About: the world this week, 3 October to 9 October 2021, opening Pandora’s box, sexual transgressions in a religious establishment, violence in an Indian State, a vaccine for Malaria, the Nobel Prizes, and an Airline returns home.
In Greek mythology, the first woman created by the Gods was called Pandora. The Gods gave her a closed box, which they said contained special gifts, and which, they warned, was never ever to be opened – The Gods temptingly do this all the time in different stories in various religions.
’Curiosity killed the cat’ goes the age-old saying. And one bright day the ever curious Pandora decided to see what’s inside the box, after all. She opened the box, and to her dismay found every kind of evil – greed, envy, hatred, pain, disease, hunger, poverty, war, and death, etc.,- which ails mankind today, flying out into the-until then-peaceful world, sowing the seeds of constant discord and turmoil. Pandora quickly gathered her wits and just managed to slam-shut the box – you guessed it – before the only remaining ‘gift’ – Hope – could escape. That means, whatever challenges mankind faces and problems he is confronted with, hope always remains. And there is always a chance that we can make good and move ahead. There is also another message: some secrets are best kept secret. And we should keep our own Pandora’s boxes tightly shut forever! Pandora’s Box now means anything that is best left untouched, for fear of what might come out of it.
Getting rich, famous, and powerful is not easy on Earth and it is a chequered, riddled, and often secretive path. Now the secret deals and hidden assets of some of the world’s richest and most powerful people have been revealed in the biggest leak of offshore data, in history. Branded the Pandora Papers, the cache consists of about 11.9 million files (comprising 2.9 terabytes of data) from companies hired by wealthy clients to create offshore structures and trusts in tax havens such as Panama, Dubai, Monaco, Switzerland, and the Cayman Islands.
The Pandora Papers was published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) beginning on 3 October 2021. The leak exposed the secret offshore accounts of 35 world leaders, including current and former Presidents, Prime Ministers, and Heads of State as well as more than 100 billionaires, celebrities, and business leaders. They also shine a light on the dark finances of more than 300 other public officials such as government ministers, judges, mayors and military generals, in more than 90 countries.
The news organisations of the ICIJ described the document leak as their most expansive expose of financial secrecy yet in nations, surpassing their previous release of the Panama Papers in 2016, which had 11.5 million confidential documents.
Now, onto another Pandora opening.
The Roman Catholic Church has been under tremendous fire, in the recent past, over sexual abuse scandals – often involving children – rocking the worldwide establishment.
Speaking at the release of a lengthy report into sexual abuse in the French Catholic Church, this Tuesday, the head of a Panel investigating abuses by Church members, says French Catholic priests abused 216,000 victims since 1950. The number could rise to 330,000, when abuse by lay members of the Church was included. One victim called the report a turning point in France’s history.
The French inquiry was commissioned by the French Catholic Church in 2018. It spent more than two-and-a-half years combing through court, police, and church records, and speaking to victims and witnesses. It said that until the early 2000s, the Catholic Church had showed a profound and even cruel indifference towards the victims. The commission found evidence of a minimum of 2,900 to 3,200 abusers – out of a total of 115,000 priests and other clerics. Its report, which is nearly 2,500 pages long, says the vast majority of victims were pre-adolescent boys from a wide variety of social backgrounds. The Catholic Church is, after the circle of family and friends, is the environment that has the highest prevalence of sexual violence.
The report is certainly damning and the Church needs to wake up, confess and make course corrections. The Pope actually heard me: he said that this is a ‘moment of shame’ and called upon leaders of the Church to ensure that ‘similar tragedies’ never happen again.
This week, a region called Lakhimpuri Kheri stormed the headlines of India and is still running berserk.
Lakhimpur Kheri is the largest of 75 districts in the State of Uttar Pradesh (UP), India, and borders Nepal. Its capital is the city of Lakhimpur. Kheri is a town about two kilometres from Lakhimpur.
This Sunday, one of UP’s Deputy Chief Ministers, Keshav Prasad Maurya along with Union Minister of State for Home, Ajay Mishra Teni were scheduled to visit Lakhimpur Kheri District to lay foundation stones for upcoming Government Schemes in the area. The plan was to arrive by helicopter at a makeshift helipad in Tikonia and drive to the Tikonia-Banbirpur Road for the event(s).
A farmers group, which was against the implementation of the path-breaking, new Farm Laws – passed by India’s Parliament – apparently chose the occasion to register a protest against a recent statement made by Ajay Mishra Teni against farmer leaders. And to protest the Farm Laws as well.
Around 300 farmers from nearby villages gathered in Tikonia and gheraoed the helipad, holding black flags. The Deputy Chief Minister got wind of the brewing problem, changed plans and chose to reach the Tikonia-Banbirpur Road, by road, instead.
The protesters, in turn, learnt about the change and spilled themselves on to the road to keep-up their drive. This brought them into direct confrontation with a convoy of cars, which was heading to welcome the visiting dignities and participate in the event.
What followed in unclear – with the protestors and the Government shouting out their own versions- and in the senseless melee that followed eight people were left dead. Videos showed Farmers pelting stones on the convoy; a car ramming in to the people and running over a few of them; a man being mercilessly lynched; a vehicle being set ablaze. And suddenly uncontrolled violence took the drivers seat; Politicians are all over the place stirring the cauldron and making links to their own parochial agendas.
I quote Editor, Author, and Publisher Minaz Merchant, “The Lakhimpur Kheri violence unpeels what is right and wrong with our journalism. The facts remain blurred behind conflicting video images. The narrative can, therefore, be easily fixed. The first principle of journalism is getting the facts right. The second principle is speaking truth to power.” None of these principles appear to have adhered to.
An investigation has been ordered into the sequence of events and it’s better we wait until they uncover the facts of the gory incident.
Protesting is a right in a democracy of our kind, but violence in any form is simply unacceptable – including protesting in other than peaceful ways, throwing stones, and running over people.
Meanwhile, there is an alarming increase in another kind of violence in the Indian State of Kashmir – the targeted killing of Hindus and Sikhs by jihadi terrorists from across the border. Seven civilians were murdered in cold blood this week: on Tuesday, a Kashmiri Pandit businessman was shot dead in his pharmacy while a street food vendor and the president of a taxi stand were also gunned down. Then terrorists stormed into a government school in Srinagar and shot dead the Principal and a teacher who were from the Sikh and Hindu communities.
We all, especially Politicians and Journalists, need to be more outraged and vocal in such targeted killings. Kashmir must heal and return to normalcy.
Heal we must from disease too. Malaria, the mosquito-borne disease, has been around for millions of years. It is one of the world’s oldest and deadliest: up to 30 million years old! It kills over 400,000 people each year, and can seriously weaken the immune systems of those who survive it. Nearly 95% of malaria deaths happen in Africa – mainly among children under five years. Mosquitoes thrive in sub-Saharan Africa in part because of its mosquito-friendly tropical climate. And the region’s been waiting for a miracle.
There is no vaccine for Malaria, but well into the COVID-19 regime when Vaccine is a word we have learnt by heart and thanks to Pandora’s hope we might finally have a Vaccine for malaria – the miracle is here!
In a historic move, the World Health Organization (WHO) backed the world’s first malaria vaccine for children. After decades of research, the vaccine named Mosquirix got the green light for distribution in Africa and other high-risk regions. Also called RTS,S, the vaccine has been more than 30 years in the making. Created by pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline in 1987, it was subsequently developed and tested with support and funding from PATH, (formerly known as the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health), a Seattle-based global health group, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Whatever, the WHO still suggests using things like medications and insecticide-treated bed nets and other preventive measures we have been using all along to keep those pesky, buzzing insects away from our skin.
In recent years, lack of funding and political support have snagged malaria eradication efforts around the world. And while there are still some unknowns with Mosquirix, the world’s celebrating a scientific breakthrough that could save millions of lives.
The Nobel Prizes for 2021 are being rolled out and the winners announced this week by Swiss based, The Nobel Foundation.
Ardem Patapoutian and David Julius won the Nobel for Physiology or Medicine ‘for their discoveries of receptors for temperature and touch’; Benjamin List and David MacMillan received the Nobel for Chemistry ‘for the development of asymmetric organocatalysis’ – a tool for molecule building.
The Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded ‘for groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of complex systems’: to Syukuro Manabe and Klaus Hasselmann ‘for the physical modelling of Earth’s climate, quantifying variability, and reliably predicting global warming’, and to Giorgio Parisi, ‘for discovery of the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems from atomic to planetary scale’.
Maria Tessa and Dmitry Muratov won the Nobel Peace Prize ‘for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace’.
The Nobel for Literature was awarded to Abdulrazak Gurnah, ‘for his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents’
Abdulrazak is a Zanzibar born Tanzanian novelist living in the United Kingdom. He began writing as a 21 year old English exile and even though Swahili was his first language, English became his means of expression. He is the author of ten novels and several short stories and essays with the theme of refugee disruption running through most of his work. Some of which are, Memory of Departure, 1987, By the Sea 2001, Gravel Heart, 2017, and Afterlives, 2020.
Only the Nobel for Economics – not on the original Nobel list – and called The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences has not been awarded as yet. The winner is expected to be announced in the upcoming week. I reckon they are still working out the equations?
Many are not very impressed by the Awards. Said one, “In terms of the gap between the world’s population and the winners – the biggest gap is a gender one. The number of female prize winners is really, really tiny.”
Should we look at everything through a male or female tinted magnifying glass? May the best person win – based on the exacting selection standards of the Nobel Foundation, on outstanding excellence achieved by humankind to improve life on Earth.
The Tata Group is one of India’s largest and most respected privately run salt-to-software business conglomerate. I would call them the original pioneers of Make-In-India. The Tatas also started India’s first Airline, Tata Airlines, before it was nationalised and became Air India. It was once the world’s best Airline, under the Tatas.
Now, after 70 years Air India flew back to the hanger of the Tatas – becoming the winning bidder for the debt-laden state-run airline. This comes on the wings of the Government’s strategy of not being in the business of business. Way to go!
More, once boxed-up stories are flying out with World Inthavaaram. Stay with hope! Fly with Tata.