Reading Between The Stripes: India Edition

Reading Between The Stripes: India Edition

Over the past two years, a wild tigress has stalked and killed more than a dozen people near a village in central India. The New York Times has a superb story about it, which you can (and should) read here: it’s got gruesome maulings, orphaned cubs, altruistic suicide-seekers, and heavily armed elephant rides. But it’s also a subtle portrait of many of the political and social challenges that India faces today. Here’s a brief look behind some of the story’s best lines.


India’s Hindu nationalist governing party, the B.J.P., has cracked down... on the slaughter of cows, an animal Hindus revere. This has created enormous herds of mangy, unproductive, unwanted cattle that herders don’t dare to kill, either because of specific cow protection laws that vary state by state or because they are terrified of being lynched by Hindu extremists.”

The BJP, led by current Prime Minister Narendra Modi, swept to power in 2014 on an assertively Hindu nationalist platform. As it happens, the powerful traditionalist organizations that support the BJP demand better protection of cows – which enjoy nearly god-like status among devout Hindus. As a result, the BJP – which controls more than half of India’s states in additional to the national government – has sought to expand cow protection laws significantly over the past several years. At the same time, Hindu “cow vigilantes,” some of which reportedly have links to the BJP, have killed dozens of (mostly Muslim) cattle herders, and extorted many more.

The result is: lots more cows around, which milk farmers can’t support but are scared to kill. From the tigers’ perspective this is a massive enticement to come out of the forest for a bite – and into closer contact with humans. The problem reflects the larger story of escalating sectarian tensions as the world’s largest democracy heads for national elections in 2019. Modi wants to keep the traditionalists on side, and the cow issue is a winner with that base.

“Many tigers are now running out of space… all across India, islands of forest are shrinking”

This is also a story about India’s growing urbanization and dwindling natural space. While conservation efforts have caused the tiger population to rebound over the past decade, their natural habitats – several dozen tiger reserves and related forest corridors – have either failed to grow apace or have actually been reduced by massive new infrastructure and construction projects. Since coming to power, the BJP has sought to loosen some of India’s extensive environmental regulations in order to boost investment and growth, while also giving the green light to several infrastructure projects that directly threaten tiger habitats. The government says economic growth is the priority, as you might expect in a country that needs to create a million new jobs every month just to keep pace with a swelling population.

If I die, will you give my family the money?’”

The government has offered up to $14,000 to the families of the victims of tiger attacks. For perspective on just what that means, that’s about seven times per-capita GDP. Over 20 percent of Indians still live on less than $1.90 a day. Rural wages have actually declined over the last two years. So while India has made extraordinary strides in poverty reduction in recent decades, with more than 270 million poor (most of them in rural areas), there is still a reason that the elderly man quoted above was found milling about a tiger bait station, hoping to get mauled.

Each month, Microsoft receives about 6,500 complaints from people who've been victims of tech support scams. But it's not just Microsoft's brand that the scammers leverage; fraudsters have pretended to be from a number of other reputable tech companies and service providers. These scams will remain an industry-wide challenge until sufficient people are educated about how they work and how to avoid them.

To measure the scope of this problem globally, Microsoft commissioned YouGov for a new 2021 survey across 16 countries. Results from the 2021 survey reveal that, globally, fewer consumers have been exposed to tech support scams as compared to the 2018 survey. However, those people who continued with the interaction were more likely to have lost money to the scammers than we saw in our previous survey. To read the highlights of the survey, visit Microsoft on the Issues.

Next week, Ebrahim Raisi, a hardliner who is ideologically and personally close to Iran's 82 year-old supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will be inaugurated as Iran's president. This power transition comes as the country experiences a fresh wave of protests that started in Iran's southwest over water shortages earlier this month and has since spilled over into dozens of provinces.

Some close observers of Iranian society and politics say that popular discontent there is now more widespread than it has been in years, making the Iranian regime more vulnerable than ever.

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Was the world so focused on climate change that warning signs about the COVID-19 pandemic were missed? Historian and author Niall Ferguson argues that, while the climate crisis poses a long-term threat to humanity, other potential catastrophes are much more dangerous in the near future. "We took our eye off that ball," Ferguson says about COVID, "despite numerous warnings, because global climate change has become the issue that Greta Thunberg said, would bring the end of the world. But the point I'm making in DOOM [his new book] is that we can end the world and a lot of other ways, much faster." Ferguson spoke with Ian Bremmer in an interview for GZERO World.

Watch the episode: Predictable disaster and the surprising history of shocks

Tunisia, the only country that emerged a democracy from the Arab Spring, is now in the middle of its worst political crisis since it got rid of former autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali over a decade ago.

On Sunday, the 64th anniversary of the country's independence from France, President Kais Saied responded to widespread protests over the ailing economy and COVID by firing embattled Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspending parliament for 30 days. Troops have surrounded the legislature, where rival crowds faced off on Monday, with one side chanting in support of the move and the other denouncing it as a coup.

How did we get here, do we even know who's really in charge, and what might come next?

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Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week:

As COVID-19 cases rise, are vaccine mandates coming?

Oh, you just want to get me in more trouble. Yeah, some mandates are coming, but they're not national mandates in the United States. In some cases, you're looking at federal and state employees, in some cases you're looking at lots of individual corporations, universities, and such. I mean I've already been to a number of events where vaccines have been mandated in New York. You've got this Excelsior Pass if you want to go to the Brooklyn Nets games, as I certainly do. You show it off and that gets you in with your vaccine. So I think it's really going to be a decentralized process. But clearly, given Delta variant and the number of people that are getting sick and dying because they're not vaccinated, you're going to see moves towards more mandates, as a consequence.

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Castillo takes over in Peru: After almost two months of protests, baseless allegations of fraud from his rival in the runoff election, and even rumblings of a coup, Pedro Castillo will be sworn in as president of Peru on Wednesday. A former rural school-teacher famous for riding on horseback, wearing a cowboy hat and waving a giant pencil to show how much he cares about education, Castillo has big plans to achieve big change. But he won by just a razor-thin margin in a deeply divided country, and Peru's dysfunctional political system will likely hobble his attempts to get major legislation passed. Moreover, despite having moderated his positions, half of the country still sees him as a communist who might turn Peru into another Venezuela. Castillo's most immediate task is dealing with the twin crises of a deadly pandemic and a COVID-fueled economic crisis that has hit poor Peruvians — his base — the hardest.

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13: The two Koreas have restored their communication hotline almost 13 months after Pyongyang abruptly cut it in response to Seoul not doing enough to prevent North Korean defectors from sending propaganda leaflets across the shared border. The hotline was established in 2018 following a historic meeting between North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

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Now that the Tokyo Olympics are finally underway, your Signal crew will be bringing you some intriguing, uplifting, and quirky facts about the Games that have many people on edge.

Today — what's the smallest country (by population) to win a gold medal in a summer Olympics?

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