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Thursday December 10 2020

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Sanity Break #1

Author Perumal Murugan and musician TM Krishna teamed up to pay this to the protesting farmers. Non-Tamilians, do not worry. It is subtitled in Hindi and English.

Sanity Break #1

Headlines that matter

INDIA VACCINES PUT ON HOLD Developers of three vaccines—AstraZeneca, Bharat Biotech, and Pfizer—have applied for emergency authorization. And the Drug Controller General of India held a meeting to review their trial data.  * Pfizer didn’t show up, asking for more time to bring in experts.  * Serum Institute—which is manufacturing the Oxford vaccine—was asked to come back with: safety data on its phase two and three trials in India, UK and India data on its ability to trigger an immune response, and the conclusions of British authorities who reviewed the vaccine. * Bharat Biotech data from its Phase 1 and 2 trials—which isn’t enough for authorisation. * The overall : “Were any of these [other] countries’ regulators to approve, we would consider favourably for approving it [the vaccine] in India. But now, we have neither this nor convincing India-specific data.”   In other pandemic-related news: * The Oxford vaccine may be 70% effective in protecting a person against infection. But it does of preventing a vaccinated person from spreading the virus. And that’s a real obstacle in reaching ‘herd immunity’ via vaccination. * Chinese Sinopharm vaccine was tested in human trials in the UAE—which now announced that it is 85% effective. But : “Chinese government officials and Sinopharm, the state-owned maker of the vaccine, were silent on Wednesday about the Emirati announcement. Scientists noted that the announcement was lacking in data and other critical details.” * 90% of people living in 70 low-income countries will not receive the vaccine in 2021. The reason: The rich countries—which represent 14% of the world’s population—have prebooked 53% of available doses. Point to note: five of these countries—Kenya, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan and Ukraine—account for nearly 1.5 million cases. has more. * Asian countries may move to banning entry of passengers who are not vaccinated—or so airline experts. * ‘Cruises to nowhere’—where you sail for days without going ashore—were supposed to be a Covid-safe approach to travel. Now, one of them in Singapore to port after a passenger tested positive—leaving nearly 1,700 guests stuck in their cabins for more than 16 hours.  * Bad news for vodka-loving Russians: Anyone who receives the Sputnik vaccine has to for two weeks before getting the first jab, and then for another 42 days.    Related good news: The team that brought us the Oxford vaccine is working on a jab for malaria. Early trials look good, and it will be tested on 4,800 children in Africa next year. Why this is a big deal: More than 400,000 people a year die of the disease. It is the largest killer of children, and one child dies of malaria every 30 seconds. Also: Ten times as many people in Africa will die of malaria this year compared to Covid. ()   US GOVERNMENT SUES FACEBOOK Months after filing a lawsuit against Google, the government has turned its sights on Facebook. The US Federal Trade Commission and attorneys general from more than 40 states have filed an antitrust lawsuit against Facebook:   > "The attorneys general allege that the deals for Instagram and WhatsApp broke competition law. They are asking a federal court > to intervene by possibly forcing a sale or spinoff of those apps. Their lawsuit also asks the court to crack down on Facebook's > ability to continue its allegedly anti-competitive behavior, and to immediately prevent the company from making any acquisitions > worth more than $10 million while the case proceeds."   They are describing this as a ‘buy or bury’ strategy. has more.   Also making the wrong kind of news: An internal document accessed by the Washington Post shows that Chinese giant Huawei has developed facial recognition tools that will help the government detect Uighurs. Basically, surveillance cameras will be able to send ‘Uighur alarms’:   > “The test report also said the system was able to take real-time snapshots of pedestrians, analyze video files and replay the 10 > seconds of footage before and after any Uighur face is detected.”   Why this matters: The Chinese government has been millions of Uighur Muslims and putting them in detention camps. has a detailed story.     THREE POINTS OF DATA One: Indians are spending far less time on video-sharing apps thanks to the disappearance of TikTok. Since June, the time spent has nosedived from 165 billion minutes per month to 80 billion minutes in October.  What this means: India-made apps have not been able to fill the hole left by TikTok. has more numbers.   Two: For the first time ever, the sheer weight of man-made materials is heavier than all natural life on the planet. One reason is that we have been constructing roads, buildings etc at an escalating pace. A related reason: We have been destroying trees, plants, animals to do so. has more on the new study.   Three: A of marginalised Indians shows that they are far poorer and hungrier due to the pandemic:  * 62% said their income had fallen compared to the pre-lockdown period, while 25% said it had fallen by 50%. * 53% have reduced their consumption of rice or wheat, 64% have reduced their consumption of dal, 73% have reduced the amount of green vegetables. * One in seven have had to skip meals often or sometimes.   PORNHUB HAS A CHILD SEX ABUSE PROBLEM A few days ago, columnist Nicholas Kristoff took aim at the world’s biggest amateur porn platform:   > “Its site is infested with rape videos. It monetizes child rapes, revenge pornography, spy cam videos of women showering, racist > and misogynist content, and footage of women being asphyxiated in plastic bags. A search for ‘girls under18’ (no space) or > ‘14yo’ leads in each case to more than 100,000 videos.”   Among the examples: Cali who was trafficked since the age of nine—and whose videos still appear on the platform. After years of ignoring complaints from activists and survivors, the platform is scrambling to fix its PR problem. The solution: stopping unverified users from uploading videos. So only individuals who submit a government ID or a content partner vetted by Pornhub will be allowed to share videos. has more.   HOW DO YOU PRONOUNCE THAT? The US Captioning Company—which captions and subtitles real-time events on TV and in courtrooms—has released its 2020 list of the most mispronounced words. People whose names are most commonly mangled: Anthony Fauci, Leonardo da Vinci and, of course, Kamala Harris. Oddly, people also have a hard time with Yosemite and Nevada. ()   Also struggling to get it right: UK PM Boris Johnson. Asked to comment on the farmer protests, :   ELEPHANTS BRING GLAD TIDINGS The Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a very dangerous place. The perils include not just run-of-the-mill poachers but also rebel militia groups—who killed four civilians and 13 staff members in April. And over the years, they have systematically slaughtered elephants for ivory. By early 2020, there were only about 120 in the sanctuary. Then the park swung into urgent action—hiring armed guards, erecting walls and partnering with local communities.   : a massive herd of 580 elephants wandered in from neighbouring Uganda. And their presence has restored the ecological balance almost overnight:    > “Creatures including buffalo, Ugandan kob, warthogs, and topi—none of which had been seen in the previous two decades in the > park—have made a comeback. Park officials even recently spotted two lions, which also haven’t been seen in decades.”   Moral of this story: conservation works! Also: if you haven’t watched it yet, the documentary on the park ‘’ is fantastic and available on Netflix.   TWO (NOT) SEX OBJECTS One: Apple’s new AirPods Max look more like a normal set of headphones—and seem happily far less likely to fall off and disappear into unreachable parts of furniture. But what is really catching everyone’s attention: The which “resembles a handbag that looks like titties crammed into a dress. Possibly one made of crinoline.” Or just a very ?   Two: A phallic object has returned (Will this ever end?). Long before there were appearing/ disappearing monoliths, a giant phallic wooden object was deposited on a German hillside. It recently disappeared (of course, it did!). Now, it has mysteriously reappeared… well, a reboot version has reappeared. This one is far larger but appears to need a little extra support to stay upright. The Viagra edition, then. has the story. Photo below.  

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Sanity Break #2

An entirely fitting Christmas carol for 2020: ‘’.

Sanity Break #2

Feel Good Place

Who cares rasode main kaun tha? What we really want to know: ‘Tuada kutta Tommy. Sada kutta, kutta?’   A friend in need is a friend indeed, as this blind doggie knows well.   it’s always fun to run into old friends… Yes, that’s a gun in his hand.   When you’re getting bored on the escalator…  

Feel good place

I recommend

I RECOMMEND EDITOR’S NOTE We love everything that Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan writes, be it her 100% paisa vasool or her fortnightly newsletter: . But today, she comes bearing new kinds of gifts—the kind you ought to give to others (it’s Christmas!) or yourself (Hell, you survived 2020!). In times of sorrow and boredom, thank god for one-click shopping. I kid, I kid, but only slightly. This year, this COVID-filled, uncertain, anxious year, I got great joy from shopping. The arrival of the delivery man was something I could safely anticipate in a year when everything I was looking forward to suddenly became impossible. Here, then, are the things I have bought and that brought me the most joy.   THE PRACTICAL : Yes, yes, time is an illusion and February was yesterday but we're going to have to go back to the world of dates and times soon enough. I loved my wall calendar for the photographs of rescue animals on each page, accompanied by a little story about how they got adopted. It's mostly dogs—boo—but there are a few cats also. They go up for sale every year around this time and all profits to a good cause.   : At first I experimented with two-ply cotton masks in colourful fabrics, but for my money, the best masks I've seen and own are these. They come in a bag of two in different sizes, washable with adjustable ear pieces, a nose clip and seven layers of filters—including a HEPA layer which makes me feel slightly better about Delhi's polluted air. They're also pretty cheap, making me think it's a company CSR or something. Plus, because they're adjustable, I bought the large size for both my partner and myself and we can both wear them comfortably.   FOR THE KITCHEN : I was struck by how many times a day a person has to eat when we started doing all the cooking at home ourselves. I don't think I could've gotten through all that chopping and mincing if it wasn't for this little device, which was highly recommended by all the home cooks on this one Facebook group. Luckily, it was classified as an essential item. Unluckily, if you bang it on a counter or leave the lid immersed in water, it's somewhat fragile. But I still love it.   : All that plastic makes me feel guilty. So a couple of years ago, we got into at-home composting which is really easy. It also means we haven't had wet waste come out of our house for almost four years. The Smart Bin comes with instructions and bokashi powder, it's not at all intimidating once you begin.   : An indulgent purchase, but one I use almost every day is this set of cast iron pans. I got the dosa tawa (because like a good South Indian I must have it for breakfast every morning) and also a cast-iron kadai—which we use for everything from pasta sauce to Indian food to popcorn.     FOR YOUR LITTLE FURRY FRIENDS With three cats in the house, shedding like crazy all over the sofas, it's like I'm permanently covered in fur and dander. I saw a nifty little brush thing online and bought it on impulse, but it's been working out really well for us. It's the , which comes with one big brush for your sofa and one tiny one for your clothes (which I use on bedsheets). It's like magic, but make sure to clean it out outdoors because it also picks up a lot of dust which will explode in a little cloud when you do the self-cleaning.   Related to the shedding, I also bought a that fits over my hand and which works both to pet your cats (yay) and also to remove all the loose hair. They can't get enough of it, so that's a review that's endorsed by all three of my (extremely picky) animals.   FOR COZINESS One of our more expensive but most “worth it” purchases was a 3-inch topper for our bed. The five star feels alone make it impossible to leave it. I was waking up every morning feeling like I had been beaten and now that's gone, I sleep in a literal cloud.   : I wanted some good looking and comfortable bedroom slippers, and was directed towards these. Mine are fleece lined and made of soft blue corduroy and my feet have never been this warm and snug, like little baby bunnies. (Be warned: the size chart is weird, so you'll have to guess.)   FOR WELL-BEING : At the risk of sounding like some sort of spiritual journey-seeking person, I have only just discovered how fun meditating is in the past month or so. And I try to meditate at least once a day. It really helps sort out my thoughts. I use this free app which is really good, and includes a new daily meditation and all sorts of courses. No ads, because it runs on donations, so it's clutter-free.   : I bought some lovely incense from here for Diwali. I like them because a) they use recycled temple flowers; b) their smoke doesn't trigger off any of my one billion allergies; and c) for a product so reasonably priced, their packaging is immensely lux and beautiful, which also makes them perfect for gifts. Each box comes with an illustration of the woman who rolled it, which I think is fun.    : And finally, my partner and I have become heavily invested in this 1000 piece puzzle, which means we are no longer binge watching TV at night. Neither of us had done a jigsaw since our childhoods, but we “puzzle” (can that be used as a verb?) for four or five hours straight until our eyes are tired and our necks hurt. This puzzle itself is gorgeous, full of little details and packed with literary references so we have a great time figuring it out. So worth it.   Note: This is NOT sponsored content. We use this section to spotlight the recommendations of people we trust and admire. Who cares rasode main kaun tha? What we really want to know: ‘Tuada kutta Tommy. Sada kutta, kutta?’   A friend in need is a friend indeed, as this blind doggie knows well.   it’s always fun to run into old friends… Yes, that’s a gun in his hand.   When you’re getting bored on the escalator…  

I recommend

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