Valley unrest takes a toll on Pandits’ festival

first_imgThe Valley unrest cast its shadow on the Kashmiri Pandits’ annual pilgrimage to the Khir Bhawani shrine in north Kashmir on Friday with visitors’ number falling significantly, but Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti used the occasion to ask the community to return “soon”. Located over 20 km north of Srinagar, there was a very thin presence at the shrine at Ganderbal’s Tulmul area.The shrine, housing goddess Mata Ragnya near a spring and under Chinar trees, is key ‘mela’ of Kashmiri Pandits, who faced a mass migration in 1990s due to raging militancy. The colour of the spring water, as believed by Pandits, foretell about the upcoming situation in Jammu and Kashmir. “The colour of the water carries a good omen,” said Sarla, a devotee. Over the decades, the shrine became a major attraction for displaced Pandits to return to the Valley from various parts of the country. Lowest in a decadeFrom 40,000 Pandits converging for the mela in 2010, this year the number has come down to around 1,000, the lowest in the past one decade. Officials put the number of visiting pilgrims to around 4,000 in the past 24 hours, which includes those living in Kashmir. Only 500 migrant Pandits managed to reach the shrine this year from outside the Valley.“It was a difficult decision this year. The prevailing situation here held back many from attending the festival,” said Sudhir Raina, a retired teacher. “I am a regular visitor. It’s a must for a Kashmiri Pandit to visit the shrine,” he added. The government in Srinagar had made special arrangements to ferry devotees. A few days ago, the PDP-BJP government made a special appeal to Pandits to visit the shrine.Chief Minister Ms. Mufti, also paid obeisance at the shrine and participated in the rituals by sprinkling milk, prayed for peace in Jammu and Kashmir.last_img read more

Bengal teenager hospitalised after playing Blue Whale Challenge

first_imgA teenage girl from West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district was hospitalised on Sunday after she was found to have injured herself while playing the deadly online game Blue Whale Challenge, police said.“A class eight student from a private school in Basirhat area fell ill after confessing about her involvement in playing the Blue Whale game to the school authorities. She has been admitted to hospital,” a police officer said.According to police, the girl’s classmates on Saturday found blood oozing from her arm and told the school authorities about it.It was found that the girl had inscribed something by cutting her hand herself.“The hostel superintendent got in touch with us after the girl confessed to cutting her hand as instructed in the Blue Whale Challenge game. Which stage of the game she was into, is not yet clear,” police said.Blue Whale Challenge is reportedly a suicide game in which the player is given certain tasks to complete for a period of 50 days and the final task leads to the player committing suicide.The player is also asked to share photos after finishing each challenge.The sudden popularity of the lethal online game in India had forced the government to issue directions to internet giants Google, Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, Microsoft and Yahoo to immediately remove its links.The game has, so far, claimed a number of lives in India and across the world.Kolkata’s Lifeline Foundation, which offers counselling, can be contacted at 033-24637401 and 033-24637432.last_img read more

‘Mahagathbandhan’ can be revived if Nitish cuts ties with NDA: Congress

first_imgThe ‘mahagathbandhan’ (grand alliance) can be revived if Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar snaps ties with the BJP-led NDA, the Congress party’s state in-charge and national spokesperson Shakti Singh Gohil said on Sunday.“If any such possibility emerges, then we will definitely discuss it with our allies,” Mr. Gohil told PTI when asked how the party would react if Kumar decides to return. The Congress, RJD and Kumar’s JD(U) had forged the ‘mahagathbandhan’ in 2015 ahead of the Bihar assembly elections to halt the BJP’s juggernaut. Mr. Gohil’s remarks come amid conflicting statements being made by the BJP and JD(U) over seat sharing for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. These statements have fuelled speculation that all is not well between the friends-turned-foes-turned-friends. In contrast, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav had recently said that the doors of the ‘mahagathbandhan’ had been closed for Kumar. The JD(U) ended its 17-year-old alliance with the NDA in 2013 when Narendra Modi was declared the prime ministerial candidate. He again joined hands with the NDA in 2017. Mr. Gohil claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government was perceived as anti-backward castes. Speaking of Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) leader Ram Vilas Paswan and Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) leader Upendra Kushwaha, both NDA allies, Mr. Gohil said that parties with OBC and most backward castes (MBC) vote banks had no option but to snap ties with the BJP or go down with it. Terming the anti-BJP alliance necessary for national welfare, he said that it would naturally be led by the Congress since it is the biggest opposition party. The people of India will defeat the BJP in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections under the leadership of Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Mr. Gohil said. We have a history of not being arrogant and we take our allies along, he added.“Nitish Kumar is with the fascist BJP. We do not know what compelled him to join hands with the party; they are incompatible,” Mr. Gohil said. Mr. Gohil also asserted that the Congress president and Modi could not be compared as Mr. Gandhi was fighting for the truth. He also expressed confidence that there will be no differences between the mahagathbandhan allies over the seat distribution in Bihar for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.last_img read more

2 JeM militants shot dead in Kashmir

first_imgTwo Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) militants were killed by a joint patrol of the Army, police and the CRPF at Kundalan village amid widespread street protests in south Kashmir’s Shopian on Tuesday. Two soldiers were injured.A Srinagar-based police spokesman said the militants were holed up in a residential building since Tuesday morning. “They were identified as Sameer Ahmad Sheikh, a local, and Babar from Pakistan. They were affiliated to the proscribed terror outfit JeM,” said the spokesman.A large number of youth converged on the encounter site during the exchange of fire in a bid to help the trapped militants to escape. They clashed with the security forces at many places in the district. A civilian, Tamsheel Ahmad Khan of Vehil Shopian, died of firearm injuries at a Srinagar hospital. Security forces used tear-smoke shells, pellet shotguns and opened fire to controls the mobs.Chief Medical Officer, Shopian, Dr. Abdul Rasheed told The Hindu that 123 injured civilians were brought to the medical facilities at Shopian, Harman and Vehil areas. “We mostly treated pellet injuries, mainly in the eyes. Six had bullet injuries,” Dr. Rasheed said. Dies of shockMuhammad Ishaq Naikoo, father of Zeenat Naikoo, died of cardiac arrest when he was wrongly told that his son was among those trapped in the building surrounded by the joint patrol.In a separate incident, a Class 11 student, Ubaid Manzoor Lone, injured at Nadihal area of Baramulla in Border Security Forces’ firing on stone-throwing youth on June 25, succumbed to injuries at a hospital here.Separatists’ Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik, has called for a shutdown on Wednesday against the “use of unbridled force on unarmed civilians in Shopian.”last_img read more

Kovind should intervene in Mahanadi dispute: CPI(M)

first_imgThe Odisha unit of Communist Party of India(Marxist) would take out a procession from Parliament Street to Rashtrapati Bhavan on September 5 seeking President Ram Nath Kovind’s intervention for early settlement of the Mahanadi river water dispute.The Chhattisgarh government should immediately stop construction of dams and barrages over the Mahanadi till the tribunal gives its verdict, said the party here on Saturday.“The Chhattisgarh government has constructed a dozen barrages and dams without the permission of the Central government. Since Mahanadi is an inter-State river, any construction over it should be finalised after due consultation with the Odisha government and Centre,” said Janardan Pati, member of the CPI(M) Odisha State committee.Tribunal’s verdict “It is well known that the tribunal will take a minimum three years and possibly more. Till the tribunal’s verdict is not published, the Chhattisgarh government should stop all kind of construction over the river,” said Mr. Pati.Senior party leader Ali Kishore Patnaik claimed that the construction of barrages and dams would restrict the normal flow of water to Odisha and affect the lives of 20 million people in the lower catchment areas.last_img read more

Villagers protest after big cat kills man in Satkosia Tiger Reserve

first_imgTension gripped villages located in Odisha’s Satkosia Tiger Reserve (STR) on Sunday after a man was allegedly killed by Sundari, a tigress brought from Madhya Pradesh as part of a tiger re-introduction programme.Trinath Sahoo of Tainsi village had gone for fishing when the tigress killed him. The incident took place while a team of forest personnel was on its way to caution villagers not to venture out as the big cat was around.The wildlife wing of the State Forest and Environment Department has been closely monitoring the movements of a tiger and a tigress brought from Madhya Pradesh by attaching radio collars around their necks.As soon as the news spread, villagers staged a protest. A team of forest officials led by Assistant Conservator of Forests Srikant Behera was said to have been detained by the villagers. A police vehicle was vandalised. Villagers blocked the national highway demanding adequate compensation for the victim. Angul Superintendent of Police Mitrabhanu Mahapatra reached the spot and brought the situation under control.Ever since the introduction of the two tigers, villagers under the banner of Satkosia Khyatigrastha Praja Suraksha Samiti (SKPSS) have been raising apprehension about their safety.On September 13, when a man was killed by a wild animal in Hatibari village, the locals alleged that tigress Sundari had attacked him. Angry villagers torched forest department properties in Tikarapada inside the STR.They have been demanding that the tigers be translocated to Madhya Pradesh. The State government, however, said there was no plan to send the tigers back. Due to the agitation by the villagers, the tiger reintroduction programme has been delayed.Varied reasonsDifferent reasons are being attributed to Sundari’s repeated straying into human habitations. According to State Forest Department sources in Bandhavgarh, the tigress used to roam around in the eco-tourism area where human movement was significant. The tigress is yet to adapt to conditions in deep forest areas. The three-year-old tigress is in search of a male partner for mating. It is facing violent resistance from STR’s two resident tigers which had mated with the tiger translocated from Kanha.last_img read more

Cong. mocks Chouhan for stopping ‘Yatra’

first_imgThe Opposition Congress in Madhya Pradesh on Friday ridiculed Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan over the culmination of his ‘Jan Ashirwad Yatra’ midway in Jabalpur on Thursday after covering just 187 of the 230 Assembly seats in the poll-bound State. In a tweet on Friday, the party’s State unit chief Kamal Nath said, “It (Yatra) was devoid of public, of government sponsored crowd and faced protest. The BJP itself now started deserting it the old speeches (of Mr. Chouhan), no work, just promises of doing this and that, false dream and assurance (did not work). Public understood all this.” The BJP has, however, sought to downplay the development by stating that no culmination date was decided for the Yatra.BJP vice-president Prabhat Jha said that no date for the Yatra’s culmination had been decided, adding that during the poll campaign, Mr. Chouhan would visit constituencies not covered in the Yatra. Mr. Jha said that Mr. Chouhan also had to attend party meetings in connection with the polls.State BJP spokesperson Rajnish Agrawal said the Yatra was supposed to end on September 25, coinciding with the birth anniversary of party ideologue Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya. It was extended but no conclusion date had been fixed, he added. Mr. Agrawal added that the CM also had to take part in meetings to select candidates and accompany them when they file nominations, as well as take part in campaigning.Incidentally, Mr. Chouhan’s earlier Yatras ahead of the Assembly polls in 2008 and 2013 had culminated on September 25 and then too he had not covered all the 230 seats in the State. The BJP is facing a resurgent Congress in M.P. with opinion polls predicting a close finish between the two national parties, some of them giving the Congress an edge. Senior BJP leaders had earlier said that the party was planning not to give tickets to 70-80 MLAs in order to tide over anti-incumbency factor.Unsavoury events Mr. Chouhan’s Yatra saw some unsavoury events such as stones being thrown at his vehicle, black flags being shown as well as footwear flung during one of his gatherings in Sidhi district. In several areas, people complained to Mr. Chouhan about the poor performance of the sitting MLAs as well. Mr. Chouhan had embarked on the Yatra on July 14 from Ujjain on a bus modified as a chariot to seek blessings of the people and set the tone for the poll campaign to bring the BJP back to power for a fourth consecutive time.last_img read more

Gold for brides, corporation for Muslims in Assam budget

first_imgGold for brides, a development corporation for indigenous Muslims and e-bikes for girls securing first division in higher secondary examinations were among a slew of sops in the ₹1,193.04-crore deficit budget presented in the Assam Assembly on Wednesday.State Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma announced a ‘golden gift’ for brides of all communities. The facility will be for the economically weaker sections with an annual income of below ₹5 lakh.“I am happy to announce that we shall give one tola (11.34 gram) gold, costing around ₹38,000 today, to brides… The benefit can be availed upon formal registration of the marriages under the Special Marriage (Assam) Rules, 1954, and will reach the beneficiaries right in time for the social marriage,” he said.A sum of ₹300 crore has been allocated for the scheme named after Arundhati, the wife of sage Vashisht.Mr. Sarma also announced a scheme to provide battery-operated e-bikes to all girl students who secure first division or above in their Class XII examinations for commuting to their places of higher studies. For parents whose annual income is below ₹2 lakh, the Finance Minister announced admission fee waiver and free textbooks up to degree level. The scheme, called Gyan Deepika, currently covers Classes up to XII.A section of the budget was devoted to religious places with ₹4.11 crore earmarked for 160 Hindu temples and monasteries across the State as total annual grant besides a one-time grant of ₹1 lakh each to install CCTV cameras. Grant for templesThe annual grant for 2019-20 is 451% more than the ₹91.03 lakh for the current fiscal.A few mosques and dargahs are among more than 800 religious destinations to be provided ₹10 lakh each for infrastructure improvement. But the Finance Minister laid more stress on creating a development corporation for the indigenous or Assamese Muslims, who have been demanding a council like some ethnic groups.Such a development council “will take up various programmes aimed at their holistic development. Once the corporation is formed, ₹100 crore will immediately be sanctioned,” Mr. Sarma said.According to the 2011 Census, Assam has 1.18 crore Muslims, of which the indigenous or Assamese Muslims are estimated to be 72 lakh. Before the 2016 Assembly elections, the BJP had promised to protect the identity of the indigenous Muslims against the Bengali-speaking migrant Muslims.The budget also focuses attention on tea plantation workers who account for 17% of Assam’s population and are a major vote bank for the BJP. “The government has decided to provide rice, which is presently provided at ₹ per kg, free of cost to 4 lakh families in the tea garden areas as well as 2 kg of sugar per month,” Mr. Sarma said.Nutrition planBeyond the tea estates, 53 lakh households would be provided rice at ₹1 per kg under the Affordable Nutrition and Nourishment Assistance Yojana. The current rate is ₹3 per kg, he said.“We will start the pilot implementation of this scheme from March, for which ₹377 crore has been allocated,” Mr. Sarma said.last_img read more

Publisher withdraws guide book with offensive analogy in Assam

first_imgA local publisher has withdrawn a guide to a Class 12 textbook after it attracted criticism for an insensitive remark.The Guwahati-based RG Publications had published the guide book to Sahitya Saurav, the Assamese language textbook approved by the State’s higher secondary education council for the current academic sessionExplaining the Assamese phrase paani kor (dash hopes), the guide book used a sentence that translates into: “The girl dashed the hopes of her parents by marrying a Muslim boy.”In an apology the publishing firm’s proprietor Rakesh Goswami said they had stopped printing the guide book and those already sold would be recalled. Around 200 books had been sold.“We have asked Dipak Rajbongshi and Mary Pujari, editors of the guide book, to revise it. They have admitted their mistake,” an executive of the firm said. State higher education officials said they would probe how such a line came to be published. Officials added that they will henceforth ensure that books are filtered for such content.last_img read more

Ahmednagar case not honour killing, say police

first_imgThe Ahmednagar police on Friday said that the incident in which a young couple was allegedly set ablaze in by kin opposed to their inter-caste marriage was not a case of ‘honour killing’.According to information earlier given by the police, 23-year-old Mangesh Ransing, and his wife Rukmini (19), were allegedly doused in petrol and set on fire in Ahmednagar’s Nighoj village by three of Rukmini’s relatives on May 1. Rukmini Ransing had succumbed to her injuries at Sassoon Hospital and the police had arrested her relatives in connection with the case.Now, in a startling twist, the police have said that their investigations proved it was Mangesh who was the real culprit and had set his wife ablaze. “The conclusion drawn by us after thorough investigation clearly proves that this incident is not a case of ‘honour killing’ as is being touted. Mangesh, following a heated altercation with Rukmini, doused his wife with petrol. In this process, the entire room caught fire and he too suffered burn injuries as a result,” said a senior police officer who investigated the case.He also said that a completely wrong picture had been presented in this case showing the girl’s relatives to be ‘opposed’ to the marriage on account of caste.“Mangesh and Rukmini had eloped with the objective of getting married. This move, naturally, did not meet with approval from the girl’s side initially. Yet, they reconciled and Rukmini’s mother did attend their wedding contrary to what was earlier believed that no relative from her side came,” said the official.He further said that Rukmini’s uncles worked as ice cream vendors, and that investigations revealed that one of them was not even present at the time of the incident.According to him, the testimonies given by Mangesh’s brothers in Pune that Rukmini’s kin were vehemently opposed to the marriage were “misleading”.“It appears that Rukmini went back to her parent’s place after a tiff with Mangesh. He arrived there on April 30 to fetch her back. The next day [May 1], the duo had another quarrel after Rukmini refused to go back with Mangesh, who then set her ablaze,” said the investigating official.last_img read more

Europe’s pesticide problem

first_imgThe first large-scale risk assessment of organic chemicals in European rivers and lakes has revealed an extensive problem with pesticides. Nearly half of these water bodies had levels that could harm fish, invertebrates, and algae. “We were surprised that it was so widespread,” says environmental engineer Egina Malaj of the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig, Germany. The concern is greatest for insects and algae, but the researchers say that in areas where the levels are highest, people should not drink untreated river water.”It’s really an impressive assessment,” says Deborah Swackhamer, an environmental chemist at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, who was not involved in the work. Many studies have looked at single watersheds, but the new research is by far the most comprehensive. “Whole river basins are potentially at risk,” she says.Malaj is a Ph.D. student in a research group that focuses on the environmental effects of organic chemicals. These molecules contain carbon atoms, and they include pollutants such as pesticides, herbicides, and other synthesized compounds. Curious about the risk posed to aquatic life, the researchers turned to a database on water quality run by the European Environment Agency.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(*)After downloading monitoring data for 223 chemicals at 4001 testing sites across the continent, Malaj and colleagues at several other institutions evaluated the likelihood that the concentrations would be toxic. The thresholds for death and chronic illness are well known for three kinds of laboratory organisms that are commonly used in ecotoxicology: the fathead minnow; a water flea; and a solitary, microscopic alga that is part of the base of the aquatic food web.Levels of organic chemicals were high enough to likely cause chronic problems, such as fewer offspring, at 42% of the sites. And at 14% of sites, the levels were high enough to kill a significant number of individuals of one or more of the three test species, the team reports online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Pesticides were by far the most common culprit. That’s what the team expected, Malaj says, because environmental monitoring tends to test for these chemicals.Although many people assume that pesticides tend to be local to agricultural areas, they turn up much more widely, Malaj says. Pesticides and herbicides are sprayed onto fields, and they can waft or wash into adjacent streams, where they persist and float downstream. “It’s surprising that despite extensive regulations, we still find the pesticides,” she says. Rules specify how close to a stream farmers can spray pesticides and what the concentrations should be. “Our study shows that pesticides are a key pollutant,” Malaj says. Also common were brominated flame retardants, which are used in many consumer products. Often, these are spread by dust into waterways. Another ubiquitous pollutant is polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which typically come from vehicle exhaust or petroleum spills from boats. The risk from organic chemicals appears to be higher in streams and lakes in northern Europe than in southern Europe. Malaj doesn’t think this difference is necessarily because of varying amounts of chemical use. Rather, countries in northern Europe tend to test their streams and lakes for more kinds of chemicals, and their measurements are more sensitive and accurate. That means the chemical risk in southern Europe could be underestimated.”The real situation of European waters is probably even worse,” said the study’s senior author, ecotoxicologist Ralf Schäfer of the University of Koblenz-Landau, in a statement.The best approach for reducing the risk to aquatic life would be to design pesticides and other products that are safer, the authors say. In the meantime, farmers could help by spraying fewer pesticides and herbicides, or by planting more vegetation around streams to reduce the polluted runoff from fields. And, Malaj adds, regulators should assess the cumulative risk of the many chemicals in the environment. Not only would this better protect fish, insects, and algae, Schäfer says, but it would also likely help safeguard water quality. Because the health risk of many chemicals has not been studied, a more protective approach could help prevent people from getting sick.last_img read more

Seedy tale: Chinese researchers stole patented corn, U.S. prosecutors allege

first_imgThe court documents read like something out of a Coen brothers film. Employees of the Chinese agricultural company Dabeinong Technology Group Co. (DBN) and a subsidiary sneaked through midwestern cornfields, U.S. prosecutors allege, stealthily gathering patented corn that they attempted to smuggle out of the United States in microwave popcorn boxes. Over a span of years, the associates allegedly came up with various ways of stealing coveted seed lines developed by agricultural giants DuPont Pioneer, Monsanto, and LG Seeds—a feat that, had it succeeded, would have sidestepped years of research. The case is remarkable in its scope. Experts on Chinese agriculture say that it also reflects real obstacles to innovation within China.The U.S.-based defendants roamed rural Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa in rental cars, digging up corn seedlings, stealing ears of corn, and stealing or illegally obtaining packaged seed, according to court documents. In 2011, a DuPont Pioneer field manager spotted one alleged thief on his knees digging in a field, as a collaborator waited in a nearby parked car. The defendants stored hundreds of ears of corn in a storage locker, where a manager warned them that their stash might attract rodents. They eventually purchased 13 hectares of Iowa farmland in an apparent attempt to conceal their activities.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(*)FBI agents tracked the group for about a year, according to court documents, eventually indicting the alleged ringleader, Mo Hailong, and five partners this past December. Last week, U.S. prosecutors arrested and charged another suspect in the case. Mo Yun, a researcher with a “PhD in an animal science field,” according to court records, heads up DBN’s research and technology division in Beijing. All seven defendants have been charged with being part of a conspiracy to steal trade secrets.  Mo Yun is the wife of DBN Chair Shao Genhuo and the sister of alleged ringleader Mo Hailong. Her arrest suggests that agents have traced the operation back to the scientists in China who would have handled any seed lines obtained from the United States. Mo Yun, who oversaw DBN’s seed breeding efforts in China, was “in charge of the specifics from the home country side,” DBN’s chief operating officer wrote in an instant message to Mo Hailong that was intercepted by FBI agents.The germplasm, or genetic makeup, of corn lines is a valuable form of intellectual property and is carefully guarded by seed companies. Through extensive research, breeders develop inbred seed lines that have particular traits. They can then be crossbred with other inbred lines to create hybrid lines that are sold to farmers.In China, Mo Yun and her colleagues operated in an atmosphere that works against the homegrown development of such seed lines, say observers of China’s agricultural research programs. China’s plant breeding research is mainly conducted in the public sector, and researchers are not always in close contact with the companies that sell and trade seeds. Less money is available for the private sector, says Huang Jikun, director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy in Beijing. “The current institutional setting and incentive system” is a barrier to innovation, he notes.Plant breeding research elsewhere in the world has benefited from advances in genomics and molecular markers, but plant breeding scientists in China do not work closely with researchers in those areas, says Carl Pray, an agriculture, food, and resource economics expert at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, who has worked in China. “Only a few private Chinese companies have developed major biotech and plant breeding research capacities,” he adds. Rather than labor in an atmosphere stymied by poor investment, fragmented research groups, and weak intellectual property protection, the defendants may have seen obtaining patented seed lines as a shortcut. The United States has a climate and crop growing conditions that are similar to China’s, making it a “natural place to look,” Pray says.In 2012, a court document alleges, Mo Hailong and two other defendants “attempted to ship approximately 250 pounds of corn seed, packaged in 42, 5-gallon zip-lock bags contained in 5 separate boxes,” from Illinois to a logistics company in Hong Kong. Another defendant is said to have stashed “374 small manila envelopes each containing small quantities of corn seed within two boxes of Pop Weaver brand microwave popcorn,” which he stowed in his checked luggage on a flight to Beijing.Mo Yun, who would have overseen efforts to ascertain the germplasm of any stolen seed lines in Beijing, allegedly participated from behind the scenes. Agents intercepted instant messaging chats in which she and her brother discussed which seeds to collect.Later, she told her brother that some of the seeds he had sent were performing well. She added that a DBN scientist had been asked to test the DNA of the seed lines deemed most promising, according to court documents.DuPont Pioneer has developed a popular corn line in China in partnership with a Chinese company. But because of the Chinese government’s concern about foreign control of China’s seed industry, Pray says, officials have allowed the company to commercialize only one hybrid cultivar. Those tight controls mean that little of the company’s intellectual property finds its way into China. Pray says “it could be that if the Chinese government was not so effective at keeping out U.S. companies and U.S. maize lines, [Mo Yun] and her brother could have taken these lines from DuPont in China rather than violating U.S. law and taking U.S. trade secrets from the U.S.”Mo Hailong and several other defendants have entered not guilty pleas. Attorneys for the accused could not be reached for comment.last_img read more

Fate of pending bills to clear cloud on H-1B visa norms

first_imgThe largest software exporter TCS today welcomed the clarity on H-1B visaholders, but said pending bills in the US legislature continue to be an “immediate concern” to grapple with.The company for which the US is the largest market, said there is a difference between the way it is reported and what is the reality on the ground.“Immediate concern of H-1B+ is that there are a few more bills that are being talked about, but none of that has played out as of now,” TCS human resources head Ajoy Mukherjee told reporters.The company will continue with its policy of planning in advance and continue with its steps like stepping up local hiring across, he added.Read it at Times of India Related Itemslast_img

Indians diaspora is the largest in the world

first_imgThe Indian diaspora is the highest as compared to the countries all over the world. Over 15 million migrants from India are living abroad, as reported in a study conducted by the UN Population Division. International migration data shows Indians make up the biggest population living outside their country of birth.Read it at Times of India Related Itemslast_img

Does Going De-Glam Equal Great Acting?

first_imgFrom time immemorial there has always been a silent, unspoken conflict raging between the glam, hot, successful star and the gifted, popular actor. While the much-fantasized dazzlers have never ever publicly condescended to recognize the talent and contribution of a modestly popular but consummate actor, the actor, in turn has always — in private — sneered and ridiculed the stars “attempts at acting” and attributed their success to “good luck” and networking skills. Supernova female dazzlers somewhere within, seem to recognize, realize, understand and know the source of their fan-appeal. Glamor, sex appeal, beauty, dazzling screen presence, great pairing chemistry with a top-hero? Sure! However, seldom — if ever — do the terms “great acting” feature and the top stars, at some point, begin to yearn for that elusive praise.  Deepika in Khele Hum Jeen Jaan Sey. So what do they do in an environment where “branding” and “image” call the shots, where audience perception is reality and where a shift in screen persona could be suicidal, unless pulled off with great care? Fall back on the oldest trick in the book — go de-glam!Back in the seventies it was Jeetendra-Hema Malini going seedha-saadha in Gulzar (Khushboo, Kinara) movies; Vinod Khanna following suit in Achanak; Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha did their turn (Bemisaal, Jurmana, Chupke Chupke, Khubsoorat) as also garam Dharam (Chupke Chupke, Satyakam) and of course the biggest of ’em all, Rajesh Khanna with Anand, Namak Haram and Bawarchi soon joined the party. Even the Evening in Paris and Kashmir Ki Kali sizzler, Sharmila Tagore, frequently went “plain” in such projects as Anupama, Satyakaam, and Aavishkar as did Mumtaz in Tere Mere Sapne, among others. Did it work for them? One has to admit that mostly it did and largely because the director’s intent was focused, pure and not corrupted by commercial considerations. It was a genuine   Bipasha in Lamhadesire to convert challenge into opportunities for the glam-dolls and cardboard studs, with the helping hand of a caring, sensitive, inspirational, encouraging and gifted director.What’s the scene today? Same, as it was yesterday, my friend. Hotties like Priyanka Chopra, Kat Kaif, Deepika Padukone, Ash Rai Bachchan and Bipasha Basu have all been driven by the same compulsions and attempted to switch lanes and embrace the elusive art and craft of true-to-life acting as against, hi-decibel, populist, posturing, dramabazi and performing! Ash went heavy-duty, de-glam in Rituparno Ghosh‘s Raincoat and later Mani Ratnam’s Guru and Raavan. Gorgeous Piggy Chops, ages from age 21 to 65 on her mission to murder seven husbands in Vishal Bharadwaj’s latest Saat Khoon Maaf! Stunning, tall Deepika played a blind girl in the just-released Lafangey Parindey and also went low-key in Karthik Calling Karthik. She, however, is all set to hit a new level as a freedom fighter in Ashutosh Gowarikar’s on-the-floor Khele Hum Jee Jaan Sey.  Kajol in We are Family Who can forget the delectable and glamorous reigning queen of hearts Katrina Kaif’s de-glam look in Prakash Jha’s huge hit Raajneeti? And of course, not to miss out on the Bong-shell Bipash Basu’s Kashmiri girl act in the here today–gone today film, Lamha? Rumor has it that after Chameli, lovely Kareena Kapoor is once again projecting a “no-makeup look” in Karan Johar’s just-released local adaptation of the popular Hollywood film Stepmom entitled We Are family. Oh, Sameera Reddy, the sexy starlet (with delusions of grandeur after a stint with a Buddhadev Dasgupta project) too enters the fray with an encore in Anant Mahadevan’s Red Alert, where she plays a feisty tribal girl brutally raped by the cops. Wow!While the reasons of these stars for accepting roles against their grain is interesting … “It was a challenge to play a role you can’t identify in real life” (Priyanka Chopra); “I am still new and change is good and the right time to experiment” (Deepika Pads); “I signed the film for the credibility of the role” (Bips Basu) and the best, “I yearned to be a part of a film that would be remembered. I hardly ever receive them” (Sam Reddy) … Ultimately, it’s the audience that decides whether the transition worked or not. While Priyanka was amazing in Kaminey and Katrina quite credible and fetching in Raajneeti, Deepika didn’t seem to quite fit in either Lafangey or Karthik, despite very spirited efforts. As for Bips, it was a total flop, if only because of her overwhelming image as a sexy, hot babe! Do we really (yawn) need to bring up the Reddy girl? Nah, give it, a miss, she’s herself not ready for serious stuff! Related Itemslast_img read more

Rajasthan Cong. urges Rahul to continue as party president

first_imgAmid the bickering over the party’s rout in Lok Sabha elections, the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress’s executive committee on Wednesday passed a resolution requesting Rahul Gandhi to continue as the Congress president and authorised him to carry out organisational changes in the party’s State unit, if needed.AICC general secretary in charge of Rajasthan Avinash Pande said after the PCC meeting at the party’s State headquarters here — the first after the declaration of election results in which it lost all the 25 Lok Sabha seats in the State — that the “spirit of struggle and commitment to principles” remained unchanged despite the defeat.“The executive committee has accepted all the challenges, failures and shortcomings which led to this mandate… It is our collective responsibility,” Mr. Pande said, while indicating that there would be no immediate changes in the party’s State leadership.In its hour-long meeting attended by PCC president and Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot, CM Ashok Gehlot, State Ministers and the party’s election candidates and office-bearers, the PCC endorsed the Congress Working Committee’s resolution passed in New Delhi on May 25, which had asked Mr. Gandhi to continue in office.While the executive committee reposed faith in Mr. Gandhi’s leadership, there was no discussion at the meeting on the factors responsible for the party’s humiliating defeat in the State, where it could not win even a single seat despite its victory in the Assembly polls barely five months ago. PCC vice-president Archana Sharma said the matter would be discussed in other meetings to be convened shortly.No reference was made to the purported resignation of Agriculture Minister Lalchand Kataria and the demand raised by Ministers Udai Lal Anjana and Ramesh Meena for introspection and a detailed analysis of the defeat. Uncertaintly prevailed over Mr. Kataria’s “resignation letter”, which was released to the media on WhatsApp, as he was unreachable.BSP supportMeanwhile, the Bahujan Samaj Party has announced that it will continue to support the Congress government in the State in order to “stop communal and casteist forces”. The six BSP MLAs elected in the 2018 Assembly polls have extended support to the State government.BSP vice-president Ramji Gautam said in a statement that the party chief Mayawati had instructed the MLAs not to go against the party’s ideology or play into the hands of communal forces. Any MLA flouting the instructions would be expelled from the party, he warned.last_img read more

Azam Khan booked for occupying public land

first_imgSamajwadi Party MP from Rampur Azam Khan was booked for allegedly obstructing government work and occupying public property without permission, the police said on Saturday.A First Information Report was registered at the Azimnagar police station on a complaint from Nayab tehsildar K.G. Mishra, Rampur Superintendent of Police Shiv Hari Meena told reporters. Besides Mr. Khan, Mohammad Ali Jauhar University registrar R.A Qureshi and security officer Alhe Hasan Khan were named in the FIR.Riverine land Mr. Khan is the Chancellor of the university which, according to the FIR, illegally occupied a five-hectare riverine land belonging to the Seegan Khera gram sabha and built an eight-foot-high boundary wall around it. The staff members had allegedly obstructed officials from carrying out land measurement on May 25.The FIR invoked Sections 3, 4 and 332 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984.last_img read more

Heavy rain wreaks havoc in Kashmir Valley

first_imgTorrential rain resulted in the death of a boy, destruction of standing crops and disruption of traffic on highways in the Kashmir Valley on Thursday.Locals said Burhan Ahmad Malla, 6, a resident of Kupwara’s Khurhama area, slipped into a nullah and drowned due to heavy rain, which started early in the morning.“Rain also damaged standing crops in several parts the Valley,” an official said.“A few hours of downpour exposed the hollow claims of flood preparedness in Kashmir. A spell of heavy rain in the morning caused water-logging at many places in the Valley and Srinagar city,” said CPI(M) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami.Several areas in Srinagar, including Lal Chowk, got inundated due to rain, disrupting movement of traffic.Meanwhile, large-scale landslides on Srinagar-Ladakh and Shopian-Poonch highways forced closure of traffic on Thursday, an official said. Scores of vehicles, including those carrying essentials and tourists to Ladakh region, were stranded on both sides of the highways. Personnel of the Border Roads Organisation were working hard to open the highways, a police officer said.The rain, however, dropped the day temperature by several notches. According to the Met office, Kashmir will see more rain in the next couple of days.last_img read more

99% Mumbaikars would now back the Coastal Road Project: Devendra Fadnavis

first_imgVirtually all Mumbai citizens would vote in favour of the city’s ambitious Coastal Road Project, if asked today, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has asserted in defence of the project recently stayed by the Bombay High Court due to environmental concerns.“I respect the Court’s verdict… but when we started planning it, there were no regulations for such a project,” Mr. Fadnavis told The Hindu in an interview. “We just followed what the Centre told us to do… If today a signature campaign is started, 99% of Mumbai’s citizens will vote in favour of a coastal road,” he said.Stressing that big-ticket infrastructure projects like the bullet train between Mumbai and Ahmedabad and a hyperloop between Mumbai and Pune will boost the State’s economy, the CM expressed concern about projects facing time and cost overruns due to “unnecessary litigation”.Terming the recent floods in western Maharashtra a “fallout of climate change”, Mr. Fadnavis dismissed the charge that his administration failed to provide adequate and timely relief to the flood-affected.“After an unprecedented 700% rainfall in seven days… nobody could have anticipated that the water would rise like this… We are experiencing a real fallout of climate change,” he argued.Terming any criticism on this front as “unfair”, the CM pointed out that rescue teams could also not reach the affected areas “as the highways were cut off and the planes could not land”.“After two days of trying to get them to land, I spoke to Union Defence Minister RajnathSinghji who provided us with a Dauphin aircraft from Rajasthan, which could land in marshy conditions. We then created a green corridor without losing a single life to the floods, and (the) deaths (that occurred) resulted from a boat capsize,” he underlined.While exuding confidence that a good monsoon and the Centre’s interventions will stir up India’s slowing economy, the CM said he was worried about the adverse impact of the floods on the State’s sugar industry. “We may have to reschedule their debts in the near future,” he said.last_img read more

UN-Habitat grant for Jaipur civic body

first_imgAhead of the municipal elections in Rajasthan, the UN-Habitat has released a grant of ₹10 crore to the Jaipur Municipal Corporation for environmental protection through innovative steps in the urban local body. The corporation will also conduct a fresh survey of properties in the capital city for assessment of urban development and house taxes.A delegation of UN-Habitat’s representatives met Jaipur Mayor Vishnu Lata and Commissioner Vijay Pal Singh here over the weekend to discuss the measures for improving health standards and quality of life of people of the city. Mr. Lata said the civic body would utilise the grant for strengthening of sewerage network in the city.The project’s nodal officer, Rajiv Garg, said the grant would also be utilised for sewage water treatment. The water cleaned through the process will be supplied to the farmers on the outskirts of Jaipur for growing fruits and vegetables.The delegation’s members included Herman Pienaar, William Walve, Shurti Rajagopalan and Pooja Verma. The group also met the officers of Jaipur Smart City Limited, Rajasthan State Industrial Development and Investment Corporation and Jaipur Police.As part of the revenue generation plans, the Municipal Corporation will undertake a fresh survey of properties to get real time data of their liability to pay urban development and housing taxes. After the previous survey conducted in 2005-06, the number of such residential and commercial buildings in the city is estimated to have increased to 1.32 lakh.The elections to 49 urban local bodies across the State will take place on November 16. Since the State government has decided to create additional municipal corporations in Jaipur, Jodhpur and Kota in view of their increasing population, elections to the civic bodies in these three cities will be held after six months.last_img read more