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Trump backs immigration reform favouring skilled people, restricting relatives

New York, Aug 2 -US President Donald Trump has endorsed a bill with far-reaching consequences for Indians that would drastically cut immigration to the US while boosting skilled immigration at the cost of extended family members and unskilled labour.


The drastic immigration overhaul proposed by two Republican senators seeks to slash by half the estimated 1 million green cards issued every year by eliminating several categories and introduce a "merit-based" system that would be modeled on the Canadian and Australian immigration programmes, Trump said on Wednesday.

Called Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act, the legislation, if passed, would end Green Cards for parents, adult children and brothers and sisters of citizens, a measure that would affect immigration aspirants from India.

For elderly parents of citizens, who would not qualify for Green Cards, the legislation proposes giving them temporary renewable visas. Parents form a significant part of the immigration from India as their children firmly establish themselves in the US.

"The reforms in the RAISE Act will help ensure that newcomers to our wonderful country will be assimilated, will succeed, and will achieve the American Dream," Trump said at the White House where Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue unveiled the bill.

The RAISE Act "replaces our low-skilled system with a new points-based system for receiving a Green Card," he said. "This competitive application process will favour applicants who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families, and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy."

While such a system would appear to favour the highly qualified immigrants from India, the specifics - like how it would enable those hold the temporary H1 visas to transition to permanent Green Cards and if the current national quotas that restrict annual immigration from India and most countries to 20,000 would still apply - will have to be examined to gauge the impact on India.

If it succeeds in Congress, this will be the first whole reform of the immigration system since 1964 when what were essentially race-based quotas were done away with, opening the way for Indian immigrants, whose numbers have now swelled to about three million.

The legislation is certain to be opposed by the Democratic Party, which favours a broader pattern of immigration, including legalising illegal entrants into the country.

"The vast majority of those workers -- or those immigrants come here not because of their English-language abilities or their job skills, or their job offer, or their educational attainment," Trump said. "In fact, only 1 in 15 -- only 1 in 15 out of a million new immigrants come here because of their job skills and their ability to succeed in this economy."

Appealing to African Americans, who overwhelmingly favour the Democratic Party, he pitched the reforms as an effort to help minorities in the US, whose employability and wages have declined because of competition from low-skilled immigrants.

The White House said in a statement explaining the bill that since 1979, Americans with only a high school education or less have seen their real hourly wages decline. For those who did not complete, high school the hourly fell by 17 percent.

One of the provisions in the bill is to prevent immigrants from collecting welfare soon after arriving, Trump said.

More than 50 percent of all immigrant households receive welfare benefits, compared to only 30 percent of native households in the US that receive welfare benefits, the White House said....IANS

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Priyanka to produce American comedy series on Madhuri's life

Los Angeles, July 28 (IANS) Indian actress Priyanka Chopra, who has found a foothold in Hollywood, is reportedly executive producing a comedy series about Bollywood's dancing diva Madhuri Dixit's life for US network ABC.

According an exclusive report by variety.com, the yet untitled series is based on the real life of Madhuri, who will also executive produce the project.

The story would follow how Madhuri settles down in the suburbs of the US with her bi-cultural family and tries to bring her colourful lifestyle to an otherwise dull town.

In reality, Madhuri had taken a break from showbiz when she married Sriram Nene, who was based in US back then and shifted to Denver from Mumbai to start a family. The mother of two sons returned to showbiz around five years ago, and continues to be one of the most charming beauties in the Hindi film industry.

Sri Rao, a writer for shows like "General Hospital: Night Shift", will pen the pilot and executive produce the series, as will Madhuri's husband.

Just last month, Madhuri had teased something new and exciting was going to be announced.

"Loving downtime in the US. Back up soon with announcements. Til then enjoy," she had tweeted.

Other names attached to the project include Mark Gordon and Nick Pepper through the Mark Gordon Company (MGC), while ABC Studios will co-produce the show with MGC, reports variety.com.

Priyanka currently stars on American show "Quantico", which is going into its third season. Earlier this year, she made her Hollywood debut with "Baywatch", and she is now shooting for romantic comedy "Isn't It Romantic" with Liam Hemsworth.

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Indian jailed for 30 months in US for selling gun silencers

New York, July 27 (IANS) An Indian citizen has been jailed for 30 months by a federal court in Louisiana in the US for illegally selling gun silencers and planning to smuggle more of them disguised as auto parts.

Mohit Chauhan, 31, who is from Pitampura in New Delhi and was sentenced on Tuesday, admitted before federal Judge Elizabeth E. Foote in April that he had dealt with firearms without a license.

Alexander C. Van Hook, the acting federal prosecutor for Western Louisiana, said on Wednesday that Chauhan was contacted by someone who wanted to buy silencers and he discussed by email and phone manufacturing silencers for the client.

The silencers were to be imported as "auto parts" to evade customs, Hook said.

Chauhan brought silencer parts to the Louisiana city of Shreveport in December to show the buyer, according to the prosecutor.

When they met in restaurant in Bossier City to discuss the sale, federal agents recorded their conversation, leading to his prosecution, Hook said.

Chauhan lacked a licence to deal in firearms and the parts had been brought illegally into the US. His customer was not publicly identified.

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Canada says no threat to Amarinder, closes investigation (IANS Exclusive)

Chandigarh, July 23 (IANS) Citing non-availability of "sufficient evidence", the Canadian government has told India that there is no threat to Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and has concluded its investigation into the matter.

In a communication to the Indian authorities, Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development has stated that the investigation had been conducted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

Sources in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in New Delhi told IANS that the Canadian authorities, in the communication, has said that the RCMP investigation has determined that there is no evidence of direct physical threat made towards Amarinder Singh.

It further stated that there was "not sufficient evidence" to file criminal charges or proceed against anyone. The Canadian government said that in view of the findings, the investigation had been concluded.

The Indian High Commission in Canada had lodged a "formal complaint" to Global Affairs-Canada (Canada's foreign office) in April following a threat publicly issued to the Punjab Chief Minister by pro-Khalistan elements during a Vaisakhi Day event in British Columbia's Surrey city.

The threat was part of the hate speeches made by Sikh radicals operating out of Canada.

Videos of the Vaisakhi Parade in Surrey on April 22 were sent to the Canadian foreign ministry as proof.

Indian authorities had also objected to the public display of Khalistan floats with images of slain separatist leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and other terrorists, pictures of AK-47s and photographs of former and serving army and police officers who are on the hit-list of Sikh radicals.

MEA sources said that the Canadian authorities were cautioned about the "anti-India propaganda" of the Khalistani elements as India was anticipating trouble. The Canadian foreign ministry, responding to the early warning, said it would take "necessary action".

However, the Khalistani elements were allowed to have a free run and even issued threats on loudspeakers to Amarinder Singh in front of hundreds of people from the Indian community who participated in the April 22 parade. The Canadian provincial police and security agencies were present when all this happened, the sources told IANS.

Amarinder Singh on Friday again stressed the need for Canada to rein in the radical elements, who were "trying to use Canadian soil to spread strife and divisiveness in India".

The Chief Minister raised the issue with Jalandhar-born Canadian MP Rameshwar Singh Sangha, who met him in New Delhi on Friday.

"Such elements, including Khalistani supporters, could not have any impact on the Canadian political environment but they could influence the people of India and vitiate the atmosphere here," Amarinder Singh pointed out.

"The Canadian government should crack down on these forces and ensure that they do not have a free run on social media and other public platforms, the Chief Minister added.

The Amarinder Singh government had, in April, cold-shouldered visiting Canadian Defence Minister of Indian-origin Harjit Singh Sajjan as he travelled to various places in Punjab.

He had refused to meet Sajjan, the first Sikh to be the Defence Minister of a Western country, accusing him and other ministers of Punjab origin in the government of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of links to radical elements demanding a separate Sikh state of Khalistan.

No minister or senior officer of the Punjab government went to welcome Sajjan or even accompany him during the visit.

Amarinder Singh made it clear that he "would not meet any Khalistani sympathisers".

He was annoyed with the Canadian government since April last year when he was denied permission to visit that country, which has a sizeable Punjabi Diaspora, in the run-up to the Punjab assembly elections. A radical organisation, Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), had complained to the Canadian government against the visit.

The Congress leader had to cancel his trip after being told by the Canadian authorities at the last minute that he could not be allowed to visit the country for holding political rallies and meetings. The visit was aimed at wooing influential Non-Resident Indian (NRI) groups in Canada.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at jaideep.s@ians.in)

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Doctor couple from Andhra killed in US plane crash

Vijayawada, July 12 (IANS) An Indian-American doctor couple, hailing from Andhra Pradesh, was killed when their private plane crashed in the US state of Ohio.

According to information reaching their home town Machilipatnam, Umamaheswara Kalapatapu, 63, and his wife Sitha-Gita Rajyalaxmi Kalapatapu, 61, residents of Indiana, US, were killed in the crash on Saturday.

News of the death has caused grief among relatives and friends in Machilipatnam.

The couple was on their way to Washington.

Umamaheswara was piloting Piper Archer PA-28, which crashed around 10.30 a.m. Rescue workers found the wreckage near the village of Beverly in southeastern Ohio.

The couple were psychiatrists and run Raj Clinics in Indiana. While Umamaheswara was born in Machilipatnam of Krishna district, Rajyalaxmi was a native of Guntur district.

Their death sent shock wave among relatives and friends in Machilipatnam. Umamaheswara was son of Appa Rao, a lawyer in the town.

The couple has no family members in the town but the relatives and friends were grieved upon learning about the tragedy.

They recalled that Umamaheswara studied up to Class 12 in the town. He studied medicine in Guntur. While doing MBBS, he married his classmate Rajyalaxmi. After the marriage, they moved to the US and settled in Indiana.

Rajyalaxmi hailed from a family of top musicians and herself used to play the veena.

She had many friends among musicians of the Telugu film industry. Her husband was a gifted photographer. He was recognised as a professional photographer by the Professional Photographers of America.

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We're starting to see Indian comedy in America: Canadian comedian Mark McKinney

By Sugandha Rawal  

New Delhi, July 9 (IANS) From Hasan Minhaj and Aziz Ansari to Kal Penn and Russell Peters, many Indian-origin comics pick up their immigration tales as well as "desi" stories for their stand-up acts in the US.

And Canadian comedian and actor Mark McKinney is happy to see some strings of Indian comedy being weaved into the gigs in the US, saying the intermingling of the comedic notes bridges the gap between cultures.

He also points out that Americans are taking in all the information about the country as they are "really curious to know what happens in India not just culturally, but even from other perspectives". McKinney is also amazed by the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the US.

"We are just starting to see the beginning of Indian comedy (in) the US," McKinney told IANS over the phone from Los Angeles.

McKinney, who is currently seen in the TV show "Superstore", which airs in India on Comedy Central, went on to appreciate the growing trend, saying: "When you start getting cultures as different as India and United States talking to each other through comedy... That is a kind of revolution."

How do you define Indian comedy in the West?

"Well, it is usually represented by stand-up. Russell Peters is huge as the first generation in TV. There is another comedian -- I am not sure whether he is Indian or not -- but he goes by the name Sugar Sammy." (He is. His name is Samir Khullar, and he is a Canadian comedian whose routines are delivered in a mixture of English, French, Punjabi and Hindi.)

"Then there is a new comedian who is coming up in the States. His half based in, I think, Mumbai or Delhi, and then he combines it with American stand-up. That is so interesting.

"I think it starts in the usual steps... That sort of talking about the immigration experience that Russell Peters brought very well. And now it is literally sophisticated comedy that people are getting the idea of watching shows about or in another language."

The 58-year-old is curious to see how the landscape of Indian comedy in the US grows.

"Americans are really curious to know what happens in India not just culturally but even from all other perspectives, like knowing who Modi is. It is fantastic being aware of figures like that."

McKinney has been associated with showbiz since 1987 with show "Seeing Things". He is best known for "The Kids in the Hall", "Saturday Night Live" and "Slings and Arrows".

From political comedy to dark satire, McKinney is happy that there is place for different types of comedy in the West.

"The best way to describe it is that you have every kind of comedy -- from sort of dark political satire to really specific individual stories. Comedy (shows) are like half dramas. There is a traditional broad appeal to it," he said.

Reflecting on the popularity of political comedies, he said: "Political comedy has blown up in the early 2000s to the point that a lot of people think that they get their news from that more than anywhere else... But I think there are hundred more types of comedy waiting to be represented on TV."

In "Superstore", McKinney essays the role of Glenn Sturgis, the manager of the big-box utility store. The staff considers him to be a father-figure. The show follows the lives of different individuals working in the store. The second season is currently on air.

"The second season is kind of interesting. We discover new quarters of Glenn. I don't want to give away spoilers but, for instance, Glenn really wants to win an award and that makes him play a little dirty. The cost of the award is his integrity."

(Sugandha Rawal can be contacted at sugandha.r@ians.in)

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150 dancers and dholis to pay tribute to Canada 150

Toronto, July 7 (IANS) One hundred and fifty Canadian dancers and dholis will participate in DANCE 150, a unifying celebration for Canada 150 in the heart of the City of Mississauga on Sunday, July 9.

The Greater Toronto Area will celebrate the spirit of Being Canadian with a bang at the Canadian colour festival, RUNG DE ONE (RDO), a colourful celebration of Canada's multicultural tradition, a press release said.

Rung De' ONE is a pioneer interactive event which uniquely celebrates 'Being Canadian' and embraces the true spirit of 'Being One'. This year's festival will be held near Square One at 4219 Living Arts Drive, Mississauga. In its fourth year, the outdoor colour festival is expecting a resounding response as Canadians come together this year to commemorate 150 years of Canada.

The natural, non-toxic, water-soluble & environmentally friendly colour powder has been especially arranged for the festival keeping in mind the well-being of festival audiences. RDO is a kids and family friendly event.

Bollywood's singer & composer Manj Musik, will entertain audiences with his hits and latest chartbusters. In addition, popular DJs playing Top 40, EDM, Bollywood, dance performances and a wide variety of festive food options will comprise a fun filled day for attendees at the colour festival.

RDO festival is a colourful celebration of Canada's multicultural heritage, which uniquely celebrates the oneness of all Canadians. At RDO, attendees play outdoors with colour powder, indulge in festival food, dance to their favourite tunes and enjoy the spirit of Being Canadian with fellow Canadians, the release said.

The event is being managed by Media Works International,Toronto, Canada, an associate of Media net Works, India.

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Modi announces flight service between Delhi-Mumbai-Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv, July 6 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday announced to start a new flight service connecting Delhi, Mumbai and Tel Aviv.

"Now a Delhi-Mumbai-Tel Aviv air service will be initiated. And so I invite youth of Israel to visit India," Modi announced amid thunderous applause.

Modi made the announcement while addressing the Indian Diaspora in Tel Aviv's Convention Center.

Air India had earlier announced to start direct flight between Delhi and Tel Aviv. The flight service was to start in May but the launch was delayed as several countries, which fall in the selected route, denied the overflight permission.

Air India used to operate directs flights to Israel from Delhi until mid-1990s and Mumbai until early 2000. The flights were withdrawn for commercial reasons.-

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Sikh man stabbed, turban ripped off in Birmingham attack

London, July 5 (IANS) An elderly Sikh postmaster in the UK was stabbed in the neck and head and his turban was ripped off by a robber during a violent knife attack.

Tarsem Thethy, 67, was left with stab wounds after the attack at the Post Office in Erdington, Birmingham. The incident happened in March this year, but the CCTV footage of the attack has been issued by the police now, the Metro daily reported on Tuesday.

The footage shows the moment the robber lunged at Thethy with a six-inch blade in the post office. Thethy's wife Kulwant said he is "not the same person" since the attack.

Thethy, father of three said: "Normally when somebody comes in, I greet them... But before I could speak, he had got in my face and stabbed me in the neck."

"He was shouting 'give me the money, give me the keys'. The man was crazy, he was pushing me around and wielding the knife."

In the footage, the pair was seen grappling after the attacker ripped the turban off Thethy's head.

Thethy's wife managed to trigger the panic alarm from a separate room, leading to the man rushing out of the shop on March 17 morning.

"He kept telling me that he would kill me," Thethy was quoted as saying by the daily.

"Looking back, I'm not sure if he cared about the money. I think he just wanted to kill somebody. Ever since the incident, I have felt scared every day to work in the shop," the Sikh man said.

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Indian-American held for shooting ex-wife, killing her husband

 Washington, June 30 (IANS) An Indian-American man wanted for shooting his former wife and killing her husband was arrested here, officials said.

Sayantan Ghose, 41, was arrested at a border checkpoint near Las Cruces, New Mexico, on Thursday and was charged with the murder of Clarence Wayne Harris II and an aggravated assault of Harris' wife Amanda, police officials said.

The shooting was reported around 9 p.m. on Wednesday at a home in Mayhill Ridge Lane during an argument between Ghose and the two residents, ABC-owned television station KTRK reported.

According to the League City police, officers found the body of Clarence Wayne Harris II, who had been shot seven times, lying in the driveway in front of the house.

Amanda Harris, Ghose's ex-wife, was also found suffering from two gunshot wounds and was taken to a hospital for treatment.

The police said that there was a party at the house and that at some point the man and woman began arguing with Ghose, which led to the shooting.

In an affidavit, Amanda Harris said she called the police shortly before 9 p.m. She told police that she was going to make a citizen arrest because her ex-husband, Ghose, was at her doorstep.

The woman also told the police that Ghose had been stalking her for years. A bail of $150,000 was set for Ghose.

 

 

NRIs and Indians working overseas sent home $62.74 billion in 2016

Remittances by Indians working overseas up by 68.6%: UN

United Nations, June 15, 2017: Indians working overseas sent home $62.74 billion last year, an increase of 68.6 per cent in the last decade, according to a UN agency.

India received the most overseas remittances last year, a report by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) issued here on Tuesday said.

The money sent by Indians overseas amounted to 3.3 per cent of India's gross domestic product, the report said.

Gulf countries were the primary destination for Indian workers going abroad, with the US as a "popular destination".

The US led the world as the country from which the most remittances - $3.6 billion - were made, the IFAD said.

Releasing the report, "Sending Money Home: Contributing to the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), One Family at a Time", IFAD President Gilbert F. Houngbo spoke of the impact the remittances had on improving the living standards of families in the home countries.

"The small amounts of $200 or $300 that each migrant sends home make up about 60 per cent of the family's household income, and this makes an enormous difference in their lives and the communities in which they live," he said.

More than 800 million family members are benefiting from the remittances by over 200 million migrant workers, IFAD said. It estimated that this year one-in-seven persons in the world will either send or receive a share of the $450 billion transferred globally.

"Remittances are expected to remain a stable source of finance to meet the immediate needs and aspirations of millions of families around the world," the report said.

Even though the average cost of sending money home has decreased from about 10 per cent in 2008 to 7.45 per cent, it still takes chunk out of the remittances and IFAD said the UN development goals want it to be brought down further to 3 per cent by 2030.

"If legal and regulatory frameworks facilitate the use of technology and innovation, mobile phones, digital money, Internet-based mobile and Web applications will continue to drive costs down, strengthen financial access, and improve the possibility to deliver additional services," the report added.

US man indicted for hate crime in Kansas bar shooting

Washington, June 10, 2017: The man accused of shooting Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla and his colleague Alok Madasani at a bar in Kansas has been indicted by a federal grand jury on hate crime and firearms charges, the media reported.

The indictment on Friday accused Adam Purinton, 52, of Olathe, of shooting and killing Kuchibhotla in February because of his "actual and perceived race, colour, religion and national origin", Kansas' local KMBC 9 News reported.

The indictment also accused Purinton of attempting to kill Madasani "because of his actual and perceived race, colour, religion and national origin".

Ian Grillot, an American man, who tried to save the Indian men was also severely injured.

Purinton was also indicted with violating a federal firearms statue by discharging a firearm in the shootings of Kuchibhotla, Madasani and Grillot.

"The indictment alleges that Purinton committed the offences after substantial planning and premeditation, attempted to kill more than one person in a single criminal episode, and knowingly created a grave risk of death to others on the scene," a Justice Department statement said.

Purinton faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Grillot, 24, tried to stop Purinton before he opened fire at Austin's Bar and Grill, reports KMBC 9 News.

First Grillot said he approached the man as a result of his actions in that restaurant.

After that, Grillot said the man left and things went back to normal - he went back to watching the University of Kansas basketball game with his friends. But the suspect returned.

The bar's door opened - and Grillot remembers a man "opening up" and "firing rounds".

Grillot said after waking up at the hospital he was praying for Kuchibhotla and Madasani.

Madasani escaped with serious injuries.

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UK elects first female Sikh MP

London, June 9 (IANS) Preet Gill has become the first female Sikh MP to be elected to the UK's Houses of Parliament as Thursday's general election results started pouring in, the media reported on Friday.

Gill secured 24,124 votes to hold the seat in Birmingham Edgbaston for the Labour Party with a majority of 6,917, reports the BBC.

The seat was previously held by Gisela Stuart who stepped down when the election was called late April.

Gill, who said the education cuts issue was one of her top priorities, said: "It's a real honour to be representing the people and the place where I was born and raised."

"We've had a really strong campaign, a really good team of people here in Edgbaston and it's just been phenomenal."

"I'm really excited to learn more and really connect with communities," the BBC quoted Gill as saying.

Bhai Amrik Singh, chair of the Sikh Federation, said: "We are delighted to have the first Sikh woman MP in Birmingham, Edgbaston."

"She will be a fantastic MP, a credit to the Sikh community and an excellent role model."

Gill was followed by Conservative Caroline Squire with 17,207 votes.

Liberal Democrat Colin Green received 1,564 votes, Green Party candidate Alice Kiff received 562 and Common Good candidate Dick Rodgers secured 155 votes.

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Indian shot at in US out of danger: Sushma

New Delhi, June 9 (IANS) An Indian hailing from Telengana who was fired upon in California earlier this week is now out of danger, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has said.

"I have received the report from our Consulate in San Francisco," Sushma Swaraj tweeted late on Thursday night.

"The victim Mubeen Ahmed works at a gas station. A gunman demanded money from Mubeen and then fired at him," she said.

"He is admitted in the Eden Medical Centre CA. Fortunately Mubeen is now out of danger. We are following up the case with the police"

Mubeen Ahmed, 26, a native of Sangareddy district in Telangana, was on June 4 shot twice in the stomach at the place in California where he works, though the family came to know about it only on Thursday.

He family said that some men went to his work place posing as customers and got into an argument with Mubeen before firing at him.

An injured Mubeen was rushed to the California hospital, where he underwent surgery. His relatives from Chicago were attending on him at the hospital.

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4,000 Indian students seek US visa for higher education

New Delhi, June 8 (IANS) Around 4,000 Indian students appeared for interviews on Thursday to secure the American visa to pursue higher education in the US, brushing aside fears of hate crimes in that country.

The interviews were conducted at the US Embassy here and the Consulates in Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai.

Arunima Sharma, who is looking for a MS in Management Science programme in Columbia University, says she is not apprehensive of hate crimes despite reading about them in the media.

"I have been to the US earlier for a fellowship programme. That time, I was a little sceptical but things turned out to be great and I felt very safe," Sharma told IANS.

"I never became a victim of racial discrimination and there was support from fellow students and others in and around the campus," she said.

Changam Meenakshi Rajagopal is entering a Ph.D programme in Astrophysics at Clemson, South Carolina. Going by what she has heard from her friends, who have studied in the US, she feels assured about her safety and security.

"I have had many friends pursuing various courses in the US. They have never complained about the safety situation," she said.

In an interview to IANS, a former Stanford don had said that the violent attacks against Indians -- and other ethnic groups -- in the US were not indicative of the whole country and students should not take them into account while deciding to apply to US universities.

"There is no denying there has been sporadic and random violence against Indians in the US. These incidents were tragic and disturbing, but they are not indicative of the country as a whole," Martin Walsh had said.

For Karan Raina, who will be studying for an MS in Quantitative Finance at Rutgers University, the steps the US institutes take to ensure the safety of the students are satisfactory.

"They place the same kind of value on international students that they place on US students in the educational programme. They take proper security measures for the foreign students," Raina told IANS.

As per US official data, there are some 166,000 Indian students in that country, second to China. Two years ago, this number was roughly about 100,000.

"Today, every sixth international student in the US is from India and they are contributing enormously to every aspect of life at the university and in the surrounding communities," US Ambassador Charge d'Affaires MaryKay L. Carlson told the media.

"We are celebrating Indian students who are not only taking an exciting step in their higher education but are also furthering the strong people-to-people ties between the two countries," she said.

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Indian-American Raja Chari among 12 NASA astronaut candidates

Washington, June 8 (IANS) After screening a record 18,000 applications, the US space agency has finally picked 12 astronaut candidates -- its largest astronaut class since 2000 -- and Indian-American Raja Chari, a Lieutenant Colonel with the US Air Force, has bagged a most sought-after seat.

If all goes well, Chari may become the third person of Indian origin from the US after the late Kalpana Chawla and current NASA astronaut Sunita 'Suni' Williams to fly to space. Shawna Pandya, a Canada-born neurosurgeon, is also in the race to go on a space mission with NASA after being shortlisted under its 2018 Citizen Science Astronaut (CSA) programme earlier this year.

The selected 12 - seven men and five women -- will be trained for missions into the Earth orbit and conduct key research for deep space missions, including Mars.

The term astronaut candidate refers to individuals who have been selected for the NASA astronaut corps and are currently undergoing a training programme at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Chari, who will report for duty in August this year, graduated from the US Air Force Academy in 1999 with bachelor's degrees in astronautical engineering and engineering science.

Hailing from the state of Iowa, he earned a Master's degree in aeronautics and astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and graduated from the US Naval Test Pilot School as well as from US Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Chari was raised in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He is married to Holly Schaffter Chari, also a Cedar Falls native, and the couple have three children.

Chari is a commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron and director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

He has accumulated more than 2,000 hours of flight time in F-35, F-15, F-16, and F-18, including F-15E combat missions in 'Operation Iraqi Freedom' and deployments in support of the Korean peninsula.

Chari has been awarded the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Aerial Achievement Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Air Force Achievement Medal, an Iraq Campaign Medal, a Korean Defense Service Medal and the Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service Medal, among other citations.

After a two-year training like other candidates, Chari will be assigned technical duties in the NASA Astronaut Office till he gets a flight assignment.

On Wednesday, US Vice President Mike Pence joined NASA leaders as they introduced the members of the 2017 astronaut class during an event at the agency's Johnson Space Center.

"These are 12 men and women whose personal excellence and whose personal courage will carry our nation to even greater heights of discovery and who I know will inspire our children and our grandchildren every bit as much as your forebears have done so in this storied American programme," said Pence.

"And to this newest class of astronauts, it's my honour to bring the sincere congratulations of the 45th President of the US, Donald Trump. Your President is proud of you, and so am I," the Vice President added.

The astronaut could be assigned to any of a variety of missions, including performing research on the International Space Station (ISS), launching from American soil on spacecraft built by commercial companies and departing for deep space missions on NASA's new Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

"We look forward to the energy and talent of these astronauts fueling our exciting future of discovery," said acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot in a statement.

"Between expanding the crew on board the space station to conduct more research than ever before, and making preparations to send humans farther into space than we've ever been, we are going to keep them busy," he said.

With the addition of these 12 members, NASA now has selected 350 astronauts since the original Mercury 7 in 1959.

"These women and men deserve our enthusiastic congratulations," said Ellen Ochoa, astronaut and Johnson Space Center Director.

The 12 new candidates include six military officers, three scientists, two medical doctors, a lead engineer at SpaceX and a NASA research pilot.
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US call centre scam: 4 Indians, 1 Pakistani plead guilty

Washington, June 6 (IANS) Four Indians and a Pakistani national have pleaded guilty to charges for their role in a massive telephone impersonation fraud and money laundering scheme in the US perpetrated by India-based call centres, the US Department of Justice said.

Indian nationals Rajubhai Patel (32), Viraj Patel (33), Dilipkumar Ambal Patel (53) and Pakistani Fahad Ali (25) each pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy before US District Court Judge David Hittner of the southern district of Texas.

Indian national Hardik Patel, 31, pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy before the same court on June 2.

Sentencing dates were pending for all five defendants, the Department of Justice said on Monday.

Based on the statements in his June 2 guilty plea, beginning in August 2012, Hardik owned and managed the day-to-day operations of an India-based scam call centre before leaving for the US.

While in India, Hardik communicated extensively via email, text, and other means with various India-based co-defendants to operate the scheme and exchange scripts used in the scheme.

He also used to coordinate the processing of payments from scammed victims, obtain and exchange lead lists used by callers to target US victims and exchange spreadsheets containing the personal identifying information of US persons misappropriated by the scammers to register reloadable cards used in the scheme.

Hardik also managed worker payroll and kept detailed records of profits and expenses for various associated scam call centres. He continued to communicate with India-based co-defendants about the scheme and assist with the conspiracy after he moved to the US.

According to his June 6 guilty plea, Rajubhai Patel operated as a runner and assisted a co-defendant in managing the activities of a crew of other runners, based primarily out of Illinois, who liquidated victim funds in various locales in the US for conspirators from India-based call centres.

Viraj Patel first became involved in the conspiracy between April and September 2013, prior to entering the US, when he worked at and assisted with overseeing the operations of a call centre in India engaging in scam activity at the behest of a co-defendant.

Dilipkumar A. Patel operated as a runner in and around Southern California, along with other co-defendants based in the region.

Fahad Ali worked as a member of a crew of runners operating in the Chicago, Illinois area, the Southern District of Texas and elsewhere throughout the country.

Ali admitted that he first served as a driver for an Illinois-based co-defendant engaging in activities in furtherance of the conspiracy.

Till date, 56 other individuals and five India-based call centres have been charged for their roles in the fraud and money laundering scheme in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Texas on October 19, 2016.

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Researchers develop new hyper-local air pollution map

New York, June 5 (IANS) Using specially equipped Google Street View cars to measure air quality on a block-by-block basis, researchers, including one of Indian-origin, have developed a detailed and extensive local map of air pollution for an urban area.

Most large urban areas tend to have only one air quality monitor for every 100 to 200 square miles. In comparison, the new mobile approach maps air pollution every 100 feet, or at about four to five locations along a single city block.

"Air pollution varies very finely in space, and we can't capture that variation with other existing measurement techniques," said lead researcher Joshua Apte of The University of Texas at Austin in the US.

"Using our approach and analysis techniques, we can now visualise air pollution with incredible detail. This kind of information could transform our understanding of the sources and impacts of air pollution," Apte added.

The research was conducted in partnership with the US-based non-profit Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Google and Aclima, a California-based provider of environmental sensors.

By integrating Aclima's sensor system into Google Street View cars, the team mapped air pollution in 78 square miles of Oakland, California, over an entire year, collecting one of the largest data sets of air pollution ever measured of single city streets.

This new technique maps urban air pollution at 100,000 times greater spatial resolution than is possible with traditional government air quality monitors, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

The team believes that their hyper-local mobile measurement system could be implemented in many cities throughout the world, providing detailed air quality information for citizens, families, local governments and scientists.

The new technique could address major air quality monitoring gaps worldwide and has the potential to transform the way air pollution is monitored in urban areas as well as shed light on the health effects on city dwellers.

"You could use this information when you're picking a school for your kids. Is there a school with a playground that might have better air quality because your kid has asthma," Apte said.

"This hyper-local information about consistent air quality can be really useful for people, especially those who are vulnerable because of age or health condition," Apte noted.

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Indian-American girl wins Spelling Bee

Washington, June 2 (IANS) A 12-year-old Indian-American girl from California has won the 90th National Spelling Bee, the media reported.

Ananya Vinay and another Indian-American Rohan Rajeev faced each other in the final round on Thursday night at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Centre in Maryland, The Washington Post reported.

Ananya won on the word "marocain", a fabric.

According to her bio, Ananya loves to read and in her free time she imagines stories. "I'm so happy right now," she said after her victory.

The two were among the brightest and best young spellers gathered for Thursday's finals, a marathon event that stretched late into the night, according to organisers.

Among the other words young participants were asked to spell were: pterygoideus, mollienisia, cinerarium and hesychast.

On Thursday morning, 40 finalists sat onstage in a ballroom,.

The winner is entitled to a $40,000 cash prize, a trophy and other awards, including a $2,500 US savings bond from Merriam-Webster as well as trips to New York and California for televised appearances.

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US court jails 2 for hate crime against Sikh man

Washington, May 19 (IANS) A US court sentenced two men to three years in prison for severely beating a Sikh man in California and cutting off his hair.

Chase B. Little and Colton T. Leblanc, both of Texas, pleaded no contest to felony assault and committing a hate crime against Maan Singh Khalsa during last year's September 25 attack, the New York Times reported on Thursday.

"Both men went out of their way to cut Khalsa's hair, which he maintained unshorn as part of his Sikh faith, 'making this so clearly a hate crime'," said Prosecutor Simon O'Connell of the Contra Costa County District Attorney's office.

Khalsa, 42, appeared before Judge Patricia Scanlon during the hearing in Martinez, California, on Thursday and recalled details of the frightening attack.

"Cutting a Sikh's hair is one of the most humiliating things anyone can do to a Sikh. The attackers did not just attack my body, they attacked my dignity, my spirit, my faith, my religion and my entire community," Khalsa said.

Authorities said Khalsa was driving home on the night of the attack and stopped at a red light in Richmond, near Berkeley, when a car, occupied by five people, pulled up next to him.

As beer cans were thrown at Khalsa, a motorist nearby called 911. When the light turned green, Khalsa drove off and called 911 as the truck followed him.

While he stopped at another red light, two men got out of the truck, ran up to Khalsa's car and repeatedly punched his face and yelled profanities.

"My attackers hit me with their fists, knocked off my turban, and yelled, 'Cut his...hair'," Khalsa said in a statement.

"They yanked my hair through the window and used a knife to saw parts of it."

He also sustained a black eye, tooth damage and knife wounds. Part of his little finger was later amputated because of an infection from one of the wounds, the daily reported.

Khalsa, an IT specialist at the Social Security Administration, said he emigrated from India in 2003 and always considered himself an American "like everyone else."

"I had never worried about being a victim of prejudice," Khalsa said.

The finding that the attack was a hate crime was crucial in this case, Prosecutor O'Connell said on Thursday. "That really sent a message to the community to say that this sort of crime won't be tolerated and will be taken seriously," he said.

O'Connell said Little and Leblanc had no affiliation with hate groups and had no remorse to their prison sentences.

Goa to exploit Trump's H-1B visa crackdown: Minister

Panaji, May 18 (IANS) Goa should look to exploit US President Donald Trump's crackdown on H-1B visas by facilitating the return of Goan NRIs, IT Minister Rohan Khaunte said on Thursday.

Addressing a gathering of polytechnic students here, Khaunte also said the state government would be rolling out a policy for start-ups within 10-15 days.

"Thanks to Donald Trump, we are having issues of H-IB visas. We are having a lot of people who have gone abroad, who are wanting to come back for various reasons. We need to find industry and security for them. And that is a challenge which we have taken," Khaunte said.

"I am happy and quite proud to say that in the next ten days, a proper policy on start-ups will be implemented in Goa," the minister said.

"A policy which will allow our people from Goa to remain back as sons of the soil, take advantage of the policies. We would also look at people who have migrated outside Goa to look towards back-migration," he added.

The minister also said that bureaucratic red-tape was leading to delay in getting sanctions for start-ups in Goa.

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'Father of wheat revolution' D.S. Athwal passes away in US

Ludhiana, May 15 (IANS) Often called the 'Father of Wheat Revolution', agriculture scientist Dilbagh Singh Athwal has passed away in the US, a Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) official said on Monday. He was 89.

Vice Chancellor B.S. Dhillon, officers and scientists of the university paid tributes to Athwal, who died on Sunday, at a condolence meeting held at the PAU campus here.

Dhillon said the outstanding contributions made by Athwal in the field of agriculture "remain unsurpassable till date".

"Dr Athwal was one of the stalwarts who played a pivotal role in initiating Green Revolution in the country. He was a well-known geneticist, plant breeder and agricultural scientist of international repute," Dhillon said.

"Athwal developed world's first grain pearl millet hybrid 'Hybrid Bajra 1' in 1965 that heralded a new era in cultivation of this important crop," he said.

Athwal was instrumental in developing 'PV 18' in 1966 and the most popular amber grained wheat variety 'Kalyansona' in 1967, named after the village 'Kalyanpur' in Punjab where Athwal was born in 1928.

Punjab, known as the 'Green Revolution' state, had heralded India's campaign to ensure food grain security for the country in the 1960s.

Athwal served as founder head of Department of Plant Breeding in PAU, and made contributions to the genetics and breeding of pearl millet, wheat, gram and tobacco.

A large number of genetic stocks developed by him made a significant contribution to future research on bajra breeding and genetics.

In 1967, he joined the management of International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines and eventually served as the Institute's first Deputy Director General. At IRRI, he introduced many innovations in rice breeding.

The University of Sydney bestowed the degree of Doctor of Philosophy on him in 1955.

In 1964, he was conferred with Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), which is the highest Indian award in the science category.

He was also decorated with Padma Bhushan in 1975 by the government for his contributions to biological science. After his retirement, he settled in New Jersey, US, where he breathed his last.

The university has named its new guest house after his name as 'Dr. D.S. Athwal International Guest House'.

As a mark of respect to Athwal, the PAU remained closed for half a day.
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In uncertain H1-B times, US firm targets Indians with EB5 - the 'Golden Visa' (Lead, correcting para six)

By Aroonim Bhuyan -

New Delhi, May 11 (IANS) As confusion looms over the future of the H1-B visa programme, an investment-facilitating firm is targeting rich Indians with the EB5 visa, popularly known as the "Golden Visa", that promises a faster route to US citizenship.

The US Immigration Fund (USIF), which launched its Indian operations this year, is confident that affluent Indians who invest half a million dollars or more in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA) -- creating 10 or more jobs -- under the EB5 visa programme, will get US citizenship in a shorter time compared to the H1-B visa programme.

US President Donald Trump has called for stricter norms for issuance of H1-B visas, largely availed of by Indian IT firms. A private member's bill was also introduced earlier this year in the US Congress by Democrat Zoe Lofgren which seeks to increase the minimum salary of an H1-B visa holder to a whopping $130,000 from the current minimum of $60,000.

"With the H1-B environment becoming tougher and tougher, demand for EB5 has gone up," Andrew Graves, USIF's Director of Business Development in India, told IANS.

"Indians are becoming more aware of the EB5 visa programme," he said.

Introduced by the US Congress in 1990, the EB5 visa programme allows an individual to invest $500,000 in either of two TEAs -- a high unemployment area in a US metropolis or a rural area outside of a metro -- or $1 million in a non-TEA area that can create 10 or more jobs.

Earlier this month, the US Congress extended the programme, which has seen much controversy over the merits of its applicants, till September 30 this year.

Graves explained that once an application is filed for an EB5 visa programme, the applicant has to fill in a I526 form under a US attorney after which he or she gets a temporary US Green Card for 16 months.

Once the conditions are met, around two years later, the applicant has to fill in the I829 form which leads to lawful permanent residency in the US.

"So, the EB5 offers a certain way for US citizenship within roughly five years," Graves said.

The USIF clams to have a proven track record of 100 per cent approval rating from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on all adjudicated projects.

It has 24 projects in the real estate sector to its credit with $3.2 billion in EB5 capital that includes 6,400 investors.

China is the largest beneficiary of the EB5 visa programme, accounting for 75.6 per cent or over 7,500 visas.

India is sixth in the list with 149 visas after Vietnam (334), South Korea (260), Taiwan (205) and Brazil (130).

But Graves feels that Indians can make it to the second spot after China.

"We are 100 per cent sure that India will occupy a strong second place after China," he said.

Given the uncertainty over the H1-B visa programme, more and more Indians graduating from US universities are opting for the EB5 visa for US citizenship.

The advantage: If an H1-B visa holder is fired from his or her job, he or she will have to leave the US along with family whereas once permanent residency is attained, he or she is no longer dependent on others for staying in the US as long as the person is law-abiding and renews the Green Card on time.

But how can a fresh Indian graduate in the US afford to invest a minimum of $500,000 to apply for an EB5 visa?

"It usually comes as a gift from the family (to ensure the son or daughter's future)," Graves said, indicating that only the more affluent Indians can afford the "Golden Visa".
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Joint ED, CBI team in London for extradition of Mallya

  New Delhi, May 2, 2017A joint team of the ED and CBI is in London to seek extradition of liquor baron Vijay Mallya, sources said on Tuesday.

The five-member team, comprising three officials from Central Bureau of Investigation and two of the Enforcement Directorate, left for London on Monday.

The sources said the team would push for the extradition of Mallya, who fled to Britain in March 2016 after being pursued for recovery of Rs 8,191 crore he owed to Indian banks by his now defunct Kingfisher Airlines.

The government has said that its agencies were making their best efforts to have Mallya face trial in India.

Mallya was arrested and granted bail in London last month. The next hearing of the case will be on May 17.

The Indian government had in February this year, handed over to British authorities a formal request for Mallya's extradition, saying it had a legitimate case against him on charges of financial irregularities and loan default...IANS

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Indian-American jailed for selling illegal pills, loses citizenship

Washington, April 29, 2017: A 29-year-old Indian-American was stripped of his US citizenship after being sentenced for more than five years in jail for conspiring to illegally distribute male enhancement pills imported from China.

Ismail Ali Khan was also convicted and sentenced for falsely stating that he was not a criminal on his application to become a naturalized US citizen, federal prosecutors said on Friday.

Prosecutors said Khan, a resident of Decatur in Georgia, and others illegaly imported
pills from China containing an active ingredient in Viagra and distributed them throughout the US, Patch news portal reported.

He was part of a criminal export ring that hatched an elaborate scheme to import to the US, male enhancement pills with names such as "Maxman," "Happy Passengers" from China.

The ring's plot included mislabelling scores of drugs to evade detection by the Food and Drug Administration and US Customs and Border Protection.

The drugs were labelled as beauty products, pottery, coffee, and tea, federal prosecutors said.

Khan's sentence would be followed by three years of supervised release, according to the report.

"This defendant endangered the health of countless individuals by illegally importing and distributing drugs that can be obtained in the US only with a prescription written by a licensed, medical professional," US Attorney John Horn said.

"What's more, this defendant became a naturalized US citizen by giving a false statement to the government about his criminal history, while he was engaged in this illicit drug scheme.

"Khan's willful criminal pursuit earned him more than a prison sentence. It cost him his citizenship and deportation after prison," the attorney said.

At the sentencing hearing, Judge Steve C. Jones ordered that Khan's status as a naturalised US citizen be revoked and his certificate of naturalisation was declared void.

He also ordered that Khan be immediately deported to India once he completes his prison term. At that time, supervised release will not be enforced.

Khan filled out an application in 2013 to become a naturalized US citizen while the drug conspiracy was going on. He became a naturalized US citizen in March 2014....IANS

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NRI CEO Sundar Pichai: Google CEO Pichai doubles his pay package

  New York, April 29 (IANS) Google's India-born CEO Sundar Pichai received a stock award of $198.7 million in 2016, almost double his 2015 stock award of $99.8 million, a media report said.

That brought his total compensation in 2016 to $199.7 million, almost twice the $100.6 million he earned in 2015.

Pichai received a salary of $650,000 in 2016, slightly less than the $652,500 he earned in 2015, CNBC reported on Friday.

Pichai's massive pay package came even as his two bosses and Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, once again drew salaries of only one dollar for their roles as CEO and President, respectively, of parent company Alphabet.

But Page and Brin are each worth more than $40 billion through their stock holdings.

According to the report, Pichai's raise came during a year when Google's sales rose 22.5 per cent and net income rose 19 per cent as it maintained its position as the top seller of internet advertising.

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Indian-American teacher jailed for wire fraud

Washington, April 27 (IANS) A 58-year-old Indian-American teacher was sentenced to 11 months in jail, which he has already served during the trial, for the wire fraud scheme involving the hiring of Indian nationals to teach in the US.

George Mariadas Kurusu was sentenced on Wednesday in Alpine, California, and was ordered to pay $53,000 restitution for the wire fraud scheme, the American Bazaar online reported.

Kurusu has been in federal custody since his arrest in May 2016. He pleaded guilty in January to wire fraud, fraud in foreign labour contracting, making a false statement on a visa application and tampering with a witness, victim or an informant.

Kurusu admitted that from December 2012 to May 2016, he defrauded several individuals of over $50,000 for a "visa package" provided by a company he owned which promised H-1B visas, teaching jobs, and the maintenance of those jobs and visas for his victims.

According to court records, Kurusu, a H-1B visa holder, established a separate company, Samaritan Educational Services (Samaritan), in violation of the H-1B visa rules.

Kurusu, who worked as a Maths teacher at Fort Stockton High School in Fort Stockton, Texas, also lied on an application to renew his visa, according to officials.

He allegedly placed advertisements via newspapers in Hyderabad, India, providing services for a fee to individuals who were seeking teaching positions in the US.

Kurusu led applicants to believe that they had to go through his company in order to both obtain a visa and a job.

He acted as a middleman between the applicants, the State Department, the issuer of visas, and the Fort Stockton Independent School District (FSISD).

He made the victims believe that not a single penny of the amount they pay for the visa processing went to him.

On the contrary, Kurusu filed the applications for a nominal fee and routed the rest to his pocket.

In order to ensure that no information on his scheme is leaked, Kurusu used to tell his victims not to mention to the State Department they enlisted the services of Samaritan.

Victims were also instructed not to contact FSISD directly, but only through him.

Finally, when the victims would reach US, Kurusu made them set up a bank account and an Electronic Transfer of Funds (ETF) system.

Prosecutors say Kurusu took 15 per cent from victims' paycheck and threatened deportation for those who complained.


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H-1B not immigration but trade, services issue: India

  New Delhi, April 20 (IANS) With US President Donald Trump ordering tougher conditions for issuance of H-1B visas, the biggest beneficiaries of which are Indians, a senior official here said on Thursday that it is not a matter concerning immigration but that of trade and services.

"It is not an immigration matter as we have said earlier, it is basically a trade and services issue," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said in his weekly media briefing.

"There is the mutuality of interests involved over here," he said.

On Tuesday, hammering his "America First" campaign theme, Trump signed an order tasking the department heads of State, Justice, Homeland Security and Labor to propose reforms in order to ensure H-1B visas are given to the "most-skilled or highest paid" petitioners.

The move is seen as a deterrent to Indian IT firms which send software engineers to the US on H-1B visas.

Baglay said that just as there are Indian companies in the US, there are US multinationals operating in India.

He said that the government is talking to industry bodies as the matter directly concerns Indian workers in the IT industry.

"We have already pointed out then contribution which the Indian professionals have made to the competitiveness of the US economy and the innovations within the US economy," he stated.

"We have also earlier on referred to the contribution of these professionals as bridge builders between the two economies of the United States and India as well as between our societies."

The spokesperson said that what has happened in the US is that an executive order has been passed.

"Now, it has to be acted upon and as a result of which it could perhaps be expected that there could be a legislation in the US Congress or there could be some other sort of process concerning the H-1B visas," Baglay said.

"So, once that process takes place, then we will have to make an assessment depending upon the details at that stage of the changes made."

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No impact of Australian visa move on Indian techies: Nasscom

New Delhi, April 19 (IANS) Indian techies working in Australia would not be affected by its government's move on visas granted to them under a specific category, said the Indian IT industry's representative body Nasscom on Wednesday.

"Our initial assessment is that the move should not have a major impact on visas granted to Indian IT workers, as the '457 visa category' covered a lot of fields and was difficult to manage," said the National Association of Software Services and Companies (Nasscom) in a statement.

The Australian Government recently announced that it would abolish the 457 visa and replace it with two new visas to protect the interests of native workers.

"The move seems to have been driven by domestic political compulsions where we are seeing immigration as a matter of huge political concern within the current geo-political environment," said Nasscom, adding it understood the visa category is being replaced by two new streams of short-term (2+2 year) and long-term category from March 2018.

"As the 457 visa is valid till its expiry, its holders can stay and work in Australia although under a restricted occupation list category," it said.

About 95,000 foreigners, including many Indians are in Australia under the 457 visa norm, which the government wants to scrap and give their jobs to locals.

The 457 visa category enables Australian firms to hire skilled foreigners for four years due to shortage of native workers with same skills.

"We see this change as evolutionary and a new policy of the Australian government. There will be additional requirements, including a test in English and 2 years of work experience, while salary exemptions will go," said Nasscom, adding it was however working with the Indian and Australian governments on the changes and to ensure they could be implemented without disrupting business continuity and value for Australian customers.

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Irish woman hurls racial abuse at Asian passenger on train

Dublin, April 19 (IANS) A woman hurled racist abuse at passengers on a train in Ireland, telling one of them to "f*** off back to India", in a row over a bag being placed on a seat.

A video of the incident on the train travelling from Limerick Colbert to Limerick Junction on Sunday was uploaded to YouTube and described as "shocking and disgraceful" by the rail operator.

The video was recorded by another female commuter on the train who warned her of online shaming after the incident.

Police in Ireland were investigating, reported the Irish Independent on Tuesday.

The incident started when the woman objected to an Asian passenger for placing a bag on an empty seat of the train.

In the footage the woman was seen furiously ranting at a group of people -- and at one point told a man to "f*** off back to India" in response to him referring to her as an old lady.

She began ranting that they "hadn't paid for four seats" and said she had paid for her seat.

The woman then yelled: "Respect my f***ing country and get off the seats."

Another passenger tried to quieten her down but she replied: "Look at the ugly head of that fella. That's the only reason he's backing you up is because he's ugly."

The passengers who were abused eventually moved to another carriage after 16 minutes, the woman who shot the video told the daily.

She later said: "You don't really get the full effect of what happened from the video."

"She was literally sitting beside them, screaming bloody murder in their faces. It went on for almost the whole train ride."

The Irish rail operator, Iarnród Éireann, said: "It is a shocking and disgraceful incident. Any form of abuse of customers is intolerable, particularly discriminatory abuse."

"The incident will have been deeply upsetting to those who were subject to abuse and those who witnessed it, and we are grateful to the customer who reported it to us and raised awareness of it."

The operator said it had contacted Ireland's National Police Service Garda Siochana, who were investigating the incident.

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IIFA returns to US: New York to host its 18th edition

New Delhi, April 12 - The organisers of the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Weekend and Awards are readying a "big blockbuster" for the gala's 18th edition to be hosted in New York this July.

This is the first time that the event will be held in New York -- described as the city that never sleeps. But the IIFA magic was first brought to Tampa Bay in the US in 2014, when stars like John Travolta and Kevin Spacey were in attendance.

The event -- the biggest Bollywood celebration internationally -- will be held on July 14-15 at the iconic MetLife Stadium, known for hosting National Football League games, major concerts and other entertainment events.

On the first day will be the IIFA Weekend press conference and IIFA Rocks, followed by the glitzy IIFA Awards on day two -- and they are hoping to sell as many as 40,000 tickets for the event.

Andre Timmins, Director, Wizcraft International, which produces and organises the annual jamboree, told IANS over phone from Mumbai: "It has been a big decision to take IIFA to New York. We have been working towards this for the last six months. It is extremely exciting from IIFA's perspective, because after 18 years, we now want to change the game.

"We are looking at this as a big blockbuster movie we are putting out in America."

The bidders for 2017's show included Lisbon, Paris, Switzerland and several places in the Far East.

But "New York is New York", Timmins said, adding that it brings them a notch closer to lend it "maturity and largeness of entertainment".

They have the support of the American consulate, the Governor, the Mayor of New York.

"Ultimately, we are bringing business to the country and facilitating cultural exchange. Everybody has been supportive... I would be more than happy if Trump (US President Donald Trump wants to come and address our IIFA Awards and touch about 40,000 Asians," Timmins said.

So is Trump invited?

"It is a wish," he said, adding that he would even love to have Prime Minister Narendra Modi on stage.

For now, the organisers are confident the mecca for entertainment, business, fashion and culture is a perfect fit for the excitement and entertainment that will be brought there by a star studded contingent travelling for the events. They even want "key" southern film stars like Rajinikanth, Nagarjuna, Kamal Haasan, Allu Arjun and Jr NTR to attend the show too.

New York's Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement: "We are thrilled to welcome IIFA to New York. Our city is home to both a thriving film industry and a dynamic, growing Indian American community. This is an event that will contribute enormously to both the cultural and economic life of our city.

"We welcome the artists and fans of Indian cinema, and encourage everyone to experience the rich cultural life across the five boroughs while celebrating these ground-breaking films."

Since debuting in London in 2000, the IIFA event has been annually showcasing the prowess of the multi-million dollar Hindi film industry, promoting the country and its talent at foreign destination year after year.

The event has been held at places as varied as Sun City (South Africa), Genting Highlands (Malaysia), Johannesburg (South Africa), Singapore, Amsterdam, Dubai, Yorkshire, Bangkok, Macau, Colombo, Toronto and Kuala Lumpur. Last year, it went to Madrid in Spain.

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Indians become biggest migrant group in Victoria: Census

 Sydney, April 12 (IANS) Indian people are Victoria's biggest migrant group for the first time in history, Australia's national census has found.

The first results of the census revealed that after 12 years of strong growth India was the biggest source of migration to the state, beating England for the first time, Xinhua news agency reported.

Harish Budhiraja, who moved to Australia in 2005, said Indians see Victoria as accepting and multicultural.

When Budhiraja moved India was not even a top four source of migrants to Victoria, with England, New Zealand, Italy and Vietnam holding the top four spots.

England remained the most prominent source of migrants for Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory but China was number one for New South Wales and New Zealand the most prominent in Queensland.

"Indians still see Australia as the land of opportunity when it comes to education, research and the standard of living," Budhiraja was quoted as saying.

He said he had not experienced any racism in his 12 years in Victoria.

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Telangana techie, who committed suicide in US, cremated

 Hyderabad, April 11 (IANS) The body of a techie who allegedly committed suicide in the US last week was on Tuesday cremated at his home town Bhongir in Telangana.

The relatives of Madhukar Reddy Gudur attacked his wife Swati, when she came to attend the funeral. Blaming Swati for his death, they asked her to go away. The incident led to tension.

The woman along with her mother later approached the police, seeking protection.

The 37-year-old techie was found hanging from a fan in his house in Seattle on April 4. His wife was also working as a software professional in the northwestern US city. The couple, who recently moved to their new home, have a seven-year-old daughter.

Before ending his life, Madhukar sent a mail to his parents, requesting them to forgive him.

Marital dispute is believed to have led Madhukar to kill himself. According to his family, he was very well off and did not have any financial problems.

An alumnus of BITS Pilani, Madhukar was living in the US since 2010 and was working for a multi-national company. He married Swati four years ago.

His relatives said after the marriage he had stopped visiting his parents and they blamed Swati for this alienation.
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India rejects Canadian provincial assembly motion

New Delhi, April 7 (IANS) India on Friday rejected a motion passed in a Canadian provincial assembly that described the 1984 anti-Sikh riots as a "genocide".

"We have noted the passage of a private members' motion in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario on April 6," External Affairs ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said.

"We reject this misguided motion which is based on a limited understanding of India, its Constitution, society, ethos, rule of law and the judicial process," he said.

"Our views have been conveyed to the government and political leadership in Canada."

Harinder Malhi, a Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP), moved the private member's motion in the Ontario assembly on Thursday which was passed by 34 votes in favour and five against, accounting for just about a third of the Assembly's total strength of 107.

There are around 1.2 million people of Indian origin settled in Canada and around 500,000 of them are from Punjab.

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Ontario passes motion recognising 1984 anti-Sikh riots as genocide

Toronto, April 7 (IANS) The Ontario Assembly has passed a motion that recognises the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in India that killed over 2,500 people, as genocide.

The motion was passed 35 to 5 on Thursday.

It was moved by Harinder Malhi, an MP from Brampton-Springdale district.

Malhi in her remarks said: "The Legislative Assembly of Ontario should reaffirm our values ...and condemn all forms of communal violence, hatred, hostility, prejudice, racism and intolerance in India and anywhere else in the world including the 1984 genocide perpetrated against the Sikhs."

"Today we recognise the human rights, social justice, reconciliation in the events that took place in New Delhi and other cities across India in 1984."

The province of Ontario is "a place where people see democracy as a way to recognise the past of our neighbours and the violence that took place in 1984 which can only be described as a genocide," the MP added.

"While we can't change the events of 1984, we have an opportunity here today to clear the misconceptions that divide the community and the residents of Ontario."

The motion comes ahead of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's expected visit to India either late this year or early next year, according to the country's High Commissioner to India Nadir Patel.

The 1984 riots took place in the aftermath of the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984, by her two Sikh bodyguards.

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US allows slain woman's husband to attend funeral in India

 New York, March 31 2017: The husband of an Indian-origin woman killed along with her son last week in New Jersey is being allowed to go to India for the funeral, according to an official.

Hanumantha Rao Narra's "movements are not restricted in any way by the criminal justice system," according to Joel Bewley, the Burlington County Prosecutor's spokesperson, quoted by CBSPhilly TV. "He has not been charged with a crime."

The channel quoted a source involved in the investigation as saying that Narra had a strong alibi. The source was not identified.

The channel said that Narra is expected to attend the funeral in India of his wife, Sasikala,38, and son Anish,6, who were found stabbed to death on March 23 in their Maple Shade home.

Post-mortems were done on the bodies of the victims and the remains were sent to a funeral home, according to the channel.

Bewley told the channel he would not comment on whether Narra is a suspect because his office does not comment on past, present, or future suspects.

CBSPhilly said that the source confirmed that Hanumantha Narra "was involved in a relationship with another woman as of last week". The woman was not identified.

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Haley open to ideas on expanding UN Security Council

 New York, March 30 (IANS) US Permanent Representative Nikki Haley has said she is open to ideas on adding permanent members to the UN Security Council but did not made a categorical endorsement of India's bid for one of the permanent seats.

"I'm open to hearing anyone on what they have to say and looking at it and going further," she said answering a question on Wednesday by Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) President Richard Haas about Security Council reform.

She candidly admitted, "First of all, I'm in learning mode. And as I look at that, I know there is conversations of reform of Security Council."

Haas had mentioned previous administrations raising Council expansion with India being mentioned as a candidate for a permanent seat and asked for President Donald Trump administration's or her views about it.

Former President Barack Obama had endorsed several times India's bid for permanent membership in Council.

In her speech at the CFR, Haley outlined a bold plan to shake up the UN and lead campaign for drastic reforms to both achieve its goals and to make it more efficient.

Washington is the biggest financier of the world body putting up 22 per cent of the regular budget and 28.36 per cent of the peacekeeping outlay. President Donald Trump's administration has proposed a 31 per cent cut to the State Department budget, which could impact its contributions to the UN.

Haley said that she would focus in the coming weeks on UN peacekeeping operations, an area with major involvement by India, which has 7,606 troops under the UN banner.

She criticised the peacekeeping operations and said it was shocking that there was no basic evaluation of its missions. Rather than concentrating on finding a political solution through peacekeeping, the UN got bogged down in "parochial questions" about troop-contributors, operation-funders, and the UN establishment.

When the US assumes the presidency of the Council, she said: "We will lay out a comprehensive vision for how peacekeeping missions should be reviewed moving forward. We will go back to first principles and ask hard questions."

Human rights would be the other priority area, she said. "The fact is, peace and security cannot be achieved in isolation from human rights," she added. "Human rights abuses are not the by-product of conflict; they are the cause of conflict, or they are the fuel that feeds the conflict."

She noted that the Council had not held sessions devoted exclusively to the subject and said she intended to call one on the connection between human rights and security.

"We intend to challenge member states to start walking the walk and not just talking the talk of human rights," she said.

"We will see which countries rise to the challenge and which resort to the same old tired excuses. It will be very telling if any country tries to block this debate."

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Man attacks woman in US gurdwara, held

Washington, March 29 (IANS) A 37-year-old man was arrested after he attacked a woman inside a gurdwara in the US state of Oregon.

According to the police, Timothy Walter Schmidt was intoxicated and was walking by the Sikh temple in Oregon's Gresham city on Sunday night. He asked to use a restroom at the temple and was allowed inside, reported Fox 12 Oregon.

When Schmidt came out of the bathroom, he saw a 26-year-old female in the gurdwara and attacked her.

According to Detective Adam Baker, a temple member heard the commotion and pulled Schmidt off of the woman and held him down until the police arrived.

Schmidt was lodged into the Multnomah county jail and charged with assault, menacing, coercion, attempted rape, sex abuse and unlawful use of a weapon, said the report.

The accused had a criminal history, including three DUII convictions, said police officials.

It is not clear if religion or ethnicity played a role in the attack, but that is something the police were looking into, according to the report.
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Indian-American killed in hit-and-run in US

Washington, March 29 (IANS) An Indian American man was killed and his wife was critically injured in a hit-and-run accident in the US state of Indiana.

Anshul Sharma, 30, died on the spot while his wife Samira Bharadwaj, 28, was injured critically in the accident on Sunday evening. Both pedestrians were from Columbus city of Indiana, said the police.

A 36-year-old man, Michael Demaio, was arrested by the police. He was driving a red Chrysler minivan and hit the couple from behind near Four Seasons Retirement Centre in Columbus, reported the Republic newspaper on Tuesday.

The accused later fled the scene.

Sharma was pronounced dead at the scene by a Bartholomew County Coroner while Bharadwaj was later transported to a hospital in Indianapolis.

Demaio "failed several field sobriety exercises", the police said. The minivan was found with substantial damage to its hood and a cracked windshield.

The accused, who is in now in a county jail, faces a number of preliminary charges, including failure to stop after an accident resulting in death, failure to stop after an accident resulting in injury, operating while intoxicated resulting in death and operating while intoxicated resulting in injury, said the report.

Meanwhile, family and friends of Sharma continued their efforts to take his body back to India and to support his wife, who was in a critical condition.

There were several messages on Twitter on Tuesday seeking help for the family.

A spokeswoman of Cummins, a diesel engine manufacturer in Columbus, where Sharma worked as an engineer, said the company was in constant communication with the Sharma family and providing support in efforts to return his body to India.
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100,000 given to American who tried saving Indians

Washington, March 26 (IANS) The Indian American community in Houston has presented $100,000 to Ian Grillot, a 24-year-old American who was shot while trying to save Indian techies Srinivas Kuchibotla and Alok Madasani during a shooting in Kansas.

The Indian Ambassador to the US, Navtej Sarna, presented the cheque to Grillot at the annual India House gala in Houston on Saturday evening, The American Bazaar news portal reported.

Kuchibhotla, 32, was killed when Adam W. Purinton, a white man, shot the Indians at the Austins Bar and Grill in Olathe on February 22. Madasani and Grillot, who tried to stop the killer, survived with injuries.

A statement posed on the official page of India House Houston said: "On behalf of the Indian-American community in Houston, India House recognised this selfless act beyond the call of duty and has extended the community's gratitude to Ian Grillot by helping him to buy a house."

Speaking at the event, Grillot said: "I don't know if I could've lived with myself if I wouldn't t have stopped or attempted to stop the shooter because that would've been completely devastating.

"I do now have a very powerful message and if I can help empower people and spread hope and love, then why not?

"I am honoured to be at India House that serves so many families from so many communities in the Houston area," The American Bazaar quoted Grillot as saying.

Jiten Agarwal, a prominent Indian American in Houston and chair of the annual gala, said: "It is not every day that one meets a genuine hero, a person who risks his life for another, and takes a bullet for a complete stranger.

"Ian Grillot is a man who reminds us of the promise of America and its greatness."

Agarwal, with the help of its trustees, mobilized the community to come together to honour Grillot and raise funds.

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Indian woman, son found dead in US, family suspect son-in-law (Lead)

Vijayawada/New Delhi, March 24 (IANS) The parents of an Indian woman who along with her seven-year-old son found dead in their home in New Jersey, suspect the involvement of their son-in-law.

N. Hanumantha Rao allegedly found the bodies of his wife N. Sasikala (40) and son Anish Sai when he returned home from work on Thursday evening, his family said in Prakasam district of Andhra Pradesh.

Sasikala's parents, who live on the outskirts of Vijayawada, however said they suspect the involvement of their son-in-law.

Venkateshwarlu and Krishna Kumari alleged that he was not treating their daughter well for last two years and he was also carrying on an extramarital affair.

Sasikala's parents said she had told them over phone several times that he is not looking after her well and was continuing the affair with another woman.

They said Hanumantha Rao telephoned them Friday just to say that his wife and son have died and did not say anything more.

Y. Sambasiva Rao, the lawmaker from Prakasam district, meanwhile spoke to representatives of Telugu Association of North America (TANA) over phone about the incident.

He said the mother and her son were strangulated to death.

Hanumantha Rao and Sasikala both were software professionals. Sasikala used to work from home for an IT company while Hanumantha Rao is working as an associate director in another firm.

The couple married in Vijayawada in 2004 and had been living in the US for nine years.

This is the latest in a series of incidents involving Indian techies.

Telangana aeronautical engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, was killed when Adam W. Purinton, who earlier served in the US Navy, shot him in Olathe, Kansas, on February 23.

Vamshi Reddy Mamidala, also from Telangana, was shot dead in Milpitas, California, on February 10 in a garage in his apartment building.

 

Many California voters unaware of Senator Kamala Harris: Poll

San Francisco, March 23 (IANS) Kamala Harris, first Indian-American to serve in the US Senate, remains unknown to many residents of her own state California despite maintaining a high profile in Washington, according to a new poll.

Forty-six per cent of Californians approve of the job Harris is doing, while 23 per cent disapprove, according to a poll released late Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California.

But 30 per cent of Californians -- including 20 per cent of Democrats -- said that they do not know how to rate Harris' performance, according to the poll, which is the institute's first post-election measure of her job approval, Politico news reported.

The poll comes after Harris rose onto the national stage, drawing attention as one of many potential Democratic candidates for President in 2020.

The former California Attorney General is among Democrats expected to attend a gathering of the party's most prominent politicians at a Centre for American Progress conference in May.

Last month, Harris was nominated to serve on four influential Congressional committees -- the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee; the Select Committee on Intelligence; the Committee on Environment and Public Works; and the Committee on the Budget.

The poll, using live telephone interviews, was conducted between March 5 to 14, surveying 1,706 California adults.

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Foreign students considering leaving US

New York, March 16 2017: A second executive order by US President Donald Trump on immigration has prompted foreign students and researchers, including those from India, to look elsewhere for educational, training and job opportunities, according to a report.

In January, Trump's initial executive order took effect barring people from seven predominantly Muslim countries -- Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen -- from entering the US for 90 days. However, a federal judge issued a stay on that executive order.

But on March 6, Trump signed a second executive order, where Iraq was excluded from the list.

However, this revised executive order was again halted, on Wednesday, by a federal judge in Hawaii citing that the order was meant to discriminate against Muslims, the washingtonpost.com reported.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration, in addition, ordered suspension of expedited processing of H-1B visas for up to six months.

As a result, students from the listed countries, as well as those from India, are seriously considering leaving the US for their education and career, to countries that have a more welcoming immigration policy, said the report published in the Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN) -- the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society.

"I'm questioning staying in America, and I have already started looking through documents for Canada. I will go to a country where I have to worry less about my life," Saghi Saghazadeh, an Iranian post-doctoral student at Harvard Medical School was quoted as saying to C&EN.

Professors have said they are worried about the executive order and its impact on US competitiveness in science and engineering, as "science and engineering graduate school programmes across the US rely heavily on an international pool of students", said Linda Wang, Senior Editor at C&EN.

According to a survey by the National Science Foundation, 45 per cent of full-time graduate students in science and engineering were on a temporary visa in 2015. ...IANS

Indian-American teenager wins top science prize

Washington, March 16 (IANS) Indian-American teenager, Indrani Das, won the top, $250,000 prize in the prestigious Regeneron Science Talent Search competition for her research on treating brain injuries and diseases.

Another Indian-American, Arjun Ramani, took the third place, which carries a prize of $150,000, for his project on networks using mathematical field of graph theory and computer programming.

It is the oldest US science competition for students and is now sponsored by the medical company, Regeneron, in association with the Society for Science and the Public (SSP).

Nicknamed the "Junior Nobel Prize", it was originally sponsored by Westinghouse in 1942 and Intel took it up from 1998 till last year. Twelve of the contest alumni have won Nobel Prizes.

Archana Verma took the fifth place award of $90,000 for research that could lead to the development of windows that could produce solar power; Prathik Naidu received the seventh place award for a software to study human genomes and cancer, and Vrinda Madan got the ninth place award of $50,000 for her study of medications for malaria.

Eight other Indian-origin students were among the 40 finalists, each of whom received prizes of $25,000.

SSP President Maya Ajmera said the finalists "are all poised to become our future scientific leaders".

More that 1,700 students took part in the contest.

Das's research showed a way for increasing the survival rate of neurons affected by brain injury or neurodegenerative disease.

Madan's research is of more immediate interest to India, where a 2015 World Health Organisation estimate said that ther were 13 million cases of malaria.

She studied 24 compounds malaria treatment and identified two that "appear to target the disease-causing organism in a novel way," SSP added.
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US man tries to burn Indian-Americans' store

 Washington, March 12, 2017: A man in Florida tried to burn down a convenience store owned by Indian-Americans because he thought the owners were Muslims, officials said.

Richard Lloyd, 64, told the police officials that he wanted to "run the Arabs out of our country" so he pushed a dumpster in front of the Port St. Lucie store on Friday and set the contents on fire, St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara said in a news release posted on Facebook.

The fire was put out quickly and didn't cause much damage since the store was closed and protected by security shutters.

Lloyd told detectives he assumed the owner was a Muslim and that angered him because of "what they are doing in the Middle East," Mascara said.

"It's unfortunate that Lloyd made the assumption that the store owners were Arabic when, in fact, they are of Indian descent," the sheriff said.

He said Lloyd's mental health will be evaluated and the state attorney's office will decide if this was a hate crime, CNN reported on Sunday.

Lloyd was charged with first-degree arson and booked into the St. Lucie County Jail in lieu of a $30,000 bond.

According to CNN affiliate WPEC, Lloyd told investigators he tried to buy a bottle of Tropicana orange pineapple juice at the store a few days ago but was told they didn't have any. He was also upset because he assumed the store employee was a Muslim, WPEC said, citing the investigative report.

Lloyd told investigators he planned to burn the building because he "was doing my part for America," WPEC said.

Last month, Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla was shot dead and his friend Alok Madasani was injured in a hate attack in Kansas City.

Another Indian, Harnish Patel, was killed in South Carolina last week, but the killing was not identified as a hate crime....IANS

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Indian-origin victim's widow pleads for 'selflessness, love'

 New York, March 11, 2017: The widow of Harnish Patel, an Indian-origin businessman who was shot dead outside his home in South Carolina, has made a plea for "selflessness and love" to honour his memory.

"To honour the memory of Harnish, please continue to demonstrate selflessness and love to one another each and every day," Sonal Patel said in a statement on Thursday to the local daily, Lancaster News.

Harnish Patel's brother, Nirav said that Sonal was staying strong and focused getting her and her son's lives back to as normal as possible, the daily reported.

Harnish Patel, who immigrated to the US in 2003, ran a convenience store. He was shot on March 2 when he reached his house in Lancaster, South Carolina, after closing the store.

As for the motive behind his killing, Nirav Patel told the Lancaster News: "We just don't know. Nobody knows yet."

The family was "very good friends with the law enforcement community, and they trust them completely. Right now, we're just letting them do their job," he added.

Meanwhile, Doug Barfield, a lawyer for the sheriff's office, told the daily that a full team of investigators were working on the case with the help of state law enforcement agents.

Many people were interviewed but no arrests so far.....IANS

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Sessions asks Obama-era US attorneys to resign

Washington, March 11, 2017: Attorney General Jeff Sessions has asked dozens of US attorneys appointed by former President Barack Obama to submit their resignations, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced.

US attorneys are normally replaced at the beginning of new administrations. Out of a total 93 attorneys, 46 remain from the past administration, the department said on Friday.

Sessions asked for the federal prosecutors to resign "in order to ensure a uniform transition", DOJ spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said in a statement.

"As was the case in prior transitions, many of the US Attorneys nominated by the previous administration already have left the Department of Justice," The Hill magazine quoted Flores as saying.

The DOJ said career prosecutors in Sessions' office would continue investigations and prosecutions until the new US attorneys were confirmed.

The call for resignations applies to all Senate-confirmed US Attorneys, including Preet Bharara, the Indian-origin US attorney for the Southern District of New York.

This comes as a surprise as Bharara reportedly met Trump after the election and agreed to remain in his position during the Trump administration.

Sessions also asked him to stay, the prosecutor told The New York Times.

Once the resignations are submitted, it would be Trump's decision on whether to accept all of them.

Meanwhile, Democracy 21, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the Campaign Legal Centre sent a letter asking Bharara to investigate whether Trump had received payments or other benefits from foreign governments through his business interests, according to The Washington Post.

Under the "emoluments clause" of the Constitution, top officials are prohibited from receiving payments or favours from foreign governments.
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Sikh man arrested for killing daughter-in-law in US

Washington, March 10, 2017: A Sikh man was arrested after he hit his daughter-in-law in the head with a hammer several times and killed her during an argument at the family's home in California's Suisun City, the police said.

According to Suisun City police, Amarjit Singh, 63, confessed that he was upset with his daughter-in-law Shameena Bibi for being "disrespectful", the Los Angeles Times reported.

The attack happened earlier this week and Singh told the police that he was angry with Bibi over a bicycle and confronted her in the garage of their home in the Solano County city, east of the San Francisco Bay.

The Indian-American man the attacked his 29-year-old daughter-in-law with a hammer, the police said.

The police said that they received a call from a neighbour around 9.45 a.m. on Tuesday. When they arrived at the scene, Bibi's body was found in the garage with serious injury to her head. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Bibi was living with her husband, two-year-old son, and husband's parents. Her mother-in-law and son were inside the home when the fatal attack occurred, said officials.

According to reports, Singh did not fully accept Bibi in the family.

Singh was booked into Solano County Jail on suspicion of murder. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) joined the investigation....IANS

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FBI, police seek tips, offer reward in Sikh shooting case

Washington, March 10, 2017: The FBI and the Seattle city police in the US are asking for the public's help and have offered a reward for anyone providing any lead in the shooting of a Sikh man, who was told by an attacker to "go back to your own country".

Police chief Ken Thomas released a sketch of the masked attacker during a press conference on Thursday.

It may be difficult for anyone to recognise the shooter as most of his face was covered, reported Seattle Times.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has offered a reward of up to $6,000 for any information on the shooter.

"We need the public's assistance to help us solve this crime," Thomas said at Kent City Hall.

Deep Rai, a US national of Indian origin, told the police that he was working on his car in front of his house in Kent in Seattle last week, when a white man in a mask approached him.

Police said an altercation followed, with the man shooting Rai and telling him to "go back to your own country".

The gunman later fled the spot.

According to the police chief, Rai may have been targeted as he was wearing a turban when the shooting occurred.

Another senior official said that the FBI is also trying to determine whether the shooting was a hate crime.

The shooting comes after Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, was shot dead, and his friend Alok Madasani was injured in a shooting incident at a Kansas City bar on February 22.

The Kansas shooting was condemned by President Donald Trump as an act of hate about a week later...IANS

 

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Malaysia plans measures to attract more Indian tourists

New Delhi- Concerned over Malaysia losing Indian tourists to other South-East Asian countries in recent years, the Malaysian government has come up with certain measures to check the fall in numbers and plans to make further investment to attract more tourists.

Malaysia's Tourism Minister Mohamed Nazri bin Abdul Aziz, talking to IANS, said they were in the process of fixing the visa-related issues -- the top-most concern raised by some quarters.

"Other countries, such as Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia, are making it easier for Indians to travel to their countries, thus taking away some of the tourists previously visiting Malaysia. So, now we have introduced visa-free entry facility for Indians, even for those living away from their home country," Nazri said.

Nazri said that after he found that extra visa fee was being charged from those Indians applying for multiple entry, he standardised the visa fee.

The minister said that his government was planning a tie-up with PayTM --a digital wallet widely used in India -- to facilitate smooth transaction for India tourists in his country.

Noting that Indians are frequent visitors to his country, Nazri said: "We have planned many incentives for Indians. For example, we have made easier for Indian travel agents to set up companies in Malaysia, investors can have 100 per cent ownership, such as in five-star hotels and resorts, without any involvement of local partners."

"We will also make it easy for the Indian movie-makers to shoot in Malaysia and provide some special incentives to Indian markets," he said and stressed the traditional social and cultural bonding between the two countries.

In 2015, over 722,000 tourists from India visited Malaysia, making the country one of the 10 largest source of tourists. However, the number declined to 620,000 in 2016, against the projected one million tourists for the year.

Nazri said that he did not know the exact tourist projection for this year "but the number will top 700,000".

"We are promoting eco-tourism in Borneo. Also, health tourism is big thing in Malaysia and we have many Indian tourists visiting Malaysia for treatment. Almost 25 per cent of our doctors are trained in India," he said.

Asked about the effect of the demonetisation of high-value currency notes in India, Nazri said: "It will be too early to say if it had any impact on the decline in number of Indian tourists to Malaysia."

"Even if it did affect, the impact will be minimal. The most important issue is visa, which we are already addressing," he said....IANS

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A.R. Rahman to perform in UAE after 7 years

Kochi, Feb 15 --Oscar winner A.R. Rahman will stage a live concert in UAE on March 17 after a gap of seven years.

Media house Mathrubhumi Group will host the evene at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.

M.V. Shreyamskumar, Director - Marketing and Electronic Media of Mathrubhumi Group, told IANS that they are excited about getting Rahman to perform, especially as he will take to the stage in UAE after so long.

"The show will be staged using the most modern electronic gadgets and would be technically superior," said Shreyamskumar, a former legislator in the Kerala Assembly....IANS
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Indian-Americans offer food, shelter to California dam evacuees

Washington, Feb 14 -- Several gurdwaras in Sacramento, California's capital city, have come forward to offer meals and shelter to the evacuees of Yuba City, which consists of a sizable number of Indian-Americans, following fears of Oroville Dam collapsing.

Some 188,000 residents, including around 20,000 Indian-Americans, in the River Valley below the Lake Oroville Dam, 65 miles or about 104 km north of Sacramento, were ordered to move away from their homes on Sunday when one of two damaged spillways appeared in danger of imminent collapse from severe erosion, American Bazaar online reported on Monday.

Yuba City has an estimated population of 13 per cent Punjabi-Americans and evacuation was ordered for parts of Yuba County, including Hallwood, Marysville, Olivehurst, Linda and Plumas Lake.

Yuba County Office of Emergency Services posted an evacuation order on Facebook: "Yes, an evacuation has been ordered. All Yuba County on the valley floor. The auxiliary spillway is close to failing. Please travel safely. Contact family and friends. Help the elderly. Take only routes to the east, south, or west. DO NOT TRAVEL NORTH TOWARD OROVILLE!!!!!"

Operators of the dam prepared on Monday to shore up a crumbling emergency spillway with bags of rock while bleeding off excess water from the rain-swollen Oroville Lake to ease the threat of inundating the northern California communities under evacuation orders downstream.

Several hours later, the situation appeared less dire as water levels subsided behind the dam, which ranks as the tallest in the US, and the weakened unpaved hillside spillway beside it remained largely intact.

"Sikh temples in Sacramento offering Food & Shelter. They are open for ALL people evacuated from Yuba City #OrovilleDam #OrovilleSpillway," tweeted social activist Harjinder S. Kukreja.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg tweeted that people could take shelter in gurdwaras situated around the area and there are arrangements for meals too.

Dr Gurtej Singh Cheema, a physician and a local Sikh activist, said that they were prepared to help the residents evacuating the Yuva County area. "We're well prepared," Cheema told the Huffington Post.

The gurdwara is one of the closest for residents leaving Yuba City. "We have meals, shelter. We can accommodate at least 50 people here," he said.

Cheema said that they have already received three families and several more called to apprise of their arrival....IANS
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Indian-origin hotel manager charged for helping US gang

New York, Feb 14, 2017: An Indian-origin hotel manager faces federal charges for allegedly helping a feared street gang in its drug-dealing and prostitution operations in California, according to prosecutors.

Umesh Oza, who managed two hotels in Oceanside city, was charged last week with racketeering conspiracy under laws traditionally used for organised-crime syndicates and mobsters, prosecutors said. Oza also used the name Kevin.

"Not only are we targeting the traffickers and customers, but we are also going after the businesses that facilitate this type of gang activity," said Alana Robinson, the acting federal prosecutor for Southern California in San Diego.

Oza "provided a safe haven" for the alleged members of the Westside Crips criminal street gang to carry out drug deals and prostitution, according to the prosecution.

Eleven alleged West Crips gangsters were also charged in crimes that prosecutors say took place from 2004 to 2016.

While prosecutors only identified the facilities Oza managed as "two national brand hotels", the San Diego Tribune said they were the Coast Inn and a Motel 6.

Some of the gang members charged sold narcotics while others managed prostitutes and transported them all over the country, according to prosecutors.....IANS
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India-born Badiani to showcase at New York Fashion Week

New Delhi, Feb 13, 2017: India-born US-based designer Premal Badiani will showcase Indian fashion at New York Fashion Week. She says it could open an avenue for Indian textile makers.

Badiani's latest collection 'Root Cause' is based on soft and fluid silhouettes in warm shades of maroon. The earthy undertones of the fabric are further complemented with the green and gold embroidery that endorses 'green awareness'.

"The inspiration behind this collection is to bring awareness of the human impact on environment and to promote social responsibility by adopting sustainable fashion as a lifestyle choice," Badiani said in a statement.

"The primary fabric used is made from natural cellulosic fibres and produced from wood pulp, a natural renewable resource," she said.

This highlights the brand's philosophy of environmental awareness that believes caring about the planet is not a seasonal choice but needs to be done all year round, she added.

"Through this collection, the brand wants to promote sustainable fashion in the luxury market," Badiani said.

The designer feels showcasing this line at the New York Fashion Week will bring more opportunities to Indian textile makers.

"This opportunity will open an avenue not only for me and other designers, but also for the entire community of Indian textile makers and handloom weavers to get their craft noticed and acknowledged in the international fashion industry," said Badiani.

Her label Premal Badiani has creations which are marked by layering, embellishments, intricate draping and attention to details.

Her show at the New York Fashion Week is on Tuesday. Another Indian name to showcase at the gala is Vaishali Shadangule....IANS
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Parliamentary panel raps government for delaying new Emigration Act

By Anjali Ojha 

New Delhi, Feb 12, 2017: A parliamentary panel has pulled up the government for delaying a new emigration policy that would keep with the changing times, and expressed displeasure over a bill being put in abeyance for long years.

India's current emigration act was formulated in 1983 and amended in 2009. The Emigration Management Bill, which is to replace the act, was formulated by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs in 2009 and updated in 2010 and 2011. However, it never saw the light of day in Parliament.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs, headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, in an earlier report had been tough on the government, questioning the delay in introducing a new emigration bill "that was reflective of the changed international as well as domestic situation".

"The Committee was disheartened to note that the Draft Emigration Bill stated to replace the Emigration Act, 1983, had been put in abeyance since 2011 and the ministry had once again failed to adhere to the deadline for introducing the bill during the monsoon session of Parliament last year," the panel said in its 11th report that was tabled in May 2016.

The External Affairs Ministry in its reply said it is "conscious of the need to modernise the legislative framework prescribed by the Emigration Act, 1983, and the Emigration Rules that governs emigration of Indians for overseas employment".

It also stated that the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, which was merged with the Ministry of External Affairs in January 2016, had also held consultations over the draft Emigration Management Bill, but it was felt that wider consultations were needed.

The government also pointed out the measures like e-migrate platform, 24X7 Helpline "MADAD" for online lodging and redressal of grievances of the emigrants, mandatory Pravasi Bharatiya Bima Yojana, and the Indian Community Welfare Fund in Missions and Posts abroad as some measures.

The panel, however, rapped the government over the delay and said the ministry has "broadly reproduced the same reply as it had furnished in the previous year".

The Parliamentary Committee said it is not convinced with the ministry's arguments of the other measures taken.

"The Committee would reiterate that a new framework for emigration is needed and in the absence of a firm legal backing, these administrative measures are likely to prove insufficient," the report said.

"The Committee, in the strongest possible terms, recommend that the Ministry should adhere to a time-frame to complete the consultation process to evolve a comprehensive emigration management framework and ensure that it comprises a comprehensive legislative framework delineating the rules governing emigration law by replacing the obsolete Emigration Act, 1983," it said.

Before the merger of the Ministry of Overseas Affairs with the External Affairs Ministry, the then Minister of State for Overseas Affairs V.K. Singh in a written reply in Lok Sabha had said salient features of the proposed bill include transforming emigration into a simple, transparent, efficient, and humane economic process with emphasis on management of migration that includes facilitating legal migration and preventing illegal migration.

It will also enable ethical recruitment practices, enhance the protection and welfare of emigrants and matters connected therewith, the minister had said.

In another reply to the Lok Sabha in July 2014, V.K. Singh had said the bill was at the stage of inter-ministerial consultations and no time limit could be given for it.

The bill proposes constitution of an Emigration Management Authority, which will manage and regulate recruitment and enrolment agencies, accreditation of employees, registration of emigrants and obtaining intimation from students going abroad.
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Bahrain keen to increase ties with Kerala

Thiruvananthapuram/Manama, Feb 9, 2017: Bahrain is willing to increase its ties with Kerala in various sectors, Bahrain's Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa informed visiting Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

A statement issued by the office of Vijayan on Thursday night said that the Chief Minister also met with Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa who informed Vijayan that the Gulf nation has close ties with Malayalees.

The Crown Prince conveyed that they wish to have closer ties in sectors like culture, education, IT and health and for that a special fund would be set up.

Vijayan mooted the idea of setting up a bi-lateral Chamber of Commerce and also extended an invite to the rulers of the island nation to visit Kerala.

Vijayan reached Bahrain on Wednesday and was accompanied by Keralite businessmen M.A. Yusuf Ali and Ravi Pillai besides his special secretary and senior bureaucrat Nalini Netto amongst others during the meeting.

This was Vijayan's first visit to Bahrain after taking over as Chief M

Just spending money won't clean Ganga, say experts

By Vishav 

New Delhi, Feb 8, 2017: Just spending money on Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) will not clean the Ganga river - what is needed is a comprehensive plan to stop sewage from entering the river, say experts.

Their views assume significance in the light of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday pulling up government agencies for "wasting public money" in the name of cleaning the river.

"Not a single drop of the river has been cleaned so far," a bench headed by its Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said.

Reputed water conservationist Rajendra Singh can only agree and he says that "distributing money for setting up machines" (STPs) won't bring good results unless there was a national protocol to stop sewage water from flowing into our rivers.

Environmentalist C.R. Babu concurred, saying all the rivers and rivulets flowing in the Gangetic plan carry only sewage and no river can be cleaned minus simultaneous efforts to clean towns and cites of sewage.

Sushmita Sengupta of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), however, felt that while the central government had an elaborate plan to clean the Ganga, concrete action on the field was still awaited.

The Ganga, considered by Hindus as the holiest of rivers, flows from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, covering 2,525 km across five states. Despite a Ganga Action Plan launched in 1985, the river remains highly polluted, particularly once it crosses Haridwar.

Rajendra Singh, known as the "Waterman of India", contended that the money spent on cleaning the Ganga was being "distributed" to contractors and companies with no experience in the field of river rejuvenation.

"They have given money for projects to install STPs. This money will go to those ... supplying iron, cement, concrete, pipes. But won't solve the problem," Singh told IANS.

"To comprehensively treat the river, there is need to ensure that dirty water does not find its way into Ganga, to separate all the 'nullahs' (drains) that merge with Ganga, to pass a law or formulate a national protocol to separate river from sewer," he added.

Singh, who won the Stockholm Water Prize (known as the Nobel Prize for water) in 2015, said: "What we need is to establish a system to ensure that dirty water doesn't mix with clean water. As for the dirty water, it should be treated and reused in agriculture, gardening, industry."

Babu, Professor Emeritus at Delhi University and head of the Centre for Environmental Management of Degraded Ecosystems, said the problem does not lie only with the cities.

"Many small rivers and rivulets coming from villages add only sewage into the river during non-monsoon months," Babu told IANS, adding the obvious: the Ganga cannot be cleaned until discharge of sewage into the river is stopped.

"You can't spend thousands of crores of rupees to clean Ganga and at the same time allow sewage to enter the river. You continuously clean and you simultaneously pollute. This is not the way."

CSE's Sengupta, however, felt the government has tried to learn from earlier faults and now has an elaborate plan to clean the Ganga. But she added that the impact can be seen only when there was an improvement in the quality or flow of water.

"Even Central Pollution Control Board data show there is no appreciable impact on the quality of river water," Sengupta told IANS.

Most work of cleaning coastal debris like flowers, plastic, dead bodies and upgrading STPs was done during the UPA regime, she said. "Some new projects have now come in. But they are small in terms of percentage."

Under the Ganga Gram project, the government plans to develop villages located along the main stream of the river which have historic, cultural and religious or tourist importance.

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Clean Ganga Fund open to donations from NRIs, PIOs.

Statistics show that very little has been done in the past two years - in spite of spending Rs 2,958 crore of the Rs 3,703 crore allocated - to improve the condition of the holy river. For the current 2016-17 fiscal, the student said the union government does not have any details of the expenses so far of the Rs 2,500 crore allocated.

"We must go to to clean the physical world aroud us. If we can truly educate one and all in true sense the holy river will eventually recover its cleanliness,"NRIs associated with Environmental Management said un their text message. "We are not against the project but at the end impossible things are not possible. We need to have strict orders against the States who are throwing their garbages and allow sewage to enter the river."

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Indian charged with money laundering for drug dealer in US

New York, Feb 2, 2107--A California businessman, Krishen Sauble Iyer, has been convicted of laundering money for a marijuana dealer.

The federal prosecutor for Eastern California Phillip A. Talbert said on Wednesday that Iyer, who lived in Fresno, had admitted his guilt.

According to documents, Iyer, who owned several insurance businesses, made a deal with a marijuana dealer to have money from selling the narcotics transferred to one of his companies, Health Shield.

He then returned the money to the dealer after taking a commission and disguising the payments as salaries, the prosecution said. He filed tax documents showing a payment of $111,952 in 2013 and $164,000 in 2014 even though the dealer had not worked for him.

The marijuana dealer was identified only as "S.V." in the court documents.

Iyer is to be sentenced by Judge Dale A. Drozd in April and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail and a $500,000 fine.

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Indian charged with impersonating US tax official

 New York, Feb 1, 17 An Indian-origin man has been charged with pretending to be a US tax official and forcing the victims to pay money to him and his accomplices, according to officials.

Abhijeetsinh Jadeja, 29, of Miami in Florida, made phone calls to his alleged victims making them believe that they owed money to the government and made them send money to bank accounts and debit cards controlled by him and his co-conspirators, Southern Florida federal prosecutor Wifredo A. Ferrer said on Tuesday.

Jadeja was arrested arrested along with an alleged accomplice, Rachel Jean Roragen, 41, on Friday and they face 12 charges, including identity theft, the prosecutor said.

It was not clear if their arrest was related to the crackdown in India last October when at least nine call centres were raided and scores arrested on charges of preying on Americans by pretending to be tax officials.

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Trump's call to pharma firms to move back to US could hit Indian exporters

Washington, Jan 31 17 Foreshadowing "Buy American" moves that could affect the largest market for Indian pharmaceutical companies, US President Donald Trump told drug makers on Monday to bring back manufacturing to the United States.

"I want you to manufacture in the United States," he told leaders of seven major pharmaceutical companies. "I want you to move your companies back into the United States."

To facilitate this, he said: "We're going to be lowering taxes, we're going to be getting rid of regulations that are unnecessary."

India exported $6 billion worth of drugs to the US in 2015 and restrictions on pharmaceutical imports and manufacturing abroad could impact the industry in India.

Trump also hinted at the possibility of ending a multi-layered pricing system for medicines by which rates are often set lower for drugs sold abroad than in the US.

"Our trade policy will prioritise that foreign countries pay their fair share for US manufactured drugs so our drug companies have greater financial resources to accelerate the development of new cures," he said. "And I think it's so important. Right now, it's very unfair what other countries are doing to us."

The meeting was part of a series of meetings he has been holding with leaders of different sectors to get them to increase jobs and investment in the US to further his campaign promises. The CEOs of Amgen, Novartis and Eli Lily were among those who attended.

Trump emphasised deregulation of the strict controls on marketing medicines in the US.

"We're going to be cutting regulations at a level nobody's ever seen before," he said. "And we're going to have tremendous protection for the people, maybe more protection."

He criticised the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) approval process for new drugs saying that he was troubled that a terminally-ill patient could not get a vital medicine because of the approval delays.

An Indian American, Balaji Srinivasan, who is a technology and biotechnology entrepreneur and a critic of the functioning of the FDA, is among those being considered to head the agency.

"A lot of the companies have moved out, they don't make the drugs in our country any more," Trump said. "A lot of that has to do with regulation, a lot of it has to do with the fact that other countries take advantage of ous with their money and their money supply and devaluation."

Trump also took aim at big pharmaceutical companies over their pricing policies. "we have to get lower prices, we have to get even better innovation, he said.

For this he said that he would favour smaller companies. "I'll oppose anything that makes it harder for smaller, younger companies to take the risk of bringing their product to a vibrantly competitive market," he said. "That includes price-fixing by the biggest dog in the market, Medicare, which is what's happening. But we can increase competition and bidding wars, big time."

Medicare is the government health insurance programme for senior citizens.
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