Intermittent rain and repeated thunderstorms on Saturday brought down the mercury by many notches in Himachal Pradesh and provided a big respite from the heat. The fall in temperature resulted in a sudden rush of weekend tourists to the resorts here. About 22 mm of rainfall was recorded in Keylong in Lahaul Spiti district on Saturday. Sundernagar in Mandi recorded 18.4 mm and Kalpa in Kinnaur got 15.8 mm of rainfall. There are also reports of more than 10 mm of rainfall from Bhunter in Kullu, Seobagh in Mandi, Nahan and Ponta Sahib in Sirmaur and Palampur in Kangra.There were even reports of mild snowfall at 13,000 feet high Rohtang Pass and the nearby mountains of Kinnaur, Chamba and Lahaul-Spiti districts.The unseasonal rainfall and may affect the harvesting of Rabi crops going on in full swing in the hill State.
With the situation in strife-torn Darjeeling remaining tense after fresh clashes erupted over the weekend, an additional Army column was deployed in the hills at Kalimpong on Monday.Taking into account the fresh deployment, there are three columns of Army aiding the district administration in maintaining law and order in Darjeeling hills. The two others have been deployed at Sonada and Darjeeling.The fresh deployment of Army came about on Saturday when violence erupted at Sonada over the death of Tashi Bhutia late on Friday allegedly in firing by security forces. In the violence on Saturday two pro-Gorkhaland supporters, Suraj Bhusal and Samir Gurung, died. While there has been no reports of violence since Sunday, there were processions and rallies in the hills as the indefinite strike entered its 26th day. Gorkha Janmukti Morcha ( GJM) president Bimal Gurung has demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the violence and deaths.West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday said that the Central was yet to provide more paramilitary forces. Ms. Banerjee said the Centre wants her government to deploy the two companies of central security forces which are posted in Jhragram in South Bengal, once a hot bed of left wing extremism .Meanwhile, all eyes are on the all-party meeting in the hills scheduled for Tuesday at Mirik. While it was decided that the all-party meeting will be held on July 18, the meeting was advanced considering the tense situation in the hills.The Gorkhaland Movement Co-ordination Committee, comprising representatives of all political parties, has met four times on the issue of creation of a separate State. This will be the fifth meeting within the span of a month.
The Supreme Court on Friday sought a response from the Maharashtra government on a plea challenging the Bombay High Court order granting bail to Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast case.A Bench led by Justice R.K. Agarwal also listed the bail plea of Thakur’s co-accused Shrikant Purohit for August 14.The petition challenging the bail for Thakur was filed by Nisar Ahmed Haji Sayed Bilal, father of some of the blast victims. It wants a stay of the April 25 High Court order.“The High Court failed to appreciate that Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur is an influential person and is likely to wield her power and influence in an illegal and unlawful manner to tamper with evidence and influence witnesses,” the petition contended.But in an affidavit, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) countered that it had not found “sufficient evidence” to prosecute Thakur. However, on the other hand, the agency contended that there were “several incriminating circumstances” against Purohit to prove “his deep involvement and complicity in the crime.”Thakur was granted bail by the High Court, which, however, had refused a similar relief to Purohit. The NIA contended that there was no question of parity between the two accused and the High Court did not err in granting bail to Thakur.Seven persons were killed in a bomb blast on September 29, 2008, at Malegaon.
Nine farmers have died after spraying ‘Profex Super’ insecticide on their Bt cotton plantations in Yavatmal district of Maharashtra. The Vasantrao Naik Shetkari Swavalamban Mission, Maharashtra government’s task force to deal with farm distress, has asked the Central government to intervene in the matter.Kishor Tiwari , VNSSM chief, said, “Nine innocent farmers fell ill and died in hospital after spraying toxic insecticides on their cotton produce to save it from pest attacks. Four other farmers have lost their vision and 70 farmers are undergoing treatment at the government medical college in Yavatmal after spraying the same toxic insecticide.”The VNSSM said in a statement: “Environmental changes have resulted in huge attacks of bollworm and whitefly on cotton, which forced these farmers to go for continuous uncontrolled insecticide and pesticide spraying to save their standing cotton crop. However, these innocent farmers failed to take requisite precautions and used the toxic insecticide without any knowledge of how to spray the toxic chemical, its timing, schedule, wind direction, which resulted in their tragic deaths.”The VNSSM claimed that ‘Profex Super’ insecticide was used by all the farmers who died. Mr. Tiwari blamed the lack of an Agriculture University and the Agriculture Department’s services in the area for the deaths.He said, “With over 40 lakh hectares under cotton cultivation, Maharashtra has the largest area of the crop in the country. The killer pesticide, Profex Super, is a combination of Profenofos and Cypermethrin. This is not very toxic generally and experts are failing to understand why its use has caused these deaths. When sprayed without covering the mouth and nose, the insecticide causes adverse skin reactions, burning sensation, dizziness, and headaches.” He added, “Experts say this is a result of faulty application or intake of the insecticide. Our farmers are not trained properly. We demand that all bereaved families be compensated and action be taken against all those who are responsible for the deaths.”
The BJP on Monday announced candidates for the Lok Sabha byelections for three seats in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and for one assembly by-election from Bihar.For the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat, which was represented by Yogi Adityanath but fell vacant when he became Chief Minister of UP, the party has fielded local BJP leader Upendra Shukla who had once contested an assembly poll as an independent candidate when denied the party ticket.Both Brahmins and Thakurs – the caste of Mr. Adityanath — are influential in Gorakhpur and have also had a rivalry over the decades. The party hopes to retain the seat after the charismatic Mr. Adityanath — who won it five times irrespective of the fortunes of his party — has taken over as Chief Minister.In Phulpur, a seat that fell vacant when UP Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya vacated it, the party has fielded Kaushalendra Singh Patel, who has been mayor of Varanasi.“The Phulpur seat has a large population of OBCs. After Mr. Maurya, an OBC, the party has fielded another OBC in Mr. Patel, as the Kurmis are well-represented there,” said a BJP leader in UP. “It is good that a party man has been given the ticket here.”Phulpur was once represented by Jawaharlal Nehru.From Araria in Bihar, a seat that fell vacant after the death of Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Mohammed Taslimuddin, the BJP has fielded a backward caste candidate Pradeep Singh.Mr. Singh had had been elected an MLA in 2005 and also MP in 2009. However, he lost in 2014 after the BJP and JD(U) parted ways. “Araria has a strong Muslim population and OBC Hindus are also found in large numbers there. If one adds the votes garnered separately by the BJP and JD (U) in 2014, the NDA would have won the seat by about 1-lakh votes. We are hopeful that we are going to retain this seat after the JD (U) returning to the NDA,” said a BJP leader from Bihar.The BJP has also fielded Rinki Pandey for the assembly by-election from Bhabua in Bihar. The seat had fallen vacant after the death of her husband Anand Bhushan Pandey.
Retrograde move: On Punjab’s proposed law on sacrilege Punjab state Assembly on Tuesday unanimously passed Bills for an amendment to the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPc) to make sacrilege of all religious texts punishable with life imprisonment.The Indian Penal Code (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2018, which was passed has inserted Section 295AA to the IPC to provide that, “whoever causes injury, damage or sacrilege to Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Srimad Bhagwad Gita, Holy Quran and Holy Bible with the intention to hurt the religious feelings of the people, shall be punished with imprisonment for life.”Also Read The Bill further states ”In the Indian Penal Code, 1860, in its application to the state of Punjab, in section 295, for the words ”two years”, the words ”ten years” shall be substituted.Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh in the statement said that in the recent past there have been attempts to disturb peace and communal harmony in the State by committing sacrilege of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Srimad Bhagwad Gita and Holy Quran. The government is determined not to allow such incidents and ensure deterrent action against all those who commit such sacrilege. The proposed Indian Penal Code (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2018, aim to achieve this objective by providing punishment of life imprisonment for such acts of sacrileges.The Code of Criminal Procedure (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2018 provides to insert section 295AA ”injuring, causing any damage or sacrilege to Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Srimad Bhagwad Gita, Holy Quran and Holy Bible with an intention to hurt the religious feeling of the people.”The amendments would need the assent of the President. Under the existing Section 295A, punishment is for a maximum of three years imprisonment with or without fine.
Data analyst and human rights activist Anand Teltumbde on Saturday refuted the Maharashtra police claim that he had attended a convention in Paris which was allegedly funded by Maoists and dismissed as ‘outrageous’ charges of having links with Naxals.Mr. Teltumbde, who teaches at a management institute in Goa, was among the activists and lawyers whose homes were searched by the Pune police on August 28 on suspicion that they had links with Maoists.‘Nothing secret’“These are all false allegations to malign and defame my image. I don’t know any Maoist leader and I am not having any relation with this,” Mr. Teltumbde told PTI over the phone.“I keep going abroad for academic conferences. It is all on official invitations and everything is well documented,” he said.Also Read Five activists were arrested following the searches and they have been placed under house arrest till September 6 as per a Supreme Court direction. Mr. Teltumbde was not home at the time of the searches and has not been arrested.At a press briefing here Friday, the Maharashtra Police had cited a letter, allegedly written by one “Comrade Prakash”, that mentions about arranging funds for a human rights convention attended by “Comrade Anand” in Paris. However, the police did not say when the convention was held.Dismissing these charges, Teltumbde said, “Police should think before levelling allegation; they should see my background, the work I which I did. I don’t have time to do all these things,” he said, adding “this is all outrageous”.Mr. Teltumbde accused the police of harassing activists. “Only because the police have rights and they will do anything they want, this is not done,” he said. Republic of Caste review: Division bell
National Conference (NC) vice president Omar Abdullah on Monday said, “The BJP’s (Bharatiya Janata Party) bravado to have its own chief minister from Jammu has fallen flat in J&K.”“The BJP’s attempts fell flat twice, first by stitching an alliance with the 28-member PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) in 2015, and later, while unsuccessfully attempting to form the government by surrendering before a party with two MLAs from north Kashmir,” said the former chief minister, who held a meeting of the party’s district and block presidents in Jammu.Launching a scathing attack on the BJP, Mr. Abdullah, “I dare the BJP to declare its chief ministerial candidate for J&K ahead of the Assembly elections.”
A day after Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati’s threat to reconsider support to the newly-elected Congress regime, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Tuesday said his government would examine the cases registered against Dalits who had participated in the Bharat Bandh organised on April 2 last year over the alleged dilution of the SC/ST Act.“The cases were lodged against Dalit protesters… How many of them were actually guilty is a matter of investigation,” Mr. Gehlot told reporters at the State Congress headquarters here. He said those who were innocent were also booked sometimes, and added that no innocent person should be framed in a criminal case.In an indication of the seriousness with which the Congress has treated Ms. Mayawati’s warning to the Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh governments, Mr. Gehlot said the BSP chief’s demand was “natural”. “She may be right in her perspective… The [State] government will look into it and examine the cases,” he said.Mr. Gehlot expressed gratitude to Ms. Mayawati for extending outside support to his government. “I appreciate and thank Ms. Mayawati for giving the BSP’s support without the Congress formally asking for it,” he said. In Rajasthan, the Congress won 99 of the 199 seats for which elections were held, falling just short of a majority in the 200-seat House. The BSP then offered outside support of its six MLAs.Ms. Mayawati had warned that the BSP would reconsider its support to the Congress governments in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh if they did not act swiftly and withdrew the cases registered against “innocent people” in connection with Bharat Bandh. Violent incidents took place in several towns of the State during the bandh and one person died in Alwar.
Newly appointed Congress president in Tripura Pradyot Kishore Debburman on Sunday invited all former party leaders to return to the party-fold and said everyone would be given due respect.Mr. Debburman, who was the working president of the Tripura Pradesh Congress Committee, was appointed the TPCC president by AICC chief Rahul Gandhi on February 25.Mr. Debburman met expelled leader and former Chief Minister Samir Ranjan Barman and asked him to return to the party. Mr. Barman did not join any party after his expulsion from the Congress in March 2017. He accepted Mr. Debburman’s invitation and rejoined the party on Saturday. A large number of leaders, led by former Pradesh Congress president Sudip Roy Barman, had defected to the TMC in 2016 and to the BJP in 2017.
The Dausa Lok Sabha seat in Rajasthan has posed a serious challenge of credibility to the BJP following a political slugfest, which has held up finalisation of the candidate’s name despite the process for filing nominations in the election’s fifth phase having begun on Wednesday. The last date of filing papers is April 18.The constituency reserved for Scheduled Tribes has several contenders who are backed by different factions in the party. BJP leaders Kirori Lal Meena and Om Prakash Hudla are reportedly locked in a fight over the seat, with Mr. Meena claiming ticket for his wife Golma Devi, who is a former Congress and National People’s Party leader and legislator.Mr. Hudla, who was elected an MLA from Mahuwa on the BJP ticket in 2013 after defeating Ms. Golma Devi, is seeking the party’s candidature from Dausa for himself with the active support of former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje. He had fought the 2018 Assembly election as an Independent from Mahuwa and defeated Mr. Meena’s nephew Rajendra Meena.Veteran BJP leader and Union Minister of State in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government Jaskaur Meena, who was elected an MP from Sawai Madhopur in 1999, claimed earlier this week that the party was making a move to give ticket to her from Dausa. Though the BJP promptly refuted her claim, there is a likelihood of her selection as a “compromise candidate”.However, the BJP will find it difficult to ignore Mr. Meena, who wields a considerable influence on the Meena voters. ‘Decision soon’BJP in-charge of Rajasthan Avinash Rai Khanna said on Friday that a cross-section of party workers were being consulted and the party’s parliamentary board would shortly take a decision to field the “best candidate”.
Don’t worry about watching all those cat videos on the Internet. You’re not wasting time when you are at your computer—you’re honing your fine-motor skills. A study of people’s ability to translate training that involves clicking and twiddling a computer mouse reveals that the brain can apply that expertise to other fine-motor tasks requiring the hands.We know that computers are altering the way that people think. For example, using the Internet changes the way that you remember information. But what about use of the computer itself? You probably got to this story by using a computer mouse, for example, and that is a bizarre task compared with the activities that we’ve encountered in our evolutionary history. You made tiny movements of your hand in a horizontal plane to cause tiny movements of a cursor in a completely disconnected vertical plane. But with daily practice—the average computer user makes more than 1000 mouse clicks per day—you have become such an expert that you don’t even think about this amazing feat of dexterity. Scientists would love to know if that practice affects other aspects of your brain’s control of your body.The problem is finding people with no computer experience. So Konrad Kording, a psychologist at Northwestern University’s Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago in Illinois, and his former postdoc Kunlin Wei, now at Peking University in Beijing, turned to migrant Chinese workers. The country’s vast population covers the whole socioeconomic spectrum, from elite computer hackers to agricultural laborers whose lifestyles have changed little over the past century. The country’s economic boom is bringing people in waves from the countryside to cities in search of employment.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)A team led by Kording and Wei recruited three groups of people: Chinese migrant workers with no computer experience, workers who were matched by age and education but did have computer experience through a job, and a control group of college students who were computer proficient. All the subjects went through a 2-week training period during which they had to use a computer mouse to play games. (That included the classic game of “Pong” played for 2 hours per day.) The researchers ran each group through a battery of standard motor control tests before and after the training.The test that Kording and Wei were most interested in gauged generalizability. If you learn how to use a computer mouse, does that skill generalize to similar motor tasks? To measure the subjects’ ability to perform unfamiliar tasks, the researchers tested motor skills that involved no mouse at all, such as controlling the position of a finger when the hand is hidden beneath a cover. If expertise in using a computer mouse doesn’t generalize to other motor skills, migrant workers without previous computer experience should do far worse than the other two groups on these other tests.Before the training period, migrant works who already had computer experience performed better than their computer-naive peers on all the tests. Individuals without computer experience found it far more difficult to make finely controlled adjustments of the hand, especially when the hand was hidden. But after just 2 weeks of training, migrant workers with no previous computer experience performed just as well as college students at using a computer mouse and applying that skill to other fine-motor hand skills, the team reports today in Current Biology.“The results are surprising,” says Robert Scheidt, a biomechanical engineer at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who works with stroke victims. “Two weeks is not a long time at all” to gain a specific new motor skill, let alone boost a whole set of them. Until now, he says, the evidence has supported “narrow generalizability,” in which learning one motor skill translates to improvement only in nearly identical tasks. So for those helping rehabilitate people who have lost motor abilities, “this is exactly the result we wanted to see,” Scheidt says. The study lends support to computer-based methods for helping stroke patients to regain control of their limbs. And for healthy people who are trying to learn a new motor skill, it may be possible to accelerate learning through carefully designed computer games.
An effort at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) to diagnose mysterious diseases is undergoing a major expansion. Representatives of the Undiagnosed Diseases Program (UDP), administered by NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), announced today that six medical centers will join the program, forming a network of clinical sites to investigate intractable cases from patients around the country. The program aims to offer patients a long-awaited diagnosis—and sometimes treatment—while building up data for scientists studying the genetic basis of rare diseases.The new sites—Baylor College of Medicine; the Harvard teaching hospitals (Boston Children’s, Brigham and Women’s, and Massachusetts General); Duke University; Stanford University; the University of California, Los Angeles; and Vanderbilt University Medical Center—will each receive a 4-year grant of roughly $7.2 million to participate. Like the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, that served as a pilot site, the centers will host patients for about a week at a time, performing extensive clinical tests and genetic sequencing in search of an explanation for their symptoms.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Harvard Medical School in Boston, which received a $9 million award in January to act as “coordinating center,” will facilitate collaboration between researchers and will make patient data widely available through public repositories such as NIH’s database of Genotypes and Phenotypes, explained Anastasia Wise, director of NHGRI’s Division of Genomic Medicine, at a press conference today.Since the program launched in May 2008, it has received applications from about 3200 patients, 750 of which were selected for study. “There has never been a shortage of referrals to the program,” UDP Director William Gahl said today. (Indeed, in 2011, the program temporarily stopped accepting applications to catch up on the flood of inquiries.) The program’s track record for medical sleuthing depends on how you define a diagnosis, Gahl said. Between 25% and 50% of cases are considered “resolved” based on a clinical, molecular, or biochemical diagnosis, while about a quarter are closed without an answer. “You can see that this is a difficult work, in which we sometimes fail,” he added.The program now admits about 150 patients per year at the NIH Clinical Center, but plans to accommodate 50 per year at each of the seven sites by the summer of 2017.
Fossils of thumb-sized fish that lived about 385 million years ago hint that the oldest jawed vertebrates copulated and fertilized their eggs internally, pushing back the origins of this form of mating by at least 10 million years and into more primitive groups of these fish than previously known. A new analysis of Microbrachius fossils, which include the most primitive subgroup of vertebrates with jaws, called antiarch placoderms, reveals that some of these armored fish (presumed to be males) have a deeply grooved bone that extends from each side of their pelvis. That feature resembles the “claspers” used by modern-day sharks, skates, and other cartilaginous fish to channel sperm during mating—and, the researchers report online today in Nature, likely served the same purpose in these ancient swimmers. Microbrachius fossils that don’t sport the grooved bones, presumed to be females, instead have dermal plates beneath the pelvis; ridges and bumps on the inside of those plates probably helped the females firmly hold the males’ organ during side-by-side copulation (artist’s representation above). Today’s paper also suggests that external fertilization, or spawning, in fish evolved later than internal fertilization—precisely the opposite of what most scientists have long proposed. One big question now is whether even more ancient species within the antiarch placoderms bred in the same way as the fossils described here. If so, that would push back the origins of copulation within the group to 430 million years ago.
Singapore is the world’s most expensive city for the fifth straight year in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s latest Worldwide Cost of Living report, with Paris and Zurich tied for second place. Asia Pacific and European destinations dominated the ranks of costliest cities identified in the report released this week. Tokyo and Osaka were conspicuous in their absence from the top 10, edged out by low inflation. The EIU survey is designed to help companies calculate cost-of-living allowances and build compensation packages for expatriates and business travelers.Read it at Business Standard Related Items
Three bankrupt US companies with links to Indian billionaire Nirav Modi were “directly involved” in transactions related to the alleged multibillion-dollar international fraud for which Modi has been charged by Indian authorities, according to an investigation by the court-appointed examiner.Read it at SCMP Related Items
“White men,” an obscure Australian academic named Charles Henry Pearson predicted in his 1893 book “National Life and Character: A Forecast,” would be “elbowed and hustled, and perhaps even thrust aside” by people they had long regarded as their inferiors — “black and yellow races.” China, in particular, would be a major threat. Pearson, prone to terrors of racial extinction while living in a settler colony in an Asian neighborhood, thought it was imperative to defend “the last part of the world, in which the higher races can live and increase freely, for the higher civilization.”Read it at New York Times Related Items
After exactly two decades of basking in the international cricket limelight and managing to stay away from controversy with a peculiar mix of feigned naivete and self-conscious professionalism, Sachin Tendulkar came out of the closet – as it were – and last month executed a “late cut” that pricked the inflated political ego of at least one veteran local leader, Shiv Sena’s Bal Thackeray. Is our pet-next-door showing traits of a political animal in the making?For a cricketer who normally lets his bat do the talking, Tendulkar had truly gone out on a limb to speak out unequivocally against Thackeray’s son-of-the-soil ideology. It was a gutsy stroke, and as usual left the opposition momentarily stunned and gaping. But it also quite unwittingly set in motion a series of events that culminated (or so it seems at the time of writing) in an ugly near-riotous fracas. More than a dozen Shiv Sena goons, carrying clubs and hockey sticks, smashed the furniture and equipment in the offices of a television channel critical of Thackeray and manhandled the staffers, some of whom were women. Stated reason: they were miffed that the channel head, a known Thackeray baiter, had gone to town ridiculing the Sena chief over Tendulkar’s statement. That statement and the goon attack are both couched in an acutely politicized context. Tendulkar, to be sure, was not speaking at a political rally. He was in fact responding to media queries at the celebration of his 20 years at the pinnacle of international cricket. Responding to a question on Maharashtrian pride, Tendulkar replied: “I am a Maharashtrian and I am extremely proud of that. But I am an Indian first. And Mumbai belongs to all Indians.”It was doubtless the verbal equivalent of a stinging slap on the face of the cynical parochialism that has plagued the politics of Mumbai city and Maharashtra state since the birth of the Shiv Sena in the mid-1960s. This brand of intimidatory fascism – backed by lumpen elements – again raised its head recently when the Shiv Sena lost its clout among the Marathi-speaking middle-class, long considered its faithful ally and unwavering votary. The state assembly elections in October proved that the much-publicized split in the Sena family – patriarch Thackeray’s estranged nephew Raj leaving the fold to float his own Maharashtra Navnirman Sena – was fatal to the Sena’s electoral fortunes. The MNS effectively split the Marathi vote to emerge as a minor power-broker among mainstream parties, and – more importantly – to render the parent Sena weak and depleted.Curiously however, both the Shiv Sena and the MNS feed off the same issues, centering largely on the perceived discrimination and marginalization of Maharashtrians in their own state because of large-scale influx of migrant labor from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Raj Thackeray took the battle to Amitabh Bachchan’s northern origins and whipped up local resentment against the Bollywood superstar for investing in projects in Uttar Pradesh and for appearing in television commercials publicizing the state’s rural development. And when MNS legislators physically assaulted another UP-born legislator on the floor of the Maharashtra Assembly for taking his oath in Hindi and not in Marathi, it was clear that the nephew had learnt his uncle’s lessons only too well, that the new kid on the block was one up on the aging veteran. Fearful that Raj was stealing his thunder and worse, demoralizing his cadres and decimating his party’s influence on public issues, Uncle Bal pounced on the next available target. It was his misfortune that it happened to be a cricketing god and his own erstwhile neighbor from the Mumbai suburb of Bandra whose batting exploits he had often praised in fond terms. But political imperatives outweighed personal predilections when the Sena honcho, in a signed editorial in party newspaper Saamna, gave Sachin Tendulkar a history lesson on the sacrifices made by Marathi activists in the 1950s to secure the formation of their own state with Mumbai as its capital – “you were not even born then” – and concluded the diatribe with a veiled warning to the star batsman: “If you use your tongue as a bat to hit boundaries against the Marathi manoos (Marathi person), we will never tolerate it. So whatever you have earned on the cricket pitch, please don’t lose it on the ground of politics.”The backlash against Bal Thackeray was telling: he was roundly criticized by opinion leaders in every field – and not just politics. So telling in fact, that his lieutenants were constrained to issue statements downplaying the outburst as “affectionate fatherly advice.” Raj, on the other hand, has so far maintained a conspicuous silence on the Tendulkar statement. Is he waiting to make the next move, or will he pass an opportunity to score a brownie point for the Marathi cause because Sachin Tendulkar is known to be his personal friend? It is tempting to infer that Tendulkar is but a pawn in this political chess game, a victim of competing chauvinism, caught in the crossfire between two coarse-mouthed tribal chieftains on either side of the generational divide. After all, Sachin has never in the two decades since he became an international sports celebrity and later came of age as a citizen, husband and father, made a single statement on any politically sensitive issue that one can recall. Early in his career, probably at the ill-advised suggestion of a mentor, he is said to have very hesitatingly endorsed a candidate in a local election. But the endorsement was too measly and half-hearted to merit the tag of political activism or even discernable public interest.Moreover, the man who has earned billions hawking consumer products on the back of his star value has not once – that is, before his Mumbai-for-Indians remark – deployed his star power to champion a major public cause or to express his commitment for or against any policy affecting the lives and rights of his fellow citizens. Unlike his idol and well-wisher Sunil Gavaskar who single-handledly braved the wrath of a Hindutva-charged mob of Shiv Sainiks to protect the Muslims near his residence during the 1992 Mumbai riots, Sachin Tendulkar has never uttered a word denouncing the state-sponsored progrom openly orchestrated by Chief Minister Narendra Modi during the Gujarat riots of 2002.Even his support for a cause has been, at best, vague and equivocal. When the Beijing Olympic torch travelled through India, Sachin and footballer Baichung Bhutia were requested by Tibetan activists to refrain from carrying it. Bhutia instantly agreed and made his non-cooperation loud and clear. Sachin, in withering contrast, hohummed till the last minute, and then backed out of the torch relay citing a groin pull.He has however used his stardom to extract small – by his financial standards – and rather unseemly favors from officialdom. He lobbied, albeit unsuccessfully, to get the customs duty on his imported Ferrari waived through the office of a fellow Maharashtrian, the late Pramod Mahajan who was then a federal minister. The effort was botched by a public-interest litigation challenging the waiver. Similarly, Tendulkar is rumored to have pulled strings to dereserve a plot of land, originally earmarked for a home for the homeless, to build his own bungalow.So is his latest statement a mere flash in the pan? I think not. It may have come late, but it is – for me – an unmistakable sign of a maturing Tendulkar. He may not reach the heights of a Mohammed Ali who risked a jail term to protest the Vietnam War, and he may not turn out to be as active as two other Indian sportsmen in the country’s political arena – Jaipal Singh, who led our hockey team to a gold medal at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics and later became a leader for the Jharkhand cause; and Maharashtra’s own Palwankar Baloo, a Harijan cricketer who mediated between Dr.Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi.But I suspect – and predict – that we may see a relatively more active, or least a more vocal Tendulkar in the future. He need not stand for elections to make his point. And there may be times when his silence may be more evocative than anything he speaks. Few noticed, for instance, that when he received the customary “20-year” memento from Narendra Modi during the recent Ahmedabad Test against Sri Lanka, Tendulkar refrained from even the most routine and polite of gestures – a smile – and instead had a steely glint in his eyes. His grim countenance and cold demeanor was, for me, a loud enough political statement. Related Items