WORLD INTHAVAARAM, 2020–46
About: This is what happened this week, in our World.
“Life is in the transitions. We can’t ignore these central times of life; we can’t wish or will them away. We have to accept them, name them, mark them, share them, and eventually convert them into fuel for remaking our life stories.” William James, American Philosopher and Psychologist.
The United States (US) of America.
Transition is the word ruling the US, at the moment, with the Presidential Election yet to be formally declared as complete. The Biden-Harris team scored a winning 306 (with Arizona, and Georgia-on recounting-siding with Biden) Electoral votes, to Donald Trump’s 232, over the median 270 required to become the 46th President.
The President and Vice President-Elect combo of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris got down to serious work, after shaking their legs in the victory celebrations. We liked their moves, especially the formation of an impressive COVID-19 Advisory Board and Task Force to control the spiralling coronavirus cases in the US. The team is vaccinated with Scientists, Doctors and Disease Containment Specialists. Must be giving the virus sleepless, scary days and nights.
However, President Donald Trump refuses to concede, accept defeat, and allow for a smooth transition of power. A seamless transition has always been a hallmark of US Democracy. And this too is being put to a challenge.
Donald Trump is still crying like a child refusing to grow-up, throwing tantrums as when a favourite toy has been pinched by the boy next-door. And making wild, baseless election-fraud charges. Meanwhile, the US’s Transition Act kicks-in to allow the ‘President-Elect’ to choose his team players, and practice playing ball before starting to shoot goals from 20th January 2021 onwards.
Lots happening in the US with the ‘borders of the law’ and the American Constitution being severely ruffled and tested. A Time to Heal?
Vaccines: Prevention is always better than cure.
Vaccine developers all over the World, are working at a furious, accelerated pace to produce a vaccine that would safely prevent us from being infected by the novel coronavirus and suffer from the effects of COVID-19.
We breathed the first sign of relief when on 9th November, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced that its COVID-19 vaccine trial was over 90% effective in getting the job done. And it has not produced any serious safety concerns. The company’s vaccine trial is in Phase-III and involves more than 43,000 global volunteers.
What is Phase-III? This is the final phase of testing for approval of a new drug or a new vaccine. In Phase-III, the vaccine is tested at multiple locations on thousands of volunteers and must prove itself to be efficacious, potent and safe to deliver its intended purpose-as specified by the Vaccine makers.
Early results suggest the Pfizer vaccine is working — putting it at the top of a global vaccine race.
What next? The vaccine moves to Phase-IV when it is approved and licensed to be manufactured in a large scale and delivered all over the World without loss of potency.
Meanwhile, we need to hold our breath, behind those masks and hold a No-Entry placard to the virus.
The counting in the 243 seat Bihar State Assembly Elections took place on the 10th November. The ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was voted back to power with 125 seats and the Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP) rising-up to carve out 74 seats on its own as the second largest Individual Party, to the opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal’s (RJD) 75 seats. The counting saw a see-saw battle between the NDA and the Mahagathbandan — an alliance of the Challengers-, but the NDA kept its nerves and prevailed. The Modi — Shah team keeps delivering election victory after election victory.
Most Opinion Polls and Exit polls found mud flying on to their faces having predicted a clear win for the RJD led Mahagathbandan.
I think it would be wise for the BJP to keep going with Nitish Kumar as the Chief Minister-for the fourth time, despite his Party, the Janata Dal (United), dropping its clothes, down to 43 seats (from last time’s 71). Nitish has lost his charm and political good looks; needs to rediscover his magic — add colour to his hair — to walk the ramp, again. The BJP should look to the future, and have somebody to blame should things go topsy-turvy in Bihar.
Diwali — row of lights.
In week 42 we talked about how Navratri was one of Hinduism’s most celebrated festivals. This week, we add Diwali to ‘that ones’ list.
Diwali, the Indian Festival of Lights, symbolises, again, the victory of good over evil, light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance. It also signifies new beginnings. We are tired to the end of our finger nails (with soap washing), at the fag end of a dreadful year and maybe we should lie back and begin a new beginning of the end of the year.
Across India, the reasons to celebrate have many Hindu stories. One is the festival marks Lord Krishna’s defeat of the demon Narakasura. Another is the homecoming of Lord Rama and Sita to the city of Ayodhya after vanquishing Ravana, when they were welcomed with a row of lighted diyas (mud lamps). Yet another is the commemoration of the marriage of Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi.
We all need a reason to celebrate: have that oil bath, wear new clothes, light diyas, exchange sweet gifts with family and friends, and ponder on how to live a brighter and better life. Transition here too!
The Indian Premier League (IPL) 2020 Cricket Tournament concluded in the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai on 10th November, with Mumbai Indians winning the Champion Title for the fifth time. They beat Delhi Capitals by five wickets.
Earlier, Delhi Capitals won the second qualifier against Sunrisers Hyderabad, who failed to rise any higher.
Kings XI Punjab’s K L Rahul stayed the course as the top scorer with 670 runs off seventeen games, while Mumbai Indians’ Ishan Kishan scored the maximum sixes — 30, in fourteen games
Time to move over to other games
It’s been a never-ending endeavour of Man to finds mean of travelling the Earth faster and safer.
British Businessman Richard Branson’s Virgin Group having grounded its flying-in-the-air business, Virgin Atlantic, is trying the flying thing on land.
Virgin Hyperloop gave the first ride on its test track this Sunday in Las Vegas, US, but it will be years before the public can actually take a high-speed ride on a Hyperloop.
A Hyperloop is a work-in-progess, unproven, transportation system in which people travel in a vehicle, a pod — in a vacuum tube at speeds as high as 960 kilometres per hour (kph). The tubes may be located in underground tunnels or just placed overground. Imagine a long pipeline traversing the country — filled with people!
Virgin’s Hyperloop system includes magnetic levitation, similar to that used in the Japanese high-speed Bullet Trains. Magnetic levitation works on the principle of magnetic repulsion between the train cars and the track. It lifts a train car above a track, as the magnets’ like poles push the train upward, eliminating contact friction. The magnets also propel the train as like poles repel and push the train forward, and the opposite poles attract and pull the train forward. The ‘zero friction’ between metals and the ‘zero air resistance’, due to vacuum in the tube make possible the awesome speeds.
Virgin Hyperloop’s pod could only touch 160 kph on a 500 meters long track; apparently longer test tracks need to be built to reach the target 960 kph.
Richard Branson started his first business, a mail order Record Business, in 1970, which later turned in Virgin Records and went on to become the biggest independent label in the world, signing-up Music Artists to produce best-selling Albums. Mike Oldfield was their first such Artist producing the number one selling Album, Tubular Bells. Others were, The Sex Pistols and The Rolling Stones.
Incidentally, the name Virgin came into being because when Branson started, he was entirely new to business.
Virgin flew into the aviation Business with Virgin Atlantic, in 1984, and gradually expanded into other businesses.
Time to declare that Richard Branson is ‘no longer a Virgin’?
Flamingoes are those long-legged, bright pink, flame-coloured birds with a curved beak.
They are not born with curved beaks, which takes months to take shape, and are not born with that trademark pink colour. In fact, they are born grey and become pink over the years by eating beta-carotene (a red-orange pigment) loaded crustaceans and shrimp prevalent in their wetland environment. It takes about two years for the pink colour to load, if they keep at their exclusive beta-carotene diet. They have black colouring under their wings, which can be seen only when there are up in the air. The flamingoes are a classic example of, ‘you are what you eat’. The next time you see a white flamingo, don’t gasp in surprise, you know why.
Nearer our dining table, carrots are known to be heavy with carotenoids. If we humans persist with eating tons of carrots every day, there is a fair chance that one can acquire some degrees of an orange shade. Seen any orange men or women around?
Flamingoes pair for life sometimes hang around up to 50 years with the same mate. Wow, that sure is single-minded dedication. Marry a Flamingo?
Flamingos can sleep in ponds that freeze around their legs at night, drink water at boiling temperatures, and survive in conditions that expose them to arsenic and poisonous gases.
Lots of survival lessons to learn from them flamingoes
I love Hollywood movies — they make them so well — and there is an ever-growing list of must-see-movies to tick off. The problem is I keep going back to see the ones I like the most. One such movie is ‘Robin Hood’, 2010, directed by Ridley Scott, starring Russel Crowe — as Robin Hood — and the ‘appropriately beautiful’ Cate Blanchett. Out of the many Robin Hood movies out there this one impressed me the most.
Watch it to know how a smart undefeatable fighter in a Kingdom becomes an Outlaw, only because he was good at what he was. And a King got jealous because Robin Hood was ‘actually the King’ in warding off a French attack on England, and demanding that a Charter of Rights be made Law — ensuring the rights of every Englishman to his land and work, and to unite the Country.
More stories to tell in the week(s) ahead — watch this space for the way the world transitions.