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Indian-American chemist Sumita Mitra wins European Inventor Award

Indian-American chemist Sumita Mitra has won one of Europe’s most prestigious innovation prizes for her pioneering use of nanotechnology in dentistry to produce stronger and more aesthetically pleasing fillings which are now used by dentists around the world.

Mitra won European Inventor Award 2021 in the “Non-EPO countries” category.

This researcher found that nanoclusters could be used in dentistry, resulting in robust, durable, and aesthetically pleasing fillings, the European Patent Office (EPO) said in a statement.

Her material overcomes many limitations of previous dental composites, which were either too weak to be used on biting surfaces or quickly lost their polish. These tiny clusters have been used in one billion dental restorations worldwide, it said.

EPO President António Campinos said, “Sumita Mitra took an entirely new path in her field and demonstrated how technological innovation, protected by patents, can transform a sector, and in this case bring benefits to millions of dental patients. Her invention remains commercially successful nearly 20 years after its launch, another reason why she is an inspiration to the next generation of scientists.”

Until the late 1990s, dentists struggled to find an optimal material to secure fillings in place to repair decayed or broken teeth. Commonly used options (composite microfills and hybrid composites) were either too weak for biting surfaces or became dull and unattractive over time.

While working in the Oral Care Division of the American multinational 3M, Mitra became determined to find an alternative.

Mitra’s ground-breaking filler FiltekTM Supreme universal restorative was commercialized by 3M and launched in 2002.

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Pramila Jayapal introduces legislation to ban facial recognition tech by govt

Led by Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, a group of US lawmakers has introduced a bicameral legislation to stop government use of biometric technology, including facial recognition tools, which they said violates the privacy of citizens and “deepens racial bias” in policing.

The Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act, introduced on Tuesday, responds to reports that hundreds of local, state and federal entities, including law enforcement agencies, have used unregulated facial recognition technologies and research showing that roughly half of US adults are already in facial recognition databases.

While Jayapal along with Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib introduced the legislation in the House of Representatives, Senators Edward J Markey, Jeff Merkley, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Ron Wyden introduced it in the Senate.

The Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act would place a prohibition on the use of facial recognition technology by federal entities, which can only be lifted with an act of Congress. It also prohibits use of other biometric technologies, including voice recognition, gate recognition and recognition of other immutable physical characteristics by federal entities, which can only be lifted with an act of Congress.

The Act imposes conditions on federal grant funding to state and local entities, including law enforcement, on those entities enacting their own moratoria on the use of facial recognition and biometric technology and prohibit the use of federal dollars for biometric surveillance systems. It prohibits the use of information collected via biometric technology in violation of the Act in any judicial proceedings.

Facial recognition technology is not only invasive, inaccurate and unregulated, but it has also been unapologetically weaponized by law enforcement against Black people across this country. That’s why I have long called on companies like Amazon to stop selling this technology, and it’s why we need to immediately take additional steps to rein in its use, Jayapal said.

This legislation will not only protect civil liberties but aggressively fight back against racial injustice by stopping federal entities from using facial recognition and biometric surveillance tools while stripping support for state and local law enforcement departments that continue its use, she added.

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US Senate confirms Indian-American Radhika Fox to lead EPA’s water office

The US Senate has confirmed Indian-American water issues expert Radhika Fox as head of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water.

The Senate, bitterly divided on party lines, confirmed Fox’s nomination on Wednesday by 55 to 43 votes after seven Republican Senators supported her candidature. Two Democratic Senators did not cast their votes.

“Ms Fox brings with her an impressive professional record of service and accomplishment, spanning over two decades, working on water issues at the local, state and federal level,” Senator Tom Carper, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), said.

“We have the opportunity today to confirm a truly gifted leader and put her to work serving our country right away,” he added.

On April 14, President Joe Biden nominated Fox for the post of Assistant Administrator for Water, Environmental Protection Agency.

Fox currently serves as the Acting Assistant Administer for Water. The EPA’s Office of Water works to ensure that drinking water is safe, waste water is safely returned to the environment, and surface waters are properly managed and protected.

Prior to joining EPA, Fox served as the Chief Executive Officer for the US Water Alliance, where she established herself as a widely recognized national thought leader on complex water issues, from equitable water management to investing in the nation’s water infrastructure.

Fox holds a Bachelors of Arts degree from Columbia University and a Masters in City and Regional Planning from the University of California at Berkeley where she was a HUD Community Development Fellow.

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Indian American founded MyYogaTeacher raises $3M seed to connect US Yogis with experts in India

MyYogaTeacher closed on $3 million in seed funding to tap into the in-home fitness industry that gained traction in the past year.

The seed round was led by TSVC with participation from Leonis Partners, Weekend Fund, All Access Fund and Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments.

Jitendra Gupta, co-founder of restaurant loyalty program provider Punchh — which was sold to PAR Technology for $500 M in April — founded the Cupertino, California-based company in 2018 to provide on-demand group and one-on-one yoga lessons taught by expert instructors.

“It started with Punchh, where the job was often stressful,” Gupta told Crunchbase News. “People would be talking to me about their day, and I would be a zombie. Yoga helped me be present, but I needed a live teacher for that human connection.”

MyYogaTeacher’s app streams interactive lessons directly to students in the US from more than 120 experienced teachers in India. Nearly every type of yoga is offered, as well as personal classes where a long-term relationship can be built with a teacher, while also tracking progress.

The funding comes as MyYogaTeacher experienced massive membership growth that drove a 15x increase in revenue over the last year, Gupta said. He estimates that in addition to the 35 million that practice yoga, there is opportunity to reach another 40 million Americans with chronic neck and back pain, as well as those who may have tried a studio, but found it to be too awkward or embarrassing.

“We’ve doubled our team in the last five months,” Gupta said. “There is a massive opportunity to reach people with that human connection, and the new funding will help us execute and build out that vision.”

He expects to triple his growth metrics by the end of the year. (Source: crunchbase.com)

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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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FIA, CGI New York organize Yoga Day program at Liberty State Park, NJ

The Federation of Indian Associations of the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut and the Consulate General of India, New York, is organizing a one-hour-long yoga and meditation program on the occasion of the 7th International Day of Yoga on June 20, 2021 at Liberty State Park,200 Morris Pesin Drive Jersey City, New Jersey. The FIA has invited all to join the program.

Singer, songwriter Jay Sean will be the guest of honor, Nina Davuluri will host the event and yoga sessions will be led by certified yoga instructor Thara Natalie. 
Established in 1970, FIA is one of the largest esteemed umbrella organizations in the Indian community. 

 

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Houston to observe IYD 2021, focused on well-being amid pandemic

By Pooja Salhotra 

Although India’s second spike of Covid-19 has been dominating news headlines, it is the country’s ancient mind-body practice of yoga that is top of mind for some.

Health and wellness experts around the world are gearing up to observe the seventh annual International Yoga Day (IYD), recognized by a United Nations resolution co-sponsored by a record 177 nations. The celebration comes at a time that anxiety and psychological suffering are soaring. In the US, more than 42 percent of people surveyed by the US Census Bureau in December reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, an increase from 11 percent the previous year. Physical isolation and fear of the Covid-19 infection are thought to have contributed to these numbers, and yoga and meditation have emerged as possible panaceas. 

“A lot of people misunderstand yoga as a physical exercise, but yoga is for peace, harmony, wellness and health,” said Vipin Kumar, executive director of India House, one of the event sponsors. “That is what we are celebrating.” 

The UN has appropriately chosen “Yoga for well-being” as this year’s event theme, focusing on the role the practice can play in fighting social isolation and depression. In Houston, the city’s Consulate General of India in partnership with a number of organizations is marking the occasion with outdoor events on Sunday, June 20 and on Monday, June 21, both free and open to the public.  

Sunday’s IYD event takes place at Buffalo Bayou Park while Monday’s, which will also be livestreamed, is outdoors at India House. Both events take place from 6-8 p.m. and will include booths with food vendors and ayurvedic related organizations as well as a formal presentation with an address by the Consulate General of India, Houston. Top yoga teachers from Houston, including Shekhar Agarwal, Vishwarupa NanjundappaNancy MartchRobert BoustanyMark Ram and Saumil Manek will both perform complicated poses and lead the public in a standard 55-minute yoga practice. 

This year’s event also includes a specific focus on galvanizing youth. Hindus of Greater Houston and Young Hindus of Greater Houston are encouraging youth to submit pictures of Yogasana along with a personalized message about what yoga means to them. Judges will then select certain submissions to be published in prominent local newspapers. 

In addition to the events taking place in Houston, the Woodlands is hosting its own virtual event on Saturday, June 19. That event will focus on how yoga can help boost immunity. Dr. Neeta Shukla, an anesthesiologist and a yoga teacher who has helped spearhead the IYD events in the Woodlands for the past five years, said yoga works at the cellular level to assist with immunity. 

“Yoga has the master key to unlock your inner potential and your inner energy,” said Dr. Shukla. “It is the best preventive medicine for individual health, happiness and to lead a disease-free life.” 

For more information about upcoming IYD events in Texas, visit yogadayoftexas.org

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K Nagaraj Naidu named to lead UN bureaucracy for a year

 

Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer K Nagaraj Naidu was named chef de cabinet on Wednesday by the incoming UN general assembly president, Maldivian foreign minister Abdulla Shahid, for the duration of his one-year tenure to lead the world body through its return to normalcy as countries strive to bring the pandemic under control.

“Today, I have appointed ambassador Thilmeeza Hussain as special envoy of the PGA, and ambassador Nagaraj Naidu Kumar as my chef de cabinet. They will be instrumental in delivering my vision for the #PresidencyOfHope,” Shahid tweeted.

Hussain is Maldives’ permanent representative to the UN and doubles up as ambassador to the US and Canada.

Naidu is India’s deputy permanent representative to the UN, and he will be on loan from the Indian government to the United Nations for a position that is comparable to the Indian prime minister’s principal secretary, who oversees the cabinet bureaucracy; also something like the chief of staff to the US president.

Naidu will probably be the first Indian diplomat to be named to this position, and as such, his appointment bears testimony to India’s growing influence in the world body.

Naidu’s stewardship of the UN general assembly bureaucracy will be critical at a time when the world body is trying to get back on its feet with Covid-19 being steadily brought under control.

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39th Annual AAPI Convention from July 2-5

The American Association of Physicians of Indian origin (AAPI) will have its 39th Annual AAPI Convention & Scientific Assembly from July 2nd to July 5th, 2021 at CNN Center and Georgia World Congress Center.

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

With the intent to have a limited number of attendance due to the ongoing pandemic and taking into account the safety of the participants, including physicians, academicians, researchers and medical students, “the annual convention offers extensive academic presentations, recognition of achievements and achievers, and professional networking at the alumni and evening social events,” said Dr. Sajani Shah, Chair of AAPI BOT. 

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

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

In addition, the convention will have CEOs Forum, fabulous entertainment, and women’s leadership forum. The convention will be addressed by senior world leaders, including US Senators, Presidential candidates, Governors, Congressmen, and celebrities from the Hollywood and Bollywood world, Dr. Amit Chakrabarty, Secretary of AAPI 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 Atlanta!” said Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, AAPI president. 

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