Europe, News Watch, Side Feature, South Asia

NewsHeadlines: 25/01/2023

• Scientists Set Doomsday Clock Closer to Midnight than ever before
• Pakistan’s Lights Go Out
• Swedish Hypocrisy

Scientists Set Doomsday Clock Closer to Midnight than ever before

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists — a nonprofit organization made up of scientists, former political leaders and security and technology experts — moved the hands of the symbolic clock 10 seconds forward, to 90 seconds to midnight. The adjustment, made in response to threats from nuclear weapons, climate change and infectious diseases such as Covid-19, is the closest the clock has been to symbolic doom since it was created more than 75 years ago. When the clock was originally unveiled in 1947, it was set at 7 minutes to midnight, with “midnight” signifying human-caused apocalypse. At the height of the Cold War, it was set at 2 minutes to midnight. “We are living in a time of unprecedented danger, and the Doomsday Clock time reflects that reality,” Rachel Bronson, President and CEO of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, said in a statement, adding that “it’s a decision our experts do not take lightly.” In particular, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has increased the risk of nuclear escalation. As the United States, Russia and China are modernising their nuclear arsenals, there are also expanding nuclear threats from North Korea, India and Pakistan, said Steve Fetter, a professor of public policy at the University of Maryland and a member of the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board, “From almost every perspective, the risk of nuclear catastrophe is higher today than last year.

Pakistan’s Lights go Out

Most of Pakistan was left without power on Monday, 23rd January, due to a breakdown in its national grid, leaving millions of people without electricity. Power was out in all the nation’s major centres, including Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar. Officials blamed a power outage and frequency variation as the cause and promised to restore power quickly. But this is not the first time the 222 million nation has suffered from a national grid breakdown. Pakistan has been forced to deal with fluctuating power supplies and load shedding – where electricity to some areas is temporarily reduced in order to prevent the failure of the entire system. Businesses, industries and homes have come to rely upon their own generators – which is now a bourgeoning sector, as electricity cuts so common. Pakistan’s power sector has many moving parts but transmission and delivery infrastructure has not been upgraded for decades and this means despite their being sufficient electricity generation, it doesn’t get to the people. The other major problem has been the fact that provincial and federal agencies, who are the largest consumers, often do not pay their bills. This is despite successive government privatising the energy sector. Pakistan currently is out of electricity, it’s out of gas and it’s out of finance and drowning in debt as successive governments have failed to come up with any long term strategy as the lights have gone out.

Swedish Hypocrisy

The Danish far-right politician Rasmus Paludan, who also has Swedish citizenship staged the event in front of Turkey’s embassy in Stockholm lambasting the country’s immigration policy and criticising Islam before setting fire to a copy of the Qur’an. The protest in Stockholm took place under heavy police protection, gathering around 100 people and a crowd of reporters. Swedish Foreign Minister said the “Islamophobic provocations are appalling.” He clarified that his country had freedom of expression, “but it does not imply that the Swedish Government, or myself, support the opinions expressed.” In effect giving a green light to the provocation, the Swedish government even provided police protection for the event, expressing its support. The hypocrisy and hatred for Islam has been on clear display when just months earlier when Rebecka Fallenkvist, an official within the Sweden Democrats, the largest Party in the Swedish parliament was suspended after making derogatory and offensive posts on social media about Jewish teenage diarist Anne Frank. The Sweden Democrats said Fallenkvist’s words were “insensitive and inappropriate.”