News 08.04.24: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

News 08.04.24: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web
News 08.04.24: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web
News 08.04.24: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

Patient One was 24 years old and pregnant with her third child when she was taken off life support. It was 2014. A couple of years earlier, she had been diagnosed with a disorder that caused an irregular heartbeat, and during her two previous pregnancies she had suffered seizures and faintings. Four weeks into her third pregnancy, she collapsed on the floor of her home. Her mother, who was with her, called 911. By the time an ambulance arrived, Patient One had been unconscious for more than 10 minutes. Paramedics found that her heart had stopped.

After being driven to a hospital where she couldn’t be treated, Patient One was taken to the emergency department at the University of Michigan. There, medical staff had to shock her chest three times with a defibrillator before they could restart her heart. She was placed on an external ventilator and pacemaker, and transferred to the neurointensive care unit, where doctors monitored her brain activity. She was unresponsive to external stimuli, and had a massive swelling in her brain. After she lay in a deep coma for three days, her family decided it was best to take her off life support. It was at that point – after her oxygen was turned off and nurses pulled the breathing tube from her throat – that Patient One became one of the most intriguing scientific subjects in recent history.


For several years, Jimo Borjigin, a professor of neurology at the University of Michigan, had been troubled by the question of what happens to us when we die. She had read about the near-death experiences of certain cardiac-arrest survivors who had undergone extraordinary psychic journeys before being resuscitated. Sometimes, these people reported travelling outside of their bodies towards overwhelming sources of light where they were greeted by dead relatives. Others spoke of coming to a new understanding of their lives, or encountering beings of profound goodness. Borjigin didn’t believe the content of those stories was true – she didn’t think the souls of dying people actually travelled to an afterworld – but she suspected something very real was happening in those patients’ brains. In her own laboratory, she had discovered that rats undergo a dramatic storm of many neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine, after their hearts stop and their brains lose oxygen. She wondered if humans’ near-death experiences might spring from a similar phenomenon, and if it was occurring even in people who couldn’t be revived.

Dying seemed like such an important area of research – we all do it, after all – that Borjigin assumed other scientists had already developed a thorough understanding of what happens to the brain in the process of death. But when she looked at the scientific literature, she found little enlightenment. “To die is such an essential part of life,” she told me recently. “But we knew almost nothing about the dying brain.” So she decided to go back and figure out what had happened inside the brains of people who died at the University of Michigan neurointensive care unit. Among them was Patient One.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

It was high safari season in Tanzania, the long rains over, the grasses yellowing and dry. Land Cruisers were speeding toward the Serengeti Plain. Billionaires were flying into private hunting concessions. And at a crowded and dusty livestock market far away from all that, a man named Songoyo had decided not to hang himself, not today, and was instead pinching the skin of a sheep.

“Please!” he was saying to a potential buyer with thousands of animals to choose from on this morning. “You can see, he is so fat!”

The buyer moved on. Songoyo rubbed his eyes. He was tired. He’d spent the whole night walking, herding another man’s sheep across miles of grass and scrub and pitted roads to reach this market by opening time. He hadn’t slept. He hadn’t eaten. He’d somehow fended off an elephant with a stick. What he needed to do was sell the sheep so their owner would pay him, so he could try to start a new life now that the old one was finished.

The old life: He’d had all the things that made a person such as him rich and respected. Three wives, 14 children, a large compound with 75 cows and enough land to graze them—“such sweet land,” he would say when he could bear to think of it—and that was how things had been going until recently.


The new life: no cows, because the Tanzanian government had seized every single one of them. No compound, because the government had bulldozed it, along with hundreds of others. No land, because more and more of the finest, lushest land in northern Tanzania was being set aside for conservation, which turned out to mean for trophy hunters, and tourists on “bespoke expeditions,” and cappuccino trucks in proximity to buffalo viewing—anything and anyone except the people who had lived there since the 17th century, the pastoralists known as the Maasai.

They were the ones tourists saw through their windshields selling beaded key chains at the gates of Serengeti National Park, or performing dances after dinner at safari lodges. They were famous for their red shawls and recycled-tire sandals. They grazed their cattle with zebras and giraffes, and built mud-and-dung houses encircled by stick fences barely distinguishable from the wild landscape. They were among the lightest-living people on the planet, and yet it was the Maasai who were being told that the biggest threat to conservation and national progress was them. Their whole way of life had to go.

And so Songoyo, after considering his alternatives, had devised a last-ditch plan for his own survival, one that had brought him to a town in Kenya called Aitong, where a cool wind was slapping sand and dung into his face as he scanned the market for buyers. He was far from home, roughly 65 miles north of the village in Tanzania where he had been tear-gassed and shot at for the first time in his life. He had seen elderly men beaten and guns fired at old women, and now it was down to this: He was a herder for hire, working for a distant relative, trying to make enough money to buy one single cow.

“Come!” he called to the buyers who kept passing his herd and weaving through the bleating mass. “You will not find any better!”

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

News 08.04.24: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

Amidst the gathering gloom about climate change and continuing growth in global greenhouse-gas emissions, the one bright spot appears to be clean energy development. 2023 saw another, much-trumpeted record for renewables installations worldwide, with an estimated 507 GW of new generating capacity being nearly 50 percent higher than 2022’s figure.

The positivity is misplaced. Even on the transition from dirty to clean power, the world is still failing. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has estimated that both electricity generation from coal and gas, and total power-sector CO2 emissions, continued to grow in 2023, to all-time highs of 17,252 TWh and 13,575 Mt CO2, respectively. In other words, even as renewables are growing fast, they are not yet growing fast enough to displace dirty power generation, which remains the single largest source of greenhouse-gas emissions.

Worse still, the world is failing on the energy transition for reasons that strike at the heart of capitalist economies, and which will therefore be very difficult to surmount. The core issue here is easy to state. Most countries are relying predominantly on the private sector to drive faster renewables investment; private firms invest on the basis of expected profits; but profitability in renewables is rarely attractive.

Stick with an approach to climate change mitigation in which the private sector continues to be seen as the savior, and we are setting ourselves up to continue to fail.

Read the rest of this article at: Time Magazine

News 08.04.24: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

India changes more in five years than many countries would in a quarter century. This is partly because it is still relatively young: The country gained independence just 76 years ago, and nearly half of its population is under the age of 25. As one would expect, then, much has happened in the five years since 2019, when Indian voters issued an overwhelming mandate to keep the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in power.

Shortly after reelection, the Modi government revoked Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which granted Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir its special autonomous status, fulfilling a long-held promise to its Hindu base. The next year, COVID-19 arrived, and the country became one of the most tragic sites of the pandemic. In 2021, the government barely intervened as thousands of people died waiting for hospital beds and oxygen tanks.

Last year, India hosted the annual G-20 summit with the pomp of a country that had much to teach the righteous leaders of the Western democratic world. With the next general election approaching, the BJP has doubled down on its key priorities. In January, Modi appeared in the northern Indian city of Ayodhya to inaugurate a grand temple to the Hindu warrior-god Ram at the same site where Hindu nationalists demolished a 16th-century mosque in 1992. He called the current era a “new dawn.”

Something else took place in the last five years: India overtook China to become the world’s most populous country, with 1.4 billion people. A key driver of this population boom is the country’s youth. They face the hopes as well as the harsh realities of India as it stands today—and they will determine which way it goes from here. How have they viewed the events shaping India and the world since 2019, and who will have their vote?

Between 2019 and today, I have interviewed more than 100 young adults across India through my reporting and research. My first book, Dreamers: How Young Indians Are Changing the World, was published in 2018, and I wondered how much had changed. I began reporting Dreamers one month after Modi first became prime minister in 2014—a time of hope for India’s youth, many of whom believed that the new leader would break down barriers between them and their dreams.

Just before COVID-19 hit in 2020, I embarked on a collaboration with the photographer Prarthna Singh to depict India’s young generation through portraits and conversations with people ages 18 to 25. In the years between the 2019 and 2024 national elections, the project, titled “2024: Notes From a Generation,” took us to the small towns where we grew up and the big cities we now call home. No two conversations were alike: The people we met represented diverse backgrounds, cultural values, and political leanings.

Themes began to emerge. Most of the individuals we interviewed were dealing with challenges rooted in the political, social, and economic contexts of today’s India. These conversations comprised a historical record of a particularly fraught moment in the country’s journey. How young Indians confront the hurdles they are up against—whether finding jobs, forming identities, or exercising freedoms—will shape their own lives and India’s trajectory.

Read the rest of this article at: Foreign Policy 

News 08.04.24: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

The trouble in Antarctica started in Boston. It was August 1999, and Stanford geologist Jane Willenbring was then a 22-year-old self-described “country bumpkin.” She had just arrived to start her master’s in earth science at Boston University. As an undergrad with an oboe scholarship at North Dakota State University, she’d studied beetle fossils found in Antarctica and learned how, millions of years ago, the now frozen continent once pooled with freshwater lakes. “That’s not so different from the conditions we might expect in the future,” she says. She wanted to explore this critical science. “It seemed really important for future global climate change,” she says.

Of all the geologists, few were more renowned than the one Willenbring had gone to Boston to study under: 37-year-old David Marchant. Marchant, a scruffy professor at BU, was a rock star of rock study. He was part of a research group that rewrote Antarctic history by discovering evidence of volcanic ash, which showed that Antarctica had been stable for millions of years and was not as prone to cycles of warming and cooling as many thought. To honor his achievements, the US Board on Geographic Names approved the naming of a glacier southwest of McMurdo Station, the main research base on Antarctica, after him.

Willenbring says Marchant had insisted on picking her up at the airport, an offer she thought was nice but strange. It got stranger when he started making her feel bad for his gesture, which she hadn’t asked for. “I’m missing a Red Sox game,” she recalls him chiding her. “You really should have picked a better time to fly.” He asked whether she had a boyfriend, how often she saw him, and whether she knew anyone in Boston or would be alone. In a few months, she’d be heading with him on a research trip to Antarctica and the region with his big chunk of namesake ice. “It was almost like a pickup line,” she recalls, “‘I have a glacier.’”

But it’s what happened in the glacier’s shadow that led Willenbring to take on Marchant and become the first to expose the horrors faced by women at the bottom of the world. A report released in August 2022 by the National Science Foundation, the main agency funding Antarctic research, found that 59 percent of women at McMurdo and other field stations run by the US Antarctic Program said they’d experienced sexual harassment or assault. A central employer, Leidos, holds a $2.3 billion government contract to manage the workplaces on the ice. One woman alleged that a supervisor had slammed her head into a metal cabinet and then attacked her sexually. Britt Barquist, a former fuel foreman at McMurdo, says she had been forced to work alongside a supervisor who had sexually harassed her. “What was really traumatic was telling people, ‘I’m afraid of this person,’” she says, “and nobody cared.”

Read the rest of this article at: Wired