Friday, October 18, 2019

Number of the day: $1.8 trillion


A female CFO may be the best thing that happens to a company. According to a new study, within 24 months of hiring a female CFO, companies witnessed a 6% increase in profits on average, and an 8% better return on shares compared to their male peers. That adds up to $1.8 trillion in additional cumulative profits. As we always say. #BroadsDoItBetter! 

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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Boris Johson’s brand new Brexit deal 

The UK PM has sealed a revised agreement with the EU just weeks before the October 31 deadline—but it may already be dead on arrival. Round and round we go.

First, some background: Last month, the UK Parliament united to block Johnson from taking Britain out of the EU without a deal. They also imposed an October 19 deadline—by which time Johnson had to either come back with a new agreement or ask the EU to postpone the bigger October 31 Brexit deadline. That’s the date by when the UK Parliament has to approve any existing Brexit deal or Britain will have to leave without a deal. (If you haven’t been following Brexit, we suggest checking out our previous explainer)

So what’s this new deal? It’s mostly the same as the old deal, but it gets rid of the ‘Irish backstop’—the one clause that was a huge sticking point for supporters of Brexit. 

What’s the ‘Irish backstop’? As per the 1998 Northern Ireland peace agreement, there cannot be a hard border between Ireland (a sovereign country) and Northern Ireland (part of the UK). Therefore, May’s deal kept Northern Ireland within the EU customs regulations even after Brexit happens. It was meant to be a temporary arrangement (backstop) until the UK negotiates a separate free trade deal with the EU. Brexiteers see the Irish backstop as a symbol of continued EU ‘tyranny’—and a violation of UK sovereignty (since it would require custom checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the country). 

So what’s the new arrangement? Northern Ireland will remain within the UK customs territory—i.e. there will be no duties imposed on goods that move between the UK and Northern Ireland. But it will also follow EU regulations so there will be no need for hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland (which is still in the EU). All this will be achieved by a mind-numbingly complex system of border controls that may or may not be workable. Also: this system will remain in place for at least four years—and even longer if the Irish Assembly votes for it.

Okay, what’s next? On Saturday, the Parliament has to vote to approve the deal. The prospects are bleak given that most of the parties appear to be opposed to it.

  • Johnson’s key ally, the Democratic Unionist Party, has already given it a big thumbs down. The Northern Ireland party hates the new arrangement as much as it hated the backstop. So that’s 10 ‘nay’ votes right there.

  • Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn says the deal is "even worse" than the one negotiated by Theresa May, and "should be rejected.” Besides, Labour would rather push for an election or a new referendum.

  • Also planning to oppose the deal: the Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats.

What happens if the deal is DOA? Johnson is required by a new law passed by Parliament to go back to the EU and ask for a three-month extension. As for what Johnson will, in fact, do, we leave it to Reuters to explain: “The government has said it will both comply with this law and that Britain will leave the EU on Oct. 31 whatever happens. Johnson has not explained how he plans to take these two apparently contradictory steps.” 😂😂

Will the UK get an extension? EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker is hoping not: "We have a deal and this deal means that there is no need for any kind of prolongation." But the EU is also unlikely to kick the UK out against its will.

Learn more: BBC offers the best overview of the latest developments. Also from BBC: why EU loves this deal. Reuters explains why the new deal makes for a very hard Brexit. Reuters and The Guardian analyse the deal’s prospects in the Parliament—including the hard math. Again, if you need a refresher on Brexit, we did an extended explainer last month.

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feeling tired just looking at your Diwali to-do list

Trump sells out the Syrian Kurds: The US struck a deal with Turkey that basically gives Istanbul everything it wants—in return for halting its offensive on Syria. 

  • Turkey will pause its military operation in Syria for five days. Within these five days, the Kurds must totally withdraw from the territory they now control. 

  • Turkey will then be assured of a ‘safe zone’—a strip of Syrian territory that is 30 km inside its border—controlled by its security forces. 

  • The US will not impose any new economic sanctions on Turkey, and will remove the ones it has already imposed once the ceasefire becomes permanent.

  • In other words, the Kurds—who have lost hundreds of lives in the current offensive, and thousands more fighting the ISIS—will lose the parts of Syria they fought to control, and with it, any hope of an even semi-autonomous homeland.

  • President Trump said, “It's a great day for the United States, it's a great day for Turkey ... it's a great day for the Kurds. It's really a great day for civilization. ... I just want to thank and congratulate President Erdogan. He's a friend of mine and I'm glad we didn't have a problem because frankly he is a hell of a leader and a tough man, a strong man."

  • This after he sent a deranged letter to Erdogan telling him not to be "a fool" and threatening to destroy the Turkish economy—and which Erdogan threw in the trash bin. 

Haven’t been tracking Turkey’s attack on Syria? Read our previous explainer here.

Mexico deports Indians en masse: In an unprecedented crackdown, the government is deporting 311 Indians who flew into Mexico in order to cross the border into the United States. They were arrested in various parts of the country for not possessing valid documents—and have been put on a plane back to India. (Times of India)

Can’t breathe, will run: A record 40,633 people plan to participate in the Delhi half-marathon on Sunday—even though the air quality forecast is slated to be “very poor” and prolonged exposure can lead to respiratory illnesses. The doctors are not amused: “[H]ow have the civic authorities allowed more than 30,000 people to expose themselves to toxic air?” (Reuters)

Samsung has a fingerprint problem: Its flagship Galaxy S10 smartphone is supposed to have a “revolutionary” biometric authentication feature that uses ultrasound to detect the ridges of fingerprints. It’s so revolutionary that all you have to do is add a screen protector and it will let anyone open your phone. A sheepish Samsung plans to roll out a patch to fix the problem. (Reuters)

Dada vs Didi in Bengal? Sourav Ganguly’s newly minted BCCI prez gig may be the first step toward a new career as a BJP neta. Here’s a behind-the-scenes analysis that claims Amit Shah is gearing up to cast him as Mamata’s rival in the 2021 state elections. (NDTV)

The amazing life of Yashasvi Jaiswal: The 17-year old is getting ready to join the India Under-19 team for the Sri Lanka tour. But to get to this place of good fortune, the previously homeless teenager has lived in tents and sold pani puri on the streets. This is his must-read story. (Indian Express)

All hail the mighty blob! A Paris zoo unveiled a slime mold dubbed the ‘blob’: “a yellowish, unicellular, small living being which looks like a fungus but acts like an animal.” Also: it has almost 720 sexes, can move without legs and heal itself within two minutes if cut in half. The most mind-blowing fact is this: “It surprises us because it has no brain but is able to learn ... and if you merge two blobs, the one that has learned will transmit its knowledge to the other.” (The Guardian)

Indian camels may go extinct soon: While the number of cows in the country is rising steadily, other domestic animals like donkeys, horses, pigs and—most critically—camels are losing ground. Since 2012, the population of donkeys is down by more than 61%, horses by 46%, and pigs by a relatively modest 12%. However, the decline in camels—down by 150,000—is the greatest cause of alarm. There are only 250,000 camels left in India and they may well be extinct within the next decade. The reason: disease and smuggling. Camel meat is in huge demand in Bangladesh and other West Asian countries. (Times of India

An overactive brain may not be a good thing: For the longest time, experts have been urging us to ‘use it or lose it’—i.e. keep our brain active and engaged to protect it from aging. But new research indicates exactly the opposite: “The completely shocking and puzzling thing about this new paper is … [brain activity] is what you think of as keeping you cognitively normal… The thing that is super unexpected is … limiting neural activity is a good thing in healthy aging. It’s very counterintuitive.” (Washington Post)

EduTok is a smash hit in India: Under pressure from the Indian government for its lax content monitoring policies, the video-sharing app has cast itself in a new avatar: a TED-lite for the masses. Its new EduTok program features mini-educational clips—the most popular being those that teach English. The 10 million videos created by users have already racked up 46 billion views. (Quartz)

An insane person at the Delhi zoo: jumped into the lion’s enclosure and got real up close and personal. And yeah, he’s fine. Watch the madness here.

Your daily quota of sunshine items: includes the following:

  • This hilarious ad for the services of an intrepid doctor who can help with “demons that fall on the roof of the house.” Also: “overflowing menstruation.”
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Stuff we buy, use or love.

A Diwali shortlist of goodies
Most of us will be gearing up this weekend to get our Diwali act together. Frankly, there’s lots and lots of stuff to buy, but here are some hatke options you may want to check out.
image blue sidebar The informer image blue sidebar

If you need that standout Diwali party dress…

Check out Encrustd to treat yourself to exquisite (be warned, expensive) statement dresses that you will wear over and over again—especially to all those wedding parties in the coming months. These silk creations are beautifully tailored and boast couture-level workmanship.

Price: Rs. 5000 and upwards | Encrustd

The informer 2

If you want your diyas to be fully eco-friendly...

Go for the biodegradable kind. Culture wars aside, lamps made out of cow dung are even more eco-friendly than the terracotta kind because they can just be chucked in the garden where they turn into manure. Not a fan of gobar? You can pick the other kind made of panchamrit and beeswax—which also do double duty as a mosquito repellent! 

Price: Rs. 120 | Bio-degradable Cow Dung Vegan Diwali Diya - Pack of 12 | Amazon

Price: Rs. 99 | LeafyTales Ecofriendly Diya with Panchamrit and Beeswax | Amazon 

Price: Rs 71 l WeChange Cow Dung Diyas - Pack of 24 l Call: 9869722423

The informer 3

When you’re ready to splurge on a Diwali gift…

For someone special, pick something up from Arttdinox. They offer gorgeous home decor items that are truly unique—and not just another Good Earth knockoff. For example: this dragonfly-themed chip and dip platter designed by Suneet Verma. Or this Dhokra candy bowl you can stuff with little Diwali chocolates.

Price: Varies | Arttdinox


Note: These products are personally picked by the editors. We do not receive any revenue from the brands recommended.

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