Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Number of the day: 3

According to a new study, air pollution has cut the average life expectancy of humans around the world by three years. In India, that number is 3 years and 10 months. The lead author of the study says, “The loss of life expectancy from air pollution is much higher than many other risk factors, and even higher than smoking”—which reduces life expectancy by 2.2 years. Outdoor air pollution is responsible for 8.8 million premature deaths a year.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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More coronavirus scares everywhere

The relentless deluge of virus-related news continues unabated. Here’s our round-up of Day #forever of the outbreak.


The Hyatt Regency scare: When an infection is detected, the authorities’ first task is to identify everyone who was in contact with that person. So this happened yesterday:


  • Officials traced 42 people with immediate links to the patient in Delhi, including 20 family members and 22 doctors and paramedical staff at his hospital. All of them have tested negative. 
  • But his brothers-in-law visited relatives in Agra who have tested positive for a “high viral load.”
  • Two of his children attend the Shriram Millennium school in Noida, which promptly shut itself (and three of its branches) down, as did another school in its vicinity—despite authorities telling them not to do so.
  • The patient also hosted a party at Hyatt Regency—which promptly told all employees who were at the restaurant on that day to stay home. And the hotel is fumigating all its public areas. All of which triggered immediate panic on WhatsApp groups across the city.
  • Air India has asked the crew that flew the patient home from Vienna to self-quarantine themselves at home.
  • The government has stepped up screening of all international arrivals at airports. And visitors from 12 countries—Italy, Iran, China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Nepal, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia—have to undergo additional tests.


Work in your pjs, please! Multinational companies across the globe are asking employees to work from home. While Twitter has done so with all its global staff, other companies like Wipro are implementing it in the most infection-prone locations like Italy and South East Asia. But everyone is learning to love video-conferencing. Facebook has banned in-person visits to its offices, including job interviews. Cisco, Google and Microsoft are offering their video-conferencing software for free.


Also staying home: Deepika Padukone who said ‘non’ to Paris Fashion Week. France has thus far confirmed 130 cases and two deaths.


Counting blessings: Everyone, including the PM, keeps telling us to stop panicking. So here’s a round-up of the many reasons to stop doing so:

  • Indian Express tested the helpline number set up by the government, and it works very well! 
  • One of the original three Kerala patients offers a glowing account of the tender, loving medical care she received during her treatment.
  • Scientists say that the virus thrives in cooler climes, but does very poorly in hot and humid weather—and that could be India’s secret virus-shield.
  • The best news: this coronavirus is a delicate creature that is easily destroyed with a wee bit of disinfectant. Also: it can’t pass through skin. You have to touch your eyes, nose or mouth with your infected hands. 
  • So all you need to do is wash your hands, and make sure your hand sanitiser has more than 60% alcohol content.
  • Finally, most people who are infected experience Covid-19 as a minor cold or flu.

Learn more: Axios has satellite maps that show the dramatic decrease in air pollution in China—all thanks to the epidemic. Wired UK busts a number of myths surrounding the coronavirus. The Guardian looks at the fallout for the airline industry. Epicurious tells you what to put on your grocery list in case of an outbreak. New York Times via The Telegraph dispels myths on how the infection can and cannot spread. An artist translated the virus’ DNA sequence into music, and it sounds a bit like synth pop. Fast Company has that story.

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checking the alcohol content in your hand sanitiser

Netanyahu declares victory in Israel election: The nation has gone to the polls three times in the past year. The results of the previous two elections were so splintered that no single party could form the government (see our explainer on the previous disaster in April). This time around, PM Benjamin Netanyahu appears to have come closest to securing a majority—59 out of the 61 seats required. NPR explains what happens next.


Your Delhi violence update includes: A must read from Huffington Post on a new spate of Tik Tok videos that celebrate attacks on Muslims—set to catchy Punjabi and Haryanvi pop tunes, of course. But here’s something to lighten the gloom: A heartening clip of a Hindu man taking down the saffron flag that was planted on the minaret of a vandalised mosque. Also: Members of the Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha committee observed Friday prayers at a Kochi mosque.


Timothy Hutton faces rape allegations: Sera Johnston has accused the Oscar-winning actor of raping her back in 1983—when she was only 14! Hutton allegedly invited Johnston and her friends up to his hotel room—and then proceeded to rape her along with a friend. Buzzfeed has her excruciating account. The detail that gutted us: “Her mouth was full of train-track braces and rubber bands.” Meanwhile, Hutton—who “unequivocally” denies the allegations—has been sacked from his TV show ‘Almost Family’. 


Jack Dorsey may lose his job: A powerful hedge fund that has just bought a sizable stake in Twitter is intent on sacking him. The stated reason: “Dorsey hasn't focused enough on Twitter, because he is also chief executive of payments company Square.” Now it’s true that Twitter has struggled to grow at the same pace as its old foe Facebook and new rivals like Tik Tok. And no one is happy about Dorsey’s latest plan to spend three-six months a year in Africa. But, but, but, Elliot Management is also run by a major Trump donor—and there is a presidential election in November. So conspiracy theories abound! (NPR)


Which company has the best rep of them all? The answer: Lego. The toy company topped the list of the world’s most reputable companies for the fourth time in a row—closely followed by Disney. Also in the top ten: Rolex, Ferrari, Microsoft, Levi Strauss, Netflix, Adidas, Bosch and Intel. Notably absent: Google and Apple who ruled the roost back in 2011. (CNBC)


Are you a typo nazi? A new study finds that some of us get a lot more worked up than others by text messages like: ‘Its too hot, so theirs no way I’m going out.” And it has a lot to do with your personality type. Also: we make all kinds of judgements about people based on their typos. (Fast Company)


Broadsheet Book Clubs had a lotta fun!  Members in Chennai, Pune, Delhi and Bangalore held their first meet ups, and had a great time talking about “books, books, and books.” The photos made us very happy. That awesome Insta story is here.


The ‘We Are Well’ Pop Up: There’s always a new wellness trend or report making headlines. We do our best to keep up:


  • The Independent has a first-person account (and photos) of the best possible wellness trend—puppy yoga classes! 
  • BBC News reports on ‘breathwork’—a new kind of technique that is very different from pranayama and other mindfulness practices.
  • Glamour UK explains how mindfulness can help cure climate change anxiety.
  • The Canyon Ranch spa has long been the wellness retreat of the super-duper rich. A Bloomberg reporter went undercover as an employee, and discovered the true insanity that great wealth bestows.


Things that make you go WTF: Jharkhand has blithely wiped three wildlife sanctuaries off its records to clear the way for iron-ore mining. Actually, file this under things that make you go 😡 (Down To Earth)


Cool stuff we learned online: includes the following:


  • Each day brings a cool new ‘magic’ ingredient in skincare. Refinery29 explains why that stodgy staple, Vit C serum, is a must-use.
  • National Geographic introduces us to the swamp wallaby—the only marsupial that is always pregnant because it has two uteruses!
  • Fast Company profiles a new line of super-cool handbags made of recycled plastic—recovered from the ocean!
  • CNN explores various cases of LSD overdose—and their surprisingly beneficial effects.
  • Ozy looks at traditional drought-resistant grains from India and Africa that are staging a comeback because of climate change.
  • Bangalore Mirror reports on a new shuttle service that offers first and last mile connectivity to metro commuters in Bangalore—and its making autowalas super mad.
  • CNN highlights a comedian’s unique battle with the luxury brand Hugo Boss—which is infamous for bullying any business (including brewing pubs) that dares to use the word ‘boss’ in its brand name. 


Your daily quota of sunshine items: includes the following:


  • A rare and very pink manta ray
  • This fearless ground squirrel taking on a cape cobra (!) in the Kalahari.
  • This heartwarming footage of a mama leopard finally reunited with her 8-week old cub in Maharashtra.
  • These 3-D printed heels inspired by nature are seriously awesome.
  • What’s better than bee-stung lips? This adorable kitty with a bee-stung nose. Hey, as long as it isn’t our nose…
  • Finally, this stunning statue of Parvathi from the ancient Pallava era
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