Inside India's sand mafia

In India, a construction boom is fueling a criminal enterprise around one of the most ubiquitous substances on Earth: Sand.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images
  • India's construction industry is booming, which means that demand for concrete is very high.
  • Sand is a crucial ingredient in concrete, but mining it can cause significant environmental damage.
  • The Indian government has therefore regulated the mining of sand, but doing so is an easy way for many Indians to earn some extra money. As a result, illegal sand mining has become a commonplace activity, leading to corruption and sometimes violence.
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Politics & Current Affairs

Why Blackwater cannot be the future of U.S. warfare

Can 6,500 mercenaries "fix" Afghanistan? The U.S. is resurrecting privatized warfare.

  • The West has stopped winning wars because it still operates on WWII strategies, says Sean McFate. Poor strategy results in so-called 'forever wars'.
  • To end the nearly 20-year-long war in Afghanistan, the U.S. is considering replacing all U.S. troops with Blackwater mercenaries.
  • Why is that so dangerous? Because this is what the future looks like when you resurrect privatized warfare.
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​Is science synonymous with 'truth'? Game theory says, 'not always.'

Good science is sometimes trumped by the craving for a "big splash."

  • Scientists strive to earn credit from their peers, for grants from federal agencies, and so a lot of the decisions that they make are strategic in nature. They're encouraged to publish exciting new findings that demonstrate some new phenomenon that we have never seen before.
  • This professional pressure can affect their decision-making — to get acclaim they may actually make science worse. That is, a scientist might commit fraud if he thinks he can get away with it or a scientist might rush a result out of the door even though it hasn't been completely verified in order to beat the competition.
  • On top of the acclaim of their peers, scientists — with the increasing popularity of science journalism — are starting to be rewarded for doing things that the public is interested in. The good side of this is that the research is more likely to have a public impact, rather than be esoteric. The bad side? To make a "big splash" a scientist may push a study or article that doesn't exemplify good science.
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​Why Russia is planning to briefly disconnect from the internet

An upcoming experiment will test how well the nation can function on its internal internet.

(Photo: ALEXANDER UTKIN/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Russia hopes to find out how smoothly it could transition to a self-contained internet in the event foreign actors tried to disconnect the nation from the rest of the internet.
  • The experiment will reportedly occur before April 1.
  • Russia's attempts to bolster its local internet infrastructure come in the wake of other nations accusing it of executing cyber attacks.
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Politics & Current Affairs

“It’s all going down.” Why journalism is up in flames.

News doesn't sell. That's lethal to journalism – and democracy.

  • Apart from media giants like The New York Times and The Washington Post, nearly every news outlet is laying off journalists or collapsing completely.
  • The reason? No advertiser wants to put their ad next to serious, hard-edged news. Sensational content is favored by algorithms, and that isn't just annoying. It has terrifying consequences.
  • Journalists are the watchdogs of democracy. The more local news outlets and independent media disappear, the more those in power can do as they wish. Unreported scandals will fester and damage citizens. Corruption will go unchecked.
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