Researched by: Rachel John, Nirmal Bhansali & Aarthi Ramnath
A historic Iran-Saudi detente
The two countries have agreed to establish diplomatic ties—which were entirely severed in 2016 after Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. They have agreed to reopen their embassies within two months—and renew security and trade agreements. Why this is a big deal: for starters, the detente was brokered by China not the US—which has traditionally played the peacemaker in the region. Quote to note:
I think it demonstrates that US influence and credibility in that region has diminished and that there is a new sort of international regional alignment taking place, which has empowered and given both Russia and China newfound influence and status.
Most importantly: it may spell the end to the bloody civil war in Yemen—which has been fuelled by the two countries—that left 19 million people on the brink of starvation. Associated Press is the best on the deal’s implications for the Middle East. NBC News has more on what it spells out to the US.
Meanwhile, in Israel: The country is witnessing historic protests triggered by the government’s plan for sweeping judicial reforms. These will give the Parliament (ruling party) unprecedented power to overrule the Supreme Court. The rallies reached a crescendo over the weekend with 500,000 protesters—the largest in Israel’s history, according to organisers. See scenes from the protests below. (CNN)
Indian government nixes same-sex marriage
The Supreme Court is hearing petitions that demand the legalisation of same-sex marriage in India. They are seeking an amendment to the Special Marriages Act—arguing that denying the right to wed is unconstitutional under Article 14 (right to equality) and 21 (right to life and personal liberty). But the government strongly disagrees. In an affidavit made public yesterday, its lawyers said “the State limits the recognition to the heterosexual form”—which cannot be viewed as discrimination. One reason: heterosexual marriage plays an important role in raising children:
Celebration of a marriage gives rise to not just legal but moral and social obligations, particularly the reciprocal duty of support placed upon spouses and their joint responsibility for supporting and raising children born of the marriage and to ensure their proper mental and psychological growth in the most natural way possible.
The government also made it plain that the Court has zero jurisdiction over marital laws—which are the domain of the Parliament. Why this matters: the affidavit lays out the government’s view of same-sex unions in its entirety. (The Telegraph)
Meanwhile, in Canada: The courts are establishing novel kinds of constitutional rights—including the right to show the middle finger. The court was presiding over a case that involved two angry neighbours—and the person making the universal gesture of ‘eff you’ was arrested. The judge made his disagreement known in no uncertain terms:
It is not a crime to give someone the finger. Flipping the proverbial bird is a God-given, Charter enshrined right that belongs to every red-blooded Canadian… The complainants are free to clutch their pearls in the face of such an insult. However, the police department and the 9-1-1 dispatching service have more important priorities to address.
And the Oscar goes to…
Ok, let’s first get all the Indian contenders out of the way. ‘Naatu Naatu’ won the best original song category. The documentary “All That Breathes’ lost out in the best documentary category to ‘Navalny’—but ‘The Elephant Whisperers’ scored the best documentary short award. Watch MM Keeravaani’s acceptance speech below:
The biggest winner: was ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’. Michelle Yeoh won best actress—edging out favourite Cate Blanchett for her turn in ‘Tár’. Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert also won best director. It was also a great day for Brendan Fraser—who took home the best actor award for ‘The Whale’.
The most amusing moment: Hugh Grant’s red carpet grumpy interview lol!
As for the rest: You will have to wait until tomorrow since we have to publish soon. We leave you with Deepika Padukone’s ravishing red carpet look:
Two good related reads: The Print profiles the two Delhi brothers who are heroes of ‘All That Breathes. Most critics love Brendan Fraser’s big comeback role in ‘The Whale’. But if you’re looking for a scathing counterview, The Guardian offers a takedown of this “harmful fantasy of fat squalor.”
A football-sized crisis at the BBC
The BBC’s coverage of the Premier League collapsed over the weekend due to a confrontation between management and football legend Gary Lineker.
The context: It all started when Lineker tweeted his strong disagreement with the Sunak government’s immigration policy (explained here): “This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s.” The BBC forced the host of its highly popular Match of the Day to “step away” from his duties. The reason: his tweet had breached the Beeb’s impartiality guidelines. The decision didn’t go down well since the chairman of the BBC is a Tory donor—who helped ex-PM Boris Johnson secure financing.
What happened now: The decision prompted a boycott by pundits, presenters and even players—who refused to appear on-air in solidarity with Lineker. As a result, the Match of the Day program on Saturday was reduced to a shortened 20-minute version with no commentary, presenters or pundits—and even the show’s theme music was dropped. The BBC was also forced to greatly reduce its football programming on Sunday—as other shows were forced off the air. But the standoff remains unresolved as neither side appears ready to cede ground.
Also plaguing the Beeb: A separate controversy over its decision not to air an episode of an upcoming David Attenborough series on British wildlife. It will only be available online. The reason: this particular episode is “a stark look at the losses of nature in the UK and what has caused the declines. It is also understood to include some examples of rewilding, a concept that has been controversial in some rightwing circles.” Cue the outrage! The Guardian has more details.
Virat Kohli scores a priceless 100
He finally scored his first century since November 2019—breaking a drought of more than three years. In fact, he nearly scored a double ton—chalking up 186 runs. His knock may well give India a victory in the fourth and final test match—being played in Ahmedabad. Australia enters the last day with a score of three without loss. Indian Express pays lyrical tribute to Kohli’s century while The Telegraph offers a more straightforward overview. See the happy moment below:
Lonely women at the top
A new report offers depressing news for women working to climb the corporate ladder. It found that 55% of senior-level women have felt lonely at their jobs at least once in the past month—and 69% of them have felt unsupported at their jobs. But here’s the truly dismal bit:
While many men reported feeling less lonely as their careers progressed, 60% of women in leadership say their feelings of loneliness or isolation actually increased as their careers progressed.
A majority of women feel that workplace expectations are often unreasonable—which they have to fulfil without their company’s support. And a whopping 67% believe that they are being held back on purpose. Fast Company has lots more on the survey and its implications.
One lovely thing to see
West African lions—which are more closely related to the Indian kind—have almost entirely disappeared. Scientists suspect only 120-374 remain in the wild in four countries: Nigeria, Benin, Niger and Burkina Faso. And there are 29 in a wildlife sanctuary in Senegal—where a lioness has been spotted with three cubs! This is brilliant news for conservationists—who are hoping to bump up the reserve’s population to at least 200. See mama and her bratty babies below. (The Guardian)