About: the world this week, 31st May to 5th June 2021, births, digging down into History, Tennis, Hacking, Greek words, and fresh lingering music.


Born in China

China has the largest population in the World with about 1.44 billion…and not growing at all. This was brought about by its One-Child Policy, introduced in 1979, to slow the then burgeoning population. Families that violated the rules faced fines, loss of employment, and sometimes forced abortions. This eventually led to a severe imbalance between the boys & the girls, besides falling birth-rates.

Staring at a ‘blank’ future, ageing workforce, and not enough people to get work done, China scrapped the One-Child Policy in 2016, replacing it with a Two-Child Policy. This failed to lead to a sustained upsurge in births, which consequently pushed them to start thinking about ‘Three’.

The cost of raising children in cities has deterred many Chinese couples from having more kids. And China may have to find ways to incentivise its people to make babies.

China carried out a comprehensive census in late 2020, when some seven million census-takers went door-to-door to collect information from Chinese households. The census, released earlier this month, showed that around 12 million babies were born last year-a significant decrease from the 18 million in 2016, and the lowest number of births recorded since the 1960s. That was alarming.

Acting on the results of the census, China has announced that it will now allow couples to have up to three children.

Of course, it takes two to tango; to make-up their minds, to expand to five. That’s lots of bed-work. If they were not attracted by two, will they fall for three. Guess, the future is pregnant with results. Will China continue its ‘people domination’, on Earth? India is close behind and I do not wish it to overtake China on this count. Let them win!

The Canada Dig

Kamloops (meeting of the waters) is a city in South-Central British Columbia, Canada, at the confluence of two branches of the Thompson River. It is known as the Tournament Capital of Canada, hosting more than 100 Tournaments each year at world-class sports facilities. It is also a designated ‘Bee City’, with numerous organisations protecting and creating bumble bee habitats in the city.

Traditionally, Kamloops was the land of indigenous people: Secwepemc, Nlaka’pamus, and other North American Indians tribes, who were almost completely wiped-out during the smallpox epidemic of 1862. Thereafter, their lands were gradually taken over and occupied by the colonising invaders from Europe.

The Kamloops Indian Residential school (KIRS) was established in 1893 outgrowing the Kamloops Industrial School, which was first started with the aim of acculturating indigenous children. It was one of the largest in Canada, opened and operated from the late 19th century to the late 1970s, by the Catholic Church until the Government took it over in the late 1960s.

In the year 2015, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission released a Report detailing the devastating legacy of the country’s residential school system when tens of thousands of mostly indigenous children were separated from their families and forced to attend residential schools. At least 130 schools were in operation across Canada between the late 19th century and 1996, many run by the Catholic Church or the Government.

The Report determined that at least 4,000 children died of disease, neglect, accidents or abuse while at these schools, and detailed decades of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse suffered by children in these schools.

The gruesome discovery took decades to unravel and for some survivors of the KIRS in Canada, the confirmation that children as young as 3 years, were buried on school grounds crystallises the sorrow they have carried all their lives. Imagine, on one school-day morning, never ever seeing your next bench class-mate, and never knowing what happened!

This past weekend, with the help of a ground penetrating radar specialist, the truth of the preliminary findings came to the surface: the confirmation of the remains of 215 children buried in the School, who were students of the KIRS. These missing children were undocumented deaths.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged the truth that Residential Schools were a reality, a tragedy that existed in the country, which has to be owned-up and further investigated.

The further humankind moves ahead and the deeper we dig into our history the more barbaric are the deeds that tumble out. Tales of decimation, genocide, and ruthless subjugation of races are hard truths we need to face, and resolve never to repeat again. We stand on the shoulders of civilizations that went through these cataclysmic times.

America’s Colours: Black & White

In the 1920’s, a glistening city-within-a-city, Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States of America, was home to grocery and retail stores, theatres, restaurants and hotels: all the businesses and services that would cater to Afro-American residents of a segregated state. Greenwood’s streets were lined with the stately mansions of doctors and business tycoons who made the American Dream, as well as the more modest dwellings of domestic workers. It was so prosperous that it became known as ‘Black Wall Street.’

The affluence of Greenwood ‘created a tie-in between Black Tulsans and White Tulsans. But it was mostly about perspective. White Tulsans talked about Greenwood as ‘Little Africa’ or ‘Nigger Land.’

One hundred years ago, on May 31, 1921, that racial animosity became fuel for a horrific massacre, which all of America would like to forget, forever.

A lynch mob formed in downtown Tulsa after a 19 years old Black man was accused of assaulting a White woman. That night, thousands of White Tulsans launched an all-out assault on Greenwood, with rifles, machine guns, torches and aerial bombings from private planes, proceeding to burn, loot and kill until scores were dead and 35 city blocks were destroyed. The rampage lasted into the next afternoon, leaving 10,000 Black Tulsans homeless and their community burned to nothing but ash and rubble.

It’s unknown how many people were killed but it’s estimated as many as 300 lost their lives in the massacre.

One hundred years later, Tulsa is still reckoning with this violent history. As it does, Americans across the country face another truth: Tulsa wasn’t alone.

Between the end of the American Civil War and the 1940s, the destruction seen in Tulsa happened in various ways to communities of colour across the country.

Still, Black Americans created pockets of wealth during the Reconstruction years and into the early 20th century. Yet, where Black Americans created a refuge, White Americans pushed back through political manoeuvring and violence.

This year marks the centennial of the Tulsa Massacre: the heinous attack on the Black enclave of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was one of the worst acts of racial violence in American history. And it was part of a larger pattern of assault.

French Open: Closed Minds

The 2021 French Open Grand Slam Tennis Tournament rolled out this year on the Roland Garros Clay Courts, Paris, on 30th May, after it was postponed by a week due to the pandemic. The Tournament ends on 13th June 2021.

Japan’s superstar Tennis Player Naomi Osaka, 23, Four-time Grand Slam winner and second seed, came into the Tournament saying that she will not participate in the mandatory Press Conferences, especially the post-match interactions, as it concerned her mental health well-being. She said that Athletes are often asked questions that have been asked multiple times before or asked questions that bring doubt into the minds of the athletes. ‘I’m not going to subject myself to people that doubt me’ she said. And added, ‘the whole situation is kicking a person while they’re down and I don’t understand the reasoning behind it’.

Naomi won her first round match against Romanian Maria Patricia Tig, on Sunday and was promptly fined USD 15,000 by the French Open Authorities for not participating in the Press Conference and failing to meet contractual obligations.

Subsequently, Naomi Osaka announced that she’s withdrawing from the French Open so that everyone can get back to focussing on the game and that she did not want to be a distraction.

We see athletes ‘talking through their respective sport’: the questions and the answers are out there, right in front of them. A ‘meet-the-press’ cannot and should not be forced: it should be left to the athlete to freely discuss an ‘invisible’ strategy, a method, a feeling. Not everyone can play the way they play and we have to understand and acknowledge as much.

Hacking: Pipelines and Meat

We live in a digital world with most of our work being done online, on the internet-the world wide web-with data stored in a cloud, and hard paperwork seeing the end of days. When was the last time you visited a Bank to fill a Challan?

Digital life increases our vulnerability to hacking with a minefield of booby-traps out there: you may never know when you accidentally step on one.

Ransomware is a malicious computer virus, which riding ‘maskless’ on the internet finds a way to infect your Computer and threatens to destroy all your files unless you pay a ransom. Ransomware attacks increased by about 300%, last year. And they do not seem to be hitting a lower, slower gear.

In recent times, the United States of America (USA) found itself dancing to the tune of ransomware music. Remember Russia being accused of hacking the US Elections? I really wonder how that could be done-Russians seem to be coldly on top here. Wonder what kind of a Sputnik Vaccine they use to stay safe?

Last month the USA’s Colonial Pipeline, which is about 8,900 km long, and carries 2.5 million barrels a day-about 45% of the East Coast’s supply of diesel, petrol, and jet fuel- was hit by a ransomware cyber-attack which took the pipeline offline. This triggered fears about fuel shortages generating panic buying: prices jumped, pumps ran dry, and people even went to the extent of filling plastic bags with fuel.

How can a pipeline be hacked? Modern operation systems are extremely digital: Pressure sensors, thermostats, valves & pumps are used to monitor and control fuel passing through the hundreds of kilometres of piping. Smart Pigs (Pipeline Inspection Gauge) Robots are used to check pipelines for anomalies. All this is connected to a Central System, controlled by computers. And therein lies the risk. The biggest attacks are through an innocuous looking email when an employee can be tricked into downloading malicious malware.

On another front, hackers compromised the US Agency for International Development’s account with Constant Contact, an email marketing service. And from there, targeted around 3,000 email accounts, affecting over 150 government agencies (including some in the US), think tanks, and Non-Governmental (NGO) Organisations. At least 23 other countries fell victim to the hack.

Now let’s meet the ‘meat’ of it all. A few days ago a ransomware attack caused JBS, the world’s largest meat supplier to close down all of its US Beef Plants. In the USA, JBS processes nearly one-quarter of the country’s beef and one-fifth of its pork.

JBS has more than 150 plants in 15 countries with 150,000 employees worldwide. It was founded in Brazil in 1953 as a slaughtering business by rancher Jose Batista Sobrinho (the JBS comes from his initials). Its customers include supermarkets and fast-food outlet McDonald’s.

Who are the guys doing this? It’s Hacking Groups, many of which are based in Russia. DarkSide, a criminal hacking group, managed to walk away with $4.4 million in ransom money, paid in Bitcoin, after it hacked Colonial Pipeline. Nobelium, a Russian group is suspected to be behind last year’s US Government data breach. And JBS is suspecting criminal Russian hackers too.

What do we do to protect ourselves from hacking?

Follow the age-old advice: Do not open suspicious email attachments or links to unsolicited emails; back-up your data in an external storage; and keep your software patches up-to-date. Also contact an expert when you are under attack.

A Prime Minister Marries

Last Saturday, Britain’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, 56, married partner Carrie Symonds,33, in London’s Westminster Cathedral in a ceremony attended by 30 friends and family, planned in strict secrecy.

Johnson had divorced his first wife, Allegra Mostyn-Owen, in 1993, and divorced his second wife, Marina Wheeler, in November last year. This is the third marriage for Boris Johnson and the first for Carrie Symonds.

Boris Johnson is only the second British Prime Minister to marry while in office, the first being Robert Jenkinson’s wedding to Mary Chester in 1822.

Earlier, the couple had announced their engagement in February 2020, followed by the announcement of the birth of their first child-a son, Wilfred, in April 2020, and now, the Wedding has been announced and secretly sealed.

Somethings work backwards, for sure. History being made in many dimensions.

WHO goes Greek

Viruses constantly change through mutation to better their prospects of climbing onto humans and increasing the ‘slave-trade’.

A Variant Of Concern (VOC) is a virus, which has done its homework well and where there is strong evidence of increase in transmutability and infection. A Variant of Interest (VOI) is one just beginning to learn the ropes of infection from its Big Brother VOC, and is closely watched by the Scientific Community, while in school hoping that it never graduates.

This week, The World Heath Organization (WHO), opened its Greek Dictionary and went on a (re) naming spree of SARS-CoV-2 Variants, to prevent stigmatising the countries in which they were first discovered. Rightfully so. I never liked the term ‘Indian Variant’ being used, or for that matter, ‘The UK Variant’, or the ’South-African Variant’. Let’s kill them. And now lets spin the Greek alphabet.

The current VOCs are: The B.1.1.7 Variant first detected in the United Kingdom in September 2020 and designated on 18 December 2020, is now called Alpha; the B.1.351 first detected in South Africa in May 2020, and designated on 18 December 2020, is called Beta; the P.1 first detected in Brazil in November 2020 and designated on 11th January 2021, is called Gamma, and B.1.671.2 first detected in Indian in India, in October 2020, and designated on 11th May 2021, is called Delta.

The current VOIs are: B.1.427/B.1.429 first detected in the United States of America in March 2020 and designated on 5th March 2021 is Epsilon, and B.1.617.1, first detected in India in October 2020, and designated on 4th April 2021 is Kappa

Zeta, Eta, Theta, Iota, are other VOI’s first found in Brazil, multiple Countries, Philippines, and the USA respectively.

In summary, we are now living with 4 VOCs and 6 VOIs, as on 31st May 2021. Better start learning Greek?

India Gets on Top – One More Time

India shrugged off what appeared to be its initial deer-caught-in-the headlights stage and waged a tenacious battle to bring down COVID-19 infections. This week the score plunged to lower levels matched only by the quixotic rise of the previous weeks. Many Locked-down States took baby-steps to begin to re-open, again.

At the same time India is going all out to establish a steady supply of Vaccines for all its people. The Government came out with a promise to get all Indian adults vaccinated by December 2021.

I’m confident it can be done. India has already done 22.41 crore vaccinations as on 4th June, and is jabbing at the rate of near about 3 million per day.

Please Yourself: The Sound of Olivia

My music playlist has not been updated in a very long time: I’m kind of an oldies guy, still Staying Alive with the Bee Gees, Imagining with John Lennon, calling Fernando with ABBA, Waiting for a Girl Like You with Foreigner, trying to Fearlessly and Swiftly ‘Taylor’ a Bridge Over Troubled Waters with Simon & Garfunkel, and Getting Old (The Older I Get) with Alan Jackson, when I chanced upon the refreshing music of American Actress, Singer, and Songwriter, Olivia Rodrigo.

Olivia is 18 years old and is just getting started in her musical career, but she’s already off to one of the best starts anyone has ever enjoyed in the history of America’s Billboard Charts. Her debut album Sour reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with one of the largest opening’s in recent memory.

Sour has enjoyed incredible success and three tracks that were released ahead of the album as promotional cuts debuted inside the top 10 on the Hot 100 List, with two opening in first place. Both ‘Drivers License’ and ‘Good For You’ debuted at the top of the list, while second cut ‘Deja Vu’ rose to No. 8.

It’s very likely that due to the superb first-week performance of Sour and all of its songs, the entire track list may make its way to the Hot 100. When Billboard refreshes that List Olivia may dominate like nobody else.

I listened to all the eleven songs of Sour, and it was anything but sour-made me ‘happier’ than I thought it would. The lyrics are vibrant and linger. And I particularly fell in love with ‘jealousy, jealousy (co-comparison is killing me slowly. I think too much ’bout kids who don’t know me) and ‘hope that you’re okay’ (Nothing’s forever, nothing’s as good as it seems. And when the clouds won’t iron out. And the Monsters creep into your house. And every door is hard to close).

Olivia has written most of the songs. “I’m a very in-the-present songwriter,” she said in an interview. “I write songs when I’m in the depths of my emotions.”

Go ahead, listen to Olivia and fall in love, deeply, with her songs-I just did.

More depth-of-the-emotion stories coming up in the weeks ahead. And I promise they won’t be sour.


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