Researched by: Aarthi Ramnath & Nirmal Bhansali
The good/bad news about India’s GDP
The Indian economy grew by 4.4% in the third quarter—a drop from 6.3% in the second quarter. So our economy is slowing down. The main reason: a slowdown in private consumption—the money we all spend—due to high inflation: “This has potentially dented personal disposable income of the consumers which, in turn, has impacted demand.” Private consumption accounts for 60% of the GDP. Our growth continues to be fueled by services while manufacturing sector numbers are a bit glum.
Ok, here’s the good news. India’s average annual GDP growth for last year was about 7%—making it one of the best-performing economies in the world. And it continues to grow despite rising inflation. In comparison, China’s annual growth rate was only 3%—the weakest performance since 1976—excluding the pandemic years. (The Telegraph)
Supreme Court rebuffs Manish Sisodia
The Court refused to hear the Delhi Deputy CM’s plea challenging his arrest by the CBI. Sisodia is accused of taking kickbacks in return for crafting a friendly liquor excise policy (explained here). The Court said his lawyers should have moved the Delhi High Court instead: “It will set a very wrong precedent. An incident occurs in Delhi, that does not mean we are approached.” Soon after the ruling, Sisodia and his fellow AAP minister Satyendar Jain—also jailed on corruption allegations—tendered their resignations. That’s a pretty big blow to AAP since Sisodia virtually ran the Delhi government—leaving Kejriwal free to focus on its national ambitions. (Indian Express)
Signs of election trouble in Nigeria
On Sunday, the country went to polls—marking the first time there was no candidate with a military background in the mix. As per the latest results, the head of the ruling party—Bola Tinubu—appears to be in the lead. But the three main opposition parties have come together to demand the cancellation of the presidential and parliamentary elections. They accused the country’s election commission of rigging the vote counts: “What we have seen is vote allocation and not collation.” It isn’t clear what will happen next. (Al Jazeera)
The weather forecast is…. hot, hot, hot!
According to the India Meteorological Department, India experienced the hottest February since 1877! The maximum temperatures shot past normal highs by 8-9°C. The department also warned that most parts of the country will experience heatwaves in the March-May period—accompanied by below-normal rainfall. The only places spared: northeastern states, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala and coastal Karnataka. (The Hindu)
A historic test win for New Zealand
The Kiwis beat England by a wafer-thin margin of one run. It is only the second time in test cricket history this has happened. Previously, West Indies beat Australia by a run in Adelaide in 1993. The Guardian calls it “an unforgettable day of Test cricket and one that delivered the rarest of margins.”
In other cricket news: Mukesh-bhai is turning up the pressure on the Mickey Mouse company. Reliance-backed Viacom18—which owns the streaming rights for IPL—recently announced that fans can watch all matches for free online. Disney Star is now thinking about broadcasting select IPL matches on free-to-air TV channels. The reason:
If the advertisers feel that they are not reaching out to certain consumers, who want it (IPL) free, and by free, I mean really free, with no hidden data cost etc., then we are evaluating to showcase some matches on free-to-air channels. But that’s something if there is advertiser demand. We want to be flexible with our advertisers.
Reminder: The TV and streaming rights for IPL were auctioned off for eye-watering amounts. So advertiser revenue is key. According to some media agencies, Disney Star has sold only about 30-35% of its ad inventory. (Mint)
Fox News is in big trouble
Fox News hosts were thrown under the bus by their own super-boss Rupert Murdoch. He was deposed in a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit filed against the news network. It is being sued by Dominion Voting Systems—which sells voting machines and software—for falsely claiming that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. Murdoch admitted that he did not believe there was election fraud—and was aware that his anchors were airing the lie—and even they knew otherwise.
More damningly: “Murdoch provided former President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, ‘with Fox confidential information about Biden’s ads, along with debate strategy’.” Yikes! Point to note: defamation laws in the US are highly protective of free speech. In this case, Dominion has to prove that Fox News hosts deliberately lied with “actual malice”—which is a high standard to meet in court. The Guardian has more on why legal experts think the company may actually win this one. (Associated Press)
A Dow-sized greenwashing scam
In 2021, the Singapore government announced an innovative partnership with petrochemicals giant Dow Inc. The company would “harvest the rubberized soles and midsoles of donated shoes, then grind down the material for use in building new playgrounds and running tracks in Singapore.” But a Reuters investigation reveals that the entire program may be a sham. The news agency fitted 11 pairs of shoes with a bluetooth tracker—and traced them to a second-hand goods exporter. Ten pairs ended up in various parts of Indonesia. We recommend reading the Reuters investigation—which shows you the sheer scale of sustainability scams.
Snapchat also has an AI Chatbot
Will the madness never end? After Bard and ChatGPT, Snapchat unveiled a conversational chatbot simply called ‘My AI’. It is only available for paid subscribers—and will roll out this week. Most amusing: Snap’s disclaimer which reads:
As with all AI-powered chatbots, My AI is prone to hallucination and can be tricked into saying just about anything. Please be aware of its many deficiencies and sorry in advance!
The Verge has more on Snap’s implementation which treats the chatbot most like a real person—with its own user profile: “The design suggests that My AI is meant to be another friend inside of Snapchat for you to hang out with, not a search engine.”
Here comes Elon! Not to be left behind, Elon Musk is putting together a team to develop a rival to ChatGPT. The news first broke as an Information exclusive (paywall)—but you can read the details over at Reuters.
Two things to see
One: Rejoice Sanjay Leela Bhansali fans! The director known for his lavish cinematography has released the first teaser for ‘Heeramandi’—a Netflix series that tells the stories of courtesans in Lahore. The cast—which includes Sonakshi Sinha, Aditi Rao Hydari and Manisha Koirala—is stellar. As for the blinged-out costumes, all we can say is ‘whoa!’ (Indian Express)
Two: A temple in Kerala unveiled a life-sized robot elephant—named Irinjadappilly Raman. He will participate in all the temple rituals—much as a real pachyderm. The idea is to end the cruel tradition of temple elephants—who lead solitary lives and are subjected to frightening fireworks and noise during festivals. The elephant was donated by the anti-animal cruelty group PETA—and cost Rs 5 lakhs. See the delightful Mr Raman below. (Indian Express)