mayank chhaya reports--MCR
Rise of Shehbaz Sharif and his many challenges
After days of political ferment and tumult, which led to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ouster in a midnight no-confidence vote on last Saturday, Islamabad has a new sheriff in town—Shehbaz Sharif. Sharif takes over at time when Pakistan’s economy is in the doldrums and is currency greatly weakened. This even as Imran Khan is drawing large sympathetic crowds at his rallies where he does not shy of describing his opponents as thieves. His Pakistan Tehreek-i-insaaf party or PTI has decided to boycott the National Assembly for the foreseeable future. To understand the implications of this virulent uncertainty in Islamabad Mayank Chhaya Reports spoke to Anwar Iqbal, the Washington correspondent of the Karachi-based Dawn newspaper and one of the most astute observers of his country’s politics.
The Next Supercontinent
Earth is halfway through its latest cycle of dispersing and assembling continents made possible by plate tectonics, which is a unique geological feature in our solar system. In fact, a significant reason why there is life on our planet is because of plate tectonics and water. The seven continents that we see now were some 200 million years ago one giant clumped landmass, a supercontinent known as Pangaea. Geologists are now studying when the next supercontinent might form. Although it could happen between 100 and 200 million years from now, the effects of plate tectonics are felt every day. One of the leading geologists focused on the formation of the next supercontinent is Joao Duarte, assistant professor of plate tectonics at the University of Lisbon, in Portugal. Professor Duarte spoke to Mayank Chhaya Reports on this fascinating phenomenon to which we owe much of what we are.
Mahbouba Seraj on Afghanistan's never-ending tragedy
As Ukraine justifiably dominates the news, what does not but ought to is Afghanistan which the U.S. pounded for nearly 20 years preceded by the erstwhile Soviet Union which took its turn for a decade from 1979 to 1989. After the inept U.S. withdrawal a little over eight months ago, Afghanistan has fallen off the headlines in America and elsewhere even while the Taliban is back to its old medieval, cruel ways. The prominent Afghan women's rights activist and journalist Mahbouba Seraj spoke to Mayank Chhaya Reports from Kabul about her country's return to barbarism. Her comments were at once angry and full of anguish, including specifically about the United States and President Joe Biden. She also had strong words about India’s hands-off policy towards Afghanistan. (Note: There is a slight oversight in the opening subtitle. Read "Afghan women's rights activist and journalist Mahbouba Seraj speaks out about...." I have missed out "about" after speaks out.)
Ukraine crisis enters third month
With the Russian invasion of Ukraine entering its third month and death and destruction mounting in the east of the country, there are no signs yet of Moscow relenting its assault and Kyiv giving in. In a hush-hush move U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Kyiv and met the embattled President Volodymyr Zelensky. So far Washington has given 3.7 billion dollars in military and related aid. More is expected as Moscow seems bent on hiving off parts of eastern Ukraine and perhaps declare victory in time for May 9, the anniversary of the defeat of the Nazi Germany in the Second World War. Mayank Chhaya Reports spoke to Inna Ukrainian Member of Parliament Inna Sovsun to get a firsthand perspective on her country’s plight and the international community’s response to it.
John von Neumann: The Man from the Future
From quantum mechanics to computing, from the atom bomb to game theory, and from nuclear weapons to self-replicating spacecrafts, the mathematician John von Neumann leapt across disciplines, any single one of which would be formidable for a lesser intellect. Despite his awe-inspiring cerebral bandwidth and a cult status among the scientific community von Neumann is not known much among general science readers. Correcting that with extraordinary critical success is his biography ‘The Man from the Future: The Visionary Life of John von Neumann’ by Ananyo Bhattacharya. Bhattacharya, himself a Ph.D. in biophysics and a widely published science writer for Nature and the Economist among other publications, offers a remarkable whistle-stop tour of von Neumann’s compelling life. A synopsis to Bhattacharya’s critically acclaimed book describes Neumann thus: “Born in Budapest at the turn of the century, von Neumann is one of the most influential scientists to have ever lived. A child prodigy, he mastered calculus by the age of eight, and in high school made lasting contributions to mathematics. In Germany, where he helped lay the foundations of quantum mechanics, and later at Princeton, von Neumann’s colleagues believed he had the fastest brain on the planet―bar none. He was instrumental in the Manhattan Project and the design of the atom bomb; he helped formulate the bedrock of Cold War geopolitics and modern economic theory; he created the first ever programmable digital computer; he prophesized the potential of nanotechnology; and, from his deathbed, he expounded on the limits of brains and computers―and how they might be overcome.”
US, China and Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence or AI has emerged as the new battlefield between the United States, which is still leading in the core research, and China, which is threatening to overtake soon. The US department of defense is treating AI as its defining priority as China has reorganized its army, private sector and academia to end America’s predominance. A special report on Mayank Chhaya Reports soon.
What US troop withdrawal means for Afghanistan
Twenty years after it invaded Afghanistan in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 multiple terrorist attacks on America, the United States is set to withdraw all its troops by the 20th anniversary of those attacks this September 11. President Joe Biden is scheduled to formally announced the troop withdrawal this afternoon. With that America intends to end its longest war whose gains have at best been questionable and at worst a staggering failure with over 2300 US troops killed in Afghanistan and over 20,000 injured, not to mention hundreds of billions of dollars having been spent on the forever war. To understand what the troop withdrawal might mean for the future of Afghanistan MCR spoke to Anwar Iqbal, the Washington Correspondent of Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper and one of the most respected observers of Afghanistan who has extensively traveled and reported from that country. Here is Anwar Iqbal.
Does Nature have a Fifth Force?
Are we on the verge of witnessing a new, fifth force in Nature? In physics, historic breakthroughs can often feel underwhelming for those not familiar with physics. In fact, they may not even feel like breakthroughs sometimes given that they get mired in very complex and abstruse calculations and equations. What an experiment known as g minus 2 at the iconic Fermilab in Batavia near Chicago has produced can also fit that category. However, for those who practice physics the findings reached after firing a subatomic particle known as the Muon through 14-meter ring and then subjecting it to a magnetic field suggest that we could be witnessing the emergence of a new subatomic particle or, more thrilling, a new force—a fifth force. MCR has a special report.
Mayank Chhaya Reports
Somewhat pompously named, Mayank Chhaya Reports or MCR is the first of my tentative steps to offer substantive news stories on a fairly regular basis subject, of course, to the vagaries of independent journalism. As the Biden administration calibrates its China policy and, as a defining part of it, steps up the Quad dynamic between the United States, India, Australia and Japan, it is as good a time as any to start a new show. I open with an interview featuring John Bolton, a former National Security Advisor and US Ambassador to the United Nations, on the Biden administration's early foreign policy moves on China, the Quad, India-Pakistan, and Iran. He also offers his take on post-Donald Trump Republican Party as well as America generally.