Researched by: Nirmal Bhansali & Aarthi Ramnath
Congress CM battle heats up
It was never going to be easy to pick between the popular and experienced Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar—who led the state party to a thumping electoral victory. And neither appear to be ready to back down. A “secret poll” of the MLAs shows that most of them support Siddaramaiah—who is already in Delhi and in front of TV cameras, staking his claim. Shivakumar is digging his heels in and staying put in Bangalore—making statements like this:
I don’t have the strength to speak about others’ numbers, my strength is 135. I am the party president and, under my presidency, the party has won 135 seats in Karnataka, against the double-engine government, the corrupt administration. I don’t want to answer any claims or anything. I’m a single man, I believe in one thing, that a single man with courage makes a majority. I have proved it. I don’t want to disclose what all has happened in the last five years… At a future point of time, I will disclose.
None of this sounds good for Congress—which is notorious for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. FYI: the party leadership is slated to announce the decision today. Indian Express and The Hindu have all the behind-the-scenes goss.
The wrestling #MeToo controversy: The latest update
The context: Top Indian wrestlers—Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik—have alleged widespread sexual abuse in the sport. And it starts at the top—with wrestling federation chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh—who is also a BJP MP. They have refused to call off their protest until action is taken against him. A six-member committee, led by former boxing World Champion Mary Kom, was set up by the Union Sports Ministry in the wake of the first protests in January. For details on the sexual abuse, see our Big Story.
What happened now: A number of the wrestlers have told Indian Express that the Kom-led committee was rigged against them. The women who testified were pushed to produce video or audio evidence for their allegations. Some committee members described Brij Bhushan as a “father figure”—whose actions were misunderstood by the women. Indian Express has the exclusive.
Also this: The wrestlers plan to make their “agitation global” by approaching Olympic medallists and athletes from other countries for support. (The Hindu)
Dismal details about the Aryan Khan case
The context: In October 2021, the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) arrested Shah Rukh Khan’s son—along with seven others—for possession of drugs. It was supposedly part of an anti-drug crusade led by Zonal Director Sameer Wankhede. Also playing a starring role in Khan's arrest: a private detective named KP Gosavi—who was supposedly an “independent witness.” But the case against Khan has since fallen apart—and been junked. And Wankhede himself has become the target of a CBI probe.
What happened now: The CBI has filed an FIR against Wankhede and a number of other NCB officials—all of whom are accused of being part of an extortion scam. One of the witnesses cited in the FIR offered damning testimony that Gosavi conspired to extort Rs 250 million (25 crore) from Shah Rukh Khan—and finally settled for the sum of Rs 180 million (18 crore). The Khans paid Rs 5 million (50 lakhs) upfront. More damningly, Wankhede ensured Gosavi had free access to Aryan Khan—to make this happen. (Indian Express)
Talkative parents are good for kids
We already know that talking to babies and toddlers helps their language skills. A new study now shows that chatty parents can actually reshape the brains of their kids—by increasing the amount of myelin. What is myelin?
Myelin is a material produced by the body that forms around nerves, including those in the brain, that allows electrical impulses to transmit quickly and efficiently… The researchers found that toddlers who heard more speech everyday had more myelin, which they said is “likely to support more sophisticated language processing.”
But some scientists say that the higher myelin counts may just be genetic: “Children who are exposed to more language at home and have higher myelination will also have inherited genes from parents who are more linguistically able.” (The Independent)
A wildlife tragedy in Kenya
Ten lions have been killed over the past week by herders for hunting their animals—including goats and dogs. They have been wandering out of the Amboseli national park into the nearby villages in search of food. Six lions were killed in a single day. Why this is happening: Kenya has suffered droughts for five years in a row—making the herders far more desperate and angry. OTOH, the lions also have less prey to hunt—making for a tragic battle for survival. (Associated Press)
Vice is bankrupt but not dead
One of the great successes of the digital media revolution has filed for bankruptcy. Vice Media Group—once valued at nearly $6 billion—will likely be sold for $225 million to a consortium of lenders. Like many of its fellow online news superstars, Vice never figured out a viable business model—even as it raised millions of dollars. The announcement comes on the heels of the closure of Buzzfeed News—although Vice execs are oddly optimistic it can still keep its doors open: "This accelerated court-supervised sale process will strengthen the company and position Vice for long-term growth." (BBC News)
An editorial detour: What caught our eye is this assessment from a financial analyst:
There was a tendency at the time to treat everything like software, where you do your investment up front, attract a bunch of users, and then eventually when you're big enough you become incredibly profitable. But it turns out content doesn't work like that - if you want people to keep coming back to your website, or to reach new people in new markets, you have to keep spending to make new content.
But most media debacles were caused not by bored users but by a familiar pattern of funding. Media companies madly pivoted toward a hot new tech trend—Facebook videos etc—to generate more/new content urged on by excited VCs. The tech company/industry switched direction, investors lost interest—cue layoffs, more layoffs and then bankruptcy.
Psst: How about an AI-curated and -written splainer? We could sleep in every morning and raise some VC money for a change!:)
The hottest AI career: Virtual girlfriend
Caryn Marjorie is a successful Snapchat influencer with 1.8 million followers. And she’s collaborated with an AI company to create a voice-based chatbot unimaginatively called CarynAI. What is imaginative—this AI Caryn can be your virtual girlfriend—but for a price: You have to pay $1 a minute to hang with your bae. FYI: CarynAI has more than 1,000 boyfriends—“with whom she spends anywhere from 10 minutes to several hours every day in individual conversations, discussing plans for the future, sharing intimate feelings and even engaging in sexually charged chats.” Her human counterpart made $71,610 in just a week! As you can see below, this is just sad on many levels—though not for Marjorie, ofc. Extended demo here. (Fortune, paywall)
Four things to see
One: The summer bonanza of movie releases are upon us—as are their trailers. First up: ‘Zara Hatke Zara Bachke’—starring Sara Ali Khan and Vicky Kaushal. It’s slated as a “heartwarming comedy”—which are usually the most hazardous kind. The movie drops in theatres on June 2. (Indian Express)
Two: Next we have Hansal Mehta’s Netflix series titled ‘Scoop’—who also directed the wildly popular ‘Scam 1992’. It is the story of a crime reporter killed by the notorious Chota Rajan gang in Mumbai—which led to the arrest of a fellow journalist. It will drop on Netflix on June 2. (Variety)
Three: Get ready for Pavitr Prabhakar from Mumbattan—aka the desi Peter Parker—in this teaser of ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.’ It is slated for release on June 2.
Four: Chennai Super Kings may have lost to Kolkata Knight Riders in their final home game for the IPL season. But Mahi is always a winner—more so since everyone expects this to be Dhoni’s last year in the league—which is making everyone a little misty-eyed. And that’s why Sunil Gavaskar hurried out onto the field to get his t-shirt autographed. Aww. (BBC News)