Thursday, November 28, 2019

Quote of the day

BJP’s Lok Sabha member Pragya Thakur—the woman under investigation for terror charges—has always had a soft spot for Gandhi-ji’s assassin. She made waves on the election trail when she declared: “Nathuram Godse was a deshbhakt, he is and will remain a deshbhakt. Those calling him a terrorist should instead look at themselves.” Modi-ji was highly displeased and she was suitably chastised… or was she? Yesterday, DMK leader A Raja—while explaining why the Gandhis need special protection cover—cited Godse’s example. At which point, Thakur angrily interjected: “Deshbhakton ka udaharan nahi denge aap” (You cannot cite the example of patriots). It triggered instant furore in Parliament, and Thakur has since tried to gaslight her way out of the controversy. Watch the clip here.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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The cause for our manic monsoon season

There isn’t a single big headline today, so we decided to focus on this one story that may have an answer to every Indian’s most pressing question: why are our monsoons so out of whack this year?

The background: This year, the rains in India have been highly unpredictable. The summer monsoon came late. The unusually dry months were quickly followed by torrential rains—which in turn led to devastating floods. And now heavy and untimely rains in October and November have further damaged summer-sown crops. So what in the world is going on? (See also: our explainer on the floods)

The report: A new study connects the warming of a specific stretch of the Indo-Pacific Ocean to the erratic behaviour of the Indian monsoon. The findings are a bit heavy on jargon, so let’s first break that terminology down.

The warm pool: This is a significant stretch of water in the Indo-Pacific Ocean that stays warm—i.e. above 28°C—even during the winter months. Now, due to global warming, this stretch of water doubled in size between 1981 and 2018. Its size expanded at an accelerated rate of 4,000 sq. km. per year during the same period. And that in turn has a huge impact on something called the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO).

The Madden-Julian Oscillation: This is a band of clouds, rainfall, winds and pressure near the equator that travels around the globe. And its movements largely dictate the onset and receding of the Indian monsoon—both in summer and winter. But its interaction with this widening pool of warm water has made its movements more erratic. 

Erratic how? The study compared climate pattern simulations between 1981 and 2018. And it found that MJO clouds now remain in the Indian Ocean for four fewer days (from an average of 19 days to 15 days). They also linger an extra five days over the Pacific Ocean. More importantly, the MJO’s movements have become harder to predict.


And how does that affect rainfall? For example, this winter, it brought rains early to Kerala, but then ‘strayed’ over to Bangladesh and the North Eastern states—bringing heavy rain in those areas, but stalling the winter monsoon in most of North India. Another example: scientists also believe that MJO movements were responsible for unexpected torrential rains in August-September.

The big picture: Warming oceans are disrupting major atmospheric phenomena—be it MJO or El Nino—that determine weather patterns around the world. When their behaviour shifts, or becomes difficult to predict, it has enormous implications for us. This is especially true for India where our farmers rely on the predictability of monsoons to decide when to sow and harvest their crops. Point to note: 54% of our agriculture depends on rain irrigation.

The bottomline: Our oceans are warming because of the ever-escalating level of greenhouse emissions. A recent UN report warned that the earth will warm up by as much as 3.4-3.9 degrees by 2100 if we stick to business as usual. This was a particularly hellish year for our farmers. But sadly, this is just the beginning… unless, of course, we take immediate and urgent action. Perhaps at the upcoming UN Climate Conference where 197 countries will come together to tackle the climate crisis.


Learn more: Hindustan Times has the most detailed story on the report. SkyWeather explains the Madden-Julian Oscillation. Time looks at the latest UN report and how it will impact the dialogue at the UN Climate Conference.

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working on your lunar phase flow yoga

Your Maha update is here: Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray will be sworn in as CM in a grand ceremony at Shivaji Park today. Here’s what else is out there in the aftermath of the maha-drama:

  • Indian Express reports that the top posts have already been divvied up. NCP will bag the Deputy CM post while Congress will appoint the Speaker in the Assembly. 

  • The Telegraph reports on the surge of hope among opposition parties that BJP’s setback is one of very many. Also nurturing that hope: This December 2017 vs November 2019 electoral map of India, 

  • All eyes are on Ajit Pawar. He received a big ‘welcome home’ hug from his cousin and Sharad’s daughter, Supriya Sule, and there are already reports that he is in the running for the Deputy CM post.

  • Bonus: Poet Ranjit Hoskote composed a brief and witty poem in honour of India’s ghazab rajneeti.


India has a new kind of bad loan problem: The Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana funded nearly 4 (3.91) million people in the first three years of its existence, and lifted many out of poverty. But new data shows that borrowers are defaulting on these loans, and may not be able to pay them back. Bad loans in the Rs 5-10 lakh category have shot up by 45% in just six months—to Rs 3,425 crore in September from Rs 2,353 crore in March. The number in the Rs 50,000-Rs 5 lakh category is up by 107%!!! And that’s bad news for Indian banks which are already burdened with mega-sized bad loans to fat cats like Nirav Modi et al. (Indian Express)

Uber’s loss is Ola’s gain: This week, Uber lost its license to operate cabs in London—one of its top five markets where it has 45,000 drivers. The reason: safety. The local authorities pointed to a "pattern of failures" where unauthorised drivers were able to drive its cabs through fraud. Well, guess who is readying to make hay of Uber’s woes? It’s Ola only: “We are inviting the tens of thousands of private hire drivers across London to register themselves on the Ola platform, as we prepare to launch in the city in the coming weeks."

JLo’s betting on an Indian yoga startup: Sarva offers 25 unique variations of yoga—including aqua yoga, basketball yoga, lunar phase flow yoga and brick yoga—in 91 studios in over 34 Indian cities. Founded by the self-described “yogi with messy hair and sweatpants,” Sarvesh Shashi, it has a rockstar line-up of investors: ranging from Shahid Kapoor to Dhanush and, yes, Jennifer Lopez—who reportedly has put in $6 million. Well, any studio that offers ‘brain development yoga’ is surely a no-brainer. (Economic Times)

The link between caste and rural employment: A study in Odisha found that caste plays a big role in employment decisions made by Indians in rural India. In other words, people won’t take jobs that they associate with other castes—especially castes that are ‘lower’ than theirs. Sounds kind of obvious right? But did you know this: “43% of workers refuse to spend ten minutes working on tasks associated with other castes, even when offered ten times their daily wage. In explaining these rejections of work, the workers cite reasons such as a personal sense of shame, caste-related concerns and a lack of will.” Now, that’s shocking. (Mint)

Indian American student killed for ‘ignoring’ a man: The murder of Ruth George is making waves in the US media. The Indian American—whose parents are from Hyderabad—was brutally assaulted and killed in a parking garage at the University of Illinois, Chicago. Her killer was later identified and arrested, but what is making news is the reason why he killed her: “George was walking past a subway stop when Thurman noticed her, according to court documents. He thought she was pretty and tried talking to her, but she ignored him. Thurman followed George to her car and tried to talk to her again, the documents said. She again ignored him, which made Thurman angry.” (CNN)

Kim Kardashian wants men to hide their paunch: As you may have heard, Kimmie has a new shapewear line—which she tried to call Kimono, but was immediately harangued by outraged Japanese folks. The now renamed SKIMS may soon be hawking flab-squeezing wares to men: “I have been asked a lot about the men’s question, and I would love to do that, and I hope that we’re working on that soon… There’s some fun stuff in the works.” Yeah, coz there’s nuthin more fun than trying to squeeze your tummy into a scrap of lycra. (GQ)

The shaadi Tinder for NRIs: The Dil Mil app has over a million users in the US, the UK, and Canada—and has led to over 20 million matches, averaging at least one fully mommy-approved shaadi per day. According to its execs, “Dil Mil is a niche market leader. The market includes both Indian expats and local Indian people.” Sounds super inclusive right? But here’s the thing: shuddh Indian women can get on the app to hook up with NRI boys, but not Indian men. Also, Indian Express notes: “[The company] claims to have found out that many women in India, especially in the tier-2 and tier-3 cities, want to move out of India to pursue better opportunities.” Lol, is that what we are calling spouses these days? Quartz’s bizarre interpretation of this special feature: “Following in the footsteps of women-centric apps like Bumble, Dil Mil allows Indian women to join but only non-resident Indian (NRI) men.” Umm, no. 

Another tragic garbage-induced death: A wild deer in a national park in Thailand was found with 7 kilos of trash inside its stomach, including coffee grounds, noodle packaging, plastic and towels. The park director said, "We believed it had been eating those plastics for a long time before it died." Point to note: 75 billion plastic bags are thrown away each year in the country. Silver lining: major retailers will stop offering single-use plastic bags from January 2020. (BBC)

Just call it ‘fatherly love’: Twelve tribal girls were sexually harassed by their music teacher at a boarding school in Kerala. When they complained, the school did nothing and allowed the teacher to remain at his job—and he then coerced them into withdrawing their complaints. Abetting him in his crimes: four teachers who gaslit, bullied, and victim shamed the children—trying to convince them this was just ‘fatherly love’. Failing that, they alleged the girls were ‘soliciting’ the attention because “it takes two hands to clap.” The girls have since dropped out of school. (The News Minute)

In Uttarakhand, macaques are ‘vermin’: The state is readying to classify its 1.5 lakh rhesus macaque monkeys as ‘vermin’. The designation makes it easier to kill a species if it poses a threat to human life or property—or in this case, crops. But wildlife experts point out that the problem is human-created, and a result of destruction of forest land. Point to note: the threat of monkey-human conflict is real, and is an ongoing problem in Himachal Pradesh which has declared them ‘vermin’ thrice, but to little avail. Mongabay has a recent, in-depth feature on the problem in Delhi.


Umm, “perineum sunning” is a thing? Social media is abuzz over a whole new trend in wellness:sunbathing your a******.  All thanks to an Insta handle run by Metaphysical Meagan who posts nude (but not explicit) photos of her cherished self-care practice. She claims this is “an ancient Taoist practice.” Also: "30 seconds of sunlight on your butthole is the equivalent of a full day of sunlight with your clothes on.” Jezebel has the story and an amusing (but not explicit) photo.

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Unexpected, thought-provoking and always worth your time

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The ‘Amazing Animal Photos’ Edition

We all love clips of animals doing cute things—be it dogs and cats or lions and zebras. They offer respite from a long work day. But these two collections have more to say: one looks to the future, while the other speaks to the past. (We do not recommend viewing either on a phone)

Memories of animals past

We love these vintage photos of animals doing the most bizarre things—not all of them 21st-century approved—including geese in glasses, cats in dresses, even a dog dressed like Sherlock Holmes. Yes, they look terribly staged, but still express an irresistible sense of whimsy. We guarantee that at least one will stay with you for a while.

Read: 15 hilarious vintage photos of animals from 100 years ago | Business Insider

Sex, Love etc 2

Memories of animals soon to be past

Ok, this one is a bit grim, but nevertheless stunning. This is a collection of absolutely gorgeous creatures that are among the nearly 28,000 species of animals and plants threatened with extinction. The photos (much like the animals) are mesmerising, and we hope you will share them widely as a reminder of what is at stake—right here, right now.

Read: What we lose when animals go extinct | National Geographic

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