Researched by: Nirmal Bhansali, Aarthi Ramnath, Priyanka Gulati & Smriti Arora
Banking jitters over Credit Suisse
The Swiss bank’s shares fell as much as 30% when its largest investor—the Saudi National Bank—ruled out investing any more money in it. Worse, the loss of confidence showed signs of spreading to other European banks:
The selloff in Credit Suisse had quickly spread to European banks and sparked a furious and destabilizing rush toward the safety of government bonds. Traders reported difficulties buying and selling government bonds in the worst episode of market dysfunction since the panicky days when Covid-19 hit the world economy exactly three years ago. Shares in France’s two major international banks, Société Générale SA and BNP Paribas SA, fell more than 10% on fears that financial linkages to Credit Suisse could spread. Shares in Germany’s Deutsche Bank AG slid 9%.
All of which prompted Swiss regulators and the country’s central bank to step in and guarantee Credit Suisse’s “liquidity”—i.e it will have enough cash to cover its customers’ deposits. The speedy action was an effort to prevent a repeat of the Silicon Valley debacle (explained here). That said, the Swiss bank’s woes are greatly self-inflicted—and include money laundering and tax evasion scandals. (Wall Street Journal, paywall, Quartz)
India gets a new Amreeki ambassador
Eric Garcetti has finally been confirmed by Congress as the next US ambassador to India—more than 18 months since he was first nominated by the Biden White House. The former LA mayor squeaked through despite losing the support of several Democrats—who were unhappy with his record on sexual harassment:
The nomination had been freighted with questions about what the former mayor knew, and when, about sexual harassment allegations against his friend and once-close adviser, Rick Jacobs. A lawsuit alleges that Jacobs frequently harassed one of the then-mayor’s police bodyguards while Mr. Garcetti ignored the abuse or laughed it off.
Welcome mat for foreign lawyers
The Bar Council of India has opened the door to foreign lawyers and law firms—who will be allowed to practise foreign law in India but not appear in court. Lawyers will have to first register with the BCI—and the firms will have to hire Indian lawyers to advise them on local law. Until now, they could only represent foreign companies or, at best, Indian companies with a foreign office. The permission, however, comes with many conditions and restrictions—which are listed by The Telegraph. Mint has the big picture.
Ooh, the next gen chatbot is here!
Open AI has released GPT-4—which is supposedly “more creative and collaborative than ever before” and “can solve difficult problems with greater accuracy.” While it can process both text and visual inputs, it will respond only in words. Only paid subscribers of ChatGPT can access this new, shiny version. Or else get ready to use Microsoft’s search engine Bing. Apparently, it’s been powered by GPT-4 all along. OpenAI CEO is already managing expectations: “It is still flawed, still limited, and it still seems more impressive on first use than it does after you spend more time with it.” Why wait for anyone else to say it:). Befuddled by all this drama over AI chatbots? Read this Big Story to get a clear sense of the debate over what they can or cannot do. (The Verge)
In other GPT4 news: Get ready for an AI language buddy on Duolingo. The app is now offering a new ‘Max’ subscription tier powered by GPT-4. It has two added features— ‘Roleplay’ and ‘Explain My Answer’:
For instance, you can pretend to order coffee at a café in Paris or discuss future vacation plans with a certain character in the app. After users are done with the conversation, they will get AI-powered feedback on the accuracy and complexity of their responses, as well as tips for future conversations.
The price for this next-level language immersion: $29.99 per month or $167.99 per year. (TechCrunch)
A link between Parkinson’s and dry cleaning?
A recent study has closely linked trichloroethylene (TCE) to Parkinson’s disease. It is a colourless organic solvent present in all sorts of common household cleaning products, refrigerants—and also dry cleaning. According to researchers, “Millions more encounter the chemical unknowingly through outdoor air, contaminated groundwater, and indoor air pollution.” Now, the hypothesis linking TCE to Parkinson’s isn’t new. But this is the first to present strong evidence.
But, but, but: Before you start panicking about your dry cleaning, here’s a key caveat:
This link is still based on indirect and limited data. And not everyone is in agreement about the strength of the evidence. In its investigation of Camp Lejeune, the CDC’s ATSDR found that the evidence for TCE’s role in causing Parkinson’s currently met the standard of equipoise and above, meaning that it’s at least as likely to be true as not—one step below having sufficient evidence for a causal link.
In far happier news about coffee: New research suggests that high levels of caffeine can help reduce a person’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes—and the amount of body fat they carry. The Guardian and Technology Networks have lots more on the technique known as Mendelian randomisation used to come to this conclusion. FYI, this isn’t true for any caffeinated drinks containing sugar and fat—which would cancel out the benefits. So it’s only black coffee, baby!
No working brides please!
A new study confirms what Indian women already know: working women are far less attractive on the shaadi market than the stay-at-home kind. The reason: “A higher household social status is associated with women who are not working.” The most depressing quote: “Men do not value women’s intelligence or ambition when it exceeds their own, whereas women look for male partners who outdo them on attributes such as income or height.” Slitting wrists already. (Quartz)
The great monster seaweed cometh!
A giant floating blob of seaweed is heading toward the coast of Florida. Sargassum is a brown seaweed that floats on the surface—but has an unfortunate transformation the moment it hits the shore. It produces hydrogen sulphide—the yucky crap you last smelled in the chem lab. Not exactly what you want when you’re hanging at the beach. Already, excess amounts of seaweed are choking the beaches in Cancun, Mexico—to the point where no one can enter the water. This massive blob has been growing each year since 2011—and may reach record levels this year—and has been named the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt. (New York Times)
Oxford dictionary: The Kiwi edition
New Zealand is updating its Oxford dictionaries with Maori words—to reflect how Kiwis actually speak. For example: the common Māori greeting Kia ora e hoa!—meaning ‘hi mate’. There are 47 New Zealand English words or expressions added to the dictionary in its latest update. Waiting for a Hinglish update to Oxford dictionaries in India. (The Guardian)
Two things to See
One: Netflix documentaries have always been greatly acclaimed. But it’s clearly reaching for new heights with this flick on Yo Yo Honey Singh. The only thing that gives us hope: the producer is Guneet Monga, who just won the Oscar for ‘Elephant Whisperers’. Then again, we’re slightly more interested in elephants than Punjabi rappers. In any case, here’s the teaser he shared on social media. (Hindustan Times)
Two: Coors has launched beer-flavoured popsicles—called ‘Coors-icles’—just in time for the big college basketball playoff called March Madness. Yup, it is madness indeed! Check out the ad below. (NBC News)