Indian-born scientist attempts treating hearts via urban forests

Nov 1, 2017 0

By Vishal Gulati

New Delhi– Indian-born scientist Aruni Bhatnagar is all set to install a $14.50 million “unique urban laboratory” in the US that will study the effect of green plantations on combating cardiovascular diseases. His research interests include cardiovascular effects of environmental pollutants, atherosclerosis, injury from loss of blood to the heart muscle, cardiovascular complications of diabetes and sepsis.

“We think trees might be more effective than statins in combating heart disease,” Bhatnagar told IANS on phone from Louisville, Kentucky.

Bhatnagar’s work has led to the creation of the new field of environmental cardiology.

A Lucknow University graduate with a bio-chemistry doctorate from the Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI), also in Lucknow, he is a professor and university scholar with Louisville’s Institute of Molecular Cardiology. He is also a fellow with the American Heart Association.

The Green Heart project involves the University of Louisville, the Nature Conservancy, the Institute for Healthy Air, Land and Soil and other partners that will transform four South Louisville neighbourhoods, home to about 22,000 residents, with 8,000 trees and other plantings.

Bhatnagar said the trees will not be samplings but mature foliage which will make a difference right away. Trees, shrubs and other plants will be placed where they can best soak up lung-damaging air pollution within the study area.

Researchers will track the health of about 700 residents to ascertain cardiovascular response to the plantation.

He said green spaces breathe in their own way, taking up the heat-trapping gas carbon dioxide while creating life-sustaining oxygen.

While trees produce volatile organic compounds — a source of ozone pollution — they also absorb ozone and other pollutants and trap especially dangerous tiny particles.

But “nobody has evaluated the specific health effects of planting green spaces”.

He said the effect of plantation on human health where people’s health is monitored before, during and after a major tree plantation drive has not been studied so far.

The health of people who live near the newly planted greenery will be compared to those who live elsewhere in the study area.

“We are hopeful to see changes in a few years,” he said. “It’s like a drug trial, with nature as the drug.”

Bhatnagar said he and his team wanted to test whether giving someone a statin for cardiovascular management is better or worse than giving one green surroundings.

In addition to studying cardiovascular health, researchers also plan to see if there are any changes in crime rates, stress, economics and other social-psycho outcomes.

Some studies suggest trees can help in those areas, too.

He said the Louisville research can be a potential game-changer in fighting heart disease.

“Though heart disease rates have been coming down, the rate has slowed and flattened out in the recent past. That’s why we thought we need to try something different,” he explained.

So far research has identified poor diet and lack of exercise with heart risk. We haven’t studied the impact of the environment in preventing or managing the cardiovascular situation in the urban population. About 70 percent of heart disease is preventable but it still accounts for the largest cause of deaths, Bhatnagar added. (IANS)

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President Trump appoints Indian-American lawyer as special assistant

Jan 25, 2017 0

Washington– US President Donald Trump has appointed Uttam Dhillon as his special assistant and associate counsel, making him the second Indian-American on his White House staff.

An expert on ethics and law, Dhillon will have an important role in ensuring that ethical problems do not arise from the businessman-turned-President’s extensive businesses, Trump’s spokesperson Sean Spicer said on Wednesday.

Uttam Dhillon

Trump’s extensive empire of over 400 companies that span the globe has raised ethical issues because of the intersection of business and government.

Dhillon’s appointment and the compliance team is an effort to ensure that ethics problems do not crop up or are doused as soon as they come up.

Spicer described the team members as “esteemed” lawyers of “high calibre”.

Trump announced earlier this month that he was transferring all his businesses to a trust that he was setting up to distance himself from his companies.

The trust will be headed by his sons Donald Jr and Eric.

Although the New York billionaire has resigned from his companies, a cloud of potential ethics conflicts hang over Trump because of the continuing family control of the business through the trust.

Trump earlier appointed Raj Shah, an expert in strategic communications and political research, as his deputy assistant and research director on the White House staff.

Apart from his personal White House staff, Trump has appointed three other Indian-origin persons to senior administration positions — Nikki Haley as the cabinet rank ambassador to the UN, Ajit Pai to head the Federal Communications Commission that regulates all wireless and electronic communications, and Seema Verma as the head of the government health insurance programmes.

Dhillon was the chief oversight counsel for the House of Representative Committee on Financial Services.

He was responsible for Congressional investigations of the financial services industry and government regulators.

He has also worked as an associate deputy attorney general in President George W. Bush’s administration and as the director of counter-narcotics enforcement in the Department of Homeland Security.

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With Senate okay, Indian-American Nikki Haley makes history

Jan 25, 2017 0

Washington– The US Senate has confirmed Nikki Haley to the cabinet-level position of ambassador to the UN, marking a major milestone in Indian American ascendancy in US politics.

Haley, who has said she would work to reform the UN, was nominated to the position by President Donald Trump and won the support of an overwhelming Senate majority cutting across the political divide on Tuesday.

She got 96 votes with only four diehard Democrats voting against her.

The post of the US ambassador to the UN is considered the second highest-profile diplomatic job after the Secretary of State and requires Senate approval.

The historic Senate approval for the first Indian American to hold a cabinet-level position came a few hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Trump had a telephonic conversation.

The United States Senate on Tuesday, Jan. 25, confirmed the appointment of ​Nikki Haley,​ to the cabinet-level office of Ambassador to the United Nations​. She is seen ​at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017. Behind her to the right is her father, Ajit Singh Randhwa, and to the left is her son, Nalin Haley. (Photo credit: Senate Foreign Relations Committee/via IANS)​

On Monday, Trump appointed Ajit Pai as Chairman of the powerful Federal Communications Commission, which regulates phone, internet, TV, radio and cable.

Earlier he nominated Seema Verma to head the government health insurance programmes.

Before the vote, Ben Cardin, a senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), said Haley represents the best in the American story of immigration.

The daughter of Indian immigrants in South Carolina, she faced discrimination as a child but overcame it, rising to become the Governor of the state, he said.

Haley has no diplomatic or foreign policy experience. Chris Coons, one of the four Democrats to oppose her, said he was against her appointment because she lacked the “high level of expertise on international affairs”.

Cardin countered this by saying that she had the skills to persuade others and build coalitions, an asset to further US policies and interests at the UN.

He was impressed by her performance as Governor in dealing with a tragedy when a white racist killed nine African Americans in a church and in bringing the state together to agree to take down the Confederate flag, a symbol of racism and slavery, in its capital.

Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of SFRC, said she was a “fierce advocate” for US values and interests and had the right instincts for the job.

At her confirmation hearings last week, Haley had spoken about her achievements in negotiating with corporate leaders to get businesses to invest in her state.

One of her successes was getting Boeing to set up an aircraft factory in the state.

She took a hard line against Russia, a position that puts her at odds with Trump. She said she would not hesitate to challenge Trump in the cabinet, a statement that endeared her to the Democrats.

She also spoke of her immigrant parents and her struggle as an Indian American child in racially polarized South Carolina.

Her father, Ajit Singh Randhwa, wearing a red turban, sat proudly behind her during the hearings.

While a student, she worked as an accountant in her mother’s import business.

Her husband, Michael, served in the US military in Afghanistan. They have a son and a daughter.

Although she converted to Christianity when she got married, she has continued to attend Sikh religious ceremonies.

She and her husband visited the Golden Temple in Amritsar while she was on a business visit to India in 2014.

A rising star of the Republican Party, Haley, 44, has had an impressive career.

In 2010, she became the first woman to be elected Governor of the conservative southern state and the second Indian American, after Bobby Jindal, to hold the position.

During her election campaign, she overcame vicious personal attacks and impressed the state with her conservative but compassionate ideas.

She criticized Trump during his election campaign for what she said were his negative views about immigrants. However, Trump reached out to her after the election and offered her the ambassadorship. (IANS)

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Trump appoints Ajit Pai to head Federal Communications Commission

Jan 24, 2017 0

By Arul Louis

New York– President Donald Trump has appointed Ajit Pai to head the powerful US communications regulatory agency, becoming the third Indian American picked for key positions in his administration.

Pai, 44, will be the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the federal authority regulating cellphone spectrum and services, radio, television, phone, internet and satellite and cable.

President Donald Trump appointed Ajit Pai as the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission which regulates cellphone spectrum and broadcast on Monday, Jan. 23, 2017. (Photo: FCC/via IANS)

Pai announced his appointment on Twitter, saying he was told of it on Monday and that “it is a deeply humbling honour”. He added that he would work to bring the benefits of the digital age to all Americans.

The FCC also has a major role in controlling the content of television and radio, a sensitive issue given Trump’s contentious relations with the media.

The agency sets and enforces certain norms on content like obscenity in TV and conditions like having a certain amount of local news content for stations to keep their licences.

Underscoring its importance, Representative Frank Pallone said: “By some measures, the FCC oversees approximately one sixth of the US economy.”

Nikki Haley, Trump’s nominee for the cabinet-level post of US ambassador to the UN, is scheduled to be recommended on Tuesday by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for approval by the entire Senate for the job.

Another Trump nominee is Seema Verma, who is to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency for government health insurance programmes.

Already a member of the FCC, Pai will succeed Tom Wheeler, a Democrat, who quit recently.

A free enterprise advocate, Pai has been a critic of the functioning of the FCC and clashed with its Democratic Party leadership. Recently he took issue with an FCC report that questioned the legality of offerings given free of charge for people to access online music, videos and other content.

He has said he wants to end net neutrality, which prevents internet service providers from giving special preferences to certain web sites or accept payment from a web service to give it priority or better access.

Democrats expressed their concern about Pai’s role in a letter to him.

The senior Democrat on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce that deals with communications wrote to him saying his success would depend on being responsive to members of Congress from both parties and working for consensus on major decisions.

Before his appointment to the FCC in 2012, Pai had worked as a lawyer for the telephone and communications giant Verizon, the Senate Judicial Committee and the Justice Department.

Pai’s parents, both doctors, immigrated from India.

Trump has also appointed an expert on strategic communications and political research, Raj Shah, as deputy assistant and research director on the White House staff.

Another Indian American, Balaji Srinivasan, is under consideration to head the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), according to Sean Spicer, Trump’s spokesperson.

Srinivasan is a biotechnology entrepreneur who has been critical of the connections between large pharmaceutical companies and FDA. He now heads a start-up that deals with bitcoin, the internet-based currency. (IANS)

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Amit Kanodia Sentenced to 20 months in prison for million dollar insider trading scheme

Jan 18, 2017 0

BOSTON–Amit Kanodia, 49, of Brookline, MA, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton to 20 months in prison, two years of supervised release including 100 hours of community service, a fine of $200,000 and forfeiture of $242,500, according to an official statement.

Kanodia was also ordered to forfeit $242,500, which represented his portion of the illegal trading profits.  In October 2016, Kanodia was convicted by a federal jury, following a six-day trial, of one count of conspiracy and 10 counts of securities fraud.

Amit Kanodia (Photo: Facebook)

In the spring of 2013, Kanodia tipped off his two friends, Iftikar Ahmed and Steven Watson, about the contemplated acquisition of Cooper Tire & Rubber Company (“Cooper Tire”) by India-based Apollo Tyres (“Apollo”).   Kanodia learned about the possible acquisition from his wife who was General Counsel for Apollo at the time.  In the months leading up to the public announcement of the acquisition, both Ahmed and Watson purchased shares and options in Cooper Tire, which trades on the New York Stock Exchange.  On the day of the announcement, Cooper Tire’s share price increased 41%, and Ahmed and Watson began selling their interests in the company for a combined profit of more than $1 million.  In connection with their agreement, both Ahmed and Watson paid Kanodia a portion of their illegal profits.

In November 2016, Watson was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay a fine of $25,000.  He was also ordered to forfeit the almost $170,000 in illegal trading profits that he made on the scheme.  Ahmed is a fugitive.

Acting U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb and Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division, made the announcement today.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office received valuable assistance from the Securities & Exchange Commission.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sarah E. Walters and Brian Perez-Daple, of Weinreb’s Economic Crimes Unit prosecuted the case.

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Trump appoints PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi to strategic, policy forum

Dec 14, 2016 0

By Arul Louis

New York– Calling her one of the “pioneering CEOs,” President-elect Donald Trump appointed PepsiCo Chairman Indra Nooyi on Wednesday to the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum that will consult with him on implementing his economic agenda.

“America has the most innovative and vibrant companies in the world, and the pioneering CEOs joining this Forum today are at the top of their fields,” Trump said.

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi appointed by President-elect Donald Trump to the President\'s Strategic and Policy Forum on Wednesday, Dec. 14. The forum made up of US business leaders is to advise Trump on implementing his economic agenda. (Photo credit: PepsiCo/via IANS)

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi appointed by President-elect Donald Trump to the President\’s Strategic and Policy Forum on Wednesday, Dec. 14. The forum made up of US business leaders is to advise Trump on implementing his economic agenda. (Photo credit: PepsiCo/via IANS)

“My administration is going to work together with the private sector to improve the business climate and make it attractive for firms to create new jobs across the United States from Silicon Valley to the heartland.”

The forum is headed by Stephen Schwarzman, the CEO of the investment company Blackstone and includes Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, and CEOs Elon Musk of SpaceX and Tesla, Uber’s Travis Kalanick; Jamie Dimon of Chase and Mary Barra of General Motors.

Trump’s transition team said that forum members will give Trump their views on government policy, job-creation and productivity “in a frank, non-bureaucratic and non-partisan manner.”

Nooyi heads a multinational with an annual revenue of $63 billion that emplys 110,000 people.

A graduate of Madras Christian College in Chennai, she has management degrees from the Indian Institute of Management in Kolkata and Yale University.

Earlier Trump had appointed Shalabh Kumar, the chair of the Republican Hindu Coalition, to the transition finance and the inauguration teams.

The finance team members review prospects for administration positions and makes recommendations to Trump.

The inauguration team organises the festivities for Trump’s swearing in as president on January 20. (IANS)

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Amit Kanodia to File an Appeal to Remaining Charges in the Insider Trading Case

Oct 17, 2016 0

BOSTON—An attorney for Amit Kanodia, a Brookline, MA-based businessman who was convicted of insider trading on Monday, intends to file an appeal as to remaining charges.

“We are grateful to the jury for finding Mr. Kanodia not guilty today as to 8 counts which included many of the central allegations of the accusation against Mr. Kanodia,”  attorney Martin Weinberg, counsel for Kanodia, told INDIA New England News in an email. “We fully intend to file an appeal as to the remaining charges and are confident in the strength of the legal issues that will be the basis of this future appeal.”

Amit Kanodia (Photo: Facebook)

Amit Kanodia (Photo: Facebook)

Kanodia, a Brookline, MA-based businessman, was convicted of engaging in insider trading with two friends after learning of India-based Apollo Tyres Ltd’s (APLO.NS) planned attempt to buy Cooper Tire & Rubber Co (CTB.N) in 2013, Reuters news agency reported.

“Amit Kanodia, 49, was found guilty by a federal jury in Boston on 11 of the 19 counts he faced, including conspiracy and securities fraud. He was acquitted of the other eight counts of securities fraud, prosecutors said,” Reuters said.

Kanodia, who had pleaded not guilty, is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 18, according to Reuters.

Prosecutors said Kanodia learned details about the proposed merger between Apollo and Cooper Tire from his then-wife, who was Apollo’s chief legal officer, more than two months before the deal was announced.

Prosecutors said Kanodia tipped off two of his friends, including Iftikar Ahmed, a general partner of Greenwich, Connecticut-based Oak Investment Partners, according to Reuters.

Prosecutors said Ahmed and the other friend, Steven Watson, traded on the confidential information before the deal was announced and shared about $245,000 of their more than $1.17 million in illegal proceeds with Kanodia, Reuters reported. Those payments were made to an account Kanodia opened for a charity, Lincoln Charitable Foundation, ostensibly to raise money for flood victims in India, even though he used much of the money for his own financial investments, prosecutors said.

Both Kanodia and Ahmed were charged in connection with the insider trading scheme in April 2015, and Watson pleaded guilty that August as part of a cooperation deal with prosecutors, Reuters said.

Ahmed fled the United States for India in May 2015. Prosecutors have since separately accused him of embezzling $54 million from Oak Investment Partners, according to Reuters.

In April 2015, Kanodia was arrested and charged in U.S. District Court in Boston in connection with his role in an insider trading scheme that netted more than $1 million in illegal profits, US attorney’s office had said in a statement at the time.

As alleged in the criminal complaint, prior to April 2013, Kanodia secretly tipped off his friend Ahmed, an executive at a Connecticut-based fund, and another friend, about the contemplated acquisition of Cooper Tire & Rubber Company by India-based Apollo Tyre.  Kanodia learned about the possible acquisition from his wife who was the General Counsel of Apollo at the time.  In the months leading up to the public announcement of the acquisition, both Ahmed and the associate, purchased shares and options in Cooper Tire which trades on the New York Stock Exchange.  On the day of the announcement, Cooper Tire’s share price increased 41% and Ahmed and his associate began selling their interests in the company for a combined profit of more than $ 1 million.  It is alleged that both Ahmed and his associate paid Kanodia a portion of their illegal profits, according to 2015 press release.

The charging statute provides for a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, five years of supervised release, a fine of $5 million.  Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties.  Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

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Cisco-backed Altiostar has now raised nearly $200 million in funding

Oct 14, 2016 0

BOSTON– Altiostar Networks Inc., founded by high-tech serial entrepreneur Ashraf M. Dahod, which has already raised $140 million in funding, appears to have raised another $30 million, Boston Business Journal reported.

Ashraf Dahod

Ashraf Dahod

Quoting a new regulatory filing, Boston Business Journal said that the newest equity funding comes from a total of seven investors and brings total company funding to nearly $200 million.

Tewksbury, MA-based company was founded by Dahod in 2011. Altiostar has raised $70 million in funding — including a $50 million round in 2013 from networking giant Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO), according to Boston Business Journal.

Before founding Altiostar, Dahod had co-founded Starent Networks, which was acquired by Cisco Systems in 2009. Prior to Starent, Dahod had co-founded NetCore Systems, Inc, Sigma Network Systems, Inc and Applitek Corporation.

Dahod holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Harvard University, Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University, Master of Engineering Management from Northeastern University, Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Michigan and a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from the University of Bombay. His other activities include: Patron, Saifee Hospital, Mumbai; Patron, Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust, Mumbai; Member of Dean’s Advisory Board and India Advisory Board, Harvard Business School.

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5 Indian-Americans among America’s richest 400

Oct 10, 2016 0

New York– Five Indian-Americans figure among America’s 400 richest people, in a list again headed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, according to the survey by Forbes magazine.

Symphony Technology founder Romesh Wadhwani, co-founders of outsourcing firm Syntel Bharat, Syntel’s Neerja Desai, airline veteran Rakesh Gangwal, entrepreneur John Kapoor and Silicon Valley angel investor Kavitark Ram Shriram figure in Forbes’ ‘The Richest People In America 2016’ list.

Romesh Wadhwani

Romesh Wadhwani

Gates tops the list for the 23rd year, now with a net worth of $81 billion.

Wadhwani has been ranked 222nd on the list with a net worth of $3 billion.

Educated at IIT-Mumbai, he is the chairman of Symphony Technology Group, an empire of 17 data, technology, healthcare and analytics companies that together earn more than $2.8 billion in annual revenue, Forbes said.

The Desais rank 274th on the list with a net worth of $2.5 billion. Started in 1980, their firm Syntel generates over $950 million in revenue and has nearly 24,000 employees across the globe, Forbes said.

Gangwal is ranked 321 on the list with a net worth of $2.2 billion. He is an aviation entrepreneur, who co-founded InterGlobe Aviation, which operates budget airline IndiGo, that is India’s largest by market share.

US resident Gangwal owns more than 40 per cent of the company and currently serves as a board member, Forbes said.

Kapoor, who ranks 335 on the list with a net worth of $2.1 billion, is the chairman of two drug companies – Akorn, which specializes in “difficult-to-manufacture” prescription drugs and Insys Therapeutics, which produces an opioid for cancer patients, Forbes added.

Shriram ranks 361 on the list with a net worth of $1.9 billion.

According to Forbes, Shriram, who was one of Google’s early backers, has sold of most of his stock but remains on the board of its parent company, Alphabet. Since 2000, he has been investing in young technology startups through his firm, Sherpalo Ventures.

Sriram’s portfolio includes online card and invitation service Paperless Post, web and mobile app testing service Optimizely, and mobile advertising company Inmobi.

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Apple acquires Hyderabad-based machine learning startup

Sep 23, 2016 0

San Francisco–US tech giant Apple has acquired Tuplejump — a Hyderabad-based machine learning startup that helps companies to store, process and visualise big data with its unique software.

Founded in 2013, Tuplejump’s two co-founders Rohit Rai and Satyaprakash Buddhavarapu have already joined Apple while third cofounder, Deepak Alur, joined Anaplan – a Cloud-based business modelling and planning platform for sales, operations and finance.

According to a Tech Crunch report, Apple is on a machine learning company buying spree and recently bought two well-known startups Perceptio and Turi.

“Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” a company spokesperson told Tech Crunch.

Apple was particularly interested in “FiloDB” — an opensource project that Tuplejump was building to efficiently apply machine learning concepts and analytics to complex data.

The Tuplejump team was well acquainted with open source big data tools such as the Apache Spark processing engine, the Apache Cassandra NoSQL database, and the Apache Kafka distributed high-throughput publish-subscribe messaging system, Venturebeat reported.

“Tuplejump also built an open source search indexing system called Stargate that works with data stored in Cassandra and relies on the fundamentals of the Apache Lucene full-text search software,” the report added.

Tuplejump’s website has been shut down following the acquisition, the details of which are yet to be disclosed.

In May, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced the company’s first development centre in Hyderabad to work on Apple Maps during his visit to the country. (IANS)

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