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The Gaza war: A quick roundup
The latest death toll: Almost 19,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza.
Three hostages killed: Three hostages were killed by Israeli troops—when they emerged from a building holding a white flag. Here’s what happened:
"They're all without shirts and they have a stick with a white cloth on it. The soldier feels threatened and opens fire. He declares that they're terrorists. They (the Israeli forces) open fire. Two (hostages) are killed immediately," the official told reporters in a phone briefing. The third hostage was wounded and retreated into a nearby building where he called for help in Hebrew, the official said. "Immediately the battalion commander issues a ceasefire order, but again there's another burst of fire towards the third figure and he also dies," the official said.
PS: Rumours that PM Netanyahu was giving into public pressure proved to be wrong. He read a letter—allegedly from hostages’ families—at a government meeting that said: “You have a mandate to fight; you do not have a mandate to stop in the middle.”
The bits of better news: Washington says it’s determined to pressure Israel to “scale back” its offensive:
Mr. Austin will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s defence minister, Yoav Gallant, to discuss in detail when and how Israeli forces will carry out a new phase that American officials envision would involve smaller groups of elite forces, U.S. officials said. Those forces would move in and out of population centres in Gaza, conducting more precise, intelligence-driven missions to find and kill Hamas leaders, rescue hostages and destroy tunnels, according to the U.S. officials.
And Tel Aviv has agreed to open a second crossing to let humanitarian aid into Gaza—this time on Israeli soil.
Death of a cameraman: Al Jazeera reporter Wael al-Dahdouh made global headlines when airstrikes killed four members of his family. He went right back to work—alongside his cameraman Samer Abu Daqqa. On Friday, both of them were hit by an Israeli drone. Dahdouh survived but Abu Daqqa died—bleeding out for six hours while Israelis shot at ambulances trying to rescue him. Al Jazeera insists this was a targeted “assassination” aimed at eliminating its reporters—who are the few brave enough to report from the war zone. And it’s preparing a case to send to the International Criminal Court (ICC). FYI, 64 journalists have been killed by Israeli troops since the beginning of the war. (The Guardian)
A very big tunnel: Israel showed journalists a large tunnel that may have been used to launch the October 7 attacks. Associated Press has that story.
In other war horror stories: Witnesses claim that Israel bulldozed a hospital—crushing people and their tents in the courtyard and “some 20 people were crushed and buried under the rubble.” Meanwhile, Kuwaiti Hospital shared this clip showing doctors performing amputations without anaesthesia—to urge an immediate ceasefire.
Rape allegations against Sajjan Jindal
The MD of JSW Steel has been accused of rape, molestation and criminal intimidation—in an FIR filed by a 30-year-old woman. She met Jindal in Dubai during an IPL match in 2021—and stayed in touch regarding property deals. Some details vary in accounts published in various media outlets—see Indian Express and Business Line. The gist seems to be that Jindal actively pursued a romantic relationship with her—making sexual overtures. But she insisted Jindal marry her before they went any further. Instead, in January, 2022, he pulled her into a bathroom in his office and sexually assaulted her. Jindal then cut her off—and she finally went to the police in February 2023. There was no action taken until the Bombay High Court issued an order. Jindal has denied all allegations as “baseless.”
Adani’s surprisingly cheap media buy
Adani Enterprises acquired one of India’s main newswire agencies—Indo-Asian News Service (IANS)—for Rs 510,000. IANS reported a revenue of Rs 11.86 crores in FY2023 and has approximately 200 employees. So that’s an astonishingly low price for a 50.5% stake—bought from its main shareholder Sandeep Bamzai. To review: Adani now controls NDTV, Quint Business and IANS. (Business Line)
Say hello to long Covid flu
New research shows that patients with severe cases of the flu suffer long-term symptoms—much like Covid patients:
The research… found that while Covid patients faced a greater risk of death or hospital readmission in the following 18 months, both infections carried a significant risk of ongoing disability and disease. In both cases, more than half of death and disability occurred in the months after infection as opposed to the first 30 days.
But long flu symptoms tend to be focused on the lungs—while Covid patients can experience a variety of cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and neurological issues. (The Guardian)
India’s housing market is soaring
The Global House Price Index tracks rises across 56 countries in local currencies. India’s housing market has jumped 18 spots in the first nine months of 2023. It is now #14 on the index. At #1: Turkey which has held the spot since 2020—followed by Greece and Croatia. If you’re wondering about pricey locations like Singapore etc, this index measures increases in house prices—not the actual price of real estate. Hindustan Times has more on why our market is booming.
Data on child marriage in India
A comprehensive Lancet study spanning more than three decades shows that one in five Indian girls marry below the legal age—i.e 18. The rate for boys is one in six. The good news: Overall rate of child marriage for girls has declined from 49% in 1993 to 22% in 2021. The rates are highest in Bihar—followed by Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. There has been pressure to increase the marriage age to 21, but many activists say the move may backfire: “[I]f the cut-off age is raised to 21 for women, some families that might have been ready to wait till 18 may start marrying their daughters off even earlier, thinking it not worth their while to wait till adulthood any longer.” (The Telegraph)
And the Michelin star goes to…
Mumbai-born chef Garima Arora who runs a fine dining Indian restaurant named Gaa in Bangkok. She is the first Indian woman to score a second Michelin star—which is defined by the guide as “Excellent cooking, worth a detour.” According to the Michelin Guide website:
Outside traditional, inside contemporary, Gaa’s location [in a traditional Thai house in Bangkok] mirrors chef Garima Arora’s exquisite cooking: old-school at heart, transformed with modern techniques and presentation. Garima serves many of the terrific dishes herself, from a tasting menu that is informed by her Indian heritage and includes reinterpretations of street food snacks.
See an example below. Yes, that is her interpretation of the gobi paratha:) The Hindu interviewed Arora about her vision. You can see more of Gaa’s menu on their Instagram—and check out the history of Michelin stars in our Smart and Curious section.
Sticking with food: A UK survey found that Gen Z diners suffer from something called “menu anxiety”:
A third of young people are too afraid to order their own food at a restaurant and have to ask someone else to do it for them, a survey has found. [The] study found “menu anxiety” is felt most acutely by Gen Z diners, with 34% of those aged between 18 and 24 confessing they ask others to choose and speak to the waiter on their behalf.
Three things to see
One: A Kiwi zoologist spotted an “extremely rare” green honeycreeper in Colombia—which had both male and female plumage—split exactly down the middle. The blue is the male bit, btw. Also: “This individual is only the second of the species ever recorded exhibiting this trait—called bilateral gynandromorphism—and the first in more than 100 years.” (Smithsonian Magazine)
Two: A Silicon Valley start-up has developed an AI powered toy called Grok. It looks like a plush rocket—and can have conversations with kids. Grok is also being sold as an antidote to kids’ addiction to screens. We don’t know what Musk feels about the toy having the same name as his chatbot—especially since his ex-wife Grimes is one of the investors. (Washington Post)
Three: Here’s a peek at what is sure to be the feel-good movie of 2024. Titled ‘IF’—for Imaginary Friends—it has an eyebrow-raising cast: John Krasinski, Ryan Reynolds, Cailey Fleming, Fiona Shaw, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Maya Rudolp and Steve Carell. It is slated for a release in May 2024. (Variety)