About –the stories of the world this week, 6 November to 12 November: a colourful week, Climate Change, War, Elections, Social Media layoffs, Pollution, Blind justice, and a new kind of Blood.
Climate Change is in the news almost every day with its effects eminently visible as heavy incessant rains, floods, storms, rising sea levels, droughts, forest fires, extreme hot or cold temperatures – never before experienced or recorded- and the kind, occurring in some part of the world. We have been bombarded with various degrees of temperature, catastrophic predictions of continuing to use smoky fuels such as coal and oil; about smart methods of harnessing the everyday friendly sunlight, water flow, wind, and even the gusts of traffic in our cities, branding it as clean or green energy and going ga-ga over it.
Tree-planting is becoming a serious hobby, and we hear heart-warming stories of people single-handedly growing a forest starting with one or more tree samplings at a time. People are listening and doing their part in mysterious ways!
What is climate change? We need to refresh our mind on this awfully often used term. Climate is the average weather in a place over many years. Climate change is a shift in average weather conditions we experience every day.
World temperatures have been rising over the years because of human activity such as using oil, gas, and coal for homes, factories, and transport. When these fossil fuels burn, they release what we call greenhouse gases-mostly carbon-dioxide (CO2)- into the atmosphere.
When sunlight reaches Earth, the surface absorbs some of its energy and reradiates it as infrared waves, which we feel as heat. These infrared waves travel up into the atmosphere and will happily escape back into space if unimpeded. Oxygen and nitrogen don’t interfere with these waves-they are not impressed-as they leave, but CO2 does, and falls for it, on first sight. Back Beauty?
Only after the Earth absorbs sunlight and reemits the energy as infrared waves can the CO2 and other greenhouse gases grab and absorb the energy. As CO2 soaks up the infrared energy, it vibrates and re-emits it back in all directions. About half of that energy goes out into space, and about half of it returns to Earth as heat, contributing to the warming ‘greenhouse effect.’ Now that we are re-educated, we can no longer call ourselves ‘green-between-the-ears’.
The world is now about 1.1 C (Degrees Centigrade) warmer than it was in the 19th Century – and the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has risen by 50%. Temperature rises must slow down if we want to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. Global warming needs to be kept to 1.5 C by 2100. Left unchecked, we will experience catastrophic warming, with worsening droughts, rising sea levels and mass extinction of species.
United Nations (UN) climate summits are held every year, for governments to meet, discuss, and hopefully agree on steps to limit global temperature rises. They are referred to as COPs (Conference of the Parties). The parties are the attending countries that signed up to the original UN Climate Agreement in the year 1992. COP27 is the 27th annual UN meeting on climate being held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, from 6 November to 18 November.
A report by the independent Climate Action Tracker Group in the year 2021, calculated that the world was heading for 2.4 C of warming by the end of the century. If nothing is done, scientists think global warming could exceed 4 C in the future, leading to devastating heatwaves, millions losing their homes to rising sea levels, and irreversible loss of plant and animal species.
In a warmer world, land animals will also find it harder to find the food and water they need to live. For example, polar bears could die out as the ice they rely on melts away, and elephants will struggle to find the 150-300 litres of water a day they need. Scientists believe at least 550 species could be lost this century if action is not taken.
The UK and Europe will be vulnerable to flooding caused by extreme rainfall. Countries in the Middle East will experience extreme heatwaves and widespread drought. Island nations in the Pacific region could disappear under rising seas. Many African nations are likely to suffer droughts and food shortages. Drought conditions could occur in the Western US, while other areas will see more intense storms. Australia is likely to suffer extremes of heat and increases in deaths from wildfires.
Major changes need to come from governments and businesses, but scientists say some small changes in our daily lives can limit our impact on the climate, such as, taking fewer flights; living car-free or using an electric car; reducing consumption of meat and dairy products; reducing energy use; buying energy-efficient products; improving home insulation; switching from a gas heating system to an electric heat pump in home heating.
We’ll wait for the outcome of COP27 and the new climate change goals, on 18 November 2022.
War: Red to White
After several days of quiet on the Russia-Ukraine war-front, there was noise made this week of a mighty turn: Russia formally announced retreat from strategic city of Kherson. It was just over 5 weeks ago that Russia ‘annexed’ Kherson as its territory and now it leaves the city with its tail firmly tucked between its legs.
Big setback for Putin. What’s going on? Stuff of future military history!
US Midterm Elections: Red and Blue
The Legislative Branch of the United States consists of the House of Representatives (House)and the Senate, which have the sole authority to enact legislation, declare war, confirm or reject Presidential appointments, beside holding substantial investigative powers.
The House is made up of 435 elected representatives divided among the 50 States in proportion to the total population. In addition, 6 are non-voting representatives of countries which are part of the US, but not wholly, such as Puerto Rico. Representatives are elected every two years.
The Senate is composed of 100 senators, 2 from each State with six year terms staggered so that one-third of the Senate is up for re-election every two years. That’s US Democracy in a nutshell!
This year, Midterm Elections for 35 seats of the 100 seats in the Senate and all 435 House seats were on the ballot. Additionally, 36 out of 50 states will elect new Governors.
In the House, the ‘Blue’ Democrats currently control 220 out of 435 and the’Red’ Republicans 212, with three vacancies. In the Senate is a 48 – 48 score.
The counting of the votes is underway – seems to be going on furiously, in a never-ending manner -and on the last Count, in the Senate it is Blue-48, Red-50 and in the House, Blue- 200 and Red 211. We may have to cross over to the next week to see who has control of the Senate and the House.
The Colour Blue
The microblogging and social networking service Twitter after being swallowed like a worm through the beak of its new Owner – the ‘far too brilliant’ US entrepreneur Elon Musk – is making all kinds of news. Employees are being uprooted like trees – sacked in truck loads -accounts that impersonate others are being permanently suspended unless they identify themselves as ‘parody.’ And there is a plan to charge USD 8 for a blue tick, on a verified Twitter Identification.
The little Blue Bird is ruffled and does not seem to know what to do. Done with migration?
Meta: Blue, Red Purple, Green
Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, has announced that it will cut 13% of its workforce. About 11,000 employees – from a worldwide headcount of 87,000 – were fired in industry’s biggest layoff and Meta’s first mass lay-off in its history.
Mark Zuckerberg said the cuts were, “the most difficult changes we’ve made in Meta’s history. It is due to macroeconomic downturn, and increased competition, which caused revenue to be much lower than expected. I got this wrong, and I take responsibility for that”.
The news follows major lay-offs (the colour blue, above) at Twitter, and other tech firms.
India’s New Delhi: Colour Blind
Over the past weeks pollution in India’s capital, New Delhi, reached invisible levels and people began searching for each other including themselves in the thick air. The Government decided to keep kids locked-out of school to breathe perhaps slightly better air at Home. The main reason for the poor air quality is blamed on reasons outside New Delhi, with the obvious culprit being stubble-burning by farmers in the neighbouring state of Punjab.
In a shocking decision, India’s Supreme Court freed three men sentenced to death for the brutal, rape and murder of a 19 years old girl in 2012 – the conviction and sentencing of which was made by lower courts. The Supreme Court has said that the prosecution failed to prove the charges beyond reasonable doubt, leaving the court with no alternative but to acquit the accused, though involved in a very heinous crime. The Court pointed out several procedural lapses during the case trial, due to which the convicts were acquitted of the charges by giving them a ‘benefit of doubt’.
Known as the Chhawala Gang Rape Case, three men – Ravi Kumar, Vinod, and Rahul – kidnapped a girl at Qutub Vihar Phase-II in Delhi on February 2012, when she had just returned from work at about 8.30pm. She was then taken to a mustard field about 30 kilometres away in the Haryana village of Rodhai where they took turns to rape and brutalise her. They mutilated and poured acid into the girl’s eyes, inserted a broken liquor bottle into her vagina and abandoned her in the mustard field to die.
In February 2014, a Delhi Court convicted the three men to death after finding them guilty. On August, 2014, the Delhi High Court upheld the death punishment, declaring that the accused were ‘predators’ roaming the streets and ‘looking for prey’.
The girl, Kiran Negi, was from Pauri Garhwal in Uttarakhand, living in Qutub Vihar, Phase II, Dwarka in Southwest Delhi, with her parents and two younger brothers. She wanted to become a teacher and was pursuing a graduate course in a Delhi College. And worked part-time in Gurugram’s Cyber City as a data input operator to augment the family income.
The incident took place about 10 months before the Nirbhaya Incident that shook India, but it did not attract media attention to the extent that the latter did. The girl’s family reported the kidnapping on the very same night. The grieving father of the girl was taken aback by the apathy displayed by the police personnel who had come there to investigate the kidnapping. “Get us a car and then we will follow the kidnappers,” one of the police officials had scoffed at the girl’s father”.
The victim’s father ran pillar-to-post seeking justice. He approached the then Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit, but was shunned away saying, “such incidents keep happening”. Officials at the Chief Minister’s Office handed him a cheque of Rs one lakh and asked him to leave. Apart from this, no other assistance or compensation of any kind was given to him.
The parents of the girl, yearning for justice, were heartbroken by the verdict delivered by the Supreme Court this week. “Where do we go?” No one killed Kiran Negi?
The Colour Red: Blood to Bank Upon
This week, researchers announced that lab-grown blood has been transfused into people for the first time ever. Scientists in the United Kingdom (UK) have been able to manufacture blood from donor stem cells. And have infused two people with about two teaspoons of the lab blood to see how it behaves in the body. If the UK trial is a cool success, manufactured blood cells could help people with rare blood types or disorders, who often need transfusions. There’s also a possibility that the blood can be stored longer, compared to standard donor blood. The two people who have been infused have not reported any adverse reactions. And at least eight others will also receive transfusions over the next few months. More trials are needed before it can be used clinically. If you are running out of blood, that’s something to bank upon in the future.
More colourful stories coming up in the weeks ahead. Transfuse yourself with World Inthavaaram.