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Indian couple in US sued for calling autistic son ‘public nuisance’

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photo credit: indianexpress.com

Washington: After alleging that their autistic son is a “public nuisance”, an Indian couple was arrested in California, according to a media report.

photo credit: www.autismepicenter.com
photo credit: www.autismepicenter.com

Vidyut Gopal and Parul Agrawal got slapped with a lawsuit filed by their two neighbours. They were ultimately forced to leave their home of seven years in Sunnyvale, one of the major cities that make up Silicon Valley, the San Jose Mercury News reported on Thursday.

Gopal who is an engineer at a Silicon Valley company said, “This has been pretty devastating for us, but we are doing our best to cope with it,”

The couple’s hired caregivers gave the boy special medication and put him in therapeutic classes after neighbours complained about the young boy pulling children’s hair, biting a woman and other menacing behaviour.

Last year, the couple was slapped with a lawsuit that alleges the boy’s disruptive behaviour created an “as-yet unquantified chilling effect on the otherwise ‘hot’ local real estate market” and that “people feel constrained in the marketability of their homes as this issue remains unresolved and the nuisance remains unabated”.

To the Indian-origin parents’ dismay, a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge last October issued a preliminary injunction against them to ensure their son does not strike, assault, or batter anyone in the neighbourhood or their personal property.

Next week, a judge will hear arguments about whether the plaintiffs should have access to the boy’s school and medical records.

Agrawal, a research scientist at NASA Ames Research Centre, said they remain focused on helping their son. But they hope this case “will raise awareness about autism and educate the public” about the challenges that families of children with autism face.

Parents of children with autism fear that such lawsuits could be slapped against them as well.

“What scared us in the Bay Area is that there are thousands of kids just like this one,” Jill Escher, president of the board of the Autism Society of the San Francisco Bay Area, was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, Gopal and Agrawal have decided not to return to their former home, which they have now rented to another family.

(with inputs from IANS)

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What will be the Fate of Net Neutrality after Being Repealed?

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Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai, center, announces the vote was approved to repeal net neutrality, next to Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, left, who voted no, and Commissioner Michael O'Rielly, who voted yes, at the FCC, Dec. 14, 20
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai, center, announces the vote was approved to repeal net neutrality, next to Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, left, who voted no, and Commissioner Michael O'Rielly, who voted yes, at the FCC, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

“Net neutrality” regulations, designed to prevent internet service providers like Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and Charter from favoring some sites and apps over others, have been repealed. On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission voted to dismantle Obama-era rules that have been in place since 2015, but will forbid states to put anything similar in place.

Here’s a look at what the developments mean for consumers and companies.

What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality is the principle that internet providers treat all web traffic equally, and it’s pretty much how the internet has worked since its creation. But regulators, consumer advocates and internet companies were concerned about what broadband companies could do with their power as the pathway to the internet — blocking or slowing down apps that rival their own services, for example.

What did the governments do about it?

The FCC in 2015 approved rules, on a party-line vote, that made sure cable and phone companies don’t manipulate traffic. With them in place, a provider such as Comcast can’t charge Netflix for a faster path to its customers, or block it or slow it down.

The net neutrality rules gave the FCC power to go after companies for business practices that weren’t explicitly banned as well. For example, the Obama FCC said that “zero rating” practices by AT&T violated net neutrality. The telecom giant exempted its own video app from cellphone data caps, which would save some consumers money, and said video rivals could pay for the same treatment. Pai’s FCC spiked the effort to go after AT&T, even before it began rolling out a plan to undo the net neutrality rules entirely.

A federal appeals court upheld the rules in 2016 after broadband providers sued.

The telcos

Big telecom companies hated net neutrality’s stricter regulation and have fought them fiercely in court. They said the regulations could undermine investment in broadband and introduced uncertainty about what were acceptable business practices. There were concerns about potential price regulation, even though the FCC had said it won’t set prices for consumer internet service.

Silicon Valley

Internet companies such as Google have strongly backed net neutrality, but many tech firms were more muted in their activism this year. Netflix, which had been vocal in support of the rules in 2015, said in January that weaker net neutrality wouldn’t hurt it because it’s now too popular with users for broadband providers to interfere.

What happens next

With the rules repealed, net-neutrality advocates say it will be harder for the government to crack down on internet providers who act against consumer interests and will harm innovation in the long-run. Those who criticize the rules say the repeal is good for investment in broadband networks.

But advocates aren’t sitting still. Some groups plan lawsuits to challenge the FCC’s move, and Democrats — energized by public protests in support of net neutrality — think it might be a winning political issue for them in 2018 congressional elections. (VOA)

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California Becomes the first US State to allow Gender-neutral Birth Certificates

The so-called "nonbinary" gender means not exclusively male or female or a combination of two or more "genders."

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The law, published on the government official website, also made it easier for people to change their gender identity on official documents. Pixabay

California, October 17, 2017 : California Governor Jerry Brown has signed a state senate bill, allowing a gender-neutral marker on birth certificates and driver’s licenses starting from 2019.

California thus became the first state in the US to allow a “nonbinary” gender to be marked on birth certificates, Xinhua news agency reported.

The so-called “nonbinary” gender means not exclusively male or female or a combination of two or more “genders.”

According to the Gender Recognition Act approved on Sunday, California will offer a gender-neutral option on state documents for those who are transgender, intersex and others who are not identified as male or female.

ALSO READ Finding their place in the world; Oxford Dictionary to include honorific Mx for transgenders

The law, published on the government official website, also made it easier for people to change their gender identity on official documents.

“Existing law authorises a person who was born in this state and who has undergone clinically appropriate treatment for the purpose of gender transition to obtain a new birth certificate from the State Registrar,” the bill read.

The Golden State is now also the second state in the US to allow residents to be identified by a gender marker other than “F” or “M” on their driver’s license.

Oregon and the District of Columbia had earlier issued the gender-neutral option on their driver’s licenses.

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Bacterial infection in pregnancy may up autism risk in kids

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Bacterial infection in pregnancy may up autism risk in kids. Pixabay

New York, September 15, 2017: Babies born to mothers who experience a bacterial infection severe enough to require hospitalisation during pregnancy may be at higher risk of developing autism, a study has found.

The study, conducted on mice, revealed that the composition of bacterial populations in the mother’s digestive tract can influence whether maternal infection leads to repetitive behaviour and impaired sociability — autistic-like behaviours in offspring.

Further, irregularities that the researchers call “patches” are most common in a part of the brain known as “S1DZ” and were responsible for the behavioural abnormalities seen in mice.

“We identified a very discrete brain region that seems to be modulating all the behaviours associated with this particular model of neurodevelopmental disorder,” said Gloria Choi, Assistant Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in the paper appearing in the journal Nature.

A second study in the same jounal, revealed that not all mothers who experience severe infection end up having child with autism, and similarly not all the mice in the maternal inflammation model develop behavioural abnormalities.

“This suggests that inflammation during pregnancy is just one of the factors. It needs to work with additional factors to lead all the way to that outcome,” Choi said.

Moreover, the researchers found that only the offspring of mice with one specific type of harmless bacteria, known as segmented filamentous bacteria, had behavioural abnormalities and cortical patches.

When the researchers killed those bacteria with antibiotics, the mice produced normal offspring.

If validated in human studies, the findings could offer a possible way to reduce the risk of autism, which would involve blocking the function of certain strains of bacteria found in the maternal gut, the researchers noted. (IANS)