Researched and collated by: Vagda Galhotra & Prafula Grace Busi
Markets are sinking everywhere
The big bear is here. The S&P 500 plummeted by 3.9%—while the Dow Jones was down 876 points. The sell-off is a reaction to the US Federal Reserve’s inability to control inflation—which is accelerating despite interest rate hikes. As a result, prices fell in a “worldwide rout” for everything from bonds to bitcoin. More worryingly, the tech darlings of the market are showing signs of weakness: Tesla slumped 7.1%, while Amazon dropped 5.5%. (Associated Press)
Speaking of bitcoin: The cryptocurrency crash continued—with the leader in decentralised finance—Celsius Network—leading the way. The bank announced it was freezing withdrawals “due to extreme market conditions”—triggering the meltdown. Bitcoin is down 15% over the last 24 hours—and Ether, the second-most valuable cryptocurrency, is down about 16%. (New York Times)
Meanwhile, in India: In keeping with the global trend, Sensex and Nifty slumped by 2.5%—and the rupee plunged 20 paise to close at an all-time low of Rs 78.13 against the US dollar. (Mint)
Minting big money: amid the carnage is The Indian Premier League. Television and digital rights in the Indian subcontinent sold for a whopping Rs 440.75 billion (44,075 crore) on the second day of the auction. For comparison: Star India paid a mere Rs 163.47 billion (16,347.50 crore) for the privilege in 2017. While official winners have not been declared, rumours are that Reliance won the digital package—while Disney scored the TV rights. (Mint)
Baby steps toward gun law reform
As we’d explained in our Big Story, gun reform in the US has been consistently blocked by Republicans in the Senate—since Democrats don’t have the numbers (60) required to overcome a filibuster. But the brutal killings in Uvalde—of 19 children and two teachers—made a number of Republicans more amenable to compromise. The result is a bill that will do the following:
- Provide funding for states to enact so-called “red-flag” laws—that allow authorities to confiscate guns from people deemed to be dangerous.
- Increase funding for school safety and mental health programs.
- Introduce enhanced background checks to check the juvenile and mental health records of any prospective gun buyer under the age of 21.
- Extend the ban on gun ownership for domestic abusers to include boyfriends—and not just spouses.
- Make it a crime to legally purchase a weapon for someone who would not qualify for ownership.
This is still not a done deal—and top Republican leaders have not exactly offered an enthusiastic endorsement. (Associated Press)
Nupur Sharma protests: The latest update
On Sunday, the UP administration bulldozed the residence of activist Javed Mohammed—claiming the construction was illegal. But official documentation shows it has been owned for over two decades by his wife—who has regularly paid water bills and tax on the property. Meanwhile, the police have sent a list of 85 people booked in the protests to municipal authorities—to check for any “irregularities.” (Indian Express)
The Russian invasion: A turning tide
Moscow is poised to take control of Severodonetsk—the most significant city held in the east by Ukraine. And it is moving to cut the neighbouring city of Lysychansk from its supply routes. In Lysychansk, Ukrainians have the advantage of good terrain—but are running out of weapons. All of which indicate that the momentum of war has shifted to Russia’s advantage. Meanwhile, the EU plans to deliver its decision on inducting Ukraine into the union by the end of the week. The choices ahead for the Western allies will become trickier moving forward—do they amp up military support to Kyiv and risk enraging the Kremlin even further? (New York Times)
In related news: The Western sanctions don’t seem to have stemmed the tide of Russian oil. According to a new report, Russia earned nearly $100 billion (£82.3 billion) from oil and gas exports during the first 100 days of the war in Ukraine. BBC News has more details.
Covid cases rise in India
The country reported 6,594 cases on Tuesday—taking the number of active cases up to 50,548. Twenty four districts—including Kerala, Maharashtra and Mizoram—have been reporting a weekly positivity rate of 5-10%, while 17 others are reporting positivity rates above 10%. But experts say the spike does not signal the onset of another wave—but is an “expected fluctuation” caused by relaxed mask mandates, low intake of booster shots and increased travel and social gatherings. (Mint)
A new Twitter system to report abuse
The company unveiled a more empathetic “symptoms-first” approach to help users report bad behaviour. So it asks you to first describe what happened—and then suggests what kind of violation may have occurred. You can choose another option if you think Twitter’s choice is incorrect. What this fixes: “In the past, the onus was on the user to determine what violation had been committed, which could be both frustrating and confusing.” Twitter claims that the number of actionable reports increased by 50% under the new system. (Gizmodo)
Speaking of abuse: The number of threats against New Zealand PM Jacinda Adern has tripled in just the last three years—jumping from 18 to 50 in 2021. A great part of this is connected to anti-vaxxers enraged at Covid restrictions—fed by online misinformation, conspiracy theories and extremist language. What’s notable: “The vocabulary … has migrated from implicit and elusive references to her murder, assassination and rape now to explicit calls for it.” (The Guardian)
NASA’s moon landing program is a mess
An internal audit has revealed that the ambitious plan to launch a new generation of crewed missions to the lunar surface is in shambles. The cost for the Mobile Launcher 2 (ML-2)—a specially designed tower crucial to a mission with crew and cargo—is “approximately a billion dollars or at least 2.5 times more than initially planned.” And its delivery is 2.5 years behind schedule. FYI: The ML-2 was meant to be delivered in March 2023. The manufacturing company that messed it all up: Bechtel. (Futurism)
Two things to see
One: Everyone’s favourite show ‘Squid Game’ is coming back for season 2—and Netflix dearly hopes it will fix its plummeting subscriber numbers. What we know so far, thanks to director Hwang Dong-hyuk: The characters Seong Gi-hun and the Front Man will return, and we’ll “also be introduced to Young-hee’s boyfriend, Cheol-su.” Yup, that iconic animatronic doll featured in ‘Red Light, Green Light’ has a bae. See the teaser below. (The Guardian)
Two: Japanese scientists have built a robotic finger covered in living human skin—that bends and folds seamlessly, and recovers from a wound. The aim is to help make robots look as human as possible (why?). Now, they haven’t figured out how to help it grow and regenerate as it would on a human body. But future versions will include neurons that could allow it to feel, and even sweat. Is it just us or does it look like it’s giving us the finger… (Gizmodo)
Good stuff to check out
On the latest episode of the splainer podcast ‘Press Decode’, the splainer team looks at whether Nupur Sharma is indeed a ‘fringe element’—and the ‘right to repair’ movement. Be sure to head over to the IVM website, Spotify or Apple Podcasts to listen to it.