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COMMUNITY | News in Brief: May 2010

Consul General Susmita Thomas Visits Denver | Six Indian Americans Win Soros Graduate Fellowship | Confidentiality Concerns | Baisakhi in LA | Science Award | Latest Album | Understanding Autism

Consul General Susmita Thomas Visits Denver

Consul General Susmita Gongulee Thomas speaking at NUICC.

Consul General of India in San Francisco Susmita Gongulee Thomas visited Denver March 28-29 with the objective of strengthening Colorado's ties with India. She was accompanied by Kumar Tuhin, consul for political, economic and consular affairs and Ashok K. Sinha, consul for community affairs. 

Consul General Thomas met Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter in March 29 and discussed with him ways for further strengthening bilateral cooperation and exchanges. She told Governor Ritter that rapid growth of Indian economy presented tremendous opportunities for Colorado companies, urging them to take advantage of the growing Indian market. Specifically, she cited the sectors of energy, infrastructure, education, agriculture, knowledge, biotechnology and film-making. Ritter agreed that there was a vast potential for upscaling economic interaction between the two sides, especially in the energy sector, including clean energy, where the competitive strength of Colorado companies was well established. 

Earlier March 29, Thomas addressed a meeting convened by National U.S. India Chamber of Commerce. On hand were Lakewood City Mayor Bob Murphy, Colorado Chief Deputy Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, co-chairman of NUICC advisory board Sam Zakhem, president and CEO of NUICC Purnima Voria and several top businessmen and entrepreneurs from the City of Denver. In her address, Thomas highlighted the growth of Indian economy to its present status of second fastest growing economy and the opportunities that it presented for Colorado-India ties.

Thomas met prominent members of Indian American community as well as select local government and business official in the evening of March 28 over a reception.  Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., met her during this reception. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper sent in their greetings to her.  The consul general also gave interviews to the Denver Post, the Denver Business Journal and the ICOSA magazine, highlighting the business opportunities in India.


Six Indian Americans Win Soros Graduate Fellowship

Six Indian Americans are among the thirty 2010 Paul and Daisy Soros New American Fellows. Each will receive up to a $20,000 stipend plus half tuition for as many as two years of graduate study at any institution of higher learning in the U.S.

They are Zahir Dossa of MIT, Amit Jain of Johns Hopkins Medical School, Hari Prabhakar of Harvard Medical School, Naman Shah of the University of North Carolina and Aarti Shahani of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

The purpose of The Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans is to provide opportunities for continuing generations of able and accomplished New Americans to achieve leadership in their chosen fields.

Zahir Dossa, a graduate student at MIT, collaborated with a fellow student to create Selsabila to distribute low-tech but very inexpensive irrigation pumps to low-income farmers in Sudan.

Johns Hopkins medical student Amit Jain envisions a healthier, happier planet that he believes is conceivable through technological innovations and scientific breakthroughs.

Hari Prabhakar, a first-year student at Harvard Medical School, had majored in public health studies at The Johns Hopkins University, graduated in 2007, and was selected to be a British Marshall Scholar.  Harvard medical student Deep Shah, a recipient of a Truman scholarship; graduated summa cum laude with majors in biology and international affairs; elected to Phi Beta Kappa, was named the 2008 Georgia Outstanding Scholar; and received a Rhodes scholarship. 

Naman Shah is a third-year candidate for the MD and PhD degrees in the Medical Scientist Training Program at the University of North Carolina from where he graduated earlier with highest honors and distinction in public service majoring in environmental health in the School of Public Health. 

Aarti Shahani, a graduate student specializing in public policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, worked seven years to block her father's deportation from the U.S.


Confidentiality Concerns

First Row: Quyen Vuong (International Children Assistance Network), Heona Lee (Korean American Community Service Agency), Jackie Maruhashi (Asian Law Alliance), Sarah Gonzalez (Filipino Youth Coalition), Alofa Talivaa (Samoan Census Outreach Activist), Naren Bakshi (India Community Center).
Second Row: Vince Khanna (Census Bureau), Zahra Billoo (Council of American Islamic Relations), Ahmed Dirie (Bay Area Somali Community), Pastor Hue Kieu (Church of Faith and Hope), Jose Eduardo Loreto (Deputy Consul of Mexico), Jaime Alvarado (Somos Mayfair).

Various South Bay immigrant community based organizations forming the Santa Clara County Immigrant Complete Count Committee came together April 13 to assure the immigrant population that information collected during the 2010 Census information is strictly protected by law.

Federal laws protect every individual’s census responses. The Census Bureau is bound by Title 13 of the United States Code. In addition, other federal laws, including the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act and the Privacy Act, reinforce these protections.

“We know many in the immigrant community are choosing to not participate in the census for fear immigration or other government agencies will have access to the information they provide on the questionnaire. As community advocates we are working hard on numerous outreach efforts to dissipate fears and assure people that the census is a completely confidential process”, said Jackie Maruhashi, staff attorney with the Asian Law Alliance.

“The sector of the immigrant community which feels uneasy about the census primarily lives in areas that are in most need in federal resources. Neighborhoods in San Jose such as Mayfair, Santee and Seven Trees where schools are dilapidated, community centers are closed due to lack of funding and health services are scarce” said Quyen Vuong of ICAN.

“We need our communities to participate in the census because this is our opportunity to clearly demonstrate the new demographic of the United States. As people of color we continue to be called ‘minorities’ but we feel this census will show otherwise. Our numbers will be the political leverage we will use for improving our schools, winning a just immigration reform and pushing the Obama administration to offer more help to the working class through civic works projects” explained Alofa Talivaa, a community leader in the Samoan community.


Baisakhi in LA

Dr. Kali Pradeep Chaudhuri, actress Mallika Sherawat, LA county Sheriff Lee Baca, Nigeria's Prince HRH Malik Ado-Ibrahim and Kevin Kaul. [Surendra Prakash photo]

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca’s Indo American Advisory Council and Hollywood/Bollywood actress Mallika Sherawat celebrated India’s Baisakhi festival at the Los Angeles Convention center April 10 along with Bollywood music composer Bappi Lahiri, state Assemblyman Td Lieu, Dr. Kali Pradeep Chaudhuri, Dr.Manohara and Mahesh Shastri.

A speech from CEO of Friends of South Asian American Communities Kevin Kaul , who also organized this event, said that a lot of future Indo-American community events are going to be held in the LA Convention Center, so let’s get used to coming to this place, because Los Angeles  is truly the city of angels.

The presenter of the evening was Hollywood writer/director Krishna Shah. As chief guest, Baca gave  a number of awards on the community members present. After meeting celebrity guest Mallika Sherwat,  Baca  said that his family will be watching more Bollywood movies and shows.

Sherwat also received an award from Baca, and she thanked him and all the event organizers for inviting her to the event and showing her so much love. She also said that she is really proud to be here.

Dr. Chaudhuri,  an orthopedic surgeon who is well known in the health care field  and who has practiced in Southeast Asia, the United Kingdom and in the U.S., is engaged in various kinds of industries like bio-fuel, IT services, engineering and medical science. 


Science Award

Subhash Khot

Indian-American computer scientist Subhash Khot has been selected for a prestigious $500,000 national award. Dr. Khot, a theoretical computer scientist, is known for his "Unique Games Conjecture.” He works in the line of science called "Computational Complexity," which seeks to understand the power and limits of efficient computation.

He will receive the prestigious Alan T. Waterman Award for the National Science Foundation for 2010 for his outstanding research. Knot is an associate professor at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. He will be presented the award on May 4 at a dinner ceremony to be held in Washington at the U.S. Department of State.

The Alan T. Waterman Award is given annually to an outstanding researcher under the age of 36 in any field of science and engineering supported by the NSF. The honor includes a grant of $500,000 over three years of scientific research or advanced study in the recipient's field of science.

"Subhash Khot is a gifted and ambitious young scientist," said NSF director Arden L. Bement, Jr.

"He courageously tackles some of the most challenging computational problems, all the while advancing computer security, with vast consequences for the broader security of our personal identities, commercial interests, societal institutions, even for national security as a whole,"  stated the director.


Latest Album

Bappi Lahiri [Surendra Prakash photo]

Bollywood singer-composer Bappi Lahiri talked to Siliconeer April 5 at the Rusk studios on Sunset Boulevard.

Bappi was dressed in his usual colorful attire with lots of gold chains. He spoke enthusiastically about his new album, the title of which he has not yet finalized. The track is by Gerald Albright, four-time Grammy nominated musician, two tracks of which has already been recorded. The album is being released to raise funds for Haiti.

He said he has recorded another album as a tribute to Michael Jackson sung by him and Terry Young.

Bappida said it is a very good album which speaks about love, peace and life with music by Gerald Albright.

He revealed that his son Bappa Lahiri and himself have composed and arranged the songs. This album will be released in the U.S. market and India this year.

Bappida said with the blessings of everyone and love this venture of his would be successful.


Understanding Autism

Currently, one in 110 children in the United States has autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Autism is a developmental disability that occurs when the brain has trouble functioning properly. It affects a child’s ability to speak, learn, and communicate with others. At this time, there is no cure for autism, but kids who are screened and diagnosed at a young age and visit a doctor regularly for treatment show significant improvement in learning and communication skills. 

In recognition of April being Autism Awareness Month, First 5 California wants parents and caregivers to be aware of the following early signs of autism to help families identify a need for early intervention and treatment.

Not all children develop at the same rate, but some may need further evaluation and special services to help them grow up healthy. Autism, in particular, can be difficult to diagnose because it affects each child differently. Pay attention to certain signs in your child’s behavior. See a health care provider for further screenings if you notice your child exhibits any of these indicators:

Does not coo or smile by 6 months old
Has trouble sitting, standing up, or reaching for objects by 1 year old
Does not say simple words like “mama” or “dada” by 1 year old
Does not turn his or her head to follow sounds or voices
Does not react to loud noises
Repeats certain behaviors, including some that are harmful like banging his or her head
Makes little or no eye contact and wants to be alone
Does not play games like peek-a-boo or “pretend” (e.g., pretending to feed a doll)
Any loss of speech or social skills

By getting help at an early age when the brain is still developing – from birth to age 3 – parents can help children reduce the effects of autism by the time they start kindergarten.

For more information, contact First 5 California at (800) KIDS-025 or visit www.first5california.com/parents.

To learn more about OCAPICA, visit www.ocapica.org.



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