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Fearless Putin, Algeria Votes, Fake World Cups

Rescue teams are still searching for some 300 people one day after a boat carrying 475 passengers capsized off the S. Korean coast
Rescue teams are still searching for some 300 people one day after a boat carrying 475 passengers capsized off the S. Korean coast

The four-way talks between Ukraine, Russia, the U.S. and the EU began this morning in Geneva, after deadly clashes in the southeastern city of Mariupol as pro-Russian protesters tried to seize a military base. Three people were killed and another 13 injured, while 63 were detained, Russia’s Ria Novosti news agency reports, quoting a statement from Kiev’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov. According to The Washington Post, U.S. expectations from today’s meeting are low, and officials are already planning new sanctions against Moscow.

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin is holding his annual Q&A session with the public, with many questions being asked about the situation in Ukraine. Putin again dismissed as “nonsense” Western claims that Russian forces were in Eastern Ukraine and slammed Kiev’s decision to send troops against armed protesters in these regions. “They are deploying tanks, armored vehicles and weaponry! Against whom?! Are they nuts?!" RT quotes Putin as saying.

  • Putin also explained that the upper house of the Russian Parliament had approved sending troops to Ukraine but said "I very much hope that I will not have to use this right,” adding that he wished to see the situation be solved “with political-diplomatic means.” Read more from The Moscow Times. According to Ria Novosti, he brushed off the threat of NATO expansion, following yesterday’s pledge from the organization’s Secretary to build up its presence in the area. “We will choke them all. What are you afraid of?” Putin was quoted as saying.

  • Here’s how Putin v. Europe looks to Daniel Brossler of German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Rescue teams in South Korea are still searching for some 300 people, a day after the capsizing of a boat carrying 475 passengers, most of whom are children. Authorities have confirmed that at least nine people have been found dead. The search is being severely hampered by the weather conditions. It is still unclear what caused the accident, although newspaper Chosunilbo reports rescue officials as saying that the captain could have altered the ship’s course to make for lost time and ended up hitting a rock. According to Yonhap news agency, the boat’s captain, who is said to have been amongst the first to leave the boat, was questioned by the coast guard.
Meanwhile, South Korean media released some of the heartbreaking text messages sent by the children aboard the boat to their parents: "Sending this in case..."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Israeli members of Parliament that he would agree to a nine-month extension of the peace talks on condition that the first three months be dedicated to drawing the borders of a future Palestinian state, and that all settlement activities be halted, Israeli dailyHaaretzreports. This comes as Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are due to meet with a U.S. envoy today in the hope of salvaging the talks and extend them beyond the April 27 deadline.

Soldiers from the Nigerian army have freed most of the 128 school girls that were abducted by gunmen on Monday evening, but 8 of them are still missing, Vanguard reports, citing military sources. But according to AP, the school’s principal denied the military report and told the news agency that only 14 girls had returned to the town.

Some 23 million Algerians are called to the polls to elect a new president for the next five years, Algérie Focus reports. Despite intense criticism and protests against current President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the 77-year-old is described as the favorite to win a fourth term in office.
For more on the Algerian election, we offer this Le Monde/Worldcrunch piece: Algeria's Presidential Campaign Heats Up Online.


A 19 year-old university student in Canada has been charged with using the encryption bug Heartbleed to exploit taxpayer data from the Canada Revenue Agency website, The Toronto Sun reports. The young man, described by his lawyer as a “very gifted” student, is accused of stealing the Social Insurance Numbers of about 900 taxpayers last week, causing the website to shutdown.

Britons and Americans used to depict Germans as obsessed with Nazi uniforms, now the supposed obsession is nudism, writes Die Welt’s Brenda Strohmaier: “Our agenda is written on our breasts in invisible ink. And if you knew how to read it you’d find out about things like the new dress standards for all EU holiday areas..”
Read the full article:
The Beautiful German Evolution: From Nazis To Nudists.

And in the World Cup of counterfeiting, China is always amongst the favorites.

The Water Bureau in Portland, Oregon is to dump 38 million gallons of drinking water after a teenager urinated in one of the city’s water reservoir, The Oregonian reported. Wanting to reassure the public about the Water Bureau’s commitment to “serve water that’s clean, cold and constant,” administrator David Shaff had those somewhat unfortunate words: “That doesn’t include pee. Not from people, at least.”

Legendary director Jean-Luc Godard, 83, was among those selected to compete in this year’s edition of the Cannes Film Festival. Here’s the full list from Le Monde.

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Life On "Mars": With The Teams Simulating Space Missions Under A Dome

A niche research community plays out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another planet.

Photo of a person in a space suit walking toward the ​Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

At the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

Sarah Scoles

In November 2022, Tara Sweeney’s plane landed on Thwaites Glacier, a 74,000-square-mile mass of frozen water in West Antarctica. She arrived with an international research team to study the glacier’s geology and ice fabric, and how its ice melt might contribute to sea level rise. But while near Earth’s southernmost point, Sweeney kept thinking about the moon.

“It felt every bit of what I think it will feel like being a space explorer,” said Sweeney, a former Air Force officer who’s now working on a doctorate in lunar geology at the University of Texas at El Paso. “You have all of these resources, and you get to be the one to go out and do the exploring and do the science. And that was really spectacular.”

That similarity is why space scientists study the physiology and psychology of people living in Antarctic and other remote outposts: For around 25 years, people have played out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another world. Polar explorers are, in a way, analogous to astronauts who land on alien planets. And while Sweeney wasn’t technically on an “analog astronaut” mission — her primary objective being the geological exploration of Earth — her days played out much the same as a space explorer’s might.

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