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Senior U.S. Lawmakers want Modi to address U.S. Congress in June

Invitation to address Senate and House is considered a great honor. Past year Pope Francis and Japanese PM Abe were the only invitees.

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India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures as he addresses a gathering in New Delhi, India, January 16, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

U.S. Capitol, Washington DC. Wikimedia Commons
U.S. Capitol, Washington DC. Wikimedia Commons

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee called on Tuesday for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address a joint meeting of Congress during a visit to Washington in June.

“Given the depth of our relationship with India across a range of areas – defense, humanitarian and disaster relief, space cooperation, conservation and innovation – we believe this is an ideal opportunity for the Congress to hear directly from the prime minister,” Representatives Ed Royce, the Republican committee chairman, and Eliot Engel, the panel’s ranking Democrat, wrote to House Speaker Paul Ryan.

The invitation would be a sharp turnaround for a leader who was once barred from the United States over massacres of Muslims.

A spokeswoman for Ryan said she had no announcement at this time about whether Ryan would extend the invitation.

Invitations to address the Senate and House are considered a great honor. There have been only two in the past year: Pope Francis, on Sept. 24, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on April 29, 2015.

When Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies swept India’s elections in 2014, there initially were questions about whether he would qualify for a visa. President Barack Obama quickly dismissed the issue by inviting him to the White House when he called to congratulate him on his victory.

In 2002, when Modi had just become Gujarat’s chief minister, more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in sectarian riots in the state.

The administration of President George W. Bush denied Modi a visa in 2005 under a 1998 U.S. law barring entry to foreigners who have committed “particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”

Modi denied any wrongdoing. India’s Supreme Court ruled in 2010 he had no case to answer.

Washington sees its relationship with India as critical, partly to counterbalance China’s rising power. Obama has called it “one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century.”

The letter to Ryan was also signed by Republican Representative George Holding and Democrat Ami Bera, the co-chairmen of the Congress Caucus on India and Indian Americans.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle)

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Modi pens foreword for Hema Malini’s biography

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Hema Malini

New Delhi, Oct 13 : Prime Minister Narendra Modi has penned a “short, crisp and sweet” foreword for “Beyond The Dreamgirl”, an authorised biography of actress and BJP MP Hema Malini.

The book, by former editor of Stardust and producer Ram Kamal Mukherjee, will be launched on October 16, when the “evergreen beauty” turns 69. Its launch also marks the celebration of Hema Malini’s glorious run of 50 years in Indian showbiz.

“Our PM has written very briefly in the book about his feelings for Hemaji. It’s short, crisp and sweet, not rubble and bubble. It’s an honour for me as an author and for Hemaji also that it is perhaps the first time that an active Prime Minister has written a foreword for a book on a Bollywood actor,” Mukherjee told IANS over the phone from Mumbai.

Having started her film career in 1968 with Raj Kapoor-starrer “Sapno Ka Saudagar”, she regaled movie buffs with roles in films like “Seeta Aur Geeta”, “Sholay”, “Dream Girl” and “Satte Pe Satta”. An accomplished classical dancer, Hema Malini earned the epithet of ‘Dreamgirl’ for her flawless beauty, and became a pioneering female superstar in an otherwise male-oriented film industry.

In 1999, Hema Malini campaigned for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate in the Lok Sabha elections in Gurdaspur, Punjab. She is now a BJP MP from Mathura constituency.

“I guess it’s all because of Hemaji’s credentials and contribution to art and cinema that Mr Modi agreed to pen the foreword. When I was interacting with his office, they were very happy that Hemaji did not just limit her talk in the book to Bollywood,” said Mukherjee, who had in 2005 released a coffee table book called “Hema Malini Diva Unveiled”.

“Beyond The Dreamgirl”, published by HarperCollins India, will give readers an in-depth look into her life.

“It is divided into 23 chapters, covering her childhood, teens, Bollywood, rise as an actor, romance, colleagues, marriage, her second innings, launching Shah Rukh Khan in ‘Dil Aashna Hai’ — which she directed — her ballet, her political journey and spiritual journey. There are two chapters dedicated to her daughters Esha and Ahana.

“She has also spoken about her Agra accident and her singing career. We have summed it all up with a chapter called ‘Bliss’. This book will also have Hemaji’s family tree, which has not been published earlier, and there will be a lot of exclusive unseen photographs from her personal, professional and political spheres,” Mukherjee said.

The ageless talent has shared an insight into her life with Dharmendra as well as spoken on political figures like Modi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L.K. Advani and Sushma Swaraj.

How did Mukherjee get Modi to pen the foreword?

“It was not something thought of when I started writing the book two years ago. I started my research and wanted somebody else to do the foreword,” he said, without naming the film industry person whom he had approached.

“It was almost like a miracle to have Mr Modi write for us. When I discussed it with Hemaji, her first expression was, ‘I hope you know what you’re saying. I know you’re under pressure, but I think you’re losing your mind’.

“When I said there’s no harm in trying, she said, ‘You try and do whatever you want to do’. Then it was a process.”

The writer feels it’s the actress’ constant effort in promoting Indian classical music and dance through her ballets on Hindu mythological characters like Durga and Meera, which Modi appreciates.

“I think Mr Modi liked her inclination towards classical dance and music and how she promotes it at international platforms. I think this is a USP of Hema Maliniji, apart from she being Hema Malini. And I guess that’s also what justifies the title of the book.”(IANS)

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Las Vegas Mass Shooting Reignites Gun Debate in US Congress

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Gun Shop in US
Assault weapons and handguns are seen for sale at Capitol City Arms Supply in Springfield. voa

Amid an outpouring of grief and condolences as the death toll of Las Vegas Mass Shooting, climbed higher. U.S. senator, Chris Murphy sent out a tweet, pointing an angry finger at his colleagues on Capitol Hill.

Murphy represents Connecticut, where a gunman toting a semi-automatic rifle slaughtered 20 children aged six and seven at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Congress enacted no legislation restricting firearms in the months that followed, nor after any subsequent mass shooting, including last year’s bloodbath at an Orlando, Florida nightclub that left 49 people dead.

“Thoughts and prayers need to be matched by action,” Murphy said later on the Senate floor. “The reason why we exist is to act, is to change the laws of the nation, to address challenges that our constituents face.”

During a visit to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico on Tuesday, President Donald Trump praised Las Vegas’ police force and said, “We’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes by.”

Forcing the dialogue

In both houses of Congress, many Democrats are attempting to force an immediate dialogue in hopes of jumpstarting legislation on measures that have broad public support, such as expanding background checks for gun purchasers and scrutinizing firearms sales at gun shows.

The NRA did not comment immediately on the carnage in Las Vegas, but other organizations representing gun owners insisted the mass shooting in no way invalidates Americans’ constitutional right to bear arms.

“There’s no way to make a law, any law that would stop an evil person from doing an evil deed,” Eddie Fulmer, president of Bama Carry, an Alabama run rights group, told VOA. “I don’t think restrictions do anything but prevent honest, law-abiding people from getting a weapon they need and deserve to have, with the freedoms we have in America.”

Murphy rejected such arguments after the Newtown slaughter and did so again this week.

“Laws do work,” the Democratic senator said. “Though you can’t regulate away evil in total, you can do more to protect people.”

Although there is little appetite for new gun restrictions among Republicans who control both houses of Congress, legislation to liberalize firearms sales is being put on hold. House Speaker Paul Ryan announced on Tuesday that a bill deregulating the sale of gun silencers has been shelved.

Trump is to travel to Las Vegas Wednesday to mourn the loss of life and honor the city’s first responders. Democrats want the president to do much more. (voa)

 

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Actor “Prabhas” extends support to Modi’s Clean India campaign

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Prabhas extends support to Modi's Clean India campaign
wikipedia

Chennai, Sep 29 : “Baahubali” fame Prabhas on Friday said he extends his full support to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Swachhata Hi Seva” movement, adding that he sees the Clean India campaign not as a duty but as a habit.

“As we approach this significant day, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhiji, who always strived for cleanliness, I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the great work happening on making India clean and green with the Swachh Bharat Initiative,” Prabhas posted on his Facebook page.

Swachh Bharat: 10 easy steps that will make “clean india campaign” successful

He added that Clean India is something he personally believes in.

“Keeping my country clean and healthy is not just my duty as a citizen but also a habit. To all those who feel the same, let’s continue doing our best for a cleaner India,” he said.

Earlier this month, Modi had written personal letters to celebrities, industrialists and noted personalities to enlist their support for the initiative.

Quoting Mahatma Gandhi, Modi said Swachhata is for each of us to practice.

He also said the days leading up to Gandhi Jayanti on October 2 should be about “encouraging widespread participation in cleanliness initiatives across the country.”

Superstar Rajinikanth and filmmaker S.S Rajamouli have already expressed their support.(ians)