Welcome to Monday, where Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu makes a video appearance while Vladimir Putin and Yevgeny Prigozhin have not emerged after the Wagner Group mutiny that unfolded over the weekend, Honduras enforces a curfew after gang violence shook the country, and an estimated 2.5 million Muslims get ready for the largest Hajj in history. Meanwhile, French economic daily Les Echos takes a look at how the scary-looking robots from Boston Dynamics are on their way to conquer, if not the world, at least its logistics warehouses.
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• Shoigu appears, Prigozhin’s fate unknown: For the first time since the Wagner Group of Russian paramilitaries’ aborted mutiny over the weekend, a video of Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu was released, appearing to visit troops in Ukraine. Meanwhile, neither Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin nor Russian President Vladimir Putin have commented in the past two days on the weekend's events that saw Wagner mercenaries take over military command in Rostov-on-Don on their way to Moscow, before halting the assault after a deal negotiated by Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko. According to a report late Monday morning in Russian state media, Prigozhin may still face charges of treason.
• Greek prime minister to be sworn in: After his center-right party won the general election with a record-high margin over the left-wing opposition, Kyriakos Mitsotakis will begin his second term as Prime Minister of Greece. With a parliamentary majority, he says he is “committed to implement major, deeply-needed reforms.”
• Guatemalan presidential election heads to second round: The first results of the general election in Guatemala put the center-left in the lead as the nation heads to run offs. Preliminary counts estimate that former first lady Sandra Torres will not reach the 50% plus votes needed for a majority win. There have been concerns of corruption during the presidential race, with candidates barred from running and nearly one in four ballots spoiled or left blank in protest.
• Curfew in Honduras after mass shooting: An immediate curfew was declared after 13 people were shot dead in Choloma, Honduras. The victims were attending a birthday party, and the attack was blamed on drug-trafficking gang violence. The curfew will last at least 15 days, and will be extended to nearby San Pedro Sula, the country's second-largest city, next week.
• Khartoum violence intensifies after 11 weeks of fighting: Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) say they have seized a heavily armed police unit’s headquarters in Sudan’s capital as heavy fighting continues. The group’s war with the Sudanese army has displaced 2.5 million people and triggered an 11 week humanitarian crisis.
• Anti-U.S. rallies in North Korea: On the 73rd anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War, North Korea hosted rallies against the “imperialist U.S.” The state news outlet said that 120,000 people participated in rallies across the capital, Pyongyang, vowing a "war of revenge" on a nation which photographed placards said was within “shooting range” of missiles.
• Shot putter goes viral for running hurdles: Belgian athlete Jolien Boumkwo stepped up outside her event to run a 100 meters hurdles race for her team at the European Championships in Poland, to avoid disqualification after Belgium's two hurdlers had to pull out due to injury. The shot put and hammer throw champion completed the race without knocking down a single hurdle, 19 seconds after the winning sprinter.
Daily German newspaper Ostthüringer Zeitung dedicates its frontpage to the historic victory of far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD) in the Sonneberg district. Robert Sesselmann, a lawyer and regional lawmaker, is now the “Landrat”, chief executive officer of the district (located in the central state of Thuringia), meaning that he is responsible for managing the district, implementing policies, and coordinating various services. It is the first time that the AfD wins a district council election, amid a rise of the party’s popularity in the country: according to a survey released last week, support for the party is now at a record 19%.
Zuru LLC, a California company that imports toys manufactured in China, had to recall 7.5 million “Baby Shark” children’s toys, originally designed to be used in the bath. This comes after 12 reports of children suffering “impalement injuries, lacerations and puncture wounds” caused by the shark’s sharp plastic fin, with nine of these requiring stitches.
Boston Dynamics: Lord of the robots has a new target to conquer
On two or four legs, the robots from this MIT spin-off are among the most advanced in the world. And while their videos have conquered YouTube, their new playground is less spectacular, but just as strategic: logistics warehouses, reports Benoît Georges for French daily Les Echos.
🤖 The latest viral Boston Dynamics YouTube video, posted in mid-January, already boasts over 6 million views. In a setting reminiscent of a construction site, the humanoid robot Atlas places a plank of wood on a scaffold, grabs a bag filled with tools, climbs four steps, runs up the plank, throws the bag to a human, jumps to its feet and then completes its journey with a spectacular somersault. The scene is worthy of a science-fiction film — but it was produced without any special effects, by the Boston Dynamics robotics company.
🐕 Founded in 1992 by MIT professor Marc Raibert, the company, based in the Boston suburb of Waltham, has been developing cutting-edge bipedal and quadrupedal robots for three decades. They are often under contract to DARPA, the U.S. military's advanced project research agency. Internet users were introduced to Boston Dynamics in 2008, with a video showcasing BigDog, an imposing quadruped robot designed to carry American infantry soldiers' equipment on all kinds of terrain — forest, snow, ice or rubble.
📦 Stretch, the latest member of the Boston Dynamics family, is unlikely to end up as a soldier. This robotic arm with suction cups, mounted on a rolling cart, is designed for logistics warehouses. Its specialty? Emptying containers and semi-trailers from their boxes and placing them on conveyor belts, at a rate "equivalent to that of a human," explains Kevin Blankespoor, vice-president and head of the Warehouse Robotics division.
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“We need to act together, as one team, and maintain the unity of all forces, rallying around the president.”
— Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin on Monday acknowledged that the country had faced "a challenge to its stability" and must therefore unite behind President Vladimir Putin, after a weekend marked by the aborted rebellion of the Wagner Group of paramilitaries. Speaking on TV, Mishustin’s comments are the first public declaration by a senior Russian official in the wake of the mutiny.
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