About: the world this week, 9 January to 15 January 2022, a colourful Actor reaches the stars, a country fights over fuel price hikes, a Prince loses his Titles, a Tennis Champion is deported-almost, a rat hero dies, and a style icon becomes a follower-gathering hit on Instagram.


Colour in Black & White

Actor Sidney Poitier, 94, died on the evening of 6 January 2022 in his home in Los Angeles, just when I was near the end of wrapping-up my last week’s World Inthavaaram. And I kept him warm for this week.

Sidney Poitier was one of the greatest film actors of the past century-a legend of our times. He blazed trails as a black actor who rose to fame during a time when there were few starring roles offered to African Americans. He set a standard for those who came after him and showed us, ‘how to reach for the stars’. Beautiful, brilliant, graceful, and elegant are just a few of the many words used to describe him.

He received three Academy Awards nominations, ten Golden Globe Awards nominations, two Primetime Emmy Awards nominations, six British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) nominations, eight Laurel nominations, one Screen Actors Guild Awards (SAG) nomination. He won one Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Actor for ‘Lilies of the Field’ (1963), playing a handyman who helps a group of German-speaking nuns build a chapel…Wooh, I am almost out-of-breath!

Poitier’s entire family lived in the Bahamas, then a British Crown colony, but he was born, rather unexpectedly, in Miami, United States (US), while his parents were visiting for the weekend, which automatically granted him a US citizenship. He grew up in the Bahamas, but moved to Miami at age 15, and to New York City the next year.

He went on to become a stage actor and over time worked his way into Hollywood. Some of his best films are: ‘To Sir, with Love’; ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’, and ‘In the Heat of the Night’.

Poitier first married model Juanita Hardy in 1950 and then separated from her in 1965. He married a second time, to Joanna Shimkus, a Canadian actress in 1976, who starred with him in ‘The Lost Man’: Joanna ‘found her man’ and they remained married for the rest of Poitier’s life. Meanwhile, he filled the gap with a nine-year relationship with actress Diahann Carroll.

He had four daughters from his first marriage and two from his second. In addition to the six daughters, Poitier had eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. That’s the measure of the man.

Some of his famous quotes are: “I always wanted to be someone better the next day than I was the day before”; “A person doesn’t have to change who he is to become better.”

Beyond the quotes, he leaves behind…a lot!


This is a story playing over the past three years, from France to Ecuador, Zimbabwe to Lebanon, and in Pakistan and Iran. When Governments try to let the market determine energy prices (linked to increased taxes or reduced subsidies on fossil fuels) they are confronted with mass uprisings and turmoil, as the new policy invariably leads to an increase in fuel prices. An unprepared administration cracks down with excessive force. This amplifies public anger, which boils over into calls for, suddenly discovered, greater democratic rights.

Now, mirroring the trend is Kazakhstan, a Central Asian country endowed with an abundant supply of accessible mineral and fossil fuel resources. The end of price controls for Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG), a popular, affordable fuel, in early January sparked protests- the largest since the collapse of the Soviet Union, three decades ago – in the oil-rich area of Western Kazakhstan.

Things escalated quickly across the country as demonstrations expanded to include calls for political reform. The Government shut down the internet. And protesters seized the airport and burned down some government buildings. A Russian-led military alliance deployed about 2,500 ‘peacekeepers’ at the President’s request. Then, security forces were given the shoot-to-kill order.

At least 164 people have been killed, more than 2,000 injured and thousands detained. The Government insists the country is stabilizing and that buildings overrun by protestors are now back under its control.

This is becoming a familiar story and maybe Governments should be better prepared before announcing ‘powerful uplifting changes’.


In other news, World No 1 Tennis Champion Novak Djokovic who was involved in a messy serve, smash, rally, and lob match with Australian Vaccination Rules was allowed to play in the Open, as decided by a Judge of an Australian Court, umpiring the rule-break.

However, it turns out that the Champion and falsified facts in relation to his December 2021 Covid-19 infection, which he used as an ace to clear the net of Australia’s Rules to play in the Australian Open Tennis Grand Slam, where he plays to defend his title. He also admitted to breaking isolation rules while being Covid19 Positive.

But this Friday, Novak Djokovic’s Australian visa was again cancelled just days before the start of the Australian Open. The Australian Immigration Minister, Alex Hawke, exercised a personal power to cancel Djokovic’s visa, likely to result in the world No 1’s deportation and putting him out of contention in the tournament. The decision means that Djokovic could be effectively barred from re-entering Australia for three years unless he can show, in future attempts, that compelling circumstances exist, such as compassionate or Australian national interest grounds.

I’m glad that Australia is one Country that ruthlessly sticks to its Rules. The tournament is now positively open for others to win.

This week, Prince Andrew of the United Kingdom’s (UK) Royal Family was dragged deeper into the headlines-staying, Ghislaine Maxwell – Jeffrey Epstein sex-trafficking Case. A United States federal judge denied the Prince’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a Virginia Giuffre, who claimed that she was sexually trafficked to the Prince when she was underage.

The Crown stepped into action-with the Royal Shoes-and stripped the Duke of York’s military titles and ‘the clothes’ of royal patronages have been returned to the Queen’s Royal Chest. Prince Andrew will also stop using the style ‘His Royal Highness’.

That’s a naked enough story. There’s indeed a limit to what clothes can cover-up?

A Rat Hero Dies

This week, a landmine sniffing expert, a mine-clearing African Giant Pouch Rat, running around lightly with the name ‘Magawa’ died at the age of eight.

Magawa was the most successful rat trained by the Belgian charity APOPO, to give a tails-up alert to human handlers about landmines so they can be found and safely deactivated. In 2020, Magawa was awarded the PDSA Gold Medal for its heroism. It was the first rat to be given the medal in the charity’s 77 year history.

The PDSA (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) Gold Medal is an animal bravery award that acknowledges the bravery and devotion to duty of animals. An animal can be awarded the Gold Medal if it assists in saving human or non-human life when its own life is in danger or through exceptional devotion to duty. Wow, that’s amazing!

APOPO is an acronym from Dutch, which stands for ‘Anti-Persoonsmijnen Ontmijnende Product Ontwikkeling’, or in English, ‘Anti-Personnel Landmines Detection Product Development’. APOPO is a global non-profit organization that researches, develops, and implements detection technology for rats for humanitarian purposes such as clearing landmines and detecting tuberculosis.

APOPO has Belgian roots with operational headquarters in Tanzania and further operations in Angola, Cambodia, Mozambique and Ethiopia. Bart Weetjens is the founder, who came up with the idea while wondering whether the rodents, that he kept as pets, could be used for finding landmines and other explosives.

Magawa was trained by APOPO, which has been raising the animals – known as HeroRATs – to detect landmines since the 1990s. The animals are certified for the job, after a year of intense training.

Bred in Tanzania, Magawa underwent the one year of training before moving to Cambodia -where up to six million landmines are believed to be still alive -to begin his high-stakes, bomb-sniffing career. In a five-year period, the rodent sniffed out over 100 landmines and other explosives in Cambodia.

Trained to detect a chemical compound within the explosives, Magawa cleared more than 141,000 square metres of land -the equivalent of 20 football pitches with a capability of searching a field the size of a tennis court in just 20 minutes-something that would take a human, with a metal detector, between one and four days.

Magawa weighed 1.2 kilograms and was 70 centimetres long. While that is far larger than many other rat species, it was still small enough and light enough that it did not trigger mines if it walked over them.

Magawa retired last June, after ‘slowing down’ as it reached old age. It was in good health and spent most of last week playing with its usual enthusiasm. But, by the weekend it started to slow down, napping more and showing less interest in food in its last days.

Last week, APOPO declared that a new batch of young rats was assessed by the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) and passed ‘with flying colours’.

Make rats your best friend, buy a trained rat: don’t know what they can sniff out!

Please Yourself.

Make-up mogul Kylie Jenner has become the first woman to reach 300 million followers on Instagram – the photo and video sharing social networking service.

Ariana Grande, previously the app’s most popular woman, is now tied in second place with Selena Gomez. The singers have 289 million each.

But, Football’s Manchester United striker Cristiano Ronaldo remains Instagram’s most followed person, now with more than 388 million followers. Next up is Ronaldo, the first person to reach 200 million followers. Fellow footballer Lionel Messi has also broken the 300 million milestone.

Other accounts in the top 10 belong to former wrestler The Rock, Reality-TV personality Kim Kardashian, and singers Beyonce and Justin Bieber.

More explosive and without-make-up stories coming up ahead. Sniff with World Inthavaaram and gather more followers.



About: the beginning of the year, the world this week, 2 January to 8 January 2022, Elizabeth Holmes, Desmond Tutu, James Webb, Richard Leakey, Apple, Narendra Modi, and Novak Djokovic.


Elizabeth Holmes

Dropping out of a famous College in America -and often finding brain-ticking space in your Dad’s garage-is the surest way to building up on a great start-up idea, turning it into a World-filling Company, and stardom. Apple, Microsoft, Google…used this mantra to get to where they are now.

Then came Elizabeth Holmes also using the garage path. She founded a Company called Theranos in the year 2003, at age 19, shortly after dropping out of chemical engineering at Stanford University, United States (US). Theranos is a combination of the words, ‘therapy and diagnosis’.

On its birth, Theranos was spoken of as a breakthrough health technology company, with claims of having devised blood tests that required minuscule amounts of blood and could be performed rapidly, using small automated devices that the company had developed. The firm promised it would revolutionise the healthcare industry. But it began to unravel in 2015, after a Wall Street Journal ‘Sherlock Holmes’ investigation, that its core blood-testing technology did not actually work. Theranos was officially closed-down in 2018. Elementary, Dr Watson!

During its growing-up years, Theranos was able to raise more than USD 900 million from Venture Capitalists including billionaires such as media magnate Rupert Murdoch and tech mogul Larry Ellison, and at one point was valued at USD 9 Billion. It was also considered the darling of Silicon Valley and Elizabeth Holmes was placed on a ‘Steve Jobs Pedestal’.

This week, in California, after nearly four months at trial, Elizabeth Holmes was found guilty of conspiring to defraud investors. Holmes was convicted on four -conspiracy to commit fraud against investors and three counts of wire transfer fraud – of 11 counts, acquitted on four counts and the jury could not reach a decision on three counts.

Holmes knew the product she was selling to investors was a sham, but remained tight-lipped and hell-bent on the firm’s success. Lab directors told Holmes about the flaws in Theranos’ technology but were instructed to downplay their concerns. At the same time, Holmes told investors that the technology was operating as planned.

There was also another angle of blame on Ramesh ‘Sunny’ Balwani, Holmes’ former business partner and long-term boyfriend. Holmes has accused Balwani, 19 years her senior, of emotional and sexual abuse. She described an intense relationship, in which Balwani controlled how she ran Theranos, who she spoke to, how she spoke to them, and what she ate. He has denied the allegations. Their decade-long relationship came to an end around the same time he stepped down as Chief Executive Officer in May 2016. He faces a separate trial next month.

This tarnishes the image of Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs like never before. And the now 37 years old Elizabeth Holmes could face more than 20 years in prison.

Desmond Tutu

This week Nobel Peace laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, aged 90 years, who passed away on 26 December 2021 in South Africa was cremated by a green, climate friendly process called Aquamation. He has specifically requested this method before his death and wanted his funeral to be a non-ostentatious one.

Aquamation, or Alkaline Hydrolysis, consists of cremation by water rather than fire. In the process, the body is immersed for three to four hours in a mixture of water and a strong alkali like potassium hydroxide in a pressurised metal cylinder, and heated to around 150 degrees Celsius. Through the process, the entire body is liquified, except for the bones, which are dried in an oven and then reduced to dust (…unto dust you shall return). Alkaline Hydrolysis is sometimes referred to as flameless cremation.

Desmond Tutu was a South African Anglican bishop and theologian, known for his work as an anti-apartheid and a human rights activist. He bravely opposed apartheid in South Africa and won the Nobel for his non-violent struggle against apartheid.

He served as Bishop of Johannesburg and then as Archbishop of Cape Town, in both cases being the first black African to hold the position.

He was, kind of, best friends with Nelson Mandela and participated in peacefully dismantling apartheid in South Africa when Mandela was released after 27 years in jail and later took over the reins of government as the first black President.

Desmond Tutu married Nomalizo Leah Shenxane, a teacher whom he had met while at college. He leaves behind his wife and four children. One of his daughters married her partner, an atheist woman Professor in the Netherlands, and he was supportive of the union. Though same sex marriage is legal in South Africa, the Anglican Church insists that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. He had said, “I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this”.

His daughter said of him, “My Dad has a real gift of being on the right side of an issue, not from the point of the argument of right and wrong, but from the point of caring for people on the margins. Who is the least powerful one in the configuration? What is the most loving thing in any situation? That generally leads him in the right direction”.

His remarkable warmth and mischievous humour were recognised by world leaders, many of whom consider him to be their moral compass.

The world will miss his liberal kind. Sleep well Reverend Desmond Tutu.

Richard Leakey

It’s almost common knowledge, and agreed by most Scientists, that the human species-now living with the name Homo Sapiens-first emerged somewhere in Africa about 2.5 million years ago. This is based on fossilised bones and skulls that have been uncovered in East Africa and dated accurately by radiometric dating. These age of the bones and skulls discovered range between 25,000 and 4.4 million years and show different stages of human evolution. These fossils have been uncovered by paleoarchaeologists: scientists who study the material remains of the entire human evolutionary line.

The story of human origin goes like this: For 99.9 % of our history, from the time of the first living cell, the human ancestral line was the same as that of Chimpanzees. Then, about 6 million years ago, a new line split off from the Chimpanzee line, and a new group appeared in the open Savannas (grass lands and wood lands) of Africa, rather than in the Rainforest Jungle. The old ‘Rainforest Group’ continued to evolve separately, and two of its species remain in existence to this day: the common Chimpanzee and the Bonobo(an endangered Great Ape).

The new ‘Savanna Group’ evolved, over the millennia, into several species (how many is not entirely clear, but at least 18 different ones – all bearing the Genus Homo), until only one was left: us, Homo Sapiens.

Until the 1950s, European scientists believed that Homo Sapiens evolved in Europe, or possibly in Asia, about 60,000 years ago. Since then, excavation of fossil bones in East Africa, pioneered by famous palaeontologists, Mary and Louis Leakey, has revealed that Homo Sapiens may have emerged in Africa much earlier.

To bring you on step. The first early human fossil bones were found in Europe- of Neanderthals in Germany in 1857 and in France in 1868. The Java Man was found in Indonesia, in 1894. The Peking Man was found in China in 1923–1927. And more recently, confirmation of the Dragon Man – a more than 1.4 million years old skull found in China’s Harbin in 1933.

Confusing, what do we make of all of this?

Then steps-in, Richard Leakey, the son of Mary and Louis Leakey, a Kenyan paleoanthropologist (studies human evolution through fossil and archaeological records) who helped uncover evidence to prove humankind evolved in Africa. He nailed it.

Leakey’s expeditions in the 1970s altered our understanding of human evolution, especially with the discovery of a 1.9 million year old skull of Homo Habilis in 1972 and a 1.6 million year old skull of Homo Erectus in 1975.

In 1984, his team including Kamoya Kimeu-considered one of the greatest fossil hunters of all time-uncovered a near complete Homo Erectus (Homo Ergaster) skeleton on the banks of the Nariokotome River, near Lake Turkana in Kenya that became known as the ‘Turkana Boy’, a youth – 7 to 11 years old – who lived 1.5 to 1.6 million years ago. This was the most complete early human skeleton ever found and became a game changer in understanding the very early history of mankind.

Richard Leakey then went on to unlocking more secrets of our evolution.

In 1993, a small propeller-driven plane piloted by Richard Leakey crashed, crushing his lower legs, both of which were later amputated and thereafter he lived with artificial legs. In later years his kidneys refused to function and he survived, with reasonable health, on a kidney transplant-donated by his brother.

This week, on 2 January 2022, the famed anthropologist who was nearly 77 years old passed away in Kenya.

Leakey was also a conservationist, leading the charge to try to wipe out the poaching of African elephants and rhinos, although his methods were often considered controversial – He once burnt down a whole stack of poached ivory.

Later, he tried his hand at Politics too and leaves the world with the title of paleoanthropologist, fossil-hunter, conservationist, and politician.

James Webb

The James Webb Telescope Observatory, built by the US and named after one of the architects of the Apollo moon landings, was launched into Space on 25 December 2021 by an Ariane rocket from the Kourou, in French Guiana. Webb is the world’s largest space telescope and is the successor to the Hubble telescope.

The mission’s goal is to show the first stars to light up the Universe. The Webb telescope has a life of 10 years (compared to the Hubble’s 30 years) has a 6.5 metre(m) mirror, weighs 6200 kilograms and can withstand temperatures of (-) 230 Degrees Centrigrade.

In about two weeks after launch, Webb will unfold from its compact launch configuration into the operational configuration, which is nearly the size of a Tennis Court. This week saw the observatory’s secondary mirror locked into position on the end of three 8 metre long booms. It sets the stage for the all-important unpacking of Webb’s primary mirror -the biggest reflecting surface ever sent into orbit. The mirror’s size will enable it to gather the faintest signals in the most exquisite detail. But the reflector will be useless if the light it collects cannot be directed into the telescope’s instruments. This is the role of the 74 cm-wide secondary mirror. Sitting out in front, it will bounce back into the heart of the observatory whatever the main mirror sees.

Webb’s primary mirror consists of 18 hexagonal segments made of gold-plated beryllium, which is light-weight and holds its shape at very low temperatures. The gold coating makes for near-perfect reflection in the infrared-the wavelength of light in which the pioneer stars will be seen to shine.

Now we have Eyes at a distance of 1.5 million kilometres from the Earth looking deep into Space. Wonder what it would see?


Apple became the first US company to be valued at over USD three Trillion on Monday as the tech company continued its phenomenal share price growth, tripling in value in under four years. A pandemic-era surge in tech stocks has driven the major US tech companies to new highs, pulling US stock markets with them. Apple got past USD 2 trillion in 2020. Apple alone is now more valuable than the combined values of Boeing, Coca-Cola, Disney, Exxon-Mobil, McDonald’s, Netflix, and Walmart. Its shares have risen 38% since the beginning of 2021, one of the largest gains on the Dow Jones industrial average stock market index.

Narendra Modi

The Prime Minister (PM) of India, Narendra Modi, was on a visit to the State of Punjab – bordering Pakistan- to inaugurate new projects and also address a rally in the city of Ferozepur, ahead of State Elections. He arrived at Punjab’s Bhatinda Airport this Wednesday morning, and was supposed to fly to the National Martyrs’ Memorial and later to the rally in a helicopter. But the helicopter trip was delayed by bad weather and poor visibility. And the convoy finally took to the road. On the way the PM’s Convoy got stuck, almost trapped for about 20 minutes on a flyover, some 30km from the memorial due to a blockade by protesters, in what is being seen as a mighty serious security lapse. The protesters were demanding the resignation of a cabinet minister whose son has been accused over the deaths of farmers during the Farm Laws repeal agitation. The PM turned back to Bhatinda Airport and and then flew to New Delhi.

Seems that the Farmers were tipped off by the Punjab Police -acting on the behest of the Sate Government-when it was the sworn sacred duty of the Police to ensure contingency plans and safety of the PM of the Country.

The security breach, a first of its kind, caused a major uproar all over India with people demanding punishment for those responsible: Punjab being awfully close to Pakistan and previous shooting incidents in the area coming back to memory.

This is an unacceptable unprecedented situation and a severe wake-up call to the security think-tanks and Politicians. I would like to see some heads roll-top down.

Novak Djokovic

With the Australian Open Tennis Tennis Tournament set to begin in Australia the World No 1 Champion Novak Djokovic-a noted vaccine sceptic-played into a controversy resulting in being served with a quarantine in an Australian Hotel.

Djokovic boasted of getting a vaccination exemption, on unexplained medical grounds, when rules said that all players in the Australian Open must be double-jabbed.

Someone messed-up by giving a free-pass Visa and someone else woke up in time to stop him at the Airport in Australia for not being vaccinated, and promptly had his Visa cancelled. He now faces an unceremonious deportation, while the legal rules play across the net with him sitting it out on his Hotel bench. Should not Djokovic be more responsible? Watch out for that ace.

More fascinating and wild-eyed stories about people and communities coming up in the weeks and months ahead. Play and serve World Inthavaaram.