Friday, October 11, 2019

Celebration of the day

Happy birthday to us! We launched Broadsheet Daily a year ago, armed only with a dream and our savings 🙈. The dream was to entirely disrupt the way women get their news—to make it engaging, valuable, fun and (most importantly) entirely painless. (Then a whole lot of men signed up as well… lol!) We want to take this opportunity to thank all of you. Your love and support has helped us through difficult days, grow with exceptional speed, and become better at our job—which is giving you what you need to be engaged and well-informed. So thank you! You are indeed the best. 

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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The looming massacre of the Kurds in Syria

Turkey has launched a massive military operation aimed at driving the Kurds out of  Northern Syria. Thousands are expected to be killed while the world’s most powerful nations watch on the sidelines. 

Who are the Kurds? They are an ethnic community spread across Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia. Most are Sunni Muslims. Western powers promised to grant them an independent Kurdistan, but broke that promise when they re-drew the borders in the Middle East after World War I. Since then, they have been rendered stateless and have been brutally repressed—especially in Turkey, Syria and Iraq where they represent a significant minority.

Why is Turkey attacking them? Kurds constitute nearly 20% of the Turkish population. The government does not even recognise their identity—dubbing them ‘Mountain Turks’, and banning the use of their traditional names, clothes, and language. Since the late 1970s, more than 40,000 Kurds have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced in periodic nationalist uprisings. 

But why attack them in Syria? Kurds are pushing for ‘federal autonomy’ within areas they currently control in Syria. Turkey fears that they will work with Turkish Kurds to push for an independent homeland. Turkish President Erdogan’s plan is to create a buffer zone on the border: attack Northern Syria, force the Kurdish population to flee, and resettle that area with millions of Syrian refugees who fled to Turkey when ISIS took control. 

Why isn’t anyone intervening? Each of the nations involved has its own reasoning:

  • Syria: is now led by President Bashar al-Assad who has staged a comeback after being overthrown by a popular uprising—which in turn set the stage for the rise of ISIS. Now that the Islamic State has been destroyed, Assad is simply reverting to his old policies—deny citizenship rights to the nearly 10% Kurd minority and seize control of their land. 

  • Russia: is a big supporter of Assad and the reason why he is back in power. It also seems to have entered a tacit agreement with Turkey: get rid of the Kurds but do not occupy Syrian land or undermine Assad.

  • Europe: The European Union has strongly condemned the assault, but Erdogan has threatened to play his ace card: “We will open the gates and send 3.6 million [Syrian] refugees your way.” Point to note: European countries are already under pressure from the flood of refugees who sought asylum during the ISIS days—which in turn triggered a serious anti-immigrant backlash. 

  • China: likely doesn’t care. 

  • India: has criticised Turkey’s actions but has neither the clout nor the interest to intervene. 

And the United States...: The Syrian Kurds in alliance with Arabs fought and defeated the Islamic State on the ground. The US-led multinational coalition primarily offered moral support in the form of airstrikes—but it is Russia that took the most aggressive role. But now ISIS has been decimated and the US doesn’t really need the Kurds any more. Besides, they represent an inconvenience given Trump’s cosy relationship with Russia (which backs Assad, remember). In fact, Turkey launched its operation only after Trump personally greenlit it during a phone call with Erdogan. 

That’s cold! Yes. Trump has since dismissed criticism, claiming outlandishly, "They didn't help us in the second World War, they didn't help us with Normandy for example." He also made clear, “Now the Kurds are fighting for their land, just so you understand"—and that isn’t the United States concern. FYI: the Kurds didn’t exist as a state during WWII and didn’t have any troops or weapons of their own. 

What will happen now? Everyone is worried about the prospect of ethnic cleansing—with tens of thousands of Kurds fleeing their homes. They are now trapped between Assad on one side and the Turks on the other. And for now, the world is… watching. 

Learn more: BBC has a detailed explainer on the Kurds—including their history and current status in the three Middle East countries. Also from BBC: this very informative Q&A with its reporters that responds to unanswered reader questions. A retired general in The Atlantic explains why Trump’s actions are a disaster for the United States. CNN reports on growing Republican anger at Trump. And if it makes you feel any better, The Week has details on a new Fox News poll that shows support for his impeachment has risen to 51%.

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celebrating your super-short work week

Yet another depressingly timed hate-driven shooting: In a chilling recreation of the Christchurch shootings in New Zealand—which killed 49 people—a heavily armed man with a head-mounted camera went on a shooting rampage in Germany. This time, the target was a synagogue not a mosque, and the attack took place on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, and when the premises were bound to be full. The attack was livestreamed on Amazon’s gaming platform Twitch for more than 35 minutes before it was pulled down. The only mercy: the body count was far smaller (two died) thanks to a locked wooden door


Mr Xi comes to Mahabalipuram: The Chinese president is slated to land in Chennai today to meet PM Modi in Mahabalipuram. The thorniest issue will, of course, be Kashmir—so thorny that the two may not even bring it up. The other big issue: trade. In particular: Trump’s trade wars and Huawei’s 5G rollout. (Times of India)


And the Nobel prize for literature: goes to two people this year. The Academy doled out two prizes: one for this year, and one for 2018 when an internal sexual harassment scandal scuttled the selection of a winner. The 2018 winner, Polish novelist and activist Olga Tokarczuk, is universally popular and has already won the 2018 Booker prize for her novel ‘Flights’. However, the 2019 winner, Austrian author Peter Handke, is a pretty iffy choice. The reason: Handke has long been a huge supporter of former Serbian president Slobodan Milošević—the man who was found guilty of directing the massacre of thousands of Bosnian Muslims and Croats. We have no words. (The Guardian)


Apple stoops to please China: Behold the might of the Chinese market. Within the space of a week, the company has: removed an app that allows Hong Kong protesters to track police movements; deleted the Taiwan flag emoji from iPhones sold in Hong Kong and Macao (China claims Taiwan as its own); yanked the Quartz news app from its App Store in China because of its coverage of the HK protests.


Yet another global indicator of our economy’s health: is flashing red. India nosedived ten places on the annual Global Competitiveness Index compiled by the World Economic Forum—and are now placed at #68. In comparison, Vietnam went up by ten spots because it took excellent advantage of the US-China trade wars. Also: Singapore knocked the United States off the #1 spot. In related news: Times of India explains why the latest Moody’s rating of the Indian economy is bad news. (Inc42)


Beware that face scanner at the airport: This is an extremely important read on plans to build a national facial recognition system—and how those ‘convenient’ face scanners soon to be unveiled in major airports may be part of a bigger and more ominous plan to build a total surveillance society. (BuzzFeed News)


Blockchain tech may rescue dating apps: Tired of being scammed by fake profiles and photos? Or bracing yourself for unwanted dick pics? The latest generation of dating apps use a mix of artificial intelligence, blockchain and cryptocurrency to ensure verification and safety. Tbh, we didn’t really understand how it works, but it sure sounds cool… and complicated. (Ozy)


Saif pisses all over his own Netflix series: Speaking of Season 2 of ‘Sacred Games’, the Khan told Quint: “I don’t know why, but it kind of meandered off and the climax, I don’t know if it worked, and certain things weren’t tied up. So, it was a little disappointing in that sense. But you’ll have to ask them why. Maybe it was just all too much. You feel overwhelmed with the amount they had to do or whatever.” And he’s blaming it squarely on Pankaj Tripathi. In the words of a “spotboy” Saif trusts, “Woh guru ka thoda zyada ho gaya.” Point to note: Anurag Kashyap and Neeraj Ghaywan directed the second season.


Sachin Bansal pissed off Indian Twitter: by advising: “all men on twitter” to follow @LifeMathMoney, adding: “He will teach you many things you need to know. Women can follow if too, if they want.” First, folks were annoyed at what looked like run-of-the-mill sexism. Then they uncovered an entire fount of misogyny—all of it spewed by Bansal’s fave Twitter guru. Wait, didn’t Flipkart have that sexual harassment scandal involving Bansal’s co-founder and brother-in-arms Binny? 


Don’t worry, ‘Ghee Happy’: Indian children may finally be saved from badly made, deeply gendered Indian cartoons. Sanjay Patel—who made an awesome Oscar-nominated short film called ‘Sanjay’s Super Team’—is creating a Netflix series titled ‘Ghee Happy’. He says: “Having finally become a parent, I’m so excited and lucky to be able to create a preschool series that introduces the great pantheon of Hindu Deities, not just into a beautiful and colorful series that is truly entertaining and original to my kiddos, but to families around the world.” Having seen his previous outing (the lovely backstory video here), we think Indian parents ought to be excited too. (Deadline)


There ain’t no thing as a ‘light smoker’: According to the latest research, smoking two cigarettes a day is as likely to kill you as inhaling that entire pack—or even two. Hmm, why do we think this may send entirely the wrong message to smokers. (Daily Mail)


Is Instagram killing good interior design? Increasingly, both designers and clients are looking to create social media-worthy spaces. So we end up with interiors better suited to ‘Insta moments’ rather than living or working. This is a thoughtful take on how social media is transforming our world in ways that we don’t even notice. (Fast Company)


Victoria’s Secret hired its first plus-sized model: and no one is impressed. (Business Insider)


Your daily quota of sunshine items: includes the following:

  • Stunning portraits of the 'mahu' of Tahiti, an ancient spiritual community who identify neither as male or female. 
  • Two excellent cover stories on two fierce women who wear their political opinions on their sleeve: Rihanna in Vogue; Mindy Kaling in Elle.

  • We keep forgetting to include this brilliant clip tailored for Avengers fans. Also includes: attractive men in swimming attire (strictly as an FYI).

  • This Instagram-fuelled mega-feud between two wives of two famous football stars that has gone insanely viral. Just in case you care…

  • This lovely old photo of Waheeda Rahman… playing cricket!

  • What do you really need if you are on-air and expounding on the situation in Syria—your toddler wandering on-screen, of course.

  • This Kolkata couple who got hitched within four hours of their first meeting. Or maybe this is a soon-to-be nightmare item? Yeah, we be bitter like that.

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Stuff we buy, use or love.

A Very Heavenly Watchlist
Tis the season for gods and goddesses. Between Eid, Dussehra, Diwali and Christmas, the last four months are jam-packed with divine celebrations. So here’s a list of some of our favourite riffs on the theme. 
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If you are thinking ‘what about Sita?’…

During this Dussehra/Diwali season, check out Sita Sings the Blues. Imagine this: The Ramayana reimagined as a gorgeously animated musical set to 1920s American jazz vocals. The love-child of Nina Paley, this semi-autobiographical tale begins with a recently dumped young woman in San Francisco who picks up the Ramayana and discovers the story of Sita. It is witty, exuberant and so, so much fun. And best of all: it’s free on YouTube. These are 1.2 hours of your life that you will not want back. (Reviews by Roger Ebert and Rajeev Masand)

Watch: Sita Sings the Blues |

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If you think you’re going to straight to hell…

By the standards of every religion ever invented, ‘The Good Place’ offers excellent consolation. This is a story of an all-round terrible human being who ends up in a non-denominational heaven—or so it seems. The effortlessly multicultural cast includes Ted Danson, Kristen Bell and of course, Jameela Jamil. It’s a unique breezy sitcom that raises genuine questions about philosophy, morality and ethics. Also: an excellent family watch if you have tweens or older kids. (The Guardian’s review has zero spoilers)

Watch: The Good Place | Netflix

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If you prefer to watch something created by the gods…

Of fantasy fiction—Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett—binge on ‘Good Omens’. Trust us, even if you aren’t a fan of this genre, tune in to watch David Tennant and Michael Sheen playing a demon (Tennant) and archangel (Sheen)—both serving as their respective masters’ agents on earth as it nears the end of days. Extra bonus: Frances McDormand as God and Jon Hamm as an excellent Archangel Gabriel. This is one of the funniest and sharpest takes on Armageddon we’ve seen—but that may be because we loooove Tennant. (See: reviews in the New York Times and Hollywood Reporter)

Watch: Good Omens | Amazon Prime


Note: These products are personally picked by the editors. We do not receive any revenue from the recommended brands.

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