Researched by: Nirmal Bhansali, Aarthi Ramnath & Smriti Arora
A bloody Naxal attack in Chhattisgarh
Ten District Reserve Guard (DRG) personnel and a driver were killed in a bomb explosion in Dantewada. It was the worst attack since April 2021—when 22 jawans were killed in an ambush. The blast left a 10-foot crater—as you can see below—and could reflect a resurgence in Maoist activity:
Sources in the Union home ministry said a recent intelligence report had suggested that Maoists were regrouping in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra and posed a new challenge for security agencies… According to an Intelligence Bureau report, the extremists exercise complete control of the forested area of Abujhmad in Chhattisgarh where they have set up several camps that provide arms training to recruits. An IB official said Abujhmad was a liberated zone and had become a Maoist hotbed.
OTOH, the government insists Naxal activity has been “almost wiped out in Jharkhand and Bihar due to sustained operations by security forces”—down by 77% in just over a decade. FYI: DRG is a special force of the Chhattisgarh police made up mostly of members of tribal communities. The Telegraph and The Hindu have more details—and varying accounts of the big picture in Chhattisgarh.
Wrestling’s #MeToo controversy: The latest update
The context: India’s top wrestlers have been staging an angry protest—alleging widespread sexual abuse by coaches and even the head of the wrestling federation, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. They accuse the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) of failing to act against Singh—and keeping a report filed by an investigative panel under wraps. For details on the sexual abuse, see our Big Story.
What happened now: Seven women wrestlers have urgently moved the Supreme Court—which has listed the case for April 28. The Delhi police has asked for more time—saying it “felt” that “some preliminary enquiry” may be needed before registering an FIR. It isn’t clear what the police have been doing since January—when the complaints first became public. The Hindu has the details.
Point to note: Singh is a six-time BJP Member of Parliament—who has been running the show for over a decade. At the WFI, he has a reputation for micro-management—and has the “last word” on all decisions and attends most tournaments. When asked about wrestlers he oversees, Bhushan said, “These are all strong men and women. To control them, you need someone stronger. Is there anyone stronger here than me?” Indian Express has more on Bhushan.
Two health stories to worry about
One: Indian cough syrup is once again in the spotlight. The World Health Organization issued an alert about made-in-India Guaifenesin TG syrup—being sold in Micronesia and Marshall Islands:
The WHO said that the tested samples of Guaifenesin TG syrup, made by Punjab-based QP Pharmachem Ltd, showed "unacceptable amounts of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol". Both compounds are toxic to humans and could be fatal if consumed.
The good news: There are no reports of fatalities. You can read our Big Story on why Indian cough syrups have a shameful reputation around the world. (BBC News)
Two: Melatonin is the biggest craze with insomniacs in the US—and is being touted as a safe alternative to sleeping pills. But new research shows that over 88% of gummy melatonin products were badly labelled—and contained dangerous amounts of melatonin and/ or cannabidiol or CBD. (CNN)
Microsoft vs Google: The latest update
Ever since Microsoft bet big on the ChatGPT-driven version of its search engine Bing, Google has been feeling the heat. The rival rolled out its AI chatbot Bard in a hurry—but it may not have dented Microsoft’s comeback—as the companies’ quarterly earnings reveal:
The numbers that both companies disclosed are telling. Google’s revenues in “search and other” categories rose 1.87% year-on-year, a far smaller growth than the 24.3% in the same quarter in 2022 and the 30.1% in 2021. Meanwhile, [Microsoft CEO Satya] Nadella said that daily installs of the Bing mobile app have grown four times since Microsoft bundled AI features into the browser’s search capability.
Quartz has more on the AI chatbot wars. If you don’t know why everyone is so worked up about ChatGPT, check out our Big Story.
Two climate change stories of note
One: Our oceans are heating up at an astonishing rate, according to a new study:
In March, sea surface temperatures off the east coast of North America were as much as 13.8C higher than the 1981-2011 average. "It's not yet well-established, why such a rapid change, and such a huge change is happening," said Karina Von Schuckmann, the lead author… "We have doubled the heat in the climate system the last 15 years, I don't want to say this is climate change, or natural variability or a mixture of both, we don't know yet. But we do see this change."
The prospect of a prolonged phase of El Niño—which brings drier and hotter weather—is making scientists even more concerned. We explained the transition to El Niño in this Big Story. (BBC News)
Two: Another study used statistics to create a model that predicts which parts of the world are at most risk of heatwaves. This counter-intuitive study argues parts of the world that haven’t experienced extreme heat are the most vulnerable:
Dr. Mitchell and his colleagues looked at maximum daily temperatures around the world between 1959 and 2021. They found that regions covering 31 percent of Earth’s land surface experienced heat so extraordinary that, statistically, it shouldn’t have happened. These places, the study argues, are now prepared to some degree for future severe hot spells.
So who is at most risk:
According to the study, these include economically developed places like Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, plus the region of China around Beijing. But they also include developing countries like Afghanistan, Guatemala, Honduras and Papua New Guinea, that are more likely to lack resources to keep people safe.
New York Times has more details—and you can read the original study here.
A big India gift to Spotify
The music streaming service has surged from 422 million to 515 million—a 22% increase in the number of users. Apparently, India is “the single market that has contributed the most to our global growth over the last year.” The company’s user count in India has tripled over the last two years:
Spotify did not provide numbers, but Comscore estimates the platform has about 55 million monthly active users (MAUs) in India, and Spotify is the country’s top audio-streaming service in terms of engagement, with nearly 10 billion tracks streamed in India in January alone, sources close to the company say.
But, hey, Spotify has still not posted a profit. (Al Jazeera)
Kenya’s bizarre cult deaths
Earlier this month, the police discovered mass graves in a forest—all of whom were members of a cult named Good News International Church. They were told to starve themselves to meet Jesus. The body count has now gone up 90—making the worst such case in the history of the country. What’s really sad: more than half of the victims were children, followed by women. (The Guardian)
Three things to see
One: Mattel has introduced a new Barbie—who has Down Syndrome:
Barbie worked with the National Down Syndrome Society in order to accurately represent a person with Down syndrome. That included shaping the doll's body to include a shorter frame and longer torso and a round face that features smaller ears and almond-shaped, slanted eyes.
You can see her below. (NPR)
Two: No good things can come of giving children crayons—as the museum in Worcester, UK found out. The ‘family pack’ distributed to seriously underage ding-dings resulted in crayon markings scrawled across “the face, arms and torso of the 230-year-old Sabrina statue.” Well done. Look at the lovely ‘before’ and ‘after’ pics. (BBC News)
Three: Last but certainly not least is this new goody box from Blink-182 band member Travis Barker. It is a limited-edition package that costs a mere $182. Called the Liquid Death Enema of The State Collectible Enema Kit:
[It] includes a can of Liquid Death water, hand-signed by Barker, and an enema bulb. Described as "a limited edition collectible adult art piece and not intended for use as a real medical device," it is available now at liquiddeath.com; only a few hundred are available, the company says.
Not sold? Here’s the ad to push you over the edge. FYI: they’ve already sold out. (USA Today)