Researched by: Rachel John, Aarthi Ramnath & Anannya Parekh
A new splainer series on YouTube!!
We have launched exclusive video explainers on YouTube, hosted by our editor Lakshmi Chaudhry.
Our second video explores the history of electoral financing in the country, and the introduction of electoral bonds in 2017 which are used to make donations to political parties. Everything about them is astonishing—especially the fact that voters have no right to know who gave how much money to which party.
Check it out below. Stay tuned for more such explainers on the big fat election coming soon, and be sure to hit the notification button.
PS: This is also a great way to share splainer with your friends and family—especially anyone who is kinda text-averse :)
Israel-Palestine: The latest update
There is a growing internal rift in Israel over the direction of the assault in Gaza:
A member of Israel’s war cabinet has accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “selling illusions” that the more than 100 Israeli hostages still held in Gaza could be freed through a ground assault…“I think we need to assert that it is impossible to bring back the hostages alive in the near future without going through a deal,” said [Retired Gen. Gadi] Eisenkot, an opposition minister without portfolio in the cabinet.
This is the first time a member of the government has openly criticised the war strategy.
Why this is notable: This coincides with a new push for peace by the US, Egypt and Qatar. They are pushing Israel and Hamas to join a phased diplomatic process that would start with a release of hostages and, eventually, lead to a withdrawal of Israeli forces and an end to the war in Gaza. Needless to say, Netanyahu has rejected any plan for a cease fire. Wall Street Journal has that story.
In grisly news from another war: Rats and mice have overtaken trenches in Ukraine:
The frontlines of Russia’s war in Ukraine have become infested with rats and mice, reportedly spreading disease that causes soldiers to vomit and bleed from their eyes, crippling combat capability and recreating the gruesome conditions that plagued troops in the trench warfare of World War I.
CNN has that story.
Alec Baldwin charged in fatal ‘Rust’ shooting
The context: In 2021, cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed and director Joel Souza injured on set during a shoot for the film ‘Rust’. The fatal round was fired by a gun held by Baldwin during a scene rehearsal. The actor has since denied pulling the trigger on the weapon.
What happened now: A jury has indicted Baldwin on two key charges:
The first involuntary manslaughter charge against Baldwin is described in court documents as “negligent use of a firearm” and the second as involuntary manslaughter without due caution or circumspection, which is detailed as “an act committed with the total disregard or indifference to the safety of others.”
The prosecution claims “additional facts have come to light that we believe show Mr. Baldwin has criminal culpability.” (CNN)
Bilkis Bano’s rapists are in jail!
The context: In 2022, 11 men convicted of raping Bilkis Bano—and killing her three-year-old child—were given early parole by the Gujarat state government. She challenged the parole, and the Supreme Court struck down the government’s shameful decision earlier this month. Our Big Story has lots more.
What happened now: The 11 convicts have surrendered as directed. They showed up at the Godhra jail within the two-week deadline set by the Supreme Court on January 8. That’s it, That’s the news. And it’s huge because most people expected they would duck justice once again. (Indian Express)
Get ready for Trump vs Haley
Florida governor Ron DeSantis has dropped out of the presidential race—leaving only Donald Trump and Nikki Haley in the fray. De Santis also endorsed Trump—who is the clear frontrunner—having won the first primary in Iowa with 51% of the vote. Haley’s response: “May the best woman win.” BBC News has more on De Santis’ decision. Axios explains why his campaign self-destructed.
Good news about global travel
A new UN report shows that international tourism will surpass pre-pandemic levels in 2024. Last year, we were at 88% of pre-pandemic levels with around 1.3 billion international travellers. The uptick has been attributed to increased global air connectivity and a strong recovery of Asian markets. The Chinese market is expected to soar thanks to visa-free travel for some EU countries and Malaysia—and also increased its flight capacity. Why this matters: Tourism contributed $3.3 trillion to the global economy in 2023. FYI: India is still struggling to reach pre-pandemic levels in terms of international tourism. (Reuters)
Tata spends big bucks on IPL
Tata Group retained its title sponsorship of the Indian Premier League for a whopping Rs 25 billion (2,500 crore)—and will hold the rights for the next five years. This is the highest bid ever for the privilege—14% higher than Vivo’s bid of Rs 21.9 billion (2,190 crore) in 2021. FYI: IPL is the world’s richest T20 league with an estimated value of $8.4 billion. (Economic Times)
The butter chicken battle: Moti Mahal vs Daryaganj
The origin of two of Delhi’s most iconic dishes is being contested in the Delhi High Court. The owners of the restaurant chain Moti Mahal filed a case against their rival Daryaganj—who claim to have invented butter chicken and dal makhani. Moti Mahal owner Rupa Gujral insists the recipes were crafted by her father-in-law Kundan Lal Gujral in Peshawar. An interesting nugget we learned from the filing:
[B]ack in early days the unsold leftovers of chicken could not be stored in refrigeration, Mr. Gujral began worrying about his cooked chicken drying out, and thus he invented a sauce with which he could rehydrate them. His invention was ‘the makhani butter sauce’ in which the chicken was simmered in a luscious gravy with tomatoes, butter, cream, and some spices to help them retain moisture. This is how Butter Chicken was created which later traversed the globe.
The Hindu has lots more on this culinary drama.
A ‘burning’ accusation against Apple Watches
According to Times UK, at least 1,500 Apple Watch users have complained about getting burns and blisters since 2020. Most of them blamed it on a software update:
One customer wrote: “I’ve had my watch for over two years and have only recently started getting burn marks on my arm from wearing it.” Another said: “This happened to me too for the first time last night! I’ve been wearing my watch for almost three years now. I woke up when it happened and felt that my watch was very hot. My skin turned leathery over the reddened part.”
Apple is blaming the phenomenon on allergies. Point to note: Apple watches monitor heart rate, blood oxygen, sleep patterns and activity levels—and have built-in electrodes in the back and crown. But the reporting has no definitive evidence linking them to the burns. (Times UK, paywall)
A significant anti-right rally in Germany
Germans flooded the streets in protest of extremist groups—who are gaining a foothold in mainstream politics. They were responding to a report that the far-right party AfD—Alternative for Germany—had discussed the expulsion of immigrants and "non-assimilated citizens” in a meeting with them. Over 100,000 turned out to rally just in Munich against AfD—amid talk of banning the party. The total across 100 locations is estimated at 250,000. Why this matters: AfD is currently #2 in the national polls. BBC News has lots more on the state of German politics. (AFP via The Hindu)
Four things to see
One: Boeing is in fresh trouble—just weeks after the Alaskan Air debacle (explained here). This time, a cargo plane operated by New York-based Atlas Air burst into flames while heading to Puerto Rico—trailing sparks from its left wing. It made an emergency landing in Florida—and the five crew members were unharmed. See the plane on fire below. (The Guardian)
Two: Over the weekend, Pakistan cricket veteran Shoaib Malik shared pictures of his wedding with Pakistani actor Sana Javed (see below). This sparked great furore among fans of tennis champ Sania Mirza—who was famously married to him. Her family was forced to clarify that they have been divorced for a couple of months—and wishes her ex well. (Times of India)
Three: Rahul Gandhi gave a pyaar ki pappi—i.e flying kisses to BJP workers who chanted slogans at his Nyay Yatra through Assam. Watch the love-fest below. The BJP spokesperson’s reaction: “Shameful and atrocious behaviour by entitled dynast! He even made kissing actions to the crowd.” (The Telegraph)
Four: We’re intrigued by the trailer for upcoming series ‘New Look’—which explores the birth of modern fashion midwifed by the likes of Christian Dior and Coco Chanel after World War II. The ensemble cast includes Ben Mendelsohn, Juliette Binoche and Glenn Close. The 10-episode series drops on Apple TV+ on February 14. (Hollywood Reporter)