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HOW long can a story stay ahead of its time? “Ghost in the Shell”, Mamoru Oshii’s much-admired Japanese anime, was shockingly futuristic when it was released in 1995. Its half-shiny, half-grimy mega-city setting may have resembled the noirish metropolises of “Blade Runner” (1982) and “Brazil” (1985), and its cyborg heroine could have come from the same production line as “Robocop” (1987) and “The Terminator” (1984). But its combination of hand-drawn and digital animation was revolutionary, and its vision of a populace connected telepathically to the internet was prophetic.
“Ghost in the Shell” went on to influence any number of cyber-punk films, including James Cameron’s “Avatar” (2009) and, especially, the Wachowskis’ “The Matrix” (1999). But 22 years is a long time in science fiction, so the live-action remake, starring Scarlett Johansson, feels like a late arrival at the party: if Hollywood had waited any longer, it would have risked becoming a historical drama. It’s impossible to watch “Ghost in the Shell” without counting echoes of the other films which have come out since the original anime.
Ms Johansson...Continue reading177 Days 12 Hours 26 Mins 5 Seconds ago
ONE OF the biggest challenges to traditional music learning is the need for practice. Students must play scales, chords and patterns over and over in hopes of developing muscle memory; for many, it is a daunting and tedious task. Research has shown that individual practice is often not productive because learners receive limited feedback and too often lose interest and motivation.
In 2013, researchers at the University of Auckland set out to determine whether an immersive, augmented-reality (AR) experience could improve the efficiency of learning of seven beginner piano students. Using goggles (AR combines what the viewer sees in the real world with images projected by the AR device) and a computer-connected keyboard, the programme drew inspiration from music and rhythm games and karaoke videos, where text and music are synchronised using visual cues. Green lines representing virtual notes appeared alongside the musical score as the user played. In “Note Learning Mode”, individual notes paused and waited for the user to press the key before continuing.
Not all users loved the system—some said it was confusing or intimidating—but they could set individual goals for improvement, and...Continue reading178 Days 9 Hours 13 Mins 19 Seconds ago
Language of the Spirit: An Introduction to Classical Music. By Jan Swafford.Basic; 321 pages; $28.
JAN SWAFFORD’S new book, “Language of the Spirit”, is a self-guided tour. “When a piece [of music] or a composer grabs you, go out and look for more on your own,” he says. And he has plenty of suggestions to get you started on streaming services such as Spotify or YouTube.
The “classical” genre on Spotify comes some way down the list, and classical buffs have been fretting for ages that audiences are getting greyer and smaller. Even so, many people have at least a passing acquaintance with some of the superstars of the classical repertoire: Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, say, or Mozart’s “Eine kleine Nachtmusik”, or Handel’s “Messiah”. If that has made them wonder how to put these works into context, this introduction to classical music is just what they need.
Mr Swafford is a music writer (who, among other things, has written a scholarly but highly readable biography of Beethoven) as well as a composer, and has been teaching music for decades, most recently at the Boston Conservatory. This book...Continue reading178 Days 9 Hours 46 Mins 29 Seconds ago
The Souls of China: The Return of Religion after Mao. By Ian Johnson. Pantheon; 455 pages; $30. Allen Lane; £25.
HISTORICALLY in China, state and religion were always united, forming a spiritual centre of gravity. China was poor but its identity was clear, its vision for the future based upon its knowledge of the past. Communist revolutionaries saw these religious traditions as an impediment to progress and a reason why the country remained poor. So they set about destroying the entwined belief system of Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism, and replaced it with the new trinity of Lenin, Marx and Mao. Only by doing so, they believed, could China be saved.
When Mao died in 1976, belief in communism began to erode. Now, four decades on, his successors have found the absence of a belief system to be a problem. At least in Europe, the ebb of the Christian tide left a deeply rooted rule of law and a compassionate welfare state. Shorn of Dao and Mao, modern China has been left with a corrupt party state and a brutal, wild west capitalism. In a recent poll 88% of people said they believed that there was a moral decay and a lack of trust in...Continue reading178 Days 9 Hours 46 Mins 29 Seconds ago
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows. By Balli Kaur Jaswal. HarperCollins; 309 pages; £14.99. To be published in America by William Morrow in June.
EROTICA is a hot topic for publishers. Americans bought 28.5m romantic novels in print form in 2015. Romance Writers of America, a trade association, says the genre accounts for a third of all novels sold. Random House and Amazon have recently launched imprints to try to sate readers’ lust for steamy stories. HarperCollins paid a six-figure sum for one such titillating book at the London Book Fair in 2016.
Balli Kaur Jaswal’s “Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows”, the book in question, is not your usual lip-biting, troubled-billionaire fare. It follows Nikki, a university dropout and “fem fighter”, who signs up to teach a creative-writing course to older Sikh women in Southall, a London suburb with a sizeable Indian population. Unable to read or write in English, the widows turn to telling stories, reliving their most passionate moments or picturing what they “were never given in the first place”. Though they lack the necessary vocabulary—the stories are filled with...Continue reading178 Days 9 Hours 46 Mins 29 Seconds ago
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Acting Assistant Administrator for Democracy Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance Gregory C. Gottlieb will travel to Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, and East Africa March 31-April 7.
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Counselor Thomas H. Staal will travel to Ethiopia, Kenya, and South Sudan April 1-14, 2017.
Today the President released the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget blueprint which provides an overview of the Administration's overarching priorities for discretionary spending. It includes $37.6 billion for the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), of which $12.0 billion is Overseas Contingency Operations funding.
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Acting Assistant Administrator for Europe and Eurasia Margot Ellis will travel to Ukraine and Moldova March 13-22, 2017.
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Assistant to the Administrator for the Bureau for Food Security and the Deputy Coordinator for Feed the Future Beth Dunford will travel to Burma March 13 - 17 and Thailand March 17 - 22, 2017.
Orestes Estevez’s beverage — cheaper than imported wine — is an affordable pleasure for many.174 Days 18 Hours 18 Mins 56 Seconds ago
An avalanche of water from three overflowing rivers tore through a small city in Colombia while people slept, destroying homes, sweeping away cars and killing at least 250 unsuspecting residents. (Text: Agencies)174 Days 18 Hours 19 Mins 28 Seconds ago
The Delhi High Court on Monday declined to grant the interim relief of common election symbol for MCD polls to Yogendra Yadav-led Swaraj India saying it cannot ignore "the practical and functional di...174 Days 18 Hours 34 Mins 54 Seconds ago
Bhopal Mukhiya was arrested by the anti-hijacking force at the Srinagar airport and is being questioned about the explosives174 Days 18 Hours 48 Mins ago
Unfortunately, these are still preliminary figures: President Juan Manuel Santos174 Days 18 Hours 52 Mins 26 Seconds ago
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TBILISI, Georgia, 10 January 2016 – Elizabeti giggles, her feet sticking out from under the curtains. A game of hide-and-seek with a guest is a rare treat for the two-and-a-half year old. “Found you!” Bursting into laughter, she runs away.257 Days 6 Hours 25 Mins 8 Seconds ago
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, 9 January 2017 – Around three months ago hurricane Matthew hit Haiti, disrupting the lives of over two million people. In addition to the personal losses of homes and crops, more than 716 schools, numerous health facilities, and the existing sanitation infrastructure all suffered damage. Today, 1.4 million people in Haiti, including 600,000 children, require humanitarian assistance.258 Days 4 Hours 1 Mins 18 Seconds ago
PARK GEUN-HYE has had a tough couple of weeks: first the constitutional court upheld a parliamentary motion to impeach her on March 10th, removing her from the presidency. That step also deprived her of her immunity from investigation as president—allowing prosecutors to pounce. They had been waiting for months to serve her with an arrest warrant; on March 30th judges weighed the merits of their request in an extraordinarily long day of deliberation. Ms Park spent nine hours at a local court, as the judge deliberated. When she left her home in Seoul to attend the hearing, flag-waving supporters lined the streets; several lay down in the road in an attempt to block her path to court.
It was to no effect: shortly before dawn on March 31st, Ms Park was arrested at the prosecutors’ office. The justice who approved her pre-trial detention said that the main charges against her were “demonstrable” and that, were she allowed to leave, she might destroy evidence. Prosecutors had submitted 120,000 pages of documents to the court earlier this week concerning the 13 charges against Ms Park. In their warrant they noted that Ms Park had “let down the trust of the...Continue reading177 Days 17 Hours 1 Mins ago
LI KEQIANG, China’s prime minister, could not have been more tactful during his recent visit to Australia. On March 25th he joined Malcolm Turnbull, his Australian counterpart, at an Australian rules football match between Sydney and Port Adelaide. Having been presented with a scarf in Port Adelaide’s colours, he requested one in Sydney’s too, and wore them both throughout the match in spite of the heat, so as not to show any favouritism. He must have been disappointed, therefore, by the poor manners of his host after the match. Just two days after Mr Li flew on to New Zealand, Mr Turnbull’s conservative government scrapped a planned parliamentary vote to ratify an extradition treaty between Australia and China.
An earlier conservative government concluded the treaty ten years ago, but it has never been ratified. Julie Bishop, the foreign minister, championed the deal as recently as March 28th, saying it was “in Australia’s national interest”. But a loose alliance of opposition parties and even some government MPs had their doubts. They expressed concern that alleged criminals whom Australia extradited under the treaty might be dealt with unfairly by China’s...Continue reading177 Days 18 Hours 14 Mins 31 Seconds ago
FOR four days all eyes in Bangladesh were on Atia Mahal, a lime-green, five-floor apartment block in the north-eastern city of Sylhet. The police cordoned off the building on March 24th after receiving word that a group of Islamic militants had holed up in one of its flats. But it was only on March 27th that a special anti-terrorism unit managed to kill the last of the four besieged terrorists. Two days earlier, one of the four had put on a suicide-vest and blown himself up at the police cordon some 400 metres from the hideout, killing six people and injuring 50. It was the first indiscriminate suicide-attack on civilians in Bangladesh.
Islamic State, the jihadist group that runs a dwindling portion of Syria and Iraq, claimed responsibility for the attack, its 28th in Bangladesh since 2015. The deadliest of those was an assault on a restaurant in Dhaka, the capital, last year, in which 22 civilians, two policemen and five terrorists were killed. The government insists—to near-universal disbelief—that the perpetrators are a new faction of a home-grown group called Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh. Either way, the government does...Continue reading178 Days 9 Hours 46 Mins 28 Seconds ago
GORAV GUPTA has spent his life helping the mentally ill. But when suicidal patients seek help at his psychiatric hospital in Delhi, he turns them away. Mr Gupta says he cannot handle the “legal hassle” that might ensue if they try to end their lives while in his care.
Attempted suicide, as well as “any act towards the commission” of suicide, has for years been a crime in India. But on March 27th the Lok Sabha, India’s lower house, passed a package of mental-health reforms, among them one that decriminalises attempted suicide. The bill declares access to psychiatric care to be a right for all Indians, and promises a huge boost in funding to help provide it.
Policymakers in India have long argued that people driven to attempt suicide need rehabilitation. But under the previous law, they instead faced punishment: a fine and up to a year in prison. Prosecution was rare, but the threat of it to extract bribes from the families of those who attempted suicide was not, says Soumitra Pathare, who helped draft the new legislation. Others point out that the government has previously used laws against attempted suicide to lock up activists who stage...Continue reading178 Days 9 Hours 46 Mins 28 Seconds ago
“MY BEST quality is that I am persistent. My worst is that I am no fun.” Moon Jae-in’s assessment of himself in “South Korea Asks”, a series of interviews published in January, is one with which many South Koreans, whether they like or loathe him, would probably agree. Most have an opinion of him. He has been in the political arena for well over a decade, as chief of staff to the late liberal president Roh Moo-hyun from 2003 to 2008; then as a presidential candidate himself in 2012, when he lost a two-way race to Park Geun-hye, by 48% to 52%.
Ms Park’s term came to an early end on March 10th when the constitutional court upheld a motion parliament approved in December to impeach her. The country now faces a snap presidential election on May 9th. After almost a decade of conservative rule, the ballot looks likely to be a victory for the more socially liberal Minjoo party: its support is the highest it has ever been, at 50%. Mr Moon, who led the party until January last year, has topped the polls for president for almost three months. The latest sounding puts his support at 35% in a crowded...Continue reading178 Days 9 Hours 46 Mins 28 Seconds ago
Eight million people in urban Kenya do not have access to a simple, hygienic latrine, and instead are forced to either use a pit latrine with hundreds of other people or employ the “flying toilet” tactic—which entails relieving oneself in a plastic bag and throwing it in the street. Both methods result in unsanitary conditions, pollution and contaminated waterways. Across the globe, these conditions are affecting those in underdeveloped countries, including the lives of an estimated 2.6 billion people who lack even a basic toilet structure, according to a July 2012 Good Business article. But those numbers are going down, one toilet at a time.
Mission: In a model that “starts with sanitation and ends with energy,” Sanergy brings sustainable, entrepreneurial toilets—and some useful byproducts—to urban areas in Kenya and beyond.
David Auerbach’s solution to the sanitation problem is Sanergy, a company he co-founded and helped launch in 2010 with a multi-purpose business plan that “starts with sanitation and ends with fertilizer and energy.” The company builds low-cost, bright-blue, concrete sanitation centers resembling porta potties that are each designed to serve 80 people per day with clean toilet services. The centers are sold to local entrepreneurs on a franchise model, which not only addresses the serious need for toilet facilities in Nairobi—a city of over 3 million people—but also creates jobs.
“The world of sanitation is still pretty grim—8 million people in urban Kenya lack access to an adequate toilet,” said Auerbach, 31. “A clean, safe, hygienic sanitation experience can have a transformative effect as residents enjoy the benefits of a higher quality of life. They begin to expect an improved community, a cleaner surrounding environment, better health services and find the means to send their kids to school.”
The unique aspect of the model, however, does not lie in its social enterprise heritage or its success in closing the sanitation gap and improving health in Kenya and its neighbors. It is the way in which the eight metric tons of waste per week from 70 toilets—normally dumped into waterways—is converted into items of high value in the developing world: organic fertilizer and, at scale, electricity.
These useful byproducts are gleaned when Sanergy employees visit each latrine—run by local entrepreneurial operators—and, using handcarts, remove the waste deposits at the end of each day. The centers are equipped with air-tight containers, which make it easy and sanitary for the waste collectors to pick up and replace them.
The containers are then brought to Sanergy’s central processing facility where the waste is converted into “gold,” as Auerbach refers to it. Microorganisms turn the waste into high-quality organic fertilizer that is sold to commercial and small-hold farms.
This recyclable and renewable process finds a way to reap benefit from waste while simultaneously tackling and eliminating a profound and persistent sanitation problem in the developing world.
In December 2011, USAID awarded Sanergy a $100,000 grant through its Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) program to refine its business model and adapt it to the needs of the local environment in Mukuru, a slum in eastern Nairobi.
“Since the grant came through, we’ve been able to open 70 sanitation facilities which are serving 4,000 people every day with hygienic sanitation that they were not receiving before,” Auerbach says.
After assembling each sanitation center, which takes one day, Sanergy franchises it out to a local entrepreneur who receives funding primarily from their savings and local microfinance banks. With that loan, the local operator can purchase the $500 center and its annual $100 renewal fee—which covers the daily waste collection service for one year, as well as peer networking events and branding. To repay loans and begin to make a profit, the operator establishes a pay-per-use fee, membership fees and complementary product sales for customers. The incentive to earn revenue persuades each operator to provide good customer service and supply the center with water, soap and toilet paper.
Although operators have discretion over how much to charge customers in the pay-per-use system, the range is from 3-5 Kenyan shillings, or 4-6 cents, and an average of 60 people pay this price at each sanitation center every day.
“We find that people are very willing to pay for the hygienic, convenient and safe sanitation experience,” Auerbach said. “For those who are unable to afford to pay, we are looking to pilot a voucher program, much like how Food Stamps works in the U.S.”
While local entrepreneurs are earning money through sustainable jobs, Sanergy is also profiting in the next step of the model, the waste processing plant. Revenue from the organic fertilizer and biogas energy keeps the company in the black.
Sanergy was also selected as a “Beyond Waste” innovator under the LAUNCH program, a joint effort by USAID, NASA and Nike to find sustainable solutions to development challenges, and was featured at a July forum.
“It was amazing to see the breadth of waste issues that the LAUNCH program covered,” said Joseph Atnafu, team leader for waste processing at Sanergy, who is also under 35. “It brought together innovations and expertise from around the world, covering the full spectrum of the waste management field. I found it inspiring to be amongst knowledgeable council members and game-changing innovators working to change the world.”
In order to put more sanitation centers on the map, Auerbach said the company had to tackle the thorny issue of property rights. Land rights were often not clearly defined in the locations Auerbach and his company wanted to set up bathroom facilities, which led Sanergy to expand its network of partners to include landlords who need sanitation centers on their properties.
Like many development innovations, the inspiration for this one has humble beginnings. The idea first crossed Auerbach’s mind during a two-year fellowship teaching English in China’s Hunan province from 2004 to 2006 when he witnessed the horrors of pit latrines. “When flies flew out of the odorous and half-filled pit latrine, I felt most viscerally how easy it was for disease to spread and how unpleasant a user experience it was,” Auerbach said.
In 2009, as a graduate student at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, Auerbach teamed up with two other students in the program and constructed a business plan for an entrepreneurial class on international development.
Sanergy was born the next year under the platform of scaling sustainable sanitation solutions to developing countries. With grants from organizations like Echoing Green, the Swedish International Development Agency, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Mulago Foundation, Sanergy has been able to successfully test and implement the prototype in Nairobi.
At each step, Sanergy creates job opportunities and generates profit, all while addressing a serious social need. Overall, the model represents a potential $177 million market. In five years, Sanergy aims to serve half a million people.
“Our short-term goal is to put up 250 toilets by the end of the year,” Auerbach said. “Our long-term goal is 6,000 toilets serving 500,000 people. We think we can do all that in Kenya. And once we do, we have big plans to move into East Africa and beyond.”
This article originally appeared in September 2012
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Welcome to FrontLines, the news publication of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
FrontLines features articles about USAID; international development and humanitarian assistance efforts around the world; and the people who are dedicated to these efforts. It is produced bimonthly and distributed electronically and in print.
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USAID staff movements are now published by the USAID Alumni Association.
Development is a discipline, not simply a good deed.
It requires strategic planning, evidence-based approaches and robust monitoring and evaluation to create a foundation for success. It requires tough trade-offs and a new emphasis on supporting local solutions that lead to sustainable change. Most importantly, it requires us to move from a traditional model of top-down development to a new model that engages talent and innovation everywhere.
In just the last year, I’ve seen the power of these principles translate into profoundly meaningful results for some of the most vulnerable people around the world.
In Nairobi, Kenya, I met young leaders in a grassroots movement we helped forge called “Yes Youth Can.” These were the kids who had witnessed an explosion of violence around their homes and in their communities after the 2007 election. These were the kids who had lost a father or a sister or had born the brutality of the attacks themselves.
But instead of becoming victims of that tragedy, they became leaders of hope. As the 2013 elections approached, they stood together—1 million strong—and helped carry their nation forward in peace.
In Rangoon, Burma, I met hundreds of computer science students who had grown up in isolation and oppression and were brimming with excitement. Inspired by the Googles and Microsofts of the world, they were eager for opportunities to connect with these innovation highways to change their country. While media coverage of Burma’s transition has focused on the decisions of the leaders at the top, the real engine of change is coming from these students at the grassroots.
And in Mogadishu, Somalia—a city once synonymous with the word “war”—I saw a nation alive with new possibilities. Only a year earlier, I had visited the region in the grips of a devastating famine—one of the hardest trips I’ve ever taken. I saw starving children days away from death—some of whom we were able to save, but many of whom we could not. I saw their small bodies wrapped in blankets lying on cots next to their siblings who were still fighting for life.
From this devastating past, we are helping build a better future. Today, we’re partnering with communities to create new jobs, plant more resilient crops and turn on the lights—enabling the population to celebrate peace and stability for the first time in decades.
Though miles apart, these examples reflect an approach to accelerating human progress that is not only changing the way we work, but actually putting us within reach of goals that were simply unimaginable in the past.
Earlier this year, in his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama gave voice to this vision when he called upon us to join the world in ending extreme poverty in the next two decades. As we shift from development being a task carried out by institutions to a movement that connects the best and the brightest around the world, I believe we can come together to answer the president’s call and achieve one of the greatest legacies in history.
Ten years ago, Afghanistan had one of the world's worst health-care systems. Most trained health professionals had left the country, and there were few functioning medical facilities.
The Taliban had effectively banned women from receiving health care. As a result, an estimated one in four children died under the age of 5, and maternal mortality was estimated to be the highest in the world—data collected at that time suggests one in 10 women died of pregnancy-related complications. Life expectancy was a meager 45 years, according to the United Nations. Afghans were dying from simple, preventable illnesses—such as diarrhea and bronchitis—that literally cost pennies to treat.
In 2002, the newly formed Afghan Government began working with USAID and other international donors to restart a viable health-care system. The effort was based on a few simple premises.
First, focus on getting low-cost, low-tech, high-impact treatments to the largest number of Afghans possible, particularly in rural areas.
Second, bring together as many partners as possible—government officials, international donors and NGOs—to support a common “blueprint” for primary care delivery and guaranteed access to care in all parts of the country.
Third, and most important, ensure Afghans could develop their own health institutions so that access to basic health care would continue in the long term.
With this approach in mind, the Afghan Government, with strong support from the U.S. Government and other donors, began to roll out a basic package of health services to millions of Afghans. As a result, access to basic health services has risen from 9 percent in 2001 to more than 60 percent today.
The results are of this effort are documented in the Afghanistan Mortality Survey 2010, the first comprehensive, national survey of key health and quality of life indicators. The findings released in late 2011 in Kabul paint a clear picture of remarkable progress.
Whereas maternal health care was effectively unavailable under the Taliban, today six in 10 women see a trained care provider during pregnancy, family sizes are down from more than six children per mother to approximately five, and skilled assistance during childbirth has more than doubled. As a result, significantly fewer women are dying from pregnancy-related causes than they did just a decade ago, and life expectancy has risen to about 62 years, up some 15-20 years from previous estimates.
While donor contributions will remain critical to the sector's viability for years to come, Afghans themselves are increasingly shouldering the financial costs of improving and expanding the health system. Government contributions to the health sector are growing and the Ministry of Public Health continues to seek ways to increase revenues and reduce cost.
This spirit of self-reliance is an important reminder of the sustainable results that development partnerships can deliver, even in places haunted by conflict: longer lives, healthier families, and the chance for children to live past their fifth birthdays. It also develops faith in government, which is critical for Afghanistan to overcome its struggle with violent extremism.
Both the Afghan Government and the international community must build on these remarkable achievements and learn from this successful partnership. During a time of continued violence and pessimism about Afghanistan's future in some quarters, tens of thousands of men, women and children who would not have survived continued Taliban rule are alive today because of the partnership between the Afghan people, health-care providers and the international community.
Despite these gains, Afghans continue to face serious challenges, and a long-term partnership between Afghanistan and the international community remains critical. One in 13 children dies before their first birthday, one in 10 children in Afghanistan dies before age five, and one Afghan woman dies from pregnancy-related causes every two hours.
As Afghans increasingly assume responsibility for their own welfare, they build on the results of generous investments from the American people and other allies, coupled with capable, dedicated Afghan leadership in the health sector. The extraordinary gains in Afghanistan's health sector over the past decade show us what is possible.
Dr. Suraya Dalil is Afghanistan’s acting minister of public health.
This article was originally published on the Foreign Policy AfPak channel.
IT WAS a nice piece of marketing. The Falcon 9 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 6.27pm on March 30th by SpaceX, Elon Musk’s rocketry company, had already been into space once. But there was to be no talk of “used” hardware. Instead, insisted the company, the booster was “flight proven”. And in the end, its mission—to deliver a communications satellite into geostationary orbit—went off without a hitch.
PR aside, successfully relaunching a used rocket is another impressive achievement for the firm. When Mr Musk founded SpaceX in 2002, his goal was a drastic cut in the cost of getting things into orbit. He has already delivered, to some extent: launch costs for a satellite on a Falcon 9 are substantially lower than on other rockets. But he has always insisted that cheap spaceflight will only be truly possible once rockets become reusable.
It is hard to argue. Aside from the Falcon 9, all the rockets flying commercially today are one-shot affairs. No airline would dream of destroying its planes after every flight. Yet once rockets have done their job, they are either dropped into the sea or abandoned in space. SpaceX hopes to change...Continue reading177 Days 12 Hours 27 Mins 34 Seconds ago
KEEP a tomato cool in a refrigerator and it will stay fresh far longer than it would at room temperature. Accidentally freeze it, though, and you will reduce it to a disgusting mush.
A similar problem plagues the storage of vaccines. About six in ten of those procured by UNICEF, the UN’s children’s fund, must be stored at a temperature between 2°C and 8°C. Generally, the focus of efforts to do this is on the top end of the range, with the establishment of “cold chains”, the links of which are refrigerators on the journey from factory to clinic, to stop vaccines overheating. Less effort is put into making sure a vaccine never gets too cold. But a vial of vaccine that has been accidentally frozen, and then thawed, may lose its potency as surely as one that has been warmed up.
A study published this week in Vaccine, by Celina Hanson of UNICEF and her colleagues, suggests that the overchilling of vaccines is alarmingly common. Dr Hanson and her team reviewed research that measured how often vaccines were exposed to temperatures below the lower limit. They combed through papers published between 2006 and 2015, and found 21 relevant studies conducted in 18 countries. Though not a representative global sweep, the studies in question covered both rich countries and poor ones, from several continents. Among the places they examined...Continue reading178 Days 9 Hours 46 Mins 24 Seconds ago
EVER since ENIAC, the first computer that could be operated by a single person, began flashing its ring counters in 1946, human beings and calculating machines have been on a steady march towards tighter integration. Computers entered homes in the 1980s, then migrated onto laps, into pockets and around wrists. In the laboratory, computation has found its way onto molars and into eyeballs. The logical conclusion of all this is that computers will, one day, enter the brain.
This, at least, is the bet behind a company called Neuralink, just started by Elon Musk, a serial technological entrepreneur. Information about Neuralink is sparse, but trademark filings state that it will make invasive devices for treating or diagnosing neurological ailments. Mr Musk clearly has bigger plans, though. He has often tweeted cryptic messages referring to “neural lace”, a science-fictional concept invented by Iain M. Banks, a novelist, that is, in essence, a machine interface woven into the brain.
Although devices that can read and write data to and from the brain as easily as they would to and from a computer remain firmly in the realm of imagination, that has not stopped...Continue reading178 Days 9 Hours 46 Mins 28 Seconds ago
NERVE agents such as sarin and VX can kill quickly in low doses. Kim Jong Nam, half brother of Kim Jong Il, North Korea’s leader, was recently murdered by having VX smeared on his face at Kuala Lumpur airport. Though the use of nerve agents is supposed to be banned by treaty, governments and terrorists have deployed them, and may do so again in the future. At the moment, there is no simple way for soldiers in the field, or inspectors looking for manufacturing and storage sites, to detect nerve agents. The electrochemical sensors involved are bulky and awkward to use.
On civvy street, meanwhile, similar chemicals are employed as pesticides to ward off insects that might otherwise damage fruit and vegetable crops. If such crops are not thoroughly washed after picking, or have been overdosed in the first place, then they, too, may present a health hazard. Yet inspecting them to see if they are contaminated can also be a hassle.
It would be better all round if people had suitable detection technology available at their fingertips. And Joseph Wang of the University of California, San Diego, reports in ACS Sensors that he has a system that achieves this quite literally.
Sarin, VX and their kind are chemicals called organophosphorus compounds, which can be deactivated by an enzyme known as organophosphorus hydrolase. Existing...Continue reading178 Days 9 Hours 46 Mins 28 Seconds ago
NATURAL selection is a harsh interrogator at the best of times. But if you are a bird, it has an extra question, not asked so forcefully of animals that cannot fly: “is that extra gram of weight really necessary?” Contrary to the insult “bird-brained”, birds are not notably more stupid than mammals, but the pressure to keep organs light applies to the cerebrum as much as it does to anything else.
For the past century, though, birds have faced a new enemy that might require them to get smarter: the motor car. These days, cars and other motorised vehicles kill around 250m birds a year. That sounds like a significant selective pressure, so Anders Moller, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Paris-Sud, in France, decided to find out whether it really was.
Dr Moller’s hypothesis was that avoiding vehicles needs intelligence, and intelligence needs a big brain. The conclusion of this syllogism is that small-brained birds are more likely to be road-kill than large-brained birds are. To test this idea, though, he needed data on a lot of dead birds.
That serendipity plays a part...Continue reading178 Days 9 Hours 46 Mins 28 Seconds ago
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To eliminate poverty and reduce reliance on development dollars, we need to empower women and girls. Gender equality isn’t just a women’s issue—it’s everyone’s issue.179 Days 8 Hours 57 Mins 7 Seconds ago
On International Women’s Day, USAID recognizes a joint mission with the U.S. Pacific Command to repair devastating childbirth injuries and improve the lives of women in the Asia-Pacific.201 Days 8 Hours 19 Mins 12 Seconds ago
In commemoration of World Day of Social Justice, meet Latt Kay, who was inspired to fight for the same social justice his family was denied, and is now leading efforts to empower vulnerable or marginalized rural communities that have been affected by land rights violations in Cambodia.216 Days 8 Hours 45 Mins 44 Seconds ago
In Serbia USAID worked with the Ministry of Construction to reform construction permitting. A reform so profound, that five years ago, few people believed it possible.243 Days 9 Hours 20 Mins 36 Seconds ago
USAID is committed to leveraging digital tools to achieve better health outcomes. A new funding mechanism seeks to harness innovation and expertise to foster systemic change. Here is the vision moving forward.285 Days 7 Hours 26 Mins 29 Seconds ago
IN RESPONSE to international pressure, Israel has built no new settlements in the occupied West Bank for over two decades, focusing instead on construction within the 120 or so that are already there. But on March 30th the Israeli government announced it would be building a brand new settlement 25km (15 miles) north of Jerusalem.
The new settlement is to be built as part of an agreement with the 42 Israeli families evicted on February 1st from the Amona outpost, following a ruling by the High Court that they had built their homes on privately owned Palestinian land. Despite authorising the new construction, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu also told his cabinet that henceforth, any further building would take place only within the boundaries of the current settlements. This is to accommodate the wishes of America’s president, Donald Trump, who at a joint press conference in Washington on February 15th declared to Mr Netanyahu: “I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit.”
Mr Netanyahu’s decision, to press ahead with one new settlement while in effect restricting all other construction, is closely co-ordinated with the White House. His...Continue reading177 Days 9 Hours 46 Mins 20 Seconds ago
JACOB ZUMA waited until the dead of night to tell South Africans that he had fired their respected finance minister. Rumours of a cabinet reshuffle had been swirling for months. Finally, in a press statement released just after midnight, President Zuma announced that he was shuffling 20 posts in his cabinet, and that the finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, would be replaced.
Mr Zuma, a president facing 783 corruption charges, had been thinking about dumping Mr Gordhan for some time. But each time he came close, the rand would wilt and investors would dump South Africa’s bonds. Senior members of Mr Zuma’s party, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) have spoken out in support of Mr Gordhan, and business leaders have warned that firing him could cause South Africa’s credit rating to be cut to junk. Despite all of this, Mr Zuma’s dislike of Mr Gordhan was so great that he sacked him anyway, consequences be damned.
And indeed the consequences have been unpleasant. Within hours the rand slumped, taking it down almost 7% against the dollar for the week. Moody’s, a credit-rating agency, is due to deliver its verdict on April...Continue reading177 Days 14 Hours 24 Mins 22 Seconds ago
DONALD TRUMP’S decision to give up his salary as president was not inspired by similar gestures made by previous American leaders, such as Herbert Hoover and John F. Kennedy. Rather, Mr Trump was “following in the footsteps” of Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, the president of Egypt, claimed two Egyptian newspapers. Mr Sisi, after all, is Mr Trump’s “role model”, said an Egyptian television host. He was on top of Mr Trump’s guest-list for the inauguration, reported an Egyptian news website.
Such fake news is easily debunked. Mr Trump promised to forgo his salary before ever meeting Egypt’s strongman. Mr Sisi, who cut his own salary only by half, did not attend the inauguration. But the relationship between the two leaders, who will meet in the White House on April 3rd, has captivated Egypt’s scribes and talking heads. Many of them see Mr Trump’s affection for Mr Sisi as a matter of national pride worth celebrating—and exaggerating.
Take Mr Trump’s phone call to Mr Sisi in January, which the White House described in anodyne terms. Egyptian journalists, by contrast, were ecstatic. Newspapers cited officials who claimed that the call heralded a new era...Continue reading178 Days 9 Hours 46 Mins 24 Seconds ago
ISRAEL’S prime minister recently told an American audience that “there is no country in the world where the press is freer [than Israel]. There is no country in the world that attacks its leader more than the Israeli press attacks me. That’s fine. It’s their choice. They are free press and they can say anything they want.” Yet even as Binyamin Netanyahu extols the virtues of a free press and Israel’s democracy abroad he is risking the survival of his governing coalition by trying to take control of parts of the media at home.
The prime minister has embarked on a campaign against Israel’s new public broadcasting corporation, which is scheduled to begin operating on April 30th. Despite having voted three years ago in favour of a law disbanding the old, unwieldy Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA), Mr Netanyahu is now convinced that its replacement threatens his government. He wants to institute controls over the new corporation, to be called Kan (“Here”), although he has still not spelled out precisely what these might entail.
The controversy pitted Mr Netanyahu against his finance minister, Moshe Kahlon, leader of the centrist Kulanu Party....Continue reading178 Days 9 Hours 46 Mins 24 Seconds ago
OUTSIDE a thatched hut in Panyijiar, in South Sudan, Nyakor Matoap, a 25-year-old woman, clutches the youngest of her three children. Dressed in a silky emerald shawl, she hides the baby, named Nyathol, underneath its folds. Her other children crowd happily enough around her legs. But the baby is in a bad way. Though almost a year old, he is scarcely larger than a newborn. When he cries, it is quiet and gasping, his tiny ribs pushing out his chest. His swollen head lolls uncomfortably on his emaciated frame. Asked whether he will survive, she replies simply, “I do not know.”
Before 2013 Mrs Matoap cultivated a patch of land near Leer, some 80km (50 miles) further north. But then civil war broke out in South Sudan, and her husband went to join rebel fighters. In August last year, government forces came into her village. They pulled the men out of their huts and shot them; the women fled. She found herself in the murky waters of the Sudd, a vast swamp which spreads either side of the White Nile. For seven months she has lived off wild fruit and the roots of water lilies. She last saw her husband in 2015, when her son was conceived. Though Panyijiar is friendly territory, and...Continue reading178 Days 9 Hours 46 Mins 24 Seconds ago
In 2017, we are confronted with major humanitarian crises around the world, which demand that the world provide an immediate, substantial, and creative response. The USAID-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network, or FEWS NET, has warned that this year an unprecedented 70 million people across 45 countries will be in need of emergency food assistance, largely driven by persistent conflict, severe drought and economic instability.
In 2017, we are confronted with massive humanitarian crises around the world, which demand an immediate, substantial, and creative response. In just over a decade, the number of people in need of humanitarian aid has more than doubled. There are more than 65 million displaced people today—numbers we have not seen since World War II. We are also facing the most serious food security crisis in the modern era. Famine likely occurred in parts of Nigeria late last year and was declared in South Sudan this year; Somalia and Yemen are likely to be next.
Chairman Duncan, Ranking Member Sires, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the invitation to testify today. I am grateful for the Committee's support for the United States Agency for International Development's work in Latin America and the Caribbean, and am pleased to have this opportunity to testify before you today on our programming in Nicaragua.
Chairman Corker, Ranking Member Cardin, and Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today to discuss U.S. policy and international commitments with regard to Afghanistan. It is an honor to appear before you with the U.S. Department of State’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ambassador Richard Olson.
USAID has been working closely with partners across the U.S. government to implement our collective response to the Zika outbreak. This collaboration aims to minimize the number of pregnancies affected by Zika virus transmission. Together, U.S. government agencies plan to undertake surveillance efforts to identify the progression of the Zika virus, diagnose infections when they occur, provide care and support for pregnant women who have been identified as having contracted the Zika virus, and take efforts to prevent further infections. We are also working jointly to accelerate innovation and research across each of these categories of response.
Print section Print Rubric: Is China challenging the United States for global leadership? Print Headline: Tortoise v hare Print Fly Title: China and America UK Only Article: standard article Issue: Britain’s brutal encounter with reality Fly Title: Tortoise v hare Location: BEIJING Main image: 20170401_CND001_0.jpg AS DONALD TRUMP prepares to welcome Xi Jinping next week for the two men’s first face-to-face encounter, both countries are reassessing their place in the world. They are looking in opposite directions: America away from shouldering global responsibilities, China towards it. And they are reappraising their positions in very different ways. Hare-like, the Trump administration is dashing from one policy to the next, sometimes contradicting itself and willing to box any rival it ...178 Days 9 Hours 46 Mins 24 Seconds ago
Print section Print Rubric: The president’s executive orders on climate change will not do much for coalminers, but they could harm the planet anyway Print Headline: Down and dirty Print Fly Title: Environmental policy UK Only Article: standard article Issue: Britain’s brutal encounter with reality Fly Title: Coal and carbon Main image: Unaccompanied miner Unaccompanied miner “YOU’RE going back to work,” Donald Trump told miners on March 28th. Gathered in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), they saw him sign an executive order to review and revise Barack Obama’s flagship energy policy, the Clean Power Plan. Among other measures, the order also requests the reversal of a moratorium on coal-leasing on federal lands and dispenses with rules to curb methane emissions from oil and gas sites. It rolls back internal rules for government agencies on how to ...178 Days 9 Hours 46 Mins 25 Seconds ago
Print section Print Rubric: Weak electricity demand in China and India is clouding the outlook for coal Print Headline: Canary in the coal mine Print Fly Title: Energy in Asia UK Only Article: standard article Issue: Britain’s brutal encounter with reality Fly Title: Canary in the coal mine Main image: 20170401_FNP001_0.jpg THE Hazelwood power station in Australia’s state of Victoria started generating electricity 52 years ago. The stark symbol of an era when coal was king, Hazelwood was one of Australia’s dirtiest: its fuel was the Latrobe valley’s brown coal, a bigger polluter than the black sort. The station was due finally to close on March 31st. Days earlier, chimney stacks were demolished at Munmorah, a black-coal station north of Sydney, already closed. Australia has shut ten coal-fired power stations over the past seven years, yet coal still ...178 Days 9 Hours 46 Mins 25 Seconds ago
Print section Print Rubric: India is becoming a more active protagonist in the fight against global warming Print Headline: Sunlight over soot Print Fly Title: Coal’s decline UK Only Article: standard article Issue: Britain’s brutal encounter with reality Fly Title: Sunlight over soot COALMINERS cheered this week when Donald Trump issued an executive order to start unwinding Barack Obama’s flagship climate policies; the new measures include ending a moratorium on the leasing of federal land for mining. “My administration is putting an end to the war on coal,” declared Mr Trump. Yet the black stuff is still in a heap of trouble. In America cheap natural gas has surpassed coal as a source of power generation; no White House ceremony can do much about that. And for all the attention on America, much the more important chapter in the tale of coal’s decline is being written on the other side of the world. India is the ...178 Days 9 Hours 46 Mins 28 Seconds ago
Print section Print Rubric: By importing goods, rich countries export air pollution—and with it, deaths Print Headline: Trading in mortality Print Fly Title: Global air pollution UK Only Article: standard article Issue: Britain’s brutal encounter with reality Fly Title: Global air pollution GOVERNMENTS fret over traffic and other local nuisances that create filthy air. But research just published in Nature by Zhang Qiang, of Tsinghua University in Beijing, and an international team including environmental economists, physicists and disease experts, suggests the problem has a global dimension, too. Dr Zhang’s analysis estimates that in 2007—the first year for which complete industrial, epidemiological and trade data were available when the team started work—more than 3m premature deaths around the world were caused by emissions of fine particulate matter (known as PM2.5, because the particles in question are less than 2.5 microns ...178 Days 9 Hours 46 Mins 28 Seconds ago
Бул долбоор, Кыргыз Республикасында сот адилеттүүлүктү орнотуу, коомчулуктун сот ишине ишенимин арттыруу жана мамлекеттин туруктуулугун камсыз кылуу максатында, адвокаттардын жана келечек-муун юристтердин билим деңгээлин жана кесиптик мүмкүнчүлүктөрүн жогорулатууга багытталган.
USAID’s Producers to Market Alliance (PMA) seeks to strengthen legal economies in these areas by increasing the competitiveness of licit producers and the value of licit products.
The Wonders of the Mekong project will conduct applied research, build capacity, and develop outreach and communications products to highlight the economic, ecological, and cultural values of biodiversity and ecosystem services associated with the Lower Mekong River. The outputs and resulting products, developed as an integrated package, will lead to better protection of a vibrant and healthy Lower Mekong system.
Overall active EVD transmission decreases in Guinea and Sierra Leone since the week ending June 7.
The Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) launches Operation Northern Push to scale up response efforts and local-level engagement in districts where EVD persists.
New chain of transmission emerges as the Government of Guinea (GoG) reports five new confirmed cases in Boké Prefecture.
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India has called for creating a level playing field for developing countries in agri-trade to safeguard livelihood of millions of poor farmers.The issue, among others, was discussed during the mini-mi...336 Days 15 Hours 12 Mins 58 Seconds ago
The mysterious ways of genes influencing the character of crop plants through long periods of domestication, selection and modern breeding continues to perplex genomics specialists, as found out by th...343 Days 11 Hours 2 Mins 5 Seconds ago
Tuberculosis, or TB, continues to be a major global health concern and one of the top 10 causes of deaths worldwide. The World Health Organization reported that during 2015, 10.4 million people became ill with TB and 1.8 million died from the disease! This indicates that globally, TB has surpassed HIV/AIDS as a major cause of mortality.
On March 24, the global health and scientific community gathered in Washington, DC, and around the world, to celebrate World TB Day, and we’re gathered here to mark the occasion as well.
I feel privileged to be here this morning, just two days before World Tuberculosis Day on March 24th. The Okuryangava Clinic is a crucial health site in our combined effort alongside the Namibian government to fight TB and HIV. Since 2015, with the support of the U.S. government through PEPFAR and USAID, some 350 patients have accessed TB treatment and referral services to HIV care, right here at this TB-Directly Observed Treatment center. Some of those patients are here today. Please join me in a round of applause to recognize their efforts and commitment to beating this disease.
USAID, through its Supporting Forests and Biodiversity project, is today providing 140 sets of forest ranger patrol equipment to rangers located in four significant forest landscapes. We will also provide training on how to use this equipment to forest rangers in Prey Lang, Tonle Srepok, Phnom Prich, and Chheab Wildlife Sanctuaries. We are confident that the Ministry of Environment and the Provincial Departments of Environment across the five provinces will use this equipment to protect these four wildlife sanctuaries.
This program was awarded to PricewaterhouseCoopers to continue providing supply chain systems strengthening support to the government through PEPFAR, with the ultimate goal of expanding health coverage and achieving an AIDS-free generation.
For lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people around the world, especially in places where non-conventional sexualities are stigmatised, threatened or even illegal, access to online LGBTI communities provides essential space to connect with allies, friends and the broader movement, and to learn more about sexual rights. These positive developments have however come with new opportunities for homophobic responses, violence and coercion.
The 59th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW59) is taking place right now in New York. From 9-20 March 2015, world leaders and advocates for gender equality have been brought together at the United Nations headquarters in New York to discuss women’s empowerment and gender justice. This includes more than 1,100 NGOs and their 8,600 representatives.
The conference will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women and adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on gender equality and women’s rights. It will take stock of progress and remaining challenges for its implementation as well as formulate recommendations on efforts to ensure gender equality and women's empowerment for all.
The 1995 Declaration identified 12 critical areas of concern specifically related to women: poverty, education, health, violence against women, armed conflict, the economy, women o power and decision making, institutional mechanisms, human rights, the media, the environment and the girl child.
In the lead up to CSW59 166 countries have undertaken national reviews on the status of women since Beijing. These reviews, coupled with the UN Secretary-General's report on Beijing implementation, will be a central focus of CSW59.
On Monday 9 March, the UN published a political declaration in which governments pledge to take action on women's empowerment through six specific strategies: do more to strengthen implementation of laws; bolster institutions vital to women’s empowerment; transform discriminatory norms and stereotypes; close resource gaps; boost accountability; and enhance capacities and data to track progress.
However, many working for women's rights and gender equality think that this declaration represents a step backwards and a 'bland reaffirmation of existing commitments.' They have written a statement on the declaration, which has so far been signed by over 970 organisations.
See more at: Governments commit to scale-up investments in women’s empowerment and the Statement on the Political Declaration of the Commission on the Status of Women
Amy Hall from the Eldis team has been in is in New York to cover CSW59. She will be looking at a number of different issues, including unpaid care work, gender-based violence and urbanisation and health for our sister website Interactions.
Keep up to date with the conversation on these issues at the Interactions website.
For more information on CSW, including schedules of side events see the UN Women website. For NGO parallel events see the NGO CSW Forum 2015 handbook.
In the latest Eldis blog post, Kaday Mansaray Sibanda - VSO’s Regional Director for Southern Africa - shares VSO's experience with improving the lives of HIV positive offenders both inside prison and on their release.
Prison conditions in the Southern Africa region are pretty dire. Over-crowded and unsanitary conditions put prisoners already living with HIV and AIDS at increased risk of illness. Risky behaviour, like sharing needles and razor blades as well as unprotected sex in prison, lead to higher than average rates of HIV transmission. On their release, most HIV positive prisoners receive little or no support due to stigma and discrimination in their own communities.
VSO has worked to address this problem in targeted prisons in South Africa since 2000. In 2014, we expanded this work to Malawi. In January this year we were awarded a Big Lottery (UK) grant which will enable us to do similar work in Zimbabwe: improving the lives of HIV positive offenders both inside prison and on their release.
We are in a strong position to learn from these 15 years of experience working on HIV in prisons, so we don’t repeat mistakes and build on the very best practice we have learned.
Read more here about what VSO has learned from their experience...
The 68th session of the annual World Health Assembly (WHA) was opened in Geneva yesterday, May 18th, and will be taking place until May 26th, 2015. The Health Assembly is the supreme decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO), and it is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States. Its main functions are to determine the policies of the Organization, supervise financial policies, and review and approve the proposed programme budget.
© 2015 WHO/Violaine Martin
This year, with the Ebola outbreak still so fresh in everyone’s minds, a big focus of the Assembly will be on plans to create a new WHO programme for health emergencies, uniting outbreak and emergency resources across the 3 levels of the WHO.
Other major areas of discussion include climate change and health, the post-2015 development agenda, building resilient health systems and addressing the issue of antimicrobial resistance, with delegates urged to adopt the draft global action plan on antimicrobial resistance at the Assembly.
Resolutions and decision points will be made on issues such as epilepsy, the International Health Regulations, malaria, nutrition, polio, public health, innovation, and intellectual property, substandard/spurious/falsely-labelled/falsified/counterfeit medical products, surgical care and anaesthesia. And Delegates will review progress reports on a wide range of issues such as adolescent health, immunization, noncommunicable diseases, women and health, and WHO’s response in severe, large-scale emergencies.
To follow what is happening at the WHA, you can watch the live webcast of the event, or follow the hashtag #WHA68 on Twitter. You can also have a look at the provisional agenda for information on the breadth of topics discussed at the Assembly and to access the supporting documentation.
This week, we focus on The Knowledge Partnership Programme (KPP), New Delhi, India, for our Spotlight series. The series profiles research organisations based in developing countries.
We are in an era that is seeing an increased focus on South-South development cooperation, and India’s experience in addressing development challenges is central to this dialogue. With this in mind, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) have implemented a new model of cooperation support in India through the Knowledge Partnership Programme (KPP). KPP is funded by DFID and managed by a Consortium led by IPE Global Private Limited under its Knowledge Initiative.
KPP envisages producing and disseminating high quality research and analysis products, sharing Indian and global evidence on policies that impact development outcomes and support advocacy towards strengthening policy design and implementation. The aim is to step up collaboration around ideas, knowledge, evidence, accountability, technology and innovation between UK, India, the Low-Income Countries (LICs) of Sub Saharan Africa and South-East Asia.
KPP covers four major work streams that are nationally-focused but have the potential to be developed into India-Global activity, namely i) Food Security, Resource Scarcity & Climate Change, ii) Trade & Investment, iii) Health, Nutrition & Disease Control, iv) Women & Girls. Also, significant studies which do not fall into one of these workstreams or cut across multiple workstreams are grouped under 'Development Effectiveness'.
KPP seeks to create a knowledge base and take India’s development efforts / successes to the LICs. The programme is expected to generate number of knowledge products in each workstream, including policy-relevant analytical studies and briefs, workshops and events for policy dissemination, online platforms to facilitate exchange on key policies, as well as communication campaigns. KPP also contributes to and supports International Conferences with policy influencing goals, and knowledge sharing through visits of representatives from LICs to learn from India’s experience.
These knowledge products will be used in decision making (designing / improving / enhancing delivery) of public services and welfare schemes in both India and LICs. The programme will also strengthen India-UK partnership and significantly contribute to global development opportunities across LICs.
Upcoming projects that KPP envisages itself becoming more involved in the near future include:
The challenge for the KPP team is to create quality knowledge products from each of their studies that have the potential to be shared with other LICs. It is only when this lesson learning is appropriately documented and shared with other countries, that the core essence of KPP will be met. Hence it is important that KPP develops the process and discipline of recognising potential good practices, identifying demands from LICs, efficiently contracting and managing agencies and converting study findings to knowledge products which will have a larger audience.
AT FIRST glance, it sounds about as surprising as the sun rising in the east: on March 22nd the United States baseball team was crowned as world champions.184 Days 1 Hours 49 Mins 15 Seconds ago
WITH TEN minutes to go, it seemed that Italy might just pull off the greatest upset in the history of Europe’s signature rugby tournament. Pre-match forecasts gave the continent’s perennial minnows barely a 1% chance of toppling mighty England before their meeting in the Six Nations on February 26th, and with good reason.210 Days 1 Hours 13 Mins 32 Seconds ago
IF YOU are searching for evidence that cricket is gradually fragmenting into two different sports, the 2017 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) might be a good place to start.213 Days 8 Hours 23 Mins 24 Seconds ago
LAST week, in the middle of the Australian Open, the first grand-slam tournament of the 2017 tennis calendar, the International Tennis Hall of Fame announced its annual slate of inductees, which included Kim Clijsters and Andy Roddick.238 Days 4 Hours 32 Mins 33 Seconds ago
Lifesaving front-line responseSituation update: The World Health Organization, the Federal Ministry of Health, Iraq and the Ninewa Department of Health have opened a trauma field hospital in Athba, 15...176 Days 7 Hours 21 Mins 10 Seconds ago
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On the eighty-eighth birth anniversary of the Jnanpith Award-winning author Nirmal Verma, Priyanka Dubey writes about his impact on two lives, one of which is her own. My tryst with Nirmal Verma began right after he passed away, in October 2005. I was a first-year undergraduate student of journalism in Bhopal, when a friend gifted me his … Continue reading A Patch of Sunlight: Remembering Nirmal Verma174 Days 18 Hours 3 Mins 53 Seconds ago
On 30 March 2017, I reached the residence of Sukhpal Singh Khaira, a spokesperson of the Aam Aadmi Party and the member of legislative assembly from Bholath, in Punjab. Upon entering the premises, I spotted a group of young men collected under a gazebo, engaged in an animated conversation. Inside the house, I could hear … Continue reading “We behaved like the Akalis and Congress”: AAP MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira on the Party’s Defeat in Punjab
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9 MARCH TO 20 APRIL KOREAN CULTURAL CENTRE, DELHI This exhibition brings together artists’ collectives from Seoul, Guwahati, Tokyo and Ho Chi Minh City, host conversations about how art is being conceived of by groups. The Guwahati section displays the work of Desire Machine Collective, which comprises the artists Sonal Jain and Mriganka Madhukaliya. For … Continue reading In the Presence of Others176 Days 13 Hours 29 Mins 12 Seconds ago
13 TO 16 APRIL MULTIPLE VENUES, PUNE Currently in its sixth year, the AVAYAVA festival is a celebration of contemporary dance. Hosting artists from India and abroad, the event will showcase their work through performances, and will also include training components that include workshops for aspiring dancers. For more information, contact 960663727176 Days 13 Hours 29 Mins 32 Seconds ago
26 APRIL ALLIANCE FRANÇAISE, HYDERABAD The Traveler on Stage aims to both promote travel and discard the stereotypes associated with it. Ten speakers will present stories from their own personal adventures, each condensed into six minutes to provide a peek into the exhilaration of travel. For more information, contact 040-23554485176 Days 13 Hours 29 Mins 36 Seconds ago
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What would come to your mind if the clouds above you suddenly gathered into wavelike formations, churning and resembling the top of a turbulent sea? The right answer to this is “Asperitas Undulatus.” ...179 Days 13 Hours 10 Mins 24 Seconds ago
Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan that required states to slash carbon emissions from power plants — a critical element in helping the United States meet its commitments to a global climate change accord reached by nearly 200 countries in Paris in 2015.180 Days 4 Hours 56 Mins 38 Seconds ago
WWE WrestleMania 33 ended on an emotional note as one of professional wrestling's most iconic stars announced his retirement.
After suffering only the second loss in his decades-long career, The Undertaker removed his coat, gloves and hat, placed them in the center of the ring and exited the arena.
Roman Reigns defeated "The Dead Man" in the final match of the night. Rumors about The Undertaker's planned retirement have swirled for months due to a series of less-than-stellar performances and rumored injuries. Articles published ahead of WrestleMania 33 speculated that Roman Reigns would be the one to put the legend out to pasture.
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UDHAMPUR -- Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said that the future will be pushed into darkness if the priceless culture of Sufism in Kashmir is forgotten.
"Sufi culture is priceless and if we forget this culture, we will forget our future too. We will push our future into darkness," Modi said while addressing a public rally at Batal Balina in Udhampur.
"I got the opportunity to live in the Valley during my work for our organisation. I know the people of the state. I know the Sufi culture of Jammu and Kashmir well," he said.
He said Kashmir was the pride of India and people should connect with its culture and civilisation to make themselves proud. He said they should work shoulder-to-shoulder with the government for the state's future.
He said development was their mantra and they wanted to take along the youth of India on the path of development.
Also On HuffPost:174 Days 18 Hours 40 Mins 47 Seconds ago
KANCHIPURAM -- A 38-year-old German woman tourist was allegedly sexually assaulted at Mamallapuram beach.
In her complaint to the police, the victim alleged that she was forcibly taken away and sexually assaulted by some men, a district police official told .
The official said the incident took place when the victim was taking a stroll alone along the sea shore in the tourist town of Mamallapuram.
The woman was taken to a hospital for medical examination and the probe is on, he said.
Several people are being questioned and some of them have been detained, he added.
Also on HuffPost India:174 Days 18 Hours 55 Mins 47 Seconds ago
When Mindy Kaling's show "The Mindy Project" premiered in 2012, few would have accused it of having an after-school special vibe. Her character, a Manhattan OB/GYN with a romantic comedy addiction and an endless parade of hot (and white) boyfriends, had no concerns outside of getting introduced to NBA players at clubs and running into her ex at a friend's Thanksgiving. But over the course of five seasons, a move to Hulu, and myriad exclamations of "exsqueeze me??", the picture has changed.
"When we first started the show, I think, at first, we weren't talking about [social issues] as much," writer Ike Barinholtz, who also plays the delightfully awful nurse Morgan Tookers on the show, told The Huffington Post in a phone conversation. "But I think the world's changed a little bit."
Season five of "The Mindy Project" wrapped up on Tuesday with (spoiler alert!) Mindy Lahiri's just-okay proposal to boyfriend Ben (Bryan Greenberg). Soon after, EW reported that the sitcom would be returning to Hulu for a sixth season, which will also be its last.
In five seasons, "The Mindy Project" has been through more ups and downs than the average TV show; cancelled by Fox after three seasons on the air, the show was picked up by Hulu as a streaming series. There's been no shortage of drama on-screen as well. Mindy Lahiri, the OB/GYN played by show creator Kaling, has been engaged (several times), had a child, split up with her son's father, started her own fertility business, and now is poised to be a stepmother to a tween girl. In its first season, the show took flak from critics for being too surface-level, too girly and, oddly enough, too white (especially Mindy's parade of pale boyfriends). On the verge of its final season, the show has quietly become a consistently political one.
That's not to say that the show traffics in "Saturday Night Live"-level satire. The presidential election didn't become a plot point on the fifth season, or even fodder for copious jokes. But increasingly throughout its run, and particularly during its post-Season-3 incarnation on Hulu, "The Mindy Project" has specialized in bold, high-concept episodes that push its protagonist and audience to grapple with race, gender and class privilege.
"I think in earlier seasons of the show, Mindy Kaling wanted to just present a normal sitcom about dating, when she is sort of a nontraditional sitcom lead," "Mindy" writer Lang Fisher told HuffPost. In the show creators' eyes, Kaling taking on the role of an adorable rom-com lead, when she doesn't resemble the typical tiny blonde American romantic heroine, constituted the show's most potent political message. Not all critics saw it that way.
"When she did come under fire for being conventional and yada yada, I think that was upsetting because she's not conventional. No one else looks like her on TV, particularly when this show started," said Lang. "I think it was very hard for her to be criticized for that when many other shows with all-white casts were never criticized."
The show's early treatments of race bear a whiff of defensiveness, or at least hyperawareness of its detractors. Barinholtz cowrote one of the first episodes that explicitly addressed race: "Mindy Lahiri Is a Racist," which appeared in Season 2 ― after the show had been knocked around by critics of Mindy's exclusively white male fellow doctors and romantic interests. "I remember in the writers room that summer, Mindy was like, let's do a really really funny race episode," he said.
The result: An installment in which an expecting mother endorses Mindy's practice on her white supremacist parenting blog, inspiring the crunchy liberal midwives in an adjoining office to lead an anti-racism crusade against them. It turns out that it's being accused of racism that brings out the doctors' worst impulses: Dr. Danny Castellano (Chris Messina) indignantly protests that (unlike Mindy) he's dated many non-white people. Mindy thinks her own race precludes the possibility of her racism, even as she talks down to the practice's black nurse, Tamra (Xosha Roquemore). "Sometimes you can get a little 'Downton Abbey,'" Tamra points out.
Somehow, it's fratty white doctor Peter (Adam Pally) who salvages the practice's reputation ― he wants to start a mobile service to bring women's healthcare to underserved communities.
The episode teased out Mindy's own deeply conservative ("she kind of notoriously thinks Chris Christie is right on," said Barinholtz) and even racist tendencies. "I went to second base with my friend Korean Justin!" her character brags in front of a PR consultant brought in to fix the practice's racist reputation. "His hands were so small, they made my boobs look enormous."
But the episode also highlights the hypocrisy of the virtue-signaling white liberals around her. "Sister Tamra, you work at Shulman & Associates," one of the white, male midwives urges Tamra at a rally. "Tell us how much it's like 1950s Birmingham." He's not so much offering her a chance to speak as he is pushing her to ventriloquize his own talking points. And while the episode lightly jabbed at critics who seemed to expect far more from her than her white showrunning peers, it also honestly and hilariously explored the problematic beliefs that lie behind the tolerant, egalitarian faces social progressives put out into the world.
It turned out, though, that "The Mindy Project" had more to say about race ― on its own terms this time. Even as headlines about Mindy's lily-white boyfriends were supplanted by hot takes on newer show, the sitcom was getting more pointed in its social commentary. The show was ready to expand its scope. "We've already made the point that she can have a conventional sitcom," Fisher said. "So... what other points can she make as this character?"
For one thing, the show is ready to get a little weird. "The Mindy Project" follows the romantic comedy model, right down to Mindy's own conviction that she's perpetually moments away from finding herself the star in a real-life iteration of the form. The show has always been littered with bizarre meet-cutes and dramatic confessions of long-festering love.
"We've paid homage to these different rom-com tropes, and we kind of have just wanted to have a little more fun with some of the weird ones, like the 'Sliding Doors' and 'Groundhog Day,'" Fisher added. Sometimes the lessons are romantic ― forcing Mindy to relive one day until she understands what she did wrong to lead her boyfriend Ben to dump her ― but other times, those tropes are repurposed completely.
In "Mindy Lahiri Is a White Man," she's passed over for a second interview for head of obstetrics at the hospital. All the second-round candidates are white men. Even though she eagerly assured the board ― in response to some truly horrifying and possibly illegal questions ― that she could balance the job with motherhood by working instead of exercising, and that she could keep her emotions in check to lead, she was ignored in favor of less-qualified male candidates. "I wish I was a white man," she sighs before bed that night. And so she wakes up as a white man: Michael Lancaster, played by Ryan Hansen. Suddenly, her life is awesome. Michael's ex takes care of their kids, and no one is worried that he can't balance his role as a father with a demanding job. He can get ready for work and look professional in five minutes. He can pee standing up. Her coworkers listen to him respectfully and laugh at his jokes.
Unfortunately for him, Michael can't really enjoy all this privilege; he's too aware of the flip side. After another doctor, Dr. Irene Lee, covers for a procedure while Michael is hungover, he realizes that quiet, self-effacing Dr. Lee is a supremely competent and qualified candidate for the head of obstetrics job. As an Indian-American woman, Mindy asked Dr. Lee not to sit near her in the waiting room so people wouldn't think they were an "Asian clique"; as a white man, he feels thrilled to have the power to get his colleague noticed. Michael coaches his new friend on speaking confidently, grooming herself and dressing herself more attractively, and insists that the board give Dr. Lee a second interview.
Still, Dr. Lee doesn't get the job ― in fact, the board tries to offer it to Michael, impressed with his dedication to diversity. Apparently it takes more than one woke white man to fix systemic injustice.
"There's a million great things about being a white guy, and that's just counting the things you can do with your penis," Michael/Mindy reflects that night. "But the sad thing is having the ability to help other people, and most of the time just not doing it. It's just so easy not to. Your life is so carefree." Unusually for a protagonist dealing with a body-switch scenario (see: "Freaky Friday" and "The Switch"), she's realized that the other person's life really is as amazing as it seemed to her. Nonetheless, she wants her life back ― despite the disadvantages, she realizes, she likes being an Indian woman.
The episode explores how being a white man both is and isn't a silver bullet ― even a white doctor who's losing it mentally and may have killed his wife is more likely to get a management job than an Asian-American woman (after all, his late spouse was "a difficult woman"). But a white man can't fix oppression with the force of his convictions; it takes more work than that. Plus, it's hard to remember to do the right thing when the world around you seems relatively pleasant and welcoming.
Ultimately Mindy takes a lesson away from the experience: She befriends Dr. Lee. Only hanging out with white men seemed safer, cloaking her with an aura of simultaneous chillness and importance in a way that being in an "Asian clique" wouldn't. Now, she's done playing that game; it didn't work anyway.
In many ways, as the show takes pains to uncover, Mindy's problematic views come from a misguided desire to identify with society's power brokers, to shine as the one worthy woman. She's driven to be hot, stylish, popular, chill and successful, all in one package; to be Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, and the Gillian Flynn-esque Cool Girl. In another Season 5 episode, "Mindy Lahiri Is a Misogynist," the male doctors at Shulman & Associates set out to hire another doctor ― a female one. Worried about losing her special spot as the only female doctor in the practice, Mindy tries to push a sweaty, sloppily dressed male doctor who has lost his medical school diploma as a superior choice.
"Mindy, every one of the female candidates was far more qualified than that walking MRSA infection," Dr. Jeremy Reed (Ed Weeks) points out with withering calm. "Let's face it: You're kind of a misogynist."
A new doctor is hired ― Anna, a gorgeous, chilly blonde ― and Mindy immediately clashes with her new competition, noting in a burgeoning rage that her devoted fan Morgan has already begun sucking up to the new woman doctor. When Mindy misses an appointment, Anna takes her favorite patient; Mindy's supposedly egalitarian male colleagues snicker over the "catfight" between the two. By the end of the episode, she realizes that she's only jostling with Anna because the patriarchy has socialized her to do so.
"I was raised in a system, created by men, that has pitted women against each other," she proclaims. (You could imagine this Mindy flaunting a brightly colored "The Future Is Female" T-shirt.) She decides to forge a consciously feminist but tenuous peace with the new doctor. It's not a friendship, but a small, determined step toward smashing the patriarchy. In "Mindy Lahiri Is a Racist," she goes one step further: Not only is cutting down other women selfish and wrong, she realizes, it's painfully clear that taking the side of white men didn't offer her the status she thought it might. All it accomplished was cutting her off from having a support system of other women like her.
Barinholtz told HuffPost that the show tries to avoid "coming off preachy" when incorporating more serious issues into storylines. "I think that's kind of the death of a sitcom," he said. But Mindy's awakening isn't always subtle. Sometimes, if not most of the time, there are monologues. Mindy's speech apologizing for mistreating her female colleague is perhaps the least subtle approach to a pro-feminist monologue possible. "I was taught to believe that men can only handle one woman at a time," she declares. "So it's not my fault that I was threatened by Anna. It's the fault of the patriarchy."
It's impossible to miss and difficult to misconstrue the point the show is trying to make when Mindy delivers the moral; the humor comes mostly from hearing moral preaching from a character who is gleefully shallow, politically incorrect and often selfish. "The fact that she is on the wrong side of the issue is what's surprising and kind of funny about her as a character," said Fisher. "The moral is always correct, even if she has a hard time getting around to it."
The essential flavor of the show has remained unchanged, despite its more serious bent. "I think the character is such a deeply ingrained creation of Mindy Kaling that it's hard for her not to be consistent," Fisher told HuffPost. "We all have absorbed that character in our bones at this point." Season 5 of "The Mindy Project" opened with a typically flippant joke: The premiere episode dropped in the midst of election season, and was titled "Decision 2016." It was about Mindy's decision between two hot, white male love interests. The show barely touched the election, though other politically minded sitcoms did. Outside of the show, Barinholtz has suggested Mindy Lahiri might be a Trump voter ― and what about Morgan?
"I could see him getting very easily fleeced by Jill Stein," he suggested. "I could see him writing in someone, writing in, like, Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer."
After five seasons, "The Mindy Project" has never been more well-positioned to take on Trump-era politics. But how can the show make that funny? "Honestly... it's just so sad," said Barinholtz. "I think we had a joke last year where [Jody] was like, 'And for the record, I think Donald Trump would be fun as president.' That joke worked in like, October of 2016. In March or April of 2017, we're seeing just how much has changed."
It's not just the political context; the show has changed too. Perhaps making the Trump presidency funny in a sitcom universe is impossible, but "The Mindy Project" has a good shot.
You can be highbrow. You can be lowbrow. But can you ever just be brow? Welcome to Middlebrow, a weekly examination of pop culture. Read more here.
Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Mahershala Ali, Amy Poehler and a whole host of other stars are teaming up for Stand for Rights: A Benefit for the ACLU. Join us at 7 p.m. Eastern on Friday, March 31 on Facebook Live.
You can support the ACLU right away. Text POWER to 20222 to give $10 to the ACLU. The ACLU will call you to explain other actions you can take to help. Visit www.hmgf.org/t for terms. #StandForRights2017
With thousands lining up to join the Hindu Yuva Vahini, the Gorakhpur-based right-wing group has set tough new standards and rolled out a stringent vetting process. The HYV describes itself as a "cultural and social organisation dedicated to Hindutva and nationalism."
The HYV is receiving an average of 5,000 request every day since its founder and patron Yogi Adityanath took over as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh following a landslide victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party in the UP Assembly polls.
The Indian Express reported today that the suitability of applicants will be assessed for over one year, and they will be subjected to checks into their past and previous political affiliation. The HYV state office in-charge P.K. Mall told the newspaper the persons from other political parties are trying to sign up in order to "defame" the party and to weed out those who have a criminal record. "Recently, a group of workers from a political party, with saffron scarves around their necks, were seen on the Gorakhpur highway extorting money for performing 'yagna' in the name of HYV," Mall told IE.
The HYV, which describes itself as a cultural organisation, has been accused of inciting communal tensions in its stronghold of eastern UP. The group does not have any women members.
According to media reports, an applicant has to fill an online form on the HYV website, and upload a scanned copies of his photograph, voter ID card and Aadhaar card as proof of identity and residence. Mall told IE that local HYV workers will then be deployed to check whether an applicant has a criminal record or sympathies for the rival political parties.
Raghvendra Pratap Singh, state chief of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, told The Economic Times that local offices would no longer deploy local workers. "The whole world was in awe of Adityanath's rise to chief ministership and no member could become a blot on his image," he said.
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The United States Government, represented by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is seeking applications from qualified individuals for the position of Environmental Compliance Specialist for its Mission in Liberia.
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