Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Number of the day: 550 crore

That’s how much Anil Ambani paid in outstanding bills owed to Ericsson India to keep himself out of jail. He was facing a mandatory three-month sentence if he missed the Tuesday EOD deadline set by the Supreme Court. His lawyers had argued Ambani didn’t have the money—which is kinda true since Reliance Communication is Rs 46,000 crore in debt. But happily, bade bhaiyya appears to have swooped in with his pocket change. After settling his debts, Anil issued a statement expressing his “sincere and heartfelt thanks to my respected elder brother, Mukesh, and Nita for standing by me during these trying times.” Mukesh’s net worth: Rs 3.71 lakh crore.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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The big questions emerging about Boeing

A preliminary data report on the Ethiopian Airlines crash, a news investigation, and a US probe into its planes’ certification spell big trouble for the company.


First, a quick recap: On March 10, an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed within six minutes of takeoff, killing all its passengers. It marked the second crash of a Boeing 737 Max in less than six months. The 2017 model is the latest generation of the 737 jets, typically used for short-to-medium haul flights. There were 300 Max 8 airplanes in operation and 5,000 more on order at the time of the tragedy. The planes have been grounded since then. (Our in-depth explainer is here)


The black box data: Based on preliminary data recovered from the black box recorders, the Ethiopian transport minister says there is "a clear similarity" between the Addis Ababa crash and the earlier Lion Air tragedy in Indonesia.


The Seattle Times investigation: focuses on the safety certification of the 737 Max issued by the Federal Aviation Administration in the United States. The story is based on an internal document,  the ‘System Safety Analysis’ of the plane’s flight control system, and interviews with a number of current and former FAA engineers. The newspaper found:

  • The 2015 safety analysis document was prepared by Boeing engineers, not the FAA. The company was in a hurry to get the planes in the air, which in turn put pressure on the agency to “delegate safety assessments to Boeing itself, and to speedily approve the resulting analysis.”

  • The safety assessment of the flight control system (MCAS) was flawed. MCAS was designed to push the plane’s nose down to avoid stalling at high speed. However, this automated manoeuver could be triggered by input from a single plane sensor. This is what experts hypothesise may have happened both with Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines—pilots struggled to keep the plane up while it's systems repeatedly pushed its nose down.

  • Even though the Max 737 was significantly different from previous models, Boeing did not offer any added guidance: “Since MCAS was supposed to activate only in extreme circumstances far outside the normal flight envelope, Boeing decided that 737 pilots needed no extra training on the system—and indeed that they didn’t even need to know about it. It was not mentioned in their flight manuals.”


A new federal probe: The US Transportation Department's Inspector General has opened an investigation into the FAA’s approval of the 737 Max—but it will focus on the Lion Air crash.


The bottomline: It’s a well-known fact that government agencies are often held captive by the very business interests they are supposed to regulate. See: mining in India. But in this case, bureaucratic failure in one nation may have endangered lives of airline passengers around the world. That’s new.


Learn more: The Seattle Times investigation—though a bit technical—is a must-read. Reuters has the most details on the crash probe in Ethiopia. Wall Street Journal has the exclusive on the transport department probe, but it’s behind a paywall. And it is worth revisiting this Quartz story on the Lion Air crash which details the pilots’ terrifying 13-minute battle to save the plane.


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congratulating yourself on your zero Coke habit

Goa has a new chief minister: Assembly Speaker Pramod Sawant was sworn in soon after Manohar Parrikar’s funeral to quickly squelch Congress’ hopes of ousting the BJP. The price of a BJP replacement: the tiny state now has two deputy CMs—the leaders of BJP’s two local allies, Goa Forward Party and the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party. (Indian Express)


Disaster brewing for Netflix, Hotstar et al? The draft policy defines e-commerce as “buying, selling, marketing or distribution of goods, including digital products and services, through an electronic network.” That’s a vague definition which covers pretty much any online business. Now, add the fact that the proposed policy has ‘special’ rules for companies with foreign investment. One of these rules stipulates that such a company cannot own or control the inventory sold on its platform (remember what happened to Amazon and Flipkart?). So what does this have to do with Netflix, Hotstar (owned by Disney) or Amazon Prime? If they are defined as e-commerce platforms, then they will no longer be able to stream any of their own original content—for example, Marvelous Mrs Maisel on Amazon or Sacred Games on Netflix etc. Yikes! (Business Standard via India Finance News)


Theresa May gets a very rude response: As you may know, the British PM planned to present her (already rejected twice!) Brexit deal to the Parliament on Tuesday. When she called her party MPs to ask for their support, 40 of them basically told her: Sure, if you get the hell out of office. The PM is said to have responded with “faux astonishment”—which soon turned to bona fide shock when the Speaker firmly refused to hold that third parliamentary vote. The BBC pithily summarised his position: “[G]overnments are not meant to be able to keep asking parliament the same question, in the hope of boring MPs into submission if they keep saying no.”


The puzzling assets of Rajeev Chandrasekhar: The BJP MP is widely known as the owner of media companies such as Suvarna News, Asianet, Indigo 91.9 FM and the Republic; and others like technology firm Axiscades and defence firm Indian Aero Ventures. Yet, none of them show up in his declaration of assets and sources of wealth to the Election Commission. Scroll took a closer look at his holdings, and found the answer: a damning and convenient legal loophole. And it reveals how all politicians make a mockery of our election laws. (Scroll)


Now that everyone wants to be a chowkidar: Indian Express decided to offer a peek at the real life of a security man, and it makes for an eye-opening read. Let’s just say none of our politicians will be applying for their jobs any time soon. (Indian Express)


The good/bad news about mobile data in India: The good news is that we have the cheapest mobile data prices in the world—all thanks to Jio! Ambani-ji’s desire to crush his competition by driving down prices has been a boon to all of us. But the bad news: most industry experts predict that this data Diwali will soon come to an end -- once the industry is securely in the hands of a few operators. (BBC)


Ryan Reynolds’ strange sense of smell: The actor was asked to associate common emotions with different smells. And his answers were happily every bit as wacky and weird as we expected. But the one we think ought to alarm Blake Lively: Love = “burnt toast, which is also a stroke.” (The Cut)


In ‘nature is sexist’ news: A new study finds women who consume more than two servings of sugary drinks per day—i.e. a standard glass, bottle or can—have a 63% increased risk of premature death. That’s compared to a paltry 29% for men who do the same! We used to be agnostic but are now convinced that God is a mean old codger (swilling a giant Coke bottle, no doubt). (CNN)


In ‘nurture is unbiased’ news: After all the ink that has been spilled on birth order, it turns out that it makes no whit of difference to your personality if you were born first or last or anywhere in between. Sorry, you can no longer blame your gambling habit on being an ‘accident’. (Washington Post)


In other news of debunked science: Baby or low-dose aspirin offers zero protection against heart attacks in older adults. So feel free to step away from the Disprin. (CNN)

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Unexpected, thought-provoking and always worth your time

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The ‘Exercise Right’ edition


Oh, Stop Stretching Already!

For decades, folks in gyms, parks, and on jogging trails have been dutifully stretching various parts of their body before working up a sweat. Too lazy to warm up? You’ll pay with sore muscles even a sprain or two—or so we were darkly warned. Guess what? All those hamstring extensions don’t do a damn thing. In fact, some stretching routines may put you at greater risk of injury. (The good news: There may be a better way to stretch)


Read: Why stretching before exercise could be a total waste of time | Daily Mail

Sex, Love etc 2

Time to Stop Exercising Like It’s 2009

Panicked at becoming ‘older and flabbier’, we often rush back to the gym to recapture our youthful vigour—and then spend the next week nursing our sore bodies. There’s a right time for every kind of exercise routine, and more importantly, a right age. While some of us will remain athletic gods even in our middle years, the rest of us mere mortals can take comfort in this age-appropriate guide to staying in modest shape.


Read: The best exercise for your age | CNN

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