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In The News

Khartoum Shelling, Cyclone Mocha Aftermath, “Smile Training”

Khartoum Shelling, Cyclone Mocha Aftermath, “Smile Training”

A woman stands in front of her destroyed house after Cyclone Mochas' landfall in Shah Pori Island, Bangladesh.

Emma Albright, Yannick Champion-Osselin, Sophie Jacquier and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 Aссалом!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where airstrikes and artillery fire intensify across Sudan’s capital, rescue operations are underway in cyclone-hit Myanmar and Bangladesh, and post-COVID Japan learns to smile again. Meanwhile, in German daily Die Welt, Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek looks at how advanced AI and the explosion of automated trade on the stock exchange may spell the end of capitalism as we know it.

[*Assalom - Tajik, Tajikistan]


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• Ukraine missile attack, EU leaders meet in Iceland: Russia launched an intense air attack on Kyiv early on Tuesday but the Ukrainian air defenses have shot down all 18 missiles. No casualties were reported. Meanwhile, leaders from across the continent were heading towards Iceland early Tuesday for a rare summit of the 46-nation Council of Europe that will once more step up support for Ukraine and condemn its since expelled member Russia for invading its neighbor.

• Airstrikes intensify in Sudan: Airstrikes and artillery fire intensified across Sudan’s capital early on Tuesday as the army continued to defend key bases from rivals it has now been fighting for more than a month. The airstrikes, explosions and clashes could be heard in the south of Khartoum, with heavy shelling across the Nile in parts of the adjoining cities of Bahri and Omdurman.

• Rudy Giuliani accused of sexual harassment: Donald Trump’s former lawyer Rudy Giuliani is being sued for sexual harassment by a former employee. Noelle Dunphy, who says she was hired by Giuliani's firm in 2019 when he was working as Trump's personal lawyer, filed the legal case in New York state on Monday.

• New Mexico shooting kills three: At least three people have been killed and multiple people injured after a shooting in Farmington, New Mexico, where police killed the suspected 18-year-old gunman.

• New Zealand hostel fire: At least six people were killed after a fire broke out at a hostel in New Zealand’s capital Wellington and forcing others to flee the four-story building in the middle of the night. Officials said 52 people had made it out of the building alive but the search is ongoing.

• Taiwan grants right of adoption to same-sex couples: Taiwan’s legislature passed a bill on Tuesday granting adoption to same-sex couples, clearing one of the final obstacles in achieving full marriage equality. Taiwan in 2019 became the first juridiction in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage.

• Festival de Cannes kicks off with Johnny Depp: The 76th Cannes Film Festival starts today with the premier of the Louis XV period drama Jeanne du Barry, starring Johnny Depp. Meanwhile, France has been protesting President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform for months and despite the local authorities banning demonstrations near the festival, opponents to the reform are still planning to use the Festival as a platform for their cause.


Dubai-based newspaper Gulf Today reports on the Syrian delegation attending the meeting of the Arab League in Saudi Arabia. The 32nd Arab League summit is being held in Saudi Arabia on May 19, and marks a significant development as Syria's participation is reinstated after years of suspension and isolation.



After three years of COVID-era masking and the lifting of pandemic restrictions, some Japanese people are finding it hard to readjust to life without face coverings. Newspapers report on those turning to coaches for “smile training” (笑顔トレ, pronounced egao tore) to re-learn the art of breaking into a beaming grin in front of others. “With mask wearing having become the norm, people have had fewer opportunities to smile, and more and more people have developed a complex about it,” says Keiko Kawano, a coach working for the “smile education” company Egaoiku.


The AI capitalists don't realize they're about to kill capitalism

The threats posed by advanced AI are serious and varied. It will change capitalism so much that in the end we will be faced with a choice between two systems: a new form of communism or unchecked chaos, writes Slavoj Zizek in German daily Die Welt.

🧠💻 An open letter published by the Future of Life Institute at the end of March called for all labs working on artificial intelligence systems more powerful than GPT-4 to “immediately pause” their work for at least six months. The idea was that humanity should use this time to take stock of the risks posed by these advanced systems. Thousands of people have already signed the letter, including big names such as Elon Musk.

⚠️ The panic expressed in the open letter is motivated by a fear that those “driving forward progress” will no longer be able to control what they create — in short, it is expressing our fear of our new, digital overlords. Clearly what the open letter is aiming for is not a wide-ranging public debate — it is more like cooperation between governments and companies. The threat posed by advanced AI is very serious, and it affects those in power and those currently involved in developing, owning and controlling AI.

🤖 The future waiting on the horizon is nothing less than the end of capitalism as we know it: the prospect of a self-reproducing AI system that requires less and less human involvement — the explosion of automated trade on the stock exchange is the first step in this direction. So the true choice facing us is clear: a new form of communism or unchecked chaos, in which machines interact with us as pseudo-human partners.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


- 550 million

Due to intensive agriculture, an estimated 550 million fewer birds are flying over Europe, as compared to a generation ago. Researchers blame the use of pesticides and fertilizers in farming, and their detrimental effects on insects, and therefore the impact on other wildlife. The number of wild birds across 28 countries has reportedly fallen by a quarter, with farmland birds hit the hardest.

✍️ Newsletter by Emma Albright, Yannick Champion-Osselin, Sophie Jacquier and Anne-Sophie Goninet

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How WeChat Is Helping Bhutan's Disappearing Languages Find A New Voice

Phd candidate Tashi Dema, from the University of New England, discusses how social media apps, particularly WeChat, are helping to preserve local Bhutanese languages without a written alphabet. Dema argues that preservation of these languages has far-reaching benefits for the small Himalayan country's rich culture and tradition.

A monk in red performing while a sillouhet of a monk is being illuminated by their phone.

Monk performing while a sillouheted monk is on their phone

Source: Caterina Sanders/Unsplash
Tashi Dema

THIMPHU — Dechen, 40, grew up in Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. Her native language was Mangdip, also known as Nyenkha, as her parents are originally from central Bhutan. She went to schools in the city, where the curriculum was predominantly taught in Dzongkha, the national language, and English.

In Dechen’s house, everyone spoke Dzongkha. She only spoke her mother tongue when she had guests from her village, who could not understand Dzongkha and during her occasional visits to her village nestled in the mountains. Her mother tongue knowledge was limited.

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However, things have now changed.

With 90% of Bhutanese people using social media and social media penetrating all remotes areas in Bhutan, Dechen’s relatives in remote villages are connected on WeChat.

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