Wednesday, January 29, 2020

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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Kunal Kamra being put on a no-fly list 

Yup, the biggest story in the country right now is a bizarre story involving a comedian, an infamous television anchor and their encounter on an IndiGo flight. There isn’t much to explain, so we’re keeping this one simple. 

What happened to Kamra? Well, actually Kamra happened to Arnab—as in Goswami.  Both happened to be on the same Mumbai-Lucknow IndiGo flight. The comedian decided to go up to Goswami’s seat and, er, talk to him. Unfortunately, for the rabble-rouser of night-time TV, Kamra was not looking to make polite chit-chat. And unfortunately for Kamra, Goswami was not in a chatty mood. That’s right. The thundering purveyor of high-decibel rants took an unexpected maun vrat. So the encounter—which was captured on video—went kinda like this.


Phir kya hua? Kamra gleefully tweeted out the clip and his version of the incident: “Today I met Arnab Goswami in a flight to Lucknow (6E 5317) and politely asked him to have a conversation. At first he pretended to be on a phone call. I waited for his so-called phone call to get over. Seatbelt signs were off at this time. I gave him a monologue about what I felt about his 'journalism'. He refused to answer any questions, he called me ‘mentally unstable’.” 


Point to note: That ‘mentally unstable’ bit isn’t on the clip—where Arnab doesn’t say a word. But as per Kamra, that interaction occurred before he started recording. Also, to be fair, Kamra’s questions were a little, er, loaded: “Arnab. Arnab, are you a coward or are you a journalist? Are you a coward or are you a journalist or a nationalist? Who are you, Arnab? Who are you?” 

Twitter must have gone nuts! Yup. But more importantly, IndiGo decided to jump in the fray. The airline suspended him for six months for “unacceptable behaviour.” And for no apparent reason, Air India eagerly followed suit: “In view of the incident onboard @IndiGo6E, Air India wishes to inform that conduct of Person concerned is unacceptable.With a view to discourage such behavior onboard flts, Mr Kunal Kamra is suspended from flying on any Air India flt until further notice."
Then Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri “advised” other airlines to do the same to punish such “offensive behaviour.”


What does Kamra say? He released a statement: “So then I did exactly what Republic TV journalists do to people in their private/public spaces, and I don’t regret it. I am not sorry for it. The moment the stewardess asked me to move, I went back to my seat in 20 seconds. I apologised to each crew member personally and to both the pilot, by staying back till the end, for any inconvenience that I might have caused during the flight. I don’t think I did anything wrong/ criminal.” Full statement here.


Arnab? He hasn’t said a word… so far. Major on-air fireworks tonight? We can only hope.


This is very Kamra though: Yeah, he's made a career of taking brutal aim at right-leaning politicians, celebrities—and one very special news anchor. And it’s earned him lots of trolling, death threats and even eviction! Kamra was famously asked to vacate his apartment by a landlady unhappy with his in-your-face politics. Kamra being Kamra posted the exchange on Facebook, along with a list of the many ways he’s been punished for his views (Read it here). He can now add the loss of flying privileges to the list.


The bottomline: Everyone has the right to fly our friendly skies in peace—even a most unpeaceable news anchor. But suspending someone for six months for being a little disruptive is overkill. There’s no indication that Kamra was rude to the crew or refused to follow their directions. As for Air India, MYOB, maybe? Also: Republic TV is infamous for accosting people on planes. So there’s that if you believe in tit for tat.

Learn more: Wanna know more about Kamra? Scroll and Mint offer excellent profiles of his personality and his career. The Telegraph has the best overview of the incident and the aftermath.

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Being 'whelmed' by jerks on Tinder

Your viral outbreak update is here: Here’s the latest on the deadly new coronavirus spreading across the world. (FYI, our explainer)

  • The latest tally: The death toll in China is now 132. The number of cases around the world: nearly 6,000. The virus has spread across China and to at least 16 countries. No one, however, has died of the infection outside China. The Atlantic has photos of an eerily deserted Wuhan.
  • India angle: Closer to home, hundreds have been put under observation—including 633 people in Kerala who recently returned from Wuhan. But no one has tested positive as yet. Huffington Post has more on cases across the country. Meanwhile, an Air India plane is waiting on standby to evacuate Indian students trapped in China. The government is waiting for Beijing’s okay to go ahead.
  • Threat to global economy: Investors around the world are dumping stocks, afraid of the virus’ impact on global growth. One economist warns: “The extent and duration of this negative shock to regional economic growth will depend on how quickly the Wuhan virus epidemic can be brought under control." Mint has more on that angle.
  • WHO guidelines: The World Health Organization also issued information about the virus, and how to stay safe. Watch Q&A clip here or read the FAQS.
  • A must read: Vox flags the two key questions that will determine if the coronavirus outbreak becomes a pandemic.


African cheetahs are coming to town: The Asiatic cheetah that once roamed across India has long been extinct. There are only  7,100 cheetahs left in the wild, almost all of them in Africa. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court okayed a plan to relocate cheetahs from Namibia to a "carefully chosen location.” The aim: to see if they can thrive in India. Almost everyone is delighted at the news. But some conservationists are worried: “They fear that in its haste to bring back the cheetah, India will end up housing the animals in semi-captive conditions in huge, secured open air zoos rather than allowing them to live free.” (BBC)


Kerala gay couple want to get legally married: and they’re going to court to make it happen. The happy couple who got hitched in a secret temple ceremony in 2018 wants a proper marriage certificate to affirm their status. They are challenging the the Special Marriage Act which implies that only a man and woman can get married. 


But nobody told Ayushman Khuranna: who—while talking up his upcoming gay romcom ‘Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan’— told a reporter: “We are really proud that we are supporting the community. Our country is very progressive that it legalised same-sex marriages.” See the clip here. He later tweeted: “A genuine slip here though I really wish same-sex marriages get legal in India 🙏🏽”.


Boeing has a falcon problem: The airline company just can’t catch a break. With its 737 Max planes still grounded, Boeing is planning to shutter its plant in Washington state. But it doesn’t know what to do with a pair of peregrine falcons nesting in the rafters—and who’ve made the hangar their home for the past four years. But how in the world do you evict feathered squatters? (Seattle Times)


As per the latest CAA update: Anyone applying for citizenship under the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) will have to submit ‘proof of religion’. The required evidence: any Indian government document acquired before December 31, 2014, in which the applicant had to declare his/her religion. For example: a government school form where the religion of a child has been recorded. (Indian Express)


The Washington Post is under fire: for suspending a reporter after she tweeted out an article detailing a rape case filed against Kobe Bryant. The problem: Felicia Sonmez tweeted it out just hours after his death—a choice her editor described as “a real lack of judgment.” But it took him far longer to acknowledge the hundreds of death threats she immediately received—with some trolls tweeting out her home address. Now, over 200 of her WaPo colleagues have spoken up in support. (New York Times)


Ain’t no mountain remote enough: Leo Houlding has scaled the world’s most remote mountain: The Spectre, a 2,020 metres (6,630 ft) high peak in Antarcticaand 450 km south of the nearest base in the South Pole. Now, he isn’t the first to scale the peak, but he did it without financial assistance or the aid of vehicles (he kite-skied!). Also: the photos are lovely. (Yahoo News)


In other height-scaling news: The seriously badass Mercedes-Benz Unimog truck drove up the highest volcano in the world, the Ojos de Salado in Chilereaching 21,962 feet above sea level! (Jalopnik)

NASA is building a space hotel: that will be attached to the International Space Station. Of course, you have to be filthy rich to afford the trip, leave alone the stay. No one knows what it will look like. But back in 2018, Axiom—the startup tapped to build this billion-stars hotel—teamed up with architect Phillip Starck to offer a look at what its own space modules would look like. The photos look, um, interesting. Gizmodo has the story. In NASA-related news: The agency released a detailed and fun hour-long tour of the International Space Station. The video is excellent time pass for space nerds.


Things that make you go WTF: include the following:


  • BJP Tamil Nadu tweeted a ‘gift’ to the ex Kashmir CM when a recent photo of bearded and gaunt Omar Abdullah surfaced on the internet. It was astonishingly crass. 
  • While the attention is focused on the CAA protests, Jagan Reddy has been cracking down on farmers protesting his insane three-state capitals plan. The sheer numbers of police in this video is WTF. Scroll has the story.
  • Things are getting extremely strange and effed up over Shaheen Bagh. One, a man pulled out a gun and threatened the protesters. Two, BJP West Delhi BJP MP Parvesh Verma declared, "Lakhs of people gather there (Shaheen Bagh). People of Delhi will have to think and take a decision. They'll enter your houses, rape your sisters and daughters, kill them. There's time today, Modi ji & Amit Shah won't come to save you tomorrow..." Watch that clip here.
  • Also, some guy in the US was caught trying to disguise a fake skeleton as a car passenger. The reason: he wanted to use the high occupancy lane.

Cool stuff we learned online:
include the following:


  • The News Minute explains how fisherwomen from a Tamil Nadu town are using their cooking skills to fight an Adani port. 
  • A thought-provoking blog post from World In Data explains why ‘locally sourced’ doesn’t make the food on your plate eco-friendly. It’s all about what you eat, not where the ingredients came from.
  • Washington Post offers the completely correct guide to eating and drinking on the plane. 
  • The ‘vanishing twin’ is used to describe the phenomenon when a fetus in a multiple pregnancy dies in vitro during the first trimester—and basically disappears. Popular theory held that it was ‘eaten’ by the other twin. Romper explains why that may not be true (Thank the lord!).
  • This isn’t cool but definitely a must-know: Atlas Obscura explains why no one has a clue how duck-billed platypuses are doing in the midst of the Australian wildfires.
  • Mashable explains the latest dating term, ‘Whelming’: "Whelming is what happens when my matches spontaneously lament about how overwhelmed they are by their other matches instead of, you know, flirting with me."

Your daily quota of sunshine items:
includes the following:


  • Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe teaming up to stage an on-court protest at the Australian Open. The story is here. The photo is here.
  • Eight-year-old Indian climate activist Licypriya Kangujam—who took to Twitter to post a video of her protest, and reject the label ‘Greta of India’.
  • Someone on Twitter asked for suggestions on the following topic: “A famous movie dialogue you can say during sex.” The results are here
  • These wonderful fishermen in Kozhikode rescuing a trapped whale shark.
  • This amazing video of two armies of termites and ants, each protected by their own ‘soldiers’. 
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