Splainer

Wednesday, January 19 2022


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Of all the things I care about it is below my line. You bring it up because you really care, and I think that's nice that you care, the rest of us don't care… I think a lot of people believe that and I'm sorry if that's a hard truth to hear but every time I say that I'm caring about the Uyghurs I'm really just lying if I don't really care, so I'd rather not lie to you and tell you the truth. It's not a priority for me.

That’s what Silicon Valley billionaire and venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya said about the brutal repression of Uighurs in China. Irony alert: Palihapitiya’s family received refugee status in Canada when his father applied for asylum citing the violence in Sri Lanka. Double irony alert: Palihapaitiya’s company Social Capital aims to “advance humanity by solving the world’s hardest problems.”


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Big Story

Indonesia gets a new capital: Nusantara

The TLDR: The parliament passed a bill that signed off on an ambitious plan to move the country’s capital from overcrowded Jakarta to a remote part of the island of Borneo. Not everyone is happy with this $34 billion decision—especially environmentalists. Here’s a quick guide to this big move.

 

Researched by: Sara Varghese

 

First, the basic deets

Back in 2019, President Joko Widodo announced his grand plan to move the capital to East Kalimantan in Borneo—which is about 2,000 km (1,250 miles) north-east of Jakarta. At the time, few took his proposal seriously. But despite setbacks due to the pandemic, Widodo is determined to push on—and claims the move will be complete by 2024. That said, Jakarta will remain the financial capital a la Mumbai.

 

The move: Here’s where the capital is moving: 

 

The capital’s name: will be Nusantara which means ‘archipelago’. This is a bit confusing since the name is also an old Javanese term for Indonesia itself. 

 

Point to note: A number of other countries have moved their capital in recent years. These include neighbouring Malaysia (to Putrajaya in 2003) and Myanmar (to Naypyidaw in 2006)—and others like Kazakhstan and Nigeria. 

 

Why are they moving?

For a number of pressing reasons—the most pressing being overcrowding and climate change.

 

Jakarta is sinking: It is the fastest sinking city in the world. Data point to note: North Jakarta has sunk 2.5 metres in 10 years. About 40% of the city of 10 million now lies under sea level, with some neighborhoods sinking 7 inches a year. The number one reason: severe groundwater depletion that has caused the ground to sink—”when groundwater is pumped out, the land above it sinks as if it is sitting on a deflating balloon,” explained in the BBC report here.

 

Two: Rising sea levels due to climate change. The waters are expanding because of extra heat—and the melting polar ice caps. Left unchecked, 95% of North Jakarta will be entirely submerged by 2050

 

Overcrowded and polluted: The current population of Jakarta is 10.4 million crammed within just 661.5 sq km. In comparison, East Kalimantan has 3.6 million residents spread across 127,346.92 sq km. The traffic jams in the city are notoriously bad—ranked as seventh worst in the world—and cost the economy $6.8 billion every year. All that overcrowding also makes Jakarta one of the most air polluted cities in the world—alongside Delhi. 

 

Economic concentration: The aim is not just to ease Jakarta’s woes, but also to spread the wealth. As President Widodo points out, the country has 17,000 islands—“We need to distribute the population and economy to other islands.” Jakarta is located on the island of Java—which accounts for 58% of the GDP—while Kalimantan contributes only 8% despite being four times larger than Java.

 

To sum up: This is the problem with Jakarta:

 

“Jakarta is an archetypical Asian mega-city with 10 million people, or 30 million including those in its greater metropolitan area. It is prone to earthquakes and flooding and is rapidly sinking due to uncontrolled extraction of ground water. The groundwater is highly contaminated as are its rivers.”

 

In other words, it is rapidly becoming unlivable.


Where are they moving?

 

 
Headlines that matter

US airlines panic over 5G

Background: Mobile service providers AT&T and Verizon plan to roll out a powerful new 5G service this week. But aviation authorities say that 5G signals are dangerous for air travel:

 

“The Federal Aviation Administration had warned that the fifth generation C-band service could interfere with certain airline equipment like radio altimeters, which are used for low-visibility landings. The spectrum, which AT&T and Verizon would use, sits next to the frequency band, used by aircraft.”


Fallout: In a letter to President Biden, CEOs of the leading airlines warned of “catastrophic disruption”—and asked for the implementation of 5G everywhere except within 2 miles of airport runways. Verizon and AT&T have now agreed to not turn on some 5G signals near airport runways as a temporary concession. But some international flights were still canceled by airlines like Air India, Emirates Airlines etc. The reason: Boeing issued an advisory not to operate 777 jets in the US. (Wall Street Journal)


Apple AirTags help stalk women

The nifty devices are supposed to help you find things that are easily lost. Example: keys. But they’re now being used for more nefarious purposes. First came reports of thieves slapping on AirTags on cars—to track and then steal them when their owners were away. Now, women say that AirTags are being slipped into their bag or pocket in order to follow them. Apple has acknowledged the problem, and says their system sends a beep if an AirTag is separated from its owner—but it can take up to 24 hours to do it, and it isn’t very loud. Watch this CNN video report for more.


A hijab ban in Karnataka

For three weeks, female students wearing the hijab have been blocked from entering their classrooms at a government college in Udupi, Karnataka—and marked ‘absent’, as well. The principal refuses to speak to their parents—and local authorities have not responded to requests to intervene. Meanwhile, the development committee member Yashpal Suvarna declared: "If their demand [to wear a hijab] is met today, they might raise another demand on conducting namaz on the campus.” Watch one of the students explain their plight here. A point to ponder: No one asks Sikh males to cut their hair or remove their turbans to attend classes. (The Wire)


One thing to see 

Sotheby’s is auctioning a rare black diamond dubbed The Enigma—which is 555.55 carats and has 55 facets. In 2006, the jewel was named the largest cut diamond in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records. The expected selling price: between $4.1 million and $6.8 million. And since this is 2022, Sotheby’s will accept payment in crypto currency. (Forbes)

 

 
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In today’s edition

Sanity Break

  • Rene Magritte’s ‘The Lovers’

 

A list of curious facts

  • A former reality TV star has started selling NFTs of her farts jars
  • Thomas Edison's special test for job applicants
  • The hottest buzzword in Korean date culture: ‘Magikkun’
  • Did you know Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali have designed wine bottle labels?
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