October 3, 2020
President Donald Trump was admitted to Walter Reed Medical Center on Friday evening, just hours it was announced he had contracted COVID-19.
The Washington Post reported that Trump was being taken to Walter Reed on Friday evening, citing ” two administration officials” as its sources.
WASHINGTON (AP) — White House: Trump to travel to military hospital after COVID-19 diagnosis, remain for ‘few days’ on advice of doctors.
— Jonathan Lemire (@JonLemire) October 2, 2020
Officials have said Trump has had mild to moderate symptoms, including a fever. There have not yet been any updates or indications if his condition has worsened. He is, according to a statement from the White House, being treated with Regeneron’s polyclonal antibody cocktail, which is still experimental. Read more…
Back in May, candidates for office in U.S. Congressional District 14 held their first entirely virtual debate ahead of the June primaries in New York. The Zoom video conference platform was the “stage” for the four candidates, including incumbent Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and a moderator.
Now, with the news that President Donald Trump has tested positive for coronavirus, the fate of the next two presidential debates (scheduled for Oct. 15 and 22) is up in the air. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing for them to happen, increasing the likelihood that they could be held remotely. Read more…
I remember the first time I drove a Mahindra Thar. It wasn’t really a review, rather a fluffy feature for Overdrive magazine. The vehicle was the subject, but really mostly a backdrop for a model. It required the briefest of commutes with a small section of rocks and gravel. The terrain was a non-issue, but the horror of the interior was something I was not used to. Up until recently, every Thar I have been in – including the one in question – has been some sort of custom ‘project’. A different dash, different seats, a roof and metal bits that look fabricated at the same place that makes your window grills.
The 2020 Thar is shockingly different. It’s a car. Like other recent Mahindras.
The Thar Cult
To my mind, the Mahindra Thar occupies the same sort of mindspace as the Royal Enfield Bullet. Traditional, long-standing (though the Thar model is relatively recent), butch, purposeful, signalling a non-traditional, earthy sort of driver. I imagine Milind Gunaji pre-ordered the new one six years in advance. And while accoutrements were not the strong suit of the Thar, when you got down and dirty, it pulled through. It’s a proper 4×4 with a mechanical transfer case, short wheelbase, adequate diesel motor and a variety of body styles, depending on what project suits your fancy.
The basic formula remains the same with the 2020 model, but with many changes that bring it up in line with more recent Mahindra vehicles. The body style and design unabashedly pays homage to the Jeep Wrangler, a very good-looking vehicle. We tested the factory hard-top model, but other body styles including a convertible are available. This means that we had modern conveniences like air conditioning and audio that actually worked as one would expect. Of course, it still retains the rough-and-ready project vehicle vibe, should you choose to go that way. Even our hard-top model had a proper roll cage inside, and we understand that the hard top can be removed without much bother. It will kill your waterproofing though.
The Thar is a car!
If you’re an old-timer and remember Mahindras of old, you will be surprised by what they’re putting out these days. Refined, quiet diesel motors, top-shelf petrols, good interiors and value. The new Thar certainly surprised me from the first time I saw it at the reveal. It looks fresh, modern (if derivative) and solid. Like it’s properly put-together with purpose, as opposed to bolted in place depending on where the hinges would fit. Swing the door open (we drove a 2-door) and the surprises continue.
The interior is all-black and all plastic, but they feel high quality and nice to touch. No more of that cheap grey stuff that seems to start oxidising before it leaves the factory. Everything looked polished (it may have been) and felt solid. Despite the masses of plastic on the inside, nothing squeaks, shakes or rattles on the go. The model we tested came with a touchscreen infotainment system similar to what we’ve seen in other recent Mahindras like the Marazzo. It is adequate and gets the job done. It is also canted slightly up for legibility instead of (inexplicably) perpendicular to the floor, or what feels like toward the floor in some Scorpios of old. I was able to pair my phone via Bluetooth and had music at my fingertips thanks to the steering-mounted controls.
All the controls are where you’d expect, save for the extra lever north-west of the gear shifter to shift into 4H or 4L four-wheel drive modes. Ergonomically too, the new Thar felt comfortable, familiar and – for lack of other cliches – very car-like to operate.
On the go: all the choice you need
Mahindra has made the new Thar available in 12 distinct options across two variant lines: AX and LX. There are a couple of options in the mix (apart from the option packs) that notch up another variant or two. Basically, you can have your pick: soft convertible top, hard top, 4 seats, 6 seats, 6-speed manual or automatic transmission, petrol or diesel motor. We sampled the top-spec diesel hard-top manual for this quick drive.
The mHawk 130 2.0-litre diesel motor in this Thar is a gem, like many recent Mahindras. Continuing to surprise, the Thar was a surprisingly quiet vehicle on the go. Given it’s short sub-4m stance and shorter wheelbase, there isn’t much space between the driver and the motor. Still, it maintained a comfortable cabin and one could hold a conversation while driving. The motor is also quite smooth and has plenty of poke for the city environment we had just enough time for. The diesel makes 130PS/320Nm, which is plenty for a stubby mountain goat such as this. It’s also enough that you don’t need to finesse the Thar into a particular zone of momentum to get the job done. You push the throttle and things happen. We didn’t take it much beyond 100kmph, and I was wary of the short wheelbase making handling jittery. It doesn’t, and I’m told the Thar is rock-steady at deeply illegal speeds.
Steering is light and feels, well, like a car would. The angle seems correct, the torque required to make a U-turn is minimal. I really enjoyed weaving through traffic with the Thar. The flat sides and wide mirrors make placing it very easy. Suspension for road use was also good; I’d venture to say even with a bit extra damping, but comfortable nonetheless. Some Mumbai side-roads are currently pitch-black at night and riddled with fatal potholes, thanks to lockdown negligence. Nevertheless, the Thar did not have to slow down for any of them. The Thar has always been a capable off-roader, and we expect this one to be no different. We’ll have a go in one at Mahindra’s Igatpuri training centre soon. You know… for science.
Practicality and credibility
I drive fancy cars more than occasionally. At some point, it becomes routine, and with the wide availability of luxury and exotic vehicles in India, it’s not so much of a sight any more. Not so with the Thar. While we drove it, it was not publicly available and I can honestly say, it attracted more stares and questions than some swoopy sports cars I’ve had the good fortune to drive. The connect that the general public has with Jeeps and Mahindras (synonymous in India, much to FCAs chagrin) is enviable. Patriotic, even. One wants the Mahindra Thar to be a nice, aspirational, achievable vehicle. And now, it is, for a much larger swathe of the population.
Thanks to the refinement, modern motors and engineering, the 2020 Thar is just like any other car, with few weird quirks or compromises which would otherwise relegate it to an exclusively recreational vehicle. Can the 2020 Mahindra Thar be your only family car? Yes, with some caveats. Okay fine, here’s some weird compromises for you. For one, it’s shorter than 4 metres in length, which means you give up a bit of legroom and cargo area. In the 4-seater models in particular, there’s a thin sliver of space behind the rear seats for some vertically-stacked carry-ons, shopping bags, backpacks and the like. Anything heavier will need the seats folded.
The Thar is currently only available as a 2-door, which means pushing the front passenger seat forward and squeezing behind it to get to the rear seats. For whatever reason, I was unable to find the lever to slide and fold the seat properly, which meant at one point I had to abandon the Thar and take a regular hatchback for a passenger pickup. Legroom at the back is okay, but in general, the seating is not comfortable for long trips. Is it better than older Thars? Emphatically.
The 2020 Mahindra Thar starts at Rs 9.8 lac and goes up to Rs 12.95 lac ex-showroom. The most recent SUVs I’ve driven in that price bracket are the Kia Sonet and the Renault Duster (in its final form). I have to say, the Thar has always tugged at the heartstrings, but with the idiosyncrasies all but removed, one could even make a case for it as a family car. If you’re Milind Gunaji, it always has been.
‘We are at the last hour’: From Guterres to Prince Charles, world leaders bat for swift action at UNGA Biodiversity Summit
In September every year, the 192 Member States of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly come together from around the world to take part in a series of diplomatic discussions and multilateral meetings. This year’s 75th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), that started on 22nd September and went on till 2nd October, was similar in some ways but vastly different in others. For one, most of the meetings were done virtually and the statements made by members were pre-recorded. Another key difference was a separate summit dedicated solely to the protection of our nature and wildlife. This meeting marked the end of the UN Decade on Biodiversity 2011-2020 and the beginning of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030.
The theme of the conference was “Urgent Action on Biodiversity for Sustainable Development” and was supposed to act as a precursor to the 15th Conference of Parties (COP 15) or the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 2021 that was to take place this year in Kunming, China. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been postponed to next year.
This summit had was supposed to lay the groundwork and to develop a framework where nature is put on a path to recovery by 2030 in order to meet the SDGs.
Loudest Voices at the Summit and What They Said
While being soft-spoken, his words showed the extent of work that needs to be done before anyone can rest.
“Our existence on this planet depends entirely on our ability to protect the natural world around us…in the last 50 years, vertebrates – the category that includes everything from frogs to parrots to elephants – have declined by 68 percent.” Bozkir said.
“If we continue down this path, we not only lose the beautiful riches of the world around us but jeopardize food security, water supplies, livelihoods, and our ability to fight diseases and face extreme events,” he added.
Bozkir spoke about the importance of nature for our social and economic life but also for our health. He asked the world leaders to use this summit as a precursor for the COP15 that will take place in Kunming, China next year.
He said, “COP15 in Kunming must-do for biodiversity what COP21 in Paris did for climate change.”
At the beginning of his statement, the Secretary-General of the UN António Guterres made a plucky remark: “Humanity is waging war on nature. We need to rebuild our relationship with it.”
Guterres said human beings are part of the fragile web of life. But with deforestation, climate change and converting the wilderness to produce food destroying earth, we are living with newer and deadlier diseases like HIV-AIDS, Ebola, and now COVID-19.
He lambasted world leaders for not keeping to their previous undertakings, saying, “Despite repeated commitments, our efforts have not been sufficient to meet any of the global biodiversity targets set for 2020.”
The UN Secretary-General has set out three priorities for conserving biodiversity. They are:
- Nature-based solutions must be embedded in COVID-19 recovery and wider development plans.
- Economic systems and financial markets must account for and invest in nature.
- Secure ambitious policies and targets that protect biodiversity and leave no one behind.
Charles, the Prince of Wales made an ardent plea to the world’s political leaders and told them that we need to ‘protect, restore and invest in nature’ because it is essential to humanity’s survival. We will see ‘far greater returns’ if we take ‘the necessary, bold steps now.’
The heir-apparent said that he is working with a ‘coalition of the willing’ that will put nature, people and planet at the heart of the economy. They are all interconnected and everyone should be making sustainable choices to ensure that we have a future. To that end, he also encouraged leaders and policymakers to listen and learn from indigenous people. He believes that they have the wisdom and a sixth sense about nature that others might’ve discarded in the modern world.
He ends his statement on a dire note by saying “Ladies and gentlemen, we are, I am afraid, at the last hour.”
An environmental activist and a member of the Khadia tribe, Archana Soreng is also one of the seven members of the Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change established by Guterres as part of the UN Youth Strategy. She was also one of the only youth speaking at the Biodiversity summit, representing India and the indigenous peoples. She spoke about how important it is that indigenous practices are nurtured. She also said that communities living in an area should be included in the decision‑making process for conservation in their areas and their rights to the forests and lands are respected.
“We Will be able to Continue Protecting Biodiversity Only when we Feel Secure, for which it is important to Respect, Recognise & Enforce our Rights over our Land & Forest “#BiodiversitySummit #UNGA2020 @GhoshAmitav @chikikothari @kanchikohli @GlobalLF @landcoalition @gfc123 https://t.co/0LGwRTY7l2
— ARCHANA SORENG (@SorengArchana) October 1, 2020
“We Should be the Leaders of Conservation, Not Victims of It.
More Proactive Steps are the way forward to ensure Intersectional & Intergenerational Equity “#BiodiversitySummit #UNGA2020 @UNBiodiversity @UN4Indigenous @ipmsdl_ @FFFIndia @PKashwan @GhoshAmitav @VikalpSangam https://t.co/Weu4KYoMvS
— ARCHANA SORENG (@SorengArchana) October 1, 2020
Soreng said, “Doubling protected areas to cover 30 percent of the globe, as some want to see in the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, will lead to immense human right violations. It could constitute the biggest land grab of world history reducing millions of people to landless poverty – all in the name of conservation.”
“Removing us from our land in order to protect nature is deeply colonial and environmentally damaging. We should be leaders of conservation – not victims of it,” she added.
A couple of day before the summit, President Xi Jinping shocked the world with an announcement that China will be carbon neutral by 2060. However, he appeared relatively tamer on the world stage in his pre-recorded messages. He showed his support towards the UN’s work and urged other countries to stay on the mark with the Paris Accord. He also used his time to talk about the upcoming Convention on Biological Diversity 15, to be hosted by China this year, now pushed to 2021 owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
He also tooted China’s horn towards the end of his speech, saying, “China is happy to share with all parties its experience of advancing biodiversity governance and ecological progress.”
While China has taken steps in conversation and protection, it is also one of the highest emitters of the world and has shown no signs of actually slowing down its carbon emissions. In fact, after China’s virus-induced lowdown in February, CO2 emissions have bounced back to pre-crisis level, according to a report by Carbon Brief.
The President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro, during his pre-recorded speech, came off strong and argued in favour of natural destruction for economic and developmental purposes from the get-go. He started by saying that the use of the “extremely vast resources” of Brazil is the priority of the country.
Bolsonaro’s statement focused on ensuring the world knew that his government focuses on both the economy and preservation of nature. In the case of Brazil, this just happens to be the last partially-untouched rainforest in the world in the Amazons.
“We must reach a consensus and properly combine sustainability and development; environmental preservation and economic innovation,” Bolsonaro said. “We must preserve our biomes and also overcome social challenges like unemployment and poverty while guaranteeing food security to our people.”
Bolsonaro also declared that countries have the right to use their natural resources.
“That’s precisely what we intend to do with the huge wealth of resources in the Brazilian territory,” he said.
Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan, addressing the council, said that his country was home to a diverse range of environmental features, and pledged to protect the country’s flora and fauna.
With Pakistan country among the top ten most vulnerable to climate change impacts, they have engaged local communities in planting a total of ten billion trees, Khan said. This will provide employment opportunities while also protecting the environment.
Prime Minister Khan also iterated that Pakistan has expanded the number of national parks in the country, from 30 to 39.
A notable absentee during the summit was US President Donald Trump, who is in the process of exiting from the Paris Agreement. Trump is simultaneously not getting along too well with the UN’s health counterpart, the World Health Organisation (from which Trump has also withdrawn support). The US did not bother with sending a representative to the UN event.
As per a Greenpeace report, Trump’s absence at the UNGA Summit was evident of his utter disregard for biodiversity, “from gutting protections under the Endangered Species Act to undermining the integrity of the National Environmental Protection Act.”
The US is the only one of the five permanent member states that did not make an appearance at the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Another major player absent at the summit was Australia. The Guardian reported that an Australian government spokesperson said the country would not agree to environmental targets “unless we can tell the Australian people what they will cost to achieve and how we will achieve it”.
Before the start of the summit, over 60 heads of state and governments signed the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature and promised to slash air pollution, eliminate ocean plastic and transition to more sustainable food systems by 2030. Countries like Germany, France, Britain and Mexico promised to develop an “ambitious” plan ahead of next year’s COP15 Biodiversity Conference. But major countries including China, Brazil, Australia, Russia and India have not signed so far.
After Realme 7 (Review) and Realme 7 Pro (Review), the third smartphone under the Realme 7 series— Realme 7i – will launch in India on 7 October at 12.30 pm. In addition to the smartphone, the company will also launch the Realme Buds Air Pro TWS earbuds and Realme Buds Wireless Pro at the event. Realme has confirmed quite a handful of specifications of Realme 7i including camera, display, battery and more. The company microsite has also revealed that the smartphone will come in blue and green colour options.
It’s time to Play Smoother!
The Powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 662 Processor of the #realme7i delivers a seamless gaming experience.
— realme (@realmemobiles) October 2, 2020
Realme 7i expected specifications
Realme has confirmed that the Realme 7i will feature a 6.5-inch punch-hole display that has a 90 percent screen-to-body ratio and a 90 Hz refresh rate. The smartphone will be powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 662 chipset. It will also sport a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor.
In terms of camera, Realme 7i will come with a quad rear camera setup that includes 64 MP primary sensor, ultra-wide lens, macro lens and a B&W lens.
will be equipped with a 5,000 mAh battery which, as claimed by the company, can offer up to 35 hours of calling. This battery will come with support for 18W Quick Charge.
Poco C3 teaser has appeared on Flipkart revealing that the smartphone will debut in India on 6 October at 12 pm. This will be the company’s first smartphone in India under the new C- smartphone series in India. This new smartphone is expected to be the rebranded Redmi 9C series that debuted in Malaysia recently. The Flipkart teaser has confirmed that Poco C3 will feature a square rear camera module that will house three cameras including a 13 MP primary sensor. The teaser also confirms that among other options, the smartphone may also come in a green colour option.
— POCO India #POCOC3 (@IndiaPOCO) October 1, 2020
Poco C3 expected specifications
According to a report by GSMArena, Poco C3 will be rebranded Redmi 9C. The Redmi 9C sports 6.53-inch HD+ Dot Drop (720 x 1,600) pixels display. It has 20:9 aspect ratio and has 400 nit brightness. The screen supports colour temperature adjustment, standard mode, reading mode and sunlight mode.
The device has a triple camera setup in the rear which includes a 13 MP primary camera, 2 MP macro camera, and 2 MP depth sensor. For selfie, there is a 5 MP camera with a screen flash.
The Redmi 9C has dual-SIM support and is powered by MediaTek Helio G25 SoC. It comes with a 5,000 mAh battery.
One nation, one subscription: GoI in talks with publishers for access to quality journals for India’s researchers, citizens
In a move to make international research more accessible to researchers in India, the government is pushing for a ‘one nation, one subscription’ access plan to scholarly journals. Currently, research papers are hosted by academic publishers (Elsevier, Oxford University Press, Wiley, etc.), who offer subscriptions to a selection of journals in various research disciplines for an annual fee. A nationwide subscription would give scholars and researchers in the country access to a variety of journals under a single, national subscription plan. The Indian government is reportedly negotiating with scientific publishers around the world to set up the journal-access plan, with researchers consulting on the process, as per a report in Nature. The proposal comes under the new science, technology and innovation policy, under development by the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India and the Department of Science and Technology.
In the weeks to come, a draft of the journal-access plan will be released, and an approval from the Cabinet could be expected by the end of the year, the report added. If successful, India would be the largest country to strike a deal that would give access to articles otherwise behind a paywall, to all citizens, researchers said.
The national journal access plan is a subscription service at discounted rates, and not the same as the open access (OA) movement, which is relatively new. Conceived some 25 years ago around the time of the internet, OA has since become a global movement to promote the free and rapid sharing of scientific information among researchers. It ensures greater (digital) dissemination and findability of research results, and as a result, a larger potential impact on both science and society. But, open access has also attracted the interest of members from the broader public. In Germany among other countries, research institutions have come together to purchase subscriptions that allow its academia and citizens to access research from around the world under a national journal-access plan.
A different, politically-motivated global effort is underway to make for open-access to research, called ‘Plan S’. Led primarily by funders, researchers and institutions in Europe for Europe, the scheme is looking to speed up the transition to a fully OA-world. The consultation period for Plan S came to an end in early 2019, and generated responses that filled thousands of pages, and igniting a broad debate around OA, said Jon Tennant in a story he authored for the Conversation on Plan S. Some of these concerns overlap with that of nationwide open-access.
“Publishers want to make money in exchange for a service. Senior academics, who have built careers on publishing in traditional journals, might feel that disrupting this undermines their status. Learned societies need revenues generated from publishing to support other activities for their members,” Tennant said. “One difference to the Plan S debate is that the ideological and practical case made for Open Access has already been won. The question now is simple about implementation and the development of an equitable system for access to research around the world.”
Plan S requires scientists and researchers who benefit from state-funded research organizations and institutions in the EU to publish their work in open repositories or in journals that are available to all by 2021.
India has already made its stand clear on Plan S – it doesn’t work for us. The volume of research coming out of India is high – the third-highest in the world as of 2018. But journals, and particularly open-access publications, ask for processing fees up-front to have research published in them. This isn’t a feasible option for India, with its diverse research output coming from a variety of institutions that may not be able to afford the fees on an ongoing basis.
A national journal-access plan would be a considerably different approach to OA, and one that the government is already considering, with a fair degree of seriousness. Whether these discussions are a success will largely depend on whether publishers accept discounted rates for having research published in their journals, according to the Principal Scientific Adviser to the government.
“We must formally discuss with publishers, learned societies and OA journals to come forth with a policy, and negotiate with them…what we do will be what we think is best for our context.,” Prof VijayRaghavan, told The Wire in an October 2019 interview. “A separate matter from all of this, which simultaneously must be addressed at its full level for this to be effective, is how we must evaluate individuals, groups of individuals, institutions and research in general. Unless that undergoes a sea-change globally, all of this will be cosmetic.”