Thursday, June 6, 2019

Number of the day: 7.5%

That’s the projected growth rate for the Indian economy in 2019-2020 as per the World Bank. It’s a lot better than the sluggish 6.8% growth in the past year. The bank also flagged the twin dangers to our future fiscal health: ‘skirmishes’ like Balakot and Brexit. China’s projected rate: 6.2%.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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The return of the Nipah virus

There have been no fatalities as yet among the seven suspected cases. But the recurrence of an outbreak of the deadly virus in Kerala is cause to worry.


What is Nipah? It’s named after a Malaysian village where the first such viral infection was confirmed in 1998. The symptoms are similar to the flu, i.e. fever, muscle aches and drowsiness. In its late stage, the infection can lead to brain inflammation and encephalitis.


How does it spread? Most likely, fruit bats. After last year’s outbreak, the virus was isolated from four people and three fruit bats, which revealed the likely culprit in Kerala. The virus is usually transmitted to humans via livestock which consume fruit contaminated by infected bats. In other places like Bangladesh, humans directly contracted the disease by drinking contaminated palm toddy.


How infectious is it? Very. That’s why 314 people who were in immediate contact with the first detected patient have been quarantined. Those who are in close contact with infected patients are at the greatest risk, ie caregivers such as relatives or medical staff.


Is there a cure? There is no vaccine for Nipah, and it had an 89% mortality rate in Kerala last year. The only recourse is intensive life support. At best, public officials can take preventive measures such as strict quarantine procedures and isolating or killing livestock.


What’s happening now? Last year, the Kerala government was caught off-guard, and it took a while to prevent the spread of the virus which killed 17 people. But this year, the authorities took emergency measures even while they waited for confirmation on the first patient. Working with the Union government’s team of experts, the state has moved swiftly to educate the public, monitor livestock, stock up on medical supplies and enforce isolation protocols.


The bottomline: While the state government’s speedy action is praiseworthy, its attitude is still reactive rather than proactive. As the Hindu notes, “(C)onsidering the very high mortality rate when infected with the virus, it is shocking that Kerala had not undertaken continuous monitoring and surveillance for the virus in fruit bats.” The reason: the proposal to create an agency to do so has remained a proposal… for the past five years.

Learn more: Mint interviews the doctor treating the first patient detected this year. Indian Express has an extended explainer on the virus. The Hindu has the latest on the outbreak.

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fobbing off friends who want to drag you to ‘Bharat’

India nails its opening match: Thanks to Rohit Sharma’s century and Yuzvendra Chahal’s bowling, India scored a six-wicket win over South Africa—which has now lost both its WC matches. This headline—’ Can’t bat, can bowl, can’t field’—pretty much sums up its woes.


In other World Cup news: The women’s tournament kicks-off in France on Friday with 552 football players representing 24 countries. This is an excellent primer for those who are not in the know. (New York Times)


Air hostess gang-raped by a colleague: The 25-year old was allegedly assaulted by an airline security official and two of his flatmates in the presence of another woman. Why this one caught our eye: We are comfortable with ‘stranger rape’ headlines, but often the story of an assault reads more like this. (Indian Express)


Bad news for working women: According to a new study, up to 12 million Indian women may lose their jobs to automation by 2030—mainly in agriculture, forestry, fishing, transportation and warehousing. Men in comparison are expected to lose 44 million jobs. The threat of automation is likely to heighten the unemployment crisis. Addressing it will require not just the creation of new jobs, but also effective reskilling and upskilling programs. In related news: the PM will head a new cabinet committee to foster employment and skill development. (Mint)


In better news for working women: The government is readying plans to raise the participation of women in the labour force from 26% to 30% over the next five years. They include: tax breaks for companies which hire a lot of women, better enforcement of safety and maternity leave laws in the informal sector, and more creche facilities. (Economic Times)


‘Bharat’ sucks, rocks, or none of the above: Quint says “it's difficult to not be moved and care about Bharat and his story.” Indian Express is more ambivalent, calling it “more a miss than hit.” Huffington Post, however, is crystal clear in its hilarious verdict: “[T]he film feels like being stuck on a date with a guy whose Tinder bio reads: JFK —> DL—>MUM—>LA—>HK—>two dozen airport initials that plebes have to Google.”


The dark side of Dark Mode: Apple’s signature feature claims it “is a dramatic new look that helps you focus on your work.” But as per science, the claim is not true: “Except in extraordinary situations, Dark Mode is not easy on the eyes, in any way. The human eyes and brain prefer dark-on-light, and reversing that forces them to work harder to read text, parse controls, and comprehend what you’re seeing.” (TidBITS)


Rihanna is the richest female musician right now: She is worth $600 million, which is way ahead of Madonna ($570 million), Celine Dion ($450 million) and Beyoncé ($400 million). (Billboard)


Your Insta feed will soon be infested: with “branded” posts from annoying “influencers” trying to influence you—whether you follow them or not. (CNBC)


Mt. Everest is over: There are long lines at the top. Crowds are leaving behind piles of trash, and the death rate is spiking. Above all, argues this essay, the great mountain peak “has lost its hold on the world’s imagination. Everest, as an idea and cultural force, is over.” (The Atlantic)


Nuclear devastation is the next awesome thing: Tourist bookings are up by 40% at the radiation-ravaged town of Pripyat in Ukraine. The reason: HBO’s wildly popular series ‘Chernobyl’. Soon enough, there will be long lines to get into the nuclear reactor. (Reuters)

The reason why you never want to be rescued: by a helicopter in Arizona is right here. And if you need the backstory on that horror show, you can read it on Mashable.

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Unexpected, thought-provoking and always worth your time

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The 'Origins of Food' Edition

Fusion cuisine is everywhere, and in more places than we think. The ‘traditional’ dishes we most cherish often turn out to be long-adopted foreign imports.

So you think tempura is a Japanese thing?

We love this fun, brilliantly animated video which explains why a seemingly everyday Japanese dish isn’t Japanese at all. See, it all goes back to the 16th century, two sailors, and a Portugese dish called Peixinhos da Horta...

Watch: Your Favorite Japanese Dish Isn’t Japanese | Great Big Story

Sex, Love etc 2

So you think rajma is a Punjabi thing?

American like apple pie, and Punjabi like rajma chawal? Actually, make that ‘Mexican’ since Indians didn’t have anything resembling kidney beans until the Portugese brought it to our shores  Here are several “surprising” origin stories of very Indian food that are not in fact very Indian. Bonus read: a subversive, surprising history of curry powder from Atlas Obscura, and the controversial origins of the idli from Live History India.

Read: Foods you thought were of Indian-origin but aren't | Times of India

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