Notes and shorts from around the world


Even electric cars are polluting
Even if every car on the road were electric, it would not solve the problem of urban air pollution – because exhausts are not the only source of vehicular emissions. According to a new UK government report, over half of the air pollution attributed to road transport comes from brakes and tyres. Each time a car is driven, its brakes throw up tiny particles of iron and its tyres shed fragments of plastic, whilst other particles come off the road surface. These enter the airstream, where they pose a threat to human health. The microplastics from tyres can also enter waterways via the sewers. (According to a study commissioned by Friends of the Earth last year, tyres are the biggest single source of microplastic pollution in lakes, rivers, and oceans.) Now, the government’s Air Quality Expert Group has warned that at this rate, non-exhaust emissions could account for 10% of all PM2.5 matter (particulates with a diameter less than 2.5 micrometres) by 2030. It says more needs to be done to get people out of cars, and to encourage drivers to lower their speeds, and reduce their braking.
Raider of the lost artefacts
It is a haul that would make Indiana Jones reach for his whip. In charges filed recently at Manhattan state court, Subhash Kapoor, a 70 year old former New York gallery owner, stands accused of trafficking more than 2,600 stolen antiquities, worth $220 million. The US Depart of Homeland Security described him as “one of the most prolific art smugglers in the world”. It is alleged that, over three decades, Kapoor travelled the world seeking treasures looted from temples and archaeological sites in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Cambodia – and then sold the artefacts that he had “nefariously acquired” to dealers, collectors and “world renowned” museums. Prosecutors say he went to extraordinary lengths, arranging for statues and other “ancient masterworks” to be repaired, and providing forged documents falsely providing their provenance, before illegally exporting them to the USA. The works represent the “culture and history of the countries from which they were stolen,” said district attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. “They are of enormous value.”
The perils of Facebook
A Pakistani politician live-streamed a press conference on Facebook, not realising that the social media site’s “cat filter” was turned on. Shaukat Yousafzai had his face adorned with feline ears and whiskers until aides realised the mistake. “All necessary actions have been taken to avoid such incidents in future,” promised a spokesman for his party.
Bons mots
“Wisdom comes to us when it can no longer do any good.” – Gabriel García Márquez, Colombian writer

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