Researched by: Nirmal Bhansali, Aarthi Ramnath & Smriti Arora
Next in line of CBI fire: Oxfam
The context: All organisations that receive foreign donations—be it in cash or in-kind—have to apply for a licence as per the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act. And the rules say that foreign funds cannot be shared with or distributed to any other NGO—even if they have an FCRA licence.
What happened now: The Central Bureau of Investigation has officially filed a case against Oxfam for breaking these laws. Oxfam was allegedly disbursing funds received from its overseas branches to other NGOs—including the Centre for Policy Research. Some of these funds were diverted in the form of consultant fees—which would be blatantly illegal. More puzzling is this ‘anti-national’ charge:
[T]he First Information Report (FIR) said the email communication found during an Income Tax survey showed that Oxfam India had been planning to pressurise the Indian government for the renewal of FCRA registration through “foreign governments and foreign institutions”.
“Oxfam India has the reach and influence to request multilateral foreign organisations to intervene on its behalf with the Government of India. This exposed Oxfam India as a probable instrument of foreign policy of foreign organisations/entities which have funded Oxfam India liberally over the years,” it said.
We have no comments. FYI: Oxfam already lost its FCRA licence back in 2022. The Hindu has more details. We also did a Big Story on how the government is using foreign remittance laws to starve NGOs of funds.
India’s population soon to be #1
According to a new UN report, India is set to take over China as the most populous country in the world by the middle of this year. Our projected population: “over 1.4 billion people, or more than the entire population of the Americas or Africa or Europe.” FYI: we haven’t held an official census since 2011—due to the pandemic—so this is a UN estimate. Important to note—population growth across the world is highly uneven:
The report says that contrary to the alarm bells about exploding numbers, population trends everywhere point to slower growth and ageing societies. Just eight countries will account for half the projected growth in global population by 2050 — the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and the United Republic of Tanzania — while two-thirds of people now live in a country where lifetime fertility corresponds with zero growth.
Bloomberg News looks at the pros and cons of India’s demographic dividend.
Netflix is looking better!
The company posted mixed financial results this quarter. The revenues matched analyst predictions—but the number of new subscribers were below expectations—1.75 million as opposed to 2.06 million. But this is pretty good for a company that lost a whopping 200,000 subscribers in the first quarter of 2022.
A big reason for this recovery: India. After struggling to grow in India, Netflix seems to have struck gold by doing two things. One, offering a far cheaper model. This was so successful that the company now plans to replicate the strategy in 116 countries. Also working for Netflix: cracking down on password sharing—so don’t expect that to come back any time soon. Reuters has more on why the latest results are a mixed bag. We did an excellent two-parter on Netflix’s dismal global numbers—and why India was a big part of its growth crisis.
In other Netflix news: The company is shutting down its last DVD rental store—which is how the company first made its fortune. It killed the local outlet by allowing you to order whatever movie you wanted—and return them in red envelopes via snail mail. Since most people—including you—didn’t even know that Netflix still had a DVD rental service, we assume this is a wise move. (Gizmodo)
Meanwhile, over at Apple India: CEO Tim Cook is now in Delhi—getting ready to launch the second Apple store in the country. He has been swanning with top government officials and promising to double the number of jobs created in India. An unnamed (but obviously government) source told Mint:
Over 100,000 jobs have been generated in India. This will double soon. It’s going to be a long-term play. Apple is happy with the support that the government has extended. They’ve acknowledged the government’s role.
Apple hearts the GoI—get that? (Mint)
Meanwhile, over at Meta: The company is getting ready to lay off another 10,000 people—according to a Washington Post report. Meta has already cut about 13% of its workforce or about 11,000 jobs in November.
India’s cheetah disaster: Show me the space!
After all that song and dance, the Madhya Pradesh government has asked national wildlife authorities to relocate some of the cheetahs in Kuno National Park. The reason:
A Madhya Pradesh forest department official said the Kuno National Park spread over 748 square km can accommodate only nine to 10 cheetahs as a cheetah’s territory is spread over 300 to 800 square km. Of the four cheetahs released in the wild, two are exploring a large part of the buffer area, the official added. Recently Oban, one of them, was brought back to the park from a nearby village.
To track 17 cheetahs will require “at least 126 forest officials equipped with drones, vehicles, and wireless sets”—which is both absurd and a disaster for the wildlife inside the reserve. To add to this foolishness, the government has been dragging its feet about relocating some of the cheetahs to Rajasthan because it is ruled by Congress. For more on the challenges of bringing back cheetahs to India, check out our Big Story. (Hindustan Times)
Reddit fires the first chatbot bullet
As you know, AI chatbots have been trained on all the material available for free on the internet—without paying a dime for that content. It was only a matter of time before the creators started demanding a cut. The first to make unhappy noises is Reddit—which wants moolah for the valuable user content on its site:
The company said on Tuesday that it planned to begin charging companies for access to its application programming interface, or A.P.I., the method through which outside entities can download and process the social network’s vast selection of person-to-person conversations. “The Reddit corpus of data is really valuable,” Steve Huffman, founder and chief executive of Reddit, said in an interview. “But we don’t need to give all of that value to some of the largest companies in the world for free.”
Our question: who is going to pay Reddit users who create that “really valuable” data for free? (New York Times)
In other big tech moves: Instagram is moving to kill all the companies that allow you to offer links in your bio—like Linktree and Beacons:
The company announced on Tuesday it will now allow users to add up to five links to their Instagram profile bios, which can direct their followers to other content — like their online businesses, brands they want to promote, causes they care about, or even their profiles on competing social platforms, among other things.
TechCrunch has more on the change.
Scrub thee porn from my Kindle
Apple and Google have flagged a problem on the Kindle app: sexually explicit photographs can potentially be accessed by children. Apparently, users can access titles such as ‘75 hot fully nude photos of a young blonde’ and ‘Real Erotica: Amateur Naked Girls-Vol. 4’— if their parents have a Kindle Unlimited subscription. So buyer, beware! (Reuters)
Tribeca debut for ‘Adipurush’
The lavish reboot of the Ramayana—starring Prabhas, Kriti Sanon and Saif Ali Khan—will have its world premiere at the prestigious Tribeca film festival on June 13. Reminder: fans were appalled at the visual effects in the teaser—and the producers postponed the release date to present a “complete visual experience.” (The Hindu)
Three things to see
One: The trailer for Irrfan Khan’s last film—‘The Songs of Scorpions’—just dropped. TBH, we don’t even care if it is any good or not. We just miss him.
Two: A 67-million year old T-rex skeleton sold for $6.1 million. Sounds impressive except this T-Rex named ‘Trinity’ isn’t a single beautifully preserved dinosaur. It is made of 293 bones from three dinosaurs—excavated between 2008 and 2013 from the Hell Creek and Lance Creek formations in Montana and Wyoming. What’s actually interesting about this sale:
Just over half of the bone material in the skeleton comes from the three Tyrannosaurus specimens—above the 50% level needed for experts to consider such a skeleton as high quality. Vertebrate palaeontologist Thomas Holtz—who is against the sale of such specimens…was sceptical, insisting that Trinity “really isn’t a ‘specimen’ so much as it is an art installation.”
You can see the overpriced dino below. (BBC News)
Three: Humpbacks are having a whale of a time (so wrong!). Researchers spotted these hotties enjoying a bit of sand exfoliation on the Gold Coast, Australia: “They were doing these bizarre rolls, going fully on their back and on their side.” Well, a good body scrub is priceless. (The Guardian)