Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Quote of the day

The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered this unique take on the rapid melting of polar ice due to climate change: “Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade. This could potentially slash the time it takes to travel between Asia and the West by as much as 20 days. Arctic sea lanes… could [become] the 21st Century Suez and Panama Canals.” Really, what can we possibly say?

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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The joyous release of two Reuters journalists in Myanmar

Two journalists convicted of violating the Official Secrets Act were released from prison. It is being celebrated around the world as a win for press freedom.


First, a very brief history lesson: Myanmar has been under military control since 1962. Its history is marked by the struggle for democratic reform, and the battles waged by various ethnic communities for greater autonomy. The military has typically dealt with these challenges with outright repression. Its current leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was held for 15 years under house arrest, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her courage. She came to power in 2015 when the military finally allowed a national election—but she has been either unable or unwilling to challenge their power. In recent years, Suu Kyi has been widely criticised for cracking down on press freedoms and abetting the massacre of the Rohingya Muslims.


Ok, so what happened to the journalists? In 2017, the military launched a massive crackdown which resulted in 730,000 Rohingya refugees fleeing to Bangladesh. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested that same year for their investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya men and boys by security forces (That story earned them the Pulitzer Prize this year). They were found guilty of possessing confidential police documents and sentenced to seven years in prison in September. Their final appeal to the Supreme Court was rejected in April.


So how did they go free? They received a presidential pardon. Over the past month, President Win Myint has given mass amnesties to thousands of prisoners. The two journalists were among the first political prisoners to be set free.


Why does this matter? Well, the hope is that their release—along with the mass amnesties—indicates the first step toward a more democratic Myanmar. But UN officials warn, “The situation for freedom of expression (in Myanmar) is dire.” Over a hundred political prisoners are still behind bars.


The bottomline: There is no doubting the courage of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. And their release is indeed a cause for celebration. But here’s the ugly truth: Reporters who don’t work for a major global news organisation do not receive this kind of international attention and support. Countless journalists doing the same dangerous work are jailed or killed in anonymity. The latest World Press Freedom Index shows that only 9% of the world’s population now lives in countries where journalists can operate freely and independently. There are far too many Wa Lones and Kyaw Soe Oos out there.

Learn more: BBC has details on the case that led to the journalists’ arrest. And here’s their Reuters story which won the Pulitzer. The Guardian offers an excellent long read on Aung San Suu Kyi’s fall from grace. The Committee to Protect Journalists documents the crackdown on press freedom in Myanmar. Foreign Policy has the story on the latest World Press Freedom Index and what it signifies.

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channelling your inner ‘camp’ goddess

Show me the ‘clean chit’: A three-judge internal probe ruled that there was no merit in the sexual harassment complaint of a former SC worker against CJI Ranjan Gogoi. It also said that their report will not be made public. The complainant has now demanded a copy, saying it's her right as per the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act. Meanwhile, a group of activists, professors, unionists and journos protested the panel’s decision. The police rounded up and detained fifty of them for gathering without permission—even though the protesters “told them we won’t disrupt anything and that we were even willing to stand opposite the SC, in the parking lot, with our placards.”


New questions about India’s GDP numbers: Since 2015, GDP data has been calculated using a new database called MCA-21. However, the NSSO (the independent statistics agency) has found that 15% of the firms listed within it either could not be traced or were found to be closed. Another 21% were wrongly classified. This raises even more questions about the already controversial GDP numbers. (Mint)


Your Met Gala update is here: Your extra dose of Met-inspired camp includes this one-minute time-lapse video of Lady Gaga’s striptease entrance; Katy Perry’s after-party look which was even wackier (and more delicious) than that chandelier; Mad Hatter memes inspired by PC’s Met look; and this on-point Huffington Post photo gallery titled ‘Ranveer Singh's Regular Wardrobe Is More Campy Than Deepika's Campy Best’. Amen.


LinkedIn wants Indians to do more: on its platform. Indians account for 9% of its user base, but most of us just set up our profiles and then don’t visit the website for months. Hence LinkedIn’s latest slew of features: events and emojis. Yes, because a ❤️comes really handy when you’re networking for a job. (Quartz)


Disney announces its five-year lineup: The company which owns almost every movie franchise that matters released its rollout plan. The bad news: No ‘Avatar 2’ until December 2021. But we will be spared the recent deluge of bad Star Wars spinoffs. After 'The Rise of Skywalker' this year, there will be no others until 2022. (Bloomberg)


Mother Nature is a beauty: These are the winners of the BigPicture Natural World Photography Competition, and they are real beauties. We recommend looking at them on the desktop/laptop. Bonus: These adorable photos of polar bears playing—no, not on ice, but a field of flowers!


A Rooh Afza drought is ruining Ramzan: In North India, it is traditional to break the daily fast with lots of food accompanied by a tall glass of the deliciously pink drink. But a family dispute within Hamdard—the company which makes it—within the company which makes it has stalled production. (The Print)


All Sunny Deol wants: is to win his election in Punjab. Too bad pesky reporters like these keep asking him about some weird stuff called ‘Balakot strike’.


In other bad news for the BJP in Punjab: It is the only state where the party’s vote share is falling. Quint has five charts that explain why.

Feel good story of the day: is about the daughter of a dhobi who studied under streetlights to score 95% in her board exams. It’s a great story about overcoming not just financial adversity but also the barriers of language elitism and misogyny. (The Better India)

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Everything we don't know about human desire

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Sober and looking for love

Alcohol has long been the ultimate sexual lubricant, making it easy and fun to glide into intimacy, be it with a stranger or on a ‘date night’ with your love. But what do you do if you don’t drink—especially at a time when millennial cool is signalled by your beverage of choice? Being sober on Tinder is complicated, and in a number of unexpected ways.

Read: Alcohol is everywhere on Tinder. Here’s how non-drinkers cope | Washington Post

Sex, Love etc 2

Together in life, separated in sleep

Couples increasingly are opting for a ‘sleep divorce’—i.e. choosing to sleep in separate beds and rooms. The reasons range from intolerable snoring to different body clocks. But is it a smart, practical idea or the first sign of relationship trouble?

Read: Why half the population would welcome a ‘sleep divorce’ | Ozy

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