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Ideas

Artificial Satellite Pollution, Perils For Biodiversity In Space And On Earth

Exploiting space resources and littering it with satellite and other anthropogenic objects is endangering the ecosystem of space, which also damages the earth and its creatures below.

Outer space isn’t what most people would think of as an ecosystem. Its barren and frigid void isn’t exactly akin to the verdant canopies of a rainforest or to the iridescent shoals that swim among coral cities. But if we are to become better stewards of the increasingly frenzied band of orbital space above our atmosphere, a shift to thinking of it as an ecosystem — as part of an interconnected system of living things interacting with their physical environment — may be just what we need.

Last month, in the journal Nature Astronomy, a collective of 11 astrophysicists and space scientists proposed we do just that, citing the proliferation of anthropogenic space objects. Thousands of satellites currently orbit the Earth, with commercial internet providers such as SpaceX’s Starlink launching new ones at a dizzying pace. Based on proposals for projects in the future, the authors note, the number could reach more than a hundred thousand within the decade. Artificial satellites, long a vital part of the space ecosystem, have arguably become an invasive species.

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Sweden & NATO, Musk Pauses Twitter Buyout, Black Hole Picture

👋 Hæ hæ!*

Welcome to Friday, where reports say Sweden could follow Finland’s lead to join NATO, Elon Musk puts buying Twitter on hold, and we catch a first glimpse of a black hole that’s living next door. Meanwhile, French economic daily Les Echos shines a light on the dubious working and sourcing practices of Shein, the Chinese fast-fashion superstar retailer.

[*Icelandic]

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How Rihanna Ripped Apart The Bland Victorian Rules Of Maternity Clothing

Barbadian singer and businesswoman Rihanna has proudly celebrated her pregnant belly in fun and revealing clothes. By doing so, she is breaking away from the unspoken rule that pregnant women should hide their baby bumps.

There is a stage in pregnancy where many women have to start thinking about switching out their clothes for maternity wear. Let’s be honest, the choices out there aren’t all too inspiring and women are often expected to give up on their sense of style in favour of comfort. Not singer Rihanna, though, whose refreshing approach to maternity fashion has rocked the world.

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Zelensky Pleads For Mariupol Ceasefire, Otoniel Extradited, Maradona’s Jersey

👋 Bonghjornu!*

Welcome to Thursday, where the Ukrainian President asks for a truce to evacuate civilians from Mariupol as Russia intensifies its assault on the Azovstal plant, Colombia extradites the world’s most dangerous drug trafficker and Diego Maradona's “Hand of God” jersey sets a record. Meanwhile, Buenos Aires-based daily Clarin looks at how the trend in dieting changes and diversification reflect inequalities in Argentine society.

[*Corsican]

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In The News
Anna Akage and Emma Albright

Lavrov Reveals Slow Pace Of Russian Advances

Also: First Mariupol evacuations, Biden visit "matter of time," Lavrov's Jewish Hitler, Chechnya’s TikTok Fighters ... and more.

May 9 has long been an important day in Moscow, commemorating the 1945 victory over Nazi Germany. Most Kremlin observers believed that Vladimir Putin’s new all-out assault in the southeast Donbas region was aiming to bring home at least a symbolic victory in time for what Russians call “Victory Day.”

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But on Monday, Moscow-based daily Kommersant reports that Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov cautioned that Russia is not going to force a "victory" by May 9, which looks like a de facto admission that the assault has not progressed at the pace the Kremlin had hoped.

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Ideas
Nolan Higdon

Elon Musk Wants Twitter For The Big Data, Not The Free Speech

Oligarchs of the ‘Second Gilded Age’ in the like of Elon Musk are already able to influence the public's minds through media ownership. But getting a hand on Twitter means having access to its users' data and exploiting it for financial purposes.

During the Gilded Age of the late 19th century, and the early decades of the 20th century, U.S. captains of industry such as William Randolph Hearst and Jay Gould used their massive wealth to dominate facets of the economy, including the news media. They were, in many ways, prototype oligarchs — by the dictionary definition, “very rich business leaders with a great deal of political influence.”

Some have argued that the U.S. is in the midst of a Second Gilded Age defined — like the first — by vast wealth inequality, hyper-partisanship, xenophobia and a new crop of oligarchs using their vast wealth to purchase media and political influence.

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Future
Anna Lippert

Open-Source Methods, The Cyber Weapon Anyone Can Use In Ukraine War

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, journalists and citizens have used open source online intelligence to help the war effort and fight disinformation. NGOs and amateur investigators are even using it to look for evidence of human rights abuses.

“#OSINT”: These five mysterious letters and hashtag have flourished on social media since Russia’s offensive in Ukraine. Open Source Intelligence is older than this conflict which broke out last February, but it the idea became better known to the general public as videos, photos and other conflict-related content abound, especially on social networks.

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What’s hidden behind this acronym is a set of methods allowing the exploitation of open sources on the Internet: videos or photos posted on social media, location data, satellite images or the positions of planes and ships shared by a number of websites.

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Geopolitics
Emma Albright, Shaun Lavelle and Cameron Manley

Fears Of Putin’s War Spreading Amid Rumblings In Transnistria

More of the latest: European economy under threat by gas cuts, Mariupol soldier holed up in steel plant, Finland poll on joining, Russia pulls out mercenary troops from Libya, U.S. considers labeling Russia sponsors of terrorism, and more...

The recent series of explosions occurring in part of Transnistria, a breakaway territory within Moldova that has housed Russian troops for decades, have sparked fears that this region may be where Vladimir Putin will take his expansionist war next.

The inhabitants of Transnistria, considered to be pro-Russian, insist they want to be left out of the conflict, reports Tonia Mastrobuoni reports for Italian daily La Repubblica. “We want peace and want to be left in peace,” one of several residents interviewed who refused to give their name.

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Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu insisted that the situation in Transnistria is "more or less calm," though in the past 36 hours there have been a series of explosions that no one has taken responsibility for — and which Ukraine says could be used by Moscow as a pretext to move into Moldova.

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Geopolitics
Anna Akage

“To Kill The Bear” — Why Total Victory Over Russia Is Frightening, And Necessary

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Washington believes Ukraine can win the war, and that Russia must be “weakened” for the foreseeable future. But to end a nationalistic-aggressive empire will require unity and courage by the West.

-OpEd-

They are among the strongest words directed at Moscow since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. During his trip this week to meet Ukrainian leaders in Kyiv and Western allies in Germany, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Washington believes not only that Ukraine can win the war, but that "we want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can't do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine."

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It is a sentiment that had already begun to spread in Ukraine in the first days and weeks of the war, when it became clear that the Russian military could in fact be defeated. That the “victory” Ukrainians sought was not just to slow down Moscow’s tanks, not only to unseat the aggressor-in-chief in the Kremlin, but one that could eliminate the threat of their larger neighbor for decades and even centuries to come.

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Society
Anaïs Moutot

The Tinder Method: How Match Group CEO Shar Dubey Hooks Up The World

At the head of Match Group, the online dating empire composed of Tinder, Meetic and Hinge, this CEO of Indian origin decides millions of people’s love lives on every continent. It's a unique talent for turning digital relationship building into gold.

DALLAS — The place is anything but romantic: a tinted-window skyscraper rising among highways bordered with malls in Dallas, the economical capital of Texas. Yet it’s there, on the fifteenth floor, that Shar Dubey decides on the sentimental and sexual lives of a growing part of the planet.

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Geopolitics
Farid Kahhat

The Ukraine-Taiwan Analogy: Real Fears And False Correlations

The United States has no treaty obligation to send troops to protect Taiwan against China, but it has a "fairly clear" commitment to aid its defense, unlike in Ukraine. The economic stakes are also a source for worry.

-Analysis-

Days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the flight of Chinese jets near Taiwan provoked jitters around the world. The worries were unnecessary as Taiwan's air defense identification zone, where the jets had flown, is effectively bigger than its airspace.

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Also, the incursions were not unusual, having occurred 900 times since the air zone was created. Any comparison between the cases of Taiwan and Ukraine overlooks the fact that — beyond the current context — Taiwan is actually more important to the United States than Ukraine.

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Geopolitics
Ahmad Rafat

Quds v. Revolutionary Guards: Why U.S. Sees Iran's Two "Terrorist" Forces Differently

Is there calculated diplomacy or just confusion behind the Biden administration's ambivalent positions on what can only be defined as 'terrorism' of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards?

-OpEd-

For weeks now there has been talk of removing the Iranian Revolutionary Guards from the West's list of international terrorists, to meet one of Iran's conditions for renewing the 2015 pact on its nuclear program, or agreeing on a similar pact. Tehran says removing the terrorist label from the Guards and lifting all sanctions on this key military force constitute a 'red line' that must be included in any deal in ongoing, though stalled, talks on its program.

Recently U.S. President Joe Biden and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, voiced opposition, without specifically citing the Revolutionary Guards, to ending the terrorist label for one particular unit of the Guards, the Quds Force. This is a regional task force suspected of meddling in the affairs of several neighboring states, and the previous U.S. administration of President Donald Trump took out its powerful leader Qassem Soleimani in 2020, saying he was a threat to U.S. forces.

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Economy
Raphaël Balenieri

Don't Let The Metaverse Become Just Another Club For The Wealthy

Metaverses are introducing ownership and rarity to the internet for the first time in its history. It is already generating billions of dollars in transactions, but the risk is that it becomes a club exclusively for the wealthy.

-Analysis-

PARIS — Gas, electricity, paper… The prices of everything are soaring. But this is nothing compared with what is happening in the metaverse, a place of a multitude of new, virtual and immersive universes, populated with 3D avatars.

In The Sandbox, a metaverse launched in 2012 by two Frenchmen and backed by the Japanese conglomerate Softbank, the prices of virtual lands (more than 166,000 of them exist on the platform) compete with real estate prices in Paris, London or Hong Kong. A user called “EnzoFar” recently put his land for sale … for 66,666 Ethers (a top cryptocurrency, along with Bitcoin), or more than $227 million at the current exchange rate.

Others have done even better. Since their creation by four friends in 2021, the 10,000 unique virtual apes of the Bored Ape Yacht Club have generated what equates to $1.5 billion in transactions. Justin Bieber, Paris Hilton, Snoop Dogg and Eminem have all succumbed to the craze and bought their own.

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Ideas
William Ospina

What's Happening In Ukraine Is Madness — And Should Surprise Nobody

There are instructive, and dismally repetitive, precedents for the war in Ukraine in the histories of imperial Russia and the Soviet Union, but also U.S. aggression from Vietnam to Iraq.

-OpEd-

In 1935, the German philosopher Martin Heidegger predicted that time would be reduced to speed, immediacy and simultaneity — and that time as history would gradually disappear from the life of nations.

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But, as often happens at the outbreak of a war, we urgently look to the past for answers. We need an explanation today, not for the nuclear threat per se but to clarify why nuclear arsenals have increased to suicidal proportions across the past 77 years.

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Geopolitics
Dominique Moïsi

Why Beijing Isn't Happy About The Crimes Of Bucha

The revelations of the alleged war crimes in Bucha are making Russia's war more complicated for the leaders of China, who could have supported a victorious Moscow without hesitation, but a humiliated Moscow is a different matter. Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin's shared ambitions of a new world order is at stake.

-Analysis-

PARIS — Some images change the course of history. In 1968, the Tet Offensive, a coordinated series of North Vietnamese attacks, was a military failure for the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam and the People’s Army of Vietnam. But it also marked a major political turning point. War had invaded American dining rooms through the images shown on television news broadcasts.

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For a majority of Americans, this military adventure had to be stopped. In 1975, the Fall of Saigon brought about the reunification of Vietnam under communism.

In 2022, will the images of the civilian massacres in Bucha (and elsewhere) by Russian soldiers mark a historical turning point? And this time in a polar opposite way, pushing the Western world to provide more military support to Ukrainians?

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LGBTQ Plus
Frieda Klotz

How A Dutch Clinic Pioneered Pediatric Transgender Healthcare, Through 40 Years Of Criticism

Since its founding in the 1970s, the Amsterdam-based Center of Expertise on Gender Dysphoria has been working with often very young children and their parents to address gender identity issues. Their model has been both adopted and widely criticized around the world.

AMSTERDAM — Relationships between patients and physicians last a long time at Amsterdam’s Center of Expertise on Gender Dysphoria. Some of today’s adult patients have been visiting the clinic since the age of 5, when their parents first noticed signs of gender dysphoria — the experience of distress that can occur when a person’s gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. For some very young children, the negative feelings subside with the passage of time and they no longer identify as transgender. But for other children, the distress persists into the years leading up to puberty.

These youth can come to the clinic to discuss embarking on a treatment protocol that begins with a diagnostic phase that lasts around six months. During this time, the young people speak with clinicians, fill out questionnaires, and receive mental health support. After that, youth who are interested in a medical transition will be prescribed puberty blockers. From there, they may need to wait a couple of years until becoming eligible for hormones that initiate the development of secondary sex characteristics aligned with their gender identity. At 16, individuals assigned female at birth can get mastectomies. At 18, patients can meet with their physicians to discuss other gender-affirming surgeries, such as hysterectomies, vaginectomies, and phalloplasties (the surgical construction of a penis) for trans men, and vaginoplasties (the surgical construction of a vagina) for trans women.

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