News That Matters

30/06/2023 ---- 30/07/2023

This week, Niger, a West African nation with a population of 26.2 million, experienced a significant political upheaval. General Abdourahmane Tchiani, a prominent figure in the Nigerien military, staged a coup, ousting President Mohamed Bazoum. The sudden shift in power in Niger, a country known for its fight against jihadist insurgents, has sparked international apprehension and disapproval.

Niger, despite its uranium wealth, remains economically challenged. It has a history of political instability, with the recent coup marking the fifth since its independence from France in 1960 and the seventh in West and Central Africa since 2020. This political shift has implications far beyond Niger's borders, affecting international superpowers such as the United States and France, as well as organizations like the United Nations and the European Union, all of which have vested interests in the region.

The United States and France have been significantly involved in Niger, aiding its fight against jihadist insurgents. About 1,100 American and 1,500 French troops have been deployed in Niger to train the local forces. The coup has triggered immediate concern from these nations. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned of potential risks to "hundreds of millions of dollars of assistance," while French President Emmanuel Macron convened a defense and national security council meeting to discuss the developments.

The international community has responded promptly and decisively. The United Nations Security Council condemned the coup and demanded the immediate and unconditional release of President Bazoum. The European Union threatened to suspend aid to Niger and has halted all security cooperation with the country. France, the US, and the EU refuse to acknowledge General Tchiani and his soldiers as Niger's legitimate rulers and demand the immediate restoration of constitutional order.

Despite the international backlash, General Tchiani appeared on state television as the president of the transitional council that seized power, warning foreign leaders against military intervention. This defiant stance raises concerns about his potential alliances, as neighboring countries Burkina Faso and Mali have recently pivoted towards Russia following their own coups.

The humanitarian situation in Niger, already dire, may worsen due to the political instability. The UN, which was providing aid to 4.3 million people, with 3.3 million facing "acute food insecurity," insists on continuing humanitarian assistance. However, Human Rights Watch warns that the coup puts the rights of Niger's people at risk, despite assurances from the new military rulers.

The coup threatens Niger's democratic progress and regional leadership, particularly the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), whose chairman, President Bola Tinubu, recently expressed concern about the increasing levels of terrorism and coups in West Africa. It also presents a potential setback for Western allies, particularly France, which risks losing one of its last allies in the Sahel.

The aftermath of the coup has left the people of Niger with mixed feelings. Some argue that the country's insecurity wasn't severe enough to warrant a coup, while others support the junta. The future repercussions on Niger's populace, and its impact on the global fight against jihadist insurgents, remain uncertain.

In conclusion, the coup in Niger represents not just a national political crisis, but a global concern with potential impacts on international security, humanitarian aid, and the fight against terrorism. As the world watches, the future of Niger hangs in the balance.


Former President Donald Trump is currently in the midst of a legal maelstrom, with a criminal investigation led by special counsel Jack Smith scrutinizing his attempts to overturn the 2020 election. Trump's attorneys, including Todd Blanche, have received a target letter from Smith's team, indicative of a looming investigation and potential charges. The letter highlights three statutes that Trump could be implicated under, such as deprivation of rights, conspiracy to commit an offense against or defraud the United States, and witness tampering.

In response to this target letter, Trump's advisers initiated a series of consultations with lawyers and allies, seeking to determine who else might be implicated. Trump himself publicly addressed the issue during a Fox News town hall in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, dismissing Smith’s probe as “election interference” and a “disgrace”.

This legal scrutiny is not unprecedented for Trump. He has already faced two indictments this year: one in March on 34 counts of falsifying business records by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, and another last month by Smith on 37 counts in a classified documents investigation. Trump has pleaded not guilty in both instances.

Further compounding his legal troubles, state prosecutors in Atlanta, Georgia, are conducting a parallel investigation into whether Trump illegally pressured state officials to reject Biden's victory. An indictment decision from Georgia prosecutors is anticipated next month.

Despite the mounting legal challenges, Trump continues to exert significant influence in American politics. He currently leads the pack for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, outpacing his closest competitor, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Interestingly, his lead has increased over the past four months, even in the wake of his first two indictments. His campaign reported a fundraising surge of more than $17m (£13m) from April to June, following the announcement of the indictments.

Upcoming trials include the New York case set for March, while the date for the classified documents case is still under negotiation by his lawyers. The latter involves allegations of illegally storing sensitive files at his Florida residence, Mar-a-Lago, post-presidency and impeding government efforts to retrieve them. Trump has consistently denied these accusations, framing them as a ploy to sabotage his election campaign.

Despite the impending trials and investigations, Trump remains unyielding, often portraying the legal actions as politically motivated attempts to bar his return to the White House. As the legal storm intensifies, the future of Trump's political ambitions hangs in the balance. One certainty amidst the uncertainty is that Trump's legal battles are far from concluded.


On a typical summer day in South Florida in July 2023, the heat was not only felt on land but also at sea. A buoy in Manatee Bay recorded ocean temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit, peaking at 101.1 degrees. This was not an isolated incident as the buoy has consistently recorded temperatures above 91.6 degrees Fahrenheit since then.

These remarkable temperatures have caught the attention of the scientific community. Former NOAA hurricane scientist Jeff Masters described them as "astonishing." If verified by the National Weather Service, the 101.1 degrees Fahrenheit could surpass the current world sea surface temperature record of 99.7 degrees Fahrenheit, recorded in Kuwait Bay. However, the Manatee Bay buoy's record may be contested due to its closeness to land and the potential influence of organic matter on the temperature.

The high temperatures are among the most extreme ever recorded on Earth. Other buoys in the region, including those at Little Blackwater and Vaca Key, have consistently noted water temperatures in the mid-90s. The implications of these soaring temperatures are far-reaching, posing significant threats to marine life.

Coral reefs, the ocean's lifeblood, are particularly vulnerable. These underwater ecosystems, which serve as food sources, habitats, and hurricane barriers, contribute significantly to Florida's economy through fishing and tourism. Unfortunately, the extreme heat has caused a total mortality rate at a coral reef restoration site off South Florida. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has warned that over half of the world's marine species could face extinction by 2100 due to coral reef loss.

The rising ocean temperatures also influence weather patterns, as the evaporation of warm water fuels storm systems and could lead to more extreme weather. These temperature extremes are part of the ongoing impacts of climate change, with more records expected to fall as these impacts continue into 2024, according to Christopher Hewitt, the World Meteorological Organization's director of climate services.

The alarming rise in ocean temperatures is not confined to South Florida. Global ocean temperatures have exceeded model predictions, signaling concerning conditions for the planet. A 2020 study indicated the highest observed ocean temperature was 99.7F (37.61C) in the Persian Gulf. These extreme temperatures add to previous warnings about warming waters in Florida and the southeastern United States.

The situation is critical for those whose livelihoods depend on the sea. Dustin Hansel, a fishing boat captain, has observed slower catch rates and more dead fish in waters around Key Largo over the past five summers. NOAA warned that the warmer water around Florida could intensify tropical storms and hurricanes and is severely stressing coral reefs.

The Coral Restoration Foundation has emphasized the urgency of the situation, stating that the heat wave is causing a massive coral die-off. R. Scott Winters, CEO of the Coral Restoration Foundation, called for urgent action to address climate change and invest in restoration and conservation efforts.

As Miami-Dade County faced heat advisories or excessive heat warnings for 22 consecutive days, the ocean too was feeling the heat. The record-breaking temperatures underscore the urgent need to address climate change. The ocean's fever is a symptom of a much larger problem, one that demands immediate attention.


The ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia has recently escalated, with Ukraine's retaliation to Russia's missile attack on the Black Sea port of Odesa. Early on Monday, Ukrainian drones targeted Moscow and annexed Crimea, hitting two buildings in Moscow and an ammunition depot in Crimea. Although Moscow's electronic warfare systems reportedly intercepted the drones, causing no serious damage or casualties, the strikes marked a significant escalation in the conflict. Russia’s Foreign Ministry denounced the drone strikes as an act of international terrorism, while Crimea saw the evacuation of residents and the suspension of transport services for safety reasons.

Simultaneously, the US imposed new sanctions on Russia, targeting the nation's access to crucial front-line electronics and logistics. Announced on Thursday, these sanctions aim to restrict Kremlin's war funding by limiting its income from the metals and mining sector. The sanctions extend to members of the Russian security service, a regional governor, six deputy ministers, and private military companies, including Gazprom-owned Okhrana. The Russian embassy in Washington has criticized these sanctions as destructive actions aimed at the Kremlin.

The conflict has also had severe implications for global food security, with Russia initially blockading supplies of Ukrainian wheat and cereals, causing a surge in food prices. Although a UN-Turkey brokered deal lifted the blockade last summer, Russia withdrew from the agreement this week. The situation has been further complicated by Ukraine's decision to declare ships traveling to Russia and occupied territories as military targets, in response to Moscow's similar warning.

Recent Russian attacks have damaged the Chinese consulate in Odesa and export facilities in Odesa and nearby Chornomorsk, resulting in the loss of 60,000 tons of grain. This happened following Ukraine's counteroffensive to recapture territory occupied by Russia, which has led to escalated fighting in the region.

In an unexpected development, the Kremlin seized the Russian assets of foreign firms Carlsberg and Danone, handing control of these subsidiaries to regime loyalists. This move has reignited debates about the future of Russia’s Central Bank assets, worth $300 billion, frozen by the G7 at the start of the conflict.

As the conflict intensifies, the world watches with apprehension. The implications of this war extend beyond Ukraine and Russia, impacting global food security, international relations, and the world economy's stability. The decisions made in the coming weeks will undoubtedly have lasting effects, shaping the course of history for years to come.


The world is currently experiencing a series of extreme weather events, with Greece and the Southern US enduring scorching heatwaves, while China wrestles with heavy rainfall and potential flooding. These events are not isolated, but rather indicative of a broader climate trend that scientists warn is likely to worsen.

In Greece, temperatures are soaring beyond 40 degrees Celsius, with predictions indicating this could be the longest heatwave in the country's recorded history. Kostas Lagouvardos, director of research at the National Observatory, expects the heatwave to span up to 17 days, making the upcoming weekend the hottest July weekend in 50 years. Similarly, the Southern US is grappling with extreme heat, with temperatures exceeding 41 degrees Celsius, and Phoenix, Arizona, expecting temperatures up to 46 degrees.

Conversely, China is bracing for floodwaters due to substantial rainfall in cities like Shanghai and Beijing, while areas further inland are experiencing intense heat, posing a threat to the country's largest fresh water supply.

According to NASA scientists, these global weather anomalies are linked to an emerging El Nino event, associated with the warming of ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. Thomas Smith, an environmental geographer at the London School of Economics, suggests that the Earth is entering uncharted territory due to global warming and the first El Niño since 2018.

This summer has seen four climate records shattered: the hottest day on record, the hottest June globally, extreme marine heatwaves, and record-low Antarctic sea ice. The EU climate monitoring service, Copernicus, reported the world's hottest day ever recorded in July, with an average global temperature of 17.08C on July 6.

The average global temperature in June was 1.47C above the typical June in the pre-industrial period. Ocean temperatures have also broken records for May, June, and July, nearing the highest sea surface temperature ever recorded in 2016. In June, temperatures off the west coast of Ireland were classified as a category 5 heatwave, being between 4C and 5C above average. The area covered by sea-ice in the Antarctic is at record lows for July.

While these heatwaves persist, eastern Canada is dealing with the aftermath of heavy rainfall that has left four people missing, including two children, and thousands without power. A state of emergency has been declared in Halifax and four other locations following record rainfall and flooding.

In addition to heatwaves and torrential rains, wildfires are an escalating concern. Greece reported 52 new fires on Friday, with a total of 79 fires being tackled. Fire services spokesman Vassilios Vathrakoyannis revealed that the country would remain on high alert over the weekend due to fears of strong northerly winds igniting more fires. This mirrors Canada's ongoing battle with massive wildfires, which have triggered pollution alerts across Canada and the US.

Despite these alarming trends, Dr. Friederike Otto, a climate scientist from Imperial College London, urges against labeling the current situation a "climate collapse" or "runaway warming". She emphasizes that there is still time to secure a liveable future, but the extreme weather conditions globally serve as a stark reminder of the urgent need to address the climate crisis. As we enter 2024, scientists anticipate more climate records to be broken, highlighting the necessity for global climate action.


Alzheimer's disease, a prevalent form of dementia projected to affect an alarming 153 million people globally by 2050, has long been a formidable challenge for the medical community. A new drug, donanemab, developed by Eli Lilly, is now offering a beacon of hope. This antibody medicine, designed to clear protein buildup in Alzheimer's patients' brains, has been found to slow cognitive decline in a global trial.

Donanemab functions similarly to lecanemab, a product of Eisai and Biogen. Both drugs have demonstrated potential in decelerating cognitive decline in Alzheimer's patients. Specifically, donanemab has been found to slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease by approximately a third. This significant finding was determined through a trial involving 1,736 individuals aged 60 to 85 with early-stage Alzheimer's. Over 18 months, half of the participants received a monthly infusion of donanemab, while the other half were administered a placebo. Results published in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicated that after 76 weeks of treatment, donanemab reduced clinical decline by 35.1% in early Alzheimer’s patients with low or medium levels of tau protein.

The trial's participants included Mike Colley, an 80-year-old UK resident, whose experience has ignited optimism among health leaders and Alzheimer's research advocates. Former Prime Minister David Cameron is among those advocating for further research into what he terms a "statin for the brain," and urges government investment in new treatments.

However, the trial also disclosed that brain swelling was a common side effect in up to a third of patients, leading to two fatalities. Coupled with the recent rejection of another Alzheimer's drug, aducanumab, due to safety concerns, experts are urging caution. They warn that donanemab's effects might be modest, and it remains unclear whether the treatment will continue to be effective over a longer period.

Regardless of these challenges, the potential benefits of donanemab are substantial. Approximately 720,000 people in the UK alone could potentially benefit from these emerging Alzheimer's treatments, provided they gain approval. However, the Alzheimer's Society warns that the NHS is not yet equipped to administer these treatments on a large scale.

In terms of cost, lecanemab is currently priced at around $27,500 (£21,000) in the US. The UK's drug watchdog NICE has commenced its appraisal of donanemab for treating mild cognitive impairment or mild dementia due to Alzheimer's disease. Eli Lilly has applied for approval for donanemab in the US and plans to do so in the UK shortly.

In conclusion, donanemab signifies a crucial advancement in the fight against Alzheimer's. Despite the drug's side effects and the challenges associated with large-scale delivery, the potential benefits for millions of people worldwide are undeniable. As Dr Richard Oakley of the Alzheimer’s Society points out, these treatments could mark a turning point in the battle against Alzheimer's, underlining the importance of early and accurate diagnosis for treatment eligibility. As we stand on the brink of this potential medical breakthrough, the world watches in anticipation.


The island nation of Cyprus, renowned for its rich history and stunning beaches, is confronting an unprecedented crisis. A lethal strain of feline coronavirus, known as feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), has claimed nearly 300,000 cats since the beginning of the year. This outbreak, the first of its kind in magnitude, is affecting both stray and domestic cats and raising alarm among experts who warn of a potential significant death toll among the UK's feline population if the virus spreads.

FIP, a fatal inflammatory condition primarily affecting kittens and young cats, is not new. Symptoms include fever, abdominal swelling, energy loss, and occasionally increased aggression. However, the scale of the current outbreak is unparalleled. Dr. Demetris Epaminondas, vice-president of the Pancyprian Veterinary Association, reports a disturbing rise in FIP cases. Given the total feline population in Cyprus is estimated to be around one million, the impact is significant.

Prof. Danièlle Gunn-Moore, a feline medicine specialist at the University of Edinburgh, suggests that the virus may have mutated into a new, more lethal strain. Her team is currently conducting genome sequencing to confirm this. If true, the implications could be far-reaching, with anecdotal evidence pointing to the virus's presence in Turkey, Lebanon, and possibly Israel.

In response to the crisis, Cyprus's local authorities have taken proactive measures, including setting up an advisory team, launching a media awareness campaign, and initiating legislative changes to permit the use of specific drugs for treatment. These drugs, remdesivir and GS-441524, have shown promise in treating FIP, but their high cost and bureaucratic challenges pose significant barriers. The cost of these drugs can range from £2,500 to £6,000 for a cat weighing between 3kg and 4kg, a price beyond many people's means.

With slow government action, some individuals have resorted to purchasing drugs themselves, leading to a black market for cheap, unlicensed drugs. This development is as concerning as the disease itself. Vasiliki Mani, a member of several animal welfare organizations, spent around £3,000 of her savings on treatments for two sick strays, illustrating the desperate measures being taken.

The situation in Cyprus underscores the interconnectedness of our world and the potential indirect impact of global events like the Covid-19 pandemic on the emergence of new disease strains. The Global Center for Health Security (GCHS), a leading U.S. institution for managing high-consequence infections, is closely monitoring this situation among other disease outbreaks worldwide. The hope is that with continued vigilance and research, solutions can be found to protect our feline friends from this lethal disease.

In conclusion, the unprecedented FIP outbreak in Cyprus serves as a stark reminder of life's fragility and the importance of swift action, comprehensive research, and global cooperation in the face of emerging infectious diseases. As we navigate these challenges, we must remember the lessons learned from this feline fiasco and strive to create a safer world for all inhabitants, big and small.


On Monday, Russia ignited international concern by suspending a wartime deal that enabled grain exports from Ukraine to Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. This decision, which European Diplomacy leader Josep Borrell described as 'weaponizing hunger', is a part of the escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine, two significant global suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil, and other affordable food products.

The deal, facilitated last summer by the United Nations and Turkey, was a significant development that permitted food to leave the Black Sea region after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. However, the recent suspension of this agreement, coupled with the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, has triggered a surge in food commodity prices. This increase has amplified economic difficulties and escalated poverty and food insecurity in many developing countries. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, labelled Russia's withdrawal as "cruel" and accused Moscow of holding "humanity hostage."

Despite these tensions, the Black Sea Grain Initiative has facilitated the export of 32.9 million metric tons of grain and other food from three Ukrainian ports to the world, with over half of the supply reaching developing nations. However, there has been a notable decrease in food shipments and vessels leaving Ukraine in recent months, with Russia being accused of limiting additional ships.

In light of these events, the G7 members, comprising Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the US, are anticipated to endorse a security pact with Ukraine at the NATO summit. This pact, which includes defense equipment, training, and intelligence sharing, does not specify a timeframe for Kyiv's entry into the security alliance, leading to disappointment for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The NATO Summit, held in Vilnius, Lithuania, did not extend a membership invitation to Ukraine but expressed support for the country's security. President Joe Biden and other NATO diplomats underscored that Ukraine must first achieve peace with Russia before considering NATO membership.

At the summit, several military packages for Ukraine were announced, including a program to train Ukrainian pilots to operate US-made F-16 fighter jets at a center in Romania, set to open in August. The UK also intends to deliver over 70 combat and logistics vehicles to Ukraine to enhance its counteroffensive operations.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin, responding to these developments, cited NATO’s expansion into eastern Europe as a justification for invading Ukraine in February 2022. On the final day of the Vilnius summit, the G7 countries pledged long-term support for Ukraine, eliciting a response from Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

In the midst of these escalating tensions, Russia and China are preparing for the "Northern/Interaction-2023" drills in the Sea of Japan. This marks Russia's second participation in the annual strategic drills by the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Northern Theater Command and the first time Russia has deployed both naval and air forces for such events.

The current geopolitical landscape is riddled with tension and unpredictability. The cancellation of the grain deal by Russia, the persistent conflict in Ukraine, and the evolving alliances and strategies globally all indicate a complex and daunting future. As nations strive to navigate these tumultuous circumstances, the world anxiously anticipates peaceful resolutions and stability.


The world is currently grappling with an unprecedented heat crisis that is stretching from Europe to America. Italy, a popular tourist destination, is under red alerts with 16 cities experiencing soaring temperatures due to the ongoing heatwave named Cerberus. This heatwave is but a prelude to the upcoming Charon, which is predicted to push the mercury above 40°C next week.

This intense heat is not confined to Italy. Greece, the US, Japan, and China are also feeling the effects. In Greece, temperatures have reached 40°C (104°F), leading to the closure of the Acropolis in Athens during peak heat hours. In the US, Nevada, Arizona, and California are expecting temperatures to exceed 120°F (48.8°C), while in Asia, Japan and China are bracing for temperatures around 39°C.

The consequences of these extreme temperatures are severe and life-threatening. In Italy, the heat has already claimed a life, and several tourists have suffered from heatstroke. The Greek Red Cross is aiding those affected by heat-related illnesses, while in Phoenix, Arizona, mobile clinics are treating homeless people with third-degree burns.

The heatwaves are also sparking fears of wildfires. Greece, still reeling from major wildfires in 2021, is on high alert, especially in areas with strong winds. In Spain's Canary Islands, a forest fire has necessitated the evacuation of 4,000 people and destroyed 11,000 acres of land. Meanwhile, California in the US has seen a series of blazes.

These extreme heat events are part of a disturbing trend. The EU's climate monitoring service, Copernicus, reports that last month was the hottest June ever recorded. The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) warns that such extreme weather, a consequence of climate change, is becoming the "new normal." These intense heat periods are becoming more frequent, severe, and prolonged due to global warming.

This trend is not confined to Europe. In the US, heat advisories have been issued for almost a third of the population, approximately 113 million people. The National Weather Service (NWS) is urging people to take the life-threatening risk seriously. The CDC estimates that heat-related causes result in around 700 deaths annually in the US.

Scientists attribute the rising temperatures to climate change and El Niño, a naturally occurring weather pattern. The world has already warmed by about 1.1°C since the industrial era began. Paolo Ceppi, a climate scientist at Imperial College London, links the increased incidence of extreme weather to these higher global temperatures.

As the world endures the twin heatwaves of Cerberus and Charon, it's clear that this is more than just a summer heatwave - it's a wake-up call. The future is here, and it's hotter than ever. It's a stark reminder that it's time for the world to pay attention to the escalating climate crisis.


Hollywood is currently grappling with its most significant labor disruption in over six decades. This strike, involving actors, screenwriters, and other industry professionals, has the potential to impact major films currently in production, including anticipated sequels of Avatar and Gladiator. High-profile figures such as Jason Sudeikis and Susan Sarandon are among the thousands who have joined the picket lines, refusing to participate in or promote films.

The strike was triggered when the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), which represents approximately 160,000 performers, accused the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) of failing to offer a fair deal. This followed a breakdown in contract negotiations, leading to demonstrations outside the offices of major studios and streaming services across various cities.

However, this labor dispute extends beyond actors. It also involves 11,500 members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) who have been on strike since May 2, voicing concerns over pay, working conditions, and the industry's increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI).

The strike's repercussions are already evident across the industry. Red-carpet premieres, promotional interviews, and events such as the Emmys and Comic-Con have been halted, rescheduled, or scaled back. Additionally, upcoming seasons of popular shows like Stranger Things, Family Guy, and The Simpsons are likely to be affected.

This labor dispute is partly driven by the transition to the digital streaming era and broader technological changes. Both writers and actors have reported declining earnings due to inflation undercutting contracts. For actors, pay for individual roles has decreased, necessitating more roles to maintain previous income levels. Writing contracts have also become shorter and more precarious, often excluding payment for work on revisions or new material.

The strike, anticipated to last for months, could pose significant challenges for cinemas and limit new content for viewers. However, the participants have garnered support from various quarters, including President Joe Biden and Oscar-winning actor George Clooney.

While the SAG's sister union in the UK, Equity, continues to operate normally due to UK employment laws, it remains vigilant against attempts to relocate US productions to the UK. Numerous high-profile actors, including Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, and Joaquin Phoenix, have expressed their support for the strike.

The key issues of the strike are residuals and the ownership of an actor's likeness if replicated by AI. Streaming has altered the way films and shows are presented, complicating traditional methods of assessing value. The AMPTP proposed a solution regarding AI, but SAG's chief negotiator, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, rejected it.

As this landmark strike continues, the world watches with anticipation. The future of the industry, the fate of upcoming films and shows, and the livelihoods of thousands of professionals hang in the balance. This off-screen drama serves as a stark reminder that sometimes, the most captivating stories are those that occur behind the scenes.


The world stands on the brink of a new frontier in mining, with the potential to extract battery metals such as manganese and nickel from the deep sea. This method has been touted as a potential alternative source of metals that could avoid terrestrial habitat destruction. However, as the International Seabed Authority, a United Nations observer organization, deliberates on regulations for this emerging industry, Canada has joined nearly 20 other countries including Ireland and Switzerland, in calling for a pause on deep-sea mining due to environmental concerns.

The Canadian government's opposition to deep-sea mining was expressed by the ministers responsible for foreign affairs, natural resources, and fisheries and oceans departments. They emphasized the necessity for a comprehensive understanding of the environmental impacts of seabed mining and a robust regulatory framework before such activities are permitted. This aligns with Canada's previous declaration in February that it would not authorize deep-sea mining in domestic waters due to the absence of a legal framework for issuing permits.

The cautionary stance taken by Canada and other countries is supported by warnings from the scientific community. The European Academies Science Advisory Council, in June, cautioned about the "dire consequences" for marine ecosystems if deep-sea mining proceeds unregulated. Concerns include sediment plumes, noise, vibration, light pollution, and potential spills of fuels and chemicals used in mining. Furthermore, a deep-sea mining test in February raised additional questions about the industry's safeguards and potential impacts on ecosystems.

This opposition is also shared by several European nations, environmental organizations, and companies such as BMW, Volvo, and Samsung, which have pledged not to use deep-sea minerals in their products. Seafood groups representing a third of the world's tuna trade, and even some early seabed mining supporters like Maersk and Lockheed Martin, have been divesting from their deep-sea mining investments.

Despite the opposition, some proponents argue that deep-sea mining is a less destructive source of materials vital for the energy transition. Norway has recently permitted deep-sea mining in its waters. Additionally, The Metals Co., a prospective deep-sea miner, and Nauru, have prompted the International Seabed Authority to create a mining code within two years. Although this deadline expired on July 9 this year, The Metals Co. stated it would wait for a comprehensive set of regulations before submitting a mining application.

As the International Seabed Authority convenes this week to discuss potential regulations, the future of deep-sea mining remains uncertain. Key issues such as royalties, environmental standards, and benefits sharing are yet to be agreed upon, with a full mining code not expected until the October meeting.

In the interim, some environmental advocates, like Susanna Fuller, vice-president of conservation and projects at Oceans North, argue for improved recycling of rare earth metals before resorting to deep-sea mining. As we approach this new frontier, the decisions made will have far-reaching implications for our planet's future. The deep-sea mining dilemma underscores the need for careful consideration in our pursuit of progress, to ensure the protection of our most valuable resource – the Earth itself.


The summer of 2023 was not just a scorching season but a historical one, with temperatures reaching the highest in 100,000 years during the first week of July, as reported by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). This was not a standalone incident but the climax of a warming trend dating back to the mid-1800s, with the world's average temperature increasing by nearly 1.2 C. This rise in temperature has intensified heatwaves, droughts, and storms.

The heatwave was amplified by climate change and the early stages of the El Nino weather pattern, a natural cycle that contributes to global heating. This resulted in the warmest June ever recorded, with severe consequences for ecosystems and the environment. The oceans, which absorb most of the planet-warming gases, experienced record-breaking temperatures, disrupting weather patterns, damaging aquatic life, and affecting vital planetary systems.

Countries worldwide are feeling the effects of these heatwaves and droughts, with Spain suffering a drought and severe heatwaves hitting China and the United States. Southern Iraq endured its most severe heatwave in 40 years, with the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization warning of potential devastation to the ecosystem, local farmers, and fisheries. Texas is under a persistent 'heat dome', with warm air trapped in the atmosphere.

The Canadian Ministry of Natural Resources reported over 670 wildfires in the last week, impacting more than 100 million people in Canada and the neighboring United States. Last year's unprecedented summer heat in Europe resulted in over 61,000 deaths, mainly among those over 80 and women, due to heat-related health complications.

China's situation mirrors this global trend. The country's average summer temperature, coastal sea levels, and permafrost active layer thickness have reached new peaks. The eight-year period from 2015-2022 was the warmest on record in China, with the country registering 3,501 extreme heat events in 2022 alone, the highest number since 1961.

Despite these concerning trends, efforts are underway to address the situation. China has initiated emergency plans focusing on accurate forecasting and predictions. Simultaneously, scientists are proposing the Anthropocene Epoch, a new geological time period recognizing human impacts on the planet.

Crawford Lake in Ontario, Canada, is being proposed as a key site that records humanity's effects on Earth. Its sediments have captured fallout from intense fossil fuel burning and plutonium from bomb tests. The Anthropocene Working Group (AWG) has been working for a decade to establish whether the geological time chart should be updated to include this epoch, with a proposed start date in the 1950s.

In conclusion, the escalating heatwaves and droughts are alarming indicators of climate change spiraling out of control, as stated by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. However, by acknowledging our impact on the planet and taking steps to mitigate further damage, we can work towards a future where such extreme weather events are the exception rather than the norm.


The geopolitical chess game of alliances and strategies continues to evolve, with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently agreeing to support Sweden's bid to join NATO. This unexpected development, announced by NATO's chief Jens Stoltenberg, signals a significant shift in Turkey's stance, which had previously blocked Sweden's application due to accusations of hosting Kurdish militants. However, Sweden has since taken substantial measures to address Turkey's security concerns, including constitutional amendments, expansion of counter-terrorism operations against the Kurdistan Workers' Party, and the resumption of arms exports to Turkey.

Erdogan's support for Sweden's NATO bid is contingent on the European Union reopening frozen membership talks with Ankara, a proposition that EU officials have so far rejected. Despite this, NATO has confirmed that Sweden would back efforts to "reinvigorate Turkey's EU accession process". Turkey's journey towards EU membership, initiated in 1987, has been fraught with challenges and delays due to Turkey's increasing authoritarian tendencies.

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine continues to strain relations between NATO and Russia. The recent two-day NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, highlighted Ukraine's bid for membership, although all alliance members concur that Ukraine cannot join NATO amidst active warfare with Russia. On the battlefield, Ukrainian artillery troops are reportedly outmatched, with their adversaries using significantly more ammunition daily. Essential supplies from allies, including cluster munitions from the US, have been vital for Ukraine in this conflict.

Ukrainians view NATO membership as a potential deterrent to Russia and a path towards ending the war. While acknowledging the need for reforms to meet NATO's membership requirements, Ukrainians are seeking clearer and more concrete assurances from the alliance. However, some NATO members are wary of offering too much to Ukraine, fearing potential engagement in a war with Russia.

Adding to the complexity of the situation, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has deployed his Akhmat military unit to Bakhmut, an eastern Ukrainian city where fighting has intensified. Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar confirmed Kadyrov’s account of heavy fighting around Bakhmut.

US President Joe Biden's decision to supply Ukraine with cluster bombs has elicited mixed reactions. While Ukraine's leader commended the move as "timely", it was criticized by UK's Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, and Spain's Defence Minister, Margarita Robles.

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently met with Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the mercenary group, the Wagner Group, following an unsuccessful mutiny last month. The Wagner Group, a private army, has been fighting alongside the regular Russian army in Ukraine since the invasion last year.

As the world closely observes the unfolding NATO summit, the stakes are high in this intricate web of alliances, negotiations, and conflicts. The hope is for resolutions that will bring peace and stability to the regions impacted by these geopolitical complexities.


In an announcement made on the eve of the NATO summit in Lithuania, the Biden administration revealed its decision to supply Ukraine with thousands of cluster bombs. These weapons, which disperse smaller bomblets over a large area, have been banned by over two-thirds of NATO members due to their history of causing civilian casualties. Despite this, the US views these munitions as a critical tool in bolstering Ukraine's offensive capabilities and penetrating Russian front lines.

The cluster bombs being sent to Ukraine are of a version with a reduced "dud rate," indicating that less than 3% of the smaller bomblets fail to explode. This decision is part of a larger €730 million package of military aid from the US, which also includes Bradley and Stryker armored vehicles and various types of ammunition. The last significant deployment of cluster bombs by the US was during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, with the weapons also playing a pivotal role during the 2001 Afghanistan invasion.

Meanwhile, there's a growing concern over the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, seized by Russian forces earlier in 2022. Reports indicate that the facility may have been mined by the occupying forces, with "objects resembling explosives" found on two blocks of the power plant. Experts warn that a leak could cause the plant's cooling water, which can reach 280 degrees Celsius, to evaporate, leaving a mere 27-hour window to prevent radiation from escaping. Any detonation within Zaporizhzhia's cooling system could potentially result in a disaster akin to Fukushima, Japan.

In another twist, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the chief of the Wagner mercenary group, was confirmed to be in Russia, contradicting earlier reports of his presence in Belarus. Prigozhin has instigated a rebellion against Russia's military leadership, marking a significant challenge to President Vladimir Putin's authority. This internal conflict has further divided Russia's anti-Kremlin opposition, with figures such as exiled former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky backing Prigozhin.

The US's controversial decision to provide Ukraine with cluster munitions, the potential nuclear threat at Zaporizhzhia, and the internal discord within Russia's opposition contribute to an increasingly complex and volatile geopolitical landscape. The choices made in the coming days will undoubtedly shape the trajectory of this conflict, potentially leaving lasting impacts on international relations and the lives of numerous civilians.


The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a century-old dispute over land possession, has taken a dramatic turn with the Israeli army conducting its largest operation in the West Bank in nearly two decades. The operation, codenamed House and Garden, targeted the Jenin refugee camp, a stronghold for various armed Palestinian factions and home to 14,000 Palestinian refugees. The operation, which spanned from Monday to Wednesday, saw the deployment of intense ground and aerial forces.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) successfully dismantled six explosives manufacturing facilities and three situation rooms, seizing a significant cache of weaponry. Despite the loss of an Israeli soldier, the IDF hailed the operation as an "extensive counterterrorism effort". It involved 15 air raids, a ground invasion with 150 armoured military vehicles, and the deployment of 1,000 elite special forces. Palestinian officials reported 12 fatalities and over 100 injuries.

This operation marks a significant shift in Israeli tactics towards the growing cross-factional Palestinian resistance. The last major assault on the Jenin camp occurred in April 2002, resulting in 52 Palestinian deaths over 10 days. Over the past six months, the Israeli army has conducted five major raids on the camp.

Following the operation, the camp's infrastructure lay in ruins, with the Palestine Red Crescent Society evacuating about 3,000 people. The Israeli army justified its incursion into the Jenin camp, citing over 50 attacks launched from there.

Despite international efforts to implement a two-state solution, the last attempt collapsed in 2014, and the conflict has only escalated since then. Frequent confrontations have become the norm, and there are concerns that the situation could spread across the rest of the occupied West Bank.

The Israeli army is now focusing on tracking and destroying weapons and explosives in the Jenin camp. Public security minister Itamar Ben Gvir drew a parallel between the conflicts in Jenin and Tel Aviv, underscoring the interconnected nature of the issue.

The operation has left a significant impact on the inhabitants of the region. Hundreds of families, like that of Fatina al-Ghoul, are returning to their homes in ruins. Local hospitals are struggling to cope with the aftermath of the fighting, and residents are in dire need of basic necessities such as drinking water, food, and shelter. The Palestinian foreign ministry has condemned the operation as an "open war against the people of Jenin".

As the conflict potentially enters a more violent phase, with plans to expand Jewish settlements on occupied land, tensions are rising. Discontent is growing among Palestinians with their leaders in the Palestinian Authority. The world watches on as the path to peace becomes increasingly fraught, but the hope for resolution persists.


In the post-Cold War era, the simmering tensions between East and West are often overlooked. However, recent events have served as a stark reminder of these persisting frictions. On Tuesday, Russia's Defense Ministry reported the interception of five Ukrainian drones near Moscow, an incident that caused disruptions at Moscow's Vnukovo International Airport and was labeled a "terrorist act". The drones were intercepted across the Kaluga region, the town of Kubinka, and the village of Valuevo, without any reported casualties or damage.

Drone attacks have become a recurrent issue in Russia following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Notably, the capital city of Moscow was subjected to a large-scale drone attack on May 30, following an alleged assassination attempt on President Vladimir Putin by Kyiv on May 3.

In response to these escalating tensions, NATO is planning its most significant military restructuring since the Cold War. The alliance's planning system shakeup is set to be endorsed by US President Joe Biden and his NATO counterparts at a summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, next week. Concurrently, China's defense minister, Li Shangfu, is advocating for strengthened military relations with Russia through increased military exchanges, joint exercises, and other forms of cooperation.

However, the drone attacks are not exclusively directed at Russia. Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, was targeted by a Russian drone attack on Sunday, marking the first such attack in 12 days. Despite Russia's claims of repelling Ukrainian attacks near Bakhmut and further south, Ukrainian forces have managed to reclaim 37.4 km sq of territory in the past week.

The conflict in Ukraine has also attracted the involvement of mercenaries. In a surprising turn of events, the Wagner Group, a mercenary outfit, staged an insurrection against the Russian government, seizing military sites and marching on Moscow. In exchange for halting the uprising, the Kremlin agreed not to prosecute the Wagner fighters or their leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin. The repercussions of this mutiny and the subsequent agreement with the Wagner Group remain uncertain.

Amid the military tensions, there are mounting humanitarian concerns. Russia has reportedly relocated approximately 700,000 children from Ukraine to its territory, a move that Ukraine and the US have criticized as illegal. The US estimates that Russia "forcibly deported" 260,000 children in July 2022 alone.

As the conflict continues, frontline soldiers are bearing the brunt. Ukrainian officer, Major Spartanets, criticized the French-provided AMX-10 RC tanks as unsuitable for frontline attacks due to their light armor. The Major reported instances where shrapnel from shell explosions pierced the tanks' light armor, causing casualties. Conversely, he praised the armor of the American Oshkosh and British Husky light transport vehicles supplied to Kyiv for their ability to withstand improvised explosive devices and ambushes.

In conclusion, Eastern Europe is grappling with escalating tensions characterized by drone attacks, military maneuvers, and mercenary involvement. As political leaders navigate these turbulent times, the civilians and frontline soldiers are the most affected. With no clear end in sight, hopes for a peaceful resolution to this ongoing crisis remain.


The Southern US, particularly Texas, experienced a lethal heatwave on June 17th, with temperatures reaching an unbearable 119F (48C). This extreme heat, which resulted in several deaths, was caused by a "heat dome," a ridge of high pressure that traps hot ocean air over a region. The heat dome, likened to a lid over a boiling pot, combined with an unusually warm Gulf of Mexico and the timing around the summer solstice, led to this extreme heat, explained John Nielsen-Gammon, Texas State Climatologist and director of the Southern Regional Climate Centre at Texas A&M University.

This alarming event is not isolated and is a clear indicator of the escalating impacts of climate change. Over the past century, Texas has warmed between half and one degree Fahrenheit, a subtle change with significant implications. If this trend persists, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) predicts a three to four-fold increase in days per year above 100F (38C) in Texas by the end of the century.

The human toll of such heatwaves is devastating, with extreme heat being the deadliest natural hazard in the US. Particularly vulnerable are children and adults over 65. In 2022 alone, heat-related illnesses claimed more than 275 lives in Texas, with the current heat dome causing at least a dozen deaths in Texas and Louisiana. A 2010 study revealed that a "wet-bulb" temperature of 95F (35C) at 100% humidity, or 115F at 50% humidity, marks the threshold where the human body struggles to maintain a healthy core temperature, increasing the risk of heat-related illnesses.

The economic implications are equally significant. Infrastructure upgrades to cope with future heatwaves come with a hefty price tag, with an estimated cost of US$66.5 bn (£52.7bn) for improving wind and solar resources in Texas by 2030.

Future projections are equally concerning. A 2021 report by Rutgers University suggests that three degrees of global warming could put 1.2 billion people at risk of heat stress annually. By 2070, four million Americans could be living outside "the ideal niche for human life," according to a joint effort between ProPublica and The New York Times.

The recent Texas heatwave is a stark reminder of the increasing frequency and intensity of global extreme heat events due to human-induced climate change. Over the past three weeks, a high-pressure ridge has caused temperatures to rise above 48C (120F) in parts of southern US and Mexico. Over 40 million people, including residents of Houston, San Antonio, and Austin, have been under excessive heat warnings.

The heatwave has strained Texas's energy grid due to increased air conditioner use. The burning of fossil fuels has made such extreme heatwaves at least five times more likely, according to Climate Central, a climate science non-profit. Andrew Dessler, a climate scientist at Texas A&M University, emphasizes the unusual early arrival of such extreme heat, making this one of the hottest Junes ever recorded in southern Texas.

Michael Wehner, a climate and extreme weather expert at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, estimated that human-caused global warming made the Texas heatwave around 2.7C (5F) hotter. He warns, "Dangerous climate change is here, now." The current heatwave has not only claimed lives but also strained power grids, with power outages exacerbating the risks in cities like Memphis, where tens of thousands of residents remain without power following storms.

In conclusion, the recent Texas heatwave is a chilling reminder of the escalating impacts of climate change and a call to action to address its root causes. As we prepare for a future where such extreme heat events become increasingly common, the heat dome may have lifted, but the issue remains a burning concern.


In an era where pandemics have become a reality, the discovery of a genetic defense against bird flu by scientists from the University of Glasgow is a significant development. Bird flus, since 1918, have triggered four pandemics, including the infamous 1918 flu pandemic, which claimed approximately 50 million lives. This pandemic, like the others, is believed to have originated from birds.

The scientists identified a segment of our genetic code, BTN3A3, which serves as a defense mechanism against bird flus. BTN3A3 becomes active in our nasal passages, throat, and lungs upon detection of an infection. This activation impedes the replication of bird flus, effectively thwarting their invasion. This defense mechanism has proven effective against most bird flus, preventing them from transitioning to humans.

However, all pandemic viruses to date have evolved to resist BTN3A3, allowing them to bypass this defense and infect humans. This was the case with the H7N9 bird flu, which developed heightened resistance to BTN3A3 in 2011 and 2012, leading to the first human cases in 2013.

Currently, the world's bird populations are grappling with the largest bird flu outbreak ever recorded, attributed to the H5N1 virus. Over half of the virus samples from birds and all seven human cases detected this year have demonstrated resistance to BTN3A3. This underscores that the ability to resist BTN3A3 is but one facet of the virus's threat to human health.

The research team, spearheaded by Prof Massimo Palmarini, director of the Centre for Virus Research in Glasgow, plans to routinely analyze the genetic code of flus circulating in birds. The objective is to identify and neutralize the dangerous strains before they can trigger a pandemic. Prof Palmarini is optimistic that this research will allow for accurate predictions of which viruses are likely to cross over to humans in the future.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) has been dedicated to enhancing global animal health since 1924. They supervise various programs aimed at improving Veterinary and Aquatic Animal Health Services. Avian influenza, or 'bird flu', is a significant concern for WOAH due to its implications for the poultry industry, farmer’s livelihoods, international trade, and the health of wild birds.

Avian influenza is a highly infectious viral disease affecting both domestic and wild birds, and occasionally, mammalian species, including humans. The disease, caused by viruses divided into multiple subtypes such as H5N1, H5N3, H5N8, is spread through direct contact with secretions from infected birds or contaminated feed and water.

From 2005 to 2020, avian influenza resulted in the death or culling of 246 million poultry. During this period, humans have been sporadically infected with subtypes H5N1, H7N9, H5N6, with infrequent cases reported with subtypes H7N7 and H9N2.

WOAH has established international standards on avian influenza, providing a framework for effective surveillance and control measures. Through the OFFLU network, WOAH collaborates with partners to assess the risks of avian influenza viruses and offer guidance to the international community.

In conclusion, while bird flu remains a significant threat to both human and animal health, the discovery of our genetic defense and the relentless efforts of organizations like WOAH offer a ray of hope. As we continue to decode the mysteries of our genetic code and enhance our surveillance and control measures, we edge closer to a future where pandemics are relegated to history.