Researched and collated by: Rachel John, Sara Varghese, Ayaan Malhotra & Prerna Barooah
COP27: The latest update
At the critical global climate change summit, United Nations chief Antonio Guterres warned: “We are on a highway to climate hell”—and that “humanity has a choice: cooperate or perish.” The biggest item on the agenda is “loss and damage”—which is financial compensation offered by wealthier nations to vulnerable developing countries. The UK is expected to announce $115 million in support. But a new analysis shows that the countries which account for the giant share of emissions have already fallen short of their promises:
“Rich countries pledged to provide US$100 billion a year by 2020, although this target has been missed. The US share of this, based on its past emissions, would be $40 billion yet it provided only $7.6 billion in 2020, the latest year for which data is available. Australia and Canada gave only about a third of the funding indicated by the analysis, while the UK supplied three-quarters but still fell $1.4 billion short.”
The Guardian has more on that story.
A more positive development: The World Meteorological Organisation unveiled a five-year program to set up early warning systems across the world. The aim is to save lives and minimise destruction from the growing number of climate change-related disasters. It will require an investment of around $3.1 billion between now and 2027. Why this matters: nearly half the countries in the world—mostly less developed and small island states—do not have any such system. As the WMO noted, “Just 24 hours notice of an impending hazardous event can cut the ensuing damage by 30%.” (Indian Express)
Vir Das faces multiple complaints
For starters, the Hindutva organisation—Hindu Janajagruti Samiti—has filed a police complaint claiming that the standup comic “denigrated the nation” at a Washington DC performance. The bit that offended them is titled ‘I come from two Indias’—which includes the line: “In India, we worship women in the day and rape them at night.” You can read the entire complaint here and watch the 7-minute segment below:
The copyright complaint: Das, Netflix and two others have also been named in a Mumbai FIR that alleges they stole content for one of his shows, which was streamed on Netflix. Producer Ashwin Gidwani claims he and Das entered an agreement to do a script and a show together titled ‘History of India VIRitten (2010)’. In 2019, Das went ahead and released a new show ‘Vir Das for India’—which took ideas and parts of the original script. Indian Express has that story.
Three medical studies of note
Lab-grown blood: In the first clinical trial of its kind, UK scientists are transfusing tiny amounts of blood grown in a lab into people. They first extracted stem cells from a pint of blood—and then grew them into red blood cells over three weeks. About half a million stem cells produce 50 billion red blood cells—which are then filtered down to 15 billion that are ready to transplant. If this works, it will be a huge breakthrough for those who suffer from diseases like sickle cell anaemia—which requires regular transfusions of blood that are an exact match. Point to note: growing blood is expensive—and it will be a while before the lab-grown variety will be widely available. (BBC News)
Dietary supplements: Many people take a variety of dietary supplements—such as fish oil, garlic, cinnamon or turmeric—to lower “bad” cholesterol. Sadly, a new study shows that they have about the same effect as a placebo. And some of them—like plant sterols and red yeast rice—can cause adverse effects. Researchers found that statins remain the best and most effective way to reduce cholesterol.
Point to note: The study was funded by a grant from the Pharma giant AstraZeneca—that makes a brand of statin. However, the study insists that “the researchers worked independently.” Also this: the study was conducted over a 28-day period and “dietary supplements are not intended to be quick fixes and their effects may not be revealed during the course of a study that only spans four weeks.” (CNN)
Crossword puzzles: Now, these actually do work! A study conducted on older adults showed that solving crossword puzzles helps improve memory and cognition skills in patients who are mildly impaired—and at a high risk for dementia: "The benefits were seen not only in cognition but also in daily activities with indications of brain shrinkage on MRI that suggests that the effects are clinically meaningful.” Computer video games, OTOH, offer no such benefits. (ScienceDaily)
Bumblebees love to play!
A new study has made the delightful discovery that bumblebees love to goof around with toys—just like your beloved pet. They especially like balls. Here’s how the experiment worked:
“Researchers from Queen Mary University of London conducted an experiment in which they set up a container that allowed bees to travel from their nest to a feeding area. But along the way, the bees could opt to pass through a separate section with a smattering of small wooden balls. Over 18 days, the scientists watched as the bees ‘went out of their way to roll wooden balls repeatedly, despite no apparent incentive to do so.’"
And just like humans, the young ‘uns are way more playful than adults. Why this matters: it shows that they have feelings too:
"They may actually experience some kind of positive emotional states, even if rudimentary, like other larger fluffy, or not so fluffy, animals do. This sort of finding has implications to our understanding of sentience and welfare of insects and will, hopefully, encourage us to respect and protect life on Earth ever more.”
Speaking of beloved pets: Here’s a bit of news for cat owners. New research shows that people who are open to interacting with felines are likely to be more emotional. But we don’t exactly know why:
“It may be that individuals who experience strong feelings in response to stimuli may experience strong emotions in response to the very subtle clues that cats tend to give off… [This] may enhance their enjoyment when interacting with cats compared with individuals who need a lot more powerful stimuli to experience a strong emotional response—which may be where your average dog comes in.”
Also this: while dogs make up 86% of therapy animals, brain scans show that being around cats has a calming effect on owners: “Cats can provide fulfilling emotional support and can alleviate negative moods so much so that, in this way, they are comparable to a human partner.” (Inverse)
Bitter-sweet news about Duran Duran
Just as the legendary 80s-era band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, its members announced that guitarist Andy Taylor has been diagnosed with stage four prostate cancer. He was not able to attend the ceremony but in a letter read out to the audience, he said: “Although my current condition is not immediately life threatening there is no cure.” BBC News has the details. Read Taylor’s full letter on Duran Duran’s official website.
Two things to see
One: Pakistan’s official entry in the foreign language film category at the Oscars is ‘Joyland’—which follows a Lahore family that is torn apart when the younger, married son falls in love with a trans dancer. It premiered in Cannes and was screened at the Dharamshala International Film Festival last week. Firstpost offers an excellent review of the movie. And you can see the trailer below.
Two: Two of the eight cheetahs flown in from Namibia killed their very first prey, a spotted deer—after being released from quarantine and into their “acclimatisation enclosures.” Of course, the real reckoning will be when they are actually released into the wild. Our Big Story has everything you need to know about the cheetah project. You can see the two males wandering around below. Don’t worry, there is no violence but, of course, plenty of nudity:) Indian Express explains why making the first kill is an important landmark. (NDTV)