Monsoon Music: Once a month, we gather the best suggestions from the splainer fam to put together an awesome playlist—each with its own theme. This month's theme: 'Singin' in the Rain'—perfect for monsoon season. We need you to name the artist and the track—and tell us in a sentence why you picked it and then put in the link for it. Our super-short survey form is here.
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Opposition alliance: Yeh hai INDIA!
Mirroring Modi-ji’s love for acronyms (see: VIKAS or Vidyut, Kanoon Aur Sadak), 26 opposition parties have picked a name for their alliance: INDIA, as in, Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance. The name is Rahul Gandhi’s brain-child but was approved and proposed by Mamata Banerjee at the Bangalore meeting. Apparently, the Left parties wanted the name V (victory) for India or We for India. Jokes apart, Gandhi’s rhetoric made it clear why INDIA was the final choice: “This is going to be a battle between the ideology of the BJP and INDIA, this is going to be a battle between Narendra Modi and INDIA, India always wins.” The Hindu reports on the debate over the name.
The real hard work of figuring out how to share seats has been postponed. Most importantly, Rahul Gandhi made it clear that Congress was not interested in the PM post. And the joint statement was thin on specifics. However, it unequivocally declared opposition to anti-minority politics, love for the Constitution and support for a caste census (See: Our Big Story on why this is a key issue). The Telegraph has more on Congress’ new attitude.
Missing in action: In a predictable bit of counter-programming, the BJP held its own alliance meeting in Delhi—with 38 smaller parties. But a notable number chose to remain ‘non-aligned’. Examples: Akali Dal in Punjab, JD(S) from Karnataka, Mayawati’s BSP, Biju Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal and Telengana’s ruling party BRS.
Disney Hotstar vs Google: The app store battle
Under a new payment system, Google imposes a 15% "service fee" on all subscriptions bought or renewed on an app in its PlayStore. Disney filed a lawsuit in Tamil Nadu challenging the model—claiming that Google threatened to remove their app from its store if the company failed to pay. The court has ruled in Disney’s favour—blocking Google from removing the Hotstar app and directing it to impose a lower 4% service fee.
Point to note: Google recently claimed that it charges the lowest service fees among the major app stores. And only 3% of developers in India sell digital goods or services and therefore have to pay a service fee. It estimated less than 60 of the over 200,000 Indian developers on Google Play pay a service fee of above 15%. (Reuters)
Splainer’s point to note: The low numbers are most likely because chota fish like us cannot offer in-app payments for subscriptions—and have to force a potential customer to go to the website to buy or renew their subscription. That kind of friction is terrible for a small biz.
Authors unite against AI pilfering
Around 8000 leading authors have penned an open letter calling on six AI companies to stop using their work without permission or compensation. The signatories include Nora Roberts, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Michael Chabon and Margaret Atwood. They have called out all the big guns such as Meta, OpenAI and Alphabet. As of now, there are no plans to sue these companies—unlike Sara Silverman and others who recently filed a lawsuit.
That said, literary agents are already thinking of how to protect the author’s copyright by putting new language into their contracts. And the industry is pushing lawmakers to craft new legislation around AI. But here’s the real catch, as one agent points out: "How does one even know if a book is in a data set that was ingested by an AI program?" (NPR)
Unethical AI is here: Say hello to WormGPT—a version of ChatGPT aimed at helping online criminals. It can help you compose phishing emails, malware etc. Dataconomy has all the details.
Tesla directors settle lawsuit
Tesla’s board directors include Elon Musk’s brother Kimbal, Oracle founder Larry Ellison, and media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s son James Murdoch. None of them are hurting for money—and yet they paid themselves a staggering 11 million stock options between 2017 and 2020. A stockholder pension fund out of Detroit sued them for giving themselves “excessive and unfair compensation.”
They have now settled the lawsuit—paying back the company $735 million—which is the equivalent to 3.1 million Tesla stock options. They also agreed to forgo any compensation for the years 2021, 2022, and 2023.Point to note: this settlement does not impact Elon Musk's $56 billion compensation package which is currently under scrutiny in a separate lawsuit that went to trial last year. (Quartz)
More good news for Alzheimer’s patients
The context: Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) affects one in ten people over the age of 65. It literally erodes our brain, inevitably ending in death. One of the ways in which AD is detected is by observing the build of plaques—patches of abnormal tissue—in the brain of patients. These are caused by the buildup of two proteins amyloid and tau. The most recent drug to be approved—Leqembi—modestly slows cognitive decline by targeting these plaques.
The drug works rapidly and can clear nearly 90% of amyloid plaque from the brain… Removing the toxic protein early enough seems to reduce the damage caused to the brain and slow the rate of cognitive decline.
And it slows cognitive decline by 36% for those with a moderate buildup of plaque. To put it differently, the loss of functionality will slow by 4.4 to 7.5 months over the period of 18 months. But the risk of brain swelling seems to be higher than Leqembi. And neither drug can reverse the damage caused by Alzheimer’s. New York Times has more details about the study and The Guardian explains why it matters.
PS: We did a two-part series on this devastating disease. The first part looked at what we know about AD—and the shocking amount that we don’t. Part two examined a new and persuasive Alzheimer’s hypothesis: it’s caused by a virus—a common herpes virus, at that.
Sticking with serious diseases: A new report shows that heart failure leads to 1.8 million hospitalizations in India every year. And nearly 1.5% of the population is suffering from this disease. (The Print)
No takers for the Commonwealth Games
The state of Victoria, Australia, has cancelled its plans to host the games in 2026. The reason: the potential revenue does not justify the sky-high costs. The projected spend is now 3X the original estimate of $1.8 billion—and is "more than twice the estimated economic benefit" it would bring to Victoria. FYI: the event had struggled to find hosts before Victoria stepped up to the plate. Many are criticising its government for exaggerating the costs—and the chief executive of Commonwealth Games Australia has vowed to find an Australian host for the games. What amused us:
The [UK] prime minister's spokesman… rejected a claim the move was a sign of the decline of the Commonwealth as a whole, suggesting the King's coronation showed "the strength of the Commonwealth and commitment of countries to it.”
When all else fails, there’s always the royal family. (BBC News)
The most powerful passport in the world is…
Not Indian, of course lol! The winner this year is Singapore—which has toppled Japan from its top spot. A Singaporean can visit 192 countries without a visa. Germany, Italy and Spain are tied for 2nd place—and Japan has fallen to #3. As for India, we are at #80—and our passport allows visa-free travel to 57 countries. (Bloomberg News, paywall)
Two things to see
One: We have two excellent trailers for you today. The first is for ‘The Holdovers’ with Paul Giamatti—who plays a cranky teacher who bonds with his students over Christmas break. It releases in theatres on November 22.(The Hindu)
Two: This one is for ‘The Creator’—a sci-fi flick that plays out all sides of the heated debate over artificial intelligence. Of course, since this is Hollywood, there is a cute baby yoda-like kid in the mix. The cast is led by ‘Tenet’ star John David Washington. (Gizmodo)
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