Researched by: Nirmal Bhansali, Aarthi Ramnath & Smriti Arora
The Ukraine invasion: Leaked Pentagon documents
New York Times and other US publications accessed a batch of leaked documents that were shared by an anonymous source on Discord servers. They reveal the following:
One: The US has been able to deeply penetrate Russian intelligence and secret services—allowing Washington to give Ukraine information about military strength and planned strikes. What’s interesting to note: the material also reveals details of “US and NATO aid to Ukraine” but offers zero information on “when, how, or where Ukraine intends to launch its counteroffensive.” It also shows that Washington is spying on top Ukrainian leaders. (New York Times)
Two: According to the Washington Post, the documents also reveal serious weaknesses in Ukraine’s defence systems—and serious shortfalls in the military aid it is receiving from the West:
[T]he purported classified assessments are far more specific and paint a much more dire picture of Ukraine’s ability to defend its skies. They conclude that systems sent by the West are limited in number, sometimes a mismatch for Russian capabilities and often struggle to keep up with the high volume of Russian salvos.
The fallout: Both Kyiv and Moscow have dismissed the papers as part of a disinformation campaign by the other. But the US Justice Department has launched a probe into the leak—which is being called “a nightmare for the Five Eyes”—a reference to the United States, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada—who share intelligence. The information now being shared on social media sites include briefing slides on China, the Indo-Pacific military theatre, the Middle East and terrorism. Worse: they show the US is also spying on allies like Israel and South Korea. New York Times (splainer gift link) has that story.
Meanwhile, in Iran: The government has installed cameras to snoop on women breaking its strict dress code:
A police statement published by the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency said the system used so-called "smart" cameras and other tools to identify and send "documents and warning messages to the violators of the hijab law.”
Why this matters: This comes after months of protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini who was arrested for violating the hijab laws (explained here). It shows the regime led by President Ebrahim Raisi is doubling down on its harsh Islamist line. (BBC News)
Tiger census brings good news
According to the latest count released by the government, India has at least 3,167 tigers—a provisional figure that will be revised in the final report. The numbers have been trending steadily upward—from 2,226 in 2014 and 2,967 in 2018. According to scientists involved in tracking the tigers, the population has grown by 6% each year. This is inarguably good news. But here are some caveats:
One: Official tiger counts have been challenged in the past by conservationists. The reason: these rely on camera traps—and a 2014 Indian Express investigation found that the images of the same tiger were counted multiple times. This 2019 Nature piece also has more on why counting methods can be problematic. That said, no one is contesting the fact that the numbers are increasing.
Two: Yes, we have more tigers but do we have more land to accommodate them? One of the scientists warns: “We could face a challenge of an overabundance of tigers… In some areas, tigers are moving out of their source populations into new areas.” The report says that all five tiger zones are threatened by infrastructure projects—and new reserves will be needed to reflect the rising numbers. The Hindu has that angle.
Three: Much of the land for reserves has been secured by kicking out indigenous communities. Miami Herald has more on why local tribes in Karnataka’s sanctuaries are not impressed by the latest census numbers.
Speaking of big cats: One of the male cheetahs imported from Namibia named Oban left the confines of the Kuno sanctuary—and began to roam the farmlands nearby. After trying to shoo him back into the reserve, officials tranquilised him and brought him back to safety. The other worry: his mate Asha had followed him out of Kuno—but there’s no update on her whereabouts. You can see Oban below. (India Today)
On the endangered list: Abortion pill in the US
The context: Having overturned the right to have an abortion in hospitals, rightwing groups now have their sights set on medication that induce abortions at home. Specifically: mifepristone:
Mifepristone is the first pill in the two-drug medication abortion regimen that is used in over half of pregnancy terminations in the United States. It blocks a hormone that allows a pregnancy to develop.
The lawsuits: A lawsuit in Texas challenged the use of mifepristone—arguing “that the FDA did not adequately review the scientific evidence or follow proper protocols when it approved mifepristone in 2000 and that it has since ignored safety risks of the medication.” So there is no right-to-life argument here—even though the point is to block another safe path to abortion. Meanwhile, the Washington state attorney general launched a counter move—suing the federal government to increase access to the same abortion drug.
What happened now: The district judge in Texas passed a preliminary injunction that suspended approval of the drug:
In his ruling, Judge Kacsmaryk, who previously worked for a conservative Christian legal organization, repeatedly used the language of abortion opponents, calling medication abortion “chemical abortion,” calling abortion providers “abortionists” and referring to a fetus as an “unborn human” or “unborn child.”
Within hours, a judge in Washington ordered the FDA to preserve “the status quo” and retain access to the medication in 17 Democratic states and the District of Columbia. The ball is now in the court of the Supreme Court—which is dominated by conservative justices. New York Times has the best explainer on this.
Tesla has a nasty privacy problem
A Reuters investigation revealed that Tesla employees shared footage captured by car cameras of their customers on their internal messaging platform. The company now faces a class action lawsuit for violating its own policy:
In its Customer Privacy Notice, Tesla writes that “camera recordings remain anonymous and are not linked to you or your vehicle.” If users consent to data sharing, the privacy notice says, Tesla will use the information to communicate with customers, perform business services and improve its products.
If you’re wondering about the images, Reuters reports:
Some of the recordings caught Tesla customers in embarrassing situations. One ex-employee described a video of a man approaching a vehicle completely naked. Also shared: crashes and road-rage incidents. One crash video in 2021 showed a Tesla driving at high speed in a residential area hitting a child riding a bike, according to another ex-employee. The child flew in one direction, the bike in another. The video spread around a Tesla office in San Mateo, California, via private one-on-one chats, “like wildfire.”
Washington Post has a good overview of the lawsuit.
Two things to see
One: Kolkata Knight Rider batsman Rinku Singh has many fans after a blistering knock that helped his team beat the Gujarat Titans in the very last over. But his biggest admirer: franchise owner Shah Rukh Khan who tweeted: “JHOOME JO RINKUUUUU !!! My baby @rinkusingh235”—along with this version of the Pathaan poster. For more on Rinku’s amazing rise to fame, read profiles in the Indian Express and Telegraph.
Two: NASA shared this image of Uranus taken by the James Webb Space Telescope—with stunning views of its rings. (NASA)