Skip to content
13
May

Veteran Bollywood acting legend receives life achievement award

What an Oscar is to the U.S. film industry, the Saheb Phake award is to India.

One of India's most accomplished and successful actors was recently honored for his career in the film industry, bringing entertainment to millions of people for more than half a century.

Pran Krishan Sikand, better known to fans of his and the movie business in general as "Pran," is the 2012 recipient of the Dadasaheb Phalke Award. What the lifetime achievement award is to the Oscars, the Saheb Phake is to India and Bollywood.

Anupam Kher, a contemporary of Pran's and Bollywood legend – featured in U.S. films including "Silver Linings Playbook and "Bend It Like Beckham," congratulated the 93-year-old movie icon via Twitter.

"Delighted that Pran Saab is finally given the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke Award," said Kher, according to the Times of India. "Sir, in my mind I congratulated you 20 years back."

Also offering salutations through the social media provider was director Madhur Bhandarkar.

"Congratulations Pran saab for the Dadasaheb Phalke award – this is much deserved," said Bhandarkar, the newspaper reports. "This award is mainly for the varied kind of roles he played right from menacing to extremely positive characters, which he brought alive on the silver screen."

Those who transfer money to India have likely provided their family members with the ability to see Pran in action at some point over the years. Known for portraying the role of the villain or antagonist, the 93-year-old has been in more than 400 movies, most of which have been shown only in India. He's had a lot of time to pursue these title rolls, entering the movie business in his early 30s.

Routine portrayal of 'bad guy' role came later
Pran wasn't cast in the antagonist's role throughout his career, however. For seven straight years, he mainly served as the hero. But by the time the 1950s rolled around, Bollywood experts say that he truly found his niche, portraying villainous characters with a great deal of authenticity.

The Times of India points out that Pran is best known for five movies in particular, those being "Zaneer," "Don," "Madhumati," "Ziddi," as well as "Ram Aur Shyam."

As talented and well-suited for the film industry Pran may have been, it wasn't the line of work he set out to do. In a recent feature published by The Hindu, Pran didn't want to work in front of the camera, but rather behind the lens as a professional photographer. But by happenstance, at one point in his twenties he was window shopping outside a paan shop when a film writer, Wali Mohammad Wali, approached him. Feeling that he had a knack for acting, Wali had him perform in a movie he was working on the time called "Yamala Jat."

As with many actors, Pran didn't make it to the big time immediately after his first role. His career went through a variety of starts and stops but once he played the lead role in the film "Ziddi" in 1948 he shortly thereafter became a household name and was able to find work on a regular basis.

The Dadasaheb Phalke Award is a highly revered distinction that a Bollywood celebrity is given every year by the Government of India. Since 1969, a prominent personality has been bestowed with this honorific as a symbol of the country's appreciation for their life of work bringing entertainment to the Indian public. Last year, actor Soumitra Chatteree was given the award and director K. Balachander received it in 2010. In the 43 years that it's been awarded, it's usually gone to either an actor or director, but there have been singers and lyricists who've been formally recognized by Indian officials.

13
May

Cinco de Mayo: a popular celebration around the globe

Cinco de Mayo: a popular celebration around the globe

Cinco de Mayo is a wonderful holiday that enables many people to learn about Mexican heritage and culture. May 5 marks the annual holiday, and those who plan to attend Cinco de Mayo celebrations may send money to friends and family members to get ready for these festivities. 

On May 5, 1862, a Mexican troop of 4,500 soldiers faced 6,000 French militants at the Battle of Puebla. Under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza, the Mexican force defeated the French army, and Cinco de Mayo honors those who fought for Mexico's freedom.

Myriad celebrations are held around the globe to commemorate the Mexican army's victory at the Battle of Puebla. For example, The Associated Press reports that ballet folklorico dancers will help Mexican-Americans celebrate the holiday in Houston in 2013, while New York City will close parts of Spanish Harlem and Queens for various street fairs throughout the day. 

"It's very similar to how Irish-Americans celebrate St. Patrick's Day," Jody Agius Vallejo, a sociology professor at the University of Southern California, told the news source. "One way they can honor their ethnicity is to celebrate this day."

10
May

Mexican leaders eye banking sector reforms

Mexican leaders eye banking sector reforms

A banking sector overhaul could provide a wide variety of benefits to Mexico, and the nation's leaders are discussing several options that may help the country's economy.

According to The Associated Press, Mexican officials are actively pursuing solutions to make credit readily available to residents. Additionally, these administrators are studying ways to make credit cheaper, which could affect Mexican citizens who currently work in the U.S. and send money to family members in their homeland. 

While the economic recession of the late 2000s affected many nations, Mexico's financial crisis of 1995 had far-flung effects that still impact the country today. During the crisis, many of the nation's banks nearly went bankrupt, but federal leaders provided short-term financial assistance. Several larger Mexican banks were later sold to foreign investors, and five of these financial institutions have dominated the nation's banking segment since that time. 

"When the banking sector was opened to foreign firms, [Mexican leaders] thought it would increase competition, but [these banks] didn't compete," economic analyst Rogelio Ramirez told the news source. "What we need is a reform to have them compete more and make the market more attractive, but the banks are happy to just issue credit cards."

Banking sector changes could provide additional support to the Mexican economy
Agustin Carstens, Mexico's central bank governor, told Reuters that banking sector reforms could have immediate effects on Mexican residents. In fact, boosting credit across the nation may add 0.5 percentage points to the Latin American economy within two to three years. 

Increasing competition among banks could also encourage these financial institutions to provide additional loans to Mexican citizens. Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports that these banks may develop incentives for mid-sized businesses that list their shares on the stock market, which could deliver a substantial boost to the nation's economy. 

"The [objective] is … for banks to lend more, and more cheaply," Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto told the news source. "Credit is a key input for growth."

Mexican Bankers Association officials said that they would need to study the proposed banking sector reforms to determine exactly how Mexican residents would be affected. However, these leaders stated that they agreed with the goals of the reforms, but specific measures must be followed to ensure that Mexican residents will enjoy the benefits of various economic changes.

10
May

Journalist honors historic Mexican architect

Journalist honors historic Mexican architect

Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, a Mexican architect who passed away on April 16, 2013, had a style all his own that was showcased in a wide variety of structures. In the post-World War II era, the Museum of Anthropology in Chapultepec Park in Mexico City and Museo Amparo in Puebla are just two of his buildings that have withstood the test of time and continue to inspire architects around the globe. 

Elena Poniatowska, a world-renowned journalist and novelist, has plans to honor Ramírez Vázquez in the near future. According to the Los Angeles Times, Poniatowska recently shared her thoughts and views on Ramírez Vázquez with a Mexican newspaper to help others understand his impact on Mexican residents and those who live and work in the U.S. and send money to family members and friends back home. 

During his life, Ramírez Vázquez helped transform Mexican culture through his projects. He was even appointed the leader of the organizing committee for the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City and helped the country bolster its global reputation. 

How has Ramírez Vázquez affected Mexican citizens?
As a mid-20th century architect, Ramírez Vázquez had a substantial impact on Mexican residents. His creations have served many Mexican business leaders, citizens and government officials over the years. 

For example, The New York Times reports that Ramírez Vázquez designed the Institutional Revolutionary Party's national headquarters, which served the group as it ruled the country until 2000. This political party also commissioned Ramírez Vázquez to complete numerous government structures during his life. 

Additionally, Ramírez Vázquez was a political leader for a short period. He served as secretary of human settlements and public works from 1977 to 1982, and his accomplishments significantly impacted many Mexican residents. 

Professor notes Vázquez had big impact on architecture community
Luis M. Castañeda, a professor of art history at Syracuse University, said that he is one of many architecture professionals who has been affected by Ramírez Vázquez. In a 2012 interview, Castañeda noted that Ramírez Vázquez wore many hats, taking on multiple responsibilities to ensure that all of his creations met specific criteria. 

"To think of him as somebody who designed buildings is not to take account of all the roles he played," Castañeda told the news source. "He wasn't the one constructing the models or sketching the drawings; he was the one securing the commission from the president."

However, many Mexican residents may remember Ramírez Vázquez for the Museum of Anthropology, arguably his most prominent achievement. 

"Without any doubt, that's what he'll be remembered for," Miquel Adriá, director of the architectural magazine Arquine, told the news source. "He succeeded in projecting in modern form many aspects that we had found in Mexican architecture."

8
May

India officials considering American natural gas exports

India officials considering American natural gas exports

Several Indian leaders are evaluating the benefits of U.S. natural gas exports. According to The Economic Times, India invested roughly $4 billion in the American oil and shale gas sectors between 2008 and 2012, and a few Indian administrators are examining U.S. natural gas exports' potential impact on the nation's economy. 

Nirupama Rao, Indian ambassador to the U.S., is one of several Indian leaders who is advocating for U.S. natural gas exports to go to India in the near future. Rao said that a partnership between India and the U.S. could significantly benefit Indian residents and those who hold jobs in the U.S. and send money back to their families in India. 

"As shale gas has become economically viable to produce, the U.S. has emerged as one of the world's most important gas-producing countries," Rao told the news source. 

U.S. Energy Information Administration and Department of Energy estimates show that U.S. natural gas production may exceed domestic consumption by 2020. Rao points out that India's use of U.S. natural gas exports could help her country's residents reduce their electricity expenses and deliver a substantial boost to the local economy. 

"This scenario opens up the possibility of the export of liquefied natural gas cargoes from the U.S. to other energy scarce countries, including India, where there is significant untapped potential for natural gas demand in all end use segments," Rao told the news source. 

A "win-win" opportunity for India and the U.S.
Shale gas production growth over the next few years could benefit India and the U.S. In fact, Rao notes that U.S. natural gas exports to India may provide a "win-win" opportunity for both countries. 

Job creation is a major initiative for Indian officials, and Rao states that a new partnership between India and the U.S. would represent a significant achievement. The Hindustan Times reports that India has already made significant investments in liquefaction terminals, which could help the Indian economy improve. 

Petronet, India's largest natural gas importer, recently signed an agreement that could affect Indian and U.S. citizens. UPI notes that Houston's United LNG agreed to supply 4 million tons of liquefied natural gas to Petronet annually for the next 20 years

Indian leaders said that the nation's demand for liquefied natural gas is growing at an annual rate of 5.6 percent. The recent partnership between Petronet and United LNG could help India keep pace with its liquefied natural gas needs, and Indian officials will continue to explore their options as well. 

7
May

Energy reform is a hot topic in Mexico

Energy reform is a hot topic in Mexico

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has made energy reform a top priority for the near future. According to The Washington Post, Peña Nieto and other Mexican leaders are reviewing various solutions to help enhance the nation's energy segment. 

Since taking over as president in December 2012, Peña Nieto has sought ways to help the country boost its revenue. While Mexico is still the third-largest source of foreign oil for the U.S., Peña Nieto will embark on a massive system overhaul during the summer that could deliver long-lasting rewards to Mexican residents and those who work in the U.S. and send money to family members south of the border. 

"This is about a practical reform that will allow for the introduction of new technology, which we lack, and accelerate the growth of our energy resources in order to lower electricity costs for Mexican families and businesses, and give us a more dynamic energy industry," Peña Nieto told the news source. 

Peña Nieto looks to accelerate energy industry growth
Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex), the largest oil company in Mexico and Latin America, significantly affects Mexico's economy. As part of the nation's energy reform efforts, Peña Nieto may help Pemex reduce its taxes to ensure that the firm can effectively support the country and its citizens. 

GlobalPost reports that nearly 60 percent of Pemex's revenue currently goes into the Mexican treasury, and this total represents roughly 40 percent of the government's income. Meanwhile, Pemex earns approximately $100 billion a year in revenue, but the company could further increase its profits by receiving tax breaks from the Mexican government. 

The lack of competition among energy oil providers is a major consideration among Mexican leaders as well. Pemex has a monopoly in the country, and George Baker, a global oil industry expert, states that Mexico must attract foreign investors to increase its energy sector profits.

"If you only make Pemex more efficient in Mexico, that's not enough," Baker told The Washington Post.  

Former U.S. ambassador Tony Garza has encouraged the Mexican government to diversify its energy industry investments. By promoting competition among oil companies, more jobs could become available across the nation, which may deliver a substantial boost to the country's economy. Additionally, diversification could help keep electricity costs lower for Mexican business operators and citizens around the country and enable the nation to improve its revenue without delay. 

2
May

President Obama will discuss immigration in Mexico

President Obama will discuss immigration in Mexico

Building a strong partnership between the United States and Mexico is vital for residents in both countries, and President Barack Obama is increasing his efforts to improve relations between these nations. According to ABC News, Obama will visit Mexico on May 2, 2013, and discuss economic and immigration concerns with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.

"A lot of the focus is going to be on economics," Obama told the news source. "I think we forget [Mexico] is a massive trading partner responsible for huge amounts of commerce and huge numbers of jobs on both sides of the border. We want to see how we can…maintain [an] economic dialogue over a long period of time."

In many cases, Mexican immigrants who are working in the United States send money back home to support their families. As the global economy continues to recover from the downturn of the late 2000s, new employment opportunities could become available in the U.S., which could lead more people to pursue jobs around the country. 

Meanwhile, U.S. officials are exploring options to improve their immigration system without delay. Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor for strategic communications at the White House, said that U.S. leaders are working closely with Mexican administrators to identify immigration issues and quickly remove these problems. 

"Mexico is an important partner in immigration reform given that we work with [Mexican officials] every day to secure our border," Rhodes told the news source.

The impact of Obama's visit to Mexico
Obama's trip to Mexico could have far-flung effects around the globe. By working with Peña Nieto to review immigration in the U.S. and Mexico, both countries can take steps to help their citizens. 

NPR reports that Mexico is the second-largest market for U.S. goods and services. During his visit, Obama and Peña Nieto will evaluate strategies to further improve the border between the U.S. and Mexico and deliver significant support to the global economy.

"If the Mexican economy is growing, it forestalls the need for people to migrate to the United States to find work," Rhodes told the news source. 

U.S. Chamber of Commerce chief executive officer Thomas Donohue stated that roughly six million jobs are based on U.S. relations with Mexico. By taking steps to improve interactions between both countries, residents in the U.S. and Mexico could reap the rewards of gradual improvements to their local economies. 

24
Apr

USCIS reveals new grant initiative for soon-to-be citizens

A new grant program will better prepare permanent residents for citizenship.

Since 2009, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has provided newly minted citizens – many of whom send money home to their families – with more than $23 million thanks to the 150 grants that have been provided to immigrant advocacy organizations. And as a recent announcement indicates, that total is about to go up.

USCIS revealed on April 18 that its launching a new grant initiative, called the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program, while will help prepare residents for the naturalization process. The endowment is expected to provide immigrant-serving organizations with $10 million in funding to better ready immigrants for citizenship and the tasks that accompany it.

This opportunity is only available for a limited time, however. USCIS noted that the application period end on May 22, and those who are interested can learn more about it at USCIS' website, which has links to additional websites for more in depth guidance.

Citizenship ceremonies occur throughout the year and are often organized by USCIS. In mid-April, to celebrate National Library Week, USCIS director Alejandro Mayorkas administered the oath of allegiance to more than two dozen people who naturalized, coming from various parts of the world, including Canada, El Salvador, India, Peru and Poland.