Researched by: Rachel John, Nirmal Bhansali, Aarthi Ramnath & Anannya Parekh
Delhi government loses its power
The Rajya Sabha just passed the Delhi Services Bill that gives the union government complete control over all bureaucrats who serve the Delhi government. It sets up a National Capital Civil Service Authority (NCCSA)—made up of the Chief Minister and two bureaucrats—the chief secretary and the principal home secretary—who are appointed by the union government. So no prizes for guessing who casts the tie-breaking vote. This NCCSA will make all the key administrative decisions—including transfer, posting etc of civil servants administering the city. And it allows these officials to exercise total control over the governance of the capital:
[A]ny office-bearer or member of any authority, board, commission or any statutory body will now be appointed either by the President as well as by the Lieutenant Governor based on recommendations of the National Capital Civil Service Authority (NCCSA), set up by the ordinance.
Think: boards that control water, electricity, transport etc. Translation: the Kejriwal government just lost all control over the governance of Delhi.
FYI: This could be a violation of the constitutional separation of powers—but we won’t know until a Supreme Court bench rules on it. One SC retiree speaking vehemently in favour of the bill in the Rajya Sabha: BJP-appointed MP Ranjan Gogoi—who happens to be the former Chief Justice of India. FWIW, the Opposition stayed united for a change—although it fell short by 29 votes. Indian Express has a good explainer.
An astonishing revelation about Chinese propaganda
A New York Times investigation shows that many left-leaning NGOs and publications around the world are linked to a Chinese propaganda machine run by Beijing. And at the centre of it all is a wealthy tech bro named Neville Roy Singham—“who is known as a socialist benefactor of far-left causes.” Basically, he funnels all the money to these organisations—which may or may not know the identity of their true benefactor. In India, NYT names NewsClick:
In New Delhi, corporate filings show, Mr. Singham’s network financed a news site, NewsClick, that sprinkled its coverage with Chinese government talking points. “China’s history continues to inspire the working classes,” one video said.
To be fair, the Times makes sweeping statements that suggest a well-coordinated network like this:
These groups operate in coordination. They have cross-posted articles and shared one another’s content on social media hundreds of times. Many share staff members and office space. They organise events together and interview one another’s representatives without disclosing their ties.
But the Times offers slim evidence of this except in a few cases.
The India angle: Newsclick is also considered suspect by the government—and was raided in 2021 by the Enforcement Directorate (See: this Big Story). But at the time, it was viewed as part of a bigger crackdown on any media critical of the establishment. Now, Information & Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur is gleefully citing the Times to claim: China, Congress and NewsClick part of one “anti-India umbilical cord”. Hain, yeh kaise? Here splainer’s gift link if you want to read the NYT investigation for yourself.
Rahul returns to Parliament
Soon after the Supreme Court stayed his conviction for criminal defamation against all Modis—explained in this Big Story—Gandhi was reinstated as a member of the Lok Sabha. So kudos for the government for not dragging its feet—then again, the BJP may have been missing its fave piñata. You can see party prez Mallikarjun Kharge eating mithai in celebration:
Good news for the battle against malaria
The context: Humans have been waging war on machhars since time immemorial—though it took us until the nineteenth century to figure out the connection to malaria. The buzzing monsters pass on a parasite called Plasmodium falciparum that causes the disease. In recent years, we’ve tried all sorts of novel solutions to protect humans—like the malaria vaccine—or to kill mosquitoes—like genetic modification.
What happened now: A new study has found a naturally occurring strain of bacteria called Tres Cantos 1—which has the happy effect of stopping the development of the parasite in the guts of a mosquito. So it never travels to the insect’s salivary glands—and therefore, near our skin. This TC1 can reduce the load of the malaria-causing parasite by 75%—which is excellent news since malaria kills 619,000 per year. One small downside: it won’t stop you from getting bitten:( (Quartz)
Yet another bad cough syrup
The WHO has once again raised alarm over a ‘made in India’ syrup called COLD OUT. At least one batch sold in Iraq is contaminated: “The sample was found to contain unacceptable amounts of diethylene glycol (0.25%) and ethylene glycol (2.1%) as contaminants. The acceptable safety limit for both ethylene glycol and diethylene glycol is no more than 0.10%.” FYI: both those ingredients are toxic and can prove fatal to humans. Reminder: Indian cough syrups sold in Uzbekistan and Gambia have previously been found to be contaminated. The government recently instituted new rules—tightening supervision of meds exported from the country. (The Hindu)
Global mental health is plummeting
A new Lancet study reveals that half of the world's population "can expect to develop" at least one kind of mental disorder by the time they are 75 years old. That’s a sharp jump from where we were in 2019—when one in eight people had some kind of mental illness. What’s notable:
Of the 13 disorders included in the survey, the most common among women were depression, a specific phobia — defined as "a disabling anxiety that interferes with daily life" — and post-traumatic stress disorder. For men, the most common were alcohol abuse, depression and a specific phobia.
Axios has more on why this study is significant.
In other bad health news: According to UNICEF, over 76% of kids in South Asia experience at least 83+ days where the temperatures exceed 35°C. Why this is a shocking number: the global number is 32%. (CNN)
Tesla gets a new CFO
The current chief financial officer Zach Kirkhorn will be replaced by Vaibhav Taneja—who is the company’s chief accounting officer—and will now play both roles like an over-achieving Indian child. Worrying point to note: “Kirkhorn is the third Tesla CFO to resign in just six years, including the abrupt and highly scrutinised departure of Jason Wheeler in 2017.” More importantly, Tesla’s valuation jumped from $50 billion to $773 billion during Kirkhorn’s tenure—and he was once seen as a possible successor to Elon Musk as CEO. And Kirkhorn is quitting just before Tesla delivers its first new passenger vehicle in more than three years, the Cybertruck, India Today has more on Taneja. (Wall Street Journal, paywall, Quartz)
Three things to see
One: Chandrayaan-3 has entered the moon’s orbit—and is getting ready to launch a rover onto the surface. Reminder: the last time we did this, it ended very poorly—with ISRO losing contact with the rover aka Vikram. Here are some visuals of the moon’s pock-marked surface—as seen by Chandrayaan. (And here’s everything you need to know about the latest mission in this Big Story) (BBC News)
Two: Here’s a giant installation paying tribute to Sinead O’Connor near the seaside town in Ireland where her funeral will be held. As you can see, it says ‘ÉIRE ♡ SINÉAD’ in 30-feet tall letters.(Sky News)
Three: All it takes to make an ‘odd’ woman monetisable is a billion-dollar movie. Yes, you can now buy Kate McKinnon's version of the ‘Weird Barbie’ for $50. Btw, this para is all you need to know what Greta Gerwig has achieved for Mattel:
The toy brand has been selling a number of Barbie products inspired by the hit movie since its release on July 21. Dolls matching Simu Liu's Ken and Issa Rae's President Barbie, as well as Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie's characters in the film (in a variety of costumes) are also available for purchase on Mattel's website.
Has it ever been more profitable to be feminist? We think not:) Aww, look at Weird Barbie being so demurely ‘weird’. (People)