SLOWLY, but surely, the story of the peopling of South Asia is being unravelled, using genetic data and their analysis. The latest in this series, is a preprint of a paper by David Reich, Vagheesh Narasimhan and others in biological archives, The Genomic Formation of South and Central Asia in www.biorxiv.org. Biologists, following mathematicians and physicists, are now uploading their papers before they are refereed and published in journals, making important results available much earlier.
STARTING with the Channel 4 exposé of Cambridge Analytica, and now the NaMo app that sends data to Clevertap.com, we are beginning to realise the impact of big data on elections. If we combine this with fake news – the recent MIT report that shows how fake or false news travels faster, deeper and wider than real news – we realise the danger of uncontrolled use of new technologies. Not only can they be used to sell us commodities we don’t need; they can also sell us toxic politics.
HISTORY repeats itself, wrote Karl Marx, first as tragedy then as farce. One wonders how he would have characterised a third repeat, when all the tears are done and even the disorganised buffoonery is over! Whatever term is used, the fresh tender for fighter aircraft being floated by India is surely way beyond farcical.
THE International Solar Alliance (ISA) that met in Delhi recently, is envisaged as a grand inter-governmental coalition of sun-rich nations, i.e., countries that lie fully or partially between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. The objective of the ISA is to facilitate members to ‘collectively address key challenges to scaling up solar energy’. These ‘key challenges’, as understood by the ISA Framework Agreement, include solar finance, solar technologies, innovation, research and development, and capacity building.
THE healthcare sector has been consistently grabbing headlines in recent weeks. First came the reports of how two prominent private hospitals in Delhi – Max and Fortis – fleeced patients in blatant disregard of all ethical norms. Bills were inflated with impunity and relatives were harassed even after the patient was dead. Then came private hospitals.
HYPERBOLES are the hallmark of the Modi government, especially empty hyperboles that are passed off as public policy. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s announcement during his budget speech, of the world’s “largest government funded health care programme”, outdid all previous records of the Modi government in making inflated claims. Quickly named ‘Modicare’ by the spin doctors of the BJP, the announcement was lapped up unquestioningly by sections of the corporate controlled media.
THE cryptocurrency Bitcoin has seen its price see-sawing wildly over the last 12 months, making it one of the most volatile of assets. Whether it can be considered at all a currency – a token of money which can be exchanged for other goods – is another question. At its current price in dollars – 1 bitcoin is trading for $9,120, down by about half from its highest price of $19,206 a month back. It is still nine times what it was trading only 12 months ago. Among all cryptocurrencies, and there are more of them, Bitcoin is by far the biggest.
SATYAPAL Singh, the minister of state for human resources development (HRD), and a former police officer, while speaking in the All India Vaidik Sammelan, has attacked the theory of evolution – which he foolishly calls Darwinism – asking that it be removed from school and college education. In this, he has been backed by Ram Madhav, the general secretary of the BJP, who has quoted the Christian Right on creationism – now called “intelligent design” – being a substitute for the theory of evolution.
MOST people assume that critics of Aadhaar are concerned about citizens fundamental right to privacy, or the loss of statutory benefits such as rations due to a faulty Aadhaar system. Two recent cases – that reported recently by Tribune and the French security researcher reporting on the novice-level security of the mobile App of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) – brings out a completely different threat. This is identity theft and therefore, the possibility of attacks from criminals on our bank accounts.
THE Special Court judge Saini in his judgements running into thousands of pages on the 2G spectrum issue, seems to believe that let alone criminality, there was nothing wrong with the procedures that A Raja and his cronies adopted. His world, in which the allotment of 2G licenses or spectrum occurred, appears to be in a parallel universe from that in which the Controller of Auditor General (CAG), the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court operated. All of them found A Raja and his close associates guilty of arbitrary changing of rules to help certain favoured companies.