Ajmer dargah blast case convicts awarded life imprisonment

first_imgThe National Investigation Agency (NIA) Special Court here on Wednesday awarded life imprisonment to two persons convicted for the 2007 Ajmer dargah blasts, in which three persons were killed.Both the convicts owed allegiance to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in the past.The convicts, Bhavesh Patel and Devendra Gupta, were held guilty under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, Explosives Act and various sections of Indian Penal Code. This is the first-ever conviction and sentencing of the RSS cadre in a terror case.NIA Special Judge Dinesh Gupta also imposed a fine of Rs.10,000 on Patel and Rs.5,000 on Gupta. Patel was an RSS activist at his hometown Bharuch in Gujarat, while Gupta, a resident of Ajmer, worked for RSS in Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh.The court had convicted three persons and acquitted seven others, including self-styled monk and former RSS activist Aseemanand, in the case on March 8 and postponed the verdict on sentence to those found guilty.The third convict, Sunil Joshi, who was an RSS pracharak, was murdered in suspicious circumstances in December 2007.Defence counsel Jagdish Rana told reporters outside the court that the convicts would file an appeal against the judgment in the High Court.The explosion in the historic shrine of Sufi mystic Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti on October 11, 2007, during Ramzan, had left three persons dead and 17 injured. The dargah was packed to capacity with about 5,000 devotees when the blast occurred at the time of Iftaar (breaking of fast).last_img read more

Hurriyat chief Geelani hospitalised

first_imgHardline Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani was hospitalised here on Sunday due to ill health.The Hurriyat Conference chairman was shifted to SKIMS hospital after he complained of abdominal cramps, dehydration and weakness, a Hurriyat spokesman said.He said Mr. Geelani has been admitted at the hospital and is under observation. He added, there is “nothing serious” as far as the Hurriyat hawk’s health is concerned. The octogenarian leader has been under house arrest in his uptown Hyderpora residence here for over an year.last_img read more

9 injured in Vadodara riot

first_imgFour police personnel and five civilians were injured, and vehicles and one shop were torched in communal riots that erupted following an incident where stones were thrown at a Ganesh idol procession in the communally-sensitive Mandavi area of Vadodara on Thursday at around midnight.During the procession in the area, suddenly a few stones were pelted, and simultaneously electricity went off in the locality. This led to a commotion, with mobs belonging to different communities hurling stones, and starting fires. “Around eight or nine vehicles were torched and one shop was burnt down,” a Vadodara police official said. “Police and fire brigade teams were rushed to the spot to control the situation that lasted more than 90 minutes.” The police lobbed more than 25 rounds of tear gas shells to disperse rioting mobs from both sides.Following the incident, there was heavy police deployment to restore normalcy and ensure that the situation did not escalate.“We have lodged an FIR in which 25 people have been named, including tow or three habitual offenders,” the police official said. “Arrests will be made very soon.” The police are also investigating the possibility of a conspiracy by some antisocial elements to provoke riots ahead of major religious festivals and holidays like Janmashthami, Independence Day, Navratra and Diwali.last_img read more

Nine Maoists surrender in Chhattisgarh

first_imgNine members of the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist) surrendered to the police in Chattisgarh’s Dantewada district on Sunday, the police claimed.“Nine Maoists left the CPI(Maoist) and surrendered to the police in presence of Dantewada district SP Kamlochan Kashyap on Sunday after getting disillusioned with the Maoist movement due to constant discrimination and exploitation [by senior leaders]. The Maoists, who surrendered on Sunday, also include Nanda, the gunman of senior Maoist leader Ganesh Uike and a member of the CPI(Maoist) Dand Karanya Special Zonal Committee ,” the police said.Nanda alias Barse had joined the rebels in 2009.last_img read more

PUCL demands repeal of ordinance on immunity to public servants

first_imgThe People’s Union for Civil Liberties on Saturday demanded repeal of a controversial ordinance which has made public servants immune against investigation and barred the media from disclosing their names until prior sanction is granted for their prosecution. The PUCL has also decided to challenge the ordinance in the Rajasthan High Court.The ordinance, promulgated on September 6, attempts to silence the media and prevent the judiciary from exercising its function of setting the criminal law in motion. “It’s alarming that the intention was to prevent at the very threshold any possibility of investigation being ordered by a magistrate when the evidence was prima facie brought before the court, PUCL State president Kavita Srivastava said.Addressing a press conference here, PUCL national vice-president Radha Kant Saxena said the amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code and Indian Penal Code brought through the ordinance went against the Supreme Court’s ruling in Lalita Kumari’s case, 2014. The judgment had dealt with both cognisable and non-cognisable offences committed by public servants.The apex court’s Constitution Bench had held that an FIR has to be lodged and investigation initiated by the police officer on the complaint about a cognisable offence. In the cases of non-cognisable offences, the investigating officer is empowered to initiate a preliminary enquiry and seek the court’s direction to obtain sanction for prosecution.Mr. Saxena said the ordinance was meant to neutralise the Supreme Court’s ruling as well as the state government’s own circular of 2015 by removing the power of police to initiate even a preliminary enquiry. “Why has the ordinance made provisions to keep everything under wraps and equated the public servants with victims of crimes such as rape in order to keep their identity discreet?” he asked.The amendments, he said, were superfluous and unnecessary as Section 197 of Cr.P.C. already provides protection to public servants by making it mandatory for a court to take cognisance against them after getting the government’s sanction. Instead of cognisance, the amendment refers to the word “investigate”.The PUCL said the ordinance would make it impossible for the public to make complaints against and bring to justice not only the corrupt government officials but also those involved in the offences such as custodial death, firing on crowd, torture of innocent people and violation of human rights. “Is it the intent of the ordinance to shield guilty officers in the run up to the 2018 Assembly elections?” asked Ms. Srivastava.While pointing out that no pre-legislative consultation was carried out before promulgating the ordinance and its information was suppressed, the PUCL demanded that the ordinance should not be placed in the Assembly session beginning on Monday for replacing it with a bill.last_img read more

Mercury rises in Kashmir Valley, Jammu region

first_imgA day after clocking the lowest minimum temperature in a decade, mercury across Kashmir division, including Ladakh region, rose by several degrees due to overcast conditions.The night temperature across Kashmir Valley and Ladakh region improved by several degrees on Firday night due to cloudy skies, the Meteorological Department said.In Jammu region, the night temperature also showed a marked improvement even as the weatherman forecast light snowfall in the higher reaches in the next 24 hours.Mercury, at most places in the valley, settled above the freezing point, providing residents some relief from the cold.Gulmarg the ski-resort in north Kashmir, recorded a low of minus 2.4 degrees Celsius and Pahalgam which is one of the base camps for the annual Amarnath Yatra, registered the minimum of minus 0.2 degree Celsius .Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, recorded the minimum temperature of 1.3 degrees Celsius, up by over four degrees from previous night’s minus 3.1 degrees Celsius, the official said.On the previous night, the city had experienced the lowest night temperature during past 10 years in the month of November.The mercury in Qazigund and Kokernag towns in south Kashmir settled at a low of 0.2 degree Celsius and 1.2 degrees Celsius respectively, he said.Kupwara town in north Kashmir registered a low of 0.1 degree Celsius while Leh, in Ladakh region, recorded a low of minus 10.6 degrees Celsiu, an increase of over two notches, the official said.The minimum temperature in the nearby Kargil town settled at a low of minus 5.4 degrees Celsius, up nearly four degrees, the official said.The MeT Department has forecast light rains or snowfall at isolated places in the state over few days from today.The minimum temperature in Jammu settled at 8.2 degrees Celsius. Mercury in Banihal, the gateway town to Jammu region, rose by almost four notches to settle at 7 degrees Celsius.The nearby Batote town recorded a low of 7.1 degrees while Katra town, which serves as the base camp for the pilgrims visiting Vaishno Devi Shrine, recorded a low of 9.9 degrees.last_img read more

Buddhadeb out of CPI (M) Bengal State Committee

first_imgTwenty senior leaders — including former Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee — have been “released” from the West Bengal State Committee of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) on Thursday. As many as 17 new members are inducted into the 80-member Committee. The youngest member of the State Committee is Madhuja Sen Roy (33) while the seniormost is Biman Basu (77), a Politburo member. The seniormost leaders, including Mr. Bhattacharjee, have been accommodated as special invitees, party’s State Secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra said after the 4-day-long triennial State conference.Mr. Bhattacharjee participated in a couple of sessions of the State conference and was repeatedly requested by party’s senior leadership to stay in the State Committee. “But once he takes a decision, it is very difficult to make him change his mind. He wanted the State Committee to release him. We resisted but, finally, we had to release him owing to health-related issues,” he said. Besides Mr. Bhattacharjee, the senior leaders who are now out of the State Committee but accommodated as special invitees are: Shyamal Chakraborty, Madan Ghosh, Dipak Sarkar, Basudeb Acharya, Kanti Ganguly, Asim Dasgupta and Nirupam Sen. New team The upper age limit of the State Committee members is fixed at 75 years. “Only in the case of Biman Basu, the rule has been relaxed by the Committee as he is more youthful than the younger leaders,” Mr. Mishra said. He said the party at the State level has followed its policy to develop a team of “youth, middle-aged and senior members”.last_img read more

Note ban was instant, why not Ram Mandir, asks Uddhav Thackeray

first_imgTaking pot shots at coalition partner Bharatiya Janata Party, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday questioned why the decision on building the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya was hanging fire when the move to demonetise was effected instantly.Mr. Thackeray was speaking here after a meeting of the Sena’s western Maharashtra unit leaders and party workers to assess poll preparedness.“While the demonetisation decision was taken so quickly, why has the work on Ram Mandir not commenced yet. They [the BJP] had promised it would begin before the elections. Going by the tardy pace, the question is which elections, the 2019 or 2050?” asked Mr. Thackeray.He further accused the BJP of dragging its feet on other vital policy matters like the repudiation of Article 370 of the Constitution and the Uniform Civil Code.“There appears to be no discussion on such important issues now. They appear to have been relegated to the backburner,” said the Sena chief, while demanding to know why the BJP failed to take a clear stance on these matters. He also issued thinly-veiled rebukes to the BJP over the recent controversy over distribution of the Bhagavad Gita to students in select colleges in Mumbai.“This move was taken to cover up the widespread mismanagement prevailing in the University of Mumbai, right from delayed exams to paper leaks. Students today need to be given education relevant to modern times; instead of trying to resolve urgent issues, the State Education Department wants to distribute copies of the Bhagavad Gita,” he said.The Sena president reiterated his party’s opposition to the Nanar Refinery project in Ratnagiri.“Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has assured that it [Nanar project] will not be imposed if the locals are opposed to it. His assurances notwithstanding, we are with the people of the Konkan region and we shall not allow it to come up,” Mr. Thackeray said.On Mumbai roadsAt the same time, he parried a question on the number of deaths due to potholes in Mumbai and the deplorable condition of roads in the city following heavy showers. “Civic infrastructure and maintenance and repair of roads is everybody’s responsibility,” said Mr. Thackeray, whose party controls the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.last_img read more

Bihar bandh hits normal life

first_imgThe Bihar bandh, called by the Left parties on Thursday to protest the sexual abuse of minor girls in Muzaffarpur shelter, hit normal life in most parts of the State.Rail and road traffic were disrupted by the bandh supporters demanding the resignation of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and the State Social Welfare Department Minister Manju Verma. Opposition parties, including the RJD, the Congress and the Hindustani Awam Morcha, had supported the call for the day-long bandh. However, none of their senior leaders were seen on the road with the protesting Left party leaders.The ruling NDA, however, called the bandh a complete flop. State Agriculture Minister and senior BJP leader Prem Kumar said it was called only to harass the people. “The Muzaffarpur shelter home case has already been handed over to the CBI… so there was no point in calling the bandh.”Schools closedIn Patna, schools and business establishments remained closed. There was a scuffle between bandh supporters and police at J.P. Golumber (roundabout) where the protesters, shouting slogans against the Nitish Kumar government, tried to march through the Dak Bungalow chouraha (throughfare), the City centre.Train and road traffic were disrupted at Patna, Jehanabad, Gaya, Bhojpur, Muzaffarpur, Siwan, Sheikhpura, Arwal, Nawada, Darbhanga and Madhubani districts. However, no untoward incidents were reported from anywhere. Bandh supporters blocked the railway track for hours at Jehanabad, Sheikhpura, Madhubani and Bhojpur, holding up several trains. Railway officials said the protesters climbed on to the engine of some trains, carrying flags and banners.In Muzaffarpur, Left party supporters and leaders staged a demonstration outside the residence of Brajesh Thakur, the main accused in the case. Thakur headed the NGO that ran the tainted shelter home. The protesters demanded a High-Court monitored CBI inquiry and the resignation of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and State Welfare Minister Manju Verma. Ms Verma’s husband was earlier accused of frequent visits to the Muzaffarpur shelter home. The Minister denied this and said it was a “political conspiracy against her family, which belonged to a backward community.”last_img read more

4 girls babies named ‘Titli’ after cyclone

first_imgGirl children born during the devastating Titli cyclone on October 11 are being named ‘Titli’ in the Gajapati and Ganjam districts of Odisha.So far, four girls born in the two districts are reported to have been named ‘Titli’.Out of five deliveries conducted at the Mohana Community Health Centre in Gajapati district on October 11, three were girls. According to Dr. Nibedita Panda, who delivered all the newborns, parents of the female babies have named them ‘Titli’.On the same day, a woman delivered a girl child at the Aska Community Health Centre, just before it was flooded by water from the Rushikulya river. Dr. Mohan Barik, who delivered the baby, also confirmed that she was named ‘Titli’.President of the Odisha Medical Service Association, Dr. Nirakar Bhatta, praised Dr. Panda and Dr. Barik for their services to the patients even during the cyclonic storm. All the six deliveries were normal deliveries and all the newborns have survived, said Dr. Bhatta.As a precautionary measure, the State government had ordered all pregnant women in areas to be affected by the cyclone to be shifted to near by medical centers and safe places.last_img read more

J&K Education Dept. withdraws ban on ‘pheran’

first_imgA ban order barring officials from wearing pheran, a long woollen winter dress, to the office of Zonal Education Officer (ZEO) in north Kashmir’s Langate, which triggered a massive online campaign against it, was withdrawn on Thursday. Chief Education Officer, Kupwara, Mohammad Shafi War, said the order issued by the Langate zonal officer, Agha Abdul Rasheed, “has been withdrawn.”“Pheran is part of our culture. The earlier order was passed after some employees would come to work in their night dresses,” said Mr. War. The earlier move evoked sharp responses from politicians and civil society in Kashmir, which is experiencing a cold wave with sub-zero temperatures. The pheran is preferred attire to battle the cold. Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Tuesday uploaded pictures wearing a pheran to protest against the ban. “ My father and I have worn pherans to official functions and will continue to do so,” said Mr. Abdullah, as he uploaded pictures of his father Dr. Farooq Abdullah, and himself, in pictures wearing the dress.Roohi Nazki, a restaurateur, started an online campaign in favour of the pheran, garnering a massive response from netizens in Kashmir and abroad.last_img read more

Ex-NSUI district chief held for harassing college student

first_imgA former NSUI district unit president was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly harassing a woman college student here, the police said.The woman had complained to the college authorities that former NSUI president Irfan and three others had misbehaved with her in the Sadar Bazar area, they said. After she complained to the authorities, the accused allegedly had threatened her and a video of the incident went viral on social media on Monday. The police said that as the issue concerned members of different communities, a case was immediately lodged against Irfan and others who were identified as Nadeem, Kamran and Shahroz. Some Hindu organisations had also burnt Irfan’s effigy and submitted a memorandum to the authorities for immediate arrest of the accused, they said. SP (City) Dinesh Tripathi said Irfan was arrested on Tuesday and a hunt has been launched to nab the others. Meanwhile, Congress district unit president Kaushal Misram said that Irfan has been suspended from the party.last_img read more

5 U.P. policemen held guilty of torturing man to death

first_imgA Delhi court has held five Uttar Pradesh police personnel and a property dealer guilty of torturing a broker’s friend to death at Noida’s Sector 20 police station in 2006.The accused police personnel, in connivance with the property dealer, had arrested the victim at his house on the charge of robbery on a complaint.Plaint by victim’s fatherThe police had lodged a case in the matter on a complaint by the victim’s father. The case was earlier tried by a Gautam Budh Nagar court. The Supreme Court later transferred it to the Delhi court stating that “free and fair trial of the case will not be possible within the State [Uttar Pradesh], more so because the accused are members of the police force.”Holding the accused guilty of kidnapping and beating the victim to death with the knowledge that it would lead to his death, Additional Sessions Judge Sanjeev Kumar Malhotra said, “It has been proved beyond reasonable doubt that accused sub-inspectors Hindveer Singh, Mahesh Mishra, constables Pradeep Kumar, Pushpender and Haripal Singh, in connivance with accused Kunwar Pal Singh, and in furtherance of their common intention, abducted Sonu alias Somveer from his native village Hazrat Pur and maliciously confined him till he was declared dead knowingly that by confining Sonu illegally they were acting contrary to law as they were apprehending Sonu for involvement in case crime no. 320/06, PS Sector-39, Noida without any evidence or reasonable suspicion against him.” “Not only this, they tortured Sonu while he was in their custody knowingly that by such beatings/torture they are likely to cause death of Sonu,” the judge said.last_img read more

Want to Read Minds? Read Good Books

first_imgFifty Shades of Grey may be a fun read, but it’s not going to help you probe the minds of others the way War and Peace might. That’s the conclusion of a new study, which finds that, compared with mainstream fiction, high-brow literary works do more to improve our ability to understand the thoughts, emotions, and motivations of those around us.Perhaps it’s no surprise that the lead author of the new study, David Kidd, came to social psychology by way of Russian literature. Now a Ph.D. student at the New School in New York City, he is versed in arguments from literary theorists that divide fiction into two categories. When we read a thrilling-but-predictable bestseller, “the text sort of grabs us and takes us on a roller-coaster ride,” he says, “and we all sort of experience the same thing.” Literature, on the other hand, gives the reader a lot more responsibility. Its imaginary worlds are full of characters with confusing or unexplained motivations. There are no reliable instructions about whom to trust or how to feel.Kidd and his adviser, social psychologist Emanuele Castano, suspected that the skills we use to navigate these ambiguous fictional worlds serve us well in real life. In particular, the duo surmised that they enhance our so-called theory of mind. That’s the ability to intuit someone else’s mental state—to know, for example, that when someone raises their hand toward us, they’re trying to give us a high-five rather than slap us. It’s closely related to empathy, the ability to recognize and share the feelings of others. Increasing evidence supports the relationship between reading fiction and theory of mind. But much of this evidence is based on correlations: Self-reported avid readers or those familiar with fiction also tend to perform better on certain tests of empathy, for example.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)To measure the immediate cognitive effects of two types of fiction, Castano and Kidd designed five related experiments. In each, they asked subjects to read 10 to 15 pages of either literary or popular writing. Literary excerpts included short stories by Anton Chekhov and Don DeLillo, as well as recent winners of the PEN/O. Henry Prize and the National Book Award. For more “mainstream” selections, they looked to Amazon.com top-sellers such as Danielle Steel’s The Sins of the Mother and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, and to anthologies of genre fiction, including a sci-fi story by Robert Heinlein.When participants finished their excerpts, they took tests designed to measure theory of mind. In one test, the Diagnostic Analysis of Nonverbal Accuracy 2—Adult Faces (DANVA2-AF) test, they looked at a face for 2 seconds and decided whether the person appeared happy, angry, afraid, or sad. In the more nuanced Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET), they saw only a small slice of a face and picked from four complex emotions such as “contemplative” and “skeptical.”On average, both groups did slightly better on these tests than control subjects who read either a nonfiction article or nothing at all. This fits with previous research showing a positive relationship between fiction and theory of mind. But among the fiction readers, those who read “literary” works scored significantly higher on the theory of mind tests than those who read popular selections, Kidd and Castano report online today in Science. The absolute differences in scores were hardly dramatic: On average, the literary group outperformed the popular group by about two questions (out of 36) on the RMET test, and missed one fewer question (out of 18) on the DANVA2-AF. But psychologist Raymond Mar of York University in Toronto, Canada, notes that even very small effects could be meaningful, provided they translate into real-world consequences—reducing the likelihood that social misunderstandings could create grudges or leave someone in tears.Keith Oatley, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Toronto, agrees that any evidence of literature’s effect based on this experimental approach is “big news.” “I’m quite impressed that they managed to find results with these tests.”Still, the “literariness” argument needs hammering out. Castano believes these results show that fiction’s power doesn’t hinge on exposing readers to foreign viewpoints or offering a persuasive, empathetic message. “For us, it’s not about the content,” he says. “It was about the process.” But Mar points out that there are probably many ways to improve theory of mind, and “different things might work for different people.” Some may find that stories with a moral of acceptance and empathy increase their theory of mind skills, for example, while others might benefit more from the practice of filling in the emotional gaps in an ambiguous story.Cognitive neuroscientist Vittorio Gallese of the University of Parma in Italy, who is also exploring how the brain responds to works of art, finds the new link between real and fictional worlds exciting, but is skeptical of the distinction between literary and mainstream fiction. “This is a very slippery ground,” he says, because historical tastes often move the boundary between “high” and “low” art. For example, he says, Honoré de Balzac’s The Human Comedy was released in serial form as a work of “popular” fiction, but has since attained the status of a classic.last_img read more

House Hearing Skates Over Big Disagreements on NSF Reauthorization

first_imgCongressional hearings can sometimes hide more than they reveal. So it was yesterday, when the research panel of the U.S. House of Representatives science committee held its first public airing of a bill that would make some controversial changes to peer review at the National Science Foundation (NSF).One key change would require the NSF director to certify that every grant will achieve one or more of six national goals—including strengthening the U.S. economy, bolstering national defense, increasing partnerships between academia and industry, and training the next generation of scientists. The director would also have to post a description of each pending award before it is made, along with the names of the relevant program managers who made the decision.A casual observer might easily have come away from the 95-minute hearing with the impression that such language, drafted by the committee’s Republican majority, is in line with current NSF policy. The witnesses didn’t dwell on the language, and Representative Larry Bucshon (R-IN), who chairs the subcommittee, said that the proposed changes to NSF’s merit review system were “consistent with steps the NSF is already considering to improve accountability, which have been approved by the National Science Board.”Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)That’s not exactly true, says Dan Arvizu, chairman of the 24-member board, which sets policy for the $7 billion agency. The presidentially appointed board has yet to review the 96-page bill, Arvizu told ScienceInsider, much less sign off on any of its provisions.Arvizu explained that he and acting NSF Director Cora Marrett did meet in September with Bucshon and Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), who leads the full committee. “We embraced the idea of transparency, accountability, and continuous improvement,” says Arvizu, adding that Smith told him those concepts were also guiding principles for the committee. But Arvizu says that none of the specific language in the bill, dubbed the FIRST (Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology) Act, was even discussed.Two weeks ago, when science lobbyists were given a 2-page description of the draft legislation, committee staffers repeated the message that the science board supported the changes. And after today’s briefing, a senior aide said that the board had told Smith at the September meeting that it had adopted new guidelines that were consistent with the FIRST Act.But Arvizu takes issue with that description. What actually happened, he says, is that the board heard a presentation last month in closed session from Marrett and her aides about “NSF’s approach to implementing” the principles that had been discussed at the September meeting with Smith. The board has asked NSF officials “to implement those principles independent of any legislation” the committee might adopt, Arvizu added.Although Arvizu declined to give details of NSF’s plan, he said it consisted of reinforcing existing procedures at the agency “both before and after an award is made.” Such steps are likely to include better documentation of how each award satisfies the agency’s two funding criteria—scientific merit and broader impacts—as well as a clearer description for the public of what the researcher hopes to accomplish.A second false assumption from the hearing would be that the gentle criticism of those provisions from two former NSF senior officials means only minor tweaks are needed to satisfy the scientific community. In reality, the testimony of Richard Buckius, vice president for research at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, and Tim Killeen, vice chancellor for research for the State University of New York (SUNY) system, pointed to a fundamental misunderstanding in the bill of how NSF operates and, more broadly, the purpose of federally funded research.Oddly enough, Bucshon hinted at the first problem in his opening question to Buckius. “Yes or no, does the proposed FIRST bill have what you might call any congressional interference in the peer review mechanism for evaluating grants at NSF?” he wondered.A professor of mechanical engineering who led NSF’s engineering directorate for 3 years before going to Purdue in 2008, Buckius immediately asked for some wiggle room. “Can I do yes and no?” he replied. But then he gamely plunged ahead.“My first point is who would actually affirm the awards that go out,” Buckius began. “The bill says the director should. But I don’t believe anyone is all-knowing enough to affirm the 11,000+ awards made every year. So I’d change that.”Buckius then offered up a more substantive criticism, suggesting that posting pending grant winners would spur widespread second-guessing of reviewers. “The bill talks about the prior announcement of awards before they are made,” he began. “In some of our competitions, we only fund a few out of a hundred proposals. So that means there will be 90+ folks who, prior to the award, can energize the system and create chaos. So the system could become extremely bogged down.”After the hearing, Killeen also amplified Buckius’s concerns about posting advance information about an award. “It could lead to the worse type of grandstanding,” he told ScienceInsider, “with scientists making their case in public for why NSF should have funded their research. It could become a real free-for-all.”Arvizu was also disturbed by the provision. “I don’t believe NSF has ever published information about an award before it was made,” he said. “I’m not even sure how that would work. It certainly was not part of our discussion [with Smith].”For Killeen, who served as head of NSF’s geosciences directorate for 4 years before joining SUNY in 2012, a bigger problem with the legislation is how it regards basic research. “If I have a concern, it’s mostly the message that this bill will send out to the world, in fact. As my testimony indicated, I hope it’s a vibrant, enthusiastic, ‘let’s take on the 21st century,’ United States can-do kind of [legislation] rather than one that seeks to find the constraints and stiffen the sinews. My personal experience with NSF is that it is a magnificent national asset. We don’t want to throttle it back.”The list of goals in the legislation also troubles him. “I do worry about every proposal having to conform to a specified set of criteria,” Killeen said. “That’s why I used the word vibrant in my testimony. Scientific inquiry includes following leads that may not take you anywhere, and setting out hypotheses. But yes, the overall portfolio should address all of those statements.”What’s next? Bucshon said in his opening remarks that “members and staff on both sides of the aisle are continuing to work on the final legislation.” But he did not say when the subcommittee planned to mark up the bill, and he handed off the gavel to Representative David Schweikert (R-AZ) and left before the hearing ended.The status of the bill could be affected by a private sitdown next week between the science board and Smith, which will take place during the board’s regular 2-day meeting at the foundation. Arvizu said it would be a chance for the board and the science committee’s chairman “to understand one another, for the board to say, ‘Here’s what we are planning to do,’ and to ensure him that we are moving in a productive manner to address his concerns.”In a statement this morning, Smith said that “I look forward to continued discussions with the National Science Board next week on this draft legislation and ways to boost R&D funding.” The statement clarifies Bucshon’s comments by explaining that the draft legislation “is consistent with the plan approved by the National Science Board that requires NSF staff to provide clear justifications for why grants are worthy of American taxpayer funds.”last_img read more

ScienceShot: What Killed Larsen B?

first_imgIn early 2002, a 200-meter-thick, Rhode Island–sized floating mass of ice attached to the Antarctic Peninsula unexpectedly shattered and floated away in a matter of weeks. While researchers quickly linked the breakup to lakes of meltwater that had accumulated on the so-called Larsen B ice shelf’s upper surface and then wedged apart deep crevasses, they hadn’t come up with a convincing explanation for what triggered the collapse. Now, a new analysis in Geophysical Research Letters suggests that the sudden drainage of one or more of those lakes, and not merely their presence, set off the disintegration. The team’s analyses show that when a meltwater lake drains through the ice sheet into the underlying sea, the ice nearby, suddenly relieved of the water’s weight, springs upward. That changes the patterns of stress in the ice, which ripple across the ice shelf and can cause nearby lakes to drain, setting up a chain reaction by which the entire lake-ridden portion of the ice shelf can splinter. Just before the collapse and its aftermath (shown as icebergs were dispersing on 7 March 2002), satellite images showed more than 2700 meltwater lakes on Larsen B’s surface. All of those lakes mysteriously and simultaneously drained just before the breakup commenced—a possible warning sign for future ice shelf collapses, the team contends.See more ScienceShots.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)last_img read more

UK eases rules, gives students more flexibility for work visas

first_imgInternational students in the UK will soon enjoy more flexibility in switching over to work visas, with new immigration rules set to be introduced from January 11. As per the new rules, foreign students can switch over to Tier-2 visa (or skilled worker visa) as soon as they complete their course. According to current norms, they must wait until they obtain a degree to apply for the Tier-2 visa. This gave students only a small time frame to find a job while still in the UK.For example, students opting for higher education, such as a PG degree, had to wait for their thesis to be marked or a degree to be awarded after completing their course before they could apply for a work visa.“The new rule will enable them to apply for a Tier-2 visa a few months earlier than what would otherwise have been possible,” explains a newsletter by EY-UK, one of the big 4 business consultancies.Read it at Economic Times Related Itemslast_img read more

NHS and UK-based healthcare firms to collaborate with Indian cos to drive healthcare transformation in India

first_imgNational Health Service (NHS), UK, the world’s largest integrated health system and UK-based healthcare companies are looking to collaborate with Indian healthcare companies and state governments in transforming healthcare scenario in India.The UK invested around US$ 24.7 billion and generated 800,000 jobs in the country between 2000 and 2016. India-UK trade has increased 14 per cent in 2017.To further strengthen its commitment to India, the UK’s Department for International Trade (DIT) held the inaugural India-UK Createch Summit in Mumbai recently which was attended by a delegation comprising representatives from 13 UK-based healthcare companies including Aetna, Ada Health, Advanced, BDP, Global Gene Corp, JRI Orthopaedics, Proximie, OxSight, Vernacare, leading NHS hospital and healthcare trusts – Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, among others. The delegation held a meeting with several Indian healthcare firms and hospitals to discuss innovation in healthcare and collaborations between India and Britain in the healthcare sector.Read it at PharmaBiz Related Itemslast_img read more

India limits visits to Taj Mahal to 3 hours per person

first_imgOne of India’s most famous landmarks, the Taj Mahal, is planning to place a three-hour cap on visits to avoid overcrowding at the popular tourist location.The enormous white marble tomb, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, can attract at least 50,000 visitors a day on the weekend, according to a spokesman for the Archaeological Survey of India, which oversees the Taj Mahal.Read it at CNN Related Itemslast_img

Tension Escalates Between India And Pakistan Amid Uncertainty Over Their Marquee World Cup Match

first_imgRelations between bitter neighbors India and Pakistan has soured after last week’s terrorist attack in Indian-administered Kashmir, where a suicide bomber killed 40 Indian paramilitary forces.Pakistan-based Islamist militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad have claimed responsibility prompting India Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vow for retaliation as tensions heighten between the nuclear-armed rivals.Read it at Forbes Related Itemslast_img