Animated News Week (74) Pictures
News Week (74) Pictures
Science News This Week:
1) New Magnetic Behaviour in Nanoparticles Could Lead to Even Smaller Digital Memories:
Researchers from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) and the Institut Catala de Nanociencia i Nanotecnologia (ICN2) have created a new behaviour in magnetic core/shell nanoparticles. It could lead to the creation of even smaller and higher capacity digital memories.
Electronic devices such as mobile phones and tablets spur on a scientific race to find smaller and smaller information processing and storage elements. One of the challenges in this race is to reproduce certain magnetic effects at nanometre scale.An international collaboration of scientists led by researchers from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona Department of Physics and the Institut Catala de Nanociencia i Nanotecnologia, and with the participation of the Universitat de Barcelona, has been able to reproduce in particles measuring 10 to 20 nanometres a magnetic phenomenon of great importance in magnetic devices: the antiferromagnetic coupling between layers.
This phenomenon appears when coupling layers of materials with different magnetic properties, which allows controlling the magnetic behaviour of the whole device. This property has very important technological applications. For example, it forms an important part of data reading systems found in hard drives and in the MRAM memories of computers and mobile devices. Researchers have managed for the first time to reproduce this phenomenon in nanoscopic materials, measuring a mere few tens of atoms in diameter. They managed to do this by using iron-oxide particles surrounded by a thin layer of manganese-oxide and vice versa: manganese-oxide particles covered by a layer of iron-oxide. The discovery provides an unprecedented control of the magnetic behaviour of nanoparticles, since it permits controlling and easily adjusting their properties without having to manipulate their shape or composition, solely by controlling the temperature and the magnetic fields surrounding it.“We've been able to reproduce a magnetic behaviour not previously observed in nanoparticles, and this paves the way for miniaturisation up to limits which seemed impossible for magnetic storage and other more sophisticated applications such as spin filters, magnetic codifiers and multi-level recording”, explain Josep Nogués, ICREA research professor, and Maria Dolors Baró, professor of Applied Physics.
2) Scientists Solve a Decades-Old Mystery in Earth's Upper Atmosphere:
New research published in the journal Nature resolves decades of scientific controversy over the origin of the extremely energetic particles known as ultra-relativistic electrons in Earth's near-space environment and is likely to influence our understanding of planetary magnetospheres throughout the universe.Discovering the processes that control the formation and ultimate loss of these electrons in the Van Allen radiation belts -- the rings of highly charged particles that encircle Earth at a range of about 1,000 to 50,000 kilometers above the planet's surface -- is a primary science objective of the recently launched NASA Van Allen Probes mission. Understanding these mechanisms has important practical applications, because the enormous amounts of radiation trapped within the belts can pose a significant hazard to satellites and spacecraft, as well astronauts performing activities outside a craft.
Ultra-relativistic electrons in Earth's outer radiation belt can exhibit pronounced variability in response to activity on the sun and changes in the solar wind, but the dominant physical mechanism responsible for radiation-belt electron acceleration has remained unresolved for decades. Two primary candidates for this acceleration have been "inward radial diffusive transport" and "local stochastic acceleration" by very low-frequency plasma waves.
In research published Dec. 19 in Nature, lead author Richard Thorne, a distinguished professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences in the UCLA College of Letters and Science, and his colleagues report on high-resolution satellite measurements of high-energy electrons during a geomagnetic storm on Oct. 9, 2012, which they have numerically modeled using a newly developed data-driven global wave model.
Their analysis reveals that scattering by intense, natural very low-frequency radio waves known as "chorus" in Earth's upper atmosphere is primarily responsible for the observed relativistic electron build-up.The team's detailed modeling, together with previous observations of peaks in electron phase space density reported earlier this year by Geoff Reeves and colleagues in the journal Science, demonstrates the remarkable efficiency of natural wave acceleration in Earth's near-space environment and shows that radial diffusion was not responsible for the observed acceleration during this storm, Thorne said.
Co-authors of the new research include Qianli Ma, a graduate student who works in Thorne's lab; Wen Li, Binbin Ni and Jacob Bortnik, researchers in Thorne's lab; and members of the science teams on the Van Allen Probes, including Harlan Spence of the University of New Hampshire (principal investigator for RBSP-ECT) and Craig Kletzing of the University of Iowa (principal investigator for EMFISIS).The local wave-acceleration process is a "universal physical process" and should also be effective in the magnetospheres of Jupiter, Saturn and other magnetized plasma environments in the cosmos, Thorne said. He thinks the new results from the detailed analysis of Earth will influence future modeling of other planetary magnetospheres.The Van Allen radiation belts were discovered in Earth's upper atmosphere in 1958 by a team led by space scientist James Van Allen.
3) Neandertal genes point to interbreeding, inbreeding:
Ancient DNA illuminates extinct hominid’s ties to humans, Denisovans .A high-quality chunk of DNA extracted from a Neandertal woman’s roughly 50,000-year-old toe bone has sharpened scientists’ view of genetic ties among Stone Age humans and their nearest, now-extinct relatives. The Neandertal fossil comes from a Siberian cave that also yielded a DNA-bearing finger bone from the Denisovans, close genetic relatives of Neandertals.
Neandertals contributed around 2 percent of the DNA carried by non-African people today, a team led by paleogeneticist Kay Prüfer of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, reports December 18 in Nature.
Comparisons of the Neandertal DNA with human and Denisovan DNA indicate that Denisovans inherited at least 0.5 percent of their DNA from Neandertals and a small percentage of genes from another, unknown hominid species that first appeared at least 1 million years ago.
Signs of low genetic diversity in the Neandertal woman’s DNA indicate that her parents were closely related, possibly half siblings. Small population sizes encouraged inbreeding among Neandertals, the researchers suggest.
Prüfer’s group located a set of genetic segments in people today that don’t occur in Neandertals, Denisovans or living apes. Those segments may contain clues to the evolutionary success of Homo sapiens.
4) Sinkholes, tectonics may have shaped Titan’s lakes and seas:
The joint NASA-ESA Cassini space probe, exploring Saturn and her moons, has revealed extraordinary lakes and seas of liquid methane around the north pole of Titan. Scientists associated with the Cassini mission described a strange rectangular area of large seas, picked out by imaging instruments aboard the probe.
The ConversationElongated lakes and seas connected by long skinny peninsulas characterize the two seas picked out in the new image. Reminiscent of the topographic depressions in the basin and range province of USA, shaped by the movements of tectonic plates on America’s western fringe, there are suggestions that the large lakes seen on Titan may be tectonically shaped-seas.“Scientists have been wondering why Titan’s lakes are where they are. These images show us that the bedrock and geology must be creating a particularly inviting environment for lakes,” said Randolph Kirk, a Cassini RADAR team member at the US Geological Survey. “We think it may be something like the formation of the prehistoric lake called Lake Lahontan near Lake Tahoe in Nevada and California, where deformation of the crust created fissures that could be filled up with liquid.”
Scientists described the observations of huge polar lakes called Ligeia and Kraken on Titan, at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union here in San Francisco today, the world’s largest gathering of Earth scientists.Alongside the two large liquid bodies picked out so clearly, there is a myriad of smaller lakes that are seen scattered around the pole of Titan. Their origins are unclear, with speculations ranging from volcanic crater lakes to giant sinkholes formed in dissolved Titan crust.
Marco Mastrogiuseppe from Sapienza University, Rome, described the results from RADAR imaging of the fluid bodies at Titan’s surface. “For the first time we were able to observe the topography of the subsurface of an extraterrestrial sea”, he explained.
Cassini’s RADAR has charted the areas of the lakes and seas near the pole, but has also bounced signals off the lake beds in the first depth soundings of an extraterrestrial sea.“Ligeia Mare turned out to be just the right depth for radar to detect a signal back from the sea floor, which is a signal we didn’t think we’d be able to get,” said Mastrogiuseppe. A maximum depth of around 170 meters, similar to Lake Michigan, was found, and the lake was crystal clear to RADAR eyes.The total volume of Ligeia is put at 9000 cubic kilometers and it is filled not with water, but with hydrocarbon fluids. The total volume of the hydrocarbon Titanic seas corresponds to around 300 times that of Earth’s oil reserves, in a celestial body smaller than Earth.The RADAR reflectivity suggests that the lakes are mainly filled with methane alongside a few other heavier hydrocarbon fluids. These include ethane and nitrogen. Alongside Ligiea sits another sea, Kraken. Comparable in size to the Caspian Sea here on Earth, Kraken is four or more times the area of Ligeia. Cassini will return to carry out bathometry of it in August 2014.Jeffrey Kargel, from the University of Arizona Tucson, pointed out that the presence of extensive methane seas and lakes at Titan’s north pole makes worse a long acknowledged deficiency of heavier hydrocarbons expected from models of Titan’s chemistry. Among them are ethane, ethylene, propylene, acetylene and benzene - heavy hydrocarbons generated as sunlight causes chemical reactions in Titan’s soup of natural gas. Using visual imaging instruments Cassini has revealed that Titan has a northern polar cap larger than Greenland.
5) Ancient bond holds life together, literally:
Animal tissues and organs may require a specific link between sulfur and nitrogen The rise of multicellular structures in animals may have hinged on a chemical link between sulfur and nitrogen atoms.
In animal tissues and organs, cells lock into a scaffold of collagen proteins that allows the cells to stick together and coordinate activities, such as tissue repair. Sulfur-nitrogen connections called sulfilimine bonds form essential links that keep the protein scaffold together, researchers have now discovered.
In 2009, Billy Hudson of Vanderbilt University in Nashville and colleagues first noted that protein scaffolds in fruit flies have these sulfilimine bonds, but the researchers didn’t know if the bonds were common. In a new study, the researchers probed a variety of animal tissues for the sulfur-nitrogen bond and mined genome sequences for the bond’s blueprints. The researchers found that sulfilimine bonds evolved more than 500 million years ago and are found across the animal kingdom.
In zebrafish, an organism scientists use to study development, sulfilimine bonds are required for organs to form, Hudson’s team reports December 16 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Hudson and his colleagues suggest that these primordial chemical links may have sparked the assembly of single cells into complex animals.
6) Robotic Grasp: Robot Picks Up Castors as Fast as Blueberries:
The robot effortlessly picks up one castor after another from the pile in the box and puts them into the channel. No matter how the wheels are lying, the robot manages to get an exact grip.
Operations run smoothly and automatically when assembling the various parts of an office chair at the SB Seating production unit at Røros. But when it's time to fit the wheels, humans must intervene. The five wheels lying jumbled in a box have to be picked up and then aligned in a row before robots can take over again and attach them to the feet of the chair. Researchers from SINTEF now believe they have found a solution that could make production more effective and reduce costs.
Robots that can see and grasp
We are in a light and spacious laboratory in Trondheim. This is where the work to optimise the industrial production line has been taking place. Researcher Sigurd Albrektsen is sitting at a PC that calibrates the settings of two robotic arms and a box of castors. He tells us that one of the robots is fitted with a gripper tool, while the other has 3D vision (laser and advanced camera) that recognises the various parts and identifies their position. "The robotic gripper can pick up castors in four different ways," he explains while pressing the start button. "That's important, because the castors are all in different positions." Since SB Seating produces one chair every 20 seconds, the researchers have to enable the robot to pick out a wheel every 4 seconds. During the next few seconds, the wheels are quickly picked up out of the box by the robotic gripper.
Development at an advanced stage
Svein Peder Berge at SINTEF ICT tells us that 'bin-picking' has been a problem with which all researchers have been grappling for many years. "The current pick-and-place robots are very good at picking up parts arranged in specific positions, but not if they are unsorted in a box. Now we can use a drawing (CAD model) to tell the robot which castor they must pick up. We teach the robot to recognise the wheel and its position in the box, so that it can grip it accurately and pick it up, regardless of its position in the box.
Solution with a wider perspective
Stein Are Kvikne at SB Seating says that picking up castors was chosen as the most relevant task because the company currently uses a robotic assembly cell to mount castors into the foot socket. "At the moment, the wheels have to be picked up manually and arranged by an operator. This job is very challenging for a human being, and not exactly optimal from an HSE perspective. This consideration will be uppermost if we decide to automate this particular operation," says Kvikne. "We will also get further productivity benefits in the form of a better working environment, enabling us to make better use of the operator's core skills."
However, Kvikne emphasises that SINTEF's robot reveals applications that are of interest far beyond picking out castors: "They demonstrate a generic technology in which many different components can be handled by the same system. The combination of 3D vision, a flexible robot/gripper and a 3D CAD model of the component means that we can pick the component directly out of the transport packaging without any extra handling. We are now very close to having a system in which we would want to invest, both from a technological and a financial perspective," relates Kvikne.
7)Sugar Beet Genome Sequenced and Analyzed:
A new study, published in Nature today, describes the sugar beet reference genome sequence generated by researchers both from the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics and the University of Bielefeld, in cooperation with other centres and plant breeders.Sugar beet accounts for nearly 30% of the world's annual sugar production, according to FAO, and provides a source for bioethanol and animal feed.The sugar beet genome sequence provides insights into how the genome has been shaped by artificial selection along time.What do foodstuff like muffins, bread or tomato sauce have in common? They all contain different amounts of white refined sugar. But, what perhaps may result amazing is that this sugar is probably sourced from a plant very similar to spinach or chard, but much sweeter: the sugar beet. In fact, this plant accounts for nearly 30% of the world's annual sugar production, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization for the United Nations (FAO). Not in vain for the last 200 years, has it been a crop plant in cultivation all around the world because of its powerful sweetener property.
Now, a team of researchers from the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) and the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics (Berlin, Germany), lead by Heinz Himmelbauer, head of the Genomics Unit at the CRG in Barcelona, together with researchers from Bielefeld and further partners from academia and the private sector, have been able to sequence and analyse for the first time the sweet genes of beetroot. The results of the study, that will be published today in Nature, shed also light on how the genome has been shaped by artificial selection.
"Information held in the genome sequence will be useful for further characterization of genes involved in sugar production and identification of targets for breeding efforts. These data are key to improvements of the sugar beet crop with respect to yield and quality and towards its application as a sustainable energy crop," the authors suggest.
Sugar beet is the first representative of a group of flowering plants called Caryophyllales, comprising 11,500 species, which has its genome sequenced. This group encompasses other plants of economic importance, like spinach or quinoa, as well as plants with an interesting biology, for instance carnivorous plants or desert plants.
27,421 protein-coding genes were discovered within the genome of the beet, more than are encoded within the human genome. "Sugar beet has a lower number of genes encoding transcription factors than any flowering plant with already known genome," adds Bernd Weisshaar, a principle investigator from Bielefeld University who was involved in the study. The researchers speculate that beets may harbor so far unknown genes involved in transcriptional control, and gene interaction networks may have evolved differently in sugar beet compared to other species. The researchers also studied disease resistance genes (the equivalent to the immune system in animals) which can be identified based on protein-domains. These genes turned out as particularly plastic, with beet-specific gene family expansions and gene losses.
Many sequencing projects nowadays targeted at the analysis of novel genomes also address the description of genetic variation within the species of interest. Commonly, "this is achieved by generating sequencing reads obtained from high-throughput sequencing technologies, followed by alignment of these reads against the reference genome to identify differences," explains Heinz Himmelbauer, a principle investigator of this study.
The current work, nevertheless, went one step further and generated genome assemblies from four additional sugar beet lines. This allowed the researchers to obtain a much better picture of intraspecific variation in sugar beet than would have been possible otherwise. In summary, 7 million variants were discovered throughout the genome. However, variation was not uniformly distributed: The authors found regions of high, but also of very low variation, "reflecting both the small population size from which the crop was established, as well as the human selection, which has shaped the plants' genomes. Additionally, gene numbers varied between different sugar beet cultivars, which contained up to 271 genes not shared with any of the other lines," as Juliane Dohm and André Minoche, two scientists involved in the study commented.
The researchers also performed an evolutionary analysis of each sugar beet gene in order to put them into context with already known genes of other plants. This analysis allowed them to identify gene families that are expanded in sugar beet compared to other plants, but also families that are absent. Notably such gene families were most commonly associated with stress response or with disease resistance, added Toni Gabaldon, group leader in the CRG Bioinformatics and Genomics programme and ICREA research professor.Finally, the work also provides a first genome sequence of spinach, which is a close relative of sugar beet.
Thanks to the sugar beet genome sequence made by the researchers and the associated resources generated, future studies on the molecular dissection of natural and artificial selection, gene regulation and gene-environment interaction, as well as biotechnological approaches to customize the crop to different uses in the production of sugar and other natural products, are expected to be held."Sugar beet will be an important cornerstone of future genomic studies involving plants, due to its taxonomic position," the authors claim.Sugar beets being dumped in a trailer. Sugar beet accounts for nearly 30% of the world's annual sugar production, according to FAO, and provides a source for bioethanol and animal feed.
8) Seven Distinct African Crocodile Species, Not Just Three, Biologists Show:
African crocodiles, long thought of as just three known species, are among the most iconic creatures on that continent. But recent University of Florida research now finds that there are at least seven distinct African crocodile species.The UF team's latest discovery, led by then-doctoral candidate Matthew H. Shirley, is that what had been believed to be a single species of slender-snouted crocodile, is actually two.The findings, which have major implications for policy-makers and conservationists, are outlined in a paper published online last week by Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
The results emphasize how little is known about crocodile biogeography, or how species are distributed geographically over time, in Western and Central Africa, said Jim Austin, a co-author on the paper and Shirley's doctoral adviser at UF.In the paper, Shirley and his team describe that West African populations of the slender-snouted crocodile do not share the same genetic or specific physical features as those populations in Central Africa -- and they estimate the two populations have been separated from each other geographically for at least 7 million years.Biologists and conservation agencies need to know the precise taxonomy of animals and plants to avoid allocating precious conservation funding and effort working to protect species that may be more plentiful than believed, or -- as in this case -- ensuring that those resources can be directed toward species whose numbers are lower than believed.
Now that researchers know the West African slender-snouted crocodile is not the same species as its Central African cousin, Shirley said, that changes its standing.
"The West African slender-snouted crocodile is actually among the three or four most endangered crocodiles in the world," Shirley wrote in an email last week. "By finally recognizing that it is a unique species, we are in a much better position to advance its conservation and ensure its future."Shirley likened the plight of the West African slender-snouted croc to the American alligator, which was on the cusp of extinction in the 1960s, but because it was protected, can now be easily observed in nature, be legally harvested at times, and helps drive Florida's tourism economy.In Africa, crocodiles are traded and consumed as bush meat, making them a significant protein source for residents. They also play a major role at the top of the food pyramid, with significant influence on fish and crustraceans, much as lions control antelope populations."If we remove them from the ecosystem, then there may be profound effects on fisheries resources in the future," he wrote.
Crocodile species are often difficult to identify by physical characteristics alone. Most non-scientists can barely tell the difference between an alligator and a crocodile, in fact. So to bolster their genetic sleuthing, the UF team also looked at skull characteristics of slender-snouted crocodiles from museum collections and were able to find consistent differences between the species, Austin said.Austin is a faculty member in UF's Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, part of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. The other team members were Kent Vliet, laboratories coordinator with UF's biology department, and Amanda Carr, an undergraduate in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation.Austin said the team's work is leading to helpful information for American zoos and aquariums by decoding the correct identification and taxonomy of African crocodiles housed in these facilities. Without the correct species identification, zookeepers could interbreed these hard-to-distinguish species, rendering them ineffective as founder animals for conservation purposes. And captive breeding efforts may be wasted when individuals of different species simply won't breed.
Movie Release This Week:
Movie Release This Week
A fictional film set in the alluring world of one of the most stunning scandals to rock our nation, American Hustle tells the story of brilliant con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), who along with his equally cunning and seductive British partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) is forced to work for a wild FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). DiMaso pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia that's as dangerous as it is enchanting. Jeremy Renner is Carmine Polito, the passionate, volatile, New Jersey political operator caught between the con-artists and Feds. Irving's unpredictable wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) could be the one to pull the thread that brings the entire world crashing down.
With the 70's behind him, San Diego's top rated newsman, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell), returns to the news desk in "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues." Also back for more are Ron’s co-anchor and wife, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), weather man Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), man on the street Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) and sports guy Champ Kind (David Koechner) - All of whom won’t make it easy to stay classy… while taking New York's first 24-hour news channel by storm.
In an abandoned mental hospital a series of secret experiments on the nature of brainwashing is being conducted - a project codenamed 'Limes',
Dhoom 3 is an upcoming Hindi action thriller film, written and directed by Vijay Krishna Acharya and produced by Aditya Chopra. It will be the third installment of the Dhoom series. Abhishek Bachchan and Uday Chopra will reprise their roles as Jai Dixit and Ali Akbar while Aamir Khan and Katrina Kaif form the antagonist duo. Believed to be one of the most expensive Indian films of all time, Dhoom 3 will be released on 20 December 2013 in regular 2D and IMAX formats.This is the first Bollywood movie to be released in the IMAX format. The film will also be released in Dolby Atmos.
This is the journey to the fabled, 'Mountain Of The Moon', in search of gold and diamond mines, up against threats as vivid and varied as lurking snakes, pouncing lions, poisonous flora, the fury of an active volcano and a seemingly, almost supernatural mythical horror 'The Bunyip' the guardian angel of the diamond cave. However, it is also the story of grit and determination, a story of following one's dream against all odds and emerging victorious, a story about a young lad called Shankar who, faced with the prospect of having to make a living as a factory worker in his impoverished village, bids farewell to his family in Keutia, rural Bengal, and through his aide Prasad Das Banopadhay, who happens to work for the Uganda railway head office, sets sail to the Dark Continent to work as the station master in Nakuru station, a dream come true for Shankar who has always envisioned himself as a expeditionary and holds interest in world geography and map reading. It is at this Nakuru station, where Shankar is faced with the consequences of Africa, ranging from bloodthirsty lions & aggressive Black Mambas. Shankar's true test begins when he rescues the Portuguese explorer Diego Alvarez and he tells the story of the ultimate adventure; a journey to the fabled 'Mountain of the Moon'.
Director: Kamaleshwar Mukherjee
Running time: 148 minutes
Story by: Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay
Political News Ths Week:
1) Devyani row: 'Why no focus on crimes committed against maid?':
The lawyer for a domestic help employed by Devyani Khobragade on Thursday said it is frustrating and disappointing that the focus in the case has shifted from the crimes that were committed against her client to the Indian diplomat."There is frustration and disappointment that the media (and the officials) has portrayed this story in the way that they have," Dana Sussman, staff attorney in the anti-trafficking programme at victim assistance agency Safe Horizon, told PTI.Sussman is the lawyer for the Indian woman Sangeeta Richard, who had been employed by Khobragade as a domestic help and babysitter.Senior director of the anti-trafficking programme at Safe Horizon Avaloy Lanning said the victim and other advocates are "frustrated" that the crime in the case is being "overshadowed" and the focus should be on the "crimes that were committed rather than on the criminal defendant."
She said irrespective of the position of the Indian officials about Richard's conduct, the charges against India's Deputy Consul General in New York "speak for themselves".Sussman stressed that the case is about Khobragade lying to the federal government about the wages she was required to pay to her client.Khobragade "did not pay those wages, she grossly underpaid my client and required that my client work far more than she had expected" and Khobragade wrongly represented this information the US government."My client worked for her for quite a while and eventually she decided that she could not tolerate the situation any longer," Sussman said.
Sussman, however, did not comment on the whereabouts of Richard and her family, on the police complaint lodged against her in India and the fact that she had been absconding since June.She also said she would not comment on the legal proceedings ongoing in India against Richard.She added that her client will not "at this point" come out and talk to the media.
She said Richard wants "justice" for herself and the story that is being lost in this case is that Richard is a witness in a federal investigation and criminal case against Khobragade.She will continue to cooperate with authorities, Sussman added.Richard is "not on trial here and we think that the message here has been lost in the fact that there are charges against Khobragade for violating US law and those charges relate to the underpayment of wages to a domestic worker. That is the story. The actual story has been lost" in the diplomatic row that has erupted between US and India.Sussman said the case is representative of the experiences of a significant number of domestic workers of diplomats and consular officials from all over the world who come on special visas to the US but face labour issues."We would like to see this story told in a broader way that discusses the issues of domestic workers of diplomats and consular officials and the issues that they face and the vulnerability they have in labour abuses and underpayment of wages," Sussman said, adding that her agency applauds the US government's action in the case.
Sussman said the action of the government demonstrates that the US is taking crimes which lead to exploitation and abuse of domestic workers seriously.
On the case being made by Indian authorities that Khobragade enjoys diplomatic immunity, Sussman said Khobragade enjoyed only a "limited form of consular immunity" given to consular officials and employees of the consulate."That does not pertain to her private actions in employing a domestic worker. The receiving country, in this case the US, determines what level of immunity a diplomat or consular official enjoys," she said.Whether Khobragade's transfer to the Indian Mission to the United Nations would weaken their case, Sussman said it is not upto Khobragade to determine what level of immunity she has."The receiving state determines the level of immunity for any individual. I am sure the US government has considered this," she said.Meanwhile, the Indian diplomats at India's Permanent Mission to the UN remained tight-lipped about the transfer of Khobragade from the Consulate to the mission, neither did they comment on the developments in the case.
2) 8 lakh 'theplas', 2 crore emails for Modi's Mumbai rally:
Everything about Narendra Modi’s Maha Garjana rally in Mumbai on Sunday is humongous, reports Prasanna D Zore.
Sample this: One crore SMSes and two crore emails sent by Bharatiya Janata Party’s social media team till December 19; 87,000 polling booth chiefs throughout Maharashtra connecting with 10 people each; 41 departments handling different aspects -- outdoors, publicity, social media, stage setting, etc. -- of the rally, a snack of five lakh to eight lakh theplas (a traditional Gujarati roti) ordered for participants, 1,000 buses to ferry people from in and around Mumbai and much more.
“We want to create history in Mumbai on December 22,” says Atul Shah, state BJP spokesperson, about the likely participation of people from Maharashtra at party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s rally.“Never before this you would have seen a rally of this kind,” says Madhav Bhandari, says chief BJP spokesperson, without getting into the complexity of guessing the number of participants at the Bandra-Kurla Complex ground, which is approximately three-times the size of Dadar’s Shivaji Park.
Interestingly, in an all out bid to project Narendra Modi as the “messiah of the masses as well as classes”, the state BJP unit have chalked out 41 departments to connect with chaiwalas, pheriwalas, thelewalas (hawkers), office-goers, corporates, villagers and the aam aadmi.
“Five to eight lakh theplas will be ready for those who will be attending the rally,” informs Shah. For this, he says, household women across Mumbai have volunteered under the leadership of city president Ashish Shelar, organising general secretary Sunil Karjatkar and Yogesh Sagar, BJP MLA from Mumbai.According to Bhandari, state BJP president Devendra Phadnavis had started galvanising the party’s Maharashtra cadres the day Narendra Modi was officially anointed as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate.
Primarily organised as a rally of 87,000 polling booths in-charges of the BJP across Maharashtra, the organisers want to showcase the strength and magnetism of BJP’s prime-ministerial candidate.Elucidating the party’s strategy to attract a huge number, Bhandari says that they had planned a two-pronged strategy: On one hand we are expecting each of our 87,000 polling booth agents to bring at least 5 people along with them. At the same time, our volunteers are canvassing across colleges in Maharashtra and encouraging the youth to enrol their names in the electoral lists.“The support we have enlisted in these colleges is huge which quite clearly shows that Modiji is a mascot of yuva shakti (youth power),” says Bhandari.Apart from making Narendra Modi popular among the country’s youth and the marginalised sections, the Maha Garjana rally is also likely to add to the BJP’s financial heft. “We will be collecting money through coupons from those willing to donate in a very transparent manner,” says Shah without setting a figure.Shah informs that representatives of various mass-based associations have been calling party workers evincing their interest to participate in the December 22 rally. “We are getting tremendous response from grain merchants, traders, slum dwellers and even middle class people. Everybody wants to attend Modiji’s rally.”
Speaking about the security during the Maha Garjana rally, Niranjan Shetty, another party spokesperson, said that more than 8,000 policemen from the city will be on vigil on the roads and vantage points. “The Gujarat police in charge of Modiji’s security in that state are already here and are looking after the stage and ground security apart from the commandos from the National Security Guard.”“10 fire engines, 10 to 15 ambulances will be stationed outside the rally premises and 30 beds have been kept on standby at the nearby Bhabha Hospital in case of any mishap,” Shetty said.To incorporate as wide a support-base as possible for Modi’s rally, Shetty said that former BJP MLA Raj Purohit has extensively covered Chira Bazaar, Mumba Devi and Kalba Devi areas of south Mumbai to elicit support from the traditional occupants and business people of these localities.
3) Jaya to party workers: AIADMK's train must reach Red Fort:
Exhorting her supporters to ensure a "complete win" for the party so that the United Progressive Alliance could be ousted from the Centre, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam supremo and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Thursday said her party would fight the next Lok Sabha polls on the plank of peace, prosperity and progress."The train called AIADMK is now at Fort St George Express (state secretariat). You should make it reach the Red Fort," she told a meeting of party's Executive and General Council."In elections, our theme will be peace, prosperity and progress," the Chief Minister said at a packed marriage hall near Chennai where the meeting was held.
Attacking the Congress-led UPA government, Jayalalithaa said it has been repeatedly taking revenge on the people of the state with a "step-motherly" attitude for giving her party a strong mandate in the 2011 assembly polls.
This included the "struggles" in the Cauvery river water sharing issue, including getting the final award notified in the central gazette, she said.
Tearing into the central government, she said it has to be "thrown out," and there was a need for a government that treated Tamil Nadu as a "partner" in national development and one that extends a hand of friendship.
"This (UPA) is an anti-people government and the gifts it has given to the people of the country are unprecedented corruption, soaring inflation, family politics, threats from neighbours and repeated hike in prices of petrol and diesel," she said.
The Centre was unable to handle the problems and not just big countries like China but even small ones like Sri Lanka and Myanmar were intimidating India and a "weak" central government was unable to handle the situation, she alleged.
"A strong leadership is required at the Centre. A powerful central government will ensure that such issues do not arise," she said.
The present government was creating problems not only for Tamil Nadu but entire India she said, adding that the coming elections will ensure a change of guard in New Delhi.
"Only if AIADMK gets complete win (all 40 seats -39 in Tamil Nadu and one in Puducherry), can India's prosperity and security be ensured. So the party has to stand alone and win all 40 seats. That is our aim," she said.
4) Another controversy over Taslima, TV serial postponed:
Exiled Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen ran into another controversy when protest by Muslim fundamentalists forced a Bengali channel to postpone the broadcast of a TV serial based on a story written by her.'Dusahobas' (translated roughly as living difficult), was scheduled to be shown on the small screen from tonight on the "Aakash Aath" channel.
"Although Aakash Aath is willing and is ready to commence the telecast of 'Dusahobas' on Thursday at 10pm as was envisaged, but due to reasons beyond the purview and control of our channel we may be forced to defer the telecast of this serial indefinitely," a spokesperson of the channel said.
In a statement, the channel said the serial was based on women empowerment and had nothing to do with any religion or community whatsoever.
Abdul Aziz of minority group Milli Ittehad Parishad told PTI that they had written to the producers asking them to withdraw Taslima's name and reference from the serial and withdraw scenes which might create a controversy.
"We have been told that there are some scenes in the serial which might hurt our sentiments. Through this serial she is trying to come back to Kolkata. Therefore we have opposed this," Aziz said.The minority groups have already forced the channel to withdraw all hoardings about the serial which has Taslima's name.
Maulana Nurur Rahman Barkati, Shahi Imam of the Tipu Sultan Mosque in Kolkata, said, "We will not allow the channel to show the serial at all". Idris Ali, president of All India Minority Forum, alleged that Taslima is trying to break peace and harmony in the state.
"We will not let her break communal harmony," Ali said. Exiled from Bangladesh in 1994 for allegedly hurting religious sentiments with her novel 'Lajja' (Shame), the doctor-turned-author had taken refuge in the city in 2004, after a long stay in Europe.
But after violent protests in the city in November 2007, the government took her away to an undisclosed location in New Delhi where she has been residing since then.
5) AP House adjourned till Jan 3 as Telangana stalemate continues:
The Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly was on Thursday abruptly adjourned till January 3 without even initiating the crucial debate on draft AP Re-organisation Bill-2013 that provides for the creation of a new state of Telangana.
With no end in sight to the stalemate that the House was pushed into in the last four days, Speaker Nadendla Manohar adjourned the Assembly, much to the chagrin of Telangana members who insisted on a debate on the draft Bill.
The Speaker announced a fresh schedule for the Assembly session that will be held from January 3-23 in two phases -- from January 3-10 and January 16-23 -- and a circular to this effect was issued to the members.
The draft bill, referred to the state Legislature by the President of India under Article 3 of the Constitution for expressing its views, has to be returned to the Centre by January 23, 2014 as per the time given by the President.
The Seemandhara legislators, who vowed not to let the debate be taken up, apparently succeeded as practically no business could be transacted after the draft Bill was tabled in the House on Monday.
There was a lot of drama outside the House today as talk spread that the Assembly would be adjourned till January 3 without taking up the debate on the draft Bill.
Worried TRS, BJP and CPI MLAs from Telangana shot off a letter to the Assembly Speaker requesting him to continue the session and let the debate be completed soon.
Ruling Congress MLAs from Telangana too met in Panchayat Raj Minister K Jana Reddy's chamber and wanted the House to continue its sitting and complete the debate.
The Telugu Desam Telangana Forum also wrote a letter to the Speaker requesting him to continue the Assembly session and complete the debate by the end of this month and return the draft Bill to the Centre.
On the other hand, Telugu Desam legislators from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema decided to meet President Pranab Mukherjee during his winter sojourn here and bring the shortcomings in the draft Bill to his notice.
6) Mubarak's sons, ex-Egypt PM acquitted in corruption case:
Ousted Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak's two sons and his last Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq were on Thursday acquitted of corruption charges by a criminal court in Cairo.
Alaa and Gamal Mubarak along with former prime minister and ex-presidential candidate Shafiq were acquitted by the court of embezzling public funds in the Pilots' Association for Land Development trial.
Mubarak's former aviation minister Shafiq headed the Pilots' Association for Land Development in 1992.
Shafiq was accused by the general prosecution of having seized 40,000 metres of land belonging to fishing farms and illegally allocating them to the association before reselling them to Mubarak's sons at lower than market price.
The criminal court also acquitted former air force generals Nabil Shoukry and Mohamed Reda, both former association officials who faced charges in the same trial.
Shafiq, who was tried in absentia, currently resides in Dubai. He left Egypt after his defeat in the presidential election runoff to the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi in 2012.
The former air force commander is facing another corruption trial. Alaa and Gamal Mubarak also face additional trials for corruption-related crimes.
Shafiq had earlier said he might return to Egypt if he is acquitted after having left for the UAE. Analysts expect he will even run for presidency the next year.
The military-installed government in Egypt have plans for holding parliamentary and presidential elections in 2014 following Morsi's ouster in a military coup on July 3.
Morsi is on trial for inciting murder while awaiting a separate trial on charges of conspiring with foreign militant groups like Hamas and Hezbollah to carry out terror acts.
Mubarak was sentenced to life in 2012 for failing to stop the killing of protesters during the 2011 popular uprising that ended his nearly three decades-long rule. He was acquitted on appeal and is now being retried.
7) Terror cases of Patna, Bodh Gaya and B'lore solved: Govt:
The three terror incidents that took place in Patna, Bangalore and Bodh Gaya this year have been solved, Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said on Thursday as he made it clear that government will deal with terrorism with an "iron fist"."The government has ensured that there was no repeat of 26/11 (2008 Mumbai terror siege) type of attack. Year 2013 witnessed four bomb blast cases. Hyderabad, Bangalore, Bodh Gaya and Patna suffered from terrorist incidence. I am happy to tell that Bangalore, Bodh Gaya and Patna blast cases have been solved," he said.
Shinde, who was speaking on the occasion of the foundation laying ceremony of the NATGRID data centre in New Delhi, did not elaborate.While in Bodh Gaya, the famous Buddhist monastery was targeted by terror blasts, in Patna explosions rocked a ground where BJP Prime Ministerial candidate and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was scheduled to hold a rally.
In Bangalore in April, blasts rocked the area close to the BJP office.Shinde said effective apparatuses like National Intelligence Grid are essential as these give timely and actionable information to intelligence and security agencies in their attempt to thwart nefarious designs.
"I assure the people of this great nation that the resolve of Government of India to provide safety and security to all cannot be challenged. Hanging of Afzal Guru, Ajmal Kasab and arrest of Yasin Bhatkal, Tunda, Haddi and solving blasts cases in no time, proves this resolve. Government will deal with iron fist when it comes to terrorism," he said.
The NATGRID data centre and other administrative infrastructure which will be completed in the next 30 months, inside a CRPF campus in south Delhi, will cost Rs 234 crore. It will have some of the most modern ergonomics and will be armed with sophisticated gadgetry.
Sports News This Week:
1) Ishant Sharma swings it India's way
India's pace bowlers staged a dramatic turnaround with a devastating exhibition of swing bowling as South Africa suffered a stunning collapse to leave the first cricket Test more or less on an even keel.
The Indians lost five wickets for just 25 runs to be bundled out for 280 in their first innings but clawed back brilliantly to leave the hosts at 213 for six at close in an action-packed second day.
The hosts were cruising along comfortably at 130 for one before the Indian pacers wreaked havoc to completely change the complexion of the game on a Wanderers track which gave assistance to the quick bowlers.
The lanky Ishant Sharma (3/64)triggered the shocking batting collapse by dismissing Hashim Amla (36) and Jaques Kallis (0) off consecutive deliveries before Zaheer Khan got rid of captain Graeme Smith (68) -- all three wickets falling without a single run being added.
Mohammed Shami then struck for his team by evicting J P Duminy (2) and A B De Villers (13) in the same over to bring the Indians back into the game.
From 130 for one, the Proteas were suddenly struggling at 146 for six, losing five wickets in the span of 16 runs in the eventful last session.
The Proteas, however, recovered some lost ground with Faf du Plessis and Vernon Philander stitching 67 runs for the unbroken seventh-wicket stand as Indian bowlers went wicketless for the last 21.3 overs.
Philander and du Plessis were batting on 48 and 17 respectively at stumps with South Africa still trailing by 67 runs.
The Indians were unlucky not to have the wicket of du Plessis as he was dropped on 17 by Rohit Sharma off Shami at the fag end of the day.
Smith and Hashim Amla started proceedings after tea, at 118/1, looking to further frustrate the Indians and increase their 81-run partnership for the second wicket. They could add only 12 runs though, before the drama began and wickets started falling in a heap.
2) Virat Kohli: In those big No.4 boots:
Dale Steyn's bouncer was fairly quick as always, clocking 144 kph. It was also heading towards Virat Kohli's throat. As always there was little time to react. But Kohli was ready.
The thwack off the bat was audible around the Wanderers, the sound magnified especially at the Corlett Drive end thanks to the Bullring-like setup. The ball had already hit the fence at the deep square-leg fence by the time Steyn had finished his follow through. Not surprisingly, the South African pacer had plenty to say. But all Kohli responded with was a wry smile. He didn't have to say much. The pull shot had done the talking for him. Next over, Steyn was taken off the attack.
On what could well be defined as his finest hour as a Test batsman, the 25-year-old played many shots, some delicate but mostly authoritative and imperious. He had in fact executed a similarly commanding pull off Jacques Kallis to open his account a while earlier. But it was this particular one off Steyn, which took him to 41, that really set the tone.
Eventually, Kohli's fifth Test century, and his most memorable one to date, ended up guiding India to 255/5 after Mahendra Singh Dhoni won the toss and took the bold decision to bat first.
It was into a cauldron that Kohli had walked into with Morne Morkel breathing fire. The score was reading 24/2 and the openers, Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay, had been set up by short-pitched deliveries. The prophecy was almost coming true. India were being made to look susceptible with the going at its toughest.
Kohli didn't start off too convincingly. Morkel was in the middle of a spell similar to the one that he had welcomed India with in Centurion last time around. Kohli was more than happy to see him off. He shouldered arms to 11 off the first 24 deliveries bowled to him. Then came a nasty bouncer from Morkel. A streaky boundary resulted as the ball took the splice of his hanging bat and flew towards third-man. The next ball hit his inside edge and just missed his leg-stump. He was also beaten once by Steyn as the pacer went wide off the crease and got the ball to straighten off the angle. But Kohli was undeterred. Next ball, he moved into the line and tucked away for a boundary.
3) India's weighty issues
India found itself at the wrong end of the reforms announced by wrestling's world governing body FILA. With the new rules, the country is staring at a nightmarish prospect of having to field just one of Sushil Kumar or Yogeshwar Dutt, both medal winners at London Olympics, for the Rio Games in 2016.
FILA dropped a weight category in freestyle wrestling on Tuesday while rejigging the existing ones. Grapplers will now compete in 57 and 65kg categories instead of the 55, 60 and 66kg classes, like they did at the 2012 London Games. For India, its three top wrestlers compete in these three categories — Amit Kumar, who won silver at this year's world championships, in 55kg; London Olympics bronze medallist Yogeshwar in 60kg and double Olympic medallist Sushil in 66kg. The revised weight category in freestyle wrestling would be 57, 65, 74, 86, 97 and 125kgs. The changes will come into effect from January 1.
It is expected that 20-year-old Amit, regarded as the best young talent in the country, will move his weight class from 55 to 57kg. Consequently, the toss up for the one remaining lightweight spot (65kg) is between Sushil and Yogeshwar. A country can field only one wrestler in one category, subject to qualification. "That's a situation we never thought will arise," says Sushil's former coach Ramphal Singh. "We were expecting rule changes and knew there would be variations in weight categories but did not imagine we would have to choose between our two best wrestlers. However, we will try to find a solution."
The solution, according to Wrestling Federation of India secretary and former coach Raj Singh, would be to move Sushil to middleweight (74kg) from existing 66kg and Yogeshwar to 65kg from 60. "We'll have to weigh our options. The best possible way to accommodate all three wrestlers will be to move Sushil to middleweight (74kg). That way, all three will be available for selection. It will be very tough, however, for both, as they will have to gain five to eight kilos and also train differently. We will talk to our wrestlers and coaches and devise a strategy," Raj said.
4) Somdev Devvarman in main draw of Chennai Open:
India's top singles tennis player Somdev Devvarman has been handed a direct entry in the main draw of the ATP Chennai Open tennis tournament after Estonia's Jurgen Zopp pulled out of the event due to a back injury.
World number 90 Somdev was to play in the qualifying round of the tournament but Zopp's withdrawal ensured that the Indian will get a berth in the main round. He will be spearheading India's challenge at the USD 450,000 tournament, to be held here from December 30 to January 5.
The tournament will witness top stars like world number eight Stanislas Wawrinka, world number 15 Mikhail Youzhny, world number 16 Fabio Fognini and defending singles champion Janko Tipsarevic. Other leading players will be France's Benoit Paire, Canada's Vasek Pospisil, Spaniards Marcel Granollers & Roberto Bautista-Agut, and Frenchman Edouard Roger-Vesselin.The 2014 edition marks only the second time in the history of the tournament when three returning singles champions form part of the playing field.This year, 28-year-old Somdev broke into top 100 after an impressive run. In the space of 10 months, he climbed more than 550 spots to be at number 90 in ATP Ranking.
He recorded main draw wins at his first six tour-level events of 2013, highlighted by a third-round run at the Sony Open Tennis, and followed with success on the ATP Challenger Tour circuit, reaching the semifinals at four events.Somdev also advanced to the second round of Roland Garros and the US Open and the third round of the Citi Open — all as a qualifier — to re-enter the top 100 by September. Somdev was also nominated for Comeback Player of the Year for the ATP.Other leading players, who will add excitement to the event, include France's Benoit Paire, Canada's Vasek Pospisil, Spaniards Marcel Granollers and Roberto Bautista-Agut and Frenchman Edouard Roger-Vesselin.
5) Final warning to RCA over Lalit Modi:
With just a day to go for the Rajasthan Cricket Association election, the BCCI — clearly agitated with Lalit Modi having been allowed to file his nomination — decided to give the state association one last warning from letting the banned administrator contest, calling their conduct 'unacceptable and totally condemnable'.
In a strongly-worded mail (accessed by The Indian Express) sent to RCA president CP Joshi on Wednesday, the Indian board's secretary Sanjay Patel expressed BCCI's severe displeasure at the situation, stating that RCA's stance to 'adopt a defiant tone' has been 'deliberate' in nature.
According to BCCI's rules, the letter further states, a banned member cannot take part in any activity related to a cricket board.
"Despite reminding you that your membership in the BCCI may be affected if you fail to abide by the decision taken in the Special General Meeting, you have deliberately adopted a defiant tone," says the letter. "Kindly note that your Executive Committee cannot sit in judgement over the decisions taken by BCCI and unless you follow the Rules and Regulations of BCCI, you will stand to lose your very right of membership of BCCI including the right to send players representing your state association for BCCI conducted tournaments."
Earlier in the day, Modi, the former IPL commissioner now in exile in London, was given clearance to contest for presidentship by two independent observers appointed by the Supreme Court. This, Modi being eligible for the post of RCA president, said Patel in his letter, has deeply disturbed the BCCI.
"Having allowed Nagpur District Cricket Association to continue as your member despite the suspension of its President Mr. Lalit Kumar Modi as early as on 26th April 2010, you have also facilitated this person to stand for the highest office of your association. Please note that your conduct is wholly unacceptable, inflammatory and totally condemnable. We wish to give you this last warning," the letter reads.
Book of This Week:
The Mountain of the Moon: Chander Pahar : By Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay
First published in the year 1937 in Bengali , The Mountain Of The Moon: Chander Pahar is a novel that is based on the adventures of a young Bengali boy, as he journeys through the African forests.
Summary Of The Book
It is the story of a young Bengali Boy(SANKAR) adventures in Africa in the years 1909-1910. Shankar Roy Chowdhury, the protagonist, is a 20 year old man, recently graduated from college and about to take up a job in a jute mill of shyamnagar, a prospect he absolutely loathes.He yearns for adventure, wild lands, forests and animals. He wants to follow the footsteps of famous explorers like Livingstone, Mungo Park, Marco Polo, all of whom he has read about and idolizes. By a stroke of luck, he secures a job as a clerk in Uganda Railway through a fellow villager already working there and goes to Africa without a second thought.
There, he spends a few months laying rail tracks but soon encounters the first of many dangers of Pre-World War I Africa—man-eating lions. Later he takes up a job as station master in desolate station. Here he encounters the another hazard in Africa: the poisonous black mamba. He also rescues and looks after the middle-aged Portuguese explorer and gold prospector, Diego Alvarez. The encounter with Alavarez influences him deeply. Alavarez tells him of his earlier exploits and adventures, how he and his companion Jim Carter had braved deep jungles and mountains of Richtersveld to find the largest diamond mine. However, they were thwarted by the legendary Bunyip, a mythical monster which guards the mines which killed Carter.
Shankar gives up his job and accompanies Alvarez as he decides to venture out once more and find the mines again. They meet with innumerable hardships, a raging volcano being the greatest challenge. Eventually they get lost in the forests where Alvarez is killed by a mysterious monster, the same that had taken Carter’s life, the Bunyip.
Shankar sets out to reach civilization. He finds the Bunyip's cave and the diamond mines by accident. He enters the cave but eventually gets lost. With great difficulty, he gets out, marking his way with "pebbles" and taking some back with him as memento, not knowing each is a piece of uncut diamond. He finds the remains of the Italian explorer, Attilio Gatti, and learns that the cave he found earlier really was the diamond mine. Gatti, as Shankar learns from a note by him, had uncut diamonds in his boots. The note said that whoever reads the note can take the diamonds as long as he buries his skeleton, with Christian rites. Shankar does so, and keeps the old diamonds. He becomes lost in the deserts of Kalahari and nearly dies of thirst. Fortunately he is rescued by a survey team, and taken to a hospital in Salisbury, Rhodesia, from where he sets sail for home. He ends the book saying that he will return to that cave one day with a large team, and continue the legacy of Alvarez, Carter and Gatti.
The Mountain Of The Moon: Chander Pahar is a book that revolves around a young man named Shankar Roy Chowdhury, who has finished his graduation studies. He desires to work, but is left only with the option of working at a jute mill. He is utterly disgusted with the idea and dreams of finding a job in a place filled with adventure, forests, and wild animals.
Out of the blue, he gets an offer to work as a clerk at Uganda Railway, on the recommendation of a fellow villager working there. Shankar jumps at the offer and lands in Africa. After spending few months in the country, he begins to find out that not everything’s rosy. He encounters man-eating lions, which were one of the first hazards in Africa pre-World War I.
Shankar decides to switch jobs and begins work as a station master at a semi-abandoned railway station. While working there, he comes in contact with a black mamba, and also happens to rescue a Portuguese explorer, Diego Alvarez. On a whim, Shankar decides to give up his job and search for mines with Alvarez. The latter is experienced at this task as he was accustomed to doing it with his accomplice Jim Carter, who was killed by Bunyip, a mysterious monster that lived in the mines.
The duo is faced with numerous difficulties. Eventually, Shankar finds himself alone and struggling for survival. The remains of an Italian explorer named Attilio Gatti, the man-eating monster Bunyip, and a handful of precious diamonds are also in the picture. It remains to be seen whether Shankar manages to get his life back on track or falls prey to the dangerous Bunyip.
Writer : Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay
Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay was one of the pioneering authors of Bengali Literature. He hailed from West Bengal, India. Apart from this book, Bandyopadhyay has written a number of other books. They include Aparajito, Pather Panchali, Adarsha Hindu Hotel, and Aam Aatir Bhenpu.
Bandyopadhyay was born on the 12th of September, 1894, in North 24 Parganas District, West Bengal. He completed his schooling from Bongaon High School, where he was regarded as a highly talented student. Bandyopadhyay later attended Surendranath College (Ripon College), Kolkata, to study Economics, Sanskrit, and History. After finishing his undergraduate course, he set foot in the field of teaching and also held a few other jobs to meet the financial needs of his family. He passed away on the 1st of November, 1950, in Bihar, as a result of a heart attack. In the year 1951, he was posthumously awarded the Rabindra Puraskar, which is one of the most prestigious awards in Bengali literature.