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The ICC is seeking arrest warrants for both Israeli and Hamas leaders, F1 eyes more races in Asia, a͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
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May 21, 2024


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The World Today

  1. Netanyahu faces warrant
  2. Iran’s next election
  3. Babies sue South Korea
  4. F1 eyeing Asia
  5. Her-like voice bot paused
  6. Cheap Ozempic copycat
  7. Cremation popularity
  8. UK blood scandal findings
  9. Physics replication crisis
  10. Solving a pyramid mystery

A Parasite actor makes his K-drama debut and showcases a historical era rarely represented on screen.


Israel, Hamas leaders face warrants

REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/File Photo

The International Criminal Court is seeking arrest warrants for top Israeli politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as senior Hamas leaders. The allegation that they bear responsibility for war crimes over the war in Gaza and Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack was condemned by both sides for drawing parallels between Israel and the militant group: US President Joe Biden said the equivalence was “outrageous.” The move marks a major setback for Israel’s global standing, the Financial Times’ chief foreign affairs columnist wrote; Netanyahu could risk being arrested by other countries if he travels internationally. But the ICC’s lack of enforcement power means it’s unlikely the men will be prosecuted, so “the court risks looking increasingly impotent and irrelevant.


Iran sets new presidential elections

REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

Iran set new elections for June 28 after President Ebrahim Raisi died in a helicopter crash — a contest analysts say will be marked by low voter interest and the exclusion of reformist candidates. Widespread dissatisfaction drove historically low turnout during parliamentary elections earlier this year. Raisi’s death is unlikely to shift Iran’s broader policy direction and could lead some Iranians to “reignite broader anger toward the regime as a reminder that it does not really matter who the president is,” an Atlantic Council expert wrote. The election could also serve as a “dress rehearsal” for the power struggle that could intensify after the death of Iran’s 85-year-old Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, The Atlantic’s Arash Azizi wrote.


Children, babies sue over climate

Several children and babies are plaintiffs in a first-of-its-kind lawsuit challenging South Korea’s climate policies. In arguing that Seoul’s weak climate goals imperil the rights of future generations to live in a healthy environment, the case mirrors suits filed in the US, Brazil, and Europe: A group of 2,000 Swiss women over 64 successfully sued their government over climate issues in April. Legal challenges to governmental policies are seen as a “last resort” in East Asia, a climate litigation researcher told Nature. But a win for the South Korean babies could set a massive precedent for more cases in the rest of Asia.


F1 eyeing more Asia races

REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares

Formula 1 is eyeing more races in Asia as the series booms in popularity globally. F1 held a grand prix in China last month after a five-year absence, and is now considering a race in Thailand, with the government eager for a street race in Bangkok, Motorsport.com reported. F1 officials have also discussed holding a race in the South Korean port city of Incheon in the 2026 or 2027 seasons. Only three of the current season’s 24 races are held in Asia — Singapore, Japan, and China — down from six a decade ago. But the sport is ascendant there: In 2023, F1 said that more than a third of its Chinese fans began following the sport in the last four years.


OpenAI pauses ‘Her’-like voice bot

Annapurna Pictures

OpenAI is pausing the use of a voice chatbot that many, including the company’s CEO, compared to Scarlett Johansson’s voice for an AI chatbot character in the 2013 movie Her. OpenAI said its chatbot, called “Sky,” which some criticized as flirtatious, wasn’t meant to imitate Johansson, and was based on the voice of another actress hired by the company. The voice chatbot’s release last week marks a major upgrade for ChatGPT, since it allows users to have human-like conversations with the bot giving near-instant replies. It followed reports that OpenAI is nearing a deal with Apple to put its technology on iPhones, leading to speculation that the Her-like bot could replace the often-unreliable Siri.


E-pharmacy sells Ozempic copycat

Hims & Hers

US online pharmacy Hims & Hers Health is offering injections that mimic popular weight loss drug Ozempic, at much cheaper prices. The company, which sells generic versions of drugs like Viagra, said its semaglutide injections will cost $199 a month, while the brand name drugs cost more than $1,000 monthly in the US without insurance. (In China, which has direct negotiating power with the drug companies, branded Ozempic is much cheaper than in the US.) The knockoffs have different formulations and don’t go through the same government approval process; they are made by compounding pharmacies that are allowed to produce copycats of drugs in short supply. But little is known about the growing compounded weight loss drug market, including how many people are taking them.


Cremation business booms in Europe

Europe’s aging and increasingly secular population is creating a boom in cremation. The practice is increasingly popular, as Europe is crowded and land is at a premium: The market grows at 5% to 7% a year, especially in Catholic countries that have recently relaxed rules. The death industry is attractive because cash flow is reliable — the number of deaths a year can be easily predicted, and will go up as the boomer generation gets older. One industry CEO told Bloomberg that crematoriums, with expensive equipment and processes, are not “a money-printing machine,” but “if you know what you’re doing, you can achieve an adequate return.”


30,000 exposed to HIV-infected blood

Women hold a picture of relatives affected by the blood scandal. REUTERS/Hollie Adams

The British state “knowingly exposed” 30,000 men, women, and children to HIV and hepatitis C via blood transfusion over decades, an inquiry found. Between the 1970s and 1990s, blood imported from the US — much of it from high-risk populations at the height of the AIDS epidemic — was given, against doctors’ warnings and without heat treatment to kill viruses, to UK patients. Nearly 3,000 people have since died and more are expected to. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called it “a day of shame for the British state,” and the chair of the inquiry accused the government of “hiding the truth” for decades. At least $500 million has already been paid in compensation, and the eventual cost is likely to run into billions.


Physicists alarmed over replication crisis

Physics is grappling with a replication crisis. Scientists realized over a decade ago that much research in psychology and other fields is shaky: Poor statistical practice meant that a lot of findings were false positives, which other scientists can’t reproduce. Physics was largely thought to have been spared, but a series of recent papers on potential superconductors were retracted after researchers failed to replicate them, and physicists are warning of a wider problem. “Tensions ran high” among concerned scientists at an international conference on research reproducibility earlier this month, New Scientist reported, including over discussion of “a blatant case of data manipulation.” The conference’s proposed solutions, mainly involving sharing data, were “unsurprising, which raises the question of why they haven’t been instituted before.”


Nile offshoot behind pyramid mystery

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP via Getty Images

A long-lost branch of the Nile may finally solve the mystery of why ancient Egyptians built their pyramids so far from the river that was their lifeline. Researchers used radar satellites and excavation to reveal that a separate channel ran parallel with the main Nile in ancient times, which the builders likely used to transport the millions of tons of stone that made up the 455-foot-tall Great Pyramid of Giza. The channel may have disappeared due to tectonic movements, sand, and a millennia-long drought. One scientist told Scientific American that it is a reminder that “resilient human societies are never rigid,” and must adapt to environmental change.


May 21:

  • Microsoft holds its annual developer conference, including debuting more AI features in its personal computers.
  • Britain and South Korea co-host a summit in Seoul focused on AI regulation.
  • Kevin Kwan, the author of Crazy Rich Asians, releases his new novel Lies and Weddings.

Song Kang-ho, a South Korean acting legend who played the patriarch of the Kim family in Parasite, made his K-drama debut in Uncle Samsik. The new Disney+ series sees Song playing the titular character — a wily yet comical political fixer who helps a young government official in his ambitions to transform a war-torn South Korea of the 1950s into an industrial powerhouse. The show brings to life an era of South Korea rarely represented on screen, the South China Morning Post wrote, and illustrates the power shifts that have historically plagued the country. But it may not resonate with international audiences, The Korea Herald argued, who might miss the show’s rich allusions that will “mostly strike a chord with Koreans.”

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