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World mourns British scientist and cultural icon Hawking

Details on page 15 Section 2

VOICE OF ASIA The Largest Asian-American Newsweekly in Texas

Serving Harris, Fort Bend and Surrounding Counties for 30 years

Vol. 31 No. 11 • Friday, March 16, 2018

Published Weekly from Houston

24 Pages (2 sections) 50 cents

India's role as a major world power 2nd Houston India Conference

March 16, InFRIDAY, Section 2 2018 l Health Line: India allows ‘living wills’ for terminally ill l Home & Real Estate: Real Estate Market Forecast 2018 l Lifestyle Mexican regional cuisine drives booming food scene

713-774-5140 • E-mail:

US pursues India at WTO, widening trade offensive's Asia focus

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer takes action at the World Trade Organization against Indian export subsidies (AFP Photo/STEPHANIE LECOCQ) by Douglas Gillison


From Right to Left – (Standing) – Surendra Adhana, Dy Consul General, Vikram Singh Mehta, Chairman, Brookings India, Zachary Dell (Son of Michael Dell), Joseph Emmett, Jiten Agarwal, Conference Chair, Bobby Ghosh, Former Editor, Time Magazine, Sandip Sen, CEO, Aegis, Anupam Ray, Consul General, Jagdip Ahluwalia, Director, IACCGH, Paul Pass. From Right to Left – (Sitting) – Saleena Jafry, Sapphira Goradia, CEO, Goradia Foundation, Judge Ed Emmett, David Mulford, Former US Ambassador to India, Aparna Subramani, Executive Director, World Bank, Nisha Biswal, Former US Assistant Secretary of State, Sunanda Vashisht, Moderator.


OUSTON, TX, 9th March 2018-‘India’s time has come’ was the general agreement at the 2nd Houston India Conference, held at Houston, Texas, on March 8th, 2018. Vikram Singh Mehta, Chairman, Brookings India, David Mulford, Former US Ambassador to India, Nisha Biswal, President, US-India Business Council, Aparna Subramani, Executive Director, World Bank, Sandeep Sen, CEO, Aegis Ltd were amongst the speakers.

ASHINGTON | AFP | 3/14/2018 - The United States said Wednesday it was taking action at the World Trade Organization against Indian export subsidies as Washington's intensifying trade offensive moved to encompass two of Asia's largest economies. The action opened a new front in President Donald Trump's confrontations with major trading partners and followed his punishing new im-

Char Dham Hindu Temple Grand Opening Ceremony Prana Prathistha and Maha Kumbhabhisheka Mahotsav

port tariffs, with officials warning that more may come soon. Documents seen by AFP on Wednesday also revealed the United States has proposed WTO reforms that would punish members for violating basic rules, a move that appeared aimed squarely at China -- a country the Trump administration has said is not a market economy and does not deserve membership in the multilateral organization. The White House is also considering slapping tariffs on billions of dollars in Chinese imports, particularly in the tech and telecommunications sector, in response to allegedly improper practices involving American intellectual property. In advance of the announcement on Indian exports, Trump tweeted early Wednesday that the United States could not "keep a blind eye to the rampant unfair practices against our country!" Trump's trade moves have laid bare ideological divisions within his own administration, spurring his top economic advisor to resign last week and drawing fierce rebukes from industry and members of his own Republican party.

The 2nd Houston India conference brought together thought leaders in industry, trade, diplomacy, economics and journalism from India, NY and TX to focus on investment opportunities in India, India Texas trade and the Make In India initiative.

Fears of a trade war have seen US stocks dive in recent days and caused industrial giants like Boeing to fear higher input costs and retaliation by trading partners due to the new tariffs.

Ambassador David Mulford told the conference that India was already a major world power and had to be the US’s first geopolitical priority in the world. The US has to focus on building relations with India on its own and not clubbed with another country. He

Report on page 7

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Wednesday in a statement that Indian export subsidy programs "harm American workers by creating an uneven playing field on

Continued on Page 8

Continued on Page 9

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All rights reserved. No material herein or portions thereof may be published without the consent of the publisher. Voice of Asia assumes no liability resulting from action taken based on the information included herein. Published weekly by Free Press LLC, 8303 SW Freeway, Suite # 325, Houston, TX 77074. Tel: 713-774-5140. Fax: 713-7745143. Email for editorial submissions: voiceasia@aol. com; Email for advertising inquiries and submissions:

It is the policy of Voice of Asia to publish letters to the editor which evidence a variety of viewpoints. The opinions expressed in any particular letter to the editor are not necessarily those of the management. Voice of Asia welcomes letters in reply to issues raised in letters to editor. In as much letters to the editor are not articles written or researched by members of Voice of Asia, it is not the policy of the Voice of Asia to perform any investigation or confirmation of any facts or allegations contained in letters to the editor. Moreover, Voice of Asia reserves the right to edit letters to the editor as necessary to correct errors of fact, punctuation, spelling and to comply with space constraints. Although paid advertisements may appear in Voice of Asia Group Publications in print, online, or in other electronic formats, the Voice of Asia Group does not endorse the advertised product, service, or company, nor any of the claims made by the advertisement. - The Publisher

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crimonious negotiations over an immigration reform deal have been playing out publicly over the past few months, even leading to brief government shutdowns. Contentious debates have raged around DACA, stronger border security, and changes to diversity lottery visas and family immigration categories — with no solutions in sight. But one problem, that of major backlogs in our employment-based immigration system, has an easy fix and surprisingly has generated broad bipartisan support but is being stalled by one office for no apparent reason. The backlog issue stems from arbitrary and discriminatory limitations placed on the number of green cards allocated to employment-based immigrants based on their country of origin. These caps have created immense backlogs on H-1B visas for applicants. Immigrants, their spouses and children, from countries such as India, have been disproportionately impacted by these discriminatory rules. For example, only 7 percent of 140,000 employmentbased green cards distributed yearly are available to Indian immigrants, despite their accounting for 70 percent of the 85,000 annual H-1B visas. Similar to other immigrants, those on employment visas have made tremendous contributions to our economy and society. They have supported job creation and economic investment, and spurred unprecedented innovation, allowing us to retain a global competitive advantage in information technology and other sectors.

FRIDAY, March 16, 2018

Congress, leave no H-1Bs behind as stocks and 401(k)plans, and $45 billion into real estate. Despite these benefits, because of the cap of 7 percent per country of origin, more than 300,000 skilled immigrants, many from India, are facing wait times of more than 25 years to receive a green card solely because of a broken system. This unfathomable wait time often has tragic consequences. In one such case, an Indian immigrant in Dallas, Texas, who has been waiting years for a green card, recently had his H-1B visa extended but his autistic daughter, who just turned 21, has “aged out” and no longer is eligible for an H-4 dependent visa. With the girl’s visa rejected, her parents are desperately trying to find a way to keep their family together in the United States. Fortunately, there is a simple solution to address the backlog that exists: H.R.392, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2017 (and its Senate companion, S.281). Introduced last year, the House bill would make our employment-based immigration system more equitable and fair, while clearing the green card backlog for immigrants on H-1B visas and their families. Notably, it would not increase the total number of green cards available to employment-based immigrants, but would simply remove arbitrary per-country caps. This

would then allow green cards to be redistributed based on application date, instead of country of origin.

tralia and Singapore, rather than endure prolonged uncertainty and discriminatory U.S. rules.

Most importantly, H.R.392 is a bipartisan bill with 317 co-sponsors and is supported by the majority of members in the Republican Conference and Democratic Caucus. Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and Ken Yoder (R-Kan.) recently spearheaded a support letter with 77 Republican and Democratic signatories, urging Senate and House leadership to pass the bill.

And finally, left unaddressed, the backlog will disrupt families and uproot thousands of children from the only country they know. For example, 40,000 children on H-4 dependent visas are at risk of “aging-out” and losing their legal status if their H-1B parents do not receive green cards, while approximately 150,000 children who are U.S.-born citizens similarly would have to leave with their parents, absent a green card.

Despite overwhelming bipartisan support, however, the bill is being held up in the House Judiciary Committee. Failure to move H.R.392 to the floor for a vote, where it likely would pass, or to clear the backlog and reduce wait times through other means will have detrimental longterm consequences for our economy and society. For one, it will lead to a brain drain of skilled workers who are unable to obtain green cards and are vulnerable to having their H-1B visa extensions denied — as was recently proposed by the Trump administration before it shortly reversed course. It will also curtail our ability to attract new talent from around the world, many of whom increasingly will choose to migrate to other countries with more equitable policies, such as Canada, Aus-

Much of this is avoidable with commonsense reform, and H.R.392 is an important part of that. While there are certainly many other critical outstanding immigration issues to address, why not at least solve one aspect of the system that most Democrats and Republicans can agree on? Samir Kalra is a managing director at the Hindu American Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy organization based in Washington. He leads the foundation’s human rights and policy advocacy efforts and has spoken extensively at Congressional briefings. He previously served on the Immigration Advisory Committee for Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) in the Bay Area.

According to GC Reforms, an immigration advocacy organization, an estimated 44 percent of startups have had at least one immigrant co-founder, with 24 percent of patents having been awarded to skilled immigrants. The National Foundation for American Policy further asserts that, overall, “immigrants have started more than half (44 of 87) of America’s startup companies valued at $1 billion dollars or more and are key members of management or product development teams in over 70 percent (62 of 87) of these companies.” Moreover, companies founded by immigrants are worth an estimated $168 billion and have generated thousands of U.S. jobs. In addition, GC Reforms finds that immigrants on H-1B visas have made contributions of approximately $220 billion to the U.S. GDP and $72 billion in taxes over the past 10 years. They have contributed $50 billion in investments such

Voice of Asia brings you the latest in medicine, medical technology, nutrition, pharmacy, and other health related articles.

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Section 1


FRIDAY, March 16, 2018

SIMA Houston and SLPS of Dallas Fort Worth donate $65,000 to Mayor Turner's Harvey Relief Fund

Tel: 713-774-5140

Houston Man Invited by Honorable Chief Judge L. Paige Marvel and Judges of The United States Tax Court Washington DC To Attend 2018 U. S. Tax Court Judicial Conference

Harry Patel


arry Patel, a local Houston Certified Fraud Examiner / Certified Forensic Litigation Consultant / Tax Resolution Specialist / Fraud Investigator, has been invited to attend 2018 Tax Court Judicial Conference taking place March 26-28, 2018. The conference will be held on the campus of Northwestern University in the conjunction with the Pritzker School of Law.

Hasu Patel, President, SIMA, Houston, Jack Patel, President , SLPS, Dallas/FW and Directors of SIMA and SLPS seen presenting a check for $65,000 to Mayor Turner toward Mayor's Harvey Relief Fund. OUSTON - More than 6 months after the devastating tragedy of Hurricane Harvey, thousands of victims are still displaced and numerous recovery efforts continue and some of these efforts extend well beyond the Houston city limits. On February 27th, Hasu Patel, President of the Small Independent Motel Association (SIMA) of Houston and SIMA Board of Directors, along with several ​ local​ Indian-American community organizations, welcomed Jack Patel, President of the Surti Leuva Patidar Samaj (SLPS) of Dal-


las Fort Worth, and their delegation who raised $65,000, from their membership of more than 900 families, to donate to ​City of Houston ​ Mayor​ Sylvester ​Turner's Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. ​​ The Board of Directors and members of both associations, SIMA and SLPS, presented the donation to Mayor Sylvester Turner at City Hall where the Mayor and numerous City Council Members expressed their thanks and gratitude for the donation and for the partnership between the Indian-American community and the

City of Houston. The Honorable Mayor Turner expressed his sincere gratitude towards the Patel and Bhakta communities and reaffirmed his commitment to continue working towards the advancement of the Indian-American community. Over the last several years, SIMA has created a healthy relationship with the City of Houston and Harris County and continues to work with them on numerous issues.

The Purpose of the judicial confine is to consider the business of the Court and to discuss means of improving the administration of justice within the Court’s jurisdiction. The Court is inviting representa-

Link to video of the presentation - play/02272018-2194

tives from [1] The Internal Revenue Service, [2] The Department of Justice, [3] Private Practice, [4] Low-income Taxpayer Clinics, and [5] Academia. Harry Patel was first required to apply for judicial conference and be reviewed by U.S. Tax Court Judicial Conference Committee for qualifying invitee. After scrutinizing application, Judicial Conference Committee select national wide qualifying representatives from five groups. Please feel free to contact Harry Patel at any time for any questions or information. Harry Patel can be reached at (713) 541-4777 or at

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FRIDAY, March 16, 2018

India House and SOS to Host Financial Literacy Workshops for Seniors Houston: Many retirees are concerned with whether they will outlive their wealth, and whether their spouse will be able to manage their finances after they pass on. These concerns become more pressing as retirees age. With life-long learning as the goal, India House Houston and SOS (Share Our Secrets) now offer comprehensive workshops for seniors in our community to improve their financial literacy and proactively address these important financial issues. Workshops will be offered at Basic, Intermediate and Advanced levels, and theyt will cover various aspects of cash flow management, investing, portfolio management and estate planning. Taking the Basic level course is a recommended prerequisite for the upper level classes, which are to be offered later in the year. The first Basic Level workshop will take place in 4 sessions on Monday, April 16, Wednesday April 18, Monday, April 23, and Wednesday, April 25 at India House, located at 8888 West Bellfort Avenue Houston, Texas 77031. The cost for the two-week four-session workshop will be $25 per person/per couple, payable to India House, prior to first class on April 16th. Seating is limited to maintain a good learning environment in a small class. Speakers at the workshops will include Jayanth and Anasuya Kabad of Jaykay Wealth Advisors, Inc. and Ranvir “Biki” Mohindra of SOS and its associated organization, NRI Tax & Wealth Advisors. Experts on various aspects of

wealth management will be brought in to help conduct the workshops as required. “We’ve designed this course to help senior couples to learn together,” explained Mohindra, founder-director of SOS. “We found that typically, only one member handles the financial affairs of a family. It then gets very difficult for the surviving spouse, because they may not be fully aware of where all the assets are located and how to manage investments and expenses.” “This will be a hands-on workshop,” revealed Kabad. “The Basic Level course will cover general cash management, budgeting (understanding income and expenses), planning for emergencies and a general overview of taxes, investing, and insurance. Attendees will leave having a clearer understanding of their financial situation. As we progress, we will expand on other areas of financial planning such investment management and estate planning.” “India House is pleased to host the financial literacy workshops for the benefit of our senior citizens,” said Col. Vipin Kumar, Executive Director. “These workshops fit nicely with our series of Surviving Spouse seminars.” In addition to India House and SOS, sponsors of the senior financial literacy workshops include Jaykay Wealth Advisors, Jain and Jain CPAs and Mr.Jugal Malani. To register, please contact Mani Subramanian at kohur@ or (281) 691-4777

Neeta Bhasin Receives South Asian Women Empowerment Award 2018 On the eve of International Women’s Day, March 7, Neeta Bhasin, the CEO and President of ASB Communications and EVENTGURU Inc. received the South Asian Empowerment Awards from Miss World 2017 Manushi Chillar in a glittering ceremony that was held at Leonards in Great Neck, New York.

Miss World 2017 Manushi Chillar presenting the Award to Neeta Bhasin

The event was organized by Bindu Kohli of Bindu Kohli Entertainment, who wanted to honor 12 women who have achieved tremendous success against all odds and are strong and powerful mentors and role models for other South Asian women.

Neeta Bhasin was recognized for her exceptional contribution in diversity marketing and for being the visionary behind biggest South Asian celebration in New York – Diwali at Times Square, that is held every year to showcase, engage and educate all, about India’s arts, culture and colorful diversity. Neeta’s passion for community works related to women’s empowerment also earned her a Proclamation from New York State Senator Hon. Jose Peralta, which was presented to her by Mr. Dilip Chauhan, the former Deputy of Nassau County in New York, on the same day.

Neeta Bhasin receiving Proclamation from New York State Senator Hon. Jose Peralta

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Fort Bend View


FRIDAY, March 16, 2018

Sugar Land, Katy, Stafford, Missouri City, Richmond, Rosenberg and Meadows Place Section 1


FBISD hosting Parent University on wellness, ways to increase student academic achievements FORT BEND ISD (March 6, 2018) – Fort Bend ISD’s Counseling and Postsecondary Readiness Department is hosting a Parent University on Tuesday, March 20 at Dulles High School’s Rogers Auditorium (500 Dulles Avenue, Sugar Land 77478). The evening will have four, 25-minute sessions on the following topics: Job Opportunities in the Healthcare Field 6:00 p.m. to 6:25 p.m. Dr. Robert Morrow – President, Houston and Southeast Texas, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, and DHS graduate – Class of 1980 Advanced Placement (AP) Classes – Overview and Ben-

efits 6:30 p.m. to 6:55 p.m. Tiffany Loos, FBISD AVID Coordinator Mental Health & Balance 7:00 p.m. to 7:25 p.m. Charlene Rogers, MA, LPCS, RPT-S, EMDR Certified Judi Dai, Med, Counselor Intern Profile of a Graduate – FBISD’s Main Priority Steve Shiels, Director of FBISD’s Counseling & Postsecondary Readiness The Parent University sessions are open to all FBISD parents. For more information, contact your child’s high school counselor or advisor.

Record Amounts of Green Waste Causing Delays


UGAR LAND, TX - A record amount of green waste left at curbs in Sugar Land is contributing to service delays. The city's solid waste and recycling provider reports that Sugar Land residents recycled more than 960 tons of green waste during the past two weeks compared to the average of 840 tons a month. The increased volume is attributed to the: residents clearing out * dead vegetation from the multiple freezes; * increased activity related to trimming trees and

brush; and * the growth of grass due to rain and warmer weather. Solid Waste trucks are making additional runs to collect the unexpected amount of green waste left at curbs in Sugar Land. Delays could continue, so residents are asked to be patient. If service does not occur on a resident's scheduled day, it will be provided the following day. The city will make every effort to communicate service delays as information is made available. Updates will be provided on the city's website and

Tel: 713-774-5140

Fort Bend County reports Harvey destroyed or damaged 6,800 homes Homes in the Cinco Ranch and Canyon Gate subdivisions took the biggest hit, thanks in part to overflow from the Barker Reservoir by Andrew Schneider


ort Bend County is tallying the wreckage from Hurricane Harvey, more than half a year on. Officials now say the storm destroyed or damaged more than 6,800 homes. “Those damaged homes, a little over 3,000 of those happened up in the Canyon Gate/ Cinco Ranch area of Fort Bend County,” said Jeff Braun, Fort Bend County’s emergency management coordinator. Fort Bend took more than 30 inches of rain during Harvey. Many residents learned the hard way that they lived in the Barker Reservoir flood pool, when both Barker and the

neighboring Addicks Reservoir backed up.

FBISD to host meeting for Private NonProfit Schools and Home School Providers FORT BEND ISD (March 6, 2018) – On Tuesday, April 24, 2018, Fort Bend ISD will host a community meeting for all private non-profit schools and home-school providers located within FBISD boundaries or that serve students residing in FBISD. During the meeting, participants will receive information on services FBISD offers to eligible private nonprofit schools and students.

through social media. Green waste service is provided once a week and is recycled into mulch or compost at a composting facility. Green

The meeting will be held in the FBISD Administration Building Board Room (16431 Lexington Blvd., Sugar Land 77479), from 10:30-11:30 a.m. This community meeting is a collaborative effort of FBISD’s State and Federal, Multilingual, Teacher Development, Learning Support and Special Education Departments. For more information, call (281) 634-1354. waste includes grass clippings, leaves, brush, tree limb, etc. For more information about green waste, visit

The county carried out more than 10,000 rescues during the storm and its aftermath, and more than 200,000 people were ordered to evacuate. County officials are working on an updated public notification system with improved technology to better notify residents when the next storm hits. Roads and bridges are also being repaired around the county. Among other items approved by commissioners during the meeting: Purchase of two new vehicles to replace fleet of the Juvenile Probation Department, as well as a vehicle for the Constable Precinct 4's office. The county has waived some of its permit fees to help people who lost their homes to rebuild and recover. Braun said the county has also completed repairs on seven bridges, 18 water control structures, and some damaged roads. But he said

much work remains to be done. The County Commissioners allocated $12,000 to pay contractor Tetra Tech to complete the research required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for damages sustained from the 2016 floods so the county may receive the Hazard Mitigation Planning Grant. The county applied for the grant, requesting $15-$16 million, in October 2016 after the flooding events, Braun said. FEMA is now considering the application, but they are requiring the county to reevaluate damages because the events took place over a year ago, Fort Bend County Judge Robert Hebert said. “So much time has passed due to [FEMA’s] inefficiency that we need to re-answer these questions, and we have to do it by the end of this month or we lose our eligibility [for funding],” Hebert said.



FRIDAY, March 16, 2018

Liu Wen tells us how she went from being a 'hunched' teenager to a Victoria's Secret Angel and China's highest-paid supermodel

India House Annual Gala on March 24th

by Alexandra Ma

This year the Gala is going to be held on March 24th at the Sugar Land Marriott Town Square. We are also pleased to announce that this year's outstanding keynote speaker will be the Honorable Congressman Kevin Brady. Congressman Brady has a strong history with India House, as he attended the groundbreaking ceremony in 2006. He brought soil from his own backyard and told the community, "This is from my home, to your's."


iu Wen is a woman of many firsts. She's the first East Asian model to work for Victoria's Secret, first Chinese woman to grace American Vogue's cover, and first Asian to ever make Forbes' list of highest-paid supermodels. While Liu success can be attributed to the fashion industry's growing focus on Chinese consumers, she also works insanely hard for it. The model, now based between New York and Beijing,

Congressman Kevin Brady is only the third Texan in 226 years to lead the powerful House Ways & Means Committee. As the first and oldest committee in Congress, it shapes the future of our nation through its power over taxes, trade, health care, welfare, Social Security and Medicare.

Meet Liu Wen: The first East Asian model to walk the Victoria's Secret runway, first Chinese model to grace American Vogue's cover, and first Asian model to ever make Forbes' annual list of highest-paid models. She was born in Yongzhou, a city in southern China. At 5-foot-10, she towered over her classmates while growing up. "I developed a habit of bending down when speaking to others, as if my back was permanently hunched," she said in 2014.

As Chairman, Congressman Brady led the historic effort in 2017 to deliver the first comprehensive overhaul of America’s tax system in more than three decades. For over 30 years, India House has represented a collective dream of over 120,000 Indo-Americans living in the Greater Houston area. Our mission is to cater to the needs of all Houstonians from both Indian and mainstream communities, regardless of age or socio-economic background. It is our mission and privilege to provide various activities and opportunities for all those living in our immediate and extended communities. This is to give back to a community that has given so freely and graciously to us.

Liu signs a poster at a Victoria's Secret shop in Shanghai in November 2017. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Victoria's Secret

She never planned on being a model — her first foray into the industry was when she won a modelling contest in 2008, aged around 17, to win a new computer. "I didn't have a clear goal [at the time] — I just wanted something that would allow me to travel around the world," she told Business Insider. Her parents also encouraged her to join. "They thought it would help my confidence (and posture!)," she told BI. Her friends were "all surprised" when she won the modelling competition, she said. She wrote in 2014: "People in my hometown seldom called me piao liang [beautiful], because my smaller eyes were a far cry from the wide irises of the most beloved television actresses." She moved to Beijing to pursue a modelling career shortly after. That same year, she was scouted for her first international fashion show — for Burberry at Milan Fashion Week in 2008. "I didn't understand anything because I couldn't understand English," she told CNN. "I just listened to

In 2017, she became the first Chinese model to grace the cover of American Vogue — alongside other models including Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, and Ashley Graham.

Liu Wen. Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty the music and followed my feelings." Watch her in the video below. A year later, she became the first Asian model to ever grace the Victoria's Secret runway, where she walked alongside Miranda Kerr, Heidi Klum,

and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. At the company's show in Shanghai last November, she was one of seven Chinese Victoria's Secret models walking the runway. Here she is with three of them.

Liu has stayed on the annual list ever since. She was the eighth highest-paid model in the world last year, when she earned $6.5 million (£4.7 million) — $500,000 (£360,000) more than Bella Hadid. Liu's popularity came as more

Congressional Pictorial Directory BRADY, Kevin Patrick, a Representative from Texas; born in Vermillion, Clay County, S. Dak., April 11, 1955; graduated from Rapid City Central High School, Rapid City, S. Dak; B.A., University of South Dakota, Vermillion, S. Dak., 1990; member of the Texas state house of representatives, 1990-1996; elected as a Republican to the One Hundred Fifth and to the ten succeeding Congresses (January 3, 1997-present); chair, Joint Economic Committee (One Hundred Thirteenth Congress); chair, Committee on Ways & Means (One Hundred Fourteenth and One Hundred Fifteenth Congresses); chair, Joint Committee on Taxation (One Hundred Fifteenth Congress).

Western fashion brands hope to gain a footing in China. She told BI: "My success owes a lot to how the entire world has become a lot 'smaller' in recent years, which has allowed for more people around the globe to appreciate not only my look, but also my culture." As an international model, Liu's travels have taken her around the world, from Cannes to New York to Milan. (Courtesy: Business Insider).

India House

Gala 15 Annual th

DATE & VENUE SATURDAY, MARCH 24, 2018 | 6:00 pm Sugar Land Marriott Town Square

KEYNOTE SPEAKER SPONSORSHIP LEVELS GRAND BENEFACTOR : $100,000 •2 Prominent Tables of 10 •Board membership •Recognition in social media, press release & print BENEFACTOR : $50,000 •1 Prominent Table of 10 •Board membership •Recognition in social media, press release & print GRAND PATRON : $25,000 •1 Table of 10 •Board membership •Recognition in social media, press release & print Honorable Congressman Kevin Brady Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee

PATRON: $10,000 •1 Table of 10 •Council membership •Recognition in social media, press release & print


SPONSOR: $5000 •1 Table of 10 •Council membership •Recognition in social media & print

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BE OUR SPONSOR TODAY ! India House strives to help the entire Houston community through its various programs and services. Join India House Board in accomplishing our mission. Jugal Malani, President, India House | Vipin Kumar, Executive Director, India House

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FRIDAY, March 16, 2018

Char Dham Hindu Temple Grand Opening Ceremony Prana Prathistha and Maha Kumbhabhisheka Mahotsav left and Sri Rama parivar in the sanctum to the right. Navagraha with their wives and symbolic 22 wells also are present in this Dham. Also present in this Dham are Sri Ayyappa and Sri Vikhanasa Maha Muni.


HE WOODLANDS - Gods were kind enough to bless us with great weather from March 8th thru 11th for the Grand Opening of Char Dham Hindu Temple in the Woodlands. Devotees, mostly from the Greater Houston area but quite a few from different parts of the country witnessed a once in a lifetime event of Prana Prathistha and Maha Kumbhabhisheka Mahotsav (ceremony). The four temples are a symbolic representation of the Holy Char Dhams in India. Char Dham are the names of four pilgrimage sites in India that are widely revered by Hindus. It comprises of Badrinath Dham in the North, Dwarkanath Dham in the West, Jagannath Dham in the East and Rameswaram Dham in the South. Prana Prathistha, literally meaning establishment of the life force in the idol, is the practice of energizing the idols (Vigraha). Kumbhaabhisheka is the process of homogenizing, synergizing and uniting the mystique powers of the idol of the Lord in all four temples at the same time. The Prathistha ritual began with Karshana, ploughing done when the temple site is selected, followed by Vaastupooja and finally Kumbhabhisheka. The Kumbhabhisheka ceremony consisted of the erection of japas, chants of Vedas, sanctifying Kalasaas (pots of water), Homas and Yagnas. The finale was the pouring of the sanctified water from the kalasas over the stupis (steeple) on the top of the central Vimaana or the sanctum sanctorum, the gopurams and the main and other deities, by the priests. The Mahostav started on March 8th, Thursday at 9AM and concluded around noon time on March 11th, Sunday. More than twenty priests from all over the country came to perform the rituals needed for the ceremony under the supervision of head priest, Pandit Srikiran Narayanam. Jagannath Dham has Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, Devi Subhadra and Sri Sudarshana in the main sanctum, Lord Ganesh in the sanctum to the left and Mahalakshmi in the sanctum to the right. Rameswaram Dham has Sri Ramanatha Swamy in the main sanctum, Sri Venkateswara in the sanctum to the

Dwarkanath Dham has Sri Dwarakadheesh in the main sanctum, Sri RadhaKrishna in the sanctum to the left and Sri Satyanarayana and Laxmi in the sanctum to the right. Also present in this Dham is Sri Shirdi Saibaba. Badrinath Dham has Sri Badrinarayana in the main sanctum, Mata Saraswati in the sanctum to the left and Devi Durga in the sanctum to the right.

Above: Ratha Yatra procession begins celebration Right: Arial view of Char Dham Below: Volunteers and members of Char Dham

Panchamukhi Hanuman sits in the courtyard just outside Jagannath Dham and Naga Devata is present in the pathway to the four temples. A lot of sweat and tear have gone into building these temples over the last few years. It was the culmination of the dream seen by Dr. Surya Sahoo and his wife Kabita Sahoo. This would not have been possible without the vision of Dr. Sahoo or without the efforts of Head Priest, Srikiran Narayam and the CharDham Temple Seva group, who worked tirelessly for months. Volunteer and Sponsorship opportunities are available. Please contact Pandit Srikiran Narayam by dialing 832-299-5172 or 832-663-8799 or sending an e-mail to or by visiting the website



India's Role As a Major World Power

FRIDAY, March 16, 2018

Kendra Gives Back to Children In India

2nd Houston India Conference by Peace Cowen


n March 5, 2018 at the Kendra Scott in Sugar Land, customers had an extra incentive to go home with a new piece from Kendra’s iconic collections. As customers made their purchases, they were doing much more than buying the latest trending jewelry— they were providing an opportunity for the children of India.

From L-R: Sunanda Vashisht, Moderator, Vikram Singh Mehta, Chairman, Brookings India, Sandip Sen, CEO, Aegis and Aparna Subramani, Executive Director, World Bank Continued from Page 1 welcomed the measures against Pakistan. Executive Director, World Bank, Aparna Subramani, and Sandeep Sen, CEO Aegis made presentations on Investing in India, and said that ‘big bang reforms’ were powering the surge in FDI to India. Vikram Mehta, President, Brookings India, spoke of the unifying national narrative in India of a growing middle class and economic aspirations that provided an investment opportunity for US businesses. He also responded to a question about corruption by saying that ‘ethical’ businesses had grown and are flourishing in India. Nisha Biswal, President, US-India Business Council said that the “long bet” that the

US had taken on India was paying off. The future of India-US relations was in ‘Going Global and Going local’ – increasing convergence at international and sub-national levels. Zachary Dell, the scion of the Dell family, and Sapphira Goradia, of the Goradia Foundation, spoke of their work in the social entrepreneurship and impact investing space in India. Dell said that a sanitation revolution was underway in India, which could be powered by cutting edge engineering and production techniques for the manufacture of hi-tech, low cost toilets. Joseph Emmett talked about using Vedanta as a management tool. Conference Chair, Jiten Agarwal, spoke about the recent shipments of petroleum and LNG from Texas, and beginning of strong US India Skills

collaboration to develop skills ecosystem in India following the visit of Prime Minister Modi to the United States. The event was sponsored by the Consulate General of India, Houston, Expedien, McDermott International, a Houston based company which is investing in India. The Conference was moderated by Sunanda Vashisth, noted political commentator. Consul General of India, Anupam Ray said that the conference was a platform for people involved with writing the India story to help the next generation write the new chapters. Jagdip Ahluwalia, a cofounder of the IACCGH, reflected in how far the USIndia trade equation has progressed in recent time,, and how it has been helping with jobs creation in Texas.

Twenty percent of the proceeds from this Left to Right: Vikas Bahl, Pratham USA Development Manager, Darel “Kendra Gives Back” D'Souza, President, Pratham Young Professionals, Dr. Sapna Patel, Pratham event (co-hosted by Houston Board member, Asha Dhume, President, Pratham Houston, Seema Pratham Houston Ex- Sanghi, Pratham Houston Board member, Mani Surkari, Development ecutive Board mem- Manager, Pratham USA. bers Dr. Sapna Singh and Seema Sanghi) younger generations. She was were donated to Pratham USA. Pratham and fans of Kendra also inspired by Kendra Scott’s Pratham USA aims to raise Scott made a difference in the many communities Pratham story and history of giving. awareness and funds to support According to Hilary Wetmore, Pratham, one of India’s largest supports. Community Relations and education nonprofits focused According to Asha Dhume, Events Manager at the Kendra on eradicating child illiteracy. President of Pratham USA’s Scott in Sugar Land, this locaWhat could a non-profit help- Houston chapter, Pratham has tion contributed over $60,000 improved learning outcomes ing children in India have in through its “Kendra Gives common with a jewelry store? for over 50 million children in Back” events and donations in communities throughout India Empowerment. 2017 since its opening in July since its inception in 1995. of that year. While Pratham focuses on Pratham is able to do this by educational empowerment developing low cost solutions Thanks to Pratham and Kenthrough its mission of “Every that address gaps in the edudra Scott for reminding us of Child In School and Learning cation system. Pratham also the importance of empowerWell,” Kendra Scott empow- implements vocational trainment; Whether you are a jewers others through focusing on ing programs for young adults, elry conosoir or a philanthroits three core pillars: “Family, placing over 75% of its participist at heart, there is always a Fashion, and Philanthropy.” pants into new jobs. Pratham’s way to give back. According to a Forbes article Second Chance program helps Pratham USA will be hostby Barry Samaha titled “Jew- young girls that have dropped ing its 2018 Houston Gala on out of school receive a second elry Designer Kendra Scott On Saturday, May 12, at the HilWhy it's Important for Fashion chance at getting an education. ton Americas in Downtown Brands to be Philanthropic,” This event offered more than Houston. For sponsorship opKendra states that “Every day a good excuse to buy jewelry; portunities and more informaour customers do so much more It increased awareness of a tion on Pratham USA please than add another beautiful piece worthy cause. When event cocontact Vikas Bahl @vbahl@ to their collection—they are host Seema Sanghi was asked or visit prathahelping us make a positive dif- why she chose to partner with ference in their communities.” Kendra Scott, she said she felt Written by Peace Cowen, This was especially true this was an effective way to Development Associate at on this day, as supporters of share Pratham’s mission with Pratham USA.

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FRIDAY, March 16, 2018

US pursues India at WTO, wid- Mauritius celebrates 50 years ening trade offensive's Asia focus of independence Continued from Page 1 which they must compete." "USTR will continue to hold our trading partners accountable by vigorously enforcing US rights under our trade agreements and by promoting fair and reciprocal trade through all available tools, including the WTO." Politico reported Tuesday that Trump had told Lighthizer to go higher after the trade representative proposed putting tariffs on $30 billion in annual imports from China. Lighthizer's office declined to comment on proposals currently under development. Trump's aggressive trade actions -- which hold true to views on trade and nationalism the president has held for decades -- have also left major US trading partners struggling to strike a delicate balance between opposition and appease-

ment in response. According to Lighthizer's office, India offers benefits valued at $7 billion annually to domestic exporters such as duty, tax and fee exemptions -including support for producers of steel, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, information technology products and textiles. In 2016, the United States ran a $30.8 billion trade deficit with India in goods and services, according to Lighthizer's office. In Wednesday's statement, the office said India had expanded its export subsidy programs, doubling the number of products eligible under one program to 8,000 in the last three years. Trump has said publicly he does not favor resorting to dispute resolutions at the WTO, where he claims the United States is at a disadvantage. And the administration has instead focused so far on tariffs

and remedies under domestic US law. The action announced Wednesday was the first standalone WTO complaint lodged by the new administration. A prior case lodged in September over the sale of wine in Canadian grocery stories built on a complaint brought by the administration of former President Barack Obama. Unlike Trump, the Obama White House had touted US successes in opening foreign markets to US exports by winning favorable WTO decisions and advertised the fact that the Obama administration had won every WTO case it brought. Under Obama in 2013, the US won a WTO decision against India over local content rules that Washington said disadvantaged US exports of solar panels. Critics at the time said this undermined Indian efforts to develop local sources of renewable energy.


ORT LOUIS, Mauritius | 3/12/2018 - The island nation of Mauritius celebrated its 50th year of independence Monday with fireworks and entertainment, just days after a financial scandal forced its president to announce plans to resign. Mauritius, a picturesque Indian Ocean island beloved by tourists switched hands between the Dutch, French and British before attaining independence in 1968. Thousands of residents attended a ceremony celebrating the country's 50th year of independence, with Indian President Ram Nath Kovind designated guest of honour, while Indian helicopters took part in an aerial display and troops also participated in a parade. The three-hour ceremony, in which 400 artists took part, came after Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth announced on Friday that President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim would resign after becoming embroiled in a financial scandal. Gurib-Fakim, who is the only

female head of state in Africa, has been accused of using a bank card provided by an NGO to make personal purchases and will step down on an unspecified date after the independence cer-

emony. "The President of the Republic told me that she would resign from office and we agreed on the date of her departure," Jugnauth said.

Man arrested for Indian journalist Gauri Lankesh murder

Gauri Lankesh.


man has been arrested in connection with the murder of prominent Indian journalist Gauri Lankesh.

Asian Chamber of Commerce (ACC) celebrates International Women’s Day

KT Naveen Kumar was earlier arrested in an arms trafficking case, but he had revealed his role in the murder during interrogation, police say. Ms Lankesh was shot dead outside her home in the southern city of Bangalore in September last year. She was the most highprofile journalist murdered in years. Her death sparked off protests across India. Police say however, that Mr Kumar is not the main accused in the case. As a journalist, Ms Lankesh often made statements that were constructed as dissent against the establishment. She was shot in the head and chest by gunmen who arrived by motorcycle. The motive for the crime was not clear. A week after her death, there were protests against her killing in several Indian cities, including the capital, Delhi. She was known for her leftleaning views. As a journalist, she edited a weekly newspaper and cast a critical eye on Hindu fundamentalism in politics and fiercely opposed the caste system.

(L-R) ACC President, Milton Young, Charlene Gilbert, Vivienne Kwon, May Wang ACC Secretary, Judy Lee and Wes Weaver, ACC Board Chair. Photo credit: ACC Facebook. by Susan Pothanikat


OUSTON—On Thursday, March 8th, the Asian Chamber of Commerce held their monthly luncheon in celebration of International Women’s Day. A panel discussion with 3 prominent Asian women leaders, Charlene Gilbert of NASA, Judy Lee of Foster LLP and Vivienne Kwon of ykcreative all shared their stories of challenges and success in today’s business world. Charlene Gilbert, is the Technology Transfer Officer at the NASA JSC. She has 30+ years of experience in aerospace project management and technology transfer with a proven track record of effective leadership, management of complex programs and working with diverse teams. She mentioned how when she first moved to Houston from the Michigan area, she surprised how diverse Houston was. She felt at home being surrounded by many Asians with similar educational backgrounds. It was refreshing to be in an environment where people could relate to the same religious and cultural backgrounds. Judy Lee is a partner with Foster LLP. She is a native Houstonian and received her law degree from the University of Houston Law School. She is board certified in the area of Immigration and Nationality Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Like many

Asian parents’, hers were conservative in their thinking and expected Judy to choose a career in 1 of 4 professions— Doctor, Engineer, Lawyer or Accountant. Math was not a strong subject for her and medicine was not something she wanted to handle so she focused on law. It took some time for her to find a law specialty that sparked her interest. She even took a 10 year break to help her family business thrive. After a break from the industry, Gordon Quan invited her to work for him in Immigration. Ever since then, she has never looked back. She mentioned it’s never too late to make a change in your career. If you feel you are not in the right industry, make the change to work in an environment that you love. Find your passion and go after it, even if it takes 10 years. She mentioned that life has its challenges with setbacks but the one thing someone can do is share information freely, help others achieve their goals and that will come back tenfold. Vivienne Kwon is the founder and CEO of ykcreative. Her career in branding and technology started at Compaq Computers (now Hewlett-Packard). Representing the US headquarters, she worked with the brand team world-wide, implementing the rollout of the Compaq “Q”. ykcreative was launched in 2003. With grit, determination and vision, she’s continued her endeavors, helping businesses build better

Read up on COMMUNITY Visit us online Visit: www.

ACC members and attendees. Photo credit: ACC Facebook.

brands and implement online solutions. She mentioned that being a woman has been one of the biggest challenges as most people think men dominate the tech space. She has proven her expertise in the industry and

has won many Addy Awards from the American Advertising Federation both locally and nationally. Her work has been published in Logo Lounge, a prestigious collection of logos from designers around the

world. May Wang, Moderator, thanked the panelist for sharing their experiences and words of wisdom with the members and for being great inspirers for women today.

Indian reporters are being increasingly targeted by radical Hindu nationalists, activists say. In the last few years, journalists seen to be critical of Hindu nationalists have been berated on social media, while many women reporters have been threatened with rape and assault.



FRIDAY, March 16, 2018


Indian bowler Shami Serena Williams defends charged with violence after use of medical exemptions affairs claim


OLKATA, India | AFP | Police on Friday charged Indian fast bowler Mohammad Shami after his wife filed a formal complaint alleging assault, domestic violence and infidelity. Shami's wife Hasin Jahan, a former model, filed a written complaint with the police in Kolkata just days after going public with claims that Shami had affairs with other women. The controversy has already cost Shami as India's cricket board has put the 27-year-old bowler's annual contract with the national team on hold while an investigation is conducted. Serena Williams in action against Zarina Diyas on Friday. Photo: EPA/JOHN G. MABANGLO Indian Wells | AFP | - Serena Williams on Thursday defended her use of a TUE (therapeutic use exemption) at the 2015 French Open, saying she uses them regularly and has never tested positive for illegal substances. Williams was asked about her use of TUE's following her first round victory over Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan 7-5, 6-3 at the WTA Indian Wells tournament. "I have never tested positive. I have always done the TUE so you should fact check that," Williams said. "I wasn't going to play (the

French Open) unless I had a TUE because if you remember that year I was incredibly sick." Williams insisted she did nothing wrong and that she requested the TUE in 2015 to fight the illness. She skipped practice sessions and needed five three-set wins before eventually claiming the title over Lucie Safarova.

matory prednisone to help to alleviate the symptoms. "I don't know how I even won the [tournament], and I said I literally can't play the final," Williams said. "I have played over 20 years and I have always been extremely honest and that is one thing I take pride on especially having a daughter and having a kid.

"I am never, ever going to take an advantage over someone else. That is not who I am."

"I would never be able to look my kid in the eye and say 'Mom cheated' or Mom did something like that.

Reports show Williams was given approval for a TUE for the corticosteroid anti-inflam-

"That is totally irresponsible and even before that I've always had that attitude."

Shaquille O'Neal says more cops is answer to school shootings


asketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal has supported the police for years -- being sworn in as a sheriff's deputy in 2016 and saying he'll run for sheriff in a few years -- so his answer to ending school shootings is additional support for cops, not a ban on guns. "The government should give law enforcement more money," he said on WABC Radio's "Curtis and Cosby" show on Wednesday. "Give more money, you recruit more people, and the guys that are not ready to go on the streets, you put them in front of the schools. You put 'em in front of the schools, you put 'em behind the schools, you put 'em inside the schools, and we need to pass information. ... I would like to see police officers in schools, inner cities, private schools." O'Neal lives in Florida, so the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland that killed 17 people hit close to home.

lice academy program and has been named an honorary officer or reserve officer by agencies around the country. He announced in May that he plans to run for sheriff in Georgia in 2020. Although many law enforcement groups have supported bans on semiautomatic weapons, O'Neal doesn't think a ban is the answer.

O'Neal showed interest in law enforcement years ago, has unofficially gone through a po-

"'Cause once you ban 'em, now they're going to become a collector's item and you're

going to have people underground, and they were $2,000. ... I'll give you $9,000 for that gun. So, you know, we just need to keep our eyes open." But O'Neal does support students who are marching to protest gun violence in schools. On Wednesday, students across the country walked out of their schools to honor those killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and protest gun violence. "I wish I could join 'em, but you know, hopefully it sends a message to the powers that be," he said. "'Cause we have to stop this. ... I would like to see tougher background checks. If you can't protect our children in school, where are they safe?" (ESPN).

eSports : Women out to make their mark at WESG Grand Final

Pororo wants to be an inspiration “Although the overall level of female players in my country is not as good as that in Europe and the American region, we have also been working to close the gap and we will continue to strive to achieve good results here,” she said. The final field of competitors for the six-day WESG – to run from March 13-18 - has been seven months in the making through qualifying events, with

Jahan made headlines by making public on Tuesday a

"I managed to access the security code in his phone and saw (the) chats last night. I was shocked and could not sleep," she said. "He tortured me physically and mentally over and over again. Shami assaulted me after returning from the South Africa tour," Jahan told journalists on Friday. Shami has dismissed the accusations of infidelity as a campaign to defame him. "What is being said about my personal life is completely

false," he wrote on Twitter Wednesday. "It's definitely a part of a big conspiracy against me. This is just an attempt to defame me." The Board of Control for Cricket in India dropped Shami from a list of contracted players unveiled Wednesday, which saw skipper Virat Kohli and other top Test players awarded salaries just above $1 million. A supervisory committee overseeing BCCI affairs said the allegations against Shami put them in a difficult position and that his contract was on hold pending review.

'Make world a better place', Billie Jean King tells tennis stars by Nicholas YEO


INGAPORE, Singapore | AFP US tennis great Billie Jean King, a high-profile advocate of gender equality, has urged more players to take up causes off court and help "make this world a better place".

"Our job is to motivate, to inspire and to be leaders off the court as well as on the court and to give back to everyone what we can," she told AFP at a Women's Tennis Association (WTA) finals event in Singapore.

Shaquille O'Neal. FIle photo.

"You know it was a very, very sad incident," he said. "Close to my heart. I actually live in Fort Lauderdale. I actually knew the sheriff, called him and told him he did a wonderful job."

But the Chinese gamer – one of the most successful female gamers her country has yet produced – also wants something more.

"She has specifically complained about being tortured by her husband and in-laws, and about her husband having multiple extra-marital affairs," Tripathi added.

series of messages Shami allegedly sent to women during their four-year marriage.

King, the 74-year-old former world number one, said famous players have a global platform to speak out on social issues and that she wished more would take up the challenge.

"There's a lot of those weapons already on the streets," O'Neal said. "So it's not like, if you say, 'OK, these weapons are banned,' people are gonna go, 'Oh man, let me turn it in.' That's definitely not going to happen.

Haikou, China | Glory -and a total prize pool of US$ 5.5 million - are up for grabs at this week’s World Electronic Sports Game (WESG) Grand Final on the southern Chinese holiday island of Hainan and Pororo wants a slice of the action.

"Police have charged Indian pacer Mohammad Shami and his brother with sections related to rape, domestic violence and causing hurt with poisoning after Jahan's complaint," Kolkata police joint commissioner Praveen Tripathi told AFP.

Shami has represented India 87 times in all formats of the game since 2012.

more than 500 players from 46 countries and regions now ready for the main event. The international eSports championship will feature the very best in CS:GO, DOTA2, StarCraft II and Hearthstone action with The King of Fighters XIV and Vainglory among the showcase competitions. The second edition of the WSEG Grand Final is being back by Alisports, the sports unit of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, as it looks to expand the reach of eSports both in China and around the world. To that end the WSEG Grand Final has attracted some of the biggest names in the sport, and they include superstars LODA, Classic, Fallen, and Fr0zen along with SK, C9, ORDER, and the defending CS:GO champion EnVyUs. There is also a strong focus on women’s Hearthstone and CS:GO competitions as eSports continue to grow, with

an eye on the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games – where eSports will make its debut – and a future place at the Olympic Games. Industry reports suggest there are around 560 million gamers in China, which accounts for around 70 per cent of the nation’s estimated online community of more than 700 million people. Women are increasingly staking their claims in the sport and for the riches on offer from a global industry that it’s estimated will turn over US$ 100 billion this year. Around a quarter of Chinese gamers are women aged between 10 and 35 years of age – but Pororo wants to see that number increase, and she hopes her performances at the Hainan International Convention & Exhibition Center this week will help set that movement in motion. “Maybe,” she said. “It would be a realisation of my dream."

Players should "really do something special off court as well, not just on the court and play great tennis", she said, urging them to ask the question "what can I do to make this world a better place?" King, who founded the WTA, has used her global fame to speak out on gender equality both within and outside the

Billie Jean King, sport. She has also campaigned for equal prize money and rights for men and women in the sport. In 1973, she beat men's former number one Bobby Riggs, a self-proclaimed male chauvinist, in the famous "Battle of the Sexes" match. "Other people in the world would give anything to have the platform we have so we need to be cognisant and aware

of that and... try to make a difference," she said. King's comments come after Judy Murray, the Scottish tennis coach and mother of Andy and Jamie Murray, urged Serena Williams and other top female players to take the lead in pushing for changes in women's tennis. - #MenToo Speaking on International Continued on Page 11



Trump planning new tariff crackdown on China

Texas package bombs probed as possible hate crimes by Nova SAFO

he said.


The Texas governor's office offered a $15,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case.

Authorities believe the packages, described as unremarkable looking boxes, were left overnight and not sent through the mail or any other delivery service.

"I want to assure all Texans, and especially those in Austin, that local, state and federal law enforcement officials are working diligently to find those responsible for these heinous crimes," Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement.

The explosions came as Austin, a metropolis of two million people, welcomed some half a million attendees from nearly 100 countries for the massive entertainment and media festival South by Southwest.

HICAGO, | AFP | 3/12/2018 - Two parcel bombs rattled the US city of Austin on Monday, 10 days after a similar deadly blast, as Texas police said they were investigating the possibility that the attacks were serial hate crimes. A 17-year-old was killed early Monday after bringing a package into his home and opening it, while a woman living at the same address was injured. A second explosion later in the morning left an elderly woman in critical condition, after she was injured picking up a package in front of her home, police said. US President Donald Trump boards Air Force One before departing from Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles on March 14, 2018


ASHINGTON | AFP | 3/14/2018 - US President Donald Trump is mulling fresh tariffs on billions of dollars in Chinese imports, aiming in particular at the tech and telecommunications sector, according to media reports. The White House is currently eyeing a hundred different Chinese products, a person with knowledge of internal discussions told AFP, stressing that the dollar value had not been settled on. Trade war fears sent US stocks diving on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down more than 300 points, or 1.3 percent, shortly after 1600 GMT. Lawmakers and industry representatives say fresh restrictions will invite retaliation that could see US exporters suffer. At a meeting last week, Trump told Cabinet members and aides that he wanted to hit China hard over its alleged theft of American intellectual property, according to Politico, which cited three people with knowledge of the matter. US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer proposed a package of $30 billion in tariffs but Trump instructed Lighthizer to go higher, Politico reported. The US trade deficit with China ran to a record $375 billion last year but US exports to the country were also at a record. Trump on Thursday announced steep tariffs on steel and aluminum but provisionally exempted Canada and Mexico, two of the largest

Billie Jean King.. Continued from Page 10. Women's Day on Thursday, Murray voiced concern that male players are more vocal in advocating change. "Serena, now that she's had a baby girl, I'm hoping as she comes towards the end of her career that she will use her voice to make things change for women," Murray said. "It's not all about equal prize money, it's about grassroots opportunities and helping the female game across the world get stronger." King also said she would like to see men playing best-of-three-set matches at Grand Slam tournaments, an innovation that would bring them them line with women. Much of the debate over equal prize money for men and women has centred on whether female players provide as much entertainment, given their matches are shorter. "Personally, I don't want the men playing five sets anymore. I think it takes too much out of them," she said. "Like one time the players played in the Australian Open final. It took six hours," said King, referring to the epic 2012 decider between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. "They could hardly walk off the court. I guarantee you that it took a year off their careers."

US suppliers who are currently participating in talks with Washington to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement. The same day, Trump announced talks with Beijing on reducing the US trade deficit by $100 billion, adding that Chinese officials had been "very

helpful" and that Washington would reduce the bilateral deficit "one way or another." Beijing has repeatedly warned it will respond to hostile US trade measures and has launched an anti-dumping investigation into US imports of sorghum and has not ruled out measures on soy beans.

FRIDAY, March 16, 2018

The twin bombings followed an initial blast on March 2, when a 39-year-old man was killed -- also after opening a parcel bomb. "This again is the third in what we believe to be related incidents over the past 10 days," Austin police chief Brian Manley told a news conference. "We are imploring the community, if you know anything about these attacks, it is imperative that you come forward,"

Investigators have found no evidence so far of a terrorism link, and have yet to establish a definite motive or profile of the bomber, Manley said. Police were considering whether racial hatred was a factor. "We have had two victims that were African American, and the victim of this latest incident was a 75-year-old Hispanic female. So, we are still working to identify whether or not that may play a role, but we are not going to rule that out," the police chief said. Michelle Lee, a spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation which is aiding in the probe, told AFP, "Nothing had been ruled out in terms of motive." - 'Be aware' -

Major celebrities attending the event included Tesla founder Elon Musk and actor Ashton Kutcher. Festival organizers did not immediately say whether they would be taking extra precautions, but the police chief urged attendees to "be aware of what's going on." Residents meanwhile have been warned to avoid opening unexpected items left at their doorsteps and to report anything suspicious to police. The request led to several calls to authorities, Manley said in the afternoon conference, but none uncovered anything suspicious. The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms said a national response team would join Austin police in the investigation.


FRIDAY, March 16, 2018




Former biotech star charged with fraud over blood-testing claims

Theranos chief executive Elizabeth Holmes -- shown here at a Wall Street Journal technology conference in Laguna Beach, California in October 2015 -- has been charged with fraud (AFP Photo/GLENN CHAPMAN)

by Glenn CHAPMAN AN FRANCISCO | AFP | 3/14/2018 - US securities regulators on Wednesday charged the chief executive of the bloodtesting company Theranos, Elizabeth Holmes, and a former president at the onetime soaring Silicon Valley startup with an “elaborate, years-long fraud.” Holmes and Theranos made a deal to settle the case against them, with the penalty including her surrendering majority voting control of the company, according to a statement by the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Founded in 2003 by Holmes when she was only 19, the company had been seen as a rising star but came under scrutiny after The Wall Street Journal published articles questioning the reliability of its technology. Theranos, which had touted a new way of testing that uses far less blood and delivers faster results at much lower cost than traditional methods in US labs, had been under civil and criminal investigation over its claims. The SEC charged Holmes and former Theranos president Ramesh Balwani with raising more than $700 million by exaggerating or lying about the business and its technology. ‘’As a result of Holmes’ alleged fraudulent conduct, she


is being stripped of control of the company she founded, is returning millions of shares to Theranos, and is barred from serving as an officer or director of a public company for 10 years,’” SEC enforcement division co-director Stephanie Avakian said in a statement. Holmes will also pay a $500,000 fine as part of the settlement, according to the SEC. “The company is pleased to be bringing this matter to a close and looks forward to advancing its technology,” the Theranos board of directors said in a statement. Theranos and Holmes cooperated with the SEC investigation, and she will return approximately 18.9 million shares of stock as a result of the settlement, according to the startup. Enforcement division co-director Steven Peikin said during a conference call that the SEC intended to litigate the case against Balwani, seeking a range of sanctions against him. Holmes was seen for a time as a rising start in Silicon Valley, appearing at events like the Women In Technology and Politics dinner hosted by Glamour and Facebook, the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit and events hosted by the Wall Street Journal and TechCrunch. - Hopes versus truths -

The SEC is not taking aim at the startup itself, which last year was near bankruptcy and recently obtained a loan to survive, according to Peikin. “This company was really a two-person operation, with Holmes and Balwani in exclusive control and responsible for the conduct,” Peikin said Punishing the startup would further harm investors the SEC is aiming to protect, he said. Holmes, and Balwani pitched a tale in investor presentations, product demonstrations, and media articles about the startup’s key product -- a portable blood analyzer -- which they claimed could revolutionize the industry by inexpensively conducting comprehensive tests from drops of blood from fingers. Theranos only analyzed a small number of blood samples on its own equipment, having testing done on standard industry equipment developed by other companies, the complaint contended. “’The Theranos story is an important lesson for Silicon Valley,’’ said SEC San Francisco regional office director Jina Choi. “Innovators who seek to revolutionize and disrupt an industry must tell investors the truth about what their technology can do today, not just what they hope it might do someday.’” SEC complaints also charged that Theranos, Holmes, and Balwani claimed that the startup’s products were deployed by the US Department of Defense on the battlefield in Afghanistan and on medevac helicopters, and that the company would generate more than $100 million in revenue in 2014. Theranos technology was never deployed by the US Department of Defense and generated a little more than $100,000 in revenue from operations in 2014, according to the SEC. A settlement with the SEC does not preclude criminal charges from being pursued by US prosecutors, but Peikin declined to comment whether any other agencies were investigating the case.

Ford recalling 1.38 mn sedans over steering defect

FRIDAY, March 16, 2018

Section 2 Tel: 713-774-5140

US indicts ex-Equifax executive for insider trading


EW YORK | AFP | 3/14/2018 - Ford announced Wednesday a North American recall of 1.38 million Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ sedans to address loose steering wheel bolts that could lead to the steering wheel detaching. In the cars being recalled, the steering wheel “may not maintain torque, allowing the bolt to The recall affects Fusion and MKZ models between 2013 and 2018 built in Hermosillo, Mexico and Fusions built in Flat Rock, Michigan between 2013 and 2016. loosen over time,” Ford said. If not addressed, “a steering wheel could potentially detach and lead to a loss of steering control and increased risk of a crash,” the company added. The recall affects Fusion and MKZ models between 2013 and 2018 built in Hermosillo, Mexico and Fusions built in Flat Rock, Michigan between 2013 and 2016. Ford said it was aware of two accidents with one injury resulting from the problem. Ford also announced a much smaller recall on some Ford Fusion models between 2013 and 2016 over a defect that can erode the clutch lining, causing cracks and increasing the chance of fire. Ford said it knew of no fires or accidents due to the problem.

This July 21, 2012, file photo shows Equifax Inc., offices in Atlanta. A former Equifax executive who sold stock for nearly $1 million before the company’s massive data breach was publicly announced faces insider trading charges. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)


EW YORK | AFP | - US prosecutors indicted a former Equifax executive over insider trading for allegedly selling shares before the company disclosed a massive hack, officials announced on Wednesday. Jun Ying is the first former Equifax official charged in relation to last year’s data breach which was one of the worst hacks ever. Ying, who was chief information officer of the company’s US Information Systems business unit, allegedly sold more than $950,000 in stock shortly before the company announced the hack, said a news release from the US Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Georgia. Personal information on nearly 150 million American consumers was taken from Equifax, a credit bureau. The case has spawned congressional probes, government investigations and lawsuits. “As alleged in our complaint, Ying used confidential information to conclude that his company had suffered a

massive data breach, and he dumped his stock before the news went public,” said Richard Best, director of the Atlanta office of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which announced a parallel civil case. “Corporate insiders who learn inside information, including information about material cyber intrusions, cannot betray shareholders for their own financial benefit.” Texts from Ying to a colleague showed he knew that Equifax had suffered the breach on August 25, 2017. The following Monday, he exercised all available stock options, which he then sold, realizing a gain of $480,000, the Justice Department said. The breach at Atlanta-based Equifax, which tracks consumer financial data to help establish credit ratings, was publicly disclosed on September 7. Ying, 42, was indicted by a federal grand jury on Tuesday and was scheduled to be arraigned in Georgia later this week.

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FRIDAY, March 16, 2018


Gay romcom ‘Love, Simon’ broadens Hollywood’s horizons


Jacqueline to recreate Madhuri Dixit’s Ek Do Teen for Baaghi 2!

FILM REVIEW: A Wrinkle in Time

by Frankie Taggert


OS ANGELES | AFP | At first it looks little different from any other teen drama, but Fox’s “Love, Simon” is as significant a milestone for LGBT inclusion as “Black Panther” was for racial diversity.

Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of the science fantasy novel has sublime casting – and unimaginative visuals, says Caryn James.

While the DVD aisles of superstores the world over groan under the weight of stories of callow first love, never before has a mainstream studio romantic comedy been told from the perspective of a gay teenager. “Everyone, myself included, can relate to Simon and his journey, and trying to find yourself and come to terms with yourself in a way that feels comfortable,” the film’s 22-year-old star Nick Robinson said at a recent preview screening in Los Angeles. Directed by Greg Berlanti (“The Flash,” “Supergirl”) while he was on break from his various TV jobs last January, “Love, Simon” is based on Becky Albertalli’s young adult novel “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.” Robinson (“Jurassic World,” “Everything, Everything”) plays Simon Spier, a high school senior in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, who hasn’t told his family or friends he’s gay. Compounding his problems, Simon has fallen for “Blue,” a fellow closeted classmate he chats with online, although he has no idea of his paramour’s true identity. “Love, Simon” figures among a number of coming-of-age gay movies released in recent months, including the Oscarwinning “Call Me By Your Name” and “The Miseducation of Cameron Post.”

by Caryn James va DuVernay’s charming, spirited, Oprahfied version of A Wrinkle in Time arrives as the victim of its own hype. From its sublime casting to its big-hearted message, there is much that is appealing in this fantasy about Meg Murry, a girl who travels through space and time to rescue her missing father, and finds her own confidence along the way. Yet the stumbles in creating the alternate worlds Meg visits make the film less spectacular than viewers might have hoped, and at times a bit flat. Without the weight of high expectations, Wrinkle would look like a perfectly good Disney movie bound to appeal to its target audience of 10-year-old girls, and not so much to anyone hoping for dazzling film-making. Those expectations were justified because there is a spark of brilliance in DuVernay’s reinvention of Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 novel, already ahead of its time in portraying a scientifically-gifted girl. DuVernay’s Meg is bi-racial, a heroine for our times. Her father, a Nasa scientist whose time-travel discovery has left him lost in another world, is played by Chris Pine. Her mother, also a physicist, is Gugu Mbatha-Raw. The inclusive concept is brought to life by Storm Reid, an extraordinarily talented young actor who captures all of Meg’s self-doubts, stubbornness and love for her father. DuVernay’s high-profile casting turns out to be inspired too. Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who and Mrs Which are magical creatures made of light who take human form, with elaborate costumes and make-up, while playing fairy godmothers to Meg. Reese Witherspoon is the energetic Whatsit, at two billion years



ollywood actor Jacqueline Fernandez is all set to recreate the iconic Madhuri Dixit number, Ek Do Teen, for Baaghi 2.

Ek Do Teen was originally directed by veteran choreographer Saroj Khan while Ganesh Acharya will be at the helm of affairs this time. Interestingly, Ganesh was one of the background dancers in the Madhuri Dixit song from Tezaab (1988) while Baaghi 2’s director Ahmed Khan was Saroj Khan’s assistant at the time. Disclosing details of the shoot, Ahmed Khan said in a press statement, “There will be three choreographers on the set today, that’s a picture perfect moment in itself. It’s an all-time favourite and I have asked Ganesh to retain Sarojji’s famous hook steps and Manish Malhotra to keep Madhuri Dixit’s pink outfit in mind while designing Jacqueline’s costume. I want the same feel of the earlier song that still looms large on everyone’s mind and also the same vibe, with the crowds chanting ‘Mohini, Mohini’ as Madhuri takes the stage.” Ahmed also said Jacqueline is “the perfect choice” for the song. Baaghi 2 is a sequel to the 2016 film Baaghi, starring Tiger Shroff in the lead. After the success of Heropanti and Baaghi, the sequel will be the third collaboration of Tiger and Sajid Nadiadwala. Starring the rumoured couple Tiger and Disha Patani in the lead, Baaghi 2 is produced by Sajid Nadiadwala under the banner name Nadiadwala Grandson Entertainment and presented by Fox Star Studios. Baaghi 2 is scheduled to release on March 30. (Courtesy: HT)

old the baby of the group, who blurts out her skepticism about Meg. Mindy Kaling is Who, the one who speaks by quoting great thinkers and writers. “‘The wound is the place where the light enters you’ – Rumi, Persian,” she says. There is a mischievous gleam in her eye when she says “‘Tomorrow there’ll be more of us’ – Miranda, American,” quoting Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. Wearing patchwork dresses of satins and embroidered materials, she looks as though a fabric store had exploded around her, but Kaling pulls it off. Oprah Winfrey, in a bit of casting almost too spot-on, is Which, the wisest of them all. She first appears with the others in Meg’s backyard, towering above them at several times human height, with silver eyebrows, a metallic silver dress and glittery silver lipstick. “Be a warrior,” she tells Meg. “Can you do it?” Actually, “Be a warrior,” sounds a bit like Olivia Pope on Scandal cheering on her Gladiators, but it could also be advice from the real-life Oprah. And everybody knows that when Oprah tells you to do something, you do it. But there the film’s problems begin. Meg sets off to rescue her father from the dark forces of evil, accompanied by other characters solidly drawn from the novel: her intuitive, genius of a little brother, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), and Calvin (Levi Miller), a cute, popular guy from school who’s smart enough to appreciate unglamorous Meg, with her jeans and glasses. The screen goes wavy – it actually wrinkles – when they all tesser, or travel to another time and place. The effect is the first of many disappointing, oddly unimaginative visual choices.

The images work best in the planet Uriel, a beautiful place where pink flowers hover above the ground and move their petals as if they were butterflies. “I speak colour,” Mrs Whatsit says, explaining why she can communicate with them, teaching Meg to do the same. But there is something clumsy about the creature Whatsit turns into: a green flying carpet that looks like a blade of grass attached to an animated version of Witherspoon’s face. A subterranean cave where they all meet a seer called The Happy Medium (Zach Galifianakis) looks like it was made of orange lucite Legos. The force of evil that appears ominously in the sky is no more than a black cloud of particles that seems very unlikely to threaten the universe. Wherever this film put its $100 million budget, that money is not evident in its bland production design and special effects. The film flags most of all when the children travel to Camerzotz, a planet devoid of light, where the Mrs cannot go. The film’s best designs are the simplest there. Meg finds her father in a claustrophobic orange corridor. That confined space seems more evil than anything else on the planet, including the brain called The It that for a time claims the soul of Charles Wallace. There’s no doubt, as Selma and her earlier films show, that DuVernay is a great director of drama. Reid and Pine bring genuine emotion to the fatherdaughter reunion, and to their struggle to save each other. The film’s themes of love, family and self-acceptance are powerful enough to resonate with audiences. But the concept and casting shouldn’t be the most magical parts of a fantasy film, no matter how enchanting its message is.

amongst thousands of entries and was played at a theatre in Los Angeles for a ticketed event for a week. An industry based jury then adjudged it the best film, read a statement. The award ceremony was held at Mack Sennett Studios on March 3. The prize

includes a cash prize of $1,000.

‘Shunyata’ wins international award ctor Jackie Shroff’s short film ‘Shunyata’ has won an award at Best of India Short Film Festival in Los Angeles.


The 22-minute fiction film directed by Chintan Sarda was selected to be in top six from

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World mourns British scientist and cultural icon Hawking by Rosie SCAMMELL ONDON | AFP | 3/14/2018 -World dignitaries, celebrities and academics on Wednesday mourned Stephen Hawking, the British physicist who died aged 76 after a cosmic career in which his mental genius transcended his physical disability to probe the secrets of the universe. Propelled to stardom by his 1988 book “A Brief History of Time”, an unlikely worldwide bestseller, Hawking’s genius and wit won over fans from far beyond the rarefied world of astrophysics. As a scientist he earned comparisons with Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton. Hawking died peacefully at his home in the British university city of Cambridge in the early hours of Wednesday morning. A university source told AFP that his health deteriorated around Christmas time. “We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today,” Hawking’s children, Lucy, Robert, and Tim said in a statement. “He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years.” - ‘We will miss him forever’ Queen Elizabeth II sent a message of condolence to Hawking’s family, Buckingham Palace said. Prime Minister Theresa May praised the scientist as “a brilliant and extraordinary mind” on Twitter. Tearful well-wishers lined up at the University of Cambridge’s Gonville and Caius College, where Hawking was a fellow for more than five deacades, to sign a book of condolence. “So many people have come to pay tribute to #StephenHawking we’ve increased the books of condolence to four. Many beautiful and moving messages,” the college wrote on Twitter. Professor Didier Queloz, an astrophysicist and colleague


The robot was installed at a Cali Burger outlet in Pasadena and replaced human cooks. But after just one day at work the robot has been taken offline so it can be upgraded to work faster. Its human helpers are also getting extra training to help the robot keep up with demand. Barack Obama presented Hawking with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 (AFP Photo/Jewel SAMAD) of Hawking’s, told AFP that he was “an extraordinary person to meet”. Hawking defied predictions that he would only live for a few years after developing a form of motor neurone disease in his early 20s. The illness gradually robbed him of mobility, leaving him confined to a wheelchair, almost completely paralysed and unable to speak except through his trademark voice synthesiser. “His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humour inspired people across the world,” his family said. “He once said, ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love’. We will miss him forever.” - A titan of science Born on January 8, 1942 -300 years to the day after the death of the father of modern science, Galileo Galilei -- Stephen William Hawking became one of the world’s most wellregarded scientists and entered the pantheon of science titans. His death was announced on the 139th anniversary of the birth of Albert Einstein. Hawking had an enduring fascination with the mysteries of black holes. His work focused on bringing

together relativity -- the nature of space and time -- and quantum theory -- how the smallest particles behave -- to explain the creation of the Universe and how it is governed. “My goal is simple,” he once said. “It is complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.” But he was also a beloved figure in popular culture, with cameos in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “The Simpsons”. His voice appeared in Pink Floyd songs. “Have fun out there among the stars,” former US president Barack Obama wrote on Twitter alongside a photo of him with Hawking. NASA issued its own Twitter eulogy, publishing a video of the scientist grinning as he soared into weightlessness on a zero gravity flight at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, escaping his wheelchair for a brief period. His international reach was demonstrated in China, where news of his death generated nearly half a billion clicks as fans bade farewell on social media platform Weibo to a “giant star”. - Marriages Hawking’s first marriage to Jane Wilde in 1965 gave him three children and was immortalised in the 2014 film “The

‘The mind of God’: top quotes from Stephen Hawking Here are some of Hawking’s best known quotes: - On why the universe exists “If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason -- for then we would know the mind of God” From A Brief History of Time (1988): Hawking later said he had used the word “God” figuratively and was in fact an atheist. In The Grand Design (2010), he wrote: “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going” - On his illness “My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus” Interview with The New York Times (2004) - On his life purpose “My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all” From Stephen Hawking’s Universe by John Boslough (1985) - On his celebrity status “The downside of my celebrity is that I cannot go anywhere in the world without being recognised. It is not enough for me to wear dark sunglasses and a wig. The wheelchair gives me away” Interview with Israeli TV (2006) - On human imperfection “Without imperfection, you or I would not exist” From “The Universe With Stephen Hawking”, Discovery Channel (2010) - On contact with aliens “I think it would be a disaster. The extraterrestrials would probably be far in advance of us. The history of advanced races meeting more primitive people on this planet is not very happy, and they were the same species. I think we should keep our heads low” From “Naked Science: Alien Contact”, National Geographic Channel (2004)

Burger-flipping robot taken offline after one day lippy the burger-flipping robot that started work this week in a California restaurant has been forced to take a break because it was too slow.


- On artificial intelligence “The primitive forms of artificial intelligence we already have, have proved very useful. But I think the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race” Interview (2014)




- On death “I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first”

Interview with The Guardian (2011) - On women Once when asked what he thinks about most during the day, he answered: “Women. They are a complete mystery” - On football “England couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo.” In May 2014, on the England football team’s penalty-kicking record

Handy helper USA Today reported that the robot was still in place behind the grill at the burger joint but was switched off. A sign said the robot would be “cooking soon” but gave no date for when it would once again be flipping hamburger patties.

Theory of Everything”. Eddie Redmayne, who won an Oscar for his lead role in the film, said Hawking was “the funniest man I have ever had the pleasure to meet.” The couple split after 25 years and Hawking married his former nurse, Elaine Mason, but the union broke down amid allegations that he was being abused. He refused to comment. Hawking became one of the youngest fellows of Britain’s most prestigious scientific body, the Royal Society, at the age of 32. In 1979 he was appointed Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University -- a post previously held by Newton. Hawking was an outspoken commentator on life back on earth, voicing his disapproval in recent years of both the election of Donald Trump in the United States, and Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. He also commented on the future of technology, warning that “the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race”. Despite being a prominent atheist, Hawking met with four popes, and the Vatican issued a statement saying it was “deeply saddened” by the news of his death. Hawking, it said, had always “wanted to advance the relationship between faith and scientific reason”.


ELLINGTON, New Zealand | AFP | Tuesday 3/13/2018 - Self-piloted flying taxis are being tested in New Zealand as part of a project backed by Google co-founder Larry Page that supporters say will revolutionise personal transport.

Known as Cora, the electric aircraft has a dozen lift fans on its wings, making it capable of vertical take-off and landing like a helicopter. But developers say it is much quieter, meaning it could transport passengers in urban areas using rooftops and car parks as landing pads. “We are offering a pollution free, emission free vehicle that flies dependably, we think this is the logical next step in the evolution of transportation,” Zephyr chief executive Fred Reid said. The Cora prototype being tested in New Zealand’s South Island uses three on-board computers to calculate its flight path and is capable of carrying two passengers. It has a range of 100 kilometres (62 miles) and can fly at 150 kmh at an altitude of up to 900 metres (3,000 feet).

In this handout picture received from New Zealand based aviation company Zephyr Airworks shows a “Cora” electric powered air taxi in flight. (Richard Lord/Zephyr Airworks/AFP).

Zephyr said using the air taxi would be a simple experience for passengers, similar to taking a ride-share in a car. “You wouldn’t have to know anything about flying a plane. Cora could fly for you,” it said in a promotional video. “And it would be all-electric, helping to build a sustainable world.” It said Cora took eight years to design but then developers needed a suitable environment to safely test the new technology. They settled on New Zealand because of its uncongested airspace and rigorous regulatory environment, with Reid saying local officials had embraced the idea.

In a statement Miso Robotics, which made Flippy, said it was testing the code that controls the robot to ensure that it can cook quickly enough to fulfil orders at peak times. Prior to starting work, Flippy was said to be capable of cooking up to 2,000 burgers a day. Cali Burger said it was also working with staff to show them the best way to prepare and place the raw patties and other ingredients in its burgers to ensure Flippy works as fast

as possible. Anthony Lomelino, head of technology at Cali Burger, told USA Today that kitchen staff needed to learn to “choreograph” their movements around the motions of the mobile, spatula-fitted arm which Flippy uses to cook. Cali said that it started to use the robot to get around the problems it has recruiting staff. The high turnover rate among staff in fast-food restaurants meant it often spent time and money training people to prepare food only to have them leave after a few months. Eventually, said the chain, burger-flipping robots will be installed in up to 50 of its restaurants.

Snapchat Parent Company Loses $1.3 Billion After Kylie Jenner Tweet

The robot is believed to have been given time off because news about it spread widely, and led to more interest and orders than the restaurant could handle.

Google guru Page tests flying taxis in New Zealand

New Zealand regulators on Tuesday approved plans for Zephyr Airworks, a subsidiary of Page’s company Kitty Hawk, to develop and test the futuristic air taxis.

FRIDAY, March 16, 2018

“We had no idea what to expect,” he said. “They could have laughed us out of the room. We were pitching something that sounded like science fiction.” Cora has been given an experimental airworthiness certificate from the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority. Trialling the flying taxi service will reportedly take six years, with operations based around the city of Christchurch. “This aircraft represents the evolution of the transport eco system to one that responds to a global challenge around traffic and congestion, and is kinder to the planet,” Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel said.

Kylie Jenner. (Reuters photo.


napchat’s parent company lost some $1.3 billion in market value on Thursday after reality star Kylie Jenner’s tweeted that she was no longer using the messaging service. “sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me… ugh this is so sad,” Jenner tweeted. She later followed up with “still love you tho snap … my first love,” but the damage may already have been done.

Snap Inc.’s shares fell by over six percent in Thursday trading, a loss of about $1.3 billion in market capitalization. Jenner has huge followings on various social media platforms, including Twitter and Instagram. She gave birth to a daughter this month, and her Instagram post announcing the pregnancy quickly became one of the most liked posts of all time on the social media platform. AFP

You could one day send money to a friend simply by asking Alexa by Lulu Chang


s easy as it is to receive money these days, what with the emergence of services like Venmo and Zelle, it’s also getting alarmingly easy to just send your money away. Now, it’s getting easier. Amazon’s Alexa may just be able to help you transfer money to a bank, your landlord, or your friends — and while that is obviously convenient, it could also be a little too convenient. After all, now that you don’t even have to take out a credit card in order to make a payment, what’s to stop you from buying the world (other than your bank account)? The functionality, which hasn’t been officially launched yet, would come from Daon. As CNET reports, it’s a Virginia-based company that creates biometric software for governments and banks. Now, it reportedly built a way for financial institutions to allow customers to send money to just about anyone using their voice and an artificial intelligence assistant. But don’t worry — this is only a one-way street. So just because your brother think you owe him money doesn’t mean that he can tell Alexa that you ought to send him $20. The company says that it’s in talks with “major financial institutions who are interested in pursuing [the function] as a new service.” Apparently, these institutions plan to release the new Alexa skill sometime in the next nine to 18 months. “Our banking and financial customers are keen to provide this for their consumers,” Daon CEO Tom Grissen told CNET. As it stands, Alexa can already help you with certain aspects of your financials. For example, you can pay off a credit card or make a loan payment using voice apps for banks including Capital One, Ally Bank, and American Express. But even these forward-looking institutions have yet to make it possible for you to send money to someone else via your voice.

This makes sense, of course — if just anyone could tell Alexa to send someone money, bank accounts across the world would soon be drained. But Daon plans to protect against that by first having account holders adding potential recipients as payees online. Then, you would also have to authenticate any command made — this authentication method could take many forms, including a fingerprint or PIN. One day, Alexa may even be able to authenticate a command using voice recognition, but seeing as developers can’t access user’s audio quite yet, this functionality is still a ways away. - Digital Trends

Stomachburning fidget spinners on EU warning list


RUSSELS, Belgium | AFP | - Fidget spinners have become a worldwide playground craze, but some of the cult toys can also cause serious injuries to children, according to a new EU report on dangerous products released on Monday. Brussels said its product alert system had detected some lightup spinners with button batteries that can come loose and be swallowed, causing “burns to the oesophagus and intestines”. Other types of the popular finger spinners have central bearings that can come loose to create a choking hazard for small children, according to the European Commission, the watchdog for the 28-nation EU.



Section 2

FRIDAY, March 16, 2018


Tel: 713-774-5140

Patients mobilize to take legal action against fertility clinics with malfunctions By Amy Goldstein n Ohio couple who lost both their frozen embryos when a fertility clinic’s storage tank overheated last week are the first in a wave of patients heading to court to hold the facility accountable for dashing their dreams of future children. Two Cleveland attorneys said they have been inundated in the days since the University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center’s Fertility Center disclosed late last week that it was notifying 700 patients that their eggs or embryos may have been damaged. The tissue was in a tank that lost liquid nitrogen, which is vital for temperature control. A second clinic, the Pacific Fertility Center in San Francisco, disclosed to The Washington Post on Sunday that it also had suffered a malfunction last week in a steel tank where hundreds of patients’ eggs and embryos were stored. Members of the American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys said Monday that they were not aware of legal action against the California clinic but expected filings soon. The impulse of couples to


translate their anger or grief into legal action represents a new consumer activism in a realm of medical technology that has been proliferating and remains unevenly regulated. The number of embryos in cold storage has skyrocketed since the turn of the century. A 2002 survey estimated the number to be almost 400,000. By 2011, it was 600,000. Fertility experts say it is probably well over 1 million today — more than the population of Austin. How often frozen eggs or cells are damaged is unclear because there is no central reporting mechanism. Within the federal government, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Food and Drug Administration oversee only certain aspects of fertility labs, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention collects data about in vitro fertilization. The agencies do not inspect clinics’ storage tanks or track reports of eggs or embryos being damaged. Amber and Elliot Ash before the birth of their son, Ethan, who was conceived through in vitro fertilization. The couple just learned that their two re-

maining frozen embryos no longer are usable. Officials at the College of American Pathologists, which accredits more than 400 fertility laboratories, said Monday that they were aware of incidents in which frozen eggs and embryos had been thawed accidentally but that such events tended to be small scale. They characterized the malfunctions in Cleveland and San Francisco as “extremely rare” but declined to provide figures. Denise Driscoll, the organization’s senior director of accreditation and regulatory affairs, described a rigorous biannual inspection process that involves about 560 checklist items, including backup systems for cryopreservation tanks and 24-hour monitoring of alarm systems. Both the Cleveland clinic, on April 26, 2016, and the San Francisco clinic, on Jan. 23, 2017, met those criteria. The oversight of fertility labs differs by state. California, for instance, requires that they be accredited. Ohio does not. The first lawsuit, filed Sunday in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, Ohio. (-Washington Post)

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Q: What is a cap gap extension? A: A cap gap extension only applies to eligible F-1 students. It allows the F-1 student to bridge the gap between the end of his or her F-1 student status and the commencement of his or her H-1B status on October 1st. The effect of this is the F-1 student is allowed to remain in the US during that ‘gap’ period between the end of his or her F-1 status and the time he or she commences employment under the H-1B program. Q: Are all F-1 students eligible for this Cap-gap extension? A: No. This cap gap extension provision only applies to F-1 students who as of April 1st were either on approved OPT (Optional Practical Training) or those who are in their 60 day grace period and have already have a pending or approved H-1B petition which was filed before the expiration of their OPT or 60 day grace period. Q: Can you explain who can and cannot work while under the cap gap extension?

change my status to H-1B for me. Do I need to leave the United States? A: If your H-1B petition is timely filed in April 2018 and filed before the expiry of your current F-1 status, you will become eligible for the automatic cap-gap extension. This cap-gap extension will continue until the H-1B petition has been adjudicated. If your H-1B petition is selected for processing and subsequently approved, your F-1 ‘capgap’ extension will continue until September 30th, 2018. In addition to that, since your work authorization under OPT is expiring in June 2018, you are eligible to apply for work authorization to work until September 30th, 2018. However, if the petition was nor selected or if denied, you will have the 60 day grace period from the date of the notification of non-selection or date of denial or the program end date, whichever is the later, to depart the United States. Q: My OPT will expire next week and will be in the 60 day grace period commencing March 21st, 2018. My H-1B petition will be filed on this April 2018. Can I continue to work for the employer until my H-1B has been approved?

A: If your H-1B employer has filed the H-1B petition for you and it has been received by USCIS before the expiry of your OPT, you qualify for an extension of your OPT employment authorization. On the other hand, if the filing and receipt by USCIS occurred after your post completion OPT expiration date but during the 60 day grace period after the OPT, your F-1 status and authorization to remain in the United States will be extended but you are not permitted to work.

A: If your H-1B petition was filed after the expiration of your OPT but within the 60 day grace period after the expiration of the OPT, you are only eligible for the cap gap extension. However, work authorization for the cap-gap cannot be extended. You must cease working for the employer when your OPT ends.

Q: My OPT (Optional Practical Training) will be expiring this June. My employer wishes to petition to

A: To be eligible for H-1B, you must at least have a Bachelor’s Degree or equivalent to one. In most cases, this

I have a two year AsQ: sociates Degree and four years of work experience? Do I meet the educational requirements for a Bachelor Degree equivalency?

typically means a four year degree. Your work experience is presently insufficient as three years of work experience in the requisite field equates to one year of university education. You will most likely need an additional two years of work experience in that particular field in order to have the equivalency of a Bachelor’s degree. Q: I have a Bachelor’s Degree from India. What is needed to apply for the H-1B visa? A: All foreign degrees have to be first evaluated to determine whether it is equivalent to the undergraduate degree offered by an accredited university or institution of higher learning in the United States. The degree evaluation is normally conducted by a third party credential evaluation service. In addition to that, the Bachelor’s degree you possess must be in the field related to your intended H-1B occupation. Disclaimer: Any advice provided in this article is general in nature and not intended to constitute legal advice for any specific case. Please consult with an immigration lawyer about the specific circumstances of your case. My Bio Sharlene Sharmila Richards is a licensed Immigration lawyer practicing in Houston, Texas. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. She was admitted to the New York State Bar in 2000 and is a member of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and a member of the US Supreme Court. You may contact her at telephone number 713623-8088 or by email at to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.

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When worry becomes a problem


veryone feels afraid or worried at times, but if these feelings begin to take over your life, then you may have crossed over into generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), which is the most common anxiety disorder among older adults, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). “The issue with many older men is they often just endure the discomfort of GAD, or think it’s normal, and do not talk about the problem,” says Dr. David Mischoulon, director of the Depression Clinical and Research Program at -Harvardaffiliated Massachusetts Gen-

eral Hospital. “However, left alone to manifest, GAD may lead to serious health problems, such as high blood pressure, depression, and addictive behavior like excessive drinking.” GAD symptoms GAD is defined as feeling anxious, fearful, or worried about multiple unrelated events or activities every day for at least six months. People with GAD constantly anticipate disaster and are overly concerned about issues like health, money, and family, even when there is no apparent reason for concern. GAD tends to run in families and may be something

Lead poisoning may hasten death for millions in US: study by Marlowe Hood EW YORK | AFP, 3/12/2018 - Persistent, low-level exposure to lead over decades is statistically linked to some 400,000 premature deaths in the United States each year, far more than previously thought, researchers said Monday.


Compared to people with little or no lead in their blood, those with high levels -- at least 6.7 milligrammes per decilitre (mg/dl) -- were 37 percent more likely to die early, according to a new study in The Lancet Public Health, a leading medical journal. The risk of succumbing to

coronary heart disease doubled in such cases, the study found. “Low levels of lead exposure are an important, but largely ignored, risk factor for death from cardiovascular disease,” mainly heart attacks and strokes, said lead author Bruce Lanphear, a professor at Simon Fraser University in Canada. The new research challenges “the assumption that specific toxicants -- like lead -- have

‘safe levels’,” he said in a statement. Lanphear and his team reviewed two decades of health data for more than 14,000 adults in the US, covering the period 1990-2011. The participants all had blood tests at the outset to measure past and current exposure to lead, as well as a urine test for the metal cadmium. People can be exposed to lead via fuel, paint and plumbing, as well as around smelting sites or by handling lead batteries. Lead contamination can also occur in drinking water, as well as foods stored in lead-tainted containers.

you have always dealt with, but it also can be triggered by sudden changes, says Dr. Mischoulon. For instance, the death of a spouse or friend may make you feel vulnerable about being alone. A minor health issue might cause anxiety about serious problems later. GAD also can keep you from engaging in a healthy lifestyle — you may refrain from any exercise for fear of injury, or avoid social outings. One of the main issues with GAD is that men have trouble acknowledging it as a problem. Many believe it’s natural to worry more about life The largest lead concentrations found in the study were 10 times higher. - Lead-laden jet fuels Overall, 18 percent of US participants who died from all causes during the period reviewed were found to have more than one mg/dl of lead in their blood. The study concluded that nearly 30 percent of all deaths due to cardiovascular disease -- basically, heart attacks and strokes -- “could be attributable to lead exposure”. “Lead represents a leading cause of disease and death, and it is important to continue our efforts to reduce environmental lead exposure,” Lanphear said. The researchers called for more aggressive measures to retire contaminated housing, phase out lead-laden jet fuels, replace lead pipes in plumbing, and reduce emissions from smelters and lead battery factories. “Lead has toxic effects on multiple organ systems and relatively low levels of exposure previously thought to be safe,” Philip Landrigan, a professor at New York’s Icahn School of Medicine, said in a comment, also in The Lancet Public Health.

“A key conclusion to be drawn from this analysis is that Photo Source: lead has a much greater impact on Safety regulations have sig- cardiovascular mortality than nificantly reduced the risk of previously recognised.” lead exposure in recent deThe authors controlled for cades, especially in developed other factors that might contribcountries, but the heavy metal ute to cardiovascular disease, can persist in the body for many such as smoking, excessive alyears. cohol consumption, poor diet Lead was undetectable in the and lack of exercise. blood of nearly one in 10 of the They were not, however, able volunteers tested. At the other to factor out the possible impact extreme, a fifth were found to of exposure to arsenic or air polhave at least five mg/dl of lead lution. flowing through their veins.

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issues as they age, and often they can function well enough with a moderate level of anxiety. They even may rationalize their constant worrying by believing it prevents bad things from happening. This may explain why only about 43% of GAD sufferers get treatment, says the ADAA. The first step to dealing with GAD is to acknowledge you have it. “Many men understand what’s causing their fear and worry, but often don’t want to face it,” says Dr. Mischoulon. Other times, the source is not clear. If you suspect your worrying is excessive, consult with your doctor. He or she can determine if it may be related to another health issue, and if not, refer you to a psychologist or therapist for further evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and medication are the standard ways to treat and manage GAD. With CBT, a psychologist or therapist works with you to uncover past experiences that may be the source of your anxiety. Next, he or she explores negative thinking patterns that trigger your feelings of worry and helps you develop strategies to limit destructive thoughts and

(Image: Thinkstock) reinforce positive ones when anxiety occurs. Anti-anxiety medication is also used to help increase certain brain chemicals that are associated with a person’s ability to relax and feel calm. The type of treatment that is tried first is often guided by how long your fear or worry likely will last. For example, if it is related to some specific situations, such as a recent move to a new neighborhood or struggling to pay off a mortgage or other debt, then CBT alone would be a reasonable first step. If the source is more long-term, like a chronic illness or other health issue, medication is often prescribed

along with CBT. Lifestyle approaches are sometimes added to a person’s treatment to help alleviate GAD. These might include exercise, mindfulness meditation, art therapy, or expressive writing (in which you write about your fears and worries). When it comes to GAD, you should never feel pressured to “tough it out” and expect it to go away on its own, says Dr. Mischoulon. “GAD can worsen and lead to more complicated problems, and they certainly reduce quality of life. For older men, the right treatment can help them to maximize their golden years.” (-Harvard U.)

Nerve agents, the deadliest of chemical weapons


ARIS, France | AFP | 3/7/2018 - Nerve agents such as that used to try and kill a former Russian double-agent in Britain, were first developed as neurotoxins by German scientists in the 1930s, but never used as chemical weapons in WWII. An overview. Q: What is a nerve agent? A: Nerve agents are the most toxic known chemical warfare agents. They are a type of organophosphate chemical, like certain pesticides, and attack an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase that is crucial for controlling nerve signals. “A nerve agent affects the nervous system by interrupting communications between the brain, the main organs, and muscles,” Jean-Pascal Zanders, a biological weapons expert at France’s Foundation for Strategic Research, told AFP. “It prevents coordination between the organs, people can no longer breathe, for example, and asphyxiate.” Q: Are there different types? A: Sarin and VX are the best known nerve agents. Others include soman and tabun. Sarin, soman and tabun are clear, colourless, tasteless liquids, while VX is clear, odourless and has a consistency more like motor oil. Sarin is odourless, and evaporates at the same rate as water. Tabun has a fruity odour, while soman smells like camphor. Q: How are they used? A: Sarin, soman and tabun are sprayed in vapour form, and enter the body by breathing. If a high concentration is inhaled, death can occur in seconds or minutes. Sarin gas was used in the 1995 Tokyo subway attack by a doomsday cult that killed a dozen people, and is alleged to have been used against civilians in the Syrian war.

A general view shows the main entrance to Salisbury District Hospital in Salisbury, southern England, where a man and a woman remain in critical condition which sparked an ongoing major incident which started on Mar 4. (Chris J Ratcliffe/AFP) It was also infamously used by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime to kill thousands of Kurds in 1988. VX enters through the skin, which takes a bit longer, with symptoms appearing in about 20 to 30 minutes. It has been identified as the agent that killed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s halfbrother in February 2017 when two women sprayed a liquid in his face. Nerve agents can also spread when a person touches the skin or clothing of another who has been exposed, or consumed in

contaminated liquids or foods. Q: What are the symptoms of exposure? A: Twitching, spasms, diluted pupils, burning eyes, dim vision, a runny nose, breathing difficulties, headaches, confusion and weakness, sweating, stomach ache, or diarrhoea, and in severe cases, respiratory arrest or heart failure. Other sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Virginia Department of Health, Science Media Centre, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons


Women happier to donate kidney to partner than men: study


ARIS, France | AFP | Wednesday 3/7/2018 - 1Women are statistically far more likely to donate a kidney to a partner than receive one, according to a study released Thursday to coincide with World Kidney Day and International Women’s Day.

ing donors than husbands, the evidence suggests women are motivated by reasons such as altruism and the desire to help their family continue to survive,” said Adeera Levin, a Professor of Medicine at Canada’s University of British Colombia.

Based on European data assessed, 36 percent of women donate a kidney to their husband in clinically suitable cases.

The study data shows some two thirds of kidney transplant recipients are men although the gender difference was less pronounced for donations by deceased men and women.

That compares with just seven percent of clinically suitable men donating a kidney to their spouse, said the study by the International Society of Nephrology (ISN) and the International Federation of Kidney Foundations. It highlights how women are also liable to suffer from the most serious stages of chronic kidney disease (CKD) as they tend to live longer than male sufferers and take longer to reach a stage requiring a transplant. “Although it is hard to pinpoint a specific reason for higher numbers of wives be-

Worldwide, the study found 14 percent of women suffer from CKD compared with 12 percent of men. Although the data showed higher proportions of women live with advanced CKD, “experts believe that systemic failures to detect or manage CKD in women leave women at a higher risk of progression and complications.” This year’s World Kidney Day is closely focusing on CKD sufferers who are either pregnant or wishing to conceive.


“However, complications in these women remain more common than in the general population, and preconception medical counselling should always be sought,” added Piccoli. She stressed the “clear need for higher awareness of CKD in pregnancy, to timely identify CKD in pregnancy, and to follow-up women with CKD during and after pregnancy.” Dr Piccoli also indicated pregnancy-related complications can increase the risk of kidney disease. “Women face unique issues in relation to kidney disease and donation, and since this year’s World Kidney Day coincides with International Women’s Day, we decided now was the time to highlight these issues,” said Professor Levin.

“In women who have had a

by Kerry Sheridan


IAMI, Florida | AFP | Saturday 3/10/2018 - The anti-cholesterol drug Praluent (alirocumab), made by France’s Sanofi Pharmaceuticals, is linked to a 15 percent lower risk of major cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke, a study said Saturday.

The benefit was even greater among those with stubbornly high “bad,” or LDL cholesterol, above 100 mg/dL. That group saw a 29 percent reduction in death from any cause after taking the drug for two years. PCSK9 inhibitors are monoclonal antibodies which target and inactivate a specific protein in the liver, dramatically reducing the amount of harmful LDL cholesterol circulating in the bloodstream. Research has shown these drugs, delivered by injection every two to four weeks, may work even better than statins, which are the traditional first line of treatment for high cholesterol. High cholesterol is a key factor in coronary artery disease, the most common kind of heart disease and the number one killer of men and women worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. But neither Praluent or its main competitor, Repatha (evolocumab) made by Amgen Pharmaceuticals, has achieved major commercial success due to their hefty annual price tag of more than $14,000 (11,300 euros) per patient. Last year, researchers reported similar results for Repatha,

Black barbershops can help clients lower blood pressure: study

successful kidney transplant, fertility can be at least partly restored and chances of successful birth increase,” said Dr Giorgina Piccoli of Italy’s University of Torino and the Centre Hospitalier Le Mans, France.

The anti-cholesterol drug Praluent approved in more than 60 countries outside the US

Alirocumab was also associated with a 15 percent reduction in death from any cause, marking the first evidence that this relatively new class of drugs, called PCSK9 inhibitors, can extend lives.

FRIDAY, March 16, 2018

Black barbershops, like Mason’s Hair Gallery in Washington DC, may be good places to encourage men to get their high blood pressure under control (AFP Photo/SAUL LOEB)


IAMI, Florida | AFP | 3/12/2018 Black barbershops are known as places to gather, socialize and get a haircut. But a study Monday said they can also help encourage men to get their high blood pressure under control. When a trained pharmacist met men regularly at their local Los Angeles barbershop, clients were able to significantly lower their blood pressure, said the findings released at the American College of Cardiology conference in Orlando, Florida. If employed on a broad scale, the approach could make major inroads in treating African-American men, a population that is more likely than other races to have high blood pressure --a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke -- and less likely to be in a doctor’s care, researchers said.

The anti-cholesterol drug Praluent is approved in more than 60 countries outside the US, according to France’s Sanofi Pharmaceuticals (AFP Photo/ERIC PIERMONT) which also cut the risk of heart attack, stroke, and hospitalization for blocked arteries by 15 percent.

whose LDL cholesterol remained 70 mg/dL or above, non-HDL cholesterol 100 mg/ dL or above.

“Now that we have two trials that consistently show benefits from PCSK9 inhibitors, and given the mortality benefit that we are reporting here for the first time, I think these results may change the equation for these drugs,” said Philippe Gabriel Steg, chief of cardiology at Hopital Bichat in Paris and co-chair of the study.

Participants were followed for up to five years, with 44 percent participating for three years or more.

“We’re not just talking about preventing nonfatal events such as heart attacks but actually preserving life.”

“I believe this study is going to change practice,” said Mount Sinai Medical Hospital’s physician-in-chief, Valentin Fuster, who was not involved in the research.

- Cost concerns The findings described Saturday at the American College of Cardiology conference in Orlando, Florida, were based on an international trial of nearly 19,000 people in 57 countries, randomly assigned to either alirocumab or a placebo. Those enrolled were over 40 and many had been treated with the maximum amount of statin therapy possible but were still unable to get their cholesterol down. The



The injections were well tolerated by patients, with mild itching, redness or swelling at the injection site occurring in about three percent of patients receiving the drug and two percent getting the placebo.

“By bringing state-of-the-art medicine directly to the people who need it on their home turf, in this case in a barbershop, and making it both convenient and rigorous, blood pressure can be controlled just as well in African-American men as in other groups,” said lead author Ronald Victor, associate director of the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

“If this model was scaled up and sustained, millions of lives could be saved, and many heart attacks and strokes could be prevented.” For the study, 319 men were recruited at 52 Los Angeles County barbershops. All the men had high blood pressure, defined as a systolic blood pressure over 140 mm Hg based on multiple measurements taken on two different


hose who met with the pharmacist monthly in their barbershop lowered their systolic blood pressure by 21 mm Hg more, on average, compared with the other men, said the report published in the New England Journal of Medicine. days. Their ages ranged from 35 to 71. They tended to be longtime regulars at their barbershops and went about twice a month for a haircut. Some men were randomly assigned to meet with a trained pharmacist at each barbershop visit. The rest were given advice and encouragement on healthy lifestyle choices from their barber, who urged them to

see a doctor for follow up. Those who met with the pharmacist monthly in their barbershop lowered their systolic blood pressure by 21 mm Hg more, on average, compared with the other men, said the report published in the New England Journal of Medicine. “On average, men who interacted only with their barber and were referred to their own doctor saw their systolic blood pressure drop from 155 mm Hg at the start of the study to 145 mm Hg after six months,” said the report. “By contrast, men who interacted with their barber and a pharmacist saw their systolic blood pressure drop from 153 mm Hg at the start of the study to 126 mm Hg after six months.” Previous studies have shown that barbers who give health advice could encourage better lifestyle choices. “High blood pressure is a chronic illness that requires a lifetime commitment to medication and lifestyle modification,” Victor said. “It is often a challenge to get people who need blood pressure medication to take them, even as the costs and side effects have gone down over the years. With this program, we have been able to overcome that barrier.”

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However, he cautioned that drugs’ high price remains an obstacle. “Up until now, the feasibility and affordability of using these types of drugs has been extremely difficult,” he told a press briefing. “I hope this particular study really is a trigger, is a catalyzer, for making these drugs much more available today in people who need it.”


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Flu virus: Wily ‘shapeshifter’ always one step ahead

India allows ‘living wills’ for terminally ill


ndia’s Supreme Court has allowed people to draw up “living wills”, meaning they can seek what is known as passive euthanasia. It means medical treatment can be withdrawn to hasten a person’s death, if strict guidelines are followed. This would apply to patients suffering from terminal illness and who are in a vegetative state. A living will sets out a patient’s wishes regarding how they want to be treated if they are seriously ill.

While the scale of the 1918-19 flu epidemic remains unparallelled, another pandemic is inevitable, experts say. Given the limitations of available drugs, flu-triggered respiratory diseases can claim up to 650,000 lives even in a non-pandemic year by Mariët


ARIS, France | AFP | 3/9/2018 - On a March morning 100 years ago, a soldier in Kansas reported to the infirmary with a fever, muscle aches, and a sore throat. By lunchtime, records state, dozens had joined him, stricken with what would become known as the Spanish Flu. Within months, the virus infected a third of the world’s population and killed as many as 100 million people. It could happen again. While the scale of the 191819 flu epidemic remains unparallelled, another pandemic is inevitable, experts say. Given the limitations of available drugs, flu-triggered respiratory diseases can claim up to 650,000 lives even in a non-pandemic year. About a third of people infected have no symptoms, but some three- to five million fall severely ill with the flu every year, a heavy economic burden in terms of medical care and lost productivity. Why does this common and familiar virus remain a threat after decades of study and massive medical advances that have eradicated the smallpox virus and severely hamstrung malaria and polio?

and H3N2, currently circulate in humans. Each of these can be further sub-divided into many different strains, with new ones emerging all the time -- each needing its own vaccine. - Drift and shift Vaccines work by mimicking an infection -- exposing the body to a germ, but in a weakened, non-sickening form. When confronted by a viral intruder, the immune system takes a few days to produce an array of assault weapons, including antibodies. After vanquishing the virus, antibodies hang around in case the same germ comes back later, prepared for a faster counterattack the second time around. But the flu virus has evolved to evade detection by patrolling antibody “soldiers”. Its first, and most common strategy is called “antigenic drift” -- tiny genetic changes that occur as the virus replicates, rendering it ever so slightly different each new flu season. The second, much rarer technique, is called “antigenic shift” and is what causes deadly pandemics every few years or decades.

“Influenza A is the archetypal shapeshifter,” molecular virology professor Jonathan Ball of the University of Nottingham told AFP. This is the species that causes most human outbreaks.

This happens when genetic material is exchanged between Influenza A subtypes -- sometimes a mix between animal and human viruses -- to concoct a brand-new strain to which few people, if any, have immunity.

Unlike many other viruses, the flu germ exists in dozens of sub-types of which two, H1N1

Since the Spanish Flu, three much less deadly pandemics were caused in this way: the

No-sweat exercise may prolong life for the elderly – study


few hours a week of light exercise – walking the dog, puttering about in the garden – lower the risk of death in older men, even if workouts are brief, researchers said Tuesday. Their findings, reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, challenge two long-held assumptions about the benefits of physical activity for the elderly. To improve health and reduce the risk of dying, according to many national health authorities, workouts must be strenuous and more long-lasting. In Britain, for example, the elderly are advised to do moderate-to-intense exercise at least 150 minutes per week, divied up into segments of no less than 10 minutes. “UK and US physical activity guidelines don’t mention any benefits of light activity,” lead author Barbara Jefferis, an epidemiologist at University College London, told AFP.

engage in no-sweat exercise also appears to be more realistic. Only 16 percent of the volunteers lived up to current British exercise guidelines in sessions of at least 10 minutes. Twothirds, however, did hit the weekly, 150-minute quota in shorter snippets of activity. The research drew on data from the British Regional Heart Study, which began in 1978 with nearly 8,000 participants aged 40 to 59 from a couple dozen towns scattered across Britain. In 2012, the 3,137 men still living underwent a physical check-up, and answered questions about their lifestyle and sleeping patterns. Couch Potatoes The study focused on 1,181 participants who wore an accelerometer — a device that tracks the volume and intensity of physical exercise — for seven days.

“When those guidelines were written there wasn’t enough evidence to make a recommendation.”

“The availability of bodyworn activity monitors has enabled us to investigate whether light activity is linked to longevity,” said Jefferis.

The study, which tracked 1,200 men without heart disease in their early 70s and late 80s, says such guidelines should be revised.

The men, who averaged 78 years old, were monitored for five years, during which time 194 of them died.

“The results suggest that all activities — no matter how modest — are beneficial,” Jefferis said.

The study showed that each additional 30 minutes-a-day of light-intensity exercise was associated with a 17 percent reduction in the risk of death.

Encouraging older adults to

Asian Flu in 1957, the Hong Kong Flu in 1968, and the socalled Swine Flu outbreak in 2009. The flu virus has another evolutionary edge too. Unlike smallpox, polio, or measles, it has a natural home in nature -- in birds which live all around us. And it can cross the species barrier, also into pigs and horses, with relative ease. Because they lack an animal “reservoir”, with widespread vaccination, we could eradicate polio and measles like we did smallpox, explained virologist David Evans of the University of St Andrews in Scotland. - It could be bad “The flu we will not, because we will be continuously exposed to it... We, the human population, are going to be continuously exposed to new strains of influenza... every few years, every few decades, probably forever.” Taken together, these factors predict that “there will be another pandemic,” according to flu expert Wendy Barclay.

Vitamin D linked to lower risk of cancer – study


ARIS France | AFP | Wednesday 3/7/2018 - 1Higher levels of Vitamin D in the blood may be linked to a lower risk of developing certain cancers, a study in Japanese adults reported Thursday. “These findings support the hypothesis that Vitamin D has protective effects against cancers at many sites,” researchers reported in a study published in The BMJ medical journal. Vitamin D is made by the skin in response to sunlight. By maintaining calcium levels in the body, it helps keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. While the benefits of Vitamin D on bone health are well known, there is some evidence that it may protect against chronic diseases as well, including some cancers. Studies to date, however, have been carried out mainly in European and North American people. As natural Vitamin D concentrations can vary by ethnicity, researchers from half-a-dozen Japanese medical schools and institutes set out to determine the potential for lowering cancer risk in Asians. They analysed the public health records of 33,736 men and women aged 40 to 69. At the start of the study, participants provided detailed

FRIDAY, March 16, 2018

The Indian judges said the right to die with dignity was a fundamental right and that an advance directive by a person in the form of a living will could be approved by the courts. Petitioners, who had argued that people have the right to die with dignity if they are suffering from a terminal illness, hailed the judgment. “Today’s is a landmark judgement because it comes at a time when medical science allows patients to be kept alive by artificial means and the hospitals to keep charging money,” Vipul Mudgal, the head of main petitioner Common Cause, an advocacy group, told the BBC. - Passive euthanasia When a patient dies because medical professionals either do not do something necessary to keep the patient alive, or stop doing something that is keeping the patient alive.

This might include: switching off life-support machines disconnecting a feeding tube not carrying out a life-extending operation not administering life-extending drugs

Previously all forms of euthanasia were illegal in India.

It remains unclear, however, how courts could guarantee that living wills were not drafted by patients under coercion.

The court said that family members and relatives of terminally ill patients seeking passive euthanasia could go to court to have it sanctioned. A team of doctors would then be appointed by the court to decide if it is needed.

In 2011, India’s top court had ruled that life support could be removed for terminally ill patients in exceptional circumstances. While rejecting a plea to end the life of a woman who had been in a vegetative state since 1973 in the city of Mumbai after being raped and strangled, the court had said some cases of euthanasia could be sanctioned if doctors were to file a case in court. Aruna Shanbaug, who was left with severe brain damage and paralysed after the 1973 attack by a ward attendant in the Mumbai hospital where she worked, died in 2015. Her death sparked a national debate over euthanasia. The 2011 judgement had put the onus on doctors to petition to withdraw life support, under the supervision of the courts.

On Friday, judges of India’s Supreme Court outlined detailed “guidelines” for facilitating passive euthanasia.

There have been a number of requests for active euthanasia any act that intentionally helps another person kill themselves - by Indians which have been rejected by courts and authorities. In 2008, Jeet Narayan, a resident of Uttar Pradesh state, wrote to the then Indian president Pratibha Patil seeking permission to end the lives of his four bed-ridden, paralysed children. The president had rejected the plea. In 2013, Dennis Kumar, a porter from Tamil Nadu, sought permission from the authorities to end the life of his infant son, who had been suffering from a congenital disorder. The plea was rejected by a court. (-BBC News)

The flu vaccine: A high-stakes gamble by Paul Ricard


ARIS, France | AFP | Friday 3/9/2018 - It is a high-stakes gamble with thousands of human lives on the line. Yet twice a year, every year, the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) bets on the flu -- which virus types are likely to dominate in the coming season? On this basis, a vaccine is prepared months in advance. “We cannot say for sure which virus will be circulating,” Wenqing Zhang, head of the WHO’s global influenza programme, told AFP. “What we’re doing is based on the best possible surveillance information and analysis, and basically to bet, or to project, what viruses will likely be circulating.” The flu virus is constantly changing its outer coat to avoid detection by the human body’s immune system. Each subtype, however slightly altered, requires a targeted vaccine. Every year, the WHO recommends a cocktail covering three or four bases at once -- usually two subtypes of the Influenzavirus A species, and two types of Influenzavirus B. The closer the mix mimics the viruses that end up being in circulation, the better it will be at protecting people from infection. Influenzavirus A, which also circulates in birds and can move between species, is responsible for most flu infections and causes the deadliest pandemics -- including the 1918-19 Spanish Flu that killed as many as 100 million people. Influenzavirus B is found almost exclusively in humans, and causes less severe sickness. The choice of vaccine mix relies on year-round work by the WHO’s Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System, created more than 50 years ago. Data is collected from 143 national influenza centres in 114 countries, which report on virus

Twice a year, every year, the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) bets on the flu -- which virus types are likely to dominate in the coming season? On this basis, a vaccine is prepared months in advance types doing the rounds, based on throat and nose swabs of patients. - Like a blended wine Six “collaboration centres” make the final pick, eight to ten months ahead of the impending flu season. Two different vaccines are proposed -- one for the northern hemisphere winter, one for the south. The chosen viruses are then grown in chicken eggs, an ageold cultivation method which requires months to produce the required amount of vaccine. “They are mixed, like a blended wine,” Vincent Enouf of France’s national influenza centre said of the yearly vaccine. The recipe for the northern hemisphere’s 2018-19 winter was announced by the WHO on February 22. It will include a strain of Influenzavirus A subtype H1N1 identified in Michigan in 2015, a strain of subtype H3N2 from Singapore in 2016, as well as a B type from Colorado in 2017, and another from Phuket in 2013. The recipe for the southern hemisphere’s 2019 winter season will be announced in September.

Do they get it right? It depends. The 2017-18 northern hemisphere vaccine, said Zhang, has had mixed results. Preliminary data shows it was 70 percent effective at preventing infection with A (H1N1), but only about 20 percent effective against A (H3N2) -- the most common strain in circulation this year. For the B types, vaccine efficacy ranged between 20- and 70 percent, depending on the country. The WHO recommends annual vaccination for pregnant women, small children, people older than 65, individuals with chronic medical conditions, and people who live or work with people in these categories. But vaccination is not only about protecting individuals, it also creates “herd immunity”. The more people are shielded, the smaller the odds of an unvaccinated person coming into contact with an infected person, thus limiting virus spread. In February, the WHO expressed concern about a decline in flu vaccination in Europe. Complications from the flu are estimated to kill between 290,000 and 650,000 people each year.

Read HEALTHLINE Online Log on to



‘Little black dress’ designer Givenchy dies aged 91

FRIDAY, March 16, 2018

Frida Kahlo’s family vent anger at Barbie doll version Toymaker Mattel accused of distorting feminist icon’s appearance and disregarding values she stood for by Maya Oppenheim fierce dispute has arisen between Frida Kahlo’s relatives and the corporation which claims it possesses the rights to her image after a toy company announced the Frida doll.


Mattel, a US multinational toy company, revealed a Barbie version of the late radical Mexican painter this week as part of an “Inspiring Women” series. Hepburn and Givenchy at the 40th anniversary of the house of Givenchy in Paris in 1991. (Photo: Getty Images)


ARIS, France | AFP | Hubert de Givenchy, the aristocratic French fashion designer famous for the “little black dress” and styling Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy, has died aged 91, his partner said Monday. Givenchy set the template for ladylike chic in the 1950s and 1960s, dressing everyone from Princess Grace of Monaco to Jane Fonda. His longtime partner, the former haute couture designer Philippe Venet, announced his death through the Givenchy fashion house, saying he had died in his sleep on Saturday. “It is with huge sadness that we inform you that Hubert Taffin de Givenchy has died,” it said in a statement to AFP. With his perfect manners and oldschool charm, the tall and handsome count was the very acme of French elegance and refinement. But it was his 40-year friendship with his muse Hepburn, whom he met while she was making Billy Wilder’s Oscar-winning comedy “Sabrina” in 1953, that helped make him a fashion legend. The narrow-collared suits and slim woollen dresses Givenchy designed for the gamine actress in “Funny Face” and “How to Steal a Million” made both of them style icons. - Hepburn and Kennedy The black sheath dress Givenchy created for the opening scenes of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” was perhaps the most famous “little black dress” of all time -- even if fellow Coco Chanel is credited with inventing the gar-

ment. “His are the only clothes in which I am myself. He is far more than a couturier, he is a creator of personality,” Hepburn once said of him. “To dress a woman is to make her beautiful,” Givenchy once said. “In haute couture, we are cosmetic surgeons, erasing imperfections and refining the silhouette... for isn’t a couturier a magician of sorts, who creates illusion and perhaps beauty itself?” Givenchy was one of the first big designers to use black models, and in 1986 used only black models for one collection. In the 1960s US first lady Jacqueline Kennedy adopted the Givenchy look for her White House years, sticking to a uniform of shift dresses, pillbox hats and low-heeled pumps. The red coat she wore on the campaign trail for the 1960 presidential election was a Givenchy copy. On a state visit to France the following year, she made a famously grand entrance in a Givenchy white silk faille dress at a dinner at the Palace of Versailles, looking as regal as any European monarch’s consort. - ‘True gentleman’ “Hubert de Givenchy was a symbol of Parisian elegance for more than half a century... who revolutionised fashion,” his label said Monday. Legendary Italian-born creator Valentino told AFP that he had tried to get a job with Givenchy when he was 17. “Unfortunately he did not hire me... but I kept admiring his vision, his perfection of cut and elegance. Like

Kahlo’s family allege the rights to the feminist icon’s image have been stolen and Mattel is not allowed to base a figurine on her. The family have also accused Mattel of distorting Kahlo’s appearance and disregarding the values the artist - who used her work to explore questions of postcolonialism, gender, class, and race in Mexican society - stood for. “Mrs Mara Romeo, great-niece of Frida Kahlo, is the sole owner of the rights of the image of the illustrious Mexican painter Frida Kahlo,” the family said in a statement. But both Mattel, a firm with headquarters in California, and the Frida Kahlo Corporation have rejected the claims. Since Kahlo, the most popular and recognisable Mexican artist in the world, died in 1954 her image has been appropriated to generate a plethora of consumer products. Her face has been emblazoned on everything from lipstick to tequila to handbags.


“Oh la la! I prefer not to,” laughed the actress and director who was the face of the French New Wave. “Less than Liz Taylor,” she joked, who went up the aisle eight times.

The artist, who is famed for her self-portraits, was known for decorating her corsets with hammer and sickles. She was even laid to rest under a communist flag when she died. Critics have vented their frustrations about the fact the doll does not accurately represent Kahlo’s heavy eyebrows and have argued the costume fails to accurately depict the intricate, iconic Tehuana-style dresses Kahlo wore. They have also criticised its slim figure and the lack of any trace of the childhood polio or injuries caused by a bus crash that meant the artist was debilitated for lengthy periods of time. Mattel insisted the firm possessed the correct permission to produce the representation of Kahlo. “Mattel has worked in close partnership with the Frida Kahlo Corporation, the owner of all rights related to the name and identity of Frida Kahlo, on the creation of this doll,” a spokesperson told the BBC.

Ironically, Kahlo herself was a communist. She joined the Mexican Com-

“In addition to the Frida Kahlo Corporation being an important part of the doll development process, we have their permission and a legally binding agreement to make a doll in the likeness of the great Frida Kahlo.”

me he always respected the woman’s body, never inflicting what was cool but only what was flattering.”

“The definition of a true gentleman that will stay with me forever,” she said.

Another Italian fashion great, Giorgio Armani, described Givenchy as “the symbol of that exquisitely Parisian joie de vivre, that has the lightness of intelligence and the aristocratic elegance of couture.”

Givenchy was forced to retire in October 1995 when his contract was not renewed by the giant LVMH group which had bought his house nearly eight years earlier.

Givenchy’s current British-born designer Clare Waight Keller said that its founder was “not only one of the most influential fashion figures of our time, whose legacy still influences modern-day dressing, but he also was one of the chicest, most charming men I have ever met.

Sixties icon Anna Karina revels in comeback ARIS, France | AFP - Anna Karina is wondering whether to say how many times she has been married.

munist Party in 1927 where she met her husband and celebrated muralist Diego Rivera and was thrust headfirst into a tight-knit circle of activists and artists.

“I’ve been married to the same man for the last 40 years,” Karina protested, referring to her fourth husband, the American director Dennis Berry of “Stargate” and “Highlander” fame. But it was with her first, Jean-Luc Godard, that Karina helped turn cinema on its head. Now 77, the Danish-born Sixties icon is having something of a comeback.

He was replaced by John Galliano, who was soon to leave for Dior, handing over to fellow Brit Alexander McQueen. With typical discretion, Givenchy made no comment, only that he had not been consulted about the appointments.

Kahlo’s family allege that the rights to the feminist icon’s image have been stolen and Mattel is not allowed to base a figurine on her. ( AP Photo) Mattel also provided a statement from the Frida Kahlo Corporation in which it said it gained its rights to reproduce Kahlo’s image from Kahlo’s niece, Isolda Pinedo Kahlo. Kahlo, who is about to have a street in San Francisco renamed in her honour, has become an icon for political movements and minority groups such as the LGBT+ community, feminism, and the Chicanos in the wake of her death. (-The Independent)

Yet two decades on his restrained style still informs the way Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and older American and Chinese socialites dress. Givenchy’s final couture show in July 1995 was an emotional moment, with his fellow couturiers Yves Saint Laurent, Paco Rabanne, Christian Lacroix and Valentino taking front-row seats in a packed salon in the opulent Grand Hotel at the Paris Opera. Givenchy took his bow on the catwalk in his atelier’s smock, and with characteristic modesty brought on all his loyal “petites mains” seamstresses to share the applause.

Her 1973 film “Vivre ensemble” (Live Together) is back in cinemas, winning praise from the critics as a “little gem”. And she has a new album out, fittingly called “I am an Adventurer.” “I never expected this, it’s amazing,” she said, not having made a film in a decade or recorded a song for even longer.

Vietnamese contestant crowned queen in Thai transgender pageant


ATTAYA, Thailand | AFP | Friday 3/9/2018 - Vietnam’s Nguyen Huong Giang was crowned “Miss International Queen” in Thailand on Friday at one of the world’s top beauty pageants for transgender women. The red-dressed winner fended off 26 competitors, from countries spanning Mongolia to Mexico, to clinch the coveted crown in the seaside town of Pattaya, where the popular contest has been running since 2004. While the competition is fierce, contestants say the pageant also offers an opportunity for camaraderie among trans women who hail from different backgrounds but share similar stories of discrimination back home. Ahead of the coronation late Friday, the diverse group of competitors packed into a bustling dressing room to lacquer on lipstick and primp their hair as an army of stylists buzzed around them. “This is my first international experience of coming to pageant where it is really a big exposure to all my trans sisters all over the world,” Nitasha Biswas, from India, told AFP after making the final adjustments to a sparkling beige dress. Thailand’s relatively open-minded attitude on LGBT issues also offers a refuge for contestants who hail from less tolerant countries, including neighbouring Myanmar. “Myanmar is a developing country so there is still only a small amount of transgender people,” Juana Paing, a contestant from the poor and conservative nation, told AFP.

Nguyen Huong Giang of Vietnam fended off 26 competitors, from countries spanning Mongolia to Mexico, to clinch the coveted “Miss International Queen” crown in Thailand’s seaside town of Pattaya “I want to try my best for Myanmar to be more open for transgenders,” she added. Thailand has a large and visible transgender population and is one of the world’s top destinations for sexreassignment surgery. Yet some segments of society remain deeply conservative. Despite high levels of education, many transgender people struggle to secure full-time work in professions outside the entertainment and sex industries. Same sex marriage is also still not legally recognised, and up until 2012, transgenders were considered mentally ill by the army.

Vietnam, where this year’s pageant winner hails from, has seen a growing LGBT scene in recent years while its communist government is drafting a landmark law that could allow some trans people to legally change their gender. Joe Wong, who works with the advocacy group Asia Pacific Transgender Network (APTN), applauded contests like “Miss International Queen” as a “powerful medium to showcase the challenges, talents and hopes of trans people”. “I’ve learnt from others that contests like these create sisterhood and bonds,” he told AFP, adding that the pageants would however benefit from a more inclusive definition of beauty.

Indian model wearing an exquisite bridal lehenga in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Creative Touch Imaging Ltd./NurPhoto)



FRIDAY, March 16, 2018

Mexican regional cuisine drives booming food scene by Jean Luis Arce


ure, every foodie loves tacos and enchiladas.

But what about lesser-known Mexican classics like cochinita pibil, the impossibly flavorful, slow-roasted pork dish from the Yucatan peninsula? Or escamoles, the ant larvae from central Mexico known as “insect caviar”? Or empanadas de mole, pastries filled with the savory chocolate sauce of the Oaxaca region? Mexico has always been a major player on the world food scene. But increasingly, top chefs are embracing and promoting the country’s richly varied regional cuisine, driving the Mexican gastronomic experience to a whole new level. One of the poster boys for the trend is Alejandro Ruiz, whose Mexico City restaurant Guzina Oaxaca drew a rave review in The New York Times with its “chic interpretations of traditional classics.”

Top chefs are increasingly embracing and promoting Mexico’s richly varied regional cuisine, driving the gastronomic experience to a whole new level

Ruiz comes from the village of La Raya in the southern state of Oaxaca, where he grew up grinding corn and cooking for his family to help his mother, who worked full-time washing clothes.

What’s my identity? Oaxaca.”

His restaurant, which opened in 2014, is a celebration of his home state, a mountainous region known for its huge diversity of ingredients and deep culinary traditions.

Mexico stretches from the deserts of the northern border to the tropical forests of the south, with long Caribbean and Pacific coastlines in between, giving it immense biodiversity and a sprawling palette of ingredients.

“Where I come from, the kitchen is the most important part of the home,” Ruiz told AFP. “What I do (in the kitchen) is who I am, it’s where I was born, it’s my mother’s milk. It’s in my DNA.

- ‘Whole other level of flavor’ Oaxaca isn’t the only region whose traditional cuisine has been elevated to new levels of chic.

Its flavors are also shaped by its complex history, blending influences from its many indigenous groups, the Spanish conquistadors, European elites, slaves from Africa, immigrants from all over and the ever-present

Smell of coffee permeates streets of tea-obsessed Kabul

United States. Laura Siciliano-Rosen, co-founder of the food blog Eat Your World, loses count listing her culinary adventures in Mexico’s myriad regions and subregions. Dining in Mexico, she says, one minute you can be eating sinfully delicious tacos. Then, a few hours by bus -- or a few Mexico City blocks or market stands away -- “suddenly you’re eating turkey and hardboiled eggs and these really rich pastes, ‘recados,’ from the Yucatan peninsula, which is just a whole other level of flavor that only exists there.” Mexican food’s strength is its “regionality,” she says -- something that is only just starting to be exported abroad. “The more people are learning about the regionality of the cuisine and how distinct and complex it is, the more they’re blown away, like ‘Wow, this is real Mexican food,’” she says. - Peruvian fusion, Mexican diversity William Drew, of the prestigious World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, says this is exactly what has propelled Mexican restaurants onto the closely watched ranking. “The diversity is extraordinary,” he says. “If you think you know what Mexi-

A Mexican woman prepares meals with mole in San Pedro Atocpan, where nine in 10 residents make a living from the sauce of pre-Hispanic origin (AFP Photo/Omar TORRES) can cuisine is, then you probably haven’t experienced enough of it.” Mexico has two restaurants in the current top 50, which remains dominated by Europe: Enrique Olvera’s Pujol and Jorge Vallejo’s Quintonil, both in Mexico City. But Mexico’s top chefs are nervously eying their colleagues to south, in Peru -- whose fusion-fueled cuisine makes it a rival contender for the title of Latin America’s hottest food destination. Peru’s mix of Andean, European and Asian influences -- symbolized in recipes like “ceviche,” a refreshing dish of raw fish marinated in lime -- has made its cuisine all the rage. In fact, Peru has two spots on Restaurant’s current top 10: Virgilio Martinez’s Central at number five, and Mitsuharu Tsumura’s Maido at num-

ber eight. That is making some people in Mexico nervous. Mauricio Avila works at the Mexican culture ministry, and his job is to compile and preserve Mexico’s gastronomic heritage. “Mexicans love food, and we’re proud of our food, but we don’t advertise it. We’ve always believed it wasn’t fancy enough for foreigners,” he says. His office is actively encouraging the trend of celebrating Mexico’s traditional regional cuisines. The government has released a 78-volume collection on “Indigenous and Popular Cuisine” -- each dedicated to a place, an ingredient or an ethnic group. It is also working on an index of ingredients.

Female mechanic breaks social barrier in war-torn Yemen by Abdulkarim al-Marani Sharyari (C) prepares coffee as customers sample it next to his cart by Emal Haidary


ABUL, Afghanistan | AFP | Afghans in need of a caffeine fix line up at Najibullah Sharyari’s coffee cart in Kabul -- converts to the drink that is now percolating in a country obsessed with tea for centuries. Standing on a noisy street among vendors hawking their wares, the 30-year-old barista serves takeaway instant coffee from a mobile machine at his New York-style cart for as little as 28 cents a cup. Coffee is the “best medicine” to cope with the daily grind in the overcrowded, polluted and war-torn city, insists Sharyari, pouring Nescafe into a fake Starbucks cup for a customer as honking cars crawl past his stand. The uninitiated often ask for tea, he says, before explaining: “We tell them they can have tea at home. There is a big difference between a cup of tea and a cup of coffee -- coffee is better.” Sharyari’s coffee cart -- one of several he operates around the sprawling Afghan capital -- is an oddity in a city where most people drink tea and cafes are often protected by armed guards and hidden from view behind blast walls and steel doors. Afghanistan was introduced to tea because of its location on the ancient Silk Road, and today remains one of the world’s largest tea consumers per capita. The drink is integral to the country’s famed culture of hospitality, with guests offered a cup of green tea -- often infused with aromatic cardamom pods, and a piece of sugar on the side -- as they enter homes and offices. It is ubiquitous at the table regardless of whether the meal being served is breakfast, lunch or dinner. But coffee has the power to pull people out of their daily routine, according to the aficionados at Sharyari’s cart. “Whenever I go to university I take this street just to drink a cup of coffee while I’m walking,” university student Sayed Millad Hashimi tells AFP.

- Getting creative Sharyari launched his business four years ago in the relatively prosperous northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, investing 50,000 Afghanis ($725) in a couple of coffee machines from neighbouring Uzbekistan. Its success saw him expand to Kabul, where he says he has eight machines and serves more than 1,500 customers per day. The sight of steam rising from the cart and the rich smell brew excitement apart from the impending jolt of caffeine, says a government worker named Mujiburrahman, rubbing his hands in anticipation. “I am also happy to see our people getting creative and create job opportunities,” the young and sharply dressed customer tells AFP. Selling coffee on the streets of Kabul -- one of the deadliest places for civilians in the country, where blast walls and traffic choke the roads -- is a different prospect from Mazar, which Sharyari says is relatively peaceful and has a vibrant street life. But in the capital there are grounds for buying your coffee at a street cart, which is accessible to residents in a way that fancier cafes hidden behind layers of security are not. Rahim, a taxi driver, pulls up to the vendor and calls for coffee with milk without even leaving his car. “There is no parking lot in this crowded downtown, we cannot park our cars to go to a coffee shop or restaurant,” the 45-year-old says. “But (it) is easy here, just slam the brake, stop, pick a cup of coffee and go,” he adds. Security remains a concern. On January 27 one of the deadliest bomb blasts in the capital since 2001 killed more than 100 people just a few hundred metres from Sharyari’s cart, he says. “I was shocked but Kabul is such a resilient city,” he muses. “The next day the people were in the streets again and it was business as usual.”

ANAA, Ye m e n | AFP | Thursday 3/8/2018 Dressed in a baggy jumpsuit and a grey paisley veil, 24-year-old Dalia al-Moqadam is an understated pioneer in Yemen -- a rare female mechanic in a conservative Middle Eastern country at war.


This week in the rebel-controlled Female mechanic, Dalia al-Moqadam. capital Sanaa, Moqadam’s cavernous garage -- full of gleaming cars released in November. -- was a refuge from the three-year The Geneva-based organisation’s reconflict that has claimed thousands of port, which tracks disparities in educalives. tion, health, economic opportunity and For this young Yemeni woman, the political empowerment, placed Yemen biggest worry when starting out was below other conservative Middle East that society, not the violence, would states such as Saudi Arabia and Iran. make it hard for her to take on the Yet no one bats an eye as Moqachallenge and follow her passion. dam shuffles around the workplace, “The difficulties that I faced in the her navy and tan jumpsuit customised beginning were first of all the field with a skirt instead of pants, internaitself -- it’s cumbersome. Then there tional car logos and the garage name was a fear of how society would view Natco embroidered across her back. a woman working in this field -- would She checks an oil leak, swiping they accept it?” Moqadam recalled. brown liquid with a bare finger, then “And what if society doesn’t accept dons thick mechanic gloves to work the idea? Would I be able to work in under the hood. the field that I love?” - ‘Not exclusive to men’ She said that her family and fellow mechanical engineering students at Sanaa University, from which she graduated in 2017, fully supported her entrance into the field. “But others reject the idea because they don’t have an accurate idea of what mechanics do,” Moqadam told AFP. “They think it’s all strenuous body work, and that it’s not a suitable field for girls. The society just finds the concept very weird,” she added, standing in front of a Porsche Cayenne. Yemen, an impoverished Muslimmajority country on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula, came bottom in the rankings of the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report

At the auto shop, located in the upscale southern district of Hadda, clients consult with the young woman about their vehicles. “Honestly, I was taken aback by Dalia -- by her expertise and professionalism in this mechanical work. Despite her age and gender, she’s taken on this tough occupation,” customer Emad alAzzab told AFP. “She proved that this job is not exclusive to men,” he added, smiling. Wearing a smart suit and a pressed shirt, the general manager of the repair centre, Majid Othman, said Moqadam had brought new ideas to the workplace. “We admire Dalia’s creativity with mechanics,” Othman told AFP.

He said that while it was new for “a conservative society” like in Yemen to have a woman doing the job of a mechanic, it was a good thing, especially for female drivers. “There are a lot of women driving now in the capital, and so it could be really positive for the maintenance sector to have women available. The female clients may feel more comfortable dealing with another woman than a man,” he said. Moqadam said it is just “a matter of time” before society gets used to the idea of seeing a woman working under the hood. “I was the only girl in my class,” she said. After graduating in 2017, Moqadam took on various traineeships at automotive centres, but a full-time job is more elusive. The devastating war and a Saudiled blockade aimed at weakening the Huthi rebels and restoring the government to power has decimated the economy. Moqadam, who describes mechanics as “awesome”, still has an uphill battle when it comes to securing her role in an all-male field. There are currently no women enrolled in mechanical engineering at her old university, but Moqadam said it was a supportive environment. “It was society that looked at me strangely.”







FRIDAY, March 16, 2018


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Aries - 21 March to 20 April

There’s no question that you take responsibility like a fish takes to water. But some days -- especially lately -- you’ve been feeling a little amphibious. It seems that you want to crawl out of the waters of responsibility now and then. And that’s okay; everybody deserves a break sometimes. But today isn’t one of the days when it’s all right to check out. No, take the plunge. You can handle the responsibility.

Taurus - 21 April to 20 May

Whether it’s a problematic personal relationship or an interaction with a difficult work colleague that’s on your mind, there isn’t a whole lot you can actually do about it. You’re in the middle of the situation, that’s for sure, but for now, sit tight and watch how things develop. There will be a time for action, but that comes later. Right now you just need to know a little bit more about what’s making this dynamic tick.

Gemini - 21 May to 20 June

You could spend the workday in an abstract, philosophical mode that leads you to all kinds of interesting new solutions to old work problems. You might notice that, an hour or so before quitting time, you switch gears. This is perfect timing: You switch into highly organized, strictly disciplined mode just in time to jot down your open-ended, abstract brainstorming ideas in a manner that will be easy for others (i.e., your colleagues) to grasp when you present them with your findings.

Cancer - 21 June to 22 July

When’s the last time you read a really good book, hmm? Why not email a few friends whose taste you trust and ask for a recommendation or two. Or, better yet, pick up one of the classics. They’re the classics for a reason, you know (because they’re really good!). Then make yourself a nice soymilk hot chocolate and spend the evening reading, reading, reading. You’ll be glad you did.

Leo - 23 July to 22 August

There’s nothing quite like sharing but not doing, is there? So don’t describe how you’d like to be a nightclub crooner or a performance artist or a corporate executive who can hardly find enough companies to raid -- just do it! Get out there and find the place you need to be. Not sure it’s the right time? Make it the right time, and enjoy the heck out of this exhilarating process.

Virgo 23 August to 22 September

If you stick to your guns, you’ll persevere. An obstacle -- the corrupt old west sheriff who shows up at the saloon (just as you are about to finish your macchiato and get on with your plans!) with an arrest warrant and a wicked ‘you know it’s not legal, but I own this town’ grin -- could set you back. But don’t underestimate the resources of your supporters who, likely as not, will come through at just the right moment with a chandelier swing that knocks out that sheriff, or some such.

Libra - 23 Sept to 22 Oct

You might spend the morning accepting things as they are. Then you could spend your lunch hour imagining things as you would like them to be. Then, for a finale to your day, you might spend time in late afternoon and early evening making things the way you want them to be. It’s going to take a lot of work, but when you start to see the first few results of your efforts, you’ll know it was worth every drop of energy.

Scorpio - 23 Oct to 21 Nov

You see things other people don’t. Problems, solutions, subtle patterns, deeper meanings -- it’s almost like you have an extra gift of sight. Do your best to communicate, patiently and kindly, what it is you see to the people who need to see it too. Whether it’s work colleagues or family members or a lover, you need to include them before you go ahead and act on what you see in front of you.

Sagittarius - 22 Nov to 21 Dec


5. Crab’s grabber

1. Necklace lock

6. “Sad to say...”

6. Put together 9. “To ____ and to hold” 13. Hindu sage 14. Hula dancer’s ornament 15. *Morning show 16. Front wheels alignment 17. St. crossroad 18. Excessively fat 19. *Pablo Escobar’s story 21. *”Game of ____” 23. Once around 24. Russian autocrat 25. “Four score and seven years ____” 28. Respiratory rattling 30. Sage’s forte

8. South Beach and such 9. Great Depression drifter 10. Port in Yemen 11. Flower holder 12. Windows to the soul? 15. Full of tribulations 20. Estrogen producer 22. *”Hee ____,” (started in ‘60s) 24. “English Afternoon” stop 25. *Johnson of “Blackish” 26. Soft and sticky 27. Speak one’s mind 29. *”Big Little ____”

35. Uh-uh

31. Narcissist’s love

37. Iranian money

32. Apple alternative

39. Deep skin layer 40. “Just ____ ____” 41. Affirmatives 43. Shark’s provision 44. Kidney-related 46. *Use QVC 47. Certain Scandinavian

33. Yemeni neighbor 34. *a.k.a. Manuel Alberto Javier Alejandro Delgado 36. Et alibi 38. *J.B. Smoove in “Curb Your Enthusiasm” 42. Attractiveness in appearance

48. Pupil protector

45. Type of false news, pl.

50. Dealing with a problem

49. Holiday mo.

52. Acronym on Pinterest

51. English treat

53. City sound

54. Former anesthetic

55. Not a friend 57. *”The Mindy ____” or “____ Runway” 61. *Handmaid of Gilead 64. Painting support

Spend the day making plans. Big plans, little plans. Plans for the near future, plans for the distant future, plans for tonight. Make plans to make plans if you want to. The plans you make now are bound to be successful, so why not make as many as possible? In the evening, stop making plans and start putting the plans you already made (especially the ones that involve dinner tonight) into action. Good plan!

65. Greedy one

Capricorn 22 Dec to 20 Jan

70. Between E and NE

56. *”Saving Hope” actress Durance 57. *She played Roz on “Frasier” 58. Surprise at a speakeasy 59. Nobel Peace Prize capital

67. *”You’re ____!”

60. Congeal

69. Small streams

62. Aphrodite’s son

Spend the morning delving into those deep, dark, potentially treasure-filled waters of ‘why are we here’ and ‘how can I fulfill my calling as a human being.’ In the late afternoon, you switch gears. Something comes up that requires pragmatic action. Since you switch gears as quickly and smoothly as a luxury sports car, you immediately get started taking said pragmatic action. To your surprise, you might find a few of the answers to the questions you were posing in the morning.

71. Food safety threat

Aquarius - 21 Jan to 19 Feb

74. Relieves

72. *”American ____” 73. Poor man’s caviar

Plan something special for tonight. It doesn’t matter if it’s last minute. Call up a friend or a couple of friends or a significant other or a couple of people you can imagine one day becoming your significant other. Meet for drinks at the local bar. Laugh, joke, sing, and have a good time. If you want, you can talk about a few of the things that have been on your mind lately. That’s what friends are for!


Pisces - 20 Feb to 20 March

2. ____ share

It’s a long road, this life, and it’s full of big questions. But go ahead and try to work out solutions to the immediate problems. Taking a practical approach might be just the ticket. Clean your room, organize your office, make sure your bills are in order and then go out at night. Time with friends can be a needed relief from all those solitary ‘where does this road go anyhow’ questions.

7. *Aziz Ansari in “Master of None”

61. Type of molding 63. Expunge 66. Lennon’s partner 68. Bad-mouth

1. Tube in old TV 3. On a cruise, e.g. 4. Bake, as in eggs




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Overtourism and the big chill: travel trends in 2018

Houston Community College Request for Proposals (RFP) Ammunition Project No. 18-17

Houston Community College Request for Proposals (RFP) Video Surveillance Retrofit Project Project No. 18-18

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Growing numbers of holidaymakers are prepared to shiver to experience the breathtaking colour show of the Northern Lights. (Photo: AFP/Francois Campredon).

by Daphne ROUSSEAU


ERLIN, Germany | AFP | The tourism industry is booming as travellers find ever more intrepid ways of exploring the globe and receding security fears revive old favourites. But as industry professionals descend on Berlin for the ITB fair, the world’s largest travel trade show, the news isn’t all good. Some of the most popular destinations are becoming victims of their own success, leaving the sector scrambling to respond to concerns about overcrowding and environmental damage. Here’s a look at the themes expected to dominate this year’s ITB, which runs from Wednesday until Sunday. - Middle East comeback Egypt, Tunisia and Turkey all suffered steep drops in visitor arrivals in recent years after a series of terror attacks and bouts of political instability. But a period of relative calm has tempted tourists to set their fears aside and rediscover these classic destinations, lured by the promise of sun, sea and rock-bottom prices. In Egypt alone, arrivals more than doubled in 2017, according to the World Tourist Organization. Tunisia, badly shaken by a museum attack and beach shooting in 2015 that together killed 60 people, saw tourist arrivals jump by more than a third last year. The Palestinian territories are tipped as an up-and-coming destination, while Israel, despite a tense security situation,

has seen a spike in bookings following a no-expenses-spared promotion campaign. - Winter is coming Some of this year’s hottest destinations are also the coldest, with growing numbers of holidaymakers prepared to shiver to experience the other-worldliness of Lapland, Greenland or Antarctica, or the breathtaking colour show of the Northern Lights. Iceland owes its unprecedented tourism boom in part to “Game of Thrones” fans eager to explore the wild landscapes that featured in the television show. In 2017, the country with fewer than 340,000 residents welcomed a staggering 2.5 million visitors. - Overtourism – While the money they bring may be welcome, the hordes of tourists in places like Iceland has sparked a backlash among locals, who complain that their nation’s pristine locations are being overrun. The grumbles have been even louder in perennially popular places like Barcelona, Amsterdam and Venice, where residents are increasingly fed up with the crowds, the strain on public infrastructure and unaffordable rents as city centre flats become Airbnb holiday lets.

- Mixing business with pleasure Flexible working hours and jobs that can be performed anywhere with wifi have blurred the lines between travelling for business or leisure. These so-called “bleisure” travellers, mainly aged 18 to 34, are free to book a beach escape on a whim or tag a few extra days onto a business trip to do some sightseeing -- so long as their tech needs are met. Thailand, determined to tap into these affluent digital nomads, has embarked on a major push to boost its high-speed internet infrastructure, including on its most remote and picturesque islands. - Every drop counts Hotel guests have long been used to the little cards in the bathroom asking them to reuse their towels. But as environmental pressures grow, hotel chains and tour operators are going a step further, bringing eco-friendly travel into the mainstream. To encourage responsible water use, it is becoming increasingly rare to find large baths in hotel rooms, even in luxury establishments, according to the specialist magazine Travel Weekly.

Authorities have started to take notice, vowing measures to curb the influx –- and posing fresh challenges to the travel industry.

In drought-hit South Africa, hotels have taken action to reduce their laundry loads by switching to paper napkins and washing the linen less frequently.

“So-called overtourism has become a major problem this year,” the IPK International tourism consultancy said in a recent report. “The industry urgently needs to find answers.”

In Norway, the government is planning tough new restrictions on cruise ships entering its spectacular fjords in a bid to lower harmful emissions and crack down on pollution.


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FRIDAY, March 16, 2018

Home&Real Estate H

Houston Real Estate Market Forecast 2018

omes sales normally recede as late summer and fall approach but the devastation of Hurricane Harvey plunged the Houston Real Estate market in 2017 much deeper than normal. 2017 was a year of big weather events including the California wildfires and the Miami Florida Keys Hurricanes. Harvey reportedly flooded about 114,000 homes totalling $29 billion in real estate. That is 6.7% of the local market, and may have affected as much as 14.2% of the housing stock in the Houston area, according to Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist at Fortunately, the worst is over and the Greater Houston Area is recovering fast and the forecast for 2018 is positive for more growth (estimated 2.8%). It can take months to a year to recover from the damage typical in hurricane and flood ravaged areas. Houston seems to be very resilient. In fact, Houston is one of the healthiest housing markets in the US now, with damaged homes coming back on the market and all housing related personnel and resources back in action. The average price for a detached house rose 2.7 % to $285,858 which is a new record for the month of October. October sales of all property types in Houston totaled 7,614, an increase of 6.6% more than October 2016. Total dollar volume climbed 10.8 % to $2.1 billion. Houston Not Like Other Housing Markets What’s unusual about the Houston housing market is how low priced homes have not sold well, yet high priced homes $750,000 are in demand. That contrasts with New York, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, and Boston and the housing market in Florida 2018where high priced homes have waned. In fact, luxury homes have dropped in Calgary, Toronto and Vancouver up in Canada as well. Hurricane Harvey has stimulated the construction and home rehabiliation sectors and has generated heightened demand for leased properties and property management companies in the Houston area. The Hurricane flooded homes and displaced thousands of home owners and renters.

How to select the right wood for your stove, insert or fireplace n EPA-certified wood stove, insert or fireplace can offer your home greater comfort and efficiency and add a rustic look and natural ambiance to any room.


Keep in mind that the type of wood you select to burn does matter, and understanding what your priorities are can be helpful in selecting wood varieties for your stove. For example, ash and sugar maple are both great choices if you want hotter heat, whereas cherry and oak may be lower maintenance, as they provide a slower burn. For more guidance on EPAcertified wood stoves, inserts or fireplaces visit Before firing up your wood stove, take a look at your options and select the right fuel for your needs. (StatePoint).

What’s the Forecast for the Houston Housing Market for 2018 and beyond? A Bloomberg reports says it well: “Far from declining, prices and rents are expected to rise given the sudden housing shortage. Out-of-state investors have even started to swoop in to acquire damaged homes to repair and sell or rent.” “It’s one of the few cities that’s been fast-growing and relatively affordable. That’s going to change now,” said Nela Richardson, chief economist for Redfin. The new economics of Houston will take hold. Research reveals that hurricanes typically raise home values for 3 to 4 years, so there’s no reason to expect any change. In addition, Houston has been home to immense sprawl creating very cheap housing but that access to cheap land may change. Pre Harvey forecasts were of growth, and postHarvey, Houston may have one of the strongest markets going into 2018 and 2019. The Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land metro area reportedly created 43,200 jobs in October, according to the Texas Workforce Commission – the largest singlemonth job gain on record. This job and economic strength will drive home sales and draw in more workers from other states and cities. With the price of oil rising slightly, the Houston economy looks poised to excel in 2018. Rents andhome prices will rise. And if billions were knocked off Houston property values, that’s about to get recovered in 2018. The situation might well be the same for Los Angeles real estate as the fires go out and rebuilding begins in LA County. (-HAR)

Leased Property Demand for lease properties in Houston stayed strong in October. Single-family home leases rose 13.6% while townhome/condominium leases rocketed 34.8%. The average rent for single-family homes rose 2.8% to $1,776 while the average rent for townhomes/ condominiums increased 2.9%

to $1,533. Houston’s market rebounded in September and it’s continued into October In Woodlands TX, the recovery continues as well. Enjoy this infographic report from about the Woodlands market in November. (-HAR)

J.Lo and A-Rod help Bronx kids live the American real estate dream The student team that comes up with the best business plan will have the chance to buy a building worth $1.5 million in the Bronx and develop it.

by Laura Bonilla


EW YORK | AFP | 3/9/2018 - To amass a fortune in real estate, despite New York’s crazy housing prices: that is the challenge thrown down by singer Jennifer Lopez and her boyfriend Alex Rodriguez to kids from the Bronx, the city’s poorest borough.

“We want to put owners and stakeholders in the communities where they live, work and play. If we do that, we do a lot,” said Bobo, an experienced investment banker for the Carlyle Group, one of the power houses of Wall Street.

In this real estate mecca, its skyline in constant flux and whose most famous alumnus Donald Trump is now in the White House, good contacts can open unimaginable doors.

Before moving to the Bronx, where more than 35 percent of the population live in poverty, the program ran in Detroit, Memphis and Miami, helping young people from poorer backgrounds learn the ropes of business.

That was the philosophy of the project’s two founders, Fred Greene and Cedric Bobo, both of them successful black businessmen who wanted to pass on their knowledge and experience to kids from humble backgrounds.

Around 50 young students from the Bronx, most of them black or Latino, have been selected for “Project Destined,” a scheme designed to teach them the ins and outs of financing and real estate and sponsored by J.Lo and A-Rod -- as the retired baseball superstar Rodriguez is known.

At Yankee stadium in the Bronx, the students -- split up into six teams -- lay out their business strategies to a panel of experts that includes Jonathan Gray, head of the Blackstone Group, and Lopez, the megastar singer who herself grew up in the Bronx but who is selling her Manhattan penthouse apartment for $27 million.

“What we are doing here is giving kids a chance to work with us almost like apprentices,” said Bobo. “Kids come in, analyze properties, we then buy them and we share a portion of the profits.”

The youths underwent intense instruction from lawyers, bankers, mortgage companies and realtors, but the course will not be just theoretical.

Are common myths holding you back from buying a home? Photo Source:

spirations of home ownership is strong for America’s families, yet findings from the fifth annual America at Home survey from NeighborWorks America indicate several perceived barriers to homeownership among the majority of consumers.


private mortgage insurance, an added insurance policy that protects the lender if you are unable to pay your mortgage. However, mortgage rates -- despite their rise in recent years -- remain at historic lows, providing you with a significant advantage.

money saved for a down payment. Experts believe that confusion about down payment requirements and lack of awareness about assistance programs are holding back many people from pursuing homeownership. “Before deciding if owning a home is right for you, take time to understand your down payment options, and separate myths from facts,” says Freddie Mac Vice President, Danny Gardner.

Findings from the survey, which consisted of 1,000 U.S. adults and 500 millennials include many misconceptions about what it takes to buy a home: • The average millennial mistakenly thinks the minimum required down payment is 21.6 percent.

There are also millions of dollars available for down payment assistance. A great place to start is right where you live. Many state, county, and city governments provide financial assistance for people in their communities who are well qualified and ready for homeownership.

For example, the average down payment among firsttime homebuyers in 2016 was just 6 percent and, for repeat buyers, just 14 percent. What’s more, mortgage options, such as Freddie Mac’s Home Possible Mortgages, make it possible for qualified borrowers to put down as little as 3 percent.

• Approximately 73 percent of all consumers and 62 percent of millennials said they were not aware of or are unsure about down payment assistance programs in their communities for middle-income homebuyers.

To help demystify down payments and the homebuying process, free tools and resources are available at Don’t let misconceptions hold you back from pursuing homeownership. Check out the facts to learn how much home you can afford. StatePoint).

If your down payment is less than 20 percent with a conventional loan, you’ll have to pay

• Seventy percent of adults feel they don’t have enough

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Voice of Asia E-paper March 16, 2018  

Voice of Asia Newspaper is based in Houston since 1987. We reach South Asian and Asian American families in Houston and surrounding cities i...

Voice of Asia E-paper March 16, 2018  

Voice of Asia Newspaper is based in Houston since 1987. We reach South Asian and Asian American families in Houston and surrounding cities i...