US intelligence report – NewsIn.Asia

Washington, February 27 – Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved of an operation to capture or kill dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi who was murdered in 2018, according to a declassified US intelligence assessment released on Friday (Feb 26), in a manner choreographed to limit damage to US-Saudi ties.

Khashoggi, a US resident who wrote opinion columns for the Washington Post critical of the crown prince’s policies, was killed and dismembered by a team of operatives linked to the crown prince in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

Riyadh has denied any involvement by the crown prince, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler.

“We assess that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in the report posted on its website.

“We base this assessment on the Crown Prince’s control of decision-making in the Kingdom, the direct involvement of a key adviser and members of Muhammad bin Salman’s protective detail in the operation, and the Crown Prince’s support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad, including Khashoggi,” it added.

In declassifying the report, US President Joe Biden reversed his predecessor Donald Trump’s refusal to release it in defiance of a 2019 law, reflecting a new US willingness to challenge the kingdom on issues from human rights to the war in Yemen.

However, Biden is treading a fine line to preserve ties with the kingdom as he seeks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with its regional rival Iran and to address other challenges including fighting Islamist extremism and advancing Arab-Israeli ties.

Washington choreographed events to soften the blow, with Biden on Thursday speaking with the crown prince’s 85-year-old father, King Salman, in a call in which both sides said they reaffirmed their decades-old alliance and pledged cooperation.

The declassified intelligence, prepared by the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence, echoed a classified version of a report on Khashoggi’s murder that Trump shared with members of Congress in late 2018.

Trump’s rejection of demands by lawmakers and human rights groups to release a declassified version at the time reflected a desire to preserve cooperation with Riyadh amid rising tensions with Iran and to promote US arms sales to the kingdom.

Biden’s new director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, has committed to complying with a 2019 defence Bill that required her office to release within 30 days a declassified report on Khashoggi’s murder.

The 59-year old Khashoggi was a Saudi journalist living in self-imposed exile in Virginia who wrote opinion pieces for the Washington Post critical of the policies of the crown prince – known to some in the West as MbS.

He was lured on Oct 2, 2018, to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul with a promise of a document that he needed to marry his Turkish fiancee. A team of operatives linked to MbS killed him there and dismembered his body. His remains have not been found.

Riyadh initially issued conflicting stories about his disappearance, but eventually admitted that Khashoggi was killed in what it called a “rogue” extradition operation gone wrong.

Twenty-one men were arrested in the killing and five senior officials, including the deputy intelligence chief, Ahmad Asiri, and Saud al-Qahtani, a senior MbS aide, were sacked. (Reuters)

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Resurgence of COVID-19 in India’s Maharastra forces fresh containment measures – NewsIn.Asia

Mumbai, February 22 (Reuters) – Alarmed by signs that a second wave of the coronavirus epidemic is building, India’s richest state of Maharashtra ordered fresh restrictions on people’s movement and imposed night curfews in some cities, though not in the financial capital Mumbai.

Maharastra alone reported nearly 7,000 new cases on Sunday, a steep rise from just 2,000 cases earlier this month, with fears heightened by the appearance of new strains of the virus in parts of the country.

“We just cannot afford to impose a second lockdown, people will have to follow the guidelines or else we could see a massive second wave,” said S.D Patil, a member of the Maharastra government team monitoring the spread of the disease in a state that accounts for nearly a fifth of India’s confirmed cases.

“People will have to stop attending social events and non-essential travel at this juncture,” he told Reuters on Monday.

Latest figures given by the health ministry on Monday, showed India reported 14,199 new infections, and 83 new deaths on Sunday.

While the total number of confirmed cases stands crossed 11 million, including 156,385 deaths, actual infections could range as high as 300 million, a government serological survey showed this month.

In Mumbai, one of the worst-hit cities last year, masks and temperature checks were being made compulsory for tens of thousands of daily commuters using suburban trains that were reopened earlier this month. Police warned they would fine people without a mask.

(Graphic: COVID-19 cases in major Indian cities – )

In Pune, the state’s second largest city, an official said the percentage of people testing positive for the virus had doubled in a little over two weeks.

“If we compare the positivity rate, fifteen days ago, it was 4.5 to 5 %. But slowly it has been rising and reached 10%,” said Saurabh Rao, the official in Pune.

Though national trends are worrying, new daily cases are still well below a mid-September peak of nearly 100,000. Testing numbers have also fallen to about 800,000 a day from more than 1 million.

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New Covid strain detected in the UK and should be surge tested, experts warn – NewsIn.Asia

February 17 (Evening Standard) – A new Covid variant has been discovered in the UK with similar worrying attributes to the Kent variant and should be targeted with surge testing, experts warn.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh identified the variant, known as B1525, through genome sequencing in ten countries including 35 cases in Denmark, ten in the US, and 33 cases found in the UK so far, reported The Guardian.

The earliest cases were reported in December and were found in Nigeria and the UK. 108 cases have now been detected across 11 countries in Africa, Europe, North America and the Middle East.

Researchers say that B1525 is similar in make-up to the dominant Kent variation which developed a mutation, E484K, also found in the Kent, South African and Brazilian variants.

The E484K spike protein is thought to play a crucial role in getting the virus into the body.

Studies also indicate this mutation may be able to better escape the body’s immune response, rendering vaccines less effective.

Dr Simon Clarke, an associate professor of cellular microbiology at the University of Reading told The Guardian: “We don’t yet know how well this [new] variant will spread, but if it is successful it can be presumed that immunity from any vaccine or previous infection will be blunted.

“I think that until we know more about these variants, any variants which carry E484K should be subject to surge testing as it seems to confer resistance to immunity, however that is generated.”

A spokesman from Public Health England said they were adding the variant to their online database today.

Professor Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director at PHE, said:“ PHE is monitoring data about emerging variants very closely and where necessary public health interventions are being undertaken, such as extra testing and enhanced contact tracing.

“There is currently no evidence that this set of mutations causes more severe illness or increased transmissibility.

“The best way to stop the spread of the virus is to follow the public health advice – wash your hands, wear a face covering and keep your distance from others. While in lockdown, it is important that people stay at home where possible.”

It comes after the Prime Minister suggested mass vaccine coverage and the use of rapid lateral flow testing is the favoured approach to reopen “the toughest nuts to crack” such as nightclubs and theatres.

His suggestion was backed by the World Health Organisation’s special envoy on Covid-19, Dr David Nabarro, who told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “The secret to getting life back to some degree of normality for most of us is going to be the availability of really reliable, super-quick tests.

“That will make movement so, so much easier.”

“I think that the certificates for vaccination are likely to be required more for international travel and other such activities where you’re actually going into a different jurisdiction.

“But for moving around (domestically) it will be rapid tests.”

Meanwhile, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi declined to say how low coronavirus infections must be in order to allow the lockdown to ease.

Asked what level cases must be brought down to, he told Sky News: “The Prime Minister is right to say that where we are today in terms of number of people in hospital, in terms of case numbers per day, it’s still far too high and we want to make sure we bring that right down.

“But I wouldn’t want to speculate on this until we see more data.”

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Bayern Munich win Club World Cup for sixth trophy in a year – NewsIn.Asia

February 12 – Bayern Munich beat Tigres UANL 1-0 in the final of the FIFA Club World Cup in Qatar to lift their sixth title in less than nine months.

Benjamin Pavard scored the only goal of Thursday’s final in the 59th minute for the German side who were without midfielder Thomas Muller and defender Jerome Boateng for the match.

Muller was forced to sit out the final after testing positive for the coronavirus while Boateng returned to Germany for personal reasons.

Muller has scored 10 goals in the German league this season.

Bayern’s win was witnessed by more than 10,000 people in the crowd, mostly fans of Al-Ahly, the Egyptian side that had won the third-place play-off, who had stayed back after the earlier match.

The German side won all domestic and European titles they were part of last year.

Hansi Flick’s men won the Champions League, Bundesliga, German Cup, UEFA Super Cup and German Super Cup last season.

Tigres, the first North American club to reach the tournament’s final, registered just a solitary shot on target compared to the German side’s nine.

This is the eighth year in a row that the Champions League winners have gone on to win the Club World Cup, as Bayern follow in the footsteps of last year’s champions Liverpool.

Earlier on Thursday, Egypt’s Al-Ahly beat Brazil’s Palmeiras 3-2 on penalties to claim third position in the tournament.

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On motivating students to fall in love with knowledge – NewsIn.Asia

By Surya Vishwa/Harmony page/DailyFT

Reacting  to an earlier article of mine entitled: ‘A case for integrated knowledge to be introduced in school curricula’, a friend said I was making knowledge sound so romantic. I told her she got it exactly right and explained to her that students should be taught to be enthusiastic about knowledge so that they fall in love with it.

I also told her that teachers should be continuous students; always in the quest of knowledge – seeing it as a continuing entity and not as something having an end, if they are to inspire students. An uninspired teacher cannot inspire students.

Knowledge should not be made to be a tinsel bargaining chip gained for surface value of belonging in a world that has lost its humaneness and meaning; which is what the modern education sector, founded as a pillar of the era of industrialization has done.

Anyone who has made something meaningful of a branch of knowledge and uses it to serve the world to truly make a change (as Amartya Sen did with economics) knows that knowledge cannot be perfected unless one truly cares for it. One cannot truly care for knowledge when all one wants is to pass an exam and get a job. One cannot truly care for knowledge unless we question and make each child question as to the purpose of obtaining knowledge. The purpose has to rise above the pettiness of being ‘given a job’ after passing an exam. Instead, we should motivate children to be creators; job creators by being idea creators – children who will be adults who create new things by looking at knowledge in deep introspective ways and putting these thoughts into practice.

If we honestly seek educational reforms, we should seek solutions for the problems the world faces – mostly created by modern education itself. Sir Ken Robinson a highly respected British education reformer who showed consistently how the industrial age education system unleashed on the world is dying of uselessness was Director of the Arts in Schools Project and Professor of Arts Education at the University of Warwick. Those who attempt to remove the mechanization from education should definitely study the work of Ken Robinson.

What should be reiterated is that knowledge which is gained for petty trade off; for a social position, for a job, for survival cannot create a meaningful world. At best it can create apathy and frustration and at worst greed or vice. This is why we have technology created by modern knowledge used more for the destruction of the planet and humans than for safeguarding it. We have failed to incorporate into the modern education system empathy that should be formulated as a solid foundation before technicalities of knowledge are passed on.

Societies such as Sri Lanka which had a rich pre-colonial education structure in the form of the Gurukula tradition should take a cue, if it is seriously pursuing education reforms, as to how the idea of knowledge was conceptualized in ancient times in this country. There is scope to introduce our ancient apprentice system innovatively into the current education reforms to create children who can do things as opposed to merely write exam answers.

If we include our heritage values and knowledge into the current changes we want to see within education reforms it will create an empathy-based knowledge structure which will constantly make the student question as to how she or he could perfect that particular discipline analytically while never forgetting the importance of simplicity, traditional knowledge, country’s history and overall humane purpose and duty of knowledge accumulation. A country cannot progress if it cuts itself off from its heritage – and this is one of the things that is wrong with the modern knowledge systems in much of the world. The very rich ancient cultures, values, thoughts and indigenous knowledge systems are suppressed in the name of modern Western science-based knowledge. Should this be so?

Knowledge is a vast sea. In this sea we are all fishermen. We catch the fish. We think we have caught the ocean; that we have mastered the sea. But in fact, we have caught just one fish – or two or three or ten. The sea awaits us. That far horizon tells us that we have a whole range of knowledge in its entirety to explore.

Modern knowledge that is clueless

We today have modern knowledge that is clueless to explain past expertise. Try asking a Lankan engineer just how exactly water engineering was carried out by the ancient Sinhalese who created Sigiriya. I tried many times and was told that this is not taught to Sri Lankan engineers. It is not taught because it is not included in Western engineering concepts and we are blindly following the Western model of education with no mental or emotional connection to our past expertise in this realm of knowledge.

This heritage based and contextual disconnectedness accompanied by a lack of thinking of anything seemingly beyond comprehension begins in the school system as we know it today. A school system we have made so excruciatingly formal and dismal and dreary but where at the end of it we hardly know what we should know.

Have we ever thought about the meaninglessness of our Grade 5 scholarship system and that it prevents rural schools from developing, while making young children robots of memorization? Speaking to children about what they ‘love’ about school very rarely will I get an answer that they ‘love’ a particular subject. And when a student says he or she ‘love’ a subject, you can see the difference in the manner in which it is said. The entire face lights up as they explain what they love about a subject.

But does our education system encourage such enthusiasm? Does it encourage curiosity? Are our tired, overworked, underpaid school teachers connected with any emotion or remotely connected with enthusiasm, curiosity and joy about the subject they are teaching? Are teachers themselves curious to learn something new every day about the subject they teach? On the contrary one hears horrific stories.

A university student of mine; an extremely gifted thinker whose thought processes are unique and whose reading choices are vast, told me how she loved maths as a teen. She emphasized the word love. She loved mathematics. She absolutely loved maths and she was scoring very high for this subject at term tests. In the mathematics class she would be constantly thinking how a particular mathematical problem could be solved in a shorter, different, more innovative, more radical manner than how it is taught formally. She had a fan club of others students – she could teach them maths in an interesting way. The class mathematics teacher/s could not do this. It must have been apparent to the teachers that she was above them in both techniques of handling mathematics.

This student was a clear Ramanujan in the making. Srinivasa Ramanujan was an Indian mathematician who made significant contributions to the world of mathematics although he had almost no formal training. As for this student of mine – how did the teachers react? They get her parents down to school and told them that their daughter has a mental problem and forced them to take her to a psychiatrist! Thankfully the parents took her to a sensible child psychiatrist who after talking in detail with the child and being so impressed with her knowledge of mathematics had three solutions; 1. For the teachers to be taught maths by this child. 2. For the teachers to be brought to her (the psychiatrist). 3. If neither the 1st or 2nd option worked, for the said teachers to promptly be sacked from their teaching positions.

In my long conversations with this student, I constantly tell her to keep up her original yearning to change the face of mathematics in how it surfaces in schools. A mind like this could make a major contribution to the current education system to prevent teachers from ruining children’s connection with this subject perceived as difficult by many and creating failures through the Ordinary Level examination (because teachers do not know how to teach maths).

In an earlier article on integrated knowledge this writer showed how mathematics is a vital component of both music and art. If only teachers know such information which they could use to give life to the subject.

Sublime connection

Anyone who knows the basics about love will know that love cannot be forced. It is not as if one can write on a blackboard with white chalk and command; from this moment you will love Science or Maths or Geography or Art or Dance, or Poetry or Medicine or Cookery or Engineering or Forestry. What specific branch of knowledge chooses you will be decided by a sublime connection between the brain and the heart and probably genetics and many other factors.

A school education system should be geared to allow children to develop a deep connection of love with a branch of knowledge that is most suited to their inborn mental and emotional make up. This is not what happens today. After some 15 or so years of school education we often have jaded minds, because the education system has killed all of the love that should be there in a child’s heart and mind for knowledge.

In a recent conversation Vimukthi Jayasundara, one of Sri Lanka’s internationally acclaimed film makers, described Sri Lanka’s education system as one dedicated to ‘creating failures.’ He had written an article for this page on these lines. The link is as follows:

Jayasundara was fortunate to have a wise father who was also a teacher who allowed his son to totally break free from the current warped institutionalized knowledge system before it ruined his mind. The result is Sri Lanka having a world-renowned film maker who is now also conducting trainings on how creativity could be boosted within the mind.

Meanwhile speaking informally last week with one of the members of the education reforms committee members I suggested to her to get the assistance of Sri Lanka’s artistes in creating meaningful education reforms. Sri Lanka has some of the world’s best artistes in various spheres. It might also be a great boon to their overall task, if all members of the education reforms committee and other officials connected with this exercise watch two films created on the concept of knowledge and the education system – one is the Sri Lankan Sinhala language film Vishama Baga directed by Lalith Rathnayake and produced by Ven. Aludeniye Subodhi Thero for Shraddha Film Productions. The other is the Indian comic-drama film Three Idiots directed by Rajkumar Hirani and produced by Vindhu Vinod Chopra. Both the films, set in different frameworks of storytelling, focus on the same theme; the need to re-examine the modern robotics of education.

A truly educated person should not have to live life as a mere drudgery, an exchange for survival, a trade off that saps your time on this earth with neither meaning nor passion.

A truly educated mind

A truly educated mind actually puts the brain to do the task that it should do – think – create – question – read – create – act – implement. Rote learning would not encourage this. When I finally ended up getting a university degree, I was told repeatedly by my professors not to ‘over read’ and ‘over think’ and that it will affect me getting a ‘First Class.’ I told them that I am not in the least bothered and that I am not pursuing university education for getting either a piece of paper or rank but rather as a stepping stone to broaden my thinking and exposure to knowledge – because I love it – and because I want to be able to try and create new ideas and practical initiatives that will be meaningful.

Sri Lanka’s internationally acclaimed innovator Dr. Nandadasa Narayana, a major critic of this country’s rote learning menace, laments that Sri Lanka’s percentage of those who are categorized as entrepreneurs is somewhere around 3% when Vietnam, a country which surmounted so much of serious post-war challenges, is about six times higher.

How on earth can we create children who will invent and innovate and become entrepreneurs when their brains are clogged with textbooks and are hijacked by the tuition mafia? How can we create entrepreneurs/inventors when there is nothing remotely connected to encouraging invention/creation of new ideas in schools?

In my earlier article promoting integrated knowledge, I looked at how education should be a way to solve society’s problems.

Problems are solved when children and adults are made to think about them and create solutions. Right now, the biggest problem is the education system! The fact that a youth of 22 who had entered university can become a vicious ragger of other youth to the point of bringing death shows that what we have masquerading as education is definitely something damningly warped. Probably one reason is that we have moved very far away from nature. An Indian educator once told me that if education is to truly represent that word, it should be re-introduced under trees and not brick-made prisons.

There are many scientific studies that show the power of nature to heal and motivate our minds – reading a book under a tree is certainly different from reading it in a brick-made library. Since education reforms involve many aspects that could be considered, one is for children to be freed from these brick-made confinements and taken to nature where like in the age old Gurukula system we had, they will learn diverse disciplines being aware that we are part of nature and that whatever that we create out of knowledge should not destroy nature.

There we will have the learning of values and ethics incorporated into the knowledge structure – which will be the ultimate game changer. This will be a vital component of equating knowledge with the most noble of emotions; unconditional and selfless love that great philosophies such as Buddhism teaches us.


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Big corporates blow up COVID-19 threat to make a killing – NewsIn.Asia

By P.K.Balachandran/Ceylon Today

Colombo, February 1: The world’s big corporate pharmaceutical companies, with governments and mainstream media in their hands, are blowing up the threat from COVID-19 to make a fast buck at the expense of the common man, alleges the Center for Research in Globalization (CRG) headed by Michel Chossudovsky, Emeritus Professor of Economics at Ottawa University in Canada.

For the past year, the COVID-19 virus is being blamed for changing the face of the world by creating a “new normal” marked by a mass fear psychosis, crippled economies, changing social behavior and working practices and the accentuation of social and economic inequalities. But the CRG has been arguing that the blame is falsely and misleadingly put at the door of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

CRG says that, in fact, the crisis has been brought about by the world’s biggest pharmaceutical corporates to perpetuate and increase their dominance over the lives of people and governments. The corporates are unethically exploiting a “new but no-so-deadly” influenza, says Duni Damar, writing in the CRG’s website.

Dalmar sets the context by saying that it is “panic” that has become “endemic” creating the current pathetic situation. A recent Vox poll showed 52% of Americans supporting a one-month national lockdown. Back in April 2020, at the peak of panic, an AP poll showed 87% of Americans supported stay at home orders. The propaganda was that COVID-19 was ten times deadlier than the Spanish flu of 1918 (which killed anywhere between 17.4 million to 50 million world-wide).   

But the reality is that the present pandemic is nothing compared to the 1918 flu, says Dalmar. We are dealing with something more like a normal bad flu season in some parts of the first world, and a very light one in most of the world.

COVID mainly kills the old and the frail. In the US, nursing home patients make up less than 1% of the population but account for 39% of COVID deaths. A recent peer reviewed study published by the WHO showed that the virus kills only about 0.2 to 0.3% of those who get it. In the Third World the number is much lower, and for people under 70 worldwide it was 0.05%. That is, there is only 1 in 2000 chance of dying after catching COVID if you’re under the age of 70.  According to the German Health Ministry, infection-fatality ratio in the  2017/2018 flu season was 0.4 to 0.5%.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), many more people were hospitalized during the 2017 /2018 flu season in the US than during the worst stretch of COVID  (an estimated 800,000 hospitalizations in 6 months that season). There were less hospitalizations the first 6 months of COVID, it was pointed out. This made Stanford University Professor John Ionniadis, one of the most cited infectious disease experts in the world, describe the medical opinion on COVID-19 as a “once in a century evidence fiasco.”

SARS and MERS, both of which are coronaviruses, that were dealt with in the last 20 years, are far more deadly than Covid-19. “We have dealt with much more damaging airborne viruses in recent history. The ’57 and ’68 pandemics are not really known outside the medical community but both of those pandemics killed much more than what Covid-19 has on a global scale adjusted for population growth. In the United States, which has the most COVID deaths, the number of deaths is slightly higher than in ’57. But in contrast to now, 1957 was a year of normal life. It was not described as a pandemic,” Damar says.

Additionally, the older pandemics were much more deadly for kids and working age people and were therefore more disastrous for society, compared to COVID-19 which affects mostly the old and the sick.

There is no correlation between lockdowns/restrictions and deaths, Damar points out looking at US data. “South Dakota basically did nothing and they rank 9th in deaths per capita while New York and New Jersey are 1 and 2, with a per capita death rate that is much higher.”

The deliberate spreading of panic by governments and the media, probably prompted by the medical fraternity which in turn is influenced by the pharmaceutical industry, made the Editor-in-Chief of the British medical journal say that science is being suppressed for political and financial gain. “Covid-19 has unleashed state corruption on a grand scale, and it is harmful to public health,” the editor added.

COVID-19 has distracted attention from other illnesses, Damar points out. Unemployment and deprivation due to lockdowns would also hasten deaths. There are about 3 million unemployed in the US along with another 17 million who have become “food insecure”. An additional 135 million have become food insecure globally.

A recent CDC survey in the US showed that a quarter of young Americans aged 18 to 24 had contemplated suicide recently. The closing of many schools and universities for a long period of time will have incalculable effects on children, young adults, and society as a whole, Damar points out.

With the “scam” on full swing, the global economy is undergoing a major makeover but only for the benefit of the rich. While common people are being rendered jobless and workless, the ruling class is getting richer both in the advanced and the developing countries.

 “Small business has been destroyed, which opens up more opportunities for the biggest companies in the world as their competition shrinks and their market share grows. As of June 2020, three million American small businesses were closed, and 40% of jobs  lost during the pandemic are gone for good. Similar patterns can be seen in other countries.”

 But Wall Street profits are up over 80% this past year, big tech companies are doing better than ever, the biggest corporations either didn’t stop running during the pandemic or got paid as a part of a federal reserve program that gave the biggest companies in the country 500 billion dollars. They weren’t even required to preserve jobs to get this money. Similar bailouts are taking place all over the world, Damar points out.

In its latest report, Oxfam says that the wealth of Indian billionaires increased by 35 per cent during the lockdown and by 90 per cent since 2009 to $422.9 billion ranking India sixth in the world after US, China, Germany, Russia and France.

The report titled ‘The Inequality Virus’ says that the wealth of India’s top 100 billionaires shot up by Rs 12.97 trillion, which is enough money to support the vaccination drive of the 138 million poorest Indians. Meanwhile, in a grim contrast, as many as 170,000 Indians suffered a “lay off every hour” in April last year, following the Central Indian government’s decision to impose the world’s strictest lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

For the world’s richest, it took less than 10 months to recover the financial losses caused by the pandemic. But it will take over a decade for the world’s poorest to catch up, the report pointed out.

Vaccine making has become a big money spinner. In 2010, WHO was called out by the British medical journal for its advisors having big pharma ties which led to overproduction of vaccines for the Swine Flu. Bill Gates, his foundation and other billionaires and their foundations, are big investors in big pharma and are set to profit off COVID-19 as well, Damar says.

Is mass vaccination necessary?  Damar’s answer is: “The old and the weak taking the vaccine is fine, but everyone taking it seems like a money grab. This constant advertising, the demonization of people worried about the safety of this rushed new vaccine as anti- vax is only meant to protect a 40 billion dollar profit for big pharma.”


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Why swearing is a sign of intelligence, helps manage pain and more – NewsIn.Asia

January 26 (CNN) – Polite society considers swearing to be a vulgar sign of low intelligence and education, for why would one rely on rude language when blessed with a rich vocabulary? That perception, as it turns out, is full of, uh … baloney. In fact, swearing may be a sign of verbal superiority, studies have shown and may provide other possible rewards as well.

“The advantages of swearing are many,” said Timothy Jay, professor emeritus of psychology at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, who has studied swearing for more than 40 years.”The benefits of swearing have just emerged in the last two decades, as a result of a lot of research on brain and emotion, along with much better technology to study brain anatomy,” Jay said.

1. Cursing may be a sign of intelligence

Well-educated people with plenty of words at their disposal, a 2015 study found, were better at coming up with curse words than those who were less verbally fluent.

Participants were asked to list as many words that start with F, A or S in one minute. Another minute was devoted to coming up with curse words that start with those three letters. The study found those who came up with the most F, A and S words also produced the most swear words.That’s a sign of intelligence “to the degree that language is correlated with intelligence,” said Jay, who authored the study.

“People that are good at language are good at generating a swearing vocabulary.”Swearing can also be associated with social intelligence, Jay added.”Having the strategies to know where and when it’s appropriate to swear, and when it’s not,” Jay said, “is a social cognitive skill like picking the right clothes for the right occasion. That’s a pretty sophisticated social tool.”

2. Swearing may be a sign of honesty

Science has also found a positive link between profanity and honesty. People who cursed lied less on an interpersonal level, and had higher levels of integrity overall, a series of three studies published in 2017 found.”When you’re honestly expressing your emotions with powerful words, then you’re going to come across as more honest,” said Jay, who was not involved in the studies.

While a higher rate of profanity use was associated with more honesty, the study authors cautioned that “the findings should not be interpreted to mean that the more a person uses profanity, the less likely he or she would engage in more serious unethical or immoral behaviors.”

3. Profanity improves pain tolerance

Want to push through that workout? Go ahead and drop an F-bomb.People on bikes who swore while pedaling against resistance had more power and strength than people who used “neutral” words, studies have shown.

Research also found that people who cursed while squeezing a hand vice were able to squeeze harder and longer.Spouting obscenities doesn’t just help your endurance: If you pinch your finger in the car door, you may well feel less pain if you say “sh*t” instead of “shoot.”People who cursed as they plunged their hand into icy water, another study found, felt less pain and were able to keep their hands in the water longer than those who said a neutral word.

“The headline message is that swearing helps you cope with pain,” said lead author and psychologist Richard Stephens, in a prior CNN interview. Stephens is a senior lecturer at Keele University in Staffordshire, England, where he leads the Psychobiology Research Laboratory.

Stephens said it works like this: Cussing produces a stress response that initiates the body’s ancient defensive reflex. A flush of adrenaline increases heart rate and breathing, prepping muscles for fight or flight. Simultaneously, there is another physiological reaction called an analgesic response, which makes the body more impervious to pain.

“That would make evolutionary sense because you’re going to be a better fighter and better runner if you’re not being slowed down by concerns about pain,” Stephens said.”So it seems like by swearing you’re triggering an emotional response in yourself, which triggers a mild stress response, which carries with it a stress-induced reduction in pain,” he added.

Careful, however, the next time you decide to extend your workout by swearing. Curse words lose their power over pain when they are used too much, research has also discovered.Some of us get more out of swearing than others. Take people who are more afraid of pain, called “catastrophizers.”

A catastrophizer, Stephens explained, is someone who might have a tiny wound and think, “Oh, this is life-threatening. I’m going to get gangrene, I’m going to die.””The research found men who were lower catastrophizers seemed to get a benefit from swearing, whereas men who are higher catastrophizers didn’t,” Stephens said. “Whereas with women, there wasn’t any difference.”

4. Cussing is a sign of creativity

Swearing appears to be centered in the right side of the brain, the part people often call the “creative brain.”

“We do know patients who have strokes on the right side tend to become less emotional, less able to understand and tell jokes, and they tend to just stop swearing even if they swore quite a lot before,” Emma Byrne, the author of “Swearing Is Good for You,” said.

Research on swearing dates back to Victorian times, when physicians discovered that patients who lost their ability to speak could still curse.”They swore incredibly fluently,” Byrne said. “Childhood reprimands, swear words and terms of endearment — words with strong emotional content learned early on tend to be preserved in the brain even when all the rest of our language is lost.”

5. Throwing expletives instead of punches

Why do we choose to swear? Perhaps because profanity provides an evolutionary advantage that can protect us from physical harm, Jay said.”A dog or a cat will scratch you, bite you when they’re scared or angry,” he said.

“Swearing allows us to express our emotions symbolically without doing it tooth and nail.”In other words, I can give somebody the finger or say f**k you across the street. I don’t have to get up into their face.”Cursing then becomes a remote form of aggression, Jay explained, offering the chance to quickly express feelings while hopefully avoiding repercussions.

“The purpose of swearing is to vent my emotion, and there’s an advantage in that it allows me to cope,” he said. “And then it communicates very readily to bystanders what my emotional state is. It has that advantage of emotional efficiency — it’s very quick and clear.”

A universal language

What makes the use of naughty words so powerful? The power of the taboo, of course. That reality is universally recognized: Just about every language in the world contains curse words.”It seems that as soon as you have a taboo word, and the emotional insight that the word is going to cause discomfort for other people, the rest seems to follow naturally,” Byrne said.It’s not just people who swear.

Even primates curse when given the chance.”Chimpanzees in the wild tend to use their excrement as a social signal, one that’s designed to keep people away,” Byrne said. Hand-raised chimps who were potty-trained learned sign language for “poo” so they could tell their handlers when they needed the toilet.

“And as soon as theylearned the poo sign they began using it like we do the word sh*t,” Byrne said. “Cursing is just a way of expressing your feelings that doesn’t involve throwing actual sh*t.

You just throw the idea of sh*t around.”Does that mean that we should curse whenever we feel like it, regardless of our environment or the feelings of others? Of course not. But at least you can cut yourself some slack the next time you inadvertently let an F-bomb slip. After all, you’re just being human.

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Ukrainians cancel visit to Sri Lanka over PCR concerns – NewsIn.Asia

Colombo, January 22 (Daily Mirror) – Over 200 Ukrainian tourists who were expected to arrive in Sri Lanka on a charter flight on January 19 under the Government’s pilot project, backed out of visiting the country while a further 100 tourists who were expected to arrive today, have cancelled their plans. 

They have cancelled their plans following Sri Lanka’s health protocols which require every tourist to undergo three PCR tests if the stay is more than seven days, the Daily Mirror learns. 

The charter flight which was expected to arrive with at least 214 tourists from Ukraine on January 19, flew into the country empty to take back the returning tourists while today, another flight is expected to arrive, but the number of arrivals have been reduced from an estimated 240 to 100. 

Sri Lanka’s former ambassador to Russia Udayanga Weeratunga, who was part of the government’s pilot project told Daily Mirror that following the new health guidelines released for tourists on January 6 many tour operators in Ukraine and Russia had been reluctant to take fresh bookings simply because tourists were reluctant to undergo so many PCR tests during a short span. 

Weeratunga said that in addition to undergoing a PCR test in their respective countries within 96 hours before flying to Sri Lanka, upon arrival here, tourists were required to undergo another PCR test upon their check-in at their hotel, another test on their fifth to seventh day and another test during their 14th day. 

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India begins first phase of vaccination to cover 30 million people – NewsIn.Asia

Colombo, January 16: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday launched the all-India rollout of COVID-19 vaccination drive via video conferencing

Considered to be the world’s largest vaccination program, it covers 30 million health care and frontline health workers across India in the first phase, the Indian High Commission said in a release.

The endeavor is to cover 300 million in the second phase. The elderly population and those with serious illness would be the focus groups in this phase.

A total of 3006 session sites were virtually connected during the launch with around 100 beneficiaries being vaccinated at each session site on the inaugural day.

The massive vaccination program is powered by Co-WIN, an indigenously developed online digital platform, which will facilitate real time information of vaccine stocks, storage temperature and individualized tracking of beneficiaries. A dedicated 24×7 call center  has also been established to deal with all issues pertaining to administration of the vaccines.

Speaking at the launch, Prime Minister Modi highlighted various steps undertaken by the government of India to combat COVD-19. India released its first COVID-19 advisory on 17 January 2020 and was among the first countries to start screening passengers at its airports. Specifically on vaccines, he said, Indian vaccines were built on tried and tested technology in India and added that these vaccines will give a decisive victory to India in fighting the pandemic.


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Indian Supreme Court stays contentious farm laws – NewsIn.Asia

New Delhi, January 12 (Reuters): India’s Supreme Court ordered an indefinite stay on Tuesday over the implementation of new agricultural laws that have triggered widespread protest from farmers, saying it would set up a panel to hear their objections.

For more than a month, tens of thousands of farmers have camped on the outskirts of New Delhi, the capital, to protest against reform measures that they say benefit large private buyers and farm growers.

Chief Justice Sharad Bobde told a hearing the Supreme Court would establish a panel to hear the farmers’ grievances.

“We have the power to make a committee and the committee can give us the report,” he said, ordering the stay for an undisclosed period on the laws passed in September.

“We will protect farmers.”

There were no immediate further details.

The government has said there was no question of such a rollback, and eight rounds of talks have failed to find common ground. The two sides are set to meet next on Friday.


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