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Yoga guru Bikram Choudhury to pay $6.5 million in punitive damages

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Washington: What comes as a significant blow to his career, a Los Angeles County jury ordered Yoga founder Bikram Choudhury to pay over $6.5 million to his ex-attorney in punitive damages for harassment.

Minakshi Jafa-Bodden, who was employed by Choudhury as his general counsel in 2011, sued the 69-year-old yoga instructor alleging that she suffered gender discrimination, wrongful termination, and sexual harassment, according to a news agency report.

The decision was taken a day after Choudhury was ordered to pay Jafa-Bodden approximately $1 million as compensatory damages. On 26 January, the jury found Choudhury guilty of acting with malice, oppression, and fraud, allowing Jafa-Bodden to proceed with punitive damages immediately.

Jafa-Bodden alleged that she was fired in 2013 for investigating the claims of Choudhury raping a yoga student.

Choudhury’s attorneys, however, claimed that Jafa-Bodden was let go because she did not have a license to practice in the United States. However, Jafa-Bodden countered the claim by saying the yoga guru had persuaded her to leave India in 2011 to work for him in America.

During the court proceedings, Choudhury claimed that he did not have any knowledge of his net worth, and had not been making any money from the yoga business for several years. He did acknowledge the fact that he owned a fleet of 40 luxury cars, but claimed that he had transferred the ownership of the cars to the state of California to start a ‘Bikram auto engineering school for children’.

His statements were overridden when one of Jafa-Bodden’s lawyers displayed photographs of Bikram Choudhury’s Beverly Hills Mansion, and a pair of white Ferraris he had brought for his children.

Bikram Choudhury, who left the courtroom without commenting, has in the past been sued by six other women for sexual misconduct. On being questioned about these incidents during the recent trial, Choudhury denied he had sexually assaulted any woman.(IANS)(Image- wikipedia)

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Indiana, The New Mini Tech Capital of America

In the past, CEO Steve Hershberger hired from big universities near Silicon Valley. Now, he needs coders to work on the connection between beer kegs to his iKeg app, and he is choosing interns from Kenzie because of the quality he sees in the candidates.

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Masters candidate Diego Garcia said when he thinks of high tech, he thinks of
representational image, pixabay

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA —

Kavitha Kamalbabu needed a break. She had raised her two children and the youngest was now in kindergarten. It was time to turn attention to her career. The 36-year-old wanted to code. The mecca of high tech — Silicon Valley — wasn’t an option because she needed to stay close to home and family in Indianapolis, Indiana.

“I chose Kenzie Academy because of its life project-based learning,” she said.

Kamalbabu is now at the top of her class, getting a two-year degree as a software developer. Kenzie, based in Indianapolis, was established to keep talent in Middle America and to create a mini tech capital.

“Our point is to bring people from Indianapolis to stay in Indianapolis,” said founder Courtney Spence. To do that, they place students in local companies as quickly as possible after their enrollment.

For one class, Kamalbabu, originally from India, found herself asking questions about measuring beer and learning how data increases profit. The class was taking a tour of Steady Serve — a local beer management system that invented a device to measure the content of kegs to reduce waste and fraud.

“It’s on the cusp of what we are seeing as being a tech boom,” Spence said.
Students tour Steady Serve, VOA

In the past, CEO Steve Hershberger hired from big universities near Silicon Valley. Now, he needs coders to work on the connection between beer kegs to his iKeg app, and he is choosing interns from Kenzie because of the quality he sees in the candidates.

“It’s like they folded the country and brought San Jose [the heart of Silicon Valley] into Indianapolis.”

By the numbers

Indianapolis is Middle America. Located in the Corn Belt, Indiana is known for its farms — the state’s model is “The Crossroads of America.” City leaders said that perception is changing. Indianapolis deputy mayor of economic development Angela Smith Jones calls Indianapolis “Western Silicon Valley” with a “great startup culture.”

Last year, technology companies in Indianapolis contributed $7.7 billion into the city’s economy and employed 75,000 people.

Job postings for emerging tech are up 40 percent over last year, and the city’s unemployment rate is currently 3 percent, which is lower than the national average.

The average tech industry wage in Indiana is $76,860.

“It’s on the cusp of what we are seeing as being a tech boom,” Spence said.

Masters candidate Diego Garcia said when he thinks of high tech, he thinks of "California or New York, not Indianapolis."
Kenzie Student, VOA

Not so fast

But students majoring in tech at Stanford University — a research school located in the heart of Silicon Valley — were unimpressed. Freshman Max Comolli said he wouldn’t be enticed to leave California for Indianapolis because of the opportunities and “such a great tech scene already established.”

Masters candidate Diego Garcia said when he thinks of high tech, he thinks of “California or New York, not Indianapolis.” But freshman Alexa White from Detroit, Michigan, thinks a tech capital in the Midwest would “benefit the field” and create diversity.

The gender diversity hasn’t reached Kenzie, although school officials said they actively recruit females. The next class of 18 students starting later this year will have three women. Of the current class, only Kamalbabu and an African American are female.

Also Read: Lenovo Launches V-Series Laptop in India 

Statistically, women — and especially women of color — make up a small percentage of the tech field. But 24-year-old Mya Williams called it a “pleasant surprise” when she saw Kamalbabu on the first day of class because she thought she would be the only female. Williams said young girls aren’t encouraged to concentrate in math and science. “They get looked over when it comes to software,” she said.

To Asia and beyond

Kenzie officials plan to duplicate the academy model, starting in Malaysia. Spence goes a step further. “We have a commitment to replicate it around the world,” she said. (VOA)