Researched and collated by: Vagda Galhotra, Prafula Grace Busi & Anagha Srinivasan
Maharashtra melodrama: The latest update
The Assembly voted to pick a new Speaker today—and the BJP candidate won with 164 votes—compared to the 107 votes scored by the opposition's pick. The outcome signalled the total rout of Uddhav Thackeray’s side. And here’s why: even if he wins in the Supreme Court—and disqualifies the 16 rebel MLAs—the strength of the Assembly will come down to 272. The majority required would then become 137, and the BJP/Shinde bloc will still have 148 seats. So there’s no way for Thackeray to turn the tide. The Shinde government faces a floor test today—to prove its majority—and will likely win easily. (NDTV)
Mohammed Zubair: The latest update
Mohammed Zubair—the co-founder of Alt News—was arrested due to a single complaint about a single 2018 tweet, flagged by a Twitter account that has since disappeared (explained here). Here’s where we are:
- On Saturday afternoon, Deputy Commissioner KPS Malhotra told reporters that the court had rejected Zubair’s bail plea—and approved an additional 14 days in judicial custody. Except he made the announcement hours before the judge issued the ruling. Watch Zubair’s lawyer express outrage at this “extremely scandalous” sequence of events.
- But that didn’t stop the judge from fulfilling Malhotra’s uncanny prophecy. Yes, he is now back behind bars for another 14 days.
- To buttress their case, the police offered new evidence in court: over Rs 2 lakh received by Alt News via Razorpay transactions—identified either via a foreign mobile phone number or IP address. Zubair has therefore been charged with violating foreign currency regulations as well.
- Also this: “Twitter handles that supported Zubair and had tweeted in his support after his arrest were mostly from the middle eastern countries like the UAE, Bahrain, and Kuwait as well as countries like Pakistan.”
- Meanwhile, a Wire investigation of tweets calling for Zubair’s arrest found a network of 757 Twitter accounts that were linked to one person—Vikash Ahir of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha and Hindu Yuva Vahini in Gujarat.
- Of these, 283 accounts exhibited bot-like behaviour—as in they were tweeting over 500 times a day. You can read the summary, and the detailed report.
- Related read: The News Minute has a good profile on Zubair—if you want to know more about him.
Also not good for freedom of speech: Twitter has banned the account of Khalsa Aid founder Ravi Singh Khalsa due to “legal reasons.” His organisation was among one of a number of Punjab farmer handles—including Sanyukt Kisan Morcha and Tractor To Twitter—which have been suspended. All of them were the target of the government’s ire during the farmer protests. (Indian Express)
The Ukraine invasion: The latest update
According to Moscow, it has seized yet another key Ukrainian city—Lysychansk—in the eastern region of Donbas. Why this matters:
“Its capture would not only give Moscow complete control of that resource-rich region, but would offer a base to regroup and mount offensives on cities to the southwest, notably Sloviansk, Kramatorsk and Bakhmut.”
The Kremlin also says Kyiv bombed two Russian cities—which has neither been confirmed or denied by Ukraine. For their part, Ukrainian forces claim to have destroyed a Russian military base in the occupied city of Melitopol in the south.
On a related note: UNESCO has added borsch—Ukraine's national dish—to its list of endangered intangible heritage list due to the threat of war. This has annoyed Russians who also enjoy their borsch—as do many ex-Soviet countries and Poland. (BBC News)
Crypto crisis hits ordinary customers
A number of the big-name financial companies—Babel Finance, CoinFlex, Voyager Digital and Finblox—have frozen all withdrawals in the midst of a serious market meltdown. And many people are worried that they will never see their money again. These companies acted like traditional banks—often offering eye-popping interest rates of 20% on deposits. But unfortunately, they don’t offer the same protection:
“What some customers are learning the hard way is crypto lenders might look and act like the traditional finance system, but they lack the investor oversight and legal protections built into banks and brokerages. Notably, their deposits aren’t guaranteed by the federal government.”
Regulators in some US states are investigating Celsius’ decision to freeze customer accounts—while the company considers filing for bankruptcy. The Conversation has an interesting related piece that looks at the history of currency—and why crypto isn’t an answer for traditional banking. (Wall Street Journal)
IndiGo employees call in sick
The airline found itself in the middle of an unexpected crisis when large numbers of its cabin crew didn’t show up for work—forcing 55% of its flights to be delayed. The reason for this great vanishing: Phase-2 of Air India’s recruitment drive was conducted on Saturday. What’s interesting: the lure of an AI job had little effect on other airlines, including Spicejet. Aviation authorities have demanded an explanation from IndiGo. (Indian Express)
Google’s assist for abortion privacy
The company will automatically delete visits to abortion clinics from a user’s location history—because these “can be particularly personal.” Also deleted: Any visit to counselling centres, domestic violence shelters, fertility centres, addiction treatment facilities, weight loss clinics, cosmetic surgery clinics. Why this matters:
“[It addresses] the potential that prosecutors will use warrants or subpoenas to demand that tech companies turn over data revealing users who have visited abortion clinics. That data could be used to build legal cases against people who are charged with having an abortion in states that have outlawed the procedure.”
How pandas became vegetarian
Pandas’ love for bamboo makes it a bit of a weirdo in the bear family. For starters: “The giant panda is... a rare case of a large carnivore with a short, carnivorous digestive tract... that has become a dedicated herbivore.” And to turn into a bamboo-chomping monster—they consume up to 45 kg over a 15 hour period a day—pandas had to develop a ‘false thumb’ to grip the bamboo. Scientists have now finally found fossil evidence to confirm that theory. These are bones of a now-extinct ancient relative called Ailurarctos that lived in China six to eight million years ago. We’re more surprised by the knowledge that pandas have thumbs! (France24)
One thing to see
Some people are very angry at Disney for featuring a scene in their show ‘Baymax!’ that features a transgender man—designated very subtly with a tiny trans flag. The big crime: he offers tips about sanitary pads at a supermarket. Also making the same folks uncomfortable: the entire scene is about giving advice about menstruation products…which no kid ever needs to know about ever, right? Backstory for the clip below: a kid named Sofia has just got her first period and is anxious—and so her robot friend goes shopping to help her out. (New York Post)
Good stuff to check out!
On the latest episode of the splainer podcast ‘Press Decode,’ the team looks at how the idea of ‘rights’ plays out in India—be it the arrest of Mohammed Zubair or access to abortion. Be sure to head over to the IVM website, Spotify or Apple Podcasts to listen to it.