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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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


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."


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.

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.

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.


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.



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 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.

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


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


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.

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


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



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


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

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

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

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

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.

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.


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."


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.


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.


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.