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Pierre Cardin, famed French designer, dies at 98

PARIS, Dec 29: France’s Academy of Fine Arts says Pierre Cardin, the French designer whose Space Age style was among the iconic looks of 20th-century fashion, has died at 98.

A licensing maverick, Cardins name embossed myriad products from wristwatches to bedsheets, making his label among the worlds most famous.

In the brands heyday in the 1970s and 80s, his products were sold at some 100,000 outlets worldwide, though that number dwindled dramatically in later decades.

A savvy businessman, Cardin used his fabulous wealth to snap up top-notch properties in Paris, including the Belle Epoque restaurant Maxims. He was inducted into the Fine Arts Academy in 1992.

The academy announced his death in a tweet Tuesday.

Apple AirPods Max arrive in ‘pure gold’ variant, cost ₹79.25 lakh

NEW YORK, Dec 29: Apple released the AirPods Max headphones earlier this month at a price of $549 or ₹59,900 in India. If that figure isn’t hefty enough for you, here’s another: $108,000.

That is the sum that you will have to pay if you want to get your hands on a pair of AirPods Max headphones that are made of pure gold.

Caviar, the Russian company that is known for making luxury variants of popular gadgets, has announced its 2021 lineup. The lineup includes gold variants of the Nike AirJordan shoes, Sony PS5 and the Apple AirPods Max headphones which cost more than $1 lakh.

As per the details listed on Caviar’s global website, Apple AirPods Max headphones are available in Gold White and Gold Black variants on the platform. Both these variants are priced at $108,000, which roughly translate to ₹79,25,245.

Caviar says that both the variants are made of 750 gold and white crocodile leather for the Gold White variant and Black crocodile leather for the Gold Black variant. These headphones will be available for purchase on the platform in 2021.

But not everyone can buy it. Price tag aside, the company has made a single piece of these headphones. “Will be released in a single piece worldwide,” Caviar wrote on its platform. This means that a single unit of each, Apple AirPods Max Gold White variant and Apple AirPods Max Gold Black variant (in total two), are available for purchase in the world. So, if you want to add this special version of Apple’s headphones to your collection, you’ll have to keep a close watch on Caviar’s website!

Queen Elizabeth hails Diwali in Christmas message, doesn’t mention pandemic

LONDON, Dec 25: Noting that people of all faiths could not celebrate festivals the usual way this year, Queen Elizabeth’s Christmas message on Friday hailed Diwali, the festival of lights, which she said provided moments of hope and unity in a year that has kept people apart.

The widely-watched royal message recorded in mid-December in Windsor did not mention “pandemic” or “Covid-19”, but she said the year that has necessarily kept people apart has, in many ways, brought them closer.

She said, “Every year, we herald the coming of Christmas by turning on the lights. And light does more than create a festive mood - light brings hope. For Christians, Jesus is ‘the light of the world’, but we can’t celebrate his birth today in quite the usual way.

“People of all faiths have been unable to gather as they would wish for their festivals, such as Passover, Easter, Eid and Vaisakhi. But we need life to go on. Last month, fireworks lit up the sky around Windsor, as Hindus, Sikhs and Jains celebrated Diwali, the festival of lights, providing joyous moments of hope and unity - despite social distancing.”

The queen, 94, Prince Philip, 99, and other members of the British royal usually spend Christmas in the country retreat of Sandringham, Norfolk, but the royal couple has been living in Windsor and will not visit other family members due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Across the Commonwealth, she said stories of people volunteering in communities had inspired her and her family.

Paying tributes to nurses, the youth and others who rose to the challenges of the year, she said, “There is hope in the new dawn.”

She said, “Of course, for many, this time of the year will be tinged with sadness: some mourning the loss of those dear to them, and others missing friends and family-members distanced for safety, when all they’d really want for Christmas is a simple hug or a squeeze of the hand.

“If you are among them, you are not alone, and let me assure you of my thoughts and prayers,” she added, wishing people “a very happy Christmas”.

China plants its flag on moon as lunar probe takes off for earth

BEIJING, Dec 5: China has become the second country in the world to unfurl its flag on the moon after the United States, which put its flag on the lunar surface some 50 years ago. China’s National Space Administration released pictures of the five-starred red flag on the moon, taken by the Chang’e-5 spacecraft’s camera. The spacecraft “unfolded the five-star red national flag, a genuine one made from fabrics, marking a first in the country’s aerospace history,” the Chinese state media said.

Chang’e 5 is the third Chinese spacecraft to successfully land on the moon and the first to take off from it again. It is the latest achievement for Beijing’s ambitious space program, which also has an orbiter and rover heading for Mars.

The Chang’e, named after the Chinese moon goddess, is also scheduled to bring back the first lunar samples in four decades. China is now the third nation in the world, after the United States and the Soviet Union, to collect lunar samples for scientific purposes.

The soil and rock samples obtained from the moon by the Chinese spacecraft are expected to provide information about the moon’s origin, geological evolution, lunar volcanic activity, and also offer insights into solar activities in the universe, according to the mission team. The space probe is expected to land in Inner Mongolia on December 16. From there, the samples will be transported to specialised labs for analysis.

The tradition of unfurling flags on the moon was started by the United States. The US planted the first flag on the moon during the manned Apollo 11 mission in 1969. Five more US flags were planted on the surface during subsequent missions till 1972.

During its first manned mission to the moon, a Lunar Flag Assembly kit was designed and sent aboard the Apollo mission, astronauts assembled the flag and put it on the lunar surface. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) specially designed a flag that would not droop due to the lack of atmosphere in the moon.

Chang’e-5’s successful mission vindicates President Xi Jinping’s “space dreams”. The latest mission sets the tone for the upcoming slew of ambitious targets, which includes creating a rocket capable of delivering payloads heavier than those Nasa and the private spaceflight firm SpaceX, a lunar base, and a permanently crewed space station.

Bill Gates hails Indian-origin couple for pioneering work in fight against HIV, Covid-19

JOHANNESBURG, Dec 4: Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates has hailed South African Indian-origin professors Salim Abdool Karim and wife Quarraisha for their contributions in the fight against HIV/Aids and COVID-19.

The scientist couple has refused numerous awards both locally and internationally, including national honours in South Africa, for their pioneering work in preventing the spread of HIV among young women through the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Gates said his charitable foundation was now using the couple’s experience to check the spread of Covid-19.

Professor Salim Abdool Karim, who heads the South African government’s advisory team on Covid-19, has served on the Gates Foundation Scientific Advisory Board for 10 years. He also chairs the WHO Scientific Committee on HIV.

“Drawing on their experiences from HIV and TB (tuberculosis), they are helping guide the Covid-19 response in South Africa and around the world,” Gates said.

The Microsoft founder said the motto at Caprisa has impressed him. The motto is ‘Each day that you come to work, you should be looking for how today is going to be better than yesterday.’ Salim said one in every fifth person infected with HIV in the world is South African and that statistic motivated him and his wife to take up the mantle against HIV.

“Very early on, we both realised that we could pioneer and find new ways to treat and prevent HIV. We’ve now been able to manufacture these broadly neutralising antibodies.

“We will be injecting it into young women to test whether it’s safe and then we want to see if it does prevent HIV. If it can, it will change the course of the HIV epidemic in Africa,” he said.

Quarraisha said she had learnt that epidemiology, a science, also has a social justice component to it.

“Women bear about four times more infection compared to men. Our work as scientists is to try to find technologies that women can use to prevent HIV infection, especially those women who are unable to negotiate the traditional safer sex practices,” she said.

“We’ve managed to reduce transmission, but there are still close to a million women dying of AIDS. That shouldn’t be happening,” said Salim, who in May this year was forced to take to social media to dismiss as fake news that he had received a grant of 944 million Rand in funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Because I am an adviser to the Gates Foundation, I do not have grant funding from Gates. Please convey the truth to help stop this fake news,” the professor said.

EU pushes for ‘right to disconnect’ from work at home

BRUSSELS, Dec 2: European Union lawmakers on Wednesday voted in favor of a “right to disconnect” from the internet and email, with around one third of people now working from home across the 27-nation bloc due in large part to coronavirus restrictions.

In a resolution, the parliamentarians argue that disconnecting from work should be a fundamental right and they want the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, to draw up rules allowing people to take time out from the pressures of working at home.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we work and we must update our rules to catch up with the new reality,” said Maltese Socialist lawmaker Alex Agius Saliba, who led work on the resolution.

“After months of teleworking, many workers are now suffering from negative side effects such as isolation, fatigue, depression, burnout, muscular or eye illnesses,” he said. “The pressure to always be reachable, always available, is mounting,” he said, resulting in unpaid overtime and burnout.

The resolution, which is non-binding, was passed by 31 votes to 6 against, with 18 abstentions in the European Parliament’s Employment Committee. It must still have to be rubber stamped by the full house, then submitted to the commission and national EU governments for possible endorsement.

In it, the lawmakers argue that the culture of being “always on” and the growing expectation that workers should be reachable at any time can hurt work-life balance, physical and mental health, and well-being.

They say home workers should be able to disconnect without facing repercussions from their employers.

Poll shows more Canadians see India as an opportunity, China as a threat

TORONTO, Dec 2: There is an increase in the number of Canadians viewing India’s growing economic power as an opportunity, while more and more of them now see China’s rise in the domain as a threat. These are among the findings of a national opinion poll conducted by the Vancouver-headquartered non-profit Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada (APF Canada).

The organisation that strives to be a bridge between Canada and the Asia-Pacific region has been tracking Canadian attitudes towards the economic rise of India and China since 2004.

“Between 2018 and 2020, the change in perceptions for China and India has followed opposing paths, something we have not observed before. While 72% of Canadians agree that the growing economic power of India is more of an opportunity than a threat, a modest increase since 2018 (71%), only 35% of Canadians agree that the growing economic power of China is more as an opportunity than a threat, down from 60% in 2018,” the results of the annual survey revealed.

This is the also the first time that the survey has shown the majority of respondents seeing China’s economic power as a threat, at 57%.

Again, the perception towards India is headed towards a positive direction with just 18% seeing its economic growth as a threat, which the APF Canada described as “an all-time low”.

Canadians’ general feeling towards India has also remained stable. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 means “very warm, favourable”, India scores 5.7.

“Over the past decade, the governments of India and Canada have been making efforts to build a mutually beneficial relationship, which can only prosper further if the Canadian public also holds a positive view,” the report noted. “On the flip side, Canadians’ feelings towards China, which had been remarkably stable for the past decade until 2018, dropped from 4.9 to 3.6 in 2020.”

The survey said there was support for Canada entering into a free trade agreement (FTA) with India, though that was not the case with regard to China. Just about one-third voiced support for an FTA with China, which 59%.

“It marks the lowest support for an FTA with China since we started polling Canadians on the subject in 2012,” the report stated.

One of reasons behind the growing animosity of Canadians’ towards China is the Covid-19 pandemic. Two-third of Canadians disagreed with the statement that the Chinese government “acted responsibly” at the beginning of the outbreak in Wuhan.

The vast majority, at 68%, “feel that Canada should support an independent inquiry into the origins of the Covid-19 virus”.

Human rights abuses and the arrest and detention of two Canadians by the Chinese government are also feeding into the escalating negativity.

“The majority of Canadians (83%) feel that Canada should stand up to China as Canadian national values such as the rule of law, human rights, and democracy are on the line,” the report pointed out, while “67% think Canada should work alongside the US and other allies to pressure China, and about 67% also believe Canada should take a more aggressive approach towards China” to liberate the two imprisoned there.



Global Himalayan Expedition from India among 2020 Climate Action Award winners

Vice President Naidu inaugurates Parampara Series to mark UN 75 anniversary

Philately Exhibit Showcasing 7 decades of India-UN Postal History unveiled

World Food Programme Wins Nobel Peace Prize 2020 For Efforts To Combat Hunger



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