Health crisis looms as Meerut cow skinners threaten to quit

first_imgMeerut, a major town of western Uttar Pradesh, seems headed for an environmental and public health nightmare as a large number of animal skinners have threatened to stop lifting dead animals from next month if the attacks on them by cow vigilantes do not stop immediately.While threat to life is one issue, the other is the monetary impact of a de facto ban on skinning. If they cannot skin a dead cow and sell its hide to the leather industry, they are left with no incentive to lift the animal, let alone risk to their lives to do so.Ovindra Pal, 51, a cattle skinner who heads one of the co-operative societies that lift dead cattle in Meerut, said that his team of animal skinners was attacked three times in the last one week.Authorised jobThe job of skinning dead animals is authorised by municipal laws, which mandate animal skinners to lift every dead animal, including cows, in Meerut. It requires them to dispose of the carcasses in a place that has been allotted for it by the Meerut Municipal Corporation (MMC).“We have never been so scared of the cow vigilantes as we are these days, under the Yogi Adityanath government,” said Mr Pal.Mr. Pal and his group of cow skinners operating in Meerut have decided not to renew their government contract for lifting dead animals once it expires in April.It hasn’t helped their cause that the mayor of Meerut, Harikant Ahluwalia, has publicly expressed his support to the cow vigilante groups. Mr. Ahluwalia, who is also a senior BJP leader, told The Hindu that he would ask “officials to take strict action if someone skins a dead cow.” Mr. Pal said that cow vigilantes had warned him many times to stop skinning dead cows, and simply bury them instead. But that is not acceptable to Pal and his group of skinners. “In the financial year 2015-16, the three cooperatives of animal skinners who cover entire Meerut city paid a total of ₹11 lakh to the MMC for their contract, whose official value was ₹8 lakh. The only point of attraction in this work was the skin of dead cows, which is in great demand. The skin sells for ₹2000-3000, while bones fetch ₹300.” Mr. Pal said.But of late, with the cow vigilantes not letting him do his job, it has increasingly become an “unprofitable business”.“If the cow vigilantes do not like what we do, then the civic body needs to change the law. Our work is legitimised by the UP Co-Cooperative Societies Act 1965,” said Sanjay, another cow skinner. Most of the senior officials of the MMC, where the BJP is in power, expressed apprehension about an environmental crisis awaiting the city if the skinners stop lifting dead animals.last_img read more

Read More »

Advisory issued after poisonous jelly fish surface in Goa beaches

first_imgThe Goa Tourism on Friday issued an advisory asking tourists and others to be cautious and not to swim or come in physical contact with the live or dead jelly fish washed across the beach stretches of Baga to Sinquerim in North coastal Goa.The advisory comes in the wake of reports that live Physalia utriculus, also called Blue Bottle or (Indo-Pacific) Portuguese Man-of-War fish are stranded on the said beach stretch.“They are very venomous and can cause extremely painful sting, which could result in allergic reaction to severe hyper allergic reactions,” the advisory issued by the Director of Tourism Menino D’Souza has said. Inspite of precaution, if anybody feels painful sting while at the said beach stretch, they are advised to take medical treatment at the nearest State Healthcare Centre, according to the advisory.Terra Conscious, an organisation monitoring marine wildlife in Goa had earlier on Tuesday alerted tourists and others about jelly’s presence on this coastal belt. Puja Mitra of Terra Conscious, an organisation monitoring marine wildlife in Goa officially in partnership with Forest Department under a collaborative project with International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN India), had told The Hindu that on Tuesday a lifeguard of Drishti Lifesaving manning Goan beach in north Goa got stung by one of these venomous organisms and was hospitalised.“We were alerted as we are officially partnering with Goa Forest department on the monitoring of wildlife,” Ms. Mitra had said and added that these animals are Siphonophores, which are colonies of multiple organisms.Sometimes they become stranded on beaches, where their toxic nematocysts can remain potent for weeks or months in moist conditions. She said that some very venomous jellies can cause an extremely painful sting, which “if you have a tendency for allergic reactions, or a heart condition, etc., can send you into anaphylactic shock”.In case of a sting, Ms. Mitra suggested that the affected area must be washed with hot water. “Vinegar can also help, if rubbed directly on the stung area. Place ice packs to reduce the swelling and pain. Note any chest pains, difficulty in breathing and to report immediately to the nearest medical centre,” she further suggested.She said that the lifeguards guarding the coast have been made aware of this, and can provide help, but pleaded that people should not go close at all and a big “No,No” to touch them.last_img read more

Read More »

Judge recuses from Ryan bail case

first_imgThe Punjab and Haryana High Court judge, Justice A.B. Chaudhari, on Tuesday recused himself from hearing the anticipatory bail application of three trustees of Ryan International School in connection with the FIR registered in the seven-year- old student’s murder in the Gurugram school. The matter will now come up before a separate Bench of the High Court.The trustees — Augustine. F. Pinto, Grace Pinto and Ryan Pinto — filed an application for anticipatory bail on September 16. However, the application was filed again after removal of certain objections raised by the court registry in the matter. A bail application of the trustees was rejected by the Bombay High Court earlier this week.last_img read more

Read More »

Six States, same problem

first_imgConcerned over high prevalence of child marriage in six States — Odisha, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal — the National Human Rights Commission has directed the State governments to make concerted efforts to curb this social menace.In the first of a three-part regional conference, the NHRC and representatives of the six States met here on Thursday to discuss factors responsible for continuation of this archaic social custom, and practices adopted to eliminate child marriages from the society. The two other conferences would be held in western and southern States of India.The National Family Health Survey-4 had found that 26.8% of women aged 20 to 24 years were married before the age of 18.Of the six States under review at the Bhubaneswar conference, Bihar and West Bengal had the highest incidence of child marriages. Bengal tops the listIn fact, West Bengal topped the list with 40.7% of women aged 20 to 24 years married before the age of 18. Bihar followed with 39.1% against the national average of 26.8%. While Jharkhand and Assam were ranked higher than the national average, Chhattisgarh and Odisha were placed just below the national average.Addressing the conference, NHRC member S.C. Sinha said, “According to a report, 40% of all child marriages in the world are performed in India. It is totally unacceptable. Despite Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, being in force, only 293 and 326 cases were reported under the Act in 2015 and 2016 respectively.”The low reporting of child marriages indicates that there are social sanctions, said Mr. Sinha. An estimated 3,600 child marriages are solemnised in India every day.“A girl remaining unmarried is still an oddity in society. In most cases, parents resort to early marriage of their girls in order to protect their chastity. It is normal in many communities,” said the NHRC member.Health risk“The society is still unaware of the health risk being faced by a girl if she is married early. Since the reproduction decisions are taken mostly by males, health condition of girls deteriorates at the time of childbirth,” he pointed out.The NHRC emphasised the need for creating opportunities for continuation of girls’ education and skill development to make them employable.“It is extremely important to probe reasons and influences and then find ways to transform mindsets,” the commission said.Stating that the National Plan of Action for Children (2016-21) makes specific commitments, the NHRC said the 2013 National Policy for Children did not provide a clear mandate and it is due for an official review in 2018, which offers an opportunity for increased focus on the social evils of child marriage.last_img read more

Read More »

HCC bags ₹484 crore contract for Pune Metro

first_imgInfrastructure major Hindustan Construction Company Ltd. (HCC) has been awarded a ₹484-crore contract by the Maharashtra Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. (MMRCL) for the Pune Metro Rail Project.HCC is the lead partner with a 51% stake in the joint venture with AL FARA’A. The contract is for construction of eight elevated Metro rail stations at Vanaz, Anand Nagar, Ideal Colony, Nal Stop, Garware College, Deccan, Sambhaji Park and PMC on Line II of the project, said a company statement.The work involves general and structural civil works of the station buildings, and architectural and site development. It is expected to be completed by 2019-end. The 14.66-km Line II will be completely elevated, and will have 16 stations.This is the second order HCC has received from MMRCL for the Pune Metro. The earlier order was to construct nine elevated stations on Line I. Arun Karambelkar, president & CEO- E&C, HCC Ltd, said, “We are honoured to receive this second order from MMRCL. HCC has been undertaking challenging assignments in Metro development and a repeat order from MMRCL reflects our ability to execute complex assignments.”The company also built six stations for Mumbai Metro I. Currently, HCC is working on a section of Mumbai Metro Line III, involving 3,115-m twin bored tunnels, including four underground stations.last_img read more

Read More »

Calcutta HC allows online nominations in panchayat polls

first_imgKOLKATA: The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday directed the State Election Commission (SEC) to accept the nominations of all the candidates who had submitted their candidature electronically for the West Bengal panchayat polls on the last date of filing nominations on April 23.The order by Justice Biswanath Somadder and Justice Arindam Mukherjee has been hailed as “historic” not only by political parties in the Opposition but also by political observers, as it has set a precedence.As per the High Court order, the nomination papers filled by candidates in the pre-determined format sent to the Panchayat Returning Officers not in person but electronically on or before 3 pm on April 23 [last date of nomination] has to be accepted by the SEC. This may put an end to possible violence in future as candidates may opt to file nominations without visiting the office of the Returning Officer, the observers said.The three-tier rural poll scheduled to be held on May 14.West Bengal witnessed widespread violence during the nomination process, with even veteran Opposition leaders not being spared. The ruling Trinamool Congress is all set to win at least one-third of the seats uncontested as the Opposition could not field its candidates there.“…filing of nomination through e-mail invariably prevents large-scale violence centring around the panchayat elections and above all, bloodshed and loss of precious human life,” the court order noted. Reminding the SEC that it should act “fairly, transparently and independently”, the court observed that the “right guaranteed to the electorate to exercise its voting right gets substantially enhanced by wider participation of candidates in the election process.”The Communist Party of India (Marxist) had filed a petition in the High Court seeking acceptance of candidatures of those who had filed their nominations electronically.last_img read more

Read More »

Fugitive soldier of Bangladesh Army arrested in Agartala

first_imgPolice on Wednesday night arrested a fugitive soldier of the Bangladesh Army who was hiding in Agartala with fake credentials. They said they arrested the man from South Ramnagar locality where he rented a house.Senior police officials and sleuths of intelligence agencies were interrogating him at West Agartala Police Station. Investigators recovered some Indian identity documents from his possession suggesting that he managed to procure them to ensure his safe stay here.“In the papers his name is written as Raju Chouhdury, but he confessed his real name is Azam Khan. He was staying in Agartala for almost a year”, a security official told The Hindu.The Bangladesh government would be approached through its Assistant High Commission following the arrest. Bangladesh had earlier reportedly alerted India about a fugitive soldier who was supposedly hiding in Northeast India.last_img read more

Read More »

For ULFA-I recruits, major strike is a ‘ticket’ to Myanmar camp

first_imgNew recruits of an extremist group could have gunned down five Bengali-speaking people in eastern Assam’s Bisonimukh-Kherbari on November 1 to earn a ‘ticket’ to its hideout in Myanmar.Assam police officials in Sadiya, the district where the five were killed, and adjoining Tinsukia said at least 10 youth from villages within 25-30 km radius of Bisonimukh-Kherbari joined the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I) that Paresh Baruah heads. Four of them were arrested while two from Tengapani, a settlement straddling Assam and Aruanchal Pradesh and about 30 km from Bisonimukh-Kherbari, are believed to be in Myanmar. Officials of an intelligence agency said the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, has virtually given a fresh lease of life to the anti-talks ULFA-I, which was down and almost out a couple of years ago. The ULFA-I claims to bat for the kind of ‘Assamese nationalism’ that the bill — viewed as a tool for dumping ‘Bangladeshi Hindus’ on Assam — is believed to have stoked.The ULFA-I has denied its hand in the latest killing, but police say the incident has “all the trappings” of the outfit’s operation. Though Mr. Baruah is believed to operate from Ruili on the Myanmar-China border, most cadres of his outfit operate from the camps of the Khaplang faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland in Myanmar’s Sagaing division. “Almost like the 1980s, when the anti-foreigners movement had awakened Assamese nationalism, a number of young men have gravitated towards the ULFA-I. The outfit’s leaders and their masters in Myanmar and on the Myanmar-China border provide new recruits automatic weapons to carry out a major strike as a ticket for underground life in safe havens across the border,” an intelligence officer said, declining to be quoted.The strikes, over the last two decades, have usually been in villages bordering Arunachal Pradesh inhabited by “mainstream” communities such as Bihari and Bengali that the ULFA-I see as colonisers who replaced the British.In December 2000, the ULFA — not split into the pro-talks and anti-talks factions then — had killed 28 Bihari petty traders at Sadiya’s Sunpura on the border with Arunachal Pradesh. At least 70 more were killed in neighbouring areas.“Arunachal Pradesh, where policing is suspect, is a blind spot for us. The extremists conduct hit and run operations from the neighbouring State and from the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border. Myanmar is only 50-60 km through jungles,” Prasanta Sagar Changmai, said former Superintendent of Police of Sadiya.“A difficult terrain comprising sandbars, water bodies and jungles with isolated villages of diverse communities make Sadiya vulnerable to extremist attacks. And because of lack of infrastructure, many locals feel alienated and are known to provide temporary shelter to the extremists to operate from,” he said.According to the State’s former Director General of Police G.M Srivastava, the Bisonimukh-Kherbari killing has exposed the lack of proper analysis of intelligence inputs on extremist activities. “There has been a pattern to extremist strikes over the years. Handling insurgency and counter-insurgency has taken a bad shape and last week’s killings were a case of failure to analyse intelligence inputs properly,” he told The Hindu.last_img read more

Read More »

Free smartphones for six lakh women SHGs in Odisha

first_imgOdisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Wednesday announced that his government would provide free smartphones to all the six lakh women self-help groups under its Mission Shakti programme.Stating that women’s empowerment was something that was close very close to his heart, Mr. Patnaik said women in Odisha had come a long way and the next ceiling to be broken was the digital one.Addressing a seminar on women entrepreneurship at the Make in Odisha Conclave here, Mr. Patnaik said that his government was aware that digital empowerment would further accelerate the socio-political and economic empowerment of women.“My dream is to see that every woman has access to the knowledge economy. As a first step, my government will digitally empower all the six lakh Mission Shakti groups with a smartphone,” he added.The Chief Minister said that no household, no society, no State and no country had ever moved forward without empowering its women. “From the day I assumed office in 2000, my government has always been conscious of the great role women can play, especially in a State like Odisha which had challenging socio-economic indicators.”Mr. Patnaik said that Mission Shakti, which was started as a project in 2001, had transformed into a movement with 70 lakh women, 6 lakh groups, Rs. 5,000 crore savings and Rs. 2,000 crore annual bank exposure.“There is no habitation in the state without a Mission Shakti group. Almost every second household has a member in Mission Shakti. We have had the highest drop in maternal mortality rate. Our infant mortality rate is better than the national average. Our institutional delivery is a record 90%,” Mr. Patnaik said.last_img read more

Read More »

Congress obstructing Ram temple, says U.P. CM

first_imgUttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Sunday accused the Congress of obstructing the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya, and charged the Rahul Gandhi-led party and the TRS with indulging in Muslim appeasement. “If anyone is creating obstruction in the way of construction of a grand temple in the birthplace of Lord Ram, it’s the Congress,” he said, addressing a BJP election meeting in Sangareddy. “We should all make efforts to understand the intention of the Congress party,” he said. Mr. Adityanath said the BJP was for good governance, development, and wanted to fulfil the model of “Ram Rajya” in the entire country. Addressing another election meeting at Tandur town of Vikarabad district, the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister hit out at the Asaduddin Owaisi-led AIMIM. “If the BJP forms the government in Telangana, I can tell you that Owaisi will have to run away just like the Nizam was compelled to run away from Hyderabad. The BJP will give security to all but will not allow those who spread anarchy,” he said. He accused both the Congress and the TRS of making religion a foundation for making schemes. The BJP, he said, does not discriminate between caste, creed and religion while drafting policies.last_img read more

Read More »

Poor response to Maoists’ bandh in Odisha

first_imgMaoists tried to disrupt life in remote areas of south Odisha during their bandh call on Thursday. Except for a few remote pockets, the bandh had little impact in other regions.The bandh was called to protest the Central government’s ‘Operation SAMADHAN’ to check left-wing extremism. Thursday was the last day of the ‘protest week’ being observed by the Maoists since January 25. Police sources said no untoward incident had been reported till evening.Highway blockedThe Maoists cut down trees on NH-59 near the Pakaladami ghat in Kandhamal district. This affected traffic on Baliguda-Berhampur road via Surada. Traffic between Daringbadi-Baliguda and Daringbadi-Phulbani was also affected. No passenger buses plied on these routes. In Kalahandi district, the Maoists cut down trees at Kendughat to block NH-59 connecting Gopalpur and Raipur. The ultras also blocked Fikarkupa-Dhepaguda road and torched an excavator involved in road construction work.IED blastThey blew up an Improvised Explosive Devise at Chatikona in Rayagada district. No one was injured in the blast. Security personnel recovered another IED from the spot.In Malkangiri district, passenger buses did not ply to interior pockets. Posters of ultras came up in remote areas. Combing operations were intensified in the district. Joint operations were taken up with the support of Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh police in the border areas of Malkangiri.last_img read more

Read More »

Mob burns Deputy CM’s house, destroys police station in Arunachal Pradesh

first_imgThe law and order situation in Arunachal Pradesh capital Itanagar worsened on February 24 with a mob burning down Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein’s multi-storeyed private residence.Separate groups of people also advanced toward Chief Minister Pema Khandu’s private residence apart from vandalising the city’s main police station and the office of the deputy commissioner. Army and paramilitary personnel, called to restore normality, were pelted with stones too.Violence in Itanagar, triggered by the government’s move to provide permanent resident certificates (PRC) to six non-tribal communities living in the Frontier State for decades, appeared to have subsided after Mr. Khandu announced on February 22 night that the PRC issue would not be discussed during the ongoing Assembly session.On February 23, the city administration clamped prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC and sought the help of the Army that conducted a flag-march. But irate locals defied the restrictions to gather in large groups after a man who had allegedly sustained bullet injuries on Friday night was rumoured to have died in a Guwahati hospital on Sunday. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement Burnt vehicle in Itanagar Mob violence in Itanagar  Another man from Kimin area in Papum Pare district had died Friday night due to firing when a mob stormed the State Secretariat. It could not be confirmed if the man was killed in police firing or by “miscreants”.Capital Complex (covering the twin cities of Itanagar and Naharlagun) Superintendent of Police M. Harsha Vardhan did not take calls. An officer manning the Itanagar Police Station in the city’s Bank Tiniali area said they were outnumbered by the mob that destroyed the police station and seized their batons, helmets, shields and other equipment.“The mob then attacked the private residence of the Deputy CM in the VIP area and set it on fire, smashing or pushing downhill the vehicles parked on the way. The people also damaged the DC’s office,” a police inspector said.At the time of reporting, another mob advanced towards the private residence of Mr. Khandu near the Circuit House. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement  While the action shifted to the VIP areas, a mob demanding the resignation of Mr. Khandu and Mr. Mein placed the body of the man killed in firing at the Indira Gandhi Park where the venue of the first Itanagar International Film Festival was destroyed. “The body will be buried at the BJP office near the park,” a member of the mob said.Mob violence spread to Naharlagun, which along with Itanagar, is the State’s Capital Complex, with a shopping complex owned by Environment and Forest Minister Nabam Rebia burnt down. Mr. Rebia headed the joint high power committee that recommends granting PRC to six non-tribal communities in the State.Political leaders in Arunachal Pradesh said the violence had a pattern similar to that in October 2011 forcing Jarbom Gamlin to resign as Chief Minister after a six-month rule.last_img read more

Read More »

EC to ferry disabled voters to polling centres

first_imgThe Election Commission (EC) will provide a pick-up and drop facility for disabled voters to reach polling centres in the general elections. Voters enrolled as persons with disabilities (PWDs) can register their names on a mobile application called PWD, informing the EC that they are interested in receiving this service. The app will be activated within two to three days. Dilip Shinde, additional chief electoral officer, Maharashtra, said, “Ideally, a political party should not be left with the job to bring voters to the polling centre on election day. For the first time, the Election Commission will provide the service to ensure that the voters are picked up and dropped back to their houses after they vote.” He said, “The EC will have the voters’ list as well the number of PWDs at every polling centre. Based on this data, vehicles and helpers will be arranged at each polling centre.” The service is available to all disabled voters, while the app is an additional tool provided by the EC.The EC has also roped in NGOs working with disabled people to ensure smooth functioning. Camps have been set to inform blind voter of the new system and to train government officers to treat PWDs with sensitivity. Maharashtra has 2,24,162 voters registered as PWDs. While the final voter list has been published, the EC will accept forms till the poll dates are announced. The EC will hold Statewide booth-level camps on February 23 and 24 to educate voters about VVPAT machines and new voter IDs. People will also be able to check the voter lists.last_img read more

Read More »

Ex-Minister sentenced in Bihar bitumen scam

first_imgA special CBI court in Ranchi awarded five-year jail term on Friday to former Bihar Minister Mohd. Ilyas Hussain and four others in the 22-year-old bitumen scam case.The CBI court of Anil Kumar Mishra had reserved orders after hearing was completed in the case on February 19.“Contractor D.N. Singh was awarded seven years imprisonment in the case… the court also slapped a fine of ₹20 lakh on Mr. Hussain and the contractor,” lawyer Arvind Singh told local journalists in Ranchi.Mr. Hussain was Minister for Road Construction when Lalu Prasad was Chief Minister of the State. The RJD legislator from Dehri in Rohtas district of Bihar lost membership of the State Assembly after he was convicted in the scam by the CBI court.The ₹1.57 crore bitumen scam had surfaced in 1997. The Patna High Court handed over the case to the CBI.last_img read more

Read More »

In Sant Kabir Nagar, Congress riding high on Yadav factor

first_imgCongress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s public meeting has just concluded at the junior high school ground in Khalilabad town. As the crowd leaves the venue, a group of BSP members look on from the party’s election office, seemingly worried.They attribute the successful Congress rally not to Ms. Vadra but to Bhal Chandra Yadav, the party’s candidate and former MP who is a popular leader here. “Judging by the crowd it seems like he is running ahead,” says Ravi Nath, BSP’s local booth president, pointing out that BJP president Amit Shah’s rally at the same venue had empty chairs.“Every vote Bhal Chandra gets goes from our pocket,” says Mr. Nath.His fear encapsulates the scenario in Sant Kabir Nagar seat, where the BJP and the BSP were locked in a direct battle till the entry of Mr. Bhal Chandra. Denied ticket by the Samajwadi Party as the seat went to the BSP in the seat-sharing pact, Mr. Bhal Chandra has emerged as the dark horse, the “Yadav” factor threatening to hurt the prospects of SP-BSP. He stood third in 2014 polls.Across the constituency, Yadavs in large numbers are batting for him and not Kushan Tiwari, the BSP candidate.The reason why Mr. Bhal Chandra, a former State-level wrestler and trade union leader, is being preferred by the Yadavs, apart from his caste affiliation, is that he is a local and considered accessible. “He is there for us in joy and sorrow. And he belongs to our district. The other two are from Gorakhpur,” says Raja Ram Yadav, a milkman.Mr. Raja Ram is particularly annoyed with the BJP for luring Mr. Bhal Chandra to the party but denying him ticket just days before nomination. The supporters of Mr. Bhal Chandra, like Raja Ram, go where he goes. “He is not going to just split votes, we want to make him win,” says Mr. Raja Ram.In 2014, BJP’s Sharad Tripathi won this seat with 3.48 lakh votes, while the BSP’s Kushan Tiwari got 2.5 lakh and Mr. Bhal Chandra 2.4 lakh votes as an SP candidate. Mr. Tiwari, son of Brahmin strongman Hari Shankar Tiwari, was an MP in 2009.The BJP has not fielded its sitting MP, Mr. Tripathi, who was recently caught on camera thrashing a Thakur party MLA Rakesh Bagel with his shoes. The incident threatened to create a Thakur-Brahmin rift but the BJP played it safe and fielded Praveen Nishad, an OBC candidate who had won from Gorakhpur in the 2018 bypoll as an SP candidate.Thakur Dinesh Singh, a retired coal mine worker, says, “Had they [BJP] fielded a Brahmin, it may not have gone down well with Thakurs. They picked a Nishad so that way both sides are happy.”Mr. Dinesh Singh says is overlooking local factors and voting to make Narendra Modi Prime Minister again. “Modi has shown he is not reluctant. The whole world knows that. He has finished terrorism in the country, barring Kashmir.”Even among the Sainthwar community, Mr. Modi is popular. Shyam Singh, a tailor, says the country is safe in his hands. Though he appreciates Mr. Bhal Chandra’s accessibility, he is critical of him for being a repeated turncoat. Mr. Bhal Chandra has been an MP from both BSP and SP, and after he was denied ticket by the SP, he approached the BJP and eventually joined the Congress. “Whoever gives him a ticket, he goes there. A leader must have an ideology,” says Mr. Shyam.While Mr. Bhal Chandra is disturbing the SP-BSP core arithmetic, what worries the BJP is that even outside the Yadav caste, there is support for him.In 2014, Aman Chaudhary, a Kurmi who runs an automobile shop, voted for the BJP. Now he has a bag of complaints. “Nothing has been done for the district. Business has slumped due to GST, and stray cattle issues along with increase in price of urea and diesel have shot up the cost of farming.“Modi is speaking only about jawans. If demonetisation and GST were such good moves, then why is he not fighting elections on those issues,” asks Mr. Aman.A group of Pasi Dalit government workers who voted for the BJP last time are also not happy that an outsider, Praveen Nishad, has been fielded by the party.“He got the ticket late and has not even toured the area fully,” said one of them, pitching for Mr. Bhal Chandra.This popularity for him has even drawn the interest of Muslims, causing a divide in their opinion. At Ansar tola, known for its power looms, the split is evident.Jamil Ahmed, who runs a power loom, is pitching for Mr. Bhal Chandra. “He is a local. The others win and go back to Gorakhpur. He listens to us and helps us when we need him,” says Mr. Ahmed.However, for many Muslims, what matters is the candidate who can defeat the BJP. Majid Ali, who runs a bookshop and is also the local imam, says the alliance, with its Dalits and Brahmin votes is best placed to defeat the BJP. He, however, admits the Mr. Bhal Chandra is “spoiling the game”.Worried that a divided Yadav and Muslim vote might help the BJP win, Mr. Ali says it is possible that Muslims could unite for one candidate at the last hour.last_img read more

Read More »

ScienceShot: Graveyard of Iceballs Past

first_imgThe asteroid belt has long been thought a dull place. But in recent years, astronomers have spotted objects that occasionally spew small amounts of water vapor or dust—possibly because they’ve recently collided with something else. Now, scientists propose that most if not all of these objects may be shedding dust or water vapor because they’re the barely active remnants of comets that are now largely bereft of surface ice. These objects—a total of 11 bodies, which the researchers dub asteroidal belt comets (ABCs)—are either close to the end of cometary life as we know it, or they’ve recently been reactivated because gravitational perturbations of Jupiter (large planet located outside the asteroid belt in each image) have nudged the bodies into orbits that now pass closer to the sun. Along parts of those new paths, heat can penetrate more deeply and reach ice previously insulated by a surface layer of dust (yielding a solar system that today looks like the artist’s representation at top). On average, the surface layers of dust on those objects average at least 1.8 meters thick, the researchers report in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. But in the solar system’s early days, before surface ice evaporated from those bodies, comets were both more numerous and more active (bottom), the researchers contend. If that’s true, nighttime skies of the distant past must have been spectacular indeed.last_img read more

Read More »

Why You Shouldn’t Trust Internet Comments

first_imgThe “wisdom of crowds” has become a mantra of the Internet age. Need to choose a new vacuum cleaner? Check out the reviews on Amazon. Is that restaurant any good? See what Yelp has to say. But a new study suggests that such online scores don’t always reveal the best choice. A massive controlled experiment of Web users finds that such ratings are highly susceptible to irrational “herd behavior”—and that the herd can be manipulated.Sometimes the crowd really is wiser than you. The classic examples are guessing the weight of a bull or the number of gumballs in a jar. Your guess is probably going to be far from the mark, whereas the average of many people’s choices is remarkably close to the true number.But what happens when the goal is to judge something less tangible, such as the quality or worth of a product? According to one theory, the wisdom of the crowd still holds—measuring the aggregate of people’s opinions produces a stable, reliable value. Skeptics, however, argue that people’s opinions are easily swayed by those of others. So nudging a crowd early on by presenting contrary opinions—for example, exposing them to some very good or very bad attitudes—will steer the crowd in a different direction. To test which hypothesis is true, you would need to manipulate huge numbers of people, exposing them to false information and determining how it affects their opinions.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(*)A team led by Sinan Aral, a network scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, did exactly that. Aral has been secretly working with a popular website that aggregates news stories. (He says it is similar to reddit, but he’s keeping the identity confidential because he has another experiment under way with the same site and doesn’t want it to be “tainted” by media exposure.) The website allows users to make comments about news stories and vote each other’s comments up or down. The vote tallies are visible as a number next to each comment, and the position of the comments is chronological. (Stories on the site get an average of about 10 comments and about three votes per comment.) It’s a follow-up to his experiment using people’s ratings of movies to measure how much individual people influence each other online (answer: a lot). This time, he wanted to know how much the crowd influences the individual, and whether it can be controlled from outside.For 5 months, every comment submitted by a user randomly received an “up” vote (positive); a “down” vote (negative); or as a control, no vote at all. The team then observed how users rated those comments. The users generated more than 100,000 comments that were viewed more than 10 million times and rated more than 300,000 times by other users.At least when it comes to comments on news sites, the crowd is more herdlike than wise. Comments that received fake positive votes from the researchers were 32% more likely to receive more positive votes compared with a control, the team reports online today in Science. And those comments were no more likely than the control to be down-voted by the next viewer to see them. By the end of the study, positively manipulated comments got an overall boost of about 25%. However, the same did not hold true for negative manipulation. The ratings of comments that got a fake down vote were usually negated by an up vote by the next user to see them.“Our experiment does not reveal the psychology behind people’s decisions,” Aral says, “but an intuitive explanation is that people are more skeptical of negative social influence. They’re more willing to go along with positive opinions from other people.”Duncan Watts, a network scientist at Microsoft Research in New York City, agrees with that conclusion. “[But] one question is whether the positive [herding] bias is specific to this site” or true in general, Watts says. He points out that the category of the news items in the experiment had a strong effect on how much people could be manipulated. “I would have thought that ‘business’ is pretty similar to ‘economics,’ yet they find a much stronger effect (almost 50% stronger) for the former than the latter. What explains this difference? If we’re going to apply these findings in the real world, we’ll need to know the answers.”Will companies be able to boost their products by manipulating online ratings on a massive scale? “That is easier said than done,” Watts says. If people detect—or learn—that comments on a website are being manipulated, the herd may spook and leave entirely.last_img read more

Read More »

NIH’s $33 Million Alzheimer’s Gamble

first_img A $1.7 million drug discovery effort to identify molecular and genetic risk factors and new therapeutic targets for cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease, based on data from the Religious Order Study and the Rush Memory and Aging Project. Led by Philip De Jager of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the Broad Institute, and Harvard University, and David Bennett, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, the study will focus on drugs that have completed phase 1 testing, and could be granted $7.9 million over 5 years. A $2.4 million, 12-week phase 1 trial testing the safety and tolerability of the steroid allopregnanolone for treatment of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s, led by Roberta Brinton and Lon Schneider of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Animal studies have shown that the drug can lower amyloid levels, restore cognitive function, and spur the generation of new neurons. A $1.6 million effort to study the complex mechanisms of the disease and identify existing drugs that might be able to be used for Alzheimer’s treatment or prevention, led by Eric Schadt of Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. The study has the potential to be granted $8.2 million over 5 years. Billions of dollars have been spent on clinical trials of Alzheimer’s drugs that target amyloid plaques—the hallmark protein tangles that clog brain cells in people with the memory-robbing disease. So far, all have failed, leading some frustrated researchers to say it’s time to move on to other drug targets. Others say the drugs have not yet been fairly tested because they were administered too late, after brain damage is irreversible. Yesterday, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that it is giving $33 million to a study that researchers hope will either revive the amyloid hypothesis, or put it to bed.The new trial—estimated to cost at least $100 million overall, with most of the remaining funds provided by partners in the pharmaceutical industry—will be part of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative, a large consortium of researchers attempting to identify biomarkers and treatments that can slow or stop the disease. Lead researchers Eric Reiman and Pierre Tariot of the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Phoenix plan to give a yet-to-be identified anti-amyloid drug, or placebo, to 650 people who carry two copies of the APOE4 gene—a genetic double whammy that confers a 10-fold increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s late in life. All participants will be between the ages of 60 and 75 and healthy, including free of recognized Alzheimer’s symptoms. Roughly a third will likely not have much amyloid in their brains yet, allowing the researchers to track whether the drug affects its accumulation, Reiman says.The Banner trial “is a very reasonable approach” to figuring out whether anti-amyloid drugs can effectively prevent Alzheimer’s disease, says Gary Landreth, a neurologist who studies the disease at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. He notes, however, that it is quite unusual that the drug to be used has not yet been identified, given the size of the grant. Given that no anti-amyloid/Alzheimer’s drugs have yet shown any clinical efficacy, “I think this really reflects the state of desperation felt in the scientific community as well as the public at large that we have no effective therapeutics in the face of an ongoing epidemic of AD,” he says. “They are taking a gamble.”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 APOE4 trial builds on another trial of an anti-amyloid drug in 300 members of a Colombian family who carry a gene mutation that places them at high risk of developing an early-onset form of Alzheimer’s disease. Rather than wait for the results of that study, Reiman says that he and his colleagues decided to conduct the two trials simultaneously to ensure that any positive results from the Colombian study can be quickly tested into a more representative population—drugs that work for people with early-onset Alzheimer’s might not necessarily help those with late-onset Alzheimer’s, he says.Maria Carrillo, vice president of medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer’s Association, an advocacy group, applauds NIH’s giving the trial a green light: Targeting the APOE4 population will “increase the possibility that participants in the trial will become symptomatic during the period of the study so that the scientists can assess whether the drug intervention is having an impact on delaying or preventing Alzheimer’s symptoms, without having to wait 10 or 15 years or more,” she says.The U.S. government has placed a high priority on tackling Alzheimer’s disease, which is expected to strike 10 million Americans by 2050, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The 2011 National Alzheimer’s Project Act, for example, has mandated that HHS establish a national plan to prevent or effectively treat Alzheimer’s disease by 2025. The new APOE study will use up the lion’s share of the $45 million that Francis Collins, director of NIH, has set aside for Alzheimer’s research in fiscal year 2013. (The $45 million total includes a $5 million contribution from the National Institute on Aging [NIA]). According to Neil Buckholtz, director of the NIA Division of Neuroscience, the investment reflects a shift toward trying to prevent the disease before it ravages the brain, rather than reverse its effects, and a commitment to testing the amyloid hypothesis properly. “We believe this hypothesis has not received an adequate test,” he says. He acknowledges, however, that putting so many research dollars into one basket is a “high-risk” strategy.NIH also announced funding for five additional grants to Alzheimer’s research, with a sixth award pending:A $1.5 million trial testing three new anti-amyloid beta drug treatments—gantenerumab, solanezumab, and a third, undetermined drug—in volunteers with an inherited form of early-onset Alzheimer’s. Led by Randall Bateman of Washington University in St. Louis, the international trial will have the potential to gain $6 million in funding over 4 years. A $1.6 million study of the role of the immune system and brain inflammation in Alzheimer’s disease, led by Todd Golde of the University of Florida in Gainesville. The study has the potential to be granted $7.7 million over 5 years.last_img read more

Read More »

U.S. Science Chiefs Field Questions, Hard and Soft, at Innovation Hearing

first_imgMembers of a key congressional spending panel voiced strong, bipartisan support yesterday for increasing the federal investment in basic research. But given the tight spending limits facing Congress this year, scientists should not expect to take that support to the bank.The hearing, titled “Driving Innovation through Federal Investment,” was designed to showcase the enormous payoff to society from federal funding of academic research over the decades, from the Internet and stealth technology to MRI and better weather forecasting. But the next generation of new technologies is threatened by the inconsistent pattern of support for science over the past decade, according to the heads of the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, who joined presidential science adviser John Holdren in testifying at the 140-minute hearing.The event gave members of the Senate Appropriations Committee a chance to hurl softball questions about the causes of what a coalition of pro-science organizations has labeled an innovation deficit and what it would take to eliminate it. But despite an eagerness to describe their agencies’ plight, the five witnesses needed repeated prompting by legislators to make some of their key points.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(*)“I only brought one prop,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said as he pointed to a model of an artificial hand, generated by a 3D printer, that held an object resembling a baseball. “Its mesh construction is an amazing technology.”Before Moniz, a physicist, could say anything more about how the limb was created by scientists at the department’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, the chair of the committee, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), interrupted. “But what does it do? Can it win the World Series?” she asked. And it was Mikulski, not Moniz, who reminded her colleagues on the panel that the technology could benefit “our wounded warriors” or accident victims.NSF’s new director, France Córdova, missed a similar opportunity to connect her agency’s activities to the public good when Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) inquired about how an NSF program in sustainable chemistry, part of an agency-wide initiative, was producing new, greener technologies. “I don’t know a lot about it,” confessed Córdova, an astrophysicist and former Purdue University president who was sworn in on 31 March. Coons then explained how the program, part of an agency-wide initiative called Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability, has demonstrated “how basic research can be scaled up by industry.”It was no surprise that Democrats on the panel attacked sequestration, the wildly unpopular mechanism created by the 2011 budget deal that led to across-the-board cuts last year. (The current budget agreement in effect erases the sequester for 2014 and 2015 but retains a tight spending ceiling.) Responding to a question from reporters about funding prospects in 2015 for specific agencies, Mikulski talked about the harmful effects of sequestration on the overall scientific enterprise. “We don’t like to cherry-pick. We like to make sure the whole orchard grows. But we have to watch out for the pesticide of sequester,” Mikulski said.Science lobbyists were also buoyed by comments from the panel’s top Republican, Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL). He said that the combination of arbitrary cuts and the year-to-year uncertainty about funding levels had created “the worst possible” scenario and should not continue.“We are bound by a top number, so we need to set priorities,” Shelby noted in his closing statement. “But I think that what we spend on basic research is not enough. We are leaving a lot of good ideas and perhaps breakthroughs on the table. And we can’t afford that as a nation.… And if we don’t do it, somebody else in the world is going to do it. We’re not the only big boy on the block.”Shelby also voiced support for how federal research officials are managing their agencies, a sentiment that is not shared by some of his Republican colleagues in the House of Representatives. “I’m of the mind to give you a lot of leeway because of what you’ve done in the past, and because [I think] you’ll do a lot more in the future,” Shelby said.The science community was delighted that Mikulski’s panel exercised its government-wide jurisdiction to assemble an unusually broad range of science agency chiefs. (Most committees also shy away from such a sprawling topic as the connection between basic research and innovation because they have a more limited purview.) Some 138 organizations asked if their leaders could testify, and while none was invited, all of them submitted written statements.Despite her sympathy with their cause, Mikulski made the witnesses squirm by asking them to choose between two difficult budgetary scenarios. “Is it more money, or would you prefer more certainty?” she said. “And you don’t have to answer the question.”Most of the witnesses chose her third option. That’s also what Congress has done to date. For scientists, the lack of clarity means that the 2015 budget could be a repeat of 2014—a few increases, some cuts, and continued uncertainty about the long-term prospects for research.last_img read more

Read More »

Nanoparticles may harm the brain

first_imgA simple change in electric charge may make the difference between someone getting the medicine they need and a trip to the emergency room—at least if a new study bears out. Researchers investigating the toxicity of particles designed to ferry drugs inside the body have found that carriers with a positive charge on their surface appear to cause damage if they reach the brain.These particles, called micelles, are one type of a class of materials known as nanoparticles. By varying properties such as charge, composition, and attached surface molecules, researchers can design nanoparticles to deliver medicine to specific body regions and cell types—and even to carry medicine into cells. This ability allows drugs to directly target locations they would otherwise be unable to, such as the heart of tumors. Researchers are also looking at nanoparticles as a way to transport drugs across the blood-brain barrier, a wall of tightly connected cells that keeps most medication out of the brain. Just how safe nanoparticles in the brain are, however, remains unclear.So Kristina Bram Knudsen, a toxicologist at the National Research Centre for the Working Environment in Copenhagen, and colleagues tested two types of micelles, which were made from different polymers that gave the micelles either a positive or negative surface charge. They injected both versions, empty of drugs, into the brains of rats, and 1 week later they checked for damage. Three out of the five rats injected with the positively charged micelles developed brain lesions. The rats injected with the negatively charged micelles or a saline control solution did not suffer any observable harm from the injections, the team will report in an upcoming issue of Nanotoxicology.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(*)Knudsen speculates that one of the attributes that makes positive micelles and similar nanoparticles such powerful drug delivery systems may also be what is causing the brain damage. Because cells have a negative charge on their outside, they attract positively charged micelles and bring them into the cell. The micelles’ presence in the cell or alteration of the cell’s surface charge, she says, may disrupt the cell’s normal functioning.Negatively charged nanoparticles can also enter cells, according to other research. However, they do so less readily and must be able to overcome the repulsion between themselves and the cell surface. It is possible that the reason the negatively charged micelles were not found to be toxic was that they did not invade cells to the same extent as the positively charged micelles. The findings are intriguing, says biomedical engineer Jordan Green of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. But he cautions that there is no evidence that all positively charged nanoparticles behave this way. Other factors can also play a role in the toxicity of nanoparticles, adds pharmaceutical expert Jian-Qing Gao of Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China. The size and concentration of the particles, as well as the strain of rat used, could all have influenced the results, he says.last_img read more

Read More »