About-the world this week, 19 February to 25 February 2023: The US in Ukraine; a melting Thwaite Glacier; a canal dry Venice; Israel’s Supreme Court; Trains and Tunnels; Canada’s Super Pigs; Two leaves, and a Bow & Arrow; and Japan’s roll with an iron Ball.
This week United States (US) President Joe Biden made a surprise dash to Ukraine to walk with President Zelensky on the streets of Kyiv, hear the air-raid alarms, deliver bear-hugs, show solidarity, and announce additional support and aid. That should be morale boosting for Ukraine. This is Biden’s first visit since Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago and it comes almost on the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of 24th February. Biden said the US would stand with Ukraine ‘for as long as it takes’ and praised the heroic fight-back. He then went on for a three-day visit to neighbouring Poland, where he declared that Russia will never be able to capture Ukraine.
Meanwhile, European Union (EU) foreign ministers met in Brussels to discuss how to make sure Ukrainian forces are supplied with enough ammunition to keep the war going.
And in Russia, President Vladimir Putin made his state of the union address, where he recycled the same lines about his rationale for invading Ukraine; and he outlined no vision of how the so-called ‘special military operation’ he launched might end. But Putin did offer at least one headline, announcing that Russia is suspending its participation in the ‘New START’ (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), the US-Russia bilateral agreement on nuclear arms reduction. Putin repeated the same baseless claim that Russia had no choice but to use force against Ukraine. And he doubled down on blaming the West for the conflict. “I want to repeat: it was they who unleashed the war,” Putin said. “And we used and continue to use force to stop it.” Wow, what an inventive, foggy reason!
Doomsday could arrive sometime in the future and Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier, also nicknamed the ‘Doomsday Glacier’, may drown many parts of the World on a probably irreversible path. Over the years, this unusually broad and vast Glacier, about the size of Great Britain, alone has contributed to 4% rise in global sea levels. Thwaites is melting rapidly and all the Oceans being connected, a full melt-down could result in a 1 to 3 metre rise in sea levels all across the World.
Presently a floating ice-shelf called the Thwaites Ice-Shelf braces and restrains the eastern portion of the Thwaites Glacier. In recent years, this ice sheet has been steadily disintegrating and Scientists predicated that it is likely to collapse within a decade from 2021. The Thwaites Glacier itself acts a natural dam for enormous ice lakes sitting behind it. They will slide down the mild slopes of continental Antarctica and into the sea once Thwaites collapses.
The Glacier is named after Fredrik T Thwaites, a glacial geologist and Professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
What would be the effects? Think, major cities such as New York, Miami, Mumbai, Shanghai, and Tokyo would be inundated. And low-lying Island nations such as Maldives (Indian Ocean), Kiribati (Central Pacific Ocean) and Tuvalu (South Pacific) may be swallowed up.What can we do? Some have suggested building of underwater walls with robots, and others have suggested enormous cooling tunnels under the ice to cool the slightly warmer water beneath the Glacier, which chips away at the ice.
Whatever, the impacts of melting glaciers can always be mitigated depending on how we humans respond in the coming decades. And there is no reason to panic. Maybe we should never use the word ‘Doomsday Glacier’ as it gives the inaccurate impression of something inevitable?
Meanwhile, in yonder Italy, the City of Venice would certainly do with lots of water. Its iconic canals are running dry, making it impossible for the city’s famous gondolas and water taxis to navigate the waterways.
This follows weeks of dry winter weather with the Alps having received less than normal snowfall. A combination of factors are to blame, including lack of rain and unusual low sea tides.
Imagine, Venice built on over 100 islands and crisscrossed by 177 canals, which was once at the risk of drowning, is now starving for water!
Israel has a problem. It’s about judicial reforms which aim to overhaul the country’s legal system. Its Supreme Court (SC) has remained supreme, may be too supreme and the Government brought in reforms to curb a ‘dictatorial streak’. The changes would limit the SC’s power to rule against the legislature and the executive, giving the Israeli Parliament – Knesset- the power to override the SC decisions with a simple majority of 61 votes out of the 120 seat Knesset. Another change proposes to do away with the SC’s authority to review the legality of Israel’s Basic Laws, which function as the country’s constitution.
Supporters agree with the changes. Opponents think it would threaten’s Israel’s democratic nature and may lead to majoritarian rule. People are out on the streets to protest the changes. Others say there is more than meets the eye, and the conflict is not about the role of judges; rather it is over different visions of Israel. May the best vision win?
We have often heard of stories of tunnels being made and to speed up the process -the digging erroneously begins are the two ends. And how they fail to connect due to a wrong alignment – and you either find a way to connect them, abandon them, or get two tunnels.
Now leaving the tunnel alone, there is a story in Spain of how new commuter trains were ordered that could not fit the non-standard tunnels in the northern regions of Spain’s Asturias and Cantabria. However, the mistake was spotted before the trains could be actually pushed into production.
Spain’s Rail Operator Renfe ordered the trains in 2020, but the following year the Manufacturer realised that the dimensions it had been given for the trains were inaccurate and ‘on a hunch’, stopped work.
The rail network in northern Spain was built in the 19th Century and has tunnels under the mountainous landscape that do not match standard modern tunnel dimensions.
The Government launched a joint investigation to find out how the error could have happened and fired a Renfe manager, and the head of track technology, over the blunder. The botched order cost nearly USD 275 million.
Looks like it’s the season of ambitious wide-bodied thinking failing to fit into our straight-jacket world.
Farmers in Canada wanted to breed large-bodied pigs that are far more resistant to cold so that they are able to survive and reproduce at temperatures that would have killed off other types of livestock. Hence, they came-up with and made a new hybrid species –The Canadian Super Pig-by mating domestic pigs and wild boars. Though they initially lived in captivity, a decline in the market for Pigs and Boars led to many of them being freed.
A group of these Super Pigs are now travelling down from Canada to the Northern US and pose a serious threat to native wildlife and humans alike, by spreading disease, and gobbling up crops. These Super Pigs are considered to be incredibly intelligent, learning as they eat and find their way around new places. The fear is that these pigs, swine, hogs, boars – whichever name you give them – these omnivores are poised to wreak havoc on the environment in both Canada and the United States.
In India, two State level political parties have been fighting over control of their parties after the death of their respective charismatic leaders and after a few years of ruling the State in their light and shine.
In the first, in the Western State of Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena founded by Bal Thackeray saw the majority of the party led by Eknath Shinde break away from the family-faction led by the son Uddhav Thackeray. And collaborate with the Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP) to form a Government, with Eknath Shinde becoming the Chief Minister. This week India’s Election Commission (EC) ruled that the faction led by Eknath Shinde is the real Shiv Sena and awarded it the Party Symbol – Bow & Arrow – and associated Offices. The decision was challenged in the the Supreme Court of India, but the Court sided with the EC’s decision. Later, the Election Commission awarded a ‘Cone Ice-cream’ Symbol to what was left of Uddhav’s party, which was anyway melting away into oblivion.
In the second, in the Southern State of Tamil Nadu, following the death of Supremo Jayalalithaa, two leaders Ottakarathevar Pannerselvam (OPS) and Edappadi Karuppa Gounder Palaniswami (EPS) teamed-up staying true to the ‘Two Leaves’ Symbol of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). And ruled as Deputy Chief Minister and Chief Minister respectively for a while, only to lose the last Assembly Elections to the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). But the EPS led AIADMK gave a decent fight, and he went on to become the Opposition Leader. Then the bickering and fighting began and the dual-leadership model broke down, and it became awfully tough for the two leaves to stay on the same stem. Single Leadership seemed to be the best option to take on the ruling DMK and the growing-by-leaps-and-bounds BJP. After many a run to high and higher courts with, you-lose-some, I-win-some games, this week the SC ruled that bye-laws brought-in to make EPS the single leader are legal. This makes the way for EPS to be formally elected General Secretary and undisputed Leader of the AIADMK, graduating from being the ‘interim’ General Secretary.
Parties should choose symbols carefully: A bow cannot wait to dispatch an arrow. And two leaves on a stem cannot stem the growth of more leaves!
This week Japan was rattled when a rusty metal sphere, about 1.5 metres wide, washed up on a beach in Hamamatsu. Could it be a Godzilla egg (the effect of watching too many movies), a Dragon Ball, something from outer space, a spy ball… a mooring buoy? This was in the background of the Chinese spy balloon saga, and a hostile North Korea pumping test missiles into the Sea of Japan.
The area was cordoned off and by the Police and even a bomb squad was sent to check out the object. Then it was X-rayed, declared safe and picked-up for disposal.
Turns out it was a hollow sphere, a steel mooring buoy, used to carry instruments or act as floating markers. The buoys can break free from their anchorage in the sea, either in a violent storm or from being pulled by a big fishing vessel. The objects can float in the ocean for decades, and can lose their markings and get rusty when they wash ashore.
Many Japanese were embarrassed that they could not recognise a buoy in a sea of thoughts.
More fighting, melting, wide-bodied stories coming up in the weeks ahead. Stay buoyed-up and afloat with World Inthavaaram.