Researched and collated by: Rachel John
The gorgeous Splainer X Champaca gift box
We’re a bit nervous about this one as it’s our very first gift box—curated with great love and care by the team. We teamed up with our partners Champaca—a wonderful women-run independent bookstore—did our collective best to create a goodie bag designed to inspire wonder, laughter and delight. It makes a lovely gift for any occasion—weddings, festivals or birthdays. Or you could just treat yourself!
Please note: This gift box is part of our promise to offer special value to our subscribers. So this is just for you—we don’t make money off this box :)
What you get: The box includes three books—each unique and wonderful in its own way. And to add a splash of beauty, the package includes a beautiful box of silkscreen cards that you are sure to treasure. We have lots more detail on the books and the cards over here.
The big bonus: The box comes with a quarterly gift subscription worth Rs 900. You also get two specially-illustrated Champaca bookmarks—so you can keep track of your reading in style ;)
The very big discount: You pay only Rs 2,500 for this gift box valued at Rs 4000—a massive discount that is available for just 30 days. In other words, be sure to snap these up before November 20.
Buy it here: You can buy the box over at the Champaca website. Please be sure to fill in this form once you buy the box—so we know whom to gift the subscription to!
Morbi bridge tragedy: The latest update
The prosecutors laid out their theory of cause—while seeking custody of four of the nine suspects arrested in connection to the case. They said the company in charge of renovations had replaced the flooring of the bridge—but not the cables: “Weight of the bridge increased due to the four-layered aluminium sheets for the flooring and the cable snapped due to that weight.” Plus this:
“The bridge was on a cable, and no oiling or greasing of the cable was done. From where the cable broke, the cable was rusted. Had the cable been repaired, this incident would not have happened. No documentation of what work and how it was done has been maintained. The material procured/used, if its quality was checked, remains to be probed.”
The Telegraph and Indian Express have more details.
Two elections to watch
Denmark: The country is holding a snap election sparked by an unusual trigger. During the pandemic, the government decided to kill 17 million minks—due to fears that a mutated strain of the coronavirus had jumped from the animals to humans. This enraged mink farmers in a country that is the world’s top producer of their fur. The ruling party’s key ally pulled their support, and here we are. The good news: far right, anti-immigrant parties are not expected to do well. (New York Times)
Israel: Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is plotting yet another comeback—as Israel holds its fifth election in less than four years. Each poll has failed to deliver a decisive outcome in a highly polarised country—resulting in coalitions that quickly fall apart. A win would be a reprieve for Netanyahu who is also on trial for corruption charges.
But he can only get to the magic number with the support of far-right parties—and the coalition would be the most right-wing and religious coalition in Israel’s history. The latest exit polls show that Netanyahu’s alliance is poised to win around 61/62 seats in the 120-strong parliament. NBC News has more on the state of play in Israel. Reuters has the exit poll numbers.
The e-rupee is here
The government kicked off a pilot of its proposed digital rupee with nine banks authorised to conduct transactions. These include State Bank of India, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Yes Bank, and HSBC. And it will be tested only in the “wholesale segment”—i.e b-to-b transactions. To be clear, this is not a cryptocurrency—merely the digital form of a banknote or a coin. (Quartz)
US government leans on social media giants
Much like the Indian government, Washington too is planning to crackdown on ‘dangerous’ speech on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. According to an investigation by The Intercept, internal documents show that the Department of Homeland Security has been telling these companies “we need a media infrastructure that is held accountable.” Here’s what caught our eye: Facebook has created a special portal for government agencies to directly report disinformation:
“There is also a formalised process for government officials to directly flag content on Facebook or Instagram and request that it be throttled or suppressed through a special Facebook portal that requires a government or law enforcement email to use.”
Now, it isn’t clear if any of this is ominous but the definition of what constitutes disinformation is vague—which always lends itself to abuse of power. (The Intercept)
Also in the United States: We now have more details on the brutal attack on the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. A man broke into their home in San Francisco on October 28—and attacked Paul Pelosi with a hammer. He has since been arrested and has confessed to his original plan—to take Nancy Pelosi hostage and break her kneecaps if she “lied.” (New York Times)
A publishing mega-merger stalls out
Back in 2013, Penguin merged with Random House to become the biggest publishing house in the world. Then last year, it inked a deal to acquire Simon & Schuster—and was promptly hit by an antitrust lawsuit by the US government. A judge has now blocked the deal—agreeing with the Justice Department that the merger could “lessen competition” for “top-selling books.”
This is a big victory for the Biden White House that has been pushing hard on antitrust cases—and a serious blow to Penguin. It will have to pay a termination fee of around $200 million to Simon & Schuster’s parent company Paramount if the deal fails to go through. CNBC News has more on the latest ruling. We laid out the details of the case and big picture on publishing industry monopolies in this Big Story.
Tokyo recognises same-sex relationships
Japan is the only country in the G7 group of developed nations, which doesn't recognise same-sex unions. But the government in its capital city Tokyo took a significant step forward by rolling out a partnership certificate scheme:
“The partnership certificates will allow same-sex couples to be treated the same as married couples when it comes to housing, medicine and welfare. But they will not help with issues like adoption, inheritance and spousal visas.”
This offers some reprieve to the queer community after the Japanese courts recently upheld the ban on same-sex marriages as constitutional. (BBC News)
Three studies of note
The clitoris: Female sexual organs—long a dark area, ignored by the male-dominated medical profession—have been receiving their due attention in recent years. New research has determined the exact number of nerve endings in the human clitoris: 10,281. In fact, that is likely an underestimate. This work is important both to trans patients undergoing gender-affirming surgery and women who experience problems reaching orgasm. (Gizmodo)
Rhino horns: A new study shows that rhinoceros horns have become shorter over the past century—likely in response to poachers who prize the largest horn. This is similar to the trend recorded in elephants and wild sheep. Why this is happening:
“Preferential hunting selection for individuals with larger horns or tusks resulted in individuals with smaller features surviving and reproducing more, passing on these traits to future generations, and resulting in an evolutionary change.”
That said, experts are not sure if this is healthy for rhinos: “Rhinos use their horns, so losing them [is] probably not going to be good for them.” (The Guardian)
Ocean plastic: Cleaning up the oceans is a big priority for environmental groups. The result has been technological innovations like Seabin and Mr. Trash Wheel that take out the trash—by sucking in water off the surface, and separating the debris. Except a new study has found that these machines also end up ingesting marine organisms. Specifically:
“The authors…found that the device caught one marine organism—like sand eels, brown shrimps, and crabs—for every 3.6 items of litter captured (or roughly 13 marine organisms per day), half of which were dead upon retrieval.”
The researchers also found that ordinary nets are more effective and less labour intensive than these devices. Popular Science has more details.
We’re all in a ‘permacrisis’
That’s the word of the year selected by Collins Dictionary. It is defined as “an extended period of instability and insecurity.” The UK publisher said it “sums up quite succinctly how truly awful 2022 has been for so many people.” Wait, didn’t they say that about 2020 and 2021? Most of the other words on Collins’ top ten list are fairly UK-centric—but we did appreciate the inclusion of ‘splooting’—i.e lying flat on your stomach. (The Guardian)
Taylor Swift is breaking records
She is now the first artist to occupy all top ten spots in the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart—thanks to her latest album ‘Midnights’. She beat Drake’s previous record of logging nine tracks back in September 2021. (Billboard)
In sadder pop music news: Takeoff—member of the platinum-selling rap group Migos—was shot and killed early Tuesday in Houston, Texas. The details are still hazy but it is likely connected to an argument after a party. CNN has more details.
Something thing to see
The BJP just can’t get it right in Morbi. The Prime Minister finally visited the town in the aftermath of the terrible bridge collapse that killed 140 people (explained here). But in anticipation of his visit, the local hospital—which had more urgent tasks at hand—devoted itself to overnight renovations. The sight is shocking even by our nation’s sycophantic standards. FYI: The makeover wasn’t limited to the hospital as even the roads were spruced up as part of the preparations. (Times of India)