Researched by: Rachel John & Aarthi Ramnath
The Israel-Palestine war: The latest update
For more context on the Israel-Palestine war, check out our two-part series on the Hamas attack on Israel: part one lays out the Hamas offensive and failures of Israeli intelligence; part two explains the big picture—and Hamas’ motive driving what seems like a suicidal attack. Also read: our Big Story on the ground offensive by Israel, which will decide the fate of Gaza and the power balance in the Middle East. We look at the larger geopolitical picture in the region in this Big Story.
Death toll: Palestinian deaths reached a grim milestone. They’ve officially exceeded 10,000. The collective number of deaths in all previous Israeli wars with Hamas: 5,400. Israel said it had hit 450 targets on just Sunday night—resulting in at least 200 deaths.
State of the war: Israel claims to have isolated Gaza city from the rest of the strip—splitting the enclave in half. The Gazans must now brace themselves for door-to-door urban warfare—which typically result in high civilian casualties. Also, Tel Aviv has once again imposed a communications blackout: “The director of Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City told the BBC that people were using donkeys and their own cars to carry dead bodies, because communications had been cut and they could not reach ambulance services.”
A rare call for ceasefire: Leaders of 18 UN agencies joined together to issue an appeal: “We need an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. It’s been 30 days. Enough is enough. This must stop now.”
No satellite images of Gaza: Commercial companies like Planet Labs have often provided images that help verify military claims. Example: they released photos debunking Indian claims about the Balakot strikes. They also offered important information on the Ukraine war. But many of them are now restricting their imagery out of respect for the Israeli military—after a set of New York Times images revealed its tank positions.
While there has been no official announcement, the companies are holding back under pressure from US security officials:
This has forced the companies into a delicate balancing act: attempting to provide useful information to eager news outlets while staying in the good graces of the federal government, which is also a major client.
Something to see: CNN’s Fareed Zakaria offers excellent analysis of the crisis—tracing the roots of the current war to Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982—which led to the creation of Hezbollah.
World Cup 2023: Sri Lanka vs Bangladesh drama
Bangladesh beat Sri Lanka by three wickets in a narrow victory. It was an unmemorable game except for one shocking (and record-making) incident. Sri Lankan all-rounder Angelo Mathew became the first person to be ‘timed out’ in the history of international cricket. This is what happened. Mathew walked in after the fall of Sadeera Samarawickrama in the 25th over—but found the chinstrap of his helmet was broken before he took guard against Shakib Al Hasan. So he asked for a new one—which took his team mate some time to bring on the field. The problem:
Under the tournament's playing conditions, a new batter should be ready to face the ball within two minutes but Mathews was seen still waiting for team mate Chamika Karunaratne to run in with a new helmet. Shakib was seen chatting with umpire Marais Erasmus before making an appeal and the batter was adjudged timed out.
Most experts and former players felt it violated the spirit of the game. There were no handshakes at the end of the game. Watch Ian Bishop’s analysis of the decision below. The Hindu has lots more on the post-match debate. (Reuters)
Meanwhile, in Colombo: The entire Sri Lankan cricket board has been sacked by the country’s Sports Minister Roshan Ranasinghe. The reason: the humiliating 302-run defeat against India on November 2. He made the call as fans started rioting outside the cricket board offices. An interim seven-member committee headed by Arjuna Ranatunga has taken over. (Hindustan Times)
An electoral bonds bonanza
The context: An electoral bond is a financial instrument that allows you, an NGO, trust or a company to make a donation to a political party of your choice. The donation is entirely anonymous and there is no cap on how many such bonds one can buy. When the scheme was first introduced, these bonds could be put on sale during the first ten days of every financial quarter. In a Lok Sabha election year, the government can allocate an additional 30-day window.
What happened now: Last year, the government gave itself permission to open another 14-day window during state elections. And that’s what it did—announcing the sale of bonds between November 6 and November 20… right bang in the middle of the election month. When you add up all the ‘windows’, the bonds will be on sale for 75 days between now and May—when the general elections are most likely to be held. We made it super easy to understand how these bonds work and why they matter in this Big Story. (The Hindu)
Survey says… Biden is out of a job!
A new poll shows that he is trailing Donald Trump in five of six swing states—needed to win in November next year. He won all five in 2020. The margins are significant—between four to ten percentage points. Reminder: Biden is losing to a guy who’s facing four serious investigations. He is losing the most ground among minorities—faring worse in states with diverse populations. While Trump is actually gaining among Blacks:
In one fascinating way, Biden is morphing into Trump when it comes to his base: It's old and white voters who seem most solid in their support. "Biden has retained the entirety of his support among older white voters.”
That said, this is more of an unpopularity contest. According to another recent survey, 65% don’t want Biden to be president again—while 60% don’t want Trump to return—and 1 in 6 voters does not want either of them to win. New York Times has more details on its survey while Axios offers analysis. Bloomberg News has details of other poll results.
Human rights allegations against India
Three of the biggest human rights organisations—Amnesty International, Charity & Security Network, and Human Rights Watch—have issued a rare joint statement. They accuse India of using terrorist financing as an excuse to prosecute and intimidate human rights workers and NGOs. And they have sought the intervention of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)—the powerful global financial watchdog that can blacklist countries for failing to curb terrorism. They say India is exploiting FATF’s recommendations “to restrict civic space and stifle the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly.” (The Hindu)
Sony aur Zee ki shaadi: More news of trouble
The context: There’s been endless drama over the fortunes of Subash Chandra—ever since his key US investors unsuccessfully tried to kick him out in October 2021 (see this Big Story). That didn’t stop the Sony-Zee shaadi announced in December of that year. Chandra’s son—Punit Goenka—was slated to continue as the combined company’s managing director and chief executive. This despite stock market regulators banning him from doing so. But that tamasha was sorted last month—when Goenka received the green light from the SEBI tribunal court.
What happened now: There has been a new plot mein twist. Sony suddenly wants its longstanding exec NP Singh to take over as CEO. The reason: Goenka is still the subject of a SEBI investigation—on charges of embezzling funds—despite being cleared to take the top job. The problem: Goenka’s gig is an essential clause of the merger. So we’re back at a stalemate again. (Economic Times)
End of streaming bonanza in India?
During the pandemic, streaming platforms experienced a dizzying rise—which appears to have reduced to a steady clip in 2023. The total audience rose 13.5% to reach 481.1 million in 2023—against a 20% spike in the previous year. Streaming apps now reach 34% of India’s population. There is still plenty of room to grow in the rural market—where penetration is only 23%. But the question is whether these OTT platforms can grow beyond the top 20 cities. Mint has more on the numbers.
A floating AI nation? Or maybe not
US President Joe Biden signed the first executive order that will enforce regulation of AI tech—covering safety, privacy and other issues. The very next day, an AI research company Del Complex unveiled a solar-powered barge loaded with 10,000 Nvidia chips designed for AI training. And the barge is its own country—floating in international waters—and not subject to any country’s laws:
Del Complex calls the barge a “sovereign nation state” complete with its own security forces. “The Biden admin's AI Executive Order and the EU’s AI Act aim to centralise control under guise of safety,” Del Complex wrote in its post. “The solution is at sea.”
Except just like a whole lot of AI, this announcement is a deepfake:
Some of the images on its otherwise convincing-looking website have the hallmarks of being the product of AI-generation… One image features two women in hazmat suits eating what looks like a jumbled combination of a soup and salad using gigantic fork-spoons.
Speaking of creepy deepfakes: An AI-generated vid of actor Rashmika Mandanna went viral—posted to Instagram by a woman named Zara Patel. But it is unclear who created the morphed video. Of course, Mandanna is upset—as her statement makes clear. Point to note: Deepfakes are most often used to target women with fake porn—like female students at a New Jersey high school. See the unreal vid below. (Forbes)
Two things to see
One: Every year, we’re back here again—and everyone gets agitated like it’s happened for the very first time. Delhi smog is as shocking as ever—and it’s not even Diwali:( The Air Quality Index is as high as 488 in some areas. But hey, those Dilli-walas are still jogging! The Telegraph has more on the emergency measures that kicked in yesterday—including restrictions on vehicles. (NDTV)
Two: This is the trailer for ‘The Railway Men’—inspired by the true story of the railway employees who helped save hundreds of people who were dying during the Bhopal gas tragedy. The cast is excellent: R Madhavan, Kay Kay Menon and Juhi Chawla—plus Irrfan Khan’s son Babil Khan and Divyenndu from ‘Mirzapur’ fame. The series hits Netflix on November 18. (The Hindu)