Big leaks in Nord Stream pipelines
Two Baltic Sea gas pipelines that supply Russian oil to Europe have sprung leaks. European leaders claim they were caused by explosions—and are a result of a deliberate act of sabotage. Both blasts were recorded close to the Danish island of Bornholm. While no one has directly accused Russia, the Swedish foreign minister said they are “not ruling out any scenarios and we will not speculate about motive or actor.”
The leaks are a disaster for the EU nations that rely on gas from Russia—which recently shut down the pipelines as a pressure tactic. But it is also not good news for the environment: “The escaped natural gas is made up almost entirely of methane—the second biggest contributor to climate change after carbon dioxide.” (Associated Press)
Government bans key Muslim organisation
Last week, 106 members of the Popular Front of India (PFI) were arrested by the National Intelligence Agency and the Enforcement Directorate. Yesterday, another 247 were either arrested or detained in a fresh round of raids—based on “inputs” received on those arrested earlier. And this morning, the government banned PFI and its affiliates for five years—adding it to the list of 42 banned terrorist organisations. The allegations: PFI is involved in funding terrorism and runs camps to provide arms training.
FYI: PFI—which has mostly Muslim members—was formed in 2007. It dubs itself as an NGO dedicated to improving the lives of marginalised groups—but has been implicated in incidents of violence. The Print has more on the raids. Indian Express reports on the ban.
Also arrested: Vijay Nair the former CEO of the events company Only Much Louder—in connection with allegations of corruption against Delhi Deputy CM Manish Sisodia. He and three high-ranking bureaucrats are accused of taking money from liquor companies in exchange for favourable policies. Our Big Story offers more context. (The Hindu)
Two climate change stories of note
Oil pipelines: Most of the talk about shifting from fossil fuels may be just that—talk. A new report shows that the oil industry is planning to develop 24,166 km of new oil pipelines—almost twice the earth's diameter. They are being built mainly in the US, Russia, China and India. When completed, the oil pumped through just these pipelines will produce about 5 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year. To put that number in perspective, India released 2.44 billion tons of CO2 in 2020. Why this data is notable:
“This report shows that some of the world’s biggest consumers of fossil fuels are doubling down on oil—even as the climate crisis intensifies. And for governments endorsing these new pipelines, the report shows an almost deliberate failure to meet climate goals.”
Palm trees: Since assessing extinction risks takes time—which we don’t seem to have in matters of climate change—scientists used artificial intelligence to look at the entire palm family, from tall trees to climbing plants. Here’s what they found: over half of the palm trees in the world—more than 1,000 species—are at the risk of extinction. And here’s why it matters:
“Palms are among the most economically important of all plant families, with hundreds of wild species supporting millions of people across the world. They provide building materials for homes and tools, as well as food and medicine for hundreds of communities across the tropics.”
Three medical studies of note
Frozen embryos: A new study revealed that using frozen embryos for in-vitro fertilisation carries a higher risk of complications due to high blood pressure—including preeclampsia, which can be fatal. OTOH, using fresh embryos is no more risky than a naturally conceived pregnancy. Important point to note: Researchers have not established the exact link between the two. But here’s why it still matters:
“Frozen embryo transfers are now increasingly common all over the world, and in the last few years, some doctors have begun skipping fresh embryo transfer to routinely freeze all embryos in their clinical practice, the so-called ‘freeze-all’ approach,”
CNN has more details.
Benefits of coffee: A long-term 12.5-year study shows that drinking two to three cups of coffee can help you live longer. The risk of dying is 27% lower for those who drink ground coffee—and 14% and 11% lower for those who drink decaf and instant coffee, respectively. What’s interesting: the caffeine has very little to do with it:
"Caffeine is the most well-known constituent in coffee, but the beverage contains more than 100 biologically active components. It is likely that the non-caffeinated compounds were responsible for the positive relationships observed between coffee drinking, cardiovascular disease and survival.”
Benefits of beer: According to a new study, drinking two pints of beer every day can reduce the risk of dementia by more than 38%. What’s also notable: even the heaviest drinkers had a 19% reduced risk of developing dementia—compared to lifetime teetotallers. The research looked at data gathered from 15 previous studies. One reason not to immediately reach for the suds:
“[Researchers] warned that the results of the study should not encourage those at risk of the condition to drink more, writing that the findings ‘need to be balanced against neuroimaging evidence suggesting that even low levels of alcohol use are associated with poorer brain health’”.
Two things to see
One: Here’s a novel way to protest. Cattle pounds in Gujarat set 10,000 cows loose on the streets—and into government buildings. The reason: they are angry at the state government for not releasing the Rs 500 crore allocated for these shelters. They are threatening to boycott the BJP in the upcoming elections—and launch a Gau Adhikar Yatra across the state. (Indian Express)
Two: A team of scientists sent a drone into the heart of the Category 4 Hurricane Fiona—which recently devastated Puerto Rico and the east coast of Canada. FYI, the waves were about 50 foot high while the wind speed of the hurricane was measured at 100 mph. (Washington Post)