Researched by: Rachel John, Nirmal Bhansali, Aarthi Ramnath & Priyanka Gulati
Liquor excise scandal: From Delhi to Telangana
The context: Former Delhi Deputy CM Manish Sisodia is currently being held in jail on corruption charges. He allegedly took money from the liquor industry to frame a favourable excise policy. AAP, of course, insists that this is a grand BJP conspiracy to weaken the party in the runup to the elections. If you need a refresher on the liquor scam, read this Big Story.
What happened now: The Enforcement Directorate has now summoned the daughter of Telangana CM K Chandrashekar Rao for questioning. The move came a day after the ED arrested a Hyderabad-based businessman—who allegedly ratted out Kalvakuntla Kavitha. Since December, officials have been flagging the involvement of a so-called ‘south group’ in the scam. We assume none of the members of this cabal will be relatives of Karnataka BJP CM Basavaraj Bommai. (Indian Express)
New suspects in oil pipeline sabotage
The context: In September, 2022, multiple explosions disabled pipelines supplying Russian gas to Germany. At the time, NATO called it an act of “sabotage”—but did not name the culprit. The Ukrainians immediately blamed Moscow—an accusation that European leaders did not bother to refute.
What happened now: New US intelligence review suggests that the real perpetrators were pro-Ukrainian groups—who are opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin. But officials hastily clarified that there was no evidence that Kyiv was directly involved—and said they have not arrived at any “firm conclusions.”
Why this matters: Anything that ties Ukraine to the explosions is a problem for Germany—a key NATO ally—“souring support among a German public that has swallowed high energy prices in the name of solidarity.” Berlin also recently sent 14 tanks to Kyiv—breaking its post-war ban on supplying arms to countries in conflict. (New York Times)
In other Ukraine-related news: South Korea also has a policy banning military aid to countries at war. A new Reuters investigation shows that Seoul did an end run around its own law by sending howitzer guns to Poland—in the full knowledge that they will end up in Ukraine. Reuters has more details.
Sad news for Hotstar subscribers
All HBO content will disappear from the Disney+ Hotstar platform by March 31. The reason: Negotiations to renew the licensing agreement between the two companies appear to have failed. So if you want to stream season 4 of ‘Succession’ or catch up with the wildly popular ‘The Last of Us’, you’re totally out of luck. HBO is no longer available as a broadcast channel—and HBO Max has not launched in this country. So Indians will have to make do with a handful of shows offered on Amazon Prime. The only source of hope: Prime will expand its partnership with HBO. Point to note: HBO Max is the most expensive streaming service in the US and costs $16 (Rs 1,314) a month. (TechCrunch)
ChatGPT is coming to your Slack
The ubiquitous workplace messaging app will now offer a ChatGPT assistant that can summarise conversations in channels and threads—and draft message replies, status updates and meeting notes. The tool is still in beta—but you can join a waitlist to test it. FYI: Slack’s parent company Salesforce also announced another Open AI-based tool called Einstein GPT—specifically designed for sales. CNBC has that story. (CBS News)
In other key tech news: The Indian government issued a notification that imposes money laundering laws on all cryptocurrencies. Reuters has more on what that means.
EV sales are soaring!
According to a new report released by the International Energy Agency, one in seven cars sold worldwide in 2022 was an electric vehicle. That’s a massive jump from 2017—when only one in every 70 cars sold was an EV. Sales of EVs surpassed 10 million for the first time last year—increasing by almost 60%. This is especially significant in a year when auto sales were weak. FYI: The EV slice of the pie in India will be worth Rs 475 billion by 2025. (Quartz)
A speedy cure for drunkenness?
A recent study—conducted solely on drunk mice—shows that a single hormone may hold the key to instant sobriety. Scientists upped the levels of the naturally produced FGF21—which is produced by the liver to help process food and alcohol. They found that the mice who received the boost sobered up an average hour-and-a-half faster than the control drunk mice. Why this matters:
Our studies suggest that FGF21 might be useful for treating the many patients who come into emergency rooms with acute alcohol poisoning. Increasing alertness and wakefulness would be helpful both for preventing them from choking on their own vomit and for speeding up evaluation and treatment of other injuries.
The killer whale + orphan calf: An odd ‘love story’
A newly published paper documents a baffling instance of orcas raising a pilot whale calf. A female nicknamed Sædís was seen “showing protective behaviour, and she was showing caregiving behaviour towards the calf." It isn’t clear whether the pod rescued or kidnapped the baby whale—since pilot whales are part of the orca diet. But this is the first documented instance of a killer whale ever tending to the young of another species. And it is especially notable since orcas are nasty creatures:
Orcas hunt dolphins by ramming into them and breaking their spines. They also dine on the tongues of blue whales, the largest animal ever known, and even hunt great white sharks to sup on their livers, leaving the rest of the carcass to rot.
But since this isn’t a Disney movie, there is no happy ending. The female orca was not producing milk and the calf received no nutrition—and is now likely dead. Boo! (Live Science)
Two Women’s Day stories of note
One: Air India flew 90 all-women crew flights since March 1 to mark the occasion—noting that “India has the largest number of commercial women pilots in the world.” Women constitute over 40% of Air India’s workforce and 15% of its cockpit crew. (NDTV)
Two: Does anything say ‘Happy Women’s Day’ better than a new Barbie? Mattel thinks not. The company released a line of new dolls celebrating women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). No, there are no Indians. But, hey, the Wojcicki sisters—Susan (YouTube CEO), Anne (23andME CEO) and Janet (professor of pediatrics & epidemiology)—now have plastic doppelgangers. To be fair, Mattel’s STEM dolls are usually diverse—dutifully ticking each ethnic/racial category. But we still think the Wojcicki sisters are kinda creepy looking. (CNN)