Thursday, May 2, 2019

Number of the day: 16

Fifteen policemen and their driver travelling in a private vehicle were killed in an IED explosion in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra. Gadchiroli—a thickly forested area which also straddles the borders of  Chhattisgarh and Telangana—is a known hub of Maoist activity. It represents a serious setback to the state government which claimed it had reasserted control over the area in recent months. Also significant: the attack took place during the election, a time when security forces are already on high alert.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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India’s long-fought victory at the United Nations

At long last, Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar was officially designated as a ‘global terrorist by the UN Security Council, marking a significant diplomatic victory for India.


Background, please! The JeM is responsible for the recent Pulwama attack where a car bomb killed over 40 CRPF personnel. India has been trying to get its leader, Masood Azhar, designated as a ‘global terrorist’ by a special sanctions committee in the United Nations Security Council (explained here). It has been repeatedly thwarted by China which has vetoed the resolution each time. In the wake of the Pulwama attacks, the listing request was reintroduced by France, US, and the UK, but China placed a three-month ‘hold’ on it.


Ok, so what happened? On Wednesday, Beijing lifted that hold. The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman claimed that the “relevant countries “ had “revised and resubmitted the materials” to be considered. Translation: something changed since early March.


So what changed? There were three key factors which finally worked in India’s favour.

  • The United States' aggressive stance on Azhar. At the end of March, Washington circulated a separate draft Security Council resolution to sanction Azhar. Unlike the committee, UNSC proceedings are public, and any such resolution would have forced China to openly support a known terrorist.

  • With the US strongly backing New Delhi in its efforts, Beijing did not want to do anything that would significantly damage its ties to New Delhi. And blocking Azhar’s listing was already seen as a diplomatic slap in the face—delivered right when India was reeling from the Pulwama attack.

  • Finally, Azhar’s listing also suits the interests of one of China’s closest allies. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF)—a powerful global financial watchdog group—is unhappy with Islamabad for not taking sufficient action against terrorist groups. If Pakistan is blacklisted by the FATF, it would trigger devastating economic sanctions at a time when its economy is on the edge. So looking tough on terror works for Islamabad right now.


Also making Pakistan happy: is the list of reasons cited for designating Azhar as a ‘global terrorist’. It conspicuously did not mention Pulwama or Kashmir—which in turn would have implicated Islamabad. The only terrorist activities mentioned relate to Al Qaeda and Afghanistan—likely on China’s insistence as a face-saving measure for Pakistan.


So what happens now? Azhar will be banned from foreign travel, his assets will be frozen, and no state or its citizens will be allowed to sell weapons to him or JeM. Of course, Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed—who masterminded the 26/11 attacks—has long been designated a ‘global terrorist’ but continues to operate freely within Pakistan. As India’s former envoy to Pakistan told Mint, this is a “major symbolic victory,” noting “there was no signal from Islamabad to suggest that Pakistan had changed its attitude towards India and its use of anti-India terrorism.”


Learn more: Mint offers the best overview. Times of India reports on Azhar’s current whereabouts and plans. Indian Express has the detailed dossier India submitted to the UN. The Hindu explains why China changed its mind. Broadsheet did an explainer on Pakistan’s shifting policy toward terror groups within its borders. We also explained why China has been tacitly supporting terrorist organisations in Pakistan.

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rocking your shorts in the summer heat

Delhi aunty thinks girls deserve to be raped: Three young women were hanging out at a Gurgaon restaurant when an older woman decided to take offence at their “short dresses.” When they vehemently disagreed, she allegedly told men in the restaurant to rape them because they deserve it. The young women followed and confronted her, demanding an apology. She instead reiterated her appalling point of view. The woman, however, has now tendered an unconditional apology, saying she was “harsh and incorrect in her statement.” Quint has the video clip of the confrontation and an interview with the young women.


Want to lose weight? Eat more rice! A new study shows that Asian nations with rice-based diets have far lower rates of obesity than Western countries like the UK and the United States. The reason: Rice is low on fat and “the fibre, nutrients and plant compounds found in whole grains may increase feelings of fullness and prevent overeating.” Hmm, we suspect this doesn’t apply to our most favourite kind of rice, i.e. biryani. (Business Standard)


The Obamas are going big on Netflix: Their production company announced seven projects, including a range of scripted and unscripted series, as well as full-length feature films and documentaries. (Variety)


Eric Schmidt is leaving the Google building: The founder who stepped down as executive chairman of parent company Alphabet is also ceding his seat on the board. It’s the end of an era. (New York Times)


A worm army is on the march: An invasive species of caterpillar from the Americas is spreading across the country, destroying thousands of hectares of crops in its wake. The Fall Armyworm was first detected in India nine months ago and has already infested ten states. Also: They are relatively pesticide-resistant. Scientists have raised an alarm of a possible global invasion. (The Print)


A secret of the Bill and Melinda’s marriage: is very simple. They share household chores, especially washing dishes after dinner. That’s from Melinda Gates’ thoughtful and candid interview with Business Insider where she talks about her marriage, motherhood, women’s invisible labour, and her career ambitions. It’s totally worth a read.


The little-known debate over sewage water: The Bombay High Court issued a ruling directing the Indian Railways not to allow its workers to use untreated sewage water for irrigation. What’s this about? The Railways gives excess land along its tracks to its employees to grow vegetables. Tests conducted by an NGO revealed heavy soil contamination because they were using sewage water. The story, however, points to a wider tussle between farmers and environmental activists. For example: Treated sewage water from Bangalore has been a lifesaver for drought-hit farmers. However, the government treatment facilities are inadequate. So poorly treated wastewater ends up contaminating precious groundwater, creating a far bigger problem. The result: yet another court battle pitting farmers’ survival against legitimate pollution fears. (Village Square offers a deep dive into a difficult debate)


Is political correctness killing high fashion? This provocative op-ed argues that a moralistic climate of political correctness created by the millennial left is killing the fashion’s creativity and willingness to provoke. Worth a read even if you don’t agree. (High Snobiety)

We know you be loving pretty pics: And we know you be loving food. Behold! Pretty pics of pretty food which vied for the Food Photographer of the Year award. (BBC)

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Unexpected, thought-provoking and always worth your time

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The ‘Instagram Influencer’ Edition

The age of social media gave us a new shorthand for success: Instagram Influencers. One story looks at the cottage industry of fraud spawned by their success, while the other reveals how they are changing.


India’s fake influencer problem

The Instagram influencers’ market value will double globally to $2.38 billion (Rs16,500 crore) in 2019. Indian brands like Myntra, Fabindia, Adidas, and ITC spend nearly 15% of their marketing budget on them. Except there’s one little problem: A lot of them are fake. 

Read: Influencer marketing is already losing influence in India due to fakery | Quartz

Sex, Love etc 2

Say bye-bye to that ‘made for Insta’ look

Gorgeous-looking food, bright colours like millennial pink, colour-corrected, glossy-looking selfies… these have been the hallmarks of the platform’s aesthetic. Well, not any more. The new Insta influencer vibe: messy and unfiltered. 

Read: The Instagram Aesthetic Is Over | The Atlantic

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