31 March 2021

International Transgender Day of Visibility - 31 March.

International Transgender Day of Visibility is dedicated to celebrating transgender people and raising awareness of discrimination faced by transgender people worldwide, as well as a celebration of their contributions to society.

Consider communication to raise awareness of the use of non-binary gender or preferred pronouns, how to become a transgender ally or other ways to show that transgender people are welcome, supported and safe in our workplaces. We support our employees. 

History of the Day:

The day was founded by US-based transgender activist Rachel Crandall of Michigan in 2009. As a reaction to the lack of LGBT recognition of transgender people, citing the frustration that the only well-known transgender-centred day was the Transgender Day of Remembrance which mourned the murders of transgender people but did not acknowledge and celebrate living members of the transgender community. The first International Transgender Day of Visibility was held on March 31, 2009. It has since been spearheaded by the U.S.-based youth advocacy organization Trans Student Educational Resources.

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China approves Hong Kong electoral system reform bill.

The top decision-making body in the Chinese parliament unanimously adopted a controversial plan to reform Hong Kong's electoral system by a vote of 167-0. 

The sweeping bill is the biggest overhaul of Hong Kong's political system to occur since the territory returned to Chinese rule in 1997, and comes as Beijing seeks to consolidate power over the financial hub.

Under the changes approved by China's National People's Congress Standing Committee, the number of directly elected representatives to Hong Kong's legislature will fall from 35 to 20, while the size of the legislature would increase from 70 to 90 seats.

The plan also allows China's ruling Communist Party to appoint more of Hong Kong's lawmakers, reducing the share elected by the public.

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Maggie O'Farrell's novel Hamnet wins National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction.

Maggie O'Farrell's Hamnet, published as Hamnet & Judith in Canada, has won the National Book Critics Circle prize for fiction.

The Irish-British author's novel is an imagined take on the death of Shakespeare's son from the bubonic plague.

Hamnet, an unfortunately well-timed story for the current pandemic, explores the impact of the boy's illness and death on his family. He was Shakespeare's only son, and scholars have long speculated about his influence — if any — on Hamlet, which Shakespeare worked on in the years following Hamnet's death.

Hamnet also won the 2020 Women's Prize for Fiction.

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Newly-appointed Vietnam ambassador presents credentials to President


The newly-appointed Ambassador of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Ho Thi Thanh Truc to Sri Lanka presented her credentials to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Presidential Palace this morning (30).

President Rajapaksa and the new Vietnamese Ambassador thereafter exchanged views on the current status of bilateral relations and the development of future cooperation between the two countries for a while, the President’s Media Division (PMD) said.

Conveying the best wishes of the Vietnamese government and its people to President Rajapaksa, Ms. Ho Thi added that Vietnam has made relations with Sri Lanka a top priority.

The Ambassador thanked Sri Lanka for its support during the troubled times in her country. Ambassador added she would do everything in her power to further strengthen cooperation and friendship between the two countries during her tenure.

Appreciating the long-standing friendship between Vietnam and Sri Lanka, the President briefed the Ambassador on the social and economic vision of his government. 

“Agro-economic development, poverty alleviation and raising the income level of the rural people are some of our priorities. Plans are now in motion to achieve that goal. The ultimate objective is to achieve a higher level of standard of living for all social strata such as low-income, middle-income, rural and urban. We do not look at development from an ethnic point of view. We consider all the people as a whole,” the President said.

President Rajapaksa noted that farmers in every nook and corner have benefited from the high price guaranteed for paddy and other crops. He highlighted that following the defeat of the separatist terrorism; no one was killed in terrorist violence and paved the way for enormous development in the country.

The President invited Vietnam to explore and take advantage of the investment opportunities in the Sri Lankan economy, pointing out that trade and tourism industries between the two countries could be further developed.

The Vietnamese Ambassador assured that she would give high priority to encourage Vietnamese entrepreneurs to invest in Sri Lanka and to develop trade and tourism sectors.

Diplomatic relations between Sri Lanka and Vietnam were established on July 21, 1970.

Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Secretary to the President P.B. Jayasundera, Foreign Secretary Jayanath Colombage and Deputy Chief of Mission Vietnam Tran Thron Than were also present.

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AG calls for 5-member administrative committee for SLC.

The Attorney General has advised to appoint an Administrative Committee for Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) until the SLC election is held.

The SLC board election is scheduled to be held on May 20, 2021.

Accordingly, the SLC has been advised to appoint a five-member administrative committee until the election process concludes.

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Ushan Thiwanka sets new record in High Jump.

Athlete Ushan Thiwanka Perera has set a new record in Sri Lanka High Jump.

His record was made at the 2021 Texas Relays Championship held in the United States.

At the competition, Ushan Thiwanka impressed with a leap of 2.28 meters, setting a new record.

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A National Action Plan For Healthcare Waste Management In Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka generates 7,000 Metric Tonnes (MT) of waste daily, of which only half of the total is collected and 60% (4,200 MT) comes from the Western Province, posing severe pollution risks; to the environment, communities and those who handle waste.

This issue of waste mismanagement, heightened due to the current global pandemic in terms of Health Care Waste Management (HCWM) with the increase in the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) and other protective measures taken to contain the spread of the virus. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Sri Lanka, leveraging its global and regional expertise, supported the Government of Sri Lanka to conduct a Nationwide Rapid Assessment on HCWM, to inform the articulation of a National Action Plan, covering short and medium-term interventions in line with international best practices.

The workshop to inform the Formulation of the National Action Plan for Healthcare Waste Management in Sri Lanka was held recently at the BMICH in Colombo, facilitated by the Ministry of Health and UNDP in Sri Lanka with the attendance of relevant Government ministies, departments, academics, UN agencies and development sector stakeholders.

Speaking at the event, Dr. Inoka Suraweera, Consultant- Environment, Health, Occupational Health & Food Safety, Ministry of Health stated, “we greatly appreciate the valuable contributions from all stakeholders involved,  from the process of the Rapid Assessment to the formulation of the National Action Plan. This is a timely and important exercise, and while thanking UNDP Sri Lanka for its collaboration with the Ministry, we look forward to working together in implementing the National Action Plan.”

The UN Sri Lanka’s Advisory Note on the socio-economic recovery from current global pandemic in Sri Lanka developed to inform the country’s recovery strategy identified five strategic priorities. This includes; protecting health systems during crises; social protection and other basic services; economic response and recovery; social cohesion and community resilience, and macro-economic response and multilateral cooperation. HCWM has been identified as a key area under the first strategic priority, from both the health systems and environmental perspective(s). Poor management of health care waste, in particular the hazardous components, potentially exposes health care workers, waste handlers, patients and the community at large to infection, toxic effects, injuries, and risks polluting the environment.

Speaking of the role of UNDP in Sri Lanka in this regard, Dr Buddika Hapuarachchi, Team Leader and Policy Specialist, Climate and Environment Team of UNDP in Sri Lanka stated, “In addition to the formulation of the National Action Plan, UNDP will support to pilot and demonstrate the important findings of the Rapid Assessment in two identified health care facilities. Further, UNDP will also support resource mobilization, especially in the areas of hazardous waste, as identified in the action plan in collboartion with the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Environment.”

Along with the presentation of the Rapid Assessment of HCWM in Sri Lanka, the workshop identified recommendations from the Rapid Assessment to be included in the National Action Plan for HCWM and will be the basis for developing proposals to mobilize funding for implementation.

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Polythene and plastic ban in effect from today 31 March 2021.

The ban on the use of specific polythene & plastic items, mentioned in a gazette issued by the Ministry of Environment on the 21st of January this year, will be in effect from today (March 31).

Accordingly, the use of following items has been banned in this manner:

• Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) or Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) material for packing agrochemicals for any process, trade or industry.

• Sachets having less than or equal to a net volume of 20ml/ net weight of 20g (except for packing food and medicines)

• Inflatable toys (except balloons, balls, water floating/pool toys, and water sports gear)

• Cotton buds with plastic stems (except plastic cotton buds used for medical/clinical treatment)

In a recent press briefing, Minister of Environment Mahinda Amaraweera said the goods entering the country from tomorrow will be seized at the ports of entry from today onwards, however, traders of plastic goods will be allowed to sell their existing stocks. He noted that a grace period of three months will be granted to them.

Further, the minister also announced that restrictions on the use of asbestos have also received cabinet approval, and will be implemented soon.


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The cost of the Suez Canal blockage.

The giant container ship “Ever Given” that blocked traffic in the Suez Canal for the last week resumed its journey, after being successfully refloated. The efforts to float the delinquent Panamanian container ship Ever Given are successful.

We take a look at the key numbers that have been involved in the operation.

The Ever Given is 400m-long (1,312ft) and weighs 200,000 tonnes, with a maximum capacity of 20,000 containers. It is currently carrying 18,300 containers.

The ship is operated by Taiwanese transport company Evergreen Marine and is one of the world's largest container vessels.

The wind speed at the time was recorded at 40 knots, but the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) told reporters that this was not the only reason for the ship becoming stranded.

As of Sunday, there were 369 ships stuck in a tailback waiting to pass through the 193km (120-mile) canal on either side of the blockage.

Meanwhile, there have been more than 145,200 social interactions on Twitter using the #SuezBLOCKED hashtag and at least 133,000 shares, according to real-time analysis by brand monitoring platform BrandMentions.

About 12% of global trade, around one million barrels of oil and roughly 8% of liquefied natural gas pass through the canal each day.

SCA chairman Osama Rabie said that the Canal's revenues were taking a $14m-$15m (£10.2m-£10.9m) hit for each day of the blockage.

Prior to the pandemic, trade passing through the Suez Canal contributed to 2% of Egypt's GDP.

Separately, data from Lloyd's List showed the stranded ship was holding up an estimated $9.6bn of trade along the waterway each day. That equates to $400m and 3.3 million tonnes of cargo an hour, or $6.7m a minute.

Looking at the bigger picture, German insurer Allianz said its analysis showed the blockage could cost global trade between $6bn to $10bn a week and reduce annual trade growth by 0.2 to 0.4 percentage points.

Shipping broker Braemar ACM told the Wall Street Journal that the cost of renting some vessels to ship cargo to and from Asia and the Middle East had jumped 47% to $2.2m.

Some vessels have been rerouted to avoid the Suez Canal. That is adding around eight days to their total journeys.




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Google Maps to start directing drivers to 'eco-friendly' routes.

Google’s Maps app will start directing drivers along routes estimated to generate the lowest carbon emissions based on traffic, slopes and other factors, the company announced on Tuesday (30).

Google, an Alphabet Inc unit, said the feature would launch later this year in the U.S. and eventually reach other countries as part of its commitment to help combat climate change through its services.

Unless users opt out, the default route will be the “eco-friendly” one if comparable options take about the same time, Google said. When alternatives are significantly faster, Google will offer choices and let users compare estimated emissions.

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30 March 2021

New Zealand passes miscarriages bereavement leave law.

Couples in New Zealand who have a miscarriage or stillbirth will be eligible for paid bereavement leave under a new law approved by parliament.

MP Ginny Andersen, who put forward the bill, said it would allow mothers and their partners to "come to terms with their loss" without taking sick leave.

The bill also applies to those having a child though adoption or surrogacy.

New Zealand is reportedly only the second country in the world to introduce the measure, after India.

One in four New Zealand women has had a miscarriage. New Zealand was the first country in the world to give voting rights to women and has been a pioneer on issues around woman’s rights.

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India, US begin two-day naval drill in Indian Ocean.

The navies of India and the US on Sunday (28) started a two-day exercise in the eastern Indian Ocean region, reflecting the growing congruence in their defence and military partnership.

The exercise comes a week after US defence secretary Lloyd Austin visited India as part of his three-nation first overseas tour.

The trip to Japan, South Korea, and India is seen as underscoring the strong commitment of US President Joe Biden’s administration to its relations with its close allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region.

The Indian Navy deployed its warship INS Shivalik and long-range maritime patrol aircraft P8I in the passage exercise or ‘PASSEX’, while the US Navy deployed the USS Theodore Roosevelt carrier strike group, a spokesman for the Indian Navy said.

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U.S. suspends all trade engagement with Myanmar until elected government returns.

The United States is immediately suspending all engagement with Myanmar under a 2013 trade and investment agreement until the return of a democratically elected government, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said.

27 March 2021 Saturday was the bloodiest day of protests in Myanmar since the Feb. 1 military coup with 114 people killed. 

In addition to suspending work on 2013 framework agreement, Tai said USTR would consider Myanmar’s situation as it works with the U.S. Congress on reauthorizing the Generalized System of Preferences program, which reduces U.S. tariffs and provides other special trade access for some developing countries.

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Suez Canal reopens after giant stranded ship is freed.

The giant container ship “Ever Given” that blocked traffic in the Suez Canal for the last week resumed its journey, after being successfully refloated. The efforts to float the delinquent Panamanian container ship Ever Given are successful.

The 1,400-foot-long cargo ship jammed diagonally across a southern section of the Suez Canal, leaving a total of 367 ships, including dozens of container ships and bulk carriers, unable to use the key trading route.

Dredgers worked over the weekend to dislodge the stranded vessel, shifting huge quantities of sand in an effort to help free the stranded ship, the canal authority said.

More than a dozen tugboats were used to conduct pulling maneuvers from three directions to dislodge the ship, it added.

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66th Filmfare Awards 2021: Check Complete List of Winners.

The awards for the 66th annual Filmfare awards were announced. The event was hosted by actors Rajkummar Rao and Riteish Deshmukh. Despite the difficulties the film industry faced during 2020 as a result of the current pandemic, Filmfare decided it was important to commemorate the best of Indian cinema. Among the winners was the late Irrfan Khan, who won the award for best actor in a leading role (male) category, while Amitabh Bachchan bagged the best actor (critics) Award.

List of Bollywood celebrities, who won big at the 66th Filmfare Awards 2021:

  • Best Film: Thappad
  • Best Film (Critics): Prateek Vats (Eeb Allay Ooo!)
  • Best Director: Om Raut (Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior)
  • Best Actor in a Lead Role (MALE): Irrfan Khan (Angrezi Medium)
  • Best Actor (Critics): Amitabh Bachchan (Gulabo Sitabo)
  • Best Actor in a Lead Role (Female): Taapsee Pannu (Thappad)
  • Best Actress (Critics): Tillotama Shome (SIR)
  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Male): Saif Ali Khan (Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior)
  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Female): Farrokh Jaffar (Gulabo Sitabo)
  • Best Story: Anubhav Sushila Sinha and Mrunamayee Lagoo Waikul (Thappad)
  • Best Screenplay: Rohena Gera (SIR)
  • Best Dialogue: Juhi Chaturvedi (Gulabo Sitabo)
  • Best Debut Director: Rajesh Krishnan (Lootcase)
  • Best Debut Female: Alaya F (Jawaani Jaaneman)
  • Best Music Album: Pritam (Ludo)
  • Best Lyrics: Gulzar (Chhappak)
  • Best Playback Singer (male): Raghav Chaitanya – Ek Tukda Dhoop (Thappad)
  • Best Playback Singer (Female): Asees Kaur (Malang)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Irrfan Khan.

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Frosty Sand Dunes of Mars.

A field of sand dunes occupies this frosty 5-kilometer diameter crater in the high-latitudes of the northern plains of Mars. Some dunes have separated from the main field and appear to be climbing up the crater slope along a gully-like form.

The surface of the main dune field is characterized by a series of dark-toned polygonal patterns. These may be the result of seasonal frost processes. Several of the steeper dune slopes, pointing in the downwind direction, host narrow furrows suggesting the start of gully formation.

The crater floor contains a variety of textures, including lobate and striped patterns that indicate seasonal thaw caused by sublimating ice. Broad downslope movement of materials on the crater slopes opposite the dune field superficially resemble gullies, except that they are generally not defined by distinctive alcoves, incised channels, or sediment aprons. These are the hallmarks of gullies elsewhere on the planet.

The map is projected here at a scale of 50 centimeters (19.7 inches) per pixel. (The original image scale is 63.6 centimeters [25.0 inches] per pixel [with 2 x 2 binning]; objects on the order of 191 centimeters [75.2 inches] across are resolved.) North is up.

The University of Arizona, in Tucson, operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., in Boulder, Colorado. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

Source: www.jpl.nasa.gov

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Sam Curran equals ODI world record.

England all-rounder Sam Curran on Sunday (28) equalled the world record for smashing the highest score by a number eight batsman in ODI cricket history. 

The 22-year-old scored an unbeaten 95 off 83 deliveries, including 9 fours and 3 sixes. 

England's Chris Woakes had also scored 95* off 92 deliveries against Sri Lanka on June 21, 2016.

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Venezuela president offers ‘oil for vaccines’.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Sunday proposed paying for vaccines against the novel coronavirus with oil, though he provided few details about how such a scheme would work.

The crisis-stricken OPEC nation’s crude exports have plummeted to their lowest levels in decades since Washington sanctioned state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela in 2019, cutting off Venezuela’s exports to the United States and dissuading many other customers from buying Venezuelan oil as well.

Maduro said Venezuela was working to pay for vaccines from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVAX mechanism - which provides vaccine access to poor countries - both through Venezuelan funds frozen in overseas accounts due to sanctions, and through oil shipments.

Venezuela has received vaccine doses from allies Russia and China. The government and the opposition had been in talks with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) over Venezuela’s access to vaccines through COVAX, but the government said last week it would not accept the AstraZeneca PLC vaccine, one of the main inoculations deployed by COVAX in Latin America.

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Facebook and Google plan new undersea cables to connect southeast Asia and America.

Facebook is planning two undersea cables to connect Singapore, Indonesia and North America in a bid to boost internet connection capacity between the regions.

The cables, named Echo and Bifrost, will be the first to directly connect North America to some of the main parts of Indonesia.

In collaboration with Google and other telecommunication companies, the project aims to increase connectivity for the central and eastern provinces of the world's fourth most populous country.

Those two cables to will go through a new diverse route crossing the Java Sea and they will increase overall subsea capacity in the trans-pacific by about 70%.

It's planning "Echo" with Google and is expected to be completed by 2023.

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Global Wind Report 2021: 2020 was Best Year for Wind Industry.

The year 2020 was the best year in history for the global wind industry as this sector installed 93GW of new capacity in 2020, according to a new report titled ‘Global Wind Report 2021, released by the Global Wind Energy Council. This is the 16th annual flagship report, released by GWEC on March 25, 2021. The 93GW represents a 53% year-on-year increase.

The theme of this year’s report is ‘Wind energy’s role on the road to net zero’.

As per the report:

  • The global wind industry installed a record 93 GW of new capacity in 2020 – a 53% year-on-year increase, showing strong resilience in the face of current global pandemic.

  • Total global wind power capacity is now up to 743 GW, helping the world to avoid over 1.1 billion tonnes of CO2 annually – equivalent to the annual carbon emissions of South America.

  • However, the world needs to be installing a minimum of 180 GW of new wind energy every single year to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, meaning that the industry and policymakers need to act fast to accelerate deployment.

  • Governments across the world must take a ‘climate emergency’ approach to eliminate red tape and planning delays and expand grid infrastructure to further scale-up wind power at the pace required.

  • Wind power is a cornerstone of achieving net zero and powering a green recovery as a cost-competitive, resilient power source with the most decarbonisation potential per MW.

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29 March 2021

Executive Orders for gun control will sign by the US President Joe Biden.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday (26) confirmed that President Biden intends to sign executive orders on gun control.

Psaki replied “Yes” to a journalist’s question about whether reporters should “be expecting executive orders from the president on gun measures.”

But she said the timing was unclear due to a review process.

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2022 AFC Women's Asia Cup in India.

The dates for the 2022 AFC Women's Asian Cup, set to be held in India, has been confirmed by the continental governing body. 

The women's football event will start on January 20, 2022, and will finish on February 6, 2022. 

The tournament has also been expanded to feature 12 of the best teams on the continent. This was confirmed by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and the Local Organising Committee of AFC Women's Asian Cup India 2022.

The D.Y. Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai, Ahmedabad's TransStadia and the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar will host the AFC Women's Asia Cup India 2022.

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Pakistan successfully test-fires Shaheen 1-A ballistic missile.

Pakistan conducted a successful flight test of the Shaheen 1-A surface-to-surface ballistic missile, a statement issued by the military's media wing said.

The test flight was aimed at re-validating various design and technical parameters of the weapon system including advanced navigation system. The missile has a range of 900 kilometres, according to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).

Shaheen 1-A with its sophisticated and advanced guidance system is a highly accurate missile system.

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India-Bangladesh co-producing a film "Bangabandhu".

Filmmaker Shyam Benegal’s Bangabandhu, a biopic on Bangladesh’s founder Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, began shooting in Mumbai.

The film is jointly produced by India and Bangladesh and is part of the centenary celebration of Rahman, the first President of Bangladesh.

Bangabandhu was announced by Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar during the opening ceremony of the 51st International Film Festival of India (IFFI), at Goa in January 2021.

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Honda agrees to sell British car plant to logistics giant Panattoni.

Honda has agreed to sell its only British car plant at Swindon in southern England to logistics giant Panattoni.

The Japanese automaker, which builds about a tenth of the 1.5 million car output in Britain, made the decision two years after it announced its intention in 2019 to cease production at its Swindon plant. 

The plant closer is expected to lead to 3,500 job losses.

Honda, which has been struggling in Europe, has said the closure of the plant was not related to Britain’s departure from the European Union but it needed to focus activities in regions where it expects to sell most cars.

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President Biden Invites 40 World Leaders to Leaders Summit on Climate.

President Biden invited 40 world leaders to the Leaders Summit on Climate he will host on April 22 and 23.  The virtual Leaders Summit will be live streamed for public viewing.

President Biden took action his first day in office to return the United States to the Paris Agreement.  Days later, on January 27, he announced that he would soon convene a leaders summit to galvanize efforts by the major economies to tackle the climate crisis.

The Leaders Summit on Climate will underscore the urgency – and the economic benefits – of stronger climate action.  It will be a key milestone on the road to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) this November in Glasgow.

The President invited the following leaders to participate in the Summit:

  • Prime Minister Gaston Browne, Antigua and Barbuda
  • President Alberto Fernandez, Argentina 
  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Australia    
  • Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh
  • Prime Minister Lotay Tshering, Bhutan
  • President Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil    
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canada          
  • President Sebastián Piñera, Chile 
  • President Xi Jinping, People’s Republic of China    
  • President Iván Duque Márquez, Colombia    
  • President Félix Tshisekedi, Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, Denmark 
  • President Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission
  • President Charles Michel, European Council
  • President Emmanuel Macron, France        
  • President Ali Bongo Ondimba, Gabon        
  • Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany 
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India    
  • President Joko Widodo, Indonesia      
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel
  • Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Italy    
  • Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Jamaica
  • Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Japan  
  • President Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya      
  • President David Kabua, Republic of the Marshall Islands
  • President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Mexico  
  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand
  • President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria        
  • Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Norway 
  • President Andrzej Duda, Poland  
  • President Moon Jae-in, Republic of Korea     
  • President Vladimir Putin, The Russian Federation  
  • King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
  • Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Singapore
  • President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa 
  • Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, Spain
  • President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey
  • President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, United Arab Emirates
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson, United Kingdom
  • President Nguyễn Phú Trọng, Vietnam    

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Carmen Maria Machado wins Rathbones Folio prize for queer abuse memoir.

The American author Carmen Maria Machado has won the £30,000 Rathbones Folio prize for her memoir "In the Dream House", which examines the domestic abuse she was subjected to by her ex-girlfriend.

It is at once an inventive and radical work, a true testimony to her narrative gift. Machado, 34, has said that she found it hard to make sense of her own experience, because she had not encountered narratives of queer domestic abuse before. 

In the Dream House looks at the relationship through different literary genres and tropes, from classic romance to ghost story, unreliable narrator to pathetic fallacy. 

The prize is open to all genres – fiction, non-fiction, and poetry- from writers from around the world. It is the only prize in which all the books considered for the prize are selected and judged by an academy of peers, though there are three main judges.

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First Ban on Workplace Smoking - 29 March.

On 29 March 2004, the Republic of Ireland (ROI) became the first EU country to introduce a nationwide ban on workplace smoking. While the focus of this measure was to protect worker health by reducing exposure to second-hand smoke, other effects such as a greater reduction in smoking prevalence and consumption were likely among bar workers.

From that date onwards, under the Public Health (Tobacco) Acts, it has been illegal to smoke in all enclosed workplaces. The ban is strictly enforced and includes bars, restaurants, clubs, offices, public buildings, company cars, trucks, taxis and vans – and within a three-metre radius to the entrances of these locations. 

A private residence is considered a workplace when tradespeople, such as plumbers or electricians, are working there. €3,000 is the maximum fine on the spot, while a prison sentence can also be given at a later time for violators.

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‘Girl Gang’ Announced Official Song of ICC Women’s World Cup 2022.

"Girl Gang", a track by New Zealand singer Gin Wigmore, has been announced as the official song of the 2022 ICC Women's World Cup. The tournament is set to be hosted in New Zealand from 04 March to 03 April, 2022.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) made the announcement in an event on Wednesday (17th) at Mt Maunganui Beach with Wigmore skydiving to the beach with the World Cup trophy in her hands.

Originally scheduled to be held from February 06 to March 07, 2021, the World Cup was postponed by a year due to the current global pandemic.

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28 March 2021

Republic of Congo: President Sassou Nguesso wins by landslide.

The longtime president of the Republic of Congo is set for another five-year term after getting over 88% of the vote. The election day was marred by the death of his main opponent, Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas.

Despite an ongoing economic crisis in the Republic of Congo, the country's veteran President Denis Sassou Nguesso has been reelected with more than 88 percent of the vote, official results showed on Tuesday 23 March 2021.

The landslide victory for SassouNguesso had been widely expected, given the 77-year-old's strong grip on state institutions.

The ballot on Sunday saw a 67.55 percent voter turnout. Voting was largely boycotted by the main opposition and took place under an internet blackout.

The African leader is one of the world's longest-serving presidents, earning him the nickname "emperor."He has led Congo for a total of 36 years. The former paratrooper first became president in 1979 and remained in power for three consecutive terms.

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Author Beverly Cleary dies at age 104.

Beverly Cleary, the award-winning children's author whose work has been read by young readers for more than 70 years, has died at 104, her publisher, HarperCollins, said in a statement Friday (26th).

Cleary, whose books helped generations of kids grapple with the challenging issues of childhood,  was born April 12, 1916 in McMinnville, Oregon, andgrew up in Portland and Yamhill, titling her autobiography, "A Girl from Yamhill." She died in northern California, where she lived.

After first training as a librarian, Cleary became an author and wrote scores of children's books that were translated into over a dozen languages, popularizing characters like Ramona Quimby and Henry Huggins.

Cleary won the National Book Award in 1981 for "Ramona and Her Mother," and “Dear Mr. Henshaw" won the John Newbery Medal in 1984.

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27 March 2021

Earth Hour 2021: 27 March.

Every year, the Earth Hour is celebrated worldwide on the last Saturday of March month to show support for the fight against climate change and commitment towards a better planet. Earth Hour 2021 is being marked on March 27, 2021. The Earth Hour 2021 theme will focus on “Climate Change to Save Earth.”

The Day is a worldwide movement organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), encouraging individuals, communities, corporates, and households to turn off their lights for one hour, from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. It was started as a lights-off event in Sydney, Australia, in 2007 to raise awareness for energy consumption and its effects on the environment.

In his message to mark the event, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that “we must all do our part to safeguard the planet”.

“We need to make peace with nature. Without nature’s help, we cannot thrive or even survive on this planet Earth”, he spelled out.

Warning that climate disruption, biodiversity loss and pollution “threaten lives, jobs and health”, the UN chief called 2021 “a year to change course”.

“It’s time to re-evaluate and reset our relationship with nature”, he said. 


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International Medical Science Liaison Day - 27 March.

International Medical Science Liaison Day, on March 27th, recognizes the vital role Medical Science Liaisons (MSL) play in the success of a company.

Since being first established by Upjohn Pharmaceuticals in 1967, MSLs have become increasingly important to the companies’ success that employs them. According to the MSL Society website, “Today, MSLs are scientific experts to internal colleagues at their companies; they help to ensure that the drug or product they support are utilized effectively by physicians, and serve as scientific peers and resources within the medical community.”

In 2020, The Medical Science Liaison Society established International Medical Science Liaison Day to raise awareness of the importance of the MSL role in pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device, and other companies that employ them. Their role ultimately improves patients’ lives.

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World Theatre Day - 27 March.

World Theatre Day is observed annually on March 27th. The International Theatre Institute created the day in 1961, and each year their message is spread across stages around the world through dramatic performances.

World Theatre Day was created in 1961 by the International Theatre Institute (ITI). It is celebrated annually on the 27th March by ITI Centres and the international theatre community. 

Various national and international theatre events are organized to mark this occasion. One of the most important of these is the circulation of the World Theatre Day International Message through which at the invitation of ITI, a figure of world stature shares his or her reflections on the theme of Theatre and a Culture of Peace. The first World Theatre Day International Message was written by Jean Cocteau (France) in 1962.

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26 March 2021

North Korea fires two ballistic missiles into Sea of Japan.

North Korea has fired two ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, says the US and Japan - the first such test since Joe Biden became US president.

Pyongyang is banned from testing ballistic missiles, considered threatening weapons, under UN Security Council resolutions.

Both Japan and South Korea have condemned the test.

It comes just days after North Korea reportedly fired two non-ballistic missiles into the Yellow Sea.

Japan said no debris had fallen within its territorial waters.

The US Pacific Command, which oversees military forces in the Asia-Pacific region, said that the test highlighted "the threat that North Korea's illicit weapons programme poses to its neighbours and the international community".

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Great Khali Announced as Inductee into 2021 WWE Hall of Fame Class.

Former World Heavyweight champion The Great Khali was revealed Wednesday as the latest member of the WWE Hall of Fame's class of 2021.

Khali was informed of the honor during WWE Now India by WWE writer Dave Kapoor, who previously served as Khali's on-screen manager under the name Ranjin Singh.

The Great Khali, 48, is arguably the biggest Indian wrestling star of all time thanks to his eight-year run in WWE from 2006-14.

Khali began his wrestling career in 2000 and first rose to prominence under the name Giant Singh in New Japan Pro-Wrestling from 2001-02.

After additional stints in Japan and Mexico, Khali was signed to a developmental contract by WWE in 2006. He spent some time in Deep South Wrestling before debuting on WWE's main roster in 2006 as a dominant heel.

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Tokyo Olympic 2020 torch relay begins.

The official countdown to the postponed Tokyo 2020 Games has begun as the first group of runners carried the Olympic torch through Fukushima, in the first test of measures that organisers insist will ensure a “safe and secure” event in the midst of the current global pandemic.

After a brief opening ceremony (which was closed to the public) on a football pitch inside the J-Village training complex, members of the Japan women’s football team began the torch’s 120-day journey through 859 locations, culminating in the opening ceremony at the Olympic stadium on 23 July. Japanese footballer Iwashimizu Azusa was the first receiver at the start of the Olympic Torch Relay. 

Seiko Hashimoto, the head of the Games’ organising committee, said the start of the Olympic flame’s journey was a sign of hope. “For the past year, as the entire world went through a difficult period, the Olympic flame was kept alive quietly but powerfully,” she said at the opening ceremony, which was attended by a small number of dignitaries.

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Russia to resume commercial flights to Sri Lanka next month.

Russia has decided to resume commercial flights to six countries including Sri Lanka from the 1st of April, the country’s emergency response centre said on Thursday (March 25).

Accordingly, commercial flights to Germany (Frankfurt-Moscow/St Petersburg-Frankfurt/ Moscow-Berlin), Venezuela (Moscow-Caracas), Syria (Moscow-Damascus), Tajikistan (Moscow-Dushanbe), Uzbekistan (Moscow-Tashkent) and Sri Lanka (Moscow-Colombo) will recommence from the aforementioned date.

Reportedly, regular international roundtrip flights between Moscow and Colombo are scheduled to operate once a week.

The Russian government reached the decision after a discussion on the epidemiological situation in individual countries and in agreement with Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.

Russia suspended international flights in March last year following the outbreak of the current pandemic but has since resumed a selected number of routes. 


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Project Company welcomes the Cabinet approval to establish a Special Economic Zone at Port City.

The approval was granted at the cabinet meeting held on the 04th January 2021 to establish the Colombo Port City Special Economic Zone which will be an International business and services hub with specialized infrastructure facilities. Port City investor company, CHEC Port City Colombo (Pvt) Ltd. welcomes the Government’s move and expects this initiative will bring more Foreign Direct Investments to Sri Lanka.

“The Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill” would form the framework law that would be applicable within the Port City and the Cabinet of Ministers approved the proposal made by H.E. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to take necessary steps to publish the relevant bill on the government gazette and submit it to the parliament shortly. The Colombo Port City Special Economic Zone is expected to create a conducive and competitive environment in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI).

Urban Development via SEZs is not unique to Sri Lanka and there are many successful SEZs in the world. An SEZ will offer relief from various forms of taxation on businesses and individuals who qualify. They also offer superior infrastructure; have streamlined administrative processes in place that results in ease of doing business. SEZ’s have been a useful tool for developing nations to upgrade infrastructure, human capital and institutional frameworks and test out policies and their impact before they are selectively implemented outside the SEZ in the rest of the country.

The establishment of a well-positioned SEZ will benefit the nation by; upgrading resources and capabilities where policy makers can overcome bottlenecks in resource mobility and attenuate the costs of larger scale implementation or upgrading across the entire country. A successful SEZ sends an important signal that the country is open for business.

The facilitative environment expected to be created through the “Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill” is supported by the first world infrastructure made available in the 269 Ha of reclaimed Land at Port City and is expected to result in the inflow of both financial and human capital and promote local and foreign entrepreneurs, create employment opportunities and enable talent retention. It is expected that the SEZ will attract multinational enterprises to set up headquarters or regional offices in Port City and in turn they will bring in financial recourses, technology, technical and managerial know-how.

We hope the establishment of a SEZ will accelerate Sri Lanka’s economic growth. A realized master plan for the Port City provides 5.7 million square meters of built up area valued at $15 billion that will be home to multinational enterprises, corporate headquarters, transient workers, and residents. It will be the catalyst for a modern services hub that will help Sri Lanka’s transformation into a services-led growth model and elevate the economy to high-income status.

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Suez blockage sets shipping rates racing, oil and gas tankers diverted away.

Reeling from the blockage in the Suez Canal, shipping rates for oil product tankers have nearly doubled this week, and several vessels were diverted away from the vital waterway as a giant container ship remained wedged between both banks.

The 400-metres long Ever Given has been stuck in the canal since Tuesday 23 March 2021 and efforts are under way to free the vessel although the process may take weeks amid bad weather.

The suspension of traffic through the narrow channel linking Europe and Asia has deepened problems for shipping lines that were already facing disruption and delays in supplying retail goods to consumers.

Analysts expect a larger impact on smaller tankers and oil products, in particular naphtha and fuel oil exports from Europe to Asia, if the canal remained shut for weeks.

More than 30 oil tankers have been waiting at either side of the canal to pass through since Tuesday, shipping data on Refinitiv showed.

“Aframax and Suezmax rates in the Mediterranean have also reacted first as the market starts to price in fewer vessels being available in the region,” shipbroker Braemar ACM Shipbroking said.

At least four Long-Range 2 tankers that might have been headed towards Suez from the Atlantic basin are now likely to be evaluating a passage around the Cape of Good Hope, Braemar ACM said. Each LR-2 tanker can carry around 75,000 tonnes of oil.

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Suez Canal blockage: Crews still working to refloat container ship.

Tugboats and dredgers were working to free a giant container ship blocking Egypt’s Suez Canal for a fourth day, forcing companies to re-route services from the vital shipping lane around Africa.

The MV. EVER GIVEN, which is longer than four football fields, has been wedged diagonally across the entire canal since Tuesday 23 March 2021, shutting the waterway in both directions.

The blockage has caused a huge traffic jam for more than 200 ships at either end of the 193-kilometre (120-mile) long canal and major delays in the delivery of oil and other products.

An official from Shoei Kisen Kaisha, the Japanese company that owns the Ever Given, said  that crews were working to re float the ship.

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100 million more children fail basic reading skills because of Current Global Pandemic.

A new study released on Friday 26 March 2021 by the UN cultural agency, reveals that more than 100 million more children than expected, are falling behind the minimum proficiency level in reading, due to current pandemic related school closures.  

According to the study from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), One year into pandemic: Prioritizing education recovery to avoid a generational catastrophe, even before the pandemic the number of children lacking basic reading skills was on a downward curve. 

In 2020, instead of 460 million children experiencing reading difficulties, that number jumped to 584 million. The rise of more than 20 per cent, wiped out two decades of education gains, the agency said.  

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US Senate confirms Indian-American Doctor Vivek Murthy as US Surgeon General.

Indian-American physician Vivek Murthy has been verified by the Senate as President Joe Biden’s surgeon general, a position in which his top preference would be reacting to the current situation that has harshly hit the country. Dr Murthy, 43, would seize the position of America’s Surgeon General for the second time.

In 2011, president Barack Obama praised him to serve on the advisory committee on deterrence, fitness promotion, and integrative and public health. The Senate elected to confirm Indian-American medic Vivek Murthy to be US President Biden’s surgeon general, handing the administration one of its top public health officials.

Senators appointed 57-43 to confirm the Indian American as Biden’s surgeon general. Dr Murthy had assisted as surgeon general under the Obama administration but was fired by former President Trump in 2017.

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