Researched by: Nirmal Bhansali & Anannya Parekh
Manipur violence: The political brawl continues
The INDIA coalition of Opposition parties will bring a no-confidence motion against the government today—in a bid to force PM Modi to speak on the subject in the Lok Sabha. It is a symbolic exercise guaranteed to fail since they don’t have the numbers. More notably, the government has been quietly pushing through key legislation—without discussion—in the midst of all the noise in Parliament. Meanwhile in Manipur, the internet ban has been partially relaxed to signal a first step toward normalcy. Government sources say they are “satisfied” with progress in the state. (Indian Express)
Say goodbye to Qin Gang
The Chinese foreign minister has been missing from public view since June 25—and has now been officially replaced by Wang Yi—who was the foreign minister from 2013 to 2022. Why this is notable: Qin was a trusted aide of President Xi Jinping—and had only held the post since December after serving as ambassador in Washington. What’s really creepy is how quickly (rudely) Beijing cancelled Qin without explanation: “By Tuesday evening, Qin’s profile had been scrubbed from the Foreign Ministry website, with the page where his portrait and welcome message had been earlier in the day replaced with a message saying “information being updated.” FYI: He is still missing from the public eye—and no one knows his whereabouts. (CNN)
Depressing data on Ivy League schools
A large-scale study shows that rich kids from the top 1% have a disproportionate advantage in getting admission into the eight Ivy League schools. This is not exactly news. But some of the reasons why are interesting and surprising. Yeah, many get in as legacy kids—i.e nepo babies with alumni parents. And yes, being an athlete is a huge plus—especially when it comes to certain kinds of sports:
That’s largely because children from rich families are more likely to play sports, especially more exclusive sports played at certain colleges, like rowing and fencing. There’s a common misperception that it’s about basketball and football and low-income kids making their way into selective colleges
But here’s the kicker: The third reason for this advantage has less to do with standardised testing or GPA—contrary to what many have claimed. In fact:
For applicants with the same SAT or ACT score, children from families in the top 1% were 34% more likely to be admitted than the average applicant, and those from the top 0.1% were more than twice as likely to get in.
These colleges award important points for “subjective nonacademic virtues, like extracurricular activities, volunteering and personality traits”—and wealthy kids score very high in these areas unlike underprivileged students. Above all, they also come from private schools—which offers a huge advantage. New York Times (splainer gift link) offers an eye-opening deep dive into the numbers.
The great Twitter tamasha: Episode #100000010
Owner Elon Musk decided to get rid of the blue bird and replace it with an ugly ‘X’—hey, his company, his rules. But the problem isn’t bad taste but trademark issues—since that letter is widely used. Examples:
Microsoft since 2003 has owned an X trademark related to communications about its Xbox video-game system. Meta Platforms — whose Threads platform is a new Twitter rival — owns a federal trademark registered in 2019 covering a blue-and-white letter "X" for fields including software and social media.
They likely won’t sue but there are plenty of other companies around the world that use ‘X’ in one way or another. Claiming trademark infringement will be hard:
Given the difficulty in protecting a single letter, especially one as popular commercially as 'X', Twitter's protection is likely to be confined to very similar graphics to their X logo. The logo does not have much distinctive about it, so the protection will be very narrow.
Sigh. Maybe what the company needs is a new tagline: ‘Twitter: The drama never ends’. (Reuters)
A TikTok challenge: The platform has launched text-only posts to take on Twitter:
Text posts appear similar to Instagram Stories visually: users can add a background colour, edit how text appears, and add music and stickers to the post. Posts have a 1,000-character limit… Other users can also engage with the post similar to how they interact with video — by stitching, dueting, and commenting.
When there’s blood in the water… (The Verge)
The astonishing impact of eating meat
A study out of Oxford University found that how much meat you eat has a significant and very measurable impact on greenhouse gas emissions. The study divided people into big meat eaters—who ate more than 100g of meat a day, or one big burger. Low meat eaters—whose daily intake was 50g or less—included those who ate a couple of sausages, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans. And here’s what the researchers found:
The research shows that a big meat-eater's diet produces an average of 10.24 kg of planet-warming greenhouse gases each day. A low meat-eater produces almost half that at 5.37 kg per day. And for vegan diets — it's halved again to 2.47 kg a day.
Point to note: The meat industry is sceptical about the research—and here’s why:
One of the frustrations with a report like this is that it looks just at the emissions from livestock production. It doesn't take into account that carbon gets absorbed into the grassland, trees and hedgerows [on farms]. If they took those sums into account you would probably have a different picture.
OpenAI guru’s gotta crypto thang!
Founder Sam Altman has announced a new cryptocurrency project called Worldcoin:
[T]he company describes [it] as a "digital passport" to prove that its holder is a real human, not an AI bot. To get a World ID, a customer signs up to do an in-person iris scan using Worldcoin's 'orb', a silver ball approximately the size of a bowling ball. Once the orb's iris scan verifies the person is a real human, it creates a World ID.
Ask not why you would need this unless you were Harrison Ford in ‘Blade Runner’. Ask not how or why this very futuristic project already “has 2 million users from its beta period, and with Monday's launch, Worldcoin is scaling up ‘orbing’ operations to 35 cities in 20 countries.”
But know this: It apparently lays the foundation for “a potential path to AI-funded universal basic income (UBI)” for everyone who doesn’t have a job due to machines. Also: the value of the Worldcoin's cryptocurrency token WLD jumped within hours. Coming soon: the announcement of an obscenely large funding round. (Reuters)
Let’s go swimming in the Seine!
After 100 years, humans will be swimming and diving in the waters of Paris’ iconic river. Jumping in its filthy waters was banned because all the water from the kitchens and toilets would drain into the river during heavy rains. By the 1960s, it was so nasty that only three species of fish survived. But authorities have built a vast underground reservoir which will serve to store the run-off—which has resulted in a sharp reduction of harmful bacteria over the past 20 years. The result: three Olympic and Paralympic events—triathlon, marathon swimming and Para-triathlon—scheduled to take place in the Seine next year. And open-air swimming areas will be opened to the public by 2025. (BBC News)
Trevor Noah is coming to India
The former host of ‘The Daily Show’ will kick off the Asia leg of his ‘Off the Record’ tour in India. He will perform in seven shows across Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore—starting from September 22. Tickets go on sale on BookMyShow next month. The Hindu has more deets on dates.
Four things to see
One: Thanks to soaring temperatures, Chinese citizens are out and about in ‘facekinis’—a fancy name for a face mask with holes for the eyes, mouth and nose. They protect you from sunburn and UV damage—and are made of lightweight, synthetic fabrics such as polyester. What’s fun: many of them mimic Chinese-opera style makeup. (CNN)
Two: Today’s movie trailer quota is filled by ‘Choona’—a Netflix series starring Jimmy Shergill in what promises to be a fun heist flick. It drops on August 3.
Three: Behold this ‘dark bordered beauty’—yes, that is indeed its name—that has been found thriving in the wild in the UK. It was on the brink of extinction and brought back thanks to a first ever captive breeding program for this species. Yeah, it’s a lovely feel-good story that makes all of us feel we can indeed ‘turn back time’ a la Cher:) (The Guardian)
Four: The latest controversy over ‘Oppenheimer’ involves a bit where a half naked Florence Pugh has been covered up with a CGI-generated black dress. It is part of an extended sex scene which has been hacked—but not only because of a controversial reference to the Bhagavad Gita. The movie received a U/A rating in India—making it suitable for kids above the age of 12—unlike the US where it is rated R. (The Hindu)