World
US not yet cured of racism: Obama
President Barack Obama used the politically incorrect n-word during an interview to assert that racism persists in the US, including many forms that are not overt, and the nation was not "cured of it".
 
"Racism, we are not cured of it. And It's not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public," he said in a podcast interview with comedian Marc Maron released Monday. "That's not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It's not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don't, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior," he said.
 
The White House insisted that Obama didn't set out to shock or provoke. His spokesman Josh Earnest said the President's use of the taboo word was not part of a premeditated strategy to talk about race in a more challenging and overt way.
 
"I would acknowledge it is understandably notable that the President chose to use this word," he said. "But the argument that the President is making is one that is familiar to those who have been listening."
 
Obama said there has been progress on race relations over the decades,
citing his own experience as a young man who was born to a white mother and an African father.
 
"I always tell young people, in particular, do not say that nothing has changed when it comes to race in America, unless you've lived through being a black man in the 1950s or '60s or '70s.
 
"It is incontrovertible that race relations have improved significantly during my lifetime and yours," Obama said.
 
But he added that "the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination" exists in institutions and casts "a long shadow and that's still part of our DNA that's passed on."
 
The White House later released a statement saying that this is not the first time the President has used the N-word.
 
"Truth is he uses the term about a dozen times in Dreams from my Father," White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said.
 
Echoing comments he made in the immediate aftermath of last week's horrific massacre at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, Obama also lamented Congress's lack of action on gun control in the face of a powerful gun lobby.
 
"It's not enough just to feel bad. There are actions that could be taken to make events like this less likely. One of those actions we could take would be to enhance some basic common sense gun safety laws," he said.
 
"Unfortunately, the grip of the NRA (National Rifle Association) on Congress is extremely strong. I don't foresee any legislative action being taken in this Congress."

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The missing girls of Maharashtra & Gujarat
No one has been convicted in Gujarat under the prohibition of Child Marriage Act, although 659 cases are registered
 
There is a shortfall of 73 percent and 55 percent in inspections of sonography centres in the western states of Gujarat and Maharashtra, two of India’s richest.
 
The child sex-ratio (number of girls under six years per 1,000 boys) in the states are among the lowest in India, especially in backward districts, such as Beed in Maharashtra’s Marathwada region (807) and Surat district (831) in Gujarat. The national average is 914.
 
Verdicts have been pronounced in 23 cases of 603 reported cases of child marriage in Maharashtra with 580 cases pending for 2013-14.
 
No one has been convicted in Gujarat under the prohibition of Child Marriage Act, although 659 cases are registered.
 
A wealth of laws and programmes instituted to protect girls are failing them in India’s two most economically-developed states, Maharashtra and Gujarat, according to recent reports by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG).
 
Both states are failing to implement the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (PC & PNT), which prohibits sex selection, before or after conception, and regulates diagnostic techniques to prevent misuse for sex determination used in female foeticide.
 
Strong laws that work on paper, fail on ground
 
On paper, the Act provides for robust implementation state-wide through a supervisory board and an advisory committee including an officer of or above the rank of joint director of Health and Family Welfare as chairperson; representatives from women’s organisations and an officer of the law department.
 
The chief medical officer or civil surgeon is designated the appropriate authority at the district level.
 
“The joint secretary, health and family welfare department, stated that the state (Gujarat) government had assured to increase (sic) rate of conviction by meticulous paper work, evidence gathering and proper submission, and strong pleading of PC & PNDT cases,” the report said.
 
Maharashtra registered 481 cases under the PC & PNDT Act as of March 2014.
 
While 181 offences were registered in Gujarat under the PC & PNDT Act as of March 2014, only 49 cases were prosecuted and only six offenders were convicted, the CAG report said. The punishments include imprisonment, cancellation of licences and fine.
 
In violation of Supreme Court directions to prosecute cases within six months, cases continued from one to 12 years.
 
The failure to implement the PC & PNDT Act is responsible for the falling child sex-ratio in these states, the report said.
 
Sex ratio improves in India, not in Maharashtra, Gujarat
 
Maharashtra’s overall sex ratio declined from 920 to 919 over a decade (2001 to 2011) although the all-India ratio improved from 933 to 943, according to census 2011.
 
For Gujarat, the overall sex ratio declined from 920 to 919 from 2001 to 2011. However, there was some improvement in the child sex-ratio from 883 to 890 between 2001 and 2011.
 
Another important finding of the report is that the child sex-ratio is lower in urban areas than in rural areas in both states.
 
The report explains that this could be due to the availability of sonography centres in urban areas.
 
“The availability of genetic clinics in urban areas and awareness of literate people about usage of sex determination techniques could also be attributed to declining child sex-ratio in urban areas,” the report said.
 
The child sex-ratio in urban India stood at 902 as against 919 in rural areas, the report said.
 
In Maharashtra, the child sex-ratio in urban regions stood at 899 and 890 in rural areas.
 
In Gujarat, the child sex-ratio in urban areas is 852 and 914 in rural areas.
 
Children forced into marriage under-reported by both states
 
Child marriages, meaning girls/boys aged 10 to 19 years getting married, are common across Maharashtra and Gujarat, the report said.  The audit found that both states were under-reporting child marriages.
 
There are almost 17 million children in India who were married between the ages of 10 and 19. Maharashtra ranks 5th with 1.5 million children married, while Gujarat is 7th with 0.9 million children married in the 10-19 age group.
 
Almost 73 percent of children married are girls in Maharashtra while it is 66 percent in Gujarat.
 
The report highlighted the high pendency of cases pertaining to child marriages in Maharashtra.
 
In 2014, 101 new cases were registered and verdicts were pronounced in 23 cases.
 
There were delays in nominating Child Marriage Prohibition Officers in rural areas while no officers were nominated in urban areas, the report said.
 
Though The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act came into force from June 2012, the government was yet to frame guidelines to assist girls during pre-trial and trial, the report said.
 
In Gujarat, out of 659 complaints of child marriages during 2009-14, court cases were filed in only 15; no one was convicted during this period.
 
Maharashtra, Gujarat: Money is not the issue
 
Gujarat contributes more than 7.5 percent to India’s GDP while Maharashtra contributes about 14 percent.
 
In 2013-14, Maharashtra’s per capita income (at current prices) was 45.6 percent above the Indian norm (Rs 117,091 annually), while Gujarat‘s was 33 percent above (Rs 106,831 annually at current prices). India’s average annual per capita income (at current prices) was Rs 80,388.
 
While Maharashtra grew at 8.7 percent in 2014-15, Gujarat grew at 8.8 percent in 2014-15.

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AT&T Faces $100M Fine for Alleged Data Throttling
FCC to issue largest fine in agency history to AT&T over alleged slowing down data speeds
 
Allegations of slowing down data speeds has gotten AT&T onto the fast track of trouble with two federal agencies
 
The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced last week it is going to fine the wireless carrier $100 million — the largest in its history –for misleading consumers about unlimited wireless data plans by slowing down data speeds. The allegations closely mirror those brought against AT&T by another federal agency — the FTC — in October 2014.
 
“Data throttling” hinders a smartphone user’s ability to search the web, use GPS navigation and watch streaming video, among other applications.
 
The FTC lawsuit alleges that AT&T data throttled more than 3.5 million customers since October 2011 and if customers cancelled their plans after being throttled they were charged hundreds in early terminations fees.
 
AT&T countered in a motion to dismiss that the FTC suit that the agency lacked authority to bring the complaint and that only the FCC can regulate common carriers. (A judge did not agree and the FTC suit is still pending.)
 
Still, the FCC must have paid attention to AT&T’s argument because it is alleging that AT&T is violating the 2010 Open Internet Transparency Rule by falsely labeling plans as “unlimited” and by failing to sufficiently inform customers of the maximum speed they would receive.
 
The FCC said since 2011 it has received thousands of complaints from AT&T customers who said they were misled by the company’s policy of intentionally reducing their data speeds. They were upset that they were also locked into long-term contracts that were subject to early termination fees for the unlimited data plan that wasn’t actually unlimited.
 
The FTC suit also alleges that AT&T deliberately reduced the data speeds of millions of smartphone customers with unlimited plans. The 2014 FTC suit came three weeks after the wireless carrier entered into a $105 million settlement with the FTC and state attorneys general over cramming allegations.
 
AT&T began offering unlimited data plans in 2007 and stopped in June 2010 when it transitioned to “tiered” plans that carry a specific data amount. But smartphone customers with existing unlimited data plans were given the option to keep their plans.
 
Using similar language, officials from both agencies are contending “unlimited” is certainly not what consumers who paid for that plan received.
 
“Unlimited means unlimited,” FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc said in a statement Wednesday. “… the commission is committed to holding accountable those broadband providers who fail to be fully transparent about data limits.”
 
In comments when the FTC suit was filed, Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said: “AT&T promised its customers ‘unlimited data,’ and in many instances, it has failed to deliver on that promise. The issue here is simple: ‘Unlimited’ means unlimited.”
 
AT&T says it’s been transparent from the start
 
Responding to the FTC suit, AT&T’s general counsel and senior executive vice president Wayne Watts called the allegations baseless.
 
“We have been completely transparent with customers since the very beginning,” Watts said. “We informed all unlimited data-plan customers via bill notices and a national press release that resulted in nearly 2,000 news stories, well before the program was implemented.”
 
Internal focus groups advised against throttling 
 
Nearly 200,000 customers called AT&T about its throttling program, according to the FTC lawsuit. What may be more troubling, though, is the allegation that the company’s own internal focus groups had indicated that the program — where unlimited data plans are in effect limited — would confuse consumers. Researchers for AT&T found that consumers felt “unlimited should mean unlimited” and that throttling was “clearly unfair,” the suit alleges.
 
For more on AT&T’s phone plans click here.
 

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