Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Number of the day: 311

That’s how many voted in favour of the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which was passed in the Lok Sabha after seven hours of debate. The wide margin: 311-80. Amit Shah blamed the Partition: “If during Independence, this country was not partitioned by the Congress on the basis of religion, this Bill would not have been needed.” And he promised a truly national register of citizens, vowing to “bring the NRC across the country… Not a single infiltrator will be spared.” Want more on the CAB? Read our detailed explainer.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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The youngest Prime Minister in the world

Sanna Marin is only 34 years old, and she will be sworn in this week as the Prime Minister of Finland. The news has turned the spotlight on the small Nordic country and its impressive record of gender equality.

What happened here? Finland’s Prime Minister Antti Rinne resigned last week after he lost the support of a key partner in the ruling coalition government. His party—the Social Democratic Party—voted for his deputy, Sanna Marin, to replace him, making her the youngest PM in the world. 

Tell me about Marin: Her background is every bit as notable as her age. 

  • She was raised by a single mother, and comes from a working class background. Marin is the first in her family to complete high school and go to university.

  • She has spoken openly about the stigma she faced because her mother was in a same-sex relationship—saying she felt "invisible" because she was unable to talk openly about her family.

  • She won her first local election at the age of 27, and became a member of parliament in 2015—and now has the top job! When asked about taking on the responsibility of a PM as a young woman, she said: “I have never thought about my age or gender. I think of the reasons I got into politics and those things for which we have won the trust of the electorate.”

  • She is seen as a left-winger and is a strong advocate of Finland’s welfare state.

  • And on a lighter note, she is a card-carrying member of the ‘Instagram generation’—posting candid shots of her holidays, baby bump and breastfeeding her baby.

Millennial and a woman! That’s not all. Marin leads a five-party coalition—and the leaders of all five parties are women! Even better: four of them are under 35—some younger than Marin (see them here). In fact, experts in Finland say Marin’s gender is the least surprising thing about her. 

Why is that? Women account for 47% of Finland’s current Parliament. The nation was among the first to give women the right to vote, and it elected its first female prime minister in 2003. The country was also ranked at #4—after Iceland, Norway, and Sweden—in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index for 2018. But not everything is rosy: 47% of women reported having experienced physical or sexual violence, the second highest in the EU. But it isn’t clear if the numbers are high due to greater violence, or because of better reporting.

Still, Finland sounds awesome: So it is, but as with other parts of Europe, the Finns too are witnessing the rise of rightwing nationalism. Unlike other nations, the hard right is focused not on immigration or race, but climate change!  In the national election held in April, the conservative Finns Party made “climate hysteria” the central plank of its campaign. Its chairman warned that it will wreck the Finnish economy—and usher in “massive” fuel tax increases and “raise transport and heating costs to unbearable levels.”

Is this a problem for Marin? Yes, because she and her party are committed to making Finland carbon neutral by 2035. And that will be a challenge as the nation relies heavily on its energy-intensive paper and steel export industries. Also: The Finns Party is rapidly growing in popularity among working class men.


The bottomline: Alongside New Zealand’s 39-year old Jacinda Ardern and 30-year old US Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasia-Cortez, Sanna Marin represents a new generation of highly ambitious young women surging to the forefront of their nation’s politics. We can only hope that India will join their ranks soon.


Learn more: BBC News has a profile of Marin, while Daily Mail rounds up her best Insta pics. Vox has more on Finland’s history of gender equality. New York Times reports on the focus on climate change in Finland’s politics. Business Insider has a handy list of other under-40 world leaders and their bios.

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feeling a lotta love for Tata Steel

A massive volcano eruption in New Zealand: The country’s most active volcano erupted on Monday killing at least five people. Up to 50 people were trapped on Whakaari aka White Island. Of them, eight are still missing. The police do not expect to find more survivors. Many are asking whether an active volcano ought to be a tourist destination, calling it “a disaster waiting to happen.” Al Jazeera has a handy explainer. Plus: this terrifying video of the moment when the volcano erupted.

Russia has been canceled: The World Anti-Doping Agency has banned Russia from all major sporting events for the next four years. This means there will be no official Russian team at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and the 2022 football World Cup in Qatar. But athletes who can prove they are ‘clean’ will be able to compete under a neutral flag at these events. Point to note: Russia was first declared guilty of state-sponsored doping back in 2015—at which point it was banned from international sport. As a result, 168 Russian athletes competed under a neutral flag at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. It was then reinstated in 2018—and now has been banned again. The reason: “WADA’s executive committee concluded Moscow had planted fake evidence and deleted files linked to positive doping tests in laboratory data that could have helped identify drug cheats.” 

A WTF Facebook ruling in Australia: Earlier this year, the nation’s Supreme Court decided that media companies are liable for defamatory comments made on their Facebook posts—even when they are not aware of them! As a result, publications like ABC, Guardian Australia, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald are limiting the kinds of stories they share. According to one executive editor, “[T]he journalism we aren’t publishing on Facebook tends to be the challenging but important stories that might attract a strong reaction from users. This means important journalism covering disagreements over public policy, the misconduct of public officials and certain crimes is less likely to be published on Facebook.” Yeah, that’s exactly what we need in this era of fake news. (Sydney Morning Herald)

Golden Globe nominations are very white and male: With the exception of ‘Marriage Story’ nods for Scarlett Johansson and Laura Dern, the other nominations in the movie category were reserved for white men—with ‘The Irishman’ and ‘Once Upon A Time in Hollywood mopping up five apiece. The one white male who was snubbed: Robert De Niro didn't make the cut for best actor. FYI: Netflix mopped up 34 movie and TV nominations. (Reuters)


A Delhi mosque under siege: A 500-year-old mosque in Mehrauli has been brazenly seized and occupied by a local land mafia. The monument was being restored by the Delhi government's archaeology department, but the work was stopped due to the construction ban triggered by pollution. Soon after, members of the mafia simply walked in, blocked entry to the mosque, and have already razed parts of it. (Times of India

Time-restricted eating may help fight diabetes: New research shows that restricting your eating ‘window’ to 10 hours a day can help combat obesity, high blood sugar, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. (The Conversation)

This t-shirt can charge your phone! Researchers have designed a tee that transforms your body heat into thermal energy. How does it work? A liquid solution, made of tomato skin and carbon nanoparticles, is sprayed into a regular T-shirt, creating an “e-textile.” Scientists are now working on making the fabric washable and safe to iron. (Fast Company)

Akki channels his inner creep: At a public event, everyone’s favourite Canadian declared: “When I was working with Karisma Kapoor back in the day, Kareena was so young that I would lift her up and play with her. And today she is my heroine.” Just when everyone was going 'ewww', Kareena chimed in to make it even better: “He still does that and he’s doing that with all his heroines." Twitter was not amused.

A new bill to help pay your bills: The Cabinet has approved the Social Security Code Bill, which lets you lower your Provident Fund contribution—and take more of your hard-earned moolah home. The good news: your employer's contribution will remain 12% of your basic salary. This the government’s latest bid to persuade all of us to save less and spend more. (Economic Times

The price for Indian motherhood: A new study looked at 783 Indian women with an average work experience of 9.5 years who returned to the job market after a gap of 4.5 years. Of them, at least 69% expect a pay cut at their new job—a reality dubbed the ‘motherhood wage penalty’. The biggest barrier to getting back on the career track: lack of a professional network. Point to note: Seven million women in India are trying to start over after taking a break—typically taken to have a baby, raise a child or care for the elderly. (Quartz)

Madhuri is coming to Netflix: Dixit will make her streaming debut in a series produced by Karan Johar. She describes it as a “suspenseful family drama about a global superstar, who vanishes without a trace.” Hmm, doesn’t sound very KJo. (Hindustan Times)

Tata Steel embraces the LGBT community: Domestic partners of Tata Steel’s LGBTQ+ employees will now receive a full range of HR benefits typically reserved for spouses. Employees will also be granted financial assistance plus 30 days of special leave for gender reassignment surgery. (PTI)

Steve Harvey and the Miss Universe contest: have a bit of a muddled history. He announced the wrong name as the winner of the 2015 contest—and appeared to have done it again for national costume segment this year. Or maybe he didn’t. Honestly, we don’t care. We only put this one in for the jaw-dropping costumes of Miss Philippines and Miss Malaysia. (Business Insider)

Witch-hunting in Jharkhand: Women suspected of being ‘dayans’ are tortured, raped and often killed. Here’s an eye-opening report on the crime that no one—including netas—want to talk about. (News18)

Your daily quota of sunshine items: includes the following:

  • This amazing New York Times story of two lovers in Auschwitz who were reunited after 72 years.

  • The woman in the infamous Peloton ad who has abandoned overpriced exercise and embraced gin—specifically Ryan Reynolds’ Aviator gin.

  • The latest celeb to get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is... a car?!

  • Gwyneth Paltrow’s Christmas-themed Goop ad that features… a vibrator!

  • What do you get if you mix Santa with sex and cocaine? A sweater sold by Walmart, of course!

  • This English village with a flock of very pushy door-knocking swans.

  • This short and wonderful film about a dad trying to do his daughter’s hair for a very special event.

  • This gorgeous (and huge) grey wolf showing us that he is a very good boy!
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Unexpected, thought-provoking and always worth your time

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The ‘Pregnancy Reality Check’ Edition

The reality of pregnancy is often a far cry from those joyous ‘baby bump’ images we are inundated with in the media. And it often comes as a rude shock given the misinformation and silencing around the subject. Here are two important reads that offer much-needed knowledge on the subject.

The unbearably painful pregnancy

Have you heard of symphisis pubis dysfunction (SPD)? Many pregnant women endure agonising pain due to this groin condition. “I couldn’t move and I could hear a loud click in sacral bone when I got up. The pain was debilitating,” says one woman. But SPD often goes undiagnosed, and is dismissed as ‘normal’. This is a must-read for all of us who plan to become pregnant.

Read: How Pregnant Indian Women are Expected to Live with the Terrible Pain of SPD | Huffington Post

Sex, Love etc 2

Can the morning after pill fail?

Sure, we know that the pill is 95% effective—which means it can fail at least for 5% of the women who take it. But did you know the failure rate is tied to what stage you are in your menstrual cycle? Or that dosage also depends on your BMI? Or that it can interact with certain asthma medicines? Well, neither did we.

Read: I Got Pregnant After Taking The Morning After Pill | Refinery29

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