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5 THINGS FIRST

Today: Wimbledon 2021; Euro 2020 quarterfinals (Czech Republic vs Denmark, Ukraine vs England); India vs England, 3rd women’s ODI; Tomorrow: Copa America 2021 quarterfinal (Argentina vs Ecuador); US Independence Day

1. Amid vaccine shortage, Centre’s warning: 2nd wave’s not over
1. Amid vaccine shortage, Centre’s warning: 2nd wave’s not over
  • Amid rising concern about certain states reporting a higher number of cases, the Centre issued a strict warning on Friday against any lowering of guard as the second wave is still not over. The Centre asked states to identify districts where weekly positivity rate is above 10% or bed occupancy is over 60% and impose the highest level of restrictions for at least 14 days to break the chain of transmission.
  • While the overall weekly positivity has dropped to 3.1%, 71 districts still have a positivity rate over 10%. The Centre has deputed teams to Kerala, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Manipur that are reporting a high number of Covid-19 cases. The teams — consisting of clinician and public health experts — will assess the situation and suggest remedial actions.
  • The overall incidence of Covid-19 has declined significantly. During June 26-July 2, the average daily cases were at 46,258, 13% less against last week (June 19-25). Only 100 districts now reporting more than 100 cases per day, official data shows. Fifty six cases of Delta Plus variant (AY.1) have been detected in 12 states till June 30.
  • Also: The Union health and family welfare ministry formally extended the Covid-19 vaccination drive to pregnant women. Acting on the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation’s recommendations, the health ministry said that pregnant women can register themselves for the jab on government-run CoWin portal and are also eligible for walk-ins to the nearest Covid-19 vaccination centre.
  • Finally: The Centre is in talks with Johnson & Johnson regarding its single-dose vaccine, which will also be produced by Hyderabad’s Biological E. The shot has shown strong neutralising antibody activity against the Delta variant, with immunity lasting at least eight months, according to results of pre-print Phase-3 trials. The antibody activity against the Delta variant was at an even higher level than what was recently observed for the Beta (B.1.351) variant in South Africa.
2. Before unified commands comes a bitter turf war
2. Before unified commands comes a bitter turf war
  • The turf war within the armed forces over the creation of four new integrated theatre commands erupted in public on Friday, with chief of defence staff General Bipin Rawat firmly rejecting concerns of Indian Air Force and dubbing it “a supporting arm” in war-fighting akin to artillery or engineers in the Army. Prior to being appointed India’s first Chief of Defence Staff, General Rawat was the Army chief.
  • Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria, speaking at the same webinar later in the day, in turn, stressed the air force’s primacy in shaping the battlefield. IAF is not against integrated theatre commands but the country “must get it right” because this “most important defence reform” would have a decisive impact on war-fighting in the future, he said.
  • The CDS-led defence establishment plans to “raise and operationalise” four new commands: the maritime theatre command (MTC), air defence command (ADC) and two land-based theatre commands for Pakistan and China. Each of these commands will place all the assets and manpower of the Army, Navy and IAF under a single operational commander — over a two-year period by August 15, 2023.
  • At present, India has as many as 17 single-service commands (Army 7, IAF 7 and Navy 3), which have little synergy in planning and operations. With unified tri-Service commands, the government wants to build an integrated land-sea-air war-fighting machinery in a more cost-effective manner. But IAF contends it would be operationally unwise to divide its “limited air assets” like just 30 fighter squadrons, six mid-air refuellers, three AWACS, two AEW&C aircraft and the like among different theatre commands.
3. US troops vacate Afghan air base
3. US troops vacate Afghan air base
  • The US military Friday vacated Bagram Airfield, the epicentre of its war in Afghanistan to oust the Taliban and hunt down the al-Qaida perpetrators of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America, handing over the facility to the Afghan National Security and Defense Force in its entirety, Associated Press reports.
  • It is a clear indication that the last of the 2,500-3,500 U.S. troops have left Afghanistan or are nearing a departure, months ahead of the September 11 deadline set by President Joe Biden, as the US rushes to the exit gate 20 years after it launched what would seen be called the “forever war.”. Most NATO soldiers have already exited as of this week.
  • The US top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Austin S. Miller, said the US “still retains all the capabilities and authorities to protect the forces.” Miller met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Friday and according to a Dari-language tweet by the presidential palace the two discussed “continued U.S. assistance and cooperation with Afghanistan, particularly in supporting the defence and security forces.” There were no specifics but the U.S. is already committed to paying nearly $4 billion annually until 2024 to finance the Afghani national security forces.

India categorically denied any meeting between foreign minister S. Jaishankar and Taliban representatives in Doha, terming the news reports “false and mischievous”. “India supports a durable peace driven by an inclusive Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled peace process. We support all peace initiatives and have been in touch with all stakeholders,” MEA spokesperson said.

4. SC refuses to tread on legislative space
4. SC refuses to tread on legislative space
The Supreme Court on Friday reiterated its reluctance to tread on the legislative space in two separate hearings;

  • Nominated legislators: The SC said it cannot direct framing of guidelines for nominating persons as members of legislative councils. The court was hearing a petition that argued most of the nominated legislators in Maharashtra are people of political affiliation and not of “special knowledge or practical experience in respect of literature, science, art, co-operative movement and social service”.
  • The bench led by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana said: “The Governor is bound by the aid and advice of the council of ministers headed by the CM. We cannot frame guidelines for selecting persons for nomination as MLCs. We are not here to advise the Governor.” The SC dismissed the PIL.
  • Dismissal of ministers: The SC also threw out a PIL seeking ouster of former general V.K. Singh from the Union Council of Ministers on the ground that a series of statements by him had damaged India internationally. The petitioner cited Singh’s 2013 statement “all Kashmiri politicians being paid by Indian Army” and his more recent “you do not know how many times we have crossed India-China LAC as per our perception”.
  • The CJI-led bench said: “If a minister is not good, then it is for the PM to take action, not the Supreme Court.”
6. In Bengal, a censure and a controversial meeting that wasn’t
6. In Bengal, a censure and a controversial meeting that wasn't
  • The Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) government in West Bengal is in “denial mode” about the violence that erupted in May following the state elections, the Calcutta High Court said on Friday.
  • Taking up an interim report of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on complaints of attacks on the government’s political adversaries following the March-April polls, the five-judge bench said that there was enough evidence to establish that post-poll violence had indeed taken place, adding that the administration had been caught “on the wrong foot”.
  • Acknowledging incidents of sexual violence on women and minors, the court sent a showcause notice to a senior police officer for failing to assist an NHRC team that came to probe the allegations.
  • Meanwhile: TMC urged PM Narendra Modi to remove Tushar Mehta as Solicitor General of India over his alleged meeting with Suvendu Adhikari, a leader of the ruling BJP being investigated by the CBI in corruption cases. Mehta, who represents the CBI in some of the cases, denied meeting with Adhikari.
  • His curious explanation: “Mr Adhikari did come to my residence cum office unannounced on Thursday at around 3:00 pm. Since I was already in a pre-scheduled meeting in my chamber, my staff requested him to sit in the waiting room of my office building and offered him a cup of tea. When my meeting got over and my PPS [principal private secretary] informed me about Mr Adhikari’s arrival, I requested my PPS to convey to Mr Adhikari my inability to meet him and apologise on my behalf as he had to wait. Mr Adhikari thanked my PPS and left without insisting to meet me. The question of my meeting with Mr Adhikari therefore did not arise.”
7. Track sensation Richardson fails marijuana test, to miss Tokyo 100m
7. Track sensation Richardson fails marijuana test, to miss Tokyo 100m
  • Sha’Carri Richardson, the 21-year-old who scorched the women’s 100m US Olympics trials this June with a sensational 10.86s sprint, drawing comparisons to former star Florence Griffith Joyner long orange hair, fashionable nails, heart on her sleeves has tested positive for marijuana, all but ruling her out of the Tokyo Games.
  • The positive test automatically invalidates her result at the trials. Fourth-place finisher Jenna Prandini is expected to get Richardson’s spot in the 100m. Richardson accepted a 30-day suspension that ends July 27, providing her a narrow path to run in the women’s relays, if permitted by US Track & Field. She apologised in an interview with NBC’s “Today” show.
  • Cannabis is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), but if athletes can prove that their ingestion of the substance was unrelated to sports performance then a suspension of three months rather than the usual four years is imposed. It could be further reduced to one month if the athlete participates in a counselling program.
  • Richardson, who ran the sixth-fastest women’s time ever, was considered the strongest challenger to Jamaican sprint queen Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce at Tokyo. Fraser-Pryce, the 2008 and 2012 Olympic 100m champion, is the second-fastest of all time (10.63). The world record of 10.49s was set by FloJo in 1988.
8. Spain shootout glory ends Swiss run at Euro 2020
8. Spain shootout glory ends Swiss run at Euro 2020
  • Spain toiled past 10-man Switzerland via penalties to reach the Euro 2020 semifinals after the match finished 1-1 on Friday.
  • Luis Enrique’s men wasted little time in going ahead when Jordi Alba’s shot from outside the box was deflected by Swiss defender Denis Zakaria into his own net in the 8th minute. But Xherdan Shaqiri profited from a defensive error to level the score at 1-1 in the 68th minute. The Swiss then lost midfielder Remo Freuler to a straight red card for a hard tackle on Gerard Moreno in the 77th minute.
  • Not surprisingly given their numerical advantage, Spain dominated extra time and created a host of chances as Switzerland played for spot kicks, hoping for a repeat of their success against France in the Round of 16.
  • Spain had also missed their last five penalties, including two against Switzerland in a Nations League game in November. And when captain Sergio Busquets hit the side post with the first kick of the shootout, Spanish nerves were jangling.
  • But keeper Unai Simon made two saves before Switzerland’s Ruben Vargas sent one over the crossbar, and Mikel Oyarzabal scored the decisive penalty to take La Roja through.
9. Mirza, Bopanna lead an Indian party
9. Mirza, Bopanna lead an Indian party
  • Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna triumphed in the first-ever clash of two all-Indian mixed doubles teams at Wimbledon on Friday, beating Ramkumar Ramanathan and Ankita Raina 6-2, 7-6 (5) to advance to the second round.
  • Tunisian Ons Jabeur dipped into her box of tricks to dazzle the Centre Court and outclass former champion Garbine Muguruza 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 to become the first Arab woman to reach the last 16 of the women’s singles.
  • Novak Djokovic roared into the fourth round by dispatching plucky American qualifier Denis Kudla 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(7).
Answer to NEWS IN CLUES
Untitled (72)

Yami Gautam. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Friday summoned the Bollywood actress in connection with an alleged violation of the Foreign Exchange Management Act. Per the ED, Gautam received Rs 1.5 crore in her bank account and failed to disclose it to the authorities. This is the second time the agency has summoned her in connection with its enquiry; it has asked her to appear before it on July 7.

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Written by: Rakesh Rai, Judhajit Basu, Sumil Sudhakaran, Tejeesh N.S. Behl
Research: Rajesh Sharma





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