First case of Self-Driving Car killing a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona

On Sunday ( March 18) night, a self-driving car operated by Uber being tested with an emergency backup driver behind the wheel crashed and killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona. Reportedly, the first ever death caused by the self-driving car was a Volvo XC90 SUV operated by Uber was in autonomous mode with a human safety driver at the wheel carrying no passengers when it crashed Elanie Herzberg, a 49-year-old woman on Sunday night. Interestingly, the regular Volvo XC90 is considered to be one of the safest SUV globally.  This is believed to be the first death by accident associated with autonomous and self-driving technology. Uber has currently suspended testing of its cars in Tempe as well as in San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Toronto. This accident comes as a reality check to every auto and tech company working on autonomous cars proving that this technology is still at an experimental stage and even government has not yet figured out on its regulations.

General Motors, Google (Waymo), Uber, and a long list of companies have invested heavily towards the development of autonomous cars globally and especially in the US and Europe. It is claimed that these driverless cars will be safer than human driving as it takes out the big equation of human distraction. However, this technology is still at about a decade old and this accident leading to a death proves that development is still at a nascent stage and there is a long way to go. There is also the need for a certain law to kick in as it is still unclear on whom to blame in such a situation.

Reports also suggest that this crash in Arizona might lead other companies and state authorities to slow the rollout autonomous cars on public roads. A report on the The New York Times says that many states in the US, like Arizona have taken a lenient approach to regulate plying of driverless cars. Arizona officials wanted to lure companies working on self-driving technology out of neighboring California, where regulators had been strict. However, California is expected to allow companies to test cars without a person in the driver’s seat soon.

Meanwhile, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is sending a team to the crash site to further investigate the fatal collision of this Uber driverless car that caused the death of a pedestrian. The Uber vehicle was part of the company’s self-driving fleet of vehicles. The investigation will address the vehicle’s interaction with the environment, other vehicles and vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and bicyclists.

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39 Indians kidnapped IN Iraq in 3014 killed by ISIS

Union foreign minister Sushma Swaraj  said in Rajya Sabha on March 20 that 39 Indians stranded in Mosul (Iraq) were killed by ISIS. The minister also said that the stranded Indians were kidnapped and most of them were from Punjab. The Union minister revealed that the bodies of the deceased were exhumed and DNA samples sent for forensic test. The 39 Indians were kidnapped by ISIS in Mosul in 2014. Until October last year, both India and Iraq had contended that the 39 people were alive. The relatives of the 39 Indians were made to undergo DNA test last year. She also told Parliament that MoS EAM, General VK Singh, will go to Iraq to bring back mortal remains. The plane carrying mortal remains will first go to Amritsar, then to Patna and then to Kolkata. She further said that mortal remains of deceased were kept in Baghdad. The government had sent DNA samples of relatives for the purpose of verification of bodies. Along with the Central, four state governments – Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar – were also involved in the process. Deep penetration radar confirmed that all Indians were dead after all bodies were exhumed.

Although such sad events do not warrant war of words, yet Congress Party MP Shashi Tharoor in his condolence also criticized the government for raising false hope to nation — “Thoughts & prayers are w/their families. But why  did the Govt give false hope to the nation for three and a half years that the people were still alive?”  Deep condolence was also expressed by Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh who twitted “Shattered at the heart-wrenching news from @SushmaSwaraj that the 39 Indians missing in Iraq, most of whom were Punjabis, are dead. My heart goes out to the families who had been living in hope since their reported abduction by ISIS in 2014. Prayers with all of them.” Defending herself against a raft of criticism, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj  accused the Congress of indulging in ‘cheap politics’ even as she said the government did not keep anyone in the dark over the death of 39 Indians in Iraq’s Mosul. In a press conference, Mrs.Swaraj noted that while everyone listened to her statement patiently in the Rajya Sabha, she expected the same in the Lok Sabha but the Congress led by Jyotiraditya Scindia disrupted her speech. Giving details from the incident, Swaraj said, “Our govt does not believe in “missing, believed to be killed”. Declared about the death of 39 Indians only after getting proof. While maintaining that she did not keep anyone in the dark about the deaths, Sushma Swaraj said, “It would have been a sin had we handed over anybody’s body claiming it to be those of our people, just for the sake of closing files.”

Background

 A group of 40 Indian workers, mostly from Punjab, and some Bangladeshi were taken hostage by ISIS when it overran Iraq’s second largest city Mosul in 2014. Of the 40 Indians, one Harjit Masih from Gurdaspur had managed to escape. The  Islamic State of Iraq and Syria  or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is a Salafi jihadist terrorist organisation and former unrecognised proto-state that follows fundamentalist, Wahhabi, and heterodox doctrine of Sunni Islam. ISIL gained global prominence in early 2014 when it drove Iraqi government forces out of key cities in its Western Iraq offensive, followed by its capture of Mosul and the Sinjar massacre. This group has been designated a terrorist organisation by the United Nations and many individual countries. ISIL is widely known for its videos of beheadings and other types of executions of both soldiers and civilians, including journalists and aid workers, and its destruction of cultural heritage sites. The United Nations holds ISIL responsible for human rights abuses and war crimes. ISIL also committed ethnic cleansing on a historic scale in northern Iraq. ISIL originated as Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad in 1999, which pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda and participated in the Iraqi insurgency following the 2003 invasion of Iraq by Western forces.  In July 2017, the group lost control of its largest city, Mosul, to the Iraqi army. Following this major defeat, ISIL continued to lose territory to the various states and other military forces allied against it, until it controlled no meaningful territory by November 2017. U.S. military officials reported in December 2017 that the group retained a mere 2 percent of the territory they had previously held. On 10 December 2017, Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said that Iraqi forces had driven the last remnants of Islamic State from the country, three years after the militant group captured about a third of Iraq’s territory. Simultaneous military analyses in December 2017 reported that the group had lost more than 98% of the territory it controlled a year prior.

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US hikes tariff on Steel and Aluminum

Notwithstanding cautions from experts, his own Republican Party members and opposition Democratic Party regarding possible ignition of a regressive global trade war, President Donald Trump ordered steep new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to the U.S. on March 08. He in his usual bullish style vowed to fight back against an “assault on our country” by foreign competitors. Despite a week of furious lobbying against his plan by Republican lawmakers and some of his own advisers, Trump said he would go ahead with penalty tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum. But he also said the penalties could “go up or down depending on the country, and I’ll have a right to drop out countries or add countries. I just want fairness.” However, he exempted Canada and Mexico as “a special case” but asserted that he will negotiate for changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement with them. The new tariffs were proposed to take effect in 15 days.

                   Australia and some “other countries” might be spared for strategic reasons and fear of retaliation by trading partners. Those “other countries” can try to negotiate their way out of the tariffs, he indicated, by ensuring their trade actions do not harm America’s security. Reasoning on his tariff measures president Trump cast his action as necessary to protect industries “ravaged by aggressive foreign trade practices. It’s really an assault on our country. It’s been an assault.”

                    His move, an assertive step for his “America First” agenda, has rattled allies across the globe and raised questions at home about whether protectionism will impede U.S. economic growth. The president made his announcement the same day that officials from 11 other Pacific Rim countries signed a sweeping trade agreement that came together after he pulled the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership last year.

                        Though he focused on workers and their companies in his announcement, Trump’s legal proclamation made a major point that weakened steel and aluminum industries represent a major threat to America’s military strength and national security. He also criticized past government’s failure in taking any step against exporters who harmed the US steel and aluminum industry by selling cheap in US domestic market.

                 There may be some immediate advantages to US industry. Century Aluminum Chief Executive Michael Bless said the tariffs would allow his company, which produces high-purity aluminum used in military aircraft, to recall about 300 workers and restart idled production lines at its smelter in eastern Kentucky by early 2019. And Trump took note of U.S. Steel’s announcement that it planned to ramp up activity at its plant in Granite City, Illinois, and recall about 500 employees because of the new tariffs.

                   But there was political criticism aplenty, especially from Trump’s own Republican Party. House Speaker Paul Ryan, appearing with Home Depot employees in Atlanta, warned of “unintended consequences.” And Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin called the tariffs “a very risky action” that could put agricultural and manufacturing jobs at risk. “I’m not sure there are any winners in trade wars,” said Johnson, who once ran a plastics manufacturing business in his home state. Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said Trump’s action was “like dropping a bomb on a flea” and could carry “huge unintended consequences for American manufacturers who depend on imported materials.”Business leaders, too, sounded their alarm about the potential economic fallout, warning that American consumers would be hurt by higher prices. They noted that steel-consuming companies said tariffs imposed in 2002 by President George W. Bush ended up wiping out 200,000 U.S. jobs. “Tariffs are taxes, and the American taxpayer will pay the cost of a trade war,” said Cody Lusk, president and CEO of the American International Automobile Dealers Association. “Even with limited exemptions, tariffs will raise the sale prices of new vehicles.”

                      Nations around the globe that were not excluded from the tariffs reacted with dismay. The European Union warned before the announcement that it was ready to retaliate with counter-measures against iconic U.S. products such as Harley Davidson motorcycles, Levi’s jeans and bourbon. EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom tweeted after Trump’s announcement that “the EU should be excluded from these measures.” Malmstrom said she would be meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in Brussels soon.  The British government said tariffs “are not the right way to address the global problem of overcapacity” and said it would work with EU partners “to consider the scope for exemptions outlined today.” Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono called the decision “extremely regrettable,” predicting it could have a major impact on the economy and the relationship between the U.S. and Japan, as well as the global economy. South Korea also expressed its displeasure and wanted concessions from the US. According to White House the exemptions for Canada and Mexico could be ended if talks to renegotiate NAFTA stall.

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समकालीन हिंदी कविता के महत्वपूर्ण हस्ताक्षर वरिष्ठ कवि केदारनाथ सिंह का 19 मार्च (सोमवार) को नई दिल्ली के एम्स अस्पताल में निधन हो गया. वे 83 वर्ष के थे. कुछ दिनों से निमोनिया से पीड़ित होने के कारण एम्स में उनका इलाज़ हो रहा था.
अज्ञेय द्वारा प्रकाशित ‘तीसरा सप्तक’ (1959) से लेकर अब तक उनका साहित्यिक जीवन काफी लंबा और समृद्ध रहा है. काव्य और गद्य रचना के अतिरिक्त हिंदी कविता के अध्यापक के रूप में भी उनकी ख्याति रही है. वे जवाहर लाल नेहरू विश्वविद्यालय के भारतीय भाषा केंद्र से हिंदी के प्रोफेसर के पद से सेवानिवृत्त होने के बाद से स्वतंत्र लेखन कर रहे थे.
साहित्य अकादमी, भारतीय ज्ञानपीठ पुरस्कार, व्यास सम्मान जैसे पुरस्कारों से सम्मानित केदारनाथ सिंह ने 2010 में दिल्ली सरकार का शलाका सम्मान ठुकरा कर यह प्रमाणित किया कि एक सच्चे साहित्यकार के लिए साहित्यिक शुचिता किसी भी सम्मान या अर्थलाभ से ज्यादा महत्वपूर्ण होती है. उल्लेखनीय है कि तब शलाका सम्मान समिति ने कृष्ण बलदेव वैद का नाम पुरस्कार के लिए घोषित कर बाद में अपना निर्णय बदल दिया था. केदारनाथ सिंह ने इसी बात पर नाराज होकर शलाका सम्मान ठुकरा दिया था.
अकाल में सारस, बाघ, उत्तर कबीर, अभी बिलकुल अभी तथा यहाँ से देखो उनके चर्चित कविता संग्रह हैं.