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Showing posts from January 10, 2017

Stemming the moral rot within ()the hindu

It is time that attitudes changed and the law asserted that all women have an inviolable right to space and untrammelled dignities

On December 31, 2016, the streets of Bengaluru became one of the most dangerous places in the country for women of all ages. On New Year’s Day, photographs emerged of terrified women there clinging to police officers as mobs surged around them, and reports described the brazen spree of mass sexual assaults that occurred overnight.

On the same evening, in another part of Bengaluru, an unrelated violent attack on a woman walking through a dark alley was captured in a spine-chilling, two-minute CCTV video.

The two sets of visuals from Bengaluru that night were mirror images of shameful events that occurred elsewhere in the world, including the “taharrush” (collective harassment) attacks that have, since 2005, blighted the epochal political events in Tahrir Square, in Cairo, Egypt, and the 2015 New Year’s Eve attacks in Cologne, Germany, among others.

Yet, as…

Taking ‘Cold Start’ out of the freezer? (the hindu )

General Bipin Rawat’s reference to Cold Start raises vital questions about what he means by the phrase and whether he was authorised to speak on the matter by the government

In a wide-ranging interview with India Today, the new Chief of Army Staff, General Bipin Rawat, appeared to drop a bombshell by acknowledging the existence of the army’s Cold Start strategy. Many defence analysts presumed the army had abandoned this limited war concept altogether, or narrowly focussed on streamlining mobilisation while still maintaining the fundamental Strike Corps organisation and doctrinal concept. Either Gen. Rawat has dispensed with 15 years of semantic gymnastics and simply referred to these “proactive strategy options” by their more common nomenclature, Cold Start, or, the Indian Army has been quietly reorganising its limited war concept along more aggressive, and offensive, lines with little fanfare. The government would be wise to clarify Gen. Rawat’s statements. Ambiguity surrounding Col…

Reaching out to Africa (the hindu)

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta could be a willing partner for India to deepen relations

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, one of India’s most important African partners, is here in India. He has participated in the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit as a special guest and will hold discussions with leaders in Delhi beginning January 11. When a foreign leader reciprocates a visit by the Indian Prime Minister to his country with a trip within six months, it sends a clear signal that something significant is under way.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s African safari in July 2016 took him to South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya. He received a warm welcome everywhere, but he built an instant rapport with the Kenyan president who is committed to development, counterterrorism and peace in East Africa. In an unusual gesture, in the joint communiqué issued after the visit, Mr. Modi congratulated Mr. Kenyatta for his initiatives and achievements under his “strong and forceful leadership”. Mr.…

Appointments as spoils of office(Hindu)

The Supreme Court’s observations on the quality of a round of appointments made to the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission last year expose the gross disrespect shown by the State government to the institutional integrity of the constitutional body. Standing by the Madras High Court judgment quashing the appointment of 11 members, the court has directed the State government to make a fresh selection of TNPSC members after a “meaningful and deliberative process”. These observations foreground the arbitrary manner in which administrative power is used to pack recruitment institutions with political favourites. In the case of the TNPSC, the high court had noted that absolutely no process had preceded the appointments, including of a former district judge who had not been offered the two-year extension that is given on merit to district judges on their reaching the age of 58. The government has been specifically told that the retired judge would not be eligible in the fresh selection p…

The great American election hack(Hindu.)

The U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence has released a declassified report purportedly supplying the minutiae of a conspiracy theory that has dogged the victory of Donald Trump in the November presidential election: Russia’s alleged “influence campaign” that sought to tip the scales in favour of the property magnate. The report, which pulls together intelligence gathered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, concludes with “high confidence” that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordered such a campaign in 2016, which saw hacking of email accounts of Democratic Party officials and other political figures. Further, personal information of the victims was passed on to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks and broader media, which in turn disseminated large troves of data. These releases and public propaganda by the Russian regime, the report suggests, undercut the campaign of the Democratic candida…

BSNL to connect 1500 gram panchayats through OFC in 2017(hindu,)

BSNL will provide three thousand hot spots at important places and has already initiated steps for automatic hook up points through wireless network.

BSNL plans to connect 1,518 gram panchayats with Optical Fibre Cable (OFC) this year in Assam to ensure rural connectivity.

“We have emphasised on rural connectivity and 5,200 kms of OFC will be laid this year to cover 1,518 gram panchayats, which accounts 70 per cent of the total gram panchayats in the state,” BSNL Chief General Manager M.K. Seth said in a talk show conducted by All India Radio, Guwahati.

Seth said that Kshetri Gaon Panchayat in Kamrup district is likely to become the first digital gram panchayat of the country, an AIR release said on Monday.

BSNL will provide three thousand hot spots at important places and has already initiated steps for automatic hook up points through wireless network, he said.

High-speed network will be installed in Guwahati by March this year and “BSNL has taken steps for automatic hook up point …

Eerily life-like, Chinese bionic woman turns on the charm(hindu)

‘Jia Jia’ can chat, make specific facial expressions and her maker sees in her a future of cyborg labour in the country.

“Jia Jia” can hold a simple conversation and make specific facial expressions when asked, and her creator believes the eerily life-like robot heralds a future of cyborg labour in China.

Billed as China’s first human-like robot, Jia Jia was first trotted out last year by a team of engineers at the University of Science and Technology of China.

Like a proud father

Team leader Chen Xiaoping sounded like a proud father as he and his prototype appeared Monday at an economic conference organised by banking giant UBS in Shanghai’s futuristic financial centre.

Mr. Chen predicted that perhaps within a decade, artificially intelligent robots like Jia Jia will begin performing a range of menial tasks in Chinese restaurants, nursing homes, hospitals and households.

“In 5-10 years there will be a lot of applications for robots in China,” Mr. Chen said.

With flowing black hair a…

Football World Cup 2026 to have 48 teams (the hindu)

New format will be made up of 16 groups of three teams, says FIFA

FIFA has voted to expand the World Cup to 48 teams from its current 32, brushing aside concerns that the expansion would lower the overall standard of the tournament, and make it too long and unwieldy.

The governing body of football said on its Twitter feed that the FIFA Council, its decision-making panel, had voted unanimously in favour of the change which will be introduced at the 2026 tournament.

The new format will include a first round of 16 groups of three teams, FIFA said, with further details to be given later.

 FIFA Media ✔ @fifamedia
The FIFA Council unanimously decided on a 48-team #WorldCup as of 2026:
16 groups of 3 teams. Details to follow after the meeting.
3:05 PM - 10 Jan 2017
  3,628 3,628 Retweets   1,247 1,247 likes
FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who replaced the disgraced Sepp Blatter in February, had made World Cup expansion one of his promises during his successful electoral campaign.


Krishna water released, to reach city by weekend (the hindu)

Officials expect to receive at least 2 tmc ft from Andhra Pradesh
Two days after Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam appealed to his Andhra Pradesh counterpart N. Chandrababu Naidu, the release of water from the Kandaleru reservoir, which is about 180 km from here, commenced on Monday afternoon.
Officials in the Public Works and Municipal Administration and Water Supply departments say initially, the AP authorities are releasing 500 cubic feet per second (cusecs). This would be stepped up to ensure that Tamil Nadu would realise 500 cusecs at its border.
The initial flows are expected to reach the State border by the end of this week, they add.
The officials expect that the State will get at least two thousand million cubic feet (tmc ft), even though there is no specific assurance from the neighbouring State.
As on date, the storage of the city reservoirs was around 1.5 tmc ft against the total capacity of the reservoirs of 11.057 tmc ft. Chennai Metrowater has reduced the supply level from 830…

A problem we can’t flush away (hindu)

The BMC wants to make the city open-defecation-free, and has committed to providing mobile toilets and clean-up marshals to police those defecating in the open. Is this enough? In the first of a two-part series, we look at the how the city deals with human waste.

For nearly two decades, the residents of Hanuman Nagar in Bhandup attended nature’s call in the thicket adjoining their slum colony, sometimes walking half an hour to get to a spot where they could go about their business uninterrupted. Post sundown, they made the trek in the dark, as there were no street lights there. “There were just two or three toilets for the 300-odd huts,” says Deepa Bhadarge, a long-time resident, “and we used to take our cans [of water, to clean themselves] there. The toilet soon became unusable, after its septic tank burst.”

The women of the slum were the hardest-hit: they would have to be accompanied by someone every time they needed to go to the ‘jungle’ as it was not very safe. A year ago, about …

As Maritime Silk Road takes root, China docks submarine in Malaysia (hindu,)

It was the second confirmed port visit by a Chinese submarine, following a visit to Sri Lanka in 2014, the People’s Daily Online reported on Monday.

For the first time, a Chinese submarine has docked at a port in Malaysia, signaling deepening military ties between the two countries, which are already partners in the development of the Beijing- led Maritime Silk Road (MSR).

The four day stopover of the submarine from January 3 at the port of Kota Kinabalu, is being seen as a trigger for elevated tensions in the South China Sea (SCS). The Malaysian port has a naval base facing the SCS.

According to the information office of China’s Ministry of Defence, the submarine and support ship arrived at the port for “rest and recreation” after completing an escort mission to the Gulf of Aden and Somalia. It was the second confirmed port visit by a Chinese submarine, following a visit to Sri Lanka in 2014, the People’s Daily Online reported on Monday.

Analysts say that docking of Chinese submarin…

The spark that will ignite the gentleman’s game for the better(hindu)

Absolute power corrupts absolutely. It is a well-known fact and a popular topic of discussion about the rich and the mighty corrupting the system in cricket.

The googly here is the Supreme Court’s decision to shake things up. By sticking to its earlier stand in the order of 2nd January 2017, the BCCI has been stumped. Following the judgement, the associations have to implement all the reforms quickly.

The only cause for the BCCI to tumble over is its arrogant officials with an inflated ego. At this stage, the Supreme Court’s decision to restructure the entire system to eradicate corruption is perspicuous.

In my experience, it was not infrequent to witness high-level politics in BCCI. But, the officials never allowed the game to suffer. Alas, that is not the case anymore.

Money is power, they say. The massive ego that came along with it led each office- bearer to outsmart the other. There was no action taken against any of these errant associations.

Barring a few, some associations ha…

Respite, not reconciliation (thehindu)

The ceasefire in Syria and the upcoming peace talks in Astana could be the beginning of the long denouement in the war-torn country

The Syrian Arab Army now controls Aleppo, which means that the Syrian government once more is in charge of the main population centres in the country. Opposition armed forces are hemmed in around Damascus and in Idlib, while the Islamic State (IS) still holds the northern city of Raqqa. These forces, including IS, are on the back foot, disorganised, weakened logistically and disoriented. Largely abandoned by their benefactors — the West, the Gulf Arabs and Turkey — these fighters have either moved to great desperation in their violence or to near surrender. A ceasefire brokered on December 30, 2016 holds in most parts of the country. Peace talks are to begin on January 23 in Astana (Kazakhstan). Iran, Russia, the Syrian government, sections of the Syrian opposition, Turkey and the United Nations will have seats at the table. The United States and the Eur…

The world at a crossroads(the hindu )

The outlook for 2017 is anything but optimistic, with a sluggish global economy, widening terror footprint, and geopolitical realignments as the U.S., Russia and China jostle for spheres of influence

The policy outlook for 2017 appears not too promising. Geopolitical risks will remain high. No improvement in the present unstable global order appears likely. New terror patterns will increase the lethality of terror attacks. Digital disruption and cyberthreats are poised to grow.

The economic outlook, likewise, appears pessimistic, with the global economy caught in a low-growth trap. Widening inequality and increasing unemployment will worsen this situation. After a decade of economic lows, the prevailing sentiment in the marketplace will be uncertainty.

In some ways, the 21st century has, so far, proved to be a disaster for the ‘status quoist West’, which failed to recognise the implications of the shift in economic power to the East, even as some countries of Asia turned into new eng…

Oiling cashless wheels(Hindu.)

The threat by petroleum retailers to stop accepting credit and debit card payments led to a late-night intervention on Sunday by the Centre, with Dharmendra Pradhan, Minister for Petroleum, declaring that the protest action had been put off till January 13. Fuel dealers raised a red flag on the decision by certain banks to levy the merchant discount rate (MDR) of up to one per cent on card payments. After the demonetisation exercise began, the government had waived the service tax on the MDR surcharge from December 8 for card-based payments up to ₹2,000 and got banks to waive the MDR charges on debit cards till December 31, 2016. By Monday, the Petroleum Minister said that neither the consumer nor the dealers, operating on thin margins, would bear the MDR for fuel refills even after January 13. Stakeholders, he said, will absorb the cost, but it is still not clear who will bear the cost of going cashless — banks are not out of line in expecting some revenue in return for facilitating …

A blow to reformists in Iran(Hindu)

The death of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former President of the Islamic Republic of Iran and powerful cleric who was widely considered a leading “moderate” in Iran’s polity, is a major blow to the reformists in the country. He had a complex and long tenure as a political leader, emerging as a revolutionary who participated in the overthrow of the Shah regime, heading Parliament in post-Revolution Iran and later being elected twice as President. He rebuilt an economy devastated in the near-decade-long war against Iraq. While in power, Rafsanjani promoted a liberal economic policy that moved Iran away from statism, pursued a realist foreign policy that sought to protect Iranian geopolitical interests and minimise tensions with the West. He was ruthless as an administrator, presiding over the suppression of dissent by arresting and executing several prominent liberals and leftists. Out of power, Rafsanjani was seen as a powerful moderate cleric with an array of business interests…