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ADB okays $ 100 million grant for displaced persons in Bangladesh camps

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The Board of Directors of the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved grant assistance of $ 100 million -- the first phase of an envisaged package totaling $200 million -- to help the Government of Bangladesh develop basic infrastructure and services for displaced persons.
 
A press release from ADB noted that, since late August 2017, about 700,000 people have crossed the border from Rakhine State, Myanmar, into Coxsbazar at the southeast tip of Bangladesh. 
 
"This has caused a huge strain on the local infrastructure, economy as well as a major humanitarian concern. The displaced persons are living in 32 camps spread over the district. Providing food, shelter, health, sanitation, water, and other essential services in the camps while fending off disease is a daily challenge. If unaddressed, conditions are feared to worsen dramatically," it said.
 
“Given the scale of the humanitarian needs, we are coordinating closely and promptly with World Bank and other development partners to support the government in addressing the crisis in Coxsbazar,” said ADB President Takehiko Nakao. “With the principle of putting people first, ADB’s project in this first phase will seek to provide basic infrastructure and services that will ease vulnerabilities and risk of hunger, disease, and disaster.” 
 
After Mr. Nakao received the request from Mr. Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, Minister of Finance, for grant assistance when they met in early May, ADB developed and processed the project at an extraordinary speed under its emergency procedure, the release said.
 
The ADB $100 million grant project will support the displaced people sheltered in camps in the Ukhia and Teknaf sub-districts of Coxsbazar focusing on water supply and sanitation, disaster risk management, energy, and roads.
 
The project will rehabilitate roads within the camps to connect essential food distribution and storage centers, hospitals, education facilities, and provide emergency access. It will also resurface the road from Coxsbazar to Teknaf and other critical sections. To address water needs, the project will provide mobile water carriers, community bathing facilities, and build a piped water supply system and waste management facilities, together with small water treatment plants. Solar powered and mini grid-connected street lighting will be provided and access to electricity augmented by substations, distribution lines, and transformers.
 
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The southeastern part of Bangladesh is highly susceptible to various types of natural hazards, as well as cyclone and monsoon seasons, which include flooding, landslides, lightning, fires, and heat waves. Given these potential challenges, the project will strengthen disaster risk management by constructing cyclone shelters with emergency access roads, as well as food distribution centers, walls to protect against landslides, and a storm water drainage network.
 
ADB support will be within the framework of multi-sector Joint Response Plan prepared by the UN-led Inter Sector Coordination Group in coordination with the government. The project has been developed and will be implemented in coordination with United Nations agencies, the World Bank, and other donors that are giving humanitarian relief such as food, water, medical aid, and temporary shelter.
 
The first phase will cost $120 million over about 2.5 years. The first ADB $100 million grant will come from the Asian Development Fund (ADF), while the government will provide $20 million. Mr. Nakao appreciated the ADF donors’ prompt endorsement of grant financing for Bangladesh.
 
The scope and timing of a second phase of ADB grant support of a further $100 million will build on the progress of the first phase, the release added.
 
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Diver dies during Thai cave rescue operation

 
Rain feared as rescue from Thai cave planned
 
 
A former Thai Navy diver who joined an ongoing operation to rescue 12 boys and their coach from a cave in northern Thailand died on Friday.
 
Saman Gunan, 38, lost consciousness on his way out of the Tham Luang cave complex after delivering supplies and could not be revived, reports the BBC.
 
"His job was to deliver oxygen. He did not have enough on his way back," said an official.
 
The diver had left the navy but returned to help the rescue operation.
 
"A former SEAL who volunteered to help died at around 2 a.m.," Chiang Rai Deputy Governor Passakorn Boonyaluck told reporters at the rescue site.
 
Gunan, said to be an avid runner and cyclist, was part of the massive ongoing operation to rescue the boys, aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year-old coach.
 
The boys went missing on June 23 after they had entered the cave in the Chiang Rai region during fine weather but became trapped when a sudden downpour flooded the narrow tunnels.
 
Around 1,000 people are involved in the rescue operations, including navy divers, military personnel and civilian volunteers, the BBC reported.
 
They were found on Monday night on a rock shelf about 4 km from the mouth of the cave by two British rescuer divers.
 
The cave complex is regularly flooded during the monsoon season which lasts until September or October.
 
IANS
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Rescue of Indian Mansarovar pilgrims continues on Day 2

 
Over 158 pilgrims rescued from Simikot
 
 
Efforts to evacuate stranded Indian pilgrims in Simikot and Hilsa in Nepal's Humla district due to incessant rain and bad weather continued for the second day on Wednesday as only 200 pilgrims were evacuated.
 
One pilgrim died on Tuesday while over 1,200 others returning from Kailash Mansarovar in Tibet are still stranded due to inclement weather.
 
According to officials, bad weather in Nepal has slowed down the rescue of Indian and if the weather improves by Thursday, evacuation of over 1,200 stranded Indian nationals will be completed.
 
"Now we have rescheduled the deadline. If the weather permits frequent flights, we will able to relocate from highlands of Simikot, Hilsa and Tibet to safe places like Nepalgunj, Surkhet and nearby Indian bordering cities," said an official handling the rescue operation.
 
The officials said that none of the over 1,200 stranded pilgrims was facing shortage of food, medicine and shelter. 
 
According to Nepal's Ministry of Tourism, 553 pilgrims are still stranded in Simikot, 300 in Hilsa and over 300 are awaiting evacuation in Tibet.
 
However, as per the Indian Embassy's official headcount, there are 643 people stranded in Simikot and 350 in Hilsa. No casualty has been reported so far. It also said the number of stranded pilgrims in resource lean Hilsa has been drastically brought down.
 
"The Embassy continues to monitor the situation in Nepalganj-Simikot-Hilsa sector and is taking all possible measures to evacuate all stranded Indian nationals and Indian-origin people from the area," a situation report of Indian Embassy in Kathmandu reads.
 
On the Hilsa-Simikot sector, helicopters evacuated close to 200 people, who will be airlifted to Nepalgunj on Thursday.
 
In a bid to expedite the evacuation process, the Indian Embassy is also exploring the possibility of chartering helicopters and operating them on various evacuation routes subject to weather conditions and willingness/ability of the carriers to ply on these routes.
 
IANS
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Paint, varnish exposure may increase risk of multiple sclerosis

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Exposure to paint, varnish and other solvents may put people at a 50% higher risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS), a potentially disabling disease affecting the central nervous system, a study says.

With exposure to solvents, people who also carry genes that make them more susceptible to developing multiple sclerosis are nearly seven times as likely to develop the disease as compared to those with no solvent exposure who do not carry the MS genes, said the study published in the journal Neurology.

For people who have been smokers, the risk is even greater. Those who have been smokers with solvent exposure and the MS genes are 30 times more likely to develop MS than those who have never smoked or been exposed to solvents and who do not have the genetic risk factors, said the study.

"These are significant interactions where the factors have a much greater effect in combination than they do on their own," said study author Anna Hedstrom from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden.

"It's possible that exposure to solvents and smoking may both involve lung inflammation and irritation that leads to an immune reaction in the lungs," Hedstrom added.

For the study, the researchers identified 2,042 people who had recently been diagnosed with MS and matched them with 2,947 people of the same age and sex.

Blood tests were used to determine whether the participants had two human leukocyte antigen gene variants -- one of which makes people more likely to develop MS and the other reduces the risk.

They were also asked whether they had been exposed to organic solvents, painting products or varnish and whether they had ever been a smoker.

The analysis showed that MS genes and exposure to solvents combined were responsible for an estimated 60% of the risk of developing MS.

The researchers determined that the MS genes and exposure to solvents combined were responsible for an estimated 60% of the risk of developing MS.

IANS

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Zika virus may cause miscarriages, stillbirths without any symptoms

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Pregnancy loss due to Zika infections that do not show any symptoms may be a common but unrecognised cause of miscarriages and stillbirths, raising concerns that the complications could be more common than currently thought, researchers say.

The findings showed that 26% of non-human primates infected with Zika during early stages of pregnancy experienced miscarriage or stillbirth even though the animals showed few signs of infection.

"These rates of foetal losses and stillbirths in Zika-infected pregnant monkeys were about four-fold higher than what is normally seen in unexposed monkey populations at these research centres," said Koen Van Rompay, a scientist at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis).

"Many of the foetal and placental tissues had evidence of Zika virus replication and also had pathological lesions, which further supports the role of Zika virus in this detrimental outcome," Rompay added.

Zika virus is widely known for causing children to be born with a brain abnormality called microencephaly and other malformations. Zika disease in human adults includes fever, rash, headache, joint and muscle pain, as well as red eyes; however, most are asymptomatic.

"For pregnant women who live in areas where Zika virus is prevalent, and who may experience spontaneous abortions, the possible link to Zika virus infection may be missed," said Lark Coffey, an arbovirologist at UC Davis.

"Our data in monkeys indicate more research is needed, so researchers can develop intervention strategies to protect pregnant women and their foetuses from Zika virus," he noted in the paper published in the journal Nature Medicine.

For the study, the data were aggregated from six National Primate Research Centers (NPRCs), where the team monitored pregnant rhesus macaques to follow the progress of Zika virus in the bodies and into their foetuses and the tissues that support foetal development.

The results showed that exposure during the first trimester of pregnancy was more likely to result in foetal death -- a finding that parallels human reports.

Moreover, placental dysfunction, which is commonly presented in the form of increased placental calcification during ultrasound examinations may also affect the foetus development, the researchers said.

IANS

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Don't be shy of bring our food into the mainstream: Canada-based Indian chef

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Thrissur-born Joe Thottungal, who is currently the Executive Chef at Ottawa's Coconut Lagoon, says Indian chefs are the true ambassadors of the country's food and should not shy away from promoting it in the mainstream.

"I always focus and promote varied regional cuisine of India. I feel that all Indian chefs are the best ambassador of Indian food and we should not be shy to bring out our meals to the mainstream," Thottungal told IANS in an e-mail.

"Promoting each region is a new way of exposing our hidden cuisine to the world and once people are hooked to the food then they tend to travel and visit these regions and my culinary tours to Kerala is the best example," he added.

A Gold & Silver medal winner of Gold Medal Plates- Canada's highest culinary honour in 2016 and 2017, Thottungal is on two day visit to Crowne Plaza Today Okhla in the capital On July 6 and July 7 for series of culinary events like Colours of Curry, Southern Spice Trail and Dinnee Buffet for the public.

So how has the food and beverage sector in India evolved over the years?

"In the last 20 years, I have noticed a lot of changes in food and beverage field in India. People are eating out more, pairing beverages with food and eating healthy," he said.

IANS

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Former Malaysian PM Najib arrested on corruption charges

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Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was arrested on Tuesday by anti-corruption authorities for his alleged role in the 1MDB scandal, described as the "biggest one in Malaysian history", involving billions of dollars being embezzled from a government fund and fraudulently spent around the world.
 
Najib, who has long been plagued by allegations of corruption, has been accused of pocketing $700 million from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad fund, set up by him in 2009. Billions of dollars are unaccounted for from the fund, authorities say.
 
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) said that Najib, toppled from power in May, was arrested from his home in afternoon and will be charged at the Kuala Lumpur court on Wednesday, Malaysian state media Bernama reported.
 
His arrest came after the newly-elected government, led by 92-year-old Mahathir Mohamad, reopened the investigation into 1MDB after coming to power in May and pledged to bring to justice all of those responsible for the multi-billion dollar fraud. 
 
Najib denies wrongdoing and reiterated his innocence in a interview last week, saying: "If I knew there was going to be misappropriation of funds, if that was my knowledge, I would have acted."
 
Mahathir said last week that authorities had an almost "perfect case" against the former Prime Minister on charges including bribery, theft of government funds and embezzlement, according to a report in the Guardian.
 
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Najib was cleared of all wrongdoing when he was the Prime Minister but the investigation was widely viewed as a cover-up. According to figures in the Finance Ministry, 1MDB's losses totalled $10 billion.
 
Najib's stepson Riza Aziz was also questioned by MACC over allegedly misappropriating 1MDB money to fund the Martin Scorsese film "The Wolf of Wall Street".
 
Aziz, who owns a film production company, denies any wrongdoing but in March it was revealed that his company agreed to pay the US government $60 million to settle a civil lawsuit that sought to seize assets purchased with money allegedly stolen from 1MDB.
 
Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, have given statements to the MACC over 1MDB. Last week, police said they had seized jewellery, handbags and watches worth up to $273 million and $29 million in cash from six properties linked to the former leader. He has been banned from leaving Malaysia.
 
The couple maintain the luxury goods were gifts and that the cash was election funds.
 
IANS
 
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Two Indian Mansarovar pilgrims die, over 1,500 stranded

 
Rescue operation underway for Kailash Mansarovar Yatra pilgrims in Nepal
 
 
Two Indian pilgrims have died while over 1,500 others returning from Kailash Mansarovar in Tibet are stranded in Simikot in Nepal's Humla district due to heavy rain and bad weather.
 
The Indian Embassy here said on Monday that it was monitoring the situation along the route in Simikot, 423 km away. Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said Kathmandu had been requested to provide Army helicopters to evacuate the Indians.
 
"There were 525 pilgrims stranded in Simikot, 550 in Hilsa and another 500 more in Tibet," Swaraj tweeted.
 
Nepali police said Narayanam Leela of Kerela died at a hotel in Simikot after returning from Mansarovar and Satya Laxmi of Andhra Pradesh died at Taklakot in Tibet. Eight Indian pilgrims have died this year in Mansarovar, the Kathmandu Post reported.
 
Indian officials here said that as soon as the weather got better, the pilgrims would be rescued and brought to Nepalgunj.
 
"Bad weather is hampering the rescue operations. Some of the pilgrims are stranded in Hilsa, close to Nepal-Tibet border, while some are stranded in Simikot," said Pranav Ganesh, First Secretary at the Indian Embassy. 
 
"As of July 3 morning, the weather situation remains inclement and there is very little chance of operating evacuation flights," said the Embassy.
 
Weather conditions across Nepal have worsened since Monday due to perpetual downpour in which at least a dozen people were killed. 
 
The Embassy said it had placed its representatives in Nepalganj and Simikot to ensure proper food and lodging facilities for the pilgrims. The police have been asked to take care of those stranded, it added.
 
In Simikot, Indian officials were providing medical help to the elderly pilgrims. The Indian government had also set up hotlines for the stranded people to contact their families. 
 
The Indian mission has asked all tour operators in the region to try hold pilgrims back in Tibet as far as possible since the medical and civic facilities on Nepal side were inadequate. 
 
IANS
 
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Six Indians killed in Nepal road accident

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Six Indian nationals have been killed in a road accident in Nepal's Sunsari district close to the Nepal-India border.
 
Four more, including the driver of the jeep, were also injured in the incident late on Monday. They were returning after visiting Bhedetar hill station in Dhankuta district when the incident happened. 
 
The jeep with an Indian number plate plunged deep into the Koshi river that had swollen due heavy rainfall. Three persons were killed on the spot, while three others succumbed to their injuries during treatment, Nepal Police said. 
 
Police Superintendent Ramesh Kumar Lamsal said three bodies were recovered while pulling the jeep out of the river. The occupants belonged to Supaul district of Bihar, he added. 
 
The driver, Sushil Kamat, has been arrested. The dead were yet to be identified, Lamsal said.
 
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Thai boys trapped in cave located, may remain stuck for months

 
Junior soccer team found alive in Thai cave
 
 
A Thai soccer team of 12 boys and their coach who went missing in a cave more than a week back have been found alive. However, it may take months for them to come out, the country's army said on Tuesday.
 
They will have to learn to dive or wait months for flooding to recede. The rescue workers -- Thai Navy SEALs -- were battling with rising water and were currently bringing in food and medical supplies, the BBC reported.
 
The children would be supplied with food that could last at least four months, the Thai military said.
 
The Tham Luang cave complex in Chiang Rai in northern Thailand is regularly flooded during the rainy season which lasts until September or October.
 
If the children were to be brought out before then, they would have to learn basic diving skills to safely get through the dangerous corridors of muddy, zero-visibility waters, the BBC reported.
 
Attempts to pump the water levels lower have so far not been successful. 
 
The 13 have been missing for nine days before they were found by divers on Monday. Families of the missing group were ecstatic at news of the rescue.
 
The search for the group had gripped the nation as it was unclear where they were or whether they even were still alive after their belongings were found outside the cave on June 23. 
 
The rescue operation attracted world wide attention with experts from various countries pitching in.
 
IANS
 
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Sikhs among 19 killed in Afghan suicide blast

Afghan security force members inspect the site of a suicide attack in Jalalabad, Afghanistan on July, 2018, in which at least 19 people, including many Sikhs, were killed
Afghan security force members inspect the site of a suicide attack in Jalalabad, Afghanistan on July, 2018, in which at least 19 people, including many Sikhs, were killed
A suicide bomber blew himself up in the Afghan city of Jalalabad, where President Ashraf Ghani was to hold a meeting with provincial officials, killing at least 19 people, many of them Sikhs, officials said on Sunday.
 
The group of Sikhs were said to be on their way to meet President Ghani.
 
Provincial governor spokesman Attaullah Khogyani confirmed the casualties and said it had been a suicide bombing. Khogyani did not provide more information about the blast, TOLONews reported.
 
The blast hit the busy market of Mukhabirat square. All the victims have been taken to the hospital, the official added. No group has claimed responsibility so far.
 
The media reported that the explosion happened close to the governor's compound. Security forces immediately cordoned off the area and ambulances were seen carrying the victims to hospital.
 
Ghani on Sunday attended the inauguration of a new hospital complex in Jalalabad and also met with local officials. The President is only due to leave the province on Monday.
 
They were discussing ways and means to bolster the government-initiated peace process to encourage the Taliban to initiate a dialogue with the government to end the country's lingering crisis.
 
IANS
 
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5 killed in US newsroom shooting, suspect detained

 
Maryland newspaper shooting shakes community
 
 
Five people were killed and two others injured when a man armed with a shotgun and smoke grenades stormed into the newsroom of a community newspaper chain in the US state of Maryland, prompting law enforcement agencies to provide protection at the headquarters of all American media organisations.
 
The suspect, identified as Jarrod W. Ramos, 38, was taken into custody after the targeted attack on Thursday at the office of the Capital Gazette located in Annapolis, reports The New York Times. 
 
The attack has been deemed as the deadliest day for journalism in America in several years.
 
Ramos had a long history of conflict with the daily, which produces a number of local newspapers along Maryland's shore.
 
He lost a defamation case against the paper in 2015 over a 2011 column he contended defamed him. The column provided an account of Ramos's guilty plea to criminal harassment of a woman over social media.
 
"This person was prepared today to come in, this person was prepared to shoot people," The Washington Post quoted Anne Arundel County Deputy Police Chief William Krampf said. 
 
"His intent was to cause harm."
 
The police said all of the victims killed were Capital Gazette employees: Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters. 
 
Fischman and Hiaasen were editors, McNamara was a reporter, Smith was a sales assistant and Winters worked for special publications, according to the newspaper's website.
 
Four of the victims died on the spot while the fifth was pronounced dead at the University of Maryland Medical Centre.
 
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The shooting began at about 3 p.m. in the office building just outside downtown Annapolis, The Washington Post reported.
 
Ramos entered the building with a shotgun and looked for his victims, the police said. 
 
The police, who arrived at the scene within a minute of the reported gunfire, apprehended Ramos found hiding under a desk in the newsroom.
 
Gazette reporter Phil Davis described the scene as a "war zone" and a situation that would be "hard to describe for a while".
 
After his arrest, Ramos refused to cooperate with the authorities or provide his name. He was identified using facial recognition technology, a law enforcement official told The New York Times.
 
President Donald Trump tweeted: "My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families," CNN reported. 
 
House Speaker Paul Ryan said: "The senseless attack on a Maryland newspaper today is sickening. God bless these journalists. We pray for them and their families tonight."
 
Joel Simon, Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said that violence against journalists was unacceptable. 
 
"Newspapers like the Gazette do vital work, and our thoughts are with them amid this unconscionable tragedy," he added.
 
The Capital Gazette, which has an editorial staff of 31 people, had a daily circulation of about 29,000 and a Sunday circulation of 34,000 as of 2014.
 
Commonly referred to as the Capital, the paper was founded in 1884 as the Evening Gazette.
 
The paper promotes itself as one of the oldest publishers in the country, with roots dating to the Maryland Gazette in 1727.
 
IANS
 
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Online revenue struggles, adaptation to tech top news media concerns: panelists

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Ongoing problems with revenue in the Internet age, rebuilding public trust and better learning to utilize new technology topped concerns for the future of news media expressed by panelists at the opening session of the East-West Center’s (EWC) 2018 International Media Conference here on Monday. 
 
The three-day conference is being co-hosted by EWC, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and Singapore Management University.
 
Joshua Benton, director of Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab, said that the news industry is finally coming to “belated acceptance of the fact that digital revenue will never replace print and broadcast.” The result, he said, has been “increasing reliance on the reader to pay the freight, with more and stricter paywalls.”
 
In some ways, Benton said, this can be beneficial, encouraging news organizations to focus on the kind of reporting that attracts tong-term monthly subscribers, rather than flashy ‘click-bait’ stories aimed at one-time online advertising. “If you want content that’s going to go viral and create the maximum amount of page views, that encourages a certain kind of journalism,” he said. “But if your goal is, ‘I want to create content that is so valuable to people that they’re willing to pay money for it every month,’ that encourages a different, and overall probably better, kind of journalism.”
 
But it also means that “more and more of the bounty of information that has been on the Web for the last 20 years is going to be walled off,” Benton told moderator Irene Jay Liu, who is the Asia Pacific lead for Google News Lab. “As a result, we’ll have more and more of a premium news environment for people who have the financial means, time and interest,” while others will continue to see more random, less “civically useful” news that they “just bump into on social media because their friend posted it.”
 
One of the impacts of the shift to online news, Benton said, “is that we’re likely to see big winners at the national level, but it’s everything below that level that worries me. The New York Times and Washington Post are going to be fine, but that’s only a very small portion of US media. We have 1,400 daily newspapers in the US, and the subscription model is working for only maybe six of them.”
 
Alan Soon, co-founder and CEO of the Singapore-based, Asia-focused media news site The Splice Newsroom, said that even more important than debating revenue models is the need for news organizations to take a fresh look at “what they have that’s valuable to people … I think a lot of news organizations still haven’t figured out exactly what they sell.”
 
Soon told Liu that one of the best things companies like Google and Facebook can do to help foster quality journalism is to help news organizations better understand how to do audience targeting. “Everyone is basically still pushing content out into a digital black hole somewhere,” he said. “But with better support and training from media tech companies, we could be targeting the audiences we want. I think microtargeting is a very important way of looking at audiences that not many media companies are doing, because they don’t know how.”
 
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Benton agreed that news organizations established before the advent of the Web “really haven’t done enough to re-evaluate the way they do what they do: their content strategies, how they format the news, the way they distribute, how they define what a beat is, what makes a story. At every step of that process, they still have a really significant hangover from way it used to be.” To be relevant in the new era, he said, these organizations need “a really vigorous re-evaluation of the thinking that goes into what they produce and how they serve the needs of their audience.”
 
Asked by Liu about the top-of-mind issue of restoring public trust in media, Soon said that a unique factor in places like Southeast Asia is that many people there have been getting online with little previous exposure to technology and its pitfalls. “We need to be teaching people who are coming online for the first time how they can report abuse, or signal to Google and Facebook that a story is disputed—that there’s something they can do instead of just continuing to propagate it,” he said.
 
Benton said that “one big hole that hasn’t been filled” is the expectation in the past that news companies would always keep space set aside for “civically useful” news of the kind needed to ensure an informed electorate. As more and more people get their news from tech platforms like Google, Apple and Facebook, he said, “the focus has shifted more to going after bad actors than what was done before, to actually set aside space for affirmative creation of civically useful news. And with the move to smart phones, it’s just so much easier to ignore news than it used to be.”
 
His biggest technological hope for the future of journalism, he said, is that companies like Google and Apple that control smart-phone operating systems would expand their commitment to “creating built-in opportunities for people to run into civically useful news. That would be the best news innovation I could think of.”
 
The East-West Wire is a news, commentary, and analysis service provided by the East-West Center in Honolulu. 
 
The East-West Center promotes better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue. Established by the U.S. Congress in 1960, the Center serves as a resource for information and analysis on critical issues of common concern, bringing people together to exchange views, build expertise, and develop policy options.
 
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US Ambassador to UN Nikki Haley to visit India

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United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley will pay a three-day visit to India from today.
 
A statement from the US Mission to the UN said Ms. Hely would meet with senior Indian government officials, NGO leaders, and the interfaith community to underscore the United States’ shared values and strong alliance with the people of India. 
 
"Ambassador Haley will also deliver remarks to a group of business and government leaders, students, and civil society on advancing U.S.-India relations," it added.
 
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Clashes in Nigeria between farmers, herders leave 86 dead

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At least 86 people have died in Nigeria after violent clashes broke out between farmers and cattle herders, police in Plateau state said.
 
Some reports say fighting began on Thursday when ethnic Berom farmers attacked Fulani herders, killing five of them. A retaliatory attack on Saturday led to more deaths, BBC reported on Monday.
 
The area has a decades-long history of violence between ethnic groups competing for land.
 
A curfew has now been imposed in three parts of the state. Police Commissioner Undie Adie said a search of villages following the bloodshed revealed that 86 people had been killed, and six injured.
 
He said 50 houses had been burned, as well as 15 motorbikes and two vehicles.
 
The Plateau state government said the curfew would be in place between 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. (Nigerian time) in the Riyom, Barikin Ladi and Jos South areas "to avert a breakdown of law and order".
 
In Nigeria's central region settled farming communities and nomadic cattle herders often clash - usually over access to land and grazing rights.
 
But these tit-for-tat clashes have erupted into inter-communal warfare, killing thousands in the last year.
 
This region, where the Muslim north meets the Christian south is prone to religious tension - herders are ethnic Fulani and mostly Muslim, while the farmers are mostly Christian.
 
But it's not clear why this spike in violence is happening right now. Nigeria's president has repeatedly blamed the escalation on an increase in gun-running from Libya.
 
Others blame security forces' failures in a country busy fighting two insurgences - Boko Haram in the north and militants in the oil-producing south.
 
The state's governor Simon Lalong said work was under way "to secure the affected communities and fish out perpetrators of these crimes".
 
"While we pray for God's guidance through this difficult time, we will do everything humanly possible to secure our state immediately," he said.
 
Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari - himself a Fulani - is under increasing pressure to address the tensions ahead of elections in 2019.
 
IANS
 
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Kovind seeks more space for developing nations in Global Governance Structures

 
Kovind, Cuban President witness exchange of bilateral agreements
 
 
Visiting Indian President Ram Nath Kovind, seeking more space for developing nations in global governance structures, has urged Cuba to work together with India towards achieving this objective.
 
Delivering a lecture at Havana University here yesterday on "India and the Global South", Mr Kovind said, “We have to work together to push for greater space for the developing nations in the global governance structures."
 
He said in an area of multilateral engagement, “we have seen the real and robust impact of India-Cuba close cooperation, with both countries playing a stellar role in powering South-South Cooperation and standing up for a stronger voice for the Global South or developing countries."
 
“The solidarity of the Global South lay at the heart of the international vision of the great leader and statesman of Cuba, Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution,” he added.
 
Mr Kovind said his talk was a tribute to Castro’s contribution and vision to make the world a better place for the citizens of the developing countries.
 
“The values of South-South Cooperation have stood us in good stead. Mutual respect and solidarity among developing countries form the core of it. The success of South-South Cooperation must encourage our developed country partners to see how best these modalities can be utilized by them as well. The decision of the United Nations for hosting the second High-level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation in Buenos Aires in 2019 is a welcome move,” he added.    
 
The President pointed out that development partnership secures the interests of the Global South, but only partially. 
 
“We have to work together to push for greater space for developing countries in global governance structures. In this context, we must give a greater push for reform of the United Nations including the Security Council. Similarly, the Bretton Woods Institutions must factor in the growing weight of the countries of the South in their decision making.
 
“Alongside our reform agenda, we must counter any move to weaken multilateralism. Preserving a rules-based global trading order remains critical to promoting the interests of developing countries. At the World Trade Organization Doha Round of Negotiations, it is essential that issues of food security and livelihoods are given utmost sanctity,” he added.
 
Mr Kovind said globalization may have lifted millions out of poverty but the unmet needs in developing countries still remain. The growth agenda centred on poverty eradication, therefore, must be at the heart of the global development discourse. “We must also push for the greater availability of finance and technology to help developing countries combat Climate Change and meet their development needs,” he added.
 
The President said the Global South has come a long way in its journey since the 1960s. Today, the group stands stronger and taller. It is a diverse group with countries at various levels of development. But it is important that the unity of the group be preserved. “That’s how we can strengthen multilateralism and promote Right to Development for all,” he pointed out.
 
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Earlier in the day, Mr Kovind was accorded a ceremonial welcome at the Revolution Palace. Subsequently, he headed the delegation level talks with the Cuban side led by President Diaz-Canel. Both sides reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral relations and exchanged views on global issues of mutual concern.
 
The two countries agreed to enhance cooperation in the fields of Biotechnology, Renewable Energy, Traditional Medicine and Trade and Investment.  Two MOUs were signed in the areas of Biotechnology and Traditional Medicine and Homeopathy.
 
Mr Kovind was accompanied by representatives of nine Indian biotechnology companies on this visit. These companies had engaging discussions with their Cuban counterparts. Both countries thus set the stage for making significant progress in biotechnology cooperation, an official release said.
 
He thanked President Diaz-Canel for Cuba’s becoming a founding member of the International Solar Alliance and sought his support to help the Alliance combat Climate Change. India offered a Line of Credit of $ 75 million to support a 100 Mega Watt solar power project in Cuba. India also offered additional 10 slots to Cuba under the ITEC programme, taking the total annual scholarships given to the country to 70.
 
Both the leaders also conveyed their continued commitment to the reform of the UN Security Council. Cuba reiterated support for India’s candidature for a permanent seat in the Security Council.
 
On the issue of terrorism, both sides conveyed their deepest concern about terrorism and the grave threat it poses to humanity.   They agreed to work closely to develop a strong global response to fighting terrorism. In this context, they called for the early adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism at the United Nations.
 
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First satellite to collect space junk deployed from ISS

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The first-ever satellite to test possible solutions in cleaning up space junk has been deployed by the International Space Station (ISS) and would soon begin experiments in orbit.

The Britain-built satellite, named RemoveDEBRIS mission, is one of the world's first attempts to tackle the build-up of dangerous space debris orbiting the Earth, the British space agency said in a statement late on Friday.

The 100-kg spacecraft will attempt to capture simulated space debris using a net and a harpoon while also testing advanced cameras and radar systems.

The experiment is important as there are thousands of pieces of space debris circulating the planet, many travelling faster than a speeding bullet, posing a risk to valuable satellites and even the International Space Station itself, the report stated.

Once the experiments are complete, it will unfurl a drag sail to bring itself and the debris out of orbit, where it will burn up as it enters the earth's atmosphere.

"If successful, the technologies found in RemoveDEBRIS could be included in other missions in the very near future," said Guglielmo Aglietti, Professor at the University of Surrey.

The mission is led by the varsity and built by the world's leading small satellite manufacturer Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL), with technology on board designed by Airbus. It was launched on a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft from Florida in April.

IANS

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Can herpes virus cause Alzheimer's disease?

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Scientists have found up to two times higher level of human herpesvirus among people with Alzheimer's disease, suggesting the potential role of the viruses in the development of the progressive brain disorder.

Herpes virus causes contagious sores, most often around the mouth or on the genitals.

The study found an unusually increased level of human herpesvirus 6A (HHV-6A) and human herpesvirus 7 (HHV-7) in the brain of the people with Alzheimer's than those without the disorder.

"The hypothesis that viruses play a part in brain disease is not new, but this is the first study to provide strong evidence," said Richard J. Hodes, Director from the US National Institutes of Health.

"Our work identified specific biological networks that offer new testable hypotheses regarding the role of microbial defence and innate immune function in the pathophysiology of Alzheimer's," said Joel Dudley from the Institute for Next Generation Healthcare at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

The findings also showed multiple points of overlap between virus-host interactions and genes associated with Alzheimer's risk. Multiple viruses impact the biology of the disease across domains such as DNA, RNA and proteins.

"If it becomes evident that specific viral species directly contribute to an individual's risk of developing Alzheimer's or their rate of progression once diagnosed, then this would offer a new conceptual framework for understanding the emergence and evolution of Alzheimer's at individual, as well as population, levels," Dudley explained.

In the study, published in the journal Neuron, the team initially performed RNA sequencing on four brain regions in more than 600 samples of postmortem tissue from people with and without Alzheimer's to quantify which genes were present in the brain and whether any were associated with the onset and progression of the disease.

Using different computational approaches, the team uncovered a complex network of unexpected associations, linking specific viruses with different aspects of Alzheimer's biology.

They examined the influence of each virus on specific genes and proteins in brain cells, and identified associations between specific viruses and amyloid plaques, neurofibrillary tangles, and clinical dementia severity.

Further, they incorporated 800, RNA sequencing samples and observed a persistent increase of HHV-6A and HHV-7 in samples from individuals with Alzheimer's.

IANS

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Kovind pays tributes to Mahatma Gandhi and National Heroes of Cuba

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Visiting President Ram Nath Kovind today paid tributes at the statue of Mahatma Gandhi here today and also to the national heroes of Cuba.
 
On arrival at Santiago de Cuba, Cuba yesterday on the last leg of his three-nation State Visit to Greece, Suriname and Cuba, Mr Kovind visited the Santa Ifigenia Cemetery to pay his tributes to national heroes of Cuba – Jose Marti, Fidel Castro, Carlos Manuel de Cespedes and Mariana Grajales.
 
Later in the day, the President will be accorded a ceremonial welcome at the Revolution Palace.  Thereafter, he will meet his counterpart President Miguel Díaz-Canel and lead the delegation level talks with Cuba.  The two sides are expected to sign two MoUs – one on Traditional Medicine and Homeopathy and second on Biotechnology.
 
Mr Kovind will also address the students of Havana University before leaving for New Delhi.  
 
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India, Suriname agree to enhance partnership

 
PresidentKovind, his Suriname counterpart perform yoga
 
 
India and Suriname have agreed to enhance and accelerate their partnership, with India commiting to share its expertise with the South American nation for its growth and development.
 
"As two developing countries with similar political trajectories, we have grown hand-in-hand," President Ram Nath Kovind, who is on a state visit to the country, said at an Indian community reception here on Thursday.
 
“It is in that spirit that we are keen to assist you in developing solar energy projects. We hope these would soon glow, both in day and night, as shining examples of our partnership under the International Solar Alliance,” he added.
 
Mr. Kovind said that since his arrival in Suriname he was impressed by its biodiversity “but even more by the diversity of your people, your rich history and culture. You are many people, but One Nation.
 
“The Creoles, Javanese, Chinese, Hindustanis, Maroons and Amerindians have all added their beauty to your rainbow. The Mama Srananholds all her children lovingly in her arm, giving equally care and respect to each,” he added.
 
“The Hindustani community is a colourful part of the Surinamese fabric. I see them in large numbers here. They carry the stories of the arduous journey of their forefathers, undertaken from Kolkata to Paramaribo, close to their hearts. 
 
“In the steps of Baba and Mai, they follow their past, their pride and their history. These inspire millions in India as well. The Baba and Mai monument in Kolkata, an exact replica of the one in Paramaribo, is testimony to our umbilical connect,” he said.
 
“I am happy that the Hindustani community has beautifully assimilated in the Surinamese society and yet, has preserved and kept their traditions and culture alive. The best of India, be it music, art or language has a place of pride here.  And the best of Indian cinema is enjoyed by all.”
 
Referring to the 145th anniversary celebrations of the arrival of Indians in this country, he said, “But  what is deeply inspiring for me is that each and every member of the Surinamese society is sharing the festivities. And you are not just living in harmony with your communities, but also in harmony with nature.
 
“I am told you are the greenest country in the world.  Deep in your forests and river valleys, exist centuries old wisdom and traditional knowledge. We should bring them back into our modern lives. I am happy that you celebrate National Ayurveda Day in Suriname. Today, we have agreed to collaborate in the fields of traditional medicine and plants. I hope we will succeed in bringing the best of Suriname and India together," he added.
 
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Earlier, in remarks to the media here on Wednesday, Mr. Kovind said he had had an excellent meeting with President Desire Bouterse and exchanged views on bilateral and global issues of common concern.
 
"We expressed our highest commitment to further build on the already warm and friendly relations between Suriname and India. We agreed to expand the bilateral agenda especially in the areas of economic relations, cultural cooperation and development partnership.
 
"We conveyed our strong support to make the International Solar Alliance a success and contribute to tacking climate change. I had the privilege to receive the Ratification Instrument of Suriname joining the International Solar Alliance from President Bouterse. To begin bilateral engagement under the Alliance, India will extend concessional financing of US Dollars 20 million for setting up a solar project to provide clean energy to a cluster of 49 villages in Suriname. We look forward to completing the project in a time-bound manner," he said.
 
"Development Cooperation, under the rubric South-South Cooperation, is an important pillar of Indo-Surinamese relations. To further strengthen this privileged partnership, India will extend a Line of Credit of US Dollars 27.5 million to support a power transmission project in PikinSaronarea and another Line of Credit of US Dollars 3.5 million for maintenance of Chetak helicopters. We have also extended financial grants for a craft market project and a digital literacy programme. We hope our assistance will help in promoting economic sustainability and capacity building of women and children in Suriname.
 
"We want to strengthen our capacity building partnership with Suriname through the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation programme as well. We have, therefore, offered to raise the annual scholarships to Suriname under the programme from 40 to 50," he said.
 
Mr. Kovind said India would assist Suriname to establish a Centre of Excellence in Information Technology. An MoU to take forward this project has been signed. Besides, the two sides have also concluded four MoUs in the fields of elections, diplomatic academies partnership, employment for spouse of diplomats of the two countries and archives. 
 
Mr. Bouterse expressed Suriname’s continued support for India’s aspiration to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council. 
 
"We also expressed our deepest concern on the threat posed by terrorism and conveyed strong support to each other to fight the global menace.
 
"We conveyed our mutual satisfaction at the strong people-to-people relations and cultural cooperation that exist between the two countries. I thanked President Bouterse for donating land for constructing the new premises of the Indian Cultural Centre in Paramaribo," he added.
 
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Israeli Prime Minister's wife charged with fraud

 
Israeli PM Netanyahu's wife charged with fraud
 
 
Sara Netanyahu, wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was charged with fraud and breach of trust on Thursday over the alleged misuse of state funds, the Justice Ministry said.
 
In a case known as the "Meals-Ordering Affair", prosecutors said Sara Netanyahu used state money to fraudulently pay for $100,000 worth of meals at the Prime Minister's residence between 2010 and 2013, according to an indictment filed at the Jerusalem magistrate's court on Thursday.
 
She also illegally paid approximately $10,000 for private chefs, prosecutors were cited as saying by CNN.
 
Sara Netanyahu has denied the charges and refused to settle the payment out of court. 
 
IANS
 
 
 
 
 
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Brahmos leads Indian charge at Paris defence show

File photo of BrahMos missile.
File photo of BrahMos missile.
There was a stark difference in the Indian presence at Eurosatory, the just-concluded biennial defence show here. While the previous edition, held in June 2016, had seen some of the heavyweights of Indian DPSUs, including the Garden Reach Shipyard and the Ordnance Factories Board, as well as the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the turnout of Indian companies at this years edition could hardly have been more different.
 
Leading the Indian presence was the Brahmos Aerospace Indo-Russian joint venture that can easily be termed the most successful example of an Indian firm developing an entire range of new products that not only meet the requirements of the Indian defence forces, but also elicit regular enquiries from numerous potential buyers around the world.
 
Colonel J.P. Uniyal, Director of Business Development and Product Support, at Brahmos said that even though Brahmos had skipped the last edition of Eurosatory, the participation this year has been very successful and highly satisfactory. 
 
"We have had numerous meetings with potential buyers who are very interested in our products and especially the recent innovation of the variants that can be launched from an aircraft, as we have proven by testing Brahmos on the Sukhois used by the Indian Air Force," Uniyal told Media India Group. 
 
According to Uniyal, the principal enquiries came from countries like South Korea and Brazil. 
 
"With some of these countries, we have been having discussions for a while. But it was important to be here and meet with them again as in the weapons' business, like any other business, you need to be seen at key global platforms such as Eurosatory to stay on the top of the mind of your customers. If you are absent frequently, then they tend to find other suppliers," he said.
 
Brahmos had also perhaps the most appealing display at the event, amongst the Indian participants. MKU, a Kanpur-based defence manufacturer, too had an active presence at the event, with the company displaying several of its products to attract buyers at the event, a strategy that perhaps proved to be highly successful, if the beeline of visitors to MKU stall was any indication.
 
One highlight of the Indian presence at the Eurosatory was the participation of a number of Small & Medium Enterprises in the domain of defence, ranging from protective gear and clothing to speciality steels and manufacturers of ancillaries for larger defence material like tanks, trucks and guns.
 
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Sweta Chaudhry Singh, Director of Frontier Protectivewear, a manufacturer of protective clothing based in Kolkata, said the participation in Eurosatory was good for her firm. 
 
"Basically, it was a good show for us. We had come to develop our market in Europe further as we already have some customers in Germany. We were also looking for new partners and on both the parameters, the show proved to be successful," she said.
 
Though there were only a handful of Indian firms that had their own stall like Frontier Protectivewear at the event, a number of SMEs had also come as part of delegations led by chambers of commerce such as FICCI and ICC, Kolkata. 
 
"These firms were looking for collaboration in terms of boosting their design capabilities as well as to identify those French and global partners who could be interested in transfer of know-how to Indian companies," said Sourav Raichudhuri of the Paris Chamber of Commerce (CCIP), which had organised B2B meetings for the Indian delegation. 
 
The Indian companies were also scouting for clients who needed their prowess in software development. Drones and composite materials were high on the wishlist of the Indian firms.
 
(Paris-based Ranvir Nayar is Managing Director of the Media India Group.)
 
IANS
 
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'Twitter Media', a new home for publishers, is here

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In an apparent attempt to get close to publishers, Twitter has launched "Twitter Media" -- a website dedicated to helping small publishers get the most from its platform.
 
Kay Madati, Global Vice President and Head of Content Partnerships officially introduced the new site.
 
"With Facebook disappointing publishers for the last few years Twitter saw an opportunity, and now it's launching 'Twitter Media', a website dedicated to helping small publishers get the most from its platform," tech website WeRSM reported late on Tuesday.
 
"Twitter Media" would feature best practices from content publishers across Twitter, curated by Twitter's news, sports and entertainment partnerships teams.
 
The micro-blogging site said that "Twitter Media" will be updated regularly with case studies and success stories and will also feature a blog to help publishers stay up-to-date with tools for publishers.
 
The website would also include information about new products and features designed specifically for content publishers and there would be an easy-to-navigate help section curating answers to the most common questions Twitter gets from content publishers.
 
IANS
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Kovind meets Greek leaders, leads delegation-level talks

 
Kovind meets Greece Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras
 
 
President Ram Nath Kovind on Monday highlighted India's commitment to promote trade and investment engagement with Greece and said India was keen to deepen bilateral cooperation in all areas, especially in the political and economic fields.
 
At a meeting with Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and delegation-level talks, Mr. Kovind, who was on a state visit to Greece, emphasized the age-old civilizational ties between the two nations.
 
He said India and Greece shared values of democracy, rule of law and multi-cultural ethos, and these had hadded depth to their bilateral and multi-lateral engagements.
 
Earlier, he was accorded a ceremonial welcome at the Presidential Mansion.
 
Mr. Kovind stated that bilateral trade between the two countries, at $ 530 million, was below potential and more efforts must be made to expand and diversify their trade.
 
He informed the Greek delegation that India had accepted the invitation to participate in the prestigious Thessaloniki International Fair, 2019 as the “Honoured Country”.
 
He also apprised the Greek delegation of the steps taken by India to improve the business climate in the country and said that India wished to collaborate with the Greek companies to become partners in the growth story of India. In particular, India could benefit from expertise of Greece in areas such as Shipping, Food and Dairy, and Tourism. On the other hand Indian companies especially in the areas of pharma, IT, agriculture, real estate, infrastructure and start-ups are keen to establish presence in Greece, he said.
 
India also thanked Greece for its support for India’s candidature for a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council and for membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
 
On cultural ties, the President said that as two ancient civilizations that have interacted with each other for centuries, they have a deep cultural understanding of each other. He also said that the two countries should work together to develop Greek and Indian traditional medicinal practices as healthcare options for people.
 
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After the delegation level talks, the President also met the Prime Minister of Greece, Mr Alexis Tsipras, and the two leaders discussed different issues of mutual interest to both nations. Later, Mr Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Leader of Opposition of the Hellenic Republic also called on the President.
 
During the day, three memoranda of understanding (MoUs) were signed between  the two sides: an MoU between Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and National Quality Infrastructure System/Hellenic Organization for Standardization on Cooperation in the Fields of Standardization; an MoU between Foreign Service Institute (FSI), India and Diplomatic Academy, Greece on Cooperation in Diplomatic Training; and the Programme of Cultural Cooperation for the year 2018-2020.
 
Later in the evening, the President was due to lay a wreath at the Phaleron Indian Cremation Memorial where the remains of the 74 soldiers of undivided India who sacrificed their lives during World War II were laid to rest. The President was also slated to attend a State Banquet hosted by the President of Greece.
 
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Your kids' obesity may up knee, hip osteoarthritis risk later

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If your son or daughter is obese during childhood then he or she could be at an increased risk of developing knee and hip osteoarthritis later, new research has found.

Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis that occurs when flexible tissue at the ends of bones wears down.

The results showed that childhood body mass index (BMI) significantly increased the prevalence of osteoarthritis by 1.7 per cent per unit increase in BMI, specifically 0.6 per cent in the knee and 0.6 per cent in the hip.

Conversely, high adult BMI significantly increased the prevalence of osteoarthritis by 2.7 per cent per unit increase in BMI, and 1.3 per cent in the knee, and 0.4 per cent in the hip.

"Our results suggest the effect of adult BMI seems to be stronger on knees, whilst childhood BMI might impact both knee and hip osteoarthritis risk similarly," said author Professor Prieto-Alhambra from the University of Oxford in Britain.

The research, published in the journal Annals of Rheumatic Diseases, included data from two genome-wide association studies (GWAS) which identified 15 and 97 specific gene changes, known as SNPs -- single nucleotide polymorphism -- associated with childhood and adulthood BMI respectively.

The team then used a separate GWAS of 3,37,000 unrelated individuals. They identified 13/15 childhood obesity SNPs and 68/97 adulthood obesity SNPs and then analysed the association between these SNPs and self-reported osteoarthritis, as well as hospital data for the knee, hip and hand osteoarthritis.

The study, also presented at Annual European Congress of Rheumatology (EULAR 2018) in Amsterdam, showed no association between childhood and adult obesity with the development of osteoarthritis in hand.

"Obesity in both childhood and adulthood is an important public health issue," said Johannes W. Bijlsma, President of European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR), a Switzerland-based non-profit organisation.

"These data showing a causal relationship with osteoarthritis should add further impetus to tackle the issue of obesity and reduce related disability," Bijlsma added.

IANS

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