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Sunday, 14 September 2014

Subhaditya News Channel Presents Science,Movie, Political,Sports And Book News This Week (112)

Science News This Week:

1) Fossils push back origins of modern mammals:

Extinct squirrel-like creatures from China suggest the earliest mammals originated more than 200 million years ago, much earlier than often previously thought, researchers say.The fossils were discovered in the last three years by private collectors and amateur paleontologists in a Liaoning province cornfield in northeastern China. Liaoning has become famous for the trove of feathered dinosaurs and winged reptiles known as pterosaurs unearthed there over the last decade. The province is also known for a fossil of a baby dinosaur inside a mammal's gut, the first direct proof that mammals dined on dinosaurs.
The newfound fossils are about 160 million years old, dating back to the Triassic Period. Back then, the area was a warm, wet forest populated by dinosaurs, mammals and pterosaurs, all living on thelost supercontinent Laurasia, which once included what are today's northern continents

Common ancestor evolved over 200 million years ago. Modern mammals’ ancestors may have emerged millions of years earlier than scientists suspected — around the time the first dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

The fossilized remains of six little tree-dwelling animals push the lineage of today’s mammals back to the Late Triassic, more than 200 million years ago, researchers report September 10 in Nature.

“That’s really, really old,” says paleontologist Robert Asher of the University of Cambridge, who was not involved with the work. Scientists had thought that the common ancestor of those animals originated sometime in the Jurassic, he says. “This is very exciting stuff.” The six well-preserved fossil specimens are from three different extinct species. The animals ranged in size from 1 to 10 ounces, or from "a house mouse to a small squirrel," said study co-author Jin Meng, a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Their teeth suggest "they were most likely omnivorous, eating insects, nuts and fruits," he said.The largest of the three species is named Shenshou lui, with "shenshou" meaning "divine beast" in Chinese and "lui" referring to the collector of the specimen, Lu Jianhua. The other two species are named Xianshou songae and Xianshou linglong, with "xianshou" meaning "celestial beast" in Chinese, "songae" referring to Rufeng Song, the collector of the specimen, and "linglong" meaning "exquisite" in Chinese and also referring to the town of Linglongta, where the specimen came from.Judging from their slender builds, long tails, hands and feet adapted for grasping and climbing, and enlarged incisor teeth, these animals would have been tree-dwellers that looked similar to squirrels. However, "don't confuse these new animals with any living species," Meng said. Any similarities between these creatures and squirrels are due to convergent evolution, just as fish and dolphins both have streamlined bodies to better swim in the water but are only distantly related

2) First map of Rosetta's comet:

Scientists have found that the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko -- the target of study for the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission -- can be divided into several regions, each characterized by different classes of features. High-resolution images of the comet reveal a unique, multifaceted world.ESA's Rosetta spacecraft arrived at its destination about a month ago and is currently accompanying the comet as it progresses on its route toward the inner solar system. Scientists have analyzed images of the comet's surface taken by OSIRIS, Rosetta's scientific imaging system, and defined several different regions, each of which has a distinctive physical appearance. This analysis provides the basis for a detailed scientific description of 67P's surface. A map showing the comet's various regions is available at:

"Never before have we seen a cometary surface in such detail," says OSIRIS Principal Investigator Holger Sierks from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Science (MPS) in Germany. In some of the images, one pixel corresponds to a scale of 30 inches (75 centimeters) on the nucleus. "It is a historic moment -- we have an unprecedented resolution to map a comet," he says.The comet has areas dominated by cliffs, depressions, craters, boulders and even parallel grooves. While some of these areas appear to be quiet, others seem to be shaped by the comet's activity, in which grains emitted from below the surface fall back to the ground in the nearby area."This first map is, of course, only the beginning of our work," says Sierks. "At this point, nobody truly understands how the surface variations we are currently witnessing came to be."As both comet 67P and Rosetta travel closer to the sun during the next few months, the OSIRIS team and other instruments on the payload will monitor the surface to look for changes. While scientists do not expect the borderlines they have identified for the comet's different regions to vary dramatically, even subtle transformations of the surface may help to explain how cometary activity created such a breathtaking world.

The new comet maps will offer valuable insights for members of the Rosetta team, who plan to gather in Toulouse, France, on September 13 and 14, to determine a primary and backup landing site from five candidates they previously had selected.
The scientific imaging system, OSIRIS, was built by a consortium led by the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (Germany) in collaboration with Center of Studies and Activities for Space, University of Padua (Italy), the Astrophysical Laboratory of Marseille (France), the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia, CSIC (Spain), the Scientific Support Office of the European Space Agency (Netherlands), the National Institute for Aerospace Technology (Spain), the Technical University of Madrid (Spain), the Department of Physics and Astronomy of Uppsala University (Sweden) and the Institute of Computer and Network Engineering of the TU Braunschweig (Germany). OSIRIS was financially supported by the national funding agencies of Germany (DLR), France (CNES), Italy (ASI), Spain, and Sweden and the ESA Technical Directorate.Rosetta is an ESA mission with contributions from its member states and NASA. Rosetta's Philae lander is provided by a consortium led by DLR, MPS, CNES and ASI. Rosetta will be the first mission in history to rendezvous with a comet, escort it as it orbits the sun, and deploy a lander to its surface.

3) Vaccines and gut microbes join forces to fight flu:

Gastrointestinal bacteria strengthen protection against influenza virus after immunization. Gut bacteria help vaccines build stronger immunity against influenza in mice, scientists report in the Sept. 18 Immunity.

The partnership may explain why vaccines provide less protection for people living in certain places, such as rural parts of developing countries, says lead author Bali Pulendran, an immunologist at Emory University. The composition of gut microbes in people from those locations differs from the mix found in individuals from urban, developed areas, he says.

In 2011, Pulendran’s laboratory made a puzzling discovery involving seasonal influenza vaccination in humans: The vaccine instructed blood cells to produce a protein called TLR5 that normally protects the body from bacteria, not viruses.

The new study argues that bacteria influence vaccine-based immunity, at least in mice. The team found that rodents engineered to lack TLR5 protein make fewer flu-fighting antibodies after immunization than normal mice.

Mice reared to lack microbes, or rodents given antibiotics, also had a muffled antibody response after receiving the flu vaccine. The team found the same pattern with a vaccine for polio.

TLR5 protein recognizes bacteria with propulsive tails made from the protein flagellin. Only bacteria with flagellin fortify mouse immunity to flu after vaccination, the researchers found.Gut microbes could affect vaccine potency in people, Pulendran says, though only further human studies could prove that.

4) Unraveling mysteries of the Venusian atmosphere:

Underscoring the vast differences between Earth and its neighbor Venus, new research shows a glimpse of giant holes in the electrically charged layer of the Venusian atmosphere, called the ionosphere. The observations point to a more complicated magnetic environment than previously thought -- which in turn helps us better understand this neighboring, rocky planet.

Planet Venus, with its thick atmosphere made of carbon dioxide, its parched surface, and pressures so high that landers are crushed within a few hours, offers scientists a chance to study a planet very foreign to our own. These mysterious holes provide additional clues to understanding Venus's atmosphere, how the planet interacts with the constant onslaught of solar wind from the sun, and perhaps even what's lurking deep in its core."This work all started with a mystery from 1978," said Glyn Collinson, a space scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who is first author of a paper on this work in the Journal of Geophysical Research. "When Pioneer Venus Orbiter moved into orbit around Venus, it noticed something very, very weird -- a hole in the planet's ionosphere. It was a region where the density just dropped out, and no one has seen another one of these things for 30 years."Until now.

Collinson set out to search for signatures of these holes in data from the European Space Agency's Venus Express. Venus Express, launched in 2006, is currently in a 24-hour orbit around the poles of Venus. This orbit places it in much higher altitudes than that of the Pioneer Venus Orbiter, so Collinson wasn't sure whether he'd spot any markers of these mysterious holes. But even at those heights the same holes were spotted, thus showing that the holes extended much further into the atmosphere than had been previously known.The observations also suggested the holes are more common than realized. Pioneer Venus Orbiter only saw the holes at a time of great solar activity, known as solar maximum. The Venus Express data, however, shows the holes can form during solar minimum as well.

Interpreting what is happening in Venus's ionosphere requires understanding how Venus interacts with its environment in space. This environment is dominated by a stream of electrons and protons -- a charged, heated gas called plasma -- which zoom out from the sun. As this solar wind travels it carries along embedded magnetic fields, which can affect charged particles and other magnetic fields they encounter along the way. Earth is largely protected from this radiation by its own strong magnetic field, but Venus has no such protection.What Venus does have, however, is an ionosphere, a layer of the atmosphere filled with charged particles. The Venusian ionosphere is bombarded on the sun-side of the planet by the solar wind. Consequently, the ionosphere, like air flowing past a golf ball in flight, is shaped to be a thin boundary in front of the planet and to extend into a long comet-like tail behind. As the solar wind plows into the ionosphere, it piles up like a big plasma traffic jam, creating a thin magnetosphere around Venus -- a much smaller magnetic environment than the one around Earth.Venus Express is equipped to measure this slight magnetic field. As it flew through the ionospheric holes it recorded a jump in the field strength, while also spotting very cold particles flowing in and out of the holes, though at a much lower density than generally seen in the ionosphere. The Venus Express observations suggest that instead of two holes behind Venus, there are in fact two long, fat cylinders of lower density material stretching from the planet's surface to way out in space. Collinson said that some magnetic structure probably causes the charged particles to be squeezed out of these areas, like toothpaste squeezed out of a tube.
The next question is what magnetic structure can create this effect? Imagine Venus standing in the middle of the constant solar wind like a lighthouse erected in the water just off shore. Magnetic field lines from the sun move toward Venus like waves of water approaching the lighthouse. The far sides of these lines then wrap around the planet leading to two long straight magnetic field lines trailing out directly behind Venus. These lines could create the magnetic forces to squeeze the plasma out of the holes.
But such a scenario would place the bottom of these tubes on the sides of the planet, not as if they were coming straight up out of the surface. What could cause magnetic fields to go directly in and out of the planet? Without additional data, it's hard to know for sure, but Collinson's team devised two possible models that can match these observations.
In one scenario, the magnetic fields do not stop at the edge of the ionosphere to wrap around the outside of the planet, but instead continue further.

"We think some of these field lines can sink right through the ionosphere, cutting through it like cheese wire," said Collinson. "The ionosphere can conduct electricity, which makes it basically transparent to the field lines. The lines go right through down to the planet's surface and some ways into the planet."In this scenario, the magnetic field travels unhindered directly into the upper layers of Venus. Eventually, the magnetic field hits Venus' rocky mantle -- assuming, of course, that the inside of Venus is like the inside of Earth. A reasonable assumption given that the two planets are the same mass, size and density, but by no means a proven fact.A similar phenomenon does happen on the moon, said Collinson. The moon is mostly made up of mantle and has little to no atmosphere. The magnetic field lines from the sun go through the moon's mantle and then hit what is thought to be an iron core.In the second scenario, the magnetic fields from the solar system do drape themselves around the ionosphere, but they collide with a pile up of plasma already at the back of the planet. As the two sets of charged material jostle for place, it causes the required magnetic squeeze in the perfect spot.Either way, areas of increased magnetism would stream out on either side of the tail, pointing directly in and out of the sides of the planet. Those areas of increased magnetic force could be what squeezes out the plasma and creates these long ionospheric holes.

5) How bacteria battle fluoride:

He's not a dentist, but Christopher Miller is focused on fluoride. Two studies from his Brandeis University lab provide new insights into the mechanisms that allow bacteria to resist fluoride toxicity, information that could eventually help inform new strategies for treating harmful bacterial diseases. The studies appear in The Journal of General Physiology (JGP).

Although most animal cells are protected from direct exposure to fluoride, this toxic element is a serious threat to single-celled organisms like bacteria and yeast. As a result, their plasma membranes carry two different types of proteins to help rid the cell of unwanted fluoride: fluoride/hydrogen antiporters use energy to actively pump fluoride "uphill" out of the cell; and fluoride-specific "Fluc" ion channels mediate the passive "downhill" movement of fluoride across the cell membrane.

Fluc channels were first identified by Miller and colleagues very recently, in 2013. In the September issue of JGP, they now provide the first quantitative data demonstrating how these passive channels can help protect bacteria from fluoride. The authors found that fluoride accumulates in E. coli lacking Fluc when the external environment is acidic. In such acidic environments, fluoride enters the cell in the form of HF (hydrofluoric acid) -- which easily permeates the membrane -- and breaks down in the cell's lower acidity; Fluc provides a means of escape for the highly charged fluoride ions. They also found that bacteria proliferation was stalled by high fluoride exposure, indicating that targeting Fluc channels with antibiotics could be an effective way to slow bacterial growth.

In the August issue of JGP, Miller and colleagues unearthed new information about fluoride/hydrogen antiporters -- also recently discovered -- which are part of the CLC superfamily of proteins that are known for exporting chloride. The authors explored why this subset demonstrates higher selectivity for fluoride -- which is essential for their function because chloride is so much more abundant in the environment -- and were able to determine key structural differences that could account for the preferential selectivity of fluoride.

6) Two new species of carabid beetles found in Ethiopia:

There are more than 150 species of beetles in the genus Calathus, 17 of which have only been found in the mountains of the Ethiopian Highlands. Now scientists have found two new ones -- Calathus juan and Calathus carballalae -- and have described them in Annals of the Entomological Society of America.

 C. juan is named for Juan Novoa, the son of one of the authors, in recognition of his help on various beetle-collecting expeditions. Adults are black and shiny, and are 9.5-11.5 millimeters long. It was found under stones at the base of giant, tree-like plants called lobelias (Lobelia rhynchopetalum) at almost 3,600 meters above sea level.C. carballalae is named for Regina Carballal, the wife of the first author, also for collaboration on Coleoptera-collecting expeditions. It was found under stones on barren soil nearly 4,150 meters above sea level.

Movies Release This Week:

THE DROP is a new crime drama from Michaƫl R. Roskam, the Academy Award-nominated director of BULLHEAD. Based on a screenplay from Dennis Lehane (MYSTIC RIVER, GONE BABY GONE), THE DROP follows lonely bartender Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy) through a covert scheme of funneling cash to local gangsters - "money drops" - in the underworld of Brooklyn bars. Under the heavy hand of his employer and cousin Marv (James Gandolfini), Bob finds himself at the center of a robbery gone awry and entwined in an investigation that digs deep into the neighborhood's past where friends, families, and foes all work together to make a living - no matter the cost.

A former district attorney and her kids are kidnapped by a man who has escaped from prison and poses as the victim of a car accident.

When ambitious young real estate agent Leigh is asked to sell a house with a checkered past, she crosses paths with a disturbed girl whom she learns is the runaway daughter of the couple selling the property. When Leigh tries to intervene and help her, she becomes entangled with a supernatural force that soon pulls Leigh's artist sister Vera into its web — and has sinister plans for both of them.

The story of a Buddhist monk's pilgrimage to India to collect religious texts.

Dolphin Tale 2 will tell another true story inspired by the life of Winter, but also involving a new baby dolphin named Hope who was rescued by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in 2010.

Finding Fanny revolves around five rather dysfunctional characters that live in the quaint sleepy village of Pocolim, nestled deep in the interior of Goa, India. Pocolim is a village where pointless conversations are a way of life. Nothing ever really happens here and the people of Pocolim, well, they just exist. One night, the old postman Ferdie (Naseeruddin Shah), receives a letter that is slipped under his door.

He realizes that it is the letter he had written 46 years ago to the love of his life, Stefanie Fernandes (Anjali Patil), asking for her hand in marriage. To his utter shock, he discovers that it had never been delivered. All these years Ferdie has lived a life of melancholy and regret, believing that Stefanie had rejected him. He decides to find his beloved Fanny (as he fondly called her) and tell her the truth. Where would she be after 46 years? Dead? Happily married? Would she even remember him? Or is Stefanie Fernandes merely a figment of Ferdie’s imagination?

Four colorful characters from the village join the trip under random pretexts, though in actuality everyone wants a distraction from their mundane lives. A young virgin widow (Deepika Padukone), a bitter mechanic (Arjun Kapoor), a belligerent artist (Pankaj Kapur) and an obnoxious self-appointed “Lady” of Pocolim (Dimple Kapadia) join Ferdie as they experience various hilarious and moving events that change their lives forever.

Political News This Week:

1) Over 1,42,000 people rescued in flood-hit J&K so far:

Over 1,42,000 people have been rescued from the flood-ravaged parts of Jammu and Kashmir so far, as the relief operations launched by the Armed forces entered the 12th day on Saturday.“Armed Forces and NDRF have so far rescued over 1,42,000 persons from different parts of J&K in the ongoing rescue and relief operations," a defence spokesperson said.Thirteen tonnes of water purifying tablets and six water filtration plants with a capacity to filter 1.2 lakh bottles per day has already reached Srinagar, he said.Suction pumps and other engineering equipment from Vishakhapatnam have also reached the flood affected area for relief work, he said, adding twelve sewage pumps from Delhi have also been dispatched to the Valley.

The spokesman said communication equipment of Department of Telecommunication, Army, BSNL and some private companies have also been dispatched to restore the network.Also, thirty generator sets of 3 to 5 KVA capacity have been sent to Srinagar to provide continuous power supply in relief camps and field hospitals, he added.Besides these, as many as 8,200 blankets and 1,119 tents have been provided to the flood victims, he said, adding, 80 medical teams of the Armed Forces Medical Services are already operating in full swing.Four field hospitals have been established in Avantipur, Pattan, Anantnag and Old Airfield where medical aid is being provided to the ailing people, he said, adding that till now, they have treated more than 22,500 patients.

Military medical services from Bathinda have also been shifted to Srinagar, he said, adding that about 10 tonnes of medicines and other health care materials, including mobile oxygen generation plant, have reached Srinagar from Delhi.More relief materials, including blankets and tents, water bottles from IRCTC and food packets, are being airlifted from Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Baroda and Amritsar, he said.25 tonnes of Indian gram (channa) from NAFED is also being transported to the flood affected areas, he said.Eighty six transport aircraft and helicopters of Indian Air Force and Army Aviation Corps are continuing their efforts in rescue and relief operations, he said, adding, Army has deployed around 30,000 troops for rescue and relief operations, of which 21,000 troops are deployed in Srinagar region and 9,000 troops in Jammu region.

Armed Forces personnel are distributing water bottles and food packets on a large scale, he said, adding, that till now, more than 4,00,000 litres of water, 1,31,500 food packets and over 800 tonnes cooked food have been airdropped and distributed in the flood-affected areas.So far, 1,771 sorties were undertaken by helicopters and aircraft of Armed Forces and 2,371 tonnes of relief materials airdropped by the Indian Air Force, he said.A total of 224 boats of Army and 148 NDRF's inflatable boats have also been put into service, he added.Armed Forces have also established 19 relief camps in Srinagar and Jammu region.

"In Srinagar region, camps were established at BB Cantt, Avantipur, Old Airfield, Sumbal, Chattargam and Jijamata Mandir, where thousands of rescued people are being sheltered," the spokesperson said.They are also being provided with food and other basic amenities, he added.To restore the road connectivity, five task forces of Border Roads Organisation, which include 5,700 personnel, have been deployed in Srinagar, Rajouri and Akhnoor, he said.As of now, they have restored the road connectivity from Batote–Kishtwar, Kishtwar-Anantnag and Jammu-Poonch. On the Jammu-Srinagar highway, BRO personnel have cleared the road up to KM 172 (Ramsu), he said.Communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said people in flood-hit Kashmir will get free telecom services for a week on BSNL network, and mobile networks have been substantially or partially restored in the valley, except Poonch.Of the total 12,306 base transceiver stations (BTS) or mobile towers in J&K, 6,811 were submerged, he said, adding that of these the government has restored 1,208.

"People can talk free for a week on BSNL's network in the flood affected areas. We have also requested private telecom operators. They have allowed 60 minutes of free talk time everyday," Prasad said at the press conference marking the first 100 days of in the ministry.He said 8,000 landline connections in the Kashmir valley have started working and the government has opened 5 free public calling booths at the airport.On the status of the telecom networks in the valley, Prasad said: "Except Poonch, mobile services are either substantially or partially restored in all parts of the valley."

BSNL had on Friday said telecom services in the flood-hit Kashmir Valley are being normalised slowly with restoring of around 80 per cent of the affected network.The state-owned firm said it had restored 92 mobile towers, which were affected by floods. Overall 473 towers are working in the Valley whereas 934 is the number for the whole state.Other private players including Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular, Aircel and Reliance Communications (RCom) have also restored their network in various parts of the state.

2) 7 days' judicial remand for Saradha accused MP Kunal Ghosh:

A city court on Friday remanded suspended Trinamool Congress MP Kunal Ghosh to seven days' judicial custody after he dramatically recused his lawyer from speaking for him and then pleaded for either bail or CBI custody to 'assist' the agency in its Saradha chit fund scam probe.Metropolitan magistrate Arvind Mishra rejected his prayers and remanded Ghosh to judicial custody till September 18, as sought by CBI.On being produced before the judge, Ghosh said he wanted to say something before the court. But the court did not allow it and said as he had given his lawyer the authority to speak for him, he could not make any submission unless he withdrew the power given to his counsel.Ghosh immediately wrote on a piece of paper that he was withdrawing the power given to his lawyer.

The judge also directed Ghosh not to speak anything outside the case.Ghosh had created a flutter on Saturday when he stated in the court that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee be interviewed by CBI along with Saradha Group chairman Sudipta Sen and himself.Ghosh told the court that other chit fund companies be also probed along with Saradha by CBI and that those involved in these should also be arrested.Taking out a piece of paper, Ghosh said some chit fund companies were still collecting money from the public. He claimed that chit fund companies were also sponsoring an event of which former Industries Minister Partha Chatterjee was the chairman. Chatterjee is now Higher Education Minister.

When Ghosh wanted to submit the piece of paper he claimed to have got in the court lockup from a person but did not name him, the judge refused to accept the paper.The judge also asked him not to make any statement regarding anything other than his own case.Ghosh was asked by the court to make a statement before the Investigating Officer of CBI if he wanted to give any additional information other than what he has already provided to the investigating agency.Claiming that he has been in custody for nearly 10 months since November 23 last when he was arrested by the state police, Ghosh submitted he be granted bail.He claimed he was not involved in any conspiracy or illegal monetary transaction involving Bengal Media, an arm of Saradha Group, of which he was the CEO.Ghosh prayed he be granted bail or sent to CBI custody again, claiming that by being in the agency's custody he could 'assist' it in the investigation if needed but he should not be sent to judicial custody.

The CBI counsel submitted that a huge amount of money had been transferred by Saradha chit fund companies to Bengal Media Ltd after misappropriating public money.Stating that documents related to this has been collected after interrogation of Ghosh, the CBI counsel prayed for his judicial custody.After hearing both the parties, the judge granted seven days' judicial custody of Ghosh

3) 'Missing' documents produced, trial in Salman case to resume on September 24:

After repeated adjournments and admonition by the court over missing statements of witnesses, the trial in the hit-and-run case against actor Salman Khan is set to resume from September 24 following production of the documents before a sessions court on Friday.The prosecution informed the court trying the case that all but one of the 63 original statements of witnesses and case diaries that had gone missing from the custody of police have been found and placed them before judge D W Deshpande. The court was told the lone missing statement will also be traced soon.The trial in the case had hit a roadblock in July when the court was informed that the original statements of the witnesses had disappeared. The court was again informed in August that case diaries relating to the case too were not traceable, inviting reprimand from the judge, who directed the police to locate the documents at the earliest for the trial to recommence.

Following this, Mumbai police commissioner Rakesh Maria ordered a probe and the documents were found at Bandra police station on August 26.Salman’s lawyer Srikant Shivade had earlier insisted that under the law trial cannot continue in the absence of the original statements of the witnesses, while the prosecution had contended that as per practice in Mumbai courts it can go on with true copies which were available.

After the newly-appointed public prosecutor in the case Pradeep Gharat produced the documents, the judge took it on record and asked the prosecution to proceed with the examination of witnesses from September 24. So far, 11 witnesses have deposed in the case.Salman is likely to appear before the court on September 24. Gharat, who has conducted trials in several important cases, including the multi-crore rupees Telgi fake stamp paper case, was recently appointed special public prosecutor in the case against Salman Khan and appeared for the first time on Friday.

4) Agni-1 successfully test-fired:

India successfully test-fired its indigenously built nuclear capable Agni-I missile, which has a strike range of 700 kilometre on Thursday, from a test range off Odisha coast as part of a user trial by the army.

The surface-to-surface, single-stage missile, powered by solid propellants, was test-fired from a mobile launcher at about 11.11 hrs from launch pad-4 of the Integrated Test Range at Wheeler Island, about 100 km from here, Defence Research and Development Organisation spokesman Ravi Kumar Gupta said.Describing the trial as fully successful, Gupta said the ballistic missile was launched by the Strategic Forces Command of the army as part of a training exercise. “The entire exercise was conducted in a perfect manner and the trial was totally successful,” he said.“The DRDO developed medium range ballistic missile from the production lot was launched as part of regular training exercise by the armed forces,” said another official.Agni-I missile has a specialised navigation system which ensures it reaches the target with a high degree of accuracy and precision.  The missile, which has already been inducted in to Armed Forces has proved its excellent performance in terms of range, accuracy and lethality.

Weighing 12 tonnes, the 15-metre-long Agni-I, which can carry payloads up to 1000 kg, has already been inducted into the Indian Army. Agni-I was developed by advanced systems laboratory, the premier missile development laboratory of the DRDO in collaboration with Defence Research Development Laboratory and Research Centre Imarat and integrated by Bharat Dynamics Limited, Hyderabad.The last trial of the Agni-I missile was successfully carried out on April 12, 2014 from the same base. It was first trial that was launched after sunset.

5) Bypolls: Voting begins for 3 Lok Sabha, 33 Assembly seats:

Voting today began on a brisk note for by-elections to three Lok Sabha and 33 Assembly constituencies spread across ten states, seen as a test for Narendra Modi Government’s popularity, especially as BJP braces for polls in two states next month.

Uttar Pradesh
Amid elaborate security arrangements, polling was being held in 11 Assembly seats and one Lok Sabha seat in Uttar Pradesh, where the stakes are high for BJP. Around nine per cent votes were cast in the first two hours, according to poll officials.

The election comes after the saffron party’s near-total sweep of the 80 seats in Lok Sabha polls just four months ago.
Eleven Assembly seats felt vacant after 10 BJP MLAs and one of its allies Apna Dal were elected to the Lok Sabha.
BJP chief Amit Shah also faces the challenge in UP bypolls as he was credited with the party’s stupendous success.

LS bypolls
The three Lok Sabha bypolls are in Vadodara (Gujarat), Mainpuri (Uttar Pradesh) and Medak (Telangana). Among the Assembly seats, nine in Gujarat, four in Rajasthan, two in West Bengal, five in northeastern states and one each in Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh are going to polls today.Counting of votes is scheduled for September 16.

Retaining Mainpuri Lok Sabha seat, vacated by SP supremo Mualayam Singh Yadav who had won from two LS seats including Azamgarh, is a matter of prestige for his party. BSP and Congress have not fielded their candidates, leaving a straight contest between Tej Pratap Singh and BJP’s Shiv Singh Shakya.

The 11 Assembly seats in UP, whose outcome may be a pointer to which way the political wind is blowing in the run-up to 2017 Assembly polls, are Saharanpur Nagar, Noida, Thakurdwara, Bijnor, Nighasan, Balha, Sirathu, Rohaniya, Hamirpur, Charkhari and Lucknow East. All of these were vacated by BJP MLAs who won the Lok Sabha elections.

Vadodara LS seat
In Gujarat, Narendra Modi’s successor as Chief Minister Anandiben Patel faces her first big test in by-elections being held today for Vadodara LS seat, vacated by Modi, and in nine Assembly constituencies.This is the first election in Gujarat in more than 12 years that BJP would be fighting without its star campaigner Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Bypolls in AP
Polling began on a swift note for the by-election to Medak Lok Sabha seat in Telangana and Nandigama (SC) Assembly seat in Andhra Pradesh.By-election is being held in Medak as the Lok Sabha seat was vacated by Telangana Rashtra Samiti chief K Chandrasekhar Rao upon becoming Chief Minister of the newly-formed Telangana state.

Medak LS seat, once part of undivided Andhra Pradesh and now in Telangana, witnesses a triangular contest between ruling TRS, BJP, and Congress. The bypolls were necessitated as TRS chief and Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao vacated the seat.On the other hand, TDP is trying hard to prove it won’t be easy to conquer its bastion Nandigama assembly in Krishna district where it is in a direct fight against Congress. The by-election was held due to the death of TDP MLA Tangirala Prabhakara Rao within days of his victory.Voting was also underway in the lone insurgency-hit Antagarh assembly constituency in Chhattisgarh where only two candidates are in the fray.

West Bengal
In West Bengal, Chowringhee and Dakshin Bashirhat Assembly seats had been won by CPI(M) and Trinamool Congress for which the bypolls are a crucial test for Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s popularity.

Buyoed by its modest gains in Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal and relying on Modi’s charisma, BJP hopes to wrest the Bashirhat Dakshin seat from Trinamool and make its debut in the State Assembly.Assembly elections will be held in Maharashtra and Haryana in a single phase on October 15.

6) Saradha chit fund scam: CBI grills TMC MP Srinjoy Bose:

The noose appears to be tightening around many prominent leaders of the ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal in connection with the multi-crore Saradha chit fund scam.A day after CBI arrested a leader of West Bengal's ruling Trinamool Congress and former director general of the state armed police Rajat Majumdar in connection with the Saradha scam, the agency on Wednesday summoned and questioned the ruling party's Raja Sabha MP Srinjoy Bose.

As per reports, the TMC MP was questioned at the CBI office here in connection with his alleged role in the scam.  Majumdar, the first Trinamool leader to be arrested by the CBI, in the scandal, complained of chest pain soon after being taken into custody and was rushed to the state-run NRS Medical College and Hospital.

Majumdar, who occupied crucial posts like inspector general (Railways) during his long Indian Police Service (IPS) career, was the third arrest made by the investigating agency in West Bengal in the scam, which was said to have spread across various states and whose monetary value could well run into over Rs.10,000 crore.While suspended Trinamool parliamentarian Kunal Ghosh was arrested by the Special Investigation Team of the state police last year, a minister, several parliamentarians and close associates of powerful leaders of the party have been grilled by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

Probing the scandal on the Supreme Court's orders, the CBI earlier quizzed Majumdar for the second time during the day. He faced the first round of questioning Aug 23.Majumdar had worked as a security advisor for the tainted Saradha Group after his retirement as a police officer in 2008. The arrest was made Tuesday evening after three hours of questioning.

"He has been arrested on grounds of conspiracy, cheating and misappropriation of funds," said a CBI spokesperson. The investigative agency has registered four first information reports in the scam.

Majumdar's name cropped up after journalist-turned-Trinamool Rajya Sabha member Ghosh, now behind bars, accused him of swindling crores of rupees in organising a cultural programme in Las Vegas in 2012.

Majumdar joined the Trinamool in recent years, and served as the party's poll observer for Birbhum district for the 2013 panchayat election. On Aug 14, CBI sleuths raided Majumdar's residence and seized many documents.Majumdar, who has been denying all allegations against him, will be presented before a court Wednesday.The CBI Tuesday also grilled Kolkata businessman Asif Khan - a former convenor of Trinamool's Uttar Pradesh unit. Khan, editor of Bengali daily Aajker Kalom, later told media persons that he came on his own and would fully cooperate with the CBI probe.He faced CBI grilling Monday too. Meanwhile, the ED during the day questioned Trinamool Rajya Sabha member Ahmed Hassan Imran over his alleged financial transactions with the Saradha Group.

Imran is the editor of Kalom, a vernacular daily that was owned by the Saradha Group till 2013 when it was bought by the Kalom Welfare Association. Launched as a magazine, Kalom turned into a daily newspaper after the group bought it in 2011.The ED quizzed Imran Aug 25 for the first time. The agency earlier quizzed actor-turned Trinamool parliamentarian Mithun Chakraborty and West Bengal Textile Minister Shyamapada Mukherjee in connection with the scam.The Saradha scam came to light in April 2013 after the group downed shutters without repaying lakhs of investors, who had parked their hard earned money in the group's companies, lured by the promise of astronomically high returns.The scandal, said to be the biggest to hit the state, led to a spate of suicides by agents of the Saradha Group and depositors who lost their life's savings. The opposition as also Ghosh have turned the heat on Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee over the scam.

Ghosh told journalists that Banerjee was the biggest beneficiary of the propaganda unleashed by Saradha Media, which he headed, and said the chief minister should be jointly interrogated with him and scam kingpin Sudipta Sen. Sen and his top aides were arrested from Jammu and Kashmir in April last year.The Congress has demanded Banerjee's resignation in the wake of allegations that the railways had entered into a joint venture with Saradha Tours and Travels when she headed the ministry. The BJP and the Communist Party of India-Marxist have also been attacking Banerjee on the issue

Sports News This Week:

1) India sets target of 70-75 medals at Asian Games:

Indian officials aren't letting a string of administrative controversies or the withdrawal of some leading athletes dampen their expectations at the Asian Games."We've selected only those who have a chance to win medals," Jiji Thomson, the director-general of the Sports Authority of India (SAI), said. "It will be realistic to expect 70-75 medals."The Indian team collected 65 medals at Guangzhou four years ago.

While recent controversies may not have a bearing on the results at Incheon when the games start next week, the late announcement of the final contingent did cause some anxiety. So did the unavailability of some leading athletes including wrestler Sushil Kumar, boxer Vijender Singh and tennis player Somdev Devvarman.Thomson's department, which reports to the sports ministry, caused a stir recently when it advised a drastic pruning of the Asian Games contingent initially proposed by the Indian Olympic Association.

The IOA, which returned to the international fold in February after a 14-month ban for electing tainted officials, recommended 662 athletes and 280 officials in a contingent of 942, but the list was cut down to 516 athletes and 163 support staff for a total of 679.
Though the decision was praised in some quarters — athletes have sometimes complained of being accompanied by unwanted officials — the delay in announcing the final squad was widely criticized and some sports federations also resented the cutbacks."This kind of ad-hoc decision-making is not in the interest of sports," Hockey India secretary-general Narendra Batra said. "These decisions show that the people taking them don't have an understanding of what is required for competing in the international arena."Compounding the problem of team selection was the world boxing body, AIBA, deregistering the Indian federation. Elections on Sept. 11 for a new entity — Boxing India — were likely to be ratified and the boxers could be allowed to represent India rather than compete as independent athletes.

Vijender, a bronze medalist at the Beijing Olympics, withdrew due to an injury but five-time women's world champion Mary Kom made a comeback after missing out on selection in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.Wrestler Kumar, India's only two-time individual Olympic medalist, withdrew from the Asian Games to concentrate on the Rio Olympics in 2016. But London Olympics bronze winner Yogeshwar Dutt is confident India will still do well.The withdrawals will hit hardest in tennis. Devvarman, who won the singles and doubles golds at Guangzhou, was among a group of players who decided to forego the Asian Games and concentrate on the pro tennis circuit.Doubles specialist Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna also withdrew, meaning India is unlikely to get anywhere near its count of five medals in the sport in 2010.Rifle shooter Abhinav Bindra, India's only individual Olympic gold medalist, will have another shot at an elusive gold at the Asian Games as Indian marksmen hope to win a clutch of medals despite the presence of renowned Chinese and South Korean shooters.

In athletics, India's focus will be on discus, with Vikas Gowda in form after winning this year's Commonwealth gold, while Krishna Poonia and Seema Poonia both made the women's final at Glasgow.The traditional rivalry with Pakistan in field hockey always evokes interest and captain Sardar Singh wants nothing less than gold."We're aiming for the gold as we feel this is a very good chance for us," Sardar said. "We recently beat South Korea (3-0 at World Cup match for ninth place) and Pakistan could be rusty as it did not play in some top tournaments."Pakistan, which has won the Asian Games gold eight times, did not qualify for this year's World Cup in the Netherlands while it could not send a team to the Commonwealth Games due to a split in its national Olympic body.The weight of expectations in badminton will be shared by Olympic bronze medalist Saina Nehwal along with the younger P.V. Sindhu, who has won bronze medals at two successive world championships and regarded as apable of breaking the Chinese stranglehold in the women's competition.India is also be expected to win medals in archery with former World No. 1 Deepika Kumari leading a squad that can spring a surprise in individual as well as team events.The indigenous sport of kabaddi, which now has two professional leagues being organized out of India, should be a gold for the taking considering India has won it every time since it was introduced in 1990.But India is again not participating in cricket and will also miss out on some medals after the scrapping of cue sports, chess and roller sports, which accounted for eight medals at Guangzhou

2) Pistorius's next battle to avoid notorious C-Max jail:

After his conviction on Friday for the negligent killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day last year, Olympic track star Oscar Pistorius's next battle will be to stay outside the walls of the notorious Pretoria Central Prison, or C-Max.
The prison, a forbidding brick and steel edifice with a reputation as the toughest in South Africa, is just a stone's throw from the High Court where Pistorius's six-month trial ended with not guilty verdicts on murder charges that carried certain jail terms.
His conviction for culpable homicide attracts a maximum 15-year sentence but there is no minimum, and his defence team will argue that a man with no previous convictions should not end up in C-Max, where dozens of political dissidents were detained and executed by the white-minority regime that ran South Africa until 1994.

South Africa abolished the death penalty shortly after Nelson Mandela became its first black president, and the gallows and its execution wing - dubbed "The Pot" - are now a museum to the atrocities of apartheid.But the prison's reputation remains undimmed as the worst place in the land - the permanent, overcrowded home of armed robbers, rapists and murderers, plagued by gang violence and mental and physical abuse."When you arrive, the big gangs make their move on you. They have knives and razor blades. Some even carry guns," said Serge Christiano, an Angolan who spent time in C-Max during seven years awaiting trial for attempted murder and armed robbery.

"When new people come in, guys will offer them a cup of tea with a sleeping tablet in it. When they pass out, they get raped," added Christiano, who was eventually released without charge.Pedestrians walking past C-Max's gates late at night often hear the anguished cries of inmates."C-Max is the worst," said Farouk Meyer, a South African released in February after serving 15 years - five of them in C-Max - for a double-murder he says to this day was self-defence.

For 23 hours a day, prisoners are kept 70 or more to a cell designed for 35, with those unable to get a bed sleeping on the floor. Whenever they leave the cell, even for a shower or to receive a visit, they are cuffed by the wrists and ankles.
Fittingly for the 'new' South Africa, nobody gets special treatment - which would be a daunting prospect for the 27-year-old Pistorius, whose life before Steenkamp's shooting has been revealed as a decadent world of fast cars, ritzy parties and glamorous women populated almost exclusively by whites."A lot of guys lose it. Either you lose it or you become stronger," added Meyer, who said he kept his head straight by studying law in an attempt to get his conviction overturned.
The Department for Correctional Services declined to comment.

If C-Max represents the toughest of the tough, other prisons in Africa's most advanced economy are far from soft.
Last year, the government stepped in and took over the running of the 3,000-inmate Mangaung maximum security prison from the British security firm G4S after reports of warders torturing prisoners with electric shocks - something the firm denied.
According to the International Centre for Prison Studies, a branch of Britain's University of Essex, South Africa's prison overcrowding is average by international standards at 128 percent - higher than in France, but lower than Greece.
But an inspection report submitted to parliament last year deplored the level of prison violence and said organised gangs and overcrowding were both substantially to blame.Speculation has swirled about whether Pistorius's status as a double amputee would allow him to secure privileged treatment, separate from the majority of 'ordinary' prisoners.

However, having spent much of his professional life fighting to compete as an able-bodied athlete, as he did in the 2012 London Olympics, where he reached the semi-final of the men's 400 metres, it would be quite a reversal to argue for special treatment if he were to find himself behind bars.The Department for Correctional Services did not answer questions about disabled prisoner policies, but Therina Wentzel, head of the National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities of South Africa, said things had improved dramatically since the 1980s, when a prison term for a disabled person could amount to a death sentence.
She said that while the basic philosophy was to treat all prisoners the same wherever possible, authorities had a large amount of discretion: "It really depends on the circumstances, on the individual."

After a high-profile trial, the African National Congress government would be keen to avoid any suggestion that Pistorius might receive rich man's - let alone white man's - treatment.This is especially true after public anger this year at the release on parole of the 'Waterkloof Four', four young white men from Pretoria who were sentenced in 2005 to 12 years in jail for murdering a homeless man.Shortly after they walked free, dressed in designer clothes and waving cheerily to reporters, cellphone video emerged of two of the group enjoying a pre-release party, complete with expensive whisky, in their cells.
The pair were promptly re-arrested, and the prisons minister at the time, Sibusiso Ndebele, said the authorities would not tolerate "anarchy" behind bars, rejecting the widespread belief that wealthy whites in particular can still buy a cushy ride.

3) Croatia's Marin Cilic swept past Japan's Kei Nishikori 6-3 6-3 6-3 to win the US Open 

and reach the pinnacle of the sport one year after a doping ban kept him out of the year's final grand slam. The big-serving Croatian overwhelmed a weary Nishikori in one hour, 54 minutes to clinch a ruthless victory and deny his 10th-seeded opponent's bid to become the first Asian man to win a grand slam. With the win, 14th seed Cilic becomes the first Croatian to win one of the sport's four grand slam championships since his coach Goran Ivanisevic celebrated a Wimbledon victory in 2001

4) Sania Mirza (R) of India and Bruno Soares (2nd R) of Brazil celebrate 

with the trophy after defeating Santiago Gonzalez (L) of Mexico and Abigail Spears (2nd L) of the United States to win the mixed doubles final on Day Twelve of the 2014 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 5, 2014 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City

5) Williams wins 18th grand slam title:

Serena Williams of the U.S. embraces her trophy after defeating Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark in their women's singles finals match at the 2014 U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, September 7, 2014

Book of This Week:

The Immigrants :by Howard Fast

A love story of tremendous beauty...a tale of passion, adventure, and ambition set against the streets of San Francisco, America's most romantic city.

Dan Lavette, the son of an Italian fisherman, battles from the rubble of the San Francisco earthquake to build a fortune in the shipping industry. Rising to success through hard work and a loveless marriage to the daughter of the city's wealthiest family, he risks it all for the exotic beauty of a woman who shares his secret and scandalous passion.

From Nob Hill to the harbor, San Francisco comes alive through three immigrant families -- Italian, Irish, and Chinese -- whose intertwining dreams are propelled by the emotional events of America's coming of age...

Howard Fast (1914–2003) 

was one of the most prolific American writers of the twentieth century. He was a bestselling author of more than eighty works of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and screenplays. The son of immigrants, Fast grew up in New York City and published his first novel upon finishing high school in 1933. In 1950, his refusal to provide the United States Congress with a list of possible Communist associates earned him a three-month prison sentence. During his incarceration, Fast wrote one of his best-known novels, Spartacus (1951). Throughout his long career, Fast matched his commitment to championing social justice in his writing with a deft, lively storytelling style.

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