A Noida police officer left “no stone unturned” to botch up investigation in a 2009 case of gangrape of a 24-year-old MBA student that has led to the acquittal of nine persons by a Delhi court on the grounds that the identity of the real culprits could not be proved.The court pulled up the police for not following proper procedure of law while investigating the matter and said no judicial Test Identification Parade (TIP) of the accused was conducted by the investigating officer (IO).The court held that the IO had left “no stone unturned for making this case impossible to be proved” and directed Noida Senior Superintendent of Police to take appropriate action against IO, inspector Anil Samaniya, for his improper probe in the case.“These factors clearly show that due to the negligent, casual and unprofessional investigation conducted by the IO, real culprits of the case could not be identified/arrested or subjected to administration of justice,” Additional Sessions Judge Shail Jain said, adding that this was “a classic case” of botched up investigation by the IO.However, the judge was all praise for Special Public Prosecutor Neelam Narang, saying she provided valuable, substantial and useful help in explaining the lengthy case in a summarised manner.
The Revenue department has slapped a whopping ₹4 crore as fine on the Shri Saibaba Sansthan (Trust) for allegedly defaulting on revenue dues on a portion of land dating back to the British Raj.Speaking to The Hindu, Shirdi Sub-Divisional Officer Kundan Sonawane said that the disputed land of 27 gunthas (less than one acre) was acquired by some of the devotees on rent near the temple complex premises during colonial times. While the land belonged to the State, the devotees either gave it away to the trust or sold it off a few years after Sai Baba died in 1918.Put on noticeSpeaking to The Hindu, Shirdi Sub-Divisional Officer Kundan Sonawane confirmed that his office had sent a notice to the Saibaba Sansthan Trust.“A few years after Sai Baba’s ‘Mahasamadhi’ in 1918, these devotees either donated or sold it (the land) off without due permission from the State. The land in question encompasses the iconic Dikshit wada, the Lendi Baug [the garden created and watered by Sai Baba himself] and the museum. So, we have sent the notice to the Sai Baba trust to legalise the possession of this land by paying back the revenue due to the government,” Mr. Sonawane said.He informed that the nebulous ownership of the disputed land was unearthed by local journalist Pramod Aher while the latter was researching his book Shirdi Gazeteer: untold stories. Mr. Aher then brought the matter to the attention of Revenue department authorities.Mr. Sonawane further said that if the Trust failed to clarify the matter within a week, a legal probe would be initiated into the affair.Officials at the trust could not be reached for comment.
The Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court on Thursday issued a non-bailable warrant against Islamic preacher Zakir Naik in cases of money laundering.On April 12, advocate Hiten Venegavkar appearing for Enforcement Directorate (ED) told the court that Mr. Naik is currently in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and has been served with four summons dated January 1, January 24, February 2 and February 24 but has yet not appeared before the court, therefore it is ground for the agency to seek a non-bailable warrant against him.Shell companiesThe agency states that Dr. Naik had floated shell companies in India as well as abroad wherein, he had nominated directors who were not even aware of the activities of the entities. Out of the six companies he floated, Dr. Naik had appointed his confidante Aamir Gazdar as a directorof one such company. Mr. Gazdar, who was arrested last month, claims he has no knowledge of this and that Dr. Naik has been controlling all the activities. The agency further said that these companies were used to camouflage the diversion of funds received by Dr. Naik through his provocative speeches.Investigations have revealed that there were huge amount of cash transactions without leaving any trail about its origin or utilisation.The National Investigation Agency (NIA) registered an FIR against Dr. Zakir Abdul Karim Naik, the president of Islamic Research Foundation which has been declared unlawful by the Ministry of Home Affairs. The FIR reveals that Dr. Naik and his associates indulged in unlawful activities through provocative utterances, promoting enmity between different religious groups in India. Last month, ED had also attached properties worth ₹18.37 crores under the PMLA.
Students in the Kashmir Valley continued protests for the third consecutive day on Wednesday, forcing the authorities to close down all 46 colleges for two more days. “Teaching work in all colleges of the Kashmir division will remain suspended on April 20 and 21 as a precautionary measure,” said a spokesman of the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Baseer Khan.Class work was stopped in all colleges and a few schools in Srinagar on Monday after students clashed with the security forces, leaving dozens injured. The trigger was the alleged police excesses on students of Government Degree College, Pulwama on April 13, which left over 50 students injured.In fresh protests on Wednesday, students took to the streets in north and central Kashmir. “This is a grim situation. We are worried,” said a spokesman of the State Education Ministry. The ministry officials claimed that the decision to close down schools and colleges “is taken by the district administration after assessing the ground situation”.This year’s academic session, like in 2016, when five months were lost to the street agitation, is again staring at a blank. Sources said the government was mulling multiple measures, including barring circulation of videos on social media platforms to stop unrest in colleges. Separatist leaders, Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik, while strongly criticising the administration for “invading educational institutions and assaulting students,” called for solidarity protests on Friday.Meanwhile, the principal of Government Degree College, Pulwama, which is at the centre of the storm, was on Tuesday attached to the directorate office “till the inquiry is completed.”
Former Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) MP and strongman of Bihar’s Saran district Prabhunath Singh and two others were convicted on Thursday in an old murder case by a local court of Hazaribagh in Jharkhand. All three were later sent to jail. The quantum of punishment will be pronounced on May 23.Additional district and sessions judge Surendra Sharma found Prabhunath Singh, his brother Dinanath Singh and one Ritesh Singh guilty of the murder of former MLA Ashok Singh. MLA killed in blastAshok Singh, the then Janata Dal MLA from Masarakh constituency of the Saran district in Bihar, died in a bomb blast on July 3, 1995, when he was sitting in the lawns of his official bungalow in Patna. “My brother defeated Prabhunath Singh in the 1995 Assembly poll and Prabhunath Singh had openly said that my brother will be killed within 90 days of becoming a legislator. He was killed on the 90th day,” Tarkeshwar Singh, younger brother of Ashok Singh, told journalists. The day Ashok Singh, 28, was killed, he had met the then Director General of Police G.P. Dohre for police protection.“It was a long battle, but I had full faith in the judiciary and I’m happy that justice has been done,” Chandani Singh, wife of Ashok Singh, told journalists.
Gujarat continues to be battered by heavy rains causing floods. On Thursday, Ahmedabad received 200 mm of rainfall, flooding major parts of the city. The Centre has rushed three more teams of the National Disaster Response Force to the State.The toll in Banaskantha has reached 46 while in Patan district, five persons were washed away in the floods. The total toll has reached 150 in the State since June 1.“More than 10,000 people were relocated from vulnerable areas as a precautionary measure as torrential rain continues in the State,” said a senior government official, adding that more than 1,000 people were rescued by various agencies.‘Grim situation’“Situation continues to be grim because of constant rainfall. After north Gujarat and Saurashtra, the rain is now spreading to central and south Gujarat, causing floods there,” the official added.Portions of at least 20 buildings collapsed due to heavy rains and water-logging. Three persons were injured when a building crumbled in the Gaekwad Haveli locality in the early hours, Ahmedabad Chief Fire Officer M. Dastoor said.“Three persons were injured when a building collapsed in the city. Parts of nearly 20 buildings collapsed since midnight, while 64 trees have been uprooted. Eleven instances of fire were reported due to short-circuits,” he said.The government authorities have ordered all schools and colleges to remain closed in the affected areas. Examinations have also been postponed.As on Thursday, more than 300 roads were closed and hundreds of villages submerged in darkness due to power outage as floods have damaged the power distribution infrastructure.Chief Minister Vijay Rupani visited the affected areas in Ahmedabad and conducted inspection of rescue works. The administration has warned people against venturing out. The Ahmadabad Municipal Corporation issued a warning of heavy rains on Friday and asked people to stay indoors.According to Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel, 18 teams of the NDRF, six teams of the BSF, six columns of the Army, two teams of the Navy and over a dozen helicopters of the Air Force were involved in the rescue work across the State, mainly in the two worst affected districts of Patan and Banaskantha.The Ahmedabad airport runway was partly flooded due to heavy rains, though it did not affect the air traffic, its director Manoj Gangal said. Apart from Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar and Kheda also received heavy rainfall in the last 24 hours, affecting thousands of people who had to be relocated to safer areas.(With inputs from PTI)
Sporadic incidents of violence took place in several parts of West Bengal since polling started on Sunday morning in seven civic bodies, including five municipalities, one municipal corporation and one Notified Area that is a settlement area in transition from rural to urban. While Opposition parties alleged that ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) cadre were behind the violence, the TMC leadership denied the allegations. Till 7.15 p.m. 77.3% votes were polled. However, this figure is likely to increase as some voters were still in queue. Polls are being held for the Durgapur Municipal Corporation in Paschim Bardhaman district, Dhupguri Municipality in Jalpaiguri district, Buniadpur Municipality in South Dinajpur district, Nalhati Municipality in Birbhum district, Haldia and Panskura Municipalities in the Purba Medinipur district, and the Coopers’ Camp Notified Area in Nadia district. Apart from these, by-polls are being held for one ward in the Jhargram Municipality of Jhargram district, and one ward in the Champdani Municipality of Hooghly district. Most of the incidents of violence took place in the Durgapur Municipal Corporation (DMC) area in Paschim Bardhaman district. Two police personnel were allegedly assaulted and a rifle was snatched by miscreants in the Kada Road area in Durgapur. A polling booth was also vandalised. In the afternoon, bombs were hurled near a polling booth in Ward Number 13 in the Main Gate area.“Two personnel were assaulted and are severely injured. We have got information that there were some people [involved in the incident] who were Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters. The rifle has been recovered,” said a senior official of the Assansol-Durgapur Police Commissionerate. He added that no one has been arrested so far.
The flood situation in Bihar and West Bengal continues to be grim as waters from the overflowing rivers in Nepal sweep south, while there has been a slight improvement in Assam.Nearly one crore people have been affected by the floods in Bihar that have claimed 119 lives so far, an official said on Friday. The Bihar disaster management department official said over 98 lakh people in 1,532 panchayats under 139 blocks in 16 districts have been hit with thousands of huts washed away, buildings and roads damaged and standing crops worth crores submerged.According to the official, 4,08,903 people have been evacuated by the Army, NDRF, SDRF and other rescue teams in the last four days. The State government has set up 1,238 relief camps housing 310,041 people in the flood-hit districts.Respite from rainThough rain has let up in West Bengal, about 400 villages in Malda district are facing massive waterlogging with the Mahananda, Fulhar and Purnarbhaba river overflowing.Speaking to The Hindu on Friday, Irrigation Minister Rajib Banerjee said, “Malda has become our main concern now. Due to the flood waters from Nepal and Bihar, the Mahananda river is already flowing above the extreme danger level and the water level is expected to rise.” “Currently there are about 70,000 people in 116 relief shelters in the district,” district magistrate of Malda Kaushik Bhattacharya said. According to district officials at least eight lakh people have been affected. Twelve teams from two battalions of the NDRF have been deployed in Malda, Uttar and South Dinajpur districts.Assam toll risesWith 11 more deaths on Friday, the death toll in the second phase of floods in Assam has gone up to 60 since August 10 even as the authorities said there were some “signs of improvement” in the overall situation.According to a report by the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA), 25.93 lakh people were affected by the floods in the State. Morigaon was the worst-hit district with 5.29 lakh affected people, followed by Dhubri with 4.76 lakh people. As many as 2,210 villages were under water, it said.7 rhinos deadOver 140 animals including seven rhinos and two elephants have perished in the second wave of floods in Assam that inundated 80% of the the Kaziranga National Park Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Rohini Ballav Saikia said here on Thursday.(With inputs from PTI & IANS) Three family members drown as bridge collapses in Bihar
Senior IAS officer Ajay Singh, of 1983 batch, has been appointed Chief Secretary of Chhattisgarh on Thursday, replacing Vivek Dhand.Mr. Dhand, of 1981 batch, was Chief Secretary for four years, and was to retire in March. He was named the chairman of the state’s Real Estate Regulatory Authority, but opted for voluntary retirement.
All government employees in Samba district of Jammu & Kashmir have been directed to download the “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” ringtone on their Jio mobile numbers. The order came from the office of Deputy Commissioner Sheetal Nanda on February 23, who demanded that a compliance report be filed within 24 hours.The government is in talks with Airtel and Vodafone for similar ringtones but the memo mentions only one service provider. According to Ms. Nanda, the decision was taken make sure the campaign message is widespread, and to “put a thrust on having a girl child. In local language“A ringtone was prepared when the campaign was launched. We made a folk singer to sing it in Dogri, a local language. The ringtone was already available on the BSNL members. We got in touch with the Jio company too for the ringtone, which they agreed to,” Ms. Nanda told The Hindu. She had issued fresh directions to all the departments, including school staff, using the Jio numbers to download the ringtone, also used by the Deputy Commissioner herself. “I will ensure 100% compliance,” she said.Responding to the directive, Srinagar-based gynecologist and women rights activist Samina Maqbool said, “Making ringtones mandatory have hardly resulted in change of mindset when it comes to gender justice.”Addressing root causes“The male-female ratio is alarming but at the same time it points at two areas where the government’s intervention is required now. One, high mortality rate among women in Jammu and Kashmir due to poor access to the healthcare and healthy food intake. Two, growing incidences of female foeticide and poor mechanism to stop sex determination in advance,” Dr Maqbool said.While downloading ringtones may help in sensitisation to some extent, “The real solution lies by working on the causes leading to the skewed male-female ratio,” Dr Maqbool said.Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched “Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao” (Save girl child-Educate girl child) campaign in January 2015 to address the declining Child Sex Ratio (CSR) in India. As per the 2011 census, the adult sex ratio in India is 940 females for every 1000 males. The child sex ratio (of children between the ages 0 and 6 years) is far worse at 914 females for every 1000 males. Figures for Jammu and Kashmir are well below the national average with only 883 females for every 1000 males.
The District Rural Police on Wednesday arrested Milind Ekbote, the prime accused in the Bhima-Koregaon violence of January 1 this year. The Supreme Court had on Wednesday cancelled his interim bail relief. Ekbote was picked up from his home in Pune’s Shivajinagar area Thursday morning.Two FIRs were lodged against Ekbote, who is the executive president of Samasta Hindu Aghadi outfit, for allegedly orchestrating the riots which left one person dead. The apex court quashed any further extensions of Ekbote’s bail relief after the State prosecutor submitted that he had not cooperated with the probe agencies, and had refused to hand over the mobile phone, claiming that he had apparently “lost” the phone.He is to be produced before the Pune Sessions Court later in the day.Police sources further said that Ekbote had been summoned at least five times for interrogation, but had not cooperated after one session with the investigating authorities on February 23.Earlier on January 22, his anticipatory bail application was rejected by the Pune Sessions court and again by the Bombay High Court on February 2.On February 6, the Pune sessions court issued an arrest warrant for Ekbote, who then moved the Supreme Court for interim bail the next day which was granted to him.The Pune Rural police had booked him under Sections 307, 143, 148, 149, and 295 of the IPC, and the Prevention of Atrocities Act, based on complaints filed at various police stations on January 1.Last month, while extending his bail relief, the Supreme Court had rapped the State government and probe agencies for their tardy progress in their probe against Ekbote, questioning the agencies’ claims that he was allegedly ‘untraceable’.
Tripura government has set up 180 relief camps to accommodate thousands of flood-affected people in the state. Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb on Wednesday made an aerial survey in north Tripura to take stock of the situation.Mr. Deb also visited Kailashahar in Unakoti district, the worst hit in the current floods. Numerous areas in Khowai, Dhalai and South Tripura districts were also submerged, rendering people homeless.Three people died and several injured over the past two days owing to incessant rains and landslides. The Chief Minister announced ex-gratia payment for the kin of the deceased.Officials said 6,054 families from submerged areas of the state were housed in the camps. “The state government has opened 180 relief camps in seven districts of Unakoti, North Tripura, Dhalai, Khowai, West Tripura, Gomati and South Tripura,” Sanjay Kumar Mishra, Officer on Special Duty to the Chief Minister, told The Hindu.
More than a week before Purvanchal gangster Munna Bajrangi was murdered in a Baghpat jail on Monday, his wife Seema Singh had alleged that the Uttar Pradesh police along with some political leaders and officials were conspiring to get him ‘eliminated’ outside the jail in a ‘fake encounter.’ She had requested Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to step up her husband’s security.“The officials of the U.P. STF, U.P. police and some influential ‘safedposh’ people are part of the conspiracy. My husband’s life is under threat,” Ms. Singh told journalists at the Lucknow Press Club on June 29.Ms. Singh also said that during his stay at Jhansi jail there had been an attempt to poison him. While on Monday she was not available for comment and Bajrangi’s brother and nephew had their phones switched off, his lawyer Vikas Shrivastava, who was in Baghpat, echoed Ms. Singh’s theory. “It is a planned murder and done by the administration. Some politicians and criminals are behind it,” he alleged.In March 2016, Bajrangi’s brother-in-law Pushpjeet Singh, a lawyer who even pursued his legal cases, along with a friend was gunned down by unidentified assailants in Lucknow. This followed the murder of Bajrangi’s close aide Mohammad Tariq last year. A native of Puredayal village in Jaunpur district, Munna Bajrangi was born into a Thakur family as Prem Prakash Singh. After dropping out in class 5, he soon discovered his fascination for weapons and as per people who knew him, aspired to become a “filmy don.” He was barely 17 when he was arrested for possessing illegal arms. “After he came out of jail, he got involved with a local mafia don called Gajraj Singh and started working for him. On Gajraj’s call, he committed a couple of murders early on [first he murdered a local businessman in Jaunpur followed by the killing of a BJP leader]. He aspired to be a gangster,” said a distant relative of Bajrangi, requesting anonymity.In the 1990s, Bajrangi, who had by then become a notorious figure in Purvanchal with his extortions and murder cases, started working with jailed MLA from Mau and alleged gangster Mukhtar Ansari. In 1998, he even miraculously survived an encounter by the Delhi police.In 2005, he was accused of executing the brutal and sensational murder of former BJP MLA Krishnanand Rai at the behest of Ansari, who is still facing trial in the case. Around 400 bullets were fired at the MLA’s convoy by the assailants armed with AK47 rifles. The murder was allegedly a retaliation in the rivalry between Mr. Ansari and another Purvanchal gangster Brijesh Singh, with whom Rai was associated. The State had then declared a bounty of ₹7 lakh on Bajrangi, who was arrested in Mumbai in 2009. He faced over two dozen criminal cases, including those for murder, attempt to murder, extortion and gangster activities. .Over the years, Bajrangi had also developed political ambition and in 2012, while he was lodged in jail, he contested the Assembly election from Mariyahu seat in Jaunpur as an Apna Dal candidate. Though he lost, he stood third with a respectable 21% vote share. In 2017, his wife Seema Singh contested from the same seat but unsuccessfully.UP ADG Jails, Chandra Prakash, said it was a “big lapse” on the part of the officials that a revolver had been sneaked in. While police are investigating the motive behind the murder, Mr. Prakash said the accused Rathi himself faced several criminal cases, most of them in Uttarakhand. Rathi, himself an alleged gangster, had been shifted to Baghpat jail recently.
Former Union Minister M.J. Akbar on Wednesday recorded his statement before a court here in support of his allegations levelled in a criminal defamation complaint against senior journalist Priya Ramani.Recording his statement before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal, Mr. Akbar said that he had suffered “damage due to the scurrilous and false charges levelled by Ms. Ramani”.“Indeed there was an immediate damage because of the scurrilous nature of these concocted and false allegations. I was attacked in my personal capacity about alleged and fabricated non-events allegedly done two decades ago,” he said in his statement.“I chose in that environment to seek justice in my personal capacity without the appurtenance of office. This is why I offered my resignation as Minister of State, Government of India. My reputation has been tarnished in the eyes of general public and those who are near and dear and known to me,” he said. Mr. Akbar had resigned from the Union Council of Ministers on October 17.Later, on conclusion of Mr. Akbar’s statement, the court posted the matter on November 12 for recording statements of other witnesses cited by him in his complaint.Taking cognisance of the complaint on October 18, the Additional CMM had summoned Mr. Akbar for recording his statement.The former editor had sought Ms. Ramani’s prosecution for allegedly defaming him by accusing him of sexual misconduct with journalists who worked with him in different media houses over the years. Mr. Akbar in his complaint cited an open letter by Ms. Ramani published in Vogue magazine last October and her tweets as defamatory.The complaint stated that “the accused herself, while putting forward defamatory statements relating to incidents which allegedly occurred 20 years ago, simultaneously admits that the complainant has not done anything to her”.(With PTI inputs)
23andMe, the test-your-own-genes company, has come under fire on moral grounds today for patenting a DNA prediction service that critics say could lead to “designer babies.”The company received a U.S. patent last week for software it offers clients to estimate the chances that a theoretical child might have key genetic traits.Called the “Family Traits Inheritance Calculator,” it does not examine disease risks but predicts six variable benign traits, including “eye color” and “muscle performance,” based on how parental DNA would likely combine.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(*)23andMe has offered the service for years—it applied for the patent in 2008—but the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office decision has brought new attention to its potential. A bioethics commentary out today—written for the journal Genetics in Medicine by lead author Sigrid Sterckx of Ghent University in Belgium, and three others—suggests that U.S. authorities might have withheld the patent for moral reasons. “[S]electing children in ways such as those patented by 23andMe is hugely ethically controversial,” they write.The Center for Genetics and Society in Berkeley, California, also took whack at 23andMe. In a statement, signed by its executive director Marcy Darnovsky, the center calls on the company to “abstain from developing or offering any product or service based on this patent, and to use its patent to prevent others from doing so.”The center objects that the science is inadequate to deliver on the promise that genetic traits—or even disease risks—can be forecast for a hypothetical child. “A project like this would also be ethically and socially treacherous,” according to Darnovsky. For one thing, Darnovsky writes, it could “encourage the dangerous idea that science should be used to breed ‘better’ people.”Two other bioethicists contacted by Science did not see a significant moral issue, however. Hank Greely, an expert on law and genetics at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, says his “first take” is that it’s “much ado over not very much.” He is “underwhelmed” by the criticism, although “real questions” could come up, Greely says, if someone were to use the 23andMe forecasting service to pick among candidate embryos for transfer into the womb for a pregnancy, or to terminate a pregnancy. That doesn’t appear to be happening, he notes.Bioethicist Nita Farahany of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, was equally unperturbed. She and her husband are clients of 23andMe, Farahany writes in an e-mail, so today’s contretemps prompted her to check out what the firm said a theoretical child by them might be like. (They currently have no children.) She found, for example, that the child would have an 80% chance of bitter taste perception, no chance of being lactose intolerant, 100% chance of having wet earwax, 56% chance for brown or black eyes, 50% likelihood of sprinter-capable muscles, and little or no alcohol flush reaction. The results have “good entertainment value,” Farahany says. She concedes that there are risks of making predictions like these, but adds: “I believe that people should have access to information about themselves, and I think it’s laudable that 23andMe has helped pave the way for people to better understand their genomes.”Perhaps alerted to the coming criticism, Catherine Afarian, spokesperson for 23andMe, based in Mountain View, California, issued a statement on the patent yesterday. “When the patent was first filed nearly 5 years ago,” she said, “there was some thinking that this feature would have potential applications for fertility clinics, where the donor selection process was typically based on photos, family history, and some limited genetic testing of donors.” But she says the company “never pursued the idea and has no plans to do so.”
The new boss of the European Commission has sparked criticism with plans to raid the European Union’s science budget to fodder a new investment fund aimed at boosting Europe’s sluggish economy and creating new jobs.In his first big move after about 3 weeks in office, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has proposed diverting €2.7 billion from Horizon 2020, the bloc’s €70 billion, 7-year research funding program, into a new “Investment Plan for Europe.” Combined with money from the Connecting Europe Facility, which funds broadband and transport projects, from the European Investment Bank, and from unspecified “budget margins,” the fund would put €21 billion on the table. Juncker says this could attract 15 times that amount from industry and national governments, to reach €315 billion in the next 3 years.Some research organizations aren’t convinced that the €2.7 billion cut from Horizon 2020 will eventually benefit research, as Juncker claimed yesterday when he presented the plan to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. “Horizon 2020 is not a lemon! 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The commission has issued few details but says it wants to focus broadly on broadband and energy networks, transport infrastructure, education, research and innovation, as well as renewable energy and energy efficiency. As an example, the commission says the money could help speed up the construction of a “laser-based research infrastructure.””I know some of you are worried about the impact on the research and infrastructure allocations. You fear that redirecting money from the Horizon 2020 and Connecting Europe budget lines will mean that money is lost,” Juncker told the Parliament yesterday. “But this is not the case. Every euro from these programs paid into the fund creates 15 euros for those very same research and infrastructure projects. We are not just moving money around, we are maximizing its input.”But some say that plan is too optimistic. “What can you do with €21 billion in an economy that amounts to over €12 trillion or more? [Juncker]’s trying to do a miracle with very little,” says Guntram Wolff, director of the economics think tank Bruegel in Brussels.Wolff doesn’t believe national and private funds will multiply the commission’s €21 billion by a factor of 15. “Maybe 5 if we’re lucky,” he says. The plan is likely to bolster projects that would have happened anyway in this short time frame, enabling investors to make higher profits instead of attracting actual new investment, Wolff says. To finance the scheme, it would be wiser to tap into other parts of the E.U. budget, such as funds for agriculture or regional development, instead of Horizon 2020, he adds.LERU says the new fund’s money is likely to go to “quick win projects that may please politicians and citizens but that will not invest in Europe’s future.” LERU’s secretary-general Kurt Deketelaere called the plan a “fairytale diversion” that would squeeze the Union’s research budget. “Let’s stick with the Horizon 2020 budget, which we all welcomed in 2012,” he said.It is still unclear which parts of the Horizon 2020 budget would suffer. “None of [Horizon’s] money [for that period] has been committed at this stage, so nobody can claim to be losing out,” says a commission representative. “On the contrary, everyone should mobilize to put forward really good projects.” Public bodies, companies, or nongovernmental organizations will be able to submit proposals, which will be vetted by an “investment committee,” the representative says.Juncker hopes to get the plan off the ground by mid-2015—but he will first have to win the approval of the Parliament and member states, which have to agree on the details of the future regulation.
In teenagers as in stars, the first years of life are times of great change. A massive protostar that lies about 4250 light-years from Earth has undergone a dramatic evolution over the course of just 18 years, a new study reveals. In 1996, when scientists used a radio telescope to observe a star-forming region dubbed W75N(B), one of the objects in that cloud—called VLA 2—had very little structure: Its magnetic field wasn’t oriented in any particular direction, and the ionized material streaming from the star—its version of solar wind—spewed outward at similar speeds in all directions. But observations last year hint that the protostar’s stellar wind was flowing more quickly from the object’s poles (relative speeds depicted in bluish ovoid in image above), and its magnetic field had become aligned with that of the larger cloud of gas and dust that surrounds it, the researchers report online today in Science. Material flowing out from the equatorial regions is slowed substantially as it runs into the doughnut-shaped disk of dust and gas that surrounds the protostar, the researchers explain. Over the next few hundred thousand years, W75N(B)-VLA 2 will evolve into a star about six times the mass of our sun, team members estimate. Another protostar forming in the same cloud of material, dubbed W75N(B)-VLA 1, sported an organized magnetic field in 1996 and therefore is farther along in its stellar evolution, likely because it’s more massive. Continuing observations of the handful of massive protostars in the cloud will shed new light on the earliest stages of star formation, enabling researchers to fine-tune their models of how such stars evolve.