Researched by: Sara Varghese, Rachel John, Meghna Mathew & Prerna Barooah
A massive Covid wave in China
Beijing is in the grip of its worst wave since the government junked its zero Covid policy—and there are suspicions that the government is covering up the number of deaths. There are reports of bodies piling up at the crematorium (sound familiar?). But authorities have not recorded an official Covid-related death since December 4—and are now telling citizens that Covid is the equivalent of a common cold.
Elsewhere, staffing shortages are threatening to close down factory production lines and throw supply chains into chaos. China has already stopped reporting asymptomatic cases—which typically make up the bulk of the case total. A recent study estimated that the number of deaths could hit one million. (Bloomberg News via Strait Times)
A key arrest in Iran
The well-known Iranian actor Taraneh Alidoosti—who starred in the Oscar-winning movie ‘The Salesman’—was arrested on Saturday. She criticised the execution of the first person to be put to death for participating in the protests in an Instagram post: "His name was Mohsen Shekari. Every international organisation who is watching this bloodshed and not taking action, is a disgrace to humanity.” The government recently arrested two other actors for posting social media photos without a hijab—as had Alidoosti. According to authorities, the actor was arrested "by order of the judicial authority" as she "did not provide documentation for some of her claims.” (France24)
A legal setback to Bilkis Bano
The context: On August 15, 11 men convicted of raping Bilkis Bano—and killing her three-year-old child—were given early parole by the Gujarat state government (explained here). Its decision relied on a May 2021 Supreme Court ruling. According to that directive, the merits of their early release were to be decided by authorities in Gujarat—where the crime was committed—not Maharashtra—where they were convicted.
The latest ruling: The Supreme Court rejected Bano’s petition to review its decision—even though it appears to have a glaring error. As The Hindu points out: “Section 432(7) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) says the ‘appropriate government’ is ‘the Government of the State within which the offender is sentenced.’” The good news is that this decision does not affect the separate petition that directly questions the decision to release the convicted rapists—which may fare better at the Court:
There seem to be enough grounds to question the remission. Court filings suggest that the trial judge’s opinion against their release was disregarded. Further, the presence of political functionaries, including BJP MLAs, on a committee that recommended their release, may have also vitiated the decision.
A link between gun violence and climate change
New research shows that almost 8,000 shootings in the US—between 2015 and 2020—were linked to unusually hot weather. Now, we already know that summers are the peak season for violent crime. But the new research shows that higher than usual temperatures cause a spike—irrespective of the time of the year.
There are two main ideas to explain how warmer temperatures can increase shootings. Rising heat increases stress hormones, which can increase aggression. Higher temperatures can also increase time spent outside and social contacts, raising the potential for disputes. For most cities, the highest increased risk of shootings was between 29°C and 32°C.
Why this matters: global warming has already been linked to increases in deaths from road crashes, violence, suicides and drowning—especially among young people. (The Guardian)
Are Facebook mom groups bad for you?
A new study shows that social media support groups for mothers are stressing them out. They experience spikes in cortisol likely due to “negative interactions with other moms on social networking sites and more time spent with these interactions.” These forums end up flooding women with confusing and contradictory advice—with members often passing judgements on actions of other parents. Example:
[Q]uestions as simple as “What kind of eczema treatment works best?” yielded conflicting information and judgmental comments. Some moms, she says, shamed others for suggesting steroid creams or coconut oil. Someone asked her if she had vaccinated her baby, implying that a shot had caused his eczema.
The conclusion: “Mothers are better off limiting their time on social media and contacting real-life friends, relatives and paediatricians for advice.” (Wall Street Journal, splainer gift link)
And Swiggy’s winner of 2022 is…
Yeah, the number one most ordered dish is once again chicken biryani—for the seventh year in a row! The company received 137 orders per minute for this go-to favourite. At #2: the masala dosa—followed by chicken fried rice. Our choices in snacks were no less predictable: Samosas ruled the roost—tailed by popcorn and pav bhaji. And most of us couldn’t summon the imagination to order anything else other than gulab jamun for dessert. The city most addicted to ordering in: Bangalore. (Business Standard)
Twitter tamasha, continued…
We’re personally getting a little bored of the relentless melodrama surrounding the company and its new owner Elon Musk. But if you still care:
- Musk suspended the accounts of several prominent journalists from CNN, New York Times, etc. for linking to a site that tracks his personal jet. The links were not shared on Twitter but embedded within their reporting—of the fact that he’s banned a handle that tracks his jet.
- He then un-suspended them after holding some sort of Twitter poll.
- But then on Sunday, he suspended one of the most prominent tech journalists in the US, Taylor Lorenz. We will leave it to her to explain what happened. Suffice to say, no personal jets were involved.
- Also useful to know: Twitter has banned all links to “prohibited platforms” such as Instagram, Facebook and Mastodon. Oddly, TikTok and LinkedIn are still legit.
- In the midst of this drama, there was one serious and new development: the third largest investor in Tesla, KoGuan Leo publicly asked Musk to step down as CEO—since the company needs a full-time leader, and who hopefully will not hurt its stock price.
Quote to note: After Tesla’s market value dropped by 6% on December 12, Future Fund LLC—which owns $50 million of Tesla stock—said this:
The market voted today that the $TSLA brand has been negatively impacted by the Twitter drama. Where before EV buyers were proud to drive their Teslas to their friends or show off Teslas in their driveways, now the Twitter controversy is hurting Tesla’s brand equity.
The true meaning of Cinderella’s glass slipper
A new theory offers a political interpretation of the best-known fairytale in the world. UK scholar Genevieve Warwick has traced the 17th-century origins of the famous glass slipper—overlooked by other scholars. She claims that the author of the definitive 1697 version of the story—Charles Perrault—was taking aim at his employer Louis XIV. The French king was known for his “ostentatious love of glass and his magnificent Hall of Mirrors”—i.e the lavish Galerie des Glaces at Versailles. And the obviously unwearable slippers were also a jibe at French aristocratic fashion—which had reached absurd extremes:
Rather like glass slippers, which “you couldn’t possibly dance in”, there had recently been a “completely absurd” craze among aristocrats for “pins”: “Our euphemism for legs as pins comes from this. They were really stilts that women wore, in part to lift their dresses and silk shoes out of the mud. But it was also a sign of elegance, to be taller.” There was, however, a downside. “They were incredibly impractical. You could hardly walk in them.”
Ah well, more things change… (The Guardian)
An extremely rare hippo attack
Hippos are known to attack and kill humans when threatened. But a hippopotamus in Uganda is the first known case where it tried to swallow a two-year old child. And it appears to have come on land from the nearby lake to do so. Don’t worry, he was saved by a passerby who "stoned the hippo and scared it, causing it to release the victim from its mouth." No one is sure what the animal was trying to do:
The case has attracted wide attention, setting off speculation over whether the hippo might have been trying to swallow or eat the boy — and it's worth noting that hippos are known to be herbivores, eating massive amounts of grass. But as the Uganda-based Exclusive African Safaris website notes, scientists have confirmed that the animals can also eat meat, particularly if other food is scarce.
Something to see
Here’s the teaser of director Greta Gerwig’s highly anticipated ‘Barbie’ starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling.
What caught the eye of a lot of movie buffs: it opens with a riff on the iconic opening sequence of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’—replaying it frame by frame. See the side-by-side comparison below. (Vanity Fair)