About: The story of the world this week; of one at war with itself, and attempts to fly in other Planets.
The Guns of the United States of America (USA)
This Sunday, in Brooklyn Centre, Minnesota, USA, Afro-American Daunte Wright, 20 years old, was pulled over for a traffic violation by a woman Police Officer, but there was a struggle when Wright tried getting back into his car while officers were trying to handcuff him. Wright does get back into his car and drives away, but not before been shot by a Police Office who shouted out, ‘Taser, Taser, Taser… ‘(an electric gun which incapacitates a person with a high voltage electric shock), but instead pulls out a gun and fires a bullet. Fatally wounded, Wright driving his car, crashed a few streets away. The Officer mistook the Gun for a Taser, pulling out the wrong one, but nevertheless the damage was done and the shooting sparked wild protests leading to declaration of a curfew and a local state of emergency.
The Police have admitted that the shooting was accidental, but the incident shoots many questions:How can an Officer mistake a Pistol for a Taser when they look and feel different and there are protocols to prevent a mix-up? But before that, why guns for a traffic violation? This is not the case of a criminal running away from a ‘deadly’ crime scene to warrant drawing a weapon!
On the other hand, why did Wright run away, precipitating Police action? He should have allowed himself to be arrested and faced the music. In a deeply divided America these are tough questions to find answers. Meanwhile, the Police Officer and her Chief have resigned-owning up.
While we are on the last legs of this week, there is yet another mass shooting, late Thursday, in the US City of Indianapolis, at a FedEx Facility near the main Airport. Eight people have been killed and many injured, when a man, seemingly without any kind of provocation, started firing an automatic weapon. The gunman, said to be acting alone, killed himself soon after the shooting. The motive is unclear.
What the hell has become of US? This is a never-ending story!
Look up at India: imagine a gun in the hand of every citizen and every policeman too? They get the job done with the fiery bamboo lathi, and the guns are reserved, while people go about their chores with hands in their pockets.
A Full-Blown Conflict: A Failed State?
The United Nations is seeing the big picture, and has warned that Myanmar is heading towards a full-blown conflict with clear echos of Syria in 2011, unless the International Community steps in with immediate, decisive and impactful measures to push Myanmar’s military leadership into halting its campaign of repression and heart-wrenching slaughter of its own people.
The World is standing by and watching Myanmar become a failed State. Time to cross some boundaries and stop being a by-stander?
Jallianwala Bagh and Ram Mohammad Singh Azad
This week brought back piercing memories of the brutal Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, which happened 102 years ago, this month.
On 13th April 1919, when India was under British Rule, Brigadier General Reginald Dyer, the acting military commander of Punjab ordered his troops to fire into a peaceful unarmed crowd, which had assembled in an open ground, in Jallianwala Bagh, Amristar, Punjab, to celebrate the Festival of Baishaki, New Year’s Day, and protest the Rowlatt Act and arrest of two freedom fighters from Amristar. It was a bloody slaughter and one of the most blood-chilling events in India’s fight for freedom from the British. Over 350 ordinary civilians were mercilessly butchered and over a thousand injured that deadly day. Firing continued uninterrupted for about 10 minutes and stopped only when they ran out of ammunition-about 1,650 rounds were spent.
The impact it had on 19 years old Udham Singh, a revolutionary freedom fighter was unimaginable. He was driven by a burning rage to avenge the death of innocent Indians, and taking a handful of the blood-soaked soil he vowed that no matter how long it took or how far he had to go, he would hunt down the persons who did this to his people, and kill them. He swore revenge for every man, woman, and child killed that day.
Twenty-one years later on 13th March 1940, Udham Singh shot and killed Sir Michael O’Dwyer-who was the Lieutenant Governor of Punjab at the time of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre-point-blank, in faraway London, in a crowded Caxton Hall, where O’Dwyer arrived to make a speech. Udham Singh had hidden the pistol in a book with pages cut-out to accommodate the gun.
Two days later after a quick trial Udham Singh was sentenced and later hanged to death on 31st July 1940 at the Pentonville Prison, United Kingdom.
There are two British responsible, with similar sounding names: Dwyer and Dyer. The latter, General Dyer, was discharged from the Army, never punished for his crimes, and died unrepentant in 1927. The former, Sir Michael O’Dwyer, had approved of General Dyer’s actions and is believed to be the main planner-to teach Indians a lesson.
Udham Singh surrendered after assassinating O’Dwyer and during his incarceration until his hanging, said his name was Ram Mohammad Singh Azad-signifying the major religions in India, and freedom.
The Udham Singh story was kept under strict wraps by the British, being in a delicate phase of the Indian Independence movement. However, it’s hard to hide such a story of martyrdom, and eventually it surfaced. And following an outcry, in 1974 his remains was brought back to India and buried in his home town of Sunam, Sangrur District, Punjab.
Today, a ten-foot high statue of Udham Singh stands at the entrance of Jallianwala Bagh with his outstretched right hand holding blood-soaked soil in his palm. Many statues have been erected in his hometown to commemorate his memory.
They say, if we forget the lessons of History we are bound to repeat them. Let’s read and learn our History well. Such spine-chilling killing of unarmed people cannot be forgotten, ever.
India, and Tamil Nadu in particular, is famous for showering freebies on ‘the ever hungry electorate’ to win over their minds, through their stomachs, into voting for them. We have seen a mind-boggling array of goodies such as table fans, mixies, grinders, cycles, scooters, buffaloes, cows, laptops… being offered free with the intention of uplifting the poor. Most of us think that this makes people lazy and that we are creating a useless, skill-dropping workforce. We better rethink!
Economist and Nobel laureate, Abjijit Vinayak Banerjee has trashed this ideology saying there is no evidence whatsoever that such ‘Government injections’ make people lazy-putting them to sleep. He said that his own research on the subject across diverse economies in Asia, Africa and Latin America in the past decade and more, shows no evidence of this effect anywhere, not even in India; instead what he has seen everywhere is only improvements. The Nobel laureate says that when the poor become better off, they become more creative in generating more wealth and leading better lives including by sending their kids to competitive schools far away from their villages.
Economists are always challenging us with their peculiar data-based findings. And they may not always be right. I reckon we can increase our wealth-and probably the Wealth of Nations-by cogitating over how best to deploy whatever we receive from the Government, not necessarily free.
Ingenuity: Still Trying to Fly
America’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) had its Mars Rover, Perseverance, drop the mini-helicopter, Ingenuity, on the Martian surface on 4th April to get charged and prepare of its first ever flight in Mars. Last Thursday Ingenuity unlocked its blades and did a slow spin test to get the feel of rotation (yesterday they did a full-spin-test). And this Sunday we expected history to be made, but it did not happen as the superbly cautious NASA decided that Ingenuity needs a software update, much like our mobile phones do all the time.
Ingenuity’s guidance, navigation, and control systems will do the piloting for the almost autonomous flight attempt, mostly because radio signals will take 15 minutes and 27 seconds to bridge the 278 million kilometre gap between Mars and Earth.
The Martian atmosphere is 99% less dense than Earth’s, which makes it difficult to achieve enough lift. Successful flights of Ingenuity could provide an ambitious aerial dimension to future Mars exploration.
Meanwhile, the Wright Brothers are waiting and watching, from somewhere close by.
The Pandemic’s Second Wave in India
India is presently ‘doing lines’ instead of curves, with every new day edging past the previous day’s record of the number of positive coronavirus cases-it’s frightening, this almost vertical, a straight line.
The number of cases has gone up from about 11,794 in the first week of February 2021 to over 2 lakhs cases this week, spiking all records. Forget bending the curve we need to first bend the line into a curve.
The term lockdown being overused, Authorities are clamping down with measures to break the chain of infections, with lookalikes of Lockdowns and curfew like restrictions, well almost. Maharashtra is doing it and other States are hoping to follow soon. If the coronavirus can mutate so can the Lockdown. In Mumbai you just cannot go everywhere and anywhere-as you please-and it isn’t called a lockdown!
The Vaccination drive is gathering speed-about 12 crore vaccinations done in India-but it cannot do much in a surging state of infection spread. We need to hold on to the basics of what we have learnt over the past year: masking-up, physical distancing, and hand-washing. Experts say we should avoid public gatherings of over 10 people and limit the unavoidable Events such as Weddings and Funerals to under 50 people, and avoid travel as best as we can. I suggest we keep at it until the cases crawl down to zero and stay grounded for at least a month.
Over the week, India approved Russia’s, Gamaleya National Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology developed Vaccine, Sputnik V (It’s the letter V, not the Roman Letter for 5) for emergency use. With this India has three vaccines at hand: Covishield, Covaxin, and now the Sputnik V.
In other Vaccine news, Johnson & Johnson’s single shot vaccine has been temporarily paused in America as ‘abundance of caution’, following concerns that the vaccine may be linked to a rare but severe type of blood clotting-reported as after-effects, in a few cases.
India, after a reasonable success in keeping coronavirus infections at bay has definitely been caught napping and complacency has crept-in. And has mentally declared a victory over the pandemic, when cases were cleverly and stealthily climbing up a rusty ladder. The Assembly Elections in five States saw large gatherings kick up a lot of dust; Weddings and Family get-togethers almost returned to the normal attendance level, religious festivals were back with a bang and too many things were simply ‘left in the hands of God’. The triennial Hindu Festival Kumbh Mela, when devotees take a holy dip in the Holy River Ganges, in Haridwar, is a huge draw and should have been avoided. Sins apart, the waters may find it hard to wash away the virus.
Stealing Giant Rabbits
Darius, a continental giant rabbit, which holds the Guinness World Record for being the world’s longest rabbit at 4 feet and 23 inches, was stolen last Saturday from its owner, Annette Edwards’ garden in Stoulton, Worcestershire, in the West Midlands region of the United Kingdom. The bunny is Edwards’ fourth record-breaking rabbit and took the title from its mom.
Annette Edwards has offered a £1,000 reward for finding Darius, which she claims is too old to breed-if that was the intent of the theft.
Growing Brains at Will
Imagine being able to shrink the size of your brain, and re-grow it at will? Brainy?
Researchers have found that a certain species of Indian Jumping Ants are able to do exactly that.
Unlike other kinds of ants, colonies of Jumping Ants do not perish once their Queen dies. Instead chosen worker-ants, which have expanded ovaries and shrunken brains take the Queen’s place to produce offspring. The Queen’s job being, to only reproduce-and hardly think, her ovaries are large and the brain is small. On the other hand, worker ants need large brains to think and get work done and not waste energy in reproduction, hence small ovaries. Now, if at some point, the Queen status is revoked their bodies can bounce back to the state of small ovaries and large brains-Researchers have found.
Typically, in all Ant Colonies, an ant becoming a worker or a queen is decided at the larval stage. If fed generously and given the right hormones, the ant has the chance to become a queen. If not, then it is stuck with a career as a sterile worker deprived of the opportunity to switch-unless it’s part of a species such as the Indian Jumping Ant.
I can’t help jump every time a new mystery of nature is unravelled, and grow my brain in the process. Amazing!
Please Yourself: Dynamite
South Korean Band Group, BTS (Bangtan Boys) is a seven-member group of men, Suga, Jin, RM, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook – names, which to me appear to be splinters of Dynamite- who write and produce much of their own output. Originally a hip-hop group, their musical style has evolved to include a wide range of genres.
BTS’s global smash hit ‘Dynamite’, which is the group’s first song made entirely in English, just crossed one billion views on YouTube, in less than eight months since its debut, making it the newest entry in YouTube’s Billion Views Club.
The ‘Dynamite’ video on YouTube premiered in August 2020. It garnered over 101.1 million views in its first 24 hours, making it the biggest music video debut on the video platform to date. The video also set a record for the biggest YouTube Premiere with over three million peak concurrent views. It opened at No. 1 on the YouTube Global Top Songs chart, and has remained on the chart for 32 straight weeks
I listened to ‘Dynamite’ before writing this piece and I was blasted by its beauty. However, here I’m alive, and in one piece, to tell this story.
More dynamite and jumping stories coming up in the weeks ahead.