Mint Lite | India covid tally, rice export, chemistry Nobel, air travel & others4 min read . Updated: 07 Oct 2020, 10:15 PM IST
Stories, views, opinions and talking points that matter, from around the world
After months of recording daily highs in cases, India’s covid-19 infections seem to be dropping. More than 72,000 new cases were recorded on Wednesday, taking the total to 6.7 million. Since India hit a single-day high of 97,894 new cases on 17 September, the country has reported a downward trend, with 75,909 daily cases on an average, according to a Reuters tally. India leads in the average number of new infections and is expected to overtake the US in the next few weeks as the country with the world’s largest number of cases. For more updates, here’s Mint Lite.
India has hit a jackpot of rice
India’s rice exports in 2020 may rise by 42% from a year ago to record highs because of reduced shipments from rival exporters and a depreciating rupee, Reuters reports. Higher shipments from India, the world’s biggest rice exporter, could cap global prices, reduce the country’s bulging inventories and limit government purchases from farmers. Its rice exports could jump to 14 million tonnes in 2020, up from last year’s 9.9 million tonnes, which was the lowest in eight years. Thailand’s shipments are falling due to drought, and Vietnam is struggling with a poor harvest, and their share of exports is coming to India. Thailand, the second largest rice exporter, suffered a drought earlier this year. Its shipments in 2020 could fall to 6.5 million tonnes, the lowest in 20 years. Vietnam, the third biggest exporter, is struggling with low water levels. China has also cut exports to Africa after floods hit its local crops.
A long walk that led to a Nobel win
In 2011, French microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier and US biochemist Jennifer Doudna met at a conference in Puerto Rico and went on a long walk around the town. A year later, they published a paper that showed a bacterial enzyme Cas-9 could be paired with CRISPR segments of DNA to create a gene-editing tool. On Wednesday, they became the first two women to share the Nobel Prize for chemistry. While they proved the “genetic scissors" could be used to edit DNA of animals, plants and microorganisms, US’ Harvard and Broad Institute did it on human cells. Doudna, who is with the University of California, Berkeley, and Charpentier of Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, are now in a patent battle with Broad Institute’s Feng Zhang for US rights of the discovery. In the run-up to the virtual ceremony on 10 December, the Nobel foundation announced the medicine and the physics prizes earlier this week.
Giving gets more targeted
The huge boost to the fortunes of technology and healthcare billionaires during the pandemic may be a good thing. These individuals may just be the ones who will lead economic recovery by focusing on digitization and philanthropy, says UBS and PwC’s “2020 Billionaires Insights" report. Covid-19 may have made the world’s billionaires richer—despite the global economic shock, the world’s 500 richest people are a combined $813 billion richer now than they were at the beginning of 2020, but they’ve also been giving more, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The world’s richest donated $7.2 billion publicly from March to June (see chart). They are focusing on tangible results like lowering incidents of a particular disease, instead of just the amount of cash donated.
A covid-detecting app for air travel
To speed up the resumption of long-haul flights, an app that shows that travellers are free of covid-19 will begin trials this month. CommonPass will be tested on United Airlines’ services between Newark and London, and Cathay Pacific’s trips from Hong Kong to Singapore, said the World Economic Forum, which backs the plan. Volunteers must take a covid-19 test at a certified lab and upload results on to their phones, with the app generating a barcode to show that they’re disease-free, reports Bloomberg. The process will be observed by authorities like the US Customs and Border Protection and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Travel has barely revived as national restrictions continue to limit services and put people off flying. The app could help form the basis of a standardized system to overcome those curbs, according to the World Economic Forum, after slow progress with airport testing.
Bitcoin’s 12.3mn digit code in art
British artist Benjamin Gentilli has given a physical form to bitcoin by hand painting the cryptocurrency’s 12.3= million-digit founding code across 40 paintings. Working under the project name Robert Alice, Gentilli, who also trades in the cryptocurrency, spent close to three years working on the canvases. The first 20 paintings were sold privately to collectors from the art and technology worlds; the rest are part of an auction at Christie’s in New York. The artist used specialist machinery to engrave each painting with over 300,000 digits of the complex code underpinning the virtual currency. Each digit was then hand-painted, reports CNN. The decision to split the work across 40 canvases was inspired by the decentralized nature of Bitcoin, issued and traded without the oversight of central banks. The idea behind the project, the artist says on his website, is to promote blockchain culture within the visual arts.
Curated by Shalini Umachandran and Pooja Singh. Have something to share with us? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet to @shalinimb