Researched and collated by: Rachel John & Ayaan Malhotra
An important note for splainer subscribers
ICYMI, starting September 4—rather, at the stroke of midnight on September 5—our subscription rates are going to jump upwards: Rs 2,999 for an annual subscription and Rs 899 for a quarterly subscription. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered, until September 4 you can add 3 or 12 months to your subscription at the current prices—Rs 450 or Rs 1,500. Just hit Renew/Upgrade on your account page. Our Big Story explains why splainer is about to become very valuable—in every sense of the word:)
Pakistan’s devastating floods
Flash floods in Pakistan have killed over 1,000 people—including 119 in just 24 hours during the weekend. Large parts of the country remain underwater—particularly Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh—and 33 million have been directly affected. Nearly 100,000 homes have been destroyed—and 809,000 hectares (two million acres) of cultivated crops wiped out. Caused by a “monster monsoon”—nearly eight weeks of torrential rain since June—it is the worst-ever superflood experienced by the country. Rainfall in some regions was 600% higher than average. Al Jazeera has more details. The clip below captures the extent of the damage. See more visuals here and here.
Four big sports stories
One: The biggest news is, of course, the Indian cricket team’s victory over Pakistan in the Asia Cup. The main architect of the five-wicket win was Hardik Pandya. His bowling (3/25) and that of Bhuvneshwar Kumar (4/26) kept Pakistan’s total to 147. Despite the modest total, it all came down to the last over and a massive six by Pandya for the win. The Telegraph and Indian Express have the match details. See the winning six below.
Two: 15-year-old Linthoi Chanambam won India’s first-ever gold medal at the Cadet World Judo Championship in Sarajevo on Friday. She won four consecutive fights—scoring the highest score a contestant can achieve in judo—before making it to the finals. (Times of India)
Three: FIFA has lifted its ban on the top Indian football federation—All India Football Federation (AIFF)—imposed on August 14 due to “undue third-party influence.” In essence, it was in response to a series of Supreme Court interventions to fix problems in Indian football. These have since been withdrawn—appeasing FIFA’s demands. What this means: the Under-17 Women’s Cup which was going to be hosted by India in October is back on track. Don't know what this is about? We explained the FIFA ban in our Big Story. (Hindustan Times)
Four: After losing IPL digital streaming rights to Reliance (explained here), Disney has secured a digital+broadcast deal to air four years of global cricket in India—as in, all International Cricket Council matches. This means Hotstar and Star TV channels will carry all international men’s and women’s matches played between countries in all formats. That’s a pretty big win for Disney—especially since Disney also has the TV rights for IPL (2023-27), digital rights to Cricket Australia (2024-31), BCCI broadcast rights through 2024 and Cricket South Africa (end of 2023-24 season). (Indian Express)
What did Trump take from the White House?
That’s the big question ever since federal agents raided his Mar-a-Lago property in Florida. The judge released a highly redacted version of the affidavit submitted by the FBI to get permission to conduct the raid. Here’s the most damning bit: the documents Donald Trump took with him could potentially compromise US intelligence sources—specifically undercover agents:
“Clandestine human sources are the lifeblood of any espionage service. This helps explain the grave concern within American agencies that information from undercover sources was included in some of the classified documents recently removed from Mar-a-Lago, the Florida home of former President Donald J Trump—raising the prospect that the sources could be identified if the documents got into the wrong hands.”
Also damning is where these documents were found:
“The affidavit, released in redacted form on Friday, described classified documents being found in multiple locations around the Florida residence, a private club where both members and their guests mingle with the former president and his coterie of aides.”
The new ‘maida’ offensive on inflation
The Indian government has banned the exports of wheat flour, maida, semolina and wholemeal atta in a fresh attempt to get food inflation under control (explained here). All this is a fallout of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The two nations together account for one-fourth of the global wheat trade. The government has been yo-yoing on how to deal with the fallout of soaring global wheat prices. First, it looked like a great opportunity to increase exports. But given the soaring food prices at home, we first banned the export of wheat in May—since it is always more attractive for a seller to export wheat. But that boosted the exports of wheat flour. Hence, the crackdown.
Data point to note: There has been a 200% increase in wheat flour exports during April-June 2022, compared to the same period last year. It all has a bit of a whack-a-mole quality to it. (Mint)
Moderna sues Pfizer over Covid vaccines
Moderna claims that Pfizer and its partner BioNTech copied two key elements of its patented mRNA technology. Lawsuits claiming unspecified damages have been filed in the US and Germany. Point to remember: both Pfizer and Moderna released the earliest mRNA Covid vaccines around the same time, in December 2020.
Since Moderna did not enforce its patent rights until this March, Pfizer may, at worst, have to pay a small fraction of its overall sales—which hit a record $36.8 billion in 2021. The battle is really over who profits in the future:
“‘The battle really is who is going to be, in the future, the go-to source that other companies may have to license from,’ said Ameet Sarpatwari, an expert on pharmaceutical policy and law at Harvard Medical School. For Moderna, he said, ‘establishing their ownership and their dominance in this space is going to set the stage for future royalties that they’re going to get.’”
Racism row over call centre AI tech
A Silicon Valley startup—run by four immigrants—has created an AI-driven ‘accent translation tool’. Essentially, it erases the accent of non-American call centre workers—turning their “speech into a slightly robotic sounding American accent.” Activists in Silicon Valley are furious—calling it an attempt to make people of colour “sound white.”
But, but, but, co-founder Sharath Keshava Narayana—who has worked as a call centre worker—argues it protects employees from the bruising racism they face every day. As some Indian call centre workers point out, they are forced to learn American culture and accents just to keep their job:
“Both said they felt the technology was a good idea. One spoke of ‘abuse’ they received from some Americans they called who could not understand their accent. Another said: ‘It was always difficult to get the grammar right, the pronunciation right, the lingo right, the slang right. So it used to be an added pressure to get the accent as well.’”
Arcade Fire’s #MeToo controversy
The wildly popular indie group’s frontman—Win Butler—has been accused of sexual assault and harassment by four people. According to a Pitchfork investigation, one person claims to have been sexually assaulted twice in 2015, when they were 21 and he was 34. The other three say he repeatedly sexted them, sent them dick-pics—and bullied them into sending sexually explicit videos. Butler claims all relationships were consensual—and blames it on a period of alcoholism and depression. His life partner and bandmate Régine Chassagne offered this statement:
“I’ve known Win since before we were ‘famous,’ when we were just ordinary college students. I know what is in his heart, and I know he has never, and would never, touch a woman without her consent and I am certain he never did. He has lost his way and he has found his way back.”
Nigeria bans white models
The country became the first in the world to ban white models, actors and voice actors from all television advertisements. Before the ban, agencies had to pay $240 for every foreign model used in a campaign—a common practice among both multinational and Nigerian brands. One example:
“In one case in 2018 the fashion designer Deola Sagoe was criticised after an advert for her collection of traditional Nigerian dresses included three white models, an Asian model and only one African model. The collection was straplined ‘Nigeria’s regal gift to the world.’”
The stated aim is to “develop local talent”—and it reflects an emerging “sense of pride.” We wonder when Indian brands will discover the same—given the number of white models in our bridal wear/jewellery ads. (The Times UK)
A key study on doggy dementia
Here’s some important news for owners. A new study found that a dog’s risk of developing cognitive dementia increases by 52% each year—after they turn 10. The condition is called canine cognitive decline or CCD. The good news is that we can do a number of things to stave off this condition:
“Studies show that mental activity and exercise are important for a dog's mental well-being just as it is in humans. Stimulating the brain is important and this can be done easily with food puzzles for example.”
This refers to activities that force the dog to jiggle treats out of toys. Also important: keeping them active since inactive dogs of the same breed, age and sterilisation status are nearly seven times more likely to get doggy dementia—though the study does not establish a direct link. CNN has a useful guide to symptoms of CCD.
Three things to see
One: Locals in Arunachal Pradesh posted videos of Chinese troops carrying out construction work inside the Indian border. The clip below was taken in Anjaw district in Chaglagam—which is the last administrative post near the Line of Actual Control (LAC). (India Today)
Two: In happier news from the border, Indian and Pakistani soldiers shared a musical moment of bhai-chara. Delighted Indian soldiers danced to Sidhu Moose Wala’s ‘Bambiha Bole’—blared on the loudspeaker by their Pakistani counterparts. (Hindustan Times)
Three: Student leaders running for union elections at Rajasthan University literally begged their peers to vote for them. By begged, we mean they lay on the ground, grabbed their legs and refused to let go 😳. Results were declared Saturday. (News18)