2-part Financial Statements webinar series in April

first_imgThe Personal Finance group will offer a two-part webinar series in April with Dr. Michael Gutter as speaker. On Monday, April 15, Dr. Gutter will present Financial Statements and Record-Keeping. This 90-minute session will cover building skills and confidence to help service members to access timely, accurate, and trustworthy information about creating financial statements and record-keeping.On Monday, April 22, Dr. Gutter’s presentation, Financial Ratio and SWOT Analysis will focus on building skills and confidence to help service members to access timely, accurate, and trustworthy information about assessing their financial position and making strategic cash flow decisions. This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network Blog on March 15, 2013.last_img

Scientist’s body found

first_imgMaggot-infested and decomposing remains of a 64-year-old retired scientist were discovered on Thursday morning at his one-room accommodation in the PUSA Complex Staff Quarters here.Yashvir Sood’s siblings, who the Delhi Police claimed are mentally disturbed, were allegedly living with his remains for the past few days. His older sister Kamla and younger brother Harish, both in their 60s, lived with him. All siblings are unmarried.Foul smellThe body of Dr. Sood, who retired as principal scientist from the Nuclear Research Laboratory of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, was found in the cramped room on a folding bed. Suspecting something was amiss due to the foul smell emanating from Mr. Sood’s residence, the neighbours raised an alarm.“There was a terrible stench… I went to the house but Ms. Sood didn’t allow me to enter inside. So I told the security guard of the next building,” said Manju, their 30-year-old neighbour.last_img read more

BHU lathi charge: Sack VC and set up a probe, says Congress

first_imgThe Congress on Monday hit out at the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh over a lathi charge on women students of the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) and demanded the immediate sacking of the Vice Chancellor and a judicial probe by a sitting High Court judge into the incident.Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence over the “preposterous and shocking” incident, and asked what his stand was on the “atrocity” perpetrated on the students in Varanasi, his parliamentary constituency.Describing the VC as “incorrigible” and “insensitive”, Mr. Tewari asked Mr. Modi if such a person could head an institute of academic excellence like the BHU.“We demand that the President of India, who is the visitor of the university, immediately take cognisance of what has happened in BHU and sack the vice chancellor,” he told reporters here.Attacks BJP rule in Uttar PradeshAttacking the BJP and its rule in Uttar Pradesh, Mr. Tewari said the government had been been a “failure” on all fronts and accused it of “shedding crocodile tears”.“We demand an inquiry by a sitting High Court judge that should go into all the facts and circumstances as to how this atrocity was perpetrated and hold all those persons who were responsible for ordering this lathi charge to account,” Mr. Tewari said.The former Union minister recalled the words of nationalist leader and BHU founder Madan Mohan Malviya, saying those who set up the university created a very secular and pluralistic centre of learning that catered to all communities.He said at the time of its creation, Malviya had said, “India is not a country of the Hindus only; it is a country of the Muslims, the Christians and the Parsis, too. The country can gain strength and develop itself only if people of different communities in India live in mutual goodwill and harmony“.Questions Modi’s silenceThe Congress leader, while questioning Mr. Modi’s silence, asked, “We would like to know from the Prime Minister of India where does he stand on this atrocity which has been perpetrated on women students in his own parliamentary constituency“.He also asked Mr. Modi whether a person who is “so insensitive” to the genuine concerns of students deserved to be the university VC.“The incorrigible vice chancellor of this university, rather than being sympathetic to the students, turned around and told the girls that if you are so conscious of your modesty, why do you step out after 6 O’clock in the evening,” Mr. Tewari claimed.He said rather than empathising with them, the university “colluded in the most barbaric lathi charge”.He also took a dig at the BJP’s ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ campaign and said the incident was the “perpetration of the most unspeakable atrocities” against the students who were protesting against alleged molestation and were seeking a safer campus.A number of students, including women, and two journalists were injured in a baton charge by the police in BHU where a protest against alleged sexual harassment turned violent on Saturday night.last_img read more

School girls beaten up for protesting eve-teasing in Bihar’s Supaul

first_imgOver 30 girls of a government school in Bihar were beaten up brutally by a group of villagers for resisting harassment by some boys. Some of the girls have been admitted to the primary health centre for treatment. ‘Beaten with sticks’The students of the Kasturba Gandhi Residential School in Daparkha village in Supaul district, some 250 km from Patna, were beaten up by a group of people from the neighboring village when they protested after they were teased. The incident happened on Saturday evening when the girls were playing at the school ground. Some local boys from the next village had allegedly been harassing the girls regularly by passing lewd comments and writing obscene words on the boundary wall of the school. The girls had complained about it to the school administration.Police said on Saturday some girls had caught some boys trying to write a vulgar comment on the school wall and scolded them. But, after some time a group of about two dozen people, including parents of some of the boys, attacked the girls playing in the school ground and some staff members. “The girls were kicked and beaten up with sticks”, said Ms. Reema Raj, warden of the school. Many girls sustained injuries, and 12 of them had to be admitted to the PHC. An FIR was later lodged in the case but no one has been arrested yet. “Action will be taken against all those found involved in the attack on the girls,” said Baidyanath Yadav, District Magistrate of Supaul. Meanwhile, the local Congress MP Ranjeet Ranjan visited the PHC. Education Minister Krishnanadan Prasad Verma said in Patna “no one will be spared.”last_img read more

Extra! Extra! Wanted a Bollywood Extra!

first_imgLights, camera, action! You’re on the silver screen………Admit it – you’ve always dreamt of being up there, rubbing shoulders with Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta, Saif Ali Khan, Rani Mukherjee and the gang, larger than life, on a vast cinemascope screen, surrounded by Dolby Sound. Well, you can still do it – even if life and work have taken you in a different direction.You can do it – even if you can’t act to save your life! Pooja Narang, a dancer and choreographer who runs Bollywood Axion, a dance school in New York, has been tapped for her students to participate in dance sequences in several Bollywood films.Yes, you can be an extra in a Bollywood or Hollywood movie – take your pick – and it’s never been easier. Instead of going to Bollywood or Hollywood – these megaliths are coming to you! The opportunities are ever increasing as even Hollywood directors scrounge for more ethnic faces to create diverse crowd scenes to accurately reflect America’s changing face.At the same time, Bollywood movie-makers with their successful NRI formula are turning New York and California into outposts of India, and recently several Bollywood movies have been shot in the U.S., and all require some desis in crowd scenes.Think Kal Ho Na Ho, Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, Jaanema, Ta Ra Rum Pum, and several Dev Anand films including Love in Times Square. Yes, all those desis milling around in those shots in Time Square and other tourist spots were NRIs, just like you. So what does being an extra require? Stamina certainly, and also patience to sit through hours and hours of retakes. You may not get to have heart-to-heart chats with your heart-throbs, but you will technically be in the same room, breathing the same air!New York independent producer Anadil Hossain’s company Dillwood, Inc., has line produced many films shot in New York and India, including Kal Ho Na Ho, Swades, Kabhi Alvida Na Khena (KANK) and Ta Ra Rum Pum, all which required scored of extras. She also helped with the casting of The Namesake in India and the global casting for Darjeeling Limited. She jokes, “I’m like the India Hollywood-Bollywood Go to Person.”Since KANK was set in New York, the directors didn’t want to fill the screen with South Asian faces, but still needed some background and featured extras from the community. There was also a demand for Indian dancers for the shooting. She says for featured extras, specific auditions were performed to select the most suitable. Pooja Narang, a dancer and choreographer who runs Bollywood Axion, a dance school in New York is often tapped for her students to participate in dance sequences in Bollywood films, such as Jaaneman and Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna.The term “extra” does have some romantic connotations, evoking scenes of a Hollywood epic like Ben Hur, which had thousands and thousands of extras swarming the sets. But the term is now passé and has been upgraded to the politically correct “background actor.” According to Terri Becherer, director of the Background Actors Department at the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) in Los Angeles, extras are no longer called extras, although the term is common in the industry. SAG contracts for theatrical productions uses the term background actor while contracts for commercials still use the term extra performer.Asked if there were opportunities for South Asians who might want to participate, Becherer said, “Yes, there are a lot of opportunities for people of all ethnic backgrounds. We do have some provisions in our contract that producers accurately portray the American scene, so depending on where the movie takes place – certainly in Los Angeles there’s a very ethnically diverse community out here – and it depends on what the movie is about. Obviously if they are shooting a movie about the 1700’s in Boston, there probably will not be a lot of opportunities for South Asians.” Hundreds of Indians showed up to join Shahrukh Khan and Preity Zinta at the Grand Central station and the shoot for Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna could not be conducted.Extras do not have to be members of the Screen Actors Guild, but a certain number of background actors are covered by SAG on both coasts. For example, on television, SAG covers the first 19 extras on the west coast and in theater 25 on the east coast. She explains, “Let’s say you have a scene with 60 background actors, the first 19 have to be hired under a SAG contract with all the benefits that the union has negotiated – the rest can be paid non-union wages.Becherer walked us through the process of acquiring an assignment: the first step is to go to a casting agency. There are several agencies that specialize in background work in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, while casting agencies for commercial work are spread all over the country. Obviously, the most opportunities are in Los Angeles and New York, because these are the centers of filming. But there are other cities with independent film-makers where one could get non-union work.The SAG website (www.sag.org ) publishes the names of scores of casting agencies casting SAG signatory projects. Becherer cautions people to be careful about using casting agencies found on the Internet for casting agencies and to be wary of scams and of agencies that charge exorbitant fees.  Ajay MehtaProducers look for people appropriate to the scene and time period of the film. Shooting a scene in a park in Southern California, for instance, requires people of all ages and ethnicities in the background. What are they looking for in the extras? People who show up on time and in suitable wardrobes and display a level of professionalism on the movie set, without trying to take photos or hunt for autographs. They also have to be very patient and be prepared for re-takes.“I often get asked what a typical day is for a background actor and there’s no such thing,” she says. “Some days you may be a wedding guest and you’re sitting in an air-conditioned church all day. Then there may be a day you’re out there, running up and down hills. Background actors have to be prepared for inclement weather and stay there as long as you need to, because you’re working under a SAG contract for a minimum of 8 hours.” She points out that in the movie industry not much attention is paid to the clock so if the director wants to keep working, everyone has to stay there and it can become pretty long hours.Working under a SAG contract, extras are paid a minimum of $130 for 8 hours. They get overtime, which is time and a half, for the night shift of 12 hours and double time after that. There are no requirements on the part of the filmmakers to provide meals unless the cast and crew is also being provided meals on location, but most of the time they do. Ajay Mehta:: If they give you one word to say – ‘hello’- you’re suddenly a featured actor.Those thinking that their brush with fame will entitle them to connect with Brad Pitt or Jennifer Lopez are likely to be disillusioned. Says Becherer, “They may be passing by them or standing very close, but as far as interacting with them when they are not in a working environment, probably not.”Sometimes you may be pulled out of oblivion and given a speaking part (which entails a whole different contract), but that is rare. For extras with bigger dreams, Becherer recommends going a different route – acting classes, treating it just like any other career choice. She adds, “It’s a highly competitive field. There are a lot of people doing this. If this is something you’re truly interested in there are opportunities.”Ajay Mehta knows them well. A resident of Los Angeles, he is one Indian American actor seen frequently in Hollywood movies and television shows. “I have done background work although I didn’t start out as an extra,” he says. He made his U.S. Primetime TV debut in 1989 on NBC’s Around the World in 80 Days in a scene with Sir Peter Ustinov shot in Hong Kong where he was living at the time. He later made his way to New York, was spotted by a casting director who called him in to read for a feature film role, which was ultimately never made. But Mehta got the bug. He has acted in guest and featured roles in many movies and films, such as a Middle Eastern ambassador on 24, a Pakistani general in The E Ring, a neurosurgeon on Eli Stone, as well as in the Sopranos and Eli Stone. Now a SAG actor, he did background parts just to make some money sometimes and also in the hope of beging upgraded sometime. “If they give you one word to say – ‘hello’ – you’re suddenly a featured actor,” he says. “Bruce Willis started out as an extra and Clint Eastwood was picked out of the crowd when he was a background actor. At one point or the other, many people do it.”Although Mehta himself has enough work now, he recalls doing background work early in his career to meet the minimum work required by SAG to qualify for their pension and health plan. He says, “So for nine years I didn’t have to pay a penny for health insurance. How nice is that?”His advice to aspiring actors is to connect with casting directors who just do background work in New York and California. He suggests picking up the Ross Report, a little booklet that lists casting directors in various cities, and look up ones that do background work. Aspiring actors also need an 8×10 photograph and oodles of commitment.“The thing people have to understand is that there has to be commitment, for the money is not there,” he says. “”You can’t just show up one day and then by the third day you decide that you can’t do it. The continuity has to be there. This is a business and it’s a multimillion dollar industry and people have to be committed.” He says the demand for extras is considerable. In a television show Mismatch, in which he acted, several Indians were needed for a wedding scene. In the movie The Guru, in which he had a featured role, casting agents recruited several young Indians for a dance sequence in New York. He’s had featured roles from doctors to sheiks and ambassadors in several movies like Ashes and Ocean of Pearls, all of which required South Asian background actors.So you don’t have to be an actor to be an extra? “No, no, not at all,” he says. “They need real people. They’ll dress you or you bring your own outfits. The reason people prefer to bring their own outfits is because they fit better. I had to go for a national commercial and it was a wedding scene again, I had to wear my achkan. I have it; they don’t.”Sometimes, finding specific extras, such as family to play roles of father, mother, child can be hard. Hossain says sometimes she has turned to the Shawn and Rita Powers casting agency in New York, which specializes in background actors. However no one casting agency specializes in a South Asian talent pool. Recalls Hossain, “We had to do cold calls, we had to do a lot of community outreach, going out to Jackson Heights, placing advertisements in ethnic weeklies, for extras.” With scores of outdoor and public scenes, Ta Ra Rum Pum was a bonanza for extras.“I’ve always thought about this and I’ve always wondered about it,” Hossain says. “Someone could really do well in starting a casting agency that specializes in representing South Asian talent, because it’s a growing demographic. I think we are a growing face and voice of America, we are the fastest growing ethnic minority here. In the future there will be more roles and hopefully, more visible faces in mainstream media.”Almost every film Hossain has worked on, she has needed South Asian faces from featured roles to extras. “For Darjeeling Limited we did this worldwide search for the love interest. The director had a very specific idea of what he wanted and we did a wide search and eventually found this amazing actress in London of all places.”For The Namesake in New York as well as in India, the local Bengali community was tapped for the right faces so casting involved a lot of word of mouth and community outreach. Darjeeling LimitedHowever, Hossain says an extra’s life is not all rosy, She says, “You know the expectations can be really high, because people feel they can come out and hang out with stars all day and it’s going to be an amazing experience – and often it’s the worst experience. They are called on the set and they may be one face in hundreds in the background with no particular activity or action.”So what does a producer look for in an extra? She is quite frank: “They are really fillers – if you’re doing a football scene (as in KANK) then you look for a football going crowd – you don’t want 60 year old grannies. You have to define the demographic to the scene you have. In a romantic restaurant scene you need a smattering of couples of different age groups as extras in the background.”In a Bollywood movie, dancers are almost mandatory. For a Karan Johar film 20 women between the ages of 18 and 25 – all of a certain height, all brunettes and dressed in the same way – may be required for one of the song and dance scenes. So it can be very generic, or very specific, depending on the director. Darjeeling LimitedHossain says that extra casting is a fascinating element of any production, because it’s so much a part of the background and audiences have no idea what goes into a scene with thousands of extras, such as a shot at a football game. She says, “The whole day you are having to facilitate that. You need a place to hold them, you need a place to feed them, you need to feed them, you need to make sure they can get to and back from a remote location.”While shooting in Connecticut there was no local talent pool, so they had to bring in our extras from New York.When canvassing for extras, the producers have to be wary of over-enthusiastic fans. “We had these big shaadi scenes in Long Island and we needed a lot of extras for that. Lot of fans showed up to be next to Preity Zinta, so we have to really worry about that and screen that,” she says. “You can’t put in an ad saying be in a scene with Preity Zinta, because then you’d have 50 million people show up! And this is what happened – so many people gate crashed the sets of Kal Ho Na Ho because they heard about it from the grapevine.” SAG’S TERRI BECHERER TERRI BECHERER: I often get asked what a typical day is for a background actor and there’s no such thing.On the other hand, often extras don’t show up after committing, because it’s just a lark for them and something more important turns up, which can be a real problem for the film unit. So producers give a call for 30 extras when they need just 10. Extras get to eat with the crew. If it’s a union film, then extras get the standard rates, but in a a non-union film, the rates can be anything the filmmaker decides – $20 or $100 a day.Says Hossain, “If with SAG you don’t show up, you wouldn’t get hired again, but non-union people sometimes don’t show up at all. The rates aren’t anything that will make you rich and the work is not glamorous either. People often show up expecting one thing and end up getting very disappointed. It’s not for the faint of heart.”Most aspirants for extras have wrong perceptions: they imagine they will get to watch the shooting, but they don’t. They are usually held in another room until needed. They have to be available for the whole day and can’t have any other obligations. They are paid at the end of the day and have to be aware that the day could be long.Only occasionally, says Hossain: “Certain extras become almost like characters on the set. They keep showing up and become part of the crew. You also have to recycle your extras. The extras that are at the back are the front today, the front ones are at the back tomorrow, out of focus. These are the tricks of the trade.”The dreary experience notwithstanding, most extras are still bound to find glamour in being associated with cinema, however peripherally. After all, desis have Bollywood flowing in their blood and they can no more say no to Shah Rukh or Preity or Rani than not breathe.Hossain recalls the nightmare of shooting at the Grand Central concourse with three big stars. She had warned the Grand Central police about security, but they had scoffed: “Yeah, whatever, we’ve had Tom Cruise here. I’m sure we can handle it!”Hundreds of Indians showed up and the shoot could not be conducted. Says Hossain, “All it probably took is one call: “Rani and Shah Rukh are in Grand Central shooting.” We couldn’t technically stop anyone from coming since it was a public space, but it no longer looked like the Grand Central since it was swamped with desis – it ended up looking like Little India!”Bollywood in their veins, with Indians you have to reckon with the problem of extra extras! EXTRA! EXTRA!If you are looking for a role as a movie extra, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) is the best place to start. The organization’s contract with member producers and studios entitles its member agencies to a set proportion of roles. For example, on television, the guild covers the first 19 extras on the west coast and in theater 25 on the east coast. The guild’s website lists hundreds of agencies in major U.S. cities (http://www.sag.org/node/667).Non guild agencies can be found on the Internet, but Terri Becherer, director of the Background Actors Department at SAG, cautions people to be wary of scams. Related Itemslast_img read more

Bonded for life

first_imgMy Brother & IYou don’t need to be a twin to feel especially close to a sibling. There have been times when my brother, Anil, (43,and a doctor settled in Hyderabad) and I have had no contact with each other for months – but have somehow known just when to call each other. ‘I had a feeling – at the back of my mind – that I needed to speak with you,’ he’s said to me innumerable times always to have me promptly break into tears because something had been bothering me. It has happened again and again, even in the time that he was studying in the US and I was living away from home in Kodaikanal. (Tamil Nadu) We are only three years apart and have shared a troubled childhood through which he’s done his best to protect me and vice-versa. But we weren’t especially close to begin with; we didn’t have a “real” conversation till quite late. The turning point in our relationship came the night our mother died. He was 22 and I, 19. We were shattered – we had no language, no words to articulate that feeling of unreality that had set in; that utter and somewhat unmitigated feeling of being abandoned. We kept looking at our father who was surrounded by his siblings and was talking his way through his own grief. And we turned to each other in the only way that siblings do – irrevocably.Anil rented a whole lot of brainless, Hollywood action films, came home and took me by my arm to the TV room, and we watched movies all night. We couldn’t sleep – not for any extended periods of time, we didn’t know what to say to each other but just being in the same physical space was somehow reassuring. We would fall into bouts of fitful slumber and wake up to the other talking about what had happened in the interim – as if it was important. It just helped to be able to hear each others’ voices. And so the most difficult night of our lives passed…A Bond, Quite ApartShared happiness is fleeting while shared traumas forge a bond that’s immutable – the loss of a parent is an equal loss in a sibling relationship.There is no other person who felt thee devastation quite like the two of us did when we lost our mother. Yet we were, and are, so different. Most sibling relationships are a bit like a lava lamp- two disparate elements in one container that are connected by the electricity of shared memories and traumas. The magic bubbles up in common history, a jigsaw puzzle of memories . The missing pieces of which are in the others mind.My Sister, My FriendPreeti Ray, a yoga enthusiast and middle sibling of three sisters from Bangalore says,”As we were growing up, there was never any need to go out and seek other friends . My best friend was my sister,” Neeti who now lives in Bhubaneswar. This when they are very different as people, Neeti, was the good girl, while I was completely bindaas. They filled each others lives in ways that other friends could never do. Their younger sister Keerti, who lives in Hyderabad, is nine years younger than me, so both of us tended to mother her a little but as we grew older and she hit her 30s, we forged a more equal relationship. Keerti is the official keeper of the family memories and dotes on her nieces and nephew. My son Rijul relates to her more as an equal than an aunt,laughs Preeti. Despite the age difference, Keerti helps keep them together, through times serious and light. She’s so good with imitating people and mimicry . All our family gatherings have to have her doing some impression or the other. We’re all just rolling on the floor with laughter. Eccentric aunts, redoubtable relatives, you name it, she can do it!My Brother’s Best!Sometimes the relationship is so special that there aren’t any words to describe it. Swati Thakur, 40, gets a glow on her face when she talks about her brother Umesh Desai who is two years older. She says, “We’re very close and we are there for each other?c Thinking back, I am mortified that I hung on his coat tails for so long!”. She says that everything Umesh decreed was good for her and if he turned his back on something so did she. In solidarity with utter and absolute faith that he knew best! And this when he was just two years older.”I wonder if I bugged him. He was the arbitrator of good taste, music, books, sports and what have you. I watch far more sports channels than any other woman I know and that’s entirely because of my brother,” she says. She talks of a time when she would call him and cry because the team that she had been supporting . in whatever sport . had lost! They were each others’ confidants and friends through crushes and careers. That’s true for me too. My world view has a definite Anil slant to it . He seems to read the same newspapers that I do , but what he gets out of them is so much more than the arid bits of information that I glean. By the time I’ve figured out that there is a particular political movement or trend in society underway, Anil has already figured out the ins and outs of it and knows the trajectory it will follow.When I was doing a stint as an editorial consultant with a local magazine for the first time, I would religiously call up my brother for fodder for my editorial. Every other relationship in the world is different from the one that you share with your sibling; your relationship with your parent comes with the intrinsic authority, the one with your spouse is a social construct that you chose, as are the ones with your friends, peers and co-workers… Each type of relationship comes with its own level of expectations and limitations. Dr Anuradha Reany, a neuropsychiatrist from Hyderabad points out that while every other relationship (except that with your parents) can and sometimes dissolve, there is no such dissolution for siblings. You can fall out but you cannot divorce a sibling. The effects of an emotionally distant sibling relationship is far more devastating because there is absolutely no dissolution of the physical connect. This bonding despite differences is sometimes reflected in the more thinking movies. For example, in the film No One Killed Jessica (based on a true story), the very different older sibling, is devastated by the murder of her younger, ebullient and vivacious sister, and goes all out to bring her killer to justice.While the movie focuses on the pursuit of justice, the side story, and a very strong one, is the one of sibling bonding through differences.Comfort And SafetyThe feeling of the ever present safety net, the one person that you can always count on, is singular to siblings. “When we talk of unconditional love and understanding, I think we get it only from our siblings,” says Preeti. There are very few people in the world that you can call and start a conversation midsentence and they’ll get you. Kamini Mathai, a Chennai-based mother of two and the elder by 111.2 months of two siblings completely agrees. She adds that since she wasn’t so good with people while her brother was socially adept, all his friends became her friends too. In fact her son’s piano teacher is her brother’s friend’s wife. So the circle enclosing her life in its warm approval was created for her by her brother today. Anith Mathai, 32 works on a Virtual Soldier Programme in Iowa. He’s the only guy I know who’s been playing with soldiers from when he was a child and still hasn’t stopped,’ quips his sister. Kamini’s reminiscences of her life – like all of us Preeti, Swati, and me – have this sustaining thread of her sibling(s) through it all. We are but the stories that make up our lives. Anith got his entire class to vote his sister into the school cabinet, ‘I never knew he did that till my mom told me about it much later. My brother and I learnt to love movies together, and nearly all of our childhood truly reminds me of reenactments of film scenes. One memory stands out among all others – we’d both sit in the foot well of the old-fashioned peddle rickshaws with our mom sitting in the middle of the seat and loudly sing the hit Sholay number, “Yeh Dosti? hum nahin choodhenge?.”, much to our mum’s embarrassment.’Beyond DifferencesVera de Jong, a Canadian artist who lives in Kodaikanal, is the sixth of seven siblings. ‘Each of whom has a different world view, and take on things. One brother, Ed, is an ardent Bahai and another brother, Jerry, is a scientist and they clash spectacularly about their differences of opinion – never losing that inherent and very basic bond they share. My other brother Frank is a school teacher and also a Green Party candidate in Ontario. He for his part, brings an entirely different perspective on anything to the table. When we get together we talk up a storm. We have so much to say to each other – so much to discuss and delve into. The de Jong gatherings are never quiet – we don’t know how to do quiet !’ she laughs. The siblings are spread across three continents – the majority in Ontario, while Jerry is in Netherlands and Vera lives in India. But there is no dearth of communication – they’ve jumped on every technological band wagon and Skype and G-chat often. This apart from a flurry of emails and articles that are sent and discussed endlessly on their family website. So this is about sibling love, revelry and sometimes rivalry. But through it this is one relationship for keeps, through good and not so good times.advertisementadvertisementadvertisementBonded for lifeInvolve Them In Your World: Make an effort to stay in touch with your sibling; sometimes your relationship can slip up easily, thanksto the busy pace of life in urban India. Unlike friends, siblings don’t have to be of the same age to click with each other? Also another good part is that they can be siblings when needed and friends otherwise! Unconditional love apart, siblings are the best bet to share secrets with. You always have this one member of the family who knows all about you. And you don’t mind. So make that call, send that sms or email, whenever you can. It’s Worth The Effort: Unlike your relationship with your spouse, your relationship with your sibling is like a reflex action – you are born with it. Childhood pangs of jealousy usually give way to a mature closeness. Emotional investment in your sibling is bound to bring you rich dividends – warmth, care and companionship especially as you grow older.Don’t Let Gender Be An Issue: It doesn’t matter if you have a brother or sister. You can still be best friends with your sibling. Remember protectiveness is different from possessiveness and an elder brother can be as useful as a man friend in guiding you.Revisit “talk-points”: Every set of siblings that I have known, share their own special “talk points”. It could be something that they both enjoyed as a family or childhood stories that no friend will identify with. These talk points also work to cement your bond. Don’t let go off this habit – share your good times and bad. It will bring you closer.Beyond Bullying: Remember it’s fine to be pampered if you are the younger one, but things will even out as you grow up. Your elder sister might still bully you in front of your children, but you should no that deep down she is there for you no matter what and how you goof up.Make Room For Differences: Chances are that you have had your worst fight ever with him/her but it is also true he/she has seen you at your best. Accept the fact that you will have differences always, yet make room for each other whenever possible. It’s worth it.Accept Their Other Ties: If you have a sibling of your own age, chances are that he/she is married too. Make an effort to mingle with his/her spouse ; this won’t come automatically like the bond you share with your sibling. It’s okay to be initially apprehensive of your sibling’s new world, just like they were of yours, but with time, things will settle down. Also, be mature enough to understand that his/her love for you will never diminish, she/ he will still remain your midnightfriend, who is always there.last_img read more

SEGGER: full support for first flash-based RISC-V microcontroller

first_img Continue Reading Previous Cervoz: flash disk monitoring software predicts real-time SSD healthNext Cervoz Industrial DDR4-2666 32GB Memory Module SEGGER announces full support for the first commercially available flash-based RISC-V microcontroller introduced by GigaDevice Semiconductor.This support includes SEGGER’s Embedded Studio integrated development environment for RISC-V, its market-leading J-Link debug probe, Ozone debugger, SEGGER’s emPack with the RTOS embOS and Software Libraries in the fields of communication, data storage, compression and IoT, as well as the portfolio of Flasher production programmers.Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInMoreRedditTumblrPinterestWhatsAppSkypePocketTelegram Tags: Tools & Software last_img read more

Game of Thrones: Scholars believe Sophie Turner aka Sansa Stark could win it all. Here’s why

first_imgWhere most Game of Thrones fans were horrified by the beheading of the beloved Ned Stark and blamed it on a ruthless king, Columbia University business professor Bruce Craven saw a lesson in failed leadership.The northerner Stark was simply too proud to adjust to the cutthroat nature of King’s Landing as it became mired in a scramble over royal succession. His execution set into motion battles, intrigues, romances and resurrections that will culminate this Sunday with the show’s highly-anticipated final season.In the AP’s weekly Wealth of Westeros series, we’ll be delving into the latest plot twists and analyzing the economic and business forces driving the story. We examine the show’s central question in Part 1: Who will win the Iron Throne?The judgment of Craven and other academic minds may surprise you: Sansa Stark, Ned’s eldest daughter. Sansa has grown from a once-helpless princess with dreams of lemon cakes into a wily strategist. She has endured marriages that were degrading and abusive, finding ways to adapt and survive that her late father could never manage.”She’s had probably the closest involvement with the widest array of different leaders,” said Craven, who has written a new business book, “Win or Die: Leadership Secrets from Game of Thrones .”Sansa has learned from Littlefinger’s manipulations. She’s seen the pitfalls from what Craven calls Cersei’s “transactional” approach to leadership. And she’s seen her kinsman Jon Snow’s idealism transform him from a brooding teenager into a military commander capable of challenging the zombie army of the Night King.advertisementThis education might be the ultimate advantage, even if she lacks the firepower of Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons or the Valyrian steel sword wielded by Jon Snow.”She doesn’t have dragons. She didn’t learn to become an assassin,” added Craven, who admits his prediction is just a hunch. “Everything she’s gone through, part of me wants to see her leverage that in some unpredictable way.”Sansa does enjoy a major edge in terms of resources, said Mark Wright, research director at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. From the U.S. Civil War to World War II, victorious armies have often gained a decisive edge by having the best equipment, stable supply lines and multitudes of soldiers. Her perceived rivals for the throne are running close to empty militarily and economically.Thanks to her feeble cousin Robin Arryn, the Knights of the Vale are under her command. Her troops are the freshest and arguably best provisioned, given the Vale’s rich soil that provides for wheat, corn, barley and enviously large pumpkins.Her rivals have suffered the destruction of their farmland and the depletion of their armies after years of warfare and the occasional scorched-earth dragon attack.”I think it was Napoleon who said an army marches on its stomach,” Wright said. Not everyone, however, is convinced that Sansa will rule. The betting markets have picked Bran Stark, her mystical and disabled brother.He might also seem like an unexpected pick. Bran has the ability to journey through time. This gives him an oracular power, but it has extinguished his former emotional warmth for cold prophecies. He seems too detached from humanity to sit on the Iron Throne or establish the personal connections that a ruler would need to rally a weary populace.But to economists, his popularity on the betting markets matters a lot.The market is the closest thing the public has to a three-eyed raven. It can forecast the future by distilling the wisdom of the crowds. The stock and bond markets do this daily.He has no charisma and can’t fight, and the show suggested last season that he’s no longer even a Stark. But Boyle Sports gives him 4/5 odds. He’s the top pick on Bovada, too. And on Oddschecker. And Gambling.com.But of course, markets can be wrong. So can experts. Carolyne Larrington, a professor of medieval European literature at Oxford and author of “Winter is Coming: The Medieval World of Game of Thrones ,” doesn’t think Sansa wants to sit on the Iron Throne, any more than her father did.Instead, she sees Daenerys as the most likely choice, with her dragons and Dothraki hordes.Larrington said the show, once known for its moral shades of gray, has become more clearly a fight of good vs. evil as it nears its end.”I think that’s why they’ll play it safe, and give it to Daenerys,” she said.Craven credits Daenerys with having developed superior leadership skills: She inspires people by walking into flames and surviving. She frees slaves and tries to rule for the benefit of others. Plus, she has dragons.advertisementShe is “the queen we chose,” in the words of her interpreter and adviser, Missandei.It’s a surprisingly positive lesson from a show that has relentlessly crushed so many beloved characters.”All the leadership that goes forward successfully against the odds – with the exception of Cersei – involves leaders that are motivated by helping other people,” Craven says. “Their leadership isn’t strictly about their own achievement or standing at the top of the org chart.”Let’s hope that leadership style works against the army of the Night King.Also read | Game of Thrones: Some people will cry and some people will destroy their TV, says Kristofer HivjuAlso read | Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke shares unseen photos from brain surgeriesAlso read | Game of Thrones: Here’s why Peter Dinklage aka Tyrion did not want to be a part of the showlast_img read more

Trekking: The Manual’s guide to finding discounted gear

first_img Mountain Hardwear Is Bringing Augmented Reality to the Great Outdoors Man isn’t meant to stay indoors — our weekly “Trekking” column can attest to that. It’s a column dedicated to the adventurer inside of all of us, the one pining to ditch the office humdrum for a seven-week jaunt in the Grand Tetons, or fiending to catch some waves someplace other than the North Shore. One day we may highlight a new ultra-light camping stove or minimalist water filter, and the next you may find us getting wrapped up in a set of Norquayco’s handmade canoe paddles. Life doesn’t just happen inside the workplace and home, so get outside and live it.Quality outdoor gear is an investment, whether it be in your health or your happiness. Sure, you could spend years amassing a ragtag collection of budget-based outdoor apparel and goods — from bottom-of-the-line synthetic sleeping bags to behemoth camping stoves that weigh more than your entire pack — but there’s no guarantee the equipment will stand the test of time or even withstand the duration of your next summer trek through the woods. Thankfully, you rarely have to pay full price for premium gear so long as you maintain an open mind when it comes to the logo stitched on the front. There’s a myriad of online retailers specifically dedicated to selling quality outdoor gear at discounted rates, sometimes at up to 50 or 80-percent off the initial retail price for a limited time. Below our a few of our favorites, whether you’re in need of a 60-liter, Black Diamond backpack or a Arc’Teryx down hoody. After all, we all know a good bargain is hard to pass up when you see it.Launched in Portland, Ore., in 2009 by a seasoned team of industry insiders and outdoor enthusiasts, the Clymb has quickly become the premiere site for acquiring outdoor goods of all nature. The company buys its products outright from big-name brands such as Columbia and Alps Mountaineering, only to then resell the goods at discounted rate to consumers. The site’s offerings include everything from cycling and climbing to tents and snowboards, much of which is steeply discounted at more than 40-percent off. Sales typically last 72 hours, or until supplies last, and the site even offers select vacation packages to round out your next adventure. Nonetheless, it’s about the gear — not that five-day, luxury trip to the humid coast of Guatemala for $849.Essential buys featured on the Clymb: Danner boots and Topo Designs day packs.Gear Trade is essentially the Craigslist of outdoor gear. The site rarely features new products, but instead, allows sellers to post their used wears online at a discounted rate. Nearly every product posting on the site features an accompanying set of images — some more so professional than others — along with a seller rating directly based directly on his or her previous interactions with other users. Moreover, the site features a slew of pages with products discounted as low as $5, allowing you to pick up up a couple stuff sacks or an extra carabiner for next to nothing. The site is owned and operated by Backpacking.com as well, and though all sales are final, Gear Trade holds the money in between transactions so you never pay for an item that was misrepresented online.Essential buys featured on Gear Trade: Black Pine Sports six-man tents and vintage lanterns.San Francisco-based Huckberry isn’t as concerned with technical gear as it is the atmosphere and apparel surrounding it. The notable site features a melange of American-made products, from Woolrich footwear to Stone River knives, many of which the site features at the top for quick access. In addition to lifestyle accessories such as wallets and watches, the site offers an abundance of high-quality outdoor gear, letting you save big on fishing gear from renowned manufacturers and more off-the-beaten path equipment. Huckberry may not offer steep discounts on big-name brands, but as evident from recent interview with founders Andy Forch and Richard Greiner, the company showcases a remarkable appreciation for its customers. Case in point: the Explorer Grants.Essential buys featured on Huckberry: Polar 1-man tent and Tenkar Rod Co lures.With more than 25 years of retail experience, Sierra Trading Post has become a mainstay in the discount realm. Although the company offers deals on a variety of goods, from luggage to electronics, its the site’s robust selection of outdoor apparel and goods that easily earns it spot on our list. Sierra Trading Post provides deals from renowned brands such as Keen and Burton, with a bevy of other notable manufacturers thrown in the mix for good measure. You can easily score a sleeping bag or pair of climbing shoes for up to 70-percent off, but it’s the site’s clearance section that truly shines. Where else can you find waterproof camo pants and pristine, semi-dry diving suit for less than $300 with free shipping? Nowhere, that’s where.Essential buys featured on Sierra Trading Post: North Face trunks and SmartWool socks.The outdoor offerings on Steep & Cheap may not be the most unique or discounted on the Web, but there’s a good deal to be said for phenomenal customer service and a crackshot return policy. Though the site’s homepage always highlights a current deal, one that lasts a mere 10 minutes or until it sells out, there’s also an assortment of deals lining the various sections featured elsewhere on the site. For instance, you can quickly browse a handful of climbing gear based on the brand and your desired size, or merely peruse the site’s seasonal clearance options if you’re not looking for anything in particular. Just don’t forget to check back often for that aforementioned steal, or better yet, sign up for Steep & Cheap’s daily newsletter.Essential buys featured on Steep & Cheap: La Sportiva climbing shoes and Icebreaker baselayers. Best Weekend Sales on Menswear and Gear: Huckberry, Allen Edmonds, J. Crew, and More Editors’ Recommendations An Introduction to the Fine Sport of Bouldering The Best Labor Day Deals on Outdoor Gear from REI, Backcountry, and More The Big List of Brands with Lifetime Warranties: Buy It Once, Have It Forever last_img read more

200607 Budget Highlights

first_img Current rate on used motor vehicles will be adjusted downward to 14 per cent effective July 1, 2006, to correspond with a 1 per cent decrease in the federal GST rate Threshold will increase from $350,000 to $400,000 Energy Efficiency Tax Credit Non-refundable tax credit equal to 25 per cent on eligible capital investments on renewable energy sources or energy efficiency investments made by the corporation up to 50 per cent of the large corporations capital tax payable in a given year Effective July 1, 2006, the motive fuel tax rate is removed on the biodiesel component of the motive fuel blend Liquor Licence Levy Graduate Tax Credit Tax Rate on Used Motor Vehicles Large Corporations Capital Tax Tax credit to be applied against the full value of the new $1,200 federal Universal Child Care Benefit Revenue neutral to the province Community Safety Criminal Intelligence Service Nova Scotia $690,000 Legal Aid $700,000 Youth Attendance Centre $450,000 Road safety enhancements $3.75 million -30- Note: For further 2006-07 budget information, see the Department of Finance website at www.gov.ns.ca/finance Child Care Benefit Tax Credit The 2006-07 budget is the fifth straight balanced budget, with a surplus of $71.9 million. Capital spending will increase to $383 million. Significant new dollars are allocated to energy cost relief and energy conservation. TAX CHANGES Personal Income TaxFour-year plan to provide increasing income tax relief by raising the basic personal exemption and value of all non-refundable tax credits Step 1. Starting in 2007, basic personal exemption to increase $250 annually for the next four years. Starting in 2007, non-refundable tax credits will increase proportionately by the same increase over this period. Step 2. Starting in 2011, full indexation will be implemented. Harmonized Sales Tax Capital Spending Elimination of the 3.5 per cent levy on the purchase of alcoholic products effective Jan. 1, 2007 Health, Health Promotion and Protection Wait times (Federal) $16.5 million Oncology drugs and specialists $15.9 million Pharmacare for Seniors $12.9 million Continuing Care $16.4 million Biodiesel Incentive $150 tax credit introduced last year will be increased to $500 per child Economic Development and Infrastructure Community Development Action Plan $250,000 Aquaculture Initiative $450,000 Ferry Portland to Yarmouth $1.25 million Provincial Capital Assistance Program $1.5 million Energy and Environment Nova Scotia Hospital Gas Conversion Project $1.2 million Smart Energy Conservation Program $10 million Environmental Home Assessment Program $850,000 Total capital spending approximately $383 million TCA: $335 million Capital grants to DHAs: $40 million Capital grants to Crown corporations: $8 million Highway spending increases by $34 million to $176.2 million Capital funding for land and parks increases to $19.5 million Capital funding for IT projects increases to $26.9 million Rate decrease from 0.275 per cent to 0.25 per cent Complete elimination of tax by July 1, 2012 Youth, Families and Communities Learning for Life II (Year 2) $20.2 million Low-Income Pharmacare $1.0 million Shelter rate increase $1.9 million Departmental Spending Increases Household Energy Rebate of the provincial portion of the HST Commencing Jan. 1, 2007 Applied to electricity, home heating fuel, natural gas, wood, and other fuel sources used to heat homes Healthy Living Tax Credit $1,000 tax credit for post-secondary graduates to offset Nova Scotia income taxes; upon graduation, students will have three years within which to use the credit. Small Business Tax Thresholdlast_img read more

Members Named to Accessibility Standard Development Committees

first_imgThirty-nine Nova Scotians will help develop the province’s first accessibility standards. “This is another significant milestone in reaching our goal of an accessible province by 2030,” said Justice Minister Mark Furey. “I want to thank all the individuals who applied to serve on the committees and I especially want to congratulate the individuals who will contribute to this important work.” The Education Standard Development Committee will develop recommendations for standards to make the education system more accessible for students with disabilities, while the Built Environment Standard Development Committee will focus on the accessibility of buildings and public spaces. The committees will assist the Minister’s Accessibility Advisory Board in preparing recommendations for government. Most committee members identify as having a disability, including those with visual, mobility, auditory and learning disabilities. “The expertise of these individuals in the education and built-environment sectors will help ensure that our standards will provide equitable access to education and infrastructure throughout the province,” said Mr. Furey. One hundred and forty-three applications were received for the committees. The Accessibility Advisory Board reviewed the applications and recommended members to the minister. “The board was pleased to receive so many applications from Nova Scotians with such diverse and extensive expertise in education and the built environment,” said Doug Foster, chair of the Accessibility Advisory Board. “It is a reflection of the high level of interest and engagement in advancing accessibility in our province.” Persons with disabilities, organizations that represent persons with disabilities, and organizations and sectors impacted by the standards will be consulted throughout the process. The first standards are expected to be enacted by 2021 and implemented beginning in 2022. Development of standards for employment, goods and services, information and communication, and transportation will begin at a rate of one per year, beginning in 2021.last_img read more

Kolkata Presidency University students screen Ram ke Naam without permission

first_imgKolkata: Despite failing to obtain permission from the university administration, a section of students at the Presidency University on Friday screened a 1992 documentary on the Babri Masjid demolition, Ram ke Naam, in the badminton court of the campus.The students had initially chosen the portico of the University’s main campus as the venue for the screening after the administration did not approve the event. However, they changed the venue at the last moment. Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari Puja “Ram ke Naam was screened at Presidency University’s badminton court today (Friday). Over 200 students and some of the faculty members attended the screening which was shifted as the authorities snapped power line. This prompted the students to hold the screening at the badminton court where there was an alternative power line,” said university student Sayan Chakraborty, a spokesperson of the group of students. “Film personalities like Aparna Sen and Kaushik expressed solidarity with the students on the issue of screening,” he added. Also Read – Bengal civic volunteer dies in road mishap on national highway Dean of students Arun Maity told reporters that he did not receive any application for the screening at the portico or anywhere else. “The institute had always stood for liberal views and upheld freedom of expression. But at the same time, it is also important to ensure that the sentiment of others are not hurt when an event is organised by some group,” he said. The screening had earlier been scheduled on August 27 but was postponed for want of permission. On August 26, a group of students at Jadavpur had screened the Anand Patwardhan directed film, in solidarity with the arrested students of the University of Hyderabad. On August 20, police had reportedly entered the University of Hyderabad’s sociology department when the administration complained that students were screening Ram Ke Naam without permission. The police detained six students and seized a laptop. (With inputs from Indian Express)last_img read more

US government ran a 2143 billion surplus in April

first_imgWASHINGTON – The federal government swung to a surplus of $214.3 billion in April, primarily reflecting the revenue from that month’s annual tax filing deadline.The Treasury Department reported Thursday that last month’s surplus increased 17.4 per cent from a year ago. The April surplus reflected both an increase in tax revenue and a decrease in the costs of certain health care and benefit programs that were pulled forward to March.Federal income tax returns were due on April 17. The month usually generates a surplus even if the government is on pace to run a deficit for the entire year. The government collected $314 billion in individual income taxes in April, about $100 billion more than what it received from all its revenue sources in March.For the first half of this budget year, the deficit totalled $385.4 billion. This marked 12 per cent jump from the same period last year, an increase largely driven by the tax cuts that President Donald Trump signed into law. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the budget deficit this year will total $804 billion, a $140 billion increase from last year. The yearly budget deficit is projected to approach $1 trillion in 2019 and remain above that threshold for the foreseeable future.last_img read more

Cyclone Fani Odisha likely to start evacuation on May 2

first_imgBhubaneswar: The Odisha government is likely to begin the evacuation of people affected by cyclone Fani from May 2 as the severe cyclonic storm is heading to make a landfall on the state’s coast, an official said here on Tuesday. The state government has also asked the concerned district collectors in the coastal regions to remain prepared to meet any eventuality. “The cyclone is currently headed northwest and after May 1, according to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), it will recurve and move towards Odisha. By late evening on May 3, the cyclone is expected to make landfall near Puri. However, the IMD informed that this too is expected to change,” said Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) Bishnupada Sethi. Also Read – 2019 most peaceful festive season for J&K: Jitendra Singh “If the cyclone makes landfall in Odisha on the evening of May 3, we will start evacuating the affected people on May 2.” As many as 879 cyclone shelters were already set up. Besides, 20 Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) units, 335 fire services and 12 NDRF units were on standby. Fani could become an ‘extremely severe cyclone’ by Wednesday, said the IMD. It predicted that after May 2, south-coastal Odisha and adjacent districts will receive heavy to very rainfall. Thereafter, on May 3 and 4, coastal and interior Odisha is also likely to receive extremely heavy downpours, while wind speed may touch 170 km per hour.last_img read more

Egypt Brotherhood vows protests despite terror listing

first_imgCAIRO – A leader of the Muslim Brotherhood vowed that the movement would keep up protests after Egypt’s military-installed government designated it a “terrorist” group on Wednesday.“The protests will continue, certainly,” Ibrahim Munir, a member of the group’s top guidance council who is in exile in London, told AFP, adding the government’s decision was “illegitimate.”last_img

Boosting food production alone will not solve hunger crisis – UN expert

7 May 2009An independent United Nations expert warned today that ramping up food production on its own would not alleviate the suffering of the hundreds of millions going hungry around the world. Increased investment in agriculture, particularly in Africa, is necessary, but it must benefit those who are food insecure, stressed the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter.Mr. De Schutter, who took up his post in 2008 when the world was experiencing dramatic food price increases, noted that increased harvests resulting in a return to low food prices would further discourage and marginalize small-scale farmers.“In responding to the global food crisis, it is easy to move from the symptom – prices which have suddenly peaked – to a possible cure – produce more, and remove as soon as possible all supply-side constraints,” Mr. De Schutter said in a submission to the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), which is currently meeting in New York.“Increasing agricultural production must go hand in hand with increasing the incomes of the poorest, particularly small-scale farmers, and switching to modes of production which do not contribute to climate change,” he stated.The Special Rapporteur noted that “efforts by agronomists will be pointless if the right institutions, regulations and accountability mechanisms are not established and implemented.” He called for a form of sustainable development that was “more about how to help the world feed itself” than “how to feed the world.”In October, Mr. De Schutter – who reports to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council in an independent, unpaid capacity – declared that nearly one billion people worldwide are now hungry. The “real problem of hunger” is not linked to inadequate food supplies, but rather that many people lack the purchasing power to buy available food, he said. read more

Mahindas media spokesman arrested over CSN probe

He was questioned recently following a complaint lodged by the Presidential Secretariat against him. (Colombo Gazette) Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s media spokesman Rohan Weliwita was arrested today over the investigations being conducted on the Carlton Sports Network (CSN).The police Financial Crimes Investigations Division (FCID) is investigating financial irregularities alleged to have taken place at CSN when Weliwita was the chairman.

DPR of Korea UN efforts to feed 65 million critically underfunded

Unless additional pledges are made soon the number of core beneficiaries no longer receiving grain from the UN World Food Programme (WFP) will rise from 1 million now to 3.8 million in October, the agency’s director for Asia, Tony Banbury warned. He hailed the efforts to help those affected by the blast at Ryongchon while cautioning that the ongoing food emergency still needs global attention. “The speed and scale of the response to appeals for the wounded and homeless of Ryongchon are as heart-warming as they are vital,” Mr. Banbury told reporters in Seoul. “But we must not forget the broader humanitarian crisis that continues to deprive so many more of a very basic diet, drinkable water and decent healthcare.” He noted that international donations for Ryongchon, a town of 27,000 where the 22 April explosion killed some 170 people, injured 1,300 and made nearly 8,000 others homeless, had now reached almost $30 million, while only $21 million had so far been mobilized this year for the $171-million wider emergency operation. DPRK has suffered long-term food shortages stemming from devastating droughts in the past decade, and WFP said economic adjustments arising from the Government’s push for efficiency and profit had aggravated disparities in access to basic foods between better-off rural populations and those in urban areas accounting for two-thirds of the country’s 23 million people. While increased agricultural production in recent years has reduced the gap and the need for external assistance, the country’s food crisis is likely to persist owing to the limited scope for higher output, the agency added. A fall-off in contributions has forced WFP to halt vital, supplemental rations to millions of designated recipients for long periods since mid-2002. In February, the agency all but ran out of cereals, its staple commodity. Recent shipments, including 38,000 tons of maize from the United States, have afforded some relief. Tens of thousands of nursery and kindergarten children have had to make do without enriched vegetable oil – a key promoter of physical and mental growth – for the last six months, according to WFP. read more

Ecuador UN expert calls for speedy action to resolve Supreme Court crisis

The Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights on the independence of judges and lawyers, Leandro Despouy, noted that Congress had failed to re-establish the Supreme Court, adopting instead a law approving rules for a selection committee on the qualification and appointment of judges of a new Supreme Court.He added that both the law and a decree on procedures on the final appointment of the new judges of the Supreme Court contain a number of provisions which violate some Constitutional principles and international norms, in particular UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.In a statement of preliminary observations on his week-long visit issued yesterday, Mr. Despouy said selection committee members informed him of their willingness to improve and rectify the deficiencies in the law and in the Decree which may be in breach of the Constitution and international human rights treaties. The crisis began last November when Congress moved to replace 27 of the 31 Supreme Court judges with magistrates of its own choosing and the court’s president resigned.“The Special Rapporteur stated that at this time in the history of Ecuador it is important that all actors and sectors be concerned about the resolution of this critical subject, the Supreme Court of Justice, as it is in the interest of democracy and will show the beginning of the institutional reconstruction and a step away from the events which took place between November 2004 and April of this year,” the statement said.“In this regard, the Special Rapporteur hopes to be able to inform the General Assembly of the United Nations this October that the country has taken important steps on the full re-establishment of the rule of law and the reconstruction of the institutional framework and, in particular, in the integration of the high courts.” read more