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Indian American business owners against SB1400 in California, hundreds show up at State Capitol to protest

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A California bill would limit the sale of tobacco and related products to smoke shops only.

A California bill would limit the sale of tobacco and related products to smoke shops only.

SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — More than 600 Indian-American convenience store and gas station owners came together at the California State Capitol at the end of last month to protest SB 1400, a bill which seeks to limit the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products to smoke shops only.

Authored by California state Senator Bob Wiecowski, SB 1400 was passed by the state Senate on June 2. It was then passed to the Assembly’s Business and Professions committee where it was argued publicly on June 28, failing to secure enough votes for passage.

Jivtesh Gill, founding board member of the American Petroleum and Convenience Store Association, who organized the June 28 protest, called the bill a major threat to the livelihoods of thousands of Indian Americans who reside in California.

“This bill would have put at least half of California’s convenience stores out of business,” he said. Store employees, largely comprised of immigrants, would be prone to losing their jobs, he added.

There are more than 33,000 convenience stores and gas stations which operate throughout the state, generating a revenue annually estimated at $40 billion. About two-thirds of such stores are owned and operated by Indian Americans and other Asian Americans, Gill said.

Sales of tobacco account for roughly 25 to 30 percent of annual sales, Gill said, noting that the bill would limit sales of tobacco to stores that generate more than 60 percent of their annual revenue from tobacco. Wiecowski defended his proposed legislation as a way to prevent tobacco from landing in the hands of children, citing the fact youth are only permitted to enter smoke shops in the presence of an adult.

“Tobacco products have a pervasive presence in retail stores throughout California,” said Wieckowski, chair of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee, in a press statement after his bill failed in committee.

“They are widely shown in front of children’s eyes on store shelves and marketing displays. By putting in common sense limits on where they can be sold, we can reduce the exposure of minors to these harmful products and decrease the number of children who become addicted to cigarettes.”

“It’s disappointing that Assembly support didn’t match public support to reduce the ubiquitous presence of tobacco retailers and thereby improve the health of Californians,” the senator added.

Last month, California upped the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21. “We don’t promote smoking for kids,” Gill said, adding that his organization did not campaign against the initiative to raise the legal age limit. He said convenience store and gas station owners frequently check IDs to confirm a buyer is of legal age, and said they have a higher compliance rate than that of smoke shops which, he said, “are desperate to make a buck,” and therefore often overlook the protocol.

Gill said the compliance failure rate for convenience stores selling tobacco products to minors is less than four percent. Smoke shops have a compliance failure rate of more than 15 percent, he said.

The bill would authorize 7,000 new licenses for smoke shops. Convenience stores and gas station marts currently also require a license from the State Board of Equalization to sell tobacco in California.

Amarjit Sekhon, who owns a 7-11 franchise in San Leandro, Calif. with her husband, said that about 20 percent of the store’s revenues are generated from the sale of tobacco. But people don’t just buy cigarettes, she said. While customers are in her store, they will browse for other snack items, which constitutes for an additional 10 to 12 percent profit when accompanied with tobacco sales. She fears losing critical sales should SB 1400 pass.

“This is a very serious event for our community,” she said. “Kids know they can buy cigarettes at smoke shops,” she said.

“Cigarettes are going to be sold. Why take it out of responsible hands? This is discrimination”

Wiecowski’s office released a study that was performed by Stanford University which showed that convenience stores popular amongst youth displayed three times as many cigarette marketing materials in store windows, almost three times more advertising inside, and twice as much shelf space to top brands bought by minors than other convenience stores located in the same community.

“Tobacco retailers are nearly as prevalent as automatic teller machines, which raises concern about why products that are used by less than 15 percent of California adults should be as readily available as cash,” said Lisa Henriksen, co-author of the Stanford study and a senior research scientist at the Stanford Prevention Research Center.

The study’s research additionally found that almost half of California public schools are within 1,000 feet of a tobacco retailer, making the children unavoidably exposed to their advertisements. When they enter, adolescence are exposed to cigarette displays behind the counter which showcase more than 120 different packs of cigarettes, the study said.

“In our survey of 1,500 California students who had never smoked, 18 percent tried smoking within 12 months, but this rate increased to 29 percent among students who visited convenience stores at least twice a week,” she said, adding, “approximately one-third of adult smokers said they would smoke fewer cigarettes if they had to travel farther to get them, and younger smokers were even more likely to agree with this statement.”

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Harvard to host 17th annual India Conference this February

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (Diya TV) — For the 17th year in a row, the graduate students at Harvard University will host an India Conference. It will take place during the weekend of February 15-16, 2020. Two days of exciting discussions through panels, mixers and networking will fill the halls of the Harvard Business School and Kennedy School of Government.

The theme for this year’s conference is Foresight 20/20 – a look at what to expect from India in 2020 and beyond. As one of the largest student led conferences in the USA, the Harvard India conference attracts the biggest headliners from every field – from politics, business, entertainment & the arts. And this year is no different.

India Conference
India Conference at Harvard

With more than 100 speakers and 1000 attendees, the conference promises to have something for everyone. This year’s biggest draw from the entertainment genre is veteran Bollywood actor and self proclaimed ambassador to India, Anupam Kher. Kher has a long standing list of accolades within the film industry. In addition to his acting roles, he has been a producer, director and teacher at his own acting school. Most recently he played the role of Dr. Vijay Kapur on NBC’s primetime drama ‘New Amsterdam‘.

Some other notable speakers this year include founder of the India Today Group, Aroon Purie, Indian Olympic athelete Dutee Chand, comedian and actor, Vir Das, partner at Softbanks’ Vision Fund Lydia Jett & politician and India’s ruling party (BJP)’s sherpa to the G20, Suresh Prabhu.

The harsh winter in Harvard doesn’t seem slow down or dull these brilliant minds in any way. The India Conference at Harvard continues to retain its standing as the conference of choice for deliberating issues ranging from technology, media, politics and eduction to creating solutions for India’s path towards global leadership. The event features brainstorming sessions and sincere discussions on the very real and large scale problems that are uniquely Indian.

Diya TV is a media sponsor to the event and will be on-site covering conference. To receive a 20% discount use code RDAY20 here and to know more about the conference or speakers, head to the IndiaConference.com

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Indian Ambassador, Shringla speaks to U.S. Congress about Kashmir

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AMB. Shringla speaks to congress about Kashmir | Diya TV News

WASHINGTON (Diya TV)  — Indian Ambassador to the U.S. Harsh Shringla met with members of Congress at a private roundtable briefing, hosted by Southern California Congressman Brad Sherman. Sherman, who has been a supporter of India, took to Twitter recently to share his concerns about Kashmir and said serious questions about Kashmir were asked at the briefing.

President Trump is being urged to fix the H1-B visa process and do away with country-specific limits, with the latest effort for reform being spearheaded by 60 U.S. business school deans and CEO’s.

In an earthquake, seconds matter. So on the anniversary of the deadly 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake that rocked Northern California, state officials announced the launch of America’s first statewide earthquake early warning system.

Tabla Maestro Zakir Hussain will be coming to Boston next month to perform at the Berklee India Exchange, where he will also be conferred with an honorary doctorate by the esteemed music school. A Zakir Hussain Scholarship at Berklee is also being established.

And we have incredible video of three kids from India rescuing their dog from a snake that’s equal parts courageous and nuts.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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Federal Court rules Trump must turn over tax returns | Diya TV News

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Trump Tax Returns

NEW YORK (Diya TV) — A federal judge ruled President Trump must turn over eight years of his personal and corporate tax returns to Manhattan prosecutors, striking down the President’s argument that a sitting president cannot be criminally investigated. The ruling was quickly appealed and this case could end up in the Supreme Court to answer the constitutional question of whether presidents can be charged with a crime.

Meanwhile, the President celebrated a victory by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, as a federal appellate court upheld most of the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality. It also ruled the FCC cannot preempt state net neutrality laws, meaning the rules of the road in states like California remain in place.

The U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee announced their Asia-Pacific and Non-Proliferation Subcommittee will be holding a hearing asking State Department officials and human rights activists to chime in on Human Rights in Kashmir, the Tamils of Sri Lanka, Muslims in Assam and the human rights situation in Pakistan, which includes the Sindh Province.

Lockheed Martin announced they will build F-16 wings exclusively in India, helping in integrating Indian industry into the $165 billion fighter aircraft market.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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