From Russia blaming the US for the Kremlin attack to Carrie Fisher's Hollywood star – Here are today's Headlines

Russia’s Kremlin government complex in Moscow is super heavily guarded.

From Russia blaming the US for the Kremlin attack to Carrie Fisher's Hollywood star – Here are today's Headlines
The Russian flag flies on the dome of the Kremlin Senate building behind Spasskaya Tower, while the roof shows what appears to be marks from the recent drone incident, in central Moscow, Russia, May 4, 2023. Reuters/Stringer

To start off, we're looking into:

Russia blames the US

The backstory: Russia’s Kremlin government complex in Moscow is super heavily guarded. With the war going on in Ukraine, Russian authorities have started boosting those defenses even more, mounting air-defense installations on the Defense Ministry and administrative buildings across the city.

More recently: Around 3 a.m. on Wednesday, two drones tried to attack the Kremlin, and Russia said it was an assassination attempt on President Putin, who wasn’t in the complex at that time. At first, Russia blamed Ukraine for the attacks. But Ukraine’s President Zelenskiy said the country had nothing to do with them. Ukraine has also been saying that the event was a false flag operation by Moscow to justify escalating the war. Following these attacks, Moscow started sending more combat drones to Ukraine.

The development: But on Thursday, Russia blamed the United States for the Kremlin attack. Russian officials are saying Ukraine acted on US orders to launch the drones. The US denied these claims, with US national security spokesperson John Kirby calling them “ludicrous.” The US also said it never encouraged Ukraine to strike outside of its own borders and that it doesn’t endorse attacks on specific leaders. So we still really don’t know who’s behind the drone attacks or if the attack happened at all.

Child marriage is still a big problem

Child marriage is a big problem
A veiled girl from the Saraniya community waits for her engagement ceremony to start at Vadia village in the western Indian state of Gujarat March 11, 2012. Reuters/Amit Dave

The backstory: Child marriage, the act of marrying off people (usually girls) under 18, is still pretty common around the world. While the reasons behind child marriage can vary from culture to culture, it’s more often than not to consolidate family wealth and obtain a certain social status. In some communities, families may marry off their children in an effort to protect them from poverty and sexual violence or to protect their virginity before they reach puberty.

The development: A new report released by UNICEF shows that the world has made some progress when it comes to decreasing the number of child marriages taking place. Now, one in five women between the ages of 20-24 were married as children. This is compared to a decade ago when the statistic was nearly one in four. This has been driven mostly by progress in India, the now most populous country in the world. But the South Asian nation is still home to the most child brides in the world.

According to the same report, though, COVID has slowed progress on the issue, with school closures, economic insecurities and the upending of personal situations leading to 10 million more young girls becoming brides by 2030.

At the current rate of progress, the report also says it will take 300 years to get rid of child marriage completely.

A star just ate its planet

stars eat planets
A photo taken by Expedition 46 flight engineer Tim Peake of the European Space Agency (ESA) aboard the International Space Station shows Italy, the Alps, and the Mediterranean on January, 25, 2016. Reuters/NASA/Tim Peake

The backstory: Before we get into the weeds of what happened, let's get some Space 101 basics out of the way. A star is a glowing, hot ball of gas that produces its own light, whereas a planet is a non-shining, solid body that orbits a star. On top of this, stars can be huge, like a gazillion times larger than a planet. They are a primary source of energy and foundation blocks for how galaxies are created, but they can't support life as planets can.

More recently: In 2020, using new data from the Kepler telescope, NASA estimated there could be as many as 300 million potentially habitable planets in our galaxy, all spinning around stars far, far away. Scientists also believe that these worlds will probably get eaten up by their own stars at the end of their star's lifetime.

Now, when we say "eat," it's not like how we munch on chips, but it's when a star's gravitational force and power destroy a planet or smashes into a planet.

The development: Now, according to a report published in Nature, scientists have witnessed a star ingesting a planet the size of Jupiter, and it's the first time anyone has seen this actually happen.

Essentially, what they think happened is that when the star began to swell up and puff out a bit, its atmosphere ran into the orbiting planet. The drag tightens the planet's orbit, pulling it in closer and closer to the planet until, bam, the planet is engulfed.

Now whether this will happen to Earth is a bit controversial among the astronomy community. But we obviously won't be around by the time the sun could gobble up Earth in about 5 billion years. So let's just focus on getting onto Mars now.

To end, we'll look into:

Streaming services aren’t booming anymore

There have been a lot of change-ups in the TV and movie streaming industry lately. Disney started a massive layoff campaign to make its streaming service, Disney+, more profitable (or, really, profitable at all). And Netflix is switching it up with a crackdown on password sharing. HBO Max and Discovery Plus are merging, too. Speaking of HBO Max, 36 shows available through the platform just straight up disappeared last August. So, what’s the deal here?

Well, it turns out that running a streaming service is pretty expensive.

Last year, Director of Strategy at Parrot Analytics Julia Alexander explained in an interview with Slate: “If you look at Disney, they’ve got $1.1 billion in operating income loss. If you look at Warner Bros. Discovery, they’ve got I believe $3 billion in operating income loss. They’re spending heavily on streaming, but streaming is not a profitable business for them. It’s not going to be profitable for another two, three years.”

For streaming services, their plan is based on making more on average on a customer joining than what they spend to acquire that customer on top of their overall costs of running the platform. The initial investment to start a streaming service usually brings on a lot of debt, but Wall Street has been pretty cool with lending out that money. But now, it’s starting to actually want to see a return on its investment.

Also, there’s another problem – the fact that so many streaming services have popped up. A few years ago, Netflix was dominating the game without any real competition. These days, there are so many streaming services with quality programming that consumers have started to pick and choose which ones they actually want. So, the platforms have had to spend even more money to license better content and create new original content.

This has led to price hikes and new password-sharing rules that have taken us all by surprise. Netflix and HBO-Max are planning on launching some ad-supported tiers to their subscriptions to offset costs, too. A lot of people find this strange because … isn’t the point of all this to avoid watching commercials? Do we have to sit through ads again just for Netflix to put out another season of Big Mouth?

In other news ...

📉Stocks: MSCI’s global gauge of stocks is down 0.61% at 2,779.26.

  • Dow Jones is down 0.86% to 33,127.74.
  • Nasdaq Composite fell 0.49% to 11,966.40.
  • S&P 500 decreased by 0.72% to 4,061.22.
  • The Hang Seng Index gained 1.27% to 19,948.73.

🧠Some quick factors to bear in mind:

  • US stocks declined on Thursday as fears over the banking industry grew after two more regional banks signaled they were in trouble.
  • Specifically, PacWest was assessing its options, whether that was raising more money or selling. After that announcement, the bank's shares fell over 50%.
  • Meanwhile, Western Alliance's share price ended 38% lower after a Financial Times report said the bank might be looking to sell, which it strongly denied.
  • Traders were still digesting the Fed's 25 basis point rate hike, with the European Central Bank also hiking rates by 25 basis points.
  • Meanwhile, Hong Kong stocks recovered from a one-week low, with investors hopeful that the Fed was done with the rate hike cycles.
  • The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) increased its base rate to 5.5% following the Fed's hike. It also bought another HK$4.67 billion to defend the Hong Kong dollar peg.
  • On top of that, as mainland Chinese markets reopened, the sentiment was helped by the strong amount of spending throughout the May Day holidays.

👄Some comments and chatter:

  • “How many more unnecessary bank failures do we need to watch before the FDIC, @USTreasury and our government wake up? We need a systemwide deposit guarantee regime now,” tweeted Bill Ackman, CEO of New York hedge fund Pershing Square.
  • “Regional lenders are going to have to constrain capital. I don’t think that money is going to be flowing through the system nearly as easily in the back half of this year and that indirectly is going to cool down the economy, which is ultimately going to do the Fed’s job by bringing inflation down. So, I do not think that the Fed will have to raise rates any further the rest of this year, although tomorrow’s data on the jobs reading will be important to watch,” said Keith Apton, managing director at UBS Wealth Management.

🛢Oil: US crude settled at US$68.56 per barrel, which is down 0.06%. Meanwhile, Brent settled at US$72.50 per barrel, up 0.24%. This comes after crude prices have fallen for three days because of worries over a slowdown in the economies of oil-consuming countries, as the Fed and European Central Banks both hiked rates this week.

👛Bitcoin: At the time of writing, bitcoin is down 0.79% at 28,810.10.

🏫School shooting in Pakistan: Authorities in Pakistan are saying that multiple gunmen were involved in a school shooting in the Kurram district on Thursday, killing at least seven people (but no students were victims). The attackers are still on the loose, but the event is believed to be linked to another violent incident earlier that day when a man was shot in his car nearby.  

👑Camilla's coronation crown: Saturday is UK King Charles III's coronation. In the lead-up, we're seeing more criticism of the monarchy and of the UK's dark colonial past. To avoid a public misstep, Charles's wife Camilla won't be wearing the crown with the Koh-i-Noor diamond, which is thought to have been found by the holy Krishna River in India about 800 years ago. The diamond has a storied tradition of being worn by queen consorts, but it's become a controversial symbol of colonialism. So instead, she'll wear another crown with 2,200 smaller diamonds. Oh, is that all?

Koh-I-Noor Diamond
Replica of the Crown of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, with a replica of the Koh-I-Noor Diamond. It's a centerpiece at Royal Coster Diamonds. Source: Wikimedia Commons/AlinavdMeulen

🔫Serbia tightens gun control laws: Yesterday, we covered a school shooting in Belgrade, Serbia, committed by a middle-grade student. The 13-year-old shooter killed eight children and a security guard. In response, the government is looking to tighten gun control laws. The Interior Ministry warned gun owners to keep their weapons empty and locked up, and the police will start doing spot checks to make sure these rules are being followed. They've also issued a moratorium on new gun licenses for anything other than hunting.

Serbia school shooting memorial
Source: Reuters/Zorana Jevtic

🏝Epstein's isles bought: After alleged sex trafficker and convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein's arrest and death, his Caribbean islands went up for sale. One of them is nicknamed "Pedophile Island" by locals, and the original asking price was US$55 million each. Stephen Deckoff, with SD Investments in the US, ended up buying the islands for US$60 million in total. Deckoff plans to build an exclusive resort, according to his spokesman.

IBM's CEO is pro-office: The COVID pandemic made remote work possible and accessible on a scale that it hadn't been before, but many companies are now looking to wind down their hybrid and remote work programs. On Monday, IBM CEO Arvind Krishna said working remotely could make it difficult to be promoted into managerial roles.  

💸ESG debt on the rise: Governments and companies have been increasingly borrowing money to meet new environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals, and this has led to the world's ESG debt hitting a record-high US$5.1 trillion in the first quarter. That's up from the previous year's US$3.8 trillion, according to the Institute of International Finance.

📄Goldman Sachs to settle?: Finance giant Goldman Sachs is facing a class-action lawsuit set to go to trial next month. The case alleges the company discriminated against women when paying and promoting them the same as their male counterparts. Now, the firm's lawyers are reportedly considering a settlement for up to US$200 million.

🤝Microsoft teams up with AMD: Tech giant Microsoft is partnering with AMD to help the chipmaker expand into making AI processors (or graphics processing units), according to inside sources. The idea is to offer an alternative to Nvidia, which currently is at the top when it comes to AI-capable chips.

💻The AI race: Companies and countries around the world are locked in a competitive race to make advancements in AI – and many people have urged things need to slow down. Bigwigs like Elon Musk have called for a pause to AI development, and we recently reported on the "Godfather of AI" leaving Google to warn the world about the pending dangers of too-advanced tech. Well, one voice disagrees – venture capitalist (and investor in OpenAI) Vinod Khosla. In an interview with Bloomberg, he said that the US couldn't afford to slow the race down, and in fact, it needs to win it, or otherwise, it may be outpaced by China. Actor Ashton Kutcher echoed these sentiments in a recent interview with Bloomberg, where he outlined his investment firm's US$243 million fund that will go toward artificial intelligence startups.

🧠Belly fat and the brain: A new study was conducted by Nanyang Technological University in Singapore alongside Imperial College London on how excess visceral body fat, aka belly fat, affects the brain performance of Asians. According to the study, Asians with excess belly fat did worse on tests evaluating memory, brain function, processing speed and attention.

👩‍⚖️Ed Sheeran wins copyright case: In 2014, musician Ed Sheeran released the hit song "Thinking Out Loud." But the heirs of Marvin Gaye's co-writer sued Sheeran, Warner Music Group and Sony Music Publishing for allegedly stealing parts of Gaye's hit song, "Let's Get It On." A US court took on the case and ruled that Sheeran didn't commit copyright infringement after all. Sheeran had said that he would stop making music if he lost.

🦆Long Boi is missing: At the University of York in the UK, the resident duck, Long Boi, has become a social media influencer. People around the world came to know him as the "tallest duck in the UK." But Long Boi hasn't been seen since April 22, according to the university's newspaper. His IG account, which has over 56,000 followers, said they are hoping for any info or sightings on Long Boi but mentioned that they don't know his age, and he's never gone missing like this before, so it may be that he's sadly passed away.

Longboi the duck is missing
Source: Instagram/@longboiyork

🃏Sticky fingers: In March, three Chinese men went to a casino in Singapore to steal gambling chips. Their plan was to apply strong glue to their palms, collecting a chip every time their hands passed over a pile of them. They successfully stole US$1,575 in chips before being caught. These men have now all been given prison sentences for breaking the Casino Control Act.

🎬Carrie Fisher gets her star: Late actress Carrie Fisher, who famously played Princess (and General) Leia Organa in the Star Wars franchise, finally got her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Her daughter, Billie Lourd, accepted the award on Tuesday, just ahead of Star Wars Day, May 4. Mark Hamill, who played Leia's brother Luke Skywalker in the films, was there, too.

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Written and put together by Krystal Lai, Vanessa Wolosz, Caleb Moll and Christine Dulion