Stephen Hawking’s deathbed paper could prove multi-universes

ICMD, March 19, 2018 Stephen Hawking may have left behind clues to detect other universes in the cosmos besides our own in a final research paper submitted just weeks before his death earlier this week, a media report said on Sunday. One of the world’s best-known scientists, who died peacefully at his home in Cambridge aged 76 on March 14, set out the maths needed for a space probe to find experimental evidence for the existence of a “multiverse“. The paper sets out to prove the idea that our cosmos is only one of many universes, reports The Sunday Times. “This was Stephen: to boldly go where Star Trek fears to tread. He has often been nominated for the Nobel and should have won it. Now he never can,” Thomas Hertog, professor of theoretical physics at KU Leuven University in Belgium who co-authored the paper, told the newspaper. He was bothered by this for long The paper, entitled ‘A Smooth Exit from Eternal Inflation’, is now under review by a leading journal. It confronts an issue that had bothered the late British theoretical physicist since the 1983 “no-boundary” theory he devised with James Hartle, describing how the universe exploded into existence with the Big Bang. Under the theory, it instantaneously expanded from a tiny point into the prototype of the universe we see today — a process known as inflation. The problem for Hawking was that the theory also predicted that “our” Big Bang was accompanied by an infinite number of others, each producing a separate universe. This was a mathematical paradox that made it impossible to test the idea experimentally. “We wanted to transform the idea of a multiverse into a testable scientific framework,” explains Prof. Hertog. Finally, it will fade into blackness? This final paper by Hawking also predicts that the ultimate fate of our universe is simply to fade into blackness as all its stars run out of energy. While the scientific community delves into the insights offered in this final research paper by the genius, Hawking’s children are grappling with a bigger conundrum — how to manage the large numbers of well-wishers who would want to pay their last respects at his funeral, to be held in Cambridge later this month. Hawking, the author of A Brief History of Time, leaves behind two former wives, Jane and Elaine, and three children and is mourned by thousands of colleagues, collaborators and friends. The scientist’s life is also set to be commemorated with a memorial service at Westminster Abbey in London, an accolade reserved for exceptional individuals. This means his three children — Robert, 50, Lucy, 47, and Timothy, 38 — would have to compile invitation lists of more than 2,000 people. Invitees are expected to span the worlds of academia, showbiz and politics from around the world. Services will be done in church Despite Hawking’s atheism, the Cambridge service will be held in one of the city’s churches and the Westminster Abbey service will be a religious one with prayers and hymns. His family is yet to confirm whether the late scientist will be buried or cremated. Cambridge University is also deliberating on a permanent memorial to their famous Fellow. -- Courtesy PTI

Bangladesh Supreme Court cancels Khaleda Zia’s bail

ICMD, March 19, 2018 Bangladesh's Supreme Court on Monday halted the release of opposition leader Khaleda Zia on bail, deepening a political crisis ahead of a national election due in December. The top justices suspended a High Court's decision to grant Zia bail until May, prompting a sharp reaction from her lawyers who said it was part of a campaign by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to silence the opposition. “It is an unprecedented order in the judicial history of Bangladesh. We think it is not the decision of the top court, rather it is a government decision,” one of Zia's lawyers, Sanaullah Mia, told AFP. Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, secretary general of Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) said the order was a “reflection” of the government's desire to keep her confined during the election. “We've repeatedly said people are not getting justice in the country and the judiciary is controlled by the government,” Mr. Alamgir told AFP. The 72-year-old BNP leader was jailed for five years last month on charges of embezzling money intended for an orphanage. The three times former prime minister, now being held in a special jail, has consistently dismissed the charges as politically motivated. The BNP wanted Zia freed pending appeals before a high court so that she can lead the party's election campaign. Violence erupted in cities across Bangladesh after the guilty verdict on February 8 as BNP supporters clashed with police and ruling party activists. Zia, who entered politics in the 1980s after her military dictator husband was assassinated in a failed coup, also faces dozens of separate charges related to violence and corruption. Her party boycotted a 2014 national election in which Ms. Hasina was re-elected. The BNP is expected to contest the upcoming election however. Zia and her son were detained by an army-backed government in 2007 and spent a year and a half in detention pending trials for alleged corruption. -- Courtesy AFP

Modi Govt Has Mismanaged Jammu and Kashmir Problem: Manmohan Singh

NEW DELHI: ICMD, March 18, 2018 Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today accused the Narendra Modi government of "mismanaging" the situation in Jammu and Kashmir "like never before". The situation in Jammu and Kashmir is worsening by the day, said Dr Singh at the party's 84th Plenary session that's being held in New Delhi. Indicating the tensions inherent in the alliance of BJP and the PDP, parties with a huge ideological gap, Dr Singh said "they have installed a government where the two wings of the administration are working against each other". The BJP-PDP alliance - made necessary by the fractured mandate in the state following the 2015 assembly elections -- has been under strain over various issues on which the two parties have widely divergent views. The rift had been visible over PDP's promises of talks with separatists, the proposal to remove the AFSPA (the Armed Forces' Special Powers Act under which grants special powers to the army in insurgency-hit areas), the implementation of the Common Minimum Programme and even the roll-out of the government's flagship Goods and Services Tax. Last week, concerns were raised about the future of the alliance after the sacking of senior PDP minister Haseeb Drabu - the BJP's main conduit Mehbooba Mufti's party since the death of her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. The top BJP leadership summoned the state leaders to discuss possible repercussions on the alliance and mediate on ways to resolve the situation. Over the last two years, Kashmir has witnessed a spike in local sympathies for terrorists - villagers have protested every time anti-terror operations are on and refused to cooperate with security forces. Law and order has also taken a beating following the six-month long stone-throwing protests following the killing of Hizbul Mujaheedin terrorist Burhan Wani had all but shut down the Valley in 2016. India must recognize the "problems in Jammu and Kashmir" and ensure that these problems are "tackled and sorted", Dr Singh said. -- Courtesy NDTV

China urges US to ‘correct mistake’ on Taiwan

BEIJING: ICMD, MArch 18, 2018 China on Sunday called on the United States to “correct its mistake” after President Donald Trump approved new rules allowing top-level US officials to travel to Taiwan to meet with their Taipei counterparts. U.S. representatives can already travel to democratic Taiwan and Taiwanese officials occasionally visit the White House, but meetings are usually low profile to avoid offending China. The “Taiwan Travel Act”, which Trump signed on Friday following its passage in the US Congress, encourages visits between U.S. and Taiwanese officials “at all levels”. Washington cut formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1979 in favour of Beijing under the “one China” policy. But it maintains trade relations with the island and sells it weapons, angering China. China sees Taiwan as a renegade province and has long stated its desire for reunification. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the bill’s clauses, while not legally binding, “severely violate” the one China principle and send “very wrong signals to the ‘pro-independence’ separatist forces in Taiwan.” “China is strongly opposed to that,” Mr. Lu said in a statement issued on Saturday. “We urge the U.S. side to correct its mistake, stop pursuing any official ties with Taiwan or improving its current relations with Taiwan in any substantive way,” he said. In a separate statement, Chinese defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian said the act “interferes in China’s internal affairs” . China urges the U.S. to “stop pursuing any U.S.-Taiwan military ties and stop arms sales to Taiwan, so as to avoid causing serious damage to the bilateral and military relations between China and the U.S., and to the peace and stability in the Taiwan strait,” the statement said. The new U.S. law describes Taiwan as “a beacon of democracy” in Asia, and states that “Taiwan’s democratic achievements inspire many countries and people in the region.” Trump’s signature, announced late on Friday, comes amid increasing tensions between the mainland and the self-ruled island. Beijing has cut off official communications with Taipei because President Tsai Ing-wen refuses to acknowledge the democratic island as part of “one China”. The travel act also comes amid trade tensions between the United States and China as Trump mulls fresh measures that have raised fears of a tit-for-tat trade war. -- Courtesy AFP

Sri Lanka lifts nationwide state of emergency

COLOMBO: ICMD, March 18, 2018 Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena said on Sunday he had lifted a nationwide state of emergency imposed on March 6 after Buddhist-Muslim clashes. “Upon assessing the public safety situation, I instructed to revoke the State of Emergency from midnight yesterday,” Mr. Sirisena said on his Twitter feed. He declared a state of emergency to rein in the spread of communal violence after Buddhists and Muslims clashed in the Indian Ocean island's central district of Kandy. Two people were killed and hundreds of Muslim-owned properties and more than 20 mosques were damaged, media reported. Tension has been growing between the two communities over the past year, with some hardline Buddhist groups accusing Muslims of forcing people to convert to Islam and vandalising Buddhist archaeological sites. Some Buddhist nationalists have also protested against the presence in Sri Lanka of Muslim Rohingya asylum-seekers from mostly Buddhist Myanmar, where Buddhist nationalism has also been on the rise. -- Courtesy Reuters

Saudi to develop nuclear bomb if Iran does

ICMD, March 16, 2018 Saudi Arabia will develop a nuclear bomb if its arch-rival Iran does so, the Kingdom's 32-year-old Crown Prince said in a preview of a television interview released on Thursday. “Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible,” Prince Mohammed bin Salman told CBS in an interview that will be aired on Sunday. The Kingdom, locked in a tussle for influence with Iran across the Middle East and beyond, is stepping up plans to develop a nuclear energy capability as part of a reform plan led by Prince Mohammed to reduce the economy’s dependence on oil. The United States, South Korea, Russia, France and China are bidding on a multi-billion dollar tender to build Saudi Arabia's first two nuclear reactors. The world's top oil exporter has previously said it wants nuclear technology only for peaceful uses but has left unclear whether it also wants to enrich uranium to produce nuclear fuel, a process which can also be used in the production of atomic weapons. The government approved a national policy for its atomic energy programme on Tuesday, including limiting all nuclear activities to peaceful purposes, within the limits defined by international treaties. Reactors need uranium enriched to around 5% purity but the same technology in this process can also be used to enrich the heavy metal to a higher, weapons-grade level. This has been at the heart of Western and regional concerns over the nuclear work of Iran, Saudi Arabias arch-rival which enriches uranium domestically. -- TH

UK opens murder probe into death of Russian Nikolai Glushkov

ICMD, March 16, 2018 British police said on Friday they have launched a murder investigation into the death of London-based Russian businessman Nikolai Glushkov after an autopsy revealed that he died from compression to the neck. Counterterrorism detectives are leading the case “because of the associations Mr. Glushkov is believed to have had,” the Metropolitan Police force said. Russia’s top agency for major crimes, meanwhile, said it has launched its own investigation into Glushkov’s death, which it is probing as murder. Glushkov (68), was an associate of Boris Berezovsky, a Russian oligarch and strong Kremlin critic who died under disputed circumstances in 2013. Glushkov was found dead at his south London home on Monday. His death came a week after former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were left critically ill from nerve agent poisoning in the city of Salisbury. The London police force said “at this stage there is nothing to suggest any link to the attempted murders in Salisbury,” and they said there was no evidence that Glushkov has been poisoned. British authorities say the substance that poisoned the Skripals is a powerful Russian-developed nerve agent known as Novichok. A British police officer who responded to the attack in Salisbury is in serious condition, and police say 131 people may have come into contact with the nerve agent. U.K. police say “there are no wider public health concerns” around the investigation into Glushkov’s death. Britain has accused the Russian government of responsibility for Skripals’ poisoning and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Friday it is “overwhelmingly likely” that Russian President Vladimir Putin himself ordered the attack. Mr. Putin’s spokesman denounced the comment as “shocking and inexcusable.” In light of the Salisbury attack, British police are looking again at the deaths of more than a dozen Russians in Britain, including Berezovsky. After his death in 2013, an inquest failed to determine whether Berezovsky, who was found hanged at his home near London, had killed himself or died from foul play. Glushkov, a longtime associate of the oligarch, had worked for various Berezovsky enterprises including the car factory AvtoVAZ and flagship Russian airline Aeroflot. Russian media reported that Glushkov was granted political asylum in Britain in 2010. In 2017, a Moscow court reviewed Glushkov’s case and sentenced him in absentia to eight years for reportedly embezzling more than $122 million from Aeroflot. Last year, Glushkov appeared on a list published by the Russian Embassy in London of Russian citizens wanted for serious crimes whom the U.K. had refused to extradite. It said Russia had sought his extradition in 2015 “for committing a number of severe financial offences on the territory of Russia,” but the British government refused. -- Courtesy AP

FIFA lifts three-decade ban on Iraq hosting international matches

ICMD, March 16, 2018: FIFA has lifted its three-decade ban on Iraq hosting international football with the cities of Arbil, Basra and Karbala given the go-ahead to stage matches. “We are allowing international matches to be staged in the cities of Arbil, Basra and Karbala,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino told reporters after a meeting of the FIFA Council here on Friday. The three cities had been allowed to organise friendlies in the last year provided the security situation was "stable". Iraq will host Qatar and Syria for a friendly tournament starting on March 21 in Basra. "FIFA has given the green light for the resumption but the organisers of the championship must take the final decision," added Mr. Infantino. FIFA added that it cannot "yet" agree to a request from the Iraqi authorities to organise matches in the capital of Baghdad, but Mr. Infantino promised that the city's application would continue to be studied. For years, Iraq has been busily building stadiums and pressurising stars and the sport's governing bodies to help them return to the international fold. Friday's decision followed an international friendly between Iraq and Saudi Arabia in Basra on February 28, their first on Iraqi soil in 40 years. It was watched by Asian Football Confederation head Salman bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa who said "the time had come" to end the three-decade ban. Iraq has not played full internationals on home turf since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The ban, covering all but domestic matches, stayed in place after the US-led invasion of 2003 toppled dictator Saddam Hussein. It was briefly lifted in 2012, but a power outage during an Iraq-Jordan match in the Iraqi Kurdish capital Arbil led FIFA to promptly reinstate it. -- Courtesy AFP

Motion Pictures chief accused of sexual misconduct

ICMD, March 16, 2018 The president of the Academy of Motion Pictures, the body that hands out the Oscars, is being investigated for sexual misconduct, Hollywood trade publications reported on Friday. Two weeks after the annual Oscars ceremony, the Hollywood Reporter and Variety reported that the Academy had received three claims of sexual harassment against John Bailey, and had begun an investigation. They cited unidentified sources and did not give details. A representative for Bailey did not reply to a request for comment. In a brief statement, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said in a brief statement that it “treats any complaints confidentially to protect all parties. “The Membership Committee reviews all complaints brought against Academy members according to our Standards of Conduct process, and after completing reviews, reports to the Board of Governors. We will not comment further on such matters until the full review is completed.” It did not mention Mr. Bailey. Dozens of high-profile men have been fired or have resigned from their jobs in politics, media, entertainment and business after facing accusations of sexual misconduct, including Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein has denied having nonconsensual sex with anyone. Mr. Bailey (75), a married movie director and cinematographer who worked on films like “The Big Chill” and “American Gigolo”, was elected president of the Academy in August 2017. The issue dominated Hollywood's long awards season and the March 4 Oscar ceremony was marked by jokes, speeches about female empowerment and pledges to end harassment in the industry. Under Mr. Bailey's leadership, the Academy's board of governors last October expelled Weinstein as a member. It later drew up a code of conduct for its 8,000 members and developed an online form for them to submit claims of misconduct on the grounds of sexual behavior, gender, sexual orientation, race, age, and religion. According to the guidelines, claimants must supply evidence of alleged behavior and an accused person has 10 days to respond. Mr. Bailey told the annual luncheon for Oscar nominees in February that the 90-year-old Academy was reinventing itself with programs committed to inclusion and diversity. He said he was gratified that “the fossilized bedrock of many of Hollywood's worst abuses are being jack-hammered into oblivion.” -- Courtesy Reuters

Chemical attack: Britain expels 23 Russian diplomats

ICMD, March 14, 2018 Britain will expel 23 Russian diplomats in response to a nerve agent attack on a Russian former double agent in southern England, Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday, adding it was the biggest single expulsion in over 30 years. May told parliament Britain would also freeze Russian state assets wherever there was evidence of a threat and downgrade its attendance at the soccer World Cup this summer. Former spy Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were found unconscious on a bench in the city of Salisbury on March 4 and remain in hospital in a critical condition. May has said the pair was attacked with Novichok, a Soviet-era military-grade nerve agent. She had asked Moscow to explain whether it was responsible for the attack or had lost control of stocks of the highly dangerous substance. Russia has denied any involvement and May told parliament Moscow had provided no credible explanation for the attack. “There is no alternative conclusion, other than that the Russian state was culpable for the attempted murder of Skripal and his daughter, and for threatening the lives of other British citizens in Salisbury,” she said. “This represents an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom.” May said the expulsion of the 23 diplomats, identified as undeclared intelligence officers, was the biggest single expulsion for over 30 years and would degrade Russian intelligence capabilities in Britain for years to come. “We will freeze Russian state assets wherever we have the evidence that they may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents,” May said. She said no ministers or members of the royal family would attend the World Cup in Russia. Russia said Britain should expect retaliation for its actions.