Friday, May 10, 2019

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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The shameful smearing of Atishi

A vicious smear campaign targeting Aam Aadmi Party’s East Delhi candidate, Atishi, has sparked widespread outrage. It’s the nastiest in an ugly election season where women candidates have been repeatedly subjected to highly offensive attacks.


Background, please! The East Delhi constituency is in the midst of a fiercely contested battle between the BJP candidate, former cricketer Gautam Gambhir, and AAP’s Atishi who is credited with the transformation of government schools in Delhi. This has been a bitter fight from the very outset. Atishi challenged the legality of Gambhir’s nomination the moment he filed his papers. OTOH, a BJP campaign claiming she is Christian pressured Atishi into dropping her last name, Marlena.


Tell me more about Atishi: A gold medallist from St Stephen’s college and a Rhodes scholar, she was first brought on as adviser to Deputy CM Manish Sisodia. And her success in education reform is undisputed—be it the widely praised ‘Happiness curriculum’ or the building of 8000 new classrooms or the introduction of ‘mentor teachers’. In the recent board exams, Delhi government schools recorded their best ever performance. Atishi has been a bit of a poster child for AAP—which is also why she has often been a choice target for its rivals.


Ok, so what happened? In recent days, a nasty anonymous pamphlet was distributed across East Delhi neighbourhoods. It starts out by calling her a “mixed breed” with a Punjabi mother and UP Jat father, and who is married to a “Christian from AP, i.e. a Beef Eater.” Then it goes downhill from there—accusing her of having various sexual affairs, including with Sisodia. She is called a “prostitute” who works for “Kuta Kejriwal and Kanjar Sisodia.” It’s shocking even by our already low political standards.


What does AAP say? They held a press conference accusing Gautam Gambhir of engineering the smear campaign.  


What does the BJP say? Gambhir, in turn, claims that the pamphlet is one of AAP’s dirty tricks to frame him. He has filed a defamation notice against Atishi, Sisodia and Kejriwal. Gambhir has also challenged AAP to offer evidence for its charges, promising to withdraw if he’s proven guilty. But his cause isn’t being helped by fellow BJP leaders who have gone on camera to slyly reiterate the slurs, asking, “Where is her husband?”


So what’s next? It isn’t clear what will happen in the defamation case. For now, the Delhi Commission of Women has asked the police to open an investigation and file a report.


The bottomline: Irrespective of who authored the pamphlet, it lays bare the toxic misogyny in Indian politics. In this election, the level of rhetoric aimed at women candidates has reached an all-time low. Be it Samajwadi Party honcho Azam Khan’s shameful comments about BJP’s Jaya Prada, or this BJP MLA’s attack on Sonia Gandhi, we are now at the very bottom of that slippery slope of bile. What is really shameful: No senior leader of any party has stepped up to condemn this unacceptable behaviour in their own party—even as they eagerly woo the “women’s vote”.

Learn more: What often remains unseen is the damage these attacks wreak on women—if only for that reason, take a look at this clip of Atishi breaking down as she attempts to read the pamphlet out aloud. Quint does a good job of rounding up the various reactions and counter-reactions. Quartz has a nice profile of Atishi and her work. UNI takes a closer look at the race in East Delhi. And Mint offers a big picture analysis of the battle for Delhi.

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wondering when the royal baby tamasha will end

The BJP’s electioneering like it’s 1985: Over recent weeks, PM Modi has been relentless in attacking his primary opponent… Rahul Rajiv Gandhi.

  • First came the incendiary ‘bhrashtachari no. 1’ comment—which sparked great outrage.

  • But Modi-ji doubled down with claims that Rajiv & fam used a naval warship as their “personal taxi” on a family vacation back in 1988 (There is evidence both for and against this claim, so we can all cherry-pick and interpret as required.).

  • Then came this viral video contrasting NaMo and Rahul’s political styles. What is striking, however, is the list of the PM’s complaints: Bhopal gas tragedy, Indian intervention in Sri Lanka, Shah Bano, Bofors.

  • Now we seem to have moved on to the 1984 riots -- which to be fair has always been BJP’s comeback to any talk of Gujarat.


This ‘back to the future’ strategy is a bit puzzling since Modi rode to power attacking the two terms of the UPA—which is still fresh in public memory. At least more so than a PM who has been dead for, um, 28 years.


Also heading back to the future, Alabama: The US state is close to passing a law that would “effectively ban most abortions at every stage of pregnancy, from conception on, and would criminalize the procedure for doctors. A doctor could be charged with a felony, and face up to 99 years in prison, for performing an abortion in most circumstances; a doctor could risk a 10-year prison term for attempting an abortion.” There may be exceptions for rape and incest. Maybe. (New York Times)


Cattle farmers are fleeing drought: Facing the worst drought in decades, cattle farmers are leaving their villages to NGO-run displacement camps—just so their livestock can be fed and watered. But the NGOs too are running out of money and may not be able to stay open until the monsoon. The worst case scenario: having to sell their cattle on the illegal beef market which is perhaps the single-most risky crime to commit in India today. This eye-opening story is a must read. (The New Humanitarian)


An interview with Ranjan Gogoi’s accuser: The woman who accused the Chief Justice of sexual harassment gave a joint interview to some media outlets. It is the first extended telling of her side of the story. (The Wire)


Bad news on the Indian economy: Rathin Roy, one of the PM’s own economic advisers, warns that the Indian economy is heading for a structural slowdown—because its recent growth has been driven by 100 million Indian consumers. But that consumption trend will inevitably plateau out, and India runs the risk of falling into the ‘middle income trap’: “It means in short we will not be South Korea. We will not be China. We will be Brazil. We will be South Africa. We will be a middle-income country with large numbers of people in poverty seeing rising crimes. In the history of the world. Countries have avoided the middle income trap but no country once in it, has been able to get out of this." (NDTV)


More bad news on the Indian economy: The suppressed jobs data and ongoing issues with official GDP numbers have seriously eroded faith in government data. Economists and investors are now creating their own indices to measure economic growth—and none of them thinks it looks rosy, including the economic arm of the RSS. (Reuters)


Facebook co-founder and Zuck bro: Chris Hughes says, “Mark’s power is unprecedented and un-American. It is time to break up Facebook.” You can either read the New York Times op-ed or watch a video version of it. We prefer the video.


Important and scary news about chicken and eggs: A new study found that samples of chicken liver meat and egg yolk collected in Mumbai contain bacteria that is resistant to multiple antibiotics. Of the twelve available antibiotics, only three were found to be effective against bacteria found in chicken, and two in those found in eggs. The reason: “the use of excessive human antibiotics to boost their growth and protect them from diseases.” There’s no reason to believe the situation is any better in other cities. (The Print)


Instagram wants to tell you what to buy: Its new @shop feature curated by actual humans will recommend fashion, beauty and home products. Who should be worried? Fashion and lifestyle media publishers who have invested in shopping content as an alternative source of income to compensate for the loss of advertising revenue. (Business of Fashion)


Paternity leave, a new tool for population control: Back in 2007, Spain introduced two weeks of fully paid paternity leave for men. It had an unintended effect: men who took advantage of the benefit were less likely to have more kids. A study found “spending more time with their children—or the prospect of having to do so—may have made men more acutely aware of the effort and costs associated with child-rearing, and, as the researchers put it, ‘shifted their preferences from child quantity to quality.’” Bwahahaha! (Quartz)


Hamley’s joins the Ambani family: The British toy retailer—best known in India for staggeringly overpriced junk that kids really, really want—has been acquired by Reliance Industries. (Reuters)


Your feel-good Friday round-up: includes the following:

  • This heartwarming clip of little Ahmed Rahman dancing with joy after receiving a prosthetic leg. He who lost it to a land mine when he was 8 months old.

  • This charming piece (plus photos and video) on the lovingly restored Sunder Nursery in Delhi.

  • This National Geographic gallery showcasing vintage photos of royal children from around the world—including an eight-year-old Queen Elizabeth II.

  • This hilarious segment on the Jimmy Kimmel show where clueless people are asked if they’d support saving homo sapiens from extinction. Many do not.

  • A brief but lovely Facebook post of a mother celebrating her son getting 60% in his board exams. It went instantly viral.

  • Ryan Reynolds’ trolling his followers with a link to a pirated version of “Pokémon Detective Pikachu” which releases today.

  • This jaw-droppingly beautiful—and very eco-friendly—design proposal for rebuilding Notre Dame.

  • Last but not least, this adorable video clip of a 99-year-old Chinese woman and her 97-year-old husband celebrating their "oak" anniversary, ie 80 years of wedded bliss.

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Stuff we buy, use or love.

A List for Avengers Fans

brought to you by‘Avengers: Endgame’ was the end of an era in the Marvel universe. Here’s something to keep you going until the new one dawns.
image blue sidebar The informer image blue sidebar

If you’re looking for a retake on Infinity War and Endgame…

Check out the ‘The Infinity Gauntlet’ series which was the original source material for the two movies. Published in 1991, it follows a completely different plotline from the movies. Yes, Thanos is here, as is the infamous gauntlet, but he is a monstrous villain in love with Mistress Death. Added bonus: The X-Men who were x-ed out of the movie because Disney doesn’t own that franchise.

Price: Rs 1,460 | Infinity Gauntlet  | Amazon

The informer 2

If you like your Avengers with a little more edge…

Feast on The Ultimates. This 2002 reboot of Avengers—penned by the rule-breaking Mark Millar in a post-9/11 America—is more grown up and a whole lot meaner. As Vulture explains: “All of these Ultimate versions of the Avengers were, to put it bluntly, complete ass*****. They were also all very specifically post-9/11 characters. Hawkeye and Black Widow were unfeeling government murderers, Iron Man was a gleeful war profiteer, and Captain America” was a “cold, stern prick” who loves George Bush.

Price: Rs 741 | Ultimates - Vol. 1 | Amazon

The informer 3

If you prefer your superheroes in a novel instead…

And are a bit bored with this comic book mania, read ‘The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay’. This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Michael Chabon (of ‘Wonder Boys’ fame) has everything you’d possibly need: a superhero named The Escapist, Nazis and romance. (Read why it’s on The Independent’s ‘Book of a Lifetime’ list, and on George RR Martin’s reading list.)

Price: Rs 599 | The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay | Amazon

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