Researched by: Rachel John, Aarthi Ramnath & Anannya Parekh
Rahul Gandhi: Still banned from elections
The context: Back in March, the Congress MP was sentenced by a Surat court to two years in jail for making a disparaging remark about Narendra Modi. The statement:
I have a question. Why do all thieves have Modi in their names whether it is Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi or Narendra Modi? We don’t know how many more such Modis will come out.
The court concluded Gandhi had defamed everyone with the last name Modi. As a result, he lost his seat in Parliament—and was banned from running for election for the next eight years. He first appealed the ruling in a sessions court in Gujarat—which dismissed his plea. We did two Big Stories on the case and on India’s criminal defamation law—if you want more details.
What happened now: Gandhi moved the Gujarat High Court which declined to stay his conviction—insisting it was “just, proper and legal.” The court said he “used Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s name in his speech at a poll rally to ‘add sensation’ and with an intention to ‘affect the result’ of the 2019 Lok Sabha election.” The next stop: the Supreme Court. The Hindu has lots more on the judgement.
The Ukraine war: The latest update
The context: Last year, Russian troops surrounded the port city of Mariupol and bombarded the city for three months. Most shocking attack was on a maternity and children’s hospital (See our Big Story). Kyiv finally ordered their soldiers to surrender—some of whom were freed in a prisoner swap. The deal was brokered by Turkey—and it required five freed commanders to be exiled to Turkey—until the end of the war.
What happened now: After a visit from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Turkey did an odd U-turn—sending back the commanders to Kyiv. All of which has made Moscow furious at this “direct violation” of the agreement. Also interesting: President Recep Erdogan is suddenly very enthusiastic about Ukraine joining NATO. Why this is worth your attention: until now, Ankara distanced itself from its NATO allies’ battle with Moscow. But it seems to have had a change of heart—which may be a sign of President Putin’s growing international isolation. (Al Jazeera)
North India reels under torrential rain
Incessant rain over the weekend has triggered landslides and flash floods—leaving many cities under water. At least 15 people have died. Schools will remain closed in the NCR—Delhi, Gurgaon and Faridabad. Delhi experienced the highest rainfall over 24 hours in 41 years—153 mm. Chandigarh was even worse, recording 302.2 mm in the same period. Until the first week of July, the total rainfall across the country was 10% below normal. We are now 2% above—primarily due to the rains in the North. Take a look at how bad things were in Gurgaon below. (Indian Express)
We’re going back to the moon!
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has announced the date of Chandrayaan 3 mission—which will be our second attempt at a lunar landing. The last mission ended in disaster:
Chandrayaan 2 launched an orbiter, lander and rover toward the moon in July 2019. The orbiter arrived safely and continues to study the moon today with its suite of eight science instruments. But the lander-rover duo crashed during their touchdown attempt, a failure apparently related to its braking thrusters.
This third mission does not have an orbiter—it’s all about nailing the landing this time. Why this is a big deal: to date, just three countries have successfully soft-landed a craft on the moon—the Soviet Union, the US and China. You can see the rocket all ready to launch on July 14 below. (Space.com)
Brilliant news about Amazon rainforests
The context: Rainforests in Brazil are critical to slowing global warming—because they absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. The Amazon stores more carbon than any other ecosystem in the world—”the equivalent of four or five years worth of human-made carbon emissions, up to 200 gigatons of carbon.” But under former Brazilian President Jair Bolsanaro, deforestation reached a record high—when 1,012.5 sq km of forest were lost in just one month in 2022. The equivalent of 140,000 football fields. Read our Big Story for more
What happened now: The newly elected Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva made good on his promise to arrest the devastation. The rate of deforestation has dropped by 33.6% in just six months. That’s because the government is enforcing environmental laws with great vigour. Why this matters: in a world awash with dire environmental news, it is important to remember that humans can make a decisive and immediate difference. Also this: if the Amazon shrinks or disappears, we may also lose any hope of controlling global warming. (The Guardian)
Get ready for the Chinese DALL-E
Determined not to be left behind in the great AI race, Alibaba launched its rival to image generators such as Midjourney, DreamStudio and DALL-E. Called Tongyi Wanxiang, it responds to prompts in both Chinese and English—and is currently available in beta for enterprise users in China. Why everyone is mad about AI: McKinsey estimates that generative AI could add $4.4 trillion in value to the global economy each year. (Quartz)
In other AI news: Two new studies show that AI can help predict extreme weather events—like cyclones, heatwaves, floods. The first system—called Pangu-Weather—is capable of predicting global weather a week in advance. The second called NowcastNet accurately predicts rainfall up to six hours ahead—allowing meteorologists to study weather patterns in real-time.
Popular Science has the nerdy details, but the bottomline is that machines can do a far greater job than, say, AccuWeather: “AI offers advantages in numerical weather prediction being orders of magnitudes faster than conventional, simulation-based models.” Washington Post has lots more on how good AI is at predicting the weather.
Pakistan vs India: The battle over cricket cups
The context: Pakistan was picked to host the Asia Cup. But India’s refusal to play in the country led to lots of angry battles within the Asian Cricket Council. The council settled on a compromise in June: the matches will be split between Pakistan and Sri Lanka—where the BCCI can send its team without losing face—or playing in ‘enemy’ territory.
What happened now: Ever since the ICC released the schedule for the World Cup, everyone has been breathlessly anticipating the face-off between the two rivals—with the first match slated for October 15 at Ahmedabad. But the Pakistan Sports Minister Ehsaan Mazari indicated that the game may not happen—at least not on Indian soil:
My personal opinion, since the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) comes under my ministry, is that if India demands to play their Asia Cup games at a neutral venue, we would also demand the same for our World Cup games in India.
Mazari also pointed out that almost every other Indian sports team—be it for chess or hockey—has no ‘security issues’ when playing in Pakistan. The government has now set up a high-profile committee to decide the matter. (Indian Express)
Your morning coffee may be a feku!
A new study suggests that the caffeine in your cuppa joe in the morning does nada to wake you up. It does not make you more alert—or more “ready to go.” What you may be responding to: “The particular smell and taste of the drink, or the psychological expectation associated with consuming that drink.” So your coffee could contain zero caffeine and have exactly the same effect. (Sky News)
A strange twist in school funding
The union government has launched a new initiative to help state government schools upgrade their facilities. It is called PM Schools for Rising India—which has been shortened to PM SHRI. But there’s a catch: any school that receives these funds has to permanently slap ‘PM SHRI’ in front of their names. The kicker: the state government pays for 40% of these funds. (The Telegraph)
Two things to see
One: Kajol got into trouble while promoting her new courtroom series ‘The Trial’ because she said this:
All the Modi supporters took this personally and were enraged, which led the actor to issue this clarification: “I was merely making a point about education and its importance. My intention was not to demean any political leaders, we have some great leaders who are guiding the country on the right path.” (Mashable)