Covid Wave 2.0: What You Need To Know

Covid Wave 2.0: What You Need To Know

With ~3 lakh new Covid cases coming every day in wave 2 in India, let’s answer some of the questions many of you have regarding the second.

Crux of the Matter

The new strain is escaping the RT-PCR test, which is considered a gold standard test.

Many cases have come to fore, where a patient has symptoms of Covid-19 but get RT-PCR -ve report. So a CT-scan is used to confirm the infection.

Dr Sarman Singh, AIIMS Bhopal director

Covid-19 Wave 2 Symptoms

This time we have witnessed more cases of breathlessness while in the last wave, symptoms like dry cough, joint pain, headaches were more.

Dr Bhargava, ICMR Chief

After Getting The Shot, Can You Be Covid +ve?
Yes. As per CDC, after the first shot, you have  50% immunity. The 2nd shot gives 95% immunity. It then takes 1-2 weeks for maximum protection to kick in.
Even then you can contract Covid with less severity, i.e either you will be asymptomatic or have mild symptoms.

Number of people contracting Covid after getting vaccine in India are given below:

What Is The Primary Mode Of Transmission?
As per latest CDC findings, the principal mode by which people are infected with SARS-CoV-2 is through exposure to respiratory droplets carrying infectious virus. The risk of being infected through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects (fomites) is considered low.

Can The Virus Survive On Surfaces?
Researchers suggest a 99% reduction in infectious SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses can be expected under indoor environmental conditions within 3 days on common non-porous surfaces like stainless steel, plastic, and glass.

Misinformation On Twitter
medRxiv did a detailed analysis of COVID19 vaccine disinformation executed by tracing all postings of #AstraZeneca over “blood clot” time frame. The paper said misinformation was spread by powerful individuals, conspiracy websites, state-owned media outlets, as well through co-tweeting bot network. 

Negative News Coverage By US Media
As per a recent study, 87% of Covid coverage in national US media last year was negative. The share was 51% in international media, 53% in US regional media and 64% in scientific journals.

  • RT-PCR has risen to become the benchmark technology for the detection and/or comparison of RNA levels. Due to its simplicity, specificity and sensitivity, RT-PCR is used in a wide range of applications from experiments as simple as quantification of yeast cells in wine to more complex uses as diagnostic tools for detecting infectious agents. 
  • As of 21 April 2021, more than 143 million cases have been confirmed, with more than 3.04 million deaths attributed to COVID-19, making it one of the deadliest pandemics in history.
  • On 11 February 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) named the disease “COVID-19”, which is short for coronavirus disease 2019.

Why Are Some Products Designed To Fail?

Why Are Some Products Designed To Fail?

Designed to Fail – sounds baffling at first instance, isn’t it? Well, what if we say that it is true! That products and services today are intentionally manufactured to be defective or to get worn out soon. But why would companies do that? Why would they produce an inferior good that could actually hurt their brand image? Let us find out.

Crux of the Matter

The Centennial Light
The Centennial Light is the world’s longest-lasting light bulb, burning since 1901. The handmade bulb has never been switched off and is running for 120 years! If handmade bulbs can survive this long then why don’t our present day bulbs?

Phoebus Cartel
In December 1924, senior executives of world’s top light bulb companies had met in Geneva, Switzerland.

Major firms include : Philips (Netherlands), General Electric (US), Tokyo Electric (Japan), Osram (Germany), Associated Electrical Industries (UK), etc. This group came to be known as Phoebus Cartel.

Purpose Of Cartel
In a move to increase the sale of their products, the cartel decided to cut down the lifespan of their bulbs to 1000 hours, which was then almost half of the existing period. Each member’s sample light bulb was tested at a lab to see if they have confirmed with the 1000 hour limit.

Companies were heavily fined if bulbs surpassed the limits. For instance, for a bulb lasting 3,000+ hours, a fine of 200 Swiss Francs for every 1,000 bulbs sold was charged.

Life of Bulbs over the years
While Phoebus Cartel died in 1939, the practise of planned obsolescence continued.

What Is Planned Obsolescence?
It is a strategy of making a product with an artificially limited useful life or a purposely frail design, so that it becomes obsolete after a predetermined period of time. It also means not creating an efficient product even if the manufacturer can easily provide its customers with a better product.

The Case Of Inkjet Printers
Inkjet printer manufacturers employ smart chips in their ink cartridges to prevent them from being used after a certain threshold, even though the cartridge may still contain usable ink or could be refilled. The poor durability and high cost of repair turn printers into nothing but disposable commodities. As a result, consumers find it easier to buy a new printer instead of repairing the old one.

The Case Of Apple
In 2017-18, Apple confirmed that it did slow down some iPhones, but said it only did so to “prolong the life” of the devices. iPhone owners “were not informed that installing iOS updates (10.2.1 and 11.2) could slow down their devices”.

As a result, Apple was fined 25 million euros by the French authority DGCCRF that was probing Apple for “planned obsolescence” in Apple’s iPhone. Later, Apple also agreed to pay $113 million to 34 states in the US to settle an investigation into its practice of slowing down iPhones.

  • Osram apparently means “to poop” in Polish. As a result, many believe that this company failed badly in Poland.
  • In 1924, American automobile market began reaching saturation point. To maintain unit sales, General Motors executive Alfred P. Sloan Jr. suggested annual model-year design changes to convince car owners to buy new replacements each year, with refreshed appearances headed by Harley Earl and the Art and Color Section.
  • The origins of the phrase planned obsolescence go back at least as far as 1932 with Bernard London’s pamphlet Ending the Depression Through Planned Obsolescence. The essence of London’s plan would have the government impose a legal obsolescence on personal-use items, to stimulate and perpetuate purchasing. 

How Is Digital Yuan Different?

How is Digital Yuan Different?

In our last story on Digital Yuan, we saw the composition of Digital Yuan and some of its disruptive features. In this story we dive deep into some strategic areas of the currency and try to understand how it is positioned to impact the global economy in long run. And of course, this story answers many of the questions surrounding the new digital currency.

Crux of the Matter

How Is Digital Yuan Different From Bitcoin?

  • Bitcoin is a decentralized currency which means that it has no controlling authority like a government or a central bank. Digital Yuan on the other hand is the legal tender issued by China’s central bank.
  • In bitcoin, the identity of its users is not known. While Digital Yuan with its innate traceability feature overcomes the user anonymity issue.

Currency Stability
China will not increase its money supply by introducing new form of currency. With every Yuan introduced digitally in the market, an equivalent worth of physical cash will be drawn out from the circulation thus ensuring the stability of economy.

Will Digital Yuan Disrupt The Global Financial System?
The US Dollar holds 88% share in international foreign-exchange trades. Moreover, at present most of the international settlements happen over the SWIFT technology which is a messaging network used to securely transmit information through a standardized system of codes. The US administration has a significant authority over both the mechanisms.

The Chinese Renminbi holds mere 4% of share in international foreign-exchange trades. Hence, simply with its own digital currency, China cannot replace US Dollar in international transactions. But it will definitely open up new options for people to transfer money and maybe at better margins.

Dollar Weaponization
With US being the prime source of dollar, it has the ability to freeze institutions and nations by laying various sanctions on them. Sanctioned nations are kicked out of the global financial system as banks and financial institutions are prohibited from doing transactions with them. This entire phenomena is known as Dollar Weaponization.

Examples Include:

  • Crippling Economies of Iran and North Korea owing to US laid sanctions.
  • Blocking the movement of top military officials financial assets in Myanmar amidst the coup.
  • The unending US – China conflict followed by multitude of economic and financial sanctions laid on China.

Aim Of China
One of the prominent aims of Beijing for introducing Yuan is to limit the power of US dollar in international settlements.
Thus, nations that are penalized by US can transact and transfer their money through Digital Yuan – without the knowledge of US.

This takes away sanction leveraging power of the US.

Nicholas Burns, American diplomat

Final thoughts?
It is maybe farfetched to say that Digital Yuan will take over US Dollar. Nevertheless, the building blocks are too important to be ignored.

  • The official currency of China is Renminbi. Yuan is the basic unit of the renminbi, but internationally the word is also used to refer to the Chinese currency.
  • One yuan is divided into 10 jiao and one jiao is divided into 10 fen.
  • The United States dollar is called Meiyuan in Chinese, and the euro is called Ouyuan.

Fidel Castro And Why His Brother Raul Is In News

Amidst major political shuffle in Cuba as well as declassification of a file by US, Raul Castro, brother of Fidel Castro has been in news. In that light, it’s perfect time to look at who Fidel Castro was, and how his regime drew strong reaction from both critics and supporters.

Amidst major political shuffle in Cuba as well as declassification of a file by US, Raul Castro, brother of Fidel Castro has been in news. In that light, it’s perfect time to look at who Fidel Castro was, and how his regime drew strong reaction from both critics and supporters.

Crux of the Matter

Raul Steps Down
On 16 April, Raul Castro announced to step down as the head of the ruling Communist Party of Cuba. On the same day, US declassified documents regarding Raul.

Revelations Of The Declassified Document

  • In 1960, Jose R Martinez, recruited by CIA of the US, was Raul’s pilot once.
  • Martinez was given $10,000 to arrange an ‘accident’ to assassinate Raul.
  • However, Martinez couldn’t find opportunity before it was called off.

Raul is the brother of Fidel Castro.

Then Who Was Fidel Castro?
Fidel was a Cuban revolutionary famous for establishing Communist regime in Cuba

  • 1953: Attacked an army base of the US-backed General Fulgencio Batista, who had seized power in a coup. The attack failed and he was sentenced to 15 years jail.
  • 1955: Went into exile in Mexico after being released early. He met Che Guevara there and formed guerilla group.
  • 1956: Landed back in Cuba and started guerilla war against Batista.
  • 1959: Batista was overthrown – Castro became the PM and later President.

Major Decisions

  • Nationalized businesses and industries.
  • Brought universal healthcare and large-scale literacy schemes.
  • Such measures are credited by experts to have uplifted the poor.
  • He also banned critical press and jailed political opponents.
  • Persecuted homosexual people and publicly accepted blame in 2010.
  • The Cuban economy suffered from such strict rule and thousands of citizens fled to the US.

Anti-US Stance

  • Castro is renowned for his conflicts with the US.
  • Even the 1961 ‘Bay of Pigs’ failed, where Cuban-exiles had attempted to overthrow Castro with US support under Kennedy.
  • 1962: The conflict reached one climax as the Soviet Union placed nuclear missiles in Cuba capable of hitting the US. They later withdrew after US promised to withdraw from Turkey and to not invade Cuba again.
  • US and Cuba didn’t have diplomatic relations between 1961 and 2014.

Castro survived 638 assassination plans as per Guinness World Records, mostly from the US. He retired in 2008 (49 years in power) before passing away in 2016 at age of 90.

An Unusual Friendship

  • One of his most unusual friendships came with Argentina football legend Diego Maradona.
  • Maradona famously considered Castro his “second father”.

He opened Cuba’s doors to me when clinics in Argentina were slamming them shut.

Maradona on Castro

  • Manuel Marrero Cruz is the current Prime Minister of Cuba since 2019. The position of Prime Minister was abolished 43 years, from 1976 to 2019.
  • Cuba has no private hospitals or clinics. All health services are government-run.
  • With a population of over 11 million, Cuba is the second-most populous country in the Caribbean after Haiti.

Time Travel To 1984 With Google Earth

Google Earth recently added a fourth dimension to its 3D mapping tool- a time-lapse of millions of photos stiched together that showus how the world changed in the past 37 years. Let's dive deeper into this.

Google Earth recently added a fourth dimension to its 3D mapping tool – a time-lapse of millions of photos stitched together that show us how the world changed in the past 37 years. Let’s dive deeper into this.

Crux of the Matter

Earth As We Know It, From 1984-2021
Google has crunched 24 million satellite images from the past 37 years to form the 4D video. It tells us how human habits have affected the earth and its climate.

So Is It Really Interactive?
Yes, You can zoom in and out, change angles to get a better view of the changing forests and urban expansion. The satellite imagery is rquivalent to 530,000 videos in 4K resolution. Google also added that the computing was done inside its “carbon-neutral, 100% renewable energy-matched data centers.

As far as we know, Timelapse in Google Earth is the largest video on the planet, of our planet.

Says Google

Who Made Google Earth?
The tech was originally developed by Intrinsic Graphics that built visual databases. In 2004, Google purchased Keyhole Inc., which became Niantic, the Google subsidiary that made for “Pokemon Go.”

2D To 3D Via Minimaps
Mipmaps are collections of bitmap images that create the illusion of depth. They work in an inverted pyramid structure, stacked on each other with each level having twice the resolution of the one under it.

Google Earth is used by explorers for a virtual travel experience. While Google Maps helps in point to point navigation for real life commuting.

How Does Maps Make Money?
Google Maps Platform earns from selling Google Maps API to companies that require navigation. Eg: To Uber for drivers and customers to track each other’s movements.

  • John Hanke is the founder and current CEO of Niantic, Inc. Hanke previously led Google’s Geo Product division, which includes Google Earth, Google Maps, StreetView, SketchUp, and Panoramio.
  • Google Earth has been viewed by some as a threat to privacy and national security, leading to the program being banned in multiple countries. Some countries have requested that certain areas be obscured in Google’s satellite images, usually areas containing military facilities.
  • Former President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam expressed concern over the availability of high-resolution pictures of sensitive locations in India. Google subsequently agreed to censor such sites.