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Driverless Australian train derails after 92 km

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Canberra, Nov 6 : A goods train carrying iron ore in Australia’s Pilbara region had to be derailed after it travelled for almost one hour without a driver.

Apparently the driver of the mine-operated rail freight stepped out late on Monday to inspect one of the carriages. Before he could return, the train began to move away, Xinhua news agency reported.

“With no one on board, the train travelled for 92 km before being deliberately derailed by the control centre, about 119 km from Port Hedland (near Turner),” the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said in a statement on Tuesday.

The train was carrying 268 wagons, it had reached a speed of 110 kmph before it was derailed from its Integrated Remote Operations Centre in Perth.

Australian mining giant BHP was expected to lose millions of dollars besides three days of access to the rail line, an analyst said.

In a similar incident in September an out-of-control automated Tasmanian freight train also had to be derailed to avoid disaster.

Despite these setbacks, however, the world’s first fully autonomous, long-distance, heavy-haul rail network — the AutoHaul — was expected to become operational in Australia by the end of 2018.

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Health

Saudi Arabia to make COVID-19 vaccine free for citizens and residents

As per Gulf News, Dr Asiri told Al Ekhbariya that Saudi Arabia will receive vaccines through COVAX facility as well as through companies outside of the consortium.

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Saudi King Salman

Abu Dhabi: Saudi Arabia’s Health Ministry on Monday announced that it would make the coronavirus vaccine available for free to all citizens and residents.

“Those who have not tested positive for COVID-19 will be given priority in the vaccine campaign in the coming months,” said Dr Abdullah Asiri, the assistant undersecretary at the ministry.

He, however, added that those below 16 years of age will not be vaccinated unless research proves otherwise.

As per Gulf News, Dr Asiri told Al Ekhbariya that Saudi Arabia will receive vaccines through COVAX facility as well as through companies outside of the consortium.

“The Kingdom worked on two paths to obtain the vaccine, through the COVAX organisation, which the G20 had a role in creating and financing…Saudi Arabia will obtain a large number of vaccines through this facility, while the second track is directly contracting with the big companies to cover the gap that cannot be covered through COVAX,” Arab News mentioned Asiri as saying.

According to the World Health Organization, “the COVAX facility forms a key part of the COVAX pillar (COVAX) of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.”

The Saudi Health Ministry further expected that by the end of next year, the vaccines would cover 70 per cent of the Kingdom’s population.

“One of the most important goals set by the G20 during Saudi Arabia’s G20 presidency is to support all-inclusive and equitable access to vaccines, diagnostic and treatment tools,” said Dr Abdullah Asiri.

Dr Asiri added that a comprehensive plan for vaccine distribution will be ready “in the coming weeks”.

During the two-day G20 summit hosted virtually in Riyadh, Dr Abdullah Al Rabeeah, the supervisor general of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre, on Friday said that his country would be among the first ones to get hold of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr Al Rabeeah added that Saudi Arabia has spent over USD 200 million on COVID-19 vaccine and drug development.

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz had in March also ordered free coronavirus treatment for all citizens.

Meanwhile, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday announced: “There is now real hope that vaccines, in combination with other tried and tested public health measures, will help to end the pandemic.”

His remarks came after drugmaker AstraZeneca announced that its COVID-19 vaccine was up to 90 per cent effective. With this, AstraZeneca has become the third major drug company after Pfizer and Moderna to have reported late-stage data for a potential COVID-19 vaccine.

“The significance of this scientific achievement cannot be overstated. No vaccines in history have been developed as rapidly as these. The scientific community has set a new standard for vaccine development,” added Tedros.

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Biden plans to nominate topmost economist Janet Yallen as Treasury Secretary: Reports

The reports of her potential nomination were seen as welcome news by the financial market in New York, which was reflected in surging stocks.

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economist Janet Yallen

Washington: US President-elect Joe Biden is planning to nominate former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yallen as his Treasury Secretary to lead his economic response to the raging coronavirus pandemic, which has wreaked havoc on the world’s biggest economy and led millions of Americans to lose their jobs.

A formal announcement on 74-year-old Yellen would be made soon, according to The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. The Treasury Secretary is fifth in the presidential line of succession.

If confirmed by the Senate, Yellen would be the first woman to hold the job.

Currently at the Brookings Institute think-tank, she was Federal Reserve Chair from 2014 to 2018 and was Chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors from 1997 to 1999.

Ms Yellen, who was the first woman to lead the Fed, would become the first person to have headed the Treasury, the central bank and the White House Council of Economic Advisers, The Wall Street Journal said.

The Biden-Harris administration, however, did not comment on the potential announcements.

The President-elect looks forward to announcing some members of his economic team early next week who will work with him to build the economy back better, said Jen Psaki, an advisor to the transition.

Her nomination would be one of the early signs that shows Biden plans to lean on experienced Washington veterans to lead the government next year, The Washington Post reported.

The reports of her potential nomination were seen as welcome news by the financial market in New York, which was reflected in surging stocks.

Janet Yellen is an excellent choice. There’s a lot to be excited about, but here’s a big one: As a former Fed chair, she has great relationships across the globe. She can start repairing the damage in economic diplomacy from the past four years, said Michael R Strain, Director of Economic Policy Studies at American Enterprise think-tank.

Yellen is an excellent choice for Treasury Secretary. She was my boss when I was a Senior Economist for International at the Council of Economic Advisors in 1998-99. The most wise boss ever! said Nouriel Roubini, New York University economics professor.

According to The Wall Street Journal, she is viewed by Biden transition officials as a credible authority on the dangers of prematurely withdrawing government stimulus and as someone who could collaborate closely with the Fed and executive-branch agencies to engineer more support if Congress is reluctant to take additional action.

Janet Yellen is an excellent choice for Treasury Secretary. Having had the opportunity to work with then-Chair Yellen, I have no doubt she will be the steady hand we need to promote an economy that works for everyone, especially during these difficult times. Congratulations, said Gary Cohen, who served as Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Director of the National Economic Council from January 2017 until April 2018.

According to Johns Hopkins data, there are 58,696,029 COVID-19 cases and 13,88,724 deaths across the world. The US has recorded more than 12 million cases and 255,000 deaths, the highest tolls registered anywhere in the world.

The US economy, the world’s biggest, lost millions of jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic which battered the global economy. Economists said that the US economy entered recession in late March, when nearly the whole country went into lockdowns.

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China Successfully Launches Its First Spacecraft To Moon To Collect Samples, Return To Earth

The spacecraft was launched by a Long March-5 rocket at 4.30 am (Beijing Time)

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Mars moon Phobos

China successfully launched its first unmanned space mission on Tuesday to collect samples from the moon’s surface and return to earth, the country’s maiden attempt to retrieve materials from an extra-terrestrial body.

China has successfully launched the Chang’e-5 lunar probe from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in the southern province of Hainan, state-run CGTN reported. The spacecraft was launched by a Long March-5 rocket at 4.30 am (Beijing Time).

Chang’e-5 is one of the most complicated and challenging missions in China’s aerospace history, as well as the world’s first moon-sample mission in more than 40 years.

The United States sent astronauts to the moon to collect samples. In the Soviet Union’s unmanned lunar sampling missions, the spacecraft took off from the moon and returned to Earth directly.

But China chose a complicated technological approach including unmanned rendezvous and docking in lunar orbit, which could bring back more samples and lay a technological foundation for manned lunar missions, according to Pei Zhaoyu, deputy director of the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Centre of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), ahead of the launch.

The mission will help promote China’s science and technology development and lay an important foundation for China’s future manned lunar landing and deep space exploration, Pei said.

Chang’e-5, comprising an orbiter, a lander, an ascender and a returner, with a total take-off mass of 8.2 tonnes, is expected to accomplish unmanned rendezvous and docking in lunar orbit, a complicated feat.

After it enters the lunar orbit, the lander-ascender combination will separate from the orbiter-returner combination.

While the orbiter-returner orbits about 200 km above the lunar surface, the lander-ascender will touch down on the northwest region of Oceanus Procellarum, also known as the Ocean of Storms, on the near side of the moon in early December, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Within 48 hours, a robotic arm will be extended to scoop up rocks and regolith on the lunar surface, and a drill will bore into the ground. About 2 kg of samples are expected to be collected and sealed in a container in the spacecraft.

Then the ascender will take off, and dock with the orbiter-returner in orbit. After the samples are transferred to the returner, the ascender will separate from the orbiter-returner.

When the geometric relationship between Earth and the moon is suitable, the orbiter will carry the returner back to the planet. The returner will re-enter the atmosphere and land at the Siziwang Banner in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

The whole flight will last more than 20 days.

Pei said if the Chang’e-5 mission succeeds, China’s current lunar exploration project would come to a successful conclusion.

Named after legendary Chinese moon goddess Chang’e, China’s current three-step lunar exploration programme, which began in 2004, includes orbiting and landing on the moon along with bringing back samples.

The aim of the programme is for China to acquire the basic technologies of unmanned lunar exploration with limited investment, Pei said.

China is drawing up plans for future lunar exploration. To pave the way for manned lunar exploration and deep space exploration, the Chang’e-5 mission will use a sampling method different from those of the United States and the Soviet Union, Pei said.

“Unmanned rendezvous and docking in lunar orbit will be a historic first. It will be very difficult,” said Peng Jing, deputy chief designer of the Chang’e-5 probe from the China Academy of Space Technology under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.

“We could call it a milestone mission. Its success will help us acquire the basic capabilities for future deep space exploration such as sampling and take-off from Mars, asteroids and other celestial bodies,” Peng was quoted by Xinhua.

The scientific goals of the Chang’e-5 mission include the investigation of the landing area to obtain the on-site analysis data related to the lunar samples, as well as systematic and long-term laboratory analysis of the lunar samples.

The landing site of Chang’e-5 will be to the west of that of Chang’e-3, which went to the moon in 2013.

This site is chosen because the region has a young geological age, younger than the sampling areas of the United States and the Soviet Union 40 years ago. This region has never been sampled. The new samples will be of great scientific value, Chinese experts said.

“Domestic and overseas scientists will all have a chance to get the lunar samples to be brought back by Chang’e-5 for research,” Pei added.

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