Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Starred Articles

Antibiotic overuse in India creates drug-resistant bacteria, kills thousands of infants and poses serious risk to disease treatment
Science and Technology > Drug-Resistant Bacteria > Dec 4
A deadly epidemic related to antibiotic overuse is killings thousands of newborns in India every year. These infants are born with bacterial infections that are resistant to most known antibiotics and as a result more than 58, 000 died last year. Nearly 8, 00000 newborns die annually in India and reducing infant mortality rate is one of the most important public health priorities at the moment. As such the rising cases of infant deaths can prove to be a deterrent. Almost all hospitals report an increase in cases of babies having multi-drug resistant infections. Newborns have fragile immune systems making them more vulnerable to such infections, leaving little time for doctors to find a drug that works. But even adults are at risk. There are already evidences of such resistant infections spreading overseas. Indeed, researchers have already found “superbugs” carrying a genetic code first identified in India — NDM1 (or New Delhi metallo-beta lactamase 1) — around the world, including in France, Japan, Oman and the United States. Health officials have warned for decades that overuse of antibiotics will eventually render the drugs useless. Bacteria spread easily in India, because half of Indians defecate outdoors, and much of the sewage generated by those who do use toilets is untreated. As a result, Indians have among the highest rates of bacterial infections in the world and collectively take more antibiotics, which are sold over the counter here, than any other country. These drug-resistant bacteria are thriving in water, sewage, soil, animals, communities, homes and in pregnant women’s bodies, which make it extremely difficult to tackle. On top of it, government hospitals which are a breeding ground of such infections make up for the extreme unhygienic and unsanitary conditions with heavy reliance on antibiotics.
Drug-resistant bacteria can have a huge impact on treating diseases in India. For e.g. India has the world’s largest number of Tuberculosis cases and as many as 10 percent of affected patients have resistant infections. Unless the government makes drastic changes, Tuberculosis in India may soon become untreatable. Awareness of the problem has begun to grow with medical associations in India calling for efforts to reduce unnecessary antibiotic use. However, there are fears that publicity of such bacteria would adversely affect India’s extremely profitable medical tourism industry.

Pro-India Ashton Carter named new US Secretary of Defence
World > US Secretary of Defence > Dec 5
US President Barack Obama has announced former Pentagon official Ashton Carter as his choice for the post of Secretary of Defence. Carter, 60, was deputy defence secretary from October 2011 to December 2013. Before he served as deputy defense secretary, he was the Pentagon's technology and weapons-buying chief for more than two years. Carter is also credited with enhancing defence ties with India. Carter and then Indian National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon were named point persons to lead India-US Defense Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI). Carter has bachelor's degrees in physics and medieval history from Yale University and received his doctorate in theoretical physics from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.

Sushma Swaraj demands Bhagvad Gita be declared as the national book, sparks criticism
India > Gita Controversy > Dec 7
Minister of External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj while speaking at the 'Gita Prerna Mahaotsav' sparked off a huge controversy saying that the centre should declare the 'Bhagvad Gita' ,the sacred book of the Hindus, as a “rashtriya granth (national book)” and only a formal announcement remained in this regard. She said that Gita has been already the status of national scripture when Prime Minister Narendra Modi gifted a copy of the holy book to American president Barack Obama during the former's visit to the US. Reacting to Swaraj's remarks, TMC leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that India was a secular country and only the Constitution was the "Holy Book" in a democracy. The Congress called her statement frivolous. VHP President who was also present at the event supported Sushma saying that the government should immediately declare Gita as the national scripture.

CCI allows Ranbaxy-Sun Pharmaceuticals deal
Corporate > Sun-Ranbaxy > Dec 9
Sun Pharmaceuticals acquisition of its rival drug firm Ranbaxy has been approved by the Competition Commission of India. The acquisition would make Sun Pharmaceuticals India's largest and the world's fifth largest pharmaceutical company. However, the merger was given a go ahead after asking Sun Pharmaceuticals to sell seven brands of the newly merged company as it would have led to a monopoly.


Hero MotoCorp signs ace golfer Tiger Woods for record Rs. 250 crore
Corporate > Hero MotoCorp > Dec 4
Hero MotoCorp, the country's biggest tow-wheeler company, announced that it had inked a four-year endorsement deal with ace golfer Tiger Woods for a huge sum of Rs 250 crore. This is probably the biggest sports endorsement deal by any Indian company. Till now Indian cricketers, who earn Rs. 4 – 10 crore per brand endorsement in a year, had been involved in the biggest sports endorsement deals. With Wood’s global appeal, Hero plans to have a worldwide presence and cement its position in overseas markets.

Thousands protest in New York as police officer goes scot-free
World > Law and Order > Dec 4
Thousands of New Yorkers disrupted city traffic and participated in peaceful protests throughout the city after a grand jury decided not to press charges against a white police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of an unarmed black man Eric Garner in July. The 43-year-old father of six was accused of illegally selling cigarettes on a sidewalk when Pantaleo put him in a chokehold from behind and tackled him with the help of other officers. Police said he had resisted arrest. The city's medical examiner had ruled the death a homicide. The encounter captured on video that spread quickly over the internet fuelled a debate about how the U.S. police used force, particularly against minorities.

Shiv Sena formally joins the BJP government
Politics > Maharashtra > Dec 5
Ten ministers from the Shiv Sena, five cabinet and five state ministers, were sworn-in to the BJP government led by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. Ten BJP ministers (five cabinet and five state) were also sworn-in during the first expansion of the ministry, which took the final tally of the ministers to thirty.
The move has revived the twenty-five year old alliance between the two parties, which had snapped before the Maharashtra assembly elections on a seat-sharing dispute.

Russian diamond producer Alrosa to enter into contract with Indian diamond traders
India > Diamond Trade > Dec 5
Alrosa, a group of Russian companies that leads the world in diamond production, may enter into long-term contracts with Indian traders next week at the World Diamond Conference in New Delhi that's due to be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin. If the deal goes through, it will pave the way for Indian traders to get direct access to rough diamonds from Russia, and cut out the middlemen. The presence of middlemen adds to costs for diamond manufacturers and jewellery makers and thereby, the end consumer. Currently, most of the diamonds meant for cutting reach India through trade hubs in Antwerp, Dubai, Tel Aviv, London, New York and Hong Kong. Since India cuts and polishes 85% of the rough diamonds produced in the world, such a deal with Russia would therefore make for substantial savings. Russia exports 63% of its rough diamonds to the European Union and only 16% to India. With the EU and West imposing sanctions on Russia for incursions in Ukraine, Russia will look to increase its share of exports in India as an alternative trading partner to evade difficult situations if it arises in future.

Aligarh Muslim University allows girl students to access the Maulana Azad Library
India > Aligarh Muslim University > Dec 7
In a welcome change, the Aligarh Muslim University has given permission to girl students of Abdullah Women's College to access its hallowed Maulana Azad Library. Since the 1960s, the university allowed all graduates to use the Maulana Azad library, barring the 2,500-odd under-graduate women. The AMU’s policy to bar women graduates from the main library came under the spotlight after Vice-Chancellor Lt Gen Zameeruddin Shah commented that if girls were allowed into the library, there will be four times more boys. He also pointed out to a space constraint. His comments drew widespread flak and criticism including a letter from Education Minister Smriti Irani. In response to a PIL filed on the issue, the Allahabad High Court called the University’s stand arbitrary and in violation of the constitution and directed the authorities to allow entry of girl students inside the library.

Swiss ambassador says India can demand Swiss bank details only after proving tax fraud
India > Black Money > Dec 7
Switzerland's ambassador to India Linus von Castelmur has said that Switzerland would not entertain any 'fishing expedition' and Indian authorities cannot demand names of account holders only on the basis of stolen lists of account holders. Indian agencies must conduct their own independent investigations and present at least a prima facie proof of tax frauds. He, however, agreed that all the money deposited in Swiss banks might not have always been taxed in the past, as Switzerland was a major destination for several decades when money would flow in from different sources. He said that Switzerland understood India’s concerns and assured full support in cases where a tax fraud has been proved.

India among the countries with lowest survival rates for cancer in the world
India > Health > Dec 7
A study conducted by an international team of doctors on patients from 67 countries over a period of 15 years, has revealed that the survival rates for cancer in India are quite low compared to advanced countries. Despite having better treatment facilities, the survival rates are either stagnating or increasing very slowly, the cause for this irony experts believe is that many people do not have access to the treatments due to high costs involved.

India to have comprehensive climate legislation
India > Climate Legislation > Dec 8
Union minister of state for environment Prakash Javadekar on Sunday said that India would have a new comprehensive climate legislation in the next budget session of Parliament. Mr. Javadekar said that the green climate fund must become a reality since the whole world has now understood and accepted the dangers of climate change. From 2012, it was expected to start with $10 billion every year to reach $100 billion by 2020 and then continue with $ 100 billion per year. But today it is just $9.7 billion. He also referred to India's targets for solar power and the scaling up of solar energy from 20 gigawatt(GW) to100 GW by 2022 for which an investment of $ 100 billion was made, a move intended to reduce millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

US Senate report condemns extreme forms of torture employed by the CIA on detainees after 9/11
World > US CIA Interrogation Techniques > Dec 10
A landmark report by the US Senate Intelligence Committee has condemned the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques on its detainees. Many of the interrogation techniques far surpassed techniques authorized by the White House, CIA and Justice Department lawyers working for President George W Bush who had authorized the CIA's "Rendition, Detention and Interrogation" program after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Bush ended many aspects of the programme before leaving office and Obama promptly banned the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques," after assuming office in 2009. The committee’s conclusion is that none of these extreme interrogation techniques produced critical intelligence information that could not have been obtained by non-coercive means. This conclusion is strongly disputed by many intelligence and counter-terrorism officials. The CIA continues to claim that coercive interrogations were crucial to Bin-Laden’s capture but the senate report concludes that information that led to Bin Laden’s capture came from a detainee before the detainee was tortured.
The report has detailed previously unknown findings. 26 of the detainees were wrongfully held and CIA officers with histories of violence participated in the torture. Torture techniques employed involved sleep deprivation for over 180 hours, rectal hydration without medical necessity, threats involving sexual assault on the detainee’s family members, extreme waterboarding techniques and death of a detainee due to hypothermia after being chained half-naked to a concrete floor.

Home ministry urges states and UTs to ban Uber-like app-based cab services; Uber under scanner worldwide for violating rules
India > Crime > Dec 10
In the aftermath of the rape of a 26-year old Delhi woman by a driver from Uber the US-based online cab service, the home ministry has said that GPS devices should be compulsorily installed in all public transport cabs. Home Minister Rajnath Singh, warning of stricter regulations, has appealed to all states and union territories to stop cab companies like Uber from operating unless they register themselves and complete all the required formalities. The appeal comes after a demand from Rajya Sabha to ban all such app-based cab services. However, transport minister Nitin Gadkari has said that it is too harsh to ban all such cab services and said that proper steps need to be put in place to ensure such incidents do not happen again.
Apart from the row in New Delhi, Uber has come under the scanner for violating rules in the American cities of Los Angeles and San Fransico and other parts of the world such as Spain, Thailand, Holland and Germany. Uber has been accused of putting consumers at risk by misleading the public about the background checks of its drivers and its unwillingness to ensure that correct fares are charged. In many places, Uber’s drivers lacked registration, license and insurance needed to operate commercial vehicles. The company has been fined and banned from operation in cities around the world.


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