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Stories You Might Have Missed This Week

California tap water is linked to thousands of cancer cases, Indonesia is moving its capital city, and a beluga whale spotted by fisherman may be a Russian spy.
A beluga whale.

A beluga whale.

This week at Pacific Standard, we reported on how the Fish and Wildlife Service's endangered species quotas are influencing conservation decisions, explored a possible world where billionaires take initiative on climate change mitigation, and looked at a new technology in the dairy industry that could give milk a longer shelf life.

And that's not all: We reported on border patrol plans to DNA test asylum seekers and continued coverage on the public-health front, analyzing the best ways to get people to vaccinate.

Here are other stories from this week that we have been keeping our eyes on.

A New Study Suggests That California Tap Water Is Linked to Thousands of Cancer Cases

A new study by scientists at the non-profit Environmental Working Group, published in Environmental Health, found that, over a 70-year time period, there will be an additional 15,000 cancer cases in the state as a result of tap water consumption.

"Drinking water rarely contains only one contaminant, yet regulators currently assess the health hazards of tap water pollutants one by one," EWG wrote in a published statement. "This ignores the combined effects of multiple pollutants, which is how people ingest them in the real world."

Indonesia Is Moving Its Capital City

According to the BBCIndonesia's planning minister announced that the country would be moving its capital city because Jakarta, the current capital, has been sinking rapidly. Jakarta, currently home to 10 million people, is prone to both flooding and sinking, and rising sea levels have put the coastal city increasingly at risk. In addition, the city has also experienced high pollution as a result of rapid industrialization and congestion problems.

The capital may be moved to Palangkaraya, on the island of Borneo, although nothing has been confirmed by state officials, reports Al Jazeera.

Around the globe, city relocations are likely to become more common as a result of rising sea levels from climate change. "Almost every coastal city around the world builds on loose sediment, and all of them are subsiding, regardless of pumping groundwater," Arizona State University geophysicist Manoochehr Shirzaei, who studies land subsidence, told Wired.

Fishermen Spotted a Beluga Whale. Turns Out It May Be a Russian Spy.

Fishermen were shocked when they spotted a beluga whale adorned with a harness with camera mounts off of the coast of Norway last week. According to CNN, marine experts say the beluga may have been trained by the Russian military.

There has previously been speculation that Russia uses belugas to perform various sea-based military operations, such as guarding naval bases or finding lost equipment, although the Russian Defense Ministry has publicly refuted such claims.

In an update on Friday, the Washington Post reported that the beluga has not left the Norwegian port city, "in what appears to be a high-profile defection." The alleged spy's presence hasn't been entirely unwelcome: Surprisingly comfortable around humans, the unnamed whale has allowed residents to pet its nose.

And don't worry, Martin Bernsen, a communications adviser for Norway's Police Security Service, told the Post, "The whale is not a suspect in our investigation, for now."