Monday, April 8, 2019
Message of the day

“Come ye, come all, to our Great Election Swayamvar!’ It’s that time of the year when meets Indian politics. Ladies, can’t choose between Bachelor #1 versus Bachelor #2? Secretly hoping to spend Election Day in bed instead? Broadsheet is holding its first event in Mumbai—with the generous support of our partner, the fabulously delicious Miss T—to help you cut through the loudspeaker noise and make the right choice! Come for an evening of political dating games, nibbles and wine... Date: April 13, 5:00-7:00 pm. Venue: Miss T, Colaba. Please be sure to RSVP. We can’t wait to meet you!

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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The tu-tu main-main between India and Pakistan

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s an F-16: Or maybe not. A Foreign Policy journal article sparked a new round of bickering over the India-Pakistan face-off over Balakot. Then the Pakistan Foreign Minister made a shit-stirring announcement to take it to the next level.


The Foreign Policy article: quoted “two senior U.S. defence officials with direct knowledge of the situation” who claimed that US authorities had recently counted Islamabad’s F-16s and found none of them were missing. This, of course, directly refutes India’s claim that it brought down an F-16 during the Pakistani incursion into Kashmir. And it makes New Delhi look like it came out the loser—having lost both a Mirage jet and a helicopter (to friendly fire) in the fight.


The pushback from New Delhi: The Indian Air Force quickly responded, pointing to conclusive "circumstantial evidence”—such as wireless intercepts, signals and electronic signatures—that prove its claim. The other piece of evidence: An AMRAAM missile casing which can only be fired from an F-16.


The US ‘assist’: The Pentagon waded into the fray by helpfully stating it wasn’t “aware of any investigation like that.” But the State Department simply refused to comment.


Then spake the Pak Foreign Minister: At a press conference, Shah Mahmood Qureshi claimed that the government has “reliable intelligence” that India is devising a plan to launch a new offensive against Pakistan. It includes staging a “mishap” to justify the offensive, and will likely take place between April 16 and April 20.


New Delhi’s response: The Ministry of External Affairs issued a statement which said: “India rejects the irresponsible and preposterous statement by the Foreign Minister of Pakistan with a clear objective of whipping up war hysteria in the region. This public gimmick appears to be a call to Pakistan-based terrorists to undertake a terror attack in India.”


What’s the evidence for any of this? The Pakistanis have not provided any evidence of a planned attack. As for the F-16, by its own admission, all India has is circumstantial evidence. However, it’s also unclear if the US did indeed count Pakistan’s F-16s, or even had good reason to do so. The planes were sold to Islamabad under certain restrictions defined by its end-user agreements (whose details are confidential)—which reportedly include the stipulation that they may only be deployed for self-defence. Now, the Balakot strikes may well qualify as good enough justification for their use. Maybe that’s why Pakistani military suddenly issued a statement citing the Balakot strikes as a justification for using an F-16.

Learn more: Indian Express answers the three key questions surrounding the F-16 controversy. The controversial Foreign Policy journal is worth a read. Times of India offers an interesting analysis of the United States’ ambivalent stance on the F-16 debate.

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wondering if your voter ID card is still valid

IT raids are the hot election trend: The tax department has been binge-raiding politicians lately. The latest wave was aimed at Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath's nephew Ratul Puri and his close aides Praveen Kakkar and Rajendra Miglani—spread across 50 locations in Bhopal, Indore, Delhi and Goa. This comes on the heels of raids on JD(S) politicians in Karnataka. That none of the politicians being targeted are from the BJP is a coincidence, of course. (Times of India)


How not to keep Kashmir safe: The new plan to keep CRPF forces safe is a ban on all civilian traffic on the highway between Udhampur and Baramulla on Wednesdays and Sundays. It left hundreds of Kashmiris stranded and frantic over the weekend. Now, leading Kashmiri politicians are threatening to sue the Government of India. Not exactly winning hearts and minds then.


How not to celebrate scientists: Discovery channel’s promo video plugging its new tag line, ‘The world is ours’ features all male scientists: “In fact, the only woman present in the video is a naked woman in a forest from the show 'Naked and Afraid'—and she’s on screen for a whole 0.5 seconds.” (The Wire)


How not to keep Navratri safe: Men wearing saffron robes and wielding swords in Gurgaon forced meat shops to close down on the first day of Navratri. As one hapless shop owner observed, “The people who came to tell me to close the shop are the same who gorge on chicken meals on other days.” (Times of India)


Brits want a second referendum: and they want it now. All the chaos in Parliament and Theresa May’s incompetence has at least achieved one thing: 52% of British voters now say they want to make the decision on Brexit themselves. Who can blame them. (The Independent)


Google’s smartest AI needs a tutor: The company’s DeepMind was trained on algebra, calculus, and other types of math questions that would appear on a 16-year-old’s math exam in the UK. And it failed. Those of us fearing the rise of the robots can breathe a little easier today. (Futurism)


Netflix’s new mass market avatar: The streaming service is testing a variety of subscription plans in India, starting with a mobile-only plan for Rs 65/week and Rs 250/month. (Indian Express)


Kiran Mazumdar Shaw’s mom can’t vote: Her voter ID has been deleted because of a report that she no longer lives at her address.  She has been at the same address for 19 years. Behold Indian democracy at work.


Scientists captured a record 17-foot-long python: in the Florida Everglades which weighed 140 pounds and contained 73 developing eggs. Yes, there is a photo. (CNN)

‘Consent condoms are a thing: These come in a box which won’t open unless all four corners of the packaging are pressed simultaneously—hence requiring two pairs of hands. We love the sentiment but can see how things could go hilariously wrong in the heat of the moment. Well, no sex is the safest sex indeed!  (Indian Express)


Weekend reads you might have missed: include the following:

  • The Print has an interesting analysis of Modi’s most ardent supporters, comparing them to Jay’s (Amitabh Bachhan) love for Veeru (Dharmendra) in 'Sholay'.

  • Also from The Print, this look at Coca Cola’s India strategy which involves going ethnic in its beverages. Think aam panna, jaljeera and lassi.

  • Washington Post breaks the bad news: dog owners are much happier than cat owners.

  • BBC has the story on the ‘woman spreading’ placard that is causing outrage in Pakistan.

  • Sandip Roy talked to Prannoy Roy about the 2019 elections on his Indian Express podcast. Among the excellent insights: 21 million women voters are missing from the rolls mostly in northern India. That's more than all the women voters in England.  At about 85,000 per constituency, that's well above the margin of victory.

  • Business Insider has the horrifying details contained in the official report on the Ethiopian Airlines crash.

  • Daily Mail breaks a different kind of bad news: Amazon’s five-star products regularly flunk quality tests.


Monday pick me ups: include the following:


  • This strange man in a Patagonia jacket wandering through a ‘Game of Thrones’ episode.

  • This 26-year old who has helped restore 10 ponds in Noida.

  • This hilariously awkward photo of Hema Malini posing with a woman carrying a load of sticks.

  • This Daily Mail story on new research that finds that women are actually far better drivers than men.

  • This National Geographic story on the return of Cambodia’s Irawaddy dolphins which had verged on extinction for decades.

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The best place for the best advice

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Ten useful things to do with your smartphone

We mainly use our phones to text, email, browse, order stuff and, of course, take photos. But there are many other surprisingly useful ways to use a phone to make your life easier. Here are ten of them.

Use that camera well: We take lots of photos, but never of the really useful stuff.

  • Images of passports, driver’s license and pan cards are necessary ID proof, especially when you forget to carry them with you.

  • Also useful: images of your credit cards, your car's license plate and your car's VIN number in case of theft.

  • A photo folder of labels of wine or beer you liked, or a moisturiser a friend recommends. Or store your favourite makeup brand and shade so you can have it on hand.


Repurpose your phone camera: Have an old or spare smartphone? You can turn it into a security camera using a free app called Alfred (detailed guide here). Or you can reuse your phone as a baby monitor using Skype (detailed guide here)


Scan those business cards: which you end up misplacing in some long-forgotten corner of your handbag or workbag. Here’s a handy list (plus reviews) that includes a bunch of free apps.

Help with your kid’s math homework: Yup, your phone can rescue you from every parent’s nightmare thanks to an app called Photomath. Just point the camera at an equation, click, and it will give you instructions on how to solve the math problem. And it’s free!


Shop smarter: Just point Google Lens at, say, a dress you like, and it will find it or similar styles online—thanks to its integration into the new Style Search shopping feature only for India users. Be warned, it doesn’t play well with older versions of Android. It’s also useful for translating text, identifying artwork etc.


Avoid text neck: The biggest downside of a smartphone is that it ruins our body posture. See: the ‘text neck’ epidemic that’s wreaking havoc on our spines. Download Simply Align (sadly only available on iPhone). Bonus: this list includes options for desktop and laptops as well.


Create custom vibrations: to assign to key contacts. It’s very handy when you don’t want to miss an important phone call or text when your phone is on silent (instructions here).


Measure stuff: The Measure app on the iPhone can help you measure any kind of dimension, and the level feature will make sure you hang that painting exactly right. There’s a Google measurement app as well, but its performance varies from one make and model to another.


Check the batteries on your remote: Point the remote at your camera, press any button on it. If you can see the infrared pinkish light on your screen, then your batteries are just fine.


Scan QR codes and barcodes: Just tap on your Google Lens. It will even read a barcode off a photo.

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