Tag Archives: News

IC Wins 10 at the 2020 SF Press Club Awards!

This past year was challenging for us – adapting to changes with our medium of storytelling, turnover of the editorial staff, and limited resources for our nonprofit media company. This is not unheard of in our industry – and yet we push forth!

Because we must. Because of the desire to tell our stories. Because of our many willing collaborators. Because of our readers. Because our voices MUST be heard!

As I reviewed the articles we had curated in 2019 I realized that, despite the challenges, we were able to produce insightful and meaningful stories. My work and the work of countless others was validated as I saw the results of the San Francisco Press Club Awards 2020.

Jaya Padmanabhan, former IC Editor, wrote this on social media:

And my favorite magazine India Currents and dear friends Vandana Kumar, Meera Kymal and Nirupama Vaidhyanathan among a whole host of other writers (Sarita Sarvate) have walked off once again with well-deserved awards this year.

 

Vandana Kumar once told me years ago, “we’re like the little engine that could” at these award ceremonies, competing against Goliaths like Bloomberg, the Chronicle, and Examiner. Every year, every single year, IC and its little engine does us proud! So happy!

A huge shout out to the writers who choose to share their voices on our platform. Thank you!! 

The San Francisco Press Club’s Greater Bay Area Journalism Awards ceremony and dinner honor the outstanding work of Bay Area print, TV, radio, and digital media journalists, graphic designers, and photographers, as well as the work of documentary filmmakers and PR materials from nonprofits and corporations. The annual event is usually held in November but was hosted online this year. Find the video below!

India Currents Wins 10 Awards:

Digital Media: Overall Excellence

First Place: Vandana Kumar, “Can Public Charge Deny Your Green Card”  “Making of a Jihadi”, India Currents

Digital Media: Columns-News/Political

First Place: Meera Kymal, “Growing Political Power”, India Currents

Digital Media: Business/Technology Story

Second Place: Vandana Kumar, Sarita Sarvate, Rajesh Oza, Nirupama Vaidhyanathan, “This American Life of Mine”, India Currents

Digital Media: Feature Story / Light Nature

Third Place: Ranjani Rao, Nandini Patwardhan, Vandana Kumar, Nirupama Vaidhyanathan, “Desi Root’s Global Wings”, India Currents


Vandana Kumar has been the Editor for India Currents and is serving as the Publisher. 

Game Theory Explains the Pandemic

The COVID-19 spell has left governments, markets, and civil society wobbling through disruptions and damage. The ambiguity that envelops not only the evolution of the disease but also its impact makes it a challenging and complex task for policymakers to devise a suitable policy response.

The pandemic has brought to the forefront some key ethical questions that we must explore. The ‘Human gene’ is thought of as the most skilled of making a choice based on ‘free will’, on ‘reason’ and ‘rationality’. From the study of human behavior, it is widely known that the current setting can be related to the behavior of people, the choices they make, and the human tendency for cognitive error, to be able to forecast patterns and design effective interventions.

Today, the whole world stands on the edge, geopolitics at a cusp, policymakers in a dilemma, to generate an appropriate policy response. This is the classic case for strategic thinking and can, therefore, draw on insights from behavioral economics and game theory. The former is a field of social sciences that is a blend of economics and psychology and looks into human decision-making behaviors, whereas the latter is the study of models based on strategic interactions between players, on rational choice and on maximizing behavior by the people.

In the context of the pandemic, the questions that come to one’s mind are:

  • How to encourage – and sustain – cooperation?
  • How to incentivize social distancing amongst people?
  • How to get various organizations and authorities to better coordinate?
  • How to get countries to cooperate and coordinate?

Game theory is the science of strategy that deals with outcomes that are produced by interactions, based on the behavior of the players. It is a tool to study interactions in the context of interdependencies.

A “game” is any situation involving two or more “players” in which the “fate” of each player depends not only on her “actions” but also on the actions of the other players. Some notable points are:

  1. A “situation” can be economic, social or political, etc. (e.g., social distancing). 
  2. A “player” can be a person or a group such as a firm, a political party, a country, etc. (e.g., a citizen). 
  3. The “fate” of a player is what she cares about such as profit, happiness, winning an election, growth, money, pay-offs, etc. (e.g., catch the virus or not, and keep one’s job or not). 
  4. An “action” is a choice or a strategy. (e.g., to social distance or not).

The main ingredients of a Game:

  1. Who are the players?
  2. What strategies does each player have
  3. What are the payoffs for each player?

The novel Covid-19 pandemic seems like a real-time situation that can be fitted well into the basic game theory model called the ‘Prisoner’s Dilemma’. The prisoner’s dilemma is basically a game in which there is an incentive to make a choice that may not produce the best possible or optimal outcome for the group as a whole.

Some aspects of this pandemic reflect the same premise, such as the decision to maintain social distancing during a pandemic looks a lot like a move in a multiplayer form of this game. One can either cooperate, and do something that costs a little while helping those around, or deviate, and bring one, a small benefit but at a greater cost to those around oneself. 

If one maintains social distancing, it is not necessary that he/she will not contract the virus as it also depends on what others are doing. Thus, it is a ‘game’-there are strategic interactions.

Let us say, we have a two-player Prisoner’s dilemma game. Both players ‘A’ and ‘B’ have two choices. Choice ‘C’, in which both choose to maintain social distancing and hence cooperate and, choice ‘D’, where they both deflect and do not social distance. The payoff matrix is given below:

Player B

Player A

StrategiesCD
C5,5 (C, C)0,8 (C, D)
D8,0 (D, C)1,1 (D, D)

 

The efficient outcome is (C, C) with respective payoffs (5,5). This occurs when they both agree to cooperate and maintain social distancing. This is the result of ‘Collective rationality’. The outcome “(5,5)” is preferred by both (everyone) but is unstable in that each person has an “incentive to cheat” – there is a temptation to go out when everyone is locked inside their respective homes. However, here both the players have a unilateral incentive to deflect and this outcome becomes unstable and fragile. Each player becomes vulnerable to the so-called ‘selfish gene’ inside of him and has an urge to cheat and deviate and thus get a higher payoff for oneself. If ‘A’ falls prey to this temptation, thinking that ‘B’ would have done the same and drops the precaution of social distancing, then he gets a small benefit (8,0) but at the cost to others in the society. If player ‘B’ is led off by the temptation to deviate assuming that ‘A’ would have reacted in the same way and decides not to distance himself, then likewise his payoff is (0,8). 

Thus, the Unique “dominant” (or “rational”) strategy for each person is ‘Not to Cooperate’. There arises a tension between “Individual Rationality” and “Collective Rationality”. Individual Rationality leads them to settle at the ‘optimal’ outcome, where both them end up in deviating with lower payoffs for themselves at (1,1) and a higher risk of getting the virus. This in fact is what is called the ‘Nash equilibrium’. Cooperation gets destroyed by the ‘Art of War’ and paradoxically non-cooperation becomes the dominant strategy.

Ironically, the biggest debate rattling the world is that which political power would emerge as the winner in this ‘COVID stirred race’ for dominance.

Questions that come to the ground are, whether a country should cooperate with others and share the results of its innovative practices or not? How to get from “(1,1)” to “(5,5)”? That is, how can one make a good outcome happen? This requires Cooperation and Trust

Is there a need for a “third” party to enforce the peace, to enforce cooperation, to enforce a lockdown? Yes, perhaps and the “third” party can be the Sovereign (i.e., the State)?

What are the payoffs and the costs?

What should be the geo-political policy response?

Here lies the ‘tight-spot’ faced by policymakers today…

In the current times, the main players are the citizens and the governments whose choices make a difference and to a large extent play a vital role in checking the pandemic, which had constructed the game theory model in question, in the first place. COVID-19 will reshape our world. We don’t yet know when the crisis will end. But we can be sure that by the time it does, our world will look very different. How different will depend on the choices we make today. Every stakeholder’s choice is an externality for others. 

Global pandemics need global solutions. ‘Radical scaling up of international cooperation among scientists, economists and policy-makers is the need of the hour’. A cooperative strategy by all the players in the ‘Covid-Game’ is the optimum one. It is the Nash equilibrium, in the ‘Covid-induced policy-cogmaire’!  


Malini Sharma is the Senior Assistant Professor and Head of the Department of Economics at the Daulat Ram College, University of Delhi in India.

Our Planet To Save: Teens Educate

Many say that we have seen three wars in our lifetime: 9/11, the housing crisis, and the most current one, Coronavirus.

In the background, looming like an avatar for death, are cities covered in billowing smog from factories, blackened skies, and people gasping for the last bit of fresh air.  

Let us not forget the ongoing battle for clean air, fuel, and water….

In the race for power among competing foreign nations, many have pushed for industrialization to develop economic and social prowess. Toys, weaponry, and clothes all became commodities as a result of mass production, delighting many. 

It has been about 250 years since the industrial revolution and not much has changed in the fight to mitigate what we now call the climate crisis. Profits have been prioritized over well-being, as safety has taken a back seat to ease of life.

Climate change is something that is often overlooked by many who view the phenomenon as a “hoax” and question its existence due to lack of awareness and miseducation.

Is what we have done to our planet acceptable given the benefits of industries? What more can we do? Was this a problem waiting to happen?

These are questions we must ask ourselves daily, and frankly there isn’t a straightforward answer. Every individual, however, can make a change, and that’s what The Incentive, a climate change news publication built by a team of bay area high schoolers, is tackling head-on.

Founded by – Arun Balaji, Kaushal Kumar, and Sudhit Rao – juniors at Monta Vista High School, The Incentive joins the climate change movement and shakes things up.

The Incentive’s goal is to create a platform where people can receive reliable information regarding the implications of climate change. They are moving away from the average, uninspired, and repetitive news site that only reports on how climate change is impacting the environment. The Incentive’s angles on climate change are novel, as they take a look at the economy, societal culture, and local policy to frame their narratives. 

Imaged pulled from The Incentive website.

Part of their mission is to raise local awareness on the more subtle impacts of climate change by involving the next generation. In order to accomplish this, they have worked with middle school teachers in their community to increase the environmental literacy of their students by engaging with articles on The Incentive.

The organization strives to expand across the United States and turn their non-profit into a global institution. Currently, they have two affiliated chapters – one in New York and the other in Virginia – that are working to make an impact in their respective communities. They encourage their chapters to attend city council meetings, reach out to schools in their area to incorporate our website, attend climate change rallies, or create a club at their school. 

Due to collective efforts, the publication has managed to garner thousands of monthly viewers. Next steps include creating more chapters of The Incentive across several states and countries. If you are interested, here is a link to learn more about their outreach program.

The Incentive team hopes that through their publication and outreach, they will be able to make a significant impact on mitigating climate change and are strong believers that any individual, no matter their background or power can make an impact on mitigating climate change. All it takes is focus and dedication for any individual to make an impact.

Sudhit speaks on behalf of his organization, “We encourage all readers to get on social media and post ways they are mitigating climate change, whether it is planting a tree, telling your friends to do so, or being a full-on activist. It is our planet to save, and we are its last lifeline.”

For more information on The Incentive, follow their Instagram.

Srishti Prabha is the Assistant Editor at India Currents and has worked in low income/affordable housing as an advocate for children, women, and people of color. She is passionate about diversifying spaces, preserving culture, and removing barriers to equity.

Sikh American Story Airs on CNN May 6

CNN’s Emmy Award-winning United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell will feature the first-ever hour-long cable episode exclusively focusing on the Sikh American community. The episode is scheduled to air on Sunday, May 6th at 10 pm EST/PST.

W. Kamau Bell interviews Sikh Coalition co-founder, Harpreet Singh and Sikh Coalition Social Justice Fellow, Winty Singh along with Yuba City Sikh Mayor, Preet Didbal; Yuba City farmer and community leader, Karandeep Bains; Sikh lawyer, filmmaker and organizer, Valarie Kaur; Sikh soldier and doctor, Lt. Colonel Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi; Sikh actor and designer, Waris Ahluwalia; and Harpreet’s son, Dilzafer Singh.

“This will be an exciting and important moment for the Sikh community to come together and celebrate Sikh awareness,” said Sikh Coalition Executive Director, Satjeet Kaur. “We continue to make progress in our efforts to educate the American public and this is another milestone.”

Thanks to work by Harpreet Singh and Valarie Kaur, the Sikh Coalition media and communications team spent six months supporting United Shades of America producers with background resource material, fact-checking and B-roll footage. 

“The United Shades episode provides a nuanced portrayal of the Sikh experience in America,” said Sikh Coalition co-founder, Harpreet Singh. “It will educate mainstream America about Sikh values and beliefs that have enabled Sikhs to overcome adversity and thrive in this country for over a hundred years.”

Per CNN, all air dates for episodes of United Shades of America are subject to potential change. United Shades of America will also stream live for subscribers via CNNgo (at CNN.com/go and via CNNgo apps for Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire, Samsung Smart TV and Android TV). The series will also be available the day after the broadcast premiere on demand via cable/satellite systems, CNNgo platforms and CNN mobile apps.

The Sikh Coalition has worked on several high-impact television moments in recent years, including The Daily Show, NBC Evening News and CBS Evening News. For more information about the upcoming CNN episode or to interview Sikh Coalition staff and board involved with the project, please contact Mark Reading-Smith

 

Update on the Future of Immigration Reform

Update on the Future of Immigration Reform

SPEAKERS ON THE NATIONAL BRIEFING 

Sameera Hafiz is the ILRC’s Senior Policy Strategist based in Washington, DC.  Sameera, who began working at the ILRC in 2017, leads ILRC’s advocacy and engagement on federal immigration policy.  Sameera brings nearly two decades of experience supporting campaigns and coalitions focused on racial justice, fighting harsh immigration enforcement policies and ending violence against women.  Prior to joining the ILRC, Sameera was the Advocacy Director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance where she led the organization’s anti-trafficking and immigration policy work, as well as the legal team.  Previously Sameera served as the Director of Policy and Campaigns at Rights Working Group, a national coalition addressing racial profiling and other human rights violations affecting communities of color in the US.  Sameera was also a Senior Staff Attorney with the Legal Momentum Immigrant Women Program, where she advocated with legislators and executive agencies for policies supporting the needs of immigrant survivors of gender-based violence.   Prior to that, Sameera represented individuals before Citizenship and Immigration Services, immigration judges and the Board of Immigration Appeals with the Legal Aid Society of New York and she began her legal career at Safe Horizon, representing survivors of human trafficking and domestic violence in family and immigration matters.

Angelica Salas, Since becoming CHIRLA’s executive director in 1999, she has spearheaded several ambitious campaigns locally, state-wide, and nationally. She helped win in-state tuition for undocumented immigrant students and established day laborer job centers that have served as a model for the rest of the nation. She led efforts to allow all California drivers to obtain a driver license and is a leading spokesperson on federal immigration policy as an active member of FIRM and RIFA. Under Angelica’s leadership, CHIRLA and its partners across the country have built the foundation for the recent upsurge in immigrant rights activism.  As part of a national coordinating committee, Angelica helped convene a coalition of organizations in California which have successfully mobilized millions of immigrants to demand comprehensive immigration reform including legalization with a path to citizenship, family reunification, and the protection of civil and labor rights.

One of Angelica’s greatest accomplishments at CHIRLA has been the transformation of a coalition of social service providers into an organization that empowers immigrants to engage in advocacy on their own behalf. In this respect, she has blazed a pioneering trail among immigrant coalitions around the country and has propelled other immigrant rights groups to follow her lead.  In March she walked along thousands in the annual Selma to Montgomery March. She comes by her understanding of the immigrant experience firsthand. As a five year old, Angelica came to the U.S. from Mexico to rejoin her parents who had come to the U.S. to find work and better provide for their family.

Zahra Billoo is a civil rights attorney and the executive director of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). At the onset of 2017, Zahra joined the speaker lineup at the Women’s March on Washington and sued Donald Trump to challenge his “Muslim Ban” Executive Orders. In the course of her work at CAIR, Zahra is frequently seen at mosques and universities facilitating trainings and workshops as a part of CAIR’s grassroots efforts to empower the American Muslim community and build bridges with allies on civil rights issues. She also provides direct legal services for victims of law enforcement targeting and Islamophobia. Her work has been highlighted in local and national media outlets including the Christian Science Monitor, KTVU, MSNBC, NPR, and the San Jose Mercury News.

Among her awards and recognitions, Zahra has received the 2017 Human Rights Award from the Society of American Law Teachers, the 2014 Unsung Hero Award from the Nationals Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter, and the 2013 Trailblazer Award from the South Asian Bar Association of Northern California.

A proud graduate of California’s public universities, Zahra graduated Cum Laude from California State University, Long Beach with degrees in Human Resources Management and Political Science. While in college, she held various leadership roles both at campus and state-wide advocacy efforts for college affordability and social justice. She also worked with the California Faculty Association. She earned her J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, and is licensed to practice law in California. Outside of her work with CAIR, Zahra bakes birthday cakes for foster children through Cake4Kids and is a coordinator for Project Feed, a monthly homeless feeding effort in downtown San Francisco.

Adoubou Traore is a native of the Ivory Coast and the former Executive Director of African Immigrant and Refugee Resource Center (AIRRC) in San Francisco, CA.  Adoubou is a former recipient of the British Council Scholarship in 1990 and the Fulbright Scholarship in 2000-2002. He speaks French, English, Spanish, Senufo, and Bambara. He obtained a Masters of Arts in English from San Francisco State University (SFSU) in 2002. Adoubou supervises AAN program staff by providing direction, input and feedback, communicates with clients and other stakeholders to gain community support for the program and to solicit input to improve the program, liaises with other managers to ensure the effective and efficient program delivery, and coordinates the delivery of services among different program activities to increase effectiveness and efficiency. In addition to his management duties, Adoubou assist clients with legal consultation, legal counseling and legal processing. Adoubou also does document translation and interpretation in asylum office.