Skip to main content
The Knowledge logo

12 November

In the headlines

As negotiators go into the final day of the Cop26 summit, the aim of limiting global warming to 1.5C is on “life support”, says UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Saudi Arabia, Russia and India are among the countries that have tried to water down a commitment to phase out fossil-fuel subsidies. Russia could be plotting to invade Ukraine, says Bloomberg, according to a private briefing officials in Washington have given to European allies. Tens of thousands of Russian troops have massed near the border. South Africa’s last apartheid-era leader, FW de Klerk, has died at 85. A video of the former president apologising for “the pain and hurt” of the system he helped to dismantle was subsequently released. 

Comment of the day

Climate change

Biden’s new pact has echoes of Reagan

The “surprise” China-US pact on climate change at Cop26 has encouraging echoes of another moment of political theatre, says Matthew Knott in The Sydney Morning Herald. In Berlin 34 years ago, President Reagan urged his Russian counterpart, Mikhail Gorbachev, to “tear down this wall”. Although the Soviets responded angrily to this “war-mongering speech”, Gorbachev and Reagan were at the White House six months later, signing an epochal nuclear arms treaty.


Taiwan shouldn’t fear the bluster from Beijing

Hawks will say otherwise, but China isn’t even trying to invade Taiwan, says Fred Kaplan in Slate. It has just two amphibious assault ships. And even if it does build enough boats to cross the Taiwan Strait, its army isn’t up to the job. State media sums up its shortcomings as the “five incapables”: commanders can’t judge situations, deploy forces, understand complicated orders, make operational decisions in combat or manage unexpected developments.



The great escape

The Turkish beach resort of Antalya is a popular choice for Iranian tourists who want to kick back and indulge in an alcoholic drink, says Najmeh Bozorgmehr in the FT. To avoid scandalising their more religious countrymen, the government has redirected flights from Tehran to airports elsewhere in Turkey. Tourists then continue their journey to the sun, sea and sand of Antalya by plane or bus. 


Silence will descend on South Korea next Thursday, as half a million school students take the gruelling eight-hour College Scholastic Ability Test, or Suneung. Shops and banks shut for the day, planes are grounded and construction work halts across the country. So important are the exams for students’ futures, police officer escort anyone who’s running late to the exam hall.

Tomorrow’s world

Robots are hard at work in the Amazon Air Hub at Cincinnati airport, a $1.5bn sorting office that covers more than 600 acres. By the end of the year, the little bots, which are filled with packages by AI-powered robotic arms, will be loading dozens of Amazon flights a day and processing millions of packages a week.


The Covid-19 virus spreads “explosively” in white-tailed deer, American scientists have found. The deer are common in North and Central America, and the findings suggest that they are already acting as a “reservoir” for the virus. If confirmed, this would dash any lingering hopes of eliminating Covid in the US and the wider world, says virologist Suresh Kuchipudi.

On the way out

All but 5,000 of the 21,000 phone boxes in the UK are to be scrapped by BT. I was as outraged as many others, says Ross Clark in the Daily Mail, until I remembered the last time I used one – July 2008. More than 1,000 haven’t been used for a single call in the past year. The irate reaction is the one we see every time we find out we’re about to lose something we don’t actually use: “rural buses, village shops, churches, bank branches”.

Snapshot answer

It’s the holy Yamuna River in India, which has been coated with a toxic foam that resembles bubble bath. The 855-mile tributary of the Ganges is one of the most sacred places for Hindus. The foam is the result of industrial pollution, but that didn’t stop hundreds of people immersing themselves in the water to celebrate the Chhath Puja festival this week. “What fear?” one worshipper said to Al Jazeera. “If we are scared, then how can we pray?”


Quoted 12-11

“The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all details of daily life.”

William Morris