POSTED BY Outlook Web Desk ON Jun 30, 2015 AT 23:11 IST ,  Edited At: Jun 30, 2015 23:11 IST

People across the globe are set to gain a second as time keepers prepare to add an extra second to world clocks. 

Reason behind this generosity is that there's a slight difference between how fast the earth spins and official world time. So this extra second helps bridge the gap.

As the Telegraph puts it:

Immediately before midnight dials will read 11:59:60 as clocks hold their breath for a second to allow the Earth's rotation to catch up with atomic time. 

You might want to ask why bother if it's just a second. Hence, the BBC got in touch with Robert Edwards, head of science at the Royal Observatory Greenwich to explain this baffling practice who said:

You could ignore this over a short timescale.

After a century the time given by our atomic clocks might disagree with the time given by the Sun by about one minute.

After 6,000 years they might disagree by an hour.

After roughly 72,000 years they might disagree by 12 hours and midday according to our atomic clocks would take place at midnight according to the Sun.

Taking a second's leap might sound quite simple, but tinkering with time is never a good idea.

Peter Whibberley, Senior Research Scientist in the Time and Frequency group Britain’s National Physical Laboratory who is better known as the 'Time Lord' said:

There are consequences of tinkering with time. Getting leap seconds wrong can cause loss of synchronisation in communication networks, financial systems and many other applications which rely on precise timing. Whenever a leap second occurs, some computer systems encounter problems due to glitches in the code written to handle them. The consequences are particularly severe in the Asia-Pacific region, where leap seconds occur during normal working hours.

When the last leap second was added in 2012 Mozilla, Reddit, Foursquare, Yelp, LinkedIn, and StumbleUpon all reported crashes and there were problems with the Linux operating system and programmes written in Java.

The BBC reports:

The atomic clock expert Professor Judah Levine, from the US National Institute of Standards and Technology, warns that "it's a major interruption mostly because there are a lot of systems that aren't prepared to handle the leap second correctly".

Here's hope that all goes well with the leap and the world puts the extra second to good use.

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POSTED BY Outlook Web Desk ON Jun 30, 2015 AT 23:11 IST, Edited At: Jun 30, 2015 23:11 IST
POSTED BY Outlook Web Desk ON Jun 30, 2015 AT 20:18 IST ,  Edited At: Jun 30, 2015 20:18 IST

Suspended Delhi University professor G N Saibaba, arrested for alleged Maoist links, was today granted temporary bail for three months by the Bombay High Court considering his deteriorating health condition.

In May 2015, Outlook carried a cover story by Arundhati Roy on the professor who taught English at Ramlal Anand College:

"Why did they abduct him in this way when they could easily have arrested him formally, this professor who happens to be wheelchair-bound and paralysed from his waist downwards since he was five years old? There were two reasons: First, because they knew from their previous visits to his house that if they picked him up from his home on the Delhi University campus they would have to deal with a crowd of angry people—professors, activists and students who loved and admired Professor Saibaba not just because he was a dedicated teacher but also because of his fearless political worldview. Second, because abducting him made it look as though they, armed only with their wit and daring, had tracked down and captured a dangerous terrorist. The truth is more prosaic..."

On the professor's deteriorating health conditions in prison, Roy wrote:

"In the year he’s been in prison, his physical condition has deteriorated alarmingly. He is in constant, excruciating pain. (The jail authorities have helpfully described this as “quite normal” for polio victims.) His spinal cord has degenerated. It has buckled and is pushing up against his lungs. His left arm has stopped functioning."

Professor Saibaba has been charged under the UAPA, Sections 13 (taking part in/advocating/abetting/inciting the commission of unlawful activity), Section 18 (conspiring/attempting to commit a terrorist act), Section 20 (being a member of a terrorist gang or organisation), Section 38 (associating with a terrorist organisation with intention to further its activities) and Section 39 (inviting support and addressing meetings for the purpose of encouraging support for a terrorist organisation.)

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POSTED BY Outlook Web Desk ON Jun 30, 2015 AT 20:18 IST, Edited At: Jun 30, 2015 20:18 IST
POSTED BY Freya Dasgupta ON Jun 29, 2015 AT 23:48 IST ,  Edited At: Jun 29, 2015 23:48 IST

It perhaps is just a coincidence but countries — where at one point in ancient history, successful, prosperous civilisations flourished — seem to be in the doldrums. Some are in the grips of major financial crises while others are zones for major conflicts. 

One needs only a brief glance to realise that these major civilisations aren't quite living it up in the 21st century. 

Ancient Greek Civilisation:

The Greeks don't have the oldest civilisation but clearly it has been one of the most influential. Unfortunately, Greece is on the brink of bankruptcy. With an austerity referendum scheduled for July 5, Greece is struggling to pay back its creditors, known informally as the Troika (consisting of the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank). If in the upcoming referendum, it votes for "yes" it will be subjected to "strict and humiliating" austerity. If it goes with "no" it might no longer remain a part of the European Union. 

Mesopotamian Civilisation:

The region between the Tigris and the Euphrates river systems — presently known as Iraq — was once where civilised societies started to take shape. Already a land plagued by years of dictatorship and ravaged by war, it is now under the "caliphate" of the Islamic State who have been seizing one city after another. Once the intellectual centre of the Islamic world, Baghdad under constant threat from the IS and frequent air strikes by the US targeting the militants is a distraught city today. With the IS cutting off water supply and deliberately drying up marshes — much like dictator Saddam Hussein — Iraq is definitely headed towards an environmental catastrophe.

Ancient Egyptian Civilisation:

The land of pharaohs and pyramids and sphinxes saw a revolution in 2011 that put an end to dictator Hosni Mubarak's rule. Muslim Brotherhood's Morsi took over and was ousted in no time by the military leader Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Morsi, an Islamist, has been sentenced to death which if carried out will enrage Brotherhood's supporters and lead to widespread protests if nothing else. Getting rid of a dictatorship hasn't done much for the freedom of press in Egypt either since more often than not, journalists are imprisoned, mostly for having affiliations with the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. 

Indus Valley Civilisation:

The region witnessed the largest exodus in history during the Partition in 1947. Well, at least a portion of the exodus while the other bit took place on the Bengal frontier. The region remains a conflict zone for the two brothers separated at birth — India and Pakistan — and their never ending squabbles over border issues, more importantly Kashmir. Frequent ceasefire violations, infiltration and military green define the land of the five rivers. Add to this Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jamaat-ud-Dawah and Indian Mujahideen and you have the perfect recipe for a civilisational disaster. 

Chinese Civilisation:

At least 30% of China's Great Wall from the Ming era has disappeared over time due to adverse natural conditions and reckless human activities. But that's not the only thing in China that is crumbling. The Chinese stock market took a 7.4% dive on June 26 that left it down 19% in just two weeks. Once the fastest growing economy in the world, China suddenly seems unable to keep up with itself. In the meantime, it remains embroiled in the South China Sea dispute, vehemently defending its claim over the largest portion of the territory which is supposed to be rich in natural resources even as it pledged to cut down on its carbon emissions.

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POSTED BY Freya Dasgupta ON Jun 29, 2015 AT 23:48 IST, Edited At: Jun 29, 2015 23:48 IST
POSTED BY Aaryan Salman ON Jun 29, 2015 AT 20:11 IST ,  Edited At: Jun 29, 2015 20:11 IST

The legalisation of gay marriage in the USA has drawn global attention to the World's "Champion of Liberties". While it is time to rejoice, see what Obama told the world under the Shadow Of Lady Liberty over the years.

In 1996, the then Illinois Senator Barack Obama in a questionnaire said: 

"I favor legalising same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages."

In 1998, in another questionnaire he responded mentioning "undecided" when asked if Illinois should recognise same-sex marriages

In 2004, as a Senate candidate he said he "wasn't a supporter of gay marriage"

"I am a fierce supporter of domestic-partnership and civil-union laws. I am not a supporter of gay marriage as it has been thrown about, primarily just as a strategic issue. I think that marriage, in the minds of a lot of voters, has a religious connotation. ..."

In 2008, President Obama opposed gay marriage calling marriage a ‘union between a man and a woman'

"I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union. God's in the mix."

In 2010, the President said that he doesn't support same-sex marriage but his feelings are "constantly evolving" on the issue.

And this is what the President had to say after the US Supreme Court legalised same-sex marriage.

"It's a victory for the allies and friends and supporters who spent years and even decades working and praying for change to come,"

"I know a change for many of our LGBT brothers and sisters must have seemed so slow for so long,"


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POSTED BY Aaryan Salman ON Jun 29, 2015 AT 20:11 IST, Edited At: Jun 29, 2015 20:11 IST
POSTED BY Landing Lights ON Jun 26, 2015 AT 21:38 IST ,  Edited At: Jun 26, 2015 21:38 IST

Eminent economist Jagdish Bhagwati has sparked off yet another exchange of letters (this time in the pages of the Financial Times). The irony is this latest battle is that Bhagwati — Professor of Economics and Law at Columbia University and an authority on globalization — is being accused of "committing an error (rare for him)" and being afflicted by a "socialist myopia".

These are strong reactions, indeed. 

Writing on the issues of the Rohingyas of Myanmar, Bhagwati makes an argument that rich countries should fund the countries that are willing to take in the refugees.

In the present instance, Gambia is offering to take in the Myanmar refugees, and others in East Asia where the refugees seek to land may follow. In all these cases, it is only logical that prosperous and humane countries such as the US and Switzerland establish a fund to mitigate the financial cost of these nations' generosity. Arriving at such an international compact should now be of the highest priority.

To be fair, Bhagwati also goes on to argue that one cannot apply to same yardstick to refugees from Bangladesh.

That many of the poor are fleeing from poverty in Bangladesh ought to be a wake-up call for these populists, and a compelling argument for the pro-growth and hence poverty-reducing reforms in India in 1991 and the additional reforms now in store under the Modi government. The rich proponents of populism can, but the poor cannot, live on populist slogans.

On both counts, he faced stinging attacks. In a letter to, Christopher Ruane writes that this is 

a tyrant's charter. To suggest that rich countries ought to underwrite such schemes purely because of their economic success is a form of socialist myopia.

Another letter writer Krishnamachar Sreenivasan, Distinguished Professor of Information Technology, Central Institute of Technology, Kokrajhar, Assam, couches his critique in gentler terms. 

Jagdish Bhagawati, whom I admire, has committed an error (rare for him) by viewing a complex refugee problem in black and white terms. Refugees, wet and hungry and barely reaching the shores, are not looking for cashier checks but a warm blanket and a cup of hot tea.

Of course, Professor Bhagwati is no stranger to tough positions, but there's no denying the renowned economist has been picking up many fights. After openly supporting Prime Minister Narendra Modi — also via a letter to the Economist — Bhagwati famously took on economist Amartya Sen on the growth-versus-development debate. He downplayed religious tensions in India. More recently, his protégé economist Arvind Panagriya — vice-chairman of the NITI Aayog — has been in the news for not having much of role in the new Modi government.

What's behind all the anger, Bhagwati Sa'ab? 

Earlier, the late Vinod Mehta suggested Bhagwati was upset about not getting the Nobel Prize, while another economist of Indian origin Amartya Sen has received one.

"Although Bhagwati lobbies for it ferociously and although he considers himself to be a better economist than Sen, the folks who matter refuse to consider his petition. For this reason, Bhagwati and Sen avoid getting into the elevator together...

Finally, can I make a request to the judges in Stockholm? Please give Jagdish Bhagwati the Nobel prize and put him out of his misery. Without it, he is making a big nuisance of himself."

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POSTED BY Landing Lights ON Jun 26, 2015 AT 21:38 IST, Edited At: Jun 26, 2015 21:38 IST
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