Researched by: Nirmal Bhansali & Aarthi Ramnath
A drone strike targeting Putin?
A pair of drones detonated over the Kremlin—15 minutes apart—at 2:30 am on Wednesday. Russia has called it an unsuccessful “attempt on the life of the president” by Ukraine—foiled by Russian “electronic warfare systems.” Kyiv has strongly denied the allegation—and suggested that it is a pretext to escalate the war. Why this matters: “A drone attack at the deeply symbolic heart of Russian power would be an audacious move by Kyiv, with the potential for serious repercussions.” See unverified footage of the explosion below. (BBC News)
World Bank gets a desi chief
Ajay Banga became the first person of Indian origin to become president of one of the two top global financial institutions—International Monetary Fund being the other one. Banga’s resume includes stints as CEO of Mastercard and Vice Chairman at General Atlantic. Banga grew in India as an army brat—moving from one city to another—and got his MBA from IIM-Ahmedabad. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 2016. (The Telegraph)
Why Tucker Carlson was cancelled
We don’t know how much you care about a rabid rightwing host on Fox News. But we now have some idea as to why he was fired without warning last month. Newly leaked text messages show he was rooting for rioters on during the January 6 Capitol Hill riots:
“A couple of weeks ago, I was watching video of people fighting on the street in Washington,” Carlson wrote in the January 2021 text message to a producer… “A group of Trump guys surrounded an Antifa kid and started pounding the living s**t out of him. It was three against one, at least. Jumping a guy like that is dishonourable obviously. It’s not how white men fight. Yet suddenly I found myself rooting for the mob against the man, hoping they’d hit him harder, kill him. I really wanted them to hurt the kid. I could taste it.”
Needless to say, Fox did not want messages like this to become public over the course of the defamation case filed by the election tech company Dominion Voting Systems (explained here)—“creating a sensational and damaging moment that would raise broader questions about the company.”
New York Times has the exclusive.
Meanwhile, in India: We fell by 11 places in the World Press Freedom Index for 2023—and now ranks #161 out of 180 countries. What caught our attention: Pakistan moved up seven places to #150; Afghanistan improved from #156 to #152—and Sri Lanka jumped to #135 from #145. No one is defending the state of press freedom at home—but worse than a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, really? You can read the report here. (NewsLaundry)
Wrestling’s #MeToo crisis: The latest update
The context: Top Indian wrestlers such as Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik have alleged there is 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. They have refused to call off their protest until action is taken against him. For details on the sexual abuse, see our Big Story.
What happened now: The protesters—who are still parked at Jantar Mantar—claim that the police manhandled and abused them last night. The confrontation began when they tried to bring beds to the protest site. Videos below show Olympics medallist Sakshi Malik in tears while Vinesh Phogat argues with the cops. Phogat also made news for accusing Sports Minister Anurag Thakur of suppressing the complaints. (Indian Express)
Related read: Indian Express also has more on the shocking fact that the wrestling federation did not even have an ICC to investigate sexual harassment complaints—which is mandated by law. Neither do four other sports federations—including table tennis and gymnastics.
McD fined for child labour… in the US!
The Labour Department found that three McDonald’s franchises in Kentucky grossly violated child labour laws:
Across the three operators, investigators discovered that 305 children worked hours exceeding or outside of federal limits, and performed jobs forbidden to minors. One restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky employed two 10-year-olds who, at times, worked until 2 am and were unpaid, according to officials.
The company that runs the franchises claims these were kids of the night manager—and not employees. But that doesn’t account for the other 303 kids. This is just the latest in hundreds of labour violations at McDonald’s restaurants involving minors.
Point to note: In 2019, the company won a landmark legal victory—affirming that it is not responsible for what happens at franchise restaurants. Translation: McDonald’s can profit from them without shouldering any responsibility for their practices. Quartz looks at whether McD’s can continue to eat its burger and have it too.
A worrying loneliness crisis
The US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued an advisory warning of an epidemic of isolation. What caught our eye: he claimed “widespread loneliness in the U.S. poses health risks as deadly as smoking up to 15 cigarettes daily, costing the health industry billions of dollars annually.” Also, this new stat: Americans spent about 20 minutes a day in person with friends in 2020, down from 60 minutes daily nearly two decades earlier. (Associated Press)
A blackout of women’s football?
FIFA has always bundled the broadcast rights for the men’s and women’s World Cup together. But in 2019, the women’s tournament drew more than one billion global viewers. So now FIFA wants to charge separately for each of the World Cups. But broadcasters are making shamefully low offers—only $1 million to $10 million for the rights for the Women’s World Cup, compared with $100 million to $200 million for the men’s tournament. FIFA prez has warned of a TV blackout unless they improve their bids. FYI: the Women’s World Cup will kick off in July. (The Guardian)
In other biz of sports news: Forbes released its list of the richest athletes in the world—and it doesn’t contain any surprises. The top three were all football players: Cristiano Ronaldo ($136 million)—followed by Lionel Messi ($130 million) and Kylian Mbappé ($120 million). The other sport dominating the top ten: the NBA with LeBron James, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant. (Forbes)
Hindenburg strikes again!
The context: Hindenburg Research is a short seller—i.e it makes most of its money by betting against companies. It made headlines in India for the report on the Adani Group. Hindenburg’s latest target is Carl Icahn. He is an ‘activist investor’ who buys large stakes in publicly traded companies—such as Dell, Herbalife Nutrition, and Illumina—to force changes that will drive up the stock price. We covered Hindenburg’s bet against the Adani Group—which destroyed 35% of his net worth—in our Big Story here and here.
What happened now: Hindenburg’s report claims that Icahn Enterprises’ assets are overvalued by 75%—thanks to a “Ponzi-like” scheme. The company allegedly pays dividends to its old investors by taking money from new investors. After the report was published, the company’s shares dropped by roughly 20%—wiping out $2.9 billion of Carl Icahn’s net worth. (The Wall Street Journal, paywall, Reuters)
Bruno Le Maire, finance minister, erotica king (!)
Our Indian netas content themselves with watching porn—unlike their far more creative French counterparts. Finance minister Bruno Le Maire is under fire for releasing a steamy novel titled ‘Fugue Americaine’—which tells the story of two brothers who travel to Cuba to attend a concert by the late legendary pianist Vladimir Horowitz. The adventures of one of the siblings involves a very graphic sex scene. We won’t get into the details, but suffice to say that the French HuffPo’s headline of the story reads: "Bruno Le Maire has written about an anus and no one was ready for this."
But as with sex, in politics, timing is everything:
The novel was published hours before the credit ratings agency Fitch downgraded the country’s debt worthiness last week, feeding accusations from leftwingers that writing the novel had taken Le Maire’s focus off the economy and inflation.
Three things to see
One: The cover of Variety magazine pithily summed up what the Hollywood writers’ strike means for the industry. Yes, this is the future of your entertainment options—coming soon to a streaming platform near you.
Two: Did you hear that Ryan Reynolds’ Wrexham football team has been promoted to the Football League—for the first time since 2008? In other words, it is now a “league team.” No, it doesn’t mean Wrexham will be playing the likes of Manchester United. But it is a pretty great achievement—which Reynolds celebrated with an open bus tour with the team. Is it just us or is Reynolds giving wholesome Tom Hank-ish vibes? Mashable has more on what being promoted means—since we’re too lazy to explain it to you.
Three: Trailer time! Sonakshi Sinha is back as a kickass cop tracking down a serial killer in ‘Dahaad’. The web series drops on Amazon Prime on May 12.