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Ukraine Launches Counteroffensive to Retake Territories Amid Growing Concerns Over Putin’s Next Move 



Ukrainian military forces and defiant citizens are fighting hard against Russian aggressors as President Putin’s efforts to make further inroads stall.

Ukraine Counteroffensive

The Ukrainian military said Tuesday that it has recaptured Makariv, a strategically significant town near the capital city of Kyiv, and expelled Russian forces.

The announcement comes as Ukrainian forces have launched a strong counteroffensive to reclaim areas seized by Russia, specifically in the southern parts of the country like Mariupol, where fighting has raged on as the city continues its refusal to surrender.

The military is not alone in its efforts to fight back. Citizens have also engaged in acts of public defiance, particularly in areas that Russian forces occupied early in the war.

In Kherson, residents of the city held peaceful protests against the Russian occupation Monday. Verified video footage and photos showed Russian soldiers responded by opening fire on the nonviolent demonstrations.

Kherson, specifically, is highly important to Russia as control of the city is key to its effort to take over the south. The region also provides strategic significance because of its coastline and proximity to Crimea.

Continued Push for Negotiations As Concerns Over Putin Mount

Amid persisting battles, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has continued his push for peace talks and again called for direct negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has so far refused.

Speaking to Ukrainian broadcasters late Monday night, Zelensky said that he would consider dropping Ukraine’s bid to join NATO — which is one of the most important Russian demands —  if Russia agrees to a cease-fire, withdraws its troops, and guarantees Ukraine’s security.

He also suggested that he would be open to discussing the status of Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, as well as parts of the breakaway Donbas region that is currently held by Russian-backed separatists.

Zelensky’s remarks come as Western countries are becoming increasingly worried that Putin may be willing to turn to deadly unconventional weapons as his war efforts begin to stall.

On Monday, U.S. President Joe Biden warned that the Russian leader could use biological and chemical weapons in Ukraine, though he did not provide any evidence. The president also confirmed that Russia has used hypersonic missiles that travel faster than five times the speed of sound, suggesting they did so to make up for stalemates on the ground. 

Russia Ramps up Crackdowns on Dissent

Beyond possible attacks Russia may be planning, the country has also been scaling up its crackdown on dissent within its own borders.

On Monday, a Russian court banned Meta — the parent company of Facebook and Instagram — for engaging in “extremist activities.” The move comes after Meta decided earlier this month that it would allow some calls for violence against Russian soldiers.

Under the ban, which notably excludes the Meta-owned messaging platform WhatsApp, the parent company will be blocked from conducting business operations in Russia effective immediately.

Facebook and Instagram will also be banned in the country, though they were already blocked.

Russia followed that decision on Tuesday by amending an already restrictive censorship law previously used to block Facebook in the country. Under the new changes, “discrediting” the activities abroad of all government bodies will now be made illegal. Previously, the policy just applied to the military.

Anyone who violates the law by spreading “false information” about the invasion can be punished with up to 15 years in prison. 

Also on Tuesday, another Russian court sentenced the famous opposition leader Alexei Navalny to nine years in prison on fraud charges widely viewed as false and politically motivated.

Experts say the new punishment for the already imprisoned leader — who has urged his fellow Russians to protest the invasion —  is clearly just an attempt by the Kremlin to keep Navalny behind bars and control the narrative of the war while preventing any possible defiance.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Associated Press)


200 Children Seeking Asylum in the U.K. Are Missing 



The missing include at least 13 children under the age of 16. 

Children Missing From Hotels

There are 200 asylum-seeking children missing from government care in the United Kingdom according to the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Home Office.

When children are seeking asylum in the U.K. alone or separated from their parents, the government puts them up in hotel rooms for temporary accommodation. They have done so since 2021 and have temporarily accommodated 4,600 children in that time. However, Simon Murray, the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Home Office, said that 200 of the children placed in those hotels are missing, including at least 13 who are under the age of 16.

In response to this information, a collection of more than 100 charities sent a letter to the Prime Minister demanding the end of the procedure of placing kids in hotels over safety concerns. The letter says that these children are at risk of trafficking and exploitation by staying in these hotels alone.

Other officials have echoed these concerns, claiming these hotels are targets for organized crime where people use these vulnerable children for labor or trafficking.

Parliament Calls Incident “Horrific”

Murray told the House of Lords on Monday that despite the media reports, his department does not know of any kidnapping cases, though they are investigating. He went on to say there are many reasons why children go missing. 

However, lawmakers were not appeased by Murray’s assurances. In a later debate, one member of Parliament called the missing cases “horrific” and another said that it was “putting children at risk.”  The children’s commissioner for England also reportedly chimed in asking for, quote “assurances on the steps being taken to safeguard the children.” 

Murray went on to say that the use of hotels for asylum-seeking children will hopefully be phased out as soon as possible but did not give a timeline. 

The nonprofit Refugee Council called on the government in a tweet to spare no expense in the location of these missing kids.

See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (The Guardian) (The Telegraph)

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100,000 U.K. Nurses Launch Biggest Strike in NHS History



Opposition leader Keir Starmer called the strike “a badge of shame on this government.”

The NHS Grinds to a Halt

Some 100,000 members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the United Kingdom’s largest nursing union, launched a historic 12-hour strike Thursday after the government refused to negotiate on higher pay.

The work stoppage, which spans England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, is only the second in the RCN’s 106-year history and the largest the NHS has ever seen. It marks the breaking point for many underpaid nurses and the culmination of a years-long decline in the NHS’s quality of care, put under increasing stress by severe staffing shortages.

Although most NHS staff in England and Wales received a pay rise of around £1,400 this year, worth about 4% on average for nurses, they say it has not kept up with inflation as Britain plunges deeper into a cost-of-living crisis.

When inflation is accounted for, nurses’ pay dropped 1.2% every year from 2010 to 2017, according to the Health Foundation.

Meanwhile, the number of patients waiting for care has reached a record 7.2 million in England, or over one in eight residents, more than double what it was seven years ago.

In July, the cross-party Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee estimated the staffing shortfall could be as high as 50,000 nurses and 12,000 doctors, what one MP called the “greatest workforce crisis in history.”

Many nurses argue that boosting pay will help hospitals recruit more staff.

The RCN demanded a pay raise 5% above the retail rate of inflation, which amounts to a 19% increase, but both Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the government’s health secretary have claimed that’s not affordable.

During Thursday’s strike, partial staffing continued to remain open for urgent care such as chemotherapy, kidney dialysis, and children’s accident and neonatal units.

Sunak and Starmer Brawl in Parliament

Labor leader Keir Starmer grilled Sunak during Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on the upcoming strike.

“Tomorrow will be the first-ever nationwide nurse’s strike,” he said. “All the Prime Minister has to do to stop that is to open the door and discuss pay with them. If he did, the whole country would breathe a sigh of relief. Why won’t he?”

“We have consistently spoken to all the unions involved in all the pay disputes that there are,” Sunak replied. “Last year, when everyone else in the public sector had a public sector pay freeze, the nurses received a three-percent pay rise.”

Starmer fired back: “Nurses going on strike is a badge of shame for this government. Instead of showing leadership, he’s playing games with people’s health.”

Sunak called Starmer’s demand that he reopen negotiations with the RCN “just simply a political formula for avoiding taking a position on this issue.”

“If he thinks the strikes are wrong, he should say so,” Sunak said. “If he thinks it’s right that pay demands of nineteen percent are met, then he should say so. What’s weak, Mr. Speaker, is he’s not strong enough to stand up to the union.”

While Starmer has called on Sunak to negotiate with the RCN, he has not explicitly backed the 19% pay raise himself.

Unless the government returns to the bargaining table, the RCN plans to launch a second round of strikes on Dec. 20 to be followed by ambulance strikes that Wednesday and the next.

If the government still refuses to budge, the union said in a statement that nurses will strike for longer periods in more places starting in January, disrupting more health services.

Other industries are also set to see work stoppages this month, including workers on railways, buses, highways, and borders, as well as teachers, postal workers, baggage handlers, and paramedics.

See what others are saying: (BBC) (CNN) (The Guardian)

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Fortnite Developer Sued By Parents for Making the Game as “Addictive as Possible”



One child mentioned in the lawsuit played over 7,700 rounds of Fortnite in two years.

Epic Games Sued 

A Quebec City judge recently approved a 2019 class-action lawsuit accusing Fortnite developer Epic Games of deliberately making Fortnite addictive.

The parents who brought forward the lawsuit claim their children have become so obsessed with the game that in some cases, they’ve stopped eating, showering, or socializing. The lawsuit claims that these kids have played thousands of games since Fortnite’s release in 2017. In one example, a teenager played over 7,700 games in less than two years. 

If the lawsuit succeeds, players addicted to Fortnite living in Quebec since September 2017 could receive compensation. The plaintiff’s attorney, Philippe Caron, reports that over 200 parents outside the lawsuit have reached out to him, saying their child’s well-being has diminished since downloading Fortnite. He told The Washington Post that they are very confident about their case. 

Epic Games Responds

“We plan to fight this in court,” Natalie Munoz, a spokesperson for Epic Games said to The Post, “We believe the evidence will show that this case is meritless.” 

Munoz also said that Fortnite does allow parents to supervise their child’s playtime and require permission for purchases.

The parents involved in the lawsuit are claiming that they were not aware of the dangers playing Fortnite could pose for their children. 

“If she had been informed by the defendants of the risks and dangers associated with the use of FORTNITE,” the lawsuit says of one guardian. “She would have categorically refused to allow the game to be downloaded.” 

See what others are saying: (BBC) (The Washington Post) (Deadline

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