5.22.2023

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Good morning. It's Monday, May 22, and we're covering the battle over the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, infectious eye drops, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

 

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Need To Know
 

Russia Claims Bakhmut

Russian officials claimed their nine-month campaign to capture the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut had succeeded Saturday, marking its first significant conquest since last summer. On Sunday, Ukrainian officials denied the claims after comments from the country's president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, speaking from the G-7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, appeared to indicate otherwise.

 

Analysts claim the city, located roughly 30 miles north of the capital of the region of Donetsk, is not strategically significant but became symbolically important to Russia after some initial territorial gains last March were lost in a Ukrainian counteroffensive in the fall. Some of the war's deadliest fighting has occurred in the 400-year-old city, reducing its prewar population of 80,000 to near zero and the majority of its buildings to rubble (see images). 

 

Intense fighting in the city has depleted munitions and manpower on both sides, with the US estimating Russia has sustained 100,000 casualties in five months of fighting there, including 20,000 deaths.  

 

Eye Drop Deaths

A fourth person has died from an infection arising from contaminated eye drops, officials reported over the weekend, the latest in a multistate outbreak that includes at least 14 cases of vision loss and four instances of surgical eye removal.

 

The products in question—EzriCare or Delsam Pharma’s Artificial Tears—were both manufactured in a plant in southern India. Clinical samples suggest the eye drops may have been contaminated with a drug-resistant strain of the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which may cause severe inflammation of the cornea (among other symptoms), and in some cases, infect the lungs and bloodstream. Global Pharma, the India-based parent company of both EzriCare and Delsam, issued a recall of the products in February. As of the most recent report, 81 cases across 18 states had been identified. 

 

Read how investigators pinpointed the cause of the deaths here.

 

Mount Etna Erupts

Italy's Mount Etna erupted yesterday, spewing ash across parts of Sicily's eastern coast and canceling flights from the city of Catania. No injuries or damage were reported as of this writing. 

 

Mount Etna is one of the world's most active volcanoes, with multiple eruptions in both 2021 and 2022. The formation is a stratovolcano, typically characterized by a steep summit and a crater, capable of either explosive eruptions or slow-and-steady lava flows. It is also one of 16 across the globe to have been designated as a "decade" volcano (see list)—those with a significant probability of a destructive eruption while also being located near high-density urban centers. 

 

The mountain is one of the country's most popular tourist destinations (when not erupting), with close to 1 million people visiting per year. 

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In The Know
 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with The Ascent

> Foo Fighters announce Josh Freese as replacement for longtime drummer Taylor Hawkins after Hawkins' unexpected death in March 2022; the band will resume touring Wednesday (More)

> National Treasure wins 148th Preakness Stakes with Kentucky Derby winner Mage finishing third (More) | Horse at Kentucky's Churchill Downs becomes ninth to die at the track since April 27 (More)

> Brooks Koepka holds off Viktor Hovland and Scottie Scheffler to win the 105th PGA Championship and his fifth major overall (More)

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Science & Technology

> James Webb Space Telescope snaps images of a water plume ejecting from Saturn's moon Enceladus; researchers speculate such activity could transport the ingredients for life farther into space (More)

> Study reveals how the parasitic fungus Entomophthora muscae controls motor behavior in fruit flies in the final stages of infection (More) | Learn more about the "zombie" fungus (More, w/video)

> Engineers build first house made from concrete blended with disposable diapers; research suggests shredded diaper material can replace up to 40% of sand used in concrete production without sacrificing strength for non-load-bearing structures (More)

 

Business & Markets

> US stock markets close lower Friday (S&P 500 -0.1%, Dow -0.3%, Nasdaq -0.2%) but end up for the week (More)

> American Airlines and company pilots preliminarily agree to new four-year labor contract (More)

> Cava files for initial public offering; Mediterranean restaurant chain is unprofitable, posted revenues of $564M last year (More)

 

Politics & World Affairs

> Debt ceiling negotiations between President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R, CA-20) to continue today ahead of June 1 deadline (More)

> Twelve dead and roughly 100 hospitalized after a crowd surge at an El Salvador soccer stadium Saturday, reportedly caused by ticketholders pushing through locked gates (More) | Rail shipment of 60,000 pounds of explosive ammonium nitrate still lost after disappearing en route to California from Wyoming last month (More)

> Factions in Sudan's civil war sign seven-day cease-fire Saturday, to come into effect tonight; marks first signed truce since civil war began April 15, includes monitoring mechanism (More) | Greek conservatives win national elections without reaching majority under new electoral process; second vote slated for June or July (More) | See background (More

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Etcetera
 

The risk of being a people-pleaser

 

Waste time by pretending to slash the national debt.

 

The best vacations in the US—on a budget

 

Bankers behave better when working from home.

 

Researchers spot near-extinct ivory-billed woodpeckers.

 

Starbucks is testing nugget ice in its drinks

 

An epic water spout off South Carolina coast

 

Gen Z is bringing back picnics

 

Clickbait: The time Alec Baldwin tried to take down a national laboratory.

 

Historybook: (First) first lady of the US Martha Washington dies (1802); The Associated Press is founded (1846); Poet Langston Hughes dies (1967); Supermodel Naomi Campbell born (1970); Manchester Arena bombing kills 22 following Ariana Grande concert (2017).

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