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Hands Up: Indian-American artist generates empathy for US police gunbattles victims

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"Hands Up," an interactive digital video project by Roopa Vasudevan and Atif Ateeq in New York sparks discussion of encountr killings of minorities in the United Sttes. Credit: Humai Mustafa

"Hands Up," an interactive digital video project by Roopa Vasudevan and Atif Ateeq in New York sparks discussion of encountr killings of minorities in the United Sttes. Credit: Humai Mustafa
“Hands Up,” an interactive digital video project by Roopa Vasudevan and Atif Ateeq in New York sparks discussion of encounter killings of minorities in the United States.
Credit: Humai Mustafa

New York: An Indian-American digital artist and educator has produced an interactive multimedia installation to explore the problem of killings in police gunbattles in the US. according to a media estimate these gunbattles result in at least two deaths every day.

The “Hands Up” digital exhibit is about “generating empathy”, said Roopa Vasudevan, who created it with fellow Pakistani American artist Atif Ateeq.

“Obviously, there is no way to fully understand what a confrontation like this is, unless it happens to you,” Vasudevan said. “We hoped to allow our visitors to get a degree of understanding of how charged and emotional the situation actually is.”

“Hands Up” simulates the high-adrenaline gunbattle situation in a cacophony of shouts, commands and sirens in a dark scenario ripped by sudden flashes of blue, white and red police car beacons, invoking a sense of dread and foreboding.

As the intimidating voice of the law orders “Hands up,” and a visitor responds, bursts of light simulate gunfire and sounds of explosion ricochet. The viewers are plunged into the virtual reality of split second decisions that become the arbiters of death and life.

It was on display recently at Flux Factory, a community of artists in the city’s Queens borough, an area that is home to a large number of Indians and South Asians.

Asked if she saw police brutality as an issue for Asians and Indians in the US, Vasudevan said: “Absolutely.”

“This is an issue of an imbalance of power,” she explained. “Obviously, most of the focus in the media recently has been on interactions with African American men, but it’s worth noting that this speaks to a larger story of how minorities are looked at and treated in this country.”

In February a visitor from India, Sureshbhai Patel, was left partially paralysed after being roughed up by police in Alabama, although he was not shot.

Last February, an Indian American who had served in the US Army in Iraq returned home to California only to be shot dead by police. Police claimed that Parminder Singh Shergill had charged at them with a knife, but eyewitnesses asserted that he was unarmed.

The Washington Post reported recently that its analysis found that 385 people have been killed in police shootings so far this year.

A disproportionate number of those killed were minorities. Among the unarmed victims, two-thirds were African Americans or Latinos, the newspaper said. When adjusted for proportions in the population in the areas of shootings, African Americans were three times as likely to be killed as other ethnic or racial groups, its analysis found.

Vasudevan said that after grand juries refused last year to indict the white police officers involved in two separate incidents – the choking death of an unarmed man, Eric Garner in New York, and shooting death of a teenager, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri – she and Ateeq wanted to see “how we could productively contribute to the conversation and movement for change.”

“As artists, both of us strongly felt that generating empathy for someone placed in the situation of being confronted by the police was key to the path to understanding, and that the best way to do that was by creating a large, immersive art piece,” she said.

Facing mounting criticism over police conduct, Pat Lynch, the head of the New York City police union, denounced the exhibit, saying “it perpetuates a falsehood about police officers and their use of force”.

The atmosphere of chaos and tension created in the exhibit, however, also illustrate the conditions that police operate under.

Vasudevan, denying it was anti-police, said: “It’s not such a cut and dry thing, so-and-so was right and so-and-so was wrong. There’s a lot happening in the moment. It’s our hope that our work can add to the discussion of what can be done to change things.”

Vasudevan has been a director for MTV’s Emmy award-winning series, “True Life,” and her digital work has been featured by the American Museum of Natural History, National 9/11 Museum, and The New York Times. She also teaches at Fordham and New York universities.

Asked about artists of Indian and Pakistani descent working together, she said: “The piece was more about being a minority in the United States than anything else. We didn’t necessarily keep the specifics of our backgrounds in mind when collaborating.” (IANS)

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United States Bombers Fly Near To North Korea’s Coast

The US flew bombers near North Korea's coast on Saturday, an action the Defense Department said was meant to send a clear message to Pyongyang about the country's military options.

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Source: Wikimedia Common

Washington, September 24, 2017: The US flew bombers near North Korea’s coast on Saturday, an action the Defense Department said was meant to send a clear message to Pyongyang about the country’s military options.

“This mission is a demonstration of US resolve and a clear message that (President Donald Trump) has many military options to defeat any threat,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement, Efe news reported.

“North Korea’s weapons program is a grave threat to the Asia-Pacific region and the entire international community. We are prepared to use the full range of military capabilities to defend the US homeland and our allies,” the statement added.

White said US Air Force B-1B bombers from the US island territory of Guam and US Air Force F-15C Eagle fighter escorts from Okinawa, Japan “flew in international airspace over waters east of North Korea.”

“This is the farthest north of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) any US fighter or bomber aircraft have flown off North Korea’s coast in the 21st century, underscoring the seriousness with which we take (North Korea’s) reckless behavior,” White said.

The Pentagon’s announcement came before North Korea addressed the United Nations’ General Assembly on Saturday and after the US imposed new sanctions on Pyongyang this week.

Those new sanctions bar ships and aircraft from visiting the US within 180 days of having gone to North Korea.

The ban also applies to vessels that have done a ship-to-ship transfer with a vessel that has visited North Korea within 180 days.

Trump ordered the sanctions via a decree whose aim is to “maximize pressure on North Korea to demonstrate to its leadership that the best and only path is to return to denuclearization.”

A new nuclear test by Pyongyang earlier this month and Trump’s belligerent rhetoric have caused tensions on the Korean peninsula to soar over the last year.

Seismic activity Saturday in North Korea, meanwhile, sparked fears that Pyongyang may have conducted yet another nuclear test, but experts said the small earthquake was probably due to natural causes.

North Korea has refused to back down in the face of international pressure and on Saturday said it was nearing completion of its nuclear goals but that its program was intended merely as a deterrent.

“We do not have any intention at all to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against the countries that do not join in the US military actions against (the Asian nation),” North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho told the UN General Assembly on Saturday.

Ri on Friday said North Korea may test a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean, making those remarks after Trump inflamed tensions in his debut speech before the UN.

Trump ominously warned Pyongyang on Tuesday that the US would obliterate the Asian country if necessary.

“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” Trump said in his UN speech. (IANS)

ALSO READ: India-based technology company Infosys to create 10,000 jobs in the United States

 

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US will Provide $32 Million to Rohingyas As Humanitarian Aid Package

The United States state department will provide a humanitarian aid package to the Rohingya Muslim minority who have fled violence in Myanmar and crossed into neighbouring Bangladesh

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The US will provide a humanitarian aid package worth $32 million to the Rohingya Muslim minority Source: Wikimedia Common

New York, September 21, 2017: The US will provide a humanitarian aid package worth $32 million to the Rohingya Muslim minority who have fled violence in Myanmar and crossed into neighbouring Bangladesh, the State Department announced.

The funding “reflects the US commitment to help address the unprecedented magnitude of suffering and urgent humanitarian needs of the Rohingya people,” said the State Department’s Acting Assistant Secretary Simon Henshaw on Wednesday at the ongoing UN General Assembly here.

He added that the US hoped its contribution would encourage other countries to provide more funding as well, reports CNN.

The aid package comes a day after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke with Myanmar de facto leader of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi and “welcomed the Myanmar government’s commitment to end the violence in Rakhine state and to allow those displaced by the violence to return home,” according to the State Department.

Tillerson “urged the Myanmar government and military to facilitate humanitarian aid for displaced people in the affected areas, and to address deeply troubling allegations of human rights abuses and violations”.

The State Department also said the aid “will help provide emergency shelter, food security, nutritional assistance, health assistance, psychosocial support, water, sanitation and hygiene, livelihoods, social inclusion, non-food items, disaster and crisis risk reduction, restoring family links, and protection to the over 400,000 displaced persons”.

ALSO READ: Melbourne Sikhs join protests in Australia against Rohingya Muslims massacre.

Henshaw said Wednesday’s announcement brought the total US aid to Myanmar refugees, including Rohingya, to nearly $95 million in fiscal year 2017.

Some 415,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since the ongoing violence broke out on August 25 when Rohingya rebels attacked police checkposts in Rakhine resulting in the deaths os 12 security personnel, CNN reported.

Speaking at the UN Security Council on Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence called on the world body “to take strong and swift action to bring this crisis” of violence against the Rohingya people in Myanmar to an end.

“The United States renews our call on Burma’s security forces to end their violence immediately and support diplomatic efforts for a long-term solution.

“President (Donald) Trump and I also call on this security council and the United Nations to take strong and swift action to bring this crisis to an end.”

Pence also spoke about how the violence in Myanmar is a perfect example of the kind of problem the UN should help solve. (IANS)

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Indian Travellers Emerging as Key Market for America: Brand USA

According to Brand USA, India ranks 11th in international visitors and also represents the sixth biggest spender with $13.6 billion registered last year

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Sean Donohue, CEO, Dallas Fort Worth Airport Richard Fain, Chairman & CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Christopher L Thompson, President & CEO, Brand USA. Wikimedia

Sep 17, 2017: The Indian outbound traveller is now a much-coveted commodity around the world, as the country’s booming middle class seeks new destinations and emerges as a key market.

The Indian market has set a new record as 1.17 million tourists visited the US last year, according to Brand USA, the nation’s first public-private partnership to promote the United States as a travel destination.

“Brand USA has reached the million visitor mark from India, we expect much more growth. This year has seen our largest delegation of our Brand USA India mission with nearly 40 organisations, we actually had a waiting list of people wanting to tap the indian market. And that really shows the importance that India has,” Suzana Shepard, Manager Global Trade Development Brand USA, said during a branding event organized by Brand USA representative Sartha Global Marketing in New Delhi.

In February, Brand USA inaugurated the US-India travel and tourism partnership year in Delhi, led by the US Department of Commerce’s National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO). The NTTO had forecast a 72 per cent increase in arrivals from 2015 through 2021.

While business travelers and family visits have been the norm so far, more Indians travel to less visited states and try new activities involving adventure and thrills.

“Indians are big consumers of adventure activities and this is exactly what we got in Nevada for them. The US is very much a road trip destination and there is so much to see, different landscapes, just like in India I guess but with a different decor, different people and a great melting pot of cultures,” said Claudia Vecchio, Director of the Department of Tourism & Cultural Affairs in Nevada.

According to Brand USA, India ranks 11th in international visitors and also represents the sixth biggest spender with $13.6 billion registered last year.

“There is really a great opportunity, only one per cent of the population has a passport and there is a growing middle class. It leaves room for a lot development,” Shepard said.

The increasing number of direct flights from India by national carrier Air India has also helped in catering to the tourists’ demand, the latest being Delhi-Washington DC. A couple of years ago, Air India also added San Francisco to its other non-stop flights to New York, Chicago and Newark. The carrier is said to be evaluating a direct flight to Los Angeles as well.

“With the non-stop service from India, San Francisco Airport has seen the traffic back and forth to India grow by 10 per cent, said Melissa Andretta, Director of International Marketing at San Francisco International Airport.

“The United States has always been a prime destination for Indian tourists, the country being home to an important Indian diaspora. We are seeing a lot of FITs coming, a lot of Indian weddings celebrated in Washington DC where an important Indian origin population lives. You can even celebrate Indian festivals like Diwali just like you would do in India as the city organises special decorations and festivities,” said Yi Lu, International Sales Manager at Destination DC.

On the recent visa restrictions on Indian travellers to the USA, Shepard said that they had no impact on the tourism to India and that Indians are warmly welcomed by many Americans. (IANS)