WORLD INTHAVAARAM, 2023–43

Kumar Govindan
8 min readOct 28, 2023

About: the world this week, 22 October to 28 October 2023; Israel hammers Hamas in the Gaza; America’s shooting; Spying in Qatar; Paralympic Games; and a still burning, runaway fire.

Everywhere

Taken

Israel’s War on the terrorist Hamas continues, with Israel wrecking havoc on Northern Gaza with relentless bombing of terrorist hideouts. Israel said 229 hostages are still being held by Hamas. This week, two elderly Israeli hostages were released in addition to two American hostages released last week — on ‘humanitarian grounds’ they said!

After intense negotiations, The Rafah Border Crossing between Egypt and South Gaza opened late last week to let a trickle of aid into Gaza for the first time since Israel sealed it off. Just 20 trucks, of the 200 trucks carrying 3,000 tons that have been waiting for days, were allowed inside.

On another front, Iran and its proxy terrorist groups in Lebanon and Syria are beginning to make noises. In Lebanon, the Hezbollah group has continued to exchange fire with Israeli forces in the north, leading Israel to evacuate tens of thousands of its residents. In Syria, Israel fired missiles at the Damascus and Aleppo international airports-apparently taking them out of service. And Iran continues to rave and rant at Israel directly, saying, ‘anything is possible at any given moment.’ Through all of this, the delicate peace between Israel and neighbouring Arab states, like Egypt and Jordon is on a knife-edge.

Though it has piled up its Armed Forces on the Gaza Border, Israel is holding back its ground attack, which could be due to the hostage situation and perhaps for more detailed planning given the maze of underground tunnels from which Hamas operates. A trial excursion inside Gaza was made, when rocket launch and ammunition facilities were wiped out. And we can expect a sudden invasion.

This week, a major media publication, the New York Times came out with an apology on wrongly blaming Israel for last week’s Hospital attack, when it indeed was a selfie by Hamas. The United Kingdom’s BBC too came close to an apology about it needing to be verified, and it still calls Hamas, ’militants’ and ‘fighters’ instead of plain ‘Terrorist. At worst, the car parking was destroyed, and about 10 people were killed in the Hospital misadventure.

Meanwhile, Hamas continues to shoot rockets into Israel even as the situation of people in Gaza is miserable — without food, water, and strained medical facilities.

In the middle of the week, United Nations (UN) General Secretary Antonio Guterres complicated the situation by saying that the act of Hamas did not happen ‘in a vacuum’ and appeared to be rationalising the savage brutality of Hamas with the Palestine cause-noting that Palestinians had suffered more than five decades of occupation and oppression by Israel. He also condemned the Hamas attack on Israel of 7th October that started the war, and demanded that all hostages taken that day be released. The ‘rationalising’ prompted Israel to demand his resignation.

Turkiye’s President Tayyip Erdogan has cancelled his Israel trip saying Hamas, “is not a terrorist organisation, it is a liberation group”. He has his head in the desert sand, for sure!

It’s obvious that a solution to the present crisis can be found, starting only with release of all Hostages taken. And Israel has set itself the goal of eliminating Hamas in a ‘do or die’ effort for the sake of its future generations.

Shooting

If there is one country which always has a well-oiled gun shooting itself at regular intervals, it is America. And the shooting madness is forever making news.

A mass shooting in Maine, the Northeastern State of the United States (US) has left at least 18 dead and dozens injured. The shooting in Lewiston occurred this Wednesday night at Sparetime Recreation Bowling Alley and Schemengees Bar & Grille Restaurant around 7 pm. This is possibly the deadliest mass shooting out of 565 in the US, this year alone. The death toll was staggering for a state that in 2022 had 29 homicides during the entire year.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, a mass shooting is defined as an incident in which four or more people are injured or killed.

Police have launched a massive manhunt to nab the gunman, identified as Robert Card. And the city is under lockdown given that he has military experience.

Robert Card, 40, is a twice-divorced father of three children. A resident of Maine’s Bowdoin, he is a firearms instructor believed to be in the Army Reserve. Card was previously committed to a mental health facility for two weeks after ‘hearing voices and threats’ to shoot up a military base.

Maine doesn’t require permits to carry guns, and the state has a longstanding culture of gun ownership that is tied to its traditions of hunting and sport shooting.

Some recent attempts by gun control advocates to tighten the state’s gun laws have failed with State’s residents voting them down. Proposals to require background checks for private gun sales and create a 72-hour waiting period for gun purchases failed earlier this year. Proposals that focused on school security and banning bump stocks failed in 2019. A proposal to require background checks for gun sales failed in a 2016 public vote. That’s the looking down the barrel, on the background.

Spying?

This week, a court in Qatar handed down the death sentence to eight former Indian navy personnel after an in-camera trial: a shocking and a huge foreign policy challenge for India.

The eight ex-officers are: Captain Navtej Singh Gill, Captain Saurabh Vasisht, Commander Purenendu Tiwari, Captain Birendra Kumar Verma, Commander Sugunakar Pakala, Commander Sanjeev Gupta, Commander Amit Nagpal, and Sailor Rajesh. They worked at Qatar’s Al Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services, a private company that offers ‘complete support solutions’ to the aerospace, security, and defence sectors in Qatar. The Company was advising the Qatari government on acquiring submarines. It was shut down in May 2023.

The former Navy men were first picked up by Qatar’s State Security Bureau — the state intelligence agency- on 30 August 2022, under the cover of darkness. The Indian Embassy was not informed about the arrests and it was only on 30th September that the veterans were allowed a brief phone call to their families. And on 3rd October, an Indian diplomat finally visited them, more than a month after their arrest. After being arrested on unspecified charges they were kept in solitary confinement for a long period.

The trial began this year, with the first hearing on 29th March and the most recent one on 3rd October. A verdict was anticipated this month.

The precise nature of the charges remains unknown: reports suggest that the Indian Navy men were arrested for leaking classified information related to a high-value Qatari submarine project. And that the receiver of the classified information was Israel. The whole trial was held in secrecy, which makes the death sentence appear very dubious. India’s Ambassador to Qatar and the Deputy Chief of Mission met them in prison and they were provided legal representation in court.

Qatar punches well above its weight in regional stakes, as was exemplified by its resilience during the Saudi Arabia-led blockade against it between 2017–21. Qatar also hosts a plethora of opposition and militant movement leaders from the Islamic world, including from Palestinian Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood, and Taliban. It houses American and Turkish military bases and simultaneously has a working relationship with Iran. In government-owned Al Jazeera broadcaster, Qatar has an opinion-influencer in the region. Behind all this is, of course, is Qatar’s gas-fuelled financial muscle. India is one of the largest importers of Qatari gas. About 800,000 Indians live and work in Qatar.

Disability Counts

The Asian Para Games is a multi-sport event regulated by the Asian Paralympic Committee and held every four years after every Asian Games, for athletes with physical disabilities. It is held in the same city as the Asian Games of the year.

The 4th Asian Para Games 2023 is being held in Hangzhou, China from 22nd October to 28th October, and India ‘capitalising on the handicaps’ is performing beyond expectations. At the last count, India’s medal tally stood at 99 medals, 25-Gold, 29-Silver, and 45-Bronze.

In the previous edition of the Games in 2018, India had won 72 medals including 15 Gold.

One of India’s remarkable and outstanding star performers was 16 year old Sheetal Devi from Loidhar Village in Kishtwar, Jammu, who was born without arms due to Phocomelia — a rare congenital deformity in which the hands or feet are underdeveloped or absent. She is the first female archer without arms to compete internationally — the only current female international archer in the world, to shoot with the feet. She started training with the bow-and-arrow just two years ago. Sheetal Devi won two gold, one silver in the Asian Paralympic Games.

Please Yourself

I came across this burning story and thought I should let out the smoke about it.

Burning Borough

Centralia is a Borough — a self-administered unit- and a ghost town in Columbia County, Pennsylvania, United States; part of the Bloomsburg–Berwick metropolitan area. It is the least-populated municipality in Pennsylvania and completely surrounded by Conyngham Township, which itself has a population of 689, as per the 2020 census.

All real estate in the Centralia Borough was claimed under Eminent Domain in 1992 and its ZIP Code was discontinued by the Postal Service in 2002. In October 2013 an agreement was reached with the then seven remaining residents allowing them to remain in Centralia until their deaths, after which the rights to their houses will be taken over by Eminent Domain. As of 2021, only 4 residents remain.

Eminent Domain means a Government can deprive someone of ownership or right of ownership on a right private property of public use with payment of compensation.

What happened in Centralia?

Centralia is a former coal mining town that has been experiencing a relentless underground fire for nearly six decades! The origins of this ongoing blaze trace back to 1962 when the town council made the fateful decision to incinerate a landfill. At the time, they were unaware that the landfill was interconnected with subterranean coal mine shafts. This inadvertent act ignited a coal seam, and the fire has been burning ever since becoming unstoppable.

The Borough council’s ‘minutes of meeting’ of 4 June 1962, referred to two fires at the dump and that five firefighters had submitted bills for fighting the fire at the landfill area. The Borough, by law, was responsible for installing a fire-resistant clay barrier between each layer of the landfill, but the work fell behind schedule, leaving the barrier incomplete. This allowed the hot coals to penetrate the coal seam underneath the pit and start the subsequent subterranean fire.

After making all efforts to extinguish the fire, Pennsylvania eventually abandoned further attempts, having spent USD 7 million in the 1990s. Remarkably, despite the well-known hazards, a few residents still inhabit Centralia.

In 1979, locals became aware of the scale of the problem when a gas-station owner, inserted a dipstick into one of his underground tanks to check the fuel level. When he withdrew it, it felt awfully hot. He lowered a thermometer into the tank on a string and was shocked to discover that the temperature of the gasoline in the tank was 77.8 °C.

Due to the presence of coal deposits beneath the town, experts believe that the fire could potentially continue burning for another 250 years!Slowburn.

More burning stories coming-up in the weeks ahead. Handle the fire with World Inthavaaram.

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Kumar Govindan

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