Researched by: Nirmal Bhansali & Aarthi Ramnath
Canada vs India: The latest update
The context: ICYMI, the two countries have been at war with one another ever since PM Justin Trudeau linked New Delhi to the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar—a Canadian Sikh nationalist to some and a bona fide Khalistani terrorist to the Indian government (laid out in this Big Story). Each side sent home a senior diplomat—and has bitterly accused the other of bad faith. And neither shows any signs of backing down.
What happened now: Both countries have demanded additional security around their consulates—and for their diplomats. And the government has asked the Canadian high commission to reduce its numbers in India—because “there should be parity in strength and rank equivalence in mutual diplomatic presence. Their numbers here are much higher than ours in Canada.”
About those visas: New Delhi has also suspended all visa services for Canadian citizens. Presumably this will only affect those without an OCI—i.e not the average NRI. Even so, the Akali Dal has expressed concern at the move—warning that any Canadian retaliation could hurt Indian nationals. This comes amid reports that Ottawa is mulling a cap on the number of international students—40% of whom are Indian. More than a million students have migrated to Canada over the past five years.
Also this: According to The Print, the Indian government has taken a much softer line with the US, Australia and the UK—promising to cooperate with any investigation into the killing. Unnamed sources said: “We have made it clear that India is ready to cooperate. But we can only (do that) once any evidence is presented”—which would include naming suspects and providing evidence of the involvement of an Indian national. A related good read: The Telegraph looks at the growing tensions between Hindutva and Khalistani groups in Canada.
The Murdoch succession: Farewell Rupert, hello Lachlan!
Rupert Murdoch is stepping down as chairman—and retiring from the boards of Fox and News Corporation. He is handing over the baton to his son and sole heir to his media empire: Lachlan. The exit is hardly surprising given that he is now 92 years old. Lachlan has been running the day-to-day biz since 2019. So this is more of a formality.
But, but, but: Lachlan’s succession is far from assured. As we’ve explained before, when Rupert left his second wife Anna in 1999, she demanded that Murdoch’s assets be put in a trust for her children—Lachlan, Liz and James—and Prudence, Rupert’s kid from his first marriage. Today, each of them has one vote on the board. Rupert and his representatives control the other four.
The board votes by majority on how to handle the Murdoch media empire—which includes News Corp and Fox News. When Rupert dies, the four kids will determine the future of these companies. And many expect the three of them to gang up and push out Lachlan—who doesn’t share their liberal views. Read the rest of the Big Story for more on the family drama. (Wall Street Journal, paywall and CNN)
A tragic new hijab law in Iran
The context: September 16 was the first anniversary of the death in custody of Mahsa Amini—who died in custody after being arrested for wearing her hijab “improperly.” Her death sparked unprecedented protests—which offered brief hope of reform. However, it was eventually squelched by sheer brute force—much like past uprisings.
What happened now: The Iranian parliament has officially sealed any hopes of freedom by passing an extremely restrictive ‘Hijab and Chastity Bill’:
Repeated “violators” of the strict dress code (those with more than four violations), and those who dress “inappropriately” will face up to 10 years in prison. The bill also specifies that women who wear “revealing or tight clothing” or show a part of their body “lower than the neck or higher than the ankles or higher than the forearms”, will face tough punishments.
Women will be punished even for questioning or mocking the dress code online or in person. Earlier this month, eight independent UN human rights experts warned the bill "could be described as a form of gender apartheid”—aimed at “suppressing women and girls into total submission.” (BBC News)
Red flags at the UN General Assembly
Leaders of about 140 nations assembled in New York for the annual General Assembly meeting. Many speeches were made and photo-ops were staged. But the spectacle was mostly empty as revealed by the so-called Climate Ambition Summit. Organised by secretary general António Guterres, it was meant to “showcase first movers and doers”—and shame the biggest emitters who were not invited to speak. Unfortunately, the message was lost on the most powerful nations—many of whom simply never showed up. In fact:
Top leaders from China and India, which are also the world’s most populous countries, did not attend the United Nations meetings this week at all, let alone the climate meeting, furthering a sense that the world body is facing a crisis of confidence under the weight of cascading global emergencies.
Why this matters: This isn’t a good omen for the annual United Nations climate talks known as COP—which will be held later this year in the United Arab Emirates—one of the world’s biggest fossil fuel producers. Reminder: a recent UN report concluded that the global average temperature will rise by a horrifying 2.5 degrees Celsius by 2100—even if nations follow through on their current pledges. (New York Times)
Is Akasa Air in distress?
The context: The airline was launched last year with great fanfare—and rapidly captured 5% of the market. Everything looked good until August—when Akasa had to cancel 700 flights in a single month. The airline blamed the disaster on pilots who quit their jobs without serving their notice period—which typically ranges from 6-12 months. And it filed a lawsuit against them demanding compensation.
What happened now: The airline's counsel told a Delhi court that Akasa was in "crisis" and may shut down due to the pilot exodus. He claimed that the airline may be forced to cancel another 700 flights in September. CEO Vinay Dube, however, sent an email to assure employees that all is well—and that the airline is on course to grow its operations and fleet. But he also acknowledged that the company will fly fewer flights and cede market share in the short run.
About those pilots: Many aviation experts are sceptical about Akasa’s claim—since airlines hire pilots well above their requirements. They say it is more likely that the airline was faced with an aircraft crunch. Deliveries were delayed due to greater demand from Chinese airlines returning to the post-Covid skies. And a number of the craft were sent for retrofitting. In fact, the airline likely had more pilots than it could use—which resulted in fewer flying hours per pilot. That’s not great news for entry-level pilots on 70-hour-per-month contracts. So it was easier to hop over to a competitor like Air India Express than wait for those Akasa planes to arrive. Moneycontrol has lots more.
The risks of ultra-processed food
New research shows that people who consume nine or more daily portions of ultra-processed foods have a 49% higher risk of depression. This link is especially strong for food and drinks that contain artificial sweeteners. The study also shows that consuming great quantities of such foods could worsen the condition of those with chronic depression. That said, it isn’t clear why the two are linked. CNN has more on some of the possible reasons.
In more surprising health news: A new UK study shows that viruses found in the poop of wild animals at the zoo can help treat diabetic foot ulcers. The faeces is added to the dressing making for a very smelly but effective treatment. The so-called ‘phage’ treatments could also help battle the rising resistance to antibiotics around the world. (Sky News)
WhatsApp Channels comes to India
Meta has rolled out the new feature that will turn your fave messaging service into a social media platform. Here’s how it works: you can create your own channel—like PM Modi or Katrina Kaif—and share text, images, videos etc. Other users can choose to follow you. But this is a one-way broadcast channel—so you can share ‘updates’—which are not to be confused with your chats. Here’s the interesting bit:
The company has said the personal information of both admins and followers is protected and who people choose to follow is private. Channel followers’ phone number and profile image will not be shown to the admin or other followers.
Two things to see
One: Poor Cristiano Ronaldo often is booed by mean and ungrateful Al Nassr fans. Happily, he received his due—as in total adulation—when he arrived in Tehran for a game against Persepolis FC. FYI: Al Nassr won that match 2-0. Here’s a sweet clip of super-excited fanboys all going ‘SIIIUUU!!’ (Al Jazeera)
Two: OpenAI rolled out the latest generation of its AI image generator Dall-E—which is integrated into its chatbot ChatGPT.
By using ChatGPT, someone doesn’t have to come up with their own detailed prompt to guide DALL-E 3; they can just ask ChatGPT to come up with a prompt, and the chatbot will write out a paragraph (DALL-E works better with longer sentences) for DALL-E 3 to follow. Other users can still use their own prompts if they have specific ideas for DALL-E.