About: the world this week, 6th June to 12th June 2021, how a Group of wealthy Nations met, a butcher of people punished, classic Tennis played, the pandemic cornered, and Animals on the Planet drawing our attention, in mysterious ways.
The Group of Seven (G7)
The G7 is an informal group of seven of the world’s wealthiest democracies, which meet annually to discuss the economy, peace, security, climate change, and of course, this year in particular, the coronavirus pandemic.
The Group consists of the United States of America (USA), Canada, the United Kingdom (UK), Germany, France, Italy, and Japan. The Annual Summit is normally held in the country which holds the rotating Presidency and this year it was the turn of the UK to play host. Leaders of four other prominent democracies have also been invited to attend: Australia, India, South Korea, and South Africa.
In a prelude to the main G7 Summit, a meeting of G7 Finance Ministers was held on 5th June, at Lancaster House, London to discuss economic policies, and perhaps reach an agreement on something. They did. The attending Finance Ministers decided on a Global Corporation Tax rate of 15%, which can ultimately be applied by all nations. This creates a new right for countries to tax the profits, of large multinational companies, based on where they make their sales.
The landmark deal, signed last Saturday, is intended to prevent digital companies such as the Google, Amazon, and the Facebook kind, from finding and exploiting tax-avoidance or minimisation loopholes in the national tax system of countries. And also to tackle the huge inequalities between such digital firms, and the rest of the business community, a divide which has grown wider during the ongoing pandemic.
International tax deals are rare, and usually thwarted by countries that either charge low levels of tax, such as Ireland, Hungary, and Cyprus, or that have close ties to tax-havens, such as the UK and the Netherlands.
There are significant details yet to be worked out, and the deal is not sufficient to see the new rules applied globally. For that to happen, it would require support from the Group of 20 (G20) leading economies, which includes China and India, as well as the backing of the 135 countries that have been negotiating the new rules as part of what is known as the Inclusive Framework.
Finance Heads of the G20 countries are due to meet in Venice, Italy, on 9th and 10th July 2021 to make hay on the new G7 tax sunshine.
Taxing large companies is awfully taxing, but that’s where the wealth of nations lie!
Meanwhile, the main G7 Summit is being held this week, between the 11th & 13th June at the Carbis Bay Hotel, Cornwall, United Kingdom, in which leaders of G7 nations are meeting each other, to hold face-to-face discussions. And see, meet, and get to know the better halves-if around, on the sidelines.
The ever-brightly dressed Queen, all of 95 years, sharing her childhood name, Lilibet, with her freshly minted great-grand daughter, posed for a photo with the G7 Kings, and cheekily posed the question, ‘Are you supposed to be looking as if you are enjoying yourself?’ Watch this space.
The Butcher of Bosnia
Bosnia and Herzegovina, often known simply as Bosnia, is a country located within the Balkans in South-East Europe with capital as Sarajevo, its largest city. It is bordered by the countries of Croatia, Serbia, and Montenegro, with a narrow coast to the Adriatic Sea.
Recall that the countries of Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Slovenia was once a federation of republics called Yugoslavia, which eventually disintegrated into separate countries, much like the Union Of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) did.
In the year 1992 Bosnian Muslims, called Bosniaks, and Croats voted for independence in a referendum boycotted by the Serbs. The region then descended into an ugly war with the Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats on one side and the Bosnian Serbs on the other, fighting for control over ethnic territory, in what was called the Bosnian War, which lasted four years. Several other former Yugoslav Republics also declared Independence about this time.
Ratko Mladic, a Bosnian Serb Military leader-nicknamed ‘the Butcher of Bosnia’-who was fanatical about ethnically cleansing Bosnaiks from Bosnia, led the Bosnian Serb Army in the war, which left about 100,000 people dead and displaced another 2.2 million. He orchestrated a campaign to slaughter and annihilate more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the mountain Town of Srebrenica, in July 1995, in the worst massacre to have taken place in Europe since the Second World War.
When the Bosnian War came to an end in 1995, Mladic facing an indictment of war crimes, went on the run and for 16 long years evaded capture until his arrest, finally, in May 2011. He was then extradited for trial in the Netherlands.
For years he was offered protection by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, and the Serbian and Bosnian Serb military and police. Milosevic was himself a master-mind behind ethnic cleansing of non-serbs and when he lost power in October 2000 was sent packing to The Hague War Crimes Tribunal.
Mladic was captured in the village of Lazarevo, near the town of Zrenjanin in northern Serbia, after an anonymous tip-off to police was made by someone who had seen a man who looked like Mladic and was carrying documents bearing that name.
He was put on trial in 2012 at The Hague, Netherlands, for crimes committed during the Bosnian War, with a total of eleven charges including genocide.
In 2017 he was found guilty and convicted to life in prison on one count of genocide and nine crimes against humanity and war crimes by an international criminal tribunal. He was found ‘not guilty’ of one only charge of genocide.
Ratko Mladic had appealed against the ruling and this week he lost. The International United Nations Court dismissed the appeal and upheld his Life Sentence.
Mladic’s behaviour was absolutely reprehensible during the trial. In the 2017 conviction he shouted the choicest and ‘most colourful’ obscenities, gesticulating at the relatives of the victims. This time he scowled and showed little emotion. He was the only person in court not wearing a mask.
He joins his one-time master and boss, former Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic who is also convicted and serving a life sentence for being a key architect in ethnic cleansing and civil war that followed the break-up of Yugoslavia.
Ratko Mladic’s name is consigned to ‘the dustbin list’ of history’s most depraved, ruthless and barbaric figures.
French Open 2021
Switzerland’s Tennis ace and Legend, Roger Federer, had a gruelling, clay-grinding time at the French Open given that he is coming-back to the game from two back-to-back knee surgeries in 2020. He played over three hours to defeat Germany’s Dominik Koepfer in a five-set match including three tie-breaks sets, to set up his next encounter with Italy’s Matteo Berrettini for a place in the quarterfinals. Back and Knee breaking for sure.
Federer then proceeded to ‘talk to his knees’ and came out with an unanimous decision to quit the French Open and save his knees for Wimbledon, where he is targeting a 9th Title, later this month, on his favourite grass court surface.
Wimbledon’s Pride, French Open’s Envy? See you in Wimbledon.
Meanwhile, in yesterday’s Men’s semi-final, Tennis fans were enthralled seeing almost perfect clay-court, classic Tennis being played when Serbian Novok Djokovic beat – the until then, undefeatable, 13-time hero of the Roland Garros-Spaniard Rafal Nadal, to reach the Finals in an absolutely gripping four-set match. The third set will go down in History as one for the best ever and should be framed. Djokovic meets Greek Stefanous Tsitsipas in the final, to be played on Sunday, for a possible 19th Tennis Grand Slam Title.
In the Woman’s Final, an unlikely match as been set with unseeded Czech, Barbora Krejcikova reaching the final to challenge Russian, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova for the title. Well, that’s open!
India Looks Up
India is steadily looking up from the second wave of COVID19 with diving daily infections, but there is an alarming increase in deaths as previously unaccounted data is being added. However more lives are being saved and many States have started a process of awfully slow unlocking.
With the Vaccines of Covishield, Covaxin, and Sputnik V already rolled out, India placed an advance order worth Rs 1,500 crore for 300 million doses of Hyderabad, India, based Biological E’s CORBEVAX Vaccine.
Corbevax is a protein subunit vaccine, which comprises only spike proteins that are injected into the body to trigger an immune response. Such vaccines are considered to be one of the safest and time-tested, juxtaposed to mRNA based Vaccines, which is relatively new technology. Further, it does not involve injecting a whole de-activated virus. The Vaccine is currently undergoing Phase-3 trials and is expected to be ready for regulatory authorization and launch in August 2021.
India’s homemade Vaccine, Covaxin, is struggling to get approved abroad as its Phase-3 clinical trials are yet to be published-made public. Recall that India had approved Covaxin for Emergency Use, in January 2021 without waiting for the phase-3 clinical trials. Subsequently interim results were published in April, which showed satisfactory efficacy, justifying their use. More than 29 million doses of Covaxin have already been administered. The manufacturer, Bharat Biotech, Hyderabad, has said the results will be released in a couple of weeks. I’m sure it will pass with distinction.
In the background of a seemingly mangled Vaccination Policy, which the States compounded by acting like Rambo’s, trying to buy Vaccines on their own, India’s Prime Minister rightfully went on national Television to give a new direction to the Vaccination Drive. Enough is enough. He announced that the Centre will, in addition to the 50% it is already buying from the Vaccines manufacturers will also buy out the 25% State quota – a total of 75% production of Vaccines- and give it free of cost to the States, to distribute. The remaining 25% will go to Private Hospitals who can charge a fixed service fee of Rs 150 over the declared cost of the Vaccine. The new plan unfolds from the 21st June.
Lets have our eyes on the needle.
It’s Raining Babies in Africa
In World Inthavaram 2021-19, I talked about a Population Explosion, when a 25 years old woman, Halima Cisse, from Mali, gave birth to nine babies in a single delivery. This challenged the ruling eight-babies world record of Nadya Slueman, California, USA, in the Guinness World Records.
The record did not change heads or stomachs, not yet, as there is a weighty competition from a 37 years old woman in Pretoria, South Africa, Gosiame Thamara Sithole, who this week gave birth to 10 babies-five through natural birth and five through Caesarean section, seven boys and three girls, in a single delivery. In her previous adventure Gosiame Sithole had given birth to twins, who are now six years old.
Wonder where we are heading? Better start getting that flight to the Moon or Mars ready?
Meanwhile, in Nigeria the Town of Igbo-Ora has an unusually high birth rate of twins, where you might think you are seeing double. The Town has one of the highest birth rates of twins in the world.
China, which is struggling with birth rates and recently upgraded itself to a three-child policy, needs to send a team out to Africa in general, and Nigeria in particular, to penetrate the secret that makes the twins-show tick. Beg, borrow, or steal twins-making technology? China Can!
24,000 Years Under the Ice
Heard of something called Bdelloid Rotifer? I haven’t until today.
They are unique microscopic, multicellular freshwater invertebrates with complex anatomies that are one of Earth’s most radiant-resistant animals. They can withstand extreme acidity, starvation, low oxygen, years of dehydration, and just about any form of torture.
They are solely female, reproduce entirely asexually and have avoided sex for nearly 80 million years. That’s loneliness to the limits. They have a complete digestive tract that includes a mouth and an anus and have the ability to halt all activities and almost entirely arresting their metabolism. At any point in their life cycle they can be completely dried-out and ‘vanish’ in to a sublime dormant state. And can spring back to life – alive and kicking- after tens of thousands of years in deep freeze.
The closest relatives of the Bdelloid Rotifer are the Tardigrades or ‘water bears’, which are impossibly cute animals and perhaps the hardest animals alive and known to survive incredibly inhospitable conditions. That’s toughness written all over them.
This week, Scientists in Siberia discovered Bdelloid Rotifer that have survived 24,000 years frozen in Siberian Permafrost at a time when Woolly Mammoths still roamed the planet. Scientists collected samples by drilling about 11 feet below the surface of permafrost in northeastern Siberia. They found living Bdelloid Rotifers locked in the ancient permafrost, whose average temperature hovers around 14 degrees Fahrenheit. They then successfully ‘revived’ the animal, after all these years of ‘sleep-walking’.
Sleeping Beauty and Snow White could have been ‘distant relatives’? But the Bdelloid Rotifer dwarfs them by thousands of years.
Dinosaurs Down Under
Scientists have confirmed a new dinosaur species in Australia as one of the largest in the Continent, fourteen years after it was first discovered in 2007 when cattle farmers uncovered bones of the animal on a farm in South-West Queensland. Farming can be productive to the bone.
The Australotitan Cooperensis or the ‘Southern Titan’, nicknamed ‘Cooper’ is one among the 15 largest dinosaurs found worldwide, joining an elite group of Titanosaurs previously only discovered in South America. It reaches a height of nearly 6.5 metres at the hip and 25-30 metres in tip-of-nose to tip-of-tail length, making it as long as a basketball court and as tall as a two-storey building.
Cooper, the plant-eating long-necked sauropod lived in the Cretaceous Period between 92 million and 96 million years ago when Australia was attached to, and a part of Antarctica.
The time taken to confirm the find, since the first find, is itself ‘dinosaurian’! Meanwhile Australia continues to amaze us with mind-boggling animals grabbing our attention week after week.
Elephants Get Lost in China
While China is within striking distance of ‘herd immunity’ against the coronavirus, a different kind of herd-15 wild Asian Elephants, including three calves, decided to do the Elephant Dance and steadily marched from China’s South-West province of Yunnan, escaping from the Nature Reserve of Xishuangbanna-near the border with Laos and Myanmar-to the North, Jinning District, on the outskirts of Kunming.
That’s a distance of over 500km: the journey of which began about 15 months ago, early last year. Drone photos showed ‘the gang’ taking a well-deserved, cute rest, sleeping on their sides with calves snuggling to find the cosiest position to curl their young trunks.
The Elephant trek has captivated millions of people who are herding themselves remotely with the Elephants, enjoying the journey, watching their every move – thanks to a ‘herd of drones’ buzzing above them.
Along the way the Elephants have had a whale of a time on land, breaking into Villagers’ homes, eating their food, drinking their water and destroying their crops. They have showed a growing interest in alcohol laden wooden barrels, and last month one of the baby elephants passed-out on trunking one such barrel, and was able to join the herd only the next day. Another broke into a car dealership and obviously couldn’t find itself a seat to drive. On the last count 400 separate incidents of break-in’s and damages were reported on the route costing over a million bucks.
Local Authorities have tried to steer the Elephants in directions away from Villages, Small Towns, and Cities by laying cobs of corn, bananas, and pineapples. They pounced on the corn, but largely ignored the pineapples, and kept the direction.
No-one seems to have any idea why the Elephants left their home. Did they sense an Earthquake or smell a Volcano, or another kind of disease Outbreak? Or did they simply run out of their favourite foods? Maybe the Leader of the Elephant Herd is lacking in experience and led the whole group astray. A loss of head?
Herd yourself for updates and stories in the coming weeks.