Cassini’s swan song

At 7:55 am, Eastern Time in the United States, planet Earth received the final signal from the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft. After a twenty year mission, traveling two billion miles and having run out of fuel, Cassini took its final plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere. NASA dubbed the spacecraft’s free-fall as Cassini’s Grand Finale.

Cassini-Huygens’ remarkable journey over the years resulted in thrilling discoveries for the realm of space science especially of the planet Saturn itself, its moons, magnetosphere and its rings.

The spacecraft was named after two Italian astronomers – Giovanni Cassini who discovered Saturn and Christiaan Huygens who discovered Titan. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft and ESA’s Huygens probe was the first unmanned mission sent to orbit the jewel of the solar system, Saturn and discover the planet closely. It was launched on October 15, 1997, and it took seven years to reach Saturn’s orbit. For the next thirteen years, Cassini sent fascinating information back to Earth about Saturn and its moons, which included the observation of the Great White Storm, Saturn’s hexagon, lakes on Titan and geysers on Enceladus.

The Cassini-Huygens mission did invite certain controversies. After all the arguments regarding contamination of other planets and the expenses incurred to send the probe, the fact remains that the spacecraft’s information helped scientists to understand the Saturnian system. It has collected and sent huge amounts of data that helped, still helps and will continue to help researchers and scientists to understand the Saturnian system and perhaps even other mysterious wonders of life outside Earth.

Not only did Cassini send information regarding Saturn having earth-like features, it also discovered seven new moons of the planet. It’s exploration of Titan resulted in scientists understanding how its atmosphere has a similar climate system and a water cycle. While exploring Enceladus, it detected water, carbon dioxide and various hydrocarbons that suggested the presence of a composition which could support life! It is Cassini’s observations and findings that have given scientists the chance to ponder over sustainable life outside Earth.

These are the reason why Cassini’s research matters. As Cassini plunges deep into Saturn’s atmosphere it carries more secrets that we may never know, but it has sent a treasure of information for scientists of today and tomorrow to study and understand other planetary systems. Even after the end of its primary mission, the little probe kept collecting and sending valuable information for many years that followed. Cassini’s descent may be its finale but its success is just the beginning for many more such space missions. The human spirit of adventure lives on, even if Cassini’s swan song is over.

Telegraph, NASA

USA had a dream, but what of it now?

US President Donald Trump has made many changes to the administration and policy since his term began in January of this year. Many of them have not been well-received and have aroused both anger and hatred from many across the world. A determined pushback of policy by Trump has been directed towards the vast area of immigration. Overcoming the lengthy controversy and vitriol stirred up by his decision to ban immigration from a number of countries to the USA that was widely seen as a policy of racial and religious discrimination, Trump has done it again. This time again, it has left many wondering about their future in the US.

Trump came to power on the strength of promises that he made during his campaign, one of the biggest being that he would build a wall and make Mexico pay for it. Mexico has repeatedly refused to pay for a wall and while this discussion has not progressed, Trump has taken a decision that will affect those already living in the USA, on a policy that is much lesser known and perhaps one that many do not fully understand.

In 2012, then president Barack Obama created a federal government programme that would protect from deportation those who arrived in the US as children and allow them to grow up in the country and find work in the US, legally. This was seen as a chance for these undocumented migrants to build themselves a life in the US, giving these children a right to temporarily residen, study and work in the US. This was known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, and those protected by it were called the Dreamers. This programme was a compromise on the part of the Obama government on the DREAM act after Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (Dream) Act failed to pass. This bill had first been introduced in the Senate on August 1, 2001 by United States Senators Dick Durbin and Orrin Hatch and reintroduced many times since, without ever being passed.

Beneficaries of the DACA Act had to  necessarily be under the age of 18 and undocumented when they arrived in the US, were vetted thoroughly for any criminal history, threats they posed to national security, and had to be students or have completed school or military service. They also had to be below the age of 31 on 15 June 2012, the official date on which the programme began and had to be living continuously in the US for the last five years, i.e., since 2007. While the Dream Act allowed the migrants a chance to become permanent residents of the US, the DACA could merely defer deportation by two years, with a chance of renewal and allows them basics such as a work permit, a driver’s license and a change to enrol in college. Approximately 7,87,580 people are beneficiaries of this programme till date. A large chunk of these numbers hail from Mexico, brought to the US by their parents as children.

While one of Trump’s many promises during his campaign was to rollback DACA, no such measure had been taken till now. But on September 5, Trump and his administration announced that they would be ending DACA in March 2018, with “an orderly, lawful wind down”, as well as “the cancellation of the memo that authorized this program”. As Barack Obama said, the decision was “self-defeating” and contrary to “basic decency” and that  “A shadow has been cast over some of our best and brightest young people once again.” Trump’s reversal of Obama’s policy has cast the fate of almost 800,000 people into doubt.

So what happens to them? Since Obama created this programme as an executive policy decision, Trump was only able to reverse the policy and has given Congress a period of six months to come up with a legislative policy. Till then, no more applications to DACA will be entertained and as of March 2018, the privileges enjoyed by those in the programmme will begin expire. In short, the status the Dreamers hold will be snatched away from them, unless Congress brings out a legislation allowing for some other method of temporary or permanent legal immigration status. As they lose their status, they become vulnerable to deportation and could be sent back to countries that they were born in.

Trump has stated that law-abiding Daca recipients will not be acted against. This is small consolation, however, and fear has been rising in the US since the announcement was made. The Trump administration and the Congress holds in its hands the fate of the Dreamers, for now.

Sweet 16 for Rafael Nadal at US Open

Rafael Nadal was never supposed to succeed at the Flushing Meadows, he was born for clay and he had conquered the red dirt ruthlessly. But there he was, the Spanish Bull, marching his way and clinically removing his opponents to win the third US Open title, his 16th Major (just three behind Roger Federer).

In Rafa’s way he’s “very happy, no?” A year which turned out to be one of the best seasons for him. Biter of two Grand Slams and appearance in three finals, Rafa Nadal couldn’t have asked for a better season after two years of intermittent injuries. But this is Nadal we are talking about, he finds a way, he always has. His passion for the game prevails, his hunger for slams prevails and his motivation to play with confidence prevails.

The 2017 US Open promised another Fedal epic, as both Rafa and Roger were placed in the same draw and were set up to meet in the semi-final. But then came along Juan Martin del Potro (2009 winner) who aggressively defeated Federer and crushed the hopes of first ever Fedal match up in the US Open. When Nadal met del Potro in the semifinal, it took four sets including a bagel for Rafa to eliminate the Argentine. In the final, though not a thrilling one, Nadal comfortably defeated 28 seeded Kevin Anderson 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.  Such was his dominance that only in the last game did Rafa reach deuce on his serve.

The year has been extra emotional for the Spaniard. Rafa thanked his uncle Toni, who was watching his last slam with him as coach. “Without him I would never be playing tennis. It is great I had someone like him pushing me all the time. He had great motivation to practise with me since I was a kid. He is for sure one of the most important people in my life.” Uncle Toni, as all the fans love to call him, has been with Rafa since the age of three. He has been the maestro behind Nadal’s psyche, character and all in all the Rafa we see today.

2017 season was the year of Fedal resurgence. The last slam had provided a golden opportunity for the new kids like Alexander Zverev, Denis Shapovalov, Dominic Thiem, Borna Coric but all failed to cover the distance. This also makes us question us how the future of tennis will look like when the two legends finally bid goodbye to the game. But for now, the two are happy, neatly splitting the four majors among themselves.

iPhone X: Apple of everyone’s eye

10 years after the first iPhone was released, Apple launched its 10th-anniversary gift, with not one, or two, but three iPhones- iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X. Apple CEO Tim Cook launched the trio in new “spaceship” headquarters in Cupertino, California.
The front-back glassy looking iPhone X and siblings will be available at an eye-popping price of $999 for 64GB iPhone X which means INR 89000, $699 for iPhone 8  and 8 Plus at $799.
iPhone X, 8 and 8 plus have updated features of the earlier lot of iPhones. The trio has an A11 Bionic processor and has 2 gigs of RAM, better brightness and colors with TrueTone Tech. Wireless charging update will help the users to charge the phones by resting them on the charging mat. Also, the two cameras outfitted with 12-megapixel sensors will increase the camera use surely. With iOS11, the augmented reality support is available which will virtually advance your phone for games and apps. But iPhone X became the apple of everyone’s eye.
For the first time, Apple’s used 5.8 inch OLED screen called a Super Retina display that covers the iPhone X edge-to-edge, to brighten the colors.
Also, the disappearance of home button makes the new iPhone absolutely new though the users will have to change their habits. Swiping up for multitasking and down for control options. Siri will respond you either by pressing long side button or by calling her out-“Hey Siri’.
Another unique feature is the FaceID. Your face replaces the finger scanner unlocking system. Apple guarantees that glasses, accessories, photographs, nothing can fool the high-end security system as it works by mapping 30,000 invisible dots to create a mathematical 3D model of you face. One can even animate the emojis by giving them voice and expressions through this FaceID technology.
Pre-booking for iPhone X starts on October 27, and it ships November 3.
Image Source: Reuters

The big joke – Indian Democracy

“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it” – George Orwell

Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, MM Kalburgi, Gauri Lankesh; they all spoke the truth and paid the price for it with their lives. Their only crime was to show the mirror to a society used to living in a system poisoned by caste divides, hate crimes and communal violence.

Gauri was a Kannada journalist known for fiercely voicing out her opinions against the increasing violence by the extremist Hindutva groups and overall majoritarianism practiced by the Hindu organisations in the country. Like Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi, Lankesh also never backed out of speaking up for the exploited and underprivileged sections of the society.

And then, this voice was silenced on September 5 when unknown assailants murdered the bold and courageous journalist in cold blood. Sadly, the list doesn’t end with Lankesh. At present, the Indian democracy is going through a crisis. The sole right to express dissent with the policies and ideologies of our political leaders is being snatched away from the common man.

Not only does criticism invite shaming and hatred from online bullies, things have gone as far as people simply being killed as if equality and freedom are just words meant to mock the largest democracy in the world.

But, it seems that the ones living in their high rise offices and travelling in their luxurious flights seem to have forgotten the power that lies with the Indian public. The massive outrage after Gauri’s death makes one believe that all is not lost yet; in-deed times have become dangerous for any voice that dares to disagree but these threats are only going to strengthen our resolve in protecting our country.

As long our people don’t let these threats silence our freedom and expression, they can’t take away the soul of our nation for which Gauri and many others laid their lives. Long Live Indian Democracy.

Source – The Guardian

Image Source – PTI


BRICS brings relief to Indo-Sino crisis

Asian geopolitics has been at the forefront in recent times with China and India being the major players in the space of negotiations. The two countries were a highlight of the recently held 9th BRICS Summit at Chinese coastal city of Xiamen between September 3 and 5.

The talks at Xiamen looked difficult due to the hostility that Beijing and New Delhi had shown in the backdrop of the Doklam standoff. However, August 26 marked a landmark date for the Asian giants as it put an official end to the two and a half months long standoff in Bhutan between the two countries. 70 days of the Indo-China crisis ended a week before the BRICS summit when the Asian powers decided to join hands in diplomatic talks to end the crisis. Negotiations yielded results when India withdrew its troops from the Doklam region of Bhutan and China and ceased its road building activities in the border.

Given the importance of the BRICS’ card for China, it was not surprising that Beijing pulled back its activities ahead of the summit. China has always been an active member of BRICS. Shanghai’s primary role in the New Development Bank could be one of the major reasons for explaining the steps taken by Beijing for participating in international dialogue. Additionally, overt international support for India from the USA, UK and Japan meant a common message for Beijing.

As far as the Indian narrative is concerned, she withdrew her forces after the Chinese side stopped the construction at the valley in Bhutan. However, if the activities resume, India has option to do the same. New Delhi took the decision after Beijing initiated negotiations to settle the dispute.  International support for India also paved the way for talks and negotiations and a stronghold in the global arena.

In the backdrop of the political crisis, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese premier Xi Jinping have agreed to bring in the spirit of the “Astana consensus” to which they had agreed upon earlier in June this year at the Kazakhstan capital. Upholding similar spirits at Xiamen, both countries have agreed to work towards consensus building in agreeing to prevent differences from turning into disputes.


Sources: Indian Express, Livemint


Humanity dies a merciless death in Myanmar

Over the last two weeks over 1,20,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh due to ongoing violence, which has included reports of mass killings, among other crimes.

The silence of leader and noble laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is deafening and nothing has been done much to alleviate the Rohingya’s from one of the most heinous human persecutions.

The Rohingya’s are classified as a stateless Muslim minority group who live primarily in the Rakhine state of Myanmar.

They are locally referred to as ‘Bengali’, implying they are foreigners to the land and aren’t acknowledged as citizens by the Myanmar government. However, the Rohingyas have lived in Myanmar for generations.

While the Rohingya crisis had been sparked off several years ago due to communal clashes between  Rakhine Buddhist and the Rohingya, since 2012 the situation has worsened and more so in the last couple of weeks.

The situation has been dubbed as “Genocide” by the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.”You watched the situation that Myanmar and Muslims are in. You saw how villages have been burned … Humanity remained silent to the massacre in Myanmar”, he added.

On Wednesday Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Myanmar over the mounting crisis and assured Aung San Suu Kyi India’s support to curb extremist violence and attacks on the security forces. However, Modi failed to speak about the persecution of the Muslim community altogether.

Suu Kyi, on the other hand, thanked India for taking a strong stand on the “terror threat” faced by her country.

Myanmar has also refused and blocked all help coming from the United Nations. Thousands of civilians are in desperate need of food, water, and medical aid and a thousand others have fled the country.

Most of the neighboring camps are full and cannot intake more refugees.

For the past week, UN has not visited or conducted any field work in the Rakhine area. This not only endangers the life of the Rohingya’s but also the Rakhine Buddhist residents as well.

The world community is growing concerned about the slow and merciless deaths the civilians are dying, while Aung San Suu Kyi sits put.

Today Bangladeshi police say a trawler carrying Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar has capsized in the Bay of Bengal, and an unknown number of people have drowned. More than 20 civilians are feared dead.

In the latest development, Myanmar government says that the insurgents who attacked 30 police personnel’s weeks ago demand a separate state from the Rakhine Buddhists. A group called Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army has taken responsibility for the attacks.

The situation is engorging into one of the goriest genocides we know of today. Unless the Myanmar government seeks the help of world communities, it won’t be long before the entire pocket of Rohingyas will be wiped off the face of the earth.

Sources: ReutersWashington Post

Image source: Mintpressnews