Latest News USA

Indian-American Vishal Sikka founded AI firm raises $140 million

A Silicon Valley-based AI platform and products startup founded and headed by Indian-American IT expert Vishal Sikka has raised $140 million to accelerate the delivery of its human-centered AI platform and products to enterprises worldwide.

Founded in 2019 with seed money of $50 million, to address the unfulfilled promise of enterprise AI, Vianai Systems’ customers include many of the largest and most respected businesses in the world, to which it delivers Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and data science platforms and products.

The massive series B funding raised by Vainai System from SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and several industry luminaries, will help the start-up to accelerate the delivery of its human-centered AI platform and products to enterprises worldwide, a media release said.

“We have been working hard to build a better AI platform, one that puts human judgement at the center of systems that bring vast AI capabilities to amplify human potential,” said Dr Vishal Sikka, founder and CEO of Vianai.

“I am grateful for the trust and the confidence that our customers and our investors have put in us as we help enterprises achieve great, purposeful transformations with human-centered AI,” Sikka, one of the world’s leading experts in Artificial Intelligence, said.

In a statement, Vianai said its pioneering human-centered AI approach amplifies human judgment thus empowering domain experts with AI tools to deliver powerful business value. Vianai has already delivered successful business outcomes to numerous world-leading enterprises, it said.

“With Vianai as an innovation partner, Munich Re is on a path towards the breakthrough digital transformation of our core business, and that of the industry as a whole,” said Dr Torsten Jeworrek, Member of the Group Executive Board and Global Head of Reinsurance at Munich Re.

“With the AI revolution underway, we believe Vianai’s human-centered AI platform and products provide global enterprises with operational and customer intelligence to make better business decisions,” said Deep Nishar, Senior Managing Partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers.

Vianai investors include Jim Davidson (co-Founder of Silver Lake), Henry Kravis and George Roberts (co-founders of KKR), and Jerry Yang (founding partner of AME and co-founder of Yahoo! Inc.). Joining Vianai’s previously announced advisory board is Dr Fei-Fei Li (co-director of the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered AI).

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Articles Business Latest News

A Challenge to Corporate ‘Raj’

By  Neera Kuckreja Sohoni

On June 15, the Anti-trust regulator in the UK announced it has opened a year-long probe into Google’s and Apple’s mobile ecosystems (iOS and Android) suspecting a possible stifling of competition.

Facebook is facing a challenge in the European Union on the issue of use of cookies to track users without their prior consent. Its user privacy infringement through use of cookies is in direct breach of EU data protection regulations.

Tik Tok is being sued by a Parents Group in the Netherlands for illegally accessing data on their children and compromising their privacy and safety. The UK similarly is suing the company over the use of data on millions of children.

India’s National Commission for Protection of Child Rights has sought a report from Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Telegram regarding posts on these sites offering illegal adoption of children tragically orphaned from the Corona pandemic. A Parliamentary Committee has asked Twitter to appear before it to discuss safeguarding of citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social media platforms.

Across the world, with misuse of social networking sites posing a threat not only to individual but also to national security, social media behemoths are at last facing extra scrutiny for everything ranging from mergers, acquisitions and monopoly behavior, to privacy and free speech infringement.

While other countries are recognizing and taking legal steps to counter the threat, the US has been slow to take off. Some experts and legislators here have questioned whether these social media platforms are fulfilling their obligation as neutral digital public forums.  Among them, liberals have expressed concern these sites are not doing enough to counter violent or false speech, while conservatives have argued that the platforms are unfairly restricting and banning public access to potentially valuable conservative speech.

Existing federal law does not offer recourse for users seeking to challenge a social media provider’s decision about whether and how to present a user’s content. Legal challenges to these sites remain largely unsuccessful absent federal law provisions that can make these private companies accountable for violating free speech.

Claims against social media companies are anyway barred by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provides immunity to social media providers, both for decisions to host content created by others, and for actions taken “voluntarily” and “in good faith” to restrict access to “objectionable” material. Those fine but ambiguous terms provide enough elbow room to the companies to act freely, even irresponsibly.

India’s challenge to the mighty Social Media Empire Raj has accelerated with Twitter losing the coveted “safe harbor” immunity over its failure to appoint statutory officers on the company’s roll in line with the new IT rules.

But unrest among users is growing with liberals complaining not enough is done to exclude harmful incendiary and hate content posted by conservatives, and the latter protesting the bias against conservatives of the almost wholly liberal Silicon Valley controlled media platforms that work against Republican Party and favor Democrats.

Trump, who had often spoken against Section 230, did issue an executive order directing the executive branch to ask independent rule-making agencies whether new regulations could be placed on the social media companies. But that symbolic order meant little, with Trump’s own access to the Twitter and Facebook platforms ironically getting blocked!

That these bans are more political than principled is clear from Facebook’s recently announced  decision to ensure Trump stays barred until slightly beyond the midterm elections at which point the company will revisit the ban’s extension. Only a fool would believe it will not be extended once again to prevent Trump from using his powerful internet potential to dislodge Biden. Hardly innocent, Facebook’s and Twitter’s actions clearly are a favor to Biden and Democrats.

While as Biden supporters we may welcome that outcome, regardless of our party affiliation, we should be horrified at the stranglehold placed by social media mandarins on public discourse and behavior. The selective use of banning in favor of one person, party, or cause is not only despicable but scary. That such unrestrained power of censorship can impact not only our politics and elections, but also destroy vital other sectors of our life such as public health, education, religious pursuit, and the economy, as was clearly demonstrated in the wake of the Corona pandemic, makes the threat to each of us personal.

As pressure intensifies for making these companies liable not only for third-party content posted on the platform but also for their biased interference with and manipulation of speech, it has finally provoked some Congressional action. Twitter and Facebook have been questioned in several Congressional committee hearings over their impartiality and excessive power to restrict free speech, and their ability to monopolize public discourse and commerce. Republican Senator Josh Hawley introduced a bill last June that would eliminate the Section 230 immunity unless tech companies submitted to an external audit certifying that their content moderation practices were politically neutral. But further progress is stalled on that and other legislative ventures due to difficulty in finding cross-party support.

Lobbyists meanwhile have aggressively sought to derail any attempt to legislate reform and placed a stranglehold on lawmakers by the corrupting power of money. Elected representatives and even bureaucrats in America in many cases depend directly or indirectly on the financial backing, charity, and goodwill of those powerful social media companies. If you dare to cross the imaginary and ambiguous red line they have arbitrarily set, you get cancelled, de-platformed, and de-funded.

At state level luckily, Florida’s Governor and legislative leaders have announced they intend to set new requirements for social media companies, including clearing the way for lawsuits and financial penalties against platforms that violate the requirements. The Texas Attorney General’s request to Twitter to explain their content guidelines is another example of state initiatives aimed at restraining social media platforms gaining momentum.

The discourse around Corona as we all noticed was and is heavily controlled, with the media platforms suspending or banning contrarian views on anything to do with Corona’s origins, diagnosis, therapeutics, and mitigation. By arbitrarily censoring whatever clashed with the versions advocated by the official infectious disease bureaucracy and scientists, they abused public trust. Worse, they likely colluded with the bureaucracy and the scientists to perpetuate one-sided discourse, as seen in the recently revealed email exchanges between National Institutes of Health’s Dr. Fauci and Facebook’s Zuckerberg.

After 18 months of highly manipulated information dissemination on Corona, as the Wuhan origin of the virus theory is becoming plausible, and some treatment therapies that were outlawed by the media companies as “Trump-speak” are beginning to be accepted as beneficial, there is ground not merely for recrimination but also monetary compensation for the socio-economic damages caused to the global community from excessive use of discretionary power and abuse of authority by the media.

President Biden’s appointment of Lina Khan, who has been a fierce critic of Big Tech’s market monopoly, to head the Federal Trade Commission is a promising development. But her impact is likely to be more on market fairness than on challenging suppression of free speech. (Photo courtesy AP)

Biden’s appointment of Lina Khan, who has been a fierce critic of Big Tech’s market monopoly, to head the Federal Trade Commission is a promising development. But her impact is likely to be more on market fairness than on challenging suppression of free speech. The same possibly is true of the multi-bill legislation introduced on June 10 2021 in the US House, which if passed would be the most daring Congressional venture to curtail the power of Amazon, Apple,  Facebook and Google over online commerce, information, and entertainment.

In contrast, India’s challenge to the mighty Social Media Empire Raj has accelerated with Twitter losing the coveted “safe harbor” immunity over its failure to appoint statutory officers on the company’s roll in line with the new IT rules. Its top executives, including the country managing director, could face police questioning and criminal liability under Indian Penal Code over ‘unlawful’ and ‘inflammatory’ content posted on the platform by any user.

One can imagine Google, YouTube, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram etcetera facing a similar fate.


Based in California, the published author contributes opeds and essays regularly to  The South Asian Times.

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Business Latest News

Is your name lucky for you?

By Sidhharrth S Kumaar

The letters of your name have the power to help you build a successful life. Owing to the benefits that the study of numerology offer, several celebrities and business tycoons have paved their way to success by changing their names.

Celebrity name changes

Not many people know this, but even the most respected and renowned celebrity, Mr. Amitabh Bachchan, changed his name from Inquilab Srivastava (birth name) to what he is recognized as today. It was his father, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, who made the change in his name. This industry name is also said to have paved a way for success.

Sometimes people also add or subtract certain letters in their name to procure the benefits of numerology. For instance, formerly known as ‘Rani Mukherji’, the actress changed the spelling of her name to Rani Mukerji, as suggested by her numerologist. This change of only a single letter has worked wonders for her life. There are several other celebrities in Bollywood as well as Hollywood who have made small or big changes to their names to seek the benefits of numerology.
Lucky Names in Businesses

Even the most popular of tech giants or businesses today have changed the names of their businesses/corporations. For instance, Instagram which is one of the most popular social media sites in the world was earlier named as Burbn. Similarly, Google was not the first choice, the tech-giant was earlier named BackRub. Hence, people from all walks of life have adapted to name changes for their business’s success.
How to Find Your Lucky Name?

Numerology is a scientific art. Hence numerology provide an insight on how you can benefit from a change in your name based on your lucky letters.

As per Chaldean numerology, every alphabet has been assigned a number and every number is known to have a positive or negative impact on your lives.

What are the Core Numbers for every Alphabet?

The following table shows what number is assigned against each alphabet.  This number can be modified to synchronize with your Date of Birth.

Steps to follow:

  • First Name Number and Compound Number: Based on the letters of your first name, allocate a number to each alphabet. See table below. In name number, both two-digit name number and single digit sum is equally important.
  • Name Number and Name Compound: Assign number to each alphabet of an individual’s last name.
  • For instance- First Name – 29 is compound and 2 is First name number
thesatime | The Southasian times

Hence, 15

Name number – 44 is compound and 8 is name number

Name Number: 29+15 = 44 (8)

This is how you can calculate your name number. Based on the astrological implications of the number, a numerologist can choose the best name for you. There are several other intricacies of finding a name number which is best understood by someone who has studied numerology.

Remember your name is your identity, the signal that one telecasts to world and it carries a purpose much more than that. Hence, one must focus on these aspects of life to foster one’s growth trajectory.

(Sidhharrth S Kumaar is an astro numerologist in India )

Not many people may know but even the most respected and renowned Indian celebrity, Amitabh Bachchan, changed his name from Inquilab Srivastava (birth name) to what he is recognized as today. (Photo courtesy Pinterest)
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Articles Latest News

The changing face of work post-pandemic

By Sidhi Jain

As the world of education and work makes a gradual recovery from the effects of COVID-19 pandemic, experts foresee the new trends and dramatic changes that will impact the careers of graduates who venture out in the market in 2021-22 onwards.

A new technology-driven focus, according to Marwadi University Provost Prof. Sandeep Sancheti, would emerge in the jobs that are likely to be in demand in the coming times. In the medical and health field, he lists some of these trending jobs to be: Health-care supporting staff like intake specialists, pharmacy technicians, and certified nursing assistants. This field also has roles such as mental health specialists and health and fitness coaches to be on the rise.

In the IT and Computer space, he foresees demand for data science specialists, data management analysts and data mining experts, along with artificial intelligence and machine learning engineers, user experience professionals like UI/UX design specialists, product design consultants, game developers, full stack developers and cloud engineers and architects, and cyber security experts.

“Among everything else, one thing is for sure, remote work is here to stay. The millennials and GenZ will be the trendsetters with Zoom and Google workspaces as the ruling platforms for remote work and the year 2021 will see more opportunities and prospects for dynamic and multi-tasking professionals with analytical, programming and marketing skills,” he says.

As per Dr Sandeep Shastri, Vice Chancellor, Jagran Lakecity University, the career trends currently being offered in the second decade of this century are the most diverse ever available in human history. The fields are demanding super specializations and individuals are training to fill the gaps.

“The digital revolution has shown its effects in the hospitality sector in the form of automation of a huge chunk of repetitive tasks. Public policy traditionally being a blend of political science, law and sociology now has added data analytics to the mix. In areas like accounting and finance, new and extended career roles are outsourcing services, big data analytics, fintech, artificial intelligence, cloud accounting and block chain technology. Post-Covid era brings huge job opportunities in financial institutions like stock exchanges, depositaries, stock broking firms and investment banks etc which are employing tech-savvy economists en masse,” he says.

Digital content creators like podcasters, bloggers, influencers, video creators, and voice-over artists will be in demand in the future.

According to Sahil Aggarwal, Co-Founder and CEO, Rishihood University, “with increasing options, access to information, and technological changes”, the current generation of students faces a different aspect of career growth.

Here are some tips on capitalizing on these career trends:

Entrepreneurial mindset
Employers are increasingly looking for employees who are self-driven. The best employees align with the company’s objectives, find new tasks, and work with teams to achieve. Those who work as if it is their own company are more likely to succeed than those who wait to be given a task list.

Interdisciplinary talent
Graduates who demonstrate an understanding of varied domains are appreciated more than those who are narrowly focused.

Creative potential
In a world changing so fast, successful companies are always creating new value for their customers. Employees who have creative potential are far more valuable than those who stick to the routine.

People skills
It is often repeated, and rightly so, that beyond a point, a person grows or stagnates based on how well one can work with others.

Learning to learn.
Once we stop learning, we are replaced by other humans or machines. The mindset of learning is key to succeed in the 21st century.

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Latest News New York

“I will be the taxpayers’ watchdog in Nassau County”

By Parveen Chopra

Former New York State Senator Elaine Phillips is confident that she will be elected Nassau County Comptroller this November. Speaking to The South Asian Times, she said, “I have experience in both the public and private sector and the skills to be the taxpayers’ watchdog. To be the independent voice, to make sure that the taxpayers are told the truth of what is happening with the County government.”

Phillips is running on Republican, Conservative and Tax Revolt Party lines. Her opponent, Democrat Ryan Cronin is a corporate attorney who twice ran unsuccessfully for State Senate.

Elaine Phillips’ background in the financial sector stands out. An MBA in finance from Penn State, she worked for JP Morgan and in Goldman Sachs for a long time.  In 2010 she started a new phase, to give back to the community. “I got involved as a trustee in my village, Munsey. I served in many volunteer roles. I became Mayor in Flower Hill. I went on to get elected to the New York Senate, representing the northwest quadrant of Nassau County,” she says.

The Comptroller’s role, Phillips argues, is critical, because “we watch over our community’s taxes. To make sure that our tax dollars are used effectively, efficiently and transparently.” She cites the anomalous reassessment in the County.  “We were told that for 50% of people taxes will go up and for 50% they will go down. Instead, we found that for two-thirds of homeowners their assessment went up. This is where the Comptroller should step in and order an audit. Why did that happen? What changed and why were we not informed of the change? Then again, the legislature was told in last December that the County was going to have a deficit. And now we have a surplus!”

As Comptroller, she says her job will be to make sure that the county administration and the legislature do their job. To go in and do the analysis. And report to the people.

Phillips is critical of the Democratic Party which has not asked the sitting county Comptroller Jack Schnirman to step down even after District Attorney Madeline Singas, from his own Democratic party, issued public reports faulting him for accepting  payouts illegally when he worked as Long Beach city manager. He is not seeking re-election.

“I am proud to be a Republican,” Phillips says, “because I can go to bed every night knowing that I have always given my best to my community, in the most ethical standards that I can live by. People are concerned how far Democrats’ reforms have gone about the call to defund the police. They are concerned how an administration is raising taxes when that is the last thing we should be doing.”

Yet, she claims she is not a gotcha kind of person. “We need bipartisan effort, and I said it in the Senate, we need both parties, we need checks and balances. And that is exactly why I should be elected Comptroller. To bring the independent voice. County Executive Laura Curran has been at my house for dinner.  We know each other, we will work together. County legislative majority leader Rick Nicolello too has been to my house. We will work together to make sure that taxpayers of Nassau County get what they deserve,” she says.

Elaine Phillips has come to know the South Asian community in the past couple of years. “They have prospered here on Long Island, thanks to the economic support, the living environment, the school districts. All people want to live here.  We got to protect that. Here on Long Island, we can feel secure, financially and because of law enforcement support. Home ownerships is also important and keeping taxes as low as we can.”

Hicksville, she points out in particular, is a community which is vibrant with small and mid-sized businesses. “And we need to keep it that way. Incidentally, part of Hicksville was in my state Senate district.”

A month ago, she attended a press conference in Hicksville that talked about the need for America and Americans to support India and other South Asian countries devastated by Covid. Earlier this month,  she attended another press conference on the steps of the Nassau County legislative building in Mineola, to honor the young spiritual teacher Ishan Shivanand who donated PPE for India.

Phillips credits her widening knowledge of the South Asian community to her association with Ragini Srivastava, who is running on the Republican ticket for North Hempstead Town Clerk: “She is an inspiring woman who has worked hard with many community leaders for Covid relief efforts in India. She is the one who takes me to the community events.”

As County Comptroller, how can I help the South Asian community, Phillips asks rhetorically? “The same answer: to ensure that their tax dollars are used the way they should be. To have community groups, particularly businesses that come in like in Hicksville and in New Hyde Park where we can have forums to talk about how we can keep economic development going, how do we keep our religious communities vibrant. How do we keep our communities and our children to be able to afford to live near us? I did that as a Mayor, I believe I did that as a Senator. I want to continue to represent the people of Nassau County. And I do want my children and grandchildren to live here near me!”

Incidentally, two of Phillips’ three daughters have lived and done some volunteer work in India. And she recalls, “I have travelled with my family to India three years ago. I found it a vast country with so many different cultures just like the United States.”

Phillips’ final pitch to be elected Comptroller: “I got into public service, and I seek voters’ support to get back into public service because I care about our communities, and I want to ensure that  Nassau remains a safe and vibrant County.”

Contact: Elaine Phillips for Comptroller on Facebook.

In an exclusive interview with The South Asian Times, Elaine Phillips, running for Nassau County Comptroller, asserts that she has the requisite experience and skills for the job. (Photos provided)
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Latest News New York

Town of Oyster Bay launches July 4 decorating contest for residents

Oyster Bay, NY: Supervisor Joseph Saladino and Councilwoman Laura Maier invite residents to express their patriotism and the American Spirit in advance of Independence Day by decorating their homes in red, white and blue with lights, flags or other decorations from now through July 14th. To support our economic recovery, residents are encouraged to make decoration purchases of at least $17.76 from small businesses.

“This contest unites our community through patriotism and love while supporting our local economy,” said Supervisor Saladino. “Buying decorations from small businesses is also an important way for us to show our support of small businesses while celebrating our American spirit.”

“We’re experiencing some trying times in our world and bringing back our patriotic spirit can unite us as Americans,” said Councilwoman Maier. “We hope our residents will join us in decorating their homes as American celebrates its independence.”

The Town will illuminate Town Hall in red, white and blue.

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e-paper-stories International Latest News

President Biden counters China, Russia at summits in Europe

Geneva: President Biden went to Europe for a week to convince the allies that America was back, and for good; gather them in common cause against the rising threat of China; and establish some red lines for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, whom he called his “worthy adversary.”

At G7 he made inroads on China on which in Europe here has been reluctance to think of China as a threat — economically, technologically and militarily.

In Geneva, Biden expressed cautious optimism about finding ways to reach a polite accommodation with  Putin. But it is far from clear that any of the modest initiatives the two men described on Wednesday, after a stiff, three-hour summit meeting on the edge of Lake Geneva, will fundamentally change a bad dynamic, rcometns New York Times

Biden, one of his senior aides said after the meeting was over, “is perpetually optimistic” that Mr. Putin may, despite a long history of efforts to undermine the Western alliance, see advantage in changing course.

This was Biden’s first foreign tour as President. He began over the weekend in England, on the rocky shores of Cornwall, the venue for G7, talking about friendship, alliances, consultation, comity and multilateralism. At every stop he opened with the same three words: “America is back.”

In Brussels, at NATO’s 31st summit on Monday, he  said it was up to Democratic nations to prove to the world that autocracies cannot deliver for their people. He said NATO members must root out corruption, guard against hatred and “phony populism,” and invest in strengthening institutions “that underpin and safeguard our cherished democratic values.”

Photo courtesy Yahoo News
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e-paper-stories India Latest News

Addressing G-7, PM Modi calls for open vaccine chains

New Delhi: Calling for “global unity, leadership and solidarity”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi last Saturday emphasized the “special responsibility of democratic and transparent societies to prevent future pandemics”.

Addressing the G-7 outreach session via video conference, Modi also expressed India’s commitment to support collective endeavors to improve global health governance.

This is an oblique reference to the lack of transparency displayed by China in dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak and WHO’s poor leadership as the crisis engulfed the world.

Modi said there should be “one earth, one health” approach, which, sources said, was supported by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Sources said India’s emphasis on keeping “open supply chains for vaccine raw materials and components to help enhance vaccine production received widespread support”.

This came days after French President Emanuel Macron supported India’s demand for lifting restrictions on export of raw materials needed to manufacture vaccines.

The session, titled ‘Building Back Stronger – Health’, focused on global recovery from the pandemic and strengthening resilience against future pandemics.

Modi sought the G-7’s support for a proposal moved by “India and South Africa at the WTO for a TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) waiver on Covid-related technologies”. Sources said Australian PM Scott Morrison and others came out strongly in support of this.

The Prime Minister highlighted India’s “whole of society” approach to fight the pandemic, synergizing the efforts of all levels of government, industry and civil society.

He also explained India’s successful use of open source digital tools for contact tracing and vaccine management, and conveyed the country’s willingness to share its experience and expertise with other developing countries.

Modi expressed appreciation for the support extended by the G-7 and other guest countries during the recent wave of Covid infections in India.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had invited Modi to attend the outreach component of the G-7 Summit, along with Australia, South Korea and South Africa.

Addressing another G7 session on ‘open societies and open economies’ on Sunday, Modi  said India is a natural ally for the G7 countries in defending the shared values from a host of threats stemming from authoritarianism, terrorism and violent extremism, disinformation and economic coercion. In that session, the prime minister highlighted India’s civilizational commitment to democracy, freedom of thought and liberty, according to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

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Business e-paper-stories International Latest News

CEO Satya Nadella steps in as Microsoft Chairman too

San Francisco: Microsoft board has elected CEO Satya Nadella as Chairman of the tech giant, a first in two decades when Microsoft’s chairman will also be its CEO.

Bill Gates was the only other Chairman and CEO of Microsoft who stepped down as CEO in 2000. He stepped down as chairman in 2014 and the board then elected John Thompson as independent chairman. Thomson now takes over as lead independent director,

In his role as Chairman, Nadella will lead the work to set the agenda for the board, leveraging his deep understanding of the business to elevate the right strategic opportunities and identify key risks and mitigation approaches for the board’s review, the company said in a statement Wednesday.

In addition to these role changes, the board declared a quarterly dividend of $0.56 per share.

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