|3D Picture of Science News Room|
Science News This Week:
|NASA Rover Finds Clues to Changes in Mars' Atmosphere:|
1) NASA Rover Finds Clues to Changes in Mars' Atmosphere:
NASA's car-sized rover, Curiosity, has taken significant steps toward understanding how Mars may have lost much of its original atmosphere.
Learning what happened to the Martian atmosphere will help scientists assess whether the planet ever was habitable. The present atmosphere of Mars is 100 times thinner than Earth's.
A set of instruments aboard the rover has ingested and analyzed samples of the atmosphere collected near the "Rocknest" site in Gale Crater where the rover is stopped for research. Findings from the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instruments suggest that loss of a fraction of the atmosphere, resulting from a physical process favoring retention of heavier isotopes of certain elements, has been a significant factor in the evolution of the planet. Isotopes are variants of the same element with different atomic weights.
Initial SAM results show an increase of five percent in heavier isotopes of carbon in the atmospheric carbon dioxide compared to estimates of the isotopic ratios present when Mars formed. These enriched ratios of heavier isotopes to lighter ones suggest the top of the atmosphere may have been lost to interplanetary space. Losses at the top of the atmosphere would deplete lighter isotopes. Isotopes of argon also show enrichment of the heavy isotope, matching previous estimates of atmosphere composition derived from studies of Martian meteorites on Earth.
Scientists theorize that in Mars' distant past its environment may have been quite different, with persistent water and a thicker atmosphere. NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, or MAVEN, mission will investigate possible losses from the upper atmosphere when it arrives at Mars in 2014.
With these initial sniffs of Martian atmosphere, SAM also made the most sensitive measurements ever to search for methane gas on Mars. Preliminary results reveal little to no methane. Methane is of interest as a simple precursor chemical for life. On Earth, it can be produced by either biological or non-biological processes.
Methane has been difficult to detect from Earth or the current generation of Mars orbiters because the gas exists on Mars only in traces, if at all. The Tunable Laser Spectrometer (TLS) in SAM provides the first search conducted within the Martian atmosphere for this molecule. The initial SAM measurements place an upper limit of just a few parts methane per billion parts of Martian atmosphere, by volume, with enough uncertainty that the amount could be zero.
"Methane is clearly not an abundant gas at the Gale Crater site, if it is there at all. At this point in the mission we're just excited to be searching for it," said SAM TLS lead Chris Webster of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "While we determine upper limits on low values, atmospheric variability in the Martian atmosphere could yet hold surprises for us."
In Curiosity's first three months on Mars, SAM has analyzed atmosphere samples with two laboratory methods. One is a mass spectrometer investigating the full range of atmospheric gases. The other, TLS, has focused on carbon dioxide and methane. During its two-year prime mission, the rover also will use an instrument called a gas chromatograph that separates and identifies gases. The instrument also will analyze samples of soil and rock, as well as more atmosphere samples.
"With these first atmospheric measurements we already can see the power of having a complex chemical laboratory like SAM on the surface of Mars," said SAM Principal Investigator Paul Mahaffy of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "Both atmospheric and solid sample analyses are crucial for understanding Mars' habitability."
SAM is set to analyze its first solid sample in the coming weeks, beginning the search for organic compounds in the rocks and soils of Gale Crater. Analyzing water-bearing minerals and searching for and analyzing carbonates are high priorities for upcoming SAM solid sample analyses.
Researchers are using Curiosity's 10 instruments to investigate whether areas in Gale Crater ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, and built Curiosity. The SAM instrument was developed at Goddard with instrument contributions from Goddard, JPL and the University of Paris in France.
For more information about Curiosity and its mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/msl and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl
|Brain May 'See' More Than the Eyes, Fruit Fly Study Indicates|
2) Brain May 'See' More Than the Eyes, Fruit Fly Study Indicates:
Vision may be less important to "seeing" than is the brain's ability to process points of light into complex images, according to a new study of the fruit fly visual system currently published in the online journal Nature Communications.
University of Virginia researchers have found that the very simple eyes of fruit fly larvae, with only 24 total photoreceptors (the human eye contains more than 125 million), provide just enough light or visual input to allow the animal's relatively large brain to assemble that input into images.
"It blows open how we think about vision," said Barry Condron, a neurobiologist in U.Va.'s College of Arts & Sciences, who oversaw the study. "This tells us that visual input may not be as important to sight as the brain working behind it. In this case, the brain apparently is able to compensate for the minimal visual input."
Condron's graduate students, Elizabeth Daubert, Nick Macedonia and Catherine Hamilton, conducted a series of experiments to test the vision of fruit fly larvae after they noticed an interesting behavior of the animals during a different study of the nervous system. They found that when a larva was tethered to the bottom of a petri dish, other larvae were attracted to it as it wiggled attempting to free itself.
The animals apparently saw the writhing motion and were attracted to it, willingly traveling toward it. After several further experiments to understand how they sensed the motion, the researchers learned that the nearly blind animals likely were seeing the action, by wagging their heads side-to-side in a scanning motion to detect it, rather than by only hearing it or feeling vibration or by smelling the trapped larva. This was a surprise because of the very simple and limited vision of fruit fly larvae.
"The answer must be in the large, somewhat sophisticated brain of these animals," Condron said. "They are able to take just a couple dozen points of light and then process that into recognizable images; something like when an astronomer with a small telescope is able to use techniques to refine a limited image into useful information about a star." Condron believes the animals are able to assemble useful images by rapidly scanning their heads and, in so doing, gather up enough light points to allow the brain to compose a panoramic image clear enough to "see."
The researchers tested this by presenting larva with a video of a writhing larva (therefore no vibration, no sound and no smell) and found that the larvae still detected and sought out the struggling larva on the video. They also learned that if they slowed down or sped up the video, the larvae were less attracted or not attracted at all to the video larva. They also were not attracted to dead real larva, or to tethered larva of another species, and they also had difficulty finding tethered larva in near darkness. "Apparently they are -- to a very high degree -- visually sensitive to detail and rate of motion and can recognize their own species in this way," Condron said. "This provides us with a good model for trying to understand the role that the brain plays in helping organisms, including humans, to process images, such as recognizing faces."
He noted that the head scanning apparently plays an important role in helping the larvae to bring together multiple visual inputs into a unified whole for the brain to process, similar to collecting together multiple pixels to form a picture. Condron said people with severe vision loss also tend to use head scanning as a means for collecting a "picture" from very dim light sources. Likewise, visually impaired people who have received experimental retinal implants of just a small number of pixels also often scan their heads to take in enough light to form mental images.
"It's easy for lab biologists to view fruit flies as simple animals that just feed and reproduce, but we are beginning to realize that that may be in contradiction to the big brain," Condron said. "There's more to what they are able to do than previously thought, whether using that brain for behaviors or for constructing images from a limited visual system."
He said the fruit fly serves as an excellent model for studying neurons because the animal has only about 20,000 of them, whereas humans have about 100 billion. Yet there are many similarities to how fruit fly and human neurons work. According to Condron, researchers are within a year of mapping the entire nervous system of the fruit fly, which then will pave the way for greater understanding of how neurons work in a range of organisms, including humans.
|Particle and Wave-Like Behavior of Light Measured Simultaneously|
3) Particle and Wave-Like Behavior of Light Measured Simultaneously:
What is light made of: waves or particles? This basic question has fascinated physicists since the early days of science. Quantum mechanics predicts that photons, particles of light, are both particles and waves simultaneously. Reporting in Science, physicists from the University of Bristol give a new demonstration of this wave-particle duality of photons, dubbed the 'one real mystery of quantum mechanics' by Nobel Prize laureate Richard Feynman.
The history of science is marked by an intense debate between the particle and wave theories of light. Isaac Newton was the main advocate of the particle theory, while James Clerk Maxwell and his greatly successful theory of electromagnetism, gave credit to the wave theory. However, things changed dramatically in 1905, when Einstein showed that it was possible to explain the photoelectric effect (which had remained a complete mystery until then) using the idea that light is made of particles: photons. This discovery had a huge impact on physics, as it greatly contributed to the development of quantum mechanics -- the most accurate scientific theory ever developed.
Despite its success, quantum mechanics presents a tremendous challenge to our everyday intuition. Indeed, the theory predicts with a remarkable accuracy the behaviour of small objects such as atoms and photons. However, when taking a closer look at these predictions, we are forced to admit that they are strikingly counter-intuitive. For instance, quantum theory predicts that a particle (for instance a photon) can be in different places at the same time. In fact it can even be in infinitely many places at the same time, exactly as a wave. Hence the notion of wave-particle duality, which is fundamental to all quantum systems.
Surprisingly, when a photon is observed, it behaves either as a particle or as a wave. But both aspects are never observed simultaneously. In fact, which behaviour it exhibits depends on the type of measurement it is presented with. These astonishing phenomena have been experimentally investigated in the last few years, using measurement devices that can be switched between wave-like and particle-like measurements.
In a paper published Nov. 1 in Science, physicists from the University of Bristol give a new twist on these ideas. Dr Alberto Peruzzo, Peter Shadbolt and Professor Jeremy O'Brien from the Centre for Quantum Photonics teamed up with quantum theorists Dr Nicolas Brunner and Professor Sandu Popescu to devise a novel type of measurement apparatus that can measure both particle and wave-like behaviour simultaneously. This new device is powered by quantum nonlocality, another strikingly counter-intuitive quantum effect.
Dr Peruzzo, Research Fellow at the Centre for Quantum Photonics, said: "The measurement apparatus detected strong nonlocality, which certified that the photon behaved simultaneously as a wave and a particle in our experiment. This represents a strong refutation of models in which the photon is either a wave or a particle."
Professor O'Brien, Director of the Centre for Quantum Photonics, said: "To conduct this research, we used a quantum photonic chip, a novel technology pioneered in Bristol. The chip is reconfigurable so it can be programmed and controlled to implement different circuits. Today this technology is a leading approach in the quest to build a quantum computer and in the future will allow for new and more sophisticated studies of fundamental aspects of quantum phenomena.
|Chloroplast Breakthrough Could Help Unlock Key to Controlling Fruit Ripening in Crops, Research Suggests:|
4) Chloroplast Breakthrough Could Help Unlock Key to Controlling Fruit Ripening in Crops, Research Suggests:
Biologists may have unearthed the potential to manipulate the functions of chloroplasts, the parts of plant cells responsible for photosynthesis.
Researchers in the University of Leicester's Department of Biology discovered that chloroplasts are affected by the ubiquitin proteasome system (UPS) -- a process which causes the breakdown of unwanted proteins in cells, previously thought to only act on central parts of the cell.
As a result, the researchers believe they may be able to use specific proteins to regulate the functions of chloroplasts -- such as the conversion of chloroplasts into highly-pigmented chromoplasts during the ripening of fruit.
Their paper, Chloroplast Biogenesis is Regulated by Direct Action of the Ubiquitin-Proteasome System, is due to be published in the journal Science on November 2.The paper identifies a gene (SP1) in the nuclei of plant cells that codes for a protein called a ubiquitin E3 ligase which is able to regulate chloroplast development through the UPS process.
The team are already investigating the potential for harnessing the SP1 gene in crop plants, for example to affect the ripening of fruits such as tomatoes, bell peppers and citrus.
The University's Enterprise & Business Development Office has filed a patent application with a view to developing practical applications for the research.
Professor Paul Jarvis, of the University's Department of Biology, has led the project since its inception in 2000.
He said: "Our work shows that the UPS also acts on subcellular compartments in plant cells called chloroplasts, which are responsible for the light-driven reactions of photosynthesis that power almost all life on Earth.
"Identification of this previously-unsuspected link between the UPS and chloroplasts constitutes a major breakthrough in biology, and may enable the manipulation of chloroplast functions in crops.
"It is incredible to get to this point -- it has been a long journey. We have known for some time that this was going to be a big breakthrough."
The research has been funded by grants from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).
Professor Douglas Kell, Chief Executive of BBSRC, said: "To ensure that we have enough healthy, sustainable food for a growing population, we need to find a range of novel solutions to challenges such as improving crop yields and reducing food waste. This research highlights one of the many ways in which science can help.
"The ripening process can happen quickly, and it can take just a few days for a fruit or vegetable to be considered inedible. This unavoidable process means big losses to both farmers and consumers. This discovery brings us one step closer to greater control over ripening so that we have greater flexibility for farmers when supplying produces in the best condition."
This shows chloroplasts from three different genotypes of Arabidopsis thaliana: a healthy wild-type chloroplast with an extensive thylakoid membrane network (center); a chloroplast from a ppi1 mutant plant which lacks the atToc33 protein (bottom); and a ppi1 plant with a second mutation in the SP1 gene (top). Chloroplasts from the sp1 ppi1 double mutant are much more developed than ppi1 single-mutant chloroplasts as the effects of atToc33's absence have been substantially suppressed by the absence of SP1.
|Were Dinosaurs Destined to Be Big? Testing Cope's Rule|
5) Were Dinosaurs Destined to Be Big? Testing Cope's Rule:
In the evolutionary long run, small critters tend to evolve into bigger beasts -- at least according to the idea attributed to paleontologist Edward Cope, now known as Cope's Rule. Using the latest advanced statistical modeling methods, a new test of this rule as it applies dinosaurs shows that Cope was right -- sometimes.
"For a long time, dinosaurs were thought to be the example of Cope's Rule," says Gene Hunt, curator in the Department of Paleobiology at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) in Washington, D.C. Other groups, particularly mammals, also provide plenty of classic examples of the rule, Hunt says.
To see if Cope's rule really applies to dinosaurs, Hunt and colleagues Richard FitzJohn of the University of British Columbia and Matthew Carrano of the NMNH used dinosaur thigh bones (aka femurs) as proxies for animal size. They then used that femur data in their statistical model to look for two things: directional trends in size over time and whether there were any detectable upper limits for body size.
"What we did then was explore how constant a rule is this Cope's Rule trend within dinosaurs," said Hunt. They looked across the "family tree" of dinosaurs and found that some groups, or clades, of dinosaurs do indeed trend larger over time, following Cope's Rule. Ceratopsids and hadrosaurs, for instance, show more increases in size than decreases over time, according to Hunt. Although birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs, the team excluded them from the study because of the evolutionary pressure birds faced to lighten up and get smaller so they could fly better.
As for the upper limits to size, the results were sometimes yes, sometimes no. The four-legged sauropods (i.e., long-necked, small-headed herbivores) and ornithopod (i.e., iguanodons, ceratopsids) clades showed no indication of upper limits to how large they could evolve. And indeed, these groups contain the largest land animals that ever lived.
Theropods, which include the famous Tyrannosaurus rex, on the other hand, did show what appears to be an upper limit on body size. This may not be particularly surprising, says Hunt, because theropods were bipedal, and there are physical limits to how massive you can get while still being able to move around on two legs.
Hunt, FitzJohn, and Carrano will be presenting the results of their study on Nov. 4, at the annual meeting of The Geological Society of America in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA.
As for why Cope's Rule works at all, that is not very well understood, says Hunt. "It does happen sometimes, but not always," he added. The traditional idea that somehow "bigger is better" because a bigger animal is less likely to be preyed upon is naïve, Hunt says. After all, even the biggest animals start out small enough to be preyed upon and spend a long, vulnerable, time getting gigantic.
|3D Picture of Political News Room|
Political News This Week:
|Swamy to file plea before Election Commission seeking derecognition of Congress|
1) Swamy to file plea before Election Commission seeking derecognition of Congress:
Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy today said that he will be filing a plea before the Election Commission of India seeking derecognition of Congress party for giving an unsecured loan of Rs. 90 crore to Associated Journals.
The Congress admitted on Friday that the party had indeed made "interest-free loans from which no commercial profit has accrued to the Indian National Congress". The statement said, "The Indian National Congress has done its duty... to help initiate a process to bring the newspaper back to health in compliance with the law of the land."
Swamy had alleged that the Gandhis (Sonia Gandhi and Rahul) floated a private company Young Indians to acquire a public limited company Associated Journal, which published National Herald, for Rs. 50 lakhs. The company they acquired, he said had property worth Rs. 1600 crore in Delhi.
Swamy also alleged that the Congress gave an unsecured loan of Rs. 90 crore to Associated Journals.
Congress spokesperson P.C.Chacko on Friday challenged Swamy to prove allegations of wrongdoings against Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.
He said: "We are now ready, the person (Swamy) who made this allegations should prove it. We have sent a letter from Rahulji's office and that amounts to legal notice.
"Swamy should have the guts to go to court. This is very strange, he wants us to file case against him...it is insensible. If there is a violation of rules, we challenge him to prove it. There is no commercial transaction here, people are trying to create confusion," he stressed.
Joining Swamy's battle with the Congress and the Nehru-Gandhi family, the Bharatiya Janata Party launched a blistering attack and demanded a clarification from the Congress regarding the allegations of fraud levelled by Swamy.
Addressing a press conference in Shimla, senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley said the Congress leadership must explain the issue, and charged the Congress with violating provisions of the Representation of People's Act.
He also highlighted the Associated Journals board document produced by Swamy, which says that AICC gave them an unsecured loan of Rs 90 crores.
Jaitley termed it "grossest impropriety besides being a gross illegality. The country expects a fair answer from Congress on Swamy"s allegations." (ANI)
|Kejriwal plays Radia tapes to accuse Mukesh Ambani's RIL|
2) Kejriwal plays Radia tapes to accuse Mukesh Ambani's RIL:
In a bid to expose industrialist-politician nexus, Arvind Kejriwal-led India Against Corruption (IAC) on Wednesday accused the Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries and the two biggest national parties of being hand in glove and indulging into corrupt prices, saying both "the Congress and the BJP are in Ambani's pockets".
In a bid to expose industrialist-politician nexus, Arvind Kejriwal-led India Against Corruption (IAC) on Wednesday accused the Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries and the two biggest national parties of being hand in glove and indulging into corrupt prices, saying both "the Congress and the BJP are in Ambani's pockets".
He also blamed the previous NDA government of providing undue benefits to the RIL in its regime. Kejriwal also demanded that the KG Basin contract be cancelled and the government should immediately put in place adequate systems to get full production from KG Basin at cheapest prices for the country.
"Hike in gas prices will benefit RIL by Rs 43,000 crore. In 2000, NDA had favoured Mukesh Ambani's Reliance. RIL keeping gas prices low to blackmail the government. Benefits to RIL causing price rise. Jaipal Reddy was replaced with Veerappa Moily to raise gas prices. Both Congress and BJP are in Mukesh Ambani's pockets. Mani Shankar Iyer was removed and Murli Deora brought in to benefit Reliance," he said.
|Jindal faces corruption allegations|
3) Jindal faces corruption allegations:
As a controversy unfolds in India, Naveen Jindal — the alumnus after whom UTD’s business school was renamed last year — is facing allegations of corruption in his home country.
The allegations are part of what the Indian media are calling “Coalgate.” Since 2004, several coal deposits, or “coal blocks,” have been allocated to public and private companies, including Jindal Steel & Power Limited, of which Jindal is the chairman and managing director.
The controversy stems from a report written by the Indian comptroller and auditor general that was leaked to the public in March 2012. The report indicated that the coal blocks were given to power companies without any kind of competitive auctioning process, granting them massive amounts of potential “windfall gains” — an estimate of how much profit could be made off the coal blocks — of approximately $35 billion.
These accusations, which have traveled all the way to India’s Supreme Court, have drawn negative opinions to several members of the parliament, including Jindal.
However, officials at UTD remain skeptical about the allegations.
“You don’t see the level of philanthropy that (Jindal) has shown in India,” said Aaron Conley, vice president of Development and Alumni Relations.
Conley said that Jindal had established India’s first community college system through personal gifts. Jindal also lobbied for Indian citizens’ right to publicly fly the national flag.
“He is a very modest person, and he doesn’t go around looking for visibility for these gestures he makes,” he said.
Among those gestures was $15 million in pledges to UTD, which earned Jindal’s name a spot on UTD’s School of Management in 2011.
Hasan Pirkul, the dean of JSOM, also spoke positively about Jindal, praising the same philanthropy that Conley mentioned.
“Naveen works for the good of the people,” he said. “I have spent a lot of time with this guy; I’ve gone and talked to the people who worked for him … he has high integrity.”
Determining how much truth lies in the allegations is made difficult by how pervasive corruption is in India’s public systems.
For example, a 2006 study — detailed in a research article authored by UTD management professor Seung-Hyun Lee — found that 75 percent of its participants decided to obtain driver’s licenses through bribery, rather than already-corrupt legal channels that would deny licenses arbitrarily.
Lee said that it is usually more troublesome for a public company to receive mining rights in emerging economies, as they tend to be less efficient than private firms such as Jindal Steel & Power.
The situation is further complicated by India’s hostile political culture — something corroborated by Pirkul, who claims that even Jindal’s contributions to UTD were attacked by rivals.
“I’m sure some of his opponents said, ‘why is he giving money in America, America is rich,’” said Pirkul.
Jindal, for his part, denied that he and his company have done anything illegal.
“We have done everything efficiently and honestly,” Jindal was quoted saying to The Times of India, an Indian newspaper. “We are paying taxes, royalties … and whatever profit is generated is being ploughed back to create more capacity.”
Conley said that while he’s watching the scandal unfold, the university remains uninvolved, and that it would take something incredibly egregious to warrant any public reaction. Pirkul was in agreement.
Coalgate: Naveen Jindal attacks Zee News team:
New Delhi: Industrialist and Congress MP Naveen Jindal on Monday misbehaved with a team of Zee News journalists after they sought clarification from him on the allegations levelled against his company in alleged irregularities in allocation of coal blocks.
On the sidelines of an event here, Zee News team wanted Jindal’s views on the allegation that his company Jindal Power and Steel (JPL) got coal for its power plant at cheap rates but sold power at high rates.
However, Jindal clearly appeared upset at Zee News for keeping the focus on the issue.
When Zee News journalist Deepak Sahu sought the clarification over the issue, Jindal first asked the reporter his professional antecedents and when the reporter identified himself, the Congress MP first refused to the channel, saying: “Zee News has been showing all rubbish on its channel.”
On being pointed out that some other channels have also taken up the issue, Jindal lost his cool. An angry Jindal misbehaved with the Zee News team and pushed the cameraperson and asked threateningly: “What is this you are coming to this programme…what are you doing?”
Jindal is under fire after it came to light that JPL was the first Indian power company to operate on a "merchant power" basis, which allowed it to sell electricity at a market rate that was higher than the rate at which power regulators fixed tariff for companies selling power to states through long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs).
In his clarification, Jindal had said: "The success of Jindal Power is due to efficient planning, implementation and operations, not because of so called cheap coal."
|Modi's tactlessness and the lowering of political discourse|
4) Modi's tactlessness and the lowering of political discourse:
To understand why Narendra Modi is dwelling on issues like Sonia Gandhi's travel bills, Shashi Tharoor's wife, Manmohan Singh's "silence" - he called the prime minister "Maun" (silent) mohan - during his election campaign, it has to be realised that he can no longer play the communal card that was so useful to him earlier.
The run-up to the 2002 elections was marked by the Gujarat chief minister's provocative ploy of uttering the full name of then chief election commissioner (CEC) - James Michael Lyndoh - in order to emphasise his "alien" roots. He also pointed out that both the CEC and Congress president Sonia Gandhi are Christians.
As for Muslims, he mocked their propensity to marry four wives by saying, "hum panch, hamare pachis" (we are five with 25 children) to underline their violation of the family planning norms. Modi also described the refugee camps for the victims of the 2002 riots as child-producing centres.
How effective this relentless baiting of minorities was for Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could be seen from the rise in the margin of victory of Maya Kodnani, who was recently convicted for instigating the riots, from 7,000 votes in 1998 to more than 60,000 in 2002. Five years later, the margin rose to 180,000 votes.
Considering, however, that Modi has since changed tack, stressing his development plank and even holding 'sadbhavna' (goodwill) fasts in aid of social harmony, he is unable to whip up communal sentiments. He has had no alternative, therefore, but to fall back on issues like Sonia Gandhi's travels abroad although he desisted from referring to her medical expenses lest this was considered too insensitive.
However, his tactlessness was evident when he brought up the subject of Shashi Tharoor's earlier removal from the external affairs ministry following allegations of his then girlfriend's involvement in an Indian Premier League irregularities. Not surprisingly, Modi's question at a poll rally - "has anyone seen a Rs. 50,000 crore girl friend ?" - drew a riposte from Tharoor that his wife was "priceless" and angry responses from women's organisations.
The danger, however, of a descent into coarseness is that it generates more unrefined conduct. While the BJP's Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi tried to outdo Modi's lack of urbane sensitivity by suggesting that Tharoor could be made a minister for love affairs, the Congress' "loose cannon", as he once called himself, Digvijay Singh, asked YouTube users to search for Yashoda Ben who is supposed to be Modi's spouse.
The lowering of the level of political discourse is not confined to Modi and his supporters and critics. While the activist-turned-politician, Arvind Kejriwal, continues to be a "muckraker", as BJP president Nitin Gadkari called him, the president of the one-man outfit, Janata Party, Subramanian Swamy, has entered the mud pit with allegations of fraudulence against Sonia and Rahul Gandhi.
The apparent reason for the present murky scene is that neither of the two main parties, the Congress and the BJP, has been able to pull decisively ahead of the other in the political race. The resultant vacuum has left enough scope for new entrants like Kejriwal and Co and habitual litigants like Swamy to muddy the waters.
A measure of the misgivings which prevail can be gauged from the fact that Anna Hazare, who is Kejriwal's mentor, has expressed the apprehension that his protege can become "power hungry". Anna himself has re-entered the arena after a brief pause during which Kejriwal left his company.
Now, Anna has constituted another team along with the former chief of the army staff, General V.K. Singh, whose term ended under a cloud because of a controversy over his year of birth. It remains to be seen whether the general and the soldier (Anna was once in the army) can prove to be as effective as the earlier group of activists initially were.
Unfortunately, none of this kerfuffle is expected to yield a clearer picture in the near future. While the expected Congress defeat in Gujarat may make the Manmohan Singh government nervous about pursuing reforms with any vigour, it is unlikely to be of much help to Modi in fulfilling his ambition of moving to the national stage because of the BJP's internal problems.
For one, Gadkari's embroilment in the charges of sleaze will not give him much time for an organisational reshuffle. For another, the possibility of former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa leaving the party will throw the BJP into further confusion.
The Congress, on its part, will be unable to take advantage of the disarray in the opposition ranks - the Left is demoralised while the BJP is a house in turmoil. First, because of the charges of corruption against Robert Vadra, Salman Khurshid, Virbhadra Singh and others and, secondly, because it will take time for the reforms to yield results.
|459 candidates to contest in Himachal|
5) 459 candidates to contest in Himachal :
Himachal Pradesh is all set to vote Sunday to elect a new 68-member assembly, with a close contest in the offing between arch rivals Congress and the ruling BJP.
A record number of 459 candidates, including 27 women, are in the fray, an election official said Saturday.
Officials are expecting heavy polling as the weather is expected to be mainly clear and sunny. The polling starts at 8 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m.
The Himachal Lok Morcha, an alliance of Himachal Lokhit Party, formed under the leadership of BJP rebel and four-time former MP Maheshwar Singh, and the Left are contesting 58 seats.
The HLP is contesting on 36 seats, the CPI-M 15 and the CPI seven, making the contest triangular in more than five seats.
The Bahajun Samaj Party, which won one seat in 2007, has fielded 66 candidates, followed by the Trinamool Congress (25), Lok Janshakti Party and Swabhiman Party (16 each), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Samajwadi Party (12 each) and Shiv Sena (4).
The NCP and Trinamool are a first-time entrant in the hill state. There are 105 independents in the fray.
The Election Commission has set up 7,253 polling stations for 46,08,359 electors, including 23,76,587 men.
Of these, 1,317 have been declared sensitive and 763 hypersensitive -- an official euphemism to indicate possible trouble spots.
As many as 11,000 electronic voting machines will be deployed.
The Hikkam polling station, located at an altitude of over 15,000 ft in Lahaul and Spiti district, is the highest polling station. It has 325 voters.
Sullah constituency in Kangra district has the highest number of voters (88,971), while Lahaul-Spiti constituency has the lowest (22,315).
Polling officials and EVMs were airlifted to landlocked Bara Bhangal hamlet in Baijnath constituency in Kangra Friday where 45 voters, including 19 women, will exercise their franchise.
Helicopter services have also been made available for tribal areas of Pangi, Keylong and Kaza.
More than 60 companies of central paramilitary forces, including the ITBP and CRPF, have been deployed to ensure free and fair elections.
Votes for the election will be counted Dec 20.
In 2007, the BJP won 41 seats, the Congress 23, the BSP one and independents three. The lone BSP legislator later joined the BJP.
Environmental News This Week :
|NYC inches back to normal after Sandy|
6) NYC inches back to normal after Sandy:
The nation’s largest city inched a bit closer to normalcy Thursday as some subways, buses and commuter rails began running and power was slowly being restored three days after superstorm Sandy.
Across the region, more than 4.7 million homes and businesses still lacked power Thursday due to Hurricane Sandy, the Department of Energy said. In the last day, power had been restored to 1.7 million homes and businesses.
Locally, an estimated 676,000 remained in the dark across the five boroughs, along with 166,000 customers in Westchester, Consolidated Edison reported. But electrical power had been restored to more than 225,000 customers since the storm, Con Ed said.
New York’s subways were also returning.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority buses picked up commuters at three locations in downtown Brooklyn, ferried them over the East River via the Manhattan or Williamsburg bridge and then rumbled north along Third Avenue to midtown Manhattan, where subway service resumed before dawn.
Smaller than usual crowds of subway riders emerged at Grand Central Terminal on E. 42nd Street, happy to get back to work routines.
On Long Island and in Westchester County north of the city, commuter rail riders jammed aboard crowded Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad trains into Penn Station or Grand Central.
Commuters lined up at Penn Station to board uptown trains at 6 a.m. Thursday. Technology worker Ronnie Abraham was on one of them, hoping to get home to Harlem, a trip that is 20 minutes by train and 2 ½ hours by bus.”It’s the lifeline of the city,” Abraham said. “It can’t get much better than this.”
More good news for commuters: MTA said it won’t charge subway or commuter rail fares Thursday or Friday. The savings was particularly welcomed by suburban commuters who had braved long lines with multi-hour waits at the few gas stations that had fuel.
Still, there were glitches.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Wednesday that cars into Manhattan across bridges and tunnels must carry three people. City police set up check points at the crossings to enforce the restriction.
The plan exempted the George Washington Bridge, mainly to allow truck traffic to cross from New Jersey and continue north to New England or East toward Long Island. The ban also exempted taxis and livery cars.
But some solo commuters spotted what they thought was a loophole. After crossing the George Washington, they turned south into Manhattan at exits for the West Side High or the Harlem River Drive – only to be met by police checkpoints.
Traffic jams across the bridge quickly backed up across the bridge back New Jersey. “NYPD mistakenly put checkpoints up at GW bridge. We are alerting the City now to pull those checkpoints, Howard Glaser, New York State’s director of operations and a Cuomo advisor, tweeted at 7:30 a.m.
The storm killed more than 140 people as it swept north from the Caribbean and left more than 5 million without power in the U.S. alone.
Two of the region’s main airports opened Wednesday and officials promised that the third, LaGuardia Airport, would return to service Thursday.
Actors and eager audiences brought darkened Broadway theaters back to life. And New Yorkers packed on to buses that returned for the first time to city streets since the storm, joining a throng of gridlocked traffic that navigated the city without working stop lights.
The airports and subways weren’t the only transportation systems returning to the region. Suburban trains started running for the first time on Wednesday, and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor was to take commuters from city to city for on Friday for the first time since the storm.
It is clear, however, that restoring the region to its ordinarily frenetic pace could take days — and that rebuilding the hardest-hit communities and the transportation networks could take considerably longer.
There were still only hints of the economic impact of the storm.
The total economic damage from Superstorm Sandy could run as high as $50 billion, according to new estimates from the forecasting firm Eqecat. The new numbers are more than double the firm’s previous estimate.
Eqecat said Thursday that its new estimate for economic losses is between $30 billion and $50 billion. The cost to insurance companies could run from $10 billion to $20 billion.
Electricity was out as far west as Wisconsin in the Midwest and as far south as the Carolinas.
In New Jersey, signs of the good life that had defined wealthy shorefront enclaves like Bayhead and Mantoloking lay scattered and broken: $3,000 barbecue grills buried beneath the sand and hot tubs cracked and filled with seawater. Nearly all the homes were seriously damaged, and many had entirely disappeared.
“This,” said Harry Typaldos, who owns the Grenville Inn in Mantoloking, “I just can’t comprehend.”
Most of the state’s mass transit systems remained shut down, leaving hundreds of thousands of commuters braving clogged highways and quarter-mile lines at gas stations. Atlantic City’s casinos remained closed. Christie postponed Halloween until Monday, saying trick-or-treating wasn’t safe in towns with flooded and darkened streets, fallen trees and downed power lines.
Farther north in Hoboken, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, nearly 20,000 residents remained stranded in their homes, amid accusations that officials have been slow to deliver food and water. One man blew up an air mattress and floated to City Hall, demanding to know why supplies hadn’t gotten out. At least one-fourth of the city’s residents are flooded and 90 percent are without power.
7) Nilam kills 17, wreaks havoc in TN, AP:
Many parts of north and north-western Tamil Nadu took the brunt of nature’s fury in the wake of the tropical cyclone ‘Nilam’ that crossed the State’s coast near Mamallapuram Wednesday evening, even as the toll in the cyclone-related deaths climbed to 13 on Thursday.
|Tamil Nadu took the brunt of nature’s fury in the wake of the tropical cyclone ‘Nilam’ that crossed the State’s coast near Mamallapuram Wednesday evening|
While the cyclonic system in the last few days pounded Nagapattinam, Tiruvarur, Cuddalore, Kancheepuram, Ariyalur, Villupuram, Tiruvannamalai, Vellore, Salem, Dharmapuri and parts of Tiruvallur and Chennai districts, more than half the deaths due to wall collapses, crashing of trees and lightning strikes were from Vellore and Tiruvannamalai districts, official sources said.
The cyclone had its humanitarian fallout as well. In a village near Periyapalayam in Tiruvallur district, parents of a five-year-old girl child, Yogalakshmi, who was instantly crushed to death as a tree crashed down on their house, donated her eyes to the District Government Hospital.
The high-velocity winds knocked down hundreds of trees as ‘Nilam’ moved north-westwards on Thursday towards Rayalaseema region in Andhra Pradesh. In Kancheepuram district, over 1100 electric poles crashed and several transformers were damaged, straining the power distribution, sources said.
|The high-velocity winds knocked down hundreds of trees|
It was a tale of woe for paddy-growing farmers, particularly in Nagapattinam and Tiruvarur districts, in the tail-end areas of Cauvery delta, with the incessant rains flooding 1,27,000 hectares of ‘Samba’ (long-term) paddy crop.
The Met office here said ‘Nilam’, which had already weakened into a depression as it moved over to Rayalaseema and south interior Karnataka, will weaken further into a low pressure area during next 12 hours.
4 die in AP
Normal life was affected in all the coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh and four persons were killed on Thursday - three due to electrocution and another person in a wall collapse - in Prakasam, Nellore and Anantapur districts. Standing paddy, banana and other crops were damaged and normal life thrown out of gear.
Cyclone ‘Nilam’ brought torrential rains to several parts of Kerala, leaving low-lying areas in the state capital and Kochi flooded since Wednesday evening.
Both road and rail traffic was affected in Thiruvananthapuram. Power and water supply was hit in many parts of the city. Officials declared a holiday for schools. The downpour has partially disrupted vehicular transport in the commercial hub of Kochi as well.
Weathermen here said that the rains will continue for the next 48 hours. Fishermen have been warned against venturing into the sea for the next two days.
|3D Picture of Movie Release News|
Click on The Movie Names and Poster Pictures to see the Trailer in the You Tube
Movie Release This Week:
1) Wreck-It Ralph:
Wreck-It Ralph (voice of John C. Reilly) longs to be as beloved as his game's perfect Good Guy, Fix-It Felix (voice of Jack McBrayer). Problem is, nobody loves a Bad Guy. But they do love heroes... so when a modern, first-person shooter game arrives featuring tough-as-nails Sergeant Calhoun (voice of Jane Lynch), Ralph sees it as his ticket to heroism and happiness. He sneaks into the game with a simple plan-win a medal-but soon wrecks everything, and accidently unleashes a deadly enemy that threatens every game in the arcade. Ralph's only hope? Vanellope von Schweetz (voice of Sarah Silverman), a young troublemaking "glitch" from a candy-coated cart racing game who might just be the one to teach Ralph what it means to be a Good Guy. But will he realize he is good enough to become a hero before it's "Game Over" for the entire arcade?
|6 Degrees of Hell|
2) 6 Degrees of Hell:
Six individuals are caught up in a supernatural perfect storm as an evil lays claim to one of them while threatening to tear apart the soul of a small Pennsylvania town.
3) The Details:
Tobey Maguire and Elizabeth Banks play a struggling married couple who, already struggling with issues like infidelity and whether they should stay married, see their lives further complicated by ravenous raccoons burrowing under the sod in their back yard. A disagreement over how to dispatch the pests creates a chain reaction of mishaps.
|The Man with the Iron Fists|
4) The Man with the Iron Fists:
Since his arrival in China's Jungle Village, the town's blacksmith has been forced by radical tribal factions to create elaborate tools of destruction. When the clans' brewing war boils over, the stranger channels an ancient energy to transform himself into a human weapon. As he fights alongside iconic heroes and against soulless villains, one man must harness this power to become savior of his adopted people.
A pilot with substance abuse problems becomes a hero when he safely lands a malfunctioning plane.
6) Chakravyuh' Review: Not everything is decided by the stock exchange :
Cast: Arjun Rampal, Abhay Deol, Manoj Bajpayee, Esha Gupta, Om Puri, Anjali Patil
Director: Prakash Jha
How many times we see a Bollywood film bringing up a burning issue like Naxalism to the forefront? Director Prakash Jha’s ‘Chakravyuh’ does it but then it also considers the restrictions of mainstream filmmaking.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
On the outset, the film is a story about two friends Adil Khan (Arjun Rampal) and Kabir (Abhay Deol). Their friendship receives a severe jolt when Kabir decides to leave the police academy after realising that he couldn’t cope up with the quintessential ‘police’ attitude. Later, Adil emerges as a respected police officer who takes up the job of police superintendent in Naxalism affected area Nandighat (Any resemblance!).
Adil’s reunion with Kabir, who is a failed businessman, prompts him to plant Kabir as a mole inside the enemy camp. The unexpected happens when Kabir starts struggling between two entirely different ideologies.
Be it ‘Daamul’ or be it ‘Aarakshan’, Jha has always come up with a film that is based on an ‘issue’ but is politically correct. This time again, he has tried his best to not hurt the popular sentiments. The police have been shown from all sides but the man who is at the helm of affairs is morally upright and knows his limitations. There is a deliberately put scene in the film where Adil refuses an offer from a business tycoon Mahanta (Kabir Bedi), while there are other policemen under Adil’s jurisdiction only who are protected and sympathised by him, so that confuses the audiences about his actual stand.
Now, come to the other side. Manoj Bajpayee is the dreaded Naxal commander Rajan, who doesn’t sound ideologically equipped but is the leader at the ground zero. In another nuanced performance, Bajpayee conveys the conviction of someone who has lost all his faith in the government. His dialect is fine, body language and ruthlessness is fine, but what disturbs is his approach towards the people he sympathises with. Of course, his laws are different but who will explain the reasons behind such self styled ownership of the land. He has been seen in conversation with ideologues but the topic of discussion remains the availability of arsenals rather than the faith which could drive the local people against the forcible eviction.
However, Jha’s handling of the human side of Naxalites is praiseworthy. He clearly knows the difference between a Naxal and a human who is also a Naxal. Their lives with glimpses of poverty have been portrayed with apparent objectivity. Naxal commanders can love, can be hit by greed and can dance too.
Capitalism doesn’t get into a head-on collision with communism in ‘Chakravyuh’, and that makes it interesting. There are two forces fighting against each other but their goals are not global. It’s more of a war between two leaders, one of which believes that the government machinery is always right.
Who is innocent and who is deliberately becoming innocent is another question. How can the path of gun be justified? Why the ministers shying away from taking the responsibility when they clearly represent the popular notions? How can be a minister who is more concerned about outer investments in his area and who dances with ‘adivasis’, not go for the healing therapy. Is their any chance of finding a middle way? But, as I said there are restrictions of mainstream Bollywood filmmaking. Restrictions that drove Prakash Jha to cast the short pant wearing Esha Gupta as an intelligence officer and Sameera Reddy as a ‘Kunda khol’ item girl.
Arjun Rampal’s image and dialogue delivery mar his chances but it is one of his better performances, in fact he has a given Abhay Deol a run for his money in double shots. Abhay Deol is satisfactory but we have seen him doing better in emotional scenes. The director could have worked a little more on bringing out his headstrongness and conviction on the path of violence. It seems that his soft corner for Juhi (Anjali Patil) is more responsible for his change of heart than the plight of adivasis and atrocities of police.
Anjali Patil is the surprise package of ‘Chakravyuh’. She has come up with an authentic performance. She is vulnerable, maniac, ideology driven, all at the same time. Patil is Jha’s perfect portrayal of a Naxalite.
‘Chakravyuh’ has some amazing scenes. The first gun battle between the police and the Naxals is shot with fantastic imagination. It comes as a disturbing surprise. The grandeur hasn’t been compromised on. The handling of the crowd shows the storyteller’s control on the sets.
Overall, ‘Chakravyuh’ is a well intentioned and finely crafted film, which shies away from taking any stand. A good watch for the people who believe that India has progressed a lot and things go just fine if your stock exchange functions smoothly. And yes, claps for the last ultimate voice-over of the film.
|3D Picture of Sports News Room|
Sports News This Week:
|India, Bangladesh strengthening friendship via football match|
1) India, Bangladesh strengthening friendship via football match:
In a novel way to foster strong bonds of friendship, India and Bangladesh played a football match at Siliguri district of West Bengal on Saturday to gain experience and hone skills by learning techniques from each other.
A lot of players from Bangladesh frequent North Bengal to participate in different football tournaments.
The motive of the match was to strengthen relations between the neighbouring nations through the medium of a football match.
Captain of the Sikkim United, India, Gumlung Bhutai, said that he was always eager to play with teams from foreign countries, as it also served as a learning ground.
"It feels good. I especially like to play with teams from foreign countries. We will also gain experience. We feel good when teams from Bangladesh and other countries come here to play. This will help us to hone our skills. The players from Bangladesh are skilled too," he said.
The match witnessed a swarming crowd of spectators, who were seen enjoying the show to the hilt.
Coach of the Chittagong Morning Football Academy, Mohammad Mohiuddin, said that he had been to Siliguri several times, but such events aid in deepening ties and paving the path for a stronger relation.
"I have been to Siliguri several times. I had earlier come with my mother and now I am here with my team. India and Bangladesh have maintained good relations and I believe that this will continue in the future as well. I think this is a good initiative to organise a football match," he said.
India and Bangladesh have had a long political, cultural and economic history. Though the political relation between the neighbouring nations has witnessed hiccups in the past, they share friendly and cordial relations and have improved in the last few years. (ANI)
|Leander Paes replies with win in Shanghai Masters final against Bhupathi and Bopanna|
2) Leander Paes replies with win in Shanghai Masters final against Bhupathi and Bopanna:
Leander Paes with his Czech partner Radek Stepanek defeated Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna in the Shanghai Rolex Masters 1000 final by 6-7 (7-9), 6-3, 10-5.
The final was played for 1 hour and 36-minute at the Qizhong Stadium. Seventh seeded Bhupathi Bopanna started well and won the first set but Indo-Czech pair returned and won the next two sets.
Fourth seeded Paes and Stepanek with this win clinched their third title of the year. They received 1000 ATP ranking points and $669,450 in prize-money.
Paes (39) in the interview afterward said, "Today the two boys (Bhupathi and Bopanna) started off really well, right at the beginning they jumped on, we had to claw our way back. In the first set tiebreak, they played well, again we had to claw our way back. That's what is fun about our partnership, we keep learning, keep improving. Today was a bit more of a personal match for the three of us Indians. Radek came in and he made it fun for me."
|Prakash Amritraj lifts ITF Men's Futures title|
3) Prakash Amritraj lifts ITF Men's Futures title:
India's former Davis Cupper Prakash Amritraj outplayed national champion Saketh Myneni in staright sets to lift the men's singles title at the $15,000 Solaris ITF Men's Futures Tennis Championships at the Solaris's Club Aquaya here Saturday.
The 27-year-old Prakash, son of the iconic Vijay Amritraj, playing his fourth tournament on his comeback trail, scored a 6-4, 6-2 in just one hour and 10 minutes over the fourth seeded and 374th ranked Myneni and foiled the latter's bid for a double crown here
The singles turned out to be error prone for Myneni, who looked uncomfortable with a right arm injury through the match. Myneni known for his serves, served poorly and was broken in the fifth game in the first set.
Amritraj served out the first set in the 10th game. In the second set Amritraj broke in the third and the fifth games with Myneni playing some loose tennis and wrapped up the match and 2nd title in 4 weeks that he has played .
"My mind is refreshed and I am blessed that I can play everyday. I felt good and had a good day and hope that I can play some good tennis. Saketh was the Scariest opponent this week but I'm thrilled with a win at Pune where I'm playing for the first time" said Amritraj.
|England cricket team arrives in Mumbai, for Test|
4) England cricket team arrives in Mumbai, for Test:
The England cricket team today arrived in Mumbai from Dubai for a series of four and two T20 Internationals against India. Prior to arrival of the team, a delegation from the England Cricket Board (ECB) had inspected the stadiums in Kolkata and Ahmedabad assessing the security arrangements. The English team led by Alastair Cook will be playing three warm-up matches, ahead of the opening Test of the series commencing at Ahmedabad on November 15. The remaining Tests are to be played at Mumbai on Nov 23-27, Kolkata on Dec 5-9th and Nagpur on Dec 13-17th followed by two T20 Internationals at Pune on Dec 20 and Mumbai on (Dec 22).