Researched by: Rachel John, Aarthi Ramnath, Niveditha Ajay & Rhea Saincher
A dam collapse in Ukraine
The Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant in Russian-held territory has collapsed. At least 40,000 people are being evacuated—in territories controlled by both sides. Kyiv has accused Moscow of deliberately blowing it up to prevent its forces from using the road over the dam—during a widely expected counter-offensive. Of course, Moscow claims the exact opposite.
Why this dam matters:
It provides water to farmers and residents, as well as to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. It is also a vital channel carrying water south to Russian-occupied Crimea… There are concerns about the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant— Europe's largest—which uses reservoir water for cooling.
Manipur violence soars again
The context: Since May 3, the dominant Meitei and Kuki tribes have been involved in violent clashes. The trigger: a high court ruling directing the government to give the Meitei tribal status—which would allow them to move into protected tribal land. We explained the conflict at length in this Big Story.
What happened now: Despite the presence of 20,000 armed police and army troops, the violence has surged again. The most horrific incident making headlines:
An eight-year-old tribal boy, who had been injured by a gunfight while in an Assam Rifles relief camp, was then burnt alive in Imphal West on Sunday evening along with his Meitei mother and another relative, when his ambulance, moving under police protection, was waylaid by a mob and set ablaze.
Another 1,000 troops have been flown into the state. (The Hindu)
Sequoia is breaking up…
The world’s largest venture capital firm is splitting into three—Sequoia Capital in US and Europe, Peak XV (fifteen not ex-vee) Partners in India and Southeast Asia, and HongShan in China. They will be entirely independent of one another—and will not invest in each other’s funds. The official reason is sorta vague:
It has become increasingly complex to run a decentralised global investment business… This has made using centralised back-office functions more of a hindrance than an advantage. Additionally, as each entity’s portfolio has expanded to include companies that are becoming global leaders, we’ve seen growing market confusion due to the shared Sequoia brand as well as portfolio conflicts across entities.
But TechCrunch seems to think Sequoia is saving the US mothership from unnecessary headaches:
The split—which will go into effect by March next year—comes amid the growing geopolitical tension between China and the U.S., the world’s two largest economies. The India and Southeast Asia unit, on the other hand, confronted some optics and governance issues at its portfolio firms last year.
FYI: Sequoia India is the country's biggest venture capital firm, managing $9 billion in assets.
BBC India “confesses” to tax evasion?
The context: On February 14, income tax officials and police officers conducted a ‘tax survey’ at the BBC India offices. It happened soon after the BBC aired a two-part documentary on the 2002 Gujarat violence—which also looked at the role of then CM Modi. Officials claim that they have now found evidence of tax evasion.
What happened now: According to unnamed officials cited in the Hindustan Times, the BBC has submitted a mea culpa for under-reporting of Rs 400 million (40 crore) in revenue:
In an email to the department, BBC has apparently confessed to underreporting of the detected income, which is as good as “tax evasion” and attracts recovery as well as penalty. BBC must take the formal route to comply by filing revised returns and paying all dues, penalty and interests, which runs in several crores, one of the officials cited above said.
The Indian Express calls it a ‘letter of intent’—not a confession—that has no significance until an actual payment is made. The BBC merely said it is “cooperating fully with the Indian tax authorities’ enquiries and will continue to do so.” We have lots more on the allegations and tax rules involved in this Big Story.
US crackdown on crypto companies
The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has sued two of the world’s largest crypto exchanges—Binance and Coinbase. The details are different in each case, but this is Uncle Sam insisting that crypto companies are subject to the same laws as any other entity trading on the stock exchange. Why this is a big deal: “The list of digital tokens deemed as unregistered securities now spans over $120 billion of crypto.” You can read the charges against Binance over at The Verge—while Reuters has the case against Coinbase. Bloomberg News has the big picture.
Does breastfeeding make a kid smarter?
A new UK study found that kids who were breastfed for at least 12 months were 39% more likely to have a high pass for both math and English GCSE exams and were 25% less likely to fail the English exam. Yup, it’s that specific. But this study comes with many cautions—and certainly doesn’t mean that mums who do not breast-feed are destroying their child’s academic future. Example: it only shows correlation but not causation—so breast-feeding does not ‘cause’ smarter babies. And many of the women who can afford to breast feed for such long periods in the West are affluent—which may have a bigger impact on academic outcomes. That said, if you are reluctant to wean your baby in a hurry, here’s a good reason not to. (CNN)
Kerala High Court’s view on nudity
In 2020, a women rights activist from Kerala—Rehana Fathima—posted a video of her children painting on her partly naked chest. It went viral and she was soon charged with obscenity—and endangering her kids. Her argument:
In her appeal in the Kerala high court, Rehana Fathima had asserted that the body painting was meant as a political statement against the default view of society that the naked upper body of the female is sexualised in all contexts, whereas the naked male upper body is not treated to this default sexualisation.
The High Court agreed with her, saying:
There is nothing to show that the children were used for pornography. There is no hint of sexuality in the video. Painting on the naked upper body of a person, whether a man or a woman, cannot be stated to be a sexually explicit act.
The court also flagged the double standard applied to male and female bodies—where the torso of one is sexualised and not the other. (Hindustan Times)
Karim Benzema: The great Saudi football migration
A top football player reaching the end of his career is most likely in need of a big fat Saudi club contract. It started with Cristiano Ronaldo’s $75 million-per-year contract with Al Nassr. Then there were rumours that Lionel Messi’s next stop after PSG may be a $434 million (£350 million) contract with Al-Hilal. Now, it’s the turn of Karim Benzema—the reigning Ballon d’Or winner. He will be moving to Al-Ittihad after his contract with Real Madrid comes to an end. We have no numbers except a vague reference to a “huge wage.”
What’s notable: Saudi Arabia’s spending spree. The crown prince Mohammed bin Salman plans to make the Saudi Pro League one of the top 10 tournaments in the world—worth at least $2.1 billion. FYI: many accused Qatar of using the football world cup to whitewash its human rights record. The Saudis are accused of doing the same. OTOH, why should the world’s biggest leagues all be in Europe? The Athletic has more on the Saudi gameplan. (The Guardian)
A splainer easter egg: Surprise!
We decided to add a bit of whimsy to our daily edition—a teeny surprise that we’ll sometimes throw in an unexpected place—every once in a while. Today, we offer you ‘Sentimental Moment or Why Did the Baguette Cross the Road?’ by Robert Hershon. Let us know if you enjoyed it—or not.
Don't fill up on bread
I say absent-mindedly
The servings here are huge
My son, whose hair may be
receding a bit, says
Did you really just
say that to me?
What he doesn't know
is that when we're walking
together, when we get
to the curb
I sometimes start to reach
for his hand
Hayao Miyazaki’s final film is coming
He is one of the greatest animated filmmakers and manga artists in the world—and the co-founder of Studio Ghibli—which produced ‘Princess Mononoke’, ‘Spirited Away’, and ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’. He is getting ready to release what is likely going to be his last film. And there will be no trailers, teasers or ads. And this is why:
If you watch all [the trailers], you know everything that’s going to happen in that movie. So how do moviegoers feel about that? There must be people, who, after watching all the trailers, don’t want to actually go see the movie. So, I wanted to do the opposite of that.
Two things to see
One: The government launched India’s first international cruise ship—which will sail from Chennai to three ports in Sri Lanka: Hambantota, Trincomalee, and Kankesanturei. The ship can accommodate up to 750 passengers. The starting price: Rs 86,383. See the rather peppy promo vid below. (Hindustan Times)
Two: Here’s the trailer for Netflix’s ‘Lust Stories 2’. The anthology series—which explores all variations of human desire—includes episodes directed by Amit Ravindernath Sharma, R Balki, Konkona Sen Sharma and Sujoy Ghosh. It drops on June 29. (The Hindu)