Researched by: Nirmal Bhansali & Aarthi Ramnath
US government heads for a shutdown
The US government will have to shut shop at 12:01 am on Sunday, October 1—unless Congress passes a short-term bill to keep it funded. The reason: Republicans in the House can’t agree over the stopgap bill. And they are unlikely to reach consensus anytime soon. Reminder: they are in the majority. The Democrats are primarily watching from the sidelines.
What this means: Most essential services will continue—while stuff like national parts, immigration courts etc. will not be operational. Vox has more details if you care. Washington Post tells you all about the 10 Republicans who are responsible for this chaos.
India will have more old people
According to a new UN report, elderly people will be 20% of our population by 2050—that’s 2X our current numbers. We have 149 million elderly people who are 10.5% of our population. And there will be more old people than kids. Why this matters: Over 40% of senior citizens are among the poorest Indians. And most of them will be “widowed and highly dependent very old women”—since women have a higher life expectancy than men. Unless we create a welfare system to take care of them, this crisis will continue to grow. The Hindu has more details.
The best university in the world is…
Oxford, of course—followed by Stanford and MIT, in that order. That’s according to the Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings. This is Oxford’s eighth consecutive year in the #1 spot. But the US continues to dominate—taking seven of the top ten slots. FYI: Harvard came in at #4. The other three are in the UK. Switzerland’s ETH Zurich is the highest-ranked European school at #11.
As for Asia: The continent contributed the most number of universities to the list. China has two universities in the top 20, seven in the top 100 and 13 in the top 200. Six years ago, it had only two schools in the top 100. There are no Indian universities in the top 200—but the Indian Institute of Science is rated in the 200-250 range.
The better news: 91 Indian universities have been included and many have improved their rankings. Times Higher Education official says: “Although methodological changes this year have not been kind to some Indian institutions, the overall picture remains positive.” Forbes is best on the global rankings, and Indian Express looks at Indian schools. See the top 20 Indian universities here.
X says farewell to the fake news button
The platform has disabled the feature that allowed you to report misinformation about elections—right when two of the world’s biggest democracies are gearing up for their national polls? Here’s why this is weird. You can still flag tweets as hate speech or spam—just not fake news related to politics. Apart from the Indian and US elections, Australia is also going to hold an important national referendum—the first in 25 years. Point to note: It was already clear that reporting fake news didn’t really have any effect. This move just makes it official.
Moving on to ChatGPT: You can now surf the web using the AI chatbot. Until now, its dataset had not been updated since September 2021. So your information wasn’t exactly up-to-date. It will also offer links and resources cited in its answers—so you can pretend to have done the research yourself:) OpenAI also claims that ChatGPT will no longer access paywalled content. The gif below gives you a glimpse of how it works. (The Verge)
As for streaming platforms in India: As per new rules, they are required to insert anti-tobacco warnings into their content—much like the movie theatres. So they’re supposed to pop up before and in the middle of a movie/episode—and during smoking scenes. However, Amazon Prime, Netflix et al have baulked—arguing “it would require millions of hours of existing content to be edited, diminish user experience and hamper creative freedom.” As a result, the government may offer an exemption for existing content and licensed foreign content. (Indian Express)
Liverpool has a new investor
New York-based investment firm Dynasty Equity has bought a minority stake in the Premier League football club. It will be injecting at least $100 million into the team—but don’t expect many fancy new hires: “Liverpool said the the investment would ‘primarily’ be used to pay down bank debt, which was incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as capital expenses on the stadium, training ground and transfers made during the offseason.” (Quartz)
A terrible dengue outbreak in Bangladesh
Nearly 1,000 people have died in recent weeks from the disease—which has spread to all 64 districts in the country. A big reason why this outbreak is especially severe: “Extraordinarily wet monsoons have made it easier for mosquitoes that carry the dengue virus to breed in dirty and stagnant water.” Of course, the severe monsoons are in turn an effect of climate change. The neighbouring Bengal has also registered 38,000 cases of dengue and 30 people have died so far. BBC News has more on Bangladesh. Hindustan Times reports on West Bengal.
‘Microplastic rain’ is real!
Japanese scientists have found between 6.7 and 13.9 pieces of microplastic per litre of cloud water—collected from mists on mountaintops. The team identified nine different types of polymers and one type of rubber. While we don’t exactly know what microplastics do to the human body, they are terrible for the planet: “When microplastics reach the upper atmosphere and are exposed to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight, they degrade, contributing to greenhouse gases.”
Quote to note from the researchers:
Ten million tons of these plastic bits end up in the ocean, released with the ocean spray, and find their way into the atmosphere. This implies that microplastics may have become an essential component of clouds, contaminating nearly everything we eat and drink via ‘plastic rainfall’.
Al Jazeera has more on the study.
A plague of foliage peepers
A small town in Vermont is combatting a deluge of tourists and influencers—all eager to check out the leaves turning pretty colours in autumn. Residents of Pomfret—yes, like the fish—claim:
Poorly behaved tourists have damaged roads, had accidents, required towing out of ditches, trampled gardens, defecated on private property, parked in fields and driveways, and verbally assaulted residents.
In desperation, the town has started a GoFundMe campaign to block two main roads into town. Here’s why this is both amusing—pooping, really?—and notable: tourists have become a problem for cities around the world. And they have started to pass new rules to keep them out. Example: Venice. (NBC News)
Many Meta things to see
Mark Zuckerberg launched a flurry of products yesterday—including a fancy $500 mixed reality (AR/VR) headset:
Not your jam? How about the second gen of these smart Ray Ban glasses—powered by AI:
Or you could talk to one of 28 AI chatbots that resemble famous people like Tom Brady, Paris Hilton and Snoop Dogg—and even Jane Austen. They will appear across multiple social platforms and interfaces—yup, that likely includes WhatsApp. That’s hot… we guess? TechCrunch has a handy list of new Meta products. New York Times has more on those AI chatbots.
One more thing to see
If you love Ranbir Kapoor, you may have mixed feelings about his ‘Animal’ makeover. The revenge flick is filled with blood-soaked scenes—with a toxic father-son relationship to boot. That said, it will be intriguing to see if Ranbir can pull off the anti-hero schtick. The other stars include Anil Kapoor, Rashmika Mandanna and Bobby Deol. (Collider)