The great pandemic: a quick update
- New research shows that the Pfizer vaccine offers protection against UK and South Africa variants.
- Despite AstraZeneca’s outrage, Germany issued guidelines that limit the use of the Oxford vaccine to people between the ages of 18 and 64—claiming the data does not support its use among the 65-plus.
- Tata Medical & Diagnostics is in talks to launch the Moderna vaccine in India—and team up with the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research to carry out clinical trials required to do so.
- The Netherlands has been rocked by three consecutive days of rioting against lockdown measures.
- Bharat Biotech says Covaxin is effective against the UK variant—though the data is very limited.
- We’ve all heard of losing one’s sense of smell or taste. But BBC News reports on a related Covid after-effect called parosmia—where everyday things smell repulsive. In one case: “Onions, coffee, meat, fruit, alcohol, toothpaste, cleaning products and perfume all make her want to vomit. Tap water has the same effect (though not filtered water), which makes washing difficult.”
- The International Olympic Committee (IOC) reaffirmed its commitment to the "successful and safe delivery" of the Tokyo Olympics in July.
A quick GameStop update
Online platforms like Robinhood—which claim to “democratise” trading—played a decisive role in the GameStop drama (explained here). But under pressure from a panicked Wall Street and government authorities, the company first restricted trading r/WallStreetBets’ most favoured stocks—including GameSpot, AMC and Blackberry. This led to instant outrage among its users who were furious at this betrayal. So Robinhood reversed course and decided to allow “limited buys.” The result: GameSpot shares surged by 61% to $312 in after-hours trading. But Robinhood’s reputation with its most loyal customers may never recover. Related good read: Axios explains how GameStop exposes all that is wrong with the stock market.
Dada is back in hospital
Sourav Ganguly had to undergo a second angioplasty surgery yesterday to implant two new stents. This is just three weeks after the last operation. The Telegraph has all the details.
Is Amazon India under investigation?
The company has been in an ongoing legal battle with Future Group (explained here). It claims that Future’s deal to sell its vast chain of retail stores to Reliance violates a previous deal it struck with the company. Now the Enforcement Directorate has stepped into the fray. It is investigating allegations that Amazon’s deal with Future may in fact be illegal—and a violation of foreign investment rules. If true, it would be a remarkable intervention by the government into a dispute between two private companies. Amazon denies any knowledge of such a case. (NDTV)
In related news: Reliance Jio came in at #5 on a list of top 500 global brands. At #1: WeChat, which knocked off Ferrari from the top spot, followed by Russian bank Sber and Coca-Cola. (Indian Express)
Also highly rated: ‘Bridgerton’. The series is officially the most popular original Netflix series—watched by 82 million households in just 28 days. It was number one on Netflix's daily “Top 10” lists in 83 markets, including India, the US, and the UK.(BBC News)
Republic TV goes on legal rampage
The channel has filed a criminal defamation complaint against Times Now anchor Navika Kumar. The offence: her statements on the WhatsApp chats between Arnab Goswami and former BARC CEO Partho Dasgupta (explained here):
“It also alleged that the Times Now anchor made ‘rabid and unfounded claims’ accusing Goswami of ‘endangering national security’ and ‘leaking state secrets.’ The plea also submitted that Kumar did the show because she was ‘jealous’ and lacked the ability to ‘match the success of Republic TV’.”
“Rabid and unfounded”... why does that sound familiar? FYI: Republic has also filed a notice against Indian Express and The News Minute—for reporting on the evidence submitted by the Mumbai police, which would, of course, be their job. (Scroll)
In related news: India Today has yanked its lead anchor Rajdeep Sardesai off the air for two weeks. The offence: A tweet claiming that a protester was “killed allegedly in police firing.” Sardesai deleted it soon after—once the police released CCTV footage of his tractor turning over (we explained this controversy here).
H-1B relief for spouses
They get to retain their financial independence thanks to the Biden White House—which withdrew a proposal to prohibit dependents of H-1B holders from working in the US. Why this matters: “Nearly 60% of those living in the US as dependents of their spouses have professional or graduate degrees of their own; 49% have an individual income upwards of $75,000.” FYI: The ability to work is especially critical for women who often find themselves stranded in a foreign country, and subject to domestic abuse. (Quartz)
In far unhappier news: Award-winning freelance journalist Neha Dixit revealed on Twitter that she was being stalked and harassed since September 2020—and someone attempted to break into her house this week:
“The stalker identifies her ‘exact physical location’ through phone calls, threatening her with ‘rape, acid attack and death’, she said. The stalker also makes it clear that she is being targeted for performing her duties as a journalist, she says.”
This is why we need to take trolling of women on social media platforms very seriously—as it can escalate easily to threats to the safety of women in the real world. The Wire has more on this alarming story.
In equally unhappy news: A near-total ban on abortion went into effect in Poland on Wednesday—despite a month of fierce protests. It will only be permitted in cases of rape, incest or when the woman’s life is in danger. (The Guardian)
To end on a positive note: Bumble is banning body shamers. The dating app will use an algorithm to flag terms that mock an aspect of someone’s physical appearance—including language that is fatphobic, racist, or homophobic—to first warn and then permanently cancel an offender. (The Guardian)
First day, first show… in your pjs?
Eros Now is kicking off a premium video-on-demand service that allows you to watch the latest theatrical release. The price: Rs 149 for its subscribers. The new offering will debut in March with the Gerard Butler action flick ‘Greenland’. Variety has more on other future delights.
Gray whales are dying
Since 2019, 378 Gray whales have died along the Pacific Coast—and no one knows exactly why. A newly released study concludes that it may be a result of starvation due to lack of prey—which in turn has been caused by rising ocean temperatures. “If that's true, the concern is that mass die-offs like this may become more frequent in the future as waters continue to heat up due to human-caused climate change.” (CBS News)
Demi Moore rocks the runway
She made her debut appearance as part of Fendi’s virtual show which opened Paris Fashion Week. We include this only because the sight of a 58-year old as a ‘show stopper’ gladdens our heart! CNN has more.