About: the world this week, 19 December to 25 December 2021, the thing of the year, the country of the year, signs of an invasion, bad behaviour by lawmakers, an antediluvian egg, and movies – in and out of prison; and a stylish, smashing brother helps.
My ‘Thing Of The Year’, the coronavirus and its evolving mutations, continues to hold the world in thrall, and by the throat. The latest avatar, Omicron, is already dominating infections in the United States (US), the United Kingdom (UK), and most of Europe. To give a statistic: Covid19 deaths in the US now exceed all deaths, military and civilian, in all American wars since the Revolutionary War (1775-76).
India is watching with ‘masked breath’, the cases are slowly growing in numbers and that dreaded word, ‘lockdown’ is unlocking in our minds. Many of us hope it dare not get a stronghold, the way it tossed us up, gasping for breath, in the so-called second wave.
Latest studies say that the Omicron variant isn’t as bad as the Delta variant, but certainly more infectious. We just need to keep ourselves ahead of the spikes: do what it takes to stay safe this Holiday Season – get and wear that armour.
With Christmas approaching, I hope everyone’s wish is a ‘stocking filled with the belief that the world will see the last spike of the coronavirus in 2022 – and others of its kind’. It may be a tough load for Santa to reindeer-in through the chimney, but faith is everything.
Italy was crowned the ‘Country of the Year’ by The Economist newspaper, in its annual honouring of the country that, in its view, improved the most in the year 2021: mind it, the award is not given to the biggest, the richest, or the happiest country! Central to the honour was Mario Draghi, described as a ‘competent, internationally respected Prime Minister’. Meanwhile, disgraced former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is modelling a comeback! Auguroni (Best Wishes).
Russia and Ukraine
Russia invaded the headlines this week, firing the eternal question, ‘is Russia going to annex Ukraine -like it did Crimea-are Russian forces getting ready for war in Ukraine?’ Oops, since when did invasions become fashionable again; ask the Vikings in Valhalla?
It was only seven years ago, in 2014, that Russia seized and then annexed the southern Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine, when Ukrainians were busy deposing their pro-Russian President. And Russian-backed separatists captured large swathes of Ukraine’s two eastern regions collectively known as the Donbas.
There is a mind problem here with Russia developing a mindset that Russia and Ukraine are one nation, after the fall of the Soviet Union: a twin brothers-separated-at birth-thing. Russian is the second most spoken language in Ukraine after Ukrainian. Another cause for Russia’s concern is that Ukraine is ‘sleeping with’ NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and may marry into the Western Alliance. And Russia is demanding guarantees that the wedding will never happen.
NATO is a defensive alliance and its Secretary General, has made clear that any military support would be purely along those lines. The UK is set to help Ukraine build two naval bases, at Ochakiv on the Black Sea, and at Berdyansk on the Sea of Azov. The US’ anti-tank Javelin missiles have also been sent to Ukraine and two US Coast Guard patrol boats have been given to the navy. And Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is watching closely.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is looking for a clear timeline from the alliance. Wedding bells adding sound to the jingle of Christmas?
Russia is threatening military measures, and the US says if it invades Ukraine it will hit back with sanctions on an unprecedented scale. This is a place to watch. Maybe it’s just a Russian posturing, to prevent NATO from marrying more nations and bringing many children into the world opposed to Russia…and in Russia’s backyard.
India’s Opposition continued to ‘dishonour’ Parliament – in my view – sulking and striking over a well-deserved suspension of 12 fellow Members of Parliament (MP) for unruly, unacceptable behaviour, in the previous session. And wasting tax-payer’s money. Late in the week, another Quiz-Master turned MP joined the gang after flinging the Rule Book at the House Speaker. The best part is, these MPs wore the suspension as a badge of honour and along with ‘their partners in crime’ ensured Parliament work was disrupted.
MPs should set an example by setting in motion thoughtful discussions, artful debates and, agreeing to agree and agreeing to disagree.
Meanwhile, the Government rammed through Lower & Upper Houses of Parliament some much-needed electoral reforms, linking the unique Identification, Aadhar Card, with the Voter’s Identity Card – an obvious attempt a controlling election voting fraud.
The Government also tabled a bill, after Cabinet approval, to increase a woman’s age of marriage to 21, from the earlier 18, bringing it on par with a man. Women should be able to make better choices at this age and overcome a constant Indian pressure to marry-off the girls when they are just beginning to get the hang and the bang of things.
Over the years, we have become used to news of Dinosaur bones being discovered while digging in some corner of the World and put together to find a big name for it: many have landed up in museums where we can see the past ‘assembled and standing still in front of us’. Dinosaurs were real.
Now comes a more real story, announced by Scientists this week, about an unprecedented fossil, a perfectly preserved baby dinosaur curled up, almost life-like, inside its egg and obviously preparing to hatch, just like a chicken. The fossil is about 70 million years old.
The egg is around 17 centimeters (cm) long and the Dinosaur is estimated to be 27 cm long from head to tail. The researchers believe as an adult, had it lived, it would have been about two to three meters long. The fossil preserves the embryonic skeleton of an Oviraptorid Dinosaur, which has been nicknamed ‘Baby Yingliang’ after the name of the Chinese museum which houses the fossil. Baby dinosaur bones are small and fragile and are only very rarely preserved as fossils, making this a very lucky find, indeed.
All birds directly evolved from a group of two-legged dinosaurs known as Theropods, whose members include the towering Tyrannosaurus Rex and the smaller Velociraptors. This find is expected to shed more light on the links between dinosaurs and birds, among other things.
The specimen was among several fossils discovered about two decades ago in the China’s City of Ganzhou in the south-eastern province of Jiangxi but not recognised to be fossilised dinosaur eggs until 2015, when evaluated by an expert. The fossils were acquired in the year 2000 by a director of a Chinese stone company called Yingliang Group and ended up in storage, largely forgotten until about 10 years later, when museum staff sorted through the boxes and came across the fossil during the construction of Yingliang Stone Nature History Museum. Eventually, the egg shell slightly cracked and the fragile bones inside became visible, prompting a peek-in.
Researchers then led a study of the fossil, which was published in the journal iScience this week. Well, they hatched the egg for us to see.
Over the week I watched the magnificent Sandra Bullock movie, The Unforgivable’ about a woman who tries to re-enter society, after serving a 20 year sentence in prison: to a society that is unforgiving and refuses to allow her to forget her past. Her only hope for redemption is finding her younger sister who she was forced to leave behind without a care-taker. Her mom dies in childbirth after giving her a little sister. And upon the death of her Dad she brings up the sister in her childhood home until ‘the crime’ when the Sheriff who comes over to evict them is shot dead in the ensuing war of words.
The end brought tears to the eyes with the sisters ‘closing the gap’ with a simple hug and the body language doing all the talking. Brilliant. Before the end there is a twist, which tells us what actually happened on that fateful day. Watch the movie and find out for the sacrifices made by a sister to protect her 5 years old sibling and the never give-up spirit in finding and connecting with her again. Give purpose to life on Earth!
I had also watched the Rajinikant Tamil movie ‘Annaantthe’ and found it dumb to the core. But, I loved the way a brother does everything possible to be understanding, and building back the life of his sister, without showing himself-until the end, when the job is done. Here too the story ends with a hug, though a noisy one.
The sister elopes with her lover, when the brother fixes-up a marriage, and thereafter suffers terrible misfortune in business due to an ‘underworld rowdy gang’. And the brother comes to the rescue, unnoticed by the sister. Again, the brother raises the sister from a young age, when the parents die. He dotes on her expansively and refuses to fall in to the age-old trap of ‘finishing off a runaway bride’ to save the ‘family honour’.
Any sister would love to have such a brother watching over from behind and giving you the muscle to face and climb out of a treacherous situation. Call it strengthening the wings for the flight of life. And a permanent life support.
The superb Actor that Rajinikant is, there are not many film makers and directors who have done justice to his capabilities, calmly using his unique style. And Rajini has allowed himself to be dragged along the beaten path…punching dialogues, flicking cigarettes, and other things as well. He can do better.
More stylish sibling love stories coming up in the weeks ahead, hug World Inthavaaram. Careful when you break those eggs for breakfast – there may be a baby Dinosaur sleeping inside.
Season’s Greetings, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year 2022.
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