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Wednesday, September 04, 2019
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Quote of the day

“It is highly unrealistic for anybody to say the situation is normal,” said Srinagar mayor Junaid Azim Mattu, who took office last year with BJP’s support. In an NDTV interview, he also spoke of a “humanitarian crisis” in the Valley. Apparently, that’s enough to get a Kashmiri politician in trouble these days. He has since been placed under house arrest. A police official said, “He is the BJP’s man, but he doesn’t have the permission to make loose statements.”

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EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT...

The biggest news story today, explained.

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The tipping point in the Brexit crisis

After years of wallowing in recrimination, paralysis and angst, British MPs finally united to take a stance on Brexit yesterday. And all the credit goes to Boris Johnson.


A very brief background: The 2016 referendum delivered a narrow verdict supporting Britain’s exit from the European Union. Former PM Theresa May spent nearly two years negotiating a deal that was rejected thrice in Parliament. May stepped down and Boris Johnson took her place in July. (Lots more details and background included in our recent explainer)


The trigger: Johnson’s first big Brexit-related action was to suspend Parliament. This dramatically shortened the number of days in the current session, and the new session won’t begin until October 14—just weeks before October 31, which is the EU-imposed deadline to get the deal approved. Johnson’s genius plan: either EU will blink and renegotiate the deal or Britain will crash out of the EU without a deal. Best of all, the MPs won’t have enough time to stop him. Sadly, it all went awry for BoJo yesterday. 


Ok, what happened? Yesterday, Parliament reconvened for the first time after the summer break. And Boris Johnson lost his parliamentary majority. Here’s how it happened:

  • The Tory government had a slim one-vote majority. And they lost it when one of their MPs, Phillip Lee, crossed the floor to join the Liberal Democrats—right in the middle of Johnson’s speech. (Watch it here)

  • 21 rebel Tory MPs then voted with the Opposition to seize control of the parliamentary agenda. This will allow them to introduce a bill today that will prevent Johnson from taking Britain out of the EU without a deal in place. 

  • Those 21 MPs have since been thrown out of the party—further shrinking its numbers in Parliament. These include two former finance ministers and the grandson of Winston Churchill.


What happens now? That bill blocking a no-deal Brexit will likely go through today. It will require the PM to go back to the EU and seek an extension until January 31. Johnson has already refused to do any such thing and says he will call for a snap general election instead—likely to be held on October 15. 


So, Britain goes back to the polls? Not so fast. The motion to call for fresh elections requires a two-thirds majority in the House of Commons—and Labour chief Jeremy Corbyn has refused to even consider it until that no-deal bill passes today. The opposition is worried that Johnson will time the poll to make sure that Parliament can’t stop a no-deal Brexit. 


The other option for Corbyn: If the bill to block a no-deal fails, he could introduce a no-confidence motion to oust Johnson. Labour would then have two weeks to cobble together a ‘unity government’—which has only happened once in parliamentary history.


The bottomline: Thanks to Britain’s convoluted parliamentary procedure—and the lack of any meaningful consensus apart from opposition to Johnson—pretty much anything can happen over the coming week. A fact wonderfully illustrated by BBC’s excellent flow charts.

 

Learn more: If you really want more on this mess, we recommend checking out the explainer we did last week. It has lots of background and links to in-depth resources.

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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...

throwing out that can of Pringles

Stocks, rupee slide downwards: The Sensex is down by 2%, as is Nifty—the lowest in 11 months. The rupee is now Rs 72.39 to a dollar—back to what it was last November. The reason: growing anxiety over the economy. Related read: This level-headed analysis that pinpoints the source of the government’s fiscal policy blunders—i.e. its hostility toward the informal sector. Definitely worth a read. 


Bangladesh adopts the Kashmir model: Perhaps taking its cue from the Indian government, Dhaka has ordered mobile phone operators to shut down services to almost one million Rohingya refugees who live in camps. Officials cite “security” and methamphetamine smuggling as the reason for the move. But it is a disaster for the refugees who rely on remittances from their relatives around the world—and therefore need their phones to communicate with them. Bangladesh has long been trying to push the refugees back to Myanmar—where they are being persecuted and killed by the military. (Yahoo News)


Thirsty Bangalore endangers wildlife sanctuary: The Mekadetu Balancing Reservoir project promises to provide 1 crore of the city’s residents with 135 litres of water per day. But 60% of the land—nearly 32 square km—needed to build it will eat into the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary. Another 19 square km will submerge adjacent forest land. It will eliminate vital elephant corridors and endanger a variety of already threatened species. Also: the sanctuary itself acts as a critical tiger buffer zone. There are many ways to conserve water in Bangalore—but it appears far easier for us and our government to destroy our environment instead. (The Hindu)


Likes begone! Instagram is already testing the option of hiding the ‘Like’ counter in a number of countries. Facebook might be next. The reason: to stop people from posting content just to court Likes—or feeling bad because no one liked that awesome party photo (which they spent hours Facetuning to perfection). (TechCrunch)


A new deepfake app is here: With Zao—a face-swapping app—you can insert yourself into iconic movie and TV show scenes and take the place of your fave movie star. Kinda like this guy did with Leonardo DiCaprio. All you have to do is upload your photo—which you may want to think twice about. (The Verge)


Eating very poorly may make you blind: A young man lost his vision due to severe malnutrition. Nope, this isn’t some poor person who didn’t have enough to eat. This is a Brit teenager who only ate fries, Pringles, white bread, slices of ham and sausages—day after day! (BBC)


A WhatsApp forward can get you in trouble: with US immigration officials. This is the story of a Pakistani man whose visa was cancelled. The reason: his phone contained a disturbing image of a murdered child forwarded by someone to a WhatsApp group. He has now been banned from entering the country for five years. (TechCrunch)


Zit happens! Imagine a beauty brand ad with models sporting very visible pimples—and it isn’t for an anti-acne cream. Blume’s Celebrate Skin Campaign is aimed at encouraging women to embrace their skin, zits and all! According to the brand’s survey, 64% of respondents defined beauty partly as having clear skin, 41% confessed to avoiding social events because of their acne, and 71% of respondents said their acne caused depression, low self-esteem and anxiety. Click through to see the excellent photos. (Daily Mail)


An ‘only in Delhi’ story: involves four (or maybe three) very drunk people in a car. One of them “fell out” of the backseat and no one noticed! Now he is dead. Also: the person who died is a Chinese exec and the driver is the CEO of an Indian firm. (Times of India)


An anti-beef agitation in Germany: The Indian consulate in Frankfurt organised a festival. The local chapter of the Kerala Samajam planned to serve the state’s delicacies—i.e. parotta and beef curry. However, Hindutva groups became very angry over this "direct attack on Indian culture." So the dishes were dropped and Samajam members staged a silent protest. Oh, and the theme of the festival: ‘Unity in Diversity’. (Scroll)


Your daily quota of sunshine items: includes the following:

  • Malayali actor Joju George rocking a mundu aka dhoti aka veshti on the red carpet at the Venice Film Festival.

  • An excellent visual analogy of Brexit that involves a rather large sword.

  • The Facebook photos of a very kind woman in the Bahamas who took 97 dogs into her home to protect them from Hurricane Dorian. 

  • Speaking of dogs, it is best to let them lie… because you’ll then be rewarded with these hilarious photos of dogs sleeping in the most bizarre places and positions.  

  • Speaking of bald dogs, the Peruvian hairless was once an endangered breed but has since been rescued by the government. The “ugly” pooches now have a sarkaari job: guarding pyramids.

  • Legendary gymnast Nadia Comaneci tweeted out a clip of little Indian kids doing cartwheels on the road. Here’s their backstory and it’s a really good one.

  • Two very large bodybuilders plus a grocery store’s CCTV camera. The result is a whole lot of goofy fun.

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SEX, LOVE ETC.

Everything we don't know about human desire

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Is there a surefire recipe for sexual stamina?

If women worry about not having an orgasm, men often have the opposite problem—how to stay in the game long enough for her to ‘get there’. Well, here’s some useful gyaan on this eternal source of male angst.


Read: Is There Any Reliable Way To Last Longer In Bed? | Mel Magazine

Sex, Love etc 2

Marital life after infidelity

Both men and women sometimes cheat on their partners. And couples often choose to stay together. So how do they navigate the minefield of anger, hurt and sense of betrayal? Here are some insights from couples who’ve made it to the other side.


Read: What It’s Like to Stay in a Relationship After Cheating | GQ

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