Friday, September 18, 2020

African wilddogs relocated to Mozambique


Mozambique   is a country located in Southern Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Eswatini (Swaziland) and South Africa. The capital and largest city of Mozambique is Maputo formerly known as "Lourenço Marques".

Between the first and fifth centuries AD, Bantu-speaking peoples migrated to present-day Mozambique from farther north and west.  The voyage of Vasco da Gama in 1498 marked the arrival of the Portuguese, who began a gradual process of colonisation and settlement in 1505. After over four centuries of Portuguese rule, Mozambique gained independence in 1975, becoming the People's Republic of Mozambique shortly thereafter. After only two years of independence, the country descended into an intense and protracted civil war lasting from 1977 to 1992. In 1994, Mozambique held its first multiparty elections, and has since remained a relatively stable presidential republic, although it still faces a low-intensity insurgency.

For decades a forgotten corner of Mozambique, Cabo Delgado has now become the country’s El Dorado, promising billions in natural gas and gemstones but delivering its population only violence and displacement. An insurgency in the province now threatens to become further entrenched – 50,000 people have fled their homes since March and Mozambique’s neighbours are currently debating sending in regional forces to help defeat militants who seized a strategic port in the town of Mocímboa da Praia last month.

The fear is that such an action could alienate a population with serious grievances, despite the chaos caused by Isis-linked militant group Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jamaa, known locally as al-Shabaab (though it has no links with the better-known Somalia-based Islamist militant group of the same name). Cabo Delgado has spent decades underdeveloped. Even past decade’s dual discoveries of $50bn (£38bn) worth of natural gas and rubies that sell for hundreds of millions of dollars brought only displacement and misery for local people. 

Those who have fled Cabo Delgado in the past six months take the total number of people displaced in the region to more than 200,000 (10% of its population) since 2017, when Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jamaa launched an insurgency. More than 1,000 people have been killed in the past three years. The latest attacks have added to an already desperate situation for residents, still trying to recover from the destruction caused by last year’s Cyclone Kenneth. More than a fifth of people do not have enough food. Many are forced to seek shelter with relatives and stretch shared resources. Prices for fuel and staple foods such as rice and maize have increased. The fighting this year has seen many humanitarian groups withdraw from the region. Agencies say they can only access some of the worst areas by air, river or sea, and that rural areas have been all but abandoned because of Covid-19.  This is no post on civil strife in Mozambique but on transit of wild dogs to the place !   

Founded in 1998, The Bateleurs is a Non Profit Company (NPC), with over 200 volunteer pilots and aircraft. It provides its beneficiaries and the public with an aerial perspective of the environment and has coordinated several, diverse missions, throughout South Africa and Africa, in support of environmental issues.

The African wild dog is known by many names, including Cape hunting dog or painted dog. Its scientific name, Lycaon pictus, means “painted wolf,” referring to the animal's irregular, mottled coat, which features patches of red, black, brown, white, and yellow fur. Each animal has its own unique coat pattern, and all have big, rounded ears. These long-legged canines have only four toes per foot, unlike other dogs, which have five toes on their forefeet.  It is the largest indigenous canine in Africa, and the only extant member of the genus Lycaon.  ,  It is estimated that about 6,600 adults including 1,400 mature individuals live in 39 subpopulations that are all threatened by habitat fragmentation, human persecution and outbreaks of diseases. The African wild dog is a highly social animal, living in packs with separate dominance hierarchies for males and females. Uniquely among social carnivores, the females rather than the males disperse from the natal pack once sexually mature.   The species is a specialised diurnal hunter of antelopes, which it catches by chasing them to exhaustion.  

In a post titled ‘let sleeping dogs fly!’ MailOnline featured a story in Nov 2019 on a pack of 15 African wild dogs sleep on plane as they are flown 1,000 miles from South Africa to a new life in Mozambique.  Pilot Raymond Steyn flew 15 African wild dogs to their new life in Mozambique in a light aircraft in a mission of Two charities - The Bateleurs and the Endangered Wildlife Trust – which  hope the dogs will breed in Mozambique

The Mozambican Civil War from 1977 to 1992 wiped out over 70 per cent of the country's animal population.  The charities have transported 60 wild dogs between countries with a '100 per cent safety and success rate'.  This time it was pack of 15 African wild dogs  which slept through a 1,000 mile journey from South Africa to their new life in Mozambique,  lined up neatly next to one another, the family of canines were ideal passengers for the seven-hour journey.   The plane flew the dogs over 1,000 miles from South Africa in the hope of repopulating an animal population decimated by Mozambique's   civil war.   All of them, flown by volunteer pilot Raymond Steyn, made it safely to their new home in Gorongosa National Park, in Mozambique.

The dogs are helping to re-establish a population wiped out during the 1977-1992 civil war, and it's hoped the pack will help boost numbers of just over 6,000 animals across the whole of Africa. Zelda de Keijzer, from The Bateleurs, said there was a strong UK connection with the relocation, thanks to vital support from the Tusk Trust and Rufford Foundation.   Mozambique, with the abundance of plant-eaters in the country, the land is rich for carnivores to return to.  Before being released all the dogs were vaccinated and fitted with VHF and GPS collars to enable them to be monitored.  The Gorongosa National Park has been at the centre of conservation for Mozambique with both the government and the Carr Foundation helping restore the area.  Since 1998 over 200 pilots have flown for The Bateleurs in more than 600 missions in 10 different countries for over 150 beneficiary organisations.

When a volunteer went to   Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park as part of an ambitious wildlife restoration effort, she was happy that  Beira, the alpha female of the pack, had been pregnant when the dogs were set free. She knew that the closely bonded and highly endangered apex predators had dug a maternity den for their queen, and that Beira had spent a lot of time down there — until one day, she didn’t. She and the pack had moved on. As Ms. Bouley was crouching by the abandoned den and peering into the hole, she met the likely answer. A giant African rock python — the continent’s largest species of snake — dropped from a nearby tree, stared her in the face and then slithered off. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar


Thursday, September 17, 2020

another statue pulled down - heard of - ‘encomienda’; ‘Conquistadors’.


Another statue falls down – another one bites the dust. A casual browsing of today’s occurrence introduced me to Popayan city, and hitherto unheard words – ‘encomienda’; ‘Conquistadors’.

Popayán  is the capital of the Colombian department of Cauca. It is located in southwestern Colombia between the Western Mountain Range and Central Mountain Range. The town is well known for its colonial architecture and its contributions to Colombian cultural and political life. It is also known as the "white city" due to the color of most of the colonial buildings in the city center.   The University of Cauca (est. 1827), one of Colombia's oldest and most distinguished institutions of higher education, is located here.   Much of the city's original splendor was destroyed on 31 March 1983, when an earthquake toppled many buildings. Though many were rebuilt and repaired, the heart of the city still has ruins and empty lots.

The encomienda was a Spanish labor system that rewarded conquerors with the labor of particular groups of conquered non-Christian people. The laborers, in theory, were provided with benefits by the conquerors for whom they labored, the Catholic religion being a principal benefit. The encomienda was first established in Spain following the Christian conquest of Moorish territories (known to Christians as the Reconquista), and it was applied on a much larger scale during the Spanish colonization of the Americas and the Spanish Philippines. Conquered peoples were considered vassals of the Spanish monarch. The Crown awarded an encomienda as a grant to a particular individual. In the conquest era of the sixteenth century, the grants were considered to be a monopoly on the labor of particular groups of indigenous peoples, held in perpetuity by the grant holder, called the encomendero, and his or her descendants.

Conquistadors (from Spanish and Portuguese for 'conqueror') were the knights, soldiers and explorers of the Spanish and the Portuguese Empire.  During the Age of Discovery, conquistadors sailed beyond Europe to the Americas, Oceania, Africa, and Asia, conquering territory and opening trade routes. They colonized much of the world for Spain and Portugal in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. After arrival in the West Indies in 1492, the Spanish, primarily nobles from the west and south of Spain, began building an American empire in the Caribbean using islands such as Hispaniola, Cuba, and Puerto Rico as bases.   In Colombia, Bolivia, and Argentina conquistadors from Peru linked up with other conquistadors arriving more directly from the Caribbean and Río de la Plata-Paraguay respectively. All these conquests founded the basis for modern Hispanic America and the Hispanophone.

Sebastián de Belalcázar (1480 – 1551) was a Spanish conquistador. De Belalcázar, is known as the founder of important early colonial cities in the northwestern part of South America; Quito in 1534 and Cali, Pasto and Popayán in 1537. De Belalcázar led expeditions in present-day Ecuador and Colombia and died of natural causes after being sentenced to death in Cartagena, at the Caribbean coast in 1551.

He was born Sebastián Moyano in the province of Córdoba, Spain,   took the name Belalcázar as that was the name of the castle-town near to his birthplace in Córdoba.   According to various sources, he may have left for the New World with Christopher Columbus as early as 1498, but Juan de Castellanos wrote that he killed a mule in 1507, and fled Spain for the West Indies due to fear of punishment, and as a chance to escape the poverty in which he lived. He was an encomendero in Panama in 1522. He entered Nicaragua with Francisco Hernández de Córdoba in 1524 during the conquest of Nicaragua, and became the first mayor of the city of León in Nicaragua. He remained there until 1527, when he left for Honduras as a result of internal disputes among the Spanish governors.  

His battles, though, were not entirely honourable. At a village called Quinche near Puritaco, he found that all the men were away fighting with the national army. To make an example of these people (and to vent his frustration at finding so little treasure), he ordered all the women and children to be slaughtered. 'A feeble excuse to justify cruelty unworthy of a Castilian', was the verdict of Herrera, the official Chronicler of the Conquest, to Belalcázar's excuse that this was done to terrify other natives into returning to their homes. In 1546, he ordered the execution of Jorge Robledo, who governed a neighboring province in yet another land-related vendetta. He was put to trial in absentia in 1550, convicted and condemned to death for the death of Robledo, and other offenses pertaining to his constant involvement in the various wars between other conquistadors. A victim of his own ambition, he died in 1551 before he could begin the voyage back to Spain to appeal the decision, in Cartagena, Colombia.

Now comes the news that indigenous protesters in Colombia have toppled a statue of Spanish conquistador Sebastián de Belalcázar in the south-western city of Popayán. Police looked on as members of the Misak community used ropes to tear down the equestrian figure of de Belalcázar, who founded the city in 1537. Indigenous leaders said he represented five centuries of genocide and slavery. Popayán's mayor said it was an act of violence against a symbol of a multicultural city. The Misak community blames the conquistador for the killings of their ancestors and land grabbing. The toppling of statues associated with slavery and colonialism has been a prominent feature of the Black Lives Matter protests in the US and Europe.

History getting re-written !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Welcome back .. .. SEcond Spell Sreesanth

Jacques Kallis, the man who scored 13289 test runs and 11579 runs in ODI all at sea, against an Indian pacer’s bouncer – imagine who ? 

Supreme Court of India’s judgment in 2019 started thus – ‘the  sports occupy a prominent place in life of a man/woman and also in the life of a nation. It not only gives physical or moral strength to a personality but spread the message of goodwill and friendship. In the 21st Century the countries have come closer and nearer to each other and sports have become a medium of bonds’.

A famous Cricketer had gone on appeal against BCCI for on the morning of 16th  May, 2013, his life changed – it was widely reported in the media that the Delhi Police, Special Cell had arrested 3 cricketers (this player who had represented India alongside 2 other IPL players)  of having indulged in spot fixing during certain matches of Rajasthan Royals and  allegedly in the company of one Mr. Jiju Janardhan who according to Delhi Police is a  bookie.  Thus, life changed for the worse for the man who was a Cricket Quiz Q earlier -  who is the only Kerala bowler to have taken a Ranji Trophy hat-trick ? His rise, though, was rapid, and since he played for a weak side, unnoticed. Not too many bowlers get selected for the Duleep Trophy in their first season, like he  did in 2002-03 after snapping up 22 wickets in his first seven games.

He donned India Cap no. 253 and debuted in Test 1785 against England at Nagpur in Mar 2006 debuting alongside :  Sir Alastair Cook, Ian Blackwell, & Monty Panesar.  Just to add some spice – India Cap 250 Dinesh Karthik, 251 – illustrious MS Dhoni; 252 Rudra Pratap Singh; 253 ____ ; 254 Piyush Chawla; 255 Munaf Musa Patel; 256 Vikram Raj Vir Singh; 257 Ramesh Power; 258 Ishant Sharma; 259 Amit Mishra; 260 Murali Vijay – the man Santhakumaran Sreesanth.

Now at 37 +  India fast bowler Sreesanth has vowed to make a return to competitive cricket now that his ban in the 2013 IPL spot-fixing scandal is over. On their part, the Kerala Cricket Association (KCA), Sreesanth's home association, is happy to bring him back into the fold for the upcoming domestic season should he prove his form and fitness. "Sreesanth has shown the keenness to play by training hard and keeping himself fit," Kerala coach Tinu Yohannan told ESPNcricinfo. "We've been in touch [with him]. We will consider him, but it will depend on his form and fitness. But the door is open."

Initially banned for life, Sreesanth's sentence was downgraded to seven years by BCCI ombudsman Justice (retd) DK Jain in August 2019. At the time, Jain had received a directive from the Supreme Court of India to reconsider the ban given Sreesanth had already served six years of the ban and because his "prime years" as a fast bowler were nearly over. Since lockdown was lifted partially in June, Sreesanth has been training with members of the Kerala Under-23 team and a few senior players at a KCA facility in Ernakulam. "After a long wait, I can play again but there is no place in the country to play now," Sreesanth told Times of India on Monday. "I even planned to organise a local tournament in Kochi this week so that I could step out onto the field, but decided against it looking at the risks involved, as the number of coronavirus cases in Kerala are increasing."

Even as he plots a comeback, Sreesanth is realistic about where he stands with respect to competitive cricket. "From last May, I have put my heart and soul into training," he said. "So when I read about domestic season being a non-starter, I was shattered. "I even thought of quitting the game but thought I wouldn't be doing justice to myself as all the efforts I've made to play the game would have gone down the drain. If the domestic season in India is cancelled, I will have to look at other options. If there is no cricket here, I might as well request the BCCI to allow me to play abroad."

On that fateful day in May 26, 2013, Sreesanth - along with Rajasthan Royals team-mates Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan - were arrested by Delhi Police for fraud and cheating in IPL 2013. The three were allegedly promised money ranging from US$36,000 to 109,000 for each fix. Eleven bookies were arrested too. The BCCI suspended the three players, pending enquiry. A few days later, the Royals franchise suspended their contracts.  In 2015, a Delhi trial court dropped charges against Sreesanth, Chavan and Chandila in the matter. However, the decision had no bearing on the life bans imposed by the BCCI.  In 2017  BCCI denied  Sreesanth permission to play in Scotland, after the fast bowler asked for a no-objection certificate to turn out for Glenrothes CC.

Latter he filed a writ petition in Kerala High Court challenging his ban. Kerala High Court ordered  the BCCI to lift the life ban on Sreesanth, observing that the board's refusal to do so is a "violation of natural justice".

Later he filed an appeal before the Supreme Court of India against his ban.  The Court observed - Cricket, it is said, is a synonym for gentlemanliness which means discipline, fair play, modest and high standard of morality. The ever increasing interest in the game of Cricket in our country has raised issues of its regulation, control and management. In our country the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), a registered Society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860, exercises sufficient control on all aspects of game of Cricket and has framed various Code of Conduct for all who are associated with it.

Before the Apex Court, Sreesanth contended that - as regards conceding of 14 runs I may respectfully point out there was no guarantee that the Captain will ask me to bowl in a particular over and if so, depending on the field, the pitch, batsman etc. the bowler will have to bowl. It may be stated here that my bowling is considered pace bowling estimated at an average of 135 kms. per hour and there is no guarantee for a bowler regarding the runs he is likely to concede unless deliberately either a no ball or wide is bowled. Conceding runs therefore, cannot be manipulated as alleged. There is no allegation that in the concerned second over any wide or no ball was bowled.

That year (2019) came his relief as the Supreme Court   "set aside" the life ban imposed on him by the BCCI for his alleged role in the 2013 IPL corruption and spot-fixing scandal. The apex court of the country  asked the BCCI to "reconsider" and "revisit" the length of any fresh ban, "preferably" within three months. By that BCCI had a  new constitution (registered in August 2018), all the duties earlier discharged by the disciplinary committee, made up of BCCI officials, were being  performed by the ombudsman and, Sreesanth's fate was to be decided  by Justice (retd) DK Jain.

So 6 years after the arrest, Sreesanth breathed a little easier as  BCCI ombudsman Justice (retd) DK Jain reduced his IPL 2013 spot-fixing ban to seven years, the sanction period now ending on September 13, 2020.  

Statistically, Sreesanth India represented India in 27 Tests taking 87 wickets and 75 wickets in 53 ODIs; he played 10 T20Is too, recall that on 24.9.2007 – he took the catch of Misbah Ul Haq off Joginder Sharma – the finals of T20 WC inaugural Cup. It is unlikely that he would represent India again and add anything to his tally.  He would be remembered as a cheerful enthusiastic genuine quickie playing for the Nation from a State that is not considered when it comes to national reckoning – the state of Kerala.

Welcome back – Second Innings Sreesanth - #SreesanthSecondSpell  @sreesanth36

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

Pollution - Vehicles on Road - PUC - Mandatory declaration while taking Insurance !!


Dear (s) 

As you drive on road, sometimes vehicles whizz past leaving a trail of black thick smoke and others blame the vehicle for polluting the road.  Pollution is everyone’s concern.  One of the impact of Covid imposed lockdown was – lesser no. of vehicles on road, and hence lesser emission of CO2 and other chemicals – people in cities too were breathing easy and good air at that. 

In the Insuring Sector, there is some buzz as Insurers from 15.9.2020 have started insisting on a declaration that the vehicle carries valid PUC ! [Pollution under Control Certificate]- or else there would be no insurance coverage.   All  Motor Proposal forms and Cover notes and all digital formats of all Insurers contain the PUC declaration now.    Like the license agreements on Computers, which will not allow us to proceed without marking Agree / yes to the said terms – proposer will have to say yes, lest it will not proceed further.

This mandatory declaration of having valid PUC would become applicable for  renewals / roll overs, applicable for all classes of vehicles including Two wheelers. Interestingly this would be applicable for Third Party policies as well.  Given our tendency to say yes for proceeding, what will happen,   if someone misdeclares Yes (when PUC is not available) is not answered now.

These instructions refer back to  IRDA Circular No IRDA/NL/MISC/104/07/2018  (yes 2018) regarding mandatory capturing of the PUC (Pollution Under Control) declaration in Motor Proposals.  The IRDA circular of July 2018  takes reference to Supreme Court order of 10.8.2017 Writ petition 13029/1985 in MC Mehta Vs Union of India wherein the Hon’ble court directed the Insurers not to insure vehicle unless it has a valid PUC certificate on the renewal of Insurance Policy.  IRDA had directed compliance of the instructions.

Now here is something on why it was necessitated :   With the impending danger of global warming and to effectively reduce the amount of pollution in the air, the Government of India  mandated that every vehicle - commercial and private - has a pollution under control (PUC) certificate. The pollution under control (PUC) certificate is one which shows whether the vehicle is under the prescribed standards with regard to emissions. Apart from this, the PUC certificate has been made mandatory as per the Central Motor Vehicle Rule, 1989. Only if the emissions from the vehicle are below the prescribed norms which are deemed as legal, will the vehicle owner be allowed to use the vehicle on the roads of India. The emission test which checks the carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon levels of the emitted fumes can be carried out at any petrol bunk that is certified to carry out the test.

A PUC certificate will contain the following information:
        The certificate’s serial number
        The registration number of the vehicle
        The date of PUC testing
        The PUC certificates date of expiry
        The PUC readings from the test 

As per the Motor Vehicle Act, like a motor insurance policy, registration certificate, and driving license, a PUC certificate is now mandatory to carry while driving.

With the rapid increase in the number of vehicles, the problem of automobile pollution has assumed greater significance. Since the emission of smoke from motor vehicles is a major source of air pollution, specific standards for the permissible limits for such emission have been prescribed in the Motor Vehicles Act 1988 and Central Motor Vehicles Rules 1989. All vehicles which are in operation for more than a year should undergo emission tests every six months.

The Government has authorized 248 Private Emission Testing Centers throughout Tamil Nadu as per rule 116(B) of Tamil Nadu Motor Vehicles Rules 1989 and has made it mandatory that at the time of every transaction with Regional Transport Offices, certificate of Pollution Under Control will be checked.

Having a PUC Certificate is required by the Government of India by the Motor Vehicle Act of 1988. If your vehicle does not have a valid certificate, you will be liable for a Rs 1000 fine (and it’s Rs. 2000 for every subsequent offense!)

Moving away in social media (including many  WA groups) there was some panic based on a viral claim that if PUC is not valid, Insurers will not settle OD claim in the Policy.    While IRDA in their 2018 categorically directed Insurance Companies to comply with the direction of Honble Supreme Court – it also clarified on 26.8.2020 by a statement in their Web that  - the reports in media was misleading and clarified that   not holding a valid PUC certificate is not a valid reason for denying any claim under a motor insurance policy.

Hope my understanding is right and is of some help to Underwriters in getting clarity on the circular and on what they need to do on this.

In case someone is interested in reading further – here is a gist of Supreme Court order of 10.8.2017.. .. .. This was a writ petition filed by MC Mehta against Union of India and was represented by high profile counsel Harish N Salve for the petitioner among others.  In their affidavit the Ministry brought out a chart of the recommendations which included exploring the Petrol stations on how they are equipped to explore the PUC and furnish certificate after servicing a vehicle. Honble Court further directed ensuring linkage of renewal of insurance with availability of PUC.  The instruction that Insurers should not provide insurance coverage to a vehicle  unless it has a   valid PUC certificate.  Ministry of Road Transport expressed the view that linkage of PUC centres with VAHAN database and other enforcement measures, compliance of PUC by motor vehicle owners will improve considerably. (Only insurance related portion reproduced)

With regards – S. Sampathkumar





Tuesday, September 15, 2020

does life exist in Venus .. some facts !!


The Milky Way Galaxy resides in a neighborhood of a few dozen galaxies called the Local Group. They range in size from small dwarf galaxies to the large Andromeda Galaxy. Over time, these galaxies interact with one another, changing their motions and shapes. The long-term evolution of a galaxy is influenced by being part of a group. The Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy, our nearest spiral neighbor, are headed toward each other. In about five billion years, they may collide and merge. Eventually, our remote descendants could be living in a large elliptical galaxy.

The ultimate aim, fear, curiosity, research, thought, goal of  humanity perhaps is in finding out whether there exists life outside our planet – are there any neighbours living in any nearby planet, galaxy or elsewhere.  NASA's exoplanet program is to find unmistakable signs of current life on a planet beyond Earth. How soon that can happen depends on two unknowns: the prevalence of life in the galaxy and how lucky we get as we take those first, tentative, exploratory steps.

Nothing about 2020 surprises us anymore. It has been the year of pandemics, wildfires, asteroids zooming past Earth and now, aliens.  Scientists said on Monday that they have detected in the harshly acidic clouds of Venus, a gas called phosphine, that indicates microbes may inhabit Earth’s inhospitable neighbour, a tantalizing sign of potential life beyond Earth.  This could be indicative of the presence of alien life on a planet that has always been described as inhospitable.

Don’t get carried by the word ‘neighbour’ – Venus is the closest planet to Earth (it's also the most similar in size). But its proximity to our planet depends on the orbits of both. The two planets travel in ellipses around the sun, and so the distance between them is constantly shifting. At its farthest, Venus lies 162 million miles (261 million kilometers) away, according to NASA. Venus takes 224.7 Earth days to travel around the sun. It makes its closest approach to Earth about once every 584 days, when the planets catch up to one another. On average, it is 25 million miles (40 million km) away at this point, though it can reach as close as 24 million miles (38 million km).

Most astronomers feel that it would be impossible for life to exist on Venus as it  is a very hostile place. It is a very dry planet with no evidence of water, its surface temperature is hot enough to melt lead, and its atmosphere is so thick that the air pressure on its surface is over 90 times that on Earth. Even the spacecraft which have landed on Venus only survived for about an hour before being crushed and melted. There are however, a few scientists who think that it is possible for life to exist in the clouds of Venus. 

Tyazhely Sputnik, also known by its development name as Venera 1VA No.1,  and in the West as Sputnik 7, was a Soviet spacecraft, which was intended to be the first spacecraft to explore Venus. Due to a problem with its upper stage it failed to leave low Earth orbit. In order to avoid acknowledging the failure, the Soviet government instead announced that the entire spacecraft, including the upper stage, was a test of a "Heavy Satellite" which would serve as a launch platform for future missions.  Tyazhely Sputnik was launched at 01:18:03 UTC on 4 Feb 1961, atop a Molniya 8K78 carrier rocket flying from Site 1/5 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. When the upper stage ignited, cavitation in the liquid oxygen flowing through the oxidiser pump caused the pump to fail, resulting in an engine failure eight-tenths of a second after ignition. It reentered the atmosphere over Siberia on 26 Feb 1961.

After that mission,  several landers from the former Soviet Union have landed on Venus. They were only able to send  information for a short time because the extremely high temperature and pressure on the surface of Venus melted and crushed the landers. On Dec 15, 1970 an unmanned Soviet spacecraft, Venera 7, became the first spacecraft to land on another planet. It measured the temperature of the atmosphere on Venus. In 1972, Venera 8 gathered atmospheric and surface data for 50 minutes after landing. In  1975, Venera 9 landed on the surface of Venus. It took the first close-up photograph of the planet's surface. Three days later Venera 10 landed on Venus. Venera 10 took photographs of its surface and studied its rocks.

Phosphine is the compound with the chemical formula PH3, classed as a pnictogen hydride. It is a colorless, flammable, very toxic gas. Pure phosphine is odorless, but technical grade samples have a highly unpleasant odor like garlic or rotting fish, due to the presence of substituted phosphine and diphosphane (P2H4). With traces of P2H4 present, PH3 is spontaneously flammable in air (pyrophoric), burning with a luminous flame.

Venus is one of the four terrestrial planets in the Solar System, meaning that it is a rocky body like Earth. It is similar to Earth in size and mass, and is often described as Earth's "sister" or "twin". The diameter of Venus is 12,103.6 km (7,520.8 mi)—only 638.4 km (396.7 mi) less than Earth's—and its mass is 81.5% of Earth's. Conditions on the Venusian surface differ radically from those on Earth because its dense atmosphere is 96.5% carbon dioxide, with most of the remaining 3.5% being nitrogen.

Venus is the second planet from the Sun. It is named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty. As the second-brightest natural object in the night sky after the Moon, Venus can cast shadows.   Venus lies within Earth's orbit, and so never appears to venture far from the Sun, either setting in the west just after dusk or rising in the east a bit before dawn. Venus orbits the Sun every 224.7 Earth days.  With a rotation period of 243 Earth days, it takes longer to rotate about its axis than any other planet in the Solar System and does so in the opposite direction to all but Uranus (meaning the Sun rises in the west and sets in the east).  Venus does not have any moons, a distinction it shares only with Mercury among planets in the Solar System.

PS 1 :  Philippe Gengembre (1764–1838), a student of Lavoisier, first obtained phosphine in 1783 by heating white phosphorus in an aqueous solution of potash (potassium carbonate).  Perhaps because of its strong association with elemental phosphorus, phosphine was once regarded as a gaseous form of the element, but Lavoisier (1789) recognised it as a combination of phosphorus with hydrogen and described it as phosphure d'hydrogène (phosphide of hydrogen).

PS 2 : the woman at the start -  Venus Williams (Venus Ebony Starr Williams) is the famous sister of Serena Williams and together they have dominated Professional tennis.    A former world No. 1 in both singles and doubles,  Venus Williams is generally regarded as one of the all-time greats of women's tennis and, along with younger sister Serena Williams, is credited with ushering in a new era of power and athleticism on the women's professional tennis tour.

PS 3:   Nightflight to Venus is the third studio album by Euro-Caribbean group Boney M., and was released in July 1978. The album became a major success in continental Europe, Scandinavia, and Canada, topping most of the album charts during the second half of 1978 and also became their first UK number one album.   Nightflight to Venus includes their worldwide hits "Rivers of Babylon" and "Brown Girl in the Ring", a double A-sided single that topped the UK singles chart and has sold over 2 million copies there.

Interesting ! 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

Monday, September 14, 2020

Thiem triumphs ! ~ Zverev wins hearts


The US Open bears little resemblance to the tournament started in 1881. It has evolved from an exclusive men's singles and doubles tournament in Newport, R.I., to a two-week sports and entertainment extravaganza held in Flushing, N.Y. .. everything is irrelevant other than the fact that even during the tough Covid times, this year’s tournament was conducted and concluded – though without fans on site. 

Dominic Thiem surely knew the question was coming, so he addressed it front and center.  After dismissing Russian Daniil Medvedev and reaching his fourth Grand Slam final at the 2020 US Open, the 27-year-old Austrian talked about the elephant in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Thiem has played in three major finals, and Thiem has lost three major finals, becoming only the fifth man in the Open era to start 0-3 in Grand Slam title matches.  His elite company are : Andre Agassi (went on to have 8-7 record in major singles); Goran Ivanisevic, my favourite Ivan Lendl (8-11 but none at Wimbledon – grass is for cows !); Andy Murray.  

Speaking on Friday night, Thiem already knew his next steps should he lose against Germany’s Alexander Zverev in Sunday’s final and fall to 0-4 in Grand Slam title matches. “If I win, I have my first,” Thiem said. “If not, I probably have to call Andy Murray.”  Murray and former coach Ivan Lendl are the only men who started their careers 0-4 in major singles finals. But both went on to win multiple Grand Slam titles. “It’s easy for Andy because he has won three in the meantime,” Thiem said.  How quickly Thiem brought up Murray’s poor start in title matches leads one to wonder if Thiem’s 0-3 start has played on his mind.

While it was Thiem’s fourth entry in a final, for Zverev it was debut !  Thiem, the No.2 seed and World No.3, became the first Austrian to claim a singles title at Flushing Meadows, albeit in unique circumstances as no fans were present at the hardcourt major due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Austrian also made history after the astonishing come back, which was the first time at the US Open since 1949 when a men’s player had come back from two-sets down to win the US Open final. Thiem is also the first grand slam champion other than Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer since Switzerland's Stan Wawrinka won the third of his majors at the 2016 US Open.

The second seeded Austrian beat the fifth seed 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (8/6) in four hours and two minutes in the first US Open final settled by a tie-break. Dominic Thiem produced a historic comeback to beat Alexander Zverev in a nervy five-setter and win the US Open on Sunday for his first Grand Slam title. It marked the first time in the US Open’s Open era history that a player had recovered from losing the opening two sets to win the title. It was also the first time the final had been settled by a tie-break. “I wish we could have two winners today. I think we both deserved it,” said Thiem.


 Here's how the historic tiebreaker transpired: Zverev double faults at 2-1—and follows it with a giant, unreturned serve for 3-2. The German runs around his backhand—the same way he broke Thiem in the previous game—but this forehand goes long. 3-3. Thiem follows the error with a bomb serve for 4-3. Still on serve. Then, Zverev's second-serve woe, often mentioned in pressure moments, rears its head. He double faults and serves at 3-5. Another second serve comes—but this time, he wins the point, keeping Thiem within reach. At 5-4, an all-court point is played. Zverev appears to have Thiem on the run, but he recovers, setting up a forehand pass for double match point. On his first match point, Thiem hits a big forehand crosscourt, moving Zverev out of position, but he put the short forehand down the line into the net. Returning at 5-6, Thiem sees a 68 m.p.h. Zverev second serve. He doesn't do much with it, but he eventually gets a look an another forehand down the line. It's not as clean as his last opportunity, and he puts the shot wide. 6-6.  On that point, Zverev comes to net and does well to hit two volleys back, but Thiem passes him for a third championship point.

German Alexander Zverev may have suffered a gut-wrenching defeat to his rival and long-time friend Austrian Dominic Thiem in the US Open Final, but he showed unbelievable class with a ‘beautiful’ gesture right after the loss. But, despite the agonising defeat, Zverev showed how much he values his friendship with Thiem in an unbelievable moment of sportsmanship right before embracing him seconds after the loss. Thiem collapsed to the floor with a mixture of joy and exhaustion after winning the fifth-set tie break to hand him the US Open 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6.  Zverev, who could have been forgiven if he met Thiem at the net following the gut-wrenching loss, showed enormous class to walk over to his friend and congratulate him with their ‘special’ handshake. Zverev then embraced Thiem as the pair trudged back towards their chairs and collapsed overwhelmed with emotion. The German’s sportsmanship was made all the more respectable when cameras captured him devastated and in shock sitting on his chair just a few seconds later.

Fans also felt for Zverev when he broke down in his post-match speech and struggled to talk because of the disappointment. Thiem later praised his friend: "I wish we could have two winners today. I think we both deserved it.” Fans not only couldn’t get enough of the ‘special handshake’ but praised Zverev for putting his friendship with Thiem above his disappointment.

It was a scrappy affair, with both players desperate to win their first Slams. Zverev smashed 15 aces compared to Thiem’s two. But the German also hit 15 double faults, with Thiem hitting eight. Zverev hit more winners 52 to 43, but also more unforced errors, with 65 to 55.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar




Sunday, September 13, 2020

Naomi Osaka wins US Open 2020 - will it be Thiem or Zverev

The 2020 US Open is the 140th  edition of tennis' US Open and the second Grand Slam event of the year. It is held on outdoor hard courts at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, New York.  Rafael Nadal and Bianca Andreescu were the men's and women's singles defending champions; however, both decided not to compete. Nadal withdrew from the tournament citing safety concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the switchover to the European clay court season immediately afterward, while Andreescu stated that the pandemic had compromised her ability to prepare and compete at her highest level.  .. .. and we read about Djokovic’s ouster in strange circumstances ! 

Ranked 4th in Men’s Tennis, Daniil Medvedev was seen lambasting the officials quite early in the US Open semi-final game against Dominic Thiem, on Friday, Sept 11. Medvedev, so out of control with his anger, went on to declare that “US Open is a joke”.  Early in the game, during the first set when Medvedev was trailing by 3-2 and at the receiving end of another break point, Daniil Medvedev’s long outburst was seen when a line judge missed the Russian’s first serve. As soon as Thiem returned to his serve and the umpire failed to call the serve out, Medvedev angrily hit his next shot into the net. It only went on to be worse as the No.3 seed in the US Open, Medvedev totally lost his calm and lashed out at the chair umpire after the official denied the player to challenge the call. In fact, what came as a surprise was, Medvedev breached a code by crossing the nests to the other side in order to point out exactly where the ball had landed.

After high drama it is going to be Dominic Thiem Vs Alexander Zverev

Dominic Thiem  is an Austrian professional tennis player. His career-high ATP ranking is world No. 3, which he first achieved on  Mar 2020. He is the second highest-ranked Austrian player in history, behind Thomas Muster (No. 1, 1996). He has won 16 ATP Tour singles titles, including a title at the 2019 BNP Paribas Open, and reached four Grand Slam finals.

Alexander "Sascha" Zverev is a German professional tennis player. He is the second-youngest player ranked in the top 10 by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), and was a permanent fixture in the top 5 throughout 2018. Zverev has won 11 ATP titles in singles and two in doubles.  Zverev was born into a tennis family. His parents Irina and Alexander Sr. both played professionally for the Soviet Union, and his older brother Mischa is also a professional who has been ranked as high as No. 25 in the world. Zverev is a former world No. 1 junior, and won a junior Grand Slam singles title at the 2014 Australian Open.  

Before we read further - Naomi Osaka won her second US Open title and third Grand Slam overall, defeating Victoria Azarenka in the final, 1–6, 6–3, 6–3. This made her the first player to win the US Open women's singles title after losing the first set since Arantxa Sánchez Vicario won the title in 1994. Coincidentally, Sánchez Vicario also lost the first set 6–1. Osaka became the first player from an Asian country to win a third Grand Slam singles title, the first player since Jennifer Capriati to win 3 such titles in 3 attempts and, at 22 years of age, the youngest player to win those 3 titles since Maria Sharapova won the 2008 Australian Open. Azarenka, who participated in her first Grand Slam final since the 2013 US Open, was aiming to become the first mother to win a Grand Slam singles title since Kim Clijsters won the 2011 Australian Open.  Bianca Andreescu was the defending champion, but she withdrew before the tournament began due to travel concerns related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 5 other top 10 players, including reigning Grand Slam champions Ashleigh Barty and Simona Halep, also withdrew from the event citing safety reasons.  In all, 24 players ranked inside the top 100 were absent from the tournament. 

In spite of the overwhelming odds against it and the impossibly high hurdles that had to be overcome, the 2020 US Open comes to a close today. The historic decision to restart the Grand Slam tennis season amidst the height of  COVID-19 pandemic, is a success of planning indeed.  Held every year since it originated in 1881, the U.S. National Championships, which in 1968 became the US Open, has been staged amid such global events as the pandemic of 1918, the Great Depression and two World Wars.

Dominic Thiem surely knew the question was coming, so he addressed it front and center.  After dismissing Russian Daniil Medvedev and reaching his fourth Grand Slam final at the 2020 US Open, the 27-year-old Austrian talked about the elephant in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Thiem has played in three major finals, and Thiem has lost three major finals, becoming only the fifth man in the Open era to start 0-3 in Grand Slam title matches.  His elite company are : Andre Agassi (went on to have 8-7 record in major singles); Goran Ivanisevic, my favourite Ivan Lendl (8-11 but none at Wimbledon – grass is for cows !); Andy Murray.   

Speaking on Friday night, Thiem already knew his next steps should he lose against Germany’s Alexander Zverev in Sunday’s final and fall to 0-4 in Grand Slam title matches. “If I win, I have my first,” Thiem said. “If not, I probably have to call Andy Murray.”  Murray and former coach Ivan Lendl are the only men who started their careers 0-4 in major singles finals. But both went on to win multiple Grand Slam titles. “It’s easy for Andy because he has won three in the meantime,” Thiem said.  How quickly Thiem brought up Murray’s poor start in title matches leads one to wonder if Thiem’s 0-3 start has played on his mind.

However, Thiem was quick to say :     “I was joking about it… That's not what I'm thinking about Sunday. [I’m] just going to go in fully focused, like in all the six previous matches. Well, the world continues no matter what's result is, so it's going to be fine,” Thiem said.           Thiem has beaten the 23-year-old German seven of the nine times they’ve played, including the past three. Most recently, Thiem beat Zverev in four sets to reach the Australian Open final.

Interesting ! 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar


Liberia declares 'rape' a National emergency !

James Monroe [1758 – 1831] was an American statesman, lawyer, diplomat and Founding Father who served as the fifth president of the United States from 1817 to 1825. A member of the Democratic-Republican Party, Monroe was the last president of the Virginia dynasty; his presidency coincided with the Era of Good Feelings. He is perhaps best known for issuing the Monroe Doctrine, a policy of opposing European colonialism in the Americas. 

Monrovia  is the capital city of the West African country of Liberia.  In 1816, with the aim of establishing a self-sufficient colony for emancipated American slaves, something that had already been accomplished in Freetown, the first settlers arrived in Africa from the United States, under the auspices of the American Colonization Society.  They landed at Sherbro Island in present-day Sierra Leone.  On Jan 7, 1822, a second ship rescued the settlers and took them to Cape Mesurado, establishing the settlement of Christopolis.  In 1824, the city was renamed Monrovia after James Monroe, then President of the United States, who was a prominent supporter of the colony in sending freed Black slaves and ex-Caribbean slaves from the United States of America and Caribbean islands to Liberia and who saw it as preferable to emancipation in America.


George Weah [George Tawlon Manneh Oppong Ousman Weah] was a famous striker, regarded as one of the greatest African players of all time.  Almost 20 years back, in 1995 he was named FIFA World Player of the Year and won the Ballon d'Or award.   In 2004 he was named in the FIFA 100 list of the world's greatest living players.  Weah spent fourteen years of his professional football career playing for clubs in France, Italy, and England.

Liberia  is in West Africa bordered by Sierra Leone,Guinea and Ivory Coast to its east. It covers an area of 111,369 square kilometres (43,000 sq mi) and is home to about 4 million people. English is the official language and over thirty indigenous languages are also spoken within the country. For those interested in Marine and ships, the Liberian Registry, established in 1948 by former U.S. Secretary of State Edward Stettinius, is recognized as one of the foremost open ship and corporate registries.  The Ebola outbreak is  among the worst the world has ever seen. One reason it's been able to spread so quickly is because of where it first emerged: in the porous remote border area between Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. It  killed so many people bringing untold suffering.

Liberian President George Weah has declared rape a national emergency and has ordered new measures to tackle the problem after a recent spike of cases in the poor West African state. The moves comes after thousands of Liberians protested rising incidents of rape in the capital Monrovia last month, in a bid to draw attention to the country's alarming rate of sexual assault. Late on Friday, Weah said he would install a special prosecutor for rape in Liberia, as well as set up a national sex offender registry, a statement from his office said. The government will also establish a so-called 'national security task force' on sexual- and gender-based violence.


The high rates of rape in impoverished Liberia, forced to contend both with war and the Ebola virus in recent years, has been a longstanding concern. Incidents of rape appear to have risen sharply this year, however. Margaret Taylor, the director of Liberia's Women Empowerment Network, told the AFP news agency last month that her NGO had recorded 600 cases of rape between June and August, for example. That was up from between 80 and a hundred cases in May, she said. Statistics by the Bureau of Corrections at the Ministry of Justice for the months of January to June 2020 showed that in that time period, there were more than 600 reports of aggravated assault, sodomy, sodomy with criminal intent and rape.

A UN report in 2016 recorded 803 rape cases the previous year in the country of 4.5 million, and found that only two percent of sexual violence cases led to a conviction, for example. It was the resulting sense of impunity and the legacy of the 14-year civil war between 1989 and 2003, when rape was commonplace, that had created the current problem, it said.  Weah's announcement of a national rape emergency follows a conference in the capital Monrovia on tackling sexual violence on Wednesday. Addressing the meeting, the footballer-turned-president said Liberia was 'witnessing what is actually an epidemic of rape within the pandemic, affecting mostly children and young girls across the country.' Weah's office said in the statement on Friday that further anti-rape measures will be announced.

Liberia is currently ranked 177th out of 188 countries on the annual Gender Equality Index.


With regards – S. Sampathkumar


hasty house demolition and the hushed response !!

Names could change ! ~ rise to glory in tinseldom – person would hail from a small town – come to the city – hit by poverty in earlier stages – then phenomenal rise earning crores –owning building and property .. .. what does not get represented is the sordid tale of thousands of others who too break away from their villages, come to the city, get grief-stricken and live in chill penury.  This is no post on those innumerable citizens who land up Egmore railway station dreaming a chance in ‘dream factory’ but get hounded by middlemen, lose whatever they have .. ..


This is of a famous actress from a small town in Mandi, Himachal Pradesh, hounded by politicians and not getting the support of the media ! yet the Court has come down heavily on the Maha Govt stating -   “From the notice, it is clear beyond any doubt that the works which are ‘unauthorised’ have not come up overnight. However, all of a sudden, the Corporation appears to have overnight woken up from its slumber, issued Notice to the Petitioner, that too when she is out of the State, directing her to respond within 24 hours, and not granting her any further time, despite written request, and proceeding to demolish the said premises upon completion of 24 hours.”

Lakshmibai, the Rani of Jhansi [1828 –  1858] queen of the Maratha princely state of Jhansi fought the British and was the leading limelight of Indian Rebellion of 1857.  Her life history -   “Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi” hit the silver screens last year, directed by Radha Krishna Jagarlamudi.  Kangana Ranaut played the title role with elan.   The film was released on 3700 screens in 50 countries worldwide in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu and grossed crores.  It had highest first day collection for any female oriented film.

The actress Kangana Ranaut will meet Maharashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari at Raj Bhavan today. “The governor has given her an appointment for 4.30pm,” a Raj Bhavan official said. After the BMC demolished parts of the actor’s Bandra bungalow on Thursday, the governor had expressed his displeasure over the hurry shown by the Shiv Sena-ruled BMC in carrying out the demolition.

Rules are rules but they are enforced with bias .,.  and sometimes the archaic rules are rusted out and used .. .. not sure how many people used cameras in 1937 and in the age of drones, aerial shots, google street views and many more electronic gadgets, whether the rules are relevant at all .. .. yet there are places which prohibit photography – you would every other person whipping a costly mobile and clicking photo but the moment, you take out your dabba camera, authorities would come with iron hand stating photography is banned,please delete the photo, else the camera would be confiscated.

Generally it is on individuals but this time, the Airlines itself is feeling the heat. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation on Saturday announced that violations of in-flight rules, including photography, will attract a suspension of the scheduled route for two weeks. The order came a day after the aviation regulator asked for a report from IndiGo airlines on violations of flight safety norms and physical distancing protocols by media persons on its Chandigarh to Mumbai flight, which had actor Kangana Ranaut onboard. A video shared on social media showed media persons crowding the aircraft’s aisle and pushing one another to gain access to the actor, who was seated in one of the front rows.

The DGCA notice read: “ per Rule 13 of the Aircraft Rules 1937, no person shall take, or cause or permit to be taken, at a government aerodrome or from an aircraft in flight, any photograph except in accordance with and subject to the the terms and conditions of a permission in writing...”

Ranaut had stirred a controversy earlier this month when she compared Mumbai to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The Centre provided Ranaut Y-plus security cover on Sept 7, which entitles her to a Personal Security Officer and 10 armed commandos. When she wanted to come back to Mumbai, on air, she was surrounded by media personnel and bombarded questions that included personal Qs as well.  Some videos in circulation showed media persons standing too close on board the flight and everyone is now reminded of social distancing protocols.

Buried in the din is the threats issued by a Sena MP and Home Minister, who declared that   she had “no right to live here.” While Sharad Pawar has since said that Ranaut’s statements should have been ignored and clarified that the action was taken by the BMC and not the state government, BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis has come out in support of the actor except her comment on PoK.

After moving in haste and conducting demolition, the Brihanmumbai Municipal corporation (BMC)  moved an application asking the Mumbai civil court to vacate its stay on a demolition that they could carry out on a high-profile residence in Khar area of Mumbai. At Khar, the building in question is a residential high rise and on the fifth floor of that building is the residence of actor Kangana Ranaut. Kangana is reported to have bought three flats on the fifth floor of the building in 2013. The flats at that time are said to have cost her approximately Rs 14 crore. In 2018, the municipal corporation shot off a notice to the builder and the various occupants of the building stating that there were many unauthorised changes made. According to BMC officials themselves, "the irregularities were found not just on the fifth floor but in other floors as well." That notice was challenged by Kangana in the Dindoshi sessions court . Till that time no coercive action to be taken against the notice structure." With this, the court had disposed of the suit in 2018 itself.

The BMC looked into the issue and later again passed another order of demolition. This time, too, the members of the building including Kangana challenged the order in Dindoshi court and the court had ordered a stay on the demolition until further hearing. BMC officials said that they had been following up with the court until now and waiting for an appropriate order. After  recent war of words between Kangana and Shiv Sena, the BMC filed another affidavit before the court seeking that the stay be lifted. The court heard the case  and has kept the case for hearing two weeks from now. Until then, BMC officials will not be able to move and take action against Kangana's residence or for that anyone else' residence in that building.

The controversy took a grave turn   as the BMC demolished a part of her office at Pali Hill in Bandra. BMC tried defending  its stand on demolishing parts of actor Kangana Ranaut’s bungalow before the Bombay High Court and said, “she made false, baseless and unwanted allegations of harassment”. A Division Bench of Justices S. J. Kathawalla and R. I. Chagla was hearing a petition filed by Ms. Ranaut after the Shiv Sena-run BMC demolished parts of her bungalow at Pali Hill in Mumbai. Her plea states, “The action of the BMC is illegal, arbitrary, mala fide and without application of mind, in violation of principles of natural justice, unreasonable and improper.”

Could not stop thinking what would have been the views of political parties, had the actor [big or small] been an activist against the Central Govt – so many would be shouting on top of their voices on how ‘democracy is being gagged’ and how a woman is targeted !  Strange are the ways of people. 

With regards, S. Sampathkumar