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India to have superior earth observation capabilities February 27, 2015 16:03

Indian Space Research Organisation chairman AS Kiran Kumar is optimistic about India’s capabilities has said at the International Conference on Climate Change and Disaster Management at Kovalam that, “The future of earth observation relies on three factors – continuity and improvement of the operational constellation of satellites, sustained observation of all climate variables and global co-operation for comparing observation data.” Jean-Yves Le Gall, president of French space agency Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales, was also one of the speakers and dubbing climate change as an ‘unprecedented threat’ he urged for coordination of space missions and pooling of resources for stepping up space-based observation of climate change phenomena. Tanja Masson-Zwaan, president, International Institute of Space Law (IISL), stressed the importance of space technology in solving issues connected to climate change. “Today climate change and disaster management are perhaps the most important issues being faced”. Governor P. Sathasivam, inaugurated the three-day event and urged for, “Disaster management calls for convergence of technologies and institutions with a holistic approach covering a suitable mix of policy reforms, institutional changes and technology options.” Former ISRO chairman G.Madhavan Nair was also present at the event and he also delivered a speech on the subject. The conference showcased the capability of India to become a reliable knowledge hub for earth observation. By Premji

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Economic Survey: Double-digit growth, big bang reforms February 27, 2015 15:32

The Economic Survey tabled in the Lok Sabha took the changed growth computation method forward and said that growth rate of over 8% is expected in the coming year. Citing the change in the base year made by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), growth rate at market prices for 2015-16 is expected to be between 8.1-8.5%. The survey said, "The Economic Survey 2014-15 presented by the Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley to the Parliament today indicates that a clear political mandate for reform and a benign external environment now is expected to propel India on to a double digit trajectory.  It states that Indian economy appears to have now gone past the economic slowdown, persistent inflation, elevated fiscal deficit, slackening domestic demand, external account imbalances and oscillating value of the rupee." • The Survey has "urged" the government to aim at bringing down it's fiscal deficit down to 3% of GDP. • Price subsidies, which are estimated to be about 3,78,000 crore rupees, about 4.24% of GDP, reveal that they may not be the government’s best weapon for fighting poverty. • Growth in exports is projected to be only 0.9%. • Decline in household physical savings has caused a decline in gross domestic savings to 30.6% in 2013-14 from 31.8% in 2012-13. • Private sector investments must remain the primary engine for growth in the long run, public investment, especially in railways The survey said that the high growth rate is because of the reforms taken forward, like deregulation of diesel prices, taxing energy products, replacing cooking gas subsidy by direct transfer, etc, by the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. By Premji

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ISIS Still 'Formidable and Brutal' February 27, 2015 14:48

U.S. intelligence and military officials say the Islamic State is losing ground in Iraq. “Its momentum has been checked and the group has suffered some notable setbacks during the last couple of months,” a U.S. official told. “Mounting a major comeback to retake lost territory would be challenging under current conditions.” “There appears to be some dissatisfaction in the ranks now, and that could grow if battlefield strains increase,” the official said. “We are seeing anecdotal evidence of resentment and even resistance in those areas that are controlled by ISIL because of their brutal approach to enforcing Sharia,” National Intelligence Director James Clapper said. “We are seeing anecdotal evidence of resentment and even resistance in those areas that are controlled by ISIL because of their brutal approach to enforcing Sharia,” said Clapper. Clapper said the Islamic State was also running into trouble with finances, seeing profits decline from its illicit oil trade while donations “are tapering off" because of the group’s brutality. “We shouldn’t confuse tactical success with the strategic changing of the tide.  ISIS still has the strategic initiative,” the former Navy commander, helicopter pilot and Marine Corps infantryman said.  “We’ve done nothing to reduce their heartland territory in Syria.” U.S. military officials have said coalition airstrikes have hurt the Islamic State’s capabilities, helping the Iraqis gain back 700 to 800 square kilometers of terrain. U.S. intelligence officials believe the group has 20,000 to 32,000 fighters at its disposal, with some analysts saying the true number could be 50,000 or more.   By Premji

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Jihad John unveiled February 27, 2015 13:02

Mr. Emwazi was identified as the masked Islamic State fighter called “Jihadi John”, and his journey from computer student to a murderous spokesman for the Islamic State is only beginning to come clear. Mohammed Emwazi along with his parents moved to West London from his birthplace in Kuwait and he seems to have lived a normal life, studying hard and graduating in computer sciences from the University of Westminster in 2009. Mr. Emwazi was called “Jihadi John” by the foreign hostages of ISIS, a number of whom he apparently beheaded in widely circulated videos. He was first identified by The Washington Post website and his name was confirmed by a senior British security official. Britain officially refused to confirm that he is indeed “Jihadi John” because of what is described as continuing operations. Mr. Emwazi was alleged to be the part of a group from West and North London, sometimes known as “the North London Boys,” with links to the Somalia-based terrorist group Al Shabab. Mr. Emwazi appears in 2011 court documents, as a member of a network of extremists who funneled funds, equipment and recruits “from the United Kingdom to Somalia to undertake terrorism-related activity.” How and when he was radicalized and whether the British intelligence services were at fault, either dealing with him too harshly or not identifying him as a serious threat soon enough, are already the subject of debate. By Premji

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Plans to merge tribunals for efficiency February 27, 2015 11:42

The Prime Minister's Office is planning to reduce the list of all important national tribunals and merge some of them to create larger entities which can ensure efficiency. There are 35 national tribunals under different ministries, including the prime corporate arbiter, the Company Law Board, politically sensitive Cauvery Water Tribunal, bureaucracy's grievance redressal mechanism, the Central Administrative Tribunal, etc. Law Secretary PK Malhotra wrote, "There is a possibility of some of these tribunals can be converged / merged to avoid overlapping / identical functions being discharged by these tribunals. Malhotra noted that PMO wants all the ministries and departments to have a relook at these quasi-judicial tribunals functioning under their administrative control to "examine the possibility of merging these tribunals” and the law secretary has asked ministries to identify tribunals that could be clubbed together. The law ministry has set a deadline of March 5 for the exercise. A "proforma" has been sent to each ministry to answer questions about the functioning of the tribunal: "From what date has the tribunal started functioning? What is subject matter jurisdiction of the tribunal? How many benches of the tribunal have been sanctioned by the government? etc. "The powers which are normally vested in the courts were conferred upon these tribunals for quick justice based on the principle of natural justice and also to reduce burden on the regular courts." By Premji

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UPA's Land Law compromised security, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley February 27, 2015 10:52

Launching a scathing attack on the Congress, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that the previous UPA regime's land law has "disastrous impact" on India's national security. "Signatures of 70 per cent of the villagers (whose land is being acquired) would be needed as their consent, as also the social impact assessment of installing the project. So, the information will be revealed and it will also reach Pakistan," Mr Jaitley said. He said, "Scams and corruption, which used to be daily words occupying media headlines (during UPA rule), are no longer there. Nine months ago, the economy was in a doom and today we are back on the global radar." "A propaganda has been created that the bill is anti-farmers and pro-corporate sector... I appeal to Congress with folded hands... you had been in power... Don't create environment in the country in which infrastructure and industry become bad words", he added. Congress leader Anand Sharma said that the definition of social infrastructure was not clear and therefore had opened the doors for the private sector. "It is not the job of the State to acquire land for private people to set up industries or build hospitals," he said. Reciprocating to this, Mr Jaitley quoted from an official communication by him to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh containing recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee that the bill would not only impact most infrastructure projects and lead to land price escalation, but also delay key projects. By Premji

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Bham Bholenath Movie Review February 27, 2015 01:07

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Secret of eyelash February 26, 2015 20:22

Some believed Eyelashes are dust catchers, snaring things that would otherwise drift into the eye. Some others believed, they are sensors, acting like a cat's whiskers, to warn the eye of wind-borne grit or other dangers, according to another hypothesis. Some suggested that eyelashes are for expression, to enhance the impact of the eye for communication or sexual allure. A team of biologists said that, eyelashes direct airflow around the eye to shield it from airborne particles, bacteria, viruses and mites and prevent the protective coating of tears on the eyeball, a mix of mucus, oil and water, from drying out.Unlike the hairs in the nose and airway, which act as physical traps, eyelashes act as "a passive dust-controlling system," the study headed by researcher David Hu at the Georgia Institute of Technology in the American city Atlanta, found. "They reduce evaporation and particle deposition by upto 50 percent." Hu's team measured the lashes of 22 mammal species, from hedgehogs to humans. In all of them, the length of the eyelash was about one-third of the width of the eye, which is optimal for minimising airflow over the eye surface without obstructing vision. The findings were published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.By Premji

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India 'bright spot' terms Standard & Poor's February 26, 2015 20:14

Standard & Poor's termed India as the "bright spot" in Asia Pacific, sharply revised country's GDP forecast upwards to 7.9 per cent next fiscal and even higher at 8.2 per cent in the year after. "India should be the Asia-Pacific region's bright spot," S&P said and revised steeply upwards its growth estimates. The rating agency evaluated that the economic growth will rise to 7.9 per cent in FY 2016, up from its previous estimate of 6.2 per cent and may further go up to 8.2 per cent in FY 2017 as against 6.6 per cent estimated previously.The agency, which rates India one among the lowest in the investment grade at BBB-, said the rising investment and low oil prices are the primary factors which are boosting the chances for the economy. It is unclear whether Standard & Poor's is re-pegging its estimates based on the revisions in GDP computation or not. The agency said growth in the Asia-Pacific region will be slightly lower, but India's "star is rising". "Weaker growth in China and Japan may be weighing on the overall sentiment, although India's star is rising," it said.By Premji

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Chances of Nuclear Attack High February 26, 2015 18:43

Pakistan may use nuclear weapons against India if India goes for a large scale military assault against it in retaliation of a major terror attack emanating from across the border, two top American experts have warned US lawmakers. The presence of a strong government in New Delhi and the pressure on it from Indian citizens in the event of a repeat of 26/11 type terror attack, the ties between the two neighbours will have greater danger of escalating towards a devastating nuclear warfare, particularly from the Pakistan side. India has already pledged with no first use.Such a dangerous scenario can only be avoided by the US by working with Islamabad to ensure that there is no further large scale terror attack on India emanating from Pakistan side. "South Asia is the most likely place from where nuclear weapons could be detonated in the foreseeable future. This risk derives from the unusual dynamic of the India-Pakistan competition," said Perkovich, vice president for Studies Carnegie Endowment for International Peace."The next major terrorist attack in India, emanating from Pakistan, may trigger an Indian conventional military riposte that could in turn prompt Pakistan to use battlefield nuclear weapons to repel an Indian incursion. India, for its part, has declared that it would inflict massive retaliation in response to any nuclear use against its territory or troops," he said."Obviously, this threatening dynamic - whereby terrorism may prompt conventional conflict which may prompt nuclear war - challenges Indian and Pakistan policy-makers. India and Pakistan both tend to downplay or dismiss the potential for escalation, but our own history of close nuclear calls should make US officials more alert to these dangers. The US is the only outside power that could intervene diplomatically and forcefully to de-escalate a crisis," Perkovich said.By Premji

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