Home » Catch Wire » Your Wire on 18 February

2,200 senior central govt officials under CBI scanner

The Central Bureau of Investigation is looking into the cases of 2,200 senior central government officials for alleged malpractices including corruption, reports The Economic Times. In this connection, over the last year, the CBI has already registered FIRs against 101 senior bureaucrats, PSU officials, defence personnel and bank officials and filed 1,044 chargesheets.

"The mood of the public is against corruption. If CBI will not side with them, who will?" asked CBI chief Anil Sinha.

NSUI, ABVP will both march to Parliament on 24 Feb

Two student unions will clash on 24 February, the second day after the opening of the Budget session of Parliament, each marching to proclaim its own version of nationalism, reports The Economic Times.

While the Congress-affiliated National Students Union of India (NSUI) had planned its 'Chalo Delhi' march on 23 and 24 February much in advance to seek justice for Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula, the RSS student wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), decided to march on 24 February only on Wednesday in protest against the 'seditious activities' at JNU.

New car and bike registrations may be banned in Mumbai

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), India's biggest civic body, has proposed to completely ban all new car and bike registrations in the city after a certain date, reports The Economic Times.

The proposal submitted last month also intends to create a ceiling on new vehicle registrations every year, and approve registrations only after a vehicle buyer submits proof of parking space in a housing society or complex.

The idea is to cut down the number of new vehicles in the city and help avoid parking congestion.

Ram Madhav secretly meets Mehbooba

In a secret meeting in Srinagar on Wednesday evening, BJP general secretary Ram Madhav spoke with Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti hoping to end the stalemate between the two partner-parties of the Jammu and Kashmir government, reports The Indian Express.

Madhav had negotiated the alliance between the BJP and the PDP last year. He arrived at the Muftis' residence in Srinagar around 6.30 pm, accompanied by another person whose face was covered with a shawl. The meeting lasted about an hour.

BJP wants Parliament debate on Afzal Guru and nationalism

The BJP-led central government has decided to raise in Parliament the issue of JNU's 9 February pro-Afzal Guru event and the resulting row about nationalism and demand a debate, reports The Economic Times.

The BJP has been accused of mishandling the situation by arresting JNU Students Union leader Kanhaiya Kumar and charging him with sedition.

While the Opposition parties have already stated that they will bring up the issue during the Budget session of Parliament, BJP MPs have decided to go on the offensive.

US President Barack Obama to visit Cuba

US President Barack Obama plans to make a visit to rival nation Cuba on 21 March, as part of a larger tour of Latin America. The trip is being looked at as an attempt to improve diplomatic ties between the United States and Cuba. This trip is the first such initiative undertaken by a sitting US President in 87 years. Calvin Coolidge was the last US president to visit Cuba in 1928.

Government restores customs duty on Octreotide, Somatropin and Anti- Haemophilic Factor Concentrate

A few days after withdrawing customs duty exemption on a host of life saving drugs, that resulted in criticism from across the medical fraternity the government today restored exemption on three of those drugs. The drugs include Octreotide, used to treat hormonal disorder, besides symptoms of severe diarrhoea and flushing caused by cancer, Somatropin, used to treat growth failure in children and adults who lack natural growth hormone and Anti- Haemophilic Factor Concentrate (VIII and IX), used for genetic bleeding disorder involving a lack of functional clotting of blood.

Ram Vilas Paswan backs JNU as an institution, recalls Emergency excesses

day after three JNU students resigned from ABVP citing ideological differences on Kanhaiya Kumar's arrest, the BJP is in for more criticism - this time from its ally. According to Sankarshan Thakur, the Delhi-based editor of The Telegraph, Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan has lent support to Kanhaiya Kumar, who was arrested on charges of sedition for allegedly shouting anti-national slogans at a pro-Afzal Guru event in JNU. According to Thakur's tweet Paswan also recalled excesses committed by the government during the Emergency, imposed by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Universities to hoist national flag 'to encourage love for the country'

Staring today, all central universities will have to hoist the national flag. The decision, which comes after the massive protest at JNU, was taken at a meeting between Union Human Resources Development Minister Smriti Irani and vice-chancellors of 46 central universities, on 18 February. According to the Ministry, the order has not been issued by the government but proposed by the vice-chancellors themselves. One of the 12 resolutions taken at the meeting was that hoisting the national flag in colleges will become "compulsory", said Harish Chandra Singh Rathore, the vice chancellor of South Bihar university.

India's now home to the world's cheapest smartphone

Ringing Bells, an Indian company, have today launched the Freedom 251, the world's cheapest smartphone. Priced at Rs 251, the phone comes packed with the sort of features you'd expect from a regular smartphone, including dual cameras, 3G capability as well as 8GB of internal storage. Ringing Bells had recently launched the Smart 101, one of the country's cheapest 4G phones, and looks set to establish itself as a disruptor in the budget smartphone market.

Get questions answered by Homer Simpson

That bumbling yellow man who loves donuts, Homer Simpson, will be available to answer fan questions about anything, very soon. FOX will be airing an episode on 15 May which will have a special three minute segment where The Simpsons fans can shoot questions at him. Al Jean, showrunner of the popular animated series, told the Hollywood Reporter that special motion capture technology will be used to air the episode.

Coming soon: A TED talk by an AI

TED talks are more often than not highly impressive, and delivering that perfect speech requires just the right blend of intelligence, spontaneity, articulation skills and a good sense of humour. Can a robotic mind deliver a speech like that? We'll find out soon enough. TED curator Chris Anderson has announced the world's biggest ever speaking fee for a Ted talker (whopping $4.5m in cheque), to be given at a 2020 TED conference. Except, the speaker must be an artificial intelligence, not a human. An interim prize of $500,000 will be awarded to teams between 2017 and 2020 at World of Watson, IBM's annual conference. Winning teams will move on to a final competition after that.

Wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt slams 'anti-nationalists' in viral poem

Olympic Games bronze medalist Yogeshwar Dutt has reacted to the state of affairs in Jawaharlal Nehru University by penning a patriotic poem which he posted on his official Facebook page. The poem has gone viral, being shared over 19,000 times and liked over 81,000 times. Dutt compared the protesters who raised anti-national slogans in JNU to Turkish invader Mahmud Ghazni, and accused the students and their supporters of dishonouring the memory of Lance Naik Hanumanthappa, who died in an avalanche in the Siachen glacier earlier this month. Read the full poem here.

Nigerian 'witch boy' rescued by aid workers

A starving two-year-old Nigerian boy was rescued after being discovered naked and wandering the streets because his family thought he was a witch. The boy, who has been named Hope, was found emaciated and riddled with worms after being forced to live off scraps of food thrown to him by passersby for eight months.

He was rescued by Anja Ringgren Loven, a Danish woman living in Africa who bent down and began feeding the boy and giving him water.

She then wrapped the boy in a blanket and took him to the nearest hospital, a report in the Independent said.

Half the world will be myopic by 2050, says new study

Half the world's population might be afflicted with short-sightedness soon. An international team of researchers have looked at myopa cases over the past few decades and have arrived at numbers that predict how many more people can be affected by myopia in future. The data was collated from 145 studies and covered 2.1 million participants. They've predicted that by 2050 there will be "4,758 million people with myopia (49.8 percent of the world population) and 938 million people with high myopia." The reason? "environmental factors (nurture), principally lifestyle changes resulting from a combination of decreased time outdoors and increased near work activities, among other factors". The study has been published in the American Academy of Opthalmology.

With weak land laws, Koala numbers down in Australia

Koalas are fast losing ground in Australia. According to the findings of a conservation group in Queensland, more than 40,000 hectares of koala habitat has disappeared in the face of weakened state land-clearing controls. WWF Australia has warned that the species' numbers will continue its alarming slide until policies are changed. The analysis, done by the conservation group's scientist Dr Martin Taylor has showed that approximately 40,312 hectares of habitat has been lost between 2012 and 2014.