Researched by: Anannya Parekh
The first splainer easter egg of 2024
Editor’s note: Every once in a while, we drop something funny, whimsical or beautiful in an unexpected part of the edition. Our last easter egg was a sketch that perfectly summed up what a newsroom job feels like when things go bad—very bad.
As we start the new year, we leave you with these lovely lines from Wislawa Szymborska’s ‘Love at First Sight’. Do read the entire poem—which is a wonderful meditation on romantic love.
is only a sequel, after all,
and the book of events
is always open halfway through.
A scary earthquake in Japan
A powerful 7.6 magnitude earthquake hit central Japan on New Year's Day—killing at least 12 people. It also triggered waves about 1 metre high along the western coast. Authorities initially issued tsunami warnings—but downgraded them to advisories later in the day. More than 97,000 people were ordered to evacuate—and 33,000 households remained without power. Reminder: an 8.9 magnitude earthquake struck Japan in 2011—causing a tsunami that killed thousands. You get a glimpse of this quake’s strength in the clip below. (Reuters)
The Gaza War: The latest update
The death toll: has reached 21,978 and the number of injured has risen to 57,697—70% of the casualties are women and children.
South Africa sues Israel: South Africa has filed a case against Israel at the International Court of Justice—accusing it of committing genocide in Gaza. Johannesburg claims in its petition that Tel Aviv’s actions are “genocidal in character because they are intended to bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial and ethnic group.” Point to note: The ICJ is not the same as the International Criminal Court (ICC), which prosecutes individuals for war crimes. It is a UN civil court that adjudicates disputes between countries. Why this matters: Israel does not recognise the remit of the ICC—but is bound by the ICJ as a member of the UN. It has described the allegations as “blood libel.” (Al Jazeera)
McDonald's sues boycott movement: The Malaysian unit of the fast food franchise is suing a boycott campaign launched by Palestine supporters—which linked the company to the “genocidal war” in Gaza. The lawsuit claims protesters have “incited public hatred” against the brand and damaged its business. It’s seeking $1.31 million in damages. The problem: the action has triggered a tidal wave of support for the campaign. Behold, the Streisand Effect. (South China Morning Post)
Something to see: Lama Jamous is a nine-year-old Palestinian who has been documenting the siege in Gaza—and has been dubbed the “youngest journalist” in the strip. She shared a New Year’s message, along with other displaced children, for the rest of the world. It’s a must watch:
A gang rape in Uttar Pradesh
The context: On November 1, a 20-year-old student of IIT-Banaras Hindu University was sexually assaulted by three men in Varanasi. They dragged her off the street on campus in front of a friend. She filed an FIR—and her statement was recorded in front of a judge on November 8.
What happened now: On Sunday, the Uttar Pradesh police arrested three local men—of whom two are associated with the BJP’s IT cell in Varanasi. Soon after, Twitter was flooded with photos of them posing with BJP leaders. See: Smriti Irani below. The police have vowed to take action—but brushed aside their connection to the party: “We asked them about the crime. It doesn’t matter who is associated with whom. We are finding out if they have a criminal history and will invoke the Gangsters Act too.” (Indian Express)
Custodial deaths in Jammu
The Army is scrambling to contain fallout from the deaths of three Muslim men in military custody. They were among eight men who were picked up from a Poonch village—after a militant ambush killed four soldiers and injured three. The union government has sacked three officers including the commander of the Rashtriya Rifles brigade. And Defence Minister Rajnath Singh rushed to the state to signal its concern.
One possible reason for this urgency: “The Gujjars, who make up around 8% of Jammu and Kashmir’s population, are seen as crucial to the BJP’s electoral prospects in the Union Territory.” Another reason: The Rashtriya Rifles is the army’s elite counter-insurgency force in Kashmir—and there are great stakes in preserving its reputation. (The Telegraph)
Covid surge in India
The latest Omicron strain rarely causes severe disease—but is highly infectious. At least 196 new cases with the strain have been reported across the country as of January 1. This is likely a gross underestimate since most people have stopped getting themselves tested. We are at #9 in the world with 6,900 active cases—right before Christmas. At the top: Russia with 969,100. (The Hindu)
South Africa’s controversial Test team
The context: There has long been anxiety over what the proliferation of IPL-style leagues around the world will do to the cricket calendar. With top players snapped up by these franchises, many will become unavailable to play for their country—especially for longer Test series.
What happened now: Cricket South Africa—the equivalent of our BCCI—named a second-string team to play the upcoming Test series against New Zealand. The reason: its best players will be playing in the newly minted South African T20 league instead. The decision has enraged veterans like former Aussie captain Steve Waugh:
Obviously, they don't care. It's going to happen if the South African cricket board are any indication of the future, keeping their best players at home. If I was New Zealand, I wouldn't even play the series. I don't know why they're even playing. Why would you when it shows a lack of respect for New Zealand cricket?
Two things to see
One: India launched a new satellite mission to mark the new year. It has positioned a X-ray Polarimeter Satellite (XPoSat) in orbit around Earth. Why this matters: “The successful launch of the XPoSAT put India in an elite category, as it has become the second nation to send an observatory to study astronomical sources, such as black holes, neutron stars, among others.” (The Hindu)
Two: Jonathan the tortoise is the world’s oldest living land animal. He turned 191 years old or so—and celebrated his birthday on New Year’s Day (though he actually hatched December 4, 1832). And he seems as active as ever:
As Jonathan enters his 192nd year, he still shows a zest for life. He formed a relationship with another tortoise named Fred, then thought to be Frederica, more than 25 years ago, and now sometimes tries to mate with him and a tortoise named Emma.
Lol, here’s to Jonathan and his lust for life! (Washington Post)