Science News This Week:
1) Scientists turn sunlight into jet fuel:
Doesn’t get more eco-friendly than this! In a world’s first researchers used sunlight, water and carbon dioxide to make 'green' jet fuel. European scientists simulated concentrated sunlight at a temperature of 700 degrees Celsius to convert water and carbon dioxide into a gas known as syngas, which is made out of hydrogen and carbon monoxide.Syngas is then turned into liquid kerosene, which is used to power buses and other forms of transport.
Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, European commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, said to Chemistry World: “This technology means we might one day produce cleaner and plentiful fuel for planes, cars and other forms of transport. This could greatly increase energy security and turn one of the main greenhouse gases responsible for global warming into a useful resource."Although the technology is still in its infancy (the researchers only produced enough kerosene to fill a small glass jar), scientists estimate that a full-scale solar reactor could produce 20,000 litres of jet fuel per day.
2) Spanish, Japanese centenarians reveal genetic key to longevity:
The genes of 894 men and women over the age of one hundred in Spain and Japan have revealed that the secret to longevity, at least in southern Europe, lies in a variant on chromosome 9p21.3, which had already been associated with the risk of cardiovascular disease. Centenarians live at least fifteen years longer than the average person in the West. This exceptional longevity is partially genetic, and it appears that there are a number of gene variants that may hold the key to a healthy old age life.
The genes of 894 men and women over the age of one hundred in Spain and Japan have revealed that the secret to longevity, at least in southern Europe, lies in a variant on chromosome 9p21.3, which had already been associated with the risk of cardiovascular disease.Centenarians live at least fifteen years longer than the average person in the West. This exceptional longevity is partially genetic.There are a number of gene variants that may hold the key to a healthy old age life. For example, a polymorphism (that is, a particular sequence variation in the DNA among individuals from a particular population) called rs1333049 on chromosome 9p21.3 is related to chronic ailments associated with aging, mainly with cardiovascular diseases.The C allele is the copy of this gene that carries the greatest risk. In order to find out whether this polymorphism is also associated with extreme longevity, Spanish researchers performed an analysis of the frequencies of this polymorphism among centenarians and healthy adults in two independent cohorts, by geographical regions and by ethnic groups.The study included 152 Spaniards aged between 110 and 111 years and 742 Japanese people aged between 100 and 115 years. The results have been published in the journal Age.
"This variant may be associated with extreme longevity, particularly among the Spanish population," Alejandro Lucía, the main author and researcher at the European University and also a member of the Hospital 12 de Octubre Research Institute, told SINC. "The study also revealed that the risk allele reduces the possibilities of reaching one hundred years of age."The frequency of the risk C variant in Spanish people over the age of one hundred was 47.0%, lower than in healthy people that were taken as a control sample in the study (52.9%) and individuals with cardiovascular disease (55.1%).Significant differences were also discovered between the centenarians and the two control groups when their genotype frequencies were compared, in other words, the proportion of individuals with a specific gene sequence.The results were different in the Japanese group. Among the Japanese participants, the risk gene variant had a similar frequency in centenarians (46.4%) and in healthy controls (47.3%), but it was less frequent than in controls performed with cardiovascular disease (57.2%).Although the biological mechanisms through which this polymorphism could affect aging are not known, it is adjacent to two genes called CDKN2A and CDKN2B, which play an important role in cell cycle regulation."In fact, the CDKN2A takes part in the p53 signalling pathway, one of the most important ones in the cell senescence regulation," adds Lucía.
Healthy aging model"
People aged one hundred years or over are not only the peak of the population pyramid," says Lucía. "They also represent a healthy aging model given that they have delayed, and sometimes even avoided, chronic illnesses that come with age and loss of independence and they tend to be just as health as nonagenarians."
This is why the authors believe it is important to know the genetic or environmental factors that condition the possibilities of reaching this age.
Although more research is required, the information obtained from this study coincides with others published recently on the Mediterranean population of the north of Italy, "therefore the effect of this gene seems to exist in southern Europe at least," concluded the researcher.
3) Young blood proven good for old brain:
Plasma component restores some of youth’s vibrancy to elderly mice. Vampires knew it all along, but now scientists have discovered that young blood can keep an old brain sharp. Plasma or blood from a young mouse — or even a single protein from plasma — rejuvenates sluggish bodies and minds in a host of ways, three new studies find.
Throughout the ages, people have searched far and wide for an elixir that replenishes the body. “Maybe they were just looking too far,” says Tony Wyss-Coray of Stanford University School of Medicine, coauthor of a May 4 study in Nature Medicine.
Young blood recharges old neurons, improving mice’s ability to learn and remember things, Wyss-Coray and colleagues found. Two other papers, appearing May 4 in Science, identified a particular ingredient in young blood that improves both brain and muscles.
4) Astronomers create first realistic virtual universe:
Move over, Matrix -- astronomers have done you one better. They have created the first realistic virtual universe using a computer simulation called "Illustris." Illustris can recreate 13 billion years of cosmic evolution in a cube 350 million light-years on a side with unprecedented resolution. "Until now, no single simulation was able to reproduce the universe on both large and small scales simultaneously," says lead author Mark Vogelsberger (MIT/Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), who conducted the work in collaboration with researchers at several institutions, including the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies in Germany.
These results are being reported in the May 8th issue of the journal Nature.Previous attempts to simulate the universe were hampered by lack of computing power and the complexities of the underlying physics. As a result those programs either were limited in resolution, or forced to focus on a small portion of the universe. Earlier simulations also had trouble modeling complex feedback from star formation, supernova explosions, and supermassive black holes.
Illustris employs a sophisticated computer program to recreate the evolution of the universe in high fidelity. It includes both normal matter and dark matter using 12 billion 3-D "pixels," or resolution elements.The team dedicated five years to developing the Illustris program. The actual calculations took 3 months of "run time," using a total of 8,000 CPUs running in parallel. If they had used an average desktop computer, the calculations would have taken more than 2,000 years to complete.
The computer simulation began a mere 12 million years after the Big Bang. When it reached the present day, astronomers counted more than 41,000 galaxies in the cube of simulated space. Importantly, Illustris yielded a realistic mix of spiral galaxies like the Milky Way and football-shaped elliptical galaxies. It also recreated large-scale structures like galaxy clusters and the bubbles and voids of the cosmic web. On the small scale, it accurately recreated the chemistries of individual galaxies.Since light travels at a fixed speed, the farther away astronomers look, the farther back in time they can see. A galaxy one billion light-years away is seen as it was a billion years ago. Telescopes like Hubble can give us views of the early universe by looking to greater distances. However, astronomers can't use Hubble to follow the evolution of a single galaxy over time.
"Illustris is like a time machine. We can go forward and backward in time. We can pause the simulation and zoom into a single galaxy or galaxy cluster to see what's really going on," says co-author Shy Genel of the CfA.
5) Scientists create first living organism that transmits added letters in DNA 'alphabet':
Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have engineered a bacterium whose genetic material includes an added pair of DNA "letters," or bases, not found in nature. The cells of this unique bacterium can replicate the unnatural DNA bases more or less normally, for as long as the molecular building blocks are supplied. "Life on Earth in all its diversity is encoded by only two pairs of DNA bases, A-T and C-G, and what we've made is an organism that stably contains those two plus a third, unnatural pair of bases," said TSRI Associate Professor Floyd E. Romesberg, who led the research team. "This shows that other solutions to storing information are possible and, of course, takes us closer to an expanded-DNA biology that will have many exciting applications -- from new medicines to new kinds of nanotechnology."
The report on the achievement appears May 7, 2014, in an advance online publication of the journal Nature.
Romesberg and his laboratory have been working since the late 1990s to find pairs of molecules that could serve as new, functional DNA bases -- and, in principle, could code for proteins and organisms that have never existed before.The task hasn't been a simple one. Any functional new pair of DNA bases would have to bind with an affinity comparable to that of the natural nucleoside base-pairs adenine-thymine and cytosine-guanine. Such new bases also would have to line up stably alongside the natural bases in a zipper-like stretch of DNA. They would be required to unzip and re-zip smoothly when worked on by natural polymerase enzymes during DNA replication and transcription into RNA. And somehow these nucleoside interlopers would have to avoid being attacked and removed by natural DNA-repair mechanisms.
Despite these challenges, by 2008 Romesberg and his colleagues had taken a big step towards this goal; in a study published that year, they identified sets of nucleoside molecules that can hook up across a double-strand of DNA almost as snugly as natural base pairs and showed that DNA containing these unnatural base pairs can replicate in the presence of the right enzymes. In a study that came out the following year, the researchers were able to find enzymes that transcribe this semi-synthetic DNA into RNA.
But this work was conducted in the simplified milieu of a test tube. "These unnatural base pairs have worked beautifully in vitro, but the big challenge has been to get them working in the much more complex environment of a living cell," said Denis A. Malyshev, a member of the Romesberg laboratory who was lead author of the new report.
Microalgae Lead to Breakthrough
In the new study, the team synthesized a stretch of circular DNA known as a plasmid and inserted it into cells of the common bacterium E. coli. The plasmid DNA contained natural T-A and C-G base pairs along with the best-performing unnatural base pair Romesberg's laboratory had discovered, two molecules known as d5SICS and dNaM. The goal was to get the E. coli cells to replicate this semi-synthetic DNA as normally as possible.The greatest hurdle may be reassuring to those who fear the uncontrolled release of a new life form: the molecular building blocks for d5SICS and dNaM are not naturally in cells. Thus, to get the E. coli to replicate the DNA containing these unnatural bases, the researchers had to supply the molecular building blocks artificially, by adding them to the fluid solution outside the cell. Then, to get the building blocks, known as nucleoside triphosphates, into the cells, they had to find special triphosphate transporter molecules that would do the job.The researchers eventually were able to find a triphosphate transporter, made by a species of microalgae, that was good enough at importing the unnatural triphosphates. "That was a big breakthrough for us -- an enabling breakthrough," said Malyshev.
Though the completion of the project took another year, no hurdles that large arose again. The team found, somewhat to their surprise, that the semi-synthetic plasmid replicated with reasonable speed and accuracy, did not greatly hamper the growth of the E. coli cells, and showed no sign of losing its unnatural base pairs to DNA repair mechanisms."When we stopped the flow of the unnatural triphosphate building blocks into the cells, the replacement of d5SICS-dNaM with natural base pairs was very nicely correlated with the cell replication itself -- there didn't seem to be other factors excising the unnatural base pairs from the DNA," Malyshev said. "An important thing to note is that these two breakthroughs also provide control over the system. Our new bases can only get into the cell if we turn on the 'base transporter' protein. Without this transporter or when new bases are not provided, the cell will revert back to A, T, G, C, and the d5SICS and dNaM will disappear from the genome."The next step will be to demonstrate the in-cell transcription of the new, expanded-alphabet DNA into the RNA that feeds the protein-making machinery of cells. "In principle, we could encode new proteins made from new, unnatural amino acids -- which would give us greater power than ever to tailor protein therapeutics and diagnostics and laboratory reagents to have desired functions," Romesberg said. "Other applications, such as nanomaterials, are also possible."
6) Stem cells from teeth can make brain-like cells:
University of Adelaide researchers have discovered that stem cells taken from teeth can grow to resemble brain cells, suggesting they could one day be used in the brain as a therapy for stroke. In the University's Centre for Stem Cell Research, laboratory studies have shown that stem cells from teeth can develop and form complex networks of brain-like cells. Although these cells haven't developed into fully fledged neurons, researchers believe it's just a matter of time and the right conditions for it to happen.
"Stem cells from teeth have great potential to grow into new brain or nerve cells, and this could potentially assist with treatments of brain disorders, such as stroke," says Dr Kylie Ellis, Commercial Development Manager with the University's commercial arm, Adelaide Research & Innovation (ARI).Dr Ellis conducted this research as part of her Physiology PhD studies at the University, before making the step into commercialisation. The results of her work have been published in the journal Stem Cell Research & Therapy."The reality is, treatment options available to the thousands of stroke patients every year are limited," Dr Ellis says. "The primary drug treatment available must be administered within hours of a stroke and many people don't have access within that timeframe, because they often can't seek help for some time after the attack."Ultimately, we want to be able to use a patient's own stem cells for tailor-made brain therapy that doesn't have the host rejection issues commonly associated with cell-based therapies. Another advantage is that dental pulp stem cell therapy may provide a treatment option available months or even years after the stroke has occurred," she says.
Dr Ellis and her colleagues, Professors Simon Koblar, David O'Carroll and Stan Gronthos, have been working on a laboratory-based model for actual treatment in humans. As part of this research Dr Ellis found that stem cells derived from teeth developed into cells that closely resembled neurons.
"We can do this by providing an environment for the cells that is as close to a normal brain environment as possible, so that instead of becoming cells for teeth they become brain cells," Dr Ellis says."What we developed wasn't identical to normal neurons, but the new cells shared very similar properties to neurons. They also formed complex networks and communicated through simple electrical activity, like you might see between cells in the developing brain."This work with dental pulp stem cells opens up the potential for modelling many more common brain disorders in the laboratory, which could help in developing new treatments and techniques for patients.
Movie Release This Week:
Based on the true crime book, Devil's Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three by Mara Leveritt, Devil's Knot tells the compelling story of three teenagers accused of the brutal 1993 murder of three 8-year old boys in Memphis, Ark. - two of them sentenced to life imprisonment and one to death. The film explores the lives of deeply misunderstood outsiders, their families and communities, and their darkest fantasies. The conviction of the West Memphis Three - Damien Echols, Jesse Misskelley, Jr., and Jason Baldwin - riled the American justice system, shocked a tightly knit religious town and outraged the nation.
When Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) suddenly quits his job at a prominent Los Angeles restaurant after refusing to compromise his creative integrity for its controlling owner (Dustin Hoffman), he is left to figure out what’s next. Finding himself in Miami, he teams up with his ex-wife (Sofia Vergara), his friend (John Leguizamo) and his son to launch a food truck. Taking to the road, Chef Carl goes back to his roots to reignite his passion for the kitchen -- and zest for life and love.
All Allyson and her friends want is a peaceful, grown-up evening of dinner and conversation . . . a long-needed moms' night out. But in order to enjoy high heels, adult conversation and food not served in a bag, they need their husbands to watch the kids for a few hours-what could go wrong? Moms' Night Out is an endearing, true-to-life family comedy.
Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return is a 3D-animated musical based on the adventure books by Roger S. Baum, the great-grandson of L. Frank Baum. A continuation of one of the world’s most popular and beloved fairy tales, Legends of Oz finds Dorothy (Lea Michele) waking to post-tornado Kansas, only to be whisked back to Oz to try to save her old friends the Scarecrow (Dan Aykroyd), the Lion (Jim Belushi), the Tin Man (Kelsey Grammer) and Glinda (Bernadette Peters) from a devious new villain, the Jester (Martin Short). Wiser the owl (Oliver Platt), Marshal Mallow (Hugh Dancy), China Princess (Megan Hilty) and Tugg the tugboat (Patrick Stewart) join Dorothy on her latest magical journey through the colorful landscape of Oz to restore order and happiness to Emerald City. Set to the tunes of Academy Award-nominated singer/songwriter Bryan Adams, Legends of Oz marks a charming, family-friendly return to the Oz franchise.
Starry-eyed teenager Camilla Swanson wants to follow in her mother's footsteps and become a Broadway diva, but she's stuck working in the kitchen of a snobby performing arts camp. Determined to change her destiny, she sneaks in to audition for the summer showcase and lands a lead role in the play, but just as rehearsals begin, blood starts to spill, and Camilla soon finds herself terrified by the horror of musical theatre.
Political News This week:
1) LS polls: High turnout in 8th phase, 81% voting in West Bengal; 76% in Seemandhra:
High polling was on Wednesday registered in the penultimate phase of Lok Sabha elections in 64 constituencies in a high-stake battle where the fate of 1,737 candidates including Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, his cousin Varun, Ram Vilas Paswan and Rabri Devi, were decided. One person was killed when police opened fire outside a polling booth in Bihar's Sitamarhi district in a bid to prevent its capture.
The highest turnout in the 8th phase was 81.28 per cent in the six seats in West Bengal, which Trinamool Congress is trying to wrest from Left Front, followed by 76 per cent in Seemandhra, where voters chose 25 representatives to Lok Sabha and 175 members of the proposed assembly simultaneously. Two key battleground states Bihar, where seven constituencies went to poll today, and Uttar Pradesh, where 15 seats were up for grab, recorded impressive voters' turnout of 58 per cent and 55.52 per cent.
Congress hopes to retain as much ground as possible in today's phase covering central UP in the face of a strong surge by BJP, playing the caste and religion cards, and a desperate BSP and SP seeking to hold on to their Muslim-OBC-Dalit vote base.After today's phase, voting has been completed in 502 of the total of 543 constituencies and the remaining 41 seats will go to polls in the last round on May 12. The talking point today was Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, where Rahul Gandhi is contesting for the third time in a row, as a 55.2 per cent polling was recorded.
Rahul, who has represented the seat since 2004, for the first time toured polling booths in Amethi on the voting day, apparently in the face of a tough challenge posed by his rivals Smriti Irani of BJP and Kumar Vishwas of Aam Aadmi Party. Modi had made an aggressive campaign in Amethi, the bastion of Gandhi family for more than three decades, on the last day of electioneering for the 8th phase on April 5. In neighbouring Sultanpur constituency, where Rahul's cousin and BJP's Varun Gandhi is in fray, 57.2 per cent voters cast their votes. Barring sporadic clashes between workers of YSR Congress Party and TDP and alleged attacks on policemen in Rayalaseema districts, polling has been largely peaceful for the 175 assembly and 25 Lok Sabha constituencies in Seemandhra where Congress is battling hard to repeat its 2009 impressive show apparently as a price for bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. Prominent among the 118 candidates in Bihar were LJP chief Paswan from Hajipur and former Bihar chief minister and RJD candidate Rabri Devi from Saran where she is pitted against Rajiv Pratap Rudy of BJP.
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, his wife Dolly Gogoi and their son and Koliabor constituency Congress candidate Gaurav Gogoi cast their votes in Jorhat. "There is no Modi magic, but Tarun Gogoi magic in Assam. Earlier, I had said we will win ten seats, but now I am sure the Congress will get more than that, he told reporters after casting his vote. Speaking in the same vein, Tripura Chief Minister and CPI-M politburo member Manik Sarkar said "In reality there is no Modi wave in the country. It is actually the creation of the corporate media." Four persons, including a woman, demanding to cast their vote early at a voting centre in Sarupathar Silonijan area of Kaliabor constituency in Assam, received minor injuries in a fracas with CRPF personnel, police sources said.
The state election office web cast the election process at each of the polling stations. For the first time in the northeast region, all polling booths in the state were declared smoking-free. In Agartala, Chief Electoral Officer, Ashutosh Jindal told reporters that the polls were incident free and barring a few complaints, EVMs functioned well and in case of minor problems they were either changed or repaired. The next phase of the LS polls in Assam would be held on April 12 for three Lok Sabha seats of Karimganj (SC), Silchar and Autonomous District (ST). Polling for the East Tripura (ST Reserve) seat would be held on the same day. There were two LS seats in the state.
2) Drama in Amethi, high turnout mark round 8 of LS elections:
Voters in seven states - led by a record-breaking West Bengal and Seemandhra - raked up impressive numbers as the penultimate round of the Lok Sabha elections concluded on Wednesday.Millions of voters across 64 constituencies formed serpentine queues to elect their representatives from among 897 candidates in the fray.
West Bengal improved its 2009 voting percentage in the six seats which went to the polls on Wednesday, reaching 81%. In 2009, the same six seats had returned a figure of 78%.Amethi, the most watched of the 64 seats that voted in Phase 8 of the elections, witnessed high drama as sitting MP Rahul Gandhi was greeted with slogans of 'Har Har Modi', got into a verbal scrap with a voter and was less than pleased after seeing a "lotus election symbol on a black board" at one polling booth.
That wasn't all. The BJP also accused the Congress vice-president of violating election rules by entering the voting compartment of a booth while his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's aide, Priti Sahai, was asked to leave Amethi following a heated argument with BJP candidate Smriti Irani. Irani claimed Sahai didn't have the authority to be there and the district magistrate asked Sahai to leave.
The Gandhi family bastion saw 55.56% of the electorate come out to vote - almost 10% higher than in 2009. This was the trend overall as turnouts in all seven states going to polls went past 2009 figures. The voting percentage for the 502 Lok Sabha seats covered in eight rounds thus far stands at 66.27%, a big improvement from 57.94% in 2009. If the trend continues in the final phase on May 12, it would be the highest ever polling India has seen in a general elections - breaking the 64% record set in 1984-85.
A photograph of Rahul standing in a voting compartment with a voter was uploaded by AAP, which demanded action against him. It was one of 60 complaints filed by AAP regarding polls in Amethi and most were found to be false by the EC.But deputy election commission Vinod Zutshi said entering a voting compartment was a violation of election rules and a complaint in this regard would be examined.The Congress, in turn, accused Irani of breaking the rules by campaigning inside a polling station. She left soon after the EC intervened.
On his tour of polling booths, Rahul was asked aggressively by a youth in a saffron scarf, "What is the point of coming to the village on polling day after 10 years?" To this, Rahul retorted, "Go and work for the BJP," sensing the man was leading a group of locals working for the saffron party. The group started shouting 'Har Har Modi' and continued to do so till the Congress vice-president left.Rahul also said he would draw the attention of the EC to the lotus drawing, saying display of the BJP's election symbol was a violation of the model code of conduct.While militancy-hit areas like Kupwara, Handwara and Sonawari and frontier areas like Uri and Tangdar saw brisk polling, Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru's shadow hung over parts of Baramulla, especially the apple town of Sopore. Also the home town of hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Sopore registered a mere 1% polling.
This phase will mark the completion of more than 92% of voting in the Indian elections - that is 502 of the 543 Lok Sabha seats -- which will enter the home stretch leading up to the final phase of polling on May 12 in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal.
3) Goa: 1 dead, 4 injured in explosion:
One person was killed and four children were among the injured in a blast near Madgaon town, 40 km from Panaji, this afternoon, a top police official said.Deputy Inspector General of Police O P Mishra confirmed that 1 person had died and two others were seriously injured in the blast. "Police have rushed to the spot and the cause of the blast is not known. The details will emerge only in the evening," he added.The man who was killed was the one carrying the explosives.T N Mohan, Director General of Police told Rediff.com that the deceased a migrant labour had arrived home earlier on Thursday evening with the explosives on him.The explosion killed him instantly. His family members too were injured, which included his children.The police say that they are looking for more information on the migrant labour.The Goa police suspect the use of gelatine sticks in the blast.A bomb disposal squad was sent to the spot and the area had been cordoned off, sources said.The blast in Madgaon, which has several industries, occurred at a place where workers reside.
The use of gelatine sticks here is normally used for industrial purposes. But the Goa police want to be doubly sure this timeThey had busted a major terror plot in December 2013. The police had recovered 86 bags of explosives, 500 detonators and several bags of the safety fuse coil used to make bombs.The police had apprehended Moideen Kunnhi a resident of Puttur in connection with case. It was alleged that this man from Karnataka had plans of undertaking an attack and hence was in the possession of these explosives.The matter had come up for hearing two days ago and the court had rejected his bail plea.
4) Modi attacks EC, takes out roadshow in Varanasi:
Narendra Modi Thursday launched an all-out war on the Election Commission accusing it of working "under pressure" and showing bias against him and took out a roadshow defying prohibitory orders over the denial of permission for him to hold a rally in Varanasi.
On a day, Modi, who is contesting from Varanasi, and other top BJP guns traded heavy fire, the Election Commission called a special press conference to reject accusations of bias and made it clear that it was "not afraid of anyone, any political party or any entity" in doing its job.Capping an acrimonious day, Modi landed at the Banaras Hindu University campus helipad, near the venue of the party protests, and held an undeclared 5 km roadshow to the main BJP election office in Sigra, where a large number police and Rapid Action Force personnel were deployed.
All along the route, he was greeted by saffron-cap wearing supporters, who kept on chanting 'Modi, Modi, Modi' as the cavalcade made a slow progress to the venue of a meeting where he held closed-door discussions with senior leaders, workers and intellectuals.Additional District Magistrate (City) M C Singh said prohibitory orders under Section 144 of Cr PC have been imposed in the city.
Right from the morning, the BJP brass, including Arun Jaitley and Amit Shah, attacked the Commission by holding protests outside the Banaras Hindu University and near the Commission's headquarters in Delhi demanding the removal of Pranjal Yadav, Varanasi Returning Officer for his "partisan approach"."It is unfortunate 5that the EC is not concerned about the institution's neutrality. That is why our 'karyakartas' (workers) have to embark on a satyagraha," he wrote on Twitter before embarking on a day-long campaigning in Eastern Uttar Pradesh.He continued his criticism of the EC in the meetings. Addressing a rally on the outskirts of Varanasi, he escalated his attack saying the Commission was working "under pressure" but did not elaborate."The Election Commission should do introspection. I don't know under whose pressure they are working. My speech is not so important because people will get my message even through my silence," Modi said in an apparent reference to the denial of permission to address a meeting in Beniabagh, said to be a communally-sensitive spot in the city.The BJP had applied for an alternative site but later spurned the permissions given to it hold a rally in another place. But the party insisted on holding it only in Beniabagh and turned all its guns on the EC.
Modi told the Congress that people have decided to defeat the party and "EC cannot make you win".On the security reasons cited for denial of permission, he said the government need not worry about his security as he was ready to die for his country."Still, it is an attack on my democratic rights. Should I not get rights that every other candidate is entitled to get. I have been denied permission to meet mother Ganga too," he said, while promising to come back for Ganga pujan soon.He claimed he was being targeted for last 14 years and even Central Bureau of Investigation has been left after him.
Top Bharatiya Janata Party leaders including Arun Jaitley held protests against the Election Commission and the returning officer who had denied permission to Narendra Modi for holding a public meeting at a venue of his choice in Varanasi.
Along with Amit Shah and Ananth Kumar, Jaitley sat on dharna at the gate of the Banaras Hindu University attacking the alleged partisan attitude of Returning Officer Pranjal Yadav and demanded his removal.
5) Who tried to kill Ramesh Agrawal, the activist and winner of the prestigious Goldman Environment Prize?:
Activist Ramesh Agrawal, 56, is among the six people who will be awarded the prestigious Goldman Environment Prize. However, two years after he was shot at immediately after he managed to stop Jindal Steel and Power Limited's coal mining project in Raigarh district, Chhattisgarh, the police and courts have been unable to unravel the bigger conspiracy behind the attack.
The Chhattisgarh police have filed a charge sheet in the case in which seven people, including a Jindal employee, a retired army brigadier, KK Chopra and his associate SN Panigrahi, who run a security agency, Superior Fire and Security Service, which provides security for Jindal Steel and Power Limited in Raigarh, have been named. The main attacker, who hails from Andhra Pradesh, is still absconding. Chopra and Panigrahi are out on bail while the Jindals have repeatedly denied all allegations against the company.
Local activists and Agrawal alleged that the attack was carried out at the behest of Naveen Jindal in 2012. Agrawal alleged that Jindal is influencing the case because of which the larger conspiracy behind the attack is not being unraveled.
Agrawal, who is currently in San Francisco for the award ceremony, had managed to stall the multi-million mining project of Jindal Steel and Power Limited, citing lacunae in environmental clearances and alleged farce public hearings, mandatory for such projects. Before that, Agrawal was incarcerated for two months in 2010 when Jindal filed a defamation case, alleging that Agrawal defamed the company during his public meeting with the villagers.
The attackers shot Agrawal in his groin and thigh in 2012. Two years later, he still has a steel rod installed in his femur and a cane to support him while walking.
“The local police is trying to dilute the case even in court so that the witnesses and accused do not point at Naveen Jindal on whose instance the attack was carried out. The main conspirator is still absconding and witnesses record statements sluggishly. Jindal is trying hard to ensure that people even remotely associated with him are not indicted in the case,” alleged Rajesh Tripathi, another activist from Raigarh, who is fighting for the rights of tribals and protection of environment.
The Goldman annual prize honours outstanding grassroots environmentalists who have made sustained and significant efforts, even at great personal risk, to protect and enhance the natural environment. The individual cash prize is $175,000. Agrawal won the prize along with five other activists across the globe.
6) Saradha scandal: Supreme Court orders CBI probe into chit fund scams in West Bengal and other states:
In a jolt to Mamta Banerjee-government in West Bengal, the Supreme Court today ordered CBI inquiry into the multi-crore Saradha scam and similar cases in the state. The court also asked the CBI to investigate chit fund-related scam cases in Orissa and other states including Tripura and Assam.A bench led by Justice T S Thakur said that the aspects of inter-state ramifications and the larger conspiracy angle required an in- depth probe by the premier investigative agency.The bench asked the CBI to carry out further investigation wherever required. It directed the state agencies to assist the CBI in its probe.It said regulators in the state governments failed to check the spread of the scam.In case of West Bengal, the SC was hearing two PILs – one filed by advocates Pratim Kumar Singha Ray and Abu Abbasuddin, and another by advocate Subrata Chattoraj, seeking a CBI enquiry into the scam, which is being opposed by the state. The TMC government had alleged “political motivation” behind the demand.
West Bengal had told the court that there was no need for a CBI probe as an ongoing probe by a special investigation team had made substantial progress. A division bench of Calcutta High Court had said last year there was no need for a CBI probe into the Saradha case.
Social activist Alok Jena filed a similar plea for CBI inquiry in Orissa. At the fag end of the hearing, Orissa government had conceded that the court may direct CBI inquiry in view of the sweep of the scam beyond the state.The Indian Express had first reported that the scale of the scam was much larger in Orissa.163 chit fund firms have collected around Rs 4,600 crore by defrauding the people in Orissa whereas the chit fund scam in West Bengal is estimated at Rs 2,460 crore. Moreover, at least 10 lakh families, mostly belonging to the low-income group, have been affected by the scam in Orissa.The court had last month reserved its judgement on the separate PILs.
Mamata Banerjee’s party has been under immense pressure as some of the TMC leaders have come under the scanner of Enforcement Directorate (ED) recently for their alleged links with Saradha. ED, which is probing the matter, has arrested Saradha promoter Sudipta Sen’s second wife and son for alleged money laundering . Sen and suspended Trinamool MP Kunal Ghosh are already behind the bars in connection with the scam.
Sports News This week:
1) IPL 2014: Virender Sehwag praises Glenn Maxwell; says the Australian is more destructive than Gayle and himself:
India’s most destructive opening batsman Virender Sehwag admits that his IPL teammate Glenn Maxwell is more destructive than him or even Royal Challengers Bangalore’s mighty Chris Gayle. Australian cricketer Glenn Maxwell has been giving nightmares to bowlers since the beginning of this season of the IPL. With a strike rate of 203.27, Maxwell is termed as the most feared batsman of this edition of IPL.
When asked if Maxwell reminded him of himself, the 35-year-old Sehwag said: “No, no. I was not that destructive. I was a bit, but not that much.”
On being asked about what he likes best about Maxwell’s batting, Sehwag said: “I don’t think he is worried about his game; he’s more worried about golf and practices more golf than cricket. He just goes out there in the middle, gives his 100 per cent out there and comes back happily with whatever he gets.”
West Indies’ Gayle has one of the biggest hitters of the ball in previous seasons of the IPL. Due to a hamstring injury, he could not play many matches in this season so far. When asked if Maxwell is more dangerous than Gayle, Sehwag said: “I think Maxwell. He and Miller. If the two of them going, it becomes very difficult for the bowling side because if one misses a ball, the other makes up for it with a six.”
On being asked about his own performance, Sehwag reportedly said to IPL’s official website: “The best is yet to come. I am striking the ball well and would like to continue to contribute to the team. I have been scoring 20s and 30s, but now it is time to score like the way Maxwell has been doing. Hopefully, in the coming games I will score big.”
Sehwag went on to praise Maxwell even more: “The kind of form he is in, it is so difficult to stop him. Nothing matters to him – the bowlers or the fielders or the boundary. I felt like he was playing book cricket and every time he opened a page, it was four or six. It has been great to watch him bat.” he said.
Meanwhile, Chennai Super Kings’ skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni also praised Maxwell’s batting after losing the match against Kings XI Punjab on Wednesday. “Maxwell batted exceptionally well and he was supported by the other batsmen as well. You need some serious talent to hit those sixes one after the other. He is someone who is very different, like Sehwag or Tendulkar and he is batting at his best,” Dhoni said.
When man-of-the-match Maxwell was asked to comment on his batting, he said: “Pitch was lovely, coming on quite well. The spinners held up a little and we got away quickly. We (him and Miller) love batting together, we talking about it a lot and it was fun to have a big partnership together and hit a few out of the park.”
“Practice it and keep trying to expand my game and try and hit the ball to different parts of the ground. Keep trying to do what I’m doing and we’re winning as well. We didn’t have an idea in mind, thought the pitch would get better in the second innings but once we went there we saw how good it was and we just kept going,” he concluded.
2) Ronaldinho, Kaka, Robinho off Brazil WCup roster:
Ronaldinho, Kaka and Robinho were left off Brazil's World Cup roster by coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who selected just five players who went to the 2010 tournament with the Selecao.Goalkeeper Julio Cesar; defenders Thiago Silva, Dani Alves and Maicon; and midfielder Ramires were the only returnees from the tournament four years ago on the 23-man roster announced Wednesday. Fred, a forward on the 2006 World Cup roster, was selected after missing the 2010 tournament.
"I don't think this lack of World Cup experience will play a big part," Scolari said. "Our players have been gaining experience in their leagues in Europe, and I don't think they will be affected by this too much, although in certain World Cup situations, having that experience would be important. But I fully trust these players."
There were no major surprise picks in Brazil's group, which includes 16 players who were on the roster for last year's Confederations Cup, a warmup tournament in which the Selecao beat Spain 3-0 in the final. The team includes young stars such as Neymar and Oscar.
"My childhood dream came true," Neymar said on Instagram. "Today was one of the most anticipated days of my life. It's time to represent the entire country. I'm completely moved, anxious and nervous. I want it to arrive soon."Also among the bypassed were Lucas Leiva, Lucas Moura and Felipe Luis.
"We know that not everybody will agree with all the names. It's normal," Scolari said. "But now that we have the 23 players, we would like to ask that our fans support all of them, so together we can focus on our goal of winning the World Cup."The roster includes six players from teams in England, four from Brazil, three each from Italy and Spain, two apiece from France and Germany, and one each from Major League Soccer, Russia and Ukraine.
The announcement at a traditional concert house in Rio de Janeiro was telecast live and attended by 870 reporters, according to the governing body of Brazilian soccer.
Seeking a record sixth World Cup title, Brazil has won 13 of its last 14 games. Its starting lineup is likely to have Julio Cesar in goal; Dani Alves at right back; Thiago Silva and David Luiz in central defense; Marcelo at left back; Paulinho and Luiz Gustavo in defensive midfield; and Oscar in attacking midfield; and Neymar, Hulk and Fred up front.
Brazil plays Croatia in the World Cup opener on June 12, then faces Mexico five days later and Cameroon on June 23.
3) City on verge of title after Dzeko double:
Manchester City moved to the brink of the Premier League title with an emphatic 4-0 win over Aston Villa on Wednesday as Edin Dzeko scored twice to leave them needing just a point from the final game of the season.
Dzeko's double midway through the second half relieved the pressure that had gripped the Etihad Stadium and late strikes by Stevan Jovetic and Yaya Toure, his 20th of the season, secured a comfortable victory.City, who brought up 100 league goals for the campaign, realistically need just a point from Sunday's home game against West Ham United to win their second league title in three years.Manuel Pellegrini's side moved two points clear of Liverpool at the top of the table but, with a superior goal difference of 13, a draw would be enough for City to be crowned champions while Chelsea's title hopes are over.
At the other end of the standings, Sunderland guaranteed their Premier League survival when goals by Jack Colback and Fabio Borini sealed a 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion which effectively ended Norwich City's hopes of remaining in the top flight.With Sunderland moving to 38 points and West Brom one place above the relegation zone on 36, Norwich are three points further adrift with a vastly inferior goal difference.Within seconds of the kickoff at the Etihad Stadium, it became apparent that Villa would look to stifle and frustrate rather than go toe-to-toe with their talent-packed opponents.With all 11 men consistently withdrawn behind the ball, the visitors set out to catch City on the break, but they rarely made it out of their own half as the title challengers launched wave after wave of attacks.
4) Mumbai Indians call Praveen Kumar to replace injured Zaheer Khan in IPL:
Praveen Kumar has made a return to IPL.Indian medium pacer Praveen Kumar has joined Mumbai Indians in place of injured Zaheer Khan for IPL 7. Praveen wasn’t picked in this year’s IPL auctions, but joins the Mumbai squad after Zaheer Khan was ruled out of the rest of the IPL due to shoulder injury.Praveen, fondly known as PK, last played for India in the lone T20 international against South Africa in 2012. He was part of Royal Challengers Bangalore for first three seasons, before Kings XI Punjab picked him up in 2011. He was the leader of Kings XI bowling attack but injuries resulted in many unwanted breaks for the swing bowler who went unsold in IPL 2014 Auctions.
“IPL is a great tournament and it would have given me the opportunity to make a comeback. I was disappointed, but I am prepared to work hard again,” Praveen had made his disappointment clear after getting the IPL snub earlier this year.With Lasith Malinga soon to join the national side in UK, and Zaheer Khan injured, the responsibility of Mumbai’s attack is going to lie on the experienced Praveen Kumar.
5) Li Na, Serena Williams reach Madrid quarterfinals:
Australian Open champion Li Na advanced to the Madrid Open quarterfinals coming back from a set down, while two-time defending champion Serena Williams won more routinely on Thursday.After a poor opening set, the second-ranked Li overcame a slew of unforced errors and a bothersome toe problem to beat Sloane Stephens of the United States 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 on the clay at the Magic Box tennis center.
"After the first set I was like, 'calm down,'" said Li, who needed two hours to pull out the win. "I say, 'OK, I cannot only think about what happened for the game, you have to look forward otherwise you cannot make it.'"Williams earned her 650th career victory with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Carla Suarez Navarro, who couldn't carry over the success of winning her first career title in Portugal on Saturday to the Spanish capital.
Williams, in pursuit of her 60th title, hit 27 winners to her Spanish opponent's five, while securing seven break points in the sun."She made me work for every point and it wasn't an easy win," the top-ranked American said. "She just won last week, so she is definitely not an easy player to play."Williams goes on to play 2011 champion Petra Kvitova after the fifth-seeded Czech beat countrywoman Lucie Safarova 6-4, 6-3.
Book Of This Week:
Rabindranath Tagoreα (Bengali: রবীন্দ্রনাথ ঠাকুর; 7 May 1861 – 7 August 1941),
My Blog Link on Rabindranath Tagore : http://manashsubhaditya.blogspot.in/2012/02/rabindranath-tagore-graphical.html
Comic On The Life of Rabindranath Tagore : http://manashsubhaditya.blogspot.in/2012/05/rabindranath-tagore-life-of-great-poet.html
Gurudev,was an Indian-Bengali polymath who reshaped his region's literature and music. Author of Gitanjali and its "profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse" he became the first non-European Nobel laureate by earning the 1913 Prize in Literature. In translation his poetry was viewed as spiritual and mercurial; his seemingly mesmeric personality, flowing hair, and other-worldly dress earned him a prophet-like reputation in the West. His "elegant prose and magical poetry" remain largely unknown outside Bengal.
A Pirali Brahmin from Calcutta, Tagore wrote poetry as an eight-year-old. At age sixteen, he cheekily released his first substantial poems under the pseudonym Bhānusi ("Sun Lion"), which were seized upon by literary authorities as long-lost classics. He graduated to his first short stories and dramas—and the aegis of his birth name—by 1877. As a humanist, universalist internationalist, and strident anti-nationalist he denounced the Raj and advocated for independence from Britain. As an exponent of the Bengal Renaissance he advanced a vast canon that comprised paintings, sketches and doodles, hundreds of texts, and some two thousand songs; his legacy endures also in the institution he founded, Visva-Bharati University.
Tagore modernised Bengali art by spurning rigid classical forms and resisting linguistic strictures. His novels, stories, songs, dance-dramas, and essays spoke to topics political and personal. Gitanjali (Song Offerings), Gora (Fair-Faced), and Ghare-Baire (The Home and the World) are his best-known works, and his verse, short stories, and novels were acclaimed—or panned—for their lyricism, colloquialism, naturalism, and unnatural contemplation. His compositions were chosen by two nations as national anthems: the Republic of India's Jana Gana Mana and Bangladesh's Amar Shonar Bangla.
My Blog Link on Rabindranath Tagore : http://manashsubhaditya.blogspot.in/2012/02/rabindranath-tagore-graphical.html
Known mostly for his poetry, Tagore wrote novels, essays, short stories, travelogues, dramas, and thousands of songs. Of Tagore's prose, his short stories are perhaps most highly regarded; he is indeed credited with originating the Bengali-language version of the genre. His works are frequently noted for their rhythmic, optimistic, and lyrical nature. Such stories mostly borrow from deceptively simple subject matter: commoners. Tagore's non-fiction grappled with history, linguistics, and spirituality. He wrote autobiographies. His travelogues, essays, and lectures were compiled into several volumes, including Europe Jatrir Patro (Letters from Europe) and Manusher Dhormo (The Religion of Man). His brief chat with Einstein, "Note on the Nature of Reality", is included as an appendix to the latter. On the occasion of Tagore's 150th birthday an anthology (titled Kalanukromik Rabindra Rachanabali) of the total body of his works is currently being published in Bengali in chronological order. This includes all versions of each work and fills about eighty volumes. In 2011, Harvard University Press collaborated with Visva-Bharati University to publish The Essential Tagore, the largest anthology of Tagore's works available in English; it was edited by Fakrul Alam and Radha Chakravarthy and marks the 150th anniversary of Tagore’s birth.