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Start your day smarter with a dossier on the most important world news, rounded off with a shot of intriguing and offbeat stories. Like the president, you deserve no less.
May 16, 2022
Finland and Sweden said they will formally apply for NATO membership as early as today. Law enforcement officials confirmed that the attack that killed 10 in Buffalo on Saturday was a premeditated, racially motivated shooting. Three months in, Russia seems to be losing its grip on its invasion of Ukraine. And thousands of people marched in the U.S. capital Saturday to demand legal protections for those seeking abortions. All this and more in today’s PDB.
Finland and Sweden Formally Confirm NATO Membership Bid
Both countries affirmed Sunday that they will formally apply as early as today for acceptance into the Western alliance for protection against possible Russian aggression. The decision marks a stunning reversal of decades of military nonalignment, and dismisses Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threat to deploy nuclear weapons in the Baltic region should the countries make good on their intent. “Putin wants Ukraine defeated, NATO down, North America and Europe divided,” said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Berlin on Sunday after an alliance meeting. “But Ukraine stands, NATO is stronger than ever, Europe and North America are solidly united.” (Sources: Al Jazeera, France24, US News, NYT)
Suspect in Racist Attack at Buffalo Supermarket Vowed to ‘Kill’
The suspect charged with killing 10 and wounding three on Saturday was taken for mental evaluation at a New York state hospital last June after expressing his desire to commit a mass shooting, said law enforcement officials. In a 180-page manifesto posted online, Payton Gendron, 18, laid out in chilling detail his reasons for the racially motivated attack, citing conspiracy theories promulgated by right-wing politicians like New York Rep. Elise Stefanik. His victims, 11 of whom were Black, included a recently retired police officer and the mother of Buffalo’s former fire commissioner. President Joe Biden is due to visit Buffalo Tuesday. (Sources: Buffalo News, WSJ, The Hill, Newsweek)
Top Dog, Underdog
NATO Chief Says ‘Ukraine Can Win This War’
Nearly three months into the war, Russia is struggling with supply issues, low morale, poor strategy and high losses of both troops and equipment. But one of the biggest factors Russia miscalculated was the force of Ukrainian resistance. “They failed to take Kyiv, they are pulling back from around Kharkiv, their major offensive in Donbas has stalled. Russia is not achieving its strategic objectives,” said NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg on Sunday. “Ukraine can win this war.” Russia has responded by brazenly flouting the rules of war, destroying towns its forces can’t take, looting Ukrainian property and raping and murdering civilians. (Sources: Sky News, BBC, Al Jazeera)
All Bans Off
Thousands March in Washington, DC, for Abortion Rights
Thousands of reproductive rights activists descended on the U.S. capital Saturday to demand legal protections for those seeking abortions. The Bans Off Our Bodies march marked more than a week of shock and outrage after a leaked legal draft indicated that the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade. The demonstration, which culminated at the Supreme Court building, was only one of hundreds held across the country. “We are here because these folks are trying to ... take away a constitutional right,” said Kelley Robinson of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “We are here to show them that we are the majority.” (Sources: NBC, WaPo)
Here are some things you should know about today:
Journalists beware. Reporters Without Borders said 35 journalists have been killed while working in Israel and the occupied West Bank since 2000. The Israeli army refuses any responsibility. (Source: Le Monde) Weaponless win. Ukraine’s folk-rap group Kalush Orchestra overwhelmingly won this year’s Eurovision Song Contest Saturday night. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed to host next year’s competition. (Sources: The Guardian, CNN). Man opens fire at California church. The gunman killed one and wounded five senior citizens at a Taiwanese Presbyterian church Sunday — before a pastor hit him over the head with a chair and parishioners hog-tied him with electrical cords. (Source: AP)
Brain Hack Can Make Us Better People — or Not
Scientists have long known that different parts of the brain perform different functions, and we’ve used drugs to modulate behavior for decades. But deep brain stimulation (DBS), a remarkably specific surgical procedure, goes much farther, using electrodes to stimulate areas that lead to ethical behaviors like self-control, caring, fairness and positivity. But if we can target virtuous emotions, we can also do the opposite: What if DBS were used to create an army of soldiers programmed to commit atrocities without regret? “We need to ensure that the technology application is itself moral,” says Beena Ammanath, executive director of the Global Deloitte AI Institute. (Source: Popular Mechanics)
Lessons in COVID
Scientists Identify Trait That Saved Australians, Failed Americans
Despite remarkably similar demographic profiles, Australia suffered around 7,500 COVID deaths, near the best in global rankings, compared with America’s 1 million. Though Australia imposed some of the strictest travel and personal restrictions, scientists say those don’t account for the discrepancy. Researchers found that the thing Australians displayed that saved so many lives — and what Americans notably lacked — is simple: trust. According to a study of 177 countries published in The Lancet, interpersonal trust, the belief that others will do what’s right for the individual and for the community, mattered more to COVID outcomes than health spending or form of government. (Source: NYT)
Ferry Boat in France Is a Floating Refuge for Ukrainians
Mediterranean cruises have taken on new meaning: The Méditerranée, which used to ferry passengers from Marseille to Algeria, now houses 800 refugees in one of France’s biggest accommodation centers for Ukrainians fleeing the war. The 12-deck ferry, docked in Marseille, comes complete with entertainment and psychological support. “It’s turned into a village,” said Pierre-Antoine Villanova, chief executive of ferry operators Corsica Linea. Though the boat is meant as a temporary solution, people have settled in: Laundry flutters in the sea breeze, a parking area has become a gym and a former bar serves as a day care center. (Source: WaPo)
Now You See It
Disappearing US Beaches Lead to Dramatic Home Losses
It’s a scene not soon forgotten: A house teeters on its stilts before tumbling dramatically into the ocean and bobbing like a cork on the waves. That’s what millions of Americans saw this week in viral video footage. What many didn’t know was that it was the third house on Ocean Drive, in Rodanthe, North Carolina, to succumb to the waves — and many more around the country are endangered due to rising seas and storm erosion. “Having experienced this, I have a whole new level, in my head, of how severe climate change is,” said Ralph Patricelli, one of the homeowners. (Sources: NYT, Smithsonian)
Running With the Giants
US High School Sprinter Approaches Longtime World Record
All eyes are on sprinter Erriyon Knighton, 18, as the U.S. prepares to host the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon, in July. Knighton clinched the Under-20 200-meter world record last month, coming within 0.3 seconds of the overall record held by Usain Bolt — widely hailed as the greatest sprinter of all time. No stranger to success, Knighton has already beaten Bolt’s Under-20 record, and last summer in Tokyo he became the youngest man to race in an individual Olympic track final in 125 years. Knighton, also a sought-after football player, turned professional in track shortly before his 17th birthday. (Source: WSJ)
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