CBI books IIT-Goa director for corruption during previous stint

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) booked the director of the recently established Indian Institute of Technology-Goa on Wednesday for allegedly possessing assets disproportionate to his known sources of income.

Dr Barada Kanta Mishra has been accused of indulging in graft during his stint as the Institute of Minerals and Materials Technology (IMMT) director in Bhubaneswar between April 2006 and March 2017. He was booked under the Prevention of Corruption Act for allegedly possessing disproportionate assets to the tune of Rs 1.14 crore.

The renowned academician, known for his extensive studies in the fields of mineral processing and extractive metallurgy, graduated in metallurgical engineering from NIT Rourkela and obtained his PhD and post-doctoral degrees from the University of Utah. He has published over 200 journals, and holds claim over five US patents.

CBI

Besides serving as IMMT director between December 2005 and March 2017, Dr Mishra was the chairman of the Recruitment and Assessment Board from May 2015 to May 2016.

In its FIR, the CBI said Dr Mishra’s assets – movable and immovable – amounted to Rs 3.39 lakh in 2006. However, by 2016, it had allegedly risen to over Rs 2.19 crore. This was inclusive of his bank savings, properties and car.

The investigation agency further alleged that Dr Mishra had made over Rs 2.39 crore and spent nearly Rs 1.31 crore on “payment of margin amount for purchase of car, advance payment on purchase of flat, house loan repayment, educational expenditure of his children, and kitchen expenses” during this period. It observed that while the institute director’s actual savings should have been in the whereabouts of Rs 1 crore, it rose to as much as Rs 2.15 crore – showing a discrepancy of Rs 1.14 crore.

 

The Safe Schools Declaration: Protecting Schools During Wartime

The blood stains on the classroom walls couldn’t be washed away following the Taliban attack on the middle school in Postak Bazaar village in Afghanistan. ‘We had to chip it away from the wall with an axe,’ a school official told Human Rights Watch.

But the blood wasn’t that of the school’s students. It was that of seven members of the Afghan National Police, a counter-insurgency force that had set up their military base inside the school. That attack was in 2010. After the Taliban retook the area, their fighters too slept in the school.

An Afghan policeman stands guard at the entrance of a local school sponsored by Japan’s International Cooperation Agency in Kandahar City May 11, 2010. © 2010 Nikola Solic / Reuters

By 2015, government forces were back, and established their base with sandbagged positions on the second floor, while students tried to continue their schooling below.

Alarmed school officials obtained a letter from the Kabul authorities ordering the forces to leave, but their commander ignored it. At exam time, school officials again presented the letter, but the soldiers fired their guns toward the assembled teachers and students, who fled.

Since the Australia-supported military intervention in Afghanistan began in 2001, foreign donors have invested heavily in education, building schools and providing textbooks across the country. The expansion of education in Afghanistan, especially for girls, has been one of the success stories of the past 15 years. But as the security situation has deteriorated, schools throughout Afghanistan have been under threat, not only from resurgent Taliban forces but also from the Afghan state security forces mandated to protect them.

But it’s not just in Afghanistan that schools are under attack, or are being taken over by military forces. In the majority of countries with armed conflict around the world, schools are being attacked and used for military purposes, often converted into military bases or barracks. As the middle school in Postak Bazaar illustrates, the military use of schools not only turns schools into targets for attack, but the presence of armed forces inside a school can also interfere with education even if the school continues operating.

On 1 June, Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced the government would contribute $2 million to improve education for children in emergencies, including facilitating safe places to learn.

But there’s one more thing Australia could do to protect children’s education in emergencies, and it doesn’t cost a cent: endorse the Safe Schools Declaration. The Safe Schools Declaration (not to be confused with the ‘Safe Schools’ program for LGBT students being debated in Australia) marks an inter-governmental political commitment where countries pledge to protect students, teachers, schools and universities from attack during times of war. Last month marked its two-year anniversary.

So far 66 nations have endorsed the declaration aimed at ending the use of schools by militaries or armed groups. But Australia isn’t yet one of them. The declaration builds a community of nations committed to respecting the civilian nature of schools and developing and sharing examples of good practices for protecting schools during war. Countries that join agree to restore access to education faster when schools are attacked, and to make it less likely that students, teachers and schools will be attacked in the first place. They seek to deter such attacks by promising to investigate and prosecute war crimes involving schools. And they agree to minimise the use of schools for military purposes so they don’t become targets for attack.

On 13 February, some members of the Australian Parliament urged the government to join an international effort to protect students, teachers and schools in countries affected by war.

MPs Chris Hayes, Trent Zimmerman, and Maria Vamvakinou laid out the chilling details of how students and schools are all too frequently deliberately attacked during armed conflict, pointing to examples in Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, South Sudan and Syria.

In response to a question on notice on 17 March, the Attorney-General George Brandis stated that the government had decided not to endorse the Safe Schools Guidelines and Declaration ‘as we assess they do not reflect existing international humanitarian law’. But in fact, countries such as the Netherlands and Switzerland, which have centuries-old traditions of professional militaries, were among the first to join the declaration.

The Declaration doesn’t create a legal obligation, but is a political commitment. Indeed, the International Committee of the Red Cross, which is traditionally seen as the guardian of international humanitarian law, has actively disseminated the guidelines to its staff.

As both Hayes and Zimmerman noted, when Australia was on the United Nations Security Council in 2014, it felt it appropriate to encourage other countries to take action to protect schools. Australia used its vote to encourage all countries to consider concrete measures to deter military use of schools.

Australia’s Ambassador to the UN, Gary Quinlan, told the Security Council members that using schools for military purposes gravely endangers the lives of children. ‘We need to do more to protect schools, teachers, and students during conflict,’ Quinlan relayed to the UNSC. ‘The child victims around the world count on us.’

Quinlan, representing the Australian government, was spot on. On 15 May UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged all UN member states to endorse the declaration. It’s now time for Australia to rediscover the position it held in 2014.

 

8 Smart Ways to Eat Healthy During Office Hours

A regular 9-to-5 desk job, sitting all day in an air-conditioned cabin, is what majorly constitutes an office for most of us. Office life can often get hectic, with no signs of stopping or slowing down. Work keeps piling up and the 40-hour workweek hardly seems enough. All this adds up to nothing but higher stress levels, unhealthy lifestyles and irregular eating habits. As such one tends to cash-in on unhealthy snacks that are available in tuck shops like chips, crackers, biscuits, and namkeens. The calories we consume are far more than the energy we expend, thereby making us pile on the kilos. In the canned space of the office environment, it is vital to binge on eatables that do not just keep us hydrated, but are low on calories and easy on the stomach. Wondering what these superfoods could be? We’re here to share our trade secrets on how to eat healthily during office hours.

8 Smart Ways to Eat Healthy During Office Hours

1. Cut the Junk

Junk food options like namkeens and chips are the ones that are stocked by most office spaces for their employees. While completely disallowing yourself to eat these may not be the solution, it is a good idea to keep a check on the amount you take in one go. Bingeing on junk is the unhealthiest habit possible, so be mindful of it. Limit your starch content intake in the form of pastas, rice and breads too.

junk foodLimiting your junk intake is vital for healthy eating. Photo credits: iStock

2. Pack Home-Cooked Meals

This is the fool-proof way to make sure you cut down on junk; however much you want to. Getting home-cooked food

to your office makes sure the food is healthy and fresh. The food cooked at home best satisfies your taste buds. You can customise it according to your own tastes and preferences. Chances of getting a case of food poisoning from badly-cooked food is severely reduced by eating home cooked food everyday. Freshly cooked food packed in a tiffin box keeps reminding you to finish it first before you go on to any other snacks or drinks. Home food in decent proportions is something which you can always binge-eat, without feeling conscious of overeating.

home cooked foodSimple, home-made food is the best way to limit unhealthy snacking habits. Photo credits: iStock

3. Stay Hydrated

The importance of drinking water at your work place cannot be overstated. A water bottle

at your desk is an absolute must. Make sure you take several big sips before and after every meal, and keep drinking through the day as well. Water has no calories, and helps you stay energized and fresh throughout the day. This is vital especially for those working in air-conditioned offices, as their skin gets devoid of moisture, and thus needs to retain its hydration.

sit and drink waterWater- the evergreen superfood for your workplace. Photo credits: iStock

4. Cold Drinks Are Not the Best Refreshment

Some tend to consciously avoid junk food in an attempt to watch weight, but it is also important to avoid drinking caffeinated drinks, sodas, energy drinks, packaged juices and lattes. These drinks contain heavy amounts of sugar, which hampers your diet. Extra sugar and cream in your tea and coffee should be avoided. Opt for black coffee or green tea as a viable alternative to cut down on calories as well as boost your metabolism; or gorge on water, of course.

sodaCalorie-heavy drinks like colas and sodas become an unnecessary pile-on to your daily requirement. Photo credits: iStock

5. Keep Snacks at Your Desk

Stock your desk larder with plenty of snacks other than the regular chips and biscuits. This will be an added incentive to eat well, and will prohibit you from reaching out to the vending machine

or nearby grocery store every time. Pine nuts, flax seeds and almonds are also good snacking alternatives. The best snacks are fresh fruits and veggies- simply wash and bring them to your work place!

nutsHealthy fruits and nuts are one of the most healthy snacks possible. Photo credits: iStock

6. Healthy Eating Options

If you’re still wondering what exactly you can binge-eat during office hours, we have a list of healthy options ready for you-

  • Fresh coconut chunks, which are conveniently available in bite-sized packets in the local supermarket. They are high on fibre and rich in good fats
  • Sweet potato crisps, with no additives or preservatives.
  • Roasted chickpeas, which is low on calories and high on taste.
  • Yogurt, is a great snacking option and has a variety of flavours to choose from. It fills up the stomach with good bacteria and stocks up high on calcium and magnesium.
  • Dark chocolate, is rich in antioxidants and keeps you fresh and energized. Be careful not to eat too much. The kind of dark chocolate that has maximum benefits is the one with close to 98% cocoa content and least milk and sugar.
  • Protein bars, are filling, richly layered, and available in several different kinds of flavours. They live up to their name and supply you with the energy-boosting Protein that keeps you going through the day.
  • Mixed nuts, such as almonds which are high on magnesium; flax seeds which reduce drowsiness and contain Omega-3 fatty acids as well. Roast a variety of these nuts and keep them in a handy jar on your desktop.
  • Fruits, including bananas, apples, oranges, peaches, grapes, and any other fruit which does not require peeling and cutting. A single serving of any fruit is a healthy snacking portion for one person. It is a filling snack and high on fiber and vitamins.

 

healthy foodHealthy snacks in small portions are the key to a healthy lifestyle. Photo credits: iStock

7. How to Curb Cravings

Controlling your food cravings is vital for the workplace. The brain often sends hunger pangs

based on food smells and sounds nearby. This ends up becoming a major deterrent to your healthy snacking intentions, as your cravings result in binge eating. What’s more, if there is nothing available to satisfy your craving, you will end up relying on sugary foods that are high on carbohydrates and fats.

healthy food 620To satiate your food craving, make sure you choose the healthier path. Photo credits: iStock

8. Check Portions

It is always a good idea to snack and satisfy your hunger pangs rather than intentionally deprive yourself of food. However, the key element here is not to go overboard with any snack you take. Be it simple mixed nuts, protein bars or even vegetables and fruits- it is essential to control the portions you eat. Excess of anything is too much for the body to handle. Over-snacking makes you lose your appetite for the proper meals of the day, and pile on unnecessary calories and weight.

snacksTiny portions of every food is the best way to avoid overstuffing. Photo credits: iStock

Thus, healthy bingeing during the 40-hour workweek is not as much of a Herculean task as it seems. It is simply a combination of switching to the right diet and a little bit of self-control. So, get your office snacking habits right today!

 

Fever During Pregnancy Linked to Autism Risk in Kids

Autism is a neurodegenerative disorder that surfaces in a child around the age of 2-3 years. The condition differs from person to person and manifests itself in motor disability, gestural inability, speech problems and a host of other symptoms. Risk of autism in a child often gets linked to mother’s health and the phase of pregnancy. It has been suspected that a faulty gene or genes may make a newborn more likely to develop autism along with other factors such as a chemical imbalance, viruses or a lack of oxygen at birth. While experts are still uncertain about all the causes of autism, a new study, appearing in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, shows that babies who are exposed to maternal fever during the second trimester are likely to have a 40 per higher risk of developing autism spectrum disorder.

For the study, the team followed 95,754 children born between 1999 and 2009, including 583 cases of autism spectrum disorder identified in Norway. It was found that mothers of 15,701 children (about 16 per cent) reported fever in one or more four-week intervals throughout their pregnancy. The findings showed that the risk of autism spectrum disorder increased by 34 per cent when mothers reported fever at any time during pregnancy, and by 40 per cent if they reported fever during the second trimester. Further, for children of women who reported three or more episodes of fever after the 12th week of pregnancy, the risk of autism increased by over 300 per cent.

kids

Prenatal infections trigger immune responses that can affect the child

In addition to these results, they also found that the risk of autism was minimally mitigated among the children of women who took acetaminophen (anti-fever medication) for fever in the second trimester. Moreover, no cases of autism were reported among children of mothers who took ibuprofen, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. “Our results suggest a role for gestational maternal infection and innate immune responses to the infection in the onset of at least some cases of autism spectrum disorder,” said first author Mady Hornig, Associate Professor at the Columbia University in New York, in the United States.

The researchers hope that this study will help us focus on the prevention of prenatal infections and inflammatory responses that people may take lightly but they can have serious health complications for the mother and child.

 

Here’s What Happened During My Month on Weight Watchers

I’ve struggled with my weight most of my life. I’ve been fat and I’ve been thin. In my 30s, I got the yo-yo-ing under control and stabilized in the 130s. But then, in the wake of injuries and work stress, the weight crept on.

Hovering between 155 and 160, I was not obese but officially overweight, according to the Body Mass Index (BMI), and shedding pounds wasn’t as simple as it once had been. There I was, “overweight,” the owner of an achy joint, and inching ever closer to the hormonal changes that every woman must eventually face — and that are said to make weight loss even harder. Dropping weight had become a must. It would make me more agile, nimbler, lighter on my feet, so to speak. It would relieve pressure on my joints. Clothes would fit better. I’d look better. Plus, with the prospect of menopause on the not-to-distant horizon, it was the time to shed 15 pounds — once and for all.

 

So I turned to Weight Watchers, and here’s what happened.

First, a primer: Weight Watchers works by assessing each member by age, weight, height, and gender, then determining how much food he or she needs to eat to lose weight at what the company calls a safe rate — 1 to 2 pounds per week. The member is assigned a daily point target and spends those points on food. Some foods — fruit and vegetables especially — have zero points. Foods full of simple sugar and fat tend to have high points value. Where an apple is zero points, a slice of apple pie is 12 points. Members are encouraged to track everything they eat, which can be done offline, online, or via an app.

In addition to a daily point target, every person also gets a weekly allocation of extra points for the time that member exceeds their target. That could be a point or two daily, or all at once.

In addition to that weekly buffer, members can earn extra fit points for exercise. Members can weigh in at meetings or in the privacy of their own home. Significant weight losses (or gains) can also result in an increase or decrease in points.

Week One

154.8 pounds

I step on the scale at nearly 155 pounds. Heavier than I’d like; lighter than I had feared. Based on this and my other data, I’m assigned a daily target of 30 points and an additional 35 weekly points.

I spend the week faithfully counting points — if not adhering to the strictest of limits. The first day I use 33 of my 30 points, digging into that weekly stash right off the bat. The second, I oversleep, so I miss a trip to the gym. Things go downhill at night when I meet a friend at a bar and make the mistake of ordering a Manhattan (10 points) followed by two beers (five points each), and no dinner. When I get home, I’m hungry, but it’s after midnight. I walk into the kitchen, contemplate the fridge, then spin on my heel and march myself out of the kitchen.

Now, when I fall face first into a piece of cake, I simply get up and brush off the crumbs.

Wins: I didn’t late-night eat and I went over by just one point.
Losses: I’m pretty sure Weight Watchers would not approve of my drinking my dinner.

The rest of the week progresses with wins and losses, and culminates with a huge feeding-frenzy party. But, in preparation, I had hoarded my extra weekly points. I eat egg whites for breakfast, work out for an hour, eat fruit for lunch, and indulge in a gluttony of wings and cake pops and guacamole and beer — 49 points for the day.

Week Two

153.4 lbs

My second week begins with a whimper. I’ll admit, I’d hoped to see bigger — or smaller — but in the end, the results aren’t all bad. I’m down a solid 1.4 pounds which is a definite win. The weight loss also changes my weekly points. I still get 30 a day, but now I have 23 weekly points instead of 30.

On Monday, I see editor-at-large of O, The Oprah Magazine Gayle King in the cafeteria at work. I’m standing there desperately trying to look up the points that might be associated with lentil masala when she walks up and pulls out her phone. At this point, I pretty much throw myself at King. I’m sure she’s counting points and I’m thrilled to find someone else who can relate. She gives me some advice: “Yes, but lentils … those are good points!” which I shoot down by mentioning that said lentils also say “masala” which is loaded in points. I scare King away and opt instead for a salad.

My birthday falls in the middle of the week and I celebrate by far exceeding my daily allotment. I go into the weekend — and a date — with just three of my weekly point allotment remaining. In hopes of staving off failure, I make sure to bump up the exercise quotient over the weekend too.

Week Three

151.8 lbs

Things are getting more normalized. I’ve figured out how to use my points to my advantage and most days manage to stay within my target range. One of the things I love about Weight Watchers is that there are healthy, filling foods you can eat that you can’t on other diets. Take, for example, the zero-point banana, which is not allowed in the initial stages of South Beach. Filling and sweet, the banana becomes my friend this week, and I eat one most days. I also continue finding ways to fill up on vegetables, most of which are zero points, and on clean protein.

Week Four

151.2 lbs

It’s the smallest loss to date, but it’s still a loss, which I count among the victories. Also a victory is the fact that the late-night binges that were plaguing me have ceased. I credit this to the tracking. By noting what I eat, I’m more conscious of what’s going into my body. This seems to prevent the overeating, late-night binging, and mindless consumption that helped get me here in the first place.

I spend the week exercising, keeping diligent notes of what I eat, and trying to stay within my daily allocation. It seems to work.

Final Weight: 150.2 lbs.
Total weight lost: 4.6 pounds

I can’t say I have the body of a model or the energy of my teenage self, but I do seem to have control. Plus, I can feel my hipbones again, my stomach is shrinking, and I’m all of three-tenths of a pound from “average” weight. The goal now is to continue on. Another six to eight weeks should have me at my goal.

With nearly 5 pounds of weight lost over the course of a month on Weight Watchers, here’s what I learned:

1. It’s easy.

The lack of restrictions makes the plan easy to work. You can literally eat anything you want on Weight Watchers, so long as you account for it — and structure the rest of your intake around it accordingly.

2. There’s a built-in support network, if you want it.

Weight Watchers offers a lot of options. You can go to a weekly meeting, weigh in, and talk with others on the same path. You can do everything from the comfort of your own home (or phone) instead. You can even IM with a diet coach if you want, share pictures from your journey with others online, and more.

3. There’s no hunger or deprivation.

If I was ever hungry on Weight Watchers, it was my own fault. If, for example, I chose to drink a 12-ounce Coke, that would take up nine of my daily points, without slaying hunger. For the same nine points I could have had two chicken fajitas, or 3-ounce steak and a small baked potato. And, for those of us with portion control issues, there’s always the opportunity to gorge on “free” vegetables.

I can’t say I have the body of a model or the energy of a teenager, but I can feel my hipbones again and my stomach is shrinking.

4. Cheaters win.

You know those diets where you’re not allowed to eat anything with, say, sugar? Or carbs? This isn’t one of them. When you want potato chips, you eat potato chips. You just build them into your diet plan, account for them in your point spending, and compensate for them with other healthy eating choices the rest of the day and week

5. One bad day didn’t destroy me.

That day that I had a Manhattan and beers? It didn’t set me back mentally, emotionally, or physically. Instead, I just accounted for it and moved on. No guilt, none of that “since I already failed I might as well keep on eating.” Now, when I fall face first into a piece of cake, I simply get up, brush off the crumbs, track what I ate, and compensate for it for the rest of the day or week.

6. It’s the end of binge eating.

By tracking everything I eat over the course of a day and a week, I learned to just just say no. It’s like there’s an invisible boundary there. Sure, I can fit tortilla chips (12 chips, four points) and salsa into my diet, but not the entire basket. Now, I know what that basket will cost me — not just on the scale but in my food plan for the day or the week. Subconsciously, I can decide that I’d rather stop at a handful of chips than sacrifice say, dinner.

7. If you work the plan, the plan will work.

See the scale: Nearly 5 pounds in four weeks? That’s not so bad.