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When India asked for the moon — and got it
ISRO is now clearly on a very different and ambitious course, which is also very challenging. This new course has its origins in the decision to go in for planetary exploration, beginning with the moon. It was early 2000, I think, that we began discussing the road ahead for ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation). By that time, most of Vikram Sarabhai’s early goals for the Indian space programme — self-reliance, launch capabilities, societal needs — had been met, and the question that stared us in the face was ‘what next’. I remember the issue was vigorously discussed, and a moon probe seemed to be one of the natural options for ISRO to explore. Dr K Kasturirangan, who was the chairman then, set up a committee under Dr George Joseph, director of Space Applications Centre in Ahmedabad, to study what could be done in this regard. The Lunar Mission Study Task Force under Dr Joseph submitted its report shortly, and identified the gaps in our capabilities. One of the follow-up actions that I took after taking over from Dr Kasturirangan was to ask the VSSC (Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre) in Thiruvananthapuram to assess whether our existing launch vehicle could be used for a lunar mission. At that time, we had PSLV as our main rocket. VSSC came back to say that PSLV could deliver a payload of up to 1,000 kg to the moon orbit. We decided to strengthen the capabilities of PSLV, and when that was created, we realised that we had some excess capacity. It was then proposed that we could invite foreign space agencies to send their instruments on our mission. We received a dozen proposals of which we selected six experiments that complimented what we had planned for ourselves. That is how the foreign instruments got on our mission, which went on to be called Chandrayaan-1. Simultaneously, ISRO centres and scientists were working on designing the spacecraft, deciding on the science objectives, and building the technology know-how. When we were ready with our plan, we took our proposal to then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee. It was in 2004, I think, at one of the routine six-monthly reviews of the Department of Space, that I brought up the proposal. Vajpayeeji was excited and immediately interested. In his characteristic poetic flourish, he remarked that the moon looks beautiful from a distance, but it might not be so if we observed it from up close. He was not off the mark, of course. Close-up pictures of the moon, taken from instruments aboard Chandrayaan-1 as well, show an uneven surface with lots of craters. Vajpayeeji cleared the proposal quickly, and we began preparations with a 2008 launch in mind. While we were still in the planning stages, President A P J Abdul Kalam once visited ISRO facilities and inquired about the Chandrayaan-1 mission. We gave him a detailed briefing on our plans, the instruments that we would send and the experiments that they would carry out. But he had us all totally stumped when he asked, “How would you prove that you have gone to the moon? What would be the evidence that we have been there?”. I said something to the effect that we will produce data, we will have photographs of the moon. That is not enough, he said, and suggested that just like we have the Indian flag fluttering in Antarctica, we should have something similar on the moon as well. It was Kalam’s suggestion that forced us to include the MIP (Moon Impact Probe) instrument in our mission. It was not part of the original plan. MIP, which had the Indian colours on its sides, was made to crash land on the moon when the Chandrayaan-1 mission went up in 2008. We had left our mark. Discussions over a follow-up mission, that would include a lander and rover, began immediately, but there were a number of challenges. PSLV was not capable of carrying higher payloads, and we had been facing some difficulties with the development of GSLV. Also, there were huge technological learnings involved, particularly with regard to the descent module that was supposed to land. In the meanwhile, the idea of sending a probe to Mars came up, and it took precedence over Chandrayaan-2, because this too was also only an Orbiter mission. The Mars mission was a resounding success too. Of course, the Chandrayaan-2 mission, when it was finally launched in 2019, could not make a soft landing, but it is a small setback. These things happen. I firmly believe that Chandrayaan-3, which is headed for the moon orbit now, will surely make up for the failure of Chandrayaan-2. ISRO is now clearly on a very different and ambitious course, which is also very challenging. This new course has its origins in the decision to go in for planetary exploration, beginning with the moon. Other space agencies like NASA or ESA (European Space Agency) had begun sending missions to the moon, and we were at the risk of being left behind. They would not have shared their data with us, or collaborated with us. Also, it might have looked futuristic that time, but the idea of having a permanent facility on the moon was very much at the back of our minds when we planned our first lunar mission. We are talking more and more about it now, but even back then, it was one of the drivers for beginning to explore the moon. Source: Indian Express
Study: Small mammals may have hunted dinosaurs for food
Sailor and his dog rescued after three months in the Pacific
‘Green Festival’ celebrated in Zunheboto
Mentally challenged Shirin doing well after Rtv assistance
Talks with Cameron: Suu Kyi lies over Rohingyas’ identity
Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, during her conversation with former British prime minister David Cameron, claimed that Rohingyas are not from her country but are Bangladeshis, reports Newsweek. Cameron unveiled a new book on Thursday about his time in office between 2010 and 2016. The book, titled ‘For the Record’, recounts his meeting with Suu Kyi where she claimed that Rohingyas are not Burmese. Upon first meeting Suu Kyi, who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, Cameron was complimentary. “I met the pro-democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi, who would soon run for the presidency, and reflected on what an amazing story hers could be: from fifteen years of house arrest to transforming her country into a real democracy.” But when Cameron met Suu Kyi a year later in London, he felt differently about the interaction, according to the report. “However, by the time she came to visit London in October 2013, all eyes were on her country's Rohingya Muslims, who were being driven out of their homes by Buddhist Rakhines. There were stories of rape, murder and ethnic cleansing. The world is watching, I told her. Her reply was telling: 'They are not really Burmese. They are Bangladeshi.'" These comments came to light the same week as the release of a UN report from a fact-finding mission that revealed that the country is still not addressing the violence against Rohingyas. The report found that Myanmar has failed “to investigate genocide and to enact effective legislation criminalising and punishing genocide”. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, was equally critical in an address to the Human Rights Council earlier this week, saying that Myanmar has “done nothing to dismantle the system of violence and persecution” and that Rohingya live in the “same dire circumstances that they did, prior to the events of August 2017”. Meanwhile, the European Parliament (EP) has reiterated its call on the UN Security Council (UNSC) to impose a “global comprehensive arms embargo” on Myanmar. It also called for suspending all direct and indirect supplies, sales or transfers of all weapons, munitions and other military and security equipment, as well as provision of training or other military or security assistance. In its latest resolution adopted on Thursday, the EP urged the UNSC to adopt targeted individual sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, against those who appear responsible for serious crimes under international law. Source: UNB AH
Bangladesh made strides in cutting child, maternal mortality: WHO
Bangladesh is among countries that showed “substantial progress” in reducing child or maternal mortality, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). More women and their children are surviving today than ever before, according to new child and maternal mortality estimates released by United Nations groups led by Unicef and WHO. Despite progress, a pregnant woman or a newborn dies somewhere in the world every 11 seconds. Since 2000, child deaths have reduced by nearly half and maternal deaths by over one-third, mostly due to improved access to affordable, quality health services, according to a media released issued from New York on Friday. The world has made substantial progress in reducing child and maternal mortality. Since 1990, there has been a 56% reduction in deaths of children under 15 from 14.2 million deaths to 6.2 million in 2018. Bangladesh, Belarus, Cambodia, Kazakhstan, Malawi, Morocco, Mongolia, Rwanda, Timor-Leste and Zambia are some of the countries that have shown substantial progress in reducing child or maternal mortality, according to WHO. Success has been due to political will to improve access to quality healthcare by investing in the health workforce, introducing free care for pregnant women and children and supporting family planning, WHO says. Many of these countries focus on primary healthcare and universal health coverage. “In countries that provide everyone with safe, affordable, high-quality health services, women and babies survive and thrive,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO. “This is the power of universal health coverage.”  But the new estimates reveal that 6.2 million children under 15 years of age died in 2018, and over 2,90,000 women died due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth in the year before. Of the total child deaths, 5.3 million occurred in the first 5 years, with almost half of these in the first month of life. Women and newborns are most vulnerable during and immediately after childbirth. An estimated 2.8 million pregnant women and newborns die every year, or 1 every 11 seconds, mostly of preventable causes, the new estimates say. Children face the highest risk of dying in the first month, especially if they are born too soon or too small, have complications during birth, congenital defects, or contract infections. About a third of these deaths occur within the first day and nearly three quarters in the first week alone. “Around the world, birth is a joyous occasion. Yet, every 11 seconds, a birth is a family tragedy,” said Henrietta Fore, Unicef Executive Director. “A skilled pair of hands to help mothers and newborns around the time of birth, along with clean water, adequate nutrition, basic medicines and vaccines, can make the difference between life and death. We must do all it takes to invest in universal health coverage to save these precious lives,” Fore said. The estimates also show vast inequalities worldwide, with women and children in sub-Saharan Africa facing a substantially higher risk of death than in all other regions. Levels of maternal deaths are nearly 50 times higher for women in sub-Saharan Africa and their babies are 10 times more likely to die in their first month of life, compared to high-income countries. Source: UNB AH
29 million babies born into conflict in 2018: Unicef
More than 29 million children were born into conflict-affected areas last year, Unicef said on Friday. Throughout 2018, more than 1 in 5 babies globally spent their earliest moments in communities affected by the chaos of conflict, it said. “Every parent should be able to cherish their baby’s first moments, but for the millions of families living through conflict, the reality is far bleaker,” said Unicef Executive Director Henrietta Fore. She said in countries around the world, violent conflict has severely limited access to essential services for parents and their babies. “Millions of families lack access to nutritious food, safe water, sanitation, or a secure and healthy environment to grow and bond. Along with the immediate, obvious dangers, the long-term impacts of such a start in life are potentially catastrophic,” Fore said. When young children experience prolonged or repeated adverse and traumatic events, the brain’s stress management system is activated without relief causing ‘toxic stress’. Over time, stress chemicals break down existing neural connections and inhibit new ones from forming, leading to lasting consequences for children’s learning, behavior, and physical and mental health. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the landmark Convention on the Rights of the Child, in which governments pledged to protect and care for children affected by conflict. Currently, more countries are embroiled in internal or international conflict than at any other time in the past three decades, threatening the safety and wellbeing of millions of children, Unicef said. “Parents who interact with their babies can help shield them from the negative neurological effects of conflict. Yet, in times of conflict, parents are frequently overwhelmed,” said Fore. Some $200 billion a year is needed to achieve all the primary health goals that are required for quality universal health coverage for all, according to Dr Peter Salama, Executive Director in charge of Universal Healthcare targets at WHO. Welcoming positive changes in tackling child and maternal mortality globally since 2000, Salama insisted that many countries were in a position to achieve much more, without having to find new funding, according to UN News. “The biggest difference in terms of when we discuss financing between the MDG (Millennium Development Goals) era (2000-2015) and the SDG era, is the real acknowledgement that the money is there for many countries, they just have to spend it on the right things,” he said. “So we’re not turning to the donor community and saying, ‘Give us $200 billion.’ We’re turning to middle-income and higher-income and even some lower-income countries that are stable and saying, ‘Actually, if you choose the right things, you could meet these goals within your current budgets.’” ‘Staggering success’ in reducing deaths Since 2000, Dr Salama insisted, the overall story of maternal and child mortality had been “a staggering success that we don’t often see in global and health development”. He pointed to a 50 percent reduction in deaths in children under 15 – from 14.2 million in 2000 to 6.2 million deaths in 2018 - and a 35 percent reduction in maternal deaths over the same period. Source: UNB AH
UK could ban social media over suicide images
UK health secretary has warned that social media firms could be banned if they fail to remove harmful content. Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr show, Matt Hancock said: "If we think they need to do things they are refusing to do, then we can and we must legislate." But he added: "It's not where I'd like to end up." The minister earlier called on social media giants to "purge" material promoting self-harm and suicide in the wake of links to a teenager's suicide. Molly Russell, 14, took her own life in 2017 after viewing disturbing content about suicide on social media. Speaking to the BBC, her father said he believed Instagram "helped kill my daughter". Russell also criticised the online scrapbook Pinterest, telling the Sunday Times: "Pinterest has a huge amount to answer for." Instagram responded by saying it works with expert groups who advise them on the "complex and nuanced" issues of mental health and self-harm. Based on their advice that sharing stories and connecting with others could be helpful for recovery, Instagram said, they "don't remove certain content". "Instead (we) offer people looking at, or posting it, support messaging that directs them to groups that can help." But Instagram added it is undertaking a full review of its enforcement policies and technologies. A Pinterest spokesman said: "We have a policy against harmful content and take numerous proactive measures to try to prevent it from coming and spreading on our platform. "But we know we can do more, which is why we've been working to update our self-harm policy and enforcement guidelines over the last few months." Facebook, which owns Instagram, said earlier it was "deeply sorry". The internet giant said graphic content which sensationalises self-harm and suicide "has no place on our platform". Papyrus, a charity that works to prevent youth suicide, said it has been contacted by around 30 families in the past week who believe social media had a part to play in their children's suicides. "We've had a spike in calls to our UK helpline since the BBC first reported this six days ago, all saying the same thing," said a spokeswoman for the charity. Hancock said he was "horrified" to learn of Molly's death and feels "desperately concerned to ensure young people are protected". In a letter sent to Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, Apple, Google and Facebook (which owns Instagram), the minister "welcomed" steps already taken by firms but said "more action is urgently needed". He wrote: "It is appalling how easy it still is to access this content online and I am in no doubt about the harm this material can cause, especially for young people. "It is time for internet and social media providers to step up and purge this content once and for all." He added that the government is developing a white paper addressing "online harms", and said it will look at content on suicide and self-harm. Hancock explained: "Lots of parents feel powerless in the face of social media. But we are not powerless. Both government and social media providers have a duty to act. "I want to make the UK the safest place to be online for everyone - and ensure that no other family has to endure the torment that Molly's parents have had to go through." Molly was found dead in her bedroom in November 2017 after showing "no obvious signs" of severe mental health issues. Her family later found she had been viewing material on social media linked to anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide. Russell told the BBC: "Some of that content is shocking in that it encourages self harm, it links self-harm to suicide and I have no doubt that Instagram helped kill my daughter." Solicitor Merry Varney, who represents the Russell family, said Molly's case "and the examples of how algorithms push negative material" show a need to investigate online platforms, and how they could be "contributing to suicides and self-harm".   MHK
World's coffee under threat, say experts
The first full assessment of risks to the world's coffee plants shows that 60% of 124 known species are on the edge of extinction. More than 100 types of coffee tree grow naturally in forests, including two used for the coffee we drink, reports BBC. Scientists say the figure is "worrying", as wild coffee is critical for sustaining the global coffee crop. About one in five of the world's plants is threatened with extinction, and the 60% figure is an "extremely high" one. "If it wasn't for wild species we wouldn't have as much coffee to drink in the world today," said Dr Aaron Davis of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. "Because if you look at the history of coffee cultivation, we have used wild species to make the coffee crop sustainable." Research published in the journal, Science Advances, found conservation measures were "inadequate" for wild coffees, including those considered "critical" for long-term global coffee production. The study found that 75 wild coffee species are considered threatened with extinction, 35 are not threatened and too little is known about the remaining 14 to make any judgement. Furthermore, it was found that 28% of wild coffee species grow outside protected areas and only about half are preserved in seed banks. A second study, in Global Change Biology, found that wild Arabica coffee can be classed as threatened under official (IUCN Red List) rankings, when climate change projections are taken into account. Its natural population is likely to shrink by up to 50% or more by 2088 because of climate change alone, according to the research. Wild Arabica is used to supply seeds for coffee farming and also as a harvested crop in its own right. Ethiopia is the home of Arabica coffee, where it grows naturally in upland rainforests. "Given the importance of Arabica coffee to Ethiopia, and to the world, we need to do our utmost to understand the risks facing its survival in the wild," said Dr Tadesse Woldemariam Gole, of the Environment and Coffee Forest Forum in Addis Ababa. What is wild coffee and why do we need it? Many coffee drinkers are unaware that we only use the coffee beans from two species - Coffea Arabica and Coffea robusta - in the thousands of different blends of coffee on sale. In fact, there are 122 coffee species on top of that which occur naturally in the wild. Many of these wild coffees do not taste good to drink, but may contain genes that can be harnessed to help coffee plants survive in the future, amid climate change and emerging diseases that attack coffee trees. In the longer term, we will need to call on wild species to safeguard the future of the world's coffee crop, say researchers. "We will call on those wild resources time and time again," said Dr Davis. How does coffee compare to other plants in terms of extinction risks? Globally, about one in five plants is threatened with extinction, compared with 60% for coffee. As a comparison, about half of wild tea and mango species are threatened with extinction, 6% of hazelnuts and 9% of pistachios. Where is wild coffee found? The vast majority of wild coffee grows in the remote forests of Africa and on the island of Madagascar. Beyond Africa, wild coffee is found in other tropical climates, including parts of India, Sri Lanka, and Australia. What types of coffee do we drink? Global coffee trade relies on two species - Arabica (Coffea arabica) and Robusta (Coffea canephora). A third species - Liberica (Coffea liberica) is grown around the world, but is rarely used for coffee drinks. What are crop wild relatives? Crop wild relatives are wild plants that are genetically related to cultivated crops. They continue to evolve in the wild, and can be crossed with domesticated crops. They have been used to improve the yields and nutritional quality of crops since the dawn of agriculture. What are scientists calling for? They say we must understand the risks to coffee farming and make sure we have the resources in place to overcome threats. Coffee trees, like many tropical plants, have seeds that do not survive the freeze-drying process used in conventional seed banks - 45% of coffee species have not been "backed up" outside the wild. Dr Eimear Nic Lughadha of Kew said this is the first time an IUCN Red List assessment has been carried out to find the extinction risk of the world's coffee, and the figure of 60% is "extremely high". "We hope this new data will highlight species to be prioritised for the sustainability of the coffee production sector, so that appropriate action can be taken to safeguard the species," she said.   MHK
We are not going anywhere, says Dr. Zafar Iqbal’s daughter
Following the incident of knife attack on famous writer and Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST) Professor Dr. Muhammed Zafar Iqbal, his daughter Yeshim Iqbal in a long emotional post on her personal blog said, ‘We are not going anywhere.’  Here is the full text of Yeshim’s writing: We are all, of course, shocked and extremely disturbed. Much like many of you who will be reading this, I have a profound sense of unease and sadness that my country is not safe. That the university campus I grew up on is the same place where my father got stabbed while trying to enjoy a robotics competition. A young friend asked me desperately, “WHY Yeshim Apu? Why would you stay in this country, when this is happening?” It seems, then, that many people are despairing about the state of this country. Asking me if my family will leave, lamenting that we have failed my father. However. There’s something I’d like to say to all of you. In fact, I might as well just be lazy and steal a few words from my father, because I know exactly what he’s going to say as soon as he’s up and about again. You see, you are not allowed to give up hope. And you can never, ever stop fighting for all the things that are good and beautiful to you, for the country you so badly wish you were living in and just haven’t gotten quite to yet. Nothing has ever come easily. Every single thing that you enjoy in your world today - a street to walk on as a free person, a meal to eat, a doctor when you are ill, the right to go to school, to vote, to work at a job that pays you enough money to live and maybe take a rickshaw ride and eat some fuchka that will probably mess up your stomach but is worth it because you’re eating it with someone that gives you the giggles - every single thing you enjoy now was fought for by someone who came before you. Nothing ever came for free, and nothing ever came easy. Somebody fought for it, little by little, piece by piece, day after day, year after year. By people like my parents, yes, but also by people like you and me. It is our right, and our responsibility, to deeply enjoy every tiny bit of what we have been given. And it is our responsibility to continue to fight for what we don’t yet have. Perhaps our children will get it. When it gets difficult, when you want to scream and cry with the sheer outrage of it -  I know, I know, I am there myself - you do not plan on how you’re going to run away. You take a deep, deep breath. You look around, and you gather up the pieces of courage that you might have dropped by accident along the way. You lift your chin up as stubbornly as you possibly can, and you figure out where the next step forward goes. I know very well that one of the reasons I am able to say this is that my father is alive and well, already talking about how to finish the five courses he’s supposed to be teaching this semester. I take a moment now to think of the families and friends of those who have lost their lives in this same fight. There are daughters out there whose fathers have not recovered. I’m thinking about you. I’m staying in this country because I like it. To me, this place is not the ugliness of the incidents like this. These incidents and the people who cause them are a problem, one there we need to deal with very urgently. They are rather like warts, or maybe fungus. They’re gross, and they may have appeared because we haven’t yet done a good enough job of keeping clean. We need to remove them. But they are not what this place is. To me, this country is the gorgeous volunteers I work with at Kaan Pete Roi. It’s a trip to Chhayanaut or Shilpakala any day of the week I’m looking for a song in my heart. It’s the incredible science and art and literature this tiny country has managed to make despite the battering it has taken in history. It’s the groups of university students I often have the privilege to chat with and learn from, and it’s my parents’ young colleagues sitting around our dinner table, planning how to make things better for their next wave of university students. It’s the insistence of friends to feed me kababs made of little fish, because apparently that’s what makes a healthy baby. It’s my mother and father, who - make no mistake - are not going anywhere. I am so grateful, especially to those who were there in the moment and acted quickly, with no thought to their own safety, to get my father the care he needed. Thank you. To those protesting all over the country, thank you; the sound of you gives me strength. To those who made up the absolute ocean of love we have received in the past few days, thank you; you are exactly what I need. Make no mistake. We are not going anywhere.   *Yeshim Iqbal is a doctoral candidate in the Psychology and Social Intervention Program at New York University. She has a B.A. in Psychology from Cornell University and worked for three years as a Research Coordinator at the Harvard Laboratory for Developmental Studies. She then went on to found ‘Kaan Pete Roi’, the first suicide prevention and crisis support line in Bangladesh. AH