There are two aspects to the news- knowing the headline and understanding the intricacies of it. We at The Connectere focus on both. While The First Forum edition gives a brief about the headlines, The Weekly Analysis Edition is meant to educate the reader on what do various news mean and what are their intricacies. This initiative is meant to educate the reader on how to understand the important news. In the Thirty Fifth Edition we are covering the following news:
- Understanding all about Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine
- Biden elected as 46th President of the USA
- Ethiopian Govt. declares war on its Tigray Region
- Arnab Goswami arrest case
- Whatsapp Pay the new game changer in the Market
With the second and further dominant wave of the pandemic, the need for vaccine has grown several folds in the past few months. While more than 170 companies worldwide are involved in the vaccine development process, US drug-maker Pfizer along with its German biotech partner BioNTech became the first to announce the preliminary results from late-stage large human trials this week. Their vaccine is more than 90 per cent effective as of now, which is critical considering it’s on its way for FDA (The Food and Drug Administration) review in the second half of this month. FDA earlier had set a bar of at least 50% efficiency to apply for emergency authorization. Hence, it’s highly likely that the FDA will approve this vaccine for emergency use, however, it’s important to note that this is merely preliminary results and more data on safety is required. Pfizer and BioNTech began late-stage trials of their vaccine in July in which half the candidates got a shot of vaccine while the other half got a placebo of saltwater. As of now, 94 candidates fell sick out of 44,000 which through first interim efficiency analysis proves the vaccine to be over 90% effective against Covid-19 in candidates who received the second dose. The exact data for the 94 candidates have been blinded due to several reasons and no individual except the independent board is aware of the details. The vaccine has been developed using mRNA (messenger RNA) technology. mRNA is coded and it instructs the cells on recreating spike protein to tackle the virus. This spike protein is expected to boost immune response through the creation of antibodies for virus attack. Many people believe mRNA to be better than other technology as unlike others, it doesn’t require a weak virus to be injected, cultivated and replicated in the body. Another advantage of this technology is that the vaccine here can be manufactured within weeks of testing through large vats called bioreactors. The vaccine as of now has shown no critical safety concerns as the company tried four versions of their vaccine and selected the one with fewest side effects, however, it’s almost clear that this vaccine will not rescue the world for at least a few coming months. So far, there’s no probability of India getting access to Pfizer Vaccine. Although an initial meeting took place between the Indian government and Pfizer’s Indian subsidiary, there’s has been no significant development since then. As per India’s regulatory requirement, local trials in the country is important before a vaccine can receive approval. The company have already made deals of millions of doses with the US, the UK, European Union and Japan. The firm currently projects to produce 50 million doses in 2020 and 1.3 Billion doses in 2021. India currently is relying on five vaccine candidates by Serum Institute of India, Bharat Biotech, Zydus Cadila, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories and Biological E. The vaccine trial will go on until 164 cases of Covid-19 is reached. It’s still not clear whether it will be effective for children and old age people or not, but the trials include candidates of all ages. Gold prices fell drastically with the vaccine news as global risk sentiment decreased. Although there are 10 major vaccines in late-stage trials that have become optimistic with Pfizer’s result, a major roadblock for the vaccine is its storage which requires -70℃ temperature i.e. ultra-cold storage system.
Although the elections took place on 3rd November 2020, it was after four difficult and intense days of counting that democrat candidate Joe Biden was elected as the 46th president of the United States of America, crossing the magic number of 270 Electoral College votes. As per news reports, currently, Biden is having 279 electoral votes while Trump has 217 electoral votes. While Mr. Biden is expected to be sworn in as the president on 20th Jan 2021, people have their hopes high for political consistency, normalcy and predictability. From Trump, Biden will now have to manage a country facing deep troubles in tackling the pandemic and unemployment. With Biden’s win, Indian-American Kamala Harris is all set to create history as the first woman vice-president of the States. Although the competition was intense in the swing seats, especially Georgia, Nevada, Arizona and Pennsylvania, where a clear winner couldn’t be decided due to close competition for days, the winning moment arrived when Pennsylvania, that has 20 Electoral College votes, was taken over by Biden after a massive recovery on his part following the count of mail-in ballots. However, as per current reports, the Republican Party is leading in the Senate with 50 to 48 with the magic number being 51. If Joe Biden fails to gain the Senate, he might end up being unable to pass legislation on issues like immigration, healthcare and climate change. The Senate has the power over the President’s cabinet officials, judicial appointments and legislative agenda. Trump is stressing on legal action against the “unfair election results” with baseless claims of “fraud in counting”. With several of his tweets being marked as false by Twitter, he’s not ready to leave the White House without legal action. Trump’s tweet, “STOP THE COUNT!” started trending worldwide when he asked the authorities to stop counting in states that he was leading and continue in states he was losing. The situation heated to such an extent that few American news channels cut away from Trump’s press conference because of his baseless false claims. This election saw the biggest voter turnout of over 148 million since 1968, all thanks to liberal mail-voting rules in light of the ongoing pandemic. The election results overall were very shocking for many Americans, as pre-election opinion polls had predicted a clear and easy victory for Biden with a lead of approx.. 8 % vote share as compared to Trump. This leaves a lot of room for deep thinking and analysis on democrat’s part as Trump gave a tough competition despite being so wrong on several matters during her term.
Ethiopia is second-most populous country of Africa and it is known for its ethnic fault-lines and tensions. Hopes were high for the incumbent Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to bring a peaceful solution for the country’s ethnical problems when he won Nobel Peace Prize for variety of liberal reforms such as lifting curbs on media, engagements with opposition, peace with Eritrea etc. However, the Prime Minister have taken up a hard stance to deal with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front(TPLF) by declaring a war on country’s Tigray region, which homes the minority Tigrayan people who constitute 6% of the Ethiopian population of more than 110 million. TLPF is a militia, turned political party which has carried out a protracted war against the Derg military government in 1975 and then dominated the ruling alliance composed of four ethno-regional parties. However, in 2018, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came into power in wake of the anti-govt. protests and fortunes of TLPF have waned since then.
Abiy Ahmed is a member of Oromo ethnic group and he had been trying to lower the TLPF’s influence significantly by removing them from top positions, charging cases of corruption and blaming them for the country’s woes. In wake of this, TLPF withdrew its support for govt. last year. Alienated TLPF accused Abiy of power grab when elections in this year were postponed to 2021 due to COVID-19.
It even held elections in the Tigray region in the month of September. However, the Tigrayan govt. was declared unlawful by federal govt. and in return, TLPF boycotted Abiy’s government. Amongst boiling tensions, federal government stopped funding to Tigray region in response to which TLPF attacked the federal military base in Tigray, forcing a military confrontation and declaration of war on TLPF by the Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. As a result of this war, over 6000 Ethiopians have already fled to Sudan to seek refuge. Declaration of war on an organization representing minority community by a leader from majority community can seriously deepen the ethnic woes of the country. Moreover, Mr. Abiy has often behaved differently from his mandate of placing Ethiopian interests above the regional tensions and is also criticized by the members of his own community of being power hungry. In this unstable political environment, what is required on Mr. Abiy’s part is to listen to TLPF’s cause, find a common ground and restore the balance in the country rather than making the situations more worse by picking arms against the citizens of his own country.
Nearly 381 suicide deaths are reported on an average in India everyday but there are only few cases which get much public and media attention. One of such case is the case of Anvay Naik, a Mumbai based interior designer who committed suicide on 5th May 2018. The same day, body of her mother was also found in the same house. Police discovered a suicide note in this case in which Anvay Naik, allegedly wrote that he was facing financial problems because several people owed him a lot of money and he had not received payments on time, which is why he was forced to take such a step. Three people were blamed in this note- Arnab Goswami, Feroz Shaikh and Niteish Sarda. Apparently, all three had availed the services of Anvay Naik for interior designing in different projects. According to the note, no one paid for his work and Arnab Goswami owed Rs 83 lakh for the work he did on his studio, Feroz Shaikh owed Rs 4 crore and Niteish Sarda owed 55 lakhs to Anvay. This incident happened in the Alibagh which is in Raigarh district of Maharashtra. In response to this, Raigarh police had filed an FIR and the Republic TV, a news channel for which Arnab Goswami works, had denied all charges.
Investigations went on for an year and in April 2019, the Raigarh police filed to close down this case by saying that no sufficient evidence has been found. On 16th April 2019, the judicial magistrate accepted the summary report of police and this case was closed. However, in May 2019, wife and daughter of Anvay Naik met the Home minister of Maharashtra, Mr. Anil Deshmukh and requested him for re-investigation in this case. He directed the police to conduct an investigation and a special investigation team was formed for this case. On October 15, 2020, court gave the permission for re-investigation and on 4th November, 2020, all three accused were arrested by police. With Arnab Goswami, a highly controversial and pro-government news anchor, being involved in this case, this case has become very political and people are coming with entirely new narratives concerned with this case. Supporters of Arnab Goswami, which include a number of BJP leaders, claim that Arnab is being arrested for his criticism of Maharashtra Govt. and thus, his right to freedom is being violated. Republic Bharat also claimed that 90% of the amount owed to Anvay Nair has already been paid and the rest was not paid because the work was not complete by Nair’s company’s end. A number of Arnab supporters are of view that his arrest depicts that there is no place of free journalism in India and there is a constant threat to life of journalists. However, it must be noted that there has been number of cases where journalists were threatened and killed for doing their job where no such support was demanded by these people. People who don’t support Arnab Goswami are claiming this arrest to be a victory and are saying that he deserved it because of the witch hunt that he performed in the Sushant Singh Rajput’s case.
The Supreme Court has, finally gave its judgement on the bail plea of Arnab Goswami by granting him the bail in this case after rejecting it on 9th November by holding that personal liberty of a person must be protected under Indian Constitution. Also , it is true that the case is linked with Arnab Goswami due to some personal reasons and has nothing to do with his professional life and his style of journalism. Hence, it was just on the part of SC to grant him the bail.
The National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) has approved the WhatsApp messaging app to enter the UPI market in India. For this, a new feature of WhatsApp called “WhatsApp Pay” was launched.
To launch this feature and to link it with the UPI, WhatsApp has partnered with five banks such as ICICI Bank, Indian Bank, Axis Bank, HDFC Bank and the State Bank of India. Jio Payment Bank has also been included under the system. Using the feature, anyone can now send and receive money through WhatsApp using the UPI supported application.
The money would be held in the bank account. This messaging platform will just act as a medium to help transfer the money to other people. The payment feature is powered by UPI. For the security purpose, there would be a person pin verification for every transaction.
The NPCI allowed the WhatsApp to expand its user base in a phased manner. Initially the service would be available to 2 crore WhatsApp users out of more than 40 crore users of the country. The reason of this is that, NPCI has capped the payments to 30% on total payment volumes pf the transaction done on every 3rd-party payments application. For the security purpose, there would be a person pin verification for every transaction. However, the launch of WhatsApp Pay feature was delayed because it had to comply with the data localisation norms that were introduced by the Reserve Bank of India.
Whatsapp’s entry in India’s digital payments space is expected to expand adoption of UPI by both individual users and small and medium businesses (SMBs), who leverage the Whatsapp Business app to have a digital footprint. It will also now allow businesses to complete digital transactions on its platform.
However, this will be at the cost of rival UPI service providers losing their customers to the new entrant. Currently, Google Pay and Flipkart-owned PhonePe are market leaders in UPI, with each holding over 40% stake.