Maoists have abducted the sarpanch and 10 residents of Chintagufa village in Sukma district of south Chhattisgarh. Sukma district police said the villagers were abducted on the intervening night of September 15 and 16.The abductions have created anxiety in the Anti-Naxal Operations Unit of Chhattisgarh police as three of the abducted are the family members of former sarpanch Podiyam Panda. They include Mr. Panda’s wife and current sarpanch Podiyam Muye, their son Podiyam Kosa, and his brother and deputy sarpanch Podiyam Komal. Mr. Panda had surrendered a few months ago after he was branded a Maoist leader by the police.Abhishekh Meena, Superintendent of Police, Sukma district, appealed to journalists and human rights groups to help secure the release of the abducted villagers. Mr. Meena said, “These abductions have exposed the heinous face of the Maoists. This shows that Panda’s surrender was an important event. That is why his family members are being harassed now.” Jawan hurt in IED blast A Special Task Force jawan of Chhattisgarh police and a woman were injured in an IED blast in restive Naryanpur district of south Chhattisgarh on Wednesday. Santosh Singh, Superintendent of Police, Narayanpur district, said: “The Maoists triggered an explosion in Orchha town of Narayanpur targeting an STF team. “The blast occurred near the weekly market. STF jawan Kailash Netam and Mushed Somram, a resident of Pedkapal village, suffered injuries.”
A mob fired at a joint team of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Uttar Pradesh police which were carrying out searches at Pilakhua, near Ghaziabad, on Sunday in connection with the killing of an RSS leader in Punjab. The mob threw stones at the team injuring a policeman, the NIA said.An NIA spokesperson said that during the investigation into the killing of RSS leader Ravinder Gosain in Ludhiana, investigators came across the names of certain suspected arms smugglers who had supplied firearms to the accused in Punjab. The NIA said that Sikh extremist elements were suspected to be involved in Gosain’s killing.An NIA team, with the assistance of the State police, conducted searches to apprehend the suspected arms suppliers in Meerut district during the intervening night of December 2 and 3, the spokesperson said in a statement.Constable injuredOn getting more leads, further raids were conducted at the residence of the suspect Malook at Nahali village in Ghaziabad on Sunday. A large crowd tried to obstruct the team, and some people opened fire on them, resulting in injury to Uttar Pradesh police constable Tahjib Khan, besides damage to official vehicles, the spokesperson said.The mob staged multiple road blockades to obstruct the officials in the discharge of their duties. In self-defence, the U.P. police and NIA personnel also fired in the air, the spokesperson said. Two being questionedTwo suspects are currently being questioned regarding their alleged involvement in the case. Efforts are being made to locate Malook who is wanted in connection with the supply of arms and ammunition used in the killing in Punjab.On November 30, the NIA registered a case to investigate the killing of Gosain, under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.Gosain, the ‘Mukhya Shikshak’ of the Mohan shakha of the RSS, was shot dead outside his residence in Ludhiana’s Gagandeep Colony on October 17 by two unidentified assailants on a motorbike.The Punjab police, which was earlier probing the case, arrested Ramandeep Singh and Hardeep Singh a few days after the incident.
The National Green Tribunal has directed the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change to finalise the National Policy on Forest Fire within two weeks, after noting that forest fires generally occur in the month of April.A Bench headed by NGT acting chairperson Jawad Rahim said, “Though we have acceded to grant of time, but in view of the fact that forest fires normally occur in the month of April every year, we direct the MoEF&CC to get all the requisite approval that are required from the Minister and give finality to the National Policy on Forest Fire and make it implementable.”The green panel had earlier come down heavily on the Centre for remaining a “mute spectator” to the recurring forest fires in the hill States and asked the Environment Ministry to formulate a national policy.The directions came while the Bench was hearing a plea filed by senior advocate Rajiv Dutta who had claimed that “if no urgent steps are taken, further devastation would be caused to a huge chunk of flora and fauna which are considered wealth of the nation”.
After 82 years, New English School in Pune has opened its doors to girls once more: 25 girls will join Standard V in the academic year about to begin.Founded in 1880 by educationists and revolutionaries Vishnu Krushna Chiplunkar, Bal Gangadhar ‘Lokmanya’ Tilak and Gopal Ganesh Agarkar, the school was co-educational until 1936, when the Deccan Education Society (DES) — also founded by Chiplunkar, Tilak, and Agarkar, among others — which had taken over the management by then, moved the girls to its Ahilyadevi High School for Girls.Chiplunkar, who is remembered as the poet of Maharashtra’s nationalist revival for his ornate literary style, quit government service in 1879 and issued a call for the creation of a school run by Indians. Tilak, with Mahadev Ballal Namjoshi, volunteered as charter members of the school faculty; they were joined by Agarkar, another great educationist and Tilak’s close friend.Significant eventThe establishment of the school is a significant event in the freedom movement; it was not just a beginning of the effort to break the British hold on education, but one that used the English language to imbue nationalist thought. The founders, all young men at that time (Chiplunkar was 30 when NES started, with Tilak and the others in their mid-20s) founded the DES a few years later, with the goal of making education accessible to students by establishing schools and colleges run by Indians across what was then the Bombay Presidency. NES began lessons on January 2, 1880, with 19 students. Enrolment increased ten-fold within a year.Such was the zeal of the promoters in making the school successful, that they took far lower salaries than they could have got elsewhere. In 1896, The Hindu reported, “For some years in the beginning, these B.A.’s and M.A.’s who while Fellows of the Deccan College had enjoyed the salaries of ₹75 or ₹100 per month and who would have obtained more than ₹100 anywhere and in any literary branch of the Goverment Service, remained content with the pittance of ₹30 or ₹40 per month!”In a few short years, NES became the biggest school in the Bombay Presidency. And the DES expanded too. Among the institutions it founded were Fergusson College, Pune (1885), Willingdon College, Sangli (1919) Brihan Maharashtra College of commerce (1943), Chintamanarao College of Commerce (1960). Today, New English School, in the crowded lanes of Old Pune, has around 500 students in a year, from Standards V to X.“The decision to reintroduce co-education was taken to demolish gender barriers in a changing world,” Nagesh Shankar Mone, the school’s headmaster, said. “The move is meant to imbue the school with the advantages of a co-educational environment, thereby helping students acquire a more holistic education.”
Three days before a crucial National Democratic Alliance (NDA) meeting in Patna to project a united face among people, its constituent, the Janata Dal (United) has asserted that its president and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar will be the face of alliance in the State in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.The announcement was made by K.C. Tyagi, national general secretary and spokesperson of the JD(U).Mr Tyagi, along with another party national general secretary Pawan Varma, chief electoral strategist for the JD(U) in the 2015 Assembly polls Prashant Kishor and Mr. Kumar had a four hour meeting on Sunday at Mr Kumar’s official residence in Patna.“Nitish Kumar is the face of the NDA in Bihar as he is the tallest leader and the BJP, the LJP [Lok Jan Shakti Party] and the RLSP [Rashtriya Lok Samata Party] will have to approach the Lok Sabha polls under his leadership”, Mr. Varma said.Party insiders told The Hindu that the JD(U) would soon press the BJP for a seat-sharing arrangement in the parliamentary election.NDA constituents for early seat-sharing arrangementRLSP leader Upendra Kushwaha has earlier called for early settlement of a seat-sharing arrangement.In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP spared seven seats to the LJP and the latter won six. The BJP had left four seats to the RLSP and the latter won three. The BJP contested in 29 constituencies and won 22.This time, with the JD(U) in alliance, the LJP and the RLSP are said to be apprehensive of getting less seats.Realising the swelling ground reality, the JD(U) has started putting pressure on ”big brother” BJP to bag more seats.Meeting on June 7On June 7, the BJP, the JD(U), the LJP and the RLSP will hold a dinner meeting at Patna’s Gyan Bhawan. BJP’s Bihar in charge Bhupendra Yadav, LJP leader Ram Vilas Paswan, and Upendra Kushwaha will participate in the meeting along with other leaders.After the June 3 core committee meeting, JD(U) leaders asserted that in the coming days, the party would intensify its demand for the grant of Special Status Category to Bihar.Mr. Kishor is believed to have come back to the JD(U) camp for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and State Assembly polls in 2020.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday clarified that his government has no plans to ban khaini (processed tobacco product) now.Mr. Kumar also asserted that there were no differences in NDA in Bihar. “As of now the government has no plan to ban khaini…it’s a long term process and we’re mulling over alternatives for farmers engaged in khaini production in the state,” Mr. Kumar said while speaking to journalists on the sidelines of weekly Lok Samvad programme.Earlier, the Bihar government had mulled the ban of sale and consumption of khaini in the state, Consumption of khaini was found as one of the major causes of mouth cancer in the state.Mr. Kumar, though, further said that the government was planning on making an amendment in the state’s prohibition and excise law. “I’ve cleared each and every query on prohibition in the state but still some people keep writing over it…but let me clear here that people at large are satisfied with it,” he stated.“We need to make an amendment in the law as certain points have come to my notice, like to create alternative livelihoods for those who were earlier engaged in this business,” said Mr. Kumar.He also stated that there were no differences in NDA in Bihar and said, “It was all speculations in media and social media. Everyone is working smoothly,” he said.
Several areas of West Bengal’s Nadia and Malda districts are experiencing severe erosion of riverbanks over the last couple of weeks, rendering hundreds of people homeless. Among the severely affected villages, three are in Nadia district while one is in Malda district.Since last week, at least eight houses were swallowed by the mighty Ganga in the Uttar Sarati village in Nadia’s Kalyani block, rendering 40 people homeless. Locals said that during last monsoon also, 16 houses were swallowed by the river as its bank collapsed. However, no casualties have been reported so far.The area residents claim that they go through this ordeal almost every monsoon. About a couple of years ago, an entire village called Durgapur was swallowed up by the Ganga and at least 300 families became homeless. Most of them had then settled in adjoining villages.The situation has caused severe discontent among locals against the State government. “Every day we are living in fear of the Ganga. The river is just 55 metres away from my house and may swallow it any day,” Noor Islam, a resident of Uttar Sarati village, told The Hindu.Mr. Alam also accused the State government of not addressing the issue properly. “We are losing our homes every year and the State government is doing nothing substantial to address the issue. Instead of wasting funds by doing small repairs on the riverbank, the government should take up a comprehensive project to deal with the matter.” About 100 metres away, the residents of Hemnagar village also are living in fear of losing their village. Nearly 50 people have become homeless in the last couple months. Over the last decade, nearly half of the village has been swallowed by the Ganga. Locals said the people of the once-prosperous village have lost most of their farmlands and are now earning their livelihoods doing odd jobs.Residents of Bamangola block in Malda district are also facing a similar situation due to the erosion of banks by the swelling Tangon river. The Tangon is a tributary of Punarbhaba River which originates in the Thakurgaon, a district in north-western Bangladesh. Residents fear for their life and property.State Irrigation Minister Somen Mahapatra admitted that the government does not have any information regarding the number of people affected by the erosion. “I don’t have any data on this. It is the Centre’s responsibility to deal with the issue but they are totally not bothered,” the Minister said.He further alleged that despite being repeatedly urged by the State government to chalk out a master plan to deal with riverbank erosion by conducting a joint survey, the Centre didn’t even bother to respond to the letters by the State government.
The main accused in the alleged rape of a 14-month-old girl in Gujarat, which triggered violence against non-Gujaratis, was arrested on Friday night from Buxar district of Bihar.Police said the main accused Anil Yadav was arrested from the house of a relative in Lodhas village of Itarhi block in Buxar. A joint Gujarat and Bihar police team nabbed the accused, said Satish Kumar, senior police officer, Buxar district.A total of 10 teams of Gujarat police were formed to nab the accused person after the incident on September 28 at Sabarkantha district of Gujarat, which triggered violence against non-Gujaratis and forced mass migration of people from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.Chief Ministers of all three States had requested Gujarat CM to take care of life and security of residents of their respective States.Anil Yadav, hailing from Natwar-Kangoi village falling under Manjhi block in Saran district, was hiding at his relative’s house since the incident. Earlier, his mother Ramawati Devi had appealed before media to “ hang him if he is found guilty for the crime but not harass and drive out the Biharis because of my son’s sin.” His father had said that his son was a minor and mentally unsound .Local villagers said that in 2016, Anil Yadav had abruptly disappeared from the village and later told his parents that he had reached Gujarat with his friends Mohammad Imran, Meraj, Vijay and Pappu for work.Around 40 boys and men from the Manjhi block worked in the same factory in Gujarat where he and his friends was employed.
The National People’s Party (NPP) on Monday announced that it would contest the election to the 40-member Mizoram Assembly on November 28. On Sunday, NPP president and Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma said the party was likely to play a major role in Mizoram polls. He had launched the party in the State on September 29.Sasank Ghatraj, the party’s national observer for the polls, said though the NPP was a constituent of the BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance, it had its own identity. “NEDA is not a political party, but a forum or a platform for non-Congress political parties in the region,” Mr. Ghatraj said.Lalrina, NPP national secretary and co-convener of the party in Mizoram, said there had been no pre- or post-poll alliance anywhere in the northeast. He said the main objective of the party was for significant representation of northeastern tribal people in Delhi. “We hope that we would be the voice and [be] representative of the northeast in the national capital,” Mr. Lalrina said.
A Delhi court on Thursday granted interim bail to Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) president Lalu Prasad in a corruption case related to grant of maintenance contracts of two IRCTC hotels to a Patna-based firm allegedly for a consideration.The court granted him bail through video conferencing on furnishing a personal bond of Rs. 1 lakh with one surety of a like amount.Prasad is at present serving sentences in the Ranchi jail in fodder scam cases.Former Bihar Chief Minister Rabri Devi, her son Tejashwi Yadav and others are already on bail in the case.Besides Prasad and his family members, former Union Minister Prem Chand Gupta ; his wife Sarla Gupta; Additional Member of the Railway Board B.K. Agarwal; the then managing director of the IRCTC, P.K. Goyal; and the then IRCTC director, Rakesh Saxena, were also named in the charge sheet.
Five persons were believed to be trampled to death by a lone tusker in two nearby villages of Odisha’s Angul district late Thursday night.Of the five deceased, three belonged to one family, who were engaged in brickmaking. They were sleeping on verandah of house in Sandha village in Angul district when the elephant was believed to have attacked them. They died on the spot. The elephant attacked another woman in the same village and crushed her. The incident took place around midnight. After one hour, another death was reported from Santhapada, a few kilometers away from the first village. Identity of the victim was yet to be ascertained.The man-elephant conflict is critical in Odisha. According to Wildlife Society of Orissa (WSO), an environmental pressure group, the State has lost 694 elephants, while 661 human deaths were reported in elephant attack in last nine years.In 2018-19, as many as 92 persons died in elephant attacks, highest in a single year. The year also saw 91 elephants losing lives, which is also a record.In April this year, three elephants have already been killed while 10 human deaths have been recorded in the State.“Last year’s 92 human deaths in elephant attack was the highest ever recorded human casualty in a year. Acute human-elephant conflict continues unabated due to total lack of concern of Odisha forest department. We anticipate more casualties this year as well,” said Biswajit Mohanty of WSO.Mr. Mohanty said, “in the fresh case if the elephant was a lone tusker, the animal being in aggressive state-of-the-mind could attack more people. The forest department should immediately corner the elephant in a forest and prevent further attacks. At the same time, people should be asked to venture out of their homes cautiously.”Meanwhile, agitated people in the locality demanded that the forest department should take proper steps so that elephant would not stray into human habitations. The State government pays a compensation of ₹4 lakh to family members of a person killed by wild animals.
U.S. biomedical researchers have once again registered their unhappiness with the current federal budget crunch. In a survey released yesterday by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), respondents overwhelmingly say that funding troubles are threatening their work and America’s scientific preeminence.But the unscientific nature of the online survey makes it hard to know exactly what the results say about the state of U.S. academic research. Its value as a lobbying tool is also open to debate.The report’s title, Unlimited Potential, Vanishing Opportunity, captures its main finding: Ninety-six percent of respondents say that research budgets are not growing fast enough to keep up with the scientific opportunities. Some 85% of respondents also believe that America’s scientific edge over other countries has shrunk or disappeared because of tightening budgets since 2004, the peak year of federal spending when adjusted for inflation.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(*)The survey “adds the voices of individual scientists” to the society’s campaign to persuade Congress to boost support for research and roll back this year’s budget cuts, known as sequestration, says Benjamin Corb, director of public affairs for ASBMB. “We’ve been doing this whole advocacy thing for quite a while and think we know what congressional offices are interested in hearing about,” he says.ASBMB enlisted the help of 15 other scientific societies in making the 18-question survey available to members this summer. Corb admits that the 3731 people who chose to respond are not a statistically valid sample of that community. Even so, the exercise can already claim one notable success: President Barack Obama yesterday tweeted a bastardized version of one of its findings and encouraged his followers to read the full report. (The tweet had more than 750 retweets as of today.)The finding that resonated with President Obama was one of many answers scientists gave to a question about how they have been affected by a “more competitive funding environment” since 2010. Some 18% said they are “considering continuing my research career in another country.” (It was one of 22 possible responses, from which respondents could choose any that applied to them.)The question doesn’t mention sequestration. In fact, the report notes that sequestration is only small part of a longer-term trend: The purchasing power of the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH’s) $30 billion budget is down nearly 30% in the past decade, and the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) $7 billion budget, despite growing in actual dollars since 2008, has lost 10% of its value.But Obama is trying to convince congressional Republicans to abandon the mandatory across-the-board cuts, part of a 2011 budget deal gone bad, and embrace a “balanced” plan to shrink the deficit that includes tax increases. Accordingly, the president’s tweet implied that this year’s cuts are the sole villain in the present fiscal drama: “Due to the #sequester, nearly 20 percent of scientists are considering moving overseas.”Obama’s comments highlight the problems in using such surveys in efforts to influence policymakers, says Michael Lubell, who runs the policy shop at the American Physical Society. “The fact that it comes from the scientific community, and will be seen as self-serving, weakens its potential impact,” he says. “The folks in Congress who are already predisposed to support science may use it in a floor speech to bolster their arguments. But those who see cutting science as a necessary part of squeezing the fat out of the budget will not be impressed at all.”At the same time, a close analysis of the same survey question that caught Obama’s eye suggests that the effects of the current fiscal crisis may be more complicated—and perhaps less dire—than is often portrayed.Some 64% of scientists report having “had difficulty” in getting grants since 2010, and 53% report having “had multiple grant applications” rejected. But those percentages are surprisingly low considering that study sections at NIH are rejecting more than 90% of proposals for the agency’s bread-and-butter R01 grants. So the fact that one-third to one-half of the respondents didn’t report funding difficulties could be seen as good news.Of course, it’s possible that some of the respondents aren’t trying to get federal funding and thus, aren’t experiencing any rejection. In addition, some 6% of respondents say they “have not been affected” by the increased competition for funding, and 1.5% say the environment is not more competitive than in the past.The current fiscal crunch has also generated many anecdotes about scientists losing their jobs or laying off staff members. But the survey paints a blurry picture of the employment situation facing scientists.Only 1.5% of respondents say they have closed their labs, and 2.6% (respondents could select several answers, so there may be overlap) say they are “in the process” of doing so. Some 3.1% report having “lost my job,” and 7.6% say they “expect to lose my job soon.” At the same time, 55% say that they know a colleague who has either lost his or her job or will do so “in the near future.”Although Corb says that the ASBMB tried to reach scientists from many disciplines, nearly 84% of the respondents classified themselves as biologists or biomedical researchers. (In addition, 36% of those who provided an affiliation said they were a member of ASBMB.) Chemists made up the second largest continent, at 8%, and mathematicians were third, at 5%. (Respondents were allowed to choose multiple fields, but no other discipline exceeded 3%.)Some 91% worked in academia, and 81% described themselves as faculty members and/or principal investigators. Some 9% were postdocs and 5% were graduate students. Nearly four in five have received an NIH grant since 2010, and one in seven has been funded by NSF. No other federal agency cracked double digits, although 27% of respondents have received money from private foundations.Finally, the survey suggests that many scientists aren’t on board with Corb’s plan to use their voices to influence policymakers. Fewer than one-third of the respondents provided ASBMB with contact information for the necessary follow-up to create what Corb calls “individual narratives” that would help make the case for more research funding. The vast majority chose to preserve their anonymity, giving the society only enough information—their state and zip code—for the survey results to be peddled to lawmakers in those geographic areas.
For 2 weeks now, observing at the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, the world’s largest radio telescope, has been at a standstill as a result of an ongoing strike by the 195-member ALMA workers union. Several rounds of negotiations between the union—which represents the observatory’s technical, administrative, and support staff members—and managers have failed, despite mediation by a Chilean government agency.The president of the union, Victor Gonzalez, says that even though the union has climbed down from most of its demands, a pending issue is management’s refusal to pay workers for the days that they’ve been striking. An ALMA spokesperson says management is not ready to discuss the matter with the media. But Gonzalez offered his take to ScienceInsider this morning. These excerpts from the interview have been edited for clarity.Q: What is the latest situation at ALMA?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(*)V.G.: The offer made by the management on Wednesday was rejected by a vote of 160 to 26; there were a few people who did not vote. By Chilean law, individual workers can choose to leave the strike after 2 weeks, which is today. But we don’t foresee that many people will want to resume work.Q: Are there any talks going on right now?V.G.: The mediation process has been suspended, and there are no official conversations going on today.Q: Why did the last round of talks fail? V.G.: The main stalling point now is that we are asking for payment for all the striking days, which ALMA’s director had promised on 27 August. Now, the management says workers will be paid only until 27 August, and not for the entire duration of the strike.Q: What are you demanding, exactly?V.G.: Our main demands were that we wanted a 15% salary increase for all workers, a $5-per-hour bonus for workers who work at the high site (5000 meters above sea level, where the observatory antennas are located), and a work week of 40 hours instead of 45 hours. We didn’t press many other demands that we think would be fair, such as reestablishing the practice of giving a Christmas bonus, which is standard for most Chilean companies.Q: What has the management offered?V.G.: The management has agreed to our demand for fewer working hours and the $5-per-hour bonus at the high site. And it has offered a 4% raise for workers who earn less than $1500 a month. We have accepted that. That is a big concession.Q: What would make you end the strike?V.G.: There are two pending issues. One is the salary for the striking days. We have offered to continue working the extra 5 hours a week until the end of the year in exchange for getting paid for the strike period. That is a cost-neutral solution but the management is not agreeing to it.There’s another problem. The management has agreed to pay workers a signing bonus of $2000 when we return to work, but the management wants to pay this amount even to those who are not bargaining—that’s about 50 workers who are not part of the union.Q: Why do you have a problem with that?V.G.: That’s an incentive to workers to leave the union. It would hurt our interests in the future.Q: So what next?V.G.: The conversation has stalled. We are trying to reach out to the director. We need to fix this soon.
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Eight Indian women have featured in this year’s Forbes list of the world’s richest people. Forbes’s 2018 World’s Billionaires List includes a total of 256 women billionaires—an all-time high.The collective net worth of the women billionaires in the list topped $1 trillion, up 20% since last year. Though most of the women at the top of the list inherited their fortunes, the number of self-made women reached 72 for the first time, up from 56 a year ago, Forbes said.Read it at Live Mint Related Items
Jugnoo, an Indian ride-hailing firm that entered Singapore in May in a bid to challenge Grab’s market dominance, is exiting the city-state, according to a report by The Straits Times.Jugnoo, which focuses on auto-rickshaw hailing in India, is shutting down its Singapore app by the end of August but will not totally pack up because it will continue to operate in the city but in the background. Read it at Deal Street Asia Related Items
A Chinese internet company that serves up homemade break-dancing videos, dishy news bites and goofy hashtag challenges has become one of the planet’s most richly valued startups, with a roughly $75 billion price tag. And it has big plans for storming phone screens across the rest of the globe, too.You may not have heard of the company, Bytedance. You may never have used any of its breezy, colorful apps. But your nearest teenager is probably already obsessed with Musical.ly, the video-sharing platform that Bytedance bought for around $1 billion last year and folded into its own video service, TikTok.“Frankly, it’s meaningless stuff,” said Dong Yaxin, 20, a college student in Beijing who says he is active every day on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok. Bytedance says that more than half a billion people worldwide use Douyin or TikTok at least once a month.Cute pet videos. Lip-syncing to pop ear worms. Glossy digital effects.“There isn’t such a strong sense of purpose on Douyin,” Dong said. “That’s actually what’s so good about it.”But even for a purveyor of fluff, crossing the tech world’s most treacherous divide will not be carefree. There are two major internets right now: China’s and the rest of the world’s. Beijing’s tough rules on content and operations have long made China difficult, even impossible, terrain for U.S. internet companies.Those rules have also largely penned in homegrown titans like Tencent, whose overseas expansion plans have been hamstrung by the unique demands of catering to China’s online population.So far, Bytedance — which recently secured $3 billion in new funding from SoftBank and other heavyweight investors — has found a rare measure of success in both internets by doing things a little differently.For one, it is making no pretense to be bridging the two digital realms.Users of Douyin are entirely walled off from users of TikTok and vice versa; the better to manage the material that people in China can see. Beijing’s tightening controls have made these decidedly un-fun times to be in the business of fun.Video game companies, celebrity gossip bloggers and livestreaming stars have all been through the wringer recently as the government works harder to stamp out cultural content that it deems unhealthy or unwholesome. The crackdown has not spared Bytedance — authorities ordered the company’s joke-sharing app offline in April this year.The company has also crossed borders with relative ease by focusing on light, affirming fare, and on attracting young — very young — users. But the Chinese Communist Party is not alone in having discovered a sordid side to Bytedance’s platforms.Both before the company bought Musical.ly and since, horrified parents and others have reported finding adolescent users showing off suggestive dance moves on the app, mouthing lyrics about rough sex and worse. Police in Britain have investigated reports of adults propositioning children through Musical.ly.Bytedance added new privacy settings and parental controls to TikTok in June. But if the company, which declined to comment for this article, cannot expand its ability to manage such issues at the same rapid clip at which it is drawing new users, its products could become the bane of many more parents and governments in many more countries.Their children might not care.Kang Sae-eun, 14, an eighth grader in Seoul, loves watching other young South Koreans on TikTok. There’s the girl who makes crazy faces, and the excellent dancer. There’s the cool girl with short hair — real “girl crush” material, she said.They are funny and uninhibited, Sae-eun said. And best of all, they are regular kids like her.“It is much harder for young people like elementary school students to become famous on the better-known platforms, like YouTube, Facebook or Instagram, all of which I also use,” she said.Sae-eun said she didn’t realize that TikTok was made in China, which raises what might be the most interesting question about Bytedance: How did a company that is further democratizing self-expression come out of sternly undemocratic China in the first place?Bytedance, which was founded in 2012, did not set out to dominate the market for bite-size videos. For many years, the company’s best-known product was not Douyin but a news aggregator called Jinri Toutiao, which uses machine learning to figure out what users like, then feeds them more of it.In China, few media outlets command much loyalty among readers. That means an aggregator is a valuable and timesaving way to figure out what to read.After a while, though, Beijing realized that an app that gave people exactly what they wanted ended up giving them a lot of not-very-wholesome stuff.Last December, after China’s internet regulator accused Toutiao of spreading “pornographic” information, Bytedance halted updates to several sections of the app and removed or suspended hundreds of content creators. A few months later, Toutiao was temporarily removed from app stores for unspecified reasons. And Bytedance’s joke-sharing app, Neihan Duanzi, was shut down entirely.In a lengthy letter of apology, the company’s founder and chief executive, Zhang Yiming, vowed to increase the number of employees moderating content to 10,000 from 6,000.“The product went astray, and content appeared that did not accord with core socialist values,” Zhang wrote.By then, Bytedance had another rising star in its stable.Douyin was not even Bytedance’s first video app when it was released in 2016. But in the somewhat arbitrary, mildly mysterious way in which these things happen, it became huge.The app is engineered for swift, maximal addictiveness.Open Douyin or TikTok and you are plunged right into a video. Swipe up to get another, each refresh of the screen providing a dopamine jolt. The videos fill your phone display entirely, blocking the clock at the top and preventing you from seeing how many hours you have spent watching puppies and comedy skits and synchronized dancing.Satsuki Hatashita, a 20-year-old college student in western Japan, has been hooked for months. She now knows not to use the app before taking a shower. “I wouldn’t be able to shower for a long time, until I finally stopped watching TikTok,” she said.She, too, was surprised to learn that the app was Chinese.People like Hatashita have given Bytedance confidence in its march overseas. The company has opened offices in Japan, Brazil, India, the United States and beyond.Still, Chinese staff stationed in China oversee significant aspects of Bytedance’s international apps. They even produce some culturally specific content, such as push notifications suggesting videos to watch. The company is hiring speakers of more than a dozen languages, including Portuguese, Polish, Malay and Arabic, for positions in China, according to an online posting.An episode this year points to the importance, for Bytedance, of having people on the ground in at least one area: government relations.In July, authorities in Indonesia temporarily blocked TikTok for hosting what they called “pornography, inappropriate content and blasphemy.” The Indonesian government had contacted TikTok’s Singapore office to give a few days’ warning. But it didn’t receive a response until after the app was shut down, Rudiantara, Indonesia’s minister of information, said in an interview.Bytedance’s recent hires suggest that it wants to avoid similar incidents. Instagram’s head of public policy for the Asia-Pacific region, Helena Lersch, recently resigned to become Bytedance’s director for global public policy. Facebook’s public policy leads in Indonesia and Japan recently left to join Bytedance, too.Before Douyin took off, China’s internet didn’t have a reigning social platform dedicated to short, easy-to-make videos. In the rest of the world’s internet, where Instagram, Snapchat and others are already popular, TikTok faces stiff competition.For Tao Ni, a 25-year-old newspaper reporter in eastern China, Tencent’s messaging app WeChat has already become more of a tool for work than a fun way to kill time. Weibo, a popular Twitter-like platform, can be wearying. But not Douyin, Tao said.It’s because each video is so short, she said, that she can end up spending hours on what amounts to channel-surfing. “Anything longer than 15 seconds, and I might start to feel tired.”c.2018 New York Times News Service Related Items
Maharashtra has sought increased financial assistance from the Centre for the next five years to tackle drought. Presenting a charter of demands at the fifth governing council meeting of Niti Aayog , Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis urged the Centre to step in with increased assistance to help transport water from the Godavari basin criss-crossing Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha back into Marathwada and Vidarbha. “My government’s effort is to bring more water from Godavari into stressed areas of Marathwada and Vidarbha to make them free of scarcity in the future. This is my government’s priority for the next five years, and since Centre has assisted us last five years, I have forwarded similar demands to the Niti Aayog,” Mr. Fadnavis said in New Delhi on Saturday. The Maharashtra delegation — in back-to-back meetings with Hardeep Puri, Union Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs, Civil Aviation, Commerce and Industry; Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Jal Shakti Minister; and Dharmendra Pradhan, Minister of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Steel — discussed pending issues related to the Nagpur airport, Mumbai airport, Nagpur Metro phase 2 and PMAY (Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna (Urban), senior officials said. The CM sought central assistance for the Marathwada water grid, river liking projects on Godavari with Mr. Shekhawat. “We made a detailed presentation to him (Mr Shekhawat) Other meetings focussed on water, agriculture and market reforms, including six to seven other concerns that the State faces. We have appraised various ministries of the work Maharastra has done in water resources and agri sector,” the CM said. The agenda of the governing council was focused on internal security, development in left wing extremism (LWE) areas, reforms of the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act and Essential Commodities Act, 1955. Other issues discussed were progress of the Aspirational Districts Programme, launched in January 2018, and ways for encouraging water conservation through rain water harvesting, said officials. Maharashtra has declared 151 talukas as drought affected and is getting a central assistance of ₹4,714 crore. The government had deployed 5,493 tankers to provide water to 4,331 villages after 151 talukas were declared drought-hit. The Opposition alleged that the State government is purposely restricting water supply through tankers in areas where the scheme has not performed well.