Thursday, March 14, 2019

Phrase of the day

While political parties are banned from using Abhinandan Varthaman in their election posters, the rule clearly doesn’t apply to tea sellers in Karachi. Khan’s Tea Stall has a giant image of the Indian Air Force pilot, accompanied by the line: “Aisi chai ki Dushman ko bhi dost banaye.” (Such a tea that makes even an enemy a friend)—playing on the video clip of Varthaman praising the tea served to him by his captors.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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The battle to call a terrorist a terrorist

The fourth time is not a charm. China has once again moved to block the designation of Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar as a ‘global terrorist’ at the UN Security Council. Coming on the heels of the Pulwama attacks, this is the diplomatic equivalent of a slap in the face.


Background, please! India has long been trying to get the UN’s 1267 Committee to label Azhar as a ‘global terrorist’. The committee was first created to crack down on Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and is comprised of the 15 members of the Security Council. A resolution designating a person or organisation as terrorist triggers a global sanctions regime which imposes travel bans, freezes financial assets, and imposes an arms embargo. China -- which holds veto power on the Security Council—has moved three times in the past to block any such move against Azhar.


So they did it again? Yes. This time around, the resolution—introduced by France—had an impressive number of co-sponsors: 13, including non-permanent members of the Security Council. Member countries were given till March 13 to state any objections. Beijing placed a ‘technical hold’ an hour before the deadline ran out. It was the only nation to do so.


What does that mean? The resolution is now shelved for six months, and can be put on hold for another three months thereafter. Other countries can use this time to offer more evidence why the hold should be lifted. After that time, China has to either decisively vote to block the resolution, or lift its hold.


So why is China doing this? Aside from its close relationship with Islamabad, Beijing’s primary motive is purely economic. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) runs the length of Pakistan, linking China to ports on its Iranian border—and therefore to critical oil shipping lanes. Chinese firms have invested close to $40 billion in CPEC projects. In order to protect its investment, Beijing has cemented a clear understanding with Islamic terror groups in the region, including the Taliban: Stay in your territory, don’t mess with CPEC or our Muslim minority, and we won’t participate in any move made against you.


So what’s next for India? This time around, India pulled out all stops to drum up exceptional international support. The US issued a strong signal at the last-minute to persuade Beijing: "The United States and China share a mutual interest in achieving regional stability and peace, and that a failure to designate Azhar would run counter to this goal.” India-China relations are also supposedly at their best right now thanks to the 2018 successful Modi-Xi summit. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj went to Beijing soon after Balakot to press India’s case. But all to no effect. New Delhi can’t do much more for now, except express its “disappointment.”


Learn More: Indian Express has the details on the UN setback and an in-depth explainer on why China protects terror groups like JeM. The Wire has an exclusive report on the audio recordings of Azhar presented by Indian at the Security Council—and which clearly link him to JeM and terror activity.


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raising a cup of chai to your enemies


Brexit gets more insane, if possible: There were more Brexit votes yesterday, and the whole thing went off the rails… again! PM Theresa May introduced a motion which would prevent Britain from leaving the EU without a deal… but only until the March 29 deadline. In other words, she tried to keep no-deal on the table as a bargaining chip. Here’s what happened next: Thirteen Cabinet ministers defied the government by abstaining. One openly voted against the motion and has now resigned. The MPs instead introduced—and passed!—their own amendment rejecting a no-deal Brexit under any circumstances and at any time! What does this mean? May has lost all control of her own party. So what will May do? Hold yet another vote on her Brexit deal next week, of course! Yup, the same deal that has already been decisively rejected twice. Yup, our head hurts every bit as much as yours. (BBC)

In very related news: The latest snap poll reveals that a sharply divided Britain is in resounding agreement on one point: Theresa May needs to resign. Many of her party colleagues also agree, and are already polishing their knives resumes.


Sky high fares thanks to grounded flights? Sure, there were only 12 Spicejet planes affected by the 737 Max ban. But the cancellations come at a very bad time for passengers. Jet Airways can’t afford to fly its planes. Indigo doesn’t have enough pilots. “This is the first time that so many planes are going to be on the ground,” according to an airline official. The result: expect last-minute fares to go through the roof. (Times of India)


In other Boeing-related news: The United States has finally joined the rest of the world in grounding it 737 Max. Also: everyone is talking about this Quartz story connecting Trump to the Ethiopian airline crash. The link: his government shutdown delayed technical fixes to the planes, pushing them back from January to April.


YouTube Music is here: Move over Spotify, there is a new, new kid in town—because we Indians can never have enough music streaming services. YouTube Music has an app and desktop version, and its premium subscription is ad-free. (NDTV)


Best Ambani wedding clip ever: Most grooms are excited at their first sight of the bride on the big day. Now, we’re not exactly sure what Akash Ambani is feeling right here… but we can’t stop laughing.


Clipping babies’ tongues is a thing now: in America. That’s because many of them are being diagnosed as having a ‘tongue tie’—a condition where the cord of tissue that anchors the tongue to the bottom of the mouth is deemed too tight. The procedure of clipping that cord is relatively painless and harmless… and in most cases, entirely unnecessary. So why have the number of such surgeries skyrocketed? It’s an unexpected consequence of the immense pressure on mothers to breastfeed their babies. (The Atlantic explains why)


Government threatens Twitter execs: with up to seven years in jail if they fail to remove “objectionable and inflammatory content” in time. The dire warning has apparently received “clearance from the top echelons” of government. No such threat has been issued to Facebook—which is instead the happy recipient of the ruling party’s lucrative political ad spend.

A kachori budget for politicians: Speaking of election expenses, the Punjab state election commission has issued strict guidelines for candidates to ensure they do not violate spending limits. It’s issued a list of 171 items, each with a price ceiling attached. Example: Bread pakoda for Rs 10, kachori for Rs 11, samosa with sauce for Rs 10, paneer pakoda for Rs 12, a plate of chhole bhaturey for Rs 30, tea for Rs 8, and coffee for Rs 12. Candidates may, however, rent a drone for Rs 950/hour. Conspicuously missing is the most popular item on every politician’s shopping list, i.e. liquor. (The Print)


Wild election ticket speculation abounds: First came reports of Manmohan Singh being pushed to contest from Punjab. And now, buried at the very bottom of this story, is this eyebrow-raising nugget: “The BJP is said to be considering Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani as one of its candidates in the Lok Sabha polls. Sources said that Nilekani, who contested against Ananthkumar in 2014 on a Congress ticket and lost by over 2.28 lakh votes, was indeed in the reckoning. The names of Mohandas Pai and Sudha Murthy are also being considered.” (New Indian Express)


Johnny Depp is staging a PR comeback: thanks to his recent defamation lawsuit against ex-wife Amber Heard. In Depp’s version, Heard is the one who was physically abusive, once attacking him with a vodka bottle. He also accuses her of ‘faking’ allegations of domestic violence in order to become a prominent member of the #MeToo movement. Depp’s lawyers claim these "have been conclusively refuted by two separate responding police officers, a litany of neutral third-party witnesses, and 87 newly obtained surveillance camera videos." Hence, the turning tide of sympathy. (Complex, this recent Daily Mail story has more details on Depp’s allegations)


‘Distracted boyfriend’ now happily in love: Remember the wildly popular meme which featured a man checking out another woman in the company of his girlfriend? Well, the unhappy couple resurfaced in the most unexpected place: On the billboards of a new Hungarian government ad campaign promoting its new family policy. (Washington Post)

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Unexpected, thought-provoking and always worth your time

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The ‘History of Attire’ Edition

From Mesopotamia to London: The Evolution of the Turban


The first known instance of a turban was found on a royal Mesopotamian sculpture dating to 2350 B.C. Over the centuries, the headwear has been reinvented over and again on the Indian subcontinent, as a marker of royal privilege, a symbol of Sikh defiance, a mandatory part of the colonial uniform, proud badge of immigrant identity. This book excerpt with accompanying photos takes a stroll through its fascinating history.


Read and See: A 4,000-year history of the turban | CNN

Sex, Love etc 2

Look, So Many Kinds of Bras! 


We women have a love/hate relationship with our bras. We splurge our hard-earned money buying every kind -- sexy, comfy, athletic, specialty—and then spend most of our time yearning to take them right off. Fashions and feminisms have come and gone, but the bra endures. This jaunty video offers a quick, fun whirl through the many avatars of the brassiere, including the Roman Empire’s Mamillare, the 1920s Maiden Form, and the heinous 1970s Nipple Bras.


Watch: 100 Years of Bras | Glamour

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