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Volcanoes are erupting in The Philippines, but on-fire Australia received some welcome rain. The Iran war cries have been called off and The Donald’s military powers are about to be hamstrung by the Senate. Meanwhile, his impeachment trial is starting, and we’re all on Twitter for a front-row seat.

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What Could Go Right? India is killing it right now

And, some slim silver linings in Ukraine, six months post-invasion

Emma Varvaloucas

Emma Varvaloucas

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All about India

Perhaps American activists can take a page out of rural women in India’s playbook. When you want action but aren’t seeing any, lock your local leader in his house until you do. No, that is not a serious suggestion, but yes, that really did happen, in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan, according to Reuters. These women were demanding clean, piped water in their homes, so they could stop walking for hours per day to collect it from a main water source like a well or hand pump. By 2020, they had it.

The success is part of an initiative started by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2019 for all rural households to have piped water by 2024. Earlier this month, Modi announced a progress report: 52% of them, or 100 million homes, now do. The scale and pace of the project is stunning. “Nearly 30,000 engineers and officials, and thousands of contractors and laborers,” reports Hindustan Times, “are engaged in a mission that will involve, in all, [the] laying of nearly 4 million kilometers of pipelines.” 

We’re looking forward to seeing the project’s effect on public health. Already, the Hindustan Times article says, cases of waterborne diseases “have come down 66% . . . between 2019 and 2021 in areas provided with clean drinking water.”

It has been a week of impressive India news. In addition to clean water, they are also racing to add solar capacity across the country. After a building blitz in the first six months of 2022, the country now has a cumulative solar capacity of 57 GW. (For comparison, the United States has 97.2 GW.) The state of Delhi is also spending big to electrify its buses.

Some cultural changes are afoot, too. On Tuesday, India’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of a pregnant woman who brought a case against her employer when they denied her maternity leave “because she had already taken leave to care for her husband’s children from a previous marriage.” The decision, although not legislatively enforceable, updated the concept of family to one inclusive of same-sex couples, blended families such as those with stepchildren, and other family formations considered “atypical” by the court to have protection under the law as well as eligibility for social welfare benefits.

And, after decades of elective abortions to terminate pregnancies of girls, landing India among the top six of countries worldwide with a “skewed sex ratio,” the ratio has started to normalize.

Some slim silver linings six months into the invasion of Ukraine

August 24 marked six months since Russia invaded Ukraine. Many are wondering whether Ukraine’s counteroffensive to retake its territory might shift the balance toward them. 

After an agreement was inked in July, Russia has finally let Ukraine restart shipping wheat and other exports from three of the seaports it has been blocking in the Black Sea since February. “The first”—and much-needed—“shipment of Ukrainian grain to Africa since Russia’s invasion arrived in Djibouti on Tuesday,” Voice of America reports. It will go to Ethiopia, where drought and armed conflict have placed millions in need of humanitarian aid.

These drones are helping Ukraine to avoid the fate of somewhere like Cambodia, where decades after armed conflict ended, the country is still dealing with mines and other explosive weapons buried in the earth that are triggered accidentally, killing and maiming people. Drones or no drones, mines are going to be a problem in Ukraine, but the more it is dealt with in real-time, the better. The drones cannot remove mines, but spot them safely, so teams are able to go in and de-mine an area.

This UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) from Canadian drone-maker Draganfly is equipped with sensors to map areas with suspected mines. | Credit: Draganfly

And for The Progress Network, journalist Stephanie Stacey covered the surge in interest to learn Ukrainian since the war began—in the first month of the invasion, she writes, “the number of users studying Ukrainian on popular language-learning app Duolingo increased by 577%.” Speaking and learning Ukrainian is a profound cultural weapon in a country that has seen the use of the language undermined by both Imperial Russia and the USSR, and now again by Russian President Vladimir Putin to justify Russia’s invasion.

The linguistic resistance is both within and outside of Ukraine, Stacey explains. While in England people are signing up for classes specifically designed for those hosting refugees, “in the western city of Lviv, displaced Ukrainians from the predominantly Russian-speaking East have signed up en masse for Ukrainian classes.”

Before we go

Togo is doing the most. It is the first country in the world to eliminate four neglected tropical diseases: Guinea worm, lymphatic filariasis, sleeping sickness, and trachoma.

File this under “things that make absolutely no sense in the United States.” You need screenings and a prescription to get a hearing aid. Many insurance companies qualify hearing aids as elective, though, meaning that once you get a prescription, they aren’t covered, anyway. (Since when did “being able to hear” become nonessential . . .) In the fall, though, you’ll be able to buy a hearing aid over the counter, no prescription necessary, and at lower prices.

This headline speaks for itself. The USDA is sprinkling fish-flavored vaccines from the sky to fight rabies. What?

Below in the links section, plant-enriching bison, genetically modified chestnut trees, regenerative livers, and more.


Progress Pop Quiz

Most of you really liked Secretly Sexy. So, we’re keeping it! It won’t be in every edition, as we continue experimenting, but it’s here to stay. Next up is a progress pop quiz. 

Send us your guesses by hitting “reply” to this email. Along with the answers, we’ll publish the names of anyone who gets them all right in the next edition!

  1. Are American youths committing more or less violent crime since 2006?
  2. Has current US approval of labor unions gone up or down since 2010? (Hint: it was 48% in 2010.)
  3. Are suicide rates worldwide higher or lower than they were in 1990?

We’re not done with India just yet. A campaign is underway in the southern state of Kerala to make the topic of menstruation less taboo. “The initiative’s organizers are taking menstruation simulators to malls and colleges . . . to let men experience period cramps,” the BBC reports. Watch the video above to see how it’s going.

Fighting with the Ukrainian Language

Six months into Russia’s invasion, interest in the Ukrainian language is still soaring. Speaking and learning it is everything from a show of resistance within Ukraine to a way of welcoming refugees outside of it. | Read more

Progress, Please

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Correction: A previous version of this newsletter identified Narendra Modi as India’s president. He is the prime minister.

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Emma Varvaloucas

Emma Varvaloucas is the Executive Director of The Progress Network. An editor and writer specializing in nonprofit media, she was formerly Executive Editor of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review and is the editor of two books from Wisdom Publications.