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Most Russians believe in aliens - poll

Alien, extraterrestrial, ET
© Getty Images / MediaProduction
Three-quarters of Russians believe the existence of sentient life forms on other planets is possible, a survey by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTSIOM) has revealed ahead of International Day of Human Space Flight on April 12.

The figure represents a 14% increase compared to a similar poll carried out by VTSIOM in 2008. Some 36% of respondents believed in the existence of intelligent life forms from outer space, while 39% said this was possible but unlikely.

Meanwhile, one in five people dismissed the prospect of aliens living on other planets as virtually impossible.

According to the poll, 66% believe that people will live on other planets in the future, which marks a sharp rise from the 51% that backed this prospect in 2008.

More than a third of respondents (35%) are certain that cosmic phenomena like solar flares and explosions, meteorite infalls, and the formation of black holes somehow affect people's lives.

Some 33% of those surveyed claimed that phenomena of this kind have a negative impact on people's general physical state, with 15% complaining about elevated blood pressure, headaches, or dizziness as a result.

Comment: One wonders, how many of those who think extraterrestrial life is virtually impossible would continue to believe so even if a ship landed on their front yard and asked to be taken to their leader?


Trump Organization's former chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg sentenced to 5 months in jail

© Curtis Means/PoolDonald Trump's former XFO Allen Weisselberg appeared in Manhattan Criminal Court
The Trump Organization's former chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg was sentenced to five months in jail Wednesday after he admitted to lying during former President Donald Trump's New York civil fraud trial.

Weisselberg, 76, did not make a statement as he was sentenced by Judge Laurie Peterson during a two-minute hearing in Manhattan Criminal Court that sent him back to the slammer.

The ex-Trump money wizard, wearing a black jacket and blue sweatpants, was cuffed and led away from the hearing by court officers.

He spent about 100 days in lockup last year on a tax fraud conviction for accepting $1.7 million in company perks off the books, including free rent on a Manhattan pad and tuition payments for his grandkids.

Weisselberg, in another plea deal with the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, pleaded guilty last month to two counts of perjury.

Prosecutors said the former Trump CFO admitted to prosecutors that he lied to New York Attorney General Letitia James and her investigators in a May 12, 2023, deposition and while on the stand during Trump's civil fraud case on Oct. 10.

Arrow Up

More Russian LNG being exported to Europe than Asia

LNG plant
© Unknown
Russia's liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports gained over 4% in the first quarter of this year as it increased output to replace sanctioned pipeline gas exports to Europe, Russia's Kommersant newspaper reported on Monday.

Citing a 4.3% (8.7 million metric ton) increase in unsanctioned LNG exports in Q1 2024 based on data from Kpler, said exports to the European Union were rising, while those to Asia were declining. Russia's LNG exports to Asia for the first quarter of the year saw a 7% decline, which was made up for by a 4% increase in exports to Europe, which received some 5 million tons of Russian LNG during that time period. The bulk of LNG production in Russia comes from the Yamal LNG project, run by Novatak, and the Sakhalin Energy project, run by Gazprom.

The new data showing the rise in Russian LNG exports to the European Union indicates that Europe has replaced piped Russian gas from its eastern ports with Russian LNG at its western ports as the bloc becomes the biggest buyer of Russian LNG, clocking in half of all Russian LNG export volume this year so far, followed by China, which scooped up 21% as of February data.

Reuters data analysis in February also showed that the EU has replaced Russian piped gas flows with Russian LNG imported primarily to Spain, Belgium and France.


Zelensky is Pinocchio, officer tells The New Yorker

© David Young/picture alliance/Getty ImagesFlags fly over the graves of killed soldiers.
The president's claim that just 31,000 Ukrainian troops were killed in action obfuscates reality, according to magazine interview...

Ukrainian frontline casualties are far higher than the country's leadership is willing to admit, according to The New Yorker.

The American magazine published a deep dive on Monday into frontline realities of the Ukraine conflict, based on observations by reporter Luke Mogelson while embedded in a Ukrainian unit in January. He mentioned hearing of an acquaintance, an infantry officer with whom he'd worked on another story, who had since been killed, to which Mogelson replied that the best Ukrainian men appeared to be dying these days.
"Everyone dies here. The best, the worst. We remember the bright, strong personalities. Everyone else just fades into nothingness."
The report's source went on to compare Vladimir Zelensky to Pinocchio, the children's-book character whose nose grows when he tells lies.


Pacific castaways' 'HELP' sign sparks US rescue mission, unexpected family reunion

rescue castaways help signal micronesia
© Handout/U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia via CNN NewsourceThe crew of a Hawaii-based Coast Guard HC-130J Hercules aircraft made contact with three mariners stranded on Pikelot Atoll, Yap State, Federated States of Micronesia, after dropping them a radio on April 8, 2024
A US Navy and Coast Guard operation on Tuesday rescued three mariners stranded on a tiny Pacific Ocean islet for more than a week after the trio spelled out "HELP" using palm fronds laid on a white-sand beach.

The mission also unexpectedly turned into a family reunion.

The three men had been planning to fish the waters around the Pikelot Atoll, part of Micronesia, on March 31 when their 20-foot open skiff was caught by swells and its outboard motor was damaged, according to US Coast Guard officials.

They scrambled ashore on uninhabited Pikelot, but their radio ran out of battery power before they could call for help.

Arrow Up

Inflation accelerates more than expected in March as high prices persist

UK grocery story
© Getty Images / SolStock
Inflation accelerated in March for the third straight month, keeping prices painfully high for millions of Americans and likely delaying any interest rate cuts by the Federal Reserve.

The Labor Department said Wednesday that the consumer price index, a broad measure of the price of everyday goods including gasoline, groceries and rent, rose 0.4% in March from the previous month. Prices climbed 3.5% from the same time last year, above the 3.2% figure recorded in February.

Both of those figures came in higher than the 0.3% monthly increase and 3.2% headline gain forecast by LSEG economists.

Other parts of the report also pointed to stubborn price pressures within the economy. Core prices, which exclude the more volatile measurements of food and energy, climbed 0.4%, as they did in January and February, for an annual gain of 3.8%. Those figures are also higher than estimates.


'Harry Potter' stars would not be forgiven if they apologised to me - JK Rowling

jk rowling transgender opposition
© Debra Hurford-BrownJK Rowling has hit the headlines since 2019 for her views on transgender issues
Author accuses Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson for having 'cosied up to a movement intent on eroding women's hard-won rights'

JK Rowling has suggested she would not forgive Harry Potter actors who have criticised her views on gender.

In a social media post she criticised celebrities who "used their platforms to cheer on the transitioning" of children, in an apparent attack on Harry Potter stars Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson.

Rowling accused the pair for having "cosied up to a movement intent on eroding women's hard-won rights," and suggested they instead made a public apology to those harmed by trans ideology.

Her comments came following a series of remarks on the Cass review, a landmark study into how children with gender issues had been let down by their treatment by the NHS in England.

Comment: One doesn't often agree with Boris Johnson, but he is right about Rowling. She's stuck to sane, sensible principles while weathering a years'-long sh*tstorm for her trouble. History will be on Rowling's side.


Not racist at all: Texas Dem suggests Black people shouldn't pay taxes as form of reparations

Rep. Jasmine Crockett, D-Texas
© Samuel Corum/Getty ImagesThe comments from Rep. Jasmine Crockett, D-Texas, came during her appearance on an episode of the "Black Lawyers Podcast," which was released Tuesday.
Rep Jasmine Crockett says the proposal may not be as popular as 'actually giving out dollars'

A House Democrat recently suggested that Black Americans should be exempt from paying taxes as a form of reparations, but she admitted that the plan may not be a success as many within the community who are poor "aren't really paying taxes in the first place."

The comments from Rep. Jasmine Crockett, D-Texas, came during her appearance on an episode of the Black Lawyers Podcast, which was released Tuesday.

During the interview with host J. Carter, Crockett recalled a proposal from a celebrity to exempt Black Americans from paying taxes, and said she thought to herself that it was "not necessarily a bad idea."


Arrow Down

Just as expensive to die as it is to live

© KTLA5Everything is more complicated after the loss of a loved one. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help, even for casket shopping.
While death is simply a fact of life that everyone must ultimately face, planning for the costs of our own passing is not generally a hot topic of discussion, which is why many in California, among the top five most expensive states to be buried in, get sticker shock when dealing with funeral expenses.

According to data from the National Funeral Directors Association and research conducted by USA Today Blueprint, the average cost of a funeral in the United States is $7,848.

These expenses can be for items like storage of the remains, the casket, embalming and use of the funeral home's staff and facilities for the ceremony.

Adjusting for the different cost of living across states, researchers found the following 10 states to have the highest prices for a funeral:
  1. Hawaii - $14,964.90
  2. District of Columbia - $12,184.40
  3. Massachusetts - $12,159.50
  4. California - $11,495.50
  5. New York - $10,449.70
  6. Alaska - $10,391.60
  7. Maryland - $9,669.50
  8. Washington - $9,628.00
  9. Vermont - $9,569.90
  10. Oregon - $9,520.10


Bird flu 'fears surge' as student in Vietnam dies from new strain, also detected in US, UK

A student has died just days after developing a cough that was being caused by a bird flu. It was a highly pathogenic strain of the virus already detected in the UK and the US.

The 21-year-old from Vietnam is confirmed to have been infected with avian flu strain H5N1.

While it's most widespread targets are birds, the illness can be transferred to mammals and humans.

Comment: There have been hysterical claims that everything from people to seals to otters to foxes have been infected with bird flu, and yet, other than birds, deaths resulting directly from it appear to be rare; and most of the birds that died were culled: (2023) First human death from H3N8 bird flu recorded in China, WHO claims

People who had been in close contact with the student are being "monitored daily" in case they fall ill.

Comment: Thailand Medical News provides more details:
As health officials and the public grapple with the implications of this case, numerous questions remain unanswered, highlighting the urgency of understanding and addressing this evolving situation.

The Patient's Journey: From Symptoms to Hospitalization

The unfolding saga began with the onset of symptoms in the young student on March 11. What initially appeared as mild discomfort quickly escalated, prompting the patient to seek medical attention. After a brief return home, during which time the virus may have spread within his household, the severity of his condition necessitated hospitalization. Currently, he remains in serious condition and isolated at the Provincial Hospital of Tropical Diseases in Khanh Hoa.

The patient is currently under mechanical ventilation and does not seem to be responding to any treatments including the usage of the antiviral Oseltamivir.

At the moment, Vietnamese health authorities have placed more than 214 individuals who had come into contact with the infected individual under isolation and are closely monitoring them.

According to sources from the provincial health department in Khanh Hoa, there are about 23 individuals in the group who are exhibiting symptoms of a respiratory infection.

The Pasteur Institute in Na Trang in Vietnam is currently overseeing all genomic testing and the institute so far has confirmed that a new subtype of H5N1 Avian Flu is involved in the initial case involving the university student.

Local experts claim that the new H5N1 subtype is originating from the virus branch (We do not have details to validate this as of yet.)

Media Frenzy and Official Responses

Vietnamese media outlets, including state-sponsored sources, have been abuzz with H5N1 News coverage of this alarming development. Reports detailing the patient's condition, the efforts to trace and test contacts, and the measures being taken by health authorities have dominated headlines.

Despite the lack of official statements from government health agencies, the credibility of these reports underscores the gravity of the situation.

Unraveling the Mystery: How Did the Student Contract the Virus?

One of the most pressing questions surrounding this case is the mode of transmission. The exact subtype of the H5 virus remains unidentified, adding complexity to the investigation. While previous cases involving H5N1 and H5N6 variants have been reported in neighboring countries like Cambodia, China and Laos, the specific origin of the virus in this instance remains a mystery. The absence of dead poultry in the vicinity further complicates efforts to pinpoint the source of exposure.

Response and Containment Efforts

In response to the confirmed case, health officials in Khanh Hoa have initiated comprehensive measures aimed at containment and prevention. Contact tracing, testing, and isolation protocols have been swiftly implemented to curb the potential spread of the virus. Additionally, disinfection procedures have been carried out in relevant locations, including the patient's dormitory at Nha Trang University.

Challenges and Unknowns

Despite these proactive measures, significant challenges persist. The inherent variability of the H5 virus, coupled with the potential for reassortment and emergence of new subtypes, underscores the need for vigilance and ongoing surveillance. The lack of clarity regarding the source of infection and the potential for human-to-human transmission further complicate the situation.

Update: We have received updates from local media that the Vietnamese government is issuing a directive to all local media to stop reporting on this emerging health issue. The health authorities have however conformed the emergence of the H5N1 outbreak and the WHO are also involved already.
The Vietnamese government may be urging for calm because it's really not considered to be an urgent issue - that point, however, remains to be seen.

It's worth noting that, ominously, MIT reports that they're working on an mRNA injection; an outbreak detected in the US in cows, and one rancher, is thought to have occurred because they were feeding the excreta of (likely bird flu vaccinated) chickens to the cows; and there's evidence showing that the vaccine program they've been enforcing across the planet has been ineffective, at best: