ALMOST everybody has a theory on health and very often commonly held beliefs that underline such theories are irrational and unscientific. People will, however, cling to their pet beliefs with the argument that they know something works (or doesn’t work) from personal experience. Beliefs and practices are socially constructed and change over time as material conditions change.
AFTER years of wavering by India despite continuous prodding by the US, first under the UPA and then even by the BJP, it appears that another of the “foundational agreements” between the US and India on military collaboration is on the verge of being signed. Three such agreements are part of the package required to be signed by all US allies to allow the latter to acquire and effectively operate advanced US military equipment inter-operably with US forces.
WORLD Environment Day (WED) is observed by the United Nations General Assembly each year on June 5, to commemorate the Stockholm Conference on Human Environment in 1972. This year India is the host country and, in that capacity, has chosen “Beat Plastic Pollution” as the theme for 2018.
The choice of theme is timely since plastic pollution on an unprecedented scale, especially of the oceans, has been highlighted often during the year, and has grabbed media and public attention.
THE BJP government has continued its inexorable march towards severely diluting the already weak environmental regulations in the country, as part of its drive to promote “ease of doing business,” in other words to serve the interests of the corporate class.
WALMART’S 14 billion dollar acquisition of Flipkart has sent the Indian financial press into a tizzy: the biggest deal in India ever, the biggest ever global ecommerce acquisition, etc. What it means for the Indian retailers, who employ about 40 million people, having Amazon and Walmart, two of the most brutal employers in the world dominating the Indian market, does not find place in these writings. Or that the BJP government has been in clear violation of its election promise of not permitting foreign capital to enter multi-brand retail.
THE government recently announced a long-delayed Defence Production Policy (DPP 2018), coming after many years of continually updated defence procurement policies whose emphasis was on purchase of military hardware, invariably from foreign sources. These columns have long advocated the need for a defence production policy, with an emphasis on indigenous technology development and manufacturing, without which India would continue on the path of serial imports with consequent external dependence, security risk, and erosion of sovereignty.
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.