Researched by: Rachel John & Anannya Parekh
AIADMK bids farewell to BJP
The relationship had been fraying for a while—and finally broke over comments made by the BJP state party chief K Annamalai about AIADMK’s biggest names. For example, he claimed that CN Annadurai insulted Hinduism. One party leader said:
Following the lack of support from the BJP’s national leadership, and continuing attacks from Annamalai, Palaniswami and top leaders found themselves in a precarious position. The party’s leadership and cadres felt humiliated, which led to a unanimous decision to exit the alliance.
The jodi was never a success. Forged after the death of Jayalalithaa—and amid bitter party infighting—the coalition only won one of 38 Lok Sabha seats in 2019. And in 2021, they lost to DMK in the state elections. The most amusing bit: announcing the decision on Twitter, AIADMK used this hashtag: “#Nandri_meendumvaraatheergal (Thank you, never come back again).
At the heart of the split: incompatible ideologies. AIADMK is a Dravidian party opposed to high caste Hinduism—which is at the core of the BJP-RSS worldview. The Hindu has more on the comment that broke the coalition. NewsLaundry details the rocky AIADMK-BJP alliance. (Indian Express)
The end of the writers strike
The context: In May, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) went on strike for the first time in 15 years. At the heart of their discontent: the rise of streaming—which we explained at great length in this Big Story. TLDR: Writers simply make far less money in the compensation model embraced by online platforms. As a result of the strike, all late night shows ground to a halt—as did big budget productions like ‘The Last of Us’, ‘Blade Runner 2099’ and ‘The Mandalorian’. And to add to the studios’ woes: the actors went on strike in July—expressing similar concerns—about both streaming and AI.
What happened now: The WGA has called off the strike—and reached a tentative deal with the studios. Here’s all we know about it:
“We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional — with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership,” WGA’s negotiating committee wrote in a memo to members on Sunday night. The union did not release deal points, but the proposed contract is said to include bonuses tied to the success of high-budget subscription streaming programs and address the guild’s deep concerns around artificial intelligence, among other topics.
It will take weeks or even months for production activity to resume in earnest—since the deal has to be authorised by the guild committee. Also: the actors are still on strike. And their concerns about AI—who owns the likeness or voice of an actor—are stronger than those of writers. But late night shows should be back on track soon. (Los Angeles Times)
The asteroid has landed!
Well, not the entire asteroid—but a cupful of rubble collected by NASA’s spacecraft Osiris-Rex. Launched in 2016, it was tasked with using a “long stick vacuum” to hoover up samples from Bennu—which is 82 million kilometres away. Seven years later, it dropped a capsule in a desert in Utah—carrying a precious cargo of pebbles and dust. Why it's precious: these are “preserved building blocks from the dawn of our solar system 4.5 billion years ago.” Osiris-Rex is already on its next mission: heading out to the asteroid Apophis—and will reach it in 2029. The Verge has lots more on the objective of the mission. A must-watch: NASA’s vid of the Bennu mission. (Associated Press via The Hindu)
Asian Games: India’s flying start
We have won 11 medals since the games started on Sunday—and are at #5.The men’s shooting team won the first gold in the 10m rifle event. Their overall total—1893.7—was a new world record. The women’s team clinched a silver. The Indian women’s cricket team also brought home a gold—beating Sri Lanka by 19 runs. The men’s rowing team bagged five medals—two silver and three bronze—among them. Indian Express has a handy list of all the medals won by the Indians so far.
Speaking of winners: The first-ever Indian Grand Prix motorcycle race was held at the Buddh International Circuit in Noida. The winner: Italian racer Marco Bezzecchi. You can see the winning moment below—which includes Yogi energetically waving the chequered flag. (Mint)
Amazon gets in the AI race
The company will invest up to $4 billion in the AI startup Anthropic:
Amazon said that, as part of the deal, Anthropic would be using its custom chips to build and deploy its AI software. Amazon also agreed to incorporate Anthropic’s technology into products across its business.
Founded in 2021, it has an AI assistant called Claude and is a rival to OpenAI’s ChatGPT. The company also received a $300 million investment from Google earlier this year. FYI: OpenAI has a $10 billion partnership with Microsoft. (Wall Street Journal, paywall, The Guardian)
Speaking of ChatGPT: The AI chatbot can now see, hear, and speak. You can now hold a conversation with it—and show it images so it can better understand what you’re on about:
Snap a picture of a landmark while travelling and have a live conversation about what’s interesting about it. When you’re home, snap pictures of your fridge and pantry to figure out what’s for dinner (and ask follow up questions for a step by step recipe). After dinner, help your child with a math problem by taking a photo, circling the problem set, and having it share hints with both of you.
Hmm, a much smarter Alexa. No wonder Amazon is racing to get ahead. The Open AI blog has more details on the new features. But all these goodies are for paid subscribers only.
Speaking of near-obsolete tech: NFTs are officially a dud. According to a new report, 95% of people holding NFT collections are holding onto worthless investments. That’s around 23 million folks suffering from severe buyer’s remorse. That said, those Bored Ape NFTs are still going strong. The Hindu has more on the report.
India: A nation of trial volunteers
New research has found that at least 26 global clinical trials had recruited or planned to recruit 60% or more of its volunteers from India. Now, this isn’t as bad as it sounds—since only 3% of all clinical trials are held in India. But experts argue there is no reason for any multi-country trial to recruit more than 50% of its participants from a single nation.
What’s notable: 18 of the 20 incomplete trials did not involve diseases that were especially prevalent in India. And some were conducted by Russian and Brazilian companies—which have large populations in their own countries. Why this matters: “Because trials might come with risks, such a distribution pattern enables a fair distribution of risks and potential benefits across volunteers from all participating countries.” (The Telegraph)
Good news for garlic breath
Scientists have identified the ultimate bad breath buster: dahi! A new study found that yoghurt neutralises strong odours—including garlic. The reason: it contains fat and protein—both of which are good at trapping odours. FYI: any kind of yoghurt will work—especially the richer Greek kind. And you need to consume it almost immediately after you have the garlic. Hello raita, curd rice etc etc. We Indians are clearly geniuses. (Independent UK)
Three things to see
One: Artemisia Gentileschi is one of the great painters in history—who never received the credit she was due because, well, ovaries. One of her paintings has been discovered—after lying in storage for over a 100 years. The subject of the painting is not quite as happy as the news. ‘Susanna and the Elders’ shows a biblical figure called Susanna—who was falsely accused of infidelity when she rejected the advances of two men in her garden.
The theme is also poignant because it reflects the seventeenth century artist’s painful personal history. Raped as a teenager, she had undergo a brutal seven-month trial of her abuser—and was forced to endure torture as a means to verify her testimony. The Guardian has more on the discovery—while the New Yorker offers an excellent deep dive into Gentileschi’s life and work.
Two: History can be a funny thing. People who are villains today may be recast as heroes tomorrow. Like 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka—a World War II veteran who received a standing ovation in the Canadian parliament. The enthusiastic folks cheering him on included Justin Trudeau and Volodymyr Zelensky. One little problem: this “Ukrainian hero” was a member of the SS. So yeah, he did fight the Russians… but for the wrong side. Whoops! Of course, everyone has since sheepishly apologised. You can see the embarrassing moment below. (Reuters)
Three: Mirror, mirror on the wall! Who is the fairest tarantula of them all? Chilobrachys natanicharum, of course! The electric blue spider is a brand new species discovered in a mangrove forest in Thailand. FYI: It is quite rare to find the colour blue in nature. (Phys.org)