The police on Saturday recovered the body of a third militant of the Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind near the Khonmoh encounter site in Srinagar. In a separate incident, a youth involved in snatching of a service rifle from a policeman has joined the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) in south Kashmir.A police official said the body was found by the bomb disposal squad from the debris of the house razed during the gunfight on Thursday. “The slain militant has been identified as Hamas, a foreigner,” said the police.A total of three militants of the Ansar Gazwat-ul-Hind were killed in the operation. The recovery of the body sparked fresh protests in Pulwama, as protesters clashed with security forces at Balhama-Panthahowk. One youth was injured after being hit by a stone.Meanwhile, militants fired upon the vehicle of Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Shopian, Sriram Ambarkar, at Hajipora on Saturday. The police officer escaped unhurt as the vehicle was bulletproof.5 youth joins JaishOne of the five youths involved in snatching of the service rifle from a policeman on January 25 has joined the JeM in Pulwama, according to the police. “The vehicle used for commissioning of the offence by the group of militants have been seized. There are clinching evidences against all the accused. Four involved youth from Pulwama have been arrested. However, another youth, Shahid Ahmad, is on the run,” said the police.The police said Ahmad has joined the JeM outfit. The group of militants fired upon policeman Kultar Singh, posted at the Char-i-Sharief shrine in Budgam, on January 25 and snatched his rifle. The policeman later died in the hospital.
In a tragic incident, Ankit Chadha, a Delhi-based writer and storyteller allegedly drowned in Uksan Lake near the hilly environs of Kamshet, 62 km near Pune.The 30-year-old Chadha was noted as a highly talented exponent of dastangoi – a 13th century Urdu oral storytelling art form, and had toured India and the globe extensively lecturing and practicing the art in a bid to keep a dying tradition alive.According to the Kamshet police, the incident took place on Thursday evening. Chadha had come down to Lake Uksan with a friend for a trip along the banks of the lake.“According to the deceased’s friend, he slipped and fell at a point near the shore of the lake. Despite cries for help, the deceased, who did not know swimming, drowned into the deep waters. We were informed of the incident by the locals,” said an officer from the Kamshet police station, adding that the police were probing the events that led to Chadha’s death.Aided by rescue teams, his body was fished out of the lake and reached Pune late Thursday night where it was immediately flown to New Delhi following completion of formalities.Chadha was one among the dozen or so practicing exponents of dastangoi in the country.Becoming infatuated with this art form while studying history at Delhi’s Hindu College, his presentations on the mystic poet-saint Kabir and 14th century musician-poet Amir Khusrow Dehlavi were particularly noted, as were his biographical accounts (told in dastangoi form) of the ill-fated Dara Shikoh.His fascination with Amir Khusrau led him to pen Amir Khusrau: The Man in Riddles (2016). He also co-authored My Gandhi Story (2014, with Nina Sabnani and illustrator Rajesh Vengad).He had spoken on, and performed, this unique art form in the Harvard and Yale universities, besides other parts of the United States.Chadha was in the city for an engagement on May 12 to present the Dastan-e-Kabir (story of Kabir) in dastangoi at the Gyaan Adab Centre before tragedy cut short his life.He is survived by his parents and an elder brother.
Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh, who also holds the Home portfolio, has directed the police to smoke out the insurgents responsible behind the recent bomb explosions in the State. Two BSF jawans were killed and three persons, including a woman and a girl, were injured when a remote-controlled bomb exploded near a BSF camp at Koirenggei on Wednesday. On Thursday, an Assam Rifles personnel was wounded when two bombs exploded in Imphal.Mr. Singh said that no solution can be found by resorting to violence. “The government strongly condemns the senseless violence,” he said.Meanwhile an outlawed outfit, People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangliepak, has claimed responsibility for the bomb attack on the BSF camp. The outfit also expressed regret for hurting the civilians.Mr. Singh said that while doors for negotiations were open, no stones would be left unturned to deal firmly with those who resorted to violence. He added that security has been beefed up in all trouble-prone areas in the state.
A policeman was killed and three persons were injured as security forces busted a militant hideout at Batamaloo here on Sunday morning. Though the three militants holed up in the house escaped, police sources said the operation had warded off a potential plan to strike on Independence Day.Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Srinagar, Vidhi Kumar Birdi said Pervaiz Ahmad of the Special Operation Group died of injuries sustained in the encounter. Three more jawans and the house owner, Neyaz Ahmad Bhat, were injured.Congested areaPolice sources said three Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militants, one of them “high profile”, were trapped in the house in the congested area. “Two of their accomplices were arrested and incriminating documents recovered from the busted hideout,” the police said.The police zeroed in on the militants on Saturday night and a contact was established around 3.30 a.m. A blood trail was spotted on the encounter site. “There are reports that one militant has been injured. A search is on to nab him,” Mr. Birdi said.The house was close to the main venue of the official Independence Day function and sensitive government installations such as the Civil Secretariat, the High Court and the police headquarters.In another incident, one civilian was killed and two others injured when an explosive device went off at Tosamaidan in Budgam on Sunday.
A day after the Maharashtra Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) filed an affidavit in Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court alleging the involvement of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar in the irrigation scam, the party brushed it aside saying more important things are pending to be addressed in the Assembly.‘Will cooperate’“I have cooperated with the inquiry and I will continue to cooperate with it. Since the judicial proceedings have begun, I will not comment on it. We have a lot of issues to address and discuss in Assembly,” Mr Pawar said.“The matter is in court, and I do not want to comment on it. But, the government is trying to suppress the opposition. The government has given a clean chit to their own ministers who have corruption charges against them,” said Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, the leader of opposition at the Maharashtra Assembly.Maharashtra Water Resources minister Girish Mahajan said that even as the ACB has filed an affidavit, a lot more inquiry in this scam needs to be done. “This inquiry is not over. The agencies will have to do more work. A number of things are yet still to be unearthed,” he said. On November 26, the Director General of Anti Corruption Bureau, Sanjay Barve, filed an affidavit alleging that Ajit Pawar was responsible for the multi-crore scam in irrigation projects undertaken by the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation. Mr. Mahajan said, “We have given full autonomy to the ACB. In the affidavit, it has been pointed out that mobilisation of funds and files were being directly done by the secretariat without following the procedure.”Mr. Pawar was in charge of Maharashtra’s irrigation department for a major part of the Congress-NCP coalition government in the State from 1999 to 2014. That was a period during which the alleged scam, relating to irregularities in various irrigation projects, took place.
The Ganjam district administration is developing a free mobile app to help students of Odia medium schools enhance their knowledge via tutorials in their first language.The app, a first of its kind in Odisha, is expected to become operational in the next two or three months. School students of the district will be able to use it from the start of the next academic session, said Ganjam Collector Vijay Amruta Kulange. Along with Odia medium students from Ganjam, children in other parts of the State will also be able to benefit from this free app.Recording of videos of best teachers of the district explaing important chapters in Odia has already started. These videos will be uploaded to ‘YouTube’ and their links will be provided on the app. Besides the videos, the app will also provide detailed study materials and interactive practice tests. “We thought of developing this app to provide resources to Odia medium school students on par with those studying in English medium private schools,” said Mr. Kulange. Most educational apps for school students are in English or Hindi and some of them charge money for their services. The Ganjam administration is planning to utilise increasing penetration of Internet and smartphones to rural areas to help Odia medium students learn better. Materials provided in the app will also help school students of rural areas who have little or no access to tuitions or coaching classes.Help for teachersThe school education app is also expected to help teachers share their best teaching practices. Using it, parents will also able to understand and keep track of what is being taught to their children in schools, said District Education Officer Sanatan Panda.Those schools in rural Ganjam which are still out of reach of Internet connectivity will be provided tablets with materials of the app loaded to its internal memory that can be used offline. The Ganjam District Collector chaired a meeting at Chatrapur on Sunday evening to discuss the progress in development of this app. Teachers in Ganjam are enthusiastic about this app as it will help them present their best teaching practices before a larger audience throughout the State. “This app will also increase love and respect of youngsters towards Odia language. It will make them feel that modern facilities of education are also available to them in their mother tongue,” Mr. Kulange.
A second disaster has struck Meghalaya’s illegal coal mines in less than a month, claiming the lives of two miners. Three more, locals said, are trapped in another rat-hole mine nearby.The police in Jaintia Hills on Sunday confirmed that Elad Bareh and Monoj Basumatary were killed when boulders fell on them from a side-cutting mine at Mooknor in Jalyiah village. The incident happened on Friday.Unlike a rat-hole mine that branches from the bottom of a vertical pit, a side-cutting mine involves digging narrow tunnels on the slopes of a hill until miners strike the coal seams.The police conducted a search after Phillip Bareh filed an FIR at the Khliehriat station that his nephew Elad, 26, was missing since Friday. His body was found in front of a side-cutting coal quarry. Another body, identified as that of Monoj of Deinchynrum village, was found in the quarry, East Jaintia Hills district Superintendent of Police Sylvester Nongtnger said.An inquest was conducted, and the bodies were sent to a government hospital in Khliehriat for autopsy. “Efforts are on to find the owner of the quarry,” Mr Nongtnger said.The police also said they were inquiring about three miners reportedly trapped in the Sookilo area of the district after the illegal rat-hole mine they were working in collapsed. Locals said the incident happened nine days ago.On Saturday, the district administration began a crackdown on illegal mining operations. The Khliehriat police caught and detained a few miners and registered cases against the mine owners, many of whom were absconding.In one of the raids, the police caught a crane operator named Abdul Hussain and three miners – Binod Basumatary, Bikram Sonal and Arjun Rai – while they were extracting coal. A case was registered against the mine owner, Willingness Latam of Moopala vilage.Four more labourers were detained from another quarry near Lelad Junction area of the district. A case was registered against the owner of the mine, Brojoy Dkhar of Sutnga village.Meanwhile, the agencies engaged to rescue the 15 miners trapped in a water-filled mine in the Ksan area have installed more pumps to drain out the water. The going has been slow because of constant seepage of underground water.
Caught in the tangle of an official rehabilitation policy, the Kashmir Valley is no longer a ‘honeymooners paradise’ for 27-year-old Kubra Gillani.Ms. Gillani, a resident of Domail in Muzaffarbad, the capital of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), met Altaf Ahmad Rather from Anantnag near Srinagar when he crossed the Line of Control as many youth from Kashmir did in the late 1990s apparently for arms training to become a militant. The two fell in love and got married in PoK on March 25, 2010. “My husband and I decided to come to Kashmir under then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s rehabilitation policy which began in 2010. Mr. Abdullah had promised that we could travel between the two parts [Kashmir and PoK] without any hassles,” Ms. Gillani recalled.No documentsHowever, as most brides who decided to accompany their husbands across the border, she was issued no documents of citizenship nor permanent residency, not even an identity card.Her divorce in November last year has left Ms. Gillani stranded between two countries — unable to either return home or settle in India. “My marriage lasted eight years. I got divorced in November last year after I could not bear a child. Since then, I have been stranded in Kashmir. I am not given clearance by the authorities on this side to travel back to Azad Kashmir [PoK] . The agony of losing both husband and now my original home is unbearable,” Ms. Gillani said.She is not alone. Over 150 brides from PoK moved to Kashmir along with ex-militant husbands after the rollout of the 2010 rehabilitation policy. “Three of these brides committed suicide because of the choking atmosphere here,” Ms. Gillani alleged. The first person to take her own life was Saira Begum, 35, wife of Abdul Majid Lone, in April 10, 2014 at Naidkhai village, around 40 km from Srinagar, in Bandipora.“We are living a miserable life here,” said Ms. Gillani, speaking for the women from across the border.According to a government report, around 212 people returned from PoK through Nepal and other routes between 2010 and 2012, against 219 cases approved after security clearance. “At least, 90 men brought their families along to this side,” the report said. The then government had confirmed receiving 1,082 application from youth, who crossed over into PoK for arms training.Court viewA J&K High Court judgment, issued in 1971 in the Mohsin Shah case, had observed that no deportation exercise could take place for such couples because “one person had merely travelled from one part of India to another”.Ms. Gillani has now appealed to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to put pressure on Indian authorities to clear her travel documents and also those of all other women from PoK living in limbo in the Valley. As of now, she has a Pakistani passport issued for PoK residents but that is not valid in India, as her entry was not apparently registered officially at the time of her arrival. “My father, whose last wish was to see me, died on December 6 last year. God forbid, what if my mother, brother and two sisters too cannot see me again. I am yearning to see my home again. I am without shelter in Kashmir now. I hope PM Khan will live up to his slogan to bring change for people in distress like me,” a desperate Ms Gillani said.
Unorganised labourers engaged for work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in the rural areas of Rajasthan have demanded an increase in the days of wage employment from the present 100 days to 200 days in a financial year to every household whose adult members are willing to do unskilled manual work.Guarantee soughtThe Rajasthan Unorganised Labour Union celebrated the NREGA Day at Ajmer district’s Jawaja village on Saturday, marking the day when the flagship rural employment scheme was launched in 200 selected backward villages across the country in 2006. The participating workers, who hailed the legislation as a milestone in social security, laid emphasis on steps to guarantee the right to work.Over 500 daily wage earners from rural areas, agricultural labourers, domestic workers and those engaged in construction and mining sectors in the village panchayats of Jawaja panchayat samiti and Pali district’’ Raipur panchayat samiti took part in the event. They interacted on various aspects of NREGA and took out a rally through the lanes in Jawaja.Labour movement leader Shankar Singh, who is co-founder of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), said the rights-based NREGS had been converted into the “discretion of administration” at several places, where full wages were not given to workers despite completing the tasks assigned to them. “Besides undermining the scheme’s objectives, this often leads to disappointment among the labourers,” he said.‘Wage cut’Pooja Devi of Ranota village said the local government officials, who could not find scope for corruption in the transparent system of payment of wages, were resorting to wage cut on the pretext of incomplete work just to “discourage” workers from demanding work for full days.
Two jawans of Odisha Special Armed Police died and 25 others sustained injuries when the van they were travelling in collided with a truck near Belpahar on NH-49 in Jharsuguda district early on Friday. The victims — Prashant Behera and Shankar Prasad Pant — were part of the OSAP party which was on its way to Banharpalli where Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik addressed a public meeting later in the day.Seven of the jawans were shifted to VSS Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, Burla, after their condition deteriorated. The rest of them were being treated at Brajarajnagar and Belphar. The police vehicle carrying 40 trainee jawans of OSAP’s 2nd Battalion had set out for Banharpalli around 6.30 a.m.Mr. Patnaik announced an ex gratia of ₹5 lakh each and government jobs to the next of kin of the deceased jawans. In case of any threatened disability, an ex gratia of ₹1 lakh has been announced.
Trinamool Congress MP and nephew of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Abhishek Banerjee on Sunday denied allegations levelled against his wife Rijura Naroola by Customs officials posted at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport. He alleged that she was being “targeted for being associated with him”.A complaint by Additional Commissioner of Customs S.K. Biswas has alleged that Ms. Naroola, along with a fellow passenger and police personnel, resorted to criminal intimidation and voluntarily/ intentionally obstructed Customs officials from discharge of their duties. According to the complaint letter, the incident took place on the intervening night of March 15 and 16 when Ms. Naroola arrived at the NSCBI airport on a Thai Airways flight.“A number of news portals, websites and a few national publications have published the news that my wife was detained with 2 kg of gold. There is no truth in the news and we will take legal action against these publications,” Mr. Banerjee said. He added that a complaint had been registered against custom officials for harassing his wife.The Trinamool Congress MP questioned why the gold his wife was allegedly caught with, was not confiscated. “Was the chowkidaar sleeping,” he asked.Role of policeAsked about the intervention of the police in the matter, the MP said since his wife was suffering from “some medical conditions”, a lady staff was there to assist her.The Customs complaint, however, mentions the presence of several policemen, including a Sub-Inspector, from the airport police station. “They were interfering in discharge of duty by customs officers and pressurising them to release the passengers,” the letter said.Referring to the issue, the BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta said, “The matter should be brought in public domain, because certain people have blocked it out. The onus falls on Customs [officials] so that West Bengal does not become an island of VIP nepotism.”
In a disturbing incident in Pune’s Ambegaon taluk, at least five leopard cubs were found charred to death on Wednesday in a sugarcane farm.The leopard cubs were accidentally burnt to death after sugarcane labourers set fire to farm trash in Avasari village in Ambegaon, according to Forest Department authorities.As per other reports, the sugarcane labourers started a fire after sighting a snake, but instead ended up killing the leopard cubs, believed to be less than three weeks old. The labourers have denied they were aware of the presence of the cubs, said forest officials.Last month, two leopard cubs were rescued from the sugarcane fields in the same region when farmers of Vadgaon Anand village stumbled upon them during harvesting.In November last year, in two tragic incidents emblematic of the man-leopard conflict, a six-year-old male leopard was found dead in a forest near Alandi (near Pune city), while a two-year-old leopard was knocked down by a speeding vehicle in Ahmednagar district. In February 2018, the bodies of three leopards were discovered in Bhor Taluk in Pune district under ‘unnatural circumstances’. At the time, police authorities said the animals had died of poisoning.Maharashtra has witnessed an alarming rise in the number of leopard deaths since 2018, with wildlife activists and forest authorities estimating nearly 35 deaths in the State since January last year.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday evoked the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Haryana’s Rohtak to target the Congress party in the backdrop of Sam Pitroda’s remarks over the riots.Hitting out at Congress leader Sam Pitroda over his Hua to Hua (whatever happened has happened) remark with regard to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, Mr. Modi said “The three words from the Congress leader — ‘hua to hua’ over 1984 anti-Sikh riots reflects the character, mindset and arrogance of the Congress party.”Prime Minister was addressing a BJP’s ‘Vijay Sankalp’ rally in Rohtak.Mr. Modi said: “This leader (Sam Pitroda) is close to the Gandhi family… he is their confidant… he is the ‘Guru’ of the ‘naamdaar’ president of the party. Several Sikh families were killed during 1984 riots. In Delhi alone over 2,800 Sikhs were killed – but for Congress leaders it’s only ‘Hua To Hua’.”Mr. Modi, said people will never forgive the Congress party for its arrogance and would teach a lesson to Congress, which due to its anti-people approach has already been reduced to 44 seats in the Lok Sabha.Mr. Modi said that when the Samjhauta Express blast took place near Panipat, the Congress targeted and harassed innocent people in the name of Hindu terrorism, but later their conspiracy was exposed.‘Congress failed in securing nation’s security’Mr. Modi also took a dig at the Congress on national security and corruption issues, saying the grand old party has such a poor history that it can not boast anything when it comes to nation’s security and defence.“BJP government made a strong defence policy for the country whereas the Congress, which remained in power for seven decades kept silent on defence policy for the country. Before 2014, day in and day out Pakistan did brutality with our soldiers and the Congress government at the Centre restricted itself to only giving statements. But the strong government that you brought to power gave strength to the brave soilders and we gave them a free hand to tackle the situation on the spot,” he said.The Prime Minister again launched a veiled attack against former Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra and former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, saying Congress leaders involved in corruption have been taken to the court and would be put in jail within the next five years.
A plea from a federal lawmaker has allowed the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to update a clinical trials database that had been frozen as a result of the U.S. government shutdown, according to The Boston Globe.Earlier this week, the Globe reported on a local man with advanced cancer who could not receive an experimental treatment at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute because the trial had not yet been entered in ClinicalTrials.gov, the federal trials registry. Like other databases run by NIH, the site was still online but not being updated. But after Representative William Keating (D-MA) contacted NIH about the matter, officials at the Department of Health and Human Services, NIH’s parent agency, told NIH that furloughed workers could be brought back to keep the database up-to-date, the Globe reports. The patient learned from his physician that he can receive the treatment. And a note on ClinicalTrials.gov now states that it is being “updated to the extent possible.”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(*)You can read more shutdown coverage here.*Correction, 4 October, 12:35 p.m.: According to the Globe, Keating contacted NIH Director Francis Collins, not the Department of Health and Human Services. This has been fixed.
If the cruise industry had existed between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago, ships headed in and out of Miami would have had to dodge icebergs. As the last ice age waned and climate warmed, immense lakes of glacial meltwater that accumulated behind natural ice dams occasionally burst forth from the mouth of Canada’s Hudson Bay and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. When those iceberg-laden outburst floods—some of them carrying more than 1 million cubic meters of water per second and lasting several months—reached the open sea, they took a right turn and flowed south along the coast as far as the Florida Keys, a new study suggests. The torrent-driven icebergs, some of them hundreds of meters thick, plowed troughs in the sea floor all along the continental shelf (like those found in 170- to 380-meter-deep waters off the coast of South Carolina; one such berm-edged trough extends from lower left to top center of the image). Sea levels have risen more than 100 meters since most of these troughs were formed, which has helped preserve them from surface waves that could roil and smooth seafloor sediments. Whereas the troughs off South Carolina measure up to 100 meters across and 20 meters deep, those off the central Florida Keys (now found in waters between 215 and 280 meters deep) typically are no more than 50 meters wide and 5 meters deep—as expected, because the bergs would have melted to smaller size as they drifted south, the researchers report online today in Nature Geoscience. Some of the iceberg scours off Miami Beach, probably created by icebergs the size of those setting sail from Greenland today, lie less than 12 kilometers offshore.
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My first hour in Varanasi gave me a good taste of the city.A dozen kids were playing cricket close to the Hanuman Ghat along the Ganges. They had drawn the wickets with white chalk against a temple wall. A high ball dropped behind the temple. I was busy photographing them at the game, when the bowler casually called out for me to fetch the ball. I obeyed and found it floating on the edge of the river. As I bent to pick it up, I realized it was covered in ash. Three fires were smoldering close by. To my utter shock I realized three cremations were underway. I stood flabbergasted staring at the funeral pyre barely a foot away from me, as the ash-covered ball in my hand dripped water. A player shouted for the ball and I turned, distressed that I may have unknowingly trampled on a sacred site. The boy took the ball, thumped it on the ground a few times to shed the water and threw it back into play.Anywhere else death is treated with trepidation and reverence. In Varanasi, the city synonymous with death, where devout Hindus are cremated, I was shaken by the sight of pedestrians moving about their daily chores as plumes of smoke rose from funeral pyres all around them. The cricket game, like everything else in the city, simply carried on amidst the funeral chants and the grieving. Over the course of my stay in the city, I often found myself participating in the cricket games in the ghats, as occasionally did other tourists to the sacred river. The Ghats of Shiva’s CityFor centuries, Hindus have come to the ghats of the Ganges to spend their final days in the belief that a soul finds its way to heaven when life ends on its steps. In today’s frenetic world, few are willing to forsake worldly pleasures and live a shamanic life; but the truly devout nonetheless desire at least to be cremated there.Changing times and fading traditions often disappoint, but not in this city. Tradition is scattered all over the city as the new and the old fuse together. I frequently encountered sadhus in the scores of ashrams throughout the city. I sat among some elderly men one evening listening to music on the Jain Ghat. One sadhu told me that Varanasi brought him peace. Another claimed that he had lived in Varanasi in many previous lives and he could not see himself living anywhere else. As I listened to their stories, the music in the background, against the backdrop of an arched temple swarming with pigeons, plumes of smoke rising from the funeral pyres and boats and pilgrims floating in the Ganges, I was struck by just how simultaneously strange and normal it all seemed.Stoned Sadhus The sadhus I encountered captured the duality and dichotomies of the city. Their isolation from anything worldly seemed to be contradicted by their need for companionship with each other and for ganja. Some of them enlightened me about the heavens, Shiva’s city, and other supernatural phenomenon. Anywhere else, anytime else, I would have dismissed their superstitious rants. But it all seemed so befitting the aura of the city. The sadhus railed about the demise of the Satyug and Kalyug eras and waxed about the different worlds below the Earth and above the skies. Perhaps they smoked pot to link between these paradigms, which did not align in my reality. One sadhu close to the Hanuman Ghat kept several skulls around him along with an everlasting audience of western tourists who smoked joints with him. He was known as the khopri-baba (skull-master). There were other less popular sadhus in their respective spots around the ghat as well, many offering and accepting gifts of joints.The ghats in Varansai seemed to offer an open invitation to people from all over the world to experience weed in some incomprehensible way. The sub-legal status of marijuana in an exotic venue charms, lures and entraps hundreds of Westerners who make Varanasi their home.The Un/Holy StreetsPrayers, yoga, rituals and mystical stories consume conversation around the ghats and the temples devoted to Shiva, Ganesh, and many other deities lining the city’s narrow congested streets. The worshippers start their hymns in the early hours, marking the start of life in the city. Over the course of the day, the fragrances of incenses and sweet shops set the moods of the streets. The red dots of holy powder on the foreheads of shopkeepers and street hawkers are perpetual reminders of the enduring holiness of the city. The water of Ganga Ji is not only saturated with the divinity of history, but also pollutants. Likewise, the holiness of the city is shared with the shame of its brothels. The buildings housing the brothels are hidden deep in the clutter of bazaars and multistory houses. Varanasi is reputed to have a higher proportion of brothels than comparably sized cities in India. Ironically both the temples and the brothels have co-existed for decades. Visiting purists may be appalled, but the citizens of Varanasi take the contradiction of the sinful and the divine in stride.JuxtapositionsIn my two weeks in Varanasi, I spent a lot of time playing cricket with the kids. I became close to their families and was often invited to join them for meals. I witnessed several cremations of the old and occasionally of the not so old. Sometimes relatives would share with me memories of a departed life. I spent a few evenings among the sadhus, passively inhaling their intoxicating breaths, giving me fleeting glimpses of their visions. I listened to bhajans in the temples and on the ghats. Many times I found myself singing the mesmerizing tunes with the chorus.Almost everyday, I took a boat upstream to view Varanasi from a distance. I saw from there the buildings behind the ghats, housing godly priests, god-fearing men and women, and god-abandoned courtesans. And always, I saw the ashes and the smoke that envelops the city in smog. During my time in the city, some moments confused, shocked or startled me. The Ganges has experienced all of them and more in its passage through Varanasi. For centuries, it has stood witness as the city’s dichotomies survived and thrived. Varanasi is a complex culture of life and death within the holy and profane. The smoke rising from smoldering pyres fuses with the plumes of smoke from sadhus puffing on ganja, making Varanasi a city where the lives lived and lives hallucinated are inseparably joined at the hip.On my last sunset in Varanasi, I watched the maddening crowd of Varanasi disappear within itself like a whirlpool. With the bhajans from the numerous temples hanging in the air, I reminisced on the memories I carried. The city is so contradictory, yet so calm and soothing. Indeed, for all its deeply embedded religious traditions, Varanasi is surprisingly liberal. As my boat bobbed in the water, the oarsman who had been rowing his small boat for me every evening, seemed to sense it was my last night out. I wondered just how he knew. “Bhaiya, kub vapus aa-o-ge?” (Brother, when will you come back?) “Jaldi,” (soon), I responded. Related Items