‘Subsidised fertilisers being smuggled out from India’

The Indian government on Friday said that subsidised fertiliser was being smuggled out to countries like Nepal and asked state governments to take stringent action, reports PTI.

Replying to supplementaries during Question Hour in the Rajya Sabha, minister of state for chemicals and fertilisers Srikant Kumar Jena said that smuggling was taking place from different parts of the country.

The government, he said, has written to chief ministers to take stringent action against urea dealers who may be involved in smuggling. States like Uttar Pradesh need to take steps to prevent smuggling, he said.

Explaining the compulsions behind the recent decision to hike urea prices, Mr Jena said that the cost had not changed in the past eight years compared to two price revisions during the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) rule.

The NDA government had raised urea prices by 20% when global rates were $110 per tonne. International rates have risen three-fold since, warranting a 10% hike in urea prices from 1st April, he said.

"The government has decided to increase the maximum retail price (MRP) of urea by 10% to Rs5,310 per tonne from the current Rs4,830 per tonne with effect from 1 April 2010," he said, adding that urea would remain under government control.

The minister said it was difficult to predict the quantum of fertiliser subsidy for the next fiscal as consumption was not known.


And now, a computer that can read your mind!

British scientists have developed a computer that can read human minds, a key breakthrough that they claim takes telepathy a step closer to reality, reports PTI. 

According to them, the computer is able to decipher thought patterns and tell what people are thinking simply by scanning the brain—in fact, it can delve into memories and differentiate between different recollections.

This breakthrough follows research last year by the same scientists who used the same technique to track a person's movements around a computer-simulated room. For the current research, which focussed on the hippocampus, an area at the centre of the brain that plays a crucial role in short-term memory, the scientists carried out an experiment involving 10 volunteers. 

The subjects were shown three seven-second films featuring different women carrying out an everyday task in a typical urban street such as posting a letter or drinking a cup of coffee from a paper cup. 

The volunteers were asked to memorise what they saw and then recall each one in turn whilst inside a magnetic resonance imaging scanner which records brain activity by measuring changes in blood flow within the brain. 

The computer algorithm then studied the electrical patterns and could tell which film the volunteer was recalling with an accuracy of about 50%—which was well above chance, 'The Daily Telegraph' reported.

Lead scientist Prof Eleanor Maguire of University College of London said, "In our previous experiment we're looking at basic memories, at someone's location in an environment.” 

"What is more interesting is to look at 'episodic' memories—the complex, everyday memories that include much more information on where we are, what we are doing and how we feel. We've been able to look at brain activity for a specific episodic memory—to look at actual memory traces. We found our memories are definitely represented in the hippocampus. Now that we've seen where they are, we have an opportunity to understand how memories are stored and how they may change through time," said Prof Maguire.

The findings have been published in the latest edition of the 'Current Biology' journal.


Futures trading in commodities won't fuel inflation, says Basu

Allowing futures trading in commodities will not fuel inflation, government's chief economic advisor Kaushik Basu said on Friday, reports PTI.

"The reason why I am personally in favour of allowing futures trade in commodities is because it is not going to make inflation worse," Mr Basu said at a FICCI seminar on de-risking futures trading in commodities.

He said that futures trading is an efficient way of price discovery and extremely important for many stakeholders to take a position against price risk.

However, he said that it should not be left unregulated as there are possibilities of people getting cheated.

"To have a regulation, the first thing is to say that it (futures trade) is a legitimate activity," Mr Basu said.

Further, to mitigate the impact of high food inflation, which is hovering at 17%-18%, on the common man, Mr Basu said that the government's storage and release mechanism of food grains needs to be improved.

"We need to give much more thought on foodgrains management to protect the most vulnerable section of the population. I think this mechanism can be improved by bringing in the private sector into play and we need to tweak our food grains release mechanism system to do it better," he said.


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