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Embassy Row: Cries over Kali

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Trouble is brewing in India over an American beer named after a Hindu deity; lawmakers in New Delhi on Tuesday demanded an apology from U.S. Ambassador Nancy J. Powell.

Ravi Shankar Prasad, a member of parliament from the conservative opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, called on the Foreign Ministry to summon Ms. Powell to explain why the Burnside Brewing Co. in Portland, Ore., planned to release a beer named for the fearsome-looking four-armed Kali, the goddess of time and change, who wears a necklace of severed heads.

"Is there no manufacturing code [in the United States]? Can they show the god of any other faith like this?" Mr. Prasad asked.

"Summon the U.S. ambassador, and make her apologize for this," he demanded, raising the controversy to a diplomatic dispute.

Rajiv Shukla, the minister of state for parliamentary affairs in the ruling United Progressive Alliance, said he will "immediately" inform Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna about the lawmaker's fury.

Meanwhile, half a world away in Portland, the owners of the Burnside brewery already were dealing with angry American Hindus, whose outrage had been fermenting since the company announced plans to release Kali-Ma beer.

Rajan Zed, president of the Nevada-based Universal Society of Hinduism, last week urged Burnside to change the beer's name.

The company responded by canceling the planned release on Tuesday and apologizing for any insult to the Hindu religion.

Burnside, in a statement, said it is "scrambling" to rename the beer and plans to market it soon.

"It is NEVER the intention at Burnside to offend or alienate any race, creed, religion or sexual orientation," the statement said.

Burnside said the inspiration for the name of the beer, made with Indian spices, came from the movie "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom." The character played by actor Harrison Ford is forced to drink "the black sleep of Kali Ma," which puts him in a coma.

THE LIFE OF YULIA

The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and another top American official met this week with the ailing, imprisoned former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko.

"The United States continues to be deeply concerned by the treatment of Mrs. Tymoshenko and the conditions of her confinement," said Ambassador John F. Tefft and Thomas O. Melia, deputy assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor.

They met with Mrs. Tymoshenko for about 30 minutes Monday and conveyed "messages of concern" from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Mr. Tefft and Mr. Melia added that the United States continues to call for the release of Mrs. Tymoshenko and other members of her former government. She was convicted last year of abuse of power and sentenced to seven years in prison in a trial the United States and other Western nations have criticized as politically motivated.

The U.S. position "has been all along that selective persecution of Mrs. Tymoshenko and members of her party is something we disapprove of," Mr. Tefft told reporters in Kiev.

Mrs. Tymoshenko, the 51-year-old leader of the pro-democracy 2004-05 Orange Revolution, was transferred last week from prison to a state hospital for treatment for back pains. She also had been on a hunger strike.

She is being treated by a German specialist because, she said, she distrusts Ukrainian doctors.

"We continue to urge the Ukrainian authorities to ensure that Mrs. Tymoshenko receives appropriate medical assistance," Mr. Tefft and Mr. Melia said.

"Moving her to the hospital for treatment by a specialist is a welcome first step in this direction."

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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