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Archives for : November2017

As Delhi’s pollution levels rise to severe, EPCA directs governments to impose all conditions under the Graded Response Action Plan

As Delhi’s pollution levels rise to severe, EPCA directs governments to impose all conditions under the Graded Response Action Plan under severe category; start preparedness for tougher action and appeals to governments to take this public health emergency seriously and to undertake massive and drastic action to control air pollution
Image result for DELHI POLLUTION
On a day when a thick polluted haze enveloped Delhi-NCR, the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) has directed governments to impose all conditions under the severe category of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP). This plan is an emergency plan, which cannot become a substitute for long term and decisive action to cut air pollution, said EPCA chairperson, Bhure Lal.
Under this plan, the task force led by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has been monitoring air quality in NCR and also has forecasts for the coming days. A Sudhakar, Member Secretary, CPCB, explained the prevailing weather conditions as follows: “Currently, Delhi and its neighbouring region are seeing almost still conditions at the ground level, but in the upper atmosphere there are two wind masses – one from Punjab, which is bringing pollutants from crop burning and the other from eastern UP, which is bringing moisture. These are colliding at the higher altitude. This is leading to conditions where there is both moisture and pollution as well as no wind at the ground level.” He said that he expects conditions to remain severe over the next two days as per the forecast made available by IMD.
Given this advisory and the prevailing severe conditions, the EPCA has issued the following directions as listed under GRAP for measures to be put in place immediately. These directions are for governments of NCR, including Delhi.
  1. Closure of all brick kiln, other than those that have been certified to have converted to zig zag. As of date, not a single brick kiln has been verified. All brick kilns in NCR will be shut.
  2. Closure of all hot mix plants
  3. Closure of all stone crushers
  4. Immediately intensify public transport service, by ensuring there are more buses on road, which are run with reliable service.
  5. Immediately increase frequency of service of Delhi Metro, including deploying more coaches and introduction of lower fares during off peak hours during this severe period.
  6. All state pollution control boards to immediately impose fines on all road constructing agencies where there are inadequate dust control measures. Taking into account the provision of C&D rules, which allow for penalty of up to Rs 5 lakh for construction dust mismanagement, EPCA is directing for a fine of Rs 50,000 to be imposed as penalty per day per stretch for inadequate road dust control.
  7. Intensification of mechanized road sweeping and sprinkling of water
  8. Continuation of the ban on use of generator sets in Delhi, with exceptions only as defined by DPCC for essential services
  9. Immediate enhancement of parking fee by 4 times and depositing additional funds in dedicated parking fund with municipalities
  10. Immediately stop use of coal and firewood in hotels and eateries. Implement the Hon’ble Supreme Court order on pet coke and furnace oil.
  11. Intensify traffic management in all hotspots and increase deployment of traffic police to avoid congestion.
  12. Intensify the enforcement of non-destined goods traffic into Delhi by physically checking all vehicles and turning them back – also, putting out public announcements of the numbers that are turned back.
The EPCA is also monitoring the situation carefully in coordination with the CPCB task force. Given the prevailing conditions and the concern about the possible deterioration in weather conditions, it is possible that severe plus or emergency conditions would need to be imposed in the coming days. EPCA is, therefore, directing governments to ensure that all agencies are ready to implement tougher measures as laid down in GRAP.
In addition, the EPCA is also advising schools to stop all outdoor activities and to keep exposure to a minimum. This is also advice to all citizens of Delhi and NCR. Under severe conditions as prevailing today, the health advisory of MOEF&CC says that it may cause respiratory effects even on healthy people. Therefore, exposure and outdoor activities, including intense physical activities should be minimised.
It is clear that combatting air pollution requires drastic action, which is long term. Mr Lal said: “We have achieved some things – often in the face of enormous odds — and we have provided some solutions. So far, every solution that has been suggested has been contested and delayed. Today, weather conditions in Delhi-NCR are adverse, and the wind is bringing pollution from farm fires in Punjab and moisture from the east. In terms of air pollution, things are expected to get much worse in the coming days. We, therefore, need to act decisively.”
The EPCA has called for the following long-term actions, which are in the hands of government. Unless these steps are taken starting today, air pollution levels cannot be brought down:
  1. Drastic action is needed to immediately ban pet coke and furnace oil in the entire NCR. We need stringent monitoring of emissions in industrial estates and as well as from illegal industries.
  2. A massive switch-over to gas is needed in vehicles, power plants and industry. The region needs a second transition to natural gas and clean fuels. We must prioritise transition to electric vehicles, and ensure supply of reliable power to stop the use of gen-sets.
  3. A massive augmentation of public transport within and inter-city is needed. Not a single bus has been procured in Delhi over the last three years. This will only add to the pollution crisis.
  4. Cities need massive action to change garbage management system to stop the burning of garbage. In addition, strict enforcement is needed.
EPCA member and director general of Centre for Science and Environment Sunita Narain pointed out that unless this agenda is put in place, air quality cannot improve.
For more details, please contact Souparno Banerjee, 9910864339, [email protected]. You can also check the websites of CPCB and EPCA for further information.

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Adani bought India flights for Queensland mayors of councils paying $30m for company airstrip

BY PETER MCCUTCHEON

Adani's Queensland headquarters in Townsville
PHOTO

Adani’s Carmichael mine airstrip is being paid for by Townsville and Rockhampton councils.

ABC NEWS

Rockhampton Mayor Margaret Strelow received more than $1,600 in hospitality gifts from Adani during an official trip to India earlier this year, the council has revealed.

The gifts to Councillor Strelow were recorded on Rockhampton Regional Council’s official register in April.

A hard copy of the register is on display at the council chambers in Rockhampton, but the details were not published online.

Earlier this month, Cr Strelow and Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill announced they had agreed to pay for the $30 million airstrip at Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine.

It was part of a deal with the Indian company to guarantee most of the mine’s fly-in, fly-out workforce and 2,000 construction workers would be drawn from the two cities.

Cr Hill did publish online her declaration of more than $1,300 in hospitality gifts from Adani, including $1,267 in airfares, a $147 dinner and $51 in transport.

“We accepted a gift to fly from Mumbai to see their solar plant because Adani are very keen to set up solar facilities in the north,” Cr Hill told 7.30.

“I don’t think there’s an issue with that — it’s been properly declared and the community can find that on our website.”

No potential conflicts were declared

According to official minutes, neither the Townsville nor Rockhampton mayors declared the gifts as a potential conflict of interest when the Adani deal was discussed in council.

Townsville Residents and Ratepayers Association convenor Peter Newey called this a serious oversight.

“In Queensland, you can stay in the meetings and continue, but you must declare a conflict of interest,” he said.

However, Queensland’s Integrity Commissioner Dr Nikola Stepanov said issues relating to gifts were rarely black and white.

“In each case it’s necessary to consider the facts of each case objectively, including the context,” she said.

“The most appropriate and ethically sound way forward is to seek advice from someone who is independent.

“It’s really about reassuring the public and not re-assuring oneself if you’re the gift recipient.”

‘No requirement to publish details online’

A Rockhampton council spokesman said Cr Strelow was not legally required to publish the gifts online as she was visiting India in an official capacity.

“We note while one Mayor took the additional step of recording it in a different way [online], this isn’t required under the [Local Government Regulation] Act,” the spokesman said.

“No other council which took part in the trip did so.”

The Rockhampton Hospitality Register for Cr Strelow shows a gift of $1,669.93 from Adani on March 18, detailing “flights within India, ground transport and dinner”.

The trip to India was at the invitation of Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and included five regional mayors.

Cr Hill said Townsville council commissioned KPMG to undertake a cost-benefit analysis of the Adani airstrip deal.

“I think ratepayers will get value for money in the deal, they’ll get it through the money coming back through the jobs,” she said.

Cr Hill declined to release the KPMG report.

“We’re still in commercial negotiations in much of this,” she said.

“Once we’ve signed all the deals, we’ll provide information accordingly.”

http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-30/adani-bought-india-flights-queensland-mayors-funding-airstrip/9100332?pfmredir=sm

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Rare victory for rainforests as nations vow to stop ‘death by chocolate’

A lonely tree surrounded by cocoa in Marahoué national park, where most of the forest, formerly home to chimpanzees and other wildlife, has been cut down.

Plans by the governments of Ghana and Ivory Coast drawn up after Guardian investigation revealed links between the cocoa industry and rainforest loss

The governments of Ghana and the Ivory Coast are formulating plans to immediately put a stop to all new deforestation after a Guardian investigation found that the cocoa industry was destroying their rainforests.

The west African neighbours have been drafting new measures to rescue their remaining forests and replant degraded ones.

In an investigation published in September, the Guardian found that deforestation-linked cocoa had entered the supply chains of some of the biggest players in the chocolate industry. At the same time, the environmental group Mighty Earth published Chocolate’s Dark Secret, a report that found that “a large amount of the cocoa used in chocolate produced by Mars, Nestle, Hershey’s, Godiva, and other major chocolate companies was grown illegally.”

Corrupt Ivorian officials whose job it was to protect the country’s national parks and classified forests were accepting huge bribes to allow small-scale farmers to cut them down and grow cocoa.

This cocoa was then bought by middlemen who sold it on to large cocoa traders including Barry Callebaut and Cargill, companies which sell to Mars, Cadbury and Nestlé.

The action taken by the governments is very promising, Mighty Earth said, but will not succeed unless the cocoa traders and chocolate manufacturers put money into the effort.

“The big danger now is that the industry’s going to kick the can down the road and blame the Ghanaian and Ivorian governments and make them fix the problem without helping enough financially. But the people who have the money and the technical resources to fix it are the industry,” said Etelle Higonnet, the lead author of the Mighty Earth report.

Contacted by the Guardian, the chocolatiers Mars, the Hershey Company and Mondelez, the owners of Cadbury, did not say that they would commit any money to the governments’ plans; Mondelez pointed to its sustainable sourcing programme Cocoa Life, while Hershey said that more than 75% of the cocoa it buys is certified and sustainable, and that it would be at 100% by 2020. Mars said that “joint frameworks for action” would be released at the climate change conference, outlining “the key actions, time frames, and technical and financial commitments for forest protection and restoration in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.”

Under the Ivorian draft plans, which appear to be sanctioned by the prime minister’s office, these traders will each take responsibility for a number of degraded classified forests and turn them into densely shaded forest, organising farmers to plant trees while growing cocoa underneath them.

This is a far more sustainable way of growing the cocoa on which the Ghanaian and Ivorian economies rely than the current way, whereby many farmers cut down ancient trees to ensure their cocoa plantations have full sun.

As well as the effect that the decimation of west African rainforests has on global climate change, scientists say it also dramatically reduces rainfall. If current patterns continue, there will not be enough rain to grow cocoa at all.

The handful of Ivorian classified forests that have not lost swaths of trees will be upgraded to national parks, while one national park, Marahoué, is in such a bad condition that it will probably be downgraded, perhaps to a classified forest.

It is unclear who will pay for the Ivorian government’s plans. It expects the traders to pay, but has not made it clear what the consequences will be if they refuse. The number of people living inside protected areas makes it a complicated and fraught task: the government has faced accusations of human rights abuses for evicting thousands of cocoa farmers from Mont Péko national park.

In Ghana, meanwhile, the plans are far-reaching, and if enacted, could transform the landscape, though it is unclear whether those drafting them have sufficient clout or money to do so.

In addition to committing to no new deforestation, land and tree tenure reform, and transparency in the supply chain so that cocoa can be traced down to the farm gate level, ensuring that none of it comes from illegal protected areas, the government is also agreeing to the high carbon stock approach. This is a way of making decisions about land use that protects low as well as high-density forest, which means that more of Ghana’s forests can be salvaged.

However, there is still less clarity on how this will be funded than in the Ivory Coast. Cocoa prices in both countries have fallen by a third in the past year, and Ghana’s economy has been affected by low gold and oil prices too, as well as a fiscal crisis that that the IMF plugged with credit that so far totals $565m. Monitoring and replanting the forests will cost tens of millions the country will struggle to afford.

Chocolate companies and traders should pay, according to Higgonet.

“The companies need to pay for planting the trees next year. They’re likely to reap a $4bn windfall profit, because the price of chocolate bars has stayed the same but the price of cocoa is collapsing,” she said. “So what can they do with that extra money? Well, they can use it to plant trees.”

Many top players in the cocoa industry say they will release a “joint framework for action” with the governments on 17 November. But there is concern that a tightening in west Africa could just push the trade elsewhere.

“Cocoa is moving into these frontier forests,” Higgonet said, “ in central Africa, Indonesia and the Amazon – and we will keep reproducing the same disasters that we saw in west Africa unless we protect those forests now.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/08/rare-victory-for-rainforests-as-nations-vow-to-stop-death-by-chocolate

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Mary Kom hailed as ‘legend’ after fifth gold medal at Asian Boxing Championships

Mary Kom won her fifth Asian Boxing Championships title when she won the gold medal in 48kg category on Wednesday.

mary kom, mary kom wins gold, mary kom boxing, asian boxing championshipsMary Kom wins gold medal at Asian Boxing Championships. (Source: Sports India Twitter)

Mary Kom created history on Wednesday when she won her fifth Asian Boxing Championships gold medal in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Playing the 48kg final, Mary beat Korea’s Kim Hyang Mi with a 5-0 unanimous decision. This was Mary Kom’s first gold medal win since the 2014 Asian Games gold medal.

Mary is a five-time world champion and Olympics bronze medallist was favourite to win the title in Vietnam. But, she showed a lot of ringcraft to beat her opponent in the final, who was the tougest in terms of competition.

The 35-year-old boxer was away from the ring for a long time and had made a comeback earlier this year. She powered her way into the finals with unanimous decision in the semi-final.

Fans and celebrities congratulated Mary Kom on her win and said that she was an inspiration for many people. Boxing Federation of India president Ajay Sud also congratulated her.

“Mary Kom’s gold at the Asian Boxing Championship is a huge victory for India’s women power. At 35, this mother of 3 has shown that with grit and determination you can overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. Mary Kom is a huge inspiration for all Indians and we are proud of her victory,” he said.

Congratulate Boxer & MP, Rajya Sabha, Smt. Mary Kom for winning Asian Boxing Championship, in Vietnam today. @MangteC

Heartiest Congratulations to @MangteC for yet another Asian title. She never stops amazing. I can now say that I know a  😊✌✌

Wow, the legend @MangteC (Mary Kom) wins another Asian Boxing Gold. I am in awe of her, one of our greatest ever across sports.

Congrats Mary Kom @MangteC for winning Championship, in Vietnam.Being our RS colleague you are 1st MP to win  title

Mary Kom won bronze medal at London Olympics.

Mary Kom hailed as ‘legend’ after fifth gold medal at Asian Boxing Championships

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Ravinder Bhalla becomes first Sikh mayor of Hoboken city in US

HIGHLIGHTS

Photo courtesy: Twitter/@RaviBhallaPhoto courtesy: Twitter/@RaviBhalla

NEW DELHI: Ravinder Bhalla has become the first ever Sikh mayor of New Jersey’s Hoboken city after a stiff competition that turned ugly when he was labelled a terrorist in slanderous flyers.

Bhalla was endorsed by current Mayor Dawn Zimmer, who in a surprising decision announced not to run for re-election in June.

He is the first Sikh to hold elected office in New Jersey.

Bhalla, who has been on the city council for more than seven years, claimed the victory at Moran’s Pub on Garden Street yesterday with dozens of his supporters, as well as his friends and family, NJ.com reported.

“Thank you Hoboken. I look forward to being your Mayor!,” Bhalla tweeted.

“Thank you for having faith in me, for having faith in our community, faith in our state, and faith in our country; this is what America is all about,” he told his supporters after winning the elections.

“We’ve been through a bruising campaign… but now is the time we come together and see who we can work with to bring this city forward,” he said.

He bested a six-person field of challengers that included council members Michael DeFusco and Jennifer Giattino, as well as Hudson County Freeholder Anthony Romano, the report said.

The wide-open campaign that kicked off in June with Zimmer’s announcement quickly turned into heated race, with Anthony Romano’s campaign manager, Pablo Fonseca, calling the race “ugly” and “divisive”, the report said.

The race turned ugly in recent days when doctored campaign fliers began circulating anonymously attacking Bhalla.

Last week, Bhalla was labelled a terrorist in slanderous flyers left on car windshields.

They have a photo of New Jersey Councilman Bhalla. In red letters above him, the flyers read: “Don’t let terrorism take over our Town!”, it added.

The recent flyers were not the first time he had been referred to as a terrorist. A Jersey City man previously tweeted: “how the hell did Hoboken allow this guy to be a councilman. He shouldn’t even be allowed in the US #terrorist.”

Bhalla tweeted about the flyers. They read “Don’t let TERRORISM take over our Town!

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/nri/us-canada-news/ravinder-bhalla-becomes-first-sikh-mayor-of-hoboken-city-in-us/articleshow/

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What the launch of anti-corruption app says about Kamal Haasan’s political plans

The technological tool will convert all of Tamil Nadu into whistle-blowers against all forms of wrongdoing.

TS SUDHIR

Contrary to the media hype, Kamal Haasan did not have a “party” on his birthday. That process is still in the works, he explained saying he usually takes six to seven months to do pre-production work on a film. “This is much bigger and more important,” he said. “I am pregnant with the idea of politics. Don’t ask me when I will deliver.”

All Haasan delivered on Tuesday was news that an app, christened Maiam Whistle app, is in the process of being beta-tested and will be unveiled in January. The technological tool, Haasan envisages in a rather filmy way, will convert all of Tamil Nadu into whistle-blowers against all forms of wrongdoing.

If Whistle Podu were horses, Haasan would be Chennai Super King.

Haasan’s latest venture, to my mind, is in the form of crowdsourced vigilante politics. Shankar-esque in its approach, Haasan’s most ambitious project ever, seems to have borrowed heavily from several film sources. Like Shankar’s Mudhalvan (remade into Nayak in Hindi) in which the hero who becomes chief minister for a day introduces the idea of a “pugaar petti” (complaint box).

Or from his 1996 superhit Indian, whose sequel he will be shooting for in 2018. Indian had Haasan playing the role of Senapathy, who vows to target corrupt officials. In the process, he ends up killing his own son, a corrupt motor vehicle inspector. With over a hundred cameras trained on him, Haasan was Senapathy 2.0 on stage as he dramatically asked anyone who had dope on him to expose him as well through the Maiam Whistle app.

Haasan is clearly trying to fight corruption using technology. He is positioning himself as an Arvind Kejriwal of sorts, a David who will take on the political Goliaths. In Haasan’s book, Tamil Nadu’s political class is not squeaky clean, which is why he does not even want to attract any existing political talent from the other parties.

But will making honesty the cornerstone of his politics work in a state when cash for votes has become a part of the electoral culture. Will Haasan’s advice not to take money for a vote be heeded to, considering at Rs 4,000 for a vote (which was the going rate during the RK Nagar by-election in April), a family of five voters makes a cool Rs 20,000 at election time. Expecting money for a vote has become the norm so much that the candidate who does not pay up, is treated by the electorate as a political untouchable.

kamal1-copy_110717050416.jpg

Haasan’s political 70mm also has the protagonist in the mould of Mahatma Gandhi, a man he deeply admires. Like Gandhi travelled through India after he returned from South Africa, to get a sense of the conditions in which people lived, 2018 will see Haasan do a Bapu in Tamil Nadu.

What’s new in this Haasan’s e-vigil offering, asks the ruling AIADMK pointing to a chief minister’s cell number that it says already exists for citizens to connect and register complaints. Mocking Haasan’s elitist digital initiative, Hari Prabhakaran of the AIADMK IT cell tweeted:

His people connect would also seem like an idea borrowed from MK Stalin’s “Namakku Naame”, which the DMK leader embarked on ahead of the 2016 election. So the criticism against Haasan would be that he is merely a repackaged product.

What Haasan would hope to do differently is to focus on people’s issues – land for agriculture, water for drinking and irrigation, protection of water bodies, education, health and a liberal outlook, concerns he has articulated in the recent past. His roadmap, those privy to his plans, say would be to take a freebie-less path.

Everyone in Team Haasan would expect him to do an MGR or an NTR. They belonged to an era when public figures were not subjected to the kind of scrutiny today’s stars or netas are. Chiranjeevi’s flop show in politics in Andhra Pradesh is a more recent instance of even a big star not being able to translate his immense popularity on the big screen into votes.

But what Haasan has going for him is a clear political vacuum and Tamil Nadu’s impatience with the political options on offer. The ruptured AIADMK is a pale shadow of its earlier self, its leaders obsessed with checkmating rivals within the ruling and dissident camps. The DMK would fancy its chances of returning to power under Stalin’s leadership but the flip side is that for Tamil Nadu, the Dravidian outfit is old wine in an old bottle.

Haasan bursts into the scene – unblemished and without any baggage. The drawback, however, is that he is untested and is seen as too intellectual and upmarket. Which is perhaps why even in private conversations, none of the political parties are worried about the impact he will make. He is not Rajini and does not have mass appeal is the argument put against him.

Haasan would perhaps prefer being treated as the underdog. Knowing the amount of effort he puts into his characters, Tamil Nadu can expect the actor to put in 200 per cent into the most challenging role of his life. In which he has no fixed script to go by and antagonists by the dozen to battle. But the award-winning legend of Indian cinema knows if he makes it, the whistles and the claps will follow automatically. App or no app.

Let the show begin.

https://www.dailyo.in/politics/kamal-haasan-vigilante-politics-whistle-blowers-arvind-kejriwal-maiam-whistle/story/1/20455.html

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India – Plan to make 6 N-reactors operational by 2039 #WTFnews

As India’s first prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR) slowly moves closer towards commissioning, plans are afoot to make six more similar nuclear power reactors operational by 2039.

Construction of two of these six fast reactors is scheduled to begin in 2021 in Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu. They are expected to start commercial operation by 2029 and 2031, respectively, adding 1,200 MW of electricity to the southern grid.

The other four would be built at a new site from 2025 onward and would start generating electricity between 2031 and 2039, said sources in the Department of Atomic Energy.

However, the scheduling of future fast reactors depends, to a large extent, on the performance of the 500 MW prototype reactor, which is eight years behind schedule.

The PFBR missed yet another target date of completion in October 2017 and now is expected to be commissioned by mid-2018.

“The 500 MW prototype fast breeder reactor is under advanced stage of commissioning. Sodium coolant has been poured into the secondary system of the reactor. It would take another six months before fuel loading,” V Rajan Babu, director (technical) at Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Ltd, the public sector undertaking that is building the fast reactors, told DH.

Once functional, the fast breeder reactor would usher in the second stage of India’s three-stage nuclear power programme as envisioned by Homi J Bhabha, the father of Indian nuclear programme.

Fast breeder reactors “breed” more fissile material than the fuel they consume. They burn plutonium – generated in Uranium-fueled pressurised heavy water reactors and light water reactors – to breed a special type of fissile uranium known as U-233, which is used as fuel. Currently, there is only one fast breeder reactor in the world, BN-800 in Russia.

Earlier, the Department of Atomic Energy had planned that the six future breeder reactors would be of 500 Mwe capacity. “The plan was modified later to make them 600 Mwe each for higher safety level and better economy,” Babu said.

Design of fast reactors, in particular after the Fukushima accident, has led to adopt additional safety features besides having more conservative design parameters for external events, emphasis on in-service inspection and minimising the consequences of whole core accident, said S C Chetal, former director of Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, Kalpakkam that designed the PFBR

source- deccan herald

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Google escalates blacklisting of left-wing web sites and journalists #WTFnews

By Andre Damon

In a sweeping expansion of its moves to censor the Internet, Google has removed leading left-wing websites and journalists from its popular news aggregation platform, Google News.

At the time of publication, a search for “World Socialist Web Site” on news.google.com does not return a single article published on the WSWS. A search for the exact title of any of the articles published during that period likewise returns no results.

Over the past seven days, news.google.com has referred only 53 people to the World Socialist Web Site, a 92 percent decline from the weekly average of over 650 during the past year.

A Google News search for an article from Thursday’s edition of the WSWS returns no results

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Chris Hedges informed the WSWS Wednesday that his articles had ceased appearing on Google News. Hedges said the change occurred after the publication of his interview with the World Socialist Web Site in which he spoke out against Google’s censorship of left-wing sites.

“Sometime after I gave that interview, they blacklisted me,” said Hedges. “If you go into Google News and type my name, there are six stories, none of which have anything to do with me.”

A Google News search for Chris Hedges returns no relevant results

“I write constantly. Previously, Google News listed my columns for Truthdig and my contributions to Common Dreams and Alternet, as well as references to my books,” Hedges said. “But now it’s all gone. And I’m certain it’s because I spoke out against the Google censorship.”

Google appears to have kept an older version of its news aggregator available online, accessible by visiting google.com and clicking the “news” link below the search bar. That version of the news aggregator, which appears to be in the process of being phased out, lists 254,000 results for the search “World Socialist Web Site.”

A similar search returns 89,600 entries for “Chris Hedges.”

The changes to Google News mark a new stage in a systematic campaign of censorship and blacklisting that has been underway at least since April, when Ben Gomes, the company’s VP of engineering, said Google was seeking to promote “authoritative” news outlets over “alternative” news sources.

Since then, thirteen leading left-wing web sites have had their search traffic from Google collapse by 55 percent, with the World Socialist Web Site having had its search traffic plunge by 74 percent.

“Just speaking as a journalist, it’s terrifying,” Hedges said. “Those people who still try and do journalism, they’re the ones getting hit; especially those journalists that attempt to grapple with issues of power and the corporate state.

“This shows not only how bankrupt the state is, but how frightened it is,” Hedges said.

“Google is developing ever more intensive methods of targeting, aimed at blocking any dissenting critical voices,” said David North, the chairperson of the International Editorial Board of the World Socialist Web Site.

“This is an unprecedented attack on free speech. In the history of the United States, censorship on this scale has never been imposed outside of wartime,” he added, pointing to the blocking of Trotskyist publications during World War II.

Hedges noted the precedent of political repression during World War I. “In the name of national security, for the duration of the war they shut down The Masses,” a left-wing, antiwar journal.

The intensification of Google’s crackdown on left-wing sites takes place against the backdrop of a sharp acceleration of the anti-Russian campaign led by congressional Democrats, together with sections of the Republican Party, the US intelligence agencies and leading news outlets.

On Thursday, Democratic Party senators Mark Warner and Amy Klobuchar introduced the first piece of legislation to come out of the campaign surrounding the claim that Russia sought to “meddle” in the 2016 election by “sowing divisions” within American society, an unproven conspiracy theory aimed at creating a justification for Internet censorship.

A summary of the bill obtained by Axios stated that it requires “online platforms to make reasonable efforts to ensure that foreign individuals and entities are not purchasing political advertisements in order to influence the American electorate,” and to maintain a database of political advertisements supposedly bought by foreigners.

In his remarks announcing the bill, Warner made clear that his aim was to use it as the starting point for more aggressive restrictions on free speech on the Internet. “What we want to try to do is start with a light touch,” Warner said.

Commenting on the step-by-step nature of the censorship regime being created in the United States, Hedges said, “If you look at any totalitarian system, their assault on the press is incremental. So even in Nazi Germany, when Hitler took power, he would ban the Social Democrats’ publications for a week and then let them get back up. He wouldn’t go in and shut it all down at once.”

“Google is involved in an out-and-out political conspiracy, in coordination with the government,” North said. “A secret censorship program has been created that is directed against opponents of American foreign policy. This is an illegal assault on constitutionally protected rights.”

Hedges added, “I can tell you from having lived in and covered despotic regimes, I think we’ve got to ring all of the alarm bells while we still have the chance, because they’re not going to stop.”

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/10/20/goog-o20.html

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India’s Demonetisation Move Proves Too Costly An Experiment   #AntiBlackMoneyDay

Last year on November 8, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared that all 500 and 1,000 rupee notes would cease to be legal tender in a surprise television announcement. Demonetization, as it was called, applied to 86% of the value of all currency in circulation.

The goal, Modi said, was to eliminate fake Indian currency notes, curb terrorism, and force out stashed cash people had hidden to avoid paying taxes. Later, when criticism erupted, the government said demonetization would also help India switch from cash to digital money.

 

One year later, with data now available, it’s time to assess what demonetization has actually wrought — the good and the bad.

Some good

The good news starts with the widening of the tax base. The number of income tax returns filed for 2016-17 year grew by 25%, which is crucial to ease pressure on public finances in a country that has well over 1.25 billion people but less than 30 million file tax returns.

However, there have been conflicting claims on the tax surge. In May, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said 9.1 million new taxpayers were added, but in August, Prime Minister Modi said there was an increase of 5.7 million taxpayers after demonetization. Meanwhile, the Economic Survey put the number of new taxpayers at 5.4 million, or just 1% of all individual taxpayers.

Digital transactions have surged, too. More efficient than paper money, digital money is expected to bring in transparency into the system. The hands-down winners are the mobile wallet players, particularly Alibaba-backed Paytm, which now has 250 million registered users. That’s a 105% increase from January 2016.

Innovation emerged as well, such as the government-backed payment app BHIM, which facilitates easy electronic transfers between bank accounts. But digital payments haven’t substituted the use of paper money as India still remains a cash economy.

So do these few improvements set off the hardship and job losses amo­ng the most vulnerable?

More bad

Demonetization wrecked the primarily cash-reliant rural economy, adding distress to mounting debts. The agricultural sector, which is behind in reforms and investment, worsened due to cash shortages,  plunging demand and collapsing prices. Prices of potatoes, onions and tomatoes were half of what they had been a year before in January-February. The outcome was widespread suffering and farmer unrest in the states of Madhya Pradesh, MaharashtraGujarat, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan.

The downturn spilled over to other sectors. A survey by India Development Foundation found that production took a hit, accompanied by fall in employment, wages and job losses in the two months after demonetization. In Mumbai, more than 50% of the power loom units were shut down, impacting around 300,000 workers. Around 1.5 million jobs were lost in the first four months of this year.

Read more on Forbes: How India Is Surviving Post-Demonetization

Surveys done by the Punjab Haryana Delhi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, All India Manufactures Association and State Bank of India showed that the impact was between 50% and 80% on small and unorganized sectors. The Reserve Bank of India’s Annual Report (RBI) stated that industry slowed down.

The economy is also still coping with aftermath. In the first quarter of fiscal 2017-18, growth slumped to 5.7% compared to 7.1% in the same quarter of the previous year.

Although there is no way to be absolutely certain that the cause of all this is demonetization, there are some telltale signs: Rural loans increased by only 2.5% between October 2016 and April 2017; the growth in industrial outputin April was 3.1%; and the construction sector registered negative gross value added growth.

Too high a cost?

On top of this, little black money has been brought to light. Of the $240 billion USD worth of the notes removed from circulation, the government estimated that as much as a third wouldn’t be deposited in banks, implying that black marketeers would junk their undeclared cash than risk being found out. But this didn’t happen. According to RBI’s report, banks received around $220 billion USD, or 99% of the money.

Even as RBI stated that there has been a significant increase in the rate of fake currency note detection, the government’s freshly minted 2,000-rupee notes, issued after demonetization, are already being counterfeited. If this was not enough, the RBI suffered a loss printing new currency notes — the cost of printing notes was nearly $900 million in 2016-17, which is double the $450 million spent a year prior.

All in all, demonetization accomplished too little while causing too much collateral damage. But despite the economic toll, Modi has solidified his power base.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/suparnadutt/2017/11/07/one-year-later-indias-demonetization-move-proves-too-costly-an-experiment/#5e4311e3378a

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