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Welcome to Tuesday, where the U.S. estimates the number of Russian losses to 20,000 in the past six months, the BBC launches a new emergency radio service to help Sudan civilians, and the Met Gala pays homage to Karl Lagerfeld (and his cat Choupette). Meanwhile, Mónica Oblitas for Argentine civil organization Periodistas Por El Planeta warns about the dangers of a new practice in Bolivia – that of combining traditional coca leaves with other substances to obtain a sort of “cocaine-light.”
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• More than 20,000 Russian troops killed since December, U.S. says: More than 20,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in fighting in Ukraine since December, the U.S. estimates. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said a further 80,000 have been wounded. Half of the dead are from the Wagner mercenary company, who have been mostly attacking the eastern city of Bakhmut. The numbers come amid rising anticipation of an imminent Ukrainian counter-offensive.
•Sudan truce not holding, emergency radio service launched: Airstrikes have continued to pound Sudan's capital, Khartoum, despite a truce aimed at allowing civilians to flee. Meanwhile, a new emergency radio service for Sudan is to be launched on BBC News Arabic on Tuesday. The pop-up radio service will be broadcast twice daily for three months providing news and information for people in Sudan.
• China exit bans multiply as political control tightens: China is increasingly barring people from leaving the country, including foreign executives. This comes after authorities said the country was open for business after three years of COVID-19 restrictions. Attention on the exit bans comes as China-U.S. tensions have risen over trade and security disputes.
• Palestinian hunger striker dies in Israeli prison: Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan died in Israeli custody early Tuesday after a hunger strike that lasted nearly three months. The 45-year-old had held previous hunger strikes following past arrests, including a 55-day strike in 2015 to protest his detention without charge.
• Hollywood writers to strike as streaming shift upends TV business: Thousands of film and television writers will go on strike starting Tuesday after negotiations for better working conditions with the major studios and new streaming platforms failed to find an agreement. The two sides are clashing as writers demand higher pay, minimum guarantees of stable employment and a greater share of profits from the boom in streaming.
• Australia to ban recreational vaping: Australia has announced a crackdown on vaping, accusing tobacco companies of hooking the next “generation of nicotine addicts” by deliberately targeting teenagers. Australia announced on Tuesday it will ban single-use disposable vapes, and halt imports of non-prescription versions, and restrict how much nicotine e-cigarettes may contain.• Seagull-scaring job attracts masses: Around 200 people from around the world have applied for jobs at a British zoo to wear bird costumes as part of an official seagull-scaring duty. Blackpool Zoo in Lancashire advertised the position after the birds persistently stole food from visitors and animal enclosures. The zoo said people had applied for the roles from as far as Australia, India, Uganda and war-torn Ukraine.
“Cat and mouse game in the port of Rotterdam,” titles Dutch daily De Volkskrant, reporting on fears that the city is “increasingly in the grip of drug crime.” An explosion at a coffee shop on Monday has brought the total number of blasts in Rotterdam to around 50 this year. According to the city’s mayor, the interception of smuggled drugs by the authorities at the port of Rotterdam is frustrating the traffickers, who are also trying to intimidate each other with shootings and explosives.
India's domestic air travel recorded a new high on April 30, with 456,082 passengers flying on a single day as 2,978 flights were operated throughout the country. After the pandemic, India’s economic revival has resulted in a surge in travel: over 37.5 million passengers traveled by domestic airlines in the first quarter of 2023. However, despite this notable recovery, the Indian aviation industry is still facing several challenges, such as the rising costs of aviation turbine fuel, the devaluation of the rupee against the U.S. dollar, and stranded planes.
Chewing coca leaves: from sacred ritual to “cocaine-light”
In Bolivia, the coca leaf was once reserved for ancestry rituals and practices. Now it is being combined with other substances, especially amongst the very young, to create a toxic experience and dangerous concoction, reports Mónica Oblitas for Argentine civil organization Periodistas Por El Planeta.
🌱 The coca leaf is a plant native to South America and plays an important role in Andean societies. In addition to its medicinal virtues (stimulant, anesthetic and hunger suppressor), it has a leading role in social exchange and religious ceremonies. It is believed that its use spread to the entire Andean territory, with the Tiwanaku empire and later with the Inca empire. The oldest coca leaf was found on the north coast of Peru and dates back to 2,500 BC.
💊 Thousands of Bolivian men and women of different ages and socio economic status throughout the country now chew a "bolo" of coca all the time. The coca leaf is crushed and mixed with an energizer (bicarbonate, Aspirin, Nescafé, coca flour, and sometimes even diesel) plus an energy drink (Red Bull, Ciclón, Black, etc.) and, almost always, alcohol.
⚠️ Modern combos of coca with other stimulants have raised alarm among doctors, who call them “cocaine-light.” Neurologist Carlos LaForcada warns of the serious consequences of this type of coca leaf consumption: “The coca leaf is stimulant. If we add to this two powerful energizing sources such as drinks and Aspirin, for example, it can cause anything from seizures to strokes. It is, without a doubt, very dangerous for health.”
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“Right now, they're not more intelligent than us, as far as I can tell. But I think they soon may be.”
— Artificial Intelligence “godfather” Geoffrey Hinton warned of the dangers of AI as he resigned from Google at 75, saying AI chatbots were “quite scary.” His research had paved the way for AI systems like ChatGPT, but he expressed regret for his work, underlining the rate at which AI capabilities are evolving and calling for a responsible use of this technology. Google’s current chief scientist Jeff Dean thanked Hinton for his work and ensured in a statement that the company is “continually working to understand emerging risks while also innovating boldly.”
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