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Future

K-Pop To Catalonia: How The Metaverse Can Turn Local Culture Global

Glitchy online museum tours are a thing of the past. From Barcelona to Bollywood, the metaverse is bringing immersive cultural experiences right into our homes.

Between environmental costs, COVID and criticisms of digital nomads hurting local economies, the world is questioning the magic of travel — and increasing the time spent in front of screens. Although the meager form the metaverse has taken today can’t replace the smells, tastes, or exact luminescence that make discovering new corners of the world so thrilling, it may soon be dropping local adventures from far away lands into our living rooms.

While the guided tours of museums and online concerts that we all tested out during lockdowns were often glitchy and underwhelming, the beginning of 2022 has seen regional cultural initiatives from around the world flocking to the metaverse, a virtual reality world where people can interact and have experiences as they do in the real world.

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Ukraine Mass Evacuation, Russia Oil Ban, Shackleton’s Ship Found

👋 Salamalekum!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Ukraine sees its first successful mass evacuation, Biden announces ban on Russian energy imports and Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton’s ship is found after 107 years. We also feature our English edition of an article published by Ukrainian analyst Taras Kuzio on Vladimir Putin’s ultimate plans to turn Ukraine into “Little Russia” and install a familiar face as leader.

[*Wolof, West Africa]

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Send In The Tanks — 28 Newspaper Front Pages As Putin Moves On Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin's move to order troops into two rebel-held regions in eastern Ukraine, after recognizing them as independent states, is front-page news all around the world.

After weeks of escalating rhetoric, diplomatic roller coasters and wondering “what will Putin do,” Russian President Vladimir Putin took a decisive first step toward what some fear may be the worst military conflict in Europe since World War II.

During a televised speech late Monday night from the Kremlin — and just hours after rising hopes of a potential Biden-Putin summit — the Russian president formally recognized the independence of two separatist regions in eastern Ukraine and ordered Russian troops to move in, officially for "peacekeeping" purposes.

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China's Ski Boom Is Bigger Than The Olympics

In 10 years, skiing has exploded in China. The Winter Olympic Games in Beijing and the growing middle class have served as springboards for this craze. Are we seeing the beginnings of a great skiing nation or should we put on the breaks?

GUANGZHOU — Chunli traded in her bare feet for snowboarding boots: "I saw some videos on Douyin [TikTok in Chinese] and it made me want to try it. It looks so cool!"

With her board between her mittens, the young student valiantly heads for the snowy slopes. In Douyin, it is -6°C (21°F) all year long and the snow is always there. No wind or sun. As for the mountains, they are only displayed on the walls.

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Society
Laure Gautherin

With Boom In Senior Drivers, 5 New Safety Solutions Around The World

As life expectancy continues to rise, the question of road safety for older drivers has become a priority for governments and carmakers. From AI and deep-learning tech to voluntary retirement, here are some of the innovative solutions being explored to ensure older people can drive safely.

Living longer means driving older. This demographic is pushing governments around the world to look for new ways to ensure the safety of their citizens on the road by introducing specific policies targeting people over 65. Compulsory medical assessment, voluntary retirement, financial incentives, as well as tapping into technologies like AI, VR and deep-learning tech.

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Future
Yann Rousseau

Masahiro Hara Takes Aim: The QR Code Inventor Builds Post-Pandemic Applications

Conceived in the early 1990s, the QR Code has spread exponentially during the pandemic. Its creator, Masahiro Hara, is one of the many continuing to innovate his most famous invention, which has changed everything from medicine to how we dine.

There's a small red sign at the foot of the steps leading to the Haiden pavilion of Futarasan-jinja, a Shinto shrine founded in 782 by a Buddhist monk. We are in the heart of a cedar forest in the sacred mountains of Nikko. Before going up to pray to the kami, the spirits of the temple, pilgrims and tourists crowd in front of the sign installed just two years ago.

Smartphones in hand, they scan a QR Code, under a few lines explaining — in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean — that it is good manners to make a "small donation" when visiting a shrine.

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

Omicron And Winter Olympics, Duterte Backs Out, NFT Typo

👋 Hallo!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Omicron now looms over the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics, Philippine strongman Duterte unexpectedly quits his Senate race, and the NFT world witnesses a very costly slip of the keyboard. In French economic daily Les Echos, Adrien Lelièvre wonders whether the jig is up for the “gig economy.”

[*German]

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Coronavirus

Omicron Extra! 16 Magazine Covers And Front Pages Around The World

The ominous Omicron COVID-19 variant has made a splash on international dailies and weeklies alike.

It's been another week dominated by an invisible virus. The news last Friday of a "variant of concern" identified by South African health care officials set off a new round of travel restrictions, global health policy criticism and vaccine debates as COVID-19 once again dominated news headlines and dinner conversations around the world.

Though the full impact of the Omicron variant must still be determined by ongoing scientific studies, the world was once again joined in a collective moment of anxiety and uncertainty a full two years after the first mentions of a novel coronavirus discovered in China began to appear in the world's news outlets. And now...?

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In The News
Jane Herbelin, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

COVID Spikes In EU, Bulgaria Bus Crash, Uber Weed

👋 Tere!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where EU countries face a sharp rise in COVID cases and conflict, at least 25 die in a Bulgarian bus crash, and Uber starts delivering weed. Bogota-based daily El Espectador takes us through the return of gang violence taking over the streets of Medellín, Colombia, which became notorious during the 1970s thanks to drug kingpin Pablo Escobar.

[*Estonian]

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Society
Laure Gautherin

Bad Ruses, Good Reasons: How To Avoid Military Service In 5 Countries

In the countries that require military service, those who refuse to serve must either try to explain their exemption or find a creative short-cut to avoid the obligation. Here are some examples.

Military conscription has ebbed and flowed through history, typically depending on national security (wars), economics (jobs) and demography (young men). In recent years, many countries have outright eliminated the draft or replaced it with a civil service requirement. At the same time, other countries have been bringing back obligatory military service to respond to security threats or as a solution to rising high school dropout and unemployment rates. Morocco reinstated conscription in 2018 after 12 years, with a 12-month required military service for all men and women aged 19 to 25.

Amid newfound tensions around the Baltic Sea, the Swedish government also decided to reintroduce military conscription in March 2017, though for a limited number of citizens - 4,000 men and women were selected from a pool of 13,000.

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South Korea
Meike Eijsberg

South Korean Military Under Fire After Rape, Suicide Of Air Force Officer

The suicide of a female officer in the South Korean Air Force who had been sexually assaulted has sent shock waves through the country, finally prompting the government to initiate a reform of the military, The Dong-a Ilbo daily reported this week.

As French daily Le Monde reported, President Moon Jae-in took advantage of the June 6 Memorial Day holiday, which commemorates all the men and women who have died during military services, to remind people that "patriotism also implies protecting those who commit themselves to defend the nation." He also apologised for what he called "the backward culture in the barracks." Mr Moon promised reform, the outline of which is expected to be unveiled in August.

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THE KOREA TIMES
Laure Gautherin

UBI, One-Off Crisis Relief Or An Economic Revolution?

Known as UBI, Universal Basic Income has been a dream of progressive economists. Now it is effectively written into many COVID-19 relief packages. But it may turn out to have staying power well beyond.

Will the coronavirus usher in a whole new economic era? The Universal Basic Income (UBI), which gives all citizens a guaranteed minimal monthly stipend, has been touted in recent years by progressive policymakers as a much-needed way to redistribute wealth. Now, with the coronavirus crisis beginning to cripple national economies and send millions into unemployment, UBI's moment to show its worth has arrived.

In an interview last week with MSNBC, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said UBI should be considered: "Let's see what works, what is operational and what needs attention. Others have suggested a minimum income, a guaranteed income for people. Is that worthy of attention now? Perhaps so. Because there are many more people than just in small business and hired by small business ... that may need some assistance as well."

But as John Harris noted recently in The Guardian, UBI's appeal may last well beyond the current crisis. "Right now we need to think hard about a set of realities that the 20th century did not prepare us for. This crisis is likely be repeated. Covid-19, after all, is just the latest sign of the horrors let loose by human incursion into parts of the natural world. Even once the current disaster is somehow dealt with, the catastrophe of climate change – which itself increases the danger of disease, as tropical illnesses start to threaten new places – will speed on. This latest economic crash arrives only 12 years after the last one. We live, in short, in an age of ongoing shocks, and it is time we began to prepare."

Whether UBI is simply a stop-gap emergency measure or will stick, and be integrated into the global economy remains to be seen. But looking around the world, from South Korea to Spain to the U.S. and beyond, the radical rethinking of a citizen's relationship with national treasuries and the labor market is starting to look — at least a bit — more mainstream:

SOUTH KOREA: As early as March, several provinces in South Korea pledged to provide their residents an "anti-disaster basic income" to help cope with the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. The Korea Times reports that the province of Gyeonggi is leading the way after announcing this Tuesday it will pay 100,000 won ($79.85) per person to all its residents in April. Later, the central government announced the anti-disaster emergency package would be extended to the whole territory but target the most fragile citizens. A first in the country. According to Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki, about 14 million households will be eligible to receive the relief payments of up to 1 million wons ($820) for families with four or more members in the bottom 70% of the gross income index.

UNITED STATES: Several U.S. states had already tested a UBI prior to COVID-19, while former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang had included in his program a $1,000 monthly basic income for all citizens, without conditions. It's a vision shared by such high-profile progressives as Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has has been pressing the issue since the COVID-19 outbreak. She tweeted mid-March: "We need to take dramatic action now to stave off the worst public health & economic affects. That includes making moves on paid leave, debt relief, waiving work req's, guaranteeing healthcare, UBI, detention relief (pretrial, elderly, imm)."" The subsequent $2-trillion stimulus package included $1,200 in direct payment to workers with annual incomes below $75,000. But with 30 million unemployed Americans by the end of April, it's looking increasingly insufficient.

We need to take dramatic action now.

SPAIN: UBI was an electoral promise from coalition party Podemos, proposing a monthly payment of 600€ for the country's 10 million most financially vulnerable citizens. But the pandemic eventually pushed the coalition government to a one-off priority aid of 440€ to all workers who had lost their jobs because of the pandemic. A few days later, Economy Minister Nadia Calvino said in an interview with La Sexta broadcaster that a wider basic income was still on the agenda, not only as a reply to the coronavirus but as an economic model to "stay forever," and become a "permanent tool."

UK: There have been calls from a wide range of political parties to approve a basic income as a response to the breakout. As The Guardian reports, former Conservative business secretary Greg Clark urged the government to act immediately to subsidize wages, while Citizens Advice proposed a "crisis minimum income" of at least £180 a week (around $210) so everyone has enough money "to protect their own health and the health of others."

Photo: CC0

In an April 22 letter in the The Financial Times, more than 100 opposition MPs have called on the government for a "recovery universal basic income" to all adults in the country after the end of the lockdown. Such proposals so far have however been turned down by Downing Street.

BRAZIL: Despite President Jair Bolsonaro minimizing the health risks, the Brazilian Parliament has agreed on an emergency relief package including a monthly payment of about $115, for a period of three months, for which 60 million citizens are eligible. This measure is the direct result of an intensive grassroots campaign launched in March that got the backing of more than 500,000 citizens, thousands of media influencers and key business and socioeconomic organizations.

A universal basic wage which would acknowledge and dignify the noble, essential tasks you carry out.

POPE FRANCIS: In an Easter letter addressed to world leaders, Pope Francis officially endorsed the principle of UBI in the time of pandemic. "This may be the time to consider a universal basic wage which would acknowledge and dignify the noble, essential tasks you carry out. It would ensure and concretely achieve the ideal, at once so human and so Christian, of no worker without rights," he wrote. He particularly emphasized the situation of "street vendors, recyclers, carnies, small farmers, construction workers, dressmakers, the different kinds of caregivers' who were being "excluded from the benefits of globalization."

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CLARIN

Coronavirus — Global Brief: Lining Up To Follow The South Korea Model

For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch will be delivering daily updates on the coronavirus global pandemic. The insidious path of COVID-19 across the planet teaches is a blunt reminder of how small the world has become. Our network of multilingual journalists are busy finding out what's being reported locally — everywhere — to provide as clear a picture as possible of what it means for all of us at home, around the world.​ To receive the daily brief in your inbox, sign up here.

SPOTLIGHT: LINING UP TO FOLLOW SOUTH KOREAN SUCCESS

In times of unfathomable trouble, humans search for a savior. More than two months into the COVID-19 global outbreak, that role right now is not being assigned to any one doctor or researcher hero, but to a nation: South Korea.

The country was one of the earliest to be hit by the novel strain of coronavirus. At the peak of the crisis in South Korea in February, 909 new cases were popping up daily. Yet by mid-March, that number had dwindled down to around 70, while its total death toll of 111 is now well behind many European countries and the United States. Currently, the number of coronavirus-related deaths in Iran doubles every 6 days; In Italy, every 4 days; in the U.S., every two days. But in South Korea, it doubles every 2 weeks — despite the fact they never closed borders or shut down local commerce. How, in the span of a mere month, did South Korea manage to keep a relative lid on COVID-19?

What their government did do was exactly what the World Health Organization has been recommending: Test for the virus on a mass scale. The country's 2015 outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) provided first-hand insight on how to handle an epidemic, so their healthcare system was already equipped with proper infection control units and the knowledge that testing kits are key. Iran is trying to order their testing kits and other medical equipment. France, Spain and Ireland are scrambling to open the drive-through testing centers that allow South Korean doctors to both prevent contagion and deliver results in 24 hours.

• In Italy, La Stampa reports the hardest-hit country will now start "with a serious delay," to follow the South Korean model of creating a "digital passport" to track the infected and tested population.

• The Kyiv Post cites a Ukranian epidemiologist who praises the law-abiding culture of South Korea, and argues that societies who are less likely to follow rules are more at-risk.

• In the United States, whose patient 0 was identified on the same day as South Korea, politicians and healthcare workers point to the success of Moon Jae-in's government proves the incompetence of their own.

— Rozena Crossman​

THE SITUATION: 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

Quarantined world: Nearly 1 billion people worldwide are now confined to their homes as Europe's restrictions tighten, U.S. states roll out lockdown measures and additional millions are placed under lockdown in India, which has seen a sharp increase in infections.

Toll: Global coronavirus deaths reach 15,000. Italy has more fatalities than any other country, including a record 1,441 two-day total over the weekend. Spain has now topped 2,000 deaths and more than 33,000 cases. Of the 32,000 cases in the U.S. nearly half are in New York state, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo estimates 40% to 80% of residents could get coronavirus.​

• Acceleration: World Health Organization chief says the coronavirus pandemic is "accelerating:" 67 days from first reported case to reach 100,000 cases, 11 days for the second 100,000 cases, 4 days for the third 100,000 cases.

Monday Markets: Wall Street traders were still bearish in the face of an extraordinary series of U.S. credit measures rolled out by the Federal Reserve to soften the economic hit of the coronavirus outbreak.

Treatment confusion: Nearly 70 medications could potentially treat the coronavirus, including such as haloperidol, used to treat schizophrenia, or chloroquine to treat malaria. However, in Nigeria three people were hospitalized Sunday after overdosing on chloroquine, which was endorsed as a cure on Twitter by U.S. President Trump.

Tokyo Games: Japanese leader Shinzo Abe told parliament Monday postponement of this summer's Olympic Games was an option. The remarks came a day after the International Olympic Committee announced it would decide the fate of the Games within a month.

New cases: Angela Merkel went into domestic quarantine after her doctor contracted COVID-19, while three top Spanish politicians test positive, including Podemos party leader Pablo Iglesias. Others infected include Hollywood movie producer and convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein who has been placed in isolation after testing positive at Wende Correctional Facility.

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Novaya Gazeta

Coronavirus ~ Global Brief: Alone With God, Face Mask Holdup, Born With It

For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch will be delivering daily updates on the coronavirus global pandemic. The rapid and insidious path of COVID-19 across the planet teaches us in a whole new way how small the world has become. Our network of multilingual journalists are busy finding out what's being reported locally — everywhere — to provide as clear a picture as possible of what it means for all of us at home, around the world.

PLACE OF WORSHIP, HOTBED OF CONTAGION

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South Korea
Olivia Han iQ

When A Korean-American Health And Fitness Nut Lands In France

PARIS — Paleo, keto, vegan, pescatarian. There are so many ways we can choose what, and what not, to eat. Give or take, I choose to eat roughly 160 grams of carbohydrates, 110 grams of protein, and 40 grams of fat per day. That comes to 1440 calories.

Some of my friends find it neurotic that I know exactly how much, down to the gram, I consume — or the fact that I track my macronutrients at all. But for me, I've always felt that if we need to eat at all, we might as well eat clean in order to properly fuel our bodies — and take those extra five seconds to weigh our food. Through tracking my intake with a handy digital food scale and working out regularly, I have not only learned so much about the human body, but also am genuinely convinced that such attention improves both my physical and mental health.

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South Korea
Lisa Lane

How China Quietly Poaches Samsung Talent From South Korea

SEOUL — A recently retired senior manager from South Korean electronics giant Samsung is back to work — in China.

Referred to just by his last name, Kim, had been executive director responsible for electronic chip design (D-RAM) at the Seoul-based multinational. But just before he was set to begin his senior position at the Chinese enterprise, Kim received notice from a South Korean court that Samsung had filed a lawsuit against him for not abiding by a "non-compete" clause arrangement, Radio Free Asia reports.

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