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Are you ready for the Indian Super Bowl aka the Scripps National Spelling Bee?

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Scripps National Spelling Bee

Nihar Janga and Jairam Hathwar celebrate as co-champions during the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — Indian American comedian Hari Kondabolu, once famously called the Scripps Spelling Bee the ‘Indian Super Bowl‘. While funny, it was also an apt comparison. When fans tuned into ESPN last year to watch the Scripps National Spelling Bee, they were shocked by the victory of 11-year-old Nihar Janga, a fifth grader who was making his inaugural appearance in the tournament.

But for seasoned veterans of the tournament, he was hardly an enigma.

To the tight-knit community of competitors who keep track of performances in the weeks and days leading up to the tournament, Nihar was who they thought he was: a seasoned competitor with an impressive resume and a threat to win it all.

As the bee has become increasingly more competitive throughout the years, fewer winners have emerged from the shadows to hoist the trophy. The information available on competitors is nearly at the fingertips of every other competitor, and champion spellers have increasingly fit a familiar profile. For them, the bee is an all-consuming, year-round pursuit.

“There’s definitely an established set of favorites, and as you have more well-known spelling bees to compete in, you have more barometers of how well people are going to do,” said Mitchell Robson, 15, who finished 7th in last year’s bee. “There’s usually one or two people you see coming out of nowhere every year, but it’s definitely very difficult to have more than that. … Last year, Nihar Janga definitely did not come of nowhere.”

Nihar was regarded as a threat because, the previous summer, he had finished second in the North South Foundation spelling bee. The nonprofit foundation hosts national competitions for Indian-Americans in a variety of academic fields. The last 10 National Spelling Bee winners have participated in the foundation’s spelling bee, and 17 of the past 21 champions have been Indian-American. Also, three of the nine kids who’ve won the South Asian Spelling Bee have gone on to win the Scripps bee.

Two years ago, Vanya Shivashankar and Gokul Venkatachalam easily withstood the pressure of being labeled co-favorites and shared the title. And last year, Nihar was co-champion with Jairam Hathwar, a seasoned speller whose older brother himself shared the title with Ansun in 2014.

For this year’s bee, which starts Tuesday, three spellers are consensus favorites: Shourav Dasari, a past North South Foundation and South Asian Spelling Bee champion whose older sister came close several times; Siyona Mishra, who won last year’s South Asian bee and finished 9th in her only National Spelling Bee appearance; and Tejas Muthusamy, who’s making his fourth appearance, with two previous top-10 finishes.

Even if one of the favorites ends up winning, the bee still has plenty of surprises. Last year, Shourav was also highly touted, but he misspelled a word and fell just short of the prime-time finals. And incase you are forgetting the youngest-ever contestant of the Scripps Spelling Bee Finals from 2016, Akash Vukoti, here he is giving Steve Harvey a run for his money:

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FTX’s Nishad Singh got $543 million loan

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More fallout from the FTX cryptocurrency platform collapse. Court documents show its affiliate Alameda Research loaned executives like Sam Bankman Fried $1 billion and more than $500 million to Indian American Nishad Singh, FTX’s top engineer. FTX’s interim CEO says never in his career has he seen such complete failure of corporate controls and a complete absence of trustworthy financial information. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after it was unable to come up with customer funds.

Elizabeth Holmes was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison after her conviction in January for defrauding investors while running the failed blood testing start up Theranos.In her trial, Holmes alleged she was in the midst of a decade-long abusive relationship with her then-boyfriend and Theranos COO Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani. The Indian American was also found guilty for his role in this fraud and will be sentenced later.

Starting next month, India will assume the G20 presidency for a year and chair more than 200 meetings, leading the way for global economic growth. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his country’s leadership here will be inclusive, ambitious, and decisive.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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Arvind Venkat & Tarik Khan win Pennsylvania State seats

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WASHINGTON D.C. (Diya TV) – Looking back at the midterm elections, Arvind Venkat and Tarik Khan made history as the first South Asian Americans elected to the Pennsylvania State Legislature. Advocacy group Indian American Impact played a major role on the ground, saying it trained and mobilized 200 volunteers to go door-to-door, to engage voters and provide info they needed to elect new leadership.

After 35 years, the Nancy Pelosi era is officially coming to an end. The speaker from San Francisco announced she’s bowing out of leadership, but will retain her House seat. The midterms cost Pelosi’s Democratic party the House and effectively ended her speakership.

Two former Indian American executives at Meta Platforms will launch a new non fungible token start up for creators. Kirthiga Reddy and Saurabh Doshi have raised more than $8 million for their new company called Virtualness. But they are facing headwinds as the FTX cryptocurrency exchange collapse is putting pressure on the entire industry.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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Meet FTX insider Nishad Singh

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SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) – The controversy around failed cryptocurrency exchange FTX continues to captivate the world. Part of the scrutiny is now on the people involved, including Indian American Nishad Singh. According to new reports, this techie was part of FTX’s inner circle, which lived together and ran the cryptocurrency empire from the Bahamas. The software engineer was also reportedly aware that FTX secretly transferred customer funds worth billions of dollars to its sister firm Alameda Research. Currently, no one is facing any criminal charges. Diya TV featured Singh more than a decade ago for running ultra marathons as a 17 year old getting ready for college. 

Former President Donald Trump has officially announced he is running for president in 2024, marking his third bid for the White House. Trump had been hinting at this announcement for months, as the embattled former president faces multiple criminal and civil litigations and as his party is grappling with a worse than expected showing in the midterm elections. 

At the G20 Summit in Bali, world leaders including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Joe Biden are coming together to condemn the rising threat of nuclear weapons as Russia’s war against Ukraine continues to raise tension and anxiety around the world.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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