WORLD INTHAVAARAM, 2022–12
About: the world this week, 20 March to 26 March 2022, war, prison, a plane crash, girls education, killing fields, and not saying goodbye.
The Russia-Ukraine war bangs-on and Ukraine is hanging-on out there against the unrelenting Russian attack, even pushing them back from a suburb around the capital, Kyiv. Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine is facing the brunt of the attack, mercilessly bombed with about 80% of the city destroyed, but it isn’t giving up. Not yet.
Over a month into the invasion, Ukrainians continue to defy the odds, showing a deadly fighting streak in defence of their country and in keeping alive freedom. Outnumbered in tanks, troops, aircraft, and in other armoury, the highly motivated Ukrainian forces, reinforced with steely citizen volunteers, have in many places fought the Russian Army to a standstill.
The command and control, steadfastly operating out of Kyiv, is effectively co-ordinated over several battlefronts. Sound battle tactics are being deployed to outwit the Russians. And Ukraine is far ahead in the information war. Is victory in sight?
During the week, Anatoly Chubais a key aide of Russian President Vladimir Putin stepped down from his role as an international envoy. This is the senior most official to resign since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Chubais was responsible for coordinating Russia’s sustainable development goals internationally. After the war began, he posted a picture of a murdered opposition figure, in what was seen as a critical gesture. Now, he has followed-through and given-up on Russia’s unholy aggression.
United States (US) President Joe Biden travelled to Europe’s Brussels to meet with his NATO allies. He thundered that any chemical attack launched by Russia in Ukraine would be met ‘in kind’ by NATO. One clear winner of this outrageous war is that the NATO Allies have become ‘great FRIENDS’ again. They put up a united front and told Ukraine that they are with them through this unfolding disaster-supplying them with copious amounts of arms, ammunition, training, food, supplies… and morale.
In another front, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said it will seek payment in rubles for natural gas sold to ‘unfriendly’ countries, and European Union (EU) gas prices soared on concerns that the move would exacerbate the region’s energy crunch. Russian gas accounts for about 40% of Europe’s total consumption. The EU continues to buy about USD 600 million of oil & gas, daily, from Russia. USA lifts and pays for 8% of its energy needs from Russia.
The ‘unfriendly countries’ are, the US, EU member states, Britain, Japan, Canada, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, and Ukraine. Some, such as the US and Norway, do not purchase Russian gas.
Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky is continuing his address to the World, garnering support and requesting Governments to do what it takes to put pressure on Russia to pull back from its egregious invasion. This week, Swiss Firm Nestle, ‘under ferocious attack from Ukraine for selling in Russia’, withdrew some of its brands such as Kit-kat and Nesquik, from Russia while keeping only the essential food items in supply, on the shelf.
Every week I write about this war, I’m flabbergasted and pained by the destruction and inhuman cruelty happening in Ukraine due to one man’s crazy mind driving the proceedings. How can he get away with such a brutal act with others just watching? We have to find a way to stop this war.
Alexei Navalny, remember him? This week, the 45 years old Russian Opposition Leader was sentenced to nine more years in prison for fraud and contempt of court, in a maximum security prison. Navalny is already serving more than two years for a parole violation. Despite being lodged in jail, he has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And called on people to protest, leading to thousands of arrests.
Will Alexei Navalny’s time come? He faces a seemingly endless series of ‘prejudiced’ prison sentences based on bogus charges; and maybe, the result of the Russia-Ukraine War would liberate him!
This Monday, a China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737–800, with 132 people on-board crashed in a wooded area of the Guangxi hills in Southern China. Flying at a safe cruising altitude of about 29,100 feet, the plane took a sudden nose-dive to 7,425 feet, recovered briefly to 8,600 feet, and was last tracked at 3,225 feet, before plunging down almost vertically. This, at about the time when it would normally start to descend ahead of landing. The plane disintegrated, starting a fire in a heavy bamboo tree filled area. There were no survivors reported. China has a healthy record of aeroplane flight safety and this crash was unexpected.
Flight MU5735 was flying from the city of Kunming, capital of the Yunnan Province to Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong, bordering Hong Kong, when the tragedy occurred.
It’s estimated that there are 4,208 Boeing 737–800 passenger planes in service, with over a quarter of them based in China.
Boeing 737–800s, which were first produced in the late 1990s, have a strong safety record. The plane involved in Monday’s crash was about six years old. Boeing has been struggling to recover from two fatal crashes involving its 737 MAX aircraft, which claimed the lives of 346 passengers and crew.
The reason for the crash is under investigation, and among the usual technical and weather issues, pilot illness or suicide is being seen as a possibility. The pilot and co-pilot had more than 39,000 hours of combined flying experience, adding to the mystery of why the plane crashed.
Still Flying on Mars
Meanwhile, with sufficient rest, NASA’s Helicopter Ingenuity is still ‘alive and kicking’ on Mars? Over the weekend, the Mars Helicopter took its 22nd flight: the trip lasted 101.4 seconds and Ingenuity got up to 10 meters in the air. The team is busy planning the next flight while Ingenuity conquers a tiny amount of Mars air-space, every time it grabs the Martian air.
Girls in Afghanistan: We Need Education
I follow BBC’s Yalda Hakim on Twitter, and she has been diligently keeping a count on the number of days teenage girls across Afghanistan have been prohibited from secondary school (grades 6 to 12) education, and kept away from classrooms, by the Taliban-ever since they took control of the country (in a manner Russia’s Putin thought he could, in Ukraine). The count stood at 186 days!
This week was expected to be a turning-point with the Taliban announcing that 23 March 2022 will be the date when teenage girls can return to their classrooms. During its previous rule from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban had banned girls from receiving education and this time around it did just that. On introducing the ban last year, the Taliban claimed that their restrictions on girls studying was ‘temporary’ and will be back in place once they are able to ensure all workplaces and learning environments are ‘safe’ for the girls.
However, on 23 March when girls turned up at school gates, the Taliban reneged and sent the girls back to their homes, saying that the time is still not right for them; that officials are yet to draw up a plan for schools that aligns with their interpretation of Islamic law. And that an appropriate Islamic dress has to be designed for them before opening the schools. This brought tears to the eyes of many girls and parents were visibly outraged by such a U-turn.
One million girls in the country are affected by the Taliban’s stance. And if they aren’t back in class soon, it could impact the aid that Afghanistan gets, since Western countries have made it clear that girls’ access to education is a ‘sine quo non’ for the cash to flow.
Amazing that after all the far-reaching development of humankind brought about by education and learning, some are being denied such a basic right, in the name of religion.
Killing Fields of West Bengal
Over the past month, it has been a horrific state of affairs in India’s State of West Bengal, ruled by a ‘permanently scowling and endlessly fighting-with-the-Centre’ Chief Minister (CM) of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) Party, Mamata Banerjee. Her only superpower has been that despite what happens, or does not happen in the State, she keeps winning election after election. If such people-power cannot be used to ensure the safety of people and their betterment, of what use is it?
A student activist was killed by local Police on 18 February, a Congress and TMC Councillor were shot dead on 13 March in two different incidents. And worst of all on 21 March, a TMC deputy Panchayat head of Barshal Village, Rampurhat, Birbhum Disctrict was killed. The same day, it what appeared to be a revenge attack, eight people, including women and children were burnt alive inside their homes in Bagtui Village, Rampurhat. The Television channels showed charcoal-black charred bodies being piled up and taken away, in a heart-wenching scene. Most of these incidents seem to be related in some way to the TMC, the ruling party, headed by its woman CM.
Such medieval violence has no place in a democracy and the buck stops at the CM’s table. Act or leave?
An Ace Tennis Shock
Women’s Tennis World No 1, Ashleigh Barty of Australia announced a shock retirement from tennis at the age of 25 (and Roger Federer is still hitting those balls at age 40 upwards).
Ash Barty is quitting the sport at the peak of her powers, as the reigning Australian Open and Wimbledon Champion. She has held the world No 1 position since winning the 2019 French Open Title.
Barty said, “I just know that I am absolutely spent, I just know physically I have nothing more to give. And that to me is success. I have given absolutely everything I can to this beautiful sport of tennis.”
Turns out that Ash Barty has superb talent in cricket and golf, and maybe we could see her in new avatars on these green fields. Or has somebody seduced her to change track at this station of her life?
Whatever, Ash Barty has redefined sporting success as Quality, not Quantity.
Over the previous weekend, tired of the news headlines and the macabre incidents swirling around the world, I crashed into the movie, ‘Without Saying Goodbye’ (2022), on Netflix, and promptly fell in love with the romantic, finding-your-purpose-film. It stars Maxi Igelsias and Stephaine Cayo in the lead roles.
It’s about a successful workaholic, ‘gadget-tied’, Spanish Architect, Salvador (Maxi Igelsias) who travels to rural Peru to buy tribal land -in front of a world wonder, Cuzco, navel of the world -and build a luxury hotel for his father’s Business. He is constantly working, scheduling, and getting tasks done. He stays in a little House-Hotel run by Lichi (Wendy Ramos)- who’s land he intends to buy for the project-and bumps into Ariana (Stephanie Cayo), Lichi’s free-spirited artist niece; when a broken-key takes him to her side of the House, watching her sing and dance. And he ‘lights her tail’-a piece of protruding paper in the rear of her dress -with a candle, while dancing, as a way of signalling interest. And it works; love catches fire!
Ariana helps her Aunt run the place, and also takes tourists on treks through the spectacularly beautiful region. She is vehemently against her Aunt selling the land to build a ‘huge chunk of concrete and cement’.
Salvador first falls in love with Ariana and the land, and easily glides into acquiring appreciation for a more eco-friendly way of life, sustainability, and the local culture. Ariana, who has no interest in romantic love, happy endings, or marriage, resists his kind of approach to life and work. Their values are at odds, but he begins to consider the benefits of a less hyper-scheduled life, and she opens up to the idea of sharing her life with someone who’s so willing to change his way of thinking. They discover each other over a ‘bag-pack trek’ through the luscious land, where Salvador learns the yoga of meditation. How can you stop thinking?
Salvador quits his father’s company, takes a sabbatical, and goes on a search to find Ariana, who left in a huff (without saying goodbye) disagreeing over selling the property. Ultimately, as he persists, she comes to value what they have together.
The views of Peru are breathtaking, and we get to see the 15th century Inca citadel Machu Pichhu — one of the seven wonders of the world. And of course, the beautiful chemisty between Salvador and Ariana.
I cannot leave without saying, goodbye. Fall in Love with World Inthavaaram. Discover more wonders. Goodbye, until next week!