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Splainer is hiring!
We are hiring for an important editorial position—Assistant News Editor—to join the brilliantly talented splainer team. The job includes daily editorial responsibilities but unlike the average newsroom gig, this is a lot more than the standard writing/editing job. If you‘re looking for a boiler-plate newsroom desk job, we are likely not the right fit for you.
What we’re looking for: Our team includes former lawyers, social justice activists, new college grads—and yes, journalists. Below is a must-have checklist:
- Impeccable writing, editing and researching skills.
- 0-1 years of experience.
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A knowledge of and love for splainer is a huge plus—since we’re not the usual news product. Above all, we’re looking for a person who shows initiative, commitment and, above all, curiosity.
Please note there is a six-month probation period. We pay industry-standard salaries and offer ESOP incentives after a year. We are location-agnostic and an equal opportunity employer. And we pride ourselves on a warm, friendly work culture. Please send your resumes and cover letter—telling us why you want this job—to email@example.com.
Israel-Palestine War: A quick roundup
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. Below is a quick roundup of the latest developments:
The death toll: 18,412 people have died in Gaza so far and 50,100 have been injured.
A key GA vote: A whopping 153 out of 193 countries voted overwhelmingly in favour of an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the UN General Assembly. That includes India. What’s notable is that the number of yea votes is higher compared to a similar resolution passed in late October. This time, only ten nations voted against—including the US—marking its increasing isolation. A GA resolution is non-binding but reflects global sentiment. Btw, proposals to include mention of the October 7 attacks and Hamas were rejected. (The Hindu)
Biden’s break with Bibi: For the first time, the US President publicly criticised PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s government:
Israel “has the European Union, it has Europe, it has most of the world supporting them, but they’re starting to lose that support by indiscriminate bombing that takes place.” He also had some harsh words for the Netanyahu government, which he called “the most conservative” in the country’s history. Biden went as far as to say that Netanyahu had to “change this government.”
His remarks were primarily tailored for his audience—at an election fundraiser. Reminder: Biden is bleeding Democratic voters over his Israel policy. But it also marks a genuine rift over what happens after the war. Netanyahu has openly rejected the US plan to put the Palestinian Authority in charge. (PA currently governs the occupied West Bank.) (The Guardian)
Epidemics spread in Gaza: The WHO has reported at least 369,000 cases of infectious diseases since the war began—which doesn’t even include north Gaza. The New York Times has more on this latest horror. Also read: A Washington Post report that indicates the US supplied the white phosphorus used by Israel in an attack on south Lebanon. Reminder: using it is a human rights offence.
A new Adani scandal ahoy!
Gautam-bhai just can’t get a break from pesky investigations that uncover inconvenient facts (See: our Big Stories on Hindenburg and OCCRP reporting). The latest comes from Bloomberg News—which has unearthed an Indian contracting firm called Howe Engineering Projects. Howe is Adani Group’s contractor for some of the largest ports and railway projects in India.
The problem with Howe: In 2014, the Indian government accused Adani of using a company called PMC Projects to siphon money overseas. The case dragged on—governments changed—and the allegations were dismissed in 2017. By happy coincidence, Howe took over operations of PMC in 2016. But things are far murkier than that.
For starters: This May, Adani’s auditor Deloitte resigned saying it can’t determine if Howe is a “related party”—i.e a company with which Adani Group has a separate, preexisting relationship. These aren’t illegal but have to be disclosed—and are subject to higher scrutiny, Bloomberg News has now found that PMC and Howe are both owned by an entity registered in Mauritius—which is in turn owned by Taiwanese businessman Chang Chien-ting.
Next: Chang’s daddy is Chang Chung-Ling who—as we explained—is the owner of Lingo Investment—which channelled hundreds of millions of dollars into a Bermuda-based investment fund called the Global Opportunities Fund (GOF). And all that money ended up in various Adani companies. As a result, Chang Sr holds significant stock in them.
He also popped up in a 2007 probe into an illegal diamond trading scheme:
A DRI report described Chang as the director of three Adani companies involved in the scheme… As part of the case, it was revealed that Chang shared a Singapore residential address with Vinod Adani, the low-profile older brother of the Adani Group’s chairman, Gautam Adani.
The main takeaway: A corporate governance experts sums up the problem:
The question is who is getting the money, what work are they doing for Howe and Adani, how is the money being spent? What reason is there not to disclose these payments when there are obviously deep ties with these people, with the owner?
Coming soon: Reliance aur Disney ki shaadi
For months, there have been rumours that Reliance will buy out Disney’s holdings in India—including Hotstar and Star TV channels. According to an Economic Times exclusive, the two sides may be nearing a merger instead:
The plan, as of now, is to create a step-down subsidiary of RIL’s Viacom18, which will absorb Star India via a stock swap, said the people cited above. Reliance is pitching to be the larger shareholder with at least 51% in the merged company with Disney owning 49%, they said.
Economic Times has lots more on the deal.
Omidyar Network exits India
Omidyar Network—founded by Pierre Omidyar—is an impact venture firm, funding companies focused on social change. It began its India operations in 2010—investing in companies such as Bounce and 1MG. But the firm has now suddenly shut shop—saying it will be leaving by the end of 2024. There is no real explanation other than Omidyar claims it has “achieved our primary objective of catalysing impact”—and there are now other Indian funds doing the same work.
But, but, but: The decision may be influenced by the fact that Omidyar India was among ten NGOs who lost their licence to receive foreign funds. Also: the fund has been losing money on a number of its India bets such as Doubtnut. (TechCrunch)
Google’s epic loss to Epic
The context: The company has been sued multiple times for violating antitrust laws—using its app store to maintain its monopolies. In 2020, Epic Games—maker of Fortnite—filed a lawsuit accusing Google of playing favourites. While some companies had to pay 30% of their revenue to the company, others got secret sweetheart deals—allowing them to pay less or even nothing at all.
What happened now: A US federal jury ruled in favour of Epic after just a few hours of deliberation. But we don’t know what that means until January when the judge will decide how to implement that verdict:
Epic never sued for monetary damages; it wants the court to tell Google that every app developer has total freedom to introduce its own app stores and its own billing systems on Android, and we don’t yet know how or even whether the judge might grant those wishes.
This is also why Google is going to fight the verdict—which endangers its very lucrative income from gaming apps. Reminder Google has been losing many of its anti-trust lawsuits in the EU and the US. Meanwhile in India: it lost a lawsuit filed by Disney challenging a 15% service fee on all subscriptions bought on its app. The Verge has the best details on the verdict and its implications.
Rajasthan has a new CM
His name is Bhajan Lal Sharma—a first-time MLA and a relative no-name. His assets include being an upper caste Brahmin—which completes the caste math in the other two states (OBC in MP and tribal member in Chhattisgarh). And, of course, he is a loyal RSS member—having joined the organisation as a student. Sharma was also jailed in Ayodhya during the destruction of the Babri Masjid in 1992. The Hindu has more details. Indian Express looks at the BJP strategy of dumping popular and well-liked state leaders—like Vasundhra Raje in Rajasthan.
Meet the new opium king of the world!
Myanmar has officially toppled Afghanistan as the world’s largest producer of opium. The main reason is that the Taliban has banned opium production since it took power in 2022—which resulted in a 95% decline in production. The global supply has now shifted to Myanmar—where it has become a lucrative business for farmers:
Myanmar farmers now earn about 75% more from opium poppy farming, as average prices of the flower have reached about $355 per kilogram and the cultivation area has increased by 18% year on year.
Opium also fuels the growing black economy in the midst of a civil war. Something to note: Cultivation has vastly expanded in the Chin region—which has spilled over into Manipur. Data point to note: “The scale of poppy cultivation in Manipur had spread across over 18,000 acres of land in the hills between 2017 and 2023.” NDTV has more on that angle. (Reuters)
Four things to see
One: The Modi-Shah combine stripped Shivraj Singh Chouhan of his Chief Minister title in Madhya Pradesh. But he’s still making headlines—giving suitably humble speeches with lines like:
I want to express one thing very openly and humbly, 'Apne liye kuch maangne jaane se behtar, main marna samjhunga, isiliye meine kaha tha main Dilli nahi jaunga' (I would rather die than go and ask something for myself, that is why I said I won't go to Delhi).
But what caught our eye was this vid of wailing women supporters—bereft at being abandoned by Mama-ji. Maybe Chouhan isn’t “asking”—but he’s certainly trying to say something. Btw, the drama is at saas-bahu serial level. (India Today)
Two: Zara’s latest ad campaign is accused of profiting from the bombing of Gaza. It features models posing in destroyed—or under construction (?)—buildings. Also: mannequins wrapped in white, much like bodies in the war zone. Note: The images were shot before the bombing began—but many still think it is tasteless. Protesters are targeting Zara around the world—from Manhattan to Tunisia. Some of them entered stores holding white bundles that resemble body bags—which you can see below. The company has since pulled its campaign—and deleted the images from its website. (CNN)
A cozy peach hue softly nestled between pink and orange, PANTONE 13-1023 Peach Fuzz brings belonging, inspires recalibration, and an opportunity for nurturing, conjuring up an air of calm, oﬀering us a space to be, feel, and heal and to flourish from whether spending time with others or taking the time to enjoy a moment by ourselves.
Yeah, okay but it looks like this! Think we’ll pretend it’s still 2023 for the next 12 months and stick with Viva Magenta! (Artsy)