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‘We cannot keep MCC grant on hold indefinitely’

Mahmoud Bah, acting chief executive officer at MCC, says delays in ratification put Millennium Challenge Corporation compact in a position where the US can no longer wait.
- JAGADISHOR PANDAY
‘The agency is prohibited by US law from funding any kind of military assistance or training.’Photo: MCC

KATHMANDU,
The United States cannot keep the $500 million grant assistance under the Millenium Challenge Corporation on hold indefinitely, a top MCC official has said.
In an email interview with the Post and its sister paper Kantipur, Mahmoud Bah, acting chief executive officer at the MCC, said accepting the $500 million dollar grant from MCC and the American people “is Nepal’s choice  and only Nepal’s choice.”
The American grant, signed between the governments of Nepal and the United States in September 2017, has become a major divisive force in Nepal. The MCC-Nepal Compact has been in Parliament since July 2019 awaiting approval.
The grant is to be used for building electricity transmission lines and improving road projects. While Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s
party, the Nepali Congress, appears keen on endorsing the grant through Parliament, his coalition partners, particularly the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) and the CPN (Unified Socialist) are against passing it “in its existing form”.
The main opposition CPN-UML, which was ready for MCC’s parliamentary approval when it was in power, has changed its tune and maintains that it has not made any position on the US grant.
In 2017 also, when the grant was signed, Deuba was leading the government backed by the Maoist Centre.
“Since 2017, MCC has remained committed to helping the people of Nepal  while waiting for Parliament to fulfil the Nepali  government’s requirement for international agreements—parliamentary ratification,” said Bah. “Every major political party in Nepal, and successive governments  since 2012, have sought  the MCC compact. Additionally, each of these governments, and its political leaders, have supported the ratification of the MCC-Nepal Compact in its original form.”
MCC emerged as a politically divisive force when the Nepal Communist Party (NCP), formed after the merger between the UML and the Maoist Centre), was in power. Amid a raging infighting in the party, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, then co-chair of the party, weaponised the American grant against the other chair KP Sharma Oli. Some of the UML leaders, including Bhim Rawal and Jhala Nath Khanal, too stood against the grant’s parliamentary approval.
The NCP, however, was invalidated by the Supreme Court on March 7 last year. Dahal got his old party, the Maoist Centre, back. A group within the UML split in August last year to form the CPN (Unified Socialist).
When the Deuba government was formed on July 13 last year, there were expectations it would move the MCC in Parliament for its endorsement. In September last year, the Finance Ministry even wrote to the MCC headquarters detailing the concerns surrounding the MCC in Nepal. The MCC headquarters provided pointwise clarification just ahead of the visit of one of the senior officials, Fatema Z Sumar, to Kathmandu. She held meetings with Nepali leaders from across the political spectrum.
 The American grant, however, continues to remain stuck in Parliament.
Bah said the US assistance has been the target of a sophisticated and malicious  misinformation and disinformation campaign to discredit MCC and the government of Nepal in order to prevent the MCC-Nepal Compact from progressing and helping improve the lives of millions of Nepalis. 

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With Omicron, it’s hard to tell if case is Covid or flu. Get tested, doctors say

As almost every household is reporting sniffles, sneezes, runny nose or slight to high fever, which could be signs of virus spread, experts stress caution.
- Arjun Poudel

KATHMANDU,
Nisha Ghalan has had a runny nose, sore throat and cough for the last three days. But she continues to run her grocery shop in Tarakeshwor, on the northern rim of Kathmandu. Her grandmother, 84, her brother, sister-in-law and two children of her brother also have similar problems, she said.
“Temperatures have dropped, so this is a common phenomenon. We tend to catch a seasonal flu,” said Ghalan. “People say symptoms of the coronavirus are similar to those of a seasonal flu. I don’t think we are infected with the coronavirus.”
Asked if any of her family members, who have been suffering from flu-like symptoms underwent testing, she asked instead, “Who should undergo testing? All of our family members have problems.”
Sima Nepal from Vanasthali of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City said she has had a common cold, sore throat and cough
for the past four days but has continued to work at her Samakhushi-based office.
“One of my staff has taken leave to go to the village and another has tested positive for the coronavirus,” said Nepal. “I don’t know about my infection condition. But I am fully vaccinated.”
According to her, all her family members and relatives, who come to her home frequently, have been suffering from flu-like ailments currently. Nepal said that all her family members and relatives have been fully vaccinated, except for children and no one has undergone testing recently.
“How many times should we go for tests? It’s costly,” said Nepal.
“Testing frequently is not possible for people like us.”
Many people in Nepal like Ghalan and Nepal are avoiding tests for various reasons—considering the symptoms to be of a seasonal flu, testing charges and some other inconveniences.
Of late, coronavirus cases, however, are on the rise. Many have taken to social media recently to declare that they have caught the virus—some for the first time, others for a second time—despite being fully vaccinated.
Doctors say many people are making a common mistake by not going for tests, taking the symptoms to be of flu, and this could prove costly. That the vaccinated also are declaring they have tested positive is a clear indication that the virus can attack anyone, according to them.
“Lately, there is not even a single household that does not have members suffering from flu-like symptoms,” said Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, chief of the Clinical Research Unit at Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital. “If they go for tests, chances of results coming positive are nine out of ten. It has become apparent that the virus has spread to communities.”
According to Pun, it’s always better for people to go for tests when they develop flu-like symptoms.
“People should know about their health status. If results come out negative despite having flu-like symptoms, it’s good. They can treat themselves for the flu,” said Pun. “If the results come out positive, they should monitor their health conditions. Vaccination may not make them seriously ill if they take care of themselves.”
Symptoms in patients infected with the Delta variant include fever, body-ache, loss of taste and smell, sore throat, runny nose and sneezing.
Those infected with Omicron may complain of headache, sore throat, runny nose fever and tiredness, doctors say.
Nepal’s latest virus surge has been attributed to Delta, which wreaked havoc during the second in April last year, and Omicron, the super contagious new variant which is spreading across the world at a lightning speed.
Officials say one fourth of the new cases reported in Nepal could be because of Omicron, as 25 percent of the total samples are showing S-gene target failure.
The World Health Organisation says S-gene is not present in Omicron as a result of multiple mutations the variant has undergone and is considered a marker to identify the latest iteration of the coronavirus.
Nepal on Saturday reported 4,636 new cases—3,703 in 10,412 polymerase chain reaction tests and 933 in 4,144 antigen tests.
Daily positivity rate jumped to 35.6 percent from 31.2 percent a day before and 3 percent on January 3.
Four people died from Covid-19-related infections in the last 24 hours, according to the Health Ministry. The countrywide death toll has reached 11,617 since the pandemic began.
The number of active cases has risen to 21,584.
Of the total active cases, 20,536 people have been placed in home isolation, according to the Health Ministry. Officials, however, admit that no agency is monitoring the health and movements of the infected.
Major hospitals in Kathmandu Valley said that most of the people having flu-like symptoms are testing positive for Covid-19. While the hospitalisation rate has increased, health care workers too are contracting the virus, raising fears of pressure on health facilities.
Experts have said it would be wrong to dismiss Omicron as “mild” and that people must maintain precautions and monitor their health condition after getting infected with the virus. Since those whose test results come out positive are in a position to ascertain whether they are infected with Omicron or Delta, the best thing is to consult doctors depending on their symptoms, according to experts.
Dr Baburam Marasini, former director at the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division, says people should immediately stop meetings after developing symptoms.
“If they cannot go for tests immediately, they should stay at home and keep a close eye on their symptoms,” said Marasini. “If they are suffering from a seasonal flu, drinking lots of fluid and warm broth and rest would do the trick. If symptoms persist and there are complications, they should visit a hospital.” Since tests are not easily accessible and they are not free, according to Marasini, it is understandable that many people might not be getting tested.
Meanwhile, the Health Ministry has said it will start administering booster shots to all frontline workers from Sunday. Frontline workers include doctors, nurses, paramedics, lab technicians, hospital staff and ambulance drivers.
Booster shots, according to the government, will also be given to journalists, bureaucrats, lawmakers, those serving in diplomatic missions, financial institutions, prisoners, people living in old-age homes and refugees who were vaccinated in the first phase of the immunisation campaign starting January 27 last year.
The ministry has also decided to administer booster doses to all people above 60 years, who were inoculated six months ago and to those having compromised immunity from January 28.
The ministry has said that the original vaccine will be provided as booster shots.
As of Saturday, 12,096,805 people, or 39.8 percent of the over 30 million population, have been fully vaccinated in Nepal.
“All those who were inoculated in the first phase of the vaccination drive come under frontline workers,” Dr Samir Kumar Adhikari, joint spokesperson for the Health Ministry, told the Post. “They can receive booster shots from any convenient vaccination centre starting tomorrow.”

Page 2
NATIONAL

Medical colleges continue to defy government-fixed ceiling of fee

Students of two medical colleges are up in arms. Operators refuse to budge.
- BINOD GHIMIRE

KATHMANDU,
Students from the Bhaktapur-based Kathmandu Medical College (KMC) and Nobel Medical College, Biratnagar have been continuously protesting against exorbitant fees imposed by the college authorities bypassing the Medical Education Commission’s ceiling. However, there has been no hearing.
After the college administration refused to budge despite several rounds of meetings with the guardians and students, Education Minister Devendra Paudel reached the KMC last week “for monitoring”. He directed the administration to sort out the problems after holding discussions with the students.
A week has passed but there’s no headway yet.
The Education Ministry on Friday held meetings with the students and guardians and the representatives of the commission, medical colleges and student unions. In the meeting, the ministry directed the medical colleges to abide by the fee ceiling set by the commission.
“The ministry has asked the medical colleges not to charge more than the amount prescribed by the commission,” said Hari Lamsal, joint-secretary at the ministry.
The representatives from the Association of Private Medical and Dental Colleges of Nepal rejected the call. The commission in September 2019 fixed Rs4.02 million as the fee for MBBS students inside Kathmandu Valley and Rs4.44 million for the rest of the country. There was an increment of around Rs2.2 million in both categories.
The fee, according to the commission, includes every cost except the hostel fee. The students are free to choose whether to stay in the college hostel or in a rented accommodation, wherever they wish.
However, the two medical colleges are demanding that students pay thousands of rupees in addition to the fee determined by the commission and have made the hostel mandatory.
Dr Sunil Sharma, general secretary of the association and the chairperson of the KMC and Nobel colleges, said since they constructed the hostel as per the government’s requirement, it is mandatory for the students to stay there.
“Medical students must be available round the clock. So s/he must stay in the hostel,” he told the Post.
He also said the students must pay additional fees that the respective universities charge.
The commission, however, says its ceiling includes all the charges, except hostel fees, but whether to stay in the hostel is students’ choice.
The colleges have set fees as high as Rs240,000 for internship besides a registration fee of Rs25,000 and internet charges of Rs20,000 and an examination fee of Rs11,000 per year. They are also forcing students to stay in college hostels paying Rs12,000 monthly on a twin sharing basis in addition to Rs7,897 for food.  
They are also demanding Rs98,579 as affiliation fee that the universities charge.
“There are other hidden fees like electricity, laundry and library,” said a student from KMC who requested anonymity fearing reprisal.
“The medical college operators said in the face of the education minister that they won’t abide by the commission’s ceiling. However, no authority dares to take action against them.”
The students will have to pay at least Rs2.1 million extra—50 percent more than the commission’s ceiling—if they meet the college operators’ demand. Officials at the commission said their role is focused on the academic sector like maintaining quality education and ensuring academic environment.
“We fixed the fee ceiling as authorised by the Medical Education Act. Now it is the responsibility of the local administration to take action in a fraud charge as the fee structure hasn’t been followed,” said Dr Shree Krishna Giri, vice-chairperson of the commission.
“We can recommend revocation of affiliations to respective universities. However, that is the last resort and we don’t think the present problem demands the cancellation of their affiliation.”
College operators blame the commission for failing to determine the fee scientifically.
Basruddin Ansari, the chairperson of the association, said the commission must take the private colleges into confidence while finalising the fee structure. He said the fee must be increased every year at least at par with the inflation rate. It has been two years since the medical fee was finalised.
Ansari said there must be at least a nine percent increment in the fee as the inflation in two consecutive years stood at 4.5 percent.
“We cannot operate our colleges if the fee is not adjusted,” he said. “Over the years it has been proved that no government cares for the private sector.” He said they are being intimidated by student unions.
Those associated with the student wing of the CPN (Unified Socialist)
on Friday smeared black on Sharma’s face after he refused the ministry’s directive to abide by the commission’s ceiling.
“We will be compelled to submit the locks and keys of colleges to the government if it cannot ensure our
safety,” said Ansari.
College owners’ refusal to follow the commission’s ceiling indicates that the confrontation will continue. Seven student unions, including five affiliated to the parties in the ruling alliance, have said they jointly own up the act of smearing black on Sharma.

NATIONAL

Workers return home after losing jobs in India

Around 1,000 people are entering Nepal through the Trinagar border point in Kailali on a daily basis.
- MOHAN BUDHAAIR

DHANGADHI,
Ankit BK, a resident of Bajura district, entered Nepal on Thursday through the Trinagar border point of Kailali district. BK decided to return home with his wife and two children after he lost his job in the Indian state of Rajasthan due to the sudden spike in Covid-19 cases.
“I used to work as a driver in a corporate office in Rajasthan. I called my wife and children there just three months ago but I recently lost my job due to the coronavirus,” said Ankit. “We are returning home as we could not survive in India without a job.”
Ankit, however, plans to return to India after leaving his wife and children in his village.
“I, along with many of my neighbours, had returned home during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in fear of infection. But I had to go back to India again during the second wave as I could not feed my family by staying home,” said Ankit. “I got the new job after struggling for a few weeks. Everything was going well. But the third wave made me unemployed.”
Ankit is just a case in point. Thousands of migrant workers have started returning home through various border points in Sudurpaschim Province after losing their jobs due to surging omicron cases in India.
Dal Bahadur BK of Kolti in Bajura district, who used to work in Pune of India, also faces a similar ordeal.
“I had no alternative but to return home after I lost my job in India due to the pandemic,” he said.
The major border points in the province are crowded with migrant workers since the past few days.
“There is a huge flow of new entrants in the border points now as India sees a rising number of Omicron cases,” said Bhupendra Khatri, a security officer deployed at the border security in Trinagar border point.
According to him, around 1,000 people enter Nepal through the border point on a daily basis. “Most of the entrants say they returned after losing their jobs due to Covid-19. A few others returned home to celebrate Maghi festivals with families,” said Khatri.
The migrant workers complain that they were forced to leave for home after factories were closed and shutters were pulled down in various towns and cities of India in light of the third wave of the pandemic.
“We will return to India once the situation gets under control,” said Birkhe Nepali of Kailali who recently returned home from India.
Health workers have expressed their concerns that the surging number of people entering Nepal through various border points might lead to a virus outbreak in the villages and towns. The health workers at the health desk set up at Trinagar border point carried out antigen testing of 517 entrants on Saturday. Among them, 117 tested positive for Covid-19.  
“The infected people are sent to an isolation centre set up by Dhangadhi Sub-metropolis at Beli. But around three to four people who test positive during the antigen testing run away by hoodwinking the security personnel and the health workers at the border point each day,” said Lalit Singh Dhami, chief at the District Health Office in Kailali.
According to him, the health workers and the security personnel deployed in the border points are facing a challenge in containing the inflow of patients.
“Some returnees refuse to be tested at the border point. Some don’t want to stay in isolation. There is also a shortage of health workers and security personnel to handle the huge flow of migrant workers,” said Dhami. He urged all people to be responsible and follow health security protocol to contain the outbreak of Covid-19.

NATIONAL

India says boundary talks with Nepal through existing set-ups

Statement comes amid uproar in Nepal over Modi’s remarks on Lipulekh.
- Post Report

KATHMANDU,
The government of India has said that outstanding boundary issues with Nepal will be settled through the established mechanisms and channels.
The Indian response on Saturday comes amid an outcry in Nepal against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent statement on the expansion of a road via Lipulekh, a territory Nepal has claimed as its own.
Almost all political parties in Nepal, including Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s own Nepali Congress, have been demanding that the government speak up on Modi’s statement and make its position clear on Lipulekh.
“The Government of India’s position on the India-Nepal boundary is well known, consistent and unambiguous,” the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu said in a statement on Saturday. “It has been communicated to the Government of Nepal.”
The statement comes amid preparations by the Nepal government to make its position on Modi’s remarks. High-level government officials on Friday told the Post that they were working on whether to send a letter directly to the Indian government or just issue a press note.
While addressing an election rally, Modi on December 30 announced that his government had extended a road to Lipulekh and that there were more plans to extend it further. The Indian government is building a road via Lipulekh to Kailash Mansarovar in the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China.
Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had inaugurated the road in the first week of May 2020, creating quite an uproar in Nepal. The Nepal government then on May 20, 2020 unveiled a new map incorporating Kalapani, Limpiyadhura and Lipulekh within the Nepali territory. The new map was endorsed by Parliament unanimously through a constitutional amendment.
India had taken umbrage at Nepal’s move, calling the publication of the new map “cartographic assertions”. Nepal-India relations then hit a rock-bottom. Bilateral ties came back on track only at the end of last year.
But Modi’s remarks on Lipulekh once again created a commotion in Nepal.
The main opposition CPN-UML criticised the Deuba administration for failing to respond to Modi’s claim on Lipulekh. Even Deuba’s coalition partners—Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) and the CPN (Unified Socialist)—called on the government to make a position.   
On Friday, the ruling Nepali Congress issued a statement.
Gagan Thapa and Bishwa Prakash Sharma, the two general secretaries of the Congress, jointly met with Prime Minister Deuba and urged him to send a diplomatic note to India protesting against Modi’s statement. On Friday evening,  both Thapa and Sharma issued a joint statement saying that Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura are integral parts of Nepal and that the Nepali Congress is clear about it.
“India should return its army from Kalapani. The construction of the road is a serious issue and objectionable. This should be stopped immediately,” the statement added.
The Indian embassy has said the inter-governmental mechanisms and channels are appropriate for communication.
“It is our view that the established inter-governmental mechanisms and channels are most appropriate for communication and dialogue,” said the embassy. “Mutually agreed boundary issues that are outstanding can always be addressed in the spirit of our close and friendly bilateral relations.”

Page 3
INTERVIEW

‘We cannot keep MCC grant on hold indefinitely’

A cornerstone of MCC’s grant around the world is the partner country’s ownership, says Mahmoud Bah, acting chief executive officer at MCC.
- Post Report
Photo: MCC

 

The MCC-Nepal agreement has become one of the most  politically debated topics in Nepal. Why is the United States providing $500 in grant to Nepal?
To help build a brighter future for the people of Nepal. Since Nepal requested  consideration and MCC selected Nepal as eligible for a smaller threshold grant in 2011, the government of Nepal has demonstrated its commitment to  democratic governance, investing in its people, and economic freedom. It is this commitment that led MCC’s Board of Directors, chaired by the Secretary of State, to select Nepal as eligible for a larger compact grant in December 2014. 
The government of Nepal then led the development of this compact programme, teaming with MCC’s technical experts to conduct joint analysis  and create a  programme that would benefit the people of Nepal. A cornerstone of MCC’s grant programmes around the world is a partner country’s ownership of the development and construction processes. The  government of Nepal has been in the driver’s seat from the very beginning. It has led in all phases of the compact’s development process—approving every aspect of the  MCC-Nepal Compact. 
In September 2017, the governments of Nepal and the United States formally  signed the $500 million-dollar MCC-Nepal Compact agreement—a  partnership that will help Nepal’s economy grow, advance stability, create jobs, support regional security, and reduce poverty for nearly 23 million Nepalis. Through 300km of new, high-voltage power lines and the upgrade and improved maintenance of Nepal’s roads, this compact will increase the  availability and reliability of electricity and make travel and transportation in Nepal less costly, safer, and more sustainable. More efficient clean energy transmission and improved road infrastructure will also support Nepal’s own needs to address climate change and the ambitious, admirable commitments the government made in Glasgow. Because of its strong belief in the value of  its partnership with MCC, the Government of Nepal committed an additional $130 million
dollars for the compact’s projects—the largest up-front contribution by a partner country in MCC’s history.  
Since 2017, MCC has remained committed to helping the people of Nepal  while waiting for Parliament to fulfil the Nepali government’s requirement for international agreements—parliamentary ratification. Every major political party in Nepal, and successive governments since 2012, have sought the MCC compact. Additionally, each of these governments, and its political leaders, have supported the ratification of the MCC-Nepal Compact in its original  form.   

 What correspondence has MCC received from the government of Nepal? Has the Nepal government committed to ratifying the  compact within a certain timeframe? 
On September 3, 2021, MCC received a letter from the government of Nepal requesting clarification on several debated topics related to the compact. On behalf of the US government, MCC responded to this letter on September 8,  2021 to ensure that Nepal’s political leaders and the people of Nepal better understood the MCC-Nepal Compact, our agency, and how our partnership is designed to help reduce poverty and foster economic growth in Nepal. 
On September 29, 2021 MCC received a letter co-signed by Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal [Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) chair], expressing their support for the MCC-Nepal Compact, as well as their commitment to secure the support needed for parliamentary ratification by a specific time.   
Since signing the compact in September 2017, MCC and the government of Nepal have been eager to start the construction phase of the compact. However, MCC cannot begin the compact’s construction phase until the parliament ratifies the agreement, per the requirements of Nepali law, nor can  we keep $500 million dollars in grant assistance on hold indefinitely. This message was conveyed by the US government directly to the Nepali government, and in their September 29, 2021 letter to the MCC Board of Directors, Prime Minister Deuba and former prime minister Dahal agreed  there is a sense of urgency and set an internal deadline for the Government of Nepal to move forward on the compact. I am grateful for their collective  commitment to the MCC-Nepal Compact and to the people of Nepal.  

What was the decision of the recent meeting of the MCC Board of Directors in relation to Nepal Compact?
During its December 2021 meeting, MCC’s Board of Directors discussed the status of the Nepal Compact and reiterated its support for the MCC-Nepal partnership to enhance economic prosperity and reduce poverty for the people of Nepal. The Board also discussed the longstanding delays that have persisted  across multiple Nepali governments in ratifying the compact, noting the need for the Nepal government to act swiftly if it still desires the $500 million dollar grant.  

US officials claim there has been intentional spread of misinformation about MCC in Nepal. Why do you think it is happening?
It is true, MCC has been the target of a sophisticated and malicious misinformation and disinformation campaign to discredit our agency and the Government of Nepal in order to prevent the MCC-Nepal Compact from progressing and helping improve the lives of millions of Nepalis. You will  notice that each time the government of Nepal seems poised to move forward towards ratifying the MCC compact, there is a sudden increase in false and misleading statements about MCC, especially on social media and YouTube. It is even more disheartening when some of Nepal’s political leaders have perpetuated these misleading statements, which only hurts the people of Nepal.  
Thankfully, many Nepalis are learning more about the actual programme as documented in the grant agreement and the truth about MCC. They have started voicing their support for the brighter future this programme will bring. They know the intentional politicisation and misinformation aimed at derailing the progress of this compact jeopardises valuable  resources that are  needed to lift up the people in Nepal. More concerning is the influence of outside actors against the interest of the Nepali people who are seeing the daily burden and challenges created by the  lack of reliable electricity and high cost of transportation. It is important that the people of Nepal know these malicious attempts to derail this compact have not deterred MCC and the United States from helping our Nepali friends. Nepal is a sovereign country,  so it is the people of Nepal, and only the people of Nepal, should decide, not outside actors. 

There have been even protests with charges like MCC is linked to  a security strategy. How do you respond? 
I have proudly worked at  MCC  in countries around the world  for  more than a decade, and I can assure you MCC  has no relationship to the US military  or any military activity.  In fact,  the agency is prohibited by  US law from funding any kind of military assistance or training.  Each of Nepal’s political party leaders has acknowledged to me that they know this to be true, and that they know MCC has one goal  with this compact—to  reduce poverty and  improve the economic outlook for  the people of Nepal.  But don’t just take my word for it. Please  examine the record and history of MCC compacts around the world, including countries that have pursued second compacts.   
MCC is part of a holistic US government approach to diplomacy,  foreign affairs, and international development. MCC compacts are always focused on  two things: reducing  poverty  and fostering economic growth. More importantly, MCC grants are designed and implemented by partner countries, meaning the MCC-Nepal Compact will be implemented by the Government of Nepal; not MCC. I urge you to please read the compact and understand the program ME
and  make  your  independent assessment of the benefit of the programme  for the people of Nepal.  MCC is a development agency with a strong reputation for transparency and accountability around the world. 

What will happen if Parliament fails to ratify the compact?  
I want to be clear, accepting  a  $500 million  dollar  grant from MCC and the American people  is  Nepal’s choice  and only Nepal’s choice.  No other country should decide for Nepal.  But  these grant funds  cannot  remain  on hold  indefinitely.   The  Nepal  government  must act swiftly  and ratify the compact so we can  start with  the construction phase  of the programmes.  Ultimately,  MCC’s Board of Directors  will decide what happens  if delays continue.  

Some high-level American officials have said the US-Nepal relations will not be affected if Nepal is unable to ratify the compact, but they “will be concerned”. What does that mean?
For me, I am worried about how these ratification delays have impacted the  millions of Nepali people who just want more reliable electricity for their families, especially during a global pandemic. There is no other form of development grant assistance available at this scale that will positively impact nearly every person in Nepal like the MCC-Nepal Compact. 
Based on the conversations I have had with many of Nepal’s leaders and the letter from Prime Minister Deuba, I believe right now, in January 2022, there is a path forward to ratify this compact. Additionally, Nepal’s business and civic leaders have been vocal about the importance of this compact to help ensure Nepal realises its own economic goals and aspirations. Once the grant program me is ratified, MCC and the Government of Nepal can begin the process to  improve roads, expanding energy access, and build the infrastructure needed for Nepal to generate additional resources through trade and energy exports. For more than 70 years, the United States and Nepal have built a friendship based on our shared values, including respect for individual freedoms and the sovereignty of all nations. This friendship will continue regardless of the MCC-Nepal Compact.  

The compact document does not mention ratification. However, this has been put forth as a condition. Is ratification an international requirement or a requirement set by Nepal? Can you clarify?
In Nepal, as in all other MCC partner countries, a grant from MCC has the status of an international agreement. This is a critical part of MCC’s dedication to transparency in all our grant programmes. Nepal’s Ministry of Law, Justice, and Parliamentary Affairs found the compact would require parliamentary ratification in order to obtain the status of an international agreement.  
The MCC-Nepal Compact is not unique. The Government of Nepal has ratified many other international agreements. Furthermore, the government  committed to this requirement when signing the compact in 2017 as one of the actions it must take to begin the construction phase of the compact. Many other MCC partner country governments have ratified compact agreements. This includes Mongolia, Morocco, Senegal, Moldova, Tanzania, and Ghana to name a few.  

Is MCC willing to wait until Nepal’s elections?  
Elections are critical for any country, and I understand they are particularly important to the people of Nepal. Unfortunately, continued delays in ratification have put MCC in a position where we can no longer wait. The time has come for the government to take action and decide if it would like to continue its partnership with MCC. We all know that the longer construction projects are delayed, the more expensive they become, and the longer Nepali communities must wait for reliable power and improved road conditions. But  I am encouraged by the commitments made by Prime Minister Deuba and former prime minister Dahal. MCC is eager to begin helping the people of Nepal. The only thing preventing projects from moving forward is parliamentary ratification.   

Do you have any particular message for the people of Nepal on MCC’s behalf?  
For close to 75 years, the United States and Nepal have built a bond that extends halfway around the world and into our homes as family and friends.  The MCC-Nepal Compact is a continuation of this friendship. Since our partnership began to take shape in 2012, MCC has remained committed to the people of Nepal, and we have remained committed to our agreement with the Nepali government since signing our compact in 2017. We can advance economic growth for all of Nepal. The only thing preventing this is delayed  ratification.
With Parliament’s help, MCC and the government of Nepal can begin to improve the transportation sector, creating business opportunities, and building a modern electrical system that will increase access to energy while protecting the climate. If the people of Nepal want to begin building this  future for their families, I encourage them to let their government representatives know—now is the time to ratify the MCC-Nepal Compact. The United States will always remain committed to the people of Nepal.

Page 4
OPINION

Apocalyptic vision in Nepali art

The overall genius of modern Nepali paintings is one of calmness and hope rather than of ‘pralaya’.
- ABHI SUBEDI
Photo Courtesy: Roshan Mishra

An academic working on the relation of arts and the sombre mood created by the pandemic questions—how do the Nepali painters respond to the mood of severe human crisis? His other question is about the spirit of such turmoil in modern Nepali paintings of the recent past and the present. These questions struck me because I had not seriously thought about the direct relation between serious crisis and paintings. It has become essential for all art lovers to look into this subject. The scholar’s inquisition generates another crucial question—why can’t the painters immediately respond to the challenging situation? This short article attempts to address these questions in the context of the grave situation created by the pandemic. This requires a lengthy discussion, which is not possible here.
Arts and literature are sensitive to serious events and changes, but as art and literature are aesthetic works, depicting the moments of crisis and unpleasant circumstances does not necessarily present a realistic picture of them instantaneously. As the practice of art would have it, it takes time for them to form ideas and create compositions about the crisis. The world of art and literature records the artists’ creative responses to the events. But only sometimes do the events evoke the immediate reaction of the artists.
One example that people often cite is the mural painting of the Spanish born painter Pablo Picasso who visited Guernica, his native space destroyed by German bombing, and spontaneously painted the apocalyptic picture of the city’s destruction. This mural became very popular in 1937 and 1939. The painting is one of the long-lasting pictures of a period of realistic action. Writers have also composed some literary impressions. But the process of depicting the horror or the dread of the war, pandemic or human misery uses some time to take shape. Why this happens like this is a subject of debate and contemplation.
There is no shortage of works of art in Nepal with an apocalyptic vision. But they are not necessarily propelled by a particular event of a specific time. It is not easy to find the right way to explain it. Here are some examples from modern Nepali paintings. The white stallions that the senior painter Sashi Shah paints in nearly most of his canvases are good examples. His stallion imagery reminds us of the prominent white horse in Picasso’s oeuvre Guernica. Sashi Shah evokes the apocalyptic sense represented by the wild speed and mood of the stallion. But he prefers to call it the Kalki avatar of Bishnu of the Hindu pantheon, who takes that incarnation in what is imagined as our times to set the world in order.
This is one example of such paintings, especially of the abstract style that deals with the apocalypse or pralaya theme. But they depict the mood of the times experienced by humanity at large. We can discuss this subject by citing examples from modern Nepali paintings. Writing long articles in different issues of the Journal Sirjana edited by artist Navindra Man Rajbhandari, I have chosen abstract Nepali paintings that are so receptive to the mood of the times both in the depiction of distress and joy. I do not want to dwell on that here. But what I want to discuss is the nature of the artists’ response to the disruptive order that is threatening our regular order of life like everywhere else.
Some young artists have depicted the state of horror. For that, they have chosen the motifs of fear and threat. That is the instantaneous response. But the imagination of the apocalypse exists in nearly all the significant works of art. The question we can ask is—can such works depict the situation of the pandemics that we are facing today? This is a significant question that art lovers and connoisseurs worldwide are asking now. Artists have always felt a certain sense of apocalypse or crisis in human existence and the times they live in. The famous method is that such works of art be evoked to depict the situation of the times.
I want to refer to the imaginaire of crisis and hard times that some Nepali painters have depicted long before the present pandemic started.
Manujbabu Mishra’s paintings overtly depict such times. I wrote earlier (Sirjana, 5:2018) that Manujbabu represents “distorted images such as the elongation of human forms.” But he is drawn by the cubist style of Pablo Picasso. “By using blue and green, he creates the intense effect of human misery. Such paintings look almost monochromatic when he uses one colour predominantly.” Another pioneering painter Lain Bangdel depicts human misery, especially in his early paintings that reveal the influence of Picasso’s paintings of the blue period.
But Bangdel’s abstract expressionist paintings and his portraitures are replete with warmth and love for humans and sentient beings. Uttam Nepali’s thrust was always anthropomorphic; human beings appear with all their potentialities and love. As a portraitist, he does not distort the figurality of British painter Francis Bacon’s famous portrait works. (The Kathmandu Post, August 1, 2021).
The other senior artists are the SKIB (Sashi Saha, Krishna Manandhar, Indra Pradhan and Batsagopal Vaidya). The overall mood of these painters is humanity and its various inclinations—from mythological to realistic nature. I have written about them in the same journal (Sirjana, 6:2019). Kiran Manandhar’s paintings do not project any horrid semi-abstract images, his style. Ragini Upadhyay’s intaglio works appear somewhat to be apocalypse savvy. They play with the fearful side of the figures from the legends and the artist’s imagination.
Sashikala Tiwari’s paintings with their figural treatments and pigments depict some apocalypse modes. Asmina Ranjit’s paintings directly address the problematic human situation through lines and performative figurality. Based on my various articles and brochure texts were written about their artworks, I can say apocalyptic vision is depicted in them, except in the oeuvre of Manjubabu Mishra, with a great humanist idea of hope. Among the younger painters, I recall some works of Suman Chitrakar, Bidhata KC, Sushma Shakaya, Asha Dongol and others I have not found any direct use of apocalyptic vision. The overall genius of the modernist and modern Nepali paintings is one of calmness, hope and aesthetic joy rather than a mood of pralaya or apocalypse. But we have yet to see how the artists express the present crisis caused by the pandemics and disorders here and outside.  

OPINION

How a city makes you feel

Cities are not just made from buildings and roads; ambiences also make them.
- JORDAN LACEY
Unsplash

How does a city feel? Energetic, unnerving, invigorating, relaxing? This is a key question often asked by designers who consider the ambience of a city.
Typically, when we think of a city we jump straight to thinking about its buildings, roads, shops and parklands: the physical things we are surrounded by. But what about all those invisible things in between?
When we speak of ambience, we think of the city in a very different way. We think of the city from the position of our own sensing body. The light that enters our eyes; the sounds that enter our ears; the wind and radiation that touches our skin; the tastes and smells in the air; even the vibrations that pass through us (think of passing trams, and even Earthquakes!).
Each of us is suspended in these ever-shifting mediums, with our perceptions reshaping our world, moment by moment.

Ambient encounters
It is very subtle, this thing called ambience. But you can be sure there is a reason your body draws you back to the same place again and again. It’s not simply habit, it is also the ways a place makes our body feel.
Do you have a quiet place you disappear to at lunchtime? A place in a park or a quiet back alley? These are places of refuge in which the senses are less overwhelmed, allowing us to sink into our thoughts. Perhaps you have a café you favour, alone or with friends. What draws you there? The images on the wall, the soft sound of conversation, the smells and sounds?
And what about the lockdown? Trapped in our homes, some more lucky than others, where did you find solace? Telephones and wine! A sprawling backyard? Chatting with your neighbour from your balcony?
Ambiences are key to social interaction—an understanding the lockdowns forced upon us as we struggled with the effects of loneliness and isolation.

Unpleasant ambiences
Ambiences are not always pleasant. There are frightening ambiences: the train station underpass you need to traverse to get home at night, or perhaps the nefarious night-time uses of those quiet places you escape to during lunchtime.
The political reaction to such issues is usually to flood these areas with light and surveillance cameras. While effective at promoting safety for the vulnerable, they also create vigilant cities accompanied by an ever-present sense of a watchful gaze.
Ambiences are also complex. One person’s joyful ambience can be another person’s nightmare. Take the issue of noise annoyance from band venues. Many pubs and clubs have been forced to close due to complaints from newly built housing.
Melbourne was one of the first cities in the world to institute “agent of change” laws. It is now the agent of change—whether a housing developer or new venue operator—who is responsible for noise management. The results seem positive: buildings have improved noise protection while both cultural institutions and tenant quietude are preserved.

First Nations ambiences
First Nations people had and continue to foreground ambiences in their connections with country. Connecting with country is often described as a feeling in which the body opens to the expressions of the land.
In his book Sand Talk, Indigenous scholar Tyson Yunkaporta writes: There are aspects of consciousness, knowledge and knowledge transmission that have not been explained or proven scientifically […] They include the messages that land and Ancestors bring to us—a bird or animal behaving strangely, a sudden wind gust, a coincidence that highlights a deep meaning or revelation, a burst of inspiration—these are the things that make knowledge processes sacred and magical.
Yunkaporta’s passage highlights something all but lost in contemporary civilisations: a capacity to connect deeply with the spirit of the land. Designing ambiences cannot (and should not) play proxy to such complex cultural and spiritual understandings; however, it may provide new insights into the ways we can connect with the environments in which we live.

Designing ambiences
So how do architects and designers think about designing ambiences? There are many practitioners from many fields doing some beautiful and thoughtful work in this area.
Peter Zumthor is a standout architect, who, influenced by Zen Buddhism, carefully considers the role of the senses in his designs. His 2011 Serpentine Pavilion created an enclosure with scented flowers and humming bees, creating an ambience in which people could escape the hustle and bustle of London. He even asked for nearby generators to be switched off, so people could sink more easily into the sounds.
Soundscape design is a developing field seeking positive ways to shape the sounds of the city (like a landscape designer
creates new landforms). Public sound artists in particular, have led the way in soundscape design. Bruce Odland and Sam Auninger’s Harmonic Bridge uses tuning tubes to turn the sound of traffic into a calm, melodic drone.
Finally, there is the growing importance of the work of biophilic designers bringing nature into the city to improve human well-being. I am interested in ways we can bring nature into the city to create healing, restful and collaborative spaces.
I worked with landscape architect Charles Anderson to place our prototype biophilic sound design installation Sonic Gathering Place in the forecourt of the Old Melbourne Gaol: a small circular seating area surrounded by plants and sounds from four National Parks in Australia.
If in Melbourne, we encourage you to visit the work and to take a moment to explore an unexpected ambience in the middle of the city.
 
Lacey is Research Fellow at the School of Design, RMIT University.
—The Conversation

Page 5
MONEY

Sugarcane farmers begin harvest after new rate fixed

The government has increased the minimum support price of sugarcane by 8.39 percent to Rs590 per quintal.
- SUNITA BARAL
Farmers have been expressing dissatisfaction over the rates for years. The low income from sugarcane has led many farmers to switch crops.  POST FILE PHOTO

MAHOTTARI, 
Sugarcane farmer Ram Pratap Sah of Belgachhi-8, Gaushala is busy harvesting his cash crop.
Like Sah, many farmers in the district in the southern Tarai plain started harvesting sugarcane as soon as the government fixed the minimum support price of the crop.
But Sah is not happy with the new rates although it has been hiked by 8 percent for this harvest season.
On January 5, the government increased the minimum support price of sugarcane by 8.39 percent to Rs590 per quintal. The price includes a government subsidy of Rs70 per quintal paid to sugarcane farmers.
“That’s too little,” said Sah.“If we calculate the cost of production such as expenses of fertiliser, seed, labour, tractor, the price fixed by the government is very low.”
The floor price is the minimum price farmers get for their crops, and it is normally announced before the harvest based on recommendations from the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development.
This year, it was delayed by two months.
From 2018, the government started fixing the floor price of sugarcane in a bid to end constant confrontation between sugarcane farmers and sugar producers. It had become a tradition for sugarcane growers and sugar mills to engage in a bitter dispute over the floor price during harvest time every year.
Before the government began setting the floor price, sugarcane prices in Nepal were normally based on the rates paid by Indian mills to their farmers.
Farmers have been expressing dissatisfaction over the rates for years. The low income from sugarcane has also been a discouraging factor for many farmers. Many farmers have switched to other crops.
“The price of sugarcane is not sufficient to encourage farmers. I have reduced sugarcane cultivation to 2 bighas this year, from 5 bighas. The cost of production is too high,” Sah said.
Rakesh Mishra, patron of the Sugarcane Farmers Struggle Committee, said that farmers do not get the state-subsidised fertiliser and are compelled to buy the smuggled one.
“There is no benefit from sugarcane farming. The cost of production is high but has low return,” Mishra said.
In Sarlahi, according to him, sugarcane production has declined to 300,000 tonnes from 500,000 tonnes last year mainly due to farmers not getting their payment on time and other problems like unavailability of seeds and fertiliser.
Normally, sugar mills agree to make payment within 15 days after getting sugarcane. Mills crush sugarcane within a week and sell it in the market.
“But farmers don’t get their money easily. It takes months and sometimes years to get their payment,” said Mishra.
“There is no guarantee that the farmers will get their payment within the promised date.”
There are many farmers who produce sugarcane by taking land on rent, Mishra said, adding that the liability of these farmers increases, if they don’t get payment from the mills on time. There are many issues that have been discouraging farmers to continue sugarcane farming.
Everest Sugar Mill is reducing its crushing target every year as sugarcane cultivation is declining. The mill, which crushed 240,000 tonnes of sugarcane last year, has reduced its target to crush 220,000 tonnes this year, said Binod Kumar Yadav, chief at the Sugarcane Department of Everest Sugar and Chemical Industries.
According to the Federation of Sugarcane Producers Association, sugarcane production has plunged by around 50 percent this year with farmers facing losses and not being able to get their cost price on time. Sugarcane production has been declining continuously since 2012.
Everest Sugar Mill of Mahottari is persuading 500 to 1000 farmers daily to cut sugarcane and supply the crop to the mill.
Ram Nath Mahato, a farmer of Ishwarpur-5, Sarlahi, said he is harvesting sugarcane with the help of ten workers daily.
He sells half of the sugarcane planted on his 3 bigha every year to the Everest Sugar Mill of Mahottari and half to Indu Shankar Sugar Mill of Sarlahi.
Mahato said that he started bringing sugarcane to Mahottari after Indu Shankar asked the farmers to set fire to the sugarcane a few years ago when it had enough sugarcane.
Farmers of five districts, including Bara, Rautahat, Sarlahi, Mahottari and Dhanusha of Province-2 are supplying sugarcane to Everest Sugar Mill in Mahottari.
Everest Sugar Mill, which came into operation on December 30, has already crushed 32,803 tonnes of sugarcane by Thursday.
Yadav said that the mill has already made the payment for the sugarcane brought within January 10. The mill said farmers are being paid for their product at an interval of every five days.
Sah said that he brought sugarcane five times to the sugar mill and has already received payment.
Yadav also said that Everest Sugar Mill has decided to increase the price of an improved variety of sugarcane by Rs15 per quintal this year to encourage farmers to grow the quality crop.

MONEY

US bill would block defence contractors from using Chinese rare earths

The move is the latest in a string of legislation seeking to thwart China’s near control over the sector.
A file photo shows mining for rare earths at the Bayan Obo mine, in Inner Mongolia, China.  REUTERS

WASHINGTON,
A bipartisan piece of legislation introduced in the US Senate on Friday would force defence contractors to stop buying rare earths from China by 2026 and use the Pentagon to create a permanent stockpile of the strategic minerals.
The bill, sponsored by Senators Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, and Mark Kelly, an Arizona Democrat, is the latest in a string of US legislation seeking to thwart China’s near control over the sector.
It essentially uses the Pentagon’s purchase of billions of dollars’ worth of fighter jets, missiles and other weapons as leverage to require contractors to stop relying on China and, by extension, support the revival of US rare earths production.
Rare earths are a group of 17 metals that, after processing, are used to make magnets found in electric vehicles, weaponry and electronics. While the United States created the industry in World War Two and US military scientists developed the most widely-used type of rare earth magnet, China has slowly grown to control the entire sector the past 30 years.
The US has only one rare earths mine and has no capability to process rare earth minerals.
“Ending American dependence on China for rare earths extraction and processing is critical to building up the US defence and technology sectors,” Cotton told Reuters.The senator, who sits on the Senate’s Armed Forces and Intelligence committees, described China’s evolution into the global rare earths leader as “simply a policy choice that the United States made,” adding that he hoped fresh policies would loosen Beijing’s grip.
Known as the Restoring Essential Energy and Security Holdings Onshore for Rare Earths Act of 2022, the bill would codify and make permanent the Pentagon’s ongoing stockpiling of the materials. China temporarily blocked rare earth exports to Japan in 2010 and has issued vague threats it could do the same to the US.
To build that reserve, though, the Pentagon buys supply in part from China, a paradox that Senate staffers hope will abate in time.
The rare earths production process can be highly pollutive, part of the reason why it grew unpopular in the United States. Ongoing research is attempting to make the process cleaner. Cotton said he has talked to various US executive agencies about the bill, but declined to say if he had talked with President Joe Biden or the White House.
“This is an area in which Congress will lead, because many members have been concerned about this very topic, regardless of party,” he said.
Most members of the nascent US rare earths sector praised the bill, though some worried defence contractors could continue to ask for waivers to buy Chinese rare earths even after 2026.

MONEY

Burned by supply crunch, hospitals invest in US mask-making

- REUTERS
Workers pack masks at the company’s warehouse in Pflugerville, Texas, US. REUTERS

LOS ANGELES, 
Two days before Christmas, a cargo ship left Mumbai with a mask-making machine bound for Illinois-based OSF HealthCare, which will use the equipment to make its own N95 masks. It isn’t the hospital group’s first foray into manufacturing. After Covid-19 border closures in early 2020 choked shipments from Asia, producer of about 80 percent of the world’s medical masks and protective gear, OSF and some other hospital groups started investing in US production of key supplies including masks, gowns and critical pharmaceuticals.
The goal: Avoid a repeat of the early pandemic’s life-threatening shortages of essential protective gear -- an effort that has become vitally important as schools, employers, consumers and the federal government are snapping up high-quality N95s and other masks to shield against the highly contagious Omicron variant. Over the last eight months, OSF has turned out about a million surgical masks for staff and patients at its facilities, which serve nearly 3 million people in Illinois and Michigan, said Pinak Shah, OSF’s chief supply chain officer.The new equipment is due to arrive in February, and once approved by the Food and Drug Administration, will produce around 1 million N95s annually. OSF’s two mask manufacturing projects will make it 100 percent self-reliant, Shah said.
OSF declined to disclose the machinery cost. It is expected to pay for itself in two years, versus 18 months for the surgical mask machine -- a difference largely due to freight costs being nearly four times higher than usual, said Salvatore, Stile, president of logistics company Alba Wheels Up, who handled the N95 machinery shipment.
The investment is a hedge against uncertainties, said Shah.
“The manufacturing cost is a little higher than sourcing with a lower-cost competitor. However, it allows control of the market risk factor and spot shortage/back orders,” he said.
Beyond that, participants say such projects help support and stabilise domestic manufacturing and downstream domestic supply chains, both of which are vulnerable to boom-and-bust demand cycles and the threat of China’s flooding the US with very low-cost, and at times low-quality, alternatives.
Michael Alkire, chief executive of hospital group purchasing organisation Premier, told Reuters he doubled down on efforts to strengthen US suppliers after January 2020, when China diverted Premier-bound N95 shipments from Taiwan for its own use. For more than 18 months, Premier and rival Vizient have bolstered US manufacturers via strategic partnerships, expansion funding, minority-stake investments and joint ventures. While Premier declined to reveal the value of its investments, Vizient put the total at more than $12 million.
Prestige Ameritech is a beneficiary of such dealmaking. Premier and 15 of its hospital members took an undisclosed minority stake in the Texas-based company in May 2020. The hospitals also pledged to buy a portion of their surgical masks and N95s from Prestige for up to six years. Vizient separately committed to buying 9 million N95 masks over a 12-month period. “That’s what a company needs. It needs steady revenue,” said Prestige Ameritech founder and CEO Dan Reese, who added that his and other vetted US mask makers “prioritise and support healthcare providers.” Prestige now supplies 100 percent
of surgical masks and up to 80 percent of N95s at Baptist Health South Florida, said George Godfrey, the Miami-based group’s vice president of supply chain.
“It certainly reduces the risk profile of obtaining those goods during times when everyone is trying to source them,” Godfrey said of the Premier deal. Hospital executives said the projects build clout in an industry where no single operator has the power of a “big three” US automaker or a leading retailer like Walmart or Amazon.com to wield significant sway over suppliers.
“We’re not just customers, we have a seat at the table,” said Bruce Radcliff, system vice president for supply chain at Advocate Aurora Health, a participant in several Premier production projects.
“The healthcare sector is trying to take control of its supply chain,” said Luis Arguello, president of DemeTECH, a Florida-based manufacturer of medical masks, sutures, Covid tests and other supplies. DemeTECH is talking with “several” hospital groups seeking to invest, he said.

MONEY

FAA sets rules for some Boeing 787 landings near 5G service

- ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON,
Federal safety officials are directing operators of some Boeing planes to adopt extra procedures when landing on wet or snowy runways near impending 5G service because, they say, interference from the wireless networks could mean that the planes need more room to land.
The Federal Aviation Administ- ration said on Friday that interference could delay systems like thrust reversers on Boeing 787s from kicking in, leaving only the brakes to slow the plane. That “could prevent an aircraft from stopping on the runway,” the FAA said.
Similar orders could be issued in the coming days for other planes. The FAA has asked Boeing and Airbus for information about many models. Boeing said it is working with its suppliers, airlines, telecom companies and regulators “to ensure that every commercial airplane model can safely and confidently operate when 5G is implemented in the United States.”
The order for the Boeing jets comes a day after the FAA began issuing restrictions that airlines and other aircraft operators will face at many airports when AT&T and Verizon launch new, faster 5G wireless service on Wednesday.
The agency is still studying whether those wireless networks will interfere with altimeters, which measure an aircraft’s height above the ground. Data from altimeters is used to help pilots land when visibility is poor.
The devices operate on a portion of the radio spectrum that is close to the range used by the new 5G service, called C-Band.
This week’s FAA actions are part of a larger fight between the aviation regulator and the telecom industry. The telecom companies and the Federal Communications Commission say 5G networks do not pose a threat to aviation. The FAA says more study is needed. The FAA is conducting tests to learn how many commercial planes have altimeters that might be vulnerable to spectrum interference. The agency said this week it expects to estimate the percentage of those planes soon, but didn’t put a date on it.
“Aircraft with untested altimeters or that need retrofitting or replacement will be unable to perform low-visibility landings where 5G is deployed,” the agency said in a statement.

MONEY

Heineken hit by first strike in decades

Briefing

THE HAGUE: Hundreds of workers went on strike Friday at two Heineken breweries in the Netherlands after wage talks stalled, the first industrial action at the world’s second largest beer company since 1994. Heineken, which called the strike “premature”, has stopped production at breweries in the southern city of Den Bosch and at Zouterwoude near The Hague with some 250 workers involved, Dutch media reports said. The Dutch labour union FNV said negotiations on a new collective agreement stalled after months of talks with the Amsterdam-based brewer, leading to a one-day strike. “Our aim was not to strike, but nothing was forthcoming from the company’s side,” FNV spokesman Niels Suijker told AFP. (AFP)

MONEY

Facebook’s VR Oculus business probed by US states

Briefing

WASHINGTON: Multiple states have begun investigating potential violations in how Facebook, now known as Meta Platforms Inc, runs its virtual-reality Oculus business, according to three sources familiar with the matter. Two of the sources said the US Federal Trade Commission was also involved in the antitrust investigation. Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment. New York, North Carolina and Tennessee were among the states involved in the inquiry, one source said. A group of almost 50 states
also asked an appeals court on Friday to reinstate their antitrust lawsuit, filed in December 2020, against Facebook. (REUTERS)

Page 6
WORLD

Headed to disaster? United States, Russia harden stances in crucial talks

Some believe the situation will have to become even more dire before the impasse can be broken.
- ASSOCIATED PRESS
A Russian tank T-72B3 fires as troops take part in drills at the Kadamovskiy firing range in the Rostov region in southern Russia, on Wednesday. AP/RSS

WASHINGTON, 
The failure of last week’s high-stakes diplomatic meetings to resolve escalating tensions over Ukraine has put Russia, the United States and its European allies in uncharted post-Cold War territory, posing significant challenges for the main players to avoid an outright and potentially disastrous confrontation.
Unlike previous disagreements that have arisen since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the current Ukraine crisis and seemingly insurmountable differences between Washington and Moscow carry real risks of debilitating economic warfare and military conflict that are exacerbated by the dangers of miscalculation and overreaction.
For the US and its NATO and other European allies, nothing less than a vast pullback of the roughly 100,000 Russian troops now deployed near the Ukrainian border will prove that Russian President Vladimir Putin has any intention of negotiating in good faith. For the Russians, the West’s absolute refusal to consider a ban on NATO expansion and the withdrawal of troops from Eastern Europe is proof of its perfidy.
Potential concessions are complicated by the fact neither Putin nor President Joe Biden wants to be seen as backing down before either domestic or foreign audiences.
The refusal thus far by each side to climb down from what the other regards as unrealistic and maximalist demands has left the prospects for diplomacy in limbo, with the US and its allies accusing Russia of stoking tensions for no legitimate reason and the Russians complaining again that the Americans are the aggressors.
Some believe the situation will have to become even more dire before the impasse can be broken.
“The gap in perceptions is so broad that a new and dangerous escalation could be necessary to make the parties open up their imagination and search for agreements,” Fyodor Lukyanov, the head of the Moscow-based Council for Foreign and Defence Policies, observed in a commentary.
For Western analysts, it seems a situation in which Putin will have to compromise if conflict is to be avoided. Some think Putin’s focus on NATO, which has struggled for years with questions about its relevance, may have given the alliance a new lease on life.
“This is an extremely uncertain and tense period without an obvious way out unless Putin backs down,” said Jeff Rathke, a Europe expert and former US diplomat who is currently president of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
“He’s talked himself into a frenzy that is hard to walk away from if he doesn’t get the fundamental redrawing of the European security architecture that he claims to want. He’s shown he’s ready to play chicken with the threat of massive military force to bring that about and he’s certainly gotten everyone’s attention, but he hasn’t changed anyone’s views,” Rathke said.
US officials from Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan to chief negotiator Wendy Sherman have said it is Russia that faces a “stark choice.” De-escalate or face punishing sanctions and the opposite of what it wants: an increased NATO presence in Eastern Europe and a more well-armed Ukraine.
Yet in Russia, officials say the shoe is on the other foot. They have cast their demands as an “absolute imperative” and have argued that the Western failure to meet them makes talks on other issues irrelevant.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday that Russia had vainly tried for years to persuade the US and its allies to engage in talks on the non-deployment of intermediate-range missiles to Europe, limits on war games and rules to avoid dangerously close encounters between Russian and allied warships and aircraft until the US and NATO expressed willingness to discuss those issues this week.
He attributed the change in approach to a US desire to shift attention away from Russia’s main demands, adding that Moscow will focus on NATO non-expansion. And he insisted that it’s the US that’s formulating the position in talks while other allies just march on its orders.
“To be frank, everyone understands that the prospect for reaching a deal depends on the US,” Lavrov said. He said whatever the US says about the need to consult allies in negotiations “are just excuses and attempts to drag the process out.”
Thus, the stalemate.
The West’s approach has been to have “as much diplomatic effort as possible to de-escalate,” said Andrew Weiss, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where he oversees research in Washington and Moscow on Russia and Eurasia.
“The problem we’ve got is that the Russians mean business, and they’ve shown us in a bunch of cases, in 2014, in 2008, that they’re prepared to go to war to get these things, and we’re not,” he said. “And that’s the challenge.”

WORLD

Bad weather caused crash that killed India’s military chief

- ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW DELHI, 
An air force helicopter crash that killed India’s military chief and 13 other people was caused by an unexpected change in weather that disoriented the pilot, a military court said in preliminary findings released on Friday.
The helicopter was flying through a valley last month with General Bipin Rawat, his wife and 12 other army and air force personnel on board when a change in weather led the pilot to fly into clouds, the court of inquiry said.
“This led to spatial disorientation of the pilot resulting in controlled flight into terrain,” the court said.
The court ruled out mechanical failure, sabotage and negligence as the cause of the accident.
The Russian-made Mi-17V5 helicopter was on its way from an air force base to the army defence services college when it crashed near the town of Coonoor, a hill station in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
The helicopter lost contact with air traffic control seven minutes before it was supposed to land and it sent no distress call before it was found in flames in a forested area.
Rawat, 63, his wife and 11 others were killed on impact. The lone survivor, air force Captain Varun Singh, died later during treatment.
Rawat was the most senior official in the Indian military and the first chief of defence staff, a position created by the government in 2019. He was also an adviser to the Defence Ministry.
His primary task was to overhaul the military, which has struggled to modernize, and improve coordination among the army, navy and air force.
He previously served as chief of army staff and also commanded forces in Indian-controlled Kashmir and along the frontier with China.

WORLD

Tsunami observed in American Samoa after Tonga volcano erupts

New Zealand’s emergency management agency issued an advisory on tsunami activity for its north and east coasts.
- REUTERS
This satellite image taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite, and released by the agency, shows an undersea volcano eruption at the Pacific nation of Tonga on Saturday.  Ap/Rss

Nukuʻalofa,
An underwater volcano off Tonga erupted on Saturday, triggering a tsunami warning for several South Pacific island nations, with footage on social media showing waves crashing into homes.
Tsunami waves were observed in Tonga’s capital and the capital of American Samoa, a US-based tsunami monitor said.
The eruption at 0410 GMT of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano, located about 65 km (40 miles) north of Nuku’alofa, caused a 1.2 metre tsunami, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said.
The agency said it continued to monitor the situation but no tsunami threat had been issued to the Australian mainland, islands or territories.
Tsunami waves of 2.7 feet (83 cm) were observed by gauges at the Tongan capital of Nuku’alofa and waves of 2 ft at Pago Pago, the capital of American Samoa, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said.
The US-based monitor later cancelled warnings for the US territory of American Samoa and Hawaii, but said the tsunami remained a threat for parts of the Pacific nearer the volcano.
Fiji issued a tsunami warning, urging residents to avoid the shorelines “due to strong currents and dangerous waves.”
Jese Tuisinu, a television reporter at Fiji One, posted a video on Twitter showing large waves washing ashore, with people trying to flee from the oncoming waves in their cars. “It is literally dark in parts of Tonga and people are rushing to safety following the eruption,” he said.
New Zealand’s emergency management agency issued an advisory on tsunami activity for its north and
east coasts with the areas expected to experience strong and unusual currents, and unpredictable surges at the shore.
On Friday, the volcano sent ash, steam and gas up to 20 km (12 miles) into the air, Tonga Geological Services said in a Facebook post. It has a radius of 260 km (160 miles).

WORLD

Pakistan to seek peace, economic connectivity under new policy

Officials say the details of the policy, prepared by a department jointly headed by civil and military leaders, will remain confidential.
- REUTERS
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan.  REUTERS

ISLAMABAD, 
Pakistan on Friday launched its first-ever comprehensive National Security Policy that it said was centred on regional peace and economic connectivity, and stressed that it wanted improved relations with arch-rival neighbouring India.
The National Security Policy, seven years in the making, is meant to act as a comprehensive framework tying together policies in different sectors. Economic security is listed as the top priority.
“I am confident that effective implementation of this policy will contribute immensely to our country’s economic security,” Prime Minister Imran Khan said, speaking at an event to launch the public version of the policy in Islamabad.
Officials say the details of the policy, prepared by a department jointly headed by civil and military leaders, will remain confidential.
The policy revolves around seeking peace with neighbours and exploring opportunities to make Pakistan a trade and investment hub.
“Pakistan is poised to take advantage of its geo-economically pivotal location to operate as a production, trade and investment, and connectivity hub for our wider region to strengthen our economic security,” the policy document stated.
It also sought peace and better relations with rival India but warned that policies being pursued by its eastern neighbour could lead to conflict.
“The political exploitation of a policy of belligerence towards Pakistan by India’s leadership has led to the threat of military adventurism and non-contact warfare to our immediate east,” it said.
Pakistan and India, both of which have nuclear weapons, have fought three wars since 1947 and had a number of military skirmishes—most recently a limited engagement between their air forces in 2019.
Pakistan has long been considered by analysts as a security state, where military policy has always trumped other considerations.
Aside from three wars with India, Pakistan has been entangled in two wars in neighbouring Afghanistan, and also dealt with violent Islamist militancy and separatist movements.

WORLD

North Korea tests railway-borne missile in latest launch amid rising tension

Briefing
- AGENCIES

SEOUL: North Korea tested a railway-borne missile in its firing drills on Friday, state media KCNA said on Saturday, amid a US push for fresh sanctions against the isolated state following its recent series of weapons tests. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said two short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) travelled about 430 km (267 miles) to a maximum altitude of 36 km (22 miles) after being launched eastward on the northwest coast of North Korea. The official KCNA news agency did not specify the missiles’ range, or trajectory, but said a firing drill was held in North Pyongan Province to “check and judge the proficiency in the action procedures of the railway-borne regiment.”

WORLD

Japanese students injured in stabbing during entrance exams

Briefing
- AGENCIES

TOKYO: Several high school students sitting their university entrance exam in Tokyo were wounded on Saturday in an apparent knife attack, Japanese media said. Public broadcaster NHK said three people were conscious after being injured in the morning when another student attacked them with a bladed object as they gathered to take their entrance exam. The alleged assailant, a 17-year old high school student, was arrested, the Asahi newspaper said. Half a million high school students across Japan are taking the annual
university entrance exams this weekend in hundreds of venues across the country.

WORLD

Philippines to acquire Indian missile system for $375 million

Briefing
- AGENCIES

MANILA: The Philippines has finalised a deal to acquire a shore-based anti-ship missile system from India for nearly $375 million to beef up its navy, the Southeast Asian nation’s defence minister said. The Philippines is in the late stages of a five-year, 300 billion pesos ($5.85 billion) project to modernise its military’s outdated hardware that includes warships from World War Two and helicopters used by the United States in the Vietnam War. Under the deal negotiated with the government of India, Brahmos Aerospace Private Ltd will deliver three batteries, train operators and maintainers, and provide logistics support, Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a Facebook post late on Friday.

WORLD

Ecuador expands protected marine area around Galapagos Islands

Briefing
- AGENCIES

SANTA CRUZ: Ecuador on Friday created a new marine reserve around its pristine Galapagos Islands—whose rich biodiversity inspired Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution—as it seeks to expand protections for endangered migratory species. Extending the reserve by 60,000 square kilometres is the first step in a plan agreed by Ecuador with its close neighbours Colombia, Costa Rica and Panama at the UN Climate Summit in Glasgow last year to create a common corridor through which species threatened by climate change and industrial fishing can migrate.

Page 7
SPORTS

Bhujel late goal inflicts Sankata first loss

The substitute forward scores in the dying seconds to give Three Star a 1-0 win over Sankata. Army overcome Friends 3-1.
- Sports Bureau
Three Star Club’s Hemanta Thapa Magar (right) and Sankata Club’s Fode Fofana run for the ball during their Martyrs Memorial ‘A’ Division League football match in Tripureshwar on Saturday. Post Photo: Hemanta Shrestha

KATHMANDU,
A goal form substitute Bijaya Bhujel in the fading moments inflicted Sankata Club their first defeat of the season as they succumbed to a 1-0 loss against Three Star while the unbeaten Tribhuvan Army FC added to the woes of bottom-placed Friends Club with a 3-1 victory to climb to third in the Martyrs Memorial ‘A’ Division League in Tripureshwar on Saturday.
Bhujel, who came as a 90th minute replacement of forward Sanjok Rai, netted the all-important goal in the last minute of the seven-minute injury time for the Patan-based side at the Dasharath Stadium.
In the early kick-off, goals from winger Jagjeet Shrestha, Dinesh Henjan and Suman Aryal gave Army their second straight win and fourth overall while Friends’ quest for a first victory continued as they succumbed to sixth defeat after nine matches. Trinidadian forward Jamoul Anthony Francois hit back the consolation goal for relegation-threatened Friends.
The third victory in a row lifted the three-time champions Three Star one spot up to fourth with 16 points while Sankata dropped two spots below to fifth with 14 points. Army have 17 points, three points behind leaders Machhindra and two adrift of second-placed Manang Marshyangdi Club.
Three Star forward Rai ended up shooting inches wide from the area as early as in the second minute. Sankata responded through Guinean forward Fode Fofana but the forward’s strike in Roman Limbu’s pass landed straight at goalie Priso Njanga’s hand.
Cameroonian goalie Njanga rescued Three Star midway in the first half as he reacted quickly to make a diving save to fend off Nigerian forward Flory Odeh’s close range strike. Three Star came closer to scoring in the first half stoppage time as Sanjok Rai’s volley from the six yard box sailed above the bar.
Both sides failed to create remarkable chances in the second half to add to the goal by Bhujel. Sankata goalie Raja Babu Thapa was at fault as he failed to clear Nishan Khadka’s long-range strike. The ball found Three Star’s Raphael Rim inside the area and the Cameroonian defender laid it for Bhujel to tap at the net.
Sankata coach Bishnu Gurung lamented his team’s failure to resist late pressure from Three Star. “Both sides played a good game. But they [Three Star] played an offensive game in the latter stage and we failed to resist their attacks,” said Gurung.
Three Star coach Urjan Shrestha said they came into the match with three points’ ambition and were happy for the victory.
Earlier, the departmental team came with an offensive approach and drew the first blood in the 10th minute. Winger Shrestha’s curling strike from the left entered through the far post, leaving Friends’ Indian goalie Rahul Ramchandra Yadav clueless.
Friends threatened the Army box after the half-hour mark, with custodian Bikesh Kuthu denying defender Ronell Anthony Paul twice. Kuthu parried Paul’s header from the six yard box, only for the ball to find the defender again, whose second effort was saved by the goalie.
Army doubled their advantage in the 45th as Henjan applied a one-touch finish from the area to convert a header pass from George Prince Karki.
Friends cut the deficit two minutes into restart in a counter-attack as captain Preezen Tamang robbed defender Youdha Shahi’s backpass to goalie Kuthu and set up Francois who finished with a low strike at the unguarded net.
But Army restored their two-goal cushion in the 71st minute when defender Suman Aryal converted Shrestha’s corner with a free header.
Army coach Nabin Neupane said that the victory was vital in their ambition of finishing the league with 29 points. “Though we got a timely score, the boys took the game lightly and we came under pressure. We could have won with a better goal margin had the boys maintained their pace,” said Neupane.
His Friends counterpart Mrigendra Mishra said it was misfortunate not to win a single match until after nine rounds. “But we still have hopes of avoiding relegation. It also depends upon how other teams perform. We play against Brigade Boys Club in the next match and if we lose against them as well we will not survive in the top division.”

SPORTS

Bagmati edge Gandaki to enter PM Cup semis

The former national captain Gyanendra Malla-led Bagmati pull off a 40-run victory to become group ‘B’ runners up.
- Sports Bureau

KATHMANDU,
Bagmati Province edged Gandaki Province by 40 runs in their last group match to confirm semi-final spot as group runners up in the Prime Minister Cup National Twenty20 cricket tournament at the TU cricket grounds in Kirtipur on Saturday.
Batting first, Bagmati posted 143 runs for the loss of nine wickets before restricting Gandaki to 103-9. The player-of-the-match Bipin Acharya shone for Bagmati with both bat and ball. He scored 30 runs, the highest of the innings for the winning side and returned with two wickets in bowling.
The third victory cemented second spot for Bagmati with six points after playing their last Group ‘B’ match. They finished two points behind group toppers APF, who wrapped up the group stage with a 100 percent winning record.
Bagmati will meet group ‘A’ winners Nepal Police Club in the semi-final in the event that sends top two finishers of each group in the last four. Gandaki, yet to play a match against Lumbini, are languishing pointless at the bottom.
The middle order batter Acharya hit three fences in his 19-ball knock before he was run out. Opener Subash Khakurel and Pratish GC contributed 27 runs each. Khakurel hit two fences and a six in his 30-ball knock while smashed a quickfire two boundaries and three sixes in his eight-ball knock.
Lucky Kathayat and Nandan Yadav were other major contributors scoring 17 runs and 14 runs, respectively, for Bagmati who were also gifted with 14 extra runs. Captain Gyanendra Malla departed for four.
Gandaki bowlers Krishna Poudel and Bishal Poudel shared two wickets apiece. Krishna conceded 26 runs in his three-over bowling while Bishal gave away 18 runs in his four-over spell.
Chasing the moderate target, Gandaki faltered, losing openers Anil Gurung and Arjun Kumal for eight and nine runs, respectively. Kamal Pariyar was the highest scorer contributing ball-a-run 11. Bidhan Shrestha, Deepak Dumre, Sandeep Chhetri, Govinda BK and captain Bishal all scored 10 runs each. They also got 16 extra runs.
Apart from Acharya’s two-wicket haul, Bagmati bowlers Nandan Yadav and Subash Khatri also grabbed two wickets apiece. Acharya gave away 19 runs in his four-over spell while Yadav conceded 11 runs in his three overs. Khatri conceded 18 runs in his bowling for two overs.
Meanwhile, the day’s opening match between Nepal Police Club and Province 1 was postponed due to suspicion of Covid-19 to some of the members of the Province 1 squad.
According to Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN), swab samples of all the members of the team were sent for PCR tests. A decision regarding the match will be made after the PCR test results.

SPORTS

Man City go 13 points clear at top

- REUTERS

MANCHESTER,
Manchester City took a major step towards retaining their Premier League title with a 1-0 win over second-placed Chelsea on Saturday, opening up a 13-point lead at the top.
Kevin De Bruyne’s 70th-minute strike means that City have 56 points from 22 matches with Chelsea on
43 points.
City extended their winning run in the league to 12 games, and deservedly so after another display of their controlled possession football. But it was a disappointing effort from a Chelsea side which rarely threatened, displayed scant ambition and little reaction after De Bruyne’s goal.
Chances were hard to come by in the opening 45 minutes with the best occasion falling to Jack Grealish, after De Bruyne robbed Mateo Kovacic on the edge of the box. But Chelsea keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga did well to keep out the midfielder’s effort.
Chelsea’s best effort had come early in the second half when Kovacic fed Romelu Lukaku, but City keeper Ederson rushed out quickly to make a fine save.
It was a fine solo goal from De Bruyne which settled the outcome, the Belgian riding a challenge from N’golo Kante before beating Kepa Arrizabalaga with a curling shot into the far corner.

MEDLEY

Horoscope

ARIES (March 21-April 19) ****
The day puts you in a soft and nurturing mood. Today’s vibe will make you much more relaxed. It will bring healing and optimism to your soul on a deep level, though you’ll need to make sure you’re open to this cosmic action.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20) ***
Today, you’ll be in a more emotionally open place. The more you discuss your feelings, the more you will benefit from the healing support of your loved ones, so don’t hold back when it comes to divulging your current disposition.

GEMINI (May 21-June 21) ****
You’ve been a busy bee lately, but now it’s time to catch up on some much-needed rest and relaxation. Take a moment to set some intentions around your professional goals, if only through a quiet whisper to the Universe.

CANCER (June 22-July 22) ***
While the day could start with a heavy or stressful vibe, you’ll feel a shift during the day. This lunar placement helps you get back in touch with your true self. You’ll be more absorbent to the emotions of others right now.

LEO (July 23-August 22) ***
You’ll be in a quiet mood this morning. Luckily, you won’t have to hide from the world all day. These vibes are perfect for connecting on an intimate level, which can help you gain new perspectives from the eyes of a loved one.

VIRGO (August 23-September 22) ****
You’re always happy to lend a hand to those in need, and today you’re being called to offer emotional support. Do your best to let others know you’re there if you need them, but stop short of forcing unwanted dialogue.

LIBRA (September 23-October 22) ***
You’ll feel emotionally invested in your colleagues today. If you’ve developed a close friendship with a coworker or two, today’s cosmic arrangement makes it a best time to organize a hangout session outside of the office.

SCORPIO (October 23-November 21) ***
Today’s energy will take you to a serene place, though you’ll need to make sure that pre-existing conflict or negative people don’t rain on your parade. Don’t be afraid to apologize for being wrong or expressing how you feel.

SAGITTARIUS (November 22-December 21) ***
The day could throw upheaval in your direction, shining a light on toxic dynamics. Today’s cosmic alliance will also help you reconnect with your optimism and strengthen bonds with the positive influences in your life.

CAPRICORN (December 22-January 19) ****
Today’s vibes are perfect for nurturing romantic connections, especially if you and your partner look for ways to indulge and relax. Allow yourself to float away, devoid of responsibilities or to-do lists, if only for a few hours.

AQUARIUS (January 20-February 18) ***
Make it a point to embrace healthy food, people, and activities today. This is the perfect opportunity for you to destress on a mental and physical level, so be sure to lean into activates that help you forget about work.

PISCES (February 19-March 20) ***
The cosmic arrangement will bring luck and growth your way this evening. Be mindful of what your goals are at this moment, and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, especially if it’s in the name of chasing your dreams.

Page 8
BLACKBOARD

The benefits of pursuing a degree in liberal arts

Despite the degree's popularity, Nepal doesn't have a single educational institution offering the programme.
- Prithak Shrestha
Unsplash

If you want to pursue an undergraduate programme that arms you with all the tools needed to navigate in a complex and everchanging world, liberal arts is one of the best degree programmes available. Liberal arts programme explores different specialised subjects. Students first explore and learn about the diverse fields before concentrating on a particular subject. This way, students get knowledge of various disciplines.
Think of liberal arts education as a comprehensive approach to learning. It provides a broad intellectual foundation across a variety of academic subjects. Students develop extremely relevant abilities in the present employment landscape and gain information about these many subjects. A liberal arts education covers a wide range of subjects that are necessary for individuals to develop logical and critical thinking skills, to comprehend issues that are important to modern and future human societies, and to use their minds to solve a variety of social, economic, political, and environmental issues and problems.
The employment scenario is fast evolving, and I believe that the talents that will be most in-demand in the future will all be intertwined with humanities and arts. In the future, critical thinking, problem-solving, networking, and creative thinking, among other abilities, will be in great demand.
Students who pursue a liberal arts degree learn to communicate effectively, think critically and analytically, and acquire excellent observational skills, all highly needed qualities whether one is entering the job market or setting up businesses. These abilities are extremely valuable in today’s technologically advanced environment and will help students prepare for the future of employment. According to research by the World Economic Forum titled ‘The Future of Occupations’, over 65 percent of primary school students will end up in jobs that do not yet exist. This means that students who pursue a liberal arts degree are more likely to acquire the necessary abilities for professions yet to be developed.
Multiple fields of study are combined into a liberal arts curriculum. It exposes students to diverse topic areas, preparing them to have a broader perspective in whichever career path they pursue. Employers may place a higher emphasis on students with these skills. A liberal arts education allows you to pursue your passions in areas where you are most comfortable. Students can choose multiple majors in addition to minors to build specific expertise. Students can also select from a variety of multidisciplinary majors and minors.
Undergraduate liberal arts students get to study exciting and engaging subjects such as the evolution of societies, fundamentals of natural sciences, philosophy, logic, legal studies, rhetoric, creative writing, environmental studies, and other subject areas. The degree also trains and motivates students to develop innovative solutions to society’s many social issues and challenges. Perhaps this is why one can see many liberal arts graduates place a strong emphasis on social engagement.
Students with a liberal arts degree are prepared for a lifetime of learning. It is a resource that students may use to address human issues and maximise human potential throughout their lives. It is never out of style. It cultivates mental habits that support a life of professional and personal learning and progress. It strengthens one’s mind and prepares it not just for specific jobs and talents but also for making learning more efficient, comprehensive, and long-lasting. It trains students to think independently and critically, assess arguments based on one’s understanding and creative application of knowledge and ideas, rather than blindly following other people’s conclusions and assumptions. Indeed, the abilities that a liberal arts education cultivates assist students in confronting their own and others people’s humanity, not simply in the classroom.
A liberal arts education, in general, makes individuals happier and makes life more rewarding. It assists pupils in becoming well-rounded, intriguing individuals who are better able to appreciate their interactions with others and the environment around them. Educational diversity allows students to think about and engage with a wide range of topics, building intellectual and conceptual openness. It improves students’ capacity to place people, things, and events in context, allowing them to draw connections across fields of study, objects, and ideas. A liberal arts programme teaches pupils to respect and comprehend human inventiveness, imagination, and success and cultivate a mind that enjoys itself.
In general, liberal arts education teaches students to think critically and actively about the issues and opportunities they will face as employees and employers, as members of friendships, relationships, families, communities, and citizens of a nation and the globe.
A liberal arts degree help cultivate a broader knowledge and understanding of the world, which allows students to engage in some of today’s most pressing issues, such as the impact of climate change, social injustice, national and international security, ethics, and all of the issues we face as humans in this hyperconnected world. The finest education requires pupils to go beyond their own experiences and see and conceive worlds different from their own in terms of time, location, and culture.
In a highly competitive and dynamic employment market, one needs to have knowledge of various fields and the ability to adapt. One acquires both these qualities by experiencing and learning about various fields. Students who receive a liberal arts education gain many perspectives through which to view the human experience. Students who receive a liberal arts education develop interdisciplinary thinking skills that enable them to be better observers of things. All information is susceptible to scrutiny, criticism, and review. Students learn to read critically about human experience and the lenses through which they perceive or ‘read’ the world. Examining how people shape their worldview helps one develop empathy and facilitates more successful and enjoyable conversations between individuals who may be quite different.
Given the many benefits of pursuing a liberal arts degree, it’s unfortunate that there isn’t a single education institution in the country offering a liberal arts undergraduate programme. This has left many who want to study liberal arts with no option but to go abroad. When will the day come when Nepali students can pursue liberal arts right here in Nepal?

Shrestha is a gap year student who finished his schooling at Sun-Rise English School, Chitwan, in 2020.

BLACKBOARD

My love for cakes

Unsplash


If there’s one thing I love the most
It has to be cakes
I crave them all the time
And I spend all my pocket money on them.

If there’s one cake that I have to choose
I think it will be blueberry cheesecake
The slight sourness of the cheese
Goes so well with the sweet and juicy blueberries.

Had I not spent all my pocket money
I would have gone right away to buy a blueberry cheesecake
But I am just a little girl
Who gets only a small amount of pocket money.

If given the choice
I would love to be a baker
I would bake day and night
Sell my cakes and eat them as well.

Vibha Pokhrel
Pokhrel is a grade 4 student at Morning Light Secondary School, Chitwan.

BLACKBOARD

Girls are strong

Unsplash


I am a girl
I can fight and win
I can work hard every day
Don’t dare to limit me.

Females are genius
Females are strong
Not just inside the kitchen
Your concept is totally wrong.

Girls are independent
Girls are strong
We refuse to be bound by societal boundaries
We are here to win the world.

Stop this gender-based discrimination
From this very day
I am limitless
I can work hard every day.

Niba Mishra
Mishra is a grade 7 student at Paragon Public School, Kathmandu.