Friday, June 21, 2019

Message of the day

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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An alarming report on Himalayan glaciers

A new study shows that climate change is destroying glaciers up in the highest reaches of the mountain range—posing an enormous threat to everyone who lives downstream.


What’s this study? Researchers analyzed spy satellite images of 650 glaciers spanning 40 years and across 1,200 miles of India, China, Nepal, and Bhutan. It is one of the largest ice loss studies, both in terms of area covered and timespan. Important to note: the Himalayas account for the third largest deposit of ice and snow in the world, after Antarctica and the Arctic.


What does it say? The glaciers have lost 1.5 feet of ice every year since 2000—which is twice the melting rate between 1975 to 2000. In recent years, the rate was equivalent to eight billion tons of water per year—think 3.2 million Olympic-size swimming pools.


Why is this happening? Climate change. Temperatures in the Himalayan region have risen one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since the 1975-2000 period. As the study’s co-author explains, “A one degree C increase is a huge change. In the middle of the last Ice Age, the mean annual temperature was only 3 degrees C cooler.”


What does that mean for us? As Outside concisely puts it, “[F]irst, too much water, and then not enough.” First, the deluge of meltwater from the glaciers will build up and trigger catastrophic flooding. Then the glaciers will shrink and recede creating a water shortage of unthinkable proportions. All the major Indian rivers in the North are fed by Himalayan glaciers. Nearly two billion people across nations rely on them for irrigation, hydropower and drinking water.


Is there any way to stop this? Partly. The planet is already one degree warmer than the pre-industrial era. The most ambitious climate change goal is to prevent that number from shooting past 1.5 degrees. But even if we meet that goal, we will still lose 1/3rd of Himalayan ice. But if we fail to meet that goal, we will lose 2/3rds. It’s now all about minimising damage.


The bottomline: “Asia is facing an epic disaster between extreme heat waves and reduced water flows from the Himalaya… We need a societal awakening and to spend a significant part of our economy to avoid the catastrophic risks we’re facing,” one researcher told the National Geographic. Unfortunately,  nations are far too consumed with geopolitical rivalry to pay attention to the greatest threat that will destroy us all—unless we do something about it. Meanwhile, the world’s billionaires like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are pouring all their money into populating Moon and Mars. That should tell us something.

Learn more: National Geographic has the detailed take on the study. Also a must-read: this New York Times report on a glacier study released earlier this year spelling out the consequences for India and other South Asian countries. Very much a related read: BBC on the water crisis in Chennai where all the reservoirs have run dry. 

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frantically searching for horns on your head

Rapper Hard Kaur charged with sedition: UK-based rapper Taran Kaur Dhillon has been charged with a variety of crimes including sedition, promoting religious enmity, defamation etc. The reason: Facebook and Instagram posts calling UP CM Yogi Adityanath “rapeman” and accusing the RSS of various terrorist crimes. The Supreme Court, however, has repeatedly ruled that words—however offensive—do not constitute sedition unless they advocate “the idea of subverting government by violent means.” (The Wire)


New UN report indicts Saudi Arabia: Based on an investigation into all available evidence, the report provides a detailed and gruesome description of the killing and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi -- and points the finger squarely at the Saudi government. (Al Jazeera has the story, Broadsheet did an explainer on the murder)

Smartphone use can lead to ‘head horns’: Extensive use of mobile phones is altering the bone structure of young people—specifically, they are beginning to grow horn-like bone spurs at the back of their skulls. The reason: People tilt their heads forward to view their phones. That posture shifts the weight of the head from the spine to the muscles in the back of the head. This in turn causes bones to grow in the connecting tendons and ligaments. Behold scary X-rays of a 27.8 mm growth. Related read: here’s what our hands would look like if they evolved for smartphone use—which mercifully won’t happen. (Washington Post)


The Roshan-Ranaut soap opera, episode 1001: This latest instalment features Hrithik’s sister Sunaina who is accusing her father and brother of abuse—and is asking Kangana for support. (NDTV)


The top airlines in the world: as per the 2019 Skytrax World Airline award are Qatar Airways, followed by Singapore Airlines, and ANA All Nippon Airways. No, there is no Indian airline in the top ten, but Indigo does come in at #8 in the list of best low-cost airlines. (Yahoo News)


Indians plan to torture four elephants: Activists are rightfully outraged at plans to transport four elephants to Gujarat from Assam for a rath yatra. This in the midst of boiling temperatures and on a speeding passenger train. The plan is a gross violation of the Wildlife Protection Act. Activists plan to petition the Supreme Court to block their transport. (News18)


Russians rescue a lost polar bear: A starving young bear was found wandering through traffic and trash dumps in the city of Norilsk. Experts first thought it had simply strayed 950 miles out of the Arctic. But now they suspect poachers. The good news for the bear: It has been zealously protected from selfie-seeking gawkers and moved to a sanctuary—and will finally be housed in a zoo. Sad photos of the sad bear make the happy ending even sweeter. (Daily Mail)


Your feel-good Friday round-up: includes the following:

  • This hilarious ‘drunk dialing’ PSA courtesy the... Jammu police?!

  • This unbelievable how-to guide to resetting a smart bulb from GE -- which will put you off ever buying a smart bulb.

  • This clip of a miracle at a train station. We couldn’t stop ourselves from screaming.

  • This gold-painted altar in a Thai temple featuring a statue of… David Beckham?!

  • This little dog with a very large stick… offering hope to all who attempt the seemingly impossible.

  • This ad for… vegetarian water?!

  • This clip of Michelle Obama whacking singer Harry Styles right in the… Nope, she didn’t feel his pain.

  • This video story of a pet pig and his two cat siblings. That’s one ridiculously cute and long-suffering pig.

  • These rare photos of Congress-BJP dosti featuring Shashi Tharoor, Hema Malini and Kirron Kher.

  • The Indian scops owl which looks as cuddly as a stuffed toy.

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Stuff we buy, use or love.

Brilliant Products Made By Women, For Parents
Women founders are the first to spot yawning gaps in a market that neglects women’s real needs—especially of mothers. The result: this list of must-have high-quality products.
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When your baby starts to crawl...

It’s time to shop at Baby Pro. Every home—with electric sockets, sharp furniture edges, cupboard drawers—is hazardous to the health of little children. Back in 2017, Rachita Agarwal realised that there were no good baby-proofing products for anxious parents—certainly none suited to Indian needs. The result: Baby Pro. What we love about her offering: You can order a customised kit tailored to your home; or tap the home interior images to locate the right product for a specific need. Also: They offer plenty of installation advice and support.

Price: Varies, based on product | BabyPro

The informer 2

When you need to keep the kids off junk food…

Stock up on Slurrp Farm’s munchies. Two highly successful corporate execs, Meghana Narayan and Shauravi Malik, started the company to solve every parent’s snack-time dilemma: how do I save my kids from a lifetime addiction to Pringles and Cheetos?  Their answer: munchies with zero chemicals and locally sourced millets—which taste delicious! Moms we know swear by the ragi bites, beetroot millet dosa mix, and pancake mix.

Price: Varies, based on product | Slurrp Farm

The informer 3

When you want to be eco-conscious...

Pick up high-quality reusable diapers from Bumpadum. When Yale grad and tech exec Anuradha Rao became a new mom, she realised there were no good eco-friendly alternatives to the appalling mound of plastic diapers. So she decided to make her own. Bumpadum diapers are leak-proof, keep the baby dry, and can be reused at least a 100 times. Best bit: the lovely colours and prints. (Need eco-friendly wooden toys? Opt for Shumee started by former IBM researcher Meeta Sharma Gupta)

Price: Varies, based on product | Bumpadum

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