PDP blames separatists for truce failure

first_imgThe ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) blamed the “cold response” of the separatists for the Centre’s decision on Sunday to withdraw the orders on the cessation of operations in Jammu and Kashmir, while the Opposition parties described it as “an admission of the grave situation prevailing in the State.”Government spokesman and PDP Minister Naeem Akhtar said the Hurriyat’s inability to come up with a positive response and contribute to the ceasefire offer “is a testimony to the new reality that the separatist leaders are no more a factor in J&K and have lost the leverage over their own constituency.”“It’s sad that the measure that could have set the stage for dialogue was not reciprocated,” said Mr. Akhtar.Both the separatists and the militant leadership in Kashmir had rejected the Centre’s gesture to stop counter-insurgency operations, saying “it’s not serious to address the Kashmir problem.”Also Read  Former chief minister and National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah described the Centre’s decision as “admission of failure.”“The failure is the failure of everyone who wanted to give peace a chance,” said Mr. Abdullah.The Congress claimed the situation in the State has slipped back to the 1990s.“There were no takers for the unilateral ceasefire both within and outside and across the borders. Instead, the situation took an ugly turn on the borders in the Valley, resulting in its revocation,” said State Congress president G.A. Mir. He said the fresh situation has posed a challenge to the smooth conduct of the Amarnath yatra.“The Centre has failed to take all mainstream parties on board and evolve a national consensus on the Kashmir situation while taking significant decisions,” said Mr. Mir.The heightened militant activities during the ceasefire period left 51 people dead in the Valley, including 20 militants and 13 civilians. Eighteen security personnel also died as militants resorted to firing, used improvised explosive devices and set off over 20 grenade explosions. Government not to extend ‘cease-ops’ in Kashmirlast_img read more

Barges with cargo from Bihar enter Assam via Bangladesh

first_imgAlmost a month after setting sail from Kahalgaon in Bihar, two 1,000-tonne barges carrying 1,233 tonnes of bagged fly ash reached western Assam’s Dhubri via Bangladesh on Wednesday morning.The crossing over of the barges into India at Chilmari border in Dhubri district marked the beginning of a new era for inland water transport.Cargo transport on such a scale had never been tried across two of the country’s largest river systems — Ganga and Brahmaputra.2,085-km tripThe barges carrying fly ash from National Thermal Power Corporation’s Kahalgaon power plant were flagged off on August 30. Officials of the Inland Waterways Authority (IWAI) had estimated that the 2,085-km trip to Pandu port at Guwahati would take 20 days.“On the Ganga, the barges exited the country on the West Bengal border on September 11. They took 15 days to travel on the Padma and Jamuna before sailing into the Brahmaputra. The time taken is more than we had estimated, but the good thing is everything has gone smoothly,” said an IWAI officer.The Ganga flows into Bangladesh as the Padma and meets Jamuna, which is the stretch of Brahmaputra in that country.“The barges should take another three days to traverse the 200-km distance from Dhubri to Pandu,” Bharat Bhushan Dev Choudhury, director of Assam’s Inland Water Transport Department, told The Hindu.Better ferriesSmarting from a series of boat mishaps on the Brahmaputra and its tributaries that killed at least six people in September, the Assam government has started work on a ₹10 crore project to improve the river transport infrastructure.“We have received ₹100 crore from the World Bank for improving the inland water transport system with modern ferries that can carry 200 people and eight heavy trucks,” Transport Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary told the Assembly on Wednesday.last_img read more

TV serials should get political content vetted first: EC official

first_imgElection officials in Maharashtra have asked production houses of two Hindi TV serials accused of espousing the BJP-led government’s schemes to get ‘politically influential’ content vetted with them before it is telecast. The content telecast was a clear violation of the model election code, an official said. Maharashtra’s additional chief electoral officer Dilip Shinde, in an order issued on Monday said, “The production houses should get politically influential content checked from election officials before using it in their serials.” The Congress had taken objection to characters in the two TV serials praising government schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, Swacch Bharat Abhiyan and Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana. The two production houses had subsequently replied to the notice.“Going by the content aired, it is evident that it is a violation of model code of conduct, he said. “We have asked the production houses to remove the content from the serials immediately,” he added. Mr. Shinde said the explanation from producers of the two serials affirms the poll officials’ opinion that the content aired intends to influence “one political party“.Election officials in Maharashtra directed producers of television serials Bhabhiji Ghar Par Hai and Tujhse Hai Raabta to remove content that was deemed to benefit prospects of a political party. Last week, office of chief Electoral Officer (CEO) had served notices to Binaifer Kohli and Sanjay Kohlis Edit II Productions (Bhabhiji Ghar Par Hai) and Sonali Potnis and Aamir Jaffers Full Media House (Tujhse Hai Raabta) after it received a complaint from the Congress, accusing the two shows of espousing the benefits of schemes run by Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government.The producers had denied the allegations of promoting government schemes to propagate a political party, claiming they had no such intention. They also claimed that government schemes shown were general in nature,” the official said. The producers have also been asked to not to show any such content which may disturb the level playing field of any political party, the official said.last_img read more

Bharatpur voters rue closure of industries

first_imgVoters in eastern Rajasthan’s Bharatpur Lok Sabha constituency, an erstwhile Jat kingdom, rue its inclusion in the National Capital Region and Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) which has put the brakes on the region’s industrial growth. As the successive governments failed to promote non-polluting industries, the youths here are mostly without work. Once represented by veteran leaders such as Natwar Singh, Rajesh Pilot, Ram Kishan and Vishvendra Singh, Bharatpur was declared a reserved constituency for the Scheduled Castes in the 2008 delimitation. Since then, the electoral battle has shifted from the erstwhile royals to Dalit communities, including Jatavs and Kolis, as the political parties seek to exploit their fault lines.Congress candidate Abhijeet Kumar Jatav has joined politics after taking voluntary retirement from Indian Revenue Service. The BJP denied ticket to its sitting MP Bahadur Singh Koli and fielded Ranjeeta Koli, daughter-in-law of three-time parliamentarian Ganga Ram Koli. Bahujan Samaj Party’s Suraj Pradhan Jatav poses a challenge to both, while expecting to polarise Jatav voters.If the 2018 State Assembly election results are any indication, Congress should have an upper hand here, as it had won six out of the eight Assembly segments, along with its ally the Rashtriya Lok Dal, in this constituency. The BJP drew a blank and the BSP won two seats — Nagar and Nadbai. RLD winner Subhash Garg has been appointed a Minister of State in the Congress government.Though Deeg-Kumher MLA and Minister Vishvendra Singh, a scion of the royal family, is trying hard to get the support of Jats for the Congress, the party is finding it difficult to bridge the chasm created between Jats and Jatavs since the Kumher massacre of 1992, when 15 persons were killed and 300 houses of Dalit Jatavs were set ablaze.SEZ optionDr. Garg told The Hindu that since the establishment of coal-based industries was not possible in Bharatpur because of the NCR and TTZ status, the government’s emphasis should be on the creation of jobs in IT sectors. “The BJP MP did not take any initiative in this regard. No action has been taken to establish a special economic zone here,” he said.Shortage of water for irrigation because of low supply in the Gurgaon Canal and lack of extension of the Chambal project to more tehsils of the district is a major issue affecting the villagers. The brick kilns, which dotted Bharatpur’s skyline in the past, have shut down without creation of alternative sources of livelihood for jobless labourers. Similarly, the ghee and oil units dependent on mustard production are slowly closing down because of high taxes. Bharatpur is the largest mustard growing division in the State.last_img read more

Cyclone Fani: Proposal to train self-help groups

first_imgOdisha set to introspect post-disaster communication  Ganjam district has around 22,000 active WSHGs in its rural and urban areas. “Under this project selected members from each WSHG will undergo a special training by personnel of police, fire services, Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) and other key departments of the administration”, said Ganjam Collector Vijay Amruta Kulange. They will also be trained in basic rescue measures, first aid and proper documentation of losses. Through this training they will be ready to face floods, cyclones and earthquakes and help people of their locality.The trained volunteers will be provided two pairs of uniform to be used during natural calamities. To keep them active and ready as peer leaders during evacuation, rehabilitation and restoration during natural calamities, they will be involved in different developmental schemes of the government like MGNREGA, housing projects for poor and distribution of food materials through PDS. A control room of ‘swayamsiddha’ will operate at district headquarters Chatrapur to coordinate and manage these trained volunteers of WSHGs of Ganjam.According to Mr. Kulange, the Kerala government used WSHGs successfully in rehabilitation and restoration work after the floods it faced last year. The WSHG movement has been quite successful in Ganjam district and penetrated to the grassroots. Taking this into account, the BJD had fielded 68- year-old WSHG leader Pramila Bisoi as its candidate in the Aska parliamentary constituency of the district. Under a special project named ‘swayamsiddha’, women will be trained in evacuation, rescue, restoration and rehabilitation during natural calamities, especially cyclones, in Odisha’s Ganjam district, according to Collector Vijay Amruta Kulange.Members of Women Self-Help Groups (WSHGs) in the age group of 18 to 35 of this cyclone-prone region will be roped in.After facing Phailin, Hudhud and Titli cyclones in the past, Ganjam escaped the wrath of Fani. It has always faced cyclones in October. By that time, Ganjam will be well prepared through these trained women volunteers, a senior official said. A detailed report for this project is almost ready. According to officials involved, training of WSHG members is expected to start from June this year.Also Readlast_img read more

New Experiment Torpedoes Lightweight Dark Matter Particles

first_imgIt’s not the result physicists were hoping for, but data from a new experiment may put an end to a contentious subplot in the search for dark matter, the mysterious stuff whose gravity binds the galaxies. Today, researchers working with the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) detector at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, South Dakota, announced that they see no signs of the lightweight dark matter particles hinted at by other experiments. “It’s a significant miss,” says Richard Gaitskell, a LUX team member from Brown University. “We should have seen thousands of events and we simply don’t see any.”LUX stalks weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs), physicists’ best guess at what makes up dark matter. In addition to producing gravity, WIMPs would interact with other matter and themselves only through the weak nuclear force. And if the newborn universe swarmed with particles that can interact through only that force, then just enough of them would remain to supply the dark matter, so long as they weighed between one and 1000 times as much as a proton. WIMPs also typically emerge from a concept called supersymmetry, which posits a more massive partner for every particle in physicists’ prevailing model and suggests that WIMPs should be a few hundred times as heavy as a proton.In recent years, however, a few groups have reported signs of unexpectedly light WIMPs weighing less than 10 times as much as a proton. In 2010, physicists working with the Coherent Germanium Neutrino Technology (CoGeNT) experiment reported possible signs of lightweight WIMPs striking their 440-gram detector in the Soudan mine in northern Minnesota. However, physicists with the ongoing XENON experiment in Italy’s subterranean Gran Sasso National Laboratory argued that their data ruled out light WIMPs. A squabble then ensued over whether XENON researchers properly calibrated their detector, which was filled with 100 kilograms of frigid liquid xenon.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(*)By most accounts, the most credible hint of light WIMPs came in April. Physicists working with the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS) in Soudan reported three clean events that were consistent with light WIMPs crashing into the ultracold disks of silicon in their detector.Now, however, LUX researchers say their results refute the CDMS signal and the other hints of light WIMPs. Lurking 1480 meters underground, LUX cost $10 million and started taking data in April. It contains 370 kilograms of liquid xenon, making it more sensitive than either XENON or CDMS. Had CDMS detected WIMPs and not extraneous background radiation, LUX researchers should have seen roughly 1600 events during the 85 days they took data, Gaitskell says. They saw none.So will the LUX results settle the debate over light WIMPs? The key is how well LUX researchers have calibrated their detector and whether they can show that it’s truly sensitive to low-mass WIMPs, says Juan Collar, a physicist at the University of Chicago in Illinois and leader of the CoGeNT team. “It will all depend on what [energy] threshold they achieve and how cautious they have been” in their analysis, Collar says.Of course, the real goal is to detect WIMPs, light or heavy. LUX researchers will take data for another 2 years. They then plan to build a 7-tonne detector called LZ. Meanwhile, XENON researchers plan to start up a 1-tonne version of their experiment next year, and CDMS researchers are upgrading their detector, too.last_img read more

ScienceShot: Alabama and South America Used to Be Neighbors

first_imgAreas that are now northern Alabama and northeastern South America were once neighbors, according to a new study. The research also suggests that a 3000-kilometer-long swath of magnetized rocks beneath North America—what geologists call the Midcontinent Rift (depicted in red at upper left of this gravity map)—formed just before tectonic activity separated those areas. Geologists have long thought these rocks were remnants of lava from an extended period of widespread volcanic activity and that the ancient supercontinent split much later. But several recent studies, including fieldwork by another team in northeastern South America, suggest that the split did occur that time after all. Tectonic activity cleaved a portion of modern-day North America called Laurentia from a piece of South America known as Amazonia about 1.1 billion years ago—just as volcanism that formed the Midcontinent Rift ended, the researchers reported in the 16 March issue of Geophysical Research Letters. See more ScienceShots.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(*)last_img read more

ScienceShot: Long-Nosed Dino Was No Fluke

first_imgIn the 1970s, a relatively small, long-nosed dinosaur was discovered in Mongolia. Some paleontologists claimed it was an unusual member of the tyrannosaurid family—which includes the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex—but many researchers were skeptical. Then, in 2009, paleontologists published details of a very similar specimen also found in Mongolia. Yet other researchers pointed out that both specimens were juveniles, and the long noses might just be a growth phase they were going through on their way to becoming typical tyrannosaurids, with tall, deep skulls and crushing jaws and teeth. But a new discovery of a much more complete adult specimen, published online today in Nature Communications and pictured here in an artist’s reconstruction, may quiet the skeptics. Qianzhousaurus sinensis (named after Qianzhou, the ancient name of the city of Ganzhou where it was discovered, and sin, from the Greek word for China), is an adult and lived until about 66 million years ago, just before most dinosaurs went extinct; but it still has the long nose and other features of the two other specimens. Moreover, because the new dino, which at an estimated 757 kilograms weighed about one-tenth as much as T. rex, was found 3000 kilometers away in China’s Jiangxi province, the team concludes that long-nosed tyrannosaurids were not just a fluke, but rather a major group of dinos with a wide geographical distribution.See more ScienceShots.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(*)last_img read more

It’s Already on File: How Administrative Records Can Help Assess Mobility

first_imgThe motto of the U.S. Census Bureau, the government’s de facto statistical agency, is “Measuring America—People, Places, and Our Economy.” As assistant director  for research and methodology at the Census Bureau, Ron Jarmin tries not only to improve how those measurements are done but also how the outside research community can make use of the data once they’ve been collected.The rest of the government also collects vast amounts of data on Americans in the course of doing its job. But officials at the so-called mission agencies—labor, justice, treasury, education, health, housing, and so on—have historically paid relatively little attention to how researchers outside the government might be able to use their data.That could be changing, however. A 14 February memo from Sylvia Burwell, then the director of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB), urges agencies to make better use of the massive amounts of economic and demographic data they routinely collect—so long as their actions do not jeopardize privacy or undermine the confidentiality of the records themselves. U.S. researchers who use government data hope that it’s the first step toward one-stop shopping for these so-called administrative records.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 new initiative is part of the administration’s broader effort to make the government work better and smarter. Specifically, officials hope the additional number crunching will allow them to better evaluate existing programs, address new challenges, and save money by reducing the need to collect data already in some other government file. OMB plans to help agencies get over the hump by highlighting successful practices across the government and providing model agreements to foster collaboration among departments.The initiative also coincides with a new push to increase outside access to the government’s social and economic data.  The Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics, a coalition of organizations that rely on federal statistics, has funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for a survey of how agencies now manage administrative records, says Kitty Smith, the council’s executive director who for many years led the Economic Research Service, the chief statistical agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The next step will be to ask scientists to identify the most valuable agency data sets, followed by discussions on what it would take to make them available. The OMB memo could grease the skids for such cooperative activities, Smith adds.The OMB memo focuses on what it calls nonpublic administrative records. That includes everything from income and earnings data submitted to the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration to what individuals provide when they apply for housing, nutrition, education, agriculture, and any number of federal assistance programs.Most of that information is collected under strict rules designed to protect the privacy of any named individuals or companies and to ensure that the records themselves remain off-limits to anyone without the proper security clearance. And Burwell, who last month was nominated to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, emphasizes the importance of “fully respecting privacy and protecting confidentiality” of those records.The need to balance “the legal prohibitions and the opportunities” of working with administrative records is a long-running issue for federal agencies, says a senior OMB official, who agreed to talk with ScienceInsider on background. Statistical agencies have had much more experience in knowing where to draw the line, the official notes, citing as an example the cautious process the Census Bureau followed more than 2 decades ago in creating a network of secure data centers, where outsiders can access sensitive data under tight supervision.The first center was opened within the bureau’s headquarters in Suitland, Maryland, the official explains, the second at the agency’s regional center in Boston. Eventually came a university-based center, and now there are more than a dozen operating around the country. “The point is that it was taken one step at a time,” the official says. “And so far everybody is very pleased with their success.”The new directive assumes that agencies will take a similarly cautious approach when they undertake statistical analyses of their existing records. “The boon of technology is that we can do things we could never do before, like record matching and record linkages,” the OMB official says. “But the bane is that the same technology we use to good effect could be used by those of less goodwill, to do harm, or at least do the kinds of things that were not the intention of those who collected this information.”“Our compact with the American people says that we will maintain the confidentiality of the information,” the OMB official emphasizes. “And the agencies are responsible for making sure that happens. It’s not just a legal framework, it’s a bond we have with the public.”Social science researchers say they take that bond seriously, and live in constant fear that there might be a breach. “Researchers would always like less restrictive access,” says Miles Corak, an economist at the University of Ottawa who has helped develop data sets on social mobility while working for Statistics Canada. “But you have to appreciate that if there’s just one mistake, or one time that data are disclosed, it ruins it for everybody, forever. So you can understand why the government is so risk averse.”U.S. social scientists say the biggest threat to expanded use of administrative records could come not from the agencies that manage them but from Congress. Some legislators think that the government is already collecting too much information, they note. Researchers worry that politicians might overreact to any move toward making more linkages by attempting to ban existing access, including those arrangements that have led to a better understanding of social phenomena.Such an outcome “would be about as far away from evidence-based policy as you can get,” says Tim Smeeding, an economist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. “It’s like saying, ‘Let’s just hide the evidence and not give people access to it.’ That makes no sense to me.”*Correction, 4 June, 10:40 a.m.: Timothy Smeeding was incorrectly identified as a sociologist in an earlier version of the story.See also:The science of inequality What Surveys Have Told Us About U.S. Social Mobility How Two Economists Got Direct Access to IRS Tax Recordscenter_img The IGE: Anatomy of a Mobility Scorelast_img read more

Report: Climate changing more rapidly than at any point on record

first_imgA new look at the “vital signs” of Earth’s climate reveals a stark picture of declining health. As global temperatures rise, so do sea level and the amount of heat trapped in the ocean’s upper layers. Meanwhile, mountain glaciers and Arctic sea ice are melting away beneath an atmosphere where concentrations of three key planet-warming greenhouse gases continue to rise.“Data show that the climate is changing more rapidly now than it has at any time in the historical record,” says Thomas Karl, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina. “The numbers speak for themselves.”The numbers speak pretty loudly, too. Depending on which data set scientists look at, 2013 falls somewhere between the second warmest and sixth warmest year since record keeping began in 1880. Global sea level reached a new record high last year—about 3.8 centimeters (1.5 inches) above the average measured by satellites between 1993 and 2010. Overall, sea level is rising about 3 millimeters (one-eighth of an inch) each year. And for the 23rd straight year, mountain glaciers on the whole lost more ice than they gained, says Jessica Blunden of ERT Inc., who works with Karl at the climate monitoring agency in Asheville. “Changes in these [glaciers] are visible and obvious signs of climate change,” Blunden says.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 new study, State of the Climate in 2013, was released online today in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. The detailed, peer-reviewed analysis was based on data from environmental monitoring stations on land, sea, and ice and from sensors on satellites and planes. More than 400 scientists from 57 countries contributed to the report. (Previous State of the Climate reports, issued annually since 1991, can be found here.)Increases in the levels of three key greenhouse gases are likely to be the root of recent warming, scientists suggest. The global average concentration of carbon dioxide reached more than 395 parts per million last year, a 2.8 ppm increase over 2012 levels, according to the new report. Levels of both methane and nitrous oxide (N2O), which on a pound-for-pound basis trap heat more effectively than CO2, rose last year about 0.3%. (Nevertheless, about two-thirds of the atmosphere’s heat-trapping power comes from CO2, which is much more prevalent than the other two gases, the researchers report. Carbon dioxide levels are now in uncharted territory, the scientists say: Ice core records reveal that until the early 20th century, CO2 concentrations hadn’t risen above 300 ppm during the previous 800,000 years.)From pole to pole, few parts of the globe are being spared warm-up. In the Eurasian Arctic, average temperatures last summer ranged between 1°C and 3°C warmer than the average temperatures there from 2007 through 2012. Fairbanks, Alaska, had a record number of days (36) in which the daily high temperature reached 27°C (80°F) or higher. All that warmth is seeping into the ground, too. Permafrost temperatures measured 20 meters below ground at many sites in Alaska reached record highs last year, the scientists report. And 2013’s Arctic sea ice coverage in September, the month it usually falls to its lowest for the year, was 18% below the average coverage for that month from 1981 through 2010. Although not a record low amount, the scientists note that September sea ice coverage is declining almost 14% per decade since satellites started measuring sea ice extent in 1979.At the other end of Earth, 2013’s average annual temperature at the South Pole was –47.4°C (–53.3°F): chilly, yes, but nevertheless a record high since scientists started collecting weather data there in 1957.In between, China, Japan, and South Korea suffered their warmest summer on record, and Australia really suffered: With large swaths of the Land Down Under tallying summertime highs above 45°C (113°F), Australia had its warmest year since record keeping began in 1910.The amount of heat stored in the upper 700 meters of the world’s oceans, which has increased substantially over the past 2 decades, also reached a record level last year. That increased heat content helps boost the strength of typhoons and hurricanes, Karl suggests. In the next couple of months, he notes, NOAA will release a report that discusses how climate change might be related to several episodes of extreme weather last year.last_img read more

Speciation in the belly of a bug

first_imgSurviving on plant sap as cicadas, aphids, and some other insects do is like living on a diet of sugar water—there’s just not enough protein. These insects solve this problem by teaming up with bacteria that live inside their bodies and produce protein building blocks called amino acids. This relationship has existed for tens of millions of years. But about 5 million years ago, in one species of cicada (pictured), one bacterial partner split into two species, researchers report in the current issue of Cell. At first, the bacteria species’ two genomes were similar, each having all 137 genes and functioning independently. But over time, different genes in the two species disintegrated, such that they now rely on each other as well as on the cicada to survive. Overall, 64 genes have been lost in one or the other microbe, and losses continue, the researchers note. These kissing-cousin microbes occupy different types of cells within the organ they live in and share that organ with another bacterium. So together with the cicada, they’ve turned a three-way partnership into a foursome.last_img read more

Australia sees record highs in syphilis cases and hepatitis deaths

first_imgPublic health experts in Australia are sounding alarms over a record number of new cases of syphilis and a dramatic rise in viral hepatitis deaths. Experts trace the spike in syphilis and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) to a decrease in condom use, particularly among men who have sex with men (MSM), and they see the hepatitis death toll as the inevitable result of long-term trends in injecting drug use.The alarming numbers and the underlying behaviors are examined in a pair of reports on HIV, viral hepatitis, and STIs in Australia released today by the Kirby Institute for Infection and Immunity in Society and the Centre for Social Research in Health, both at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. “Unfortunately, it’s really bad news for STIs in Australia,” says epidemiologist David Wilson of the Kirby Institute. And for hepatitis, “there is a very large epidemic that largely went on under our nose but it is catching up with us right now,” he says.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(*)Rates of chlamydia infections illustrate the scope of the STI problem. Physicians reported 82,537 new cases in 2013, with males only slightly more likely to be victims than females. And that number “is just the tip of the iceberg,” Wilson says. Those infected often don’t have symptoms or don’t recognize them and never get diagnosed or treated. The real number of infections could be four or five times higher, Wilson says. He adds that chlamydia is particularly common among those in their late teens who are reluctant to use condoms.Since 2009, gonorrhea has surged 81% to 14,947 new cases; syphilis infections have risen 34% to 1765 new cases. For both diseases, MSM account for most of the increases. Wilson says the trend is likely due to success in controlling HIV infections. Data on HIV in Australia were announced in July during the 20th International AIDS Conference held in Melbourne. As Science reported, antiretroviral HIV medications widely used in Australia substantially cut the amount of virus in those infected and may reduce the likelihood of transmitting the virus to partners. This assumption has unfortunately led to more unprotected sex among MSM. “One of the drawbacks is that HIV treatment doesn’t work against [other] STIs,” says John de Wit, a social psychologist at the Centre for Social Research in Health. “There is quite a lot of room for improvement” in getting MSM regularly and comprehensively tested for STIs and in promoting condom use, he says.     The hepatitis situation is particularly grim. The figure of 1019 people who died of hepatitis B and C last year exceeds the peak for AIDS in the 1980s. There is a long lag between the time of infection and the onset of serious illness. Wilson says that, with an estimated 440,000 people living with the viruses, the number of deaths “will get worse in years to come.”The largest culprit in the spread of hepatitis is dirty needles for injecting drugs, with such risky behavior more prominent among younger people and MSM. One national survey found that more than 40% of MSM injecting drugs reused or passed on used injection paraphernalia despite the country’s needle and syringe exchange programs. “It’s time to strengthen hepatitis prevention through awareness raising and education,” de Wit says.Government restrictions on eligibility have limited the availability of hepatitis treatments, Wilson says. There’s also “the massive stigma that pervades society around people who inject drugs,” de Wit says.The one bit of good news is that human papillomavirus (HPV) infections have dropped dramatically since a vaccination program for high school students began in 2007. Before the program, more than 14% of females younger than 21 who received sexual health checks were diagnosed with genital warts, a symptom of HPV infection. That number has since dropped to 0.5%. “It’s a dramatic decrease that is all attributable to the vaccine,” Wilson says. However, except for hepatitis B there are no vaccines for the other infectious diseases covered in the survey. Australian Science Media Centre last_img read more

Discredited STAP cells were likely embryonic stem cells

first_imgTOKYO—Tying up a loose end of a long-running stem cell research fiasco, yet another RIKEN investigating committee released yet another report in Tokyo today. It concludes that the so-called stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP) stem cells, as well as the chimeric mice and teratomas supposedly derived from those cells, “all originated in cultures contaminated with (embryonic stem) cells, a fact that refutes all of the main conclusions of the two papers” that reported the the supposed breakthrough method of reprogramming adult cells. Those two papers, an article and a letter, appeared online in Nature on 29 January.The committee determined that three supposed STAP stem cell lines were actually likely to be three previously existing embryonic stem (ES) cell lines. “It is unlikely that there was accidental contamination by three different ES cells, and it is suspected that the contamination may have occurred artificially,” the committee concluded in a report released today. However the panel could not find conclusive evidence of deliberate contamination, nor of who might be responsible. “We cannot, therefore, conclude that there was research misconduct in this instance,” the committee reported.However, the committee did find “research misconduct involving fabrication” in the production of two images in the article that had no supporting experimental data. The images are Fig. 5c: Growth curves of STAP stem cells and Fig. 2c: DNA methylation. The committee laid responsibility for the fabrications on Haruko Obokata, the lead author of both papers.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 committee’s announcement came a week after a separate RIKEN group announced it could not reproduce the STAP cell method even with Obokata’s help. The same day, Obokata resigned from the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology (CDB) in Kobe, home to most of the research team.A previous investigating committee had looked at the papers and reported on 1 April that Obokata was guilty of two counts of misconduct for fabricating and falsifying images. That committee only investigated six specific allegations of image manipulation. Nature retracted the papers in July. This second investigating committee was formed in September to take a closer look at the papers in response to additional allegations of problematic images. It relied on sequencing and other genetic analyses of materials taken from the Wakayama and Obokata labs; a review of notebooks, documents, and e-mails; and interviews with involved researchers.While blaming Obokata for the misconduct, the committee cited two senior researchers as bearing “heavy responsibility” for lax oversight. One is Teruhiko Wakayama, who headed the RIKEN laboratory in which Obokata worked; the other is Yoshiki Sasai, who had a major role in writing the papers. Wakayama, now at the University of Yamanashi in Kofu, previously said that he would accept some sort of disciplinary action for his role in the scandal. Sasai committed suicide in August as investigations were under way. Only one senior author is still at RIKEN, Hitoshi Niwa. A separate disciplinary committee will decide if he or any higher-ups should be disciplined. RIKEN, which manages a network of national laboratories, has already restructured CDB, cutting its staff by nearly half.One of the papers’ co-authors has been beyond the reach of RIKEN investigators: Charles Vacanti, a tissue engineer at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School. Obokata initiated her work on STAP cells while a postdoc in Vacanti’s lab. Mutsuhiro Arinobu, a RIKEN executive director, said that although they have been in contact with Harvard, input from Vacanti “is not included in this investigation.”last_img read more

Obama gives East Room rollout to Precision Medicine Initiative

first_imgPresident Barack Obama this morning unveiled the Precision Medicine Initiative he’ll include in his 2016 budget request to a White House East Room audience packed with federal science leaders, academic researchers, patient and research advocacy groups, congressional guests, and drug industry executives. By and large, they seemed to cheer his plan to find ways to use genomics and other molecular information to tailor patient care.After poking fun at his own knowledge of science—a model of chromosomes made from pink swim noodles “was helpful to me,” he said—Obama explained what precision medicine is: “delivering the right treatments, at the right time, every time to the right person.” Such an approach “gives us one of the greatest opportunities for new medical breakthroughs that we have ever seen,” he added. He went on to describe the $215 million initiative, which includes new support for cancer genomics and molecularly targeted drug trials at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and a plan to study links among genes, health, and environment in 1 million Americans by pooling participants in existing cohort studies.“So if we have a big data set—a big pool of people that’s varied—then that allows us to really map out not only the genome of one person, but now we can start seeing connections and patterns and correlations that helps us refine exactly what it is that we’re trying to do with respect to treatment,” the president explained in his 20-minute speech, flanked by a red-and-blue model of the DNA double helix.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(*)In the room were various patients, from Elana Simon, a young survivor of a rare liver cancer who has helped sequence her cancer type, who introduced the president; to towering former basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who apparently takes targeted therapy for his leukemia; and cystic fibrosis patient William Elder, a 27-year-old medical student and guest at the State of the Union address who takes a new drug aimed at the genetic flaw underlying his form of the disease.Representative Diana DeGette (D–CO), who has been working on 21st Century Cures, a plan to speed drug development, and Senator Lamar Alexander (R–TN), who has similar aims, were also present.Sitting in the front row were the two lieutenants who will carry out the bulk of the precision medicine plan: National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins and NCI Director Harold Varmus. Another attendee was Craig Venter, who led a private effort to sequence the human genome in the late 1990s that competed with a public effort led by Collins. (Fifteen years ago, Venter sat in the same room with Collins when President Bill Clinton announced the first rough draft of the human genome.) Venter is now CEO of a company called Human Longevity Inc. that aims to sequence 1 million participants’ genomes by 2020—a new private competitor to Collins’s federal cohort study, perhaps.Many other genome-medical biobank projects at academic health centers and companies are clamoring to be part of the 1 million–person cohort study. NIH will begin to explore which studies to include at an 11 to 12 February meeting (agenda here) that will also examine issues ranging from data privacy to using electronic medical records.Amid all the hoopla, one prominent human geneticist in the audience offered a cautionary note. David Altshuler, who recently left the Broad Institute  for Vertex Pharmaceuticals in Boston, which makes Elder’s cystic fibrosis drug, warns that although the new 1 million American cohort study may uncover new possible drug targets, it will be 10 to 15 years before any such discoveries lead to a successful drug.“This is the first step,” Altshuler says. “No amount of genome sequencing would ever lead to a new medicine directly.”Click here to see all of our Budget 2016 coverage.*Correction, 2 February, 10:30 a.m.: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Elana Simon’s treatment involved tumor sequencing.last_img read more

Breaking The Bee: Indian Kids Are Spelling Out a New Sport in America

first_imgAkash Vukoti entered his first Spelling Bee contest when he was 2 years old. He was still in diapers. He won his first competition when he was 4. And became the youngest speller at the nationals in 2016, at the age of six. Now 8, Vukoti will take another crack at the title next week at an oceanside resort complex outside Washington DC that hosts the national Scripps Spelling Bee.Read it at Hindustan Times Related Itemslast_img

Seeing Red, Showing Pink

first_imgHe may have titled his film Touch of Pink, but writer/director Ian Iqbal Rashid was really seeing red.He admits: “Making this film is an affectionate form of revenge against all I had to put up with in my own family. Choosing to be a filmmaker went so against the immigrant dream my family had adopted of me becoming a doctor or dentist or some sort of professional. When I told them, I felt like I had just announced that I was going to become a baby-killer, or something. These immigrant values are reflected in the South Asian community in this film.” Jimi Mistry as Alim (left), Sulekha Mathew as Nuru (Center) and Kristen Holden-Reis as Giles (right) in Touch of Pink..He points to the pressure on Alim, the film’s main character, to do the right thing by becoming successful in conventional terms. “Alim can only escape this pressure by putting an ocean between him and his family. Yet as the film progresses, he realizes that by running away, he has also rejected a big part of who he is.”Touch of Pink, Rashid’s first feature film , icenters around a muslim South Asian Canadian, Alim, who lives in London estranged from his family until the upcoming wedding of his Canadian cousin forces him to reconnect with widowed mother, Nuru and in doing so, accept his culture and heritage. Nuru dreams of having Alim return to Toronto and settle down with a proper Muslim bride and has no idea that Alim is in fact in two releationships – one with his boyfriend Giles and the other with his imaginary personal mentor, the spirit of Cary Grant, a manifestation of his love for old Hollywood movies and his need for a father figure. Cue in the traditional comedy of errors where Alim tries to come out of the proverbial closet despite the haphazard advice of his version of Cary Grant and add in the poignant drama of his attempt to reclaim his true identity.For Rashid, an Indian Ismaili Muslim, who was born in Dar-e-Salaam, moved to Toronto when he was 6, then on to London in his early 20s, where he lives now, the movie “was very autobiographical” with the exception of the spirit of Cary Grant who he is quite sure is not with him.“It’s based on my life and my relationship with my mother and my love of old Hollywood films. So all the material in the film is sourced from my own life. I guess I just wanted to tell an old fashioned Hollywood style movie, but with someone like me in the center”.Rashid entered the television industry 12 years ago to critical acclaim by writing scripts for British TV series, including the award winning show “This Life.” His introduction to the film media started four years ago when he wrote and directed two award winning short films “Surviving Sabu,” a story about a young South Asian man and his father documenting the life of desi film star Sabu and “Stag,” the story of a South Asian man’s pre-wedding night experiences. Ian Iqbal Rashid with Sulekha Mathew on the set of Touch of Pink.From Rashid’s choice of themes in his film career so far, he seems to have a lot to say about his South Asian heritage.He explains, “For a lot of South Asians living in the west who experience a dominant culture and particularly as it’s kind of filtering through Hollywood and television, I think often, even without being conscious of it, we have a sort of inferiority complex; even a level of self-hating.”“There’s a tight-rope walk between assimilating into Western culture, and yet keeping a sense of who you are. The process of assimilation can erase aspects of identity, both cultural and personal, which are special and unique. Yet, it’s very seductive to become part of a dominant culture, to belong to the home team – and Touch of Pink is about that as well.”In addition to the east meets west theme, Rashid also addressed two lifestyle choices, which are traditionally thought of as unconventional for South Asians – in particular, his career in the entertainment industry and his homosexuality.In the film, Rashid also attempts to show Hollywood’s influence on the South Asian communities in the East. Nuru, Alim’s mother, grew up watching old, often outdated, Hollywood movies and fantasizing about moving to the west with its promises of glamour and freedom. Her disillusionment when she eventually moved and was able to see the western society as it really was may have led to her rejection of films and all things Hollywood.On the issue of homosexuality, Rashid explains that “There is so much hypocrisy on this subject and a lot of suffering, because there are a lot of … gay men and lesbians who are getting married and having children. A lot of lives are being impacted. They are leading double lives and it’s very painful. And rather than sweep it under the rug its time to kind of address it. Years ago when I was in Toronto I set up a gay men’s group when I was in university called Khush and we invited South Asian gay men to come. Our first meeting we had 50 people arrive … It’s there, it’s an issue. So I have had lots of young South Asian gay men come up to me in tears because they are so grateful for this film and they want to bring their parents to it when it comes out and try and set up a kind of dialogue and kind of open the door to talking to their families about what their lives are about.”One Muslim man touched Rashid in particular when he admitted, “I’ve never told anyone this before but I have lived my whole life as a straight man. I’ve married, I have grown up children, my wife just died.”According to Rashid “It’s the first time he’s seen something that spoke to him and gave him hope so I feel already with those responses that I’ve won.”While Rashid is trying to come to terms with his South Asian identity and personal life choices, Jimi Mistry, who plays the lead character, on the other hand, seems to consider himself mainly as British.He clarifies: “That’s kinda where I was born and raised and whatever my cultural background is. My father’s Indian and my mother is Anglo-Irish. I have that as part of my life and its very much part of my background, but my identity is British.” He has admitted in past interviews to Michael Jackson and John Travolta being his inspirations growing up.Unlike Rashid, Mistry came into his career aspirations later in life and his family was instrumental in his choice.He admits, “If it wasn’t for my dad I wouldn’t have been acting. He is the one that steered me into this career. When I was 17, I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do. I wasn’t doing particularly well in school. I wasn’t excelling in academic subjects. I was a bit of a drifter. Kristen Holden-Reis as Giles (left) and Jimi Mistry as Alim (center) in Touch of Pink.“I was a little dreamy … liked music and singing and going down to the pub and playing pool and I was just a bit of a normal, everyday boy… My dad’s a doctor and he sat me down when I was 17 and said Jimmy what are you going to do, because you are not going in any direction here? And I said I don’t know what I want to do. And he said you better go upstairs and write a list of the things you want to do with your life and the things you think you are good at and bad at and come downstairs and we’re going to match. We’re going to do this pragmatically and we’re going to come up with something. I said fine… I had done a school play and it kind of came down to acting and he said he believed that this may be the direction; I went to acting school”.Mistry says, “The first time I realized that I was a part of a minority was when I got into this business. Up until then it never really occurred to me… People like to bracket you in certain areas and I refuse to be bracketed.Over the years I have managed to play interesting, good, really good South Asian characters, but I have also managed to play characters of no specific background, which as an actor is a major barrier to break. It doesn’t get any easier at all, but things do start to happen if you keep believing in what you are doing.” Mistry credits his success to his belief in his own abilities and his stubborn refusal “to play the small minority parts, even though that may be the only option when you are starting out in your career with a South Asian background.Although he claims he “will at some point,” Mistry has not yet learned Hindi. “I’m going to do it; it’s just having the time and the commitment to do it. Learning Hindi would be taking a risk… I think that to be honest the time that I will have to is the time when I would have to for a film or something and then I would get my head around it very quickly.”Do we hear a touch for Bollywood in that?  Related Itemslast_img read more

Hold Assembly polls in J&K: CPI(M)

first_imgSenior CPI(M) leader M.Y. Tarigami on Friday said the Centre’s decision to extend President’s rule in Jammu and Kashmir for six more months had “deprived the people here of a democratically elected government for the last more than one year.”“In the absence of an elected government, uncertainty in the State is deepening day-by-day and dissatisfaction among a large section of people is increasing. Only effective response to this situation would have been to hold early Assembly polls as there is no justification to delay it, neither political nor constitutional,” said Mr. Tarigami.Rajnath’s promiseHe said not holding Assembly elections on time and not having an elected government in Jammu and Kashmir was not in the interests of the country. “Last year in December, then Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in Parliament had said that the Centre was ready to hold Assembly polls in the State. What happened to those promises?“If elections to urban local bodies, panchayats and the Lok Sabha were held, what is the logic in deferring Assembly polls which are due since last November when the Assembly was dissolved by the Governor? An elected government’s rule is any day better than Governor’s rule and bureaucratic rule,” Mr. Tarigami said.‘BJP responsible’He said the overall situation was very bad in Kashmir. “The first responsibility for this is with the BJP because they hold power in Delhi and are directly ruling the State for more than a year. They should without any further delay recommend to the Election Commission to announce Assembly polls,” he added.last_img read more

Manipur ‘extra-judicial’ killings: will try to reconstitute Bench, says CJI

first_imgThe Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to reconstitute a Bench to continue monitoring a CBI probe into alleged extra-judicial killings by the Army, the Assam Rifles and the police in Manipur when insurgency was at its peak.The case has been in the back-burner since Justice Madan B. Lokur, who led the earlier two-judge Bench, retired in December last. Justice U.U. Lalit was the companion judge on that Bench.Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, for the victims’ families and petitioners, made an urgent mention before Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, apprising him of the fact that the case had not come up in a while.Mr. Gonsalves submitted that he had first mentioned the matter before Justice Lalit, who told him to mention it before the CJI. The CJI alone had the administrative power to constitute Benches to hear cases.“We will try to reconstitute the Bench,” the CJI told Mr. Gonsalves.In 2017, the court ordered a CBI probe into the alleged 1,528 extra-judicial killings from 2000 to 2012. The last few hearings saw the Justice Lokur Bench facing pressure to recuse himself from the case.This was in the form of a plea by serving and retired Army officers that there was a perception of judicial bias caused by certain oral comments made by the judges in court. The plea claimed that certain oral remarks of the Bench in an earlier hearing, reported widely in the media, questioning the non-arrest of accused persons, spooked the Army personnel operating in the State. Incidentally, the plea was fully supported by the Centre. Attorney General K.K. Venugopal had pitched in, saying that “more soldiers are killed than insurgents”.But the court’s amicus curiae in the case, advocate Menaka Guruswamy, and Mr. Gonsalves, had assured the Bench that the plea was merely an attempt to “overawe” the court.Finally, the Bench, in a detailed judgment in November 2018, refused to withdraw from the case. It concluded that the plea was unfounded. It said the oral observations were not intended to compromise the independence of the CBI probe.last_img read more

Three fined for stealing lotuses

first_imgA kangaroo court in western Assam’s Barpeta district made three people cough up ₹15,000 for stealing lotuses from a wetland.One of Assam’s prime wetlands, with 39 species of indigenous fish, the 91-hectare Kapla Beel has been a major source of income for the villages around it. The wetland is also known for its lotuses that the villagers protect.But the lotuses – as buds or in bloom – kept vanishing for a week before Durga Puja. The villagers formed a vigilante group and on October 4 caught three people from a neighbouring village under Sarthebari police station. The men were let go but on the condition they face a kangaroo court comprising elders of the two biggest villages adjoining the wetland. A couple of days ago, the court decided to penalise the three with a fine of ₹5,000 each for stealing the aquatic flowers. “We did not intervene as the trial did not involve any physical assault or violation of law. The three were flower traders and had been harvesting the lotuses without permission from the stakeholders,” a local police officer said.last_img read more