Nineteen MLAs, belonging to the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party were on Wednesday suspended till December 31 for creating ruckus in the Assembly while Finance Minister Sudhir Munguntiwar was presenting the Budget on Saturday.The House, which reassembled after three days, adopted a resolution brought by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Girish Bapat seeking the suspension of MLAs who attempted to disrupt the Budget speech, demanding farm loan waiver. Following this, Speaker Haribhau Bagde issued suspension orders.Of the 19 MLAs, 10 belonged to the Congress and nine to the NCP. Congress heavyweight from Vidarbha Vijay Vadettiwar and former ministers Bhaskar Jadhav, Jitendra Awhad, and D.P. Sawant were among them. The resolution was favoured by both the BJP and Shiv Sena MLAs. In addition to raising slogans on Saturday, the 19 MLAs had brought banners inside the House as a mark of protest. The Opposition burnt the copies of Budget book outside the Assembly since it had no mention of loan waiver.
Pune: Revolutionary Bhagat Singh’s ‘Why I am an Atheist’ provided the springboard for the fourth edition of the ‘Atheists’ Meet’ (Nastik Melava in Marathi) which was held at the S.M. Joshi hall here on Sunday to thought-provoking speeches, impassioned poetry recitals and incisive social criticism. “We organize this conclave on the eve of Martyrs Day (Shahid Din) when iconic revolutionary Bhagat Singh was martyred. We are a group of rationalists, who, despite our differences are firm believers in the right to ‘unbelieve’ in God or religion,” Smitesh Joshi, one of the organisers, told The Hindu.A prime objective of the meet was to dispel misconceptions associated with atheism, he said.“Bhagat Singh’s principle ‘There is no arrogance in my atheism’ forms the cornerstone of our forum. At the same time, we are neither rude nor ignorant, but aim to disseminate our thoughts through constructive discussions held on this platform,” Mr. Joshi said. While our Constitution permits an individual the freedom to reject religion, it seldom translates in practice, said noted city-based lawyer Asim Sarode.“India, by its very nature, does not follow secularism in practice. It is vital to distinguish religion as faith or religion as ideology,” Mr. Sarode said.Dwelling on Articles 25 to 30 of the Constitution which deal with the right to Freedom of Religion, Mr. Sarode said the important rider here was ‘freedom of conscience’ “The Constitutional mandate involved maintaining a ‘principled distance’ between religion and state. The question that arises here is whether only so-called religious leaders or political parties possess the authority to define this ‘principled distance’. We are not mindlessly excluding religion, but diluting it from public affairs,” he said.Pointing out the court’s reluctance to re-visit the contentious 1995 verdict defining ‘Hindutva or Hinduism as a way of life’, Mr. Sarode said that it needs to be defined clearly as to what is the country’s official secular policy?“Furthermore, one can exercise freedom of conscience subject only to public order, morality and health. Here, the main culprits are often found to be political parties, who encroach not only on the right to public health with their noisy propaganda rallies, but infringe on public morality as well,” he said, adding, “Article 26 stipulates the ‘freedom to manage religious affairs’, but as often happens, this is dictated by religious outfits or godmen. Governments must come up with legal obstacles to curb these outfits. At the same time, a particular government in power cannot take a stance on whether they’ll build a temple just because it is politically expedient.” The centrepiece of the event was a spellbinding two-hour performance by artistes from the Kabir Kala Manch (KKM), who until recently, had been accused by the Maharashtra ATS of purveying ‘objectionable’ literature and carrying out Naxal indoctrination.The KKM, with their traditional verve and trenchant social criticism, belted out poetry and songs on blind faith, Bhagat Singh, caste divide and atheism.At the end of the event, the 500-strong audience filled up forms pledging to donate their organs.The concept of an ‘Atheists’ Meet’ began in Pune with the first one inaugurated in 2013 by renowned theatre and film artiste Dr. Shriram Lagoo. Coincidentally, later that year, on August 20, rationalist-atheist Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, was shot dead.Two more sessions of the conclave are scheduled at Nashik and Mumbai on March 26 and April 9 respectively.
The prices of vegetables continued to soar across the State as the famers’ agitation entered its sixth day on Tuesday. Taking stock of the situation, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced that farm loans would be waived by October-end. Widespread protests continued in Nashik and Ahmednagar and ordinary consumers had to dig deep into their pockets to buy essential vegetables, whose prices sky-rocketed. The protest has put a severe strain on Maharashtra’s rural economy. According to sources, there has been a ₹100-crore loss in Nashik district alone. Fourfold increaseSeventeen wholesale markets have remained shut for six days now. The price of one kilo tomato has soared from ₹10 to ₹60. A kilo of okra now costs ₹50 from the earlier ₹15. The price of leafy vegetables and potatoes have increased fourfold, said retailers in Pune.On Tuesday morning, only 60% of the normal supply of vegetables arrived at the Pune APMC in Gultekdi. Supply of milk has stabilised in urban pockets, but remains a problem in rural areas of Nashik and Ahmednagar districts. Many farmers have split large quantities of milk to register their protest. “The procurement is way below 50% of the normal 1.5 lakh litres a day,” said Dr. Vivek Kshirsagar, managing director of the Pune District Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union.The agitation is backed by a number of political entities such as the Shiv Sena, Raju Shetti’s Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana and the Sambhaji Brigade. The activists of these parties locked out government buildings in a symbolic protest on Tuesday. In Kolhapur, members of the Shetkari Sanghatana led by Raghunath Patil put locks on a number of government buildings including the Talathi office. In Pune, the Sambhaji Brigade put locks on the new administrative building (central building) near the railway station that houses the Agriculture Commissioner’s Office.Small retailers frustratedSmaller vegetable retailers in Pune expressed frustration with the strike, which was called by the Nashik faction within the Kisan Kranti Morcha. The faction replaced the Puntamba [Ahmednagar] group and took over the leadership of the agitation. They had called for a Maharashtra bandh on Monday, but it elicited a poor response.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje has written to Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani, urging her to ensure thatPadmavatiis not released without necessary changes.Ms. Raje also said that the Censor Board should consider all possible results before certifying the film, a day after the Board sent the film back to its makers because the application for the certification was “incomplete”.Letter to MinisterIn the letter to Ms. Irani, she suggested that a committee of historians, film experts and members from the Rajput community be formed to look into the film’s subject and necessary changes be made to it so that it does not hurt the sentiments of any community.The letter is the first official communication from the Rajasthan Chief Minister on the controversy surrounding the epic drama directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
Senior Congress leaders of Rajasthan on Tuesday came together to start the second leg of the party’s ‘Sankalp Yatra’ from Churu as part of its Assembly election campaign in the State’s Shekhawati region. They accused the ruling BJP of playing the “blame game” on the recent attack on Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s ‘Gaurav Yatra’ in Jodhpur district.Among the six Assembly segments in the Churu district, the Congress was elected only in the Sardarpura constituency in the 2013 polls. While affirming that the party had regained lost ground in the BJP bastion, the Congress leaders said they would breach the latter’s strongholds not just in Shekhawati, but also in all regions of the State.‘People fed up of BJP’Addressing a huge rally at the Police Ground in Churu, Pradesh Congress president Sachin Pilot said the BJP’s tactics of blaming the Opposition party for the Saturday’s incident of stone-pelting would only expose its strategy to gain public sympathy. “The reality is that the public is fed up with the BJP rule. People’s resentment is getting reflected in various forms during Ms. Raje’s yatra,” he said.Mr. Pilot also took strong exception to the remarks being repeatedly made by the BJP against his party colleagues. He said the BJP was trying to mislead the people by attacking the Congress leaders instead of replying to serious questions being raised.AICC general secretary Ashok Gehlot, former Union Minister C.P. Joshi, senior party leader Bhanwar Jitendra Singh, AICC Rajasthan in-charge Avinash Pande and Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Rameshwar Dudi also addressed the rally, which marked the Sankalp Yatra’s second phase. ‘Diverting attention’Mr. Gehlot said the BJP government had abolished all public welfare schemes started by the previous Congress regime. “The BJP leaders are blaming the Congress for attack on yatra to divert public attention from the real issues. Ms. Raje has thought of getting the public feedback at the end of her tenure… People are rejecting her everywhere,” he said.Mr. Pande and Mr. Joshi said the BJP, which had violated people’s democratic rights, was becoming desperate because of its “anti-people policies” getting exposed. They said the Congress would get elected in poll-bound Rajastan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh this year.
The Goa police has successfully tested a new system which can live track the current location of unauthorised flying drones, with data which can also be stored for later investigation. Due to increase in use of unauthorised drones or unmanned aerial vehicles in Goa during heavily crowded events and beach activities, which can be a potential risk to public safety and privacy, the police are geared with a mechanism to track their live current location. The Goa police successfully used the Drone Detection System for public safety and privacy during New Year’s Eve, said a spokesperson on Monday.The system was deployed in Baga area of north coastal Goa with Anti Terrorism Squad personnel, under supervision of Superintendent of Police Karthik Kashyap. This system is mobile and works for a 5-km range. It has a public announcement system and can also be used to provide additional safety to VVIP movements and other big events in Goa.This mechanism can be used to monitor crowd and vehicular traffic movements, and necessary instructions can be passed to the ground staff.This new system will put a hold on unauthorised and unsafe use of drones and add to the safety and privacy of visiting tourists. The system was developed by Bengaluru-based startup IIO Technologies Pvt. Ltd. in association with DJI and L3 ASA Pvt. Ltd.
Court work in Odisha’s Berhampur continues to be hindered on the last four days of every month as the Ganjam Bar Association members cease work on these days demanding establishment of permanent Bench of the Orissa High Court in the city for southern districts of the State.The lawyers are also critical of the State government for not making public till now the report of the Justice C.R. Pal Commission. The commission was set up by the State government in March 2008 to investigate and enquire into demands for permanent Benches of the Orissa HC in southern and western Odisha.“The commission was to furnish its report in six months. But it took six years to complete the report, which was handed over to the State government in 2014. The report has not been made public yet,” said GBA former general secretary Manoj Patnaik.A permanent High Court Bench is a long standing demand of the GBA.
The Rashtriya Lok Dal was on Tuesday officially inducted into the alliance of the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh and has been allotted three out of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the State.The announcement was made here by RLD vice president Jayant Chaudhary and SP president Akhilesh Yadav at a joint press conference. However, the media interaction stood out for the confusing statements Mr. Yadav made on the Congress, saying the party was also a “part of the mahagathbandhan”.While the BSP will contest 38 seats, the SP gets 37 and the RLD three. The alliance has decided to not field candidates in two seats — Rae Bareli and Amethi — arguing it did not want to have the Congress top leadership restricted to their own constituencies during the campaign. Apart from this, the SP-BSP combine has indicated that it would not yield any space to the Congress in the alliance and the seat-sharing formula made public has practically ruled out that possibility.When asked if the recent developments over Pulwama and Balakot airstrike had changed equations and made a possibility for readjustment of the alliance with the inclusion of the Congress, Mr. Yadav said, “Congress is with us. How does it come to your mind that Congress is not with us? They have two seats.” He, however, evaded specific questions if the SP was considering including the Congress in the alliance with nine seats.The questions were asked to him after the SP chief, in his introductory note, mentioned the Congress as part of the alliance, saying the “biggest mahagathbandhan” had come together against the BJP.‘Sangam of ideas’Mr. Yadav said the alliance was “a sangam of ideas” and a force of the poor and the weak to provide a new direction to all the sections of the society — including farmers, youth and traders — left disappointed under BJP rule.In U.P., the RLD will field candidates in Muzaffarnagar, Baghpat and Mathura. While RLD chief Ajit Singh is expected to contest from Muzaffarnagar, Mr. Chaudhary will fight from Baghpat.Mr. Chaudhary said his party had decided to be a part of the initiative launched by Mr. Yadav and BSP chief Mayawati to fulfil the aspirations of Dalits, farmers and youth “considering the necessities of the country and society”.
The Election Commission of India has suspended an official in Sambalpur after he had ordered the checking of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s helicopter on Tuesday.The suspension came after the EC sent a one-man enquiry team to Odisha. According to the ECI order, the officer, Mohammed Mohsin, a Karnataka-cadre IAS officer deputed as a special observer, had “not acted in conformity with the ECI’s instructions” that have made an exception for those protected by the SPG, such as the Prime Minister.Mr. Modi’s chopper was checked after he arrived at Sambalpur on Tuesday to address a meeting of the BJP nominees for the simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in the State, according to the police. “The Election Commission has considered the material available before it and prima facie finds it as dereliction of duty,” reads the order of April 16.According to sources, officials in Odisha had earlier this week also checked helicopters used by CM Naveen Patnaik in Sundargarh and Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan in Sambalpur.Sources said that the ECI took action against the poll official on Tuesday evening itself after the Prime Minister complained to the body. In an order on March 22, the EC had given instructions exempting the SPG-protected persons from checks by the election officers.(With inputs from Devesh K. Pandey in New Delhi)
Reporters around the world are getting mixed reactions to today’s publication, by Science and Nature, of a letter from 22 flu researchers that makes the case for launching potentially risky experiments with the H7N9 avian influenza virus.You can read the letter and Science’s coverage here. There is also a letter from officials at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in which they announce plans to give extra scrutiny to any proposals for experiments that would give H7N9 enhanced transmissibility.In other coverage, Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which funds the laboratories where the signers of the letter work, told Bloomberg Businessweek that: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(*)”There are strong arguments to do the science,” but it has to be done properly or not at all. … “It’s not a rubber stamp,” Fauci said. “If the risk is felt to be too high by this outside review, they will recommend it won’t be done and we won’t fund it.”Marc Lipsitch, a professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, told Boston.com by e-mail that:“The benefits are sketchy and uncertain for doing this kind of research, while the risk of creating a highly virulent, highly transmissible strain of flu are significant; the probability of an accidental or deliberate risk is small, but the consequences would be potentially staggering. … The fact that the global population is being put at risk by such experiments, to an appreciable but unknown degree, without being informed, much less consenting, is an ethical problem that has not been faced squarely.” Wendy Barclay of Imperial College London was more supportive in comments distributed by the United Kingdom’s Science Media Centre and reported by MedPage Today:”The gain-of-function experiments are a natural extension of the work that has already shown limited transmissibility of the wild type virus. … It would be ludicrous not to do them and they will be performed under appropriate containment.””This type of work is like fitting glasses for someone who can’t see well. … Without the glasses the vision is blurred and uncertain, with them you can focus on the world and deal with it a lot more easily.”JSOnline in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is reporting that the University of Wisconsin’s biosafety committee has already looked at a proposal for work with H7N9 by one of the letter’s lead authors, virologist Yoshihiro Kawaoka:UW-Madison’s institutional biosafety committee supports the new research on the H7N9 virus and resuming transmissibility research for the H5N1 virus, according to a UW-Madison official.”We have H5N1. And our institutional biosafety committee has reviewed the proposed H7N9 work,” said William Mellon, associate dean for research policy and a professor of pharmacy, who oversees UW’s program for pathogens and toxins that require special oversight and have been highly regulated by the government since Sept. 11, 2001.”There may be one experimental protocol still being discussed, but the university wishes to move forward,” Mellon said Wednesday.Virologist Michael Imperiale of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, has doubts about the proposed research, and the strategy behind the letter, reports Science News.Unfortunately, the tone of the letter doesn’t invite debate, says Michael Imperiale, a virologist at the University of Michigan. “They’re hoping this is going to make the work appear more transparent,” he says, but beyond influenza researchers, he says, the scientific community has not engaged in adequate discussions about whether such experiments should be done in the first place.And Imperiale raises another concern shared by many in the public but largely dismissed by infectious disease researchers: the fear that a lab-created pandemic virus could escape containment. “If this type of work proliferates, eventually there is going to be a lab accident,” he says. “It becomes a matter of statistics. I’m not saying these guys aren’t being incredibly careful. We know from past experience that lab accidents happen.”The United Kingdom’s The Independent also quotes Imperiale, saying that:”The authors state that the H5N1 studies have ‘contributed to…the development of vaccines and therapeutics, and improved surveillance’. I would like to see the evidence that supports this claim.”Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, is part of the NIAID-funded network of influenza centers that employ those who signed the letter. Although he is not opposed to gain-of-function research in principal, he declined to sign for several reasons, he told ScienceInsider earlier this week. One is that he a member of a U.S. government advisory board, the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, which could end up reviewing some of the proposed H7N9 studies, posing a potential conflict of interest. Another is that governments have not yet pursued a thorough risk-benefit analysis of such work, and researchers and journals have not yet figured out how to selectively withhold results that might be useful to evil-doers, or promote copycat work in the laboratories without adequate safety and security precautions. As the Canadian Press’s Helen Branswell reports in a story reprinted by The Province:Osterholm remains concerned about the possibility of an accidental release of a mutated bird flu virus.”I continue to support gain-of-function work from a basic research standpoint. But … I sit in the middle here where I think there still are major questions about the risks-benefits of this work that need to be addressed,” he said.The Scientist also quotes Osterholm on the studies:“I support doing them for basic research purposes, and I have always maintained that Yoshi [Kawaoka] and Ron [Fouchier] could do this work safely,” he said. “But my concern is that publishing their data would allow labs around the world, which won’t adhere to the same safety requirements, to do the same.”In an editorial, Nature notes that:A sense of perspective is crucial here. The long-term benefits of such work are clear — as long as it is done to the highest biosafety standards. It will shed light on, for example, the mechanisms of virus transmissibility and pathogenicity. But the immediate benefits to public health and our short-term ability to counter the threat of H7N9 are less clear-cut. Scientists cannot predict pandemics, so to assess the pandemic potential of viruses — and to decide which strains warrant the manufacture of trial vaccines — comes down to judgements of relative risk.
How the U.S. government’s budget process works has always been something of a mystery to outsiders. To researchers working on NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), that process just got a whole lot more mysterious.In its 2015 budget proposal unveiled last week, the White House proposed mothballing SOFIA, a modified Boeing 747 outfitted with a 2.5-meter infrared telescope and other instruments. The move would save some $80 million, the agency said, which could be redirected to higher priority missions.Yet, just days before the budget was released, NASA managers were sending congratulatory e-mails to the Universities Space Research Association (USRA)—the contractor for SOFIA—on the successful commissioning of all of SOFIA’s instruments on a 20 February test flight.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(*)“Congratulations to the entire SOFIA team,” one senior NASA administrator wrote in an e-mail on 21 February. “We are all proud of you and grinning like madmen here at HQ.”That’s why the mothballing proposal came as a “complete shock,” says Erick Young, the head of SOFIA’s science mission operations at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. “We’ve been working for the past couple of years to achieve full operational capability. We had until the end of 2014 to meet that milestone, and we satisfied that 2 weeks ago. We were under budget.”A partnership between NASA and the German Aerospace Center, SOFIA receives the bulk of its funding from NASA. It has cost $1.25 billion so far. NASA requested $87 million for SOFIA in 2014 and spent nearly that much on the project in the last fiscal year.Even though the eventual fate of the project will depend on how Congress reacts to the White House proposal in the coming months, Young says the uncertainty will make it “difficult to manage the project” in the interim. A U.S.-German task force will work out the different scenarios and try to figure out the best path forward, he says. One of the big questions, he says, is whether to proceed with a scheduled heavy maintenance due in June. “It doesn’t make sense to spend all that money on maintenance if we are going to ground the plane,” he says.Between now and June, however, SOFIA will continue flying. “The best way to show the value of SOFIA is to just produce science,” Young says. “That’s what we will be focusing on.”
Turn your back on this seemingly flat piece of hardware, and it just might fold itself into a crab and scuttle away. Using origami-inspired computing, researchers have built a crawling robot that assembles itself in 4 minutes, as shown in the above video. The team made a five-layer composite out of paper, a flexible circuit board, and shape-memory polymers that contract when heated to 100°C. Heat generated locally by the embedded circuits triggers hinges in the composite to fold, while mechanical features in the composite determine how far and in what direction each hinge bends. The precise folding pattern is generated by origami design software and programmed into the robot’s microcontroller. Once the machine is assembled, a motor interacts with linkage structures in its legs to drive it crawling and turning without human intervention. The researchers hope this early prototype will eventually lead to cheap, quick, and customized robot manufacture. One possibility: mass deploying the flat robots into collapsed buildings to navigate small spaces in search-and-rescue missions.(Video credit: Samuel Felton, Science/AAAS)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(*)
Details on a Facebook profile like age, gender, and location Sensitive online communications, like checking your back account, are encrypted using a technique that relies on seemingly random numbers. A flaw in the standard algorithm for generating pseudorandom numbers provided an opening for the National Security Agency to decrypt supposedly secure communications. Some believe that the agency itself engineered the flaw. Information shared on Facebook, such as which Pages users “like” Medical records The National Science Foundation 0 Time’s Up! Email address Physical traits like the length of your vocal tract and the state of your dental work shape the dominant frequencies in your voice, turning it into a unique identifier that companies are beginning to exploit. Start Quiz In an age of big data, ever more capable devices, and ubiquitous Internet connections, it’s hard to hide from a determined sleuth. Find out how well you understand your vulnerabilities. You Homeland’s fictional Vice President William Walden 60 Activity on websites and apps outside of Facebook, including Internet searches What’s your digital privacy IQ? In 2013, researchers showed that, in theory, a small amount of data on a person’s movements is enough to uniquely identify them in an anonymized mobile phone metadata set. How many locations and times are needed to identify someone? Seven Question Two German Chancellor Angela Merkel 1940s Share your score It turns out that the Internet can forget. As of 21 January 2015 Google has removed 40% of the URLs processed in response to requests. Until the 1960s, U.S. newspapers regularly shared personal information about people infected with diseases. By the 1970s, the advent of large databases of medical records brought privacy concerns to the fore, along with a new caution about sharing health details. 256 gigabytes (an entire computer hard drive) 256 kilobytes (a small image file) 256 bits (a single sentence) In 2014, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that individuals can request that search engines refrain from displaying specific results about them. What percentage of the 180,000 requests “to be forgotten” that Google received in the 5 months following ruling have been accepted? The Enigma cipher Quantum cryptography 256 megabytes (a big movie file) The National Security Agency How much information is required to mathematically capture the unique features of your face? Results: You answered out of correctly – Click to revisit Much of the National Security Agency’s work involves the highly mathematical exercise of creating and cracking codes. The secretive agency does not disclose staffing or funding levels, but in addition to employing large number of mathematicians, it is a major funder of mathematics teaching and research on campuses. All of the above Which government agency is said to be the largest employer of mathematicians in the United States? Age and state of residence Four 1900s Analyzing the frequencies at which the sound is concentrated 80 By comparing DNA from a genomic database with a partial Y chromosome sequence from the same person, posted on a genealogy website, and adding the donor’s age and state of residence, sleuths can sometimes identify the donor of the DNA. Top Ranker Like a fingerprint, your voice is a unique spectral signature of your identity. Voiceprints are created by recording a segment of speech and: Average Analyzing the transitional probabilities of the syllables North Korean leader Kim Jong-un Ten Former Vice President Dick Cheney It is sometimes possible to re-identify people who have contributed to genomic databases even if their DNA sequences have been stripped of identifying information. What kind of additional data has been used to identify persons in these databases? Analyzing the ratio of the longest word to the shortest A 2013 paper based on mobility data for 1.5 million people over 15 months showed that just four spatio-temporal points on a person’s trajectory can be enough to identify them in an anonymized mobile phone data set. So far such hacking seems to be confined to fiction—the Homeland TV series in particular. But the concern is real enough for Vice President Dick Cheney’s cardiologist to have disabled the wireless functionality of his pacemaker in 2007. DeepFace, Facebook’s facial recognition system, is nearly as good as a human at recognizing faces. The program can distill the personal identity of a face to just 256 bits—meaning that an ordinary thumb drive could in principle hold the unique identifiers for a billion faces. An error occurred loading the Quiz. Please try again later. 1960s 40 20 Score What Internet security technology included a flaw that the U.S. government could exploit to secretly eavesdrop on communications? Read more about privacy — and your vulnerabilities — in Science. Many Facebook users have noticed that the ads the site serves have become increasingly targeted to their interests, sometimes referencing products or interests that they have never mentioned on Facebook. Facebook is able to show such specific ads because they collect and track: Last four digits of social security number Major U.S. newspapers routinely printed the names and addresses of people with infectious diseases such as polio until the: Many implanted medical devices, like pacemakers, are now wirelessly accessible, making them a new focus of privacy concerns. What prominent figure dramatized the risk that an implanted device could be hacked? LOADING NASA The Census Bureau Analyzing the amplitudes of the sound wave Facebook started selling targeted ads based on information collected from users’ profiles just a few years after it launched. But in June 2014, the site confirmed that it was also collecting information on users’ general Web-browsing activities and sharing this information with advertisers. 1920s A pseudorandom number generator 0 / 10 Antivirus software
The couple faced hassles in taking their surrogate daughter Lily to the UK as her British passport was not yet ready. Related Items
Foreigners visiting India on medical visa registered a growth of nearly 16 percent during the year 2017 as compared to the previous year, said Tourism Minister K.J. Alphons.While in 2016, a total of 427,014 foreigners visited India, it rose to 495,056 during 2017, Alphons told the parliament.Read it at Xinhua Net Related Items
Drugmaker Wyeth is suing the Food and Drug Administration to block India’s Orchid Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals from a selling a generic version of Zosyn, a powerful antibiotic used in intensive care medicine. The lawsuit claims the FDA’s approval of Orchid’s generic products is “unlawful” and “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion,” adding that it “permits the marketing of a generic drug product that cannot be safely used in the same manner as the branded product’’ and “seriously endangers patient health.”Wyeth markets a newer version of the drug and in 2005 discontinued the older version of Zosyn, known chemically as piperacillin and tazobactam, which Orchid has now secured permission from the FDA to sell. Related Items
When an Indian American techie gives up a dream job at Google to follow a political candidate into the wilds of the New Hampshire primaries, you know it’s a serious commitment. Vijay Boyapati, a software engineer with Google News, believes so strongly in Congressman Ron Paul that he did just that.If you haven’t been following the presidential race fully or are confused by its crowded playing field of contenders, you may well ask “Ron Who?” Sant Singh Chatwal (sitting directly opposite the podium) is perhaps the largest bundler for Hillary Clinton, who seems to have the strongest traction in the Indian American community, thanks in large part to Pres. Clinton’s appealBut that’s OK. The media focus is on the front-runners, but for Boyapati the choice was clear-cut. An Australian born Indian immigrant, he became a U.S. citizen as he was enamored by the idea and ideals of America.“Ron Paul is the only candidate talking about the constitution. In the oath of office people always swear to uphold the constitution and to defend it against all enemies – foreign and domestic. He’s really the only one who’s talking about it, and if that’s the oath of office then I think he’s the only candidate people should be voting for. Some people tout their experiences to show what they’ve done, but to me some of their experiences show me they haven’t been consistently defending the constitution.”Boyapati quit his job at Google in November to start up Operation Live Free or Die, a grassroots effort to bring 1,000 people to New Hampshire before the primary to reach out to voters about Paul and his powerful message.As for sacrificing his golden Google job to follow a dream of freedom, he says, “I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be, or anything else I would rather be doing, so my decision to leave Google was an easy one for me.”As the presidential campaign kicks into gear with the first primaries in January, Indian Americans are increasingly joining the fray. Even many Indian Americans who are not yet citizens (which is a majority of Indian immigrants) are responding to the political call.Amol Naik, a lawyer and political volunteer in Atlanta, Ga., is among those exhorting these green card holders to become politically active: “They should volunteer, they should inform themselves, they should work toward becoming citizens and when they are given citizenship, they will be able to engage in the political process. For many people coming directly from India and getting green cards, their kids will be born in the US. It’s very important for them to be able to pass along the importance of civic involvement in those kids. Staying informed and involved in these campaigns is a way of doing that.”Sanjay Puri, chairman of US India Political Action Committee (USINPAC), a national, bipartisan organization, says Indian Americans are involved in all aspects of the presidential campaign from fundraising, grassroots work and volunteering to actually creating policy and serving on the staff of several campaigns.“With the Democrats, because of their historic relationship, it’s been Sen. Hillary Clinton all the way,” he says. “But now with Sen. Barack Obama, there’s going to be a real shift in the community, because the Obama supporters are mostly from the second generation of Indian Americans.”He also finds that while Indian Americans lined up behind the Democratic contenders quite early in the game, on the Republican side few have committed. “The longer you hold the stock, the higher the return you get,” he points out. “After the nomination, it becomes very difficult to build relationships.”He is impressed by the participation of Indian Americans during this election cycle: “The surprising thing is that this election has really brought out the second generation. Historically the second generation stayed away. I think this is testament really to Sen. Obama who has gone out for the second generation of Indian Americans, just as he has done with so many other young people in very different communities. His appeal to the young population is just tremendous.”Sen. Clinton has tapped into the deep connections among Indian Americans with former Pres. Bill Clinton. When hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal organized a fundraiser in New York for the senator, 1,200 people turned up from several states, raising $3 million, according to Chatwal. Chatwal’s goal is to raise $5 million for Clinton from the community and is planning more fundraisers after the primaries. South Carolina State Legislator Nikki Haley came out early in the game for Gov. Mitt Romney”I don’t think we have ever had a more important election than this one. In the past, I have refrained from endorsing in the Republican primaries,” she says. “Obviously, supporting Gov. Romney is an exception to that rule, but it is one I felt compelled to make considering the crucial crossroads we face as a country.Chatwal points out that Bill Clinton is the only living president to have visited India several times and says, “I personally feel the Clintons have great ties with India and that is one reason that many in the Indian community have been supportive of them.”He adds: “I feel if you look at the choice, it’s the experience. Obama doesn’t have that level of experience. Just voting yes or no doesn’t make you a good president.” He points to Clinton’s experience over the years, and the added value of Bill Clinton who, says Chatwal, was the most successful U.S. president: “He has been a very balanced president. It’s a very big plus point. As an Indian, I love India and I want people to support India, but as an American, certainly I’ll go for Hillary Clinton because of her experience.”This Indian connection has certainly not gone unnoticed by the media or the campaigns, and there was quite a brouhaha when the Obama camp referred scathingly to Hillary Clinton as the senator from Punjab. In most parts of the community this moniker is a compliment, reflecting the Clintons’ connections to India and Indian Americans.Swati Dandekar, the first Indian American state representative from Iowa District 36, has also thrown her support behind Clinton, even hosting her campaign event at her home.Why Hillary Clinton? “I am supporting Hillary because she has the experience and strength to become the leader of a great nation from day one. I feel that this is one candidate who understands both foreign policy and domestic policy in-depth.”Asked if her Indian heritage comes into play in selecting a presidential candidate, Dandekar responded: “I look at it from a foreign policy point of view. I am a legislator and I think she will be great toward India, but she will be great for the whole world. That’s the way I look at it because foreign policy is very important for all of us.” Vijay Boyapati quit Goolge to join Ron Paul’s darkhouse political campaign: You know when I decided to become a citizen here. I wasn’t escaping war, poverty or anything like that,” says Boyapati. “I chose to become a citizen, because I believed in the principles this country was founded on. And I think it’s my job and the job of other Americans to get those things back.”What about the Indian-U.S.nuclear deal – do such things come into the equation at all? “Not really. I look at it as a whole picture and she did support the nuclear deal… I see where she stands when it comes to domestic policy; what will she do for healthcare, for education. And you know, that affects Indian Americans too, because we are living here and we want a great education for our children and great healthcare for all of us. And my neighbors, who are not Indian American, are looking for the same thing. So when I look at it, I look at it as a whole picture.”Iowa, which holds the first caucus on Jan. 3, has attracted the most media attention. Iowans are reputed for taking the caucuses very seriously and the 8,000 Indians living in the state seem to be doing so as well.Rita Arora of Iowa City is vice chair of the Eastern chapter of the Iowa Asian Alliance, a social organization, and has committed to Sen. Obama. “I’ve been impressed with his clarity of thinking, his simple approach to everything – very close-up, very concise. We need somebody who is going to be a global statesman who believes that diplomacy is the cure and not war,” she says. “With his background, he’s the only one who’s capable of doing this, literally getting everybody to the table. And I see that a lot of people of Republican background, and even farmers who would never have thought of voting this way, are leaning toward him. They see in him someone who has the heart and the vision to make this country what it should be.”Her college student daughter is also an Obama supporter and the family held an event for him in their home. She says, “Whether it’s Obama or Clinton, I think we have very good candidates in the Democratic Party. People are now voting for the best candidate, even if it means crossing party lines. In Iowa we have 120,000 students who will vote. Single-handedly these students can decide which way the election goes.”The popular Indian American actor Kal Penn (of Harold & Kumar and The Namesake fame) has also flung himself into the race as a volunteer, donor and surrogate for Obama, “I’m fired up and ready to go. I’ve been politically conscious since I was young, but I have never volunteered to campaign like this before.”Penn ticks off Obama’s appeal: “His unique experiences, qualifications, and integrity are what drew me to support his campaign initially. But it’s his understanding of the world around him, his voting record, his opposition to the Iraq war from the start (in 2002 when it was incredibly unpopular), his background as a civil rights lawyer, and his refusal to accept special interest money in his presidential campaign. This is our chance as Americans to reclaim the country for all Americans, not just ‘red state’ vs. ‘blue state,’ NRI vs. ABCD.”The word “integrity” crops up frequently in discussions about Obama. Says Penn, “When CNN packs up and goes home, and Reuters has left, and all 6,000 people have gotten in their cars to drive home, Barack Obama is the same person in the remaining room of six people that he was in a crowd of 6,000. That means a lot to me.”Penn, who has been volunteering in Iowa, Nevada, California, and plans to be in New Hampshire and South Carolina, says he was emotionally moved by the representation of people from all walks coming together. “Here are a lot of young Indian Americans working at every level from the higher staff positions to volunteers,” he says. “In the Iowa office alone, there are several dedicated South Asian American students who have taken an entire year off to volunteer.” Dr. Zach Zachariah, a formidable Republican fundraiser who was president of the Bus-Cheney Campaign Finance Commitee, is waiting out the primaries: “People whom I’ve worked with for the last 20 years, I’ve spoken to several of of them and none of them have taken a stand yet on any of the candidates.”A grassroots group, South Asians for Obama (SAFO), has chapters nationally. It has organized everything from low-dollar social gatherings, debate-watching parties, phone calls to voters, high-dollar fundraisers, to community discussions.“Sen. Obama’s background is one that the Indian American community can relate to. His father came to the United States to study, and when he talked about ‘a skinny kid with a funny name’ at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, he could have been talking about any of us,” says Dave Kumar, a lawyer and co-founder of SAFO: “His candidacy represents the best of what this country has to offer. Many of us or our parents came here because we believed that the United States offers opportunities for all based on merit regardless of race or ethnicity, and Sen. Obama’s candidacy speaks to this American ideal.”Hrishi Karthikeyan, a lawyer in Washington and another co-founder of SAFO, says: “Obama favors humility and accountability in our foreign policy; he believes individual responsibility goes hand-in-hand with collective responsibility; and he has articulated a thoughtful agenda on education, immigration, health care, economic policy and a host of other domestic priorities.“I think Obama’s message is the right one for our community, because he epitomizes the values that brought our families to this country and which we still hold dear. In addition, he has consistently demonstrated good judgment on the critical issues of our day. These are the qualities that I believe are essential in a strong national and international leader, and which give our community the best opportunity for advancement for the next generation.”Anhoni Patel, a writer who heads SAFO’s San Francisco chapter, finds that even first generation Indian Americans are responding to Obama: “Although my dad has been a registered Republican for over 30 years and has voted for Republican candidates, and cannot vote in the Democratic primaries, he is sold on Obama. He heard him speak and liked what he heard and was moved by his speech. He even donated to Obama’s campaign!”Says Patel: “I believe in what he says and what he stands for. When he opens his mouth, I sincerely believe that he’s telling the truth rather than spewing political jargon. In fact, I’ve looked him straight in the eye and can tell you firsthand that the man believes in what he says.”Kumar is attracted to Obama’s immigration policies, such as supporting legal immigration, strengthening family reunification, and reforming the H1-B visa regime to make H1-B visa holders less dependent on their employers for their right to stay in the country. He says, “But perhaps most importantly, Sen. Obama has spent his entire adult life working on behalf of people who have traditionally lacked power in our society, fighting for civil and economic rights of minorities and the poor.”Speaking of the disenfranchised, John Edwards’ campaign theme on the two Americas has resonated with Shi Shailendra, founder and CEO of the Atlanta based Shailendra Group, and Amol S. Naik, a young Atlanta lawyer. Narender Reddy: “Among the pool of Republican candidates, I believe, Rudy Giuliani has more understanding of the Indian American community’s needs than any other candidates.”“Personally I think Edwards has the clearest plans on healthcare, education, global warming and the war in Iraq. He’s set up specific plans of action on what he’ll do when he’s elected and he’ll stand by it,” says Naik.” In many respects he’s the most progressive candidate in the field, but he’s also the most electable candidate. Every major poll you look at in swing states, he beats every Republican nominee.”Naik says, “Edwards certainly has strong support within the Indian community. His story of humble roots – his father and grandparents worked in a mill – he is a self-made man in that way. I think that resonates with a lot of Indian Americans who came here and made their own way in this country.” Are the qualities Indian Americans look for in their candidate different from the mainstream? Says Naik: “I don’t think you can necessarily characterize Indian Americans as a single issue voting block. I think in many respects these voters look for what all other voters do in America – strong principles, someone who can project a strong image of America across the world to undo the last eight years of George Bush, and in that respect I think Indian Americans are very similar to most other American voters.” Naik’s father emigrated in the 1970s from India and both generations are active in the political process. Naik is a member of the Indian American Leadership Initiative (IALI), which promotes Indian American involvement in the Democratic Party.Naik says: “I think most Indian Americans would classify themselves as Democrats, but there are certainly many prominent Republicans, especially the governor of Louisiana. It’s really encouraging to see the political activism in the Indian American community.”Recalling his own family’s humble background in India, Naik adds: “To me John Edwards’ efforts on behalf of people that no one speaks for in this country, the impoverished, are really inspiring. His laser-like focus on ending poverty in America is really going to resonate with Indian Americans. We’ve seen real poverty in India and that’s an issue more Indian Americans are really concerned about than most people are.”On the Republican side, most Indian Americans seem to be hedging their bets. South Carolina State Legislator Nikki Haley, however, came out early in the game for Gov. Mitt Romney.“I don’t think we have ever had a more important election than this one. In the past, I have refrained from endorsing in the Republican primaries,” she says. “Obviously, supporting Gov. Romney is an exception to that rule, but it is one I felt compelled to make considering the crucial crossroads we face as a country. We have a pressing need for strong leadership that can move our country forward, both at home and abroad, and there is simply no one better equipped to do that than Mitt Romney.” Hrishi Karthikeyan co-founder of SAFO: “I think Obama’s message is the right one for our community, because he epitomizes the values that brought our families to this country and which we still hold dear. In addition he has consistently demonstated good judgement on the critical issues of our day.”Haley, who has a Sikh background, says the foremost issues on her mind are improving the quality of life, the education system and the economic climate: “Certainly, issues come up that you have to address in the short-term, but I’ve tried to approach things from a generational standpoint. Specifically, I have always tried to take from the wisdom of my parents and grandparents in an effort to make decisions that will benefit my children and grandchildren. One of the best ways to do that is to get involved in the political process, to be responsible with our voice and our vote.”The Washington based Indian American Republican Council (IARC), which was formed in 2002 by Dr. Raghavendra Vijayanagar, has not yet endorsed any candidate, although Vijayanagar is supporting Rudy Giuliani. Narender Reddy, of Atlanta, Ga., is on Giuliani’s Finance Committee for Georgia and has co-hosted two fund raisers for the candidate in Atlanta. “I had the opportunity to meet with Giuliani on several occasions and am very much impressed with his personality,” says Reddy. “I’d like to see our next president take a lead in getting rid of terrorism of any kind and have proven leadership skills to lead the country in difficult times. I strongly believe that Giuliani has those capabilities more than any other Republican presidential candidates. Rudy’s skills, as mayor of New York City, as a crime fighter are well known.”Does Reddy think that Giuliani shares the concerns of Indian Americans on immigration, the nuclear deal and outsourcing? “Among the pool of Republican candidates, I believe, Rudy has more understanding of the Indian American community’s needs than any other candidates,” says Reddy. “As mayor of New York, he was well connected with our community. He is for free economy with no restrictions and would not do anything to hurt the outsourcing business, which is helping the U.S. economy by keeping the prices of services and products lower. Rudy will continue Bush’s policies of strengthening Indo-US relations through the nuclear deal, etc.”Indian American fundraisers were exceedingly visible for George W Bush, but have kept a low profile this season. Says Reddy, “I haven’t heard of any known Indian American Republican leaders taking an active role in supporting any particular candidate. I’m not surprised, because usually with the limited financial resources the community has for political causes, it will not take an active role in any primaries.”Dr. Zach Zachariah, a noted Florida cardiologist, who was president of the Bush-Cheney Campaign Finance Committee and a formidable Republican fundraiser, is waiting out the primaries. He says: “There are five candidates on the Republican side and any one of them could get the nomination. People whom I’ve worked with for the last 20 years, I’ve spoken to several of them and none of them have taken a stand yet on any of the candidates. They feel all the candidates are equally qualified.”Asked if he had any personal favorites, Zachariah says, “I know all five of them very well. The Republican Party has some issues and I believe they are working through them right now and in the next 30 days we will have a much clearer idea about how things are going to go.”Zachariah’s politics are not influenced by Indian American concerns. His evaluates candidates as an American, he says, so India-oriented issues don’t impact him, although he concedes they may resonate with many Indian Americans. He hastens to add: “I want the US to have great relations with India, don’t get me wrong.”Reddy says he is observing a shift in the pattern of Indian American politics: “While 95% of the first generation routinely supported the Democratic Party, I see a change in the second generation. They are more open to considering the Republican Party. I would guess that at least about 30 percent of the second generation is supporting the Republican Party. I strongly believe, as the number of the second generation grow, the Indian American support to both political parties will be balanced equally.”Sen. John McCain too has ardent supporters in the Indian American community, among them Washington-based Kishan Putta, who worked on McCain’s campaign in 2000 and is again active in his presidential bid and also in his health care policy.“I realize that the most important thing you can have in a candidate is someone you can trust, someone who is not going to do what most politicians do and tell you what you want to hear and spin their positions,” he says. “He’s often come out looking unpopular on some positions, but people always respect him for his stances.”Putta adds that of all the leading candidates, McCain is the only one who has served in the military and was not only a war hero, but a prisoner of war: “His own son is in Iraq right now; none of the candidates has a child who is in Iraq. The biggest foreign policy issues we have right now are Iraq and the war on terror and he’s the one who knows these issues and has the most foreign policy experience.”Putta, who is helping the McCain campaign build coalitions in the South Asian community, believes his healthcare plan is a very bold, which will appeal to many Indian American medical professionals: “He has the best health care plan around. It might not sound the coolest or most attractive in a sound bite, but he has a very thoughtful plan. That’s one of the biggest reasons I support him, because I’m really into health care policy and he has the best plan of all the candidates.”One of the biggest wild cards in this election is the role of the Internet. Boyati says: “There are huge numbers of young people excited by Ron Paul’s ideas because he’s talking about freedom for everyone and that is a really popular idea, especially with kids who are on the Internet, because the Internet is one of the few spaces where you do have true free speech and so for people who are online, these messages really resonate with them.”The former Google employee believes the Internet will play a significant role this election season: “That’s a very important factor because the media has not given him any attention. He raised $6 million in a single day. No other American candidate has raised so much in American history. It got very low coverage in the mainstream media. With the Internet, people can find out information themselves. They don’t need to have information thrust upon them by the media, which decide what’s important and what’s not.”Putta, who supports McCain, endorses that view of the importance of the Internet. “It has allowed Indian Americans to stay in touch across the country. We are a pretty technologically savvy community so that’s really increased the way for us to get involved.”Says Puri of USINPAC: “Indians are becoming politically active. They understand that they need to contribute and be involved in campaigns. They are out there. They are in grassroots, they are in campaigns, they are volunteering, they are making policy, they are donors and contributors – it’s all across, it’s incredible. And it’s a very good thing.”Putta, who is in his 20s served as an intern in Washington, DC, with 50 young Indians, most of whom remain politically active. “I am one of the few Conservatives and Republicans and it was very hard for me over the years, because especially then, when I was first starting out, all the Indians were Democrat and liberal. They would often see me as an outsider at that time. Only over the years did they come to respect me for sticking with my beliefs.”He finds that many second and third generation Indian Americans are Independent. The younger generation is financially savvier than their parents and fiscally moderate or conservative, he says. “What a lot of people don’t know about the early primaries is that independents can have a big voice. The New Hampshire primaries are probably the most important. Independents can decide if they want to vote for Democrats or Republicans whereas Democrats can only vote for Democrats and Republicans can only vote for Republicans. And that’s where John McCain’s cross-party appeal comes in very handy. He always tells the truth even when it’s unpopular and the independents respect him for that.”Indian Americans can be involved or apathetic, prosaic or idealistic when it comes to politics. “You know when I decided to become a citizen here. I wasn’t escaping war, poverty or anything like that,” says Boyapati. “I chose to become a citizen, because I believed in the principles this country was founded on. And I think it’s my job and the job of other Americans to get those things back.” KAL PENN ON OBAMA’S INDIAN CONNECTIONQ: Do you think he will work on issues which are of importance to Indians such as immigration, US India relations, especially the nuclear issue, and outsourcing? Are these issues important to you? Indian American actor Kal Penn, shown here in The Namesake is rooting for Obama.A: Absolutely; these issues are important to me, and they are important to the Senator on moral, ethical, environmental, economic, and national security grounds. On the personal front, as the son of a foreigner, Senator Obama has personally experienced a lot of the challenges that face South Asian Americans and understands first-hand the struggle that our parents went through and continue to go through. On the political front, he wants to reform the H1B program so that shady employers aren’t able to take advantage of their new immigrant employees. He co-sponsored the End Racial Profiling Act, and has worked toward improving South Asian economic partnerships with the United States, which he believes will be mutually beneficial to us all. The Senator would establish a $2 billion Global Education Fund that spurs the world to join together to eliminate the education deficit. This is especially critical in India, where the ties between economic disadvantages, lack of access to education, and the potential for instability is at a critical point. Related Items
The Jammu police have sought the cooperation of citizens and the civil society to ensure that Independence Day is celebrated safely, and urged them to report all suspicious people or objects.They have been advised not to carry arms and ammunition, sharp-edged weapons, handbags, polythene bags, transistors, fire extinguishers, stopwatch, any kind of powder, cigarettes, inflammable material such as match boxes and lighters, cameras and other objectionable items, an advisory issued by the Senior Superintendent of Police (Security), Jammu, said.The people have been advised to cooperate and not hesitate to disclose their identity if requested by security personnel.The district administrations have been reviewing the security situation since the Central government withdrew Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and split it into two Union Territories on August 5.Heavy security arrangements were put in placeincluding suspension of Internet and telecommunication lines immediately after the government’s move.However, these restrictions are being gradually lifted after reviews by senior officials.The government has asserted the removal of provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution, which gave Jammu and Kashmir special powers, was necessary to put an end to terrorism and development of the region.Residents, however, have expressed angst over the difficulties they are facing due to the restrictions. The situation has largely remained peaceful in the past week.
A committee of Chief Ministers on the transformation of Indian agriculture may recommend a 50% cap on increase in prices in cases where the Essential Commodities Act is applied. The panel, led by Maharastra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, has agreed that the Act be applied only in rare cases such as famine and war, and may be imposed only in cases where commodity prices rise by over 50% of market rates. The NITI Aayog-constituted High Power Committee (HPC) of Chief Ministers for Transformation of Indian Agriculture held its second meeting in Mumbai on Friday. Its suggestions are in favour of the long-pending demand of putting in abeyance certain provisions of the Act to facilitate reforms in agricultural market and attracting private investment in the sector. “The broad consensus of the panel so far has been to not repeal the Act (The Essential Commodities Act) fully; instead, put in abeyance certain provisions that do not improve market conditions for farmers. States have also reacted positively to a Niti Aayog proposal suggesting imposition of the Act only in cases where the price rise is over 50%,” Mr. Fadnavis said after the meeting.The meeting was attended by Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar; Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani; Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath; Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal; Uttar Pradesh Agriculture Minister Surya Pratap Shahi; and Odisha Agriculture Minister Dr. Arun Kumar Sahoo. Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar joined the meeting via video conferencing.The committee discussed various recommendations for the APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) Act, Contract Farming Act and genetically modified (GM) crops. Measures to boost agricultural exports, financing of the value chain and upgrading agricultural technologies were the other points that came up for discussion, officials said. The panel also discussed the floods and unusual rain patterns in south central India, resulting in crop losses running into crores of rupees due to floods in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Kerala. “The kharif sowing has been down by 30%, and the floods have caused widespread destruction. We have discussed the climate change situation in the meeting,” Mr. Tomar said. The committee also discussed the use of GM crops in select areas and a long-term policy on this. Maharashtra has already constituted a committee on the feasibility of GM crops. “The country is still debating the use of GM crops. We are trying to build a brand consensus on that as well,” Mr. Fadnavis said.In the next 15 days, Principal Secretaries of the agriculture departments from all States and NITI Aayog officials would meet to prepare a draft report on it.