Omicron: The latest update
- The government has new rules for passengers from ‘at risk’ countries. They will now have to stay at the airport until they get results of their Covid test—which can take up to six hours.
- The Dutch health ministry has found the variant in two test samples taken ten days ago. Why this matters: “Previously, the Netherlands had said it found the variant among passengers who came from South Africa on Friday—but the new cases predate that.” And they don’t know if these people have any travel history.
- Japan reported its first case. The person had traveled to Namibia. There are now 226 cases of Omicron in 20 countries.
In much better Covid-related news: According to a Lancet study, Covishield was 63% effective among fully vaccinated people against the Delta variant at the height of the second wave. This would have been even more brilliant news if we didn’t have to worry about its next-gen relative Omicron. (NDTV)
On a lighter note: The pandemic has had a big effect on pet names in the US: “Fauci was one of the most popular pet names of 2021—shooting up 270% from 2020. The pet name Covid also vaulted 35%, and dogs named Zoom were up 443%.”
Indian economy is bouncing back
The latest data shows that our GDP grew by 8.4% in the second quarter—which is great news after the economic havoc created by the second wave. But we are still making up for ground lost during the pandemic. The GDP shrank by 7% during the same period last year. Economic Times has lots more detail.
Sweden elects its first woman PM… again
Let’s review this bizarre chain of events: First, Magdalena Andersson was elected as the first woman PM of Sweden. Within hours, she resigned because her coalition ally—the Greens party—jumped ship in protest against her budget. Now, a week later, she has been reelected by a two-vote margin—which reflects the country’s highly divided electorate. Her enthusiastic response to her reelection: “Someone has to be prime minister in this country, and it seems like there is no other alternative.” (New York Times)
Indian citizenship isn’t popular
The government revealed that 600,000 Indians gave up their citizenship between 2017 and 2020 to opt for another country. OTOH, only a total of 4,177 people became Indian citizens between 2016 and 2020—most of them from Pakistan. But hey, who is more bharatiya than our Canadian passport-wala Akki? (The Print)
Your fave brand destroys the Amazon
That’s the bad news delivered by a new study that links leather items sold by H&M, Zara, Adidas and Nike to deforestation in South America. Also as bad: luxury brands like Coach, Fendi, Louis Vuitton and Prada. They all buy from the largest Brazilian leather exporter, JBS. The link is indirect but still significant:
“Research has shown that the cattle industry is the single largest driver of deforestation of the Amazon rainforest and the fashion industry is an important cog in the leather exportation machine. In fact, projections show that in order to keep supplying consumers with wallets, handbags and shoes, the fashion industry must slaughter 430 million cows annually by 2025.”
In much happier enviro news: Researchers are using a Nobel prize winning stock market theory to help save coral reefs. The Guardian explains how.
Speaking of favourite brands: Swiggy Instamart is a big hit. The service that specialises in grocery deliveries in 15-30 minutes has crossed two million transacting users—which isn’t really great news if that is going to become the standard for delivery workers in our crappy traffic, roads and weather. (Economic Times)
Speaking of food delivery companies: Zomato has launched a platform—called ‘Zomato Wings’—to help restaurants raise funding:
“By curating a set of restaurants and cloud kitchens that could become rocketships if fuelled with equity capital, we hope to build the go-to platform for venture capital firms, angel investors, family offices, etc. that are looking to make private investments in restaurants and cloud kitchens."
Emojis women love to dislike
According to a new study, using emojis is risky in work messages because women tend to respond negatively to some of them. The phenomenon is called “emotional negativity bias,” which posits that some people are more sensitive to negative facial emotions than to positive ones. Among the emojis perceived more negatively by women: 🤔, 😈, 😯 etc. Also, this one weird thing: “For the surprised face, the eyebrows made the difference. There was no gender difference in reactions to the surprised face without eyebrows.” (Wall Street Journal)
Angela Merkel embraces her inner punk
The German leader best known for her stodgy centrist policies has shocked her citizens with her choice of farewell songs—which will be played when she exits office next week. Her male predecessors have generally stuck with safe choices—like Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’ and Ludwig van Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’. But Merkel’s picks include a punk superhit—’Du hast den Farbfilm vergessen (You forgot the colour film)’ by Nina Hagen. Some observers interpret it as “a howl of frustration with men neglecting to do their job properly.” If you’re really curious, you can check the song out here. All we’ll say is that it sounds very German. (The Guardian)
Living robots can reproduce!
As we’ve said before, 21st century science gets weirder by the minute. Last year, scientists created xenobots—living robots made up of frog cells. Now, they’ve discovered these creatures (?!) can self-replicate by pushing loose cells together—and create baby xenobots: “One [xenobot] parent can begin a pile and then, by chance, a second parent can push more cells into that pile, and so on, generating the child.” Why this matters: “It is the first time multicellular organisms have been found to self-replicate in a way that doesn’t involve growth on the organism’s own body.” Think about it: They don’t have to grow in order to divide and reproduce like we learned in school. See? Weird. The text version of the New Scientist story is here, or watch the video version below.
How much for this make-believe yacht?
NFTs are beginning to resemble that fable about the emperor who had no clothes. Someone actually paid $650,000 in crypto for a virtual yacht. Ok, in theory, this giant boat is four stories and has lounge areas, a hot tub, dance floor, D booth and two helipads (imaginary helicopters sold separately). Guess who is not buying NFT yachts: real-life billionaires with real-world yachts. (Futurism)
Four things to see
One: When the government will not fix your potholes, one can only turn to the gods! Or so decided these Bangalore residents who staged this odd form of protest:
Two: The Delhi BJP put up posters to promote its slum outreach campaign. Featured as a slum dweller: Noted Tamil writer Perumal Murugan. His reaction: “Happy happy happy. I belong to the slums. Delighted.” (The Hindu)
Three: Barbados kicked Queen Elizabeth to the curb, became a republic and held an inauguration ceremony for its first ever president. And in the midst of all that, the nation also honoured its most famous native Rihanna as its ‘national hero’. She is clearly delighted. (CNN)
Dine with Data: All about Zeta 👩❤️👩👨❤️👨💑
Editor’s Note: Here is DWD’s weekly installment of one cool, innovative or just plain quirky startup from around the world.
Company: Zeta 👩❤️👩👨❤️👨💑
About: Zeta is a fintech app for couples. Money is a big (and uncomfortable) part of any relationship, and Zeta wants to take that task off your plate. While joint accounts are already a popular solution, they require a much higher level of trust between couples that we see post-marriage. Zeta is solving this for unmarried couples with joint debit cards that are created based on individual accounts.
Started by Aditi Shekhar, the app has raised over $1.5M till date.
Food For Thought: The company has also introduced a feature for collective saving for big money goals, as well as a feature that helps to divvy up the money in the event of a break-up! 💔
DWD Take: Social finance is growing in silence, as people are getting much more comfortable with discussing money. With Venmo and Splitwise setting the stage for companies like Zeta, it's going be interesting to see how India tackles social finance with money being a massive taboo! 🤫
About DWD: Dine With Data🍴 sends you a short summary on one new startup every day, delivered straight to your Whatsapp inbox!