Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Number of the day: 50

That’s the number of US states that have launched a joint antitrust investigation of Google. Their primary concern: the company’s virtual monopoly over online advertising and search. The two states that are sitting this one out are California and Alabama. The biz practices of Big Tech are increasingly under scrutiny both in the US and Europe—and this is just the latest sign that tougher legislation is all but inevitable.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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A bunch of very different things

Yesterday, we tested your attention span with two explainers. But today all we have is a round-up of the most significant headlines—which either don’t require much explanation or we have explained at length in the past. Such are the vagaries of the news cycle 🤷‍♀️


Auto sales go from gloomy to dire: They fell by 18.7% in July. The August numbers are even more dire. Overall sales have fallen by 23.6%, but the slump is the worst in passenger vehicles—sales have plunged by 31.6% since last year. It marks the 10th straight month-on-month decline and is the worst since the industry started compiling monthly data in 1997-98. (Mint)


Why does this matter? The automobile industry employs millions of people and contributes up to 7% of our GDP. And the nosedive also indicates a broader and more dangerous slump in consumer demand—setting up a cycle where people buy less, companies cut back production and lay off workers, which further weakens consumer demand. Quint illustrates how Maruti’s woes in Manesar are threatening the livelihoods of all its residents. We unpacked the implications in our explainer on the increasingly frugal Indian consumer.


Government reopens a key 1984 case: Madhya Pradesh CM Kamal Nath has long been accused of playing a key role in the Rakab Ganj Gurudwara atrocity—where a five-hour siege ended in two Sikhs being burnt alive. But despite multiple inquiry commissions, he has never been named or investigated. That’s about to change now. The government has reopened seven 1984 cases, including the one that implicates Nath. (Times of India)


Why does this matter? 3,325 Sikhs were killed by mobs in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination—of these 2,733 were killed in Delhi alone. A number of Congress leaders played a key role in inciting the mobs and protecting the perpetrators. Only one—Sajjan Kumar—has been tried and found guilty as of today. However, the government has now reopened 80 of 240 1984-related cases which were closed by the Delhi Police. To learn more: here’s our explainer on the significance of Sajjan Kumar’s conviction; we also profiled Kamal Nath and the case in which he is implicated.


BJP leader accused of rape: A law student in UP recorded a Facebook video accusing BJP leader Swami Chinmayanand of sexual assault—and threatening her life. Chinmayanand is a former Union cabinet minister, three-time MP and the president of the young woman’s college. The woman went missing, and the Supreme Court stepped in to take up her case. She has since been tracked down. Yesterday, she finally held a press conference where she said, “Swami Chinmayanand raped me and has been sexually assaulting me for the last one year… The harassment started after I started staying at the (law college) hostel.” Chinmayanand has already been charged with abduction in order to murder and criminal intimidation. (Times of India has more details)


Why does this matter? Two reasons. One, this case bears alarming similarity to the Unnao rape case. The UP police refused to take action when a woman accused a BJP MLA of rape—and instead arrested her father who died in custody. She was recently injured in a suspicious accident (our explainer here). Two, this isn’t first rape allegation against Chinmayanand. In 2011, a disciple at his ashram accused him of abduction and rape. The case was later dropped by his buddy UP CM Yogi Adityanath. 


Your Brexit update is here: An alliance of rebel Tories and the Opposition MPs united to pass a bill that prevents PM Boris Johnson from taking Britain out of the EU without a deal in place. That bill became law yesterday. So Johnson once again introduced a motion to call for a snap election—and it was once again resoundingly rejected by Parliament. BoJo, however, is threatening to disregard the law: “I will go to Brussels... on October the 17th and negotiate our departure on the 31st of October, hopefully with a deal... but without one if necessary. I will not ask for another delay.” 


Why does this matter? It is both astonishing and unprecedented for a Prime Minister openly declare his intent to break the law of the land. The Guardian has more on the array of foolhardy plans to do an end run around the law—and  a report on why they are guaranteed to land BoJo in legal trouble. Here’s our latest Brexit explainer and this one breaks down the issue in detail.

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falling in love with Vidya Balan all over again

Vikram is unbroken but “tilted”: But the chances of making contact with the lander remain slim. (The Hindu)


Big tech firms and their fake e-waste centres: Some of the biggest multinationals have submitted fake addresses for their e-waste recycling facilities. According to an investigation by Delhi pollution authorities, at least 20 e-waste collection centres listed by Samsung, HP, Canon and Vivo were either untraceable or non-existent. (Indian Express)


Your Kashmir update is here: Local Muharram celebrations turned into an ugly confrontation with the police (see clip here). Schools are asking parents to bring pen and flash drives so they can distribute video lessons to students at home. The reason: parents are too afraid to send their kids, and the schools won’t guarantee their safety. Quint offers a compelling ground report that captures the views on both sides—ordinary citizens and the police. 


Rafa aces epic US Open final: Rafael Nadal defeated Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4 in a five-set marathon that lasted 4 hours, 51 minutes. This was his initial reaction. And then—when they played a tribute video—he started to cry. He is now one Slam title shy of matching Roger Federer’s record. The Ringer explains why this US Open revealed the face of tennis’ future. 


Instagram has a fake news problem: Proxy accounts are using images and memes to spread bad information. The good news: Insta isn’t built for virality unlike say Twitter or Facebook. The bad news: It is built to promote engagement. And more of its users engaged with Russian propaganda in the 2016 US elections on Facebook. (Axios)


‘Joker’ wins big in Venice: The origin story of the most infamous comic book villain was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. The runner up: Director Roman Polanski’s ‘An Officer and a Spy’ which made many people very unhappy. The reason: Polanski fled the United States to duck charges of statutory rape in 1978. The Guardian offers a lively take on the decision to reward a supervillain flick that has everyone arguing about its politics.


The tale of a baby, a car and a sleeping mom: A 13.month old went flying out of a jeep late at night and in the middle of the forest. Her parents did not realise she was missing until they reached home. This is a story of a miracle and a timely reminder of the value of strapping children down in moving vehicles. (The Telegraph)


Left handed? There’s a gene for that: Ten percent of the human population is left-handed and scientists have now identified the genes responsible for the variation. More interestingly, they have found that lefties may have superior verbal skills. Of course, this information comes far too late to rescue generations of Indians bullied out of their invaluable leftie-ness. (CNN)


Oh, look! The Walkman is back! And it looks wonderfully retro. Sony’s 40th anniversary edition may look like it needs a cassette tape but is in fact an Android-based high-resolution audio player with 26 hours of battery life and Bluetooth compatibility. The price of nostalgia: $489. (ABC News)


A social commerce app that is liberating women: Meesho allows people to become resellers of clothes, jewellery and accessories—typically sourced from unbranded suppliers in other parts of the country. And it is turning homemakers into entrepreneurs in smalls towns across India. (Mint)


Your daily quota of sunshine items: include the following

  • This brilliant interview with Vidya Balan where she speaks about being a ‘bad wife’ and body shaming.

  • This photo gallery of ‘highly commended images’ submitted for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. These are exceptionally powerful not merely pretty. Desktop viewing recommended.

  • The wonderful news that unsold food at the Delhi and Mumbai airports is now being donated in order to feed hungry kids.

  • Cats strutting the fashion runway. Yes, you read that right.

  • This Rembrandt painting of Shah Jahan and Dara Shikoh—a treasure we found via Twitter.

  • These amorous camels which remind you never to complain about cows who block roads.

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Unexpected, thought-provoking and always worth your time

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The Canine Edition

As you well know, we have a serious weakness for cute puppy videos. These, however, offer a more substantial and serious take on our favourite subject.

Say hello to the Indian purebred

Most of us prefer to get a Lab or a beagle—or even adopt a streetie. But have you considered getting a Chippiparai, Jonangi or Kombai? Meet the gorgeous Indian breeds which are in great danger of dying out because most of us don’t even know about them.

Read: India’s love for labradors and german shepherds is driving its indigenous dog breeds to extinction | Scroll

Sex, Love etc 2

Meet the pet influencers of Instagram

Our inordinate affection for dogs is now big business on social media. This is the story of a talent agency and its Insta-famous pooches. Click through to find out what it takes to make it in this ruff-and-tumble world.

Watch: Inside the dog-eat-dog world of pet influencers | Fast Company

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