First News
Volume:7, Number:37
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Pakistan to Conduct First Population Survey in 19 Years

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Pakistan’s information minister says the country is set to launch a national census for the first time in 19 years. Maryam Aurangzeb told reporters on March 12 that the census will start on March 15 and should be completed by May 15. Islamabad last conducted a census in 1998, which recorded a national population of approximately 180 million at that time. Analysts believe the figure has risen much higher, most probably crossing over 200 million. Aurangzeb says Pakistan’s ongoing fight against Islamic militants was the main reason for the long delay.

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World Faces Worst Humanitarian Crisis Since World War II

The United Nations is warning that the world is facing its worst humanitarian crisis since the end of World War II, with more than 20 million people facing starvation and famine in four countries. The world body’s humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien called on March 10 for an urgent mobilization of funds — USD4.4 billion by July — for northeastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen to “avert a catastrophe”. “Otherwise, many people will predictably die from hunger, livelihoods will be lost and political gains that have been hard-won over the last few years will be reversed,” O’Brien said in his stark warning to the UN Security Council.

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China Punished 63,000 Officials in Anti-graft Drive Last Year

China said on March 12 that its politically significant anti-graft drive gained a “crushing momentum” last year as 63,000 officials were punished with the number of prosecutions increasing by one third from 2015. China is in the middle of a sweeping campaign against corruption, which targets both high-ranking “tigers” and lowly “flies”. China’s court system concluded 45,000 graft cases in 2016, implicating 63,000 people, the report presented by Chief Justice Zhou Qiang said. The defendants included 35 former officials at the provincial and ministerial level or above, and 240 at the prefectural level, he said. Officials say that the number of prosecutions increased by one third compared to 2015.

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Glasses That Help “Locked In” Patients Speak with Their Eyes

Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking overcame amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a neurodegenerative disease that confined him to a wheelchair, to communicate his theories on black holes and quantum gravity using speech-synthesizing software operated with his cheek movement picked up by an infrared switch mounted on his spectacles. Now others with ALS and “locked in” patients — people with normal brain function with an inability to speak or use their limbs — will be able to do the same using a less complicated device. And at a fraction of the cost. Israeli researchers have developed a wearable device called EyeControl that uses eye movement and swipe technology on mobile phones to enable ALS patients to speak using only their eyes.

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Why You Feel the Urge to Itch When Someone is Doing It Around You

Ever wondered why you itch when someone scratches in front of you? It’s because scratching, just like yawning, is socially contagious, and not a psychological response as is popularly believed. Itching is highly contagious. Sometimes even its mention could make someone scratch, said lead investigator Zhou-Feng Chen, director at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, US. In the study, conducted on mice, the researchers found a chemical in the brain that makes them want to scratch when seeing someone else do it. Further, the findings, published in the journal Science showed that the behavior is hardwired in the brains, rather than a form of empathy with the original scratcher.

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