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But even without the help of any surveys, media persons with an ear to the ground were certain of a change in Tamil Nadu as the AIADMK government was perceived commonly as one that was remote-controlled by the BJP from the Centre, which was also seen as anti-Tamil Nadu.



For DMK and its president M.K. Stalin, 2 May has been the super Sunday he has been waiting for. The longest-serving understudy to his father and DMK patriarch M. Karunanidhi for nearly five decades, Thalapathi as he is fondly called by his supporters and cadres looked set to form the government in Tamil Nadu after the DMK alliance appeared set to win a comfortable majority in the Assembly elections.

As leads firmed up on early Sunday evening, the DMK-plus was poised to cross the 150-mark in the 234-member House, polling for which was held in April, leaving no one in doubt that Stalin is the next Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu after results and trends of counting of votes pointed to a comfortable victory for DMK and alliance partners. His victory was always on cards, especially after he swept the Lok Sabha elections winning all but one of the 39 seats in 2019 at the height of the Narendra Modi wave that engulfed the nation at that time.

Since nothing much has changed on the ground since then, in issues and narratives, the DMK was expected to do very well in the Assembly elections as was predicted in a spate of pre-poll surveys and later by exit polls.

But even without the help of any surveys, media persons with an ear to the ground were certain of a change in Tamil Nadu as the AIADMK government was perceived commonly as one that was remote-controlled by the BJP from the Centre, which was also seen as anti-Tamil Nadu when it came to a host of issues, whether it was NEET, farmers’ agitation, hydrocarbon project of GAIL, or even GST dues.

If not anything, Stalin managed to mount a potent campaign on these issues, painting the Centre as the villain of the piece and built a perception that the EPS government was functioning against the interests of Tamil Nadu. For good measure, he invoked Tamil pride and the language issue for good measure that ensured a solid connection with the masses in the state that takes pride in the richness of its language and culture.

Along with such a narrative, Stalin mounted a good, high-pitched, and scorching campaign early on and had covered almost all the constituencies twice over before the elections were announced. And clearly, he was decisive enough to fend off demands for more seats from the alliance partners, and at one stage it appeared that Congress could go away as it found the 25 allotted to it as an “insult”. Stalin stuck to his stand, and convinced Congress citing its poor strike rate in the previous 2016 elections when the Congress could win a mere 8 from the 48 it contested.

As the leads show, his decision appeared to be bang on, and even the Congress strike rate improved with leads in 16 seats out of the 25 it contested. For sure, another key decision that helped in his victory was securing the services of political campaign strategist Prashant Kishor, who rebuilt and rebranded the leader and helped in mounting a powerful electoral narrative and prepared an action plan to convey the message to the masses effectively.

Seems like Stalin’s style of politics too received the stamp of approval of the masses. Somewhat tired of the AIADMK government and itching for a change, they found in Stalin a viable proposition and they were willing to give him a chance. In a highly politically aware state, people do remember Stalin’s firm stand of not toppling the AIADMK government when it was undergoing a crisis after a revolt by its senior leader O. Panneerselvam and instead declared that he wanted to come into power through the right royal way—something he did on 2May2021.

But it is a throne of thorns that awaits Stalin and top on the list is to handle the Covid-19 pandemic that is raging on in the state. Already, the Chief Minister-to-be has announced vaccination at doorstep, something that his government will take up immediately once he gets sworn in.

To be fair, Chief Minister and AIADMK leader Edapaddi Palanswami handled the Covid-19 crisis effectively and had tried his best to deliver governance. But where he and the AIADMK lost out is in the perception battle, that the party and government were subservient to the BJP.

More important, Stalin will be tested heavily on how he deals with the Central government now that he will be the Chief Minister. Having mounted a shrill campaign against the BJP and the Centre, Stalin will be very closely watched by the people and the AIADMK, as to how he manages to forge a working relationship with the Central government.

The victory of Stalin in a battle of the two Dravidian parties makes it very clear that Tamil Nadu remains a two-horse race notwithstanding the tall talk of a third and a new alternative to these old political forces. The fate of the political party—Makkal Neethi Maiyam—floated by superstar Kamal Haasan is a case in question. He came a cropper,with his party failing to open its account. Perhaps, the other superstar, Rajinikanth, assessed the situation accurately and opted out of the political arena, not unlike cricket Saurav Ganguly whom the BJP was keen to rope in as its face for West Bengal.

The two icons had health issues to contend with as well, and cited the same to refrain from entering the political arena. To be fair, Ganguly never expressed a desire to enter politics, but Rajinikanth flirted with the idea often and had even announced the formation of a political party and contesting elections. But he pulled out just ahead of elections.

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A new in China shows that the country has about 30 million unmarried men, triggering speculations about shortage of brides there.

According to China’s seventh population census by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), out of the 12 million babies born last year there were 111.3 boys for every 100 girls. In 2010, the ratio was 118.1 to 100.

“Normally in China, men marry women who are much younger than they are, but as the population ages, there are even more older men, which exaggerates the situation,” ANI quoted Prof Stuart Gieten-Basten as saying.

Bjourn Alpermann, another professor, warned of a huge shortfall in potential brides by the time the babies born reached marriageable age. “Of these 12 million babies that were born last year, 600,000 boys will not be able to find a marriage partner their same age when they grow up,” he said.

China’s one-child policy, implemented in 1979 and withdrawn in 2016, had exacerbated the practice of sex-selective abortion in favour of boys, said Jiang Quanbao, a demography professor.

Meanwhile, SCMP reported citing the NBS that China’s fertility rate was 1.3 children per woman, well below the 2.1 needed to maintain a stable population.

Highlighting that men from lower classes faced the most difficulty in finding brides, Cai Yong, an associate professor of social demography warned that without marriage, they will suffer “poorer physical and psychological health”.

“As long as the preference for boys does not change, it will skew the sex ratio at birth. With such preferences, people still will find a way to select boys over girls and more female fetuses will be aborted,” he said.

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Gates quit board as Microsoft probed his affair with employee



Resignation of Bill Gates in 2020 from Microsoft’s Board of Directors came after the board hired a law firm to investigate a romantic relationship he had with a Microsoft employee that was deemed inappropriate, people familiar with the matter said.

Quoting Wall Street Journal, CNN reported that some Microsoft Directors began an investigation in 2019 into the woman’s allegations of prior sexual relationship with Bill Gates. During the probe, some board members decided it was no longer suitable for Gates to sit as a Director at the software company he started and led for decades, the people said.

Gates resigned before the Board’s probe was completed and before the full board could make a formal decision on the matter, another person familiar with the matter said, reported Wall Street Journal. “Microsoft received a concern in the latter half of 2019 that Bill Gates sought to initiate an intimate relationship with a company employee in the year 2000,” a Microsoft spokesperson said.

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Running short of oxygen for patients of Covid-19, Nepal has requested mountain climbers of ongoing Spring Expedition to bring back their canisters so that it can be refilled to supply medical gas (oxygen) to the patients. With Covid-19 surging in the country, patients are gasping for oxygen as there is a dearth of oxygen containers.

Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) has requested climbers to bring back their empty or unused cylinders so that it can be used for oxygen refilling.

“We now are facing the second wave of infection which has created grave kind of situation and crisis, matter is going out of hand. Cylinders (oxygen) which arrived back from the expedition can be used at this hour of crisis. We are lending our hands to government, various associations and those who are working on it,” said Santa Bir Lama, president of NMA.

“In the ongoing expedition all the climbers are on base camp, they possess ample number of cylinders. We have requested owners and operators to bring back cylinders immediately after completion of expedition to use it for the benefit of people,” Lama added. ANI

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Evidence suggests Covid-19 originated from Wuhan lab: Pompeo



The evidence suggests that coronavirus originated from the lab in Wuhan city of China, said former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday. He added that the risk of bioweapons and bioterror arising from the region is “very real”.

Pompeo told Fox News that the Chinese Communist Party “covered up” the origins of Covid-19 and that evidence continues to mount despite their efforts to deny access to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. “We worked to get every bit of evidence that we could, we tried to deliver this to the CDC, tried to work with the Chinese. They covered it up terribly,” Pompeo said.

He said the combination of circumstantial evidence and China’s intense effort to deny any information relating to the lab suggests to him that the virus originated in that lab. “I haven’t seen a shred of evidence to suggest anything to the contrary,” Pompeo said. “The risk that something like this happens again from that laboratory or another Chinese laboratory is very real,” he said. “They [China] are operating and conducting activities that are inconsistent with their capacity to secure those facilities. And the risk of bioweapons and bioterror emanating from this region is very real.”

Pompeo also warned that similar scenarios could happen in the future, pointing to the possibility of biological warfare.

Recently, findings in a report in an Australian daily has yet again reinforced the call that international investigators must dig deeper to rule out whether Covid-19 is a made-in-China bioweapon. The controversy about Covid-19 origins has resurfaced after the Weekend Australian newspaper revealed that Chinese scientists were thinking about bioweapons, visualising a World War-III scenario.

The daily cited a Chinese government document that discussed the weaponisation of SARS coronavirus. Titled the Unnatural Origin of SARS and New Species of Man-Made Viruses as Genetic Bioweapons, the 2015 paper was authored by Chinese scientists, Chinese public health officials and members of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

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The future battlefield belongs to attack drones or flying artillery shells and China is now is looking to buy Kamikaze drones. Michael Peck in an article in The National Interest said that the US ally Israel first taught China about suicide drones. Now Beijing is looking for its own. China got its first taste of suicide drones when Israel sold it the Harpy in the 1990s, to the displeasure of the US government. The Chinese military wants two types of suicide drones, according to an announcement posted on a Chinese military procurement Web site. The desired technical specifications of the drones, or the number to be purchased, are classified, reported The National Interest.

As per Peck, Chinese drone manufacturers do have products that might satisfy the demands of the People’s Liberation Army.

In 2018, China Aerospace unveiled the CH-901, which Chinese media described as being 4 feet long and weighing 20 pounds, with a speed of 150 kilometers (93 miles) per hour, a range of 15 kilometers (9 miles), and an endurance of two hours. The larger WS-43 is a 500-pound weapon with a range of 60 kilometers (37 miles) and an endurance of 30 minutes.

Called “loitering munitions” by military customers who are understandably reluctant to refer to them as suicidal, these weapons seek to bridge the gap between artillery shells – which can’t stay up in the air – and strike drones like America’s Reaper and Predator, which are big and expensive unmanned aircraft.

Loitering munitions feature a propeller, wings, a warhead, and a camera. They orbit an area, scanning it with their cameras to identify targets and transmitting the images back to the operator. When the operator sees a worthwhile target, he can command the drone to perform a death-dive on the target, reported The National Interest.

The potential uses of these weapons are numerous. Aerovision’s Switchblade, which the US Marine Corps ordered in 2018, is a handheld 6-pound weapon that fits inside a soldier’s backpack.

Switchblade is designed for situations such as troops encountering a mortar on the reverse slope of a hill that can’t be hit by direct-fire weapons. Instead of waiting for artillery or airstrikes, a rifleman can pluck a Switchblade from his backpack and destroy the target.

Or, if hitting a sniper in a building risks collateral damage to civilians, a Switchblade can be flown through the window. Its warhead is no more powerful than that of a grenade, but that’s still powerful enough to take out a mortar or sniper.

Israel’s Harpy, designed to knock out enemy radar sites, is a much larger weapon. Introduced in 1990 as probably the world’s first suicide drone, the 300-pound Harpy has a range of up to 250 miles and an endurance of two hours. It is similar to a traditional anti-radiation missile that homes in on signals from a radar station.

However, unlike a missile, it can stalk an area for hours, waiting for an unwary operator to switch on radar before it autonomously flies toward the target, reported The National Interest.

For the US military and other potential Chinese adversaries, this is one more advanced weapon that they may encounter in battle. Like drones in general, loitering munitions can be hard to detect and shoot down, especially the smaller models.

Even worse, those Chinese loitering munitions may be popping up outside of China. Beijing may have become the world’s No 2 arms exporter, whose aircraft, tanks, and rifles can be found across the globe. This means that American soldiers could face Chinese-made suicide drones in hotspots such as Africa and the Middle East, said Peck.


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Israel launched heavy air strikes in Gaza and the Hamas kept up its rocket attacks on Israeli cities in fighting that spilled into a second week on Monday, with the death toll nearing 200. Meanwhile Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that an end to hostilities was not imminent even as International calls mounted for a ceasefire.

Israel’s bombardment of Gaza entered its eighth consecutive day after raids on Sunday killed at least 42 Palestinians, wounded dozens more, and flattened at least two residential buildings. The home of Gaza’s Hamas chief, Yehya al-Sinwar, was also targeted, as reported by Aljazeera news. At least 192 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip since the latest violence began last Monday. Israel has reported 10 dead.

The United Nations Security Council met on Sunday to discuss the worst outbreak of violence in years in Palestine and Israel. US President Biden conferred with Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, about efforts to broker a ceasefire. While supporting Israel’s right to defend itself from rocket attacks by Hamas, Biden urged Netanyahu to protect civilians and journalists.

Over the past week, the 15-member UN Security Council met privately at least twice to discuss ways of reducing tensions. But efforts to reach an agreement on a statement or to hold an open meeting had faced resistance from the United States, Israel’s biggest defender on the council.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote on Twitter: “All parties need to deescalate tensions—the violence must end immediately”, after he spoke with Egypt’s foreign minister about ongoing violence in Israel, Gaza and the occupied West Bank.

At a meeting on Sunday of the UN Security Council, the United States said that it has made clear to Israel, the Palestinians and others that it is ready to offer support “should the parties seek a ceasefire”.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel’s campaign in Gaza was continuing at “full force”, and that deterrence had to be achieved to prevent future conflict with Hamas, which rules Gaza. “We are acting now, for as long as necessary, to restore calm and quiet to you, Israel’s citizens. It will take time,” Netanyahu said in a televised address after his security Cabinet met on Sunday.

US President Biden said his administration is working with all parties towards achieving a sustained calm. “We also believe Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live in safety and security and enjoy equal measure of freedom, prosperity and democracy,” he said in a pretaped video aired at an event marking the Muslim Eid holiday on Sunday.

Biden’s envoy, Hady Amr, arrived in Israel on Friday for talks, and an official with first-hand knowledge of his meetings said on Sunday that he reiterated “full US support” for Israel’s right to defend itself. He also made clear that Washington understood that “this is clearly not something that can be wrapped up in 24 hours,” said the official, who asked not to be identified.

In New York, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council that hostilities in Israel and Gaza were “utterly appalling” and called for an immediate end to fighting. He said the United Nations was “actively engaging all sides toward an immediate ceasefire” and urged them “to allow mediation efforts to intensify and succeed.” UN envoys have helped to mediate past truces between Israel and Hamas.

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