Friday, December 6, 2019

Number of the day: 5

The British research firm Comparitech looked at where biometrics are being taken, what they’re being taken for, and how they’re being stored in 50 countries. Think fingerprint and facial scans. Each country was scored out of 25—with high scores indicating extensive and invasive use of biometric data and/or surveillance. India scored 19, and came in at #5. Worse than India: USA (#4), Pakistan (#2) and China (#1). The only reason India avoided getting the maximum score: law enforcement doesn’t have access to Aadhaar data… as yet.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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The killing of the Hyderabad rape suspects

All four men accused of gang-raping and killing Priyanka Reddy have been killed in a police encounter. It is an eerie fulfillment of the many calls to deliver ‘swift justice’ in the wake of her death.

A quick recap: Priyanka Reddy was 26-years old and a veterinarian doctor. She was abducted by four men, who raped and suffocated her—and they later set her body on fire. (Read all the details in our explainer)

The four suspects: worked together as a truck crew for a transport company. Their names are Mohammed Areef (26), Jollu Shiva (20), Jollu Naveen (20) and Chintakunta Chennakeshavulu (20). 

The rage: An angry mob gathered around the police station where the suspects were being held—demanding they be immediately and publicly hung for their crimes. In Parliament, politicians made similar demands. Rajya Sabha MP Jaya Bachchan said: “In some countries, when such things happen, the public delivers justice. This is my suggestion – I know it’s a little harsh – I think these kind of people (rapists) should be brought out in public and lynched properly.” DMK MP P Wilson advocated they “be either chemically or surgically castrated.” 

The arrest: The four accused were arrested last Friday, and were being held in high-security prison cells. On Wednesday, the Telangana government set up a fast track court to expedite the case.

The ‘encounter’: Around 3:30 am today, all four suspects were shot and killed by the police. They were taken to the scene of the crime in order to reconstruct the circumstances of Reddy’s death. Here are various news accounts of what happened next:

  • The police told Indian Express: “One of the four accused had gestured to the other three to flee after attacking the cops. The four tried to run towards a deserted pathway when cops opened fire in self defence.”

  • Another anonymous police source told the Hindustan Times: “They did not stop even when asked to surrender. As a last resort, the police had to fire at them, killing them on the spot.”

  • According to The Hindu: “Sources said the accused snatched the weapons from the police and started firing when they were taken to Chatanpally [location of the crime].”

Point to note: The suspects were killed almost in the same spot where Reddy was killed—under a bridge on the Bangalore-Hyderabad national highway. See a clip of the exact location.


A key detail: is the time the encounter occurred. HT sources say the suspects were shot around 3:30 am. But The News Minute editor Dhanya Rajendran just tweeted that her police sources claim it happened between 6-6:30 am. Meanwhile Cyberabad Police Commissioner VC Sajjanar told PTI that the "accused were killed in crossfire in wee hours" between 3 am and 6 am.


Also, look who’s in charge: The News Minute points out that Cyberabad police chief CV Sajjanar was involved in a similar encounter back in 2008 involving suspects who were accused in an acid attack on college students: “Similar to Friday’s encounter, the then SP [Sajjanar] said that a police team had gone with the accused to the scene of the crime to collect evidence. However, the men reportedly tried to attack the cops with crude bombs. Sajjanar had said that the cops opened fire in self-defence, killing all three accused.” Sajjanar soon after earned the moniker of ‘encounter cop’ and was celebrated as a local hero.


The Reddy family’s response: They told Quint: “We were shocked when we heard about it in the morning but we are also happy that justice has been served so soon. We are happy the culprits got punished."


The bottomline: Police encounters are notoriously staged. Also: extra-judicial killings do not serve anyone's cause—including that of the victim. 

Learn more:There isn’t a lot more reporting on this as of now. You can read the details of the case in our explainer. This News Minute op-ed explains why ‘mob justice’ does little to combat rape.

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paying a whole lot more for your onion dosa

Donald Trump will be impeached: US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has finally instructed the House Judiciary Committee to draft articles of impeachment against him. Pelosi said, “Sadly, but with confidence and humility, with allegiance to our founders and a heart full of love for America, today I am asking our chairmen to proceed with articles of impeachment.” Trump’s response: "If you are going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate, and so that our country can get back to business." What’s next: a trial presided over by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, where House members play prosecutor while Trump is defended by his lawyers. Need a refresher on the impeachment process: read our explainer here. (BBC)

New privacy bill sets global precedent: The cabinet approved the Personal Data Protection bill that will require social media platforms to offer a mechanism by which a user can verify her identity: "Companies would have to offer a mechanism for users to prove their identities and display that verification publicly, akin to the blue check-mark that Twitter has used to confirm the authenticity of some high-profile accounts, including those belonging to celebrities and politicians." Point to note: The decision on whether or not to verify one’s account rests with the user. (Reuters)

Kashmiris are disappearing from Whatsapp: On Wednesday, scores of Kashmiris started exiting group chats—their departure indicated by the ‘[phone number] left’ message. The mysterious mass exits were not voluntary but an unintended consequence of WhatsApp’s policies. The company shuts down accounts after 120 days of inactivity in order to "maintain security and limit data retention.” And it’s been four months (120 days) since the government suspended internet connectivity in the Valley. Point to note: Many are likely to permanently lose their account data—including chat logs, images, and videos—if they aren't able to back up data within 30 days of deactivation. (BuzzFeed News

The great onion debate: turned very, very heated when Nirmala Sitharaman was asked if she ate ‘Egyptian onions'. She responded: “I don't eat much of onion and garlic. I come from such a family which doesn't have much to do with onion". She was immediately (and unfairly) accused of being casteist—i.e. flaunting her onion-hating Tam-Brahm Iyengar cred—and out-of-touch. But not doing her any favours, BJP minister Ashwini Choubey who added to the fracas, saying, "I am a vegetarian. I have never tasted an onion. So, how will a person like me know about the situation of onions." In related news: With prices hitting Rs 165/ kilo in many parts of the country, the government is planning to import pyaaz from Egypt and Turkey. So the rest of us may indeed be eating Egyptian onions very soon. 

Uber has ‘equal but separate’ bathrooms: for its drivers and employees. Nope not in India, but in Rhode Island! When an Uber driver shared the photo, the company was immediately slammed on social: “Uber didn't want its white collar employees to have to wash their hands in the same sink as its gig worker drivers.” Zinger of the day belonged to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “Siri, show me what classism looks like” (Vice)

A whole new kind of contraceptive pill: Imagine if you only had to pop the pill once a month? Scientists are testing a once-a-month tablet, being described as a tiny star-shaped gadget.” Just swallow it and it will unfold in your stomach, and gradually releases hormones over the course of 30 days. It has passed animal testing with flying colours, and we are keeping our fingers crossed for upcoming human trials. (AP)

The ad that ruined Peloton: The luxury exercise bike favoured by tech bros sells itself not as a lowly fitness machine but a life experience. As its CEO once said: “On the most basic level, Peloton sells happiness.” But not looking happy at all: the exercise-averse wife in Peloton’s ad who receives the bike as a Christmas gift from her husband. The ad was immediately slammed for being “cringe, old-fashioned and tone deaf.” More importantly: Peloton lost $1.5 billion in share value. Watch the original ad and also this excellent spoof. (The Guardian)

NASA mission ‘touches’ the sun: Meet Parker Solar Probe, NASA’s most badass space robot. What does it do? “The spacecraft, about the size of a small sedan, is circling the sun, kitted out with revolutionary tech” that allows it to get up close and personal with the sun. How close? It’s a mere 24 million km from its scorching surface—and its sending back unexpected findings that has scientists very excited. (Cnet)

Your environmental update is here: And most of it is unsurprisingly gloomy. One: Plastic is killing hermit crabs. More than half a million hermit crabs have been killed because they confuse plastic bottles for shells. Two: climate change is causing birds to shrink. In happier news: Scientists have spotted a new species of ornamental fish—dubbed Schistura syngkai—in Meghalaya.


Your daily quota of sunshine items: is a bit small today. One: Deepak Chopra has made a digital clone of himself—and other celebs are sure to follow. Two: The Pantone colour of the year for 2020 is “classic blue’. Three: Christmas tree lights powered by… an electric eel!

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Stuff we buy, use or love.

A List of Must-Watch Documentaries
Tired of watching yet another true crime documentary? Here are three titles that are no less riveting, and tackle weighty subjects without weighing them down.
image blue sidebar The informer image blue sidebar

When you want to get serious about food…

Stream ‘Rotten’ on Netflix. Unlike the usual culinary shows, this isn’t about cooking or chefs but about the business of food. Each episode focuses on a different ingredient—for example, honey, avocados, chicken—and explains just how it ends up on your plate. The story—as laid out by farmers, fishermen, scientists, and doctors—is rarely comforting, but also never boring. ‘Rotten’ wants to illuminate rather than preach, and that makes it all the more powerful. (Watch the trailer here)

Watch: Rotten | Netflix

The informer 2

If you want a sharp take on sex and technology...

Check out ‘Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On’. Hosted by Rashida Jones from ‘Parks and Recreation’, the series takes a look at the various aspects of digital sex, be it porn, dating apps or webcam performers. None of this is prettied up, and some of it is difficult to watch (especially the episode involving a livestreamed rape). But each episode is never less than compelling. (Watch the trailer here)


Watch: Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On | Netflix

The informer 3

When you want an up close look at money...

Look no further than ‘Generation Wealth’. Filmmaker Lauren Greenfield introduces us to a diverse cast of characters, unified by their obsession with wealth—be it Florian Homm, the ‘antichrist of finance’, a six-year-old beauty pageant ‘princess’ or a bus driver in search of a perfect body. This is an uncomfortable—at times preachy—look at the single-minded pursuit of excess. (Bonus: Want a funny but scathing explainer on Global Economics 101, opt for ‘This Giant Beast That Is the Global Economy’ on Amazon Prime. Also: it’s hosted by the always lovable Kal Penn!)


Watch: Generation Wealth | Amazon Prime


Note: These products are personally picked by the editors (or in this case trusted Ambassadors). We do not receive any revenue from the brands recommended.

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