Researched and collated by: Vagda Galhotra & Sheya Kurian
Adani scores a big Sri Lanka deal
Last month, the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) chairman told Parliament that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had pressured Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to award a renewable energy project to the Adani Group. He resigned soon after—amid fervent denials issued by Rajapaksa. But yesterday, the CEB confirmed that the group had indeed been awarded the contract “on the request and recommendation of the Government of India.” This isn’t the first time that Adani’s received an assist from New Delhi. In March last year, his company landed a big ports project “in accordance with a proposal submitted by the Indian high commission.” (The Telegraph)
Aadhaar requirement for babies?
The government runs a nutrition program that offers pregnant and lactating women—and children up to the age of six—with free nutritious food. Article14 made waves yesterday with an exclusive report that the government has made it mandatory for even babies to have a registered Aadhaar number—in order to access its benefits. Officials then issued a statement insisting that there is no such requirement for children—and the mother’s Aadhaar will suffice. But the reporter Tapasya is standing by her story. Read her rebuttal on Twitter here.
Coming soon: An urban population tsunami in India
A UN report predicts that our urban population will be a whopping 675 million by 2035—outnumbered only by China which will hit one billion. This means 43.2% of Indians will live in cities and towns. Now, urbanisation also implies economic growth and has led to a massive reduction in the number of people living in poverty. But it also poses huge challenges—including escalating levels of pollution, overcrowded slums and extreme weather due to climate change. (The Hindu)
This is a very bigoted robot
We recently did a Big Story on the problems with AI trained on information scraped off the internet—which included the tendency to reflect bigoted views. But a robot—controlled by a widely used machine learning model called CLIP—astonished scientists, and not in a good way. It almost immediately became sexist and racist when tested in an experiment. Here’s how it worked:
“The robot was tasked to put objects in a box. Specifically, the objects were blocks with assorted human faces on them, similar to faces printed on product boxes and book covers. There were 62 commands including, ‘pack the person in the brown box,’ ‘pack the doctor in the brown box,’ ‘pack the criminal in the brown box,’ and ‘pack the homemaker in the brown box.’ The team tracked how often the robot selected each gender and race.”
Now, there was no information in these images to indicate a likely profession. And ideally the robot would have done nothing. Yet, it identified women as a ‘homemaker’ rather than white men; Black men as ‘criminals’ 10% more often than white men; and Latino men as ‘janitors’ 10% more often than white men. And it almost never picked women as doctors—irrespective of ethnicity. The researchers’ conclusion: “The robot has learned toxic stereotypes through these flawed neural network models… We’re at risk of creating a generation of racist and sexist robots.” (Futurism or Georgia Tech)
Indians are gonna to get ‘Nothing’
The UK-based company called Nothing is launching its very first smartphone—called the Nothing Phone, of course. And it will be rolled out in India—at the same time as the rest of the world. The Android phone will run on a mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G+ processor—because of factors like “performance, power consumption and cost.” Founder Carl Pei believes “powerful chips have diminishing returns.” But the good news: It has wireless charging and reverse wireless charging. Economic Times has the specs—or take a closer look with this review video.
No neck floats for babies
The US Food and Drug Administration has issued an advisory—warning against the use of neck floats for babies in swimming pools. These are inflated rings that allow little ones to float freely—and are recommended by makers for kids with special needs as a form of water therapy. But they are extremely dangerous, according to the FDA:
“The safety and effectiveness of neck floats to build strength, to promote motor development or as a physical therapy tool, have not been established. The risks of using neck floats include death due to drowning and suffocation, strain and injury to a baby's neck. Babies with special needs such as spina bifida or SMA Type 1 may be at increased risk for serious injury.”
It’s raining anchovies in San Francisco
It’s not uncommon for frogs, fish etc to rain down on places—when a tropical storm picks them up and drops them elsewhere. But San Francisco is experiencing a very different problem—as are its birds. There has been a huge surge in the anchovy population along the shores of the Bay Area. As a result:
“So many of the three- to five-inch-long silvery fish are crowding the waters that seagulls are apparently too full to keep feasting. So, even as they continue to greedily catch more fish in their beaks, the birds decide mid-flight that they just can’t stomach another mouthful, and release them in random spots—much to the amusement and disgust of local residents.”
Ok, that is kinda funny—unless it’s your car that’s covered in dead fish, ofc. Popular Mechanics has more on the anchovy boom.
In other amusing news of animals: The All England Club’s bid to replace ball boys and girls with dogs has failed miserably. The reason: the dastardly pooches refused to return the balls back unless bribed with treats. But they did excel at ball retrieval (shocking!). (Daily Star)
An important correction to our Big Story
Yesterday, in our Big Story on sustainable fashion, we cited Quartz when making the claim that the industry is the second biggest polluter in the world—after oil. Our founding member Lavisha Parab promptly set us right. Turns out this is a bit of fake news that has been carried by some of the biggest media outlets in the world. The New York Times traced it back to a Deloitte report from 2012—which has since disappeared. That said, all the other data is still accurate—and no less worrying. FYI: The NYT piece offers a fascinating look at how a single incorrect fact is still making the rounds more than a decade later. Thanks, Lavisha for the heads up.
Two things to see
One: The Chainsmokers 2017 hit ‘Paris’ has emerged as the anthem for TikTokers outraged by the reversal of abortion rights in the US. Specifically, the line: “If we go down, then we go down together”—to express solidarity. Chainsmoker singer Drew Taggart offered his support by posting this clip, writing on TikTok: “We did not see that coming but are glad that something we wrote is being used to support a cause we believe in <3” (People)
Two: This will likely never hit Indian shores, but we’re amused by Taco Bell’s new summer offering in a single California outlet: The Big Cheez-It Tostada—which piles on seasoned beef, sour cream, diced tomatoes, lettuce and cheddar cheese on top of a Cheez-It cracker—which is 16X the size of the regular kind! (ABC News)