About: the world this week, 23rd May to 30th May 2021, flying and surviving.
‘Plain’ State Hijacking
On 23rd May, Ryanair Flight FR4978, a Boeing-737 with 171 people on board was on a routine flight from Athens, Greece, to Vilnius in Lithuania. While briefly in the airspace of Belarus, and on the verge of beginning its descent into Vilnius, it suddenly changed direction and landed in Minsk, capital of Belarus, escorted by a Belarus military MIG29 jet. This was despite the fact Vilnius was the nearest Airport, for an emergency landing.
The Ryanair crew was brought to speed about a possible security risk-a bomb on the plane, set-off to explode over Vilnius: the tense situation forcing the Captain to declare an emergency and land in Minsk, as directed by the Belarus Air Traffic Controllers.
Turns out that the ‘bomb’ was actually 26 years old Belarusian journalist and Opposition Activist Roman Protasevich who lives in exile in Lithuania. He is on a ‘Wanted List’, on a variety of charges and was conveniently on the plane. As soon as the plane landed he was promptly arrested, along with his Russian girlfriend-who was travelling with him-by the Belarus Interior Ministry. A bomb squad, including dogs, went through the motions of trying to sniff other kinds of bombs on the plane.
The ‘bomb’ order was given by the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, a brutal and unpredictable leader who has been fending of Opposition protests, clinging to power, since claiming victory in last year’s hotly-contested election, widely condemned by many countries.
The forced diversion of the Ryanair Plane was quickly branded as a case of ‘State Hijacking’ and called as utterly unacceptable and outrageous, by the European Union, the United States, and other Countries.
Roman and fellow dissident Stepan Putilo co-founded the opposition Nexta Channel on the messaging platform, Telegram, which was used for mobilising street protests against the Lukashenko Regime, in Belarus. Nexta and Nexta-Live have nearly two million subscribers. They manage to get round heavy State censorship and reach out to people.
Roman Protasevich faces serious charges of organising mass riots and group action against the 26-year rule of President Lukashenko, that grossly violate public order, and Rules of the Land. He faces a possible death penalty.
Beginning to smell like Myanmar of a different kind. Terrorists and cold-blooded hijackers are lying and flying low: the State is warming-up, flying high, and filling-in?
Every week I struggle to find words to headline what’s happening in Myanmar.
This week more than 125,000 school teachers-that’s about 29% of all school teachers in Myanmar-were suspended for joining the civil disobedience movement opposing the military coup that overthrew the country’s elected government this February.
The suspensions have come days before the start of a new school year, which some teachers and parents are boycotting as part of a campaign that has paralysed the country since the military seized power.
Myanmar’s education system is one of the poorest in the region, and ranked 92nd of 93 countries in a global survey last year. The spending on education is below 2% of GDP.
Many parents are seriously considering not to send their children to a school run by the Military Dictatorship. We need no education: more to learn on the ground?
Samoa: Democracy in a Tent
Samoa is a Polynesain Island country consisting of two main islands and several other smaller islands in the South Pacific Ocean. The capital city is Apia. The nearest countries around are New Zealand, Australia, and Papua New Guinea.
Early this week, Samoa’s first female Prime Minister, and a former Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, was sworn into office in a tent set-up in the Parliament Gardens, after she found herself locked out of Parliament by her opponent. She was administered the oath of office by the country’s Chief Justice.
Her opponent, the China-leaning, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, the incumbent prime minister for 22 years, had ignored a court order to step down and cede power. Instead, he nudged his Party to lock-down Parliament Building, causing the ugly scene. He is the world’s second longest serving prime minister and does not seem to have had enough of it.
The controversy comes a month after the closest run general election in Samoa’s history, which was followed by bitter disputes and legal challenges. Malielegaoi’s Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) was ousted from power after four decades by Mata’afa’s FAST (Faatuataua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi – meaning, Faith in one God of Samoa) Party. Both parties won 25 seats each, but a single independent Member of Parliament (MP) broke the tie in favour of the FAST.
That led to legal manoeuvring by the HRPP, which claimed its opponents had not correctly met the quota of female MPs. Samoa’s Election Commission revoked the results of the April vote and called for a fresh election on 21st May. But five days ahead of the re-run, the Samoa’s Supreme Court ruled against the HRPP, re-endorsing the results of the election and ordered the swearing-in of Mata’afa to go ahead.
After serving as Polynesia’s first female Deputy Prime Minister Mata’afa’s success in the general election makes her only the second woman in the region to head a government. She is the daughter of the country’s first prime minister, and has been in active politics since the mid 1980s. Looks like she brings a lot to the tent.
Manu Siva Tau is a traditional Samoan war dance often performed by Samoan sporting teams before a match. Only this time the theme has been usurped by Political Parties, and they continue to dance even after the match! Meanwhile, the faith in God needs to work.
That poor fellow ‘Democracy’, is being hotly-contested, furiously challenged, kicked-around, rubber-bulleted, tear-gassed, and shot, all around the World. Yet surviving (for want of a better alternative?).
Enter The Devil
This week, ‘Devils’ were born on the Australian mainland for the first time in more than 3000 years, after they died out, to extinction, in the mainland. Seven baby Tasmanian Devils-known as joeys-were born at the 988 acre Barrington Wildlife Sanctuary in New South Wales.
Female Devils give birth to between 20 and 40 joeys at a time, which then race to the mother’s pouch containing only four teats. First come first served! Only those that make it to the pouch and drink the juice of life, survive. After around three months of drinking, they walk out of the pouch, into the world of Angels, and other Devils.
The Tasmanian Devil is the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial (having a baby pouch-like the Kangaroo) reaching about 2.5 feet in length and tipping the scales at over 12 kilograms. They have a coat of coarse brown or black fur and a stocky profile that gives them the appearance of a baby bear. Most have a white stripe or patch on their chest and light spots on their sides or rear. They have long front legs and shorter rear legs, giving them a pig-like gait. Their oversized head has a mouth full of sharp teeth and strong muscular jaws that can deliver one of the most powerful bites for any animal.
They earned the name ‘Devil’ from their hyena-like teeth, and aggressive posturing, releasing spine-chilling guttural growls when threatened, defending a meal, or fighting for a mate.
Once abundant throughout Australia, they are now found only on the Australian owned island of Tasmania with over 25,000 of them in the wild. Their extinction on the mainland could be due to the introduction of Asian Dogs-or Dingoes- into Australia. However, their numbers suffered another knock-out blow from a contagious form of cancer known as Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD), which has killed around 90% of the population since it was first discovered in 1996. The rare contagious cancer causes large lumps to form around the animal’s mouth and head making it extremely difficult to eat-the animal eventually starves to death.
The Devils are native apex predators and also scavengers. This means their reintroduction will help control the population of feral cats and foxes that hunt other endangered species, while their scavenging skills will keep the environment clean and free from disease.
Australia needs every kind of animal to do its job. Last week I talked about mice overrunning the mainland. Now they are getting started with the Devils.
A known Devil is better than an unknown Angel? Only time will tell!
India Fights Back
When highly developed countries were battered by waves of the coronavirus and had equal or worse situations, India with its starving healthcare system struggling to breathe, fought the second wave of COVID-19 with awesome gusto. And now, after the nightmare of tails-up, never-ending action, it is heads-up with falling cases of infection and test positivity percentages. A time to cheer.
New daily Infections are at currently about 1.75 Lakh per day, and the lowest in 44 days. The average India daily test positivity rate is at about 9%. And the recovery rate is 90.34%. The total vaccination is India stands at above 20.50 crore.
The Government has promised to get India full vaccinated by December 2021. That’s ambitious and I hope it gets done so that we can open ourselves into a less virus dominated year in 2022. Oh, the years are flying!
The newly elected Government in my State of Tamilnadu (TN) promised to make it the top State in all aspects. It did just that. And right now, TN is at the head of the daily positive cases, while almost at the bottom of the table on the number of vaccinations done as a percentage of the population.
Maybe someone heard me and I learnt of a special Vaccination Camp for the 18 to 45 year olds happening this Thursday onwards in the Government Municipality School, next-door to my business place. I herded my employees-locked down in their homes-to make the best use of the opportunity and I’m glad they all listened. And got their first shots. My Business is now Vaccinated: all with at least one shot and the oldest person fully-with a double jab.
I would say we should not throw caution to the winds and prepare for worser things to come. ‘Once bitten, twice shy’ is a timeless saying. Mask-up, wash hands often, and keep the distance.
The Eurovision Song Contest results were out this Sunday and Italy’s Maneskin won the Eurovision Song Contest 2021 with their entry, ‘Zitti e Buoni’ (Shut Up and Behave) performed live by the Group. The song was written by the Band’s members, Damiano David (Lead Singer), Ethan Torchio (Drums), Thomas Raggi (Guitar), and Victoria De Angelis(Bass). They scored 524 points to win.
Maneskin are a heavy-metal Band from Rome. This is a first win in the contest for Rome and the third for Italy, which has been in the competition since inauguration of the Eurovision Contest in 1956. It was bare-chested, eye-lined, punk-funk rock performance with the Band singing in their native language.
There were some splitting moments during the contest when lead singer Damiano accidentally split his pants-in the front and sides. Later he had to deny taking cocaine, live on TV after appearing to do a kind of snorting action during the performance. However an investigation conducted into the charges, unambiguously cleared Damiano.
Runners-up was the French singer, Barbara Pravi, in the second place and Switzerland’s Gjon’s Tears, in the third.
The contest was held in Rotterdam, Netherlands which was due to host the event in 2020, but was cancelled due to the pandemic and held, as we ‘heard’ this year. The winning country hosts the Contest, next year. Over to Italy.
Lockdowns are useful for discovering new ways of surviving this phase of intense virus blasts. I was nudged by one of my best Engineering College friends to watch the Netflix political, thriller, drama, Designated Survivor, with a warning ‘you may end-up binge watching’.
I told myself, here I am, a ‘Designated Sage’ reading the Baghavad Gita, as often as possible, finding hidden meanings, expanding known beliefs, and meditating regularly to rein my mind to peacefully pursue my written-down goals. Surely nothing can get me astray. I even cleverly had Darius Foroux’s, Thinking Straight, by my side, which I have been reading and re-reading.
After watching the first Episode, Season-1, then the second, then the third, and the fourth…and all my mind (and time) control went for a thrilling toss. I decided to pack my bags, catch a plane and settle down in one of the 132 rooms in the White House, Washington DC, to watch the drama unfold in close quarters. Well, literally.
A ‘designated survivor’ is a person who is chosen to stay at an undisclosed secret location, under the guard of the Secret Service, away from major events such as the State of Union Address or Presidential inaugurations when the entire Government is assembled in one place. The thinking is that there is someone ‘left behind’ to take charge of the Government in the event of a terror attack when the entire Government may be killed, wiped-out.
‘Designated’ becomes real, when a US Secretary of Housing & Urban Development suddenly ascends, to unexpectedly become the President of the United States after a horrific explosion in Capitol Hill Building during the State of the Union Address kills the President and everyone ahead of him in the presidential line of succession.
Kiefer Sutherland stars as Thomas Kirkman, the Designated Survivor, who becomes the President and smartly navigates himself from one tense nerve-wracking situation to another, to pull the country out of a headless crisis and put in place a Government. He plays the role of lifetime in a scorching performance. Others characters, I was forced to fall in love are, Emily Rhodes- Special Advisor/Chief Of Staff, Hannah Wells – FBI Special Agent, Chuck Russink – FBI Analyst, and Seth Wright – Press Secretary.
Watch it for the thrilling turn-of events, the investigative sequences, in every episode, which keeps you on the edge of your seat, the curt dialogues, the acting, and shooting…and prepare for the binge!
More music-in life-and survival stories coming up in the weeks ahead.