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Current Affairs - 08 March 2015

Women's Day history

  • From being synomymous with the kitchen to stepping onto the moon, women have come a long way till now. The Women's Day has been a sybmol of celebrating such women who have surpassed discriminations and come out with flying colours. A look at how March 8th became renowned as the International Women's Day.
    1908 International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILG) organised two mass stikes in New York to protest against long working hours, low wages and diaplated working conditions under whic women worked in garment industry in the United States.
    1909Socialist Party of America observed February 28, 1909 as Women's Day in rememberance of the ILG strike.
    1910 Socialists organised International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen. German Communist leader Clara Zetkin proposed the idea of Women's Day.
    1911International Women's Day was celebrated in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on March 19.
    1912 Migrant workers from over 51 countries, many of them women, striked against two-hour pay cut in in Lawrence, Massachusetts. The strike went on for two months. Labour union leader Rose Schneiderman's famous speech "Bread and Roses" called for fair wages and dignified conditions in industies.
    1913Women's Day was observed in Russia on the last Sunday in February 1913.
    1914 International Women's Day was held on March 8 in Germany to press the demand that women be given the right to vote and to hold public office.
    1917Demonstrations on IWD at St. Petersburg, Russia, where women demanded "bread and peace" gave birth to the February Revolution. This eventually brought the First World War to an end and decline of Tsar regime.
    1977 United Nations proclamied March 8 as UN Day for women's rights and world peace.
    2011United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women aka UN Women

Food Security Act roll-out off track

  • The National Food Security Act’s pan-India implementation will face further delays as most large states where the number of public distribution system (PDS) beneficiaries are high have shown little improvement in their preparedness.
    According to sources, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Odisha, together home to more than half of the scheme’s target population, have not yet put the list of beneficiaries online although some of these states claim the NFSA is already under implementation. All of these states are still grappling with end-to-end computerisation of the entire PDS delivery system, a prerequisite for rolling out the scheme.
    The food security law, launched by the UPA government and which the Modi government has promised to retain, is meant to ensure supply of highly subsidised foodgrain to around 84 crore people in the country. The scheme was to be rolled out all over the country from July 2014, a year after the law was made, but has missed several deadlines.
    Food minister Ram Vilas Paswan had earlier said the scheme, which is now being implemented in 11 states (including Union territories), will be extended to the entire country by April 4, 2015. Paswan told FE on Thursday: “We have now told states to put the beneficiary list online and complete end-to-end computerisation of TPDS latest by May 2015.”
    Even states such as Bihar, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, which had claimed NFSA roll-out prior to last year’s Lok Sabha elections, have since developed cold feet. Bihar, which claims to have been supplying subsidised foodgrain under NFSA to 7.6 crore of the state’s total population of 10.3 crore for about a year, is yet to put the beneficiary names online for verification, evidence that pilferage was rampant in the last few months of the UPA government.
    The Modi government has insisted on beneficiary list, curtailing supplies without target population being defined.
    The food subsidy bill for 2014-15 was Rs 1.22 lakh crore (revised estimate) and the amount estimated for next year is Rs 1.24 lakh crore, which includes NFSA expenditure of Rs 64,919 crore.
    As of now, only a few states and UTs — Delhi, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana — have completed the computerisation of the beneficiary list. “Since March 2014, no state has initiated rolling out NFSA,” an official said.
    The high-level committee on Food Corporation of India’s recast, while recommending a re-look at NFSA, had said: “Given that leakages in the public distribution system range from 40% to 50%, and in some states go as high as 60 to 70%, the government should defer implementation of NFSA in states that have not done end-to-end computerisation; have not put the list of beneficiaries online for anyone to verify; and have not set up vigilance committees to check pilferage from PDS.”

Black money: India gets time till Sept 30 for deal on tax evasion with US

  • The US has given India time till September 30 to put in place a framework to track down the assets that nationals of each country hold in the other nation without reporting to domestic tax authorities.
    Sources told FE that the new information-sharing agreement between the Income-Tax Department and the IRS under the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) would be signed in New Delhi and come into force from October 1.
    The deadline has so far been extended twice, considering the lengthy consultation India has to do with various financial sector regulators.
    Under the agreement, insurance, banking, pension and stock-broking firms have to report their US client details to the Income-Tax Department for eventual sharing with its treaty partner.
    The idea is to capture details of US taxpayers’ unreported foreign financial accounts, stock, securities, mutual funds and insurance or annuity schemes with a cash value above $50,000. FATCA mandates all US citizens, residents and non-resident citizens to report their foreign accounts at the end of the tax year as America follows a system of taxing the world-wide income of its people. India, on the other hand, taxes the worldwide income of only its residents, while non-residents are taxed only on the income sourced from India.
    The extension of the deadline removes fears of American financial institutions imposing a FATCA-mandated 30% penal withholding tax on payments made to Indian clients in the absence of the inter-governmental agreement.
    Finance minister Arun Jaitley, who announced a new Bill proposing jail term for Indian nationals failing to report foreign assets, is preparing a major integration of database available with direct and indirect tax authorities to zero in on instances of evasion.
    Central Board of Direct Taxes chairperson Anita Kapur said adoption of GST will provide a nationwide data base of a large number of transactions, which, along with customs and income-tax database, will be made accessible to all departments in a much more intensive manner.

The mysterious dwarf planet Ceres

  • The mysterious dwarf planet Ceres is ready for its close-up. Located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, Ceres was the largest unexplored space rock in the inner solar system.
    But that distinction ended Friday, when NASA’s Dawn spacecraft arrived after a nearly eight-year journey, which included a stopover at the asteroid Vesta. It’s now circling the dwarf planet on a 16-month mission.
    Five things to know about Ceres:
    Ceres was spotted on New Year’s Day in 1801 by Italian monk and astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi who was searching for a star. It was the first object discovered in the asteroid belt, a zone littered with rocky debris left over from the formation of the sun and planets 4{ billion years ago.
    NASA’s Dawn spacecraft
    Piazzi named the object ”Ceres Ferdinandea” after the Roman goddess of harvest and in honor of King Ferdinand IV of Naples and Sicily. Other astronomers shortened it to Ceres. The word cereal also has its origins in the goddess’ name. The chemical element cerium, discovered in 1803, was named after the celestial Ceres.
    Located about 250 million miles (400 million kilometers) from the sun, Ceres was deemed a comet when it was first discovered. Then it was promoted to a planet and later downgraded to an asteroid. Since 2006, it has been classified as a dwarf planet like Pluto, the one-time ninth planet. Dwarf planets are spherical in shape like planets, but they share the same celestial neighborhood with other similar-sized objects.
    Ceres – with a diameter of about 600 miles (965 kilometers) – is thought to have a rocky core surrounded by an icy mantle. Long ago it might have harbored an underground ocean. As Dawn approached Ceres, it sent back images of a pair of puzzling bright spots inside a crater. Scientists think the shiny dots may be exposed ice or salt.
    Launched in 2007 and powered by ion propulsion engines, Dawn will make the first close-ups of a dwarf planet, which won’t begin until mid-April when the spacecraft emerges from Ceres’ shadows.
    Dawn will study Ceres for 16 months from varying altitudes, getting as close as 235 miles (378 kilometers) above Ceres’ surface, or the distance of the International Space Station above Earth. The spacecraft will take sharper images of the mysterious spots and use its instruments to confirm whether Ceres’ surface is still active and spewing plumes of water vapor.
    This summer, another NASA spacecraft dubbed New Horizons will make the first visit to the dwarf planet Pluto.

Multitasking hunger neurons also control compulsive behaviors

  • In the absence of food, neurons that normally control appetite initiate complex, repetitive behaviors seen in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and anorexia nervosa, according to a new study by Yale School of Medicine researchers.

    The findings are published in the March 5 online issue of the journal Cell.

    Neural circuits are responsible for flexible goal-oriented behaviors. The Yale team investigated how a population of neurons in the hypothalamus that control food intake are also involved in other behaviors. Known as Agrp neurons, these cells also control repetitive, stereotypic behaviors in mice when food is not available, the researchers discovered.

    The team tested the behavior of mice after the Agrp neurons were activated. They found that in the absence of food, mice engaged in repetitive behaviors, such as grooming and marble burying. They further demonstrated that these behaviors were goal-oriented and not related to anxiety.

    "These observations unmask the relevance of primitive brain regions previously linked to eating to other complex behaviors," said lead author Marcelo Dietrich, M.D., assistant professor of comparative medicine and neurobiology and a member of the Yale Program in Integrative Cell Signaling and Neurobiology of Metabolism at Yale School of Medicine. "These findings are relevant to understanding diseases with both homeostatic and compulsive components and highlight the multitasking nature of neurons in the brain."

    According to Dietrich, the data suggests that these primitive brain regions play a crucial role in psychiatric conditions. "The research lays the groundwork for possible clinical trials to address the behavioral aspects of anorexia nervosa and other neuropsychiatric diseases with compulsive behavioral components," he said.

Human brains age less than previously thought

  • Older brains may be more similar to younger brains than previously thought.

    In a new paper published in Human Brain Mapping, BBSRC-funded researchers at the University of Cambridge and Medical Research Council's Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit demonstrate that previously reported changes in the ageing brain using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) may be due to vascular (or blood vessels) changes, rather than changes in neuronal activity itself.

    Given the large number of fMRI studies used to assess the ageing brain, this has important consequences for understanding how the brain changes with age and challenges current theories of ageing.

    A fundamental problem of fMRI is that it measures neural activity indirectly through changes in regional blood flow. Thus, without careful correction for age differences in vasculature reactivity, differences in fMRI signals can be erroneously regarded as neuronal differences.

    An important line of research focuses on controlling for noise in fMRI signals using additional baseline measures of vascular function. However, such methods have not been widely used, possibly because they are impractical to implement in studies of ageing.

    An alternative candidate for correction makes use of resting state fMRI measurements, which is easy to acquire in most fMRI experiments. While this method has been difficult to validate in the past, the unique combination of an impressive data set across 335 healthy volunteers over the lifespan, as part of the CamCAN project, allowed Dr. Kamen Tsvetanov and colleagues to probe the true nature of ageing effects on resting state fMRI signal amplitude.

    Their research showed that age differences in signal amplitude during a task are of a vascular, not neuronal, origin. They propose that their method can be used as a robust correction factor to control for vascular differences in fMRI studies of ageing.

    The study also challenged previous demonstrations of reduced brain activity in visual and auditory areas during simple sensorimotor tasks. Using conventional methods, the current study replicated these findings.

    However, after correction, Tsvetanov et al. results show that it might be vascular health, not brain function, that accounts for most age-related differences in fMRI signal in sensory areas. Their results suggest that the age differences in brain activity may be overestimated in previous fMRI studies of ageing.

    Dr. Tsvetanov said: "There is a need to refine the practice of conducting fMRI. Importantly, this doesn't mean that studies lacking 'golden standard' calibration measures, such as large scale studies, patient studies or ongoing longitudinal studies are invalid. Instead, researchers should make use of available resting state data as a suitable alternative. These findings clearly show that without such correction methods, fMRI studies of the effects of age on cognition may misinterpret effect of age as a cognitive, rather than vascular, phenomena."

Govt committed to bring positive change in lives of women: PM Modi

  • NEW DELHI: Denouncing the violence against women, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said one-stop- centres and mobile helplines will be set up for women in distress.

    "Our heads hang in shame when we hear of instances of crime against women. We must walk shoulder-to-shoulder to end all forms of discrimination or injustice against women," he said in a message on the occasion of International Women's Day.

    "Today, we renew our pledge to make women an equal and integral part of our development journey. My government has initiated several measures aimed at bringing about a positive change in the lives of women. That is central to our vision of India's progress and a life of dignity and opportunity for all our citizens," the Prime Minister said.

    Seeking the support of all in transforming the vision into reality, he said, "The Government is setting up one-stop-centres that will provide assistance, legal advice and psychological counseling to women who face violence or abuse.

    "The Government is also commencing a mobile helpline to enable women to dial 181 for access to counselling and referral services," he said.

    "Through various schemes & initiatives, our Government remains fully committed to bringing a positive change in the lives of women," the Prime Minister said, while saluting the "indomitable courage & outstanding achievements of women on International Women's Day".

    He noted that the Union Budget had unveils broadbased social security schemes such as the Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Bima Yojana and Atal Pension Yojana which will benefit women in a big way.

    The 'Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao' Yojana seeks to usher in a paradigm shift in attitudes towards the girl child and places emphasis on educating the girl child while the Sukanya Samruddhi Yojana will provide support for marriage and education of young women, he said.

Naturopathy may be safe, but it’s not cheap

  • NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal's inclination towards yoga and naturopathy has done for alternative medicine what many of its proponents couldn't.

    Naturopathy practitioners in west Delhi told TOI many people choose alternative medicine to avoid the side-effects caused by allopathy. "Diabetes, obesity, skin problems, ulcers and arthritis are some common problems for which people approach us," said Dr Madhu Gupta Shastri, who heads a yoga, naturopathy and panchkarma centre in south Delhi's East of Kailash area.

    Naturopathy works on the philosophy that the body can heal itself if in a proper environment and with rest. Yoga, Dr Shastri added, is an integral part of naturopathy. Doctors said many people suffering from serious illnesses like liver and kidney failure often come to them after other treatments fail to deliver results.

    "Hypertension, diabetes and calcium depletion are no longer associated with old age. A large number of people in their early 30s are being diagnosed with these problems. People often continue with allopathic treatment but also experiment with alternative therapy on the side," said another doctor.
  • Dr SK Mundra, who runs a naturopathy clinic in West Punjabi Bagh, said various modalities including mud therapy benefit those suffering from diabetes. "We apply the mud on the surface of the body where the pancreas exists. This helps in production of insulin," he said.

    Enema therapy, another common treatment adopted by naturopathy practitioners to treat constipation, ulcerative colitis and other problems associated with the digestive system involves insertion of liquid into the rectum or colon by way of the anus.

    "Mahatma Gandhi, too, practised naturopathy and also promoted it. He wrote several articles in 'Harijan' on it," said a health ministry official. The official, however, added that one should exercise caution while choosing a doctor since many quacks knowing little about the systemic approach often dupe patients.

    "Naturopathy is promoted as a cheaper alternative to allopathic medicine. But the truth is that it costs just as much. High-end hospitals like the Bengaluru-based Jindal Naturecure Institute charge between Rs 800 and Rs 11,000 per day, excluding charges for mud baths, hydrotherapy and exotic massages," said Nutan Khanna, who takes her mother to Kerala for rheumatoid arthritis.

Question for quiz

  • 1.    Match the following
    State        Party
    A.    Punjab    1.    Zoram Nationalist Party
    B.    Mizoram    2.    Shiromani Akali Dal
    C.    Nagaland    3.    Biju Janata Dal
    D.    Orissa    4.    Nationalist Democratic Movement
    A    B    C    D
    (a)    2    1    4    3
    (b)    2    3    4    1   
    (c)    4    3    2    1
    (d)    2    4    1    3

    2.    Consider the following
    1.    Bahujan Samaj Party
    2.    Nationalist Congress Party
    3.    Rashtriya Janata Dal
    4.    Samaj wadi Party
    Which of the above are recognised by Election Commission of India as National Party
    (a)    1, 2 and 4
    (b)    1, 3 and 4
    (c)    1 and 2
    (d)    1, 2, 3 and 4

    3.    Match the following
    Political Party        Symbol
    A.    Janta Dal (United)    1.    Arrow
    B.    Rastriya Janta Dal    2.    Elephant
    C.    Bahujan Samaj Party    3.    Cycle
    D.    Telgu Desam Party     4.    Lalten
    A    B    C    D
    (a)    1    2    3    4
    (b)    2    3    4    1
    (c)    1    4    2    3
    (d)    4    1    3    2   

    4.    Which party recently lost its National Status.
    (a)    Janta Dal United
    (b)    Rastriya Janta Dal
    (c)    Telgu Desam Party
    (d)    Bahujan Samaj Party

    5.    Who is the leader of communist party of India.
    (a)    Prakash Karat
    (b)    A. B. Bardhan
    (c)    Asim Das Gupta
    (d)    Sitaram Yechury


    1. a

    2. c

    3. c

    4. b

    5. b

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