News Wrap


Ateam of scientists from Pune, had warned in a report eight years ago, that untreated sewage water was being discharged in the supply system in Shimla, capital of Himachal Pradesh state, and a jaundice epidemic was imminent. Acute jaundice broke out in Shimla in 2007-08, 2010-11, 2013 and the latest since December 2015. This year there have been over fifteen deaths, and jaundice has affected at least 2000 people, from different economic strata. The hill station’s tourism has been hit. Over 200 employees of the state secretariat are affected. Untreated water was being released from the Sewarage Treatment Plant (STP) in Malyana, 4 km upstream, into Ashwani Khad, the main source of drinking water supplied by the Irrigation and Public Heath Department (IPH). Of late Shimla is no longer using water from that source. The contractor operating the plant has been arrested on charges of alleged corruption and criminal negligence. There was a second warning in 2008, when an expert panel set up by the High Court, pointed to ‘‘serious lapses’’ in the operation of the Malyana plant. In 2010, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) also recommended upgradation of the system to avoid contamination. The sewage treatment plant never functioned, and sewage was discharged without any chemical or biological treatment. Sludge was being dumped in the open. In 2005, six sewage treatment plants were set up under a project funded by OPEC, which invested Rs 54.8 crore to provide decentralised sewage connectivity to the town’s population. The project for refurbishing the sewage system and linking to no sewage areas is awaiting approval from the Central Government. Funds from World Bank are awaited.

Exodus of Mexicans
Since 1965 more than 16 million Mexicans have moved to America. The US Census Bureau predicted that one-third of the population would be of Hispanic origin by 2050. The predictions have since been revised for 2065, putting the Hispanic population share at about 24%. Currently USA is facing an exodus of Mexicans who are returning home disillusioned by low living standards, and growing hostility towards immigrants. More Mexicans are leaving America, than those arriving. Higher than one million Mexicans and their families went home between 2009 and 2014, outnumbering new arrivals to the US, by about 140,000. Many young Mexicans continue to pay traffickers to sneak them across the Rio Grande river on the border. Older immigrants are flooding back in the opposite direction in greater numbers. Most Mexicans who migrate to USA, come from villages, in search of a new life in America. In USA, they scratch a living on minimum wages, on maintenance jobs. Many Mexican immigrants are returning back to Mexico, to little farms, with cows and sheep.

North Korea’s Missile
After a nuclear test in January 2016, North Korea has successfully put a satellite into orbit [on 07 February 2016] with a rocket launch, widely condemned by western powers as a ballistic missile test, for a weapons delivery system to strike the US mainland. The launch vehicle has reached space. The pre-orbital flight arc of Earth observation satellite Kwangmyong 4 traversed the Yellow sea, and further south to the Philippine sea. The Pyongyang regime insists that the purpose of the rocket launch was to put a satellite into orbit, and to develop North Korea’s Science, Technology, Economy and Defence capability. The American-made terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) Missile System is part of measures to upgrade the South Korea-US alliance’s missile defence posture against North Korea’s advancing threats. North Korea’s rocket launch, has been denounced by the Security Council of the United Nations, as a blatant test of ballistic missile technology, which is banned by several international resolutions. The Chinese military has expressed concerns that the missile system’s radar could penetrate its territory. Russia is also opposed to the deployment of THAAD in South Korea. US and South Korea’s THAAD platform blunts the impact of China’s extensive armoury of missiles, that are beginning to challenge the US-Japan-South Korea naval dominance in the western Pacific and the rest of north-east Asia.

Under Kim Jong-un, North Korea has stepped up attempts to build a long-range missile, and to shrink the size of nuclear war-heads, claiming that it has the right to develop a nuclear deterrent, in the face of US hostility towards the regime. North Korea has a small arsenal of atomic bombs, as well as short and medium-range missiles. North Korea has never demonstrated the ability to build a re-entry long-range vehicle, that can survive at even half the speed an ICBM (Inter Continental Ballistic Missile) warhead would require. China is North Korea’s main ally and biggest trading partner. Kim’s free market and agriculture reforms, including new financial incentives for individuals, are boosting overall North Korea’s performance. China fears that the result of any demilitarization of North Korea, would eventually be a re-unification of the Korean peninsula on South Korean terms.

Bank Note with Crimea
Russia has recently issued a new banknote that features views from Crimea, the annexed Ukrainian peninsula. The Russian Central Bank released twenty million of the new commemorative 100-Rouble (£ 1) note on 23 December 2015. The note has an image of the picturesque Swallow’s Nest castle near Yalta, which overlooks the Black Sea. On the other side is picture of a memorial to the ships scuttled in the Sevastopol harbour during the Crimean War in 1854, to prevent attacks from the French and the British. The new banknote has angered Ukraine, which still claims authority over the peninsula, despite having no control on the ground. In June 2014, the Rouble was declared the only legal tender in the region. The current 100-Rouble note features an image of the statue of Apollo, riding his four-horsed chariot that sits atop the portico of the Bolshio theatre, in central Moscow.

ISIS and Ghost Armies
As in Iraq and Syria, ‘‘ghost armies’’ are fighting for the self-declared caliphate, ISIS. Thousands of ‘‘ghost’’ soldiers have been drawing salaries from the ISIS military, without serving. From agricultural management to food subsidies, the officials put in charge by ISIS, often adopt the same systems developed by the secular ruling parties of Syria and Iraq, including their excessive use of paperwork and stamps. Graft is rife in ISIS. There is proliferation of bribes to smuggle people out of ISIS territory.

Vol. 48, No. 40, Apr 10 - 16, 2016