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Israel-Palestine War: A quick roundup
For more context on the Israel-Palestine war, check out our Big Stories on: The motive for the Hamas attack; the effect of civilian casualties on Gaza’s post-war fate; and the deal for a four-day truce. Below is a quick roundup of the latest developments:
- Nearly 18,000 people have died in Gaza so far and 70% of them are children, women, and the elderly.
- The US vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. It was the only country to do so. The UK abstained—while the rest voted in favour.
- The US State Department did an end run around Congress to approve 13,000 rounds of tank ammunition for Israel.
- A new study shows that 61% of all casualties from Israeli airstrikes are civilians.
- The president of the University of Pennsylvania was forced to resign after her testimony in front of Congress—where she offered a weak answer to a question about anti-semitism.
- A new survey shows that Donald Trump is now ahead of Joe Biden in the presidential opinion polls.
- Yet another vid released by the IDF—this one of Hamas soldiers surrendering—is under fire for being staged.
- New York Times (splainer gift link) has an exclusive investigation into evidence that Israel propped up Hamas as part of a strategy of “buying quiet.”
The US assassination plot: A secret Indian memo?
The Intercept published a scoop revealing a secret memorandum issued in April 2023 by the External Affairs ministry. It isn’t exactly a smoking gun (terrible pun unintended). The memo “does not explicitly order the killings” of anyone—but directs Indian consular officials to work closely with RAW, Intelligence Bureau etc. It lists a number of Khalistani supporters and organisations under investigation—including Hardeep Singh Nijjar who was killed in Canada in June. The Intercept quotes this ominous line—“Concrete measures shall be adopted to hold the suspects accountable”—but without context.
The Indian response: The External Affairs ministry insists there is no such memo, saying:
This is part of a sustained disinformation campaign against India. The outlet in question is known for propagating fake narratives peddled by Pakistani intelligence. The posts of the authors confirm this linkage. Those who amplify such fake news only do so at the cost of their own credibility.
Did Google fake its Gemini demo?
Last week, the company unveiled its largest state-of-the-art AI tech called Gemini—and claimed it would be way more powerful than anything its rival had to offer. It also included this impressive demo video:
The problem: the demo wasn’t in real time:
Following the launch, the company later confirmed… the demo wasn’t conducted in real time, but instead used still images and fed text prompts that Gemini responded to... that was “quite different” from what Google seemed to be suggesting: “that a person could have a smooth voice conversation with Gemini as it watched and responded in real-time to the world around it.”
When pushed on this massive fudge, the company said: “The video is an illustrative depiction of the possibilities of interacting with Gemini, based on real multimodal prompts and outputs from testing.” Oh dear! (CNBC)
Saudi plays spoiler at COP28
Riyadh has become the biggest stumbling block to reaching a joint agreement at the global climate summit in Dubai. It has flatly refused to include any language that mentions ‘fossil fuels’. Saudis have rejected a pledge to triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030:
Saudi diplomats have been particularly skillful at blocking discussions and slowing the talks, according to interviews with a dozen people who have been inside closed-door negotiations. Tactics include inserting words into draft agreements that are considered poison pills by other countries; slow-walking a provision meant to help vulnerable countries adapt to climate change; staging a walkout in a side meeting; and refusing to sit down with negotiators pressing for a phaseout of fossil fuels.
Other nations like the US, India and China have been difficult—but not as much. Reminder: All COP agreements have to be unanimous. (New York Times)
Chhattisgarh gets a tribal CM
The BJP has picked Vishnu Deo Sai after days of suspense—and backroom manoeuvring. This is a comeback for Sai—who was removed as the state BJP leader in 2022. It is also an acknowledgement of the BJP’s big win in the tribal belt—which it seized from Congress to win this election. Amit Shah had promised voters in Sai’s constituency, “Aap usse vidhayak banao, mein usse bada aadmi banaunga” (You make him an MLA, I will make him a big man). Indian Express has more on Sai.
Meanwhile, in Telangana: The newly elected BJP MLAs refused to take their oath of office because it would be administered by the Pro Tem Speaker—who happens to be Akbaruddin Owaisi. FYI: The governor appoints the seniormost MLA as a temporary Speaker—until the ruling party can appoint its own. In this case, six-time MLA Owaisi is the obvious choice. (Hindustan Times)
Why is Azim Premji unhappy?
Seven of the ten top paid CEOs in India belong to the tech sector—and the highest paid among them is Wipro's Thierry Delaporte who makes over Rs 800 million (80 crore) a year. But all that moolah has not earned him the approval of Wipro founder Azim Premji. According to Mint, Premji Sr is not happy with either Delaporte—or his son Rishad—who took over the reins as chairman in 2019:
Premji, 78, is unhappy given that Wipro’s turnaround has been hobbled by sweeping cultural changes, falling growth and profitability, a steady stream of exits and underperforming stock, the people said on the condition of anonymity.
It isn’t rare for veteran founders to be dissatisfied with changes brought in by new leadership—which sometimes leads to direct intervention (see: Infosys). But insiders insist that Premji Sr has no intention of doing the same. Mint has the rest of this exclusive.
A bizarre Hermès inheritance saga
In a real-life reenactment of the movie ‘Annie’, the 80-year-old heir of the Hermès fortune plans to give his $11 billion estate to a “former gardener and handyman” from a “modest Moroccan family.” Nicolas Puech—who is unmarried and childless—owns around 6% of the $220 billion company. And he wants to give half of it to this unnamed 51-year-old—who he intends to adopt as his legal child. Media reports suggest it is a ploy to settle scores in a family feud—and get out of a pledge to give his money to a foundation. Fortune (paywall) and Economic Times have lots of more on this odd affair.
Also feeling very wealthy: Two-time MVP Shohei Ohtani—who has landed the most lucrative contract in baseball history. The ten-year deal with the LA Dodgers is worth $700 million—which beats Messi’s $674 million contract with Barcelona. The football GOAT’s salary at Inter Miami is a modest $50-60 million a year. The Athletic has a profile on the 29-year-old baseball sensation. (CNN)
Two things to see
One: Zara’s latest ad campaign for its Atelier collection is being accused of profiting from the bombing of Gaza. It features models posing in destroyed—or under construction (?)—buildings. We haven’t quite understood the parallel but you can see one of the juxtapositions offered below. (CNBCTV18)
Two: ‘Fighter’ is described as India’s “first aerial action magnum opus”—which is what you get when some PR person strings important-sounding words together. Suffice to say, it involves pilots—may be a rip-off of ‘Top Gun’—and has a stellar cast: Hrithik Roshan, Deepika Padukone and Anil Kapoor. The film hits theatres on January 25. (The Hindu)