Sunday, June 13, 2021

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Working on the Human Ego…

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https://www.pcma.org/taming-the-ego-is-key-to-lifelong-learning/

By Diya Barmecha

While talking to the crowd, have you ever wondered that the audience can see that you are nervous? Or when you did something embarrassing, did you start thinking about how likely it is that others will remember it and overestimate this? Or even overestimate the amount of work you have contributed to the group project?

These things happen to all of us in different parts of our life and there is a psychological way to understand what is happening here. This is called the egocentric bias and it causes someone to only remember themselves as the key player in a past event even when their role can be a minor one. It can cause someone to assume that all of one’s colleagues or friends will share their political and social beliefs because they are so focused on those beliefs that it is hard for one to imagine things differently. This bias makes us have the tendency to rely very heavily on our own perspective than reality. It’s one of the psychological happenings to satisfy one’s ego. Its main cause is because we believe everyone will remember the same story from the same perspective as you. What you see from your eyes becomes your perspective. This may not be what others see from their eyes. This comes at no fault one any one individual being nor is it good or bad.

Researchers were curious about the concept of egocentric bias,  so they asked the authors of multi-authored papers to say what percentage of the paper they contributed. When they added up all these percentages, it always reached an average of 140% and not 100%. A similar instance happens when couples are asked how much of the housework they each do. The addition of both their perspectives percentages is always over 100%. Many people think that the cause for this is because people want to appear more helpful and smart than they are. But that is not the cause because when asked about who starts the fight most often the same thing happens. The collection of their percentages was over 100%.  To explain this easily, you experience and see vividly what you did and not so much of what another person does.

  A recent podcast shows us a real example of the above. Vanessa Bohns, a graduate student from Columbia University wanted to ask strangers at a New York station to fill out a questionnaire and she expected people to say something terrible and not fill it out. However, to her surprise many people replied saying yes. This raised a red flash for them as they expected more people to refuse than actually say yes. In this research, the conductors were so consumed by their perspective that they weren’t able to see things from another person’s perspective. Vanessa Bohns was now very curious about this bias and decided to conduct another study. She asked volunteers how many people they would have to gather money from to meet their fundraising goals. The volunteers all estimated around 200 people. However, all of them asked under 100 people and were able to meet their goal. The egocentric bias of the volunteers caused them to focus mainly on their anxieties and they weren’t able to think of what it might have felt to be a person being asked for money. 

There are many biases like the above. The illusion of transparency causes people to think that their emotions are more important than others because of the egocentric bias. Whereas the spotlight effect is when people overestimate the degree to which they are noticed by others which also occurs due to the egocentric bias.  When we fail to account that some people don’t know the same things as we do it’s called the curse of knowledge and is caused also due to the egocentric bias.

Although we can’t control what’s happening in our cognitive mind, we can definitely ask ourselves two times before we make an assumption about how others view ourselves. This realization can help us gain confidence while public speaking or give us solace when we think we have embarrassed ourselves. 

Scarcity of Diversity

Source - https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/how-childrens-shows-lead-the-way-in-diversity-on-tv

by Diya Barmecha and Aahana Khemani

The U.S.is no doubt an influential and progressive country and citizens of the world are influenced by what it does . One of the means by which global citizens get to see U.S.and its nuances is through television. However, does cinema capture the diversity of the U.S? Do TV. shows and movies really show how open America is? Or is the diversity of America on television all a checklist that’s only purpose is to be ticked off? Is it censored? We think that some aspects of American diversity are not portrayed to its full potential through television. 

For people living outside the United States of America, the only representation of the U.S. is received from tv shows and films. They portray the culture and they are the closest many get to the states. In the past 15-20 years tv shows and films have worked hard to show diversity and modern thinking. However, is this really true? Does television have a diverse cast? Even though American television tries its best to show the LGTBQ+ community. A study conducted in Nielson, shows that women make up 52% of the US population but onscreen they are only shown 37.9% of the time. Many times shows try to come up with a perfect cast by making a checklist. They add a coloured woman to their cast and their diversity box is ticked. This might not be because it is necessary to  the story, but because it’s a box that needs to be filled. We don’t ask for there to be more diversity, because there is a lack of representation. We ask to show the reality of America in all of its diversity, not to tick a box but to mimic real life scenarios. Another problem tv shows and movies struggle with is the accuracy of the things they show. 

American tv and movie  directors want the audience to believe that the entire of America struggles with issues like teen pregnancy, drug abuse and many others that are constantly shown. Over time, it becomes very hard to differentiate between the real and the fictional. . The film makers are showing this because it becomes easy to use these as conflicts and derive a story from it . The repetition in the movie plot lines mainly occurs because of the limited variety of conflicts that are shown.. It’s not necessary to showcase the real U.S because of moral obligations but because showcasing America in all its reality can help the rest of the world see that no country  is perfect and what we see on TV is not always reality. 

Genuine diversity is extremely important. . People around the world are influenced by America, and the power of television can right multiple wrongs around the world. The US is in the top 3 Cultural Influence Rankings. American music, inventions, literature, media businesses have completely changed individuals around the world. It’s time for American Television to impact people in an optimistic way. It can give hope to people in countries where there’s not much hope, it can bring joy to people, it can encourage people, it can have a positive impact. By showing the true diversity of America, it can truly have good influence on people.  

US cinema has no doubt spread the vibe of America in some form, however, not completely. People around only get to see “the gay best friend” or “the woman employee” in American television, but isn’t America more diverse than that? Through removing the checklist and censorship of American diversity on American television, and genuinely incorporating American diversity into American television, people can actually relate to American diversity and be positively impacted by it. 

Pulling the Plug

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https://www.cfr.org/timeline/us-war-afghanistan

By Tara Hebbar

With the decision by the U.S. government and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) to extract their troops in Afghanistan by September 11, 2021 (the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.) Several nations, governments and citizens are worried for the nation’s security with regard to the Taliban. This will mark the cease of the longest recorded war in U.S. history, which has been on-going for almost 2 decades.

The Trump administration had conditionally decided to extract troops by the 1st of May, and Biden doesn’t seem to have any conditions. Currently, there are approximately 2,500 to 3,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan along with under 8,000 NATO troops. They are expected to conduct a synchronised widrawal of each and every one of these troops. Many bodies and countries have expressed their concern about the Taliban resurfacing in the nation and causing havoc, like they once did. In the 1990’s, when the Taliban possessed control over the nation, Afghanistan was a welcome state for every militant and terrorist to recruit and fundraise from. Some of these militants were responsible for the 2001 parliament attack in India. This extraction of troops, leaves no incentive for the Taliban to make peace with the Afghan government and could lead to dire consequences for the nation and all its citizens. In this article, we will broadly glance over the possible impacts of this decision made by the President of the U.S.A, Joe Biden on the women of Afghanistan?

One of the biggest concerns is felt by the women of Afghanistan, who under the Afghan rule were oppressed and marginalized, and kept from basic rights such as making them prisoners in their own houses and having an education. With the intervention of U.S. troops, these women have been able to join the military, attend school, compete in the olympics and slowly inch towards normalcy. With the Taliban now poised to gain more power, they are likely to begin reversing and deprogessing, leaving the Afghan women terrified of their future. Whether through force or agreement with the government, the group is bound to gain more power, with this they will look to shut schooling for girls, and will promote violence towards them. A member of Afghanistan’s parliament, Raihana Azad says, “All the time, women are the victims of men’s wars, but they will be the victims of their peace, too.” Leaving their faces uncovered earns a woman a thorough flogging and beating up from the Taliban officials. Over the past years, the U.S. has spent more than 780 million dollars on women’s rights in Afghanistan. Women now make up 40% of students and a recognisable portion of society. Mr. Karimi, chancellor of the Faryab University, sheds more light on the topic, “Female students who live in Taliban areas have been threatened several times, but their families send them secretly. If foreign forces leave early, the situation will get worse.” Although Biden has promised to continue to keep women’s rights a priority, many Afghans are upset at the U.S “pulling the plug” on them, fearing that they have left them vulnerable and helpless. Shahida Husain, an activist says, “I remember when Americans came and they said that they will not leave us alone, and that Afghanistan will be free of oppression, and will be free of war and women’s rights will be protected, wow it looks like it was just slogans.” In the areas controlled by the Taliban, the situation continues to be bad, and now, with the extraction of the troops, these areas could just be what the entirety of the country might resemble.

“With the withdrawal of foreign forces in the next few months, these women that are the breadwinners for their family will be unemployed,” Lina Shirzad, a radio station director says, expressing her concern. She is not alone. Most Afghan women await in apprehension and angst for the day which will change their future, for the seeming worse. Although the U.S government and NATO, will have the reason for this extraction, the constant question is, where will this leave the women of Afghanistan?

Regardless of whether Biden promised to continue to keep women’s rights a priority, who knows what will happen behind the scenes? Although we do have an idea, based on the past, no-one knows what the future will hold for these women.

“Vegetarianism”

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Source - https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vegetarian-diet-plan

by Tara Hebbar and Diya Barmecha

We are proud vegetarians. To us, it is beyond imagination how people are non-vegetarian after knowing the devastating impacts it has. However, we understand that it is a challenge to wean off the food that makes people’s taste buds rejoice. We write this article with the best intentions, just to help others understand the impact that they are having so that they can then make an educated decision on whether they would want to switch or remain. We encourage those who are non-vegetarian to make the switch for all the below mentioned reasons. Trust us, vegetarian food is as good and by the simple task of not eating meat, you are making an immensely positive difference to the planet. It is important to understand that the meal is coming at the cost of something and it’s for YOU to decide whether you want to pay that price. 

Why are you killing plants? This is a question that we as vegetarians are always asked. It’s like the bullet for the non-vegetarians, every time an argument about the matter strikes. It is assumed that this is an intellectual question, however, there are several reasons why this argument is completely invalid. The reasons are plenty, some of them being that animal and plant life are starkly different and have different purposes. Animals have the right to mortality, and therefore are equipped with defense mechanisms and mobility to keep them alive. Plants on the other hand, do not have these powers, but instead are allowed to bloom, bear fruit and grow. Therefore, even when we take a leaf or fruit, it’s called plucking, not beheading, since a new fruit will take the place of the old. These differences in nature, just show their purpose. Some animals are food for others, who aren’t able to digest plants and require meat, but humans are not part of this category, we survive perfectly well on simple plants and their gifts. Additionally, by eating and consuming plants, you’re supporting life and biodiversity. The way the food chain works is that plants are eaten by animals which are food to other animals, them being the seed to all living things. Humans are not meant to be on top of that food chain, we have throned ourselves and forced every other creature into submission. One of the biggest misconceptions is that by eating meat, non-vegetarians are keeping the balance. The meat consumed by most is a product of “industrial meat”, which is produced in factories, where animals are being specifically bred to be slaughtered. So, there goes “creating” balance. Moreover, the matter of pain and the nervous system. While it is well known that animals, including humans are aware of pain and have a central nervous system, plant’s do not. When killing animals, pain is caused to them, whereas, when eating plants, there is not pain felt by them. Lastly, the meaning of “killing” must be identified, killing means putting an absolute end to something. When eating animals, they are being killed, since it’s the end of their life. However, when it comes to plants, we end up consuming small parts of each plant, either the leaf or the fruit and rarely the root. Therefore, the root continues to support new life and will bear new fruit, therefore, this is not classified as killing. Lastly, non-vegetarians if they stop eating meat, they have other means of survival in terms of food. What will vegetarians turn to, without plants? These are the reasons that the argument of comparing plants and animals is just a desperate attempt for non-vegetarians to make their eating habits more comparable to that of vegetarians. 

Then we come to the basic arguments of why eating non-vegetarian needs to be changed. Before their death, to be put on someone else’s plate, these animals are treated with cruelty that is hard for anyone to imagine. Crammed into cages with thousands of other animals, they are often not given food, and proper hygiene since these cages are not cleaned at all. Rarely will a meat-eater look down at the piece of beef on their plate and think, how did this animal come here? What did it have to go through? And this is where the problem stems from. There is a lack of empathy, most non-vegetarians forget that they are eating another living creature that has now been killed just for them to enjoy.  Another indirect benefit is dampening world hunger to some extent. The kilos of crops that go towards fattening animals so that humans can eat them, this food can save so many malnourished human beings who die of starvation each day. If everyone was vegetarian, we would need 75% less land for farming than we do today, and feed everybody. Being vegetarian has effects that go beyond one’s imagination. In terms of personal benefit, unlike public understanding, being vegetarian and vegan is great for the cardiovascular system and health, with red meat especially, being a risk for cholesterol related diseases. One of the biggest misconceptions is that by eating meat, non-vegetarians are keeping the balance. The meat consumed by most is a product of “industrial meat”, which is produced in factories, where animals are being specifically bred to be slaughtered. So, there goes “creating” balance. 

Believe it or not, non-vegetarianism also causes deforestation, in which large masses of forests are razed just to accommodate these animals which are being bred to be killed, and to grow crops to feed these large amounts of animals, it is the biggest cause of forest fires. In order to produce industrial meats and for crops and space, people are deliberately starting forest fires and killing so many animals in the process. So, when you’re eating a piece of meat, you are not only responsible for the death of that soul, but so many others. It is destroying wildlife. With the gatherment of so many animals which are kept in filthy conditions to be killed, the risk of infections and diseases such as Corona virus also increases by large numbers. Additionally, it uses up immense amounts of water, almost 50% of the water used in the U.S. goes towards this. With there already being preditcation for water shortage, is it worth it, just for the “good” taste of meat? It releases carbon dioxide emissions and utilises a ton of fossil fuels. Making one hamburger, uses the same amount of fossil fuels as driving a car 20 miles. Pig factories generate the same amount of raw waste as a 12,000 person city. Is a non-vegetarian’s luxury more important than the environment? The answer is simply no. So, everytime there is meat on your plate, not only are you destroying forest, killing more than 1 animal, promoting torture but also causing the destruction of our environemnt. 

The demand for fish increases everyday. With this increases the inhumane ways in which fish are killed and served to us in fancy restaurants. Overfishing is a problem that impacts not only the sea but the balance of the entire ecosystem. When too many fish are taken out of their habitats, there is an imbalance in the food cycle which leads to a loss of many vulnerable species. To get the desired fish killed there are many species who also are on the receiving end of the fish poles. This is called bycatch. The UN estimated that between 20-25% of all sea creatures that are caught in the massive nets are the victims of bycatch. Many fish companies have the tag of dolphin-safe which means that no dolphins were harmed when these fishes were killed. However, according to the World Wildlife Fund upto 300,000 small whales, and dolphins get entangled and are killed during by-catch. As we can see the process we receive these fish to eat is not safe and neither is eating these fish. The most common industrial toxin in the sea is mercury which is deposited through many runoffs and emissions. These lead to toxicity in the oceans and affect marine life. Another impact of the toxins in the sea is plastic poisoning which fish ingest as food. With bioaccumulation, substances such as mercury are absorbed into the larger organism much faster than the smaller ones. In the case of fish, humans are the larger organisms. Mercury poisoning can lead to harmful effects on a human body’s nervous, digestive and immune systems. After all these negatives, we haven’t even tackled the biggest impact of fishing on our world. After watching the documentary, “Seaspiracy” on Netflix we found out that the majority of all the garbage in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch were fishing gear such as nets and poles. As we can see, fishing and eating fish has been harmful to the humans eating them, to the sea, to animals such as dolphins who aren’t eating, and even the environment. Is the taste of fish really worth all the negatives that come along with it? There are plant based seafood products on the market that look and taste like seafood. Why can’t we eat these instead?

This article is written by two vegetarians but we do understand how hard it may be for people to leave some of their favourite foods. However, after seeing the implications and impacts that the killing and the consumption have on us as well as our Earth, everyone should try to limit if not stop their consumption of these products. The advantages of being vegetarian go beyond just not killing animals but it extends to limiting the impact we leave on our ecosystem. Animals are bred to be killed and eaten. No amount of taste and deliciousness is worth another life. Fishes and even other animals living in the sea are killed in bycatch for only consumption. Just imagine if you were in an animal’s place, who was being eaten to satisfy the tastes of a “superior power” in the food chain. This just proves that humans have an impact on each and every problem of this world. There might not be one day where everyone stops eating meat and fish. However, with a few small realizations and changes, there can be change. There are alternatives and there are substitutes only if one is looking for it. So, look out for it, and make a difference.  

Greatest Moments of 2020 F1 Season

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Source - https://www.motorsportmagazine.com/articles/e-sports/f1-2020-game-first-look

by Arav Barmecha

The 2020, Formula One (F1) season had its ups and downs, like every other year. This season started with the pre – season testing in Barcelona, Spain. Pre – season testing is the first time it can be seen if what has been designing all winter works on the track. It lasts 3 days and that is the only time the driver has, to get to grips with the car. Sometimes the car works perfectly but that only rarely happens. In pre – season testing there were a number of problems for teams like Ferrari, Mercedes, HAAS, and even Williams. 

On the second day of testing we discovered that there was something unusual going on inside the Mercedes Silver Bullet. Later realising it was the DAS, (Dual Axis Steering). This allows you to change the toe or the angle of the wheels when the driver pushes or pulls the wheel. This is a very clever way to give Mercedes extra speed on the straight roads and to bring temperature to the tires. This allows you to increase your grip and have accurate braking. The DAS is a very controversial topic, which is why Red Bull, a team from F1 went to the FIA(Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile). To this instance they replied, “This isn’t news to the FIA, it’s something we’ve been talking to them for some time. The rules are pretty clear about what’s permitted on steering systems and we’re pretty confident that it matches those requirements.”  

When Racing Point, another F1 team showed their car , there were very noticeable similarities between their car and a previous Mercedes car. Some people called it a carbon copy of the Mercedes W11 car just painted in pink. Racing Point did not argue with this because they used Mercedes gearboxes, engine, and even the same suspension. The Racing point team was put under scrutiny because Renult, another F1 team asked the FIA to take a look at Racing Point’s car design and listed parts to see if the origin of the parts were from the team itself. In the end there was a problem with the brake ducts of the car and Racing Point was deducted 15 points and fined $470,00 but they were allowed to keep using it. Renault were not happy with this but they had to settle with it. 

The COVID-19 pandemic did not stop F1.The race continued in Melbourne. However, nobody was wearing a mask and nobody was socially distancing.  Later, we found out that 2 mechanics in Mclaren, a F1 team, had symptoms of the virus and 1 of them tested positive. A joint statement from the FIA and the Australian Grand Prix Corporation said, “There will be no racing in Melbourne, Australia due to COVID 19”. All the fans were forced to go back and the crowd started jeering at the announcer. After that they did not have a race for 217 days,The longest time F1 had gone without a race. 

Christian Horner said, “Nobody could have predicted the damage this virus could have and has done in the past 10 weeks.” The next time the drivers got to drive a car was in Spielberg, Austria. During the qualifying rounds, Valteri Bottas, a Mercedes F1 driver, was forced onto the gravel that resulted in a yellow flag which means an incident is up ahead, and to slow down. Lewis Hamilton, another Mercedes F1 driver was on a very fast lap when he neared the flag indicator. He crossed it without slowing down but instead accelerating. He said that he could not see it in the dust and that is why he did not slow down. This resulted in a 3 place penalty for Lewis Hamilton in the race. 

Another memorable incident during the race was Lando Norris, a McLaren driver winning his first podium. This was possible because of Alex Albon and Lewis Hamilton. Alex Albon was trying to overtake Lewis Hamilton for first place. However in the heat of the moment, Hamilton’s front tire collided with Albon’s back tire and he spun onto the gravel. This act was classified as Hamilton’s fault and he got a 5 second penalty that would add on at the end. Later in the race Hamilton was third and Lando Norris was fourth and 6.5 second behind Hamilton. If Lando Norris could earn 1.5 second in two laps he would earn his very first podium!

Norris drove like his life depended on it and the gap to Lewis was now 4.8 seconds. Given that Lewis had a 5 second penalty and in the last lap of the race Lando Norris won a DHL fastest lap of the race with a time of 1:07.475. Not only did he earn a podium but he got the fastest lap of the entire race.

In conclusion, this season of F1 was rounded off despite all of the penalties, Lewis Hamilton followed by Valtteri Bottas. In the constructors championship Mercedes came first followed by Red bull. These were the greatest moments in 2020 formula one.

Human Library #2 – Anand Desai

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This article is part of the Human Library Series

By Siya Aggarwal

The second speaker as part of the Human Library was Anand Desai who, other than sharing his journey with us, touched upon the topics of Property Law, Succession, and the importance of adapting with technological advancements.

Anand Desai has been Managing Partner at DSK Legal since it was founded in April, 2001. Recognized as a leading practitioner in India, Anand has over 35 years of extensive domestic and international experience being a trusted counsel to several large multinational and Indian corporates and high net worth individuals, including many business leaders and celebrities. He has been featured in the book titled “100 Legal Luminaries of India,” published by LexisNexis, and in the Top 100 A-List published by India Business Law Journal. He is also listed as one of the leading lawyers in India in Whos Who Legal, Chambers Global, IFLR, Asia-Pacific Legal 500, and Asialaw Profiles.

An astute litigator and negotiator, Mr. Desai has developed a strong track record of successfully representing many high profile clients in criminal and civil litigation including in the areas of real estate, commercial disputes, intellectual property, antitrust and information technology, as also getting several large commercial deals concluded.  

Question: What is the impact of technology and the new age’s integration into it on law? 

“In India a lot of people have not thought through the value of intangibles, social media, intellectual property, and many other aspects of our lives today which are not new anywhere near  what they used to be. To give you a sense of how the world has evolved, companies with most monetary value are primarily the technology companies around the world. More and more it’s being said that data is the new oil, not data is the new gold or data is the new land but data is the new oil. So oil has taken over our lives to a large extent for its sheer value and now that same trend is being seen with data. Technology and data become so important that data protection is something that we are going to have a law about in India. I don’t know what shape and form it will finally present itself but it is an important part of the new age.”

Question: Could you talk a little bit about property law in India?

“Talking a little bit about property law and succession; As we all read in the newspaper it seems to be an ever-changing matter in this country. I’ll touch upon the aspects and then come to what I believe the future is going to look like. Many of you must have read the rights of the daughter in a Hindu family in matters related to property – it’s known as joint family and now finally recognized. there is the judgement that supposedly said that the nomination in the society may take precedence over a will. there are many differences between succession and the Hindu law, muslim law et cetera. My understanding which may not be commonly accepted by everyone is that in terms of the nomination, the ‘will’ ultimately takes effect and societal nominees are temporary. In terms of succession laws historically perception has been that Hindu parents give the girl child in marriage and that is a commonly accepted notion. From the idea that the family she goes into is where she belongs and not the family she comes from. It’s interesting to look at how history has unfolded and how to change from where we are today. There has been development towards equality in law as The Supreme Court has said that The Hindu girl child from a joint family has equal right over property law and so do her children. There have been multiple judgements which I won’t be going into but this was just a touch about succession.”

Question: What advice would you give to aspiring lawyers?

“I come from a family of lawyers which I believe makes some difference initially, thereafter I don’t think it really makes a difference. One thing I learned along the way on my journey to get what I am now, is really trying to ask clients to have clarity of thought and I believe that sometimes itself adds a lot towards what the client hopes to achieve. Very often I find that clients come with a certain objective that may not be their own objective, but comes from a variety of interactions with other people who have told them what they should do, rather than what they themselves want to achieve. I genuinely believe I have remained as privileged as working with many senior counsels and senior partners of law firms, and there’s one quality that comes really evidently distinguishing them from others with the clarity of thought that comes from them and that they bring to the table.”

In conclusion, Mr. Desai proved to us with his illuminating and informative session that law is more than what meets the eye. He was effectively able to convey interesting and advisory knowledge while simultaneously adding a personal element. His journey has been one filled with achievement, accomplishment but also with many learnings whose he eloquently imparted to us all.

Geneocide or Genocide?

Source - https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-03-18/kathleen-folbigg-new-evidence-suggests-wrongly-convicted-killing/10910200

by Tara Hebbar

Sentenced to 40 years in prison was Kathleen Folbigg, for smothering her 4 children before any of them reached the age of 2. She was deemed the “worst female serial killer” by the Australian Tabloids and convicted by the Australian Judicial System in 2003 . All through the past 18 years, she has pleaded innocence, claiming all children passed away from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, a death of an infant in their sleep, who was seemingly healthy. Now, in 2021, over 90 scientists have come to her defence, and “proved” her claims and petitioned for her release, claiming it a “miscarrige of justice.” This group of scientists include 2 Nobel laureates. This is a story of medicine, versus a system that very rarely overturns convictions and a competition of diary entries and genetic mutations. What really is the story of Kathleen Folbigg and the mysterious deaths of her children?

Now 53 years of age, Kathleen Folbigg has maintained a plea for innocence, 30 years since the death of her firstborn. However, Kathleen Folbigg’s story begins at the age of her being 18 months old. At this age, in 1968, Kathleen’s mother was stabbed on a public footpath by her father who was in a drunken rage over her mothers walking out over a financial dispute. In her diary 28 years later, she entered, “Obviously, I am my father’s daughter.” At this time, she was married and settled. Caleb, her first child died at 19 days of age, and was classified death due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Her second born, Patrick, born blind, died at 8 months of age, in accordance to his death certificate due to a fit of epilepsy and choking. Her third, Sarah, met the same fate at 10 months of age, also due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Her last child, Laura,  passed away at 18 months of age, the cause being “undetermined” at the time of her death. These subsequent deaths, of similar causes were sure to raise questions.

At first glance, this all seemed to be a coincidental tragedy, however, subsequent to reading a diary entry by Kathleen, that said, “Sarah had left with a bit of help,”  Kathleen Folbigg was turned into the police by her husband. In her defence, Mrs. Folbigg claimed that the “help” referred to her hope that God had taken Sarah away from the world. At her court case, the same doctor who let Laura’s cause of death as undetermined, was an expert witness, when he said that flying pigs were more likely than 4 young babies dying in the same family in a span of 10 years. This however, was not backed with any proof or evidence at the time. When she was accused and covicted of the murder of her 4 children, she collapsed into tears. 

Several years later, science is coming to her rescue, with more than 90 scientists claiming that what  Kathleen Folbigg was saying many years ago, was indeed true. Even when convicted, there was no evidence of smothering, and this was mentioned in the petition of the scientists. They additionally claimed that none of the children were in the pink of health prior to their death. Laura, the 4th child, had respiratory difficulties and was found to have an inflamed heart in the autopsy following her death. Kathleen Folbigg’s lawyers consulted several scientists and asked them to investigate a mutation that might have resulted in the events that took place. Two scientists, by the names of Carola Vinuesa and Dr. Todor Arsov, agreed to sequence Kathleen Folbigg’s genome, with her consent. What they both found was that Kathleen Folbigg had a rare genetic mutation in the CALM2 gene. Any defect in any 3 of the CALM genes can lead to Sudden Deaths in infant and cardiac arrests. The mutation is observed in only 75 people, worldwide. This includes some parents, who don’t exhibit any symptoms, their children, however, died in most cases, most commonly of heart attacks. This is enhanced with the presence of a drug called pseudoephedrine, a drug for colds and coughs, one which Laura was taking. 

Using blood samples, taken following their death, it was found that both Laura and Sarah shared their mothers mutation. A formal inquiry was scheduled, but the new found evidence was not being taken in seriousness. Professor Vinuesa then reached out to Prof. Peter Schwartz, who knew of an American family who shared  Kathleen Folbigg’s problem. Even with this evidence, the judge reached a conclusion considering her diary entry more valid than the scientific evidence. This further encouraged the science network to bring “justice” for Kathleen Folbigg. More intricate studies into both Mr. and Mrs. Folbiggs genomes, revealed that they both had different rare mutations, which in mice had been linked to early lethal epileptic seizures. Culminating all the evidence, over 90 eminent scientists have agreed on Kathleen Folbigg’s innocence. Professor Vinuesa said, “We would feel exhilarated for Kathleen if she is pardoned, It would send a very strong message that science needs to be taken seriously by the legal system.”

This case brings on the important moral question of priority in evidence. Even with scientific evidence, should courts be allowed to say otherwise? Additionally, it gives importance to science in the legal system and the strong evidence it could procure, to either punish the wrong or save the innocent. Being a staunch believer in the power of science, I do believe that it deserves a larger seat in the legal system, however, not blind acceptance. The Kathleen Folbigg case is just the stepping stone for science to make its way into the law game. A diary entry is far more ambiguous than scientific proof that has been validated by several eminent scientists. This only brings to the question of whether it should be easier to reverse convictions if facts allow it.  However, the question of Kathleen Folbigg still remains unanswered, was it genes or really genocide?

India of Light and Darkness

Source - https://www.firstshowing.net/2020/teaser-trailer-for-ramin-bahranis-empowering-film-the-white-tiger/

by Diya Barmecha

The movie, White Tiger was released a few weeks back on Netflix, and  features the child of a rich businessman,named  Ashok played by Rajkummar Rao and his driver Balram played by Adarsh Gourav. In one short scene sitting, setin a small dhaba (restaurant) Ashok after living in the US said to Balram, “You know this is the real India.” However, Balram described India as something else. He said, “There is an India of light and an India of darkness” These two interpretations are made by characters that reside in India, they aren’t able to see India. So how do filmmakers or other viewers interpret India? 

Filmmakers try desperately to show the “real India” but they all end up putting forward the same things and miss out the land of diverse culture and exotic mysteries. The White Tiger, which was based on a 2008 book by Aravind Adiga may not have shown the real India, but at least it featured real Indians. This is one of the few Hollywood movies that was shot in India and comprises only of Indian cast. 

In the past, there have been movies where Hollywood or British actors paint their faces brown to pass as an Indian. For example, in “A passage to India”. Indian representation, however, has come a long way from those days.Even Steven Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” which was supposed to be set in India, was shot in Sri Lanka. They showed the “savage” nature of our culture with people eating snakes and monkey brains. Even in the movie “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” there was a home for British expats in Jaipur. It may not seem feasible from the view of many Indians, but that’s how the filmmakers and movie industry have visioned it in various movies. 

To truly represent India in all of its truths, one has to live in India. All the films about India that have gotten international attention are film adaptations from books which are written in English. This would mean that the main audience would be international. Other mentions of India primarily the themes of Mumbai’s big slums and New Delhi’s big class divide. Isn’t the real India more than just these themes? Shouldn’t the filmmakers be aiming to capture India is all of its reality — good and bad?

Balram in The White Tiger was right to say that there is an India of light and an India of darkness, but what he failed to mention is that there is a big part of India that is in between the darkness and the light. The movie highlights the struggles of being a part of a lower socio-economic class and how they are pushed around. In the movie this was interpreted as a rooster coop. 

The roosters in a coop at the market watch as each one gets slaughtered and yet they do not rebel or try to break out of the coop because they have accepted their fate. Similarly in India, people watch as the wealthy and the powerful walk over the others and yet they are unable to do anything. Balram has the belief that the culture of a traditional Indian family makes sure that the rooster coop ways are kept alive. This exists because if a servant tries to disobey his master, the master will punish the servant’s family as well. Towards the end of the movie Balram has the realization that to break free from the coop one must be willing to sacrifice everything. Their morality, values, and even their loyalty to their family.

The real India as we can see is an India of light and an India of dark but what many fail to mention is that there can be a transition of many people from the dark parts of India into the light ones. These transitions as mentioned above require the letting go of morality, values and loyalty. The interpretation of real India lies hidden to people in foreign nations as well as people residing in India as well.

It Wasn’t Me – Justifying Our Own Actions.

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Source - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Didn%27t_Do_It_(film)

by Tara Hebbar and Diya Barmecha 

“I had to, it wasn’t my fault,” This is a line that many of us have said or often thought of. We are so quick to blame and put down others for making a small mistake but when we do the same, our minds always find a way to justify it. What is the reason for this? To what extent can our mind justify our actions while condemning another for doing the same?

Whether it is breaking the traffic signal or forging an age on a ticket, there are several such actions which are against the law or unethical, but commonly done. When we hear of someone else’s wrong doings we are quick to condemn them for it, and jump to conclusions about their motives. However, when we do the same thing, we always tend to find a reason to make it seem less drastic, or extremely required. For example, when it comes to the example of breaking the traffic signal, when we see others do it, we nod our heads disapprovingly or make a remark about their ignorance to the law, however, when we are in a race with time or forget to stop for the signal, it’s suddenly justified. We always associate our own wrongdoings with rhyme and reason, but refuse to reciprocate this when others have done the same. Humanity as a race, has trouble with providing the benefit of the doubt, and are always looking to pin the blame on someone or something, anything apart from themselves. 

The act of “gossiping” is a derivative of the same, we are quick to circulate the actions of others, especially with those who fuel us, or share the same opinions. It is a known fact that humans have been gossiping since the beginning of our existence on the planet. We tend to not only discuss others wrongdoings, but additionally attribute plausible reasons for it as well. We bring the past into the present and see these as a means to predict the future, and therefore form judgements on certain people or things. Although it is natural, there is also a line that needs to be drawn. Just because a large population of people bend and tweak the laws to suit them, that does not make it right. In the example given above,the law simply states that the traffic signal cannot be broken, it does not consider the morality or the several possible reasons one might find to break it. 

The reason that we self-justify is explained well by psychology with an idea called cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is used to describe the feeling of mental discomfort that occurs when there are two contradicting beliefs. Due to this discomfort most people tend to want consistency and thus change their perception to minimize the discomfort. This theory was proposed by Leon Festinger, an American social psychologist. He believes that we have a need from within to ensure that we are consistent. From our beliefs to behaviours, he believes we need consistency. One of the main reasons for cognitive dissonance is being required to forcefully comply. This could be one of the reasons why we find the need to justify our own actions. When we are put in a situation where we are not comfortable or feeling dissonance we find consistency and go back to our feeling of “normal”. When we justify ourselves we decrease the dissonance that was caused by what we did. We can try to justify it by creating blind spots and have no opportunity for forgiveness. By justifying ourselves, we maintain a positive image of ourselves and increase our self-esteem. Although psychology has found a reason why we justify our own actions, there is no moral reason to do so. 

In conclusion, there are several reasons that we can attribute to our wrong doings and actions in order to justify it, to ourselves and others. Psychology and science backs this up, however, there is also a line that needs to be drawn and made crystal clear. If we allow ourselves to  justify our actions, in every scenario, then we can never better ourselves and learn from the past, instead of living in it.

India’s Budget 2021

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    Source - https://www.indiabudget.gov.in/

    by Anya Daftary and Aahana Khemani

    India is a large country, with a large population, of over 1 billion people! In order for the government to use their wealth wisely for all the people, the government has to divide the country’s wealth each year to ensure that the wealth is being used most efficiently for the country.

    The union budget is a statement released annually by the Indian Finance Minister describing the allocation of funds for that fiscal year as well as the rates and taxes on different things. Usually, it’s a paper document, it’s secrecy is highly valued and individuals working on this are not permitted to leave the building for a while. This is because this document contains the rates and taxes on various materials such as gold and silver and industries and factories can alter prices to compensate for the tax added or deducted. Not only has the COVID-19 Pandemic changed all of our lives, it has led to this coveted document being published and documented digitally for the first time in 73 annual budget presentations! This is a sign of just how the role of technology has been intertwined with our lives!

    India’s finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, presented the Union Budget 2021 in the parliament. A couple of highlights of the budget were on the points of expenditure, receipts, GDP growth, and Ministry allocations. On expenditure, the government proposes to spend ₹30,42,230 crore in 2020-21, a raise of 12.7% than the revised estimate of 2019-2020. As for receipts, apart from net borrowings, receipts are estimated to increase by an astonishing 16.3% to Rs. 22,45,893 crore. Coming over to the GDP, the government has assumed a 10% growth rate. Last but not least, under Ministry allocations, amongst the top thirteen ministries that have the highest allocations, the highest percentage increase is of the Ministry of Communications (129%), subsequent by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare (30%) which was followed by the Ministry of Home Affairs (20%). 

    The budget this year certainly has interesting new initiatives. One of these include the “Deep Ocean Mission.” With a budget outlay of more than 4,000 crores over five years, the mission will aim towards covering deep ocean survey exploration and projects to help conserve deep sea biodiversity. Another intriguing initiative is the “National Language Translation Mission (NTLM).” This enables the governance-and-policy related knowledge on the Internet being made available in significantly major Indian Languages. Last but not least, the government proposes to provide 1,000 crores for the welfare of tea workers (more specifically to women and their children) in Assam as well as in West Bengal. A special scheme will be devised for the same. This seems to be a quite open-minded and interesting scheme as tea workers in rural areas of India, are not always paid fairly!

    The budget while touching on key points such as healthcare, education and defense, as per usual, received criticism and compliments. Some compliments came from many business owners, small and big and they were vocal about their support of the budget such as; Eela Dubey, the founder of EduFund, a college planning service for Indian students said,

    “What matters for a middle-class person saving today is clarity in personal taxation, stable investment regime and risk-adjusted financial assets available. Today we have a confluence of all the 3 in India. If you are a person wanting to embark on your financial journey today is an ideal time. The best time to invest was yesterday, the second-best time to invest is today.”  

    Whilst, Rahul Gandhi, MP and leader of the opposing party, Congress was vocal about his criticism toward the bill. On February 1st, he tweeted “Forget putting cash in the hands of people, Modi Govt plans to handover India’s assets to his crony capitalist friends.” Amongst other tweets.

    In conclusion, this year’s budget certainly has it’s benefits, and on a deeper level analysis, it’s cons too. This year’s budget touches on the topics of expenditure, receipts, GDP growth, Ministry allocations, and also makes way for new initiatives! Everybody is entitled to their own opinion on the budget, and therefore, there is both criticism and compliments, like for multiple different aspects of life. 

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