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Russia says it has taken Lysychansk, key city in battle for eastern Ukraine | International

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With a brief statement and without the rhetoric of past victories, the Russian army claimed to have fulfilled one of its two territorial objectives in Ukraine: control over the Luhansk region in the east. After 130 days of fighting, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu informed President Vladimir Putin on Sunday that Lysychansk, the last major city still under Ukrainian control in the area, is now in Russian hands.

Ukraine’s army announced on Sunday that it had been “forced to withdraw” from the critical city. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a televised address that the retreat was meant to save the lives of Ukrainian troops, although he also claimed that the city was not completely in Russian hands yet and that there were pockets of resistance.

Together, Luhansk and Donetsk make up the larger Donbas region, which Putin is seeking to bring entirely under his control. With Sunday’s victory, he is closer to that goal.

The spokesman for the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said that even though Russia has taken control of the entire Luhansk area, the battle for the larger Donbas region “is not over,” since there are still cities in Donetsk in Ukrainian hands.

On February 21, three days before starting his offensive against Ukraine, Vladimir Putin signed two decrees that recognized the two self-proclaimed republics of Lugansk and Donetsk as independent countries, something that not even other close allies of Moscow such as Kazakhstan have done. The Russian president later clarified that the borders would match those drawn by the separatists in May 2014 in two illegal referendums. This included the territory that the Ukrainian government managed to keep until 2015, a year after the start of the conflict in the area between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists.

On the eastern front, Ukrainian troops are facing an intense artillery offensive in residential areas. In recent weeks, Moscow has intensified missile attacks in areas far from the war front, hitting civilian targets. Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s government has accused Russia of state terrorism.

Ukrainian military expert Mikhailo Samus downplayed the capture of Lysychansk. “Already at the beginning of the war, Putin said that he had ‘liberated’ the entire Luhansk province. But it has taken four months to complete the operation,” he said in a telephone conversation. Samus further argues that, from a global perspective, the key in the war now for Ukraine is to seize back southern cities like Kherson and Melitopol from Russian hands. And the fact that all Russian forces are concentrating on the battle in the east gives Kyiv’s troops more chances to advance south.

Samus believes that the Russian strategy of attacking civilian targets of no military interest, such as a shopping center in Kremenchuk on Monday, reflects the Kremlin’s will to increase psychological pressure on the Ukrainian population and lower their morale. “Of course the loss of human lives is a tragedy, but Putin only wants us to become demoralized and for Ukrainians to think that we are facing an enemy that is too powerful, and that it would be better to surrender,” he concludes.

Putin concerned about his own casualties

The Kremlin has claimed to have different objectives in Ukraine throughout these four months of fighting. Putin first announced “the demilitarization and de-nazification” of the country as goals. Later, after abandoning the fight for Kyiv in March, he reiterated that the incursion was a “special military operation for the defense of the people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.”

Leonid Pashenchik, leader of the Luhansk secessionists, welcomed the Russian advance. “Ukrainian neo-Nazis who came to our land to kill and steal were defeated!” he said in usual rhetoric about a territory that Russia has recognized as Ukrainian for more than three decades.

On June 29, Putin admitted that the advance of his troops in the east is taking place more cautiously to avoid a higher number of casualties. In these four months, the Russian Ministry of Defense has only announced an official number of casualties twice, the last one on March 25, when it claimed to have registered 1,351 dead and 3,825 wounded among its troops until then. However, the figures estimated by the Ukrainian government and NATO countries are much higher.

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Brazilian woman and fake seer con elderly mother out of $142 million | International

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A woman was arrested on August 10 by Rio de Janeiro police who charged her with conning her mother out of millions. In a strange story of greed abetted by fake psychics, Sabine Boghici and her accomplices stole more than $142 million in money, jewelry and artwork from Boghici’s mother over a two-year period.

Geneviève Boghici, the widow of a major art collector and dealer named Jean Boghici, was walking out of a bank in January 2020 near the famous Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) when she was approached by a supposed psychic prophesying her daughter’s imminent death unless she underwent “spiritual therapy.” They walked together to Boghici’s apartment, where the psychic threw some shells in a mystical ritual that confirmed the tragic prophesy. The 82-year-old victim knew that her daughter suffered from psychological problems, and her affinity for the supernatural swayed her to transfer $980,000 to the swindlers.

Soon after the two-year con began, the elderly woman became suspicious and halted the money transfers when her daughter started to isolate her from friends. Sabine would not allow her mother to use the phone and dismissed all the domestic workers, justifying them as Covid-19 precautions. Yet Sabine and her cronies entered freely to loot her mother’s home of its valuables. Several psychics took items from the home, saying they were “cursed” and needed to be “prayed over.” The increasingly suspicious Geneviève tried to resist, but Sabine began threatening her life. According to the police, she wouldn’t allow her mother to eat and put a knife to her throat.

Police recover 'Sol Poente' by Brazilian painter, Tarsila do Amaral.
Police recover ‘Sol Poente’ by Brazilian painter, Tarsila do Amaral.Policia Civil de Rio de Janeiro (EFE)

The victim told the police that her daughter had some sort of relationship with one of the supposed psychics, Rosa Stanesco Nicolau, who practiced her trade in Rio de Janeiro as “Mãe Valéria de Oxossi” (Mother Valeria), and was a known con artist. Starting in September 2020, under constant threat from her daughter and accomplices, the elderly woman made another 38 bank transfers to the thieves.

Sabine and her cohorts stole 16 paintings and sculptures, and sold them all to art galleries or private buyers. Two of these works – Elevador Social (Social Elevator) by Rubens Gerchman, and Maquete para o menú espelho (A model for my mirror) by Antonio Dias – were bought by Eduardo Costantini, owner of the Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires (Argentina), for his private collection. The São Paulo (Brazil) gallery owner who brokered the deal said he was not suspicious because he had known the family for a long time and the seller was the daughter of the deceased art collector. Constantini released a statement saying that he bought the paintings in good faith and was in direct contact with Genevieve Boghici.

In 2012, a fire in the Boghici’s Copacabana apartment destroyed part of their valuable collection, including Di Cavalcanti’s Samba and Alberto Guignard’s A Floresta (The Forest). Sol Poniente (Setting Sun), painted by Tarsila do Amaral in 1929, is one of the most valuable works in the Boghici collection ($49 million). It survived the 2012 fire but not the rampant greed of their daughter. The stolen painting was found under a bed by police, who arrested Sabine and three other people, including the fake seer. In a final twist to the whole bizarre story, the scamming psychic was apprehended trying to escape through a window.

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India’s HIV patients say shortages leaving hundreds of thousands without drugs | Global development

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Hundreds of thousands of people living with HIV in India are struggling to access treatment because of a shortage of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs, according to campaigners.

Up to 500,000 people have not been able to get hold of free ARVs from government health centres and hospitals over the past five months, they say, as the country experiences stock shortages of key drugs.

ARVs that are available in privately run pharmacies and shops can be prohibitively expensive. Some people have been given alternative drugs, but others have stopped taking any medication.

“Does the government even realise that at least 500,000, or one-third of the patients, are affected by this? Some adults are being given 11 doses of paediatric medicine to compensate,” said Loon Gangte, president of the Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+), an NGO that works to improve the treatment and facilities for people living with HIV and Aids. “We only demand an uninterrupted monthly supply. This treatment is our right.”

According to Gangte, who has been protesting with about 30 others outside India’s National Aids Control Organisation (Naco) in Delhi for 22 days, at least 12 other states, including Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab, are facing ARV shortages. He said several state governments have asked patients to change their longstanding drug regimes.

“The [Covid-19] pandemic had already broken our backs. Now this shortage is pushing us further into penury,” Gangte said.

Kedar Nath, a 30-year-old street vendor taking part in the protest, said he has not taken his ARVs on several occasions over the past two months. He cannot afford the £50 a month it would cost to buy the drugs on the open market.

“I have been taking these drugs for the last 13 years. They have helped me continue with my life despite the virus in my body. But the recent shortage has turned my life upside down since I can neither find the strength to work, nor have any savings to live off,” he said.

According to government figures, 2.35 million people in India are HIV-positive. About 1.5 million people are on antiretroviral therapy, far lower than the World Health Organization’s “90-90-90 target” – under which 90% of people with HIV are diagnosed, 90% are on ARV treatment, and 90% are no longer infectious.

India says it aims to end the HIV epidemic by 2030. In 2019, an estimated 58,900 Aids-related deaths were reported in the country.

The government has refuted Gangte’s claims of a shortage. The Indian health ministry said it had “reviewed the entire situation and held a series of meetings with the protesters. ARV drugs are being provided for [a] duration of less than one month, but at no point in time has there been any shortage of drugs for any of the PLHIV [patients living with HIV]. There is adequate stock nationally for 95% PLHIV.”

Naco did not wish to comment. However, in a letter seen by the Guardian that was dated 30 May, Naco asked all state Aids prevention and control societies, which oversee HIV testing and treatment in each state, to switch to other regimes “to tide through the crisis situation as an interim arrangement”.

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J&J Stops Global Sales of Scandalous Talc-Based Powder After 130 Years

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Once one of its top products for families, J&J’s talc-based powder has been haunted by claims of causing cancer in recent years even as the company consistently denied what it has called rumors and “misinformation”.

Johnson & Johnson has announced it will be ceasing the sales of its talc-based powder, two years after stopping them in the US and Canada, after keeping it in its product line for 130 years. The company will be replacing the product with a cornstarch-based powder.

“As part of a worldwide portfolio assessment, we have made the commercial decision to transition to an all cornstarch-based baby powder portfolio,” the company’s statement said.

The J&J talc-based powder has been at the epicenter of several lawsuits claiming it caused ovarian cancer due to the presence of a known cancer-causing material – asbestos. However, the company has repeatedly denied these allegations, despite losing $3.5 billion in these lawsuits.

As the firm announced the retirement of the talc-based powder, it once again repeated its long-held position on the controversial product’s safety.

“Our position on the safety of our cosmetic talc remains unchanged. We stand firmly behind the decades of independent scientific analysis by medical experts around the world that confirms talc-based Johnson’s baby powder is safe, does not contain asbestos, and does not cause cancer,” the statement said.

Apart from losing a number of lawsuits, J&J faced tough questions following a 2018 Reuters investigation, which claimed the company knew about the asbestos contamination since at least 1971 but failed to act on it. As the veins of asbestos are often found in talc deposits, the extracted talc used to make the powder can be contaminated with the cancer-causing mineral.

A view of the Supreme Court in Washington, U.S. January 19, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 01.06.2021

Pay Up: Supreme Court Rejects J&J’s Request to Appeal $2 Bln Verdict in Talc Cancer Case
Despite continuing to maintain its innocence, J&J stopped selling talc-based powder in the US and Canada in 2020, citing the harm done to the sales by the “misinformation” about its safety. However, the company continued to distribute it around the world alongside the cornstarch-based alternative, which will now completely substitute it.



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