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National Blankets to access retooling funds – Chronicle

National Blankets to access retooling funds

Sikhulekelani Moyo, [email protected]

MINISTER of Finance and Investment Promotion, Professor Mthuli Ncube is keen on textiles firm National Blankets accessing part of the Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) retooling funds saying that would boost the firm’s capacitation and revival and impact on the growth of the national economy.

The minister said policy fundamentals and regulations are now in place for the disbursement of the SDRs funds which are meant to boost production in different value chains.

Zimbabwe was allocated SDR 677 million equivalent to US$958 million by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which is part of the SDR’s General allocation of US$650 billion that was released in 2021 to all IMF member countries.

It is from these resources the Treasury channelled part of the funds towards supporting key value chains such as horticulture, industry retooling, tourism and smallholder farming irrigation systems.

A total of US$80 million was set aside for the productive sector funding and the Government, since last year, was inviting local businesses to start accessing the money to boost the country’s economy.

In an interview on the sidelines of the 2023 Annual Public Sector Convention held in Bulawayo last week, Prof Ncube said from the policy point of view, the Government is committed to funding the key value chains.

“From a policy point of view, we are committed, and we have funding in place and we have made sure that all the rules for disbursement are in place.

“Maybe it’s an issue of tightening nuts and bolts in terms of execution that needs to be fixed,” said Prof Ncube. The textile industry is one of the sectors which were set to benefit from SDRs.

However, recently National Blankets said that they were yet to access the funding, which has seen the firm not producing for some months.

Asked on National Blanket accessing funding, the minister said it was strategic for the firm to be capacitated.

“I will look into the National Blankets case. Even my assessment was that National Blankets deserve to benefit  from the SDR retooling programme.

“That would benefit the nation as well as the regional economy. I will look into it,” he said.
Officials recently told Business Chronicle that they are engaging with potential investors with the hope of injecting about US$1,5 million into the business to unlock its order book.

The company’s production unit is closed with only the sales department open to sell the readily available stocks.

It resumed operations in early 2021 after managing to dodge liquidation having come out of judicial management after shareholders paid all the creditors their dues, which ran into millions of dollars.

The company had temporarily ceased production after being denied a tax clearance by the tax authority over an estimated $800 000 debt, which was later on settled.

However, the company did not resume full-scale production as it was waiting for funding from the Government.

As with other textile companies, National Blankets is eligible to benefit from the Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) meant for the industry retooling and capitalisation. — @SikhulekelaniM1.

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New insights into the atmosphere and star of an exoplanet – Science Daily

Astronomers led by a team at Université de Montréal has made important progress in understanding the intriguing TRAPPIST-1 exoplanetary system, which was first discovered in 2016 amid speculation it could someday provide a place for humans to live.

Not only does the new research shed light on the nature of TRAPPIST-1 b, the exoplanet orbiting closest to the system’s star, it has also shown the importance of parent stars when studying exoplanets.

Published in Astrophysical Journal Letters, the findings by astronomers at UdeM’s Trottier Institute for Research on Exoplanets (iREx) and colleagues in Canada, the U.K. and U.S. shed light on the complex interplay between stellar activity and exoplanet characteristics.

Captured the attention

TRAPPIST-1, a star much smaller and cooler than our sun located approximately 40 light-years away from Earth, has captured the attention of scientists and space enthusiasts alike since the discovery of its seven Earth-sized exoplanets seven years ago. These worlds, tightly packed around their star with three of them within its habitable zone, have fueled hopes of finding potentially habitable environments beyond our solar system.

Led by iREx doctoral student Olivia Lim, the researchers employed the powerful James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to observe TRAPPIST-1 b. Their observations were collected as part of the largest Canadian-led General Observers (GO) program during the JWST’s first year of operations. (This program also included observations of three other planets in the system, TRAPPIST-1 c, g and h.) TRAPPIST-1 b was observed during two transits — the moment when the planet passes in front of its star — using the Canadian-made NIRISS instrument aboard the JWST.

“These are the very first spectroscopic observations of any TRAPPIST-1 planet obtained by the JWST, and we’ve been waiting for them for years” said Lim, the GO program’s principal Investigator.


She and her colleagues used the technique of transmission spectroscopy to peer deeper into the distant world. By analysing the central star’s light after it has passed through the exoplanet’s atmosphere during a transit, astronomers can see the unique fingerprint left behind by the molecules and atoms found within that atmosphere.

‘Just a small subset’

“This is just a small subset of many more observations of this unique planetary system yet to come and to be analysed,” adds René Doyon, Principal Investigator of the NIRISS instrument and co-author on the study. “These first observations highlight the power of NIRISS and the JWST in general to probe the thin atmospheres around rocky planets.”

The astronomers’ key finding was just how significant stellar activity and contamination are when trying to determine the nature of an exoplanet. Stellar contamination refers to the influence of the star’s own features, such as dark spots and bright faculae, on the measurements of the exoplanet’s atmosphere.

The team found compelling evidence that stellar contamination plays a crucial role in shaping the transmission spectra of TRAPPIST-1 b and, likely, the other planets in the system. The central star’s activity can create “ghost signals” that may fool the observer into thinking they have detected a particular molecule in the exoplanet’s atmosphere.

This result underscores the importance of considering stellar contamination when planning future observations of all exoplanetary systems, the sceintists say. This is especially true for systems like TRAPPIST-1, since the system is centred around a red dwarf star which can be particularly active with starspots and frequent flare events.


“In addition to the contamination from stellar spots and faculae, we saw a stellar flare, an unpredictable event during which the star looks brighter for several minutes or hours,” said Lim. “This flare affected our measurement of the amount of light blocked by the planet. Such signatures of stellar activity are difficult to model but we need to account for them to ensure that we interpret the data correctly.”

A range of models explored

Based on their collected JWST observations, Lim and her team explored a range of atmospheric models for TRAPPIST-1 b, examining various possible compositions and scenarios.

They found they could confidently rule out the existence of cloud-free, hydrogen-rich atmospheres — in other words, there appears to be no clear, extended atmosphere around TRAPPIST-1 b. However, the data could not confidently exclude thinner atmospheres, such as those composed of pure water, carbon dioxide, or methane, nor an atmosphere similar to that of Titan, a moon of Saturn and the only moon in the Solar System with its own atmosphere.

These results are generally consistent with previous (photometric, and not spectroscopic) JWST observations of TRAPPIST-1 b with the MIRI instrument. The new study also proves that Canada’s NIRISS instrument is a highly performing, sensitive tool able to probe for atmospheres on Earth-sized exoplanets at impressive levels.

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