Wednesday 16 September 2020

Cruel & Usual

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Sanity Break #1

This for an insurance company is just a snippet of the hilarious Malayalam sitcom ‘Akkara Kazhchakal’ which follows the lives of insurance agent par excellence George Thekkinmoottil and his NRI family. We now greatly regret not understanding Malayalam. (h/t )

Sanity Break #1

Headlines that matter

A BIG-ASS SPLAINER DISCOUNT!! Nope, I’m not going to nag you again to share the love with friends & fam to help splainer grow… because you’re already doing that right?:) This time, we want to talk about our special package for non-profits, companies and educational institutions/departments. Here’s what you need to know:   The discount: We offer a generous discount—40% off on our yearly sub!—to employees of all such organisations. There’s a minimum of 10 annual subscribers to qualify for that rate. If the size of your team is smaller than 10—just let us know! We’ll figure something out.    Point to note: Each team member can sign up and pay for their sub as individuals. Or the organisation can buy subs in bulk for their employees.   The motive: We’ve received amazing testimonials over the past few months from our subscribers—especially young women—telling us how splainer has turned them into daily news readers. What they value most: how we make it painless and even fun to be well-informed about the world. So here we are making it even easier to experience the joy—for the low, low price of Rs 600/year.    The how: Please fill with your organisation’s details and the number of subs required. We ladies will take it forward and make it happen via email.    Also this: If you know decision-makers at companies, non-profits or educational institutions/departments who may be interested, please connect me (lakshmi@splainer.in) with them.    PS: If you’re looking for a bulk discount for your online community (Facebook or WhatsApp), just email me. We’ll do our best to make it happen:)    Finally, to state the obvious, we love having such wonderfully supportive subscribers in the splainer fam. Thank you for being you:)   A NEW FACEBOOK SCANDAL A 6,600-word penned by a fired Facebook data scientist Sophie Zhang reveals:   > “In the three years I’ve spent at Facebook, I’ve found multiple blatant attempts by foreign national governments to abuse our > platform on vast scales to mislead their own citizenry, and caused international news on multiple occasions.”     The killer line: “I know that I have blood on my hands by now.”    The India angle: Among the instances listed by Zhang was this one:   > “In India, she worked to remove ‘a politically-sophisticated network of more than a thousand actors working to influence’ the > local elections taking place in Delhi in February. Facebook never publicly disclosed this network or that it had taken it down.”   Point to note: Facebook India refused to show up at a hearing of a Delhi government panel investigating its role in inciting the violence in Delhi. The memo offers fresh fodder to an already irate Kejriwal government. AAP leader and committee chairman Raghav Chadha it “affirms that Facebook as a platform works in collusion with the ruling dispensation across the globe to disrupt free and fair elections and has been actively used as a means to sway public opinion.” A CHINA BORDER UPDATE The Defence Minister told Parliament that the government its spend on building roads and bridges along the Line of Actual Control. He also that Beijing "does not recognise the current boundary”—and there is no agreement over where it lies. lists all the crucial questions that the minister failed to answer. AMERICA IS SHROUDED IN SMOKE  The smoke from the wildfires all the way to the East Coast and Europe! Also: They are producing of greenhouse gas emissions—more than typical totals for a year.   APPLE’S BIG UNVEIL UNDERWHELMS The big annual product unveil didn’t include iPhones—or much of anything to get excited about. What caught our eye: A new that bundles together everything from iTunes to iCloud. And the fact that the new iPad Air is as nice and than the Pro. You can check out the rest .   THE GLOBAL PANDEMIC: A QUICK UPDATE * US drug company Novavax signed with Serum Institute of India to manufacture one billion additional doses—intended for low- and middle-income countries, including India. Its vaccine is getting ready for stage 3 trials. * A leading Chinese scientist China will have a ready-to-use local vaccine by November or December. * Severely ill patients on ventilators are often made to lie face down so it’s easier to breathe. But a shows that doing so can cause permanent nerve damage in 12-15% of them.  * The Indonesian government decided to scare its citizens by staging a ‘’—with dummy corpses, no less. Citizens are unimpressed and now furious at their government for wasting their money. * shows that maternal depression at a very early stage (conception to infancy) can have long-term effects on a child’s development. These include deficits in language, cognitive and motor development in infancy, and negative behavioural effects. This is a greater cause for alarm for women who are having children during the pandemic—which may make mothers even more vulnerable to depression.   * On a cheerier note: Here’s an to kissing in the time of Covid. * Last but not least: Lok Sabha MP Sukhbir Singh Jaunapuria recently . This clip shows you . Moral of this story: Don’t be like Sukhbir. A LETTER IN SUPPORT OF RHEA Over 2,500 people—including Bollywood celebs like Sonam Kapoor and Zoya Akhtar—have signed an open letter to the ‘News Media of India’, which opens thus:   > “We, are worried about you. Are you feeling ok? Because, as we watch your witch-hunt of Rhea Chakraborty, we cannot understand > why you have abandoned every professional ethic of journalism, every tenet of human decency and dignity and chosen instead to > physically assault a young woman with your camera crews, endlessly violate her privacy and work overtime on false accusations > and moralistic innuendo for a drama of ‘Rhea ko phasao’.”   Read the letter .   NEW ROWLING NOVEL REIGNITES UPROAR On Tuesday, JK Rowling rolled out ‘’—published under her crime writer pseudonym, Robert Galbraith. The plot: an investigation into the cold case of a missing doctor who may have been murdered by a cross-dressing killer. It has at Rowling’s alleged transphobia. One trans-rights organisation said: “This is a long-standing and somewhat tired trope, responsible for the demonization of a small group of people, simply hoping to live their lives with dignity." Others were more blunt. See: .    TOYOTA NIXES INDIA EXPANSION… OR NOT First the automobile company declared that it isn’t pulling out of India, but it won’t be expanding its operations either. The reason: The very high taxes imposed on cars and motorcycles—that can be as high as 50% on some SUVs. Toyota claimed that this makes car ownership unaffordable for most Indian consumers—which in turn leaves factories idle. A senior company exec said: “The message we are getting, after we have come here and invested money, is that we don’t want you.” But within hours, Toyota’s India partner Kirloskar Systems Limited—which holds an 11% stake—announced an additional Rs 20 billion investment in electric cars. Hmm. ()   Getting ready to expand: Flipkart, at least for festival season—when it will delivery personnel in anticipation of higher demand. It’s also signing up more than 50,000 local shops—which will create ‘indirect’ employment. Snapdeal, OTOH, is betting on a different kind of delivery expansion. It has successfully to make that last-mile run.   A BRUTAL ASSAULT An elderly woman in Ghaziabad was brutally assaulted by a man in the middle of a busy street—while everyone looked on. Her crime: She objected to him sexually harassing her daughter. went viral and one person has . But if you can, watch the clip—it will show you that he’s not the only criminal here. (TW: the violence is shocking) A VERY GOOD FELLOWSHIP The Blue Club has launched the first-ever exclusively for Dalit women and Dalit queer writers. The three-month intensive writing program comes with a Rs 30,000 stipend. Deadline October 15. Apply over at the Blue Club . (A big thank you to subscriber Sowmya Swaminathan for flagging this one for us)  

Cruel & Usual

Sanity Break #2

each one of us waiting for that goddamn Amazon package. Enjoy!

Sanity Break #2

Smart & Curious

A LIST OF GOOD READS * offers a haunting visual essay on the ghost towns of Fukushima, Japan— hit by the tsunami in 2011. It killed 20,000 but also triggered a catastrophic explosion at the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. (h/t subscriber Nikhil Mishra) * reports on how construction of four three-storey structures (two watch-towers and two anti-poaching centres) in Bellary, Karnataka is endangering the eight remaining Great Indian Bustards. It offers a rare close-up view of the politics and bureaucracy that undermines wildlife protection. * eye-opening report reveals how Indians’ hunger for gold poses a serious threat to the future of the Yanomami—an indigenous tribe in the Brazilian forests. * This thought-provoking essay looks at the importance of being ‘selfish’, and every woman should pay attention to its concluding line: “So, when it’s time for affection and fun, sure, go all in with love! But when it’s time to decide who washes the dishes, don’t let love get in your way.” * looks at how the Warsaw ghetto—where 450,000 Jewish residents were packed into the 3.4 kilometers in crowded, unsanitary conditions by the Nazis—prevented a Typhus outbreak. It’s a much-needed lesson in humility. * We loved profile of artist Cris de Diego who is creating paintings for the visually impaired. Oh, did we mention de Diego became a painter after she lost her sight? * Need something lighter? Read satirical take on the big TimesNow eff-up: They aired a publicly available Facebook video claiming it was leaked to them by intelligence sources.

Smart & Curious

Feel Good Place

may be the most beautiful sound in the world—as this baby discovers when they hear her for the very first time. , summed up in 40 seconds. is a multi-purpose item.  

Feel good place