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In The News

Prigozhin Presumed Dead, Six More BRICS, Brain-To-Speech Breakthrough

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov sitting during a meeting.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attending a meeting during the 15th BRICS summit in Sandton, South Africa.

Yannick Champion-Osselin, Valeria Berghinz and Marine Béguin.

👋 Aloha!*

Welcome to Thursday, where Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin is believed to have died in a plane crash north of Moscow, six new countries (including Iran) are invited to join the BRICS bloc, and a brain-to-speech breakthrough allows a paralyzed woman to speak for the first time in 18 years. Meanwhile, Worldcrunch’s very own Emma Albright reflects on the impacts of global warming that go beyond the natural disasters, including the added burden of working through the rising heat of summer.

[*Hawaiian]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Wagner leader presumed dead: Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of Russian mercenary outfit Wagner Group, is said to have been on board a plane that crashed on Wednesday evening north of Moscow, leaving no survivors. Two months to the day after he led an abortive mutiny against the army top brass, Prigozhin’s death has not been confirmed by Moscow, as speculation grows about his fate.

• BRICS to invite 6 new countries, including Iran: At the BRICS summit in Johannesburg, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa have decided to invite six countries to join the bloc. New members would include Argentina, Egypt, Iran, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, despite BRICS divisions on how far and how quickly the bloc should be expanded. Read a recent article by Pierre Haski, translated by Worldcrunch, about how Lula’s return to the Brazilian presidency has given new momentum to BRICS.

• Independence Day Ukraine: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has marked Ukraine’s Independence Day on the 547th day since Russia invaded Ukraine. The holiday commemorates the country’s Declaration of Independence from the USSR in 1991. Zelensky wished his people well in a tweet, saying it is “The day of the free, the strong, and the dignified. The day of equals.” What were we talking about a year ago: Zelensky Aims For "Victory" In Independence Day Speech / World Front Pages

• China bans Japanese seafood as Nuclear wastewater released: Treated radioactive wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant began releasing into the Pacific today, a controversial step that prompted China to ban seafood from Japan. Chinese customs authorities announced the ban on all imports of “aquatic products”, confirming Japanese fishing groups fears of the plan damaging their reputation. 1.3 million tonnes of irradiated water, contaminated in 2011 after an earthquake and tsunami destroyed the nuclear power plant, will be treated and released over the next decades.

• U.S. Republican presidential debate: The first Republican presidential debate ahead of the 2024 U.S. presidential elections. Among heated exchanges and bickering, almost all of the eight candidates said they would support Trump if he was the nominee, even if he was convicted of a crime. Meanwhile, front-runner Donald Trump skipped the debate, opting for a rival interview on the social media platform X formerly known as Twitter. More than 74 million viewed his 46-minute conversation with conservative commentator Tucker Carlson, posted just minutes before the Republican debate began on Fox News.

• 3 dead in U.S. biker bar shooting: At least three people have been killed and six others are hospitalized after a shooting at a historic biker bar in Trabuco Canyon, California, U.S.. The incident is believed to have started as a domestic dispute between a retired sergeant and his wife. The man opened fire, and was later killed by police at the scene. Including this incident, there have been an estimated 457 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2023 so far, the Gun Violence Archive putting the number at 465. A recent view on the U.S. A Foreign Eye On America's Stunning Drop In Life Expectancy

• Paralyzed woman speaks thanks to tech breakthrough: Tiny electrodes implanted on the surface of a paralyzed woman’s brain have allowed her to speak for the first time in 18 years. The latest brain-to-tech innovation allowed her to communicate using a digital avatar, by translating brain signals into speech and facial expressions. This raises hopes that brain-computer-interfaces (BCIs) could replace the slow speech synthesizers currently used by stroke and ASL patients.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

The Hindustan Patna takes its readers to the Moon with its front page, a celebration of yesterday’s historic achievement. India became the first country to have successfully landed near the South Pole of the Moon, marking their emergence as a Technology and Space Power: Prime Minister Nerenda Modi called it the “victory cry of a new India,” waving the country’s flag from South Africa, where he is attending the Brics summit. The goal of the two-week expedition is to conduct experiments in the little-explored South Pole, including an analysis of the composition of the surface and investigate the presence of water ice.

#️⃣ BY THE NUMBERS

$13.5 billion

U.S. chipmaker Nvidia's specialized AI chips boosted its value to over $1 trillion, driven by its quarterly sales hiking to nearly $13.5 billion, beating Wall Street analysts’ expectations by $2 billion. Nvidia chips power almost every leading AI application in the world, including ChatGPT, making it one of the biggest winners in the AI boom.

📰 STORY OF THE DAY

Hot summer jobs: how global warming weighs on the workplace

As workers around the globe are faced with the mercury rising, Emma Albright writes for Worldcrunch about how jobs both inside and outside are becoming less and less bearable in the summer months.

🥵 Over the past few years, our planet has been faced with steadily more severe heat waves. We have had to learn how to live with rising temperatures and adapt our daily lives to the on-the-ground reality of global warming. And for 40 or so hours a week, it is a decidedly work-related question. It is mandatory to start adapting workplace conditions to face extreme heat. However, is setting up air-conditioning in every office sustainable? Could working from home be a way to minimize the effects of our hot-and-hotter summers? What are the most sustainable solutions at our disposal to face these heat waves?

🌡 In recent weeks, several countries have had to implement emergency protocols to deal with the high temperatures. Iran, with temperatures going up to 50 °C, declared two public holidays for public services and banks on Aug. 2 and 3. Back in June, the government had modified the working hours of public employees to allow them to start their day earlier, and in the process save energy.

🔥 Apart from the obvious solutions like frequent water breaks and flexible working hours, there are other practices that can be implemented to help their workers deal with severe heat. Cities could plant more trees in urban areas, which would prevent the accumulation of heat in concrete and significantly cool down buildings. Summer often reveals the impact of climate change with extreme weather, floods, and fires around the globe. Seeing our daily lives impacted by high temperatures and being forced to change the way we operate when facing the heat, is a reminder of what is happening to our planet.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

“I’m not surprised.”

— U.S. President Joe Biden reacted to reports of Yvgeny Prigozhin’s death in a plane crash near Moscow, saying “I don’t know for a fact what happened, but I’m not surprised.” While it remains to be confirmed if the Wagner chief was actually on the plane, other high-profile politicians have already reacted: French government spokesman Olivier Veran said in a television interview that it was safe to “have some reasonable doubts” about the cause of the crash. On X (formerly Twitter), Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak wrote that rumors that Prigozhin may have been eliminated by the Kremlin could be interpreted as a “signal from Putin to Russia’s elites ahead of the 2024 elections”.

✍️ Newsletter by Yannick Champion-Osselin, Valeria Berghinz and Marine Béguin.


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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Why The U.S. Lost Its Leverage In The Middle East — And May Never Get It Back

In the Israel-Hamas war, Qatar now plays the key role in negotiations, while the United States appears increasingly disengaged. Shifts in the region and beyond require that Washington move quickly or risk ceding influence to China and others for the long term.

Photograph of U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken  shaking hands with sraeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

November 30, 2023, Tel Aviv, Israel: U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken shakes hands with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

Chuck Kennedy/U.S State/ZUMA
Sébastien Boussois

-Analysis-

PARIS — Upon assuming office in 2008, then-President Barack Obama declared that United States would gradually begin withdrawing from various conflict zones across the globe, initiating a complex process that has had a major impact on the international landscape ever since.

This started with the American departure from Iraq in 2010, and was followed by Donald Trump's presidency, during which the "Make America Great Again" policy redirected attention to America's domestic interests.

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The withdrawal trend resumed under Joe Biden, who ordered the exit of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in 2021. To maintain a foothold in all intricate regions to the east, America requires secure and stable partnerships. The recent struggle in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict demonstrates that Washington increasingly relies on the allied Gulf states for any enduring influence.

Since the collapse of the Camp David Accords in 1999 during Bill Clinton's tenure, Washington has consistently supported Israel without pursuing renewed peace talks that could have led to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

While President Joe Biden's recent challenges in pushing for a Gaza ceasefire met with resistance from an unyielding Benjamin Netanyahu, they also stem from the United States' overall disengagement from the issue over the past two decades. Biden now is seeking to re-engage in the Israel-Palestine matter, yet it is Qatar that is the primary broker for significant negotiations such as the release of hostages in exchange for a ceasefire —a situation the United States lacks the leverage to enforce.

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