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Hard Numbers: Birds clash with cartels, Danes reject “poison” spice, Saudis welcome Hajj pilgrims, Underwear graft allegations expose South Korean pol

A Turquoise Tanager sitting on a branch.

A Turquoise Tanager sitting on a branch.

Imago images
45: The Golden-cheeked warbler — a colorful, endangered songbird — has a cocaine problem. It is one of at least 45 North American migratory bird species whose key habitats in Central America are under threat from narco-traffickers, according to anew study in Nature. How do cartels hurt birds? By cutting down trees to build airstrips, processing facilities, or money-laundering cattle ranches.

1.5 million: Saudi Arabia said that at least 1.5 million pilgrims havealready arrived in Mecca as part of the annual Hajj, which begins Friday. Authorities say they expect this year’s numbers to exceed las year’s 1.8 million, but it’s unclear whether they’ll reach the pre-pandemic level of 2.4 million from 2019. Making the Hajj at least once is a requirement for all Muslims who are financially and physically able.

3: It’s not rotten, but something is burning in Denmark! The country hasofficially recalled three South Korean ramen noodle brands after government regulators determined that the packets contained “poisonous” levels of chili pepper spice. The manufacturers say there are no health risks and that their products haven’t been recalled in any other countries. A bland provocation from the Danes, if you ask us.

8 million: The next sentence is a journey, so buckle up — South Korea’s main opposition leader, Lee Jae-myung, hasbeen indicted on graft charges for conspiring to use an underwear company to funnel $8 million to North Korea as part of a scheme to bribe Pyongyang into inviting him for a high-profile visit when he was a provincial governor in 2019. Lee, who narrowly lost the presidential election in 2022, is still considered a front-running candidate for 2027.


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