Researched and collated by: Rachel John & Sara Varghese
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!
Sex-for-jobs investigation in Andamans
A 21-year-old woman recently accused the former Chief Secretary Jitendra Narain and Labour Commissioner R L Rishi of raping her. She was taken there in the guise of being offered a job. The investigation has since uncovered 20-25 other cases where women were taken to Narain’s residence. The staff who knew what was going on were personally bullied by Narain to keep them quiet: “I was threatened by the then Chief Secretary about danger to my life if I ever spoke about the (women) guests that visited the house.” Indian Express has more details.
Twitter has a retention problem
An internal report accessed by Reuters shows that the number of ‘heavy tweeters’—who log on six to seven days a week—have been declining since the beginning of the pandemic. Why this is a huge alarm bell for Twitter: while they account for less than 10% of monthly overall users, these English language users generate 90% of all tweets and half of its global revenue.
The other problem: This audience segment is now focused on two topics—Cryptocurrency and ‘not safe for work’ (NSFW) content—and interest in world news, celebrities and entertainment is declining. None of which is desirable to advertisers—and does little for the company's claim to be the world’s ‘town square’. But an important point to note: Twitter’s overall numbers have been growing. Reuters has more details.
In other bad news for big tech: The growth numbers of Alphabet witnessed a sharp decline over the last quarter. Alphabet’s profits dropped nearly 30% to $13.9 billion—thanks mainly to YouTube. The big culprit is the cutback in digital advertising—Alphabet’s ad revenue fell by nearly $2 billion compared to last quarter. Why this matters: “When Google stumbles, it's a bad omen for digital advertising at large. This disappointing quarter for Google signifies hard times ahead if market conditions continue to deteriorate." Business Insider explains why this is a bad omen for all companies—including Meta. Reuters has more on why the poor numbers are fanning recession fears.
Also falling: India’s foreign exchange reserves. We lost nearly $85 billion in the first half of the fiscal year and we only have $528.4 billion as of October 14 in the kitty—the lowest since July 2020. The only other country to have witnessed a bigger reduction is China. One big reason: The Reserve Bank’s spending in the forex markets to cushion the dramatically falling rupee. That said, it isn’t time to panic yet. Mint explains why.
A slew of climate-related stories
Extreme heat: A new Lancet study shows that the number of deaths caused by extreme heat in India jumped by 55% in 2017-2021 compared to 2000-2004. Across the world, heat-related deaths have increased by two-thirds over the last two decades. But just as worrying: the report also found that 330,000 people in India died, just in 2021, due to exposure to particulate matter—tiny particles released by the burning of fossil fuels. Also alarming: UNICEF warned that every child on the planet will be exposed to more frequent heatwaves by 2050—even if we limit global warming to a 1.7°C increase. (BBC News)
Greenhouse gases: An unsurprising UN report shows that only 26 out of 193 countries have followed through on their promises to fight climate change. More worryingly, World Meteorological Organisation data reveals that the three main greenhouse gases— carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide—hit record high levels in the atmosphere last year. Why this matters: without drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the planet is on track to warm by an average of 2.1°C to 2.9°C by 2100. (Associated Press)
Emperor penguins: The fallout of this apathy is already visible in the Antarctic—where Emperor penguins have now been declared a ‘threatened’ species due to rising temperatures and fast melting sea ice. Global warming is destroying the habitats where the penguins breed and feed. No, they are not in any imminent danger of going extinct, but will most certainly disappear if we do nothing. There are 650,000 emperor penguins in Antarctica, but that number could shrink between 26% to 47% by 2050. Washington Post and NPR have more details.
Meat consumption: Here’s something that may help. A new study offers very specific suggestions to help save the planet. One, limit meat consumption to the equivalent of two burgers a week. Two, expand public transportation by 6X its current rate. Finally, phase out coal consumption just as quickly. Guess we can personally achieve at least one of the above. (The Guardian)
The high cost of illegal fishing
A new study shows that illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is enriching a handful of global companies at the expense of developing countries—which have lost up to $50 billion due to it. The worst hit: Africa—which alone is losing $11.2 billion each year. Of the top ten companies responsible for nearly a quarter of all reported cases, eight are from China, one is from Colombia and another from Spain. Basically, fishing boats hired by them wander the world, pillaging the oceans at will. Back in 2020, the Ecuadorian navy discovered a gargantuan fishing armada of 340 Chinese vessels just off the biodiverse Galápagos Islands. FYI: Chinese companies have a 17,000-strong distant-water fleet. The Guardian has a lot more information.
Miss Universe has a woman owner
A Thai celebrity media tycoon and transgender rights advocate has bought the Miss Universe Organization for $20 million—making it the first time that a woman will be the owner of the paegeant. FYI: the 71-year-old contest was once owned by none other than Donald Trump back in the 90s. Jakapong "Anne" Jakrajutatip has long been outspoken about her identity—and has set up the Life Inspired For Thailand Foundation to promote trans rights. It will be interesting to see if she shakes up a contest that seems increasingly out of step with the 21st century. Reuters and Bangkok Post have more details.
Also a landmark moment: Two women football coaches will face off against one another when men’s teams for New York University and University of Chicago play each other in an N.C.A.A. match this Friday. Very cool! (New York Times)
Is this the next TikTok?
A new app for teenagers called Gas has dethroned TikTok and BeReal in the App Store ranking. Yes, this is just in the US for now, but could mark the beginning of a new social media powerhouse. Named after the Gen Z phrase for complimenting someone— "gassing someone up"—it allows users to anonymously vote for their friends in a round of polls that refresh every hour. These are nice polls that allow you to say flattering things and make flirty confessions. FYI: Gas users can only vote on pre-written compliments, and there's no direct messaging. Here’s hoping it does go global. We all need a bit of gas in our lives. (Business Insider)