Thursday, September 30 2021

Dive In

Nowadays, there is a lot of buzz on the Ruchi Soya FPO. Now, do you want to become a crorepati? I will give you the mantra to become a crorepati… Get a demat account when I tell you, and buy Ruchi Soya shares. After Ruchi Soya, buy Patanjali shares… So, anyone who invests in shares of Patanjali and Ruchi Soya cannot be stopped from becoming a crorepati. I am giving you this guarantee in the morning. But don’t buy or sell; that’s a gamble. Buy shares, sit tight and take Samadhi.

That’s Baba Ramdev urging his followers to buy shares in his companies during a yoga session. His advice flagrantly violated stock market laws in multiple waysincluding signalling he would share insider information, guaranteeing high returns etc. As a result, the Securities and Exchange Board of India has asked him to explain himselfand stock market experts think his words are likely to trigger an investigation.


Stuff to check out: The latest episode of the splainer podcast ‘Press Decode’ features a lively discussion on Indians’ genetic ancestry—and the equally controversial subject of plastic surgery. Be sure to head over to the IVM website, Spotify or Apple Podcasts to listen to it.

Big Story

The virus of sexual abuse within the WHO

The TLDR: Earlier this month, we looked at #MeToo allegations within the United Nations. Now, it’s the turn of the World Health Organisation. An explosive independent investigation reveals its workers sexually assaulted and exploited women in Congo during an Ebola epidemic. But here’s what’s important to know: The investigation itself was inadequateas is the WHO’s response to its report.


Editorial advisory: There are no graphic descriptions of assault, but this is a story about sexual violence. 


The gist of the report

  • The 35-page report was issued by an independent commission set up by the World Health Organization. 
  • The commission looked at sexual abuse and assault cases between 2018 and 2020when more than 2800 WHO workers were deployed in Congo to help combat an epidemic of the Ebola virus. 
  • It received testimony from 75 alleged victims—63 women and 12 men—who ranged in age from 13 to 43 years, with an average age of around 20.
  • The report identifies 83 alleged perpetratorsboth Congolese and foreign nationals.
  • It verified that at least in 21 cases, WHO employees were involved.
  • There were nine allegations of rape. The others involved coercing women to exchange sex for employmentand forcing them to sleep with supervisors in order to keep that job. 
  • Twenty-nine women and girls became pregnant as a result of the alleged abuse and 22 carried their pregnancies to term.


The WHO’s response: was suitably apologeticand emotional. Director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the report “makes for harrowing reading,” and repeatedly apologised to the survivors: “What happened to you should never happen to anyone. It is inexcusable. It is my top priority to ensure that the perpetrators are not excused but are held to account."


That’s nice but…: All that rhetoric disguises the fact that the investigation did not uncover the true extent of the abuse. And it says very little about how the WHO intends to deliver justice and true reform.


An incomplete report

The independent commission was set up by WHO after two detailed media investigationswhich created a PR debacle for the organisation. Both were conducted by The New Humanitarian in association with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.


Investigation #1: was published in September, 2020. Reporters interviewed 51 women who recounted multiple incidents of abuse. At least 30 of thesethe vast majorityinvolved WHO employees. And they inevitably involved a sex-for-employment bartertargeting lower income women desperate for jobs. They included doctors, health workers, administrators and others. Social workers said that sexual exploitation was a “consistent finding” during the Ebola crisis. One WHO driver said:


“It was so common. It wasn't just me; I'd say that the majority of us chauffeurs drove men or their victims to and from hotels for sexual arrangements like this. It was so regular, it was like buying food at the supermarket.”


The WHO: in response said it was reviewing a “small number” of sexual abuse or exploitation reports in Congo. And it insisted: “We would not tolerate such behaviour by any of our staff, contractors, or partners,” reiterating the agency’s “zero tolerance” policy. But in October, it set up an independent commission to investigate the claims.


Investigation #2: was published in May this year, and spoke to 22 women in the city of Butembo. Fourteen of them identified WHO employees as their abusers. These claims included not just rape, but also horrific instances where the women became pregnant. And one of them died trying to get an abortionwhich is illegal in Congo. 


The WHO: said it had only identified two women in Butembo as “potentially having had sexually exploitative relationships with individuals connected to WHO.” But officials also admitted:


“Clearly, there is a gap in the number of allegations [reporters] received and those reported. There may be a number of reasons for this–from reporting mechanisms that needed improving, to victims’ reluctance to speak up.”


The big takeaway: The numbers in the report simply don’t add up. The commission seems to have uncovered only the tip of this monstrous icebergdespite months of on-the-ground investigations. The co-chair of the commission admitted there was “no overlap” between the victims who testified to the media and those it interviewedacknowledging that this could “point to a larger problem.”


WHO knew what?

Headlines that matter

A very funny art story

We didn’t know how else to headline this story of a Danish artist—who was asked to recreate two previous works of his conceptual artwork. Jens Haaning had previously framed wads of cash to make a commentary on compensation for labour etc. This time around, the Danish museum gave him $84,000 to do something similar. But when they received the artwork, the money was missing!! Haaning chose to keep the money instead—and titled two blank frames ‘Take the Money and Run’. The museum is upset, but Haaning is unrepentant:


“I saw, from my artistic point of view, that I could create a much better piece for them than what they could imagine. I don’t see that I have stolen money... I have created an art piece, which is maybe 10 or 100 times better than what we had planned. What is the problem?"

What’s even funnier: The two empty frames are hanging in the museum with Haaning’s email next to them. You can see it below just to appreciate the hilarity of this scam. (CNN)


Baby poo has microplastics problem

Microplastics—tiny particles of synthetic materials smaller than 5 mm—are everywhere, including human feces. A new study found that the amount of microplastics in baby poop is ten times higher than that of adults. And that may be because their exposure is higher:


“When babies shove toys or clothing in their mouths, they might end up ingesting tiny fibers or pieces of plastic. Then there are plastic food containers, sippy cups, and baby bottles, which can also shed pieces of PET smaller than the diameter of a pencil eraser. Mixing hot water and formula in a plastic bottle can weaken the plastic and unleash even more tiny pieces of it. Crawling babies are also much more likely than walking adults to get a face full of microfibers from polyester carpeting, which they might ingest or inhale.”

Now, scientists don’t exactly know what effect such exposure has on infants—and the sample size was small—but they are worried. The Verge has lots more details.


A turtle-sized air traffic jam

A turtle delayed five planes at the Tokyo airport as it ambled down the tarmac. One of the planes delayed: All-Nippon Airways Airbus A380, which is decorated with sea turtles. While runway hazards include stray cats, racoon dogs and rabbits, turtle sightings are extremely rare—which explains why it is making headlines around the world lol! The airline, btw, took the incident in the best possible spirit: “In Hawaii, sea turtles are seen as bringing good luck, and we hope this turtle that came to see the flight off signals a bright future.” See the recovered intruder below. (The Guardian)



In today’s edition

Sanity Break

  • An immersive installation created with 13,000 living orchids


Reading Habit

  • A list of new releases
  • Quick fixes, a.k.a., a few varied recommendations

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