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A historic deal at COP28
The context: Oil-producing countries like Saudi Arabia were doing their best to block any language that suggests phasing out fossil fuels entirely. This in turn led to an angry backlash—with the EU threatening to “walk away.” And many were worried that the summit may end in chaos. Our Big Story has more on the worries of holding the climate summit in the UAE—the seventh largest producer of oil.
What happened now: Nearly 200 countries have signed a historic deal that calls for a “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science.” Ok, so there is no decisive language about actually phasing out fossil fuels. The final draft instead urges for “accelerating efforts towards the phase-down of unabated coal power”—so “a reduction in their use — but not an absolute end.”
Point to note: India is sensitive to any language around coal—since we rely so heavily on it. While New Delhi welcomed the ‘Dubai Consensus’, some Indian analysts pointed out the double-standard in the treatment of natural gas and coal:
The reference to “transitional fuels” explicitly gives gas producing countries the licence to sell more gas rather than invest in renewable energy,” said Ulka Kelkar... “It also exonerates the developed countries from making up the finance gap so far, though it recognises that the gap in adaptation finance is “widening” and that doubling the current low levels of adaptation finance will be insufficient.” The finance gap refers to the billions of dollars that developed countries must provide to developing ones to adapt and fortress against present and future climate change.
A plague of undressing apps
A new report reveals that websites and apps that use AI to undress women are rapidly growing in popularity. In September alone, 24 million people visited undressing websites—and the links advertising them have increased more than 2,400% on social media:
One image posted to X advertising an undressing app used language that suggests customers could create nude images and then send them to the person whose image was digitally undressed, inciting harassment. One of the apps, meanwhile, has paid for sponsored content on Google’s YouTube, and appears first when searching with the word “nudify.”
Argentina’s economy receives ‘shock therapy’
The newly elected rightwing president—Javier Milei—has devalued the peso by 54%. The central bank of Argentina printed pesos, to help the government avoid defaulting on its debt—but that has resulted in skyrocketing inflation. He also announced plans to cut spending by 3% of the GDP—warning citizens that the next few months will be difficult. The IMF is delighted with Milei’s moves. (BBC News)
The Gaza war: A quick roundup
There isn’t much that is new on the Gaza front—other than the fact that Israel continues to move steadily down south. The latest death toll is 18,608. But here are some worthy things to see. The death of professor and poet Refaat Alareer has been mourned around the world. Here is the audio of his last interview with CNN—which is heart-breaking and prescient. (CNN)
For a bit of dark humour: Watch this gentleman explain the appropriate way to chant “From the river to the sea”, without being anti-semitic:
Bad news for iPhone thieves
Apple has a new security feature called Stolen Device Protection—which is currently in beta testing. How it works:
If the phone is at a location that is not usually associated with its owner, and Stolen Device Protection is turned on, the device will require Apple’s FaceID facial recognition in addition to a passcode for users to perform sensitive actions, such as viewing stored passwords or wiping the phone… In addition, any attacker won’t be able to change the user’s Apple ID password or remove FaceID without a mandatory one-hour delay, and then have to pass a FaceID check again.
A big Tesla recall in the US
Tesla is recalling nearly all the two million vehicles sold in the US—to fix a defective system that’s supposed to ensure drivers are paying attention when they use Autopilot. The move comes after a two-year government investigation into a series of accidents involving the EV car—some of which were fatal. The recalled cars will receive a software update that forces the driver to pay more attention—and limits the use of the high-level version of automatic steering: “If the driver attempts to engage Autosteer when conditions are not met for engagement, the feature will alert the driver it is unavailable through visual and audible alerts, and Autosteer will not engage.” Quartz explains why the fix doesn’t do much to address the perils of autonomous driving.
Revealed: What Netflix users watch
The streaming platform has always been close-mouthed about its viewership numbers—and has been accused of fudging them in the past. But the deal struck by Hollywood writers in late September now requires studios to share engagement stats for their shows. As a result, the platform has now decided to bare it all—in what it calls a ‘What We Watched’ report. The first one shows that ‘Night Agent’ Season 1 was the most-watched show between January and June—with more than 812 million hours viewed—followed by the second season of ‘Ginny & Georgia’. Really? ‘Ginny & Georgia’? In case you’re curious: ‘Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story’ came a distant #5. From here on out, Netflix will release the report twice a year. (The Verge)
The case of the very careless British Museum
The British Museum announced that it has managed to lose 2,000 precious artefacts—causing a “deeply embarrassing” situation.
The museum said it believed the thefts “took place over a considerable period of time” and that a “key target appears to have been unregistered items — mainly gems and jewellery — in the department of Greece and Rome”.
Cats are dangerous killers
A new study reveals that cats kill and eat at least 2,000 species—and are the “ultimate versatile generalist predator”. Apart from the usual rats and birds, they can also kill emus, cattle and green sea turtles: “We don’t really know of any other mammal that eats this many different species. It’s almost like an indiscriminate eater; they’re eating whatever’s available.” The problem:
They found that 347 species documented to have been consumed by cats are listed as near threatened, threatened (including some that are endangered or critically endangered) or extinct. Many of these are small birds, mammals and reptiles that are endemic to islands that lack natural catlike predators, meaning prey are naive and relatively defenseless. Eleven cat-consumed species recorded in the study, including the Hawaiian crow (Corvus hawaiiensis), New Zealand quail (Coturnix novaezelandiae) and white-footed rabbit rat (Conilurus albipes), are now classified as extinct in the wild or extinct.
Three things to see
One: Usman Khawaja got in trouble for wearing shoes that say “All Lives Are Equal” during practice—in the lead up to the Pakistan vs Australia series. It violates ICC’s strict rule against political advocacy on the field:
Players are not permitted to display messages on their clothing or equipment unless approved in advance by their board or the ICC. The document clearly states that messages for political causes "shall not be granted.”
Khwaja has now agreed not to wear them during the match—but doesn’t like it. He says that he is taking a humanitarian stance: “What I've written on my shoes is not political. I'm not taking sides. Human life to me is equal. One Jewish life is equal to one Muslim life is equal to one Hindu life and so on.” Point to note: ICC was fine with cricketers taking the knee for Black Lives Matter. You can see the controversial sneakers below—and watch his vid message here. (ESPNCricinfo)
Two: Sticking with cricket, Rohit Sharma posted a video of his own—sharing his feelings about the brutal World Cup loss.
Three: A British property developer did not want to pay a £10.5 million inheritance tax bill. So he donated a 500-year-old Renaissance bronze called The Apollo Belvedere to the UK government instead. The country’s ‘Acceptance in Lieu’ scheme allows people to settle an inheritance tax bill by transferring ownership of important cultural, scientific or historic artefacts to the nation. (The Guardian)