Gujarat Assembly’s budget session stalled

first_imgAHMEDABAD: The Gujarat Assembly’s Budget session began on a stormy note with the Opposition forcing State Governor O.P. Kohli to curtail his address amidst slogan shouting by Congress MLAs, who demanded a judicial probe into the Kutch sex racket, in which some local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members are allegedly involved. Oposition members arrived dressed in black to protest the alleged gang rape of a 23-year-old woman, who named local BJP leaders among other accused. ‘Beti bachao, balatkarion se beti bachao’ (‘save daughters, save daughters from rapists’) the Opposition shouted, all of whom rushed to the well holding placards as the governor began his customary address on the inaugural day of the Budget session. Subsequently, the governor curtailed his address, as he could not be heard in the din, and left the proceedings, placing his written speech on the table while the Speaker Ramanlal Vora adjourned the house. Adjourned againLater, the House reconvened to transact business but was adjourned again when protesting members followed the Leader of the Opposition and stormed the well of the House, demanding the government announce a judicial probe in the matter. “Our demand is simple. Let a judicial probe by a sitting High Curt judge be announced by the government on the Kutch sex racket because the victim has named BJP leaders in her FIR (First Information Report),” Leader of the Opposition Shankarsinh Vaghela told the media after Opposition members were suspended from the proceedings for a day. Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and other leaders condoled the death of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa and other former members of the Gujarat Assembly who passed away recently. Meanwhile, outside the Assembly, the Congress held a rally in capital Gandhinagar on the issue of deteriorating the law and order situation in the state. The rally was addressed by State Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki, who accused the State administration of “protecting big names of the ruling party” in the gang rape and sex racket. In an FIR filed in Kutch earlier this month, a 23-year-old woman alleged that she was gang raped by at least nine men on different occasions about a year back. She alleged that the accused made a video of the act and raped her on several occasions by threatening to circulate the video clip. The Special Investigation Team (SIT) formed to probe the case arrested eight men who had allegedly gang raped the married woman. Those who were arrested included four local BJP leaders, who were suspended from the party after their names cropped up in the FIR. The woman alleged in her FIR that the accused used to run a sex racket in the Kutch district and blackmail their victims.last_img read more

NC legislators protest use of force on students in J-K Assembly

first_imgOpposition National Conference legislators on Saturday protested in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly against the alleged use of force on the agitating students in the Valley.Led by party general secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar, several MLAs and MLCs protested outside the assembly complex here on the first day of the special session to discuss draft GST legislation approved by the state government.The NC leaders shouted slogans against the government and blocked entry to the civil secretariat and the assembly.They carried banners reading “end the state-sponsored terrorism, killing of innocent people and use of pellet guns against the protesting students“.Later, as soon as the session began, the legislators entered the assembly and started protesting. Congress MLAs also joined them.last_img read more

3 more militants killed in Pulwama

first_imgBodies of three Hizbul Mujahideen militants were recovered from debris in Pulwama on Tuesday morning, at the end of a 24-hour encounter.“The encounter started on Monday morning and one militant was killed in the initial exchange of fire. The other militants took shelter in houses. “The operation ended around 9 a.m. on Tuesday. Three bodies and three weapons were recovered,” said Inspector- General of Police, Kashmir, Muneer Khan. He said a search operation was on, as the security agencies suspect a “fourth body” could be buried in the debris.Shifting positionsFive houses were seen burning on Tuesday as the militants, who were frequently shifting positions, engaged the security forces in a long- drawn battle. Four security personnel, one a CRPF officer, were injured in the gunfight.“The operation became prolonged as the village Buhmoo is located on a raised ground. They had a dominating position. Room-to-room intervention was not easy. We had to proceed strategically to avoid collateral damage,” Mr. Khan said.Operation delayedThe operation was also delayed as the residents marched along the roads and threw stones. Scores were injured in clashes in the past 24 hours.Meanwhile, two slain militants were identified as Kifayat and Jehangir. The identity of the third could not be ascertained. Reports suggest multiple funerals were held for Jehangir, a resident of Chak Keller in Shopian district, where anti-India and pro-freedom slogans were raised.last_img read more

Try teen as adult: kin of Ryan victim

first_imgAfter the CBI apprehended a Class XI student of Ryan International School, Bhondsi branch, on charges of murdering a seven-year-old schoolmate on September 8, the parents of the victim demanded that the accused be tried as an adult given the heinous nature of the crime.“The theory put forth by the CBI is more probable than the one the Haryana police gave after their probe. From the very first day we said we did not believe the police’s version that the bus conductor committed the crime and that is the reason why we demanded a CBI inquiry. It is clear that the local police were trying to botch up the investigations,” said the victim’s father.Demanding stringent punishments for all those involved in “diluting” the case, the father said: “We want the CBI frame charges against all those who tried to clear up the scene of the crime. A strong message needs to be sent to all in order to curb crimes against children.”Sushil K Tekriwal, the lawyer representing the victim’s family, said: “We believe that a deep-rooted conspiracy has been hatched. It is important to find out at whose behest all the evidences were being destroyed and who was being shielded. The top management of the school, including the Pintos, should be interrogated. We demand that the accused be tried as an adult and given death penalty.”“The nature of the crime is not ordinary. It is a gruesome and cold-blooded murder. If the mental framework of the child is mature enough to make an assessment as to what is right and what is wrong, we will not leave any stone unturned to prove to the Juvenile Justice Board that he should be tried as an adult,” added Mr. Tekriwal.last_img read more

No clarity on proposed water audit, say Pune activists

first_imgPune: A number of noted city-based activists have hit back at State Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan’s call to the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) to conduct a water audit to plug ‘leakages’ in Pune’s water supply and distribution system.Activists asserted that the water resources department had no clarity on the proposed audit, while alleging rampant water theft with the knowledge of local corporators, many of whom have a thriving water tanker business.“What do they exactly mean by a water audit? The city’s supply system is in shambles. There aren’t sufficient meters and water resources as well as civic authorities are utterly clueless as to the water drawn by the PMC from the Khadakwasla dam,” said Major Gen. (retd.) S.N. Jatar of the Pune-based Nagrik Chetna Manch.The water drawn from the city’s lifeline — the Khadakwasla dam — goes to main purification station in the Parvati area where the meters don’t work, observed Mr. Jatar.“It is astonishing that given the push, authorities have very crude metrics to determine water taken. Both the Congress-NCP and the BJP have governed the civic body and the State at some point and have done nothing to ameliorate the situation,” he said.Maj. Gen. Jatar further alleged that 60 % of the so-called leakages are in fact diversions of precious water to unauthorised connections with the blessings of politicos in cahoots with the civic administration.Mr. Mahajan, who visited the city last week, had remarked that the PMC’s efforts to recycle 6 tmc water for irrigation purposes were “inadequate” while rapping citizens of Pune for consuming more water than necessary.“The Water Resources department, in a bid to cover up its own incompetency, is shifting the blame on citizens. It is the department which ought to be facing an audit instead,” said environmentalist and RTI activist Vivek Velankar, founder of the Sajag Nagrik Manch. Mr. Velankar pointed out that the Mundhwa jackwell, which was constructed by the PMC at the insistence of the Water Resources Department, had proved wholly ineffectual.The purpose of the ₹90 crore project was to recycle water and divert 6.5 tmc for irrigation purposes in the district’s rural areas.An average 515 millions of litres of water per day (MLD) was to be utilised for irrigation through this project.“However, the department has managed to utilise a paltry 140 MLD for irrigation over a six-month period from October 2017 to March this year,” said Mr. Velankar, adding that in October, the department did not draw any water from the project while in November, it drew a mere 10 MLD for irrigation. What is more disturbing is that residents in the villages along the jackwell project have claimed that polluted water released from it has contaminated canal water.“This is not merely a waste of precious water resources, but a crime. The Water Resources Minister blames Pune’s citizens for consuming more water and hints at levying more taxes,” Mr. Velankar said.Tanker mafia benefitsThe city’s water woes have translated into pelf for the ‘tanker mafia’, which has established itself as an alternate water supply source.Activists note the endemic corruption in the private tanker business.The civic body gives water to tankers at very low prices, which gets sold outside PMC limits at higher rates.“The economics of this illicit tanker enterprise benefits local politicos, many of whom control the business. Despite the PMC making it mandatory to install a General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) in each vehicle, the civic body has failed to set up any sort of monitoring system to maintain records on the vehicles,” says RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar.Maj. Gen. Jatar said the fact that tankers are supplying corporation water proved it is available, and that the so-called shortage was ‘artificial’.last_img read more

BJP releases Chhattisgarh first list of 77

first_imgThe BJP on Saturday released its first list of 77 candidates for the Chhattisgarh Assembly election, fielding Chief Minister Raman Singh from Rajnandgaon.The State has 90 Assembly seats. On the BJP list, 14 are women candidates and 14 MLAs have been replaced with new names, Union Health and Family Welfare Minister J.P. Nadda said.The list was finalised at the BJP’s central election committee meeting chaired by party president Amit Shah and attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.Among those fielded include former IAS officer O.P. Chaudhary and tribal leader Ramdayal Uike, who recently joined the BJP from the Congress.Chhattisgarh goes to the polls in two phases on November 12 and 20. The votes will be counted on December 11. The BJP also released a list of 38 candidates for the Telangana Assembly polls. There are a total of 119 Assembly candidates in the State. The party also released a list of 13 candidates for the polls in Mizoram. BSP releases second listThe Bahujan Samaj Party released its second list of 12 candidates for Chhattisgarh.The Mayawati-led party has forged an alliance with the Janata Congress Chhattisgarh, led by former Chief Minister Ajit Jogi, and the Communist Party of India, and will contest 33 seats.The BSP’s lone MLA, Keshav Prasad Chandra, has been renominated from Jaijaipur. Mr. Jogi’s daughter-in-law Richa Jogi has been fielded from Akaltara. The BSP’s State president, Omprakash Batchpayi, will contest in Nawagarh. Under the alliance agreement, the Janata Congress will contest 55 seats and the BSP 33. The CPI will contest the Sukma and Dantewada seats.Nine file papersNine candidates filed nomination papers for the first phase in Chhattisgarh on Saturday, taking the total to 11. On Saturday, two each filed their papers for Rajnandgaon, Antagarh and Dantewada and one each for Khairagarh, Dongargarh and Dongargaon, an official said. For Dantewada, Devti Karma of the Congress, who is the sitting MLA, and Nanda Ram Sori of the CPI filed their papers.last_img read more

Patients facing visa hurdles, Meghalaya minister tells PM

first_imgA Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Minister in Meghalaya has sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s help in easing visa problems being faced by Christian missionaries and patients who come for treatment to the country.In a letter to the Prime Minister, Meghalaya’s Health and Family Welfare Minister Alexander L. Hek cited the case of Father Fernando Franco, a Spanish member of the Society of Jesus, to lament “many instances of delay in renewal of visa” causing inconvenience to “many Christian missionaries”.Fr Franco, working at St Xavier’s College in Ahmedabad, was to undergo a surgery at a private hospital in that city. “But his surgery was cancelled at the last hour since his visa was not renewed despite having applied for renewal on June 28,” the lone BJP minister in Conrad K. Sangma’s National People’s Party-led coalition government said.Mr Hek said other missionaries and patients have been facing a similar ordeal, advocating an automatic extension of visa for people admitted in hospitals or undergoing treatment.“I request your office to kindly intervene and to direct the ministries concerned to expedite the clearance of visa in such cases so that foreigners working in India and those who come from abroad for treatment do not have to endure more suffering,” he said.last_img read more

Two Ministers among 134 in fray in Rajasthan

first_imgUnion Ministers Arjun Ram Meghwal and Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore are among the 134 candidates whose fate will be decided in the 12 Lok Sabha constituencies in Rajasthan that go to the polls on Monday. Polling on 13 of the 25 seats in the State took place on April 29, while Bikaner, Nagaur, Dausa, Alwar and Jaipur Rural are some of the keenly watched constituencies in the fifth phase of polling.The resurgent Congress, after its victory in the 2018 State Assembly election, is giving a tough fight to the BJP, which has skirted local issues and highlighted terrorism and defence preparedness as the subjects of national significance in its campaign. The candidates and leaders of both the parties came out in full strength on the last day of campaigning on Saturday and conducted roadshows and rallies in various towns.Two former Olympians — Col. Rathore (BJP) and Krishna Poonia (Congress) — are locked in a keen contest in Jaipur Rural, while Mr. Meghwal is facing rebellion by the BJP workers in Bikaner after the exit of veteran leader Devi Singh Bhati from the party. Mr. Meghwal and his cousin Madan Gopal, as the Congress candidate, are the two former civil servants in the fray in Rajasthan.Battle royale Two seers — Sumedhanand Saraswati and Mahant Balak Nath — are contesting the election on BJP tickets from Sikar and Alwar, respectively, while the only erstwhile royal family’s scion in the fray is Bhanwar Jitendra Singh from Alwar. Jaipur royal family’s Diya Kumari contested the polls from Rajsamand in the fourth phase.Both the Congress and the BJP candidates in Dausa, reserved for the Scheduled Tribes, are women. While the Congress gave the ticket to Savita Meena in its first list released on March 28, the delay in the announcement of former MP Jaskaur Meena’s name as the BJP candidate exposed the fight between factions led by local leaders Kirori Lal Meena and Om Prakash Hudla.Centre of attraction The Nagaur seat is going to be a centre of attraction for political analysts and psephologists, as the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party president Hanuman Beniwal is in the fray as part of an alliance of BJP with his party. Mr. Beniwal, who had quit the BJP and was elected an Independent MLA from Khinvsar, faces Jyoti Mirdha of Congress, who comes from the influential family of Jat leader Nathuram Mirdha — elected an MP for six times since 1971.About 2.30 crore voters, including 1.09 crore women, will exercise their franchise in 12 constituencies. The seats going to polls are Sriganganagar, Bikaner, Sikar, Churu, Jhunjhunu, Jaipur, Jaipur Rural, Alwar, Bharatpur, Karauli-Dholpur, Dausa and Nagaur.last_img read more

Centre gives incentives to 10 States for successful implementation of police reforms

first_imgThe Centre has released ₹7.69 crore each as an incentive to 10 States, under the scheme of modernisation of police force in the last fiscal.A Home Ministry official said the amount has been given for the States that have succeeded in implementing police reforms such as filling up of vacancies, use of technology in tackling crime and welfare of police personnel.The following States were found eligible for the incentive: Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, the official said.Police reforms have been on the agenda of the successive governments since Independence. However, progress in this area has been slow which led to giving incentives to the States which perform better.The 10 States that were rewarded have shown a tremendous progress in fulfilling vacant posts, use of emerging mobile and IT applications, GIS-based computer-aided dispatch, online complaints system and electronic record keeping among others.The other areas where the States showed progress include procurement of modern weapons, equipment, vehicles, CCTV surveillance, data centres, command and control centres.Welfare measures such as provision of housing and medical facilities for police personnel and rest-room facilities for women personnel in police stations have also been taken into account while choosing the State for the incentive, another official said.Meanwhile, the budget allocation for financial year 2018-19 was ₹769 crore for sub-scheme of Assistance to States for Modernisation of Police against which ₹768.83 crore (almost 100%) has been released.The entire allocation of ₹100 crore for Assistance to the State government for Special Projects/ Programmes for upgrading police infrastructure has also been released by the Home Ministry, the official said.last_img read more

Man returning home after casting vote murdered by neighbours in Punjab

first_imgEven as polling for the last phase of Lok Sabha elections was under way in Punjab’s Tarn Taran district on Sunday, a man was brutally murdered, in full public glare, allegedly by his neighbours following a heated exchange over some issue. The incident occurred at Sarli Kalan village under the Khadoor Sahib Parliamentary constituency when the victim, Bunty Singh (30) was returning home after exercising his franchise, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Kuldip Singh Chahal said. He, however, clarified that the incident was not related to the polling. “This murder is not related to the ongoing polls and is not an incident of poll violence,” he told the reporters in Tarn Taran. The murder was a result of “some sudden provocation” and the accused, who were the victim’s neighbours and whose exact number is being verified, were under the influence of alcohol, Mr. Chahal added. They allegedly attacked Singh on his neck with a sharp-edged weapon, killing him on the spot, he said. A manhunt has been launched to nab the accused, the SSP said. Woman dies in Madhya Pradesh A woman on Sunday died of cardiac arrest while standing in a queue at a polling booth in Chandora village, part of the Ratlam-Jhabua Lok Sabha seat, a poll officer said.“A woman voter identified as Genda Bai (58) died after suffering a heart attack when she was waiting in the queue at Chandora village booth under Ratlam-Jhabua Lok Sabha constituency,” said VL Kantha Rao, Chief Electoral Officer of Madhya Pradesh. Earlier, two government employees engaged in the election duty also died in separate incidents in Madhya Pradesh.“Garu Singh Chogad, who was deployed at the Jalwat polling booth in Dhar Lok Sabha constituency, died after suffering a heart failure on Sunday morning,” Rao said. In another incident, a presiding officer, Anil Nema, in Dewas Lok Sabha seat died of cardiac arrest on Saturday night, he said. Polling was under way in Dewas, Ujjain, Mandsaur, Ratlam, Dhar, Indore, Khargone and Khandwa, with voter turnout recorded at 59.38% till 4 p.m.last_img read more

ScienceShot: Mother Sharks Head Home to Give Birth

first_imgAfter almost 2 decades of research, scientists have confirmed what they long suspected: Female lemon sharks (Negaprion brevirostris, pictured) swim back to where they were born when ready to give birth, even after years away. Lemon sharks, and possibly other shark species, such as blacktip reef sharks, are thus similar to salmon and sea turtles, which also return to their exact natal nurseries. To prove that pregnant sharks seek out their original home waters, scientists captured and tagged more than 2000 baby lemon sharks at Bimini, Bahamas, between 1995 and 2012. They also collected genetic samples from each shark pup, creating family trees that allowed them to connect newborns to specific mothers. Lemon sharks do not hatch from eggs, but emerge fully developed from their mothers after a yearlong pregnancy; eight to 12 pups are born in a litter. At Bimini, they linger in their nursery waters until about age 5, when they leave the island’s safety to rove. They reach sexual maturity around age 12. At least six of the female sharks the researchers tagged returned to the exact same waters where they were born 15 years earlier, they report online today in Molecular Ecology. Although that is not a large sample size, the researcher says it reflects the difficulty of capturing adult sharks—and the hazards shark face. Typically only one to three baby sharks in a litter survive beyond their third year. The researchers are not certain how the mothers are able to find their way home, but suspect that they imprint on the area during their early years. Knowing that sharks are tightly connected to specific places should help with conservation measures, the scientists say, especially efforts to preserve specific shark nurseries.See more ScienceShots.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)last_img read more

WHO, CDC publish grim new Ebola projections

first_imgSix months after the World Health Organization (WHO) was notified of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, its experts have released a new study warning that the situation is quickly growing worse and that Ebola may even “become endemic among the human population of West Africa, a prospect that has never previously been contemplated.”The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, meanwhile, released a new model for the spread of the deadly virus. Its worst-case scenario estimates that up to 1.4 million people could be infected by the end of January. If control efforts are stepped up in a truly dramatic fashion and prove a stunning success, however, the epidemic could be almost over by that time. “Delay is extremely costly in terms of lives and efforts,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said at a press conference today.The Ebola outbreak, which probably started in Guinea in December last year, has already sickened at least 5843 people, according to the latest WHO figures—more than twice as many as all known previous outbreaks combined—and killed 2803. Epidemiologists expect the real numbers to be two or three times that, however, because only a fraction of cases is reported. And the spread of the disease keeps accelerating.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)The new study by WHO experts and scientists at Imperial College London, published today by The New England Journal of Medicine, is “excellent” because it fills some important gaps, says Preben Aavitsland, a Norwegian epidemiologist. “For instance, the study gives an average length of hospital stay of 6.4 days,” he says. That is important to know, because it means that about as many beds are needed as there are new Ebola cases every week. It also means that tens of thousands of beds will be needed by the end of November, Aavitsland says. “It’s completely unclear where those beds and the people to staff them will come from.”The authors have also estimated the so-called reproductive rate of the virus in each country, which represents the average number of people that each infected person in turn infects. It ranges from 1.38 in Sierra Leone to 1.51 in Liberia to 1.81 in Guinea. That means cases are roughly doubling every 2 weeks in Guinea, every 3 weeks in Liberia, and every month in Sierra Leone, says Christl Donnelly, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London and one of the study’s authors. “The big thing is that we are still seeing exponential growth and that needs to be stopped.”A month ago, in its so-called Ebola Response Roadmap, WHO wrote that the number of cases “could exceed 20,000 over the course of this emergency.” In the new model, it projects that number to be reached by 2 November, if the epidemic continues to grow unchecked.There is more bad news. Although WHO has earlier said that roughly half of the Ebola patients die, the paper estimates that the case fatality rate is actually just above 70%. “I think that that can be brought down through more aggressive therapy to well below 50%,” Aavitsland says. Offering a better shot at survival is important to convince patients to seek care instead of staying home, he says, where they may infect others. “At the moment, all these treatment units have to offer is a lonely death.”In a perspective published with the article, Jeremy Farrar, head of the Wellcome Trust, and Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, warn that knock-on effects will kill many more people. “West Africa will see much more suffering and many more deaths during childbirth and from malaria, tuberculosis, HIV–AIDS, enteric and respiratory illnesses, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and mental health during and after the Ebola epidemic,” they write. “Indeed, there is a very real danger of a complete breakdown in civic society, as desperate communities understandably lose faith in the established systems.”The model released by CDC today looks further ahead, and its projections are even more sobering. If the virus continues to spread at the current rate, Liberia and Sierra Leone alone will have reported about 550,000 Ebola cases by 20 January, the authors write. But if the official numbers so far represent only 40% of the real burden—which many believe may well be the case—that would mean a total of 1.4 million Ebola cases in those two countries by 20 January. “I certainly hope that we see nothing like those projections,” Donnelly says. “But I think it is a realistic projection of what would happen if we didn’t get our act together.”Projecting what happens in Guinea is impossible because of the wild swings in case numbers there, Frieden said. “You see three separate waves of cases which have increased in amplitude” that probably reflect reimportations from the other two countries, he said at the press conference.CDC has also released the model as an Excel spreadsheet “so that planners in countries as well as international organizations can model what might happen in different circumstances,” Frieden said. He also said that he doesn’t believe the most dire predictions will come to pass. “The model shows, and I don’t think this has been shown by other modeling tools out there, that a surge now can break the back of the epidemic,” he said. Specifically, the epidemic begins to slow down, and will eventually peter out, if approximately 70% of the patients are in medical care facilities or Ebola treatment units, or—if those are all full—are cared for in such a way that they don’t transmit the virus to others.Although that may sound somewhat reassuring, it is unclear how this can be achieved, because doctors may not even know about 60% of all Ebola cases in the region. “I just don’t see the massive surge in help that is needed to achieve that,” says Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit, a virologist at the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg, Germany. Partly, Schmidt-Chanasit says, it is a question of speed. The United States, for instance, has pledged 17 field hospitals that will be able to accommodate 100 patients each—but it’s expected to take 50 to 100 days for those to be fully functional. By that time, the need will be much bigger already.The CDC model shows this need for speed very clearly: For every 30 extra days it takes to get 70% of patients into treatment, the researchers estimate that the number of daily cases occurring at the peak of the epidemic will triple. Providing home care kits to protect people who take care of family members themselves may help prevent at least some infections, Schmidt-Chanasit says. “It is definitely a good idea, but it will not by itself curb this epidemic.” The key, Aavitsland says, is still a massive scaling up of beds and staff. “It seems very hard to stop this now, but I think we all just have to believe that it is possible.”There is at least a glimmer of hope in the new data, Donnelly says. “The reproductive rate, at least in Sierra Leone and Liberia, was higher at the beginning of the epidemic. That may be a first sign that some of the efforts are having an effect,” she says. Christian Althaus, an epidemiologist at the University of Bern, cautions that this may just be an artifact, however. As hospitals have filled up, the share of cases going unreported may have increased, creating the illusion of some improvement. “I wish it were true,” Althaus says. “But I doubt it.”*The Ebola Files: Given the current Ebola outbreak, unprecedented in terms of number of people killed and rapid geographic spread, Science and Science Translational Medicine have made a collection of research and news articles on the viral disease freely available to researchers and the general public.last_img read more

Been to an Ebola-affected country? Stay away from tropical medicine meeting, Louisiana says

first_imgEbola fears are interfering with the world’s premier scientific meeting on tropical diseases. Today, Louisiana state health officials asked anyone who has traveled to Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea in the past 21 days, or has treated Ebola patients elsewhere, to stay away from the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH), which begins on Sunday in New Orleans.ASTMH doesn’t know exactly how many scientists will be affected, but there are several, says incoming president Christopher Plowe, including representatives from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “They are quite disappointed,” says Plowe, a malaria researcher at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. ASTMH sent all meeting registrants an e-mail today containing a letter from Kathy Kliebert, secretary of Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals, and Kevin Davis, director of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, that outlines the state’s position. ASTMH referred registrants to the state’s health department for further information.”Given that conference participants with a travel and exposure history for [Ebola] are recommended not to participate in large group settings (such as this conference) or to utilize public transport, we see no utility in you traveling to New Orleans to simply be confined to your room,” the letter says.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Louisiana’s new policy goes further than guidelines from CDC; it is the latest example, after New York and New Jersey, of a state deciding to impose restrictions that many scientists say make little sense.”I’m very upset. And that’s an understatement,” says Piero Olliaro, a tropical diseases expert at WHO and a visiting professor at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, who learned this afternoon that he can’t travel to New Orleans. Olliaro returned from Guinea on 22 October, where he had been scouting for sites to do clinical trials of candidate Ebola drugs. At the ASTMH meeting, he was scheduled to co-chair a session, give two talks, and present six posters. He says he’s scrambling to find people to replace him.”This policy is fundamentally flawed and not evidence-based,” says Daniel Bausch, a researcher at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans who is the organizer of one of two specialized Ebola symposia at the meeting. “It’s very unfortunate and could potentially be counterproductive by preventing health care workers from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea from sharing their experiences and findings at one of the most important tropical disease meetings globally,” adds Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.Plowe says he made phone calls to state officials late into the night the past few days to get clarity on Louisiana’s Ebola policy in time for this year’s meeting. “The last thing we wanted was for people to travel to New Orleans only to find out that they will be quarantined for 21 days,” he says. Louisiana has the right to make its own policies, Plowe says: “That’s the way it is. We have to live with it.” But ASTMH believes the best way to protect Americans is to fight Ebola in West Africa, he adds, and keeping away health care workers who have not been involved in patient care “is not helping to accomplish this, and ultimately puts Americans at higher risk,” he says.Just how to limit the spread of Ebola in the United States has become the topic of intense political debates in the middle of an election season. According to the complicated new interim guidelines from CDC issued yesterday, people who have traveled to countries with widespread Ebola transmission but who did not come into direct contact with patients, are in the “low (but not zero) risk” category; the same is true for those who treated Ebola patients using appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) in countries that have seen just a few cases, such as the United States, Germany, or Spain. As long as they have no symptoms, such people can travel freely, and there is no reason to bar them from gatherings, CDC says.People who treated Ebola patients using protective gear in Sierra Leone, Guinea, or Liberia fall into the “some risk” category, for which “direct active monitoring” is recommended, including daily temperature measurements by health officials; in addition, local authorities “may consider additional restrictions,” CDC says. (The definitions of the various risk categories are here.)That gives state authorities considerable leeway, and some have decided to take a strict position. In their letter, Kliebert and Davis say that the state wouldn’t be able to determine the level of risk for any particular traveler; instead, it would have to rely on self-reporting. To err on the side of caution, Louisiana is asking even people who fall into CDC’s “low (but not zero) risk” category to stay away. “In Louisiana, we love to welcome visitors, but we must balance that hospitality with the protection of Louisiana residents and other visitors,” the letter says.Kliebert and Davis appear to acknowledge that the ban does not make much sense scientifically, however. “From a medical perspective, asymptomatic individuals are not at risk of exposing others,” they write. “These precautions are being taken out of an abundance of caution for the current situation, and certainly do not reflect a lack of appreciation for your service and sacrifice in efforts to treat and end the [Ebola] epidemic.”Out of an abundance of caution … I’ve come to hate that term,” Bausch says. “It means it’s not evidence-based, there’s no science to support it, but we’re going to do it anyway.”Olliaro says he didn’t treat patients in Guinea but walked around Ebola treatment units in a protective suit; this would probably put him in CDC’s “some risk” category. In the United Kingdom, by contrast, he is supposed to self-monitor, his travel isn’t restricted, and he can go to meetings.Bausch’s session at the ASTMH meeting will be a broad overview of the state of the epidemic. Bausch has repeatedly traveled to West Africa himself, but not in the past 21 days; he’s not sure if anyone in his panel has. Another session at the meeting will focus on new drugs and vaccines. ASTMH says it will reimburse conference fees for registrants who decide to cancel their trip because of Louisiana’s Ebola policy.”We do hope that you will consider a future visit to New Orleans,” Kliebert and Davis say at the end of their letter, “when we can welcome you appropriately.”*The Ebola Files: Given the current Ebola outbreak, unprecedented in terms of number of people killed and rapid geographic spread, Science and Science Translational Medicine have made a collection of research and news articles on the viral disease freely available to researchers and the general public.last_img read more

NSF’s 2015 budget: A small increase and a big pat on the back

first_imgFunding for the social sciences at National Science Foundation (NSF) is safe for another year, and the agency will be able to participate fully in the Obama administration’s BRAIN Initiative. But NSF may not have enough money to boost stipends for its prestigious graduate research fellowships, and it will have to pinch pennies in planning a 2017 move to a new building in northern Virginia.Those are some of the NSF highlights tucked within a $1.01 trillion budget agreement reached last night to fund nearly the entire federal government through 30 September 2015. Congress is expected to approve the 1600-page package in the next few days before adjourning.NSF fared extremely well compared with most federal agencies, which received flat or reduced funding. It gets an increase of 2.4% increase, to $7.344 billion. That amount is $89 million above the president’s request, which would have been a 1.2% boost, although it falls short of the $222 million hike that the House of Representatives had approved in May.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Within that total, NSF’s six research directorates would grow by $125 million, or 2.8%, to $5.93 billion. In contrast, the Obama administration had proposed no boost for research. The increase will allow the agency to double, to $29 million, its spending on cognitive and neuroscience in light with the administration’s ambitious cross-agency plan to develop neurotechnologies to better explore brain function.NSF had requested a 6.3% boost for its education directorate, to $890 million. Congress chose to be less generous, but it is still willing to give the agency a 2.4% boost, to $866 million. A big chunk of the proposed increase was earmarked for a $2000 hike in the $32,000 annual stipend given to NSF’s graduate research fellowships. The program has supported 42 Nobelists over its 60-plus years. That pay boost may now be delayed. At the same time, the directorate likely will have enough money to move forward with a major expansion of programs to improve undergraduate learning in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines, as well as a $7 million initiative to help universities redesign their graduate training programs.The final spending bill averts a squeeze on NSF’s operations budget, which was projected to grow by $40 million to accommodate the 1300-person agency’s move from Arlington to Alexandria in suburban northern Virginia. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D–MD), the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee as well as the subcommittee that funds NSF, had sliced $31 million from the agency’s request for its daily operations, saying NSF needed to economize on the move. In the end, Congress agreed to give NSF two-thirds of what it had requested in its operations and management account.The final 2015 agreement has surprisingly few directives on how NSF should spend its money. On Mikulski’s insistence, it includes $3 million for an initiative to offer more STEM opportunities to minority students, from preschool through college. But it drops Senate language calling for a $7.5 million program to attract minority students into the life sciences and $5 million for a new effort aimed at colleges and universities with large Hispanic populations. Instead, it defers to language in the May spending bill adopted by the House of Representatives, saying that NSF must devote at least $30 million from existing programs to broaden participation by Hispanic students in STEM activities.Both House and Senate versions of the NSF spending bill had defended its beleaguered research programs in the social sciences, under sharp attack by the House science committee and its chair, Representative Lamar Smith (R–TX). The final agreement does not specifically mention those disciplines. But under the arcane procedures under which these spending bills are crafted, silence represents full-throated support for the status quo. In this case, that means NSF is free to spend the $272 million it has requested for its social, behavioral, and economic sciences directorate, a $15 million boost over 2014 levels.To see all of our stories on the 2015 budget, click here.last_img read more

Facebook has ‘secret police’ led by Indian-American to catch leakers

first_imgFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has reportedly deployed “secret police” led by Indian-American Sonya Ahuja to catch and punish those leaking information about the social media giant in press, a media report has said.Zuckerberg hosts weekly meetings where he shares details of unreleased new products and strategies in front of thousands of employees, The Guardian reported. During one of his weekly meetings in 2015, the usually affable CEO warned employees: “We’re going to find the leaker, and we’re going to fire them”.Read it at BGR Related Itemslast_img read more

Big Compacts

first_imgAfter struggling for years to gain a foothold in India, General Motors Corp. is tasting some success lately.In the past six months, the U.S. automaker sold nearly 2 1/2 times the number of cars it sold in India in the same period last year, even as overall demand for new cars was hit by a sharp rise in interest rates.The numbers underscore GM’s growing success in one of the world’s fastest growing car markets, even though its sales in India – totaling about 21,000 vehicles in the April-September period – fall far short of the 293,000 units that market leader Maruti Suzuki sold during the same span.GM’s market share in India has grown to 3.6 percent, topping American rival Ford Motor Co. for the first time. The gains came on the back of two new models the company introduced earlier this year – the low-cost Chevrolet Spark, which is proving popular among women, and the Chevrolet Aveo U-VA, a premium hatchback.“Finally, we are getting our products right, our prices right. And we have become more customer-friendly,” said P. Balendran, vice president at General Motors India Ltd. “We have never had a performance like this since GM came to India in 1996.”The company has expanded its dealer network, set up more service centers, and is offering longer warranties, he said.It slashed Spark’s price by $1,250 ahead of Diwali, a festival that many Indians consider auspicious for buying assets. The base version will now cost $7,000.New models do not always help a company ramp up sales. This time around, GM has been able to position its models at the right places and has priced them better than competitors, said V.G. Ramakrishnan, director of automotive services at consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.The Spark, a rounded mini-car with a roomy interior, makes a compelling buy for first-time buyers wanting to upgrade from a motorcycle or people looking to own a second car, he said.“It has got good looks, somewhat cute and appeals to young people, especially women,” Ramakrishnan said.Cars were long considered a luxury in India until it abandoned its socialist-style economy and opened its market to foreign automakers in the early 1990s. Almost all major car manufacturers have since set up factories here, but Japanese and Korean brands are most visible on the Indian roads that are dominated by small cars. Companies like GM and Ford failed to penetrate because they largely focused on the midsize sedan segment, which meant they operated a much smaller dealer network catering to a smaller group of generally wealthier customers.But now GM seems to be learning from its past experience and is focusing on smaller, less expensive cars.Monthly sales of Spark have averaged about 2,000 units since it was introduced in late April. That is a robust number considering sales from all of GM’s models here averaged about 1,500 units a month in the same period last year.The potential demand for new cars is huge in India, where half of the population is below the age of 25, and the market here is important for GM as it strives to break into new markets as its U.S. business struggles.The latest upturn in GM’s sales comes even as India’s auto market appears to be going through a mild slump. Analysts attribute that to a sharp rise in lending rates following monetary tightening by the country’s central bank. Currently, car finance rates are about 4 percentage points higher than last year.Data released by the Society of Indian Automobiles Manufacturers showed growth in car sales between April and September slowed to 13 percent from 23 percent in the same period a year ago.Maruti Suzuki Ltd. – majority owned by Japanese automaker Suzuki Motors Corp. – managed to push sales up by 18 percent with big discounts and new models.But at Hyundai Motor Ltd., the second-largest car maker in India, sales were nearly flat, while Tata Motors Ltd. – the third-biggest – saw its sales drop 2 percent from a year earlier. Ford and Honda Motor Co., the other major players in the Indian market, also registered lower sales. While GM’s Spark was an instant hit, the Aveo U-VA has taken longer to draw customers away from Maruti Suzuki’s Swift and Hyundai’s Getz, the most popular models in the premium hatchback segment.GM aims to increase its share in the Indian market to 10 percent by 2010, and Balendran said the success of Spark and Aveo U-VA “demonstrates we are on course to meet that target.”GM has already expanded capacity at its plant in western India from 60,000 units to 85,000 units a year and is setting up another factory in same region that will make 140,000 cars annually. The second factory is expected to start production by end of next year, Balendran said.Analysts said they expect the current momentum in GM’s sales to continue through this fiscal year ending March 2008, but sustaining it further would require the company to bring more models.Unlike this year, when there were only a couple of new models besides that of GM’s, there will be a rush of new cars going into next year.Hyundai is already aiming to bring a new compact by December, and Czech company Skoda Auto is expected to introduce the Fabia next year. Volkswagen plans to roll out a small car here by 2009. Ford and Toyota Motor Corp. have said they are also exploring compacts for the Indian market.Homegrown Tata Motors said it would introduce a series of new models starting next year, in collaboration with Italian partner Fiat. Tata also plans to start producing an ultracheap mini car that would cost about $2,500.“The real test for GM will come when all these new models flood the market,” Ramakrishnan said. GM Doubles Indian ResearchersGeneral Motors Corp., the world’s biggest-selling automaker, plans to hire 1,100 more researchers for its technical center in India, as it seeks to boost its global operations with low-cost, skilled manpower. The move will increase to 2,000 the number of researchers at GM’s technical center in Bangalore over the next three years, according to Karl Slym, president and managing director of GM’s local subsidiary.“India and the Asia Pacific region plays a very strong part role in the future of GM,” Slym said.Detroit-based GM so far has invested $60 million in the center, which was created in 2003 to carry out engineering and research and development work. GM also has plans to build its first engine and transmission factory in India to supply local and overseas markets.Faced with a drop in market share at home and stiff competition from Toyota Motor Corp. and other auto makers, GM is hiring more workers in lower-cost India.The company also wants to take advantage of India’s rising incomes to increase its local market share, which currently stands well below 10 percent. GM hopes to sell more than 60,000 cars in India this year, up from about 35,000 in 2006, Slym said.GM India imports engines from South Korea and Australia, and the new engine factory will help GM compete with Suzuki Motor Corp., which controls more than half of India’s car market.Car sales in India could triple to 3 million units by 2015, according to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers.GM is also considering importing luxury vehicles such as the Cadillac and Hummer for sale in India, and will introduce the Captiva sport-utility vehicle in India in January, he said.– Santanu Choudhury  Related Itemslast_img read more

Optimistic Investments

first_imgIndia has a growing population of educated young professionals, rich natural resources and close contact with the world leading nations. Optimism has grown in some circles since the new government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power last May. Indeed, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley recently forecast that India’s economy will accelerate from 7.4% GDP in fiscal year 2014-2015 to 8%-8.5% in 2015-2016. Based on the government’s new method for calculating economic growth, officials boast that India is now the fastest-growing large economy in the world. According to Jaitley, India needs sustained GDP growth of 9%-10% to achieve its longer-term development goals.Ramnath Balasubramanian, a partner at McKinsey & Company, stressed the importance of demographic changes in the country. He pointed out that there are currently around 425 million Indians in the consumer sector of the country and 20% of the population is urbanized. It is estimated that by 2025, as much as 50% of all Indians will be urbanized. “While as many as 35 million people will be holding government jobs [by 2025] ,” said Balasubramanian.Positive StrokesJay Shah, chief executive of Hersha Hospitality Trust, which owns interests in 65 hotels in gateway markets such as Boston, Philadelphia and New York, said that foreign private equity firms such as KKR & Co. find India very attractive.KKR recently set up a non-banking financial company (NBFC) in India in partnership with GIC, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, for lending to the real estate sector. This is KKR’s second NBFC in India. KKR has been active in the country since 2006, with total equity investments exceeding $1.5 billion.According to Shah, the driver for such investments is the widespread perception that India has “more upside going forward” than in the past. “The new administration is expected to back new ideas,” said Shah, adding that the inflation rate has dropped to around 5%, down from an average of 8.87% from 2011 until 2015.The real estate sector has been further encouraged by the implementation of recent regulations for real estate investment trusts (REITs), which provide them with viable exit paths. India’s new government is laying the groundwork to make REITs tax-exempt and to allow them to trade on public exchanges. Assets that may qualify to be included in REITs may reach $20 billion by 2020, according to an estimate by property broker Cushman & Wakefield. In the first three to five years of the implementation process, as much as $12 billion could be raised. Already, noted Shah, about $10 billion in investments have been made. “This is a great start for priming the pump of the real estate sector,” Shah added.Munish Dayal, partner at Baring Private Equity Partners India, said that he hopes to see major changes in the way the Indian government functions under Prime Minister Modi. Pointing out that “the first step is to revitalize the bureaucracy,” Dayal said that he is encouraged by the fact that many Indian bureaucrats now work through the day and during weekends also. “This has been a big change. It’s a start to ending the policy paralysis that has been common in the past.”Observing that this is the first time that the Indian government is talking about an investment-led growth strategy, Dayal said: “A year ago, we were going downhill. Now, the plot has changed, and there is a lot more hope in the markets. Apart from the energy generated by the new prime minister, the fall in crude oil prices has given us a lever to invest in infrastructure.” Commenting on the government’s new ‘Make in India’ initiative, he said: “We can expect a lot of investors in defense and in railways.”Dayal also emphasized another aspect: the responsibility of the state governments. “We tend to forget about the role of state governments. But a fair amount must be done at the state level in such activities as education, roads and sanitation.”A major reform announced by Jaitley during this year’s Budget was the Goods and Services Tax (GST). A value added tax to be implemented beginning in April 2016, the GST is expected to replace all indirect taxes levied on goods and services by the Indian central and state governments.Akshay Mansukhani, partner at Malabar Investments, which invests in small and midsize businesses in India, said that “the basic assumption [that investors have regarding India’s economic prospects] is that the financial system is stable.” He noted that the rupee has been stable, and the decline in oil prices has helped moderate inflation and interest rates. Pointing out that the independence of the country’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India, is of critical importance, Mansukhani added that the long-term goal of the Reserve Bank is to establish a freely moving currency. “The Bank’s goal should be managing the volatility of the rupee, not to set the exchange rate of the rupee at any particular value.”Problems PersistBut Shah also added a note of caution. India currently ranks 142nd out of 189 countries in the World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business” listings, he said, which is “problematic” not just for developers in real estate, but in all sectors. For example, it could take up to 200 days to get all the approvals required for opening a commercial warehouse in India. When it comes to operating a hotel, typically around 70 to 110 permits are required, compared with only six in highly-ranked Singapore.India’s inadequate infrastructure also presents multiple hurdles, imposing costly delays. As much as 30% of all fresh produce spoils in transit because of inadequacies in the cold chain. The lack of modernization of intellectual property regulations is also a persistent problem for many foreign investors. “The slower [the government] is in tackling these issues, the further they will fall behind,” said Shah.Patrick Foulis, former India business editor of the British weekly The Economist, also pointed to some areas of concern. He noted that that despite optimism about India’s future, “the inputs of production” such as land and labor have not been reformed. “There are not enough good jobs being created [in India], and the reputational barrier of India is huge.”Foulis, who is currently The Economist’s New York bureau chief and U.S. business editor, went on to add that although many people express optimism about India’s prospects in public, they are often skeptical in their private discussions because of the country’s inadequate performance when it comes to creating jobs for poor people. “That worries me,” said Foulis.According to Dayal, India needs to urgently “rebuild investor confidence” and attract foreign capital. “The growth won’t happen if enough capital is not here…. The government has thrown a lot of balls up in the air. Now we will see which ones it can keep going.” Added Balasubramanian: “It is very clear that there are no short-term fixes.” Related Itemslast_img read more

Suzuki Forced Out of China as Buyers Continue to Favor SUVs

first_imgSuzuki Motor, the Japanese manufacturer known for its minicars, exited China as consumers in the world’s biggest auto market shifted purchases to larger sedans and sport utility vehicles.Suzuki agreed to transfer its 50 percent stake in Changan Suzuki — its last remaining Chinese venture — to Chongqing Changan Automobile as soon as legal proceedings are completed, according to a statement Tuesday. Changan will continue to make and sell Suzuki-branded cars in China under a license.The retreat from China after a quarter of a century follows an exit from the U.S. car market in 2012 after three decades there. The maker of the Swift and Wagon R continues to be a dominant force in India, one of the world’s fastest-growing major car markets, with its local entity Maruti Suzuki selling about one of every two cars in the country of 1.2 billion people.“Approximately 25 years ago, we launched the Alto in China, and since then we have made efforts in cultivating the Chinese market,” Suzuki Chairman Osamu Suzuki said in the statement. “However, due partly to shifting of Chinese market to larger vehicles, we have decided to transfer all equity to Changan Automobile.”The market share of economic small cars in China plunged to 6.7 percent in 2017 from 35 percent in 2003, with Suzuki falling along with the trend, said Cui Dongshu, secretary general of the China Passenger Car Association. A rapid increase in Chinese families’ purchasing power in the past decade has shifted demand toward larger and more spacious vehicles.Sales at the Suzuki Changan joint venture declined 27 percent last year, according to Bloomberg Intelligence data. Even the introduction of the Vitara and S-Cross sport utility vehicles have done little to help. By contrast, Honda Motor Co.’s sales in China climbed 16 percent last year.For India, its biggest market, Suzuki has ambitious plans. It aims to boost sales to 5 million vehicles annually by 2030, almost doubling its lineup to 30 models in the process, President Toshihiro Suzuki said in June.Changan said in a statement that it will fully support Changan Suzuki’s continuing operation, and that will keep selling Suzuki-branded cars and providing related services. Suzuki dissolved its other Chinese venture, a 23-year-long partnership with Jiangxi Changhe Automobile Co., in June.–With assistance from Bloomberg’s Tian Ying.(c) 2018, Bloomberg Related Itemslast_img read more