About-the world this week, 16 April to 22 April 2023: Revenge arrests; a stampede for food; lots of gunfire; a rapid unscheduled disassembly; and a ‘kota’ beauty.
This week a Russian Judge ruled that American Journalist Evan Gershkovich, 32, must remain in jail-at least till 29th May-on espionage charges, in a case that is part of Russia’s crackdown on dissent and press freedom. This is happening in the background of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting war. If convicted, it would be 20 years in a cold Russian jail.
Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) claimed that Evan Gershkovich, who is based in the capital Moscow, had been trying to steal State secrets. This is the first time, since the Cold War, that a United States (US) news correspondent has been detained in Russia.
Evan works for the Wall Street Journal, which is published by US company, Dow Jones. He was born in a jewish family, to parents who fled the then Soviet Union during a period of mass emigration amidst rumours that Jews would be exiled in Serbia. His parents ended up in the US in 1979. And Russian is a language spoken at home.
The arrest of Evan Gershkovich comes on the heels of the US announcing charges, about a week ago, against a Russian national, Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov accusing him of being a Russian spy.
Dying for Food
This week, a stampede in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, left over 80 people dead and dozens seriously injured. Hundreds of people crowded at a School in Sanaa to receive alms, which amounted to 5,000 Yemeni Riyals or about USD 9 per person of people, waiting to receive donations during the last days of the Muslim Festival Eid al-Fitr, Ramadan. Houthi fighters- who’ve been running the city since 2015- had shot into the air to disperse and control the crowd, striking an electrical wire that sparked an explosion. The series of events spooked the crowd, leading to a deadly stampede. Two organisers of the event have been arrested, and it seems there wasn’t any coordination with local authorities. Now, there’s an investigation underway. The stampede happened right before the Muslim Festival holiday, which marks the end of Ramadan.
Yemen has been stuck in the deep pit of an eight-year conflict that pits a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia against the Iran-aligned Houthi group. The Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 against the Houthis, months after the group ousted the internationally recognised government from Sanaa. The conflict is seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The war has killed tens of thousands of people, wrecked the economy and pushed millions into hunger. The United Nation’s World Food Programme feeds 13 million in Yemen, but funding shortfalls have curtailed its activities.
The stampede shows the plight of the people in a war-torn country, fighting (and dying) for food, in Yemen.
The Guns of Africa
Late last week clashes broke out across Sudan, mainly in the capital city of Khartoum and the Darfur region, between rival factions of the country’s military government. Into this week, almost 330 people have been killed and about 3,200 injured. The clashes erupted amid an apparent power struggle between the two main factions of Sudan’s military regime.
The Sudanese armed forces are broadly loyal to Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the country’s de facto ruler, while the paramilitaries of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a collection of militia, follow the former warlord Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti.
The power struggle has its roots in the years before a 2019 uprising that ousted the dictatorial ruler Omar al-Bashir, who built up formidable security forces that he deliberately set against one another.
When an effort to transition to a democratic civilian-led government faltered after Bashir’s fall, an eventual showdown appeared inevitable, with diplomats warning, in early 2022, that they feared such an outbreak of violence. In recent weeks, tensions have risen further.
Sudan is in a volatile region bordering the Red Sea, the Sahel region and the Horn of Africa. Its strategic location and agricultural wealth have attracted regional power plays, complicating the chances of a successful transition to a civilian-led government.
Several of Sudan’s neighbours – including Ethiopia, Chad, and South Sudan – have been affected by political upheavals and conflict, and Sudan’s relationship with Ethiopia, in particular, has been strained over issues including disputed farmland along their border.
The history of conflicts in Sudan has consisted of ethnic tensions, religious disputes, and competition over resources. In its modern history, two civil wars between the central government and the southern regions killed 1.5 million people, and a continuing conflict in the western region of Darfur has displaced 2 million people and killed more than 200,000 people. Since independence in 1956, Sudan has had more than fifteen military coups and has been ruled by the military for the majority of the republic’s existence, with only brief periods of democratic civilian parliamentary rule. That’s a tinderbox situation in Africa.
The Guns of India
One of India’s rowdiest states fires into the news, this week too, with gangster Atiq Ahmed and his brother being shot dead while being escorted by the police for a medical check-up. In a brazen act, the killers, seemingly unmindful of the police being everywhere, ‘gate-crashed the party’, simply pulled out a gun and shot dead the gangsters. And then promptly surrendered to the Police.
Just last week, the gangster’s son had been killed by the Police in an encounter, while trying to escape and making deadly plans to rescue his father from jail. Now they are together in another place.
He who lives by the Gun dies by the Gun?
The Name is Gandhi
One of India’s Member of Parliament (MP), Rahul Gandhi, who was found guilty, convicted by India’s Courts, and disqualified as an MP lost an appeal to stay the conviction on criminal defamation – on the ‘Modi surname issue’. The Court said he failed to show the ‘exceptional circumstances’ to grant a stay on the conviction. Jail beckons, and the wait outside Parliament’s Gates stays.
This is only the second time since 1860 that someone has been punished with two years for jail for criminal defamation. That’s ‘rarest of rare circumstance’ – perhaps good enough reason to hand out a jail term!
A Successful Failure
The United States’ Space Agency NASA has long been in the game of Space and appears to have wisely outsourced all risk-taking to Elon Musk’s SpaceX, who grabs them by the tail-for the lessons to learn. I admire the man for such daring.
This week, SpaceX’s Starship Spacecraft and Super Heavy Rocket – collectively referred to as Starship – the largest and most powerful rocket ever built- blasted off from a SpaceX Starbase on the Gulf of Mexico in Boca Chica, Texas. However, after a successful launch, Starship blew up within minutes into the test flight that SpaceX, hoped will be the first step on a human journey to Mars.
After a cancelled launch earlier this week because of a pressurisation issue, the 120 metre Starship finally kicked off its base. It gathered speed, but then started to spin at altitude before exploding about four minutes after leaving the ground. It appeared that the two sections of the rocket system-the booster and cruise vessel -were unable to separate properly after takeoff, possibly causing the spacecraft to fail. It was not immediately clear whether the rocket exploded spontaneously or if the Flight Termination System was activated – a failsafe that destroys the spacecraft to prevent it from veering too far off course.
Starship is a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry both crew and cargo to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars, and beyond. It is capable of carrying up to 150 metric tonnes fully reusable and 250 metric tonnes expendable fuel. Starship leverages tanker vehicles (essentially the Starship spacecraft minus the windows) to refill the Starship spacecraft in low-Earth orbit prior to departing for Mars. Refilling on-orbit enables the transport of up to 100 tons all the way to Mars. And if the tanker ship has high reuse capability, the primary cost is just that of the oxygen and methane, which is extremely low. The Starship is designed to carry 100 people on long duration interplanetary flights.
SpaceX had cautioned that the chances of success were low and that the aim of the test flight was to gather data, regardless of whether the full mission was achieved. Employees at SpaceX cheered even after the rocket disintegrated. “As if the flight test was not exciting enough, Starship experienced a rapid unscheduled disassembly before stage separation,” SpaceX said in a statement, referring to the explosion. Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly-that’s Space equivocating at its best spin!
Miss India, or Femina Miss India, is a national beauty pageant in India that annually selects women beauties to represent India to compete in the Miss World Contest, one of the Big Four major international beauty pageants. It is organised by Femina, a women’s magazine published by The Times Group. Since 2013 to 2022, Femina also organised Miss Diva as a separate competition, with participants competing at Miss Universe.
This week India chose its Miss India-to represent India in the upcoming 71st Miss World Contest 2023, to be held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) later this year. Rajasthan’s 19 years old Nandhini Gupta was crowned Miss India in the pageant held on 15th April, followed by Delhi’s Shreya Poonja as the first runner-up and Manipur’s Thounaojam Strela Luwang as second runner-up.
Manipur hosted the grand finale of Femina Miss India 2023, a first in the pageant’s history where it was held outside Mumbai. One contestant from 29 states (including Delhi) and a collective representative for all Union Territories adding up to 30 participants competed for the title.
Sini Shetty was Femina Miss India World 2022 from whom the crown passes to Nandhini Gupta.
Miss India’s official Instagram page said of Nandini Gupta, ‘magnetism, charm, endurance, and beauty’.
Nandini Gupta is 19 years old and hails from Kota, one of the biggest coaching hubs in the country for engineering and medical aspirants. Could perhaps become a coaching hub for beauty and brains too? The new Miss World India holds a Business Management degree. The Tata Group’s Ratan Tata is the most influential person in Nandini’s life. International Actor and Miss World 2000, Priyanka Chopra is one beauty queen who inspires Nandini the most.
Kota Doriya is a fabric famous for its quality manufactured in the region. And the new Miss India wants to help the artisans by promoting it on a national and international level. Time to get our quota of Kota?
In other news, India became the most populous country in the World with a head count of 1.428 billion, about 17.8% of the World’s Population. Quickly behind is China with 1.425 billion.
Meanwhile, a debate is underway in the India’s Supreme Court on same-sex marriages.
In India’s Jammu & Kashmir, five Indian soldiers were martyred when a vehicle in which they were travelling was fired upon by terrorists in the Poonch area, on Thursday. The unidentified attackers took advantage of heavy rains and low visibility, and the army truck probably caught fire due to a grenade attack. I’m sure, India will give a befitting reply in time to come.
In the Russia-Ukraine war, trigger-happy Russia accidentally bombed one of its own cities-the city of Belgorod, close to the Ukrainian border. A Russian Sukhoi-34 fighter-jet was involved in the ‘special operation’. Maybe Russia itself is an accident over the past year(s)?
More cat-walking stories coming up in the weeks ahead. Make-up and stay beautiful with World Inthavaaram.