Researched by: Nirmal Bhansali, Aarthi Ramnath & Smriti Arora
A rising rebellion in Israel
The context: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is determined to ram through a bill that will give the government greater power to appoint judges—and overturn the Supreme Court’s rulings (a good explainer here). For over a month, Israelis have been flooding the streets in protest.
What happened now: In an unexpected development, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant was sacked—after he publicly spoke out against the proposed “reforms.” The reason: public anger is spreading to the military—posing a national security risk:
In recent weeks, discontent over the overhaul has even surged from within Israel’s army — the country’s most popular and respected institution, which has historically been an apolitical unifier. A growing number of Israeli reservists have threatened to withdraw from voluntary duty in the past weeks, posing a broad challenge to Netanyahu as he defiantly plows ahead with the judicial changes while on trial for corruption.
Gallant’s sacking has added fresh fuel to the raging protests. Tens of thousands flooded the street over the weekend—and were met by the police with water cannons—you can see what it looked like below. Netanyahu plans to pass the bill by the end of the week. (BBC News)
The Ukraine invasion: Here come the nukes
Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled plans to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus—which is right next door to Ukraine. This is Moscow’s response to last week’s announcement that the UK will provide armour-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium to Kyiv. While depleted uranium munitions are not considered nuclear weapons, Moscow begs to disagree. Kyiv has now called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council: “Ukraine expects effective action to counter the Kremlin’s nuclear blackmail by the U.K., China, the U.S. and France.” (Associated Press)
Meanwhile, in Beijing: China is celebrating a new setback to Taiwan—which it claims as part of its territory. Honduras formally turned its back on its ally and publicly sided with Beijing, announcing:
Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory and, as of today, the government of Honduras has communicated to Taiwan the severance of diplomatic relations, pledging not to have any further official relations or contact with Taiwan.
Why this matters: Taiwan has been isolated ever since the UN refused to recognise it as an independent nation in 1971. Over the decades, its remaining allies have cut diplomatic ties to keep Beijing happy. There are only 12 nations that recognise Taiwan now—but that includes the United States—which remains the main guarantor of the island nation’s security. (New York Times, paywall, CNN)
Mumbai Indians’ big WPL win
Mumbai Indians beat Delhi Capitals by seven wickets in the final to lift the inaugural Women’s Premier League trophy. Nat Sciver-Brunt smashed an unbeaten 55 off 60 balls—while captain Harmanpreet Kaur contributed a critical 37 runs to help MI reach the winning total of 154 with 10 wickets to spare. See the winning moment below. (The Telegraph)
Also a big win: Star boxers Nikhat Zareen and Lovlina Borgohain both scored gold medals in the world women’s boxing championships. Zareen became the second Indian woman after Mary Kom to win more than one world title. (The Hindu)
Khalistani nastiness in Washington
The crackdown on Waris Punjab De leader Amritpal Singh has sparked worldwide protests among a small but highly visible group of Khalistan supporters—who have been angry and often violent toward Indians in the crowd. Example: they assaulted a man in British Columbia, Canada, last week. On Sunday, some men directed their anger at PTI’s foreign correspondent Lalit Jha—who was abused and hit with sticks. He did not suffer any serious injuries—but the sheer bile on display in the video below is shocking. (The Print)
Google India goes bilingual
The search engine will now display results in two languages—English and local—based on your location. The company proudly announced:
Using advanced machine learning-based translation models and a cross-language search technology, we’ll serve you high-quality and relevant content in your local language alongside English results, if that’s how you choose to view them.
This is not exactly welcome news for many Indians who are bilingual, yes, but also highly mobile. It isn’t helpful to serve results in Kannada to Bengalis in Bangalore—or in Hindi to Tamilians in Delhi. None of this would matter if you could easily opt out of this annoying default setting. According to The Hindu, you have to entirely opt out of English (India) in your language settings—and change your region. (The Hindu)
Also annoying users: Twitter which has finally buried the old verification system. Users with blue ticks will now have to pay for the privilege or lose it—except notable accounts and users "affiliated with a verified organisation." NBC News has more details.
‘Made in India’ eye drops: An American horror story
The context: Back in February, US authorities issued a recall for artificial tear drops sold under the name EzriCare. The drops contained a nasty strain of bacteria called P aeruginosa—which is resistant to antibiotics. The eyedrops were manufactured by a Chennai-based company Global Pharma Healthcare.
What happened now: There are now 68 documented cases across the US—which include two deaths. Eight people have reported vision loss and four have had their eyeballs surgically removed. Health authorities are worried because this strain has never been detected in the US before—and is likely to spread: “CDC officials fear the outbreak will lead to these types of infections becoming more common, as the bacteria can asymptomatically colonize in people, spread to others, and share their resistance genes.” Ars Technica has more details. Reminder: ‘Made in India’ cough syrups have already been implicated in the deaths of children in Uzbekistan (explained here) and Gambia (explained here).
In other disease-related news: A killer fungus in Africa is wiping out hundreds of amphibian species—including frogs, salamanders and wormlike animals called caecilians. According to a new study, chytridiomycosis has put 41% of all amphibians around the world in danger of extinction. Scientists are comparing the scale of its impact to the bubonic plague that killed a third of Europe’s population in five years. Why we all should care:
The devastation to amphibian species is wreaking havoc on ecosystems around the world. Frogs and salamanders feed on disease-causing mosquitoes and other insects, keeping their populations in check. They also provide food for larger frogs, snakes and some bird species.
Washington Post has more details.
Two things to see
One: Prominent activists have been holding peaceful teach-ins to protest new rules for the rural employment scheme NREGA. But even these small gatherings have attracted the ire of the police—which burst into a public conversation hosted by activists Jean Dreze and Richa Singh at the Delhi University. The lack of tolerance for any kind of dissent in this clip is eye-opening. (Scroll)
Two: French President Emmanuel Macron is facing raging protests for his pension reforms—which raised the retirement age from 62 to 64 to reduce benefits. The last thing he needs is to look like a Marie Antoinette squeezing old people. When the good man suddenly realised—mid-interview—that his watch was way too expensive for TV, he decided to channel his inner magician. Now you see it, now you don’t! And since this is 2023, the fiercest point of debate: the exact price of the watch lol! (The Guardian)