Monday, March 9, 2020

Announcement of the day

We are taking a Holi holiday thanks to our North Indian-dominated team—which appears to be under the illusion that it is a national holiday. So in the interest of national integration and unity, Broadsheet is taking the day off, and will be right back on Wednesday. As holiday gift, we give you this Boy George X Asha Bhonsle collab titled ‘Down, Down Mister’. No, it isn’t exactly Holi-themed, but how can you resist a song that kicks off with: ‘From Bombay to Bangalore, all the Hindus  know the score…” Also: the cheesiest music video ever! Wishing you lots of safe, silly and colourful fun!

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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Dubai's royal household of horrors

A ruling in an English court has blown the lid off the emir of Dubai’s reign of household terror. The details tell a tale of a monstrous king, a renegade queen and his imprisoned daughters—plus two unexpected plot twists. One relates to the eternal BJP vs Congress phadda, while the other involves the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.


The monstrous king: Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum is the ruler of Dubai and the Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates. He has many wives and children (23, to be exact). But the most visible and glamorous of them is Princess Haya Bint al-Hussein—the daughter of the now deceased King Hussein of Jordan, and the half-sister of the current ruler. The emir has an ongoing family problem: the women in his household keep running away. First, it was his two daughters: Shamsa and Latifa. The most recent runaway: Princess Haya.


The renegade spouse: Back in April, 2019, Haya—his sixth and youngest wife—fled the country and went into hiding in London, along with her two children. What followed was a bitter custody case. The emir did his best to keep the ruling under wraps, but lost his appeal late last week—when a judge released a Fact Finding Judgement (FFJ) to the press. The judgement represents the first time that “credible allegations” of “human rights abuses” committed by the Dubai ruler have been proven as fact in a court of law. And the worst of them involve his two daughters.


The imprisoned daughters: The most critical part of the judgement found that the emir “ordered and orchestrated the kidnap and rendition to Dubai of his daughters Shamsa and Latifa.” 

  • Shamsa escaped to London in 2000, but only to be kidnapped by Emirati agents, sedated and returned home. She has never been seen in public since.
  • Latifa made two attempts to get out. The first time, she tried to drive out of the country in 2002—“only to be caught, held in solitary confinement and regularly beaten for more than three years.”
  • On her second attempt, she made it as far as the coast of Goa… which brings us to plot twist #1.


Plot twist #1: In March, 2018, Latifa managed to escape with the help of a Frenchman who planned to take her to India, and then on to the United States. However, as their yacht neared Goa, it was stormed by Emirati and Indian commandos—who dragged her off the yacht and took her back to Dubai. 


Wait, what? Yes, sadly this is the first legal confirmation that the Indian government was involved in orchestrating Latifa’s abduction—a fact long denied by New Delhi. The judgement mentions India 17 times, including this poignant line: “She was pleading for the [Indian] soldiers to kill her rather than face the prospect of going back to her family in Dubai.” 


And the Congress angle? According to an Economic Times report, the capture of the princess was a quid pro quo arranged by our spook-in-chief, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. The deal: We give you Latifa, you extradite Christian Michel—allegedly the middleman in the tainted Agusta-Westland helicopter deal (explained here). The BJP insists that Michel is a known “Gandhi-family loyalist" whose “extradition and custody could spell serious trouble for the Congress' first family."  Michel was extradited in December, 2018.


Plot twist #2: One of Haya’s allegations: the emir was planning to marry off their then 11-year-old daughter to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. That’s the man who ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi—who was tortured, killed and cut into pieces before being shipped back to Saudi Arabia (explained here). Truly a sambandhi match made in hell. 


The un/happy ending: Haya and her children are likely safe for now. As the judge notes, publishing the facts provides “some measure of additional security for the children"—and makes the British government less inclined to allow another kidnapping on their soil. But there’s little good news for the emir’s other two daughters. Shamsa and Latifa are doomed to serve out their life sentences in their castle-like prisons, cursed by their royal birth. 


Learn more: Middle East Eye has the most details on the ruling. New York Times has more on Shamsa and Latifa. Scroll covers the India-related details in the ruling. Also read: Caravan’s interview with Latifa’s lawyer who details his allegations regarding India’s role. We did explainers on both Haya’s escape and the Agusta-Westland caseEmirates Woman carried a photo gallery of the seemingly perfect royal couple and their glammed up lives. Economic Times has the details of the Ajit Doval deal.

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digging up all your old, ratty clothes for Holi

Former YES bank CEO arrested: Founder Rana Kapoor has been charged with money laundering and thrown behind bars until March 11. (Read our explainer on YES bank.)


  • The main allegation: Dewan Housing Finance Limited pumped Rs 600 crore into a company owned by his daughter in return for a Rs 4,450 crore loan from YES bank. 
  • As part of this ‘ek haath le, ek haath de’ scam, the Kapoor khandaan had set up more than 20 shell companies. 
  • Also discovered by law enforcement officials: 44 paintings purchased from politicians—including an MF Hussain painting of Rajiv Gandhi bought from Priyanka Gandhi.
  • In happier news: The YES bank ATMs are working again—but you still can’t withdraw more than Rs 50,000 until April 3.
  • State Bank of India is getting ready to invest Rs 10,000 crore for a 49% stake in the bank as part of its bailout plan. 
  • Andy Mukherjee in Bloomberg explains why such band-aids won’t “work against deep wounds that require direct surgery.” The wound specifically being Rs 10.5 trillion, or 16% of India’s outstanding corporate debt that is vulnerable to default over the next three years.


A T20 defeat for India: We were totally outclassed by Australia in the Women’sT20 World Cup final. To soften the heartbreaking loss:


  • Here are clips of the two songs a very pregnant Katy Perry performed during the match: A brilliant rendition of ‘Roar’, and fabulously choreographed performance of 'Firework’. 
  • Indian Express introduces you to the proud parents of our star-studded team.
  • Australian cricketer Mitchell Starc skipped his One Day International in South Africa to cheer spouse Alyssa Healy from the stands. And as Healy says, she now has “100%” bragging rights in the family. Also: we heart this totally not-staged loved up photo of the couple. (Looking at you, Virushka!)
  • The silver lining for India: 16-year old Shafali Verma who became the youngest person to ever play in a World Cup. She scored just two runs, and was heart-broken, but this is a star in the making. Here she explains how she pretended to be a boy just to play cricket.


Your viral outbreak update is here: and it includes the following:


  • Global tally of cases: 110,051. Total number of deaths: 3,828.
  • India tally: 43. Total number of deaths: zero, thank god! Though an elderly patient who tested positive for the virus died in Ladakh. But officials are uncertain as to whether it was the cause of death. 
  • Italy has put 16 million residents under quarantine as it struggles to contain the virus. Italy’s death toll: 233. See astonishing pics of empty streets and deserted monuments.
  • Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to send kids to the frontlines: “It must be understood that the pandemic is not afflicting children or teenagers, thank G-d; there has not been one instance that we know of… We must disinfect public installations. This virus is sensitive to bleach and we must act in an orderly way to disinfect railway stations, bus stations, etc. To this end, over the vacation period, which may be extended, I will mobilize teenagers, both in schools and in youth movements, in a very meticulous way, to help with the disinfection.” Yes, that’s one very long quote but unfortunately necessary to capture its insanity.
  • BBC News highlights the five ways that women in Asia are bearing the brunt of the chaos and turmoil created by the outbreak.
  • BBC also fact checks all the fake health advice making the rounds on social and WhatsApp. Drinkable silver? Really?
  • A 2018 simulation of a modern pandemic estimates that hand-washing can stem virus transmission by up to 22%.
  • Inverse offers a guide on how to make good anti-virus measures feel like second nature. 
  • This must-watch Vox video explains why many of the new virus epidemics originate in China.
  • Talk about bad timing: CNBC has uncovered a secret Amazon-funded project to cure... the common cold! Its code name: Project Gesundheit. No one’s saying ‘bless you’ to Jeff Bezos.


Android is coming to your iPhone: You can now run Google’s Android 10 on an iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus model thanks to a new software hack. Happy? (Indian Express)


Taking a cab is worse than driving: According to a California study, jumping in an Uber generates 70% more air pollution than driving yourself! The reason: something called ‘deadheading’—that’s the extra drive time involved when a driver travels to pick up a passenger or cruises the streets while waiting for a ride request. According to researchers, “That means that for a one-mile trip, on average there’s about another 0.7 miles of driving around to deliver that trip… People don’t see that. They only see the vehicle pull up and they take their trip.” The other problem in the US: Customers who may have previously used public transit or just walked now jump in a cab instead. Of course, in India, Ola etc. have mostly replaced autos which aren’t exactly green themselves. (Los Angeles Times)


An orange a day, keeps the kilos away: New research on mice indicates that eating santras and musambis can help folks lose weight, stay slim and stave off diabetes. The reason: they contain a chemical called nobiletin—which can even reverse obesity and unclog arteries. Our takeaway: breakfast 🍸 are the best! (Yahoo News)


Watch TV, heart skinny women: Does watching TV make you more likely to find thin women more attractive? That’s a pretty hard hypothesis to test in a world saturated in media. So researchers picked a remote part of Nicaragua to conduct their experiment, and the results are both dismal and unsurprising. But more intriguingly this: Researchers showed “villagers a series of photographs of either thin or plus-sized fashion models. After just 15 minutes of viewing these images, the participants changed their perceptions of the ideal female body size in the direction of the images they had just seen.” (BPS Research Digest)


Women’s Day stuff you might have missed:


  • First: this awesome, awesome video of Mithali Raj batting in a saree. We’re in loooove!
  • Nobody:... Shell: Let’s change our name to She’ll to mark the occasion! 🙄
  • Art auctioneer Christie’s curated a fab collection of profiles of women artists. Our fave: This video profiling the Singh Twins who merge the intricate art of miniature painting with contemporary subjects, such as football or the siege of the Golden Temple. 
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday turned over his social media handles to seven "women achievers", following up on a statement he had made last week. The first up: Sneha Mohandoss, founder of Food Bank India, followed by Dr disability rights activist Malvika Iyer. The Hindu has the full list.


Stuff that makes you go WTF: PM Modi’s wife Jashodaben’s passport application was rejected. The reason: she doesn’t have a marriage certificate or a joint affidavit signed by her spouse. Also: A former teacher at Eton has been charged with sexually assaulting three boys, voyeurism and three counts of taking indecent photographs. BBC has the nasty details.


Weekend reads you might have missed: include the following:


  • The Print offers an entertaining profile of Manu Bhaiya, a self-styled exorcist with a twist—he frees his clients from ghosts that haunt Tik Tok and Insta: “You will not believe me but a spirit, which had seized control of a Haryana girl’s body turned out to be a big Justin Bieber fan.”
  • A rare candid interview with a Bollywood star: Gulshan Devaiah (of ‘Shaitaan’ fame) on why he flubbed his early prospects of success.
  • The New Yorker has a must-read on the very real perils of ‘sharenting’—parents who share photos, videos and other information of their kids on social media. 
  • Huffington Post profiles Ravi Parashar—the man who finally removed the saffron flag off the minaret of the vandalised Delhi mosque. What we learned: why small acts of kindness carry great risks and require great courage. 
  • Fast Company has a smart read on how brands can adapt to their customers’ desire to consume less.
  • Dazed Digital explains how Instagram killed the ‘It Girl’. 
  • Bustle offers a close-up look at Rebekah Neumann—former CEO Adam Neumann’s spouse and Gwyneth Paltrow’s cousin—and her role in the collapse of WeWork.
  • Simran Mangharam in Mint turns the spotlight on a new generation of Indian women: “Forty-plus, single and loving it!”


Your daily quota of sunshine items: includes the following:


  • A Muslim groom wearing a turban to honour the Sikhs who have stood by Muslims during the recent violence.
  • Behold the mighty stalker, a kitten with the heart of a tiger… hmm, maybe not. 😂
  • This puppy and cat may be the cutest BFFs ever—and they’re winning the internet.
  • The good news that Hachette has cancelled its plans to publish Woody Allen’s memoir after its staff staged a walkout. But maybe not so good news for everybody, including Stephen King who sees it as censorship.
  • This very good gorilla who uses sign language to tell visitors not to feed him.
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