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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

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 New York

Lawmakers urge HHS to address racial disparities in receiving COVID-19 vaccines

Democratic lawmakers are urging the US Health and Human Services Department to address racial health disparities related to the COVID-19 vaccination rollout.

In a letter to HHS-designate Xavier Becerra, Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) called for him to “collect, disseminate, and make publicly available (a national) demographic breakdown” of current and future administration of vaccines.

“The pandemic has only exacerbated already existing vulnerabilities and inequalities, particularly in access to health care,” Meng wrote. “Furthermore, inadequate access to the COVID-19 vaccine increases health disparities among vulnerable populations across the United States.”

Last Thursday, Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Edward J. Markey (D-MA) sent a similar  letter to acting HHS secretary Norris Cochran, pushing for “robust demographic data.”

They noted that there does not currently exist comprehensive racial, ethnic, and demographics data on those inoculated.

“[T]his lack of information will exacerbate existing health disparities and result in the loss of lives in our most vulnerable communities,” they wrote.

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