About-the world this week, 26 March to 1 April 2023: Israel erupts, America continues shooting, an ex-American President is indicted, Scotland gets a new First Minister, a local Party in India gets somewhat whole; and plants talking to each other.
Israel saw unprecedented protests and civil unrest ignited by the Government’s plan to bring in judicial reforms, which aims to rein in the powers of an ‘interventionist judiciary’.
The most significant reform would allow a simple majority in the Israeli Parliament, Knesset, to overturn Supreme Court rulings; to change the way judges are selected, and remove government ministries’ independent legal advisers, whose opinions are binding.
This week, Israel’s Defence Minister was promptly sacked when he said that the Government should stop going-ahead with the new legislation and talk to the opposition and protestors: he was fired for not backing the new law. The President of Israel also called upon Prime Minister (PM) Benjamin Netanyahu’s Government to halt the judicial overhaul.
Early this week, embattled PM Netanyahu finally buckled and announced that he would delay the judicial reforms plan, after protests seemed to be only swelling and getting out of hand.
Netanyahu said he would put-off voting on the remaining legislation until after the Knesset’s Passover recess in April 2023 ‘to give time for a real chance for a real debate’. In a televised address, Netanyahu said that he was aware of the tensions and is listening to the people. But he indicated that the pause was only temporary, and insisted that the overhaul was necessary, reiterating criticism of refusal to train or serve in the military in protest at the planned changes. “Refusing is the end of our country,” Netanyahu said. Israel rests in peace for the moment.
Israeli historian, philosopher, and best-selling author Yuval Noah Harari, of ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’ fame, feels that Netanyahu may go down in history as the man who destroyed Israel. He added that the PM has divided the country to preserve his political longevity, which has caused rifts that will be difficult to heal. Hope Netanyahu is listening to this one of the Homo Sapiens.
Six people, including three children, were killed in a shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, United States, which just cannot keep its paws off ‘em guns. It’s 129 mass shootings in the past three months and a distinctive American phenomenon. A frightening count says that America also has more guns than it has people!
The Covenant School in Nashville, where the incident took place, is a private Christian school for students in pre-school through the sixth grade, when students are roughly 11 or 12 years old. Nashville police engaged and killed the shooter, a 28 year old woman, Audrey Hale, who was carrying two ‘assault-type’ rifles and a handgun. She is a Nashville resident and was once a student at the school. The motive is unclear and is being investigated. Initial pointers indicate that Audrey had some resentment to having to go to the Covenant School; had a history of mental struggles; and the shooting was planned as a kind of suicidal mission.
This week former United States (US) President Donald Trump was indicted – charged with felony crimes – by a Manhattan Grand Jury in his role of payment of hush money to a porn star. His arrest is imminent. And when it happens, the unprecedented arrest of a former President of the US is likely to be routine with standard procedures for felony offences followed, such as being fingerprinted, photographed, and maybe, even handcuffed.
Donald Trump faces more than 30 counts related to business fraud in the indictment from the Grand Jury – the first time in American history that a current or former President has faced criminal charges. The decision has sent shockwaves across the country, pushing the American political system-which has never seen one of its ex-leaders confronted with criminal charges, let alone while running again for President – into uncharted waters.
The incident pertains to Trump’s role in a hush money payment scheme and cover-up involving adult film star Stormy Daniels that dates to the 2016 presidential election.
Daniels has said she had a sexual encounter – it was consensual sex – with Trump in 2006, the year after he married his third wife Melania. And more than a decade before the businessman-turned-politician-at the time known for a popular reality TV show – became President. Trump has denied the relationship and has said the payment was made to stop false and extortionist accusations.
Stormy Daniels, 44, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford is from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She has been a well-known personality for more than two decades in the adult film business, appearing in and directing numerous videos.
In October 2016, in the waning days before the presidential election that Trump won, Daniels signed a non-disclosure agreement in which she pledged not to publicly discuss her relationship with him in exchange for a USD 130,000 payment. The pact was signed by Keith Davidson, her lawyer at the time, and Michael Cohen, then Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer. The document included a spot for Trump’s signature, but he never signed it.
On expected lines, Trump released a statement in response to the indictment claiming it was ‘Political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history.’ We heard similar sounds from someone, of India’s Grand Old Party, didn’t we?
Russian President Vladimir Putin took another step in complicating the attack on Ukraine announcing last weekend that Russia would be deploying tactical nuclear weapons in the territory of a ‘very friendly’ neighbour, Belarus, ruled by his long-time buddy Alexander Lukashenko, also the longest-sitting European President.
Meanwhile, Ukraine said it was seeking an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council over the move.
In February this year, the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, 52 who was also the Leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) quit both positions in a ‘Jacinda Ardern’ moment. This after over eight years of ‘ruling’ Scotland and trying to get its ‘independence’ from the United Kingdom.
This week, Humza Yousaf was confirmed as Scotland’s new First Minister after a vote in the Scottish Parliament. Yousaf was backed by all 64 SNP Members of the Parliament and the 7 of the Scottish Greens, guaranteeing him a majority. The two parties having a power-sharing agreement in the 129 seat Parliament.
Humza Yousaf, a son of Pakistani-Kenyan immigrants, is the country’s sixth first minister, the youngest at 37, and the first Muslim to lead a major UK party.
Following the vote, Yousaf announced Shona Robison – who has been serving as the social justice secretary and was a close ally of Sturgeon – would be appointed as his Deputy First Minister. He also confirmed he would have a ‘Minister for Independence’ in his government, a role he pledged to create during the leadership campaign.
UK’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was looking forward to meeting and working together with Yousaf, but the UK Government has already made clear it will continue to refuse to grant formal consent for another independence referendum.
India saw the week filled with protests by Opposition parties over the disqualification of the Congress Party’s, Member of Parliament, Rahul Gandhi following his conviction in a defamation case by the Courts. Quick on the heels was a notice from Parliament to vacate his spacious bungalow. Last heard, he was hunting for a House while his Party continued setting a bad precedent by ‘challenging the judiciary’.
In India’s Tamil Nadu state, the more than the year-long tussle between ‘Two Joint Leaders’ of a once powerful Party, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) founded by yesteryear film superstar M G Ramachandran (MGR) and later skilfully steered by his protege Jayalalithaa, was finally resolved. At least, for the time being.
Following the untimely death of Jayalalithaa – fondly called Amma – due to illness, while in office both as the General Secretary (the Supremo) of the AIADMK the top position fell vacant. A minister in the cabinet, Edappadi K Palanisamy (EPS) became Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, in some smart moves and did a reasonably good job, for the remaining term – over two years. He bypassed the favourite, O Panneerselvam (OPS) who was himself CM twice when he filled-in for the time Jayalalithaa was convicted by Courts and had to quit office under the Rules. Basically, OPS kept the Boss’ seat warm.
High drama followed the passing of Amma when her close friend and confidante Sasikala almost became CM, but a court conviction of corruption sent her packing to jail.
Then for over the past 4 years, EPS & OPS jointly steered the AIADMK dedicating the position of General Secretary to Amma, as ‘eternal’, until the ‘friends with benefits’ turned sour and EPS became tired of the dual-headed control. All the more after the AIADMK lost at the hustings and bitter rival, the DMK, came to power.
The Two Leaves, symbol of the party, began wilting – under stress. After a series of Court cases, clashes between the widening factions, and Court appeals and re-appeal, EPS was finally announced as elected unopposed and the undisputed General Secretary of the AIADMK. Hope to see the two leaves listen to the party cadres and bloom especially with the Lotus (symbol of the Bharatiya Janata Party) having gained lots of water and land in Tamil Nadu.
EPS announced that said the party would continue its alliance with the BJP for the upcoming Lok Sabha Elections in the year 2024, after rumblings from the BJP about ‘going it alone’. Then there is OPS – a leaf cut off from the stem. Tomorrow is another Day!
An Israeli research team, Tel Aviv U, has in groundbreaking research, recorded plants ‘talking’ for the first time.
It has been known for some time that plants communicate with one another, but Israeli scientists now say they have identified ‘words’ and have found that different species speak in different ‘languages’, according to a new study published this week in the prestigious Scientific Journal, Cell.
Scientists know that plants communicate in a variety of ways when they are stressed. They might change physically -by wilting or changing leaf colour, become bitter to the taste -to deter herbivores- or emit smells -volatile organic compounds-to tell other members of the family that they are under attack, for example by insects.
It turns out that plants talk in clicks, which sounds something like popcorn popping. The sounds are emitted at a volume similar to human speech, but at high frequencies, beyond the hearing range of humans.
The findings suggest that the world is full of plant sounds and that these sounds contain information — for example about water scarcity or injury. It is assumed that in nature the sounds emitted by plants are detected by creatures nearby, such as bats, rodents, various insects, and possibly also other plants that can hear the high frequencies and derive relevant information.
Perhaps humans can also utilize this information, given the right tools — such as sensors that tell growers when plants need watering.
The research team recorded ultrasonic sounds emitted by tomato and tobacco plants that had been deprived of water, suffered a cut to the stem, or have been left alone. Time for new vocabulary building
More plant stories coming up in the weeks ahead. Listen to the clicks and stay with World Inthavaaram.