French parliament eyes plan for govt to pay for all abortions

AFP Photo / Alain Jocard

AFP Photo / Alain Jocard

French lawmakers have passed legislation that will fully finance abortions for women and provide free contraception to minors. The bill is part of President Francois Hollande’s new social security budget and will come into effect in 2013.

On Friday, the French lower house of parliament passed a bill stipulating, “women who want to stop an unwanted pregnancy have the right to be covered.” The legislation will now go through to the Senate, where it is likely to be passed in November.

French Health Minister Marisol Tourine championed the legislation, and hailed its passage as a “historic move,” adding that the “act of abortion is never a trifling matter” for women.

Under the new bill, the French state will also provide minors with free contraception in the hopes of “lifting the financial barrier impeding girls younger than 18 from access to contraception.”

Under current French law, minors are the only group that receives full reimbursement from the National Health Service for abortions, while adult women are refunded up to 80 percent of abortion costs, often amounting to over 450 euros ($580). The new measures are estimated to cost the French taxpayer an extra 31.7 million euros ($50 million).

Feminist groups hailed the step as a significant advance for women’s rights in France.

“This is a very important move, especially for women who are in the most precarious position without health coverage,” family planning secretary Marie-Pierre Martinet said. She pointed to a general indifference to abortion by French doctors and hospitals as worrying, saying that there was a shortfall of medical centers offering abortion.

One prominent critique of the new bill was the government’s failure to address access to abortion services in France. President Hollande has pledged to eliminate the issue by obliging “every medical institution to open an abortion clinic.”

Jacqueline Fraysse, a member of the French Communist Party, decried the frequent delays for abortion services in French hospitals. He cited waiting lists of up to five weeks for the procedure, well beyond the recommended five days.

Moreover, some politicians have argued that tackling the lack of education among minors concerning safe sex would reduce abortion rates.

“The 100 percent reimbursement of abortion is a quick-fix solution, what needs to be improved is the accessibility to medical facilities and professionals because girls of 15 to 18 years don’t need contraception, what they need is information,” a general delegate of The National Network of Student Relations explained to French newspaper Le Figaro.


‘An explosion of abortions among minors’

In the run-up to the French presidential election in May of this year, then-candidate Hollande pledged to introduce the abortion amendments to the social security budget. Presidential rival Marine Le Pen of the right-wing Front National Party attacked the legislation, arguing it would lead to an “explosion of abortions among minors.”

However, according to data collected by the French Ministry of Health, the number of abortions for minors in France has steadily decreased over the few years. In 2011, 11,670 abortions for minors were carried out, compared to 11,930 in 2008 and 12,855 in 2006.

France is currently one of the only countries in the European Union that allows minors to have abortions without any parental consent and was also the first country to permit the use of RU-486, which terminates pregnancy by causing the embryo to detach from the uterine wall.

BJP Will Save Vadra, Congress Gadkari: Kejriwal

Activist Arvind Kejriwal today demanded that BJP chief Nitin Gadkari and Robert Vadra declare all their business interests and where all they own land in the country.

He said the probe against Gadkari by IT Department was an “eye-wash” as Congress and BJP were “hand in glove” trying to save each other.

“Vadra should publicise where all he owns land. What are his business interests? When did he buy this land and at what cost? Gadkari and Vadra should publicise all their business interests in the country and abroad,” he said.

On the Income Tax department launching a probe to trace the source of funding of various firms that invested in Gadkari’s company Purti Power and Sugar Limited, he said government has said that the IT Department would submit a report in a month.

“IT Act has no provision for such a probe. Is the government fooling people. Under the IT Act, you can raid under Section 132, or survey under Section 133 A or scrutinise under Section 143. What is the Government doing?

“Will IT find anything if it conducts raids or surveys? Raids are conducted in secrecy. This is how CBI conducts raids after grand announcements. And what happened to Robert Vadra? Does any agency have guts to even summon him or investigate him. He is so right. It’s a banana republic,” he said.

He also asked if the IT Department is probing Gadkari, why was it not investigating Vadra. “Are all these probes merely an eyewash? Time will tell. It would further prove that Congress and BJP are hand in glove,” he said.

He said media reports claimed that Haryana officers gave clean chit to Vadra.

“That was expected. Country would be surprised if it were otherwise. In Haryana, all good officers are shunted out. Those in key positions crawl when asked to bend. Now Congres will protect Gadkari and BJP will protect Vadra,” he said.

Kids Know Who the Bullshitter Is: Obama

Presidential battles may not always be fought with sweet talk but US president Barack Obama took his opponent bashing to another level when he termed his republican rival Mitt Romney a “bullshitter”.

The remarks that came in an interview to Rolling Stone magazine as a light-hearted aside has raised a few eyebrows.

Obama has repeatedly called Romney untrustworthy for changing his positions on important issues and even coined a new term for his condition — ‘Romnesia’.

This time, however, the President took it a notch higher when, responding to a suggestion on his popularity among kids, he said the young ones could see who was a ‘bullshitter’.

“You know, kids have good instincts,” Obama noted.

“They look at the other guy and say, ‘Well, that’s a bullshitter, I can tell,” the US President said.

Obama said this when the interviewer told him that his six-year-old had asked him to convey to Obama that ‘You can do it‘.

“That’s the only advice I need,” he said.

“I do very well, by the way, in that demographic. Ages six to 12? I’m a killer,” he joked.

The Obama Campaign later sought to clarify by telling journalists not to get “distracted by the word”.

“The President is someone who says what he means and does what he says,” spokesman Dan Pfeiffer said.

Jaya Blames DMK, UPA for Power Crisis

With Tamil Nadu reeling under acute power shortage, Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa today squarely blamed the Congress-led UPA and her arch rival DMK for the crisis but said load-shedding would gradually ease from next month and the state will be free of power cuts from end 2013.

Apparently concerned at her government receiving all round flak over the power situation, Jayalalithaa in a televised address on her AIADMK-backed Jaya TV, said new power projects scheduled to come into effect from November would ensure the existing load-shedding to decrease.

Lambasting DMK, she said the previous M Karunanidhi-led government had failed to have a progressive vision on power generation and added only 206 MW to the installed capacity.

Power shortage has turned out to be the major issue faced by the 18-month old AIADMK regime, with power cuts reportedly running into about 16 hours in many parts of the state.

The load-shedding in Chennai was recently increased to two hours from one hour to ease the situation in the districts to some extent.

Jayalalithaa said DMK had been having representation in the Union Government for the past seven years and neither its members nor Congress Ministers hailing from the state had ever taken up the matter with the Centre, she charged.

Blaming the Centre, she said her repeated pleas to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for allocation of 1,000 mw of power ever since she took over as Chief Minister last year had not been considered.

The centre had also “ignored” southern states including Tamil Nadu as regards setting up Transmission corridor.

She said despite the state signing agreements for purchase of 1,100 MW of power from other states, only 85 MW could be received due to congestion in transmission corridor. “Do you now understand who is the cause for this?” she asked.

However, striking a note of optimism, she said with some of the power generation projects scheduled to go on steam, load-shedding would decrease from next month.

“By November there will be good progress.. Load-shedding will be gradually withdrawn. By end 2013, I assure, the power cuts will end,” she said.

This, she said, will be done with the the people’s support and by God’s grace, “despite that Centre has deserted us.”

Elaborating on her charge against DMK, Jayalalithaa said her governments during 1991-06 and 2001-06 had added over 3,800 mw and the state was power surplus when she demitted office after the 2006 Assembly polls.

“Many projects envisaged by my government were not continued by subsequent DMK Government willingly and this was their first betrayal of the people of the state,” she said.

Further, DMK government did not ink any long-term power purchase agreements with other states resulting in high procurement price over short-term.

It also left the TNEB in a bad shape, financially, due to mismanagement, leaving a debt of over Rs 40,000 crore, she said adding this was DMK’s “second betrayal”.

“The DMK charges us with leaving the state in dark. They could have addressed the issue any time but they didn’t have the smallest of care. The Congress (led UPA) and DMK are responsible,” for the power shortage in the state, she said.

The Centre was also yet to respond on her demand to allocate 1,721 mw of power to be proposed to be surrendered by Delhi government, she added.

Professor held for sexually harassing singer on Twitter

A Chennai professor has been arrested for posting vulgar comments about singer Chinmayi Sripada and her mother on Twitter.

An associate Professor of National Institute of Fashion Technology has been arrested in connection with a complaint by well known singer Chinmayi Sripada of sexual harassment through a social networking site.

Professor held for sexually harassing singer on Twitter
Representational pic

Acting on her complaint on October 18, in which she alleged that certain individuals had passed vulgar comments about her and her mother on ‘Twitter,’ police registered a case under Sections 66, 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2005 and Section 4 of the Prevention of Women Harassment Act.

After investigation, the Cyber Crime Cell of Chennai Police arrested Saravana Kumar Perumal.

The man reportedly confessed to having committed the crime by using his mobile phone.

Two teams have been despatched to Coimbatore and Puducherry to pick up two others in connection with the case, police said.

After Malala shooting, Taliban threaten another Pakistani girl

The Pakistani Taliban have threatened to attack another schoolgirl for exposing their atrocities, the Dawn reported on Monday.

Hina Khan from Swat was on Taliban‘s hit list for publicly criticising their atrocities, the daily said.

Her family has claimed that despite repeated requests for security from the authorities, no protection was provided to them. They relocated to Islamabad a few years ago.

“But now I feel I would not be able to go to school in Islamabad as well after the renewed threats,” Hina, a Class 11 student, told the newspaper.

“I am more worried now because after the attack on Malala, a red cross on our door and subsequent threats to my family, has made us more insecure,” she said.

According to her father Raitullah Khan: “A few days ago when I came out of my house I saw a red cross on my gate but I removed it assuming it might have been drawn by some kids, but the very next day it appeared again, which really terrified me.”

“Next day, we received a call that Hina will be next after Malala,” the daily quoted Khan as saying Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province Oct 9.

She was on her way home from school when an attacker wearing police uniform stopped the school bus and opened fire at her. She was seriously injured.

She is currently undergoing treatment at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, Britain.

Amazing Wooden Scooter

Beautiful Hand-Made Wooden Vespa
The Vespa scooter has a classically appreciable shape. Portuguese craftsman Carlos Alberto managed to fashion one from laminated hardwood. The result is stunningly beautiful.

The Making of Wooden Scooter:-

The little scooter is based on an original Vespa which had fallen into complete disrepair, but using long-tested woodcraft techniques a flowing new body was constructed for the runabout. The main spine of the bike is fashioned from steam bent and laminated veneers upon which very nicely carved body work hangs. Even the package tray and seat are made from wood. We would have probably gone with a traditional seat, but that’s just cause we’re a bunch of softies like that. Realistically though, we’re betting this Vespa is now quite a few pounds heftier than when it started out, and the original was not known for its swiftness so despite it’s beauty it’s probably kind of a pig in the performance department. Then again, if something looks that good, we’ll give the zero to sixty times a pass.


India’s taxman catches up with elephants

India‘s taxman has finally caught up with the nation’s working elephants, with the owners of those working at temples, festivals or parties having to pay 12 per cent of their earnings in service tax.

India's taxman catches up with elephants

In India's autumn wedding season the number of ceremonial elephants can being 
city roads to a standstill 
Photo: ALAMY

Elephants are deployed throughout India as ceremonial beasts at weddings, auspicious reminders of the elephant God Lord Ganesha at temples and Hindu festivals like the Kumbh Mela, and as exotic children’s rides at birthday parties.

In India’s autumn wedding season the number of ceremonial elephants can being city roads to a standstill. For many they are an affordable treat – toy shops offer them for under £25 per hire as an upgrade on a party camel.

They are however big business. In Kerala alone, revenues from its 700 working elephants are estimated at just under £30 million per year.

Throughout India’s 28 states, the figure is believed to be several hundred million pounds per year. During peak demand, the going rate can rise to around £300 per day.

Now the Indian revenue authorities want their share and have ordered all enterprises hiring out elephants to levy a 12.36 per cent service tax.


Ten Creative Ways to Spend Less on Halloween

Costume swaps, repurposing outfits,and do-it-yourself projects can help cut costs

Children celebrating Halloween outdoors

Halloween is a tricky holiday for anyone on a budget: On one hand, it’s completely voluntary; no one needs a $50 Red Riding Hood outfit. On the other, it’s one of the most popular and widely celebrated holidays around: The National Retail Federation has found that more than 70 percent of Americans plan to celebrate this year, spending around $80 each.

So what’s a festive frugalista to do? Luckily, there are plenty of strategies for saving without sacrificing candy, costumes, or spooky décor. Here are 10 tips:

1. Swap costumes with others. Some towns, including Charlotte, N.C., participate in National Costume Swap Day, where families can trade gently used costumes. Writer and stay-at-home mom Emily Harris participated and got her daughter a dinosaur costume and son an Elmo costume for free, after turning in last year’s dragon and baby tiger. (Find out more at

2. Build costumes out of household items. “You can make a costume out of a garbage bag and coffee beans,” says The National Retail Federation’s Kathy Grannis. Pinterest offers plenty of ideas, along with instructions. Tin foil often plays a prominent role, either as headgear or wrapping.

3. Re-use last year’s costumes. Harris, who passes out candy to trick-or-treaters while her husband takes their two children around the neighborhood, wears the same outfit every year: a witch costume.

4. Buy costumes you can wear again later, in normal life. A denim studded jacket for a biker chick costume (just add tight black pants, a helmet, and short gloves) can be used again over dresses or dark denim, says Emma Starks of Copious, an online marketplace. Similarly, a tight, white, lacy cocktail dress can turn into a Madonna costume with the addition of a veil and extra bracelets and necklaces, and then can be worn without the accessories to a summer party next year, she says.

5. Don’t buy loads of candy. Some people stock up on Skittles and Hershey bars only to find that they get few visitors at the door, or none at all. Grannis says it’s also okay to simply turn your front light off and skip the trick-or-treat tradition altogether. “The rules have changed in recent years … It’s okay not to participate,” she says.

6. Grow your own décor. While pumpkins have proved challenging for Harris—she’s tried, only to watch them die, for three years in a row—she has successfully grown corn, which turns into easy decorations for the front door.

7. Skip the holiday-specific items. “It makes no sense to buy seasonal gear that you use only once a year,” says Starks. Instead of Halloween-themed bowls, for example, she suggests buying clear glass bowls that can work again at Christmastime, or decorating mason jars with washable paint and candles. “Store-bought signs and decorations look tacky, are expensive, and end up being clutter in your garage or closet,” she says.

8. Embrace DIY projects. Craft guru Martha Stewart recommends creating an ice bucket out of the bottom half of a scraped-out pumpkin. A paper cut-out of a ghost’s profile stuck on a door or mirror can be as scary as a store-bought one. Another option is to pour tonic water into drinks to make them glow under a black light.

9. Shop around for your pumpkin. Prices on those orange gourds can vary widely from store to store; a medium-sized one can cost as much as $20 or as little as $4 in city grocery stores. Also, consider taking a trip to a local farm, where pumpkins are often sold by weight and come with a hay ride.

10. Shop after Halloween is over. Stores are usually eager to unload Halloween-themed inventory as soon as the last trick-or-treaters are home for the night, and that means steep discounts on costumes, decorations, and even candy. If you have a place to store the goods at home for next year, you can save yourself some dough.


Starbucks debuts in India

US based Coffee giant Starbucks served its first cup of coffee in India, on October 19, 2012. The American global coffee company will serve a Cappucino Cafe Latte for between Rs 95 and Rs. 135 depending on the size of the drink, while iced beverages have been priced between Rs. 115 and Rs. 200.

Currently Cafe Coffee Day serves a Cafe Latte for between Rs. 78 and Rs. 85, with cold beverages costing between Rs. 100 and Rs. 133. Starbucks opened its first store in India on October 19, 2012 at Horniman Circle in South Mumbai. The company has opened its first store in the country in partnership with Global Beverages. The joint venture plans to open 50 stores by the end of 2013.

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