Researched by: Rachel John, Nirmal Bhansali, Aarthi Ramnath & Priyanka Gulati
A terrible train crash in Greece
Two trains were involved in a horrific head-on collision—killing at least 43 people and injuring 72. Most of the dead were students. The accident—which was about 380 km north of Athens—occurred when a passenger train inexplicably changed tracks—and barrelled straight into a freight train. A station master has been arrested and the transportation minister has resigned—saying the railways network was so flawed it did “not befit the 21st century.” The Guardian has lots more details. You can see footage of the crash site below:
Adani stages a bounce back
According to a Reuters report, the Adani Group told investors that it has secured a hefty $3 billion loan from an unnamed sovereign wealth fund—and that its credit line could be upped to $5 billion if needed. The fund was rumoured to be from the Middle East—which isn’t surprising since the UAE stepped in to bail out Adani when its follow-on public offer turned into a debacle (explained here). The big reveal was reportedly part of a three-day road show put on to soothe panicky investors. The group now has the money to pay back its other loans—and spend big on its juicy infrastructure projects. FYI: Adani shares gained 14.7% yesterday. Yay for Gautam-bhai, right?
Then this happened: The day after the story went global, the Adani Group apparently issued a vigorous denial to Bloomberg News: “We completely deny this baseless speculation. This is totally false and untrue.” That’s an oddly strident tone to take to refute what is essentially a ‘good news’ story. But here’s the thing–we can’t find the original source of the quote–all we have is third hand Indian media reports like this one in Business Standard. Also why accurately curating news can be a nightmare. 🙄
Poison attacks on Iranian schoolgirls
Eight hundred students have suffered mild poison attacks over recent months. They were staged at more than 30 schools in at least 10 cities—starting in November:
The first reports of girls’ falling sick emerged three months ago in the religious city of Qom, which is about 80 miles southwest of the capital, Tehran. Students reported smelling mysterious odours like tangerine and chlorides and were hospitalised after having difficulty breathing and experiencing heart palpitations, nausea and numbness in their limbs.
The girls developed respiratory, cardiac and neurological symptoms—and had to be hospitalised. The exact motive behind the attacks remained unclear. But the primary suspects are conservative religious groups opposed to educating girls—which has never been an issue in Iran before. (New York Times)
A big fat ‘forest cover’ scam
Indian Express has uncovered evidence that the government has been employing a very loose definition of “forest cover.” In Delhi, for example, the Lutyens bungalows of ministers and senior officers—and even the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) building—are marked as ‘forest’. This kind of liberty with the facts may explain why India’s green cover has stayed exactly the same for over four decades—despite rampant development and deforestation.
Successive governments have fudged data by counting any 1-hectare plot with 10% canopy cover—“irrespective of land use.” As an ecologist says:
These patches may look green from the sky but they do not support a fraction of biodiversity we associate with a forest. There is no comparison at all in terms of ecosystem services. It’s a crime to mislead national policies with such dressed-up inputs.
Indian Express’ excellent reporting is behind a paywall—but we highly recommend it if you have a subscription.
Dismal data about Indian women
One: A new study has found that nearly 50% of Indian women do not step out of their homes even once a day. And if they do leave the house, they need to have a “solid reason.” The data reflects the fact that most women lose their mobility once they stop going to school/college—and most do not go to work. But the factoid that speaks volumes: only 35% of ‘not working’ men remain at home. (The Print)
Two: Last year, the government significantly liberalised regulations surrounding abortion (explained in this Big Story). But a survey of women in four states—Delhi, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh—shows an alarming information gap. Only 40% of them even know that abortion is legal in India—and only 4% were aware of the recent amendments. More worryingly, 95% of frontline health workers were equally ignorant of the changes to the law. The Hindu has more findings from the study.
How old is your brain?
An international team of researchers looked at brain scan data from various studies– capturing 101,457 brains at different stages. Here’s what they found:
- The regions involved in perception, language and consciousness peak at age two.
- Grey matter volume—the overall number of brain cells—peaks at seven.
- White matter—which allows regions of the brain to communicate with speed—peaks at 30—and then starts to decline.
After 40, however, milestones vary from one adult to another:
Experiences such as engagement in a community, lifestyle choices or exposure to stress or toxins can drastically affect brain development and aging. A 50-year-old who is highly social and regularly exercising, traveling or volunteering might have a “younger” brain than a 50-year-old who is largely isolated from others and rarely engages in enriching activities.
Washington Post (splainer gift link) has lots more on this fascinating study. Read the original study over at Nature.
In somewhat related news: An equally fascinating study has revealed that all living creatures have a sixth sense. No, this isn’t the kind that helps you “see dead people.” But it allows us to sense magnetic fields of the earth—which is the superpower birds and fish use to migrate across vast distances. Science Alert has all the nerdy details you may need.
Three things to see
One: Wanna see Jude Law play a wicked Captain Hook? Check out the trailer for ‘Peter Pan and Wendy’. It also stars Yara Shahidi as the first Black Tinkerbell. The movie drops on Disney+Hotstar on April 28. (Variety)
Two: The much-awaited trailer for season 3 is here for Ted Lasso fans. The new season will kick off on March 15 on AppleTV+. (The Verge)
Three: A Brit photographer captures this bizarre—and beautiful—’face’ in a crashing wave of Scotland. Mother Nature… always freaking us out. (BBC News h/t subscriber Sowmya Swaminathan)