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Researched by: Aarthi Ramnath & Anannya Parekh
A military crackdown on foreign tech
The Indian government has made two key moves to decrease the military’s dependence on foreign companies.
One: It banned Indian manufacturers from using Chinese parts in military drones. The US already did the same back in 2019. But a ban could be difficult to enforce:
Sameer Joshi, founder of Bengaluru-based NewSpace Research and Technologies, a supplier of small drones for India's military, said 70% of goods in the supply chain were made in China. "So if I talk to, let's say, a Polish guy, he still has his components which are coming via China," he said. Switching to a non-Chinese pipeline pushed up costs dramatically, Joshi said, adding that some manufacturers were still importing material from China but would "white-label it, and kind of keep the costs within that frame.”
Two: The Defence Ministry has decided to replace the Microsoft Operating System in all computers connected to the Internet with a new one called Maya—which is made in India. The aim: to prevent cyber and malware attacks. FYI: Chinese hackers breached US government accounts in early July—using Microsoft’s cloud services. (The Hindu)
An unprecedented FIR in Manipur
The Manipur police have registered a criminal case against the Assam Rifles for “obstruction of duty” and “criminal intimidation.” It is the oldest paramilitary force in the country—and is supervised by the Army. The soldiers are accused of helping Kuki militants flee—after killing three members of the Meitei community. The Assam Rifles have been repeatedly criticised for favouring the Kukis—by Meitei civil society groups and BJP MLAs since the start of ethnic violence. OTOH, Kukis have accused the police of aiding and abetting Meitei attacks. (The Hindu)
Going, going, gone: Simon & Schuster
The context: Back in 2013, Penguin merged with Random House to become the biggest publishing house in the world. Then in 2021, it inked a deal to acquire Simon & Schuster—and was promptly hit by an antitrust lawsuit by the US government. This deal valued Simon & Schuster at more than $2.2 billion. But left it in a limbo with the owner Paramount Global—who has been doing its best to get rid of it since 2020. We have everything on why S&S’ future matters to the world of publishing in this Big Story.
What happened now: Having failed to sell the company to Penguin Random House, Paramount has found a new buyer in an equity fund called KKR—which is buying the publishing house for $1.6 billion. Why this may not be good news:
Kohlberg Kravis Roberts is an investment company founded in 1976. Henry Kravis and George R. Roberts continue to hold positions as executive co-chairmen. They pioneered leveraged buyouts in the 1980s, culminating in one of the largest in history when they bought out RJR Nabisco in 1989. As first documented in the investigative blockbuster “Barbarians at the Gate,” the firm established an early record of buying companies, loading them up with debt, then squeezing them for profit—maybe most famously with the slow death of Toys R Us.
LA Times (paywall) has a very good explainer on why book-lovers should worry about this sale. (BBC News)
Google eyes big music deal
The company is negotiating with Universal Music Group—the largest recording label in the world—for a big AI deal. Google wants to licence voices and melodies for songs generated by artificial intelligence. The move addresses increasing industry fears about deepfakes—where an artist’s voice is simply ripped off to create new music:
Discussions between Google and Universal Music are at an early stage and no product launch is imminent, but the goal is to develop a tool for fans to create these tracks legitimately, and pay the owners of the copyrights for it, said people close to the situation. Artists would have the choice to opt in, the people said.
Warner Music has also been in talks with Google for a similar deal. Financial Times (paywall) has this exclusive.
Meanwhile, over at Marvel: Visual effects workers are making a big move to unionise. They often work 80 hours a week—and are expected to meet punishing deadlines. They want the same rights and protections as others in the industry—such as production designers, makeup artists etc. (Quartz)
Meanwhile, over at Paypal: The payments company launched a stablecoin—backed by the US dollar unlike most cryptocurrencies. The name is every bit as obvious and reassuring—you wouldn’t even know that you aren’t actually buying dollars: PayPal USD. Why this matters: this is the first time that a mainstream fintech company has bet big on crypto. Morning Brew has a good analysis of the move. (Reuters)
A worrying stat about air pollution
Ok, this is a bit scary. A groundbreakingstudy has linked antibiotic resistance to air pollution. This is typically linked to people—especially in developing countries—not taking their meds properly. Something to think about: the data only establishes a correlation not a cause-effect relationship:
Their model shows that particle pollution is to blame for 11% of changes in average antibiotic resistance levels around the world, making particle pollution potentially one of the leading drivers of antibiotic resistance. The study, which looked at nine bacterial pathogens and 43 types of antibiotics, suggests that every 1% rise in air pollution is linked to increases in antibiotic resistance between 0.5 and 1.9%, depending on the pathogen.
We all know the world is getting warmer. This we get. But there is a part of the Pacific Ocean that has been getting cooler for the past 30 years. The good news: the famous Galapagos islands will do very well since they are right part of this icy patch. But this is the worrying bit:
Not knowing what is causing it “means we also don’t know when it will stop, or whether it will suddenly flip over into warming”, New Scientist added. This has huge worldwide implications and “could determine whether California is gripped by permanent drought or Australia by ever-deadlier wildfires” as well as “the intensity of monsoon season in India and the chances of famine in the Horn of Africa.”
The New Scientist has the original story but it is paywalled. The Week has a good curation of the main deets.
In other environmental news: More than half Earth’s species live in the soil—which means you rarely see them. That’s the conclusion of a new study that found our matti contains half the creatures in the world. The Guardian has lots more on this fairly awesome discovery. We love the idea of having wonders buried in the garden—which is pretty much every kid’s motivating factor to drive their parents insane.
The tiny benefits of being Hindenburg
The context: The short-seller became terribly famous in India when it managed to tank the Adani Group’s stock overnight (we did a two-part series on this debacle). Now, a short-seller is supposed to make pots of money when it bets against the shares of a company—such as Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s payment firm Block in March and Carl Icahn’s holding company Icahn Enterprises in May.
What happened now: Bloomberg News says that all this name-calling hasn’t been all that profitable for Hindenburg. The company has erased as much as $99 billion of the combined wealth of these three men: Adani, Dorsey and Icahn. And it knocked off $173 billion of their companies. But, but, but:
In going after Adani’s empire, Anderson shorted bonds. Veterans steeped in that market say it would’ve been so difficult to build a sizable position that he probably notched a smaller gain. And his bet against Dorsey’s payments venture, Block Inc., may have been even more modest, based on market data.
One: Dekho, it’s a tiny teaser for ‘Don 3’. The big mystery is whether SRK is coming back—or will he be replaced by Ranveer Singh. Really? Just because he’s young-ish? Also: the actual trailer drops on August 11 in theatres. (Indian Express)
Two: Well, our dogs are just about toilet trained—but there are far worthier pooches that can surf waves in California—as part of the World Dog Surfing Championship near San Francisco. What we really loved: there was a ‘fetching contest’ for the hydrophobic ones. Haw. Yes, it is ‘A’ for effort for babies, people!! And really: you do not want to see dogs surfing? Really? (HuffPost)
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