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Heart patients who walk faster hospitalised less

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Increasing the pace of walking may bring some added benefits as researchers have found that faster-walking patients with heart disease are hospitalised less.

"The faster the walking speed, the lower the risk of hospitalisation and the shorter the length of hospital stay," said study author Carlotta Merlo, a researcher at the University of Ferrara in Italy.

"Since reduced walking speed is a marker of limited mobility, which has been linked to decreased physical activity, we assume that fast walkers in the study are also fast walkers in real life," she added.

The study was conducted in 1,078 hypertensive patients, of whom 85% also had coronary heart disease and 15% also had valve disease.

A total of 359 patients were identified as slow walkers, 362 intermediate and 357 fast walkers.

The researchers recorded the number of all-cause hospitalisations and length of stay of the participants over the next three years.

During the three year period, 182 of the slow walkers (51%) had at least one hospitalisation, compared to 160 (44%) of the intermediate walkers, and 110 (31%) of the fast walkers, according to the study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

The slow, intermediate and fast walking groups spent a total of 4,186, 2,240, and 990 days in the hospital over the three years, respectively.

The average length of hospital stay for each patient was 23, 14, and 9 days for the slow, intermediate and fast walkers, respectively.

Each 1 km/hour increase in walking speed resulted in a 19% reduction in the likelihood of being hospitalised during the three-year period.

Compared to the slow walkers, fast walkers had a 37% lower likelihood of hospitalisation in three years, the findings showed.

"Walking is the most popular type of exercise in adults. It is free, does not require special training, and can be done almost anywhere. Even short, but regular, walks have substantial health benefits. Our study shows that the benefits are even greater when the pace of walking is increased," Merlo said.

IANS

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Running marathon boosts immunity: Study

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Debunking the 'myth' that strenuous exercise increases infection risk by suppressing the immune system, a new study says that competing in endurance sports like marathon running may actually be beneficial for upping immunity.

"It is increasingly clear that changes happening to your immune system after a strenuous bout of exercise do not leave your body immune-suppressed," said study co-author John Campbell from the University of Bath in Britain.

"In fact, evidence now suggests that your immune system is boosted after exercise -- for example, we know that exercise can improve your immune response to a flu jab," Campbell added.

Research from the 1980s, which focused on events such as the Los Angeles Marathon, asked competitors if they had symptoms of infections in the days and weeks after their race.

Many did, leading to a widespread belief that endurance sports increase infection risk by suppressing our immune system.

In a detailed analysis of research articles that have been published since the 1980s, this new review study, published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology, has reinterpreted the findings.

The researchers explained that for competitors taking part in endurance sports, exercise causes immune cells to change in two ways.

Initially, during exercise, the number of some immune cells in the bloodstream can increase dramatically by up to 10 times, especially "natural killer cells" which deal with infections.

After exercise, some cells in the bloodstream decrease substantially -- sometimes falling to levels lower than before exercise started, and this can last for several hours.

Many scientists previously interpreted this fall in immune cells after exercise to be immune-suppression.

However, strong evidence suggests that this does not mean that cells have been 'lost' or 'destroyed', but rather that they move to other sites in the body that are more likely to become infected, such as the lungs, according to the study.

The researchers, therefore, suggested that low numbers of immune cells in the bloodstream in the hours after exercise, far from being a sign of immune-suppression, are in fact a signal that these cells, primed by exercise, are working in other parts of the body.

"The findings from our analysis emphasise that people should not be put off exercise for fear that it will dampen their immune system. Clearly, the benefits of exercise, including endurance sports, outweigh any negative effects which people may perceive," study co-author James Turner from the University of Bath said.

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Sushma Swaraj arrives in Beijing, to hold talks with Wang Yi

File photo of Sushma Swaraj
File photo of Sushma Swaraj
India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj arrived on Saturday in Beijing on a four-day China visit where she will hold crucial bilateral talks with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi and attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation ministerial-level meeting.
 
The one-on-one meet with Wang on Sunday will be the key highlight of Swaraj's visit in which she will discuss a range of issues and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's China trip in June to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Summit.
 
She will meet a more powerful Wang who in March was promoted to China's top diplomatic post of State Councillor. Their last meeting was in December on the sidelines of the BRICS Foreign Ministers meet.
 
Sushma Swaraj will attend the SCO foreign ministerial-level meeting on April 24 and leave for Mongolia.
 
After the 73-day military stand-off at Doklam in 2017, China and India have tried to mend their ties, which is evident from the stepped up bilateral exchanges and high-level visits.
 
Besides the long-standing border dispute, the two countries have a host of issues that plague their relationship. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) irks India as its planned route cuts through the disputed Kashmir held by Islamabad and claimed by New Delhi.
 
Beijing's opposition to New Delhi's application at the UN to have Pakistan-based terror group chief Masood Azhar declared an international terrorist is another pesky issue between both countries.
 
India's willingness to join the emerging bloc of the US, Japan and Australia to counter an increasingly assertive China in the Indo-Pacific region worries Beijing. However, both sides seem to have decided to work with each other despite differences.
 
While bilateral high-level visits and dialogue have increased, both sides have propitiated each other. China in March agreed to share the Brahmaputra River data with India, which it had withheld after the military crisis erupted in 2017.
 
India shifted a planned Dalai Lama event out New Delhi, not to tick off Beijing, which calls the Tibetan spiritual leader a "separatist".
 
Last week, India's National Security Adviser Ajit Doval met China's senior-most diplomat Yang Jiechi in Shanghai.
 
IANS
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Skull surgery performed on Stone Age cow: Study

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For the first time, a definite example of cranial surgery has been found in a cow from Stone age that suggests that animal trials were held before graduating to humans, a study said.

The near-complete cow's skull was discovered at a Neolithic site dating back to 3,400 to 3,000 B.C., a CNN report said. The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

It was found at the Stone Age site of Champ-Durand in France, 25 miles from the Atlantic coast.

The settlement, once a key trade centre, specialised in salt production and rearing cattle. Archaeological excavations between 1975 and 1985, found bones of cows, pigs, sheep and goats.

Cows, though popular finds in Neolithic sites, had never been found with complete craniums, the CNN report said. They were raised as food, and their skulls were broken to retrieve the tongue and brain, the study said.

A 1999 study on the skull pointed at it being gored by another cow. However, Fernando Ramirez Rozzi, a palaeontologist with the Centre National de la Recherché Scientifique, who studied the skull, said otherwise.

No sign of healing around the bone tissue meant either it did not survive the trepanation process or died shortly after. The other possibility is that it was dead when the hole was formed.

The bone had been scraped intensively -- with the intent to form a hole in the cranium, meaning it was not accidental.

Humans have been performing cranial surgery for a long time. The oldest example of trepanation dates back to 7,300 B.C.in an Azerbaijan village.

That means cranial surgery was happening as long ago as the Mesolithic period.

Earlier, a wild boar skull found in Roquefort, France, possibly from the Neolithic period, showed signs of surgery, but the skull was never dated.

If this was a surgical intervention to help and save the life of the cow, it could be considered the oldest evidence of a veterinarian act, Rozzi said.

A likely scenario, he said was that humans practised surgical experimentation on animals before trying it on each other. "These two possibilities reveal new insights for the Neolithic society," Rozzi added.

IANS

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Modi arrives in Germany on last leg of three-nation tour

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived here from Britain here on Friday on the third and last leg of his three-nation tour of Europe.
 
Modi will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in what will be the first meeting between the two leaders after the latter began her fourth term on March 14 this year.
 
Modi and Merkel are expected to exchange views on a number of bilateral, regional and global issues.
 
Earlier on Friday, Modi attended the concluding ceremony of this year's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and participated in the leaders' retreat, becoming the first Indian Prime Minister since 2009 to attend this biannual summit of the 53-nation grouping of former British colonies.
 
Prior to Britain, he visited Sweden where he attended the first ever India-Nordic Summit which also saw the participation of the leaders of Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway.
 
IANS
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Chip-based blood test could replace painful bone biopsy

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Days of using painful bone biopsies to diagnose and treat certain cancers may be numbered as researchers have found that a simple blood test that uses a plastic chip about the size of a credit card can do the job.

The diagnosis and treatment of multiple myeloma, a cancer affecting plasma cells, traditionally forces patients to suffer through a painful bone biopsy.

During that procedure, doctors insert a bone-biopsy needle through an incision to get a bone marrow sample -- or make a larger incision and remove a section of bone via surgery.

Bone biopsies are used to guide treatment of certain other cancers, such as many types of leukaemia.

The new study, published in the journal Integrative Biology, showed that a low-cost chip-based blood test can deliver the same diagnostic information as a bone biopsy -- but using a simple blood draw instead.

This test will be able to help clinicians determine the stage of the disease, what type of drug will best treat the disease and monitor for signs of recurrence if the disease goes into remission, the researchers said.

"For the last 10 years, we've been developing a blood-based test for a variety of cancer diseases -- one of them is multiple myeloma," said Steven Soper, Professor at the University of Kansas in the US.

"We'll be able to eliminate the need for bone-marrow biopsies and allow the clinician to determine the best way to treat the disease using a blood draw," Soper added.

Soper said that previous plastic chips to test for multiple myeloma had shortcomings, such as picking up regular blood cells instead of multiple myeloma cells in the blood.

By contrast, the new chip vastly improves testing performance and accuracy over previous chips for multiple myeloma, according to the researchers.

High levels of circulating multiple myeloma cells are linked with more aggressive disease and worse outcomes, so a sensitive test is vital for assessing the state of the disease in a patient and devising the most effective therapy.

"What's really nice is we can produce these chips for a couple of dollars per chip, which makes it really appropriate for testing in a clinical setting," Soper said.

The new test for multiple myeloma developed by the team will be brought to market by BioFluidica, a San Diego-based company.

"Patients will soon be benefiting from this technology," Soper said.

IANS

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India pitches for small island nations' development at Commonwealth summit

 
Modi arrives for CHOGM, greeted by May
 
 
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday pitched India's interest for the development of small island nations at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) here.
 
Briefing the media here, Ruchi Ghanashyam, Secretary (West) in the Indian External Affairs Ministry, said that Modi's participation at CHOGM conveyed India's interest in the development of the small island nations.
 
On the sidelines of the summit, Modi met leaders of several of the island nations of the Indian Ocean, the Caribbean and the Pacific.
 
India has been increasingly reaching out to these island nations given their vulnerability in the face of climate change and their stakes in the blue economy.
 
"A large number of the Commonwealth nations are small island nations," Ghanashyam said.
 
According to her, Modi during the two executive sessions across the day, said that India will help these nations through the National Institute of Oceanography in Goa.
 
Another important offer that Modi made that invoked interest was that, through the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), India will help train 30 boys and 30 girls under the age of 16 from the Commonwealth nations to undergo training in cricket.
 
According to Ghanashyam, the Commonwealth leaders' discussions during the day focused on four areas: democracy, international treaty rule, attaining the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and security concerns.
 
Earlier on Thursday, Modi attended the opening ceremony of this year's CHOGM, becoming the first Indian Prime Minister to attend this biannual event since 2009.
 
IANS
 
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Modi meets leaders of Commonwealth nations on margins of CHOGM

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As part of India's diplomatic reach-out across the Commonwealth nations, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday met a number of leaders of Africa, and the island nations of the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and the Pacific on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) here.
 
Keeping with India's increasing engagements with Africa, Modi met Gambian President Adama Barrow and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, according to tweets by Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar.
 
According to Kumar, Modi and Gambian President Barrow discussed steps to deepen the bilateral partnership.
 
The Indian Prime Minister also met Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Rick Houenipwela and Kiribati President Taneti Maamau.
 
India has been increasingly reaching out to these Pacific island nations given their vulnerability in the face of climate change and their stakes in the blue economy.
 
Fiji is also home to a large number of people of Indian origin, who constitute around 37 per cent of the country's total population of nearly 900,000. Most of them are descendants of indentured labour taken from India in the 19th and early 20th centuries to work in the sugarcane plantations there.
 
Among the Caribbean islands, Modi met the St. Lucia and Antigua & Barbuda Prime Ministers, Allen Chastanet and Gaston Browne respectively.
 
As India continues to engage with its extended neighbourhood, the Indian Prime Minister met Seychelles President Danny Faure and Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth.
 
While Modi discussed cooperation in areas of trade and investment and other bilateral issues with Faure, the talks with Jugnauth were around cooperation in the areas of trade and investment, maritime cooperation and people-to-people ties, according to Kumar.
 
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India sees both Mauritius and the Seychelles as important stakeholders in the blue economy and Modi has made official visits to both these countries.
 
Significantly, all these nations whose leaders Modi met are prospective members of the India-initiated International Solar Alliance (ISA).
 
Launched by Modi and then French President Francois Hollande at the Paris climate summit in 2015, the ISA was conceived as a coalition of solar resource-rich countries to address their special energy needs and provide a platform to collaborate on dealing with the identified gaps through a common, agreed approach.
 
It is open to all 121 prospective member countries falling between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.
 
Earlier on Thursday, Modi attended the opening ceremony of this year's CHOGM, becoming the first Indian Prime Minister to attend this biannual event since 2009.
 
Declaring the summit of the 53-nation Commonwealth open, Queen Elizabeth II proposed that her son Prince Charles should follow her and lead the organisation which her father, King George VI, founded after the end of the British Empire.
 
India, which is home to half of the 2.4 billion population of the Commonwealth, is expected to play a catalytic role in reinvigorating the organisation which had lost its relevance over the years in an increasingly multipolar world.
 
IANS
 
 
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Queen Elizabeth II wants son Charles to lead Commonwealth

 
Queen Elizabeth backs Charles to take on Commonwealth role
 
 
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II has asked Commonwealth leaders gathered at Buckingham Palace for the opening of a major summit to appoint her son Prince Charles to succeed her as their head.
 
She said it was her "sincere wish" that Prince Charles takes over "one day", as she opened the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) attended by 53 member countries in London on Thursday, the BBC reported.
 
The Queen said that her son should follow her and lead the organisation which her father, King George VI, founded after the end of the British Empire.
 
The role is not hereditary and will not pass automatically to Charles, the Prince of Wales, on the Queen's death. The Commonwealth leaders will make a decision on the succession on Friday, No 10 Downing Street said.
 
"It is my sincere wish that the Commonwealth will continue to offer stability and continuity for future generations, and will decide that one day the Prince of Wales should carry on the important work started by my father in 1949," she told the leaders.
 
Over 100 officers and soldiers from the Coldstream Guards were in honour guard outside the venue, wearing scarlet tunics and bearskins, as a 53-gun salute marked the formal opening.
 
Issues under discussion at the two-day summit included ocean conservation, cyber security and trade between the countries.
 
Prime Minister Theresa May told the leaders the summit would "take on some of the 21st Century's biggest questions".
 
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Speaking in the ballroom, which was decorated with the flags of the 53 nations, May said: "There have been difficulties, successes, controversies, but I believe wholeheartedly in the good that the Commonwealth can do."
 
She also thanked the Queen for hosting the event, calling her a "steadfast and fervent champion" of the Commonwealth.
 
The ceremony was attended by 46 Commonwealth heads of government, out of the 53 member-states, with the remaining attendees being Foreign Ministers.
 
In his speech, the 69-year-old Prince said: "For my part, the Commonwealth has been a fundamental feature of my life for as long as I can remember, beginning with my first visit to Malta when I was just five years old.
 
"The modern Commonwealth has a vital role to play in building bridges between our countries." 
 
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Harry and Prince William were among the other royals in attendance.
 
IANS
 
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Spectacular Lyrid meteor shower peaks this weekend

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Keep your heads up at night this weekend to witness a spectacular celestial show as scientists expect the Lyrid meteor shower to peak shortly before dawn on April 22.

Up to 20 meteors per hour will likely be visible overnight on April 21-22, Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday citing NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

To view the Lyrid shower this weekend, observers should find an area away from light pollution on the night of April 21.

As the waxing Moon may interfere with visibility, the best time to view it is the few hours after the Moon sets.

Special equipment like telescopes and binoculars are not necessary to view the Lyrid meteor shower, which is safe to view with naked eyes.

The Lyrids are classified as a medium-strength shower and are visible every year in April, according to the Space Science Telescope Institute in Baltimore, Maryland.

The Lyrid meteor shower is one of the oldest known meteor showers. Records of this shower go back some 2,700 years, according to American astronomer Bruce McClure.

IANS

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Human brain grown in rodents to boost treatments for neurological disorders

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In a first, US scientists have grown miniature human brains or human brain organoids, in the skulls of mice, a breakthrough that could boost stem cell research as well as provide insight into neurological disorders such as autism, dementia, and schizophrenia.

Scientists from the Salk Institute grafted human stem-cell-based organoids into a blood-vessel-rich area of the mouse brain.

The grafted human organoids integrated into the host environment formed both neurons and neuronal support cells called astrocytes and were surveyed by immune cells.

Significantly, the team saw not only native blood vessels but vessels with blood flowing through them - a first for organoids, revealed the paper detailed in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

"That was a big accomplishment," lead author Abed Al Fattah Mansour, a research associate at Salk, said in a statement.

"We saw infiltration of blood vessels into the organoid and supplying it with blood, which was exciting because it's perhaps the ticket for organoids' long-term survival," Mansour added.

In the study, the team divided each organoid in half before transplantation and maintained one of the halves in culture so they could directly compare the benefit of both environments.

They found that the cultured halves were filled with dying cells after a few months, while the age-matched organoids in the rodents were healthy.

Human transplantation in animals has been used for decades in the brain and other tissues to enhance survival and test for mature function.

But, the new approach can develop more sophisticated organoid models by ensuring they receive sufficient oxygen and other nutrients via transplantation into rodents.

The work could yield insights into the development of cures for brain disorders, speed up the testing of drugs, and even pave the way for someday transplanting healthy populations of human cells into people's brains to replace damaged or dysfunctional tissue, the researchers said.

IANS

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Single concussion may up Parkinson's risk by nearly 60%

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Suffering even a mild concussion or a mild traumatic brain injury may be associated with nearly 60% increased the risk of developing Parkinson's disease, according to a study.

Parkinson's is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that mainly affects the motor system.

The study showed that people with any kind of traumatic brain injury had a 71% increased risk of Parkinson's disease while those with moderate to severe traumatic brain injury had an 83% increased risk.

People with mild traumatic brain injury showed a 56% increased risk.

"The study highlights the importance of concussion prevention, long-term follow-up of those with concussion, and the need for future studies to investigate if there are other risk factors for Parkinson's disease that can be modified after someone has a concussion," said lead author Raquel C. Gardner, from the University of California - San Francisco.

Moderate to severe traumatic brain injury was defined as a loss of consciousness for more than 30 minutes, alteration of consciousness for more than 24 hours or amnesia for more than 24 hours.

Mild traumatic brain injury was defined as loss of consciousness for zero to 30 minutes, alteration of consciousness of a moment to 24 hours or amnesia for zero to 24 hours.

The researchers also found that those with any form of traumatic brain injury were diagnosed with Parkinson's disease an average of two years earlier than those without traumatic brain injury.

For the study, published in the journal Neurology, researchers identified 325,870 participants from the US who ranged in the age group of 31 to 65 and were followed for an average of 4.6 years.

IANS

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Facebook not yet ready with digital payments on Messenger in India

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Facebook has no plans as of now to bring digital payment facility to its Messenger application in India, informed sources said on Thursday.

"There are currently no tests planned for recharges or peer-to-peer payments on Messenger in India," the sources told IANS.

Factor Daily had reported that Facebook has begun a beta version of recharge payments for mobile phone and other prepaid services on Messenger.

"Mobile recharge option is a Facebook 'Marketplace' offering -- which is actually going on as a pilot test which is right now available to only Android users in some regions," the sources added.

Launched in 2016, Marketplace is a user-to-user exchange platform for buying and selling goods with others within the community.

Currently, the peer-to-peer payment service on Messenger is available for its users in the US and the UK.

More than 1.3 billion people around the world are now using Facebook Messenger every month. The growth of Messenger now puts the app at par with Facebook-owned WhatsApp which also has over 1.3 billion monthly active users (MAUs).

WhatsApp, however, has rolled out the testing phase of its digital payment feature in India -- a first such move globally -- which will be officially rolled out to its over 200 million Indian users in the days to come.

When launched, the new payments feature is set to give a tough competition to Paytm and other digital payment services like Google Tez. The payments feature would take advantage of UPI (Unified Payments Interface) and include support by a number of banks, including the State Bank of India, ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, and Axis Bank.

IANS

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NASA Planet Hunter launched to search for new worlds outside our solar system

 
NASA launches plant-hunting satellite
 
 
United States space agency NASA’s next planet-hunter, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), has launched on the first-of-its-kind mission to find worlds beyond our solar system, including some that could support life.
 
TESS, which is expected to find thousands of new exoplanets orbiting nearby stars, lifted off at 6:51 p.m. EDT Wednesday on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. 
 
At 7:53 p.m., the twin solar arrays that will power the spacecraft successfully deployed, a press release from NASA said.
 
“We are thrilled TESS is on its way to help us discover worlds we have yet to imagine, worlds that could possibly be habitable, or harbor life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “With missions like the James Webb Space Telescope to help us study the details of these planets, we are ever the closer to discovering whether we are alone in the universe.”
 
Over the course of several weeks, TESS will use six thruster burns to travel in a series of progressively elongated orbits to reach the Moon, which will provide a gravitational assist so that TESS can transfer into its 13.7-day final science orbit around Earth. After approximately 60 days of check-out and instrument testing, the spacecraft will begin its work.
 
“One critical piece for the science return of TESS is the high data rate associated with its orbit,” said George Ricker, TESS principal investigator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research in Cambridge. “Each time the spacecraft passes close to Earth, it will transmit full-frame images taken with the cameras. That’s one of the unique things TESS brings that was not possible before.”
 
For this two-year survey mission, scientists divided the sky into 26 sectors. TESS will use four unique wide-field cameras to map 13 sectors encompassing the southern sky during its first year of observations and 13 sectors of the northern sky during the second year, altogether covering 85 percent of the sky.
 
TESS will be watching for phenomena called transits. A transit occurs when a planet passes in front of its star from the observer’s perspective, causing a periodic and regular dip in the star’s brightness. More than 78 percent of the approximately 3,700 confirmed exoplanets have been found using transits.
 
NASA’s Kepler spacecraft found more than 2,600 exoplanets, most orbiting faint stars between 300 and 3,000 light-years from Earth, using this same method of watching for transits. TESS will focus on stars between 30 and 300 light-years away and 30 to 100 times brighter than Kepler’s targets.
 
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The brightness of these target stars will allow researchers to use spectroscopy, the study of the absorption and emission of light, to determine a planet’s mass, density and atmospheric composition. Water, and other key molecules, in its atmosphere can give us hints about a planets’ capacity to harbor life.
 
“The targets TESS finds are going to be fantastic subjects for research for decades to come,” said Stephen Rinehart, TESS project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “It’s the beginning of a new era of exoplanet research.”
 
Through the TESS Guest Investigator Program, the worldwide scientific community will be able to conduct research beyond TESS’s core mission in areas ranging from exoplanet characterization to stellar astrophysics, distant galaxies and solar system science.
 
TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by MIT and managed by Goddard. George Ricker, of MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, serves as principal investigator for the mission. TESS’s four wide-field cameras were developed by MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. Additional partners include Orbital ATK, NASA’s Ames Research Center, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and the Space Telescope Science Institute. More than a dozen universities, research institutes and observatories worldwide are participants in the mission.
 
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Modi warns Pakistan on terrorism, expresses concern over rape incidents

In a veiled message to Pakistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday that antics of those exporting terror and trying to backstab will not be tolerated and they will be answered in language they understand.

 
Those who stab us will be answered in same language: Modi
In a veiled message to Pakistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday that antics of those exporting terror and trying to backstab will not be tolerated and they will be answered in language they understand.
 
He said Islamabad had been informed of the 2016 surgical strikes before these were announced to the media. 
 
Taking part in an interactive session 'Bharat ki Baat, Sabke Saath' at the historic Central Hall Westminster here, Modi referred to the outrage over multiple rape cases of minor girls in India and said such incidents cannot be tolerated. 
 
He took several digs at the opposition, particularly the Congress, and said that the pace of work of his government was much faster than of the previous UPA government.
 
The interaction, which lasted for more than two hours, saw Modi highlighting achievements of his government in the past about four years to build electoral momentum for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
 
Modi termed the surgical strikes of September 29, 2016 an answer to the exporters of terrorism.
 
Referring to the Uri terror strike, Modi said: "We will not tolerate those who like to export terror and those who try to stab at the back. We know how to give back strong answers and in the language they understand. Some cowards come and kill our jawans. Do you want me to stay quiet? Shouldn't they be replied in the same coin?" 
 
"The surgical strike was an answer to the exporters of terrorism, sending message (to Pakistan) that India has changed and their antics will never be tolerated. I am proud of my soldiers. The soldiers executed the surgical strike without making a single mistake and with 100 per cent perfection. And they returned before sunrise," Modi said.
 
He said he had told the Army to announce the strikes to media after informing Pakistan. He said Pakistani authorities were initially hesitant to take the calls but came on line around 12 noon the next day after which the media was informed about them. 
 
"...And look at our good intention. I told the army officer in-charge that before announcing the news in India, he should inform the Pakistan army first about the strike and they may remove the bodies if they want to," he added.
 
Pakistan has maintained that no surgical strikes were carried out by India.
 
New Delhi has been accusing Pakistan of sponsoring cross-border terrorism.
 
Referring to the foreign policy, Modi said India was dealing with all countries in the world on equal terms and was taking independent decisions in its dealings with countries such as Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iran. He said India has made its place in international fora and was setting the agenda. 
 
Referring to outrage over rape incidents, Modi said: "A rape is a rape. How can we tolerate this exploitation of our daughters?" 
 
He said comparing statistics of rapes in different governments was a worse way to deal with the issue and referred to his speech from the the Red Fort where he said people need to teach their sons to treat girls with respect. 
 
Modi took veiled potshots at Congress President Rahul Gandhi. "I do not need to read books to understand poverty. I have lived in poverty, I know what it is to be poor and belong to the backward sections of society. I want to work for the poor, the marginalised and the downtrodden," he said. 
 
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Modi said a wrong tendency had developed over the years of people getting overly dependent on the government.
 
"Mahatma Gandhi made the struggle of freedom a people's movement. I am making development a people's movement," he said.
 
He said people have more expectations from the BJP-led government as they have faith that it can deliver. 
 
Modi also accused the Congress of promoting legacy of one family and said many people of the country were not aware of contribution of Lord Basaveshwara. 
 
Lord Basaveshwara hailed from Karnataka where assembly polls will be held next month. 
 
Modi said he welcomes criticism as it makes democracy strong.
 
Modi referred to his government's initiatives including Ayushman Bharat and doubling farmers income by 2022. 
 
He said he was not born with an aim to be in history books and that 125 crore people of India were his family. "I am like any common citizen."
 
Referring to his personal life, Modi said: "My life at the Railway Station taught me so much. It was about my personal struggles. When you said Royal Palace, it is not about me but about the 125 crore people of India," he said.
 
IANS
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Hyperloop Transportation Technologies moves forward on first Commercial Hyperloop System in UAE

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Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) today said it had signed an agreement for the world's first commercial hyperloop system of 10 km in critical development area between Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
 
The agreement has been signed with Aldar Properties PJSC, a leading real estate developer in Abu Dhabi, a press release from HyperloopTT said.
 
The agreemnt will allow HyperloopTT to start construction of a Hyperloop system as well as HyperloopTT’s XO Square Innovation Center, and a Hyperloop Visitor Center, it said.
 
The construction site is located in Aldar’s Seih Al Sdeirah landbank in Abu Dhabi and in close proximity to the residential development Alghadeer. It is conveniently located on the border of the emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, close to the Expo 2020 site and Al Maktoum International Airport, the release said.
 
Abu Dhabi is the largest and Dubai is the second largest of the seven emirates that make up the UAE Federation.
 
The release said HyperloopTT plans construction of the line in several phases starting within the ten kilometer allocation, with further development aimed at creating a commercial hyperloop network across the Emirates and beyond.
 
Earlier this month HyperloopTT began construction of the first full-scale passenger and freight prototype system in Toulouse, France, and expects delivery of the first passenger capsule later this year. The capsule will be assembled and optimized in Toulouse, France, prior to use in the Emirates, it said.
 
“This agreement creates the basis for the first commercial Hyperloop system in the world here in the Emirates, with the goal of eventually connecting Abu Dhabi to Al Ain, Dubai, and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.” said Bibop Gresta, Chairman of HyperloopTT. “With regulatory support, we hope the first section will be operational in time for Expo 2020.”
 
“We are delighted to be working with HyperloopTT as they look to bring one of the world’s most revolutionary transportation technologies to Abu Dhabi,” said Talal Al Dhiyebi, Chief Executive Officer, Aldar Properties. “Alghadeer sits at such a strategic point within the UAE – close to major growth areas of both Abu Dhabi and Dubai, that it makes sense to pair it with rapid transport opportunities. We believe that hyperloop technology can have a major positive impact on the lives of all of those living within our communities, and we look forward to this possibility becoming a reality.”
 
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“A forward-thinking nation like the UAE is ideal for building the most revolutionary, most efficient, and fastest transportation system in the world,” said Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of HyperloopTT. “With this historic agreement in Abu Dhabi, we take a big step towards the world’s first commercial system.”
 
HTT is a transportation and technology company focused on realising the hyperloop, a system that moves people and goods at unprecedented speeds safely, efficiently, and sustainably. Through the use of unique, patented technology and an advanced business model of lean collaboration, open innovation and integrated partnership, HyperloopTT is creating and licensing technologies, the release said.
 
Founded in 2013, HyperloopTT is a global team comprising more than 800 engineers, creatives and technologists in 52 multidisciplinary teams, with 40 corporate and university partners. Headquartered in Los Angeles, CA, HyperloopTT has offices in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, UAE; Bratislava, Slovakia; Toulouse, France; and Barcelona, Spain. HyperloopTT has signed agreements in Ohio, Slovakia, Abu Dhabi, the Czech Republic, France, Indonesia, Korea and Brazil.
 
HyperloopTT is led by co-founders Dirk Ahlborn (CEO) and Bibop Gresta (Chairman) and a senior management team of experienced entrepreneurs and professionals. 
 
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India, Britain to boost anti-terror ties, work together in Indo-Pacific

India and Britain on Wednesday condemned terrorism in all its forms and agreed to strengthen cooperation against globally-proscribed terrorists and terror entities while naming Pakistan-based terror outfits following talks between Prime Ministers Narendra Modi of India and Theresa May of Britain.

 
Modi meets British PM Theresa May in London
 
 
India and Britain on Wednesday condemned terrorism in all its forms and agreed to strengthen cooperation to take "decisive and concerted actions" against globally-proscribed terrorists and terror entities while naming Pakistan-based terror outfits following talks between Prime Ministers Narendra Modi of India and Theresa May of Britain.
 
In a significant move, the two sides also agreed to work together for an open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.
 
At the breakfast meeting between Modi and May at her 10 Downing Street residence, the two leaders discussed their shared priorities in the Indo-Pacific and committed to working more closely together to ensure it remained free and open. 
 
"They reflected on the progress made on bilateral defence and security cooperation since (May's) visit to India in 2016 and the agreement on a number of defence capability partnerships in key strategic areas, with closer military-to-military ties underpinned by a succession of high level visits and exchanges," a Downing Street spokesperson said. 
 
"They agreed to continue working together closely to combat terrorism, radicalisation and online extremism."
 
A joint statement issued following the meeting said the two leaders reiterated their strong condemnation of terrorism in all its forms, including terrorism and terror-related incidents in both India and Britain. 
 
"Both leaders also affirmed that terrorism cannot be justified on any grounds whatsoever it may be and it should not be associated with any religion, creed, nationality and ethnicity," the statement said..
 
It said that both leaders agreed that terrorist and extremist organisations need to be denied space to radicalise, recruit and conduct attacks on innocent people; for this all countries need to work together to disrupt terrorist networks, their financing and movement of terrorists including foreign terrorists.
 
"The leaders agreed to strengthen cooperation to take decisive and concerted actions against globally-proscribed terrorists and terror entities to protect our citizens, including Lashkar-e-Tayibba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, Haqqani Network, Al Qaeda, ISIS (Islamic State) and their affiliates as well as tackling the online radicalisation and violent extremism which feeds this," the statement said.
 
It also said that a secure, free, open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific was in the interests of India, Britain and the international community. 
 
"The UK and India will also work together to tackle threats such as piracy, protect freedom of navigation and open access, and improve maritime domain awareness in the region," it stated.
 
This assumes significance given China's aggression in the South China Sea and attempts to increase its footprints in the Indo-Pacific region.
 
India, along with the US, Japan and Australia, recently revived a quad in the Indo-Pacific.
 
At their meeting, Modi and May discussed the nerve attack on an ex-Soviet spy and his daughter in Britain and the chemical attack in Syria, "expressing concern and making clear their opposition to the use of chemical weapons by any party in any circumstances". 
 
"In the wake of the appalling nerve agent attack in Salisbury, the UK and India have reiterated their shared interest in strengthening the disarmament and non-proliferation regimes against the spread and use of chemical weapons," the joint statement said. 
 
In a bid to boost cooperation in technology, the two sides have agreed to a new UK-India Technology Partnership.
 
"A UK-India Technology Partnership is central to our joint vision and to our prosperity, today and for our next generations," the statement said. 
 
India has also welcomed Britain's initiative of establishing a UK-India Tech Hub in India as part of the growing bilateral technology partnership, according to the statement.
 
The Downing Street spokesperson also said that May updated Modi on the progress of Britain's withdrawal from the European Union, "saying the implementation period agreed in March gives Indian companies and investors the confidence that market access will continue on current terms until the end of 2020".
 
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"Prime Minister Modi said there would be no dilution in the importance of the UK to India post-Brexit," the spokesperson said. 
 
"He said the City of London was of great importance to India for accessing the global markets and would remain so."
 
According to the joint statement, both leaders agreed to forge a dynamic new India-UK Trade Partnership, to develop new trading arrangements as Britain assumes responsibility for its independent trade policy, facilitate investment in both directions and intensify collaboration on shared or complementary strengths. 
 
On people-to-people ties, it said Britain welcomes the best and brightest from India to study and work, "especially in subjects and sectors that develop the skills and capabilities that will boost the prosperity of both our countries". 
 
Both sides also agreed to work closely together and with other Commonwealth member-states to revive this grouping of ex-British colonies. 
 
"We are committed to reinvigorating the Commonwealth, especially ensuring its relevance to small and vulnerable states and to our youth, who make up 60 per cent of the Commonwealth's population," the joint statement said. 
 
Modi arrived here on Monday night from Sweden on the second leg of his three-nation tour of Europe which will also see him going to Germany.
 
He will attend this year's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) here on April 19-20, becoming the first Indian Prime Minister to attend this biannual event since 2009.
 
IANS
 
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Artificial muscles that can lift 12,600 times their own weight

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Using carbon fibre, a very strong light-weight material which is readily commercially available, researchers have designed artificial muscles capable of lifting up to 12,600 times their own weight.

"The range of applications of these low cost and light-weight artificial muscles is really wide and involves different fields such as robotics, prosthetics, orthotics, and human assistive devices," said one of the researchers Caterina Lamuta from Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology in Illinois.

The new muscles, detailed in the journal Smart Materials and Structures, are made from carbon fibre-reinforced siloxane rubber and have a coiled geometry.

These muscles are capable of not only lifting up to 12,600 times their own weight but also supporting up to 60 MPa of mechanical stress, providing tensile strokes higher than 25% and specific work of up to 758 J/kg (joule/kg), the study said.

This amount is 18 times more than the specific work natural muscles are capable of producing, the researchers added.

When electrically actuated, the carbon fibre-based artificial muscles showed excellent performance without requiring a high input voltage.

The authors showed how a 0.4 mm diameter muscle bundle was able to lift half a gallon of water by 1.4 inches with only 0.172 V/cm applied voltage.

The artificial muscles themselves are coils comprised of commercial carbon fibres and polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS).

A carbon fibres tow is initially dipped into uncured PDMS diluted with hexane and then twisted with a simple drill to create a yarn with a homogeneous shape and a constant radius.

After the curing of the PDMS, the straight composite yarn is highly twisted until it is fully coiled.

"Coiled muscles were invented recently using nylon threads," said Sameh Tawfick, Assistant Professor at University of Illinois Urbana Champaign in the US.

"They can exert large actuation strokes, which make them incredibly useful for applications in human assistive devices: if only they could be made much stronger," Tawfick explained.

IANS

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Over half trillion dollars spent on HIV/AIDS worldwide: Lancet

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More than half a trillion dollars have been spent on HIV/AIDS worldwide between 2000 and 2015, a comprehensive analysis of funding for the disease by the Lancet has revealed.

The study showed that the total health spending, disaggregated by source into government spending, out-of-pocket, prepaid private and development assistance for health was $562.6 billion over the 16-year period.

While the annual spending peaked in 2013 with $49.7 billion, in 2015, $48.9 billion was provided for the care, treatment and prevention of the disease.

Governments were the largest source of spending on HIV/AIDS in 2015, contributing $29.8 billion or 61% of total spending on HIV/AIDS.

Conversely, prepaid private spending was the smallest, making up only $1.4 billion of the 2015 total.

"This research is an important initial step toward global disease-specific resource tracking, which makes new, policy-relevant analyses possible, including understanding the drivers of health spending growth," said Christopher Murray, Director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington-Seattle.

"We are quantifying spending gaps and evaluating the impact of expenditures."

Development assistance for health (DAH), funding from high-income nations to support health efforts in lower-income ones, made up 0.5% of total health spending globally in 2015; DAH totalled 30% of all HIV/AIDS spending in 2015.

"Reliance on development assistance to fight HIV/AIDS in high-prevalence countries leaves them susceptible to fluctuations in the external resources available for HIV/AIDS," said Joseph Dieleman, from the IHME.

"Nations' HIV/AIDS programmes are at risk for gaps in support and unrealised investment opportunities."

For the study, the team worked with a group of 256 researchers in 63 countries.

IANS

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Decoded: How HIV evades immune system

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Scientists have discovered how HIV virus avoids elimination from the immune system, a finding which could pave the way for the cure for over 40 million people infected worldwide.

Currently, HIV can be treated with anti-retroviral therapy, which merely prevents its progression to AIDS, but does not offer the cure.

The researchers found that HIV virus blocks a pathway and thus avoids the immune response that is designed to cure the viral infection.

"Our new revelation sheds new light on how HIV avoids elimination, which, in turn, may explain why HIV is still not a curable disease," said Nigel Stevenson, Assistant Professor in Immunology at Trinity College Dublin.

"We feel this discovery could mark a paradigm shift in our understanding of how this virus evades our immune response. It should open the door to a new era of HIV research aiming to cure and eradicate this deadly virus," Stevenson added, in a paper published in the journal EBioMedicine.

During any viral infection, our immune system produces a powerful molecule called as interferon, which "interferes" with the infection and the replication of viruses.

Interferon activates an assembly line of molecules in our cells -- via the Interferon signalling pathway -- which causes the body to make antivirals that help to clear the infection.

But HIV somehow blocks the Interferon signalling pathway. Thus, when patients are being treated with anti-retroviral therapy, HIV is not fully cleared by our immune system, the researchers found.

"We discovered that HIV promotes the destruction of the anti-viral Interferon signalling pathway. Essentially, HIV uses the machinery in our own cells to do this, and the virus is thus able to reduce the production of many important anti-viral molecules," said Stevenson.

"Without these anti-viral molecules, our immune system can't clear viral infections," he noted.

IANS

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Over 95% of world's population breathing unhealthy air

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More than 95% of the world's population is breathing unhealthy air, with India and China jointly contributing to over 50% of global deaths attributed to pollution, a new report has found.

According to the annual State of Global Air Report, published on Tuesday by the Boston-based Health Effects Institute (HEI), long-term exposure to air pollution contributed to an estimated 6.1 million deaths across the globe in 2016, reports CNN.

The report found that India topped China for early deaths from outdoor air pollution with 1.1 million in 2016.

While China had made some progress in declining air pollution, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have experienced the steepest increases in air pollution levels since 2010, it added.

Air pollution was the fourth-highest cause of death among all health risks globally, coming in below high blood pressure, diet and smoking, according to the report.

"Air pollution takes a huge personal toll worldwide, making it difficult to breathe for those with respiratory disease, sending the young and old to hospital, missing school and work, and contributing to early death," CNN quoted Bob O'Keefe, vice president of HEI, as saying in a statement on Tuesday.

"The trends we report show real progress in some parts of the world -- but serious challenges remain to eliminate this avoidable affliction," he added.

The report also took into account those exposed to the burning of solid fuels in their homes, typically used for cooking or heating their houses, resulting in indoor air pollution.

In 2016, a total of 2.5 billion people -- one in three of global citizens -- were exposed to air pollution from solid fuels such as wood or charcoal.

Tuesday's report is the latest in a string of studies investigating the effects of air pollution on global populations, CNN reported.

In April 2017, the World Health Organization said that environmental pollutants cost an estimated 1.7 million lives among children under the age of five.

In 2015, nearly one in six deaths, an estimated nine million worldwide, was related to pollution in some form -- air, water, soil, chemical or occupational pollution, according to a study published in The Lancet.

IANS

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New algorithm may help locate fake Facebook, Twitter accounts

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Scientists have developed a new generic algorithm based on machine-learning to detect fake accounts on social network platforms including Facebook and Twitter, an advance with considerable potential for applications in the cyber-security arena.

"With recent disturbing news about failures to safeguard user privacy, and targeted use of social media to influence elections, rooting out fake users has never been of greater importance," said lead researcher Dima Kagan from the Ben-Gurion University (BGU) in Israel.

The study showed that the algorithm is generic, and efficient both in revealing fake users and in disclosing the influential people in social networks.

"Overall, the results demonstrated that in a real-life friendship scenario we can detect people who have the strongest friendship ties as well as malicious users, even on Twitter," the researchers said.

Based on machine-learning algorithms, the new method, detailed in the journal social network analysis and mining, works on the assumption that fake accounts tend to establish improbable links to other users in the networks.

It constructs a link prediction classifier that can estimate, with high accuracy, the probability of a link existing between two users.

It also generates a new set of meta-features based on the features created by the link prediction classifier.

Using the meta-features, the researchers, constructed a generic classifier that can detect fake profiles in a variety of online social networks.

"We tested our algorithm on simulated and real-world datasets on 10 different social networks and it performed well on both," Kagan said.

Previously, researchers from the BGU had developed the Social Privacy Protector (SPP) to help users evaluate their friends list in seconds to identify which have few or no mutual links and might be "fake" profiles.

IANS

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India undergoing great transformation through government initiatives, says Modi

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Tuesday that India was undergoing a great transformation through various initiatives by the Government in promoting digitisation, promoting small entrepreneurs through schemes like MUDRA and Skill India.
 
Addressing the Indian community, Mr Modi said elected on the mandate of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, the Government has worked towards a developed and inclusive India, in the last four years. All efforts were being made to create a New India by 2022.
 
Through initiatives such as International Yoga Day, efforts were also being made to see that India emerges as a global thought leader once again. The world is looking at India with confidence, he said.
 
In this context, he mentioned humanitarian relief and rescue efforts, the International Solar Alliance, and membership of key regimes such as MTCR, Wassenaar Arrangement, and Australia Group. The world is acknowledging India's technological capability, including its space programme, he added.
 
Mr Modi said because of digital infrastructure, the format of engagement between citizens and Government was changing. “Technology is bringing about accountability and transparency. Access to Government is no longer a privilege, but a practice.”
 
In this context, he mentioned faster file disposal, ease of doing business, GST, Direct Benefit Transfer and access to cooking gas through the ‘Ujjwala Yojana’.
 
The Prime Minister said through the MUDRA scheme, there are new opportunities available to entrepreneurs. He said 74% of the beneficiaries under the MUDRA scheme till now, are women. He also mentioned the Atal Innovation Mission, Skill India and Start Up India.
 
India is also building international partnerships to boost innovation. In this context, he mentioned the innovation partnership with Sweden and a similar initiative with Israel. The Government was also focusing on Ease of Living. In this context, he also mentioned the Ayushman Bharat scheme, which he described as the world's biggest healthcare assurance scheme.
 
The Prime Minister said these steps are indicative of a transformation in India. Towards this end, the partnerships with Sweden and the other Nordic countries were very important.
 
He urged the gathering to not limit the connect with India, to just an emotional one. He said the emerging New India offers them many opportunities to innovate, trade and invest as well.
 
Carl XVI Gustaf, King of Sweden and Prime Minister Stefan Lofven were present at the event.
 
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India, Nordic nations agree to deepen cooperation in innovation, climate change

 
Modi attends India-Nordic Summit in Stockholm
India and the five Nordic nations of Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Finland on Tuesday agreed to deepen cooperation in innovation and climate change in the first India-Nordic Summit held here during the course of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit here.
 
"During the Summit, the Prime Ministers pledged to deepen cooperation between India and the Nordic countries and focused their discussions on key issues related to global security, economic growth, innovation and climate change," the Indian External Affairs Ministry said in a statement following the meeting.
 
"They acknowledged that innovation and digital transformation drive growth in an interconnected world, which underpin a growing engagement between India and the Nordic countries," it stated.
 
"The Summit emphasized the India's strong commitment to innovation and digital initiatives as key to prosperity and sustainable development, with national flagship programmes such as Make in India, Start-up India, Digital India and Clean India."
 
Ahead of the Summit, Modi held separate bilateral meetings with his counterparts from Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Finland.
 
Modi held the first meeting with Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen.
 
In a tweet, Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said the two leaders "had a good meeting on renewing and enhancing cooperation and expressed their mutual desire to take the relationship forward".
 
After the meeting, the two sides exchanged MoUs in the areas of urban development, animal husbandry and dairying, food safety and agricultural research and education.
 
Modi then met his Icelandic counterpart Katrin Jakobsdottir.
 
"PM urged Icelandic companies to look at India as an investment destination in blue economy and geothermal energy and strengthen cooperation in education, tourism and culture," Kumar said.
 
Following the meeting, the two sides signed an MoU on the establishment of an ICCR Chair for Hindi language between the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and the University of Iceland.
 
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Modi then held a meeting with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg.
 
According to the Indian spokesperson, the two leaders had an "engaging interaction" on trade and investment, shipping and port-development, blue economy, renewable energy, health, information technology and green transport solutions.
 
Finally, the Indian leader met Finnish Prime Minister Juhu Sipila.
 
"We had excellent discussions on deepening avenues of cooperation between India and Finland," Modi said in a separate tweet.
 
India and Sweden co-hosted the India-Nordic Summit on the second and final day of Modi's visit to Sweden.
 
For India, Nordic countries are a potential source for clean technology, environmental solutions, port modernisation, cold chain, skill development, innovation among other areas.
 
According to figures provided by the Indian External Affairs Ministry, India's trade with the Nordic countries totaled around $5.3 billion in 2016-17, with cumulative foreign direct investment in India at $2.5 billion.
 
Earlier on Tuesday, Modi held a bilateral summit with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven following which India and Sweden signed a Joint Action Plan and an Innovation Partnership for a Sustainable Future.
 
IANS
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Former US First Lady Barbara Bush dies at 92

 
Former US First Lady Barbara Bush dies at 92
The former First Lady of the US, Barbara Bush, died on Tuesday at the age of 92 after having been in failing health for some time, a family spokesperson said.
 
"A former First Lady of the US and relentless proponent of family literacy, Barbara Pierce Bush passed away Tuesday, April 17, 2018 at the age of 92," Bush family spokesperson Jim McGrath said in a statement.
 
The cause of her death has not yet been revealed, but on Sunday a family spokesman had said that Mrs. Bush decided to refuse further medical treatment, except for "comfort care", Efe reported.
 
The wife of former President George H.W. Bush (1989-1993) and mother of former President George W. Bush (2001-2009) had suffered chronic obstructive pulmonary disease for some time, which affected her cardiac capacity and led to hospitalisation on numerous occasions over the past years.
 
"Barbara Bush was a fabulous first lady and a woman unlike any other who brought levity, love, and literacy to millions. To us, she was so much more. Mom kept us on our toes and kept us laughing until the end. I'm a lucky man that Barbara Bush was my mother," George W. Bush said in a statement released by the George W. Bush Presidential Center.
 
Born on June 8, 1925 in New York, Barbara Pierce -- her maiden name -- was the second woman in the US history to be the wife of one US President and the mother of another, the first being Abigail Adams in the early 19th century.
 
She became very popular in her country as an advocate for universal literacy, a cause for which she actively participated with various organisations and to which she felt very close as her son Neil was diagnosed as dyslexic.
 
The former first lady continued her crusade for literacy and created her own foundation, "The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy," which globally supports organisations that promote reading habits among children and adults.
 
IANS
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