‘Like a tiny kitten waiting to pounce:’ Inside the cult of cute

A Hello Kitty installation at Somerset House, London. The exhibition features artworks and cultural phenomena such as music, fashion, toys, video games and social media, to examine the world’s fascination with cute culture.

A Hello Kitty installation on show at a new London exhibition examining the world’s fascination with “cute” culture. David Parry/PA Wire/Courtesy Somerset HouseCNN — 

A fluffy, doe-eyed kitten adorned with a rainbow and a unicorn horn may, at first glance, stir up images of childishness or innocence. However, this cute creature is more powerful than it may first appear.

From pets to children to wide-eyed toys, social media filters, emojis and internet memes, “cuteness” is one of the most prominent aesthetics of our digitally saturated age, and a veritable industry in itself. Made popular by its seemingly unthreatening nature, cute’s quest for world domination suggests there is more to the phenomenon than its charming exterior might imply.

How cuteness has taken over our world — and why — is a subject being explored in “Cute,” a new (and the first ever) exhibition devoted to the movement at London’s Somerset House.

"Hello Love" by Hattie Stewart on display at Somerset House, London,

“Hello Love” by Hattie Stewart on display at Somerset House, London, David Parry/PA Wire/Courtesy Somerset House

“By creatively unpacking cute’s many guises, we can not only understand something about ourselves … but also about how we relate to each other and the world around us,” said Somerset House’s director of exhibitions, Cliff Lauson, at the show’s opening.

The origins of cute

It started with cats. When Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the internet, was asked to name one use of the internet he did not anticipate, he answered with a single word — “kittens.”

It’s evocative of how Claire Catterall, senior curator at Somerset House, described cuteness in a speech to open the exhibit: “Like a tiny kitten waiting to pounce, its power and influence has slowly crept up on us.”

Artist Andy Holden's collection of 300 china cats left to him by his grandmother titled "Cat-tharsis" is also on display at Somerset House, London,

Artist Andy Holden’s collection of 300 china cats left to him by his late grandmother titled “Cat-tharsis” is also on display. David Parry/PA Wire/Courtesy Somerset House

Cats, naturally, feature prominently in “Cute,” from the famed and colorful 19th-century drawings of artist Louis Wain — credited with changing the way the Edwardian British public felt about felines by portraying cats as lovable, playful creatures doing things humans did, such as having tea or celebrating Christmas — to artist Andy Holden’s contemporary collection of eclectic feline figurines left to him by his late grandmother (titled “Cat-tharsis”). Both capture the key tenets of cute: being unthreatening and adorable.

Baby_01

David LaChapelle’s controversial high fashion hurricane, two decades on

Joshua Dale, author of “Irresistible: How Cuteness Wired our Brains and Conquered the World,” believes there’s an innate psychological reason we’re drawn to these qualities. Seeing something cute, “gets the brain ready for certain kinds of behaviors associated with caregiving,” he told CNN.

There’s a sociological drive, too. The roots of the widespread adoption of cuteness lie in the 19th century, when lowering child mortality and a decreased birth rate meant childhood came to be regarded as a cherished experience and something to be prolonged. The Industrial Revolution and the rise of mass production allowed cuteness to be unleashed on the world — toys, books and illustrations could, increasingly, be made easily and cheaply.

The exhibition examines the enduring appeal of the cute aesthetic amongst adults and asks deeper questions about its allure.

The exhibition — a world first — examines the enduring appeal of the cute aesthetic amongst adults and asks deeper questions about its allure. David Parry/PA Wire/Courtesy Somerset House

Cute began being marketed to American adults in the 1950s, notes Isabelle Galleymore, a poet and consultant for the exhibition. American women, then newly equipped with jobs and disposable income en masse, became part of the consumer class. Products such as “soft toys or blankets with cute designs on them” were designed to “supposedly tap into women’s maternal instincts,” she told CNN.

The ‘kawaii’ effect

Integral to the global phenomena of cute, the exhibition asserts, is “kawaii,” a Japanese word which literally translates as “cuteness.”

According to the exhibition, modern kawaii culture was born in 1914 when artist and illustrator Yumeji Takehisa opened a shop in downtown Tokyo selling accessories and stationery with Western motifs such as mushrooms and castles designed to appeal to schoolgirls.

Two rats took a series of selfies in a project devised by Augustin Lignier.

Say cheese: Rats like taking selfies too

For Simon May, a professor of philosophy at King’s College London and author of “The Power of Cute,” kawaii is just part of a story which involves the country of Japan more broadly. “(It’s) the first and so-far only country to present itself to the world as cute,” he said of the nation, a stance he attributed in large part to the “peaceable, unthreatening image,” Japan sought to present to the world after 1945, repudiating militarism and power.

Of course, no exploration of kawaii would be complete without the global phenomenon and “ambassador to cuteness,” as the exhibition affectionately calls her: Hello Kitty.

One of Louis Wain's famous images of cats. The Edwardian artist is credited with increasing the cute appeal of our feline friends by giving them human hobbies and pastimes.

One of Louis Wain’s famous images of cats. The Edwardian artist is credited with increasing the cute appeal of our feline friends by giving them human hobbies and pastimes. Courtesy Bethlem Museum of the Mind/Somerset House

Born of turbulent times after Japan’s first oil crisis in the 1970s, Hello Kitty was created as a character to help sell new products. And sell she did, appearing on everything from sneakers and paper towels to chopsticks, airplanes and panini makers. In 2015, analysts estimated Hello Kitty accounted for roughly 75% of parent company Sanrio’s $142 million annual operating profit, and that it brought in most of the company’s yearly $600 million in revenue.

So carefully protected are her now-classic features that, the exhibition notes, a rare version of the mouthless doll produced with an open mouth was enough to spark controversy amongst fans. However, the Japanese cute phenomenon has not always been as saccharine as it may at first appear. As the 20th century progressed and cute’s power grew, the movement also began to explore darker, more critical themes. Take the explosion of rebellious streetstyle in Tokyo — so-called “Harajuku style” — often seen as a pushback against Japan’s strict societal norms. “(There is) something really empowering about the kawaii-inspired fashions of Japan” said Galleymore, as they’re not just sweet but often contain combinations of “cute and grotesque imagery.”

An escape from life’s realities

Cute is also touted as a response to life’s complexities. The exhibition installation “Sugar-coated pill,” which features cuddly toys produced by banks and pharmaceutical companies, explores how cuteness is sometimes deployed to soften the unpalatable — financial challenges, for example, or illness.

A "fancy notebook" from the 1960s by pioneering female illustrator Setsuko Tamura who encapsulated the style of kawaii.

A “fancy notebook” from the 1960s by pioneering female illustrator Setsuko Tamura who encapsulated the style of kawaii. Courtesy Yayoi Museum/Somerset House

Scottish artist Rachel Maclean’s 2021 mixed media piece “!step on no petS Step on no pets!,” meanwhile, depicts distorted unicorns dancing among flames in an unsettling yet innocent fairytale world. Embracing this duality is part of what makes the exhibition unique, said Maclean, adding: “It offers the chance to explore the complexity and ambiguity embedded within the seemingly simple and charming.”

Cute’s power to give the workaday some escapist glitz can also be seen on https://berdasarkanapa.com an individual level every day via phone filters that turn us into squishy avatars, glossing over our adult features, enlarging our eyes, pinking our cheeks and changing our online identities at the touch of a button.

While cute might, in many ways, still be seen as trivial, what is fascinating about it is how it maintains such a hold on our modern world. “It’s fascinating as a window into the zeitgeist,” May told CNN, “For what it tells us about who we are.”

AI ‘resurrects’ long dead dictator in murky new era of deepfake electioneering

An AI-generated deepfake of the late dictator Suharto has sparked debate about using AI technology for political gain.

An AI-generated deepfake of the late dictator Suharto has sparked debate about using AI technology for political gain. Erwin Aksa/XCNN — 

A once-feared army general, who ruled Indonesia with an iron fist for more than three decades, has a message for voters ahead of upcoming elections – from beyond the grave.

“I am Suharto, the second president of Indonesia,” the former general says in a three-minute video that has racked up more than 4.7 million views on X and spread to TikTok, Facebook and YouTube.

While mildly convincing at first, it’s clear that the stern-looking man in the video isn’t the former Indonesian president. The real Suharto, dubbed the “Smiling General” because he was always seen smiling despite his ruthless leadership style, died in 2008 at age 86.

The video was an AI-generated deepfake, created using tools that cloned Suharto’s face and voice. “The video was made to remind us how important our votes are in the upcoming election,” said Erwin Aksa, deputy chairman of Golkar – one of Indonesia’s largest and oldest political parties. He first shared the video on X ahead of February 14 elections.

Michal Simecka, a progressive politician in Slovakia, was target of a deepfake audio in  a tight election race last year he ended up losing.

RELATED ARTICLEA fake recording of a candidate saying he’d rigged the election went viral. Experts say it’s only the beginning

The party is one of 18 competing in this year’s race, which will see more than 200 million voters head to the polls. Golkar is not fielding its own presidential candidate but has thrown its support behind frontrunner Prabowo Subianto, a former army general under Suharto’s military-backed regime – and also his former son-in-law.

By bringing a long dead leader back to life just weeks before the vote, Golkar’s intentions were clear: to encourage voters to throw their weight behind the party synonymous with Suharto.

“As a member of Golkar, I am very proud of Suharto because he successfully developed Indonesia,” Aksa wrote on X. “He brought a lot of success. We must respect it and remember his services – Golkar was there.”

But online critics decried the act of using a dead man’s face and voice, especially for political propaganda. “This is the state of our country today – bringing dead dictators back to life to fool and scare us into votes,” wrote one Indonesian on X.

“Since when did it become ethical to create deepfakes out of dead people? It feels so morally wrong,” said another.

Voting in the era of deepfakes

The online world plays a huge role in Indonesian politics. In a country with one of the world’s highest internet usage rates, almost all political parties and politicians maintain strong presences on social media to amass followers and clout.

indonesia-young-voters-card-image.jpg

RELATED ARTICLEHow Indonesia’s future is in the hands of young voters, in 5 charts

“Deepfakes can greatly influence an election – the way campaigning is done, as well as the results,” said Golda Benjamin, Asia Pacific campaign manager at Access Now, a US digital rights non-profit.

“The danger lies in how fast it spreads. A deepfake can easily reach millions in seconds, swaying and manipulating (millions of) voters.”

In the lead-up to this year’s vote, observers told CNN that many major parties had turned to AI and used a variety of different deepfakes for political gain.

The Golkar-produced Suharto video was just one of dozens featured in official party campaigns, they said.

Supporters of presidential candidate Ganjar Pranowo at a rally in Jakarta on February 3, 2024.

Supporters of presidential candidate Ganjar Pranowo at a rally in Jakarta on February 3, 2024. Darryl Ramadhan/NurPhoto/AP

Presidential frontrunner Prabowo Subianto greets the crowds at a rally at the Baharuddin Siregar stadium in Lubuk Pakam, North Sumatra on February 7, 2024.

Presidential frontrunner Prabowo Subianto greets the crowds at a rally at the Baharuddin Siregar stadium in Lubuk Pakam, North Sumatra on February 7, 2024. Muhammad Zulfan Dalimunthe/AFP/Getty Images

Following public criticism, the campaign team of three-time presidential hopeful Prabowo Subianto, also Indonesia’s current defense minister, admitted to using AI software to give their chief a cuddly animated makeover on TikTok to appeal to young voters. Indonesians aged 40 and younger – who number around 114 million voters – make up the majority of votes.

In another video that attracted intense criticism, AI-generated children were used by the party in a TV commercial to skirt rules banning children from appearing in political campaigns.

“The technology used is so advanced … We can understand if some people mistook (the children) as real characters,” Budisatrio Djiwandono, Prabowo’s nephew and spokesperson for his nationalist right-wing Gerindra Party, said in a statement after the advertisement was called out by watchdog groups.

Indonesia President Joko Widodo presents his national statement during day two of COP26 at SECC on November 1, 2021 in Glasgow, United Kingdom.

RELATED ARTICLEIndonesia’s President says he regrets country’s bloody past as victims demand justice

The party of former Central Java Gov. Ganjar Pranowo enlisted an interactive AI chatbot to engage with potential voters. AI photos made by supporters, have also been used by Ganjar’s party in his campaign. CNN has reached out to representatives from Ganjar’s Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP) for comment.

The third presidential candidate, former Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan, whose campaign makes use of an OpenAI-powered chatbot that answers questions about his policies on WhatsApp, has cautioned against the use of AI in the election after he became the victim of an audio deepfake in January. A doctored conversation of Anies, purportedly being chastised by a political backer, made rounds online.

“We have to be critical because now there is AI technology which can generate audio or visuals that can appear real,” Anies told a campaign rally later that month.

Indonesia’s Communications Ministry issued advisories following several viral AI videos, warning tech companies and voters to be cautious of deepfakes. But efforts have not been enough, watchdog groups told CNN.

TAPP (Tim Advokasi Peduli Pemilu), a Jakarta-based nonprofit, said that videos like the Suharto deepfake showed AI’s potential for voter manipulation.

“The government is still not aware of the dangers of deepfakes,” said spokesperson Gugum Ridho Putra.

“We know what AI is capable of and this is only the beginning,” he adds. “We are concerned about voters being manipulated, especially so close to the election.”

A souvenir T-shirt bearing Suharto's image with a message in Javanese that reads: "Wasn't it better during my era?"

A souvenir T-shirt bearing Suharto’s image with a message in Javanese that reads: “Wasn’t it better during my era?” Rahmat Pribadi/AFP/Getty Images/File

The ‘ghost’ of Suharto

Suharto’s 32-year dictatorship is considered by international rights organizations to be one of the most corrupt and brutal periods in Indonesia’s history.

Thousands were jailed or killed during his rule as he cracked down on critics and political opponents, and enforced his regime’s rule over East Timor, Aceh, West Papua and the Maluku islands.

Discussion of his rule remains largely taboo in Indonesia and opinions about his legacy are mixed.

But in places like Kemusuk, a village near Yogyakarta where he was born, his image is everywhere – from museum memorabilia celebrating his life to the souvenir T-shirts with his smiling face. Now he has found renewed fame online.

“The video’s virality speaks to his legacy and shows https://berdasarkanapa.com how relevant he is in Indonesia today,” said Soe Tjen Marching, an Indonesian author-composer and academic at SOAS University of London. “He has been dead for many years but still has many supporters,” she added. “His ghost still lingers.”

But for those like retired officer Anton Pratama, 55, who grew up during the Suharto years, the dictator’s reappearance “was disarming.”

“It is not so much about seeing him again, or believing he is still alive,” Anton told CNN, adding that his son had shown him the video. “The fear is that Suharto, and his ideology, are becoming popular in the country again.”

Hang a picture of Jason Kelce shirtless in The Louvre? This man thinks so

Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce celebrating his brother's touchdown for the Kansas City Chiefs on January 21.

Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce celebrating his brother’s touchdown for the Kansas City Chiefs on January 21. Kathryn Riley/Getty ImagesCNN — 

At a game, fans often see something happen – was it that dunk or that crazy tackle? – that looks strangely familiar. It may look like one they have seen earlier in the season, or was it something they may have seen on their last trip to the museum?

Social media account ArtButMakeItSports connects the dots. The account’s creator, LJ Rader, has spent the last five years matching some of sports’ most iconic moments with artwork masterpieces.

The results show that the resemblance between art and sports is often uncanny.

For Rader, this just started as a hobby, sharing posts with a small following of mostly friends. He says: “I tend to see things through a sports lens, and I guess art is no different for me. I just love sports in general… and for a long time, I’ve had an appreciation of art.”

Rader would visit museums in New York, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and take photos of anything that grabbed his attention. Over the years, he has collected at least 8,500 snaps of artwork.

“I’ve banked this information in my head. I’ve pretty much memorized that folder on my phone… [if] some moment is going viral or the photo is going viral, then I’ll take that and work to find the art,” he explains.

‘Capturing something AI can never do’

Indiana's Kel'el Ware dunks on Iowa's Owen Freeman in an NCAA basketball game on January 30 in Bloomington, Indiana.

Indiana’s Kel’el Ware dunks on Iowa’s Owen Freeman in an NCAA basketball game on January 30 in Bloomington, Indiana. Darron Cummings/AP

Behind the posts, there isn’t an automated computer mind at work either. Instead, Rader just gets to work with the weekend sports and his phone’s gallery folder, full of artwork.

He says: “Using AI to do the matchups, I don’t even know why I would ever even do that. It kind of takes the fun out of it and takes away the reason why I have the account. It sort of extracts out the soul of what I do.

“When I get accused of using AI, it’s partly flattering. Part of it is kind of scary, this destruction of what is truth that we’re dealing with as a society.”

And despite the leaps and bounds made by AI in recent years, it still has a long way to go when capturing emotion. Rader says: “I try to also hit on sometimes a more layered approach and humorous approach, capturing hopefully something AI can never do.”

The emotion found in the sporting moment and the artwork remains key. Rader continues: “You’re trying to capture some of, potentially, the same movement but also the same emotion … It can go deeper than just, ‘This image looks like this other image.’ It has to feel like that other image.”

And these ideas boil down to what makes sports photography a piece of art too. “I see sports photography as an artistic expression. [Sports photographers] are artists in their own right,” says Rader.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa stands back to pass as Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons is held back by Miami's offensive line on Christmas Eve 2023.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa stands back to pass as Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons is held back by Miami’s offensive line on Christmas Eve 2023. Rebecca Blackwell/AP

Are sport and art all that different?

Since starting ArtButMakeItSports, Rader says the audience has been small for the most part. “For a long time, I was just posting into the abyss of a handful of my friends, my mom’s friends,” he recalls.

Growth was slow but steady, until the account gained more attention during the 2022 NFL playoffs. And interest in Rader’s work skyrocketed this year after Jason Kelce’s bare-chested appearance at the Kansas City Chiefs’ 27-24 win against the Buffalo Bills in January. Over the last month, the account has grown by roughly 25%.

Rader says: “The NFL tagged me in that photo and they said, ‘What do you think?’ which is pretty wild. That blew up and just kept the momentum going.” The Kelce brothers themselves also saw The Feast of Bacchus (1654) by Philips Koninck comparison and featured it on their podcast.

And now, Rader can rely on his following to do some of the legwork too. He says that the community of followers send him a constant flow of suggestions: sometimes good, sometimes bad. Conveniently, it means he can take his eye off sports when he needs to.

Manchester City forward Lauren Hemp goes down with an injury during the Barclays Women's Super League match against Liverpool FC on January 21.

Manchester City forward Lauren Hemp goes down with an injury during the Barclays Women’s Super League match against Liverpool FC on January 21. Naomi Baker/Getty Images

Going forward, Rader wants to make sure he is covering all his bases when it comes to sport. “I try to have a pretty nice balance across the board of men’s and women’s sports and some of the stuff I don’t know anything about like cricket.”

The creator also wants to bring artwork and sport closer together. He says: “The account shows they’re not so different, and maybe we need to reexamine what we think somebody is capable of. Somebody can like art and sports, it’s not that big of a stretch.

“I get a lot of messages saying, ‘This brings me closer to my spouse because I like art and they like sport,’ or, ‘I’ve learned a lot about art, I’ve been going to more museums.’”

Of course, Rader has his predictions https://berdasarkanapa.com for this month’s Super Bowl too. “Honestly, I’m just rooting for good content and an interesting halftime show. But I’ll say Chiefs 27, 49ers 24. I just hope it’s a chaotic and interesting game,” he says.

After all, wouldn’t we all love to see a roaring Jason Kelce matched with a renaissance painting on our social media feeds again?

Russian anti-war election candidate barred from running against Putin

Boris Nadezhdin is seen at the Central Election Commission meeting in Moscow on February 8, 2024, as he is barred from standing in Russia’s presidential election.

Boris Nadezhdin is seen at the Central Election Commission meeting in Moscow on February 8, 2024, as he is barred from standing in Russia’s presidential election. Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty ImagesCNN — 

Anti-war candidate Boris Nadezhdin has been barred from standing in Russia’s presidential election next month, in a move that further clears the country’s political landscape of opponents to Vladimir Putin.

The decision was made during a ruling on Thursday by the Central Election Committee (CEC) of Russia, the body tasked with registering and verifying potential candidates.

According to the CEC, Nadezhdin only collected 95,587 legitimate signatures, 5,000 short of 100,000 benchmark.

Nadezhdin has disputed the CEC claims regarding the signatures and said he will appeal the refusal of his registration to the Supreme Court. He also said he would dispute the committee’s regulations.

“No one has any doubt that hundreds of thousands of people really signed for me. There is no doubt about it,” Nadezhdin said following the ruling. “We will appeal the regulations and the collection procedure itself.”

But the move indicates that he will join a number of anti-war activists to be isolated from Russia’s political scene, as Moscow prepares for a presidential election that international observers consider a mere formality.

Boris Nadezhdin speaks to journalists following the Central Election Commission ruling.

Boris Nadezhdin speaks to journalists following the Central Election Commission ruling. Natalia Koleasnikova/AFP/Getty Images

Nadezhdin, a former State Duma MP who intended to run as an independent candidate from the Civic Initiative party, has a staunch anti-war stance and openly challenges Putin’s policies, positioning himself as the sole presidential hopeful willing to openly oppose the invasion of Ukraine.

Thousands had lined up in cities across Russia and elsewhere in Europe since early January to give their signatures in support of Nadezhdin, with volunteers collecting expats’ signatures in cities from London and Paris to Georgia’s capital Tbilisi.

But his campaign struck difficulties when the CEC working group claimed to have identified over 15% invalid signatures in the paperwork required to run for president, exceeding the permissible 5% for registration.

He then failed in an effort to have the meeting on his participation moved to Saturday. Nadezhdin argued that he needed additional time to thoroughly examine the concerns and prepare his counterarguments.

On Thursday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov reacted to the commission’s unanimous ruling, saying, “There are certain criteria that a candidate must meet. What we heard from the Central Election Commission today is that [there] was a large number of flaws in the signatures. Therefore, an important criterion has not been met.”

Fears for safety

The decision will raise further concerns about the sidelining and targeting of political opponents in Russia, a feature of Putin’s four terms as president that has intensified since he launched Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Nadezhdin last month told CNN that his family feared for his safety, in a reference to the sidelining of those who oppose Putin. He said that after “a very big discussion with my family,” he decided to stand for election.

After considering the issue, “we decided this for my family and for my children, for my grandchildren, (it) will be better if Russia will be peace(ful) and (a) free country.”

The Kremlin had sought to dismiss the relevance of Nadezhdin’s expected candidacy in recent weeks, with Peskov telling journalists last month: “We do not consider him as a rival.”

But his efforts had attracted attention. Nadezhdin announced he had delivered 105,000 signatures to the CEC last month –  the maximum allowed by law – for his official candidacy.

Speaking to independent Russian news channel RTVI last week, Nadezhdin said that should he win he would not send Putin to face a war crimes tribunal and insisted that he would get a “pension and government protection.”

Boris Nadezdhin standing in front of boxes with 105,000 signatures collected in support of his presidential bid

Boris Nadezdhin standing in front of boxes with 105,000 signatures collected in support of his presidential bid. Boris Nadezhdin/Telegram

The Kremlin leader is running for a fifth term as Russia’s president in next month’s election. There are four candidates set to be on the official ballot – Putin, Vladislav Davankov, Nikolai Kharitonov and Leonid Slutsky.

Davankov is deputy chair of the Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament. Kharitonov is a member of the Communist Party; and Slutsky represents the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, the party previously lead by ultra-nationalist firebrand Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who died in 2022. All are considered to be reliably pro-Kremlin.

But Putin is expected to secure a term that will keep him in office until 2030; he is now the longest-serving ruler of Russian since Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

In his 24 years as the dominant figure in Russian politics, Putin has marginalized his political opponents and muzzled the country’s press. Russia’s tightly managed democracy allows for little real political competition and presidential elections have essentially become plebiscites that showcase Putin’s popular approval.

Writing on social media, opposition activist Leonid Volkov dismissed the elections as a “circus,” saying they were meant to signal Putin’s overwhelming mass support. “You need to understand what the March ‘elections’ mean for Putin. They are a propaganda effort to spread hopelessness” among the electorate, Volkov said on Thursday.

In December, another independent candidate who openly spoke out against the war in Ukraine, Yekaterina Duntsova, was rejected by the CEC, https://berdasarkanapa.com citing alleged errors in her campaign group’s registration documents. Duntsova later called on people to support Nadezhdin’s candidacy.

In January, shortly after expressing her intent to create her own political party, Duntsova reported being briefly detained by traffic police and randomly drug-tested. Opponents of the Kremlin have often alleged the fabrication of criminal charges through the planting of drugs.

Scientists now think they know why tardigrades are so indestructible


A microscopic tardigrade, or water bear, appears in its active state. Blickwinkel/Alamy Stock Photo

Sign up for CNN’s Wonder Theory science newsletter. Explore the universe with news on fascinating discoveries, scientific advancements and more.CNN — 

Tardigrades, also known as water bears, commonly survive in some of Earth’s most challenging environments. The microscopic animals are so extraordinary that they have even traveled to the International Space Station for research.

When the going gets rough, the astonishingly hardy creatures are capable of entering a form of suspended animation, called the “tun state,” for decades. Now, researchers say they have unlocked the mysterious mechanism that activates the animals’ survival mode — and the work could have implications for humans — according to a new study.

illustration of a water bear

Crashed spacecraft may have left tiny but tough creatures on the moon

Under stress in extreme cold or other harsh environmental conditions, tardigrades’ bodies produce unstable free radicals of oxygen and an unpaired electron, aka a reactive oxygen species that can wreak havoc on the body’s proteins and DNA if they overaccumulate. (Yes, this oxidative stress is the same physiological event humans experience when stressed and why health experts suggest you eat loads of blueberries and other antioxidant foods when having a hard week at work.)

The survival mechanism kicks off when cysteines, one of the amino acids that forms proteins in the body, come into contact with these oxygen free radicals and becomes oxidized, the researchers found. That process is the signal that lets the tardigrade know it’s time to go into the protective mode of tun. The free radicals become, so to speak, the hammer used to smash the glass on a fire alarm.

The findings were published January 17 in the journal PLOS One.

The revelation could eventually help in the development of materials that can respond to harsh conditions such as deep space or therapies that could disarm cancer cells, said lead study author Amanda L. Smythers, a postdoctoral research fellow at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

An illustration shows a tardigrade in its dormant state when it goes into the protective mode of "tun" against stressors.

An illustration shows a tardigrade in its dormant state when it goes into the protective mode of “tun” against stressors. RoyaltyStockPhoto/Science Photo Library RF/Getty Images

‘A eureka moment’

In unforgiving habitats as varied as Antarctica, mountain peaks and deep-sea vents, tardigrades facing extreme temperatures or dehydration will retract their eight arms and decrease the amount of water they’re storing.

The water bears shrink to one-quarter of their normal size. The usually linear and somewhat chunky-looking invertebrates transform into protective, dried-out balls in the tun state, lying dormant in environments that would kill most other life-forms.

Smythers and researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, first started looking at this phenomenon thanks to a growing body of literature that suggested cysteines were involved in kicking off the tun process, she said.

“When we were looking at the list of all these crazy circumstances that tardigrades can survive — space, in a vacuum, a high salt concentration like when an ocean starts evaporating — the one thing that really connected all of these things were reactive oxygen species,” Smythers said. “It was actually a bit of a eureka moment.”

01 tardigrade glow

When this creature faces deadly radiation, glowing is the only option

Over the past decade, researchers have started to understand that reactive oxygen species, free radicals that were once considered completely “problematic,” Smythers said, may be “really important for our bodies to work and be able to adapt to different stresses.”

Earlier studies said that instead of the free radicals helping initiate the tun process as protection against stressors, tardigrades were protecting themselves from free radicals. The body’s production of free radicals, Smythers and her coauthors found, is instead part of the process of helping the tardigrade protect itself by curling into a hard-shelled ball resistant to extreme heat, cold or other environmental factors.

“We came up with this idea (that) maybe it’s those species that are actually signaling to the tardigrades to enter their tun state,” she said.

First, an off-the-books experiment

Before setting up the longer process used in the study, Smythers called on an undergraduate to help do a quick experiment and test her early hypothesis about reactive oxygen species and their role in starting tun formation.

The microscopic invertebrates live in habitats as diverse as Antarctica, deep-sea vents, mountain peaks and tropical rainforests. Two active water bears are shown.

The microscopic invertebrates live in habitats as diverse as Antarctica, deep-sea vents, mountain peaks and tropical rainforests. Two active water bears are shown. Amanda Smythers

Smythers asked the student to head to a drugstore and get some peroxide — a common free radical. With Smythers watching the experiment on FaceTime, the student dropped some peroxide on a water bear to see what would happen.

“All of a sudden, it started squeezing in. Its legs started going into its body. It started shrinking down. It became the quintessential tun that we know to expect,” Smythers said.

How tardigrades’ secret could help humans

The research wasn’t done just to find out how the animals fare in cruel environments they often live in. Smythers said the findings could help researchers develop materials that can respond to harsh conditions — such as the engineering of firefighter gear that could create a protective shell when conditions get too extreme — or the development of better chemotherapeutics to destroy malignant tumors by interrupting the protective measures that make cancer cells so challenging to kill.

Artistic reconstruction of Paradoryphoribius chronocaribbeus in moss.

Tiny rare fossil found in 16 million-year-old amber is ‘once-in-a-generation’ find

The finding is exciting to Dr. William R. Miller, a research assistant professor at Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas. Miller, who has studied and written about tardigrades, was not involved with this research.

“That would be superb, finding other ways that these mechanisms can be used to control cancer,” Miller said.

Miller said he was impressed with Smythers’ ability to https://berdasarkanapa.com imagine ways the tardigrade research could be implemented for cancer research and other areas. He said it takes another “level of mind and thinking to find the translocation of one technique or one combination of things to a very distant one. We need more of that.”

23andMe is low on cash and its stock is worth pennies. The CEO wants another chance

A 23andMe Ancestry + Traits Service DNA kit arranged in Dobbs Ferry, New York.

A 23andMe Ancestry + Traits Service DNA kit arranged in Dobbs Ferry, New York. Tiffany Hagler-Geard/Bloomberg/Getty ImagesNew YorkCNN — 

Just three years ago, DNA testing company 23andMe was the golden child of Wall Street and Silicon Valley. Today, the firm is at risk of being delisted from the Nasdaq.

But 23andMe’s CEO, Anne Wojcicki, tells CNN that Wall Street shouldn’t count her out yet.

Despite the firm’s initial popularity, the former tech unicorn’s funds have dried up and its value has dropped a stunning 96% since its peak share price of $17.65 in February 2021.

Ad Feedback

Shares of 23andMe are now priced at about $0.70, and in November the company was informed that it was in violation of Nasdaq rules that require a company to maintain a stock price above $1. That means it has about three months to bring the price up or risk being delisted.

“We’re very aware of this,” Wojcicki told CNN on Thursday evening. “We’re making the necessary changes to make the business sustainable, and then it’s going to be about growing it again.”

Deep roots in Silicon Valley

23andMe broke barriers when it first launched in 2006. At the time, scientists estimated that it would cost about $14 million to sequence a human genome.

Wojcicki has Silicon Valley in her DNA. She grew up on the campus of Stanford where her father taught physics. Her mother is known as the “Godmother of Silicon Valley” for teaching the children of tech titans at Palo Alto High School for decades and publishing How to Raise Successful People, based on her own daughters. Susan Wojcicki, Anne’s sister, is the former CEO of YouTube. Her ex-husband, Sergey Brin, co-founded Google.

Anne Wojcicki, chief executive officer and co-founder of 23andMe Inc., speaks during the 2020 Makers Conference in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020.

Anne Wojcicki, chief executive officer and co-founder of 23andMe Inc., speaks during the 2020 Makers Conference in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. Kyle Grillot/Bloomberg/Getty Images

When she saw an opportunity to change the business of genetics, she took it. Wojcicki and her co-founders bet that they could provide consumers with health and ancestry data by sequencing just some of their genome for under $1000 (they eventually brought the price down to under $100).

Their bet paid off. The company’s retail DNA test was named “Invention of the Year” by Time Magazine in 2008, and their DNA database blew up with more than 100,000 customers by 2011.

They went public in 2021, and their market capitalization soon soared to $6 billion.

After soaring early, a sharp and painful descent

But 23andMe’s fortunes have shifted.

The company recently came under fire for security breaches that impacted 6.9 million users and has struggled to find a way to keep customers engaged with its products after they’ve used the one-time DNA kit. Wojcicki says she and 23andMe are now heavily focused on drug development, but that’s an expensive and risky endeavor that could take decades to pay off.

Of more immediate concern: The company has yet to turn a profit, and 23andMe could run out of money as early as next year.

Enter your email to subscribe to the CNN Business Newsletter.

Wojcicki says the problem has more to do with a downturn in the biotech sector than internal issues.

“We did layoffs last year,” said Wojcicki, referring to the three rounds of cuts and the sale of a subsidiary that reduced her staff by about a quarter. “But we’re not alone in this biotech downturn. And so what you have to do is you have to cut back and you have to prioritize on the programs that you think are the most important.”

“We’ve been caught in the downturn along with the entire industry,” said Wojcicki. “We’re absolutely exploring what our options are to prioritize our best assets…we can’t do everything we’ve done. That’s what happens in this kind of market.”

But the company’s drop isn’t tracking with the sector. The SPDR S&P Biotech ETF, which tracks the biotech sector, has fallen by about 5.2% over the past year. Shares of 23andMe are down 75.4% over the same period.

However, Steven Mah, a managing director at TD Cowen who tracks 23andMe, says that he still rates the stock a “buy.” He believes that negative headlines and poor sentiment have led the company to trade well below its fair value.

There’s still untapped value in its pharmaceutical discovery arm, he told CNN, and good news in that sector could quickly catalyze the stock upward.

A future in drug discovery

Wojcicki says that the future of 23andMe is in harnessing their DNA database to find cures or treatments for cancer and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and Crohn’s disease.

In 2018, 23andMe agreed to a five-year exclusive drug development partnership with GSK (formerly GlaxoSmithKline). The London-based pharmaceutical and biotechnology company also invested $300 million in the company. In 2022, GSK exercised an option to pay $50 million and extend the exclusive contract for another year. Last October, GSK paid the company another $20 million for a nonexclusive data license.

Most of the data 23andMe has collected isn’t available to the public. That makes it hard to analyze the company’s value, said Mah. But these deals give important hints about the company’s viability as a DNA data provider.

“GSK can see [the data] but I can’t see it, and investors can’t see it,” he said. “But the fact that GSK is doubling down and extending their partnership suggests that they’re getting a value add from the platform.”

A sign is posted in front of the 23andMe headquarters on February 01, 2024 in Sunnyvale, California. Genetic testing company 23andMe, once valued at $6 billion, is facing the possibility of delisting from NASDAQ.

A sign is posted in front of the 23andMe headquarters on February 01, 2024 in Sunnyvale, California. Genetic testing company 23andMe, once valued at $6 billion, is facing the possibility of delisting from NASDAQ. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

So far, the partnership between GSK and 23andMe has produced more than 50 new drug targets. Two have already made their way to early-stage trialsOnly about one in every thousand potential drugs makes it to human trials in the United States.

The payoff for a successful drug could be huge, but successful development can take decades and costs hundreds of millions of dollars.

But a lot of what the company has achieved has been overlooked, said Wojcicki.

“Because we cannot [contractually] speak much about what has come from [our partnership with] GSK, people just give it zero value,” she said. “There’s a lot of really exciting things that came out of it.”

Six years of ongoing partnership between the two companies should indicate that “there was incredible value,” she said. “It’s really transformed [GSK’s] entire drug discovery process.”

Still, the deal between the two companies is no longer exclusive, and 23andMe has yet to announce partnerships with any other pharmaceutical companies. Mah sees that as a concerning sign that’s contributing to weakness in the stock, but he remains hopeful.

“It’s something 23andMe is focused on. They said they are in discussions with Big Pharma and it’s just taking some time…I do believe that they can sign up new partners,” he said.

GSK did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“Don’t count us out”

23andMe is on the right path, said Wojcicki. “The vision and where we’re going is solid, but the path to get there is more turbulent.”

Wojcicki is certain that genetic sequencing will transform healthcare and drug discovery, and that 23andMe is in a position to https://berdasarkanapa.com take full advantage of that when it happens.

But drug discovery is a very long process and it can be anywhere from 10 to 15 years on average from target discovery to an FDA-approved drug.

The question is whether investors are willing to wait that long.

Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton to leave Mercedes and join Ferrari ahead of the 2025 season

SUZUKA, JAPAN - SEPTEMBER 22: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes walks in the Paddock prior to practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on September 22, 2023 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Hamilton walks the grid ahead of last year’s Japanese Grand Prix. Clive Rose/Getty ImagesCNN — 

Seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton will leave Mercedes and join Ferrari for the 2025 season, the teams announced on Thursday.

In a statement on X, formerly Twitter, Mercedes said that Hamilton, who was contracted with the team until the end of 2025, “has activated a release option in the contract announced last year.”

Ferrari, meanwhile, announced that the British driver would be joining the team on a “multi-year contract.”

In a statement on the Mercedes website, Hamilton said: “I have had an amazing 11 years with this team and I’m so proud of what we have achieved together.

“Mercedes has been part of my life since I was 13 years old. It’s a place where I have grown up, so making the decision to leave was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make.

“But the time is right for me to take this step and I’m excited to be taking on a new challenge.”

The 39-year-old, who shares the record for the most F1 world titles with Michael Schumacher, joined Mercedes in 2013 after starting his career with McLaren in 2007.

A glittering period followed for the British driver, during which he won six titles over the course of seven years.

SUZUKA, JAPAN - SEPTEMBER 22: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team W14 on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on September 22, 2023 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Hamilton has been with Mercedes for more than 10 years. Clive Mason/Getty Images

Mercedes has struggled to maintain its dominance in recent seasons, but Hamilton, who finished third in last year’s driver standings, signed a contract extension in August, keeping him at the team until the end of the 2025 season.

However, in a shock move first reported by Sky Sports and Spanish media on Thursday, Hamilton will now join one of the Silver Arrows’ great rivals.

“We knew our partnership would come to a natural end at some point, and that day has now come,” said Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.

“We accept Lewis’s decision to seek a fresh challenge, and our opportunities for the future are exciting to contemplate.”

Mercedes finished second in last season’s constructor standings, three points ahead of Ferrari in third, but both teams were well behind a superior Red Bull team.

Hamilton will join Charles Leclerc at Ferrari in 2025, replacing Carlos Sainz. Writing on X, the Spanish driver confirmed that he will leave the team at the end of 2024 and make an announcement about his future “in due course.”

Speaking to CNN Sport’s Amanda Davies on Thursday, Phil Duncan, a CNN contributor and F1 correspondent with Press Association, said: “Lewis Hamilton’s gone two years without winning [a grand prix], which for him is basically unprecedented, something he’s never had to deal with in his career.

“At the age of 39, he’s probably thinking this is his last big chance, his last big move, and his last chance to drive for https://berdasarkanapa.com Ferrari – a team that’s always appealed to him … This is probably the biggest transfer in Formula One history and it really does breathe new life in the sport.”

New-wave reactor technology could kick-start a nuclear renaissance — and the US is banking on it

US Russia China nuclear race photo illustration

Photo-illustration: CNN/Getty Images/Maxim Shemetov/ReutersCNN — 

Off the Siberian coast, not far from Alaska, a Russian ship has been docked at port for four years. The Akademik Lomonosov, the world’s first floating nuclear power plant, sends energy to around 200,000 people on land using next-wave nuclear technology: small modular reactors.

This technology is also being used below sea level. Dozens of US submarines lurking in the depths of the world’s oceans are propelled by SMRs, as the compact reactors are known.

SMRs — which are smaller and less costly to build than traditional, large-scale reactors — are fast becoming the next great hope for a nuclear renaissance as the world scrambles to cut fossil fuels. And the US, Russia and China are battling for dominance to build and sell them.

The Biden administration and American companies are plowing billions of dollars into SMRs in a bid for business and global influence. China is leading in nuclear technology and construction, and Russia is making almost all the world’s SMR fuel. The US is playing catch-up on both.

There’s no mystery behind why the US wants in on the market. It already lost the wind and solar energy race to China, which now provides most of the world’s solar panels and wind turbines. The big problem: The US hasn’t managed to get an SMR working commercially on land.

Russia's floating nuclear power plant Akademik Lomonosov leaves the service base of Rosatomflot company for a journey along the Northern Sea Route to Chukotka from Murmansk, Russia August 23, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Russia’s floating nuclear power plant, Akademik Lomonosov, leaving the service base Rosatomflot on August 23, 2019. Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

SMRs are potentially an enormous global market that could bring money and jobs to the US, which is trying to sell entire fleets of reactors to countries, rather than the bespoke, large-scale power plants that notoriously go over budget and way past deadline.

While SMRs provide less energy — typically a third of a traditional plant — they require less space and can be built in more places. They are made up of small parts that can be easily delivered and assembled on site, like a nuclear plant flatpack.

ESSENBACH, GERMANY - AUGUST 14: The Isar nuclear power plant, which includes the Isar 2 reactor, stands seen behind residential houses on August 14, 2022 in Essenbach, Germany. Isar 2 is one of the last three still operating nuclear power plants in Germany and all three are scheduled to shut down by the end of this year. However, due to the disruption in energy imports from Russia, politicians and other actors are debating extending the operational life of the plants. Some are advocating an extension until the middle of 2023, while others are pushing for longer. Approximately 80% of people polled among the general public support some kind of extension. (Photo by Alexandra Beier/Getty Images)

RELATED ARTICLEGermany quits nuclear power, closing its final three plants

Most countries are trying to rapidly decarbonize their energy systems to address the climate crisis. Wind and solar now provide at least 12% of the world’s power, and in some places, like the European Union, they provide more than fossil fuels. But there’s an increasing sense of urgency to clean up our energy systems as extreme weather events wreak havoc on the planet and as challenges with renewables remain.

For some experts, nuclear energy — in all forms, large or small — has an important role to play in that transition. The International Energy Agency, which outlined what many experts say is the world’s most realistic plan to decarbonize, sees a need to more than double nuclear energy by 2050.

“There’s definitely a huge race on,” said Josh Freed, who leads the Climate and Energy Program at the think tank Third Way. “China and Russia have more agreements to build all sorts of reactors overseas than the US does. That’s what the US needs to catch up on.”

US targets Russia’s and China’s neighbors

The US is trying to sell SMR technology to countries that have never used nuclear power in their histories. To convince them that SMRs are a good option, they’ll need to pitch hard on safety.

Globally, the construction of conventional nuclear power plants dipped following the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986, and fell again after Japan’s Fukushima disaster in 2011, data from the World Nuclear Industry Status Report shows. They started to tick up soon after, but new projects were heavily concentrated in China.

https://ix.cnn.io/charts/RvNsV/?initialWidth=588&childId=graphic-RvNsV&parentTitle=New-wave%20reactor%20technology%20could%20kick-start%20a%20nuclear%20renaissance%20%E2%80%94%20and%20the%20US%20is%20banking%20on%20it%20%7C%20CNN&parentUrl=https%3A%2F%2Fedition.cnn.com%2F2024%2F02%2F01%2Fclimate%2Fnuclear-small-modular-reactors-us-russia-china-climate-solution-intl%2Findex.html

Most of the world has been cold on nuclear for the past decade or so.

But a nuclear renaissance is coming, the IEA says. The organization predicts nuclear power generation globally will reach an all-time high in 2025. That’s because several traditional nuclear plants in Japan that were put on pause after Fukushima will soon be restarted, and new reactors in China, India, South Korea and Europe will start operating.

It seems that decades-old fears over the safety of nuclear are starting to fade, and people — or their governments at least — are weighing the benefits against the risks, including the problem of storing radioactive waste, which can remain dangerous for thousands of years. That could create a more hospitable market for countries looking to export SMRs.

Drilling operations by Natural Hydrogen Energy LLC in the Midwest of the USA.

RELATED ARTICLEThey went hunting for fossil fuels. What they found could help save the world

If SMRs help boost the popularity of nuclear energy, they could become a powerful way to address climate change. Nuclear power, generally, doesn’t emit planet-warming carbon pollution when used and generates more energy per square meter of land use than any fossil fuel or renewable, according to an analysis by Our World in Data.

At the COP28 climate talks in Dubai in December, the US led a pledge to triple the world’s nuclear energy capacity, which 25 nations have now signed onto. And the US government has earmarked $72 million to its international SMR program, known as FIRST, to provide countries with a whole suite of tools — from workshops to engineering and feasibility studies — to provide them with everything they need to buy an SMR fleet made in America.

But bigger money is coming in the form of loans from state financial institutions, like the US Export-Import Bank and its International Development Finance Corporation, which have offered up $3 billion and $1 billion, respectively. Those have gone to two SMRs in Poland designed by GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, a US-Japanese partnership headquartered in North Carolina.

The US and American companies are also finding success in Southeast Asia — a region where many countries are seeking to loosen their ties with China — as well as central and eastern Europe, where some nations that depend on Russian gas are trying to cut their reliance on Vladimir Putin’s increasingly hostile nation.

https://ix.cnn.io/dailygraphics/graphics/20240118-nuclear-projects-map/index.html?initialWidth=588&childId=graphic-20240118-nuclear-projects-map&parentTitle=New-wave%20reactor%20technology%20could%20kick-start%20a%20nuclear%20renaissance%20%E2%80%94%20and%20the%20US%20is%20banking%20on%20it%20%7C%20CNN&parentUrl=https%3A%2F%2Fedition.cnn.com%2F2024%2F02%2F01%2Fclimate%2Fnuclear-small-modular-reactors-us-russia-china-climate-solution-intl%2Findex.html

These efforts could threaten Russia’s ambitions abroad. Russia has already built or designed nuclear plants — the traditional type — for China, India, Bangladesh, Turkey, Slovakia, Egypt and Iran. Russia is also courting countries with the Akademik Lomonosov in Siberia: The CEO of Russia’s state-owned nuclear company said last year that dozens of countries had expressed interest in Russian-made floating SMRs.

Russia has another edge: its state nuclear company supplies almost all the world’s demand for SMR fuel — enriched uranium known as HALEU.

But the US and UK, among others, are investing in their own fuel production at home. That’s essential — two SMR demonstration projects, one by X-energy in Texas and another by Bill Gates’ TerraPower in Wyoming, were awarded government support to get up and running by 2028. They will need fuel to do so.

China isn’t building many nuclear plants abroad but as the only country to have an SMR in operation on land, it’s in a good position to win a large share of the market.

CHANGJIANG, CHINA - AUGUST 10: Aerial view of the core module of China's Linglong One, the world's first commercial small modular reactor (SMR), installed on August 10, 2023 in Changjiang Li Autonomous County, Hainan Province of China. Linglong One, which is self-developed by the China National Nuclear Corporation, was installed successfully in Hainan on August 10. (Photo by Luo Yunfei/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images)

An aerial view of the core https://berdasarkanapa.com module of China’s Linglong One, the world’s first commercial SMR, installed on August 10, 2023 in Changjiang Li Autonomous County in Hainan province. Luo Yunfei/China News Service/VCG/Getty Images

It’s very difficult for American nuclear energy companies to compete with those from countries like Russia and China, which have state-run utilities that don’t have to prove their power is economical.

“Our nuclear vendors are competing against cheap, natural gas in the US,” said Kirsten Cutler, a Senior Strategist for Nuclear Energy Innovation at the US State Department. “Abroad, they’re competing against authoritarian-backed entities who are throwing in a lot of political pressure and package deals.”

But Cutler points out that nuclear deals create decades-long relationships with other countries that require trust and benefit from stability.

“Who are you going to have that relationship with? Countries recognize the risks of working with authoritarian-backed suppliers and seek partners that will strengthen their independence and their energy security,” Cutler said. “These are not trivial decisions. They’re really important 50 to 100-year decisions, and they seek the United States.”

Flexing diplomatic muscle

If the US intends to prove it can deliver an SMR, it’s not unreasonable to expect the technology to be economically viable — something the country is struggling to show.

In 2020, Oregon-based NuScale’s SMR design was the first in the country to win regulatory approval. But it announced in November 2023 it was pulling the plug on an Idaho-based demonstration project that could have ushered in the next wave of SMRs. Its costs had nearly doubled, which meant the project wouldn’t have been able to generate power at a price people would pay.

Much like large-scale nuclear plants, NuScale’s primary issue was high costs, as already expensive building supplies converged with tight supply chains, inflation and high interest rates.

It was a major blow to the argument that SMRs would be cheaper and faster to build than traditional reactors.

The Gulf of Mexico and US Gulf Coast at sunset, as seen from the International Space Station.

RELATED ARTICLEThis controversial climate solution could be exactly what the planet needs. Or it could be a colossal disaster

“It certainly dampens the excitement abroad,” said John Parsons, a senior lecturer at MIT and a financial economist focused on nuclear energy. “It makes a big difference in the marketing if the US is out there making it happen. Then people who are interested in nuclear have an easier case in their country.”

In a November statement, NuScale expressed confidence it could keep and find other customers for its power domestically and abroad.

The US is trying to flex its muscle in diplomatic circles to win this race, too.

US climate envoy John Kerry was among the most vocal supporters of nuclear energy at the COP28 climate summit. And according to an analysis by climate consultancy InfluenceMap, the US was the only foreign country to lobby the European Union to include nuclear power in its official list of energy sources the bloc considers “green,” and therefore eligible for central funding. The State Department said it does not comment on diplomatic activities when asked to confirm its lobbying.

U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry gestures during a press conference, at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates December 6, 2023. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry at the COP28 climate conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on December 6, 2023. Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

While the US nuclear industry struggles with budgets and timelines, its rigorous approach to projects may have some payoff.

European allies, for example, trust the US’ Nuclear Regulatory Commission, particularly on safety standards, the Third Way’s Freed said. If an SMR is licensed by the NRC and built in the US, then it “gets the gold seal” of approval from other countries, he added.

But if the US wants to really make nuclear energy from SMRs more economically viable, it will have to take a look at its fossil fuel production.

“The target here is to produce electricity cheaper than coal and gas plants,” Parsons said. These fossil fuel plants are “terribly simple and cheap to run — they’re just dirty,” he added.

Even if there can be a dramatic takeoff in the US’ SMR industry, it will still take years to scale up. It will probably take until the end of this decade to even glean whether it’s viable, said Mohammed Hamdaoui, vice president of renewables and power at research firm Rystad Energy.

And that’s a problem — the scientific consensus is that the world needs to make deep sustained cuts to carbon pollution this decade to ward off catastrophic climate change.

“I don’t see it being a big player in the energy mix until the second part of the next decade,” Hamdaoui said. “It’s going to take time.”

Violent crime prompts State Department travel warning for the Bahamas

Tourists gather at a beach in Nassau, Bahamas, in December 2022.

Tourists gather at a beach in Nassau, Bahamas, in December 2022.Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg/Getty ImagesCNN — 

The US State Department on Friday posted a travel advisory urging Americans to “exercise increased caution” in the Bahamas, citing crime.

“Gang-on-gang violence has resulted in a high homicide rate primarily affecting the local population,” the advisory reads, calling out the most-affected islands of New Providence, including Nassau and Grand Bahama, where Freeport is located.

“Violent crime, such as burglaries, armed robberies, and sexual assaults, occur in both tourist and non-tourist areas. Be vigilant when staying at short-term vacation rental properties where private security companies do not have a presence.”

The Bahamas is now listed at Level 2, Exercise Increased Caution, out of 4 advisory levels.

The State Department advisory comes on the heels of a security alert from the US Embassy in Nassau on January 24 calling attention to 18 murders that have taken place in Nassau since the beginning of 2024. The alert cites gang violence as the primary motive, noting murders have occurred at all hours, “including in broad daylight.”

The alert urges people to exercise “extreme caution in the eastern part of New Providence Island (Nassau)” and also recommends being careful while driving or walking at night, not resisting robbery and other precautions.

In the travel advisory issued two days later, the State Department also urges travelers not to resist any robbery attempts and cautions against opening doors to strangers.

Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis told Bahamian news outlet The Tribune that he does not think the warning will affect tourism. CNN did not immediately receive a response to a request for comment from The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism.

The Bahamas isn’t the only Caribbean destination with an updated travel alert. Jamaica’s advisory was updated on January 23 to include new crime and health information. It is now listed at Level 3, Reconsider Travel.

“Violent crimes, such as home invasions, armed robberies, sexual assaults, and homicides, are common. Sexual assaults https://berdasarkanapa.com occur frequently, including at all-inclusive resorts,” the State Department advisory for Jamaica reads.

The advisory outlines specific crime risk areas in 12 of Jamaica’s 14 parishes. It also highlights difficulties travelers could face in accessing medical services.

Known for heartbreak, unwanted records and a curse, the Detroit Lions are banishing demons with landmark playoff run

20242201-detroit-lions-playoffs-gfx.jpg

CNN/Photo Illustration/Getty Images/APCNN — 

Sixteen years ago, the Detroit Lions made history – but for all the wrong reasons.

In 2008, the organization became the first ever NFL team to go winless through a 16-game season. For one of the league’s longest-tenured franchises after playing its inaugural season in 1934, it was a brutal nadir after years of mismanagement.

While fans expressed their frustration at the team’s malaise – some even turned up at Ford Field with brown paper bags on their heads to signify their displeasure – their passion for the Lions never faltered.

And now, that passion, that support, is finally being rewarded.

With a team built in the city’s image – passionate, full-blooded and always committed – the Lions are one win away from Super Bowl LVIII after a magical, demon-banishing playoff run. The team representing the Motor City is firing on all cylinders.

Now there’s one final roadblock to navigate for the Lions to reach its first ever Super Bowl, which takes the form of the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game on Sunday.

From the depths of 0-16 record to being one win away from a milestone trip to Las Vegas, it’s been quite the journey for the franchise. And one person who’s epitomized the team’s recent revival is wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown.

Drafted in 2021, St. Brown experienced the typical Lions heartbreak in his rookie campaign – during which Detroit started the season 0-10-1 before finishing 3-13-1 in head coach Dan Campbell’s first year in charge.

Since then, St. Brown has blossomed into one of the NFL’s elite wide receivers and has become the perfect microcosm of the Lions’ renaissance.

“We know what the perception is of being on the Detroit Lions,” the 24-year-old St. Brown told reporters after the franchise’s 31-23 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to advance to the NFC Championship.

“But we feel that we have a chance to change things — not just for this year, but for years to come,” added St. Brown, who finished the game against Tampa Bay with eight catches, 77 yards and a touchdown.

Jan 21, 2024; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (14) makes a catch for a touchdown against Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Zyon McCollum (27) during the second half in a 2024 NFC divisional round game at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

St. Brown catches a touchdown against Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Zyon McCollum during the second half of their NFC divisional round playoff game.Lon Horwedel/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

Cursed?

Journalist Dave Birkett has seen it all with the Lions. Not only was he raised in Detroit, but he has been covering the team since 2007 apart from a one-year hiatus to turn his attention to the University of Michigan.

As a result, Birkett has had a first-row seat to the misery that’s often beset the Lions.

Amid all that misery and underachievement, the ‘Curse of Bobby Layne’ has hung over the team for more than 60 years.

According to legend, Layne – the team’s former quarterback – supposedly placed the hex on the franchise after they traded him to the Pittsburgh Steelers following Detroit’s last championship victory in 1957. Layne missed the game through injury.

GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 28: Fans hold signs indicating the impending record of the Detroit Lions during a game between the Lions and the Green Bay Packers on December 28, 2008 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Lions 31-21. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Lions fans hold up signs indicating the impending 0-16 record of their team during their season-ending game against the Green Bay Packers in 2008. The Packers defeated the Lions 31-21.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

However, Birkett isn’t sure how many people actually put that much weight on the curse.

“The ownership trusting in the wrong people for too long, the lack of players frankly, the really good teams and quarterbacks in their division for the past three decades. But again, it was a way sort of to explain: ‘Well, this is why we haven’t done anything in six decades,’” reflected Birkett.

The team has been represented by a number legendary players – from Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson to Matthew Stafford and Charlie Sanders – but success has remained elusive. In a division dominated by the Green Bay Packers and their succession of Hall of Fame-caliber quarterbacks, the Lions had to settle for scraps.

Before this season, the team’s last playoff victory came in 1991 and as a result, the Lions became known for underachieving and suffering defeats in the most heartbreaking fashion.

That mentality changed with the arrival of Campbell.

‘We’re gonna bite a kneecap off’

A former NFL tight end who spent time with the franchise as a player, the 47-year-old Campbell knew what the city valued.

In his introductory press conference when he was hired in 2021, Campbell said the city had been “kicked, it’s been battered, it’s been bruised” in recent years, and his team was to be a source of pride for the people of Detroit.

“None of that matters, and you guys don’t want to hear it anyway. You’ve had enough of that sh*t. Here’s what I do know is that this team is going to take on the identity of this city. This city’s been down and it found a way to get up.

“It’s found a way to overcome adversity. So this team’s going to be built on we’re going to kick you in the teeth, and when you punch us back, we’re going to smile at you, and when you knock us down, we’re gonna get up and on the way up, we’re gonna bite a kneecap off, alright?”

Detroit, formerly a booming city due to it being the home of the US auto industry, was hit hard by the the Great Recession of 2007.

Foreclosures and unemployment spiked, and the city’s population plunged. Five years later, the city filed for the largest bankruptcy in American history.

Sunday’s playoff game alone is projected to boost the Detroit metro economy by $52 million, according to consulting firm Anderson Economic Group.

Oct 22, 2023; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell watches from the sideline during the second quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Campbell watches from the sideline during the second quarter of the Lions’ game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.Mitch Stringer/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

That speech, which some mocked and others praised, came three years to the day before the Lions’ playoff victory over the Bucs.

And Birkett said Campbell’s “passion and honesty” has resonated with the Lions fans, creating a bond between the two.

20241201-lamar-jackson-playoffs-gfx.jpg

RELATED ARTICLEThe ‘most thrilling quarterback in the NFL’: Why Lamar Jackson is in a league of his own

“Who he is in front of the cameras is who he is in team meetings and behind closed doors,” reflected Birkett of that initial media conference. “And really that, I think, that passion of honesty is part of why players believe in him. He resonates with them and he’s not selling them a bill of goods. What he tells them, like, he believes in – and so they believe in him.”

Campbell’s debut campaign didn’t exactly go to plan, but Birkett remembers there being glimpses of green shoots.

The 2022 season also began in sub-par fashion too. But after a 1-6 start, the Lions rallied to win eight https://berdasarkanapa.com of their next 10 games, only being eliminated from the playoffs in Week 18.

More importantly, it built the foundation for this year’s success.

A final stand

January 12, 1992: the last time the Detroit Lions took to the field for an NFC Championship game.

At that time, “Black or White” by Michael Jackson was at No. 1 in the US, George HW Bush was entering his final year as US President and text messaging hadn’t yet been invented.

WASHINGTON DC , JANUARY 12:  Redskins corner back Darrell Green , center, runs an interception back for  touchdown during The Washington Redskins defeat  of the Detroit Lions 41 - 10 in the NFC finals at RFK Stadium in Washington DC, January 12,1992.  (Photo by Rich Lipski/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Cornerback Darrell Green (middle) runs an interception back for a touchdown as the Lions lose to then named Washington Redskins in the NFC Championship in 1992.Rich Lipski/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Campbell has been able to put his fingerprints on the Lions, molding the team in his image as they build through the draft.

Between the development of their homegrown drafted players – St. Brown, Penei Sewell, Ifeatu Melifonwu, Aidan Hutchinson and Alim McNeill have all grown significantly this year and provided key contributions, while rookies Jahmyr Gibbs, Sam LaPorta and Brian Branch have shone in their first campaigns – and the input from veterans like quarterback Jared Goff, the Lions have become the darling of the NFL season.

“They … filled the roster with players in a certain image,” Birkett said. “Guys who were counted out who maybe they believed in, who have this chip on their shoulder, who use that to sort of fuel what they want to be … Part of that is because they’ve silenced a whole lot of doubters and maybe exceeded everyone’s expectations, except probably their own.”

Birkett explains that expectations were high in the organization before the season, but perhaps even those have been exceeded.

They finished this season with a franchise record-equaling 12 wins, clinching their first division title since 1993 and their first playoff appearance since 2016. Following two home playoff wins – in an atmosphere Birkett calls the “craziest” he’s ever experienced – the Lions are one game away from a Super Bowl appearance.

The Lions’ miracle story has gripped Michigan, but also many more casual fans. Birkett says seeing the fanbase engaged in the team’s success after years of toil has been endlessly rewarding, with spectators clamoring for home and away tickets to be part of the journey.

One fan who’s been gripped by the 2023 Lions in his own unique way is Alex Chepeska. Ahead of the current campaign, the die-hard supporter had the words “Super Bowl Champs 2024” tattooed on him, six months before the big game.

“There’s a term in this area called ‘SOL’ – same old Lions – and it’s been like that for basically my entire life. But halfway through last season, things started looking a lot different,” Chepeska told CNN on Thursday.

“By the end of last season, I’d already decided on the tattoo. Seeing them on the HBO show Hard Knocks got me even more pumped… So, I did it.”

INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 12: Jahmyr Gibbs #26 of the Detroit Lions celebrates a touchdown with teammates during the first half against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium on November 12, 2023 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Jahmyr Gibbs celebrates a touchdown with his Lions teammates during the first half against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium on November 12, 2023.Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

“It was (like) seeing the Beatles when they first started playing and you have to be a part of it and you have to see it and tell your friends that you were part of it and you saw it,” added Birkett.

The 49ers stand between Detroit and a trip to Las Vegas. And Birkett isn’t ruling out the team’s magical run continuing.

“I’ve seen enough Disney stories to know those are based off true stories,” Birkett said.

“And this sort of has the feel of one, like everything comes together at the right time for this beat down organization and all of a sudden they rise up when no one expects it and wins the Super Bowl, so I don’t put anything past them.”