Researched by: Nirmal Bhansali & Aarthi Ramnath
India vs Canada: A new escalation
India has told Canada it must withdraw at least 41 diplomats by October 10. This will cut the number from 62 to 21—which is a steep drop. While there has been no official comment on either side, this reflects New Delhi’s demand for “parity” in the number and grade of diplomats each nation sends to the other. Canada has a far bigger staff—ostensibly because of the high numbers of Indians seeking visas to work, visit or study there. The dramatic reduction in staff is expected to affect visa processing times.
In any case, no one thinks this has anything to do with numbers. The Ministry of External Affairs’ spokesman has previously claimed Canadian diplomats are “interfering in India’s internal affairs.” It is unclear what India gains by continuing to put pressure on Canada—and keeping the issue on the front burner. Some Canadian leaders blame the aggressive attitude on election politicking—an accusation levelled by Indians at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as well. (Financial Times, paywall, Indian Express)
The Nobel Prize in Physics goes to…
Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz and Anne L’Huillier—for their groundbreaking technique that uses lasers to observe and measure the extremely rapid movements of electrons. This is how speedy electrons are:
The movements of electrons inside atoms and molecules are so rapid that they are measured in attoseconds — an almost incomprehensibly short unit of time. “An attosecond is to one second as one second is to the age of the universe,” the committee explained.
The Nobel Prize twitter handle also shared this handy infographic:
The prize-winning technique uses short pulses of light to do what was until now impossible:
Think of a rotating fan at its highest speed: each blade is a blur. But if you point a strobe light at the fan, every flash will illuminate a frozen moment in time. As the flashes get shorter, more information about the fan is revealed.
Unprecedented chaos in US Congress
The context: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has been embroiled in a battle with far-right Republicans even before he took office in January. It took him 15 rounds of voting to become Speaker because of their opposition. And they have made his life hell ever since. He’s tried to appease them by taking extreme positions—but to no effect other than earning the Democrats’ enduring anger. But he refused to shut the government down just to force extreme spending cuts—and pushed through a temporary funding measure with Democratic support last week.
What happened now: McCarthy lost his job after a group of eight hard right Republicans forced a resolution to kick him out. The Democrats voted alongside them to deliver the 216-to-210 vote—deciding not to save his neck. This is the first time that a House Speaker has been ousted from office. It is unclear what will happen next given the unprecedented situation. No one seems to want the job—and more importantly, no one seems to have the votes to secure it in a sharply divided party. Adding to the chaos: that stopgap government funding runs out in November. But, hey, as McCarthy said: “I made history, didn’t I?” (New York Times)
Amazon’s secret Project Nessie revealed
The US government’s antitrust lawsuit filing shows that Amazon used an algorithm code-named “Project Nessie” to force its rivals to match its prices:
The company also used Nessie on what employees saw as a promotional spiral, where Amazon would match a discounted price from a competitor, such as Target.com, and other competitors would follow, lowering their prices. When Target ended its sale, Amazon and the other competitors would remain locked at the low price because they were still matching each other.
Far more damaging: tactics used to hurt third party sellers on its own platform. They are not allowed to charge a lower price for their products on another website—even if it is their own. And Amazon slaps on high fees that drive the cost of the product up. An example:
For instance, if an Amazon seller making a hat lists it at $20 on Amazon.com to cover their shipping costs, referral fee and advertising costs, it must also charge $20 for that hat on its own website, though the cost of doing business would be much less if a buyer bought directly from them because there would be no referral fees or advertising costs.
Wall Street Journal has more details.
Sex abuse scandal hits Abercrombie & Fitch
The brand’s former CEO Mike Jeffries and his partner Matthew Smith are accused of recruiting and exploiting young men—using “a highly organised network.” They paid middlemen anywhere from $500 to $1,000 per ‘referral’ to recruit young men to attend sex parties. The men were paid for attending these parties. But many were not told what they would be required to do—and almost all did not feel they were able to say ‘no’. The entire operation sounds a lot like the sex trafficking operation run by Jeffrey Epstein—who was a pal of Mike Jeffries. We recommend you read the rest over at BBC News—which uncovered the story.
Reminder: Abercrombie & Fitch has entirely rebranded itself—distancing itself from its seedy past—when it relied heavily on images of oversexualised young men. Victoria’s Secret—whose disgraced CEO is also associated with Epstein—is now trying to do the same vis-a-vis women. Ah, Paris, A&F and Victoria Secret Angels. The early 2000s... the gift that keeps on giving.
Two tech monetisation stories of note
The big social media platforms are finding new ways to make moolah.
Meta: Strict new EU guidelines require social media platforms to get user consent before it can collect their data to sell targeted ads. Meta has found a way around the rules: any user who doesn’t give their consent will have to pay for an ad-free version. The subscription tiers are as follows:
Under the plan, Meta has told regulators it would charge users roughly €10 a month, equivalent to about $10.50, on desktop on a Facebook or Instagram account, and roughly €6 for each additional linked account, the people said. On mobile devices the price would jump to roughly €13 a month because Meta would factor in commissions charged by Apple’s and Google’s app stores on in-app payments.
X/Twitter: announced a two-year deal with Paris Hilton to create original video content on the platform. This will include a “live shopping experience” that lets her livestream viewers “browse through a catalogue of products and then click through to the site to make a purchase via our in-app browser.” CEO Linda Yaccarino is busy trying to boost Paris Hilton’s catchphrase ‘sliving’—a cringe combination of ‘slaying’ and ‘living’. Meanwhile, Gen Z types are like ‘Paris, who?’ The promo vid below can only be appreciated by anyone who survived the early noughties. (The Verge)
Speaking of X: The company is being sued by a Florida-based ad agency named X Social Media:
The lawsuit said the agency has used the "X Social Media" name since 2016 and owns a federal trademark covering it. It said it has invested more than $400 million in Facebook advertising to reach potential clients. The company said Twitter's rebrand has already confused customers and caused it to lose revenue.
Reminder: There were nearly 900 active US trademark registrations that include the letter “X” across various industries. Musk’s company, OTOH, applied for trademark protection only last month. (Reuters)
‘Morning after’ pill for queer men
US health agencies will soon release a new guideline for gay/bisexual men and trans women advocating the use of the antibiotic doxycycline—as protection against STDs such as chlamydia, syphilis or gonorrhea. Studies have found that people who took the meds within three days are 90% less likely to get chlamydia, about 80% less likely to get syphilis and more than 50% less likely to get gonorrhoea. So far, there is no strong evidence it works for heterosexuals. Why this matters: Medical research has not moved very much in the area of STD prevention in recent decades. And doxycycline is a widely available and cheap drug. (Associated Press)
One fab thing to see
Beyoncé fans rejoice! The trailer for her concert film titled ‘Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé’ just dropped. Yes, she is doing a Taylor Swift. The movie hits theatres in the US on December 1. No sign of a global release—unlike Swift. Variety has more on the film.