Edited by: Piyasree Dasgupta
Researched by: Rachel John & Aarthi Ramnath
Govt suspends Wrestling Federation operations
Following the dharna staged by wrestlers last week, (explained here), the sports ministry suspended all activities of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) till an ‘Oversight Committee’ was formed to take over its operations.The ministry also suspended Vinod Tomar—the assistant secretary of WFI—on January 21. The ministry’s decision came hours after the WFI dismissed the allegations of sexual abuse levelled against president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and accused the protestors of harbouring a ‘hidden agenda to dislodge the current management’. The wrestlers, meanwhile, called off the protest after the government announced the formation of the committee. (Indian Express)
Meet New Zealand’s new PM
After Jacinda Ardern announced her surprise exit last week, New Zealand’s labour party picked Chris ‘Chippy’ Hipkins to be the next prime minister. Hipkins was the country’s Covid response minister under Ardern. Carmel Sepuloni was named as deputy PM—and is the first person of Pacific origin to be elected to the post. (Reuters)
Google announces layoffs
Google’s parent company Alphabet announced on January 20 that it is laying off 12,000 employees—approximately 6% of its total global workforce. The layoffs began in the US as soon as the announcement was made, while the company said that the overseas job cuts will take longer due to ‘local laws’ and other complications. In an email sent by Sundar Pichai to the company’s employees, the Alphabet CEO said he was ‘deeply sorry’ and took ‘full responsibility’ for the layoffs. He also explained that jobs were cut across ‘product areas, functions, levels and regions’.
Experts pointed out that one of the reasons behind the layoffs could be that advertising—the company’s primary source for revenue—has taken a hit in the past months. Google's announcement came just days after Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced 10,000 jobs will be cut from the company’s workforce and Amazon started laying off 18,000 employees. (Associated Press)
Brazil goes after illegal loggers
The Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (Brazilian Institute Of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources or IBAMA) launched raids in Brazil’s rainforest on January 19 to catch illegal loggers who have been cutting trees and clearing out forests over the past few years. The federal agency, under the country’s Ministry of Environment, has started these raids in the states of Para, Romaira and Acre to stop loggers and ranchers from turning forests into pasture lands.
Former president of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro had slashed the staff and budget for anti-deforestation enforcement measures taken by IBAMA leading to rapid disappearance of forests. When President Lula Da Silva assumed office on January 1 this year, he pledged to stop the rapid degradation of the Amazon rainforest. Point to note: Da Silva took office as the president of Brazil previously in 2003 when deforestation in Amazon was at an all-time high. By the time he left office in 2010, deforestation had reduced by a record 72% through the implementation of strict environmental laws.
Reuters has lots more details about the new anti-deforestation exercise.
Machu Picchu closed indefinitely
Peru closed down Machu Picchu indefinitely on January 21 and evacuated tourists as protests against the government intensified in the country. Till date, the protests have claimed 46 lives and left several others injured.
The protests followed the arrest of former president of Peru Pedro Castillo. In December last year, Castillo announced that he was dissolving the Congress, installing a new emergency government and would rule by decree. He was facing charges of corruption and an impeachment vote. Immediately after this move, Castillo was arrested and removed from office. Dina Boluarte, who was the vice president in Castillo’s government, took over as the first woman president of the country. Soon after, Castillo’s supporters began staging massive protests across the country demanding his release and return to office. (Al Jazeera)
Why we see fewer stars in the sky
A new study claims that a sharp increase in light pollution is reducing the number of stars visible to the naked eye. The study published in the journal Science explains that places from where 250 stars are visible at present, will only have 100 visible stars left in 18 years.
The researchers attribute the decline in the number of stars visible to the eye to an increase in artificial lighting across the world as new technologies are put to use and cities expand rapidly, leading to the installation of more man made lights.
The study, however, is limited to the skies of North America and Europe. (BBC News)
TikTok’s meddling with your ‘personalised’ feed
An investigation conducted by Forbes magazine found that Tiktok and its parent company ByteDance engage in a practice called ‘heating’ where the company employees hand-pick videos that appear on a user’s “For You” page, boosting their views and making them go viral. This challenges TikTok’s public stand that the content visible on the “For You” page is exclusively determined by an algorithm that studies a user’s behaviour and viewing patterns on the app. In the course of conducting the investigation the found that:
“The total video views of heated videos accounts for a large portion of the daily total video views, around 1-2%, which can have a significant impact on overall core metrics.”
The same documents also claim that the purpose of ‘heating’ videos is to “support” creators and present a more diverse selection of content to users. (Forbes)
New rules for social media influencers
Social media creators will have to follow a new set of rules and the government can slap them with fines of up to Rs 5 million (50 lakh) and ban them from endorsements for up to six years if they fail to comply. In a press conference, Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) chief Nidhi Khare said:
The disclosure in an endorsement message should be in a manner that is clear, prominent and extremely hard to miss. In case of endorsement in a picture, disclosure should be superimposed over the image for viewers to notice. In a video, it should be placed in the video and not just in the description. And in the case of a livestream, disclosure should be displayed continuously in the form of a ticker during the entire length of the stream.
India crashes out of Hockey World Cup
India lost to a lower-ranked New Zealand in penalty shootouts on Sunday—crashing out of the Hockey World Cup being held in Odisha. They lost a 3-1 lead and allowed the Kiwis to level the game to 3-3. The team earned a total of 11 penalty corners but could convert only two to goals, missing several opportunities. It all came down to the wire at the penalty shootouts:
Thanks to the heroics of seasoned goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, who pulled off a couple of brilliant saves, India fought back to 3-3 in the shootout and had two golden chances in the sudden death, but Shamsher Singh missed the final effort to lose 4-5, leading to heartbreak for the home crowd at the jampacked stadium.
Two things to see
One: A large circular cloud-like formation which changed colour from orange to red to yellow was seen over Turkey’s Bursa region last week, sending all UFO conspiracy theorists into an overdrive. However, there was nothing extraterrestrial about it and was just a peculiar-looking lenticular cloud. These clouds are formed when a current of moist air travels up the side and over the top of a mountain. The moisture condenses to form a cloud. (Yahoo News)
Two: A Canadian wildlife photographer has captured extremely rare footage of a moose shedding off its antlers for the winter season. Moose are common to North America and can grow up to 5 to 6.5 feet in height. In winters, when food becomes scarce, they undergo a series of physical changes to conserve energy—including shedding their massive antlers. These antlers then regrow in the spring. While shed antlers are commonly found in forests, video evidence of the shedding is extremely rare. (The Guardian)