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Oil leases in Alaska’s Arctic refuge will be suspended, according to US President Joe Biden.

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According to two people briefed on the administration’s strategy, the Biden administration is suspending oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as it assesses the environmental effects of fracking in the remote area that has been the subject of decades of political debate.

The order from the Interior Department was expected to be released later Tuesday. It comes after President Joe Biden placed a temporary ban on oil and gas lease operations on his first day in office. Biden’s executive order from January 20 indicated that a new environmental analysis was required to correct potential legal loopholes in a fracking policy approved by the Trump administration under a 2017 law passed by Congress.

Since the proposal had not been publicly announced, those briefed on it requested anonymity.

Polar bears, caribou, snowy owls, and other animals, as well as migrating birds from six continents, call the 19.6 million-acre refuge home. Republicans and the oil industry have long sought to drill in the wildlife sanctuary, which the Indigenous Gwich’in regard as sacred. Democrats, environmentalists, and several Alaska Native tribes have all attempted to stop it.

On Jan.6, two weeks before Biden took office, the US Bureau of Land Management, an Interior Department agency, conducted a lease sale for the refuge’s coastal plain. The agency signed leases for nine tracts covering nearly 685 square miles eight days later (1,770 square kilometers). However, former President Donald Trump did not officially disclose the leases’ issuance until January 19.

Biden has spoken out against fracking in the region, and environmentalists have pushed for permanent safeguards, which Biden advocated for during his presidential campaign.

The suspension of the leases comes after administration officials frustrated environmental activists last week when they defended a Trump administration decision to approve a major oil project on Alaska’s North Slope. Critics argue that the decision contradicts Biden’s promises to fix climate change.

In a court filing, the Justice Department claimed that critics of the Willow project in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska were attempting to halt construction by “cherry-picking” federal agency documents to report environmental review law violations. The filing defends the assessments that led to the approval of project plans last fall.

A consortium of organisations has filed a lawsuit to overturn Trump’s approval. Earlier this year, an appeals court suspended some building operations, and the parties in the case later decided to hold the restrictions in effect until December 1 while the underlying case was still being heard.

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The Philippines to acquire $375 million deal to buy BrahMos

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India finally bags a $375 million deal for exporting BrahMos supersonic missile to the Philippines

Akankshya MUKHERJEE – Mumbai Uncensored, 15th January 2022:

The Philippines confirms on Friday that they will be acquiring 3 Batteries of the BrahMos cruise missile, which was developed both by Russia and India. The deal is worth a $375 Million, it is viewed as a development which can boost India’s efforts to becoming a major exporter of Defence Hardware. The Philippine Defence secretary Mr Delfin Lorenzana has recently signed the “Notice of Award” which is the acceptance of this proposal for supplying this missile. It will be supplied for the Philippine Navy’s shore based anti-ship missile acquisition project.

The Government of India has negotiated to the delivery of 3 batteries, training for operators, maintainers and necessary Integrated Logistics Support package as mentioned in Mr Delfin Lorenzana’s Facebook post. The BrahMos dela was conceptualized as of 2017, the Philippine President’s office approved in the Horizon 2 Priority Projects in 2020 for inclusion. This is the first ever contract to export a 290km range BrahMos missiles, such a deal will also lead a way for more such deals from other ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) members such as Vietnam and Indonesia.

This deal also saw a strategical backdrop of China’s expansionism and strong arm-tactics with other nations in the South China Sea. This contract is for the Navy for the purpose of coastal defence, another contract expected can be for their military and similar talks continue for exporting BrahMos missiles to Indonesia is at an advanced stage.

Other countries have also shown their interest in acquiring the BrahMos Missile, it can be viewed on emerging as the precision strike weapon of choice. Countries such as UAE, Saudi Arabia and South Africa have shown their interests. India plans to sell the indigenously developed, Akash Missile systems which can interpret helicopters, drones, subsonic cruise missile and hostile aircrafts at the range of 25km to countries such as Kenya, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, and Algeria. The BrahMos missile have been deployed in eastern Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh during an on-going military confrontation with China, its being extended from 290km originally to 350/400km.

The Indian armed forces have placed orders of Rs.36000 crore for the BrahMos missile over years, the Army has 4 BrahMos regiments as of now and another one has been added. The Navy on the other hand has equipped 11 of its frontline warships, which includes destroyer INS Vishakhapatnam with the BrahMos vertical launch systems. THE IAF includes 2 land-based BrahMos squadrons, with a sleeker air launched version which progressively fits on the Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jets.

One of the potential areas to use BrahMos by the Philippines is South China Sea. The Permanent Act of Arbitration in Hague ruled that specific portion of the south China Sea has been claimed by China and Philippines which belonged to Philippines alone in 2016. China rejects this and continues to send their vessels into the disputed water. Former Indian Navy Chief, Admiral Arun Prakash says it was a long- delayed decision, this can alter the Indo-China strategic equation. By such deals India is helping to bolster their security and also give China a taste of their medicine. We are awaiting such confirmations form Vietnam and Indonesia.

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3 Injured As Rockets Attack Baghdad’s US Embassy

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ANUSHKA PATHAK – Mumbai Uncensored, 15 January 2022

Four rockets targeted the US embassy in Baghdad’s highly secured Green Zone on Thursday (January 13, 2022), two Iraqi security officials said.

The embassy is located in the ultra-secure Green Zone of Baghdad, which also houses parliament and other government offices. 

Three of the missiles struck within the perimeter of the American Embassy, the officials said. Another hit a school located in a nearby residential complex.

An Iraqi military statement said a young girl, a young boy and a woman were injured in the attack. The statement also said the rockets had been launched from the Dora neighbourhood of Baghdad.

Witnesses said they heard the embassy’s C-RAM defense system that detects and destroys incoming rockets, artillery and mortar shells— during the attack.

The latest attack comes as Iraq is once again caught in a political web. It came as Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court on Thursday, suspended the newly-appointed speaker of parliament Mohammed al-Halbussi, after two fellow deputies lodged a complaint claiming his re-election was unconstitutional.

The US embassy condemned the attack in a statement on Facebook, attributing it to “terrorist groups attempting to undermine Iraq’s security, sovereignty, and international relations”. No group has claimed the attack yet.

In recent months, dozens of rocket assaults or drone bomb attacks have targeted American troops and interests in Iraq, following the second anniversary of the US strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassim Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Last Thursday (January 5, 2022), a series of attacks targeted American troops in Iraq and Syria. Rockets struck an Iraqi military base hosting US troops in western Anbar province and the capital.

In November, the Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi escaped in an unknown drone bomb attack which targeted his official residence in the Green Zone.

The Green Zone was targeted by two rockets on December 19, 2021, but one was shot down by C-RAM defence batteries and the other fell in a square near the US embassy, damaging two vehicles.

The US-led coalition formally ended its combat mission supporting Iraqi forces in the ongoing fight against the Islamic State group last month. Some 2,500 troops will remain as the coalition shifts to an advisory mission to continue supporting Iraqi forces.

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Indian Startups raise from $11.5 billion to $42 billion in 2022

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India is the third largest unicorn hub with 90 unicorns, USA being first with 487 and China second with 301.

Akankshya Mukherjee, Mumbai Uncensored, 14TH January 2022 :

A report from the Orios Venture Partners says that Indian Startups have grown from $11.5 billion to $42 billion in 2021. ‘The Indian Tech Unicorn Report 2021’ was the report titled which says that India saw 46 unicorns, companies with $1 billion worth in 2021. It doubled to 90 unicorns.

According to the repot, they included Cred, Meesho, ShareChat, MPL, Grofers which is not Blinkit, Nazara, Spinny, Mamaearth, upGrad, GlobalBees, Acko, and others included. With around 6,00,00 startups, India is the third largest startup ecosystem in the world. These starts generate employment on a larger scale and also develop innovative technologies and solutions. One out of the 13 startups were born in India.

As per reports, Bengaluru is the city with maximum unicorns. E-commerce, Flipkart and Software as a Service (SaaS) have the maximum number of unicorns while Crypto, Gaming, D2C, ed-tech, health-tech have been closed. Delhi being the next with 29 and Mumbai with 16. Also emerging startup-based cities in India are Pune, Jaipur, Hyderabad, and Chennai.

Flipkart is the most valued unicorn, it raised from $3.6 billion to $37.6 billion in July 2021, Mensa Brands is the fastest to turn unicorn, it took only 6 months from May 2021 to November 2021 to raise the first $50 billion.

The report also says that India has 4 decacorns, companies with less than $10 billion and above value such as Flipkart, Byju’s, Oyo Rooms and Paytm. 2021 has setup a landmark year for Indian startups. In total 11 startups, out of which 8 are unicorns, raised around $7.16 billion with public offerings. One96 Communication, Paytm, raised India’s largest ever IPO of Rs.18,300 crore which is about $2.46 billion. Zomato has the highest market capitalization of $14.8 billion, followed by Nykaa with $13.5 billion and Freshworks with $6.9 billion the report further adds.

It had been an exciting, tremendous and promising year for tech startups due to the economic turndown in the first half. According to the measuring scale for the ecosystem, the report clears that validation of value creation has been achieved for both IPO and unicorns through technological innovation, Mr Rehan Yar Khan, Managing Partner says at Orios Venture Partners.

The report also notes 20% of the Unicorn Founders are non-engineers, 2/3rd of the Indian unicorns has been founders of one or more IIMs, ISB and IITs. Also highlighted, that about 13 of the Unicorn founders are female, out of which 8 have been featured in 2021: Falguni Nayar- Nykaa, Gazal Kalra- Rivigo, Ruchi Kalra- OfBusiness, Divya Gokulnath- Byju’s, Ghazal Alagh- MamaEarth, and Saritha Katikaneni- Zenoti and others.

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