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Thursday May 6 2021

Without Reservations

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Sanity Break #1

This stunning 8K high-definition of New Zealand is what you need to remind you that there is still great beauty in this world. has the backstory.

Sanity Break #1

Headlines that matter

THE GREAT PANDEMIC: A LONGISH UPDATE First, the numbers: We sped past for the second time with 412,095 daily cases. The number of daily deaths was the highest ever: 3,971. One in every two new cases in the world is in India. Small mercies: Leading virologist Gagandeep Kang expects the second wave at the end of the month.   Also testing positive: Two members of the Indian delegation who are in London to attend the Group of Seven meeting. All face-to-face meetings with Indian attendees—including the External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar—have now been cancelled, and will be conducted virtually. This is mostly a PR disaster as the story made national headlines in the UK—and seals India’s image as an out-of-control Covid hotspot. A source told : “It’s very embarrassing… Maybe they caught it on the flight coming to London — that is why they are tested two days after arrival.”   In better global diplomacy news: The US has announced its support to temporarily suspend patent rights for vaccines—to significantly help ramp up production in developing countries. has that story.   Hotspots to note: Jammu and Kashmir has recorded a in cases in a month. And Bangalore recorded a on Monday—i.e. more than half of those tested show up as positive. Mercifully, it has since dropped to 33%.  About that third wave: K Vijay Raghavan—India’s principal scientific advisor said at a press conference: “A third wave is inevitable - given the variants - but we do not know when it will come, we do not know what the scale will be. We have to be prepared." He added: “There is, however, no clear time-line on when this third phase will occur.” has more.   About those variants: The union government has finally that the second wave is linked to the spread of variants—but insists that “the epidemiological and clinical correlation of B.1.617 and the surge is not ‘fully established’.” It that the ‘double mutant’ variant is emerging as dominant, while cases linked to the UK variant are slowing down. Point to remember: we simply don’t have enough epidemiological data to make any meaningful claims about variants. Speaking of current horrors: This is how terrible things are in our country. : Bereaved families have to shell out more money for cremations in Ludhiana due to the spike in LPG gas cylinder prices. : The Delhi Jal Board has informed the Supreme Court that it is facing an acute water shortage—and will have to cut supply to the city’s hospitals. : In Gurgaon, six patients who died of lack of oxygen were left unattended in a locked ICU. The hospital staff were “hiding in the canteen” from the families. See the heart-wrenching clip . Another kind of horror: A new report shows that the first wave pushed the income of  23 crore families below the daily minimum wage of Rs 375. has more details.   Not helping at all: The government held a 90-minute-long virtual workshop—presided over by the Information & Broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar—titled ‘Effective Communications’ for the top brass. The aim: help participants “create a positive image of the government”, manage “perception through effectively highlighting positive stories and achievements”, and making the government “be seen to be sensitive, bold, quick, responsive, hard-working etc.” has the scoop on the gyaan shared at this critical meeting.    Also not helping: Uttar Pradesh’s plan to set up in every district. Part of this plan: All cow shelters will also be equipped with all the medical equipment such as oximeters and thermal scanners. Very related read: deep dive into why we’re losing so many people due to oxygen shortage.    A shameful digital divide: Techies the CoWin platform by writing software codes that help them jump on open appointments the moment they become available. And then they put them out on Telegram so PLUs can take advantage of their gyaan. Of course, most Indians have zero access to CoWin or to those clever enough to hack it. Speaking of divides, has an excellent read on the pandemic’s disproportionate effects on women. Also a good vaccine-related read: Dinesh Thakur in on how the government’s ineptitude may be costing lives not just in India, but also around the world:    > “Instead, the government waited until after aid dollars and advance payments financed the scale-up of SII’s manufacturing > facilities to meet the demand from COVAX and other countries before stepping in and stopping exports to low-income countries > that had been assured equal access to vaccines by the COVAX organizers. In essence, India is ‘stealing’ vaccines meant for > low-income countries for its own use.”   About those facemasks: Scientists have found dangerous chemical pollutants in disposable masks—including lead, antimony, and copper, within the silicon-based and plastic fibres. ()   Covidiots alert: : Employees of a pharma company in Indonesia were caught reusing nasal swabs for Covid tests. How bad this is: They reused swabs from 150 kits nearly 20,000 times. : The CSI church held its annual retreat in Munnar with 350 priests and deacons in attendance. Of them, 110 have tested positive, and two have died. : Hundreds of women in Gujarat participated in a ‘kalash yatra’—and 23 people have since been arrested, which given the is negligible:   ISRAEL CAN’T ELECT A DAMN GOVERNMENT The fourth general election in two years has resulted once again in a deadlock (we explained this insanity ). PM-elect Benjamin Netanyahu has failed to form a government—since his far-right allies refused to join forces with Arab parties. What this means: Netanyahu will stay in power (as he has for the past two chaotic years) as the ‘interim’ PM until a winning alliance stakes its claim, or the nation goes back to the polls for the fifth time. ()   DEATH OF A GREAT CHRISTIAN LEADER The longest-serving bishop in India—Philipose Mar Chrysostom, the patriarch of the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church—died yesterday at the ripe old age of 103. explains why he was so beloved, and why his death is a great loss. A delightful read: Nidheesh MK’s interview in from back when he turned 100.    AN ASTONISHING CHILDBIRTH FEAT Twenty-five-year old Halima Cisse in Mali has given birth to nine babies—five girls and four boys! She is now part of a rarefied club of mums who have delivered ‘nonuplets’. The good news: both mom and babies are doing well. has more on the birth that has caught the attention of an entire nation.   Speaking of kids: Meghan Markle has unveiled a new illustrated children’s book called ‘The Bench’—which is all about fathers and sons, especially Harry & Archie. has more details. A sample image below:   FIVE VERY WEIRD THINGS One: The CIA’s hilarious . Well, the world’s most famous intelligence agency is going all ‘woke’ in its effort to increase diversity amongst its ranks. And most amusingly, it’s making no one happy. The conservatives are furious at the “liberal takeover,” while the liberals are rolling their eyes with scepticism. has that point of view. has the uproar on the right. And here’s the ad that’s making everyone crazy:   Two: Peak NFT insanity. A crypto guru and a modelling agent burned a very valuable piece of art—in a champagne bucket, no less—just so they could turn it into a digital NFT. has this crazy (are they high?) story. The photo is below. And if you don’t understand wtf an NFT is, here is our . (h/t founding member Ramanand Mundkur)    Three: President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, took a photo with ex-prez Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn. The result is worse than any drunken party pic you may have ever taken. The proportions are so insane that they make the Carters look like munchkins. explains how you can avoid similar disasters (hint: it has everything to do with wide-angle lenses). And the is below:   Four: A motorcycle airbag vest by a company called Klim. This one includes a small black box with sensors—which tells the vest to inflate like an airbag in case of a crash. But here’s the catch. You first pay $400 for the vest, then another $400 for the black box—or opt for a $12/month subscription system. Now, here’s the really weird, ok creepy part: If you miss or forget to make a payment, that $400 vest will just stop working… and will just let you die? Whoa! has more on this capitalism-gone-amok story. FYI, this is what the overpriced, looks like: Five: Identified flying objects. Folks in the state of Washington saw strange UFO-like lights in the night sky. They turned out to be 60 launched by SpaceX. See the below:  

Without Reservations

Sanity Break #2

Legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma dedicated to India. Friends in need…

Sanity Break #2

Feel Good Place

Ireland’s president holds a joint press conference. (h/t founding member Akanksha Sharma)   Speaking Irish.    We all feel underappreciated sometimes, even Jesus.  

Feel good place

Reading Habit

READING HABIT BOOK EDITOR’S NOTE Hi all, I really hope everyone is doing as well as possible. I seem to have lost all track of time in terms of where my life is, on a large, more overarching scale. How do you reconcile your idea of where you thought you’d be and where you presently find yourself? I’m finding it difficult, but in the meantime I’m just grateful for the health and time that I do have. Please stay safe. A LIST OF GOOD LITERARY READS One: Opening with something that instantly lifted my litany of groundhog days: does a delightful, enthralling deep dive into the century-old tradition of honkaku in Japanese detective fiction. Its most endearing quality? All the “clues and suspects [are] woven through the plot, giving the reader a fair chance of solving the mystery before the detective does.”   Two: In, a bookseller tries to tackle an age-old dilemma with care: should ‘Mein Kampf’ and similar books be shelved for sale at bookstores? She touches upon banned books, preservation of history, the business of publishing such books, and more, leaving you with some necessary follow-up thoughts.    Three: May 4 celebrates more than one giant, long-running fandom: it is the day Sherlock Holmes falls to his alleged death in a dramatic, off-screen combat with his arch-nemesis and villain extraordinaire Professor Moriarty. Hence, obviously, a ranking of some of the Reichenbach Falls there are, in, for you to agree or disagree with.   Four: In spite of—or maybe because of?—the somewhat heart-wrenching subject, this helped me a lot personally, and is poignant for the times that we are in. looks at C.S. Lewis’ ‘’, a transcript of his journals written upon the death of his beloved wife, Helen Joy Davidman: “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. . . It gives life a permanently provisional feeling.”   Five: Sandip Roy in writes about the art of letter-writing, which we lose bit by bit as we move to an almost completely online world. He tells the wonderful story of the epistolary feud between filmmakers Satyajit Ray—whose centenary was May 2—and Mrinal Sen and how the month-long exchange reflects their intellect and wit, among other personal recollections. Joy.   Six: takes a look at Soviet-era books that were loved by children in India. Numerous small to mid-sized publishing houses in the country translated a number of Russian children’s classics to whet the enormous appetite of Indian kids in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. A fascinating insight into the little-studied relationship between India and Russia.   QUICK FIXES, AKA A FEW VARIED RECOMMENDATIONS What I’m reading: I’m ashamed to even admit this, but I’m only just (but finally!) getting into ‘' by Hanya Yanagihara. I will not be taking any questions as to why-the-delay and other angry comments at this time. So far, it has lived up to its epic status, as I take this astonishing, moving journey with Willem, JB, Malcom and Jude. Yes, I have tissues at hand.   A childhood fave: I love doing this section because I get reminded of all the smashing things I read as a child which lit my imagination on pure fire. '’ is a fantasy series by Tony Abbott about friends Eric, Julie, and Neal who discover an enchanted stairway in Eric's basement, which turns out to be a portal to the magical, mysterious, troubled world of Droon. It was hugely popular: it ran for eleven years and had over forty volumes, and is perfect for 7-10 year olds.   Book-adjacent rec of the week: This is such a cool project which I discovered only last week. Tabatha Leggett is on a mission to read one book from every country. She records her reading experience and reviews those books on, which is just about as inspiring as it could get for us to kickstart the expansion of our own reading lives.   Underrated author of the week: writes sci-fi with really refreshing twists. His range of subjects is wide, and includes everything from mysterious apartments to zombies vs. superheroes. You should begin with ‘’, where a machine which allows you to basically travel through time to reach a faraway destination in an instant has… something fishy happening to it. As it should.   Bookish adaptation to watch out for: I watched ‘’ on Netflix and I really liked it! Based on by Jennifer Mathieu, it really fired me up, and is about teenager Vivian Carter who is done with the sexist double standards at her high school and decides to start a feminist zine called Moxie to basically release some of her frustration. Little does she know that she might just have sparked a revolution.   Note: Reading Habit is curated by our books editor Anushree Kaushal. Want to send along recommendations, feedback or just say hi? Email her at . Ireland’s president holds a joint press conference. (h/t founding member Akanksha Sharma)   Speaking Irish.    We all feel underappreciated sometimes, even Jesus.  

Reading Habit

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