Researched by: Nirmal Bhansali, Anannya Parekh, Niveditha Ajay & Rhea Saincher
Mr Blinken goes to China
The China-US relationship has soured considerably over the past couple of years—with the two sides fighting over trade, Beijing’s support for Russia and US aid to Taiwan. So it’s a big deal that Anthony Blinken arrived in China on Sunday—marking the first official visit by a US Secretary of State in five years. His mission: to thaw frosty relations and at least start talking again. Notably, Blinken met Chinese President Xi Jinping and they agreed to “stabilise” the relationship between the two countries. But Beijing said ‘no’ to his biggest ask: better communications between their militaries—which Washington says is essential to avoid conflict over Taiwan. Vox sums up what’s at stake on this trip. (Associated Press)
IndiGo’s lavish shopping spree
The airline has placed an order for 500 narrow-body planes with Airbus—outdoing Air India’s mega-purchase just months ago. It now holds the record for the single-largest purchase in the commercial aviation industry. IndiGo has now ordered a total of 1,330 new planes—betting on Indians’ insatiable appetite to fly. Btw, the first planes won’t arrive until 2030. (Mint)
Ethnic cleansing in Sudan
The context: Sudan has been in a civil war since April due to a power struggle between two generals—Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (Hemedti). Hemedti is supported by a notorious militia known as Janjaweed—Arab warriors who terrorised African tribes—and who have now been renamed Rapid Support Forces (RSF). They have been accused of many massacres of rebel tribes—and implicated in genocide. There’s lots more in our Big Story here.
What happened now: There are worrying signs of the RSF conducting an ethnic cleansing campaign in tribal regions like West Darfur—whose governor was found dead hours after accusing the militia of genocide.
According to witness and rights groups, Arab militias and the RSF — a group mostly composed of Arab recruits — have targeted Masalit displacement camps, killed people attempting to escape to neighbouring Chad, kidnapped and raped women and executed influential figures in the community, such as tribal leaders and human rights lawyers and monitors. Witnesses have spoken of corpses lying on the streets for days and at least 1,100 people have reportedly died so far.
What’s noteworthy: The army—which is supposedly controlled by General al-Burhan—is doing nothing. Al Jazeera has lots more details.
WHO flags Indian cough syrups
The UN body’s investigation of cough syrups has turned up 20 contaminated medicines from India and Indonesia—made by 15 different manufacturers. Of these, 15 had been previously identified—of which seven were manufactured in India. Indian companies have been implicated in the sale of contaminated syrups in multiple countries—including Gambia, Uzbekistan, Nigeria and Micronesia and the Marshall islands.
The government has now made it mandatory for cough syrups to obtain a ‘certificate of analysis’ before they become eligible for export. But a drug greenlit for export already needs a certificate of pharmaceutical product (COPP) to assure overseas buyers that Indian regulators have inspected the product—and ensured that the exporting company complies with WHO standards. It’s difficult to see how slapping on another document will help. See our Big Stories on how Indian-made cough syrups killed little kids in Gambia and Uzbekistan. (Indian Express)
Humans are tilting the world!
A new study reveals that the Earth’s axis tilted an extra 80 centimetres between 1993 and 2010. And the reason will freak you out: it was because of the sheer volume of groundwater we were pumping from the ground. How this works:
The distribution of water on the planet affects how mass is distributed. Like adding a tiny bit of weight to a spinning top, the Earth spins a little differently as water is moved around.
We’ve long known that “Earth’s rotational pole actually changes a lot.” But this is the first time we have been able to document the role of groundwater. What’s more worrying is that the study links pumping groundwater to the rise in sea levels—especially in the midlatitudes—as the most water was redistributed in western North America and northwestern India. (Axios)
A key finding on a ‘woman’s disease’
The context: Endometriosis is a disease where tissue similar to the uterine lining grows outside the uterus—causing debilitating pain and often infertility. It affects 10% of women across the world. Scientists have struggled to identify its cause—and the treatment options are limited.
What happened now: A Japanese study has linked the condition to a strain of bacteria:
[The researchers] found that 64% of the women with endometriosis tested positive for bacteria in the genus fusobacterium in their uterine lining, while less than 10% of the healthy women carried the bacteria there.
Antibiotics decreased the number and size of endometriotic lesions in size. What’s notable: “Fusobacterium are associated with oral diseases such as periodontitis and tonsillitis, but this is the first time the bacteria have been linked to problems with the female reproductive system.” While the study is small, it offers hope for a potential breakthrough. (Washington Post paywall, Live Science)
In bad news for night owls: A new study found that people who stay up late—and wake up late—are likely to die earlier than early risers. The reason: they are more likely to smoke and drink—which increases the risk of an early death by about 9% compared to morning people. Previous research has been no less gloomy about night owls—who “may take more risks and are more likely to skip breakfast and eat more later in the day. Night owls also have higher levels of visceral body fat in the abdominal region.”
But here’s the hidden good news: "It's not about the chronotype [being a morning or evening person] itself that is dangerous, but it is the associated lifestyle factors." So just go to bed early—or sip on carrot juice at 2 am! (CNN)
Found: A Tatooine in our neighbourhood!
Scientists have found a world that resembles the famed Tatooine—the home planet of Luke Skywalker in ‘Star Wars’. BEBOP-1C is the size of Jupiter and takes 215 Earth days to spin around two stars—and therefore has two suns! Before you get too impressed, there are solar systems in the Milky Way with up to seven stars. (Mashable)
Three things to see
One: Modi-mania has gripped the NRI community ahead of his trip to the US—which kicks off on June 22. Example: the Modi Thali newly unveiled by a New Jersey restaurant. It has an old-fashioned national unity & integrity theme—and includes sarson ka saag, idlis, dhokla, Kashmiri aloo plus kothimbir vadi (Umm, where’s the sambhar?).
If that isn’t patriotic enough, the idlis will be coloured red, green and orange—to match the flag. There’s even a drink dedicated to External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar—that is non-alcoholic, of course. Aww, we were really looking forward to a good old-fashioned Bloody Yogi. See the owner lay out its delights below. (NDTV)
Two: The residents of the National Capital Region are always going viral for being, well, a**holes. The latest is a clash between customers and staff at a restaurant—which charged them a service fee. Adding to the ‘only in Noida’ vibe: the restaurant's name is Duty Free. You cannot make this shit up. Behold the mayhem below. (Indian Express)
Three: So Marriott wanted to build a truly memorable W hotel in Edinburgh. The architects decided to build “a coiled ribbon” that celebrates the city’s famous festival. Sadly, it has since been dubbed the ‘Golden Turd’—for its unfortunate resemblance to the poop emoji. There’s now a petition to stick some googly eyes on the damn thing—because “it’s vital to humanize new architecture.” Also: look what illustrious company it is keeping! (Wall Street Journal)