Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Number of the day: 50/50

That’s how closely Americans are divided over investigating their president. The latest polls indicate a 20-point swing in favour of impeachment, with 47% supporting an inquiry while 47% oppose it. Also telling: the number of Republicans (88%) who ‘strongly approve’ of Donald Trump has also jumped up over the past week. OTOH, 90% of Democrats want him removed from office. A nation divided against itself...

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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Bapuji’s 150th birth anniversary

There’s been a lot of essays and reporting to mark the landmark birthday of the father of our nation. Here are the best—and least predictable—of the lot:

The facts of his life: Mint has put together a highly engaging and enjoyable list of surprising details of Gandhi’s life. Our favourite bits are on his life as a broke student in London.

My name is Gandhi: Indian Express looks at the varying and sometimes ambivalent relationship his descendants have with their very famous relative. Hindustan Times talks to five of the many Tamilians who were named after Gandhi (yes, this is a thing)—a cricketer, a cook, a retired IAS officer, a political activist and a real estate agent—to find out how their name has shaped their lives.

Gandhi and his haters: Historian Ram Guha’s illuminating column in The Telegraph reveals the RSS’ bitter loathing for the father of the nation. Also relevant: Gandhi’s letters to Hitler which reveal how he dealt with those who most disagreed with him.

Gandhi and his admirers: The BJP is going all out to claim him as an icon of its ideology. The Telegraph reported earlier on the BJP’s plan to establish itself as the “true inheritor of Gandhi-ji’s principles.” Times of India reveals that one part of that plan is a four-month Gandhi Sankalp Yatra—to spread, in Amit Shah’s words, “Gandhi's message of cleanliness, non-violence, swadeshi, swaraj and saadgi. A related read: You may be surprised at the BJP laying claim to Gandhi’s legacy, but Kancha Iliah Shepherd in The Week argues there’s a clear link between his ‘vegetarian nationalism’ and Hindutva. Related clip: this Gandhi doppelganger at the Howdy Modi rally in Houston.

Also lovin’ Gandhi: Imran Khan.

The theory of ahimsa: Quartz explains why non-violence is no more difficult for humans than violence.

Need something a little lighter? Here’s a more upbeat selection: 

  • Sardar Patel may have got himself a big-ass statue, but fear not, Bapuji is being commemorated with a massive charkha—made of recycled plastic, no less.

  • A lovely rendition of Gandhi’s favourite bhajan, ‘Vaishnava Jan To’, recorded last year by artists from 124 nations.

  • Our favourite is a book of posters (and the image above) which was born of a collaboration between Irish haikuist Gabriel Rosenstock and Srinagar-based artist Masood Hussain. The Wire spoke to Hussain about what Gandhi means to him—especially at this moment in Kashmir’s history. While Wire’s story has some of the posters, Modern Literature offers a better photo gallery. Also: if you’re travelling to the US, you can order your favourite one up over at Etsy.
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enjoying your entirely unmysterious orgasms

Your impeachment inquiry update is here: There’s not a lot to share except, oh, the latest revelations implicate both the US Secretary of State—Mike Pompeo was listening in on that infamous call—and the US Attorney General. Pass the popcorn. (The Guardian; and if you’re thinking ‘impeachment?’, here’s our explainer)

Subodh Gupta follows MJ Akbar’s footsteps: Yup, the famed artist has also filed a defamation suit—except it is aimed at the Instagram account Scene and Herd which posted anonymous allegations of sexual harassment back in December. More worryingly, the High Court judge—appropriately named Justice Endlaw—has also asked Facebook (which owns Insta) to reveal the identity of the owner of the handle in ‘sealed cover’. A related read: The Cut looks at what happened to the women who came forward to reveal their #MeToo experiences. Spoiler alert: there’s no happy ending to these powerful stories. (News 18)

Government fesses up on Kashmir detentions: Yes, it has arrested 144 minors, and yes, they include children as young as 9 and 11. But, hey, all of these arrests are totally legal ‘preventive detentions’ and 142 of them have already been released. To suggest otherwise is "fictional imagination" and "sensationalism" meant to "malign the police!” That’s what the state police told a committee appointed by the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the Home Minister explained that the government’s decision to suspend Article 370 is a fab idea because our jawans can now enjoy Kashmir’s “scenic views”—now free of pesky Kashmiri kids, we presume. 

Speaking of the Supreme Court: It has decided to give the government another four weeks to file an affidavit in response to a petition challenging the bifurcation of J&K—by which time the state will already have been split up. Point to note: The government has offered precisely zero affidavits responding to any kind of petition on Kashmir. A related and relevant read: The Quint explains how the Court is making a decision on each Kashmir-related case by not making a decision.

OMG, red meat acquitted of all sins: A team of 14 experts from seven countries have released a new report that says: “Based on the research, we cannot say with any certainty that eating red or processed meat causes cancer, diabetes or heart disease." They recommend folks should continue to eat red or processed meat 3-4 times a week given the weak evidence of any kind of link. The study in turn has sparked fireworks among other experts—including the American Cancer Society and American Heart Association—who “have savaged the findings and the journal that published them.” Vox offers a detailed analysis of the study’s methodology which is both rigorous and controversial.

Remember that ‘Hustlers’-style scandal in MP? Well, now it has turned into a murky political mess—with rumours of BJP politicians caught in the act on some of the videos. The Wire claims this is a clever political play by CM Kamal Nath to protect himself from the government’s IT raids—which recently have focused on his nephew—and its plans to reopen 1984 Sikh genocide cases. The Quint offers intriguing innuendoes and details but no real theory. 

Legal relief for the ‘non citizens’ of Assam: Law schools across India have launched a joint legal aid clinic—Parichay—which will help all those excluded from the updated National Register Citizens. Parichay will be staffed with student volunteers and be housed in Guwahati—where they will work closely with lawyers on these cases. Our Ambassador Vasundhara Kaul says they are still looking to add volunteers. So please spread the word and/or apply over at the Parichay website. (The Hindu)

The key to the mystery of the female orgasm: may lie with… rabbits! Male evolutionary scientists have long wondered why, oh why do women possess the capacity for a ‘big finish’ (or many) if it serves “no obvious purpose besides being pleasurable.” Well, one woman scientist now says it may be an “evolutionary hangover”—a theory derived from the fact that rabbits appear to produce more eggs when they orgasm. We say: because women would have wisely stopped having sex a very long time ago without it. Duh!  (The Guardian)

Who will save the grasslands? There are 11 types of grasslands in India and they account for 25% of our land. They are home to a variety of wildlife—including the critically endangered Great Indian Bustard—and produce 50% of the fodder consumed by our livestock. But are they now endangered due to a blind environmental focus on forests? (The Wire)

Will algae save our planet? Also challenging the focus on trees is the green icky stuff we all ignore: “Algae, when used in conjunction with AI-powered bioreactors, is up to 400 times more efficient than a tree at removing CO2 from the atmosphere.” (Quartz)

Want to visit the home of the Komodo dragons? The Indonesian government initially decided to ban all tourists from Komodo Island to protect the animals and their habitat. Now it wants to charge a $1000 ‘membership fee’ from each visitor—up from $10 per visit. Moral of this story: only poor people pose a threat to Komodo dragons. (BBC)

An ‘only in Silicon Valley’ app: uses facial recognition to identify venture capitalists who may be wandering around its streets: “Part of it is like if you see somebody walking down the street in Allbirds and a puffy vest, you might be like who is this?” More amusingly, the creators of AngelFace ‘pivoted’ to this innovative application of the technology when investors passed on their original idea: Using facial recognition to ID shoplifters. Not much of a leap there then. (The Verge)

Your daily quota of sunshine items: includes the following:

  • A catering van at the airport that ran amok and turned into a fab Brexit analogy.

  • The very silly news that Manchester has become the first city in the UK to create ‘slow lanes’ for pedestrians looking at their phones.

  • Sanjay Kapoor has been awarded the Most Inspiring Bollywood Actor award at the House of Commons. Sanjay… huh?

  • This is an 18th-century dildo with plunger found in a convent in Paris, having been hidden for almost 100 years in the seat of a Louis XV armchair. Need we say more?

  • Rocky is not a patch on this cat… or its boxing opponent. 

  • We enjoyed reading the responses to this tweet which asked: “One movie that you wish was a book. A book you would read and love. Which movie would that be?” 

  • This lovely photo gallery of 11 winners of the Cewe Photo Award for amateur photographers.

  • There is a leopard hidden in this photo. No, we couldn’t find it so we scrolled down to the comments to cheat. Want to try your luck? May the force be with you! 

  • Btw, it’s Fat Bear Week.

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Everything we don't know about human desire

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Kink is not an aberration

All cultures have strict ideas about what is and is not ‘normal’ sex. And anything that falls outside that spectrum is dubbed as ‘kink’.  But as BDSM goes mainstream (Rihanna loves it), we’re moving toward a very different—and nuanced—understanding of human sexuality. In other words, maybe we’re all just a little bit kinky, but in different ways… and that’s okay. 

Read: The Science of Kink | Elemental

Sex, Love etc 2

You spin me right round…

Did you know there’s an app that advertises itself so: “The Spinner is a service that enables you to subconsciously influence a specific person, by controlling the content on the websites he or she usually visits.” And it has an ‘Initiate Sex’ package for husbands. Think of it as the Cambridge Analytica for couples.

Read: Facebook is helping husbands ‘brainwash’ their wives with targeted ads | The Daily Dot

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