Researched by: Rachel John, Nirmal Bhansali, Aarthi Ramnath & Anannya Parekh
A women’s reservation bill makes history
The Lok Sabha passed a historic constitutional amendment that will reserve 33% seats for women in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies. A third of the quotas set aside for scheduled castes and tribes will also be reserved for women. The vote was near-unanimous with only two MPs voting against the bill. What this means: there will be at least 181 women in the lower house in the future—as opposed to the current number of 78. The amendment is likely to sail through the Rajya Sabha—but might require ratification by at least 50% of state legislatures.
But, but, but: According to home minister Amit Shah, the reservation will not kick in until 2029. The reason: the government will first conduct a census and delimitation exercise—this is a readjustment of the number of Lok Sabha seats allotted to each state based on population. FYI: this is already a fraught exercise—since North India has higher birth rates than the South, and will gain as many as 32 seats—and a decisive majority (explained at great length in this Big Story). The Quint offers more analysis of the bill. The Print has a detailed explainer on how delimitation impacts the women’s quota. And the meme below made us chuckle:) (The Hindu)
Speaking of Parliament: Its security staff are rebelling against their new uniforms—and not just because they’re, umm, ugly. The reason: the material is thick and uncomfortable:
This is the same fabric that once upon a time, we used to stitch luggage or vehicle covers with. It is thick and heavy. In Delhi’s hot and humid climate, we end up profusely sweating and they are not fit for the long hours we have to stand under the sun. I wore it on Monday but I refuse to wear it now.
A climate change link to Storm Daniel
The context: Great swathes of the Mediterranean were hit by a ‘medicane’—a rare monster storm—that devastated Italy, Spain and Turkey. The worst hit: Libya—where 3,958 people are dead and almost 9,000 are missing (see: this Big Story).
What happened now: A new study reveals that global warming made the torrential storm that hit Libya up to 50X more likely and up to 50% more intense—compared to a world that is 1.2°C cooler. In fact, an event of that intensity is likely to hit that region once every 300-600 years. The higher sea surface temperatures proved to be devastating:
As Storm Daniel travelled slowly over the Mediterranean, it drew additional energy from sea temperatures two to three degrees above the September average… That extra warmth fuelled stronger winds and meant the air could hold more moisture. And when it hit the northern coast of Libya, it dumped an estimated 400 mm of rain on Derna in just 24 hours.
The average rainfall for Derna in September: 1.5 mm. (BBC News)
Will Disney bid farewell to Hotstar?
Disney is reportedly in talks with various buyers—including big daddy Reliance to sell its streaming service—and the Star TV channel:
The US entertainment giant has discussed a range of options with would-be suitors, from a deal for the entire Disney Star business to a piecemeal transaction that may include some combination of its assets including sports rights and regional streaming service Disney+ Hotstar.
Reminder: Mukesh-bhai’s JioCinema is already the exclusive purveyor of Warner Bros and HBO content in India. And it has rights for all key cricket tournaments including IPL and World Cup. Some experts say the merger between Star India and Ambani-owned Viacom18 will be a “game-changing move” for Indian entertainment. Why do we think it will feel more like a slide back to the DD monopoly era… (Bloomberg News, paywall, Economic Times)
New WhatsApp payment options
You will soon be able to use popular digital payment services—like Paytm and Google Pay—via WhatsApp:
Payments via those rival services — and any others that run on India's instant money transfer system UPI — will now be possible directly within WhatsApp, Meta said in a blog post. New in-app options for credit and debit cards will also be offered.
The key reason for this shift: WhatsApp pay is capped in India to 100 million users. There’s no such limit for these other payment options. Also new: WhatsApp Flows. The new feature allows customers of a registered business to book a reservation, order delivery or check-in for a flight—directly on WhatsApp. (Reuters)
Gloomy news about unemployment
According to a new report published by Azim Premji University, an astonishing 42% of college-educated Indians under the age of 25 are unemployed. That’s way higher than those with a higher secondary (21.4%) or secondary (18.1%) education. Now here’s the catch. These numbers do not hold true over time—but it isn’t clear what that means:
The unemployment rate falls from over 40% for educated youth under 25 years of age to less than 5% for graduates who are 35 years and above, indicating that eventually graduates do find jobs. However, the key questions are, what is the nature of jobs they find and do these match their skills and aspirations?
The report also reveals an interesting stat for female employment:
[C]ompared to households with no mother-in-law present, married women living in households where the mother-in-law is present but not employed are 20% (rural) to 30% (urban) less likely to be employed. While, if the mother-in-law is employed herself, daughters-in-law are 50% (rural) to 70% (urban) more likely to be employed.
Mint has lots more details on other demographics.
A global blood pressure crisis
A new WHO report reveals that the number of people suffering from high blood pressure has doubled over the past 30 years—to 1.3 billion. That’s one in three people around the world. Making things worse in India: only 37% are diagnosed—of which only 30% receive treatment and only 15% have their condition under control. The even more depressing bit: 52% of deaths caused by cardiovascular disease are linked to high blood pressure. (Bloomberg News, paywall, Indian Express)
Neuralink takes a big leap
The context: Elon Musk’s company is one of a number of startups working on a computer-brain interface—which promises to allow humans to do stuff just by, well, thinking it. The first step is to help people who are immobilised by some form of paralysis. Neuralink has had its share of controversies—including allegations of severe animal cruelty. Last year, US authorities refused to grant permission for human trials.
What happened now: The company finally has permission to start its first human trial:
Neuralink says it is looking for patients with quadriplegia due to vertical spinal cord injury or ALS. Participants will have a BCI [Brain Computer Interface] surgically implanted using a proprietary robot in a region of the brain that controls movement, with the goal of enabling them to control a computer cursor or a keyboard using just their thoughts
The study is expected to span six years. (The Guardian)
In other Musk news: The owner of the platform formerly known as Twitter says he is planning to charge everyone a fee for using his platform.
Musk has raised the prospect of a paywall as the platform battles an entrenched decline in advertising, its main source of income. Musk has said an advertiser boycott, spurred by concerns over his leadership of the platform and its management of inappropriate or hateful content, has caused ad revenue to decline by 60%.
The FTX story just got truly absurd
The context: The collapse of FTX—the second largest cryptocurrency exchange valued at $32 billion—has become the single biggest cautionary tale about Silicon Valley fraud. Founder Sam Bankman-Fried is accused of pilfering investor and customer funds—driving the company into bankruptcy in 2022 (all of this explained in this two-part series on the crypto crash here and here). The company was taken over by a court-appointed CEO tasked with overseeing the bankruptcy.
What happened now: The lawyers who represent FTX have now sued Bankman-Friedman’s mummy and daddy—both Stanford Uni profs. The allegation: they exploited their "access and influence within the FTX enterprise to enrich themselves, directly and indirectly, by millions of dollars.” Don’t worry, they also shared the wealth with their employer, channelling $5.5 million in donations to Stanford University, “donations that did not benefit the FTX Group, and instead amounted to naked self-dealing by Bankman, who sought to curry favor with and enrich his employer at the FTX Group’s expense.”
Irony alert: Mummy Barbara Fried is an ethics professor who described herself as her son’s “partner in crime of the noncriminal sort.” Sigh. It truly does run in the family. CNN has more details about the lawsuit; The Verge has the insane list of goodies doled out to the parents. As must-read: this wild Bloomberg Business deep dive into the couple who helped their no-good son raise pots of money leveraging their Stanford cred.
More literary trouble for OpenAI
The Authors Guild in the US is suing the company on behalf of the biggest names in the biz—including John Grisham, Jonathan Franzen, Jodi Picoult and George RR Martin. The accusation remains the same: the company illegally used their work to train their AI bot ChatGPT:
The complaint said ChatGPT generated accurate summaries of the authors' books when prompted, indicating that their text is included in its database. It also cited growing concerns that authors could be replaced by systems like ChatGPT that "generate low-quality ebooks, impersonating authors and displacing human-authored books."
OpenAI argues that training data constitutes “fair use” under the law. (Reuters)
Three things to see
Two:: If you’ve been jonesing for a weird Nicolas Cage flick—who isn’t after ‘Pig’—get ready for ‘Dream Scenario’. Directed by Kristoffer Borgli, it’s all about a college professor who pops up in people’s dreams. Yup, sounds like classic Cage. It drops in theatres on November 10. (Gizmodo)
Three: Here’s a feel-good story of an alligator that is missing all of its snout and upper jaw. It was rescued from a Florida swamp and now has a new home at Gatorland, an Orlando alligator zoo. But here’s the amazing bit: We don’t know how she became injured, but the gator survived for months against all odds: “It lost its nasal glands with its upper snout and was breathing through an exposed nasal cavity. Somehow, the alligator had survived without its sense of smell and the sharp bite it would normally hunt with.” As they say: Nevertheless, she persisted:) (Washington Post)