31 December 2020

Prof. Lalith Gamage appointed as new Chairman of ICTA.

Prof. Lalith Gamage has been appointed as the new Chairman of the Information & Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA).

He takes over from Jayantha De Silva, who will be leaving as the Secretary to the newly created Ministry of Technology.  Prof. Gamage is scheduled to assume office on January 01, 2021.

Professor Lalith Gamage was the chief architect in establishing the Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology (SLIIT) in 1999 and is currently holding the position of its Vice Chancellor and CEO.

He has contributed to promoting the IT industry and served the government of Sri Lanka as the Chairman of Lanka Software Foundation (LSF), Chairman of Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies (ACCIMT), Chairman of the ICT Cluster and the Executive Director of Trade Information Network of Sri Lanka Export Development Board. Prof. Gamage also took the lead in establishing Sri Lanka’s first technology incubator, Conceptnursery which has produced a large number of successful technology companies.

At the time of his appointment, he has been he is serving as a Board Member of Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) and is also the Chairman of the Technical Committee for the Sri Lanka Unique Digital Identity project.

Prof. Gamage is an Advisory Board Member of Sri Lanka Association of Software and Service Companies (SLASSCOM) and is the Founding President of Sri Lanka Association of Non-State Higher Education Institutes (SLANSHEI).

Professor Gamage is an Electronic and Telecommunication Engineering graduate from the University of Moratuwa and holds a PhD from the University of British Columbia, Canada, where he is also an Affiliate Professor. In 2000 he won The Outstanding Young Person of the year (TOYP) award for Academic Leadership.

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Korean-based ‘Heung A Line’ expands its services to Sri Lanka

 Heung A Line head quartered in South Korea launched its maiden service (SIS/CI6) in Sri Lanka with its first vessel call at the CICT of the Port of Colombo with mv. BALTIC SOUTH v. 2001W on the 22nd of December 2020. The service is jointly operated by Heung A Line in partnership with Sinokor Line, Wan Hai Line, Feedertech and Intra Asia Line.

Heung A Line, locally represented by M/S Sharaf Shipping Agency (Pvt) Ltd., will have a weekly call at the CICT with the SIS/C16 service, deploying six vessels of 4200 TEU capacity, directly connecting China to Sri Lanka and India. The port rotation of the SIS/CI6 service will be Dallian, Shanghai, Ningbo, Hong Kong, Shekou, Singapore, Port Kelang, Colombo, Nhavasheva, Mundra, Port Klang and back to China.

The new service will allow “Heung A Line” to offer direct connections between China - Sri Lanka and India and enable them to mark their presence in this region. The commencement of the new service of “Heung A Line” with their partners, has been welcomed by traders, given the current space and equipment constraints, especially in light of China - Sri Lanka trade.

The added capacity is expected to help importers in Sri Lanka to ensure that their valuable cargo, especially in relation to the Garment and the Construction industries are made available in time to meet the production demand.

Heung A Line is also looking at further expansion in to this region, and has already launched its second service - SIS-2 from China to India.

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French designer Pierre Cardin dies at age 98.

The French designer Pierre Cardin has died at the age of 98. 

Legendary designer Pierre Cardin, whose futuristic and stylish designs helped revolutionise fashion in the 1950s and 60s.

The French fashion giant, whose career spanned more than 70 years, helped usher in the post-war "golden age" of couture with his modern style.

He broke ground by bringing designer styles to the masses with some of the first ready-to-wear collections. A business pioneer, he also licensed his name for a wide range of products.

Cardin was born in Italy in 1922 but moved to France as a child. He began his fashion career in Paris working for firms including Christian Dior, for whom he helped create the New Look collection in 1947.

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Ajinkya Rahane Becomes First Recipient of Mullagh Medal.


Ajinkya Rahane has won been bestowed with the Mullagh medal after India won the second game against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Rahane scored a hundred in the game and was awarded the Mullagh medal. Rahane is the first recipient of the medal.

Johnny Mullagh Medal is a tribute to honour Australian captain and cricketer Johnny Mullagh. He was the first cricketer who led the famous 1868 Aboriginal cricket tour of England. Ajinkya Rahane Hailed for his Captaincy As India Beat Australia by 8 Wickets at MCG.

Cricket Australia had earlier announced that the Player of the match of the Boxing Day Test will be awarded, Mullagh Medal.

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Japan is developing wooden satellites to send into orbit by 2023.

Kyoto University is teaming up with a Japanese forestry company to develop world's first wooden satellites to shoot into orbit by 2023.

The advantage of a wooden satellite is that if it were to fall out of orbit and burn up on reentry, it wouldn't release as many harmful particles as metal satellites.

Kyoto University and Sumitomo Forestry plan to experiment with how well different types of wood withstand extreme conditions on Earth, aiming to develop a wood that could take wild fluctuations in temperature and sunlight.

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Cristiano Ronaldo Wins Prestigious Golden Foot 2020 Award.

Cristiano Ronaldo has won the prestigious Golden Foot 2020 award in Monaco for his outstanding performance over the previous season. He netted the ball on 44 occasions in 44 games and helped Juventus top Group G in the ongoing UEFA Champions League. 

Despite missing out on the coveted FIFA The Best Award to Bayern Munich icon Robert Lewandowski last week, Ronaldo picked up the Golden Foot 2020 award – something that is missing from arch-rival Lionel Messi’s trophy cabinet. 

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Central Bank issues uncirculated commemorative coin to mark its 70th anniversary.

The Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) has decided to issue an uncirculated commemorative coin in the denomination of Rupees 20 to mark its 70th anniversary.

The Central Bank commenced operations in August 1950 and completed 70 years of its unique and valued contribution to the prosperity of Sri Lanka.

The first coin was officially presented to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa by the Governor of the CBSL Prof. W D Lakshman at the President Secretariat on 31 December 2020.

The coin is issued in an attractive presentation case with a certificate of authenticity. This is a limited issue of 3,000 coins and a coin will be sold at a price of Rs.1,300 through the CBSL sales counter at the Economic History Museum, Central Point Building, No. 54, Chatham Street, Colombo 01 and CBSL Regional Offices in Anuradhapura, Matale, Matara, Trincomalee, Kilinochchi and Nuwara Eliya.

Details of the coin:

The obverse of the coin depicts the image of the Head Office building of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka with “70” in large numerals appearing at the center of the coin. Words “Central Bank of Sri Lanka” in Tamil, Sinhala and English appear along the periphery. The years 1950-2020 are indicated at the bottom edge of the coin.

The reverse of the coin depicts the face value “20” in large numerals with the words “Twenty Rupees” in Sinhala, Tamil and English and Year “2020” just below the words. “Sri Lanka” appears along the periphery on the upper edge of the coin in Tamil, Sinhala, and English.


 

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Inflation increases to 4.2 % in December 2020

The overall rate of inflation as measured by the Colombo Consumer Price Index (CCPI) on year-on-year (Y-o-Y) basis increased marginally to 4.2% in December 2020 from 4.1% in November 2020,  the Department of Census and Statistics reported.

The CCPI for all items for the month of December 2020 was 138.0 and it records an increase of 0.9 in index points that is 0.66 percentage points compared to the month of November 2020 for which the index was 137.1. This represents an increase of expenditure value by Rs. 549.24 in the “Market Basket”

Year on Year inflation of Food Group has decreased from 10.3% in November 2020 to 9.2% in December 2020 while that of Non‐food Group has increased from 1.6% in November 2020 to 2.0% in December 2020.

For the month of December 2020, on year‐to‐year basis, contribution to inflation by food commodities was  2.80%. The contribution of Non Food items was 1.41%.

This was mainly due to increases in value change in groups of ‘Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and Other Fuels’ (0.68%), ‘Transport’ (0.45%), ‘Education’ (0.14%), ‘Clothing and Footwear’ (0.13%), ‘Restaurants & Hotels’ (0.13%), ‘Miscellaneous Goods and Services’ (0.09%) and ‘Alcoholic Beverages Tobacco and Narcotics’ (0.07%).

Decreases in value change were reported for the groups of ‘Health’ (0.17%), ‘Communication’ (0.08%), ‘Furnishing Household Equipment and routine Household Maintenance’ (0.03%) and slight decrease in price was reported in group of ‘Recreation and Culture’.

The moving average inflation rate for the month of December 2020 is 4.6%. The corresponding rate remained unchanged in December 2020 relative to the month of November 2020.

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Sri Lankan Rupee appreciates. Selling rate of US $ recorded at Rs.189.18

According to the daily exchange report of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL), the current buying rate of the US Dollar today (31) stands at Rs. 184.12 and selling rate of the US dollar stands at Rs.189.18

This is the lowest buying and selling rate recorded for a US dollar since, December 16, 2019.

The rupee has been under pressure over the last week. On 24 December 2020, the buying rate of the US Dollar was at Rs. 189.08 and selling rate of the US dollar was at Rs.194.66 and the Central Bank issuing a statement stated that it will take appropriate action aggressively to contain this volatility in the domestic foreign exchange market.

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30 December 2020

Rupee shows signs of recovery. Selling rate of US $ recorded at Rs.190.02.

According to the daily exchange report of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL), the current buying rate of the US Dollar today (30 December 2020) stands at Rs.185.20 and selling rate of the US dollar stands at Rs.190.02.

An increase in volatility of the exchange rate was observed last week. On 24 December 2020, the buying rate of the US Dollar was at Rs. 189.08 and selling rate of the US dollar was at Rs.194.66.

In this backdrop, issuing a statement last week the Central Bank said that it will take appropriate action aggressively in order to contain this volatility in the domestic foreign exchange market. Further, the Central Bank stated that these actions, will enable the Rupee to appreciate within the next few days towards the levels of below Rs.185 per US dollar.

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India will host a Global Media and Film Summit in 2021.

India will host a Global Media and Film Summit next year and it will also set up a special pavilion at Cannes in 2022 on the occasion of Cannes Film Festival's 75 years celebrations.

India is a country where growth of communication technology is phenomenal and this presents a tremendous scope for entertainment and media industry as well. 

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Australia's Cricket Hall of Fame inducts first Aboriginal player.

One of the stars of the first Australian cricket tour of England has become the first Aboriginal inducted to the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame.

Johnny Mullagh was part of the 1868 Aboriginal team that became the country's first sporting team to tour internationally.

The Hall of Fame chairman said Mullagh contributed to Australia's identity.

Mullagh took 245 wickets at an average of 10 and scored 1,698 runs during his team's tour of the United Kingdom, playing  in 45 of the 47 matches. Mullagh is credited with being a skilful all-rounder. 

Born in about 1841, Johnny Mullagh - also known by the traditional name Unaarrimin - was a Jardwadjali man from what is now the state of Victoria. He learned to play cricket working on a nearby farm.

He was among 13 Aboriginal men picked to form a team who were brought to London in 1868 by a former first-class cricketer, Charles Lawrence, an expat who had been living in Sydney.

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US plans to put a nuclear power plant on the moon.

NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy will seek proposals from industry to build a nuclear power plant on the moon and Mars to support its long-term exploration plans. The proposal is for a fission surface power system, and the goal is to have a flight system, lander and reactor ready to launch by 2026.

Anthony Calomino, NASA’s nuclear technology portfolio lead within the Space Technology Mission Directorate, said that the plan is to develop a 10-kilowatt class fission surface power system for demonstration on the moon by the late 2020s. The facility will be fully manufactured and assembled on Earth, then tested for safety and to make sure it operates correctly.

Afterwards, it will be integrated with a lunar lander, and a launch vehicle will transport it to an orbit around the moon. A lander will lower it to the surface, and once it arrives, it will be ready for operation with no additional assembly or construction required. The demonstration is expected to last for one year, and could ultimately lead to extended missions on the moon, Mars, and beyond.

The fission surface power system will be fully manufactured and assembled on earth and integrated on a lander as a payload.

The system consists of four major subsystems including a nuclear reactor which is an electric power conversion unit, heat rejection array, and power management and distribution subsystem and will be designed to operate for up to 10 years.

The outgoing President Donald Trump, issued the “National Strategy for Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion” on 16 December.

Under it, he asked Nasa to “initiate fission surface power project for lunar surface demonstration by 2027 with scalability to a power range of 40 kilowatt-electric and higher to support a sustained lunar presence and exploration of Mars”.

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China has successfully launched satellite "Yogan - 33"

Chinese has successfully launched a new remote sensing satellite into orbit named Yogan-33,  by a Long March-4C rocket. The satellite Yogan-33 was lunched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on 28 December 2020. The eruption will benefit land resource surveys, crop yield estimates and disaster management.

Scientists say it is the 357th mission in the Long March rocket mission series. The mission also launched a micro and nano technology launch satellite into orbit.

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India-Vietnamese Navy conducts PASSEX-2020.

The Indian Navy and Vietnamese Navy undertook the naval passage exercise PASSEX in the South China Sea. The two-day exercise was conducted s part of efforts to boost maritime cooperation between the two countries. The Indian Naval Ship (INS) Kiltan took part in the exercise on 26 and 27 December 2020.

This mission of INS Kiltan is 13th participation for bilateral and multilateral exercises of Indian Navy in 2020.

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Skyroot Aerospace successfully test fires Kalam-5.

Skyroot Aerospace Indian Space startup, in Hyderabad has successfully test-fired a solid propulsion rocket engine, named Kalam-5 on December 22, 2020 in Nagpur. 

With this test fire, Skyroot Aerospace has become the first private company of India to successfully design, develop and test a full solid-fueled rocket stage. This technology will be used for their maiden rocket Vikram-1, which is targeted to be launched in December 2021 with the help of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

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ICC Awards of the Decade.


The ICC Awards of the Decade is a one-off edition of the annual awards programme, aimed at celebrating the stand-out performers and moments from the past ten years of international cricket. The apex cricketing body has included the names of several talismanic players who ruled the game in the last decade i.e. 2010-2019. 

The winners of the prestigious ICC Awards of the Decade including the Rachel Heyhoe-Flint for Best Female Player and Sir Garfield Sobers for Best Male Player were announced simultaneously across all ICC Digital channels, on Monday, December 28th 2020.

Here is the full list of awardees for ICC Awards of the Decade:

  • ICC Male Cricketer of the Decade: Virat Kohli (India)
  • ICC Female Cricketer of the Decade: Ellyse Perry (Australia)
  • ICC Men’s Test Cricketer of the Decade: Steve Smith (Australia)
  • ICC Men’s ODI Cricketer of the Decade: Virat Kohli (India)
  • ICC Women’s ODI Cricketer of the Decade: Ellyse Perry (Australia)
  • ICC Men’s T20I Cricketer of the Decade: Rashid Khan (Afghanistan)
  • ICC Women’s T20I Cricketer of the Decade: Ellyse Perry (Australia)
  • ICC Men’s Associate Cricketer of the Decade: Kyle Coetzer (Scotland)
  • ICC Women’s Associate Cricketer of the Decade: Kathryn Bryce (Scotland)
  • ICC Spirit of Cricket Award of the Decade: MS Dhoni (India)

Teams of the Decade (TOTD) compiled by the Voting Academy of journalists and broadcasters for the following five formats are:

  • ICC Men’s Test Team of the Decade: Virat Kohli (India)
  • ICC Men’s ODI Team of the Decade: MS Dhoni (India)
  • ICC Women’s ODI Team of the Decade: Meg Lanning (Australia)
  • ICC Men’s T20I Team of The Decade: MS Dhoni (India)
  • ICC Women’s T20I Team of the Decade: Alyssa Healy (Australia)

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29 December 2020

Russian Badminton Player Khakimov banned for five years over betting, fixing offences.

Russian doubles badminton player Nikita Khakimov has received a five-year ban after being found guilty of offences relating to “betting, wagering and irregular match results”, the Badminton World Federation (BWF) said.

The BWF opened an investigation against Khakimov after obtaining a statement from a whistleblower, who claimed the shuttler had approached him to manipulate match results at the European Teams Championships held in Feb. 2018.

Khakimov, 32, was part of the Russian men’s team that won the bronze medal at the 2020 European Team Championships.

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Sri Lanka’s oldest female dies at age 117.


The oldest female of Sri Lanka has passed away earlier today (December 29) at the age of 117 years.
The deceased Dodangoda resident had passed away while receiving treatment at the Nagoda Hospital.
Her death was confirmed by the Assistant Government Agent’s (AGA) Office of Dodangoda.
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Banks suspended from buying Sri Lanka International Sovereign Bonds for three months.

The Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) has directed licensed commercial banks and National Savings Bank to suspend the purchase of Sri Lanka International Sovereign Bonds (ISBs) with immediate effect for a period of three months.

In a fresh directive issued last week (23 December), the CBSL stated that it has observed a sizable amount of investment in Sri Lanka ISBs by licensed banks thus far during the year.

“Furthermore, it has been observed that licensed banks continue to purchase Sri Lanka ISBs using inflows to the current account of the balance of payments, thereby adding undue pressure to the domestic foreign exchange market,” the CB said.

“In consideration of these developments, licensed commercial banks and National Savings Bank are required to suspend the purchase of Sri Lanka ISBs with immediate effect for a period of three months,” the CB added. 

With the latest directive, the Central Bank said the Banking Act Directions No.11 of 2020 – dated 11 December – on the same subject has been withdrawn, and the latest direction will be implemented with immediate effect.

The Banking Act Directions No.11 of 2020 – dated 11 December, suspended licensed commercial banks and National Savings Bank from purchasing Sri Lanka ISBs for a period of six months unless such purchase is funded by new foreign currency inflows to such licensed  banks sourced from abroad.

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South Africa willing to consider slashing tariffs for SL tea exports.

Outgoing South African High Commissioner in Colombo, Robina P. Marks stated that South Africa is willing to consider slashing tariffs for Sri Lankan tea exports to give some relief to Sri Lanka.

Delivering the opening remarks at 'Sri Lanka – South Africa Business Promotion Meeting' organized recently by the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKI), High Commissioner Marks said; “we would consider, possibly, a request to lower for a period of time not exceeding three years, tea tariffs.… to give some relief to Sri Lanka … in the spirit of supporting developing countries become sustainable as they can be.”

High Commissioner Marks further noted that South Africa has been able to expand its trade footprint in Sri Lanka and that overall trade stood hugely in favour of her country. 

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South Africa Beat Sri Lanka by Innings and 45 Runs.

South Africa beat Sri Lanka by an innings and 45 runs on the fourth day of their first Test at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Tuesday, 29 December 2020.

Kusal Perera hit 64 and Wanindu Hasaranga made 59 before Sri Lanka were bowled out for 180 shortly after lunch. They had resumed at 65 for two but never recovered after all-rounder Wiaan Mulder dismissed overnight batsman Dinesh Chandimal and Niroshan Dickwella in quick succession.

Batsman Dhananjaya de Silva did not bat for Sri Lanka, who suffered a spate of injuries during the match.

Sri Lanka started the match well, making 396 after winning the toss but an injury-depleted bowling attack conceded 621 runs when South Africa batted, with former captain Faf du Plessis hitting 199.

It was South Africa’s second win in eight matches in the world Test championship. They have suffered six defeats. Sri Lanka have won, lost three and drawn one of their five matches.

Brief scores

Sri Lanka 396 (D. Chandimal 85, D. de Silva 79 retired hurt; L. Sipamla 4-76) and 180 (K. Perera 64, W. Hasaranga 59; L. Ngidi 2-38, A. Nortje 2-47, W. Mulder 2-39)

South Africa 621 (F. du Plessis 199, D. Elgar 95, T. Bavuma 71, K. Maharaj 73; W. Hasaranga 4-171)

Result: South Africa won by an innings and 45 runs

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India May Become Fifth Largest Economy By 2025; Third Largest By 2030.

India, which appears to have been pushed back to being the world's sixth biggest economy in 2020, will again overtake the United Kingdom to become the fifth largest in 2025 and race to the third spot by 2030.

The U.K.-based think tank Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) announced on 27 December 2020.

India had overtaken the U.K. in 2019 to become the fifth largest economy in the world but has been relegated to the sixth spot in 2020.

The U.K. appears to have overtaken India again during 2020 as a result of the weakness of the rupee. 

The  CEBR forecasts that the Indian economy will expand by 9% in 2021 and 7% in 2022.

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Jon Huber, known to WWE fans as Luke Harper, passes away.

Professional wrestler Jon Huber died Saturday at age 41, the leagues he worked with and his family announced.

Huber, known to fans at both Brodie Lee and Luke Harper, died due to a lung issue and had been getting treatment at the Mayo Clinic, his wife, Amanda, wrote on Instagram.

He wrestled under the names Luke Harper and Brodie Lee and performed for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) as well as All Elite Wrestling (AEW).

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US President Donald Trump has signed Massive Coronavirus Relief and Spending Package into Law.

US President Donald Trump has signed into law a massive USD 2.3 trillion spending bill that includes a USD 900 billion coronavirus relief package.

He had been under growing pressure from both sides of Congress to sign the bill. This bill might be a aid to restore unemployment benefits, stop evictions, provide rental assistance, add money for PPP, return our airline workers back to work, add substantially more money for vaccine distribution, and much more.

The massive bill includes USD 1.4 trillion to fund government agencies through September.

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BMW to expand German production of Electric Vehicles.

BERLIN -- BMW is expanding its German production capacity for electric-vehicle components.

The automaker will add its Leipzig plant as a production site for modules for the high-voltage batteries of the BMW's electrified vehicles.

In a statement on Wednesday, BMW said it will invest more than 100 million euros ($117 million) by 2022 in battery production in Leipzig. BMW builds the i3 battery-powered hatchback at the plant.

BMW's factory in Dingolfing, Bavaria, is currently the automaker's only battery components plant in Germany. Outside of Germany, plants in Spartanburg, S.C., and Shenyang, China, build battery parts.

The factories assemble battery modules from cells supplied by outside suppliers.

The automaker aims to have 25 electrified vehicles on the road by 2023, half of which will be full-electric models.

As early as 2021, one in four BMW Group vehicles sold in Europe is expected to be fitted with an electric drive, the company said. By 2025, it will be one in three, and one in two by 2030.

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28 December 2020

President orders ban on use of corn to produce alcohol.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has instructed to completely ban the use of corn (maize) to manufacture ethanol and alcohol in the country.

He instructed the Commissioner General of Excise to issue a Gazette notification imposing the ban, the President’s Media Division said.

The President also instructed the subject state minister and relevant officials to intervene to stop irregularities in the purchase of crops from farmers including turmeric and maize.

He emphasized that local farmers have successfully expanded the cultivation of turmeric and maize and that next season harvest is nearing. Farmers should get a fair price, the President stressed.

He said that the government should fully intervene to stop irregularities in the stockpiling of traders.

The President has ordered to destroy the turmeric stocks illegally imported for errant traders. The Director General of Customs and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) have been instructed to strictly enforce the law against businessmen engaged in irregularities, the PMD reported. 

The President also emphasized the need to ensure a expand the market for wholesalers gathering grain stocks such as turmeric, maize, black-eyed pea, Orid (Undu), mung bean, sesame and Finger Millet (kurahan), instead of giving loans.

President Rajapaksa also instructed officials to be alert to prevent crops from being harmed by pest such as the Fall Armyworm, commonly known in the country as the ‘Sena caterpillar’.

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Defense Secretary Kamal Gunaratne elevated to rank of General.

Defense Secretary Major General (Retired) Kamal Gunaratne has been promoted to the rank of General.

The promotion was granted by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa a short while ago.

Along with Defense Secretary Gunaratne, Commander of Army Lieutenant General Shavendra, too, was promoted to the rank of General today (December 28).

Gunaratne was the former Commander Security Forces Headquarters in Wanni, as well as the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the 53 Division.

He has formerly served as a Deputy Ambassador to Brazil as well.

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Army Chief Shavendra Silva promoted to General

Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva has been promoted to the rank of General, stated Sri Lanka Army.

Silva has been serving as the Commander of the Sri Lanka Army since August 2019. He is also the Chief of Defence Staff, as appointed in early 2020.

His prior appointments include Chief of Staff of the Army, Adjutant General, and Director of Operations of the Army.

Currently, he is also serving as the Head of the National Operations Centre for Prevention of current global pandemic.

Silva’s promotion to the rank General has been granted by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka Army said.

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Sri Lanka welcomes first batch of foreign tourists since the current global pandemic.

Sri Lanka welcomes first batch of foreign tourists since the current global pandemic.


A special charter flight carrying 180 tourists from Ukraine landed at the Mattala International Airport on Monday 28 December 2020. 

The batch of foreign tourists, who arrived onboard a SkyUp Airlines flights, will be staying in the country for around 10-14 days, according to the Ministry of Tourism. 

They are the first group of tourists to arrive in the island since March this year when airports were closed in the wake of the current pandemic outbreak. 


Ukrainian budget carrier SkyUp operated the first charter flight to Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) on 28th December 2020 with 180 international tourists from Ukraine. The Boeing 737-900, flight no PQ555, arrived at MRIA at 1406 hrs. 

The flight was warmly welcomed with a water salute. Cultural dancing performances had been organized in collaboration with Sri Lanka Tea Board to welcome and entertain the tourists. 

With the eagerly awaited reopening of borders for international tourists, SkyUp Airlines was the first Airline to carry international tourists to Sri Lanka. The Airline operating has plans to operate charter flights up to the end of March 2021. 

Since March 2020, the international airports in Sri Lanka had been closed for international tourists due to the Current global pandemic. 

Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) (Private) Limited (AASL) said it had made all required arrangements to facilitate the flight operation in compliance with the guidelines of Sri Lanka Health Authorities. 

Prasanna Ranatunga, Minister of Tourism, and D. V. Chanaka, State Minister of Aviation and Export Zones Development, were also present at the occasion to grace the flight operation. 

Major General (Rtd) G. A. Chandrasiri, Chairman of AASL, said “as the civil airport operator, Airport & Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) (Private) Limited – (AASL) made all required arrangements to facilitate the international flights and international tourists. These arrangements have been made according to the health guidelines of the Sri Lanka Health Authorities.”

Sri Lanka has reopened its airspace for commercial flights as the island nation looks to once again kick start the tourism industry which was on hold due to the current pandemic.

Accordingly the charter flight with 185 passengers from Ukraine which arrived today, marks the first flight to arrive under the pilot project aiming to bring back foreign tourists to Sri Lanka. 

Deputy Chairman of Airport and Aviation Sri Lanka Ltd, Rajiv Sooriyarachchi said that after this group of tourists reach the airport they will undergo all quarantine procedures and the airport staff is making the necessary arraignments. 

This is the first batch of foreign tourists to arrive in the island following the reopening of airports which were closed for commercial flights since March this year due to the current global pandemic. 

Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka (CAASL) had announced earlier that it will resume international flights operations from December 26, eight months after they were closed in view of the current pandemic outbreak.

However, a decision was taken to postpone the resumption of flights in the wake of the new pandemic strain, which is spreading fast in the UK.

Due to the postponement, a flight carrying Russian tourists which was scheduled to arrive in Sri Lanka on Sunday had been cancelled.

However, the flight with a group of tourists from Ukraine was expected to arrive on Monday as scheduled.

Several countries across the world have already closed their land and sea borders and suspended commercial flights over fears about the new pandemic strain.

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27 December 2020

What are the key points of the Brexit deal ?

What are the key points of the Brexit deal ?

The UK and EU have struck a Brexit deal that will have many implications for everyday life and the UK's future relationship with other countries.

The full complicated agreement is over 1,200 pages long, but here are some of the key points.

Trade

  • There will be no extra charges on goods (tariffs) or limits on the amount that can be traded (quotas) between the UK and the EU from 1 January.
  • However, there will be extra checks at borders, such as safety checks and customs declarations, so businesses that rely on transporting goods to and from the EU will need to be ready.
  • For services, including finance - which is very important to the UK economy - the situation is still slightly unclear. Services will lose their automatic right of access but the UK said the agreement "locks in market access across substantially all sectors".

  • There will no longer be automatic recognition of professional qualifications such as doctors, nurses and architects.

Travel
  • UK nationals will need a visa for stays of longer than 90 days in the EU in a 180-day period, and there will be extra border checks for UK travellers.
  • EU pet passports will no longer be valid.
  • British travellers will still be able to access emergency health care in the European Union. European Heath Insurance Cards, (EHIC) cards will remain valid until they expire. According to the UK government, they will then have to be replaced by a "UK Global Health Insurance Card".
  • The UK and the EU will co-operate on "fair and transparent rates for international mobile roaming" but there is nothing stopping British travellers being charged for using their phone in the EU and vice versa.
Fishing
  • The UK becomes an independent coastal state and can decide on access to its waters and fishing grounds.
  • But EU boats will be able to fish in UK waters for some years to come at least.
  • 25% of the value of their current catch will now become available for UK fishing boats, but there will be a transition period of five-and-a-half years where that is phased in.
  • After the transition period the UK and EU will regularly negotiate on access to each other's waters.
European Court of Justice
  • The UK will no longer be bound by judgements made by the European Court of Justice, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
Security
  • The UK will no longer have automatic access to key databases, but should be able to gain access upon request.
  • The UK will will not be a member of Europol - the EU's law enforcement agency - but it will have a presence at its headquarters. This will be a similar to the arrangement the US currently has.
Study
  • The UK will no longer participate in the Erasmus exchange programme - an EU scheme that helps students study in other countries, and in its place will be a new scheme named after the mathematician Alan Turing.
  • Students at universities in Northern Ireland will continue to participate in Erasmus, as part of an arrangement with the Irish government.

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Doing Business 2020

Doing Business 2020

Doing Business 2020, a World Bank Group flagship publication, is the 17th in a series of annual studies measuring the regulations that enhance business activity and those that constrain it. Doing Business presents quantitative indicators on business regulations and the protection of property rights that can be compared across 190 economies—from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe—and over time.

Doing Business covers 12 areas of business regulation. Ten of these areas—starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts, and resolving insolvency—are included in the ease of doing business score and ease of doing business ranking. Doing Business also measures regulation on employing workers and contracting with the government, which are not included in the ease of doing business score and ranking.

Ease of doing business ranking based on DB Score

  • 1 New Zealand 86.8 
  • 2 Singapore 86.2 
  • 3 Hong Kong SAR, China 85.3
  • 4 Denmark 85.3 
  • 5 Korea, Rep. 84.0 
  • 6 United States 84.0 
  • 7 Georgia 83.7 
  • 8 United Kingdom 83.5 
  • 9 Norway 82.6 
  • 10 Sweden 82.0

  • 99 Sri Lanka 61.8
  • 190 Somalia 20.0 (Worst)

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China has opened the world's largest radio telescope.

China has opened the world's largest radio telescope.

Following the collapse of the historic Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, China has opened the biggest radio telescope in the world up to international scientists. 

In Pingtang, Guizhou province stands the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), the largest radio telescope in the world.

It has surpassed the Arecibo Observatory, which stood as the largest in the world for 53 years, before the construction of FAST was completed in 2016. 

Following two cable failures earlier this year, Arecibo's radio telescope collapsed in November, shutting down the observatory for good. Now, FAST is opening its doors to astronomers from around the world.

With its massive 1,600-foot (500 meters) diameter dish, FAST is not only larger than the now-destroyed Arecibo telescope, but it's also three times more sensitive. FAST, which began full operations in January of this year, is also surrounded by a 3-mile (5 kilometers) "radio silence" zone in which cellphones and computers are not allowed. 

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International Day of Epidemic Preparedness - 27 December.

The current pandemic has underscored the importance of investing in systems to prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease outbreaks. 

The first ever International Day of Epidemic Preparedness, being held on 27 December 2020, was called for by the United Nations General Assembly to advocate the importance of the prevention of, preparedness for and partnership against epidemics.

WHO works closely with governments to support efforts to build strong emergency and epidemic preparedness systems, as part of an overall approach to advance universal health coverage and strengthen primary health care systems.

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26 December 2020

10-teams for Indian Premier League (IPL) from 2022 Edition.

10-teams for Indian Premier League (IPL) from 2022 Edition.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) general body approved 10-team Indian Premier League (IPL) from 2022 edition at its 89th Annual General Meeting in Ahmedabad.

BCCI decided to back ICC's bid for cricket's inclusion in the T20 format for 2028 Los Angeles Olympics after some clarifications from International Olympic Committee (IOC).

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16th anniversary of the massive disaster, Tsunami - 26 December 2004.

16th anniversary of the massive disaster, Tsunami - 26 December 2004.

A two-minute silence will be observed island-wide in Sri Lanka at 9.25 am this morning (26 December 2020) to commemorate the thousands of people who died in the 2004 Tsunami, the Disaster Management Center (DMC) says.

Today 26 December 2020 marks the 16th anniversary of the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, one of the world’s deadliest and most destructive natural disasters, struck over 10 countries in the Indian Ocean.

A powerful undersea megathrust earthquake, which registered a magnitude of 9.1, struck off the coast of Sumatra Island, Indonesia on a Sunday morning, 26th of December 2004.

About 20 minutes after the shock, Indonesia’s capital Banda Aceh, which was closest to the epicentre of the earthquake, was devastated by massive 100-foot waves, claiming the lives of more than 100,000.

A series of turbulent waves then ravaged the coasts of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Maldives, Myanmar and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

In all, deaths from the disaster mounted over 230,000 in a matter of hours.

Sri Lanka was one of the hardest-hit countries with over 40,000 fatalities and property damage worth several million rupees. Thousands were left homeless as waves pushed debris several kilometres inland, pounding buildings into rubble.

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Former England cricketer John Edrich dies at age 83.

Former England cricketer John Edrich dies at age 83.

The former England and Surrey batsman John Edrich has died aged 83. Edrich played 77 Tests from 1963 to 1976 and appeared in the world’s first one-day international in 1971 against Australia, hitting the first boundary.

Edrich achieved a Test average of 43.54 and went on to serve as an England selector and batting coach. He famously scored 310 not out against New Zealand in the third Test at Headingley in July 1965.

He scored 103 centuries in a career that saw him captain Surrey for five seasons in the 1970s before retiring from the game in 1978. He was awarded Standing for Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, an MBE in 1977.

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Former England cricketer Robin Jackman dies at age 75.

Former England cricketer Robin Jackman dies at age 75.

Robin Jackman, the former Surrey and England cricketer who went on to become one of the leading broadcasters in South African cricket, has died at the age of 75.

Jackman, who made his Test debut in 1981 at the age of 35, claimed 14 wickets at 31.78 in his four England appearances, and also featured in 15 ODIs between 1974 and 1983.

Jackman was born in India in 1945 and grew up in England. In the course of a domestic career that began in 1966, Jackman took more than 1400 first-class wickets at 22.80, and scored 5681 runs at 17.69, with 17 half-centuries. His career-best of 8 for 40 came for Rhodesia against Natal in 1972-73.

After retirement, Jackman moved into the media, and became a regular commentator for the South African broadcaster Supersport.

He passed away at 3.30pm South Africa time on Christmas Day, and is survived by his wife Yvonne and two daughters. His death comes just 48 hours after that of his former Surrey team-mate John Edrich, who died aged 83 on December 23.


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Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) cancels next year’s U-20, U-17 World Cups.

Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) cancels next year’s U-20, U-17 World Cups.

FIFA has cancelled men’s U-20 and U-17 World Cup tournaments schduled in 2021 due to the current global pandemic. The Bureau of the FIFA Council has decided to cancel the 2021 editions of the men’s FIFA U-20 World Cup and FIFA U-17 World Cup, and to appoint Indonesia and Peru respectively,  as the hosts of the 2023 editions.

So Peru will host the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2023. In the same year, the FIFA U-20 World Cup will be held by Indonesia.

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Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch Sells to Billionaire Ron Burkle.

Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch Sells to Billionaire Ron Burkle.

Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch has reportedly sold to Billionaire Ron Burkle for $22m, less than a quarter of its initially asked price of $100m. 

The property in Los Olivos, California, was home to the late pop star from 1987, when he was at the height of his fame, to the time of his death in June 2009. He died of a drug overdose at a different home in the Holmby Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Of the two Jackson properties, Neverland, set on 2,698 acres of land, was far better known. During the 1990s, Santa Barbara county prosecutors searched the ranch, describing it as a fantasy world that Jackson built to lure boys to the property to molest them. Jackson was acquitted in that case.

Ron Burkle was a advisor to Jackson on business matters in the mid 2000s. The pop star died in 2009.

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Day of Goodwill - 26 December.

Day of Goodwill - 26 December.

Each year on December 26th, South Africa celebrates the Day of Goodwill. The day has become a day to recover from the indulgences of Christmas festivities. People are also encouraged to give back to society following the Christmas holiday.

When someone has goodwill toward another person they act in a compassionate and friendly manner. Goodwill is acting out of compassion instead of our selfish human nature. It’s also putting the needs of others before ourselves. On the Day of Goodwill, South Africans distinguish between their needs and their wants. They give to others with an attitude of love and charity. What this day isn’t is a cleanup day after Christmas.

The first Dutchmen arrived in South Africa in 1652. Shortly after, the country become a Dutch colony. South Africa remained under Dutch rule until 1795. The country fell to the British crown and then back to Dutch rule in 1803. Three years later, colonization of the country went back to the British. Throughout the years, South Africa would be subject to many conflicts between the Dutch and the British.

In 1910, the British created the Union of South Africa. In doing so, the British gave the country some independence. It wasn’t until 1961 that South Africa declared itself a Republic and left the Commonwealth. In 1994, Nelson Mandela became president. That same year, the new government replaced Boxing Day with the Day of Goodwill. They did this to sever ties with the country’s colonial past.

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Boxing Day - 26 December.

Boxing Day - 26 December.

Every year on December 26th, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and other Commonwealth countries celebrate Boxing Day. This annual custom began in the United Kingdom in the 19th century under Queen Victoria.

It’s not certain why the day after Christmas in these countries is called Boxing Day. Some say it’s because in Britain a Christmas present is called a Christmas box. On the day after Christmas, servants received a Christmas box from their master. Others say the holiday refers to using a box to collect money for the poor. These boxes were placed inside churches on Christmas Day and then opened the next day.

South Africa renamed the holiday to Day of Goodwill in 1994. Catholics know the day as St. Stephen’s Day. Ireland celebrates Boxing Day along with the Day of the Wren. Also, December 26th is considered Second Christmas in Germany, Poland, Netherlands, and Scandinavia.

Since 1871, England, Wales, Ireland, and Canada officially celebrate Boxing Day annually. 

A variety of explanations arise regarding the holiday’s origins. Some people point to the song “Good King Wenceslas” as the source of spirit, if not the day itself. According to the song, the 10th-century Duke looked out on his land on St. Stephen’s Day on December 26th and observed a poor peasant. He ordered food, wine, and wood for fuel to be taken to the peasant and called for all Christian men to bless the poor in the same way.

In the Church of England, it was traditional during Advent for churches to display a donation box. After Christmas, churches distributed the box’s contents among the poor. Aristocrats also traditionally gave boxed gifts to their servants and employees. 

Most of the events taking place during the modern Boxing Day have little to do with the charity in the stories mentioned. Popular festivities include eating leftovers, soccer games, visiting, and drinking.

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25 December 2020

Israel's seven months old government has collapsed.

Israel's seven months old government has collapsed.



The Israeli seven months old government collapsed on Tuesday 22 December 2020 at midnight (17.00 EST) local time after the country's parliament failed to meet a deadline for passage of the 2020 and 2021 budgets. Israel will now head to its fourth elections in two years, probably on March 23 next year.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his erstwhile coalition partner, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, sought to blame one another for the collapse of their seven-month-old government.

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