Politics & the Nation
  • CAG finds lapses in mid-day meal scheme
    • Preparation of food in the open, engaging children for cooking and use of empty paint containers to serve meals are some of the shocking instances the country’s top audit watchdog CAG has found while inspecting schools running the Mid-Day Meal scheme.
    • The report found that the funds released by the Centre towards the scheme remained unutilized by substantial number of states by the end of the financial year 2007-08.
    • It also found that teachers are made to receive grains and other stocks; thus compromising on teaching hours.
  • Stockholm Water Prize for Indian
    • Indian sanitation expert Bindeshwar Pathak was awarded the 2009 Stockholm Water Prize, the most prestigious award for outstanding achievement in water-related activities that has become akin to a Nobel Prize on environmental issues.
    • The founder of Sulabh Sanitation Movement in India, Mr. Pathak is known around the world for his wide-ranging work in the sanitation field. He has worked to improve public health, has advanced social progress, and has improved human rights in his home nation and other countries.
    • Mr. Pathak received the award on Thursday from H.R.H. Prince Carl Philip of Sweden. The Stockholm Water Prize, which was first presented in 1991, includes a $150,000 award and a crystal sculpture. It honours individuals, institutions or organisations whose work contributes broadly to the conservation and protection of water resources and improves the health of the planet’s inhabitants and ecosystems.
Medicine & Science
  • Scientists ‘create blood from human stem cells’
    • According to the scientists at Monash University, they are now a step closer to making fully functional red blood cells from human embryonic stem cells.
    • Whilst human embryonic stem cells have the potential to turn into any cell type in the body, it remains a scientific challenge to reliably turn these stem cells into specific cell types such as red blood cells.
  • Know what is a taser? Or a stun gun?
    • It is a gun which 'stuns' the recipient with an electronic shock administered by the gun. It is used by police forces in foreign countries -- US, UK etc.
    • The company which developed such guns is Taser International. It has come up with a new version which can deliver a 20-second, 500 volt shock.
    • The eXtended Range Electronic Projectile (XREP), as it is called, went on sale in the US last month.
    • The traditional hand-held Taser stun guns used in the UK only fired darts up to 25 feet.
  • Miss Venezuela is Miss Universe again
    • Miss Venezuela, Stefania Fernandez, has been named winner of the 2009 Miss Universe pageant. She received the crown from last year’s winner, Dayana Mendoza, of Venezuela. This is the sixth time that Venezuela is winning the Miss Universe Crown.
    • Runner up this is year Miss Dominican Republic.
    • The other top-five finalists were Miss Kosovo, Miss Australia and Miss Puerto Rico.
    • Miss China, Wang Jingyao, was named Miss Congeniality and Miss Thailand, Chutima Durongdej, won Miss Photogenic.
  • India, China begin climate talks
    • India and China, increasingly close allies in the climate change debate, will on Monday begin talks looking at a number of different ways the two countries can collaborate in devising joint climate change strategies, from sharing glacial data to promoting reforestation projects.
    • On the agenda for the talks are a range of issues of common interest on which the two countries will look to collaborate, from the setting up a joint working group on the environment to working together on Himalayan glaciers.
    • China adds an estimated 5 million hectares of forests every year, and India adds around 1 million hectares. In this context both the countries are demanding that reforestation efforts also should be recognized and given due place in the global climate change talks.
  • Today Chennai is 370 years old!
    • In 1639, the East India Company’s Francis Day obtained from a Naik named Damarla Venkatadri a firman or grant of territory and privileges and licence to build a fort and form a settlement. By the following year, the Company had a warehouse and a stockade. This became Fort St. George, today the administrative headquarters of the Tamil Nadu government.
  • England wins Ashes
    • England regained the Ashes after beating Australia by 197 runs Sunday on the fourth day of the deciding fifth test to take the five-match series 2-1.
    • The Australians were not able to win the first test in Cardiff when they failed to take England’s final wicket. That match was drawn, England won the second test at Lord’s, the third test was drawn before Australia levelled the series in Leeds.
Language lessons
  • prestidigitator: Noun
    • Someone who performs magic tricks to amuse an audience
    • Synonym: conjuror, magician, illusionist
  • gringo: Noun
    • A Latin American (disparaging) term for foreigners (especially Americans and Englishmen)
    • eg: Even if beating the gringo devil still makes pulses race, when it comes to casting ballots, Latin America may go for the middle ground.