Researched by: Aarthi Ramnath & Nirmal Bhansali
BBC’s tax ordeal ends
The income tax survey conducted in the Delhi and Mumbai offices finally came to an end late Thursday night. Reminder: it began at 11:30 am on Tuesday. BBC says it will continue to cooperate with authorities—but also “continue to report without fear or favour.” Vir Sanghvi in The Print explains why the tax tamasha was a self-goal for the government. Scroll has a piece on increasingly anxious foreign correspondents—who have realised that their governments are more interested in doing business with India than protecting their rights. To which, some Indian journos said: welcome to the club. (The Telegraph)
The great earthquake: The latest update
The death toll has now passed 41,000—but there are still miracles to celebrate. Example: three women and two children who were found alive after nine days! See the clip of 74-year-old Cemile Kekec being pulled out of the rubble below:
Syrians are still struggling without aid—and many are pointing the finger at the UN:
The UN did not provide aid to Syria for days, saying logistical issues were to blame. When aid did arrive following the opening of a second border crossing through Turkey, rescuers said they did not supply any of the heavy machinery required to remove rubble. "It has never happened before, that there was an earthquake somewhere and the international community and the UN don't help," said Raed Saleh, who is leading the White Helmets rescue force in opposition-held areas.
Something to see: YoYo Ma offered this beautiful rendition of Adnan Saygun's Partita on the cello, to show support to the victims.
An unexpected conflict: New Delhi vs Tehran
The context: India will be hosting a G-20 summit on March 1 and 2—when the foreign ministers of the world’s biggest economies will descend on New Delhi. Right after the event, the think-tank Observer Research Foundation will co-host the Raisina Dialogues in partnership with the External Affairs Ministry. The invited guests include foreign ministers from nations that are not part of the G-20—for example, Iran.
What happened now: The ORF video promoting the Raisina Dialogues includes a 2-second shot of Iranian women cutting their hair in protest (explained here)—alongside Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi. This has so enraged Tehran that its foreign minister has cancelled his trip—because ORF/MEA stubbornly refused to cut out the offending two seconds. What makes this new-found feminism intriguing:
Significantly, New Delhi has not commented on the protests since they erupted. And last November, India abstained on a resolution adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to set up a fact-finding mission into alleged human rights violations in Iran committed on the protesters in the country by state authorities.
You can see the promo video below. (Indian Express)
YouTube gets a desi CEO
You can add YouTube to the long list of big companies helmed by Indian Americans. Its long-time CEO Susan Wojcicki is stepping down after nine years. She is also one of Google’s earliest employees:
Wojcicki’s departure also has meaningful symbolism for Google and tech in general. For years, she has been one of the very few women to operate a huge tech business. And she was an integral part of Google’s founding — she famously rented out her Silicon Valley garage to co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin in 1998, and joined the company as its 16th employee a year later.
Wojcicki is being replaced by her lieutenant Neil Mohan—who has been YouTube’s Chief Product Officer since 2015. The Stanford graduate started his career at Accenture and then joined the startup NetGravity—which was bought by DoubleClick—which was bought by Google. In other words, a classic Silicon Valley kahaani. Vox has more on Wojcicki's legacy.
Spain’s groundbreaking gender rights law
The parliament approved groundbreaking legislation expanding abortion and transgender rights for teenagers—and paid menstrual leave for workers. It is the first European nation to do so. The leftwing coalition government also made it mandatory for public hospitals to provide abortions—and 16- and 17-year-olds can now undergo an abortion without parental consent. Kids can legally change their gender—with a judge’s authorisation when they are 12-13 years old—and need to be accompanied by their parents when they’re between 14 and 16. (Associated Press)
Two health studies of note
Baby formula: A worrying study of baby formula products across 15 different countries—including India—shows that many nutritional claims made by their manufacturers are spurious:
Multiple ingredients were claimed to achieve similar health or nutrition effects, multiple claims were made for the same ingredient type, most products did not provide scientific references to support claims, and referenced claims were not supported by robust clinical trial evidence.
The Guardian has more details.
Children & compassion: A new study suggests that 4-5 year old children are naturally inclined to help others in distress—but not if helping others costs them a reward. They were promised a sticker if they finished a jigsaw puzzle—and some got extra pieces while others had just enough. This is what happened:
Across all of the studies we did, whenever they had extra resources, the children always help. But when you just give the child enough pieces for them to complete it themselves, that’s when they don’t. When they didn’t help, they would try to console the puppet’s distress, by saying things like ‘it’s OK’ or ‘maybe next time’, but of course when you do the next task they didn’t help again.”
Such matlabi jerks lol! (Independent UK)
Paging Olaplex users!
The hair care brand is widely used around the world—most often to revive dry or damaged hair. The company is now being sued by 30 women who claim its products damaged their hair and scalps and left them with bald spots:
The plaintiffs allege the Olaplex products do the opposite, leaving their hair "dry, brittle, frizzy and dull," according to the lawsuit… One plaintiff said her hair became split and broken, making it look as if it had been cut using a "weedwhacker."
While the company denies any problem with their products, the lawsuit alleges that the problem lies with ingredients used by Olaplex such as "lilial" and "panthenol"—which can lead to conditions causing hair loss and scalp injuries. The lawsuit may not have any merit, but it’s always good to know if something in your bathroom is the subject of a lawsuit. (CBS News)
Two entertainment stories of note
Bruce Willis: A year ago, his family announced that he had stepped away from acting because he had aphasia—”a loss of the ability to understand or express speech.” Now they have confirmed that he has been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. There are no treatments for this progressive disease:( (The Hindu)
Tanmay Bhat: and fellow comedian Samay Raina have been dropped from a new ad campaign for Kotak Mahindra. The reason: Bhat’s decade-old tweets making a joke about Ganesha. This is a bit ironic since Bhat’s rape jokes have been far more offensive—but didn’t bother India Inc one bit. See a collection of some of these tweets here. (Indian Express)
Two things to see
One: Entertainment companies are big on using tech to resurrect the dead these days. The latest to make a ‘zombie’ appearance: Walt Disney. In the company’s video, Mickey Mouse plays a wizard who brings the dead founder to life—as a hologram. But sadly, the newly-alive Disney doesn’t have anything interesting to say. You can watch the vid below. (Vulture)
Two: It was only a matter of time before YouTube influencers tried to cash in on the recent obsession with spy balloons (explained in this Big Story). Two UK content creators decided to fly a balloon with a GoPro over the Chinese embassy in London: “We saw a balloon was shot down in the USA, so we thought if China can spy on the West, then why can’t the West spy on China?” The London police were not amused. See a 1-minute clip below—while the full drama is here. (New York Post)