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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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Architecture of US Homes Tell Story of America

From colonials to Victorians to ranch-style houses and McMansions, the story of American residential architecture is that it tends to be eclectic

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america, architecture, US homes
A home built in the colonial style in New Castle, New Hampshire. (Photo by Carol Highsmith) VOA

The architecture of American homes is a lot like America itself, a hodgepodge of different styles from different countries often melded together into one whole.

From colonials to Victorians to ranch-style houses and McMansions, the story of American residential architecture is that it tends to be eclectic.

“The history of American residential architecture has always been kind of like an all-you-can-eat buffet,” says architect Susan Piedmont-Palladino, director of Virginia Tech’s Washington Alexandria Architecture Center. “We can borrow anybody’s style of architecture and I’m not sure that’s the attitude in other countries around the world. I also think we’re dominated by the single family house in a way that other places aren’t.”

US homes, america, architecture
Castle Rock, completed in 1950 in Quasqueton, Iowa, is one of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s most complete “Usonian” homes. (Photo by Carol Highsmith) Photo: Library of Congress. VOA

What that single family home looks like can vary.

“Most houses built today do not reflect any one style, but integrate ideas from many cultures,” Jackie Craven, a journalist who specializes in architecture and fine arts, told VOA via email. “A single house can have a French-inspired mansard roof, Grecian columns, and English Tudor-inspired timbering. Our homes, like our people, draw from many sources.”

architecture, america, US Homes
Built in 1930, this neoclassical Georgian home in Dallas, Texas, is a near-replica of George Washington’s Mount Vernon home in Virginia. (Photo by Carol Highsmith). VOA

After the American Revolution, the architecture of public buildings often borrowed from Greece and Rome to express democratic ideals of order and symmetry. This neoclassic style also extended to private homes, notably Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

The long reign of Britain’s Queen Victoria, from 1837 until 1901, occurred during a time of American prosperity. Mass-production of building parts allowed for the construction of elaborate, affordable Victorian-style houses throughout the country.

US homes, architecture, america
The Pollock-Capps House is a Victorian mansion built in 1898 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Carol Highsmith). VOA

The style of American homes has often reflected what the country itself is experiencing.

“During the Industrial Revolution, steel transformed the American landscape. The strength of this new metal made skyscrapers possible, rebuilding Chicago after the Great Fire of 1871,” says Craven. “The lavish Gilded Age mansions of the late 1800s and modern-day McMansions both reflect the conspicuous consumption of a powerful wealthy class. Minimalist post-Victorian architecture rebelled against excess, and the 20th century brought new solutions for affordable housing. Catalogue companies like Sears sold mail order house kits, making home ownership achievable even during the Depression.”

US home, architecture, america
The Rosenbaum House, built in Florence, Alabama, in 1939, is the only structure designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in the state. (Photo by Carol Highsmith). VOA

The architect who most defined American residential architecture might well be Frank Lloyd Wright, who eschewed the idea of borrowing architecture from Europe or anywhere else.

In the first half of the 20th century, up until the 1950s, Wright’s designs and philosophy brought a new American modernity to the single family home. He pioneered housing features — such as low horizontal lines and open floor plans — that can still be found in suburban America today.
us home , america, architecture
A Cape Cod-style home, a simple, rectangular structure, in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. (Photo by Carol Highsmith) VOA

“He was very interested in a relationship with the land…this idea of relating terraces and the gardens and the landscape into the house…the roof would extend out, blurring the boundaries between inside and out,” Piedmont-Palladino says. “Wright really pioneered the unique architecture, and little bits of it do still show up. There’s a little Frank Lloyd Wright DNA in split-level houses and ranch houses still.”

The simple Cape Cod, a derivative of American colonial houses, and the ranch house, more reflective of America’s modernism, both dominate all of the other residential architectural styles in the United States, according to Craven.

US home, architecture, america
A ranch-house-style home in Sun City, a historic suburb of Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Carol Highsmith) VOA

Wright would probably be horrified by today’s oversized neo-colonials. Derisively dubbed ‘McMansions,’ these homes borrow loosely from classic architectural styles of the past.

What will the next dominant style of American house be? Piedmont-Palladino is concerned that the home-building industry doesn’t appear prepared to take on the challenge of building better-performing houses.

america, us homes, architecture
Today’s eclectic oversized houses, built in traditional styles, seen here in St. Louis, Missouri, have been referred to as “McMansions.” (Photo by Flickr user Paul Sableman via Creative Commons.) VOA

“I would like to be optimistic and think that, in a generation, the dominant language of American house construction is sustainable and that we would start to look at building environmentally responsibly, so that houses perform better. This is one of the big issues that is confronting us,” she says. “Houses are getting bigger and bigger and less efficient, even as our families are getting smaller.”

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In addition to eco-friendly designs, Craven also envisions more avant-garde architecture with unusual shapes. New digital software can easily manipulate classic shapes, giving them a curvy or lopsided twist that could hit home in a modern way. (VOA)