BROAD//SHEET
Monday, January 20, 2020
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Announcement of the day

We are delighted to announce that we are rolling out the Broadsheet Book Club, an initiative led by and co-created with our awesome ambassadors. It was sparked by our last week’s guide to falling in love with reading—which reminded all of us how much we love to read, especially in the good company of like-minded folks. As of now, we’ve already started organising chapters in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore. But there is great interest in Chennai, Ahmedabad, Pune, Jaipur and other cities. And we’re looking for more recruits to make those happen. Want to join the fun? Please take this survey and add your details and preferences so we can create a book club that you’ll truly love.

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EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT...

The biggest news story today, explained.

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A scary new virus in China

Doctors have discovered a new kind of virus in the Wuhan province of China, and it appears to be spreading to other countries. A new study claims that the number of cases have been gravely underestimated.


What’s this virus? 2019-nCoV belongs to a family of coronaviruses. These can cause a range of diseases, ranging from the common cold to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). It is one of seven such viruses known to infect humans, and is more closely related to SARS than any of the others. Reminder: SARS killed 774 out of the 8,098 documented cases in an outbreak that started in China, and spread around the world in 2002.


Cool fact: According to Indian Express, “A coronavirus has many ‘regularly arranged’ protrusions on its surface, because of which the entire virus particle looks like an emperor’s crown, hence the name ‘coronavirus’.”


How did they find it? In late December, China informed the World Health Organisation of several mysterious cases of pneumonia whose cause was unknown. Earlier this month, the WHO announced that Chinese scientists had quickly isolated the cause by sequencing the virus’ genome—and discovered a new kind of coronavirus never before found in humans. But its source is still unknown. Medical experts suspect that it may have jumped the species barrier, spreading from animals to humans—much as MERS originated from dromedary camels. 


Is it fatal? China has confirmed 62 cases so far, and two deaths. As of last week, 12 patients have been cured and discharged. Three cases—two in Thailand and one in Japan—have been reported outside China. One of the Wuhan patients is an Indian school teacher, Preeti Maheshwari, who is the first foreigner to contract the disease. She was admitted to a local hospital in Shenzhen on January 10, and is now on life support.  


How does it spread? That’s currently a matter of fierce debate. Chinese authorities insist there is no possibility of the virus spreading from one person to another. But a soon-to-be published study argues otherwise. Neil Ferguson, a disease outbreak scientist says, "For Wuhan to have exported three cases to other countries would imply there would have to be many more cases than have been reported." 


Why is that? Outbreak modelling uses data to map the spread of a disease. Ferguson told CNN: “We calculate, based on flight and population data, that there is only a 1 in 574 chance that a person infected in Wuhan would travel overseas before they sought medical care. This implies there might have been over 1,700 cases in Wuhan so far." In fact, the number could be as high as 4,000. But more importantly, “the magnitude of these numbers suggests that substantial human-to-human transmission cannot be ruled out.”

 

Point to note: All those who were initially diagnosed with the disease had been exposed to a local meat or seafood market in Wuhan—and they were first considered to be the primary source of the virus. But the Japanese man who was diagnosed with the virus had travelled to Wuhan did not visit the market. A fact that again suggests that the virus can spread via humans.


Should I be worried? No, not yet. Early indications are that its symptoms are not as severe as SARS. But many countries, including India, have issued travel advisories suggesting a number of precautions for visitors to China—including avoiding contact with animals. The United States has started screening passengers travelling from Wuhan at three airports.

 

Learn more: The Hindu has a solid explainer on the virus. BBC News offers the best overview. CNN has details on the new study claiming that the number of cases have been “grossly underestimated.” Reuters has more on the measures being taken by the Chinese government.

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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...

worrying about your phoren booze bill

Delhi is under NSA: In the midst of anti-CAA protests, the Lieutenant Governor has issued an order authorising Delhi police to place the city under the National Security Act (NSA) for three months starting January 19. Why does this matter? Under normal circumstances, a person who is arrested is guaranteed certain basic rights. They have to be informed of the reason for arrest, and are eligible for bail. But under the NSA, the police can put someone in “preventive detention” for up to 12 months if they are deemed to be a threat to national security. The really scary bit: Delhi police insist that it is a “routine order,” which is issued “every quarter.” And they’re right. The same order was issued in July and October last year. (The Print)


Harry & Meghan cede their titles: Buckingham Palace released details of the arrangement reached with the couple. They will no longer be referred to as ‘His/Her Royal Highness’ “as they are no longer working members of the Royal Family.” But they will remain the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Also: “[T]hey are required to step back from Royal duties, including official military appointments. They will no longer receive public funds for Royal duties.” And they have to repay the $3 million plus spent to renovate their UK residence, Frogmore Cottage. What’s still unclear: if papa Charles—who finances 90% of their expenses—will continue to foot their bills. Meanwhile, in his first speech since the royal brouhaha, Harry said “it brings me great sadness that it has come to this” and claimed “there really was no other option.” Watch the entire speech here. Related gossip: Daily Mail on the shady Kremlin-linked tech tycoon who offered refuge to the royal couple in Canada.


Erasing Mahatma Gandhi: The government has removed iconic photos of Bapu’s assassination from Gandhi Smriti, a New Delhi museum dedicated to his life. Taken by French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, they depict details of the killing—the gun, bullets etc—and of his funeral. To be fair, they have been replaced by smaller digitized images. Museum authorities claim that the original photos were damaged, and are being restored. But critics aren't buying that line. Why this matters: Gandhi Smriti is located in Birla House—where Gandhi-ji was assassinated. Also: The government has dropped Bapu-ji’s favourite hymn ‘Abide With Me’ from this year’s Beating the Retreat parade. It has been part of the ceremony since 1950. (The Telegraph)


Your Australian wildfire update is here: and it include the following:

  • Buzzfeed News looks at the animals that may now be in the risk of extinction, and the efforts to rescue them.

  • The Conversation claims that “at least 700 animal species have had their populations decimated—and that’s only counting the insects.”

  • National Geographic has a must-read ground report titled ‘60 hours on Kangaroo Island’ that details the valiant efforts to save this critical habitat.

  • Stuff that made us smarter: Atlas Obscura explains the ‘cool fires’ used by aboriginal tribes to prevent wildfires—which were banned by the government in the 1960s.

  • In related news: Versace has banned the use of kangaroo skin in its luxury leather products. Facts to note: More than 2.3 million kangaroos in Australia are killed each year for their meat and skin. Italy is the largest importer of kangaroo skin. And several Italian brands use it in football boots.


Hank Azaria says goodbye to Apu: The (in)famous Simpsons character—the store owner with a stereotypical Indian accent—has long been a sore point with Indian Americans. In his 2017 documentary 'The Problem with Apu', comedian Hari Kondabolu described Apu as “a white guy doing an impression of a white guy making fun of my father.” The show, however, refused to apologise—and instead aired an episode making fun of the criticism. But actor Hank Azaria—who is Apu’s voice in the series—appeared to have second thoughts. He said, “My eyes have been opened… I’m perfectly happy and willing to step aside or help transition it into something new”—calling it “the right thing to do.” Well, he’s finally done the “right thing” and stepped away from the role. No one, however, knows what it means for the future of Apu on the show. Mashable has the latest and details the larger controversy.


A frightening new facial recognition app: poses a serious danger to privacy. A New York Times investigation describes how Clearview AI works: “You take a picture of a person, upload it and get to see public photos of that person, along with links to where those photos appeared. The system—whose backbone is a database of more than three billion images that Clearview claims to have scraped from Facebook, YouTube, Venmo and millions of other websites—goes far beyond anything ever constructed by the United States government or Silicon Valley giants.” It is currently being used by law enforcement officials in the US. The really frightening bit: the company is designing a prototype for use with augmented-reality glasses—which suggests it will be available to random strangers on the street and, of course, your neighbourhood stalker. (New York Times)


Shabana Azmi was in a car accident: The actor’s car rammed into a truck on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. Her husband, Javed Akhtar, reassured concerned fans: “Don’t worry. She is in the ICU but all the scan reports are positive. It seems there’s no serious harm done.” Meanwhile, the truck driver has lodged an FIR against Azmi’s driver, blaming him of “rash driving.” Hindustan Times has the story. Gulf News has shocking photos of the accident.


Your duty-free booze just took a hit: The government is planning to impose a 50% cut on your alcohol quota—cutting it from the current 2 bottle limit. Also in the works: a complete ban on cigarette cartons. The reason: the government wants to crack down on “non essential” imports to tackle the widening trade deficit. Non essential? Sez who? (The Wire)


Can states just say no to the CAA? The Kerala and Punjab governments have already refused to implement the CAA. But Congress leader and Supreme Court lawyer Kapil Sibal made waves by telling reporters, “You must know that if the CAA is passed, no state can say 'I will not implement it'. That's not possible. That is unconstitutional.” He later clarified his position, explaining that opposing the law will be illegal only if—and it’s a big if—the Supreme Court declares CAA to be constitutional. There’s no news on when the Court plans to settle that little matter. (Firstpost)


Weekend reads you may have missed: includes the following: 


  • Don’t know what’s up with that J&K police officer arrested in the company of terrorists? Or why everyone is suddenly talking about Afzal Guru? Mumbai Mirror has the best long read on Davinder Singh and terrorism as “a flourishing, multi-faceted business enterprise” in India.

  • New York Times offers an excellent guide to being a kinder traveller.

  • Ozy has a brilliant story on the activists who saved 1000 pets from Syria’s war zones—and reunited them with their owners in refugee camps.

  • The Cut tells the shocking tale of a gynecologist who sexually assaulted his patients—including the wife of a current Democratic presidential candidate.

  • New York Times also profiled Aishe Ghosh, president of the JNU Student’s Union.

  • The Guardian deconstructs the giant carbon footprint of luxury travel—or more specifically, of a single luxury private jet tour ferrying 50 stupidly wealthy tourists. 

  • Bloomberg has the definitive account of how ex Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn was smuggled out of Japan—and it reads like a Tom Clancy novel. 

  • Rega Jha in Firstpost offers a poetic tribute to history and memory in her piece on JNU. 

  • Also in Firstpost, a fascinating essay on Sarnami—the lone survivor among the Caribbean Hindustani languages.

  • Big Think explains the many reasons why you should not run a marathon.

  • A lovely must read: Sandip Roy in Mint on the things we leave behind when we die—or the carefully hoarded remains of a human life.


Your daily quota of sunshine items: includes the following:


  • The hilarious news that Facebook accidentally translated Chinese premier Xi Jinping's name as “Mr Sh*thole” in Burmese. 

  • This very cool ad campaign involving the Norwegian national flag. Yes, you read that right.

  • This funny clip of a seriously needy cat which gatecrashed a prayer meeting of chanting Thai monks.

  • Baby deer meets baby human—and both are absolutely adorable.

  • “Camouflage” uniforms for the US Space Force. You will have to see them to believe them. 

  • This OTT marriage proposal that involved hack-animating a Disney movie. 

  • Two very affectionate black-and-white cows and one very confused black-and-white spaniel.

  • Spot the difference: Which of these beetles on display at a Cleveland museum is not a beetle? 

  • This excellent thread that categorises 10 types of Hollywood movies by their poster.

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YOU NEED TO KNOW

The best place for the best advice

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How to Beat That Nasty Jet Lag

We all fly to distant parts of the world for work or play. And we all dread that inevitable side-effect of modern air travel: jet lag. Many of us just choose to tough it out, embracing the misery as inevitable. But beating jet lag isn’t rocket science, and can be fairly easy as long as you practice a bit of ‘mindful’ travelling.


Know thy disease: Your body has its own internal clock, or circadian rhythm, that tells you when to stay awake and when to sleep. When you travel across time zones, that clock no longer syncs with your geographical location. Our internal clock is powered by two mechanisms: exposure to light (which tells your body to wake the hell up); and melatonin (a sleep hormone that tells our body to go to sleep). You have to tinker with both to reset your clock.


Know how bad it’s going to get: A 2016 study found that jet lag is far worse when you travel east than when you travel west. According to the New York Times, “[I]t would take you about eight days to recover from a westward trip across nine time zones if you did nothing to fight it. But if you cross the same number of time zones going east, recovery would take more than 13 days, according to the model. This recovery time is worse than if you flew smack across the globe, crossing 12 time zones, which is about the distance from New York to Japan.”


Decide if it’s worth fighting: If it’s a short trip, and the time difference isn’t vast, it’s smarter to just tough it out. The rule of thumb according to experts: crossing three time zones or less and only staying three days or less.


Make a battle plan: Ok, so you have no option but to battle the beast. Here’s what you need in your arsenal:

  • Light exposure: It’s always easier to stay up when you land during the day—all that sunshine keeps your body awake. Don’t sleep in: always force yourself out of bed and into the light every morning in your new time zone. Plus: Get rid of the blue light on your devices to help you sleep at the right time. The most popular option is f.lux for your laptop, and iOS’ Night Shift or Android’s Twilight app for your phone. 

  • Meal planning: Hunger is one of the primary triggers that regulates your body clock. Planes typically serve food timed to your destination—so try not to sleep through mealtimes. Once you land, force yourself to eat at the ‘right time’ in your new location. Say no to pizza in the middle of the night.

  • Liquid intake: We all know the rules about alcohol on the flight—no more than a small glass to help you sleep. But it’s also smart to avoid alcohol in the first 48 hours after you land—if only because you are more likely to ‘pass out’ at the wrong time. A well-timed cup of caffeine can keep you up during the day, but a latte in the late afternoon/ evening (to fight drowsiness) can keep you up all night.

  • Melatonin therapy: Melatonin tablets are universally recommended as a safer, milder alternative to a sleeping pill. Take it upto 30 minutes before bedtime if you are flying east, and in the early morning hours if you are flying west (and wake up way too early). Dosage is important as high doses can make you woozy instead of sleepy. So start low, and move upwards as needed. 

  • A tech assist: Experts typically recommend slowly shifting your schedules in the days before you fly out. And it can be a challenge to remind yourself about sticking to the right timings on the flight and after you land. Well, now there is an app for that. The best of the lot is Timeshifter. If you plan to use exercise to beat jet lag, try SweatLag.

 

Learn more: Quartz and National Geographic have an excellent list of tips, while Forbes offers a science-based guide to beating jet lag. We found this seasoned traveler’s personal advice (especially on melatonin) hugely useful, as well.

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