Meeting of minds: The trade ministers of the five BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) met this week in Shanghai, ahead of the annual summit of heads of state in Xiamen next month, Pepe Escobar writes. Despite the China-India border standoff, US economic warfare against Russia, and other woes, the five countries’ trade ministers concentrated on creating conditions for better cooperation.

Leaderless and rudderless: The party that fought for India’s independence and later ruled the country for 50 years is facing an existential crisis as the country prepares to celebrate 70 years of freedom on August 15, E Jaya Kumar writes. The leaderless and rudderless Congress party is on a losing streak as it continues to be mired in corruption scandals. The latest case relates to the seizure of Rs100 million (US$1,466,867) in cash in income tax raids on a Congress minister in the state of Karnataka, DK Shivakumar, on August 2. Somewhat incredibly, the party is supporting him and accusing the federal government of playing vendetta politics.

A rising star: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has targeted the country’s traditional business family elites, accusing them of being “oligarchs” who have held back economic development and more equitable wealth distribution, Bong Sarmiento writes. However, the president appears to support one businessman’s ascension to tycoon status. Dennis Uy, a Sino-Filipino businessman who helped Duterte win the presidency, is now fast expanding his commercial empire from his home base of Davao City on the restive island of Mindanao. Uy is among the few Filipino businessmen known to be in Duterte’s inner circle, currently serving as presidential adviser for sports.

Act of defiance: Qatar is hitting back at its Gulf rivals with a high-profile soft power play – securing the transfer of football phenomenon Neymar from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain, Rene Slama writes. The French club, which is owned by the sanctions-hit Gulf state, has signed the Brazilian forward for a world-record transfer fee of 222 million euros (around US$264 million), more than doubling the previous record.

Racial bias probe: The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) said a New York Times report claiming that it is investigating “anti-white” discrimination is “inaccurate,” Doug Tsuruoka writes. In a clarification statement, the DOJ said a project probing alleged racial bias in the US college admissions process is aimed at investigating a specific case involving Asian American students that was filed in May 2015. The story, which was picked up by the US media, said the agency’s civil rights division was preparing to probe and sue American universities over affirmative action admissions policies “deemed to discriminate against white applicants.”

Asia Times app: The Asia Times has launched an app for both iOS- and Android-based devices that will deliver the publication’s regular daily news, commentary, blogs and live coverage while also bringing readers added functionality. Asia Times Staff report that the app, launched on July 25, includes content notification, share and save functions and is free to download from both the Apple Store and Google Play.