Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Number of the day: 315

Of the 383 AES patients admitted to hospitals in Muzaffarpur, 315 are children under the age of seven. Most would not have been old enough to find or eat litchis. A preliminary survey plus a medical study confirms that poverty combined with extreme heat was the real culprit for the tragedy in Bihar. Indian Express underlines the greater tragedy: most of the families who lost their kids were eligible for a variety of government schemes. They either didn’t know about them or were shut out by local officials.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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The lynching of Tabrez Ansari

A killing of man in Jharkhand is the latest in a string of violent attacks on Muslims which shows no sign of abating.


Who is Tabrez Ansari? The 24-year-old worked as a welder in Pune. He’d returned to his village a mere six weeks after his wedding. According to locals, he was well-liked and did not have a criminal past. 


What exactly happened? Here is the chain of events:

  • On Tuesday, June 18, Ansari was out with two friends—who reportedly had a dubious reputation. 

  • Villagers say the three men were caught trying to steal from their houses. Two of the men fled, but Ansari was caught by a mob of angry residents. 

  • Ansari was tied up to a pole and beaten with sticks for hours on end by a crowd of villagers (video clip here). He was repeatedly forced to chant ‘Jai Sri Ram’ (as seen here) The police claims they did not know of the assault—or they chose not to intervene. 

  • At 6 am on June 19, he is finally arrested and held in police custody. But there is no mention of the assault or of his extensive injuries—either in the FIR or his “confession statement” presented to a local magistrate.

  • Ansari did not receive any medical treatment. On Saturday, June 22, he “complained of ill health” and was rushed to the hospital where he was declared dead.


What’s happened now? The police have arrested 11 villagers and suspended two policemen. There is now a special investigation team, and a post-mortem will confirm the exact cause of death. 


Is this just Jharkhand? According to FactChecker’s Hate Crime Watch, this is the 11th such incident in India this year—compared to 92 in 2018, 73 in 2017, and 42 in 2016. As you can see, there is a clear pattern here. Not all victims are Muslims, but they are the targets in a majority of the cases. And 66% of the hate crimes over the past decade occurred in BJP-ruled states— compared to 16% in Congress-ruled states. Today, there is a new report of a man being pushed out of a train in Bengal for not saying ‘Jay Sri Ram’. 


What does the BJP say? The party says it should not be blamed for crimes committed by individuals or groups. A Jharkhand minister complained, “[T]here is a trend prevalent these days to associate all such incidents with BJP, RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal… It is a time of cut and paste… politicising such incidents is wrong.” The PM himself struck an inclusive note in his post-election speech, and recently condemned cow-related violence. 


So why is it still happening? The rhetoric has not translated into strong action. Even in terms of making a statement, the PM and his party leaders (including the Jharkhand CM in this case) typically remain silent in the aftermath of such attacks. There is a clear sense—at least among those who commit these crimes—that it is now okay to attack Muslims. The ruling party has not done enough to dispel that conviction. 


The bottomline: Yesterday, a BJP MP asked, “Do those who do not accept Vande Mataram have a right to live in the country?” – days after a Muslim MP refused to chant the same during his oath-taking ceremony. Tying a person’s right to live to what they are willing or not willing to say is fascism not democracy. If the PM is serious about creating an inclusive, prosperous and peaceful India, he should start by cracking down on his party leaders who are giving aid and comfort to the most extreme and hateful elements in our society.


Learn more: To get a visual sense of the hate crime violence, check out Factchecker’s Hate Crime Watch or Quint’s Lynch Files. Indian Express has details on the police failure in Ansari’s death.

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rocking your ‘mom bod’ in a swimsuit

RBI Deputy Governor resigns: Viral Acharya will be heading out the door six months before his tenure ends. The reason: he was a strong proponent of RBI independence, which is now a thing of the past. Mint offers the best analysis of his exit.


Turkey’s strongman prez suffers a setback: It was a local election for mayor of Istanbul, but its outcome may signal a significant shift in the country’s politics. For more than two decades, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ruled Turkey with an iron fist—systematically undermining and controlling every institution, from the judiciary to the media. Then this happened: His party lost the mayoral election in March by 13000 votes. Erdogan bullied the electoral board into holding a fresh election. His party lost again—this time by a landslide. Istanbul has spoken. But it remains to be seen if the rest of Turkey will follow suit. (BBC)


Oh look, there’s a new female Viagra in town: It’s called Vyleesi, and is an injectable drug—ouch! Poke yourself 25 to 40 minutes before sex, and you ought to be good for eight hours. Before anyone pops any champagne: the last female Viagra turned out to be a dud. Also, while trial subjects reported increase in sexual desire, they didn’t report having more sex. File under: things that make you go hmmm... (Associated Press)


The ugliest dog in the world: is absolutely adorable… in a very scruffy kind of way :) As are his fellow competitors. (Buzzfeed)


Netflix wants to be your radio: It’s testing a new feature that lets you keep it streaming at all times while you do everything else—like email, insta, whatsapp etc. (NDTV)


Netflix is a secret form of population control: Sorta. Men who go to bed before 10:30 pm are four times as likely to have “normal sperm” as those who stayed up late—binge-watching ‘Sacred Games’, for example. And here’s why: “[S]leep deprivation can cause the immune system to overreact and attack sperm.” Yikes! Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and fertile. (Daily Mail)


In happier news for men: A new US survey found that nearly 70% of women think the ‘dad bod’ is sexy! Now, if we could only give our own bodies that kind of love. (Shape)


The hazards of napping on the plane: A woman took a nap on an Air Canada flight. She woke up and found she was still buckled into her seat on a parked and deserted plane. To add to the nightmare, her phone died. She was finally rescued by a luggage cart driver. Moral of this story: always keep your phone charged, of course. (National Public Radio)


Unshaven armpits are officially a thing: We now have singer Halsey flashing hers on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Waiting for a Bollywood diva to flash hers next… waiting… waiting… 


Do we really need a ‘national moustache’? Y’know, like a national bird or animal etc. Congress’ Lok Sabha leader apparently thinks so and he’s nominated Abhinandan Varthaman’s notable moochie. What we learned: that the luxuriant and—dare we bad Indians say it—bizzare moustache is an actual style called ‘gunslinger’. (The Telegraph)


This one is for every Rocky fan: Enjoy!


Can Elon Musk spot the difference between Mars and Moon? Maybe not. But the jury is still out.

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Unexpected, thought-provoking and always worth your time

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The ‘Power of Suggestion’ edition

The human mind is a powerful and peculiar thing. It can make us believe that the impossible is true and what is real is a hallucination. These two pieces reveal the powerful relationship between our brain and our biology.

Meet the evil twin of the placebo

A man swallows a dangerous overdose of prescribed experimental drugs. His blood pressure goes through the roof, his heart accelerates… until his doctor tells him that he was on placebos all along. That’s called the nocebo effect—unlike the placebo, it’s the brain tricking you into feeling far worse than you actually are. Also: why people fall dead or ill due to curses.

Read: The Power of the Nocebo Effect | Vice 

Sex, Love etc 2

Do you resemble your name?

Will a rose by another name still look like a rose? Thanks to the Dorian Gray effect, our name influences how people ‘see’ our faces from a very early age—and our faces and their expressions “grow into” those expectations.  The result: the name you are given as a baby may determine how you look as an adult.

Read: The name you’re given as a child might affect the shape of your face | Quartz

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