Today’s Top 10 News
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PM Modi to attend virtual BRICS Summit; Bombay HC to hear Varavara Rao bail plea; Second phase of Malabar naval exercise to kick off in Arabian Sea; FB, Twitter chiefs to testify before US Senate on handling of elections; UEFA Nations League.
1. Nitish gets chair, BJP the high table.
- The chief: Nitish Kumar was on Monday sworn in as the chief minister of Bihar for the seventh time in two decades.
- His journey: The 69-year-old, who has had a continuous run since November 2005, except for nine months in 2014-15, is on course to becoming the longest serving CM of the state, surpassing the record of Shrikrishna Singh who held the top post since before Independence till his death in 1961.
- The power: Asserting its position as the bigger partner, the BJP got the biggest share of seven ministers in the team of 14 that took oath. Five ministers were from Kumar’s JD(U) and one each was from smaller allies Hindustani Awam Morcha and Vikassheel Insaan Party. The BJP will not only have two deputy chief ministers but may also take the coveted assembly speaker’s post. A close aide of Kumar was the speaker of the previous assembly. Since the state can have up to 36 ministers, expect an expansion soon.
- The opposition: The opposition decided to boycott the oath-taking ceremony claiming the mandate in the elections was “against the NDA”. Grand Alliance leader RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav later in the day extended his wishes to Kumar for being ‘nominated’ implying that he had not been elected. Ally-turned-opponent LJP’s Chirag Paswan took a dig saying he hoped Kumar will “continue to remain the chief minister of NDA only” hinting at the possibility of him joining hands with the opposition if things get tough with the BJP. Kumar had headed a government with the RJD after the 2015 assembly election before walking over to the saffron camp.
2. No bail yet for scribe arrested on way to Hathras
- The Supreme Court on Monday sought the response of the Uttar Pradesh government and police in a plea seeking the release of journalist Siddique Kappan and scheduled the next hearing for Friday (October 20), effectively extending his incarceration at least until then. The bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde was hearing a petition filed by Kerala Union for Working Journalists.
- Kappan, a Delhi-based journalist working for Malayalam news channel Azhimukham was arrested on October 5 and charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) — the anti-terror law — while on his way to Hathras, where a 19-year-old Dalit woman was assaulted and allegedly gangraped, leading to her death. UP Police allege that Kappan and three members of the Campus Front of India (CFI) who were travelling with him were part of a “conspiracy” to inflame religious enmity over the incident
- Earlier on October 12, the Supreme Court bench had adjourned the habeas corpus petition asking the petitioners to approach the Allahabad High Court first and amend the petition. On Monday, CJI Bobde said that the court is trying to discourage people from approaching it directly under Article 32, reports Bar&Bench. Kapil Sibal, representing the petitioners, said the Kappan was not even allowed to meet his lawyers and argued that there has been a “spate of Article 32 petitions” in which the court has interfered.
- Earlier, speaking to the Indian Express, Kappan’s wife said: “After hearing that Arnab Goswami was granted bail, I am forced to think that my husband was denied due justice. Since the arrest, the court and jail authorities have not allowed us to even meet him… Are we not citizens of this country?” Issuing bail to Goswami Justice DY Chandrachud had remarked: “If we as a constitutional court do not lay down law and protect personal liberty, then who will?”
3. Moderna’s vaccine 95% effective, early data shows
- US biotechnology firm Moderna said its Covid-19 vaccine candidate was found to be 94.5% effective in preliminary analysis, becoming the second major vaccine candidate to claim high efficacy this month — or third if including claims by Russian Direct Investment Fund on the vaccine by Gamaleya Institute. Last Monday, Pfizer and its partner BioNtech said their vaccine was more than 90% effective.
- The results, which are not peer-reviewed, are from interim analyses of a study involving 30,000 volunteers, half of whom received two doses of the vaccine 28 days apart; the other half got two shots of a placebo.
- The claimed efficacy rates of the two vaccines are much higher than the 60-70% experts were expecting. Both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines are based on a new technology that has not been previously deployed in any vaccine.
- An mRNA vaccine (messenger ribonucleic acid) contains a piece of synthetic genetic material that instructs our cells to produce spike proteins associated with the coronavirus, duping our system to believe it has been infected and prompt an immune response. Since these vaccines do not contain an inactivated or weakened form of a virus — the traditional methods to prompt an immune response — there is no risk of inadvertently causing the infection.
- There’s more good news. Moderna says its vaccine is stable for 6 months at about -20 degrees Celsius or up to 30 days at normal refrigerated temperatures of -2 to -8 degrees Celsius, making storage and distribution a easier challenge than Pfizer’s vaccine, which has to be stored in specialised freezers at -70 degrees Celsius or lower.
- But the 20 million doses of the vaccine Moderna expects to make by the end of the year are all earmarked for the US, which had funded its research under its Operation Warp Speed programme.
4. Why rise in wholesale inflation may be good news
- This: The wholesale price-base inlation rose to an eight-month high of 1.48% in October, as manufactured products turned costlier. Manufactured products inflation rose 2.12% compared to an increase of 1.61% in September, according to data released on Monday.
- That: Data released last week showed retail inflation as measured by the consumer price index (CPI) increased to 7.61% in October, the highest in more than six years, driven by rising food prices.Down, down, up..!
- The risk: The Reserve Bank of India in a report on the state of economy last week had flagged unrelenting pressure of inflation as a downside risk confronting the prospects of economic recovery.
- A sign: While retail inflation is about your expenses, borrowings and investments (affected by interest rate changes), wholesale inflation, which captures prices at the factory, could be an indirect indicator of your salary increments and job opportunities. The collapse in the manufactured products inflation component within WPI earlier this year meant that manufacturers (who are big employers) were unable to raise prices of the goods they make — a key determinant of the fate of any industry — due to slowdown in consumer demand. The rise in manufacturing inflation could be a sign of a drop in excess capacity in factories and marginal increase in demand at the factory door, which means companies are getting their pricing power back.
5. Who was the top scorer in the 1992 Cricket World Cup final?
- Clue 1: He’s a graduate of Keble College, Oxford where he studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics.
- Clue 2: An ICC Cricket Hall of Famer, he boasts 3,807 runs and took 362 wickets in Tests.
- Clue 3: He’s been married thrice; Bushra Bibi is his current wife.
6. Pandemic hits Indian student numbers in the US
- The number of Indian students pursuing education in American universities and colleges has hit a three-year low — at 193,124 for 2019-20. This from the Open Doors 2020 snapshot survey which revealed international student enrolments in US universities declined 16% in autumn 2020 and drops in new student enrolments were more than twice as steep, at 43%.
- Now, Indians comprise 18% of total international students’ population in the US — second only to China — who contribute $7.7 billion to the US economy. And at 193,124, the number of Indian students studying in the US was down 4.4% year-on-year. In 2018-19, the US had 202,014 Indian students pursuing degrees, and in 2017-18, the number was at 196,271. This after a 29.4% growth in 2014-15 and 24.9% in 2015-16.
- Indians enrolling in American graduate programmes, which account for the largest slice of Indian students in the US, dropped by 5.7%. The highest fall of 21.4% was from non-degree courses and 4.1% came from optional practical training — practical work experience after a degree programme, for up to 36 months.
- While visa issues and anti-immigration noises from the US federal government have already marred sentiment, experts believed the number of foreign students in the US could dip further in 2020-21 as Covid-19 forced universities to shut down, restricted movement and hit income of students’ families.
7. And the political games begin in TN
- The BJP may be looking at an alliance with M K Alagiri, the elder son of former Tamil Nadu chief Minister and DMK founder, Karunanidhi, according to a report by the Indian Express. Alagiri, who has been “sidelined” by his younger brother M K Stalin in the party, is likely to meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah during the latter’s Chennai visit on November 21, according to the report.
- The move, if it fructifies, comes ahead of the assembly polls scheduled in the state in 2021. The report added that Alagiri may also consider floating his own party — “Kalaignar DMK”. Alagiri was expelled from the DMK in 2014 for anti-party activities.
- An alliance with Alagiri could create a new power axis in Tamil Nadu where the BJP is already in partnership with the AIADMK.
- However, the BJP-AIADMK ties have not been smooth either. The AIADMK mouthpiece ‘Namadhu Amma’ has slammed the saffron party’s ‘Vetrivel Yatra’ saying that it will “not let politics stemming out of religious hatred” to take root in Tamil Nadu.
- Earlier this month, the state government had denied permission to the BJP for holding the Vetrivel Yatra, citing both the pandemic and the issue of maintaining law and order, as the yatra is scheduled to culminate on December 6, which is the anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in 1992. In August too, the AIADMK government had denied permission for another yatra despite the BJP’s state president meeting the CM.
8. A “heck of a ride” to the space station
- SpaceX is now the preferred taxi for astronauts. On Sunday, the company launched four astronauts — Mike Hopkins, Shannon Walker and Victor Glover of NASA and Soichi Noguchi of Japan — to the International Space Station in its first full-fledged taxi flight for NASA. “That was one heck of a ride,” Hopkins relayed to the mission control about an hour after liftoff.
- The Crew Dragon capsule — named Resilience by its crew in light of this year’s many challenges, most notably Covid-19 — is expected to dock with the space station Monday night Eastern Time (9:30 am IST). The four will stay onboard the space station for about six months before heading back to Earth.
- SpaceX’s Falcon9 rocket had launched two astronauts on a test flight to the space station in May this year, marking the first time a private company ferried humans to space. The two astronauts, Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, then also became the first Americans to be launched into space by a US-made rocket from an American launch centre since 2011. The two successfully returned to Earth in August in a historic splashdown in the sea.
9. It’s all going south for England under Southgate
- England’s woes in international football continued with a 0-2 loss to Belgium late Sunday putting them out of contention for a place in the Nations League Finals. England had finished third in the inaugural edition of the UEFA tournament last year. Sunday’s was also the 10th loss in 48 matches for England under manager Gareth Southgate. In the other match of the group, a stoppage-time penalty by Christian Eriksen helped Denmark beat Iceland 2-1 to keep their chances alive.
- Elsewhere, Italy brushed off the absences of several players and coronavirus-hit coach Roberto Mancini with a 2-0 victory over Poland to take the top spot in the table from the Netherlands, who beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-1 earlier in the day.
- Note: The table toppers from each of the four top-tier groups advance to the finals of the Nations League. Thus far, only France have assured their place in the finals, having beaten Portugal to the top spot early on Saturday. The Nations League Finals are scheduled to begin next October.
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