Researched by: Nirmal Bhansali, Aarthi Ramnath & Smriti Arora
The very strange case against ‘The Kashmir Walla’
The context: The online publication’s editor Fahad Shah was arrested last year on charges of sedition—as was the author of one of the pieces published on its site. Authorities have done their best to keep Shah behind bars—often slapping new charges against him every time he comes up for bail.
What happened now: The State Investigation Agency (SIA) has now laid out its case in a chargesheet filed in a NIA court. It makes all sorts of allegations—which are worth spelling out in detail—so bear with us.
One: The online subscription model—similar to any paid publication—is a national security risk:
“Unscrupulous elements can utilise this route to fund an entity to foment trouble in a region and carry out propaganda in its own interest,” it stated, adding that “this part is under investigation.”
Two: Shah received around Rs 10 lakh in “foreign funding” from Reporters sans frontiers (Reporters Without Borders)—which the SIA describes as the following:
Reporters Sans Frontiers also popularly called as reporters without borders is an organisation which supports press freedom all over the world, while in reality the entity is involved in subverting the democratic freedoms all over the world.
Three: it also claims that digital publications can be easily used as stooges for Pakistan etc:
"Under this plan, select anti-India elements within the media, guided from across, have held several secret meetings in which the adversary instructed” them “to form media platforms, especially digital platforms that are inexpensive but have wider reach."
Last not least: Shah has been arrested for a “highly provocative” and “seditious” article—whose “printout” was given to the SIA by a “discreet but reliable source”—but was not actually found on ‘The Kashmir Walla’ website. (Indian Express)
In somewhat related news: The Rajasthan High Court has acquitted all four men convicted for the Jaipur serial bombings—which killed 71 and left 200 injured in 2008. And it offered fairly damning reasons why:
Acquitting all the accused, a Division Bench of the High Court held that the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of the Rajasthan police had failed to prove any aspect of the evidence and there was no basis to establish its theory of conspiracy, in which the accused were sought to be implicated. Some of the evidence produced against the accused also appeared to be fabricated, the court said.
The four Muslim men had been sentenced to death by a lower court. (The Hindu)
Silicon Valley bigwigs’ warning on AI
Some of the most prominent names in the Valley have signed a letter warning that AI technology could “pose profound risks to society and humanity.” These include Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak, and AI experts Stuart Russell and Yoshua Bengio. They have called for a six-month hiatus so the industry can craft shared safety protocols—and here’s why:
[W]e must ask ourselves: Should we let machines flood our information channels with propaganda and untruth? Should we automate away all the jobs, including the fulfilling ones? Should we develop nonhuman minds that might eventually outnumber, outsmart, obsolete and replace us? Should we risk loss of control of our civilization? Such decisions must not be delegated to unelected tech leaders.
All good questions that need careful answers. FYI: no one from OpenAI—the creator of the wildly popular ChatGPT—signed the letter. (TechCrunch)
With perfect timing: Researchers from OpenAI (hmm) and the University of Pennsylvania published a paper laying out all the jobs that are in jeopardy due to AI. ChatGPT will ruin the livelihoods of people with college or higher degrees—but not that of anyone involved in jobs that require physical work. The language is carefully coded—as in it talks about what careers AI chatbots will “influence” or “augment'' the most. The list includes: interpreters and translators; poets, lyricists and creative writers; animal scientists; PR specialists; writers, mathematicians, tax return preparers, and web and digital interface designers. Forbes has lots more on the paper.
FYI: We are constantly told that we could raise crazy money if we could do a free AI-driven version of splainer—written by ChatGPT, perhaps? What do you think? Maybe ChatGPT should write a paper on the vast gap between user needs and VC obsessions when it comes to news lol!
Adnan Syed is a convict again!
First, some context: The wildly successful ‘Serial’ podcast is the mother of all true crime content—be it audio or video. The first season involved the conviction of a Pakistani American—Adnan Syed—who was convicted for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. So it was wildly vindicating when he was released from jail after 23 years in 2022. This was a result of a review of the evidence by prosecutors. See our Big Story on the case and his release.
What happened now: Sadly, the conviction has been reinstated by a higher court that says the victim’s family was not allowed to attend his release—which violates required procedure. Now, it isn’t clear if Syed will go right back to jail… but it still sucks to be him. The Washington Post has more on this bizarre ruling.
Doing far better: National Congress Party (NCP) leader Mohammad Faizal—whose MP status was abruptly reinstated today. It was yanked when he was convicted on attempted murder charges—which were overturned by the Kerala High Court. And yet the Lok Sabha secretariat dragged its feet on reversing his disqualification. But just as Faizal was getting ready to move the Supreme Court, the government hastily reinstated him. Why any of this matters: Rahul Gandhi has just been disqualified after being convicted of criminal defamation. Good to read: our Big Story on Gandhi’s disqualification. (The Quint)
Indian meds are getting more pricey
One of the great good things about living in India is that our medicines are relatively affordable—at least compared to the West. But starting April 1, the price of 384 essential drugs and over 1,000 formulations are going to jump 11%. These include painkillers, anti-infection drugs, cardiac drugs, and antibiotics. A lot of this has to do with inflation—and the government insists it is being prudent: “Manufacturers will not sell at a loss and we must ensure a steady supply of essential medicines in the country. Additionally, the prices are allowed to rise in a controlled manner.” OTOH, this is the highest annual jump in drug prices in a single year. (The Hindu)
Speaking of Indian meds: 18 Indian pharma companies are going to lose their licence over the poor quality of their drugs. This is a result of a campaign run jointly by Union and state governments to crack down on contaminated meds. Why this urgency? Made-in-India medications—from cough syrups to eyedrops—have been linked to deaths and permanent damage. See our Big Stories on two separate Indian cough syrups implicated in the death of children in Gambia and Uzbekistan. (Indian Express)
Netflix has a ‘Madhuri’ problem
The company is in trouble for the first episode of season two of popular sitcom ‘Big Bang Theory’—which FYI ended in 2019 after 12 seasons. The problem:
In the scene in question, Sheldon Cooper calls Aishwarya Rai a poor man's Madhuri Dixit. In response to his comment, Raj Koothrapalli replies, "Aishwarya Rai is a goddess, by comparison, Madhuri Dixit is a leprous prostitute".
This travesty has now been unearthed by a Mithun Vijay Kumar whose Twitter bio describes him as: “Author | Political Analyst | Star performer - MyGov (Citizen Engagement Platform of GOI)” He has now asked Netflix to remove the episode or face legal action for promoting discrimination against women. Now, we’re not in favour of calling any woman names but—let’s get real—most Indian movies would have to be pulled down if misogyny were the criteria.
FYI: Jaya Bachchan was just as worked up. She asked if actor Kunal Nayyar is “insane"—declaring that he has a “badi gandi zubaan” and needs “to be sent to mental asylum." (Mint)
Curd by any other name…
The top regulatory food safety body in India is insisting that your packet or tub of yogurt should be labelled as ‘Dahi’—and relegate the regional language word for it to brackets. Examples: Dahi (Curd) or Dahi (Tayir), Dahi (Perugu) etc. Tamil Nadu’s dairy association has already said ‘no can do’—refusing to print the Hindi word on its packets. And CM MK Stalin thundered: “Such brazen disregard to our mother tongues will make sure those responsible are banished from South forever.” Cue the language wars. (The Hindu)
Three astonishing things to see
One: We have no idea what the Indian law enforcement officials are up to but really now… how can Amritpal still be running free? He was first captured on CCTV cameras across the North—and is now making a vid of his own? But here’s what caught our eye in his statement:
The government of Punjab has crossed the limits of oppression. The manner in which Sikh youths have been thrown into jails…women and children are also not spared. Disabled youths were also sent to jails. It is the same as what happened to Sikhs under the rule of Beant Singh.
Beant Singh—Congress. Government of Punjab—AAP. We are not prone to conspiracy theories, but that’s a bit weird. (Indian Express)
Two: OMG, we cannot get enough of the four baby cheetah cubs that were born in Kuno. We are vaguely worried as to why these laddus were born now as opposed to mid-April—when they were supposedly due. We are fully aware of the many arguments against bringing cheetahs into this country (see our Big Story). But we’re still cheering for their survival. (Hindustan Times)
You can see the cute cubs below: