How 9/11 Changed The World?

How 9/11 Changed The World?

Let us look at the background of the 9/11 attacks on the US, which changed the course of the world regarding its battle against terrorism and militancy.

Crux of the Matter

What Happened On 9/11?
On 11 September, 2001, 19 al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked 4 planes in the US for suicide attacks. 2 of the planes were crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City, 1 plane was crashed into the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C., while 1 plane was crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

3,000+ casualties were reported, while more than 6,000+ people were reported injured. All the 19 hijackers died in the attacks, which were planned by Osama bin Laden.

Background To The Incident

  • 1979: Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan to support the latter’s Communist Government. The war was initiated against Mujahideen, which was radical Islamist group waging ‘jihad’ (holy war) against the Afghan Communists.
  • The then US President Ronald Reagan backed Mujahideen against Communists. Reagan supported the group reportedly through ‘Operation Cyclone’, which provided funds and arms to Mujahideen.
  • Incidentally, Osama bin Laden was one such supporter of Mujahideen who raised funds in their support. Bin Laden later developed anti-US stance and formed al Qaeda in 1988.
  • Bin Laden facilitated several attacks on the US personnel prior to 9/11, including the 1993 attacks in Somalia, 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania etc. He also issued a ‘fatwa’ against the US for infiltrating into the Islamic world while supporting Israel in its conflict with Palestine and the Arab world.
  • 2 May, 2011: Bin Laden was killed by the US troops in Pakistan.

Aftermath In US
The US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to eradicate al-Qaeda and the supporting Taliban group in a ‘War on Terror’. The then US President famously made the declaration –

Over time it’s going to be important for nations to know they will be held accountable for inactivity. You’re either with us or against us in the fight against terror.

George Bush, Former President, USA

The US troops are still present in Afghanistan after almost 2 decades. The US also invaded Iraq under the same title in 2003 on suspicion of “weapons of mass destruction”, which were never found.

Airport security in the country became stricter, with several new measures employed for enhanced security. Anti-Muslim violence increased in the country, with an increase from 12 such assaults in 2000 increased to 93 in 2001. The ‘Patriot Act’ was passed in the country, which allowed security agencies to tap phones or search one’s home or internet history without notifying.

One of the most notable changes came in the form of the Guantánamo Bay Naval Station, located on the coast of Guantánamo Bay (Cuba), which was modified to hold prisoners suspected of terrorism against the US. Besides holding more than 700 detainees at its peak, the prison diminished legal rights for prisoners as the prison is outside US where the US Constitution is not applicable.

World Reaction

  • Several countries remained on high alert after 9/11 attacks.
  • UK and several EU nations joined the US in its ‘War on Terrorism’.
  • The then British PM Tony Blair labelled the conflict a “clash about civilisation”, with the UK also aiding the US in its 2003 invasion of Iraq.
  • Hostilities between European nations, the US, and the Middle East increased.
  • Most of the Islamic nations like Syria, Libya, Egypt, etc condemned the attacks. Iraq was the only nation to justify the attacks, claiming that “the American cowboys are reaping the fruit of their crimes against humanity”.
  • The 9/11 Memorial & Museum is a memorial in New York City commemorating the September 11, 2001 attacks. The memorial is located at the World Trade Center site, the former location of the Twin Towers that were destroyed during the September 11 attacks.
  • Raising the Flag at Ground Zero is a photograph by Thomas E. Franklin of The Record, taken on September 11 2001. The picture shows three New York City firefighters raising the U.S. flag at Ground Zero of the World Trade Center, following the attacks. 
  • Ayman Mohammed Rabie al-Zawahiri is an Egyptian terrorist known for being the leader of terrorist group al-Qaeda since June 2011, succeeding Osama bin Laden following his death. Since the September 11 attacks, the U.S. State Department has offered a $25 million reward for information or intelligence leading to al-Zawahiri’s capture.

Mail-In Ballot And The Trump Problem

Mail-In Ballot And The Trump Problem

The US House of representatives recently approved funding for the US Postal Service with the November 2020 elections looming close. The decision came amidst the recent mail-in ballot voting, with President Trump attempting to diminish their role in the elections.

Crux of the Matter

What Is Mail-In Ballot?
In the Mail-in voting, ballot papers for voting are received and sent back (after choosing the vote) via postal service, or put in a dropbox in several cases. Earlier, only Absentee type of voting was followed mainly – only sick people or soldiers on duty could request. Covid-19 pandemic has changed the situation, with several states adopting the mail-in voting for all even with “no specific reason”.

  • 34 states like Florida, Oklahoma, etc have allowed a mail-in vote on the request, where no specific reason is required to request for a mail-in vote.
  • 8 States like California, Nevada, etc have implemented “Universal mail ballot” for 2020, where all registered voters would be sent mail ballots without requesting.
  • Remaining 8 states like Louisiana, New York require a proper reason for a mail ballot in 2020.

In the 2016 US Presidential elections, 33 million (~25%) votes were cast by mail. Several states have seen a major increase in voting by mail over the last few years. In Colorado, voters are automatically sent the mail-in ballot by default since 2014.

The 2020 elections are vital regarding the mail-in ballot due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with an increased focus on social distancing. 76% American voters are reportedly eligible to “receive a ballot in the mail” for the 2020 elections, and around 80 million people are expected to vote by mail.

USPS’ $25 Billion Fund
The US House of Representatives recently passed an emergency funding bill to provide $25 billion to the US Postal Service (USPS). The Bill also prevents further changes to mail-in voting before the November 2020 US elections.

President Trump had called the bill “hoax” and had asked his Republican party members to vote against it. However, the bill passed by 257-150 votes, with 26 Republicans voting in favour of the bill.

Trump’s Stance
Trump has been calling mail ballots “hoax”, and recently declared them “dangerous” and prone to “cheating”. Ironically, Trump had voted absentee by mail in March 2020 Florida elections and had also voted absentee by mail from New York in the 2018 Midterm elections.

Critics have alleged that the postal problems have been started since the appointment of Louis DeJoy, who became the Postmaster General in June 2019. DeJoy is a declared Republican supporter who has donated $1.2 million to the Trump campaign and $1.3 million to the Republican Party so far.

DeJoy Measures
DeJoy has implemented several changes since his election, mainly the shutting down of several mail sorting machines and prohibiting overtime working. Several delays in receiving mails have been reported since last year, with critics alleging that the cuts in expenditure have slowed down the process. DeJoy had also planned to raise package rates, service prices in Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and Alaska, cut down discounts for nonprofit mails, etc.

In his statement, DeJoy claimed that the changes would be implemented post the 2020 elections. However, by accessing internal documents, CNN has claimed that he was planning to implement the measures weeks before the elections, which would have
drastically delayed the delivery of mail-in ballots.

Bill’s Impact
If passed in the House of Senate, the Bill would:

  • Provide $25 billion emergency funding to the US Postal Service.
  • Pause the removal of mail sorting machines.
  • Remove restrictions from overtime and overtime pay.
  • Make the USPS treat election mail as “first-class” to ensure delivery on time.
  • Prevent changes that would diminish or eliminate voting by mail.
  • Blackballing is a rejection in a traditional form of secret ballot, where a white ball or ballot constitutes a vote in support and a black ball signifies opposition. The system is typically used where an organisation’s rules provide that one or two objections, rather than an at-least-50% share of votes, are sufficient to defeat a proposition.
  • Robert’s Rules is the most widely used manual of parliamentary procedure in the United States. The manual was first published in 1876 by U.S. Army officer Henry Martyn Robert, who adapted the rules and practice of Congress to the needs of non-legislative societies.
  • The word ballot comes from Italian ballotta, meaning a “small ball used in voting” or a “secret vote taken by ballots” in Venice, Italy.
  • In ancient India, around 920 AD, in Tamil Nadu, palm leaves were used for village assembly elections. The palm leaves with candidate names were put inside a mud pot for counting. This was called the Kudavolai system.

Firestorms On A Rapid Rise In California

Firestorms On A Rapid Rise In California

Recent firestorms are threatening to ruin the peace of Sunny California, already fighting 653K Covid-19 cases. With destruction of 100+ structures, thousands have evacuated already. What does a firestorm mean and how does it occur? Do you know how it all started? What is Google Maps doing to help? Let us find out.

Crux of the Matter

What Did The Firestorm Do?
One of the largest firestorms in the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern California, grew to more than 124,000 acres by Wednesday night this week. It has already destroyed 100+ structures, threatened 25,000 others and caused thousands to evacuate their homes in the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

But What’s A Firestorm?
A firestorm is a large and destructive bushfire/wildfire that threatens human life, animal life, health, and/or property. It attains such a great intensity that it creates and sustains its own storm-like wind system.

Examples of Firestorms: The Black Saturday bushfires, aerial fire bombings of Hamburg, Dresden, and Tokyo.

How Are They Formed?
Due to the stack effect which causes the heat of the original fire to draw in more and more of the surrounding air, on top of it.

Since the heat is constantly rising from the fire and the air moves upwards, it leaves behind some empty space. Air from all around the fire rushes in to fill that gap and this movement creates a powerful wind called an updraft.

Thus inwardly-directed winds develop around the fire & the tremendous turbulence created, causes an erratic direction change of the winds, spreading the fire in the surroundings.

Fire Tornados And Fire Clouds
The rising air in such storms can be so speedy, that it creates a circular movement of air that forms an air whirlpool, also known as the fire “devil” or fire tornado. Composed of flame and ash, they can reach temperatures of up to 2000°F and be hundreds of feet tall.

Also as the smoke from the fire whirl rises, it condenses when it reaches the upper atmosphere. The water comes from moisture already in the atmosphere and the water evaporating from the burned plants fuelling the fire. The cloud that forms is called a pyrocumulus or a fire cloud.

What Caused Them This Time?
According to Daniel Swain, a climate scientist with UCLA & the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Northern & Central California experienced an unexpected number of dry lightning strikes on Sunday morning, the most violent one in the Bay Area, causing a rescue helicopter to crash.

After which, there were 10,849 lightning strikes and 367 major fires burning statewide, by Wednesday afternoon.

What Do The Statistics Say?
As per the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, 300,000+ acres have burned statewide in 2020 compared to 270,000 acres in 2019.

Temperature records were broken as well on 18th August, with Woodland Hills in California hitting 44.4°C, shattering a record set in 1949.

Google Maps To The Rescue?
Google shall update Maps and Search to help local and federal officials with real-time information about the size, boundaries, and locations of fires in the U.S.

New features include:

  • On seeing the name of a wildfire, users shall see official updates.
  • An “Affected Area” section will display a map view of a fire’s boundaries.
  • When the users click on the map, it will direct them to Google Maps, which shall show road closures and warn them if they’re approaching an active fire.
  • Additionally, air-quality updates and safety tips from the American Red Cross for affected regions will be offered.
  • Evacuation alerts will be available via SOS Alert features. It is yet to update evacuation zones in the actual boundary maps.

  • The Great Kantō earthquake struck the main Japanese island of Honshū on September 1, 1923. Because the earthquake struck at lunchtime when many people were cooking meals over fire, many people died as a result of the many large fires that broke out and resulted in firestorms and even a fire tornado.
  • Firebombing is a technique designed to damage a target, generally an urban area, through the use of fire, caused by incendiary devices, rather than from the blast effect of large bombs. Such raids often employ both incendiary devices and high explosives.
  • The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is an international nonprofit organization devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards.

Explosive Allegations On Trump By Bolton

John Bolton, an official who served under President Trump, would be releasing a book making explosive claims on Trump’s dealings.

Crux of the Matter

Who Is Bolton?
John Bolton served as the US National Security Adviser (NSA) from 2018 to 2019. On June 23rd, the release of his new book The Room Where It Happened is expected. In the book, Bolton has made serious allegations against President Trump, especially concerning his international dealings.

Trump sought judiciary aid to ban the release of the book. However, the DC District Court rejected his appeal.

Claims In The Book
Several copies of the book have been provided to news firms which have revealed the major claims made by Bolton

  • Trump has sought help from Chinese President Xi Jinping to win the elections of November 2020.
  • Trump told Xi that he wanted to amend US constitution to change the limit of two 4-year tenures for Presidents.
  • Trump did not know if Finland is a part of Russia
  • Trump state how it would be “cool” to invade Venezuela.

Trump Impeachment
President Trump was put on a trial after impeachment, occurring only the 3rd time in US history. He was accused of colluding with Ukraine to enhance his chances of re-election in November 2020, and of obstructing the working of the US Congress.

In the process of Impeachment, Bolton rejected the request of the Democrats to testify in the court and threatened legal action if subpoenaed. Later, he accused them of “impeachment malpractice”.

Bolton has received criticism for staying silent in the Impeachment process while releasing a book on it, with some critics accusing him of placing monetary gains over legal duties.

Past And Future
Bolton’s book adds to the long list of books and memos criticizing Trump. James Comey, who served as the director of the FBI from 2013 to 2017, released his “memos” of working with the President. In the text, Comey alleged strong links between Trump and Russia and accused him of interfering in the investigation of Michael Flynn, who was the Chief of Staff of the President in 2017. Comey even released a book called A Higher Loyalty on Trump. Another famous tell-all book on the Trump Presidency is Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury.

Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man is an upcoming book written by Mary Trump, the niece of President Trump.

The book, which would be released on 28 July, explains the background of her uncle who “threatens the world’s health, economic security, and social fabric”. However, Donald Trump claims that Mary signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement in 2001 which prohibits her from publishing the book.

  • Why We Want You to Be Rich: Two Men, One Message is a 2006 non-fiction book about personal finance, co-authored by Donald Trump and Robert Kiyosaki. Kiyosaki is the author of Rich Dad Poor Dad, one of the most famous pieces of literature on the importance of financial literacy.
  • HSBC Holdings PLC is a British multinational investment bank and financial services holding company. It was the 7th largest bank in the world by 2018, and the largest in Europe, with total assets of $2.558 trillion (as of December 2018). James Comey served on the board of directors of HSBC Holdings until July 2013.
  • In May 2002, Bolton gave a speech entitled “Beyond the Axis of Evil” in response to President Bush’s State of the Union Address (where Bush characterized Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as part of an “Axis of Evil”). Bolton added three more nations to be grouped with the aforementioned rogue states: Cuba, Libya, and Syria.

A-Sad Decade For Syria

Civil war in Syria

US imposed severe sanctions on Syria for its human rights violation, which will impact its international standing and economy.

Crux of the Matter

Caesar Act Passed
US President Trump recently imposed Caesar law on Syria which was reported as a measure to stop “brutal acts against the Syrian people by the Assad regime”. The law targets 39 entities/people, which include President Bashar-al-Assad, his wife Asma and several prominent people.

Sequence Of Events
The law is named after photographer Caesar, who delivered 50,000+ pictures of torture occurring inside Syrian prisons. The law reinforces the freezing of assets of Assad and Asma in US. There would be sanctions on outsiders who attempt to support the Syrian govt financially or in technology, and on outsiders who engage in construction deals for areas under Syrian govt.

However, several critics have pointed to further aggravation of the economy ravaged by civil war as well as the Covid-19 pandemic.

Further Family Conflict
Rifaat al-Assad, the uncle of Bashar-al-Assad, was recently sentenced to 4 years imprisonment by the Paris Court of France. He was found guilty of acquiring property worth $113 million in France and €29 million in England using Syrian state’s funds, consequently being ordered to pay €30,000 to anti-corruption agencies. Rifaat has been in exile in France since the 1980s after he attempted to replace Hafez al-Assad, father of Bashar, who was the then Syrian President.

Syrian Civil War – Timeline

  • 2011: Protests start in Syria to remove Al-Assad and install democracy. Eventually, they become violent and civil war ensues
  • 2012: Official condemnation of civil war by UN fails as China and Russia voted against the move
  • 2012: Israel fires shots on Syria in November as mortar shells damaged Israeli army post
  • 2014: US and allies attack ISIS targets there
  • 2016: Russia starts the withdrawal of troops
  • 2019: Turkey launches an attack on it after Trump announces withdrawal from Turkey-Syria border   

US Interventions
US supported the rebel groups against Al-Assad. The major rebel alliance was the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) comprising mainly of the Kurdish people. In 2014, it launched a major attack with its allies on the ISIS groups in Syria. It provided $1 billion to train and equip the rebels. However, President Trump cancelled the deal after annihilation caused by Russian forces.

In 2017, US upped its depredation by attacking the government airfields of Syria. In 2018, Trump partially reversed his decision to withdraw troops. In 2019, Trump withdrew forces from the Turkey-Syria border area while stating that Kurds are “not angels”, which was immediately attacked by Turkey through airstrikes.

  • Bashar Hafez al-Assad is a Syrian politician who has been the President of Syria since 17 July 2000. In addition, he is the commander-in-chief of the Syrian Armed Forces and Regional Secretary of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party’s branch in Syria.
  • Bassel al-Assad was a Syrian engineer, colonel, and politician who was the eldest son of Hafez al-Assad and the older brother of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It was widely expected that he would succeed his father as President of Syria until he died in a car accident in 1994.
  • The current coat of arms of Syria consists of the Hawk of Quraish supporting a shield bearing the national flag of Syria (in vertical form), and a scroll of the words “Syrian Arab Republic” in Arabic. Since the start of the ongoing Syrian Civil War in March 2011, alternative coats of arms have been created by the Syrian opposition and the Federation of Northern Syria.