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18 Vaccine Experts, Including Top FDA Scientists, Publish Review in The Lancet Saying Current Evidence Doesn’t Support Need for COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters for the Fully Vaccinated

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 15/09/2021 - 1:55am in

Top international vaccine experts contend current evidence does not support a need for boosters for the fully vaccinated general population at this time and recommending instead directing doses to previously unvaccinated populations.

As US Prepares to Ban Ivermectin for Covid-19, More Countries in Asia Begin Using It

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 07/09/2021 - 8:53pm in

The information war takes a dark turn as the corporate media transitions from misinformation and obfuscation to outright lies and fabrication.

‘This used to be a blessed craft for women’: in Kashmir, artisanal pashmina weaving is disappearing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 01/09/2021 - 3:29pm in

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Feature, India, Kashmir

The regional economy is in a free fall due to political unrest, military closures, and the pandemic.

Five minutes’ walk from Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid, the largest mosque in Kashmir, is a modest two-story house. This is where Sakeena, 73, lives—and where she has been spinning pashmina wool by hand for more than a decade. She’s well known for her skill in spinning the finest and most delicate yarn from the region’s world-famous wool.

Zain-ul-Abidin, the fifteenth-century Sultan of Kashmir, introduced the art of pashmina weaving. He brought craftsmen from Persia to teach the local population various skills, which included making the wool shawls that are to this day a sought-after luxury item around the world. Kashmiri women have long been artisans of this heritage craft.

For Sakeena, weaving was a means of achieving economic stability. Her mother taught her and her two sisters to spin when she was an adolescent; when she married, she bought a spinning wheel (called a “yinder” in Kashmiri) for RS24, or about $0.32, and used her income to supplement the earnings of her husband, who was a tailor. “I used to earn RS150 ($2) for working five hours a day,” she said, explaining that “back then, that was enough for two proper meals.”

Until the 1990s pashmina wool was spun and woven at artisanal centers all over Kashmir. But with the rise of the Kashmiri armed struggle and the Indian government’s military response, curfews and lockdowns led to a shift: people are now working primarily from home. A few remaining traditional spinners live in pockets of Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir. Sakeena is one of them, but she said that now there is “either no work or the wages paid are not enough to pay for one proper meal.”

The long military lockdowns of the past few years precipitated the decline of the pashmina industry by preventing or discouraging buyers from visiting the disputed territory. As a result, the number of female spinners has declined from a high of 100,000 in 2007 to just 15,360 in 2021, according to The Directorate of Handicrafts & Handlooms in Kashmir.

“Foreign tourists used to come to Kashmir to buy the shawls,” said Sakeena. But no longer. “My daughters have three yinders that have been lying unused for the last year in our attic,” she lamented, adding that they will sell them if the current situation continues much longer. “The Indian government promises to empower people, but in Kashmir, they are doing the opposite by making us economically weaker,” she said.

The politically unstable situation, the prolonged military lockdowns, and now the pandemic, have pushed the regional economy into a free fall. According to a 2020 report issued by the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, more than 100,000 private sector jobs were cut after August 2019, when the Modi government precipitated an ongoing political crisis by revoking the Muslim-majority territory’s limited autonomy.

Adnan Bashir, who owns a pashmina showroom on the banks of Dal Lake, one of Kashmir’s most renowned natural beauty spots, said that the months-long communications shutdown had severely undermined his business. “Around eight international orders were canceled because I was not able to contact the customer [due to the suspension of internet and mobile connectivity],” he said. One customer from Germany canceled a buying trip due to the military curfews. Bashir described his business’s condition as “critical,” and said he might have to look for another way to make a living.

Fahmeeda, a 67-year-old widow who asked that her real name be withheld, reluctantly sold her yinder last year for financial reasons. It had been a gift from her mother, she said, but she needed the money to buy medicine for her son. “This used to be a blessed craft for women like me,” she said, adding that she had supported her children with the money she made from spinning. “Last year, when Kashmir was under strict lockdown, I went out to purchase raw wool but soldiers chased me away by hitting me with their sticks,” she wept. She now works as a cleaner in a private school for RS800 (just over $10) a month—compared to RS2600 ($35) before the lockdown that began in August 2019.

A recent shortage of raw pashmina has dealt yet another blow to the industry. Ordinarily the wool is imported from Ladakh, which lies on the disputed and ill-defined border between India and China; but in June long-simmering political tension erupted in a military clash that left 20 Indian soldiers dead and caused the suspension of trade between the two regions.

The introduction of power looms presents yet another threat to the 600-year-old pashmina craft. Merchants and artisans led a protest in late June to demand a ban on these looms, which pose a threat to the livelihoods of thousands of Kashmiris. The 1985 Handloom Protection Act forbids the industrialization of pashmina production, said Muhammad Lateef Salati, an activist from a family long engaged in artisanal pashmina production. The government, however, has failed to enforce the law.

Industrially produced pashmina is often sold falsely as authentic traditionally produced wool—a practice that undermines the value of the brand. By failing to enforce the law against manufacturers of mass-produced pashmina, the government shows that it is “not serious” about protecting the craft, said Salati.

Some Kashmiris are trying to safeguard traditional pashmina production by empowering local artisans.

Murcy, the daughter of a family long engaged in traditional pashmina production who divides her time between New Delhi and Srinagar, recently launched Fair Share Cashmere, a socially conscious online business initiative to sell hand-spun shawls made by local artisans. She said that she pays traditional female spinners the highest rate the market will bear. “We have been successful in bringing eight women back to this craft,” she said, adding with a smile that this “feels like a victory.”

The decline of traditional pashmina production in Kashmir has created a vacuum of employment for women who could once depend on the income they made from spinning wool to ensure that their families were fed. Now they are unemployed and, for the most part, voiceless. Murcy is one of a handful of locals who are trying to preserve the remnants of a once-thriving artisanal craft, despite the enormous political and economic challenges.

The post ‘This used to be a blessed craft for women’: in Kashmir, artisanal pashmina weaving is disappearing appeared first on The Conversationalist.

In India, Hospitals Are Turning Relatives into Expert Caregivers

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 17/08/2021 - 6:00pm in

In India, a hospitalized patient is typically accompanied by a handful of family members who take days, sometimes weeks off to be of help to their relative, particularly if they move to another city for treatment. And yet, they are committed to waiting in the corridors or lounging on benches in the hospital’s outdoors. Walks to the pharmacy to purchase medicines for the patient and taking regular updates from the attending physician are some paltry tasks that interrupt their waiting routine.  

So, Shahed Alam and Edith Elliott, co-founders of the nonprofit Noora Health, had an idea: What if a patient’s family’s good intentions, concern and time at the hospital could be put to good use? They devised a simple training, to both help families assist their sick relative in the hospital and ease the transition to home care after discharge. At the same time, it would reduce familial anxiety about caring for the patient. 

In the seven years since its founding, Noora’s intervention has been scaled up massively in collaboration with state governments and is now operating in 156 hospitals in India and four in Bangladesh. 

An intervention

Created with the expertise of health and content experts, Noora’s Care Companion Program (CCP) trains nurses to deliver 30 to 60 minutes of actionable health information about caring for a recovering patient to cohorts of families during their relative’s hospital stay. Palatable formats such as videos, audios, animations, pictures and slogans are used to communicate the information in the local languages.

The need Noora aims to fill is huge. In India — which has 1.7 nurses per 1,000 people, compared to the world Health Organization’s recommendation of 2.5 — each nurse attends to eight to 10 patients per day on average. That means that patients have an extremely short window of time — on average 2.5 minutes — to learn about critical preventative care upon discharge. Studies show that about 40  to 80 percent of the medical information provided by a health care practitioner is forgotten immediately by the relatives and what is retained is often inaccurate or incomplete. 

That’s where Noora’s training comes in.

Take the case of Seethamma from the southern Indian village of Rattihalli. When her daughter-in-law passed away during childbirth, and she was in hospital with her prematurely born grandchild for a month, she attended Noora’s sessions several times. The information alleviated her anxiety and gave her the agency and confidence to raise her prematurely born granddaughter by herself, years after her own children had grown up. 

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Simple but critical activities such as washing hands before picking the baby, burping her properly after a feed and giving kangaroo mother care — critical skin-to-skin-care for a prematurely born child — were disseminated by a nurse using engaging content.

“Earlier, I didn’t even bother to wash my hands before eating,” Seethamma says in a video interview by Noora. But Noora’s team kept in touch with her family on WhatsApp for reminders of adherence and support for a long time. Seethamma shares her lessons with families around her. “Everyone should get to learn what I was taught.”

A study — still under peer review — looking at 11 Indian district hospitals shows that after Noora’s CCP intervention, skin-to-skin care increased by 78 percent and newborn readmissions reduced by 56 percent. 

Apart from maternal and newborn care, Noora’s CCP extends to oncology, cardiology, general medical and surgical care, where studies show similar results: patients in CCP-trained families show a 71 percent decline in post-discharge complications after 30 days of cardio-thoracic surgery, for instance.

“Noora’s program is kickstarting a cycle of health awareness and positive health behavior change that can last well beyond the doors of a hospital and has the potential to permeate several generations of a family,” says Rebecca Weintraub, an assistant professor of global health at Harvard Medical School and a former director at Noora. 

Alam says that since CCP is not a community level intervention, its reach is limited to supporting people when they are seeking care, and needs a basic health infrastructure to operate.

 According to Weintraub, Noora’s is a simple and cost-effective model that works to everyone’s advantage, from public health administrators to nurses, and families. She also believes the program could be implemented anywhere in the world. “The program can be taken across geographies,” she says. “While cultures and habits vary across the world, the feelings of worry, anxiety, love and care for one’s family are universal.” 

The post In India, Hospitals Are Turning Relatives into Expert Caregivers appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Minor Threats And Attacks – 45 years of political experience in India

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 15/08/2021 - 11:01pm in

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Born in a village in Jaunpur district in eastern Uttar Pradesh, Hari Lal after working in brick kilns on the East Pakistan border, plying rickshaw in Benaras, breaking iron in Bareilly...

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Washington, D.C. Turns a Parking Subsidy into a Transit Perk

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 04/08/2021 - 6:00pm in

Train for the job

Among America’s many nonsensical tax exemptions is the one for employer-paid parking, which encourages workers to drive to work alone. No wonder 81 percent of them choose to do so.

A tax exemption for solo drivers penalizes transit riders, contributes to inequity and is flat-out bad for traffic, cities and the climate. This is why last year, Washington, D.C. enacted the Transportation Benefits Equity Amendment, which requires companies that subsidize employees who park at work to also subsidize those who do not.

Washington’s law gives non-car commuters a cash payout equal in value to the employee parking subsidy, which recipients can use to, say, pay for a transit pass instead. It’s modeled on a similar California law that successfully decreased solo driving to work by 17 percent and increased transit ridership by 50 percent. The system, according to employers, was “cheap, easy to manage and fair.” Even the state made out like a bandit, collecting $48 annually per employee who took the cash payout because the cash, unlike cheap parking, is taxable.

Read more at Bloomberg CityLab

Budget concerns

The stimulus money funneled to U.S. cities and states by the American Rescue Plan has inadvertently led to a flurry of engagement between government and citizens, as many political leaders have found themselves with sums of cash they rarely see, and have turned to residents directly to ask them how they think it should be spent.

Alexandria, Virginia has created a hotline and web portal that constituents can use to suggest how they would spend the $60 million the municipality received. Cities in California, Michigan, Ohio and West Virginia have created similar channels of communication, through which residents have called for funding for job training, housing and broadband internet. In Charleston, West Virginia, one mostly Black neighborhood wanted funding to fix its food desert problem. Now the city is discussing how to spend some of its $37 million on expanding a local food co-op to that community. 

“Usually when we do something new, I like to look and see what other jurisdictions have done,” said one Alexandria official. “But we’re all going through this at the same time — we’re building the plane as we fly it.” 

Read more at Route Fifty

School first

Of the pandemic’s many unexpected side effects, one that unfolded in India took many by surprise: a surge in child marriages. Last summer, as the lockdowns were eased, child marriages there increased by 17 percent as families rushed to marry off girls before a full reopening so they could keep the weddings small and inexpensive.

One of those girls was Priyanka Bairwa from the district of Karauli, Rajasthan. But rather than accede, Bairwa refused to be married off. When she threatened to run away, her parents agreed to drop the marriage and let her finish school instead. 

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Now 18, Bairwa is the founder of Rajasthan Rising, an organization that helps girls in Karauli seek scholarships and avoid arranged marriages before they’ve graduated high school. The group holds informational sessions with girls in rural villages to make them aware of their constitutional rights, and lobbies state ministers to enact laws allowing girls to receive free education until they are at least 17. It has also organized protests outside the homes of families seeking to marry off their girls, which the group’s members say have stopped specific child marriages from occurring.

Today, Rajasthan Rising has grown from its original ten members to 1,200 strong. “Many villagers called us mad,” said Bairwa. “But we had a clear goal, to reach vulnerable girls in all 33 districts of the state and demand long-term change.” 

Read more at the Guardian

The post Washington, D.C. Turns a Parking Subsidy into a Transit Perk appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Beware of World Economic Forum/Gates UN Food Systems Summit Trojan Horse

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 26/07/2021 - 5:46pm in

The Gates Foundation and the WEF are steamrolling normal UN processes as part of a campaign to discredit sound agroecology practices.

Vaccine Certificates Are Making Global Travel Harder, Not Easier

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 16/07/2021 - 8:31pm in

Vaccine certificates were ostensibly rolled out to help facilitate cross-border travel as vaccination numbers increased. But thanks to vaccine geopolitics, the opposite is happening

Get There Fast or Safe? A Crowdsourced Map Gives You the Option

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 29/06/2021 - 6:00pm in

In 2015, when writer Geetanjali Krishna’s then teenaged son started traveling for soccer practice to different venues around New Delhi, she installed a safety app called My Safetipin on his phone and on hers.

Sometimes she let him cycle, or even walk on his own if the app assigned the neighborhood he was visiting or moving through a high “safety score.” If not, he would carpool with friends.

Then, a few years ago when she moved to a new neighborhood, she noticed that a portion of it was poorly lit and avoided by women walking in the evening. Krishna didn’t feel safe walking in the dark there either. She took the matter up with her locality’s Residents’ Welfare Association, and soon several streetlights were installed. Lighting, she realized, was central to her sense of safety.

“Ever since I used the My Safetipin app, I have become very conscious of lighting in public spaces,” she says.

Krishna is one of thousands of users literally putting safety on the map in countries from India to Indonesia to the United States.

My Safetipin — named after the simple everyday item often carried by women in India for self protection — collects and analyzes crowdsourced data to assign “safety scores” to streets and neighborhoods around the world. My Safetipin users download the app and rate areas they live in or visit based on several factors, ranging from how well the streets are lit to whether it’s a crowded neighborhood. Based on all the users’ data, the area receives a safety score on a scale of one to ten.

From there, My Safetipin acts like an alternative to Google Maps with users entering a destination to receive a recommended route. In this case, however — unlike Google Maps, which recommends the shortest and the fastest route — the app will recommend the safest route.

Anyone who downloads the My Safetipin app can rate a street or neighborhood. Upon logging in with a private username and selecting a location, a question appears on the screen: “How safe do you feel here?” 

 

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Then users can do a “safety audit” based on nine parameters. The “people” parameter, for instance, allows users to choose from “deserted,” “few people,” “some crowd,” or “crowded”; the “gender usage” parameter (presence of women and children) offers a range from “not diverse” to “diverse.” An option to upload pictures and specify an incident that occurred in a particular street or neighborhood allows users to further specify why they don’t feel safe.

Once, Krishna hadn’t checked the safety score of a neighborhood in Delhi’s Hauz Khas Village where she was meeting friends. When they came out to the parking lot around midnight, they noticed a group of men drinking around their car. “When I went on the app, I saw that the neighborhood had a poor safety score. I, too, gave it a bad rating,” she says.

Social entrepreneur Kalpana Viswanath co-founded the Gurgaon-based company that owns the My Safetipin app, which is backed by several organizations including The Asia Foundation, on the heels of the historic 2012 Nirbhaya rape case in New Delhi.

Viswanath wanted to put “data in the hands of women so that they are empowered to make decisions,” but emphasizes that this alone is not enough. “Technology is only an enabler to bring about change. Technology is not the solution,” she says, noting that the change needed to eradicate violence against women must happen at the policy, law, behavioral and educational levels.

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In some cases, Safetipin is prompting that change. The Delhi government, for instance, fixed streetlights in more than 5,000 dark spots identified in Safetipin data, according to a study by Safetipin, and reformulated the patrol routes of the Delhi Police. In Bogota, Colombia, the city government upgraded lighting and surveillance to improve the safety of women travelling on a 230-kilometer bike path.

Still, a lot of the work keeping users safe rests on the shoulders of those working behind the scenes. According to Safetipin associate Shreya V. Basu, a back-end team of analysts goes through every picture and data point from the crowd-sourced inputs to assign safety scores. Volunteers and partner NGOs also contribute safety assessments, and Safetipin filters in data from other apps they own, like Safetipin Nite, which captures images from the dashboards of users’ vehicles.

They also have to protect against tampering. If several nefarious users deliberately mark an unsafe neighborhood as safe, for example, analysts will immediately discern the discrepancies and send teams to assess and monitor the flagged street or neighborhood. So far, according to Basu, no such tampering has been detected. 

The demands of these processes point to the potential difficulty of scaling up the system. Raj Bhagat, a geoanalytics expert with the World Resources Institute in India, says that while he believes Safetipin has done a commendable job, he is skeptical of its benefits to individual users.

“Safetipin will need to have billions of users” to function with the accuracy of programs like Google Maps, he says. This number is a distant future for the app that, while currently operational in 71 cities across 16 countries, has just over 100,000 users, 58 percent of which are based in India, followed by the United States, the United Kingdom and South Africa, according to Basu.

Bhagat adds that “the app could be catering mostly to upper-middle and upper-class women who have access to smartphones and availability of time to report incidents, leaving a whole section of economically weak women out of its user base.” Basu says that while this digital divide is always a challenge with app-based solutions, the company works directly with low-income neighborhoods and communities to collect data through qualitative methods and bridge this gap. 

Still, people like Krishna remain loyal. Her daughter graduated from high school just before the Covid-19 pandemic. She is in college now, but hasn’t had a chance to go out since March last year. 

“I have asked my daughter and all of her friends to download the My Safetipin app once things open up,” she says.

The post Get There Fast or Safe? A Crowdsourced Map Gives You the Option appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Women’s Work in South Asia: trends and challenges

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 17/06/2021 - 11:01pm in

Although gender equality in employment is among the Sustainable Development Goals for South Asia, progress is hard to observe. Determined to explore why female employment levels remain low and stagnant, Varsha Gupta and Arun Balachandran of YSI’s South Asia Working Group organized a webinar series. Featuring eminent speakers such as Prof. Jayati Ghosh, Prof. Sonalde Desai, Prof. Jeemol Unni, Prof. Ashwini Deshpande, Dr. Dipa Sinha and Dr. Ramani Gunatilaka, the resulting conversations shed much-needed light on the topic.

Illustration by Aneesha Chitgupi, Coordinator of the South Asia Working Group

Employment is a subset of work

The series began on May Day, with an inaugural session by Professor Jayati Ghosh. Highlighting the low female employment figures in India, she explained the difference between employment and work, the former being a subset of the latter. A major proportion of women are involved in work, though it is not paid and hence does not get counted as employment. The 2019 Time Use Survey in India reaffirms that women in India spend 2.5 times more time than men in unpaid activities. The gender wage gap exists and is high in private casual work. The Covid-19 pandemic has made things worse, furthering the case for gender-sensitive economic policies. View here

The impact of COVID-19

The second talk by Prof. Sonalde Desai focussed on employment trends during the Covid-19 pandemic. She presented the latest research with the use of Delhi Metropolitan Area survey (March 2019-20). The decline in employment occurred majorly in wage employment. With the use of econometric techniques, the research finds that in absolute terms, job loss for men was severe in the first wave of Covid-19, while the second surge hit women harder in the Delhi NCR region, India. The closure of schools and the consequent child rearing duties was one of the reasons that women’s wage work fell. Highly educated women were more affected than men. Rural areas absorbed the impact of the pandemic better than urban areas. The gender difference in impact was found to be highly dependent on the sector of employment and region. View here.

Informal workers bear the brunt

Jeemol Unni’s session concentrated on the impact of the Covid crisis on women and domestic violence among members of the informal workforce. Globally, pandemics harshly affect women more, due to the sectors and the kind of work women are involved in. The majority of the women form the bottom of the labor hierarchy. With the use of CMIE and NSS data, it is seen that the second wave of Covid-19 and lockdown affected women’s employment more vis-à-vis men. Discouraged worker effect is also visible among women.  View here.

Prof. Ashwini Deshpande’s talk focussed on the gendered patterns in employment in India during first wave of the pandemic. The world over, the subsequent economic recession led to more unemployment among women than men, a pattern different from previous recessions. This is visible in India as well, in the 2020 CMIE data. The already gendered labor market in India, with fewer women employed, worsened further for females. Though the absolute figures for job loss are higher for men, the impact has been higher on women due to the pre-existing gaps. There has been exacerbating of women’s position in the domestic division of labor during August-December 2020. View here.

The potential of public employment

The penultimate session was featured Dr. Dipa Sinha highlighting the relevance of public employment in generating opportunities for female labor force in India. Nations with higher female LFPR are the ones which also have higher proportion of women in the public sector. In India, the NSS data shows that government is a significant employer for women. There is also sectoral concentration of women in health and education, where they are engaged as contractual or honorary workers (ASHA’s, Anganwadi Workers). Creating regular permanent positions in these sectors could encourage female employment. View here.

Education is not enough

Various facets of female employment in Sri Lanka were brought in by Dr. Ramani Gunatilaka from International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Colombo. While Srilankan women are better educated than their counterparts in other South Asian countries, they still remain disadvantaged in the labour market. As seen from a study led by Dr. Ramani on women’s activity preferences and time use, unpaid care and household work in Srilanka are mediated by social norms, and unequal division of unpaid work makes it difficult for women to take up paid work. View here.

Altogether, the webinars now form a virtual knowledge base on YSI’s YouTube Channel, making the insights available to young scholars all over the world.

About the organizers:

Arun Balachandran has a PhD in Economics from the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, in collaboration with the Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bengaluru. He is currently a Post-doctoral fellow at the University of Maryland, and serves as Coordinator of the YSI South Asia Working Group.

Varsha Gupta is a PhD student in Economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She using NSS data to assess issues of labor and gender, and serves as organizer for the YSI South Asia Working Group.

The YSI South Asia Working Group provides a platform for young scholars from South Asia -or those interested in the region- to select an issue they wish to work on, collaborate and discuss for better conceptualization of the problem and, debate, critique and improve upon solutions. We also invite scholars to suggest the most pressing problems and challenges to better guide the path for this working group. Join us!

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