Emmanuel Macron prevails in France
He became the first French president to win a second term in 20 years—receiving 58% of the vote, compared to his rightwing rival Marine Le Pen’s 42%. The margin of victory was narrower than 2017—and voter turnout was low. Even Macron acknowledged that his win wasn’t a ringing endorsement of his policies: “I know that a number of French people have voted for me today, not to support my ideas but to stop the ideas of the far right”—and he vowed to offer an “efficient” response to the anger on the right. The outcome comes as a relief to the EU—which was worried about dealing with a hostile Le Pen—and to Muslims whom she has consistently demonised. But as her performance shows, those ideas have more resonance today than before. (The Guardian)
Twitter opens talks with Musk
Under pressure from shareholders, the company’s board has begun deal negotiations with Elon Musk. What changed: Musk has shared a detailed financing plan for the buyout—to indicate his seriousness—and directly wooed shareholders. What’s next: haggling over price—which will be tough since Musk has said his $46.5 billion offer is final. That said, most experts think Twitter has run out of options: “I’m not sure what that can be at this stage besides finding a higher bid.” Quote to note:
“Wall Street was likely to view the openness of Twitter’s board to Mr Musk’s bid as ‘the beginning of the end for Twitter as a public company with Musk likely now on a path to acquire the company unless a second bidder comes into the mix,’ Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, wrote in a note on Sunday.”
In other Twitter-related news: Online payments company Stripe will now allow businesses to pay their users in crypto currency—and Twitter will be its first client. The currency of choice: stablecoin USDC—which is less volatile than others, and is tied to the US dollar. Also coming on Twitter: Closed-captioning buttons for video. (CNBC News)
The Russian invasion: The latest update
- US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd J Austin made a secret trip to Kyiv. The agenda: Ukraine’s plea for more military aid.
- Russian bombing continues apace. The latest target: the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol where soldiers and civilians are still holding out.
- Moscow has deployed 10,000-20,000 mercenaries from Syria, Libya and other countries for its offensive in eastern Ukraine.
- Confounding observers: the mysterious deaths of two former executives at major Russian gas companies in the span of two days. They were found dead along with their families. What’s notable: Neither was on the sanctions list.
Editor’s note: If you need more context, we highly recommend reading our Big Story on the historical roots of the conflict, effectiveness of economic sanctions, return of the Cold War, what is driving Vladimir Putin, India’s “balancing act” and the looming oil crisis.
Palm oil shocker out of Indonesia
Indonesia—the world’s largest palm oil producer—is going to ban all exports starting April 28. The stuff is the world’s most widely used cooking oil—and is a key ingredient in everything from packaged food to cosmetics. The reason for the move: keeping palm oil affordable and available at home. But this is very bad news for the rest of the world—which is already grappling with global inflation and rising fuel prices. Also in short supply: sunflower oil—whose biggest global supplier is Ukraine.
The implication for India: is very, very serious. We are the biggest buyer of Indonesian palm oil—importing four million tons a month. This is expected to send our already spiralling food inflation rates further upwards. For more context, read our Big Story on food inflation and on India’s palm oil addiction. (Reuters)
Reliance ditches Future Retail
The context: For almost two years, Future Retail has been engaged in a fierce battle with Amazon—which has done its best to block Future’s $3.4 billion deal to sell its retail, wholesale, logistics and warehousing businesses to Reliance. The mahayudh has been fought in a variety of venues—from a Singapore tribunal to the Supreme Court—all while Future has teetered on the brink of bankruptcy. (See: our Big Story on this war)
What happened now: Reliance has whipped the rug from under Future’s feet—and pulled out. The reason: Future’s key creditors—i.e. top banks—voted against the deal. The likely fallout: The company is most likely headed for bankruptcy—and investments of its shareholders will be wiped out. What remains unclear: What will happen to its retail chains like Foodhall, Big Bazaar etc. Reuters has more on the Reliance move, while Business Standard looks at what it means for Future.
In other corporate disasters: Ola has been forced to recall 1,441 e-scooters. This is after a number of vehicles have spontaneously burst into flames—for reasons related to battery issues. The other EV manufacturer Okinawa recalled 3,215 vehicles this month—and the government has launched an investigation. Read our Big Story on wtf is going on with EVs. (Reuters)
Rightwing pressure on the Army?
The Defence Ministry’s press communications handle in Jammu tweeted out photos of an iftar party hosted by the Army—with the caption: “Keeping alive the traditions of secularism, an Iftaar was organised by the Indian Army at Arnora in Doda district.” But soon after, Sudarshan News’ editor-in-chief Suresh Chavhanke responded: “Ab ye bimari Bhartiya sena mein bhi ghuss gayi hai? Dukhad…” (Now this disease has infected the Indian Army? Sad). The military handle promptly deleted its tweets. (Indian Express)
Speaking of the military: In the first-ever military trial for a general in the 75-year history of the US air force, a two-star general was found guilty Saturday of abusive sexual contact—for forcibly kissing his sister-in-law. The Guardian has more details.
Benefits of brisk walking
Walking has long been known to improve physical and mental health. But you may want to pick up the pace a little to truly get its benefits. A new study shows that walking briskly at the rate of three miles (4.83 km) per hour can reduce markers of aging by as much as 16 years by midlife. What’s interesting to note: “the benefits seemed to be linked to the intensity of the activity, rather than the total number of steps or walking duration. So you don’t need to walk those 10,000 steps. Also this: “The general recommendation for physical activity is 30 minutes a day, which can be broken up throughout the day, such as three 10-minute walks.” (Insider)
Four things to see
One: In the aftermath of The Slap—and subsequent exile from the Oscars—Will Smith appears to have retreated… to India! He was spotted at a private airport in Mumbai—and reportedly stayed at the JW Marriott in Juhu. Vanity Fair has more details.
Two: This is a creepy example of life imitating fiction—specifically, the Netflix series ‘Leila’ that is set in a dystopia named Aryavarta. The IRL version is a publication called Aryavarth Express—which is being distributed on trains, specifically the Shatabdi Express from Bangalore to Chennai. Just its headlines would make WhatsApp hate groups proud. The railway authorities insist it is “unauthorised” and was slipped into approved newspapers as an insert—which passengers deny. (Indian Express)
Three: China’s zero-Covid policy has caused immense suffering in Shanghai. In a rare show of defiance, a user named Strawberry Fields Forever released this video—an audio montage of residents’ voices—that exposes just how terrible the conditions are in the city. The Guardian has the backstory.
Four: Say hello to this excellent chihuahua named TobyKeith—who turned 21 years and 66 days old on March 16—and has been confirmed by the Guinness World Records as the oldest dog in the world. Congratulations!
Good stuff to check out!
On the latest episode of the splainer podcast ‘Press Decode’, the splainer team looks at the politics of culture—be it at Coachella in the US or veganism in India. Be sure to head over to the IVM website, Spotify or Apple Podcasts to listen to it.