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Canadian PM, Justin Trudeau, Wife, Sophie Announce Separation



Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, have decided to separate, according to statements posted online by both of them.

“Sophie and I would like to share the fact that after many meaningful and difficult conversations, we have made the decision to separate,” Trudeau wrote in a message posted to his Instagram account.

Trudeau, 51, and Grégoire, 48, were married in May 2005 and have three children together: two sons, Xavier, 15, and Hadrien, nine, and one daughter, 14-year-old Ella-Grace.

“As always, we remain a close family with deep love and respect for each other and for everything we have built and will continue to build,” Trudeau and Grégoire Trudeau wrote in identical messages. “For the well-being of our children, we ask that you respect our and their privacy.”

Grégoire Trudeau, a former television presenter, has been a prominent presence at Trudeau’s side throughout his political career and became a public figure in her own right as an advocate for several charitable and social causes, including mental health and gender equality.

According to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, Trudeau and Grégoire Trudeau have “signed a legal separation agreement.”

“They have worked to ensure that all legal and ethical steps with regards to their decision to separate have been taken, and will continue to do so moving forward,” Trudeau’s office said.

“They remain a close family and Sophie and the Prime Minister are focused on raising their kids in a safe, loving and collaborative environment.  Both parents will be a constant presence in their children’s lives and Canadians can expect to often see the family together. The family will be together on vacation, beginning next week.”

According to a source with knowledge of the arrangements, Grégoire Trudeau has moved to a separate home in Ottawa and the prime minister will remain at Rideau Cottage. Grégoire Trudeau will also spend time at Rideau Cottage, where their children are expected to live most of the time, and the Trudeaus will share parenting responsibilities, according to the source. Trudeau is expected to speak publicly this week before leaving on vacation with his family.

Trudeau’s parents — former prime minister Pierre Trudeau and Margaret Trudeau — famously separated in 1977. The announcement of Trudeau and Grégoire Trudeau’s separation was extensively covered by international media on Wednesday.

Dominic LeBlanc, a cabinet minister and childhood friend of Trudeau’s, was expected to brief Liberal MPs about the situation on Wednesday afternoon.

As first reported by the National Post, a source confirms that Grégoire Trudeau will no longer take on any official duties and she will not be provided with government staff to manage her own personal appearances.

As recounted in his autobiography, Common Ground, Trudeau and Grégoire Trudeau began dating in 2003. Grégoire Trudeau, the daughter of a stockbroker and a nurse, was a former schoolmate of Trudeau’s late brother, Michel.

The couple became engaged in 2004 and married each other a year later during a ceremony at Montreal’s Sainte-Madeleine d’Outremont church — “by Canadian standards, a sweet and appropriately understated fairy-tale wedding,” was how a writer for Maclean’s described it.

‘Our marriage isn’t perfect’

Both Trudeau and Grégoire Trudeau spoke at times candidly about their relationship and the challenges of marriage.

“Our marriage isn’t perfect, and we have had difficult ups and downs, yet Sophie remains my best friend, my partner, my love,” Trudeau wrote in Common Ground, which was published in 2014.

Grégoire Trudeau told an interviewer in 2015 that “no marriage is easy.”

“I’m almost kind of proud of the fact that we’ve had hardship, yes, because we want authenticity. We want truth,” she said. “We want to grow closer as individuals through our lifetime and we’re both dreamers and we want to be together for as long as we can.”

Trudeau launched his political career in 2007, when he decided to seek the Liberal Party nomination in the Montreal riding of Papineau. After winning there in 2008 and 2011, Trudeau began to consider seeking the Liberal leadership. The decision, he wrote, would ultimately come down to “a deeply personal private discussion between Sophie and me.”

“We had many long, honest talks that summer,” Trudeau recalled. “I wanted to be sure she knew, from my own  experience, just how rough that life can be. I recalled for Sophie that my father had once told me I should never feel compelled to run for office. ‘Our family has done enough,’ he said.”

His father said that, Trudeau noted, “despite having never experienced the incessant, base vitriol of twenty-first-century politics.”

“I welcome a good tussle, and my skin is thick, but I had grown up in the reality of public life,” Trudeau wrote. “Sophie had not, and our decision would affect our kids, in some ways, more than either of us.”

In an interview in 2008, Grégoire Trudeau said that when she met Trudeau, “politics was not impossible, but it was not in the short-term or the mid-term plan.”

“But an opportunity came up, and we felt that if we weren’t going to embark on this adventure, a part of us would be selfish with the voice that we have and the opportunities that are given to us,” she said.

In Common Ground, Trudeau credits Grégoire Trudeau with “profoundly” influencing his style of politics and for helping keep him grounded.

“Sometimes it’s easy for people who have made politics their livelihood to get caught up in the heat of battle and forget about their personal values. Sophie never does, and no matter how intense things get, she makes sure I don’t either,” Trudeau wrote.

Personal lives generally private matters

The personal lives of prime ministers are generally treated as private matters. But Pierre Trudeau’s relationship with Margaret Sinclair — including  their marriage in 1971 and their separation in 1977 was highly publicized. Trudeau was the first prime minister to get married while in office and also the first to publicly separate from his partner. Margaret Trudeau later disclosed her long struggle with mental illness.

Justin Trudeau, who was born nine months after his parents wed, experienced their divorce as a young child and he wrote at length about those years in Common Ground. Trudeau said that much of what was written about his parent’s relationship was “lurid and inaccurate.”

“From my perspective today, the commonly held story of my parents’ marital breakdown is nothing but a caricature, because my father was not just the tradition-bound diehard he appeared and my mother was not entirely the totally free spirit that her actions suggest,” Trudeau wrote.

“Things are never that simple, especially with a couple as complex as my parents, and I remain amused by and exasperated with those who view their relationship — all the passion, triumph, achievements, and tragedy — in black and white, seeing it merely as a flawed union between a cool and aloof man and an exuberant and uninhibited younger woman. It was that, but also much more.”

Source: CBC News

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AI Humans Go Mainstream in South Korea, Reads, Sings, Sells




Her face is a deep fake. Her body belongs to a team of similar-sized actors. But she sings, reads the news, and sells luxury clothes on TV as AI humans go mainstream in South Korea.

Meet Zaein, one of South Korea’s most active virtual humans, who was created by Pulse9, an artificial intelligence company that is working to bring corporate dreams of the perfect employee to life.

Pulse9 has created digital humans for some of South Korea’s largest conglomerates, including Shinsegae, with research indicating the global market for such life-like creations could reach $527 billion by 2030.

In South Korea, AI humans have enrolled as students at universities, interned at major companies, and appear regularly on live television driving sellouts of products from food to luxury handbags.

But Pulse9 says this is only the beginning. They are “working on developing the technology to broaden AI human use”, Park Ji-eun, the company’s CEO, told AFP.

“Virtual humans are basically capable of carrying out much of what real people do,” she said, adding that the current level of AI technology means humans are still needed – for now.

The demand for AI humans in South Korea was initially driven by the K-pop industry, with the idea of a virtual idol – not prone to scandals and able to work 24/7 – proving popular with the country’s notoriously hard-driving music agencies.

But now, Pulse9 is “expanding their roles in society to show that these virtual humans aren’t just fantasy idols but can coexist with humans as colleagues and friends”, Park said.

– K-pop face –

Zaein’s face was created by a deep learning analysis – an AI method that teaches computers to process complex data – of the faces of K-pop stars over the last two decades.

Doe-eyed with delicate features, fair skin and a willowy figure, she is brought to life by overlaying the deepfake on a human actor.

More than 10 human actors, each with different talents — from singing, dancing, acting, to reporting — help animate Zaein, which is what makes this particular AI creation so “special”, Park said.

On a Monday morning, AFP met with one of the actors as she was preparing to deliver a report as Zaein on a live morning news programme on South Korean broadcaster SBS.

“I think it can be a good practice for people who want to become celebrities and that’s what appealed to me,” said the actor, who could not be named due to company policy.

A representative for Pulse9 said the identities of all human actors are concealed and their real faces are not shown.

Despite the strict measures to keep their profiles hidden, the actor said playing as a virtual human opened new doors.

“Typically, a lot of people in their teens and young people become K-pop idols and I’m way past that age, but it’s nice to be able to take on that challenge,” the actor, who is in her 30s, told AFP.

“I’d love to try acting as a man if I can manage my voice well, and maybe a foreigner — something that I can’t become in real life.”

– ‘Real and fake’ –

Creating artificial humans will continue to require real people “until a really strong AI is created in the future which will be able to process everything by itself”, Park said.

The potential — and potential perils — of AI have exploded into the public consciousness in recent months since ChatGPT burst onto the scene at the end of last year.

Experts around the world, including AI pioneers, have spoken out about its dangers, and several countries are seeking regulation of the powerful but high-risk invention.

But Park is not concerned. Her company is working on new virtual idols, virtual influencers, and virtual sales agents to take over customer-facing tasks for South Korean conglomerates, which are increasingly struggling with recruitment in the low-birthrate country.

South Korea — and the world — needs better, clearer regulations on what AI can do, she said, adding that when done properly, the technology can add to “the richness of life”.

The trouble, however, is that a deepfake can “make it impossible to tell what is real and fake”, Kim Myuhng-joo, a professor of information security at Seoul Women’s University, told AFP.

“It’s an egregious tool when used to harm others or put people in trouble. That’s why it’s becoming a problem,” he added.


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Plane Crash in Brazil Claims 14 Lives




Fourteen people were killed Saturday when a plane crashed in the Brazilian Amazon in the northern town of Barcelos, a popular tourist stop, the governor of Amazonas state said.

Twelve passengers and two crew were killed in the accident, Governor Wilson Lima wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Brazilian media reports said there were no survivors of the crash.

State officials did not immediately respond to requests for further details.

News site G1 said the plane was an 18-passenger EMB-110, a twin-engine turboprop manufactured by Brazilian aircraft-maker Embraer.

It was reportedly on its way from the state capital, Manaus, to Barcelos, about a 90-minute flight.

Located on the Rio Negro, an Amazon tributary, it is bordered by several national parks and other protected areas.

News site UOL said the passengers were Brazilians traveling to the region for sport fishing, citing state security secretary Vinicius Almeida.

The Guardian

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Thousands Killed, Thousands Missing As Flood Ravages Eastern Libya




Emergency workers uncovered more than 1,500 bodies in the wreckage of Libya’s eastern city of Derna on Tuesday, and it was feared the toll could surpass 5,000 after floodwaters smashed through dams and washed away entire neighborhoods of the city.

The startling death and devastation wreaked by Mediterranean storm Daniel pointed to the storm’s intensity, but also the vulnerability of a nation torn apart by chaos for more than a decade. The country is divided by rival governments, one in the east, the other in the west, and the result has been neglect of infrastructure in many areas.

Outside help was only just starting to reach Derna on Tuesday, more than 36 hours after the disaster struck. The floods damaged or destroyed many access roads to the coastal city of some 89,000.

Footage showed dozens of bodies covered by blankets in the yard of one hospital. Another image showed a mass grave piled with bodies. More than 1,500 corpses were collected, and half of them had been buried as of Tuesday evening, the health minister for eastern Libya said.

At least one official put the death toll at more than 5,000. The state-run news agency quoted Mohammed Abu-Lamousha, a spokesman for the east Libya interior ministry, as saying that more than 5,300 people had died in Derna alone. Derna’s ambulance authority said earlier Tuesday that 2,300 had died.

But the toll is likely to be higher, said Tamer Ramadan, Libya envoy for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. He told a U.N. briefing in Geneva via videoconference from Tunisia that at least 10,000 people were still missing. He said later Tuesday that more than 40,000 people have been displaced.

The situation in Libya is “as devastating as the situation in Morocco,” Ramadan said, referring to the deadly earthquake that hit near the city of Marrakesh on Friday night.

Source: AP News

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