About: the world this week, 10 October to 16 October 2021, education in Afghanistan, wide-eyed America, a quiver full of arrows, a stabbing, lots of India, a Nobel Prize, star trekking, and a stunning Sinhala song.
Afghanistan was becoming quite silent when a suicide bomb blast in a mosque in Kandahar late this week, and another one, the week before, rocked the country. The former was deadly, killing at least 37 people, in a place of worship. I was beginning to think that the silence was a time to reflect and get the country back on track. And maybe Afghanistan was growing a beard and looking to cover-up as many things as it could (One of my favourite, worn-thin expressions is, ‘it’s so silent I can hear my beard growing’).
The Taliban’s Religious Police have been instructed to be more moderate-wonder what that means in Taliban land-but vulnerable Afghans say brutal justice is still being meted out and blood flows easily. It’s almost a month since the Taliban ban on girls returning to secondary school in Afghanistan took effect and millions of teenage girls across the country are unable to return to their classrooms. In what is a tragic exclusion, they continue to be deprived of an education. Is not right to education a fundamental human right?
America appears to be getting crazier by the week. To give an example: the Governor of Texas – of the Republican Party opposed to the ruling Democratic Party – on Monday, issued an executive order banning all state entities from enforcing vaccine mandates, the latest escalation in resistance to public health measures during the pandemic. The order also included private employers. The Governor’s argument is that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective, and the best defence against the virus, but should remain voluntary and never forced. This is using a lousy definition of freedom, and deploying politics, to fight a pandemic, instead of science.
Keeping up the act in America, removing a condom without consent – called stealthing – is now illegal, and signed into law, in the State of California. This brings attention to nonconsensual condom removal during sex. This is the first law of its kind in the United States and gives victims a legal avenue to sue perpetrators in a civil court for damages. Advocates of the law said it highlights ‘the importance of consent’, and sex-workers, who are most impacted by stealthing, applauded the measure. Wow, that’s a new word that has been rubbed-in this week: keep the word in mind, when you have the rubber in your hands or in the right place!
The winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics – not really called a Nobel- was announced on Sunday. They are, David Card, ‘for his empirical contributions to labour economics’ – he played his cards well: gets one half of the prize amount; and Joshua D Angrist and Guido W Imbens, ‘for their methodological contributions to the analysis of causal relationships’ – they share the second half of the prize money, in a casual relationship building exercise. Lots of economics out there! I’m but a David in a Goliath of Economics:do these head-spinning equations actually work!
China’s renewed assertiveness at the Himalayan border with India is getting worrisome. Thirteen rounds of high-level military talks aimed at easing tensions has achieved little and with the deadly winter looming ahead it’s becoming increasingly frosty on both sides. The standoff, which at times has exploded into deadly clashes along the about 3,490 km Border – the Line of Actual Control (LAC) – is now in its 17th month. India has moved more troops into the area and so has China. And the relationship between the world’s two most populated countries is at its nadir. Can it sink further? It’s a wait and watch ‘shifting’ border at the moment.
This Wednesday, a man with a bow and a quiver full of arrows, slung on his shoulder, moved about, over a period of half an hour, in several locations in the Norwegian Town of Kongsberg shooting at people. He killed four women and one man, all aged 50 to 70 years and seriously injured two, including an off-duty policeman.
Police were quick to arrest the suspect, a 37 year old Danish citizen, who lives in the town of about 28,000 people. The suspect appears to have been acting alone and the reasons behind the bow and arrow shooting are being investigated. His actions are suspected to be an outcome of some kind of religious radicalisation. It is also being talked about as an act of terrorism.
This is the first such incident in a long time in Norway. In August 2019, a man stormed an Oslo mosque armed with guns before being overpowered. That year, the country’s intelligence service reported that right-wing terrorism was on the rise globally, and warned that the country would likely be targeted in the near future. Going further back, in July 2011, Norwegian far-right extremist Anders Behring Brevik killed 77 people, many of them teenagers, in a bomb attack and gun rampage. He was sentenced to 21 years in prison, the maximum possible term in Norway.
Mass killings are rare in low-crime Norway and the incident arrowed back almost forgotten memories.
A ‘political surgery’ or constituency surgery, in British politics, is a series of one-to-one meetings that a Member of Parliament (MP) holds with his constituents to give people an opportunity to meet him and discuss matters of concern – to find solutions.
This Friday, Conservative Party MP, Sir David Amess, 69, representing Southend West, was holding one such surgery at the Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex when he was attacked and stabbed several times. He was treated by emergency services but died at the scene. A 25 years old man was quickly arrested after Police arrived at the scene on suspicion of murder.
Sir David served as an MP for 38 years and was knighted in the 2015 New Year’s Honours List for political and public service. He was known politically as a social conservative, a prominent campaigner against abortion, a committed campaigner on animal welfare issues, and supported a ban on fox hunting. He was a Brexit supporter and vocal champion for the town he represented, particularly in his long-running campaign to make Southend a city.
Every week brings a new kind of violence and law enforcement across the World is becoming on helluva challenging job. We need to get better with it – there is no other way. Or, do we need to get back to school and re-educate ourselves?
One of India’s movie superstars Shah Rukh Khan is spending sleepless nights in his vast mansion, in Mumbai. This follows the arrest of his son by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), on 3 October, after drugs were seized from a rave Party on a Goa bound cruise, where the son was an invitee. The Courts have denied him bail after the NCB established sufficient evidence for the arrest. The superstar will require all the ‘Mannat’ and superpowers to get his son back home – to the safety of his room.
Meanwhile, this Monday, India’s indefatigable Prime Minister (PM) launched the Indian Space Association (ISpA) with the objective of making India a global leader in commercial space-based excursions… and milking the Milky Way. The Virgins, the Musks, and the Amazons, beware!
The stakeholders in the Association include Government bodies such as the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Bharat Electronics Limited, and private business heavyweights such as Bharti Airtel, the Tata’s, Larson & Toubro, MapMyIndia, OneWeb, Walchandnagar Industries, Ananth Technology Limited, Azista-BST Aerospace Private Limited, Alpha Design Technologies, Godrej, Huges India, Centum Electronics, and Maxar India. Get ready for a ride to Space?
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected India becoming the fasting growing, post-pandemic Economy, in the World, with GDP(Gross Domestic Product) growth expected to be 8.3% in 2021 and 9.6% in 2022 – readjusted to the calendar year. Perhaps, with this in mind the Prime Minister launched the PM’s Gati (Speed) Shakti (Power) Scheme – a National Masterplan for Infrastructure, for multi-modal connectivity – on 13 October. It aims to bring together sixteen Ministries and seven core infrastructure sectors, on a single platform to synergise project planning across ministries to avoid duplication, plug gaps, and expedite clearances. It will act a multi-modal connectivity platform and will ensure seamless movement of goods and people, cutting logistic costs, increasing cargo handling capacity and reducing the turnaround time. This way, the infrastructure schemes of various ministries and state governments will be designed and executed with a common vision. Further, the tax-payers money will be put to better use, which in the past was ‘insulted’ through a lethargic approach to development work, with departments working in silos and there being no coordination between projects.
The way I see it: Someone lays the road, someone else digs it up for laying power cables; someone else digs it up again for laying telecom cables; someone digs it up yet again for laying internet cables; someone digs it up again for laying water supply lines; someone digs it up yet again for laying sewage and drainage lines, all staggered with yawning gaps for obtaining permissions. Finally, you have everything but a road. I hope, all this is done at one time by ‘one someone’, and this is what the Gati Sakthi means!
Most of us must have watched, or heard about ‘Star Trek’, the TV Series and the movie series, as well. Many must have grown up with it. It follows the voyages of the starship USS Enterprise built by the United Federation of Planets, in the 23rd century, with a mission ‘to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before’. Commander Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy and Captain James T. Kirk played by William Shatner are memorable characters in the original series.
After all the years of reel acting and living in a dream space craft, Actor William Shatner, now 90 years old, finally got his real chance to actually fly into Space – well, almost. This week he endured a 10 minute, rocket-powered ride to the edge of space in a suborbital space tourism rocket built by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin. And became the oldest person ever to travel to space withstanding those g-forces and experiencing weightlessness. Anybody can become an Astronaut. Age is only a number, ask Captain Kirk!
I’ve always liked William Shatner’s role as the ‘becoming-eccentric-and-senile’ Denny Crane in the TV Series Boston Legal and enjoyed his ‘Balcony musings’ sitting with protégée Alan Shore over many drinks, overlooking the City of Boston.
Now, over to some kind of music.
Ever since I heard Yohani & Satheeshan’s adorable, bewitching, and hummable Sinhala song, Manike Mage Hithe… which broke the internet after its re-launch in May 2021, I have asked many, during start-up conversations, whether they’ve heard the song. While the oldies threw a blank white-screen look, the young ones lighted up in technicolour: caught the tune and came out grooving to the song. And a six year old girl even reeled out the lyrics with amazing ease.
The song is a ballad about a man’s admiration for a woman: her character and beauty, and how close she is to his heart. Yohani’s soprano tone, Satheeshan’s rap, and the engaging music, are highlights of the infectious song, which leaves an indelible impression on the mind.Music knows no boundaries…and there are no China Walls or borders! Mind it!
More star treks coming up in the weeks ahead. Stay with World Inthavaaram: I’ve been telling my stories -without a break-for over a year, with this post!