Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Video of the day

President Trump spoke via a video link to the two astronauts who made history as part of NASA’s first-ever all-woman spacewalk. He flubbed his facts (as usual) and claimed “this is the first time for a woman outside of the space station.” When one of the astronauts corrected him, he did this. Yup, he did. And it isn’t the first time either. 

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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 The great election battle of Justin Trudeau

Canadians voted last night to decide whether to give Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a shot at keeping his job. The latest results indicate that he may just about manage to do so—with or without a majority.

A very brief intro to Canadian politics: Liberals and the Conservatives are the two main parties, and their names are pretty self-descriptive of their politics. But Canada has a multi-party system, and this time around the smaller parties will likely play a big role. They include: the New Democratic Party (NDP) led by Jagmeet Singh; the Green Party led by Elizabeth May; and the Bloc Quebecois, headed by Yves-Francois Blanchet.

Ok, tell me about the election: The race is slated to be a very tight contest between Trudeau and Conservative leader Andrew Scheer. Jagmeet Singh's New Democratic Party and the Bloc Quebecois made significant gains in the final weeks of campaigning at the expense of the Liberals. 

The latest results: indicate that while Trudeau is projected to win the election, it is still too early to say whether his party will secure a majority. There are 338 parliamentary seats up for grabs.  The pre-election consensus was that neither the Liberals and Conservatives will secure the 170 required for a majority.

But isn’t Trudeau super-popular?He was… back in 2015 when the Liberals won a whopping 184 seats—compared to the Conservatives, who settled for 99 seats and the NDP took 44 seats. But those glory days are behind him. 

Why, what did he do? Lots of things, some embarrassing, others more serious.

  • Ethics violations: In August, Canada’s ethics commissioner issued a report that found Trudeau engaged in “flagrant attempts to influence” his attorney general. His aim: to force her to abandon the case against  Montreal-based construction company SNC-Lavalin. The reason: the company employs 9000 people and a ban would have jeopardised the Liberals election's prospects in Quebec.

  • Also ethically dubious: two all-expenses-paid family trips, including a helicopter ride, to a private residence in the Bahamas owned by the Aga Khan. At the time, the Aga Khan Foundation was formally lobbying the Trudeau government for funding for projects.

  • The many ‘blackfaces’ of Trudeau: Just as damaging were the multiple photos of the PM dressed up in ‘blackface’ as a young man. They included doing an Aladin at an Arabian Nights party, dressing up as a Jamaican singer, and—in this instance—painting his face black for no apparent reason whatsoever.  (As Indians well know, Trudeau has a bad habit of playing dress-up, though it mercifully did not include browning his face)

  • Scheer’s damning response: “He can’t even remember how many times he put blackface on, because the fact of the matter is he’s always wearing a mask.”

  • But hey, he got an endorsement from Obama

What if he doesn’t get a majority? Trudeau’s best bet is Jagmeet Singh who says he will "absolutely" consider working with other parties in order to prevent a Conservative government. And a prominent place in the government won’t hurt Singh either. 

Tell me more about Singh: Forty-year-old Jagmeet Singh aka Jimmy Dhaliwal is a lawyer turned politician. He became the first person to ever lead a major Canadian political party when he took charge of NDP in 2017. He supports a number of liberal policies including raising taxes for those making over $20 million a year to pay for a sweeping expansion in public services. The other reason for his popularity: his campaigning style best represented by two 15-second rap videos on TikTok. Watch them here

Not as fond of Singh: The Indian government that takes a dim view of his support for Sikh separatists and—more recently—comments on Kashmir

Learn more:
New York Times
has the latest on the race. Vox has everything you need to know about Trudeau’s ethics scandals. Foreign Policy offers a big picture view of how Trudeau’s ‘spectacular self-destruction’ endangered his candidacy. Vice offers an excellent profile of Jagmeet Singh.

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counting down the days to Diwali

Has Infosys been cooking its books? Two anonymous whistleblowers have filed a two-page letter accusing the company’s CEO Salil Parekh and CFO Nilanjan Roy of “resorting to unethical practices”—primarily aimed at inflating profits and hiding the company’s numbers from its board. The money quote, quite literally: “The CEO told us, no one in the board understands these things, they are happy as long as the share price is up. Those two madrasis (D Sundaram and DN Prahlad) and diva (Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw) make silly points, you just nod and ignore them.” Infosys shares have tumbled by 15%. 

The NDA is set to sweep Maharashtra and Haryana: surprising nobody. Exit polls predict the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance will score more than 200 out of the 288 seats in Maharashtra. In Haryana, the BJP alone will wrangle more than 70 out of the 90 seats. (Mint)

SoftBank to take over WeWork: The company—not its Vision Fund—will spend between $4-5 billion to take direct control of up to 70% of the company. SoftBank has already invested $10.65 billion in the company. And with perfect timing, someone has leaked an older video clip of Adam Neumann telling his employees, “I, Adam, and my family control the company 100%, very rare when you have investors.” Also this: “It's important that one day, maybe in 100 years, maybe in 300 years, a great-great-granddaughter of mine will walk into that room and say, 'Hey, you don't know me; I actually control the place.” Bwahahaha!

‘Assembled in India’ iPhone XRs are here: The phones—assembled in Foxconn's factory—have hit the shelves in Croma etc. and are selling for Rs 49,900. (Mint)

UP is the most unsafe state for women: which also doesn’t surprise anybody. According to the latest National Crime Records Bureau data, there were 350,000 crimes committed against women in 2017. The worst was Uttar Pradesh (56,011), followed by Maharashtra (31,979) and West Bengal (30,992). OTOH, Lakshadweep registered only six crimes against women. (NDTV)

Supreme Court is a-okay with Aarey metro shed: Yup, it stepped in too late to save the 2,000-plus trees. And now, the justices have refused to stop the construction of the metro shed in the colony. But there is still a court-ordered freeze on cutting more trees. Good thing that the required damage is already done. (Business Standard)

Francis Ford Coppola described Marvel movies: in one word: ‘despicable’. (Slate)

New social media rules are coming: In a document filed with the Supreme Court, the government revealed that it is working on new laws to regulate social media platforms. The aim: to curb growing threats to “individual rights and nation’s integrity, sovereignty, and security.” No comment. (Economic Times)

The world’s loudest bird: has been spotted in the Amazon. The innocuously named white bellbird belts out its love-song at a deafening volume—which can reach “peak levels of 113 decibels - above the human pain threshold and equivalent to a loud rock concert or a turbo-prop plane 200 feet (60m) away achieving liftoff power.” And yes, these guys actually get laid. (The Straits Times)

‘The Prince and The Paedophile’: That’s the title of a documentary that aired on UK’s Channel Four last night. It looks at sworn testimony of one of the women who testified against paedophile billionaire Jeffrey Epstein—and her claims with regard to Prince Andrew. The most damaging allegation: "Epstein, Andy, approximately eight other young girls and I had sex together. The other girls all seemed and appeared to be under the age of 18 and didn’t really speak English. Epstein laughed about the fact that they couldn’t really communicate, saying that they are the ‘easiest’ girls to get along with.” (The Sun)

The cause for Delhi pollution: explained in one map.

Ladakh’s latest tourist attraction: is the Siachen glacier, touted as the highest battlefield in the world—and it is now open for business! Yes, we humans can turn any place into a tourist trap. (Quint)

Your daily quota of sunshine items: includes the following:

And our absolute favourite: the woman footballer sharing this moment of joy with a little girl. This is truly “quanta bellezza” (so much beauty).

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Unexpected, thought-provoking and always worth your time

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The ‘Technology and Art’ Edition

We have been shaped by technology since the invention of the very first tool. New technology can change everything, as can the disappearance of the old. These two photo galleries reveal how.


A bittersweet elegy to Kolkata’s rickshaws

The city is one of the last places on Earth where rickshaws are still hauled by people. Replaced by cycle-rickshaws, autos and Olas, there are just a few hundred left. This stunning collection of black-and-white photos pays tribute to a disappearing tribe.

Read: The last rickshaws of Kolkata - in pictures | The Guardian 

Sex, Love etc 2

Behold the disappearing smartphone

We are all glued to our screens—in bed, at work, on our commute, even when out with friends. That fixed gaze is so ubiquitous we don’t even notice it. But what if someone were to erase that screen? Simply remove it from our hands?

Read: Photographer removes smartphones to show our strange and lonely new world | Quartz

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