Thursday, May 30, 2019

Quote of the day

“[I]f we had confidence that the president did not commit a crime, we would have said so." That single sentence uttered by Bob Mueller has sparked fresh demands that House Democrats begin proceedings to impeach the President. However, what Trump heard: “The case is closed!” Mueller was appointed as an independent counsel to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 elections, and spoke publicly for the very first time. You can watch him utter the immortal words here, or read the New York Times analysis of this “political Rorschach test.”

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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The swearing-in of Prime Minister Modi

This is the biggest story making headlines today. But as there isn’t much to explain about the event, we’ve pulled together a quick round up of the key stories on the event.


What’s happening? PM Modi and his cabinet will be sworn in for the second consecutive term at 7 pm today. A record number of 8,000 guests are expected to attend, making it the biggest ever event to be held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.


The international guest list: Leaders of most neighbouring countries—including Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal, and Bhutan—will be present. Not on the guest list: Pakistani PM Imran Khan who was not invited. This is in contrast to the warm invitation extended to Nawaz Sharif five years ago. Some interpret this move as signalling Modi’s intent to “squeeze Pakistan in every way possible” in his second term. Islamabad blames “internal politics” for the snub.


The domestic guest list: Both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi are expected to attend. As are most other opposition leaders with the glaring exception of Mamata Banerjee. The Bengal CM was planning to show up as a matter of “constitutional courtesy,” but was ticked off when she heard about the other invitees—families of its party workers who the BJP claims were killed by Trinamool. Banerjee tweeted, “This is completely untrue. There have been no political murders in Bengal… So, I am sorry, Narendra Modi Ji, this has compelled me not to attend the ceremony.”


The most anticipated news: which will come out of this event is the makeup of the PM’s cabinet. Here’s what we know, and what’s being leaked to the media:

  • Arun Jaitley is out. The Finance Minister wrote a letter to the PM asking to be excused, citing his poor health. His widely rumoured replacement: Piyush Goyal, who already presented the last budget in Jaitley’s absence. Goyal is a chartered accountant and started his career as an investment banker before joining politics.

  • The NDA allies will get a cabinet quota. Bihar’s JD(U) leaders expect to appoint one Cabinet minister and a junior minister from the party. Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) has already chosen its leader Ram Vilas Paswan as its representative. Shiv Sena will likely get a slot as well.

  • The hottest rumours are swirling around the inclusion of Amit Shah. But it may require breaking BJP’s strict “one man one post” rule. Shah will want to hang on to his party chief role given the three critical state elections -- in Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Haryana -- looming on the horizon. Still, he has been named as a strong contender for Home or Finance Minister.


Learn more: The most interesting analysis focuses on the role of the new FM. Economic Times asks if India needs another Jaitley or a Chidambaram. Business Today pits Amit Shah against Piyush Goyal. Arun Jaitley has received a lot of flak over his tenure, but his former adviser Arvind Subramanian pens a generous tribute to his former boss in Mint. Also: Quint parses the international guest list to predict Modi’s foreign policy priorities.

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being too lazy to wax your underarms

Israel set to hold elections, again! When election results were announced seven weeks ago, Prime Minister Netanyahu seemed to have pulled off the impossible—a return to power despite facing serious charges of corruption. That victory turned to dust yesterday when his efforts to build a coalition came to naught—and he was unable to secure a majority in the parliament. The result: Israel goes right back to the polls in September. This is unprecedented in the country’s history. (NPR)


New rules for Mount Everest? The Nepal government, stung by the recent deaths due to overcrowding, is mulling new requirements for Everest wannabes. On the cards: all climbers may have to submit proof of mountaineering experience and a verifiable certificate of good health. Then again: “Foreigners pay $11,000 for the permits alone, and the total cost of guides, equipment, food and lodging for the six-week expedition can easily surpass $50,000. Nepali climbers pay about $700 for a permit.” So there is that. (New York Times)


A line-up of Miss India clones: Times of India released the photos of the 30 contestants who will be vying for the blingy crown this year. And they all looked almost exactly the same. A fact that inspired much heckling and reignited the debate over our fairness obsession. (BBC)


Stop the press, women have armpit hair: Malaika Arora posted an Instagram photo featuring her pits with a teeny bit of fuzz. It became a big thing between defenders and trolls. All we have to say is: Remember Julia Roberts circa 1999—and everyone else who’s flashed their underarm hair since? Women have body hair. Everybody, please get over it.


John Cleese, we never knew ye! Brexit appears to have inspired many Brits to share their uglier side. The latest is John Cleese who is so upset that London is “no longer an English city” that he’s moved to an island in Caribbean called Nevis—of which he once said, “It’s one of the nicest islands I’ve ever been on. The relationship between the races is absolutely superb. The people there are really kind.” Oh, John! (Guardian)


Your ‘oddly compelling art’ quota:  includes the following: one, these amazing black and white photos which are not photos at all; two, this “dirty car artist” who will make you rethink washing your car.


I’m listening, says iPhone: "What happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone,” claims the company’s latest ad. But most of the apps on your overpriced phone are tracking everything you do—even when you are asleep. (Washington Post via NDTV)


Here’s what insurance fraud looks like: when committed by a capybara (a giant but oddly cute rat) or a cat.


Return present for Veer Savarkar’s ‘Happy Birthday’ party: The Hindu Mahasabha distributed knives to class X and XII students to commemorate the birth anniversary of the Hindutva leader. The reason as per a spokesperson: “I just want them to feel strong and independent to protect their daughter/sisters or family members.” PM Modi also marked the occasion, tweeting: “Veer Savarkar epitomises courage, patriotism and unflinching commitment to a strong India.”


Your fix of pretty photos includes: these stunning photos of the ice in Lake Baikal in Siberia and the breathtaking winners of the annual BigPicture: Natural World Photography Competition (laptop/desktop viewing recommended).


Behold the cheese rolling champions: Every year, hordes of deranged people partake in an ancient and beloved British tradition which involves chasing a round of Double Gloucester cheese down a hill. Yes, you read that right. Now you’re free to appreciate inspiring footage of this year’s event—set to Chariots of Fire-style music. (National Post)

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Unexpected, thought-provoking and always worth your time

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The ‘Curse of Beauty’ Edition

Beauty is a lose-lose proposition for women. We punish ourselves in order to be seen as beautiful, and then are punished in turn for being beautiful.

Dark skin begone!

This may as well be a story about India. The obsession with light skin, multiple ‘whitening’ products and treatments of dubious value, including the popular glutathione pills and drips. This deep dive into the Philippines’ skin bleaching industry holds just as true of our experience at home. And that makes it a fascinating read.

Read: Skin Bleaching Is Poisoning Women—But Business Is Booming | Refinery29

Sex, Love etc 2

When you’re too pretty to trust

Right, so once we’re done spending all our money on becoming ‘fair’ so we can be deemed pretty… guess what? Both men and women will now find us less trustworthy at the office—especially if we’re in a corporate workplace.

Read: ‘Femme Fatale effect: Attractive businesswomen perceived as less trustworthy | CBS News

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