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John Glenn, Aviation Icon and former U.S. Senator, dies at 95

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In 1998, still healthy and vigorous, Glenn embarked on his second venture in space.

In 1998, still healthy and vigorous, Glenn embarked on his second venture in space.

SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — John Glenn’s legend is otherworldly — he became the first American to orbit Earth, then became a national political figure for 24 years in the U.S. Senate. He died Thursday in Ohio. Glenn was 95.

Ohio State University announced his death. Glenn had recently been hospitalized at the university at the James Cancer Center, though Ohio State officials said at the time that admission there did not necessarily mean he had cancer. He had heart-valve replacement surgery in 2014 and a stroke around that time.

He had kept an office at the John Glenn College of Public Affairs, which he helped found, and also had a home in Columbus.

Then just 40 years old and serving as a test pilot for the Marines, Glenn in 1962 become just one of the seven original American astronauts. He climbed into Friendship 7, the tiny Mercury capsule atop an Atlas rocket rising from the ground in Cape Canaveral. The Cold War had long stoked fears of nuclear destruction, and the Russians were well ahead in the space race — Yuri A. Gagarin and Gherman S. Titov, Russian astronauts, had already orbited Earth the year before.

It was a short flight, just three orbits. But when Glenn was safely back, flashing the world a triumphant grin, new faith that the United States could indeed hold its own against the Soviet Union in the Cold War and might someday prevail emerged.

No flier since Lindbergh had received such a cheering welcome.

Commuters filled the concourse of Grand Central Terminal to watch as Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth.

Commuters filled the concourse of Grand Central Terminal to watch as Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth.

Glenn was invited to the White House by President John F. Kennedy and paraded up Broadway and across the land. A joint meeting of Congress stood and applauded vigorously as Glenn spoke at the Capitol.

Glenn was reluctant to talk about himself as a hero. “I figure I’m the same person who grew up in New Concord, Ohio, and went off through the years to participate in a lot of events of importance,” he said in an interview years later. “What got a lot of attention, I think, was the tenuous times we thought we were living in back in the Cold War. I don’t think it was about me. All this would have happened to anyone who happened to be selected for that flight.”

After resigning from the astronaut corps in 1964 because he couldn’t find a vacant space seat, Glenn entered the private sector as an executive. He ultimately landed in politics, serving four full terms as a Democratic senator from his home state of Ohio, as well as unsuccessfully running for presidential nomination in 1984.

However, 36 years after his Mercury flight and in the last months of his final senate term, Glenn made his return to space aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. No matter how many pundits declared his return to space was a political move or waste of money, the yesteryear hero still brought out the crowds as he was launched back into orbit in 1998.

At age 77, he became the oldest person to go to space.

“John always had the right stuff,” President Obama said in a statement on Thursday, “inspiring generations of scientists, engineers and astronauts who will take us to Mars and beyond — not just to visit, but to stay.”

Glenn and President John F. Kennedy inspected the capsule that Glenn rode into orbit.

Glenn and President John F. Kennedy inspected the capsule that Glenn rode into orbit.

In his 1999 memoir, written with Nick Taylor, he admitted he was sorely disappointed when he was not the first astronaut originally tapped for a flight. Glenn was the most senior and articulate pilot on the staff, and had already attracted a large portion of the public’s attention. He said that he had “worked and studied hard dedicating myself to the program” and that he thought he had a “good shot” at being first. In a letter to a NASA official, Glenn wrote, “I thought I might have been penalized for speaking out for what I thought was the good of the program.”

As a senator, Glenn developed an expertise n weapons systems, nuclear proliferation issues and most legislation related to technology and bureaucratic reform. He generally took moderate positions on most issues, though in his last two terms his voting record became more liberal. He was an enthusiastic supporter of President Bill Clinton.

In recent years, honors continued to come his way: the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal and election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The NASA Lewis Research Center in Cleveland was renamed the John H. Glenn Research Center.

In 2012, about a week before the 50th anniversary of the Friendship 7 flight, a reporter found the 90-year-old Mr. Glenn in full voice and clear mind, but regretting that he had sold his airplane the month before.

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Indian Americans’ complex relationship with politics in Trump America

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Rep. Gabbard presents a copy of the Bhagvad Gita to Indian Prime Minister Modi (2014)

HOUSTON (Diya TV) — Indian Americans constitute a tiny 1.5 percent of the U.S. population. The presence of Donald Trump, over 60 prominent lawmakers, and leaders of the corporate world, at the ‘Howdy, Modi!’ event speaks to the many economic successes of this community in addition to the trade ties between the two countries.

Indian Americans are not just a rapidly rising population in the U.S.—from close to 2 million in 2010, to about 4 million in 2015— but are also the highest earning ethnic group in the US. 

At a median age of 34 years, 70 percent Indian Americans are foreign born. For them, forming allegiances with a political party in Trump America, can be daunting.

Howdy, Democrats: Indian Americans need to know

Two Democratic leaders not attending the event have become symbolic of the way some Indian Americans are conflicted in forming a clear political identity: Ro Khanna and Tulsi Gabbard.

Democratic Congressman from California, Ro Khanna, recently tweeted that, “It’s the duty of every American politician of Hindu faith to stand for pluralism, reject Hindutva and speak for equal rights for Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhist & Christians.” This was opposed immediately by those who thought that this was guilt shaming Hindu Americans.

While Hinduism is a religion based on myriad traditions and philosophies, Hindutva is a political ideology primarily based on a pluralistic Hindu identity. In an exclusive interview to Diya TV, he defended his stand saying, “We got a standing ovation when we said that in the district.”

He had previously joined the Congressional Pakistan Caucus and was urged by 230 Indian American organizations in the United States to withdraw from the caucus. Caucuses in the U.S. political system make decisions based on shared viewpoints to influence state legislatures.

Democratic Congresswoman from Hawaii, Tulsi Gabbard, made history by becoming the first Hindu to win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012. An Army veteran she was deployed as a medical administrator in Iraq. She kept her childhood copy of Bhagwad Gita for comfort during those days and gifted that copy to PM Modi on her first visit to India in 2014. However, she would be unable to share stage with PM Modi due to “prior engagements.”  Or perhaps Trump’s presence had something to do with her absence? She sent in a video with greetings and apologies to PM Modi for not being able to make it.

There was another stage Gabbard missed addressing in Houston last week: the presidential primary debate. She is one of the lower-polling Democratic presidential contenders and was passed up by the Democratic National Committee. Their reason being that she could not make the 2 percent threshold in polls although she had enough donors—very akin to the Indian American diaspora.

Gabbard’s political rise is attributed to funding from many Hindu organizations.

Both, Khanna and Gabbard, are scathing critics of American foreign military adventurism—that’s a viewpoint all Indian Americans could get on board with.

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Rep. Ro Khanna responds to criticism over Hindutva tweet

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Ro Khanna

WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — Diya TV spoke exclusively with Silicon Valley Congressman Ro Khanna to get his response in the aftermath of a barrage of criticism he’s faced after posting a tweet that appeared to endorse an anti-Hindu activist.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to hold 20 bilateral meetings during his time in the U.S., including with President Trump. His speech at the UN will focus on India’s efforts in development, peace and security, but no further explanation on Kashmir, as it’s deemed an internal matter.

The Biden campaign hired Maju Varghese, a former Obama White House aide, to be its Chief Operating Officer and Senior Advisor.

Nova Southeastern University’s new Tampa Bay Regional Campus is now open, made possible thanks to a $200 million donation by Drs. Kiran and Pallavi Patel.

And ‘A Little Late with Lilly Singh’ debuted on NBC, with her first guest none then other than Mindy Kaling. Singh, who is Indo-Canadian, becomes the first woman of color ever to host a late night network show.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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Indian American IMPACT Summit showcases new leaders

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Impact Summit

WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — A large contingent of politically engaged Indian Americans met at the Indian American Impact Summit in Washington to hear from current leaders and meet some that are on the rise. Diya TV was a proud media partner in the showcase that featured Democratic National Committee CEO Seema Nanda, and a host of local, state and federal candidates.

Prime Minister Modi and President Trump are scheduled to meet twice in the next week, according to Indian Ambassador to the U.S. Harsh Shringla, saying the India-US relationship has the potential to become the “defining partnership” this century. Full coverage of the Modi Trump Community Summit in Houston starts Sunday at 10 am Eastern, 7 am Pacific.

Indian American attorney Suraj Patel is launching another run for the 12th Congressional District in New York City, taking on fellow Democrat Carolyn Maloney once again.

Silicon Valley resident Natasha Gupta announced she is running for the California State Assembly in the 25th District. Gupta says she didn’t expect to run for office at this point in her life, but the turning point was the Gilroy Garlic Festival Shooting, as she was in attendance the day before.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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