Mind over body

Despite Ukraine’s penchant for exaggerating their combat successes, it is clear that the mighty Russian military is struggling. But what explains the world’s second most powerful armed forces’ prolonged troubles in steamrolling a much inferiorly- equipped band of fighters? A former United States marine, volunteering outside Kyiv, offers some explanations in a conversation with Elliot Ackerman who jots down the fighter’s claims in an article for The Atlantic.

In terms of strategy, the Russians’ highly-centralised style of operations seem to be a deterrent. In contrast, Ukraine’s “mission-style command and control” empowers soldiers “to understand the mission…to use their initiative to adapt to the exigencies of a chaotic and ever-changing battlefield in order to accomplish that mission. “

But it may not only be a strategy problem. It’s the battle in the mind that the Russians seem to be struggling to win. As Ukraine’s former defence minister Andrii Pavlovych Zahorodniuk claimed to the Ackerman in a separate conversation on the subject:

Our motivation—it is the most important factor, more important than anything. We’re fighting for the lives of our families, for our people, and for our homes. The Russians don’t have any of that, and there’s nowhere they can go to get it.

Read the full piece here.

Love in the time of war

Ukrainian national Anna Horodetska fled the country earlier this month with little else except a change of clothes – and a coffee machine. The latter may sound like a strange thing to bring along, but Horodetska wasn’t just fleeing the war. She was going to India to get married and the coffee machine was her grandmother’s wedding gift.

In The Indian Express, Anand J Mohan chronicles the story of Horodetska who managed to get a two-year Indian visa – with the help of her fiancé Anubhav Bhasin, a lawyer in the Delhi High court after several nerve-wracking weeks:

Hiding in a bunker in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv soon after the invasion began, Anna spoke over the phone to Anubhav, who told her to stay put.  But she decided she had to reach India one way or the other.

Read the full story here.

Reliving the trauma

Ketanji Brown Jackson may now be all set to become the first black woman on the United States’ Supreme Court, but her confirmation hearings which involved hostile questioning from several Republican senators was a tearjerker for many black women.

The hearing’ harsh exchanges, many Black women said, reminded them of the “same hardly veiled discrimination that they have experienced at times in their personal and professional lives”, report Patricia Mazzei, Tariro Mzezewa and Jill Cowan in The New York Times. They write:

For Black women in America, feelings of pride and hope over Judge Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court overlapped with pain and disgust as Republicans in the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned her this week on critical race theory and gender identity, and claimed that she was lenient toward people charged with possessing child sexual abuse imagery.

Read the full article here.

A success story turns tragic

Several parts of Asia ushered in 2022 with a new wave of the pandemic, but Hong Kong, as in the last two years, seemed immune to it. But things have dramatically changed since, reports Dhruv Khullar in the New Yorker. The country has the dubious distinction of having one of the highest Covid-19 death rates in the world. So what went wrong? Khullar spoke to Siddharth Sridhar, a physician and clinical virologist in the department of microbiology at the University of Hong Kong.

Sridhar says:

There’s a few reasons for it. First of all, the vaccination rate in the elderly was less than fifty per cent. That was a major contributing factor. Then there’s the issue of health care just breaking down in general.

Read the full article here.