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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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TikTok Security Concerns Raised By U.S. Army

National security experts have raised concerns about TikTok’s collection and handling of user data

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Tik Tok logo is displayed on the smartphone
Tik Tok logo is displayed on the smartphone while standing on the U.S. flag in this illustration picture. VOA

The U.S. Army is undertaking a security assessment of China-owned social media platform TikTok after a Democratic lawmaker raised national security concerns over the app’s handling of user data, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said Thursday.

Speaking to reporters at an event at the American Enterprise Institute think tank, McCarthy said he ordered the assessment after the top Democrat in the U.S. Senate, Chuck Schumer, asked him to investigate the possible risks in the military’s use of the popular video app for recruiting American teenagers.

“National security experts have raised concerns about TikTok’s collection and handling of user data, including user content and communications, IP addresses, location-related data, metadata, and other sensitive personal information,” Schumer wrote in a Nov. 7 letter to McCarthy.

Schumer said he was especially concerned about Chinese laws requiring domestic companies “to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.”

Ryan McCarthy speaking about TikTok
Ryan McCarthy, the nominee to the Secretary of the Army, speaks during his Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing, in Washington. VOA

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) has launched a national security review of TikTok owner Beijing ByteDance Technology Co.’s $1 billion acquisition of U.S. social media app Musical.ly.

TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The company has previously emphasized its independence from China but has failed to assuage congressional concerns about the security of the personal data of U.S. citizens who use the platform and whether content on the platform is subject to any censorship from Beijing.

In a Nov. 5 blog post, TikTok’s U.S. general manager, Vanessa Pappas, said that the company’s data centers “are located entirely outside of China.” She said U.S. user data is stored in the United States, with backup redundancy in Singapore.

ByteDance is one of China’s fastest-growing startups. About 60% of TikTok’s 26.5 million monthly active users in the United States are between the ages of 16 and 24, the company said this year.

Earlier this year, Schumer also called on the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission to conduct a national security and privacy investigation into FaceApp, a face-editing photo app developed in Russia.

ALSO READ: U.S. Army Sparks an Industry Battle After it Looks For Robots.

The potential for the sharing of army information through the use of apps was highlighted after researchers found in 2018 that fitness-tracking app Strava was inadvertently exposing military posts and other sensitive sites.

In 2017, the Army ordered its members to stop using drones made by Chinese manufacturer SZ DJI Technology Co Ltd because of “cyber vulnerabilities” in the products. (VOA)