Tuesday, February 4, 2020

City of the Day

Hyderabad is the world’s most dynamic city, topping the ‘City Momentum Index’—which is determined by a variety of parameters that indicate socio-economic momentum, i.e. growth in GDP, retail, real estate sales and airport passengers. At #2: Bangalore. Chennai and Delhi are at #5 and #6 respectively. Mumbai is way down at #20. Point to note: Bangalore was #1 last year.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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The relentless spread of the coronavirus

The deadly new virus has now claimed more victims than its closest relative SARS. Beijing has admitted ‘shortcomings,” and the Indian government is scrambling to contain the spread. 


A reintroduction to the virus: 2019-nCoV belongs to a family of coronaviruses. These can cause a range of diseases 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. There’s lots more on the virus in our explainer here.


More deadly than SARS: Number of deaths: 425—which is higher than the toll taken by SARS back in 2002-03. Confirmed cases: 20,438—that’s compared to 5,327 SARS cases at the height of that epidemic. The good news: the number of recoveries is climbing as well. Point to note: there have been two deaths outside China—one person in the Philippines and another in Hong Kong.


China asks for help: After 64 new fatalities were reported on Monday—the biggest daily increase since the virus was first detected—the government admitted “shortcomings and difficulties” in its response to the outbreak. And it has agreed to allow US experts into the country to help stop the virus’ spread. Related read: How authorities shut down a Chinese doctor who sounded an alarm in early January.


Meanwhile, in Kerala: The government now has confirmed a third case, a medical student in Kasargod—and has declared the situation a "state calamity." The state health minister said, "The announcement is not meant to scare people. It is to help take proactive steps to intensify the steps to contain the spread of the virus."


Quarantine measures: The Indian Army has set up a quarantine facility in Manesar near Delhi to house those airlifted from Wuhan. They would be monitored there for any signs of infection for two weeks. The Union health ministry updated its travel advisory asking Indians not to travel to China. Quartz has the full list of what the government is doing to stem the spread.


A global slowdown? Chinese stocks have already taken a $400 billion hit, and the International Monetary Fund chief says that the outbreak "in the short term, is likely to bring some slowdown." Now SARS didn’t have as much of an impact on the global economy. But that’s because China was not an economic godzilla 17 years ago. It only accounted for 4% of global GDP back then but now “China today accounts for about one-third of global economic growth, a larger share of global growth than from the U.S., Europe and Japan combined.” New York Times has more on how the deserted factories (manufacturing) and malls (demand) will put brakes on the global economy.


Racing for a cure: China has started clinical trials for an experimental antiviral drug called Remdesivir—developed by a US company and used to combat diseases like Ebola and SARS. It was given to a US patient last week, and his condition appeared to improve within a day. Meanwhile, scientists from Australia, Japan and Singapore have grown new cultures of the virus—which helps isolate it and develop a potential vaccine. South China Morning Post has more on that story.


On a happier note: Here’s a love story from Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh, where a Chinese bride and her wedding party are keeping local health officials on their toes. Zhihao Wang met Satyarth Mishra five years ago in Canada, and they finally got hitched this past weekend—without incident or any sign of the disease. All’s well that ends well. The wedding photo is priceless.

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wondering if there's any Indian airline that's not in trouble

Trump is gonna walk: After months of tamasha, Republicans have refused to allow the Democrats to call witnesses—and rushing to wrap up the impeachment proceedings. And it’s pretty clear that they plan to acquit the president of all wrongdoings—despite the pretty clear evidence that he is guilty of all such wrongdoings. (BuzzFeed News)

  • A leading senator laid out the logic: “There is no need for more evidence to prove that the president asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter… There is no need for more evidence to conclude that the president withheld United States aid, at least in part, to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.” 
  • But, but, but: “The Constitution does not give the Senate the power to remove the president from office and ban him from this year’s ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate.” 
  • Or as another Republican put it bluntly: “Just because actions meet a standard of impeachment does not mean it is in the best interest of the country to remove a President from office.” 


And we think our democracy is flawed. 


Our soldiers left to freeze: A report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has flagged a serious shortage in snow goggles, multipurpose boots and other high-altitude clothing—all of them necessary for troops to survive -55 degrees Celsius temperatures in Ladakh and Siachen. (The Print)


AirAsia CEO is in trouble: Tony Fernandes and Chairman Kamarudin Meranun will step down from their roles for at least two months. The reason: Charges that Airbus bribed the two men by paying $50 million to sponsor a sports team they owned. And in return, AirAsia ordered 180 aircraft from Airbus. The two have denied the allegations, and will remain as ‘advisers’ while the internal committee conducts a probe. Closer to home, Fernandes is being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for money laundering. (Reuters)


Air India has an eager suitor: The Tatas—in partnership with Singapore Airlines—are readying to bid on the Maharaja. The plan: to merge the budget Air India Express fleet with that of AirAsia India—which the Tatas co-own with none other than Tony Fernandes. (Times of India)


Your Bafta update is here: It’s award season and time for movie stars to deliver viral-worthy moments. The British film awards did not disappoint.

  • The person who stole the show didn’t even attend the awards. Brad Pitt instead had Margot Robbie read out his speech when he won best supporting award for ‘Once Upon A Time in Hollywood’. And it was very funny, filled with jibes at Brexit and a killer last line aimed at Meg & Harry. Squirming in their seats: Will & Kate. Watch it here.
  • Also hilarious: Rebel Wilson’s speech—which too had its Megxit moment, and sly reference to Prince Andrew. The royals were not amused. Watch it here.
  • The big theme of the night, diversity, or rather the lack of it. Joaquin Phoenix—who won best actor for ‘Joker’—used the occasion to call out "systemic racism" in the film industry. Watch it here.
  • Staying on that theme, Vogue UK called out the Baftas for being “pale, male and stale.”
  • Hugh Grant treated Bridget Jones fans with a nostalgic moment that referenced the movie’s famous lines. Watch him here.
  • BBC News has excellent red carpet photos, including Kate’s gorgeous cream and gold gown. Also: the full list of the winners.


Your Super Bowl update is here: Most Indians don’t give a damn about American football, but the halftime show at the sport’s grand final is a global event. 

  • The must-see highlight: Jennifer Lopez and Shakira putting on a show of Latina awesomeness. Watch the video here
  • If you want to skip the performance, check out this moment that went instantly viral.
  • Also: JLo’s mini-duet with her 11-year old daughter, singing ‘Born in the USA’.
  • Plus: the best and worst Super Bowl ads. The big winners: Snickers and Jason Momoa.


Victoria’s nasty little secret: A special New York Times investigation has uncovered “a entrenched culture of misogyny, bullying and harassment” at a company—created by founder Leslie Wexner and his deputy Ed Razek. The primary culprit was Razek who continually groped and propositioned the models—and punished them when they rejected his advances. Models were also pressured into doing nude photo shoots. (New York Times)


Elon Musk has a new single: The tech billionaire’s latest eye-ball grabbing antic is a new EDM single. Vice describes it as “four minutes of chill electronic beats over which Musk basically just repeats, ‘Don't doubt your vibe.’” The Guardian offers a funnier and meaner review. Listen to it here. Point to note: This isn’t Musk’s first shot at rock stardom. He previously recorded RIP Harambe—a tribute to a gorilla that died at the Cincinnati Zoo 


SpiceJet is doing its bit for democracy: SpiceJet is offering “hundreds” of “free” tickets to anyone planning to vote in the upcoming Delhi elections. Some conditions apply. Either you have to fly to Delhi and return on the very same day, i.e. February 8. Or the airline will waive the price of a one-way ticket booked for that day. The small print: the offer only covers the base fare. You still have to pay all the additional taxes and surcharges. (Indian Express)


Sex, love etc.:  Here are some excellent pieces on everyone’s favourite subject:

  • Huffington Post looks at why Indian women rarely have orgasms. The answer isn’t surprising, but we appreciated a rare, honest glimpse of what happens in the Indian bedroom.
  • Washington Post has a smart read on how technology is transforming the romance novel.
  • Are you a boring partner? This Medium essay looks at what makes someone ‘boring’ in a long-term relationship. It ain’t exactly rocket science but always worth reminding yourself—or someone you know ;)


News that makes you go WTF: 

  • Meghan Markle has a long-lost twin—well, at least she looks like one
  • Also: When a woman refused to give up her land to construct a road, men led by a Trinamool panchayat leader tied her up—and dragged her along the ground. The video has now gone viral. 
  • Finally, a man used 99 phones in a little red cart to trick Google maps into thinking there was a massive traffic jam.
  • Punjabis can now pick up their whiskey along with their sabun ki tikiya. Kirana stores in the state will be allowed to sell booze starting April 1.


Cool stuff you need to know: include the following:


  • Inverse looks at new research on mice that shows the keto diet can be disastrous: “After two to three months on keto, the mice became obese, with impaired metabolism and skyrocketed inflammation.” Moral of this story for humans: keto is great in the short run, but not as a long-term option.
  • Rachel Lopez in Hindustan Times explains how to read labels on beauty products—and why ‘natural’ isn’t always a good thing.
  • CNN has a great round-up of all your fave pop stars who have ‘greened up’ their tours—and that it’s a pretty photo gallery makes it more fun.
  • This Business Insider video lists the spending habits of self-made millionaires.
  • This compelling video captures what happens when a fake baby monkey is placed amidst a community of langurs—and how they react when they think it has died. 


Your daily quota of sunshine items: includes the following:


  • This sign that lists all the very odd things banned on Air India flights. Coconut?
  • Need a motivational video to help you conquer this day? This puppy’s all you need. 
  • Harry is really, really obsessed with Meghan’s… hair? Click and behold!
  • A two-day old donkey. Question: how can anything be so absurdly cuddly and cute.
  • Aamir Khan posted some lovely, throwback photos in tribute to his father.
  • We’ve flagged this one before, but totally worth a reup: a clip that reminds us of the kindness of animals, or in this case, a chimp.
  • This lion who hid in a tree after being chased by a herd of angry buffaloes in Kenya. Ok, not a moment of sunshine for him, but the photos are brilliant.
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