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5 THINGS FIRST

Bihar legislature to meet in truncated, day-long monsoon session; Rituals leading up to Ram Temple ‘Bhoomi Pujan’ start with Ganesh puja; Amar Singh’s funeral; WTA returns with Palermo Open; Raksha Bandhan

1. Amit Shah, Yediyurappa test positive; UP minister dies
1. Amit Shah, Yediyurappa test positive; UP minister dies
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  • Union home minister Amit Shah, Karnataka chief minister BS Yediyurappa and Tamil Nadu governor Banwarilal Purohit tested positive for Covid-19 on Sunday even as Uttar Pradesh cabinet minister Kamal Rani Varun died after battling the infection for nearly two weeks at a hospital in Lucknow.
  • Shah, 55, was admitted to Medanta hospital in Gurugram in Haryana, near Delhi. “My health is fine, but I am being admitted to hospital on the advice of doctors,” Shah tweeted at 4.43 pm. His health is reported to be stable. Those who came in contact with him in the last few days have been advised to isolate and get tested if they have displayed symptoms of the disease.
  • Shah had attended a Union Cabinet meeting at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s residence on Wednesday, but government sources told the Times of India social distancing norms were strictly followed on such occasions, with the attendees having to mandatorily wear masks. Shah was reportedly scheduled to attend the bhoomi pujan ceremony of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya on August 5.
  • In UP: Kamal Rani Varun, 62, the minister of technical education, died of complications caused by Covid-19 at the Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Lucknow; she had tested positive on July 18. According to a statement from the hospital, “she died of multi-organ dysfunction at 9:30am”. An MLA from Ghatampur constituency, she is the first serving cabinet member of any state and the fourth legislator to die of the coronavirus infection; an MLA in Tamil Nadu, an MLA in West Bengal, and an MLC in Bihar had died of Covid-19.
  • UP BJP chief Swatantra Dev Singh, 56, has also tested positive. Six ministers in the Yogi Adityanath cabinet have so far contracted the virus, TOI reports.
  • In Karnataka: Yediyurappa, 77, was admitted to a hospital as a “precaution” after testing positive for Covid-19. Last week Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan too was confirmed of the infection; he has been in hospital since.
  • In Tamil Nadu, governor Banwarilal Purohit tested positive; he is asymptomatic and clinically stable, a statement by Kauvery Hospital, Chennai, said. Earlier, at least 87 staff members at the Raj Bhavan had tested positive. Also on Sunday, CPI’s Bihar state secretary and former MLA Satya Narain Singh (77) died of Covid-19 at the AIIMS-Patna.

Meanwhile, the home ministry has sought an additional three months’ time for framing rules of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), news agency PTI reports. Also, actor Amitabh Bachchan was discharged from hospital after testing negative.

2. Covid’s deadliest week: 370,000 cases, 5,345 deaths
2. Covid’s deadliest week: 370,000 cases, 5,345 deaths
  • India recorded more than 53,600 fresh Covid-19 cases and 758 deaths on Sunday, capping a week that saw the biggest surge in the pandemic with nearly 370,000 new infections, 16% higher than the previous week’s count. There were also 5,345 deaths during the period, 474 more than the preceding seven days.
  • While Maharashtra added the maximum number of cases (65,429) in the week, Andhra Pradesh was a close second with 62,466. And with 53,641 new cases on Sunday, India’s total tally went past the 1.8 million mark, according to data collated from state governments. The death toll stood at 38,120, with 758 deaths reported during the day — that’s 750+ fatalities for the sixth day running.
  • Now, from August 8 onwards, people flying into India can seek exemption from institutional quarantine if they come with a corona-negative report. According to the fresh guidelines issued on Sunday by the Union health ministry, the test should have been conducted within 96 hours of undertaking the journey. Passengers submitting false or forged medical reports will be prosecuted.
  • Also, those coming to India for “compelling reasons/cases of human distress such as pregnancy, death in family, serious illness and parent(s) with children of the age of 10 years or below” from August 8 onwards can seek home quarantine for 14 days, instead of seven-day paid institutional quarantine and seven-day home quarantine.
  • Finally, PM Narendra Modi is likely to announce the National Digital Health Mission on August 15, which has been envisaged as a complete digital health ecosystem with personal health IDs for every Indian, digitisation of health records as well as a registry of doctors and health facilities across the country. The proposal has received in-principle cabinet approval and the final nod is expected by the end of this week, top official sources said.
  • The digital platform will be launched with four key features – health ID, personal health records, Digi Doctor and health facility registry. At a later stage, it will also include e-pharmacy and telemedicine services, regulatory guidelines for which are being framed.

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3. A window opens for TikTok to be American
3. A window opens for TikTok to be American
  • US President Donald Trump may allow Microsoft to buy TikTok if there’s “complete separation” — on data and servers as well as software (AI) — from Bytedance, its China-based parent company, Axios reports. The Wall Street Journal reports Trump spoke over the phone with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Microsoft in a blog post said it “fully appreciates the importance of addressing the President’s concerns”, and “will move quickly to pursue discussions” with Bytedance.
  • Under pressure, Bytedance is seeking to sell TikTok’s US business, and Microsoft has emerged as a leading contender. Microsoft said it has provided a notice of intent to explore a preliminary proposal that would involve a purchase of the TikTok service in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. It said “in any event” it intends to complete discussions with Bytedance no later than September 15, 2020.
  • The takeover talks come amidst a threat that the Trump administration could use its powers under the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to demand a change of ownership of TikTok’s US business. Note: Bytedance had in 2017 acquired a fast-rising US-based video app called Musical.ly before merging it with TikTok. The merger partly helped it grow TikTok into the international success that it is today.
  • What’s CFIUS? An interagency group established in 1988 through the Exon-Florio Amendment to the Defense Production Act of 1950, CFIUS reviews certain foreign investments in US businesses to determine whether such transactions threaten to impair US national security. It was originally used to prevent the takeover of critical US companies by Japanese firms, but since 2015 its focus has been on Chinese acquisition of US businesses or businesses with US operations.
  • Since taking office, Trump has used the CFIUS to block at least four deals: in 2017 to block an investment fund with Chinese investors from acquiring Lattice Semiconductor; in 2018 to block Ant Financial, part of Alibaba Group, from taking over Moneygram, and to block the takeover of chipmaker Qualcomm by Singapore-based rival Broadcom; and this March to force Beijing Shiji Information Technology to divest its 2018 acquisition of Stayntouch. In 2019, under pressure from CFIUS, Beijing Kunlun sold gay-dating app Grindr.

Also, India has asked the companies of the banned apps to clarify on specific laws governing the companies in “home country” and if the owners are associated with a political party.

4. A historic re-entry to Earth
4. A historic re-entry to Earth
  • America’s first crewed spaceship to achieve orbit since the Space Shuttle era splashed down safely — the first splashdown by US astronauts in 45 years — in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday night. (The last time NASA astronauts returned from space to water was on Jul. 24, 1975, in the Pacific, the scene of most splashdowns, to end a joint U.S.-Soviet mission known as Apollo-Soyuz.) The SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour capsule, with NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on board, parachuted into the gulf to close out an unprecedented test flight by Elon Musk’s company.
  • The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft had set off from the International Space Station on Saturday evening. And it went from a screaming orbital speed of 28,000 kmph to 560 kmph during atmospheric reentry, and finally to 24 kmph at splashdown. Peak heating during descent was 1,900°C. The anticipated top G forces felt by the crew: four to five times the force of Earth’s gravity.
  • Now, the successful landing has huge implications — lowering the cost of space exploration through the use of reusable rockets and enabling private space exploration. While SpaceX engineered the Crew Dragon vehicle under contract to NASA, the company is free to use the spacecraft for commercial flights without NASA involvement after operational certification.
  • SpaceX has a partnership with commercial aerospace company Axiom Space, which has the ultimate goal of building the world’s first commercial space station. The proposed commercial activities for the station are broad: from in-space research and manufacturing to space exploration support.
  • Then there is space tourism. Private citizens are already queuing for their ticket to space, and with the successful splashdown, they won’t be waiting long. American space tourism company, Space Adventures (partnered with SpaceX), are planning to offer zero-gravity atmospheric flights, orbital flights with a spacewalk option and laps of the Moon by late 2021.
  • The historic launch took place on May 30 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, marking the first time a commercial space company carried humans into orbit around Earth.

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6. Here’s more on how IPL 2020 will play out
6. Here's more on how IPL 2020 will play out
  • The IPL Governing Council has extended the IPL 2020 dates by two days — the tournament will now begin on September 19 and end on November 10. That means, in a break from tradition, the final of this year’s IPL in the UAE will be held on a Tuesday. It’s also the longest eight-team edition ever. “The 53-day tournament will witness 10-afternoon matches [read double headers] starting at 15:30 IST while the evening matches will start at 19:30 IST,” stated a release from the BCCI, soon after the governing council meeting on Sunday.
  • Franchises have been allowed to travel with their full squads – a maximum of 24 – and will be allowed to use unlimited Covid-19 substitutes. Media reports also pointed out that the first leg of the tournament will be played behind closed doors. This after the Emirates board had earlier shown a keenness to fill the stadiums to 30-50% capacity. The council though has decided to ask the franchises and other stakeholders to delay their travel to UAE approximately by a week — possibly to set the Covid-19 protocols in place for this year’s edition — and travel only by August 20.
  • The IPL will also retain all its major sponsors, including the Chinese mobile company Vivo, the title sponsor. The topic of Chinese sponsors had been a contentious one in recent weeks, given the cross-border tensions between India and China. But it would have been difficult for the board to get new sponsors at a short notice given the current financially difficult climate.
  • In another major decision, the governing council also approved the women’s IPL. “The Women’s T20 Challenge will also take place in the UAE and will comprise three teams with four matches to be played during the IPL Playoff week,” stated the press release.
  • The BCCI expects an official nod from the central government and a letter signalling the green light for travel to UAE in the next 48 to 72 hours.
7. Hooch: Death toll nears 100, pressure mounts on Punjab govt
7. Hooch: Death toll nears 100, pressure mounts on Punjab govt
  • Mass deaths due to consumption of spurious liquor in Punjab took a political turn after Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of Delhi and the president of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), called for a CBI investigation. AAP is the main opposition party to the Amarinder Singh-led Congress government. On Sunday, 12 more were reported dead in Tarn Taran, the worst-hit district, deputy commissioner Kulwant Singh said, taking the total toll in the district to 75 and the state to 98.
  • In a tweet, Kejriwal said: “The case should be handed over to CBI immediately as none of the illicit liquor cases from the last few months have been solved by local police”. The AAP also held protests at several places, including Patiala, Barnala, Pathankot and Moga, against the Punjab government, and accused the government of “negligence”. Aam Aadmi Party MP Bhagwant Mann also went to Tarn Taran and met families of the deceased. Mann sought a probe by a sitting judge into the matter. The Punjab government has ordered a magisterial probe into the case. Sukhbir Badal, the leader of the Shiromani Akali Dal, too, hit out at the government, called the tragedy “murder”. “The hooch tragedy is the direct and natural consequence of the patronage given to Congress leaders, including ministers and MLAs, for freely carrying out rampant illicit liquor trade in the state,” he said.
  • Punjab police, under pressure, raided more than 30 places on Sunday. The police have so far arrested at least 25 people and conducted more than 100 raids across three districts, seizing hundreds of litres of liquor from villages and road-side eateries (dhabas), the state’s police chief Dinkar Gupta had said on Saturday. Gupta said four dhabas have been sealed and FIR filed against their managers and owners as they played a major role in the distribution of spurious liquor.
8. Bihar, Mumbai Police lock horns in Sushant case
8. Bihar, Mumbai Police lock horns in Sushant case
  • Days after a Bihar police team reached Mumbai to probe the Sushant Singh Rajput suicide case, a turf battle has broken out between the two law enforcement forces, with ministers weighing in to control the investigation. An attempt by the Bihar cops to access documents linked to the alleged suicide of Sushant’s celebrity manager Disha Salian (28) was stonewalled by their counterparts in the city on Sunday on grounds that they did not follow the protocol. Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh said the Bihar team had exceeded their brief: the law requires an offence to be probed by police and courts within whose jurisdiction it has been committed.
  • However, the view that the Sushant case deserved a deeper, more independent probe continued to find takers, especially among politicians and the bureaucracy in Bihar. Union minister RK Singh who served as Union home secretary and is a BJP MP from Ara, said: “Grievances of Sushant’s family are genuine. Mumbai police did precious little after the incident. They didn’t lodge a formal FIR even after interrogation of a number of suspects.” In fact, senior Bihar Police officer Vinay Tiwari was rushed to Mumbai on Sunday to speed up the probe and “remove obstacles”.
  • The Bihar police team may up the ante in coming days and get a lookout notice issued against Rhea Chakraborty. State DGP Gupteshwar Pandey said on Sunday: “She is absconding. She has her own sources in Mumbai for helping her out there.”
  • Bihar Police also said Sushant, who had changed several SIM cards in the last few months, had none of them registered in his own name. And one of them was registered under the name of his friend and flatmate Siddharth Pithani. ”We are now tracking the call detail records,” they told news agency ANI on the day. The Bihar police is likely to summon Pithani, believed to be in Hyderabad currently, for further questioning.
9. Deflated tyres, unstoppable Hamilton
9. Deflated tyres, unstoppable Hamilton
  • Lewis Hamilton had to steer his way out of a crisis after a seemingly pole-to-chequered flag ride was derailed when the soft tyres of his Mercedes deflated in the last lap, just moments after teammate Valtteri Bottas suffered a similar mishap, but the Briton managed to keep Red Bull’s Max Verstappen at bay for a record seventh British Grand Prix at the Silverstone on Sunday. Bottas, who deflated his tyres two laps before the flag fell from the second position to finish 11th — outside the points bracket.
  • Deflated tyres also cost McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr dear, slipping from fourth place to 13th in the last lap. The string of tyre mishaps is bound to be probed by the teams — was it a case of soft compound driven to its extreme on hot tarmac or was it more? “The car was turning no problem, last few laps I started to back off and then last lap it deflated. That was a heart in the mouth moment. You could see it falling off the rim. From then I was just managing it and I was just praying to get round and not be too slow. I didn’t think I would make it round the last two corners,” said Hamilton, who now has opened a 30-point lead over Bottas in the drivers’ championship after his third win in a row.

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  • In European football: Lazio striker Ciro Immobile (above) broke the hold La Liga strikers have over European Golden Shoe, the award for the top-scorer of a domestic league in Europe, with a Italian league record-equalling 36 goals for the season. He beat Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski (34 goals) and Juventus’s Cristiano Ronaldo (31 goals) for the award. He is also the first Italian to win the Golden Shoe since AS Roma legend Francesco Totti in 2006-07. FYI: Messi has won the award 6 times for Barcelona, and Ronaldo four times (thrice for Real and once for Manchester United).
BEFORE YOU GO
10. When a court gags a Prime Minister’s son
10. When a court gags a Prime Minister’s son
An Israeli court on Sunday ordered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son, Yair Netanyahu, to delete a tweet and refrain from “harassing” several individuals helping lead protests against his father, after he tweeted their personal addresses. The younger Netanyahu had publicised the activists’ addresses and encouraged his 88,000-plus social media followers to picket their homes.

The ruling came a day after what Israeli media described as the largest protest in a decade against Netanyahu’s tenure, estimating the crowd at roughly 10,000 strong. Protesters are demanding Netanyahu to step down, blaming him for the worsening pandemic and economy as well as angry at his continued rule despite facing a corruption trial — he is the first sitting PM to face trial. Netanyahu on Sunday lashed out at the media for “fuelling” protests rather than covering “violent demonstrations”.

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Mahatma Gandhi. The Royal Mint is working on a proposal for a new coin commemorating ‘The Father of the Nation’ as the first ethnic minority face to feature on British currency amid criticism by some prominent persons of Indian origin, who argue that a figure intrinsically connected to UK politics and society would have been a more appropriate choice. A spokesperson for The Royal Mint told TOI: “We are working with the Chancellor (Rishi Sunak) and the Royal Mint Advisory Committee (RMAC) to develop a proposal … It is too early to reveal further specific details about the coin as we are still in the initial stages of discussions.” The RMAC is an independent committee of experts that recommends themes and designs of coins to the Chancellor, in his role as Master of the Mint.

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