Researched by: Rachel John, Nirmal Bhansali, Aarthi Ramnath & Priyanka Gulati
The great Amritpal manhunt: The latest update
The police are still looking for the most wanted man in Punjab (explained in our Big Story). And they shared new details about his escape:
Investigations have revealed that while being chased, Mr. Amritpal Singh had gone to a “gurdwara” where he changed his clothes, wore a shirt and pair of trousers, and then went to a place from where he along with three of his associates drove away on two motorcycles. It is suspected that he has changed his appearance to evade identification.
They also released seven photos showing different ‘looks’ of Amritpal—including this very Insta-worthy one:
And this clip—allegedly of Amritpal escaping in an SUV—is also doing the media rounds. Please note that the man stopped to pay the toll.
So far, 154 people have been arrested in this crackdown on Amritpal and his supporters. Indian Express has a colourful eyewitness account of his escape.
Meanwhile, in Canada: An event slated to welcome the Indian High Commissioner in British Columbia had to be cancelled due to angry protests. The rally to shut down the event turned violent and at least one person was assaulted—and had to be rescued by police. A local radio jockey claims to be the victim—but the police have not confirmed his identity. (The Telegraph)
Google rolls out a beta Bard
Google has officially opened limited beta access to its AI chatbot Bard—a rival to ChatGPT. The company has carefully framed the chatbot as an “experiment”—telling users that their feedback will help improve its performance. So what can Bard do? Here’s what Google claims:
You can use Bard to boost your productivity, accelerate your ideas and fuel your curiosity. You might ask Bard to give you tips to reach your goal of reading more books this year, explain quantum physics in simple terms or spark your creativity by outlining a blog post.
There’s more in the company blog post. But, but, but: users cannot access it as yet—as you can see here. (Gizmodo)
Interpol gives Mehul Choksi a break
The context: Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi fled the country after being named in a massive bank fraud. In 2018, the Enforcement Directorate registered two FIRs accusing Modi and Mehul Mama of defrauding the Punjab National Bank of Rs 135 billion (Rs 13,500 crore). Modi is rotting in a UK jail—fighting extradition to India. But Uncle Choksi is hanging out in Antigua—having secured that nation’s passport—which means he can’t be extradited.
What happened now: The Interpol has withdrawn its red notice against Choksi—which was issued on New Delhi’s request soon after he fled the country. What this means: he can travel freely without fear of arrest anywhere in the world—other than India. The CBI is naturally furious and plans to challenge this “unfounded and perfunctory” decision.
But the CBI’S language is extremely vague—while Choksi’s lawyer says it's more proof of his innocence. What’s still unclear: why the Interpol took this decision. Need more on Choksi: our 2021 Big Story has all the details—plus a bizarre ‘kidnapping’ of Choksi—allegedly by Indian agents. (The Telegraph)
London police are appalling
This is not exactly news but a report compiled by the House of Lords confirms what most people already suspected: law enforcement in Britain’s capital is “institutionally sexist, misogynistic, racist and homophobic.” Here’s how bad it is:
The report found that officers were targeted by colleagues because of their religion, sexual orientation or gender. One account described a Sikh officer having his beard cut off because a colleague thought it was funny. Officers reported dehumanising initiation rituals: some officers said they had been urinated on, and women described being forced to eat cake until they vomited.
The New York Times (splainer gift link) has lots more details (in case you’re planning to head to London anytime soon).
Also very dismal: A new UN report—put together by the highly respected Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—says:
- We’re on the brink of “increasingly irreversible losses”, and have already damaged vital ecosystems.
- Earth’s average temperature has already warmed an average of 1.1°C, and the temperatures are going to rise 1.5°C sometime “around the first half of the 2030s”.
- The only way to avert calamity: immediately slash greenhouse gas emissions roughly in half by 2030 and then to stop adding CO2 in the atmosphere by early 2050s.
Why this report matters: It is only published after approval by representatives of 195 countries. For more: The Guardian and New York Times (paywall) have more details on the report. Also read our Big Story on the first instalment of the IPCC report here.
Another dismal UN report: shows that the drought in Somalia has killed 43,000 people in the last year alone. Brace for this: half of these deaths were children under the age of five. And we make such a fuss about Covid. (Associated Press)
US State department indicts India
An annual report released by the US government flagged “significant human rights issues” in India:
Significant human rights issues in India have included credible reports of the government or its agents conducting extrajudicial killings; torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by police and prison officials; political prisoners or detainees; and unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists, the U.S. report added.
Why this matters: “U.S. criticism of India is rare due to close economic ties between the countries and India's increasing importance for Washington to counter China in the region.” (Reuters)
Speaking of fundamental rights: New data shows that all governments have been violating the privacy of their citizens. Requests for user data from big tech companies like Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft increased more than five times between 2013 to 2021. The year 2021 alone witnessed a year-over-year increase of around 25%. India only ranked 36th in the world—requesting user data for 58.7 accounts per 100,000 people. Far more alarming is this stat: the four companies complied with more than two-thirds of requests: Apple complied with 82% of government requests, followed by Meta (71.7%), Google (71%), and Microsoft (68.2%). (The Hindu)
Tamil Nadu targets single women households
The government has offered a guaranteed monthly income of Rs 1,000 to women heads of households—which essentially refers to single or divorced women. It is being described as “the launch of the largest universal basic income programme”—which will cater to 8-9 million women. (New Indian Express)
A solution for nasty peanut allergies
Many kids are allergic to peanuts—which causes great angst to parents. A new study shows that there is a clear "window of opportunity" to save your kids from lifelong misery. Just give them peanut butter between the ages of four to six months. It cuts the occurrence of peanut allergies by a whopping 77%. (BBC News)
Gwyneth Paltrow is on trial
The actress—best known for her bizarre and hugely lucrative wellness cult called Goop—is on trial for an entirely different reason. She is being sued by “a retired optometrist who accused the Oscar-winning actor of violently crashing into him in 2016 while skiing at an upscale US ski resort.” And he wants $300,000 for his pain and misery. The Guardian has way more details than you need.
Kill the goddamn mice!
A tiny island in the Indian Ocean is going to be witness to the largest ever mouse eradication project. Non-native house mice—introduced to Marion Island by 19th century sealers—are poised to wipe out 19 of 28 species of breeding seabirds within the next 30 years. The most vulnerable: the famed wandering albatross. FYI:
Marion Island, an uninhabited subAntarctic island ravaged by wind 1,370 miles (2,200km) south-east of Cape Town, hosts millions of breeding seabirds, including four species of penguin and a quarter of the world’s wandering albatrosses. Without action against the mice, the albatross is predicted to become extinct on the island, along with 18 of the 28 seabird species currently breeding there.
Two things to see
One: Rejoice Ed Sheeran fans! You can now pig out on a four-episode docu-series on your hero. It drops on May 3 on Disney+ Hotstar. You can get a taste of it in the trailer below. (Deadline)
Two: Well, this may not be exciting news for some of you but we now have a new species of spider—which is massive. The giant trapdoor spider—called Euoplos dignitas—was discovered in Australia (where else 🙄). FYI: the females, which can live for over 20 years in the wild, can reach about the size of a 50 cent piece. Before you get out the electric bat, this species is already endangered “due to its small natural range.” Ok, so it’s scary looking. (The Guardian)