News That Matters

07/05/2023 ---- 17/05/2023

Barbara Brigham was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September 2020, a disease with an 88% fatality rate and notorious for its difficulty to treat. Now cancer-free, Brigham credits an experimental personalized cancer vaccine by BioNTech. The results of this groundbreaking study were published in Nature.

The study involved 16 participants, with 8 responding positively to the vaccine. These responders produced T-cells that attacked their tumors and persisted for at least two years. Dr. Vinod Balachandran, a cancer surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, led the study, which aimed to test the safety and feasibility of the therapy. Plans for larger clinical trials are in progress.

Creating the personalized vaccine involved sequencing the genetic code from tumors and patients' blood, identifying altered genes, and creating personalized mRNA vaccines. Patients received eight doses of the vaccine, followed by six months of chemotherapy and a final booster. The vaccine was infused into the bloodstream to stimulate a different part of the immune system, where T-cells were made.

Not all participants developed an adequate pool of programmed T-cells in response to the vaccine. Researchers theorize that the removal of the spleen may affect the vaccine response. A larger trial is needed to determine statistical significance.

The mRNA vaccines were tested as a treatment for pancreatic cancer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, with Dr. Balachandran leading the first clinical trial. Phase 1 trial results were reported on May 10 in Nature. Of the 16 patients, 8 showed activated T cells and delayed recurrence of pancreatic cancers. A larger, randomized clinical trial is set to open, with multiple sites in various countries.

The initial laboratory discovery and collaboration with Genentech and BioNTech led to this potential treatment. Research on immune protection in long-term pancreatic cancer survivors was published in Nature in November 2017. The mRNA vaccine technology was used to deliver neoantigens to patients as vaccines, with an individualized therapeutic mRNA cancer vaccine tailored to each patient's tumor. The clinical trial was completed in 18 months, ahead of schedule, with funding and support from Stand Up To Cancer, Lustgarten Foundation, Ben and Rose Cole Charitable PRIA Foundation, and Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation.

At an 18-month median follow-up, patients with vaccine-expanded T cells (responders) had longer median recurrence-free survival compared to non-responders (13.4 months, P = 0.003). Adjuvant atezolizumab, autogene cevumeran, and mFOLFIRINOX induced substantial T cell activity that may correlate with delayed PDAC recurrence.

In conclusion, this experimental personalized cancer vaccine offers a glimmer of hope for pancreatic cancer patients like Barbara Brigham. While the results are still preliminary, they show promise for a future where more people can overcome this deadly disease. As larger clinical trials are underway, the medical community eagerly awaits further developments in this groundbreaking research.


Scientists now predict a 66% chance that the critical 1.5C global warming threshold will be surpassed between now and 2027, a significant increase from the World Meteorological Organisation's (WMO) 2020 estimate of less than 20%. This acceleration in global warming is attributed to human activities, such as carbon emissions, and the likely occurrence of an El Niño weather pattern.

The 2015 Paris Agreement aimed to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. The warmest year on record was 2016, with global temperatures reaching 1.28C above pre-industrial levels. Researchers are now 98% certain that this high mark will be broken before 2027. However, the Paris Agreement threshold would only be considered passed if temperatures stay at or above 1.5C for 20 years.

WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas warns that we should expect temporary breaches of the 1.5C level with increasing frequency. High carbon emissions from human activities and the likely appearance of an El Niño weather pattern are contributing to these rising temperatures. The Arctic is expected to experience warming three times greater than the global figure over the next five northern hemisphere winters. Northern Europe, including the UK, is likely to see increased rainfall from May to September over the next five years.

The El Niño weather phenomenon is predicted to develop this summer with over a 90% chance and is likely to stretch into winter, according to the NOAA Climate Prediction Centre. This would be the first El Niño since 2018-2019, and it typically increases global temperatures by around 0.2 degrees Celsius overall. 2023 is predicted to be hotter than 2022, possibly the fifth or sixth hottest year on record. The NOAA also estimates a 50% chance that 2023 will be the hottest year on record.

El Niño's strongest influence on weather patterns occurs during the colder months. In Europe, this means drier and colder winters in the north and wetter winters in the south. In the US, northern states can expect dryer and warmer weather, while the Gulf Coast and Southeast may experience intense rainfall and flooding. The El Niño weather pattern can also affect monsoons in India and rainfall in South Africa, potentially reducing them. East Africa could see more rains and flooding, while Indonesia and Australia may face an increased probability of bushfires. Coral bleaching and die-off are more likely, with damaging effects on marine life along the Pacific Coast due to the suppressed upwelling phenomenon.

In conclusion, the world is on the brink of surpassing a critical global warming threshold, driven by human activities and the likely occurrence of an El Niño weather pattern. As we approach this tipping point, the consequences become increasingly severe, from extreme weather events to devastating impacts on ecosystems. It is now more urgent than ever that we take action to reduce our carbon emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change. The future of our planet depends on it.


Turkey's presidential election is heating up, with incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan facing a close race against chief challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu. The election reflects the deep polarization of Turkish society, a century after the foundation of the modern Turkish republic by Kemal Ataturk. Incomplete results show Erdogan leading with over 49% of the vote, while Kilicdaroglu trails with around 45%. As both candidates claim victory, the race is likely to go to a run-off.

Erdogan's People's Alliance of parties has won a majority in parliament, according to preliminary figures. However, opposition parties have pooled resources to challenge his presidency. Kilicdaroglu, who promises to revive Turkish democracy and relations with NATO allies, has resonated with voters by advocating for the scrapping of excessive presidential powers.

Turkey currently faces a cost-of-living crisis, with inflation rates reaching 44%, exacerbated by Erdogan's economic policies. The government has also been blamed for its slow response to the double earthquakes that struck the country in February. Despite these challenges, Erdogan's support remains strong, with his AKP party and nationalist ally MHP securing 316 out of 600 seats in parliament.

Erdogan's government has accused the West of plotting against him, further fueling the divisions within the country. As the expected run-off approaches, it remains unclear how close the race will be. Speculation also surrounds the 5% of votes that went to a third candidate, ultranationalist Sinan Ogan.

In this high-stakes election, the future of Turkey hangs in the balance. The outcome will shape not only Turkey's future but also its relationships with the international community. With the race too close to call, Turkey's next chapter is about to be written, and its outcome will have lasting effects on the nation and beyond.


The US ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety, has accused the country of supplying weapons to Russia after a Russian ship was allegedly loaded with arms in Cape Town in December. South Africa has denied the claims and announced an independent inquiry. The US has expressed concern about South Africa's relationship with Russia, including its participation in military exercises with Russia and China. South Africa abstained from a UN vote condemning the invasion and refused to join the US and Europe in imposing sanctions on Russia. President Cyril Ramaphosa has stated that the US ambassador's comments will be investigated.

South Africa's ties with Russia stem from its membership in the BRICS alliance and long-standing ties with the African National Congress (ANC). Historically, South Africa's arms industry has sold weapons to countries across the continent. South African authorities expect the US to provide evidence for the claims.

The European Union is discussing plans to target those helping Russia evade international sanctions. The European Commission proposed new measures to crack down on circumvention during the 11th round of sanctions. EU-Russia trade is heavily restricted, with a new focus on people, companies, and countries suspected of acting as transit destinations for sanctioned products. The 11th round of sanctions could target companies or countries accused of selling sanctioned goods to Russia. The EU may use access to its internal market, criminal proceedings, or a blacklist as leverage against sanctions evasion. China has warned against extraterritorial sanctions and may impose countersanctions.

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang recently visited Germany, France, and Norway from May 8 to 12, 2023, aiming to strengthen dialogue and trust between China and Europe. The main theme of the visit was promoting bilateral practical cooperation. During the visit, agreements were made to strengthen cooperation on COP28 and biodiversity. Europe is currently reflecting on its perception and strategy towards China.

In Ukraine, ground troops commander Oleksander Syrsky reported advancements around the eastern hotspot town of Bakhmut. The battle for Bakhmut is the bloodiest and longest since the Russian invasion on February 24, 2022. Kyiv aims to tire the Russian army and draw resources to Donbas before launching a counter-offensive, with preparations "nearing completion."

China's special envoy for Eurasian affairs, Li Hui, is set to visit Ukraine, Poland, France, Germany, and Russia starting May 15, aiming to communicate with all parties on a political solution to the Ukraine crisis. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin announced Li's visit, stating that China aims to play a constructive role and build international consensus on ending hostilities, starting peace talks, and preventing escalation.

As global tensions rise, the need for open dialogue and cooperation becomes increasingly vital. With South Africa facing accusations of supplying arms to Russia, the EU tackling sanctions evasion, and China pushing for peace in Ukraine, the world watches and waits for resolutions to emerge.


Imagine a world where our understanding of human genetics is no longer based on a single reference genome, but rather on a diverse and inclusive representation of our species. This is what scientists have accomplished with the creation of a new "pangenome" draft, which incorporates the DNA of 47 individuals from every continent except Antarctica and Oceania. This groundbreaking achievement has the potential to revolutionize our ability to diagnose diseases, discover drugs, and understand genetic variants, as it takes into account the genetic diversity between individuals and populations that was previously missed.

The project, funded by the US National Human Genome Research Institute, is still in its draft stage, with researchers aiming to include 350 people by mid-2024. This scientific milestone has been detailed in papers published in Nature and its partner journals, marking a significant step forward in the field of genomics.

The human genome is made up of 3.2 billion base pairs, and the new reference adds an impressive 119 million base pairs to the library. This is a far cry from the first draft of the human genome, which was released in 2001 and only fully completed in 2022. The 47 anonymous individuals included in the pangenome project had previously participated in the 1000 Genomes Project completed in 2015. To ensure a more inclusive representation of human genetic diversity, the team is currently recruiting new individuals to represent Middle Eastern and African ancestry populations not included in the 1000 Genomes Project.

Ethical considerations and "the principle of justice" are key elements of this endeavor, as the Human Pangenome Reference Consortium presents the first draft of the human pangenome reference. This pangenome contains 47 phased, diploid assemblies from genetically diverse individuals, covering over 99% of the expected sequence in each genome and boasting an accuracy of over 99% at structural and base pair levels.

The draft pangenome captures known variants and haplotypes, revealing new alleles at structurally complex loci. In addition to the 119 million base pairs of euchromatic polymorphic sequences, it also includes 1,115 gene duplications relative to the existing reference GRCh38. A significant portion of the additional base pairs, 90 million to be exact, are derived from structural variation.

When the draft pangenome was used to analyze short-read data, it reduced small variant discovery errors by 34% and increased the number of structural variants detected per haplotype by 104% compared to GRCh38-based workflows. This demonstrates the increased accuracy and potential benefits of using the pangenome as a reference. The assemblies are highly contiguous and accurate, with 1,115 protein-coding gene families within the reliable regions of the full set of assemblies experiencing a gain in copy number in at least one genome.

In conclusion, the creation of the new human pangenome marks a significant step towards a more inclusive and accurate understanding of human genetics. By incorporating the DNA of individuals from diverse populations, this pangenome has the potential to revolutionize our ability to diagnose diseases, discover drugs, and understand genetic variants. As the project continues to expand and include even more individuals, we can look forward to a future where our knowledge of human genetics is truly representative of the diverse tapestry of humanity.


Two European Union parliamentary committees have backed the world's first rules for generative AI systems like ChatGPT in Europe, marking a groundbreaking move. The draft AI Act, which governs products and services using AI systems, has been approved by the European Parliament committees on civil liberties and consumer protection. The Act, first proposed in 2021, categorizes AI into four ranks, with riskier applications facing tougher rules that require transparency and accuracy. Policing tools for crime prediction are expected to be banned, while remote facial recognition technology will be prohibited, except for countering specific terrorist threats. ChatGPT and similar generative AI are considered high-risk systems.

The AI Act will be presented to the full parliament next month for adoption. However, it could take years before the new rules become law across the EU's 27-member bloc, given the long bureaucratic process involved. The European AI Strategy aims to make the EU a world-class hub for AI, focusing on excellence and trust. The Commission plans to invest €1 billion per year in AI through Horizon Europe and Digital Europe programs, mobilizing additional investments to reach an annual investment volume of €20 billion over the digital decade. The Recovery and Resilience Facility makes €134 billion available for digital initiatives, and access to high-quality data is deemed essential for building high-performance AI systems.

The EU is also strengthening its strategic partnerships with countries like India and Singapore through the establishment of the Trade and Technology Council (TTC) and other cooperative agreements. The International outreach for the human-centric AI initiative promotes the EU's vision on sustainable and trustworthy AI.

The Coordinated Plan on Artificial Intelligence aims to accelerate investment, act on strategies and programs, and align AI policy to avoid fragmentation in Europe. The European AI Alliance, established in 2018, facilitates open policy dialogue on AI. Language Technologies (Natural Language Processing) make Europe's Digital Decade accessible for everyone, promoting research, job creation, and innovation through better and safer robots while safeguarding ethical aspects of progress.

The proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down harmonized rules on artificial intelligence (Artificial Intelligence Act) was introduced on April 21, 2021. Its objective is to ensure AI systems are safe and respect existing laws on fundamental rights and Union values, ensure legal certainty, enhance governance and effective enforcement, and facilitate the development of a single market for AI applications.

Prohibited AI practices include those that contravene Union values, and restrictions and safeguards will be put in place for remote biometric identification systems for law enforcement purposes. High-risk AI systems will be subject to mandatory requirements for trustworthy AI and conformity assessment procedures, while transparency obligations will be imposed on chatbots and deep fakes.

As the world watches, Europe takes the lead in pioneering rules for generative AI systems. This bold move sets the stage for a future where AI is not only advanced but also safe and respectful of fundamental rights and values.


The world produced a staggering 367 megatons of plastic in 2020, making the search for innovative and eco-friendly solutions to tackle plastic waste crucial. A recent study published in Frontiers in Microbiology discovered cold-adapted microbial strains from alpine and Arctic plastisphere environments capable of degrading biodegradable plastics at 15°C. This breakthrough could revolutionize recycling processes, reduce pollution and costs associated with conventional methods, and help preserve polymer quality.

Researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute WSL, led by Dr. Joel Rüthi, isolated 34 microbial strains from Greenland, Svalbard, and Switzerland. While none of the strains could break down conventional polyethylene (PE), 19 strains showed the ability to degrade dispersed polyester-polyurethane (PUR), 12 strains degraded ecovio®, and 5 strains degraded BI-OPL. The most promising strains were Neodevriesia and Lachnellula, which degraded all tested biodegradable plastic materials.

The microbial plastic degradation process was found to be influenced by the composition of the culturing medium, with different strains having different optimal conditions. Current industrial-scale enzymes used for plastic biodegradation work at temperatures above 30°C, making them costly and not carbon-neutral. However, the newly discovered microbes can digest plastic at lower temperatures, around 15°C, likely due to their ability to digest plant polymers.

The next challenge for scientists is to identify and optimize the plastic-degrading enzymes produced by these cold-adapted microbial strains. Researchers have not yet found the best temperature for using these microbes, but they seem to work well between 4°C and 20°C. Future research will focus on optimizing the process and modifying enzymes for protein stability.

In conclusion, the discovery of cold-adapted microbes capable of degrading biodegradable plastics at lower temperatures offers a promising new approach to tackling the global plastic waste problem. These Arctic and alpine strains could potentially reduce pollution and recycling costs while providing a more eco-friendly alternative to conventional recycling methods. As researchers continue to explore and optimize the potential of these microbes, we may be one step closer to a future where plastic waste is more efficiently managed and our environment is better protected.


Eli Lilly's experimental drug donanemab has demonstrated positive results in slowing cognitive and functional decline in early-stage Alzheimer's patients, marking a significant breakthrough in the treatment of the disease. The TRAILBLAZER-ALZ 2 Phase 3 study revealed that donanemab slowed decline by 35% over 18 months using the integrated Alzheimer's Disease Rating Scale (iADRS) measure. The company aims to file for FDA approval by the end of June, with potential approval by H1 2023.

Alzheimer's disease affects over 6 million Americans, with an estimated 1.7 million to 2 million people over 65 in early stages. Drug development for Alzheimer's has seen numerous failures, but Lilly's drug is among a new group, including Eisai and Biogen's Leqembi, which received accelerated FDA approval in January, showing promise in treatment.

Donanemab works by removing amyloid plaque buildups in the brain, believed to be responsible for Alzheimer's progression. Administered by infusion once a month, 52% of trial patients were able to stop taking the medicine by one year, and 72% by a year and a half. Researchers observed a 35% slowing in cognitive and functional decline in the group with intermediate levels of tau, a brain protein. When combined with the group with higher levels of tau, the figure was 22%.

The late-stage trial, involving 1,182 participants, showed that 50% of patients who received donanemab experienced no worsening of Alzheimer's symptoms after a year, while 71% of patients on placebo saw disease progression. However, side effects include brain swelling or abnormalities, with at least two deaths linked. More data is needed to determine if donanemab is truly different from Leqembi in terms of benefits and risks.

Leqembi is not currently covered by Medicare, but full FDA approval could change this as early as July. The potential pricing for donanemab has not been discussed before approval. If approved, donanemab could generate $7.5 billion a year for Lilly at its peak.

Eli Lilly's Q1 revenue dropped 11% due to declining sales of its coronavirus antibody treatment. However, the success of donanemab could mark a turning point for the company and bring hope to millions of Alzheimer's patients worldwide. The full results of the TRAILBLAZER-ALZ 2 study will be presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in July, providing further insight into this promising new treatment option.


China's Chang'e-5 mission has led to a groundbreaking discovery in lunar soil samples, unveiling the potential for revolutionizing future lunar base construction. Researchers from the Institute of Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences have found natural fiberglass, a first of its kind, in the samples collected on May, 2023. This glass material is formed from lunar soil's excellent molding properties and comes in various types, such as spherical, ellipsoidal, and dumbbell-shaped glass beads, colloidal items with porous structure, and sputtering material in fluid form. The origin of these glass materials is believed to be the result of mineral melting and rapid cooling due to frequent meteorite impacts on the lunar surface.

This discovery is important for understanding the formation and evolution of lunar soil, as well as recording multi-scale meteorite impacts. Different shapes of the glass materials reflect the impact intensity of meteorites, according to Zhao Rui, a researcher from the Institute of Physics. Natural fiberglass, for instance, has a higher length-to-diameter ratio and is formed under lower temperature and speed during meteorite impacts, while glass beads have a lower length-to-diameter ratio, reflecting more intense meteorite impacts.

In the meantime China's Shenzhou-14 spaceship, launched on June 5, 2022, landed at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center after 276 days in orbit, marking a milestone in China's efforts to develop a fully reusable space transportation system. Although Chinese authorities have not disclosed details or images of the craft, it has been compared to the US Air Force's X-37B autonomous Boeing space plane. Space expert Song Zhongping believes that the maturing reusable spacecraft technology will reduce costs and allow for more complicated missions, with the Long March-2F carrier rocket potentially being used in future manned missions.

With a payload launching capability similar to the X-37B, weighing around 8 tons, the latest test was the longest, most complicated, and most challenging, surpassing the US' X-37B's 224 days in orbit. Health monitoring of the power system and service life assessment have been listed as major scientific problems for 2023 space development. The reusable spacecraft can land horizontally, making it safer for the crew and opening up possibilities for applications in suborbital or space tourism and fast point-to-point transportation.

The discovery of natural fiberglass in lunar soil samples presents an exciting opportunity for future lunar base construction, while China's advancements in reusable spacecraft technology pave the way for more efficient and cost-effective space missions. These findings underscore the importance of international collaboration and the sharing of knowledge for the betterment of humankind.


The deadliest Israeli airstrike since August 2021 has resulted in 13 Palestinian casualties, including three Islamic Jihad commanders, eight women, and children, with 20 people injured. Israel launched this operation targeting militants posing an imminent threat to its citizens, prompting the Islamic Jihad to vow revenge and Israel to prepare for days of fighting. Early Tuesday morning, 40 Israeli warplanes and helicopters attacked across Gaza, killing four children and four women, among others.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) struck ten sites used for weapon manufacturing and six Islamic Jihad military facilities. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh warned that assassinating leaders would only lead to more resistance. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) is the largest militant group in Gaza next to Hamas and is responsible for many rocket attacks on Israel.

Tensions between Jewish and Muslim worshippers escalated at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem on April 9, 2023, when thousands of Jewish worshippers gathered at the Western Wall for Passover, while Palestinians performed prayers for Ramadan. Palestinians protested the presence of Jewish visitors at the Al-Aqsa compound, fearing Israeli intentions to take over the site. The situation escalated after an Israeli police raid on the mosque, leading to violence and rocket fire from Palestinian militants.

In response, Israeli airstrikes targeted the Gaza Strip and southern Lebanon. Hezbollah's chief, Hassan Nasrallah, met with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to discuss developments and escalating resistance. Militants in Syria fired rockets towards Israel and the Golan Heights, with Israel responding with artillery fire and airstrikes on Syrian army sites. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for an end to hostilities in a phone call with Israeli counterpart Isaac Herzog.

Over the weekend, three people were killed in Palestinian attacks in Israel and the occupied West Bank. Israel conducted airstrikes in Gaza after Palestinian factions fired rockets across the border following Khader Adnan's death. Adnan, a political leader within the Islamic Jihad, died after an 87-day hunger strike in Israeli custody, which Palestinian leaders described as an assassination.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with security officials to assess the situation. Mustafa Barghouti, general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative (PNI), called Adnan's death an "ugly assassination." The number of Palestinian administrative detainees has risen to over 1,000 in the past year, the highest number in two decades. Israeli rights group B'Tselem described Adnan's hunger strike as a non-violent protest against the injustices of the occupation.

In recent weeks, tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have soared, with rocket attacks from Gaza and Lebanon and Israeli airstrikes in response. Jewish-Muslim tensions at the Al-Aqsa Mosque have further fueled the conflict, with thousands of Jewish worshippers gathering at the Western Wall for Passover and Palestinians performing prayers for Ramadan.

As the situation continues to escalate, international leaders call for an end to hostilities and a peaceful resolution. However, with the ongoing rocket attacks, airstrikes, and tensions surrounding the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the path to peace remains uncertain.


Sudan's ongoing unrest, resulting from a power struggle between the Sudanese Army led by Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) under Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, has led to a devastating humanitarian crisis and potential regional spillover. Since April 15, at least 700 lives have been lost, with 479 reported as civilians by the Sudanese doctors' union. The United Nations warns of a deepening crisis with the potential for famine, as hundreds of thousands have been displaced.

Despite multiple truce deals declared and violated, fighting continues in the capital, Khartoum. Ceasefire talks are underway in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with support from Saudi Arabia and the United States. However, both the army and RSF continue to seek military advantage on the ground. US intelligence chief Avril Haines warns of a protracted conflict with potential regional spillover challenges.

The conflict has forced refugees to flee Sudan, crossing into Ethiopia, Chad, and South Sudan, with Chad facing the threat of instability. The crisis disrupts plans for a transition to civilian rule in Sudan and raises concerns about shared Nile waters, oil pipelines, and potential humanitarian crises. Egypt and Sudan are worried about threats to their water supplies from the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile. Sudanese mercenaries and militia fighters have been active in Libya's conflict, contributing to tensions in Sudan's Darfur region. Gulf Arab states, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, which have investments in Sudan, seek to stabilize the region. South Sudan's oil output is exported via a pipeline through Sudan, and the fighting has hampered logistics and transport links.

The crisis highlights the limitations of neighboring countries in mediating and the potential impact on negotiations over the controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. The US, UN, and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) have called for an immediate ceasefire and warn of potential risks to the Horn of Africa region.

The Sudanese army has expressed willingness to extend the ceasefire for 72 hours, with General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan approving a plan to extend the truce and send an envoy to South Sudan's capital, Juba, for talks. Presidents of South Sudan, Kenya, and Djibouti are working on a proposal to extend the truce and hold talks between forces.

The international community must act swiftly and decisively to end the violence and support the Sudanese people in their quest for peace, stability, and democracy. The stakes are high for Sudan and its neighbors, with potential regional destabilization and the involvement of foreign powers.


Envision a world where robots can engage in advanced conversations, learn complex tasks, and work tirelessly without breaks or pay. This once far-fetched dream is now becoming a reality, thanks to rapid advancements in artificial intelligence and robotics. Companies like OpenAI, Tesla, Boston Dynamics, and Figure are leading the charge in creating humanoid robots that could revolutionize various industries, including manufacturing, construction, and healthcare.

OpenAI, creator of the popular AI program ChatGPT, recently invested $23 million in Norwegian company 1X, formerly Halodi Robotics. Collaboratively, they plan to develop a humanoid worker robot called Neo, equipped with OpenAI's ChatGPT artificial intelligence. This advanced AI system will enable the robot to engage in real conversations and perform complex tasks, making it a valuable addition to the workforce.

Other companies are also developing humanoid robots. Boston Dynamics is focusing on robots with hands, Elon Musk believes his Optimus robot will generate more revenue than Tesla car sales, and Hanson Robotics and Engineered Arts are working on robots that can mimic facial expressions and engage in human-like conversations.

These AI-powered humanoid robots have the potential to be stronger and more efficient than humans, working 24/7 without getting tired or requiring pay. According to Goldman Sachs Research, the market for humanoid robots could reach $6 billion in the next 10-15 years, potentially filling 4% of the projected US manufacturing labor shortage by 2030 and 2% of global elderly care demand by 2035. In an upside scenario, the market could grow up to $154 billion by 2035.

Humanoid robots will rely on neural networks to understand and replicate human movements, learning complex tasks by observing humans through motion capture systems. This swarm-based learning capability, combined with advanced communication abilities, will make these robots a formidable presence in the workforce.

However, the rise of AI-controlled humanoid robots raises concerns about job security and ethical considerations. As robots become more capable of performing tasks traditionally done by humans, job displacement becomes increasingly relevant. Additionally, ethical considerations must be addressed, such as responsibility towards AI systems, their ethical development, and the potential consequences of widespread adoption.

Despite these concerns, the development of AI-powered humanoid robots continues to progress. Bernt Øyvind Børnich, CEO and founder of 1X Technologies, is excited about OpenAI's funding and the shared mission to create advanced humanoid robots. With the backing of major companies like OpenAI and Tesla, the future of humanoid robots in the workforce is increasingly promising.

As we stand on the cusp of a new era in robotics and artificial intelligence, it is crucial to consider both the benefits and challenges that AI-powered humanoid robots present. While they hold the potential to revolutionize industries and boost productivity, their impact on job security and ethical considerations must not be overlooked. The development and integration of these advanced robots into our society will undoubtedly shape the future of the workforce in ways we have yet to fully comprehend.


The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that COVID-19 is no longer a global emergency, marking a symbolic end to the pandemic. Despite this, the virus remains a global health threat, with some regions experiencing spikes in cases. The decision means that COVID-19 will be treated like a common disease such as influenza, and emergency response measures can be lifted. However, the production, approval, and emergency use of vaccines will follow normal procedures, which may now take longer. The WHO's decision is based on the current stable situation, low global prevalence, decreasing pathogenicity, and strong population immunity due to vaccinations and infections. Experts warn that the virus will continue to be present, and surveillance and research will persist.

Since the pandemic's onset in early 2020, an estimated 20 million people have died from COVID-19, with 6.9 million deaths occurring after the public health emergency declaration on January 30, 2020. The virus has caused disruptions and devastation worldwide, with the United States being one of the hardest-hit countries. The virus still poses a significant threat, claiming a life every three seconds.

Countries are urged to transition to a new phase of managing the virus like other infectious diseases, maintaining surveillance and response systems and being prepared to reinstate health emergency declarations if needed. WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus has set up a Review Committee for long-term COVID-19 management recommendations, emphasizing that the fight against the virus is not over.

As the world adjusts to this new phase, changes in pandemic response measures are expected. In the United States, President Joe Biden plans to end the national coronavirus emergency on May 11. This will lead to changes in COVID-19 data tracking, with the CDC no longer tracking community levels and states no longer required to report cases. Hospital admissions data will be relied upon instead, with hospitals reporting weekly instead of daily. Wastewater surveillance will continue, and the CDC's COVID-19 Data Tracker will still track vaccination data. COVID-19 deaths will be reported based on death certificates for more accuracy, and genomic sequencing of positive samples will continue to monitor for new variants.

The pandemic has left a lasting impact on millions of lives. An estimated 245,000 children in the US have lost one or both parents to COVID-19, with around 10.5 million COVID orphans worldwide. Despite the profound implications, COVID orphans have been largely overlooked in policy responses to the pandemic. In February, California began working on a $100 million fund for COVID orphans and children in foster care when they turn 18, but this has not been replicated elsewhere in the US. The federal government has yet to address the issue directly with national policies or programs. Children of color have been disproportionately affected, with Black children in the US twice as likely as white children to have suffered the loss of a parent or caregiver. Half of the US children who have lost one or both parents live in California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Georgia.

As we move forward, it's crucial to remember the lives lost and the families affected by this devastating virus. While the global emergency may be over, the fight against COVID-19 is far from finished. We must continue to be vigilant, maintain pandemic preparedness and response plans, and ensure that those who have been affected by the virus receive the support they need. The end of the global emergency is a significant step towards a new normal, but there is still much work to be done in the battle against COVID-19.


The small Ukrainian town of Bakhmut has become a battleground for both Russian and Ukrainian forces, with the months-long assault led by Russia's paramilitary Wagner Group resulting in significant casualties. Despite its limited strategic value, the battle for Bakhmut holds symbolic importance for both sides.

Tensions have emerged between the Wagner Group, led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, and the conventional Russian army, as Prigozhin threatened to withdraw his forces from Bakhmut due to insufficient ammunition supplies. In response, the Russian army has promised more ammunition to the mercenaries. Ukrainian officials aim to deplete Russian reserves by inflicting as many casualties as possible. Although Russia seeks control over the entire Donetsk region, Ukrainian forces have maintained control over a small portion of Bakhmut and pushed back Russian troops in some areas.

Ukraine has accused Russia of a phosphorus attack on Bakhmut, which would constitute a war crime. Drone footage shows the city ablaze, but the use of white phosphorus could not be verified. The Wagner Group's involvement also raises concerns about war crimes, as videos allegedly showing beheaded Ukrainian soldiers have emerged on social media. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has vowed to hold the perpetrators accountable, while Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov calls for verifying the authenticity of the footage.

Two men claiming to be former Wagner Group members have confessed to killing dozens of children in Ukraine and their comrades who refused to fight. Ukrainian prosecutors have initiated investigations into these testimonies, while Yevgeny Prigozhin denies the allegations and threatens punishment against the men.

The battle for Bakhmut underscores the complexities and brutalities of the war in Ukraine, with mounting human costs and questions about war crimes and the involvement of private military groups like the Wagner Group. As the deadline for Prigozhin's ultimatum to the Russian Defense Minister over ammunition shortages has passed, the outcome remains uncertain and its impact on the larger conflict remains to be seen.