Thursday, June 13, 2018

Number of the day: 10%

Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali empire is in trouble. Its sales plunged by 10% to Rs 8100 crores last year—and provisional reports indicate just Rs 4700 crores in sales as of December, 2018. A Reuters investigation reveals a company flailing due to poor quality products, inconsistent leadership and over-expansion.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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The great Hong Kong uprising

Hundreds of thousands of protesters flooded the streets this week in an extraordinary display of anti-China sentiment, but its impact remains uncertain.


A brief history of Hong Kong: It was a British colony for 150 years with great parts of it leased to Britain by China for 99 years. In 1997, Hong Kong was returned to China under the principle of ‘one country, two systems’. The island would retain its sovereignty on most domestic matters while ceding control to Beijing in foreign and defence affairs—at least until 2047, as per the agreement. As a result, the island enjoys many democratic freedoms such as free speech except one—the right to elect its own leader. The chief executive of Hong Kong is currently picked by a 1,200-member election committee which is heavily dominated by pro-Beijing legislators.


Ok, tell me about the protests: Nearly a million Hong Kongers—around one-seventh of the island’s population—came out to protest an extradition bill. They were meticulously organised as they blocked key roads and government buildings in order to block a vote. But yesterday, the demonstrations turned violent with the police firing rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper spray at the crowds. Even though the protesters were well-equipped with first-aid kits, face masks and plastic wrap, the show of force appears to have worked. The crowds have finally dispersed today.


What’s this extradition bill? It would allow those accused of serious crimes such as murder and rape to be sent to China, Taiwan and Macau to face trial. BBC reports, “Hong Kong officials have said Hong Kong courts will have the final say whether to grant such extradition requests, and suspects accused of political and religious crimes will not be extradited.”


So what’s the big deal? While the bill may seem innocuous, many Hong Kongers are convinced it will be used to extradite anyone who angers Beijing, be it journalists, activists, students or lawyers. The right to protest is deeply held in Hong Kong culture—more so as it is the only way to express dissent in the absence of elections. And its people have used their right to assemble to assert their independence. For example: It is the only part of China where the Tiananmen Square anniversary is publicly observed each year.


The bigger fear: is that the bill is, as the New York Times puts it, “the endgame of a long battle to disable dissent and political opposition” in Hong Kong. It will mark total acquiescence to Chinese control—which has tightened over the years, especially under Premier Xi Jinping. Foreign journalists have been banned from the island, a bookseller selling anti-China books was kidnapped etc. But more importantly, Beijing now has near-total power over the ruling establishment—ensuring it will govern as per its wishes. The decision to push through the extradition bill being the latest example.


What happens next? No one expects the protesters will be able to block the bill—though some protests in the past have been successful. But with Xi in power and local authorities increasingly reluctant to take on Beijing, they are unlikely to succeed this time around.


The bottomline: Only 15% of the people in Hong Kong identify as "Chinese." For 18-29 year olds, that number is a paltry 3%. And yet the island’s assimilation into the mainland seems all but inevitable—and it may happen a lot sooner than 2047. As one protester told CNN, “We can’t change the final ending. It will still be the same.” But she came out anyway—to have her say while she can.

Learn more: BBC offers the most context and history in its explainer. The Guardian explains why the right to protest is precious to Hong Kongers. South China Morning Post explains why these youth-driven protests are smarter and far more well-organised than the Occupy Wall Street movement. Quartz reports on leading porn sites which have joined the anti-extradition fight.

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waiting for someone to invent the Impossible Butter Chicken

A deepfake protest against fake news: Recently, Facebook decided not to pull down an obviously fake video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. FB reps said their policy was not to censor but to warn their users that something isn’t true. So two artists and an advertising company decided to test FB’s tolerance for falsehood by posting this awesome deepfake video of Mark Zuckerberg declaring, “Imagine this for a second: One man, with total control of billions of people's stolen data, all their secrets, their lives, their futures." The video has not been pulled by Facebook or Insta as yet. Protests aside, we much prefer the same company’s ‘Imagine’ video of world leaders singing John Lennon’s song. Blatant lies have never been this feel-good.


WTF is going on in UP? A journalist who was reporting on the derailment of a goods train was “punched, slapped and abused by a group of policemen”. He was dragged to the police station where, he said, “[I] was locked up, stripped and they urinated in my mouth." Thankfully, there is footage of the initial assault and the police officers have been suspended. An FIR has also been filed. This comes on the heels of a series of unlawful arrests of journalists and others who shared social media posts mocking CM Yogi Adityanath. (Indian Express)


Why do women masturbate? Not for sexual pleasure for the most part, according to a new survey. They mostly do it to relax (44 per cent)  or for stress-relief (22.6 per cent). Umm, what’s the difference? (Daily Mail)


Dear Yuvie, we’re sorry: that you have Yograj Singh for your father. We know father and son made up recently, but Yograj’s first-person account of Yuvie’s childhood confirms why his son was entirely right to despise him for a very long time. (MSN)


Say goodbye to e-cigarettes: The nation’s top drug advisory board has approved a proposal to regulate e-cigarettes and vapes as “drugs” and prohibit their sale in the country. This is likely the first step toward making them illegal. Actual cigarettes with real tobacco remain legal, however. (Indian Express)


Say goodbye to dawdling at the Taj: If you’re not done checking out the greatest monument to true love in three hours, be prepared to pay a fine. (Times of India)


Say goodbye to real meat? Finally, there is some good news regarding the future of animals. A new report predicts, “Most of the meat people eat in 2040 will not come from slaughtered animals… 60% will be either grown in vats or replaced by plant-based products that look and taste like meat.” The reason: environmental concerns and animal welfare concerns. All hail the Impossible Burger! (The Guardian)


Mamata-di ko gussa kyun aata hai? These days, the Bengal CM has become a sexist punchline perfectly summed up by a Whatsapp forward: “Narendra Modi is proof of what happens when men don’t marry: they do great things and lead countries. Mamata Banerjee is proof of what happens when women don’t marry: they are irritated and irritate everybody else.” But none of this is new, and some of it is well-earned.  This well-reported piece is perhaps the most balanced take we’ve read on a political figure who many love to hate. (Huffington Post)


When travel photos are way more cool than selfies: or scenic landscapes. We love the winners of the National Geographic’s Travel Photo contest precisely because they defy the conventional definition of a holiday snap. Yes, even airport runways at San Francisco International can look lovely. (National Geographic)


More unique photos if you need them: Photographer Gregg Segal took photos of kids around the world surrounded by foods they most often consume. And they tell a story of globalisation. (Buzzfeed)


This is what Uber’s new air taxi: looks like. (CNN)


This is the world’s shortest international bridge: And it connects Spain and Portugal. For some reason, it makes us laugh. (Spectator Index)

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Unexpected, thought-provoking and always worth your time

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The ‘Travel Time’ Edition

We spend all our time waiting for our holiday. And when it’s all done and dusted, we need a vacation to recover from our vacation. Here are two very different takes on the rigours of travel. One may add to your stress level, the other may help reduce it.

Alway the last to board

There are two kinds of people. The ones who park themselves at the airport hours in advance of a flight. Others who come hurtling through the plane door at the very last minute. The camp you fall into reveals a lot about your personality. Of course, one variety makes everything more stressful for the other.

Read: There are Two Types of Airport People | The Atlantic

Sex, Love etc 2

The magic number of a perfect holiday

Indians are notoriously bad at taking time off. Most of us run off on long weekends, or maybe grab a week here or there. And then we wonder why that holiday didn’t do us any good. Now there’s a scientific study that tells us just what we are doing wrong.

Read: This Is the Perfect Length of Time to Go on Vacation, According to Science | Medium

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