Thursday, February 27, 2020

Heavenly body of the day

Attention, earthlings! We officially have a second moon. Well, more like a ‘mini moon’. It’s an asteroid captured by the Earth’s orbit around three years ago—and is so teeny that it could fit in an average-sized garage. But as the astronomer who shared the discovery points out: “It's a big deal as out of (around) 1 million known asteroids, this is just the second asteroid known to orbit Earth.” Point to note: its earth-bound residency may not be permanent. A previous such asteroid was ejected right back out into the solar system. See the pic here.

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The merciful end of the carnage in Delhi

After three days of mob violence, help finally arrived in northeast Delhi in the form of the National Security Advisor and the High Court. 


First, the toll: The number of dead as of today is 27—and it includes a young Intelligence Bureau official whose body was found dumped in a drain. But that tally is likely to rise given the number of critically injured. Just one hospital has 187 patients who were admitted with gunshot, knife and blunt trauma injuries.


The High Court steps in: The court heard a plea asking for a judicial inquiry into BJP leaders Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Sahib Singh, and Kapil Mishra—all of whom have made statements inciting anti-Muslim violence. And the court’s response was swift and unequivocal:

  • The court was “amazed” when the Delhi police claimed that its officials had not seen any of the clips mentioned in the plea. “We are sure the police commissioner has a TV in his office. Please ask him to watch this clip,” the judges said—and then ordered the clips to be played immediately in the courtroom.
  • When Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that the police will take action at a conducive time, Justice Muralidhar asked, “What’s the conducive time? The city is burning.”
  • Also this: “We’ll not let a repeat of 1984. Not under the watch of this court. This city has seen more than enough violence.”
  • The final outcome: The Delhi police must review the evidence and decide whether to issue FIRs by the end of today. And it has also been ordered to provide protection to the victims and their families: “This is the time to show that Z Security is for everyone.”


A grubby footnote: Within hours of the ruling, Justice Muralidhar was transferred to the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The Supreme Court has recently recommended the highly admired judge’s transfer. But the government moved with sudden speed on the recommendation on Wednesday night. The decision—widely viewed as a snub—has been harshly criticised by the Bar Association for doing so.


Doval to the rescue: In the end it wasn’t the Home Minister or even the Delhi Chief Minister who stepped  out to reassure the citizens—but National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. He walked through the bylanes of the violence-ravaged neighbourhoods, knocking on doors—offering his personal assurance: “I give you my word, you do not have to worry, it is the responsibility of the police, it is the responsibility of the government.” Also this: “What has happened has happened. Inshallah, there will be complete peace here. My message is that everyone who loves their country — also loves their society, their neighbour.” Watch a young Muslim woman confront Doval—who gives her his “word of honour.”


Point to note: The Delhi Police reports to the Home Ministry headed by Amit Shah. The National Security Advisor’s remit covers areas such as internal security, military affairs, terrorism and intelligence. But it is Doval who is working closely with the Delhi police to restore law and order. Asked why the NSA is taking the lead, a BJP official said, “If the Home Minister takes a round of the Delhi streets, it would not send the right message.” Fair enough.


Also speaking up: The Prime Minister who finally tweeted: “Peace and harmony are central to our ethos. I appeal to my sisters and brothers of Delhi to maintain peace and brotherhood at all times. It is important that there is calm and normalcy is restored at the earliest.” Sonia Gandhi, OTOH, held a press conference, and Congress staged a peace march… to Rajghat, of course 🙄


Going viral on social: These clips made waves yesterday on Twitter:

  • The police destroying CCTV cameras.
  • Water cannons being used on protesters outside Kejriwal’s residence.
  • X-ray report of a young shop owner with a drill bit shoved into his head. The good news: he is expected to make a full recovery.
  • Hindus and Muslims collecting burnt pages of the Quran outside the mosque vandalised in Ashok Nagar.
  • The grief-stricken father of Rahul Solanki blaming Kapil Mishra for his son’s death.
  • Muslim residents of Mustafabad leaving their homes. 
  • Mohammad Rashid accusing the police of demanding Rs 4,000 to release his brother’s body. 

Learn more: The Telegraph looks at the political constituencies that experienced the greatest violence—all of them in seats won by the BJP. Indian Express offers a behind-the-scenes take on the decision to put Doval in charge. Quint has the most details on Delhi High Court Justice Muralidhar’s remarks and his transfer. A number of brave young journalists (men and women) put their safety at risk to report from the frontline. We strongly recommend reading their first-person accounts in News18, Firstpost, Indian Express and Times of India.

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buying a bigger wallet to fit all those chhota notes

Your viral outbreak update: is here and is never ending:


  • The global jitters over the coronavirus have spread to the Indian stock markets: Sensex fell 0.97% to end at 39,888.96 points on Wednesday, while the Nifty declined 1.01% to 11,678.50. According to an analyst, “The main reason behind such a big crash was the announcement from CDC (the Centre of Disease Control), which warned of a broader disruption if the coronavirus threat spreads to the US.” Quartz has more on the uncertainty Covid-19 is causing in corporate filings and earnings calls.
  • The spread of the infection is accelerating outside China—with first cases reported in Greece, Brazil and Algeria.
  • While no one knows exactly how the virus jumped to humans, the bat remains an unpopular suspect—and bat-lovers are stepping up to spread awareness and defend the animal.  
  • Fears of infection are making everyone a lot less touchy-feely. Europeans have ceded the famous double kiss on the cheek, while churches now place communion wafers in the hand rather than the mouth. Bloomberg via Hindustan Times has that story.
  • On the lighter side, one unexpected silver lining of the epidemic: pink dragon fruit bread!


Indian billionaires are growing! The economy may have slowed in 2019, but not our paisedar Indians. We added three billionaires a month last year—and that’s in dollars not rupees! But to put that in perspective, China added three billionaires a week. The richest of us all—Mukesh-bhai—earned Rs 7 crore an hour! With a net worth of $67 billion, Ambani is now the ninth richest person in the world. The youngest on India’s super-rich list: Oyo founder Ritesh Agarwal at $1.1 billion. (Mint) 


No Rs 2000 note for you! Bank ATMs will no longer dole out those high-currency notes: “Of the four cassettes within ATMs, three will now be filled with Rs 500 notes, and the fourth will either hold notes of Rs 100 or Rs 200 denominations. Cassettes holding Rs 2,000 notes have already been replaced in many ATMs, and may well be on their way out within a year.” (Business Standard)


Sharapova says goodbye: Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova bid farewell to tennis in an essay in Vogue.


Harry’s new avatar: At an Edinburgh conference, the self-exiled prince talked up his big post-royal venture: Travalyst, a global platform that enables sustainable tourism. Harper’s Bazaar has more details on how it works. His other new thing: He just wants to be called ‘Harry’. Watch him being introduced and speak at the conference.


Ancient 'Indians' survived a massive ‘volcanic winter’: Scientists have found new evidence that humans living in what is now India survived something called the Toba eruption—which occurred 74,000 years ago. The volcanic event in Sumatra was so catastrophic that it plunged the Earth into a decade-long winter, and resulted in massive collapse in populations. But Stone Age tools recovered at a North Indian site show that its inhabitants not only survived but continued to thrive. Why this matters: It is the first proof humans outside Africa endured the devastating event. (Daily Mail)


No iPhones for villains: Thanks to ‘Knives Out’ director Rian Johnson, it is now easy to play detective if you’re trying to figure out the murderer in the next whodunit:  "Apple, they let you use iPhones in movies, but, and this is very pivotal, if you're ever watching a mystery movie, bad guys cannot have iPhones on camera... Every single filmmaker who has a bad guy in their movie that's supposed to be a secret wants to murder me right now." (CNBC)


The ‘Sex, Love Etc.’ Pop Up: includes the following excellent selection:


  • Huffington Post talked to a bunch of Indian women about ghosting—how it affects them and why they do it too.
  • The Atlantic offers an incisive essay on how the free marketplace of modern dating has turned all of us into commodities.
  • Big Think takes a deep dive into the psychology of infidelity, i.e. the reasons why people cheat, both good and bad.

Stuff that makes you go WTF: entails a long list today:


  • Bloomberg’s deep dive into NRC-related detention centres being built in Guwahati and elsewhere—including photos.
  • This clip of a deeply abhorrent casteist practice in Karnataka that entails suspending a Dalit woman by a pole.
  • A Spanish carnival 'commemorated' the Holocaust with lingerie-clad female Nazis, a crematorium float and dancing concentration camp victims. Yes, there are seriously WTF photos.
  • Poland has officially created an LGBT-free zone
  • This clip of a policeman kicking and thrashing the father of a student who allegedly committed suicide. The story is here.


Your daily quota of sunshine items: includes the following:


  • The brilliant news that Air New Zealand is introducing flat beds for economy customers on long-haul flights—and they plan to share the technology with other airlines.
  • This stunning photo of Kalki Koechlin with her baby. 
  • Two Chinese medical workers doing an impromptu ballet routine to celebrate the recovery of six coronavirus patients. 
  • How do you put medicine in an elephant’s eye? With lots of love and trust, of course. 
  • This video report on the world’s best vegan restaurant—which is in Japan! 
  • This clip of Chris Hemsworth trying to deliver a DDLJ dialogue. TBH, given the timing re Delhi violence, that line now sounds a bit ominous.
  • This comedic mash-up of Trump’s Ahmedabad speech. Think Trump meets call centre worker.
  • Inflatable latex trousers! Need we say more?
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