologist on Staten Island for more than 35 years. The Indian American physician emigrated from India to the United States to assume a residency position at St. Vincent’s Medical Center and became the hospital’s first cardiology fellow in 1974, has pledged $250,000 to support the capital campaign for a new Emergency Department.

Since August of 2014, Richmond University Medical Center took a giant step in improving the borough’s cardiac care, announcing at last its ability to provide “door-to-balloon” care in the critical 90 minutes after a person has a heart attack. The balloon is part of a treatment called angioplasty or percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), and with the approval from the state Department of Health to upgrade its catheterization lab to perform PCIs, the hospital is equipped to follow through on both emergency and elective procedures.

Dr. Swamy, who has been a leading cardiologist on Staten Island, has not only witnessed profound advancements in his field  — but in many ways he has also helped shape them. Dr. Swamy was also one of the first cardiologists on Staten Island to use cardiac catheterization for the diagnosis of coronary heart disease for the benefit of his patients.

In recognition of his contribution to the betterment of cardiac care in our borough, Dr. Swamy was awarded the “Humanitarian Award” by the former St. Vincent’s Medical Center, and the “Excellence in Medicine” award by the Staten Island Chapter of the American Heart Association.

Dr. Swamy is boarded in medicine, cardiology, nuclear medicine and interventional cardiology. Over the years, he has trained many cardiology fellows, who are very successful doctors today. Dr. Swamy is married to Veeramani. They are the parents of three children, sons Sudheer and Sumanth and daughter, Sumana.

Reshma Jagsi’s study finds that 30 percent of female doctors in US sexually harassed

New York: Every seventh patient seen in the country are by physicians of Indian origin. The largely influential Indian American community boasts of its success in Medicine, Academia and Research. Now, a new report claims that a third of high-achieving female physicians or scientists in the US have been victims of sexual harassment, say researchers led by an Indian-origin scientist. In addition, 30 percent of women compared to four percent of men said they had experienced sexual harassment in their professional careers.

The findings showed that women were more likely than men to report both perceptions and experiences with gender bias. Gender bias was perceived by 70 percent of women as against 22 percent of men and 66 percent of women said they experienced gender bias compared to 10 percent of men.

“The perception among many of us is that this type of behaviour is a thing of the past. So it’s heartening to see quite how many relatively young women in this sample reported experiences with harassment and discrimination,” said study author Reshma Jagsi, associate professor at the University of Michigan Medical School.

“This is a sobering reminder that our society has a long way to go before we achieve gender equity,” Jagsi added.  The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that the situation reflects a larger societal problem.

Women who experience these types of harassment may be less likely to report these incidents if they feel they are unique and aberrational. “We need to recognise the degree to which sexual harassment and gender inequality continue to be an issue in academic medicine,” Jagsi noted.

Researchers surveyed 1,066 men and women who had received a career development award between 2006-2009 from the National Institutes of Health. The physicians were asked a number of questions about their career experiences, including questions about gender bias, gender advantage and sexual harassment.

Medicine is a notoriously grueling career, with punishing hours, rampant burnout and the threat of crippling student loan debt. And for women, the landscape can be even bleaker. New findings suggest that 30 percent of top women clinician-researchers have experienced blatant sexual harassment on the job.

The study, published in JAMA included more than 1,700 men and women who’ve received K-awards, prestigious career development awards handed out by the National Institutes of Health.

Sixty-six percent of the women who responded to the survey said they’d personally experienced some form of gender bias in their career, compared to just 10 percent of men. And 70 percent said they perceived gender-based biases against women in the the field, though not necessarily personally.

Perhaps more shocking, 30 percent of the women said they’d experienced outright sexual harassment, including sexist remarks or behavior, unwanted sexual advances, bribery, threats and coercion.

“I had a misperception that overt sexual harassment was largely a thing of the past, a vestige of another generation,” admitted study author Dr. Reshma Jagsi of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, who frequently lectures on why relatively few women reach the senior ranks in academic medicine.

In a survey of academic medical faculty conducted in 1995 (but published in 2000), more than 50 percent of women said they’d experienced harassment in their careers, compared to just 5 percent of men. Jagsi said she had expected to see a significant dip in incidents of sexual harassment in the latest survey, particularly given that the makeup of medicine has changed so much and women now make up roughly half of all medical students.

Syamantak Payra wins Intel’s Top Award

Syamantak Payra, 15, of Friendswood, Texas, received one of two Intel Foundation Young Scientist Awards of $50,000 for developing a low-cost electronically aided knee brace that allows an individual with a weakened leg to walk more naturally. Intel Corporation and the Society for Science and the Public announced the winners in Phoenix May 13 at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, the world’s largest high school science research competition. When Payra tested his prototype with two individuals partially disabled by polio, it almost immediately restored a more natural gait and increased mobility.

Besides Payra, the other Young Scientist Award was won by Kathy Liu, 17, of Salt Lake City, Utah, for developing an alternative battery component that could significantly improve battery performance and safety. Han Jie (Austin) Wang, 18, of Vancouver, Canada, received the first place Gordon E. Moore Award and US$75,000 in prize money for developing microbial fuel cells.

“Our top winners this year – Austin, Syamantak, and Kathy – clearly demonstrate that age has no bearing on your ability to conduct research and come up with solutions to important problems,” said Maya Ajmera, president and CEO of Society for Science and the Public.

“We congratulate them not only for their success, but on their dedication and hard work. They and the rest of the Intel ISEF finalists are the rising stars of STEM and we look forward to watching them pursue their passions and in turn make the world a better place for future generations.”

The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair honors the world’s most promising student scientists, inventors and engineers. Finalists are selected annually from hundreds of affiliated fairs. Their projects are then evaluated onsite by approximately 1,000 judges from nearly every scientific discipline, each with a Ph.D. or the equivalent of six years of related professional experience in one of the scientific disciplines.

Payra attends Clear Brook High School in Friendswood. His solution is both inexpensive and easy to use. He started with an off-the-shelf brace that only costs about $2,000. To this he added a motor-driven actuator. Its motor moves a piston in and out, which flexes the knee. A small computer that clips to the user’s belt or slips into a pocket controls that motor. That computer, in turn, receives signals from a sensor that reports the position of the opposite leg. According to Intel, together, all of the parts in Syamantak’s system will add only about $500 to the cost of the starting brace.

Vikas Khanna screens documentary on food at Cannes

Vikas Khanna, the celebrity chef, premiered his documentary ” Kitchens of Gratitude ” at the ongoing 69th Cannes Film Festival on Saturday, May 21. The documentary is the chef’s ideology that food has always been the thread which brings people together and that it transcends all barriers of caste, creed, faith — thus, encouraging people to share.

The documentary was unveiled by Mohan Kumar , India’s Ambassador to France along with Leena Jaisani, senior director – Media and Entertainment division at Ficci, at the India Pavilion at the fest.

“Michelin starred Chef Vikas Khanna is not just a culinary ambassador of India but is also helping create awareness of our culture globally. For Indians, food is a sacred expression of sharing and caring and with ‘Kitchens of Gratitude’, he has personified it. This is a small step but will go a long way in building bridges amongst communities and nations,” Kumar said in a statement.

While researching on how food was cooked in the Harappan civilisation, Khanna discovered that daily cooking was a communal activity in those times and he did not find a single reference to the use of small cooking pots, which bears out this finding.  The fact that everyone used to get together for cooking and eating asserts his belief that the “unifying power of food was stronger even before religion came into being.”

Khanna then created, directed and shot a 15 minute documentary which captures this belief. The documentary feature personalities like Dalai Lama, Deepak Chopra, Mata Amritanandmayi (spiritual leader) and Pastor Craig Mayes of the New York Mission among others.

“‘Kitchens of Gratitude’ for me is solely about how food has always been the thread that brings people together encourage people to share. The documentary examines how shared food experiences help break the walls that divide people. “I firmly believe that our children must know that every faith welcomes everyone. No faith ever promotes discrimination. It is food that binds us together, and it must continue that way,” Khanna said.

New Poll Shows Trump beating Clinton in General Election

NEW YORK: Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has been given a boost by a new poll showing the presumptive Republican nominee winning November’s general election against likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
 
An ABC News/ Washington Post poll published on Sunday shows Trump with a two percent advantage over Clinton with registered voters in a hypothetical general election matchup. According to Langer Research, Trump’s “enhanced competitiveness reflects consolidation in his support since his primary opponents dropped out”.
While positive news for the Trump campaign, it was tarnished by the fact that such a slim advantage falls within the 3.5 point margin of error. However, this was now the fifth poll since the end of the April to put the billionaire ahead of, or tied with, Clinton.
The findings are also echoed in a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll published on Sunday which shows that Clinton’s 11 percent lead over Trump has narrowed to a mere 3 percent, 46 to 43. This was in stark contrast to a potential battle between Bernie Sanders and Trump, which found the former with a 15 point margin, 54-39 percent.
The ABC/Washington Post poll also shows that 58 percent of Americans think Trump is “unqualified to be president,” while 76 percent believe he “doesn’t show enough respect for those he disagrees with.”
 
While Clinton supporters may find some solace in this, it won’t come as welcome news that the presumptive Democratic nominee has something in common with her Republican archrival.
 
When Clinton’s “unfavorable” rating is combined with Trump’s, the two, together, are the most unpopular likely candidates for a presidential election since the ABC/Post election polls began. Hillary is disliked by 53 percent of Americans, while 60 percent disapprove of The Donald. On the other hand, Bernie Sanders was found to be “unfavorable” by only 38 percent.
One aspect of the findings that may leave Democrats particularly worried is that Trump has a 13 percent advantage over Clinton among independents. This is a reversal from the March findings, which showed Clinton leading by 9 among the grouping.
In a tight race, independents could decide who is elected as 45th president of the US in November, and if Trump can hold onto this lead, the Republicans may just take back the Oval Office. The ABC News/Washington Post poll was based on a sample of 1,005 people from across the country, including 829 registered voters, all of whom were surveyed between May 16 and 19. The WSJ/NBC News poll was conducted between May 15 and 19 with a sample of 1,000 registered voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

New York Indian Film Festival Concludes, Showcasing Indian Cinema To World

New York, NY: The 16th annual New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF) held its inaugural gala May 7, at the Skirball Center for Performing Arts. Billed as the oldest, most prestigious Indian film festival in the U.S., this year’s smorgasbord of independent, art house, alternate, and diaspora films, screened over the period May 7-14, includes 40 screenings (35 narrative, 5 documentary), all seen for the first time in New York City. In addition, the festival also featured five programs of short films.

“It was a very exciting night,” Shivdasani said. “We never actually had a language film for opening night. This was a complete departure and what that means is we are getting bolder,” she laughed. Baretto is an emerging filmmaker and neither the director or the cast are well known. “Still we had a lovely opening,” Shivdasani said.

Numerous film-makers with their cast appeared on the red carpet speaking about their films. Celebrities spotted at the gala included author Salman Rushdie, filmmaker Mira Nair, author and actress Madhur Jaffrey, India’s Consul General in New York Riva Ganguly Das, and author Suketu Mehta.

The 7-day festival highlighted various cinemas of India’s different regions, all subtitled in English. Among the languages this year were Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, Telugu, Assamese, Haryanvi and Urdu.

New York Indian Film Festival Concludes, Showcasing Indian Cinema To World“Each of these language films have been gems,” Shivdasani said. “And another thing different in this year’s festival is we’ve never had so many panels before,” Shivdasani noted. Panels where representatives of each of the language films discussed their experiences; an LGBT panel, a new directors panel, among others.

The festival also featured the National Film Development Corporation of India-restored first films of filmmakers, and a three-generations sidebar, films of Bimal Roy, Basu Bhattacharya and Aditya Bhattacharya. Two National Award winners, Famous in Ahmedabad and Daarvatha, were among the 40 or so shorts being screened. The lineup also included 2016 National Award winners, A Far Afternoon, Birds With Large Wings, and The River of Fables, an Assamese language feature film.

The dance troupe, Manhattan Andaaz performed. The master of ceremonies was Sree Srinivasan, chief digital officer of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Aroon Shivdasani, executive and artistic director of the Indo-American Arts Council, which puts the show together, welcomed the guests.

Nair, who is “Face of the Festival” according to Shivdasani, spoke about the growing influence of the festival and dwelt on her new film about Uganda, her second home.

The film, Nachom-ia-Kumpasar (Let’s Dance to the Rhythm) was screened, followed by a discussion with director Bardroy Baretto, producer Angelo Braganza, and actress Palomi Ghosh, moderated by NYIFF Director Aseem Chhabra. The Konkani feature film is a tribute to Goan music and musicians of the 1960s and 1970s, narrated through the emotional rollercoaster of a love story, telling the nostalgic tale of musicians who lived and died unrecognized, unappreciated and unsung.

A high-priced ticket gala benefit dinner attended by some 250 invitees rubbing shoulders with filmmakers and celebrities, concluded the evening. Ghosh, the lead character in the Konkani film, upon request, sang a few songs impromptu at the gala, bringing people to their feet to dance.

Among diaspora films was Good Ol’ Boy, a feel-good, coming-of-age story of Smith, a 10-year old growing up in small-town America in 1979, featuring some well-known actors in Samrat Chakrabarti (Midnight’s Children, The Waiting City) and Poorna Jagannathan (Delhi Belly, Nirbhaya).

Soumitra Chatterjee Bengali starrer, Peace Haven, is the story of three septuagenarian friends who embark on a journey to build their very own mortuary. Multiple award winner and fresh from the international film festival circuit, Parched, is about four ordinary women in rural Gujarat who talk unapologetically about men, sex and life as they struggle with their individual boundaries.

The highlight was the world premiere of Kagaz Ki Kashti (Paperboat), which tracks the life of a down-to-earth, small-town boy, who made it big in the Ghazal world breaking through the norms and mixing western instrumentation. to make this classical genre simple and hummable.

Filmmaker Hansal Mehta’s “Aligarh” was chosen as the closing film of the 16th annual New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF). The festival, which concluded on Saturday, screens feature, documentary and short films made from, of, and about the Indian subcontinent in the independent, art-house, alternate and diaspora genres every year.

“Aligarh” is based on the real life incident of Srinivas Ramchandra Siras, an academician at the Aligarh Muslim University who was suspended from his job because of his sexual orientation. The film stars Manoj Bajpayee and Rajkummar Rao.

Before attending the fest, Rajkummar took to Twitter on Saturday night and wrote: “Going to one of my favourite cities in the world. New York. ‘Aligarh’ has been chosen as the closing film of the prestigious New York Indian film festival.” Mehta was excited that the American city would witness their “labour of love”. “Aligarh” has been lauded at many film festivals, including Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, where it received a special mention.

The New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF) is the oldest, most prestigious film festival screening premieres of feature, documentary and short films made from, of, and about the Indian subcontinent in the Independent, arthouse, alternate and diaspora genres. Seven days of screenings, post-screening discussions, industry panels, award ceremony, special events, nightly networking parties, red carpet galas, media attention and packed audiences build an awareness of Indian cinema, entertain & educate North Americans about the real India, and add to the amazing cultural diversity of New York City. Please visit: the NYIFF website.

Obama casts Trump philosophy as one of ignorance, isolation

President Barack Obama cast Donald Trump’s positions on immigration, trade and Muslims as part of an ignorance-and-isolation philosophy that the president says will lead the U.S. down the path of decline. Obama used his commencement speech Sunday at Rutgers University to tear into the presumptive Republican nominee, without ever mentioning his name. Time and again the president invoked specific Trump policies to denounce a rejection of facts, science and intellectualism that he said was pervading politics.

“In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue,” Obama told some 12,000 graduates at the public university in New Jersey. “It’s not cool to not know what you’re talking about. That’s not keeping it real or telling it like it is. That’s not challenging political correctness. That’s just not knowing what you’re talking about,” the president said. “And yet, we’ve become confused about this,” he added.

Obama’s rebuke came as Trump closes in on clinching the GOP nomination, raising the prospect that November’s election could portend a reversal of Obama’s policies and approach to governing. In recent days, Trump has started focusing on the general election while working to unite a fractured Republican Party around his candidacy. Democrats are readying for a fight against a reality TV host they never anticipated would make it this far.

Obama has mostly steered clear of the race as Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders compete into the summer for the nomination. But in speeches like this one, he has laid out themes that Democrats are certain to use as they work to deny Trump the White House. He’s urged journalists to scrutinize Trump’s vague policy prescriptions and not to emphasize what he calls “the spectacle and the circus.”

Trump has barreled his way toward the nomination by emphasizing the profound concerns of Americans who have felt left behind by the modern, global economy, summed up in his ubiquitous campaign slogan of “Make America great again.” He’s called for keeping Muslim immigrants out of the U.S., gutting Obama’s trade deals with Asia and Europe, and cracking down on immigrants in the U.S. illegally. In his speech, Obama told graduates that when they hear people wax nostalgic about the “good old days” in America, they should “take it with a grain of salt.”

“Guess what? It ain’t so,” the president said, rattling off a list of measures by which life is better in the U.S. than in decades past. Yet Obama cautioned that both Democrats and Republicans were responsible for over-magnifying the country’s problems. And he appeared to push back gently on Sanders, whose rallies are packed with young Americans cheering the candidate’s calls to uproot an economic system he says is rigged in favor of the extremely rich. “The system isn’t as rigged as you think,” Obama said.

Looking out at a sea of red and black gowns at High Point Solution Stadium, Obama said the pace of change on the planet is accelerating, not subsiding. He said recent history had proved that the toughest challenges cannot be solved in isolation.

“A wall won’t stop that,” Obama said, bringing to mind Trump’s call for building a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. “The point is, to help ourselves, we’ve got to help others — not pull up the drawbridge and try to keep the world out.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who ran against Trump for the GOP nomination and has since become one of his most vocal surrogates, didn’t attend the president’s speech at Rutgers. Instead, he spent the day at nearby Princeton University for his son’s baseball game — the Ivy League championship.

The president, who returned to Washington after his speech, will deliver a final commencement address on June 1 at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Earlier in May, Obama echoed similar themes about progress in the U.S. when he spoke at historically black Howard University in Washington.

Donald Trump Mocks Indian Call Centers

Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump has used fake Indian accent to mock a call center representative in India during an election rally last week. The real estate tycoon said that he called up his credit card company to find out whether their customer support is based in the US or overseas.

“Guess what, you’re talking to a person from India. How the hell does that work?” he told his supporters in Delaware. “So I called up, under the guise I’m checking on my card, I said, ‘Where are you from?’” Trump said and then he copied the response from the call center in a fake Indian accent. “We are from India,” Trump impersonated the response. “Oh great, that’s wonderful,” he said as he pretended to hang up the phone. “India is great place. I am not upset with other leaders. I am upset with our leaders for being so stupid,” he said.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign has slammed the remarks by Trump saying it shows disrespect towards the community and is reflective of his divisive rhetoric. “Donald Trump mocking Indian workers is just typical of his disrespect that he has shown to groups across the spectrum,” said John Podesta, chairman of the Clinton Campaign.

“He has run a campaign of bigotry and division. I think that’s quite dangerous for the country when you think about the fact that you need friends, allies. The kind of campaign he is running breeds disrespect across the globe and breeds division and danger here at home,” he told reporters in Germantown, Maryland after formally launching ‘Indian- Americans for Hillary’, an effort by the community to rally behind the Democratic presidential front runner. Podesta was reacting to Trump’s apparent use of a fake Indian accent to mock a call centre representative in India during a campaign rally in Delaware this week.

Meanwhile, an Indian-American entrepreneur also hit out at Trump, calling his comments “demeaning”. “When Donald Trump fakes the accent of an Indian at the help desk, it is demeaning and demonising to me personally,” said Frank Islam, a top Indian-American bundler in the Clinton campaign who has helped raised more than USD 100,000 for her

Indian Students Shine In Formula SAE Hybrid Car Design Contest

A group of undergraduate engineering students from Bangalore won second place in design and project management categories at the prestigious International Formula SAE hybrid car design competitions held last week in Loudon, New Hampshire.

In a field of 28 teams from various countries, including Japan, Russia, Taiwan and Canada besides USA, the team from Ashwa Racing Workshop at R.V. College of Engineering in Bangalore won fourth overall position in the competition held May 4-6.

The Formula Hybrid event founded and run by the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College, is part of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Collegiate Design Series and is regarded as the most complex and dynamic of the series.

“This was no mean feat given that the 20-member team of undergraduate students that included girls managed, despite time constraints, all aspects of the process of development, including shipping the car to the United States in time for the competition. That is impressive!” Rajat Bhatnagar of Atomic Launch of N.H. that helps companies launch new ventures and facilitates investments, management, product development, said.

The team members met with Riva Ganguly Das, Consul General of India in New York when they arrived in the city en route to Loudon May1 and briefed her about the design and the competition. Bhatnagar said he had been working to take care of the team in N.H. after being requested to do so by the consul general.

The sponsorship, including travel, lodging and food expenses, was borne and shared by Atomic Launch, and the team members. “We finished 2nd in design and project management events and 4th overall out of 28 registered teams. The prototype was designed, manufactured and assembled in Bangalore itself and was shipped all the way to New Hampshire,” Bhatnagar said quoting the students in response to a question. The prototype was shipped to U.S. March 10 and it reached the event site April 28.

The judges at the competition belonged to the Thayer School of Engineering, IEEE professionals, alumni of former Formula Hybrid team and many other people from various walks of life. Motor racing professionals who have been officiating at FSAE events were also part of the organizing committee or were judges.

To a question, the tem said that to build the race-car alongside their academics, it took them 10 months to complete. The cost incurred is around $25000.

RZ-X6H is a series hybrid prototype which is powered by both the motor, Agni-95R and Pulsar 220cc bike engine. The prototype weighs 318kg with a space framed chassis and uses a lithium ion battery with custom BMS (Battery Management System).

The students said the main design goal in building this race-car was performance and the challenge was to abide by the 35.5 MJ energy limit rule and suitably decide on the architecture to increase performance.

The Formula Hybrid Competition is an interdisciplinary design and engineering challenge for undergraduate and graduate university students. They must collaboratively design and build a formula-style electric or plug-in hybrid racecar and compete in a series of events.

This educational competition emphasizes innovation and fuel efficiency in a high-performance application. The Indian team that included Govind Shenoy, Lalith Keerthan, Abdul Rehman, Shamveel Mohammed, Manraaj Singh, Anushree H N, Nikitha Bhushi, Aishwarya L U and Gokul Suresh, will return to the competition next year with an electric car.

The Power of Money in Politics

The recent guilt plea by Congressman Ami Bera’s father, 83-year-old Babulal Bera, that he had violated campaign finance laws by making excessive contributions to his son’s Congressional campaign and now facing a 30-month prison term after pleading guilty to two counts of violating campaign finance laws has brought to the fore the discussions about the power of money in the election process in the greatest democracy in the world. While, no one can condone the so-called illegal ways of contributing money to his son’s tough election battle in the state California, Babulal Bera’s action is so insignificant to the way the rich are influencing the elections and their outcomes across the nation.

The Power of Money in PoliticsIn this context, the US Supreme Court ruling in 2013, with the then conservative majority by a 5-4 margin affirming their earlier decision disallowing any limit on corporate election spending, is very significant. Everyone knows the impact of the court’s ruling that has ushered in an era of unprecedented money power that is unleashed on the citizens of this country, influencing their beliefs and voting patterns.

The Supreme Court ruling not only allows individuals and corporations to contribute unlimited money to their respective political parties and candidates, but also they could remain anonymous from disclosing their names and the amount to the public. In the name of the First Amendment, corporations and individuals pour in millions of Dollars into campaigns. The irony is that these biggest donations are given to tax-free advocacy groups of political parties and campaigns in defiance even of the admonition in Citizens United that independent contributions should be disclosed. Congress can — and should — require disclosure of secret donations. The Internal Revenue Service should crack down on political organizations that pose as tax-exempt “social welfare” organizations to avoid current disclosure rules.

The net result of this ruling and its national implications are that rich people are going to buy our elections. Estimates say, the money raised during the 2012 cycle of elections has exceeded an unprecedented three Billion Dollars. If President Obama had vowed to raise a Billion Dollars, his opponent, Mitt Romney raised more money than the President every month since he secured his Party’s nomination.

The 2016 election cycle is going to break all the past records. More than six months before the General Elections, according to a Washington Post report, of the $461.7 million donated so far to support Democratic candidates, 17 percent has been raised by super PACs and other independent groups. The presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton raised $191 million and allied super PACs and other independent groups raised$72.9 million. The presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders raised $184.3 million and allied super PACs and other independent groups raised$4.4 million. Republican Party is not behind in any away. Of the $765.6 million donated so far to support Republican candidates, 55 percent has been raised by super PACs and other independent groups.

This is a blow to democratic governance. It means that  the political process in this country is going to be up for sale. It allows billionaires to buy the political process. Businesses all over the place want to do away with regulation on business practices. The banks and finance companies are for deregulation.  They don’t want government regulation. The corporations that do not want government regulators to monitor their shady deals could pour in millions of Dollars to elect a President or a Member to the Congress or a Senator of their choice and who would favor their unregulated plundering and mismanagement of wealth and ways to generate profits. This is also true with the elected Judiciary members, where there are cases where corporations have poured millions into an election to oust or have a Judge favorable to deregulation elected to the Courts.

It was of some relief to note Justice Stephen Breyer sharing his unwillingness to accept the majority’s belief, expressed in Citizens United, that independent expenditures do not give rise to corruption or even give the appearance of corruption. He also pointed out that the majority conservative Justices had made it plain that they did not have the slightest interest in reconsidering or altering its (unjust) decision.

Democracy is of the people, by the people and for the people, where a majority decide the type of government and leaders they want to rule over the country. However, when money decides who the winner is and the ruling party is going to be, it is not true democracy. A small minority with its money power is able to buy votes, influence elected officials and ultimately has a greater say in policy making. The more the money the rich spend, the more chance they have, they think, of getting their way and of getting policies that are more to their liking. Billionaires come in and spend tens of millions of dollars to defeat a candidate they don’t like or to support a candidate they do like.

The First Amendment is about freedom of speech. It’s not about freedom to spend unlimited amounts of money in an election to buy votes and influence elections and policies. There’s a difference between speaking freely and the sort of influence-peddling that campaign finance reform laws attempt to protect. And in allowing unlimited political spending, this court has opened the door to corruption and to special interest domination of politics. David Axelrod, President Obama’s political strategist, recently invoked a common perception about the 2012 campaign by blaming the Supreme Court for empowering 21st-century “robber barons trying to take over the government.” And that’s not democracy.

‘Sikh Project’ To Spread Awareness Of Sikh Identity In U.S.

New York, NY: The backlash against colored people, especially after the 9/11 attacks seems to continue. The Sikhs in the US feel they are more likely to face profiling, bigotry and backlash than the average American because of the two symbols of their distinct identity – beard and turban.

To dispel this misperception and spread better awareness about the religion, a new Sikh art exhibit will be held in New York later this year to showcase the pride taken by the community in their religious and cultural practices. UK-based photographers Amit and Naroop will click portraits of Sikh Americans under “The Sikh Project” mounted by The Sikh Coalition. These portraits will be unveiled around the 15th anniversary of 9/11.

‘Sikh Project’ To Spread Awareness Of Sikh Identity In U.S.The Coalition is the largest Sikh American advocacy and community development organization in the US and works towards the realization of civil and human rights for all people, particularly Sikhs. After their critically acclaimed exhibit in the UK, the two photographers, who are proud of their Sikh heritage, said they are “very excited” about their upcoming exhibition.

“We are very excited! In the US, it will serve as an educational piece as well as an art project as the awareness of the Sikh identity is still misunderstood; so we are hoping it will have a wider impact,” the two photographers told this correspondent in an email interview from New York.

The photography exhibit, which explores the beauty, style and symbolism of the Sikh articles of faith, will include both turbaned men and women and feature a combination of iconic Sikh Americans and a few selected winners.

Speaking about how the idea of ‘Sikh Project’ came to them, the two photographers said it was in 2013 that it struck them when they “noticed men of different backgrounds and ages growing beards for fashion, as part of their identity. Being Sikh photographers, we wanted to show that in our culture, the beard has been a part of the Sikh identity for hundreds of years,” they said in the joint interview.

Talking about the response of the people, the two photographers said it has been “fantastic”.

“The subjects involved have seen the success we have had, so they are excited to be involved. It’s the complete opposite of the UK Singh project as nobody wanted to be involved at first and it took a while for it to build momentum.” They strongly feel that such exhibition will help in showing the Sikh community in the US in a positive light and help fight bigotry they face in their daily lives. “All we can do is to try our best to spread the message. From the response we have had, it appears to have done the job, but there are always more people to reach.”

Holi Celebrations In New York City Showcases Indian Culture

Holi, the festival of colors, was celebrated at the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in mid-town Manhattan on April 30, as thousands of men, women and children, came to enjoy the festival of colors in what organizers see as a trend toward globalization of the ancient Hindu festival celebrating the onset of Spring. The event attracted a multicultural, international crowd that enjoyed throwing colors and dancing to Indian and fusion music played by live bands, as well as watch groups of dancers perform.

Organized by NYC Bhangra Dance Company & School, the event attracted more than 10,000 people, whose numbers were tracked by the wristbands issued, organizers told Desi Talk. It was the largest of the seven “Holi Hai” events held so far by NYC Bhangra, Megha Kalia, founder of the school said.

“The concept of Holi is catching up all over the world. But it’s also about how you package it,” Kalia said. This was a free, family-friendly, no-alcohol event, the only one of its kind in the city, she said. The event was completely funded by NYC Bhangra, and cost more than $60,000 in total costs, with permits, insurance, etc. making up 30 percent, besides execution, production and cleaning, Kalia said.

“There were people from all walks of life, there was great energy. You really saw the magic unfold before you,” she said describing her experience of merging with the crowds in her Bhangra costume and encouraging groups of attendees, including some very shy kids, take to the floor to dance to the beat. A week before, thousands came to celebrate Holi in Brooklyn that featured a local talent in a music and art festival.

2 Young Volunteers From India Honored In USA

Mahima Varma, 17, of Kolkata and Nikhiya Shamsher, 13, of Bangalore, were honored on May 1st at a gala awards ceremony at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History during the 21st annual presentation of the U.S. Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Mahima and Nikhiya were presented with special commemorative trophies by Prudential Financial CEO John Strangfeld during the evening event held each year in May to present awards to America’s top two youth volunteers from each state. The honorees were also personally congratulated for their outstanding volunteer service by Academy Award-winning actress Hilary Swank.

Mahima and Nikhiya were named top youth volunteers by India’s Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards program in April. They received awards including an all-expense-paid trip for the special recognition events in Washington, D.C.

Mahima, a class XII student at Loreto House, Kolkata, is the co-founder and regional chair of “Girls for Tomorrow,” a nationwide movement to spread awareness about rape and teach young girls self-defense. In the aftermath of the Nirbhaya incident, Mahima was actively involved in many peace marches and protests. With an understanding that it would take years to change societal mindsets, she and two friends decided to empower girls instead of waiting for change to happen.
With the help of professional teachers, Mahima brings self-defense classes and life skill workshops to girls in three organizations: Udayan, a home and school for children with leprosy, Child Care Home, for girls rescued from red light areas, and Bastee Welfare Center, a literacy center for young mothers.

Nikhiya, a class VIII student at Greenwood High School, Bangalore, has launched two initiatives to educate the underprivileged – “Bags, Books and Blessings” and “Yearn to Learn.” Nikhiya started Bags, Books and Blessings after she realized that there were many children like her who did not have the basic resources to go to school.

She started her donation campaign in school, distributed brochures, put up posters, sent emails to all parents in the school database, and took turns with her friends to visit every classroom to motivate students to donate their schoolbags, textbooks, notebooks, stationery and other items.
Nikhiya also designed a website and urged journalists to spread the word so that more schools would donate. Her efforts yielded results and the donations started pouring in.

When Nikhiya learned that many schools do not have laboratory facilities due to limited resources, she decided to fill this void through fundraising efforts that raised a total of Rs. 4.18 lakhs. So far, Yearn to Learn has set up 11 laboratories in three schools in Bangalore, benefitting 2,250 students. Nikhiya says, “We may not be able to solve the world’s problems, but we can make the little part of the world where we live, a better place.” The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards were created by Prudential in 1995 to encourage youth volunteerism and to identify and reward young role models.

Priyanka Chopra Has All Praises For Obama After Meeting In White House

Washington, DC: Actress Priyanka Chopra was elated to meet the “very funny and charming” US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner here. The 33-year-old actress, who found global recognition with her character Alex Parrish in the American TV series “Quantico”, looked ravishing in a deep-cut, striped black gown at the dinner held on April 30 night.

The actress was among some of Hollywood’s biggest names like Bradley Cooper, Lucy Liu, Jane Fonda and Gladys Knight to have been invited for the special dinner, which will take place at the White House, said a statement from Priyanka’s representatives.

Priyanka also shared a photograph of herself along with the two. The U.S. President looked dapper in a black suit and crisp white shirt which he teamed with a black bow tie, while Michelle Obama looked lovely in an embellished beige gown.

“Lovely to meet the very funny and charming Barack Obama and the beautiful Michelle Obama,” Priyanka captioned the photograph. “Thank you for a lovely evening. Cannot wait to start working on your girls education program,” she added.

Clinton Promises To Appoint More Asian Americans In Her Administration

Washington, DC: Even as both the leading political parties in the United States are wooing the influential Asian American community and seeking to win their trust and votes, Democratic Party’s leading presidential contender, Hillary Clinton has promised to appoint more members of the Asian community in her administration, is she were to win the White House in the upcoming Presidential elections to be held on November 8th this year. “I want to let you know that I will make sure that you are well represented in my administration if I am fortunate enough to be your president,” Clinton said, according to news reports.

In a video snippet of her speech on the Web, the presidential hopeful urged the enthusiastic audience which shouted her name repeatedly, that they needed to join her campaign, adding, “I want you to be involved not just in my campaign, but more importantly, really governing our country in a way that keeps alive the promise of America,”

Indian Americans have been nominated to several key position under the current Obama administration as never been before. Urging them to be more politically active, President Obama praised the Asian community in his keynote address, and took credit for hiring more Asian-Americans than any past administration. “You’re part of the lifeblood of this nation.  You are our teachers and our faith leaders, our doctors, our caretakers, our artists, our shopkeepers, our police officers and firefighters,” Obama said. “You are our soldiers and our sailors, airmen, marines, coast guardsmen, defending our freedom every day. And, increasingly, you are a powerful, visible force in American political life.”

According to Sekhar Narasimhan, founder of the super-PAC AAPI Victory Fund, the takeaway for him from the President’s message was that Asian Americans needed to get moving, get to the polling booths, to make a difference. “Only 56 percent of Asian-Americans are registered to vote, and Indian-Americans probably even less,” said Narasimhan who is also co-chair of the Democratic National Committee’s Indo-American Council. “Indian-Americans are very apathetic, even in the simple act of voting. Our data shows that in the 6 swing states, Nevada, Colorado, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida, we are the margin of victory.”

Comedian and author Aziz Ansari was presented with the Vision Award at the gala, along with actor Alan Yang who was the co-star in his latest feature documentary “Master of None. “We need more minority creators,” Ansari said in his acceptance speech, NBC News reported. “Don’t wait for white people to open the door for you,” he added.

The event was emceed by two Indian-Americans, actor Parvesh Cheena and economist and entrepreneur Sonal Shah. Cheena best known for his role on NBC’s sitcom Outsourced and as the voice of the Transformer Blades on Discovery Family Channel’s “Transformers: Rescue Bots.” Shah is currently executive director of the Beeck Center for Social Impact & Innovation and previously was the director of the White House office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation. The 22nd annual gala was attended by more than 1,000 guests including members of Congress, among them Rep. Ami Bera, D-California, political activists, community leaders, and celebrities as well as White House Champions of Change.

Harmeet Dhillon, First Woman Of Indian Origin On Republican National Committee

Harmeet Dhillon has become the first ever woman of Indian Origin to be a member of the powerful Republican National Committee. With election to the nation office  during the California state GOP convention, Dhillon is expected to be charged with representing the California Republican Party during July’s national convention.

The election to the national committee is another milestone to Dhillon, after she had become the first woman to be elected as the party’s vice chair, where she is currently serving in her third year. Her campaign for committeewoman was unopposed, she did receive the endorsement of nearly every major member of the party within the state. Dhillon, who was born in Chandigarh, and is a Sikh, got elected at the California Republican Party convention.

“I don’t particularly like the way that our debates have been structured,” Dhillon said. “I don’t particularly like the timing and the sequence of the primaries in some states, and I think that we need some changes there.”

Harmeet Dhillon, First Woman Of Indian Origin On Republican National CommitteeAccording to her, “Donald Trump, seems to be very popular amongst Indian-American first-generation immigrants. I think when a lot of them came to this country they wanted to become millionaires and they wanted to be real estate barons and (they see him and think) ‘look, that guy did it,’ so there’s a lot of admiration for his business acumen and his success story.”

A nationally recognized trial lawyer, Dhillon, 47, was born in India, but raised in rural North Carolina after her Sikh parents moved to the US. “For the next four years starting in late July, I will help shape the policies of the party of Abraham Lincoln and Harriet Tubman, the party of liberty and opportunity,” Dhillon said in a statement, after the election. Based in San Francisco, Dhillon among other things also sat on the board of the American Civil Liberties Union, and once made a financial contribution to Kamala Harris’ campaign for local office.

Following her clerkship with Paul V Niemeyer of the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Dhillon’s practice in New York, London, and the San Francisco Bay Area has focused on federal and state commercial litigation and arbitration, with a particular emphasis on unfair competition/trade secret misappropriation, intellectual property (including trademark litigation and internet torts), complex contractual disputes, and First Amendment litigation.

“I could not have done this without the support of a huge number of friends old and new and my family, who have brought me to where I am today. Thank you to my parents Parminder Kaur Dhillon and Tejpal Singh Dhillon for instilling conservative values in me. I am truly honored,” she said.

Email Data of 272.3 Million Stolen Accounts Hacked: On Sale For $1

Hundreds of millions of hacked usernames and passwords of email accounts, including those from Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are being traded in Russia’s criminal underworld, Alex Holden, founder and chief information security officer of Hold Security, a security expert is reported to have told Reuters.

Described to be one of the biggest stashes of stolen credentials to be uncovered since cyberattacks hit major US banks and retailers two years ago, the discovery of 272.3 million stolen accounts included a majority of users of Mail.ru, Russia’s most popular email service, and other email users, has sent shock waves across the world.

The latest discovery came after Hold Security researchers found a young Russian hacker bragging in an online forum that he had collected and was ready to give away a far larger number of stolen credentials that ended up totaling 1.17 billion records.

Yahoo Mail credentials numbered 40 million, or 15 per cent of the 272 million unique IDs discovered. Meanwhile, 33 million, or 12 per cent, were Microsoft Hotmail accounts and 9 per cent, or nearly 24 million, were Gmail, according to Holden. Thousands of other stolen username/password combinations appear to belong to employees of some of the largest US banking, manufacturing and retail companies, he said.

After eliminating duplicates, Holden said, the cache contained nearly 57 million Mail.ru accounts – a big chunk of the 64 million monthly active email users Mail.ru said it had at the end of last year. It also included tens of millions of credentials for the world’s three big email providers, Gmail, Microsoft and Yahoo, plus hundreds of thousands of accounts at German and Chinese email providers. “This information is potent. It is floating around in the underground and this person has shown he’s willing to give the data away to people who are nice to him,” said Holden, the former chief security officer at US brokerage RW Baird. “These credentials can be abused multiple times,” he said.

As per reports, Holden was previously instrumental in uncovering some of the world’s biggest known data breaches, affecting tens of millions of users at Adobe Systems, JPMorgan and Target and exposing them to subsequent cyber crimes.

Mysteriously, the hacker asked just 50 Roubles — less than $1 — for the entire trove, but gave up the dataset after Hold researchers agreed to post favorable comments about him in hacker forums, Holden said. He said his company’s policy is to refuse to pay for stolen data.

Such large-scale data breaches can be used to engineer further break-ins or phishing attacks by reaching the universe of contacts tied to each compromised account, multiplying the risks of financial theft or reputational damage across the web.

Hackers know users cling to favorite passwords, resisting admonitions to change credentials regularly and make them more complex. It’s why attackers reuse old passwords found on one account to try to break into other accounts of the same user. After being informed of the potential breach of email credentials, Mail.ru Mail.ru said in a statement emailed to Reuters: “We are now checking, whether any combinations of usernames/passwords match users’ e-mails and are still active.

A Microsoft spokesman said stolen online credentials was an unfortunate reality. “Microsoft has security measures in place to detect account compromise and requires additional information to verify the account owner and help them regain sole access.” Stolen online account credentials are to blame for 22 per cent of big data breaches, according to a recent survey of 325 computer professionals by the Cloud Security Alliance.

Google acquires start-up founded by Indian-origin entrepreneur

As part of its plans to scale training offerings, Google has acquired Synergyse Training, a business technology start-up founded by an Indian-origin entrepreneur, the California-based search engine giant announced here last week. Toronto-based Synergyse that puts a virtual guide into Google Apps, training you to be productive and stay up to date with changes was founded by Varun Malhotra and his business partners.

“We’re happy to announce Synergyse will be joining Google, and we intend to make the product available as an integral part of the Google Apps offering later this year,” Peter Scocimara, senior director, Google Apps Operations, said in a blog post.

“In 2013, we launched Synergyse Training, with a mission to teach the world how to use Google Apps. Synergyse Training for Google Apps puts a virtual guide into Google Apps, helping users get the most out of their Google Apps experience and training them to be more productive,” Synergyse founders said in an official statement released. “We’re proud to have served more than 4,000,000 people and 3,000 organisations globally,” the statement added.

“By joining the Google Apps team, we can accelerate our mission because we will be working even closer with the teams that build Google Apps,” the statement noted. With the new acquisition Synergyse Training for Google Apps will be free, enabling all Google Apps customers to take advantage of the solution, the company said. Malhotra specialises in training and strategy and has over 10 years of experience in the enterprise space.

Scocimara said Synergyse will be joining Google, and the company intends to make the product available as an integral part of the Google Apps offering later this year.

“By providing the right help at the right time, Synergyse will help our customers with the critical task of change management in the enterprise, and bolster the training and support programs we already offer today,” he said.

Infosys and Levi Strauss & Co. Highlight American India Foundation Annual Bay Area Gala

San Francisco, CA: The American India Foundation (AIF) hosted its Annual Bay Area Gala, bringing together 600 guests, including some of the San Francisco Bay Area’s most influential corporations, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, Fortune 500 CEOs, luminaries, and community leaders to raise more than $1.5 million on Saturday, April 30, in support of AIF’s poverty alleviation solutions across India. The evening showcased the organization’s groundbreaking work in vocational training and advocacy for India’s disabled population, the Ability-Based Livelihoods Empowerment (ABLE) initiative.
AIF Co-Founder and Co-Chair Lata Krishnan welcomed the audience, thanking sponsors and supporters, while introducing the organization’s new leadership, Co-Chair Ajay Banga, CEO of Mastercard, and AIF President and CEO Alex Counts, longtime CEO of Grameen Foundation. Dr. Vishal Sikka, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Infosys, and Chip Bergh, President and Chief Executive Officer of Levi Strauss & Co., were each presented with the AIF Corporate Leadership Award at the Hilton Union Square in San Francisco. A longtime supporter of AIF, Dr. Sikka spoke of the growing importance of the India-US relationship, and how Infosys has embedded social stewardship in its business practices on both continents. “It is my deeply held belief that every individual should be encouraged and supported to reach their true potential. All around us are passionate and determined people who have achieved great things, often overcoming significant personal hardship to flourish. Only by sharing what we have with each other can we amplify our human potential,” said Dr. Sikka. “At Infosys we care deeply about purposeful work – since our founding and through our global Foundations, ours is a culture of creating local and lasting impact in the communities we are part of. In the same spirit, the work of the American Indian Foundation aims to not only solve immediate problems but to develop understanding and knowledge that helps bring meaningful change to communities and positively impact future generations. At Infosys, we are proud to share the same values and mission.”
Abra Annes led a stunning live auction and fundraising drive, which raised a remarkable $404,000 dedicated to the Ability-Based Livelihoods Empowerment (ABLE) initiative. The drive was preceded by a captivating personal testimony by Sophia Shetty, a hearing-impaired woman whose life was changed through the ABLE initiative. “For the first time I realized I had choices that I could make,” said Sophia. “I have an identity of my own, which I never thought I would. I love my job. My colleagues respect me. I am the most hardworking person in my department. I love sewing and I always get more work. But there are millions of deaf people in India who don’t have the same opportunities like I do. They will be dependent on others their entire lives. But all of us are capable of doing something; we are not helpless. If we have the training, we can contribute to the society, take care of our families. It is my dream that all the deaf people in India can get to where I am.”
Award-winning comedian Dhaya Lakshminarayanan emceed the event and delivered humor throughout. Guests enjoyed an exquisite menu designed by internationally acclaimed chef and James Beard Foundation winner Madhur Jaffrey, and a lively performance by Britain’s Got Talent top performer Signature.
AIF’s Ability-Based Livelihoods Empowerment (ABLE) initiative is revolutionizing the industry paradigm in India by providing equal opportunity and access to employment for persons with disabilities, based on a simple belief – it is one’s ability, not disability, that defines any individual. ABLE trains persons with disabilities in fundamental and specialized skill sets – and facilitates their entry into the job market through a robust advocacy platform for disability inclusion, promoting
The American India Foundation is committed to catalyzing social and economic change in India and building a lasting bridge between the United States and India through high-impact interventions in education, livelihoods, public health, and leadership development, with a particular emphasis on empowering girls and women to achieve gender equity. Working closely with local communities, AIF partners with NGOs to develop and test innovative solutions and with governments to create and scale sustainable impact. Founded in 2001 at the initiative of President Bill Clinton following a request from Prime Minister Vajpayee, AIF has impacted the lives of 2.3 million of India’s poor and aims to reach 5 million by 2018.

Debate Erupts in California Over Curriculum on History Of Indian Region

A committee that is entrusted with writing history books for schools in the state of California, finds itself at the center of a raging debate over how to tell the story of South Asia as it tries to update textbooks and revise curriculums. The textbook dispute has come up as the state’s Instructional Quality Commission debates a new framework for the kindergarten to 12th grade social science curriculum, an effort meant to include new research and reflect the state’s increasing diversity. The State Board of Education will vote on the final changes next month.

The dispute centers on whether the region that includes modern-day India, Pakistan and Nepal should be referred to as India or as South Asia, to represent the plurality of cultures there — particularly since India was not a nation-state until 1947. It also touches on how the culture of the region is portrayed, including women’s role in society and the vestiges of the caste system.

It might seem somewhat arcane. But it has prompted petition drives, a #DontEraseIndia social media campaign, and a battle of opinion pieces.

According to the Hindu American Foundation, nearly half of the 2.5 million Hindus in the United States live in California. The Hindu-American group has been particularly active in trying to shape California’s history curriculum. “The civilization that is being covered is Indian,” said Suhag Shukla, the executive director of the Hindu American Foundation, which started the social media campaign #DontEraseIndia. “When you talk about ancient India, that’s the birthplace of Indian students,” she said.

When the committee met earlier this spring, dozens of students turned out at the State Capitol, some in tears, earnestly telling the educators that anything other than India would amount to erasing their heritage. Among other issues that has prompted criticism are: the portrayal of so-called comfort women in World War II; the Armenian genocide; and the discrimination against Sikhs in the United States.

“We have a lot of people engaged in this because we have such a vibrant, diverse state,” said Tom Adams, the deputy superintendent of the California Department of Education, adding, “What we’re really trying to do here is make sure that the children of California have a curriculum that helps them understand all these groups.”

A New York Times report drew attention to “a fight that mirrors similar arguments being made in India, where Hindu nationalist governments have begun overhauls of textbooks in some states. On one side are advocates from the Hindu American Foundation, which seeks to shape the image of Hinduism in the United States. Backed by some scholars, they want the entire area under dispute to be referred to as India, reflecting what they say is the most important influence in the area. They also want the caste system to be explained as a phenomenon of the region, not as a Hindu practice — an idea that is not universally accepted in India. A group of other scholars challenge the historical accuracy of this view. They say the area should be referred to as South Asia. They also say the foundation is trying to sanitize history by wiping out any link between Hinduism and castes.

Quoting Vidhima Shetty, a high school freshman, who had stated, “The board is confusing our cultural terms with geographical terms. By removing India as a term from the textbooks this leaves Indian-American children with no ethnic or cultural identification to turn to. When we acknowledge ourselves as South Asians, us Hindus are forced to re-identify ourselves as something we are not.”

The ongoing strong fight for accuracy in history books has been described by The New York Times as “a reflection of the transformation in California’s population, where Asians, including South Asians, are the fastest-growing demographic.”

Modi invited to address joint session of U.S. Congress

Washington, DC: April 28, 2016: Narendra Modi has achieved yet another milestone during his tenure as the Prime Minister of India.  Modi has been invited to address a joint meeting of the US Congress on June 8 during his visit here, Speaker of the US House of Representative Paul Ryan said on Thursday, April 28, 2016.

“The friendship between the United States and India is a pillar of stability in an important region of the world,” Ryan told reporters during his weekly press conference.  “This address presents a special opportunity to hear from the elected leader of the world’s most populous democracy on how our two nations can work together to promote our shared values and to increase prosperity. We look forward to welcoming Prime Minister Modi to the US Capitol on June 8,” he said. Modi was invited by President Barack Obama for a bilateral visit when he was in Washington, DC for the nuclear summit.

India has not announced the PM’s visit yet, but Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar is in Washington to finalize the agenda of the visit that is reportedly at the behest of U.S. President Barack Obama. If Modi accepts the invitation and addresses the Congress, he will be the fifth leader of India to have the honor to address the joint session of the US Congress. Earlier, Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh (July 19, 2005), Atal Bihari Vajpayee (September 14, 2000), P V Narasimha Rao (May 18, 1994) and Rajiv Gandhi (July 13, 1985) addressed the joint meeting of the US Congress.

The tradition of foreign leaders and dignitaries addressing Congress began with the Marquis de Lafayette of France, who spoke in the House chamber on December 10, 1824. Ronak D Desai, a Fellow at New America and an Affiliate at the Belfer Center’s India and South Asia Program at Harvard University, has been quoted to have said, “an invitation to Prime Minister Modi to address a Joint Meeting of Congress is significant, given past US policy towards Modi during his time as Chief Minister of Gujarat.”

In a bipartisan initiative, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, the Ranking Democratic member Eliot Engel and Representatives George Holding, and Dr. Amerish ‘Ami’ Bera had written to the speaker on April 20, requesting him to invite Modi to address Congress.

Top U.S. House of Representatives from the Foreign Affairs Committee had called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address a joint meeting of Congress during a visit to Washington in June this year. Invitations to address the Senate and House are considered a great honor. There have been only two in the past year: Pope Francis, on September 24, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on April 29, 2015.

The invitation would be a sharp turnaround for a leader who was once barred from the United States over massacres of Muslims. In 2002, when Modi had just become Gujarat’s chief minister, more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in sectarian riots in the state. The administration of President George W. Bush denied Modi a visa in 2005 under a 1998 U.S. law barring entry to foreigners who have committed “particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”

“Given the depth of our relationship with India across a range of areas – defence, humanitarian and disaster relief, space cooperation, conservation and innovation – we believe this is an ideal opportunity for the Congress to hear directly from the prime minister,” Representatives Ed Royce, the Republican committee chairman, and Eliot Engel, the panel’s ranking Democrat, wrote to House Speaker Paul Ryan. The letter to Ryan was also signed by Republican Representative George Holding and Democrat Ami Bera, the co-chairmen of the Congress Caucus on India and Indian Americans. A spokeswoman for Ryan said she had no announcement at this time about whether Ryan would extend the invitation.

Modi’s visit is likely to be the last official meeting between the two leaders during President Obama’s final year in office.

Dr. Ajay Lodha Honored With Ellis Island Medals Of Honor

New York, NY: May 9th, 2016: Dr. Ajay Lodha, President-Elect of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), the largest ethnic medical society, representing the interest of over 100,000 Indian American physicians, was honored with the prestigious Ellis Island Medals of Honor on Saturday, May 7th, this year. Dr. Lodha, who was the past president of Rajasthan Association of North America (RANA) and AAPIQLI received the award during the 28th annual Ellis Island Medal of Honor ceremony, held on Ellis Island in New York.

“I am humbled for being chosen to receive this prestigious award,” Dr. Lodha said soon after receiving the award. “I feel there are lot more Indians here in the United States, who are doing outstanding job and make us feel very proud. This award is for all of them.”

1. Dr. Ajay Lodha with the Ellis Island Medal of Honor
Dr. Ajay Lodha with the Ellis Island Medal of Honor

Dr. Ajay Lodha hides a power house of entrepreneurial skills. Dr. Lodha has extensive background of overseeing quality assurance and quality improvement. The honor is yet another way of the Empire State recognizing the importance and influence of the Indian Americans, who are known to be highly successful, and are known for their achievements in education, medicine, community service and business, and high per capita income, Dr. Lodha added.

Dr. Lodha, a former Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President of Caritas Health Care System representing St. John’s Hospital and Mary Immaculate Hospital, is an Internist by profession. A graduate of RNT Medical College, Udaipur, Rajasthan, DR. Lodha completed his residency at Flushing Hospital, NY. He is the Founder and President of Queens Medical Services, a primary care practice with two locations serving Queens, NY since 1995 and is a partner in Hillaire and Nesconset Nursing homes and is a partner of ACO.

In 2008, Dr. Lodha was part of a coalition that built a state-of-the-art 11 bed Surgical Intensive Care Unit for Government Hospital located in Udaipur, Rajasthan, India – free care is given to all the patients. Dr. Lodha in his commitment to the health of the community has organized numerous Health Fairs, Blood Pressure Screenings, and Medical Awareness programs as well as the delivery of educational materials at churches, temples and senior centers.  Dr. Ajay Lodha was appointed a member of the Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos’s MWBE Advisory Council last year.

Dr. Ajay Lodha walking up the podium to receive the award on May 7th
Dr. Ajay Lodha walking up the podium to receive the award on May 7th

Dr. Lodha will assume office as the President of AAPI during the AAPI Convention on July 3rd, 2016. His vision for AAPI ‘is to increase the global awareness of APPI.  “I would like to see us lobby Congress for an increase in the number of available Residency Positions so as to help alleviate the shortage of Doctors.  That younger physicians and MSRF members feel fully integrated into AAPI and take a more active role.” His experiences in organizing conferences and meetings which help to bring members together and attract new members which is vital to the success of the organization. Dr. Lodha lives on Long Island, New York with his wife Dr. Smita and their two children Amit and Shweta.

Ninety distinguished individuals were bestowed with the honor this year, amonf them were five, who are of Indian origin. Padma Lakshmi, an author, actress, model, television host and executive producer, and Dr. Rekha Bhandari, an internist in Brooklyn, New York and is affiliated with Brooklyn Hospital Center and Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center, were among other Indian Americans who received the award last week.

Dr. Ajay Lodha,  with his wife, Dr. Smita and their two children Amit and Shweta
Dr. Ajay Lodha, with his wife, Dr. Smita and their two children Amit and Shweta

To date, nearly 2,000 U.S. citizens have received the medals. The National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations awards Ellis Island medals to Americans who “embody the spirit of America in their celebration of patriotism, tolerance, brotherhood and diversity.” NECO recognizes “individuals who have made it their mission to share with those less fortunate their wealth of knowledge, indomitable courage, boundless compassion, unique talents and selfless generosity; all while maintaining the traditions of their ethnic heritage as they uphold the ideals and spirit of America.”

Kumar Barve Loses Congressional Bid In Maryland

Washington, DC: Kumar Barve, the lonest serving Indian American in the state legislature of Maryland, lost his bid for the Democratic Party nomination for his Congressional race from District 8 in the state of Maryland in the April 26 primary election, accruing only two percent of the total votes.

Nine Democratic candidates vied for Maryland’s 8th Congressional District seat, which was left open by Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who is running for the U.S. Senate. Maryland state Senator Jamie Raskin won the Democratic primary with 33 percent of the vote, and will face off against Republican attorney Dan Cox in the Nov. 8 general election. “I ran the best race I could run under the circumstances,” Barve was reported to have told the media. He noted that the race was one of the most expensive in the country, with fellow Democrat David Trone – who came in second – pouring more than $12 million of his own money. Raskin raised almost $2 million, while news anchor Kathleen Matthews, who came in third, raised $2.5 million. Barve had raised more than $600,000.

Barve, who had received a significant endorsement from UNITE-HERE, an international labor union representing 275,000 hospitality workers around the country, among many others, shocking defeat in the primaries held in the state.

During his campaign, Barve, 58, who was born in Schenectady, N.Y., and lived for many decades in Maryland, had stressed his Indian heritage and the example set by his grandfather. “The government tried to strip my grandfather of his citizenship because he wasn’t white, but my grandfather stood strong and fought to defend his rights all the way to the Supreme Court,” Barve says on his website. “His story inspired my journey into public life and I follow in his footsteps and stand up for those who need a voice.”

Barve, 58, is the first Indian-American to be elected to a State Assembly in the history of this country back in 1990. He is credited with authoring several key bills that became law in the heavily Democratic state. He has led his Montgomery County delegation. He served as Majority Leader from 2002 to 2015, and is currently chairman of the House Environment and Transportation Committee.

Former chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee George Leventhal, indicated that the seasoned Indian-American legislator’s defeat was a gain for the Assembly. “Montgomery County is fortunate to have both Ana Sol Gutierrez and Kumar Barve serving us so well in the Maryland General Assembly. Although both fell short in their congressional campaigns, they will return to Annapolis with their reputations enhanced and their understanding of our constituents’ needs deepened. I have great respect for both of them,” Leventhal posted on his Facebook page after the primary. Another constituent, Alan Banov commented, “Kumar Barve and Ana Sol Gutierrez were much better qualified than the “money” candidates! they had paid their dues and knew how to legislate.”

Barve said, he will support Raskin in the general election, as well as Van Hollen, and the Democratic presidential nominee. Raskin is virtually certain to win, said Barve, noting that two-thirds of voters in the 8th district are registered as Democrats.

Barve said he did the best he could under the circumstances. He lamented that he was able to secure only 2 percent of the votes despite having some 4,000 Indian-Americans in the state.  “Only 300 were registered to vote in a Democratic primary,” Kumar said about his Indian-American constituents.

Barve urged Indian Americans to register to vote in the primaries and state their party preference, noting that primary elections largely determine the fall general election. A large number of Indian Americans are registered as independents, which does not allow them to vote in certain states during the primary elections.

The Durga Project Panned At Battery Dance In New York

(Thursday, April 26, 2016) New York City’s dance ambassador to the world, Battery Dance, introduces an Indo-American, collaborative dance interpretation of Hindu Goddess Durga’s Shakti (strength) and Bhakti (devotion) through the world premiere of “The Durga Project,” featuring renowned classical Indian dancer Unnath H.R. and five of Battery’s Western-trained dancers.

The 30-minute choreographic fantasy, which weaves together the movement vocabularies, sonorities and aesthetics of the United States and India, will also be complemented by works commissioned by European and African choreographers:  “Inter/Ago,” created in 2015 by Tadej Brdnik, the recently retired Martha Graham principal dancer and choreographer, who has danced with Battery Dance since 1998; and “Observatory,” created in 2014 by Theo Ndindwa, founder of South Africa’s iKapa Dance Theatre, and since performed in tours of South America, Europe, Asia and at the first Cape Town International Dance Festival in 2015.

World premiere of “The Durga Project” is planned to be held on May 11th at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.; May 12th at 7 p.m., followed by a VIP gala at the Schimmel Center for the Arts (3 Spruce Street), Pace University, New York City. For Tickets, please visit: http://batterydance.org/ny-season/

Indian-Americans more tilted towards Democrats, says Sangay K Mishra in new book

Jersey City, New Jersey: “Indian-Americans are overwhelmingly supporters of Democratic party. But unlike African-Americans these groups are open to persuasion,” Sangay K Mishra, author of the book ‘Desis Divided: The Political Lives of South Asian Americans’ said in a recent interview.

The new book about voting patterns in the United States authored by Mishra seeks to explain how the Indian American community has switched its party support over the past decade and a half. Mishra’s book delves into how the Republican Party’s anti-immigrant stance following the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. has leaned the Indian American community towards Democrats.

Explaining the reason for Indian-Americans voting overwhelmingly towards Democratic party, Mishra said it has to do with developments after the recent terrorist attacks on American soil. “Post 9/11 the whole racial hostility has really pushed them towards the Democratic party, because the Republican party has the consistently taken anti-immigrant position. Post 2001, they have moved away from the Republican Party, which is seen more as a party which is opposed to immigrants, which is opposed to immigrant integration,” he said.

At a time, when candidates are fighting for each delegate in closely-contested primary elections in both the parties, Indian Americans in some of the key states like New York, New Jersey, Maryland and California, where they have a sizeable presence, can tilt the equation one way or the other, the author said. “Indian Americans are overwhelmingly supporters of the Democratic Party. But unlike African Americans these groups are open to persuasion,” Mishra said.

Mishra said despite two Indian-Americans – Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley – gaining top positions in the Republican party, this has not made much difference. “The way in which election has developed in the last few months, Republicans have not shown any inclusive side of their party. Anti-immigration, anti-Muslim rhetoric has been very very high. Given this kind of rhetoric, I do not expect much shift in the way the Indian Americans are voting,” Mishra said.

Referring to a survey, Mishra, an assistant professor of political science at Drew University in New Jersey said, “So more than 80 percent of Indian Americans who voted, voted for Democrats. That goes against the idea that Indian Americans since they are affluent they tend to vote more Republican.” Mishra specializes in immigrant political incorporation, Indian diaspora, global immigration and racial and ethnic politics.

GOPIO Aims AT “Strengthening Connections between India and Indian Diaspora trough Business”

New York City, N.Y.  – Apr. 29, 2016 – GOPIO International, the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (www.gopio.net), has announce the 27th Anniversary Celebrations and GOPIO Biennial Convention 2016 to be held in New York, USA at the Marriott Hotel near LaGuardia Airport on June 24-25, 2016. The theme of the conference is “Strengthening Connections between India and the Global Indian Diaspora through Business and Technology,” and will provide an opportunity to connect and network with people of Indian origin worldwide.

Delegates from over 25 countries are expected to attend the convention which starts on Friday, June 24 with an inauguration and welcome reception. Next day, June 25 will consist of a full day conference sessions to deliberate on the Global Indian Diaspora; evaluate GOPIO’s progress in 27 years; network, exchange ideas, and connect with PIO/NRI delegates from around the world. The event will end with a Grand Finale Banquet at the World’s Fair Marina Banquet Hall on Saturday June 25 evening.

The conference will evaluate, assess, debate, discuss and deliberate on the current, critical issues of interest and concern that confront over 25 million people of Indian origin, living in countries outside of India. GOPIO International President Niraj Baxi invites all PIOs (People of Indian Origin) and NRIs (Non Resident Indians) to avail of this opportunity to attend, emphasizing “This conference will examine several pertinent issues, providing a unique forum for education, information and interactive participation.”

Baxi continued, “On behalf of the newly elected Executive Council of GOPIO International, I invite all GOPIO members to join us at our 2016 Biennial Convention, and help unite forces as we reach across to Indian community worldwide. We want to be the voice of any and all NRIs and PIOs taking initiatives to grow and strengthen our organization. Given our new motto of “GOPIO means business”, the thrust of this convention will be to help connect the global Indian community, enable and promote intra-Diaspora business ventures, as well as bilateral sharing of business resources with India.”

Lal Motwani, Convener, GOPIO Convention 2016 and GOPIO Tri-State New York Area Coordinator extends his invitation to join in, saying “This convention will have a great emphasis on Diaspora’s involvement and contribution in Business, Technology and Investment. Therefore, it is beneficial for you to participate, network and to be known in the Diaspora. We have a great opportunity for you to provide exposure to your business and/or service as a sponsor of the convention, or to place an advertisement in the souvenir journal brought out at the convention.”

The major thrust of this year’s conference sessions will be on Entrepreneurship, Business, Technology and Investment within the Diaspora and India. A second track of conference will be organized by GOPIO Council chairs to develop their strategy for future actions.

Commenting on the upcoming Convention 2016, GOPIO founder president and Conference program chairperson Thomas Abraham said that GOPIO has come a long way since 1989 to sensitize governments across the world on issues of the Indian Diaspora in a timely manner and seek solutions to them. “In 27 years, the Indian Diaspora has moved from outside the political main stream in many countries to political leadership, and this trend will continue. The objective now is to mobilize the Diaspora resources, both professional and financial to help not only India but the Diaspora itself, and the countries they come from,” said Dr. Abraham.

GOPIO leadership hopes that this convention will help charter its course for the organization. “During the last many years, GOPIO has made rapid strides as there have been several new chapters and increased awareness of GOPIO’s advocacy role for issues of the Indian Diaspora,” said Inder Singh, Chairman of GOPIO International.

“In the past, GOPIO election has been conducted at the General Body meeting at our Biennial Convention. As the previously scheduled General Body meeting got postponed for reasons beyond the control of the convention organizing team, we moved forward with the election, which could not be postponed. So now, as per GOPIO Bylaws the new team has organized the General Body meeting at the 2016 Biennial convention in New York City. With leadership of experienced GOPIO people in New York area taking charge to manage and deliver the convention, and the fact that New York area has many delegates to fulfill Bylaws requirement for this meeting quorum, it was a smart decision to hold the General Body meeting, along with the convention in New York.” continued Singh.  More details of the convention will be available at http://www.gopio.net/  or contact:  GOPIO Convention General Convener Lal Motwani at 516-581-3332.

Fareed Zakaria To Lead Healthcare 2020 CEO Forum With Healthcare Leaders From Around The World At AAPI’s 34th Annual Convention

(New York, NY; April 26, 2016): For over three decades, the Association of American Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) has been in the forefront, educating, informing, advocating and providing a forum for the over 100,000 members whom it represents to have a collective voice in the healthcare industry in the United States.

The fluid political climate in the nation makes the healthcare industry and those who provide and benefit from healthcare services ever more challenging. Now, as the healthcare industry is rapidly evolving with the changes constantly impacting the providers, the Government, and patients, AAPI is once again playing a lead role in bringing together leaders from across the spectrum to discuss and provide insights into what to look for in the year 2020 in the healthcare sector.

Fareed Zakaria, a world renowned journalist and author will lead this in-depth Healthcare 2020 CEO Forum by AAPI, which will look at the major global developments in the rapidly changing healthcare sector, with an emphasis on new ideas and innovative solutions to America’s complex healthcare related issues.

“We are proud to have the Fareed Zakaria leading this prestigious forum,” says Dr. Seema Jain, President of AAPI. “Representatives from the healthcare industry, including leading CEOs from hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, academicians, intellectuals and physicians, who will focus on the changing trends in the healthcare sector and how they impact the providers, hospitals and corporations as well as the patients. The Forum will also offer insights into managing efficiently the growing costs in the delivery of healthcare services,” she added.

Fareed Zakaria writes a foreign affairs column for The Post. He is also the host of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS and a contributing editor for The Atlantic. Before being named to his position at time in October 2010, Zakaria spent 10 years overseeing Newsweek’s editions abroad and eight years as the managing editor of Foreign Affairs. He is the author of “The Post-American World” (2009) and “The Future of Freedom” (2007). Born in India, Zakaria received a B.A. from Yale College and a Ph.D. from Harvard University.

“The AAPI CEO Forum, planned to be held on June 30th from 4 to 6 pm will help the delegates at the Convention in New York City at the prestigious the Marriott Marquis, Time Square in New York from June 30th to July 4th, 2016 better understand the recent trends in the delivery of healthcare to millions across the nation,” said Dr. Rita Ahuja, Chair Person of the Convention Committee.

Anwar Feroz, AAPI’s Honorary Advisor, says, “The CEO Forum will focus on the changing trends in the healthcare sector and how they impact the providers, hospitals and corporations as well as the patients. The Forum will also offer insights into managing efficiently the growing costs in the delivery of healthcare services.”

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

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 34 years, AAPI Convention has provided a venue for medical education programs and symposia with world renowned physicians on the cutting edge of medicine.

Dr. Seema Jain says, “Physicians and healthcare professionals from across the country and internationally will convene and participate in the exchange of medical advances, to develop health policy agendas, and to encourage legislative priorities in the years to come. We look forward to seeing you in New York!” For more details, and sponsorship opportunities, please visit:  www.aapiconvention.org   and www.aapiusa.org

Dr. Narendra Kumar: Past President Of AKMG/AAPI & Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Recipient

“I am humbled and honored by this great honor bestowed on me today,” Dr. Narendra Kumar, president of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) said, soon after receiving the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, the Government of India’s highest civilian honor for non-resident Indians in Kochi, India from Shri Pranab Mukherjee, president of India,on January 9th, 2013 during the 11th annual Parvasi Bharatiya Diwas. “I consider this award as the recognition of the achievements and contributions of 100,000 physicians of Indian origin in the United States, whom I represent as its sitting president,” Dr. Kumar added. Dr. Kumar received the award for his achievements in the field of medicine, community service, global leadership and contributions to building bridges between India and the United States.

It’s been a steady growth to prominence for Dr. Narendra Kumar, who took charge of AAPI in June 2012, during its 30th annual Convention in Long Beach, CA. Soon after assuming office, Dr. Narendra Kumar told his fellow physicians: “We will put all our energy in a positive direction in order to restore AAPI’s image, improve financial health, and bring unity, integrity and stability to our organization.”

Sen. Harry Reid Addressing AAPI Legislatiave Day under the leadership of Dr. Kumar in Washington DC
Sen. Harry Reid Addressing AAPI Legislatiave Day under the leadership of Dr. Kumar in Washington DC

In less than six months, Dr. Kumar and his extraordinarily committed team have worked hard to fulfill those prophetic words. AAPI today is more united than ever, financially stable, expanding steadily and is on the right path strengthening the organization and its 100,00 members, seeking ways to contribute to their motherland.

His leadership qualities and organizational skills came to the forefront and have been hailed by one and all during the Nine-City Musical Tour in the United States as well as during the most recent Global Healthcare Summit 2013 in Kochi, India. With over 1,200 delegates from around the world, the Summit was historic for the number of delegates and the quality of discussions led by world renowned physicians, ceos, and scholars from around the globe, in addition to the many initiatives planned to benefit millions of people in our motherland.

For many, leading such an organization is an honor. However, Dr. Kumar sees this as a responsibility, and said, “I have tried my best to carry on this responsibility with ever greater commitment and dedication.” Serving in various capacities in his local Michigan chapter and subsequently the parent-body, AAPI, Dr. Kumar has an intimate knowledge of the “nuts and bolts” of this giant organization.

When others were hesitant to commit money towards Shreya Ghoshal Musical Tour, especially after he had inherited several hundred thousand Dollars of debt from his predecessors, Dr. Kumar showed courage and innovation, encouraging AAPI and its local Chapters around the nation to play an active role that resulted not only in generating over $1.2 Million but also, brought the Chapters and the national organizations together.

Narendra Kumar
Dr. Kumar being awarded with the prestigious Pravasi Bharatiya Samman

“It all began with the idea of strengthening the relationship between the AAPI Chapters and national office,” Dr. Narendra Kumar says with a sense of pride. “The concept of this program to bring together various local Chapters and its members and Fellows closer has been in my mind for several years. Drs. Jayesh Shah, Ravi Jahagirdar and Hemant Dhingra enthusiastically embraced this idea and the net result of our collaboration and dialogue is the Multi-City Tour.”

Being a leader of an umbrella organization representing over 130 member associations nationwide, and having a total membership of over nearly 100,000 physicians and fellows of Indian origin, Dr. Kumar has ascended to leadership with his decades of hard work and dedication to the organization and the people it is committed to serve. As a Regional Director of AAPI, Dr. Kumar had attended almost all the local AAPI chapter meetings in his region in an attempt to serve as a liaison between the local chapters and the national organization. He  has been instrumental in recruiting hundreds of new AAPI patron members to AAPI.

The Pravaasi Bharat Diwas (PBD) Meeting held in New Delhi in January 2007, “gave me a chance to prove my ability to act as political liaison in organizing special interviews with India’s top dignitaries,” Dr. Kumar recalls. Since then, it has been a steady ascendance for Dr. Kumar, culminating in his current position as the president of AAPI.

As the AAPI Treasurer, Dr. Kumar was able to fulfill his promise to keep AAPI finances in proper order by maintaining fiscal stability, accountability and enhance financial health. “It is important to keep financial matters transparent to the membership,” he says.

A man of integrity and giving his best to every effort that he has undertaken both in his professional, family and social life, Dr. Kumar has won the admiration of everyone. In the words of Dr. Jayesh Shah, past President of AAPI,  “Dr. Kumar is kind of person that you immediately feel like he is your friend. To describe Dr. Kumar in 3 words: He is personable, go getter  and passionate. He can translate any dream into reality by hard work, perseverance, and commitment.”

An accomplished  physician and surgeon in the United States, specializing in  Otolaryngology- Head & Neck Surgery, Dr. Kumar is a Board Certified Sleep Medicine specialist and founder/Medical Director of Sound and Sleep Diagnostic Labs which includes 4 Sleep Labs in the state of Michigan. Dr. Kumar, who had completed his medical degree from Trivandrum Medical College, Kerala and post-graduate residency from Banaras  Hindu University  (Varanasi , India ) and Case Western  Reserve University , Cleveland, Ohio , is committed to giving back to the community and to the enhancing of opportunities for the professional growth of physicians of Indian origin.

Dr. Kumar with former President of India, Dr. Abdul Kalam Azad
Dr. Kumar with former President of India, Dr. Abdul Kalam Azad

On his commitment to social causes in addition to his professional leadership, Dr. Kumar, who is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, candidly admits, “Over the past 10 years, I have become increasingly involved in social, professional and political arenas and have taken active leadership roles in various Medical Organizations.”

Dr. Kumar has been involved in social professional and political arenas and has taken active leadership roles in various medical organizations both in USA and abroad. Encouraging his fellow physicians to give generously towards noble causes, Dr. Kumar says, “As members of AAPI, we have not forgotten our roots and are engaged in several activities such as conducting Indo-US Healthcare Summit in Kochi this year that will blaze new trail in healthcare sector in India and will pave way for new frontiers in public private partnership.”

During his tenure in 2004 as the Silver Jubilee President of Association of Kerala Medical Graduates, AKMG Executive Committee was dedicated in taking this organization to the next level by promoting increased member participation, partnering with global AKMG chapters in India and the Middle East, which included the inauguration of AKMG Emirates in Dubai, and furthering its mission to charitable projects. “I was instrumental in establishing Electronic Learning Resource Centers in various government medical colleges in Kerala, raising over $500,000 in alumni donations.

Dr. Kumar leading a delegation to meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Dr. Kumar leading a delegation to meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Dr. Kumar was instrumental in organizing the Heart-Heart program in conjunction with the Lions Club of Kerala, India which provided free open heart surgery for 150 indigent patients in Kerala, India.  In 2004, he helped raise over $150,000 for the charitable wing of AKMG-Humanitarian Services, thru the AKMG Silver Jubilee convention held in Detroit. In 2010, as the Fund Raising Committee Chair- Tri-City Hindu Temple of Mid-Michigan, USA, he helped raise over $2 million to build a Hindu Temple in Michigan.

Dr. Kumar has been active in the political realm too.  Since 2002, he has been organizing  Indo-American Political Fund Raising events and made substantial contribution for State Governors, Senators, and Congressman Election Campaigns enhancing political image of Indian American Community.  In May 2005, as the co-President of the Indo-Pak Friendship Society Convention, organized in Saginaw, Michigan, attended by over 1,200 participants, he was instrumental in enabling the people of these two nations to work together for fostering peace and cooperation.

Dr. Kumar with A K Antony, former Defense Minister and Ramesh Chennithala,  Home Minister of the State of Kerala
Dr. Kumar with A K Antony, former Defense Minister and Ramesh Chennithala,
Home Minister of the State of Kerala

Recognizing his leadership and contributions, the AMA honored him with the Leadership Award in 2008. In the same year, he was bestowed with the Kerala Ratna Award and the MAPI Presidential Award. In 2004, Dr. Kumar received the Distinguished Leadership award from Michigan State Medical Society (MSMS), from the President of MSMS.  In 2009, he was given the Keraleeyam-Kerala Ratna Leadership Award in New Delhi, presented by Chief Justice of India, K.G. Balakrishnan, for enhancing the image of Kerala through dedicated service. In 2011, he received the Distinguished Leadership Award from AKMG (Association of Kerala Medical Graduates).  Dr. Kumar is also the recipient of Flag Award from Michigan State Medical Society; AKMG Purple Heart Award for Philanthropy; Leadership Award from Kerala Center in New York; and Certificate of Appreciation from R.K. Foundation, Inc. USA. Most recently, he was awarded with the Excellence Award by Price Holding and GOPIO during the Kerala Investment Consortium in Kochi on January 5th, 2013.

Dr. Narendra Kumar with his family
Dr. Narendra Kumar with his family

Dr. Kumar is married to Meenakshi for 35 years and the couple are blessed with two children, Sarada and Ramesh. Dr. Ramesh Kumar graduated with a Medical Degree from Amrita Institute of Medicine in Kochi, India, and is currently a Ramesh Kumar is a Urology Resident at Henry Ford, Michigan. Sarada completed her Masters in Healthcare Administration from the University of Michigan and is currently on sabbatical, taking care of the family and with her husband, Dr. Arjun Das’ medical practice in Toledo, Ohio. Their 6-year-old grandson and 6-month-old grand-daughter are the pride of the family.

Dr. Kumar is a proven leader entrusted with the task of leading this prestigious global organization that represents the influential and committed members of AAPI. Under his effective leadership, AAPI has become a force to reckon with. AAPI’s stellar role has come in for appreciation with the political leaders both in India and the United States. Ever smiling, affable and approachable, Dr. Kumar is a solid leader in the AAPI tradition.

India Among 175 Countries That Sign Landmark Climate Deal At United Nations

UNITED NATIONS: While there is so much uncertainty, misunderstanding, differences of opinions, ideologies, and tensions around the world between the nations, there was one solemn moment today that brought nearly all the nations and almost the entire humanity together for a common goal: to preserve the Earth for future generations.

The Climate Summit at the world headquarters of the United Nations was symbolic of the urgency felt by the entire world to address the rapidly changing climate, and to recognize the need to stop the degradation of the resources and the Earth itself we have been blessed to have.

Leaders from at least 175 countries signed the Paris Agreement on climate change on Friday, April 22, 2016 as the landmark deal took a key step forward, potentially entering into force years ahead of schedule. “We are in a race against time,” U.N. secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the gathering. “The era of consumption without consequences is over.”

As many as 175 countries, including India, China and the US, signed the Paris Agreement on climate change at the UN headquarters in New York on Friday, to coincide with ‘International Mother Earth Day’. This was the first day of the signing ceremony of the historic global deal. That such a large number of countries signed the agreement in a single day is significant. The previous record for the most countries to sign an international agreement on one day was set in 1982, when 119 countries signed the ‘Law of the Sea Convention’.

The Paris Agreement, the world’s response to hotter temperatures, rising seas and other impacts of climate change, was reached in December as a major breakthrough in U.N. climate negotiations, which for years were slowed by disputes between rich and poor countries over who should do what. Under the agreement, countries set their own targets for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The targets are not legally binding, but countries must update them every five years. The agreement aims to take multiple measures to save the world from disastrous consequences of climate change and was adopted by 195 countries in Paris

The agreement will be open for signature for one year – till April 21, 2017. However, merely signing the agreement will not make it operational. The United Nations says 15 countries, several of them small island states under threat from rising seas, did that on April 22nd by depositing their instruments of ratification. The agreement will enter into force once 55 countries representing at least 55 percent of global emissions have formally joined it. Many now expect the climate agreement to enter into force long before the original deadline of 2020. Some say it could happen this year. After signing, countries must formally approve the Paris Agreement through their domestic procedures.

India’s Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar signed the agreement on behalf of India. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and some heads of state and government, including French President Francois Hollande addressed the gathering. Also on the list of speakers was Mahindra Group chairman and managing director Anand Mahindra, as a representative of the business and corporate world.

India has maintained that the burden of fighting climate change cannot be put on the shoulders of the poor after decades of industrial development by the rich nations. It has announced plans to quadruple its renewable power capacity to 175 gigawatts by 2022 as part of the government’s plan to supply electricity to every household. However, India has so far not indicated when it would ratify it.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, holding his young granddaughter, joined dozens of world leaders for a signing ceremony that set a record for international diplomacy: Never have so many countries signed an agreement on the first available day. States that don’t sign Friday have a year to do so.

The United States has said it intends to join the agreement this year. The world is watching anxiously: Analysts say that if the agreement enters into force before President Barack Obama leaves office in January, it would be more complicated for his successor to withdraw from the deal because it would take four years to do so under the agreement’s rules. The United States put the deal into economic terms. “The power of this agreement is what it is going to do to unleash the private sector,” Kerry told the gathering, noting that this year is again shaping up to be the hottest year on record.

“The world must work together to ensure that the goals of the Paris Agreement are realized. US commitment to leadership in this arena has helped start a process that must last beyond your presidency,” a group of 145 US lawmakers said in a letter to US President Barack Obama.

China, the world’s top carbon emitter, announced it will “finalize domestic procedures” to ratify the Paris Agreement before the G-20 summit in China in September. Ban immediately welcomed the pledge. Maros Sefcovic, the energy chief for another top emitter, the 28-nation European Union, has said the EU wants to be in the “first wave” of ratifying countries.

French President Francois Hollande, the first to sign the agreement, said Friday he will ask parliament to ratify it by this summer. France’s environment minister is in charge of global climate negotiations. “There is no turning back now,” Hollande told the gathering. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also announced that his country would ratify the agreement this year.

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe brought applause when he declared, “Life itself is at stake in this combat. We have the power to win it.” Countries that had not yet indicated they would sign the agreement Friday include some of the world’s largest oil producers, including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Nigeria and Kazakhstan, the World Resources Institute said.

Scientific analyses show the initial set of targets that countries pledged before Paris don’t match the agreement’s long-term goal to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), compared with pre-industrial times. Global average temperatures have already climbed by almost 1 degree Celsius. Last year was the hottest on record. The latest analysis by the Climate Interactive research group shows the Paris pledges put the world on track for 3.5 degrees Celsius of warming. A separate analysis by Climate Action Tracker, a European group, projected warming of 2.7 degrees Celsius. Either way, scientists say the consequences could be catastrophic in some places, wiping out crops, flooding coastal areas and melting Arctic sea ice.

According to reports, as the Paris Agreement moves forward, there is some good news. Global energy emissions, the biggest source of man-made greenhouse gases, were flat last year even though the global economy grew, according to the International Energy Agency. Still, fossil fuels are used much more widely than renewable sources like wind and solar power.

Under Article 21 of the Agreement, the Paris accord will enter into force on the 30th day after the date on which at least 55 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) deposit their “instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession” with the depositary at UN headquarters.

The Paris deal is the most ambitious climate change agreement in history. It established a long term, durable global framework to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions where 195 countries will work together to put the world on a path to keeping global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius. These countries had also agreed to pursue efforts to limit the increase in temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Parth Bharwad Making a Run for Cupertino, California, City Council

Parth Bharwad, a teenager in Cupertino, Calif., has joiond the race to win a city council seat to instill a youthful voice and bring a fresh perspective into the city’s government. According to reports, Parth Bharwad, 19, announced he is running for the council seat in the city he’s called home for the past eight years. Currently a sophomore at Cupertino-based De Anza College, majoring in political science and finance, the young Indian American believes he can change the landscape of the city.

“I believe that you are never too young to make a difference in your community,” he wrote on his webpage. “Since my freshman year of high school, I have been active in the community through volunteering and club activities. I was treasurer and then president of Monta Vista’s Indo-American Student Association and have helped raise over $15,000 for non-profit organizations. We hosted multiple events throughout the Bay Area and at Monta Vista which is how we raised the money. We brought together hundreds of students for cultural dance events, concerts, and talent shows,” he added.

His campaign themes include three fundamental issues: youth empowerment; smart energy; and growth & development.  “Cupertino is famous for many things, but what generally tops the list if being the headquarter of Apple Inc. Apple is building a wonderful new campus in Cupertino that is going to bring thousands of new jobs to the city. I believe that growth and development is key for Cupertino but has to be done with proper planning and execution. I have laid out my views on growth and development including support and reservations on various projects,” he says.

“The youth in Cupertino are some of the finest students across the United States with outstanding school ranking and test scores. I believe that local government should be more involved in providing students with the right opportunities to grow and explore in their field of choice,” the teen candidate says. “Protecting the environment is a job that everybody on this Earth has. Similar to how we clean our homes and ensure they are in the best condition, we have to make sure that our planet Earth is taken care of as well. I believe that the first step in protecting the environment is to be aware of the issues. Cupertino is already doing a great job at protecting the enviroment and we need to continue to support eco-friendly initiatives.”

MoneyGram Cricket Bee: Winners announced for Bay Area regional contest

METUCHEN, NJ: Over 200 people registered for the Bay Area regional of the MoneyGram Cricket Bee held at Chabot College on April 17. The three winners of the second regional, answered trivia questions on Cricket to solidify their position at the finals. Auroshish Mishra of Belmont, CA was declared second runner up, Bharat Jayakumar of Sunnyvale, CA was first runner up and the Regional champion was Ravishkumar Bhavsar of Union City, CA.

The competition allows cricket fans to compete for prizes while sharing their knowledge of the game in an effort to win a cash prize of $10,000.

Open to those 18 and older, the contest began with regional rounds in New Jersey, completed San Francisco and will conclude in Toronto, each testing participants’ general cricket knowledge. The regional contest will have two components, a written test and an oral test. In the written qualifier, contestants will be asked 35 questions. They must get at least 25 correct in order to advance to the oral round. In the oral round, the contest will be held on a miss and out basis; simply if a contestant misses the right answer, they are eliminated.

Unlike quiz shows, the Cricket Bee will be conducted so that contestants are actually competing with themselves and the question posed to them as opposed to their peers. Cricket enthusiasts can still participate at the remaining center in Toronto (Apr 24). Contestants can register to compete in the game of their choice at www.cricketbee.com. A sample set of questions and sources will be provided for the participants.

“We are proud to sponsor the 2016 Cricket Bee,” says Joann Chatfield, MoneyGram’s vice president of marketing. “We know that the passion for cricket unites friends and loved ones around the world and brings them closer together. It’s always exciting to be a part of initiatives that support out South Asian communities.

Kawan Foods serves as the powered by sponsor for the innovative event and has been deeply involved with the South Asian community through various initiatives and hopes to connect with the entire Cricketing community here in the US and Canada.

“We want to congratulate the winners of the regional contest and wish them continued success in their endeavor to win $10,000,” said Tim Tan, MD Kawan Foods. “There was a lot of excitement and immense talent at the regional which goes to show how passionate people are about the game. Participants had an opportunity to network and interact with other cricket players and enthusiasts from various cities and I am very happy to have our first set of finalists” said Rahul Walia, Founder of the Cricket Bee

TV Asia serves as the exclusive broadcaster for the event and has been a strong proponent of promoting Cricket in the country. “Our studio was abuzz with the contestants and I was excited to see how much trivia and knowledge they had to share. It’s definitely a great platform for cricket enthusiasts across the country and we are excited to see them at the finals” said HR Shah, chairman and CEO of TV Asia and an avid cricketer himself. The finals are slated for May 7th and are open for the public to watch. You can reserve seats by calling 732-710-4361.

Indian Superhero created by Lee’s POW! Entertainment and Graphic India

New York, NY: April 25, 2016 –As the global film industry continues to be dominated by superhero films based on Stan Lee’s co-creations, including the upcomingX-Men: Age of Apocalypse,the legendary creator is now planning his first Bollywood film for India.

Graphic India, India’s leading character entertainment company, andLee’sPOW! Entertainment,announced today a partnership with Phantom Films, to begin pre-production on alive-action theatrical film for “Chakra The Invincible,” the first Indian superhero created by Lee along with Graphic Co-Founder & CEO, Sharad Devarajan.

The film will be directed by acclaimed filmmaker, VikramadityaMotwane(Lootera, Udaan) who is currently working on the screenplay with Lee and Devarajan. Phantom’s MadhuMantena will produce the film with Devarajan and POW! Entertainment’s Gill Champion.  Datta Dave at Tulsea (Motwane’s agent) brought the parties together and structured the arrangement. Unlike the animated kids property, the film version of Chakra will feature an older version of the character in his twenties, set against the spectacular backdrop of Mumbai.

“I’m a fan of Bollywood films and am really excited about launching Chakra the Invincible as my first Bollywood superhero movie,”commented Stan Lee, Chief Creative Officer at POW! Entertainment. “Vikramaditya is an amazingly talented filmmaker who I have no doubt can make the Chakra film a massive hit in India and around the world. I only hope he remembers to include my cameo!”

Says Vikramaditya, “It’s an honor and an absolute delight to be making a film based on a Stan Lee character. We’re very excited and we hope to take comic book filmmaking to the next level with Chakra. And no, we won’t forget Stan’s cameo…”

“Stan Lee’s characters have generated $15 billion at the global box office, creating some of the most beloved icons in entertainment. More people likely know the face of Spider-Man than they do the Mona Lisa,” commented Graphic’s Co-Founder & CEO, Sharad Devarajan. “With VikramMotwane, we have been fortunate to find both a groundbreaking director and a passionate comic book fan, who will be able to create something uniquely Indian, but also authentic to Stan’s pantheon of superhero storytelling.”

Chakra The Invincible was originally launched as a kids animated film on Cartoon Network India two years ago, with three new animated TV movies currently in production to be released on Cartoon Network and Toonami later this year.  The hero also built a worldwide following through a digital mobile series launched on Rovio’s ToonsTV available through the Angry Birds game – resulting in more than 40 million views for the Indian superhero. Chakra has also had hundreds of thousands of comic books released worldwide in India and North America.

GRAPHIC INDIA is a character entertainment company focused on creating leading characters, comics and stories through mobile and digital platforms.  Graphic’s stories include, Ramayan 3392A.D., The LeavesandThe Sadhu, allcurrently in development as Hollywood feature films; 18 Days, a reimagining of the great eastern epic, the Mahabharata, by acclaimed graphic novel creator, Grant Morrison which was launched as an animated digital series in partnership with YouTube India; Devi, a female superhero from acclaimed filmmaker, ShekharKapur; Chakra The Invincible, the first superhero for India from legendary creator Stan Lee; and numerous other heroes and stories. www.GraphicIndia.com

POW! Entertainment, Inc. (OTCQB: POWN), a multi-media entertainment company, was founded by noted comic book writer Stan Lee, together with award-winning producer Gill Champion and the late intellectual property specialist Arthur Lieberman. Phantom Films is India’s first ‘Directors’ Company’. It was formed by four young creative minds of the country, viz. VikasBahl, Anurag Kashyap, VikramadityaMotwane and MadhuMantena in 2011.

Vivek Maru, CEO of Namati Named Recipient of Skoll Foundation Awards

Vivek Maru chief executive officer of Washington, D.C.-based Namati, which works to protect community lands, enforce environmental law, and secure basic rights to health care and citizenship around the world; Mallika Dutt, president and CEO, and Sonali Khan, vice president, of Breakthrough, which mobilizes communities to disavow discrimination and violence against women through the use of popular media, leadership training, and advocacy are among the six who have been named recipients of the 2016 Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship.

The three Indian Americans received the coveted award at a special ceremony April 14. The award allots $1.25 million to an organization to scale up its work and increase its impact. The Skoll Foundation has announced the annual awards provide unrestricted funding to social entrepreneurs and organizations that are driving large-scale social change and are poised to have an even greater impact on some of the world’s most pressing problems. This year, the awardees will receive $1.25 million each over three years to scale their work.

Chuck Slaughter, founder of Living Goods, which works to support networks of village health entrepreneurs who go door-to-door teaching families better health practices while selling basic health products; Oren Yakobovich CEO of Videre, which gives local activists equipment, training, and the support needed to safely capture footage of human rights violations and distributes the results strategically with the aim of influencing media, political leaders, and courts; and Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative, which seeks to reform the criminal justice system and secure freedom for those unjustly imprisoned in the United States, were the others who have been honored with the awards.

“Each 2016 Skoll Award recipient is guided by a profound commitment to justice and a deep sense of compassion,” said Sally Osberg, president and CEO of the Skoll Foundation. “These social entrepreneurs know that injustice robs the disadvantaged of opportunities and hope, and that justice represents a human need as fundamental as food or shelter. It is their hunger for justice that has fueled their work to transform the lives of those who have been denied justice by building new systems and institutions to strengthen societies.”

“These social entrepreneurs know that injustice robs the disadvantaged of opportunities and hope, and that justice represents a human need as fundamental as food or shelter. It is their hunger for justice that has fueled their work to transform the lives of those who have been denied justice by building new systems and institutions to strengthen societies,” said Osberg.

Vivek Maru, CEO of Namati Named Recipient of Skoll Foundation AwardsAs we work to challenge gender norms and envision a world in which gender-based violence is unacceptable, we are grateful to partners like the Skoll Foundation who recognize innovation and invest in it,” said Mallika Dutt, president and CEO of Breakthrough, in a press statement. “When we come together and pool resources we can dismantle rigid gender norms and create the culture change that will allow us all to reach our full potential.”

Breakthrough works to combat gender-based violence by shifting the focus to prevention and transforming the societal and cultural norms that lead to inequality and violence, noted the organization. Breakthrough uses innovative media and cultural strategies to engage youth and young adults.

The organization has reached 15 million people in rural communities in India and 350 million through its media campaigns, and has contributed to raising the average age of marriage by nearly a year in Bihar and Jharkhand, India.

Breakthrough will use its Skoll grant of $1.25 million to expand its work on 500 college campuses in the U.S. In India, Breakthrough will use Skoll Award funding to engage an audience of 150 million through multiple media channels and increase partnerships with states and advocates at the state and national level.

Vivek Maru founded Namati in 2011 to lend structure to billions of people globally who live outside the protection of the law. They can be driven from their land, extorted by officials, and intimidated by violence. Maru founded Namati to place the power of the law in the hands of the people.

Namati trains and deploys grassroots legal advocates who work with communities to advance justice. The organization trains “community paralegals” who serve low-income people in rural areas to gain access to their legal rights. Together with its partners, Namati has supported more than 40,000 clients in eight countries to protect community lands, enforce environmental law, and secure basic rights to healthcare and citizenship.

“(The award) is a generous recognition of the legal empowerment movement. We hope to use this opportunity to raise the profile of legal empowerment with a wider community of allies and supporters,” said Maru in a press statement. According to Sally Osberg, “These six remarkable people give voice and agency to the voiceless and marginalized, and give us good reason to believe in a radically better future.”

Salman Khan Will Be India’s Goodwill Ambassador at Rio Olympics

Bollywood actor Salman Khan has been named goodwill ambassador of the Indian contingent for the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro — an unprecedented appointment in the run-up to the quadrennial extravaganza. The announcement was made in the presence of Olympic medallists and Rio star athletes such as boxer MC Mary Kom, hockey captain Sardar Singh, and shooter Apurvi Chandela, among others. The next Olympics will be held at the Brazilian capital of Rio de Janeiro from August 5-21, 2016.

The association between Salman Khan and the Indian Olympic Association was facilitated by IOA’s official marketing agency IOS Sports & Entertainment. Speaking on this new association with IOA Salman said, “I am honoured that Indian Olympic Association has chosen me as the goodwill ambassador for the Indian contingent for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.”

Commenting on the announcement IOA President N. Ramachandran said, “His association will not only attract sports lovers but also help motivate the players to do well in the Olympics. We are sure our association with Salman Khan will go a long way.”

The athletes too welcomed the move with Mary Kom saying, “This is a big moment for all of us that Mr. Salman Khan has joined us as our family member during Rio Olympics. My preparations for Rio Olympic qualification are going on and I will be competing in the World Championship soon.”

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA), which made the announcement at its headquarters here, chose Salman from a list of two to three candidates which also included Shah Rukh Khan and veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan.

However, the IOA reportedly chose Khan as he is considered to be more connected with the youth and is known to be a sports enthusiast. The 50-year-old is a youth icon and an inspiration for bodybuilding fans across the country. His latest film ‘Sultan’ is a sports-drama which sees Salman in the role of a wrestler who rises from small town origins to achieve international success.

“We welcome Salman Khan as the goodwill ambassador of the Indian contingent for Rio Olympics and his association is in line with our focus to create the required excitement in the country. His association will not only attract sports lovers but also help motivate the players to do well in the Olympics. We are sure our association with Salman Khan will go a long way,” IOA president N. Ramachandran said in a statement. This is the first time that a Bollywood superstar will be a goodwill ambassador for the Indian contingent at the Olympics. A host of sports stars including M.C. Mary Kom, Sardar Singh, Ritu Rani, Deepika Kumari, Apurvi Chandela and Manika Batra were also present on the occasion.

Praising the sportspersons for their hard work and dedication, Khan hoped that they will be able to win medals at the Olympics. ” It is a matter of great national pride that our athletes are performing better and better at the Olympic Games and I think we should all join hands in giving them every support and cheer for them so that Rio 2016 becomes our best Olympic tally. They are extremely talented and hard working. They are not here due to anybody’s recommendation. They are here because they are the best in the country. That is the reason why they are going to the Olympics.”

175 Countries Sign Landmark Climate Deal At United Nations

UNITED NATIONS: While there is so much uncertainty, misunderstanding, differences of opinions, ideologies, and tensions around the world between the nations, there was one solemn moment today that brought nearly all the nations and almost the entire humanity together for a common goal: to preserve the Earth for future generations.

The Climate Summit at the world headquarters of the United Nations was symbolic of the urgency felt by the entire world to address the rapidly changing climate, and to recognize the need to stop the degradation of the resources and the Earth itself we have been blessed to have.

Leaders from at least 175 countries signed the Paris Agreement on climate change on Friday, April 22, 2016 as the landmark deal took a key step forward, potentially entering into force years ahead of schedule. “We are in a race against time,” U.N. secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the gathering. “The era of consumption without consequences is over.”

As many as 175 countries, including India, China and the US, signed the Paris Agreement on climate change at the UN headquarters in New York on Friday, to coincide with ‘International Mother Earth Day’. This was the first day of the signing ceremony of the historic global deal. That such a large number of countries signed the agreement in a single day is significant. The previous record for the most countries to sign an international agreement on one day was set in 1982, when 119 countries signed the ‘Law of the Sea Convention’.

oldesttree-master1050-v3The Paris Agreement, the world’s response to hotter temperatures, rising seas and other impacts of climate change, was reached in December as a major breakthrough in U.N. climate negotiations, which for years were slowed by disputes between rich and poor countries over who should do what. Under the agreement, countries set their own targets for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The targets are not legally binding, but countries must update them every five years. The agreement aims to take multiple measures to save the world from disastrous consequences of climate change and was adopted by 195 countries in Paris

The agreement will be open for signature for one year – till April 21, 2017. However, merely signing the agreement will not make it operational. The United Nations says 15 countries, several of them small island states under threat from rising seas, did that on April 22nd by depositing their instruments of ratification. The agreement will enter into force once 55 countries representing at least 55 percent of global emissions have formally joined it. Many now expect the climate agreement to enter into force long before the original deadline of 2020. Some say it could happen this year. After signing, countries must formally approve the Paris Agreement through their domestic procedures.

India’s Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar signed the agreement on behalf of India. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and some heads of state and government, including French President Francois Hollande addressed the gathering. Also on the list of speakers was Mahindra Group chairman and managing director Anand Mahindra, as a representative of the business and corporate world.

U.S.  Secretary of State John Kerry holds his granddaughter as he signs the Paris Agreement on climate change, Friday, April 22, 2016 at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry holds his granddaughter as he signs the Paris Agreement on climate change, Friday, April 22, 2016 at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

India has maintained that the burden of fighting climate change cannot be put on the shoulders of the poor after decades of industrial development by the rich nations. It has announced plans to quadruple its renewable power capacity to 175 gigawatts by 2022 as part of the government’s plan to supply electricity to every household. However, India has so far not indicated when it would ratify it.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, holding his young granddaughter, joined dozens of world leaders for a signing ceremony that set a record for international diplomacy: Never have so many countries signed an agreement on the first available day. States that don’t sign Friday have a year to do so.

The United States has said it intends to join the agreement this year. The world is watching anxiously: Analysts say that if the agreement enters into force before President Barack Obama leaves office in January, it would be more complicated for his successor to withdraw from the deal because it would take four years to do so under the agreement’s rules. The United States put the deal into economic terms. “The power of this agreement is what it is going to do to unleash the private sector,” Kerry told the gathering, noting that this year is again shaping up to be the hottest year on record.

“The world must work together to ensure that the goals of the Paris Agreement are realized. US commitment to leadership in this arena has helped start a process that must last beyond your presidency,” a group of 145 US lawmakers said in a letter to US President Barack Obama.

China, the world’s top carbon emitter, announced it will “finalize domestic procedures” to ratify the Paris Agreement before the G-20 summit in China in September. Ban immediately welcomed the pledge. Maros Sefcovic, the energy chief for another top emitter, the 28-nation European Union, has said the EU wants to be in the “first wave” of ratifying countries.

Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar signs the Paris climate agreement at the UN General Assembly.

French President Francois Hollande, the first to sign the agreement, said Friday he will ask parliament to ratify it by this summer. France’s environment minister is in charge of global climate negotiations. “There is no turning back now,” Hollande told the gathering. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also announced that his country would ratify the agreement this year.

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe brought applause when he declared, “Life itself is at stake in this combat. We have the power to win it.” Countries that had not yet indicated they would sign the agreement Friday include some of the world’s largest oil producers, including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Nigeria and Kazakhstan, the World Resources Institute said.

Scientific analyses show the initial set of targets that countries pledged before Paris don’t match the agreement’s long-term goal to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), compared with pre-industrial times. Global average temperatures have already climbed by almost 1 degree Celsius. Last year was the hottest on record. The latest analysis by the Climate Interactive research group shows the Paris pledges put the world on track for 3.5 degrees Celsius of warming. A separate analysis by Climate Action Tracker, a European group, projected warming of 2.7 degrees Celsius. Either way, scientists say the consequences could be catastrophic in some places, wiping out crops, flooding coastal areas and melting Arctic sea ice.

According to reports, as the Paris Agreement moves forward, there is some good news. Global energy emissions, the biggest source of man-made greenhouse gases, were flat last year even though the global economy grew, according to the International Energy Agency. Still, fossil fuels are used much more widely than renewable sources like wind and solar power.

Under Article 21 of the Agreement, the Paris accord will enter into force on the 30th day after the date on which at least 55 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) deposit their “instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession” with the depositary at UN headquarters.

The Paris deal is the most ambitious climate change agreement in history. It established a long term, durable global framework to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions where 195 countries will work together to put the world on a path to keeping global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius. These countries had also agreed to pursue efforts to limit the increase in temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Arun Jaitley Bullish on India’s Economic Prospects

NEW YORK — Few major economies have performed as well in recent years as India’s, which registered an impressive 7.5 percent GDP growth in 2015. But in an address delivered at Asia Society in New York on Monday, Arun Jaitley, the country’s Minister of Finance, Corporate Affairs, Information and Broadcasting, said that India is far from realizing its vast potential.

“Given our own standards and expectations, of being able to grow faster and eradicate poverty and transform ourselves into a developed economy, we could probably do a little bit better,” he said.

Jaitley is optimistic that India will manage this feat. Under the Make in India initiative, launched in 2014 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, New Delhi has embarked on an ambitious program to create jobs for millions of its citizens, who together comprise the world’s second-largest population. Infrastructure development is central to this plan. India has invested in building regional airports throughout the country and, according to Jaitley, there are now 233 highways under construction.

But the country’s challenges to achieving its economic goals remain significant. Despite its breakneck growth in recent years, India remains a poor country dominated by an agricultural sector that employs more than half of the national population. And while India has taken steps to spur growth — such as maintaining low interest rates — the economy remains hampered by high logistics costs.

Nevertheless, Jaitley remains confident that, given the country’s trajectory, India will continue to show rapid growth in the years and decades to come.  “This is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss,” he said.

In addition to Jaitley, Monday’s event also featured remarks by Indian ambassador to the U.S. Arun Kumar Singh, CII President Naushad Forbes, and Shaktikanta Das, Secretary of the Department of Economic Affairs in the Indian Ministry of Finance. Asia Society Policy Institute President Kevin Rudd introduced each speaker and then moderated a Q&A session following the prepared remarks.

 

Aishwarya Rai Receives Global Indian of the Year Award

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan has won the ‘Global Indian of the Year’ award, and was honored at Non-Resident Indian of the Year award function held in Mumbai in the west Indian Maharashtra state on the evening of April 11.

The actress, 42, dedicated the award to her daughter, Aaradhya. “I was very passionate about making it more than a perceived beauty pageant. For me, I all along believed that it was the opportunity to represent an Indian woman on the international platform. I believe that from then until today, in 2016, it continues,” Bachchan said in a statement here.

“I am glad to have been chosen to be a feature film artist and a career woman. I have had so many opportunities, personally, professionally, socially,” she said. The “Dhoom 2” actress will be seen next in “Sarabjit” alongside Randeep Hooda and Richa Chadda.

Besides Bachchan, noted tennis player Sania Mirza was also honored at the NRI of the Year Awards 2016. Altogether 17 individuals were given the awards under different categories like – entrepreneur, professional, academics, arts & culture, philanthropy, special jury award, global icon of the year and India’s global icon award. The NRI of the Year Award recognises outstanding achievements of the Indian diaspora globally.

India Has Largest Youth Population 356 million10-24 year-olds in India

United Nations: With 356 million 10-24 year-olds, India has the world’s largest youth population despite having a smaller population than China, a recent report by the United Nations has stated. The report titled ‘The power of 1.8 billion’, said 28 per cent of India’s population is 10 to 24 year-olds, adding that the youth population is growing fastest in the poorest nations. Global number of youths is highest ever.
China is second with 269 million young people, followed by Indonesia (67 million), the US (65 million) and Pakistan (59 million), Nigeria with 57 million, Brazil with 51 million, and Bangladesh with 48 million, the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) State of the World’s Population report said.

It said that developing countries with large youth populations could see their economies soar, provided they invest heavily in young people’s education and health and protect their rights. Within this generation are 600 million adolescent girls with specific needs, challenges and aspirations for the future, the report said.
As the world is home to 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 year, 9 in 10 of the world’s young population live in less developed countries. “Young people are the innovators, creators, builders and leaders of the future. But they can transform the future only if they have skills, health, decision-making, and real choices in life.
“Today’s record 1.8 billion young people present an enormous opportunity to transform the future,” UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehim said. The potential economic gains would be realised through a “demographic dividend”, which can occur when a county’s working age population is larger than the population that is dependent.
“Never before have there been so many young people. Never again is there likely to be such potential for economic and social progress. How we meet the needs and aspirations of young people will define our common future,” the report said.
In order to maximise the dividend, countries must ensure their young working-age populations are equipped to seize opportunities for jobs and other income-earning possibilities, the UN agency said.

Pope Francis Pushes Church to be More Open to the Divorced

The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak’

In his first major teaching on family issues, Pope Francis advances the power of local bishops to include divorced and remarried Catholics in church life, perhaps even letting them celebrate the Eucharist, while largely sidestepping hot-button social issues like gay marriage and married clergy.

The drama around this document—titled “Amoris Laetitia,” Latin for “The Joy of Love”—has been building for more than two years, ever since Pope Francis first announced he would call Catholic bishops together to examine modern family crises around the world.

The document is Pope Francis’ official response to the two major meetings of bishops he hosted at the Vatican to discuss marriage and family issues—the Extraordinary Synod on the Family in 2014 and Synod of the Bishops in 2015.

Per Vatican custom, Pope Francis considered the bishops’ insights from these events, added his own, and wrote a formal teaching to guide the church on the issues. The result is this 270-page formal letter, called an apostolic exhortation, addressed to bishops, priests, married couples, and lay people about “love in the family.”

The letter is more about pastoral method than doctrine about the marriage itself. Pope Francis seeks to encourage families with practical guidance amid the myriad of challenges they face around the world, including unemployment, migration, poverty, gambling, alcoholism, polygamy and societal pressures that ignore the longstanding Catholic teaching of marriage. The document notes that what seems normal for a bishop on one continent is considered “strange and almost scandalous” for another, and he wants local bishops to seek local solutions.

“I understand those who prefer a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion,” Pope Francis says. “But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants a Church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness, a Mother who, while clearly expressing her objective teaching, ‘always does what good she can, even if in the process, her shoes get soiled by the mud on the street.’”

This openness can at times seem to give vague answers. Pope Francis says that divorced and remarried people are “not excommunicated” and should not feel “discriminated against”—he stops short of directly saying they are welcome to take the bread and wine at Eucharist, but then adds in a footnote: “I would also point out that the Eucharist ‘is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.’”

On Wednesday, two days before the letter’s release, he met with a support group for divorced and remarried couples. In September, he made it easier for couples to obtain an annulment, which is not a divorce but a finding by Catholic officials that a marriage between a man and a woman was not a real marriage—a necessary step to return to celebrating Eucharist in the church now.

Several others of his most interesting lines are also the least clear. “The experience of the broad oriental tradition of a married clergy could also be drawn upon,” he writes, without specificying what that means in the context of the debate over married clergy in non-Eastern traditions. As expected, Pope Francis reminds Catholics that gay marriage is not marriage and that couples that cohabit are still in “irregular” unions. He only mentions gay marriage twice, but he also suggests that unions that are not marriages in the Church’s eyes can offer limited wisdom: “The Synod Fathers stated that the Church does not disregard the constructive elements in those situations which do not yet or no longer correspond to her teaching on marriage.”

Pope Francis does name a few specific policies he wants churches to implement. Local churches, he says, need to develop and deepen programs for marriage preparation—engagement periods are often too short, and couples need more training before they walk down the aisle. There should also be specialized regional counseling centers for families going through crises, he says, especially separation and divorce. He also asks for pastoral programs for migrant families and the relatives they’ve left behind.

Much of his teaching on marriage for spouses is fairly simple, similar to what one would expect from a local parish pastor. Don’t be arrogant, especially to non-believing family members. Forgive and trust each other. Show affection. Don’t keep secrets from each another. Be open-minded. Care for the elderly. Don’t fall asleep with your electronic device because it might mean you are ignoring your spouse. For churches, he also offers some practical suggesions: train ministers to better help families, mentor young couples, and encourage couples especially when they have young children or are empty-nesters.

To look at this document simply for a definitive Francis answer on a controversial topic misses the bigger picture. Pope Francis is trying to create a new culture of how bishops lead, and he wants them to think first of the person and her circumstances, instead of doctrine in the abstract. He sets the example and references teaching of bishops conferences frequently in the letter, including those in Spain, Korea, Mexico, Columbia and Kenya. It is important to remember that this teaching is for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, not just a subset in a specific country.

One of the most important parts of this teaching may not actually the letter itself, but the conversation it has provoked for the past two years. The synod gatherings themselves were particularly heated, but brought dialogue about issues that can get ignored. At the three-week meeting in 2014, one of the bishops’ working documents sparked a media firestorm when it included a section called “Welcoming homosexual persons.”Interpreters looking for revolution quickly learned they’d overreached. The section was later struck down, but a point had been made: Catholics across the world were deeply discussing issues, which is the Francis way.

Mercy, in the end, remains his constant theme. “No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel!” he writes. “Here I am not speaking only of the divorced and remarried, but of everyone, in whatever situation they find themselves.”

Global Tax Avoidance Huge Problem: Obama

In his first reaction to the leaked ‘Panama Papers’ that revealed names of thousands of world leaders and celebrities who have stashed money in tax havens, President Barack Obama has said that global tax avoidance may be running into trillions of dollars worldwide. “There is no doubt that the problem of global tax avoidance, generally, is a huge problem,” Obama said adding the issue has been brought up in G7 and G20 meetings.

“There has been some progress made in coordinating between tax authorities of different countries so that we can make sure that we’re catching some of the most egregious examples,” he said. “But as I said before, one of the big problems that we have is that a lot of this stuff is not illegal. Unless the United States and other countries lead by example in closing some of these loopholes and provisions, then in many cases you can trace what’s taking place, but you can’t stop it. There is always going to be some illicit movement of funds around the world. But we shouldn’t make it easy. We shouldn’t make it legal to engage in transactions just to avoid taxes,” he asserted.

“That’s why I think it is important that the Treasury acted on something that’s different from what happened in Panama. The corporate inversions issue is a financial transaction that is brokered among major Fortune 500 companies to avoid paying taxes,” he said.

“But the basic principle is making sure that everybody is paying their fair share, and that they don’t just have a few people who are able to take advantage of tax provisions, that’s something that they really have to pay attention to.

“This is all net outflows of money that could be spent on the pressing needs here in the United States. The volume that you start seeing when you combine legal tax avoidance with illicit tax avoidance, or some of the activities that we’re seeing, this is not just billions of dollars. It’s not even just hundreds of billions of dollars. Estimates are this may be trillions of dollars worldwide, and it could make a big difference in terms of what we can do here,” Obama said.

Obama urged the Republican-controlled Congress to close legal loopholes so as to prevent American companies from evading taxes and shipping jobs overseas. “We should keep building an economy where everybody has a fair shot, and everybody plays by the same rules,” Obama said a day after the US Treasury Department issued new set of rules making it more difficult for US companies to save taxes by shipping jobs abroad.

Americans, he stressed, should be able to know that big corporations aren’t playing by a different set of rules. “In the news over the last couple of days, we’ve had another reminder in this big dump of data coming out of Panama that tax avoidance is a big, global problem. Its not unique to other countries because, frankly, there are folks here in America who are taking advantage of the same stuff. A lot of it is legal, but that’s exactly the problem,” Obama said.

H-1B Applications For 2017 Reach Target

WASHINGTON – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has reached the congressionally mandated H-1B cap for fiscal year (FY) 2017. USCIS has also received more than the limit of 20,000 H-1B petitions filed under the U.S. advanced degree exemption, a press release issued by the USICS stated.

USCIS will use a computer-generated process, also known as the lottery, to randomly select the petitions needed to meet the caps of 65,000 visas for the general category and 20,000 for the advanced degree exemption.

USCIS will first randomly select petitions for the advanced degree exemption. All unselected advanced degree petitions will become part of the random selection process for the 65,000 general cap. The agency will reject and return filing fees for all unselected cap-subject petitions that are not duplicate filings.

Application for the highly sought after visa program began on April 1, for the fiscal year 2017 beginning October 1, this year. Before running the lottery, USCIS will complete initial intake for all filings received during the filing period, which ended April 7. Due to the high number of petitions, USCIS is not yet able to announce the date it will conduct the random selection process.

This is fourth consecutive year that the Congressional mandated cap has been reached in the first five days of the filing. Majority of these estimated 200,000 H-1B visa applications are “certainly” either by companies that have Indian owner like TCS or companies that have substantial operations or development centres in India like IBM, Stock said in response to a question.

President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Victor Nieblas Pradis said the “avalanche” of petitions for H-1B visas mean that USCIS will once again randomly determine which of those petitions will actually be considered for one of the 85,000 available visas.

USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap. Petitions filed on behalf of current H-1B workers who have been counted previously against the cap, and who still retain their cap number, will also not be counted toward the congressionally mandated FY 2017 H-1B cap. USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions filed to: Extend the amount of time a current H-1B worker may remain in the United States; Change the terms of employment for current H-1B workers; Allow current H-1B workers to change employers; and, Allow current H-1B workers to work concurrently in a second H-1B position.

U.S. businesses use the H-1B program to employ foreign workers in occupations that require highly specialized knowledge in fields such as science, engineering and computer programming. For more information on USCIS and its programs, please visit uscis.gov

2 Million Dollar Car in New York Auto Show

At the New York Auto Show on Thursday (March 24, 2016), Koenigsegg showed its $2 million Regera “hypercar” for the first time ever in the United States. It’s a big deal because while the small Swedish company has never had much of a presence stateside, it is billing this futuristic coupe as the ultimate “Bugatti killer.”

“There is something very natural about it, very intuitive,” company founder Christian von Koenigsegg said during the unveiling. “And it’s attainable. We can reach 200 miles per hour in 0.6 miles. And that’s pretty much unheard of. So if you have a racetrack with that straight, you can go 200 miles per hour pretty easily. So it’s attainable speed, attainable power.”

Indeed, the 1,500-plus-horsepower Regera combines three electric motors with a traditional combustion engine: There is a 1,200-horsepower twin turbo 5-liter V8 (attached to one of the electric motors), plus two electric motors at the back wheels that help produce a combined 720e horsepower. Von Koenigsegg boasted that despite the 1,500-plus-hp official report, the true power rating may be closer to 1,800.

Regera also has a unique direct drive system that replaces the traditional transmission system. “This is the only combustion-engine sports car I know that doesn’t have a transmission,” von Koenigsegg said, adding that he had the idea for the car years ago but developed the necessary technology only recently. “The engine is also directly connected to the rear axle. That was possible because of the electrification.”

At 3,000 pounds, with carbon fiber construction and totally automatic doors and rear half, the Regera is still extremely light. “To keep the car light, we didn’t want to add things we don’t need,” von Koenigsegg said. Translation: While the car has Apple Car Play and Internet access inside, don’t expect to see a cup holder.

That devotion to shedding ounces helped give the car a seamless acceleration to its top speed of 248 mph, which it can hit in just under 20 seconds. Zero to 60 mph takes 2.8 seconds. Those specs aren’t quite as impressive as Bugatti’s new Chiron (288 mph top speed and 2-second-flat sprint time), but von Koenigsegg said it’s the nuance that makes the difference.

“No other car can go faster up to 230 mph—or in such a short distance,” he said. Look for the Regera to come on sale at the Manhattan Motorcars dealership later this year. The plan is to build 80 of them; half have already been sold.

5th Annual Outstanding Women’s Gala On Long Island Held

By Indu Jaiswal

5th Annual Outstanding Women’s Gala On Long Island

Long Island, NY: The Indian American Forum (IAF) honored five women leaders for their leadership and contributions to the larger society and humanity during the 5th annual gala organized on Long Island, New York. As Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth, Town of Hempstead Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, Town of Hempstead Clerk Nasreen Ahmed (Among many other VIPs) walked into Antun’s of Hicksville on Thursday March 24, they all very well felt the pride and achievement in the air. The Grand ball room was full of so many accomplished and elite, who’s who of the society gathered for one singular purpose, to be the part of and celebrate 5th Outstanding Women’s Achievements Gala, part of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day Celebrations.

IAF, 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 business woman Vandana Govil was the Chairperson of the Gala. And of course the hall was beautifully decorated with spring flowers and theme.  Evening started with prayers led by Amita Karwal and Sunny Marerkar. Indu Jaiswal Chairperson of IAF in her remarks welcomed all the guests congratulated all the honorees and praised their efforts in achieving such success. Vandana Govil congratulated all the honorees and also thanked all the guests

American National Anthem was sung by Gurbani Kaur Sethi and Indian National Anthem sung by Amita Karwal… Master of Ceremonies Mr Anuj Rihal and Chanbir Kaur Sethi made the evening enjoyable. Chanbir Kaur coordinated a brief Q&A session with the honorees discussing and emphasizing their accomplishments

In addition to Judi Bosworth who was also presented with an award, 5 other distinguished women who had excelled in their profession and community services were presented with Outstanding Women’s achievements Awards

Dr Manjeet Chadha   for dedication in medicine and community Services. Dr Chadha is Professor of Radiation Oncology at the Icahn School of medicine at Mount Sinai , and the Director of the Department at mount Sinai Beth Isreal. She also served as the Director for Breast and Gynecologic cancer programs for Radiation Oncology at Continuum Cancer enter. Dr Chadha is a fellow of the American Society of Radiation Oncology, an honor bestowed on highly select oncologist

Jyoti Gupta for dedication in Music and cultural promotions. Jyoti is extremely involved in social and cultural activities, which include singing shabads, acting, dancing, comedy and helping others. Jyoti is in active member of India Association of Long Island and IDPUSA. As chair of Sangeet Forum of IALI Jyoti organizes monthly musical programs for seniors and adults.

Sunita Sadhnani for dedication in Business Development and Community Services. Sunita is the Founder of Bollywood Preforming Arts, long island’s first ever entertainment and dance studio to promote Indian traditional and Bollywood dance… Sunita also started and she founded Glamorous Event Planners for entertainment and special big events. Sunita is a member of most event and Planners associations, and stays on top of trends by regularly attending national Conferences, She is also a member of the Rotary of the Jericho Sunrise Rotary Club, and she is also an accomplished singer

Dr Runi Mukherji Ratnam for dedication in education and Social Services. Dr Ratnam is professor of Psychology in the department of Psychology, State University of New York Old Westbury. She has served as its chair for almost a decade. She has been actively involved for many years with the Center for the study of Asian American Health, Langone Medical Center, New York School of Medicine, Center for immigrant Health, the Montefiore Medical Center as well as the university Hospital at Einstein College of Medicine. Runi is the President of SACSS and Founder of Young Indian Culture Group.

Meera T Gandhi for dedication as Humanitarian and Social Promotions. Meera T Gandhi id the CEO of and founder of Giving Back Foundation. She is an international community leader committed humanitarian and philanthropist dedicated to solutions to human suffering and deprivation around the globe. The foundation is based in New York and has offices in India HK, and London. Transformational Education of the girl child is the primary mission of the giving back foundation.

Judi Bosworth 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 Edward P Mangano were presented by Zahid Syed, Chairman of Human right Commission Nassau County to all honorees. Syed praised their efforts and congratulated them for their achievements. Citations were presented from the town of Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino by Councilwoman Goosby and town Clerk Nasrin Ahmed. New York State Senator Jack Martins also sent citations for the honorees

Among those present during the event were Bobby Kalotee Founder of IAF, Nassau County Human right Commissioner Sharanjit Singh Thind, Dr Ajay Lodha, Incoming President National AAPI,Beena Kothari, President of India Association of Long Island, Sher Madra , Shammi Singh and Peter Bheddah, Board of Directors of Nargis Dutt Foundation,  Shashi Anand well known business woman, Hassena Moopan from Domestic Harmony Foundation, Rizwan Qureshi from HAB Bank, Roopam Maini from Indus American Bank, Sudesh Mukhi from Arya Semaj of Long Island, Sangeeta Bahl, President of Rotary Club, and several other dignitaries were present

Vocal performances presented by Sunny Marerkar and Amita Karwal, Dance performances presented by Bollywood Performing Arts and  Shilpa Jhurani and her students from Arya Dance academy. Mr Mohinder Taneja and Animesh Goenka gave special thanks for all of our sponsors and media partners…

Board of Trustees Dr Bhupi Patel, Surinder Rametra, Bobby Kalotee, Dr Ved Kawatra, Animesh Goenka, Volunteers Nirmala Rametra, Jaya Bahadkar, Anu Gulati, Dr Meena Jaiswal, Vijay Goswamy, Tejal Kamath and Many other helped in making the event a grand success. It was indeed a very successful evening, showcasing and honoring outstanding women achievers, who are successful in business, cultural, professional, education, and medical. Community and social services.

Indian Consulate In New York To Streamline Passport Services

Responding to numerous complaints from the public of poor and inefficient consular services at the Indian Consulate, New York Consul General Riva Ganguly Das, in her first interaction with the media on March 30th,  reached out to streamline and improve the quality of services rendered by the Consulate and its affiliate organizations in the New York region.

Ambassador Ganguly Das announced the decision by the Government of India to engage a new company, CKGS, to take over from the present BLS International company, against whom some complaints from the community, have been received, to take care of the passport services.

“We have to have a system which is responsible to the people. Our expectation is that they (the new company) will provide excellent services to the people and without any problem or harassment,” Ganguly Das said.

The new company will take over from May 7, but those who would have applied already through the current contractor before the term of the BLS expires, would get services from the consulate for emergency services.

During the interactive meeting, Ganguly Das opened the floor for reporters, asking them for suggestions as to what the consulate could do better for the community as well as for the press corps. In the next two hours after her introductory remarks around noon March 30, there were questions, including about better consular services, better media coordination by those in charge at the consulate, and more interaction with the vernacular media in the New York region. There were some three-dozen-odd media personnel at the event.

Ganguly Das said that first and foremost she wants to engage with the media and would like to reach out to the community through them in addition to the consulate’s own outreach efforts.
She wanted the media to carry important messages from the consulate for the community through their columns.

The new Consul General said that one of her targets is to engage with the young Indian-Americans. “The challenge is to bring young people to engage with us”, and asked for suggestions from journalists towards that goal. “We want to interact intensively and extensively with the community here and the consulate is open for messages and suggestions from the community.”

Nuclear Weapons: Greatest Threats To Global Security

“Of all the threats to global security and peace, the most dangerous is the proliferation and potential use of nuclear weapons,” wrote President Barack Obama in an article he wrote for The Washington Post. Quoting former President Ronald Reagan, who had said “we seek the total elimination one day of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth,” Obama wrote, “That’s why, seven years ago in Prague, I committed the United States to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and to seeking a world without them.” Obama inaugurated the first Nuclear Security Summit nearly six years ago, after a landmark speech in Prague in 2009 laying out the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.

Nuclear Weapons: Greatest Threats To Global SecurityMore than 50 world leaders along with international organizations like the United Nations and INTERPOL attended the fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit 2016 of Obama’s presidency, March 31st – April 1st focusing on efforts to lock down vulnerable atomic materials to prevent nuclear terrorism, which he called “one of the greatest threats to global security” in the 21st century. While speaking at the nuclear security summit in Washington, Obama said, the world faced a persistent and evolving threat of nuclear terrorism despite progress in reducing such risks. But he insisted: “We cannot be complacent.”

While addressing the Summit leaders, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India pledged to accord a high national priority to nuclear security through strong institutional framework, independent regulatory agency and trained and specialized manpower, while developing and deploying technology to deter and defend against nuclear terrorism, by making efforts to stop nuclear smuggling and strengthen the national detection architecture for nuclear and radioactive material.

These biannual nuclear summits, aimed at locking down fissile material worldwide that could be used for doomsday weapons, were proposed by President Obama back in 2009, barely two months into his presidency. “We must insure that terrorists never acquire a nuclear weapon,” he declared, calling such a scenario “the most immediate and extreme threat to global security.” In that same April 2009 speech, Obama challenged the world’s keepers of some 2,000 tons of highly enriched uranium and plutonium to “secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years.”

Since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, proliferation of nuclear weapons has increased tremendously. During the Cold War, much of the debate centered on the U.S.-Soviet nuclear balance. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, nuclear weapons have continued to be a major preoccupation of America, with more nations acquiring the nuclear weapons and many more trying to build nuclear arsenals. But, the most dangerous threat has been from the terrorist and rogue groups that have been stealing and making all out efforts to get hold of enriched uranium, a component that is used to build nuclear weapons.

Deadly bomb attacks in Brussels last month have fueled concern that Islamic State could eventually target nuclear plants, steal material and develop radioactive “dirty bombs”. Militants were found to have videotaped the daily routine of a senior manager of a Belgian nuclear plant, Obama said. Obama said the required 102 countries had now ratified an amendment to a nuclear security treaty that would tighten protections against nuclear theft and smuggling. “Our nations have made it harder for terrorists to get their hands on nuclear materials. We have measurably reduced the risks,” Obama said. But he acknowledged that with roughly 2,000 tons of nuclear material stored around the word, “not all of this is properly secured.”

While gains have been made, arms-control advocates say the diplomatic process – which Obama conceived and championed – has lost momentum and could slow further once he leaves the White House in January, next year. A boycott by Russian President Vladimir Putin, unwilling to join in a U.S.-dominated gathering at a time of increased tensions between Washington and Moscow over Ukraine and Syria, added to doubts that the meeting would yield any major decisions.

Moscow, which holds the world’s largest nuclear weapons stockpiles, ended virtually all its nuclear cooperation with the U.S. more than two years ago as part of the political fallout from tensions over Ukraine. “One could argue that without Russia there to weaken some of the [summit’s] statements, as it has done in the past, you could probably get more forceful results,” says Olga Oliker, a Russia expert at CSIS. “I mean, there’s progress that could be made on a number of areas, but there are a lot of areas where Russia’s absence is sort of a missing elephant in the room.”

Nuclear Weapons: Greatest Threats To Global Security
Seated from left, Chinese President Xi Jinping, President Barack Obama, and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi

World leaders and international organizations pledged to boost communal efforts to secure nuclear materials. But there won’t be any more global summits on the issue in the near future. The leaders said in a joint communique at the summit’s close that this year’s meeting will be the last. They’re turning to the United Nations, Interpol, the International Atomic Energy Agency and other entities to take over responsibility for the issue. The broad goal of the summit process has been to address the threat of nuclear terrorism by minimizing and securing weapons-usable nuclear materials, enhancing international cooperation to prevent the illicit acquisition of nuclear material by non-state actors such as terrorist groups and smugglers, and taking steps to strengthen the global nuclear security system.

The world leaders say there’s more work to prevent nuclear terrorism and promote disarmament, which requires further international cooperation President Barack Obama says there’s a persistent and evolving threat of terrorists conducting a nuclear attack.

For now, U.S. experts are less concerned about militants obtaining nuclear weapon components than about thefts of ingredients for a low-tech dirty bomb that would use conventional explosives to disperse radioactive material and sow panic. U.S. officials said they had no doubt that Islamic State, which controls swaths of Syria and Iraq, was interested in obtaining such materials, but authorities had no explicit evidence that the group had tried to do so.

Rightly so, in his concluding remarks at the Nuclear Summit 2016, President Barack Obama urged world leaders on April 1st to do more to safeguard vulnerable nuclear facilities to prevent “madmen” from groups like Islamic State from getting their hands on a nuclear weapon or a radioactive “dirty bomb.” Obama said no group had succeeded in obtaining bomb materials but that al Qaeda had long sought them and cited actions by Islamic State militants behind recent attacks in Paris and Brussels that raised similar concerns. There is no doubt that if these madmen ever got their hands on a nuclear bomb or nuclear material, they would certainly use it to kill as many innocent people as possible,” he said. “It would change our world.”

Nine countries together possess more than 15,000 nuclear weapons. The United States and Russia maintain roughly 1,800 of their nuclear weapons on high-alert status – ready to be launched within minutes of a warning. Most are many times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945. A single nuclear warhead, if detonated on a large city, could kill millions of people, with the effects persisting for decades.

China is seeking to soon achieve a nuclear triad (land, air, and sea-based nuclear delivery capabilities). Analysts estimate that China’s inventory is close to two hundred and fifty warheads. This includes short, intermediate, and long-range ballistic missiles. Some experts say China has as many as sixty long-range missiles with ranges between 4,350-9,320 miles. North Korea’s quest to acquire nuclear weapons has been never ending.

Nuclear Weapons: Greatest Threats To Global SecuritySouthern Asia is home to three nuclear powers—China, India, and Pakistan—that continue to expand and modernize their arms programs. Motivated by the need to address perceived security threats, each is seeking to expand ballistic missile and cruise missile-based nuclear delivery systems. Such nuclear competition is dangerous given mounting mistrust and a dearth of diplomatic measures in place to reduce risk of confrontation. Experts estimate that Pakistan has 110 to 130 warheads and two types of delivery vehicles (PDF): aircraft and surface-to-surface missiles. Pakistan’s chronic political instability, spotty nonproliferation record, and ongoing threats posed by militant forces have focused special concern on the safety of its nuclear materials.

India possesses a developed strategic nuclear program and currently fields nuclear-capable aircraft and ballistic missiles controlled by a civilian command structure, the Nuclear Command Authority. New Delhi has an estimated stockpile of 110 to 120 warheads and is expanding its military nuclear capabilities. In 2011, New Delhi spent approximately $4.9 billion (PDF) on nuclear weapons, up from $4.1 billion the previous year, according to Global Zero, a nongovernmental disarmament movement.

The United States and India negotiated a landmark civil nuclear deal beginning in 2005, which was later signed into U.S. law in 2008. Washington saw the deal as a practical way to overcome barriers to cooperation and also because it believed “it would be better to have India inside the international nonproliferation tent than outside,” says CFR’s Alyssa Ayres. Other nuclear energy powers also boost India’s civilian program: Tokyo pledged to negotiate a nuclear energy pact, a deal with Australia allows the export of uranium to India, and Russia has assisted India for years on the construction of reactors, with new deals in the works between the two countries. While India remains outside the NPT and the CTBT, its civilian nuclear facilities are now under IAEA safeguards and India has signed and ratified the IAEA Additional Protocol.

The failure of the nuclear powers to disarm has heightened the risk that other countries will acquire nuclear weapons. The only guarantee against the spread and use of nuclear weapons is to eliminate them without delay. Although the leaders of some nuclear-armed nations have expressed their vision for a nuclear-weapon-free world, they have failed to develop any detailed plans to eliminate their arsenals and are modernizing them.

According to analysts, nuclear safeguards like those that have emerged from previous Nuclear Security Summits are playing an increasingly important role in protecting the world from security threats. White House Deputy National Security Advisor Benjamin Rhodes all but declares that goal accomplished, pointing to the achievements of the previous three summits. “Because of these efforts, it is harder than ever before for terrorists or bad actors to acquire nuclear materials,” Rhodes told reporters in a conference call prior to this week’s summit. “That, of course, makes all of our people more secure.”

According to Sharon Squassoni, a non-proliferation expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington defense think tank, the job isn’t finished, warning that the political pressure to get it done is waning. “We know what to do,” she says. “The question is, do we have enough willpower and money and attention to do it.”

Will Raising Minimum Wages & Raising Taxes On The Rich Solve Income Inequality?

There is an increasing anger among the majority of people in the country towards the American establishment, towards the mainstream American politicians and towards both the political parties. The rise and growing popularity of unconventional politicians with varied ideologies and outlook to the future of the United States in both the Republican and the Democratic Parties may be explained, to some extent due to this growing frustration among the middle class and the poor in this country.

Income inequality is one of the major global issues talked about today. It is the bane of the working class’s existence. It’s more evident in the United St6ates today than ever before. In the US, income inequality increased the most among all the developed nations – the richest 1% growing by 275%, while wages of the poor grew by only 20% in 30 years. This growing inequality has immense consequences flor the nation’s future. As the children of the rich are getting better services, and in turn, a higher likelihood of social and cognitive development, which means that they are more likely to take up the high paying executive positions than the others, whose parents were perhaps not so lucky. Unequal starting points only mean that the finishing points will be unequal as well, and it’s important that every nation needs to  address this problem by giving everyone a uniform starting point, meaning that people win the race based on merit, rather than a never-ending cycle of rich breeding rich.

Will Raising Minimum Wages & Raising Taxes On The Rich Solve Income Inequality?Over the past four decades, the American middle class has been shrinking relative to upper- and lower-income groups, both of which represent bigger shares of the population than at any time since at least 1971, a new Pew Research Center report finds. An analysis finds that, the upper-income tier has grown the most in the financial and natural-resources industries, and among executives and managers. At the same time, the lower-income tier increased the most among retail sales workers and “operators,” a grouping of mostly blue-collar manufacturing-type jobs.

The increased income inequality since the 1980s is due to a decreasing real minimum wage, which means, the real wages were growing slower than inflation, contributing to increase in the inequality.  The Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans, states that the total net worth of those on the list in 1982, the first year the list was compiled, was $93 billion. In 2014, that number was $2.3 trillion, up 2,400%. At the same time, median household income in the United States rose only about 180%.

Both income inequality and the minimum wage have become hot-button political issues in recent years, particularly since the rise of the Fight for $15 campaign and the release of Thomas Piketty’s tome Capital in the 21st Century. Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) talk about income inequality as a major economic problem and advocate for raising the minimum wage as one possible solution for the issue.

In this context, it’s a welcome initiative that two of the nation’s largest states – California and New York – are exploring proposals to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Kim Weeden, director of the Center for the Study of Inequality at Cornell University, says while raising the minimum wage will unlikely decrease the levels of income inequality, it would make a huge difference for those struggling to make ends meet.

Will Raising Minimum Wages & Raising Taxes On The Rich Solve Income Inequality?Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont admitted that raising the national minimum wage to $15 an hour could cause a rise in prices but added the benefits outweigh the risks. In a Feb. 12 Medium post, Hillary Clinton wrote, “As president, I will work to raise the federal minimum wage back to the highest level it’s ever been  —  $12 an hour in today’s dollars  —  and support state and local efforts to go even further.”

However, there are those in the Republican Party and others, who think that increasing the minimum wages will not help in diminishing income inequality. According to Heritage Foundation expert James Sherk, labor economists have found no correlation between higher minimum wages and lower poverty. Raising the minimum wage simply would not reduce poverty. Sherk says, raising the minimum wage will not affect many poor families. Higher minimum wages cost some workers their jobs. Raising the minimum wage makes these entry-level jobs harder to find. That makes it harder for less skilled workers to gain the skills necessary to get ahead. And finally, the welfare state claws back raises that low-income families do receive. Low-income workers qualify for a host of means-tested federal benefits. These include food stamps, housing vouchers, Medicaid, and the Earned Income Tax Credit. As workers’ incomes rise they qualify for less and less aid—effectively an additional tax on their income.

As per other analysts, a declining minimum wage throughout the 1980s was likely not the primary reason that the income of poor people moved farther away from that of the wealthy. That means raising the minimum wage is likely not the solution to reducing inequality, though it very well might be helpful to that bottom rung of workers. America could need a higher minimum wage for the poorest workers, while also needing a different — and likely much more difficult — solution to income inequality for everyone in the 99 percent.

The exact cause of income inequality is up for debate. But many people, including Piketty, think it has to do with the returns that the already wealthy see on their holdings, causing the rich to see more and more wealth every year, even as incomes don’t budge.

Will Raising Minimum Wages & Raising Taxes On The Rich Solve Income Inequality?Middle income is defined as households making between two-thirds and double the median household income, which is about $42,000 to $126,000 annually in 2014 dollars for a household of three. The upper income is defined as more than twice the median, and “lower income” as less than two-thirds of it. Accordingly, at the end of the 1960s, about 61 percent of all American adults were part of the middle class. Today, only half of all Americans can consider themselves middle class, and that might have something to do with income inequality.

As more people fall out of the middle class and into poverty, more people are also climbing up into wealth. “Better off” households — defined by Pew as earning more than $125,608 a year or twice the “median income” — now make up more than 20 percent of the US population.

Shawn Donnan of the Financial Times says, “We’re seeing a real divergence in American society. What’s interesting about these numbers that have come out from the Pew Research Center and that we’ve built our series around is that, really, this is the broadest measure in terms of income of the American middle class out there.”

Another notable change seen in middle class America is its racial makeup. “Between 1971 and 2015, the American middle class has become less white than it used to be,” Dannon says. “It was 80 percent white in 1971, and the next biggest ethnic group was Hispanics at 11 percent, and you found 7 percent of the middle class was black. Those numbers have improved, but they probably haven’t improved as much as many of us would have thought. Today, the American middle class is 67 percent white, 15 percent Hispanic, and 11 percent black. The big winners, in terms of really surging in the middle class, have been Asian Americans, who now make up 6 percent of the American middle class.”

Though the middle class seems to be shrinking on the whole, the upper class appears to be growing. Though some Americans are working their way into the higher income brackets, many too are also slipping below the middle class threshold. “Just under half of America is sitting in the middle, and then, really, you’ve got one-fifth of America living on less than $31,000 a year — half of them below the poverty line — and then you have the fifth at the top,” Dannon says. “That lower end has continued to grow since 1971. In 1971 it was 16 percent of the population, and in 2015 it’s 20 percent of the population. It has gone up since the crisis in 2008, which clearly has played a big role in this and making everyone feel a lot more fragile.”

“The share of middle-income adults who are ages 65 and older doubled from 9 percent in 1971 to 18 percent in 2015,” the Pew study finds. But Dannon also says that many older Americans are working longer. “The fact that older people are hanging on in the workforce longer could be a result of lifestyle choices, and it could be a result of economic reality,” he says.

Will Raising Minimum Wages & Raising Taxes On The Rich Solve Income Inequality?According to Weeden, in inflation-adjusted terms, the real value of the minimum wage is lower today than it was at its late-1960s peak. This decline in the real value of the minimum wage, coupled with the decline in unionization and the rise of automation, accounted for much of the growth in income inequality in the 1980s. In the last 25 years, however, most of the extraordinary growth in income inequality has occurred at the top of the wage distribution, as the incomes of the top one percent and especially the top 0.1 percent pulled away from everyone else’s.

While there is a push to increase the minimum wages, there is also a demand to increasing income taxes on top earners, and in turn giving those funds to those on the bottom. It sounds like simple math, and has an allure for many politicians and American families alike, but a new Brookings research suggests that this proposal would actually do little to reduce inequality.

Tax the rich more. It’s a popular idea on the 2016 campaign trail, but a new study says that won’t do much to dent inequality in America. Many of America’s uber rich, including billionaires Warren Buffett and Jamie Dimon, have said they would be willing to pay more in tax. Buffett has repeatedly pointed out that his overall tax rate is lower than his secretary’s. In the past, America’s top income tax rate has been as high as 91%. It was 50% as recently as the mid-1980s. The current top rate is the same as it was during President Bill Clinton’s time in office.

Bernie Sanders has proposed a “billionaire surtax” of 10% that he says would only impact the nation’s 530 billionaires. He also wants to increase the inheritance tax — what people pay when they transfer land or money to their kids — from 40% to a top rate of 55%. Donald Trump, Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton have all proposed eliminating the “carried interest loophole” that allows many hedge fund managers to tax their investment income at a lower tax rate (20% versus 39.6%).

In a new paper from Brookings Economics Studies, Brookings Senior Fellow William G. Gale and Nonresident Seniors Fellows Melissa S. Kearney and Peter R. Orszag found that raising the top income tax rate to 50 percent would mean an additional $6,464 in taxes owed for households in the 95-99th percentiles of income and an additional $110,968 for households in the top 1 percent. Extremely wealthy households in the very top 0.1 percent could expect to experience an average income tax increase of $568,617. As per the analysis, increasing the top marginal tax rates for those in the 95th percentile and up had a “trivial effect on overall income inequality.” only lowering the gap modestly.

Will Raising Minimum Wages & Raising Taxes On The Rich Solve Income Inequality?So raising taxes for top earners didn’t move the needle on inequality. Re-distributing revenue from the 50 percent tax rate would result in $1,760 in additional post-tax income for households in the lowest quintile of earners. They also found that tax hikes for top earners could raise critical revenue for the federal government, and redistribution policies would still provide substantial benefits to low-income households, if not economic mobility as a whole.

The researchers also looked at what would happen if all the extra money raised from the tax hike on the rich were given to America’s poorest. Lower-income families would receive about $2,650 a year, they found. That kind of redistribution would lessen inequality a little bit more, but the country would still remain far more unequal than it was in the 1970s. The need to close the gap between the rich and the poor and according the majority poor, lower middle class and the middle class their right to thrive is a basic necessity. They need to be able to meet their daily needs and offering them resources to grow and become productive citizens rather than become a burden on the nation, means, investing in the present by raising the minimum the income, redistributing the wealth of the nation to invest in the products and services that will enhance the quality of the lives every citizen.

Egg Artist Farha Sayeed Hosts Solo Egg Art Exhibition – “Egg-Stravaganza”

Chicago IL: A globally-known Egg Artist, Farha Sayeed, wife of Dr. Ausaf Sayeed, Consul General of India in Chicago, held her first solo Egg Art exhibition in Chicago – “The Easter Eggstravaganza” – at the prestigious Chicago Symphony Center in Chicago, Illinois from March 20-21, 2016. A part of the sale proceeds of the Exhibition will go to the America-India Foundation’s Maternal and New Born Survival Initiative (MANSI). The event attracted hundreds of art lovers, state officials, and diplomats from several countries.

Farha exhibited seventy Egg Art pieces during the exhibition comprising creations made out of egg shells of Ostrich, Rhea, Emu, Goose, Duck, Turkey and Guinea.  All these pieces were intricately hand-carved in minute detail and embellished with crystals, rhinestone chains, and golden filigree.  These creations not only captured the imagination of the visitors but also left them awe-struck.

Over three hundred persons participated in the inaugural ceremony held on Sunday, March 20th, 2016 and dozens of others visited the exhibition during the rest of the day. Renowned tabla maestro Padma Bhushan Ustad Zakir Hussain was one of the internationally renowned persons who graced the event. He praised Farha for the precision and ingenuity demonstrated in her creations.

The other prominent dignitaries who participated in the event included Mr. Hardik Bhatt, Chief Information Officer, Office of Governor Bruce Rauner, State of Illinois; Mr Dennis Jung, Outreach Coordinator, Office of Governor Bruce Rauner; Ms. Nettie Lasko, Immigrant Assistance Program Coordinator, Office of the Attorney General; Ms. Emily Berman, Deputy Director, Office of the Mayor;  Ms. Patricia Maza-Pittsford, Dean of the Chicago Consular Corps, Dr Gopal Lalmalani, Mayor of Oak Brook; Hon’ble judges Anthony Simpkins and Divya Sarang, Seann Nelipinath, President of the India Chamber of Commerce, Ms. Paula Garrett Ellis, President of Now Art India; Raja Krishnamoorthi, Congressional candidate for Chicago’s 8thDistrict, Mr. Zain Raj, President & CEO of Shapiroraj and Mrs. Lubaina Raj. Mr. Vimal & Bulbul Bahuguna, Board Members of the American India Foundation, and Consul General’s mother Mrs Kaneez Fatima.  Consuls General of Germany, Sweden, South Africa, Philippines, Pakistan, Lithuania, Serbia and several other countries also participated in the event.

During her remarks Farha Sayeed mentioned that she got exposed to Egg Art seventeen years ago while she was in Qatar. “The fragility of an eggshell appealed to me as a unique medium to test my creativity”, she said, adding “I can switch over easily from painting to carving to calligraphy to etching on the egg shell and the scope seems to be unlimited.”  Farha mentioned that over the years she had attempted introducing Indian motifs and calligraphy into her art.

Mr. Zain Raj outlined the activities of the American India Foundation with particular reference to the Maternal & Newborn Survival Initiative (MANSI) and thanked Farha for supporting this noble cause.

Consul General of India Dr. Ausaf Sayeed said that while art is important in its own right, it assumes social significance when it is used as a vehicle to find enduring solutions to the problems faced by the people, particularly women and children. He outlined the Consulate’s support to various socio-cultural activities undertaken by the American-Indian Diaspora in Chicagoland.

While all the egg art exhibits were widely appreciated by the visitors, “Eggstravaganza” and “Nirvana”, the lead pieces of the exhibition and a combination of the egg shells of Ostrich, Rhea, and Goose eggs, along with “Apostles of Peace”, a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa on an Emu egg shell, drew particular admiration.

Earlier, Farha has hosted her solo exhibitions titled “EGGSPERIENCE” in Copenhagen, “EGGCELLENCE” in Jeddah, “EGGXOTICA” in New Delhi, and “EGGSPRESSIONS” in Sana’a.  She had also participated in the Dallas Egg Show 2015 along with other international egg artists. Farha, a member of the international Egg Artists Guild, is considered a pioneer in promoting egg art in India.

Naeem Khan Impresses America’s First Family With Impressive Designs

First Lady Michelle Obama chose a floral gown made of Kashmiri fabric and embroidery by Indian-American designer Naeem Khan for dinner on the concluding day of the Obamas’ visit to Cuba last week. “The dress Michelle Obama selected for the Cuban dinner was in a Kashmiri fabric,” the New York Times reported. “It was embroidered with an Indian floral motif, and was similar to one in the same fabric from the designer’s pre-fall collection,” it added. The embroidery on the gown was Kashmir’s traditional “Ari work”. The dinner’s dress code was “casual cocktail”.

Celebrated designer Khan told the media “after what America has done for me, coming from India, I need to give back to this country. She (Michelle Obama) has made my brand and put America back in fashion,” he said. “I would do anything for her.” Barack Obama is the first US President since 1928 to undertake a three-day visit to Cuba along with his wife Michelle Obama and senior officials.

Speculation ran to two prominent Cuban-American designers whose work Mrs. Obama has championed: Isabel Toledo, whose canary-yellow dress and coat she wore to her husband’s first inauguration, and Narciso Rodriguez, whom she has worn several times, most recently to the State of the Union address in January.

In the end, Mrs. Obama went with Naeem Khan, the Indian-American designer she has worn often. “I had sent her a couple of different things,” Mr. Khan said in an interview on Tuesday morning. “I had no idea. You never know what she’s going to wear. I guess I got pretty lucky.”

Khan is responsible for some of Mrs. Obama’s best looks, including the gown she wore to a state dinner for India in 2009. (Cathy Horyn, then the fashion critic of The New York Times, wrote, “She probably never looked better.”) He has also become something of a family favorite: The first daughters Malia and Sasha Obama wore Naeem Khan dresses for their first appearance at a state dinner at the Canada dinner this month. (“I guess they see their mom in all the glam and want to be like her,” Khan said. “I was very happy when they chose something.”