Thursday, September 12, 2019

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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Sweeping house arrests in Andhra Pradesh

It’s the new trend in Indian politics: throwing the opposition in jail on the pretext of preserving law and order. First came Kashmir, now it’s the turn of Andhra Pradesh. Except this time it isn’t the BJP, but Andhra CM and YSR Congress chief Jagan Reddy. 

Meet Jagan Reddy: The son of Congress leader YSR Reddy had great hopes of succeeding his father when he died in a helicopter crash. But his family was rudely snubbed by Sonia Gandhi. So Jagan formed his own party (YSR Congress) and fought a long battle to finally emerge from political wilderness to sweep the state elections in May. 

Meet Chandrababu Naidu: He’s the chief of the Telugu Desam Party and the man whom Jagan Reddy recently evicted from the CM gaddi. Before the elections, Naidu also tried to project himself as the leader of an opposition alliance that would take on Modi.

Got it! Ok, so what happened? Both Naidu and his son were placed under house arrest yesterday—as were many senior TDP leaders, some of whom were taken into police custody. The high-stakes drama included police swooping down on Naidu’s residence and physically blocking the gates (see photos here).

Why arrest him? Naidu was planning to launch a ‘Chalo Atmakuru’ rally. Atmakuru is currently ground zero in a bitter conflict between the two parties. Naidu alleges that YSR Congress members have targeted his party workers in the village—forcing 125 members of marginalised communities to flee. It’s evidence, he says, of a larger campaign of intimidation.

What campaign? Naidu cites 565 incidents of violence against TDP workers across the state—including 10 party workers who were killed. He also alleges that 28 persons were arrested for social media posts criticising the ruling party, and 52 false cases were filed against party sympathisers. All this within the first 100 days of Jagan Reddy’s government.

Is this true? The state is no stranger to political violence, and all parties have been guilty of the same. But as Firstpost notes, it has never been “as fierce, sustained and no-holds-barred as it has been this time.” Point to note: the state BJP claims that their workers also have been targeted by the ruling party.

What’s the government’s justification? The police have imposed Section 144 which bans the assembly of large groups of people—which the planned rally would have violated. The Director General of Police said Naidu “was taken into preventive custody (house arrest) as his actions are increasing tensions and creating disturbance to law and order..."

Is this really such a big deal? Yes—and not because Naidu is innocent or been gravely wronged as such. In Kashmir, the entire political leadership (barring the state BJP) was thrown into preventive custody citing the same reason—‘law and order’. But even there, the government insisted these were exceptional circumstances. In Andhra, Reddy has done the same to the TDP because they were planning an entirely unexceptional political rally. This is a dangerous trend in any democracy. And it marks a return to Indira Gandhi-style excesses. 

The bottomline: Reddy’s actions are not just unwarranted, they are also unwise. He crushed Naidu in the recent elections, and is just beginning his tenure as Chief Minister. Now, Reddy has turned the media spotlight on Naidu precisely when he is at his weakest—giving him political oxygen when he needs it most. It’s never wise to use a sledgehammer to swat a fly.


Learn more: Times of India offers a blow-by-blow account of Naidu’s house arrest. Firstpost explains why the Reddy-Naidu feud is exceptional even by AP standards. Hindustan Times reveals how Reddy’s vendetta politics is wreaking havoc on the state’s business and economy. News 18 charts the ‘filmier than fiction’ rise of Jagan Reddy to power.

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feeling a little let down by Aamir

Boris has a bad day in court: PM Boris Johnson suspended Parliament for five weeks to ensure that MPs do not block his plan to take Britain out of the EU—with or without a deal. The MPs managed to pass a bill which does exactly that before the session ended on Tuesday. Now, Scotland’s highest civil court has ruled that his decision to suspend Parliament is “unlawful and is thus null and of no effect.” Coming up next week: an appeal to be heard by the Supreme Court in London. (BBC)

Are hefty traffic fines already DOA? First, Gujarat reduced the fines by 90% on compassionate grounds. Now, two other BJP-ruled states—Uttarakhand and Karnataka—plan to follow suit. Opposition-ruled states like Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Punjab have already put the new rules on hold. Mantri Gadkari khush nahin hua. (Indian Express)

Dear airline passengers, meet Big Brother: Intelligence agencies will now have access to all information on the itineraries of all domestic airline passengers. The passenger manifests will be collated and shared with the Research and Analysis Wing, Intelligence Bureau, CBI, Financial Intelligence Unit, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Enforcement Directorate, Narcotics Control Bureau, Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs and the Directorate General of GST Intelligence. Yup, you get the picture. (Economic Times)

Aamir flip flops on #MeToo: At the height of the #MeToo upsurge in Bollywood, Aamir Khan declared that he will no longer work with director Subhash Kapoor on ‘Mogul’. The reason: Kapoor was accused of molesting actor Geetika Tyagi who has since filed a police case against him. Well, Aamir’s changed his mind. The reason: “I couldn’t sleep at night because I used to constantly feel that my actions have inadvertently caused a person, about whose guilt I have absolutely no idea, to lose his right to work and earn a livelihood.” Tyagi hasn’t worked since either, nor has Khan reached out to her. But, but, but Aamir and his wife did talk to 10-12 other women who loved working with Kapoor. In any case, Tanushree Dutta has now weighed in with a strong statement. And Huffington Post has a lot more details, including Tyagi’s reaction.

Thinking about signing up for Apple TV+? Then you'll want to check out its lineup of originals. Honestly, we’re more impressed with ‘See’ (especially how gorgeous the post-apocalyptic flick looks) than ‘The Morning Show’—which has all our faves (hello, Reese and Steve) but we’re just not feeling it. Bonus Apple read: BBC reports on why the iPhone’s India outlook is looking sunny. 

In a related correction: Yesterday, we incorrectly listed the price for a mobile-only Netflix subscription as Rs 99/month. We went off a Mint story that contained the error. But thanks to our eagle-eyed Ambassador Geetika Varshney, we now know that the correct price is Rs 199/month—which makes the Apple TV+ a steal at Rs 99. Related read: Mint on why Apple TV+ remains a tough sell in India.

So how did a 74-year old become a mother? The answer involves a lot more than just IVF. (Parent Magazine)

People, put away your vaping pens! Initial reports pointed to Vitamin E acetate—a chemical used in cannabis products—as the culprit for a mystery lung disease that has killed five people in the US. But since then, there have been more questions than answers. The reason: the victims who developed that respiratory illness used a wide variety of products and devices. And that is making it real hard to identify a single cause. So U.S. health authorities are asking everyone to stop using any kind of e-cigarette or vaping device until there is more conclusive evidence. (Reuters)

Jonathan Franzen stirs up a climate change shitstorm: The author wrote a New Yorker essay that was summed up thus: “The climate apocalypse is coming. To prepare for it, we need to admit that we can’t prevent it.” His bold treatise—which slammed the rest of us for our misplaced optimism—was based on his “modelling” expertise as a “non scientist” who just knows “human nature.” Well, he has now been slammed in return by the many scientists who happen to know their climate change research. Our question: Why would New Yorker ask an author of a far-too-long novel on American middle class angst to write about the future of the planet? Now that’s A-grade trolling!

Wanna play Ms Monopoly? The new version of the game flips traditional gender bias on its head. Women players start out with more money, and earn more each time they pass Go. That's made lots of folks on Twitter very, very grumpy—including the feminists. Of course it has. (Independent UK)

Your daily quota of sunshine items: include the following:

  • Happy Onam, Michael Jackson style! The best demon ever!

  • Also awesome: Spiderman rocking it out in heels.
  • This visual reminder that despite the hateful rhetoric and hate-driven killings. Indians of different faiths can and do come together every day. #Muharram #GaneshChaturthi. 

  • Alibaba CEO Jack Ma singing ‘You Raise Me Up’ at his farewell—in leather and a wig. He was joined by his successor Daniel Zhang.

  • This lovely profile of Charles Ma, a Bharatanatyam dancer whose grandfather is ethnic Chinese, while his grandmother is Nepalese, and his mother is from the North-East. Oh, and he is born and raised in Bangalore.

  • First, Sony revived the Walkman. Now Nokia is bringing back the fliptop phone. We might be in love. 
  • Priceless marital advice from a Supreme Court judge.

  • This report on a prototype for an A/C cooled motorcycle helmet.

  • Serena Williams bringing her daughter on to the runway at her New York Fashion Week show.

  • Zomato acing its riff on iPhone 11 Pro

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Unexpected, thought-provoking and always worth your time

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The ‘Fashion is Pain’ Edition

Women at an early age are taught that looking good requires embracing the pain—of bras that pinch, high heels that chafe, corsets that squeeze. One essay looks at the price we pay for embracing this thesis; the other explores the reward for challenging it.

The high price of women’s shoes

We women expect our shoes to hurt. We accept the aching calves, blistered toes, and chafed heels. But we never give up hope of finding that ‘good’ pair of sandals or heels. The kind that will look pretty without leaving us limpng. But do they really exist?


Read: Why Women’s Shoes Are So Painful | The Atlantic

Sex, Love etc 2

A bra-free paradise of one

What happens when a woman with an “abundant, flopping bosom” decides to stop wearing bras? Lots of good things and some very funny things. We love this self-deprecating and insightful first-person essay that describes one woman’s journey into bralessness.

Read: The Joy of Not Wearing a Bra | The New Yorker 

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