WORLD INTHAVAARAM, 2023–07

Kumar Govindan
9 min readFeb 18, 2023

About-the world this week, 12 February to 18 February 2023: new normal war and education; a chemical train derails; Cyclone Gabrielle acts tough; the First Minister of Scotland quits; a new illness; Super Bowl and pregnancies; and a famous, beautiful Hollywood Actress dies.

Everywhere

America is suddenly occupied with shooting down ‘Identified Flying Objects’ and also Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) strolling into its airspace, and ‘maybe’ calling them Aliens — it’s becoming a habit and a new trend.

The illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine and the fight-back by Ukraine in the War is growing normal. So is the fact that girls are shut-out of schools and colleges by the Taliban in Afghanistan: denied basic education only because of their gender, which is not done as policy in any other country on Earth — a war on Education. The World needs to do more to stop these two senseless wars.

The Earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria, last week, bore stories of unbelievable grit of survival emerging from the ruins and the rubble; and, once life is extracted, washed-down, and fed food, displayed a beatific smile. Life lives and sustains in the worst of disasters. And goes on.

The contrast between killings in the Russian-Ukraine War — we need to count the dead — and saving lives in the Earthquake, is stunning. Life is precious. Why is the United Nations- strung-together by countries of the world-with the stated purpose of ‘preventing another (world) war, unable to do anything at all — in the War in Ukraine and in Education in Afghanistan? Thankfully its Health and Food programmes are success stories we can talk about in abundance. But the ‘Achilles heel’ is, failing to prevent war, or stop a war that has slipped through and started.

Staying with the United States, while it is fully focused on the sky, for the moment, the news of a deadly train derailment in Ohio State did not fire or climb much of the headlines.

Last week, a train carrying the chemical, vinyl chloride derailed and exploded near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. And a controlled burn of the toxic chemical had to be ignited to prevent a much more dangerous explosion. Thousands in East Palestine, a town of about 5000 people, were evacuated with a warning the controlled burn would create a phosgene and hydrogen chloride plume across the region. Phosgene is a highly toxic gas that can cause vomiting and breathing difficulties, and was used as a weapon in the First World War.

The Ohio derailment can be safely called a catastrophe. And it is a ‘wake-up call’ to the dangers of deadly train derailments. The next one could be cataclysmic. No one died in the accident, but the air is pregnant with danger.

‘Ineffective oversight and a largely self-monitoring industry that has cut the rail workforce to the bone in recent years as it puts record profits over safety’, is responsible for the wreck, said a Railroad Official.

About 4.5 million tons of toxic chemicals are shipped by rail each year and an average of 12,000 rail coaches carrying hazardous materials pass through cities and towns each day, according to the US Department of Transportation.

Going into another line of thinking, just 22 train tank coaches filled with LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) holds the same amount of energy as the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb. An LNG fire is extremely difficult to contain, and shipping it by rail can be extremely dangerous. While we are astonished by the effect that the spillage of five coaches of vinyl chloride has had at the Pennsylvania-Ohio border it would be nothing compared to the effects of a similar derailment of LNG.

The US is definitely heading ‘someplace’. What, with it being ‘attacked’ from the Air- UFO’s and Aliens; on Land — chemical derailments, and people using easily-available guns to primarily shoot down school going children.

Meanwhile, this week, a gunman, Anthony Dwayne McRae, 43, killed three Michigan State University students and left five others in critical condition. He had no known ties to the University and opened fire on two parts of campus. And was later found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. There have been 12 school shootings so far this year, and the shooting at Michigan State marks the first at a college or university this year.

Over the past year we have heard of mighty winds, heavy and incessant rains, blazing heat, and other devilish Weather conditions ‘not seen or experienced in a generation or in decades’. Well, it’s back this year.

Cyclone Gabrielle — the kind not seen in a generation in New Zealand — pummelled much of the country’s North Island causing the Government to declare a National Emergency — only the third in New Zealand’s history.

About a third of the country’s population of five million people live in the affected areas. Many people were displaced from their homes and some were forced to swim to safety after rivers burst their banks and entered their houses. Others climbed to rooftops from where they were rescued . About a quarter of a million people are without power. Falling trees have smashed houses, and landslides have carried others away and blocked roads. The storm’s damage has been most extensive in coastal communities on the far north and east coast of the North Island — with areas like Hawke’s Bay, Coromandel, and Northland among the worst hit.

Down Under neighbour Australia has often gone under water and now the ‘disease’ has spread to New Zealand.

The United Kingdom (UK) consists of the lands of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. With England, Scotland, and Wales being referred to as Great Britain we have one title, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on the Passport.

Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland each have their own government or executive led by a First Minister and a devolved unicameral legislature. England, the largest of the constituents of the United Kingdom has no devolved executive or legislature and is administered directly by the UK Parliament, which also reigns supreme over Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

The First Minister of Scotland is Nicola Sturgeon, 52, who is also the Leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), a position she has held since 2014.

This week, in a shock announcement, Nicola Sturgeon ‘in a Jacinda Ardern moment’ called it quits as First Minister as well as Leader of the SNP, saying, “In my head and my heart, I know the time is now”.

This was a bombshell which send shockwaves through Scottish politics. Her Government was in a pivotal moment, in pursuit of SNP’s founding goal, of Scottish Independence in the light of the UK Government’s refusal to engage in plans for a referendum. And the UK Supreme Court has ruled against another referendum on Scottish freedom being held unilaterally, i.e., without the UK Government’s consent.

Nicola Sturgeon departs after facing mounting pressure over her tactics for independence and over transgender rights, though she said she was under no pressure whatsoever over these issues.

Sturgeon became First Minister in the aftermath of the September 2014 referendum, which saw Scots reject breaking away from the rest of the United Kingdom by more than 10 percentage points. However she has been doggedly pushing for another vote, especially in the background of Scotland voting against Brexit in 2016. She has overseen unprecedented electoral success for the SNP as she kept the ‘scent of Scottish Independence’ alive. “I firmly believe that my successor, whoever he or she may be, will lead Scotland to independence and I’ll be there cheering him or her on every single step of the way,” she said.

In less than a month, two prominent world leaders-New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, and Nicola Sturgeon -have resigned from political office. The similarity in the reasons both leaders have cited will find resonance in much of the world, especially among women in public life. Both have cited exhaustion, the need to step away from constant scrutiny and have a private life. They have also hinted at how dehumanising being a woman in public life can be. Lessons for the world!

Marburg

An illness, which has killed more than nine people in Equatorial Guinea has been identified as Marburg, a highly infectious and deadly Ebola-like virus for which there’s no vaccine, officials announced this Monday.

The outbreak was first detected last Tuesday, affecting people who went to a funeral ceremony in Kie-Ntem province, which borders Cameroon and Gabon. It prompted a local lockdown and restrictions along the border with Cameroon. One of the eight samples which were examined has since tested positive for Marburg virus, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said. The other results are not yet known. Samples were negative for Ebola, Lassa, Dengue and Yellow Fever.

So far, Equatorial Guinea has reported 25 suspected cases, including 9 deaths. Their symptoms include nose bleeds, fever, fatigue, joint pain and blood-stained vomit and diarrhoea.

The Marburg virus disease is a highly virulent disease that causes hemorrhagic fever and has a case fatality ratio of up to 88%. It’s in the same family as the virus that causes Ebola. Human-to-human transmission is possible through direct contact with bodily fluids, surfaces and materials.

There are no approved vaccines or antiviral treatments to treat this virus.

Please Yourself

Super Bowl

In American Football, the Super Bowl is the annual final playoff game of the National Football League (NFL) to determine the league champion. It has served as the final game of every NFL season, since 1966.

The Super Bowl is played on the second Sunday in February of the year and is among the world’s most-watched single sporting event and frequently commands the largest audience among all American broadcasts during the year.

This year’s Super Bowl, the 57th, was played on 12th February at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The Kansas City Chiefs won their second Super Bowl in four seasons, defeating the Philadelphia Eagles 38–35.

One of the most eagerly awaited events is the half-time of the Super Bowl when Superstar musicians treat the spectators to a spectacular performance. Remember, the 37th Super Bowl made famous by ‘Janetgate’, when Singer Janet Jackson’s breast — adorned with a nipple shield — was exposed by Actor-Singer Justin Timberlake to the viewing public for approximately half a second. The shield made us wonder whether Janet came prepared with a ‘shield’ expecting the ‘Justin’ attack? It went on to create a voluminous discourse over indecency in broadcasting.

This year, singer Rihanna performed live about a dozen of her hits, without controversy, at half-time. It was an epic music show featuring gravity-defying sets — mainly seven LED illuminated platforms that were hung up to 60 feet above the field. Some said it was the most technically advanced show ever, at the Super Bowl.

And once the music died down, Rihanna made an announcement of a second pregnancy with Rapper A$AP Rocky (he has a dollar in his name).

Not to be left behind, the already mother of three, Actress Blake Lively followed suit announcing ‘one more’ with husband Actor Ryan Reynolds.

I read about a couple in Poland who had seven kids and decided to go for one more, but were blessed with quintuplets — that’s a dozen in total! Suddenly it looks like it’s raining babies all over Plant Earth. The human population is surely exploding and may become the next Climate Change problem, will it? And we have a grown-up child activist leading an effort, from the front!

US actress Raquel Welch — a breath-taking natural beauty — who, some say, paved the way for modern-day action heroines in Hollywood films, died at the age of 82, after a brief illness.

Welch became an international sex symbol in the 1960s, widely remembered for playing a bikini-clad cavewoman in the 1966 film One Million Years B.C. She also won a Golden Globe for her role in 1974’s The Three Musketeers. In a career spanning over five decades, Welch appeared in more than 30 movies and 50 television shows.

In the year 1979, Raquel Welch posed for Playboy, but she never did a fully nude shoot. Playboy founder Hugh Hefner later said, “Raquel Welch, one of the last of the classic sex symbols, came from the era when you could be considered the sexiest woman in the world without taking your clothes off. She declined to do complete nudity, and I yielded gracefully. The pictures prove her point”.

Welch married her high school sweetheart, James Welch with whom she had two children, Damon Welch, and Latanne Tahnee Welch (who is an actress). James and Raquel Welch divorced in 1964: she retained James’ last name, Welch, until her death.

She married producer Patrick Curtis in 1967, and divorced him in 1972. In 1980, she married producer Andre Weinfeld, divorcing him in 1990. Welch wed Richard Palmer, owner of Mulberry Street Pizzeria (over 30 years in the business of making Pizzas; claims to be the World’s most famous Pizzeria) in 1999 but then separated in 2003. After this, Welch did not remarry.

She was my ‘Dream Woman’ in the High School and College days. RIP Raquel Welch.

More stories pregnant with life and meaning coming up in the weeks ahead. Deliver your best with World Inthavaaram.

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Kumar Govindan

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