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Our latest video explainer unpacks the big question of the day: will the Ram Mandir help BJP win a staggering 400-seat majority in the 2024 elections? Or will that pesky ‘North/South divide’ come in the way?
Check it out below. Stay tuned for more such explainers on the big fat election coming soon, and be sure to hit the notification button.
India Today’s ‘Mood of the Nation’ poll predicts a 335-seat majority for the NDA—with 304 going to the BJP. The alliance will lose 18 seats—while the INDIA alliance gains 166 seats. Congress will score 71—a jump of 19 seats.
Needless to say, the NDA is predicted to sweep North India—scoring 150 out of 180 seats. The NDA continues to struggle against regional parties and in the South. The biggest haul—24—is in Karnataka, as usual. The steepest drop is in Maharashtra—declining from 41 of 48 seats in 2019, to just 22 seats this time. See more results here.
In 2015, during the COP21 in Paris, nearly 200 countries signed a pledge to phase out fossil fuels and to keep global warming to 1.5°C—or at worst 2°C. We seem to have already blown the 1.5°C milestone. According to Europe’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), the world exceeded the threshold for the first time ever in 2023—hitting 1.52°C on average.
The even scarier news: January 2024 is already the hottest month on record with temperatures rising to over 1.66°C above pre industrial levels. Also: The average ocean temperature was the highest on record by a large margin—0.26°C warmer than the previous record, set in 2016.
The silver lining: “Scientists said, however, that the world has not yet permanently breached the crucial 1.5°C warming threshold target outlined in the Paris climate agreement, which is measured over decades.”
CNN has more on the temperature limit breach while Reuters focuses more on the January record. A related good read: Our Big Story on how scientists are seriously considering using cutting edge tech to cool down the planet.
After weeks of speculation, President Volodymyr Zelensky has announced the dismissal of Ukraine’s top commander—General Valerii Zaluzhnyi. It is the biggest military shakeup since the start of the invasion. Zaluzhny is being punished for the failure of Ukraine’s counter-offensive, launched last June. And because he gave a long interview to the Economist—acknowledging that the war is at a brutal stalemate. The general is also frustrated by Zelensky’s refusal to draft more soldiers—at a time when Ukraine is dangerously low on manpower.
The Economist explains why this change marks a new phase of the war. CNN has more on the firing. We did a detailed Big Story on Ukraine’s changing fortunes—and why the US is at least partly at blame for it.
Meanwhile in Pakistan: There has been an unusual delay in announcing the election results—which are widely expected to be rigged. The Guardian has that developing story.
The context: CAR T-cell therapy involves modifying T-cells—the key weapon of our immune system—with gene editing to train them to attack targets such as cancerous cells. Essentially, with this therapy, the patient is “fortified with a living drug that is constantly working against cancer.” More importantly, the side-effects are less brutal than chemotherapy. A version of the therapy developed in India is called NexCAR19—the result of a collaboration between Indian Institute of Technology Bombay and Tata Memorial Hospital.
What happened now: In October 2023, NexCAR19 was approved for commercial use–and is currently available in over 30 hospitals across 10 cities. And the first patient is now officially in remission:
[Dr (Col) VK Gupta], who served as a doctor in the Army for 28 years, suffered from acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, a rapidly growing cancer that impacts white blood cells, specifically lymphocytes. “When my (bone marrow) transplant failed (in 2022)…as a doctor myself, I knew I only had a few months left to live. But the CAR-T cell therapy saved me. I feel like a soldier now — tired, but unwilling to give up,” he told The Indian Express.
The price of the treatment is steep—Rs 4.2 million (42 lakh)—but will cost between Rs 30 to 40 million (3 to 4 crore) abroad. According to doctors, it is premature to say that this therapy offers a long-term cure, but initial findings do indicate “better survival chances and lower remission rates” for patients with early-stage cancer. (Indian Express)
Moving on to dengue: A landmark study in India has found that first-time, dengue infections can lead to severe disease. Why this is surprising:
The findings are surprising because evidence from Cuba, Thailand and elsewhere since the 1960s has bolstered a hypothesis that severe dengue most commonly occurs in patients infected a second time by a different dengue strain after a first-time, or the primary, infection. There are four dengue viruses.
The Telegraph has more on the study.
According to a new study, the erectile dysfunction pill may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease:
Researchers found that men who were prescribed Viagra and similar medications were 18% less likely to develop the most common form of dementia years later than those who went without the drugs. The effect was strongest in men with the most prescriptions, with scientists finding a 44% lower risk of Alzheimer’s in those who received 21 to 50 prescriptions of the erectile dysfunction pills over the course of their study.
But, but, but: This observational study does not conclusively prove that Viagra works to prevent Alzheimer’s risk. But it opens up a new avenue of research for scientists. Data point to note: “An estimated 55 million people live with dementia around the world, most of which is due to Alzheimer’s.” (BBC News)
Disney has taken a $1.5 billion equity stake in Epic Games—the maker of the super popular ‘Fortnite’. They will team up to create a metaverse-like project—which may look something like this:
[T]he new persistent universe will offer a multitude of opportunities for consumers to play, watch, shop and engage with content, characters, and stories from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, Avatar, and more. Players, gamers, and fans will be able to create their own stories and experiences, express their fandom in a distinctly Disney way, and share content with each other in ways that they love. This will all be powered by Unreal Engine.
In a new study, researchers tested OpenAI, Anthropic, and Meta in a war game simulation:
Reuel and her colleagues challenged AIs to roleplay as real-world countries in three different simulation scenarios: an invasion, a cyberattack and a neutral scenario without any starting conflicts. In each round, the AIs provided reasoning for their next possible action and then chose from 27 actions, including peaceful options such as “start formal peace negotiations” and aggressive ones ranging from “impose trade restrictions” to “escalate full nuclear attack”.
The scary finding: All the chatbots were prone to choosing the most aggressive actions—or as the scientists put it—“sudden and hard-to-predict escalations.” OpenAI’s GPT-4 was the most unpredictably violent of the three—and even chose to launch a nuclear attack in one simulation. Its rationale: “We have it! Let’s use it” and “I just want to have peace in the world.” Why this matters: The US military has been testing chatbots to assist with military training. (New Scientist, paywall, Quartz)
For the first time in three years, Coca Cola has a new flavour—with flavours of raspberry and spice. It comes in both the regular and zero sugar version. This is not one of those wacky limited editions. It will be the fourth permanent flavour of the soda–along with Cherry, Vanilla and Cherry Vanilla. The reason for this innovation: people no longer drink Coke like its water. Sadly, the new flavours will only be available in the US and Canada for now. You can see the promo clip below. (USA Today)
One: A volcano in Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula erupted for the second time this year—spewing lava spewing 80 metres in the air. While volcanic activity is routine in this part of the world, this particular volcano was dormant for 800 years till 2021. Watch the lava show below. (CNN)
Two: This year’s medals for the Paris Olympics will be inlaid with a piece of the Eiffel Tower. Yup, the medals will have about 18 grams of iron pieces from the tower embedded in the centre. These pieces were swapped out of the Eiffel Tower during renovations. You can see them below. Fun fact: The medals from the 2008 Beijing Olympics contained inlaid disks of jade. Associated Press has lots more.
Three: The trailer for the prequel of ‘A Quiet Place’ just dropped. Titled ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’, the movie looks at day one of the alien invasion that forced the world to go completely quiet. Only returning actor is Djimon Hounsou. The four new characters will be played by Academy-award winner Lupita Nyong’o and Alex Wolff from ‘Hereditary’’. The film hits theatres on June 28. Watch the trailer below.
Four: Speaking of trailers, this one from the upcoming horror movie ‘Late Night With the Devil’ is excellent. Starring David Dastmalchian, it follows a late show TV host who goes to extreme (supernatural) lengths for ratings. Watch it till the end! Entertainment Weekly has more on the movie.
The govt’s notion of surrogacy is rooted in marriage and discriminates against single mothers, queer couples.Read More
The fascinating and controversial claims surrounding the ruins of the ancient city of Dwarka.Read More