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Why Lakshadweep’s New ‘Reforms’ May Enable Autocracy

Why Lakshadweep’s New ‘Reforms’ May Enable ‘Autocratic’ Rule

An insidious attempt to invest autocratic powers in the UT’s administration has begun to take root: Shashi Tharoor

Published: 

OPINION

4 min read
Image of Dr Shashi Tharoor (R) and Lakshadweep Administrator Praful Patel (L), against a background of an island in the Lakshadweep used for representation.
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On a February evening in New Delhi, Hamdullah Sayeed, a former parliamentary colleague and the current chief of the Lakshadweep Pradesh Congress Committee, called on me with a disturbing petition. Widespread distress was mounting in the idyllic and peaceful islands of Lakshadweep. An insidious attempt to invest autocratic powers in the Union Territory’s administration had begun to take root.

The growing fears of the islanders have come to a head this week, with thousands of residents — joined by their concerned fellow-citizens from the mainland, including Opposition politicians and celebrities — protesting the gross overreach of the union government through their appointee, Praful Khoda Patel, as Administrator of Lakshadweep since December 2020.

Praful Patel as an ‘Autocratic Ruler’ — and the Resentment of the Islanders

The resentment on the island is primarily directed at the new Draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021 (LDAR), which will vest in the Administrator of the islands sweeping powers over land appropriation under the guise of ‘development’. These include, among others, the power to remove or relocate residents of the islands if they come in the way of any planned development projects, and to unilaterally take over their land for projects for which no legal challenges will be permitted following its approval by the administration. Violations to decrees stipulated within the regulation could leave residents facing either life imprisonment or a fine of Rs 5 lakhs, a brazen effort to discourage even the mildest of protests.

Environmentalists and local residents have also decried the definition of ‘development’ used in the draft, particularly the list of activities such as mining and creation of highways, that are being proposed for the ecologically fragile island.

While the regulation would effectively convert Mr Patel’s role to an autocratic ruler who can dictate and manipulate the lives of the islanders with no checks and balances, the LDAR, is only a recent addition to a growing list of questionable actions that ultimately seeks to centralise control on the island. His controversial tenure began with his own unorthodox appointment: the office of the Administrator has been traditionally held by a civil servant, whereas Patel is a former BJP functionary who served as Home Minister during PM Narendra Modi’s tenure as CM of Gujarat.

Soon, his unilateral decree changing quarantine norms resulted in a rampant rise in coronavirus cases (from 0 in 2020, to 6,611 and 24 deaths as of last Sunday) that submerged the meagre healthcare resources of an island territory that has a population of 70,000.

Praful Patel’s Questionable Actions Which Invited Flak

The Administrator’s other actions have invited universal condemnation. He has capped his trouble-making with a Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation, to “stop the sale, consumption, storage and transport of beef,” with penalties commencing with a minimum jail period of seven years, in a territory that is 99 percent Muslim! He further seeks to disallow any candidate to contest panchayat elections if they have two or more children. He has endangered the livelihood of the fishing community by removing their temporary huts, sheds, boats, net-drying facilities and storage spaces—citing violation of coastal zone rules. And his Goonda Act (‘Lakshadweep Prevention of Anti-Social Activities’ Regulation) outlaws democratic dissent, curbs freedom of expression and allows the state to unilaterally detain a person without offering a public reason for up to a year in the name of law and order — in a territory that regularly registers the lowest crime rates in the country.

Put together, one could be forgiven for reading these laws as legislation for a war-torn region facing significant civilian strife, rather than laws meant for an idyllic archipelago filled with abundant natural beauty and peace-loving fellow citizens of India.

An Ongoing Siege on Our Democratic Foundations

To be fair, this is merely yet another reminder of the perverse and autocratic mindset of those in power in our country. The manner in which these far-reaching changes have been imposed under the cover of the pandemic, with few institutional checks and riding roughshod over federalism, is theatre we have seen before. As I said on Twitter: “You’d think the BJP would finish destroying what they won electorally first, before moving on to destroy places they have no presence in. But it seems their motto is, if it ain’t broke, break it.”

A peaceful, calm territory is being torn asunder for petty political ends.

The victims of the ruling dispensation’s rampant centralisation of power and autocratic tendencies are the people of India, who have suffered untold horrors as a result of the misgovernance that has arisen from the ongoing siege on our democratic foundations. As the movie star Prithviraj Sukumaran rightly pointed out in a widely shared post, “… any law, reform, or amendment should never be for the land, but for the people of the land. It is never the geographical or political boundary that makes a country, state, or a union territory but the people who live there.”

The people of Lakshadweep have spoken clearly and in one voice. It is time for the government to wake up or for the courts to intervene. We risk destroying a peaceful part of the country where peace and communal harmony reigned undisturbed. It is time to stop the rot.

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(Dr Shashi Tharoor is a third-term MP for Thiruvananthapuram and award-winning author of 22 books, most recently ‘The Battle of Belonging’(Aleph). He tweets @ShashiTharoor. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed are the author’s own.

Why Lakshadweep administrator Praful Patel is target of public outcry

Mismanaging COVID, anti-culture reforms: Why Lakshadweep administrator Praful Patel is target of public outcry

 
Times Now Digital

Updated May 26, 2021 | 11:52 IST

Patel has drafted a series of reforms that have caused widespread resentment among the islands’ constituents.

 
The idyllic islands of Lakshadweep.

The idyllic islands of Lakshadweep.  |  Photo Credit: Twitter

KEY HIGHLIGHTS

  • At the heart of this resentment is the new Draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021 (LDAR) which, observers note, grants the administrator sweeping powers relating to land appropriation
  • Then there is the draft Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation 2021 – which will, reportedly, outrightly ban the slaughter of cows, bulls and bullocks – a violation of which could attract a penalty of seven years in prison
  • The Goonda Act (Lakshadweep Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation), observers note, may also allow authorities to unilaterally detain protestors without offering a reason for up to a year, while also curbing freedom of expression

The idyllic islands that make up Lakshadweep, home to roughly 70,000 residents who take deep pride in maintaining their culture, have threatened to become a theatre of conflict borne out of a sweeping set of reforms, allegedly enforced unilaterally, by its administrator, Praful Khoda Patel.

Patel, a former MLA from Gujarat who also served as Home Minister in the northern state during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tenure as its chief minister, took charge as administrator of Lakshadweep in December 2020, following the passing of his predecessor Dineshwar Sharma.

Since then, Patel has drafted a series of reforms that have caused widespread resentment among the islands’ constituents who claim they jeopardise the ecologically fragile constitution of the territory while destroying the unique cultural fabric that Lakshadweep has come to be known for.

Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021

At the heart of this resentment is the new Draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021 (LDAR) which, observers note, grants the administrator sweeping powers relating to land appropriation under a contentious definition of ‘development.’ 

Once in effect, it would permit the “orderly and progressive development of land in both urban and rural areas and to preserve and improve the amenities thereof; for the grant of permission to develop land and for the other powers of control over the use of land; to confer additional powers in respect of the acquisition and development of land for planning.” 

Critics of the draft legislation have claimed that it would allow for unrestricted building, mining and quarrying on sensitive island territory. The law also vests into the administrator, the authority to earmark special zones for residential, industrial and commercial use – a move that residents fear will lead to forced eviction or ceding possession of land to the Planning and Developing Authority without any room for legal recourse. 

Patel has allegedly already issued orders to raze houses to supposedly, widen roads – something that has puzzled residents of a community that boasts hardly any vehicles, most of which are two-wheelers. 

RELATED NEWS
 

 

Other controversial reforms

Then there is the draft Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation 2021 – which will, reportedly, outrightly ban the slaughter of cows, bulls and bullocks – a violation of which could attract a penalty of seven years in prison. It is worth noting that over 99 per cent of Lakshadweep’s population is Muslim. 

Patel’s proposition to ban non-veg in schoolchildren’s midday meals has also been repudiated by the island’s residents, many of whom claim that the lack of fresh vegetable supplies from the mainland necessitates the consumption of non-vegetarian food. His relaxation of alcohol licensing, supposedly to spur tourism, has also drawn the ire of local communities. 

Another one of Patel’s troublesome proposals involves banning candidates with two or more children to participate in panchayat elections. Many have claimed that the law amounts to gross political overreach with the administrator blatantly seeking to weaken prominent members of the opposition. 

The Goonda Act (Lakshadweep Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation), observers note, may also allow authorities to unilaterally detain protestors without offering a reason for up to a year, while also curbing freedom of expression. Lakshadweep, it is worth noting, has one of the lowest crime rates in the country. Patel, it is alleged, has also already destroyed temporary sheds and net-drying facilities of the local fishing community citing violations of the Coast Guard Act. 

These moves, his critics have pointed out, have all arrived following a change in COVID-19 management protocols on the island that has backfired hugely. Lakshadweep, until January 2020, had been one of the few safe havens in the country, having failed to register even a single COVID-19 case. 

A 14-day quarantine period, seven days of which were to be spent in Kochi, was believed to be key to Lakshadweep’s success. However, a change in SOP, that waived the quarantine period and now only requires travellers to present a negative RT-PCR test, has seen cases in the island territory swell remarkably, with some noting that the positivity rate could now be beyond 60 per cent. 

#SaveLakshadweep #BoycottAmul
ജനങ്ങളുടെ വരുമാനം മാർഗ്ഗം ഇല്ലാതാക്കിയും പാൽ ഉത്പാദനം നിർത്തലാക്കിയും ലക്ഷദ്വീപിൽ വിറ്റഴിക്കാൻ ഒരുങ്ങുന്ന അമൂൽ ഉത്പന്നങ്ങൾ ബഹിഷ്കരിക്കാനാണ് ദ്വീപ് നിവാസികളുടെ തീരുമാനം. അവരോടൊപ്പം ഐക്യപ്പെട്ട് അമൂൽ ഉത്പന്നങ്ങൾ ബഹിഷ്കരിക്കാൻ ഓരോ ആളുകളും തീരുമാനിച്ചാൽ അതൊരു സമരമാവും.
അമിത് ഷായുടെ മകൻ പുതിയ വലിയ റിസോർട്ടാണ് അവിടെ പണിയുന്നത് , ലക്ഷദീപ് മൊത്തം അവന്റെ ടൂറിസ്റ്റ് കേന്ദ്രമാക്കാനാ പുതിയ പരിപാടി.
നമ്മളെല്ലാം പൊട്ടൻമാർ , ഗുജറാത്തികൾ നല്ല ബിസ്സിനസ്സുകാരാണ്. ഇതിന് അവർക്ക് മത ഭ്രാന്തുണ്ടാക്കി ഭരണം പിടിച്ച് എല്ലാ പവറും അവൻമാരുടെ കൈയ്യിലായി, കോടികൾ ഇന്ത്യയെ വിറ്റും ഇന്ത്യയിൽ വിറ്റും ഉണ്ടാക്കുന്നു.
കൊടി പിടിച്ചു വോട്ടുചെയ്യുന്ന നമ്മൾ മണ്ടൻമാർ.
SaveLakshadweep

Amul boycott – pallipurath@gmail.com – Gmail

ലക്ഷദ്വീപിൽ ഇന്ന് മുതൽ അമൂൽ ഉത്പനങ്ങൾ എത്തുകയാണ്. മൂന്ന് ദിവസം മുമ്പ് പുറപ്പെടവിച്ച സർക്കുലർ പ്രകാരം ലക്ഷദ്വീപിലെ എല്ലാ ഡയറി ഫാമുകളും അടക്കാനാണ് ഉത്തരവിട്ടിരിക്കുന്നത്. വെറ്റിനററി സർജന്റെ നേതൃത്വത്തിൽ മൃഗങ്ങളെ ലേലം ചെയ്യാനാണ് തീരുമാനം. 

ദ്വീപ് നിവാസികളുടെ പ്രധാന വരുമാന മാർഗങ്ങളിലൊന്നായ പാൽ ഉത്പാദനം പൂർണ്ണമായും ഇല്ലാതാക്കി ഗുജറാത്ത് കേന്ദ്രമായി പ്രവർത്തിക്കുന്ന അമൂലിന്റെ ഉത്പന്നങ്ങൾ ദ്വീപിൽ വിറ്റഴിക്കാനാണ് ശ്രമിക്കുന്നത്. 

ആർഎസ്എസ് ചാനലായ സുദർശൻ ന്യൂസ് വഴി സംപ്രേഷണം ചെയ്ത upsc ജിഹാദ് എന്ന മുസ്ലിം വിദ്വേഷ പരിപാടി സ്പോൺസർ ചെയ്ത കമ്പനി കൂടിയാണ് അമൂൽ.  ജനങ്ങളുടെ വരുമാനം മാർഗ്ഗം ഇല്ലാതാക്കിയും പാൽ ഉത്പാദനം നിർത്തലാക്കിയും ലക്ഷദ്വീപിൽ വിറ്റഴിക്കാൻ  ഒരുങ്ങുന്ന അമൂൽ ഉത്പന്നങ്ങൾ ബഹിഷ്കരിക്കാനാണ് ദ്വീപ് നിവാസികളുടെ തീരുമാനം. അവരോടൊപ്പം ഐക്യപ്പെട്ട് അമൂൽ ഉത്പന്നങ്ങൾ ബഹിഷ്കരിക്കാൻ ഓരോ ആളുകളും തീരുമാനിച്ചാൽ അതൊരു സമരമാവും. #SaveLakshadweep

China’s Tianwen-1 Probe Sends Back Mars Visuals
China’s Tianwen-1 probe sends back Mars landing visuals
Date:2021-05-19

  BEIJING – Two photos and two videos captured by China’s Mars probe Tianwen-1 during and after the country’s first landing on the red planet were released on Wednesday.

  The lander carrying a rover of the Tianwen-1 mission touched down in the southern part of Utopia Planitia, a vast plain on the northern hemisphere of Mars, on May 15, becoming the country’s first probe to land on a planet other than Earth.

  The first photograph, a black and white image, was taken by an obstacle avoidance camera installed in front of the Mars rover. The image shows that a ramp on the lander has been extended to the surface of Mars. The terrain of the rover’s forward direction is clearly visible in the image, and the horizon of Mars appears curved due to the wide-angle lens.

  The second image, a color photo, was taken by the navigation camera fitted to the rear of the rover. The rover’s solar panels and antenna are seen unfolded, and the red soil and rocks on the Martian surface are clearly visible in the image.

  The probe also sent back a video taken by a camera on the orbiter, showing how the lander and the rover separated from the orbiter during landing.

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Behold! China unveils 1st Mars photos from Zhurong rover

 
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China has released the first photographs taken by its Zhurong rover, which touched down on Mars late on Friday (May 14) as part of the country’s Tianwen-1 mission.

 

The China National Space Administration (CNSA), which runs the mission, has released two Mars photographs taken by the rover: one in color and one in black and white. Both images show parts of the rover and its lander against a backdrop of Utopia Planitia, the expansive northern plain that Zhurong will explore during its mission.

Related: China’s Tianwen-1 Mars mission in photos

 

 

 

This photo is the first color view of Mars from China’s Zhurong rover, looking toward its rear, from its landing spot on a plain in Utopia Planitia following a May 14, 2021 landing. This image was released May 19. (Image credit: China National Space Administration)

The color image shows a view looking to the rear of Zhurong from a navigation camera above the rover’s main deck. Solar arrays are visible, as are some surface rocks and features. The black and white image is from an obstacle avoidance camera at the front of the rover. It was captured with a wide-angle lens that also revealed a view of the Mars horizon in the distance, as well as two subsurface radar instruments on the rover itself.

In addition to the photos from the surface, CNSA also released two short videos of the orbiter and Zhurong rover’s landing capsule separating during Friday’s maneuver. Both videos come from cameras on the orbiter and show the capsule pulling away.

 
 

 

 

This black and white view of Mars is a photo from a navigation camera on China’s Mars rover Zhurong released on May 19, 2021 about 4 days after landing. The ramp to the Martian surface from Zhurong’s lander is visible, as are two subsurface radar instruments on the rover and the Martian horizon in the wide-angle view.  (Image credit: China National Space Administration)

China’s successful Mars landing made the country only the second nation to successfully soft-land on Mars, joining the United States. The Soviet Union and the European Space Agency have also sent missions to the Red Planet’s surface, but those landings have not been successful. Zhurong’s arrival brings the active Mars rover tally to three, joining NASA’s Curiosity and Perseverance rovers.

The landing comes as part of China’s Tianwen-1 mission, which was also the nation’s first successful Mars orbiter; China was the sixth entity to notch that accomplishment in February. Tianwen-1 translates to “Heavenly Questions”; the name Zhurong honors an ancient Chinese fire god. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
See China’s ‘Zhurong’ rover land on Mars in animation
 
 
 
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The six-wheeled, 530-lb. (240 kilogram) Zhurong rover carries six instruments that the rover will use to study geology and climate in the Utopia Planitia region. The rover is meant to operate for about three months. 

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This brief time-lapse captures the moment of separation as China's Zhurong rover and lander cast off from the Tianwen 1 orbiter to descend to Mars.

This brief time-lapse captures the moment of separation as China’s Zhurong rover and lander cast off from the Tianwen 1 orbiter to descend to Mars. (Image credit: China National Space Administration)

Another view of China's Zhurong rover descent capsule separating from the Tianwen 1 orbiter for a landing on the Red Planet in May 2021.

Another view of China’s Zhurong rover descent capsule separating from the Tianwen 1 orbiter for a landing on the Red Planet in May 2021. (Image credit: China National Space Administration)

This brief time-lapse captures the moment of separation as China's Zhurong rover and lander cast off from the Tianwen 1 orbiter to descend to Mars.

This brief time-lapse captures the moment of separation as China’s Zhurong rover and lander cast off from the Tianwen 1 orbiter to descend to Mars. (Image credit: China National Space Administration)

Another view of China's Zhurong rover descent capsule separating from the Tianwen 1 orbiter for a landing on the Red Planet in May 2021.

Another view of China’s Zhurong rover descent capsule separating from the Tianwen 1 orbiter for a landing on the Red Planet in May 2021. (Image credit: China National Space Administration)

Zhurong’s next milestone is expected to occur on Friday or Saturday (May 21 or May 22), when the rover will make its way down the pair of ramps seen in the new greyscale image to reach the Martian surface proper.

Email Meghan Bartels at mbartels@space.com or follow her on Twitter @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. 

 

E-mail:webmaster@cnsa.gov.cn

 

Taiwan’s TSMC claims breakthrough on 1nm chips

Research project with MIT and NTU will help improve efficiency of future semiconductors

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TSMC, NTU, and MIT collaborated on 1nm chip science (Getty Images)

TSMC, NTU, and MIT collaborated on 1nm chip science (Getty Images)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), National Taiwan University (NTU), and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have made a significant breakthrough in the development of 1-nanometer chips, reports said Tuesday (May 18).

The joint announcement has trumped IBM’s statement earlier in the month about the development of a 2nm semiconductor, British website Verdict reported. While at present the most advanced chips are 5nm, TSMC’s find was likely to lead to power-saving and higher speeds for future electric vehicles, artificial intelligence, and other new technologies.

The discovery was first made by the MIT team, with elements optimized by TSMC and improved by NTU’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Optometrics, according to a report in Nature Magazine.

The key element of the research outcome was that using the semi-metal bismuth as the contract electrode of a two-dimensional material to replace silicon can cut resistance and increase the current, Verdict reported. Energy efficiency would thus increase to the highest possible level for semiconductors.

Over the past decades, chipmakers have tried to cram more transistors onto ever smaller surfaces but have now reached the limit of what can be achieved with silicon, the main material for semiconductors. As a result, scientists have been looking at 2D materials to replace silicon in order to push chips to 1nm and lower.

 

Drinking any amount of alcohol causes damage to the brain, study finds

Drinking any amount of alcohol causes damage to the brain, study finds

London (CNN)There is no such thing as a “safe” level of drinking, with increased consumption of alcohol associated with poorer brain health, according to a new study.

In an observational study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, researchers from the University of Oxford studied the relationship between the self-reported alcohol intake of some 25,000 people in the UK, and their brain scans.
The researchers noted that drinking had an effect on the brain’s gray matter — regions in the brain that make up “important bits where information is processed,” according to lead author Anya Topiwala, a senior clinical researcher at Oxford.
 
 
“The more people drank, the less the volume of their gray matter,” Topiwala said via email.
“Brain volume reduces with age and more severely with dementia. Smaller brain volume also predicts worse performance on memory testing,” she explained.
“Whilst alcohol only made a small contribution to this (0.8%), it was a greater contribution than other ‘modifiable’ risk factors,” she said, explaining that modifiable risk factors are “ones you can do something about, in contrast to aging.”

Type of alcohol doesn’t matter

The team also investigated whether certain drinking patterns, beverage types and other health conditions made a difference to the impact of alcohol on brain health.
They found that there was no “safe” level of drinking — meaning that consuming any amount of alcohol was worse than not drinking it. They also found no evidence that the type of drink — such as wine, spirits or beer — affected the harm done to the brain.
However, certain characteristics, such as high blood pressure, obesity or binge-drinking, could put people at higher risk, researchers added.
“So many people drink ‘moderately,’ and think this is either harmless or even protective,” Topiwala told CNN via email.
“As we have yet to find a ‘cure’ for neurodegenerative diseases like dementia, knowing about factors that can prevent brain harm is important for public health,” she added.

No safe limit

The risks of alcohol have long been known: Previous studies have found that there’s no amount of liquor, wine or beer that is safe for your overall health.
Alcohol was the leading risk factor for disease and premature death in men and women between the ages of 15 and 49 worldwide in 2016, accounting for nearly one in 10 deaths, according to a study published in The Lancet in 2018.
“While we can’t yet say for sure whether there is ‘no safe level’ of alcohol regarding brain health at the moment, it has been known for decades that heavy drinking is bad for brain health,” Sadie Boniface, head of research at the UK’s Institute of Alcohol Studies, told CNN via email.
“We also shouldn’t forget alcohol affects all parts of the body and there are multiple health risks,” said Boniface, who was not associated with the University of Oxford study.
Tony Rao, a visiting clinical fellow in Old Age Psychiatry at King’s College London, told CNN that given the large sample size, it was unlikely the study’s findings could have arisen by chance.
Rao said the study replicates previous research that has shown there is no safe limit in the level of alcohol consumption for its role in damage to the structure and function of the human brain.
“Previous research has found that subtle changes which demonstrate damage to the brain can present in ways that are not immediately detectable on routine testing of intellectual function and can progress unchecked until they present with more noticeable changes in memory,” he said.
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“Even at levels of low-risk drinking,” he said, “there is evidence that alcohol consumption plays a larger role in damage to the brain than previously thought. The (Oxford) study found that this role was greater than many other modifiable risk factors, such as smoking.”
“The interaction with high blood pressure and obesity on increasing the damage done by alcohol to the brain emphasizes the wider role of diet and lifestyle in maintaining brain health,” he added.
Deceased Israeli soldier boasted about raping Palestinian woman
Deceased Israeli soldier boasted about raping Palestinian woman
Relatives of Israeli soldier Omer Tabib, 21, mourn during his funeral at the cemetery in the northern Israeli town of Elyakim, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo)

An Israeli soldier who became the first casualty of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) during the latest round of violence against the Palestinians had previously boasted about raping a Palestinian woman in a social media post, revealing yet another dirty chapter in the decadeslong conflict.

Staff Sgt. Omer Tabib, 21, was killed in an anti-tank missile attack near the Gaza Strip Wednesday, marking the first Israeli military death in the recent clashes sparked by Israeli plans to unlawfully evict Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem.

As Israeli forces and far-right groups attacked the Haram al-Sharif complex housing the Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan, protests and clashes soon spread to other parts of the occupied Palestinian territories including the Gaza Strip. In response, Palestinian resistance groups based in the long blockaded strip started launching rocket attacks against Israel, killing eight people, including civilians. Israel stepped up its violence and struck various targets in Gaza, killing over 120 people, with children constituting a quarter of fatalities, in addition to more than 500 injured.

Israeli authorities blamed Hamas for the attack that killed Tabib and critically wounded another soldier. A third officer was moderately injured. The military wing of Hamas had earlier announced it had targeted an Israeli military jeep across from northern Gaza with a missile and released a video of the attack.

However, as the IDF broke the news on Twitter, social media users were quick to look for information surrounding Tabib. A disturbing revelation came from Talib’s own Twitter account @OmriBenLulu, in which he claimed to have raped a Palestinian woman in a post dating back to Aug. 8, 2019.

 

This screengrab from Twitter shows the conversation in which deceased IDF personnel Omer Tabib claims to have raped a Palestinian woman.
This screengrab from Twitter shows the conversation in which deceased IDF personnel Omer Tabib claims to have raped a Palestinian woman.

 

It is not clear whether Tabib actually assaulted a Palestinian woman or “joked” about it, seemingly in response to a pro-Palestinian account’s offensive post accusing him and other soldiers in the IDF of doing drugs and being “child murderers” and “baby killers.”

It is also not clear whether the IDF, where Tabib was serving as part of his compulsory military service when he posted the tweet, launched an investigation on Tabib’s post.

On Thursday, Tabib was laid to rest in his northern Israeli hometown of Elyakim, which is mainly populated by people of Yemeni Jewish descent. Hundreds of locals and IDF personnel took part in the funeral ceremony for Tabib, who was reportedly weeks away from his discharge.

 

Israeli soldiers shoot during the funeral of Israeli soldier Omer Tabib, 21, at the cemetery in the northern Israeli town of Elyakim, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo)

 

The @OmriBenLulu account’s tweets are currently protected, and the account seems to have been hacked by figures hostile to him.

Following the attack, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on a preliminary army probe that found the vehicle was using a road not suitable for the military since it is exposed toward the Gaza Strip.

IDF spokesperson Hidai Zilberman, who was quoted by the Times of Israel newspaper, said the soldiers behaved incorrectly by parking their jeep where they did. However, the same report also included the remarks of IDF Southern Command Maj. Gen. Eliezer Toledano, who said the attack was a result of the battle and topography.

Kyrie Irving observing Ramadan

Kyrie Irving’s recent conversion puts a spotlight on athletes observing Ramadan

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving handles the ball during an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks in Dallas, Thursday, May 6, 2021. 
Tony Gutierrez, Associated Press

NBA star Kyrie Irving’s recent conversion to Islam has brought new attention to the relationship between Muslim athletes and Ramadan, the holiest month on the Islamic calendar, when Muslims abstain from food and drink during the day.

“All praise is due to God, Allah, for this … for me, in terms of my faith and what I believe in, being part of the Muslim community, being committed to Islam,” the Brooklyn Nets guard said at an NBA news conference late last month. Irving said he is also “committed to all races and cultures, religions” and that having an understanding and respect for them is what he wants “as a foundation.”

The statement was the first time the Australian-born Irving had mentioned his conversion to Islam. Irving, 29, won world championships with the U.S. National Basketball Team at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and the 2014 FIBA Championship in Spain. The seven-time NBA All-Star said Ramadan offers a different kind of challenge.

“I am taking part in Ramadan with a lot of my Muslim brothers and sisters,” he said in the same news conference. “It’s been an adjustment … being committed to my service to God, Allah, and then continuing on with whatever I’m guided with.

“I’m just happy to be part of my community and doing the right things. So fasting is definitely part of it,” he added.

Irving has largely played with rare form during the month, earning him the nickname “Ramadan Kyrie” from fans on social media.

He isn’t the only Muslim NBA player observing fast this Ramadan. Others include Enes Kanter and Jusuf Nurkic of the Portland Trail Blazers, Tacko Fall and Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics, and Hamidou Diallo of the Detroit Pistons.

Ramadan is tied to the Islamic lunar calendar and is likely to fall during every NBA season between now and 2036.

Historically, other Muslims in the NBA have fasted during Ramadan, such as former Los Angeles Laker star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and former Houston Rockets player Hakeem Olajuwon. Olajuwon, a native of Nigeria, went on to become the first foreign-born player to win the league’s MVP award and famously led his team to an NBA finals victory while fasting during Ramadan. Other NBA players have converted to Islam after leaving the game, notably former NBA player Stephen Jackson, who converted earlier this year.

Muslims are exempted from fasting under certain situations. Among those exempted are children, people with health conditions, the elderly, pregnant or nursing women, and those dealing with hardships of travel. Indeed, the reality of life as a modern athlete has allowed some to argue that it is a situation akin to traveling in which fasting is not required and can be resumed at a later date.

“Performance of repeated anaerobic exercise is impaired, but aerobic power and muscular strength show little change during Ramadan,” wrote Roy Shephard, a Canadian doctor, in a 2013 academic study of the impact of Ramadan on athletes. “Ratings of fatigue are increased, and vigilance and reaction times are impaired, particularly during the afternoon. Medical issues during Ramadan are few.”

 

For those in combat sports, where schedules are more fluid, athletes can cope with Ramadan in different ways.

“I took the route of mostly training at night,” said undefeated boxer Hasim Rahman Jr., who is currently training for his 11th professional fight, scheduled for later this month in Mexico. “After I open my fast, I digest for an hour before training into the night. Today I trained during the day, and that is something I do on occasion. To me, this proves even more that boxing is a mental test as much as anything else,” Rahman told Religion News Service.

Rahman is the son of former heavyweight champion and Baltimore standout Hasim Rahman. The younger Rahman said boxers don’t usually eat while training but drink water regularly during sparring, often taking sips from a water bottle between rounds. He said that although water is beneficial and recommended, a focused athlete can still train without it.

Another Muslim boxer, Julian Williams, won multiple super welterweight world titles for a fight that took place during Ramadan in 2019. Williams wished viewers of the broadcast “Ramadan Mubarak” during his post-fight interview — perhaps a first for American sports television.

Religious authorities in Muslim-majority countries usually cite the hardships of travel when ruling that athletes participating in the Olympics, international soccer or other sporting events can abstain from fasting during Ramadan. One notable exception is Iran, where in 2010 soccer star Ali Karimi was fired by his team for failure to observe the Ramadan fast.

Ramadan is also an issue for amateur Muslim athletes, who are perhaps not traveling to a different city, much less a different country for their events.

In California’s Santa Clarita Valley, a group of five Muslim couples who form the amateur softball team the Better Halves have continued to play in their coed league during Ramadan. The team is very much a family affair and has included players as young as 18 and as old as 70. League officials have tried to schedule games close to sunset to accommodate the needs of the team.

“The lack of energy is balanced out by the pure concentration you have. You go in knowing you will try to save energy, and in the end, we usually play better and still have energy left,” said team captain Arif Harisolia, “During Ramadan, you are a lot more focused on all aspects of life.”

Barcelona installs Spain’s first solar energy pavement

Photovoltaic ground installation part of move to increase capacity close to where it’s most needed, in cities

Photovoltaic pavement in Barcelona, Spain.
The 50 sq metres of non-slip solar panels, installed in a small park in the Glòries area of the city, will generate 7,560kWh a year, enough to supply three households. Photograph: Stephen Burgen/The Guardian
 
 in Barcelona

 

 
 
5,900
 

Barcelona city council has installed Spain’s first photovoltaic pavement as part of the city’s drive to become carbon neutral by 2050.

The 50 sq metres of non-slip solar panels, installed in a small park in the Glòries area of the city, will generate 7,560kWh a year, enough to supply three households.

 

The city has contributed €30,000 (£26,000) towards the cost, the remainder being met by the manufacturer, Platio Solar. The viability of the scheme will be assessed after six months. “We’ll have to assess the wear and tear because obviously it’s not the same as putting panels on a roof, although they are highly resistant,” says Eloi Badia, who is responsible for climate emergency and ecological transition at Barcelona city council.

“As for cost benefits, with a pilot scheme like this it’s difficult to know yet how much cheaper it would be if it were scaled up. We’re keen to install more on roofs and, if this scheme is successful, on the ground, to power lighting and other public facilities.”

Photovoltaic pavement in Barcelona, Spain.
Photovoltaic pavement in Barcelona, Spain. Photograph: Stephen Burgen/The Guardian

However, he points out that Barcelona’s high population density means it would be difficult to generate enough electricity within the city limits to become self-sufficient.

 

“If we’re going to reach a target of zero emissions, we’re going to have to think about supplying electricity to blocks of flats, but we’ll also have to think of using wind and solar parks outside the city,” Badia says. “But installations on the ground like this open up new possibilities, and not just for Barcelona.”

The Barcelona scheme follows the installation of a 25-metre stretch of solar cycle lane in the Dutch city of Utrecht last year. The electricity generated is used to power lighting and also heat the path in winter to prevent it from icing over.

Most of Spain’s solar power comes from large farms in remote areas where land is cheap but which are a long way from centres of population. The move now is to increase capacity close to where it’s most needed, in cities.

“What we need to focus on is green policies to create employment, specifically to install solar panels on 1m rooftops,” says Fernando Prieto, executive director of the independent think tank Sustainability Observatory. “This would take five years, generate enough electricity for 7.5 million people, create over 15,000 jobs and cut CO2 emissions by 4.2m tonnes.”

He adds that it would lower the price of electricity and help citizens to become independent of the few power companies that dominate the industry.

“However, instead of this simple project, we are building installations of over 1,000 hectares on agricultural land and woodland, often with a negative impact on the environment,” Prieto says.

Under the previous conservative government solar installation came to an abrupt halt after punitive taxes were introduced. In 2018, the incoming socialist coalition scrapped the tax, triggering a boom in solar, with Spain now ranked 11th in the world for solar power and eighth for renewables overall.

Major retailers have got in on the act and now firms such as Ikea, electronics giant Media Markt and the department store El Corte Inglés are offering domestic solar installations at an average cost of €5,000 for a three-bedroom house.

Meanwhile, the government has announced plans to invest €1.5bn of EU Covid-recovery funds in the production of “green” hydrogen, using renewable energy to break up water molecules and release the hydrogen. Spain’s energy companies have said they will raise this to €8.3bn by 2030.

 This article was amended on 30 April 2021. An earlier version referred to 7,560kW a year, when kWh was intended. It was further amended on 7 May 2021 to include the name of the manufacturer of the solar panels.