About-the world this week, 8 January to 14 January 2023: revolt in the Americas; a sinking Town in India; the UK tries Space; Ozone is back; and Film & TV awards that make you shake a leg and watch your tongue.
North America’s United States
The last week spoke loudly about the chaos in voting for a new House Speaker in the United States (US) of America. Just when the week’s mouth was closing, Republican, Kevin McCarthy of California finally won enough votes to become Speaker of the House of Representatives. Not since 1860, when it took 44 ballots to elect New Jersey’s William Pennington as a compromise candidate, has it taken 15 ballots to elect a Speaker. The spectacle of the Republican Party having the numbers, yet unable to get its folk to stick together, while the Opposition Democrats stayed solid behind House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries raised ridicule across the country…and the World.
South America’s Brazil
The American Continent seems to go crazy and shake its seat of Government in January-the beginning of the year. Two years ago it was the North America’s US, which people erupted and stormed its Government in Capitol Hill; this year it is South America’s Brazil, which did a similar stunt. Ever since the Covid19 pandemic everything seems to be spreading everywhere!
Early this January Lula da Silva was inaugurated a President of Brazil in a stiffly fought, run-off leading election contest with former President Jair Bolsonaro.
After weeks of simmering tensions Pro-Bolsanoro protestors, claiming that the Election was a fraud and the results manipulated, stormed Brazil’s Congress in the the Capital City. Brazil was left reeling after hundreds of Bolsonaro’s supporters created a rumpus in the seats of power in the capital, trashing offices, and drawing condemnation from the government and the international community.
The attack bore similarities to the 6 January 2021 insurrection at the US Capitol in Washington DC, when supporters of ex-US President Donald Trump-a close ally of Bolsonaro-stormed Congress in an effort to prevent the certification of his election defeat.
The Head of Brazil’s Electoral Court had rejected Bolsonaro’s petition to annul ballots, calling the outgoing President’s allegation that some voting machines had malfunctioned ‘ludicrous and illicit’ and ‘ostensibly conspiratorial toward the democratic rule of law.’ And Brazil’s Ministry of Defence found no evidence of fraud or inconsistency in the electoral process, in a report published in November, last year.
Bolsonaro nonetheless refused to explicitly concede defeat, while also insisting he would comply with Brazil’s Constitution during the handover of power to Lula. Ultimately, he fled the country on the eve of Lula’s inauguration, and has been staying in US’s Florida, since then. Searching for a Trump Card?
Joshimath, also known as Jyotirmath, is a Town with a population of 20,000 people, in Chamoli District in India’s state of Uttarakhand. Located at a height of 1875 metres, it is a gateway to several Himalayan mountain climbing expeditions, trekking trails, and pilgrim centres.
Joshimath itself was born in precarious geological circumstances. The town, located in a tremor-prone zone, on the middle slope of a hill, along a running ridge, was built on the debris of a landslide triggered by an earthquake more than a century ago.
During the February 2021 Floods in Uttarakhand and its aftermath the area was severely affected. Structures around the Town developed cracks and people had to be evacuated. And it is now confirmed that Joshimath is indeed sinking.
Cracks have developed in more than 670 of some 4500 buildings-including a local temple and a ropeway-in an area which is 350 metres wide. There are cracks on the pavements and streets. Two hotels are now leaning on each other-for support. Water has been gushing out of farms for reasons that are not entirely clear. Some 80 families have been shifted from their homes to schools, hotels and home-stays in the town. Disaster response teams have been put in service with helicopters on standby for airlifting evacuees.
Land can begin to sink for various reasons. These include the movement of the Earth’s crust-thin outer shell of rock-or due to an earthquake that can cause a shift in elevation. A sinkhole – a depression or hole in the ground caused by the collapse of the surface layer – can occur when water flowing underground erodes rocks beneath the surface.
But land also sinks due to human activity like over-extraction of groundwater and drainage of aquifers-which geologists believe may have led to the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, sinking faster than any other city in the world. More than 80% of land subsidence across the world is caused due to excessive extraction of groundwater, according to the US Geological Survey.
Human activity seems to be primarily responsible for Joshimath’s woes. Over decades, a lot of water has been pumped out from beneath the ground for farming, making the sand and stone fragile. With the soil dipping, the town has been slowly sinking. “The situation is alarming,” says a geologist.
As early as 1976, a government study warned that Joshimath was sinking, and recommended a ban on heavy construction work in the area. It pointed out that a lack of adequate drainage facilities was leading to landslides. “Joshimath is not suitable for a township,” the study cautioned. But the warning was not heeded. Over the decades, the place exploded into a busy gateway for hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and tourists. The pilgrims were bound for the Hindu temple town of Badrinath, some 45km away. Tourists trek, climb and ski in the region. Hotels, lodging houses and eateries have proliferated.
An Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Satellite image showed that Joshimath sank by 5.4cm in 12 days between December 2022 and January 2023. And between April 2022 and November 2022, saw a slow subsidence of 9cm. Get that sinking feeling? And we always get advance warnings, which we fail to read!
United Kingdom’s Space
In a first such foray the United Kingdom (UK) scrambled to get into Space and what does it do? No time for launch-pad Rocket take-offs, instead convert an old 747 Jumbo Jet, name it Cosmic Girl, shake it up to carry a carry a rocket – called Launcher One- underneath its left wing which in turn carries as its payload Satellites to be launched in to orbit. And who does it? That’s easy, British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, through his American Company, Virgin Orbit.
The mission using the repurposed Aeroplane was to release the Launcher One rocket, at an altitude of approximately 10,700 meters, over the Atlantic to take nine satellites high above the Earth, and the first stage engine ignited, to start the climb towards space.
Cosmic Girl took-off from a ‘Spaceport’ in Cornwall, UK, and flew high to launch Launcher One – the imbalance in one wing being used to get off in the opposite direction as the rocket fires and goes into space. But the first UK rocket taking satellites into space suffered an ‘anomaly’ -spelling an end to the mission. Virgin Orbit is evaluating the information and waiting to find out more about what happened to the rocket and the unsuccessful mission. Meanwhile, Cosmic Girl returned to Spaceport Cornwall – landing on the runway. Tomorrow is another day!
In rare good news for the planet, that too in the New Year, Earth’s ozone layer appears to be on track to recover completely within decades, as ozone-depleting chemicals are phased out across the world. This is according to a new United Nations (UN) backed Assessment.
We know that the ozone layer of the atmosphere protects Planet Earth from harmful ultraviolet rays-by kicking them back into space. But since the late 1980s, scientists have sounded the alarm about formation of a hole in Earth’s armour, caused by ozone-depleting substances including chlorofluorocarbons(CFCs) often found in refrigerators, aerosols, and solvents.
International cooperation helped stem the damage. The use of CFCs has decreased 99% since the Montreal Protocol came into force in 1989, which began the phase-out of those and other ozone-harming chemicals, said the Assessment.
If global policies stay their course, the ozone layer is expected to heal and recover to 1980 levels by 2040 for most of the world, the Assessment found. For polar areas, the timeframe for recovery is longer: 2045 over the Arctic and 2066 over the Antarctic. Oh Earth, heal thyself?
Golden Globe’s Naatu Naatu
The Golden Globe Awards are given by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) for excellence in both American and international Film and Television (TV). The HFPA was founded in 1943 by Los Angeles-based foreign journalists seeking to develop a better organised process of gathering and distributing cinema news to non-US markets. It has about 105 members who vote to select the winners. One of the HFPA’s major goal was to establish a ceremony similar to the Academy Awards to recognise and honour achievements in the world of Film & TV.
The 1st Golden Globe Awards ceremony were held in January 1944 rewarding the previous year’s Film & TV shows. The eligibility period corresponds to the calendar year-from 1st January through 31st December. The annual awards presentation ceremony normally happens in January.
This year, the 80th edition of the Golden Globe Awards was held on 10th January at The Beverly Hilton, Beverly Hills, California. To begin with, the Red Carpet also ‘displayed the best of golden globes’.
‘The Fabelmans’ and ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ won top prizes on the Big Screen, while ‘Abbot Elementary’ and ‘The White Lotus’ struck graduate yellow gold on the Small Screen.
Steven Spielberg’s ‘The Fabelmans’ was adjudged the Best Motion Picture and also won the best Director for the superb movie-maker & Director, Spielberg, outflying Tom Cruise’s ‘Top Gun: Maverick’, and rising above James Cameroon’s ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’.
The Fabelmans is a coming-of-age semi-autobiographical story loosely based on Steven Spielberg’s own adolescence and first years as a filmmaker. It explores how the power of films can help see the truth about a dysfunctional family and those around.
The Banshees of Inisherin is a dark tragic comedy set in a remote island off the west cost of Ireland. It is about two lifelong friends who find themselves in an impasse when one abruptly ends their relationship, with alarming consequences for both. ‘Banshee’ in Irish folklore means a female spirit who heralds the death of a family member usually by screaming, wailing, shrieking, or keening. ‘Inisherin’ is a fictional village in Ireland made-up on the Inis More and Achill Islands. The film combats war from a distance by focussing on a village that was not directly involved.
Austin Butler won Best Actor for being Elvis Presley in ‘Elvis’ and Cate Blanchett, Best Actress for the way she conducted herself in ‘Tar’. The Best Actress in a musical or comedy went to Michelle Yeoh for playing 60 year old Chinese immigrant Evelyn Wang-owner of a failing laundromat in America- in the Sci-fi comedy ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’. Best Actor in a musical or comedy went to Colin Farrell for being a friendly, drinking buddy, and then ignored in ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’.
Best Drama TV Series went to ‘House of Dragon’, with ‘The Crown’, ‘Better Call Saul’, ‘Ozak’, and ‘Severance’ coming within striking distance of crowing glory, but severed –better call the HFPA?
The Best Foreign Language film went to ‘Argentina 1985’ with India’s sensational high-octane ‘RRR’, ‘Decision to Leave’, ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ and ‘Close’ getting close. The Best Original Score award went to ‘Babylon’.
Indian Director S S Rajamouli’s RRR won the Golden Globe for best original song for ‘Naatu Naatu’ – a Telugu track composed by veteran Indian music director M M Keeravaani and sung by Kala Bhairava and Rahul Sipligunj. The joke doing the rounds on social media, about the Russian-Ukraine War, is that the West has chosen ‘Nato Nato’ to dance with!
Other nominees for best original song were Taylor Swift’s ‘Carolina-Where The Crawdads Sing’, Ciao Papa-Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Pinocchio’, ‘Hold My Hand’ from Top Gun: Maverick, a collaboration between Lady Gaga, BloodPop and Benjamin Rice, and ‘Lift Me Up’ from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever by Tems, Rihanna, Ryan Coogler, and Ludwig Goransson.
Best Musical or Comedy Series went to ‘Abbott Elementary’. Actor Kevin Costner won Best Actor in a Drama or TV Series for ‘Yellowstone’. The Best TV Motion Picture was won by ‘The White Lotus’ (HBO Max).
This time the Awards were marked by outstanding Acceptance Speeches like the one where Best Supporting Actress Jennifer Coolidge gave a wonderfully rambling, hilarious, profanity laden speech including’, “I don’t work out! I can’t hold it that long”. And Michelle Yeoh asked Producers to “shut up” for trying to cut her speech short when she gave ‘everything everywhere all at once’ to describe her rise as a Hollywood Actress. And she can pack a terrific punch-mind it (remember, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). The biggest applause was reserved for comedian, writer, and singer Eddie Murphy who was this year’s Cecil B DeMille Award winner. He cracked everyone up with this: “I want to let you know that there is a definitive blueprint that you can follow to achieve success, prosperity, longevity, and peace of mind”. Eddie Murphy then added, “It is a blueprint and I have followed it my whole career. It is very simple, just do these three things: pay your taxes, mind your business, and keep Will Smith’s wife’s name out of your f—-ing mouth!” leaving the audience in splits. His decades of unbeatable comedy and incredible performances deserve to be acknowledged and celebrated.
Act well, crack jokes through the year 2023. Win a golden globe, celebrate and share it on World Inthavaaram.