Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Number of the day: zero

A local magistrate’s investigation of 132 villages in Uttarakhand uncovered a startling fact. Of the 206 babies born in the past three months, the number of girls is… zero! The most likely reason: female foeticide. According to the most recent census conducted in 2011, there were only 943 females per 1,000 males in India.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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The 'Britain Trump' in 10 Downing Street

The United Kingdom has a new Prime Minister: Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. President Trump has already hailed him as “Britain Trump.”


What happened? Boris Johnson was selected as the leader of the ruling Tory party by 66% of the 160,000 members who chose him to replace Theresa May. This makes him the UK’s next PM.


And he’s like Trump? Yes and no. He does resemble Trump in the following ways:

  • He comes from a similarly privileged background, and was educated in Eton and later Oxford University.

  • And like Trump, his political career was fueled by his celebrity as both guest and host of a popular TV show, in his case ‘Have I Got News for You.’

  • He also has a very slippery relationship with facts, having infamously been kicked out of his first job as a trainee journo at The Times UK for inventing a quote. A recent New York Times op-ed described him so: “Mr. Johnson, whose laziness is proverbial and opportunism legendary, is a man well practiced in deceit, a pander willing to tickle the prejudices of his audience for easy gain.”

  • His personal life is no less, ahem, colourful. While no former porn stars are involved, Johnson has had multiple marriages, each of them destroyed by his multiple affairs. There’s also a ‘love child’ in the mix. Actually, Johnson’s private life is so absurdly chaotic that no one knows how many children he has—as reflected in this priceless interview.  

  • He is not exactly stable in his professional life either. His former boss at The Telegraph predicts that “his premiership will almost certainly reveal a contempt for rules, precedent, order and stability.”

  • And he has a track record for saying racists things. He hasn’t described Mexicans or anyone else ‘rapists’ a la Trump, but he did call black people “flag-waving piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles”—for which he has since apologised, sort of. 

  • Finally, there’s the hair—which is so famous that Marie Claire put together an entire feature devoted to it.


But he’s also not a ‘Britain Trump’: because he’s viewed as well-read and highly intelligent. And he appeals to his base not with bluster or rage but affable and relatable buffoonery. Most importantly: he comes armed with a political resume. Johnson started his career as an MP in 2011 and served as London’s mayor for two terms.


So what now? Well, nobody knows exactly what Johnson will do (including probably Johnson himself). In his victory speech, he promised to get Britain out of the EU by the October 31 deadline—deal or no deal. And in unexpected Modi style, he invented a new acronym as a rallying cry for his supporters. Noting that his campaign mantra ‘deliver, unite, defeat’ made for a DUD of an acronym, he added an ‘e’ for ‘energize’, declaring, "I say to all the doubters—'Dude, we're going to energize the country!" (see the clip here)


The bottomline: For all his bluster, Johnson knows that his position is no less insecure than that of May. There is still no consensus within Parliament over Brexit, and he is unlikely to move the needle. And any plan to crash Britain out of the EU without a deal will meet very fierce resistance. But as with Trump, there’s no predicting his future actions. All bets are off from here on out.


Learn more: Quartz has assembled a nifty resume for Johnson. If you prefer a summary, this amusing BBC video captures the highlights. The Mirror has a very handy list of all his gaffes and scandals. Everyone’s talking about this New York Times op-ed titled ‘Boris Johnson Is How Britain Ends‘. For a more sympathetic take, check out this profile in The Atlantic. Sydney Morning Herald does an excellent job of analysing why Johnson’s candidacy and the challenges he faces are nothing like that of Trump.

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while cursing the neverending bane of GST

The great Karnataka tamasha: came to its foregone conclusion. The ruling JDS-Congress alliance lost the trust vote in the Assembly, paving the way for a BJP government. But uneasy rests the head that wears the Karnataka crown, and for these reasons:

  • The BJP majority is wafer-thin and was won by wooing the 15 ‘rebel’ MLAs with promises of ministerial posts. Future CM Yeddyurappa’s cabinet will have to accommodate their ambitions plus those of the two Independent MLAs and also of its own party leaders. That’s one monster cabinet!

  • Then there’s the matter of whether the ‘rebel’ MLAs will be eligible to become ministers. Both Congress and JDS party bosses have petitioned the Speaker to disqualify them under the anti-defection law. If they are disqualified, then they will have to stand for election in order to become part of the cabinet. 

  • Also: Yeddyurappa who has proved to be a thorn in the national BJP leadership’s side in the past. His ascendance to CM promises the continuation of chaos.


As one Congress MLA said, “Operation failed but patient is alive.” Read Mint for the best overview, and Times of India for more on the ‘rebel’ MLA angle. For a refresher, read Broadsheet’s explainer on the Karnataka crisis. 


The US cleans up Kashmir mess: The State Department walked back Trump’s bombshell claim that PM Modi asked him to act as a mediator on Kashmir. And most observers are fairly convinced it was a lie. But this analysis explains why it is still a disaster for the Modi government. (The Wire)


Paying a hefty maintenance fee? Well, gear up to pay a whole lot more. Flat owners will now have to pay 18% in GST if their building maintenance charges are higher than Rs 7,500/month. Yup, really. (Financial Express)


In happier financial news: The deadline for filing your income tax return has been extended to August 31. (Quint)


Wildfires spread across… Siberia?! We hate being the bearer of bad climate change news, but sadly we don’t have much choice these days. This time, it’s these satellite images of huge “unprecedented” wildfires across Alaska, Siberia, and Greenland—all thanks to the searing heatwave that is sending temperatures soaring in the Arctic region. If it’s any comfort, however, schoolkids, resident welfare associations and gram panchayats are engaged in a massive tree replanting drive in Haryana. 


Farewell #MeToo panel: When MJ Akbar was forced to resign in the wake of sexual harassment allegations, the government constituted a panel to look into changes required to enhance prevention and punishment. It was packed to the gills with BJP stars: Rajnath Singh, Nirmala Sitharaman, Maneka Gandhi and Nitin Gadkari. However, an RTI filed by Quint found that the panel has quietly dissolved. And the government is refusing to reveal the minutes and the dates of any of its meetings, and the number of times it met. Bharat sarkar: setting transparency standards for us all! (Quint)


Indian hospitals are hazardous to your life: Multidrug-resistant microbes are one of the biggest threats to patients—especially newborns who can die of neonatal sepsis. Even worse news: these are now spreading outside medical facilities. As one pathologist puts it, “It’s scary how fast India is slipping back into the pre-antibiotic era, only because nothing smart is being done to stop smart bugs developing multidrug resistance.” (


Online content space ka raja: is Hotstar, course! Thanks to cricket, the streaming platform leads the pack with 300 million monthly active users. Dailyhunt is next with 190 million, followed by the Times-owned MX Player (176 million), and Tik Tok (129 million). Amazon Prime and Netflix are way down the list with 13 million and 11 million users respectively. (Mint)


Instagram is changing lives: The company’s plan to get rid of Likes is likely to be disastrous for many social media influencers who will struggle to land brand sponsors. We wonder who the brands will turn to instead? Hint: the company that really, really “want(s) your friends to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get.” Aww, caring is truly enriching! (Business of Fashion)


Instagram is changing wedding photoshoots: and we’re not sure it’s for the better. Not if it means spending a lakh to sit in a very large tub in fake rain—just to get the perfect pics for Insta. But hey, that doesn’t make this Kerala couple any less entertaining to watch. (BBC)


Yet another amaaaazing catch! But this time the sport is not cricket and the hero is not even a professional player. But it’s totally worth clicking right here.

Weirdest dog story we’ve read: is about this poor pomeranian in Kerala which was abandoned for having an “illicit relationship.” (The News Minute)

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Everything we don't know about human desire

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The burden of being unfu***able

Do men treat beautiful women differently than women who are not? Are people of the opposite gender more dismissive or rude to an unattractive woman than an unattractive man—irrespective of romantic interest? The answer from women is a resounding ‘yes’. 

Read: How Men Treat Women They Find Unf***able | Mel Magazine

Sex, Love etc 2

Is this ‘Mr Right’ or ‘Mr Right Now’?

If so, how do you know? When do we decide that our feelings amount to more than just infatuation or sexual attraction? And what helps us make that decision? According to this ‘informal survey’, there are three big patterns.

Read: How do we know when we’ve fallen in love? | Quartz

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