Researched by: Nirmal Bhansali & Aarthi Ramnath
Splainer is hiring!
We are hiring for an important editorial position—Assistant News Editor—to join the brilliantly talented splainer team. The job includes daily editorial responsibilities but unlike the average newsroom gig, this is a lot more than the standard writing/editing job. If you‘re looking for a boiler-plate newsroom desk job, we are likely not the right fit for you.
What we’re looking for: Our team includes former lawyers, social justice activists, new college grads—and yes, journalists. Below is a must-have checklist:
- Impeccable writing, editing and researching skills.
- 0-1 years of experience.
- A passion to learn how to build something new and unique—and get a front seat view of how a media startup works.
- Familiarity with Canva.
A knowledge of and love for splainer is a huge plus—since we’re not the usual news product. Above all, we’re looking for a person who shows initiative, commitment and, above all, curiosity.
Please note there is a six-month probation period. We pay industry-standard salaries and offer ESOP incentives after a year. We are location-agnostic and an equal opportunity employer. And we pride ourselves on a warm, friendly work culture. Please send your resumes and cover letter—telling us why you want this job—to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Israel-Palestine War: A quick roundup
For more context on the Israel-Palestine war, check out our Big Stories on: The motive for the Hamas attack; the effect of civilian casualties on Gaza’s post-war fate; and the deal for a four-day truce. Below is a quick roundup of the latest developments:
- Israel claims it has killed at least five senior leaders of Hamas—and three have been confirmed by the group.
- The IDF launched airstrikes on Rafah—where Gaza residents had been told to go by Israelis—to stay safe during the invasion of the south. This is also true of Al Masawi—another safe zone declared by the IDF.
- At the Rafah border, Egypt has deployed thousands of troops and erected barriers to block refugees—claiming Israel will never let them return to Gaza.
- The UN heard testimonies of sexual abuse from first responders in the aftermath of the attacks on October 7 by Hamas. They include horrific stories of genital mutilation, shooting at breasts and gang rape.
- In a rare move to punish Israelis, the US says extremist settlers from the West Bank will be denied visas.
Google unveils new version of Bard
The updated version is powered by its latest AI technology called Gemini. And the company insists that it’s way better than the latest generation of ChatGPT:
Google released benchmark test results claiming that Gemini’s most powerful version outperformed OpenAI’s latest technology, GPT-4, in several key areas. It is better at generating computer code than previous Google technologies, Mr. Pichai said, and it can more accurately summarise news articles and other text documents.
The real news here is Gemini will drive a variety of Google products. The least powerful version—Nano—will be integrated into Pixel 8 Pro phones—and will help sum up audio recordings, offer suggested responses on WhatsApp etc. The mid-tier Gemini is now part of Bard—and is available to around the world now. The most powerful and largest version—Ultra—will only be released next year. Gemini is supposedly very good at analysing images and sounds—but that capability has not been launched as yet. New York Times and Quartz have lots more on Gemini.
A new high (low) for electoral bonds
The context: On October 31, the Supreme Court began hearing arguments in petitions challenging electoral bonds—which are used to make donations to political parties. Everything about them is astonishing—especially the claim that voters have no right to know who gave how much money to which party. For more details, read this Big Story.
What happened now: Bonds worth over Rs 10 billion (1,006 crore) were sold in the five states that held elections last month—Telangana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram. That’s a 400% jump compared to the previous Assembly polls held in these states in 2018. And 99% of the total amount was raised in denominations of Rs 10 million (1 crore). So the aam aadmi wasn’t buying these to support his party. The most number of bonds were sold in Hyderabad—followed by Mumbai and Delhi. And most of them were cashed by the parties in Delhi. (Indian Express)
TIME magazine’s person of the year is….
Taylor Swift. This is the second time she’s scored this honour. And her pole position is hardly surprising since the US media is convinced she’s single-handedly reshaping economies. TIME offers this defence of its pick:
If you’re skeptical, consider it: How many conversations did you have about Taylor Swift this year? How many times did you see a photo of her while scrolling on your phone? Were you one of the people who made a pilgrimage to a city where she played? Did you buy a ticket to her concert film? Did you double-tap an Instagram post, or laugh at a tweet, or click on a headline about her?
Also underwhelming: Picking Lionel Messi as the ‘Athlete of the Year’ just because he’s now playing in Miami—and has made “soccer” cool in Amreeka. But we do appreciate the prettily illustrated magazine cover:
On to the Forbes list: of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women’. This mercifully was not topped by Taylor Swift—who came in at #5. The #1 position went to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen—followed by European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde, US Vice President Kamala Harris, and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. The inclusion of Harris is a bit of a mystery since she hasn’t done much of note in the Biden White House.
In general, women in government have fared better than celebs. Example: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman came in at #32—while Beyonce could only manage #36. Forbes has the entire list and Indian Express has more on the Indian women included.
Over at the New York Times: Michelle Yeoh has been voted the most Stylish Person of the Year—followed by Beyoncé, Phoebe Philo and Frances Tiafoe. (New York Times)
Volkswagen’s ‘clean chit’ for China
The context: China is accused of violating the human rights of the Uyghurs—detaining millions of them in reeducation camps—and then using them as forced labour. BBC News has everything you need to know about who the Uyghurs are and why China is cracking down on them.
What happened now: The German carmaker has come under fire for its factory located in the Xinjiang region—also home to Uyghur Muslims. But Volkswagen says an independent auditor conducted 40 interviews, freely inspected the factory—and found no evidence of forced labour. But human rights groups remain unimpressed:
This risk cannot be ascertained through audits, since Uyghurs are not free to speak about camp or re-education experiences, or about other coercive and repressive state measures in their lives.
Others say the short summary provided by Volkswagen makes it difficult to assess its methodology and findings. (Quartz)
Three things to see
One: Mushfiqur Rahim was given out for 'obstructing the field' in the test match against New Zealand in Dhaka. He played a delivery by Kyle Jamieson—and then tried to catch, strike, something the ball (?). As per the rules, striking the ball “with a hand not holding the bat” is not okay. Btw, Rahim is the first Bangladeshi to achieve this honour. (The Hindu)
Two: The British Museum has loaned this ancient Greek water vase—a 2,500-year-old Meidias hydria, to be precise—to the Acropolis Museum in Athens. Yes, this is extremely ironic but not the reason why we included this item. We just think it’s very purty! The British Museum has loads more on the vase. (Reuters)
Three: Speaking of pretty, we forgot to include this rare orange aurora that was captured in the UK earlier this week. Auroras are usually red or green—and an orange one is considered near “impossible”. (Live Science)