Researched and collated by: Rachel John, Prerna Barooah, Meghna Mathew & Abhimanyu Sethia
Splainer’s gonna be brand new… and needs to take a break
We will be shutting down the site on Tuesday or Wednesday to get ready to launch our brand new design. We have loads to get done—and get right—on the backend. We will be back in biz on Thursday morning.
Here’s a quick peek of our makeover—just so you still recognise us come Thursday am lol:
And we are launching a weekend edition called Advisory—brimming with suggestions of stuff to do—watch, listen, read, travel, buy etc. Kinda like this:
World cup 2022: Messi’s big sigh of relief
Lionel Messi kept Argentina’s hopes alive with a 2-0 win against Mexico—a victory that wasn’t pretty but got the job done. The patchy performance didn’t erase memories of the historic defeat to the Saudis, but it did make the GOAT very happy. CNN has the match report:
Elsewhere in the World Cup: Germany tied Spain 1-1 to keep their side in the tournament—though they’re hanging by a thread after the loss to Japan. Costa Rica recovered from the 7-0 drubbing they received in the opener against Spain—to win 1-0 against Japan. Most shockingly, Belgium went down to Morocco 2-0—enraging fans who rioted in the streets after. Sport Illustrated has all the tricky knockout scenarios. See the Belgian fans rioting below:
Also at the World Cup: Politics is once again proving to be a thorn in FIFA’s side. The global body is investigating a Serbian nationalist flag that was hung up in the team’s dressing room—which shows Kosovo as part of its territory. The Albanian–dominated country seceded from Serbia back in 2008—but Belgrade refuses to recognize its independence. The map was accompanied by the words: ‘“We do not surrender”—which was also on fan banners inside the stadium. (Al Jazeera)
Also unhappy with politicking: The Iranian Football Federation—which has complained to FIFA about the US removing the Islamic Republic symbol from the Iran flag in its social media posts. (Yahoo News)
Imran Khan cancels the big march
The former Pakistani Prime Minister was headed for a big showdown with the government/military—as he led a ‘long march’ from Lahore to Islamabad. But it was shockingly interrupted by an assassination attempt (explained here), though Khan’s injuries were minor. He first vowed to carry on—but now has changed his mind, saying, "I have decided not to go to Islamabad because I know there will be havoc and the loss will be to the country.”
More interestingly, his party plans to quit all its elected seats—including the two big provinces—with the aim of forcing snap elections, a wish he is unlikely to get. FYI: Pakistan just got a new military chief—Lieutenant General Syed Asim Munir—whom Khan accused of engineering the plot on his life. (Al Jazeera)
A more deadly Covid variant?
A small South African study has revealed a new variant that causes more serious illness compared to the relatively mild Omicron. It used samples from a person infected with HIV. People with immuno-suppressed diseases often incubate variants—since it has time to mutate within their bodies:
“Over the six months the virus initially caused the same level of cell fusion and death as the omicron BA.1 strain, but as it evolved those levels rose to become similar to the first version of Covid-19 identified in Wuhan in China. The study… indicates that the Covid-19 pathogen could continue to mutate and a new variant may cause more severe illness and death than the relatively mild omicron strain.”
Why this matters: While we don’t know enough to worry about this variant, it shows that the virus may not necessarily evolve to become more harmless—unlike the flu. Key point to note: the study has not been peer-reviewed. That said, SA has one of the best coronavirus surveillance systems—and was the first to identify both Beta and Omicron variants. (Bloomberg, paywall, Mint)
The world’s most expensive medicine
The US Food and Drug Administration approved Hemgenix—a new drug to treat haemophilia B that costs an eye-watering $3.5 million per treatment. The new gene therapy is meant to be a one-time IV infusion—that will help patients produce the protein required to clot blood. They typically need routine blood transfusions to maintain sufficient levels. (CNN)
Speaking of medicines: Indian health authorities have issued new guidelines warning doctors not to prescribe antibiotics for mild symptoms—like low-grade fever or bronchitis. This comes as Indians have grown increasingly resistant to key antifungal and antibiotic meds due to the increased use of antimicrobial agents during the pandemic. Many are now resistant to carbapenem—a drug used to treat diseases like pneumonia in an ICU setting. (Hindustan Times)
In the latest Twitter drama news…
The company’s former head of trust and safety Yoel Roth penned a New York Times column claiming that Elon Musk’s hostility to content moderation may bring trouble from an unexpected quarter. Twitter may run afoul of the strict rules of the Google and Apple app stores—and may be in jeopardy of being dropped: “And as I departed the company, the calls from the app review teams had already begun."
Now, this would have remained an interesting read—shared on Twitter, ofc—except Musk responded with this: “I certainly hope it does not come to that, but, yes, if there is no other choice, I will make an alternative phone.” Umm, we do not think that will make any of his investors happy.
Rishi Sunak’s new plan for foreign students
The latest data shows that net migration to the UK has climbed to a record half a million—prompting all sorts of hand-wringing. As a result, the UK PM is planning to impose new curbs on foreign students:
“International students may be barred from Britain unless they win a place at a top university under plans being considered. The government also intends to bar foreign students coming to the UK to study ‘low quality degrees’, while new restrictions are also expected on students bringing family members with them after the number of dependents almost tripled in a year.”
But most British educational institutions are highly dependent on foreign students:
"Most universities for most courses lose money on teaching British students and offset that loss by charging more for international students. If you close down the international route I'm not sure how the university continues to survive."
So this may be a kiss of death for less affluent or less reputed colleges—all of which has a knock-on effect on the economy. Even Sunak’s own party members are furious. BBC News has the plan while The Guardian has more on the Tory backlash.
Two health studies of note
Drinking water: No, you don’t need to drink at least eight glasses of water—a standard piece of health advice that researchers now call “excessive.” The reason: we ingest a lot of water through food—which, depending on one’s diet, can account for half of our daily intake. And estimating that amount can be tricky, according to this study:
"The water that we'd need to drink is the difference between the total water that we need to ingest and the amount that we get from our food. The way they estimated the amount from food was by asking people how much they eat. Because people under-report how much they eat, there's a misestimate and so you overestimate the amount of water that's needed."
BBC News has more details.
The effects of migraines: According to a new study, people who experience chronic or episodic migraines appear to have unusually enlarged perivascular spaces in their brains—which are essentially fluid-filled spaces around the blood vessels. It suggests that migraines drive significant changes in our brains—though the exact connection is unknown. More details of the study are available here. (BGR)
Three things to see
One: Activist Anand Teltumbde was finally released on bail—after spending 31 months behind bars without a trial. He was one of the 16 arrested in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case (which we explained here). His co-accused Gautam Navlakha was put in house arrest earlier this month—however, Teltumbde is the first to be granted bail on the merits of the case. The High Court declared it found no evidence that he had “committed or indulged in a “terrorist act.” Here’s a clip of a beaming Teltumbde after his release. (Indian Express)
Two: Joshua Heath—a junior researcher at Cambridge University—upset worshippers with a religious sermon that suggested Jesus had a “trans body.” He displayed three paintings as evidence—including Jean Malouel’s work ‘Pietà’ from 1400 (see it below)—which includes a side wound that Heath likened to a vagina. Telegraph UK is behind a paywall, but Economic Times has the details on the angry debate.