Friday, March 6, 2015

How much are we trashing our oceans?

Nearly every piece of plastic still exists on Earth, regardless of whether it's been recycled, broken down into microscopic bits or discarded in the ocean.
And the world keeps producing more of the material -- creating 288 million metric tons of it in 2012. About 4.8 to 12.7 million metric tons of it end up in the oceans in 2010, according to a new estimate published in the journal Science.
That report released Thursday ranks countries that generate the most plastic debris into the oceans, with Asian nations taking 13 out of the top 20 spots.

Using World Bank data on 192 coastal countries, researchers estimated that China, the most populous nation, has the most mismanaged plastic waste per year and also generates the most plastic debris that end up in the ocean at 28%.
Mismanaged waste means the material is littered or not properly disposed of-- meaning there isn't a formally managed waste management system.
    "The study is not to point fingers at people, it wasn't to focus on the countries," said lead author Jenna Jambeck. "The purpose was to make a global estimate." But the data set Jambeck and the seven co-authors used was only available on a country-by-country level.

    The countries with the most mismanaged waste are ...

    Eight of the top 10 countries with mismanaged plastic waste are in Asia.

    "Many of them are middle-income countries with rapidly growing economy," said Jambeck of the University of Georgia. "They have also large coastal populations, they have high levels of mismanaged waste, they have trouble keeping up with infrastructure."
    The United States also cracked the top 20 and had a higher rate of waste generation per person at 5.6 pounds per person than China (2.4 pounds).
    Low-income countries were less likely to end up on the list, because of less waste, Jambeck said.

    We're using way more plastic than ever before

    Since 1974, the world has undergone a 620% increase in plastic production, according to the researchers.
    "When the waste was natural material, we could leave it and not think about it," Jambeck said. "Even disposing of it in the land was fine, but plastic has increased 650% in the last 40 years.
    "It's a wake-up call. We need to look at this and the way we're collecting and containing our waste."
    Plastic waste discarded in the ocean raises a number of concerns, scientists say. It may damage ecosystems and marine animals, contaminate our food supply, and lead to chemical leaching.
    Estimates of the time it takes to degrade plastic range from hundreds to thousands of years -- and because plastic has only been around for 100 years, there hasn't been enough time to observe the process, says Darby Hoover, senior resource specialist at Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group.
    Meanwhile, plastic waste keeps on growing with more people and more consumption, the report authors wrote.
    "All that consumption is growing, unfortunately the waste management systems around the world are not keeping pace as quickly as the consumption and products -- there's a big mismatch," said Doug Woodring, who was not involved in the study but has worked on the issue of plastics waste at the Ocean Recovery Alliance in Hong Kong.

    Who's responsible?

    Last year, one study in the journal PLOS estimated that a minimum of 5.25 trillion floating plastic particles weighing 268,940 tons are in the ocean. This estimate included only surface plastics, and not the materials that have sunk.
    "A lot of people think of an island of floating garbage, people envision that there are forms of an island you can see on Google Earth -- it's much more diffuse than that," Hoover said. " All of our oceans are plastic soups- everywhere you can go."
    Environmentalists have criticized the rampant use of plastics in packaging that are only used once and then discarded.
    The solutions have to be both local and global, Jambeck said.
    "It's everybody's responsibility. Of course, don't litter and prioritize using reusables," Hoover said. "At the same time there's a responsibility on companies who produce the products found in oceans, to make sure the materials they produce are recyclable, get recycled and look for ways to improve the infrastructure."

    Efforts to reduce plastic waste

    While China topped the list in the report, the country has made some efforts to curb waste. In 2008, China banned free plastic bags and five years later, banned the import of poorly sorted recyclables from other countries including the U.S.
    There are some successful models, said Woodring. For example, Taiwan places a surcharge on plastics sold on a company level and it pays for the sorting, capturing, cleaning and recycling.
    However, some countries lack infrastructure for waste management and recycling.

    Black Money: India will have to wait till 2018 for info from Swiss govt

    In its fight against black money menace, India will have to wait till 2018 for Switzerland to provide bank account details of Indians under the 'automatic information exchange' framework.
    Under a global framework, more than 40 jurisdictions including India had agreed to become 'early adopters' of an 'automatic exchange of information' mechanism prepared by global body OECD to help each other in fighting the tax evasion and frauds.
    "This so-called early adopters group plans to collect data from 2016 and exchange information for the first time in September 2017," according to a new report by the Swiss government. However, Switzerland would see its 'first exchange' under this framework taking place in the year 2018. As per the report, as many as 58 countries would see their 'first exchange' taking place in 2017, followed by another 35 in the year 2018. While India is part of the 'First Exchange 2017' group, it will have to wait till 2018 for 'automatic exchange of information' with Switzerland because of the Alpine nation being in the second grouping. The details that would be shared include account number, name, address and date of birth, tax identification number, interest and dividends, receipts from certain insurance policies, credit balances on accounts, as also proceeds from the sale of financial assets.
    Explaining the exchange process, the report said: If a taxpayer in a Country A has a bank account in Country B, the bank would disclose financial account data to authorities in the Country B, which would automatically forward the details to authorities in Country A to help them examine the data. Once in place, the mechanism would help the Indian authorities to have a strong ground while seeking to bring back and tax the funds stashed overseas by its citizens. To curb illicit fund flows and to tax unaccounted wealth stashed abroad, India has stepped up its efforts, including re-negotiating tax treaties with various countries. India expects automatic exchange to help curb this menace.
    Many countries worldwide are taking steps to address the menace of illicit funds being stashed away in tax havens. On ways to prevent black money menace in the future, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has also said that the world is moving towards automatic exchange of information. After meeting his Swiss counterpart Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf in Davos last month, Jaitley said the bilateral agreements with regard to automatic exchange of tax information with various countries, including Switzerland, would be "the long term solution to check this menace."
    As it steps up measures to bring back black money stashed overseas, current law allows the government to re-open tax assessment for cases as old as 16 years. With respect to taxing the unaccounted money overseas, experts said the challenge for the Indian tax authorities would be in building a strong case. Experts opined that the time limit of 16 years provides adequate time to the tax authorities to bring to tax income in relation to assets located outside the country. Grant Thornton Advisory Pvt Ltd's Director Pallavi Bakhru said that first tax authorities would have to build a case that the money lying in off-shore bank accounts in unaccounted and tax liability on such income has escaped assessment.
    "This exercise, would need to be completed for tax authorities to form an opinion that certain income has escaped assessment, which would be needed to issue a notice for re-assessment," she said. KPMG in India's Partner (Tax) Vikas Vasal said the challenge in case of overseas income or assets situated outside India is in getting necessary information and also to collaborate it with sufficient evidence for having a strong case. "Therefore, the relevant provisions in the treaty or the specific information exchange agreements play an important role in this context.
    "In general, roving enquiries are not permitted and information has to be sought for a particular case or a transaction from the overseas authorities," he noted. About loopholes in existing tax law regime that may hurt efforts to recover untaxed money, Bakhru said there is a lack of structured mechanism to recover taxes from foreign assets of non-resident taxpayers. Besides, litigation options are available to taxpayers challenging the tax assessment and consequent tax demands can come in way of government's effort to recover taxes from unaccounted money, Bakhru added. After last week's fresh 'HSBC List' expose, wherein names of 1,195 Indians have been disclosed, the government said that it has taken "vigorous and pro-active measures to expedite investigations in the cases of Indians holding undisclosed foreign accounts/assets abroad". "Useful contacts have been established with foreign governments who might have some further information in this regard. "Based upon credible information of undisclosed foreign bank accounts, fresh references for obtaining further information in more than 600 cases have been made to foreign jurisdictions, under available treaties/agreements.
    The same are being pursued," as per a finance ministry statement.

    Friday, February 27, 2015

    Unhappy with your appraisal? Speak to your boss

    Not happy with your appraisal this year? Don’t worry. Just write or talk to your boss. Firms including Virtusa Corp, HCL Technologies, MakeMyTrip, Tata Group, Godrej and RPG Group are welcoming feedback from their employees as part of a new human resource (HR) practice to control attrition.

    Companies are also making efforts to create the appraisal process fair and interactive to retain talent.

    “Employees can now give (written or vocal) feedback on the quality of appraisal discussions they had with their managers,” said R Anand, vicepresident, global rewards, people and leadership, HCL Technologies. “In case of dissatisfaction, the reviewer is informed along with the respective HR manager who is responsible to bring the discussion to a satisfactory close.”

    Many companies are conducting surveys and organsiing group meetings where employees can convey disappointments or suggestions to their immediate bosses as well as the top management.

    MakeMyTrip, a travel portal, is coaching its appraisers about tips on the art of receiving feedback.

    Virtusa Corp, a Nasdaqlisted IT company, will carry out employee surveys on the appraisal process.

    “We are encouraging our employees to provide feedback on the performance appraisal process through engagement surveys and group meetings,” said Ratish Jha, head, HR, Raychem RPG. “The appraisal process is designed to enhance employee development, and we want to know if it is achieving this purpose.”

    Staffing companies also feel that receiving feedback is a welcome trend. “This is a welcome trend,” said Mayank Chandra, managing partner, Antal International, an UKbased staffing firm. “However, firms should ensure impartiality among team members.”

    Monday, February 23, 2015

    Oscars 2015: the full list of winners

    The 87th Academy Awards have now ended in Los Angeles. Here’s a list of the awards recipients in full.

    Best supporting actor
    WINNER: JK Simmons for Whiplash
    Robert Duvall for The Judge
    Ethan Hawke for Boyhood
    Edward Norton for Birdman
    Mark Ruffalo for Foxcatcher

    Achievement in costume design
    WINNER: The Grand Budapest Hotel – Milena Canonero
    Inherent Vice – Mark Bridges
    Into the Woods – Colleen Atwood
    Maleficent – Anna B Sheppard
    Mr Turner – Jacqueline Durran

    Achievement in makeup and hairstyling
    WINNER: The Grand Budapest Hotel – Frances Hannon, Mark Coulier
    Foxcatcher – Bill Corso, Dennis Liddiard
    Guardians of the Galaxy – Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou, David White

    Best foreign-language film
    WINNER: Ida – Paweł Pawlikowski
    Tangerines – Zaza Urushadze
    Leviathan – Andrey Zvyagintsev
    Wild Tales – Damián Szifrón
    Timbuktu – Abderrahmane Sissako

    Best live-action short film

    WINNER: The Phone Call – Mat Kirkby, James Lucas
    Aya – Oded Binnun, Mihal Brezis
    Boogaloo and Graham – Michael Lennox, Ronan Blaney
    Butter Lamp – Wei Hu, Julien Féret
    Parvaneh – Talkhon Hamzavi, Stefan Eichenberger

    Best documentary short subject

    WINNER: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 – Ellen Goosenberg Kent, Dana Perry
    Joanna – Aneta Kopacz
    Our Curse – Tomasz Sliwinski, Maciej Slesicki
    The Reaper – Gabriel Serra
    White Earth – Christian Jensen
    Achievement in sound mixing
    WINNER: Whiplash – Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins, Thomas Curley
    American Sniper – John T Reitz, Gregg Rudloff, Walt Martin
    Birdman – Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Thomas Varga
    Interstellar – Gary Rizzo, Gregg Landaker, Mark Weingarten
    Unbroken – Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, David Lee

    Achievement in sound editing

    WINNER: American Sniper – Alan Robert Murray, Bub Asman
    Birdman – Aaron Glascock, Martín Hernández
    The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Brent Burge, Jason Canovas
    Interstellar – Richard King
    Unbroken – Becky Sullivan, Andrew DeCristofaro

    Best supporting actress

    WINNER: Patricia Arquette for Boyhood
    Laura Dern for Wild
    Keira Knightley for The Imitation Game
    Emma Stone for Birdman
    Meryl Streep for Into the Woods

    Achievement in visual effects
    WINNER: Interstellar – Paul J Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter, Scott R Fisher
    Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Dan Deleeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill, Daniel Sudick
    Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett, Erik Winquist
    Guardians of the Galaxy – Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner, Paul Corbould
    X-Men: Days of Future Past – Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie, Cameron Waldbauer

    Best animated short film
    WINNER: Feast – Patrick Osborne, Kristina Reed
    The Bigger Picture – Daisy Jacobs, Chris Hees
    The Dam Keeper – Robert Kondo, Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi
    Me and My Moulton – Torill Kove
    A Single Life – Joris Oprins

    Best animated feature film
    WINNER: Big Hero 6
    The Boxtrolls
    How to Train Your Dragon 2
    Song of the Sea
    The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

    Best production design
    WINNER: The Grand Budapest Hotel: Adam Stockhausen, Anna Pinnock
    The Imitation Game: Maria Djurkovic, Tatiana Macdonald
    Interstellar: Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis
    Into the Woods: Dennis Gassner, Anna Pinnock
    Mr Turner: Suzie Davies, Charlotte Watts

    Achievement in cinematography
    WINNER: Birdman: Emmanuel Lubezki
    The Grand Budapest Hotel: Robert D Yeoman
    Ida: Lukasz Zal, Ryszard Lenczewski
    Mr Turner: Dick Pope
    Unbroken: Roger Deakins

    Achievement in film editing
    WINNER: Whiplash – Tom Cross
    Boyhood – Sandra Adair
    The Imitation Game – William Goldenberg
    The Grand Budapest Hotel – Barney Pilling
    American Sniper – Joel Cox, Gary Roach

    Best documentary feature

    WINNER: Citizenfour – Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy, Dirk Wilutzky
    Finding Vivian Maier – John Maloof, Charlie Siskel
    Last Days in Vietnam – Rory Kennedy, Keven McAlester
    The Salt of the Earth – Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, David Rosier
    Virunga – Orlando von Einsiedel, Joanna Natasegara

    Best original song

    WINNER: Glory from Selma – Lonnie Lynn (Common), John Stephens (John Legend)
    The Lego Movie – Shawn Patterson (Everything Is Awesome)
    Beyond the Lights – Diane Warren (Grateful)
    Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me – Glen Campbell, Julian Raymond (I’m Not Gonna Miss You)
    Begin Again – Gregg Alexander, Danielle Brisebois (Lost Stars)

    Best original score

    WINNER: Alexandre Desplat – The Grand Budapest Hotel
    Alexandre Desplat – The Imitation Game 
    Hans Zimmer – Interstellar
    Jóhann Jóhannsson– The Theory of Everything 
    Gary Yershon – Mr Turner

    Original screenplay

    WINNER: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo – Birdman
    Richard Linklater – Boyhood
    E Max Frye, Dan Futterman – Foxcatcher
    Wes Anderson, Hugo Guinness – The Grand Budapest Hotel
    Dan Gilroy – Nightcrawler

    Adapted screenplay

    WINNER: Graham Moore – The Imitation Game
    Jason Hall – American Sniper
    Paul Thomas Anderson – Inherent Vice
    Anthony McCarten – The Theory of Everything
    Damien Chazelle – Whiplash

    Best Director

    WINNER: Alejandro González Iñárritu for Birdman
    Richard Linklater for Boyhood
    Bennett Miller for Foxcatcher
    Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel
    Morten Tyldum for The Imitation Game

    Best Actor

    WINNER: Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything
    Steve Carell for Foxcatcher
    Benedict Cumberbatch for The Imitation Game
    Bradley Cooper for American Sniper
    Michael Keaton for Birdman

    Best Actress

    WINNER: Julianne Moore for Still Alice
    Marion Cotillard for Two Days, One Night
    Felicity Jones for The Theory of Everything
    Rosamund Pike for Gone Girl
    Reese Witherspoon for Wild

    Best Picture

    WINNER: Birdman
    American Sniper
    The Imitation Game
    The Grand Budapest Hotel
    The Theory of Everything

    Sunday, February 15, 2015

    In pics: India in celebratory mode after win, TV sets smashed in Pakistan

    After holding its nerves throughout the day, India witnessed spontaneous outburst of revelry late in the afternoon as the cricket crazy nation launched its World Cup campaign in style by thrashing Pakistan by 76 runs.
    As the arch-rivals clashed in distant Adelaide on a Sunday, Indians mostly stayed indoors and remained glued to television sets resulting in largely deserted streets. 

    Following the victory, scores of young bikers wearing patriotism on their sleeves zipped through the city streets waving the tri-colour with gusto.
    From drawing rooms to the country's frontiers, celebrations erupted across the nation as India.
    Cricket fans distributed sweets and burst firecrackers, while many came out on roads and danced to the beating of drums as soon as Mohit Sharma took the last wicket of Sohail Khan to seal Pakistan's fate in Adelaide.
    The jawans of the Border Security Force (BSF) deployed along the International Border in Jammu also celebrated the victory of team India by distributing sweets among themselves.

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi led a wave of congratulations for the Indian cricket team by tweeting,"Congrats Team India. Well played. We are all very proud of you."

    President Pranab Mukherjee in his message to Indian captain Dhoni, the President said: "My congratulations to you and all members of the Indian Cricket team on the victory in the first match of ICC World Cup 2015 against Pakistan.
    Silence descends on Karachi after defeat to India
    An eerie silence descended on Pakistan's biggest city after its national cricket team was annihilated.
    Dubbed as 'war without the guns' the passionate Pakistani cricket community including former players, pundits, critics and fans were left disappointed and dejected after watching Misbah-ul-Haq and his men fail to stop the Indian juggernaut against them in World Cup.
    Since the wee hours there was an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation for the match here as boys and girls dressed in the traditional green shirts went around blaring horns and playing songs before finally getting down to watch the live action.
    Big screens were installed at closed and open spaces as fans converged to watch the match.
    In the distance one could hear horns blaring and at times even celebratory gunfire during the match when Pakistan did well.
    But these times were few and at the end of the match it was the same old story for the fans.
    "Now we have to wait for another four years to try to end this jinx. Yaar what is this team... didn't they realise the importance of the occasion. Look at how Dhoni and his players remained focused," an irate cricket fan Sabrina said in the upmarket Clifton area.
    There was a grudging admiration for Virat Kohli in the cricket discussions taking place at pan shops, coffee outlets and tea stalls as the roads which were supposed to be filled with fans celebrating remained deserted even after the match.
    "It is really disappointing at how the team let us down today. You wait for a long time for this match and I just feel so bad for the fans who prayed for success," Pakistan's former opener Mohsin Khan said.

    Not surprisingly angry cricket fans vented their anger on social networking sites with Ahmed Shehzad, Shahid Afridi and Umar Akmal the target of most digs.
    Fans wasted no time in highlighting the mistakes committed by Pakistan in the match including Kohli's dropped catch by Akmal.
    There was though no violence reported from any part of the city.
    The reason for this could be that today's match was the first for both teams in this World Cup.
    These feelings were echoed by Baba Gulzar who runs a popular video outlet in Clifton.
    "Chalo abhi World Cup baqi hai and if we play well we can still beat India in the semi-finals or final," an ever optimistic Baba said. 
    Angry Pak fans in Karachi smash TV sets
    Angry with their team's defeat at the hands of arch-rival India in a cricket World Cup match, Pakistani fans came out on the streets here and smashed their TV sets to express disappointment.
    A Pakistani TV channel showed visuals of people taking to streets with TV sets and smashing them to pieces to show their anger at the Pakistan team's showing.

    Pak army fires at Indian post on day of electric World cup clash

    Pakistan rangers targeted Indian outposts near Tavi in RS Pura sector of Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday, a day when cricket teams from the two nations clashed in their opening match of the World Cup — a tie billed as “war without guns”.
    The rangers targeted a Border Security Force (BSF) post on the international border. A police officer said the rangers fired three rounds at 10.50am, once again violating the 2003 ceasefire between India and Pakistan on the Kashmir border. The BSF, whose 127 battalion was at the post, retaliated. No one was injured on the Indian side.
    "The firing stopped immediately after the rangers used small arms to target the BSF outpost," the officer said.
    Pakistan Saturday too violated the ceasefire in the same when the Rangers targeted a BSF post with a mortar shell. The mortar fell 300 meters away from the post.
    The ceasefire violations came after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi rang up his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on Friday to wish his cricket team luck ahead of the match between the arch-rivals.
    Experts said India hoped to use the sporting contest to rebuild troubled relations between the two nations.
    In 2011, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had invited his Pakistan counterpart to watch a game of cricket in India and discuss reviving a peace process. The "cricket diplomacy" had offered more symbolic gestures than any breakthroughs in a conflict that has lasted for more than sixty-five years.

    Saturday, February 14, 2015

    Dejavu: Messi does to Neymar what Ronaldinho did to him in 2008

    Lionel Messi asked Neymar to take the penalty against Villareal, and the Brazilian went on to miss the spot-kick. Apart from the fact that it was the first time since 2010 when Messi didn’t take a penalty while he was on the pitch, this entire sequence of events was very interesting, as it was almost an exact copy of an incident that took place seven years ago.

    It was the second leg of a Copa del Rey encounter in 2008 between Barcelona and Villareal, at the Camp Nou. The home team were leading 1-0 and had just been awarded a penalty. Ronaldinho, the club’s designated penalty taker, came to the pitch just then, and so was happy to let Lionel Messi to take the spot-kick.

    In normal circumstances, there wouldn’t really have been much cause for concern. Messi had the entire team’s trust, and he showed great confidence in stepping up to take it.
    As luck would have it, the Argentine’s penalty was saved by Villareal’s Diego Lopez. Following the save, Ronaldinho went up to Messi and consoled him. 

    Here’s the video of the same:

    Fast forward to 2015, and almost the exact sequence of events repeated themselves. Lionel Messi let Neymar take the penalty, who ended up missing his spot-kick. The match was again in the Copa del Rey, and co-incidentally, against Villareal! In fact, both times, the penalty was taken at the same end of the Camp Nou!

    Call it co-incidence or the magic of the Copa del Rey, or the mystery of the Camp Nou, but history just repeated itself!