Using mobile phonebased intervention to encourage Chinese smokers to quit the habit

first_imgCredit: geralt, Pixabay Related StoriesNew regulations on e-cigarettes may have unintended consequences’Traffic light’ food labels associated with reduction in calories purchased by hospital employeesAMSBIO offers new, best-in-class CAR-T cell range for research and immunotherapyChina has the highest global prevalence of cigarette smokers, accounting for more than 40% of the total cigarette consumption in the world. Smoking cessation remains the single most effective strategy for preventing lung cancer and other serious smoking-related health conditions, but the availability of cessation services in China is extremely limited. Because text messaging interventions for quitting smoking have proven cost-effective in other countries, Tang and colleagues tested whether such an approach would work in China. The randomized controlled trial was carried out across 30 cities and provinces in China from August 2016 to May 2017.A total of 1,369 adult smokers with the intention to quit smoking were recruited and randomly assigned to a 12-week intervention consisting of either high-frequency messaging or low-frequency messaging, or to a control group that received text messages unrelated to quitting. The intervention consisted of text messages that were based on the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy and aimed at improving self-efficacy and behavioral capability for quitting. At the post-trial follow-up 12 weeks later, continuous smoking abstinence was biochemically verified in 6.5% (44/674) of participants in the high-frequency messaging group, 6.0% (17/284) of participants in the low-frequency messaging group, and 1.9% (8/411) of participants in the control group. Although the proportion of smokers quitting was low overall, participants who received high-frequency or low-frequency messaging were significantly more likely to quit smoking than the controls.Source: https://www.plos.org Dec 20 2018Among smokers receiving a 12-week-long mobile phone-based intervention encouraging them to quit, up to 6.5% of participants stopped smoking by the end of the study, according to a research article published this week in the open-access journal PLOS Medicine by Jinsong Tang of the Second Xiangya Hospital of Central South University in China, and colleagues. As noted by the authors, the so-called “Happy Quit” intervention could have far greater reach and higher feasibility than in-person treatments, so it has great potential to improve population health and should be considered for large-scale use in China.last_img read more

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Movement impairments in autism can be reversed through behavioral training

first_img Source:http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/ Reviewed by Alina Shrourou, B.Sc. (Editor)Feb 13 2019Scientists uncover underlying genetic mechanism that leads to motor issues in autism spectrum disordersResearchers from Cardiff University have established a link between a genetic mutation and developmental movement impairments in autism.The study, which found that the mutation of the CYFIP1 gene leads to changes in the development of brain cells, leading to the motor issues, also suggests that motor learning difficulties occur at a young age and can be reversed through behavioral training.Dr Stéphane Baudouin, Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences, said: “People with autism tend to experience difficulties in social interaction, communication and repetitive behaviors. As well as this, movement disorders, such as issues with posture, motor planning and coordination, are common.Related StoriesEyes hold clues to effective treatment of severe autism, study showsProblem behaviors may provide clues on gastrointestinal issues in children with autismTransgenerational BPA exposure may contribute to autism, study finds”We know that the mutation of the CYFIP1 gene is associated with genetic forms of autism spectrum disorders, but we wanted to understand if this specific genetic mutation is involved in the movement-related issues associated with autism, and if so, how it’s involved.”Previous research suggested that this CYFIP1 mutation effects the structural stability of brain cells. Our study has built on this research and is the first to prove this is true.”The team found that the mutation in the CYFIP1 gene affected the formation of the spines of brain cells, causing them to become unstable – which led to the motor issues that occur during development in autism.Through early intervention with movement therapies, they believe that movement impairments could be lessened.”Our results found that the motor learning difficulties occurred at a young age, but are reversible through behavioral training,” commented Dr Baudouin.”We think that if movement therapy is given at a young age, when autism is diagnosed in childhood alongside the motor impairments, this can help prevent motor impairment arising later in life.”Our research has not only unveiled some of the genetic and biological reasons why these movement impairments occur in autism, but has given us a plan to help ease these symptoms through early intervention.”last_img read more

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Newly developed stem cell technologies show promise for treating PD patients

first_img Source:https://www.iospress.nl/ios_news/can-we-repair-the-brain-the-promise-of-stem-cell-technologies-for-treating-parkinsons-disease/ Reviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Feb 15 2019Despite challenges, new advances in stem cell biology and genetic engineering show potential for better cell replacement therapies, say experts in a special supplement to the Journal of Parkinson’s DiseaseCell replacement may play an increasing role in alleviating the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD) in future. Writing in a special supplement to the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, experts describe how newly developed stem cell technologies could be used to treat the disease and discuss the great promise, as well as the significant challenges, of stem cell treatment.The most common PD treatment today is based on enhancing the activity of the nigro-striatal pathway in the brain with dopamine-modulating therapies, thereby increasing striatal dopamine levels and improving motor impairment associated with the disease. However, this treatment has significant long-term limitations and side effects. Stem cell technologies show promise for treating PD and may play an increasing role in alleviating at least the motor symptoms, if not others, in the decades to come.”We are in desperate need of a better way of helping people with PD. It is on the increase worldwide. There is still no cure, and medications only go part way to fully treat incoordination and movement problems,” explained co-authors Claire Henchcliffe, MD, DPhil, from the Department of Neurology, Weill Cornell Medical College, and Department of Neurosurgery, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY, USA; and Malin Parmar, PhD, from the Wallenberg Neuroscience Center and Lund Stem Cell Center, Lund University, Lund, Sweden. “If successful, using stem cells as a source of transplantable dopamine-producing nerve cells could revolutionize care of the PD patient in the future. A single surgery could potentially provide a transplant that would last throughout a patient’s lifespan, reducing or altogether avoiding the need for dopamine-based medications.”The authors have analyzed how newly developed stem cell technologies could be used to treat PD, and how clinical researchers are moving very quickly to translate this technology to early clinical trials. In the past, most transplantation studies in PD used human cells from aborted embryos. While these transplants could survive and function for many years, there were scientific and ethical issues: fetal cells are in limited supply, and they are highly variable and hard to quality control. Only some patients benefited, and some developed side effects from the grafts, such as uncontrollable movements called dyskinesias.Recent strides in stem cell technology mean that quality, consistency, activity, and safety can be assured, and that it is possible to grow essentially unlimited amounts of dopamine-producing nerve cells in the laboratory for transplantation. This approach is now rapidly moving into initial testing in clinical trials. The choice of starting material has also expanded with the availability of multiple human embryonic stem cell lines, as well as the possibilities for producing induced pluripotent cells, or neuronal cells from a patient’s own blood or skin cells. The first systematic clinical transplantation trials using pluripotent stem cells as donor tissue were initiated in Japan in 2018.Related StoriesExciting study shows how centrioles center the process of cell divisionWearing a hearing aid may mitigate dementia riskSlug serves as ‘command central’ for determining breast stem cell health”We are moving into a very exciting era for stem cell therapy,” commented Dr. Parmar. “The first-generation cells are now being trialed and new advances in stem cell biology and genetic engineering promise even better cells and therapies in the future. There is a long road ahead in demonstrating how well stem cell-based reparative therapies will work, and much to understand about what, where, and how to deliver the cells, and to whom. But the massive strides in technology over recent years make it tempting to speculate that cell replacement may play an increasing role in alleviating at least the motor symptoms, if not others, in the decades to come.””With several research groups, including our own centers, quickly moving towards testing of stem cell therapies for PD, there is not only a drive to improve what is possible for our patients, but also a realization that our best chance is harmonizing efforts across groups,” added Dr. Henchcliffe. “Right now, we are just talking about the first logical step in using cell therapies in PD. Importantly, it could open the way to being able to engineer the cells to provide superior treatment, possibly using different types of cells to treat different symptoms of PD like movement problems and memory loss.””This approach to brain repair in PD definitely has major potential, and the coming two decades might also see even greater advances in stem cell engineering with stem cells that are tailor-made for specific patients or patient groups,” commented Patrik Brundin, MD, PhD, Van Andel Research Institute, Grand Rapids, MI, USA, and J. William Langston, MD, Stanford Udall Center, Department of Pathology, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA, USA, Editors-in-Chief of the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease. “At the same time, there are several biological, practical, and commercial hurdles that need circumventing for this to become a routine therapy.”last_img read more

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Study explores whether Nordic countries could head towards opioid crisis like the

first_imgReviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Mar 13 2019Addiction to prescription opioids has reached a crisis level in the United States. Now the drug is causing concern across the Atlantic. Researchers from Denmark, Norway and Sweden urge caution after discovering that prescriptions for the pain medication oxycodone have significantly increased during the last decade.The opioid crisis in the United States shows no sign of abating. On average, 130 Americans die of opioid overdoses each day. The abuse of prescription drugs, such as the pain medication oxycodone, cause the majority of these deaths. A pain relieving drug, oxycodone, is prescribed frequently to alleviate moderate to severe pain. Heavily marketed to doctors in the United States, the dangers of this strong painkiller were downplayed, which led to a significant rise in usage. In 2012, more than one in seven Americans had a prescription for oxycodone.In Denmark, Norway and Sweden the pharmaceutical industry is subject to stringent regulation and marketing to doctors is strictly limited. However, with ageing populations, reports show these countries have some of the highest rates of chronic non-cancer pain in the world. As a result, the demand for prescription opioids has risen significantly, raising the question of whether the Nordic countries could be headed towards an opioid epidemic like the United States.To investigate this issue, researchers from each of the three countries analyzed twelve years of opioid prescription data. Their research is presented in the article “Prescribed opioid analgesic use developments in three Nordic countries, 2006-2017″ by Ashley Elizabeth Muller, Thomas Clausen, Per Sjøgren, Ingvild Odsbu, and Svetlana Skurtveit, published in De Gruyter’s journal Scandinavian Journal of Pain.Related StoriesResearchers identify potential drug target for multiple cancer typesNew protein target for deadly ovarian cancerStudy reveals link between inflammatory diet and colorectal cancer riskThe study focused on outpatients only, excluding drugs administered in hospitals and nursing homes. The intention was to capture people more likely to be receiving opioids for non-cancer pain, rather than at the end of their lives or following surgery or other trauma.The researchers established that oxycodone prescriptions are on the increase in all three countries. In Sweden, the number of people with an outpatient prescription for oxycodone has more than tripled since 2006.In recent years, Norway liberalized the regulation of opioid prescriptions for chronic non-cancer pain and the study showed that one in eight Norwegian women and one in eleven Norwegian men received a prescription opioid outside of a hospital in 2017. In addition, forensic analysis shows that prescription opioids are increasingly involved in deadly overdoses.The authors posit that it is crucial to avoid overdose deaths caused by prescription opioids and that their use should be curtailed.”As a general rule, these strong prescriptions should not be used for chronic non-cancer pain”, says study author Ashley Elizabeth Muller from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. “It’s easy to get complacent and think the United States is so different, so their situation isn’t applicable to us. Yet oxycodone is prescribed more and more.” Source:https://www.degruyter.com/dg/newsitem/322/opioid-crisis-only-a-us-phenomenonlast_img read more

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Study compares use of breast milk to formula in children who underwent

first_img Source:https://home.liebertpub.com/news/can-human-breast-milk-reduce-intestinal-injury-following-bone-marrow-transplant/3535 Reviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Apr 5 2019A new pilot study compared the use of human breast milk to formula in children less than 5 years of age who underwent bone marrow transplant (BMT), measuring the levels of inflammatory and pro-inflammatory biomarkers in the stool and blood to assess inflammatory injury to the intestinal microbiome. The results, indicating that human milk was associated with decreased markers of inflammation and injury in the stool, are reported in an article published in Breastfeeding Medicine, the official journal of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers.Related StoriesInjectable hydrogel offers double punch against bone infectionsResearchers examine strains between bone and graft from animal modelsStudy discusses beneficial effects of antibody therapy that targets sclerostinThe high doses of chemotherapy and radiation administered before BMT initiates a cascade of events – including the release of cytokines such as interferons and interleukins – that can damage the lining of the intestines and alter the make-up of the intestinal microbiome. These and other changes involving T-cell activation can lead to the early stages of graft-versus-host-disease.Pooja Khandelwal, MD and coauthors from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (OH) and Prolacta Bioscience (Duarte, CA) designed a study in which the children undergoing BMT receiving human milk or formula beginning three days before and continuing for two weeks after the procedure. In addition to differences in inflammatory and intestinal injury markers, the article entitled “A Pilot Study of Human Milk to Reduce Intestinal Inflammation After Bone Marrow Transplant” also showed lower levels of various intestinal viruses and bacteria in the stool samples of children receiving human milk compared to those receiving formula.”While only a pilot study, it has the potential of being a stimulus for proper prospective randomized studies that will explore the value of human milk as adjuvant therapy in the management of all transplants,” says Arthur I. Eidelman, MD, Editor-in-Chief of Breastfeeding Medicine.last_img read more

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Bodys endocannabinoid system appears to be new target for drug development against

first_imgSource: Mary Ann Liebert, Inc./Genetic Engineering NewsJournal reference:Kayser, R R. et al. (2019) The Endocannabinoid System: A New Treatment Target for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. doi.org/10.1089/can.2018.0049. Reviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Jun 3 2019The body’s endocannabinoid system, due to the critical role it plays in regulating neurotransmitter signaling, is an enticing target for drug development against disorders associated with anxiety, stress, and repetitive behaviors, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). A comprehensive new review article that provides an overview of this complex system, endogenous and exogenous cannabinoids, results of animal studies and human trials to date, and recommendations for future directions is published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. Click here to read the full-text article free on the Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research website through June 30, 2019.The article entitled “The Endocannabinoid System: A New Treatment Target for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?” was coauthored by Reilly Kayser, MD, Ivar Snorrasson, PhD, Margaret Haney, PhD, and H. Blair Simpson, MD, PhD, Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, and Francis Lee, MD, PhD, Weill Cornell Medical College, (New York, NY). The researchers present the evidence that links the endocannabinoid system to the pathology underlying OCD. They also explore the potential for targeting this system to relieve symptoms of OCD and related disorders such as anxiety, tic, and impulse control disorders. The review includes and extensive overview of cannabinoids made by the body, and exogenous cannabinoids, including phytocannabinoids found in the marijuana plant and purified and synthetic cannabinoids.Based on both animal study data showing anti-anxiety and anti-compulsive effects of cannabinoid agents and on preliminary human clinical trial data, the authors suggest that continued pharmaceutical development is warranted. Which cannabinoid agents to test and how to measure their effects will be among the important questions to consider in designing future studies. Is there a place for cannabinoid-based medicines in psychiatry? Evidence from animal and human studies points to the endocannabinoid system as an important regulator of emotionality, but how can we exploit this knowledge for therapy? This review article offers a critical assessment of the evidence, focused on obsessive compulsive disorder, and clues to future research.”Daniele Piomelli, PhD, Editor-in-Chief, University of California-Irvine, School of Medicinelast_img read more

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Scientists improve working memory by extending brain signals

first_imgSebastian Kaulitzki | ShutterstockThe study focused on working memory, which is responsible for retaining temporary information to be used to accomplish a task, for instance, remembering routes and directions around a new place to be used later in the day, or recalling numbers to write down a phone number.The team discovered that by lengthening sharp wave ripples (oscillatory patterns local to the hippocampus and surrounding areas of the brain that are involved in memory consolidation) in rats, they were 10 to 15 percent better able to remember the way through a maze to find a sugar water treat.Sharp wave ripples are created when nerve cells send electrical impulses to organize memories. As the study explains, “Sharp wave ripples (SPW-Rs) in the hippocampus are considered a key mechanism for memory consolidation and action planning.”During the experiment, the route of the maze researchers devised for the rats changed so that rats had to use the opposite route to the route they had previously taken to obtain the reward. To accomplish this, rats had to employ their short-term memory to remember not to repeat the same route in order to find the sugar water.The researchers used multisite electrophysiological recordings with optogenic activation of hippocampal pyramidal neurons, and artificially lengthened the sharp wave ripples to assess how it affected the rats’ short-term memory performance.To extend the sharp wave ripples, hippocampal cells were engineered to include light-sensitive channels. By shining light through small glass fibers successfully activated the neurons, and added more neurons to the naturally occurring sequence.It was discovered that not only did extending the sharp wave ripples enhance short-term memory performance, the ripples also used slower-firing neurons in their sequences. It had previously been discovered by the research team that slower-firing neurons change their properties more easily than fast-firing neurons when new information is being learned.György Buzsáki, MD, PhD, the Biggs Professor in the Department of Neuroscience and Physiology at NYU School of Medicine, spoke on the significance of the new study, which was published in Science on the 14th of June, 2019. Our study is the first in our field that made artificial changes to intrinsic neuronal firing patterns in the brain region called the hippocampus that increased the ability to learn, instead of interfering with it like previous attempts.After decades of study, we finally understand the mammalian brain well enough to alter some of its mechanisms in ways that may guide the design of future treatments for diseases that affect memory.” By Lois Zoppi, BAJun 14 2019Reviewed by Kate Anderton, B.Sc. (Editor)A study led by researchers at the New York University School of Medicine has discovered that short term memory can be improved by artificially extending neuronal signals called sharp wave ripples. The discovery could lead to new treatments for memory disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease. Our next step will be to seek to understand how sharp wave ripples can be prolonged by non-invasive means, which if we succeed would have implications for treating memory disorders.”center_img Alzheimer’s disease is a condition characterized by short-term memory loss, but research into treating or preventing the condition has yet to find a significant breakthrough.The study authors conclude:“Our findings demonstrate that a simple measure, such as the duration of SPW-Rs, can provide valuable information about the underlying neuronal computations. Learning and correct recall in spatial memory tasks were associated with extended SPW-Rs.”First author of the study Antonio Fernandez-Ruiz, PhD, who is a postdoctoral fellow in Buzsáki’s laboratory, explained the next steps that the research team will take to advance their discovery. Source:Long-duration hippocampal sharp wave ripples improve memory. (2019). Science. DOI: 10.1126/science.aax0758.last_img read more

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Combat veterans more likely to exhibit signs of depression anxiety in later

first_imgThere are a lot factors of aging that can impact mental health in late life, but there is something about having been a combat veteran that is especially important.”Carolyn Aldwin Reviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Jul 3 2019Military veterans exposed to combat were more likely to exhibit signs of depression and anxiety in later life than veterans who had not seen combat, a new study from Oregon State University shows.The findings suggest that military service, and particularly combat experience, is a hidden variable in research on aging, said Carolyn Aldwin, director of the Center for Healthy Aging Research in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU and one of the study’s authors. The findings were published this month in the journal Psychology and Aging. The first author is Hyunyup Lee, who conducted the research as a doctoral student at OSU; co-authors are Soyoung Choun of OSU and Avron Spiro III of Boston University and the VA Boston Healthcare System. The research was funded by the National Institutes on Aging and the Department of Veterans Affairs.There is little existing research that examines the effects of combat exposure on aging and in particular on the impacts of combat on mental health in late life, Aldwin said. Many aging studies ask about participants’ status as veterans, but don’t unpack that further to look at differences between those who were exposed to combat and those who weren’t.Using data from the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study, a longitudinal study that began in the 1960s to investigate aging in initially healthy men, the researchers explored the relationship between combat exposure and depressive and anxiety symptoms, as well as self-rated health and stressful life events.They found that increased rates of mental health symptoms in late life were found only among combat veterans. The increases were not seen in veterans who had not been exposed to combat.Generally, mental health symptoms such as depression and anxiety tend to decrease or remain stable during adulthood but can increase in later life. The researchers found that combat exposure has a unique impact on that trajectory, independent of other health issues or stressful life events.Related StoriesState lawmakers eye federal dollars to boost mental health counseling by peersResearchers set out to define recommended ‘dosage’ of work for optimal wellbeingBiden calling ACA ‘breakthrough’ for mental health parity highlights gaps”In late life, it’s pretty normal to do a life review,” Aldwin said. “For combat veterans, that review of life experiences and losses may have more of an impact on their mental health. They may need help to see meaning in their service and not just dwell on the horrors of war.”Veterans’ homecoming experience may also color how they view their service later in life, Aldwin said. Welcoming veterans home and focusing on reintegration could help to reduce the mental toll of their service over time.Most of the veterans in the study served in World War II or Korea. Additional research is need to understand more about how veterans’ experiences may vary from war to war, Aldwin said.Aldwin and colleagues are currently working on a pilot study, VALOR, or Veterans Aging: Longitudinal studies in Oregon, to better understand impacts of combat exposure. The pilot study is supported by a grant from the OSU Research Office and includes veterans with service in Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and the post-9/11 conflicts.The researchers have collected data from 300 veterans and are beginning to analyze it. Based on their initial findings, they are also planning a second, larger study with more veterans. They expect to see differences between veterans from different wars.”Each war is different. They are going to affect veterans differently,” Aldwin said. “Following 9-11, traumatic brain injuries have risen among veterans, while mortality rates have lowered. We have many more survivors with far more injuries. These veterans have had a much higher levels of exposure to combat, as well.”VALOR also offers researchers the opportunity to explore the impact of service on women veterans, whose experiences have not often been captured in previous research. About one-third of the participants in the pilot study were female veterans, Aldwin said. Source:Oregon State UniversityJournal reference:Aldwin, C. et al. (2019) Impact of combat exposure on mental health trajectories in later life: Longitudinal findings from the VA Normative Aging Study. Psychology and Aging. doi.org/10.1037/pag0000334.last_img read more

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US defends moves to roll back net neutrality rules

5G is seen as key to develop newer “next generation” services such as telemedicine or autonomous driving.Several lawsuits are expected to try to block the change.Last month technology companies including Alphabet Inc and Facebook Inc threw their weight behind efforts to reverse the Trump administration’s plan to repeal the Obama-era rule designed to protect an open internet. Explore further © 2018 AFP The commission in December adopted the proposal by Republican appointed chairman Ajit Pai to end the so-called “net neutrality” rules adopted in 2015.Activists have staged protests around the US and online, saying dominant broadband providers could favour their own services and hinder those of rivals and charge more for certain kinds of access.Critics of the “net neutrality” rule however argue it was based on utility-style regulation designed for 1930s telephone companies.Pai said the move was needed to give the private sector “greater incentives to invest” in the new generation of super-fast 5G wireless networks and ensure the United States keeps its technological edge over other nations.”To lead the world in 5G, the United States needs modern light touch market based regulation not a one size fits all utility model that was developed in the 1930s,” he told the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.The first deployment of 5G wireless networks, which are quick enough to download a full length film in less than a second, are expected in key markets like the United States, Japan and South Korea at the end of the year. Citation: US defends moves to roll back ‘net neutrality’ rules (2018, February 26) retrieved 18 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2018-02-defends-net-neutrality.html The head of the US Federal Communications Commission defended Monday his move to roll back rules requiring internet providers to treat all traffic equally, saying it was needed to encourage investment in new super-fast wireless networks. FCC chairman sets out to repeal ‘net neutrality’ rules A 5G antenna at the Deutsche Telekom stand at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona Pai said market based regulation was needed in the US to encourage investment in 5G wireless networks This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. read more

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Zuckerbergs Holocaust comment puts Facebook on the spot

first_imgIn this May 1, 2018, file photo, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg makes the keynote address at F8, Facebook’s developer conference in San Jose, Calif. Remarks from Zuckerberg have sparked criticism from groups such as the Anti-Defamation League. Zuckerberg, who is Jewish, told Recode’s Kara Swisher in an interview that although he finds Holocaust denial “deeply offensive,” such content should not be banned from Facebook. Credit: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez Explore further Zuckerberg at center of Holocaust denial controversy (Update) © 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Mark Zuckerberg’s awkward and eyebrow-raising attempt this week to explain where Facebook draws the line illustrates the complexities social media platforms face as they take on the unwanted role of referee in this age of online misinformation, manipulation and hate speech.Facebook, with 2.2 billion users, disallows such things as nudity, the selling of guns, credible threats of violence, and direct attacks on people because of their race, sex or sexual orientation.Hours after the Facebook founder’s comments about Holocaust deniers aired on Wednesday, the company announced it will also start removing misinformation that could lead to bloodshed. The policy will begin in Sri Lanka and expand to Myanmar, where Facebook users have been accused of inciting anti-Muslim violence.But beyond those guidelines, there are large gray areas. What, exactly, qualifies as supporting terrorist groups versus merely posting about them? Or mocking someone’s premature death—something that is also prohibited?If Facebook were to ban Holocaust denial, it might also be called on to prohibit the denial of other historical events, such as the Armenian genocide or the massacre of Native Americans by European colonizers. This, Facebook might argue, could lead to a slippery slope where the company finds itself trying to verify the historical accuracy of users’ posts.So, where it can, Facebook stays out of policing content.While thousands of Facebook moderators around the world are assigned to review potentially objectionable content, aided by artificial intelligence, executives like to say the company doesn’t want to become an “arbiter of truth” and instead tries to let users decide for themselves.This is why fake news isn’t actually banned from Facebook, though you might see less of it these days thanks to the company’s algorithms and third-party fact-checking efforts. Instead, Facebook might label disputed news stories as such and show you related content that might change your mind. Denying the Holocaust happened is probably OK on Facebook. Calling for a mob to kill Jews is not. This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. Citation: Zuckerberg’s Holocaust comment puts Facebook on the spot (2018, July 20) retrieved 18 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2018-07-zuckerberg-holocaust-comment-facebook.html YouTube recently started doing this too. Twitter has been even more freewheeling in what sorts of content it allows, only recently ramping up a crackdown on hate and abuse.”Facebook doesn’t want to put time and resources to policing content. It’s costly and difficult,” said Steve Jones a professor of communications at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “It’s a difficult job, I’m sure an emotionally draining job, and given the scale of Facebook, it would take a lot of people to monitor what goes through that platform.”At the same time, Jones said he has his doubts that throwing more moderators (Facebook’s goal is to increase the number from 10,000 to 20,000 this year) and more technology at the problem would make a difference. He said he has no idea how Facebook can fix things.”If I knew,” he said, “I’d probably be sitting next to Mr. Zuckerberg asking for a big fat check.”Why these companies try to stay out of regulating speech goes back to their roots. They were all founded by engineers as tech companies that shun labels such as “media” and “editor.” Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, even said in an interview last year that, as a tech company, Facebook hires engineers—not reporters and journalists.Then there’s the legal shield. While a newspaper can be held responsible for something printed on its pages, internet companies by law are not responsible for the content others post on their sites. If they start policing content too much—editing, if you will—tech companies risk becoming media companies.Zeynep Tufekci, a prominent techno-sociologist, said on Twitter that the notion that you can “fight bad speech with good speech” doesn’t really work in a Facebook world, if it ever did.”Facebook is in over its head,” she tweeted Thursday, but she also confessed that “nobody has a full answer.”In an interview with Recode , Zuckerberg, who is Jewish, said posts denying the Nazi annihilation of 6 million Jews took place would not necessarily be removed. Zuckerberg said that as long as posts are not calling for harm or violence, even offensive content should be protected.While this has been a longstanding position at the company, Zuckerberg’s statement and his reasoning—that he doesn’t think Holocaust deniers are “intentionally” getting it wrong—caused an uproar.The Anti-Defamation League said Facebook has a “moral and ethical obligation” not to allow people to disseminate Holocaust denial.Zuckerberg later tried to explain his words, saying in an email to Recode’s Kara Swisher that he personally finds “Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that.”Still, for now the policy is not changing.last_img read more

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Rollup screens and 8K resolution What the future of television looks like

first_img This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. Explore further Microsoft HoloLens. These types of glasses have the potential to make the traditional television screens obsolete, by effectively giving users a mobile screen that allows them to view media of size, anywhere they want.The future of the TV screen as we know itAfter flirting with 3-D television earlier in the decade, manufacturers have decided to cease investing in the technology, which means there was no 3-D television at CES this year. Instead, we saw upgrades to traditional screen technology. Citation: Roll-up screens and 8K resolution: What the future of television looks like (2019, January 14) retrieved 17 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-01-roll-up-screens-8k-resolution-future.html The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) wrapped-up in Las Vegas last week. The annual event gives enthusiasts a taste of the latest gadgets and devices on the horizon of consumer technology. LG Display rollable OLED TV hands-on. VOD continues to growOne technology that has the potential to deliver higher image quality is video streaming. Operating via the internet, video-on-demand (VOD) services could adapt far quicker than Australia’s traditional broadcasters.And the VOD market will continue to expand in Australia in 2019. We recently saw the launch of Network Ten’s subscription video-on-demand (SVoD) service, Ten All Access. It integrates Ten’s local programming with programming from the service of their US owner, CBS All Access. A new dedicated sports streaming service, Kayo Sports, has also recently launched. The service leverages the current media rights obtained by Fox Sports, which allows for more than 50 sports to be delivered by the service.Stan, one of the original SVoD services launched in Australia, has had a recent upgrade, obtaining the rights to stream Disney content. Disney has announced in will launch its own VOD service in 2019, although it’s currently unclear whether it will be available outside of US. But the deal with Stan will give Disney an indication of Australia’s appetite for its content.Bandwidth is an issueIn addition to the introduction of new services, streaming continues to be integrated into Smart TVs, with Samsung announcing at CES that it will integrate iTunes into its TVs. The use of internet-connected televisions is increasing in Australia. While 27% of households owned one in 2014-15, the figure jumped to 42% in 2016-17. But bandwith could impede streaming services from delivering higher resolution content. While more than 86% of Australian households have internet access, speed is an issue. Netflix already offers a 4K option, but recommends “a steady internet connection speed of 25 megabits per second or higher”. According to a 2017 Ookla Speed Test Global Index, Australia was ranked 55th in the world for fixed broadband. With an average download speed of 25.88 Mbps. This speed is to be shared across devices in the home, making the Netflix 4K recommendation unattainable for many. Image quality on HD, 4K and 8K screens. Credit: Shutterstockcenter_img This year, we saw advances in digital health, new integrations for voice assistants, an expanding door to secure your deliveries (which can be heated or cooled), a machine to fold your clothes, and even a flying vehicle.Television technology was, once again, a focus. LG introduced a roll-up TV screen, we saw more inbuilt technology and integrations, and bigger and better pictures.So what does this mean for the future of television in Australia?What we mean when we talk about TVBefore we get into the technology, let’s have a chat about screens.Television content is no longer limited to the television screen: we can now view it on our mobiles, tablets, desktop computers and laptops.And research shows Australians are increasingly consuming media across multiple screens. In 2017, the average Australian home had 6.6 screens, up from 5.4 in 2012. This trend is likely to continue with the expansion of screen-based technology.Companies such as Microsoft and Google are continuing to invest in the development of virtual, augmented and mixed reality technology. Take mixed reality glasses, for example, which were again showcased at CES this year. LG flexes roll-up TV as screens start to bend This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article. Provided by The Conversation The most talked about was LG’s rollable screen television. It’s not quite origami, but it’s close. Imagine those old roll up projector screens integrated into a low TV unit, with a 65 inch OLED (organic light-emitting diode) TV screen and 4K resolution. The screen also allows you to partly roll it down to remove those annoying top and bottom black bars, used in films of a wider aspect ratio.In addition to rollable televisions, a number of brands showcased their 8K televisions. Unfortunately the increase in image quality won’t mean much for Aussies, other than a potential drop in the price of 4K televisions. Here’s why.Currently, the maximum broadcast quality of free-to-air television in Australia is high definition (1920 x 1080 pixels). Some secondary channels are broadcast in standard definition (720 x 576 pixels). If you’re watching on a 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) or 8K (7680 x 4320 pixels) screen, the image will be a much lower quality than you would expect, essentially pixelated.While Foxtel has recently launched its dedicated 4K cricket channel, there is no clear sign of when, or if, other broadcasters plan to embrace broadcast technologies that offer greater resolutions – even though freeing up spectrum space was part of the reason for ending community television use of the broadcast spectrum. So take note anyone planning to purchase an 8K television in the near future: you may have difficulty accessing image quality that will match the screen’s potential.last_img read more

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Amazon profit jumps while shares slip Update

first_imgAmazon said its Alexa digital assistant was a major part of its strategy as the US tech giant reported strong gains in profits and revenues Amazon on Thursday reported its profit in the past quarter surged on strong holiday retail sales and its soaring cloud computing business. Microsoft delivers robust profit, but shares take a hit © 2019 AFP Company executives said they are looking beyond the amazon.com website when it comes to being a player in the digital ad market dominated by Google and Facebook, and is even dabbling with video ads.Amazon also has been growing its sales from physical stores, including its recently acquired Whole Foods grocery chain.”On the profit front, Amazon’s results are impressive,” said Neil Saunders of the research firm GlobalData.But Saunders said sales growth appears to have slowed as Amazon matured, raising questions about its future path.”Amazon will now need to work doubly hard to achieve any future sales gains,” he said in a research note.The end of last year was the biggest holiday shopping season ever for Amazon devices, with customers purchasing millions more of them than they did a year earlier, according to the earnings report.Amazon launched pop-up stores to customers in six countries across Europe during the holiday season, curating selections of products and hosting events for consumers in Amsterdam, London, Madrid, Milan, Berlin, and Paris.The better-than-expected results were offset in part by a disappointing outlook for sales growth in the current quarter.The earnings report showed Amazon expenses climbed as the company continued to invest in data centers, distribution networks, artificial intelligence, and original content for its Prime streaming television service that competes with market-leader Netflix. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie Bezos are in divorce proceedings, raising questions about control of the company valued at about $800 billion Long known for slim margins, the company has been boosting its profitability in recent years and the latest results showed strong sales for the holiday season.”Amazon’s profits continue to soar on the back of strong online holiday sales, which are simultaneously fueling its white-hot ad business,” said eMarketer principal analyst Andrew Lipsman.He noted that Amazon has been gaining in the digital ad market as a result of its large customer base, developing a new revenue stream and taking away some market share from the leaders, Google and Facebook.Amazon’s digital ad business continued to grow well in the quarter, and it is working with big brands on improving tools and features, chief financial officer Brian Olsavsky said during an earning call with analysts. Explore further Citation: Amazon profit jumps while shares slip (Update) (2019, January 31) retrieved 17 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-01-amazon-profit-strong-holiday-quarter.html The US tech giant said profit jumped 63 percent from a year ago to $3 billion in the fourth quarter as revenues increased 20 percent to $72.4 billion.The results reflected growth in Amazon’s ever-expanding online retail operations as well as its large cloud computing division, known as Amazon Web Services.Shares, however, slid 5.4 percent to $1,625 in after-market trades that followed release of the earnings results.”I’m guessing a lot of people expected really good results, and as soon as they saw them sold and took the profit,” said independent analyst Rob Enderle.”It looks like Amazon had a stellar quarter.”Chief executive Jeff Bezos highlighted the role of Amazon’s digital assistant Alexa as the company moves into infusing artificial intelligence into its smart speakers and other devices in a race for dominance in the “internet of things” market.”Alexa was very busy during her holiday season,” Bezos said in the earnings release.Bezos pointed to the Amazon-branded Echo speakers that are at the heart of the new strategy.”Echo Dot was the best-selling item across all products on Amazon globally, and customers purchased millions more devices from the Echo family compared to last year,” he said.New revenue streamsAmazon has become one of the world’s most valuable companies as it moves beyond its traditional retail roots to groceries, streaming media, and a range of other goods and services. This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.last_img read more

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Engineers design solutions to tackle lowfrequency noise

first_img This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. Most commercially available noise canceling devices and structures today, however, are only effective in reducing high frequency noise, while low frequency noise continues to penetrate through these structures. To more effectively mitigate low frequency noise, a team of engineers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) has therefore designed a set of novel noise attenuating blocks that targets low frequency noise.Small, customisable blocks to reduce a range of low frequency noiseEach 3-D-printed block can be customised to cancel a specific noise frequency by adjusting the size of the air cavity and the neck opening within the block. The blocks can then be slotted into a grid-like host structure to function as a noise barrier. Using this modular design, the NUS engineers were able to better control the properties of the noise barrier and produce them affordably. The team’s experiments also showed that the modular design was capable of cancelling low frequency noise below 500 Hertz by an average of 31 decibel, which is six times more effective than other commonly used noise barriers. Additionally, the modular design was also lighter and thinner compared to certain commonly used noise barriers.”These noise reduction blocks can be easily incorporated as part of existing wall structures, and it would not be necessary to build a host structure from scratch in order to implement the sound barrier. Such a modular design also means that a variety of blocks targeting different noise frequencies can be used within the same host structure to effectively block a range of low frequency noise,” explained Associate Professor Lee Heow Pueh from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at NUS Faculty of Engineering, who led the innovation.Mobile application for accurate noise data tracking The team also developed ‘Noise Explorer’, a mobile application capable of accurately tracking noise data based on a new method established by the team to calibrate the microphones of smartphones. Unlike existing noise monitoring mobile applications, Noise Explorer, when calibrated, can measure sound pressure level and frequency content with an accuracy of less than one decibel for 99.7% of the measurements in the team’s experiments.An immediate application of Noise Explorer is for crowdsourcing of noise data to help authorities identify and mitigate the source of noise more effectively. Other potential uses of the mobile application include tracking of one’s exposure to noise over a period of time and coupling with artificial intelligence for condition monitoring of devices and equipment.Assoc Prof Lee said, “A customisable modular noise barrier, together with a handy and accurate noise meter, will enable authorities and regulators to tailor their noise management strategies effectively to the nature of the noise transmitting in an area. In this way, the people living and working in the area could enjoy greater comfort.”He added that his team is in discussion with a local company to further develop and commercialise the noise attenuating blocks. They are also looking into improving the aesthetics of the blocks such that they can be seamlessly integrated into a building’s architectural design. Low frequency noise (500 Hertz and lower), which could stem from various sources such as construction machineries and aircrafts, is a form of environmental noise problem in urban environments. Such noise transmits over long distances and cause disturbance to wide area. It is also known to trigger a number of negative physiological reactions such as changes to blood pressure, vertigo and breathing difficulties even when the noise is not audible. Associate Professor Lee Heow Pueh (left) and NUS doctoral student Mr Ang Yinn Leng Linus have come up with a novel customisable noise reduction block design (in picture) and mobile application that could effectively cut down low frequency noise disturbance. (Photo Credit: National University of Singapore) Review: Edifier headphones and earbuds give you great sound, no wires Explore further More information: Linus Ang et al. Plate-Type Acoustic Metamaterials: Experimental Evaluation of a Modular Large-Scale Design for Low-Frequency Noise Control, Acoustics (2019). DOI: 10.3390/acoustics1020019 Citation: Engineers design solutions to tackle low-frequency noise (2019, May 21) retrieved 17 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-05-solutions-tackle-low-frequency-noise.html Provided by National University of Singaporelast_img read more

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What Are Rock Cairns

first_imgRock cairns are human-made stacks, mounds or piles of rocks. They take different forms, and have been built by cultures around the world for many different purposes. Cairns may serve as monuments, burial sites, navigational aids (by land or sea), or ceremonial grounds, among other uses. They may stand alone, in clusters, or in a network of related cairns; for example, as trail markers in a park. Larger cairns can withstand time and weather, and archaeologists believe that some examples are hundreds of years old. Rock cairns are considered cultural features, or parts of a landscape built by humans. They’re similar to works built with larger stones, such as megaliths, earthen mounds or stone geoglyphs, which are stones arranged to outline an image when seen from above. Cairns aren’t just structures — their locations may be carefully chosen, and the construction process or ceremonial use may be culturally important. Because of this, rock cairns can be “very difficult to understand without looking at a landscape scale,” said María Nieves Zedeño, an archaeologist at the University of Arizona. [Spectacular Images Reveal Mysterious Stone Structures in Saudi Arabia]Advertisement Mysterious ‘Super-Henge’ Found Near StonehengeHigh resolution ground-penetrating radar and other archeological technologies has revealed up to 9 large intentionally placed stones outlining a crescent-shaped arena less than 2 miles away from the well-known Stonehenge in the UK Durrington Walls area. The site was home to a large Neolithic prehistoric settlement built about 4,500 yearsago.Volume 0%Press shift question mark to access a list of keyboard shortcutsKeyboard Shortcutsplay/pauseincrease volumedecrease volumeseek forwardsseek backwardstoggle captionstoggle fullscreenmute/unmuteseek to %SPACE↑↓→←cfm0-9接下来播放Better Bug Sprays?01:33 facebook twitter 发邮件 reddit 链接https://www.livescience.com/65687-rock-cairns.html?jwsource=cl已复制直播00:0001:2001:20Your Recommended Playlist01:33Better Bug Sprays?01:08Why Do French Fries Taste So Bad When They’re Cold?04:24Sperm Whale Befriends Underwater Robot00:29Robot Jumps Like a Grasshopper, Rolls Like a Ball00:29Video – Giggly Robot02:31Surgical Robotics关闭  Trail markers and art projects While many cairn traditions are very old, one type of cairn-building feels distinctly modern. There’s a controversial trend of artistically stacking stones in the wilderness, expressly to post pictures to social media. Conservationists criticize these amateur stacks, saying they can be confused for trail markers, and lead hikers astray. They also note that these amateur piles can disturb wildlife when they’re built or fall apart and that they leave a human mark in places that should be left in a more natural state. Most of these artistic stone stacks are not easily confused with older cairns, which, over hundreds of years, have had soil and vegetation build up around the rocks. Historical cairns may be so old that they’ve sunken into the ground, have been covered in lichen, or are otherwise obscured from view. The scale is also typically different. Older cairns may be made of stones too large for a single person to easily move, or they may consist of thousands of individual rocks. For example, at a Mohican stone memorial pile at Monument Mountain, in western Massachusetts, it was customary for visitors to add a stone. The votive cairn was 18 feet long and 6 feet high when it was first described in detail by a colonist in 1762, said Lucianne Lavin, the director of research and collections at the Institute for American Indian Studies in Washington, Connecticut. Certain forms of rock cairns are still used today, for example, as trail markers. Credit: Shutterstock View cairns in a location database from Historic Environment Scotland. Correction: This article was updated on June 17, 2019 to state that the ancient cairns in northeastern United States may have served various cultural purposes and grave sites are just one possibility. by Taboolaby TaboolaSponsored LinksSponsored LinksPromoted LinksPromoted LinksYou May LikeVikings: Free Online GamePlay this for 1 min and see why everyone is addicted!Vikings: Free Online GameUndoDr. Marty Nature's Feast SupplementWhy Certain Cats Are Fatter Than OthersDr. Marty Nature’s Feast SupplementUndoTop 10 Best Meal DeliveryMeal Kit Wars: 10 Tested & Ranked. See Who WonTop 10 Best Meal DeliveryUndoLCR Health SupplementTop US Doctor: A Confused Metabolism Could Be Causing You To Gain WeightLCR Health SupplementUndoLivestlyDear Seniors And Retirees, These Dog Breeds Are RecommendedLivestlyUndoFinance101The World’s Richest Royals And How They Got Their WealthFinance101Undocenter_img What were rock cairns for? The word cairn comes from Scottish Gaelic. In Scotland, burial cairns are well-known, but there are many possible uses for cairns, which vary from culture to culture. In the West, native peoples have sometimes constructed burial cairns, Zedeño said, but there’s no clear evidence for astrology-based cairn positions. Instead, at memorial sites that are sometimes confusingly called medicine wheels, a central cairn might be surrounded by other cairns that point toward important places in a person’s life. In Montana, Zedeño has studied a series of cairns built around 500 years ago by the ancestors of modern-day Blackfeet Indians to funnel herds of buffalo to their death at cliff sites called buffalo jumps. The cairn construction displays a great deal of organization and understanding of buffalo behavior. “A site could have anywhere from 500 to 5,000 cairns,” Zedeño said. “It’s very large-scale landscape engineering.” In the northeastern United States, grave sites are just one possible context for cairns, Lavin said. They take other forms, including animal effigies and split stones filled with smaller rocks that are considered portals to the underworld. There are also stone ceremonial grounds that were built in spiritually significant places, with astrological stones that marked the position of celestial bodies in the sky at the start and end of dayslong festivals. But the origin or purpose of Native American cairns or other stone features is often disputed in the region. “There are some archaeologists who think that everything is farm clearing,” Lavin said. In other words, the stones are just piles of rocks that have been pulled from an agricultural field. “There are other archaeologists, including myself, who realize that there are a diversity of features out there.” She points to records from settlers, like the accounts of Monument Mountain, as evidence that Native Americans were building stone structures in Colonial America. The question isn’t just academic. Cairns are sometimes destroyed by construction, and recognition of these sites by the government is critical to preserving their ongoing cultural value to Native Americans, Lavin said. Additional resources: Learn more about Zedeño’s work on buffalo jumps at Archaeology.org Read a statement about rock cairns from the National Park Service.last_img read more

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SIT on black money suggests Rs 1 crore cap on cash holdings

first_img Money in Swiss banks: India moves up to 73rd place Black money: 2.25 lakh more shell firms to be de-registered COMMENTS SHARE CIC asks FinMin about total black money collected post-noteban RELATED The Special Investigation Team (SIT) on black money has recommended the central government to cap the cash holding limit at Rs 1 crore instead of its earlier suggestion of Rs 20 lakh. The SIT has also recommended that the entire amount found in seizures crossing that limit should go to the government treasury, Justice (retired) M B Shah, who heads the SIT on black money, told PTI here today. The latest recommendations come after the earlier suggested limits of Rs 15 lakh and Rs 20 lakh were found to be too low. “We have recommended that the cap on cash holding should be Rs 1 crore. We have also recommended that the entire amount seized above the cash holding limit of Rs 1 crore should go to the government,” Justice Shah said. As per the existing rules, an offender can retrieve seized cash by paying 40 per cent income tax and penalty. The recommendations have come after huge amounts of cash were seized in recent search operations by tax authorities in the country. The Income Tax sleuths had on July 16 searched over 20 premises of a firm engaged in highway construction and its associate companies in Tamil Nadu and seized Rs 160 crore cash and 100 kg of gold.“Look at the amount of cash that is being seized, Rs 160 crore… Rs 177 crore…,” Justice Shah said. “The amount of money being seized is so high that now we are of the opinion that Rs 20 lakh limit will not do,” he said. Justice Shah had earlier suggested the cash holding limit to be at Rs 15 lakh. However, later he had recommended to raise the limit to Rs 20 lakh. The SIT was formed by the central government in 2014 on directions of Supreme Court. The panel has been continuously suggesting anti-black money measures to the government. DRI unearths ₹3,000-cr diamond import scamcenter_img While 58,160 entities have cumulatively withdrawn cash over ₹ 1.75 lakh crore in the range of ₹ 2-5 crore, as many as 14,552 have withdrawn a total of ₹ 98,900 crore in the range of ₹ 5-10 crore. Published on July 19, 2018 policy COMMENT SHARE SHARE EMAILlast_img read more

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Kumbh Mela begins as lakhs of devotees take holy dip in Sangam

first_imgAt the break of dawn, chants of ‘Har Har Gange’ reached its crescendo as lakhs of devotees, ascetics and religious leaders of various orders congregated at the Sangam here on Tuesday for a ritual dip, marking the beginning of the Kumbh Mela.The confluence (sangam) of the Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati has called out to the religious for centuries and Makar Sankranti, which marks the beginning of the festival, is one of the sacred bathing days of the 50-day Kumbh Mela.Devotees braved the cold weather to take a dip in the icy water as they reached the Kumbh Nagari which witnessed a huge rush of people from far-away lands as early as 4 am.Sadhus of 13 akharas (seven Shaiva, three Vaishnava, two Udasina, and one Sikh) who have traditionally participated in the Kumbh Mela, the largest congregation in the world, were the first to take the holy bath known as ‘Shahi Snan’They marched majestically, dancing and humming devotional songs, all the way to the confluence.“Me and my family came around 4:30 am thinking that it will be too crowded later. Not that it is any less crowded now. Also, we didn’t want to miss the march of various akharas that will be taking part at the Shahi Snan ritual,” said 35-year-old Anshuman, who had just taken the holy dip.The order in which the holy dip is performed by various akharas is pre-determined.It started with Mahanirvani along with the Atal akhara, the Niranjani along with the Ananada Akhara, and the Juna along with the Avahana and Agni akharas.They are followed by Nirvani akhara, Digambara akhara, Nirmohi akhara, Bada Udasin akhara, Naya Udasin akhara and lastly by the lone Sikh akhara called Nirmal akhara.Attracting eye-balls of one and all, especially the foreigners, was the march of Naga sadhus, a martial order of ascetics who move about naked with ash smeared on their whole body.“It is surreal. I had always heard about them. In fact, one of the reasons we wanted to come to the Kumbh was to see them in real as we are told that this is the only festival in which they arrive in numbers,” said Manuel Matthaus, who had come from Germany.“Yes, I did plan to take the bath. But I guess the water now is too freezy for my linking. May be later in the evening,” he added, as his girlfriend was busy capturing the spectacle on her camera.About 12 crore people are expected to visit the Kumbh between now and Maha Shivratri on March 4, when the Mela will come to a close, for a holy dip at the Sangam. It was traditionally called ‘Ardh Kumbh’ as it takes place twice in 12 years, but the present Uttar Pradesh government recently renamed it ‘Kumbh’In 2013, according to a recent book ‘Kumbha: The Traditionally Modern Mela’, 12 crore attended the grand fair.The state government expects the number to go higher this time. ‘Kumbh in ‘Prayagraj’ after 350 years’An Uttar Pradesh (UP) cabinet minister said the religious congregation is being held in Prayagraj after 350 years as the holy city was renamed Allahabad in the past.Religious Affairs Minister Laxmi Narayan Chaudhary also claimed that it’s perhaps for the first time since Independence that proper arrangements (of milk, ghee, food, blankets and firewood) have been made for the seers, ashrams and akharas.“Nearly 350 years ago, the name of Prayagraj — considered a prominent centre of Hindu culture and Sanatan Dharma — was changed to Allahabad. However, last year, under the leadership of UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, it was decided that Allahabad should be renamed as Prayagraj, as mentioned in ancient Indian texts including the Vedas.“And it is after 350 long years that the world’s biggest spiritual congregation is being held in Prayagraj in the form of Kumbh Mela,” he said.On October 16, the Uttar Pradesh cabinet had approved a proposal to rename the historic city of Allahabad as Prayagraj.UP Cabinet minister Siddhartha Nath Singh had then said it will help highlight Indian culture at international level.Elaborating on the Kumbh Mela, Chaudhary said, “Kumbh symbolises peace and harmony amongst all human beings. Thanks to the efforts of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Kumbh Mela has been inscribed on the list of ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’ by UNESCO in 2017.”“Kumbh also signifies the coming together of people from various cultures from across the world and it is a spectacle that is the largest peaceful congregation of humanity,” he said.The UP minister said, “It is an avismarniye (unforgettable) Kumbh. It is for the first time that representatives of 172 countries will participate in the Kumbh Mela. This time, the Kumbh Mela is spread over an area of 3,200 hectares as compared to 1,600 hectare area in the previous melas.”“Apart from being a Divya Kumbh, Bhavya Kumbh (divine Kumbh, grand Kumbh), this Kumbh Mela would also be remembered as Swachh Kumbh (clean Kumbh), as more than 11,000 safai wokers have been pressed into action,” he said.A hygienic ‘Kumbh’For maintaining cleanliness and hygiene and to host an open-defecation-free Kumbh, more than one lakh toilets have been planned to be deployed. Solid waste is to be collected in 20,000 dustbins that are to be deployed and will be transported out of the Mela area by tippers and compactors, he said.Apart from this, more than 2,000 Ganga Praharis/ Swacchagrahis are being engaged as foot soldiers.The minister also informed that it is for the first time that Akshay Vat and Saraswati Koop have been opened for the public after centuries.According to folklore, the Akshay Vat tree inside the Allahabad Fort near Sangam has the power to fulfil wishes, while the Saraswati Koop, also located in the fort premises, is a well in which one can see waters of the mythical Saraswati river.For the first time, an Integrated Control and Command Centre has been established in the Kumbh area, he said, and added that Kumbh Mela will also witness the use of artificial intelligence for better crowd management this year.Over 1,000 CCTV cameras and 40,000 LED lights have been installed in the Mela area. Know more about Ardh Kumbh Allahabad COMMENTS The order in which the holy dip is performed by various akharas is pre-determined COMMENT Devotees cross a pontoon bridge spanning the river Ganga during a procession ahead of the “Kumbh Mela”, or the Pitcher Festival, in Prayagraj, India   –  File photo SHAREcenter_img Instagram Kumbh Mela 2019: In photos Published on RELATED SHARE SHARE EMAIL January 15, 2019last_img read more

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Govt forms Jal Shakti Ministry by merging Water Resources and Drinking Water

first_imgGajendra Singh Shekhawat takes charge as the Minister of Jal Shakti, in New Delhi, on Friday, May 31, 2019.   –  PTI COMMENT ministers (government) A new ‘Jal Shakti’ Ministry, in which the erstwhile ministries of Water Resources and Drinking Water and Sanitation will be merged, has been formed with Gajendra Singh Shekhawat at its helm.Shekhawat took charge of the ministry on Friday, a day after he was sworn in as minister. During the election campaign, Modi had promised to form an integrated ministry dealing with water issues.“All the water related works will be merged under one ministry,” Shekhawat said after taking the charge.The ambit of the Ministry will encompass issues ranging from international and inter-states water disputes, the Namami Gange project, the flagship initiative to clean the Ganges, its tributaries and sub-tributaries and provide clean drinking water.In the first Modi government, the project to clean the Ganga was moved from the Ministry of Environment and Forests to the Ministry of Water Resources. With a greater push and much larger monetary allocation, the Namami Gange project was launched.The Minister said as promised in the party manifesto, the priority will be to provide clean drinking water to everyone.Rebutting the charge that nothing was done under the Namami Gange project, Shekhawat said the Ganga river has been cleaned to a large extent and now the priority will be to clean its tributaries and sub-tributaries.Rattan Lal Kataria will be the Minister of State in the newly formed ministry. May 31, 2019 SHARE SHARE EMAILcenter_img water COMMENTS SHARE Published onlast_img read more

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Farmer at the centre of Maharashtra additional BudgetFarmer at the centre of

first_img COMMENT June 18, 2019 SHARE SHARE EMAIL State Budget Published on SHAREcenter_img COMMENTS Maharashtra Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar on Tuesday presented the additional Budget for 2019-20 with a pro-farmer tilt. The State government has decided to expand the scope of existing accident insurance to cover about 5.5 crore family members of farmers in the State.This is the last Budget of the Devendra Fadnavis government before the Maharashtra Assembly elections. The Finance Minister provided a budgetary outlay of ₹210 crore, which takes care of the premium cost of the insurance scheme in the new avatar. The existing insurance scheme named after late Gopinathji Munde gives insurance cover of up to ₹2 lakh to farmers whose names are in the 7/12 revenue land record extract. The premium for the scheme is paid by the State government.Mungantiwar in his Budget speech also announced that in order to give farmers direct access to markets for their agricultural produce and make available all necessary infrastructure facilities in the value chain, the State of Maharashtra Agribusiness and Rural Transformation (SMART) will be implemented with the help of World Bank. The project aims to create value chain for various crops by directly connecting farmers’ companies to the purchasing companies. This project will approximately cost ₹2,220 crore.Farm sectorKeeping in view the farm sector distress in Maharashtra since 2016 and the pitched battles faced by Fadnavis government over farm loan waiver, the Finance Minister said that at present ₹24,102 crore has been sanctioned to 50.27 lakh account holders under the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Shetkari SanmanYojana, the farm loan waiver scheme.The Government is going to take a decision shortly to give the benefit of this scheme to those farmers who have become ineligible for technical or other reason. The Government is committed to making farmers debt-free and in any case there will not be any shortage of funds for this scheme till the last eligible farmer becomes debt-free, he said.The Budget, which has been presented three months before State Assembly elections, has focussed on agriculture, irrigation and infrastructure. Irrigation sectorIt proposes ₹12,000 crore for the irrigation sector, ₹350 crore for micro-irrigation and ₹600 crore for research and development by four agricultural universities. Mungantiwar also announced that the State government’s debt has reached ₹4,14,411 crore, but given the size of the state’s economy, the debt could be serviced.MSME sectorThe Maharashtra government desires to create maximum employment through the MSME sector. Under a new scheme, industrial parks will be created at each taluka level for MSMEs . As a pilot project, it is proposed to create such parks in 50 talukas initially. Out of the total plots developed under this scheme, 30 per cent will be reserved for women entrepreneurs. For 2019-20, an outlay of ₹300 crore will be reserved for this scheme, he said. There is no new tax in the Budget, but some aspects of value added tax have been tinkered with, which will give some relief to taxpayers in terms of interest and late fees. Maharashtra Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar (left) and Minister of State Deepak Kesarkar arriving to present the Budget at the monsoon session of the Assembly   –  Vivek Bendre Maharashtralast_img read more

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Australia warns of collateral damage from TrumpXi trade war

first_img Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday warned that “collateral damage” from trade spats between China and the United States were hurting smaller countries and threatening the global economy. In an usually public warning to allies in Washington, Morrison said the “world’s most important bilateral relationship — the US-China relationship” had become “strained”. “Trade tensions have escalated. The collateral damage is spreading. The global trading system is under real pressure. Global growth projections are being wound back,” he said, speaking in Sydney. “The impact of any further deterioration of the relationship will not be limited to these two major powers,” he added. His comments come on the eve of a G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, that will be overshadowed by talks between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US counterpart Donald Trump aimed at easing tensions between the world’s two largest economic powers. Decades of cautious engagement between China and the United States have been cast aside in the Trump-Xi era, replaced by two geopolitical behemoths openly tussling for economic, diplomatic and military influence. In Australia, that has caused a dramatic erosion in confidence about both Washington’s and Beijing’s willingness to act responsibly in the world. Morrison’s conservative government was re-elected in May, largely on promises of continuing the Australian economy’s almost 28 years of near-continuous growth. But that growth is starting to falter, and with a downturn looming, his government has played up the negative impact of an external shock from US-China tensions. Economists say that is more of a risk for the future, blaming current woes on structural weaknesses at home. RELATED Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (file photo). Published on US-China trade spat, Iran tensions to dominate weighty G20 G20 Summit: PM Modi to hold bilaterals with Trump, Macron COMMENTScenter_img June 26, 2019 G-20 SUMMIT SHARE COMMENT SHARE SHARE EMAILlast_img read more

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Occupy Tanjung Aru beach picnic is on tomorrow

first_img Nation 26 Jun 2019 SAPP: Sabah govt statements about Papar dam, TAED ‘huge disappointment’ “It is just a picnic. No one will be talking. In the future, we may need a permit if we get individuals to speak,” he said when contacted.The project was mooted during the previous Barisan Nasional administration, and the then Opposition had campaigned against it during the last general election. However, the Parti Warisan Sabah-led state government decided later to stick with the project but promised that it would be a win-win situation with an area for the public. An invitation to Sabahans to join the event at Prince Phillip Park, along Tanjung Aru beach, was shared via the change.org online platform. The picnic is expected to take place between 4pm and sunset. “Wear yellow or green, bring your own F&B (food and beverage), and make it a Zero Waste event,” said the notice.On the online petition, Muthu said over 28,000 pledges had been collected so far. “We initially wanted to arrange for a meeting with the Sabah Chief Minister but that was unlikely considering how things went.“So, we will send the petition to his office after we hit the 30,000-signature mark, maybe some time next week. Then, it is up to them (to consider),” he said. Related News Nation 28 Jun 2019 NGO signature drive on to stop TAED project, calls for meeting with Sabah CM KOTA KINABALU: At least a thousand people are expected to turn up for a “picnic” along the Tanjung Aru beach, where a controversial development plan is meeting opposition from non-governmental groups. The Occupy @ Tanjung Aru picnic tomorrow is organised by the Save Open Space Kota Kinabalu (SOS KK) group which previously started an online petition to stop the Tanjung Aru Eco-Development (Taed) project.SOS KK coordinator S.M. Muthu said the informal gathering – aimed at pooling like-minded people to show solidarity in saving the beach – was expected to be the first in a series of activities it was planning to engage the public. “We are trying to gauge the response.center_img Related News {{category}} {{time}} {{title}} Nation 20h ago NGO plans Occupy @ Tanjung Aru picnic to ‘save’ iconic beachlast_img read more

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