Researched by: Nirmal Bhansali, Aarthi Ramnath & Priyanka Gulati
US vs China: An unexpected accusation
It’s still just a war of words, but things are getting pretty heated between Beijing and Washington. After the ruckus over the spy balloon (explained here), Secretary of State Anthony Blinken suddenly accused China of planning to offer military support to Russia. In a television interview, he expressed "deep concerns" about the "possibility that China will provide lethal material support to Russia"—including weapons and ammunition. Beijing is furious—especially since this latest provocation comes right before its Foreign Minister’s planned trip to Moscow. Officials said China would not accept "finger pointing" and "coercion" by the US. FYI: Blinken also refused to rule out giving fighter jets to Ukraine in the same interview. (BBC News)
In other unexpected announcements: The Indian government says it is considering a full withdrawal of military forces from the Kashmir Valley—apart from troops on the border. Reminder: the government sent in large numbers of soldiers right when it stripped the state of its special status in 2019. The reason for the move: “The idea behind the deliberations is to not just claim normalcy in Kashmir but also make it visible.” Indian Express has more from unnamed sources in the Home Ministry.
Meta’s new paid sub is here!
The company announced that it is testing a monthly subscription service called Meta Verified—which will let users verify their accounts and get a blue badge. Hmm, sound familiar? The service will be more expensive than Twitter Blue—$11.99 per month on the web or $14.99 on a mobile app—and is aimed primarily at content creators. It will first roll out in Australia and New Zealand. (Reuters)
Meanwhile, over at Twitter: Elon Musk wants you to pay to keep your account safe. Most tech companies almost bully you into signing up for two factor authentication—to make sure you can’t be hacked. Under this system, a password isn’t sufficient to log into your account. You are typically sent a separate code via SMS or email. But Twitter has decided to go in the opposite direction. Over the weekend, it told free users to either pay for the privilege—or opt out of 2FA. If you don’t disable it, then Twitter will do it for you.
The company says the existing SMS method is just not safe enough—and is being abused by “bad actors.” Others think this is part of Elon Musk’s cost-cutting spree—and he doesn’t want to pay to text you those codes. You can still stay safe with a free app like Google Authenticator. NPR has more on why activists say the move jeopardises the safety of citizens in authoritarian states.
Also making workers unhappy: Google India which fired 453 employees over the weekend—which may be part of its plan to lay off 6% of its global workforce. (Hindu BusinessLine)
Jimmy Carter heads for hospice care
The 98-year-old former US president will begin receiving end-of-life care at home in Georgia—and will stop all medical treatment. Carter has been dealing with a number of health issues—including a recent battle against brain cancer. FYI: he is the oldest living US president in history. (CNN)
Big brouhaha over Roald Dahl
The publisher of Roald Dahl’s books has hired sensitivity readers to rewrite chunks of his books—to make sure they “can continue to be enjoyed by all today.” Who are ‘sensitivity readers’? These are “inclusion ambassadors” roped in by publishing companies to scrub language that may offend—in upcoming or already published books. And since Dahl had zero problems being offensive, his work offered plenty of material.
There have been hundreds of changes across titles such as ‘Matilda’, ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ and ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’. Sometimes they have added a new line—to explain why witches are bald and need wigs: “There are plenty of other reasons why women might wear wigs and there is certainly nothing wrong with that.” In other places, gender-neutral terms have been wedged in—so Oompa Loompas are no longer “small men” but “small people.”
While publisher Puffin insists “the changes made have been small and carefully considered,” the kind of stuff below has publications like The Telegraph (paywall) breathing fire:
In Fantastic Mr Fox a description of tractors, saying that “the machines were both black”, has been cut. In the new Dahl world, it seems, neither machines nor animals can be described with a colour. Nor can anything be fat. “Bunce, the little pot-bellied dwarf”, is now plain old Bunce. The Small Foxes, previously sons, are now daughters, while Badger’s son has become a “little one.”
Salman Rushdie has already called it “absurd censorship.” Washington Post (splainer gift link) has more on the controversy.
Ola doubles down on EVs
The company announced it will invest $918 million to manufacture electric cars and batteries for electric vehicles. The money for the cars will be ploughed into manufacturing facilities in Tamil Nadu—right next to its two-wheeler factory. All of which would sound very exciting—if only Ola two-wheelers would stop exploding for inexplicable reasons. Economic Times has lots more on Ola’s plans for a mega EV hub in Tamil Nadu.
Microsoft: Don’t get too chatty with my chatbot
The days of endlessly harassing AI chatbots—in an attempt to prove they are either stupid or sentient—are at an end. Microsoft will only allow you to ask five questions of its Chat GPT-powered search engine—per session and 50 questions a day. The reason: “Very long chat sessions can confuse the underlying chat model in the new Bing.” (Reuters)
A Romanian medical horror story
If you’re even tempted to complain about Indian doctors, spare a thought for the Romanians. A number of doctors are being investigated for stealing heart implants—think pacemakers—from corpses and reusing them on patients. One of them performed 238 procedures over a seven-year period. Making it even worse:
A large part of the implants recommended by the doctor … were not necessary and were prompted by fake diagnoses or by previously prescribed medication that would trigger specific symptoms.
Reminder: Romania is a member of the EU—and has built one hospital in the last 30 years. Just saying… (The Guardian)
Two things to see
One: We have no clue what Ranveer Singh was up to in the locker room at the NBA All Star game—but someone needs to break the bad news about his rapping skills, or lack thereof. FYI: Singh is the basketball league’s brand ambassador in India—which earned him the honour of playing on one of the celeb teams—alongside Hasan Minhaj, actor Simu Liu and singer Janelle Monae. (Mint)
Bonus pic: This bizarre emo moment with Ben Affleck on the court:
Two: We’re very proud of founding member Anish Malpani—whose Pune startup Ashaya has unveiled the world’s first sunglasses recycled from packets of chips! The really cool bit: the QR code on the glasses tells you how many packets were used to manufacture them. And part of the proceeds goes to two waste-picker collectives in the city. Watch the demo video below. Also: how awesome is the splainer fam? (Indian Express)