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Humanitarian crisis intensifies in Afghanistan

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United Nations say the Taliban have so far allowed their work to continue uninterrupted, as world leaders and NGO’s work tirelessly to meets the needs of thousands of displaced Afghans in what is now a major humanitarian crisis.

An estimated 270,000 Afghans have been newly displaced inside the country since January 2021 – primarily due to insecurity and violence –  bringing the total uprooted population to over 3.5 million and rising.

Taliban leaders have assured officials that the takeover would be peaceful, and that women’s safety in the country a priority, despite reports that women are being forced to stay indoors and forego work and extracurricular activities.

Taliban assures NGO’s they’ve reformed

Daniel Wordsworth, CEO of World Vision Australia says the Taliban have so far not interfered with their ongoing aid work in the country.

Several large humanitarian groups maintain they have a mandate to continue emergency aid. But the scope of what that would look like is uncertain – dependent on fraught negotiations with the Taliban, and clouded by the potential for tighter restrictions and threats to Afghan staff.

World Vision calls for government action

World Vision Australia is asking the government to provide 20,000 places within their refugee program for displaced Afghans feeling the Taliban.

So far, the Australian government has pledged to offer 3000 humanitarian crisis visas, despite other nations declaring to offer more than six times that figure.

Priority will be given to Afghans with family in Australia, women and girls, and persecuted minorities as part of their ongoing rescue operation.

Australia’s commitment falls short of what is being offered by some other developed countries.

Late last week, Canada detailed a plan to offer 20,000 special humanitarian visas to vulnerable Afghans in response to the current crisis.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison referenced the moves made by other countries and ruled out making similar promises, despite pledging further ADF involvement.

“You would have heard other countries talk about figures of 5,000, I note that some are talking about figures of 20,000”.

“But, can I tell you, there are no clear plans about that”.

“Australia is not going into that territory”, he said.

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U.S. House passes $95 billion Ukraine, Israel aid package

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The U.S. House of Representatives on Saturday with broad bipartisan support passed a $95 billion legislative package providing security assistance to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, over bitter objections from Republican hardliners.

The legislation now proceeds to the Democratic-majority Senate, which passed a similar measure more than two months ago.
U.S. leaders from Democratic President Joe Biden to top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell had been urging embattled Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson to bring it up for a vote.
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The Senate is set to begin considering the House-passed bill on Tuesday, with some preliminary votes that afternoon. Final passage was expected sometime next week, which would clear the way for Biden to sign it into law.

The bills provide $60.84 billion to address the conflict in Ukraine, including $23 billion to replenish U.S. weapons, stocks and facilities; $26 billion for Israel, including $9.1 billion for humanitarian needs, and $8.12 billion for the Indo-Pacific, including Taiwan.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy expressed his thanks, saying U.S. lawmakers moved to keep “history on the right track.”

“The vital U.S. aid bill passed today by the House will keep the war from expanding, save thousands and thousands of lives, and help both of our nations to become stronger,” Zelenskiy said on X.

It was unclear how quickly the new military funding for Ukraine will be depleted, likely causing calls for further action by Congress.

Biden, who had urged Congress since last year to approve the additional aid to Ukraine, said in a statement: “It comes at a moment of grave urgency, with Israel facing unprecedented attacks from Iran and Ukraine under continued bombardment from Russia.”

The vote on passage of the Ukraine funding was 311-112. Significantly, 112 Republicans opposed the legislation, with only 101 in support.

“Mike Johnson is a lame duck … he’s done,” far-right Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene told reporters afterward.

She has been a leading opponent of helping Ukraine in its war against Russia and has taken steps that threaten to remove Johnson from office over this issue. Greene stopped short of doing so on Saturday, however.

During the vote, several lawmakers waved small Ukrainian flags as it became clear that element of the package was headed to passage. Johnson warned lawmakers that was a “violation of decorum.”

Meanwhile, the House’s actions during a rare Saturday session put on display some cracks in what generally is solid support for Israel within Congress. Recent months have seen progressive Democrats express anger with Israel’s government and its conduct of the war in Gaza.

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AI tracks enigmatic cancers back to origins in new study

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In a groundbreaking development, scientists have unveiled a remarkable AI tool that promises to revolutionise the detection and treatment of metastatic cancers.

These elusive cancers often evade detection until they have already spread to distant organs, posing a significant challenge for diagnosis and treatment. Published in Nature Medicine, the study showcases an AI model developed by researchers at Tianjin Medical University (TMU) in China, led by Tian Fei and Li Xiangchun. Trained on a vast dataset of 30,000 images from 21,000 individuals, the AI model demonstrated an unprecedented accuracy rate of 83% in identifying the origins of metastatic cancer cells found in fluid samples from abdominal or lung regions.

Impressively, the model’s top three predictions included the tumour’s source with a staggering 99% accuracy.

This breakthrough not only surpasses the capabilities of human pathologists but also offers a beacon of hope for the 300,000 people annually diagnosed with cancer at TMU-affiliated hospitals, where approximately 4,000 cases rely on such image-based diagnoses.

By significantly reducing the need for invasive tests and providing timely and accurate predictions, this AI tool could potentially extend the lives of late-stage cancer patients. Faisal Mahmood of Harvard Medical School praises the study’s findings, highlighting the potential of AI as an indispensable assistive tool in healthcare.

Looking ahead, the integration of AI with tissue samples and genomic data holds the promise of further enhancing outcomes for individuals battling metastatic cancers of unknown origins, ushering in a new era of precision medicine and personalised care.

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Surprising Netflix subscriber surge despite price hikes

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Netflix Surpasses Expectations with 9.33 Million New Subscribers in Q1 2024

Netflix stunned analysts and the industry alike with its first-quarter 2024 earnings report, revealing a remarkable surge of 9.33 million paid subscribers, soaring past the anticipated 3.93 million additions and bringing its total subscriber count to an impressive 269.60 million.

This surge follows a record-breaking fourth quarter of 2023, where Netflix added 13.1 million subscribers. Despite this remarkable growth streak, Netflix announced it would cease reporting quarterly subscriber totals from 2025 onward, signalling a significant shift in industry dynamics. Notable contributors to this growth included high-profile releases like the live-action adaptation of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and “3 Body Problem” by the show-runners behind “Game of Thrones.”

Regionally, the U.S. and Canada saw a growth of 2.53 million paid subscribers, while Europe, the Middle East, and Africa added 2.92 million, Latin America saw an increase of 1.72 million, and the Asia-Pacific market experienced a rise of 2.16 million.

Alongside surpassing subscriber expectations, Netflix exceeded financial projections, reporting a 15% increase in revenue from Q1 2023, with diluted earnings per share of $5.28 on $9.37 billion in revenue.

Looking ahead, Netflix forecasts robust financial performance for Q2, with expectations of $9.49 billion in revenue and diluted EPS of $4.68, aiming for revenue growth of 13% to 15% for the full year 2024, reflecting a bullish outlook on its operational margin.

 

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