Researched by: Rachel John & Anannya Parekh
A Big Apple blow for Donald Trump
The New York state is suing the former president for $250 million —claiming he “egregiously” inflated the valuations of his properties to get favourable loans. In a surprise move, the State Supreme Court justice has delivered a partial summary judgement—ruling on some part of the case before it goes to trial. He cancelled the business licence of all New York businesses financially controlled by Trump, his sons and Trump associates. Why this matters:
[H]is finding imperils both Mr. Trump’s public image and his business empire. The former president now faces not only the prospect of having to pay $250 million in damages, but he could also lose properties like Trump Tower that are inextricably linked to his brand.
A wedding hall tragedy in Iraq
A fire at a single wedding hall in Iraq has killed 100 people—and injured 150 others. The tragedy occurred due to illegal construction:
Civil defense officials quoted by the Iraqi News Agency described the wedding hall’s exterior as decorated with a highly flammable type of “sandwich panel” cladding that is illegal in the country. “The fire led to the collapse of parts of the hall as a result of the use of highly flammable, low-cost building materials that collapse within minutes when the fire breaks out,” civil defense said.
The trigger for the fire was a display of fireworks. (Associated Press)
Three noteworthy stories on hate
One: Washington Post has unveiled a three-part series mapping the rise of hate in India—and putting the blame squarely on the current government:
The BJP, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and affiliated Hindu nationalist groups have been in the global vanguard of using social media for political aims — to advance their ideology and cement their grip over the world’s largest electoral democracy. They have perfected the spread of inflammatory, often false and bigoted material on an industrial scale, earning both envy and condemnation beyond India’s borders.
The first part (splainer gift link) looks at how the party deployed WhatsApp in the lead up to Karnataka—based on “extensive interviews” with BJP staffers and the party’s allies. The second is even more alarming: The Post investigation (splainer gift link) uncovers an Indian Army unit that used Facebook to spread disinformation on Kashmir. The third looks at how rightwing extremists have leveraged YouTube to incite hate. For example: Monu Manesar who received a “Silver Creator” award from YouTube—and is most notorious for being the chief suspect in the brutal killing of three Muslim men.
Two: The US-based NGO Hindutva Watch has released a new report documenting 250 instances of anti-Muslim hate speeches in just the first six months of 2023: “Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Gujarat witnessed the highest number of hate speech gatherings, with Maharashtra alone accounting for 29% of such incidents, the report found.” The Wire has lots more on the report.
Three: Right on cue, goons in Delhi beat a mentally challenged Muslim man to death—tying him to an electric pole in the middle of the street. He was suspected of stealing “prasad” from a stall outside a temple. Disability rights activists say this is the third such lynching of a disabled Muslim person this year. (The Telegraph)
A good Hollywood writers’ deal… for now
The context: In May, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) went on strike for the first time in 15 years. At the heart of their discontent: the rise of streaming—which we explained at great length in this Big Story. TLDR: Writers simply make far less money in the compensation model embraced by online platforms. On Tuesday, the WGA had announced it had reached a deal with the studios.
What happened now: We now know the details of that deal. Writers will get data on the performance of their shows—and will be rewarded for its success: Movies and films that are viewed by more than 20% of a streaming service’s domestic subscribers in the first three months will receive a bonus of 50% of royalties. Foreign royalties will increase by 76%. Studios and platforms will hire a minimum number of writers per project. WGA claims the value of the negotiated deal is an extra $233 million for writers per year.
The main takeaway from the Wall Street Journal (paywall):
The bottom line: writers will walk away with better financial protections and the ability to earn a steadier living. But streamers and studios, under pressure on Wall Street to keep overall spending in check, will have to come up with that money one way or another. That could mean that getting shows picked up or renewed could get harder, and rich upfront paydays for writer-producers could go to a select, elite few.
Reuters has more details.
The dismal news about cancer in India
A first-of-its-kind study published in The Lancet found that nearly two-thirds of cancer deaths among Indian women could have been prevented. And 37% of the cases were treatable if they had been diagnosed in time. They die instead due to family apathy, their own indifference, lack of access or money for treatment . Experts say we need to take a “feminist approach” to the disease—not just in India but across the world. Here’s a wake up call from a Lancet Commissioner:
Of the three million adults diagnosed with cancer under the age of 50 in 2020, two out of three were women. Cancer is a leading cause of mortality in women and many die in their prime of life, leaving behind an estimated one million children in 2020 alone. There are important factors specific to women which contribute to this substantial global burden—by addressing these through a feminist approach we believe this will reduce the impact of cancer for all.
An earthquake detector for Android users
Google India has launched an earthquake detector for Indian Android phone users. Developed in consultation with seismology and disaster management agencies, here’s how the tool works:
Google India noted that Android smartphones’ accelerometers can act as “mini seismometers” which can detect the beginning of a quake when the phone is plugged in and charging. When many phones pick up these tremors, the company’s server collects the data to check whether an earthquake is taking place, and what its magnitude and epicentre could be. Alerts are then sent out to users.
The alerts are supposed to reach you before the ground starts shaking. But, but, but: a BBC News investigation found that Google failed to alert people in at least three cities in Turkey when it was hit by a devastating earthquake in February (explained here). (The Hindu)
The best performing currency in the world is…
Afghan Afghani is trading at 78.50 per dollar—which is around the INR exchange rate. The currency has jumped 9% in the past quarter—putting it at the top of the list of greatest gainers. The reason for its recovery:
The ruling Taliban, which seized power two years ago, has also unleashed a series of measures to keep the afghani in a stronghold, including banning the use of dollars and Pakistani rupees in local transactions and tightening restrictions on bringing greenbacks outside the country. It has made online trading illegal and threatened those who violate the rules with imprisonment.
Also helping matters: vast amounts of dollars being smuggled into the country via Pakistan. This has helped the Taliban shore up their currency in the global market. (Bloomberg News via CNBCTV18)
The International Emmy nominees are…
Three Indian actors have made the final cut: Shefali Shah for ‘Delhi Crime Season 2’, Vir Das for his comedy special on Netflix and Jim Sarbh for his turn in ‘Rocket Boys’. Das faces competition from ‘Derry Girls’… our sympathies! The Hindu has more on the nominations.
Trevor Noah debacle in Bangalore
Everything went wrong last night—as city residents braved insane traffic jams to attend the comedian’s show. They arrived at the venue only to find that they could not hear a damn thing. Organisers were unable to fix the sound system, and the show had to be cancelled. Trevor Noah tweeted an apology—saying, “This has never happened to us before.” And for some unexplained reason, the second gig scheduled for Thursday was also canned. A number of frustrated fans blamed BookMyShow for picking a terrible venue: Manpho stadium. You can see how bad it was below. (The Hindu)
Moving on to Taylor Swift: She announced that her concert flick ‘Taylor Swift The Eras Tour’—will open in 100+ countries on the same date: October 13. The number of theatres playing the film is expected to surpass 7,500. In India, it will premiere on November 3. FYI: the ticket buying madness has already started in the US:
Tickets for the concert film’s initial U.S. screenings moved so swiftly that other studios quickly moved some of their product off of planned October 13 opening dates. Expectations for the movie’s box office went sky-high after AMC sold $26 million in tickets on the first day they went on sale, a single-day record for the chain; that number did not include the sales for other chains or independent theatres that also put tickets on sale that day.