Tagged: India

India is first Asian nation to reach Mars orbit

India became the first Asian nation to reach the Red Planet when its indigenously made unmanned spacecraft entered the orbit of Mars on Wednesday — and the first nation in the world to successfully reach Mars on its first attempt.

The spacecraft called “Mangalyaan,” or “Mars-craft” in Hindi, which was launched last November, slowed down just enough to reach orbit early Wednesday, securing India a place in the elite global space club of Martian explorers…

The official Twitter account of NASA’s Curiosity Rover — which has been on the Martian surface since Aug. 6, 2012 — tweeted, “Namaste, @MarsOrbiter! Congratulations to @ISRO and India’s first interplanetary mission upon achieving Mars orbit.”

To which MOM’s Twitter account replied, “Howdy @MarsCuriosity ? Keep in touch. I’ll be around…”

Over the next six months, India’s Mangalyaan will study the mineral composition on Mars and also look for the presence of methane, a chemical key to life on Earth.

India has launched 75 satellites since 1975, and its space program has over the years worked on collecting weather data, predicting natural disasters, feeding television and radio stations and also teaching children in remote villages without schools.

“We have seen the report and congratulate India on the Mars satellite entering the orbit successfully,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying told a media briefing…This is pride of India and Pride of Asia and also is a landmark progress in humankind’s exploration of outer space. So we congratulate India on that,” she said.

Questions of economics and priorities will be asked – properly – but, congratulations are in order more than anything else. Another standard of modern society achieved by an Asian nation.

An old-timey sci-fi geek like me has to be thrilled.

Thanks, Mike

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Row over cow settled by DNA tests


The cow in question

A woman in the southern Indian state of Kerala is set to win a court battle to keep a cow after DNA tests proved it belongs to her, her lawyer says…The woman, TS Sashilekha, had been accused by her neighbour Geetha of stealing the animal.

The acrimonious dispute even saw the cow in question appear in court.

It is thought to be the first time an ownership battle over an animal has been decided by DNA tests in India, where Hindus consider cows to be holy.

The legal battle between the two women began last year when Geetha claimed that a cow in her herd was the mother of the disputed animal…But DNA tests ordered by the court did not match, meaning that Sashilekha will get to keep the cow.

…N Chandra Babu, lawyer for Sashilekha, told the BBC, “It is a rare case and possibly the first of its kind in history. Perhaps this is the first time a DNA test was held on a cow to find out its real owner.”

After the disputed cow was produced in court, Sashilekha was allowed to keep it in her possession – but only after paying 45,000 rupees in securities.

I understand why the court would ask the eventual victor to provide security presumably covering the value of the cow. Hopefully, returned without charges. Another good reason why she is suing the accuser for costs and compensation.

BRICS nations found bank to rival Western-dominated World Bank and IMF

The so-called BRICS countries agreed to form an international development bank with aspirations to challenge the dominance of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa said Tuesday that the New Development Bank will start with $50 billion in capital and $100 billion as a currency reserve fund for liquidity crises…

Still, the BRICS bank, which could add more member nations, represents a bid to expand the influence of the BRICS emerging markets and act as a counterbalance to institutions run by the U.S. and other developed nations…

As developing countries began playing a larger role in the world economy, their leaders repeatedly complained that they have not been given correspondingly larger voices in international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF, both based in Washington. The U.S. typically appoints the World Bank president, and European countries appoint the IMF chief.

“International governance structures designed within a different power configuration show increasingly evident signs of losing legitimacy and effectiveness,” said the official statement signed by the BRICS leaders, who met in Fortaleza, Brazil, on Tuesday. “We believe the BRICS are an important force for incremental change and reform of current institutions toward more representative and equitable governance.”

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese President Xi Jinping and South African President Jacob Zuma hammered out some of the final details before signing the agreement Tuesday.

Among the terms are that the bank will be in Shanghai, its first president will be from India, and the first chair of the board of directors will be from Brazil…

Analysts expect that other countries – like Indonesia, Mexico or Turkey – will join the bank over time. Certainly, they and their neighbors have no shortage of conflicts with restrictions important to the fiscal bears directing the IMF or the World Bank.

I doubt anyone expects either of the banks under the thumb of the US [and to a lesser extent, the EU] to modernize, to actively support the developing nations in any goal beyond being a source of cheap labor, raw materials, for Western corporations.

Vodafone report further inflames global surveillance debate

Telecommunications company Vodafone’s report on government surveillance of its customers in 29 countries reveals more than first meets the eye – and is raising questions from Dublin to Delhi about how much spying on email and telephone chats happens in secret.

In Friday’s report Vodafone said most countries required the company’s knowledge and cooperation to hear phone calls or see emails, but at least six governments have given their security agencies the power of direct access.

Vodafone didn’t identify the countries that have tapped into its network, but the report provided some clues. An 88-page appendix reveals that five countries – Albania, Egypt, Hungary, Ireland and Qatar – have provisions that allow authorities to demand unfettered access.

In vague language, the report also indicated similar powers could exist in India and the United Kingdom, too.

In too many cases, Vodafone said, governments kept both the company and wider society in the dark about what was happening, with laws explicitly forbidding government disclosure of any details of its electronic eavesdropping…

Wiretapping of phones and accessing of call records for law-enforcement purposes is a decades-old and accepted practice even in the most open democracies. With backing from courts, police can request cooperation from phone companies to access communications.

But in developing countries such as Congo, Ghana and Lesotho, Vodafone said it cannot support wiretapping, because governments haven’t requested the technology.

Vodafone’s report comes one year after former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden revealed that U.S. and other countries’ intelligence agencies indiscriminately gathered and stored data from phone calls and Internet communications…

Vodafone’s report is also seen as a response to the company’s embarrassing role in the Egyptian protests that ousted Hosni Mubarak from power in 2011. As those protests raged, the government forced Vodafone to bombard its Egyptian subscribers with propaganda text messages. The company said it had no choice but to comply, but was severely criticized for its actions.

Here’s the Vodafone report at their website.

If you’re not old enough to recall – there was a time in the United States when courts ruled in favor of the privacy of citizens and Congress and the White House didn’t succeed in sucking info from communications without express judicial permission.

I was part of a class action suit that won victory over the city where I lived, the local police department, the regional phone company – and the FBI – for illegal wiretapping. The creeps even tapped my parents’ phone in case I made any subversive calls when I dropped by for Sunday dinner.

Not anymore, man!

The FDA approves and endorses a new pattern of AIDS prevention

Federal health officials recommended Wednesday that hundreds of thousands of Americans at risk for AIDS take a daily pill that has been shown to prevent infection with the virus that causes it.

If broadly followed, the advice could transform AIDS prevention in the United States — from reliance on condoms, which are effective but unpopular with many men, to a regimen that relies on an antiretroviral drug.

It would mean a 50-fold increase in the number of prescriptions for the drug, Truvada — to 500,000 a year from fewer than 10,000. The drug costs $13,000 a year, and most insurers already cover it…

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have long been frustrated that the number of H.I.V. infections in the United States has barely changed in a decade, stubbornly holding at 50,000 a year, despite 30 years of official advice to rely on condoms to block transmission…

Nevertheless, advocates for the drug regimen were elated at Wednesday’s announcement.

RTFA for all the social pros and cons. Something the NY TIMES is all concerned about. Rightly, I suppose.

They also skipped quietly over the question of cost – although looking around on the Web it appears to me the generic made and sold in Asia costs about $800/year or less. Versus $13,000 to Gilead.

$11 million in unapproved drugs seized in New Jersey


Ready to take down illegal suppositories at a moment’s notice

U.S. Marshals seized more than $11 million worth of unapproved drugs marketed by Ascend Laboratories of Montvale, N.J. and distributed by Masters Pharmaceuticals of Cincinnati.

Ascend Laboratories is a subsidiary of Alkem Laboratories, one of the top seven pharmaceutical companies in India. Alkem is a vertically integrated organization with 15 manufacturing plants located throughout India, of which four are U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved…

At the request of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, the U.S. Marshals seized:

– Pramoxine-HC Otic Drops, intended to treat ear infections caused by microbes and to control itching.

– Hydrocortisone Acetate Suppositories 25 milligrams, intended to treat inflamed hemorrhoids, ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory conditions.

– Urea Cream 39%, Urea Cream 40% and Urea Lotion 40%, intended to treat skin-thickening conditions such as dermatitis and eczema.

None of these products have been proven safe or effective for their intended uses. The FDA recommends that consumers consult a healthcare professional about the continuing use of these drug products”…

The FDA ain’t exactly the most progressive body affecting American healthcare. Still, it’s at least worthwhile to see them following their own regulations about keeping unapproved products off drugstore shelves.

And, then – shall we deal with the creeps who doubtless knew damned well they were importing and distributing unapproved meds, eh?

Pic of the Day

Woman carries her baby as she walks through a wheat field on her way to a polling station to cast her vote in Shabazpur Dor village
Click to enlargeREUTERS/Adnan Abidi

A woman carries her baby as she walks through a wheat field on her way to a polling station to cast her vote in Shabazpur Dor village, in Amroha district in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh April 17, 2014.

We forget – caught up as we are in the historic corruption of our 2-party system of bought-and-paid-for politicians – how difficult, how meaningful it is for the poorest of the poor to vote in other countries. They know corruption from the highest to lowest of elected officials. They may risk death and at the least discrimination for months – for having the courage to vote.

Still they vote. Still they fight however they may to vote and try to change the future for their children and grandchildren.

Street vendor/thief accidentally saves baby from suffocation

A street vendor who stole a bag from a local train in India accidentally saved the life of a baby boy concealed inside, investigators say.

Kishor Kale, 20, left the train Monday with the bag in Kurla, a Mumbai suburb, the newspaper MiD Day, reported Tuesday. He opened the bag at the station, hoping to find cash or valuables, and instead a tiny hand poked out.

Kale tried to dump the bag and baby on the platform but was caught by an alert ticket seller. He told police he was hawking nail polish on the train when he spotted the bag on the floor.

Police said the baby is only about 15 days old. While he is in good health, he would probably have suffocated if he had remained in the bag 10 minutes longer.

Jitendra Rathod, a senior officer with the Government Railway Police in Wadala, said investigators are examining security camera footage to verify Kurla’s story of how he came by the bag and to find out who dumped it and the baby.

Phew! Hope his story is verified. Otherwise this dude is up the proverbial body of water without a means of locomotion.

India’s gay community is in shock over Supreme Court support for colonial-era ignorance


Reaching for freedom in India

There’s been widespread outrage in India’s gay community, which is in shock after the country’s top court reversed a landmark 2009 Delhi High Court ruling that had decriminalised homosexual acts.

The court has now left it to parliament to legislate on Section 377, a 153-year-old colonial law, under which a same-sex relationship is an “unnatural offence” and punishable by a 10-year jail term.

Opposition to the 2009 ruling had come from more than a dozen political, social and religious groups and petitioners.

They put up an array of arguments, many of them bizarre and, some might say, disingenuous.

One petitioner was a TV astrologer who told the court the ruling “compromises national defence since soldiers will start having sex with each other”…Perhaps most bizarrely, a spokesman for a popular yoga guru opposed the change, telling the court that he could “cure homosexuality through yoga”…

Ranged against this were some four main groups who filed petitions supporting the Delhi court decision.

They included parents of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people with stories of how the colonial-era law had caused trauma to them and harmed their family lives; a group of more than a dozen psychiatrists and psychologists who treat LGBT “patients”; and some distinguished academics and leading Indian filmmaker Shyam Benegal…

The 2009 judgement came as a shot in the arm for India’s gay community. More and more of its members had begun to come out. “The verdict is a severe blow to them,” journalist and activist Vikram Doctor tells me. “Once people come out of the closet, they just cannot go back.”

I don’t know why I ever presumed India had left behind all the trappings of British Imperialism. Out-of-date and disfunctional, 19th Century policies are only honored by the truly backwards. Usually on the basis of religion or bigotry.

I had presumed that legal structures at least at the top of law’s pyramid in India would be self-limiting to those individuals genuinely qualified. Wrong, obviously.

A woman is killed every hour in India over dowry

One woman dies every hour in India because of dowry-related crimes, women’s rights activists have said.

The National Crime Records Bureau said that 8,233 women were killed across India last year because of disputes over dowry payments given by the bride’s family to the groom or his family at the time of marriage.

The conviction rate in dowry-related crimes remained a low 32 percent, according to statistics the bureau published last week.

Women’s rights activists and police said that loopholes in dowry prevention laws, delays in prosecution and low conviction rates have led to a steady rise in dowry-related crimes.

Dowry demands have become even more insistent and expensive following India’s economic boom, said Ranjana Kumari, a women’s rights activist.

Suman Nalwa, a senior New Delhi police officer dealing with crimes against women, said dowry practices extended to all classes in society.

Even highly educated people don’t say no to dowry,” she said.

Though the giving or receiving of a dowry is illegal under Indian law. Another demeaning icon of Indian culture is maintained by ignorance among the populace – and no enforcement, no real effort by the government to lift people up from the past.