About –the stories of the world this week, 20 November to 26 November: onward to the Moon, the ongoing war, a political odyssey in Malaysia, Covid19 hangs on, climate change goals, World Cup Football, population growth, and a python is pulled off.
America’s NASA’s Artemis-I Moon Mission, launched on 16 November is doing just great, and spacecraft Orion – now on its own – has arrived at the Moon, sweeping about 130 kilometres (km) above the lunar surface, as planned. And has been ‘kicked by the Moon’ into a Distant Retrograde Orbit – about 64,000 km away from the Moon, after reaching the end of which it will return to the Moon Space and receive another ‘Moon kick’ to return to Earth. Orion is sending back, to the NASA Mission Control Centre in Houston, Texas, awesome pictures of what it’s seeing.
The Russia-Ukraine war battles on and Ukraine is bracing itself for the coming harsh winter; made terrible by power blackouts, caused by the blistering assault of Russian missiles on utility facilities. The Ukraine people are standing on the ground against the ferocious illegal Russian invasion and this is yet another painful test of their endurance and fortitude. When will all this end?
This week, Malaysia got itself a new Prime Minister. Actually, an old hand who has been relentlessly chasing the job over a remarkable odyssey of 25 turbulent years that saw him jailed twice on sodomy and corruption charges. And charges overturned by the Supreme Court and later pardoned by the King of Malaysia, to fight another day. Veteran opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, 75, was sworn in as PM this Thursday by Malaysia’s constitutional monarch, King Abdullah.
Anwar’s Pakatan Harappan Party (PH) won the largest share of the vote in last Saturday’s Elections, but not enough to form a government on its own. Then, after days of intense negotiations, Anwar cobbled together an agreement with two other Political Groupings giving him the majority he needed. The King was convinced by the numbers and called him in.
Anwar has promised to forgo his PM’s salary and will focus on tackling Malaysia’s rising cost of living, besides combating corruption. His reformist-minded PH has a goal of promoting a more pluralist and inclusive Malaysia.
Anwar Ibrahim entered politics surprisingly joining the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) – Malaysia’s Grand Old Party – and rising through its ranks. And being mentored by Former Prime Minister Mahatir Mohammad, with who he had a love-hate Tom & Jerry relationship through the vicissitudes of his political life. There’s a lot of Malaysian expectations riding on his shoulders, and he should deliver.
In China the coronavirus caused COVID-19 is not letting go easily and is experiencing its worst outbreak in six months. Localised lockdowns have surged over the last couple of weeks. This week, China recorded more than 28,000 new cases in 24 hours, which are in every single provincial-level region. The country maintains a zero-Covid policy, where entire communities are locked down over single cases of the virus, in order to prevent its spread.
The results are out, and maybe we can look up and breathing slightly easier-find more Oxygen than Carbon di-oxide in the air- in the years to come? At the 27th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties(COP27) in Egypt which concluded on 18th November, almost 200 countries struck a landmark deal to launch a fund to help nations worst-hit by climate change. Applause broke out as the historic fund was approved just before dawn after negotiations ran through the night.
The vulnerability of developing nations to climate impacts has been recognised by the fund for climate loss and damage, but many rich nations will be disappointed about fossil fuels.
New language added in the final political statement includes ‘low emissions’ energy alongside renewable power as the energy sources of the future. That could be used to justify new fossil fuel development, which is exactly what global climate scientists in the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the International Energy Agency (IEA) advise against. It could refer to gas, which is cleaner than oil and coal, but not a renewable fuel like wind or solar.
The summit also seems to have moved the commitment to try to limit the average rise in global temperatures to 1.5 Degrees Centigrade by the year 2100. That’s the crucial temperature threshold scientists say we cannot go above if we are to avoid the worst of climate change. Leaders warned about this from the beginning, and it will be deeply disappointing for rich nations if there is now less global ambition to urgently cut fossil fuel use.
The message is absolutely clear: we have to consciously cut-down on using fossil fuels for energy generation, in whatever manner we can. This has to be inhaled by each one of us on Planet Earth.
FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022
The 22nd edition of ‘Federation Internationale de Football Association’ -FIFA (International Federation of Association Football)-World Cup 2022 began in Qatar, a tiny gas-rich Gulf kingdom, this 20th November: the first to be held in the Arab world, and the second World Cup held entirely in Asia, after the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan.
FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar, brought with it lots of controversies, which could hold centre-stage and be debated between the goal-posts, more than football. But first, let’s whistle about the game itself.
Football giants Brazil have won the World Cup 5 times, Germany and Italy 4 times each, Argentina, France, and Uruguay 2 times each, and England and Spain 1 time each. The previous World Cup, in the year 2018, was won by France beating Croatia, 4-2 at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia. Now Russia seems so far away and is off the World Cup Guest list. We all know why: Its illegal war in Ukraine, of course.
No Player in the history of the World Cup has won the Golden Ball-Player of the tournament- twice, which was first introduced in the year 1982. The inaugural was won by Italy’s Paolo Rossi and then by Argentina’s Diego Maradona in 1986, Italy’s Salvatore Schillaci in 1990, Brazil’s Romario in 1994, Brazil’s Ronaldo in 1998, Germany’s Oliver Kahn in 2022, France’s Zinedine Zidane in 2006, Uruguay’s Diego Forlan in 2010, Argentina’s Lionel Messi in 2014, and Croatia’s Luka Modric in 2018.
This edition of the World Cup beginning on 20 November 2022 plays up to 18 December 2022. A total of 32 teams, who qualified to reach here, play over 64 games. Two top teams from each group will make the cut for the Round-16 Qualifiers or the Pre-Quarter Finals. There are Eight Groups, A to H, each consisting of four teams.
The Round -16 will be held between 3 December and 7 December, the Quarter Finals, 9 to 11 December, Semi-Finals on 14th and 15 December, 17 December will be the play-off for third place, and the Finals on 18 December at the Lusail Stadium of Qatar’s Al Daayen City.
The Opening Ceremony was held at the 60,000 capacity Al Bayt Stadium 40 km north of Doha and the first kick-off, a Group ‘A’ match between Hosts Qatar and Ecuador, set the ball rolling. Ecuador won easily 2-0 with its skipper Enner Valencia scoring both goals. He missed a hat-rick when another of his goals was disqualified.
Now, rolling over to the controversies part. Qatar is accused of human rights violations, the deaths of migrant workers and being vocally anti-LGBT.
The authorities in Qatar, have always strongly denied that their bid to host the World Cup involved corruption of any kind. Yet, cash seems to have sloshed around. A prominent Qatari appears to have spread largesse, apparently on his own account, but nothing has been conclusively established. FIFA officials overlooked Qatar’s blistering summer heat, which meant the World Cup itself was moved to November, instead of the usual June – July. The legions of foreign construction workers, mostly from India, who built the glitzy new stadiums and other infrastructure were treated like slaves: some have died. Many more were paid paltry wages and forced to stump up exploitative recruitment fees.
Meanwhile, Qatar’s criminalisation of homosexuality may put gay supporters off going to watch. Some players plan to wear rainbow armbands in a stand against discrimination. Murky dealing, exploitation, prejudice: what ought to be a festival of harmony will instead be a showcase of international woes, not least the rise of petro-fuelled autocracy.
Qatar is a conservative Muslim country and it tightly regulates alcohol sales and usage. In September, officials said ticketed fans would be able to buy alcoholic beer three hours before kickoff and for one hour after the final whistle, but not during the match. Organisers had promised it would be available in match venues and in fan zones – and that it would also be reasonable priced.
However just before kick-off, FIFA announced that alcohol will be banned for World Cup fans at grounds in a major and unprecedented volte-face: alcohol will not be sold inside or around the perimeter of stadiums.
The last-minute alcohol ban is emblematic of the contradictions at the heart of this World Cup.
The FIFA World Cup sponsor Budweiser has announced that the alcoholic beer it cannot sell in stadiums in Qatar will go to the winning country of the tournament.
The Winner takes it all: lots of beer to drink.
The week, the Group level games are being played and in a historic upset, Saudi Arabia stunned Argentina with a 2-1 win in their Group match, but only after Argentina’s Messi scored a goal. In another astonishing upset, Japan defeated four-time World Cup winner-the mighty Germany, 2-1. That’s a number to watch?
Coming to high scoring matches of the week, Spain whipped Costa Rica 7-0, and England thrashed Iran 6-2. I guess football fans were overwhelmed by the goals and some dazzling display. I loved the way Spain played clinical football with surgical passes and found myself ‘stitched to my seat’.
Meanwhile, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo made history as the first man to score in five World Cups; this after he scored in a penalty shot to give Portugal a 3-2 win in its match against Ghana. The goal is significant, as previously only women had done the five goal thing in the FIFA Women’s Football: Marta Vieira da Silva, Brazilian striker is the first footballer of any gender to score at five World Cup editions, a feat matched by Canada’s Christine Sinclair in 2019. That’s the 5 star line-up: Marta – Christine Sinclair – Cristiano Ronaldo.
Over the past months we have heard expansive talks about India’s Economy growing at break-neck speed to become one of the largest in the World, in a few decades’ time. Comparisons with China are inevitable and many say, we are many years behind China’s Economic development. Whatever, there is one area India will surely be overtaking China: easy to guess, population.
You think of population and immediately China pops up in the mind. It has been the world’s most populous country for hundreds of years, but now there is a dead serious challenger. The United Nations (UN) guesses that India’s population will surpass that of China on 14 April 2023. And India’s population on that day is projected to be 1,425,775,850. Watch that bulge!
It’s time India cranks its own counting mechanisms and finds a means of keeping the burgeoning population under control.
In Australia, a five year old boy survived being bitten, constricted, and dragged into a swimming pool by a 3 m long python snake, about three times his size.
Beau Blake was enjoying a swim at home when the python, which was probably waiting to snap up someone whole for lunch, struck the boy-biting into him- when he was walking around the edge of the pool. The python wrapped itself round the leg of the boy and dragged him inside the pool. But before it hit the bottom, Beau’s 76 year old grandfather, Allan, saw it and without the least hesitation jumped into the pool, pulled out the boy-snake combo and passed it to his son Ben who was also around the pool. Ben then prised free the boy from the python and released it back into the vegetation. Beau is in good spirits and escaped with mild injuries. And the python finds itself something else to coil around, another day!
“Once we cleaned up the blood and told him that he wasn’t going to die because it wasn’t a poisonous snake… he was pretty good actually”, said Ben.
If generations get together the snakes can be outwitted. In Australia, something is always lurking around the corner. And pythons are a fact of life in certain areas.
More ‘hissing’ stories coming up in the weeks ahead. Keep your Dad and Grand-Dad always around; live with World Inthavaaram.