Researched by: Nirmal Bhansali, Aarthi Ramnath & Smriti Arora
Good old SVB finally has a taker!
The context: Silicon Valley Bank—which was the number one banker to the tech industry—collapsed almost overnight (for reasons we explained here). It was taken over by the government agency—Federal Deposit Insurance Corporate (FDIC). And everyone moved on to the next bank to collapse as a result of the very same irrational panic that killed SVB.
What happened now: SVB finally has a buyer… sort of. First Citizens bank will snap up the failed bank but won’t pay any cash upfront. Instead, FDIC will get First Citizens equity worth $500 million. And the two will share equally in any losses suffered trying to recover SVB’s loans. That’s pretty sweet for a bank that was valued at $200 billion—before it crashed and burned. (Associated Press)
In unhappy news for crypto: US regulators have sued Binance—the largest bitcoin exchange in the world—in the first major lawsuit against a cryptocurrency company. Among the host of charges: Binance illegally sold crypto derivatives to retail investors. Derivatives allow a person to bet on whether the price of a cryptocurrency like bitcoin or ethereum will rise or fall. The feds also accused Founder Changpeng Zhao of using “a maze of corporate entities to obscure company ownership and willfully evade US law, saying that ‘Zhao answers to no one but himself.’” (Quartz)
In sad news for ChatGPT rivals: Chinese tech giant Baidu scrapped a livestream press event of its AI chatbot Ernie—claiming it will only give exclusive access to the 120,000 companies that have applied to test it. No one is buying Baidu’s story. Interesting to note: strict Chinese censorship may be a big obstacle for AI chatbots—since the internet is essential training data for machine learning. (Al Jazeera)
First cheetah tragedy in Kuno
Back in September, the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh received eight cheetahs from Namibia (explained here). One of them—a female still living in a protected enclosure—died of kidney failure. Scientists supervising the project claim that Sasha’s death is not surprising: “This is not a setback. The cat was a captive animal and had no chance of survival in the wild anyway.”
Of the animals flown into India, she was one of four captive cheetahs—which often die of kidney failure in captivity—though for reasons we don’t fully understand. Apparently, Sasha was already suffering from kidney problems in Namibia. All of which raises the question raised by an Indian scientist: “The question to be asked is: why was she brought across for this high-profile introduction if it was known that she was not a wild and functional animal?”
The Rajasthan angle: Another 12 cheetahs arrived from South Africa in Kuno last month—raising the total to 19. Now, cheetahs need a lot of space to thrive. Therefore, the plan was to move some of them to the Mukundara Hills tiger reserve in Rajasthan—since experts insist there isn’t enough prey in MP to sustain them. But the union government is dragging its feet due to “political considerations”—presumably because MP is ruled by the BJP and Rajasthan is not. Data point to note: according to experts, cub survival rates in Mukundara could touch 80 to 90%—compared to 25 to 30% in Kuno. (The Telegraph)
Speaking of wild animals: An Uttar Pradesh resident is in trouble for rescuing a severely injured Sarus crane—and keeping him at home as “a family member.” Soon after clips of the crane following Arif Khan devotedly, forest officials swooped in to move the crane to the Samaspur wildlife sanctuary. And he was booked for violating the Wildlife Protection Act. Khan’s defence:
Within weeks, the bird started recovering, and soon it started flying too. It stayed in the courtyard outside the house. But it never returned to the wild for good. It would stay in the jungle when it wanted. Then, in the evenings it would come to my house and eat with me. I never held it captive.
A lot of this may have to do with the fact that Samajwadi Party leader staged a photo-op with Khan and the bird. But here’s the kicker: it soon became apparent that the bird was too domesticated to survive in the sanctuary—and had to be rescued by locals again. Now, the officials have carted it to Kanpur to be kept in a zoo. You can see the bird in happier days below. (Indian Express)
Lebanon’s absurd ‘time zone’ problem
Daylight savings time in Lebanon—when clocks jump forward by an hour—usually kicks in on the last Sunday of March. Caretaker PM Najib Mikati decided to push the shift to April 21—to allow fasting Muslims to break their fast an hour earlier during Ramadan. The Christian groups were outraged—and the churches just said ‘no’ to the new schedule. As a result, Lebanon now has two time zones: Muslim Time and Christian Time. Here’s an example of the insanity that ensued for a Japanese student:
I had an 8 am appointment and a 9 am class, which will now happen at the same time,” she said. The 8am appointment for her residency paperwork is with a government agency following the official time, while her 9am Arabic class is with an institute that is expected to make the switch to daylight savings.
Mikati has now backtracked—but the realignment back to a single time zone is expected to take 48 hours. And as you can see in the map below, it's just plain bizarre even from a geographical point of view. (The Guardian)
Dismal numbers on Indian wives
A new government report shows that “cruelty by husband and/or his relatives” accounts for nearly a third of reported crimes against women. And these cases outnumbering the charges of rape and sexual harassment (23%). Next in line: kidnapping and abduction–—which accounted for 18% of cases. Of course, these only reflect the crimes that are reported. What’s more depressing: these numbers haven’t budged in five years—as you can see in the chart below. (The Print)
Agatha Christie gets a clean up
The context: As you may know, many Western publishers now hire ‘sensitivity readers’. They are “inclusion ambassadors” roped in by publishing companies to scrub language that may offend—in upcoming or already published books. The rewrites of Roald Dahl’s most iconic books drew great attention and outrage—and the publisher HarperCollins had to back down. The publisher announced that it would continue to release the original editions—alongside the cleaned up versions.
What happened now: Agatha Christie’s novels have been subjected to a similar review. Examples of stuff that has been scrubbed:
Dialogue in Christie’s 1920 debut novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles has been altered, so where Poirot once noted that another character is “a Jew, of course”, he now makes no such comment. In the same book, a young woman described as being “of gypsy type” is now simply “a young woman”, and other references to gypsies have been removed from the text.
Also scrubbed: words like ‘Oriental’ and the N-word. You can see why this round of edits has not sparked an outcry. (Telegraph UK, paywall, Independent)
Jonathan Majors has been cancelled
Over the weekend, the star of two of the biggest recent Hollywood releases—‘Creed III’ and ‘Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania’—was arrested on an assault charge over the weekend. He was allegedly involved in a “domestic dispute” with a woman. The US Army immediately pulled ads starring the actor—and his story appeared to be following a familiar #MeToo trajectory. Plot mein twist: his lawyers now say they have “video footage from the vehicle where this episode took place, witness testimony from the driver and others who both saw and heard the episode, and most importantly, two written statements from the woman recanting these allegations.” (Associated Press)
Four things to see
One: We were told over and again that the government had little to do with the early parole granted to the 11 rapists of Bilkis Bano. They raped her when she was a 19-years old, pregnant—and they killed her three-year-old by banging her head against a rock (explained here). But what should we make of this photo of two BJP leaders sharing the stage with one of them? Is this treatment of convicted killers a right vs left issue? BJP vs Congress? Really?
FYI: The Supreme Court has now issued a notice to the union and Gujarat governments asking if the convicts received special treatment: “This was a heinous offence. It was horrendous. And for murder cases convicts are languishing in jails without remission. So, is this a case where the standards have been adopted uniformly in other cases also?” (Indian Express)
Two: A new species of Moray eel has been discovered in the Cuddalore district. Ok, so it looks a wee bit icky but we do adore its name: Gymnothorax tamilnaduensis. (The Hindu)
Three: You probably don’t care that over 2,000 mummified ram heads—over 4.500 years old—were found in an ancient King Ramses II Temple in Egypt. But the sight of the heads stacked together is something else. (Science Alert)
Four: West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee did her best to put on a rousing welcome party for President Droupadi Murmu—including beating a drum and doing a tribal dance. We give her A for enthusiasm. (NDTV)