Researched by: Rachel John, Nirmal Bhansali, Aarthi Ramnath & Anannya Parekh
NewsClick charges revealed
Government sources have shared more details of the case against the news website—whose editor was arrested yesterday in the midst of a shocking series of raids of journalists, contributors and staff. In their submission to the court, the police said the case was based on “secret inputs”—which claim foreign funds have been illegally infused into the country to disrupt its “sovereignty and territorial integrity.” As for the Chinese links:
The police accused the NewsClick founder of holding discussions with Neville Roy Singham, an “active member of Propaganda department of Communist Party of China”... Police said they had recovered around 4.73 lakh emails and the accused need to be confronted and interrogated to unearth the conspiracy.
More specifically, this is what the police said:
The emails “expose their intent to show Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh as not part of India… Their attempts to tinker with the northern borders of India and to show Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh as not parts of India in maps amount to an act intended towards undermining the unity and territorial integrity of India.”
The amount of money allegedly given to NewsClick has now shot up to Rs 1.15 billion (Rs 115 crore). And Purkayastha’s links to Gautam Navlakha—who was arrested in the Elgar Parishad case—was also highlighted:
[T]he remand application stated that he was a shareholder in NewsClick since its inception in 2018. “(He) remained involved in anti-Indian and unlawful activities such as actively supporting banned Naxal organisations and having anti-national nexus,” it said.
The police also claim the funds were distributed by NewsClick to Navlakha and other activists like Teesta Setalvad. NewsClick has issued a strong denial of all allegations. Purkayastha has been allowed to see his lawyer—who has still not been given a copy of the FIR. The Hindu has the most reporting on the charges—which include all sorts of allegations.
In related news: Journalists, students and lawyers held a protest in Jantar Mantar. Media groups including the Press Club of India sent an open letter to Chief Justice DY Chandrachud. The Telegraph has more on the show of solidarity.
AAP MP arrested by ED
A third key leader of the party has been arrested in connection to a liquor tax case. The first was AAP’s communication in-charge Vijay Nair—followed by Deputy CM Manish Sisodia earlier this year. They are both still in jail. The core allegation: They took money in exchange for introducing a lenient excise tax policy—and funnelled that money into the Punjab elections (See: this Big Story). Singh was expecting to be arrested—and even put up a poster outside his residence that said: ‘Phakkad house main ED ka swagat hai’ (ED is welcome at this penniless house). The Hindu has lots more on the case.
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry goes to…
Moungi Bawendi, Louis Brus and Alexei Ekimov who discovered “quantum dots”—and how to manufacture them, revolutionising nanotechnology. ‘Quantum dots’ are super tiny particles whose size makes them special:
In chemistry, the properties of a material are normally governed by its chemical makeup. But when material comes in nano-dimensions — as is the case with quantum dots — its size affects its colour and other properties.
If all of this sounds a bit esoteric, just know that they are widely used in television screens, LED lamps and to guide surgeons removing tumour tissue. Something to remember while you watch the World Cup this weekend:) (The Guardian)
A depressing and familiar story out of Iran
Over a year after Mahsa Amini died in police custody for “improperly” wearing a hijab—yet another woman has died in similar circumstances. Sixteen-year-old Armita Garawand was beaten into a coma by the morality police for not complying with hijab rules in the Tehran Metro. As with Amini, the government has put out a clearly false account: “State-run media, which published the edited footage, claimed the girl had instead fainted after a drop in blood pressure, leading her to hit the side of the train carriage.” The big question: will this death inspire a similar rebellion—or has the orthodox establishment beaten down any hope of change? The Guardian has more dismal details. Don’t know who Amini is? Read our Big Story on how her death almost inspired a revolution. You can see her being carried off the platform below:
Dam collapse in Sikkim
Sikkim’s biggest hydro power project Sikkim Urja (formerly Teesta Urja) has been severely damaged during flash floods. Five have died—and 22 soldiers are still missing. The Teesta river washed away parts of the highway that connects Sikkim to the rest of the country. Why this is a disaster: the Sikkim government has a 60% share in the project—which is valued around Rs 250 billion (25,000 crore). Also:
The breach has led to the release of an astonishing 5.08 million cubic metres of water from the hydro reservoir; and this deluge is now hurtling down the mountains, causing alarm among nearby communities. The scale of this breach is a matter of grave concern, with potential consequences ranging from environmental damage to the displacement of residents downstream.
Hindustan Times and NDTV have more on the damage to the dam. Indian Express looks at the trigger for the floods—a glacial lake “outburst” caused by heavy rainfall. You can see the extent of the damage below.
Google says ‘spam begone!’
The company is going to crackdown on bulk email in the new year. Anyone who sends over 5,000 emails to Gmail accounts in a single day will be subject to new rules. They will have to “strongly authenticate” their emails as per Google’s rules—and make it super easy for recipients to unsubscribe. And this:
Google will also require bulk senders to stay under a clear spam rate threshold — something the company notes is an industry first. This means that if enough users are marking a sender’s emails as spam, the bulk sender could lose access to users’ inboxes.
TechCrunch has more on the changes that will kick in around February.
Speaking of Google: The company unveiled the latest generation of Pixel phones—which comes loaded with lots of AI features—and is more expensive. Quartz has the details.
Giving Google competition: Zoom—which has launched its own version of the cloud-based word processing software called—unimaginatively—Zoom Docs. Of course, there is an AI play. The machine will help you draft and edit documents. But industry experts remain sceptical if Zoom can give Microsoft or Google stiff competition in the workplace:
“Something would have to fundamentally change the nature of how we create content to upend the market,” said Craig Roth, research vice president for market insights firm Gartner. Replacing the two market leaders in the space “is unlikely in the near future.”
Moving on to Spotify: Paid subscribers—emphasis on paid—in the UK and Australia will be able to listen to 15 hours of audiobooks every month. If you wanna listen to an additional 10 hours, well you better pay another $10.99. The company has signed up with all the big publishers—Penguin, Hachette, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan—and will offer 150,000+ titles.The new tier isn’t available in India—or for that matter, the US. Think of this as a bold play to take on Amazon’s Audible—which costs $14.95 a month—as much as the company has taken on Apple Music. (New York Times)
Same-sex is a big plus for mammals
Same sexual activity is very common amongst animals of all sorts. It’s been documented in 1,500 animal species—including crickets, seagulls and penguins. But what is the evolutionary benefit of canoodling with your own gender—at least for animals that are presumably driven by the evolutionary drive to reproduce. A new study offers an interesting theory:
They found same-sex sexual behavior seems to occur more often in social animals, like primates, which need to form communities to survive and reproduce. That behavior could have evolved to facilitate social cohesion and diminish intrasexual aggression and conflict, the researchers argue.
But not everyone thinks there is a “good” evolutionary reason for this behaviour. After all, animals’ sexual behaviour are not linked to issues of identity unlike humans. And they are a lot more flexible about who they will hook up with and why:
In [behavioral ecologist Jon Richardson’s] research on crickets, he’s found that they have a fairly broad filter for engaging in mating behavior. “They don’t care too much whether it’s male or female or if it’s the right developmental stage or not. If it looks kind of like a cricket, if it moves like a cricket, you might as well try singing towards it to see what happens,” Richardson said.
Two things to see
One: After a widely acclaimed Elvis flick—titled ‘Elvis’—Sofia Coppola offers the other side the great love story. Appropriately titled ‘Priscilla’. It tells the story from the perspective of the child-bride. Reminder: Priscilla Presley was 14-years old when she began her relationship with a 24-year-old Elvis. Also: one of Coppola’s most successful movies—‘Lost in Translation’—got a lot of grief for romanticising the relationship between a young woman and a much older man. It will be interesting to see how Coppola handles it this time around—especially since she has since claimed that she is now “conflicted” about that 36-year age gap. The movie hits theatres on November 3. (Variety)