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NIA continues terror-fund searches in J&K

first_img‘Those raided have been funding terror’ Hawala trail goes back decades  The bank accounts and lockers detected during the probe have been ordered to be frozen.While the NIA team sealed the Qamarwari residence of Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani’s son-in-law Altaf Shah, another Geelani confidante Mehraj Kalwal, district president of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, was questioned. Hurriyat faction chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s spokesman Aftab Ahmad was detained for some time, while the faction’s leader Zafar Akbar Bhat was also quizzed.Residences of three other separatist leaders, Nayeem Ahmad Khan, Javaid Gazi Baba and Farooq Ahmad Dar alias Bitta Karate, were also searched on Saturday.  Earlier on Saturday, the agency swooped down on the separatists, their associates and some businessmen, suspected to be involved in routing funds, at 26 locations across Kashmir, Haryana and Delhi, after it converted a preliminary enquiry into terror funding as an FIR.“The subject matter of investigation is to probe the entire chain of players behind financing of terrorist activities including pelting of stones on security forces, burning of schools, damaging government establishments and other such activities,” said the NIA.Cash running into a few crores, gold jewellery and coins worth about ₹40 lakh, a large number of property-related papers, letterheads of the banned outfits, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen, several pen-drives, laptops, mobile phones and other incriminating documents, including phone diaries, katchcha receipts and vouchers were seized from financiers, hawala operators and office bearers of separatist groups, said the NIA on Saturday.Also Read The National Investigation Agency continued its searches on the second consecutive day, on Sunday, at five more places belonging to “secessionist and separatist elements”, besides hawala operators, in connection with an alleged case of terror financing by Pakistan-based terror outfits and the separatists in the Valley.“Searches are under way at four places in Kashmir and one place in Jammu. During the course of searches, Pakistani currency (a few thousands) and currencies of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have been found and seized, apart from other incriminating material. The persons concerned are being questioned,” said an NIA statement.Also Readlast_img read more

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‘Olive branch to local ultras’

first_imgIn a fresh offer of surrender to local militants, Kashmir Inspector General of Police Muneer Khan on Monday said surrenders would be accepted even during gun battles.“If local militants offer surrender in the middle of ongoing encounter with the security forces, we are ready to accept such surrenders,” said Mr. Khan.Flanked by officials from the CRPF and the Army, Mr. Khan told the media, “We again appeal to local militants to surrender and start living a normal life. Our full support will be available to such local militants who lay down their arms.”Police paraded two local militants before the media in Srinagar who were held recently.“The two motorcycle-borne L-e-T militants tried to snatch weapons from guards of a VIP in Qazigund in Anantnag district, and were held,” said Mr. Khan.One of the detained militants, according to Mr. Khan, “was involved in a recent bank robbery in south Kashmir.” Another militant, Gulzar Ahmad Dar, who hurled a grenade after the cavalcade of the Roads and Buildings Minister passed through Tral town on September 28 had been arrested. “All these militants have been arrested during live action,” he said.last_img read more

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BJP challenges new pick for Odisha SEC

first_imgAccusing the Biju Janata Dal government in Odisha of planning to usurp undue advantages in the urban polls scheduled for September this year, the BJP’s Odisha unit on Tuesday moved the Orissa High Court challenging the appointment of Naba Kumar Nayak as the State Election Commissioner.State BJP vice-president Samir Kumar Mohanty urged the High Court to quash the appointment on the plea that it is illegal, arbitrary and politically motivated. Mr. Nayak, who served as an IAS officer for only six years before his retirement in March 2014, joined as the new SEC on Monday.Mr. Mohanty in his petition has alleged that the 64-year-old retired IAS promotee is a beneficiary of a number of post-retirement posts by the present regime. “Mr. Nayak, who will turn 65 in March next year, has been consciously given this extra benefit of post retirement to show undue advantage to the party in power in the urban polls,” Mr. Mohanty said in his 20-page petition.Stating that all the previous five SECs of the State had served as Chief Secretaries, the petition said Mr. Nayak had not even held a post of Commissioner in the State government as he retired at the rank of an Additional Secretary. The status of the State Election Commission under Article 243K of the Constitution is same as that of the Election Commission of India, it argued.“Looking at the constitutional spirit and the philosophy engrafted in Article 243K, a person of high integrity, character and unbiased approach should be appointed to such a coveted post,” the petition.last_img read more

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Court allows Goa NGOs to be party in SWPL case

first_imgPanaji: The Bombay High Court at Goa has allowed the Goa Foundation and Old Cross Fishing Canoe Owners Co-op Society Ltd., Goa, to be impleaded as respondents in a writ petition filed by South West Port Ltd.(SWPL). The SWPL petition was filed to seek clarification/modification of an order passed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), Delhi, restraining authorities from granting CRZ/environment clearances unless Integrated Coastal Management Plans of all coastal States have been prepared and approved. SWPL is one of the parties using the Goa-based Mormugao Port for importing of coal, and whose expansion plans are being opposed by environment groups.The SWPL first approached NGT, Delhi, where the application was opposed by Goa Foundation, an environmental NGO. SWPLthen withdrew it’s application from the NGT and filed it as a writ petition in the Bombay High Court.The latest court order, which came on march 13, has directed the new respondents (Goa Foundation and Old Cross) to file their replies two weeks from the date of the order. The matter would be taken up on April 4.The expert appraisal committee of the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) had decided to recommend the SWPL proposal seeking enhancement of coal handling at MPT for environment clearance despite the fact that an eight-day public hearing opposed such clearance. The Goa Chief Minister and State Pollution Control Board too had opposed it.The MoEF, however, declined to grant the environment clearance in view of NGT’s order. The Goa Foundation and Old Cross Fishing Canoe filed an application to be named respondents as they wished to bring on record several documents related to the issue for the benefit of the court’s adjudication in public interest. The application was opposed by SWPL.last_img read more

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Protest against extortion by extremists hits life in Dimapur

first_imgLife in Dimapur, Nagaland’s commercial hub, was affected on Wednesday as hundreds of people took to the streets to protest against “illegal taxation,” or extortion, by extremist groups and criminal organisations.The Public Action Committee of the Naga Council, Dimapur, which organised the rally, urged the government of Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio to crack down on these outfits.At least five outfits, including the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland, collect “tax” periodically. Government and corporate employees have to shell out 22-24% of their salary and traders and the self-employed are required to pay more.“The State government must immediately stop all illegal taxation… It must also ban the syndicate and lease system and unauthorised collection centres run in and around Dimapur by unions and organisations, including Naga political groups [extremist groups] and government agencies, causing uncontrolled inflation,” the committee said in a statement.This is the second protest against the government’s failure to prevent extortion by extremist groups, almost all of which have declared a ceasefire. Another civil society organisation, Against Corruption and Unabated Taxation, staged a rally in September last year, demanding ‘one group one tax.’ The organisation had resolved that the people pay ‘tax’ to only one extremist group.last_img read more

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Now, Bahraich BJP MP Savitri Bai Phule says Lord Hanuman was a “slave of ‘manuwadi’ people”

first_imgBJP MP from Bahraich in Uttar Pradesh Savitri Bai Phule on Tuesday said Lord Hanuman was “a Dalit and a slave of ‘manuwadi’ people.” Only recently, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said at a poll rally in Malakheda of Alwar district, Rajasthan, that ”Bajrang Bali was a forest dweller, deprived and a Dalit, who worked to connect all Indian communities together, from north to south and east to west.”.Ms. Phule alleged that Dalits and Backward Class people were being called ‘bandar’ (monkey) and ‘rakshas’ (demon). “Lord Hanuman was a Dalit and a slave of ‘manuwadi’ people. He was a Dalit and a human. He did all for Lord Ram then why was he given a tail and his face was blackened. Why was he made a monkey?,” she said.“When he did all for Lord Ram with devotion, he [Lord Hanuman] should have been made a human and not a ‘bandar’ [monkey]. At that time also he had to face humilation due to being a Dalit. Why can’t we Dalits be considered humans?” she told PTI over phone.Bhim Army chief’s callAfter Mr. Adityanath’s statement, Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar asked members of his community to take over all temples belonging to Lord Hanuman. “Dalits should take over all Hanuman temples in the country and appoint Dalits as priests there,” he said.When asked about the Ram temple issue, which is pending in the Supreme Court, Ms. Phule said the BJP was raking up the matter as it had no other issues.“The country does not need a temple. Will it end unemployment and other problems of Dalits and backwards? The temple will benefit Brahmins, who are only 3%. The money offered in temples are used by them for their gains and make our community [Dali]) their slave,” she said.“We want rights given to us in the Constitution. “Hamko adhikar chahiya warna kursi khali karo [Give us our rights or leave the government],“ she said.Phule’s praise for JinnahMs. Phule had raised questions on BJP leaders dining at houses of Dalits and termed the founder of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah, “a mahapurush” (great personality). When asked to comment on the statement of Ms. Phule, BJP spokesman Chandra Mohan said, “It seems she didn’t have much knowledge of Indian tradition.” On her attacking the BJP on the Ram temple issue, he said he would not like to comment and people know what she was doing.last_img read more

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Kolkata Opposition rally: Rahul Gandhi backs Mamata Banerjee for ‘show of unity, hope’

first_imgA carefully drafted message from Rahul Gandhi on Friday supporting “Mamata di” for her “show of unity and hope”, followed by a letter of solidarity from Sonia Gandhi on Saturday left the State Congress nervous as the party is fighting Trinamool Congress tooth and nail in West Bengal.Mallikarjun Kharge, party’s leader in the Lok Sabha, said there was no clash of interest between the State unit and central leadership. “The issue of having or not having an alliance [with Trinamool in Bengal] will be decided by the local unit of the party. Let us not confuse between the national exigencies and the requirement of the parties at the State level,” Mr. Kharge told presspersons. Trinamool has poached nearly two dozen of Congress’ MLAs in the State in last three years.“Did not Akhlesh ji and Mayawati ji fought against each other in Assembly election in U.P.? But now they have come together and shared seats,” he said. “This rally marks an important attempt to galvanise leaders across the political spectrum to fight the arrogant and divisive Modi Government,” Ms. Gandhi wrote in the letter, which Mr. Kharge read out at the unity rally..The party won more than 40 seats in the 2016 Assembly election. Pradesh Congress Committee chief Somendranath Mitra also clarified: “supporting united opposition against the BJP and fighting Trinamool in the State are two separate issues.”last_img read more

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New Goa CM Pramod Sawant seeks floor test on Wednesday

first_imgHours after he was sworn in, Goa’s new Chief Minister Pramod Sawant on Tuesday said his government had sought a floor test on Wednesday to prove its strength in the Assembly.The BJP-led government claims it has the support of 21 MLAs, including 12 from the party; three each from the Goa Forward Party (GFP) and the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and three Independents.The strength of the 40-member House has been reduced to 36 due to the death of former Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar and BJP MLA Francis D’Souza, and resignations of Congress MLAs Subhash Shirodkar and Dayanand Sopte.The Congress is the single largest party in the State with 14 MLAs. There is also an NCP legislator in the House.“We have written to Governor Mridula Sinha, requesting her to hold a floor test on Wednesday to prove our strength. We are ready for it,” Mr. Sawant told reporters.The Chief Minister said his priority was to complete all the projects undertaken by Parrikar, who passed away on Sunday after battling pancreatic-related ailment.Memorial for ParrikarThe government would build a memorial for Parrikar at Panaji’s Miramar beach, where he was cremated, he said.Mr. Sawant was sworn in as Chief Minister just before 2 a.m. on Tuesday, after hectic parleys between the BJP and its allies to put a new government in place.The Governor also administered the oath of office to 11 Ministers, including those from the MGP and the GFP. GFP chief Vijai Sardesai and MGP legislator Sudin Dhavalikar were sworn in as Deputy Chief Ministers.last_img read more

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BJP opens doors to Parrikar’s sons

first_imgNational-level leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have requested the sons of Manohar Parrikar, the late Goa chief minister, to join the party, State party president Vinay Tendulkar said on Monday.“BJP national vice-president Avinash Rai Khanna has informally requested both sons of Parrikar, Utpal and Abhijat, to join the BJP and work for the party as their father did, when he met them after Parrikar’s death. We will, of course, follow up on the matter with the sons on behalf of the party,” Mr. Tendulkar said. “But this is not the time to discuss these matters with them,” he said, replying to a specific question in this regard at a press conference at the party headquarters.Parrikar’s Assembly constituency of Panaji is vacant on account of his death on March 17 due to pancreatic cancer. His older son Utpal is one of the contenders for the post, BJP sources confirmed. During his political career, Parrikar did not bring his sons into politics.Asked about the possibility of the Panaji ticket being given to Mr. Utpal, Mr. Tendulkar said the party will take a call on the candidature only after the by-election was notified.last_img read more

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Two big festivals add zing to Berhampur polls

first_imgThe election carnival in Odisha’s Berhampur has coincided with two big festivals — the 32-day-long biennial Thakurani Jatra and 21-day-long Danda Nata festival — adding to the excitement of the residents. The Thakurani Jatra festival, famous for its colourful carnival spirit, started in the early hours of Saturday. The 21-day-long Danda Nata festivities will continue till April 14 and voters of Berhampur will exercise their franchise for Lok Sabha and Assembly polls on April 11.Decked up in colourful flags of Danda Nata, Thakurani Jatra and those of various political parties, Berhampur looks ready for triple celebrations.During the next two weeks, three types of processions will be an everyday affair in the city. The Thakurani Jatra Ghatam will be taken out to different streets of the old town area during evenings. The march of Danda Nata troupes holding hundreds of flags has already begun.Song and dance showsNight-long folk dance and opera shows are part of Danda Nata being held in different areas of the city. Political roadshows and street-corner meetings have added to the excitement.“The noise caused by blaring sound systems used for Danda Nata, mixed with that of election campaign loudspeakers, will surely give us a headache,” said Sunita Behera, a housewife. The threefold festivities in Berhampur is expected to increase voter presence on the polling day. “Usually residents of the city working outside and married daughters return to their parental homes during Thakurani Jatra and Danda Nata. It is expected to increase voting to some extent on April 11,” said BJP leader Manoj Patnaik.last_img read more

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Baby fish babble

first_imgFish larvae emit sound—much to the surprise of biologists. A common coral reef fish in Florida, the gray snapper—Lutjanus griseus (pictured above)—hatches in the open ocean and spends its juvenile years in food-rich seagrass beds hiding from predators before settling in the reefs as an adult. To study how larval snappers orient themselves in the dark, marine biologists deployed transparent acrylic chambers equipped with light and sound sensors under the water to capture the swimming schools as they travel to the seagrass beds on new-moon nights. The larval snappers make a short “knock” sound that adults also make, as well as a long “growl” sound, the team reports online today in Biology Letters. The researchers suspect that the larvae use the acoustic signals to communicate with one another and stay together in schools. If so, human noise pollution could be interrupting their communications—even adult fish have been found to “yell” to be heard above boat noises.last_img read more

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Desert birds fly more than 2000 kilometers to find ephemeral lakes

first_imgA species of Australian shorebird can detect and then quickly fly to short-lived lakes that form in the middle of the desert after a significant rainfall, new research suggests. The bird, known as the banded stilt (Cladorhynchus leucocephalus), is slightly bigger than the largest sandpipers and typically lives along Australia’s southern coast. But it occasionally flocks inland to breed and raise chicks around the waters that accumulate on salt flats after rains that sometimes occur only once every 2 or 3 years. In a first-of-its-kind study, scientists strapped tracking devices to 21 birds and monitored their movements, in some cases for up to 13 months. The gadgets—about half the size of a matchbox (shown on bird in image above) and powered by solar cells the size of a postage stamp—were programmed to record data for 10 hours and then save energy by shutting down during the 16 hours that followed. The results were surprising: In some instances, birds left two widely separated locations and crossed deserts along very different routes to converge on the same remote inland lake, the researchers report online today in Biology Letters. One of these migrations covered more than 2200 kilometers in 2.5 days, a movement nearly twice as long and twice as rapid as those previously known for other desert waterbirds, the researchers say. Just as surprising was the timing of some of these trips: Whereas some migrations commenced just after the distant rainfalls occurred, several others didn’t begin until weeks after the lake-generating rains had come and gone. Therefore, it isn’t clear what cues the straggling birds used to discern and then home in on the lakes: It’s not likely to have been the long-gone weather patterns associated with the storms that dumped the rainfall, but it could have been smells emanating from the flooded salt lakes or their newly revived bounty of brine shrimp, the team suggests.last_img read more

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‘Brontosaurus’ name resurrected by new dino family tree

first_imgWhat’s in a name? Sometimes plenty, as the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) found out in 1989 when it issued colorful dinosaur stamps, including one for Brontosaurus. Paleontologists and educators loudly protested that the correct scientific name for the iconic beast was Apatosaurus—a fact that even lay dino aficionados and many 8-year-olds took pride in knowing. The Smithsonian Institution accused USPS of favoring “cartoon nomenclature to scientific nomenclature.” It didn’t help that the stamps were officially launched at Disney World.Now, a dinosaur-sized study of the family tree of the Diplodocidae, the group that includes such monstrous beasts as Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, and Barosaurus, finds that USPS got it right: The fossils originally called Brontosaurus show enough skeletal differences from other specimens of Apatosaurus that they rightfully belong to a different genus. The study, published online this week in the journal PeerJ, brings the long-banished name back into scientific respectability as a genus coequal with Apatosaurus.“I didn’t start out trying to resurrect Brontosaurus,” says lead author and paleontologist Emanuel Tschopp. He was just trying to better understand the evolutionary relationships among all Diplodocidae as part of his Ph.D. thesis at the New University of Lisbon. Indeed, paleontologists are impressed by the scope of the new study, which included 81 skeletons and 477 skeletal features or characters, far more than any previous analysis. “Emanuel’s data set is now the largest published so far” for plant-eating dinosaurs, says Philip Mannion, a paleobiologist at Imperial College London. The name change is likely to stick, adds paleobiologist Paul Upchurch of University College London: “I will be happy to start using Brontosaurus again.”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(*)How Brontosaurus lost its name in the first place is the stuff of dino legend. During the “Bone Wars” of the late 19th century, paleontologists Edward Cope and Othniel Marsh marauded through the American West bitterly competing for dinosaur fossils, which led to some rapid and slapdash descriptions. In 1877, Marsh published a brief note on one of his skeletons, calling it Apatosaurus (“deceptive lizard”). Two years later he published an equally brief report on a supposed new genus, Brontosaurus (“thunder lizard”). By 1903, paleontologists had decided that the two beasts were too similar to be divided into separate genera. Because Apatosaurus had been named first, it had precedence under the rules of scientific nomenclature. Paleontologists confirmed this conclusion in the 1970s, and know-it-all children have instructed their parents that “Brontosaurus” isn’t a valid name ever since. (The taxon had its defenders, including evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould in his “Bully for Brontosaurus” essay.)In the new analysis, Tschopp looked at every Diplodocidae specimen he could get his hands on. These plant-eating dinos lived in today’s North America and Europe between 160 million and 145 million years ago; their long necks and tails stretched up to 35 meters from end to end. Tschopp examined bones in 18 different museums in the United States and Europe and studied photos and drawings from other specimens. The idea was to get a high-resolution family tree by examining many individual specimens, rather than focusing only on fossils that represent an entire species. The study included six specimens of Apatosaurus excelsus, as Brontosaurus has been called since 1903.Tschopp and colleagues found that A. excelsus differed from the three other recognized species of Apatosaurus in at least a dozen key characters across the skeleton. That’s as many differences as seen between genera long accepted as distinct, such as Diplodocus and Barosaurus. For example, a true Apatosaurus has a bulkier neck and was “even more robust than Brontosaurus,” Tschopp says. But Brontosaurus also has some features that Apatosaurus lacks, such as a rounded expansion of one edge of its shoulder blade and a longer bone in its ankle.Given these anatomical differences, “It would be unfair to lump Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus together,” Upchurch says. Mannion agrees, and also endorses the team’s finding that another Diplodocidae genus, Eobrontosaurus, should be included within Brontosaurus, giving the dinosaur a few additional species to call its own.Some paleontologists have reservations. “It’s going to force us to ask questions about what we really mean by genus and species in a paleontological context,” says paleontologist John Whitlock of Mount Aloysius College in Cresson, Pennsylvania. “Is it more useful to distinguish specimens as Brontosaurus and Apatosaurus than it is to distinguish A. excelsus from other species of Apatosaurus? I don’t know, but I hope it’s the start of a conversation.” He and others, including Tschopp himself, note that the characters used aren’t cut-and-dried and could be scored differently by others.Upchurch thinks this kind of detailed taxonomy could help resolve questions such as how diverse dinosaurs were just before they went extinct about 66 million years ago. Others welcome the resurrection of an icon. “Brontosaurus has a prominent place in the public imagination,” Mannion says. “It can only be a good thing that it is back with us. … It shows that science develops through time and that it’s possible to change our minds, even about long-held views.”last_img read more

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Trump, Turnbull discuss ways to expand ties with India, Japan

first_imgUS President Donald Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull today reiterated their commitment to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific and affirmed the importance of expanding quadrilateral co-operation with India and Japan.Following their meeting, the White House said Trump and Turnbull “discussed ways to deepen trilateral cooperation with Japan and affirmed the importance of expanding cooperation between Australia, the US, Japan, and India.”Read it at Outlook Related Itemslast_img read more

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Only a Surrogacy Act can shut down India’s baby factories

first_imgResponding to the question on whether NRIs can use Indian women as ‘gestationers’, the Bengaluru gynaecologist’s voice takes on a nationalist fervour: “The PM says ‘Make in India’. We must allow them.” This is in Delhi, at a parliamentary standing committee meeting for the surrogacy bill which, if and when it becomes law, will regulate surrogacy and outlaw commercialisation.Surrogacy is part of third-party reproduction which can include oocytes (eggs bought in the baby bazaar), sperm, and embryos.Read it at Times Of India Related Itemslast_img read more

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U.S. Firm Developing Software to Decode Indian Accents to Improve Air Travel Safety

first_imgIndia will serve as a testing ground for a new software being developed by a U.S-based multinational firm for better understanding of Indian accents. The new software, being developed by Honeywell International Inc., will try to make it easier to understand Indian pilots who communicate in English with thick local accents, Bloomberg reported.The software is being developed following a request by the Indian government to make air travel safer. The software would decode as many as 100 Indian accents and then transcribe automatically what is being said for the air traffic controllers.“One of the biggest problems in India has been that we Indians don’t understand each other’s English because of the dialects. This, we thought, works very well for the regional connectivity scheme, because you have regional pilots coming in, people don’t know what he said and what he understood,” Neelu Khatri, president of Honeywell’s aerospace business in India, was quoted as saying in the report.The Indian government’s UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik) scheme for regional connectivity has led to an increase in demand for pilots who may speak English in local accents.The project will be implemented in India first, and Honeywell sees a possibility of expanding it in other countries, Khatri said, adding, “It’s a real time problem and therefore, these kinds of problems don’t have ready-made solutions. We just try to put our people who can understand the problem and then try to create something.”The New Jersey-based firm has been working with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) for over 40 years. In April this year, it announced that it is working to finalize some collaborations with Indian companies for local production of defense technologies, the Hindu BusinessLine reported.The company is looking at a tie-up with Tata Power’s Strategic Engineering Division for domestic inertial land navigation systems. “We saw there was a big need for making inertial navigation system and hence we partnered with Tata. The ‘made in India’ Akash missile had Honeywell’s inertial navigation system,” Khatri had earlier said.Honeywell’s employs over 16,000 people in India, and has three technology centers, and manufacturing facilities in the country.India is the world’s third largest market in domestic aviation when it comes to the number of tickets sold, according to the recent economic survey report. From April to September 2017, domestic airlines carried 57.50 million passengers, showing a growth rate of 16 per cent over the corresponding previous year period, with 10.30 percent domestic cargo handled.The air route between the Mumbai and Delhi is the third busiest domestic route in the world, with an average on-time performance of 59.14 per cent and a total of 47,462 flights operating between the two cities, a survey conducted by a global provider of digital flight information revealed in January this year. Related Itemscivil aviationlanguageslast_img read more

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The Dirty Video

first_imgIt’s not just the weather that’s hotting up in India. It’s also the season of salacious video-watching and angry high-decibel television debates over the people’s right to satiate their eye-balls with such stuff.Late April, the cable channel Sony TV scheduled the telecast of the award-winning Vidya Balan-starrer The Dirty Picture, Bollywood’s self-consciously sexy take on the real-life story of South Indian actress Silk Smitha whose death in 1996 left behind an archive of sultry dance cameos and a longer trail of bedroom gossip. Then, in a classic example of bureaucratic bungling, the federal ministry for Information & Broadcasting notified the channel a day prior to the telecast that an “advice” from the government’s Censor Board (which had earlier cleared the movie for unrestricted viewing) would permit only a late-night telecast of the film. Probably having promised its high-paying advertisers a prime-time audience, Sony opted to scrap the program.But viewers who might have felt let down were somewhat compensated by an alleged real-life video replacement. Viewers on YouTube were greeted the morning after by a four-part, 22-minute-long “uncut” video of a middle-aged man looking remarkably like Congress Party spokesperson and Supreme Court lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi — complete with bald pate, protruding upper lip and those trademark rimless glasses — indulging in a lot of talk and what could be reasonably construed as a rather insipid bout of oral and vaginal sexual intercourse with a woman who had earlier entered the video clipping dressed in lawyer robes. The episode has severely dented — if not fatally bruised — Singhvi’s career in politics as well as his professional and personal reputation.Let’s begin with the bare, largely undisputed facts. A disgruntled former employee of Singhvi — chauffeur Mukesh Kumar Lal — approached a media house (which owns and runs the cable TV channel Aaj Tak, Headlines Today and the India Today group of publications) with a CD purportedly containing the audio-visual representation of Singhvi having sex in his chambers with a woman. On learning of this development — either through other sources or because of threatening calls or SMSes from Lal himself — Singhvi moved court for an ex-parte injunction against the dissemination of the seedy information contained in the CD. This was accompanied by an affidavit from Lal as well as an oral statement to the court admitting that his actions were motivated by animus against his former employer. In return, Singhvi seems to have agreed to not pursue criminal charges or investigations against Lal. The media house appears to have deferred readily to the court order.The matter did not end there. While no mainstream television channel aired the actual contents of the CD, the court order could not stop the media frenzy that followed. Many Indian newspapers front-paged the Singhvi CD story and television talk-shows dissected its fallout with breathless urgency and in hair-splitting detail.But the final straw was the video’s “uncut” appearance on YouTube. Within hours of the video going viral, Singhvi relinquished two of his public-office assignments — as Congress Party spokesperson and as Chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice. He continues however as a parliamentarian — a Rajya Sabha MP representing his native Rajasthan state. For a high-profile and articulate public speaker, Singhvi’s exit was uncharacteristically tame: eschewing a personal appearance, he had his resignation statement released quietly to the media. It is available verbatim on the Net.The statement, a masterpiece of lawyer-speak, hides more than it reveals. It reflects the kind of phraseology that would have got Singhvi, a graduate of Cambridge University and Harvard University, the very jobs he has now quit. His powers of persuasive obfuscation stood the Congress Party in good stead when it came to deflecting attention from its numerous scams. And when it needed to blunt the sharp impact of Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement with a party loyalist who could be trusted to steer the Lokpal Bill into a legislative logjam that would render it toothless, the services of a legal-eagle — particularly someone with an aggressive and argumentative bent of mind like Singhvi — as committee chairperson were seen as invaluable.Paradoxical though it may seem, these same traits have now come to haunt Singhvi as his resignation statement undergoes public scrutiny. In his statement, Singhvi complained: “It is lamentable such canards are being spread about a CD which has, in fact, been accepted thrice over to be fabricated and morphed. The driver’s disclosure statement to the police, his detailed written statement (i.e. written pleading) in the High Court and his oral statement recorded on oath physically in the presence of the judge, all explain how and why he created this fabrication.”As one blogger wrote: “This is infinitely richer than what I might have come out with: ‘It’s sad that such lies are spread about a photoshopped CD. The driver has told the police why he lied.’ Thank you, Mr.Singhvi, for bringing a bit of sunshine into a dull existence.”Among the more debatable parts of the resignation statement are Singhvi’s claim that as “a disciplined soldier of the party” he’s quitting to spare Congress “any inconvenience on this account,” as well as this concluding paragraph: “Either the CD is morphed or it is not. In either event it raises no public interest issue, yet evokes salacious private and prurient interest and contumacious internet violation of a flagrant kind. As a political or a professional class, instead of gleefully watching, promoting or participating in a person’s natural and understandable discomfiture, we must respect privacy issues.”To put it mildly, Singhvi’s willingness to fall on his sword is tantamount to making a colorable virtue out of a dire necessity. Of course, the party wanted him out soonest, wanting no more odorous drafts of bad publicity over sexual impropriety, so close on the heels of a sex scandal involving another worthy from Rajasthan, state minister Mahipal Maderna whose explicit romp video with his married lover Bhanwari Devi featured on Youtube, and who is now being questioned over her disappearance and possible murder.But an innocent and forthright Singhvi could well have held his ground and refused to quit. A resignation is not in and of itself a pointer to guilt or even a confession of any wrongdoing. The circumstances however are oftentimes quite telling. And it was open to Singhvi — in fact, even imperative in the light of the unfolding events — to bring the CD under a forensic lens and come clean. What better way to prove his innocence, and thus truly spare his party any “inconvenience” in the long term?Which brings us to the concluding part of his statement, which bears the seeds of at least three controversial facets of the Singhvi CD episode whose ends remain intriguingly loose: the alleged morphing of the CD, the debate over a litmus test for determining public or national interest, and the issue of privacy as a legal right in these days of rampant sting operations and social media networks. Together, they highlight other ancillary areas of deliberation: such as the roles and responsibilities of the media and the judiciary in framing and adjudicating on these issues.The paragraph begins with an amazing sentence: “Either the CD is morphed or it is not.” Why this either/or uncertainty over the so-called morphed CD? And more pertinently, who gains from this smokescreen of uncertainty?Let’s bring in the experts. There is a general consensus of opinion among them that while morphing of faces and body parts between still photographs is a relatively easy and inexpensive task accomplished even by computer-graphics amateurs, a similar morphing job for a movie or video clipping calls for extremely hi-end technical skills available only among a few professionals working with state-of-the-art equipment. It can therefore be prohibitively expensive. The billing is done on a per-second basis and could, without an exaggeration, run into several million rupees for a 22-minute clip.Realistically therefore, could Singhvi’s chauffeur — smarting, as he was, for being underpaid, among other things — have afforded this steep cost? And, if Singhvi would like us to believe that the chauffeur’s dirty tricks may have been underwritten by Singhvi’s political enemies and/or professional rivals, what stops Singhvi from ordering a hi-tech computer facility to ascertain the CD’s authenticity in order to expose and shut up his rivals and enemies for good? Certainly not the cost involved, given that this job costs far less than the actual morphing and given Singhvi’s lucrative legal practice.What Singhvi — or anybody else in his place — would of course find unacceptably high is the price of a dreaded eventuality: the CD turning out to be genuine and authentic. It would taint him not just as a two-timing cheat, but as an outright liar as well. Such a report would, at the very least, cast a long enduring shadow on Singhvi’s public life — if not terminate it — not to speak of the havoc it would wreak on his family relationships and the ignominy of being rendered liable for “taking gratification to influence a public servant” under Sections 8 and 9 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, and for the offence of “adultery” under Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code.Whereas Singhvi’s contention about the morphed CD may well have a straightforward, binary answer in technology, his other assertion on the question of public interest associated with the sexual act is less simple. In plain English, Singhvi is saying: ‘It’s not me in that video clipping, and even if it’s me (which it’s not), there is no other favor being traded for the sex.’That’s precisely where the red flag of public interest raises itself. People at one end of the debate spectrum argue that Singhvi’s status as a public figure and the location of his chambers in the Supreme Court annexe (so, going strictly by the book, a public building) would prima facie make him culpable in this matter, regardless of whether or not any deal was made by way of promising his partner a public office in consideration for the sexual favour. At the other corner are those among Singhvi’s lawyer buddies and Congress party men who dismiss the whole episode as his “private affair” into which nobody else need pry.The truth, as usual, probably lies somewhere between these two extremes. It is a long-established truism that a private affair of sexual intimacy even between two consenting adults cannot — and should not — stay under wraps if it’s linked to or conceals transgressions of public or national interest. And curiously, it may again fall on a technological expert to decipher what was said by the lovers before, during and after the act — assuming, of course, that the CD is not a fabricated one.As it runs on YouTube today, the video clipping, apart being visually grainy and awkwardly angled, is hamstrung by an almost indecipherable — if barely audible — sound track. That, however, has not prevented speculations and even assertions about who said what to whom. For instance, Meenakshi Lekhi, a Supreme Court lawyer and a high-ranking functionary of the women’s wing of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, claimed on national television that the audio track began with this question from the lady lawyer to Singhvi: “Judge kab bana rahe ho?” (When will you make [me] a judge?) Other lawyers, preferring anonymity, say they have heard the words “Attorney General,” “Rajasthan” and “U.P. Cadre” at various points in the noisy clipping.Knowledgeable observers are wary of rejecting Lekhi’s claim in particular. Not necessarily on account of any reputation for credibility, but because of some peculiar events and circumstances surrounding the appointment of Delhi High Court judges in the recent past. In 2010, a collegium (panel) of judges from that court sent a list to the chief justice of India recommending the names of five lawyers to be appointed as judges. The chief justice returned the list, asking that it should be reconsidered by a newly constituted collegium of the same court. The matter reportedly has not moved since then, and the name of the lady lawyer depicted in the CD — easily identified by colleagues — figures in the 2010 list.In which case, the obvious question: Was Singhvi sealing a quid pro quo pact with the lady lawyer during his long conversation with her in the prelude (or should we say, build-up) to the act, promising to use his considerable clout to further her chances for judgeship in return for a romp in his chambers? To unravel this mystery, a Right-to-Information query addressed to the Supreme Court registrar was filed by an SC litigant on April 23, seeking information “in the larger public interest concerning certain scandalous statements and obscene videos being circulated in the online media concerning appointment of Judges…” Till the court responds to the RTI query, we would do well to ponder the conflicting imperatives of individual rights to privacy on the one hand and freedom of expression on the other. The debate is old, but the newest fly in the ointment is the proliferation of electronic and digital media. The Singhvi video going viral despite a court order demonstrated the utter futility of injunctions in restricting the spread of sensational material on the internet. But even if such a restriction were technologically feasible, the court would need to apply its mind to the desirability of an injunction when other remedies in the form of a civil suit or criminal prosecution against libel and slander are available. And although the Indian Constitution cites “defamation” or the threat to personal reputation among the reasons for restricting the fundamental right to speech and expression, personal reputation — as BJP parliamentarian and SC lawyer Arun Jaitley correctly pointed out in a recent opinion-piece on the Singhvi injunction — is a matter of private, not public, interest. It is therefore reasonable to argue that there should be a presumption in favor of free speech and against granting such injunctions. The unfettered exchange of ideas is the bulwark of democracy, even at the occasional risk of potential injury to personal reputation.Until media houses face the courts and their orders with greater spine and gumption and until the selection and appointment of judges in our courts becomes a more rational and transparent process, the public may be forgiven for suspecting that the casting couch syndrome is not restricted to Bollywood.Obscenity OnlineOnline activity in India is governed by the Information Technology Act, 2000. It was enacted primarily to facilitate e-commerce transactions, but was amended in 2008 to enlarge its scope to include Information Security and Data Protection, as well as to counter Cyber Terrorism.Under the law, watching the Singhvi CD on YouTube is not illegal. However, you fall afoul of the law — and invite a five-year prison term — if you share the CD’s contents directly. In other words, distributing “obscene” material electronically — and that includes uploading or embedding it — amounts to an offence under this Act.But what if you simply forwarded a link to the video to a like-minded friend or associate? Experts interpret the relevant provisions to mean that the mere forwarding of a link does not constitute “distributing” the actual material because the text you forward is not per se obscene. Delhi High Court Order Censoring Singhvi Sex VideoIN THE HIGH COURT OF DELHI AT NEW DELHICS(OS) 978/2012ABHIMANYU BHANDARI and ANR. ….. PlaintiffsThrough: Mr. Parag P. Tripathi, Sr. Advocate withMrs. Sangeeta Sharma, Ms. Swati Sharma and Mr. A. Ganguli, AdvocatesversusMUKESH KUMAR LAL and ORS. ….. DefendantsThrough: Nemo.CORAM:HON’BLE MS. JUSTICE REVA KHETRAPAL….Having heard the learned senior counsel for the plaintiffs and scrutinized the plaint, the application and the complaint filed along with the plaint, the Court is of the opinion that the plaintiffs have made out a prima facie case for the grant of an ex parte ad interim injunction in their favour. The balance of convenience is also tilted in favour of the plaintiffs and against the defendants. Irreparable injury is likely to be caused to the reputation and goodwill of the plaintiff No.2 in case the defendants are not restrained from disseminating the information allegedly in their possession in the form of a CD. Accordingly, issue notice of this application to the defendants No.1 to 4, returnable for the date fixed.Till the next date, the defendants, their agents and all others acting for and/or on their behalf are restrained from publishing, broadcasting, disseminating or distributing in any form or manner the contents of any alleged CD or any other material as described in the plaint in relation to the plaintiff No.2.The provisions of Order XXXIX Rule 3 of the Code of Civil Procedure shall be complied with by the plaintiffs within three days from today.A copy of this order be given dasti to the counsel for the plaintiffs under the signatures of the Court Master, as prayed…..REVA KHETRAPAL, J.APRIL 13, 2012skThe Singhvi Sex Video Related Itemslast_img read more

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