About: the world this week, 20 February to 26 February 2022, war-an invasion, chess, a not so noble gas, elections, and a Western movie that hopes to lasso a barnful of Oscars!
War (and Peace?)
Finally, after weeks of invasion of the media by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the stalemate ended. And the world’s worst fears came true: Russia ‘royally’ invaded Ukraine through the Donbas region on 24 February 2022 calling it a ‘special military operation’ with the goal of ‘demilitarising and denazifying’ Ukraine: it made claims (false) about genocide perpetrated against ethnic Russians in the eastern parts of Ukraine, and they asking for help as one of many reasons.
I never knew invading another Country was so easy-never mind the preparation-without any kind of overt provocation by Ukraine. And all along implying that it was going to happen.
Read the basics of the build-up of the story at:
We have to give it to the United States (US) for using their superior ‘intelligence’ with President Biden’s relentless invasion theory bearing fruit. But they could do nothing to prevent it. Ukraine, despite its intent, has not yet joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). If it had, NATO troops can enter Ukraine to defend it. Now, the best that NATO can do is watch from across the Borders. And keep gathering intelligence.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said, “We do not intend to occupy Ukraine. To anyone who would consider interfering from the outside: if you do, you will face consequences greater than any you have faced in history. All relevant decisions have been taken. I hope you hear me”.
The scope of the Russian attack appears to be massive, with cruise and ballistic missiles targeting infrastructure near major cities such as Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mariupol and Dnipro.
This come days after Putin recognised the independence of Ukraine’s two eastern areas of Donetsk and Luhansk and ordered Russian forces into these regions as what he called ‘peacekeepers’, wow! And this also comes weeks after Russia amassed over 150,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders.
A fantastic case of Russia being the criminal, the prosecutor, and the judge – all rolled into one tank and shot into Ukraine.
Recall, Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014, and pro-Russia rebels have since been fighting Ukrainian forces in the eastern areas of Donetsk and Luhansk. More than 14,000 people were killed in that conflict.
Ukraine is also known for the Chernobyl Nuclear disaster – considered the worst nuclear disaster in history – that occurred on 26 April 1986 in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, near the city of Pripyat in the north of Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union. Russia would be looking to seal off this site to prevent any new kind of new danger spilling over from the, now shut-down and boundary isolated nuclear power plant. Well, it did just that on entering Ukraine.
Three decades ago, the newly independent country of Ukraine was briefly the third-largest nuclear power in the world. Thousands of nuclear arms had been left on Ukrainian soil by Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. But in the years that followed, Ukraine made the decision to completely denuclearise – destroying or returning its nuclear arsenal to Russia. In exchange, the US, the United Kingdom(UK), and Russia would guarantee Ukraine’s sovereignty and border security in a 1994 agreement known as the Budapest Memorandum. Now Russia has failed that trust. And the US and UK too?
It beguiles me, what do you call such a reckless invasion by a responsible nuclear superpower? Can it ever be trusted? Russia’s action is unacceptable and condemnable. It sets a dangerous precedent in attacking an independent country on fictitious, flimsy reasons; a country that has chosen its own path and has not shown any unprovoked military aggression against Russia.
What options does Ukraine have? Fight it out or lay down arms-to avoid bloodshed -talk it over with Russia and accept not to join NATO, for a start? Where does the United Nations (UN) come in, when will it grow teeth?
There is enough of Russia for Russia. Otherwise there is all of Space to occupy, if they can. Live and let live!
‘I was just enjoying myself’, so said 16 years old Chess Grandmaster (GM) Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa from Chennai, Tamilnadu, India, when he stunned the World No 1, Magnus Carlsen, in the eighth round of the Airthings Masters Online Rapid Chess Tournament. He became only the third from the country- after Viswanathan Anand and Pentala Harikrishna – to earn a victory over the Norwegian Chess superstar, in any form of the game.
Praggnanandhaa is a chess prodigy, the fifth-youngest person ever to achieve the title of GM, behind Abhimanyu Mishra, Sergey Karjakin, Dommaraju Gukesh (Gukesh D), and Javokhir Sindarov. He is the younger sibling of Woman GM Vaishali Rameshbabu.
Praggnanandhaa won the World Youth Chess Championships Under-8 title in 2013. In 2016, Praggnanandhaa became the youngest international GM in history, at the age of 10 years, 10 months, and 19 days.
We have a new King in the Castle. And he comes armed with a coolness beyond his years and ash smeared on his forehead. Mind it!
India has nearly 70 GM’s now, up from 20 in 2007. Twelve of them are women. That’s a formidable army: Russia, and others, beware!
The ‘Airthings’, in the Rapid Chess Tournament Title, quickly caught my eye before Praggnanandhaa could make his next move. What is Airthings?
Established in 2008, Airthings is a global tech company which aims to educate people on the prevalence of Radon, as well as other indoor air contaminants, and develop technology solutions to help people measure the dangers lurking inside homes and tackle them to live a healthy indoor life.
Airthings makes user-friendly Radon detectors to measure Radon levels in Homes and Buildings akin to the common smoke detectors. Radon testing for homeowners has been stationary for almost 30 years. Traditionally, people only had two options: call a professional to test radon levels, or purchase a single-use charcoal test which was then sent to a laboratory for the results. Airthings broke this tradition by designing, making, and supplying affordable Radon and other indoor air quality sensors trying to make them essential and a universal element in every building.
Next, what is Radon, why does it need to be measured?
Radon is an inert, colourless, odourless, radioactive, noble gas, present in the atmosphere in trace amounts; produced by the natural breakdown or radioactive decay of uranium and thorium present in rocks, soil, and groundwater. Since it emanates from the earth’s crust, the level of Radon at a place varies depending on the uranium content of the location. When Radon deteriorates, it releases radioactive energy, which is a health hazard. And can cause lung cancer. People can be exposed to the gas primarily from breathing Radon in the air that comes through cracks and gaps in buildings and homes from the base foundation. There is Radon in water too, because it can permeate well waters, hot and cold springs, making water unsafe to drink. When these gases are confined inside houses, it accumulates to dangerous concentration levels.
Outdoors, Radon disperses rapidly and, generally can be ignored. Breathing Radon over time increases risk of lung cancer and is the second leading cause of lung cancer (in the US, for one). Only smoking causes more deaths.
Indoor Radon can be controlled and managed with proven, cost-effective techniques based on Testing. If Radon levels are high, a certified Radon service professional can fix the problem.
A , 0 to 48 Becquerels/cubic meter (Bq/cubic meter) level of Radon is safe and normal. If it reaches 100 Bq/cubic meter, a ventilation solution has to be found. Guidelines suggest a mitigating action if levels are at or above 148 Bq/cubic meter . Usually, Radon problems are fixed using an underground ventilation system or by increasing the rate of air changes in the building-through fresh-air and exhaust fans.
I brought this up to bring awareness on indoor pollutants, especially Radon, as I could hardly see it ‘permeate’ our knowledge!
Elections seen to be always happening in India’s noisy democracy, in a never-ending cycle. An election buzz seems to be everywhere, every few months.
This week saw the counting of the Urban Local Body Elections in the State of Tamilnadu-held after 10 years -where the party ruling the State romped home. But not before the national party, ruling at the Centre made its mark in the State. Analysts are out there, with their calculators trying to work out the math from the wins and losses.
I think people voted for continuity to see that the party which just won the State Assembly Elections, also rules the Local Bodies. No excuses hereinafter, for the winners. Deliver, or pack and leave.
Meanwhile, State Elections to the Legislative Assemblies of Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Punjab, Manipur, and Uttarakhand are in various phases of completion. Punjab, Goa, and Uttarakhand voted on a single day on 14 February. Manipur votes in two phases on 27 February and 3 March 2022. Uttar Pradesh is voting in seven phases: 10 February, 14 February, 20 February, 23 February, 27 February, 3 March, and 7 March 2022.
Counting of votes for all the Sates that went to the polls over the past weeks of February is scheduled on 10 March 2022. Testing times ahead.
This week I found time to see the power of The Power of the Dog, a movie expected to make a big bite at the Oscars with an awesome 12 nominations in various categories in the 94th Academy Awards Night, coming up later in March 2022. I read that this year it will be hosted by Regina Hall, Amy Schumer, and Wanda Sykes.
The Power of the Dog is a powerful, haunting, psychological Western movie thriller where instead of guns you have the bango, the piano, the cattle, the landscape, and the raw cowhide doing the shooting. It is based on Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel of the same name. The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch (Phil), Kirsten Dunst(Rose), Jesse Plemons(George), and Kodi Smit-McPhee (Peter), and is directed by New Zealand Director, Screenwriter, and Producer, Jane Champion.
A wealthy American ranch in Montana, is run by brothers Phil and George. While Phil is blunt, cruel, and aggressively emulates his late mentor Bronco Henry in his traditional rawhide cowboy dressing, George is cool, polished, a perfect gentlemen with suit, tie, and hat to boot.
During a cattle drive George falls for inn-keeper Rose who is a widow with a teenage son, Peter. George lifts Rose to the ranch after marrying her, and sends her son to College to study medicine-surgery. Phil plays on the emotions of Rose with his coldness, pushing her into drinking, turning her in an alcoholic wreck, all the while mocking Peter’s effeminate manners.
Peter comes over to the ranch during a College break, feels his Mom’s condition, and snares and dissects a Rabbit to show-off his dissecting skills. He is befriended by Phil after Peter catches him bathing in a secluded pond and masturbating with a Bronco Henry scarf around his neck. Peter also discovers a stack of the magazines of nude men with the mentor’s name on them near the secret pond.
Phil teaches Peter to ride a horse and even starts making a lasso of raw cowhide for him to twine their friendship. Their warmth irks Rose and drives her further in an abyss. And one day, in a drunken stupor, she defiantly sells unused hides – normally burnt off by Phil – to a native Indian, when Phil & Peter are out for a ride together.
When Phil discovers his hides are gone, he creates a ruckus, and is unable to complete twining of the lasso he was working on. Peter offers him some hide he had himself cut-off, using a surgeon’s gloves, from a cow, which had died of Anthrax. Phil works through the night, with Peter watching, to finish off the lasso inadvertently allowing an injured bloody wound in his hand to soak in the solution used to soften the rawhide. During the process Phil narrates a story of Bronco Henry saving his life in freezing weather with the heat of his body and does not answer Peter’s question of whether they did it naked. Peter, in turn tells him about having to cut down the corpse of his alcoholic father who had killed himself by hanging. And that his father told him he was not ‘kind enough’.
The next day Phil is found sick in bed and later dies (of Anthrax – says the Doctor). George is puzzled about the Anthrax as Phil was awfully careful in staying away from dead cattle.
In the end Peter, who avoided Phil’s funeral, smiles on seeing his Mom embrace George outside the ranch, and perhaps live happily ever after. He pushes the Phil-made lasso, with a gloved hand, beneath his bed. You need to figure out yourself on what happened to Phil – that’s an unspoken, but ‘clear’ mystery.
Superb acting by the cast, especially Benedict Cumberbatch, and Kirsten Dunst who drinks into the character.
I found the music score, composed by English musician Jonny Greenwood who is the lead guitarist and keyboardist of the rock band Radiohead, filling the film to the brim. Made me grow my ears!
More Eastern and Western stories coming-up in the weeks ahead. Wars do not work-live peacefully with World Inthavaaram.