Citizens' Issues
Kathak legend Sitara Devi passes away in Mumbai

Sitara Devi was honoured with the Legends of India Lifetime Achievement Award 2011 for her contribution to the classical dance genre for over six decades


Kathak queen Sitara Devi died at a hospital in Mumbai Tuesday. She was 94.


Born in 1920 in Kolkata, Sitara Devi drew from the themes, poetry and choreography collected by her father in her choreographies. She also got inspired from the environment around her — whether it is a town or a village.


The characters around her came live in her dance. “By training, I am just a ‘kathakar’ of Krishna—leela (tales of Krishna),” the danseuse used to say.


Kathak, which literally means ‘katha’, is a narrative drama which evolved out of the Krishna temples of hinterland to scale the pinnacle of glory in the Muslim courts.


Sitara Devi’s roots were inextricably woven to the tradition of ‘kathakars’, the early Kathak dancers.


She was born as Dhannolakshmi to a family of Brahmin ’kathakar’ Sukhdev Maharaj and chose school and dance over an early wedding, as was the norm of the 1920s.


Her father, a Vaishnavite Brahmin scholar and Kathak exponent, sent her to a local school where she impressed her teachers and the local media with her performance in a dance drama, “Savitri Satyavan“.


When her father learnt of it, he re-christened her as Sitara or the star and placed her under the care of her older sister for kathak training.


By the time Sitara Devi turned 11, the family moved to Mumbai, where she impressed Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore with a three-hour solo recital.


Tagore offered her a shawl and Rs50 which Sitara Devi refused and sought his blessings instead to become a great dancer.


Over the next six decades, she became a Kathak legend and was a pioneering force in bringing the genre to Bollywood.


Sitara Devi married director K Asif of Mughal-e-Azam fame and then Pratap Barot. She was a vital force who stood for zest and vigour in Indian dance.


She was honoured with the Legends of India Lifetime Achievement Award 2011 for her contribution to the classical dance genre for over six decades.


In his condolence message, Prime Minister Narendra Modi recalled her rich contribution to Kathak.


Medicaid Insurance Site Holds No Benefit for Consumers

By agreeing to the terms and conditions, you agree to have your personal information shared with the site’s many so-called “clients,” which include banks, brokers, healthcare companies, insurance agents, and online education program providers


At best, this website appears to be a detour to actual assistance regarding Medicaid benefits. At worst, it’s a possible bait-and-switch scheme that targets a vulnerable population of low-income people, single moms, and veterans.

On its homepage, claims that the site can assist you in finding “Medicaid eligibility information in your area.” Just hand over some basic contact information (zip code, first and last name, and email address) and agree to the site’s terms and conditions, which has a pre-checked, default setting of consent (see below).

That pre-checked box should serve as a red flag for consumers. And if you were to click on the tiny “terms and conditions” hyperlink, you’d find out why: By agreeing to the terms and conditions, you agree to have your personal information shared with the site’s many so-called “clients,” which include banks, brokers, healthcare companies, insurance agents, and online education program providers (more on these guys to come), who will use the information to hound you nonstop:

By submitting any request for products or services, you are extending an express invitation to be contacted by one or more Clients either by telephone, email, or postal mail based on the information you have provided to us, even if you have opted into any federal, state, or other applicable Do Not Call List.

To see what the site actually sends out, signed up with a made-up name and email. Shortly after, we received an email from “Approved (Results)” with the subject line “[Completed] Quotes for Health Insurance Coverage.” The email directed us to a link “to view the most current Medicaid Application information.” We clicked the link and were led to a page on that you can access without giving up your email address or other personal information — i.e., the stuff you just surrendered to and its clients.

More troubling than this detour and unnecessary disclosure of personal information, though, are allegations brought by an anti-corruption blog charging that the site operates as a bait-and-switch scam that preys on the vulnerable. Republic Report contends that the site’s “real purpose … [is] to get low-income people, single mothers, veterans, and unemployed older people on the telephone and push them into high-cost for-profit college programs.”

Republic Report alleges that the site provides leads on prospective students to these for-profit colleges. The companies that have obtained leads include the University of Phoenix, ITT Tech, Kaplan, and Corinthian Colleges, all of which are under investigation for “alleged fraudulent activities,” Republic Report notes.

For more on’s coverage of for-profit colleges click here.




Confession Ruled Admissible in Etan Patz Case

Pedro Hernandez’s attorneys had argued that his interrogation was handled improperly and that he did not have the mental capacity to waive his rights against self-incrimination


A New York State Supreme Court Judge ruled Monday that prosecutors may use the confession of the man charged with strangling 6-year-old Etan Patz to death in 1979.

In denying the motion to suppress the confession of Pedro Hernandez, the defendant in the case, Justice Maxwell Wiley said Hernandez did have the mental capacity to waive his rights to have an attorney present and understood that he had the right to remain silent.

The 53-year-old Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Patz, who disappeared one morning while walking alone to his school bus stop. His disappearance led to a massive manhunt, but New York detectives were unable to bring charges in the case until 2012, when police officers received a tip that led them to Hernandez, who had been a stock clerk at a store in Patz's neighborhood.

On May 23, 2012, officers escorted Hernandez to the Camden County prosecutor's office in New Jersey, where they interrogated him for about seven hours. They did not record most of the interrogation, only turning on recorders close to when Hernandez was about to confess. Officers also waited until several hours into the interrogation to give Hernandez a Miranda warning, instructing him on his rights against self-incrimination.

Today's ruling to admit Hernandez's confession hinged on whether the court accepted that the Miranda warning was properly administered and that Hernandez was mentally capable of waiving his rights. Experts for Hernandez testified that he has an IQ as low as 67 and had been taking antipsychotic medication for more than a decade at the time of the interrogation.

In a written opinion, Wiley said that Hernandez's performance on psychological tests, "along with evidence of his actual waiver of his rights, and of his basic ability to make his way in the world over a period of almost forty years" led the court to conclude that he was capable of "appreciating the nature of the rights he was giving up when he spoke to the police and assistant district attorney."

"This decision doesn't go to the reliability of the facts," said Harvey Fishbein, Hernandez's attorney. "It's about whether they're legally admissible."

Fishbein has argued that Hernandez falsely confessed to the murder. "It's clear that when [the police officers] are done with [Hernandez], he comes out believing he did something wrong," said Fishbein, who contends that his client made up the confession under pressure from the police.

Prosecutor Joan Illuzzi Orbon has contested that argument, saying Hernandez had completed the 11th grade in high school, attended to household finances, successfully applied for Social Security disability benefits and held long-term jobs as evidence that he was mentally capable of waiving his rights.

Patz's body has never been found. He was the first missing child to have his face printed on milk cartons and the day of his disappearance is now National Missing Children's day.

Patz's father, Stan Patz, was the only family member present for Monday's ruling. He declined to comment.

Related coverage: For more on the story, read about the missing boy and the evidence against his accused killer.




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