Researched by: Nirmal Bhansali & Aarthi Ramnath
A horrific Saudi border crossing
A Rights group says Saudi Arabian border guards fired machine guns and launched mortars—killing “possibly thousands” of migrants in recent years. Many were also subjected to torture and rape. These were mostly Ethiopians fleeing the two-year civil war. At least 750,000 have settled in Saudi Arabia—most of whom are undocumented. Riyadh has been doing its best to deport them—with the assistance of the Ethiopian government.
A UN letter to the Saudis echoes many of these allegations:
If migrants are captured, they are reportedly oftentimes subjected to torture by being lined up and shot through the side of the leg to see how far the bullet will go or asked if they prefer to be shot in the hand or the leg,” the letter from the U.N. reads. “Survivors of such attacks reported having to ‘play dead’ for a period of time in order to escape.”
Luna-25’s crash-landing explained
The context: On Sunday, the Russian spacecraft crashed into the moon while trying to enter a “pre-landing” orbit. It was on the same mission as Chandrayaan-3—to execute a soft landing on the moon’s south pole.
What happened now: The head of the Russian space agency offered this explanation:
Roscosmos Director General Yury Borisov said the spacecraft's engines were turned on over the weekend to put Luna-25 into a “pre-landing orbit" but did not shut down properly, plunging the lander onto the moon. Instead of the planned 84 seconds, it worked for 127 seconds. This was the main reason for the emergency, Borisov told Russian state news channel Russia 24.
He also blamed the failure on the “negative experience of interrupting the lunar program for almost 50 years.” (Associated Press via The Hindu)
Driest August in a century
According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), India is experiencing the driest August in more than a century. The country received only 90.7 mm rainfall in the first 17 days of the month. That is 40% lower than the normal average of 254.9 mm. The predicted rainfall for the rest of the month will not be able to make up the deficit. The likely culprit: El Niño—which typically affects monsoons in India (explained in this Big Story). Why this matters:
Summer rains are crucial as nearly half of India's farmland lacks irrigation. Farmers typically start planting rice, corn, cotton, soybeans, sugarcane and peanuts, among other crops, from June 1, when the monsoon begins to lash the southern state of Kerala. The lengthy dry spell has led to extremely low soil moisture, which could inhibit growth of crops.
Food inflation reminder: the government is already trying to curb the onion prices—while dal is expected to become more expensive. The only good news: tomato prices are coming down! The Telegraph has that story. (Economic Times)
Meanwhile, in California: The southern part of the state is dealing with floods in the wake of a tropical storm—the first to hit LA in 84 years. The rains soaked deserts and blocked highways—and is now headed toward Oregon and Idaho. You can see what Dodger Stadium looks like below. (Associated Press)
In other environmental news: A new study reveals that America’s wealthiest 10% are responsible for 40% of its greenhouse gas emissions. Phys.org has more on the research.
Two health studies of note
Morning after pill: A Lancet study has revealed that emergency contraceptives like Plan B or i-Pill work better when taken with an arthritis drug called piroxicam. The combo prevented 95% of pregnancies compared to 63% prevented by taking just the pill. Most important to note: this is only true for contraceptives that contain levonorgestrel—not those that have ulipristal acetate. (Bloomberg News, paywall, Independent)
Covid deaths: An Indian study looked at deaths that occurred within a year of being discharged from hospital. The mortality rate was 6.5%—but those who had taken at least a single dose vaccine were 60% less at risk of death. (The Hindu)
An electoral reversal in Thailand
The context: In May—after a decade of military rule—the nation voted for two of the biggest opposition parties and for radical reform. Move Forward led by the charismatic Pita Limjaroenrat emerged as the single largest party and it received the support of the other major opposition party: Pheu Thai. But Pita failed to get the votes required to become prime minister—thanks to rules introduced by the military—and the coalition fell apart. The senate—made up of 250 unelected members solely chosen by the army—have relentlessly opposed him.
What happened now: The military appears to have prevailed—at least partly. Pheu Thai now plans to form a coalition government that includes two parties linked to the outgoing leader and army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha. Real estate tycoon Srettha Thavisin is likely to be the new prime minister. This Big Story explains why this was a big stakes election. (ABC News)
Meanwhile, in Guatemala: An anti-corruption crusader has won the presidential election—sweeping 58% of the vote. The Guardian has all the details.
Pragg’s big chess victory
R Praggnanandhaa—the 18-year-old Indian chess prodigy—beat World #3 Fabiano Caruana at the World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan. He is the first Indian to reach the World Cup final since the knockout format was introduced in 2005. Pragg will face world champion Magnus Carlsen in the final. The Hindu has all the nerdy details of the game. Our Big Story profiled Pragg who is well on the way to becoming the next Viswanathan Anand.
A massive X wipeout
The platform formerly known as Twitter suffered a severe tech glitch that wiped out many posts tweeted out before December 2014. These were old posts that had attached images or any hyperlinks converted through Twitter’s built-in URL shortener. Happily the bug has been fixed—and all posts restored. (The Verge)
Moving on to Tesla: Elon Musk’s other company is suing two former employees for a severe data breach in May. A German media outlet informed Tesla that it had obtained confidential information on 75,753 current and former employees—including salaries, phone numbers, and bank details. The company’s internal investigation has concluded that “two former Tesla employees misappropriated the information in violation of Tesla’s IT security and data protection policies and shared it with the media outlet.” Quartz has more.
Raja Ravi Varma’s Feast of Wonders
We are so very excited to invite you to join us for a unique Onam dinner in Mumbai. The experience will most decidedly live up to its title: ‘Raja Ravi Varma’s Feast of Wonders: An Onam Like No Other’. Before we jump into the details, please note seating is extremely limited. So please book early if you’re interested:) On to the event…
The dinner isn’t just a nice meal with an author but a vivid and visual experience that blends historical storytelling, experiential dining and AI art. I can say with great confidence that it is the first of its kind in India. Helping us deliver that promise are the formidable talents of Chefs Manu Chandra and Hussian Shahzad, historian Manu Pillai and AI artist Ari Jayaprakash—who are coming together for the very first time. Our event page has lots more details (and images) and booking information. We leave you with this hint of what to expect:
Psst: This is the inaugural event of our new baby—True South—created in partnership with two of the most respected names in the fine dining business (more on the event page). And it is the epitome of all the reasons why you’ve supported splainer: our commitment to always offering quality and substance—but in an entirely new and delightful way. We will be bringing future editions to other cities in the months to come.
Also this: Yes, this is a pretty expensive meal. We are working on a range of events of different kinds—based on the results of our survey. Which reminds us: Have you taken our big fat survey yet?