Researched by: Rachel John & Aarthi Ramnath
An unfolding tragedy in Sudan
The context: Sudan has been in a civil war since April thanks 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 the Rapid Support Forces (RSF)—extremist Arabs who target tribes. The clashes have killed over 4,000 people. For more context, check out this Big Story.
What happened now: The United Nations has warned that the situation in Sudan is “spiralling out of control”—as over one million people have fled the country in the past four months. And those left behind are running out of food and are dying due to lack of healthcare—apart from “rampant looting and long power, communications and water cuts.” (Reuters)
Torrential monsoon in Himachal
The state has already received 742 mm of rainfall in just 54 days of monsoon—that’s higher than the average amount of rain (730 mm) typically received during the entire season—between June 1 and September 30. The death toll has risen to 57—and the damage since late June is more than Rs 72 billion (7,200 crore). It will take more than a year to rebuild the infrastructure lost in floods and landslides. Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu blames the disaster on poor construction by “Bihari architects” (yes, he said that)—and poorly planned highways. (The Telegraph)
Meanwhile, in Maui: At least 110 people have died due to the raging wildfires—that spread with great speed and intensity due to strong winds caused by Hurricane Dora. They were most likely caused by short-circuiting power lines. One of the incidents was captured on camera:
The bright light in the video was probably an “arc flash,” something that happens when a power line “faults” — meaning it has come in contact with vegetation or another line, or gets knocked down, releasing power, usually through sparks.
Ashoka University controversy: The latest update
The context: An Ashoka University professor’s working paper alleging vote manipulation in seats narrowly won by the BJP in 2019 sparked a heated—and not-at-all-useful debate. While there were legitimate questions raised about the conclusions (see: this excellent Big Story), the controversy turned into an ugly ideological war. The university carefully distanced itself from Sabyasachi Das’ research and he recently resigned from it.
What happened now: The Economics department has issued an open letter. It demands that Das should be reinstated “unconditionally”:
Prof. Das did not violate any accepted norm of academic practice. Academic research is professionally evaluated through a process of peer review. The Governing Body’s interference in this process to investigate the merits of his recent study constitutes institutional harassment, curtails academic freedom, and forces scholars to operate in an environment of fear.
An emergency faculty meeting made similar demands. The administration has not offered a public response as of now. (Indian Express)
Mixed news about global wealth
According to a new report, household wealth declined in 2022 for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis—dipping by 2.4% to $454.4 trillion. But the global median wealth— "a more meaningful indicator of how the typical person is faring”—went up by 3% in 2022. China’s surge accounts for jumps in median wealth over the past 20-odd years. And the future looks bright for ‘middle income’ countries:
Total global wealth is expected to rise by 38% in the next five years — with middle-income countries, rather than the ultra-rich, reaping the majority of the benefits. While middle-income countries accounted for barely more than 5% of global wealth in 2000, that number is likely to reach 30% in 2027.
That’s while private wealth continues to decline in richer countries. The bulk of the decline in 2022 was in North America and Europe—where households lost a combined $10.9 trillion. (Bloomberg News, paywall, Axios)
Also falling: China’s fertility—which dropped to a record low of 1.09 in 2022. The reason: many women don’t want to have kids:
High childcare costs and having to stop their careers have put many women off having more children or any at all. Gender discrimination and traditional stereotypes of women caring for their children are still widespread throughout the country. Authorities have in recent months increased rhetoric on sharing the duty of child rearing but paternity leave is still limited in most provinces.
Other data points to note: Couples without children doubled from 20.6% to 43.2% in the four years between 2017 and 2022. And China’s population declined for the first time in 60 years last year. (Reuters)
X plays dirty with some web links
The platform formerly known as Twitter has been quietly slowing down the speed with which users can access links to certain websites. These include both potential rivals like Bluesky and Instagram—and sites that owner Elon Musk dislikes—e.g New York Times. There is a 5-second delay—while URLs to other sites loaded in a second. How this works:
X, like other platforms, uses a link-shortener service to collect information on users who click on links shared on the platform. When a link for a New York Times article plugged into X’s link-shortener takes far longer to load than other websites using the same link-shortening service, “this is the clear indicator that there are server-side [at the X-operated shortener] shenanigans going on,” [cybersecurity researcher Will] Dormann told CNN.
The issue apparently ‘resolved itself’ after it was reported in the media. (CNN)
As for Telegram: The messaging app rolled out its stories feature to everyone. Until now, it was offered only to premium users. The Hindu has more.
Neymar’s staggeringly large Saudi deal
The Brazilian player has walked out of Paris St-Germain—and signed an astonishing deal worth €150 million ($163 million) a year with Saudi Pro League club Al Hilal. That’s 6X of what he was earning at PSG. Reminder: last month, the club made a £259 million-bid for PSG’s other great star Kylian Mbappé—who, however, showed up for training camp much to the relief of PSG fans. That said, Al Hilal now has ex-Wolves captain Ruben Neves, former Chelsea centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. See Al Hilal’s announcement clip below. (BBC News)
A Supreme Court handbook on gender
The Court released a guide that “aims to assist judges and the legal community in identifying, understanding and combating stereotypes about women.” It flags the use of gendered terms like eve-teasing, adulteress, concubine/keep, housewife, mistress, prostitute and unwed mother. And it offers alternative language for those who don’t know better. Indian Express has lots more details.
One snake to see
A new species of snake—now named "Harrison Ford's Slender Snake" or Tachymenoides harrisonfordi—has been discovered in Peru. Why Harrison Ford? Because his Indiana Jones character hates them. Ford himself is very active in wildlife conservation. When asked about the snake, he said: “The snake’s got eyes you can drown in, and he spends most of the day sunning himself by a pool of dirty water — we probably would’ve been friends in the early ‘60s.” As you can see, it is indeed a creepy looking snake—unlike its namesake:) (Hollywood Reporter)