Researched by: Sara Varghese, Rachel John & Aarthi Ramnath
The great earthquake: The latest update
The official death toll is now 36,000—with the vast majority of the deaths reported in Turkey. This is most likely because information out of Syria is hard to come by. A leading Turkish business group estimates the total damage to the Turkish economy will be $84.1 billion—$70.8 billion in the destruction of homes, $10.4 billion in loss of national income and $2.9 billion from loss of working days. The government’s estimate is $50 billion. Economists expect Turkey’s growth rate to fall by at least two percentage points this year.
Point to remember: President Recep Erdoğan is up for reelection next year—and the earthquake may well have torpedoed his prospects. Videos from 2019 show him praising the very building projects that collapsed during the earthquake—due to shoddy construction. Erdoğan is seen boasting that he gave contractors “zoning amnesties” to expedite housing projects. (NPR)
China vs US: Battle of the UFOs
As you may know, the Pentagon has shot down three unidentified flying objects in its airspace over the weekend. This is on the heels of an extended drama over a Chinese ‘spy’ balloon in US airspace (explained here)—which was taken down on February 4. Beijing has now accused the US of flying balloons into its airspace more than 10 times in the past year. A spokesman said:
It's not uncommon as well for the US to illegally enter the airspace of other countries… The first thing the US side should do is start with a clean slate, undergo some self-reflection, instead of smearing and accusing China.
Of course, Washington indignantly denied these allegations. The entire situation has turned into a farce. A US general said he “could not rule out that the objects were extraterrestrials”—while UK PM Rishi Sunak promised to protect hapless Brits from Chinese balloons with "something called the quick reaction alert force which involves Typhoon planes.” Sigh! (BBC News)
Adani stocks tumble… again!
The stock took a big hit after a Bloomberg report claimed that the Adani Group has decided to halve revenue targets for the next fiscal year—from 40% to 15-20%. The company did not issue a denial, but insisted that its listed companies had a “very healthy” balance sheet—backed by strong corporate governance and secure assets.
But that did little to reassure the market. The shares of Adani Enterprises plunged by almost 10%—while Adani Ports tumbled by 7.93%—though they did recover some losses by the end of the day. (The Telegraph)
Meanwhile, at the Supreme Court: The government told the Court that it has no objection to a special committee to investigate the Adani share debacle. But, but, but: they want to both “suggest” the scope of the committee’s mandate—and propose names of its members in a sealed cover. The Chief Justice’s response: “You come out with what you think can be the remit. Then we can modify it, we can reflect on it.”
The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) assured the Court that it “is already enquiring into both, the allegations made in the Hindenburg report as well as the market activity immediately preceding and post the publication of the report, to identify violations of SEBI Regulations.” (Indian Express)
Nissan/Renault bet big on India
The two companies will invest $600 million to make six new models in India—including two electric models and four sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) for sale in India and abroad. India is now the third largest car market in the world—but Nissan has lagged behind other rivals such as Hyundai and Suzuki. The first models will be made at the Nissan/Renault factory in Chennai—and will be launched in 2025. FYI: Renault and Nissan have been in a close partnership since 1999. (Reuters)
Heading for the exit: The corporate giant Alibaba—which has sold its remaining 6% stake in Paytm for $166 million. FYI: its fintech affiliate Ant Group still holds a 25% stake—and is a major investor. (Nikkei Asia)
The great Women’s IPL auction
The first-ever auction for the inaugural women’s premier league was held yesterday. The most valuable player: Smriti Mandhana who was snapped by the Royal Challengers Bangalore for a whopping Rs 34 million (3.4 crore)—that is more than 25% of the team’s total kitty. Australia’s Ashleigh Gardner fetched Rs 32 million (3.2 crore) from the Gujarat Giants—the same as England all-rounder Nat Sciver-Brunt who was snapped up by the Mumbai Indians. The Hindu has all the details—and team rosters. If you need a refresher on the WIPL, check out our recent Big Story.
Traffic is bad for your ears
A nationwide Danish study is the first to establish a link between traffic and hearing problems. It found that people exposed to traffic noise are at greater risk of developing tinnitus—a buzzing, ringing or humming in ears that affects 750 million people worldwide:
People’s risk rose 6% with every 10-decibel increase in road traffic noise compared with controls. Levels rose the longer a person had been exposed to higher road traffic noise. Women, people without a previous history of hearing loss, and people with higher education and income were at increased risk.
Again, this study establishes a link between the two but not a cause-effect relationship.
Data point to note: The Danish guidance level for harmful traffic noise is 58 decibels—which is often breached. But in India, the situation is far worse. The permissible limits for noise in residential areas is 55 and 45 decibels during day and night, respectively. However, in reality, the noise exceeds 80 decibels in most cities. (Washington Post)
Say hello to the Delhi-Mumbai expressway
The government inaugurated the first stage of a $13 billion project to build the longest expressway in the country. The route—which spans 1,386 km—will cut the travel time between the two cities by half—to 12 hours. The first 246 km stretch unveiled yesterday connects Delhi to Jaipur, cutting that journey by 1.5 hours. NDTV has lots of details on the ambitious project, while AFP via The Guardian offers the big picture.
Three things to see
One: Dubai may finally get a flying taxi service—an ambitious project that has been in the works since 2017 but never got off the ground. This time around, we have a 2026 deadline and the location of four “vertiports”—the first of which will be located next to the airport. And we have this cool promo vid shared by the government. (The Hindu)
Two: Six students from Jain University have been arrested for staging this skit—rife with casteist humour—as part of the college festival. They claim the skit was meant to be a satire and call out casteism—but later issued an apology. You can watch the snippets that went viral below. (The News Minute)
Three: Super Bowl Sunday is best known around the world for its fab halftime show and excellent commercials. Our fave from the 2023 edition is this heartwarming (read: emotionally manipulative) pet food ad. Other honourable mentions include: Ben Affleck’s Dunkin Donuts (don’t miss JLo’s cameo) and the Breaking Bad reunion for PopCorners. Check out the rest here.