The First Forum is an initiative that focuses on covering the latest happenings in a brief format. This is in lieu of the importance of knowledge about current happenings in this fast-changing world.
In the Sixty First Edition of The First Forum we would be covering the following topics:
1. Politics
2. Science and Technology
3. Business
4. Economics
5. Finance

(By Mehak Gupta, Nikunj Gulati, and Kanika Meena)

Politics

Biden will destroy America’s greatness says, Trump
Seeking another four years in the White House, US President Donald Trump has slammed Democratic rival Joe Biden’s record as a “shameful roll call of the most catastrophic betrayals” and said his victory will endanger the nation and destroy the American greatness. Read MoreHe went on to call the upcoming Presidential election as “the most important in the history of the country” adding that it would decide if the American Dream will be “saved” or a “socialist agenda” will “demolish” the “cherished destiny.” He again blamed China for the pandemic and promised in his second term to levy tariffs on any company that left America to create jobs overseas, one of the rare concrete policy proposals of the night. 

Chidambaram calls Finance Minister ‘Messenger of God’
Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram took a dig at Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman after she called the coronavirus pandemic an ‘Act of God’ and said that it had hit GST collection. Chidambaram asked, “How do we describe the mismanagement of the economy during 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20. Will the FM as the Messenger of God, please answer?” Chidambaram also slammed the Centre for asking states to borrow more to make up for revenue losses due to pending GST dues.Read More He asserted that the two options given by the Modi government to the states to bridge the GST compensation gap are unacceptable. Chidambaram claimed that the central government is absolving itself of any financial responsibility. Even Congress MP Rahul Gandhi also hit out at Nirmala Sitharaman over her “act of God” remark, and said the economy had been “destroyed” by three actions – demonetisation, “flawed” GST and a “failed” lockdown.

China warns Norway against giving Nobel Prize
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Li, who is on the rare visit to Norway has warned the country against “politicising” the Nobel Peace Prize by awarding it to Hong Kong protestors. “In the past, present and future, China will firmly reject any attempt by anyone to use the Nobel Peace Prize to interfere in China’s internal affairs, ” Yi said. Hong Kong has been the epicentre of pro-democracy protests and China enforced a controversial security law which has allegedly undermined the autonomy of the region. Read MoreCalling on Norway to cherish the current relationship, Wang said that the bilateral relationship can continue to develop in a sustained and sound manner if both parties can ‘continue to respect each other and treat each other as equals.’ Wang’s visit comes in the backdrop of Norway preparing to take up a rotational seat on the United Nations Security Council, of which China is a permanent member.

SC dismisses plea seeking postponement of Bihar elections
The apex court was hearing a petition, who sought a direction to the Chief Election Commissioner to postpone the election till the state was free of Covid-19. The petitioner had argued that the Representation of the People Act allowed deferment in extraordinary situations. Read MoreThe SC, however, said this was not the ground for postponement. Refusing to entertain the plea, the Supreme Court observed that Covid-19 cannot be a ground to stop elections. Describing the petition as “premature”, the Court remarked “No notification has been issued. How can we ask the Election Commission to not hold elections? COVID is not a valid reason for the postponement of the Bihar election.”

World leaders praise Japan PM Shinzo Abe
World leaders wished Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a rapid recovery and praised his contributions to bilateral relations during his years as Japan’s longest-serving leader. He announced that he is stepping down because of a health problem. Read MoreHe is expected to stay on until a new governing party leader is elected and formally approved by the parliament. World leaders of countries like the United States, United Kingdom, Philippines, China, Taiwan, Australia, Germany and South Korea wish him well for the future. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said, “All the Japanese athletes and the athletes of the entire world are very grateful to him.”

Science and Technology

 

 

Spider silk inspires new class of functional synthetic polymers for bioelectronics, sensors, and batteries
The first goal was to prove that we could precisely tune the proton conductivity of the protein-based polymers by tuning the number of ionizable groups per polymer chain. To do this, the researchers prepared several unstructured biopolymers that had different numbers of ionizable groups, in this case, carboxylic acid groups. Their proton conductivity scaled linearly with the number of charged carboxylic acid groups per chain. Since the first batch of biopolymers was completely amorphous, the researchers had to switch to a different material.Read More They decided to use a known protein that had the shape of a barrel which increased the conductivity greatly. The failure of this barrel structure leads to the testing of protein-like polymer that has the main structure of spider silk but was modified to host strands of carbocyclic acid. Researchers think this material could be useful as a membrane in fuel cells. Maybe not for the large-scale fuel cells that you see in cars and factories, but more on a small scale in the future after more work.

Defects deliver the best of both worlds: highly efficient ultrahigh energy density capacitor
By introducing isolated defects to a type of commercially available thin film in a straightforward post-processing step, a team led by researchers at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has demonstrated that a common material can be processed into a top-performing energy storage material. The material is based on a so-called “relaxor ferroelectric,” which is a ceramic material that undergoes a rapid mechanical or electronic response to an external electric field and is commonly used as a capacitor in applications like ultrasonics, pressure sensors, and voltage generators. Read MorePlacing a ferroelectric material between two electrodes and increasing the electric field causes charge to build up. During discharge, the amount of energy available depends on how strongly the material’s electrons orient, or become polarized, in response to the electric field. These observations bring high prospects of much better and efficient capacitors being made.

‘Cold tube’ invented to beat the summer heat more efficiently than air conditioning
Many people beat the summer heat by cranking the air conditioning. However, air conditioners guzzle power and spew out millions of tons of carbon dioxide daily. They are also not always good for your health—constant exposure to central A/C can increase risks of recirculating germs and causing breathing problems. The Cold Tube works by absorbing the heat directly emitted by radiation from a person without having to cool the air passing over their skin. This achieves a significant amount of energy savings. Read MoreThe Cold Tube is a system of rectangular wall or ceiling panels that are kept cold by chilled water circulating within them. Since heat naturally moves by radiation from a hotter surface to a colder surface, when a person stands beside or under the panel, their body heat radiates towards the colder panel. This creates a sensation of cooling like cold air flowing over the body even if the air temperature is quite high.

Futurebus: Contactless bus designed for the covid-19 pandemic age
A new public transportation design concept aims to give passengers the confidence to take a bus ride by minimizing contact, using anti-microbial fabric, and installing self-sanitizing handles. The team also alternated seating direction to provide more privacy and made use of affordable, copper-infused fabric known to reduce pathogens. Read MoreHandles presented another design opportunity for the team. The new handles have a stainless-steel tube covered by a disposable plastic wrap. Each time the bus stops, the handle will make a slow 360-degree rotation, allowing the entire surface of the tube to be sterilized by a 254 nanometer UV light strip on the back of the handle.

New nanomaterials inspired by insect wings destroy super-bacteria – by stretching, slicing or tearing them apart
Scientists reveal how nanomaterials inspired by insect wings are able to destroy bacteria on contact by stretching, slicing, or tearing them apart. The wings of cicadas and dragonflies are natural bacteria killers, a phenomenon that has spurred researchers searching for ways to defeat drug-resistant superbugs. Read MoreNew anti-bacterial surfaces are being developed, featuring different nanopatterns that mimic the deadly action of insect wings, but scientists are only beginning to unravel the mysteries of how they work. Lead author, RMIT University’s Distinguished Professor Elena Ivanova, said finding non-chemical ways of killing bacteria was critical, with more than 700,000 people dying each year due to drug-resistant bacterial infection. The wings of cicadas and dragonflies are covered in tiny nanopillars, which were the first nanopatterns developed by scientists aiming to imitate their bactericidal effects.

 

Business

Siemens sells mechanical drives business to Siemens AG subsidiary
Siemens’ board of directors has approved to sell the company’s mechanical drives (MD) business to Flender Drives Private Limited, a subsidiary of Flender GmbH, which in turn is a subsidiary of Siemens AG for a consideration of Rs 440 crore. Sunil Mathur, managing director and chief executive officer for Siemens said, “Potential growth in this business will require substantial Capex and moreover, there are no synergies with the existing businesses of Siemens Limited.” Read MoreThe consideration has been arrived at based on an independent valuation, recommended by the Committee of Directors and the Audit Committee, the statement added. The MD business within Siemens Limited achieved a revenue of Rs 683 crore for FY2019 and had an operating loss of Rs 55.3 crore.

Byju’s raises $122 mn from Israeli-Russian billionaire Milner’s DST Global
Education technology company Byju’s has raised $122 million from Israeli-Russian billionaire Yuri Milner’s investment fund DST Global. The financing is part of its ongoing funding round. Byju’s is allotting 42,666 Series F preference shares at an issue price of Rs 213,042.13 per share, show regulatory filings, according to Entrackr, a new age media platform, which reported about Byju’s latest fundraising on 26th August. Read MoreByju’s was reportedly in talks with DST to raise around $400 million and the new financing could be a part of those efforts, according to sources. Yuri Milner, who is known as one of the best technology investors, is an early backer of internet giants such as Facebook, Twitter, and Alibaba. His investment firm DST Global has also backed top Indian companies including e-commerce firm Flipkart, ride-hailing company Ola and food delivery firm Swiggy.

Over 2,000 online sellers file an antitrust case against Amazon in India
A group of more than 2,000 online sellers has filed an antitrust case against Amazon in India, alleging the U.S. company favours some retailers whose online discounts drive independent vendors out of business, a legal filing seen by Reuters showed. The case presents a new regulatory challenge for Amazon in India, where it has committed $6.5 billion in investment but is battling a complex regulatory environment.Read More In January, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) had ordered an investigation of Amazon and rival Flipkart, owned by Walmart, over alleged violations of competition law and certain discounting practices, which Amazon is challenging, according to court filings. Amazon said in a statement it complies with all laws and its India website is a pure third-party marketplace where sellers have the discretion to decide product prices. Amazon’s statement also said its wholesale unit allows businesses to buy products and anyone can register on it.

Gold’s record rally to boost Kalyan Jewellers’ $235 mn IPO, say experts
Gold’s record-setting rally is set to give wings to the largest initial share sale by an Indian jeweller, helping it overcome tumbling demand in the second-biggest consuming nation. Kalyan Jewellers India Ltd. said Monday it plans to raise as much as Rs 17.5 billion ($235 million) through a public listing as it banks on the long-term appeal of gold, a staple of Indian weddings and a popular investment option in the country. Read MoreThe plan comes as gold purchases by Indians this year are forecast to plunge to a record low with the coronavirus pandemic hurting the economy and pushing prices to all-time highs. Still, the Warburg Pincus LLC-backed jeweller is likely to benefit from the nearly 30% jump in gold prices this year. “The share sale could see a lot of interest as physical gold and silver continue to appeal to investors,” said Abhimanyu Sofat, head of research at IIFL Securities Ltd.

Tata Motors shares gain 8.5% on the company’s goal to bring debt to near zero
A day after N Chandrasekaran, chairman, Tata Motors made public the plans of reducing debt to near-zero levels over the next three years, the company’s investors lapped up the stock. Rising to a 10-week high, shares of Tata Motors closed at Rs 137.85 apiece, up 8.5% on Wednesday over the previous day. Read MoreThe running up of the stock indicates that company’s investors are confident that the Tata group flagship will be able to achieve the target of deleveraging the balance sheet in a significant way on the basis of an improvement in operational performance in both, the domestic business and Jaguar Land Rover Automotive, its UK subsidiary, said analysts. If things keep improving, the margins will firm up going ahead substantially, says Aditya Makharia, vice president at HDFC Securities. JLR is expected to be loss-making even in the current September quarter as the company will be focusing on reducing dealer inventory. It will be cash-positive in each of the following quarters and sustainably cash-positive from FY22.

Economics

World Bank suspends publication of “Ease of Business Report” due to irregularities
The World Bank has paused publication of its “Doing Business” report to probe data collection irregularities in the closely watched annual ranking of countries’ business and investment climates. “A number of irregularities have been reported regarding changes to the data in the Doing Business 2018 and Doing Business 2020 reports, published in October 2017 and 2019,” the financial institution said in a statement. The Doing Business report has long been controversial because it ranks countries based on indicators of how their government bureaucracies and regulations affect – and often limit – their attractiveness as destinations for business investment. Read MoreThe World Bank said that it would conduct a systematic review and assessment of data changes in the last five Doing Business reports, adding that independent auditors will investigate data collection and review processes. The annual ranking of countries’ business and investment climates has been important for the Narendra Modi government, which has taken credit for the improved rankings. 

India’s summer crop plantings at record high amid plentiful monsoon rains
Ample monsoon rains spurred Indian farmers to plant Kharif crop across a record swathe of farmland 7% more than last year. It is promising a bumper harvest in Asia’s third-biggest economy, despite the rapid spread of coronavirus. Farm ministry data shows growers sowed 108.2 million hectares (267.4 million acres) with crops such as rice, corn, soybeans, cotton, and sugarcane. Between Friday and June 1, farmers planted a higher acreage of each single summer season crop than final 12 months, the information confirmed.Read More Praising the farmers, the Farm Minister Narendra Singh said that they are confident that food production will cross the target of 298.32 million tonnes in the 2020-21 crop year and that it would outstrip the earlier 12 months’ file output of 295.67 million tonnes. After a spell of patchy rain within the final two weeks of July, India acquired rainfall in August that was 24% above the common and is prone to run till the tip of the month.

Ultra-rich US investors hoard cash as economy fears over Covid-19 grow
Wealthy investors are continuing to hoard cash amid uncertainty in the pandemic. Although markets continue to surge, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq hitting new all-time highs this week, the ultra-wealthy Tiger 21 club with more than 800 investors are upping their cash holdings at a record pace.Read More The club, whose participants typically have more than $100 million in assets, said have raised their cash holdings to 19% of their total assets which is up from about 12% since the start of the pandemic, on concerns over the economic consequences of the covid pandemic in the U.S. economists are increasingly warning about a prolonged slowdown if lawmakers fail to provide $1 trillion to $2 trillion in relief funds this fall as the U.S. economy is amongst the worst hit economies of the world.

Indian Economy more resilient now vs global financial crisis: RBI governor
The Indian economy remains much stronger amid the coronavirus pandemic than it was during the global financial crisis over a decade ago even if growth has slowed, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Shaktikanta Das said. Data due later this month, however, is expected to show the world’s fifth-largest economy contracted 20% in the April-June quarter as strict nationwide lockdowns to curb the spread of COVID-19 stalled economic activities.Read More The RBI has so far refrained from providing any official forecast on growth or inflation and is among the few central banks globally not to do so. Das said India’s financial sector continues to be sound and stable, but more can and needs to be done in terms of banking sector reforms, he added, stressing the need for better governance culture and risk management practices at banks. The RBI has asked banks to build strong buffers and raise capital as bad loans are expected to rise.

Without help, lidcs risk a lost decade due to covid 19
The shock waves from Covid-19 will lead to a lost decade for the world’s poorest countries, urgent and concerted action from the international community is required to save lives and livelihoods in LIDCs, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said. Low-income developing countries (LIDCs) entered the pandemic in a vulnerable position and faced the prospect of their progress in poverty reduction over the past seven to ten years being wiped out. Since March, LIDCs have been hit by an exceptional confluence of external shocks – sharp contraction in real exports, lower export prices, less capital and remittances inflows, and reduced tourism receipts to already high public debt rates. Read MoreIMF economists called on the international community to adopt a seven-point plan so that poor countries could cope with Covid-19 and recover quickly. It also backs World Bank’s statement for a more ambitious debt relief plan for poor countries after warning that the Covid-1recession is turning into a depression for them.

 

Finance

Shortage of Credit Card Numbers in Japan
Japan is facing a shortage of 16-digit credit card numbers amid a surge in online shopping during COVID-19 and a government campaign to promote cashless payments. The first six digits indicate the company, brand and other details, while the last 10 are determined by the issuer credit card companies to have warned of a shortage of combinations from the seventh – digit onwards. Read MoreThe shortage of numbers has emerged against the backdrop of a rise in credit card payments from consumers staying indoors amid the pandemic, as well as a sudden increase in the number of cards being issued due to the government’s introduction in October last year of a point reward system accompanying cashless transactions. Although an increase in credit card issuances is advantageous for card companies, it also poses a problem. 

Rupee roses high against US dollar
The rupee rose to its highest level in nearly six months, gaining for a third straight session, with traders saying the central bank refrained from currency intervention as foreign investors piled into equity markets. The rupee rose nearly 2% for the week, its biggest weekly gain since the week ending December 21, 2018. Read MoreDollar inflows into the stock market and gains in other Asian peers have helped fuel the rupee’s strength. Foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) have bought $6.2 billion worth of shares so far in this month. Indian stock market benchmark Sensex is up about 5% so far this month. The partially convertible rupee ended at 73.3850 per dollar, up 0.6% on the day. It had risen to 73.28 earlier, its strongest level since March 5.

World most valued housing company got listed on NYSE
China’s KE Holdings, also known as Beike Zhaofang, which owns property brokerage brand Lianjia, got listed on the New York stock exchange raising US$2.12 billion. This also made Beike (Lianjia) the most valued property-related company in the world and also China’s 7th largest internet company after eCommerce and social media companies like Alibaba, Meituan, Tencent etc. Lianjia, founded in 2001 in Beijing, provides both online and offline real estate brokerage transactions and services. Read MoreIn 2019, it handled more than 2.2m housing transactions, with a transaction value of ~US$300 billion, and generated revenue totalling US$6.5 billion. It counts SoftBank, Tencent, Hillhouse Capital and Sequoia Capital among its largest investors.

Yes Bank shares rise nearly 5% after a Rating upgrade
Yes Bank shares rose to 5% after two rating agencies – India Rating and Crisil upgraded the private lender’s bonds. Crisil upgraded its rating on Rs 20,000 crore certificates of deposit of Yes Bank to ‘A2-plus’ from ‘A2’ besides reaffirmed its ‘BBB/Stable’ rating on the bank’s tier two bonds under Basel III and infrastructure bonds. Meanwhile, India Ratings upgraded Yes Bank’s long-term issuer rating to ‘BBB’ from ‘BB’.Read More “The upgrade in short term rating reflects an improvement in funding and liquidity profile of the bank with a gradual increase in its deposit base as well as sizeable capital raised recently,” Crisil said. India Ratings added that it expects the bank to continue improving its operating metrics and liability profile over the next few quarters as it continues making provisions for COVID-19 related impact on its portfolio. 

U.S. technology stocks are now worth more than the entire European stock market
U.S. tech stocks have been pushing the stock market to record highs, and now the sector has now become more valuable than the entire European stock market for the first time in history, according to the latest research from Bank of America. This is the first time the market cap of the U.S. tech sector, at $9.1 trillion, exceeds Europe, which including the U.K. and Switzerland is now at $8.9 trillion. Read MoreFor reference, the firm said that in 2007, Europe was four times the size of U.S. tech stocks. The news comes as no surprise as big tech names continue to play a large role in leading the market to new record highs. Apple has the largest concentration of any major tech company in the S&P 500, making up around 7.1% of the index, according to S&P data. Microsoft is second, with just under a 6% weight. Amazon makes up nearly 5% of the index, while Alphabet and Facebook account for around 3.4% and 2.5%, respectively.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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