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Showing posts from December 21, 2016

Nasa study says dwarf planet Ceres is flush with ice(LIVEMINT)

Nasa’s Dawn spacecraft image of the limb of dwarf planet Ceres shows a section of the northern hemisphere. Photo: Courtesy Nasa/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/Reuters
San Francisco: The dwarf planet Ceres, an enigmatic rocky body inhabiting the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, is rich with ice just beneath its dark surface, scientists said in research that may shed light on the early history of the solar system.

The discovery, reported in a pair of studies published in the journals Science and Nature Astronomy, could bolster fledgling commercial endeavours to mine asteroids for water and other resources for robotic and eventual human expeditions beyond the moon.

Nasa’s Dawn spacecraft has been orbiting Ceres, the largest of thousands of rocky bodies located in the main asteroid belt, since March 2015 following 14-month study of Vesta, the second-largest object in the asteroid belt.

The studies show that Ceres is about 10% water, now frozen into ice, according to physicist T…

Pardon, the gender wage gap is showing (thehindu.)

ILO finds women form 60% of lowest paid wage labour, but only 15% of highest wage-earners

India had among the worst levels of gender wage disparity — men earning more than women in similar jobs — with the gap exceeding 30 per cent, the Global Wage Report 2016-17 released by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) revealed last week.

In contrast, Singapore had among the lowest, at 3 per cent. Among major economies, only South Korea fared worse than India, with a gap of 37 per cent. In India, women formed 60 per cent of the lowest paid wage labour, but only 15 per cent of the highest wage-earners. “Not only are women poorly represented in the top bracket of wage-earners, the gender pay gap at the bottom is also very wide in India,” said Xavier Estupinan, a wage specialist at the ILO. In other words, not only were women paid less, there were fewer women in highly paid occupations.

The report also found that the share of women among wage earners was among the lowest in South Asia. Co…

On Aadhaar system, the dead live on (thehindu)

Getting an Aadhaar card may be easy, but the same cannot be said about the dead who want to get off the Aadhaar database. Right from the government officials to the people, confusion and misinformation prevails on how to invalidate the Aadhaar details of a person who is no more.

A quick search on the portal of the UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India) does not mention any process on how to apply for deletion of an Aadhaar card holder’s data. Offline too, there is no direct way to put forward the request.

Bolwar Mahamad Kunhi gets Sahitya Akademi Award for second time ( thehindu.)

Noted Kannada writer Bolwar Mahamad Kunhi has been chosen for the prestigious Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award for 2016. His 1,111-page magnum opus Swatantryada Ota, published in 2012, is among the five novels identified for the award.
Mr. Bolwar is getting the award for the second time. His Papu Gandhi BapuGandhi Ada Kathe, a children’s book, won it in 2010.
He will be presented with the award in New Delhi on February 22, 2017.

Ending the Manipur blockade The( Hindu)

The blockade of the national highways leading to the Manipur valley, called by the United Naga Council (UNC), has been in place since November 1. This has severely affected life in the State, with shortages and escalating costs of essential supplies such as fuel and food, even as demonetisation has exacerbated problems. Blockades like this are not new to Manipur. In 2011, there was initially a hundred-day-plus blockade enforced by Kuki-led groups, and countered later by Naga groups, which together had a debilitating effect on life in Manipur. This time the blockade is in place to oppose the creation of new districts by the Okram Ibobi Singh government. On December 9 it issued a gazette notification for the creation of seven new districts by bifurcating seven (of a total of nine) districts. This decision had as much to do with long-pending demands — in particular, for a new Kuki-majority district to be carved out of the larger Senapati hill district — as with easing administrative acce…

A chance for peace in Syria (The Hindu.)

The coming together of Russia, Turkey and Iran to discuss a diplomatic solution to the Syrian crisis is a welcome development. That they decided to go ahead with Tuesday’s Moscow summit despite the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, the previous day, demonstrates their commitment to stay the course, something that was missing in previous efforts. The summit also marks a shift in Russia’s approach, which initially involved negotiations with the United States about possible diplomatic options for Syria. Washington has been kept out of both the deliberations on the Aleppo evacuations and the Moscow conference. The last time Russia and the U.S. reached an agreement, in September 2016, there had been great hope that they could mentor a sustainable ceasefire. But within days of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announcing the deal, the American-led coalition killed dozens of Syrian soldiers. Though the U.S. later “regretted” the strike, the peace process had…

Queen Victoria’s last letter to India unveiled (the hindu )

Written a month before her death, it was gifted by Viceroy Lord Curzon in 1904

Queen Victoria’s last letter to India, written 116 years ago, is on display for the first time at the Victoria Memorial, one of the finest monuments built in her memory.

The three-page handwritten letter, dated December 14, 1900 and bearing the Royal Seal, was unveiled for the public on December 16 at the Prince Hall of the Victoria Memorial.

“This letter is an important piece of historical correspondence between British India and Britain. The letter was gifted by Lord Curzon in 1904,” Jayanta Sengupta, curator of the Victorial Memorial told The Hindu .

Mr. Sengupta, also a historian, pointed out that the letter by Queen Victoria was written nearly a month before her death. She passed away on January 22, 1901. The letter is Queen Victoria’s reply to the then Viceroy, Lord Curzon, who in an earlier correspondence to the Queen had expressed his sympathies on the death of one of her “soldier grandsons.”

“The …

The fight to save the smallest rhino in Sumatran jungles (the hindu )

Deep from within the Indonesian jungle a solitary, seldom seen forest giant emerges from the undergrowth. It is a Sumatran rhino, one of the rarest large mammals on Earth.

There are no more than 100 left on the entire planet and Andatu — a four-year old male — is one of the last remaining hopes for the future of the species.

He is part of a special breeding programme at Way Kambas National Park in eastern Sumatra that is trying to save this critically endangered species from disappearing forever.

The species is so rarely seen that even villagers living near the park were stunned when a wild rhino wandered into their community.

“They thought it was a mythical creature,” Zulfi Arsan, head veterinary surgeon at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary at Way Kambas, said. “They chased her, and so we had to rescue her.”

Sumatran rhinos are the smallest of all rhinos, and the only Asian variety with two horns.

Unlike their better-known cousins in Africa, Sumatran rhinos are born covered in shaggy, re…

Can courts make life terms more rigorous, asks SC( the hindu )

The Supreme Court will examine whether courts are statutorily empowered to make life imprisonments harsher for convicts by adding the term “rigorous” while delivering a sentence of life imprisonment.

A Bench of Justices P.C. Ghose and U.U. Lalit said it would consider whether the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) or any other penal law empowered the courts to add the term 'rigorous'.

The Supreme Court decided to hear on this aspect while considering the appeal filed by Ram Kumar Sivare, who is serving rigorous life term in a Chattisgarh jail, for murder.

Challenging the High Court verdict in the murder case, Sivare's lawyer and senior advocate Parmanand Katara, contended that the judgment pronounced by the lower courts was “unconstitutional and ultra-vires” as penal and procedural laws do not empower them to qualify the life sentence awarded to a convict with the term “rigorous”.

The State High Court had upheld the trial court judgment convicting and awarding life term to Si…

Next year on, medical admission from NEET( thehindu)

To make admissions from NEET rank list next year onwards

Admissions to medical, Ayush, agriculture, veterinary, fisheries and forestry courses would be made from the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) rank list from the academic year 2017-18 onwards.

This was decided at a Cabinet meeting here on Tuesday.

A press note here said the State government would not henceforth conduct entrance examinations to these courses. Admissions to the engineering courses would continue to be made from a rank list prepared on the basis of an entrance examination conducted by the State government.

President of the private medical colleges managements association P. Krishnadas told The Hindu that it made for common sense that the government did not conduct an entrance examination for allied medical courses. “Anyhow, admissions to MBBS and BDS must be made from the NEET list. In 2016 the Supreme Court had allowed Kerala, as a one-time measure to admit students from the State medical entrance ran…

Angela Merkel’s challenge ( The Hindu)

It is hard now to remember a time when German Chancellor Angela Merkel was not in the thick of a political storm in Europe. However, Monday’s suspected terror strike in Berlin that claimed at least 12 lives along with a spate of incidents in July, all with a bearing on Germany’s liberal immigration policies, present a qualitatively different challenge to Europe’s most powerful politician. As she seeks election for a fourth term next September, Ms. Merkel’s political and diplomatic acumen could be put to the toughest test yet in a world still coming to grips with the implications of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union (EU) and the U.S. presidential election result. Her measured approach to the deepening debt crisis in the eurozone saw her being pilloried by some of her conservative colleagues as indulgence of a profligate Greece, even as the German-backed multilateral mission that negotiated the bailouts was greeted by angry Greek protesters carrying placards bearing the swasti…

Demonetisation — an unkind postscript (thehindu)

In November, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Urjit Patel, said there was a ‘confluence of thought’ in the government and the central bank to deal with black money by removing existing Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 notes as legal tender. Now, just about ten days before the deadline to deposit these bank notes into accounts, a similar confluence of ideas has led to a stunning decision to make it harder for people to do so. The new caveats, announced on Monday, restricting deposits over Rs.5,000 (roughly $70) are not just difficult to fathom but also constitute an unfair change in the rules of the game. Those opting to disclose unaccounted income under the new amnesty scheme, the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, face no restriction on depositing old notes. But anyone depositing Rs.5,000 or more into a bank account will have to satisfactorily explain to two bank officials why this was not done earlier. However, the Finance Minister has suggested that such explanations will not be req…