Ukrainian Air Strikes Hit Military Performance in Russia
Let's start with Russia, where an actress has been killed by a Ukrainian airstrike in the middle of a performance to Russian troops. Polina Menshikh was giving a show to the troops in a dance hall in the village of Kumykov, which is near the frontline in Donetsk, to celebrate a Russian military holiday. During the performance, the dance hall, which is capable of seating around 150 people. A video showing the moment the strike hit was uploaded to social media. Menshikh is seen singing and playing the guitar before an explosion is heard and the lights in the hall go out. Ukraine claimed that as part of this strike, around 20 Russian soldiers were killed. For their part, Russian authorities have not commented on this claim. Ms. Menshikh was taken to hospital where she died of her injuries. Pro-war Russian bloggers have used the incident to criticize the organization of the show, saying that a concentration of dozens of soldiers in one place made it an obvious target for Ukraine. In response to this incident, portal, a theater studio in Saint Petersburg who's associated with Ms. Menshikh, said that they would dedicate a performance of a play that she'd directed to her memory.
Far-Right Wins Dutch Election
Yesterday, voters in the Netherlands went to the polls for a general election without outgoing long time Prime Minister Mark Rutte on the ballot. So let's take a look at the results. Surging into first place is the right wing Populist Party for freedom, or PVV, led by Geert Wilders, a longtime player in Dutch politics known for his anti-Islam and anti-immigration views. His party ended up on 37 seats, up from the 17 they won at the last election in 2021. His manifesto, called for banning mosques and the Quran, as well as holding a referendum on leaving the EU. Aka Nexit. In second place with 25 seats is the new center left Green Labor Alliance, which campaigned primarily on the issue of climate change, housing affordability and minority rights. This was led by Frans Timmermans, former foreign Minister and the European Commissioners ex climate chief, known for his work on the European Green Deal. Close behind them with 24 seats, ten seats lower than in 2021 is the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy, or VVD, which is the party formerly led by Mark Rutte, which until this year had won every election in the country since 2010.
Rutter was succeeded as party leader this year by his justice minister, Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius, who led the VVD into this election, hoping to become the country's first female prime minister. In fourth place with 20 seats is new social contract, a brand new party led by popular former Christian Democrat politician Pieter Omtzigt, who came to prominence in part for his role in exposing the childcare benefit scandal which brought down Mark Rutte's previous government. In 2021. Omtzigt campaigned on transparency, government reform and democratic overhaul, but also favors limiting immigration. There were then 11 other parties who finished with less than ten seats. Despite a strong first place finish, Wilders will face a significant challenge in actually forming a new government, mainly because his PVV party has long been very contentious. And ahead of the election, the other major parties had expressed their reluctance to be ruled out entering government with him. But having come first by a significant margin, it's hard to see how a coalition could form without the PVV. And as Wilders himself said, his party has become too big to ignore. He's also signaled that he's willing to compromise on some of his policies in order to form a working coalition. Perhaps the most plausible outcome is a right wing coalition led by the PVV, including the VVD and New Social Contract, which together would have 81 seats, five more than the 76 required for a majority in the 150 seat lower chamber. But as usual in Dutch politics, government formation will be a long process.
UK Tax Cut Promises
Moving to the UK now, where Chancellor Jeremy Hunt gave his autumn statement. In this, hunt took the opportunity to cut taxes and provide some respite to those in the UK still struggling with the cost of living crisis. As part of this, hunt said that the main 12% rate of employee National Insurance contributions will be reduced down to 10% starting on the 6th of January 2024. In total, this means that around 28 million people will save on average, around £450 per year. In addition to this, hunt also promised to increase the national minimum wage to £11.44 an hour for the first time. This will also be extended to 21 year olds. Hunt also promised to maintain the triple lock on pensions, which guarantee that pensions should rise each year in line with earnings, prices or by 2.5%, whichever is higher. He confirmed that pensions would rise this year by 8.5%. Notably, the Chancellor didn't scrap or even reduce inheritance tax, something he was under pressure to do, both by the right wing press and by some of his right wing colleagues in the Conservative Party.
Deep Space Explorer's Health Risk
Moving to Space Now, where new research released on Wednesday this week has found that galactic cosmic rays and to a lesser extent, microgravity, can impair the functions of erectile tissues in male astronauts. Moreover, the effect from this can last potentially for decades. This is an area that has so far been lacking research. Us researchers, who are part of the study, said that they discovered a new health risk to consider with deep space exploration. The good news, though, is that certain antioxidants may actually help to counteract these harms. About this, Dr. Justin Lafaver from Florida State University said that functional improvements induced by acutely targeting the redox and nitric oxide pathways in the tissues suggest that the erectile dysfunction may be treatable, considering that space agencies such as NASA are currently preparing for a manned trip to the moon and then Mars in the near future, it's also important that the effect of space travel on humans is as fully understood as possible. Generally, astronauts are given protection from the cosmic radiation from space. However, they still experience in one week about as much radiation as a person on the ground would experience in a year.