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Intelligence is all about deciphering what lies ahead — analysis of what happened in the past and a capacity to determine what entails for the future in the goings-on of the present, certainly help but Einstein’s famous dictum ‘imagination is more important than knowledge’ also speaks of the relevance of the versatility of the human mind that could see beyond what the ‘facts’ presented to the analyst meant and thus enrich the assessment. All of this seems to have guided the US National Intelligence Council’s 20-year forecast of where the world would be, published recently.
It is a sobering thought that today strategic assessments have ceased to have a long life since the world could change faster than the calculated shifts and therefore the best that such an exercise could do is to project the trends and legitimately conclude where these, if unchecked, would end. Global readings are basically premised on the doings of human beings as a whole and the NIC has rightly identified five crucial areas in play where manmade changes would contribute to the shape of things to come — international relations, global economy, technology, environment, and domestic management of governance. Long-range trends can be established and their cumulative effect read through a competitive analysis in which legitimacy of ‘imagination’ as mentioned above would also play a part. But what about a crisis not directly created by man, like Covid? An infliction by nature that affected the entire humanity would set the clock back for the analysts in the sense that they would have to recalibrate their entire readings afresh.
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‘A more contested world’ is the total summation that the NIC report makes and regardless of the details that might have gone into this assessment, there is no denying the fact that this is a brilliant prediction of the direction in which international relations are headed. In a very broad picturization, it is prudent to consider the end of the Cold War as a reference point for examining what is shaping up the new global order ever since. The success of the anti-Soviet armed campaign in Afghanistan leading to the withdrawal of Soviet troops from there and a rapid dismemberment of the USSR, the mighty Communist superpower, that followed, brought down the curtains on the Cold War leaving the USA as the only superpower commanding all military and economic initiatives at the global level. The transformational event, however, was accompanied by three new developments that would further affect the world in the future. Still in play these, it is hoped, did get into NIC’s calculus.
One is the impact that the Soviet collapse made on China, the second most powerful Communist power. President Deng Xiaoping did not fail to notice that the USSR had cracked under its own internal economic contradiction, had acquired military strength but not built its economy, and had in fact moved towards an oligarchy. Deng was set on seeking the economic route to becoming a superpower, learning from the failed Soviet model and opening into the global economy in a controlled fashion. China has built a huge balance of trade in its favor, reached out to Western centers of knowledge through investments in the universities there, and harnessed technology in all fields.
The second transformative change that coincided with the end of the Cold War was the success of the IT Revolution that shifted the world from the Industrial Age to the Age of Information. The new age brought in the Knowledge Economy created borderless markets and set new benchmarks of competitiveness wherein a rival could appear from anywhere on the globe making better use of information that came into the public domain as soon as it was produced. There were no obscure corners in the world anymore as a global outreach accessed them all. The end of the Cold War interestingly produced a large number of border conflicts, insurgencies, and cross border offensives as many national identities that had been suppressed during the Cold War asserted themselves. This phenomenon is still at play in Eastern Europe and Central Asia and is a significant factor affecting international relations.
The third development — and this posed a lasting threat to world security — was the rise of the new global terror, a product of faith-based motivation from the same battleground in Afghanistan that had ousted the Soviet army from there. The anti- Soviet armed campaign was directed on the war cry of Jehad and led by the Pak-controlled Hizbul Mujahideen, the radical Taliban, and the Lashkar-e-Toiba of Osama bin Laden with equal force. The success of the Afghan Jehad was followed by the installation of the Afghan Emirate at Kabul in 1996, on the initiative of Pakistan, which was headed by the Taliban’s Mullah Omar working in close concert with Laden. That regime of Islamic radicals soon bared its fangs against the US-led West, the Shiites, and the idol-worshippers and compelled the US to oust it. This, in turn, laid the turf for Al Qaeda’s offensive of 9/11 and the subsequent launch of the ‘war on terror by the US-led World Coalition against Islamic radicals, first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq.
With Islamic radicals enjoying considerable support within the Muslim world spread across Asia and Africa and in particular receiving shelter in Pakistan, the ‘war on terror’ leaves behind a lasting conflict between the West and radical Islam, rightly described by the likes of Samuel P. Huntington and his mentor Prof. Bernard Lewis as a ‘clash of civilizations. The rise of China, the advent of the cyber world, and the revival of radical Islam are thus the three paradigms that are shaping the world and pushing it in the direction of a new bipolar order. Even factors like economy, environment, technology, and internal governance are in some way adding to this new post-Cold War cleavage created by international relations.
The geopolitical contours of ‘a more contested world’ are getting crystallized, as viewed from India, along with three courses. First is the significant development of the advent of the Biden Presidency restoring the traditional US-NATO alliance which was weakened in the Trump regime. This is in line with the Biden administration looking at China and Russia as the antagonistic powers much like what the position was for the US in the Cold War. Biden apparently looks at Russia’s Putin with great distrust — Donald Trump gave the impression of being in a comfortable equation with the Russian President and perhaps regarded Russia as another white nation across Europe. The new level of energization of QUAD achieved in Biden administration was basically directed against the aggressive designs of China in the Indo-Pacific but it has evoked a sharp reaction from Russia and created a sense of strategic unity between Russia and China. Japan is the anchor of QUAD in the region and this has evidently led to Putin cautioning India against becoming part of an ‘Asian NATO’, particularly after the appearance of France on the scene through its participation in the naval exercises with QUAD.
Another course of global alignments that has a long-term implication is the divide between the democratic world and the autocratic regimes spawning across Asia in particular, which was of direct concern for India. The Chinese strategy of gaining influence in South and South-East Asia — through the Sino-Pak alliance on the one hand and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) on the other — demands an effective counter-strategy from India. RCEP is a trading partnership of China with the ten ASEAN countries along with South Korea, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. The challenge for India is that its political appeal to ASEAN as a democratic power is pitted against the overbearing economic pressure of the Communist neighbor which is testing India’s ‘Act East’ policy. India has to work for multi-polarity in Asia to counter China’s dominance here. India has to be in the democratic camp in Asia, on the side of the US and its allies in the region. The participation of Prime Minister Modi in the first QUAD summit was a sound decision in this context — it serves the cause of the security of the Indian Ocean as well.
It is the third geopolitical trendsetter however, that is perhaps the most important for India’s national security and international relations — the shifting alignments within the Muslim world that weighed in favor of Pakistan despite the falling image of that country as a principal harborer of Islamic extremism. This adds to India’s concerns as Pakistan is encouraged to step up its terror offensive against India and also cause internal destabilization here. This goings-on strangely does not bother the Biden Presidency so much — even though, ironically, the ‘war on terror’ against Islamic radicals was all along led by the US-led world coalition. The Sino-Pak alliance is working for Pakistan on the Afghan issue while a new grouping within the Islamic world — of Pakistan, Turkey, and Malaysia — is becoming supportive of Islamic radicals and recalcitrant towards the supremacy of Saudi Arabia, a committed ally of the US in the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC).
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If President Biden withdraws US troops from Afghanistan with a half-baked truce with the Taliban, Pakistan will retain its sway in that country and cause further problems for India. Meanwhile, pro-Pak lobbies are active in the US on the issue of Kashmir and there is a meeting of minds between Pakistan and China on countering India’s hold in the Ladakh sector that was now directly administered by the Centre as a Union Territory. Also, there is a revival of Islamic radicalism in many parts of Europe including France and Belgium because of the history of colonialism and even the legacy of the Crusades. The US-led West and India have a convergence of interest against the threat of ‘radicalization’ but the NIC report does not seem to be impacted much by the latter. India does not have the comfort of distance that the US had on the threat from Islamic radicals — it has, therefore, to counter it largely on its own. Mobilization of the democratic world against the faith-based global terror has to be kept up. (IANS/KB)
Scientists temporarily attached a pig's kidney to a human body and watched it begin to work, a small step in the decades-long quest to one day use animal organs for lifesaving transplants.
Pigs have been the most recent research focus to address the organ shortage, but among the hurdles: A sugar in pig cells, foreign to the human body, causes immediate organ rejection. The kidney for this experiment came from a gene-edited animal, engineered to eliminate that sugar and avoid an immune system attack.
Surgeons attached the pig kidney to a pair of large blood vessels outside the body of a deceased recipient so they could observe it for two days. The kidney did what it was supposed to do — filter waste and produce urine — and didn't trigger rejection.
"It had absolutely normal function," said Dr. Robert Montgomery, who led the surgical team last month at NYU Langone Health in New York. "It didn't have this immediate rejection that we have worried about."
This research is "a significant step," said Dr. Andrew Adams of the University of Minnesota Medical School, who was not part of the work. It will reassure patients, researchers and regulators "that we're moving in the right direction."
The dream of animal-to-human transplants, or xenotransplantation, dates to the 17th century with stumbling attempts to use animal blood for transfusions. By the 20th century, surgeons were attempting transplants of organs from baboons into humans, notably Baby Fae, a dying infant, who lived 21 days with a baboon heart.
With no lasting success and much public uproar, scientists turned from primates to pigs, tinkering with their genes to bridge the species gap.
Pigs have advantages over monkeys and apes. They are produced for food, so using them for organs raises fewer ethical concerns. Pigs have large litters, short gestation periods and organs comparable to those of humans.
Pig heart valves also have been used successfully for decades in humans. The blood thinner heparin is derived from pig intestines. Pig skin grafts are used on burns, and Chinese surgeons have used pig corneas to restore sight.
Kidney ready for transplantation from a live donor Image credit: wikimedia commons
In the NYU case, researchers kept a deceased woman's body on a ventilator after her family agreed to the experiment. The woman had wished to donate her organs, but they weren't suitable for traditional donation.
'Good could come from this'
The family felt "there was a possibility that some good could come from this gift," Montgomery said.
Montgomery himself received a transplant three years ago, a human heart from a donor with hepatitis C because he was willing to take any organ.
"I was one of those people lying in an ICU waiting and not knowing whether an organ was going to come in time," he said.
Several biotech companies are in the running to develop suitable pig organs for transplant to help ease the human organ shortage. More than 90,000 people in the U.S. are in line for kidney transplants. Every day, 12 die while waiting.
The advance is a win for Revivicor, a subsidiary of United Therapeutics, the company that engineered the pig and its cousins, a herd of 100 raised in tightly controlled conditions at a facility in Iowa.
The pigs lack a gene that produces alpha-gal, the sugar that provokes an immediate attack from the human immune system.
In December, the Food and Drug Administration approved the gene alteration in the Revivicor pigs as safe for human food consumption and medicine.
But the FDA said developers would need to submit more paperwork before pig organs could be transplanted into living humans.
"This is an important step forward in realizing the promise of xenotransplantation, which will save thousands of lives each year in the not-too-distant future," said United Therapeutics CEO Martine Rothblatt in a statement.
Experts say tests on nonhuman primates and last month's experiment with a human body pave the way for the first experimental pig kidney or heart transplants in living people in the next several years.
Raising pigs to be organ donors feels wrong to some people, but it may grow more acceptable if concerns about animal welfare can be addressed, said Karen Maschke, a research scholar at the Hastings Center, who will help develop ethics and policy recommendations for the first clinical trials under a grant from the National Institutes of Health.
"The other issue is going to be: Should we be doing this just because we can?" Maschke said. (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Transplant, Pig, Human, Kidney, FDA
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Developed by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, a Decision Support System (DSS) that extends the ability of the existing air quality early warning system (AQEWS) to have decision-making capability for air quality management in Delhi-NCR was launched on Tuesday.
The website for the DSS (https://ews.tropmet.res.in/dss/) is designed to help the Commission for Air Quality Management for NCR and Adjoining Areas (CAQM) by delivering quantitative information about the contribution of emissions from Delhi and its 19 surrounding districts; the contribution of emissions from eight different sectors in Delhi; and the contribution from biomass-burning activities in the neighbouring states.
These information would assist in managing the air quality in a timely manner, a release from the Ministry of Earth Sciences said.
The need was stated by the CAQM, which was formed by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, during a meeting held in January 2021.
Recently, the Commission reviewed the progress made by IITM and had in principle approved the current version of DSS for air quality management in the Delhi-NCR. The IITM has also developed a new website for DSS with the entire system made operational, the release said.
Union Minister of State for Earth Sciences, Jitendra Singh, while launching the website for AQEWS on the occasion of 'Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav' week organised by the Ministry of Earth Sciences, said, "DSS is a significant contribution to 'Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav' on behalf of MoES and IITM and suggestions are invited on this issue."
The website also has a feature whereby the users can create their own emission reduction scenarios (from 20 different districts, including Delhi) so as to examine the possible projected improvement in air quality in Delhi for the next five days.
"This information would explicitly highlight the most important emission sources responsible for the degradation of air quality in Delhi and suggest possible solutions to ameliorate the same. With a plethora of quantitative data, the AQEWS integrated with DSS could become a user-friendly tool for air-quality management in and around Delhi," the release said. (IANS/JB)
Keywords: Delhi, India, Pollution, IITM, Ministry of Earth Sciences
On the first day of the two-day meeting of BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leaders on Tuesday, discussions were held on important issues related to education and the National Education Policy-2020. Apart from senior RSS leader Suresh Soni, representatives of various organisations associated with the Sangh Parivar -- working in the field of education -- were present in the meeting in New Delhi.
According to sources, Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who attended the meeting on behalf of the government, shared information related to the National Education Policy-2020 and the government's policy on important issues related to the education sector. Pradhan also shared details of the efforts being made by the government in the field of education.
Discussions were also held regarding the impact of the situation arising out of Corona and how much it has affected the education sector. In the meeting, the RSS leaders asked several questions and provided suggestions to the Union Minister regarding the education policy of the government.
According to the sources, RSS wants the policy to be implemented expeditiously. All aspects related to the policy were discussed in Tuesday's meeting. On the second and the last day of the meeting on Wednesday, special issues related to education will be discussed in which representatives of various organisations of the Sangh, Union Ministers and several BJP leaders will be take part.
Meanwhile, in order to convey its point of view to the government on various issues, the Sangh keeps on calling such coordination meetings related to specific issues, in which RSS representatives -- working in that particular area -- provide feedback to the government. (IANS/JB)
Keywords: BJP, RSS, New Education Policy, Education, India