Fortnightly Yours. 4/24 2024

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Arresting  |  Factual  |  General  |  Seminal  |  Wacky

Arresting : striking, eye-catching

Select news from Reuters. BBC and New York times.

A1. Navalny’s death deprives Russia’s opposition of a leader and hope.

A2. What We Know About the Deaths Near the Gaza Aid Convoy.

A3. Moon landing: US firm Intuitive Machines makes historic touchdown.

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A1. Navalny’s death deprives Russia’s opposition of a leader and hope.

The death of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny deprives President Vladimir Putin’s opponents of their most formidable leader and the man who, for some, embodied hope of a better future in Russia. His death leaves the scattered groups that oppose Putin without a figurehead, and no obvious candidate to try to turn any discontent over his demise into mass protests. Police watched as some Russians came to lay roses and carnations at a monument to victims of Soviet repression in the shadow of the former KGB headquarters on Moscow’s Lubyanka square.

Russia’s opposition is in disarray as Putin prepares for an election in March which opposition groups call an “anointment” and will keep him in power until at least 2030. Putin faces three other candidates whose job, opposition activists say, is to lose.

Russian officials cast Navalny as a criminal and extremist who was a puppet of the CIA, which they say wants to sow chaos in an attempt to rip Russia apart and steal its vast resources. Opponents of Putin are scattered throughout Europe and the United States. There is no obvious candidate for replacing that central figure as a representative of the Russian opposition it appears.

https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/navalnys-death-deprives-russias-opposition-leader-hope-2024-02-16/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_campaign=Weekend-Briefing&utm_term=021724&user_email=af2603e1e3c5eebf288ce9c24a857f11a546d2dbf74f2b19db1bc09700f97c06

A2. What We Know About the Deaths Near the Gaza Aid Convoy

Gazan authorities said that more than 100 people were killed and hundreds more injured in a chaotic scene early Thursday morning in Gaza City, where a crowd gathered around a convoy of trucks carrying desperately needed aid and the Israeli military opened fire. Gazan and Israeli authorities have offered differing accounts of the event: Gazan health officials said in a statement that scores of people were brought to hospitals with gunshot wounds and were killed or injured in a “massacre,” while Israeli officials said most were killed or injured in a stampede or after getting run over by trucks.

The drone video, which does not include audio, was edited by the Israeli military with multiple clips spliced together, leaving out a key moment before many in the crowd start running away from the trucks, with some people crawling behind walls, appearing to take cover. After a cut in the drone video, at least a dozen bodies are visible on the ground at the scene; it is not clear whether the people are injured or dead. A small number of people may have been struck by aid trucks during the panic, and two Israeli military vehicles are also visible at the scene.

separate video released by Al Jazeera of the crowd near the aid convoy captures the sound of gunfire and shows multiple tracer rounds, originating from the southwest where an Israeli military base is located. The two tanks visible in the drone video were stationed on Al-Rashid around 250 meters from the base. The Israeli military has acknowledged that soldiers opened fire, saying that it was “only in face of danger when the mob moved in a manner which endangered them.”

Aid delivery has also been hampered by the breakdown of civil order as increasingly desperate civilians converge on aid convoys before the trucks can get to distribution centers. President Biden said the loss of life in the aid convoy episode could jeopardize efforts to negotiate a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas, after saying earlier this week that he hoped a cease-fire deal could be reached by next Monday.

 https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2024/02/29/world/middleeast/gaza-aid-trucks-map.html?searchResultPosition=4

A3. Moon landing: US firm Intuitive Machines makes historic touchdown.

 

An American company has made history by becoming the first commercial outfit to put a spacecraft on the Moon. Houston-based Intuitive Machines landed its Odysseus robot near the lunar south pole. It took some minutes for controllers to establish that the craft was down, but eventually a signal was received. Intuitive Machines has broken the United States’ half-century absence from the Moon’s surface. You have to go back to the last Apollo mission in 1972 for an occasion when American hardware nestled down gently in the lunar soil.

The US space agency Nasa had purchased room on Odysseus for six scientific instruments, and its administrator Bill Nelson was quick to add his congratulations to Intuitive Machines for a mission he described as a “triumph”. It’s on the shortlist of locations where Nasa is considering sending astronauts later this decade as part of its Artemis programme.

Prior to Intuitive Machines’ success, only government space agencies had put spacecraft down softly on the Moon – the US, the Soviet Union, China, India and Japan.

In January, another American company, Astrobotic, had a go. Its Peregrine lander developed technical problems en route to the Moon and gave up the opportunity of a touchdown. The robot was brought back to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.

 Moon landing: US firm Intuitive Machines makes historic touchdown (bbc.com) 

Factual : actually occurring.

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Arresting  |  Factual  |  General  |  Seminal  |  Wacky

Select news from Lemonte.Fr, BBC and Global times China.

F1. Why did Donald Trump accuse NATO members of not paying?

F2. Dinosaur Drumheller: Canada’s tiny town of huge monsters.

F3. China Economic recovery.

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F1. Why did Donald Trump accuse NATO members of not paying?

 

The former US president has created confusion between direct NATO funding and allies’ military spending, which is supposed to represent at least 2% of their GDP. “I said, ‘You didn’t pay, you’re delinquent […] No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage [the Russians] to do whatever the hell they want.'” This statement made by Donald Trump at an election rally in South Carolina on Saturday, February 10, has provoked strong reactions worldwide, because it undermines the principle of solidarity between North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member states.

This charge by the Republican primary candidate against America’s NATO allies is nothing new: During his presidential term (2017-2021), Trump had already criticized a supposed lack of balance between allies when it came to funding NATO. Yet by talking about “delinquent” allies and “countries [that] owe us a tremendous amount of money from many years back,” the former president is fostering some confusion.

Indeed, NATO’s direct funding is not at issue here: The €3.8 billion total budget (for 2024), which ensures the operation of the organization and its military commands, is funded by contributions from its members, proportional to their budgetary capabilities and their military requirements. This aspect does not really cause any problems. Trump’s attacks have, in fact, referred to NATO’s indirect funding, which is far more substantial. As the alliance has no armed forces of its own, its members supply the organization with the troops and equipment needed for its operations, on a voluntary basis. Each country’s own defense capacity is therefore called upon to contribute to the organization’s capacity.

To measure this contribution, it has been common practice to compare each country’s annual defense spending with its national economic wealth, as represented by its gross domestic product (GDP). This is, according to NATO, an “indicator of a country’s political will to contribute to NATO’s common defence efforts.”

From 2006 onwards, NATO member states agreed to reverse this trend, by collectively setting themselves the goal of increasing their military budgets to at least 2% of their GDP. Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, the member states clarified this objective: The aim was then to “move towards the 2% guideline” by 2024, although this rule was not made binding.

By the end of 2023, only 11 of the 31 NATO members had made good on this commitment. France was still slightly behind (1.9%), and Germany even further behind (1.6%). However, Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s Secretary General, declared on February 14 that seven more countries would reach the 2% mark by 2024. Only 13 member states would therefore remain below the target.

Why did Donald Trump accuse NATO members of not paying? (lemonde.fr)

https://www.lemonde.fr/en/les-decodeurs/article/2024/02/14/why-did-donald-trump-accuse-nato-members-of-not-paying_6524533_8.html

F2. Dinosaur Drumheller: Canada’s tiny town of huge monsters.

 

Drumheller in the Badlands of Alberta, Canada, is the self-proclaimed “World Capital of Dinosaurs”. That’s because it’s home to some of the most important fossil discoveries ever made. Alberta, Canada, is home to the largest deposits of dinosaur fossils on Earth, and Drumheller – located 280km south of the provincial capital Edmonton – is its epicentre.

Here, in this extraordinary badlands topography, dinosaur bones are commonly seen poking out of the earth and some of the region’s most astonishing discoveries are showcased in the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, a globally recognised natural history museum and research centre that attracts more than 430,000 visitors annually.

“The reason this area is so rich in dinosaur discoveries is because 75 million years ago it looked entirely different to the badlands terrain you see now,” said Dr Jim Gardner, a palaeontologist at the Royal Tyrrell who specialises in prehistoric amphibians and reptiles. “It was once a semi-tropical coastal plain with the ideal conditions for life to flourish, especially dinosaurs that could feast on the plethora of plant life and creatures such as crocodiles, pterosaurs (flying reptiles), and, of course, other dinosaurs.”

The conditions were also perfect for preserving the dinosaurs after death: seasonal storms and floods killed them in large numbers, then quickly buried their corpses under large quantities of sediment. “Water was key in this wonderfully fortuitous cycle of events,” explained Gardner. “It helped create life, brought about death, buried the dinosaur remains in the perfect conditions for preservation, then set fossilisation in motion. Alberta is the world’s leading dinosaur hotspot as a result.”

Water also played a key role in revealing the fossils. During the Ice Age (approximately 25,000-40,000 years ago), thick sheets of ice carved away much of the younger sedimentary rock. Then, as the climate warmed, torrents of meltwater were unleashed from glaciers more than 1km thick, creating new river valleys. “The process was like pulling back the theatre curtain,” said Gardner. “Ta-dah! Here are all these dinosaur fossils in the rock face. The erosion still continues to this day, so every year, a couple of millimetres of rock are lost and new fossils are found.”

Dinosaur fossils were first found in Alberta by the Blackfoot First Nations, who considered them not dinosaurs, but “grandfathers of the bison”, their most sacred animal. French trappers then arrived on the Red Deer River (which runs through Dinosaur Provincial Park) in search of beaver pelts to send to Europe, where they were in high demand to make top hats. “They traded with the Blackfoot people who told them of the treasures in the ground,” said White bone. “Word spread, and by the early 1900s the Great Canadian Dinosaur Rush was underway.”

More than a century after the first fossil-hunting expeditions took place in Alberta, the fascination with dinosaurs shows no sign of abating. For Gardner, their study is vital to understanding the future. “We live on a dynamic planet that is prone to extinction events,” he said. “We know life rebounds, but it’s not the major players who once dominated that are still around afterwards. Humans are now the apex predator on a planet witnessing unprecedented change. What happened to the dinosaurs should be a cautionary tale for us all.”

 https://www.bbc.com/travel/article/20240220-drumheller-canadas-tiny-town-of-huge-monsters

F3. China Economic recovery.

‘Hard-won’ results in 2023 lay solid foundation for continued recovery. China on Thursday released the statistical communique on national economic and social development in 2023, reaffirming that the Chinese economy maintained recovery momentum and made solid progress in pursuing high-quality development despite internal and external challenges.
China’s economy grew by 5.2 percent year-on-year in 2023, according to the statistical communique released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on Thursday, reaffirming the figure released in January and staying above the official GDP growth target of around 5 percent in 2023. Meanwhile, the per capita GDP in 2023 increased by 5.4 percent over the previous year.

China reports ‘hard-won’ economic results for 2023, as two sessions to focus on continued recovery – Global Times

G1. Latest news about Julian Assante

Australian federal MPs – including the prime minister and cabinet members – have voted overwhelmingly to urge the US and the UK to allow the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to return to Australia. The independent MP Andrew Wilkie hailed the passage of the motion, 86 votes in favour and 42 against, as “an unprecedented show of political support for Mr Assange by the Australian parliament”. The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, joined Coalition colleagues in opposing the motion on Wednesday, although the Tasmanian MP Bridget Archer crossed the floor to back the pro-Assange motion.

Assange remains in Belmarsh prison in London as he fights a US attempt to extradite him from the UK to face charges – including under the Espionage Act – with the UK high court due to hold a two-day hearing next week.

The charges are in connection with the publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents about the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, as well as diplomatic cables, in 2010 and 2011. Assange’s supporters argue it was in the public interest to publish information about the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and say his prosecution sets a bad precedent for press freedom.

In September more than 60 Australian federal politicians explicitly called on the US Department of Justice to drop the prosecution, warning of “a sharp and sustained outcry in Australia” if the WikiLeaks founder was extradited.

 

Australian MPs pass motion urging US and UK to allow Julian Assange to return to Australia | Australia news | The Guardian

G2. Paul Pogba: Is this the end?

The Anti Doping Tribunal’s chief prosecutor, opened an investigation which concluded in December. His recommendation was a four-year ban. Pogba has always maintained he “never knowingly or deliberately” took supplements that violate anti-doping regulations. His legal team did not enter a plea bargain which could, in the event of acceptance, have led to a more lenient halved suspension of two years.

The severity of Thursday’s judgment deeply shocked Pogba. He turns 31 in a fortnight. As it stands, he won’t play again until he’s 35 when many a footballer’s career is over. Pogba called the decision “incorrect” and described himself as “sad, shocked and heartbroken that everything I have built in my professional career has been taken away from me”. His long-time agent Mino Raiola passed away in April 2022. Injuries have kept him away from football, isolated. Pogba’s decision not to undergo surgery after his meniscus tear in the summer of 2022 was an error of judgement. He later changed his mind, but it was too late to recover in time for the World Cup in Qatar where France were due to defend their title.

Some will call it a tremendous waste of talent. Others will counter that Pogba achieved more by the age of 31 than most footballers could ever dream of. Right now, it is of scant consolation. “When I am free of legal restrictions, the full story will become clear,” Pogba said. Only then will he be able to argue the career that “has been taken away from me” hasn’t been thrown away.

https://theathletic.com/5309547/2024/03/01/pogba-ban-juventus-france/

G3. Tragedy could have been avoided: Global Times editorial.

The evolution of the Russia-Ukraine conflict to the present day is a tragedy in international politics and a tragedy for the world as a whole. Returning to a more rational political analysis, it is difficult to say that this tragedy was unavoidable. The Ukraine crisis did not emerge overnight; it has a complex historical context and a prolonged development process. During this period, there were numerous opportunities to alleviate or even resolve the crisis, but these opportunities were missed. The situation escalated and deteriorated step by step until the conflict erupted.

In summary, the root cause of the Russia-Ukraine conflict lies in the long-term imbalance of the European security structure after the Cold War, where the US and its European allies did not respect or attach importance to, let alone properly address, the legitimate security concerns of Russia, a major regional power. Several US strategic thinkers such as Henry Kissinger and John Mearsheimer had long warned American decision-makers to pay attention to this. However, driven by inherent arrogance, self-righteousness, and a selfish attitude, the US and the West promoted NATO eastward expansion without considering the unique historical and geographical sensitivities of Russia and Ukraine. This ultimately led to an uncontrollable situation.
To some extent, this is a conflict where there are no winners, and everyone ends up losing. Even within the camp of the US and the West, the most conservative opinions have to admit that the sanctions against Russia have not achieved results and, in fact, have failed. According to statistics, Germany alone has incurred losses of up to 200 billion euros due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Under the pressure, Western societies are experiencing a rising sentiment of “Ukraine fatigue,” public opinion is wavering, and the prospects for military support to Ukraine are uncertain.

2-year mark of Russia-Ukraine conflict: Tragedy could have been avoided: Global Times editorial – Global Times

‘This is where it all began.’ Ten years after the Maidan Uprising, Ukrainians face the test of war (lemonde.fr)

Seminal : original ,groundbreaking

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Arresting |  Factual  |  General  |  Seminal  |  Wacky

Select Articles from Malayala Manorama, CNN and Japan times.

S1. Agritech startup Fuselage Innovations from the Kerala backwaters country.

S2. Dermatologist-approved hair growth products to help with hair loss and thinning.

S3. China debuts C919 aircraft: can it challenge Boeing and Airbus?

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S1. Agritech startup Fuselage Innovations from the Kerala backwaters country.

Yield disruption by 2018 floods inspired Alappuzha siblings to form Agri startup. Agritech startup Fuselage Innovations has been selected for the UK government’s Global Entrepreneurship Programme (GEP), making the Kerala-based company eligible for relocation to the European nation. Fuselage, which provides drone-based agricultural surveillance and spraying solutions, qualifies for mentorship by experienced entrepreneurs and introduction to key networks, courtesy the GEP that lends business support to non-UK firms.

Specialising in manufacturing customised UAVs and drones for agricultural aerial plant survey and spraying, Fuselage, which was founded by Devan Chandrasekharan and Devika Chandrasekharan, will be guided under GEP on ways to grow internationally. Once shifted to the UK, that country’s Department of Internal Trade will help Fuselage, especially around exporting, according to a statement issued by the Kerala Startup Mission (KSUM) here on Monday.

https://www.onmanorama.com/news/business/2023/06/17/yield-disruption-2018-floods-inspired-alappuzha-siblings-form-agri-startup-fuselage.html

https://www.business-standard.com/companies/start-ups/agritech-startup-fuselage-qualifies-for-global-entrepreneurship-programme-123061200539_1.html

S2. Dermatologist-approved hair growth products to help with hair loss and thinning.

From genetics and hormones to stress and nutrition, there are many factors that affect the hair and can lead to thinning, loss or impeded growth. Much like acne, it’s extremely personal and nuanced, and every person’s experience will look a bit different. We recommend consulting a dermatologist for serious concerns, but there are countless over-the-counter hair care options for those simply looking to speed up growth or boost density.

 

15 best hair growth products of 2023 to help with thinning and hair loss | CNN Underscored

S3. China debuts C919 aircraft: can it challenge Boeing and Airbus?

China has come out in force at the Singapore Airshow this year, bringing its largest-ever contingent and showing off the new C919 — the country’s first domestically developed large, narrow-body passenger aircraft. The event also marks the first time the twin-engine airliner has been exhibited outside Chinese territory. The state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China is aiming to market the plane internationally, particularly in Asia and take on industry leaders such as Airbus, with its A320neo, and Boeing, with its scandal-hit 737 Max series.

The C919, which is currently only operated in China, made its inaugural commercial flight last May. The aircraft can carry up to 192 passengers for up to 5,555 kilometers, though COMAC has said it would also produce shortened and lengthened versions of the single-aisle jet. The company is also developing a longer-range, wide-body airliner called the C929 that can seat 250 to 320 passengers. There are currently only four units of the C919 in service, all with China Eastern, although state-owned COMAC, which also debuted its ARJ21 regional jet in Singapore, revealed late last year that it had received orders for about 1,000 C919s, primarily from Chinese airlines.

China debuts C919 aircraft in Singapore, but can it challenge Boeing and Airbus? – The Japan Times

Wacky : amusing, peculiar

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Arresting  |  Factual  |  General  |  Seminal  |  Wacky

Select Articles from Lemonte.Fr, Reuters, CNN and Wall Street Journal.

W1. France recorded over 5,000 deaths due to heat in summer 2023.

W2.  Brightest known object in the universe was hiding in plain sight for decades.

W3. Nvidia briefly hits $2 trillion valuation as AI frenzy grips Wall Street.

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W1. France recorded over 5,000 deaths due to summer 2023.

More than 5,000 people died in France as a result of searing summer heat last year, health authorities said Thursday, February 8. The summer of 2023, marked by four heatwaves including in August and September, was the fourth hottest on record in France. “Everyone has been affected,” Caroline Semaille, head of France’s public health agency, told reporters as she presented a report on heat-related deaths last year.

According to France’s public health agency, 5,167 deaths – or three out of every 100 fatalities – were attributable to heat last summer. Of the deaths, around 3,700 were aged over 75. The extreme heat has been straining healthcare systems, hitting older people, infants and children. By comparison, nearly 7,000 deaths were attributable to heat in 2022, even though the coronavirus pandemic might have played a role as well.

France recorded over 5,000 deaths due to summer 2023 heat (lemonde.fr)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHJKKsOHtAk

W2. Brightest known object in the universe was hiding in plain sight for decades.

Astronomers have spotted the brightest known object in the universe, and it’s a quasar powered by the fastest-growing black hole on record, according to a new study. Initially classified as a star, the quasar managed to hide in plain sight until recently, surprising scientists. Quasars are the luminous cores of distant, ancient galaxies. These gleaming phenomena are without a doubt the most dazzling objects in the cosmos — and scientists believe they are fueled by supermassive black holes that are the central engines of large galaxies.

When astronomers spied a quasar called J0529-4351 using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, they discovered that the incredibly distant object is so far from our solar system that its light has taken more than 12 billion years to reach Earth.

 Universe’s brightest known object and fastest-growing black hole revealed | CNN

 

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W3. Nvidia briefly hits $2 trillion valuation as AI frenzy grips Wall Street.

Nvidia (NVDA.O), opens new tab briefly hit $2 trillion in market value for the first time on Friday, riding on insatiable demand for its chips that made the Silicon Valley firm the pioneer of the generative artificial intelligence boom. The milestone followed another bumper revenue forecast from the chip designer that drove up its market value by $277 billion on Thursday – Wall Street’s largest one-day gain on record.

Its rapid ascent in the past year has led analysts to draw parallels to the picks and shovels providers during the gold rush of 1800s as Nvidia’s chips are used by almost all generative AI players from ChatGPT-maker OpenAI to Google.

https://www.reuters.com/technology/global-markets-marketcap-pix-2024-02-23/

The Wall Street Journal – Breaking News, Business, Financial & Economic News, World News and Video (wsj.com)

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