Researched by: Rachel John & Anannya Parekh
Israel-Palestine War: The latest update
For more context on the Israel-Palestine war, check out our Big Stories on: The motive for the Hamas attack; the effect of civilian casualties on Gaza’s post-war fate; and the deal for a four-day truce.
Death toll: More than 15,000 people have been killed in Gaza, which includes 6,150 children and over 4,000 women. About 7,000 people are missing under the rubble including 4,700 children and women.
Truce extended: The four-day lull in hostilities will be extended by another two days. Hamas has freed a total of 69 people since Friday, including both Israelis and foreigners. Israel now says 184 hostages are still being held in Gaza—including 14 foreigners and 80 Israelis with dual nationality. Point to note: Some of them are being held by smaller militant groups—not Hamas. They have to be first tracked down to be released. (Reuters)
Elon Musk in Tel Aviv: In a fresh bid to combat accusations of anti-semitism, the X owner landed in Israel. He visited a kibbutz where dozens were killed by Hamas—in the company of PM Benjamin Netanyahu. Critics have accused Netanyahu of helping Musk whitewash his history of supporting anti-semitic discourse. One likely reason: Musk has agreed not to deploy Starlink—the satellite internet service in Gaza for aid agencies during Israel-imposed internet blackouts “without the permission” of Israel.
Quick reminder: Big brands like Apple, IBM etc suspended their advertising on X after Musk supported a post that accused Jewish communities of pushing “hatred against whites”—a comment that cost X tens of millions of dollars. Watch the Musk vid released by Israel below. (New York Times)
Palestinian students shot: A 48-year-old Vermont man was charged with three counts of attempted second-degree murder—for shooting at three college students of Palestinian descent. Two of them were apparently wearing a keffiyeh and they were speaking in Arabic at the time. One person is in critical condition. (Al Jazeera)
Uttarkashi tunnel rescue: The latest update
The context: Forty one workers have been trapped in a collapsed tunnel that was under construction in Uttarakhand since November 12. We explained the collapse, the struggle to rescue the workers—and the reasons for this tragedy in our Big Story. Over the weekend, the blades of an American drilling machine hit a metallic grinder in the rubble and broke down—halting the rescue operations for the third time in 15 days.
What happened now: In a renewed effort to rescue the workers, authorities are using a technique known as ‘rat mining.’ It is used by coal miners in places like Meghalaya—where they make holes large enough for a single person to enter and extract coal. Two such rat hole miners have crawled into a 45-metre pipe drilled into the tunnel—put in place by the drilling machine before it broke down. They will now attempt to remove the remaining 12 metres of debris—using “a handheld drill machine, hammer, trowel, shovel and a shallow pan (tasala) for an ‘inspection’.” The Telegraph has lots more on the operation.
Tata Consultancy accused of theft in US
A Texas jury awarded Computer Sciences Corporation $210 million in damages—in a verdict that found Tata Consultancy Services guilty of stealing its source code and documentation. CSC had licensed its software platforms to Transamerica Corporation—a life insurance holding company—which in turn hired TCS to provide maintenance services. TCS could alter CSC's software, but only for the benefit of its customer—Transamerica. Then this happened:
All was well until 2016, when Transamerica decided it needed to refresh its software. CSC and Tata both put in bids. CSC lost, and Tata won with its own software platform called BaNCS. The circumstances got sticky at this point, not least because Tata hired more than 2,000 Transamerica employees. CSC alleged that these former employees had access to its code and documents, and forwarded them on to the Tata BaNCS development team.
In other words, TCS is accused of ripping off CSC’s software to create its own copycat version. And there’s an incriminating employee email that appears to confirm it. The Register has all the details on the CSC case.
Point to remember: Earlier this month, TCS revealed that the US Supreme Court declined to hear its challenge against a ruling that awarded another company—EPIC Systems—$140 million in damages. Again, TCS was found guilty of "brazenly stealing the trade secrets, confidential information, documents and data" belonging to EPIC—while consulting for EPIC’s customers.
Also feeling lawsuit-happy: Elon Musk—who is suing Sweden’s Transport Agency. The reason: a postal workers strike that halted the delivery of licence plates for new Tesla vehicles. Associated Press has that story.
Mounting losses for Myanmar junta
The context: Myanmar military seized power in February 2021—ousting Prime Minister Aung San Suu Kyi and placing her under arrest. Rebellions by ordinary citizens and militia groups have been ruthlessly suppressed. The junta has seemed invincible until now. Read our Big Story for more background.
What happened now: The seemingly invincible Myanmar military has suffered critical losses in its battle against rebel groups. Three key ethnic rebel groups have joined forces to launch Operation 1027—stretching the army thin as it fights on multiple battlefronts across different provinces. The Three Brotherhood Alliance has inflicted a series of defeats:
Most crucially, the rebels have seized towns in Myanmar’s crucial northern Shan State and severed overland trade routes to China. “The situation is unprecedented. The mighty Myanmar war machine is on the retreat,” says Pratap Heblikar, former special secretary, Government of India.
The Telegraph has an excellent report on this bit of good news—though it's far too early to predict what will happen in the long run.
India clarifies US ‘assassination’ accusation
The context: Last week, a Financial Times exclusive linked India to a conspiracy to assassinate Gurpatwant Singh Pannun. He is the lead counsel for Sikhs for Justice, an organisation that supports the demand for Khalistan—and an American-Canadian citizen. We don’t know the details of the plot—or why it was never carried out.
What happened now: The Indian High Commissioner to Canada—Sanjay Kumar Verma—gave a TV interview claiming there was a clear difference between US and Canadian allegations. Verma says Washington never accused the Indian government of being involved:
Those inputs are a nexus between gangsters, drug peddlers, terrorists, and gun runners in the US, and there is a belief that some of the Indian connections—now when I say Indian connections, I don’t mean Government of India connections, there’s 1.4 billion people, so some of the Indian connections are there—they are ready to investigate.
Verma also insists that Ottawa has not presented any credible information that can be investigated. Reminder: The US National Security Council has confirmed that Washington issued a warning to India. President Biden also raised the matter with PM Modi during the G20 summit in Delhi in September. (Indian Express)
No Malaysian visa required!
Malaysia is the latest country to grant visa-free entry to Indian tourists—for stays up to 30 days. The policy now covers India, China, Sri Lanka and Thailand. India is one of the top sources of tourism. In 2022, more than 320,000 Indians visited the country. Malaysia has set a target of 16.1 million tourist arrivals in 2023 to boost its economic growth. Reminder: Thailand, Vietnam and Sri Lanka have also removed visa requirements for Indians for the same reason. (The Hindu)
An appalling Alia Bhatt deepfake vid
The clip morphs a suggestive soft porn—pasting Bhatt’s face over a woman’s body (you can see it here—if you need to). This is the latest in a barrage of deepfakes featuring celebs—including Rashmika Mandanna, Kajol, Katrina Kaif and Sara Tendulkar. The government has announced plans to target such offences—raising the punishment to Rs 100,000 in fines plus three years in jail. But experts worry that the technology is rapidly outpacing tools that detect AI fakes—which may be the bigger challenge. The Quint has more on the worries in India.
In highly related news: Merriam-Webster announced its word of the year—which is “authentic.” The reason: “We see in 2023 a kind of crisis of authenticity. What we realize is that when we question authenticity, we value it even more.” Associated Press has more on the other words that made the list.
That’s Captain Gill to you!
The Gujarat Titans traded its skipper Hardik Pandya to the Mumbai Indians—and has now replaced him with young Shubman Gill. The all-rounder was a star performer for the team last season—scoring 890 runs in 17 matches—with three centuries and four fifties. Reminder: Titans lost to CSK in the final this year. (ESPNCricInfo)
Also winning big: Irish author Paul Lynch—who has won the prestigious Booker Prize for his novel ‘Prophet Song’. The dystopian novel is set in an “imagined Dublin” that is descending into tyranny and totalitarianism. The Guardian has more on the book plus a short profile of the author with the others who were shortlisted.
Two things to see
One: Gujarat police is taking crowd management to new heights. It will be monitoring devotees making the annual pilgrimage to Junagadh using manned paragliders. Unimpressed Twitterati advised the police to deploy unmanned drones instead. Hey, paragliders look a lot more goofy and fun. (Hindustan Times)
Two: The teaser for the prequel to ‘Kantara’—the blockbuster Kannada flick—just dropped. Hombale Films unveiled the first glimpse of ‘Kantara A Legend: Chapter 1’. Yes, Rishab Shetty is still the lead. (The Hindu)