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BY SAEED NAQVI
When the tortoise agreed to ferry a stranded scorpion on its back across the river, which was in spate, he didn’t know what he had bargained for. Midway, the scorpion stung the tortoise, deep, through its hard shell.
“Why have you done this?” asked the tortoise. “Now we shall both drown.”
“It’s in my nature,” said the scorpion.
Given its own self-esteem, the US should have been “ferrying” the world through the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, the country is itself so overwhelmed by Corona that it has no time for leadership. Fair enough, let the US attend to protecting its people. But Trump’s Washington is not only making a mess of its own crisis, but it is also aggravating the world’s problems. The tortoise did not live to digest the lesson: a cooperative order is simply not possible with Trump.
If US capitalism in the post-Cold War world were scripted like a Webster melodrama, the audience should prepare itself for some frenetic tattooing by the “scorpion”. Even as the world is focused on fighting coronavirus, US claws are out, groping the Venezuelan coastline, using Columbian territory as its very own. Eight mercenaries are reported dead, even as two pedigreed Americans are in Venezuelan custody, presumably, singing like canaries by now. Wordsmiths have already named the expedition as the “Bay of kids”, so infantile has this latest US adventure been to unseat President Nicolas Maduro. Former US Green Beret, Jordan Goudreau has claimed responsibility. President Trump has closed his gloves in front of his face like a pugilist on the defensive. “I knew nothing about it.”
Of course, he knew just about as much as he did about the founder of Blackwater, Erik Prince’s idea of “privatizing” the Afghan War. Don’t laugh, Prince’s 100-page dossier spelt out details of how Afghanistan should be privately governed. The proposal was considered by freaks in the administration. According to the plan, Afghanistan would be ruled, just as India was, under a Viceroy. The plan was shot down. But Prince proved his resourcefulness once again in Venezuela. According to The Guardian, London, Prince secretly met one of Maduro’s closest allies, Vice President Delcy Rodriguez who also looks after security. About eight months ago, Prince was suggesting an invasion of Venezuela by “a private army of 5,000.” This was after the US had recognized Juan Guaido as the OPEC nation’s “legitimate President.” Which side of the street was Prince playing? The tricks have not worked. Trump will have to go into elections with a military failure in his backyard. Will his cohorts allow him to?
The world has been persuaded to put its head down on Corona. But this does not come in the way of Trump’s military adventure: holding US-Sri Lanka joint training in March and April at Sri Lanka’s Air and Naval base in Trincomalee, despite a ban on travel because of the pandemic.
This military bonhomie at a time when the coronavirus stricken aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, has been advised to dock at Guam. More than 4,500 crew members have been moved ashore. The spike in corona cases among the Sri Lankan Navy and Army can be traced to the companionship with US military personnel.
How can one raise fingers at the island nation’s obsequiousness when the great nation to its north circumvents its own rules to ship Hydroxychloroquine to the US because Trump has threatened “retaliation” if he were not helped in his hour of need.
This is not all. The man who is building a wall to keep Mexicans out, delivers a stark message to his southern neighbour: American economic interest supersede Mexican health interests. In other words, allow workers to operate factories essential not for Mexico but to the US — pandemic or no pandemic.
Germans coped with that mentality in March: the Trump administration tried to lure a German firm, CureVac, to the US. This is not where the audacity ends. The vaccine, jointly developed, would be available to the Americans first. The Angela Merkel establishment politely showed US negotiators the door.
In the German episode, the US comes across as almost elegant compared to the highway robbery at the tarmac of Chinese airport loading protection gear against the virus’ for European destinations. American “highwaymen” paid three times the amount and diverted the equipment to the US. French officials called it the “war of masks”.
Meanwhile across the sea, Trump’s Sancho Panza (or is it the other way around), Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu is stepping up airstrikes against Syria, attempting Drone assassinations of Hezbollah field commanders, and, in brief, trying to pulverize the “axis of resistance”, with Iran as the prime target. The idea is to provoke just sufficient retaliation to enable Netanyahu to survive corruption charges, also to give Trump an opportunity to beat war drums, always a useful strategy in the election season, particularly when ratings are not promising.
The “Bay of kids” and his Gulf gyrations pale before the high wire act he appears to be developing (or bluffing) vis-a-vis China. Martin Wolf of the Financial Times is one of the many commentators who have chastised Trump’s “irresponsible” diatribe without any credible evidence.
The supremacist, neo-Nazi rally at Charlottesville, Virginia, some years ago, attended openly by the KKK and sundry white nationalists, created ripples and waves which never really subsided. “There are very fine people on both sides” was Trump’s immortal observation, balancing between Klansmen and counter-protestors.
From that persona, Trump never really distanced himself. The result is rampaging anti-Semitism. Israel’s respected newspaper Haaretz has expressed concern. Several protests against the measures taken by states to control coronavirus have featured swastikas and worse.
Jewish Centre for Public Affairs CEO, David Bernstein is convinced, that “as more people become economically disaffected the more they will look for scapegoats.” Since the economic downslide is on an epic scale, so will corresponding racism grow in the US and elsewhere. Should this President get a second term, we shall all surely go down like that tortoise, gasping. (IANS)
An international team of astronomers has identified 366 new exoplanets, using data from the NASA Kepler Space Telescope's K2 mission.
The findings, described in a paper published in the Astronomical Journal, showed a planetary system that comprises a star and at least two gas giant planets, each roughly the size of Saturn and located unusually close to one another.
The discovery is significant because it's rare to find gas giants -- like Saturn in the solar system -- as close to their host star as they were in this case.
The researchers cannot yet explain why it occurred there, but it makes the finding especially useful because it could help scientists form a more accurate understanding of the parameters for how planets and planetary systems develop.
"The discovery of each new world provides a unique glimpse into the physics that play a role in planet formation," said lead author Jon Zink, a UCLA postdoctoral scholar.
The findings could be a significant step toward helping astronomers understand which types of stars are most likely to have planets orbiting them and what that indicates about the building blocks needed for successful planet formation, acoording to the study.
"We need to look at a wide range of stars, not just ones like our sun, to understand that," Zink said.
The term "exoplanets" is used to describe planets outside of the solar system. The number of exoplanets that have been identified by astronomers numbers fewer than 5,000 in all, so the identification of hundreds of new ones is a significant advance.
Kepler's original mission came to an unexpected end in 2013 when a mechanical failure left the spacecraft unable to precisely point at the patch of sky it had been observing for years.
But astronomers repurposed the telescope for a new mission known as K2, whose objective is to identify exoplanets near distant stars. Data from K2 is helping scientists understand how stars' location in the galaxy influences what kind of planets are able to form around them. (IANS/JB)
By Venkatachari Jagannathan
Officials of the Indian space sector, both serving and retired, are of the view that the space sector's organisational structure is expected to mirror that of India's atomic energy sector.
They also said that senior officials of the Indian space agency should address the employees on what is happening in the sector and how it will pan out so that uncertainty and confusion are addressed.
In the Indian atomic energy sector, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) is at the top, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) is the sectoral regulator while the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL), the Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Ltd (both power companies), the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd, the Electronics Corporation of India Ltd, and IREL (India) Ltd are public sector units (PSU).
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The Bhabha Atomic Energy Centre (BARC), Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) are the premier research and development (R&D) organizations and there are several DAE-aided organizations.
While the DAE is headed by a Secretary (normally from the R&D units) who is also the head of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), the R&D centres and PSUs are headed by different persons.
Similarly, the government that has started the space sector reforms seems to be replicating the atomic energy model, several officials told IANS.
"The Central government's moves in the space sector seems to replicate the atomic energy model," an official told IANS.
Currently, the Department of Space (DOS) is at the top and below that, comes the private sector space regulator Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe), the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) with various R&D-cum-production (rockets, satellites and others) units.
The sector has two PSUs - Antrix Corporation Ltd and NewSpace India Ltd.
Unlike the atomic energy sector, the Secretary of the DOS and Chairman of the Space Commission is also the Chairman of the ISRO.
As part of the space sector reform measures, the government has set up IN-SPACe as a regulator for the private sector players.
"Ultimately there will be only one sectoral regulator. There cannot be two regulators - one for the private sector and other for the public sector. Who will be the regulator if there is a company that is floated in public-private partnership," an official asked.
"It is good that there is a separate sectoral regulator outside of the DOS and the ISRO," an official said.
The recently-formed PSU NewSpace India has been mandated to build, own satellites, rockets and also provide space based services and transfer ISRO-developed technologies to others.
ISRO Chairman and Secretary DOS K.Sivan has been saying that ISRO will focus on high end research.
As a result, the positions of Secretary, DOS and Chairman, ISRO may not be held by the same person.
"Looking forward, there are possibilities of the government coming out with a voluntary retirement scheme for ISRO officials and merging its various production centres with NewSpace to synergise its operations," a former senior official of ISRO told IANS.
"But there is one issue in this proposition. For ISRO, the production centres are also its R&D centre. Both production and R&D are interwoven. One has to see how both will be separated to be housed under ISRO and NewSpace India."
Meanwhile, the minds of ISRO officials are filled with uncertainty and confusion about their future which is linked to that of their organization.
ISRO Staff Association General Secretary G.R.Pramod had told IANS that there is "uncertainty all around about the future of about 17,300 employees of ISRO".
"The ISRO top management that includes the Chairman and the Heads of various centres should come out openly and address the employee concerns at the earliest," an official added.
Space sector reforms are a much-needed move on the part of the government. | Unsplash
Also read: ISO: Achievements and History
According to officials, the uncertainty in the minds of ISRO officials is due to the communication from the government to freeze all recruitment as sectoral reforms are underway - allowing the private sector players in making and launching of satellites and rockets.
The ISRO officials also told IANS that promotions for several categories were kept on hold for the past two years. The promotion exercise for some has been carried out recently.
"Further the number of rocket launches this year from India came down drastically to just two from six or seven per year at an average. Out of two one critical mission for the country had failed," an official said.
However, the unanimous view is that the space sector reforms are a much-needed move on the part of the government so that the resources are used economically.
"For a long time, satellite utilization was an issue. Perhaps the satellites will be launched based on the demand from now onwards. The days of launching a satellite to utilize the rockets and then, searching for customers should be over," an official remarked.
Curiously, officials said all these years, ISRO had not approached its commercial arm Antrix to find out what the market needs so that it can build and launch such satellites.(IANS/PR)
Keywords: Atomic Energy, Satellite, ISRO, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), DOS
Twitter has announced to ban sharing of private media, such as photos and videos, without permission from the individuals that are shown in those images.
The micro-blogging platform already covers explicit instances of abusive behaviour under its policies, the expansion of the policy will allow the platform to take action on media that is shared without any explicit abusive content, provided it's posted without the consent of the person depicted.
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"Sharing personal media, such as images or videos, can potentially violate a person's privacy, and may lead to emotional or physical harm," Twitter said in a blog post late on Tuesday.
"The misuse of private media can affect everyone, but can have a disproportionate effect on women, activists, dissidents, and members of minority communities. When we receive a report that a Tweet contains unauthorised private media, we will now take action in line with our range of enforcement options," the company informed.
Under the existing policy, publishing other people's private information, such as phone numbers, addresses, and IDs, is already not allowed on Twitter.
This includes threatening to expose private information or incentivising others to do so.
"There are growing concerns about the misuse of media and information that is not available elsewhere online as a tool to harass, intimidate, and reveal the identities of individuals," Twitter said.
When Twitter is notified by individuals depicted, or by an authorised representative, that they did not consent to having their private image or video shared, it removes it.
Twitter founder and CEO Jack Dorsey announced his resignation | Unsplash
Also read: Twitter to label Accounts of Government
This policy is not applicable to media featuring public figures or individuals when media and accompanying Tweet text are shared in the public interest or add value to public discourse.
The expansion of the policy came after Twitter founder and CEO Jack Dorsey announced his resignation, with Indian-origin CTO Parag Agrawal taking over the position.
Twitter in September rolled out a feature called Safety Mode that temporarily blocks certain accounts for seven days if they are found insulting users or repeatedly sending hateful remarks.
Keywords: Twitter, Feature, Private media, Permission