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Latest News USA

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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India Latest News USA

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer expresses solidarity with India

Washington, DCIndian Ambassador to the United States, Taranjit Singh Sandhu on Sunday called on US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to discuss the strategic partnership between the two countries, especially in the Quad, COVID-19 vaccines and healthcare.

The US Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer expressed concern over the sudden spike in Covid-19 cases in India and both sides discussed how the two countries are working together.

Taking to Twitter, Sandhu said: “Good conversation w/ Majority Leader @SenSchumer on the strategic partnership especially in QUAD; vaccines & healthcare. Discussed working together in innovation as well as emerging technologies & thanked him for his longstanding support for India & Indian American community.”

During the conversation, the Senate majority leader expressed concern over the sudden spike in Covid-19 cases in India and both sides discussed how the two countries are working together in innovation and emerging technologies.

Apart from Schumer, some of the other top American Senators who have come out in support of India over the past few months include Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Chris Van Hollen Dick Durbin, John Cornyn, Mark Warner, Bob Menendez, Jeff Merkley, Ed Markey, Jim Risch, Dianne Feinstein, Amy Klobuchar and Gary Peters.

The support from US lawmakers and policymakers is a result of a sustained outreach at US Congress by India’s top envoy Sandhu and senior Indian diplomats.

The Indian envoy had also had virtual meetings with eminent Republicans including Michael McCaul, Ranking Member, House Foreign Affairs Committee; Steve Chabot who is the Ranking Member of House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific; Brian Fitzpatrick, Jeff Fortenberry, Ann Wagner, Andy Barr, Liz Cheney, Scott Perry, Pete Sessions, Michael Waltz and Joe Wilson.

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Latest News USA

Indian American lawmaker Pramila Jayapal with Senator Sanders introduces College For All Act for to make tuition free

Earlier last week, US Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) led lawmakers in introducing the College for All Act, transformative legislation that opens up the dream of a college degree to millions of working-class students.

According to Jayapal, the proposal eliminates tuition and fees at public colleges and universities for families making up to $125,000 — nearly 80 percent of families — while also making community college free for every person across the country. This would make the most substantial federal investment in higher education in modern American history.

“While President Biden can and should immediately cancel student debt for millions of borrowers, Congress must ensure that working families never have to take out these crushing loans to receive a higher education in the first place,” said Congresswoman Jayapal. “The College for All Act will free students from a lifetime of debt, invest in working people, and transform higher education across America by making community college free for everyone and eliminating tuition and fees at public colleges and universities for families making up to $125,000.” 

Aligned with the Plan for Education Beyond High School that President Biden championed last year, the legislation guarantees tuition-free community college for all students, and ensures that students from families earning under $125,000 a year are able to attend public colleges and universities tuition-free and debt-free. It would also guarantee that students in families who earn less than $125,000 a year can attend non-profit Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and other Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) tuition-free and debt-free. Additionally, the bill makes an annual $10 billion federal investment to cover student support programs in these under-funded institutions.

“In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, a higher education should be a right for all, not a privilege for the few,” said Senator Sanders. 

The College for All Act also doubles the maximum Pell Grant to $12,990, allows students to use the money to cover living and non-tuition expenses such as books and housing, and expands grant eligibility to Dreamers. Additionally, the legislation triples federal TRIO and doubles GEAR UP funding to serve millions of additional low-income students, students with disabilities, and first-generation college students in their pursuit of a higher education.

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Latest News USA

Lawmakers press Biden government to help covid-hit India

As India announced a grim record — the highest daily coronavirus infections in a day, several US lawmakers have voiced their concerns and have exerted pressure on the Joe Biden administration to extend assistance to India.

On Friday, Senator Bernie Sanders said it was also in the United States’ own interest to ensure as many people were vaccinated as quickly as possible, to limit the chance of virus mutations that could prompt further US lockdowns. But he also appealed to Biden’s desire to rebuild US credibility in the world.

“On this enormously important health issue, this moral issue, the United States has got to do the right thing,” he told a news conference.

A separate letter has already been sent to US President Joe Biden by a group of senators including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and nearly 100 members of the House on the issue to waive the intellectual property (IP) rights of pharmaceutical companies.

The United States and a handful of other big countries have blocked negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) involving a proposal spearheaded by India and South Africa, which now has the support of 100 WTO members. The proposal would temporarily waive the IP rights of pharmaceutical companies to allow developing countries to produce vaccines.

The proponents are pushing Washington to change course ahead of the next formal WTO meeting on the issue on May 5.

On Friday, as India hit a global single-day record of more than 300,000 new cases, reacting to a news report, Congresswoman Rashida Tlabib pressed that the US President must support India.

“The #COVID19 crisis in India is a harsh reminder that the pandemic is not over until the whole world is safe. @POTUS must support a patent waiver to ramp up global production now.”

Prominent democrat lawmaker Ed Markey, one of the first US lawmakers to extend his support to India noted that the US has enough vaccines for Americans and they should not deny countries like India that need support.

“India is reporting the world’s highest ever single-day COVID case rise. Earth Day is about the health of the planet and everyone and everything on it. The US has more than enough vaccine for every American, but we are denying countries like India desperately needed support,” said Markey.

Critics say as America rolls in vaccines, there are shortages being reported across India. Lawmaker Haley Stevens made an appeal to the federal government and the international community to step in and stop the virus outbreak.

“My thoughts are with the people of India during this devastating COVID-19 surge,” said Rep Haley Stevens’ tweet.

Congressman Greg Meeks, the new House foreign affairs committee chair, also took to Twitter and extended his support to the people of India.

“Sending my thoughts and support to our friends in India fighting this terrible second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Congressman Meeks tweeted.

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Latest News USA

Congressman Ro Khanna named Democratic vice chair of Congressional India Caucus

Washington, DCIndian-American Congressman Ro Khanna, who represents the Silicon Valley in the US House of Representatives, has been named as Democratic Vice Chair of the Congressional India Caucus.

The seat has been created for the first time since its formation in 1994.

Khanna, who was recently elected for a third consecutive term from the congressional district representing Silicon Valley, is being considered as a potential contender to fill the US Senate seat from California that will fall vacant in January after Kamala Harris is sworn in as the country’s vice president.

“I believe Ro Khanna would be an outstanding Democratic Vice Chair,” Congressman Brad Sherman, Democratic Co-Chair of the Caucus, said in an email to his Congressional colleagues on Wednesday.

Born in Philadelphia in 1976, Khanna is the youngest of the four Indian-American lawmakers in US House of Representatives. The other three being Dr Ami Bera, 55, who is the senior-most member of the so called ‘Samosa Caucus’, Raja Krishnamoorthi, 47, and Pramila Jayapal, 55.

Khanna’s father is a chemical engineer who graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and the University of Michigan, and his mother is a former substitute school teacher.

Considered to be “dynamic” by his Congressional colleagues, Khanna is a strong supporter of India-US relationship. He previously served in the Obama Administration, as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Department of Commerce under from August 8, 2009, to August 2011.

First elected to the US Congress in 2016 by defeating incumbent Mike Honda, he has made a mark for himself within the Democratic Party, but also at the national stage on key issues ranging from foreign policy, national security, environment, commerce and manufacturing jobs.

He identifies himself as a progressive capitalist and was a national co-chair of Bernie Sanders’s 2020 presidential campaign.

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Latest News USA

Congressman Ro Khanna named Democratic vice chair of Congressional India Caucus

Indian-American Congressman Ro Khanna, who represents the Silicon Valley in the US House of Representatives, has been named as Democratic Vice Chair of the Congressional India Caucus.

The seat has been created for the first time since its formation in 1994.

Khanna, who was recently elected for a third consecutive term from the congressional district representing Silicon Valley, is being considered as a potential contender to fill the US Senate seat from California that will fall vacant in January after Kamala Harris is sworn in as the country’s vice president.

“I believe Ro Khanna would be an outstanding Democratic Vice Chair,” Congressman Brad Sherman, Democratic Co-Chair of the Caucus, said in an email to his Congressional colleagues on Wednesday.

Born in Philadelphia in 1976, Khanna is the youngest of the four Indian-American lawmakers in US House of Representatives. The other three being Dr Ami Bera, 55, who is the senior-most member of the so called ‘Samosa Caucus’, Raja Krishnamoorthi, 47, and Pramila Jayapal, 55.

Khanna’s father is a chemical engineer who graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and the University of Michigan, and his mother is a former substitute school teacher.

Considered to be “dynamic” by his Congressional colleagues, Khanna is a strong supporter of India-US relationship. He previously served in the Obama Administration, as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Department of Commerce under from August 8, 2009, to August 2011.

First elected to the US Congress in 2016 by defeating incumbent Mike Honda, he has made a mark for himself within the Democratic Party, but also at the national stage on key issues ranging from foreign policy, national security, environment, commerce and manufacturing jobs.

He identifies himself as a progressive capitalist and was a national co-chair of Bernie Sanders’s 2020 presidential campaign.

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Latest News New York

Neera Tanden, Biden’s pick for Budget Office, draws fire from the left and the right

New York:  Neera Tanden would become the first Indian American, and first woman of color, when confirmed, to head the influential Office of Management and Budget (OMB). But her formal nomination Tuesday by President-elect Joe Biden has drawn a fire of opposition from both Republicans and progressives alike. Currently she is the chief executive of the left-leaning Centre for American Progress, a public policy research and advocacy organization.  Tanden was a close ally of Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, and helped pass Obamacare.

The presidential transition team said this about Tanden, who has a JD from Yale Law School, “Her experience as a child relying on food stamps and Section 8 housing — a social safety net that offered her single mother the foundation she needed to land a good job and punch her family’s ticket to the middle class — instilled in her the true necessity of an economy that serves the dignity and humanity of all people.”

The communications director for Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Tanden “stands zero chance of being confirmed.”   Drew Brandewie tweeted that Tanden “has an endless stream of disparaging comments about the Republican Senators whose vote she’ll need.”

Even Nikki Haley, former South Carolina Governor, slammed Tanden’s nomination, saying Tanden has “shown bad judgment in the past”, for example, spreading a baseless theory that Hillary Clinton lost to Trump in 2016 because Russian hackers flipped votes.

Tanden’s reported selection also sparked angry reactions from the left, such as Brianna Joy Gray, the former press secretary for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, who called Tanden a woman who is openly disdainful of Sanders and his coalition. “Everything toxic about the corporate Democratic Party is embodied in Neera Tanden,” Gray tweeted.

Not all progressive figures objected to Tanden. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich said Tanden, along with Biden’s other picks for his economic team, is “committed to full employment, boosting wages, reducing inequality”.

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coronavirus Latest News USA

‘Don’t be afraid of COVID’: Trump’s message panned as ‘irresponsible’

Washington:President Donald Trump has drawn criticism for his decision to leave the hospital and return to the White House while he’s still infected with Covid-19 — and for boasting that Americans shouldn’t fear the disease.

Shortly after his release from Walter Reed, Trump tweeted, “Don’t be afraid of COVID.” He added, “Don’t let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump administration, some really great drugs & knowledge.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, called Trump’s message a “bone of contention.”

“You look at the now 210,000 people in the United States of America who have died, and you talk about the 7 million who have been infected, the 1 million who have died globally,” he said in an interview with the New Yorker.

“I think anybody who is looking at this realistically has to say this is a very serious situation. … It is a very serious disease that we need to reckon with.”

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s reaction: “He (Trump) said ‘don’t let COVID control your life.’ Tell that to the 205,000 families that lost somebody,”

Biden said Trump picked up COVID-19 because he refused to follow health guidelines and routinely wear a mask.

“Where millions of people have lost their jobs, where people are facing hunger and eviction, to say don’t be afraid of the COVID-19 is an absurd statement,” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said while campaigning for Biden in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“Of course, we should be afraid of it. It has wreaked havoc on our economy and on all of our lives.”

“I am struggling for words — this is crazy,” said Harald Schmidt, assistant professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania. “It is just utterly irresponsible.”

“It will lead to more casual behavior, which will lead to more transmission of the virus, which will lead to more illness, and more illness will lead to more deaths,” added Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

(Collage courtesy ABC News)
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International

Several Indian-Americans named to Biden-Sanders unity task forces

Washington, DC: Six prominent Indian-Americans from diverse fields have been named to the Biden-Sanders unity task forces announced by former vice president Joe Biden, who is the presumptive presidential nominee of the opposition Democratic Party.

Congresswoman from Seattle Pramila Jayapal and former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy have been named co-chairs of the Health Care Task Force. The unity task force is a result of Senator Bernie Sanders’ endorsement of the Biden campaign.

Climate change activist Varshini Prakash, 26, from Boston is the youngest member of these task forces alongside Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 30, and environmental justice advocate Catherine Flowers, 58.

Executive director of the Sunrise Movement, a leading organisation focused on climate change among young people, Prakash will serve on the Climate Change group. Former Secretary of State John Kerry is co-chair of this task force.

Legal luminary Chirag Bains has been named a co-chair of Criminal Justice Reform Task Force. Also former acting assistant attorney general Vanita Gupta, according to a statement issued by the Biden campaign.

Eminent Indian-American economist and former lobbyist Sonal Shah has been named to the Economy Task Force. “Honored to be serving on the unity task forces. Look forward to winning in Nov!” she said.

Biden and Sanders have named a diverse group of respected leaders and experts to Biden-Sanders unity task forces to explore possible policy initiatives in six areas covering: climate change, criminal justice reform, economy, education, health care, and immigration, a media statement said.

The task forces will meet in advance of the Democratic National Convention to make recommendations to the DNC Platform Committee and to Biden directly, it said.

Building upon the work of the Democratic campaigns to date, the ultimate goal of the unity task forces is to develop the most successful possible agenda for Democrats in 2020, it added.

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