WORLD INTHAVAARAM, 2022–02

About: the world this week, 9 January to 15 January 2022, a colourful Actor reaches the stars, a country fights over fuel price hikes, a Prince loses his Titles, a Tennis Champion is deported-almost, a rat hero dies, and a style icon becomes a follower-gathering hit on Instagram.

Everywhere

Colour in Black & White

Actor Sidney Poitier, 94, died on the evening of 6 January 2022 in his home in Los Angeles, just when I was near the end of wrapping-up my last week’s World Inthavaaram. And I kept him warm for this week.

Sidney Poitier was one of the greatest film actors of the past century-a legend of our times. He blazed trails as a black actor who rose to fame during a time when there were few starring roles offered to African Americans. He set a standard for those who came after him and showed us, ‘how to reach for the stars’. Beautiful, brilliant, graceful, and elegant are just a few of the many words used to describe him.

He received three Academy Awards nominations, ten Golden Globe Awards nominations, two Primetime Emmy Awards nominations, six British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) nominations, eight Laurel nominations, one Screen Actors Guild Awards (SAG) nomination. He won one Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Actor for ‘Lilies of the Field’ (1963), playing a handyman who helps a group of German-speaking nuns build a chapel…Wooh, I am almost out-of-breath!

Poitier’s entire family lived in the Bahamas, then a British Crown colony, but he was born, rather unexpectedly, in Miami, United States (US), while his parents were visiting for the weekend, which automatically granted him a US citizenship. He grew up in the Bahamas, but moved to Miami at age 15, and to New York City the next year.

He went on to become a stage actor and over time worked his way into Hollywood. Some of his best films are: ‘To Sir, with Love’; ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’, and ‘In the Heat of the Night’.

Poitier first married model Juanita Hardy in 1950 and then separated from her in 1965. He married a second time, to Joanna Shimkus, a Canadian actress in 1976, who starred with him in ‘The Lost Man’: Joanna ‘found her man’ and they remained married for the rest of Poitier’s life. Meanwhile, he filled the gap with a nine-year relationship with actress Diahann Carroll.

He had four daughters from his first marriage and two from his second. In addition to the six daughters, Poitier had eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. That’s the measure of the man.

Some of his famous quotes are: “I always wanted to be someone better the next day than I was the day before”; “A person doesn’t have to change who he is to become better.”

Beyond the quotes, he leaves behind…a lot!

Kazakhstan

This is a story playing over the past three years, from France to Ecuador, Zimbabwe to Lebanon, and in Pakistan and Iran. When Governments try to let the market determine energy prices (linked to increased taxes or reduced subsidies on fossil fuels) they are confronted with mass uprisings and turmoil, as the new policy invariably leads to an increase in fuel prices. An unprepared administration cracks down with excessive force. This amplifies public anger, which boils over into calls for, suddenly discovered, greater democratic rights.

Now, mirroring the trend is Kazakhstan, a Central Asian country endowed with an abundant supply of accessible mineral and fossil fuel resources. The end of price controls for Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG), a popular, affordable fuel, in early January sparked protests- the largest since the collapse of the Soviet Union, three decades ago — in the oil-rich area of Western Kazakhstan.

Things escalated quickly across the country as demonstrations expanded to include calls for political reform. The Government shut down the internet. And protesters seized the airport and burned down some government buildings. A Russian-led military alliance deployed about 2,500 ‘peacekeepers’ at the President’s request. Then, security forces were given the shoot-to-kill order.

At least 164 people have been killed, more than 2,000 injured and thousands detained. The Government insists the country is stabilizing and that buildings overrun by protestors are now back under its control.

This is becoming a familiar story and maybe Governments should be better prepared before announcing ‘powerful uplifting changes’.

Melange

In other news, World No 1 Tennis Champion Novak Djokovic who was involved in a messy serve, smash, rally, and lob match with Australian Vaccination Rules was allowed to play in the Open, as decided by a Judge of an Australian Court, umpiring the rule-break.

However, it turns out that the Champion and falsified facts in relation to his December 2021 Covid-19 infection, which he used as an ace to clear the net of Australia’s Rules to play in the Australian Open Tennis Grand Slam, where he plays to defend his title. He also admitted to breaking isolation rules while being Covid19 Positive.

But this Friday, Novak Djokovic’s Australian visa was again cancelled just days before the start of the Australian Open. The Australian Immigration Minister, Alex Hawke, exercised a personal power to cancel Djokovic’s visa, likely to result in the world No 1’s deportation and putting him out of contention in the tournament. The decision means that Djokovic could be effectively barred from re-entering Australia for three years unless he can show, in future attempts, that compelling circumstances exist, such as compassionate or Australian national interest grounds.

I’m glad that Australia is one Country that ruthlessly sticks to its Rules. The tournament is now positively open for others to win.

This week, Prince Andrew of the United Kingdom’s (UK) Royal Family was dragged deeper into the headlines-staying, Ghislaine Maxwell — Jeffrey Epstein sex-trafficking Case. A United States federal judge denied the Prince’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a Virginia Giuffre, who claimed that she was sexually trafficked to the Prince when she was underage.

The Crown stepped into action-with the Royal Shoes-and stripped the Duke of York’s military titles and ‘the clothes’ of royal patronages have been returned to the Queen’s Royal Chest. Prince Andrew will also stop using the style ‘His Royal Highness’.

That’s a naked enough story. There’s indeed a limit to what clothes can cover-up?

A Rat Hero Dies

This week, a landmine sniffing expert, a mine-clearing African Giant Pouch Rat, running around lightly with the name ‘Magawa’ died at the age of eight.

Magawa was the most successful rat trained by the Belgian charity APOPO, to give a tails-up alert to human handlers about landmines so they can be found and safely deactivated. In 2020, Magawa was awarded the PDSA Gold Medal for its heroism. It was the first rat to be given the medal in the charity’s 77 year history.

The PDSA (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) Gold Medal is an animal bravery award that acknowledges the bravery and devotion to duty of animals. An animal can be awarded the Gold Medal if it assists in saving human or non-human life when its own life is in danger or through exceptional devotion to duty. Wow, that’s amazing!

APOPO is an acronym from Dutch, which stands for ‘Anti-Persoonsmijnen Ontmijnende Product Ontwikkeling’, or in English, ‘Anti-Personnel Landmines Detection Product Development’. APOPO is a global non-profit organization that researches, develops, and implements detection technology for rats for humanitarian purposes such as clearing landmines and detecting tuberculosis.

APOPO has Belgian roots with operational headquarters in Tanzania and further operations in Angola, Cambodia, Mozambique and Ethiopia. Bart Weetjens is the founder, who came up with the idea while wondering whether the rodents, that he kept as pets, could be used for finding landmines and other explosives.

Magawa was trained by APOPO, which has been raising the animals — known as HeroRATs — to detect landmines since the 1990s. The animals are certified for the job, after a year of intense training.

Bred in Tanzania, Magawa underwent the one year of training before moving to Cambodia -where up to six million landmines are believed to be still alive -to begin his high-stakes, bomb-sniffing career. In a five-year period, the rodent sniffed out over 100 landmines and other explosives in Cambodia.

Trained to detect a chemical compound within the explosives, Magawa cleared more than 141,000 square metres of land -the equivalent of 20 football pitches with a capability of searching a field the size of a tennis court in just 20 minutes-something that would take a human, with a metal detector, between one and four days.

Magawa weighed 1.2 kilograms and was 70 centimetres long. While that is far larger than many other rat species, it was still small enough and light enough that it did not trigger mines if it walked over them.

Magawa retired last June, after ‘slowing down’ as it reached old age. It was in good health and spent most of last week playing with its usual enthusiasm. But, by the weekend it started to slow down, napping more and showing less interest in food in its last days.

Last week, APOPO declared that a new batch of young rats was assessed by the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) and passed ‘with flying colours’.

Make rats your best friend, buy a trained rat: don’t know what they can sniff out!

Please Yourself.

Make-up mogul Kylie Jenner has become the first woman to reach 300 million followers on Instagram — the photo and video sharing social networking service.

Ariana Grande, previously the app’s most popular woman, is now tied in second place with Selena Gomez. The singers have 289 million each.

But, Football’s Manchester United striker Cristiano Ronaldo remains Instagram’s most followed person, now with more than 388 million followers. Next up is Ronaldo, the first person to reach 200 million followers. Fellow footballer Lionel Messi has also broken the 300 million milestone.

Other accounts in the top 10 belong to former wrestler The Rock, Reality-TV personality Kim Kardashian, and singers Beyonce and Justin Bieber.

More explosive and without-make-up stories coming up ahead. Sniff with World Inthavaaram and gather more followers.

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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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