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China conducting experiments of lethal pathogens in PAK: Report

According to a report in ‘The Klaxon’, Wuhan scientists are believed to have been conducting research into deadly pathogens in Pakistan since 2015. Currently, there is no cure or vaccine for these pathogens.

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A team of coronavirus scientists from Wuhan Institute of Virology in China has been conducting experiments of dangerous pathogens in “collaboration” with Pakistan for five years under the guise of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), The Klaxon reported.

According to the report written by Anthony Klan, Wuhan scientists are believed to have been conducting research into deadly pathogens in Pakistan since 2015, after revelations surfaced last month that China and Pakistan have entered into a secret three-year agreement to expand potential bio-warfare capabilities. Results of five studies done by Wuhan and Pakistani scientists have been published in scientific papers, each involving the “detection and characterization” of “zoonotic pathogens”.

 For those unversed, zoonotic pathogens are infectious diseases that can pass from animals to humans. The studies comprise experiments and genome sequencing of the West Nile Virus, MERS-Coronavirus, Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever Virus, the Thrombocytopenia Syndrome Virus and the Chikungunya Virus.

Currently, there is no cure or vaccine for these pathogens, some of them considered to be the world’s deadliest and most contagious, according to the article.

One of the studies thanked Wuhan’s National Virus Resource Centre for “providing the virusinfected Vero cells”. Each of the five studies conducted said it was “supported” by the “International Cooperation on Key Technologies of Biosafety along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)”.

 The CPEC is the flagship component of China’s massive BRI infrastructure project, both of which were announced in 2015. The BRI has been heavily criticised as being a veil for Chinese colonial expansion, leaving less developed countries with huge amounts of debts, thereby allowing Beijing to exert its influence over them.

The five studies were published between December 2017 and March 9 this year and appears to precede the announcement of the new Wuhan-Pakistan military bio-programme. However, it does not reveal any links to the Pakistani military. According to the five studies, blood samples were collected from thousands of Pakistani men, women and children, mainly those who resided in remote areas and worked closely with animals, according to The Klaxon.

Citing highly credible intelligence sources, The Klaxon reported last month that China, through its Wuhan Institute of Virology, is testing lethal biological agents in Pakistan and providing “extensive training on manipulation of pathogens and bio-informatics” to Pakistani scientists, which could “enrich a potential offensive biological programme”.

With regards to the secret deal signed between the Pakistani military and China to conduct research in “emerging infectious diseases” and the “biological control of transmitted diseases”, there are key concerns that Islamabad could use the technology in biofare or deadly pathogens may escape accidentally from inadequate equipped facilities.

It is alleged that the programme is involved in “various dual-use research projects”, meaning they can have both military and civilian applications. While both China and Pakistan slammed the accusations, Islamabad has appeared to have confirmed the existence of the agreement between its military and Wuhan lab and operations are being carried out on Pakistani soil, although the location is unknown.

With ANI inputs

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Some coronavirus patients are showing signs of heart damage months later, says a new Study

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Researchers in the US have found that Covid-19 can leave some patients with signs of heart inflammation and injury months after they get sick with the virus, even in non-severe cases.

 The findings could help explain the symptoms of recovered Covid-19 patients, some of whom are struggling with such issues as shortness of breath, chest pain and heart palpitations, according to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

 “We basically die with the heartmuscle cells we’re born with, so anything that results in the death of heart muscle has the potential to irreversibly damage the heart’s mechanical ability and the heart’s electrical function,” Charles Murry, director of the University of Washington’s Center for Cardiovascular Biology, was quoted as saying to WSJ.

 According to the study, heart inflammation can follow cases of seasonal flu or other respiratory viruses and lead to irregular heartbeats or even heart failure in some cases. 

The mounting evidence of Covid-19’s toll on the heart stems from studies probing the effect of the coronavirus on heart-muscle cells, and autopsying people who died from the disease, as well as looking at the hearts of patients who have recovered.

 The researchers said that the findings are still preliminary, especially those gleaned from testing in lab-grown cells. “More research, including studies in patients, needs to be done before scientists can reach any conclusions,” they wrote. 

The research team suspected there are two ways the coronavirus could cause heart inflammation and injure heart muscle. 

According to the study, one possibility is that the heart becomes collateral damage in a patient’s intense immune reaction to the virus.

 The other suspicion is that the virus invades heart tissue, which contains the molecular parts known as ACE2 receptors that the virus uses to enter cells. 

The researchers found that the coronavirus could infect and replicate in lab-grown heart-muscle cells, impairing their ability to contract and to conduct the electrical signals required for regulating heartbeat, eventually killing them.

 They reported their findings in a paper that was posted in August on a preprint server, but it hasn’t been peer-reviewed yet. Earlier this month another study presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress, revealed that Covid-19 patients can suffer long-term lung and heart damage but, for many, this tends to improve over time. 

Globally, the coronavirus has infected more than three crore people and killed almost 10 lakh people, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of worldwide recoveries is more than 2.1 crore. 

With IANS inputs

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Harley-Davidson plans to close India manufacturing facility

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During a visit to Sri Lanka last Diwali, we found the markets of the island nation glutted with Chinese goods. The largest road connecting the two ends of the country has been built by China. In addition to this, the maintenance of a Sri Lankan port is handled by Beijing. On observing all this, we asked officials there as to why Sri Lanka is handing over most of the infrastructure works to China despite the fact that India has done a lot of work in the island nation. 

The Sri Lankan officials replied that Colombo’s ties with Beijing have cemented further over the last four to five years and this, according to them, is attributable to China funding their country immensely with the result that unprecedented development has taken place in the island nation. According to them, China not only provides Sri Lanka with loans but also gets the work done at a low cost. They further said that India does not help them in the similar manner and, therefore, Sri Lanka cannot compromise the interests of its citizens.

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‘Left supporters have made a tactical shift towards BJP to fight Mamata’

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Snigdhendu Bhattacharya’s new book, Mission Bengal: A Saffron Experiment (HarperCollins, Rs 599), narrates how Mamata Banerjee’s attempts to reduce the Opposition to insignificance in the state backfired. In an interview with The Daily Guardian, the author shares how the saffron camp’s push for Hindutva and a tactical shift of the Left’s supporters have created a tough road ahead for Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

 Q: The book is about the rise of the BJP in West Bengal. How is the party making inroads into the state?

 A: The origin of Hindutva can be traced back to the second half of the nineteenth century in Bengal. Some of the principal components of Hindutva — the concept of Bharat Mata, the very coinage of Hindutva, ‘Bande Mataram’, the very notion that Hindus were facing the danger of extermination — they were all born in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century Bengal. It was a heartland of nationalism and that nationalist movement centred on Kolkata was predominantly Hindu in nature. The BJP and the RSS have been trying to remind Bengal’s people of exactly this. 

Q: It was the RSS which described Mamata as ‘Maa Durga’ for demolishing the Left in the state. Now it’s the saffron party versus Mamata. How do you see this change? 

A: Mamata Banerjee was called ‘Maa Durga’ at an RSS event in New Delhi in 2003. At that time, her party was in alliance with the BJP. After breaking out of the Congress in 1998, she had seen the BJP as a ‘natural ally’ against the Left because she thought the Congress would never go wholeheartedly against the Left in Bengal due to its national compulsion of keeping the BJP out of power. However, Mamata’s policies took a left turn towards the end of 2006. She started distancing herself from the BJP and, subsequently, snapped her ties with the NDA. She started proclaiming that she was the true torchbearer of leftist ideology. Besides, she took to the overt appeasement of Muslims in her bid to wean them away from the influence of the Left. So, from a natural ally they turned into principal opponents.

 Q: Bengal was the Left citadel. From there to a scenario where the BJP has become a force to reckon with, how do you see the state’s journey? 

A: The Left mismanaged its industrialisation drive in 2006-07 and could never recover from the electoral blows they received in the 2008 panchayat elections and the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. Possibly, having been in power for three decades had drained them of their energy and ability to fight back, especially after the loss of power in 2011. First, supporters and grassroots-level organisers and even some district level leaders left the Left camp for the TMC. Then, the TMC’s consistent efforts at weakening the Left parties prompted a section of Left supporters and organisers to switch to the BJP after Narendra Modi came to power. Some Left leaders claimed that their supporters made a ‘tactical shift’ towards the BJP to get shelter from the Centre’s ruling party against the TMC’s highhandedness. However, I have also seen Left supporters who joined the BJP primarily to fight the TMC ultimately transformed into Hindutva warriors. 

Q: You have said “Bengal has become a political laboratory”. Why? 

A: It has become a political laboratory, indeed. On the one hand, the Sangh Parivar is trying to popularise Hindutva in the Hindu Bengali society by adopting myriad ways. After they managed to influence a large number of the Hindu population, Mamata Banerjee started changing her approach towards communities. Prashant Kishor’s team is trying many innovative ideas to weaken the strong wave of anti-incumbency that can be felt across rural Bengal. Both parties are adopting policies for particular segments — Dalits, tribals, migrants from Bangladesh, the unemployed youth and migrant workers, for example. There is an intense battle on social media, including the mushrooming of fake news peddlers masquerading as digital news platforms. Veteran political analysts I spoke to said they could not remember political campaigns at so many layers.

 Q: The BJP lacks a prominent Bengali face. How is it going to tackle this challenge? 

A: The BJP is preferring to go to the elections seeking votes in the name of PM Modi for a number of reasons. First, even though Dilip Ghosh is doubtlessly the most popular BJP leader in the state, a section of the BJP and RSS think tank believes Ghosh would not be accepted by the educated and cultured middle-class, especially the bhadralok community that held influence over Bengal’s public psyche for decades. The second reason is that Bengal BJP is fraught with factionalism — from the state-level to the districts. At the state level, we, the journalists, get to hear of three groups functioning in their own ways. By not announcing a CM candidate, the BJP wants to turn the battle into one between Mamata and Modi on the one hand, and on the other, keep all factions working towards the common goal of toppling the TMC government. To my understanding, not announcing a CM candidate is the BJP’s best choice at the present juncture.

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India readies to counter Xi Jinping’s UN address aimed at China’s image makeover

Indian diplomats say that Beijing is facing widespread criticism across the world for its aggressive and expansionist behaviour. Therefore, China’s leadership is using the UN forum to try and impress the global community by talking about peaceful negotiations

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Chinese President Xi Jinping may have said that Beijing has no intention to fight either a “Cold War” or a “hot war” with any country, but India looks askance at his observations. New Delhi believes that Xi’s statement in his UN address is only an “image makeover” exercise.

 Indian diplomats say that Beijing is facing widespread criticism across the world for its aggression and expansionist behaviour. Therefore, China’s leadership is using the UN forum to try to impress upon the global community that he believes in adopting the path of peaceful negotiations, diplomats add. “This is not what China actually thinks and does. There is a sharp contrast in what Beijing says and does,” say officials. 

Sources told The Daily Guardian that External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has been given a full transcript of Xi Jinping’s speech in which he sought to sound like a peace-loving and honest leader. Sources also said that the MEA is not buying what Xi has said, and has, therefore, decided to pursue the strategy of stalling China’s diplomatic moves aimed at “image makeover”. According to sources, Indian embassies have been given a briefing about how to go about this. “Ambassadors and High Commissioners have been asked to counter China’s image-makeover exercise,” said an official. 

Indian diplomats got a boost when US State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus came down heavily on China just a day after Xi Jinping’s speech at the UN. “While China continues to use bullying tactics to meet its goals, it has called for international cooperation and win-win solutions during the 75th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session,” said Morgan. The US spokesperson said, “Beijing called for cooperation and win-win solutions at UN75. But in practice, Beijing uses bullying tactics to advance its goals, including illegal claims in the South China Sea, border disputes with India, and manipulating water flow in the Mekong River.”

 This is how the US official took a potshot at Chinese President Xi Jinping’s statement in which he had said, “We have no intention to fight either a cold war or a hot one with any country. We will continue to narrow differences and resolve disputes with others through dialogue and negotiation. We will now seek to develop only ourselves or engage in zero sum game.” 

With China’s ties with both India and US getting strained, Xi’s statement was taken by both Washington and New Delhi with a pinch of salt. It augurs well for India’s diplomatic mission that Washington has stepped up its attack on Beijing over a host of issues including handling of the Covid-19 outbreak, trade war and so on. What is more significant is that Morgan also referred to China’s misdeed along the LAC. 

“When Xi, who is also the General Secretary of the ruling Communist Party of China and the Commander-in-Chief of the Chinese military, said his country will not pursue development behind closed doors and will not pursue an expansionist agenda, it should reflect on the ground. But nothing is there in reality,” diplomats argue. 

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TN govt allows students from classes 10-12 to go to schools from 1 October

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Finally, Tamil Nadu Government has given its go-ahead for reopening of schools for Class 10 and Class 12 students starting from 1st October 2020.

 As per the official guidelines, students of 10th and 12th classes will be allowed to visit their schools on alternate days for taking guidance from teachers. In line with the Unlock 4.0 guidelines, the schools allowed to reopen have been permitted only to hold doubt-solving sessions or guidance sessions for the visiting students and regular classes will remain suspended as of now. 

While reopening of schools has been allowed on a voluntary basis for class 10 and 12 students, online classes for the same would continue for all students as was done previously. Releasing SOP, the School Education Department has stated that from October 1st, students from class 10th to 12th can come to schools “on a voluntary basis” for guidance from the teachers. 

The school education department has stated that the school administrations can call 50% of the teaching staff who take classes, provide guidance and counselling to the students who come to schools. As per the SOP issued, schools are instructed to divide the students of 10th-12th into two batches and they should be allowed to schools only on alternative days and teachers are also directed to come on batches to help students. However, the schools will remain closed for other class students. Tamil Nadu school education minister Senkottaiyan earlier this week clarified that there is no possibility of reopening schools across the state in the current (pandemic) situation.

 This decision comes at the time when students are expressing the difficulties in attending online classes and after the reports of a few students ending their life allegedly after they couldn’t cope up with the online education. Rejecting this idea of asking students to come to school “on voluntary basis”, educationist Prince Gajendrababu slams the decision saying, like a welfare state like Tamil Nadu, this condition of asking students to come voluntarily will not provide an equal playing field and questions whether the school education department is trying to drive down the message of saying that physical classroom is not necessary anymore.

 He expresses his doubt asking he is not sure whether the government consulted the Directorate of public education before making a decision and it is unfair to ask students to bring a letter of consent from the parents to attend classes and the government must ensure a safe environment for students. 

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Andhra BJP seeks minister Kodali Nani’s resignation for his remarks against Hindu gods and PM Modi

Lokeswara Rao

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A political row has erupted in Andhra Pradesh after the civil supplies minister Kodali Nani’s “objectionable” comments on Hindu gods, PM Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath. 

When opposition questioned why Jagan Mohan Reddy did not go to Lord Venkateswara Temple of Tirumala along with his wife, Kodali Nani had said, “The Prime Minister goes alone to Ayodhya temple to lay the foundation stone and so does UP chief minister. Why should Jagan bring his wife to the temple?

 Drawing an ire from BJP, Nani had said, “First let them (BJP and Swamijis) ask Modi to go to Ram temple along with his wife to perform pujas; then ask Jagan to do so. If I go with some ten people and ask the Prime Minister to sack Amit Shah or Kishan Reddy, will he sack them?” 

These comments sparked controversy in Andhra Pradesh, with BJP asking for resignation of Nani for making such remarks against Hindu gods, PM and UP CM. BJP leaders demanded the immediate dismissal of Kodali Nani from the ministry and an unconditional apology. Andhra Police have house arrested a number of BJP leaders and activists. 

BJP leader Vishnu Ministry Reddy, who participated in the dharna, told The Daily Guardian, “How long Jagan Mohan Reddy will do vote bank politics? Minister Kodali Nani is provoking the Hindus. Is he qualified enough to make statements on Modi and Yogi Adityanath? Why did not file any cases against him despite our complaints? He should be sacked from the ministry. If he is not sacked, we deem it as a provocation by the CM Jagan Mohan Reddy.” The opposition parties are also slamming Kodali Nani for making comments allegedly against the faith declaration at Tirumala before entering. 

The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) also demanded his resignation. TDP’s former MLA Bonda Uma said, the CM cannot sit as a silent monk when the attacks are taking place on Temples. 

He said, “Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy was deliberately not following the rules and regulations of the temple in utter disregard for the sentiments of the devotees. When so many attacks were taking place on temples, the Chief Minister was sitting like a ‘silent monk’ which is not in the best interests of all sections of the people.’ 

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