Ukraine thwarts a major missile attack
Ukrainian officials said their country’s air defense system had intercepted six hypersonic Kinzhal missiles aimed at Ukraine’s capital, Kiev. If confirmed, this would be further evidence of Ukraine’s ability to shoot down one of Russia’s most advanced weapons.
The strike was one of Russia’s largest airstrikes since March: Ukraine said Russia had fired an “exceptional” blitz of missiles and drones at Kiev but shot down all of the Kinzhals. Russia said a missile hit an American-made Patriot system.
The problems that have plagued Russia’s 15-month war since its inception are only getting worse: limited resources, disorganized defenses and divisions in the ranks. It seems to be bad weeks for President Vladimir Putin.
The Russian military has already been forced into multiple withdrawals and has been largely bogged down along its 600-mile front line since last year. Russian troops were recently pushed back from positions on the outskirts of Bakhmut, in eastern Ukraine, where two colonels were lost in battle, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. And Ukraine’s long-awaited counter-offensive has not even begun.
Yet Putin’s determination indicates that he is preparing for a war that could last for years.
Analysis: In Russia’s authoritarian system, the policies of the leaders do not have to agree with the people. “They have enough leeway to continue the criminal war,” said one expert.
Another setback for the opposition in Cambodia
Cambodia has disqualified the main opposition party, the only credible challenger to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s governing party. After 38 years in power, Hun Sen is laying the groundwork for his eldest son to succeed him after the July general election.
Hun Sen has held onto power through the courts, electoral manipulation, intimidation and a coup. This latest move comes after the government took action to protect itself earlier this year. In February, it closed Voice of Democracy, one of Cambodia’s few remaining outlets with critical coverage. In March, Kem Sokha, the country’s leading opposition politician, was sentenced to 27 years in house arrest.
The election prospects: Hun Sen’s party currently holds all 125 seats in parliament after government-controlled courts disbanded its main challenger for the 2018 election. This time, the National Elections Commission approved only parties that were either aligned with Hun Sen or too obscure to pose a serious threat in the July 23 election.
China’s lead on electric car batteries
Despite billions in Western investment, China is so far ahead in making batteries for electric cars that it could take decades for the rest of the world to catch up.
Here’s how China controls every step of lithium-ion battery production, from getting the raw materials to making the cars.
Mining: China has worked its way to a cheap and steady supply of essential rare minerals needed to make the batteries. It controls 41 percent of the world’s cobalt, mainly by owning mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Investments in Indonesia will help China become the top controller of nickel by 2027, a consultancy said.
Refinement: Regardless of who mines the minerals, almost everything is shipped to China to be refined. Chinese companies are supported by the government with cheap land and energy, and can refine minerals at a higher volume and lower cost.
Components: China makes most of the parts that go into a battery. It recently invested in a cheaper alternative to the cathode, the battery’s positive terminal. These cathodes now account for half of the market.
Edit: China makes the most batteries – and the most cars. Labor costs are lower and there are more equipment manufacturers, so the country can build battery factories at nearly half the cost of others in North America or Europe, one expert said.
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Many Japanese who are unmasking after three years notice that their facial expressions are a bit rusty. So some have hired a laughter coach. An hour-long session is based on yoga and focuses on strengthening the cheekbone muscles, which pull at the corners of the mouth.
ART AND IDEAS
South Korean ‘no-kids zones’
South Korea has the lowest birth rate in the world. But parents say the government isn’t making it any easier to have children: Hundreds of restaurants, museums and other public facilities have been designated “no-child zones.”
The child-free zones have popular support. A 2022 survey found that 73 percent of respondents were in favor of them. “Usually I go to cafes to study. I don’t want to be disturbed by crying children,’ said one student.
But one legislator is calling on the government to ban the policy. “Living with a child isn’t easy,” she said while holding her toddler at the National Assembly, which is also a child ban. “But we still need to create a society where we can live together with our children.”