Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday hit out at former Deputy Chief Minister and SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, accusing him of trying to drag the “innocent Gandhi family” into the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case.Capt. Amarinder said Mr. Badal was by his recent remarks on Gandhi family attempting to undermine Rahul Gandhi’s leadership, under whom the Congress has recently won Assembly elections in three major States.‘Move will backfire’“Misusing religion for political gains will not yield any dividends for the SAD and would backfire on the party in the Lok Sabha elections, as it had done in the 2017 Assembly polls,” said Capt. Amarinder, adding that Mr. Badal should stop politicising such a sensitive issue.The Chief Minister said that while individuals who had any role to play in mayhem against the Sikh community deserved to be punished, it was irrational to try and drag the Congress party as a whole, or the Gandhis, into the case.“It was up to the judiciary, however, to nail and award punishment to the culprits, and neither Mr. Badal nor any other Akali or BJP leader had any locus standi in the matter,” said Capt. Amarinder, asking the SAD president to stop trying to take political mileage out of the issue.He hailed the High Court for sentencing former Congress leader Sajjan Kumar to life term, and expressed confidence that others guilty of the heinous crime will also be “paid back in the same coin”.Reacting to the court verdict convicting Sajjan Kumar, SAD chief Badal had said the Congress’s hand in the “massacre” of innocent Sikhs in the 1984 “genocide” had been proven beyond doubt with the Delhi High Court convicting (former) senior Congress leader and Gandhi family’s “right hand man” in the anti-Sikh riots case.(With PTI inputs)
Assam and Manipur have something in common ahead of the first phase of Lok Sabha election on April 11 — the demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status for some dominant communities.The Centre’s decision to grant ST status to six communities in Assam coincided with the move to get the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill passed in Parliament in January. The anger over the latter somewhat overshadowed the reaction to the former in the State, although some groups doubted the BJP’s intention.After a brief lull, the ST status issue has resurfaced with both the BJP and the Congress claiming to be more sincere to the cause.The six communities — Adivasi, Chutia, Koch-Rajbongshi, Matak, Moran, and Tai-Ahom — are currently in the OBC list. Together, they form a sizeable chunk of voters in at least nine of Assam’s 14 Lok Sabha constituencies.‘Congress brainchild’ “ST status is a Congress brainchild. It was taken forward on our recommendation, but the BJP cheated the six communities with no clarity on how they will be accommodated beyond the existing quota,” State Congress president Ripun Bora said.Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who heads a panel for settling the ST issue, said only the BJP can be true to the promise. “We have cleared the deck with the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes giving the nod to the proposal. We shall take it to a logical conclusion if voted back to power,” he said.Mr. Sarma and Mr. Bora have been campaigning extensively for their respective parties.Tribal groups, however, fear that the six communities – three of them used to rule large swathes of Assam and beyond until the advent of the British in the 1820s – would take away a major chunk of benefits if granted the ST status. The Coordination Committee of Tribal Organisations has asked the voters to be wary of any party that backs the move.Hagrama Mohilary, chief of BJP’s ruling ally Bodoland People’s Front, said his party has no problem with the ST status issue. “We support it,” he said. His party is dominated by the Bodos, the largest plains tribe of the Northeast.Meitei as tribe?The demand for ST status for the Meitei community has gained currency in Inner Manipur, one of two Lok Sabha constituencies in the State where voting is scheduled for April 18, since the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee imposed a 30-hour shutdown across Imphal Valley to drive home the point.Apart from a few Scheduled Castes, the largely Hindu Meiteis belong to the general category. They dominate the Imphal Valley that covers less than 20% of Manipur’s total land.The State’s former Chief Secretary and Congress candidate O. Nabakishore Singh said the Meiteis deserve the ST status, which many feel would pave the way for safeguards that the Constitution provides to tribal-dominated areas of Manipur – the hills around Imphal Valley.“We cannot ignore the people’s sentiments, as the Meiteis are becoming a minority. Even if not ST status, we are supporting constitutional protection for landownership and greater political representation,” BJP candidate R.K. Ranjan told The Hindu.The United Tribal People Council of Manipur, however, sees in the push for ST status for Meiteis a design that could push Nagas, Kukis and other tribes to the brink. “Meiteis are one of the most advanced communities in the Northeast and do not qualify to be tribals,” the council’s president S. Azar said.
Failed candidate. Zhang Shuguang stood trial on corruption charges in a Beijing court last week. Revelations of government corruption hardly raise eyebrows in China these days. But Zhang Shuguang’s exploits have managed to shock a jaded populace. The “father” of China’s high-speed rail system, standing trial on corruption charges in Beijing last week, testified that he solicited bribes from businessmen because he needed money—a whopping 23 million yuan (about $3.8 million)—to burnish his credentials and influence votes in the biannual elections for membership in the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in 2007 and 2009. It turned out to be money ill spent, in more ways than one: Zhang failed to get elected not once, but twice. Becoming a CAS academician, or yuanshi, is considered one of the highest honors for a scientist in China. But unlike academy memberships in many other countries, the yuanshi title bestows more than respect: It comes with a host of privileges as well. For example, academicians can keep their jobs as long they wish; everyone else in government service, from China’s president on down, face mandatory retirement. Academicians help set the nation’s science policy, influence funding decisions, and some of them control large sums of research money.The railway ministry, which was broken up in March during an ongoing government crackdown on corruption, wanted its very own academician. According to an investigative report published in December 2011 in the Chinese business newsmagazine Century Weekly, then-minister Liu Zhijun picked Zhang, a deputy chief engineer, to be the ministry’s nominated candidate for CAS membership in the 2007 elections. (In July, Liu received a death sentence, with a 2-year reprieve, after he was convicted of graft and abuse of power by a Beijing court.)Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)According to Century Weekly, businessmen seeking ministry contracts learned of Zhang’s nomination and offered to help. That year, the magazine detailed, Zhang, using a slush fund provided by the businessmen, cloistered 30 experts from mostly ministry-affiliated universities and research institutes in a hotel for 2 months, during which time they churned out three books on high-speed rail technology that were credited to Zhang. That burst of authorship didn’t quite put Zhang over the top in the elections: His bid failed by seven votes.Two years later, Zhang pursued CAS membership with a much larger war chest, according to his court testimony. He hired ghostwriters to produce more volumes on his behalf and invited voting-eligible CAS members on all-expenses-paid tours of the high-speed rail system, lavishing them with gifts, according to Century Weekly. Zhang nearly pulled it off that time: He fell one vote shy of election. A source tells ScienceInsider that Zhang’s membership might have succeeded if not for an impassioned speech by an influential academician who derided Zhang’s credentials just before the final round of voting. In court last week, official state media reported, Zhang pleaded guilty to taking bribes, almost half of which were for his CAS membership bids.Zhang’s admission has touched off a firestorm in China, where many commentators are questioning CAS members’ integrity and calling for curbs on the perks of being a yuanshi. The government’s Xinhua News Agency on 11 September ran an article demanding to know whom Zhang bribed. CAS issued a statement on the same day saying that it had not received any complaints against its members for bribe-taking, but vowed to investigate if complaints are lodged.Candidates like Zhang who have both money and power at their disposal are rare, says an expert on history of CAS membership who asked for anonymity because he’s involved in an effort to overhaul the yuanshi system. A more common problem, the source says, is lobbying by organizations on behalf of candidates. With Zhang’s case getting so much attention, CAS will be under immense pressure to hold squeaky clean elections this November. Xinhua
Saving biodiversity is a noble goal, but how much will it cost? And where should the money be spent? These are difficult questions for policymakers. An innovative analysis, published in this week’s issue of Science, lays out a plan for Brazil’s diverse and endangered Atlantic Forest.“The most important message is that restoration can be targeted in a way that minimizes costs and has a greater likelihood of delivering lasting environmental benefits,” says Toby Gardner, an ecologist at the Stockholm Environment Institute, who was not involved in the new research.South America’s Atlantic rainforest is a good case study for the challenges of conservation policy. With a great variety of environmental conditions, life has evolved into incredible diversity. But farming, ranching, and urban development have destroyed much of the forest. Less than 8% remains of its original 1.43 million square kilometers that spanned Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina. Over the years, conservationists have made mostly small-scale attempts to restore the forest.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)A group of researchers wanted to figure out how much forest is needed to maintain the integrity of biological communities and their ecological functions. They studied the abundances of 43 species of mammals, 140 species of birds, and 29 species of amphibians in 79 landscapes that ranged from nearly deforested to fully intact.The team identified an important ecological threshold. When the amount of forest drops below 28.5% of the landscape, the communities started to change. For example, generalist species, such as the opossum Micoreus paraguayanus, which prefer disturbed environments, begin to take over from forest specialists. “It’s a very strong conclusion,” Gardner says. The threshold for maintaining existing community integrity is likely to be different in other places, the authors say. It is likely to be higher in the Amazon and lower in Europe and other developed landscapes where sensitive species have already disappeared.The researchers say it won’t be feasible to restore all 88% of the 143 million hectares of the Atlantic Forest that has been deforested below the threshold; that goal would require 32 million hectares of replanting, most of it on private land.The smart approach, they say, would be to focus on restoring landscapes that are still at least 20% forested. Working in landscapes with any less forest cover would become prohibitively expensive and risky, involving translocation of endangered species. But planting trees on 424,000 priority hectares would ensure community integrity in 37,000 landscapes throughout the Atlantic Forest, providing ecosystems services such as pollination of nearby crops and pest control. The amount of land with at least 30% forest cover would increase by 46%. Preventing extinction of species such as the jaguar will require larger protected areas, they note.By extrapolating from existing forest restoration projects in Brazil, the researchers estimated that restoration of these priority areas would cost about $198 million a year for 3 years. The cost would then decline, as less watering and other work is required. “We can make farmers happy and preserve biodiversity all within a reasonable budget,” says Cristina Banks-Leite, an ecologist at Imperial College London, Silwood Park. Gardner suspects the cost would end up lower, given economies of scale.“The results are very exciting,” says Bernardo Strassburg, an economist and environmental scientist at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, who was not involved in the research. “This is one of the first papers to narrow down the effort to the most effective regions and show where they are.” Banks-Leite and Strassburg both say there’s political will to boost restoration. An existing effort by more than 250 nongovernmental organizations, companies, and government agencies has a target of 15 million hectares restored by 2050. And the federal government is expected to launch a national restoration strategy in a few months. Pedro Brancalion, a restoration ecologist at the University of São Paulo in Brazil, says it will be important to make sure that turning pasture back to forest doesn’t encourage cattle ranchers to cut down forest elsewhere. “We have to integrate agricultural intensification,” he says. “If we have minimum input of technology, we could save millions of hectares.”See here for more on conservation science.
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Days after Thailand announced waiver of visa on arrival fees for citizens of several countries for two months, the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) has now asked the government to waive visa on arrival fees for Indian and Chinese tourists.MATTA President Tan Kok Liang said in a statement, “This is necessary in view of Thailand waiving visa-on-arrival (VOA) fees for two months from 1 December to 31 January for visitors from 21 countries, including China and India, in stimulating its tourism industry following consecutive months of year-on-year decline in Chinese arrivals to Thailand.”“It is given that imposition of visa and its requirements are barriers to foreign visitors, and easing visa restrictions would facilitate tourist arrivals. As such, Malaysia must take the proactive step to waive visa fees, particularly on Chinese and Indian tourists, as they are increasingly responsive and sophisticated,” he said in the statement.He also said that granting visa fee waiver is common sense to stimulate visitor arrivals and to stay competitive with neighboring countries. “Furthermore, Malaysia and Thailand are inter-connected with tourist from China and India crossing over to Malaysia to extend their holiday,” Liang said.Last week, Thailand had announced waiving on-arrival visa fees for Indians and many other nationals for two months. The country’s tourism sector is going through a low phase due to a drop in the number of Chinese tourists.Liang said that with the Chinese economy growing fast, the concern about Chinese nationals entering Malaysia for work no longer makes sense. “Since 2012, Chinese tourists are already the world’s biggest spenders and are known for emptying stores of luxury brands in Europe, and many countries around the world have rolled out the red carpets to welcome them,” he added.“Chinese nationals traveling to Malaysia may apply for Malaysia e-visas and stay up to 30 days. This single-entry e-visa cost $40 but the total amount is doubled after adding another $40 as service fee. If visa fees are waived or Chinese tourists allowed up to 14 days stay without visas, it is certain to attract much more visitors to our shores. If we are not ready to grant Chinese tourists visa-free entry for up to 14 or 30 days stay, we could start with waiving visa fee for three months from December.”Among Asian countries Thailand, the Maldives, Macau, Indonesia, Nepal, and Bhutan, and few others offer Indian tourists visa on arrival.Liang said by waiving off visa fees on arrival for Indian and Chinese tourists, Malaysia stands to benefit from high-spending tourists. Related Items
When lawyer Aarthi Belani planned her Minneapolis wedding last year, she blended the traditional with contemporary. The multicultural ceremony, jazz-fusion ladies’ sangeet, and even her gift registry all had a modern twist. Guests who logged on to her online gift registry site, however, did not shop for gifts. Instead, the registry she created at the “I Do” foundation allowed them to donate money to her favorite charities, such as online microfinance initiatives. “We just felt like we had enough already with what we had,” Belani says, adding that the money could “make a bigger contribution to someone’s life abroad than a new kitchen gadget would make in mine.” Indian children get clean drinking waterFew theories in recent years have been as transformative as microfinance. The concept of providing no collateral loans to the poor so that they can work their way out of poverty, rather than relying on charity or predatory lending, is the brainchild of Prof. Muhummad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank, for which he was awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. Grameen first loaned $27 to 42 craftsmen in 1974 and has since provided $6 billion in loans to 7 million borrowers. Its pioneering microcredit programs have been adopted in 100 countries worldwide, and this form of social lending is now coming to the Web.Kiva is one such online program in which some 56,000 donors provided more than $5 million in loans to 7,600 entrepreneurs in the first four months of this year alone. Kiva, which is Swahili for unity, directly connects borrowers to lenders. The innovative model lets donors choose the individual entrepreneur they wish to sponsor by making a direct payment through Paypal on the internet. Kiva solicits entrepreneurs and relies on hreferrals from the tight-knit development community. During the rigorous due diligence process, a Kiva “Field Partner,” or local microfinance institution, initially screens the loan recipient and conducts routine audits. Kiva sends loans to the Field Partner and loan repayments are made directly to the lender. Thus far, Kiva claims a 100% loan repayment rate, though this will likely fall to the industry average.Seema Patel, a lawyer in Baltimore, has loaned through Kiva since its inception and regards herself as one of the group’s biggest fans. She has a long-standing interest in microfinance. After graduating from college, she moved to Ahmedebad, Gujarat, to work for the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), a prominent women’s microfinance institution in India. She says that, “like many first-generation Indian Americans myself who grew up in this country but retain such deep roots to our motherlands there is still a desire to give ‘give back.’” But she acknowledges that not everyone can afford or necessarily desire taking years off of their careers to work in foreign countries. The solution for Seema is Kiva. “By just using your blackberry or PDA, Kiva enables people who want to make a difference to effectuate societal change by drumming to the beat of an age-old adage: give a person a fish, you have fed her for today; teach her how to fish, you have fed her for a lifetime” Kiva’s President Premal Shah has a background of both corporate and public interest work similar to many of the organization’s lenders like Patel. He is a veteran of Paypal and has human rights experience in Ahmedebad, Gujarat. Although none of Kiva’s field partners are currently in India, Shah is determined to bring Kiva to the subcontinent. Shah says that its microcredit model is currently prohibited by the Reserve Bank of India’s guidelines regarding the repatriation of funds. “We are on the verge of entering India, and I anticipate that sometime this summer we will be in the country,” he says. Part of Kiva’s desire to create a presence in India comes from the keen interest of many South Asians that are part of Kiva’s network. “I don’t know if it is because Kiva uses technology, or because there are many entrepreneurial Indian Americans, but a lot of our fundraisers have a disproportionately high attendance of Indian Americans,” Shah says.Meanwhile, many countries reap the benefits of Kiva’s groundbreaking model, including Azerbaijan, Moldova, Bulgaria, and Honduras. Two groups contribute most to Kiva. One is the 20-something Silicon Valley types who want to do good with their money. The others are over 50 years old and generally not tech-savvy, according to Shah. This group “might not even be proficient at putting their credit card information online, so they will ask us if they can mail a check instead,” he says.Most of Kiva’s participants are like Shah himself. “There has always been this need among my friends including me to do something good. I’m lucky to be able to do the intersection of what I love and what I do well, which is Kiva.”Part of Kiva’s allure is the ability to reuse money once a loan is paid back to help another person in need. For those interested in making a donation instead of a loan, however, Global Giving is a similar alternative. Founded by two ex-World Bank executives, Global Giving accepts donations online through paypal as well as traditional checks for a wide variety of programs it supports worldwide. Donors can search for fund recipients by region as well as by theme. For example, donors interested in supporting field partners in environment, gender, or education initiatives can search for programs they wish to fund directly.Of 63 countries supported last year by Global Giving, India is the most popular. To date, the program’s 126 projects in India collected the most money from the greatest number of donors of all Global Giving’s programs, disbursing over $1.1 million from 2,000 unique donors.Meredith Landis, marketing associate of Global Giving, says that the program does not restrict the projects it funds either thematically or geographically. Rather, by sponsoring a diverse range of projects, Meredith says that donors are able to browse and find projects that appeal to them. “Donors can even contact Global Giving directly if they have a specific interest in mind, and we will work with them to find a project that matches their interest,” she says. Literacy for a billion with Bollywood songsIn contrast to Global Giving’s strong presence in India, Grameen currently has only six projects in India, though Julie Peachey, regional director of Grameen Foundation’s Asia Programs, says several partners will be added in 2007. Grameen targets specific partnership organizations. “The overarching interest in selecting partners in India is finding organizations that serve the poorest of the poor,” Peachey says. “Geography plays a role in isolating pockets of abject poverty.” She notes that South India is well-served while North and Northeastern India, where many hard-to-reach tribal groups live, are not. Sustainability is a major factor in selecting Grameen’s partners. “The groups we pick may not already be self-sufficient in terms of their own resources, but they have a clear path for getting there,” Peachey says.Kiva’s and Global Giving’s platforms encourage transparency for donors by allowing them to see exactly who receives their money and for what purpose. The programs also maximize the money’s potential by directly sending funds to their destinations, though Global Giving, which describes itself as the “eBay of international philanthropy” takes 10% of each donation for its operating costs.Global Giving offers online gift registries and gift cards. A particular advantage of online microfinance projects like Kiva and Global Giving is that donors can earmark their funds for specific projects, which is currently not possible with Grameen, for example.Whether online or on the ground, microfinance operations are not without criticism. The state government of Andhra Pradesh, for example, shut down a Grameen Bank operation in 2006 following complaints of exhorbitant interest rates, although the branches were soon reopened, without admission of any wrongdoing, according to the Grameen Foundation.Yet as the brief history of Kiva and Global Giving attest, and Grameen’s overwhelming success in lifting 50 million borrowers out of poverty corroborates, microfinance’s impact is hard to attack. As the Nobel Committee noted, “across cultures and civilizations, microfinance has shown that even the poorest of the poor can work to bring about their own development.”www.kiva.orgwww.globalgiving.orgwww.grameenfoundation.org Making Sense of MicrofinanceMicrocredit organizations provide financial services, including loans and savings accounts, to the poor. As the vast majority of the poor in developing countries do not own assets to borrow against, they do not qualify for traditional credit and loans from the “formal” banking system. So they turn to “informal” loan sharks who charge exorbitant interest rates. The inability to pay back these “predatory” loans often condemns the poor to a cycle of poverty.The unique feature of microcredit is that loans are provided without collateral or legal contract. It rejects the notion that the poor are inherently “uncredit-worthy.” For example, most loans are disbursed through not-for-profit institutions that generally tag the interest rate of the loan to the market rate of commercial banks. Loans are paid back on an installment basis. Once fully repaid, borrowers qualify for another loan. Strikingly, borrowers rarely default: the average repayment rate for microfinance loans industry-wide is near 96%.Microfinance’s success comes from helping groups, like craftsmen. Because women worldwide are least likely to have access to capital, many groups specifically target them. For example, 97% of Grameen’s current nearly 7 million borrowers are women. Online models like Kiva, however, have a harder time soliciting women to participate in their online programs, partly because some women fear exposure on the internet.Microfinance’s mission is not only economic, but also social empowerment. Many groups require borrowers to join a community association of borrowers. For example, some models create self-monitoring groups that coach each other on financial skills, such as repayment and work skills. To participate, the group must adhere to several principles, ranging from a commitment to keep family sizes small to a vow against accepting or giving dowry during marriage. These grass-roots associations have even banded together to create student loan programs and vaccination programs.The Faces of Those in NeedSobi Begum’s life once mirrored that of countless South Asian women confined to abject poverty. Living on the equivalent of less than $1 per day, Begum picked water lilies from a nearby pond to gather their seeds to serve with rice for her children’s dinner. Malnourished and uneducated, her children seemed condemned to a life no different than Begum’s own.$35 loaned to her in 1981, when the Grameen Bank started informal operations in Tangail, Bangladesh, changed Begum’s life. Not only was she able to buy a cow and grain, she was encouraged to train as a veterinary assistant. Successful repayment of her first loan led to others, and with each Begum transformed her family’s life. Begum achieved the unimaginable for many of South Asia’s poor: provide food and consistent schooling for her children, as well as own her own home and business. 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India is the third most popular country for sourcing foreign talent after China and the United States, according to a global survey. The Borderless Workforce Survey of 27 countries by the global recruiting firm Manpower Inc found that Indian skilled labor was in most demand in the United States and the Gulf. The survey also found that more than half of the 2.2 million Indians working abroad had a college degree, the highest for any country in the survey. Related Items
An Indian man has been sentenced to six months jail for sexually assaulting a woman on a Singapore Airlines (SIA) flight. He molested her while she was asleep.23-year old Ravichandran Vignesh, a pet shop owner in India, pleaded guilty on Oct.18 of the charges against him. In court documents, he said that he did so, as he was “drunk, high and tempted” for it, reported Yahoo news.According to the report, the incident took place on Oct.1 in a Singapore Airlines flight which took off from Bengaluru to Bali. Singapore was a transit stop for the flight. Vignesh pressed woman’s breast while she was sleeping on the seat next to him. Around 4 am, the woman felt some sensation and woke up to see the man’s hand on her breast.When she shouted at him, he took his hand off and started pretending to be asleep. The woman asked the crew members to change her seat and was shifted to some other seat for the rest of the journey.According to a report in Inquirer.net, after landing in Singapore, the victim reported the incident through the airline’s online feedback form and sent a copy to deputy commander of Airport Police Division as well. It was filed as a police complaint next day.By then Vignesh had proceeded to Bali for vacations, said theonlinecitizen.comThe Singapore police succeeded in tracing and arresting him at Singapore Airport as his India bound flight took a transit stop on Oct.4, it added.As per the court documents, after admitting this sexually offending action in flight, he said that he belongs to a poor family and was taking a flight very first time in his life.Yahoo News quoted Ravichandran as saying through an interpreter “I do not know the laws of Singapore. I have not done this back home in India before.”“I will not touch any woman again. I will not travel overseas again. I will not come back to Singapore again,” he added. He also pleaded to return to India and promised not to reoffend.He also vowed that he will never come back to Singapore again, said The Independent. Related Items
An assistant sub-inspector of the Border Security Force (BSF) and his wife have been declared “foreigners” by a Foreigners’ Tribunal in eastern Assam’s Jorhat town.The tribunal declared Muzibur Rahman and his wife as non-Indians in an ex parte or one-sided judgement in July.The citizenship of the officer’s parents and his siblings are, however, not in doubt. The family is based in Golaghat district’s Udaypur-Mikirpatty close to the Assam-Nagaland border.Mr. Rahman, currently posted in Punjab, came to know of the judgement against him when he came home on leave in July last week.He said the Assam police’s border wing had relied on a ‘drunkard’s account’ to submit a report to the tribunal against him.The border wing, established in 1962 to initially prevent infiltration of Pakistanis, is tasked with detection and deportation of foreigners. Currently, 100 Foreigners’ Tribunals decide the fate of such “foreigners” referred by this wing.“We have land documents of 1923. It is a pity that a genuine Indian citizen has been made a foreigner on the basis of a drunkard’s feedback. My family did not receive the tribunal’s notice. The chief of our village also did not inform me when I was away on duty,” Mr. Rahman said, adding that he had approached the Gauhati High Court.In June, the court gave bail to retired soldier Mohammed Sanaullah who, was on May 28, was declared a foreigner by a Foreigners’ Tribunal in Guwahati. He had spent more than a week in a detention camp in western Assam’s Goalpara.
As the Congress party aims at wresting power from the BJP, dissidents in two of the four Assembly constituencies in Haryana’s northern district of Ambala are determined to play spoilsport.The district has four Assembly constituencies — Nariangarh, Ambala Cantt, Ambala City and Mullana (SC) — which the BJP had won in 2014.In Ambala Cantt., Health Minister Anil Vij is again in the fray and the Congress has fielded Venu Singla Aggarwal against him. Mr. Vij had won from the constituency in 1996, 2000, 2009 and 2014. As the Congress prepares to take on the BJP candidate in his stronghold, the decision of rebel Chitra Sarwara, who was a municipal councillor, to contest as an independent could dent its electoral prospects.Ms. Sarwara is the daughter of former Minister and four-time former Congress MLA Nirmal Singh and both had revolted against the party after being denied the ticket. Mr. Singh is contesting from the neighbouring Ambala (City) seat as an independent candidate.Rajesh Kapoor, who runs a tyre repair shop, feels that while the BJP candidate is already a strong contestant, the Congress will suffer on account of the infighting.“Anil Vij is easily accessible. Also, during the last five years the condition of the roads has improved, the civil hospital has better facilities than before. To give him a fight, the Congress should be united. With a rebel candidate, it’s going to be difficult for the BJP candidate to win,” said Mr. Kapoor.Shyam Sundar, a tailor, believes that the BJP candidate will easily sail through as he has delivered on development work. “Roads are better now, street lights are there… moreover he is available whenever needed, that’s the best part,” he said.In the Ambala seat, BJP MLA Aseem Goyal is seeking re-election. The Congress has fielded Jasbir Malour who is having a tough time as Mr. Nirmal Singh is contesting as the rebel candidate. Mr. Singh and Ms. Chitra Sarwara were recently expelled from the Congress for violating the provisions of the party constitution and contesting the elections as rebels. ‘Changed scenario’Ashok Kumar, who works at a meat shop, said: “The Congress was in fight but after Nirmal Singh announced he would contest, the scenario has changed a bit. He will cut into the Congress vote which will benefit the BJP.”The Naraingarh constituency sees a direct fight between BJP’s Surender Rana and Congress party’s Shalley Chaudhary. However, Gulshan Kumar, candidate of the Loktantra Suraksha Party floated by former BJP MP Raj Kumar Saini, is capable of changing the equations.
Fire hits houses in Mandaluyong City Jaja Santiago (No. 3) is expected to be NU’s tower of power as the Lady Bulldogs try to close out Arellano. —SHERWIN VARDELEONAdamson and National University, polar opposites in last year’s UAAP, are in a collision course for the Premier Volleyball League Collegiate Conference crown.Victories today against their respective rivals will pit them against each other in a best-of-five title series.ADVERTISEMENT With the most dominant player in the active scene, Jaja Santiago, NU presents Arellano with more than just an uphill battle for survival.The 21-year-old Santiago said the Lady Bulldogs have set their sights on the title. Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. FEU, Adamson battle for solo third; a win, finally, for either UE or UST Typhoon Kammuri accelerates, gains strength en route to PH BSP sees higher prices in November, but expects stronger peso, low rice costs to put up fight But closing out their semifinal foes is easier said than done. Especially on the part of the Lady Falcons.Adamson, which was never in the title agenda the previous season, is taking on UAAP heavyweight Far Eastern U in Saturday’s Game 2 of their semifinal duel at Filoil Flying V Centre.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSWATCH: Drones light up sky in final leg of SEA Games torch runSPORTSSEA Games: Philippines picks up 1st win in men’s water poloSPORTSMalditas save PH from shutoutThe powerhouse Tamaraws are expected to pose an intense challenge to the Lady Falcons, who even trailed after three sets before clawing their way to victory in the last two frames, 21-25, 25-22, 20-25, 25-14, 15-8, in Game 1.National U should have an easier path to the finals. LOOK: Loisa Andalio, Ronnie Alonte unwind in Amanpulo for 3rd anniversary LATEST STORIES View comments MOST READ Trending Articles PLAY LIST 00:50Trending Articles00:50Trending Articles00:50Trending Articles01:37Protesters burn down Iran consulate in Najaf01:47Panelo casts doubts on Robredo’s drug war ‘discoveries’01:29Police teams find crossbows, bows in HK university01:35Panelo suggests discounted SEA Games tickets for students02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games Nonong Araneta re-elected as PFF president Fire hits houses in Mandaluyong City Read Next Frontrow holds fun run to raise funds for young cancer patients Brace for potentially devastating typhoon approaching PH – NDRRMC
PH chess player Menandro Redor. Photo by Randolph B. LeongsonHoping to pick up where they left off, the Philippines chess para athletes are loooling to surpass their six-gold medal haul in 2015 and aiming for seven this time in Kuala Lumpur.But Menandro Redor, one of the country’s leading para athlete in chess, thinks that with the chess team’s stringent preparation it could even exceed its target in the 2017 ASEAN Para Games this month.ADVERTISEMENT Hotel says PH coach apologized for ‘kikiam for breakfast’ claim Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. MOST READ Celebrity chef Gary Rhodes dies at 59 with wife by his side NATO’s aging eye in the sky to get a last overhaul Robredo should’ve resigned as drug czar after lack of trust issue – Panelo PH targets 27 golds in 2017 ASEAN Para Games “We may get more than just seven golds because we had intense training for this. We joined different local and international tournaments just to prepare,” said Redor in Filipino. “Our coaches have been taking care of us and we’re so prepared that we’re sure of what we can accomplish.”Redor, who will also serve as the Philippines’ flagbearer for the opening ceremonies, ha four-gold haul for the visually impaired 2 division, which is for partially blind participants, in the last staging of the biennial games in Singapore.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSSEA Games: Biñan football stadium stands out in preparedness, completionSPORTSPrivate companies step in to help SEA Games hostingSPORTSBoxers Pacquiao, Petecio torchbearers for SEA Games openingThe PH chess team will also lean on wheelchair-bound FIDE Master Sander Severino and Henry Lopez as they gun to sweep the individual and team events of standard and rapid.“We’ve already swept our category, so our goal now is to do that in the other categories. It also helps that we’ve got a women’s team now so it’s really possible that we can get the top spot this time,” Redor said. Lacson: SEA Games fund put in foundation like ‘Napoles case’ Trending Articles PLAY LIST 00:50Trending Articles02:49World-class track facilities installed at NCC for SEA Games03:07PH billiards team upbeat about gold medal chances in SEA Games05:25PH boxing team determined to deliver gold medals for PH03:04Filipino athletes share their expectations for 2019 SEA Games00:45Onyok Velasco see bright future for PH boxing in Olympics02:25PH women’s volleyball team motivated to deliver in front of hometown crowd01:27Filipino athletes get grand send-off ahead of SEA Games00:36Manny Pacquiao part of 2019 SEA Games opening ceremony Celebrity chef Gary Rhodes dies at 59 with wife by his side View comments LATEST STORIES The 32-year-old woodpusher isn’t discounting the capacity of the opposition with Indonesia posing the biggest threat to the Philippines’ quest for gold.But Redor is confident with what the chess team can deliver for the delegation, saying, “In chess, we’re sure that we’ll bring home golds.”Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next Trump signs bills in support of Hong Kong protesters Ethel Booba on hotel’s clarification that ‘kikiam’ is ‘chicken sausage’: ‘Kung di pa pansinin, baka isipin nila ok lang’