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How an anti-corruption bill became a showdown on democracy

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Democrats seeking House seats in Republican-leaning districts ran on a poll-tested platform of eradicating corruption in Donald Trump’s Washington, removing money from politics, and stopping partisan gerrymandering. Nancy Pelosi, the freshly elected speaker, sought to embody those campaign promises in House Resolution 1, the new Democratic House’s first measure. It stood little chance of becoming law with Republicans controlling the Senate and Trump in the White House.

The bill’s journey to this point has been marked by shifting political imperatives, practical hurdles, legislative revisions, and, ultimately, Republican resistance. “Maybe it started as a wish list for those who wanted to cement our democracy,” Senator Amy Klobuchar adds, “but it turned into the salvation for our democracy.” The bill was doomed after a procedural vote in the Senate fell far short of the 60 votes needed to advance. Democrats had intended to leverage their slim House and Senate majority to push the bill through.

Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) “Authoritarianism thrives on gloom and a sense of powerlessness among the majority against the minority.” “We must fight as hard as we can but never accept the notion that our battles are unwinnable,” says Sen. Mark Udall. The bill did not begin as a fight for democracy’s future, as Democrats portray it, or as a partisan power grab, as Republicans represent it.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, claims she was “vigorously opposed” to a bill that would have made it easier to vote. The bill’s focus switched from early voting, mail-in balloting, and other measures to Russian election intervention in the future. “It was so visceral about how real it was,” says Klubuchar.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, says she was working on a bill that would have changed the rules of the election system after Democrats took control of the Senate. The bill became a showdown between two parties, saying the American experiment itself is at stake. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the minority leader, called the bill an effort to “rig the rules in the Democrats’ favour.”

The bill might be broken down into four parts, each of which would have far-reaching consequences on its own. The presidential and vice-presidential tax returns would have to be made public under the ethics provision. The part on voting rights would establish a minimum of 15 days for early voting and increase the no-excuse mail-in vote. The condition on campaign funding would introduce public financing of elections into congress.

Senator Rick Scott of Florida claims that Democrats are “voting to give themselves money.” Senator Angus King, D-Maine, argues that public election financing is “charity for politicians.” A Democratic senator from Maine claims he warned his colleagues that if he voted for the bill, Republicans would attack him.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) “I just don’t think it’s a popular bill,” she says. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) “It only goes to show why the legislation needs to be as broad as it is.” A Monmouth University poll found widespread support for early voting in person but significant disagreement over expanding mail-in franchise. The bill hasn’t changed much since it was introduced in 2019, but the messaging has.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) “If Congress fails to act to save democracy, it sends a powerful and dangerous signal.” After the Sept. 11 attacks, he added, a Capitol Police officer reminded him that lawmakers gathered on the Capitol steps and committed to respond — as Americans. The officer lamented the intense partisanship surrounding the coronavirus outbreak, as well as the botched response to the Capitol attack

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Business

Investor’s greed a problem, says Sankaran Naren

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Gordon Gekko might have felt that greed, for lack of a better word, is good, but that isn’t always the case. The human urge to clamour for more has caught many an investor on the wrong foot and Sankaran Naren, Executive Director and CIO at ICICI Prudential, opines that investor greed is increasing day-by-day, which is a problem.

Naren Indian equity portfolios at ICICI Prudential, and has worked with various financial services companies, including Refco Sify Securities India and HDFC Securities. Delving further into the issue at hand, he says, “We are not seeing a problem in the macro or business cycle. But investor greed is a bigger problem. They think that there is only one asset class called equity and there is nothing called risk and that is the bigger problem rather than anything else in the macro or business cycle from an India point of view. In the world, all the way from 2012, people have not seen market corrections in the US. There people are used to investing in stocks and not worrying at all about market corrections except in 2018 December and 2020 March,” said Sankaran.

At this point, he believes that it is very important for investors to practice asset allocation and that they should make choices based on earnings connected to 2021 or 2022, investing in names which have steady operating cash flows, dividend yield, etc.

“The key learning from 2007 is that investors who invested in IPOs based on 2014 earnings were in for a disappointment. There is a fair amount of froth in many parts of the markets, particularly in new-age areas. Unlike Asia which has seen periodic market corrections, since 2012, US equities have barely witnessed a meaningful correction,” said the fund manager.

“Today the number of loss-making new age companies trading at stretched valuations is very high in the US compared with dividend-paying, cash flow-generating old economy-oriented companies,” he concluded, as he offered an investment roadmap for stocks and mutual funds to a rapt audience. 

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Business

Swiggy to give 2-day paid monthly period leave to female delivery partners

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Food delivery giant Swiggy has announced a two-day paid monthly period leave policy for female delivery partners, marking an industry first. Swiggy has over 1000 women on its delivery team, and has stated that since bringing on female delivery partners, it has been working to increase inclusivity and diversity across the platform. The company believes that providing a welcoming environment for women will inspire them to explore delivering with them.  

Other initiatives to deepen inclusivity include enabling access to vehicles, access to hygienic restrooms, and implementing safety measures for female delivery partners. Mihir Shah, Vice President of Operations at Swiggy, said discomfort from being out and about on the road while menstruating is probably one of the most underreported reasons why many women don’t consider delivery to be a viable gig.  

“To support them through any menstruation-related challenges, we’ve introduced a no-questions-asked, two-day paid monthly period time-off policy for all our regular female delivery partners,” said Shah.  

SoftBank-backed Swiggy has approximately 200,000 delivery partners, with about 1,000 of them being female. Swiggy hired its first female delivery partner in Pune in 2016. “Since then, we’ve been working hard to promote inclusivity and diversity across the platform, with a goal of increasing the number of female delivery partners in Swiggy’s delivery fleet,” Shah added.

“Swiggy understands the pain of a woman in the field and period leave will definitely motivate more women to choose this platform and be independent,” said Komal, a delivery partner from Chennai.  

Last year, rival company Zomato announced a period leave policy, allowing female employees to take up to 10 period leaves in a year. These are available to employees and not the gig workforce. It has, however, taken steps to have a more inclusive gig workforce. In June this year, it said it has set a goal of reaching 10 percent female delivery partners by the end of 2021 starting with Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Pune. 

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Health

Gates Foundation boosts access to Covid-19 drug for lower-income countries

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The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged up to $120 million as part of its Covid-19 response effort to help lower-income countries gain access to the investigational antiviral medication Molnupiravir, which some say might be a gamechanger.

The Gates Foundation’s co-chair, Melinda Gates, said: “To put an end to the pandemic, we must ensure that everyone has access to life-saving health services, regardless of where they live on the planet. Low-income countries, on the other hand, have had to wait for everything from personal protective equipment to vaccinations. That’s not good enough.”  

Concerned about lower-income countries’ struggles to access Covid-19 vaccinations and the risk of being left behind once again when it comes to medicines, the Gates Foundation is urging other donors to commit money to hasten the implementation of Merck’s experimental drug Molnupiravir, if it is approved.  

Merck expects trial tablets fto reach low-income countries by early next year. Regulatory authorities such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and national governments are in charge of deciding whether or not to approve the drug for usage. The Gates organization said it aims to significantly reduce the time it takes for new drugs to arrive in low-income regions after they become available in wealthier markets. That gap can be at least 12 months, it said.

The organization has already granted money to assist generics firms in developing low-cost production procedures that lower raw material costs and boost product yields. Some wealthy and middle-income countries, such as Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, have either obtained or are in the process of obtaining the therapy.

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