Researched by: Rachel John, Nirmal Bhansali & Anannya Parekh
A secret US push to oust Imran Khan?
The Intercept has published a confidential diplomatic cable—aka ‘cypher’—that suggests Washington exerted pressure to remove the former Pakistani Prime Minister. The cable details a conversation between Pakistan’s then-ambassador to the US, Asad Majeed, and Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu. And it took place less than two weeks after Khan visited Moscow on February 24—the day Russia invaded Ukraine.
If the cable is to believed, the bullying was pretty blatant:
Lu then bluntly raises the issue of a no-confidence vote: “I think if the no-confidence vote against the Prime Minister succeeds, all will be forgiven in Washington because the Russia visit is being looked at as a decision by the Prime Minister,” Lu said, according to the document. “Otherwise,” he continued, “I think it will be tough going ahead.”
Government vs the Supreme Court: Round #2
The context: Just days after passing the Delhi services bill—which blithely overturned a Supreme Court ruling—the government is set to do it all over again. Back in March, the Court had set out new rules for the Election Commission. To ensure it remains independent—which is essential for fair elections—the landmark judgement said the ruling party will no longer have the sole power to select its members. They will instead be picked by a committee of three: The PM, leader of the Opposition and the Chief Justice of India.
What happened now: The government has tabled a bill that nullifies the Supreme Court order. Its version of the three-member committee instead consists of the PM, Leader of the Opposition and—wait for it—a cabinet minister nominated by the PM. In other words, the CJI has been ignominiously discarded—to give the government the deciding vote. Indian Express has more on the bill while this Twitter thread clearly lays out what’s wrong with it.
Zee aur Sony ki shaadi: It’s official!
The context: Sony and Zee announced their merger back in 2021. Sony would own a 50.86% stake while Zee Entertainment’s promoters—Subash Chandra’s family—held on to 3.99% and its public shareholders would hold the remaining 45.15%. The merging of Zee’s 92 channels and Sony's global revenue of $86 billion will create a $10 billion TV enterprise. But the merger had to overcome a series of regulatory hurdles—including antitrust issues.
What happened now: The deal cleared one of the last obstacles standing in its way. The National Company Law Tribunal gave its seal of approval—despite objections of Zee’s lenders. What’s notable: one of the conditions of the merger is that Punit Goenka will continue to be the MD and CEO of the merged entity. But the security exchange regulators have barred him from holding any key managerial position in any listed company. The reason: He and his father Subash have been accused of siphoning company funds for personal benefit. This Big Story has lots more on the Goenkas’ murky financial dealings. (Economic Times)
The world’s most polluted city is…
Jakarta! The Indonesian capital has always been in the top ten—but it now experiences high levels of air pollution nearly every day. The reason for this dismal state of affairs: traffic and industrialization, especially smoke and coal-fired power plants. The government’s solution: moving the capital to a remote island called Nusantara (See: our Big Story)
Malaysian ban on Swatch watches
Back in May, authorities raided 11 Swatch stores seizing 164 rainbow watches from the Pride collection—because they “bore LGBT connotations.” The Swiss watchmaking company then sued the government for damages and for the return of the watches. Now, the government has made it a crime to own them: “All Swatch products that contain lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer elements — including watches, wrappers and boxes — were banned, warning that anyone found with one could be jailed for up to three years.” Wow! (NBC News)
Please e-sign that Google Doc!
You no longer have to get a separate app to e-sign any document. Google Drive and Docs are getting a beta version of eSignatures—which seems pretty nifty:
Screenshots published by Google show how Docs and Drive users will be able to request a full signature or initials from recipients, and there’s also a “date signed” box that can be set to auto-fill. Multiple signature requests can be generated from the same template contract, and Google says it also includes the ability to track the status of pending signatures.
The only catch: everyone involved has to be on Gmail. Since it’s in beta, the feature is restricted to personal emails—and isn’t available to business accounts as yet. (The Verge)
A few steps to save your life
According to a new study, being even slightly active is excellent for your health. Forget 10,000 steps—even as little as 4,000 (exactly 3,967) daily steps could reduce the risk of death from any cause. And 2,337 steps a day can reduce the risk of diseases of the heart and blood vessels. Time to count the number of steps it takes to get from the couch and refrigerator—and back. (Forbes, paywall, The Guardian)
The ultimate ‘killer app’… for recipes
Yes, the machines are indeed trying to kill you. A New Zealand supermarket decided to experiment with using AI to generate meal plans: “It asks users to enter in various ingredients in their homes, and auto-generates a meal plan or recipe, along with cheery commentary.” At first, the dishes were merely inedible: “oreo vegetable stir-fry.” But as customers started adding more stuff from their shopping lists, the app lost the plot:
One recipe it dubbed “aromatic water mix” would create chlorine gas. The bot recommends the recipe as “the perfect nonalcoholic beverage to quench your thirst and refresh your senses.” “Serve chilled and enjoy the refreshing fragrance,” it says, but does not note that inhaling chlorine gas can cause lung damage or death.
To be fair, folks then gleefully egged on the AI to offer more murderous recipes—such as a bleach “fresh breath” mocktail, ant-poison and glue sandwiches, “bleach-infused rice surprise” and “methanol bliss”—a kind of turpentine-flavoured french toast. Needless to say, the supermarket chain is furious. (The Guardian)
Three things to see
One: Air India has a new logo—and it isn’t as fun as the portly Maharaja.
The Vista draws inspiration from the iconic Indian window design used by the erstwhile Air India. The airline said the new logo signifies limitless possibilities, progressiveness, and a bold outlook for the future.
Umm, okay. (Mint)
Two: Wildfires in Hawaii have devastated the historical town of Lahaina and killed at least 36 people. It was so bad that people—including kids—had to flee into the ocean for safety. (Associated Press)
Three: Back in November, Steve Jobs’s nasty old birkenstocks sold for $218,000. Now his fan has painstakingly made 30 replicas of that battered bit of footwear. Even movie stars don’t inspire this kind of insanity. One excellent observation from the Wall Street Journal: “While unlikely to fetch as much money on the open market, Josewong’s replica shoes do have one advantage over Jobs’s pre-worn pair: They don’t come preloaded with foot odour.” (Wall Street Journal)