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Euro 2020: Austria see off debutants North Macedonia to secure first European Championships win

Football|: Bucharest: Substitutes Michael Gregoritsch and Marko Arnautovic scored late goals as Austria sealed a 3-1 victory over major tournament debutants North Macedonia in their Group C opener at Euro 2020. Stefan Lainer put the Austrians ahead early on in Bucharest, but 37-year-old captain Goran Pandev levelled before the half-hour mark to become the second-oldest scorer in Euro history and delight the vocal Macedonian fans. But Gregoritsch diverted home the deciding goal 12 minutes from time and Arnautovic added a third to ensure Austria claimed their first-ever European Championship win and struck first blood in a group also containing the Netherlands and Ukraine, who meet in Amsterdam later in the day. Austria next visit the Dutch on Thursday, while North Macedonia stay in the Romanian capital to face Ukraine. Against run of play After a bright start by Igor Angelovski’s Macedonians on Sunday, Austria struck against the run of play in the 18th minute as right-back Lainer met Marcel Sabitzer’s cross at the back post to volley past goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski. Lainer celebrated by holding up a shirt with the words “Eriksen stay strong” after Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest in their game against Finland on Saturday. It was the first time Austria had taken the lead in a European Championship game. They quickly threatened a second goal as Sasa Kalajdzic turned Sabitzer’s pass too close to Dimitrievski. But North Macedonia continued to press and levelled in the 28th minute as Austria goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann lost the ball as he slid out to collect it after some comical defending, and Pandev gleefully accepted the gift to slot into an empty net. It was a record-extending 38th goal for the former Inter Milan forward for his country, making him the second-oldest player to net in the tournament after Austrian Ivica Vastic at the age of 38 against Poland in 2008. Austria coach Franco Foda sent on Arnautovic and Gregoritsch as his side dominated the early stages of the second half, but North Macedonia remained a danger on the break and Boban Nikolov was denied on the hour mark by an onrushing Bachmann. Palmed away Minutes later it was Austria who almost forged ahead, but Gregoritsch’s header was excellently palmed away by Dimitrievski. Neither side sat back to protect their point, but it was the underdogs who continued to look threatening and Ezgjan Alioski and Eljif Elmas both had efforts well blocked. Austria’s quality shone through in the closing stages, though, as Gregoritsch nipped ahead of Dimitrievski to stab home David Alaba’s low cross. In the 89th minute, Shanghai Port forward Arnautovic ran clear, rounded the goalkeeper and tapped in to give the scoreline a slightly flattering complexion.

GulfNews World

Naftali Bennett: Tech millionaire and Israel's new prime minister

Mena|World|: Jerusalem: Naftali Bennett, a multi-millionaire former tech entrepreneur, will be Israel's new prime minister after parliament approved a new government on Sunday. The 120-member Knesset voted in favour of an improbable coalition put together by centrist Yair Lapid, with a razor-thin majority but enough to end veteran Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's 12 unbroken years at the helm. The coalition deal sees Bennett, an estranged former protege of Netanyahu, serve first as prime minister in a rotation deal, before Lapid takes over after two years. A 49-year-old former defence minister and one-time special forces commando, Bennett leads the right-wing Yamina party, which has called for Israel to annex parts of the occupied West Bank. He will be Israel's first premier to lead an openly religious lifestyle, and the first to sport the kippa, the small skullcap worn by religious Jewish men. The son of American-born parents who speaks perfect English, he is ultra-liberal on the economy and takes a hard line against Israel's arch-foe, Iran. He shares this ideology with Netanyahu, having served in several of the Likud leader's governments. But in recent years tensions between intensified and Netanyahu made little effort to hide his disdain for Bennett. In late May, two months after Israel's fourth inconclusive election in two years, Bennett reached a deal with Lapid that paved the way for the improbable eight-party coalition approved by parliament on Sunday. Personal life Bennett lives with his wife Gilat and their four children in the central city of Raanana. He entered politics after selling his tech start-up for $145 million in 2005, and the next year became chief of staff to Netanyahu, who was then in the opposition. After leaving Netanyahu's office, Bennett in 2010 became head of the Yesha Council. He took politics by storm in 2012, taking charge of the hard-right Jewish Home party, which was facing annihilation. He increased its parliamentary presence fourfold. Beyond holding the defence portfolio, Bennett served as Netanyahu's economy minister and education minister. He re-branded Jewish Home as the "New Right" party, before forging the Yamina ("Rightward") bloc in 2018, and was part of Netanyahu's coalition which collapsed the same year. But he was not asked to join a unity government in May 2020 - a move seen as an expression of Netanyahu's personal contempt towards him. In 2020, in opposition and with the coronavirus pandemic raging, Bennett put aside his right-wing rhetoric to focus on the health crisis. He moved to broaden his appeal by releasing plans to contain Covid-19 and aid the economy. 'Natural successor' Former supporters and critics have accused Bennett of betraying his nationalist voters by joining a coalition that includes dovish Meretz and support from the Arab Israeli Islamic conservative party Raam. But Bennett has said he is on a mission to restore Israel's governance and avoid a fifth election in little more than two years. In an interview with Channel 12 news, he justified his decision to join the "change" coalition despite explicit campaign pledges to not be part of a government headed by or formed with Lapid. "The core promise of these elections was to extract Israel from chaos," he told. "I chose what's good for Israel." While risking alienating his traditional right-wing base by breaking a campaign promise in order to topple Netanyahu, Bennett's move could enable him to broaden his support in the long run. "The chance to serve as prime minister is a huge opportunity for Bennett to present himself as prime ministerial material," said Toby Greene, a political scientist at Bar Ilan university near Tel Aviv. Bennett could thus "present himself to (the) Israeli mainstream as the natural successor to Netanyahu, as the candidate of the Right who has shown he can run the country", he said.

GulfNews World

G-7's 1 billion pledge for new vaccine doses comes up short

World|: The Group of Seven fell short on fulfilling a pledge of 1 billion additional vaccine doses it will donate to developing nations, revealing gaps in the bloc between vaccine haves and have-nots. The world leaders made the 1-billion-shot pledge on Sunday - and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the G-7 would collectively distribute 2.3 billion vaccine doses to developing countries by next year. "Recognizing that ending the pandemic in 2022 will require vaccinating at least 60% of the global population, we will intensify our action to save lives," the leaders said in their final communique from the G-7 summit in the coastal Cornwall region of the UK. But Merkel's larger figure includes a much wider array of contributions already offered, as well future exports, according to a European official. So far, the G-7 countries have promised 613 million truly new doses - including some funded in part by previously announced aid. If doses already announced in recent weeks by G-7 and EU nations are included, the tally grows to roughly 870 million doses, according to the communique. To reach the 1 billion figure, G-7 officials included pledges made starting back in February. The communique also was the latest sign in a standoff over whether to waive intellectual-property rights as a way to try to increase vaccine production. Big splash The leaders clearly wanted to make a big splash with the promise. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson kicked off the summit by emphasizing the target, and US President Joe Biden hailed his government's commitment to supply half of the 1 billion new doses. The biggest batches come from countries that had cornered the market early on for domestic use. The US and the UK account for nearly all the new pledges - after they steered hundreds of millions of doses produced on their soil for their own citizens, while restricting exports for months. That approach led to stark vaccine disparities globally, even among the wealthy members of the G-7. The US and UK have fully vaccinated nearly half their populations while Japan and Canada have fully vaccinated less than 10%. "It's a good step, but the G-7 should feel far from content," said Krishna Udayakumar, the founding director of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center. "It seems like for an announcement, they went for a nice big round number without a lot of detail around it. Hopefully there is detail around it, as opposed to being figured out after the fact," he said. Intellectual property Health advocates have warned that the world needs billions of doses to quell the pandemic and to halt uncontrolled spread that generates more dangerous variants, against which vaccine protection may be less effective. The pledges come as the bloc grapples with another question - whether and how to lift intellectual-property rights protections for the vaccines. Biden threw his weight behind that idea but it has languished after Merkel opposed it. The communique pledged only to "support manufacturing in low-income countries," but didn't say specifically how. It noted the "importance of intellectual property" and the "positive impact" of voluntary licensing - both clauses that reflect the view of countries opposed to a waiver. "We will explore all options to ensure affordable and accessible Covid-19 tools for the poorest countries," it said. Despite some lingering resentment, the new doses pledged at the summit are a welcome sign to nations without domestic vaccine production that have been desperately awaiting shots. The new and existing pledges include: While some of that was previously announced, the latest measures are also in some cases not entirely new. The 500 million doses pledged by the U.S. will be funded in part by $2 billion that Biden had initially promised for Covax, the World Health Organization-backed initiative aimed at facilitating equitable global distribution. Biden will claw that money back and buy doses directly, then work with Covax to distribute them. Biden also has said he'll share 80 million doses by the end of this month. Those are expected to be a mix of Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna Inc. and AstraZeneca Plc shots. The 100 million UK doses - including 5 million to be distributed by September and a total of 30 million in 2021 - will be a mix of several suppliers and will be based on UK supply. The cost of the doses remains unclear. The Canadian pledge includes 13 million directly donated doses as well as a previously announced C$440 million ($361.9 million) pledge to Covax. Counting that money, Canada framed its donation as up to 100 million doses total, though only the 13 million are new. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's vaccination program initially struggled from a lack of domestic production, leaving it reliant on imports and now facing a belated wave of orders rolling in. Not enough? As part of a recasting the EU's target, the official said the bloc would double the number of vaccines to be exported to 700 million by the end of the year from the current 350 million. Millions of doses have been exported from the EU to other G-7 members, including the UK, Japan and Canada. The speed of donations is as important as the number of shots, Udayakumar said. The pledges "seems to indicate a back-loading of the volume" despite the current pressing need. "That would be the most negative impact, if we actually waited three to six months to get substantial doses out the door," he said. Critics said the promises aren't enough. Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, an UK-based advocacy group, called Johnson's pledge of 100 million doses "crumbs from the table." "Today we're only offering to give 100 million doses to the rest of the world - and only by the middle of next year. It's little more than a PR gimmick," Dearden said in a statement. He called on Johnson and Merkel to back the intellectual property waiver; the communique showed the countries divided on that issue.

GulfNews World

In China’s latest outbreak, doctors say the infected get sicker, faster

Asia|: Beijing: As the delta variant of the coronavirus spreads in southeastern China, doctors say they are finding that the symptoms are different and more dangerous than those they saw when the initial version of the virus started spreading in late 2019 in the central city of Wuhan. Patients are becoming sicker, and their conditions are worsening much more quickly, doctors told state-run television Thursday and Friday. Four-fifths of symptomatic cases developed fevers, they said, although it was not clear how that compared with earlier cases. The virus concentrations that are detected in their bodies climb to levels higher than previously seen and then decline only slowly, the doctors said. Up to 12 per cent of patients become severely or critically ill within three to four days of the onset of symptoms, said Guan Xiangdong, director of critical care medicine at Sun Yat-sen University in the city of Guangzhou, where the outbreak has been centered. In the past, the proportion had been 2 per cent or 3 per cent, although occasionally up to 10 per cent, he said. UK, Brazil Doctors in Britain and Brazil have reported similar trends with the variants that circulated in those countries, but the severity of those variants has not yet been confirmed. The testimonies from China are the latest indication of the dangers posed by delta, which the World Health Organization last month labeled a “variant of concern.” First identified this spring in India, where it was blamed for widespread suffering and death, delta has since become the dominant variant in Britain, where doctors suggest that it is more contagious and may infect some people who have received only one of two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. China has uniquely detailed data, however, because it has essentially universal testing in the vicinity of outbreaks, allowing officials to gather detailed information on the extent of cases. Delta’s spread in southeastern China focuses more attention on the effectiveness of China’s self-made vaccines. Chinese authorities have not indicated how many of the new infections have occurred in people who had been vaccinated. In some other countries where Chinese-made vaccines are in wide use, including the Seychelles and Mongolia, infections among vaccinated people are rising, although few patients have reportedly developed serious illness. Nearby Shenzhen had a handful of cases last week of the alpha variant, which first emerged in Britain. As some other parts of the world still struggle to acquire and administer large numbers of coronavirus tests, southeastern China has used its local production of scarce chemicals to conduct testing on a remarkable scale. Authorities said that they had conducted 32 million tests in Guangzhou, which has 18 million people, and 10 million in the adjacent city of Foshan, which has 7 million. Guangzhou has also isolated and quarantined tens of thousands of residents who had been anywhere near those infected. The testing and quarantine appear to have slowed but not stopped the outbreak. China’s National Health Commission announced Friday that nine new cases had been found in Guangzhou the previous day. “The epidemic is not over yet, and the risk of virus transmission still exists,” said Chen Bin, deputy director of the Guangzhou Municipal Health Commission.

GulfNews World

Glacier? Blood? Watermelon? Snow?: Whatever it’s called, snow shouldn’t be so red

Europe|: Paris: Winter through spring, the French Alps are wrapped in austere white snow. But as spring turns to summer, the stoic slopes start to blush. Parts of the snow take on bright colours: deep red, rusty orange, lemonade pink. Locals call this “sang de glacier,” or “glacier blood.” Visitors sometimes go with “watermelon snow.” In reality, these blushes come from an embarrassment of algae. In recent years, alpine habitats all over the world have experienced an uptick in snow-algae blooms - dramatic, strangely hued aggregations of these normally invisible creatures. While snow-algae blooms are poorly understood, the fact they are happening is probably not a good sign. Researchers have begun surveying the algae of the Alps to better grasp what species live there, how they survive and what might be pushing them over the bleeding edge. Some of their initial findings were published this week in Frontiers in Plant Science. Tiny yet powerful, the plant-like bacteria we call algae are “the basis of all ecosystems,” said Adeline Stewart, an author of the study who worked on it as a doctoral student at Grenoble Alpes University in France. Thanks to their photosynthetic prowess, algae produce a large amount of the world’s oxygen and form the foundation of most food webs. But they sometimes overdo it, multiplying until they throw things out of balance. This can cause toxic red tides, scummy freshwater blooms and unsettling glacier blood. Protect themselves from ultraviolet light While it’s unclear exactly what spurs the blooms, the colour - often red, but sometimes green, gray or yellow - comes from pigments and other molecules that the snow algae use to protect themselves from ultraviolet light. These hues absorb more sunlight, causing the underlying snow to melt more quickly. This can change ecosystem dynamics and hasten the shrinking of glaciers. Inspired by increasing reports of the phenomenon, researchers at several alpine institutes decided to turn their attention from algae species in far-flung habitats to those “that grow next door,” said Eric Marechal, head of a plant physiology lab at Grenoble Alpes University and a leader of the project. Because so many different types of algae can live and bloom in the mountains, the researchers began with a census in parts of the French Alps to find out what grows where. They took soil samples from five peaks, spread over various altitudes, and searched for algal DNA. They found that many species tend to prefer particular elevations and have most likely evolved to thrive in the conditions found there. One key genus, fittingly named Sanguina, grows only above 6,500 feet. The researchers also brought some species back to the lab to investigate their potential bloom triggers. Algae blooms occur naturally - the first written observation of glacier blood came from Aristotle, who guessed that the snow had grown hairy, red worms from lying around too long. But human-generated factors can worsen such outbursts and make them more frequent. Extreme weather, unseasonably warm temperatures and influxes of nutrients from agricultural and sewage runoff all play a role in freshwater and ocean algae blooms. To see if the same was true for glacier blood, the researchers subjected the algae to surpluses of nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus. While they have not found anything significant so far, they plan to continue this line of testing, Stewart said. The limits of DNA sampling mean that even this study gives an incomplete picture of what’s living in and under the snow, said Heather Maughan, a microbiologist and research scholar at the Ronin Institute in New Jersey who was not involved in the study. Still, it revealed the “incredible diversity” of alpine algae - underscoring how little we know about them, as well as their potential to “serve as beacons of ecosystem change,” she said. In the coming years, the researchers will keep track of how species distributions shift over time, which may shed light on the overall health of the ecosystem, Stewart said. They will also try to establish whether temperature patterns correlate with blooms, and begin to compare species compositions in white versus colorful snow. Eventually, they hope to decipher the blood-red message. “There’s so little that we know,” she said. “We need to dig deeper.”

GulfNews Business

Abu Dhabi's ADQ in talks to invest $500 million in Flipkart

Retail|: Dubai: Abu Dhabi sovereign fund ADQ is in talks to invest about $500 million in India's Flipkart, according to people familiar with the matter, as the Walmart Inc.-backed e-commerce firm raises funds ahead of a potential initial public offering next year. The emirate's newest state investment company is discussing an injection of funds that would value Flipkart between $35 billion and $40 billion, the people said, asking not to be identified as the information is private. The fundraising would come ahead of a planned IPO that could take place as soon as 2022, they said. Flipkart is seeking to raise at least $3 billion and could decide to increase the amount to as much as $3.75 billion, as investors have shown significant interest, the people said. Considerations are ongoing and the talks could fall apart, the people said. Representatives for Flipkart didn't immediately respond to a request for comment made outside business hours in India. An ADQ representative was not immediately available to comment. Flipkart is seeking to raise at least $3 billion from a group of investors including SoftBank Group Corp., Singapore's GIC Pte and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Bloomberg News reported June 7 citing people familiar with the matter. The group also includes the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the emirate's largest sovereign wealth funds, the people said at the time. ADQ, formerly known as Abu Dhabi Development Holding Co., has been one of the most active investors in the Middle East since its inception in 2018. It oversees about $110 billion in assets, according to a report from Global SWF. That would make it the third largest of Abu Dhabi's state investors, after ADIA with roughly $700 billion and Mubadala Investment Co. with about $230 billion. The upstart firm has become a prolific dealmaker. In November 2020, ADQ agreed to buy a 45% stake in agricultural trader Louis Dreyfus Company BV, with a minimum of $800 million in proceeds from the sale to be invested in the firm. Bausch Health Cos. agreed to sell Egyptian drugmaker Amoun Pharmaceutical Co. to ADQ in March for $740 million, the Canadian firm said.

GulfNews World

India holds vaccination drive for people with disabilities

India|: Ahmedabad: Authorities in an Indian city have organised a special drive-through vaccination camp for disabled people in a bid to address low vaccination rates, especially among more vulnerable members of society. Organisers of the weekend campaign in Ahmedabad, the biggest city in Gujarat state, aim to vaccinate 500 disabled people, who often struggle to book slots and get access to vaccination centres. People taking advantage of the offer queued up at the centre in vehicles, wheelchairs, and on customised mopeds for their free COVID-19 vaccine shots. “The vaccination process is now more convenient,” said Mahendra Chudasma, a 45-year-old man who is visually impaired. “It’s a very nice feeling.” Despite being a major producer of coronavirus vaccines, India faces a huge task in inoculating its 1.3 billion people, partly due to the logistical difficulties of reaching remote areas and also scepticism about the shots. People with disabilities often face additional problems of being unable to reach vaccination sites due to a lack of transport or no ramps at the centres for easy access, said Bhushan Punani, general secretary of the Blind Peoples Association in Ahmedabad, one of the organisers of the campaign. Some people have struggled to use a government-mandated smartphone app required to register for shots, he added. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has said it aims to vaccinate all eligible and willing Indians by the end of this year, but only 240 million of the country’s 950 million adults have had at least one shot, according to health data. India was hit hard by a surge of coronavirus infections in April and May but there are signs the worst could be over. Authorities on Sunday reported 80,834 new COVID-19 infections over the previous 24 hours, the lowest daily tally in more than two months, according to health ministry data. There were 3,303 deaths over the same period.

GulfNews Business

Driven in the UAE: Aston Martin DBX

The Aston Martin Valkyrie is an out-of-this-world hypercar. It’s a sublime distillation of the storied marque’s heritage into an ethereal looking capsule that’s raring to race into the future at warp speed. Equally otherworldly is the smaller Valhalla, another limited edition hypercar that fans of the Gaydon carmaker have their eyes peeled for. However, remarkable as these two visceral machines are, the British brand has been hitting roadblocks, one after the other, in the path to getting them on the road. This isn’t a predicament without precedent. Porsche has been there long back; so has Jaguar, BMW, Maserati, Lamborghini and many others. The sheer amount of money that’s required for research and development before a supercar or a sportscar is put into production is mindboggling, and the only way these companies could raise such resources is by building and selling less glamorous money-spinners. While all of the above mentioned performance brands have cashed in on the SUV segment, Aston Martin remained a reluctant straggler for many years. But when it actually did come out with an SUV, it forced the motoring world to sit up and take notice. Despite the significantly inflated girth, it manages to look as striking as any other model from the stable. Image Credit: Stefan Lindeque The DBX, Aston Martin’s first ever SUV in its century-long existence, is an absolute stunner. Despite the significantly inflated girth, it manages to look as striking as any other model from the stable. With the legacy DB grille and the seductively flowing lines, the heritage and the DNA are written all over the DBX. Whether you look at it head on, in profile or from the back, this is one handsomely proportioned SUV. Whether you look at it head on, in profile or from the back, the DBX is one handsomely proportioned SUV. Image Credit: Stefan Lindeque Step inside, and you’ll realise the quality of materials and workmanship are ages better in comparison to the interior quality of Aston Martins of yore. The seats are remarkably comfortable, and getting into a comfortable driving position behind the steering is a breeze. While most of the buttons and controls are ergonomically placed, one conspicuous exception is the placement of the D (Drive) button on the centre stack. Rather than keeping it closer to the driver, Aston Martin has chosen to position it closer to the front passenger, making it a potential stretch for anyone with a below average arm length. Another quirk is the bonnet release button, which is placed on the passenger side! I suspect these two oddities are a result of Aston Martin trying to cut some corners while converting the original right hand drive layout to left hand drive for other markets. Materials and workmanship in the cabin are way better than what used to be in Aston Martins of yore. Image Credit: Stefan Lindeque The 12.1-inch digital display behind the steering wheel is easy to read at a glance, even while driving, and the 10-inch multimedia touchscreen offers an intuitive interactive interface. Aston Martin has not skimped on practicality and comfort at the back either with enough room for two adults. The raised transmission tunnel and a rounded centre portion of the rear seat make the DBX a four-seater effectively. However, for the two occupants of the rear quarters, there’s plenty of leg- and headroom with the sense of airiness enhanced by the panoramic sunroof. The 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 is sourced from Mercedes-Benz AMG. Image Credit: Stefan Lindeque While the interior appointments and luxury trimmings could lull you into a sense of being in a tame family car, all you need to wake up into reality is press the engine start button. The 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 sourced from Mercedes-Benz AMG comes to life with a mighty roar, before settling down to an assertive growl on idle. It’s the same block that powers the DB11 and the Vantage, but in the DBX, it spews 550 horsepower and 700Nm of torque to hurtle the SUV from 0-100kph in just 4.5 seconds. The DBX handles with litheness that belies its heft. Image Credit: Stefan Lindeque Acceleration is immediate and the V8 pulls hard abruptly past the 3,000 rpm mark, throwing the floodgates of adrenaline wide open with the intoxicatingly full-throated exhaust note adding to the heady mix. Unless you keep an eye on the speedometer regularly, it’s quite easy to rack up speeding fines in the thousands on highways. This is an SUV that needs to be enjoyed around a race track. It corners flat on fast bends, as planted and composed as a tarmac-hugging sportscar. The DBX handles with a verve that belies its heft, with the car shrinking around you as its telepathic steering lets you carve corners with ease. Aston Martin might have come to the SUV party quite late. However, what they have brought with them is a fabulous showstopper. Quite possibly, the best high end performance SUV in the world.

GulfNews UAE

Driven in the UAE: Aston Martin DBX

The Aston Martin Valkyrie is an out-of-this-world hypercar. It’s a sublime distillation of the storied marque’s heritage into an ethereal looking capsule that’s raring to race into the future at warp speed. Equally otherworldly is the smaller Valhalla, another limited edition hypercar that fans of the Gaydon carmaker have their eyes peeled for. However, remarkable as these two visceral machines are, the British brand has been hitting roadblocks, one after the other, in the path to getting them on the road. This isn’t a predicament without precedent. Porsche has been there long back; so has Jaguar, BMW, Maserati, Lamborghini and many others. The sheer amount of money that’s required for research and development before a supercar or a sportscar is put into production is mindboggling, and the only way these companies could raise such resources is by building and selling less glamorous money-spinners. While all of the above mentioned performance brands have cashed in on the SUV segment, Aston Martin remained a reluctant straggler for many years. But when it actually did come out with an SUV, it forced the motoring world to sit up and take notice. Despite the significantly inflated girth, it manages to look as striking as any other model from the stable. Image Credit: Stefan Lindeque The DBX, Aston Martin’s first ever SUV in its century-long existence, is an absolute stunner. Despite the significantly inflated girth, it manages to look as striking as any other model from the stable. With the legacy DB grille and the seductively flowing lines, the heritage and the DNA are written all over the DBX. Whether you look at it head on, in profile or from the back, this is one handsomely proportioned SUV. Whether you look at it head on, in profile or from the back, the DBX is one handsomely proportioned SUV. Image Credit: Stefan Lindeque Step inside, and you’ll realise the quality of materials and workmanship are ages better in comparison to the interior quality of Aston Martins of yore. The seats are remarkably comfortable, and getting into a comfortable driving position behind the steering is a breeze. While most of the buttons and controls are ergonomically placed, one conspicuous exception is the placement of the D (Drive) button on the centre stack. Rather than keeping it closer to the driver, Aston Martin has chosen to position it closer to the front passenger, making it a potential stretch for anyone with a below average arm length. Another quirk is the bonnet release button, which is placed on the passenger side! I suspect these two oddities are a result of Aston Martin trying to cut some corners while converting the original right hand drive layout to left hand drive for other markets. Materials and workmanship in the cabin are way better than what used to be in Aston Martins of yore. Image Credit: Stefan Lindeque The 12.1-inch digital display behind the steering wheel is easy to read at a glance, even while driving, and the 10-inch multimedia touchscreen offers an intuitive interactive interface. Aston Martin has not skimped on practicality and comfort at the back either with enough room for two adults. The raised transmission tunnel and a rounded centre portion of the rear seat make the DBX a four-seater effectively. However, for the two occupants of the rear quarters, there’s plenty of leg- and headroom with the sense of airiness enhanced by the panoramic sunroof. The 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 is sourced from Mercedes-Benz AMG. Image Credit: Stefan Lindeque While the interior appointments and luxury trimmings could lull you into a sense of being in a tame family car, all you need to wake up into reality is press the engine start button. The 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 sourced from Mercedes-Benz AMG comes to life with a mighty roar, before settling down to an assertive growl on idle. It’s the same block that powers the DB11 and the Vantage, but in the DBX, it spews 550 horsepower and 700Nm of torque to hurtle the SUV from 0-100kph in just 4.5 seconds. The DBX handles with litheness that belies its heft. Image Credit: Stefan Lindeque Acceleration is immediate and the V8 pulls hard abruptly past the 3,000 rpm mark, throwing the floodgates of adrenaline wide open with the intoxicatingly full-throated exhaust note adding to the heady mix. Unless you keep an eye on the speedometer regularly, it’s quite easy to rack up speeding fines in the thousands on highways. This is an SUV that needs to be enjoyed around a race track. It corners flat on fast bends, as planted and composed as a tarmac-hugging sportscar. The DBX handles with a verve that belies its heft, with the car shrinking around you as its telepathic steering lets you carve corners with ease. Aston Martin might have come to the SUV party quite late. However, what they have brought with them is a fabulous showstopper. Quite possibly, the best high end performance SUV in the world.

GulfNews World

Pakistan bans travellers from 26 countries, including India

Pakistan|: Islamabad: The National Command & Operation Centre (NCOC) has revised the inbound air/land travel categories placing strict restrictions on travellers from 26 countries, including India, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Tunisia, Bolivia and others by placing them in “C” category. According to the Ministry of the National Health Services (NHS), Pakistan introduced three categories “A,” “B,” and “C” to deal with potential carriers of COVID-19 coming into Pakistan from abroad. According to the revised travel advisory, ban on passengers’ entry from “C” category countries will remain effective until further order and will only be allowed subject to exemption by committee as per procedure. The passengers belonging to the A category countries are exempted from the mandatory COVID-19 test while those from areas in B category require a negative Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test that must be taken within 72 hours of the travel date while countries in C category are restricted and people can travel only under specific NCOC guidelines. The C category list includes Iran, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Indonesia, Iraq, the Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Tunisia, Bolivia, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Namibia, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago and Uruguay. Sindh seek early vaccine drive All the district health authorities in Sindh have been directed to expedite the ongoing vaccination drive as the provincial government fears the fourth wave of COVID-19 in the province. Sindh Minister for Health and Population Welfare Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho at a meeting with stakeholders observed there was a fear of the fourth wave. According to a statement issued after the meeting, Dr Pechuho expressed concern that the health situation might get critical again as new coronavirus variants, including the Delta variant, had been reported in the country. “All stakeholders should be taken on board to expedite COVID-19 vaccination drive, particularly the industrial sector. The government might opt for another lockdown if coronavirus cases increase. To avoid this situation, everyone should get vaccinated against the virus, the statement quoted the health minister as saying in the meeting. Islamabad positivity drops to 1% The COVID-19 positivity rate in Islamabad dropped to all time low - 1 per cent, while vaccinations in the capital reached 500,000. According to District Health Officer (DHO) Dr Zaeem Zia the federal capital showed a tremendous progress with regard to vaccination as well as implementation of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) against COVID-19. Against 3,226 tests conducted in the last 24 hours, only 34 cases of COVID-19 were reported. Pakistan on Sunday reported 56 deaths and 1,239 new cases of COVID-19 during the last 24 hours. According to the NCOC, the country’s overall positivity rate remained 3.4 per cent. Since May 25, Pakistan’s positivity rate has not gone beyond 5 per cent, which is a big relief for the health authorities. In vaccination, so far, the country has administered 10.696 million doses of vaccine while during the last twenty four hours, 200,064 vaccine doses were administered.

GulfNews UAE

Indian boy, 12, in UAE develops anti-cheating system for online exams

Education|: Sharjah: A 12-year-old Indian student in Sharjah has created an anti-cheating guard for online exams that alerts the school if a student is straying away from the exam site to access other websites or documents. Aarush Rajani, a Grade 8 student of Delhi Private School Sharjah (DPS Sharjah), has built a JavaScript-based web component that instantly identifies such activity and alerts the invigilator of the class about the incident. It notes the specific time the student was away and then automatically sends an immediate email alerting the invigilator with specific time logs. Many students in the UAE and globally are engaged in full distance learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and so taking their exams online this term, which concludes at the end the month. Without proctors walking down aisles in exam halls, keeping an eye on any attempt by students to cheat, educators are taking steps to mitigate cheating during online exams from home. Aarush, who is the head boy of middle school at DPS Sharjah, and known for his computer skills, was recently approached by his middle school science head of department for an opportunity “to enhance the reliability of the online examination process by creating an anti-cheating mechanism to help the invigilators”. Fool-proof system? Aarush Rajani Aarush, who is from India’s business capital Mumbai, soon delivered the anti-cheating system — which his school’s IT team has not been able to hack despite several attempts during testing. All such attempts failed, including shifting windows, opening new tabs, using shortcuts such as ALT+Tab or CTRL+Tab. “They were trying their best to find a loophole in my code, but the web code worked in all scenarios” and blocked cheating attempts, Aarush said. “With this capability, invigilators can now assess larger patterns that can help identify, warn repeat offenders and, in the long-run, reduce the incidence of such events,” he added. Starting young Aarush said he has been “attracted like a magnet” to technology since the early days of his childhood. When his parents had gifted him his first battery-operated car, his “first reaction was not to run it around, but turn it upside-down to open it and check what’s inside”. Aarush has been experimenting and learning new tech skills since then, including coding in several computer languages, including Python for artificial intelligence and machine learning, as well as the Linux terminal for ethical hacking. Going global Earlier this month, Aarush led his school team towards winning the ‘Champions Award’ in First Lego League (FLL) Nationals 2021 contest in the UAE. Next stop is Greece, where Aarush, along with his team, will be representing the UAE in the international round of the contest later this month. FLL presents teams with real-world scientific challenges and judges their innovative concepts based on the research and potential impact. ‘Infinity and Beyond’ Aarush and the team is currently working on enhancing their project, called ‘Infinity and Beyond’, for the international round. He did not divulge details about the project but said it was essentially “a futuristic fitness system which will help a lot in these conditions” of the pandemic. He said it was “a unique combination of VR [Virtual Reality] technology with an omnidirectional treadmill that unlocks infinite possibilities for health, tourism and leisure, amid today’s COVID challenges”. Earlier this month, Aarush led his school team towards winning the ‘Champions Award’ in First Lego League (FLL) Nationals 2021 contest in the UAE. Image Credit: Supplied Apart from the FLL project, Aarush has also developed ‘Foresight’ to help people of determination “commute safely”, using a mobile app and wearable technology, including hardware modules at bus stops to assist the visually impaired. College dream He plans to study computer science in college. His aim is to pursue a master’s degree in science from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in the US, specialising in artificial intelligence. “I wish to build a career in Deep Learning and Machine Learning. It’s not just a dream for myself, but also for improving the lives of countless people around me,” he said. Word of thanks Aarush thanked his entire school community and his parents for their support. “My parents have been an absolute rock of inspiration, support, motivation, and facilitation. They have always been there to support me and motivate me, regardless of my success or failures.” Besides his love for technology, Aarush is an avid amateur filmmaker.