As Obama celebrates, Yemen is hit with a drone strike


by Avaaz Teamposted 09 November 2012 10:13

Americans protest the use of drones

Americans protest the use of drones (Getty)

Just hours after President Barack Obama celebrated his re-election early Wednesday morning, it appears he approved a drone strike in Yemen that killed three people and wounded two. Reports indicate that the strike, which hit less than 40km from Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, was targeted at three suspected members of al-Qaeda.

The US has been stepping up its drone attacks in Yemen as it backs the country’s forces struggling to fend-off al-Qaida militants who have succeeded in seizing large areas in the south of the country. But the US’s use of these deadly robot weapons in its “war on terror” efforts has attracted widespread condemnation, not least because the attacks have likely killed hundreds of innocent civilians and children in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere.

Also, studies have shown that drones are a useful recruitment tool for extremists, especially in Pakistan where anti-American sentiment is so high that it was the only country in the world to have expressed a preference for Mitt Romney over Obama in a BBC poll.

As Obama begins his second term, he must consider the message he is sending by using robots to kill defenceless citizens. Is this the kind of leadership the world was hoping for as they listened to his powerful acceptance speech earlier this week?

Learn more: See and hear the devastating cost of drone attacks for 800,000 Pakistanis, and learn about the dangerous precedent the US’s robot war sets for the rest of the world.

Sources: Times of India, Global Voices, Avaaz

America’s Gender Gap in 2012 tied to Safety Net


By Samantha Kimmey

WeNews correspondent

Friday, November 9, 2012

Many pro-choice women won their Senate races Tuesday and pro-choice PACs say women punished anti-choice rhetoric. A leading gender-gap analyst says exit polling data suggests it’s still about the role of government.

Lady Gaga performs in Vancouver, Canada
A young woman turns in her ballot on Election Day 2012

 

Credit: Jason Pramas for Open Media Boston, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

(WOMENSENEWS)–The failed U.S. Senate candidacies of Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock and Missouri Rep. Todd Akin are widely seen as payback for the GOP-led “war on women.”

Both politicians became notorious for comments about rape and pregnancy that turned them into symbols of an extremist anti-choice agenda that in the past year began extending to the formerly safe subject of birth control.

“I think that directly affected their candidacies,” said Susan Carroll, senior scholar at the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.

In Indiana, Mourdock won only 42 percent of female voters, a large gap from Mitt Romney at the top of the ticket, who won 52 percent of women in the state, reported the Christian Science Monitor. That data suggested that some Republican voters split their ticket to lodge a protest.

In Missouri, the percentage of women voting for incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill, Akin’s opponent, increased on Tuesday compared to 2006, reported the Associated Press. Younger women and African American women supported McCaskill in large numbers.

But while abortion, contraception, pay equity and even Romney’s debate-night reference to “binders full of women” were significant in swaying female voters, Carroll said those issues do not form the primary national basis of the gender gap.

The real basis, she said, was differing outlooks between men and women on the role of government, with women more inclined to support social safety nets.

On Election Day, CNN exit polling found 55 percent of women and 45 percent of men voted for Obama, producing a 10-point gender gap; the second-largest ever, according to Carroll.

Yet in 2008, Obama won 56 percent of the women’s vote and 49 percent of the men’s vote, meaning that although the gap widened this year, Obama’s share of women essentially remained stable and he slipped among men.

Carroll said that data might suggest the women’s vote was unchanged this year. But she also noted that one could conclude Romney’s economic arguments swayed men, while “women weren’t buying into it.”

More Women in Congress

The election will bolster women’s numbers in Congress.

In January, the Senate will move from 17 to 20 women, as five new women go to D.C. while two–longtime Sens. Olympia Snowe of Maine and Kay Bailey Hutchison in Texas–retire.

Five Democratic women and one Republican woman–incumbent McCaskill and first-timers Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin, Mazie Hirono, Heidi Heitkamp and Deb Fischer–won their races.

In the House, there will be at least 77 women in 2013, up from 73, giving them 17.7 percent representation in the lower chamber.

While some women’s rights activists are celebrating the gains, Siobhan “Sam” Bennett, president and CEO of the Washington-based Women’s Campaign Fund, which supports pro-choice female candidates, curbed her enthusiasm, calling it “pathetic to be excited about 17 to 18 percent.”

After the “year of woman” in 1992, Bennett said it was widely assumed that the problem of too few women would “organically fix itself.” Since that didn’t happen, she stressed that it remained incumbent upon the women who won to encourage far more women to run for office.

“Research shows that you need to have at least 30 percent of women in the room in order for them to be able to collectively make a difference,” she said.

Pro-choice activists could also take satisfaction in the outcome of some races for the U.S. House of Representatives.

In New York, longtime anti-abortion rights activist Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle lost to Dan Maffei.

In Illinois, Rep. Joe Walsh–who said during his campaign that he opposed abortion even in the case of the mother’s life because “you can’t find once instance” when that happens — lost to military veteran Tammy Duckworth.

The Women’s Campaign Fund’s Bennett said that anti-choice rhetoric has been growing since Ronald Reagan’s presidency, “which made legislators feel pretty safe coming out in the way they did in this election cycle.” Bennett expects the fallout of the elections to curb anti-choice rhetoric. Whether the GOP will back off anti-choice legislation at the state and federal level is another matter, she says, that “remains to be seen.”

‘Thrilled About Election’

“MomsRising was thrilled about the election,” said Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, president of MomsRising, a nonprofit advocacy group focusing on issues like paid sick leave, parental leave and health care. “Our issues — health care, access to health care, access to reproductive health care — were heard. Fifty-six percent of voting moms cast ballot for Obama,” she said, citing Fox News exit polls.

“I think that this election cycle, more than any I’ve seen in my 20-plus years in politics, truly defined how extreme the anti-choice side has become,” said Beth Shipp, political director of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Women “rejected Republican backwards looking agenda,” said Jess McIntosh, spokesperson for EMILY’s List, the Washington PAC that works to elect pro-choice Democratic women.

But those groups didn’t just rely on the zeitgeist during the campaign; they also spent plenty of money for each of their victories.

“We had our largest independent expenditures in organizational history,” McIntosh said.

Independent expenditures rose significantly due to the impact of super PACs. EMILY’s List super PAC arm, Women VOTE! spent over $7 million.

The PAC itself spent over $30 million this election cycle–more than the roughly $27 million it spent in 2010 but less than the $35 million spent in 2008.

NARAL Pro-Choice America’s independent expenditure arm spent $1.5 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, compared to $525,000 in 2010. The organization told Women’s eNews that it spent about $3.3 million in all.

The group also identified potential female pro-choice Obama “defectors,” or those who voted Obama in 2008 but were no longer strong supporters, in 25 battleground counties. The organization then worked to persuade these women to vote for the president through a mixture of phone and email outreach, online advertising and cable advertising.

Married Prefer Romney

Broken down by marital status, a small national majority–53 percent — of married women favored Romney, while 67 percent of non-married women favored Obama, according to Washington Post exit polling.

Non-married women came out this election in larger numbers; 23 percent in 2012 compared to 20 percent in 2008.

Democrats picked up about seven House seats –far below the 25 they needed to gain a majority, reportedThe Hill, meaning that the Republican Party maintains control of the House.

NARAL Pro-Choice America’s Shipp said of the House elections and pro-choice candidates, “We knew it was not going to be a watershed election,” but that gains were made, arguing, “We did make some significant gains with pro-choice candidates.”

In fact, some of them defeated pro-choice Republicans on Tuesday. Moderate Rep. Judy Biggert, representing Chicago’s southwest suburbs, lost after serving in the House since 1999 to NARAL-endorsed Bill Foster. In New Hampshire, Ann McLane Kuster beat Rep. Charlie Bass–a rematch from 2010, when Kuster lost.

“We are devastated at the loss of Scott Brown in the Senate and our good friends Judy Biggert and Mary Bono, Charles Bass and Robert Dold and Nan Hayworth . . . they were all stalwarts for our cause,” Ann Stone, founder and chair of Republicans for Choice, said in an email interview.

Stone added that, “Several of these pro-choice warriors were wrongly portrayed as not being pro-choice or not pro-choice enough . . . that is disgraceful . . . For them to stand up for this principle in a party which is hostile to them takes a hell of a lot more courage than a Democrat doing so in their party.”

Samantha Kimmey is a writer focusing on women and politics this election season.

 

No Social Protection for India’s Elderly #Indiashining


Aged women sitting in front of an old age home in Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu. Credit: K. S. Harikrishnan/IPSAged women sitting in front of an old age home in Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu. Credit: K. S. Harikrishnan/IPS

NEW/DELHI/THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, Nov 9 2012 (IPS) – At midnight on Oct. 12, 91-year-old George Puthenveettil, a widower living in Kalanjur village in the Pathanamthita district of the southern Indian state of Kerala, was brutally tortured and ousted from his own house by his only son for “not earning any money”.

The nonagenarian wandered the streets of his village for hours before he reached a shelter in Pathanapuram with the help of neighbours. Police said the son had often beaten and harassed the old man, who was financially dependent on his son.

For many people like George, the sunset years of life turn out to be a traumatic period, in which they find themselves entirely dependent on families or friends due to the absence of a good social security system or government pension plan in India.

Expressing concern over the increasing insecurity of elders in the country, Dr. Irudaya Rajan, a prominent demographer and chair professor of the research unit on international migration under the Ministry of Indian Overseas Affairs, told IPS that income security is one of the most urgent needs of India’s aging population.

Years ago, “traditional values and religious beliefs were quite supportive of elderly people”, he said.

Today, economic hardships and the faltering nuclear family system are “drastically eroding the support base of aged people”.

“The majority of the elderly tend to work even after the age of retirement due to inadequate social security and financial resources,” Rajan added.

A report on the aging population in India, released by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFP) in New Delhi, said that the country had 90 million elderly people in 2011, with the number expected to grow to 173 million by 2026.

Of the 90 million seniors, 30 million are living alone, and 90 percent work for a living.

Experts estimate that only eight percent of the labour force of about 460 million receives social security from an employer.

‘Informal’ labourers left out in the cold

Over 94 percent of India’s working population is part of the unorganised sector, which refers to all unlicensed, self-employed or unregistered economic activity such as owner-manned general stores, handicrafts and handloom workers, rural traders and farmers, among many others.

Gopal Krishnan, an economist in Chennai, told IPS “There is no social safety coverage for people in the unorganised sector, which accounts for half of the GDP (gross domestic product) of India”.

According to the World Bank, India’s GDP in 2011 was 1,848 billion dollars.

In 2006, the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector recommended that the Union Government establish a National Social Security Scheme to provide the minimum level of benefits to workers retiring from the informal sector.

Until now, the government has not been able to compile a comprehensive policy to address the issues of elderly people. The ministry of social justice and empowerment drafted a National Policy on Older Persons in 1999, which was never implemented.

Hardships abound

Analysts point out that India’s aging population is constantly grappling with health issues, economic stress, family matters, uncertain living arrangements, gender disparities, urban-rural differences, displacement and slum-like living conditions.

Dr. Udaya Shankar Mishra, a senior demographer at the Centre for Development Studies in Thiruvananthapuram, believes the current “profile” of the aging population of India can change.

“The (perception) of the elderly as a burden can, with suitable policies, be turned into an opportunity to realise active and healthy aging,” he told IPS.

“With limited resources, we need to adopt viable policy changes to manage the crisis of the aged. This calls for a detailed auditing of (all) the affairs of the elderly, primarily health, morbidity and mortality in addition to economic and emotional wellbeing.

“Research on geriatric health needs to (shift) towards ensuring a better quality of life among future elderly persons. Considering the demographic inversion and its associated challenges, it (is clear) that investments into healthy aging are necessary,” he added.

Data from the 2011 National Census revealed that the percentage of aged living alone or with spouse is as high as 45 percent in Tamil Nadu, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Kerala.

Healthcare experts have found that the elderly are highly prone to heart diseases, respiratory disorders, renal diseases, diabetes, hypertension, neurological problems and prostate issues.

The National Sample Survey Organisation calculates that one out of two elderly people in India suffers from at least one chronic disease, which requires lifelong medication.

The most recent data available, taken for the period 1995-96, revealed that 75 percent of aged individuals are affected by at least one disability relating to sight, hearing, speech, walking, and senility.

Dr. Shanti Johnson, professor at the faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies at the Canada-based University of Regina, estimates that nearly eight percent of the elderly are immobile, while a disproportionately higher percentage of women are immobile compared to men.

“The average hospitalisation rate in the country per 100,000 aged persons is 7,633. There is considerable gender difference in the rate of hospitalisation, as a much greater proportion of men are hospitalised compared to their female counterparts,” she added.

Non-governmental organisations are advocating for more old-age homes, day-care centers, physiotherapy clinics and temporary shelters for the rehabilitation of older persons, with government funds allocated to the running and maintaining of such projects.

(END)

 

Job Opportunity- Social Scientists- Chennai #must share #Recruitment


 

M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) is a non-profit research organization and was established in 1988. MSSRF has all along been developing and following a pro-nature, pro-poor, pro-women and pro-sustainable on-farm and non-farm livelihoods through appropriate ecotechnology and knowledge empowerment. It carries out research and development in the variosu social  areas :http://www.mssrf.org/

Vacancy:  Social Scientist – Gender at Chennai
Job Code: PA800-TN-CHN-SS/G-05112012
Qualification and Experience: ü  Master’s degree in social sciences (Sociology, Anthropology, Gender Studies, Women’s studies, Social WorkRural Development, Rural Management  etc.)

ü  A minimum of three years’ experience in   implementing field level programmes and gender related work in agriculture and Natural Resource Management will be an added advantage.

ü  Working knowledge of Results-Based Management orientation and practices.

ü  Good analytical, writing and research skills

ü  Ability to establish and maintain working relationships with interdisciplinary team members and partners

Roles & Responsibilities include but are not limited to:: ü  Professional support in the collection and analysis of data on gender and social equity in relation to agricultural and sustainable rural development projects

ü  Undertake field visits based on the need to support the field teams for gender mainstreaming.

ü  Give support in  monitoring  the results from the field programmes across different sites of MSSRF

ü  Provide support to organize  workshops, trainings and meetings

ü  Assist in the preparation of reports on projects/workshops/trainings and meetings.

ü  Perform other related duties as required

ü  Participate in on going research projects

Remuneration : Minimum Gross Rs. 32,000/- per month
Mode of Application : Application should include full biodata providing complete academic record from SSLC, stating areas of specialization, academic achievement, nature and duration of experience, languages known, full address and telephone number of two most recent employers, last pay drawn, names and addresses of two referees who have close familiarity with the professional strength and character of the candidate, current address, recent photo, telephone and e-mail ID. Incomplete application will be rejected.  Application must clearly indicate ‘Social Scientist-Gender’ with Job code.
Please send application by post before the last date to: The General Manager
M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation
Third Cross Street, Institutional Area
Taramani, Chennai 600 113(or)  by email to:   admn@mssrf.res.in
Last date for application: November 30, 2012
Vacancy:  Social Scientist – Grassroots Institution Building at Chennai 
Job Code: PA800-TN-CHN-SS/GIB-05112012
Qualification and Experience:
  • Master’s degree in Agriculture or  social sciences or Law (Sociology, Anthropology, Gender Studies, Women’s studies, Social Work,  Rural Development, Rural Management  etc
  • A minimum of five years’ hands on experience in working with community based groups and Institutions and capacity building initiatives.
  • Working knowledge on the legal compliances of registration and systems improvement in delivering different services to and by the institutions
  • Excellent communication and  group  facilitation skills
  • Good analytical, writing and research skills
  • Ability to establish and maintain working relationships with interdisciplinary team members  and partners
Roles & Responsibilities include but are not limited to:: ü  Professional support in coordination of grassroots Institution building across the MSSRF field sites.

ü  Undertake field visits based on the need to support the field teams in facilitating institution building initiatives (governance, legal, audit and accounts etc)

ü  Give support in design and monitoring  the progress in the institution building initiatives across different sites of MSSRF

ü  Provide support to organize workshops trainings and meetings

ü  Assist in the preparation of project/workshop/training reports

ü  Perform other related duties as required

Remuneration : Minimum Gross Rs. 32,000/- per month
Mode of Application : Application should include full biodata providing complete academic record from SSLC, stating areas of specialization, academic achievement, nature and duration of experience, languages  known, full address and telephone number of two most recent employers, last pay drawn, names and addresses of two referees who have close familiarity with the professional strength and character of the candidate, current address, recent photo, telephone and e-mail ID. Incomplete application will be rejected.  Application must clearly indicate ‘Social Scientist- Grassroots Institution Building ’ with Job code
Please send application by post before the last date to: The General Manager,
M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation
Third Cross Street, Institutional Area
Taramani, Chennai 600 113   (or)  by email to:   admn@mssrf.res.in
Last date for application: November 30, 2012

US sanctions Iran over Internet, media censorship


(AFP) –  nOV 9, 2012

WASHINGTON — Washington unveiled sanctions Thursday against top Iranians and national bodies, including the communications minister and the culture ministry, hitting back for media and Internet censorship.

The move against Communications Minister Reza Taghipour came after he was blamed for ordering the jamming of international satellite TV broadcasts and restricting Internet access, a State Department official said.

The United States was determined to stop the “Iranian government from creating an ‘electronic curtain’ to cut Iranian citizens off from the rest of the world,” said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

Four individuals and five bodies were placed under sanctions by both the State Department and the US Treasury for “censorship or other activities that prohibit, limit or penalize freedom of expression or assembly by citizens of Iran.”

They were also accused of limiting “access to print or broadcast media, including by jamming international satellite broadcasts into Iran,” Nuland said in a statement, denouncing the “regime’s insidious actions.”

Internet users in Iran were temporarily unable to access their Gmail accounts from late September to early October.

Mohammad Reza Miri, a member of the telecommunications ministry committee tasked with filtering the Internet in Iran, was quoted by the Mehr news agency as saying that the Gmail block was an “involuntary” consequence of trying to reinforce censorship of Google’s YouTube video-sharing site.

“Unfortunately, we do not yet have enough technical knowhow to differentiate between these two services. We wanted to block YouTube and Gmail was also blocked, which was involuntary,” he said.

“We absolutely do not want YouTube to be accessible.”

Iran has censored YouTube since mid-2009, after opposition demonstrators protesting the re-election victory of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in polls they believed rigged started posting videos online of their gatherings.

Iran’s ministry of culture and Islamic guidance was also sanctioned for closing down newspapers and detaining journalists.

Other entities targeted included the Press Supervisory Board and the Center to Investigate Organized Crime, which helped “identify Internet users who published material insulting government officials,” the US Treasury said in a statement, adding some of the people were later arrested.

“Finding that balance between preventing technology that could constrain and permitting technology that would expand their access to information is kind of a difficult question,” a senior State Department official told journalists.

Also included in the designations were Ali Fazli, a deputy commander of the Basij militia blamed for launching attacks on foreign websites, including foreign media organizations, and Iran police chief Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam, who is in charge of tracking Internet activities in the country.

Iranian software companies AmnAfzar Gostar-e Sharif and PeykAsa, as well as their founder, Rasool Jalili, were also targeted for monitoring Web traffic, including moves to block access to Facebook, eBay and YouTube.

The Iranian government was engaged in a campaign to “curtail” freedoms and “prevent the free flow of information both into and out of Iran,” Nuland said in her statement.

“Countless activists, journalists, lawyers, students and artists have been detained, censured, tortured or forcibly prevented from exercising their human rights,” she added.

The new designations resulted from an August 2012 act that came into force on Thursday and mean Americans are banned from doing any business with the targeted Iranians, who are also barred from traveling to the United States.

Any of their assets in the United States will also be frozen.

Other newly rolled out sanctions focused on individuals designated for sponsoring terrorism, in particular the Kata’ib Hezbollah group responsible for violent attacks in Iraq.

A third tranche of the designations targeted the support network of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps — including the National Iranian Oil Company, which is already under sanctions, and two Tehran universities.

 

FIR Lodged against Shahrukh Khan , Karan Johar, Gauri Khan for ” Radha’ song


FIR lodged against Shah Rukh Khan

Fri Nov 09 2012 02 : 11 / Muzaffarnagar, NewsX

An FIR has been lodged at Sadar police station in Bihar‘s Muzaffarpur district on the direction of a local court against actor Shahrukh Khan, his wife Gauri Khan, Karan Johar and others for allegedly hurting religious sentiments by depicting Hindu deity Radha in an inappropriate manner.

An FIR has been lodged at Sadar police station in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district on the direction of a local court against actor Shahrukh Khan, his wife Gauri Khan, Karan Johar and others for allegedly hurting religious sentiments by depicting Hindu deity Radha in an inappropriate manner. The police said today that the FIR was lodged last night under sections 294 (Obscene acts and songs to annoyance of others), 295 (deliberate and malicious act intended to hurt religious feelings and 295A (injuring or defiling place of worship intended to insult the religion) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against Khan and others.

The Sadar police station inspector Ezaj Ahmed has been made the investigation officer to probe the case, they said. The FIR followed a complaint lodged by advocate Sudhir Kumar Ojha on November five in the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate S P Singh alleging obscene presentation of the deity in a song in the film “Student of the Year“.

After hearing the case, the judge had passed an order directing that a case be lodged against the accused in the Sadar police station. The film’s actors Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt and Siddharth Malhotra and the Dharma Production, which produced the film in partnership with Khan’s production company – M/S Red Chillies
Entertainment, have been named as other accused in the case.

 

Irom Sharmila -On hunger strike for 12 years , will continue


 

 

Irom Sharmila in India’s Manipur state is force-fed in detention, but refuses to give up protest against draconian Act.
Subir Bhaumik Last Modified: 08 Nov 2012, Al Jazeera 

Irom Sharmila has been demanding the repeal of a law that allows troops to act with impunity [AFP]

Frail and suffering after being on fast for more than 12 years, Irom Sharmila proclaims she will die on hunger strike unless India repeals the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) .

The AFSPA gives security forces sweeping powers,including the power to shoot people dead on mere suspicion, while operating in areas afflicted by rebellions – like in Sharmila’s Manipur state on India’s far eastern border with Myanmar (Burma).

“How can men in uniform enjoy such powers in a democracy which they so often misuse? This Act must be repealed if India  is serious about its democracy. Or else, I will continue my hunger-strike until I die,” says the frail Sharmila , who turned 40 on March 14 this year.

On November 2, 2000, troops of India’s elite counter-insurgency force Assam Rifles opened indiscriminate fire on a market at Malom near Manipur’s state capital Imphal. Ten civilians were killed on the spot – among them a 60-year-old woman and three teenage boys, one of whom had won the Prime Minister’s Award for Bravery.

The Assam Rifles forces were upset after one of Manipur’s more than a dozen rebel groups attacked one of their patrols – but the people they killed in retaliation were innocent civilians who had no involvement in the attack.

“That was a Thursday, the day I used to fast every week. I was so shocked by the massacre at Malom that I just decided to continue my fast unless the draconian law was repealed,” Sharmila said, lying on her bed in the Imphal hospital, where she is held in “judicial custody” and force-fed every day through a tube in her nose to keep her alive.

“This is a symbolic fight for the people of Manipur who have suffered so much at the hands of the security forces. Hundreds of our boys and girls have been killed on mere suspicion of being rebels. This is possible because the
AFSPA gives so much power to the security forces. This Act must go,” she said.

Brother Irom Singhajit Singh recalls that his sister had one last supper with pastries and sweets, then touched her mother’s feet to seek her blessings to begin the epic fast.

Popular weapon

Hunger strike has been a popular weapon of protest in India since Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation, popularised it during the anti-colonial struggle. But nobody has been on fast longer than Sharmila.

Manipur has been ravaged by four decades of separatist insurgency, with close to a dozen groups involved in fighting Indian forces and, often, amongst themselves. Thousands have died – among them, many young men and women killed on mere suspicion of involvement with the rebel groups.

Once in a while, Manipur has erupted over such killings, as it happened eight years ago, when another young girl Thangjam Manorama was allegedly raped and shot by the Assam Rifles soldiers and left to die on a village road.

The Indian federal government set up a high power committee to look into the popular demand of scrapping the AFSPA, perhaps to pacify the people’s anger.

“The government has just one agenda now. To keep Sharmila alive , because if she dies, there may be an uproar.”

- Babloo Loithongbam, Human Rights activist

The five-member committee, headed by former Supreme Court judge Jeevan Reddy, unanimously recommended for repeal of the draconian AFSPA.

But under severe pressure from the Army and the para-military forces, the federal government backed off, even refusing to place the committee’s report for discussion in the parliament.

The Army says that it cannot operate against armed rebels unless covered by this AFSPA.

“Either keep the AFSPA and allow us to use it or don’t involve us in counter-insurgency operations. We will be happy to be back in our barracks,” says former Indian Army chief General Shankar Roychowdhury .

For the past 50 years, the Indian army and its para-military troops have battled scores of rebel groups in the country’s troubled Northeastern states, a region considered strategic by Delhi because it is hemmed in between Bangladesh, Myanmar, China, Nepal and Bhutan.

Last year, a group of 25 civil rights activists from across the country, went on a long march from the rebellion-scarred state of Jammu and Kashmir all the way to Manipur on the India-Myanmar border to draw attention to Sharmila’s epic fast and the cause for which she has sacrificed her youth.

The protest march attracted global media attention and rights activists across the world came out to express solidarity with Sharmila’s epic hunger strike to demand scrapping of the controversial AFSPA.

But it had no effect on Delhi as the Indian government conveniently turned the other way, retaining the AFSPA and ignoring the march and the world’s longest hunger strike.

“The government has just one agenda now. To keep Sharmila alive, because if she dies, there may be an uproar,” says Manipur’s leading human rights activist Babloo Loithongbam.

The ‘Iron Lady of Manipur

Three days after she started her hunger strike, Irom Sharmila was arrested and charged with “attempting to commit suicide”. Since then, she has been force-fed through a tube in her nose. Every year, she is released once and then promptly re-arrested on the same charges and the routine goes on.

Back in her heavily-guarded hospital ward, Sharmila is unmoved and determined to carry forward her struggle.

“I fast until the AFSPA goes. I have not wasted 12 years of my life to back off. Either my people live with respect or I don’t eat,” says Irom Sharmila, now called the “Iron Lady of Manipur” for her historic feat.

Brother Singhajit remembers his sister as being “always different “.

“She was always modest with few friends, never liked to dress up or use jewellery. She read religious books, practiced yoga and naturopathy,” he says. “She has not changed a bit.”

In her years of hunger strike, Sharmila has won many awards, including one for lifetime achievement from the Asian Human Rights Commission.

Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi has promised to take up her case before the United Nations.

“I will do my duty, I will do what I have to for my people, without really bothering what happens.”

- Irom Sharmila

Two Indian politicial parties, the Trinamul Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) or CPI(M-L), have supported Sharmila’s cause and her hunger strike, joining the chorus for scrapping the controversial AFSPA.

But while the Trinamul Congress rules the eastern state of West Bengal and has some lawmakers in northeastern states like Sharmila’s home state Manipur, the CPI(M-L) is on the margins of Indian politics.

In recent weeks, the chief minister of the troubled northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, who represents the regional party, National Conference, has pitched in to support Sharmila’s demand for scrapping the AFSPA.  Abdullah says the Act is often misused by security forces while fighting rebel groups and civilians end up as victims of their excesses.

But no major political party in India has so far come out in support of the “Iron Lady” who is making history by her unique protest.

That does not worry Sharmila much.

“I will do my duty, I will do what I have to for my people, without really bothering what happens,” says Sharmila.

Supreme Court Canada invalidates Pfizer’s Viagra Patent


Supreme Court Voids Viagra Patent as Insufficient Disclosure Means It Fails the “Patent Bargain”

Canada’s top court has ruled that Pfizer’s patent on their groundbreaking erectile dysfunction drug Viagra won’t be valid for much longer. The unanimous decision opens the door to the production of a generic version of Viagra in the near future.

Thursday November 08, 2012 http://www.michaelgeist.ca/

The Supreme Court of Canada this morning shocked the pharmaceutical industry by voiding Pfizer’s patent in Canada for Viagra. The unanimous decision provides a strong reaffirmation of the policy behind patent law, namely that patents represent a quid pro quo bargain of public disclosure of inventions in return for a time limited monopoly in the invention. The Supreme Court describes it in this way:

The patent system is based on a “bargain”, or quid pro quo: the inventor is granted exclusive rights in a new and useful invention for a limited period in exchange for disclosure of the invention so that society can benefit from this knowledge. This is the basic policy rationale underlying the Act. The patent bargain encourages innovation and advances science and technology.

Disclosure is therefore a crucial part of the patent bargain.

The court clarifies that this involves not only a description of the invention and how it works, but rather a much more practical level of disclosure “to enable a person skilled in the art or the field of the invention to produce it using only the instructions contained in the disclosure.” In this case, the court finds that Pfizer failed to provide sufficient disclosure, concluding:

the public’s right to proper disclosure was denied in this case, since the claims ended with two individually claimed compounds, thereby obscuring the true invention. The disclosure failed to state in clear terms what the invention was. Pfizer gained a benefit from the Act – exclusive monopoly rights – while withholding disclosure in spite of its disclosure obligations under the Act. As a matter of policy and sound statutory interpretation, patentees cannot be allowed to “game” the system in this way.

Pfizer argued strenuously that this should not result in invalidating the patent, but Justice Lebel, writing for the court, found no other alternative. The Viagra patent is therefore voided in Canada (which will allow for generic substitutes) and the importance of the basic foundation of patent policy for the broader benefit of society reaffirmed.

Gujarat polls: BJP finds new Narendra Modi masks scary #Fact :-)


Gujarat, Updated Nov 09, 2012 at 11:37am IST

Ahmedabad: There is only a little over a month left for Gujarat Assembly Elections and Chief Minister Narendra Modi is going all out to woo the voters and ensure that his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, returns to power. But this time the masks of Modi, which were a huge hit during the 2007 election campaign, seem to have spooked the BJP.

During the 2007 elections Modi’s masks were an important part of the promotional strategy and were a huge hit among Gujarat voters. Now, five years later Modi’s masks have changed dramatically. People say that the masks which have been ordered for the 2012 elections are scary.

The BJP has decided not to distribute the masks after getting the feedback that they were scary and would put off the voters. Significantly, the masks used in 2007 were similar to Modi. They were almost an exact replica of his face with his white hair, beard and even the glasses. The masks were supplied by a Singapur-based company.

Manufactured by an Indian firm, the masks ordered for the 2012 elections are very different and don’t resemble Modi. In the masks, Modi looks much too old and several BJP activists find them scary. Even the spectacle used is very different form what Modi uses.

BJP leaders remained silent when asked why the masks were not being distributed. No leader was willing to come on record on who is the responsible for ordering the masks. Moreover, the big relief for Modi is that the new masks have not been distributed on a large scale.

India and Canada finalise conditions of nuclear deal


Electricity cable in IndiaIndia‘s rapid economic expansion in recent years has resulted in a surge in demand for energy
7 November 2012

India and Canada have finalised the terms for their nuclear deal, paving the way for Canadian firms to export uranium to India.

Once implemented, the deal is likely to provide a boost to India’s plans to increase its nuclear capacity to meet growing energy demands.

The deal was agreed in 2010, but there had been differences over supervision of the use of uranium in India.

Canada has banned the trade of nuclear materials with India since 1976.

“Canada with its large and high quality reserves of uranium could become an important supplier to the Indian nuclear power programme,” India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper said in a joint statement.

‘Important economic opportunity’

India’s economy has seen rapid expansion in recent years resulting in a surge in demand for energy in the country.

In a bid to meet its growing energy needs, India has been looking to increase its dependence on nuclear energy.

It is planning to set up some 30 reactors over as many years and get a quarter of its electricity from nuclear energy by 2050.

As a result it has been looking to secure supplies of uranium to achieve that target.

Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that being able to be a part of India’s nuclear power plans was “a really important economic opportunity for an important Canadian industry… that should pay dividends in terms of jobs and growth for Canadians down the road”.

Earlier this month, India agreed to begin negotiations on a civil nuclear co-operation agreement with Australia, which holds an estimated 40% of the world’s uranium.

Last year, it agreed a deal that will allow South Korea to export its nuclear energy technology to India.