Friday, January 21News That Matters

Tag: India

Helping to Reveal a Still-Shuttered World

Technology, World
In March 2020, as lockdowns fell into place worldwide, The Times’s Travel desk launched a new visual series to help readers cope with their confinement. We called it The World Through a Lens — and, frankly, we didn’t expect it to last this long.But as the weeks turned into months, and the months into years, we’ve continued publishing photo essays each Monday morning, carrying you — virtually — from the islands of Maine to the synagogues of Myanmar, and nearly 100 other places in between.We hope the series has offered you a little solace and a little distraction throughout the pandemic — and perhaps a chance to immerse yourself, if momentarily, in a distant place or culture that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.Below are some of our favorite World Through a Lens essays from the past year.F...

Urea Shortage Is Felt Around the World

Business
This is a story about one of those unsung forces that quietly keep the world running. It is a story about the clockwork interconnectedness of modern civilization, about how disturbances in one part of the planet can kick up storms in another.This is a story, naturally, about urea.Prices for the humble chemical — yes, the stuff in urine — are soaring to levels not seen in over a decade. In this time of everything shortages and inflation worries, that alone might not sound too surprising. But urea links up several disparate-looking strands of global economic disruption, showing how easily extreme weather and shipping turmoil can cause supply shortfalls to radiate.People and industries of all kinds are feeling the shocks. In India, a lack of urea has made farmers fear for their livelihoods. I...
A Tool Kit to Help Scientists Find the Ultimate Chickpea

A Tool Kit to Help Scientists Find the Ultimate Chickpea

Technology
When you open a can of chickpeas and fish out the nutty, savory little beans, you’re partaking in a history that began around 10,000 years ago. The modern chickpea’s ancestor, a wild Middle Eastern plant that likely had tiny, hard seeds, was cultivated by humans around the same time as wheat and barley, and began to evolve as early farmers selected plants whose seeds were larger and more succulent. Archaeologists have even found what appear to be domesticated chickpeas buried beneath Jericho in the West Bank, so deep that they would have been grown even before the inhabitants of one of history’s longest occupied cities began to make pottery.The humble chickpea has had a somewhat rocky road to its present popularity, however, suggests a new study published last week in Nature that sequences...
The DNA of Roma People Has Long Been Misused, Scientists Reveal

The DNA of Roma People Has Long Been Misused, Scientists Reveal

Technology
For decades, geneticists have collected the blood of thousands of Roma people, a marginalized group living in Europe, and deposited their DNA in public databases. The ostensible purpose of some of these studies was to learn more about the history and genetics of the Roma people.Now, a group of scientists has argued this research, which has made the Roma the most intensely studied population in Europe over the past 30 years in forensic genetic journals, is rife with ethical issues and may harm the Romani people.For five years, a team of researchers in Germany and the United Kingdom pored over more than 450 papers that used the DNA of Roma people to understand how geneticists and other scholars obtained, interpreted and shared that genetic information. Their analysis, published Wednesday in ...
India’s Stock Market is Soaring, Luring Investors at Home and Abroad

India’s Stock Market is Soaring, Luring Investors at Home and Abroad

Business
Until the pandemic, India’s stock market was like another world that Dilip Kumar never had a reason to visit. But like so many other people around the world who were stuck at home, he began to see it as the place to be.Mr. Kumar, a proposal administrator at an engineering company in New Delhi, set up a free stock trading account through Zerodha, India’s largest online brokerage firm, and plowed some of his savings into Indian Railways as well as a clothing retailer and a cinema chain.“I invested in all the things I was using daily,” he said. Since then, he’s gotten “a big return in quick time” — more than doubling his money in a little over a year.Plenty of others want in on the action.India’s booming stock market is drawing both local novices and global investors to shares of the financia...
In India, Facebook Struggles to Combat Misinformation and Hate Speech

In India, Facebook Struggles to Combat Misinformation and Hate Speech

Business
On Feb. 4, 2019, a Facebook researcher created a new user account to see what it was like to experience the social media site as a person living in Kerala, India.For the next three weeks, the account operated by a simple rule: Follow all the recommendations generated by Facebook’s algorithms to join groups, watch videos and explore new pages on the site.The result was an inundation of hate speech, misinformation and celebrations of violence, which were documented in an internal Facebook report published later that month.“Following this test user’s News Feed, I’ve seen more images of dead people in the past three weeks than I’ve seen in my entire life total,” the Facebook researcher wrote.The report was one of dozens of studies and memos written by Facebook employees grappling with the effe...
A Dispatch From an Endangered Bird’s ‘Garden of Eden’

A Dispatch From an Endangered Bird’s ‘Garden of Eden’

Technology, World
By the end of 2019, I was ready for a change of scenery. Working as a natural history photographer, I’d spent the previous two years tracking snow leopards in the Himalayas. Then, one snowy afternoon, I received a brief call from Dr. Rohit Naniwadekar, a bird biologist with the Nature Conservation Foundation. He asked me to get to a small volcanic island in the northern Andaman Sea as quickly as I possibly could.Within a week, I had swapped the seemingly endless landlocked mountains for a tiny speck of land at the edge of the world.Narcondam Island, a designated wildlife sanctuary where Dr. Naniwadekar planned to conduct his research, gives new meaning to the word “remote.” Situated about 80 miles to the east of the main spine of the Andaman Islands and totaling only about 2.6 square miles...

Glimpses of ‘Lost Tribe’ Jewish Communities in India and Myanmar

Travel
In 2017, while I was traveling through India, a friend from the northeastern state of Assam told me about the communities of Lost Tribe Jews in the neighboring state of Mizoram. Having grown up in a Jewish family without ever fully embracing the religion of my observant parents, I was intrigued and wanted to know more.Lost Tribe Jews, I soon learned, believe they are descended from the 10 tribes of Israel that were exiled from the ancient kingdom of Israel by Assyrians around the eighth century B.C. I decided to seek out members of the Lost Tribes and see if they would allow me to photograph their rituals and daily lives.A few weeks later, I arrived in Aizawl, a city built atop densely forested hills. I called a contact from one of the local congregations and arranged a meeting. When two r...
Amazon Prevails Over Reliance in India’s Supreme Court

Amazon Prevails Over Reliance in India’s Supreme Court

Technology
Tushar Pania, a Reliance spokesman, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.Within India’s legal circles, the judgment was seen as another sign of the independence of the country’s judiciary, which has been criticized in the past for eroding free speech.India’s judiciary has long been seen as a pillar in the country’s vast but often unruly democracy. It has recently made a series of progressive rulings, including granting bail to activists arrested under stringent anti-sedition and terrorism laws, striking down a ban on consensual gay sex and upholding the right to privacy.The battle between Amazon and Reliance Industries is far from over.Future Group said in a stock exchange filing on Friday that the company “intends to pursue all available avenues to conclude the deal” with R...
Global Covid Case Total Passes 200 Million

Global Covid Case Total Passes 200 Million

Technology
Two hundred million is an enormous number.But as the world recorded the 200 millionth detected case of coronavirus infection, that daunting figure — more than the populations of Germany, France and Spain combined — also fails to capture how far the virus has embedded itself within humanity.While always an imperfect measure of a virus that causes no symptoms in many of the people it infects, with many infections going unreported, case counts have provided a useful tool for much of the pandemic — like a flashing red light in the cockpit of a jetliner warning of imminent danger.A surge in case numbers has too often been followed by a crush of people crowding emergency rooms. And then, several weeks later, fatality counts have typically spiked. It took more than a year for the pandemic to reac...