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In The News

Russia Bombs Kharkiv, Afghanistan Earthquake, Stingray Record

Russia Bombs Kharkiv, Afghanistan Earthquake, Stingray Record

Peas left in the garden of 85-year-old Ukrainian civilian Raisa Kozakova, who died after a shell hit her home while she was harvesting peas in Kharkiv, Ukraine

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Lila Paulou, McKenna Johnson, Joel Silvestri and Lisa Berdet

👋 ഹലോ*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Russian forces pound Ukraine’s second largest city, an earthquake in Afghanistan leaves at least 1,000 dead and a giant stingray breaks a record in Cambodia. Meanwhile, news agency Agencia Presentes looks at the challenges faced by Mexico’s LGBTQ+ seniors, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

[*Halēā - Malayalam, India]


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• Ukraine update: At least 15 civilians have died after heavy Russian bombardments in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city. In Russia, the governor of the Rostov region Vasily Golubeva reports that a fire at an oil refinery five miles from the border with Ukraine may have been started by a drone. Fragments of two drones were reportedly found at the site, and social media footage may show a drone flying towards the refinery.

• Hundreds killed in Afghanistan earthquake: Nearly 1,000 people are confirmed dead after a magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck parts of eastern Afghanistan. Most of the deaths have been reported in the provinces of Paktika and Khost, but many more remote villages have been affected and officials fear the death toll could multiply.

• EU warns against return to fossil fuel: As Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands ease restrictions on coal fired power plants, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen is urging EU member nations to invest in more sustainable alternatives rather than falling back on fossil fuels as Russia responds to western sanctions by decreasing the amount of oil it is supplying to western Europe.

• Site of school shooting in Uvalde to be demolished: The mayor of Uvalde, Texas announced that Robb elementary school will be demolished after a gunman killed 21 people, including 18 children, there last month. Meanwhile, US Senators have voted to expedite the process to pass a new gun control bill with bipartisan support in the wake of the shooting.

• U.S. vows support for Israel amid political turmoil: Shortly after Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced that he would be dissolving his government, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has promised strong support for Israel going forward. He cited a shared respect for democratic processes and mutual concerns over Iran’s influence as essential to the strategic relationship between the two nations.

• Swastikas to be banned in parts of Australia: Victoria, Australia has become the first state in the country to ban the public display of swastikas. A bill which passed with bipartisan support states that anyone who publicly displays a swastika on purpose could face a fine of up to 22,000 Australian dollars ($15,203) and 12 months in prison.

• New record for largest freshwater fish caught: A giant stingray caught in the Mekong river in Cambodia has been recorded as the largest known freshwater fish. The stingray measures almost 13 feet long and weighs just under 660 pounds.


Israeli daily Haaretz reports on the Knesset voting to dissolve in a preliminary reading of a bill which will be finalized next week, moving the country closer to its fifth election in less than four years. Centrist Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will take over from Prime Minister Naftali Bennet as temporary head of the interim government.



The Russian ruble is, by all accounts, currently the strongest major world currency. It now stands at its highest level in seven years against the U.S. dollar, gaining over 35% this year and trading at 55.78 to the dollar. While Western sanctions against Moscow have disrupted key parts of Moscow’s economy, the Russian currency has only gotten stronger since the beginning of the war, with exchange rates plummeting. Despite U.S. and Europe cutting Russian energy imports, Moscow has been able to compensate with record oil and gas exports to Asia.


LGBTQ+ seniors in Mexico: between aging, identity and isolation

Growing old in Mexico brings uncertainty, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. However, being LGBTQ+ brings additional challenges, which the pandemic accentuated, Georgina G. Alvarez writes for Agencia Presentes, a Buenos-Aires-based news agency focused on LGBTQ+ rights and human rights.

🏳️⚧️ Mario is 69 years old. He found a new sense of peace 13 years ago, materialized in a birth certificate that finally reflected a truth he had always known but struggled to put into words: "I am a trans man." For more than 50 years, he lived in silence and kept his own gender identity confined until he met Diana, a 59-year-old engineer who had also experienced the same type of isolation since she was a child. They started dating, fell in love, and — 13 years ago — they got married. Since then, their visibility and activism has been key in guaranteeing the legal recognition of the identity of adult transgender people in Mexico City.

🇲🇽 Diana and Mario took a long time to come out of the closet because they lacked information and referents. And because they wanted to keep their jobs. In Mexico, 4 out of 10 older adults face poverty. At the same time, discrimination against trans people contributes to job insecurity and the pandemic has exacerbated the problem even more. According to data from a survey on the effects of the pandemic on the LGBTQ+ population in Mexico, 70% of trans women and 60% of trans men who responded lost income during the first year of the pandemic.

😷 The COVID pandemic delayed and reduced the response, care, prevention, and treatment for HIV, cancer, diabetes, and mental health illnesses, amongst others. Between 2019 and 2020, HIV was the fourth disease with the highest number of reports due to lack of available medication. In addition, lockdowns disrupted HIV testing, leading to fewer diagnoses and at the same time a drop in initiating treatment initiation. According to UNAIDS, 1 in 4 people living with HIV had problems accessing their treatment in 2020. Diana was one of those affected by this, and her mental health was also compromised.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


He is not a statesman but a bandit.

— In an interview with Euronews, former Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky has warned European leaders that they should not try to negotiate with Vladimir Putin, saying the Russian President is “not a statesman but a bandit”. This call by Russia’s once wealthiest man may be a reference to French President Emmanuel Macron’s insistence on trying to find a negotiated settlement to the war. Referencing EU foreign policy chief Joseph Borrell, Khodorkovsky added, “Of course, we will have negotiations at the end of this war, but first of all this conflict will be solved on the battlefield and there is no alternative to that."

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Lila Paulou, McKenna Johnson, Joel Silvestri and Lisa Berdet

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The Pope's Bronchitis Can't Hide What Truly Ails The Church — Or Whispers Of Succession

It is not only the health of the Pope that worries the Holy See. From the collapse of vocations to the conservative wind in the USA, there are many ills to face.

 Pope Francis reaches over to tough the hands of devotees during his  General Audience at the Vatican.​

November 29, 2023: Pope Francis during his wednesday General Audience at the Vatican.

Evandro Inetti/ZUMA
Gianluigi Nuzzi

ROME — "How am I? I'm fine... I'm still alive, you know? See, I'm not dead!"

With a dose of irony and sarcasm, Pope Francis addressed those who'd paid him a visit this past week as he battled a new lung inflammation, and the antibiotic cycles and extra rest he still must stick with on strict doctors' orders.

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The Pope is dealing with a sensitive respiratory system; the distressed tracheo-bronchial tree can cause asthmatic reactions, with the breathlessness in his speech being the most obvious symptom. Tired eyes and dark circles mark his swollen face. A sense of unease and bewilderment pervades and only diminishes when the doctors restate their optimism about his general state of wellness.

"The pope's ailments? Nothing compared to the health of the Church," quips a priest very close to the Holy Father. "The Church is much worse off, marked by chronic ailments and seasonal illnesses."

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