Researched by: Rachel John & Aarthi Ramnath
US on edge of a financial crisis
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has now warned that the US will run out of money on June 1. And here’s why. Since the US has a budget deficit, it has to borrow money to pay its bills. And the debt ceiling puts a cap on how much debt it can run up. America hit that cap on January 19—and has since been mired in a political stalemate. The White House is in a war with Republicans in Congress—who are refusing to raise the ceiling. They want deep spending cuts and a rollback of climate change legislation in exchange. The White House has refused to bargain so far.
Why this matters: The last time there was a political battle over the debt limit in 2011, stock prices plunged—and did not recover for half a year. An actual breach would be far worse, according to experts: “a debt limit breach could kill up to three million jobs, add $130,000 to the cost of an average 30-year mortgage and balloon the national debt by an additional $850 billion.” All of which will have a knock-on effect on the global financial markets. (New York Times)
Government blocks 14 messenger apps
Messenger apps like Briar, Crypviser, Enigma, Safeswiss and Wickrme were apparently being used by terrorist groups in Kashmir—to communicate with their supporters, spread propaganda and incite violence. These heavily encrypted apps also do not have a presence in India—and therefore could not be asked to share user information as per Indian law. Point to note: some of these apps don’t require the internet or servers—which makes them ideal for J&K—where there are frequent internet shutdowns. (News18)
India is an ‘oil-laundering’ country
According to a new report, India is the #1 ‘laundromat’ for Russian oil. This means we buy Russian crude, process it—and then sell the oil to European nations—allowing them to duck sanctions. Most of the exports to the EU originate from two ports in Gujarat: the Sikka port services the Reliance-owned Jamnagar refinery, and the Vadinar port that ships oil products from Nayara energies. What’s interesting about this—Nayara is partly owned (49.13%) by a Russian company Rosneft:
This situation where a Russian company owns an oil refinery in a third country highlights a possible way of circumventing sanctions. Rosneft or other oil companies from Russia are free to transport crude oil to Vadinar, where it is refined and can be exported to the price cap coalition countries as oil products from India.
External affairs minister S Jaishankar has previously dismissed such allegations, saying: “There’s an enormous shortage of oil...Getting access to oil is difficult. A country like India would be crazy to get oil from somebody and sell it to somebody else. This is nonsense.” Of course, the grand prize in hypocrisy goes to the European nations—who publicly support sanctions while secretly dodging them. (The Hindu)
Making badminton history in Dubai
Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy won the gold medal at the Badminton Asia Championships—India’s first after 58 years. The duo beat Malaysians Ong Yew Sin and Teo Ee Yi —and are now ranked #5 in the world. The last time India won a gold at BAC was in 1965—when Dinesh Khanna became the men’s singles champion. You can watch the winning moment below. (Indian Express)
Big changes in the job market
The World Economic Forum put out its Future of Jobs report—which predicts a 23% churn in the global job market. This number estimates the amount of disruption by using this formula: the number of expected new jobs, plus the number of roles expected to be lost, divided by the size of the labour force. And here’s what to expect:
AI and Machine Learning Specialists top the list of fast-growing jobs, followed by Sustainability Specialists and Business Intelligence Analysts. The majority of the fastest growing roles on the list are technology-related roles. The majority of fastest declining roles are clerical or secretarial roles, with Bank Tellers and Related Clerks, Postal Service Clerks, and Cashiers and Ticket Clerks expected to decline fastest.
Bilingualism is better
Here’s some excellent news for Indians. According to a new study, speaking two languages from a young age offers you significant cognitive benefits—including learning, memory, language and self-control. The reason:
Neuroscientists hypothesise that because bilingual people switch fluidly between two languages, they may be able to deploy similar strategies in other skills — such as multitasking, managing emotions and self-control — that help delay dementia later on.
But, but, but, the study did a poor job of defining ‘bilingualism’. The benefits were detected in participants who used a second language daily between age 13 and 30 or between age 30 and 65. The results may well have varied with frequency. (New York Times)
Aww, ChatGPT be so nice!
One of the biggest worries about AI tech is that it will become the default for not-so-rich folks—while the high-and-mighty can afford humans. This is especially alarming in the sensitive area of healthcare. But a new study shows that the machine shows more empathy when answering patient questions than human docs. People preferred the AI answers by 80%. The reason the AI is a lot nicer:
“It's pretty obvious why AI was better. It's not constrained by time," lead author John Ayers, an epidemiologist at the University of California San Diego, La Jolla told Axios. "You could take a simple query like: 'I have a headache, can you help me?' and you'll immediately see ChatGPT say 'I'm sorry you have a headache,'" Ayers said. "The doctor knows that, they feel that. They don't have time to say it."
Jack Ma is a college professor
Everyone is going back to school these days. First, ex New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern announced she is going to be a fellow at Harvard. Now, the founder of the Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba has taken a new job as a visiting professor at Tokyo College—run by the University of Tokyo. He will be teaching seminars on entrepreneurship, corporate management and innovation. Ma started out as an English teacher before he became a billionaire entrepreneur. (Business Insider)
Air pollution & heart disease
Chinese researchers have found that a spike in air pollution leads almost instantly to heart arrhythmia—which can trigger a heart attack. They found that even an “acute exposure to ambient air pollution” increased the risks of symptomatic arrhythmia which “occurred during the first several hours after exposure and could persist for 24 hours.” (Telegraph UK, paywall, The Guardian)
A new Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel
An unpublished work by the legendary Colombian author will be released in 2024. The plot:
The tale of Ana Magdalena Bach, a middle-aged woman who has an erotic affair while visiting a tropical island to lay flowers on her mother’s grave, was allegedly the first chapter Márquez was working on.
Sounds fabulous. The only catch: the work will be published in Spanish. There is no word on whether there will be an English translation. (The Guardian)
Adidas is getting sued
The context: The company dragged its feet while responding to clear evidence of Kanye West’s nasty anti-semitic and sexist behaviour—because why rock the boat on the insanely lucrative sneaker collab with Adidas. Its own staff penned an open letter exposing Kanye’s abusive behaviour toward employees at Yeezy and Adidas. This included forcing them to watch explicit photos and porn vids at the workplace. The company finally cut ties in October, 2022.
What happened now: The company is now being sued by its own investors—who claim that management was fully aware of Ye’s bad behaviour—“and failed to take precautionary measures to limit financial losses if the partnership were to end.” The breakup with Kanye is likely to cost Adidas $535 million in earnings and an operating loss of nearly $750 million in 2023. (USA Today)
Three things to see
One: Does anyone love Lionel Messi more than Kerala. Nah, we don’t think even the Argentinians can top this Thrissur Pooram madness. The festival featured large illuminated cut-outs of Messi holding the FIFA world cup atop 15 elephants. FYI: we personally think no real-life elephant should have to endure anything that a real-life Messi would not. (The News Minute)
Three: Artist Maurizio Cattelan’s artwork consists of a banana duct-taped to a wall—which apparently is so delicious that it has now been eaten twice. First, in 2019, a performance artist chomped it down at an exhibit in Miami—after it was sold for $120,000, FYI: it was quickly replaced. Now, a South Korean art student ate the banana saying he was "hungry" after skipping breakfast. The best bit: “After eating the banana, the student, Noh Huyn-soo, taped the peel to the wall.” You can see this bit of performance art below. (BBC News)