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Tamil Nadu bans cotton candy over cancer risk

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Can cotton candy give you cancer?

Some Indian states think so and have banned the sale of the pink, wispy, sugary-sweet treat.

Last week, the southern state of Tamil Nadu implemented the ban after lab tests confirmed the presence of a cancer-causing substance, Rhodamine-B, in samples sent for testing.

Earlier this month, the union territory of Puducherry banned the sweet treat while other states have begun testing samples of it.

Cotton candy, also called buddi-ka-baal (old woman’s hair) in India because of its appearance, is popular with children the world over.

It’s a fixture in amusement parks, fairs and other places of entertainment frequented by children, who like it because of its sticky, melt-in-the-mouth texture.

But some Indian officials say that the candy is more sinister than it seems.

P Satheesh Kumar, food safety officer in Chennai city in Tamil Nadu, told The Indian Express newspaper that the contaminants in cotton candy “could lead to cancer and affect all organs of the body”.

His team raided candy sellers at a beach in the city last week. Mr Kumar said the sweet sold in the city was made by independent sellers and not registered factories.

A few days later, the government announced a ban on its sale after lab tests detected the presence of Rhodamine-B, a chemical compound, in the samples. The chemical imparts a fluorescent pink hue and is used to dye textiles, cosmetics and inks.

Studies have shown that the chemical can increase the risk of cancer and Europe and California have made its use as a food dye illegal.

While banning cotton candy in Tamil Nadu, Health Minister Ma Subramanian said in a statement that using Rhodamine-B in the “packaging, import, sale of food or serving food containing it at weddings and other public events would be punishable under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006”.

Taking a cue from Tamil Nadu, the neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh has also reportedly started testing samples of the candy to check for the presence of the carcinogen.

And earlier this week, the New India Express newspaper reported that food safety officials in Delhi too were pushing for a ban on cotton candy.

(BBC News)

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TikTok faces US ban as bill set to be signed by Biden

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The US Senate has approved a controversial landmark bill that could see TikTok banned in America.

It gives TikTok’s Chinese owner, ByteDance, nine months to sell its stake or the app will be blocked in the United States.

The bill will now be handed over to US President Joe Biden, who has said he will sign it into law as soon as it reaches his desk.

ByteDance has told the BBC that it did not have an immediate response to the move. Previously the firm said it would oppose any attempt to force it to sell TikTok.

If the US is successful in forcing ByteDance to sell TikTok any deal would still need approval from Chinese officials but Beijing has vowed to oppose any such move. Analysts say the process could take years.

The measure was passed as part of a package of four bills which also included military aid for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and other US partners in the Indo-Pacific region.

It had widespread support from lawmakers, with 79 Senators voting for it and 18 against.

“For years we’ve allowed the Chinese Communist party to control one of the most popular apps in America that was dangerously short-sighted,” said Senator Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee.

“A new law is going to require its Chinese owner to sell the app. This is a good move for America,” he added.

Fears that data about millions of Americans could land in China’s hands have driven Congressional efforts to split TikTok from the Beijing-based company.

Last week, the social media company said the bill would “trample the free speech rights of 170 million Americans, devastate seven million businesses, and shutter a platform that contributes $24 billion to the US economy, annually.”

TikTok has said ByteDance “is not an agent of China or any other country”. And ByteDance insists it is not a Chinese firm, pointing to the global investment firms that own 60% of it.

Its chief executive, Shou Zi Chew, said last month the company will continue to do all it can including exercising its “legal rights” to protect the platform.

Mr Shou was grilled by Congress twice in less than a year, and downplayed the app’s connection – and his personal links – to Chinese authorities.

The social media platform made efforts to rally support against the potential ban, including a major lobbying campaign.

It also encouraged TikTok users and creators to express their opposition to the bill.

University of Richmond law professor, Carl Tobias told the BBC that a prolonged legal battle is likely to follow and that “could take about two years”.

He also said if a buyer for ByteDance’s stake is not found within the nine-month period, it could delay any action against TikTok in the US further.

(BBC News)

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10 dead as 2 Malaysian Navy helicopters collide midair

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Two Malaysian navy helicopters collided in mid-air as they flew in formation during a rehearsal for a military parade, killing all 10 crew on board.
One of the aircraft clipped the rotor of the other before the two crashed into the ground, footage published on local media showed.

The incident took place at 09:30 local time (02:30 BST) in the Malaysian town of Lumut, which is home to a Royal Malaysian Navy base.

There are no known survivors.

“All victims were confirmed dead on site and the remains were sent to the [Lumut] Military Hospital for identification,” said the Royal Malaysian Navy.

It added that it would form a committee to investigate the cause of the incident.

One of the helicopters, a HOM M503-3 with seven people on board, is believed to have crashed onto a running track.

The other, a Fennec M502-6 carrying the other three victims, crashed into a swimming pool nearby.

The state’s fire and rescue department said it was alerted to the incident at 09:50 local time (01:50 GMT).

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, that “the nation mourns the heart-wrenching and soul-wrenching tragedy”.

“Condolences to all the families of the victims and prayers for strength to face this calamity,” he said.

In March, a Malaysian coast guard helicopter crashed into the sea off Malaysia’s Angsa Island during a training flight.

The pilot, co-pilot and two passengers on board were found and rescued by fishermen.

(BBC News)

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Indian elections begin

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Indians begin voting today to choose their next parliament in the first of seven voting days that end on June 01.
Almost a billion people are eligible to cast their ballot.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is aiming for a rare third consecutive term in power.

Several key opposition parties, including the Congress, have formed an alliance in many states to take on Mr Modi’s party.

The big issues include a jobs crisis, rising prices, a crackdown on dissent and the opposition, and the politics of religion.

Results will be announced on June 04.

(BBC News)

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