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Greece's Last Chance, Caracas "Coup," Kim Jong-Un's New 'Do

U.S., UK HACKED SIM CARD PROVIDER
The NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ illegally hacked into the internal computer network of Gemalto, the world’s largest SIM card manufacturer, and stole encryption keys to facilitate eavesdropping on global cellular communications, The Intercept reports. The documents, leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, show that intelligence agencies have therefore been able to monitor mobile communications — voice and data — without approval from telecom companies and foreign governments. Gemalto produces about two billion SIM cards every year and is a provider to some 450 networks in 85 countries. The Dutch company said it was investigating the report.

ON THIS DAY
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On Feb. 20, 1872, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art opened. Time for your 57-second shot of history.

EXTRA!
Protests erupted in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas last night after Mayor Antonio Ledezma was hauled away by camouflaged police after the president accused him of attempting to overthrow the government. Read more from our 4 Corners blog.

WAR IN UKRAINE DESPITE CEASEFIRE
Despite efforts from Ukraine, Russian, German and French leaders yesterday to salvage last week’s ceasefire agreement, fighting continues in eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian military says pro-Russian rebels have attacked their positions 49 times in the last 24 hours, and Reuters reports there is shelling in Mariupol. The rebels also accused Kiev of shelling residential areas in Donetsk.

  • Russia’s state-owned company Gazprom has, meanwhile, started sending gas to rebel-controlled areas in eastern Ukraine after Kiev cuts its supplies to the region, AFP reports. Two convoys from Russia, each carrying 100 tons of humanitarian aid, mostly food, have also arrived in Donetsk and Luhansk.

1,150
Photo above: Baris Kaykusuz/Depo Photos/ZUMA
The new presidential palace that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had built especially for himself in Ankara — and that boasts “at least” 1,150 rooms — is guarded by 1,150 policemen for a total security cost of more than $20 million, Hürriyet reports.

LAST-CHANCE TALKS FOR GREECE
Eurozone finance ministers have gathered in Brussels for what The Guardian describes as “make-or-break” talks over a new bailout deal for Greece. The country has vowed to reject any new demand for austerity measures, with Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis saying that the only reason to demand more is “out of ideology or on punitive grounds.” “We have already done more fiscal tightening than has ever been done by any country in peacetime,” The Daily Telegraph quoted him as saying. Berlin rejected Greece’s demand of a six-month bailout extension yesterday, describing the carefully worded request as a “Trojan horse.” Failure to reach agreement today would see Greece run out of cash, default on its debt and likely leave the Eurozone.

VERBATIM
“Our life was nothing but slavery,” Rim Il, a North Korean who was sent to work in Kuwait in the 1990s, said of Pyongyang’s policy to confiscate the wages of its citizens working abroad. Read the full report from The New York Times.

THE PENTAGON’S MOSUL STRATEGY
The Pentagon announced plans yesterday to retake Mosul, Iraq, from ISIS terrorists in April or May, explaining that the group is “in decline” militarily and is losing ground every day in Iraq, The Huffington Post reports. The operation will reportedly involve 20,000 to 25,000 Iraqi troops, including three Kurdish Peshmerga brigades. The Los Angeles Times describes the announcement as “unusual” and says it could be intended “at least in part, to rattle the estimated 2,000 Sunni fighters believed to hold the northern Iraqi city.”

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Coronavirus

The Main COVID Risk Now: Long COVID

Death rates are down, masks are off, but many who have been infected by COVID have still not recovered. Long COVID continues to be hard to diagnose and treatments are still in the developmental stage.

Long COVID feels like a never-ending nightmare for those who suffer from it.

Jessica Berthereau

PARIS — The medical examination took longer than expected in the Parc de Castelnau-le-Lez clinic, near the southern French city of Montpellier. Jocelyne had come to see a specialist for long COVID-19, and exits the appointment slowly with help from her son. The meeting lasted more than an hour, twice as long as planned.

“I’m a fighter, you know, I’ve done a lot of things in my life, I’ve been around the world twice… I’m not saying this to brag, but to tell you my background," says the 40-year-old. "These days, I’m exhausted, I’m not hungry, I no longer drive, I can’t work anymore, I have restless legs syndrome.” She pauses before adding sadly: “I can’t read anymore either.”

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

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