Presidential Privacy, Assange Loses, Florence Parking


A little Internet brush fire is spreading in China after a Beijing state-run newspaper published a long article saying that Taiwan’s new president Tsai Ing-wen is unfit for office because she is neither married nor a mother. Here’s a sample: “As a single female politician, she does not have the emotional responsibilities of love, of ‘family’ or children. So her political style and strategy tend to be emotional, personalized and extreme...” Millions (not just in Taiwan, and not just single women) will no doubt be personally offended by such public comments about the private life of an elected leader. Indeed, in mainland China, which has some surprising pockets of (mostly online) free speech, publishing such opinions is not without consequences for the party leadership, which values public consensus.

Meanwhile, in a country with historically more open debate, the U.S. presidential election is moving into its next phase of the likely head-to-head showdown between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. And now Trump, who has already redefined standards of public and political discourse in disposing of his Republican rivals, has made it clear that old sex-related accusations against Clinton’s husband are fair game for his campaign. No matter who is setting or breaking the rules, there are fewer places to hide for those who step into public life. But it is also true that pointing a finger at a leader’s personal choices is playing with fire. Privacy always hits home for us all.


  • U.S. President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Abe meet ahead of G7 summit.
  • European regulators are expected to announce a new plan that would require video streaming companies like Amazon and Netflix to include at least 20% local programming.


Oscar Wilde and Austin Powers show up in our May 25th video “Shot of history.”


After Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor was killed in a recent U.S. drone strike, the armed Afghan group named Haibatullah Akhunzada as his successor.. A photo of the new leader is circulating online this morning.


A demonstration against U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump erupted in violence last night in New Mexico. Fires burned and rocks were thrown, but there were no reports of serious injuries. CNN has video footage.


The U.S. Justice Department will seek the death penalty against Dylann Roof, accused of killing nine black parishioners last June in a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Read more from the AP.


European markets welcomed news of yesterday’s breakthrough 10.3 billion euro Greek bailout deal. Read more from Bloomberg.


A Swedish court this morning upheld a four-year-old arrest warrant against Julian Assange on rape allegations. The Wikileaks founder, who remains holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, denies the charges.Reuters has more.


The Indonesia-based KBR news network reports on Kim Gee-yang, a South Korean model who doesn't fit traditional catwalk standards. “At 1.66 meters (5 ft 5) tall and about 70 kilograms (154 lbs), she is average height and, well, curvy compared to many other South Korean women in their 20s. Gee-yang got her break in modeling after sending her photos to the 2010 Los Angeles Full Figure Fashion Week. "When I was in LA, I was too skinny to do plus-size modeling, but in Korea, I am just a fat woman, yeah," she told me.” Read the full article: All-Natural Model Defies South Korean Plastic Surgery Obsession



An apparent water-pipe burst early this morning in the scenic capital of Tuscany caused a pavement collapse by the Lungarno river. That sent a long line of cars parked near the Ponte Vecchio into the water… under the bridge. Here’s footage via La Stampa.

â€" Crunched by Cynthia Martens

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Queen Elizabeth II with UK PM Boris Johnson at a reception at Windsor Castle yesterday

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Hej!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where chaos hits Syria, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is accused of crimes against humanity and a social media giant plans to rebrand itself. For Spanish daily La Razon, reporter Paco Rodríguez takes us to the devastated town of Belchite, where visitors are reporting paranormal phenomenons.



• Syrian violence erupts: Army shelling on residential areas of the rebel-held region of northwestern Syria killed 13 people, with school children among the victims. The attack occurred shortly after a bombing killed at least 14 military personnel in Damascus. In central Syria, a blast inside an ammunition depot kills five soldiers.

• Renewed Ethiopia air raids on capital of embattled Tigray region: Ethiopian federal government forces have launched its second air strike this week on the capital of the northern Tigray. The air raids mark a sharp escalation in the near-year-old conflict between the government forces and the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) that killed thousands and displaced over 2 million people.

• Bolsonaro accused of crimes against humanity: A leaked draft government report concludes that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro should be charged with crimes against humanity, forging documents and incitement to crime, following his handling of the country's COVID-19 pandemic. The report blames Bolsonaro's administration for more than half of Brazil's 600,000 coronavirus deaths.

• Kidnappers in Haiti demand $17 million to free a missionary group: A Haitian gang that kidnapped 17 members of a Christian aid group, including five children, demanded $1million ransom per person. Most of those being held are Americans; one is Canadian.

• Putin bows out of COP26 in Glasgow: Russian President Vladimir Putin will not fly to Glasgow to attend the COP26 climate summit. A setback for host Britain's hopes of getting support from major powers for a more radical plan to tackle climate change.

• Queen Elizabeth II cancels trip over health concerns: The 95-year-old British monarch has cancelled a visit to Northern Ireland after she was advised by her doctors to rest for the next few days. Buckingham Palace assured the queen, who attended public events yesterday, was "in good spirits."

• A new name for Facebook? According to a report by The Verge website, Mark Zuckerberg's social media giant is planning on changing the company's name next week, to reflect its focus on building the "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet.


"Oil price rise causes earthquake," titles Portuguese daily Jornal I as surging demand coupled with supply shortage have driven oil prices to seven-year highs at more than $80 per barrel.



For the first time women judges have been appointed to Egypt's State Council, one of the country's main judicial bodies. The council's chief judge, Mohammed Hossam el-Din, welcomed the 98 new judges in a celebratory event in Cairo. Since its inception in 1946, the State Council has been exclusively male and until now actively rejected female applicants.


Spanish civil war town now a paranormal attraction

Ghosts from Spain's murderous 1930s civil war are said to roam the ruins of Belchite outside Zaragoza. Tourists are intrigued and can book a special visit to the town, reports Paco Rodríguez in Madrid-based daily La Razon.

🏚️ Between August 24 and September 6, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, more than 5,000 people died in 14 days of intense fighting in Belchite in north-eastern Spain, and the town was flattened. The fighting began on the outskirts and ended in house-to-house fighting. Almost half the town's 3,100 residents died in the struggle. The war annihilated centuries of village history. The town was never rebuilt, though a Pueblo Nuevo (or new town) was built by the old one.

😱 Belchite became an open-air museum of the horror of the civil war of 1936-39, which left 300,000 dead and wounds that have yet to heal or, for some today, mustn't. For many locals, the battle of Belchite has yet to end, judging by reports of paranormal incidents. Some insist they have heard the screams of falling soldiers, while others say the Count of Belchite wanders the streets, unable to find a resting place after his corpse was exhumed.

🎟️ Ordinary visitors have encountered unusual situations. Currently, you can only visit Belchite at set times every day, with prior booking. More daring visitors can also visit at 10 p.m. on weekends. Your ticket does not include a guaranteed paranormal experience, but many visitors insist strange things have happened to them. These include sudden changes of temperature or the strange feeling of being observed from a street corner or a window. Furthermore, such phenomena increase as evening falls, as if night brought the devastated town to life.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


We still cling to the past because back then we had security, which is the main thing that's missing in Libya today.

— Fethi al-Ahmar, an engineer living in the Libyan desert town Bani Walid, told AFP, as the country today marks the 10-year anniversary of the death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The leader who had reigned for 42 years over Libya was toppled in a revolt inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings and later killed by rebels. Some hope the presidential elections set in December can help the country turn the page on a decade of chaos and instability.


Iran to offer Master's and PhD in morality enforcement

Iran will create new "master's and doctorate" programs to train state morality agents checking on people's public conduct and attire, according to several Persian-language news sources.

Mehran Samadi, a senior official of the Headquarters to Enjoin Virtues and Proscribe Vices (Amr-e be ma'ruf va nahy az monkar) said "anyone who wants to enjoin virtues must have the knowledge," the London-based broadcaster Iran International reported, citing reports from Iran.

The morality patrols, in force since the 1979 revolution, tend to focus mostly on young people and women, particularly the public appearance for the latter. Loose headscarves will send women straight to a police station, often in humiliating conditions. Five years ago, the regime announced a new force of some 7,000 additional agents checking on women's hijabs and other standards of dress and behavior.

Last week, for example, Tehran police revealed that they had "disciplined" agents who had been filmed forcefully shoving a girl into a van. Such incidents may increase under the new, conservative president, Ibrahim Raisi.

Speaking about the new academic discipline, Samadi said morals go "much further than headscarves and modesty," and those earning graduate degrees would teach agents "what the priorities are."

Iran's Islamic regime, under the guidance of Shia jurists, continuously fine tunes notions of "proper" conduct — and calibrates its own, interventionist authority. More recently the traffic police chief said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes, and "would be stopped," Prague-based Radio Farda reported.

Days before, a cleric in the holy city of Qom in central Iran insisted that people must be vaccinated by a medic of the same sex "as often as possible," and if not, there should be no pictures of mixed-sex vaccinations.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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