5 THINGS FIRSTIndia vs West Indies third ODI; Wholesale price inflation and balance of trade data to be released; Court verdict in Pehlu Khan lynching case likely; key defence meet on corporatisation of ordnance factories; Pacific Island Forum on climate change in Tuvalu2. Braking Bad: India’s worst-ever auto slump’s hereWho’s driving? According to data released by industry body Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) on Tuesday, the total dealership deliveries of vehicles were lower by 18.7% in July at 1,825,148 units from the same month last year. And passenger vehicle sales (cars and SUVs) by automobile manufacturers to car dealers have fallen for the ninth straight month. We’re talking a 30.9% dip to 200,790 — the steepest drop since December 2000, when the industry sold a fifth of the vehicles it sells currently. Worryingly, that’s also four consecutive months of drops of 20% or more. Breaking it further, while passenger car sales fell 36% to 122,956 units, the utility vehicle segment slid 15.2% to 67,070 units.More categories: Due to slowdown in overall economic activity and increase in freight carrying capacity of heavy duty commercial vehicles, sales of medium and heavy commercial vehicles declined by 37.4% to 17,722 units while the same for light commercial vehicles declined by 18.7% to 39,144 units. In fact, the sales of trucks and buses dropped the most since February 2014. Together, total commercial vehicles dipped 25.71% to 56,866 units last month. Two-wheelers — a key indicator for demand in rural India — also declined 16.8% to 1,511,692 units.Cause: Domestic passenger vehicle production is down nearly 17% in the month. This, at a time when the demand for consumer goods is falling and what is seen as a major sign of an economic slowdown in India. The pace of decline has accelerated in recent months, most importantly, due to a liquidity crunch in India’s shadow banking sector — read non-banking finance companies — which has dried up lines of credit to both auto dealers and potential car buyers. Add to this, the aftereffects of DeMo, higher tax rates under a new GST regime, high insurance costs, a boom witnessed by ride-sharing firms such as Uber and Ola and a weak rural economy.Effect: The auto sector contributes nearly 49% to India’s manufacturing GDP and employs over 35 million people directly and indirectly. “If this industry goes down, then everything gets hurt. Manufacturing, jobs and revenue to the government,” warned Vishnu Mathur, SIAM’s director general, SIAM, told reporters on Tuesday, adding that car and motorcycle manufacturers have already slashed about 15,000 jobs. Nearly 10 lakh jobs have been shaved off from the auto component industry, following the prolonged and painful slowdown. The downturn has already sent the S&P BSE auto sector index tumbling more than 23% this year, while shares of the country’s top carmaker Maruti Suzuki are down more than 20% since the beginning of the year.Way forward: The domestic auto industry have sought a lowering of the GST rate on automobiles from the existing 28% to 18%, saying that higher affordability may prompt people to make purchases. They also demanded easier access to finance for dealers and buyers. (Industry officials met finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman and senior officials from the ministry of road transport, heavy industries and Niti Aayog last week.) A government announcement to stimulate demand, particularly in the auto and housing sectors, is expected this week . That may add to monetary stimulus provided by the RBI, which has slashed interest rates four times this year to boost demand. And then there’s India’s festival season, which begins next month. But will Diwali arrive early for the sector in the form of a revival package?3. The formula that turned northeast saffronA new state: The BJP became the main opposition party in Sikkim on Tuesday without winning a single seat in the recent assembly polls after almost an entire legislature party joined it. In a major blow to former chief minister Pawan Kumar Chamling, 10 of his Sikkim Democratic Front’s (SDF) 13 MLAs merged with the BJP. The SDF had won 15 of the 32 Assembly seats in the recently concluded assembly polls while the ruling Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) won 17 Assembly seats. SDF had been in power in Sikkim since 1994. SKM is already a part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.The new territory: Till 2015, there was no BJP-led government in the eight northeastern states. Now the party rules in four states (Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Tripura), is in a coalition in three (Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram) and has NDA alliance partner in one (Sikkim). This means that all the eight states either belong to the BJP or a party that supports the NDA.An old formula: Though historically northeastern states have been inclined towards the party in power in the centre (due to heavy dependence on central government for funds), the BJP’s political journey in the region is a mix of winning elections, forming alliances and taking over legislative parties. In December 2016, the Peoples’ Party government in Arunachal Pradesh became a BJP government overnight when 33 out of its 43 MLAs joined the saffron party. In Manipur, the BJP beat Congress, which had emerged as the single-largest party in 2017 elections, to power by forming an alliance with the regional parties and independents. A year later, the BJP, with just two seats, outmanoeuvred the Congress, the single largest party and cobbled up numbers to form a coalition government in Meghalaya.Who’s next? The SDF rupture follows the split in MGP and ouster of GFP from the Goa cabinet when both were NDA allies. The likes of Nitish Kumar and Uddhav Thackeray may have reason to worry.4. Cricket’s set for a podium finishPad up. Cricket has made a return at the Commonwealth Games (CWG) for the next edition, to be held in Birmingham in 2022. The result of a joint bid by the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), it will feature eight women’s teams — representing countries under the Commonwealth ambit — competing in the Twenty20 format over eight days. All the matches will be played at Edgbaston, it was announced on Tuesday. This after the sport’s only previous inclusion in the CWG came in the 1998 edition in Kuala Lumpur, when South Africa won the gold medal beating Australia by four wickets in the men’s 50-overs format. (FYI: Apart from women’s T20 cricket, beach volleyball and Para-table tennis too have been added to the Birmingham 2022 roster. In fact, the games are set to be the first major multi-sports event to have more women’s than men’s medal events after the three sports were included.)The ICC and England and Wales Cricket Board had submitted their bid to include women’s cricket in the CWG in November at the executive board meeting of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) in Birmingham. “Today [Tuesday] is an historic day and we are delighted to welcome the sport of cricket back to the Commonwealth Games,” Dame Louise Martin, the CGF president, said in a statement. The ICC will lend support to the federation by overseeing the staging of the competition, apart from providing match officials. Cricket is also in line to be included in the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, according to the World Cricket Committee (WCC) — a panel formed by the Marylebone Cricket Club, which is the custodian of the sport’s laws. Last played in 1900, the sport’s Olympic return has been on the agenda of the ICC for long but the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) was not keen on the idea, fearing it might lose its autonomy and be answerable to the country’s Olympic committee.”One of the problems has been negated, where the BCCI is now working with NADA, the drugs agency, which it wasn’t previously a part of,” WCC chairman Mike Gatting told ESPNCricinfo. “That will help a long way towards the sport being whole, which is what we need it to be to apply for the Olympics, both men and women to play and all countries to comply. We were talking with Manu Sawhney the ICC CEO, and he was very hopeful we can get cricket into the 2028 Olympics.” Bottomline: The inclusion of cricket in multi-sports events will ensure the game is given the global platform many of its custodians and fans want it to gain.Meanwhile, the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA), on Tuesday, clarified that there is no conflict of interest against Rahul Dravid, who was recently appointed the director of the National Cricket Academy. Last week, the former India captain was issued a notice by the BCCI ethics officer Justice (retd) DK Jain over the conflict of interest allegation levelled against him by Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association life member Sanjeev Gupta for his employment with India Cements.NEWS IN CLUES5. This social network was founded by a 19-year-old in 2007.Clue 1: It was purchased for about $1.1 billion in cash by Yahoo in 2013.Clue 2: Removed temporarily from Apple’s iOS App Store in November last year over child pornography issues, it banned adult content soon after.Clue 3: As on August 2019, it had 380 million monthly visitors and hosted over 475 million blogs.Scroll below for answer6. Earth’s carbon dioxide at its highest level in 8 lakh yearsGood, bad and the ugly: First, the good news — 2018 wasn’t nearly as hot as 2016, which was recorded as the warmest year since such records started to be tabulated in the mid-19th century. Last year, as data from the State of Climate 2018 report reveals, was the 4th warmest year, after 2015 and 2017 being the second and third warmest years respectively. End of good news. Now the bad news: The warming power of global greenhouse gases in 2018 was 43% stronger than it was in 1990. And the ugly news? Annual global CO2 at the Earth’s surface — at 407.4 parts per million (ppm) — was the highest in the last 800,000 years.The impact: It’s not just the Earth’s surface that is warming up — oceans have been ‘in heat’ for decades now, with the sea surface temperature (SST) increasing since 1950 at the rate of 0.10oC per decade. In fact, the deeper levels of the oceans, especially the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean, continue to see an increase in their temperature year after year. Not just that — for the 7th consecutive year, global mean sea level rose to its highest level in their 26-year record, since 1993. The report calculated that the global mean sea level in 2018 was 8.1 cm higher than the 1993 average. Globally, land and ocean surface temperatures were 0.30o-0.40oC higher than the 1981-2010 average.‘Icing’ on the glacier: Due to the increasing levels of greenhouse gases, the ice loss from glaciers across the world appears to have accelerated — with 2018 being the 30th consecutive year of glacial ice loss, or significant (more than 20 cm ice loss) negative annual mass balance, with annual mass balance being defined as the difference between snow accumulation and loss due to melting. While ideally, the loss due to melting should be less than the addition due to snow, most of the glaciers used as a reference for the report showed more loss due to melting than gain due to snow accumulation — a negative annual mass balance. Between 1980 and 2018, the world’s glaciers shrunk by 21.7 metres — which is equivalent to cutting off a 24 metre thick slice off the top of the average glacier. Just for comparison at how fast the glaciers are losing their ice, in 2016, the glaciers had a cumulative loss of 19.9 metres of ice from 1980 — the equivalent of cutting a 22 metre thick slice off the top of the average glacier.
Domestic heat: For India, 2018 proved to be the 6th warmest year on record since 1901 — with mean surface air temperature 0.39oC above the 1981-2010 average. India’s warmest year on record is the same the global warmest — 2016 — with the mean surface temperature being 0.71oC above the 1981-2010 average. In fact, last year, the seasonal mean temperatures in India were above normal for all four seasons — with the pre-monsoon season anomaly, (March-May), the highest ever at 0.55oC. Winter season saw the 5th highest anomaly in mean temperature — at 0.59oC — for the months of January-February.7. How did an Indian SC judge end up in a foreign SC?What: Justice Madan Lokur, who retired from the Supreme Court of India in December last year, was on Monday, sworn in as a judge of the Supreme Court of Fiji. This is the first time that an Indian has been appointed to the Supreme Court of another country.How: Justice Lokur, who was invited by the Chief Justice of Fiji to be part of the country’s Supreme court, has been appointed to its non-resident panel for three years starting tomorrow. Fiji has earlier invited judges from Singapore, South Africa, Malaysia, New Zealand, Australia and Sri Lanka to be part of the panel.Why: Justice Lokur will hear cases in an appellate capacity along with other judges of the Supreme court of Fiji and handle civil, criminal, constitutional, commercial matters etc. He will travel to the country twice a year to hear cases. The Supreme Court of Fiji has three sessions in a year with the next one from August 15 to August 30, 2019.Who: Another former SC judge, Justice AK Sikri, has been appointed as an international judge of the Singapore international commercial court (SICC) from August 1 to January 4, 2021. The SICC is a division of the Singapore high court and part of the Supreme Court of that country, designed to deal with transnational commercial disputes. It has 16 international judges as part of its panel.8. Mysterious Russian missile test and the ghost of ChernobylRussian news agency TASS on Tuesday reported that the failed missile test which killed 5 scientists near the northern Russian city of Severodvinsk on August 8 raised the level of radiation by “4 to 16 times” above the natural background, giving weight to the suspicion that the test was for a nuclear-armed missile. Here’s what we know so far:What happened: Last Thursday, an explosion on a platform in the White Sea raised the radiation levels in nearby cities. According to reports, school students in nearby Severodvinsk were sent home, residents were asked to remain indoors and doses of Iodine were distributed. Russian nuclear agency, Rosatom, said five of its employees had died in the accident and three more were being treated for burns. The Russian defence ministry says, there had been “no harmful discharges into the atmosphere”. Finally after much secrecy, Rosatom said the “isotope power source for a liquid-fuelled rocket engine” had failed. On Monday, Russia bestowed posthumous awards on the five nuclear scientists and called the “national heroes”.Experts say: US-based nuclear experts say the explosion may have occurred during the testing of a nuclear-powered cruise missile. That the region is home to Russia’s northern fleet that patrols the Arctic and houses its naval ships and nuclear submarines raise the chances of it being a military test. The town of Nyonoksa is also home to a ballistic missile test facility. Military experts say the test may have been for the so-called SSC-X-9 “Skyfall” (also called 9M730 Burevestnik), a nuclear-powered cruise missile. US President Donald Trump tweeted his administration was “learning much” from the incident.Why it matters: A nuclear-powered cruise missile could have a devastating impact from radiation, besides the initial impact of the explosion. That Russia has been developing these came to light last year when President Vladimir Putin revealed them just before the elections (which he obviously won). The latest test also proves that the fears of an arms race after the fall of the INF Treaty, from which the US formally withdrew on August 2, were not unfounded. (More on the end of the INF Treaty and the fallout in our August 3 newsletter)Unanswered questions: Less is known of the impact of the radiation on the residents of the city. Though Russian agencies downplay the threat, the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 had shown the world that Russian officials operate under a cloak of secrecy.9. Ebola may finally have a cureAn update: The world may be closer to getting a cure for ebola virus disease after two experimental treatments showed “90% survival rate,” scientists said on Monday. Four drugs were being trialled on patients in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), site of a year-long outbreak of the virus, and two of them have proven to be remarkably effective, so much that the director general of the organisation that oversees the trials say: “From now on, we will no longer say that Ebola is incurable.”A crisis: Ebola virus disease (EVD), according to the World Health Organisation, is a rare but severe, often fatal illness in humans; it is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads thereon through human-to-human transmission. In DRC, as of 10 August, 2,722 cases of Ebola has been confirmed and 1,794 deaths (near 65% fatality rate). According to the WHO, more than half of the confirmed cases were female and nearly 28% were children. Early in January the WHO labelled the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern.” Many countries, including the US, have issued travel advisory on DRC, and Saudi Arabia this year suspended Hajj visa to the nation.Hope: The two drugs that have had a high success rate, named REGN-EB3 and mAb114, work by attacking the Ebola virus with antibodies. REGN-EB3 is a monoclonal antibody cocktail produced by a company called Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, while the other has been developed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the US. Of this, Regeneron’s drug has shown the lowest mortality rate of 29%, which improves to 6% when patients received it at an early stage. According to the Wired, Ebola infiltrates its victims’ cells using spiky proteins on the virus’s outer shell. Thus antibodies that bind to those proteins could prevent it from spreading and affecting the victim. The challenge is that Ebola virus is large and can change shape. But by using a cocktail of antibodies, drugs such as REGN-EB3 appear to have achieved a breakthrough.10. How 9/11 terror attacks are still causing lossesTerror’s aftermath: Next month will mark 18 years since the twin towers in New York were brought down by two planes — and yet, somehow, their impact continues to live on in their successor tower, the One World Trade Centre (WTC) and WTC complex. That’s because the extreme security measures that were introduced when One WTC opened are continuing to bleed the finances of the complex ever since the day it opened in 2014. Last year, the WTC complex lost close to $30 million — while cumulatively, in the last 5 years, the WTC has lost $259.23 million.
Safety ain’t free: Enhanced and state-of-the-art security measures, such as the vehicle check-points, to prevent a repeat of a 9/11 type incident, have made a hole in the WTC’s profits — the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the 16 acre complex that also houses other towers, will spend $91.4 million this year on security, an increase of 22.5% over the $76.4 million it spent two years back. Security costs, in fact, will rise further, as a tower is planned at 5 WTC. Apart from this, it also needs to spend money on improvements and upkeep — in 2019, for instance, it has budgeted $85 million for tenant improvements. So even though One WTC has been profitable as a stand-alone entity since 2015 — it made an operational profit of $47 million in 2018 — the other towers and the facilities in the complex, such as the transportation hub and a park, are dragging down the bottomline into the red.Space for more: While One WTC, built at a cost of $3.7 billion, still has has 16% vacant space in its 3.1 million sq ft area, there’s still plenty of space to be leased out at the WTC complex, which includes 3 WTC, built at a cost of $2.7 billion and which opened only last year, in June. Maybe the WTC can take heart from its predecessor towers’ history, which made losses for several years after their opening in 1973. Even the Empire State Building, which earned more than $131 million from its Observatory alone in 2018, used to be in the red for some years after it opened — in 1934, three years after it opened, it recorded a loss of $1 million, equivalent to $19 million in today’s terms.KEEPING TRACKNo rush on Kashmir: The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to intervene in the Kashmir issue, by refusing to pass any immediate order to the Centre to lift restrictions in the former state after the abrogation of Article 370 — saying the government must be given more time to ensure normalcy as the situation there is “very sensitive.” Meanwhile, according to India’s ambassador to the US, Washington has clarified that Trump’s offer to mediate on the Kashmir issue is “no more on the table” as India had rejected it.Stock rises, stocks fall: On a day when the BSE Sensex fell by almost 624 points to close at 36,958.16, shares of Reliance Industries (RIL) recorded their biggest intraday rise in over a decade by gaining 12% in intraday trading — the biggest such gain since January 14, 2009 — before settling down to close at Rs 1,275, marking a gain of 9.72%. This comes a day after the announcement of Saudi Aramco’s 20% investment in RIL, which aims to become a zero debt company in the next one and a half years.Answer to NEWS IN CLUESTumblr. US carrier major Verizon has sold the microblogging and social networking website (founded by David Karp) to blogging site WordPress’ parent company Automattic Inc. for an undisclosed amount. After purchasing Yahoo, Verizon had acquired Tumblr in 2017 and had started to explore the option of selling the platform earlier this year. According to media reports, Automattic has bought Tumblr for less than $3 million — a major drop in value from the $1.1 billion that Yahoo paid for it in 2013. Tumblr will now act as a ‘complementary’ site to WordPress.Follow news that matters to you in real-time.Join 3 crore news enthusiasts.Compiled by: Judhajit Basu, Rakesh Rai, Sumil Sudhakaran, Tejeesh N.S. Behl