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In The News

Largest U.S.-Philippines Drill, Biden In Ireland, Peeling Pachyderm

Photo of The United States and the Philippines are holding their largest-ever joint military drills, a day after China concluded large-scale exercises around Taiwan. Filipino and U.S. officials view this as a demonstration of their commitment to peace and stability in the free and open Indo-Pacific region.

The United States and the Philippines are holding their largest-ever joint military drills, a day after China concluded large-scale exercises around Taiwan. Filipino and U.S. officials view this as a demonstration of their commitment to peace and stability in the free and open Indo-Pacific region.

Ginevra Falciani, Inès Mermat, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Hugo Perrin

👋 Moni moni onse!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where the U.S. and the Philippines hold major military drills after China’s recent show of force around Taiwan, Joe Biden kicks off a four-day trip to Ireland, and a German elephant goes bananas. Meanwhile, in Portuguese-language digital magazine Questão de Ciência, Carlos Orsi reports on the phenomenon of Brazilian influencers turned ghostbusters.

[*Chewa, Malawi and Zambia]

💡 SPOTLIGHT

Two big obstacles to peace: the Russian and Ukrainian constitutions

Even if Russia's Vladimir Putin and Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelensky were willing to find a compromise on territory, their respective constitutions explicitly forbid signing off on such a deal, writes Andreas Umland in German daily Die Welt.

Debates about how to bring an end to the Russian war in Ukraine are growing more intense as the months go by. Regardless of whether they believe it is desirable, or even possible, to end this war around the negotiating table, all those involved in the debate must acknowledge the difficulties associated with that approach. Moscow’s track record of neo-imperialist interventions in the affairs of other countries over the last three decades gives much cause for skepticism.

There are a whole host of reasons why negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow are unlikely to take place, or to achieve any significant results if they do — let alone reach a lasting peace deal.

The main reason lies in the contradictory claims of the Ukrainian and Russian constitutions. Russia’s most recent unlawful annexation of four regions in south-eastern Ukraine, in September 2022, represents a huge obstacle to peace.

It is an intensification of the problem first created by Russia’s scandalous, illegal military annexation of the Crimean peninsula over eight years ago. Since March 2014, the situation in Crimea has been an almost insurmountable obstacle to productive discussions between Ukraine and Russia.

The two countries not only need to discuss a range of political questions, but also to overcome a fundamental legal issue. Russia’s actions over the last almost nine years have not only been an unprecedented breach of international law. Moscow’s annexations have also fundamentally changed its own domestic legal situation. Both the Ukrainian and the Russian constitutions now explicitly claim sovereignty over the same territories in eastern and southern Ukraine, including Crimea.

As presidents of their respective countries, Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky are seen by their people as “guarantors” of their constitutions and have a responsibility to uphold them. Even if one or both of the leaders wanted to compromise on territory, their constitutions explicitly forbid this.

This means that before serious peace talks can take place, one or other of the constitutions must be amended. However, that would require a significant majority of parliamentary votes, which, to put it mildly, would be difficult in Putin’s Russia and unrealistic in Ukraine. [...]

Read the full Die Welt article by Andreas Umland, translated into English by Worldcrunch.

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• U.S. and Philippines begin largest-ever drills after China exercises: The U.S. and the Philippines are holding their largest-ever joint military drills a day after China concluded large-scale exercises around Taiwan. Over three days, China's military rehearsed blockades of Taiwan in response to the island's leader meeting the U.S. House Speaker last week. The U.S.-Philippines exercises had been announced before the latest Chinese drills, but nevertheless reflect heightened tensions in East Asia.

• Ukraine document leak latest: Revelations continue in the leak of highly classified U.S. documents, as Defense Ministry spokesman Chris Meagher said Washington is taking steps to mitigate the damage from the disclosure, which revealed sensitive information about the conflict in Ukraine. Among the new revelations, reported Tuesday by the BBC, is a reported conversation between high-level South Korean officials facing pressure from U.S. officials to sell weapons that could be used in Ukraine. The source and motive of the leak are still unknown.

Joe Biden arriving in Ireland today: U.S. President Joe Biden arrives in Northern Ireland for a four-day trip to mark 25 years since the Good Friday Agreement. The U.S. president, who will underscore his country's "commitment to preserving the peace," will meet with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and representatives from Northern Ireland's five main political parties on his visit to a country where Biden has ancestral roots.

• More than 3,000 migrants reach Italian shores in three days: The Italian Coast Guard rescued about 1,200 migrants Monday from two overcrowded boats in the Mediterranean Sea in addition to the 2,000 people that Italian authorities said that they had rescued over the weekend. Organizations monitoring such crossings have raised concerns about the increasingly high number of migrants fleeing war and poverty who are risking the journey across the Mediterranean.

• Gunman live streamed mass shooting in Kentucky that left 5 dead: A 25-year-old bank employee opened fire Monday at his workplace, the Old National Bank, in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, killing five people and leaving 8 others injured. He live streamed the attack on Instagram before he was killed by police after a shootout with authorities.

• Sky News Australia leaves TikTok because of security concerns: Australian broadcaster Sky News has left TikTok because of security concerns that have led several Western governments to ban the video app on devices used by officials. “TikTok is a spy network masquerading as a social media platform,” said digital editor Jack Houghton. The General Manager of Operations for TikTok in Australia and New Zealand rejected all the “allegations and insinuations.”

• An elephant at a Berlin zoo has taught herself to peel bananas: Pang Pha, an elephant raised in the Berlin zoo, learned how to peel a banana after watching her caretakers do it for her. However, she only peels bananas that are at the right level of ripeness, seeming to prefer the yellow-brown ones.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

“The end is nigh,” titles German daily Die Tageszeitung, reporting on the country’s preparation to shut down its three remaining nuclear plants on Saturday, as part of a plan to succeed in its transition without atomic power. Last October, Chancellor Olaf Scholz had postponed the legally mandated shutdown of Germany’s last operating nuclear plants slated for Dec. 31 to April 15 due to energy shortages concerns throughout the winter.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

3,167

The population of tigers in Indiahas increased by 6.7% since 2018 according to the latest census, reaching 3,167. This rise in the country that’s home to 70% of the world's tigers comes after new measures to protect tiger habitats and tackle poaching.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Caca Fantasmas: Brazil's hi-tech ghost hunters turn catholic mysticism inside out

The rise in popular culture of ghost hunting has had a big but strange effect in Brazil. YouTubers and bloggers aim to create a bridge between Brazilian popular spiritism and American ghost-hunting, reports Carlos Orsi Portuguese-language digital magazine Questão de Ciência.

👻 In Brazil, the new popularity of ghost hunting fits into a broader historic investigation and explanation of the apparent supernatural from the domain of religions — though it is increasingly focused on high-tech gear and the hope of achieving internet fame and glory. On YouTube, two Brazilian channels stand out: Rosa Jaques and João Tocchetto, who call themselves the “Caça-Fantasmas Brasil” (Ghost-Hunters Brazil), and a group called the “KBC Caçadores de Fantasmas” (KBC Ghost-Hunters).

📹 Jaques and Tocchetto have been working together since the 1990s, and their YouTube channel dates back to 2008, with around 390,000 subscribers. Their work can be considered a bridge between Brazilian popular spiritism — which mixes the spiritist doctrine itself with Afro-Brazilian systems, Catholic mysticism and folkloric superstitions — and the American style of ghost-hunting.

🔍 Ghost hunting using supposedly scientific equipment is an example of what epidemiologist John Ioannidis calls a "null field" — an area of research where there are no real effects, where all measured effects are nothing but errors, random fluctuations and biases. The physicist Victor Stenger explains: “The uncomfortable reality that ghost hunters carefully avoid is, of course, that no one has ever proven that these devices actually detect ghosts.”

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

💬 LEXICON

通义千问

Chinese tech giant Alibaba has announced plans to officially launch its own artificial intelligence (AI) called Tongyi Qianwen. Described as Alibaba’s answer to OpenAI’s ChatGPT, it will integrate the chatbot across the company's businesses shortly. 通义千问 (pronounced Tongyi Qianwen) roughly translates as “seeking an answer by asking a thousand questions,” and though no English version of the name was provided, the AI product is operable in both English and Chinese. It will be able to carry out several tasks including turning meeting conversations into written notes, writing emails and drafting business proposals.

📸 PHOTO DU JOUR

The United States and the Philippines are holding their largest-ever joint military drills, a day after China concluded large-scale exercises around Taiwan. Filipino and U.S. officials view this as a demonstration of their commitment to peace and stability in the free and open Indo-Pacific region. — Photo: U.S Navy

✍️ Newsletter by Ginevra Falciani, Inès Mermat, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Hugo Perrin


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Green

Environmental Damage Of Russia's War Is Massive — And Extends Far Beyond Ukraine

Warfare is not only traumatic for people and infrastructure but also has a large impact on the natural environment. The environmental damages of the Ukraine war will likely be be so great that even neighboring countries will suffer their effects.

A woman rescues a dog in Kherson, Ukraine, amidst floods.

A woman rescues a dog in Kherson, Ukraine, amidst floods.

Alicja Gadomska & Katarzyna Korzeniowska

WARSAW— The infrastructure used to store and transport oil is often a prime target during war, and the resulting spills and fires can contribute hugely to greenhouse gas emissions.

During the 1991 Gulf War, burning oil wells contributed to more than 2 percent of global CO2 emissions, which had long-term and wide-ranging consequences, including high levels of soot deposits and increased melting of icebergs. Carbon dioxide pouring into the atmosphere from burning forests, peat bogs and wetlands, set alight by shelling, also cause large environmental costs, as does the increased traffic of people and vehicles that come with refugees and humanitarian aid.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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The war in Ukraine is no exception. A new report by Climate Focus, “Climate Damage Caused by the War in Ukraine," shows that military and wartime activities have contributed as much as 100 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions — equal to the entire annual emissions of the Netherlands.

Rebuilding infrastructure, mainly housing, destroyed during the war is responsible for nearly half of these emissions. In some places, cleaning and rebuilding efforts began as soon as Russian occupiers left. Since last spring, for example, the city of Bucha has become unrecognizable. The city has been equipped with new sidewalks, repaired streets and new lighting fixtures. Projects to rebuild housing and highways are ongoing. The country has also built several new roads and bridges.

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