Saturday, February 11, 2012

Diaspora weekly recap

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Manama, Feb 7(ANI): Bahrain's Interior Minister Shaikh Rashid Bin Abdullah Al Khalifa has condemned attacks on the country's expatriate communities in the wake of an Indian and Britons being subjected to assaults.
"Attacks on the expatriates and members of the foreign communities are unacceptable by any standard," Gulf News quoted Shaikh Rashid Bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, as saying.
"They are against all religions and conventions and clash with Islam's values and tolerance and Bahrain's traditions in dealing with various peoples. All components of the Bahraini society, including political associations, should express their views openly on such criminal acts," he added.
His statement came following reports that a Briton lost two fingers on being attacked with a sword in a village as he lost his way while driving home. It comes following an assault on an Indian few days ago.
Meanwhile, a police car was gutted and a policeman injured after people hurled Molotov cocktails, Public Security Chief Tarek Al Hassan said.
"The patrol policemen showed the highest level of restraint in dealing with the attackers and used only tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd," Al Hassan said.
Activists from the Sunni and Shiite sects also took steps to bridge the widening gap now dividing the country by holding an open debate, the first of its kind since dramatic events unfolded in the country last year.
Nine speakers addressed the Bahrain Debate debate on the consequences of the tensions between different segments of society and suggested possible solutions to reunite Bahrainis and look in the same direction together.
Organisers of the Bahrain Debate said that the event was "conceptualised by many people in Bahrain over the past few weeks."
"The organisers are completely independent and funded the event personally. They are not affiliated with any societies, political parties, or government entities in Bahrain," they said.(ANI)
Former director of Goldman Sachs, Rajat Gupta, faces more allegations in one of the biggest insider trading scams in the US

EW YORK (Reuters) - Rajat Gupta, a former director of Goldman Sachs and Procter & Gamble who is the highest-ranking executive charged in a U.S. crackdown on insider trading, could face additional allegations, a federal prosecutor said on Tuesday.
Prosecutor Reed Brodsky told a New York federal judge that the government was prepared to reveal in the coming weeks other insider trading tips that advanced the conspiracy between Gupta and his one-time friend, convicted Galleon hedge fund founder Raj Rajaratnam. Gupta was originally charged last October.
A week ago, prosecutors unsealed an amended indictment against Gupta, who is also a former global head of the McKinsey & Co consultancy. At Tuesday's hearing, Gupta went through the formality of pleading not guilty to the new indictment, only to hear that the government was pressing ahead with its investigation.
Gupta's lawyer, Gary Naftalis, won a ruling from U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff to postpone the trial to May 21 from April 9 so Naftalis could prepare a defense against the new allegations.
"The government is wildly expanding what everybody in the world understands this case to be about," Naftalis said. "It's time to stop and try the case that they originally brought."
Gupta, 63, was charged in October with securities fraud and conspiracy, accused of providing inside tips about Goldman and Procter & Gamble board meetings to Rajaratnam in 2008. A superseding indictment announced on January 31 included allegations of tips in 2007.
Prosecutors said Gupta participated in a Goldman conference call meeting in March 2007 from Galleon's offices. The call was about quarterly earnings that exceeded analyst's expectations. Rajaratnam bought Goldman stock 25 minutes after the call ended, prosecutors said.
Gupta has denied the allegations.
Dozens of hedge fund managers, lawyers and executives, including Rajaratnam, have been convicted since 2009.
Rajaratnam is serving an 11-year prison sentence after a jury convicted him on evidence based largely on telephone conversations secretly recorded by the FBI.
Investigators recorded at least two discussions between Rajaratnam and Gupta.
The government contends that Gupta provided Rajaratnam with advance knowledge of Warren Buffett's $5 billion investment in Goldman at the height of the 2008 financial crisis, information about Goldman's surprise fourth-quarter loss in 2008 and P&G's quarterly earnings in late January 2009.
Naftalis said that part of the defense would be to emphasize that in 2008 and 2009 relations between Gupta and Rajaratnam had deteriorated. He said Gupta lost all of a $10 million investment he made with the Galleon hedge fund manager.
The case is USA v Gupta, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 11-907.
(Reporting By Grant McCool)

Porn watcher caught during rape trial

An Indian-origin court clerk was caught watching pornography right under the nose of a judge during a rape trial

London, Feb 8(ANI): An Indian-origin court clerk, who was caught watching pornography right under the nose of a judge during a rape trial, has said he did so 'because he was bored'.
Debasish Majumder, 54, accessed obscene images of topless women being gagged and couples engaged in sexual acts while the victim gave her harrowing evidence at Inner London Crown Court, the court was told
But the judge, who was sitting directly behind him, caught him.
Majumder, who had worked at Inner London Crown Court, later admitted routinely watching porn while trials were taking place.
"Majumder was working as a court clerk at Inner London and his conduct constituted a wholesale abuse of his position and the equipment provided in that he viewed porn sites on his court computer whilst the court was engaged in the conduct of a trial on an allegation of rape," The Daily Mail quoted a prosecutor, Annabel Darlow, as saying.
"Judge Seed noticed what was taking place. He initially hoped that he had been mistaken or that the behaviour would desist. On December 10, he did take action and drew the attention to the matter of the resident judge," he added.
A police probe into the incident found pornography searches in the history of Majumder's work computer and child and extreme pornography images on his home computer.
He pleaded guilty to one charge of misconduct in public office and five counts of possession of indecent images.
His lawyer Susannah Stevens said her client had suffered a stroke about eight months ago and that could have affected his mental state. (ANI)
“I won’t face trouble,” says Deepa Mehta

NRI filmmaker Deepa Mehta says she won’t have any trouble releasing her latest film ‘Midnight’s Children’ based on Salman Rushdie’s bestseller
Mumbai, Feb 2 (IANS) Canada-based Indian filmmaker Deepa Mehta, who is making a film on Salman Rushdie's bestseller "Midnight's Children", says the author was lied to and discouraged from attending the Jaipur Literature Festival. But she is confident that she would be able to release the movie without any trouble in India.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q: Your friend and creative collaborator Salman Rushdie was not allowed to attend the Jaipur Literature Festival. How do you react to this?
A: That isn't true. Rushdie was not disallowed from attending the Jaipur Literature Festival. He was lied to and misinformed by police and local politicians. He was actively discouraged from attending the festival. He was told that his attendance would endanger not only the festival but also himself. It's this dishonesty that is despicable. The detailed planning of this whole devious farce for electoral political gain is what is totally creepy.
Q: Deepa, you yourself have repeatedly been a victim of cultural and political tyranny. Does that give you a sense of empathy with Rushdie?
A: Any human being with even an iota of sense would feel rightfully indignant for Rushdie. Empathy is a given.
Q: Your "Fire", then "1947: Earth" were gagged. Do you see any radical difference in literary and cinematic gagging?
A: All gagging, whether in literature, cinema or art is identical. It's referred to as the lynching of freedom of expression.
Q: In a way, your destiny as a creative artiste runs parallel to Rushdie's. Your "Water" was not allowed to be made in Varanasi...Rushdie not allowed to be seen or heard in Jaipur. Do you see a pattern there?
A: I am not a great believer in destiny. The point is, despite the protests, "Water" did get made. And despite all the protests Rushdie will be welcomed and celebrated in the land of his birth by folks who appreciate the written word and are not small-minded bigots...As the ad for freedom of expression goes, they can burn books. They cannot silence his voice.
Q: You've now collaborated with Rushdie on "Midnight's Children". How do you think the recent controversies surrounding the author would impact the film in India?
A: "Midnight's Children" is chosen as a Booker of Bookers. It's a novel that is deeply loved by millions. Its author has often said the book is his 'love letter to India'. I think the film captures Rushdie's deep affection for India.
Q: Even "Midnight's Children" couldn't be shot in India. Any regrets?
A: None at all. The film spans from 1917 to 1977. The urban Indian landscape has changed so greatly. It would have been difficult in India to find the locations we needed for the film.
Q: Both Mira Nair and you wanted to shoot your current films partly in Pakistan. But couldn't. Do you feel it is growing progressively tough for artists in the so-called Third World to express themselves?
A: We never wanted to shoot "Midnight's Children" in Pakistan. After the failed attempt of trying to film "Earth" in Lahore, we didn't even consider it. Hmmm...it depends on what the artists want to express, and what category the artists fall into... NRI or not, controversial or not, influential or not, kow-towing to the West or not, if your father-in-law's grand nephew is owed a favour by a minister or not....it gets complicated and messy in India.
Q: Do you think the Western world is more tolerant to creative freedom than India and the Orient?
A: I don't know if tolerant is the correct word. Creative freedom is a given in most Western countries..
Q: What is the progress with the post-production of "Midnight's Children?"
A: Getting there.
Q: What release plans?
A: October 2012.
Q: Finally, do you think you'd face problems in releasing "Midnight's Children" in India?
A: None at all.
Culturally speaking

The India Fest 2012 was held recently in Abu Dhabi. It showcased the cultural diversity attracting over 15,000 visitors

Abu Dhabi, Feb 5(ANI): Over 15,000 people were present on the first two days of the India Fest 2012, showcasing India's cultural diversity along with its cuisine, in Abu Dhabi.
The three-day festival was inaugurated by Indian Ambassador to UAE, M.K. Lokesh.
The event has been organized by Abu Dhabi's largest socio-cultural organization, Indian Social and Cultural Centre (ISC) for the second consecutive year.
The highlight of this year's event was the ISC's partnership with the Government of India, which has sent three cultural troupes to perform in the festival, Honorary President of the centre, Ramesh Panicker said.
Cultural troupes from other countries such as Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Philippines also showcased their traditional folklores at the festival.
A portion of the proceeds of the festival will go to charity, Panicker added.
"More than 15,000 people visited the festival on the first two days and we expect a total of 25,000 people by late on Saturday [yesterday]," the Gulf News quoted Honorary Secretary of the centre, M.A. Salam, as saying.
About 20,000 people had attended the first edition of the festival in 2011. (ANI)

Budding innovators of the future

Seven Indian Americans figure among the 40 finalists for the Intel Science Talent Search 2012.

Washington, Feb 3 (IANS) Seven Indian Americans figure among the 40 finalists for the Intel Science Talent Search 2012, recognised as America's "most promising high school seniors with the greatest potential to solve pressing challenges in the world".
Finalists will gather in Washington, DC in March to compete for $630,000 in awards with the top winner receiving $100,000 from the Intel Foundation.
Two of the Indian-American finalists, Saurabh Sharan and Sayoni Saha are from California, two others Siddhartha Gautama Jena and Nithin Reddy Tumma are from Michigan and three more are Neel S Patel from Florida, Anirudh Prabhu from Indiana and Neil Kamlesh from New York.
"The US needs these talented innovators to go as far and as fast as they can, solving the world's most critical challenges, imagining - and creating - a new and better future for us all," said Wendy Hawkins, executive director of the Intel Foundation.
"Math and science are the language and tools of this innovation - that's why Intel is so proud to invest in these students, and to advance math and science education for all students," she said.
"Tackling real-world challenges from cancer to Internet security to alternative energy solutions, this year's finalists are a true inspiration," said Society President Elizabeth Marincola.
The independent research projects of this year's finalists include topics such as photodynamic cancer therapy; breast cancer research; innovative water conservation solutions; fibre optic research related to Internet data security; alternative energy solutions; and landmine detection technology.
Young innovators chosen to participate in the Science Talent Search over the past 70 years have gone on to receive some of the world's most prestigious honours, including seven Nobel Prizes, two Fields Medals, three National Medals of Science, 11 MacArthur Foundation Fellowships and even an Academy Award for Best Actress.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

Of art and spirituality

Meet Yamini Mehta, Director of Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art at Christie’s.

Driven, passionate and irrevocably drawn to the spirituality of Indian art, Yamini Mehta is one of the most vociferous advocates of all things related to the subject. For just a bit of perspective, Yamini works with one of the biggest auction houses in the world, Christie's as their Director of Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art. In conversation with Mehta, it's quite clear that this is not just a job to her. In fact in her own words, "It is like being a treasure hunter". Helping unearthed the hidden works of some of the most renowned Indian artists to being a part of momentous times in their career, Yamini gets to experience it all. In conversation...
Yamini MehtaWhat is it that connects you to India? 
My extended family and upbringing and the values that they have imparted through the years.
  
What keeps the Indian in you alive? 

I am fortunate to visit India often and meet Indians from all walks of life which keeps the connections strong.

What is it that draws you to Indian art?

I started working at Christie’s in the field of Indian antiquities. The spirituality that is part of the act of creation, and the combination of beauty, skill and thought has always been an attraction of Indian art.

Working with the prestigious Christie’s have there been any momentous times that you can recall for us?

There are so many great times to remember. In our own department I have been fortunate to meet and interact with some of India’s greatest artists such as MF Husain, SH Raza and Tyeb Mehta to name a few. We have seen huge record prices made for all of three of them at Christie’s and have handled iconic works by them in exciting salerooms. When Tyeb Mehta’s work Mahishasura was sold, it became the first work of Indian art to cross US $1 million but what was wonderful was the applause for Tyeb Mehta who travelled out of India for the first time in 30 years to be in the saleroom.

Who would you rate as the best Indian artists till date? 

There are so many  important Indian artists spanning Modern and Contemporary art that it is difficult to say who are the ‘best.’ What I can say is that we have set many auction records for many of the leading artists from these periods whose works are highly sought after: from Tyeb Mehta, FN Souza, Maqbool Fida Husain and Syed Haider Raza to Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, Subodh Gupta, Ram Kumar, Rameshwar Broota, N.S. Harsha and Jitish Kallat, to Ashim Purkayastha, Sunil Gawde, Imran Qureshi and Pors & Rao (Soren Pors, B.1974; Aparna Rao, B.1978).

Are there any contemporary Indian artists whose work you find interesting? 

I find so many artists interesting that I cannot name them all and there are so many whose works I love. However, the artists whose work I live with include: Bharti Kher, Chitra Ganesh, Minam Apang, and Zarina Hashmi amongst others.

Given that you live in London, do Indian traditions still hold good? 

Luckily with family here, we enjoy our Indian festivals, especially Diwali. We go to pujas, many people in London host Diwali events, raas-garbas which are lots of fun.

What is it that keeps you motivated? 

The quest to find a great work of art, an undiscovered gem that is coming to light. It is like being a treasure hunter.

When the going gets tough, what is your mantra? 

Keep calm and carry on.

If you weren’t doing what you do, what would you be doing? I cannot envision not doing something in the arts or in the creative fields but when I was younger, I imagined being a painter or an opera designer.

Extortion attempt failed; hackers leak source code

Hackers believed to be from the India-based group, the Lords of Dharmaraja, have released Symantec's source code after a failed extortion attempt

London, Feb 8 (ANI): Hackers believed to be from the India-based group, the Lords of Dharmaraja, have released the source code for Internet security company Symantec after failing to secure 50,000 dollars from the firm in an extortion attempt.
Hackers made public emails from law enforcement agents posing as a Symantec employee.
Officials pretended to be the security firm in order to "offer" the hackers 50,000 dollars, but source code was allegedly released after negotiations apparently broke down.
In a lengthy series of emails, law enforcement agents posed as a fake Symantec employee named Sam Thomas, who was involved in discussions with alleged hackers from Lords of Dharmaraja, part of the wider Anonymous collective.
According to The BBC, an agent posing as Sam, told the hackers that they can pay them 2,500 dollars per month for the first three months.
"In exchange, you will make a public statement on behalf of your group that you lied about the hack (as you previously stated). Once that's done, we will pay the rest of the 50,000 dollars to your account and you can take it all out at once. That should solve your problem," the agent said.
By the end of the email discussion, negotiations began to stall.
On Tuesday, an account belonging to Anonymous suggested that more than a gigabyte of source code from the company's PC Anywhere software had been uploaded to torrent website The Pirate Bay.
Last month, users of PC Anywhere software were told by the company to disable its use where possible.
The company confirmed that "old" source code stolen by the hackers had exposed vulnerabilities in the program, which allows remote access to computers. (ANI)

Indecent Proposal

An Indian-origin taxi driver in Australia acquitted of raping a young woman has said that sexual favours in return for fares are a common practice

Canberra, Feb 8 (ANI): An Indian-origin taxi driver in Australia, who was acquitted of raping a young woman, has said that he has often been offered sexual favours as payment for fares and the practice is becoming very common in the industry.
Prabhjit Singh Gill, 37, said he knew of nearly 60 taxi drivers who had been offered sex and knew of many who took up the offers.
"You drive, you pick up a girl, and they have no money," news.com au quoted him, as saying.
Gill, who was recently acquitted by a District Court jury in Perth of raping a 25-year-old female passenger, said he had never accepted any sexual favours for payment.
Gill's friend, Amrit Pal Singh, was found guilty by the jury of raping the woman in the back of his cab in a North Lake carpark, while she was drunk and semi-conscious after a party.
Gill said during court hearing that he had gone to the car park to deliver drinks and had seen the pair having sex but had not had any contact with the woman.
He was cleared of the charges, but he would no longer be able to work as a taxi driver. (ANI)

Racism at Harvard University?
A complaint from an Indian-American student – a top student of  his high school class was rejected by both Harvard and Princeton.

Washington, Feb 3 (IANS) A complaint from an Indian-American student who was near the top of his high school class but was rejected by both Harvard and Princeton universities has triggered an investigation by the US Education Department.
The unnamed Indian-American student in California complained that the two universities discriminate against Asian-Americans in undergraduate admissions, according to a media Bloomberg report.
According to the Education Department's Office of Civil Rights the complaint was received Aug 22 and the allegations "accepted for investigation" Jan 11.
The complaint alleges "discrimination against Asian-Americans on the basis of race/national origin with respect to the university's admissions process."
A Harvard spokesman was cited as saying the institution does not discriminate. Asian-Americans make up 16 percent of Harvard undergraduates.
But Bloomberg said there's plenty of research to suggest that Asian-American applicants must bring higher test scores and GPAs than whites, Hispanics or Blacks to gain entry.
The report cites a 2011 study of admissions at Duke: Asian-American enrolees scored 1457 on the reading and math sections of the SAT, compared to 1416 for whites, 1347 for Hispanics and 1275 for Blacks.
Princeton in New Jersey also asserted that it doesn't discriminate on the basis of race or national origin and and will provide the government with the requested information.
The proportion of Asian-Americans among Princeton undergraduates increased to 17.7 percent this year from 14.1 percent in 2007- 2008, a spokesman was quoted as saying.
The rise reflects the tendency of incoming classes to "fluctuate based on the assessment of individual applications" rather than the impact of the federal review, he said.
There are 14.7 million Americans of Asian descent only, plus 2.6 million who are multiracial including Asian, according to the 2010 US census.

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