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Intel leans hard on advanced chip packaging technologies in battle for computing supremacy

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Intel leans hard on advanced chip packaging technologies in battle for computing supremacy

This article is part of the Technology Insight series, made possible with funding from Intel.

We tend to focus on the latest and greatest technology nodes because they’re used to manufacture the densest, fastest, most power-efficient processors. But as we were reminded during Intel’s recent Architecture Day 2020, a range of transistor designs is needed to build heterogeneous systems.

“No single transistor is optimal across all design points,” said chief architect Raja Koduri. “The transistor we need for a performance desktop CPU, to hit super-high frequencies, is very different from the transistor we need for high-performance integrated GPUs.”

Here’s the problem: gathering processing cores, fixed-function accelerators, graphics resources, and I/O, and then etching them all onto a monolithic die at 10nm makes manufacturing very, very, difficult. But the alternative—breaking them apart and linking the pieces—presents challenges of its own. Innovations in packaging overcome these hurdles by improving the interface between dense circuits and the boards they populate.

Above: Advanced packaging is all about mixing and matching the right transistors for each application to speed time to market while maximizing performance.

Back in 2018, Intel laid out a plan to get smaller devices working together without sacrificing speed. “We said that we need to develop technology to connect chips and chiplets in a package that can match the performance, power efficiency, and cost of a monolithic SoC,” continued Koduri. “We also said we need a high-density interconnect roadmap that enables high bandwidth at low power.”

In an industry eager to name winners and losers based on process technology, innovative approaches to packaging will be force multipliers in the battle for computing supremacy. Let’s look at Intel’s current packaging playbook, along with the teasers disclosed during its recent Architecture Day 2020.

KEY POINTS:

  • The Embedded Multi-die Interconnect Bridge (EMIB) facilitates die-to-die connections using tiny silicon bridges embedded in the package substrate
  • The Advanced Interface Bus (AIB) is an open-source interconnect standard for creating high-bandwidth/low-power connections between chiplets
  • Foveros takes packaging to the third dimension with stacked dies. The first Foveros-based product will target the space between laptops and smartphones.
  • Co-EMIB and the Omni-Directional Interface promise scaling beyond Intel’s existing packaging technologies by facilitating greater flexibility.

Overcoming monolithic growing pains with EMIB

Until recently, if you wanted to get heterogeneous dies onto a single package for maximum performance, you placed those dies on a piece of silicon called an interposer and ran wires through the interposer for communication. Through silicon vias (TSVs) — electrical connections — passed through the interposer and into a substrate, which formed the package’s base.

The industry refers to this as 2.5D packaging. TSMC used it to manufacture NVIDIA’s Tesla P100 accelerator back in 2016. A year before that, AMD combined a massive GPU and 4GB of high-bandwidth memory (HBM) on a silicon interposer to create the Radeon R9 Fury X. Clearly, the technology works. But it adds an inherent layer of complexity, cutting into yields and adding significant cost.

Intel’s Embedded Multi-die Interconnect Bridge (EMIB) aims to mitigate the limitations of 2.5D packaging by ditching the interposer in favor of tiny silicon bridges embedded in the substrate layer. The bridges are loaded with micro-bumps that facilitate die-to-die connections.

“The current generation of EMIB offers a 55 micron micro-bump pitch with a roadmap to get to 36 microns,” said Ramune Nagisetty, director of process and product integration at Intel. Compare that to the 100-micron bump pitch of a typical organic package. EMIB makes it possible to achieve much higher bump density as a result.

Small silicon bridges are also a lot less expensive than interposers. Whereas the Tesla P100 and Radeon R9 Fury X were high-dollar flagships, one of Intel’s first products with embedded bridges was Kaby Lake G, a mobile platform that combined eighth-gen Core CPUs and AMD Radeon RX Vega M graphics. Laptops based on Kaby Lake G weren’t cheap by any measure. But they demonstrated EMIB’s ability to get heterogeneous dies onto one package, consolidating valuable board space, augmenting performance, and driving down cost compared to discrete components.

In this example, EMIB creates a high-density connection between the Stratix 10 FPGA and two transceiver dies.

Above: In this example, EMIB creates a high-density connection between the Stratix 10 FPGA and two transceiver dies.

Intel’s Stratix 10 FPGAs also employ EMIB to connect I/O chiplets and HBM from three different foundries, manufactured using six different technology nodes, on one package. By decoupling transceivers, I/O, and memory from the core fabric, Intel can pick and choose the transistor design for each die. Adding support for CXL, faster transceivers, or Ethernet is as easy as swapping out those modular tiles connected via EMIB.

Standardizing die to die integration with the Advanced Interface Bus

Before chiplets can be mixed and matched, the reusable IP blocks must know how to talk to each other over a standardized interface. For its Stratix 10 FPGAs, Intel’s embedded bridges carry the Advanced Interface Bus (AIB) between its core fabric and each tile.

AIB was designed to enable modular integration on a package in much the same way PCI Express facilitates integration on a motherboard. But whereas PCIe drives very high speeds through few wires, AIB exploits the density of EMIB to create a wide parallel interface that operates at lower clock rates, simplifying the circuitry to transmit and receive while still achieving very low latency.

Reusable IP blocks on a package may be connected by silicon bridges or interposers using the Advanced Interface Bus to move data over a wide parallel connection.

Above: Reusable IP blocks on a package may be connected by silicon bridges or interposers using the Advanced Interface Bus to move data over a wide parallel connection.

The first generation of AIB offers 2 Gb/s wire signaling, enabling Intel’s vision of heterogeneous integration with monolithic SoC-like performance. A second-generation version, expected to tape out in 2021, supports up to 6.4 Gb/s per wire, bump pitches as tight as 36 microns, lower power per bit transferred, and backward compatibility with existing AIB implementations.

It’s worth noting that AIB is packaging agnostic. Although Intel connects its tiles using EMIB, TSMC’s Chip-on-Wafer-on-Substrate (CoWoS) technology could carry AIB, too.

Earlier this year, Intel became a member of the Common Hardware for Interfaces, Processors, and Systems (CHIPS) Alliance, hosted by the Linux Foundation, to contribute the AIB license as an open-source standard. The idea, of course, was to encourage industry adoption and facilitate a library of AIB-equipped chiplets.

“We currently have 10 AIB-based tiles from multiple vendors that are either in-production or on power-on,” says Intel’s Nagisetty. “There are 10 more tiles in the near-term horizon from ecosystem partners including startups and university research groups.”

Foveros increases density in a third dimension

Breaking SoCs into reusable IP blocks and integrating them horizontally with high-density bridges is one of the ways Intel plans to leverage manufacturing efficiencies and continue scaling performance. The next step up, according to the company’s packaging technology roadmap, involves stacking dies on top of each other, face-to-face, using fine-pitched micro-bumps. This three-dimensional approach, which Intel calls Foveros, closes the distance between dies, using less power to move data around. Whereas Intel’s EMIB technology is rated at roughly 0.50 pJ/bit, Foveros gets that down to 0.15 pJ/bit.

Lakefield, the first product based on Foveros 3D die stacking, comprises a base die (22FFL) under a compute die (10nm), all of which is topped by package-on-package memory.

Above: Lakefield, the first product based on Foveros 3D die stacking, comprises a base die (22FFL) under a compute die (10nm), all of which is topped by package-on-package memory.

Like EMIB, Foveros allows Intel to pick the best process technology for each layer of its stack. The first implementation of Foveros, code-named Lakefield, crams processing cores, memory control, and graphics into a die manufactured at 10nm. That chiplet sits on top of the base die, which includes the functions you’d typically find in a platform controller hub (audio, storage, PCIe, etc.), manufactured on a 14nm low-power process. Micro-bumps between the two pipe in power and communications through TSVs in the base die. Intel then tops the stack with LPDDR4X memory from one of its partners.

A complete Lakefield package measures just 12x12x1mm, enabling a new class of devices between laptops and smartphones. But we don’t expect Foveros to only serve low-power applications. In a 2019 HotChips Q&A session, Intel fellow Wilfred Gomes predicted the technology’s future ubiquity. “…the way we designed Foveros, we think it’ll span the entire range of the computing spectrum, from the lowest-end devices to the highest-end devices,” he said.

Scalability gives us another variable to consider

The packaging roadmap set forth during Intel’s Architecture Day 2020 plotted each technology by interconnect density (the number of microbumps per square millimeter) and power efficiency (pJ of energy expended per bit of data transferred). Beyond Foveros, Intel is pursing die-on-wafer hybrid bonding to push both metrics even further. It expects to achieve more than 10,000 bumps/mm² and less than 0.05 pJ/bit.

Blending 2.5D and 3D packaging technologies yields Co-EMIB, which enables larger-than-reticle sized base dies plus Foveros die stacks on the same package.

Above: Blending 2.5D and 3D packaging technologies yields Co-EMIB, which enables larger-than-reticle sized base dies plus Foveros die stacks on the same package.

But advanced packaging technologies can offer utility beyond higher bandwidth and lower power. A combination of EMIB and Foveros — dubbed Co-EMIB — promises scaling opportunities beyond either approach on its own. There are no real-world examples of Co-EMIB yet. However, you can imagine large organic packages with embedded bridges connecting Fovoros stacks that combine accelerators and memory for high-performance computing.

Intel’s Omni-Directional Interface (ODI) offers even more flexibility by linking chiplets next to each other, connecting chiplets stacked vertically, and providing power to the top die in a stack directly through copper pillars. Those pillars are larger than the TSVs that run through the base die in a Foveros stack, minimizing resistance and improving power delivery. The freedom to connect dies in any direction and stack larger tiles on top of smaller ones gives Intel much-needed flexibility in layout. It certainly looks like a promising technology for building on Foveros’ capabilities.

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Christine founded Sports Grind Entertainment with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered Sports news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

Christine founded Sports Grind Entertainment with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered Sports news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

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India victim’s death sparks outrage

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A social activist hold placards during a protest against rape in Delhi
A social activist hold placards during a protest against rape in Delhi

A 19-year-old Dalit (formerly untouchable) woman has died after she was allegedly gang raped by four upper-caste men, sparking outrage in India.

The woman was admitted to a hospital in Delhi two weeks ago with several serious injuries.

The attack occurred on 14 September in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. Four men have been arrested.

The news of her death has prompted many in India to take to social media and demand justice.

Police told local media that the four men had dragged the victim to a field in Hathras district, where they allegedly raped her. She was grievously injured in the attack.

The victim’s brother confirmed her death to BBC Hindi, saying that no arrests had been made in the first 10 days after the incident took place. “She was left for dead. She fought for her life for 14 days,” he said.

The family told the Indian Express newspaper that the main accused in the crime had always harassed Dalits in their area.

Opposition parties in the state have condemned the attack.

“The government should provide all possible help to the victim’s family and ensure speedy punishment to the culprits by prosecuting them in a fast-track court,” Mayawati, former Uttar Pradesh chief minister and Dalit politician, tweeted on Tuesday.

Akhilesh Yadav, another former chief minister, said the government was “insensitive” to crimes against women.

Dalit politician and activist, Chandrashekhar Azad, had visited the victim over the weekend. His party has now called for nationwide protests over her death.

Dalits are some of India’s most downtrodden citizens because of an unforgiving Hindu caste hierarchy that condemns them to the bottom of the ladder. Despite laws that protect them, discrimination remains a daily reality for the Dalit population, thought to number around 200 million.

On Twitter, her death is among the top discussion trends, with many calling her the forgotten Nirbhaya, a reference to the gang-rape and murder in Delhi in 2012 that shocked the world.

The 23-year-old physiotherapy student was named Nirbhaya – the fearless one – by the press as she could not be named under Indian law.

Rape and sexual violence have been under the spotlight in India since the 2012 Delhi attack, which led to huge protests and changes to the country’s rape laws. But there has been no sign of crimes against women and girls abating.

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Christine founded Sports Grind Entertainment with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered Sports news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

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Wall Street’s GDP forecasts keep falling: Morning Brief

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Wall Street's GDP forecasts keep falling: Morning Brief

TipRanks

3 Stocks Flashing Signs of Strong Insider Buying

If you really want to know which stocks the experts – and those in the know – are buying, pay attention to what they’re doing. Stock reports, company reviews, and press statements are helpful, but you’ll get significant information from watching what the insiders are up to.The insiders – the corporate officers and board members – have to disclose when they snap up shares to prevent any unfair advantages. Tracking their stock purchases can be a useful strategy because if an insider spends their own money on a stock, it could signal that they believe big gains are in store.So, investors looking for stocks that may be flying ‘under the radar,’ but with potential to climb fast, watching for insider purchases identify some sweet market plays. To make that search easier, the TipRanks Insiders’ Hot Stocks tool gets the footwork started – identifying stocks that have seen informative moves by insiders, highlighting several common strategies used by the insiders, and collecting the data all in one place.Fresh from that database, here are the details on three stocks showing ‘informative buys’ in recent days.TravelCenters of America (TA)We’ll start with a company that you probably don’t think about often, but that does provide an essential service. TravelCenters of America is the largest publicly traded owner, operator, and franchisor of full-service highway rest stops in the US. TA started out operating truck stops for rest, repair, and maintenance, and has since expanded to full-service fueling stations offering both gasoline and diesel, fast-food restaurants, convenience stores, and other rest stop amenities. Their network of rest stops is part of the infrastructure that makes long-distance motor transport, both private and commercial, possible in the USA.As can be imagined, the social lockdowns and travel restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic were not good for TA. The good news is, the worst of the pandemic hit during Q1, and the first quarter is normally TA’s slowest of the year. This year, the first quarter showed a net loss of $1.81 per share. In the second quarter, when warmer weather normally leads to increased driving, the pandemic restrictions were also – at least partially – lifted, and TA reported a sudden turnaround, with a 59 cent EPS profit. Even so, that missed the forecast by almost a dime. The outlook for Q3, normally TA’s strongest of the year, is for EPS of 73 cents.Turning to the insider trades, Adam Portnoy of the Board of Directors has the most recent informative buys. Earlier this month, he purchased over 323,000 shares, laying out more than $5.32 million for the stock. Analyst James Sullivan, of BTIG makes two observations about TravelCenters. First, he points out, “The long-haul trucking industry has an approximate 71% share of total primary tonnage in the U.S. freight industry, making it the primary mode of freight transportation.” Sullivan then adds that this opens up opportunity for TA going forward: “The increasing demands of the nation’s large trucking fleets for consolidated service providers that can provide fuel and truck service on a national basis appear likely to drive additional consolidation in the industry.”Sullivan rates TA shares a Buy, and his $34 price target suggests the stock has an impressive 82% upside potential for the coming year. (To watch Sullivan’s track record, click here)Overall, shares in TA are rated a Strong Buy from the analyst consensus, based on 5 recent reviews including 4 Buys and 1 Hold. The shares are selling for $19.24, and the $22.70 average price target implies room for 18% upside growth. (See TA stock analysis on TipRanks)Highwoods Properties (HIW)The next stock is a real estate investment trust. Highwood operates mostly in the Southeast US, but also in Pittsburgh, where it acquires, develops, leases, and manages a portfolio of suburban office and light industrial properties.Where most companies reported heavy losses during the corona crisis, HIW saw revenues in 1H20 remain stable. EPS has grown sequentially into Q1 and remained flat in Q2 at 93 cents. Both quarter beat EPS expectations.Despite the solid financial results, HIW shares have still not recovered from the market collapse of midwinter. The stock is down 27% year-to-date.Through all of this, Highwoods has maintained its dividend, as is common among REITs. The company has a 17-year history of dividend growth and reliability, and the current payment of 48 cents per common share has been stable for the past 7 quarters. At this level, it annualizes to $1.92 and gives a yield of 5.8%.Highwoods’ insider trading has come from Board member Carlos Evans, who purchased 10,000 shares for $337,000 dollars last week. His move was the first informative buy on HIW in the last 6 months.Truist analyst Michael Lewis is impressed by the quality of HIW’s portfolio. He writes, “We continue to believe that HIW’s portfolio is one of the best-positioned among traditional office REITs in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rent collections have been excellent and there are no large near-term lease expirations. More broadly, the portfolio should benefit from being focused in drivable, close-in Sunbelt suburbs.”In line with these comments, Lewis rates the stock a Buy. His price target, $45, indicates a 31% potential upside from current levels. (To watch Lewis’ track record, click here)Overall, HIW has a cautiously optimistic Moderate Buy consensus rating from the Street. This breaks down into 2 Buy ratings and 1 Hold. We can also see from TipRanks that the average analyst price target is $43, which implies a ~25% upside from the current share price. (See HIW stock analysis on TipRanks)VEREIT (VER)The last stock on our insider trading list is another REIT. VEREIT is major owner and manager of retail, restaurant, and commercial real estate, with a portfolio that includes over 3,800 properties worth a collective $14.7 billion. The company’s assets are 45% retail and 20% restaurants; the rest is mainly office and light industrial sites. The total leasable square footage is 88.9 million square feet.So VEREIT is a giant in the REIT sector – but size didn’t protect it from the general downturn this year. Share performance has been lackluster, and revenues have been falling off gradually since Q4 of last year. The second quarter results showed $279 million on the top line, the lowest in a year – but the quarter also saw earnings turn back upwards, reaching 17 cents per share.VER cut back on its dividend earlier this year, reducing the payment to 8 cents per share to keep it in line with earnings. That dividend has been maintained, and the next payment is set for mid-October. The current dividend yield is 4.5%, well over double the average found among S&P stocks.The big insider trade on VER comes from Board member and CEO Glenn Rufrano. He spent over $252K on a block of 40,000 shares, pushing the insider sentiment on this stock into positive territory.Covering the stock for JPMorgan, 5-star analyst Anthony Paolone sees an important strength in VER, noting that the company has been successful in collecting rents during the crisis period. “[Its] collections showed good improvement going into July, with 85% collections in 2Q and 91% in July; when considering all the abatements and deferrals, it appears that at this point about 94% of pre-COVID contractual rental revenue has been addressed, and it seems to us that a normalized run rate for this vast majority of the portfolio should take hold in early 2021; the company is making progress in working through the remaining 5-6% of non-collections,” Paolone noted.Paolone gives VER an Overweight (i.e. Buy) rating, and his $8 price target implies a 22% upside for the next 12 months. (To watch Paolone’s track record, click here)All in all, VER has drawn optimism mixed with caution when it comes to consensus opinion among sell-side analysts. Out of 5 analysts polled in the last 3 months, 3 are bullish on the stock, while 2 remain sidelined. With an 11% upside potential, the stock’s consensus target price stands at $7.25. (See VEREIT’s stock analysis at TipRanks)To find good ideas for stocks trading at attractive valuations, visit TipRanks’ Best Stocks to Buy, a newly launched tool that unites all of TipRanks’ equity insights.Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analysts. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.

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Christine founded Sports Grind Entertainment with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered Sports news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

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India builds Himalayan bridges and highways to match China

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India builds Himalayan bridges and highways to match China

By Devjyot Ghoshal

CHILLING, India(Reuters) – Ligen Eliyas deftly turns the excavator’s hydraulic arm to push a huge boulder into the Zanskar river below in a cloud of dust, clearing another bit of land for a strategic highway that India is hurriedly building near the Chinese border.

The construction site near the hamlet of Chilling in the Ladakh region is around 250 km (150 miles) west of the area where Indian and Chinese troops are locked in the most serious confrontation in decades.

But when ready, the road will provide the only year-round access to large parts of Ladakh, including the border zone. That will go some way to bringing India on par with China, which has a network of roads and helipads on its side of the border.

“It will become a lot easier for the army after this road is finished,” Eliyas said, with parts of his face and khaki uniform caked in fine stone dust.

The protracted standoff in the remote western Himalayan region erupted into a bloody hand-to-hand clash in June in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed and China suffered an unspecified number of casualties. The Asian giants fought a brief but bloody border war in 1962.

The 283-km (175-mile)-long Nimmu-Padam-Darcha (NPD) highway, where Eliyas is working, is expected to be completed in three years, officials said. It highlights the efforts by India, which have been redoubled after the latest tensions, to develop key infrastructure – roads, tunnels, bridges and airfields – along the unsettled 3,500 km (2,170 mile) border with China.

The road will link up with an 8.8-km (5.5-mile) tunnel that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate in coming weeks, opening the snow deserts of Ladakh to the rest of the country all year round.

There are two main highways that connect Ladakh to the rest of India, but they are closed for at least four months every winter. The only way urgent supplies are sent to Ladakh during these months is by air.

With thousands of its troops amassed at the border and no sign of a drawdown, India is now pushing harder to blast and smash its way through the Himalayas.

“We will not back down from taking any big and tough step in the interest of our country,” Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh told parliament this month, adding the government had doubled the budget for infrastructure work on the China border.

The frenetic construction itself has become a thorny issue this summer with the Chinese complaining that the Indian activity in the mountains was destabilising, Indian officials said. But China built its infrastructure in the area years ago, and it needs to be matched, they said.

“China does not recognise the so-called ‘Ladakh Union Territory’ illegally set up by India and is opposed to infrastructure building at the border area for the purpose of military control,” the office of China’s foreign ministry spokesperson said. It added that according to a recent consensus by both sides, no side should be taking any action that complicates the situation at the border area.

China’s Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

MATTER OF HOURS

China’s network of roads and railways, logistics depots and helipads mean that it can move troops to forward areas in a matter of hours, said Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, a distinguished fellow at New Delhi think-tank Observer Research Foundation.

For India, it would take days to match those deployments, she said.

“The infrastructure buildup by the Chinese is not only aiming at the quick deployment of forces but also to sustain them for a relatively longer period of time,” Rajagopalan said.

Conceived in 1999, India’s NPD project moved at a glacial pace till work picked just a couple of year ago, said N.K. Jain, a commander in the state-run Border Roads Organisation (BRO).

Since then, the BRO has built some 100 km of the NPD project, and constructed 11 of the 15 major bridges on the route. “Our work is happening at double the speed in the last two years,” Jain said.

New drilling machines that push dynamite sticks deeper and faster into hard rock to blow them apart have improved the speed of construction, said B. Kishen, a BRO executive engineer who is supervising the project near Chilling.

On a recent afternoon, dozens of workers cleared debris from a freshly blasted section of the road. A few kilometres away, another group crouched under an excavator as explosives went off to clear land for another section of the highway.

Work will continue through the bitter winter, when temperatures drop to below minus 40 Celsius (minus 40 Fahrenheit) and biting winds at altitudes above 11,000 feet (3,300 m) make road construction even more challenging, Kishen said.

The government has identified 73 strategically important roads along the Chinese border, of which 61 are with the BRO, running over 3,300 km (2,000 miles). A parliamentary committee report in March noted that 75% of the work under BRO had been completed.

The full network of roads will cut down travel time between key Indian military bases, allowing for quicker mobilisation of troops and ease patrolling in some forward areas, an Indian official said.

“It will also lead to lower expenditure for the forces,” the official said, with all-weather roads replacing the need for expensive airlift operations during the winter months.

“We will have a better chance of catching up with the Chinese.”

(Reporting by Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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Christine founded Sports Grind Entertainment with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered Sports news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

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