Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Number of the day: ???

Indian seismologists announced: “The epicentre of the earthquake was Pakistan-India border, Jammu and Kashmir region. The magnitude of the quake was 6.3 on the Richter scale. Even we felt the tremors here in the office. Tremors were felt across Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Jammu and Kashmir." Pakistani seismologists insist the magnitude was 5.8 and the epicentre was located in Punjab. The US and European meteorology departments offered other variations—Mint has all of them. Yes, it’s true. We can’t even agree on the size or location of an earthquake any more.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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Donald Trump and the big fat ‘I’ word

Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the lower house of Congress will institute a formal impeachment inquiry against the president. This is a pretty big deal at the best of times—and even more so with the 2020 elections looming in the horizon.

First, the ‘I’ word explained: The US Constitution allows Congress to remove a sitting president on charges of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Here’s how the process works:

  • The House Judiciary Committee first conducts an investigation into the evidence, and then recommends that the president be impeached (or not). The full House then votes on a resolution calling for his impeachment. 

  • If the resolution passes the House, the president is impeached—which is the equivalent of being indicted or formally charged.

  • Then the Senate—i.e. upper house of Congress—holds a trial overseen by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. A team of House members act as the prosecution, the president’s lawyers as his defense, and the Senate plays the jury. The jury’s verdict then determines the president’s fate.

Whew! So, what’s this inquiry about? A single phone call between Donald Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. But to understand why it matters, we first have to tell you about Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Do you really need to? Yes, but we promise it will be painless. Back in 2016—when Biden was Vice President under Obama—his son Hunter was on the board of a Ukrainian company called Burisma. Burisma was being investigated by Ukraine’s top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin—a notoriously corrupt man. The investigation was eventually shelved and Shokin was kicked out—after Washington (including Joe Biden and many others) pushed for it. They basically tied US aid to his ouster. 

Ok, can we get to the call? Yup. In July, Trump got on a call with newly elected prez Zelensky. That call became an issue when a whistleblower who was present filed a complaint. The House Judiciary Committee demanded a report of the complaint. The intelligence chief refused to turn it over. US media then reported damning details of the complaint—which in turn has led to the impeachment inquiry.

What is in that complaint? We don’t have any official confirmation, but here’s what news reports claim. One, Trump pressed Zelensky eight times to investigate Joe Biden’s son. Two, he made some kind of “promise” to Zelensky in return—likely to do with $400 million in US aid. Three, Trump personally ordered his staff to freeze that aid just days before he made that call. 

And that adds up to…? A US president using his power to bully a foreign leader into investigating his primary political rival. As of now, Biden is the leading contender for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 presidential election. If proven, it is a serious violation of the Constitution and breach of national security.

What does Trump say? He is brazening it out. On Sunday, he acknowledged that he had indeed brought up Biden’s son in his call to Zelensky, saying: “The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, with largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place and largely the fact that we don’t want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating [sic] to the corruption already in the Ukraine.” However, Trump insists he did not promise Zelensky anything in return or threaten to withhold US aid—but also said it wouldn’t be wrong to do that either. 

What happens next? There is no timeline or process set up for the impeachment inquiry as yet. Trump is threatening to release an unredacted transcript of the call to show he is in the clear. The acting National Intelligence chief is due to testify before the House under oath—who knows what that reveals. And Dem leaders claim that the whistleblower is ready to testify as well. 

The bottomline: It’s all about the 2020 presidential elections. Trump seems to be daring the Democrats to impeach him. A possible reason: an impeachment proceeding in an election year keeps the spotlight firmly on Trump. And it could turn him into a martyr among Republicans if the Dems are seen as conducting a witch hunt. Also: a number of Democratic members of Congress won elections in Trump territory—and impeaching him could hurt their reelection chances. Then again, an impeached president is not a good look for a party looking to retain the White House.

Learn more: Vox offers the most detailed overview and background on the infamous phone call. Watch Nancy Pelosi announce the impeachment inquiry—i.e. declare war. New York Times has the US aid angle and a thought-provoking op-ed on why Trump may be looking to be impeached. Reuters has more on the impeachment process. Forbes put together a handy timeline which links to all the major revelations and reporting on the scandal.

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gaining a whole new respect for Demi Moore

Boris Johnson’s ever-longer list of woes: now includes being dissed by the Supreme Court. Here’s why it matters:

  • As you may recall, the PM suspended Parliament last month—an act called prorogation in Britain. The not-so-clever plan: to make sure that the MPs could not prevent BoJo from dragging Britain out of the EU—with or without a deal.

  • Folks filed a lawsuit in response and yesterday the highest court stated the obvious: “The decision to advise Her Majesty to prorogue parliament was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of parliament to carry out its constitutional functions without reasonable justification.” 

  • What does this mean? For one, Parliament is back in session—though with not much to do as they already passed a law blocking a no-deal Brexit. It requires Johnson to ask the EU for an extension if there is no deal by Oct. 19. 

  • Johnson, however, insists that he still plans to force a no-deal Brexit—the law and the courts be damned. And he isn’t ruling out suspending Parliament… again! 

Reuters has more details. For background: Broadsheet explained the decision to suspend Parliament which includes an in-depth explainer on Brexit as well.

IT department targets Election Commissioner’s family: Ashok Lavasa’s wife, sister and son have been served notices by the tax department. Interesting fact: During the Lok Sabha elections, Lavasa opposed five separate 'clean chits' given by the Election Commission to PM Modi and Amit Shah on charges of violating the Model Code of Conduct. He was the only EC to do so. (Indian Express)

Goodbye, Mr Neumann: The WeWork CEO has stepped down after a lengthy board meeting. WeWork’s failed IPO attempt escalated concerns about his leadership and the company’s key investor, Softbank, and several board members were keen to kick him out. However, there is no plan to look for his replacement. The New York Times looks at the business angle. Vanity Fair offers a colourful and in-depth look at the fall of the ‘magic millennial real estate kingdom’ and its resident emperor. Need a refresher on the WeWork IPO disaster? Here’s Broadsheet’s explainer.

A not-so-festive season for Amazon and Flipkart: The big bonanza sales are facing a massive backlash from sellers and regulators. They are opposed to the very same super-deep discounts that we have come to love. They argue that the bargain prices are offered at the sellers expense—and turn customers into year-long deal-chasers who want everything on the cheap. We’d sympathise except we really, really need that Samsung fridge. (Quartz)

A powerful Demi Moore interview: Her recently published memoir offers an unvarnished look at her life—including details of her extremely difficult childhood with a suicidal mom who ‘pimped’ her out to older men. This edited 9-minute ABC News interview reveals a Demi we never knew—and it is definitely worth your time.

Xiaomi offers a ‘surround screen’ experience: We’re not joking. The company’s new Mix Alpha takes that ‘waterfall screen’ thing to a whole new level. The Verge has photos, gifs and specs. 

Amazon gets its own AirPods: The company’s version of wireless earbuds is called Puget and it doubles as a Fitbit. And it’s going to be way cheaper than the Apple variety at $100. We can all look like ass****s now. (CNBC)

The healing properties of celery juice: are a big fat lie—and it is being peddled by a self-professed "Medical Medium" with 2 million Insta followers and another 3.4 million on Facebook. And his website lists endorsements from the likes of Novak Djokovic, Robert De Niro and Pharell Williams. Also: he’s written for Goop. Of course he has. (BBC)


A  very cool sustainability event in Bangalore: Be sure to check out the day-long ‘Sustainability Switch’ event at Sly Granny in Indira Nagar. It is being organised by Broadsheet subscriber Elvina Halli and includes a pop up bazaar featuring awesome indie organic brands. And at an evening panel, a lineup of excellent speakers will discuss the inventive ways their companies are weaving in sustainability into architecture, design and lifestyle. It all happens tomorrow, Thursday, September 26. Event details are here.


Your daily quota of sunshine items: include the following:

  • This teenager from Uttarakhand who is one among sixteen kids—along with Greta Thunberg—who have filed a legal complaint with the United Nations. The allegation: their governments’ failure to fight climate change is a violation of their rights as children.

  • This new study that proves that cats are as attached to their owners as dogs and children.

  • This lovely and very noisy conversation between a dog and a two-year old with epilepsy who hasn’t yet learned to speak. 

  • The hilarious TOI headline which, umm, captures the bromance between Trump and Modi.

  • Wanna know why your damn shoelaces keep untying themselves? Here you go.

  • For grammar nerds: a funny and indisputable argument in favour of the oxford comma.

  • The great news that Japanese curry is coming soon to Delhi. Yup, the Japanese do curry.

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Everything we don't know about human desire

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There’s no ifs or butts about it

Take a stroll through Butt Con, a convention celebrating the glories of our backside in every way possible—including a ten-foot pink balloon in “the shape of a voluptuous rump.”  This essay is both amusing and thoughtful as it considers the human butt—and the shame, taboos and fetishes associated with it.

Read: Consider the Butt | The Paris Review

Sex, Love etc 2

A new word to capture dating hell

As though ‘orbiting’, ‘benching’ and ‘breadcrumbing’ weren’t sufficient to convey the many mind-f***s of dating, we now have a new entrant: ‘soft ghosting’. Is it like ghosting but nicer? Or just more passive aggressive and crazy-making? Click through to find out.

Read: Oh Crap, Now We Have To Worry About Being ‘Soft Ghosted’ | HuffPost

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