Monday, May 13, 2019
Number of the day: 60.5%

That was the voter turnout in Delhi. And it’s a big dip from the 65% who showed up at the polls in 2014. Polling officials are blaming the poor showing on the hot weather, the weekend, and peak holiday season. Among the constituencies, the worst performers were also the most affluent: South Delhi and New Delhi. But of course. A silver lining for competitive Dilliwalas: Mumbai’s stellar 55.1% turnout—its highest since 1989—is way lower Delhi’s middling performance.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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Modi's head-in-the-clouds moment

In a televised interview, the Prime Minister revealed details of the leadup to the Balakot strikes—which immediately blew up into a huge controversy. Then he compounded the error with a new self-goal.

Remind me about Balakot: In retaliation for the Pulwama attack, India launched a missile strike targeting a Jaish-e-Muhammad building in Balakot. Pakistan insisted the missiles missed their target—a claim affirmed by several international analysts who shared high-res satellite images of the building standing intact after the strikes. However, the top brass of the Indian Air Force has stoutly insisted that the mission was indeed successful, but did not share any visual evidence to confirm their claim. Also: Modi has made the Balakot strikes a signature theme in his campaign rallies, touting it as a symbol of his tough national security policy.

So what did he say? In an interview to News Nation, Modi offered a behind-the-scenes peek into a debate that took place right before the missile strike (clip here). The weather had turned bad. The heavy rains and clouds posed a potential problem. He admitted “by and large, the experts’ opinion was: ‘What if we change the date?’” But the PM overruled them as he explained: “I am not a person who knows this science, but I thought that there are clouds, it’s raining, so there is a benefit that we can escape the radar. I have a raw wisdom, the cloud can benefit us too.”

What was the controversy? Modi’s remarks sparked a range of reactions including:

  • Amusement: because radars—which use radio waves to detect objects—are not affected by any kind of weather or lack of visibility. Hence lots of mean jokes about “cloud cover” and “raw wisdom” ensued.

  • Sneers: because the Prime Minister is expected to have a minimum understanding of science. That he made the remarks on National Technology Day didn’t help.

  • Outrage: because, well, a PM should know better. Many opposition leaders called his ignorance a “serious national security issue.” Others questioned why none of the “experts” set Modi straight.

Then Modi-ji made it worse: A new clip from the same interview has since gone viral. It shows the PM claiming he used a digital camera to take a photo, and then sent it via email back in… 1987/88—long before either was available in India. Sigh!

Is this really a big deal? Setting the politics and self-goals aside, there are two bigger concerns here. One, as the Air Force has already revealed, due to the bad weather, they were unable to deploy Israeli air-to-surface missiles called the Crystal Maze. These were equipped to provide a live video feed of the missiles hitting their target. And that lack of evidence robbed the strikes of their impact on the international stage—however else they may be playing at home. Two, as The Print points out, sharing details on strategic thinking and decision-making (including naval movements) is highly unwise. Modi’s extended remarks breached the confidentiality required in sensitive matters of national security.

Learn more: Watch the two interview clips here and here. Quint rounds up the story and the reactions. NDTV has the story on the Israeli missiles and why they are significant. The Print analyses the national security angle. The Telegraph front page headline was cheeky, as usual. Broadsheet did an explainer on the controversy over the Balakot strike back in February and again in March.

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saving up for your four-bedroom villa on the moon

Your important sports update is here: Mumbai Indians defeated the Chennai Super Kings by one run in the IPL final. Also: Manchester City retained the Premier League title for the second year in a row. Celeb fan Noel Gallagher sang ‘Wonderwall' with the team in the changing room.


ISIS says it has a “province” in India: it’s not clear if this is a case of terrorist trolling or a serious statement of intent, but the Islamic State insists that it now has a ‘province’ in Kashmir. We’re not exactly sure if one can blithely claim parts of the world, but one expert says, "The world may roll its eyes at these developments, but to jihadists in these vulnerable regions, these are significant gestures to help lay the groundwork in rebuilding the map of the IS 'caliphate'." (Haaretz)


Who needs how many to win: This is the most succinct breakdown of the possible outcomes for the BJP in this election. If you’re too lazy to click through, here’s an even shorter summary. If it’s 230-plus, then Modi returns with NDA support. If the party scores between 200-220, it can still take the gaddi but their newly acquired allies will demand that a Nitin Gadkari or Rajnath Singh replace the Bigg Boss—an untenable prospect to a party now defined entirely by its leader. (Indian Express)


Tories’ miserable month of May: The Conservative Party has plummeted to an all-time 20-year low in the latest opinion polls, faring even worse than rightwing Nigel Farage’s newly formed Brexit Party. May’s government and her party will now proceed to lose whatever is left of their addled minds. We advise all Britsh citizens to prepare for impact. Brace, brace, brace! (Business Insider)


Cyclone Fani’s long trail of destruction: Sixty four people have died and over 1.5 crore have been affected by its impact. There is no electricity in large parts of Bhubaneswar and the district of Puri. Distribution of drinking water and food is sporadic. Also destroyed: 500,000 houses, nearly 7000 hospitals, and 3.4 million livestock. The total estimated damage: Rs 50,000 crore. This ground report (with photos) on the aftermath of Fani is an important read and reminder. (Times of India)


Renee Zellweger is unrecognizable: as Judy Garland in the trailer of the upcoming biopic ‘Judy’.


The saga of a Time cover story: ‘Can the World's Largest Democracy Endure Another Five Years of a Modi Government?’ That was the headline of the story penned by Aatish Taseer, and it made a lot of BJP supporters very angry. Some of them vandalised Taseer’s Wikipedia page. Others like Kabir Bedi decided to dub him a Pakistani. Taseer’s mother and ardent Modi supporter, Tavleen Singh, tried to intervene, but to no avail. To set the record straight: Singh had a relationship with Pakistani politician Salman Taseer, and they had a child. However, she raised Taseer as a single unwed mother in Delhi—which must have taken great gumption back in the day (details here).  Also: Taseer was widely panned by liberals in the last election for being soft on Modi and Hindutva. Moral of this story: In politics, everyone has a conveniently short memory.


A taste of Trinamool’s ‘goonda raj’: While the Hindi Belt may have a well-deserved bad rep for political thuggery, Bengal under Mamata is not far behind. BJP youth leader, Priyanka Sharma, was arrested without bail for the grievous offence of posting a funny meme that superimposed Mamata’s face onto Priyanka Chopra’s photo from the Met Gala. In related news: BJP candidate Bharati Ghosh was terrorised by Trinamool goons when she attempted to vote in her own constituency.


Jeff Bezos has grand plans to conquer the moon: and create giant Disneyland-like colonies in space. He revealed the details of his ambitious Blue Origin project which will make this dream come true -- likely after we’ve created a living nightmare down here on planet earth. Tech Insider made a watchable video with cool graphics.


Weekend reads you may have missed: include the following

  • An interesting peek into what Indian Muslims in the Hindi Belt think about national security, Balakot and Kashmir in The Print.

  • A lovely Atlas Obscura essay on the art of kolam (rangoli to North Indian types), and why it fascinates computer scientists.

  • A somewhat alarming New York Times piece on the effect of closed conference rooms and why they may make us stupider (at least temporarily).

  • Olivia Laing in The Guardian on her addiction to Twitter: “...I was hypnotised by horror. The more internet-reality I consumed, the more I sat there, numb, paranoid, drained of hope.”

  • Shashi Tharoor’s refreshing tribute in The Week to his fiercely demanding and independent mother sans the usual sentimentality of such Mother’s Day pieces.

  • A letter from a Tamilian in Daily O taking AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal to task for his recorded election message demonising, well, Tamilians. Also: it captures the misery of growing up as a ‘Madrassi’ nerd in the capital.

  • This tongue-in-cheek column in Mint that reminds us that PLUs are no less elitist than a Moon Moon Sen—whether or not we insist on a timely bed tea.

  • This contrarian defense in Ladies Finger of Atishi Marlena in Ladies Finger which refuses to apologise for her alleged ‘sins’.


Your Monday am pick-me-ups: include the following:

  • This unintentionally hilarious tweet from Robert Vadra urging everyone to vote… let this be a warning to use more care when deploying flag emojis.

  • This cat in a Turkish metro station behaving exactly like an Indian cow. And if you want it: the backstory about this very special cat.

  • This wonderful LOL clip from Kashmir of a little girl who made the most of her father’s inviting back while he kneeled to offer prayers at the mosque.

  • This somewhat alarming yet compelling clip of Russian-trained seals wielding, umm, guns?!

  • Keanu Reeves giving the perfect answer to an impossible question: What do you think happens when we die?

  • These confused teenagers trying—and hilariously failing —to figure out how to use an old-fashioned phone.

  • The UK’s newly anointed poet laureate Simon Armitage’s poem, ‘Thank You for Waiting’ —brilliant dark humour that will speak to anyone who’s ever waited to board a flight. You can either watch it (now there are ‘poem videos’?) or read it.

  • The worst data visualisation chart ever showing the average height of women in different countries. Behold how incredibly short we Indian women are… the emphasis on ‘incredibly’.

  • This BBC outtake of Sir David Attenborough being outshone by a camera-hogging bird.


We messed up a number of things: in Broadsheet on Friday, and these include:

  • The ‘Invite Friends’ button which led to our Broadsheet ‘sign up’ page instead. Apologies to all those who clicked on it and wondered WTF. We invite you to please hit that button again today. It’s located at the very top and bottom of the email. We promise it works.

  • The weird formatting in our Informer section header which was just a mess.

  • Also: the broken link to Atishi breaking down at the AAP presser as she tried to read from the pamphlet. Now, that one isn’t exactly our fault—@MirrorNow deleted the tweet which contained the clip. So we dug up another ANI clip instead.

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The best place for the best advice

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Everything about the ‘morning after’ pill

Ever since its introduction as an over-the-counter medication, the emergency contraceptive pill (ECP) has become widely available (except in Tamil Nadu) and popular. But as a 2018 survey revealed, most are dangerously ignorant about what the pill does and how it ought to be used. So here is a basic guide to help you make the right decision about using this pill.


Doing it wrong


It is not an ‘abortion pill’: The ECP basically delivers a super dose of hormones—the same as those found in a normal birth control pill. This prevents the egg from becoming fertilized and attaching itself to the uterus. Therefore, an ECP will not have any effect once you become pregnant. The abortion pill or RU486—which induces an abortion in an early pregnancy—is entirely different and requires a doctor’s prescription.


It is not a ‘birth control pill’: Around 36% of respondents in a recent YouGov survey believed that the ‘morning after’ pill is pretty much like a regular birth control pill. Another 49% were “not sure.” So let’s be clear: The key word here is ‘emergency’. As the WHO emphasises, an ECP is perfectly safe if used on occasion to prevent pregnancy. But it is not a method of everyday contraception, unlike condoms, IUDs or regular birth control pills. And here’s why:


  • Overuse of the pill can make your periods irregular and unpredictable.

  • ECPs are only effective 75% of the time—which is far riskier than using condoms (98%), birth control pills (98%), or an IUD (99%).

  • Unlike other forms of birth control, an ECP has far more unpleasant side-effects (see below). You really don’t want to endure that kind of misery multiple times a month or even a year.


Doing it right


Timing is everything: Since it prevents a pregnancy (rather than abort it), you must take it as quickly as possible after having unprotected sex -- ideally within 24 hours, and no later than 72 hours. The longer you wait, the less effective it will be.  So don’t walk, run to the nearest pharmacist.


Expect side effects: The most common symptoms include nausea, fatigue, and depression. So be kind to yourself soon after you take the pill. And it will disrupt your menstrual cycle. Most women get their period within a week or two of taking the pill, but it should settle thereafter. You may also experience spotting or heavier bleeding.


Learn more: Here’s a list of the top eight ECPs with detailed information on each—the most popular is iPill which is the Indian equivalent of the US drug called Plan B.  Vice looks at the side effects of an ECP.  Self lists the six ways you can still get pregnant after taking an ECP.  

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