Researched and collated by: Rachel John & Ayaan Malhotra
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.
Ukraine invasion: The latest update
Russia launched 50 missiles across Ukraine—including the capital Kyiv—but 44 of them were shot down. However, the remaining did severe damage, cutting off Kyiv’s water supply by taking out power facilities. What the world is watching: Moscow has suspended the agreement to allow Ukraine to export wheat via the Black Sea. But 12 ships have left their ports bearing grain—and it remains to be seen what happens to them. (Associated Press)
Police raids target The Wire
The context: BJP IT chief Amit Malviya filed a criminal FIR against the publication—charging them with cheating, forgery, defamation and criminal conspiracy.
The reason: The Wire had carried a series of ‘scoops’ claiming he had absolute power to take down Instagram posts in India—based on evidence that proved to be faked. We explained what was wrong with these stories in this Big Story.
The latest: The Delhi Police on Monday carried out searches at The Wire’s office and the homes of its founding editors—Siddharth Varadarajan, MK Venu, Sidharth Bhatia— and deputy editor Jahnavi Sen. The four people named in the FIR. They have taken all their electronic devices—phones, laptops etc.—to be cloned. (Scroll)
Something to remember: In most democracies, a person who claims to have been libelled by a media organisation sues for damages. In India, defamation laws are frequently misused, as the Nagpur High Court noted in a separate case. This Times of India editorial correctly sums up what’s wrong with criminal defamation:
“Criminal defamation is particularly problematic, allowing complainants to claim the accused had intention to harm reputation. Claiming defamation on intent to harm reputation sets a very low and subjective bar for prosecution. Tamil Nadu’s AIADMK governments were infamous for lodging criminal defamation cases indiscriminately against journalists. With public prosecutors appearing, magistrates often take cognisance of even frivolous matters, prompting a dash to HCs for relief. Sometimes, multiple cases are filed in faraway places because the statute even allows offences only “partly committed” in that jurisdiction. This is punishment disguised as process.”
Delhi is getting smoggy again
Although Diwali did not do all that damage this year, the city’s air quality deteriorated to “severe” overnight—hitting 403 at 10 pm. And the AQI is expected to remain either ‘very poor’ or ‘severe’ for the next week. The Delhi government has therefore banned most construction and demolition work. And it is busy blaming Uttar Pradesh diesel buses for Delhi’s woes. But data shows that there were 1.898 stubble fires in Punjab on October 29–but it is likely off the hook since it is now an AAP-ruled state. (The Hindu)
That blue tick is gonna cost you
The new Twitter malik is determined to turn the verification feature into a paid subscription—where you pay to be verified. Until now, the company decided who was qualified to get that greatly desired blue tick next to your name—though its criteria were often criticised as murky. But this seemingly more democratic move will likely come with a heftier price tag. The verification badge will be part of the paid Twitter Blue subscription which could cost as much as $19.99 a month. Also this: if you don’t pay up within 90 days, already verified accounts will lose their blue ticks. And to add to the brewing outrage among the Twitterati: “Employees working on the project were told on Sunday that they need to meet a deadline of November 7 to launch the feature or they will be fired.” The Verge has the exclusive.
Virat Kohli gets a privacy scare
The cricketer was rightfully furious when a creepy fan entered his hotel room in his absence—and shared a video clip on social media. Kohli posted the video, saying: “[T]his video here is appalling and it's made me feel very paranoid about my privacy. If I cannot have privacy in my own hotel room, then where can I really expect any personal space at all.” The hotel has apologised for the incident and said that action had been taken against the individuals. FYI: this happened a few days ago in Perth, but Kohli did not share the clip until he left the city. See the stalker-like clip below. (ESPN)
Speaking of cricket: The selectors announced the squads for the tours of New Zealand and Bangladesh. Hardik Pandya will lead India’s T20I squad against the Kiwis—while Shikhar Dhawan will be captain for the ODI series. The Hindu has all the details.
An India-Pak series? Rumours are flying about a potential faceoff being staged in Australia after the current World Cup wraps up. Former Oz player Simon O’Donnell claimed discussions are being held to organise a Test match between the two countries—or perhaps a triangular ODI series with Australia, India, and Pakistan. But some sports sites have already published vehement denials from unnamed BCCI officials.
Finally, women dummies are here!
Since the 70s, crash test dummies used by automobile companies have been based on the male body. The proxies used to represent women were just a scaled down version—measuring 149 cm tall and weighing 48 kg. Umm, that’s the average size of a 12-year-old girl. Swedish engineers have finally created the first proper female dummy that is 162 cm tall and weighs 62 kg. This is a big step that’s not just about challenging routine sexism. For starters, women’s bodies respond differently to impact:
“Females are shorter and lighter than males, on average, and they have different muscle strengths. Because of this they physically respond differently in a car crash. ‘We have differences in the shape of the torso and the centre of gravity and the outline of our hips and pelvis,’ [lead researcher Astrid Linder] explained.”
And women are also at greater risk—up to three times more likely to suffer whiplash injuries in rear impacts compared to a man. (BBC News)
Bees are like lightning!
Many insects like honey bees generate a positive charge as their wings—which beat more than 200 times a second—rub against molecules in the air. We already knew this. What’s surprising is new research that shows how powerful this effect can be when they gather in swarms. When each of their individual charges are aggregated into clusters, they create electrical fields as strong as thunderstorms. Now, we don’t know exactly how these swarms affect the atmosphere as yet—but “the trillions of tiny bodies that electrify the air could help to explain basic weather events, like the formation of clouds, and fill in a picture of the complex environment around us.” Crazy, huh? (New York Times, paywall, CNN)
A cure for chronic nightmares
New research offers relief for everyone who suffers from bad dreams, night after night. The remedy adds sound to something called imagery rehearsal therapy—where “patients rewrite their most harrowing and frequent nightmares to give them a happy ending. Then, they ‘rehearse’ telling themselves that rewritten story, trying to overwrite the nightmare.” The added twist: they played a piano chord during IRT so the brain would associate this pleasant version with the sound. And then they played that same sound through a head band when the patients were sleeping—which produced “a sustained decrease in nightmares” for up to three months. (Washington Post, paywall, ScienceAlert)
Three things to see
One: A good Bappi Lahiri song makes everything better—as the Chinese have discovered. Many of them are soothing the pain of strict Covid controls—which has led to food shortages—by singing “Give me rice [jie mi], give me rice [ jie mi]!” to the tune of ‘Jimmy Jimmy, Aaja, Aaja’. Happily, to do the song full justice, they’re dressing up in saris etc. as opposed to 1980s disco bling lol! We love it. If you want more, here’s another one. (The Hindu)
Two: A Swiss railway company operated the world’s longest passenger train across the Alps this weekend. The 1.9 km long train—with 100 coaches and carrying 150 passengers—chugged along for about an hour through 22 tunnels and over 48 bridges. (ABC News)