Researched by: Aarthi Ramnath & Smriti Arora
Kalakshetra’s #MeToo uproar: The latest update
As we explained in our Big Story, one of India’s greatest cultural institutions has been rocked by over 100 complaints of sexual harassment and bullying. The police have arrested Hari Padman—one of four faculty members named by the students. Separately, four male students have sexual harassment complaints against two employees of the Kalakshetra Repertory—the wing dedicated to performance arts. The News Minute has that story.
Meanwhile in Gujarat: A court has acquitted 27 people accused of murder and gang rape during the Godhra violence in 2002. The reason: the 190 witnesses called by the prosecution either “turned hostile” or were “unable to recall facts or identify accused.” The judge therefore dismissed the prosecution case as based on “mere suspicion without any evidence on record.” The crimes involved were horrific:
Among the most significant cases of the prosecution was the massacre in Ambika Society, where a group of 38 from a community, moving from Delol village to Kalol, were attacked. The prosecution had contended that a total of 11 people were killed and set on fire while 17 others, including an eight-year-old, ran to escape. One woman had alleged that she was gang-raped and that one of her toes were cut off by the perpetrators.
Meanwhile, in Uttar Pradesh: A Mathura court has acquitted 41 men charged with the deaths of 68 Muslims killed in a single village in 1987. The court bluntly accused the police of inventing evidence:
In the FIR, the court noted, “names of the accused were entered in the voter list by police”, and some of these accused had “passed away before the incident”. The prosecution’s “plot becomes doubtful when the aforesaid facts appear admittedly in the evidence,” it said.
Indian Express has that story.
Yet another woman leader steps down
Jacinda Ardern stepped away from her job as prime minister of New Zealand—and was soon followed by Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland. Now, Finland Prime Minister Sanna Marin has lost the election in a tight race. Her party fell short of the winning majority by less than a percentage point. The centre-right National Coalition Party (NCP) headed by Petteri Orpo will replace her. Marin—who is 37 years old—was also the youngest head of state in the world. She was earlier called out for partying with her friends—which she had to apologise for—and take a drug test to prove she was clean. (NPR)
In other Finland-related news: It is slated to join NATO today—which will immediately double Russia’s border with the alliance. Finland shares a 1,340-kilometre border with Russia and has continued to spend generously on defence after the Cold War—unlike many European countries:
The move is a strategic and political blow to President Vladimir Putin, who has long complained about NATO’s expansion toward Russia and partly used that as a justification for his country’s war with Ukraine. “What we see is that President Putin went to war against Ukraine with a declared aim to get less NATO,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said. “He’s getting the exact opposite.”
FYI, the new PM is just as gung-ho on backing Ukraine—so that Finnish policy will not change. Associated Press has more on why this matters.
Rahul Gandhi gets a stay
A sessions court in Gujarat has suspended his sentence—but not his conviction—which is necessary for him to be reinstated as MP (explained here). Gandhi has also been granted bail. The hearing on his appeal challenging the lower court verdict will begin on April 13. A point to note: Gandhi’s appearance in court turned into a political circus. He arrived with a huge posse of out-of-state party leaders. Ah well, lemons make good lemonade. (The Telegraph)
Oil prices are going up!
OPEC Plus countries shocked the world by announcing a serious cut in oil production—designed to drive up the global prices. They will cut more than 1.2 million barrels of crude a day, which is more than 1% of the world’s supply. Why this is a big deal: rising fuel prices will ensure there is no relief from soaring inflation. This in turn means banks will continue to hike their rates—slowing down economic growth—heightening fears of a global recession. See how this works? FYI: President Biden previously threatened Saudi Arabia with “consequences” if OPEC continued to cut production—but apparently to little effect. (CNN)
A history-making NASA team
The space agency revealed the members of its four-person crew that will head to the Moon—for a flyby not a landing. It includes the first woman and first person of colour assigned to a lunar mission. Also, please note: the first Canadian. Our Big Story has everything you need to know about NASA’s lunar ambitions. (Al Jazeera)
Yet another assassination-bombing in Russia
The context: In August 2022, Darya Dugina was killed in the car bombing. It is widely suspected that the real target was her father—Alexander Dugin—an ardent supporter of the Ukraine war who is known as "Putin's brain.” At the time, the Kremlin accused Ukraine of engineering the hit.
What happened now: A prominent military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky was killed in a bombing at a St Petersburg cafe. Authorities have arrested a 26-year-old woman—Darya Trepova—who allegedly handed Tatarsky a statuette containing the explosive. This time, Russian authorities have implicated not just Kyiv but also President Putin’s chief political opponent Alexei Navalny—who is already in jail and will soon be tried again on charges of extremist activity. BBC News has all the details. You can see the explosion here:
The great Twitter soap opera, continued
We don’t know if anyone cares about that damn blue tick—other than people who now have to pay for the privilege—and, of course, Elon Musk who can’t leave it alone. As of April 1, everyone has to pay for that ‘verified account’ badge—except for 10,000 most followed organisations. This ought to include the New York Times—which has 55 million followers—but Musk yanked its blue tick because the newspaper publicly refused to pay for it. It remains to be seen if CNN and LA Times etc suffer the same fate.
Things got sillier: The blue ticks didn’t disappear but the information about a person’s badge—when you click on it—started to change in strange ways. For a person with a legacy blue tick, the message read: “This is a legacy verified account. It may or may not be notable.” But for the poor sod who paid for it, Twitter declared: “This account is verified because it’s subscribed to Twitter Blue.” Now it reads: “This account is verified because it’s subscribed to Twitter Blue or is a legacy verified account.”
And finally this: According to the Washington Post, Twitter doesn’t have the resources to pull the blue tick overnight, and here’s why:
Removal of verification badges is a largely manual process powered by a system prone to breaking, which draws on a large internal database — similar to an Excel spreadsheet — in which verification data is stored… In the past, there was no way to reliably remove badges at a bulk scale — prompting workers tackling spam, for example, to have to remove check marks one-by-one. “It was all held together with duct tape,” the former employee added.
Well done! The entire Post piece is worth a read:)
Wait, there’s more: Not content with causing all this chaos, Musk tweeted out a meme that suggested Twitter’s logo will change from the blue bird to the symbol of the cryptocurrency Dogecoin. Its value jumped 30%. Why this is notable: Musk is already facing a $258 billion lawsuit for doing this:
Investors claim that Musk artificially grew Dogecoin’s price by more than 36,000% and then let it crash, in order to short the currency. The lawsuit points to tweets like “Dogecoin Rulz” and his appearance on Saturday Night Live, when he told viewers to invest in Dogecoin.
A Japanese nation of recluses
According to a government survey, almost 1.5 million citizens are living as recluses—or hikikomori. These are people who withdraw from society—and spend most of their time alone at home. They represent 2% of the population between the ages of 15 and 62. At least 20% said their retreat from human contact was triggered by the pandemic. Sounds unsurprising but Japan was one of the few countries that did not impose any lockdowns. Some wards in Tokyo are planning to offer metaverse mixers to help these recluses take the first step back into society.
FYI: Isolation is so endemic in Japan that there is a term kodokushi—the lonely death—to describe a person who dies without being discovered for months, even years. Tokyo Weekender has more on the epidemic of loneliness in Japan. (The Guardian)
Three things to see
One: Scientists have spotted the deepest fish ever—at a record 8,336 metres (27,349 ft) beneath the surface. The footage of these odd-looking snailfish was captured as part of a decade-long study of the deep trenches off the coast of Japan. The Guardian has lots more nerdy details on snailfish—and how they survive at such depths.
Two: Apo Whang-Od is a 106-year old tattoo artist—and also the oldest person to ever grace a Vogue cover. FYI: the accompanying feature story on the Filipino tradition of tattoo art and the last great mambabatok of her generation is equally fascinating. (Vogue)
Three: This is actually something to hear. Drake is fishing in troubled marital waters. He released a snippet of his upcoming release ‘Rescue Me’—which includes a sample of Kim Kardashian talking about her divorce from Kanye. The killer line taken from a podcast interview: "I didn't come this far, just to come this far and not be happy. Remember that.” FYI: Drake and Kanye have a long-standing phadda. His latest salvo inspired many memes—collected here. Listen to the track below. (Billboard)