Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Photos of the day

Residents of Delhi marked the end of Chhath Puja by taking a dip in the Yamuna—which was frothing with toxic foam! Pertinent data point: 1.5 billion litres of untreated sewage and 500 litres of industrial waste are dumped into the river each day. Yes, selfies were taken. See the WTF photo gallery here.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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The ongoing #DelhiAirEmergency saga

The skies finally cleared, the Supremes lost their temper, anti-pollution dhanda soared and Delhi was trolled—as was a Bollywood actor. Your #DelhiAirEmergency update is here.

First, the good news: The odd-even traffic rules combined with high wind speeds brought down pollution levels by 62% percent within eight hours. And experts think Delhi’s luck will hold through the week. 

The Supreme Court meltdown: A two-member bench delivered a verbal spanking to both the Union and four state governments—and issued a variety of orders

  • The money quote that summed up their mood: “This is worse than Emergency. That Emergency [of 1975] was better than this emergency.” Also: “Can we survive in this atmosphere? This is not the way we can survive. No one is safe even inside homes; it is atrocious.”

  • Netas of all stripes came under fire: “They are only interested in electioneering. They have no responsibility towards their own people… Everybody is interested in gimmicks and elections.”

  • The judges were exceptionally cranky about the Delhi government’s odd-even scheme and ordered it to produce evidence that it reduces air pollution. "People have to travel. You are not stopping travel. What do you achieve by stopping cars?"

  • They also ordered an immediate end to stubble burning, and ordered the chief secretaries of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana to explain why they have failed to crack down on the same.

  • There was little sympathy for the farmers: “For the sake of your livelihood, you can’t kill others. We have no sympathy for farmers as they are doing it with complete knowledge. They are violating the fundamental right to life under Article 21."

  • The Court put a halt on all construction and demolition work in Delhi NCR and announced a fine of Rs 1 lakh for any violation. The fine for burning garbage: Rs 5000.

  • Diesel vehicles are also banned from entering the capital. Also banned: the use of generators except for emergency services.

An extended Diwali for anti-pollution biz: Companies of all kinds rushed to cash in on the pollution crisis. 

  • Sales of pollution masks and air purifiers spiked on average by 70% between October 31 and November 3. Air purifier sales tripled on Amazon India.

  • Snapdeal set up a special “pollution store” for anti-pollution products. 

  • But for the stylishly clean air-deprived, there are designer masks—in vivid butterfly, paisley, and star prints—by Manish Arora.

  • Also jumping on the anti-pollution bandwagon: Dabur India which is touting its chyawanprash as an anti-pollution immunity booster.

  • Award for the truly shameless goes to Uber. It’s #LeaveYourCarBehind ad campaign urges Delhi residents to hop in its cabs for the sake of the environment—using the code DELCLEANAIR. Irony alert: The rise of taxi services is one of the key causes of pollution.

The BJP hall of shame: Leaders of the ruling party decided that a pollution emergency is the perfect time to display one’s crass ignorance—and they did so with great gusto.

  • Cabinet minister Harsh Vardhan—a qualified doctor, no less—insisted that attributing “any death to a cause like pollution may be too much.” Harsh Vardhan had previously called pollution a “silent killer”—but that’s before he became the Health Minister. He also recommended eating carrots which provoked this reaction.

  • Union Minister of Environment, Prakash Javadekar hunted for ragas

  • Delhi BJP leader Vijay Goel deliberately broke the odd-even rule in an act of anti-pollution satyagraha. The reason: he wants everyone to know that cars contribute only 3% of Delhi’s pollution. 

  • UP minister Sunil Bharala defended crop stubble burning, and urged, "Govts should hold 'Yagya' to please Lord Indra, as done traditionally. He will set things right," ANI quotes him as saying.

India responded to Delhi’s pain: by trolling it unmercifully. Niti Ayogya CEO Amitabh Kant gloated about hanging in pollution-free Kerala—cuing others to follow suit with photos of clear, blue skies. The result: the trending hashtag #SorryDelhi. Also trolled: poor Priyanka Chopra for posting an Insta photo in a mask.

Chennai panicked: because some weather blogger claimed that the polluted air from Delhi will move down south—forcing  the India Meteorological Department (IMD) to issue a hasty clarification.

Delhi is taking to the streets: A mass protest dubbed 'We Want Clean Air, Not Petty Politics #BullshitNoMore' is in the works. It starts at 7 pm on Tuesday at India Gate. You can check it out here


Want to read more? Here’s a selection of the reporting out there:

  • Mint looks at whether the odd-even scheme will work.

  • Quartz reports on the upmarket masks favoured by the wealthy Dilliwalas. 

  • This thought-provoking read that explains why USAID and Monsanto are the real culprits behind the current emergency.

  • Scroll takes aim at the decision to hold the T20 match against Bangladesh.

  • Times of India teaches you how to wear a mask correctly.

  • Hindustan Times explains why the Chinese pollution emergency response is effective—while ours is not.

  • The Print looks at whether pollution will be a big issue in the upcoming Delhi election.
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wondering if you can wear brown shoes with a black gas mask

India says nahin to RCEP: We were the only country at a recent Bangkok summit that opted not to join a newly formed trade deal called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Backed by China, the 15-member trading bloc includes ten ASEAN nations plus Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. The reasons for opting out include:

  • The free trade deal would allow the Chinese to flood the Indian market with cheap goods. India already has a trade deficit of over $50 billion with China. And a full-blown Chinese invasion would wipe out many small-scale businesses.

  • Agricultural products from New Zealand and Australia—think skimmed milk powder—would endanger small dairy farmers, and at a time when rural India is already flailing.

  • The trade deal is uniformly opposed by pretty much everyone: the RSS, Congress, Communist parties etc. 

  • The final agreement did not meet India’s demand for the free movement of skilled professionals between member countries. 

  • Point to note: RCEP has left the door open for India, but it is unlikely to risk walking through it—not unless the economy dramatically strengthens in the coming years.

Your Maha drama update is here: NCP chief Sharad Pawar met Sonia Gandhi, and now there are rumours. Specifically, an anonymous source who claims that the NCP is willing to form the Maharashtra government in alliance with the Shiv Sena—with Congress offering outside support. CM Devendra Fadnavis met Amit Shah, and the message remains the same: no CM gaddi for the Sena. Related read: The Print weighs in on Sonia Gandhi’s ‘dharam sankat’: supporting one saffron party to oust another.

McDonald’s CEO is out of a job: McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook was ousted by its board after it discovered his consensual sexual relationship with an employee. The company said Easterbrook had "violated company policy" and shown "poor judgement." Back in 2018, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich also resigned for similar reasons. (Reuters

Indian space program heads downwards: After reaching up to the moon, ISRO is heading to the deep blue sea. The space agency has completed a design for India's first submersible that can carry a three-member crew to a depth of 6,000 metres. The only other nations to achieve this milestone: China, US, Japan, Russia and France. Bonus read: 10 iconic ISRO photos. Our fave: the rocket nose cone carried on a cycle. (Business Insider

Running can save your life: New research finds that people who run—even a little bit—have a 27% lower risk of early death. It is also associated with a 30% and 23% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer, respectively. Alas, for marathon runners and other over-achievers, higher “doses” of running offer no benefit. (CNN)

India poised to win the electric vehicle wars: By 2023, the prices of EVs will become as affordable as petrol and diesel vehicles—at least seven years before the same happens in the US!  But unlike the US, the Indian EV revolution won’t be driven by Tesla cars but lightweight and more affordable e-scooters and e-rickshaws. They will account for over 80% of such passenger vehicles sold by 2030. (Quartz)

China is the king of fake meat: Forget the Impossible Burger. The Chinese aced the impossible shark’s fin, abalone and even chicken wings long before some American company discovered soya. (CNN)

In scarier China news: This is what enforcement of pedestrian traffic rules looks like in the country.

18 shades of black: That’s the title of a campaign which features 18 Indian women wearing gorgeous black saris. The aim: to bring attention to the “subtle gender discrimination” they face. Yes, there are photos. (BBC News)

Houston, we have a cookie! A test oven designed to work in zero gravity and cookie dough is headed to the International Space Station. If it works, it will mark the first time astronauts can make fresh food in space. (CNN)

Facebook, the company: will now be FACEBOOK—to differentiate it from Facebook, the platform. Yes, Mark Zuckerberg is officially shouting at you. (CNBC)

Your daily quota of sunshine items: includes the following:

  • This bizarre and compelling combination of a spinning top and a yo-yo. 

  • This delightful clip of Bill Gates trying to explain the internet to a very sceptical David Letterman 24 years ago. Irony alert: Letterman now has a show on Netflix. 

  • Can a charging elephant ever be funny? Yes.

  • The world’s first Norwegian salmon ATM. Yes, you read that right.

  • Panda babies. Need we say more? Ok, these insanely adorable twins were recently born in the Berlin Zoo. 

  • Best generational take on the ultimate generational diss: Ok, boomer.

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Unexpected, thought-provoking and always worth your time

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The ‘Beauteous Body Hair’ Edition

Body hair has long been fertile terrain for culture battles, moral policing, fashion nazis, even artists. Here are two pieces on a lively subject that is always of interest to us women.

Goodbye bikini wax, hello bush care! 

For decades now, our nether regions have been subjected to tortures typically reserved for victims of the Spanish Inquisition. But now our pubic hair—once ruthlessly eliminated—is back in favour again thanks to brands who are “Grow Choice”! (Not interested in any such right for men: This bizarre Twitter account hosting a debate on whether Indian men ought to shave their chest hair.)

Read: The great rebranding of body hair | Fast Company

Sex, Love etc 2

What’s that growing on your face?

Millennial men made facial hair and man buns cool again—committing not one but two unforgivable sins! But in the spirit of these times, we offer you an art history stroll through the hairiest of paintings and sculptures. Our favourite: the 17th century ‘bearded lady’ from Bavaria.

Read: Art History’s Most Outrageous Beards and Mustaches | Artsy

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