Friday, January 17, 2020

Number of the day: 1,758

The Sewelo is the second-largest rough-cut diamond discovered in history. It is larger than a tennis ball, and weighs close to 352 grams—and is 1,758 carats! Uncovered in April in Botswana, it now finally has a buyer. Nope, it isn’t a diamond company like De Beers or an appallingly rich celeb. The new owner is Louis Vuitton, best known as the purveyor of overpriced bags. The reason: Its parent company LVMH recently bought the jewellery company Tiffany’s for $16.2 billion. But the purchase price of the Sewelo remains unknown. Of course, the Sewelo pales in comparison to the largest diamond discovered ever: the 3,106-carat Cullinan discovered in South Africa, and currently housed in the Tower of London. See excellent pics of both diamonds here.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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Rampant sexual harassment in Indian sports

A Right to Information request filed by the Indian Express has uncovered numerous harassment complaints over the past 10 years. But previous reporting indicates that even these are just the tip of a monstrous iceberg.

What happened? The Express’s RTI request has revealed 45 complaints of sexual harassment that were filed with the Sports Authority of India (SAI) over the past 10 years. Of the 45 complaints, 29 were leveled at coaches. 

Wait, what’s SAI? It is the top sports body in India, and runs training centres across the country. Aspiring athletes across a variety of sports are wholly reliant on its programs for training, resources and infrastructure—and to make it to the national and international levels. 


Got it, what else did they find? The Express investigation shows a consistent pattern of administrative negligence. Cases often dragged on for years with no resolution. And the punishment meted out to even proven offenders was absurdly lenient. Many were just transferred to another SAI centre. At least five coaches who were found guilty were punished with a pay cut. In one case, the person’s salary was reduced by Rs 910 per month, while others lost their bonuses for a year.

Hate to say it, but 45 seems low: Yup, it is. SAI’s former director general Neelam Kapur says, “I do believe that the actual number of cases will be much higher than reported because everybody does not have courage to report them.” Kapur blames the extent of abuse on “a culture that has developed over a number of years. I don’t think this is the fault of anyone specific. This is just a culture in our society.”

That’s it? Culture? A highly toxic culture where young girls (and boys)—typically from underprivileged backgrounds—are preyed upon by powerful coaches and other administrative staff.

Tell me more, please: A lot of the cases are either withdrawn or the girls never report the abuse. And the reasons are evident in this older Nation of Sports investigative piece on SAI. 

  • A lot of female athletes view sports as a preserve of men—and controlled by them. For example, one 20-year old says, “Why I’m in this sport is because of my father allowing me out of the house wearing shorts. Why I’m at nationals is because of my coach, another man. You won’t like what I say, and you won’t get anything from me, but the reality is, sports is a masculine thing. Women are changing it, but only with the help of other men. So what use are our voices anyway?”

  • Since male dominance is accepted as the norm, many girls tolerate the abuse as the price of being a sportswoman. Another athlete says, “Yeh hota hi rehta hai. Aur kya kar sakte hain? Chhod yeh sab. Bas. Kaam karte rehna. Practice karte rehna. Kuch coach misbehave karte hain toh chhod. Kuch toh karna padega aagey badne ke liye na? Itna bura nahi hoga.” (This keeps happening. What can we do? Just keep working. Keep practicing. If a coach misbehaves, then leave it. We anyway have to do some things to get ahead. It’s not so bad.)

  • And inevitably—given such an environment—female athletes often don't support one another, aggressively dismissing harassment complaints as “fake.” The very same girl who says abuse is the price of getting ahead also declares: “Some girls seeking this publicity and all jab nationals nahi jaa sakte. Sab fake case. Chalo.”

  • Or the head of a sexual harassment committee in Patiala who says, “There are always women who had relationships with men and since that didn’t work, they harassed the men and filed a complaint… Kisi se nahi banta, toh men ko defame karte hai.” (If an athlete’s career does not work out, they defame men)

So it’s the women? Hardly. Male coaches wield immense power within SAI, and individual sports federations. They are also in short supply. And that’s why it is easier to transfer an abuser than fire him. Also: as another former SAI director general points out, “The girls give in to the fact that their future in sports—which for many is a way out of poverty—is in the hands of the coaches. So they often give up.”

The bottomline: Do we need to say more?


Learn more: Check out the Indian Express investigation and the follow-up with the former DG Kapur. A must read: Two Nation of Sport stories. One is their ground report on the toxic culture within SAI. Just as worthy is this deep dive into the larger problem of sexual abuse in Indian sports. Also important: This study in the Medical Bulletin which shows that sexually abused female athletes are more prone to injuries. And ICYMI, America’s biggest sex abuse scandal: The Guardian’s look at how Dr Larry Nassar abused at least 100 top-rated female gymnasts, and got away with it for decades. So it ain’t just SAI.

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shedding a tear for Mahi

No ads on WhatsApp: Facebook has canned its plans to sell ads on the messaging platform. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has disbanded the team tasked with finding the most effective ways to integrate ads into the service. The company also removed their code from WhatsApp's software. According to the WSJ exclusive: "The company plans at some point to introduce ads to Status, but for now the focus is on building out money-making features allowing businesses to communicate with customers and better manage those interactions." (Wall Street Journal)

Bezos Diaries, day two: Bollywood turned out in numbers to greet the Amazon CEO and his girlfriend. The biggest names: SRK, Vidya Balan and Kamal Hassan. Photos are here. Also: an lol clip of SRK trying to teach Bezos how to say that classic line from ‘Don’. Meanwhile, the government continued to make grumpy noises. Minister of Commerce Piyush Goyal declared, “They may have put in a billion dollars, but then, if they make a loss of a billion dollars every year, then they jolly well have to finance that billion dollars. So, it’s not as if they are doing a great favour to India when they invest a billion dollars.” Hain? Also: ICYMI, our Bezos explainer is here.

The end of Dhoni: It’s official. It may all be over for our beloved Mahi. He did not get an official BCCI contract for the October 2019-September 2020 period. Fyi, a player can still be included on a team even if he doesn’t have an annual contract. But we’ve all read the (lack of) writing on the walls. Hence, the ‘End of Dhoni’ headlines. (Times of India)

More bad news about the NPR: The list of ‘mandatory’ information that you must provide for the National Population Register grows ever longer. The latest news: You have to share details of your passport, voter ID, driver’s license and Aadhaar card. Home Minister Amit Shah had previously claimed that sharing such information was “voluntary.” Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal called it “optional.” Apparently, it is indeed voluntary and optional—but only if you don’t possess a passport, Aadhaar etc. See how that works? Also: here’s a good explainer that ties NPR to NRC and therefore to CAA. (Times of India)

Peak misery hits at 47.2: That’s when you are most likely to be unhappy—according to a new study published by a Dartmouth professor. As per this bearer of bad tidings—David Blanchflower (really?)—there is a universal U-shaped ‘happiness curve’ that all of us experience across the world. Or at least in the 132 countries he studied. The poor consolation: those in developing nations get a year of reprieve, and hit rock-bottom at 48.2 instead. The real good news: you start to feel better once you hit that big five-oh. (CNBC)

Indian embassy offers little shelter: Indian workers in Gulf countries—many of them women—are routinely exploited and abused. And many seek refuge in shelters managed by the Indian embassy, as in the case of Oman. Except these shelters are no better than prisons. One domestic worker says: “We are getting only limited food, that too one time a day, and also are being denied basic things like a toothbrush, sleeping mat, medicine and all.” They don’t have access to sanitary napkins or a change of clothing. Why, it sounds like a migrant detention camp in America. (The Lede)

When Modi met Trump: A new book by two Washington Post reporters is brimming with stories of the US prez’s astounding and bottomless ignorance. And it includes a priceless anecdote of an encounter with the PM. Trump apparently dismissed concerns about China saying, "It’s not like you have China on your border." Our PM’s reaction: “Modi’s expression gradually shifted, from shock and concern to resignation.” OTOH, it isn’t even the worst story about Trump in this piece that excerpts the “seven craziest revelations” in the book. Oh, and its title: ‘A Very Stable Genius’. (Mediaite)

Toyota is betting on air taxis: The car company is investing $394 million in the flying taxi startup Joby Aviation—which is building a fleet of vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicles. These electric aircraft can fly up to 200 miles/hour—and as far as 150 miles without needing a charge. Joby recently cut a deal with Uber, and has thus far been extremely secretive about its plans. Now, there is finally a photo. Well… you’ll have to see it for yourself. (The Verge)

The hottest Xiaomi phone is coming to India: and it will cost a whopping Rs 2.5 lakh Yup, this is the fancy Mi MIX Alpha with 5G connectivity and surround display—i.e. the screen wraps right around the phone. (Deccan Herald)

News that makes you feel good: includes the following:

  • Microsoft has announced plans to become carbon negative by 2030.

  • Colgate’s rolled out a very vegan toothpaste in a recyclable tube.

  • Everyone is excited about Tanya Shergill who became the first woman to lead an all-male contingent in the Army Day parade. Clip here.

  • Remember those cancer patients living under a flyover in Parel? Responding immediately to Mumbai Mirror’s cover story, the Mumbai municipal corporation moved all of them to local dharamshalas. A number of good samaritans have also donated food, clothes and blankets.

  • Some of the biggest names in tennis—Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic and Coco Gauff—raised nearly $5 million in a charity match to help Australia’s wildfire victims. But it was Rafa who stole the show.

  • Shinjiro Koizumi  became Japan’s first cabinet minister to take paternity leave. It’s just two weeks, but the Japanese are shocked and awed.

Things that make you go WTF: include the following:

  • In one of the largest ‘die-offs’, one million seabirds died of starvation between the summer of 2015 and the spring of 2016. The reason: a huge section of warm ocean water in the northeast Pacific Ocean dubbed ‘the Blob’. 

  • This grieving mother in Allahabad insists: “Everyday 7-8 boys come & stand outside our houses, they pick a girl & gang rape her. The police officer who is a Thakur refuses to file an FIR because the accused are from the same community.” We don’t know if this is true but WTF?!!!

  • Our newly minted Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat says, “Girls and boys as young as 12 are now being radicalised [in Kashmir]. These people can still be isolated from radicalisation in a gradual way. But there are people who have completely been radicalised. These people need to be taken out separately, possibly taken into some de-radicalisation camps. We have de-radicalisation camps going on in our country.” Wait, is that like a reeducation camp?

  • A new study proves that cats will indeed feast on your dead body. Yes, all your nightmares have come true. 

Cool stuff we learned on the internet: include the following:

  • There’s a new app that measures the carbon footprint of your closet.

  • The first animal to make it out of the sea and set foot on land may have been a scorpion—or so a 473 million-year old fossil indicates.

  • Big Think explains why romantic love is very similar to cocaine addiction.

  • The reasons why Star Wars keeps bombing in China 

  • Guess who’s responsible for Twitter’s often maddening content rules? The company’s top lawyer and made-in-India export, Vijaya Gadde.

  • Slate drew up a list of the most evil tech companies in the world. We thought you might be interested.

  • This falls under the category of ‘smart stuff we absolutely need to know’: How glass buildings are wiping out entire bird populations. 

Your daily quota of sunshine items: includes the following:

  • The gorgeous winners of the Ocean Art Underwater Photo Contest. Do not look at them on your phone!

  • The funny fact that Lord Byron had a nickname for William Wordsworth: “Turdsworth.” 

  • Ok BJP fans won’t appreciate this one, but here’s a whole different spin on the story of the princess and the toad. 

  • Who looks seriously hot in a powdered wig? Why a young Jawaharlal Nehru, of course. 

  • The valiant effort in Kerala to make the world’s longest cake. It took 1,500 bakers, stretches 6.5 km, and weighs 27,000kg.
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Stuff we buy, use or love.

A List of Chemical-Free Machhar-Repellents
Once upon a time, there was such a thing called ‘mosquito season’. Sadly, we now have to endure the pests all the time and everywhere. So if you’re worried about dousing yourself in toxins all year long, here are some healthier alternatives.
image blue sidebar The informer image blue sidebar

When you hate the smell of your average mosquito spray…

Pick up Kama’s Natural Insect Deterrent Body Spray. We love that it is made entirely of essential oils. Think lemongrass, citronella, neem and peppermint etc. Yes, that does make it slightly greasy, but not to the point that it feels unpleasant. The biggest reason to buy it? It smells lovely, unlike many others on the market that make us reek like a medicine cabinet.

Price: Rs 625 | Natural Insect Deterrent Body Spray | Kama Ayurveda

The informer 2

When you’re hanging with friends on the terrace…

Get Strategi’s Insect Repellent Incense. It’s time to stop the machhars from driving us indoors, depriving us of the pleasure of our garden, rooftop or balcony. These incense sticks will help you brave the outdoors. They work just as well as those ghastly mosquito coils, and smell a whole lot better. And unlike the coils, they are 100% herbal and eco-friendly.

Price: Rs 180 | Strategi Herbal Mostick Herbal Mosquito Repellent Incense Stick | Amazon

The informer 3

When your kids need some mosquito protection…

Opt for Mama Earth’s Natural Mosquito Repellent Gel. With repeated scares about dengue, most parents are worried about protecting their kids from the dreaded mosquito. Sure, we can find chemical-free products, but many of those can still irritate a child’s skin. Or the wrong smell can often set off a tantrum. This all-natural, highly effective gel is therefore a godsend for worried parents. Feel free to use it on little babies, toddlers, and tweeners.

Price: Rs 75 | Mama Earth Natural Mosquito Repellent Gel | Amazon


Note: These products are personally picked by the editors. We do not receive any revenue from the brands recommended.

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