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Showing posts from February 8, 2017

Rajya Sabha passes Mental Health Bill (downtoearth)

In a landmark move, the Rajya Sabha has passed the Mental Health Care Bill that provides for rights of treatment to people suffering from mental illness. The bill was introduced in August, 2013 and repeals the Mental Health Act, 1987.

As India has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007, it requires a law which supports the Convention.
As per the bill, every individual will have the right to get affordable and good quality treatment with easy access to services. Persons with mental illness also have the right to equality of treatment, protection from inhuman and degrading treatment, free legal services, access to their medical records, and the right to complain about deficiencies in provision of mental health care, says the summary prepared by PRS Legislative, a research organisation.

The bill also includes an advance directive which means a person suffering from mental illness can decide how she or he wants to be treated for during a…

Chemical used in plastic packaging may cause obesity: research (downtoearth,)

A new study claims that exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used to make plastics, even in small quantities, increases the risk of obesity in children. The synthetic chemical is widely used in food packaging like water bottles and cans.

Alfonso Abizaid and his team of researchers from Carleton University say that BPA reduces children’s sensitivity to leptin—the satiety hormone which informs us when we are full. Hampered functioning of leptin can cause overeating and lead to obesity, the research finds.

The latest study, published in journal Endocrinology, contradicts United States Food and Drug Administration’s (USFDA) stand on the controversial chemical. FDA says that exposure to BPA is not harmful if it is limited to 11 micrograms per person per day. Use of food packaging like bottled liquids or canned food, at exposure greater than 150 micrograms per person per day can be an indicator of carcinogenicity and is a cause for concern, FDA adds.

Abizaid’s research limited BPA exp…

Extreme wildfire events will intensify; Australia and US most at risk (downtoearth,)

Extreme wildfire events are inevitable in flammable biomes, and climate change is likely to increase their frequency and global occurrence, especially in Australia and the Mediterranean. According to a collaborative study by the researchers from the University of Tasmania, University of Idaho and South Dakota State University, the world has to brace for increasingly dangerous fire events.

Led by David Bowman, professor of Environmental Change Biology at the University of Tasmania, the study compiled a global satellite database of the intensity of 23 million landscape fires that took place between 2002 and 2013.

Of the 23 million fires, researchers zeroed in on 478 of the most extreme wildfire events and discovered that “economically or socially disastrous” wildfires are concentrated in suburban areas intermixed with flammable forest in the developed world.

One of the most important findings of the study is the low risk of fire disasters in the Mediterranean as compared to the climati…

New study finds loopholes in previous research on mass deworming(downtoearth)

One of the earlier studies done on mass deworming programme across schools in Kenya in early 2000 showed that children got rid of worm infections and as a result of this there was an increase in school participation Credit: CDC Global/Flickr

A new study led by Paul Garner from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine finds out flaws in previous studies done on mass deworming, as a means to improve the health of children living in African countries.

Earlier research claimed long-term benefits of mass deworming programmes in children, but the recent study done by Garner and his colleagues says that the findings are unlikely to be as positive as previously reported.

Intestinal infections

Millions of children living in poorest countries of the world are infected with intestinal worms. This can damage their appetite and cause anaemia. For several years, parasitologists, economists and development specialists showed faith in mass drug administration for tackling infections caused by worms…


Taking a major stride towards understanding effects of pesticides on endangered species, the first rigorous nationwide study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that about 97 per cent of over 1,800 animals and plants protected under the Endangered Species Act are threatened by two commonly used pesticides: malathion and chlorpyrifos.

The results of the study, which were released on January 18, claimed that another 78 per cent are likely to be harmed by pesticide diazinon. “When it comes to pesticides, it’s always best to look before you leap, to understand the risks to people and wildlife before they’re put into use,” said Nathan Donley, senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Based on the final biological evaluations, Donley called for “some commonsense measures to help protect them along with our water supplies and public health”.

The pesticides mentioned above are all organophosphates—a dangerous class of insecticides found in 87 per cent of human u…

Pride as well as prejudice (the hindu )

The tribal bodies’ protest against reservation for women in local municipalities in Nagaland must not be allowed to settle the argument

All-male tribal bodies have been against the 33% reservation for women in urban local bodies (ULBs) in Nagaland right from the time the Nagaland government enacted the Nagaland Municipal (First Amendment) Act in 2006, on the grounds that reservation for women in ULBs would violate Article 371(A) of the Constitution and infringe on Naga culture, traditions and customary laws. Faced with vehement opposition, the Nagaland government did not conduct elections to civic bodies for over 10 years.

Spearheaded by the Naga Mothers’ Association (NMA), Naga women filed a writ petition challenging the State government’s refusal to hold municipal elections before the Kohima Bench of the Gauhati High Court on June 26, 2011. In October 2011, a single-judge bench of the court upheld the Naga women’s petition and directed the government to hold elections to municipal …

Looking towards Africa (the hindu )

All of humanity will benefit by listening, learning and working with the people of the continent

Far too often, the world views Africa through the prism of problems. When I look to Africa, I see a continent of hope, promise and vast potential.

I am committed to building on those strengths and establishing a higher platform of cooperation between the United Nations and the leaders and people of Africa. This is essential to advancing inclusive and sustainable development and deepening cooperation for peace and security.

That is the message I carried to the recent African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — my first major mission as United Nations Secretary-General.

Above all, I came in a spirit of profound solidarity and respect. I am convinced that the world has much to gain from African wisdom, ideas and solutions.

Keeping the peace

I also brought with me a deep sense of gratitude. Africa provides the majority of UN peacekeepers around the world. African nations are among the wor…

Rollback in Romania (Hindu.)

The protests that have convulsed Romania are the largest since the fall of communism in the country in 1989. Hundreds of thousands of Romanians have taken to the streets against the government’s attempt to decriminalise graft involving sums below a certain threshold, ostensibly for practical reasons. The move has impressed neither the citizens of Romania, nor European Union officials in Brussels. Even the country’s President has thrown his weight behind the protests. The popular outcry against such a blatant move to relax the rules should have been anticipated by the government, especially as it had a direct bearing on the Social Democratic Party (PSD), which heads the current coalition. Its leader could not assume charge as Prime Minister only because an existing law bars convicted politicians from occupying the office. Similarly, judicial proceedings currently involving a number of elected representatives and officials are a measure of the independent functioning of the body in cha…

Testing times on NEET (Hindu.)

It is a measured gambit by Tamil Nadu. The State has taken the legislative route to grant itself exemption from the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET), a uniform examination that will decide admission to medical courses all over the country. The two Bills passed by the State Assembly seek to retain its present admission system for under-graduate and post-graduate medical courses based on marks obtained by students in their higher secondary school examination. The Bills are likely to displease the Supreme Court, which insists that NEET marks be the sole basis for admission. The Bills will also require the President’s assent; else they would be repugnant to the provisions of the Indian Medical Council Act and the Dentists Act that prescribe the entrance test. Tamil Nadu, which abolished entrance examinations to professional courses in 2006, argues that NEET would be traumatic for both parents and children, as it would be based on a syllabus different from the one taught in …