Latest News USA

Now a museum in DC dedicated to language and reading

Washington DC: Planet Word, a  museum dedicated to the power, beauty, and fun of language and to showing how words shape the human experience, has opened its doors to the public in Washington DC.

Housed in the National Capital’s historic Franklin School, the museum is the world’s first voice-activated one, featuring immersive galleries and exhibits that will engage visitors of all ages in experiencing words and language from a wide range of perspectives. General admission is free.

Among the museum’s voice-activated exhibits is “Where Do Words Come From?” a 22-foot-tall talking word wall that shares the story of the English language through a conversation with visitors and extraordinary light effects.

Other highlights include an acoustically-sealed room where visitors use a teleprompter to deliver one of eight historically significant speeches; a karaoke lounge where music lovers will learn secrets of great songwriting; and a secret poetry nook hidden in the stacks of a magical library.

In other galleries, visitors can create an advertising campaign, literally paint with words using “smart” paint brushes, and converse with native speakers of widely spoken and endangered languages.

According to Planet Word founder and CEO Ann Friedman, “Democracy depends on literate citizens. I hope that Planet Word can provide a forum for civil discourse and a place where our community, in all its vibrant diversity, can gather to share the words that bridge differences and forge solutions.”

The museum held a mostly virtual ceremony to commemorate its public opening in late October. This event featured remarks by DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and founder Ann Friedman. It also included remarks by writer and actress Anna Deavere Smith and a performance by spoken word artist Charity Blackwell, as well as a musical performance from Renee Fleming, a freestyle hip hop performance from rapper Christylez Bacon, and a poetic dedication written for the occasion by Naomi Shihab Nye.

The non-profit museum supporters including former President Barack Obama, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Grammy-winning musician Paul Simon also made surprise virtual appearances.

Among the museum’s voice-activated exhibits is “Where Do Words Come From?”, a 22-foot-tall talking word wall that shares the story of the English language through a conversation with visitors and light effects. (Photos: Planet Word)
Among the museum’s voice-activated exhibits is “Where Do Words Come From?”, a 22-foot-tall talking word wall that shares the story of the English language through a conversation with visitors and light effects. (Photos: Planet Word)
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Latest News USA

House to vote on historic D.C. statehood bill next week

Washington: The House is poised to pass a D.C. statehood bill next week — the first time in U.S. history either chamber will approve legislation granting the District full representation and voting rights in Congress.

In announcing the historic vote Tuesday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer cheered the move as a victory for black residents in particular, as the nation undergoes a racial justice reckoning following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police on May 25.

“This is not just an issue of local governance and fairness, it is a major civil rights issue as well,” Hoyer said. “This was an appropriate time to bring a bill forward to show respect for the citizens of the District of Columbia of whatever color, but also to show respect to a city that has a very large African American population.”

The District has long been predominantly black, although the demographics have shifted significantly in recent years due to rapid gentrification and white residents moving into the city.

The House will vote on the legislation June 26, and pass it. But it is expected to go nowhere in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has expressed staunch opposition to D.C. statehood and even compared it to “full bore socialism” in an interview last year.

President Donald Trump has also dismissed the idea, saying Republicans would be “very, very stupid” to grant D.C. statehood because of the District’s overwhelmingly Democratic leanings.


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International Latest News USA

Trump orders National Guard to leave DC

Washington: Assuring that the capital is “under perfect control”, President Donald Trump said he has ordered the National Guard Troops to start withdrawing from Washington.

“I have just given an order for our National Guard to start the process of withdrawing from Washington, D.C., now that everything is under perfect control,” the President tweeted on Sunday.

“They will be going home, but can quickly return, if needed. Far fewer protesters showed up last night than anticipated.”

The 5,000 National Guard troops brought to Washington last week to quell protests against the death of a black man in police custody.

A group of uniformed military personnel were seen in front of the White House last weekend, as thousands of protesters swelled into D.C. to stage what has been the largest demonstration in the capital.

Less than a week ago as the protests escalated and reached the doorsteps of the presidential residence, Trump threatened the use of active-duty military forces to quell the protests, a decision that drew harsh condemnation from both incumbent and former officials.

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International Latest News USA

Indian American hailed as hero for sheltering protesters in DC

Washington: Rahul Dubey, an Indian-origin resident of Washington, is being hailed as a ‘hero’ on social media and was lauded on mainstream US media after he provided shelter to over 60 protesters during curfew on Monday to ensure they weren’t arrested.

Dubey, Senior Vice President (Innovation and Solutions) and CEO at AHIP (America’s Health Insurance Plans), has a 3-storey house on Swann Avenue.

A group of protesters was marching away from the White House, a site of intense protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and were in his street when curfew began at 7 pm. They were surrounded by police personnel and risked being arrested. Reports said that was when Dubey frantically waved them into his house. He said the police chased a “human tsunami” as far as the entrance of his house.

“Inside, pandemonium ensued as some of the screaming protesters hit by pepper spray sought relief for their eyes with milk and water. On the back patio, neighbors pitched in by handing milk over the fence,” an Associated Press report said.

A protester, who asked to be identified only as Meka, told CNN that the protest was peaceful and people were just trying to figure out what to do when curfew began.

“I guess someone gave an order, and they just started pushing us, spraying mace, trampling people, and then that’s when everybody started panicking,” the 22-year-old college student said.

While many praised Dubey for his actions, he said he didn’t think he had done “anything special.” India has a tradition of “Atithi devobhava”. Talking to a local media outlet, he said, “I know most people would’ve flung open that door.”

“I hope that my 13-year-old son grows up to be just as amazing as they are,”
Dubey said he was in awe of the protestors.

As reports of his generosity were shared, his name started trending on Twitter. There was praise from across the world and people have even stopped by the house to leave flowers and thank you cards.

In India, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in a  tweet thanked “Rahul Dubey for opening your heart and your home to the weak and the oppressed.”

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India International Latest News

US envoy to India apologizes for desecration of Gandhi statue

New Delhi: The US Ambassador to India, Kenneth Juster, on Thursday apologized for the desecration of Mahatma Gandhi’s statue in Washington DC.

The statue was vandalized by unidentified rioters during the ongoing violent protests against the custodial killing of an African-American citizen, George Floyd, in Minneapolis on May 25.

Reports said the statue of India’s founding father Gandhi, who is globally known as an apostle of peace, was defaced with graffiti and spray paint outside the Indian embassy in Washington.

The US envoy to India in New Delhi apologized for the vandalization of the statue. “So sorry to see the desecration of the Gandhi statue in Wash, DC. Please accept our sincere apologies. Appalled as well by the horrific death of George Floyd & the awful violence & vandalism. We stand against prejudice & discrimination of any type. We will recover & be better,” Juster tweeted.

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