Researched by: Rachel John, Nirmal Bhansali, Aarthi Ramnath & Anannya Parekh
Israel-Palestine war: The latest update
We look at the larger geopolitical picture in the region in the Big Story. Below are the rest of the headlines. For more context on the Israel-Palestine war, check out our two-part series on the Hamas attack on Israel: part one lays out the Hamas offensive and failures of Israeli intelligence; part two explains the big picture—and Hamas’ motive driving what seems like a suicidal attack. Also read: our Big Story on the ground offensive by Israel, which will decide the fate of Gaza and the power balance in the Middle East.
The death toll: 9,061 people have been killed in Gaza—including over 3,648 children and 2,290 women. The number of Israeli deaths is at 1,538.
One: US funding for Israel’s war faces a big hitch. Republicans in the House have approved $14.5 billion in military aid—but they have attached spending cuts that Biden will never agree to. So it will likely be vetoed.
Two: The US once again claimed that it’s pushing Israel for “temporary localized humanitarian pauses to allow aid to get to specific populations and maybe even to help with the evacuation of people that want to get out, move more to the south in the war.” The White House is under severe pressure after the recent strikes on Jabalia—explained in this Big Story. A related read: Doctors describe the terrible task of treating severely wounded kids in Gaza.
Three: Israel's ground invasion is now in full force—as the troops push into urban centres in northern Gaza. The true extent of the combat remains hidden—both by the Israelis and Hamas:
Details on Israel’s ground offensive remain scarce, with journalists unable to enter the Gaza Strip and regular communications blackouts. Updates from the Israel Defense Forces are vaguely worded and Hamas has ordered Gazans not to publish information on military movements. But interviews with residents, experts and Israeli soldiers, as well as videos and satellite imagery from the battlefield, point to a growing, bloody operation on several fronts.
Washington Post has that story.
World Cup 2023: India demolishes Sri Lanka
India chalked up an eye-popping 302-run victory thanks to the bowlers in blue. Mohammed Shami finished with five wickets for 18 runs in five overs—his second five-wicket haul in this World Cup. Mohammed Siraj didn't do too badly either—three wickets for 16 runs in seven overs. Meanwhile, Virat Kohli and Shubman Gill put on a 189-run second wicket partnership. The Hindu has more on the game. Indian Express has a good piece on the “speed, seam, swing, swag” of the lethal trio—Shami, Siraj and Bumrah. We are the first team to have qualified for the semis.
Sam Bankman-Fried has been convicted!
The disgraced crypto king was convicted on all seven charges of fraud and conspiracy after a month-long trial. Reminder: Bankman-Fried was charged with stealing $10 billion from customers to splurge on extravagant political contributions, venture capital investments and personal purchases. He plans to appeal the sentence. The decisive factor in the trial: three of his former close friends and colleagues—including ex-girlfriend Caroline Ellison—testified against him to reduce their own sentences. BBC News has more on the verdict. For more background, check out our Big Story.
Kejriwal says ‘thanks, no thanks’ to ED
The context: The Enforcement Directorate has been investigating AAP leaders on charges of taking bribes—in exchange for a liberal liquor excise policy (explained at great length in this Big Story). Deputy CM Manish Sisodia was arrested in February—and is behind bars alongside his colleague Sanjay Singh. Sisodia was also recently denied bail by the Supreme Court.
What happened now: The ED issued summons to CM Arvind Kejriwal—ordering him to appear for questioning. He simply refused to do so—and headed out to campaign in Madhya Pradesh instead. Kejriwal wrote to the agency demanding withdrawal of the summons—claiming it was “illegal and politically motivated.” The ED will likely issue a new notice for a new date. (The Hindu)
Also staging a rebellion: Trinamool MP Mahua Moitra—who appeared in front of the parliamentary ethics committee on charges that she asked questions in the Lok Sabha in exchange for cash. Moitra walked out of the hearings—calling out "unethical, sordid, demeaning and prejudiced" behaviour by the committee chairman. She claims he asked “extremely detailed questions about my private life.” Moitra described it as a ‘vastraharan’. FYI: Opposition members of the committee staged a walkout as well. (Quint)
Vladimir Putin says ‘nyet’ to nuclear test ban
The Russian president signed a law withdrawing Russia's ratification of the global treaty banning nuclear weapons tests. Many have strongly criticised the move—including the US. But the Russians say:
Moscow says its deratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is merely designed to bring Russia into line with the United States, which signed but never ratified the treaty. Russia will not resume nuclear testing unless Washington does, say Russian diplomats.
However, the US and its allies are worried that “Russia may be inching towards a nuclear test to intimidate and evoke fear amid the Ukraine war.” (Reuters)
A strange climate change ‘Catch-22’
Six experts looked at China’s highly effective fight against pollution—and came to a dismal conclusion: cutting air pollution accelerates climate change. The reason: dirty air acts as a shield against the sun:
The drive to banish pollution, caused mainly by sulphur dioxide (SO2) spewed from coal plants, has cut SO2 emissions by close to 90% and saved hundreds of thousands of lives, Chinese official data and health studies show. Yet stripped of its toxic shield, which scatters and reflects solar radiation, China's average temperatures have gone up by 0.7 degrees Celsius since 2014, triggering fiercer heatwaves.
Why we should worry: Scientists warn that India and the Middle East will face a similar pattern—which became obvious during the pandemic. When pollution plummeted due to lockdowns, ground temperatures in India were the eighth warmest on record—0.29 C higher than the 1981-2010 average. A possible solution: to focus on cutting greenhouse gases and methane emissions—rather than sulphur pollution. (Reuters)
Meanwhile, in Delhi: It is unlikely that its residents will appreciate the upside of air pollution. The Air Quality Index is now “severe.” Primary schools have been closed for two days—and construction activity has been restricted. A good related read in The Hindu: Why air pollution is here to stay in Mumbai. (Indian Express)
In other very worrying news: Climate change is speeding up in “dangerous” bursts. That’s the conclusion of a new study published by James Hansen—who was one of the earliest scientists to sound the alarm in the 1980s. He now predicts the world will warm up by more than 2°C by the 2050s. The prediction isn’t new but Hansen describes warming as happening in sudden bursts rather than a steady change—leading to accelerating temperatures:
Hansen said there was a huge amount of global heating “in the pipeline” because of the continued burning of fossil fuels and Earth being “very sensitive” to the impacts of this — far more sensitive than the best estimates laid out by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Now, not everyone agrees that global warming is speeding up. And Hansen offers some controversial solutions: a global carbon tax plus spraying sulphur into the atmosphere in order to deflect solar heat and lower the world’s temperature. The Guardian has more on the debate over solar geoengineering. Axios has the details of the study—and criticism of it.
Disney wants all of Hulu
The Mickey Mouse company will pay at least $8.61 billion to buy out Comcast’s 33% stake—and become the sole owner of Hulu. Hulu content will now be available as part of Disney+ both in the US and overseas. But it’s unclear what will happen in India—if Disney does indeed sell its India operations (including Hotstar) to Reliance. We may never Hulu and chill—if Mukesh-bhai doesn’t think it’s worth his while. (New York Times)
Microsoft’s AI assistant is here!
The 365 Copilot can “summarize documents, generate emails, create plans from notes, and even improve Excel analysis.” But it costs a pretty penny: $30 per month per user. And a company will have to commit a minimum of 300 users—which adds up to $9,000. You get a glimpse of what you’ll get for that hefty price below. (The Verge)
The pandemic’s worrying impact on brain health
A UK study called “Protect” has concluded that the pandemic has had a “real lasting impact” on the neurological health of people over the age of 50—whether or not they were infected. It rapidly sped up cognitive decline and memory loss in the first year of the pandemic—but the effects lingered through 2022. The study is based solely on observation so it cannot determine a cause. But the authors suggest that the culprit may be lifestyle shifts caused by lockdowns—including loneliness, reduced exercise and excess drinking. (The Guardian)
And the world’s best cheese is…
Finally, a ‘best of’ list we truly appreciate. After a tasting 4,502 entries, judges of the World Cheese Awards declared the winner: A “perfect” Norwegian blue cheese called Nidelven Blå. A pleasant surprise: An Indian cheese called Eleftheria Brunost which came in at #4. The makers Vivanda Gourmet describe it as a “Norwegian-style whey cheese that tastes like a salted caramel milk fudge with brilliant lingering toffee notes” You can pick it up online for Rs 400—if they deliver to your pincode. CNN has everything you ever need to know about the competition. Time Out has the top ten list. See the Brunost below.
Two things to see
One: Tunisian tennis star Ons Jabeur won the finals of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). But during the on-court interview she started to cry—when asked if she was happy to avenge her Wimbledon final defeat to Marketa Vondrousova. The reason had nothing to do with tennis. Watch the deeply moving moment below. (Al Jazeera)
Two: Australian researchers have spotted a rare white platypus “frolicking in a stream” in New South Wales. It may be the first ever documented. FYI: “It’s not an albino because only part of its body is affected by an absence of melanin — a pigment that gives colour to fur, skin and eyes.” You can see it frolicking below. (The Guardian)