Researched and collated by: Sara Varghese, Meghna Mathew & Prerna Barooah
Going, going, gone: Red Fort tour with splainer
We only have eight spots left for our fabulous Red Fort experience. And bookings are now open to everyone—and not reserved just for splainer subscribers. If you want to grab a spot, we suggest you do it soon. We expect this experience to sell out fairly fast.
The event: We are hosting our first ever offline experience—created in collaboration with our partners Urbanaut and Cities of Dehli. It includes a unique immersive visit to the recently opened Dalmia Museum, an unforgettable after-hours viewing experience of the lit up Fort when the sun goes down. The icing on this cake: ending the evening at the rooftop of one of Chandni Chowk’s treasures, Gumbad Cafe—nibbling on appetisers as you admire its stunning views of the Jama Masjid. We have an extended description with lovely pictures, maps and photos right here.
Where and when: November 26, 2022. We start the tour of the Fort at 4:30 pm—and find ourselves in Gumbad after about 2.5 hours.
What about tickets? The ticket price is Rs 2,000 which covers all tour costs, museum entry tickets and nibbles at Gumbad. You can buy them over here.
World Cup 2022: A quick roundup
The opening ceremony: was every bit as grand as expected—with appearances by BTS member Jungkook, actor Morgan Freeman and Qatari singer Fahad Al Kubaisi. The high point: a dazzling fireworks display. See photos here, and a clip of the ceremony is below. You can also see Freeman in a conversation with a disability activist here. FYI: this will be the most “accessible” World Cup ever since Qatari law offers strong protections to its differently abled citizens.
OTOH: The ceremony also made news for the wrong reasons—when BBC News chose not to broadcast it—relegating the event to its app and website. And when the TV coverage eventually began, it kicked off with an extensive discussion of Qatar’s human rights coverage (see it here). As Al Jazeera reports, not many were impressed by this virtue-signalling.
The opening game: Ecuador beat Qatar 2-0 thanks to two goals from its striker Enner Valencia. Associated Press has more details. What was more surprising: the amicable atmosphere among fans—which is fairly rare for a football match. Here are two rival fans making up after a tense moment:
About that beer: There was a great outcry when Qatar banned alcohol inside the stadiums just 48 hours before the tournament. As the title sponsor Budweiser tweeted: “Well, this is awkward.” Only non-alcoholic Bud Zero will be served to fans—though the well-heeled variety in hospitality suites can drink freely. Booze will be available at hotels and designated open-air fan zones. While Budweiser has made peace with Qatar’s bombshell, expect more scenes of fans demanding their beer—like these guys from Ecuador:
About those fan villages: There was also a rush of bad publicity about specially designated accommodation for fans—who will live in tents and use porta potties since 80% of the hotels have been reserved for FIFA officials, sponsors and teams. A number of these fan villages appear to be still under construction as per a Guardian investigation. The price tag at staying in one of these tents: £172 a night. This story might get uglier as nearly one million tourists are expected to stream in to watch the games. FYI: the budget for the World Cup is a whopping $200 billion.
Meanwhile, in Syria: Over 300 kids in the rebel-held areas staged their own World Cup—to highlight the suffering of Syrian children whose lives have been destroyed by the bloody civil war. Their tournament exactly mirrors that of the real one being held in Qatar. Below is a scene from their opening ceremony. You can see more photos here. (Al Jazeera)
Related good reads: If you want more, here’s the best coverage out there.
- The Atlantic offers a scathing takedown of the tournament: “The absurd spectacle of a tiny Gulf petrostate hosting the world’s premier tournament reveals the ugly side of ‘the beautiful game.’”
- The Economist looks at the World Cup through the lens of commercialisation—and how the tide of new money will drive big changes for the world’s favourite sport.
- Quartz has a very handy and interesting list of numbers—which sum up key aspects of the World Cup.
- Indian Express reports on the big Indian fan and influencer presence in Qatar.
- ABC News looks at how foreign fans are relying on the country’s underground culture to get their boozy fix.
- Our Big Story rounds up the controversies that have haunted the tournament over the years.
The personal data privacy bill: A quick guide
The government unveiled a revised version of the long awaited bill to protect personal data of citizens. It is, of course, written in language that most citizens will likely not understand. But here’s what it boils down to:
- Personal data should be used in a way that is “lawful, fair… and transparent to individuals.”
- It should only be collected with the clear and unambiguous consent of the person: “every individual should know what items of personal data [an organisation] wants to collect and the purpose of such collection.”
- The data collected should be minimised—and must be accurate.
- The information cannot be stored “for perpetuity.” There must be a fixed time limit—and a person can ask their data to be erased at any time.
- There must be reasonable safeguards to ensure there is no misuse or unauthorised collection of data.
The mechanisms: The bill creates a Data Protection Board—which will address any complaints about misuse of personal data. The penalties for companies can run as high as Rs 500 crore. But the bill oddly also imposes a penalty of Rs 10,000 for lodging a false complaint—which is not typical of data privacy bills elsewhere. Companies of a certain size must appoint a consent manager to keep track of data privacy processes and collection.
The criticism: The main problem is this: the government is exempt from its provisions—and it can exempt any private or public entity, as well. The Data Protection Board will also be set up by the government—which hardly ensures its independence. And there are plenty of loopholes thanks to the liberal use of open-ended phrases like “as necessary” or “as may be prescribed.” TechCrunch has more on the more liberal approach to storing data abroad—a sticking point for big tech companies. The Hindu, and Indian Express have overviews of the key provisions. The Hindu also looks at the main criticisms of the new draft.
The Donald is baaack… or not
For months now, there has been heated speculation over whether Elon Musk would allow Donald Trump back on Twitter. He was banned for inciting violence back in January, 2021, for egging on the Capitol Hill rioters. Since Musk’s daily to-do list seems to include at least one item designed to spark mayhem, he decided to reinstate Trump’s handle—after holding a Twitter poll. He then made the grand announcement: “The people have spoken. Trump will be reinstated. Vox Populi, Vox Dei”—which means "the voice of the people is the voice of God.”
Except Trump isn’t one to listen to God or the people. The Donald’s response: thanks, but no thanks—“I don't see any reason for it.” The only people moved to action by Musk’s decision are leading civil rights groups who have renewed calls to advertisers to boycott Twitter.
Also confusing matters: Musk’s announcement that Twitter upholds the “freedom of speech, not freedom of reach.” This may mean that hateful tweets or handles will not be censored—but the algorithm will make sure that they are as good as invisible… we think. Gizmodo has more on the new policy, while BBC News reports on the Trump ban. The Guardian discusses Elon Musk’s style of “brutal management.” Related read: the huge exodus of Twitter employees—between layoffs and resignations—is a risk to the platform. Quartz has a list of services that appear to be breaking.
A Supreme Court scandal in the US
A former anti-abortion activist Rob Schenck claims that Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. leaked confidential details of a key 2014 judgement on reproductive rights—ahead of the ruling. Alito allegedly shared the information with a political donor at a private dinner. He also wrote the majority opinion in that case—which held that companies cannot be forced to pay insurance coverage for certain kinds of contraception.
Why this matters: Details of the landmark ruling on abortion rights were also leaked to the press in May—a month before the official judgement. Alito again authored the majority opinion. A Supreme Court investigation into that leak has produced zero results. And Schenck’s letter to Chief Justice Roberts has not received any response. It also shows how political groups are using covert methods to cultivate justices in the highest court—to sway their rulings. The New York Times has the exclusive—while CNN looks at the fallout.
Turkey strikes back
A street bombing killed six people in Istanbul last week. In retaliation, Turkey pummelled parts of Iraq and Syria with airstrikes. The target: a Kurd-dominated city and two villages. Kurdish separatists were prime suspects in the bombing though they have denied it. The Turks claim to have destroyed 89 targets—and at least 31 people were killed in northern Syria alone. (BBC News)
The hidden price tag for those ‘Indian’ cheetahs
For the very first time in 30 years, India did not vote against a proposal to reopen ivory trade at a CITES conference. CITES stands for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna—a global agreement signed in 1976. India has long opposed the ivory trade—which was finally banned by CITES in 1989. So why the sudden U-turn? New Delhi abstained as part of a tacit agreement with Namibia—in exchange for the eight cheetahs that were sent to India back in September. Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe have been pushing to legalise “controlled trade” in ivory. Happily, the proposal was defeated 83-15—despite India’s abstention.
When pressed on the issue, the Environment Ministry official said “he was not aware of the circumstances” of the vote—but “what is important is that the (ivory trade) proposal was defeated.” Who’s the fool who said you can’t have the cake and eat it too? ICYMI, we did a Big Story with everything you need to know about the cheetah project. (Indian Express)
In very good news for sharks: The CITES convention also voted to limit or regulate nearly all species being traded—primarily as the main ingredient in shark fin soup. About 36% of the world’s shark and ray species are at risk of extinction. FYI: China is the largest consumer of shark fins, while Hong Kong is the largest port for the trade. Beijing voted against the resolution. (Washington Post)
A new discovery about chimps
Chimpanzees are pretty good at communicating their needs. Babies throw tantrums or point to an object they want. But scientists have discovered that they also do stuff just to share an experience:
“[S]cientists documented footage of a wild adult chimpanzee showing her mother a leaf, apparently just to share the experience with her… ‘Critically, she didn’t seem to want her mom to do anything with the leaf. … She seems to be showing it just for the sake of showing it. It’s like, ‘look, look, this is cool, isn’t it?’ And that is very humanlike and something that we thought was fairly unique to our species,’ said study coauthor Katie Slocombe.”
Four things to see
One: Louis Vuitton won the PR trophy even before the World Cup kicked off with this photo of two legends—Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo—playing chess. ICYMI, they are playing the game on top of a fancy LV trunk (suitcase, to plebs like us). The caption: ‘Victory is a State of Mind’. The photographer: the equally famous Annie Leibovitz. GQ has lots more on LV’s relationship with football, the World Cup and luggage.
Two: Hats off to Srikanti Kumar Dutta who found a novel and very effective way to protest the giant screw-up with his ration card. Some lazy government office worker entered his last name as ‘Kutta’ instead of ‘Dutta’—this after he had applied to get his name corrected thrice. Dutta-ji’s solution: to accost the local Block Development Officer and start barking at him. He has since been assured that the ration card will be rectified within a couple of days. (Hindustan Times)
Three: The ‘great leader’ Kim Jong Un staged a rare photo-op with one of his rumoured three children. While there is no official confirmation, she is most likely Ju Ae—who is 12/13 years old—and may well be the heir to the throne. The not-so-great bit about this photo op: it was taken during an inspection of the country’s largest ballistic missile—a day after North Korea launched the second intercontinental ballistic missile in the span of a month. Reuters has the story on Kim Jong Un’s daughter. Vox discusses the significance of the missile launches.
Four: ICYMI, Delhi political circles were in an uproar over the weekend. The flashpoint: CCTV footage of AAP minister Satyendar Jain’s spa-like digs inside Tihar Jail—which apparently provides foot massages to its VIP guests. AAP insists he was just “undergoing physiotherapy.” FYI: Jain is in prison on charges of money laundering. You can watch the full-length video here. (Hindustan Times)