WORLD INTHAVAARAM, 2021–30

About: the world this week, 18th July to 24th July 2021. Floods of water, fish, spying, flying into Space; Faster, Higher, Stronger.

Everywhere

A ‘Deluge of Floods’

Over the years we have heard of innumerable Weather Satellites launched by various countries, to endlessly circle the Earth and send back tons of data, from up above the clouds, that enable us make humble weather forecasts and foresee potential natural disasters.

It is over 60 years since the first Weather Satellite, TIROS-1 (Television Infra Red Observational Satellite), was launched by the United States’, NASA, and surely mankind has made great leaps of faith — breaking into the clouds and beyond — in predicting the weather, using Satellites, among other things. But, now I wonder if all of this is actually working. Or am I missing something? Have the Weather Satellites become Aliens of a kind?

Over the past weeks, Europe — especially Germany and Belgium — has been devastated by unprecedented flash floods generated by torrential rains. Rivers, in turn, receiving the copious run-offs, became dissatisfied with the fixed deposits and bursted their Banks sending the water dashing into precious Homes. This is being touted as Germany’s worst natural disaster in more than half a century. Over 140 people died. Particularly hard hit were the German States of Rhineland Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia, and Eastern Belgium. Around 700 residents were evacuated after a dam broke in the Town of Wassenberg, near Cologne.

On the other side of the World, parts of the United States have also felt the wetness of water. On 19th July, flash flooding occurred in Birmingham and the surrounding Jefferson County, Alabama, following heavy rains, disrupting otherwise dry lives. Cars could not become boats and people lost their legs, below the knees, to the water.

Jumping to Asia, on 21st July torrential rain pounded the Central Chinese province of Henan, bursting the banks of major rivers and flooding the streets of a dozen cities, including Zhengzhou. The sudden flooding inundated and trapped people in shopping malls, schools and even subway trains, leaving locals in a perilous situation. The region has seen the heaviest rain since record-keeping began 60 years ago. Zhengzhou experienced the equivalent of a year’s average rainfall in just 3 days!

In early July, a landslide hit the popular resort of Atami, in Central Japan: a torrent of black-mud crashed through the city. Several houses were swept away by the mudslide, which followed torrential rain. Atami has had more rainfall in the first three days of July than it usually sees in the whole month!

As communities devastated by the catastrophic flooding swam out and started drying themselves, they are wondering how it all went so wrong, so fast. Europe, for example, has a world-leading warning system that issued regular alerts for days before floods engulfed entire villages. The Copernicus Emergency Management Service sent more than 25 warnings, for specific regions, of the Rhine and Maas river basins in the days leading up to the flooding, through its European Flood Awareness System (EFAS), well before heavy rains triggered the flash flooding.

But few of these early warnings appear to have been passed on to residents early and clearly enough, catching them completely off-guard. Now questions are being raised over whether the chain of communication from the Central European level to regions is working. This is one example, in a modern developed country loaded with fabulous surveillance systems.

If we keep our heads above the water and look up to The Netherlands, just across its borders with Germany’s and Belgium’s flood-devastated areas, the picture is entirely different. The Netherlands too experienced extreme rainfall, maybe not be quite as heavy as in Germany and Belgium. And it has not escaped unscathed. But its towns are not entirely submerged and not a single person has died. Officials were better prepared and were able to communicate with people quickly.

The Netherlands’ water strength lies largely in its organisation. The country’s infrastructure is managed by a Branch of the Government devoted solely to water, the Directorate General for Public Works and Water Management, which looks after some 1,500 km of man-made defenses. And they are doing a damn good job of it.

Moving closer to home, in several States of India, Maharashtra, Telangana, Karnataka — to name a few — the story is about the same, with the rains battering cities, towns and villages and sending people scurrying to elevated dry land.

In one of the smaller Towns, in the State of Telangana, the nearby River, tired of sleeping on its bed, got up and started running on the streets. In a revenge mode, the people descended and flooded the streets armed with nothing but fishing nets: many caught giant fish, in the Indian Stream, that could put ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ to shame-of the Gulf Stream. Who said The Planet of the Apes is up ahead? Welcome to The Planet of the Fish!

Even while we are sinking in the floods there are several parts of the World, say, Western North America and Canada, being fried by a flood of heat waves. These places boiled this week in all-time high temperatures that have caused dozens of deaths.

Hold on… we have been flooded with stories of such breaking of records, frequently these days: worst ever, first time in a century, never-before seen, goes on…and of course that dreaded word, ’Climate Change’ and its good friend, ‘Global Warming’ as being the ubiquitous villain responsible for all of this.

We need to think beyond hurting each other with guns and nuclear weapons and instead build weapons against nature to prevent and avoid the mass destructions we are witnessing. With a gun in my hand, can I shoot down a wave, a flood, a hurricane? Are we up to the task of being responsible and making meaningful change? Only the ‘rise of the water levels’ will tell?

How about getting a Noah’s Ark ready! Ship ourselves to another Planet?

Snooping

Pegasus, in Greek mythology, is a divine winged horse, an offspring of the Olympian God Poseidon, usually depicted as pure white in colour. It is a mysterious creature capable of everything symbolizing the divine inspiration or the journey to heaven: in modern times it has been regarded as a symbol of poetic inspiration.

Leave alone being a poetic, I am inspired by the ‘mysterious aspect’.

In the real world, Pegasus is a spyware developed by Israeli cyber-arms firm NSO that can be covertly installed on mobile phones running on iOS and Android.

The NSO (named after Niv, Shalev, Omri — The founders) Group develops best-in-class technology to help government Agencies detect and prevent terrorism and crime.

Simply put, Pegasus hacks computers and smartphones, in order to gather data and serve it to a third party. It is malicious because it gathers such data without the consent of the knowledge of the person owing the device.

Once installed, the Pegasus spyware can turn the Android or iOS phones into surveillance devices. The earliest version of the hacking software Pegasus would infect phones through text messages or emails containing a malicious link that the target would click on. However, the technology has grown more discreet and dangerous since then. And now, Pegasus could infect a phone without any user interaction or with ‘zero-click’ — vulnerabilities, flaws and bugs in a phone’s operating system — that the phone’s manufacturer is unaware of, or has been unable to fix.

India was rocked by a deluge of reports, that a flood of people were on the Pegasus list of ‘Persons of Interest’ without any evidence whosoever on what was found, or not found, and whether it had any effect on the political or safety climate of India. Some even considered it an honour to be on the List!

However, with the mystery and the secrecy involved, this will be a very hard nut to crack unless we hunt down another offspring of Poseidon to ‘talk to and infect Pegasus’, or should we, at all?

Amazon adds Space

This week, Amazon founder, Billionaire Jeff Bezos, flying on the generous bounty of Amazon Staff and Buyers, lifted off in his Blue Origin, New Shepard Space Craft to Space. He was keeping one eye on the Virgin trail left by fellow Billionaire, Sir Richard Branson, who did a similar feat in the week gone by. He was accompanied by his brother, Mark Bezos, an 82 years old Space Race pioneer, Wally Funk, and an 18 years old student, Oliver Daemen. The flight lasted 10 minutes and 10 seconds.

Two minutes into the flight, the capsule carrying the Space travellers, separated from its rocket — at a height of about 76 km-continued its upwards trajectory towards the Karman Line, crossed it — going up to about 106 km — and curved back to achieve a safe, parachuted landing on the West Texas Desert floor in the United States. Jeff Bezos stepped out wearing a Texas Cowboy hat, and I almost expected him to grab a horse, hit the trail, and ride into Town. Meanwhile, unnoticed, the launch vehicle-booster return-landed at about 3 km away from the launch pad.

Looks awfully easy. Maybe there is a message out there that the Earth is unsafe and we better start flying up to grab a better place to settle…and escape the ‘water spills of Earth? Overall, the signal I get is we all need to lift ourselves (with or without rockets). Let’s say, move up in life.

The Olympics

The COVID-19 pandemic stumped and badly bruised Tokyo Olympics 2020, rescheduled to start on 23 July 2021, is itself a testimony to the spirit of sport, having weathered a great deal to get the Games started. I salute the persistence of the Organisers and Japan for leaving no stone unturned — as they say — to get the Games going.

The easiest and the most sensible way to face the pandemic would be to just cancel the Olympic Games. And it requires mind-boggling effort to carry on with the COVID-19 prevention protocols. On our part, we should encourage a safe Olympics, pressuring infected Athletes to quarantine and go home, and the others to blossom. Support our teams remotely, watching on Television or any other physically-distanced media.

Finally, this Friday, the Tokyo Olympics was officially declared open by Japan’s Emperor Naruhito. Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka lit the Olympic cauldron to mark the formal start of Tokyo Olympics 2020. The opening ceremony took place in an almost empty Stadium, witnessed by about 1000 spectators, without the glitz and glam normally associated with such ceremonies. It was celebrated as a moment of global hope — we need every ounce of it to make the Games a success.

Citius, Altius, Fortius.

Please Yourself

Over the past year I went to war with the Vikings, fought to save The Last Kingdom, Resurrected myself with Ertugrul, played the Queen’s Gambit, and went on to wear The Crown. In the process, my body received a pounding, and the wounds of battle were hurting. It’s then, I decided to see ‘The Good Doctor’ on Netflix. It’s been great healing ever since. And I’m fighting fit again.

The Good Doctor is an American Television Series, about Dr. Shaun Murphy, a young autistic, savant, surgical resident at the fictional San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital, California. Dr. Shaun’s brilliant savant abilities include near-photographic recall and the ability to note minute details and changes. It’s about how he finds acceptance in the Hospital and goes on to contribute to life-saving decisions and surgeries…and making wonderful friends on the way. I was inspired.

More savant stories coming up in the weeks ahead. Stay inspired and keep your head above the water.

Once an Engineer, now a Make-in-India Entrepreneur; Wordsmith; Blogger; maybe a Farmer!

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Kumar Govindan

Kumar Govindan

Once an Engineer, now a Make-in-India Entrepreneur; Wordsmith; Blogger; maybe a Farmer!

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