Researched by: Rachel John & Anannya Parekh
Israel-Palestine War: The latest update
For more context on the Israel-Palestine war, check out our Big Stories on: The motive for the Hamas attack; the effect of civilian casualties on Gaza’s post-war fate; and the deal for a four-day truce.
Death toll: More than 15,000 people have been killed in Gaza, which includes 6,150 children and over 4,000 women. About 7,000 people are missing under the rubble including 4,700 children and women.
The hostages: Hamas released ten Israeli women and children and four Thai nationals—which will be followed by Israel freeing 30 Palestinian prisoners.
The Saudis step in: Riyadh has promised to invest in Iran’s sanctions-wrecked economy if Tehran reins in its allied militias. Think Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon etc. The aim is to prevent the war in Gaza from becoming a wider conflict. Bloomberg News has lots more on how the Saudis are trying to keep Iran in the fold—while trying to manoeuvre for a path toward an independent Palestine.
Pressure on Israel: Washington is doing its part to prevent Israel from going back to pulverising Gaza. CIA chief William Burns is trying to broker a broader deal:
Burns is pushing for Hamas and Israel to broaden the focus of their ongoing hostage negotiations, thus far limited to women and children, to encompass the release of men and military personnel, too. He is also seeking a longer multiday pause in fighting while taking into account the Israeli demand that Hamas release at least 10 people for every day there is a break in the war.
According to AFP, Hamas is open to extending the truce by another four days. The current deal expires on Thursday.
Also this: The US is leaning on Israel to “narrow the zone of combat and clarify where Palestinian civilians can seek safety during any Israeli operation in southern Gaza.” Apparently, everyone from President Biden to the Pentagon is “pleading” with Israel to take “a more cautious approach if and when the Israeli military extends its offensive to southern Gaza.” Reminder: The US is sending Tel Aviv $14.5 billion in military aid—which makes all this talk of “pleading” a bit puzzling. (Reuters)
Humanitarian aid: The US has also sent the first batch of aid—which includes 54,000 pounds of food and medical supplies. This is the first step toward a more ambitious plan to help:
The next phase in providing support will entail allowing a flow of commercial goods into Gaza. The humanitarian mission will also entail establishing field hospitals in the region, some of which have already been set up in South Gaza. Vaccines are among the supplies being delivered, too, as are clean water and sanitation equipment to avoid cholera or typhoid outbreaks.
A new BCCI nightmare for Byju’s
As most of the world knows, Byju’s has been overwhelmed in a world of financial woes (See: This Big Story). It seemed to have a decent plan to get itself back on track—until it was torpedoed by the Indian cricket board. The BCCI has accused Byju’s of defaulting on Rs 1.6 billion (160 crore) in sponsorship fees.
The company has been the title sponsor for Indian cricket team jerseys since 2019—and extended its deal for a whopping Rs 3.58 billion (358 crore) in June 2022. But earlier this year, Byju’s suddenly backed out of most of its brand partnerships—likely because it was running out of money. The BCCI has now taken Byju’s to the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT)—which is a quasi-judicial body in India that adjudicates issues relating to Indian companies. The company says it’s working out a deal to pay what is owed.
Point to note: Experts don’t think this will be a problem for Byju’s:
Byju’s has time and the option to settle the dues and amicably resolve the matter with BCCI. The amount is very minuscule compared to the investments that the startup has received, and to save that investment, some of the investors might also have to help the startup settle the dues with the cricket board.
Google targets inactive accounts
The company will start deleting all accounts that have not been active for two or more years. This includes any data saved on any of its products—including Gmail, Docs, Drive, Photos, YouTube etc. The deadline to save your information: December 1. All you have to do is log into your Google account—using any of its services. NPR has more on how to do it and The Verge offers details on the policy.
iPhone promises to ‘text’ nice: Apple has never made much of an effort to make its tech compatible with other platforms. The reason: It wanted its users to stay in an all-Apple world. This was also true for text messaging between iPhone and Android phones:
When iPhone users send texts to other iPhones, the messages appear blue and can tap into exclusive perks like fun emojis and animations. But if an iPhone user texts an Android user, the bubble turns green, many features break, and photos and videos deteriorate in quality.
The company has now promised to fix compatibility issues to improve quality of images and videos—and add security features. New York Times has an extended riff on blue vs green text bubble elitism. Meanwhile, Indians are thinking: Who the eff uses SMS?
Life-extending drugs for dogs
US authorities have cleared a regulatory hurdle for a “conditional approval” to fast-track a drug that will extend the lives of dogs. The injectable medicine targets large dogs—who have almost half the lifespans of their smaller peers—8-12 years as opposed to 10-15 years. Here’s how it works:
LOY-001, an extended-release implant intended for large, adult dogs, is designed to modulate a different growth-related compound: insulin growth factor-1, or IGF-1. The IGF-1 pathway has been associated with aging and longevity in several species; in dogs, it is known to play a key role in determining body size. Although the idea remains unproven, some scientists hypothesise that high IGF-1 levels drive both rapid growth and accelerated ageing in large dogs, which generally have shorter life spans than small ones.
As for human lifespans: A study conducted on middle-aged mice suggests that reducing the intake of a single amino acid—called Isoleucine—can help extend longevity:
Male mice had their lifespans increased 33% compared to those whose isoleucine was not restricted, and females had a 7% increase. These mice also scored better in 26 measures of health, including muscle strength, endurance, blood sugar levels, tail use, and hair loss.
But, but, but: this is not a magic cure—even if human trials offer similar results: “We can’t just switch everyone to a low-isoleucine diet… But narrowing these benefits down to a single amino acid gets us closer to.. potential interventions for humans, like an isoleucine-blocking drug.” Science Alert and New Atlas have more on the study.
Robert DeNiro is really, really mad at Apple
The veteran actor was up on stage making a speech at the Gotham awards ceremony when he noticed an odd thing. Someone had edited the copy of his speech on his teleprompter. So he went back and read his speech again—this time using the version on his phone. The reason for the missing text: DeNiro was slated to offer a tribute to the Scorsese movie ‘Flowers of the Killer Moon’.
The film’s producer Apple wanted him to focus on the movie—not go off on an anti-Trump tirade. So they changed the speech 10 minutes before DeNiro started to speak—and did so without his permission. As you can see below, he was seriously pissed off. Variety has the behind-the-scenes scoop—while The Guardian has more on what happened.
The AI-generated pop star is here!
Anna Indiana recently released her debut single ‘Betrayed By This Town’—amassing 21 million views on X. The reason for the buzz: she is a machine—and her name is an acronym for "Artificial Neural Networks Accelerate Innovative New Developments, Igniting A New Age." Indiana did not pretend to be human—making it clear that every aspect of her song “from the key, tempo, chord progression, melody notes, rhythm, lyrics, and my image and singing, is auto-generated using AI.” Her tools of choice: ChatGPT4 and Musicfy.
Her creators say their goal is to “create and perform new original music on a 24/7 livestream with zero humans in the loop.” Many people are not happy about that. You can watch the somewhat creepy demo video below. (NME)
Speaking of songs we did not need: André 3000—best known for being part of OutKast—released a song that is both insanely long and has an insanely long title. It’s called ‘I Swear, I Really Wanted to Make a ‘Rap’ Album But This Is Literally the Way the Wind Blew Me This Time’. The run time: 12 minutes and 20 seconds. You can hear it below… if you have the time. (Billboard)
Two Rosalynn Carter things to see
Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter passed away on November 19—at the ripe old age of 96–leaving behind her husband 99-year-old Jimmy. The funeral offered several lovely moments. This is Amy Carter reading out a letter that he wrote to Rosalynn 75 years ago—when he was serving in the Navy:
And this is her grandson Jason landing an excellent feminist joke–in front of his A-list audience: