Showing posts from March, 2018

Sreemoy Talukdar - CBSE paper leak: Incompetent board and a bumbling minister

Mathematics (Class X) and economics (Class XII) are crucial papers that shape a million futures. Students are reportedly apprehensive that the revised papers might be tougher than the ones they have cleared. This possibility cannot be dismissed, as the fear that a tougher paper might adversely affect the students' prospects.  The CBSE failed at multiple points. It failed to ensure the sanctity of a system on which rests the future of our children. It failed again when the issue of a leaked mathematics paper was brought to the notice of CBSE chief Anita Karwal the night before the exam  through an email  to her official ID. Like a true bureaucrat, the Gujarat-cadre IAS officer ostensibly ignored the mail. A prompt notice of the exam's postponement till a later date could have saved the day. The inconvenience of appearing for a cancelled exam is considerably lower than having to clear it twice. The board was guilty twice of dereliction of duty and it failed the third

The advent of the telescope punctured our ideals about the nighttime sky. BY ALAN LIGHTMAN

I have in my hand a little book titled  The Starry Messenger  ( Sidereus Nuncius  in its original Latin), written by the Italian mathematician and scientist Galileo Galilei in 1610. There were 550 books in the first printing of  Messenger . One hundred and fifty still remain. A few years ago, Christie’s valued each first edition at between $600,000 and $800,000. My paperback copy was printed in 1989 for about $12. Although the history of science has not awarded  Messenger  the same laurels as Newton’s  Principia or Darwin’s  On the Origin of Species , I regard it as one of the most consequential volumes of science ever published. In this little book, Galileo reports what he saw after turning his new telescope toward the heavens: strong evidence that the heavenly bodies are made of ordinary material, like the winter ice at Lute Island. The result caused a revolution in thinking about the separation between heaven and earth, a mind-bending expansion of the territory of the material

Palestinians die in clashes with Israeli forces during major border protest // Palestine: 17% increase in Israel’s squatter settlements under Trump

At least eight Palestinians have been killed and hundreds wounded by Israeli forces in  Gaza , Palestinian medics have said, as protesters kicked off a planned six-week demonstration demanding the right of return for refugees. Israel’s military said 17,000 Palestinians were “rioting” in six locations in the Gaza strip on Friday, rolling burning tires at the security fence and its troops, which it said responded “with riot dispersal means and firing towards main instigators”.  Israeli forces   enforce a no-go zone for Palestinians on land in Gaza close to the fence and regularly fire on young Palestinian men who hurl stones and firebombs. But organisers said the “Great March of Return” demonstration intended to be peaceful, and would comprise of families of men, women, and children camping. Cultural events, including traditional dabke dancing, are planned. While protest camps within Gaza were set up a few hundred metres back from the heavily fortified barrier, large crowds marched

George Szirtes - Here lies danger. Hungary is on the verge of full-blown autocracy

Having bussed tens of thousands of supporters into Budapest for a pre-election “ peace march ” on 15 March, prime minister Viktor Orbán addressed them, promising that after his victory on 8 April he will  deal with those who oppose him  by “moral, political and legal means”. But who are his opponents? Is it the ragbag of small parties who  cannot unite in opposition  and who have, in any case, been deprived of the platforms required to reach the electorate? Is it the NGOs and other human rights associations who have been looking after those most  badly affected by his policies ? Is it perhaps the Central European University, Hungary’s most highly ranked university, which produces ideas that might be  critical of him ? Is it perhaps the refugees he depicts as a  tide of migrants  ready to drown the country with their alien, menacing ways? And if it is all these, at whose door does he lay the blame?  Surely it is  George Soros , the billionaire philanthropist who funded Orbán’s own

JOIN DHARNA UPWAS March 31, 2018, at Muzaffarnagar kachahari

Uttar Pradesh government has made this move to make sure that accused individuals in the Muzaffarnagar case do not undergo trial, to be later found guilty & face punishment. We strongly oppose and condemn this shameful act by the government of Uttar Pradesh as it completely violates the law and constitution of India. Yogi Adityanath govt initiates process on withdrawal of 131 riots cases Muzaffarnagar riots: Drop cases against Hindus, BJP MP Sanjiv Balyan, khaps tell CM The  big question before us as a society is that are we ready for such scenarios which can be referred as an example in future, where the government gets opportunity to protect the accused, without them being going through proper judicial process. This is not only against moral and cultural values of society but is also a crime in the court of law. Also, it makes us think why government of UP is trying to protect people who have been framed with serious charges in cases related to riots and murder.

THE DISAPPEARED China’s global kidnapping campaign. By Zach Dorfman

Before he disappeared from his luxury apartment at the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong on Jan. 27, 2017, Xiao Jianhua, a Chinese-Canadian billionaire, favored female bodyguards. Why, exactly, was unclear: Perhaps he simply liked being surrounded by women; perhaps he trusted them more than men. Whatever the reason, those guards weren’t much help when a group of mysterious men showed up at his apartment that January day and took him away. According to anonymous sources who viewed the hotel’s internal video feed and later spoke to the  New York Times , Xiao, who may have been sedated, was rolled through the Four Seasons lobby in a wheelchair, a sheet covering his head. He was then reportedly loaded onto a boat and ferried to the Chinese mainland. In what has become a familiar script for such disappearances, an initial police report filed by a family member was quickly withdrawn, and Xiao later issued a statement denying that he had been kidnapped. More than one year later, he remai

Judiciary-govt bonhomie would sound death knell for democracy: Justice Chelameswar

Any “bonhomie” between the judiciary and the government would sound the “death knell” for democracy, senior-most Supreme Court judge Justice J Chelameswar has told the Chief Justice of India (CJI) and urged him to convene a full court to deal with the alleged executive interference in judiciary. In an unprecedented letter to the CJI, copies of which were also sent to 22 other apex court judges on March 21, Justice Chelameswar has  questioned the probe initiated by Karnataka High Court Chief Justice  Dinesh Maheshwari against District and Sessions Judge Krishna Bhat at the request of the Union Ministry of Law and Justice, despite his name being recommended for elevation twice by the Collegium. Efforts to get a response on the letter from the office of CJI Dipak Misra did not fructify, while several legal luminaries, when contacted, chose not to comment on the matter. Sabotage of Indian criminal justice continues unchecked: Aseemanand’s ‘disclosure’ missing from court Justice

Vibha Sharma: Delhi traders threaten to stop paying GST, warn they will shift to NCR if sealing continues

The traders and shopkeepers have threatened to stop paying the Goods and Service Tax (GST) if the Central government fails to provide relief from the ongoing sealing drive. On Wednesday, over 7,000 traders, their workers and family members gathered at Ramlila Maidan to protest against the sealing drive by the Supreme Court-appointed monitoring committee. Praveen Khandelwal, general secretary, Confederation of All India Traders, said if the state government doesn’t take cognisance of their sufferings, they will shift their business operations to cities in National Capital Region (NCR). “It’s high time; we want solution to this problem. We can’t constantly live under the threat of sealing. If the situation doesn’t improve in the next one week, we may take strong steps like discontinuing paying GST. We will hand over our shops’ keys to the government and shift business to NCR,” Khandelwal said on Wednesday. The move will surely affect the Centre, which collects Rs 180 crore every d

Thousands March In France Over The Murder Of An 85-Year-Old Holocaust Survivor // Michael Segalov: If you can’t see antisemitism, it’s time to open your eyes

Thousands March In France Over The Murder Of An 85-Year-Old Holocaust Survivor Thousands took to the streets across France on Wednesday to decry the murder of an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor that authorities have linked to anti-Semitism. The silent marches, the largest of which took place in Paris, were held in tribute to Mireille Knoll, who escaped a roundup of Jews in Paris at the height of World War II. She fled to Europe and Canada before returning to France after the end of the war, where she lived for the remainder of her life. She was found dead in her apartment last week, and authorities said she was stabbed 11 times before her apartment was set on fire. Two men, ages 22 and 29, have been arrested and preliminarily charged with murder with anti-Semitic motives. “I thought I was going to die on the spot. I cried all the tears in my body and I thought of her. She didn’t deserve this,” her son, Daniel Knoll, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “How can one do that to anybo

French university protests threaten to spread after violence

Protests over  Emmanuel Macron ’s university reforms threaten to spread to faculties across  France after outrage following the violent breakup of a student sit-in in Montpellier by masked men with bats and sticks. Around 50 students had been staging a lecture hall sit-in at the southern French university on Thursday to protest against the French president’s tightening of university entrance requirements when a group of men in black, many of them wearing balaclavas and masks, began beating the protesters and forcing them out.  Video footage  showed students screaming as masked men hit students with bits of wood. “They began hitting people,” said one student, who claimed the men also had stunguns. Several students lodged complaints to police. A legal investigation into “armed group violence” has been opened by the local prosecutor to determine the identities of the men. The French universities minister has demanded an inquiry and Montpellier University has opened its own investi

'They executed him': police killing of Stephon Clark leaves family shattered

“They gunned him down like a dog,” Stevante Clark said of the police shooting of his brother, Stephon. “They executed him.” Stevante was in the backseat of a car, his voice quivering. He stomped his feet 20 times – one for each bullet that police fired at his unarmed brother. “Twenty  times. That’s like stepping on a roach ... And then stepping, stepping, stepping, stepping, stepping, stepping, stepping.” The fatal shooting of Stephon Clark on 18 March by Sacramento police has sparked outrage and massive protests in the California capital , drawing comparisons with other cases of law enforcement killing unarmed black people, such as  Oscar Grant ,  Michael Brown  and  Eric Garner . Police kill black man carrying only his phone Police and administration statements Stephon, an unarmed 22-year-old father of two, was standing in his grandmother’s backyard, holding only his iPhone when officers, who did not announce they were police, appeared in the dark, shouted at him to

Jeremy Corbyn took too long to apologise for antisemitism within the Labour Party

There is the suspicion, well-attested by the Jewish voices rising up against this new “soft” persecution of them on social media especially, that too many people in the Labour Party do not understand the distinctions between antisemitism, anti-Zionism and opposition to the policies of the Israeli government in the Middle East. Overlaying that is a lazy and dangerous belief that all Jewish people everywhere offer unconditional or clandestine financial, political and diplomatic support to the state of Israel, either directly or through the United States, which appears to be exactly the beliefs portrayed in the east London mural. Why did I protest against Corbyn? Look at his long list of evasions And motivating much of their suspicions about Jewish people is a response to the plight of the Palestinian people. Some Labour members question the state of Israel’s right to exist in its current form and within its present borders. They can adopt that point of view as a matter of politics

Mythili Sampathkumar - Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused of spying on citizens using official smartphone app

Indian  Prime Minister  Narendra Modi  has been accused of spying on his citizens through his office’s official  smartphone  app.  A security researcher, tweeting under the pseudonym Eliott Alderson, has said Indians’ personal data was sent to a third party’s server in the US without prior permission and the claim has drawn the ire of the main opposition Congress Party.  Mr Modi’s ruling  Bharatiya Janata Party  has denied the allegations and said in a tweet that the data was merely being used to provide users with ”the most contextual content”. Mr Alderson, whose name is an homage to the television drama  Mr Robot , posted a series of tweets over the weekend with screenshots of code that supposedly detail the data privacy breach of the app, which has been downloaded by at least 5m  Android users... read more:

Jennifer Wilson - Floating in the Air: The world that made Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment

Dostoyevsky, on the other hand, could not abide this scientific dissection of desire, believing that people were ultimately unaware of why they wanted the things they wanted. He knew human beings to be irrational and profoundly self-destructive..  Dostoyevsky was especially appalled by Chernyshevsky’s claim that actions taken in pursuit of a better society were themselves necessarily good. He saw in this seemingly innocent theory a potential justification for violence.  In September 1865, Fyodor Dostoyevsky was living in Wiesbaden, Germany, and couldn’t pay his rent. A string of gambling losses had left him near financial ruin, a familiar circumstance for Dostoyevsky (as dramatized in his novel  The Gambler ). Owing a considerable amount of money to his landlord, he hoped an advance for a new novel might shore his fortunes up. Writing to Mikhail Katkov, the editor of the  Russian Herald , Dostoyevsky asked for 300 rubles, promising in return the manuscript that would become  Crime a

JOSÉ LUIS PARDO - The senseless rage of resentment

Intellectuals once mocked clumsy attempts to censor art on ‘moral’ grounds in late-Franco Spain and elsewhere. They’re not laughing now. The shift to identity in politics could give the morality police a new lease of life, argues philosopher José Luis Pardo. It was in February 1975 that an officer of the municipal police in Cáceres, Piris by name, noticed that on show in the window of a bookshop in that Spanish city one could see, amid several other prints of works by the great Aragonese painter Goya, a copy of the painting popularly known as his  Maja Desnuda , the ‘Nude Maja’. He did not hesitate for a moment; convinced that this was an assault upon morality and good behaviour, he entered the establishment to order its proprietor to withdraw the offensive item from public view, above all in order to prevent it exciting the libido of adolescent boys from a nearby school.  At the time the news of his intervention aroused the sarcasm of the intellectual opposition (the only kin

Journalist, who took on sand mafia, mowed down by truck in MP’s Bhind district

A stringer for a television channel was mowed down by a truck on Monday morning in Madhya Pradesh’s Bhind district. Sandeep Sharma, who was working for News World channel, was rushed to a local hospital where he succumbed to injuries during treatment. Sharma, who had conducted two sting operations on police officers, had sought police protection citing a threat to his life. In the letter seeking police protection, Sharma had accused a Sub-Divisional Police Officer (SDOP) of being hand-in-glove with those engaged in illegal sand mining Reports on the Vyapam scam in MP Bhind SP Prashant Khare said an offence under Section 304 (A) (causing death by negligence) has been registered in connection with the death. He said the police have formed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe into the incident. Khare said the truck involved in the accident has been seized and they are looking for the driver who fled after the accident.

Yogi Adityanath govt initiates process on withdrawal of 131 riots cases

The BJP government of Yogi Adityanath in Uttar Pradesh has initiated the process on the withdrawal of 131 cases linked to the 2013 communal riots in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli, including 13 of murder and 11 of attempt to murder. Documents examined by The cases include charges under IPC sections related to “heinous” crimes with a minimum punishment of seven years in jail. Besides, there are 16 cases under section 153 A on charges of promoting enmity on religious grounds, and two under section 295 A for deliberate and malicious acts intended to insult a religion or religious beliefs.  At least 62 persons died and thousands lost their homes in the riots that took place in September 2013. Following the violence, a total of 503 cases were registered against around 1,455 persons at police stations in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli by the then  Samajwadi Party  government. Muzaffarnagar riots: Drop cases against Hindus, BJP MP Sanjiv Balyan, khaps tell CM Sabotage of Indian criminal just

Rhonda Garelick: Stormy Daniels Is the Anti-Trump // The Economist: Why Stormy Daniels is so dangerous

'We Americans have a curious relationship to sex: We are both prudes and voyeurs, enshrouding sexual matters in secrecy and shame while producing a pop-culture universe steeped in porn and extreme raunchiness. Recent months have proven just how harmful this dichotomy is: After all, would we need a  #MeToo movement  if we had  a more organic, less prurient  relationship to sex?' Behold: Out from the chaos, lies, secrets, and misdirection of the Trump administration has emerged a figure of bracing honesty, clarity of purpose, even purity:  Stormy Daniels  — perhaps the one adversary who could take down this presidency.   Daniels and Trump have much in common.  Both are theatrical creatures: He was a star of reality television, she is a star and director of adult films. Both have highly constructed, artificial appearances: hair obviously colored, visible makeup. Her extravagantly enhanced bosom finds its analog in his outrageously inflated comb-over. Both have used stage name

March for Our Lives: hundreds of thousands demand end to gun violence // Shooting Survivor To Politicians: We Want Change Or We’ll Vote You Out

Max Schachter, father of one of the victims, Alex, a 14-year Stoneman Douglas marching band musician, addressed the crowd at the rally. Schacter broke down in tears as he recalled how his son enjoyed playing basketball with his older brother, and teaching his little sister “to become a better trombone player” and that on February 13 he was like any other parent, wanting his children to be happy and getting good grades. Then the Valentine’s Day shooting happened. “Since the day that changed my life, I will not stop fighting for change,” he said. Shooting Survivor To Politicians: We Want Change Or We’ll Vote You Out “The 17 beautiful angels would not stop fighting until make this world a better and safer place.” Schachter has set up two foundations in his son’s memory, the Alex Schachter scholarship fund for the MSD marching band that his son loved. The second is the Safe Schools for Alex foundation. “Alex’s death could have been prevented, all the lives could

The radical otherness of birds: Jonathan Franzen on why they matter

When someone asks me why birds are so important to me, all I can do is sigh and shake my head, as if I’ve been asked to explain why I love my brothers. And yet the question is a fair one: why do birds matter? My answer might begin with the vast scale of the avian domain. If you could see every bird in the world, you’d see the whole world. Things with feathers can be found in every corner of every ocean and in land habitats so bleak that they’re habitats for nothing else. Grey gulls raise their chicks in Chile’s Atacama desert, one of the driest places on Earth. Emperor penguins incubate their eggs in Antarctica in winter. Goshawks nest in the Berlin cemetery where Marlene Dietrich is buried, sparrows in Manhattan traffic lights, swifts in sea caves, vultures on Himalayan cliffs, chaffinches in Chernobyl. The only forms of life more widely distributed than birds are microscopic. To survive in so many different habitats, the world’s 10,000 or so bird species have evolved into a sp

Mark Galeotti - Gangster’s paradise: how organised crime took over Russia

NB: This report has much to tell us about our own country. It deserves to be read carefully. When the police and criminal justice system begin to be used by the political elite a mechanisms for revenge, for settling scores - all with the semblance of legitimate procedure - then we are on the brink of criminalising the entire state apparatus. After that it does not matter whether the facade of formal processes are upheld. They are upheld to facilitate crime on a continental scale.  Watch your step, officials, judges, police officers. You know where the gang appropriately named  the 'parivar' is leading us. DS I was in Moscow in 1988, during the final years of the Soviet Union. The system was sliding towards shabby oblivion, even if no one knew at the time how soon the end would come. While carrying out research for my doctorate on the impact of the Soviet war in Afghanistan, I was interviewing Russian veterans of that brutal conflict. When I could, I would meet these  afgant

Money spent by Indian students in the US is more than India's entire higher education budget

Indian higher education budget at Rs 30,000 cr; Indian students spend Rs 44,000 cr in just US Indian students spending $6.54 billion in 2016-17 in the US should do a lot to assuage president Donald Trump who is worried about the $20 billion trade deficit his country has with India. More so when you consider that, in 2016, Indian tourists spent another $13 billion in the US—over the last decade, a US government fact sheet points out, Indian students contributed $31 billion to the US economy. This is only the US, when you add up what Indian students spend overseas each year, it adds up to more than $10 billion.  That number should, however, set off alarm bells in the Indian establishment since such spending is not just a huge drain on the country’s forex reserves, it is several times greater than the central government’s budget for higher education for all universities and colleges. In 2016-17, the period in which 1.9 lakh Indian students went to the US, the central government’s b

Thousands of public sector workers go on strike across France

Thousands of train drivers, teachers, nurses, air traffic controllers and other public sector staff have gone on strike across  France  and begun street protests against  Emmanuel Macron ’s latest reform drive. France’s centrist president, who has been in power for nearly a year, has so far escaped large strikes and trade union action, managing to easily push through an  overhaul of labour laws  in the autumn despite  limited street marches . But Thursday’s strike marks a new joint phase in trade union action – it is the first protest against Macron that has brought together civil servants and railway staff. The strikes will see train cancellations, some schools closed, about 30% of  Paris  flights cancelled, airport disruption in the south and some 150 protest marches across the countries. There are two different sets of grievances behind the strike day – both of which have the potential to cause a headache for the French government. France’s large public sector, which ha

Suhas Palshikar: Citizenship rights, not burka

Reading Harsh Mander (‘Sonia, sadly’, IE, March 17) and Ramachandra Guha (‘Liberals, sadly’, IE, March 20), one cannot avoid the feeling that the issues need to be redefined and expanded. Mander stops at a frightening narrative of invisibility while Guha is content with a reformist platform irrespective of political context. It is only to be wished that this debate continues and that it helps the liberals and supporters of diversity in shaping their stand in the dual battle - with illiberal ideas and with majoritarianism. As a nation, we lost one moment of introspection on the so-called “Muslim question” in the aftermath of the demolition of the Babri masjid in 1992; now is the second moment we are almost about to lose — and this time around, we shall not only lose the grasp on the Muslim question but on the larger riddles of religion and modernity, difference and democracy. Let us begin with Guha’s concern about the burka. One need not hesitate to posit that if women are dictated a

Ella Hill: As a Rotherham grooming gang survivor, I want people to know about the religious extremism which inspired my abusers

I’m a Rotherham grooming gang survivor. I call myself a survivor because I’m still alive. I’m part of the UK’s  largest ever  child sexual abuse investigation. As a teenager, I was taken to various houses and flats above takeaways in the north of England, to be beaten, tortured and raped over 100 times. I was called a “white slag” and “white c***” as they beat me. They made it clear that because I was a non-Muslim, and not a virgin, and because I didn’t dress “modestly”, that they believed I deserved to be “punished”. They said I had to “obey” or be beaten. Fear of being killed, and threats to my parents’ lives, made it impossible for me to escape for about a year. The police didn’t help me. As I write this, it has been  widely reported  that a letter has been sent to Muslim groups around the country declaring a national “Punish a Muslim” day; elsewhere, the leaders of Britain First have been found guilty of  religiously aggravated harassment . In mainland Europe, confli

Patrick Barkham - Europe faces 'biodiversity oblivion' after collapse in French birds, experts warn

The  “catastrophic” decline  in French farmland birds signals a wider biodiversity crisis in Europe which ultimately imperils all humans. A dramatic fall in farmland birds such as skylarks, whitethroats and ortolan bunting in France  was revealed by two studies this week , with the spread of neonicotinoid pesticides – and decimation of insect life – coming under particular scrutiny. With intensive crop production encouraged by the EU’s common agricultural policy apparently driving the bird declines, conservationists are warning that many European countries are facing a second “silent spring” – a term coined by the ecologist Rachel Carson to describe the slump in bird populations in the 1960s caused by pesticides. “We’ve lost a quarter of skylarks in 15 years. It’s huge, it’s really, really huge. If this was the human population, it would be a major thing,” said Dr Benoit Fontaine of France’s National Museum of Natural History and co-author of one of the new studies, a nation