9.20.2023

 

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Good morning. It's Wednesday, Sept. 20, and we're covering simmering tensions between Canada and India, the origins of pink diamonds, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

 

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Need To Know
 

Caucasus Conflict Renews

At least 25 people were killed and nearly 140 injured after Azerbaijan launched what it called a military operation yesterday against Armenian-backed separatists in the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, raising concerns over a new war in the region. Azerbaijan and Armenia last went to war for 44 days in 2020, with more than 7,000 soldiers and civilians killed. The war ended after Russia brokered a cease-fire deal and deployed nearly 2,000 peacekeeping troops.

 

The latest friction is a continuation of a conflict over borders since the Soviet collapse in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with both Azerbaijan and neighboring Armenia looking to control the majority-Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh region located within the UN-recognized borders of Azerbaijan (see background). Approximately 120,000 ethnic Armenians live in the mountainous enclave in the South Caucasus. While Russia—Armenia's formal ally—has mediated the conflict before, analysts say its preoccupation with the war in Ukraine could give Azerbaijan an advantage. 

 

Azerbaijan said it launched yesterday's operation after six people died in landmine explosions. Armenia claimed its armed forces were not in Nagorno-Karabakh. 

 

Canada, India Trade Expulsions 

India expelled a senior Canadian diplomat yesterday over accusations that India's government was involved in the killing of a Sikh activist leader on Canadian soil, further fraying the relationship between the two countries. The development comes a day after Canada made the allegations and expelled a top Indian diplomat.

 

The dispute centers around the June 18 killing of Sikh-Canadian Hardeep Singh Nijjar outside a Sikh cultural center in British Columbia. Nijjar was involved in a movement to establish an independent Sikh homeland known as Khalistan, which has been banned in India since the 1980s but has remaining support in Canada, where about 2% of the population is Sikh (see background). Nijjar was organizing an unofficial Sikh diaspora referendum on independence from India and was wanted by Indian authorities on terrorism-related charges for an alleged attack on a Hindu priest at the time of his death.

 

The expulsions come after an exchange on the matter between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a G20 meeting in New Delhi earlier this month, leading to the cancellation of a planned trade mission to India.

 

Pink Diamond Geology

Rare pink diamonds found in western Australia's Argyle mine likely formed 1.3 billion years ago—100 million years earlier than previously believed—as the splintering supercontinent Nuna released them to the crust of the Earth, a new study claims. The mine, closed since 2020, is the source of 90% of the world's pink diamond supply. 

 

By effectively drilling atomic-sized holes into specific diamond crystals—using a process known as laser ablation—the study concluded the supercontinent Nuna formed as two continental crusts fused together around 1.8 billion years ago, the site of today's Argyle mine. Five hundred million years later, the now-stretched continent erupted, sending the highly pressurized diamonds from below to the surface of the planet. 

 

Colored diamonds are more rare than white ones and are frequently priced 20 times higher per carat. While blue, green, and yellow diamonds derive their color from the presence of elements like boron, pink and brown diamonds achieve their hue when their crystalline structure is bent through intense pressure (how it works). Watch a tour of the Argyle mine here

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In The Know
 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

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> Disney to spend $60B over the next 10 years on far-reaching projects to expand its theme parks and cruise lines (More)

> UEFA Champions League begins; see preview and predictions for the 32-team tournament (More) | Max, formerly HBO Max, to launch "Bleacher Report" add-on package Oct. 5 with plans to stream 300 live sporting events a year (More)

> Temple University's interim president JoAnne A. Epps, 72, dies after collapsing during a memorial service yesterday afternoon (More)

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Science & Technology

> Google's DeepMind unveils AI-powered platform to predict which mutations in various proteins are likely to lead to health conditions and diseases (More)

> Next-generation CRISPR-like tool makes debut in clinical trials; known as base editing, the approach allows high-precision changes to individual strands of DNA (More)

> Study suggests tiny ancient organisms known as placozoans contained cell structures that evolved into neurons in more complex animals (More)

 

Business & Markets

> US stock markets close lower (S&P 500 -0.2%, Dow -0.3%, Nasdaq -0.2%) ahead of today’s Federal Reserve interest rate decision (More)

> Delivery giant Instacart closes up 12% on first day of trading following initial public offering, valuing the company at approximately $10B (More) | Marketing automation giant Klaviyo prices IPO at $30 per share, valuing the company at approximately $9B; shares to start trading today (More

> US gasoline prices reach highest level since October 2022, averaging $3.88 per gallon (More)

 

Politics & World Affairs

House Oversight Committee to hold first hearing of impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden next Thursday, will subpoena the bank records of Hunter Biden (More)

> US officials locate debris field in South Carolina believed to be from F-35 fighter jet that went missing Sunday; Marine Corps orders two-day aviation stand-down, cause of crash not yet identified (More)

> Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrives in the US, making second visit to press for continued support since Russia invaded Ukraine last February (More) | President Joe Biden speaks at United Nations General Assembly, urges global support for Ukraine (More

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Etcetera
 

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Historybook: American author Upton Sinclair born (1878); Legendary basketball coach Red Auerbach born (1917); Actress Sophia Loren born (1934); Billie Jean King beats Bobby Riggs in "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match (1973); Hurricane Maria makes landfall in Puerto Rico, resulting in 3,000 deaths and $90B in damage (2017).

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