BROAD//SHEET
Monday, January 13, 2020
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Number(s) of the day

There were 33,356 rape cases registered in 2018—and in 94% of the cases, the rapist was known to the victim. The accused was unknown or unidentified in only 2,036 cases. The stat highlights how vulnerable women are in their own home, neighbourhood and workplace. An equally alarming number: daily wage labourers account for 22.4% of all suicide cases, followed by housewives at 17.1%.

 

PS: Our apologies for the delay in delivering Broadsheet today. Our publishing system suddenly decided we were ‘illegal’ and kicked all of us out. It took us a while to convince it otherwise.

 

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EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT...

The biggest news story today, explained.

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The tragic mistake that caused the Ukrainian crash

Last week, a Boeing 737 flight crashed outside Tehran, killing everyone on board. Iran finally took responsibility for the tragedy. But Boeing is not off the hook.


A quick recap: On Wednesday, a Ukrainian International Airlines Boeing 737 jet came down three minutes after takeoff—killing 168 passengers and nine crew members. Soon after, US and Canada accused Iran of “unintentionally” downing the plane—a charge Iran staunchly denied. But over the weekend, Tehran finally issued a mea culpa. (Read details of the crash in our explainer)


What did they do? In a statement issued on Saturday, the government admitted that its military made a mistake. According to BBC News, “an air defence operator misidentified flight PS752 as a cruise missile and shot it down.”


How did that happen? Two reasons were initially offered for the tragedy. One: The plane took “a sharp, unexpected turn that brought it near a sensitive military base.” But an Iranian spokesperson walked back that claim hours later. Two: The military was at the “highest level of readiness" in the midst of tensions with the US—i.e. they were jumpy and trigger-happy. According to a top Iranian general, "In such a condition, because of human error and in an unintentional way, the flight was hit.” President Hassan Rouhani tweeted: “The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake.”


Reminder:The plane was shot down soon after Iran struck two US bases in Iraq—in retaliation for a US air strike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.


So what was the reaction? Canadian PM Justin Trudeau declared, “Canada will not rest until we get the accountability, justice and closure that the families deserve.” But Ukrainian President Zelensky sounded more conciliatory, saying: “I expect further constructive cooperation with Iran in accordance with the norms of international law.” 


The big question: everyone is asking is this: Why didn’t Tehran shut down its airspace soon after its missile strikes? Much as Pakistan did soon after Balakot. But the ones most pissed off at the Iranian government: Iranians themselves.


Why are Iranians mad? Most of those who died were Iranians or Canadians of Iranian origin. Grief over the deaths soon turned into fury at the government. Thousands flooded the streets across the nation, calling Ayatollah Khamenei—the country’s supreme leader and its commander in chief—a “murderer.” There is also anger at the attempted cover up. As one Iranian analyst put it, “There are two major problems with the Ukrainian Airlines issue. One is firing at an airplane and two is firing at the public’s trust. The first can be justified, but the latter is a mistake with absolutely no justification.” See a protest clip here


Reminder: 300 people died in massive and bloody anti-government protests last year. The assasination of Soleimani briefly reunited the nation. But the plane crash has reopened those divisions and wounds.


But this is good news for Boeing, right? Umm, yes and no. Yes, it’s off the hook for the crash in Iran. But the company is busy battling far greater problems on a different front.


What problems? The company delivered over a hundred pages of internal emails and chat messages to the US Congress—which is investigating the safety of the 737-Max plane involved in two other crashes that killed a total of 346 people (explained here). And the messages are damning:

  • “Would you put your family on a Max simulator trained aircraft? I wouldn’t,”

  • “This airplane is designed by clowns, who are in turn supervised by monkeys,”

  • “I’ll be shocked if the FAA passes this turd.” (The US Federal Aviation Authority approval is required for all commercial planes.)

  • “Not sure I will be returning in April given this - am not lying to the FAA. Will leave that to the people who have no integrity”

  • The company also tried to minimise costs of training pilots on the new model’s system: “I want to stress the importance of holding firm that there will not be any type of simulator training required.. Boeing will not allow that to happen. We’ll go face-to-face with any regulator who tries to make that a requirement.” 

  • The same employee had this to say about the Indian regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA): "The DCGA in India is apparently even stupider, if that's a word."

  • Also: “I just Jedi mind tricked this (sic) fools. I should be given $1000 every time I take one of these calls. I save this company a sick amount of $$$$.”


What does Boeing say? “The language used in these communications, and some of the sentiments they express, are inconsistent with Boeing values, and the company is taking appropriate action in response. This will ultimately include disciplinary or other personnel action, once the necessary reviews are completed.” The company, however, insisted, “Having carefully reviewed the issue, we are confident that all of Boeing’s Max simulators are functioning effectively.”


The bottomline: Iran has issued an unconditional and abject apology for making what was a genuine mistake. We are still waiting for one from Boeing—for what appears to be a calculated and ongoing attempt to cover up flaws and cut costs at the expense of human lives.

 

Learn more: Here’s the best of the reporting out there:

  • For a refresher, read our explainer on the scandal surrounding Boeing’s 737-Max.

In related news: Four Iraqi servicemen have been killed in a fresh missile attack on a US airbase in Iraq. (Mint)

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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...

enjoying every minute of the royal family soap opera

Your #JNUViolence update is here: and it includes the following:

  • The police identified one female member of the masked mob as a Delhi University student—but did not name her. Indian Express says she is a member of ABVP, the student wing of the RSS. 

  • On Friday, the Delhi police held a press conference naming eight suspects involved in other acts of violence—which preceded the mob attack. The list included JNU Student Union prez Aishe Ghosh. While the police named the left groups affiliated with six of the eight suspects, it was oddly silent on the ABVP affiliation of the other two. Huffington Post has that story.

  • Meanwhile, PM Modi defended the citizenship law as honouring Gandhi-ji’s wishes. And Home Minister Amit Shah claimed that JNU students raised “anti-national” slogans, and threatened to put them behind bars.

  • A must read: New York Times on the organized campaign—involving lawyers, doctors and crowdfunding efforts—to help victims of the government crackdown. 

  • Also: The Shaheen Bagh protests have taken it up a notch. Protesters hosted a 'sarva dharma sambhava''—a multi-faith prayer ceremony that included a hawan and a kirtan. NDTV has the story. Watch the moving clips here and here.


Your Megxit update is here: The Queen has called a ‘crisis meeting’ on Monday. Charles, William and Harry are expected to attend. It will be the first time the family has spoken in person since the ‘big announcement’ (awwwkward). Meanwhile:

 

  • William is talking to the press via unnamed ‘friends’ who in turn are doling out doleful quotes such as: “I’ve put my arm around my brother all our lives and I can’t do that any more; we’re separate entities.” 

  • Meghan has inked a deal with Disney to do voiceover work in return for a donation to an elephant charity. The agreement likely predates the couple’s declaration of financial independence. 

  • PR experts who predict that the Sussex brand will mint serious money. 

  • And the New York Times has more on the implications for the British tabloid press.

  • Plus: The couple have been hiding out in a luxury mansion in Canada—and where Meghan has fled since the announcement. Page Six has uncovered its owner and a Clinton connection.

OYO is firing at will: The company has let go of 5% of its 12,000 employees in China, and 12% of its 10,000 staff in India. Coming soon: another 1,200 layoffs in the next three-four months in India. Also raising eyebrows: An income tax raid that may or may not be routine. The reason for OYO's troubles? One: papa investor SoftBank’s new-found interest is fiscal restraint—thanks to its other protege, WeWork’s extravagant ways. Also, hotel owners are pissed off: “In its aggressive effort to acquire market share, Oyo offered hotel stays for as cheap as $4 a night..The company also stocked up on rented room inventory by signing exclusive deals and guaranteeing income to hotel owners. It’s now allegedly reneging on those guarantees.” Bloomberg (via Economic Times) has the main deets. A necessary background read: This recent New York Times piece on OYO’s toxic work culture and practices.


In not-exactly-related Softbank news: The 44-year-old Japanese billionaire, Yusaka Maezawa—who sold his online fashion company Zozo Inc to SoftBank—is desperately seeking a girlfriend to join him on a voyage around the moon. He says, “I want to find a ‘life partner’. With that future partner of mine, I want to shout our love and world peace from outer space.” This great quest will be the subject of a documentary called 'Full Moon Lovers'. 🤦🏽‍♀️ Also: this is the same guy who is giving away $9 million to his Twitter followers to figure out if money can buy happiness. Er, whatever happened to donating money to starving children? (Reuters)


Everybody say boo to Bezos: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is coming to town to attend the company’s SMBhav event—which is being touted as a mega-summit for small, medium and micro enterprises. But the Confederation of All India Traders will not be rolling out the red carpet. The organisation—which reps over 70 million brick-and-mortar retailers—is planning protests across 300 cities. The reason: CAIT claims that the predatory pricing (i.e. deep discounts) of online retailers like Amazon and Flipkart will destroy the neighbourhood kirana store. In related news: The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) is also mad at Amazon. The reason: the company is selling Golden Temple-themed toilet covers and mats. Enuf said.


Time to shed some tongue fat: Over a billion people suffer from sleep apnea—a sleep disorder that causes a person to snore very loudly, and more dangerously, stop breathing for brief periods during the night. A new study has found a possible, non-surgical solution: losing fat on your tongue. (CNN)


Martin Sheen channels Tagore: Each week, Jane Fonda holds a Fire Drill Friday protest to draw attention to climate change. This week, it was headlined by Joaquin Phoenix and Martin Sheen—who read a Rabindranath Tagore poem (watch it here) and were later arrested


In related climate change news: Tennis ace Roger Federer has been under fire for his sponsorship deal with Credit Suisse bank—with many of them playing tennis inside its branches to make a point. The reason, as per Greta Thunberg’s tweet: “Since 2016 @CreditSuisse has provided $57 BILLION to companies looking for new fossil fuel deposits – something that is utterly incompatible with #ClimateAction.” Federer finally issued a typically super-diplomatic response: “I appreciate reminders of my responsibility as a private individual, as an athlete and as an entrepreneur, and I’m committed to using this privileged position to dialogue on important issues with my sponsors.” Also under fire from Thunberg: The global engineering firm Siemens for supplying signalling systems to Gautam Adani’s coal mine in Australia. Siemens is holding firm. (The Guardian)


Weekend reads you may have missed: include the following:

  • In Indian Express, the government’s former chief economic adviser, Arvind Subramanian, explains why beating up young people is a bad idea—especially when they’re already unhappy about the lack of jobs and hope. 

  • Mint on why Deepika Padukone is a hero—no, it’s not only about JNU. 

  • India Forum has a rare long-read on the role of caste in cricket—toggling between the present state of the BCCI and the first All-India team sent to play test cricket in Britain back in 1911. 

  • Big Think makes a case for sex as a powerful cure for depression. 

  • Annalisa Merelli in Quartz makes a case for goddess Kali as the feminist icon the world desperately needs today. 

  • This brilliant read in the New York Times on the one secret of being a great parent.

  • The Guardian’s ‘Cashmere Country’ offers an eye-opening report on the perils of producing the world’s most expensive wool on a freezing mountainside in Ladakh. 

  • The Print has a lovely story on why thousands leave toy airplanes as an offering at a gurudwara near Jalandhar. 

  • CNN looks at the Consumer Electronics Show’s biggest star: sex tech. 

  • Mumbai Mirror’s ‘who knew?’ piece on the property dispute over Salman Rushdie’s ancestral home in Civil Lines, Delhi. 

  • South China Morning Post has a great read on the Tamil movie ‘Sumo; a “bromance between an Indian surfer and a Japanese sumo wrestler.” 


Your daily quota of sunshine items: include the following:

  • This thread that collates Volkswagen’s hilarious anti-Hollywood ads. 

  • The very cool, very round Cyrcle smartphone.

  • This fun clip from the shooting of the movie epic ‘1917’—which shows you the difference between what happened on the set, and what you see on the screen.

  • Alicia Keys’ new anthem of resilience, ‘Underdog’, co-written by Ed Sheeran.  

  • This amazing clip of sea waves flowing upwards—right to the top of a cliff! 

  • This feel-good story about NASA’s latest graduate, Raja Jan Vurputoor Chari—who pays tribute to his techie father from Hyderabad.

  • The good news that Farhan Akhtar is getting hitched.
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YOU NEED TO KNOW

The best place for the best advice

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How to fall in love with reading again

Editor’s note: The path to adulting is littered with once voracious readers who are now too busy or too overwhelmed with choices to pick up a book. We are no exception. So we asked our ambassador Meenakshi Madhavan Reddy for help. Here’s what she has to say. 


I read a lot. Some people think this is because I'm a writer—keeping one hand in the business as it were—but really, it's the opposite. I'm a writer because I'm a reader. Every year, I set myself a Goodreads challenge. And every year, I read, on average about 150 books. More if you count re-reads. 


I've got to confess, there has not been a single day of my life—since I learned how to read—that I have not read. It's part of me now, an addiction, like smoking. But I hear you when you say you haven’t picked up a book in ages. Netflix, jobs, families… life.  But here are some simple ways to help you fall back in love with books again.


Carry a book everywhere you go: Purists will pooh-pooh the Kindle, but I love mine. It is my faithful companion on every single journey. Plus: it doesn't kill my shoulder when I carry it in my purse. 


Have a no-TV/internet evening: Opt for an evening where you still have enough intellectual energy to try something new. And just start reading. Try an old favourite to get you back into the groove. ‘Little Women’, perhaps, since the movie's just out? Or ‘Pride and Prejudice’ for dreamy Darcy. Even an old Agatha Christie to get you back in the mood. 


Don't be afraid to ditch a book: Life's too short, and your time is too precious. Use a trick I learned from The Guardian to see if a book is for you: Read page 1, and then page 99. If you find both as intriguing, then this book is for you.


Read around your interests: There's no shame in finding your zone. Love fashion? Start with something about Coco Chanel. That’s true of genres as well—be it psychology, crime, history, or romance.


Finally, read fiction: Some of my greatest learnings about (and in) life have been from novels. 


If you want more help getting started, here are some of the favourite books I read last year (though not necessarily published in 2019):


Flights by Olga Tokarczuk: As someone who travels a lot, and for pleasure, this weird compendium of, I want to say, vignettes about travel spoke to me. It’s about restlessness and airports and travel, but a few stories carry on through the novel. Like a man who goes on holiday to Croatia, and his wife and son randomly vanish. Or a black courtier who is stuffed and displayed after he dies—despite his daughter writing to the emperor who stuffed him, begging that her father’s body be returned to her. It’s a gorgeous book. I recommend you get an actual physical copy because I loved how beautiful mine was (It has little maps). Olga Tokarczuk (Toe-car-shook) just won the Nobel, as well. So you see, you are right on trend. 


No Presents Please by Jayant Kaikini: This is a translation from Kannada to English. The stories are set in Bombay, and I enjoyed them hugely—especially the very slice-of-life microscopic views of the characters. It was so well-observed that I felt like I was right there, watching these people up close, close enough to smell them. 


Milk Teeth by Amrita Mahale: Oh boy, I loved this debut book, and was glad to see what a splash it made in the Indian literary scene. It’s about Bombay in the ‘90s. Set in Matunga, the book is primarily about a clash in a rent-controlled building—but also about the relationship a young woman has with the changing city and her own changing self. Excellently done. 


Cities and Canopies by Harini Nagendra and Seema Mundoli: As I get older, and as our garden gets older, I find myself asking questions like: “What’s that tree?” I’ve always liked trees, and I can identify your basic suspects. But this book is a lively look at trees in Indian cities, along with a little bit of their origin story, some mythology, some history. But all with gorgeous illustrations. 


Want more? I put together a much longer list of the best books I read in 2019 on my newsletter right over here.

 

Note: Meenakshi Madhavan Reddy is the author of a number of bestselling books, including ‘You Are Here’, ‘The Life & Times of Layla the Ordinary’ and ‘Cold Feet’. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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