The extent of the Baltimore Bridge damage aerial view

Deadly Baltimore Bridge Incident, Moscow Terror Attack, and More

by Kiril Krastanoff

MIRA’s Weekly SHTF event review covers a wide range of breaking news topics, including new details about the deadly bridge collapse in Baltimore that have come to light, along with estimates of the repair time and other impacts to maritime shipping to the eastern seaboard and transportation along the ultra-strategic I-95 corridor.

In the wake of the horrific terrorist attack in Moscow, new evidence has emerged about ISIS-K and the threat this shadowy and lethal force poses to the world.. 

There’s more news about chemical pollutants in the United States, and new concerns are arising about the health risks of ethylene oxide sterilization.

In India, massive protests have rocked New Delhi, the capital, following the arrest of an opposition leader. There’s a cocoa crisis in Ghana, as well as a breakthrough achievement in brain-computer interface technology.

There’s a lot to digest all over the world, so let's dive right in:


Table of Contents

  • 01

    Deadly Bridge Collapse in Baltimore

  • 02

    Terrorist Attack in Moscow Concert Hall

  • 03

    ISIS-K Threat Increases Worldwide

  • 04

    Rising Health Risks of Ethylene Oxide Sterilization

  • 05

    Massive Protest in New Delhi Objects to Arrest of Opposition Leader Before Election

  • 06

    Ghana's Cocoa Crisis Drives an Increase in Global Chocolate Prices

  • 07

    Neuralink Patient Plays Chess Using Brain Chip

Deadly Bridge Collapse in Baltimore

Aftermath of bridge collapse (Image courtesy of Scott Olson)

A terrifying incident unfolded in Baltimore last week when a major highway bridge collapsed after a cargo ship lost power and rammed into a support column. 

The Francis Scott Key Bridge, a vital 1.6-mile artery over the Patapsco River, crumbled in a matter of seconds, plunging the span into the waters below.

Here are the latest developments on the incident: 

  • The tragedy claimed at least six lives. Two construction workers were pulled from the wreckage alive, but four others remain missing and are presumed dead. 
  • Search efforts were hampered by the unstable debris of the bridge wreckage, and hazardous materials leaking from containers aboard the wayward ship into the surrounding waters..
  • The collapse severed a critical transportation link, causing significant disruptions to the Port of Baltimore, one of the nation's busiest. 
  • The economic impact is expected to be substantial, with losses estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
  • The investigation is in its early stages, but initial findings suggest that the crash was caused by a mechanical failure on the cargo vessel rather than by any deliberate act of terror or sabotage..

The extent of damage aerial view (Image courtesy of Jim Watson)

The long-term effects of the bridge collapse will be even more profound. Rebuilding the bridge is a complex undertaking that could take many months if not years.

Investigators are poring over all of the data about the final moments leading to the crash that toppled the bridge. According to air traffic control recordings, the cargo ship issued a desperate "mayday" call shortly before impact, reporting a complete loss of power.

The ship's captain had a clean record, and no suspicious activity was detected prior to the incident.  The focus of the investigation remains firmly on the possibility that either equipment malfunctions or human error on board the vessel caused the crash.

Despite this, the ship's owner has already filed a petition to limit corporate liability and the slew of lawsuits that are bound to emanate from this tragedy.

Initial examination of accident (Image courtesy of Jim Lo Scalzo, Shutterstock)

Reconstruction Efforts Are Underway - Might Take A Long Time

The White House issued a statement pledging to “move heaven and earth” to assist the process of rebuilding the bridge. U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, however, said that it is too soon to give estimates concerning the timeline and costs of the needed repairs and new construction.

Terrorist Attack in Moscow Concert Hall

Moscow Concert Hall victim memorial (Image courtesy of Xinhua News Agency)

The catastrophic March 22nd, 2024, terrorist attack that targeted the Crocus City Hall concert venue in Moscow has left deep scars on the city and the world. Heavily-armed terrorists gunmen stormed the venue and opened fire on the spectators, tossing explosives into the crowds. The attack claimed the lives of 133 people and injured over 100 more.

The Islamic State – Khorasan Province, also known as ISIS-K, claimed responsibility for the bloodshed. This attack marked a significant escalation in ISIS-K's external operations, as the group had been less active in recent times, and especially outside of Afghanistan.

The United States reportedly warned Russia about the possibility of such an attack beforehand, but the details of this alleged warning remain unclear. In the aftermath of the tragedy, the international community offered condolences to Russia and issued widespread condemnation of the lethal attack..

Latest developments: 

  • After apprehending the four terrorists attempting to flee the country, pre-trial detention for some suspects has been extended, suggesting a lengthy legal process ahead.
  • Authorities continue to focus on the attackers' origins. The four suspects, identified as Tajik nationals, are alleged to have received external funding and assistance. 
  • Additionally, nine people in Tajikistan were detained for suspected contact with the attackers.

Russia's security forces continue the search for answers after a massive investigation to apprehend everyone involved and prevent future attacks.

ISIS-K Threat Increases Worldwide

Image of ISIS Members in Syria (Image courtesy of Medyan Dairieh/Corbis)

The recent Moscow concert hall attack serves as a grim reminder that the threat posed by ISIS-K, the Islamic State's Afghan branch, is far from over. While the group's overall numbers have dwindled in the years following America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan in the summer of 2021, ISIS-K remains a threat and now has become an international concern.

ISIS-K's Resurgence:

Despite suffering setbacks at the hands of the Taliban and US forces, ISIS-K appears to be regaining strength and reemerging with objectives beyond Afghanistan.

Experts point to their increasing brutality and widening range of operations, including the 2022 bombing of the Russian embassy in Kabul, and January 2024 bombings in Iran (at a memorial service for Quds Force commander Qassim Suleimani assassinated four years earlier in a US drone strike).

They are, of course, known best for the suicide bombing at Kabul International Airport in 2021 that killed 13 US servicemen and scores of Afghan civilians hoping to flee the country before the Taliban takeover.

Looming Terror Attacks?

Silhouette of soldiers (Image courtesy of Envato)

In July 2023, the security forces of Germany and the Netherlands arrested seven Tajik, Turkmen, and Kyrgyz men who were suspected of plotting ISIS-K attack in Germany. General Michael Kurilla, US CENTCOM (Central Command) commander, warned that ISIS-K's ability to launch external attacks in Europe and Asia should raise global security concerns. 

The US withdrawal from Afghanistan has undoubtedly hampered intelligence-gathering efforts inside ISIS-K’s home base, making it harder to pinpoint specific threats. 

 Why Would ISIS-K Be Targeting Russia?

The Moscow attack highlights ISIS-K's growing animosity towards Russia. It's possible that the group views Russia as complicit in the oppression of Muslims (due to Russia’s military campaign in Syria to prop up the regime of Bashar al-Assad). Additionally, ISIS-K may have members from Central Asia with specific grievances against Moscow.

While details of the ISIS-K concert hall bombing are still emerging, it's clear that ISIS-K has emerged as a global terror threat.

Rising Health Risks of Ethylene Oxide Sterilization

Image courtesy of Envato

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has implemented stricter regulations on ethylene oxide, a chemical used to sterilize medical equipment, due to its heightened cancer risk. This action comes after years of growing concern about the health of communities residing near industrial sterilization facilities.

Carcinogenic Effects

The EPA now recognizes ethylene oxide as a far greater threat than previously understood.  Prolonged exposure to the gas can significantly increase the risk of cancer, particularly breast cancer and forms of lymphoma, and has introduced new guidelines to reduce the cancer causing emissions ( EPA announces new limits to reduce ethylene oxide emissions | The Texas Tribune)

Impact on Local Communities

Commercial facilities map in the US (Image courtesy of Casey Chine / Earthjustice)

People living close to these facilities have faced a disproportionate risk of developing cancer over time, according to the American Lung Association. These facilities release fumes of ethylene oxide that the EPA labels as “one of the most potent cancer-causing chemicals.”

  • The EPA identified 23 sterilization facilities that posed a specific risk to nearby communities.  Laredo, Texas, is mentioned as a community that fought against a sterilization plant's emissions.  

The Union of Concerned Scientists emphasizes that minority communities and non-English speakers have been particularly vulnerable to exposure. Authorities say that once the emissions will be reduced, air quality in those communities will show signs of significant improvement.

Massive Protest in New Delhi Objects to Arrest of Opposition Leader Before Election

People holding the Indian national flags (Image courtesy of Envato)

Thousands of protesters flooded the streets of New Delhi, chanting slogans and waving banners in a thunderous demonstration against what they see as an attack on democracy. 

The protest highlights the high stakes of the upcoming general elections, where nearly a billion Indians are poised to cast their votes in what is hailed as the world's largest democratic exercise.

At the center of the uproar lies the arrest of Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of Delhi and a key challenger to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

What we know so far: 

  • Kejriwal's detention stems from allegations of corruption, but  the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and his supporters vehemently deny the charges, calling them politically motivated. 
  • At least four other political opponents of Prime Minister Modi are currently under investigation, with some alleging that this is to influence the election results.

Democracy advocates see Kejriwal’s arrest and the subsequent extension of his custody as part of a broader pattern – a deliberate attempt to silence dissent and consolidate power.

Ghana's Cocoa Crisis Drives an Increase in Global Chocolate Prices

Farmer holding cocoa beans (Image courtesy of Envato)

Ghana's cocoa industry, a cornerstone of the nation's economy, is in crisis. According to a recent report by Reuters, cocoa farms are being ravaged by a combination of factors – illegal gold mining that destroys fertile land,  the harsh impacts of climate change,  and the spread of crop diseases.

These challenges have led to a drastic decline in cocoa harvests. Ghana and its neighbor, the Ivory Coast, who together supply over 60% of the world's cocoa crop, experiencing significant shortfalls.

This crisis isn't just impacting chocolate lovers; it's having a devastating effect on millions of Ghanaian cocoa farmers. Their livelihoods are threatened by the dwindling harvests,  and the future of the cocoa industry in Ghana hangs in the balance.

Here is how this perfect storm could impact the global trade:

  • The ripples of this crisis are being felt globally.  Chocolate manufacturers are facing a limited cocoa supply, pushing bean prices to record highs.
  • This translates to rising production costs, which are likely to be passed on to consumers in the form of increased chocolate prices.

While some predict a potential shift in the global cocoa market, with countries like Ecuador filling the void with increased production, this transition won't be immediate, meaning consumers can expect to see pricier chocolate for the foreseeable future.

We must remember that finding solutions to these global warming and over-use of the land challenges are crucial, not just to ensure a stable supply of chocolate but also to protect the economic well-being of countless Ghanaians who depend on cocoa for survival and ensure political stability in the West African nation.

Neuralink Patient Plays Chess Using Brain Chip

Image courtesy of Envato

Rounding out the SHTF news update on a positive note, Neuralink has showcased the remarkable capabilities of its implant in a landmark achievement for brain-computer interface technology.

The implant recipient, Nolan Arbaugh, who suffers from paralysis after a diving accident, controlled a cursor on-screen to make moves, proving the potential of Neuralink to restore independence and communication for individuals with motor function disabilities.

  • Arbaugh was the first human recipient of Neuralink to demonstrate the ability to play chess using only his thoughts.
  • This breakthrough offers a glimpse into a future where brain-computer interfaces can revolutionize the lives of millions.
  • Arbaugh's success story is a beacon of hope, paving the way for further research and development in this rapidly evolving field.

Beyond entertainment applications like chess, this technology has the potential to assist with daily tasks, control prosthetic limbs, and even enhance human-computer interaction in groundbreaking ways.

Frequently Asked Questions

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