Researched by: Aarthi Ramnath, Niveditha Ajay & Rhea Saincher
Wrestlers’ #MeToo protest: The latest update
The context: Since April, Indian wrestlers have been protesting alleged widespread sexual abuse in the sport. And it starts at the top—with wrestling federation chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh—who is also a BJP MP. For details on the sexual abuse, see our Big Story. The protest has been suspended until June 15 after the government assured the wrestlers that a charge sheet against Brij Bhushan will be filed by that date.
What happened now: Of the seven wrestlers who have levelled sexual abuse allegations at Brij Bhushan, one is 17 years old, i.e a minor. She has now withdrawn the charges. Her father now says:
Some allegations were true and some were false. Brij Bhushan had not sexually harassed my daughter but his approach was biased against her…I am a father of a girl, and I don’t want to get involved in this fight. I had not withdrawn the complaint but recorded fresh statements. In anger, we had levelled some false allegations, and my daughter had faced some issues but all those mentioned in the FIR were not true.”
This is significant since Brij Bhushan had been charged under the stringent Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act—and faced a potential seven-year sentence. (Indian Express)
Secret Chinese base in Cuba?
Beijing is moving into Uncle Sam’s backyard. According to a Wall Street Journal scoop, China and Cuba have reached a secret agreement to establish an electronic eavesdropping facility on the island. The Chinese can now listen to electronic communication in the SE United States—where a number of military bases are located. And they can monitor movements of US ships. However, everyone is strenuously denying the report—including Washington and Havana. The Chinese Embassy had no comment. Interesting. (Wall Street Journal)
Attention please: Key tech news to note
WhatsApp: has launched a brand new feature called ‘Channels’—marking a shift toward becoming a social media platform. This is a feature that allows you to share text, photos etc. to many people. So it is not a one-on-one or even group conversation. Let’s be honest: it’s yet another play to dislodge Twitter: “It’s a Twitter feed, minus all the metrics and reply guys.”
The key change is that you do not have to know someone to join a channel (unlike a group) or need to be added to a channel: “You’ll be able to find channels by searching for them in WhatsApp or by browsing in a newly created directory and see their most recent updates in the Status section of the app.” But this is what it all boils down to:
But if you zoom out a bit, WhatsApp is quickly turning into something other than just a messaging app. Just in the last few months, the company has made it possible to use one account on multiple phones; has been working on a private newsletter tool and a new username system; added polls and shopping and a bunch of other Facebook-y things to the platform; revamped its Status system; improved its group chats; and much more. Channels is just the latest way WhatsApp is trying to bring social media to messaging.
Amazon: According to Wall Street Journal, Amazon Prime is getting ready to roll out a cheaper ad-supported sub—much like Netflix. OTOH, it sounds a lot more obnoxious given that ads will also target those already paying for Prime:
Amazon is discussing a variety of ways it could introduce ads in Prime Video, people familiar with the matter said. One option would be to bring more advertising to existing Prime subscribers and give them an option to pay more for an ad-free alternative and other features, some of the people said. The company is planning for the ad breaks to be short, they said.
Instagram: A new study shows that the platform helps connect a “vast pedophile network.” Here’s the splainer gift link to read this WSJ exclusive, but this is the core finding:
Pedophiles have long used the internet, but unlike the forums and file-transfer services that cater to people who have interest in illicit content, Instagram doesn’t merely host these activities. Its algorithms promote them. Instagram connects pedophiles and guides them to content sellers via recommendation systems that excel at linking those who share niche interests, the Journal and the academic researchers found.
Related read: The Guardian has an investigative piece on how Facebook and Instagram became marketplaces for child sex trafficking.
Yay, the monsoon is here!
It arrived in Kerala after a week-long delay—making it the latest onset of monsoon in nearly four years. Apparently, there was a cyclone over the Arabian Sea that was gumming up the works. The big worry: “In the absence of irrigation systems, nearly half of India's farmland depends on the June-September rains and their late arrival could delay the planting of rice, cotton, corn, soybean and sugarcane, traders said.” (Reuters)
A horrific Mumbai crime
Ugh. We really didn’t even want to know about this story. But it is going to be in the headlines, so here is the gist of it:
Manoj Sane, accused of killing his live-in partner Saraswati Vaidya, cut her body into dozens of pieces and kept them in three buckets and vessels in his kitchen, police said Thursday, adding that he boiled and minced some of the pieces and dumped them secretly.
You can read the other ghastly details over at Indian Express.
‘Kangaroo care’ is good for babies
According to a new study, placing a newborn preemie on the bare chest of the parent or caregiver—with a blanket on the back—improves its chances of survival. It reduced mortality by 32% within the first 28 days of life—and the benefits are higher when it’s done within 28 hours of birth. (Washington Post)
In other happy medical news: New research shows that less aggressive cancer treatments may be more effective—which runs contrary to conventional medical wisdom. Patients with cervical and pancreatic cancer can benefit from less invasive surgery—while others with rectal cancer or Hodgkin lymphoma can safely get less radiation. This is very good news for cancer patients who suffer as much from side-effects of treatment as they do from the disease. (Wall Street Journal)
Four things to see
One: The Congress party is enraged by a float at a city parade in Canada that depicts the assassination of Indira Gandhi. The event was apparently organised by Khalistan supporters to coincide with the anniversary of Operation Blue Star—the military siege of the Golden Temple that resulted in the death of Jarnail Singh Bhidranwale. The government has not made an official statement but the External Affairs Minister Jaishankar said it reflected “the space which is given to separatists, to extremists, to people who advocate violence" in Canada. You can see how tacky and tasteless it is below. (Hindustan Times)
Three: Sticking with trailers, this one is for the fourth instalment of ‘Expendables’—starring all the action stars you can think of: Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, and Sylvester Stallone. Releases in theatres on September 22.
Four: Jared Leto has always been a strange man. But this clip of him trying to climb the wall of his hotel in Berlin is more amusing than alarming. Wait for the camera to pull back. Well, he’s no Tom Cruise lol! (IGN)