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Meet Karthik Nemmani, the wild card entry and the winner of the 91st Spelling Bee Champion

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Karthik Nemmani surrounded by family, holding his Championship Trophy (Photo: Scripps Spelling Bee)

WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — Spelling the word, ‘koinonia’ correctly, the wild card program beneficiary Karthik Nemmani became the 91st Spelling Bee Champion. Hailing from the town of McKinney, Texas, the 14 year-old defeated the heavily favored Naysa Modi, a four-time competitor who beat him in a Texas county bee battle earlier this year. Nemmani continues the streak of Indian American Spelling Bee Champions to 11 years in a row.

This year, there was a record number of 516 spellers, mostly because of the new wild card program. This program, RSVBee, let 238 spellers into the national bee, especially if they were from very competitive spelling areas, like Dallas, where Nemmani lives. Naysa Modi, a fellow Texan speller, won the county and regional bee and therefore eliminated spellers including Karthik Nemmani and Abhijay Kodali, who ranked third place. In addition to enabling others to qualify, this helped the Spelling Bee diversify the pool of candidates. In total, 855 applicants applied.

When asked about the fact that the wild card contestants had a $750 entry fee, Karthik’s dad, Krishna Nemmani, said, “I don’t care. I know his caliber,”
Karthik’s early life was much like other spellers. His dad said that when he was 3, Karthik arranged block letters to spell horse and won his first spelling bee at the age of 4½ years.

Karthik is from McKinney, Texas — his family moved there specifically so he could go to a school that takes part in the Scripps program. Naysa is from Frisco, less than 15 miles to the west. And third-place finisher Abhijay Kodali lives in Flower Mound, another 40 miles west.

Adam Symson, president and CEO of The E.W. Scripps Company, presented the championship trophy moments before ESPN signed off from the 91st Scripps National Spelling Bee. “Karthik showcased not only broad knowledge of the English language but also incredible poise under pressure,” said Symson. “This is a grueling competition that takes years of preparation and then challenges the participants all week long. Karthik handled it with grace and maturity. The Scripps National Spelling Bee is a national treasure, and we take great pride each year in seeing the inspiration it brings to audiences across the U.S. – and the world.”

“I didn’t really think I’d be able to do it. I had confidence that I could do it, but I honestly didn’t realistically think it could happen,” Nemmani said softly.

As the two Texans remained, Modi misspelled ‘bewusstseinslage,’ and Karthik had to spell two words correctly, including the final word koinonia, to be crowned the 2018 winner.

23 of the 41 finalists were Indian American. The last three standing were all from Texas, a major spelling area, and Indian American hub. The reoccurrence of Indian American champions has received some backlash with disparaging tweets like “we need an American to win this spelling bee #tiredofindians,”

Grace Walters, his 16 year-old coach, is the one Karthik credits for his achievement. She said to TIME Magazine that it was a lot different when she competed. Now, computers enable students to do much more. Karthik also had help from Shobna Dasari, a former competitor, and her younger brother Shourav, who finished fourth in 2017. But most of all, Karthik trained day and night, using excel spreadsheets and vocabulary quizzes.

Nemmani praised the runner-up Modi’s hard work and skill, saying, “She’s a really, really good speller. She deserved the trophy as much as I did. I got lucky.” Although he knew how to spell bewussseinslage, he humbly admitted that he did not know about eight or nine words in the finals.

Nemmani sacrificed tennis, a hobby of his, for the spelling bee. Little did he know that it would result in a championship victory & over $42,000 in prizes.

Naysa, on the other hand, accepted her loss gracefully and let everyone know she would be back.

All in all, every speller worked hard for the Spelling Bee. Nemmani, with help from the new wild card program, was able to take the title and become the 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee champion.

Arts & Culture

Redacted Mueller report, detailing Russian election meddling, released

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Redacted Mueller Report

WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — A redacted version of the Mueller report is now public. The 448 page document is the result of a two year investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Democrats say the report shows President Trump tried to obstruct justice. But Trump’s campaign in a statement says otherwise.

Read the redacted report here.

Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said no Pakistani soldier or citizen died in the Indian Air Force air strike in response to the Pulwama terror attack in February, reversing claims made by other officials after the strike.

Anita Malik announced she is running once again for Arizona’s 6th Congressional District seat. She fell short last year. But this time, she will face additional competition, as fellow Democrat Dr. Hiral Tipirneni (Ti-per-neh-knee) as also running for this seat.

And Hasan Minhaj won another Peabody, his second in a row, for his work on “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj.”

Ravi Kapur & Alejandro Quintana contributed to this report.

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U.S. and India conduct joint military drill on Diego Garcia in Indian Ocean

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Indian Ocean drill

DIEGO GARCIA, Indian Ocean (Diya TV) — The U.S. and Indian Navies went submarine hunting in the Indian Ocean, their first bilateral anti-submarine warfare exercise since a signing pact to work more closely together last fall.

India’s exports to China are up in 2019, while imports declined, leading to a $10 billion reduction in India’s trade deficit with China. Analysts say the current Washington-Beijing trade war has also opened things up for India.

The Jallianwala Massacre 100 years ago that left hundreds dead and 1200 injured at the hands of British troops is considered a key turning point towards a free India. British prime minister Theresa May marked the occasion by expressing “deep regret”, but there are still no apologies.

An effort by an American and British companies to help Jet Airways founder Naresh Goyal save the airline from collapse dissolved after Etihad Airways and TPG Capital threatened to walk away themselves if Goyal was part of the deal.

And comedian Hasan Minhaj, who won a 2017 Peabody Award, received another Peabody nomination in the entertainment category for his Netflix show, “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj.”

Ravi Kapur & Alejandro Quintana contributed to this report.

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Arts

Women filmmakers shine at the 2019 Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles

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IFFLA staff with the 2019 festival winners

LOS ANGELES (Diya TV) — The 17th annual Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA) concluded Sunday night with the zany slice-of-life film, The Odds, directed by Megha Ramaswamy. Complete with a glamorous closing night red carpet, and an awards ceremony, the festival ended with an after party at the Spice Affair in Beverly Hills.

(From Left to Right) Praveen Morchale, Christina Marouda, Shazia Iqbal, Anand Patwardhan, Nitin Sonawane , Divya Kohli Courtesy: Javeed Sheikh Photography

IFFLA was only four days this year (compared to five days in previous years), but there was still so much to see during that time. In addition to the curated set of films, there was an incredible panel discussion, Breaking in Brown: Making it to Series in TV’s Golden Age, that featured panelists working in various fields in the television industry and their struggles to rise up through the ranks in the Hollywood while being brown.

Panel Discussion Breaking in Brown. Courtesy: Javeed Sheikh Photography

This year’s film lineup boasted five world premieres, two North American premieres, two U.S. premieres and eleven Los Angeles Premieres, with films presented in nine different languages. The overall atmosphere was very relaxed, even with films that tackled difficult subject matters. Roughly fifty percent of the films were directed by women. Filmmakers and staff alike hoped for a future where it will be normal to have women and men equally making films.

Kicking off the awards ceremony, Director of Programming, Mike Dougherty, announced the winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Best Feature, Widow of Silence.

“We present the Grand Jury prize to a film that illuminates a condition that most of the world doesn’t get to see and shines a light on the characters that live through it everyday…This filmmaker’s civic disobedience illustrates their love and compassion for their country and their people, and the craft of their film-making was beautifully wise and refined.”

Director Praveen Morchhale was visibly surprised as he walked up to receive his award. The film he said was about those, “that nobody talks about and nobody treats them as a human.” Even though it was Morchhale’s first time at IFFLA, he felt as if he had been coming here for many years. He credited his win to the women in Kashmir the film portrayed.

The Audience Award for Best Feature went to Reason. Director Anand Patwardhan received a standing ovation when he went to collect his award. Patwardhan said, “most of the time our film is getting thrown out of festivals, I wasn’t expecting this.” He added that it meant a lot for the film to be well received at IFFLA and how that will hopefully impact its reception in India.

Shazia Iqbal’s Bebaak was a crowd favorite winning the Audience Award For Best Short Film. The jury mentioned how she almost gave up on filming because she was getting thrown out of mosques. Iqbal spoke about how when people think of Muslims, they only think of Muslim men and not women, many of whom experience tremendous misogyny. She hopes people will be able to “see beyond what misogyny and religion does to people.” Iqbal added, “a director is nothing without their team.”

“a layered portrait of a woman determined to pursue her needs and impulses,” the Grand Jury awarded their prize for Best Short to The Field from director Sandhya Suri. “the film takes images that normally evoke a sense of fear and flips the narrative on its head redefining a new more empowered world for the female protagonist and exploring an often unseen story of a woman’s drive and agency over her own body and life,” the jury added.

After the awards, Dougherty introduced the closing night film, The Odds by saying the film was the “perfect way to close IFFLA on a celebratory note.”


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