Lockdown effect: Diesel sales in August 14% lower than in July

Consumption of diesel in the first 26 days of August was 14.2% lower than the levels recorded in the same period in July, signaling that there – imposition of lockdown curbs in many areas has slowed industrial and commercial consumption.

While rural agricultural demand is now mainly driving diesel consumption, floods in Bihar and the northeastern states has moderated the speed of demand recovery. Muted sales of commercial vehicles is also not letting diesel sales rise.

On a year-on-year basis, diesel consumption fell 22.4% to 4 million tonne (mt) in the 26 days of August. Diesel sales alone contribute to around 40% of total consumption of petroleum products in India. The sales data for August is from retail outlets of state-run oil marketing companies, which run about 90% petrol pumps in India.

According to provisional data by the government’s Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell (PPAC), consumption of petroleum products fell 22.5% y-o-y to 56.4 mt in the April-July period. Sales of LPG was the only major product to register growth in the lockdown period, due to a government scheme of free cylinder refills for poor households. But sources said LPG sales dipped 3% y-o-y during August 1-26.

Mindtree’s old guard makes a comeback… as VC investors

The founders of IT company Mindtree are returning in a venture capitalist avatar, with their early-stage fund Mela Ventures making its first close of Rs 130 crore. The overall size of the fund is targeted at Rs 200 crore.

Former Mindtree chairman KK Natarajan, NS Parthasarthy are the managing partners of the fund. Former Mindtree CEO Rostow Ravanan will be on the investment committee.

The founders let go of executive responsibilities at Mindtree soon after a hostile takeover by L&T last year.

Six of the ten MindTree founders, including the three mentioned above, along with Subroto Bagchi, Janakiraman Srinivasan and Kalyan Banerjee have invested in the venture fund, while also raising funds from external investors.

“We will look to invest in the B2B and the tech space, since that is where our expertise lies,” said Natarajan.

The fund has already made makes first commitment to a startup in AR-VR space, he said.

Mela Ventures is a SEBI-approved Category-2 AIF fund for early stage companies.

The fund is backed by institutional investors, global technology leaders and startup investors.

“We are on a mission to build next-generation entrepreneurs out of India. Towards this mission, Mela Ventures will support early-stage companies using cutting edge technologies to build B2B solutions targeted at global enterprises,” Krishnakumar Natarajan, Managing Partner, Mela Ventures, said.

“We are extremely excited to get such an overwhelming response from investors even during challenging times. This gives us confidence that we have a right mission and are here with the right strategy,” he added.

Parthasarathy N.S, Managing Partner, Mela Ventures, said: “Many of our investors are technology professionals, who share the same passion as much as we do, for meaningful technology, startup community and building Indian entrepreneurs. We look forward to this new and exciting journey.”

The fund will focus on building a portfolio in areas, such as AI/ML, AR/VR, IoT, cloud migration and deep learning technologies.

IIT students watch their 3D avatars get degrees as convocations go digital amid lockdown

a group of people standing in front of a crowd

New Delhi: The students’ names were called out and they walked on to the stage, where the director stood waiting to hand them their degrees. The director delivered his traditional address too. The ceremony had all the trappings of a regular convocation, but it was actually just the closest-possible alternative IITs could organise for students inspite of pandemic.

Final-year IIT students in Bombay and Gandhinagar — robbed of their precious last few months in college, like thousands of others, but covid 19 lockdown — found some measure of solace Sunday as they were “handed out” their degrees in a live animation ceremony.

The participants were 3D avatars of the actual students and the ceremony was beamed live to their computers. And it created quite a buzz among students, who took to social media to post glimpses from the ceremony. 

“Even in online mode, the institute made sure to retain the feeling of the graduation ceremony for its students, right from the academic procession by the faculty members to invocation, Convocation addresses by the director and the chief guest, award of degrees and medals to their digital self, and convocation pledge followed by individual congratulatory messages from the IIT faculty and staff in various Indian languages,” a statement from IIT-Gandhinagar said. “The entire event was streamed online on IIT’s YouTube channel and Facebook page.” 

Mining company Rio Tinto executives lose bonuses over destruction of ancient caves

 a canyon with a mountain in the background

Mining giant Rio Tinto has decided to cut the bonuses of three executives over the destruction of 46,000-year-old sacred indigenous sites  in Australia.

Rio Tinto’s chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques will be losing a total of £2.7 million. Chris Salisbury, chief executive of iron ore, and Simone Niven, group executive of corporate relations, will also lose payouts of more than half a million pounds each.

These executives will remain in their roles.

“It is clear that no single individual or error was responsible for the destruction of the Juukan rockshelters,” said Rio Tinto chairman Simon Thompson.

“But there were numerous missed opportunities over almost a decade and the company failed to uphold one of Rio Tinto’s core values – respect for local communities and for their heritage.”

In May, Mining company Rio Tinto issued an apology after blowing up a 46,000-year-old sacred indigenous site with dynamites to expand Australia’s iron ore mine.

This mining company is one of the largest with vast operations in Australia. The iron ore mines account for more than half of its total revenue, and these ancient sites were above about eight million tonnes of high-grade iron ore, with an estimated value at the time of £75 million.

The site they blew up was situated in Juukan Gorge, in Western Australia state’s resource-rich Pilbara region. It had two cave systems which consisted of artefacts indicating tens of thousands of years of continuous human occupation.

According to CNN, grinding stones, a bone sharpened into a tool and 4,000-year-old braided hair were among almost 7,000 relics that had been discovered at the site. 

The site was demolished despite a seven-year legal battle by the local custodians of the land, the Puutu Kunti Kurama and Pinikura People, to protect the site.

The CEO of Rio Tinto Iron Ore, Chris Salisbury issued a statement on Sunday, which read: “We pay our respects to the Puutu Kunti Kurama and Pinikura People (PKKP).”

“We are sorry for the distress we have caused. Our relationship with the PKKP matters a lot to Rio Tinto, having worked together for many years,” the statement said.

“We will continue to work with the PKKP to learn from what has taken place and strengthen our partnership. As a matter of urgency, we are reviewing the plans of all other sites in the Juukan Gorge area.”

“At Juukan, in partnership with the PKKP, we followed a heritage approval process for more than 10 years. In 2014 we performed a large-scale exercise in the Juukan area to preserve significant cultural heritage artifacts, recovering approximately 7,000 objects,” it added.

Australia’s Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt condemned the “destruction” and said that it should not have occurred and ensure that it does not happen again.

He said: “The West Australian State Government needs to ensure that their legislation and approvals processes protect our Indigenous cultural heritage. It seems quite clear, that in this instance, the legislation has failed.”

Sushant Singh Rajput hired a special team to achieve his list of dreams. Details inside

Sushant Singh Rajput had a list of 150 dreams and hired a special PRO team to achieve them. His flatmate, Samuel Haokip, was a part of this team and also used to help Sushant with his legal matters as well as handling finances. Sushant Singh Rajput wanted 5-6 people who could help him achieve his list of dreams

a man looking at the camera: Sushant Singh Rajput had a special team of people to help him achieve his dreams.

Following were the members of Sushant Singh Rajput’s PRO team:

Samuel Haokip

Samuel Haokip met Sushant Singh Rajput through common friends. Sushant was looking for someone who has knowledge of law, which is why Haokip, who is a lawyer, became a part of his team.

Samuel Haokip lived with Sushant Singh Rajput for almost a year and left his house in July 2019, since he got a job in a law firm. It was Sushant Singh Rajput’s sister, Priyanka and her husband, Siddharth, who helped Samuel in finding the job. He left Mumbai and shifted to Delhi in order to continue with his law practice. He used to majorly focus on the actor’s film contracts, negotiating with producers, drafting contracts for house helps,and used to manage other people who used to work for Sushant.

Kushal Zaveri

He was with Sushant Singh Rajput since the actor’s television days. In a telephonic interview with Aaj Tak, he had shared that he was with the late actor during the shooting of Dil Bechara as well. However, he went to Goa for a personal project in 2018 and his contact with the actor decreased.

Siddharth Gupta

He is Vikas Gupta’s brother and was also Sushant Singh Rajput’s roommate for some time.

Abbas

He worked as the editor in the PRO team.

Gradually, all members got busy with their work and left Sushant Singh Rajput’s PRO team. Samuel Haokip was the last one left.

Sushant then reached out to one of his friends as he wanted to hire more people. It was here that Siddharth Pithani entered the picture, upon a friend’s recommendation. Samuel Haokip trained Siddharth Pithani and it was in April 2019 that Rhea Chakraborty entered the actor’s life.

Earlier, only Samuel Haokip and Sushant Singh Rajput were staying together along with the house helps, the cook, Keshav and housekeeper, Neeraj. Gradually, Rhea, as well as Siddharth Pithani, also started living there. Sushant had also called Dipesh Sawant, a friend of Abbas, to stay with him.

South Korea closes nightclubs, beaches as Covid-19 cases surge

South Korea ramped up coronavirus restrictions on Sunday to try to contain a growing outbreak, as many countries around the world battled worrying surges in infections.

The pandemic has killed more than 800,000 people globally, and continues to unleash destruction with areas such as Western Europe detecting spikes in infections not seen for many months.

Infections have soared past 23 million globally, and some countries are still facing their first waves — such as India, which crossed three million cases on Sunday.

South Korea, which had largely brought its outbreak under control, tightened curbs to try to contain a new, growing cluster of cases.

“The situation is very grave and serious as we are on the brink of a nationwide pandemic,” warned Jung Eun-kyeong, chief of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nightclubs, karaoke bars and beaches have been closed, with tight restrictions on large gatherings and religious services, after hundreds of infections were linked to Protestant churches.

Face masks will be mandatory in the capital Seoul’s public areas from midnight.

Lockdowns, social distancing and face masks are among the few options available to governments with no effective treatment or vaccine available yet.

India, which imposed one of the world’s strictest lockdowns, has relaxed it over recent weeks to help ease the pressure on its reeling economy.

But that has also led to a sharp rise in cases, taking its total past three million.

“We are seeing the virus spread across India,” said K Srinath Reddy from the NGO Public Health Foundation of India.

The World Health Organization, however, said Friday that the world should be able to rein in the disease in less than two years.

‘Don’t feel invincible’

Italy — once the European epicentre of the virus — said Saturday it had registered more than 1,000 new infections in the past 24 hours, the highest level since the end of a punishing lockdown in May.

The story is similar across Spain, Germany and France.

The Rome region also said it had recorded a record number of cases in the past 24 hours, a rise health officials blamed on people returning from holiday.

Most of those infected are young people who are not showing symptoms, the Italian capital’s health official Alessio D’Amato said, warning them to stay at home.

“Don’t feel invincible,” he urged them.

The virus lockdowns and social distancing measures have unleashed vast economic destruction and impacted all types of social activities, including sports games and concerts.

In Germany, a university has launched a series of pop concerts under coronavirus conditions, hoping the mass experiment with 2,000 people can determine whether large events can safely resume.

But with no vaccine yet, economies in hard-hit regions like Latin America are struggling to contain the staggering costs of the pandemic — with a rise not only in poverty but political turmoil and crime too.

US election crisis

The United States remains the worst-hit country in the world, with nearly 5.7 million infections and deaths approaching 180,000.

The run-up to the presidential election has been dominated by the coronavirus, with President Donald Trump facing intense criticism for his handling of the crisis.

The pandemic is set to impact the electoral exercise itself, with Americans expected to vote by mail in massive numbers instead of visiting polling centres.

But that has caused another political standoff, with the postal service warning most states it could not guarantee on-time delivery of mail-in ballots.

Trump — trailing his challenger Joe Biden in polls — has opposed more funding for the cash-strapped US Postal Service, acknowledging it would be used to help process ballots.

He has repeatedly and baselessly linked mail-in voting to election fraud.

Biden’s fellow Democrats in the US House of Representatives approved a $25 billion infusion for the USPS on Saturday, but it is likely to die in the Senate — which is controlled by the Republicans.

Claims over coronavirus vaccine availability in India false, will confirm once trial results are out: SII

The claim by certain media houses that Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine candidate COVISHIELD will be available in India in the next 73 days are “completely false and conjectural”, the Serum Institute of India (SII), the Indian partner of the AstraZeneca clarified on Sunday.

a close up of a bottle© Provided by Jagran EnglishThe SII said that the official confirmation on COVISHIELD’s availability in India will be confirmed only after the vaccine is proven immunogenic and efficacious in human trials which are currently underway across the country.

“The current claims over COVISHIELD’s availability in the media are completely false and conjectural. Presently, the government has granted us permission to only manufacture the vaccine and stockpile it for future use,” a statement from the Serum Institute of India shared by news agency ANI read. 

The statement further stated that the phase-3 trials for Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine candidate are currently underway and the vaccine will be commercialised in India only after successful trials and necessary regulatory approvals.

“COVISHIELD will be commercialized once trials are proven successful & requisite regulatory approvals are in place. Phase-3 trials for Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine are underway. Only once the vaccine is proven immunogenic & efficacious, SII will confirm its availability officially,” it said.

The clarification from the SII came after a report published by Business Today claimed that the Oxford University-Astra-Zeneca vaccine candidate will be commercialised in 73 days. The website cited a top official from the SII as there source of information.

“The government has given us a ‘special manufacturing priority license’ and fast-tracked the trial protocol processes to get the trials completed in 58 days. By this, the first dosing is happening from today in the final phase (Phase III) and the second dosing will happen after 29 days.

“The final trial data will be out in another 15 days from the second dosing. By that time, we are planning to commercialise Covishield,” an SII official was quoted as saying by the website in its report.  

toll on MSMEs: 1 in 4 at below half capacity

Nine out of every 10 of India’s 63.3 million small businesses (termed micro, small, and medium enterprises or MSMEs) have restarted operations after the lockdown necessitated by Covid-19, but only one in four is producing at least half its capacity — largely on account of poor demand, logistical issues, and their own financial troubles (at least half said they faced a liquidity crunch as of August 1).Workers sit on cotton bales being transported to a factory on a truck during an extended nationwide lockdown to slow the spreading of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. (Reuters)© Hindustan Times Workers sit on cotton bales being transported to a factory on a truck during an extended nationwide lockdown to slow the spreading of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. (Reuters)

“85% of MSME units operate from households and as their exposure to formal banking is almost zero, they are not able to take the benefit of the Centre’s liquidity package, which is linked to outstanding bank credit. The government should come out with a separate fund or fast-track MUDRA [Micro Units Development & Refinance Agency Ltd] loan for these people. For bigger MSMEs, e-marketing should be strengthened and a special fund for technology upgradation is required as many MSMEs want to invest heavily in technology,” said Tamal Sarkar, executive director of Foundation for MSME Cluster.

And as of August 6, four million MSMEs had been sanctioned around ~140,000 crore under the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme announced as part of the government’s ~20 lakh crore relief package, of which around ~95,000 crore had been disbursed.

The numbers highlight the toll the pandemic and the lockdown imposed to slow its spread (while the national lockdown ended on May 31, localised lockdowns continue across many parts of India as cases continue to rise) has taken on what is popularly described as the backbone of Indian industry — MSMEs.

The numbers are part of a presentation made by the ministry of MSMEs this week, and based on a survey conducted by National Small Industries Corporation.

India’s small businesses employ around 110 million people and accounted for almost half of India’s exports in 2019-20. According to the presentation, they also account for around 30% of GDP.

“If the MSME can’t produce, big industries would not be able to survive in India. To give just one example, India is the world’s largest producer of bicycles and 98% of bicycle parts are made by MSMEs. They are also a cost-effective way of production as one MSME’s scrap is raw material for another. The government must do everything to turn it around to revive the Indian industry,” said Gurmeet Singh Kular, president of Federation of Industrial & Commercial Organization (FICO).

Global stocks, dollar rise with U.S. economic data

Reuters: A jump in U.S. business activity and home sales helped push global equities and the dollar higher on Friday, counteracting earlier stock declines in Europe. Oil fell about 1%. The Nasdaq and S&P 500 hit record highs and the dollar broke an eight-week losing streak, gaining as weaker economic data in Europe weighed on the single currency. The fresh impetus came from a preliminary purchasing managers’ survey that showed U.S. business activity in August snapped back to the highest level since early 2019, data firm IHS Markit said.

Global stocks, dollar rise with U.S. economic data

Services and manufacturing indices also rose, even though new COVID-19 cases remain high across the United States. U.S. home sales data for July showed deals rising at a record pace for the second straight month, providing another glimmer of growth in the U.S. economy.

Friday’s data counterbalanced a steep rise in U.S. jobless claims on Thursday and Federal Reserve minutes on Wednesday that suggested the economy was beginning to stall, prompting investors to seek safe havens, said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors in Boston.”It’s not surprising to see a pick-up in manufacturing as the economy has started to reopen, even though pockets of the country have pulled back on their reopenings,” said Lindsey Bell, chief investment strategist at Ally Invest.

“It’s an encouraging sign and it supports the upside we have seen in the markets.”The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 190.6 points, or 0.69%, to 27,930.33. The S&P 500, which broke out of its bear market on Tuesday by recouping pandemic-related losses, powered up 11.65 points, or 0.34%, to 3,397.16. The tech heavy Nasdaq Composite added 46.85 points, or 0.42%, to 11,311.80. Among global shares, MSCI’s benchmark for global equity markets was off its lows for the day, rising 0.27% to 571.17.

Europe’s broad FTSEurofirst 300 index dropped 0.20% to 1,416.57. Meanwhile, the dollar index rose 0.63%.”Investors are exiting some of the more economically sensitive sectors of the market and going back to the old stalwarts of tech, where you get reliable growth,” Arone said of the rise in tech shares.

EUROPE DECOUPLED

Somber economic numbers earlier in the day in Europe, including eurozone data pointing to a faltering recovery, doused stock market gains in Asia overnight and also caused the euro to recoil further from recent peaks.The loss of momentum came after fresh numbers painted a muted economic outlook, with purchasing managers’ index releases from France and Germany as well as the wider euro zone falling short of expectations.

“The survey contains some strong evidence that the recovery has slowed in August, particularly in the services sector,” said Moritz Degler, senior economist at Oxford Economics. The euro fell 0.61% to $1.1787 and also ended down for the week, after seven weeks of gains against the dollar.U.S. Treasury yields declined for the week, showing the preference for safe-havens. The shift short-circuited last week’s rally and resumed the downtrend that has largely prevailed all year.

Analysts pointed to rising coronavirus infection numbers having tempered economic activity. On Thursday, France experienced a post-lockdown record in new infections, while countries across the region imposed fresh travel restrictions.Europe’s troubles weighed more heavily on oil, which lost about 1% on Friday on concerns about the global economic recovery, renewed coronavirus lockdowns and rising crude supplies.

Brent crude futures settled at $44.35 a barrel, down 55 cents, or 1.2%. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures settled at $42.34 a barrel, falling 86 cents, or 1.1%. Brent fell about 1% for the week, while WTI saw a weekly rise of nearly 1%.Spot gold dropped 0.3% to $1,937.69 an ounce. U.S. gold futures fell 0.12% to 1,934.60 an ounce.

WordPress developer said Apple wouldn’t allow updates to the free app until it added in-app purchases — letting Apple collect a 30% cut

  • WordPress is adding in-app purchases to its previously free iOS app after claiming Apple prevented it from making updates until the change was made, The Verge reported Friday.
  • WordPress’ founding developer said in a tweet Friday that Apple cut off developers from making updates to the app unless they started letting users buy domain names within the app — a service the app doesn’t currently include.
  • The Verge reported that WordPress agreed, meaning Apple effectively pressured a free app into monetizing itself, allowing it to take a 30% commission on future purchases.
  • Apple’s App Store policies, particularly its requirement that app developers use Apple’s payment systems and give the company a 30% cut, has frustrated developers for years — and recently, lawmakers who say it’s monopolistic behavior.
a close up of a wire fence: WordPress developer said Apple wouldn't allow updates to the free app until it added in-app purchases — letting Apple collect a 30% cut

Apple’s battle with app developers heated up again Friday after WordPress founding developer Matt Mullenweg claimed that the company locked developers out from making updates until it added in-app purchases to the free iOS app, The Verge reported.

“Heads up on why @WordPress iOS updates have been absent… we were locked by App Store. To be able to ship updates and bug fixes again we had to commit to support in-app purchases for .com plans,” Mullenweg tweeted Friday.

“I know why this is problematic, open to suggestions,” he added.

Mullenweg’s tweet referenced Apple’s policy requiring app developers to utilize the company’s own payment systems for any purchases made on iOS apps, of which Apple then takes a 30% commission.

The policy has drawn the ire of developers for years, but the crackdown on the WordPress app is even more controversial because the app doesn’t currently offer any purchases at all, and there’s not a good reason why it would.

WordPress, the hugely popular website builder that powers around a third of the internet, is open-source, meaning people don’t pay to create websites using it. WordPress.com, on the other hand, is a commercial entity that helps users create sites built on that open-source software, and it makes money by selling domain names and other paid website hosting and management services.

WordPress.com also develops the “WordPress” iOS app (that Apple took action against on Friday), which lets users create and manage WordPress-based sites for free — whether or not they pay WordPress.com for a premium domain name.

But because the app is developed by the commercial entity, Apple decided that WordPress.com needed to offer an option to purchase those premium domain names through the app — a 30% cut of those purchases would then go to Apple.

An Apple spokesperson told Business Insider that, per App Store policies, apps — including WordPress — operating across multiple platforms can let users access a service on their iOS app that they paid for on a different platform (such as a website), but the developers then have to offer the ability to purchase that service in the app, too.

That reasoning has angered the open-source community because the app itself is associated by users with the open-source WordPress project — not the paid services offered by WordPress.com — so they see it as unfair to force the developers to monetize a free app that isn’t designed to make money in the first place.

As Stratechery’s Ben Thompson put it in a tweet: “I am admittedly puzzled as to why Apple is denying me updates to the open source app for my open source web site because one user of that app happens to sell domains.”

Mullenweg told The Verge that WordPress has already agreed to comply with Apple’s demands and within 30 days will add in-app purchase options for the paid services offered by WordPress.com. Apple’s spokesperson told Business Insider the company approved WordPress’ latest update while they work on bringing the app into compliance.

Apple’s actions against WordPress come barely a week after Epic Games, the maker of the popular video game “Fortnite,” launched lawsuits against Apple and Google over the same in-app purchase policy (Google also collects 30% on purchases). The lawsuits have rallied several major app developers behind Epic, including Facebook, Spotify, and Match Group (which owns dating apps such as Tinder, Hinge, Match, and OkCupid).

The legal challenges thrust both Apple and Google back into the antitrust spotlight just weeks after their CEOs were grilled during a congressional hearing by lawmakers who argued the companies were unfairly using their size and market power to stifle competition and asked Apple CEO Tim Cook specific questions about how Apple treats developers.

Explained: Why the Kerala govt has taken control of an 800-year-old Church

Early on Monday morning, the Kerala government took control of Marthoman Jacobite Syrian Cathedral Church at Mulanthuruthy in Ernakulam district, which has been in the focus of a dispute between Jacobite and Orthodox factions of the Malankara Church, a prominent non-Catholic Christian community.

Take over triggered by SC verdict

The takeover has brought to the forefront a decade-long dispute between Jacobite and Orthodox factions of Malankara Church. The Church at Mulanthuruthy, built in AD 1200, has been managed by Jacobite faction, but as per a Supreme Court verdict of July3, 2017, its ownership should go to the rival Orthodox Church. 

The Supreme Court had upheld the validity of the 1934 constitution of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church to govern the parishes under the Church. Although the court verdict came on dispute over the ownership of two churches, it impacted over 1000-odd churches. The court verdict had given a clear upper hand for the Orthodox faction, which has been governed by the constitution of 1934.

Since the SC verdict, several churches under dispute have already been handed over to the Orthodox group despite stiff resistance from the bishops and laymen from the Jacobite Church. As the government delayed implementing the SC order due to political compulsions, the Orthodox Church moved various courts against the non-compliance of the order of the apex court.

Mulanthuruthy church

Established in AD 1200, the Marthoman Jacobite Syrian Cathedral Church at Mulanthuruthy is one of the ancient Churches in Kerala. The church is a fine example of Gothic architecture. The carvings, sculptures, symbolic icons and wall paintings, are a blend of Indian, West-Asian and European architecture. Most of the parishioners belong to the Jacobite faction.

Why a takeover now

In the case of the church at Mulanthuruthy, the Orthodox faction had moved a contempt of court petition, telling the Kerala High Court that their laity have been denied access to the church. The government cited the Covid-19 scenario and the monsoon havoc in the district as reasons not to take over the church as an action would demand mobilisation of force, now burdened by lockdown duties. After the single bench favoured the government stand, the Orthodox group moved a larger bench.

Rejecting the government contention, the division bench on August 12 issued an ultimatum to the Ernakulam District Collector that the church should be taken over within five days and submit a compliance report to the court. Hence, the takeover of the church in the early morning of Monday, when only a few hours have been left for executing the high court directive.

The district officials have to deploy police to remove the protesting bishops, priests and faithful of the Jacobite Church, who have been camping at the church premises since Sunday to resist the takeover. The church was locked from inside by the Jacobites, but police broke open the gates and evicted the protesting people.

Apple took just 2 years to add a trillion dollar to its market cap, but the next one won’t come easy

Apple Inc. has done it again. On Wednesday, just two years after becoming the first U.S. company to boast a trillion-dollar market valuation, it became the first to top $2 trillion. Getting to the next trillion may not be such a breeze. With its shares up roughly 60% this year, Apple is among the Big Tech winners that have benefited from a “safety premium.” Investors have piled in to the iPhone maker’s shares as well as those of other technology darlings – including Amazon.com Inc., Facebook Inc. and Google parent Alphabet Inc. –  betting their business models, robust balance sheets and large cash balances would make them more resilient amid the economic fallout from the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Indeed, Apple did post impressive June quarter financial results last month on the back of strong sales, a perfectly timed lower-cost iPhone launch and a boost from government stimulus. But it faces a more uncertain road ahead. First, Apple’s valuation now embeds elevated future expectations. To illustrate, Wall Street’s current consensus for Apple’s fiscal 2020 sales ending this September is just 3% higher than its revenue two years ago. And yet, the stock price has more than doubled in that time frame, resulting in a heady valuation of about 33 times the next four quarters’ earnings.

Apple’s lofty valuation leaves little room for disappointment, but the success of its upcoming slate of products isn’t a sure thing. In contrast to the cheaper iPhone SE model that boosted its June quarter, the company is going to have to convince consumers to buy higher-priced $1,000 iPhones when it launches new 5G-enabled models this fall. And these more expensive phones may be a tough proposition with tens of millions of Americans facing job insecurity. Further, I’m still skeptical there will be new apps anytime soon that will need the faster fifth-generation wireless speeds, making phone upgrades less compelling. Finally, according to a Bloomberg News report last week, it doesn’t look like there will be much innovation coming from Apple on the services front either – just a new virtual fitness-class subscription and some modest subscription bundles.

On top of all this, Apple is facing increased regulatory scrutiny over its dominant position in the smartphone market. In June, the European Union announced it had opened two formal antitrust investigations into Apple, with one of the probes specifically looking into the requirement guidelines of its in-app purchase system. Last month, CEO Tim Cook also had to defend the company’s App Store policies and high fee structure before a landmark House antitrust hearing as well. Obviously, if either of these global regulators clamp down on Apple’s business practices, it could negatively impact its profitability. 

There is no doubt Apple’s stunning ascent to $2 trillion is impressive. The climb to $3 trillion may be even more so, because it will be that much harder.

5 Easy Lifestyle Changes That Can Improve Your Health at Any Age

5 Easy Lifestyle Changes That Can Improve Your Health at Any Age

As you get older, it can feel more difficult to adopt new habits or break longstanding old ones—especially when it comes to your health. You tell yourself that you’re too old to take up jogging or that you missed the boat on yoga. There’s often a tendency to stick to what you know, doing the things you’re used to whether they are good for your health or not. But while age can play a factor in your ability to engage in some activities, making healthy lifestyle choices isn’t one of them. In fact, there may not be a better time than right now to start changing your ways. It could even mean adding years to your life.

For example, the researchers at the Johns Hopkins Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis observed the behaviors of more than 6,000 men and women between the ages of 44 and 84 over a period of seven years. In less than a decade, the team found overwhelming evidence that making healthy choices later in life had enormous benefits. Doing things like quitting smoking, following a Mediterranean diet, and getting regular exercise actually decreased an individual’s risk of death during the course of the study by 80 percent, the researchers said. With that motivation in mind, it’s time to cut out the excuses and get to work on these five healthy lifestyle choices you can make at any age. And for more things you can do to improve your health, check out 50 Important Habits Linked to a Longer Life.

1. Get some sleep.

Getting a healthy amount of sleep is essential at every age. That’s because, according to a 2020 research article from the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), sleeping restores and “fortifies virtually every system in the body.” And failure to get consistent and sufficient sleep has been proven to weaken the body’s immune system—and can even make some vaccines less effective, the NSF says. In other words, not exactly a risk you want to take during a pandemic. So, make sure you are getting the recommend seven to nine hours of sleep a night and talk to your doctor if you are having trouble. And for how your ability to rest changes as you age, check out 20 Ways Your Sleep Changes After 40.

2. Be more active.

While physical activity may feel like more of an uphill climb than it used to be in your younger years, it’s highly important that you don’t let your age prevent you from keeping active.

3. Keep your mind sharp.

It’s not only your body you have to keep in good shape, but your brain as well. And just like your body, your mind needs regular workouts. According to Harvard Medical School: “Challenging your brain with mental exercise is believed to activate processes that help maintain individual brain cells and stimulate communication among them.”

4. Quit smoking.

When it comes to the dangers of smoking—and the life-saving benefits of quitting—the stats speak for themselves. As soon as 24 hours after you stop smoking, Johns Hopkins doctors say you start to decrease your risk of having a heart attack. What’s more, quitting decreased middle-aged smokers’ risk of dying early by almost 50 percent. And for more helpful heart habits, check out 20 Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease This Summer.

5. Eat better.

According to Hillis, one of the best things you can do to help prevent dementia and lower several other health risks is to eat a Mediterranean diet. What does that mean exactly? Load up on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, and fish, while keeping red meat, sugar, and processed foods to an absolute minimum. And for more helpful information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Joe Biden officially nominated US presidential nominee by Democrats

Democratic Party on Tuesday officially nominated Joe Biden as candidate for US Presidential Elections 2020. Confirming the news, Biden tweeted, “It is the honor of my life to accept the Democratic Party’s nomination for President of the United States of America.”

Joe Biden wearing a suit and tie

Former Vice President Biden appeared on camera after he officially succeeded in garnering enough delegates to be declared the Democratic presidential nominee. “Well, thank you very, very much, from the bottom of my heart. Thank you all. It means the world to me and my family, and I’ll see you on Thursday. Thank you, thank you, thank you,” Biden said in his address to his supporters.

Biden ended the roll call with a total of 3,558 delegates, compared to 1,151 which went in Bernie Sanders’ favour. Notably, Biden and Sanders were the only two candidates nominated on the ballot. During the roll call, delegations from 57 states and territories exercised their franchise to nominate candidates based on the results of the presidential primaries. 

According to the News, this year, the roll call includes delegates, parents, teachers, small business owners, essential workers, activists and elected leaders inside businesses, living rooms and in front of iconic landmarks.

Before the roll call, former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton offered their support for Biden.

“When I ran for president in 1976, Joe Biden was my first and most effective supporter in the Senate. For decades, he has been my loyal and dedicated friend,” Carter said. “Joe has the experience, character, and decency to bring us together and restore America’s greatness. We deserve a person with integrity and judgment, someone who is honest and fair, someone who is committed to what is best for the American people.”

India announces $500 million infra project, $250 million financial aid for Maldives

With its eye on China, India on Thursday committed to Maldives a five-pronged package including infrastructure worth $500 million, a direct cargo ferry service, creation of an air travel bubble, uninterrupted supply of essential commodities and additional financial aid of $250 million to help the cash-strapped economy.

These were among the key takeaways as External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar held a detailed meeting with Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid.

Former President of Maldives Mohamed Nasheed, who is currently Speaker of Majlis (Maldives’ parliament), took a dig at China for their debt-trap diplomacy. “The super low cost development assistance announced by @DrSJaishankar today is exactly what Maldives needs. Genuine help from a friend, to help us build critical infrastructure. Rather than eye-wateringly expensive commercial loans that leaves the nation mired in debt. @PMOIndia,” he tweeted, referring to Chinese loans to the previous Yameen government.

Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih called it a “landmark moment”, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “Our special friendship is, and will always remain, as deep as the waters of the Indian Ocean.”

Responding to a request from the Maldives government, New Delhi decided to support the implementation of Greater Malé Connectivity Project (GMCP) through a financial package consisting of a grant of $100 million and a new line of credit of $400 million.

This will be the largest civilian infrastructure project in Maldives, connecting Malé (the capital) with three neighbouring islands — Villingili, Gulhifalhu (where a port is being built under Indian line of credit) and Thilafushi (new industrial zone) – by construction of a bridge-and-causeway link spanning 6.7 km.

“Once completed, this landmark project will streamline connectivity between the four islands, thereby boosting economic activity, generating employment and promoting holistic urban development in the Malé region,” a statement by the Ministry of External Affairs said.

On the direct cargo ferry service between India and Maldives, Jaishankar told his Maldivian counterpart that it will commence shortly. The service is expected to enhance sea connectivity and provide predictability in supplies for importers in Maldives and exporters in India. Shahid tweeted, “The cargo ferry service between Cochin-Kulhudhuffushi-Male will also bring immense development to the north of the Maldives.”

The air travel bubble between India and Maldives is expected to facilitate movement of people for employment, tourism and medical emergencies. Maldives is the first neighbouring country with which an air bubble is being operationalised.

“The air bubble symbolizes India’s support to shore up tourism arrivals and revenues in the Maldives. Health protocols in both countries will be strictly followed,” the MEA statement said. The first flight under the air bubble is expected on August 18.

Jaishankar also conveyed the decision to renew quotas for supply of essential commodities to Maldives for 2020-21. The commodities include food items as well as river sand and stone aggregates. “The quotas assure food security, and supply of essential construction items, and thereby provide certainty and price stability for such essential items in the Maldives,” the statement said.

Given the challenges faced by Maldives due to the Covid-19 situation and India’s commitment to assist Maldives in its economic recovery, Jaishankar told Shahid that New Delhi has decided to extend in-principle urgent financial assistance to the Government of Maldives by way of a soft loan arrangement.

Jaishankar tweeted, “Warm and fruitful discussion with FM @abdulla_shahid of #Maldives. Agreed that the #COVID19 pandemic has brought the two nations even closer. We will be reliable partners in meeting both aspirations and challenges.”

Shahid tweeted, “Connecting for Connectivity! A warm, fruitful, extremely productive meeting with EAM @DrSJaishankar today! The already robust and dynamic #MaldivesIndia-Partnership continues to strengthen, even during the pandemic! Agreement on several key initiatives moving forward.”

The interaction was part of regular high-level exchanges between India and Maldives.

According to MEA, Shahid conveyed gratitude for the financial assistance of $250 million being extended by India. He said this would help revive the Maldivian economy which is grappling with the impact of the pandemic.

Bipartisan resolution introduced in US senate China on aggression against India

A bipartisan resolution was introduced in US Senate Thursday that seeks to condemn China’s use of military aggression to change the Line of Actual Control with India and calls for a diplomatic solution.

Senators John Cornyn (Republican) and Mark Warner (Democrat) moved the resolution that “condemns the People’s Republic of China’s use of military force to change the status quo at the Line of Actual Control, as well as its refusal to de- demarcate that Line in accordance with past bilateral agreements with India.”

And it calls for a “ diplomatic solution that rapidly restores the April 2020 status quo at the Line of Actual Control”.

Without specifically mentioning the Indian ban on Chinese apps, the resolution seeks to “commend India for taking steps to secure its telecommunications infrastructure from Chinese security threats and seeks a commitment to to “deepening defense, intelligence and economic ties” between the United States and India and supports bilateral and multilateral partnerships such as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, “to promote a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific”.

“The June 15 conflict between China and India, resulting in the deaths of approximately 20 Indian soldiers, should set off alarm bells regarding the PRC’s provocative actions in disputed territory,” Warner said in a statement.

He added: “This resolution condemns PRC’s actions to change the Line of Actual Control, especially in the midst of diplomatic negotiations between the two countries; and encourages the two nations to find a diplomatic resolution that restores the April 2020 status quo at the LAC.”

“I commend India’s commitment to standing up to China and maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said Cornyn. “It is more important than ever that we support our Indian partners as they defend against Chinese aggression.”

Protected wetlands in Mauritius marred by oil spill boasts mangrove forests, coral species

The oil spill off the coast of Mauritius has imperilled protected wetlands that boast rare mangrove forests and scores of fish and coral species.

The bulk carrier MV Wakashio, which struck a reef on July 25, has spewed more than 1,000 tonnes of fuel near two of Mauritius’ three “Ramsar sites”, named after the international convention to preserve wetlands.

Thankfully, salvage crews on Wednesday finished removing all the fuel that was in the vessel’s tanks, though another 100 tonnes remained on board elsewhere.

Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth has warned, however, of a high probability that the 300-metre (984-feet) vessel will break up.

a body of water surrounded by trees: Mangroves used to be distributed all over the island but deforestation for hotel construction has left narrow belts in the North and in the West and thicker zones of trees on the Eastern coast. By 2003, the mangrove cover in Mauritius was estimated at around 2000 ha. Image credit: Yo Nature

Blue Bay

Trace amounts of oil have been found at Blue Bay, a 353-hectare (872-acre) Ramsar site featuring 38 species of coral including spherical “brain coral” that is more than a century old.

That oil was “immediately contained” as part of clean-up operations, said Sunil Dowarkasing, a former Greenpeace strategist and environmental expert assisting in the clean-up.

But a larger intrusion could deliver a hefty blow to the site abutting tourist-friendly Blue Bay Beach, he said.

“If Blue Bay Marine Park is polluted then we are going to lose a jewel for Mauritius,” Dowarkasing said.

Blue Bay’s mangroves, seagrass meadows and macro algae provide a habitat “for about 72 fish species and the endangered green turtle, as well as a nursing ground for juvenile marine species”, the Ramsar Convention notes on its website.

Pointe d’Esny

The shallow, brackish waters of the 22-hectare Pointe d’Esny site feature a mangrove forest, mud flats, threatened plants and native butterflies.

The area is more protected than Blue Bay, with a coastal road separating the mangroves from the nearby lagoon.

But mangrove roots are prone to trap oil, Dowarkasing warned, rendering Pointe d’Esny especially vulnerable if there is extensive intrusion.

Mauritius’ third Ramsar site, the Rivulet Terre Rouge Estuary Bird Sanctuary, is located on the opposite side of the country’s main island and is not threatened by the spill.

Covid-19 latest updates: 3 Indian vaccines under trial, Russia to allow civilian use this week

Pharmaceutical companies in India and around the world are putting in great efforts to treat the coronavirus disease which has infected more than 20 million people so far.

Many scientific studies are also being done as part of efforts to find treatments and vaccines for Covid-19, the illness caused by the Sars-CoV-2 virus.

A total of 26 vaccine candidates are being developed, according to the World Health Organisation, as a process normally taking up to 15 years has been squeezed into a matter of months.

Here’s everything you need to know about the global efforts being made to find a vaccine fast for Covid-19:

• In India, an expert committee on vaccine administration will meet on Wednesday to consider “logistics and ethical aspects” of procurement and administration of vaccines against Covid-19, the Uniomn health ministry said today. The committee will be chaired by NITI Aayog’s Dr VK Paul. The coronavirus disease has infected more than 2.2 million people and killed over 44,000 in India.

• According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), three Indian vaccines are in different phases of clinical testing at present. Two of these vaccines – Bharat Biotech vaccine and DNA vaccine of Zydus Cadila have completed phase 1 and will begin phase 2 clinical trials, said the ICMR.

• Oxford vaccine, being manufactured by Serum Institute of India (SII) got approval for phase 2 and 3 clinical trials, which are starting within a week at 17 sites, the institute said.

• Karnataka’s deputy chief minister Dr CN Ashwath Narayan said on Tuesday that the state government is very keen to establish an Immunology and Vaccine Research Centre in Bengaluru in collaboration with the Emory Vaccine Centre of Atlanta University.

• Serum Institute of India (SII) had said last week that it has entered into a new partnership with international vaccine alliance Gavi and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to accelerate manufacturing and delivery of up to 100 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines for India as well as other low and middle-income countries. SII CEO Adar Poonawalla told a TV channel that the company will start manufacturing the vaccines by end of August.

• Globally, Russia is racing ahead to allow civilian use of a potential coronavirus vaccine before clinical trials are complete. The government plans to give a vaccine developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute conditional registration as early as this week, which would open the door to civilian use. This has led an industry body to call this rush dangerous for the common people. Yet less than 100 people had officially received the inoculation against the epidemic by early August and its widespread use could be dangerous, the Association of Clinical Trials Organizations said in a letter sent to Health Minister Mikhail Murashko on Monday.

• Meanwhile, Moderna has become the first company in the world to begin phase 3 testing of its coronavirus vaccine. The tests are being carried out at its facilities in the United States. The tests started on July 27 and the company plans to enroll 30,000 study subjects.

• Pfizer too started its combined phase 2 and 3 study on July 27 and hopes to enroll 30,000 volunteers by September. The company’s CEO Albert Bourla said they have vaccinated more than 2,000 people by first week of August.

Apple iPhone 12 likely to arrive in October: Here is everything you need to know

A few days after Apple confirmed that it won’t unveil the upcoming iPhone 12 series in September, a new report reveals that the smartphone would arrive in October. Noted tipster Jon Prosser has listed down the release dates of not only iPhone 12 but also the speculated iPad and Apple Watch. Although the dates leaked by the tipster are not confirmed by Apple, Prosser in his Twitter post has claimed that he had never gotten a product announcement date wrong.

As per Jon Prosser, the Apple iPhone 12 launch event would be held on October 12 while the pre-overs would take place later that week and the shipping would take place in another week. Prosser says that the iPhone 12 would be announced on October 12 while the shipping would start from October 12. Whereas the iPhone 12 Pro devices would go on sale somewhere in November, the exact dates of which is not known.

Not only iPhone 12, Prosser has also revealed that the Apple Watch Series 6 and the Apple iPad will be launched on September 12. The company would not hold any special launch event for the iPad and Apple Watch, the launch would be announced via press release. The leaker also claimed that he never gets product announcement dates wrong and also shared the list of Apple products that were launched on the dates leaked by him. As per Prosser, he got the launch dates of iPad Pro, iPhone SE, MacBook Pro and iMac right.

Last month, the company revealed that the iPhone 12 would not be unveiled in September as speculated. During a conference call, Apple’s Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri confirmed that the release of the new iPhones have been delayed by a few weeks. He was quoted by TechCrunch as saying, “As you know, last year we started selling new iPhones in late September. This year, we project to supply to be available a few weeks later.” Chipmaker Qualcomm too had hinted at the delay of 5G Apple iPhones.

Without naming either the brand or the smartphone, Qualcomm revealed in its Q3 earnings report that “a partial impact from the delay of a global 5G flagship phone launch.” Notably, Apple and Qualcomm had entered into a $4.5 billion deal, Apple will use Qualcomm’s 5G modem for its upcoming devices and the delay in the release of the new iPhones would also impact Qualcomm’s business.

Apple is expected to launch Apple MacBook, Apple iPad, Apple Glass, Apple Power along with the iPhone 12 series this year.

Now, foreign investors allowed to invest in ‘Alternative Investment Fund’ without PAN

In what has come as a relief to non-residents investing in category I and II alternate investment fund (AIF) located in International Financial Services Center (IFSC), the income tax department has amended rules to exempt such entities from obtaining permanent account number (PAN) on a mandatory basis.

The carve-out for such investors from section 139A of the Income Tax Act is contingent on non-residents not earning income other than from said funds. Additionally, these funds are also required to deduct TDS on such income.

Further, the exempted non-resident investors are also required to furnish declaration containing name, address, country of residence and tax identification number of the country or specified territory of their residence. Among other conditions, to avail the relaxation, the funds are required to furnish quarterly statement for non-resident investors in the newly notified format.

Sunil Gidwani, partner at Nangia Andersen LLP, said, “The demand for exemption has been based on the fact that the fund operating from IFSC would be withholding tax payable by the investors. This would go a long way in making it easy for the fund managers to attract foreign investors in a fund set up in IFSC and would give impetus to IFSC as a fund jurisdiction.”

Under section 139 of the Income Tax Act, any person who has earned taxable income in the previous financial year must apply for PAN.

Want to invest in government securities? Here is how you can do it!

If you want to buy government securities or G-secs, what better way to do it than buy it on NSE app! The NSE goBID is a mobile app and web platform for investing in government securities in primary market. It provides a facility for eligible retail investors to participate in auction of government securities on noncompetitive basis. Through this platform investors can invest in Treasury Bills (T-Bills) and GoI Dated Bonds.

 How to register on NSE goBID platform? 

Eligible retail investors are required to complete one time registration on NSE goBID platform. Investors can select from any two options available for registration: 

1. All eligible retail investors (individuals, firms, corporate, trusts etc as specified by RBI) who are clients of NSE trading members (stock brokers) can sign up by selecting their respective trading member. Trading members of NSE are permitted to offer their clients use of goBID platform for placing order. If a trading member is registered on goBID platform his name will be available for selection. 

Investors will be required to provide basic details like PAN, demat account details, mobile number and email at time of registration. The account is activated in one business day after e-verification of demat details and client account details with selected trading member. 

Portals to link job-seekers and employers a good idea, also offer reskilling opportunities

While the economy continues to grapple with the economic consequences of Covid-19, the worst affected are the youth, facing mass unemployment and loss of jobs. According to data compiled by CMIE, about 41% of people aged 15-29 were out of work in May; 27 million people aged 20-30 had lost their jobs in April. Even before the pandemic started, India’s economic growth was sluggish, and youth unemployment rates were record high. The job losses due to the pandemic have only exacerbated the situation, and this is going to have severe long-term implications unless there is immediate and effective policy intervention.

The recent launch of Rozgar Bazar portal by Delhi government and the upcoming Unnati portal of the NITI Aayog are welcome steps in this direction. These portals intend to make job opportunities available to the youth, who lost employment due to the lockdown. They allow employers to update job requirements and job-seekers to update qualifications and experience. While this can definitely serve as a great medium to bring job-seekers and employers on one platform, to ensure a better and improved matching of vacancies with the unemployed, it must be complemented with efforts to address skill mismatches in the labour market. As per the government estimates, less than 5% of India’s workforce is formally skilled. Workers in the manufacturing sector particularly have staggering levels of under-education.In 2011-12, in textile and clothing sector alone, around 54.5% people with no formal education, close to 66% with below primary education and 53.7% with primary education held jobs that require higher education levels. On the other hand, close to 82% with secondary education, 76.5% with higher secondary education, 47.8% graduates, and 45.2% postgraduates held jobs requiring lower education levels.

Skilling and education are central for enhancing the employability of the rising workforce, but they would become even more important following the pandemic. Many countries are ramping up their efforts to source and curate jobs through job-matching services in order to restore jobs lost due to lockdown. Workforce Singapore (WSG), a statutory board under the ministry of manpower, Singapore, through its career-matching services, managed to match 10,000 local residents with suitable jobs over the first half of this year, taking its number of placements to be similar to the same period last year, despite the labour market being hit badly due to Covid-19. WSG complemented its job-matching efforts with a range of programmes and resources to support the career development of the job seekers, at no cost. Infosys Ltd, in partnership with pymetrics-the leader in fair talent matching-recently launched the ‘Reskill and Restart’ solution to reskill the American workforce and fulfil employment needs. While these career/talent matching services, like India’s job-matching portals, bring job-seekers and employers on one platform, they also complement it with reskilling, career-coaching, workshops and networking events, supporting workers by familiarising them and upgrading their skills to meet the changing employment needs. This also enables employers to review the available talent pool for the right match effectively.

The world of work, post Covid, will transform, and so would the kind of jobs available for the youth. Recently, while addressing the Digital Skills Conclave on the World Youth Skills Day, the PM emphasised on the need to “Skill, Reskill and Upskill” for surviving in the rapidly changing business environment. Industry 4.0 had begun to transform the world of work even before the outbreak. The pandemic has only accelerated the process. From remote working becoming the new norm to a global reappraisal of the care economy and forced digitalisation and increasing automation, the change would have otherwise taken years. Employers globally are struggling to deploy people with the required skill set, whereas a huge number of displaced workers with limited skills are striving to regain livelihood. We, therefore, need to strengthen our skilling ecosystem today so as to enable workers to regain income and meet their career aspirations by securing quality jobs on the one hand and addressing the needs of employers and firms by providing them with the requisite talent for them to stay competitive on the other. While it is definitely important to provide a platform to the workers who have lost jobs to regain employment, it is equally important to address the persisting and ever-widening skill gaps in the labour market.

Former President Pranab Mukherjee Tests Positive For COVID-19

Coronavirus India Updates: In a tweet, Pranab Mukherjee, who was India’s president between 2012 and 2017, urged all those, who have come in contact with him in the last week, to isolate themselves as a precaution and get tested for COVID-19.

New Delhi: 

Former President Pranab Mukherjee this afternoon said that he has tested positive for coronavirus. In a tweet, Mr Mukherjee, who was India’s president between 2012 and 2017, urged all those, who have come in contact with him in the last week, to isolate themselves as a precaution and get tested for COVID-19. The outbreak has affected over 22 lakh people in the country.

“On a visit to the hospital for a separate procedure, I have tested positive for COVID19 today. I request the people who came in contact with me in the last week, to please self isolate and get tested for COVID-19. #CitizenMukherjee,” the 84-year-old Congress leader tweeted today.

India’s coronavirus tally crossed 22 lakh cases this morning with over 62,000 new patients recorded in the last 24 hours, the government said today, adding that more than 44 thousand deaths linked to the highly contagious illness have been recorded since the beginning of the pandemic.

Over 15.3 lakh Covid patients in the country have recovered so far, the Union Health Ministry said today. The recovery rate stood at 69.33 per cent this morning. 

This is the fourth consecutive day that India has recorded more than 60,000 fresh infections in a day. More than 2 lakh cases have been recorded since Thursday (August 6) when the country’s coronavirus cases passed 20 lakh, just three weeks after crossing the 10 lakh mark. 

China-US ties plunge further over Hong Kong sanctions

China on Saturday slammed the United States for imposing “barbarous” sanctions in response to Beijing’s crackdown in Hong Kong, capping a dramatic week of deteriorating relations between the world’s two biggest economies.

In the toughest US action on Hong Kong since China imposed a sweeping new security law on the territory, Washington on Friday imposed sanctions on a group of Chinese and Hong Kong officials — including the city’s leader Carrie Lam.

The move came after President Donald Trump’s administration forced Chinese internet giants TikTok and WeChat to end all operations in the US, in a twin diplomatic-commercial offensive set to grow ahead of the US presidential election in November.

China on Saturday criticised the sanctions as “barbarous and rude”.

“The ill intentions of US politicians to support people who are anti-China and messing up Hong Kong have been clearly revealed,” Beijing’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong said in a statement.

The Treasury Department announced it was freezing the US assets of Chief Executive Carrie Lam and 10 other senior officials, including Luo Huining — the head of the Liaison Office.

It accused the sanctioned individuals of being “directly responsible for implementing Beijing’s policies of suppression of freedom and democratic processes”.

The move criminalises any US financial transactions with the sanctioned officials.

In a short statement, Luo said he welcomed the blacklisting.

“I have done what I should do for the country and for Hong Kong,” he said. “I don’t have a dime’s worth in foreign assets.”

The Hong Kong government described the sanctions as “shameless and despicable”.

“We will fully support the Central Government to adopt countermeasures,” it said in a statement.

The city’s commerce secretary Edward Yau warned that the “savage and unreasonable” sanctions could have blowback for American businesses in Hong Kong.

China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office said the sanctions list “rudely tramples on international law” and “will be nailed to the historic pillar of shame forever.”

Facebook barred Lam and the 10 other sanctioned officials from advertising on the platform, with a spokesperson saying Saturday it had “a legal obligation to take action.”

Tensions spike ahead of election

Beijing’s security law was imposed in late June, following last year’s huge pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, sending a political chill through the semi-autonomous city.

Since then, Hong Kong authorities have postponed elections, citing the coronavirus pandemic, issued arrest warrants for six exiled pro-democracy activists and launched a crackdown on other activists.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the security law violated promises made by China ahead of Hong Kong’s 1997 handover that the city could keep key freedoms and autonomy for 50 years.

“Today’s actions send a clear message that the Hong Kong authorities’ actions are unacceptable,” Pompeo said in a statement.

The US measures come three months ahead of the November election in which Trump, who is behind his rival Joe Biden, is campaigning hard on an increasingly strident anti-Beijing message.

As public disapproval has grown for his handling of the pandemic, Trump has pivoted from his previous focus on striking a trade deal with China to blaming the country for the coronavirus crisis.

After Beirut, alert out for ammonium nitrate, TN stockpile on radar

A 740-tonne consignment of ammonium nitrate lying at a Chennai port Customs warehouse since September 2015 has set alarm bells ringing after Tuesday’s catastrophic Beirut blast. An estimated 2,750-tonne stockpile of ammonium nitrate, stored reportedly for six years in a port warehouse, blew up killing over 100, injured over 5,000 and ravaged the Lebanese capital city.

Referring to this blast in a note, the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) has “urgently directed” Customs and its field formations to “immediately verify and confirm within 48 hours that any hazardous and explosive material lying in warehouses and ports across the country meets all safety and fire standards and presents no danger to life and property.” After the Beirut blast, the Chennai stockpile, sources said, was the red flag for the alert. A senior Customs official said that “ways to shift out the ammonium nitrate at the earliest” are being explored.

“There’s some difficulty in taking action keeping safety regulations in mind. We are going through details. The e-auction will be conducted as per law…like for any other confiscated or seized goods or goods which are lying for a long time,” the official told The Indian Express.

The stockpile at Chennai port relates to a case involving the seizure of an import consignment of Karur-based Sri Amman Chemicals five years ago. The company had, in September 2015, filed for Customs clearance for the chemical packed in 37 containers, with the declared assessable value of Rs 1.80 crore claiming for use as fertiliser inputs.

The company claimed it had the required licence for the import while Customs authorities alleged misclassification and resultant evasion of duty after which the Madras High Court, in November 2019, ruled in favour of Customs authorities.

Result: the ammonium nitrate consignment continues to be stocked with Customs.

In a tweet Thursday PMK leader S .Ramadoss flagged this: “There is a risk of a similar explosion due to ammonium nitrate in the Chennai warehouse. To prevent this, the ammonium nitrate explosive substance in the warehouse should be safely disposed of and used for other purposes such as composting.”

In a statement Thursday evening, Chennai Customs said that the seized cargo is at a container freight station at Manali, 20 km from the city with no residential locality within 2 km. “The seized cargo is securely stored and safety of the cargo and the public is ensured considering the hazardous nature of the cargo…the disposal of the said cargo will be done within a short period, following all safety measures,” it said.

The Central government had, in July 2011, declared ammonium nitrate as an explosive under the Explosive Act, 1884, after which the CBIC issued Ammonium Nitrate Rules, 2012, for its import/export.

AMMONIUM NITRATE:

Import of ammonium nitrate — or any combination containing more than 45 per cent of ammonium nitrate by weight — including emulsions, suspensions, melts or gels (with or without inorganic nitrates), and classified under Explosives Act, 1884, is subject to license from Chief Controller of Explosives.

In the Chennai case, Customs said the company had just a P-3 licence for possession and sale of 1000 tonnes of the chemical but not the P-5 licence it needed for its import. Customs authorities also alleged that some actual users/firms to whom Sri Amman Chemicals sold ammonium nitrate were explosive dealers.

Queries e-mailed to Sri Amman Chemicals did not elicit a response.

In its petition in the Madras High Court, the company said that it had applied to the Chief Controller of Explosives, Petroleum & Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) for a P3 licence which it got in December 2014.

It applied to PESO for a P5 licence in August 5, 2015. The company claimed that PESO, without putting it on notice or hearing its view, passed an order on August 19, 2015 rejecting its application but by then, the 740 metric tonnes of ammonium nitrate had already arrived at Chennai.

In its order, the court referred to explosions in various parts of the country in which ammonium nitrate was a common ingredient. It noted that as per the police, over four years since 2013, nearly 16,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate went missing. The Court ruled that accumulating smaller quantities of ammonium nitrate would result in gathering larger quantities in the hands of “unknown and unidentifiable” persons and such trade would not be in interest of national security, adding that the authorities rightly rejected the claim of the company for a P5 licence.

Ammonium Nitrate is not an explosive by itself but is one of the ingredients used for manufacture of explosives. It is classified as an oxidizer as per UN classification for Dangerous Goods. Other ingredients like fuel, etc., have to be added to make it an explosive and for such explosive mixtures to explode, initiators like detonators are required.

Bagheera’s Shadow

The pictures of Saya (Shadow) going viral means nothing,” says Shaaz Jung, a professional wildlife photographer, cinematographer and big cat specialist, who, after tracking and documenting leopards for 10 years in Nagarahole National Park, became an overnight sensation with his pictures of Saya, a melanistic tiger.

He explains why he sounds dismissive of the pictures being shared by the who’s who of the celeb world. “These pictures should mean nothing because we live in a digital age where the power of social media is huge. I clicked these two and a half years back and today, there is a story which is packaged well. The internet needs something every day and found this. The photographer’s job is to be at the right place at the right time and click the picture.” He gives credit to the forest department for working to ensure that enthusiasts can get a glimpse of these animals and the locals for safeguarding the forests against the fire.

He has grown up amidst the jungle as his parents ran a wildlife lodge close to Bengaluru. Jung, who is related to three royal families, — the Pataudis, the Nawab of Hyderabad and Bhopal — first heard about Saya in 2015. “Melanism in leopards takes place because they lack the gene which regulates colour. He is double recessive which means he has an abundance of melanin and that is why he is black. It is not a different species, as many believe,” he says of the leopard which many have compared to Bagheera from The Jungle Book. What made the find unusual was that melanistic leopards are usually found in extremely thick and dense jungles, like Malaysia, where they’ve been documented with trap cameras. “What made Saya very unique was that he was thriving in a forest where he didn’t belong against the odds of natural selection,” says Jung. There are several reasons which makes the survival of a melanistic leopard in South India difficult. “For six months, the forest is dry, making it next to impossible for him to camouflage and hunt. Moreover, a black coat ensured that he absorbed heat so, in summers you would see him becoming thin and extremely sleek where his ribs would show,” he explains. However, Saya was aware that he was different. “These animals perceive colour differently. It comes from the heightened sense of awareness that its survival depends on it. This made him twice as aggressive. He often courted several females at the same time — something which was never seen before,” says Jung. Since his black coat made him much easier to be spotted by prey, Saya used the shadows to his advantage, sometimes lying completely flat and almost lifeless in shade — which has been captured by Jung for a National Geographic documentary, The Real Black Panther.

Tracking the melanistic leopard taught Jung the art of being patient. “We spent hours in the park in search of him and we felt lucky if we saw Saya once a week. This sighting could last 15 seconds or couple of minutes or if he was on a tree, a couple of hours. There was always an element of luck and that is the beauty of wildlife. It is unpredictable and that is what draws me to it. Wildlife writes its own script,” says Jung thoughtfully.

Jung, an Economics graduate, gave up a corporate career in favour of staying in the jungle, as he believes he was not cut out for it. “I was creative. I loved being in nature. I was a people’s person. I wanted to use my language skills to raise awareness,” he recalls. He headed to his family lodge, saw a leopard which reignited his love affair with the forest which had been brewing since childhood. “While tracking leopards I discovered new corners of the jungle and different species. I started learning more from animals than humans. I could have never understood the lessons I learnt by being in nature’s lap. I changed and was aware of my surroundings. I became a better person. That’s what made me stay on,” he says. He started guiding people on safaris. “It was a beautiful experience when people who’d never seen an elephant or a leopard or never switched off the car to listen to the birds did so for the first time. They came upset due to their environment and I just loved watching the way they transformed during their stay.”

Jung keeps on going back to the forest as it makes him feel insignificant. “It is important to feel small because that keeps us grounded. I come to the city and I see materialism and economic growth being prioritised at the cost of environmental damage,” he says and points out that Nature is way more powerful than we credit it to be. “I see the human race down on its knees due to a tiny organism. That’s the power of nature. This organism has destroyed economies and completely changed who we are,” says Jung who elaborated on the concept at a webinar organised by WeWork recently.

But there are lessons to be learnt. “We should emerge as a wiser and a stronger race from this pandemic. But most important, as a more educated race, that values nature.”

No Promotion For MBBS Students Without Exams: Medical Council of India

The Board of Governors of the Medical Council of India (MCI), medical education regulator, said in an advisory that no batch should be permitted to move to the next level of the MBBS course without an examination.

New Delhi:

The Board of Governors of the Medical Council of India (MCI), medical education regulator, said in an advisory that no batch should be permitted to move to the next level of the MBBS Course without an examination. The Board in supersession of MCI, after considering various representations received from students, colleges and universities raising various queries about reopening of medical colleges and conduct of university examination, has released an advisory today after a meeting through video conference held last month.

The advisory also said the colleges should aim to complete the first MBBS course (including practicals, lab, demonstrations etc.) within two months of reopening of the colleges as and when permitted by the government, and, thereafter, the first MBBS university exams should be completed as soon as possible, preferably within a month.

The pending supplementary examinations for final year MBBS students which were scheduled during the first half of 2020 should be conducted as soon as possible, as the students are waiting to appear for the examinations having completed the course once already and need not have to wait for the formal reopening of the colleges, the advisory said.

Such students will be joining the medical colleges or hospitals for doing internship just after passing final exams, it added.

“Regarding the conduct of 2nd/3rd (Part 1) and Final year MBBS examination for 2020, the time required for completion of the course would depend on the timing of the re-opening of the medical colleges,” it said.

The Board of Governors anticipated that as for the first year MBBS students, these students would also need about two months to complete the remaining course curriculum and training.

“Consequently, the University exams for 2nd and 3rd (Part 1) MBBS students may have to be delayed by two to three months beyond their scheduled dates,” it said.

It also advised that relaxations provided for the conduct of final year postgraduate examination in terms of the appointment of examiners and the exam patterns, would also be applicable for the conduct of MBBS University examinations.

Army begins process to grant Permanent Commission to women; candidates to submit applications by 31 Aug

New Delhi: The Indian Army has kickstarted the process to grant Permanent Commission to eligible women officers, nearly two weeks after the defence ministry approved the proposal.

Officials said the Army headquarters has invited applications by 31 August for grant of Permanent Commission (PC) to women officers recruited under Women Special Entry Scheme (WSES) and Short Service Commission (SSC).

“Consequent to the receipt of formal Government Sanction Letter for grant of PC to women officers in Indian Army, the Army headquarters is in the process of convening a special number selection board for screening women officers for grant of PC,” said an Army statement.

The officials said women officers who have joined the Army through the WSES and SSC are being considered for grant of the PC.

Last month, the Ministry of Defence issued an order for grant of PC to women officers in the Army.

In a landmark judgement, the apex court in February directed that all serving women officers recruited under the short service schemes will have to be considered for PC.

Officials said 10 streams where PC of women officers are being made available include army air defence, signals, engineers, army aviation, electronics and mechanical engineers, army service corps and intelligence corps.

At present, the Army offers permanent commission to women officers in two branches — judge advocate general (JAG) and education.

Under SSC, women officers are initially taken for a period of five years, which is extendable up to 14 years. Permanent commissioning will allow them to serve till the age of retirement.

The Army recruits women officers under SSC for streams like air defence, engineering, signals and services and they can serve up to a maximum of 14 years.

The three services have allowed permanent recruitment of women in select streams including medical, education, legal, signals, logistics and engineering.

The women officers recruited through the SSC in the IAF have the option of seeking permanent commission in all streams except the flying branch.

The Navy has allowed permanent commission of women in a host of departments such as logistics, naval designing, air traffic control, engineering and legal.

Bars are becoming the increasingly common places for coronavirus outbreak

Another day, another Covid-19 outbreak traced back to a bar. In what seems to be a daily occurrence now as more countries and cities re-open their social drinking establishments, bars are increasingly solidifying their reputation as prime coronavirus transmission hot spots.

Bar outbreaks have since happened in France, where one 19 year old with Covid-19 managed to infect 72 of his friends by partying at a bar in the small town of Quiberon. Just in the last few days, 16 people were diagnosed with Covid-19 after hundreds rushed into the pub in Stone in England. Hundreds more who were at the pub had to be tested with many results still pending and the outbreak triggered a rush of closures of other business in the small town. Numerous other countries have reported bar outbreaks, including the United states, Spain and  South korea.

In many places, mask mandates are in place to require face coverings in inside public environments such as grocery stores, public transport and other retail environments. The aim is to reduce droplets exhaled by a person being passed on to someone else. Yet bars and restaurants have been excluded from this for rather obvious reasons – you can’t eat or drink through a mask and if you can, your mask is probably not doing very much to prevent transmission of the coronavirus to others. So we mandate masks in places where people typically spend less time in than they do in bars, but they open the bars anyway and just hope for the best.

NASA’s Perseverance Rover Launched on Ambitious Mission to Mars

NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover lifts off from Cape Canaveral on july 30,2020.Also the rocket provided by United Launch Alliance is the technology experiment Ingenuity Mars Helicopter

Perseverance is a Mars rover manufactured by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for use in NASA‘s Mars 2020 mission. Nearly identical in design to the Curiosity rover, Perseverance will carry seven scientific instruments to study the Martian surface at Jezero crater, 23 cameras in total, and two microphones. The rover will also be accompanied by the helicopter Ingenuity, which will help Perseverance to scout for locations to study.

ON THURSDAY MORNING, NASA launched its new Mars rover, Perseverance, on a six-month journey to the Red Planet. The car-sized rover was boosted into space atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket that departed from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It’s the third and final Mars mission to depart Earth this summer; earlier in July, China and the United Arab Emirates also launched their first Martian explorers.

Perseverance will enter the tenuous Martian atmosphere going more than 10,000 miles per hour, which means that as it slices through the air it will experience temperatures of nearly 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit. “The heat shield really takes the brunt of hitting the atmosphere,” says Tice of the lander’s protective structure. But if it works as it’s supposed to, inside its protective casing the rover and its sensitive equipment will never experience temperatures much warmer than a hot summer day in the desert. This is because the ablative heat shield dissipates heat as its layers are burned off.

If there was ever life on Mars, these samples may very well prove it. It would be a monumental discovery that would fundamentally change our understanding of life as we know it—and it all starts today.

“Importance of persistence in one’s life”

Well, everyone could answer what’s the exact meaning of persistence? it’s nothing but the continued or prolonged existence of something, or have a clearly defined goal stick to it assign yourself with a meaningful tasks to complete the goal with the given specific period of time. But, this little word has got a lot of thing to add in one’s life.

Persistence means being a leader in your own successful life, not a follower. Don’t follow trails, blaze them. Of course, that means you must know where you’re going. having persistence in any area of life can take you to greater heights but persistence without a plan is not worth it, a right planning, a good schedule, a learning mind, along with a good peer group are the factors responsible for your productivity with a good persistence.

The one step rule:

The secret to maintain persistence is to follow one step rule i.e one step at a time. If you meet an obstacle or a problem along the way, tackle it, solve it, then move on to the next. The way problems don’t become overwhelming. And, in clearing up one you may find that when you come to the next one it has already solved itself, Time solves an awful lot of problems. But, the best way to tell yourself that once is not enough, to get off the mat and come back for more, to develop the endurance you need to go to the distance on your feet, is go by that “one step a time” rule.

Persistence payoff:

Yes, practicing persistence payoff, we come across many real life inspirations where they devoted their entire life to contribute something to our society, to bring a change, many of our scientists, freedom fighters, and many more who persistently strived hard to bring about the changes in our society, and many who have made our lives easier by inventing new things and lot more. A persistence of hardwork in a student’s life can get them good academic grades, a persistence in a life of athelete can make them win olympic medals representing their country.

yet last but not least, for all the readers here remember, Ambition is the path to success, persistence is the vehicle you’re in, and Energy and persistence can conquer all things.

Thank you.

persistence is the key that unlocks potential.