An elite club: On G-7 summit

The G-7 summit, at Carbis Bay, sent out two very strong messages. The first was driven by the United States’s new President Joseph Biden and his vow that “America is back” to take the lead on global challenges. The G-7 commitment to donate one billion coronavirus vaccines to poorer countries and to invest $12 trillion in their combined pandemic recovery plan depends on U.S. commitments for a large part. The special communiqué on “Open Societies” for the G-7 outreach, and the invitation to “fellow democracies” India, Australia, South Korea and South Africa are also an extension of his stated commitment to convening a Democracy Summit this year. Even the slogan for the G-7, “Build Back Better”, was a White House term to declare America’s economy and jobs recovery plan. The second message was the consensus amongst the seven-member countries on countering China. The final G-7 communiqué holds no less than four direct references to China, each negative, including criticising Beijing for its

Numero Uno: On Djokovic win at French Open

Novak Djokovic has always maintained that ending his career with the most number of Grand Slam titles is one of his prime motivations to keep playing tennis. In the Roland-Garros final on Sunday, he took a giant stride in realising this dream with a sensational come-from-behind five-set victory over the fast-rising Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas for his 19th Major, pulling him within one title of his celebrated rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. It was the Serb’s second French Open trophy, making him only the third man in history (after Roy Emerson and Rod Laver) and first in the Open Era (post 1967) to win all four Slams at least twice. The rhythmic allure of the record aside, the sense of completeness and the feeling of sporting immortality it brings, even to a career as storied as Djokovic’s, is unparalleled. So will the 34-year-old’s semifinal victory over 13-time champion Nadal, the greatest of all clay-courters. That Djokovic had the tennis to challenge the Spaniard was never in

Origin unclear: On the source of the coronavirus

Over 17 months after WHO first reported a cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause in Wuhan, China, scientists are yet to determine with certainty how the SARS-CoV-2 virus emerged. Much like other viruses, SARS-CoV-2 too could have a natural origin or somehow escaped from the coronavirus research lab in Wuhan, the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak. With no hard scientific evidence available to confirm the lab leak hypothesis, there are some scientific leads that support a natural origin. If it is a zoonotic spillover, the virus could have either directly crossed over from bats to humans or through an intermediate host. But till date, neither the bat species that hosts the SARS-CoV-2 virus nor the intermediate host has been found. China’s secrecy and delay in reporting the Wuhan outbreak and in finding the natural host or the intermediary have further fuelled the lab spillover hypothesis. Finding the host animal can be daunting. While the civet cat and dromedary camel were


Renewed uncertainty: On the economy’s bleak prospects

The latest factory output data released by the National Statistical Office is yet another sign of the rocky start that the economy is having in the new fiscal year. April’s Index of Industrial Production (IIP) estimates show all three sectoral constituents of the index — mining, manufacturing and electricity — suffered reverses, as output slid below the preceding month’s levels. With the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic increasing in intensity that month and several key industrial hubs coming under renewed local lockdowns, all six end-use categories — primary, capital, intermediate and construction goods and consumer durables and non-durables — endured month-on-month contractions. Manufacturing, which accounts for 77.6% of the IIP, saw production shrink 12.6% from March, and contributed significantly to a 13% sequential contraction in overall industrial output. The NSO advised against drawing a year-on-year comparison, which it said would be affected by the fact that the nationwide


Counting the dead: On measuring excess deaths

The real time mortality impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is an important statistical measure to guide policy responses. But measuring the actual count is not an easy task. WHO, in January 2021, had estimated, based on excess deaths data in Europe and the American continents, that actual deaths were at least 1.6 times over the official count. The problem of under-counting, even in mature public health systems across the developed world, is largely because patients who die due to cardiovascular issues among others even after apparent recovery from COVID-19 are sometimes not tracked and registered as COVID-19-related deaths. This is why even in Kerala — with 100% registration of deaths and a relatively low case fatality rate — following criticisms about the methodology to evaluate whether a death was related to COVID-19, the health administration in the districts, rather than a State-level audit committee, will now audit deaths. But there is another class of under-counting across States,

Monsoon malady: On Mumbai’s decrepit buildings

Seeds and fruits: On Mamata’s call for a non-NDA platform

Terror in the Sahel: On growing Islamist violence in Africa

Fair wind: On IMD's projection of good monsoon

Media and sedition: On Supreme Court relief to journalists

Diminishing options: On RBI’s policy statement

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