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L&T, South Korean firm team up for artillery gun

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New Delhi, April 21: Indian engineering major Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and Hanwha Techwin (HTW) of South Korea on Friday signed a contract to provide the Indian Army with 155 mm mobile artillery guns.

After successful completion of the trials for 155mm/52 calibre Tracked Self-Propelled (SP) Gun programme by the Army, L&T was declared the sole qualified bidder based on the performance of its K9 VAJRA-T.

The gun is an enhanced version of HTW’s K9 Thunder with modifications for desert operations.

Generally, artillery guns are towed by trucks but self-propelled guns are either mounted on a wheeled or tracked chasis, allowing them to move on their own.

Jayant Patil, Head of Defence and Aerospace, L&T, said: “This contract marks an important milestone in L&T’s Defence Business journey and in our relationship with Hanwha Techwin.

“L&T plans to begin production of this vital weapon system at its Strategic Systems Complex at Talegaon near Pune and deliver the first batch of 10 guns.

“L&T also has initiated setting up of a greenfield manufacturing line at Hazira, Gujarat, integral with a state-of-the-art test track, to produce, test and qualify the K9 VAJRA-T guns,” he added.

The Indian Army in 2011 came up with a Request for Proposal (RFP) under Buy (Global) category for 100 155mm/52 calibre Tracked Self Propelled (SP) Gun programme.

The contract is expected to cost Rs 4,500 crore to government.

Speaking on the indigenous content in the gun system, Patil said, “Most of the system of this gun will be done here. But there are some parts that we will not even attempt. Hundred gun is too small a scale to do something phenomenal.”

“The basic armament, the barrel, the beach, the muzzle will always be imported for all the guns. L&T has the ability to make that through the massive forging plant that we have at our own nuclear programme.”

The engine will be imported.

“The hull, the turret, electronics, Fire control systems, auto loaders are indigenous. The human specific systems like air conditioning, NBC systems and direct fire system among others are indigenous. The value is close to equitable,” he said discussing L&T contribution in the system.

In 2013, field trials for the guns were conducted at Pokhran. In September 2015, L&T was declared the only company to qualify in trials.

First ten systems will be imported from South Korea and rest 90 will be manufactured in India at the Hazira facility.

As per the contract requirements, the first gun is required to be delivered within 18 months, but L&T feels it can supply the first gun within this financial year.

Speaking on the special capability of this gun system, Patil said, “It is fitted out with a system that can see through night as well. What most artilleries in the world do not do is a direct line of sight, what a battle tank does.”

“We can use this gun not only for indirect fire up to 43-44 km but for four km line of site to hit a bunker,” he added.

Addressing the event the South Korean Ambassador to India, Cho Hyun said, “In early May we will have a new government. Our economy is going to be stronger.”

Speaking on the threat from North Korea, he called for a deepening cooperation between the two nations using each others’ strength.

The contract between the Indian Army and L&T is expected to be signed soon. The gun has 50 per cent Indian content.

IANS

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Make a WhatsApp voice or video call with Google Assistant

If you have set up the Google Assistant app on your Android device, you may directly invoke it by saying OK Google or Hey Google.

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New Delhi, July 12 : Google recently announced that Assistant would be able to make video and audio calls with WhatsApp.

This means that one can easily access WhatsApp and some of its options by triggering the Google Assistant from the home screen on your smartphone.

The voice calls commenced by Assistant were earlier used to place a network call for the user. While video calls could be set up via Hangouts or Duo only.

If you have set up the Google Assistant app on your Android device, you may directly invoke it by saying OK Google or Hey Google.

One may also wake up the assistant app using the dedicated key, if available or by long-pressing the Home button on your device.

When Google Assistant is open, use one of the two commands, “Make a WhatsApp call to [contact-name]” or “Call [contact-name] on WhatsApp and for video call just say “Make a WhatsApp video call to [contact-name]”.

To make things faster, one should add a nickname to the most frequently called contacts.

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Bill Gates warns ‘deadlier pandemic’ if vaccine goes to ‘highest bidders’

There are at least 21 vaccines currently under key trials, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

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San Francisco, July 12 : Microsoft founder Bill Gates has warned about a deadlier pandemic if successful drugs or a COVID-19 vaccine, when developed, go first to the highest bidders and not reach the common people who need it the most.

Addressing a remote COVID-19 conference hosted by the International AIDS Society on Saturday, Gates said democratizing the vaccine must be the goal, reports CNBC.

“If we just let drugs and vaccines go to the highest bidder, instead of to the people and the places where they are most needed, we”ll have a longer, more unjust deadlier pandemic,” he said.

“We need leaders to make these hard decisions about distributing based on equity, not just on market-driven factors,” Gates added.

There are at least 21 vaccines currently under key trials, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The fear is that once the vaccine is developed, the rich and the powerful people would grab it first.

However, despite encouraging preliminary data coming from some research labs, a Covid-19 vaccine is nowhere near while new corona cases are mounting in several countries including in India.

No vaccines have yet started their large and critical Phase-III trials in the US.

WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan has said that AstraZeneca”s coronavirus vaccine candidate is currently the most advanced vaccine in terms of development.

AstraZeneca”s Covid-19 vaccine candidate, developed by researchers from the Oxford University, will likely provide protection against the disease for one year, the British drug maker”s CEO told Belgian radio station Bel RTL recently.

The vaccine developed at the Oxford Jenner Institute is currently on trial in the UK, where over 4,000 participants have enrolled and additional enrollment of 10,000 participants is planned for the clinical trial. The ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine has been licenced to AstraZeneca.

“Global cooperation, a resolve to invent the tools and get them out where they”re needed most is critical,” said Gates at the virtual event.

Gates in May said the vaccine development may take at least nine months to two years.

“Most of the drug candidates right now are nowhere near that powerful. They could save a lot of lives, but they aren”t enough to get us back to normal,” the Microsoft co-founder wrote in his GatesNotes blog.

In the absence of an “almost perfect drug to treat COVID-19”, it becomes imperative that every person on the planet gets vaccinated against coronavirus.

“Realistically, if we”re going to return to normal, we need to develop a safe, effective vaccine. We need to make billions of doses, we need to get them out to every part of the world, and we need all of this to happen as quickly as possible,” he said.

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Google to boost fake news, illegal content monitoring on YouTube

In a blog post, Pichai said that since January, Google has blocked hundreds of thousands of ads attempting to capitalize on the coronavirus pandemic.

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Seoul, July 12 : Google’s video-sharing platform YouTube will cooperate with South Korea to closely monitor and prevent the spread of fake news and illegal content.

Google’s Senior Vice President Neal Mohan made the comments during a videoconference with Han Sang-hyuk, chairman of the Korea Communications Commission (KCC).

The remarks came after Han requested such cooperation, considering fake news surrounding Covid-19 and a recent high-profile digital sexual abuse case in South Korea, in which such illegal materials were distributed across social media platforms.

The regulator has kept a close watch over the tech giant this year.

Last month, Google voluntarily corrected subscription practices on its YouTube Premium service in the country, after the KCC found they were unfair for users.

The regulator also imposed a fine of $720,000 on Google for violating local telecom laws, as it did not properly notify users of YouTube Premium’s charged service.

In March this year, Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the company has taken down thousands of videos on YouTube related to dangerous or misleading coronavirus information using its Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based technology.

In a blog post, Pichai said that since January, Google has blocked hundreds of thousands of ads attempting to capitalize on the coronavirus pandemic.

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