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Latest News USA

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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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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Latest News USA

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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Latest News USA

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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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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Latest News USA

Deputy NSA on supporting the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Community

My story is the story of so many other Indian Americans. In search of a better life for their kids – and maybe a bit of adventure for themselves – my parents left India for America in the 1970s. I was born in Maryland, spent a few years in Chicago, and settled in North Carolina when I was about seven years old.

I’ve always described my childhood as a happy one. Surrounded by a loving family, I felt like I was part of something bigger than myself, and that my life meant something to those around me. I also felt enormous pride and gratitude in being an American – having the freedom to find and become my authentic self, and the opportunity to dream big, even if in my case these were mostly athletic delusions.

At a young age, I also knew that we were different. I remember on the first day we arrived in Raleigh, our apartment was filled with unopened boxes. But instead of unpacking, my parents grabbed the phone book, found three Indian-sounding last names, and invited them over for dinner. All of them arrived within hours and, from that point on, we probably shared at least one weekend meal within the Indian community until I went away for college.

As I got older, I began to understand how much these gatherings meant. Like anyone else, my parents wanted a space where their traditions and beliefs were accepted, and that hadn’t always been their experience. When he first moved to the U.S., my dad – a turbaned Sikh – was told by his boss: if he wanted to keep his job, he’d need to fit in better. So that’s what my dad did – he sacrificed part of his identity to provide for his family. Meanwhile, my mom worked for the Raleigh city government, and I’ll never forget her coming home in tears after her boss openly bragged that he was a member of the KKK. He made sure to remind her of that throughout her years of dedicated but painful service in Raleigh city government.

Fast forwarding to the past few years, the rise in hateful attacks against Asian Americans and other communities of color made me realize that I was still carrying a lot of memories – painful ones – that felt heavier over the years. 

Much of the reason I’d been able to let these memories go was my deeply held belief that things were getting better when it came to race; that my kids would grow up in a different way. So I’ll admit, the slow progress and setbacks left me angry at times. I suspect many in the Indian American community feel the same way: we’re tired of watching the past repeat itself, and we’re exhausted from being quiet.

But to make change, we first have to recognize that we can all do better, myself included. That means being real about my own privilege as an Indian American from a middle-class household. I’m not at risk of being stopped and frisked. My wife and I don’t have to teach our kids how to survive if they get pulled over by the police. For those of us who’ve faced prejudice, we also need to check own our bias, and see our own privileges, if we’re going to do better.

It also means we need to speak out and do our part if we’re going to be seen as 100%, full-fledged, just-like-you citizens. As an Asian American, I’m deeply humbled and honored to have the privilege of serving in President Biden’s administration at a defining moment in our country’s history, while being a part of the most diverse administration ever assembled. My experience serving our country bears no resemblance to my mom’s days in Raleigh city government, but her experience back then, and recent violence toward Asian Americans, are a constant reminder to me about the responsibility I have of representing and standing up for the AAPI community every day in this job.

My role at the White House is to help create a self-reinforcing dynamic between domestic renewal, American leadership abroad, and national security. Part of domestic renewal has to do with economics: creating sustained and inclusive growth in jobs and wages, boosting the resilience of our critical supply chains, and strengthening our innovative edge. Another part of domestic renewal involves healing the wounds of racial injustice and coming together as a society to deliver on American’s unmatched promise. I don’t have direct policy responsibility in this area, but it’s central to what President Biden is trying to deliver, and a big reason why I’m here.

As a final thought, I want to use this platform to send love and support to my sisters and brothers in the Sikh community who have been a particular target of harassment, racism, and violence in recent years. I stand with them today and always.

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Latest News New York USA

Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla to contest for second term

New York: Hoboken, New Jersey Mayor Ravinder ‘Ravi’ Bhalla June 2 formally announced his re-election bid, pledging to serve as a regional and national leader in a post-pandemic world.

The campaign will formally kick off June 24.

The Indian American mayor, who was first voted into office in 2017, has the distinction of being one of the first mayors to issue “shelter-in-place” orders in March 2020, as the pandemic was making its presence known in the US. New York and New Jersey were hit particularly hard in the initial months of the global crisis.

Bhalla also holds the distinction of being the first Sikh American directly elected to office. He won his seat in 2017, emerging victorious from a crowded field of six candidates, by earning the endorsement of former Mayor Dawn Zimmer, who decided not to seek re-election.

Previously, Bhalla had served on Hoboken’s city council for six years.

Currently, no other candidates have announced a challenge to the incumbent. Bhalla has already received the endorsement of the Hoboken Police Superior Officers Association.

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Latest News USA

Congressman Valadao fetes Indian-American engineer Ravinder Singh

A US lawmaker has honored Indian-American electrical engineer Ravinder Singh Shergill who held several patents related to disk storage and helped create the USB specifications.

Shergill died on April 22 aged 64.

Madam Speaker, I ask my colleagues in the United States House of Representatives to join me in honoring the life of Mr Ravinder Singh Shergill. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time, Congressman David Valadao said in his remarks at the House of Representatives earlier this week.

Born on September 12, 1956 in Punjab, Shergill migrated to the US for higher studies at the age of 17.

He graduated from UC Berkeley with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. He went on to work for National Semiconductor for more than three decades, Valadao said.

As an engineer, Shergill held patents involving disk storage and helped create the USB specifications. As a manager, he was admired and respected as a mentor by his colleagues. His story is truly an embodiment of the American Dream, he said.

Universal Serial Bus (USB) is an industry standard that establishes specifications for cables and connectors and protocols for connection, communication and power supply between computers, peripherals and other computers.

Valadao said Shergill had a great appreciation for America, but he never forgot his roots.

He was committed to bridging the Sikh and American communities together and was a founding member of the Sikh Youth of California and America. Shergill is remembered as a caring husband, father, and grandfather with a love for books, history, music, and film,” he said.

Shergill is survived by his wife of 39 years, Grace Rosa; two daughters, one son and four grandchildren.

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Sikh Indian American among 8 killed in San Jose shooting, hailed as hero

A 36-year-old Indian-origin Sikh man was among eight people killed in the horrific rail yard shooting in San Jose in the US state of California, according to media reports on Thursday.

Taptejdeep Singh, born in India and raised in Union City, California, has left behind his wife, three-year-old son, one-year-old daughter, and a grieving Sikh community in the San Francisco Bay Area, which described him as a “helpful and caring” man, The Mercury News reported.

Co-workers at the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) hailed Singh as a hero, saying he left the safety of an office room, where some colleagues were hiding, to help others escape the line of fire.

Samuel Cassidy, 57, a maintenance worker of the VTA, San Jose, on Wednesday gunned down eight of his co-workers and critically injured another in one of the deadliest shootings in California this year.

As police arrived at the scene, the killer died of a self-inflicted gunshot.

Singh was a light rail operator at the VTA for nine years now. He worked at a separate building from where most of the other victims were found, giving the impression that Cassidy had selected his victims. Singh was fatally shot in the stairwell of a VTA building, the report said.

Singh’s brother-in-law, P.J. Bath, another light rail operator at the VTA, confirmed that the shooter and Singh were in different buildings initially but said nothing on the victims being pre-decided by the killer.

“He just happened to be in the way, I guess. He was always helpful to everyone and caring,” Bath said.

“We are in very deep grief,” Singh’s uncle Sakhwant Dhillon told the San Jose-based newspaper.

“He told people, “be careful, hide.” He was running around the building to save others’ lives. He was a good person. He helped everybody,” Dhillon said.

Singh’s brother Bagga Singh said he was told that his brother had saved a lady when he “rushed down the stairway,” where he was eventually shot.

Singh may be considered a hero, but “he should have saved his life, too. We lost a good person,” Bagga said.

The other victims of the shooting were identified as Paul Delacruz Megia (42), Adrian Balleza (29), Jose Dejesus Hernandez (35), Timothy Michael Romo (49), Michael Joseph Rudometkin (40), Abdolvahab Alaghmandan (63), and Lars Kepler Lane (63).

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