Researched by: Nirmal Bhansali & Aarthi Ramnath
A big fat fine on Meta
Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) has slapped a $1.3 billion fine on the company for violating EU’s stringent privacy laws. The record-setting penalty is the highest allowed under European law—and is equivalent to 4% of Meta’s total revenue last year. The crime: Facebook transferred European user data to the US—despite signing an agreement not to do so. What this is really about: the absence of a pact between the EU and US over data-sharing. In 2020, the EU’s top court annulled one such deal—claiming its citizens’ data was not safe on US servers. Both sides are working out the details of another version—but until then any movement of data across the Atlantic is likely to be severely punished. (The Guardian and Bloomberg, paywall)
Also in legal trouble: The BBC—which has been summoned by the Delhi High Court to respond to a defamation lawsuit. It has been filed by an NGO that claims BBC’s two-part documentary on the 2002 Gujarat violence—and the role of Narendra Modi—casts a slur on the reputation of India and makes false and defamatory imputations about the PM. (The Hindu)
The G20 G15 summit in Kashmir
As the current president of the G20—the group of the world’s wealthiest nations (including the EU)—India has been hosting a series of summits. The latest is focused on tourism and is being staged in Kashmir. It is the first major international event to be held in the state after the revocation of its special status. The government is describing it as “a moment of rejuvenation and reincarnation” for J&K.
But a number of member states have decided to opt out of this exercise in political symbolism. Five nations—including China, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and now Egypt—have refused to send official delegations. FYI: most of these are ally states. Indian officials, however, claimed that all G20 countries other than China are present. They cited the presence of tour operators from the other nations as evidence—since “travel and tourism is totally a private sector activity.” (Indian Express)
A scorching heat wave in Delhi
Maximum temperatures breached the 46°C mark in parts of the city—which is seven degrees above normal. It was also the hottest day of the year so far. The happy news is that relief is around the corner—with rain, hailstorms and winds expected on Wednesday. (The Telegraph)
In very much related news: A new study shows that the planet will heat up by a staggering 2.7°C if we keep doing what we’re doing right now. This means 2 billion people will experience average annual temperatures above 29°C by 2030—putting them outside the ‘climate niche’ experienced by humans for the past millennia. Most people live in places with mean annual temperatures spread around 13°C or 25°C: “Conditions outside those are too hot, too cold or too dry and associated with higher death rates, lower food production and lower economic growth.” The worst hit nations: India and Nigeria. The Guardian has more on the study.
India’s uber-rich will get richer
Around the world, the number of ultra high net worth individuals—with assets worth more than $30 million—has declined by 3.8%. But in India, that number is set to rise by 58.4% in the next five years from 12,069 in 2022 to 19,119 in 2027. The just plain Indian HNI types—who are worth $1 million or more—will jump by 107%. Reminder: a net worth of $175,000 makes you part of the top 1% in India. (Economic Times)
Two animal stories of interest
Elephants: A study of over 250 species of zoo animals has found that elephants—along with grizzly bears, jaguars, polar bears and penguins—are happier when there are visitors:
They found that elephants socialised more with each other during public feeding times while after public feeding times, they were more likely to forage and less likely to be inactive. They were also less likely to use repetitive behaviours, which often indicate boredom, in the presence of many visitors.
This is in contrast to marsupials, ostriches and other flightless birds. A little nugget that may make the next trip to the zoo make you feel a wee bit better. (Sky News)
Orcas: Killer whales have been ganging up to sink boats over and again since 2020. The latest case occurred off the coast of Spain:
There were two smaller and one larger orca. The little ones shook the rudder at the back while the big one repeatedly backed up and rammed the ship with full force from the side. The two little orcas observed the bigger one's technique and, with a slight run-up, they too slammed into the boat.
In other words, not only are they attacking boats—but they’re teaching others how to do it. And it may have all started with one traumatised female orca named White Gladis—which attacked a fishing boat in a “critical moment of agony”—which flipped “a behavioural switch.” Or it could just be playful behaviour. In either case, it isn’t good for either species: "If this situation continues or intensifies, it could become a real concern for the mariners' safety and a conservation issue for this endangered subpopulation of killer whales.” (LiveScience)
The first Arab woman in space
Space X transported a private crew of four astronauts to the International Space Station—including two Saudi nationals. One of them—Rayyanah Barnawi, a breast cancer researcher—is now the first Arab woman in space (far left below). Her fellow Saudi passenger Ali al-Qarni is a fighter pilot. Cool fact: the first ever Saudi in space was a prince who travelled on board the space shuttle Discovery in 1985. (Al Jazeera)
In other NASA news: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos finally got his wish—a NASA contract. Bezos-owned Blue Origin had filed a legal complaint against the space agency when it chose SpaceX’s lunar lander—for its first manned flight to the moon in decades—in 2021. However, it lost the fight in court. NASA has now chosen a second lander—that of Blue Origin—alongside SpaceX. The reason:
NASA wants at least two different landers, for redundancy and because the agency hopes to visit the Moon annually, with astronauts remaining on the surface for as long as 30 days.
Given all the macho billionaire rivalry around the NASA contract, we leave you to decide which company’s, umm, equipment is more impressive. On the left: SpaceX’s Starship vs Blue Moon on the right. (BBC News)
Speaking of Jeff Bezos: He finally got engaged to his girlfriend of five years, Lauren Sanchez. (Los Angeles Times)
Say hello to Hindi anime
The global anime brand Crunchyroll will soon allow Hindi language support for viewers in India. The service was launched on iOS recently—and will soon be available on Android. Coming soon: Hindi dubs for popular anime titles such as ‘Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Swordsmith Village Arc’, ‘Ranking of Kings’, ‘MASHLE: MAGIC AND MUSCLES’—that are not available on streaming platforms such as Netflix or Amazon Prime. Also: in January, Crunchyroll launched a cheap India sub of Rs 79 a month—which is a serious bargain compared to the US price of $7.99 (Rs 661). (Mint)
One ironic thing to see
Climate change activists campaigning against fossil fuel released vegetable charcoal into the iconic Trevi fountain in Rome. An odd choice to raise awareness re pollution since the city will now have to "throw away 300,000 litres of water" to clean-up the tourist attraction, because it uses recirculating water. Ah, if only we could find a way to save the planet without destroying it. (BBC News)