Curious Bends – affordable cigs, notes from Fukushima, a destructive bladder craze, and more

Marlboro cigarettes. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

1. Despite rising taxes, cigarettes in India have become more affordable “Over the past few years, the Indian government has been stepping up efforts to reduce tobacco consumption by hiking taxes on cigarettes. In February, finance minister Arun Jaitley proposed raising the duties even further by at least 15%. Despite this, the WHO report shows that the level of tax as a percentage of the price of India’s most popular cigarette brand remains below the recommended 70% mark. Moreover, India’s tobacco taxation system remains convoluted. Cigarettes are taxed based on their length, with longer… Read More

Curious Bends – Pichai’s Google, oceanic river, mostly harmless MSG and more

1. Inside the mind of the man behind Google’s most important products​ “So when Pichai talks about the next billion people about to come online with smartphones, I get the impression that, for him, Google’s monetization strategy really is secondary to Pichai’s stated goal: giving people everywhere the power of Google’s machine learning whenever and wherever they need it. He’s clearly proud of the fact that Google’s products work the same whether you’re a billionaire or a rural farmer in a far-flung place. And Pichai’s vision is to ensure that dedication becomes a… Read More

Curious Bends – the misery index, twin births, ethnic inequality and more

1. India’s heat wave has been made worse by its humidity “But at least these places had a “dry heat,” and overnight temperatures have been falling into the 80s. Along the coast, temperatures were slightly lower, but much higher humidity levels created a punishing heat index that persisted throughout the night. In Mumbai, for example, the heat index bottomed out just below 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and only for a few hours overnight Wednesday. In severe heat waves, oppressively hot overnight temperatures are extremely deadly, because there’s just no chance for overheated bodies… Read More

Curious Bends – outraged warriors, bizarre obsessions, dubious drugs and more

It’s been one year since we launched Curious Bends – a newsletter where we bring you science, technology, data and India stories from around the web, once a week (subscribe). We’ve enjoyed serving you important and interesting stories. Thank you for being loyal subscribers! Anniversaries are a good time to reflect. Help us do that and improve what we do by taking this two-minute survey. We respect your privacy, so the option to tell us who you are is up to you (but we’d LOVE to know). Starting this week, the newsletter… Read More

Curious Bends – WhatsApp doc, nuclear nonsense, AIDS in Mizoram and more

1. As they amass a bigger nuclear arsenal, both India and Pakistan also attend a non-proliferation conference every year “While most of the momentum behind the humanitarian initiative comes from non-nuclear weapons states, its success ultimately depends on how it influences states with nuclear weapons. Because India and Pakistan are the only two such states that have consistently attended the conferences, it’s important to assess their respective incentives for participation.” (5 min read, 2. An AIDS epidemic in Mizoram is about to start “This infrastructure worked well until a year ago. Till 2010, said an… Read More

Curious Bends – a rabid burden, two caverns of oil, the death of universal marriage and more

1. Over 35% of the world’s rabies burden is borne by India “A global report on rabies has found India accounts for more than one-third of all deaths due to dog bite worldwide. Worse, the report says, most victims die at home because hospitalization provides little palliative care and death is inevitable. … According to one study, only 70% of the people in India have ever heard of rabies, only 30% know to wash the wounds after animal bites and, of those who get bitten, only 60% receive a modern cell-culture-derived vaccine.” (3… Read More

Curious Bends – nuclear Himalayas, tiny Indians, renewables victory and more

1. 50 years ago a bomb’s worth of plutonium was lost on India’s second highest mountain. The mystery remains unanswered “In October 1965, the US’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and India’s Intelligence Bureau (IB) joined hands in a clandestine mission to install a nuclear-powered sensing device on the summit of India’s second highest peak, also one of its most revered: the 25,643ft (around 7815m) Nanda Devi in Uttarakhand’s Garhwal Himalayas.” Then they lost the plutonium-filled device. Fifty years later we still didn’t know where it is. (20 min read, 2. India’s preference for sons has created a… Read More

Curious Bends – expanding nuclear power, the Bombay Blood Group, doubting the tobacco-cancer link & more

1. India’s new forest laws are criminalising tribes’ once-normal livelihoods “India has forest coverage of 23% and more than 200 million live in and around these forests and depend on them for their life, livelihood and cultural identity. But under the banner (some call it “guise”) of scientific management of forests, the intended objectives of our forest policies has been to “maximise profits” by sale of forest products and discouraging forest dwellers from “exploiting” forest resources. To do so, some trees like red sanders have been ‘nationalised’. This legal appropriation of forests… Read More

Curious Bends – homeopathy’s Nazi connections, painful science, the HepC bombshell and more

1. Standing up for the truth about homeopathy and Nazi medicine “Few people would doubt the Nazi atrocities constituted the worst violations of ethics in the history of medicine. They were possible because doctors had disregarded the most elementary rules of medical ethics. Using unproven, disproven or unsafe treatments on misinformed patients, as in alternative medicine, is also hardly an ethical approach to healthcare. In fact, it violates Hippocrates’ essential principle of “first do no harm” in a most obvious way. These were some of the ideas I cover in my memoir,… Read More

Curious Bends – macaroni scandal, bilingual brain, beef-eating Hindus and more

1. The great macaroni scandal in the world began in Kerala “‘Only the upper class people of our larger cities are likely to have tasted macaroni, the popular Italian food. It is made from wheat flour and looks like bits of onion leaves, reedy, hollow, but white in colour.’ This paragraph appears in a piece titled: “Ta-Pi-O-Ca Ma-Ca-Ro-Ni: Eight Syllables That Have Proved Popular In Kerala”. Readers, I am not making this up. For a few years, from around 1958 to 1964, food scientists in India were obsessed with tapioca macaroni. Originally called synthetic… Read More

Curious Bends – babies for sale, broken AIIMS, male gynaec and more

1. China has a growing online market for abducted babies “Girls fetch considerably less than boys, but there is still a market for them. Old social patterns have re-emerged in the market, like the sale of girls into a household where they will be servants until they and the son of the house are of age to marry. Most abducted children are sold to new families as a form of illegal adoption, and are increasingly sold online, though some, mostly boys, are also trafficked for forced labour. I recently worked on an… Read More

Curious Bends – India’s business-friendly budget, vanishing women farmers, a water-supply scare and more

1. For its ignorance of human capital, the 2015 Budget was a step back into the Third World “Oddly, the recent Budget of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) junks these insights and goes back to the days of Jawaharlal Nehru, when growth and development sounded synonymous, physical capital was thought to be the key, and human capital took a back seat. Growth, we are told, is the overriding objective of economic policy — the rest will follow. And the key to growth is “infrastructure” — or rather, a certain kind of infrastructure… Read More