Researched by: Nirmal Bhansali, Aarthi Ramnath & Priyanka Gulati
Credit Suisse finds a buyer (bailout)
The Swiss investment bank UBS is shelling out $3.25 billion to buy the embattled Credit Suisse—whose share price has tanked by more than 74% in the past year. The deal was struck after Swiss regulators extended a big, fat loan to the bank to shore up its cash balance—but failed to restore the market’s confidence. The deal creates one of the biggest banks in Europe. The Swiss finance minister said, “This is no bailout. This is a commercial solution”—fooling no one since she also added:
The bankruptcy would have had huge collateral damage on the Swiss financial market and with a risk of contagion internationally. The US and UK were very grateful for this solution . . . they really feared a bankruptcy of Credit Suisse.
An arrest warrant for Putin
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian commissioner for children’s rights. The reason: they abducted Ukrainian children from Russian-occupied territories and sent them to Russia—where they were ‘adopted’ by families. According to Ukraine, 16,226 children were kidnapped.
Why this matters: This is the first time the court has issued a warrant for the leader of one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. To be clear, it is very unlikely that Putin will be arrested or face trial. But the ruling has other consequences:
But the moral condemnation will likely stain the Russian leader for the rest of his life—and in the more immediate future whenever he seeks to attend an international summit in a nation bound to arrest him. “So Putin might go to China, Syria, Iran, his ... few allies, but he just won’t travel to the rest of the world and won’t travel to ICC member states who he believes would ... arrest him,” said Adil Ahmad Haque, an expert in international law.
Delhi police vs Rahul Gandhi
During the Kashmir stint of his Bharat Jodo yatra, Gandhi claimed that “women are still being sexually assaulted” in the state. Ever since, he has been hounded by the Delhi police to share “information” about these “victims.” Over the weekend, officials issued a fresh notice and even paid him a visit. If you’re curious as to why the Delhi police is so concerned about this matter: “According to [Special Commissioner] Hooda, since the yatra passed through Delhi and Mr. Gandhi also lives here, the police is conducting an inquiry if the Congress leader met any such persons in the city.” (The Hindu)
A new ‘raccoon dog’ theory of Covid
Say hello to the latest animal to play a starring role in the origin story for Covid. Scientists looked at samples of genetic material taken from Wuhan’s wet market in early 2020. And they found that a high amount of genetic material from the coronavirus intermingled with genetic material from raccoon dogs. It strongly suggests that illegally sold raccoon dogs could have been carriers of the virus—but does not offer definitive proof. But it still matters for this reason:
Through a swirl of data obfuscation by Chinese authorities and politicalization within the United States, and rampant speculation from all corners of the world, many scientists have stood by the notion that this outbreak—like most others—had purely natural roots. But that hypothesis has been missing a key piece of proof: genetic evidence from the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, China, showing that the virus had infected creatures for sale there.
At the very least, it suggests that animals sold at the market were infected—and that the virus originated in animals rather than a lab. FYI: raccoon dogs have zero relationship to raccoons and are most closely related to foxes. (The Atlantic, paywall, CNN)
Amazon eyes MX Player
The company is getting ready to make an offer for Times Internet’s free video streaming platform:
Earlier, Times Internet was asking for over $100 million (approx. Rs 8.2 billion) for MX Player, while Amazon’s internal team valued it at around Rs 500 crore (Rs 5 billion). The deal is likely to be in the range of Rs 600-900 crore (Rs 6-9 billion).
MX Player is part of Amazon’s ‘mass market’ play—which includes its own miniTV service within its shopping app. FYI: the sale is likely part of the breakup between the Jain brothers—Sameer and Vineet—who are in the process of slowly splitting the spoils of the Times empire. (Mint)
Sobering data on the ‘weight of humanity’
A recent study revealed that the total weight of all the wild land mammals in the world is less than 10% than that of humans. The collective biomass of elephants, bison, deer etc is only around 22 million tonnes—a sharp drop from the 50 million tonnes estimated two years ago. Guess what other single animal weighs as much? Dogs—which come in 20 million tonnes. Domesticated animals are multiplying along with their humans. And how much do we humans weigh? 390 million tonnes. Why this matters:
The idea that Earth is a planet that still possesses great plains and jungles that are teeming with wild animals is now seriously out of kilter with reality. The natural world and its wild animals are vanishing as humanity’s population of almost eight billion individuals continues to grow.
The Guardian has more details.
IPL stays tough on Covid
Although other cricket organisations are easing their Covid requirements, the IPL is sticking to its strict rules. Players who test positive will have to go through a mandatory 7-day isolation period—and will not be allowed to play until they test negative.
From day five of recovery, they can undergo an RT-PCR test, provided they are asymptomatic without medication for 24 hours. Once the first result is negative, the second test must be taken 24 hours apart.
FYI: the ICC allows players to play even after testing positive. For example: In January, Australian opener Matt Renshwaw tested positive before the toss but went on to play the match against South Africa. (Mint)
In excellent tennis news: Rohan Bopanna won the men’s doubles at Indian Wells—and became the oldest player ever to win an ATP Masters title. The 43-year-old Bopanna and his teammate Australian Matthew Ebden beat top seeds Wesley Koolhof (Netherlands) and Neil Skupski (UK). His ranking jumped four places to #11. (Hindustan Times)
The greatest places on earth
The TIME magazine put out its annual list of ‘World’s Greatest Places’ for 2023. Among the 50 selected locations are two Indian destinations: Ladakh and Mayurbhanj. Most of us are familiar with Ladakh, but Mayurbhanj in Odisha made the list for being “the only place on earth to spot the exceedingly rare black tiger.” Among Ladakh’s attractions is India’s first Dark Sky Reserve—which are areas that have exceptionally low light pollution and good conditions for stargazing—in Hanle village. (PS: We featured an excellent beginner’s guide to astrophotography in our Advisory in case you’re planning a trip to Hanle). (TIME)
Nuclear reactors for the Moon!
The UK Space Agency (UKSA) has inked a £2.9 million deal with Rolls-Royce to build a demo version of a modular lunar nuclear reactor. The company—not to be confused with the one that makes pricey cars—plans to have it ready by 2029. The goal is to “lay the groundwork for powering continuous human presence on the Moon.” Coming next: a fierce debate over exporting nuclear power into space. See the visualisation of one of the mini-reactors below. (BBC News)
Meanwhile, on Mars: Scientists have developed ‘cosmic concrete’ to construct habitats on Mars. The sample version of ‘StarCrete’ is made of simulated Mars dust, potato starch and salt—and is twice as strong as regular concrete. (Interesting Engineering)
Something freaky to see
The latest version of AI image generator Midjourney is freaking everyone out by spitting out “creepy and too perfect” images of humans. It has even mastered the art of creating human hands—which has oddly befuddled other such tools. According to a graphic designer: “MJ v5 currently feels to me like finally getting glasses after ignoring bad eyesight for a little bit too long. Suddenly you see everything in 4k, it feels weirdly overwhelming but also amazing.” See an example of how astonishingly real these images look, below. (Ars Technica)