Swedish Charlotte Kalla wins maiden gold at Winter Olympics in skiathlon

The first gold medal in Pyeongchang 2018 was won by the Swedish Charlotte Kalla in the women’s skiathlon. Kalla finished the race in 40 minutes, 44.9 seconds while Norway’s Marit Bjorgen was second. While, Finnish Krista Parmakoski
Incidentally, Norwegian Bjorgen still remains as the most decorated woman in the Winter Olympics, with a cumulative 11 medals. She is very close to making the world record that is held by her countrywoman, Ole Einar Bjorndalen for 13 medals.
With the exception of Parmakoski, both other women were present on the winner’s podium at Sochi in 2014.
The skiathlon is a 15 km long cross country event that is mass skiing. The athletes are needed to use a different technique from the mid-point. A pit stop in the middle of the race requires them to change their gear and switch to free technique from classic.
Reportedly, Charlotte gained a considerable amount of lead at the 12.5 km stretch and maintained the gap throughout. “I was quite nervous today and the Olympics is something I have focused on for a long, long time, ” Kalla said. “On the finish line I did not want to look back and just focused on keeping pushing.”
SOURCES: BBC, Eurosport

Goa: Supreme Court scraps all mining leases for iron ore, no operation post March 15

Source: NDTV
The SC found that the second renewals were illegally granted by the State government
The Supreme Court cancelled the renewal of 88 mining leases given in Goa in 2015. The Court has ordered that licenses must be granted anew through a fresh process of bidding. These renewals were in fact done for the second time and were supposed to be valid until March 15th.
The bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur stated the reason behind the cancellation was a violation of the legislature. A public interest litigation (PIL) had been filed by the Goa Foundation in 2015 that raised questions on the renewal of the leases.
The Court also asked that a Special Investigation Team (SIT) be set up to determine the money that had been earned by the companies since the renewal of the licenses. Prashant Bhushan, who was representing the plaintiff said that the state policy was not in alliance with the apex court’s policy on optimum usage of natural resources.
The state government should have ideally held a fresh bidding as opposed to renewing the licenses a second time. “The second renewal of the mining leases granted by the State of Goa was unduly hasty, without taking all the relevant material into consideration and ignoring available relevant information and therefore not in the interests of mineral development,” it stated.

Fidel Castro’s eldest son kills himself: Body found in Havana

Fidel Castro Diaz Balart, known as “Fidelito,” son of the former President of Cuba, Fidel Castro, was found dead on Thursday. He was known to be suffering from depression in the recent past. He had been seeing a group of doctors for several months before he took his life, reportedly.
He had been hospitalized to recover from a delicate state of mental health. He resumed with his treatment even after being discharged from the hospital.
Owing to the beard, Balart resembled his revolutionary father tremendously. Aged 68, he was a nuclear physicist trained by the former Soviet Union and was a scientific adviser to the Cuban Council of State. He was also Vice President to the Cuban Academy of Sciences.
Balart is the only child that Castro had with his first wife, Mirta-Diaz Balart. Mirta had sent her son to visit Castro when he came to power. But Castro never let the young boy go back to Miami. In fact, Balart’s cousin is a Republican congressman from Florida, and is strictly against the Cuban administration.
The Cuban masses were always affectionate towards Fidelito because of the images of when Castro had marched with the young boy after the success of the revolution. Eventually, their relationship was on the rocks after which he was removed from leading the nuclear program of Cuba.
Source: CNN,Guardian

President Ram Nath Kovind wants Triple Talaq Bill to be passed soon in Parliament

President Ram Nath Kovind made his first speech to both Houses in the Parliament, expressing his hope that the Triple Talaq Bill will be passed soon. He was addressing a joint sitting of both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha at the beginning of the Budget Session.

The President said, “My government has brought the Triple Talaq Bill to safeguard the rights of the Muslim women. And I am hopeful that Parliament will pass the bill.”

He emphasized upon how 2018 would turn out to be a vital year in India’s journey to realizing its full potential. He enlisted the various measures that the government had undertaken such as the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ campaign. He also mentioned the Maternity Bill that has been passed. “Parliament has approved a bill granting working women paid maternity leave of 26 weeks.”

He encouraged the masses to promote and support the Swachh Bharat mission. “It is our duty that when we celebrate Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary in 2019 we pay tribute to him by making our country completely clean.”

He also recognized the efforts made by the current government in promoting digitization. Broadband connectivity was already being initiated in villages across. He stated that 2.5 villages had already been connected.

Sources: Asian Age, The New Indian Express

Gauri Day: Commemoration Meet held on Gauri Lankesh’s 56th birth anniversary

Gauri Lankesh was shot dead at point blank range outside her house on the evening of September 5th, 2017. Her 56th birthday on January 29th was commemorated as “Gauri Day.” Several activists and supporters of the feisty assassinated journalist gathered in Bangalore, her hometown where she also breathed her last.

Attendees such as Kavitha Lankesh, Gauri’s sister and famed filmmaker, Irom Sharmila, Jignesh Mevani, actor Prakash Raj, Kanhaiya Kumar and Teesta Satalvad were present on the occasion.

Lankesh was the editor of ‘Gauri Lankesh Patrike,’ a weekly tabloid in Kannada. Her death caused huge uproar of outrage across the country among journalists. This culminated in prominent flag bearers of the profession like Rajdeep Sardesai, Satalvad and H. S. Doreswamy to kick start a trust fund to sustain the publication. Prakash Raj spoke on the event stating that, “Her death has sprouted new voices like trees.”

Gauri was a mortal enemy to the concept of Hindutva and ring wing extremists. Since her death, countless accounts of her friends have poured in describing how she always feared for them, never for her own life. Vocally critical of the current government, the last editorial that she published prior to her death was on fake news that may have possibly contributed to the victories of the BJP.

It often seemed like she was on a crusade versus the machinery that was bent on altering the country’s fabric into Hinduism exclusively. She was a brilliant organizer with the ability to bring together varied social and political groups including Dalits, tribals, leftists and Muslims which is why she was considered dangerous by the opposition.

As time passes, we realize that we are still in the unknown about Gauri Lankesh’s murderer. However, when she died, various supporters of the BJP, and prominent members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or the RSS, very much a part of the same bloodline celebrated her killing on social media.

The Home Ministry of Karnataka was under extreme duress to produce results which sped up the investigation. According to the latest reports, the Special Investigation Team has identified the killers successfully and the investigation is currently in its terminal stages. Due to the sensitivity of these details, nothing has been disclosed.

The country waits with bated breath to receive full disclosure. But arresting Lankesh’s killers is not the end of the exercise. Her death served as a warning bell heard to dissenters of the government around the country. Lankesh’s killers deserve justice in its most brazen form, but the chapter will be completed when all protestors can speak without any fear, like Lankesh herself.

Sources: The News Minute, The Quint

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi to visit India, Japan, with expansion plans

Dara Khusrowshahi is on damage control in Asia since the controversies that led to the exit of the previous CEO, Travis Kalanick
Image Source: The Japan Times 

Uber Chief Dara Khosrowshahi is expected to embark upon his first visit to Asia in the week of February 19th. A spokesperson from Uber has revealed that Khosrowshahi plans to schedule meetings with top-ranking government officials, employees and business partners in Japan and India.

The head of Uber Technologies Inc. is on image mitigation program to better Uber’s recent controversy-filled past. Amid doubts about the company’s future in the region, Khosrowshahi is willing to cooperate and improve the issues that plagued the previous CEO Travis Kalanick.

The source said that the company wants to chalk out ways that “Uber can serve their riders, drivers, and cities better.” In the past week, the company finalized an agreement with Japan’s SoftBank Group Corporation. This made the Japanese investor the largest shareholder enabling Uber to compete with Ola in India and Grab in Southeast Asia.

Reports predict that Khorowshahi may seek to expand in the continent. Rajeev Misra, an executive of SoftBank who has joined the board for Uber recently spoke to the Financial Times advising that Uber needs to focus on its core market bases which are the US, Australia, Europe and Latin America. However, clearly, Khosrowshahi has different plans.

Sources: Livemint, Moneycontrol

Three persons missing in lethal mudslides in California

In recent developments in the deadly California mudslides, three people were reported as missing. Searchers looked through the rubble and debris in Montecito. 20 people have been reported to be killed by the onslaught of these mudslides.
Among these people were John Cantin, 17 and Faviola Benitez, 28. A child of two years of age, Lydia Sutthithepa was also missing. The young girl’s  father Pinit Sutthithepa was killed on Saturday. The sheriff narrowed down the people from a list of about 100 missing people.
This is the worst number of deaths that a mudslide has caused in California in the past 13 years. The fallen trees, power lines and debris made it harder for searchers to dig through. Montecito, the affected area is a rich neighbourhood 137 kilometres away from Los Angeles.
Post intimation, the White House released a conciliatory statement on behalf of President Trump and the First Lady.
The destruction affected close to 78 square kilometres and razed 65 homes to the ground while damaging 450 others. The residents from this side, the southeastern corner have been evacuated as a precautionary measure.
Sources – Reuters, CNN