Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Global Madrasi Back in Action

Hi guys,

Missed you all—really! After two decades in Splendid Sharjah, it’s time to unravel Chennai and beyond. Prepare for a deep dive into the city's soul, unearthing human-interest tales, bustling business events, delightful encounters with fascinating personalities, and uncovering hidden gems you never knew existed. Fasten your seatbelts, we're about to embark on an unprecedented journey! Be it Chennai, Mumbai, Bengaluru, or any enchanting city, let's unravel their essence and delve into the heartbeat of these vibrant locales.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Recent Editorials

Here are some recent Editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today. (Posted for my records):
Protect planet or be ready to pay the price
Hundreds of thousands of young people taking to the streets across the globe sends a loud and clear message that decision-makers do not anymore have the luxury of dilly-dallying when it comes to taking effective measures against global warming.
The planet has been facing the heat, there is no planet B and the time is running out.
Global leaders gathering for a UN climate summit next week should take a serious note of the worldwide rallies and initiate measures to avert an environmental catastrophe.
The global climate strike on Friday kicked off in the Pacific islands — some of the nations most threatened by rising sea levels — and followed the rising sun through Australia, Japan, Southeast Asia and into Europe, Africa, Middle East and the Americas.
Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish activist who has inspired the movement, noted in a tweet the "huge crowd" in Sydney, which she said would set the standard for strikes and protests planned in about 150 countries.
The climate challenge comes on multiple fronts. Ocean heat hit a record high in 2018 raising concerns about the threat global warming poses to marine life.
The world has already witnessed temperature records smashed from Europe to the Arctic Circle. The last four years had been the hottest on record.
The first half of 2019 saw intense heat waves in Australia, India, Pakistan and parts of the Middle East, according to the World Meterological Organisation (WMO).
Soaring temperatures broke records in Germany, France, Britain and the Netherlands.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report spells out that by the end of the 21st century temperatures must not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius. Not enough is being done to achieve that.
Besides the heat waves in Europe, drought and storms in Africa, melting glaciers, bleaching corals, the Arctic ice melting are all indications of the danger lurking on the climate front.
Fortunately, there are also some positive signals. Some countries and leaders are showing willingness to address the issue.
The German government, for example, has presented a far-reaching 50 billion euro package of measures to curb carbon emissions, including a new carbon dioxide (CO2) pricing system and a higher air traffic tax.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has stated that the deal agreed by the country's governing parties after all-night talks represented a major boost for Germany's efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Europe's biggest economy aims to cut its emissions by 55% by 2030 compared with 1990 levels.
Separately, growth in the renewable electricity generation sector has returned to a double-digit pace thanks to a surge in the installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, as per the International Energy Agency.
The IEA expects renewable capacity additions to grow by almost 12 per cent this year, the fastest pace since 2015, to reach almost 200 gigawatts (GW), mostly thanks to solar PV and wind power.
Poland's President Andrzej Duda and first lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda joined school students in Poland's Puszcza Biala forest to pick up trash, saying the forest cleanup was a way to care for the environment.
Africa is the most vulnerable continent to climate change and the least equipped to deal with it.
The harmful effects of manmade climate change need to be tackled.
Climate action concerns each and every individual on the planet. It will be irresponsible on the part of the present generation to leave a much more inhospitable planet for the future generations to inherit.
Resurgence of measles a cause for concern
The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that measles cases are skyrocketing in Europe and the disease is surging in four countries previously considered to have eliminated it, including the UK, and this is a matter of huge concern.
Laxity cannot be an option and countries across the world need to step up vaccination efforts.
If high immunisation coverage is not achieved and sustained in every community, both children and adults will suffer unnecessarily and some will tragically die, as Günter Pfaff, Chair of the European Regional Verification Commission for Measles and Rubella Elimination (RVC) has cautioned.
As per WHO, there were 89,994 cases of measles in 48 European countries in the first six months of 2019, more than double the number in the same period in 2018 when there were 44,175 cases, and already more than the 84,462 cases reported for all of 2018.
Based on 2018 data, the disease is no longer considered eliminated in the UK, Greece, the Czech Republic and Albania.
Measles is considered eliminated when there is no endemic disease transmission for 12 months or more in a specific geographic area.
It should not be forgotten that measles is a highly contagious viral disease. It remains an important cause of death among young children globally, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine.
Measles is transmitted via droplets from the nose, mouth or throat of infected persons. Initial symptoms, which usually appear 10–12 days after infection, include high fever, a runny nose, bloodshot eyes, and tiny white spots on the inside of the mouth.
Several days later, a rash develops, starting on the face and upper neck and gradually spreading downwards.
Adding to the anxiety is the fact that measles is currently spreading in outbreaks in many parts of the world, including in the United States, the Philippines, Tunisia and Thailand. Tens of thousands of cases have been reported in Africa. Ukraine alone has had more than 30,000 cases.
The UK reported 953 cases in 2018 and 489 for the first six months of 2019. In the same periods Greece reported 2,193 and 28 cases, Albania 1,466 and 475, and the Czech Republic 217 and 569.
Some 60 per cent of patients in Europe in the first half of 2019 were under the age of 19.
Between 2010 and 2017, an average of 21.1 million children missed their first dose of the measles vaccine, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) had indicated earlier.
Widening pockets of unvaccinated children have created a pathway to the measles outbreaks currently spreading around the world.
The growing so-called anti-vax movement in richer nations is also being cited as a major reason for the resurgence of the once-eradicated disease. This needs to be effectively countered.
The movement — driven by fraudulent claims linking the MMR vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella, to a risk of autism in children — has increasingly gained traction.
Social media has compounded the problems in this case. The anti-vax phenomenon has adherents across Western countries but is said to be particularly high profile in the US.
Prevention is any time better than cure.
As well stated earlier by Henrietta Fore, Unicef Executive Director, the measles virus will always find unvaccinated children. If we are serious about averting the spread of this dangerous but preventable disease, we need to vaccinate every child, in rich and poor countries alike.
Better strategy needed to curb suicides
Nearly 800,000 people commit suicide each year — more than those killed by war and homicide or breast cancer — according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and it is a clear indication that a concerted, swift global action is essential to avert the avoidable tragedies.
The UN health agency’s assertion that the global suicide rate had fallen somewhat between 2010 and 2016 offers little consolation, as the number of deaths has remained stable because of a growing global population.
It is tragic that despite progress, one person still dies every 40 seconds from suicide. As WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus points out, every death is a tragedy for family, friends and colleagues.
The global suicide rate in 2016 -- the last year for which data was available — stood at 10.5 per 100,000 people.
Since WHO’s first report on the issue was filed in 2014, the number of countries with national suicide prevention strategies has increased, and now stands at 38. However, this participation is still far too few and governments need to commit to establishing them.
Distressingly, for every suicide there are many more people who attempt suicide every year. A prior suicide attempt is said to be the single most important risk factor for suicide in the general population.
Stigma, particularly surrounding mental disorders and suicide, means many people thinking of taking their own life or who have attempted suicide are not seeking help and are therefore not getting the help they need.
The prevention of suicide has not been adequately addressed due to a lack of awareness of suicide as a major public health problem and the taboo in many societies to openly discuss it.
Early identification and management of mental and substance use disorders in communities and by health workers in particular will go a long way in tackling the serious problem.
Available data reflects the global trend. The most common methods of suicide are hanging, gunshots and — especially in rural areas — the ingestion of poisonous pesticides.
Most suicides happen in low- and middle-income countries, where most of the global population lives, but rates are higher in wealthier countries.
After Guyana, Russia registered the world's second-highest rate, with 26.5 suicides per 100,000 people.
Also figuring high on the list were Lithuania, Lesotho, Uganda, Sri Lanka, South Korea, India and Japan, as well as the United States, which registered 13.7 suicides per 100,000 people.
It is also sad to note that young people are especially vulnerable: More than half of all those who commit suicide are under the age of 45.
Limiting access to pesticides can be hugely helpful. As per the WHO report, in Sri Lanka, regulations and bans on pesticides led to a 70 per cent fall in suicides between 1995 and 2015, resulting in 93,000 lives saved.
WHO rightly recognises suicide as a public health priority. As experts emphasise, though suicide is a serious public health problem, they are preventable with timely, evidence-based and often low-cost interventions. For national responses to be effective, a comprehensive multi-sectoral suicide prevention strategy is needed.
In addition to limiting access to means of suicide, experts suggest that other effective measures to reduce deaths include responsible reporting of suicide in the media, such as avoiding language that sensationalises suicide and avoiding explicit description of methods used.
Raising community awareness and breaking down the taboo is important for countries to make progress in preventing suicide.
Political solution best option for Syria
The long-sought agreement reached by the United Nations on the composition of a committee to draft a new constitution for Syria is a positive development.
The Syrian people have suffered for too long. Since the conflict erupted in 2011, more than 400,000 people have been killed and over 11 million forced to flee their homes. The country has witnessed unprecedented devastation and displacement.
The worst affected have been children. In 2018 alone, 1,106 children were said to have been killed in fighting in the country – the highest ever number of children killed in a single year since the start of the war.
This important step on the constitution panel can help the country leave the conflict behind and look forward to a new path of peace and progress.
Billions of dollars in US and European reconstruction aid are conditioned on the government taking concrete steps towards a political settlement.
When at a Russian-hosted Syrian peace conference in January 2018 an agreement was reached to form a 150-member committee to draft a new constitution, it was looked at as a key step towards elections and a political settlement to the Syrian conflict.
The task has not been easy.
There was an early agreement on 50-member lists from the Syrian government and the opposition. But it has taken nearly 20 months to agree on the list the United Nations was authorised to put together representing experts, independents, tribal leaders and women.
It is a moral obligation for the international community to support Syrians to unite around a vision that addresses the root causes of the conflict and forges a negotiated political solution.
In July, Senior Humanitarian Adviser to the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Najat Rochdi, revealed that an estimated 11.7 million people across Syria needed humanitarian assistance, five million of which were in acute need.
The UAE, on its part, has spared no efforts to contribute to international endeavours aimed at alleviating the suffering of the people of Syria.
Delivering the UAE's statement before the UNHRC as part of the interactive dialogue held by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, Jamal Azzam, of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, clearly expressed the UAE's appreciation of the efforts played by the Commission to brief the members on the latest developments in the war-ravaged country in line with UNHRC Resolution 40/17.
Azzam underlined the UAE's appreciation of the efforts made by Geir O. Pedersen, Special Envoy of UN Secretary-General for Syria, and his efforts to effect a comprehensive truce in accordance with UNSC Resolution No. 2254 and to revive political efforts, including the formation of a constitutional committee.
He rightly called on the international community to continue efforts in support of the brotherly people of Syria to ensure affected populations' access to assistance and services.
Since 2012, the UAE has spent as much as $1.01 billion in humanitarian and developmental aid for Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Greece as well as on the internally displaced people. Part of the aid has been allocated to financing projects in areas of public health, development and drinking water.
As Azzam pointed out, the re-opening the UAE embassy in Damascus goes in line with the Emirati call for activating the Arab role in the current developments in Syria.
The move also fits within the UAE's keenness to invigorate the joint Arab action in a way that supports pan-Arab interest.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Recent Editorials

Here are some recent Editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today. (Posted for my records):
World should not ignore recession signals
A German GDP contraction, weak Chinese industrial output and an inversion of the US yield curve all seem to strengthen fears of a global slowdown and the world community needs to take a serious note of it.
Also highlighting the seriousness of the issue is the fact that stock markets on both sides of the Atlantic witnessed hefty losses on Wednesday.
The US Treasury yield curve inverted for the first time since 2007. A curve inversion, when short-dated bond yields are higher more than their longer-dated counterparts, is seen as a reliable warning for an impending recession.
The US curve has inverted before each recession in the past 50 years. It offered a false signal just once in that time.
The glaring signal of impending trouble has come from Germany where the economy shrank by 0.1 per cent in the second quarter as troubles in the auto industry held back the largest member of the 19-country Euro currency union.
The weak performance has darkened prospects for the entire Euro zone, where the European Central Bank is poised to add more monetary stimulus at its next meeting.
It has also raised the possibility that Germany could enter a technical recession by posting another consecutive quarter of falling output.
Germany's economy is facing headwinds as its auto industry, a key employer and pillar of growth, faces challenges adjusting to tougher emissions standards in Europe and China and to technological change.
Uncertainty over the terms of Britain's planned exit from the European Union has also weighed on confidence more generally.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has declared that his country will leave the EU on Oct. 31, with or without a divorce deal.
The euro zone's GDP barely grew in the second quarter of 2019 as economies across the bloc lost steam.
On Tuesday, the dollar gained dramatically against the yen after US President Donald Trump backed off his Sept.1 deadline for imposing 10% tariffs on remaining Chinese imports, delaying duties on cellphones, laptops and other consumer goods.
Those gains were reversed overnight, however, as scepticism about the progress began to weigh.
Singapore has already slashed its full-year economic growth forecast. The government cut its forecast range for gross domestic product (GDP) in Singapore — often seen as a bellwether for global growth because international trade dwarfs its domestic economy - to zero to 1% from its previous 1.5%-2.5% projection.
Just recently, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had indicated that global trade expanded by merely 0.5% in the first quarter of 2019, marking the slowest year-on-year pace of growth since 2012.
It had also signaled that a more significant slowdown is possible.
IMF Chief Economist Gita Gopinath stated that she saw significant downside risks for global growth going forward, including escalating trade wars.
With the IMF lowering its forecast for global growth this year and the next, the world community should address more seriously prevailing concerns caused by factors such as additional US-China tariffs, technology tensions and a disorderly Brexit.
More and more businesses are worried globally about the effect of increasing protectionism on exports and production. The deterioration in the global outlook has pushed central banks to cut interest rates and consider unconventional stimulus to shield their economies.
In a hugely knitted world, coordinated actions suit best. Economic uncertainty can add to social unrest and hence the world community needs to wake up and act, before it is too late.

Kabul wedding attack a monstrous act
The terrorist attack that targeted a wedding in the Afghan capital, Kabul, is a cowardly, monstrous act that turned a scene of joy and celebration into horror and carnage.
The perpetrators of the crime against humanity should be swiftly brought to justice.
Imagine the plight of a groom who greets smiling guests in the afternoon, before seeing their bodies being carried out just a few hours later. Targeting helpless civilians, including the elderly, women and children, reveals the depraved mindset of the killers.
The massive blast, which claimed several innocent lives, underscores both the inadequacy of Afghanistan's security forces and the scale of the problem they face as Washington and the Taliban finalise a deal to reduce the US military presence in Afghanistan.
The conflict in Afghanistan continues to be devastating for civilians.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has in its latest report stated that more civilians were killed by Afghan and international coalition forces in the first half of this year than by the Taliban and other militants, which they should take a serious note of.
At least 3,812 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first half of 2019 in the war against militant groups, including a big increase in the number of casualties caused by government and foreign forces.
The fighting has been forcing civilians to live under the constant threat of being targeted by militants or being caught up in ground fighting, or becoming inadvertent victims of air strikes by Afghan government and foreign forces.
More than 32,000 civilians in Afghanistan have been killed in the past decade, as per UN figures. More children were killed last year — 927 — than in any other over the past decade by all actors.
Meaningless violence has become a norm in the country and the situation cannot be allowed to continue.
On Monday, scores of people including children were wounded after a series of explosions shook the eastern city of Jalalabad, as the country's independence day was marred by bloodshed.
As many as 10 blasts were reported in and around the city in Nangarhar province and the casualty numbers rose as the day wore on.
Mayhem from Afghanistan's war continues to wreak havoc on Afghans every day.
An attack deliberately targeting civilians is an outrage, and deeply troubling, as it can only be described as a cowardly act of terror, as stated by Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.
Such deliberate attacks on civilians signal a deliberate intent to spread fear among the population, which has already suffered too much.
The pace of such atrocious attacks indicates that current measures in place to protect must be strengthened and those who organised such attacks must be brought to justice and held to account.
The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, MoFAIC, has condemned in the strongest terms the terrorist attack and reaffirmed its support to the Afghan government as it confronts the menace of terrorism.
As the ministry correctly pointed out, this cowardly attack claimed by Daesh on a civilian gathering is a solemn reminder of the complex challenges faced by the Afghan government as it works to enter a new phase of stability and security.
This unacceptable loss of life definitely underlines the importance of multilateral efforts to promote a comprehensive peace agreement that will degrade the ability of transnational terror groups to operate in Afghanistan, as the UAE foreign ministry pointed out.

UAE remains a beacon of hope for youth
The youth are the cornerstone of any development plan and their active contribution is not only necessary but also integral to the development process.
As countries across the globe marked the International Youth Day on Tuesday, the UAE stood out as a model nation because it has always made youth the focus of its attention in almost every aspect of its policy for the future.
Since the establishment of the UAE in 1971, the country has adopted clear national policy and strategic plans to empower the youth and develop their capabilities.
The Cabinet formed in February 2016 was called "Cabinet of Future" for including eight young new ministers, whose average age was 38, including Shamma Bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth Affairs, who assumed the post at the age of 22 to be the youngest minister in the world.
Saeed Saleh Al Rumaithi became a member of the Federal National Council, FNC, at the age of 31 to be the youngest member in the FNC's history.
In 2016, the Cabinet adopted the establishment of the Emirates Youth Council, under the leadership of Shamma Bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth Affairs.
The council undertakes various important tasks, including developing a youth work system in the UAE, setting and mapping out strategies and policies for young people in line with the UAE’s future approaches.
It also identifies challenges faced by the youth in various sectors and proposes solutions to overcome them.
The council’s tasks also include proposing necessary solutions to ensure the positive participation of young people in society across various sectors.
Besides, the UAE Cabinet has approved the formation of the Federal Youth Authority to encourage young people to get involved in key sectors of the economy.
It is responsible for coordinating with local youth councils with the aim of setting an annual agenda for youth activities in the country and ensuring that the objectives, plans, strategies and activities of these councils are in line with the general plans of the country in this regard.
For several years consistently, most Arab youth from the region have named the UAE as the country in which they would like to live and work.
At the international level, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has rightly stated that schools are “not equipping young people with the skills they need to navigate the technological revolution.”
Transforming Education is the theme for this year, which comes at a time when the world is facing a “learning crisis,” as per Guterres, and students need not only to learn, “but to learn how to learn”.
UN statistics reveals that significant transformations are still required to make education systems more inclusive and accessible: only 10% of people have completed upper secondary education in low income countries; 40 % of the global population is not taught in a language they speak or fully understand; and over 75 % of secondary school age refugees are out of school.
Education today should combine knowledge, life skills and critical thinking, as Guterres points out. It should include information on sustainability and climate change. And it should advance gender equality, human rights and a culture of peace.
The future-focused vision of the UAE leadership has been paying rich dividends. The UAE is indeed a beacon of hope and a model nation for young people, and for all the right reasons.

N-treaty collapse makes world less safer
The collapse of the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty between the United States and Russia has fuelled fears of a new arms race and made the world a more dangerous place to live in.
It is hugely disappointing that the two major powers, instead of resolving their differences through sincere dialogue, chose a path that puts the entire world at risk.
The Intermediate-Range nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), negotiated by then US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, had a noble goal of eliminating land-based short-range and intermediate-range nuclear and conventional missiles by both countries.
Under the deal, missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers were eliminated. That paved the way for the mothballing of Russian SS-20 missiles and American Pershing missiles deployed in Europe.
For years, Washington has accused Russia of developing a new type of missile, the 9M729, which it says violates the treaty — claims that NATO has backed up.
The missile has a range of about 1,500 kilometres, according to NATO, though Moscow says it can only travel 480 kilometres.
Nuclear weapons are the most dangerous enemies of humanity. Nuke weapons have the potential to destroy an entire city killing millions, cause inconceivable damage to environment and ruin the lives of future generations with long-term catastrophic effects.
The blame game has begun too.
Washington has placed the responsibility firmly on Moscow over the demise of the treaty with  President Donald Trump insisting any new disarmament pact would now also need China to come on board.
Russia, on its part, has accused the US of making a "serious mistake" in turning its back on the INF, which the United Nations said had played a pivotal role in maintaining peace and stability for more than three decades.
"Russia is solely responsible for the treaty's demise," US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement confirming Washington's formal withdrawal, minutes after Russia also pronounced the agreement void.
Russia's suggestion of a moratorium was also swiftly rebuffed by NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg as not credible while saying the 29-country transatlantic alliance did not want to see a renewed battle for military supremacy.
In another worrisome development, Trump's new defence secretary Mark Esper has declared that the US has already begun work to develop mobile, conventional, ground-launched cruise and ballistic missile systems.
The INF pact had been widely proclaimed as a beacon of hope.
As UN Secretary-General António Guterres points out, in the current deteriorating international security environment, previously-agreed arms control and disarmament agreements are increasingly under threat.
Since its entry-into-force on June 1, 1988, the Cold War-era arms control contributed tangibly to the maintenance of peace and stability internationally and especially in Europe, playing an important role in reducing risk, building confidence and helping to bring the Cold War to an end.
There is no alternative to dialogue on nuclear arms control. Risk-reduction measures, including transparency in nuclear-weapon programmes and further cut in all types of nuclear weapons is the best way forward. For that, leaders need to keep the dialogue process alive.
Guterres is correct in insisting on the need to avoid destabilising developments and to urgently seek agreement on a new common path for international arms control.
Russia and the US should extend New START and undertake negotiations on further arms control measures.
That’s the best option and any other path could prove disastrous.
A world free of nuclear weapons should be the common goal.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Recent Editorials

Here are some recent Editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today. (Posted for my records):
Climate change naysayers better wake up
Merely halfway through 2019, the world has already witnessed temperature records smashed from Europe to the Arctic Circle and the year could prove to be one of the hottest ever recorded.
This June was the hottest on record, beating out June 2016 — so far the hottest year ever.
The first half of 2019 also saw intense heat waves in Australia, India, Pakistan and parts of the Middle East, according to the World Meterological Organisation (WMO).
Soaring temperatures broke records in Germany, France, Britain and the Netherlands last week as a heat wave gripped Europe for the second time in a month and this should definitely be seen as a wake-up for action against climate change.
As a cauldron of hot air from the Sahara desert moved across the continent, drawn northwards by high pressure, Paris saw its highest temperature since records began and Britain reported its hottest weather for the month of July.
An all-time high was measured in Germany for a second day running, at 41.5 degrees Celsius in the northwestern town of Lingen on Thursday.
The impact was harsh and residents were forced to face the brutal impact of the heat wave.
The abnormal conditions even brought a reduction in French and German nuclear power output, disrupted rail travel in parts of Britain and sent some Europeans, not habitual users of air conditioning in their homes, out to the shops in search of fans.
Health authorities were forced to issue warnings to the elderly, especially vulnerable to spikes in temperature.
The seriousness of the situation could also be gauged by the warning issued by the United Nations that the hot air which smashed European weather records this week looks set to move towards Greenland and could cause record melting of the world's second largest ice sheet.
As per Clare Nullis, spokeswoman for the UN WMO, the hot air moving up from North Africa had not merely broken European temperature records but surpassed them by 2, 3 or 4 degrees Celsius, which she has described as "absolutely incredible."
Three papers released this week showed that Earth's temperature was currently warming at a rate and uniformity unparallelled in the past 2,000 years.
There are enough alarm bells ringing over climate change. The heat waves in Europe, drought and storms in Africa, melting glaciers, bleaching corals, the Arctic ice melting — do we need to add more?
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report spells out that by the end of the 21st century temperatures must not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius. Unfortunately, not enough is being done to achieve that.
The challenge comes on multiple fronts. Ocean heat also hit a record high in 2018 raising urgent new concerns about the threat global warming is posing to marine life.
Scientists have repeatedly linked intense heat waves to manmade climate change and indications on the ground are substantiating their arguments.
The sequence is alarming. The last four years are the hottest on record. Last year was fourth on the list, with an average surface temperature of 1°C above pre-industrial levels. The year 2016 still holds the crown as the hottest year in human history — 1.2C above average.
There is a need for everyone to unite, connect to nature and stand together for the planet.
The planet is heating up fast, and if the counter-measures are not equally swift, the repercussions could be unimaginable.
Slow global growth calls for fast remedy
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has indicated that global trade expanded by merely 0.5% in the first quarter of 2019, marking the slowest year-on-year pace of growth since 2012.
This certainly comes as disturbing news as there are also signals that a more significant slowdown is possible.
With the IMF lowering its forecast for global growth this year and the next, the world community should take a more serious note of the issue and address prevailing concerns caused by factors such as additional US-China tariffs, technology tensions and a disorderly Brexit.
These could compound problems by further slowing growth, weakening investment and disrupting supply chains.
IMF Chief Economist Gita Gopinath has indicated that she does not see signs of a recession, but does see significant downside risks for global growth going forward, including escalating trade wars.
The negative consequences of policy uncertainty are visible in the diverging trends between the manufacturing and services sector, and the significant weakness in global trade.
Manufacturing purchasing manager indices continue to decline alongside worsening business sentiment as businesses hold off on investment in the face of high uncertainty.
Euro zone business growth was weaker than expected in July, hampered by a deepening contraction in manufacturing.
A recession in Germany's manufacturing sector worsened in July while French business growth also slowed unexpectedly in the month.
Amid the worrisome trend, the positive development is that the US and Chinese negotiators are expected to restart trade negotiations in Shanghai on July 30, aimed at improving the trade relationship between the world's two largest economies,
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will lead the American team, while Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will lead negotiations for China, as per a White House statement.
The discussions are likely to cover a range of issues, including intellectual property, forced technology transfer, non-tariff barriers, agriculture, services, the trade deficit, and enforcement.
Protectionist and unilateral approaches on trade are not the best way forward and only tend to fuel fear among investors.
In a highly connected world, moving further away from an open, fair and rules-based trade system cannot be termed sensible.
Economic issues can have a direct impact on lives of people across the globe and could even lead to social and health problems in the form of joblessness and depression.
It is hence necessary that the international community take remedial measures swiftly before things get out of hand. 
The global economy clearly remains at a delicate juncture and it would be pertinent to adopt policies to support growth, as suggested by IMF officials.
Monetary policy should remain accommodative especially where inflation is softening below target. But it needs to be accompanied by sound trade policies that would lift the outlook and reduce downside risks. With persistently low interest rates, macroprudential tools should be deployed to ensure that financial risks do not build up.
Fiscal policy should balance growth, equity, and sustainability concerns, including protecting society’s most vulnerable.
The need for greater global cooperation is urgent. In addition to resolving trade and technology tensions, countries should work together to address issues such as climate change, international taxation, corruption, cybersecurity and the challenges of emerging digital payment technologies.
Primarily, tariffs should not be used to target bilateral trade balances or as a general-purpose tool to tackle international disagreements.
Instead, the rules-based multilateral trading system should be strengthened to encompass areas such as digital services, subsidies and technology transfer.
India’s moon mission a victory for science
As India’s rocket soared on a historic attempt to put a landing craft on the surface of the moon, so did the joy of millions of Indians across the globe.
The thrill of the take-off drowned the dejection of the halting of the initial launch of Chandrayaan-2 (Moon Chariot 2) a week earlier.
This is India’s most ambitious mission yet in an effort to establish itself as a low-cost space power and become only the 4th nation to soft-land on the moon, thereby joining an elite space force.
The new mission comes almost 11 years after the launch of India's first lunar mission — Chandrayaan-1 — which orbited the moon and searched for water.
China, Russia and the United States are the only other nations to have sent missions to the moon.
If successful, $146-million mission will allow Indian scientists to carry out studies regarding the presence of water at the moon's south pole, unexplored by any other nation before.
Incidentally, the United States — which is marking the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong becoming the first human on the moon — spent the equivalent of more than $100 billion on its Apollo missions.
Nonetheless, the Chandrayaan-2 task has just begun and the path to success is laden with huge challenges. A total number of 38 soft landing attempts have been made so far. The success rate is 52 per cent.
It may be recalled that earlier this year, Israel's first moon mission crash-landed while attempting to touch down.
"Today is a historic day for space, science and tech in India," Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chief K. Sivan stated as he hailed the efforts made to fix a fuel leak that forced the earlier launch to be postponed.
But Sivan has also made it clear that the mission's next stage would be critical to its success, with scientists set to conduct some 15 crucial manoeuvres of Chandrayaan-2 over the next month-and-a-half to position it around the moon.
In his own words: "After that, D-day will come — and that day we are going to experience 15 minutes of terror to ensure that the landing is safe."
The 2.4-tonne orbiter is expected to circle the moon for about a year, taking images of the surface, looking for signs of water, and studying the atmosphere.
ISRO scientists will remotely control the rover named Pragyaan — "wisdom" in Sanskrit — as it carries out experiments. It will work for one lunar day, the equivalent of 14 Earth days, studying rocks and soil on the moon's surface.
The country’s space ambitions have been soaring. India's 2019/20 budget for space research stood at Rs124.7 billion ($1.81 billion), rising by some 75% since 2014.
In March this year, India shot down one of its own satellites to demonstrate its anti-satellite weapon capabilities.
India also put a satellite into orbit around Mars in the nation's first interplanetary mission in 2013 and 2014.
India has also announced plans for a manned space mission with a targeted flight in December 2021, besides proposing missions to study Venus and the sun.
Besides, India puts into orbit foreign satellites for a fee using its PSLV rocket. Revenue for launching satellites depends on the weight of the satellite — higher the weight, higher the revenue.
Any development in science and technology will at the end of the day benefit entire humanity. India does deserve a pat for the tireless efforts to fulfill its space ambitions.
Continuing turmoil taking toll on HK
Hong Kong has for long been seen as one of the safest cities in the world, but its recent troubles in the form of protests show no sign of abating and that’s a huge cause for worry.
The demonstrators are seeking direct elections for the semi-autonomous Chinese territory's leader, the resignation of the current leader and an investigation into police use of force to quell earlier protests.
An unrelenting administration has refused to heed such calls and the situation only seems to be worsening with each passing week.
Semi-autonomous Hong Kong has been plunged into its worst crisis in recent history after millions of demonstrators took to the streets and sporadic violent confrontations erupted between police and pockets of hardcore protesters.
The demonstrations over the last few weeks were triggered by a controversial bill which would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, but have evolved into a call for wider democratic reforms and a halt to sliding freedoms.
The unprecedented protests with huge turnouts, as well as frequent clashes and the sacking of parliament, have had little luck persuading Beijing or Hong Kong's leaders.
City leader Carrie Lam has also shown no sign of backing down beyond agreeing to suspend the extradition bill.
Her administration has faced down weeks of public anger and she has made few public appearances beyond visiting injured officers and holding a handful of press conferences.
The disappearance into mainland custody of dissident booksellers, the disqualification of prominent politicians, the de facto expulsion of a foreign journalist and the jailing of democracy protest leaders are among several issues that have sparked anxiety.
The deteriorating situation could be gauged by the fact that police fired tear gas at protesters for the second night in a row on Sunday.
Chaotic scenes filled several blocks in the western part of Hong Kong on Sunday night as police pushed protesters away from the Chinese government's liaison office and a police station.
The situation reached such a stage where the police appealed to people to stay indoors with their windows shut as officers use tear gas to try to drive protesters from the streets.
Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula that guarantees its people freedoms for 50 years that are not enjoyed in mainland China, including the liberty to protest and an independent judiciary.
Beijing vehemently denies interfering in Hong Kong affairs, but many residents worry about what they see as an erosion of freedoms and a relentless march towards mainland control.
Last Sunday, protesters took police by surprise with a swoop on the Liaison Office, scrawling graffiti and throwing paint bombs at walls, the national emblem and a plaque.
Chinese officials have described the vandalism as an attack on China's sovereignty which would not be tolerated.
Anger against police is also too evident. Many of the marchers chanted slogans against the police. Some held up banners reading: "We rise as one, we fight as one" and "Stop violence."
Adding to fears is the fact that the protesters appear to be getting more organised and willing to use violence to achieve their aims.
Continuing turbulence is not good for Hong Kong. It is unfortunate that the city's leadership seems unable or reluctant to end the chaos. The level of public anger and frustration is visibly high. The administration should do its best to address all genuine grievances of the protesters.