A merger that went south

Good morning! It was brainstorming week at The Signal. We were planning for the year ahead and will soon tell you all about the new initiatives and delightful stuff coming your way in the next few months. But that consumed quite a bit of our bandwidth, so this week’s edition of The Intersection will have only curated weekend reads. We will return to publishing an original story on December 3.

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Disaster in the making: When American telecom giant AT&T bought Time Warner in 2016, the development was hailed as a watershed moment for the entertainment industry. Streaming was the future, and cord cutting was a foregone conclusion. But within just four years, AT&T spun off Warner Media to Discovery, birthing the company we now know as Warner Bros. Discovery. This ~10,000 word saga takes us through what happened: editorial interference, arm-twisting by Donald Trump and his administration, work culture clashes, and some of the worst strategic decisions of all time.

New American power: “The restrainers can’t accept that politics leaves no one clean, and that the most probable alternative to U.S. hegemony is not international peace and justice but worse hegemons. They can’t face the reality that force never disappears from the world; it simply changes hands.” That’s a line from George Packer’s compelling essay in The Atlantic on the world’s pre-eminent superpower’s future role.

Packer writes that the mojo America lost when it withdrew from Afghanistan, it regained in Ukraine. The two wars also bookend an interventionist policy that held sway post-9/11. He says the Biden doctrine of not having boots on the ground but stitching up coalitions and helping with aid and arms has produced a new model of American intervention that could help support democratic and liberal values beyond its shores. But it will not be effective enough without it reclaiming supremacy for the same values at home.

Picture imperfect: Bollywood and Hindi cinema have wielded disproportionate power and influence over national entertainment for decades. Although the southern and eastern states have largely led arthouse cinema, they also held on their own commercially in their burroughs. Some filmmakers such as SS Rajamouli and Prashanth Neel are even upending Bollywood in commercial success. Not Gujarati cinema, though. In recent years, however, the popularity of local cinema has risen with the success of movies such as Hellaro, Chhello Show’s trip to the Oscars, and Gujarati actor Prateek Gandhi’s acceptance into the mainstream as happy coincidences. But the industry is still plagued by a lack of good content, originality, and marketing imagination, writes Arman Khan for Vice.

Sun block: Dimming the sun to cool the earth sounds like something straight out of doomsday fiction, but it’s a looming eventuality as we stray further away from global climate goals. Initiatives for solar geoengineering or solar-radiation management—i.e. injecting aerosol particles in the stratosphere to bring temperatures down—are already here, although researchers themselves are reluctant supporters of this last-ditch solution. Why? For one, it could push countries to war.

A cycle of crisis: With the Russian invasion of Ukraine came the pressing need to ensure millions of Ukrainians could stay connected. State-owned telecommunications company Ukrtelecom faced major disruptions in its services. As power outages became the norm, a four-member engineering crew worked round the clock to ensure citizens stayed connected, fought disinformation, and helped soldiers keep track of Russian military communications. Even though their experience with handling Covid-19 proved to be useful, nothing prepared them for a full-scale invasion. Cyberattacks became common, knocking out systems in a moment and destroying networks at a moment's notice. This story details the people at work, unfazed and right in the middle of the war.

Wag your ears: Off the Leash might sound like an awkward name for a podcast. But that’s what it is about — dogs. Hosted by the famous author and dog cognition expert Alexandra Horowitz, Off the Leash is your one stop destination to understand dogs a little better. Our favourite episode? #2 titled Names, where Horowitz speaks to Amritha Mallikarjun, a researcher who looks into how dogs understand their own names, using paradigms in infant research. One of these studies is curiously named the “Cocktail Party effect.” Tune into this, while walking your dog (preferably, leashed!).

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