Pleasure – and Superego of Pleasure-Seekers

In a recent viral video, the Dalai Lama can be seen asking a seven-year-old boy, at a widely attended public ceremony, to give him a hug and then, “Suck my tongue.” The immediate reaction from many in the West was to


Resurrecting the Concept of the Triad


At the close of the May 2023 Group of Seven (G7) summit in Hiroshima (Japan), the foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States and the High Representative of the European Union (EU) released a long and informative statement. In a section titled ‘China’, the eight officials wrote that they ‘recognise the importance of engaging candidly with and expressing our concerns directly to China’ and that they ‘acknowledge the need to work together with China on global challenges as well as areas of common interest, including on climate change, biodiversity, global health security, and gender equality’. The diplomatic tone of the statement stands out in comparison to the heated rhetoric that these countries have adopted in recent years and is much softer than the language used at the G7 meeting itself, where the heads of government bandied about the phrase ‘economic coercion’, indirectly aimed at China.

A close reading of the speeches at the meeting suggests that there are differences of opinion amongst the leaders of the G7 countries, particularly when it comes to China and their own domestic industrial policies. Certainly, several European states are uneasy about the domestic economic consequences of prolonging the war in Ukraine and of a possible military conflict over Taiwan. It is perhaps this uneasiness that prompted US President Joe Biden to say, ‘We’re not looking to decouple from China, we’re looking to de-risk and diversify our relationship with China’.

For Europe, the notion of decoupling from China is inconceivable. In 2022, EU figures show that China was the third largest partner for goods exported from the region and the largest partner for good imported to the region, with most of the goods imported by China being high-end, value-added manufactured goods. Europe’s domestic economies have already been grievously injured by the West’s refusal to negotiate a peace agreement in Ukraine; being cut-off from the burgeoning Chinese market would be a fatal blow.

The G7 meeting reveals the gaps between the United States and its allies (Europe and Japan), but these differences of interest and opinion should not be overestimated. As part of our work at Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, we have been researching and analysing the nature of the cooperation between the United States, Europe, and Japan – the ‘Triad’, as Samir Amin called them; while our research is still ongoing, we present some of the data in this newsletter.

Following the end of the Second World War, the United States built an international system that was premised on the subordination and integration of Japan and Europe. This process of subordination and integration was evident in the military apparatus constructed by the United States, with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) established in 1949 and US-Japan Security Treaty of 1951 being the lynchpins. Establishing a system of US military bases in the defeated powers – Germany, Italy, and Japan – allowed Washington to set aside any talk of a sovereign military or diplomatic project for either Europe or Japan (tantrums from France, inspired by Charles De Gaulle’s grand sense of French destiny, led not to a withdrawal from NATO but only to a removal of French forces from the alliance’s military command in 1966).

There are currently 408 known US military bases in the Five Eyes countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and – because they share intelligence with each other – Israel), in Europe, and in Japan. Stunningly, Japan alone has 120 US military bases, while Germany hosts 119 of them. It is important to understand that these bases are not merely instruments military power, but also political power. In 1965, Thomas Hughes of the US State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research authored an important memorandum, ‘The Significance of NATO – Present and Future’. NATO, Hughes wrote, ‘remains essential to the US as a well-established and easily available instrument for exercising American political influence in Europe’ and ultimately ‘it is important for the protection of American interests in Europe’. Such a system had already been put in place in Japan, as detailed in this US military memorandum from 1962. The network of US military bases in Europe and Japan are the symbol of their political subordination to Washington.

With the signing of the US-Japan Security Treaty in 1951, Japan’s Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida accepted the dominance of the US military over his country but hoped that the Japanese state would be able to focus on economic development. Similar doctrines were articulated in Europe.

In the post-war era, an economic bloc began to form between the United States, Europe, and Japan. In 1966, Raymond Vernon published a significant journal article, ‘International Investment and International Trade in the Product Cycle’, in the Quarterly Journal of Economics in which he showed how the large international corporations built a sequential structure: goods would be first produced and sold in the United States, then in Europe, and afterwards in Japan, after which they would finally be sold in other parts of the world. In 1985, Kenichi Ohmae, managing director of the global consulting firm McKinsey’s Tokyo office, shed further light on this arrangement in his book Triad Power: The Coming Shape of Global Competition. Ohmae illustrated how international corporations had to operate simultaneously in the United States, Western Europe, and Japan; increasing capital intensity, high research and development costs, a convergence of consumer taste, and the rise of protectionism made it essential for international corporations to work in these countries, which Ohmae collectively called the Triad, and then seek markets and opportunities elsewhere (where seven-tenths of the world lived).

Samir Amin used that term – Triad – for a very different purpose. In 1980, he wrote of the ‘gradual consolidation of the central zone of the world capitalist system (Europe, North America, Japan, Australia)’, and soon thereafter began to refer to this ‘central zone’ as the Triad. The elites in Europe and Japan subordinated their own national self-interest to what the US government had begun to call their ‘common interests’. New institutions and terms emerged in the 1970s, giving shape to these ‘common interests’, including the Trilateral Commission (set up by David Rockefeller in 1973 with headquarters in Paris, Tokyo, and Washington) and the concept of ‘trilateral diplomacy’ (which brought together Western Europe, Japan, and the United States under one unified diplomatic worldview).

Intellectuals in these trilateral circles saw the United States as the central power with its vassal states (Europe and Japan) empowered to maintain control over the tributary states (such as South Korea) in order to keep the rest of the world stable. Much harsher language was used by Zbigniew Brzezinski, one of the architects of the Trilateral Commission and National Security Advisor to US President Jimmy Carter. In The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives (1997), Brzezinski wrote, ‘To put it in terminology that hearkens back to the more brutal age of ancient empires, the three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together’. You can guess who the barbarians are in Brzezinski’s imagination.

In recent years, the concept of the Triad has largely fallen out of favour. But there is a need to recover this term to better understand the actual world order. The imperialist camp is not solely geographically defined; both the older term, Triad, and the more currently used term, Global North, are geopolitical concepts. The majority of the world – the Global South – now faces a US-led and dominated imperialist system that is rooted in an integrated military structure. This system is composed of three groups: (1) the United States, the United Kingdom, and other Anglo-American white settler states; (2) Europe; and (3) Japan. The Global North is home to a minority of the world’s population (14.2%) but is responsible for a clear majority of global military spending (66.0%). According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, total world military spending reached $2.2 trillion in 2022, with the Triad and its close partners responsible for $1.46 trillion of that amount (China’s military spending is $292 billion, while Russia spends $86 billion). It is this immense military power that allows the Triad to continue to assert itself over the world’s peoples, despite its weakening hold on the world economy.

In recent years, the United States has encouraged a Japanese rearmament and a German military build-up, both of which were discouraged after the Second World War, so that these ‘vassals’ can strengthen Washington’s parochial New Cold War against Russia and China as well as the newly assertive states of the Global South. Although some elites in Europe and Japan are able to see the domestic crises in their countries that are being accelerated by the US foreign policy agenda, they lack the cultural and political confidence to stand on their own two feet.

In 2016, the European Union’s High Representative Federica Mogherini laid out the concept of Europe’s ‘strategic autonomy’ from the United States in the EU Global Strategy. Three years later, France’s Emmanuel Macron said that NATO was suffering ‘brain death’ and that ‘Europe has the capacity to defend itself’. Today, it is clear that neither assertion – Europe’s strategic autonomy nor its capacity to defend itself – holds any water. Modest returns of Gaullism in France do not offer the kind of courage required by European and Japanese leaders to break with the trilateral bargains that were set up seventy-eight years ago. Until that courage arrives, Europe and Japan will remain entrenched in their conditions of vassalage, and the Triad will remain alive and well.

International Flight Attendants’ Day – A Tribute to Our Ministering Angels


“We may travel the four corners of the world, but our job is to make you feel at home.”

International Flight Attendants’ Day – also called International Cabin Crew Members’ Day – falls on 31st May each year. To mark the day this year, The International Transport Workers’ Federation said inter alia:

“ As we mark another Cabin Crew Day, the ITF is proud to take this opportunity to reflect on the essential role these workers play in keeping the world moving. It is hard to imagine what aviation would possibly look like without the dedication, professionalism, and hard work of cabin crew. But today is also a reminder of the enormous challenges these workers face. Today is about celebration, but it is also about redoubling our efforts to fix the problems in the sector. The way employers in aviation work demands long hours and irregular shifts of workers. But this comes at a cost: overworked and under-rested cabin crew members mean that the well-being and safety of both workers and passengers alike is in jeopardy. Fatigue impairs judgement, attentiveness, and reaction times, all of which make the skies less safe.

But it is simply not true that this problem has no solution. Better rostering practices that consider crew members as human beings and provide sufficient rest periods between flights would make an enormous difference for the better – for everyone.

Another major challenge affecting cabin crew workers is the rise in incidents involving disruptive passengers. Whether it’s excessive alcohol consumption or refusing to comply with safety protocols, these kinds of behaviour make the job of cabin crew harder and less safe – but they also make the journey worse for everyone else. This is why promoting a culture of respect and empathy is vital – and why it’s a job that employers must take up”.

There are a few key words which jump out: essential role; dedication; professionalism; and challenges.  Although admittedly, these words can be ascribed to any profession, and in the air transport field they do apply to the confident captain, the humble chap in overalls prepping up the aircraft, and the glamorous cabin crew,  it is the last category that faces challenges posed by humans. They have to cope with emergencies on board; offer kindness and understanding and ensure safety on board. Often, while suffering verbal abuse they are spat on by drunks, kicked by obstreperous  and disruptive elements and even sexually harassed and propositioned by lotharios. Cyberbullying is a new trend that cabin crew are subjected to.

Beneath the glamourous façade,  this special category of employee (be it male or female) is often a font of  empathy, comfort and solace to passengers in distress. They have been known to hold the hand of a nervous passenger, offer a listening ear, and sit with an aged person who has just seen her spouse breath his last after dinner on board, or hold the hand of a nervous flyer during turbulence or other challenging situations. Many passengers are nervous and fearful of flying and the cabin crew step in to allay their fears. Fear of flying, or aerophobia ( also called aviophobia or aeroneurosis)  which could also be caused by acrophobia (fear of heights) is increasingly becoming a unique human factors issue, has many facets, not all of which apply directly to flying itself. Some of these are: heights; enclosed spaces; crowded conditions; sitting in hot, stale air; being required to wait passively; not understanding the reasons for all the strange actions sounds and sensations occurring around; worrying about the dangers of turbulence; being dependant on an unknown pilot’s or mechanic’s judgment; not feeling in control; and the possibility of terrorism. Passenger hostility is a symptom of a blend of emotions and fear of flying is one of them. Other common symptoms are the threat of losing control, fatigue, and personal and environmental stress.

Fear of flying could lead to self protection—in demanding alcohol, a particular seat or the right to smoke in the cabin. In the early days of flying, the role of the cabin crew was to alleviate passenger concerns by explaining the rules of aerodynamics, cloud formations and meteorology. They also acted as tour guides, particularly when the aircraft flew at low altitudes since large windows offered spectacular views that could alleviate fear. Fear of flying does not always result in air rage or criminal conduct on the part of the person concerned. However, the fact that fear of flying has the potential to make a normally calm and law abiding person turn into an offender is real.

 Elderly or Disabled Passengers are particular beneficiaries of prioritization by flight attendants who ensure their well being by assisting them in the process of boarding including reaching for the overhead bins to store their baggage and assisting them in using toilet facilities, particularly when the cabin lights are dimmed.  Children are entertained with colouring books and toys while parents are supported in feeding their children  which could extend to taking care of infants during flight.

Reports abound with instances of  generosity of the cabin crew in offering extra food and drink  and even enabling upgrades when available. Furthermore, they are usually multilingual and facilitate communication in flight, obviating communication barriers.

My Take

So ,what should be done to look after these flying angels better? A few things come to mind.

Some airlines have taken proactive steps in improving work-life balance; offering reduced duty hours and flexible scheduling as well as additional rest hours. Improved health coverage and enhanced wellness programmes are also desirable to ease the stress of service in flight. Hand in hand with comprehensive training on diversity and inclusion should go a supportive work environment which implements policies calculated to obviate harassment,  discrimination, and other workplace issues. Adequate and efficient processes for  reporting incidents are also important. ,

Above all, considering  the extraordinary nature of this profession, incentives and rewards must be offered that recognize and appreciate the efforts of cabin crew. These can include performance-based bonuses, commendations for exceptional service, and opportunities for career advancement or transfers to preferred routes. There must be fora to look into concerns and complaints of cabin crew with feedback mechanisms that ensure transparency and fairness from an ethical standpoint.

Some of the above-mentioned measures have already been addressed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) – the trade association of airlines.  IATA has introduced well thought through best practices on cabin crew safety operations covering  various aspects such as emergency procedures, crew resource management, and passenger handling, with the aim of ensuring the safety and well-being of cabin crew and passengers. There are other guidelines on cabin crew fatigue risk management; training; health and wellbeing. IATA also focuses on industry collaboration – a key  factor in facilitating collaboration among airlines, regulators, and other stakeholders to address common challenges and promote industry-wide improvements for cabin crew. Additionally, IATA energetically promotes the development of standards and recommended regulations for international organizations and regulators.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has also made  contributions by collaborating on standardization with its own safety management systems (SMS) programme,   setting aviation health and medical requirements by establishing guidelines and standards for cabin crew health and medical requirements as well as guidance material and tools for airlines and regulators to implement fatigue risk management systems (FRMS) .

These are all on paper and it is left for prudent airlines to implement them.

Balancing Upsides and Risks of Superintelligence

by Sam Altman, Greg Brockman, and Ilya Sutskever

In the foreseeable future, artificial intelligence (AI) systems have the potential to surpass the expertise of human professionals in various fields and rival the productivity of today’s largest corporations. This advancement in AI, known as superintelligence, presents both immense benefits and significant risks that surpass those associated with previous technologies. While we can envision a highly prosperous future, it is crucial to proactively manage the risks involved. An analogy can be drawn to technologies like nuclear energy and synthetic biology, which possess similar characteristics and necessitate careful risk mitigation.

To navigate the development of superintelligence successfully, coordination among leading AI development initiatives is paramount. Establishing mechanisms for collaboration is vital to ensure that superintelligence is developed in a manner that prioritizes safety and facilitates smooth integration into society. Governments of major nations could initiate a project that incorporates existing efforts, or a collective agreement could limit the rate of AI capability growth at the frontier per year. Additionally, individual companies must adhere to exceptionally high standards of responsible conduct.

Furthermore, it is likely that we will eventually require an international authority akin to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to oversee superintelligence projects. Any initiative surpassing a certain capability or resource threshold should be subject to inspection, audits, compliance testing with safety standards, deployment restrictions, and security protocols mandated by this authority. Monitoring and regulating compute and energy consumption could serve as initial steps towards realizing this idea. Voluntary compliance by companies and subsequent implementation by individual countries would be instrumental. The focus of such an agency should primarily revolve around mitigating existential risks rather than regulating the content generated by AI systems, which should be left to individual countries.

Moreover, developing the technical capability to ensure the safety of superintelligence is a pressing research question that demands significant effort. Researchers and organizations are actively engaged in addressing this challenge, recognizing the criticality of creating robust safeguards.

It is important to note that regulation and oversight should not impede the development of AI models that fall below a certain capability threshold. Companies and open-source projects should be allowed to innovate freely without burdensome regulations, licenses, or audits. While these systems carry risks, they align with the level of risks associated with other Internet technologies, and society’s existing approaches appear appropriate for managing them.

However, for the governance and deployment of the most powerful AI systems, strong public oversight is essential. Decisions concerning these systems should be subject to democratic processes, allowing people worldwide to collectively define the boundaries and defaults for AI systems. The design of such a mechanism remains an ongoing challenge, but efforts are being made to experiment with its development. Within these broad boundaries, individual users should have significant control over the behavior of the AI they utilize.

Given the risks and challenges involved, it is essential to consider why we are pursuing the development of superintelligence. OpenAI identifies two fundamental reasons for their commitment to this technology. Firstly, they believe that superintelligence will lead to a significantly improved world, as evidenced by early examples in education, creative work, and personal productivity. These advancements can help tackle societal problems, enhance creative abilities, and generate astounding economic growth and quality of life improvements.

Secondly, OpenAI argues that halting the creation of superintelligence would be highly challenging and counterintuitively risky. The cost of development decreases annually, the number of actors engaged in this endeavor is rapidly increasing, and it aligns with the trajectory of technological progress. Stopping superintelligence development would require a global surveillance regime, which itself offers no guarantee of success. Therefore, getting the development and deployment of superintelligence right becomes imperative in order to maximize its potential benefits while minimizing the associated risks.

Click here to read the original article published in OpenAI

Sri Lankan Origins Young Scientist to Join Nobel Laureate Meeting


Two researchers from the University of Queensland have been selected to participate in the 72nd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, which will take place in Germany in June. Dr Enakshi Sinniah, a Sri Lankan origins, from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience and Dr David Klyne from the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences will be among 635 young scientists from across the globe at this year’s event, which is focused on Medicine and Physiology.

The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, which has been held since 1951, provides early-career researchers with the opportunity to learn from and interact with 40 Nobel Laureates and exchange ideas and knowledge. Dr Sinniah is researching stem cells and cardiovascular development, while Dr Klyne is investigating the development of chronic pain and methods to prevent it.

 The Australian Academy of Science (AAS), supported by the Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF), is administering the fellowship that will allow Dr Klyne and Dr Sinniah to attend the distinguished event and participate in the SIEF Research Innovation Tour in Berlin. Additionally, the SIEF Research Innovation Tour will showcase some of Germany’s most advanced research and development facilities related to medicine and physiology.

It is noteworthy that Enakshi is the daughter of Travis Sinniah and Thiruni Ramanaden. Admiral Sinniah retired from his illustrious career as the Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy.

Academic Discreditation vs. Political Power: The Dilemma of Sri Lanka’s South Eastern University


 “Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity”


  • On 21 December 2022 the UGC informed Minister of Education in writing on the course of action to be taken for SEUSL in terms of powers vested upon the Minister by the Universities Act.
  • As of today, Rameez Aboobacker, a demonstrated plagiarist and a research fraud, continues to remain the chief executive officer and a professor at SEUSL, a national university run by the government of Sri Lanka at the expense of public funds.

A letter from UGC Chairman Senior Professor Sampath Amaratunga to the Ministry of Education officials has recently surfaced making note of the fact that the UGC had informed Minister of Education Hon. Dr. Susil Premajayantha on 21 December 2022 on the course of action to be taken with regard to the situation at SEUSL following their own attention to the matters related to academic and administrative affairs at SEUSL while it is headed by Rameez Aboobacker. Details on the academic and research fraudulences committed by Rameez Aboobacker were brought to light by several articles on various national news media including Sri Lanka Guardian, Daily Mirror, Lankadeepa and TamilMirror. An ultimate summary of the said course of action is widely understood to have been concisely phrased as “a competent authority would be appointed for the Southeastern [sic] University soon” in the minutes of a meeting held between the Federation of University Teachers Associations (FUTA) and the UGC held on 27 January 2023 – a statement to have been made by the UGC Chairman Senior Professor Sampath Amaratunga, the top-most academic administrative official in the hierarchy of Sri Lankan higher education. As a side note, FUTA should be commended for taking such an uncompromising firm stand on matters of academic fraud in such simple cases of right vs wrong. For the layperson the above information from UGC means that the topmost academics of the Sri Lankan higher education establishment have already decided that Rameez Aboobacker is not fit for the job while there is need for further investigation into what appears to be just the tip of an iceberg for an academic scam at scale – more on that in future expositions.

What remains then?

As is indicated in the letter by the UGC Chairman, the power to remove the vice chancellor of a state university lies in the hands of the minister at the least, as per the Universities Act No. 16 of 1978. In other words, the UGC cannot directly execute the removal of a Vice Chancellor from position. The execution of the recommendation by UGC has to be performed by an elected Peoples’ representative or any other Parliamentarian serving as the Minister of Education, or the Minister of Higher Education, if officially vested with power.

In this account, we point out to the mere fact that despite the written information provided to the Minister of Education, no action has been seen on the matter of Rameez Aboobacker. What lacks? Or better put, what works to safeguard outright corrupt individuals like Rameez Aboobacker while the Sri Lankan academia has decided to no longer leave him with credentials and power that he is no more fit to be entrusted with? We ask this question because the resolution for the matter is well established among the academic community and that the ball is now in the courts of those who deal with ordinary national politics – perhaps we have too many wildly behaving variables at action now than when the matter was under academic and administrative investigation/ scrutiny by the UGC.

The Ministry of Education, has all the authoritative rights to take the necessary actions against Rameez Aboobacker, the current vice chancellor of SEUSL. But the delay shown by The Ministry of Education raises several questions. The biggest one is whether the autonomy of the Sri Lankan Education System is practically superseded by the political willpower. If that is the fact, which is in direct contradiction to the status quo of all places advanced and developed among all of the democratic nations in the world, then it would be an alarming sign for systematic impedance to the maintenance of the quality of the education provided in this country. The influence of politics and politicians in determining the fate of a higher education institution, practically neglecting and eventually contradicting the national expert decisions and even tolerating obvious cases of globally-unacceptable absolute academic wrongdoing, can demolish the opportunity for a higher education of quality that future generations of this beautiful nation can continue to take pride in. The situation worsens even further at a time when the country has come under the watch of many international bodies including IMF – especially when we as a nation demonstrate that we are not even capable of properly handling academic corruption at a state-run university sitting at some periphery of our national higher education system. This issue has the potential to get itself evolve into a national crisis that can have a much greater impact on the course of economic recovery and overall development anticipated by both the government and IMF, at least for the sake of argument.

Literally, Rameez Aboobacker has been identified ineligible to serve as the chief academic and administrative officer at South Eastern University of Sri Lanka since 21st December 2022. But Rameez Aboobacker is still holding the position of Vice Chancellor of SEUSL to date and this is bringing to light an obvious dilemma whether the UGC has its autonomy and power in deciding the quality of higher education in this country; or is it the political system that has the ultimate power, making UGC a mere instrument that’s used as an excuse for bureaucratic time delays, in matters as serious as this? This imbalance in power can be witnessed at the moment through what’s happening in the case of Rameez Aboobacker. A public-funded institution is still being run by a fraud – a failed vice chancellor, whilst UGC has identified serious impact on the academic and administrative affairs at this institute. Another rational question is whether those in power within the government are purposefully destroying the fate of this university. But it should be emphasized that there are more than 6000 students from all parts of the Island and this is a national university – no profiling, be it region-based, ethnic or otherwise, is practically valid considering the actual student demography that is currently benefitting at this university. The government is demolishing the future of these students by maintaining such an undecipherable silence in this issue. His Excellency the President Ranil Wickremesinghe made some strong remarks about SEUSL in his speech a few months back and it is surprising to see his lack of interest in maintaining the quality of this Higher Educational Institute by practically exercising his powers to do what’s right in this crisis of absolute right vs absolute wrong.

Rameez Aboobacker is preparing to hold the Annual General Convocation of this institute in the near future. While UGC considers him ineligible to hold the position of Vice Chancellor, it only makes sense to question whether he will be seen academically and morally eligible to confer degrees to graduates at this moment. He is an academic fraud and conferring degrees under his chairmanship will perhaps be an unpreceded joke in this country since the dawn of Sri Lankan university education system. An ineligible, shameless Vice Chancellor is chairing a convocation to grace the occasion of some of the most precious moments in the life of a graduate – a shame and a humiliating situation brought upon the Sri Lankan higher education system by the political leadership within the Ministry.

In a parliamentary note on 04th April 2023, Hon. Susil Premajayantha stated that the Minister has no power in removing a vice chancellor as he is not the appointing authority. He made this statement in the context of the ongoing conflict regarding the Vice Chancellor of the Ruhuna University. But there is precedence in this country where the Ministers of Higher Education have removed vice chancellors and appointed Competent Authorities. UGC’s letter (Dated 16th March 2023) states that it has informed the Hon. Minister of Education through a letter dated 21.12.2022 regarding the course of action which could be taken in terms of the powers vested in him under the provisions of the Universities Act No. 16 of 1978. The Minister and the Ministry of Education have not acted for more than 04 months since the recommendations were given by the UGC. It is then apparent that it is the political power that decides the nature of the Education in this country and not the top-most academic hierarchy such as UGC nor the academic unions such as FUTA. This is a clear case for an education system that’s gone corrupt by means of political power, either by exercising of it or by exercising negligence with authority. Rameez Aboobacker is a practical demonstration for the fact that one may easily become a vice chancellor and a professor (19 of 23 sociology journal articles within almost a year, all except for 3 articles in journals of questionable quality and a sociological recommendation for free medicine for elderly people in Sri Lanka in the year 2015) in this system with fake and fraudulent academic track records. A shame for the whole academic community! If this was a case in other countries, the Vice Chancellors who were found guilty would have resigned themselves or would be removed from their positions by the relevant authorities and their whole academic careers would be in trouble. On the contrary today in Sri Lanka, where we proudly boast about our free education system and the higher literacy rate, we are gradually losing the grip of the integrity and quality of our education system by politically letting fraudulent academics like Rameez Aboobacker go scot-free.

Currently the Minister of Education Hon. Dr. Susil Premajayantha, having not brought into action what was recommended by UGC in December 2022, has handed over all the Duties, Institutes and Power related to higher education to Hon. Dr. Suren Raghavan (the State Minister of Higher Education) through a gazette notification on 27th April 2023. Currently the State Minister of Higher Education has the power to execute the Universities Act 16 of 1978. Hon. Minister Dr. Suren Raghavan must certainly be well aware of the seriousness of these absolute academic issues and we believe that he won’t tolerate the academic fraudulences and wrongdoings committed by Rameez Aboobacker and what appears to be a larger ring of academic underworld at SEUSL, of which Rameez Aboobacker just seems to be a prominent and popular figure. These are natural expectations and hopes one normally has on an academic with reputed scholarly track record turned politician. Quite interestingly, Rameez Aboobacker has also been found guilty of plagiarizing content from Hon. Dr. Suren Raghavan’s article (published in 2013; ) and has published a full paper at SEUSL in 2014 while he was a PhD student at the National University of Singapore. This fraudulent article by Rameez Aboobacker was titled “The wave of Sinhala Buddhist Supremacism and Muslims of Sri Lanka” and it can be found in the proceedings of the 4th International Symposium of SEUSL in 2014, from page number 166 to 171. This paper is reportedly made up with nearly 80% of content stolen from the paper published by Hon. Dr. Suren Raghavan, the current Minister of Higher Education. What more the Minister needs to better understand this serial plagiarist! The details on this case of plagiarism by Rameez Aboobacker can be discussed in a separate article. The various cases of plagiarism and research fraudulence committed by Rameez Aboobacker and his associates can be made as reference materials for future researchers and academics; and Rameez Aboobacker, without doubt, can be considered the most prominent national case study example to quote when training the future academics and researchers on how not be a researcher. Not a single university Vice Chancellor, at present or in the past, in this country has been identified with this level of academic fraudulences and emergence of Rameez Aboobacker is a shame to the Higher Educational System in this country; the fall can only be our pride – and it’s not too late except for the fact that the SEUSL students who entered the university by the time Rameez Aboobacker took over, have already spent nearly half of their undergraduate life in an academic training under the leadership of an academically corrupt leadership. When the Rameez Aboobacker phenomenon was confined within the academic territory of SEUSL Arts and Humanities, it was one thing; spill over is much more likely and is even reportedly witnessed once the fraud is in power – more on this in a much more detailed coverage of systematic academic fraudulences at SEUSL later. It is surprising to see how the Vice Chancellors from other reputed universities of Sri Lanka allow someone like Rameez Aboobacker to sit next to them in an equal position at various occasions jointly making serious decisions that have impact on the whole of Sri Lankan academia, while being fully aware that Rameez Aboobacker is a demonstrated academic fraud and possibly even knowing that Rameez Aboobacker has been recommended by UGC to be ousted!

The powers from the Universities Act now lie in the hands of Hon. State Minister Dr. Raghavan and it is widely believed that Hon. Dr. Suren Raghavan will act promptly to implement the recommendations made by UGC in 21st December 2022 to the Minister of Education Hon. Susil Premajayantha.

Finally, some food for thought for our regular readership:

  1. If a research fraud can be a professor and a university vice chancellor in this country and then imagine the quality of Education provided at this institute under such leadership! No wonder SEUSL couldn’t recover from being the last preference of significant proportions of newcomer students from many streams.
  2. There must be individuals, politicians, authorities, power brokers, corrupt academics and various other influencing characters helping Rameez Aboobacker to hold on to the position of Vice Chancellor to date. These individuals, if any, certainly are a curse to the whole nation due to the fact they directly or indirectly contribute to the demolition of this institute and the future of generations of what could otherwise become invaluable human capital for this economically suffering nation!
  3. When UGC has already recommended to remove Rameez Aboobacker from his position after he has been demonstrated to be a plagiarist and a research fraud, is he still academically and morally (legality aside) eligible to serve as a Vice Chancellor and would the decisions made by him be respected by an academic community after the fact of 21 December 2022 UGC decisions is brought to light?
  4. A Vice Chancellor identified as incompetent in terms of academic integrity and administration and recommended to be ousted by UGC chairs a convocation at SEUSL!
  5. Is there an autonomy for the UGC in this country or can the Politicians simply overrule or neglect the decisions made by the topmost officials of higher education hierarchy even in such black and white matters of absolute academic fraudulence?
  6. Why Rameez Aboobacker is still kept in the position of vice chancellor despite the fact there is a severe impact on the academic and administrative activities at SEUSL?
  7. Does the Academic Community at SEUSL consider the seriousness of this issue and have they acted promptly in this matter?
  8. A Research fraud without any academic integrity is chairing the academic and administrative meetings, conferences and all the evets at SEUSL. But the majority of the SEUSL academic community is keeping quiet in the cases of research fraudulency and academic integrity. Does this allow and accept the wrongdoings of Rameez Aboobacker?
  9. The Universities Act 16 of 1978 gives power to the Minister to exercise all or any of the following matters (a-c) relating to such Higher Educational Institution and what are the recommendations made by the UGC in addition to appointing a Competent Authority at SEUSL among the course of actions a-c?
  10. The closure of such Higher Educational Institution;
  11. The appointment of any person by the name or by office, to be a competent authority for the purpose of exercising, performing or discharging, in lieu of any officer, Authority or other body of such Higher Educational Institution, any power, duty or function under this Act or any appropriate instrument, and
  12. Any other matter connected with or relating to any of the matters aforesaid. 


a. Parliamentary speech by Hon. Dr. Susil Premajayantha, Minister of Education (link: from 11:42 to 11:56)

b. Gazette notification transferring powers to Hon. Dr. Suren Raghavan (link:

c. Speech by H.E. the President Ranil Wickramasinghe (link: from 10:13 to 11:17)

Israeli researchers reveal secret language of plants


A row of plain-looking white cabins outside the George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences at Israel’s Tel Aviv University look no different from ordinary greenhouses, yet inside one of the cabins, the secret language of plants has been unlocked by a group of Israeli researchers.

According to an article published in the scientific journal Cell, plants usually emit more sounds when they are under stress. The click-like sounds are imperceptible to human ears, but can probably be heard by other plants and animals.

This is believed the first time that airborne sounds from stressed plants have been classified and recorded at a distance.

Walking into the lab, two ultrasonic microphones for gathering the sounds of plants are placed in front of a tomato pot. Lilach Hadany, a leading researcher and professor at the School of Plant Sciences and Food Security, told Xinhua that this special equipment is mainly implemented in the study of ultrasonic signals of bats.

The microphones, able to record sounds at frequencies of 20-250 kHz, are put 10 cm away from the plant to avoid interference. With the help of the built-in sensors in the microphones, ultrasonic signals can be converted into electrical signals that are easily recognized by humans.

“Da…da…da…” It turns out that plants “talk” in clicks. The popping sounds are emitted at high frequencies of around 60 kHz, according to Hadany, beyond the maximum frequency detected by a human adult, which is 16 kHz.

It is believed that the sounds might be connected to cavitation in the stem, and the process of cavitation is producing vibrations that people can detect with the sensors, Hadany told Xinhua.

“When a plant is under stress, air bubbles can form, expand and collapse in the xylem,” reported the Times of Israel.

The study focused mainly on tomato and tobacco plants, but wheat, corn, cactus, henbit and other plants were also recorded.

A statement released by Tel Aviv University elaborated on the process of the experiments: at the first stage, the researchers placed plants in an acoustic box in a quiet, isolated basement with no background noise. Before placing the plants in the acoustic box researchers subjected them to various treatments — some had not been watered for five days, in some the stem had been cut, and some were untouched.

Then the recordings collected were analyzed by specially developed machine learning (AI) algorithms. “The algorithms learned how to distinguish between different plants and types of sounds, and were ultimately able to identify the plant and determine the type and level of stress from the recordings,” read the statement.

“Our recordings indicated that the plants in our experiment emitted sounds at frequencies of 40-80 kHz, and unstressed plants emitted less than one sound per hour on average, while the stressed plants — both dehydrated and injured — emitted dozens of sounds every hour,” she added.

Researchers believe plants suffering from different injuries may produce different kinds of informative sounds. Experiments have proved that, according to Hadany, sounds of tomato plants infected with cucumber mosaic virus are also successfully separated.

“So it appears that there is another group of sounds there. But we are just at the beginning,” she said.

Chinese scientists find passion fruit can kill fruit fly eggs

Chinese scientists have recently discovered that passion fruit can directly kill the eggs of fruit flies, providing a new method to control the pest, according to a Science and Technology Daily report published Thursday.

The fruit fly is a major pest species that reduces the yield of commercial fruits, vegetables and nuts. Passion fruit, native to South America, was introduced to south China in 2012 for large-scale commercial planting.

The scientists observed that passion fruit attracted native fruit flies to lay eggs in the fruits, but most of the eggs did not hatch.

According to Wu Weijian at South China Agricultural University, the lead researcher of the study, when a fruit fly penetrates into the middle layer of the fruit wall to lay eggs, it causes the plant tissue to break down and release hydrogen cyanide, which kills most of the eggs.

Wu said this is the first instance of finding a living plant which can directly kill the eggs of pests in the study of interaction between plants and herbivorous insects.

Passion fruit can be recommended as a pest trap crop to plant at the border of an orchard or melon field to control fruit flies, said Liao Yonglin at Guangdong Academy of Agricultural Sciences, one of the researchers.

Although ecological traps can usually be offset by the learning ability or evolution of herbivorous insects, the ecological trap provided by passion fruit may be permanent in the case of fruit flies, according to the study which was published in the journal Pest Management Science.

Why Do Passengers On Planes Pee On Others?


“When people try to rain on your parade, pee on theirs.” ― Josh Stern, And That’s Why I’m Single: What Good Is Having A Lucky Horseshoe Up Your Butt When The Horse Is Still Attached?

It happened again!!

On Monday, April 24th, a passenger on American Airlines flight 292 out of John F. Kennedy Airport, New York, bound for Indira Ghandhi International Airport, New Delhi was arrested on arrival by Indian police for  allegedly urinating on another passenger on board. This is admittedly a long 15 hour flight which is highly likely to cause frayed nerves in the most patient of the human species.  However, one wonders whether an undesirable natural corollary to irritation between two passengers could justify one of the quarreling passengers resorting to directing his urinary flow towards his opponent to prove his point and win the fight. Of course, the intoxicated state of the offender which would have facilitated an enhanced proclivity to evacuate his bladder, was no excuse for the affront seemingly executed with malicious intent. 

The BBC, on 9 January 2023 reported on an incident that had taken place on 26 November 2022 in which a drunken male passenger (who else but a male?) had allegedly urinated on a female passenger on board a flight operated by Air India. The victim had filed a complaint sometime later after the alleged assaultThere was general consensus among the Indian public that the airline had not handled the incident professionally (partly because the cabin crew had indiscreetly brought the offending passenger to the victim after the fact so he could apologize). 

Another incident in February 2022 occurred on a Southwest Airlines flight from Dallas to Burbank, California where a passenger  was arrested after he urinated near a galley door and threatened flight attendants. It was reported that “The Southwest Airlines flight diverted to Albuquerque because the crew members “feared for their safety as well as that of the flight…It was the latest example of the rise in unruly passenger behavior that has prompted stepped-up enforcement by federal officials and calls from the airline industry to add disruptive fliers to a national no-fly list”.  The facts pertaining to the incident are curious as much as bizarre.  “According to the complaint…the incident began when passenger Samson Hardridge, 33, of Lancaster, Calif., got up during the flight to use the lavatory at the back of the plane. A flight attendant asked him to stand in the aisle because space was tight in the galley. At that point, according to the complaint, Hardridge had his hands in his pants and asked if the flight attendant wanted to see his genitals. The answer was no” . The crew had, with the minimum loss of patience, repeatedly reminded the offender to remain in the aisle but he had “proceeded to the aft galley door of the aircraft and began urinating in the corner of the aircraft”.

On March 9th 2021, on a flight from Seattle to Denver on board an Alaska Airlines flight, a passenger on board who had been repeatedly requested by the cabin crew to wear a face mask had blatantly ignored the requests and repeatedly struck a cabin crew member on the arm. Evidence provided by other passengers revealed that “the individual was standing up and urinating on his seat”. The charge against the 24 year old offender is that he was “interfering with a flight crew in violation of Title 49, United States Code, Section 46504.” This charge carries a potential penalty of up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000.

In March 2019 it was reported that a drunk American Airlines passenger urinated on another passenger’s luggage during a flight from Chicago to Charlotte, North Carolina. The 28-year-old complainant had said that the offender had soiled her carry-on luggage with urine.

My Take

Enuresis, or urinating in inappropriate places, is usually an involuntary act attributed to children after the age of 5 years old, at which point they normally develop control of their bladder. Most of the time, the episodes are involuntary, but they can also be intentional

In my 40 years of working in air transport, I have not come across an instance where a passenger committed an offence on board by unburdening the contents of his bladder on a fellow passenger.  I have dealt with and taught aviation law under both the Montreal Convention of 1999 and the Tokyo Convention of 1963 where the former speaks of death or injury caused by accidents on board or in the process of embarkation or disembarkation, and, more to the point of this case, the latter addresses offences committed on board aircraft.  Between the offender and the direct victim, the law is straightforward: an offence is an offence, whether one physically assaults another or empties his bladder on another. Peeing on board whether specifically directed at another or directed anywhere else in the cabin  comes under Article 1 of the Tokyo Convention which says inter alia that the Convention applies in respect of: (a) offences against penal law; (b) acts which, whether or not they are offences, may or do jeopardize the safety of the aircraft or of persons or property therein or which jeopardize good order and discipline on board. The “good order and discipline” element is what is applicable here.

But this is not the end of the story.  Whereas any other offence envisions hurt caused only to the victim a public pee on board an aircraft may be termed a public nuisance.  A public nuisance is any act, condition, or thing that is illegal because it interferes with the rights of the public generally.

In the ordinary course of business, aircraft carry thieves, con men, pick pockets, sexual predators…you name it, but when they commit offences on board they do not, and indeed have not (to my understanding) urinated on others. Therefore, this trend which is recent must have other connotations.  There must be a psychological factor attached that is linked to the hectic world we live in which is getting busier by the day.  Or, is it that peeing gives a sense of release from an opponent with the final insult? Is it because, as Tom Holt said “There are few moments of clarity more profound than those that follow the emptying of an overcharged bladder. The world slows down, the focus sharpens, the brain comes back online. Huge nebulous difficulties prove on close calm examination to be merely cloud giants”?

Perhaps these public pee-ers are descendants of Diogenes who is reputed to have urinated in public.  His argument was that human society infused us with all kinds of unacceptable constraints and we should strip ourselves of these corrupting man-made constructs, so we’re able to live how we’re supposed to live: in agreement with nature.

I am waiting for the psychologists to weigh in on this interesting trend.

Pleasure – and Superego of Pleasure-Seekers


In a recent viral video, the Dalai Lama can be seen asking a seven-year-old boy, at a widely attended public ceremony, to give him a hug and then, “Suck my tongue.” The immediate reaction from many in the West was to condemn the Dalai Lama for behaving inappropriately, with many speculating that he is senile, a pedophile, or both. Others, more charitably, noted that sticking out one’s tongue is a traditional practice in Tibetan culture – a sign of benevolence (demonstrating that one’s tongue is not dark, which indicates evil). Still, asking someone to suck it has no place in the tradition.

In fact, the correct Tibetan phrase is “Che le sa,” which translates roughly to “Eat my tongue.” Grandparents often use it lovingly to tease a grandchild, as if to say: “I’ve given you everything, so the only thing left is for you to eat my tongue.” Needless to say, the meaning was lost in translation. (Although English is the Dalai Lama’s second language, he does not possess native-level mastery.)

To be sure, the fact that something is part of a tradition does not necessarily preclude it from scrutiny or criticism. Clitoridectomy is also a part of ancient Tibetan tradition, but we certainly would not defend it today. And even sticking out one’s tongue has undergone a strange evolution in the last half-century. As Wang Lixiong and Tsering Shakya write in The Struggle for Tibet:

“During the Cultural Revolution, if an old landowner met emancipated serfs on the road he would stand to the side, at a distance, putting a sleeve over his shoulder, bowing down and sticking out his tongue – a courtesy paid by those of lower status to their superiors – and would only dare to resume his journey after the former serfs had passed by. Now [after Deng Xiaoping’s reforms] things have changed back: the former serfs stand at the side of the road, bow and stick out their tongues, making way for their old lords. This has been a subtle process, completely voluntary, neither imposed by anyone nor explained.”

Here, sticking out one’s tongue signals self-humiliation, not loving care. Following Deng’s “reforms,” ex-serfs understood that they were again at the bottom of the social scale. Even more interesting is the fact that the same ritual survived such tremendous social transformations.

Returning to the Dalai Lama, it is probable – and certainly plausible – that Chinese authorities orchestrated or facilitated the wide dissemination of a clip that could besmirch the figure who most embodies Tibetan resistance to Chinese domination.

In any case, we have all now gotten a glimpse of the Dalai Lama as our “neighbor” in the Lacanian sense of the term: an Other who cannot be reduced to someone like us, whose otherness represents an impenetrable abyss. Western observers’ highly sexualized interpretation of his antics reflects an unbridgeable gap in cultural understanding.

But similar cases of impenetrable otherness are easy to find within Western culture. Years ago, when I read about how the Nazis tortured prisoners, I was quite traumatized to learn that they even resorted to industrial testicle-crushers to cause unbearable pain.

Yet lo and behold, I recently came across the same product in an online advertisement:

“Pick your poison for pleasure … STAINLESS STEEL BALL CRUSHER, STAINLESS BALL CLAMP TORTURE DEVICE, BRUTAL COCK VICE TORTURE TOY, HARDCORE STAINLESS BALL TORTURE … So if you lie in bed with your partner, melancholic and tired of life, the time is right. Your slave’s nuts are ripe for crushing! It is the moment you have been waiting for – to find the right tool to brutalize his balls!”

Now, suppose I walked by a room where two men were enjoying this device. Hearing one of them moan and cry in pain, I would probably misread what was happening. Should I knock on the door and politely ask, at the risk of being an idiot, “Is this really consensual?” After all, if I just kept walking, I would be ignoring the possibility that it really was an act of torture.

Or, imagine a scenario where a man is doing something similar to a woman – torturing her consensually. In this age of political correctness, many people would automatically presume coercion, or they would conclude that the woman had internalized male repression and begun to identify with the enemy.

It is impossible to render this situation without ambiguity, uncertainty, or confusion, because there really are some men and women who genuinely enjoy some degree of torture, especially if it is enacted as if it was nonconsensual. In these sadomasochistic rituals, the act of punishment signals the presence of some underlying desire that warrants it. For example, in a culture where rape is punished by flogging, a man might ask his neighbor to flog him brutally, not as some kind of atonement, but because he harbors a deep-seated desire to rape women.

In one sense, the passage from Nazi ball crushers to the erotic kind used in sadomasochist games can be seen as a sign of historical progress. But it runs parallel to the “progress” that leads some people to purge classic works of art of any content that might hurt or offend somebody.

We are left with a culture in which it is okay to engage in consensual discomfort at the level of bodily pleasures, but not in the realm of words and ideas. The irony, of course, is that efforts to prohibit or suppress certain words and ideas will merely make them more attractive and powerful as secret, profane desires. The fact that some superego has enjoined them furnishes them with a pleasure – and pleasure-seekers – that they otherwise would not have had.

Why does increasing permissiveness seem to entail increasing impotence and fragility. And why, under certain conditions, can pleasure be enjoyed only through pain? Contrary to what Freud’s critics have long claimed, psychoanalysis’s moment has only just arrived, because it is the only framework that can render visible the big inconsistent mess that we call “sexuality.”

Source: Project Syndicate

The sky at night?


People watch many events at night but star gazers today (April 23, 2023) had a spectacle which hardly occurs visible to the naked eye, except when there is a cloudburst or a “meteor shower “to light up the dawn skies.

I had the occasion to witness a similar “meteor shower,” when I visited Sydney, Australia, on a Backpackers holiday in mid-December 2003, sleeping on the top of a bunk bed at 5 am, during their summer season. It was awesome. The celestial display was something out of this world. The peak came just after the New Moon, which meant views of this once in a lifetime spectacle, was not impeded by moonlight.

We were warned yesterday as late as yesterday by Professor of Physics, Don Pollacco at the University of Warwick of this event in UK, but to my surprise, we could hardly witness it in London, as the sky was overcast with thick cloud.

According to Dr. Pollacco, as the Earth passes through the comet’s orbit any material deposited by the Comet could become “meteors” or shooting stars in the sky. He states: “these bodies are usually the size of dust particles but when they fall into the Earth’s atmosphere, they travel as such speed that they are vaporised. Along the path that the dust particle travels, the gas molecules are superheated and give out light – this is called a Meteor”.

He further stated these meteors are called “Lyrids” and are a regular occurrence every year in the Northern Hemisphere between April 16-25 and approaching summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

How do meteors affect life on Earth? 

The melting of rocks at impact, would have released carbon-dioxide into the atmosphere, resulting in greenhouse warming. This in turn could have increased acid rains, igniting fires. The majority of smaller meteors burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. But the larger ones can leave huge craters in the surface of the planet.

These meteors are literally defined as “space rocks that travel into the Earth’s atmosphere.

We called them “shooting stars”.

The most famous large Asteroid 65 million years ago eliminated the dinosaurs and created the 180 wide crater on the Yucatan Peninsula, off the coast of Mexico, spanning 93 miles and is 12 miles deep. How much of this theory is conjecture is to be researched?

Our understanding of our Universe, of meteorite impact events and their effects, is continually evolving.

Depending on your viewpoint the meteorites have resulted both good and bad outcomes for our planet and for life as we know it. Rare minerals have been exposed to the surface of the Earth for man to exploit, and spectacular views have been displayed for man to enjoy at the “wonder of our planet” thanks to these so called “Shooting Stars”.

We have a duty as custodians of our planet, Earth, to save it from extinction by greed and destruction.

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