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Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi struck a note of caution, warning people to take precautions during the festival season, Singapore phasing out pandemic curbs as it has managed to bring the virus under control. The size of social gatherings is likely to go up to eight, and the government has outlined a pilot programme for testing of people at large gatherings though bars and nightclubs aren’t expected to reopen. The city-state’s new daily cases are nearing zero. From 1 November, live performances will be allowed at designated venues with limited audience members. For more updates, here’s Mint Lite.

Doubts about Diwali spending

The festival season is here but the pandemic, salary cuts, job losses, and the blow to small businesses has impacted what middle-to-lower income families will purchase this year. The three months starting with Onam and up till Diwali in mid-November accounts for roughly 30-40% of the total annual sales of several consumer-facing businesses. But, this year, retailers and consumer goods businesses are still unwilling to hazard a guess about how things will play out. Home-bound Indians are trying to use festive season discounts to stock up on a few small comforts that could marginally improve the stay-at-home life. Discretionary purchases are not on people’s lists. The hope is pent-up demand and consumer fatigue will force them to step out and spend. The question on everyone’s mind is this: What is the exact point at which comfort returns to India’s consumer economy? For more, read Long Story.

Citizenship for sale: EU threatens lawsuits

Malta and Cyprus were issued legal ultimatums as the European Commission stepped up its crackdown on govern-ments selling citizenship rights to live and work in the EU. They may have violated EU law by offering “golden passports", or access to nationality and EU citizenship for a fee, Bloomberg reports. They have two months to answer the notice. The last step would be a lawsuit in EU courts. Investor-citizenship programmes may undermine “the integrity of the status of EU citizenship," the commission said. Cyprus said this month it would end its programme on 1 November. Cyprus Speaker Demetris Syllouris resigned last week, after he was caught offering to help a Chinese businessman with a criminal record get citizenship. Jho Low, a Malaysian linked to the multibillion-dollar 1MDB scandal was among beneficiaries of the scheme. The EU said Bulgaria will also receive similar warning.

Source: Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council, Bloomberg
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Source: Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council, Bloomberg

India’s diamond exports slump

Diamond exports from India, which polishes 90% of the world’s rough diamonds, will plummet this year due to the pandemic, Bloomberg reports. Overseas sales of cut and polished diamonds may slump 20-25% in the year ending March from $18.66 billion last year, Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council said. Exports will be the lowest since 2009, the year from which data is available. While Diwali, Christmas and Valentine’s Day will prop up demand, it won’t be enough to lift full-year exports, it said. The country’s diamond exports sank 37% to $5.5 billion in the six months till September from a year earlier. Workers have now started returning to the diamond-polishing hubs of Surat, Mumbai and Kolkata, and factories are operating at 70% to 80% of capacity.

A 4G network on the moon?

For most of us struggling with dropped calls and patchy phone internet, this might be a bit hard to believe—NASA has signed up with Nokia to put a 4G network on the moon. Nokia’s Bell Labs, which was granted $14.1 million for the project, will partner with spaceflight engineering company Intuitive Machines to build the 4G-LTE network, CNN reports. NASA plans to build a lunar base by 2028 and eventually sustain human life on the moon, and has awarded $370 million to about a dozen companies to deploy technology on the moon. The innovations relate to remote power generation, cryogenic freezing, robotics and safer landing, apart from 4G. NASA says 4G could provide more reliable, longer-distance communication than the current radio standards used on the moon. Like on Earth, the 4G network will eventually be upgraded to 5G. Let’s hope it works better in space vacuum.

You can build a palace for your dog

Now that you have learnt to bake bread and grow your own kitchen garden, how about building a small palace for your pet? The acclaimed exhibition, Architecture For Dogs, which is open to public till 10 January at cultural centre Japan House London, is offering a variety of ideas on how to build the perfect house for your dog, all designed by preeminent architects, including Ban Shigeru, Kuma Kengo, Sou Fujimoto and Ma Yansong. From play structures to nap pods, the architectural pieces are designed with a different dog breed in mind, including the Beagle, Bichon Frise, Shiba Inu, Boston Terrier and Poodle. But it’s not just an exhibition. It also includes blueprints in case you want to build for your very own pet. Devised by Hara Kenya, president of the Nippon Design Center and Japan House creative advisor, Architecture For Dogs was launched in 2012 and has since travelled to Japan, China and Brazil.

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