Tuesday, November 12, 2019

City of the day

According to Mint’s Livability Index, Hyderabad is the best among the big six, followed by Bangalore. Bottom of the pile: poor Kolkata. According to the paper: “Hyderabad scores highly on account of high commute speeds, its attractiveness to migrants, low rents, and high access to social infrastructure. Bengaluru comes in at second due to its low levels of caste segregation, vibrant dineout scene, high greenery per capita, and cleaner air.” Let the bitter disagreements begin!

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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Uddhav, Sharad aur Sonia ki jodi

The plot of the Maharashtra soap opera has thickened rapidly over the past 24 hours. The Shiv Sena was left stranded by Congress, and the NCP has now been invited to form the government. Let the political tamasha begin! 

The Maha drama recap: Two weeks ago, a very confident BJP—which was hoping to secure a majority of 145 seats in the state election—suffered an unexpected setback. It landed only 105 seats—putting the party at the mercy of its ally Shiv Sena. But the Sena wanted a hefty pound of flesh for its 56 seats, which included:  

  • A rotating tenure of the Chief Minister post—where Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s son Aaditya would take turns with BJP chief Devendra Fadnavis at the gaddi.

  • Key cabinet portfolios such as home and urban development.

  • More Sena ministers in the Union cabinet.

The BJP turned down the generous offer, and the governor’s invitation to form the government. The Sena has since been scrambling to get the support of NCP (54 seats)  and Congress (44 seats) to cross the majority mark. 

Tu nahi, toh woh sahi: When the Sena turned to its new political paramours, NCP chief Sharad Pawar insisted that the party first divorce its ex—i.e. pull out of the BJP-led NDA alliance at the Centre. The Sena astonishingly complied and its sole minister in the Union cabinet—Arvind Sawant—resigned yesterday. But alas, NCP’s ally Congress refused to play along. The governor had set a 7:30pm deadline for the Sena to stake its claim—but the Congress leadership dithered until it was too late. At the end of the day, Aaditya Thackeray was left waiting at the governor’s mansion for a letter of support that never arrived.

Bolo haan ya na: The Congress is torn between its desire to oust the BJP and fear of the Sena’s ideology and not-so-honourable intentions—leading to mass confusion.  

  • Sonia Gandhi is reportedly worried that an alliance with the saffron tiger will reflect poorly on “our commitment to secularism.” 

  • Another worry: whether this entire exercise is just a Sena ruse to play hardball with the BJP—and bring it back to the negotiating table.

  • Some reports claim that Congress is also concerned that the NCP-Sena alliance will enhance the stature of Sharad Pawar—the 78-year-old veteran staged a roaring comeback in the recent election despite losing his top leaders to the BJP.

  • OTOH, Sonia faces a brewing mutiny within the party’s state leadership. One MLA told The Telegraph: “The high command is playing a game of the 90s without realising that politics had changed. They have lost so many states in this game of procrastination. We are not going to be the victim of these games. We will support the Sena government whether the central leadership favours it or not.”

What about the ex? With Modi-Shah calling the shots since 2014, Uddhav Thackeray has long felt like the neglected spouse in a marriage of increasing inconvenience. His party was sidelined in the state by Fadnavis who gave it a dozen insignificant cabinet portfolios. And despite the Sena’s 18 seat tally in recent Lok Sabha elections, it scored only one berth in the Union cabinet. After the last state election, Sena sulked in the Opposition for a bit and then sheepishly returned to the fold. It may well do so again. Hence, the BJP’s decision to adopt “a wait and watch policy.”

Ab kya hoga? The NCP has until the end of today to stake its claim. Sharad Pawar will meet with two senior Congress leaders in Mumbai to take a final decision. Also: Congress has hastily moved its MLAs to Rajasthan. Meanwhile, Sena insists that it has three days to form the government—despite the governor saying otherwise. If this unlikely alliance is indeed forged, then NCP and Sena will likely form the government—with Congress offering support from the outside.

The bottomline: Politics makes for strange bedfellows, but this ménage à trois—if it comes to pass—will be the strangest to date. 


Learn more: Indian Express explains each party’s political calculation—and flags Sena’s soft corner for Pawar. The Telegraph reports on the mutiny within Congress’ ranks. Huffington Post has an excellent interview with Dhaval Kulkarn—author of ‘Brothers Thackeray'—who explains why this alliance could mark the rebirth of Shiv Sena. The Print looks at the risks to the Sena if it breaks with the BJP.

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makeup twinning with your bae

Evo Morales has left the country: The Bolivian President was forced to step down on Sunday after an audit of his recent reelection showed "clear manipulation." This after weeks of protests aimed at ousting him from office. The tipping factor: the intervention of the military chief who asked him to resign. Mexico offered political asylum to Morales—an offer he has now accepted. The big picture: no one has stepped up to take Morales’ place, and the political vacuum may be dangerous—especially with the military wading into the fray. (BBC News)

GDP numbers continue to freefall: According to new projections, the economic growth rate is expected to dip below 5% in the current quarter—hitting a low of 4.2%. Also: factory output is the lowest in seven years. Mining, manufacturing and electricity fell during September, pointing towards a deepening economic downturn. Not surprisingly then, India Inc’s confidence in the economy is also the lowest in six years as per the latest survey. 

Iran has hit serious oil: The nation has discovered a new oilfield with over 50 billion barrels of crude. It’s a much-needed bonanza for a country whose economy has been battered by US sanctions. (Associated Press)

Let the mandir squabbles begin! Various Hindutva groups who led the Ram Janmabhoomi charge are already fighting over who will control the building of the Ram Mandir—barely days after the verdict. (Indian Express)

India pays high price for bad weather: Between 1998 and 2017, extreme weather in G20 countries led to 16,000 deaths and economic losses of $142 billion every year. According to a new report, India suffered the greatest losses—along with Russia, France, Italy and Germany. The G20 consortium of nations accounts for 90% of the world’s Gross World Product (global GDP) and 80% of its trade. The report also notes that India has the most ambitious targets to limit global warming, and is investing the most in renewable energy. In related news: This Reuters map shows that we are also paying a high price for our pollution. We officially have “the world’s worst air.” (Hindustan Times)

Twitter has a child sex abuse problem: A new report from the UK-based Internet Watch Foundation says that 49% of the images, videos and links unearthed by the organisation were shared on Twitter. There were 1,396 such reports of such content on the platform over the past three years. Point to note: “The crucial point is that each report is not one image but there could hundreds or thousands of images behind each of those reports.” (The Telegraph UK)

Travis Kalanick is coming to town:The Uber co-founder and former CEO has moved on from taxis to food. His new venture called CloudKitchens is a food delivery business—think restaurant kitchens that only deliver. And Kalanick is bringing his new business to town—talking to restaurant chains and real estate developers in Mumbai, as well as Swiggy, UberEats, and Zomato. (Economic Times

Netflix is acing the India market: The Indian arm of the streaming service grew by 700% over the past year! Of course, the company doesn’t share its country-specific subscriber or revenue numbers. So we don’t know what that means exactly. (Economic Times)

The Apple card is sexist: It all started when a tech businessman tweeted: “The @AppleCard is such a fucking sexist program. My wife and I filed joint tax returns, live in a community-property state, and have been married for a long time. Yet Apple’s black box algorithm thinks I deserve 20x the credit limit she does. No appeals work.” The company’s co-founder Steve Wozniak blamed it on its partner Goldman Sachs, and New York authorities have launched an investigation. (CNN

Yoga has a sexual abuse problem: The guru of Ashtanga yoga, Krishna Pattabhi Jois, popularised so-called adjustments—used by yoga teachers to physically manipulate a student’s body to ensure the correct pose. He and other practitioners also used the practice to do a lot more: “He would get on top of me, make sure that his genitals were placed directly above my genitals, and he pushed my leg down to the floor and he would hump me. He would grind his genitals into my genitals.” (New York Times)

Makeup twinning is a thing: Playing matchy-matchy with your clothes is apparently not sufficient to show your true love. The latest thing for celeb couples: sporting identical eye shadows, manicures and more. Worse, mere mortals are following suit. (The Guardian)

Your daily quota of sunshine items: includes the following: 

  • For math nerds: the largest left-truncatable prime number. Yes, this is a very cool thing.
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Unexpected, thought-provoking and always worth your time

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The ‘Wellness Myths’ Edition 

Everyone cares about wellness. Everyone also has gyaan about wellness—but not all of it is true. Sometimes perfectly okay stuff gets an unjustified bad rep, while those trendy au naturel ingredients are not as healthy as you might think.

No, blue light isn’t evil

Thanks to increasing anxiety about our screen time, many of us are obsessed with eliminating the blue light that emanates from our phones and laptops. Turns out it isn’t all that bad for you, and your tired eyes won’t be saved by blue-blocking lenses or screens.

Read: Blue light isn’t the main source of eye fatigue and sleep loss – it’s your computer | The Conversation

Sex, Love etc 2

No, that charcoal toothpaste isn’t helping

Activated charcoal is everywhere—in toothpastes, face masks, even water! But it can actually cause harm if used in excess or in the wrong way. And using it to clean your teeth is one of them. (Plus: a quick guide to other uses of activated charcoal)

Read: Is Charcoal Toothpaste Safe to Use? | Harper’s Bazaar

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