👋 Nyob zoo!*
Welcome to Thursday, where Libya floods may have killed as many as 20,000 people, trials begin for pro-Bolsonaro rioters accused of staging a coup in January, and Obano the rugby-loving giraffe is put to the test. Meanwhile, Maria Corbi in Italian daily La Stampa looks at the man’s man’s world of influencers, and the one Italian woman who puts them all to shame.
[*Nyaw zhong - Hmong, China, Vietnam, Laos]
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• Fears of up to 20,000 dead after catastrophic Libya flood: The mayor of the eastern Libya port city of Derna estimates between 18,000 and 20,000 people have died in flooding. For now, more than 5,000 people are known to have died, and at least 10,000 are missing. Libya’s two rival governments are coordinating relief efforts for flood victims. Meanwhile, rescue teams have arrived from countries including Egypt, Tunisia, Italy, Spain and Turkey.
• Kim invites Putin to North Korea: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit North Korea feeding U.S. concerns that a revived Moscow-Pyongyang alliance could boost Russia's military in Ukraine and provide Kim sensitive missile technology. Putin reportedly accepted the invitation, offered during the summit in eastern Russia, though there has still been no official confirmation from the Kremlin. Read more about the Putin-Kim meeting.
• Trials begin in Brazil for pro-Bolsonaro rioters who stormed capital: Brazilian judicial authorities have begun trials for some of the supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro who’d stormed the country’s government buildings on Jan. 8 in an apparent coup attempt. Brazil’s Supreme Court justices kicked off the process on Wednesday, hearing testimony from participants and weighing potential convictions.
• U.S. military resumes aircraft operations in post-coup Niger: The United States military has resumed operations in Niger, flying drones and other aircraft out of air bases in the country more than a month after a coup halted activities. Since the July coup that removed President Mohamed Bazoum, the approximately 1,100 US soldiers deployed in the West African country have been confined to their military bases.
• Taliban welcome first Chinese ambassador since takeover: China has become the first country to name an ambassador to Afghanistan since the Taliban regained power in 2021. The Taliban said Zhao Xing's appointment is a sign for other nations to establish ties with its government. No other country has recognized the Taliban government, which has a long history of denying basic human rights to women and others.
• Taiwan says 68 Chinese aircrafts detected near island: Taiwan has said China flew 68 military aircrafts and sent 10 navy vessels into areas around the island in what appeared to be a second day of military training drills led by the Shandong aircraft carrier. Beijing has stepped up military and political pressure on the democratic island in an attempt to reinforce its claim of sovereignty.
• Man arrested for stealing buffaloes 58 years ago: Police in the southern Indian state of Karnataka have arrested a 78-year-old man who was accused of stealing two buffaloes and a calf back in 1965. Ganapati Vitthal Wagore was 20 when he was first arrested 58 years ago for the theft, along with another man. Police said they were freed on bail but disappeared after that and could not be traced.
Italian daily La Stampa lends its front cover to the humanitarian disaster that is occurring on the island of Lampedusa, located between Africa and Sicily’s south coast. The area has long been the first port of call for migrants crossing from North Africa, and as such has been a hotspot for the European migrant crisis. In the past days, the “shame of Lampedusa,” as La Stampa puts it, has been aggravated by the arrival of nearly 7000 migrants in less than 48 hours, triggering a crisis which has “never been seen before.”
Remember Paul the Octopus, who rose to fame by predicting (with a remarkable 87% accuracy rate) the outcome of the 2010 soccer World Cup? Or his successor, Achilles the Cat? The tradition of supposedly clairvoyant animals continues with Obano the French giraffe, who so far is 1 for 1 on picking the winning team in host France’s matches during the 2023 rugby World Cup. His “process” involves gulping down food from one of two buckets bearing the flags of the competing countries. It could all end tonight with France v. Uruguay, if Obano happens not to be hungry for the right team (he picked France again).
Chiara Ferragni, the Italian exception that proves the influencer rule
For some with communication skills and charisma, likes on social media can turn into lavish earnings. But influencers face a crisis of trust, as well as algorithms that often discriminate — particularly against women, writes Maria Corbi in Italian daily La Stampa.
📱👑 There are many kings in this ranking of social superstars, but there is only one undisputed queen: Chiara Ferragni, with not only her own followers (29.5 million) but also those of her relatives, from her husband Fedez (14.7 million), to her sisters Francesca and Valentina, her mother Marina Di Guardo and her children, the little stars, Leone and Vittoria. It's a real family business, which can be seen in the series about their lives, "Ferragnez." Alone, her fortune is estimated at $40 million.
👨 Looking at the rankings of the most followed influencers, it is hard not to notice that those at the top are mostly men, many of whom are completely (or almost) unknown offline, where fame and success is not attributed to likes. Michele Morrone is one of them, ranking fourth among the most followed Italian profiles. Before finding success on social networks, he was known for his role in the highly erotic film 365 Days, which was released on Netflix in 2020. It was through social media that he made a breakthrough, at least in terms of his bank account.
♀️ For women among the top 10 influencers, the numbers are far lower. With over five million followers, we find Eva Menta, Giulia De Lellis and Benedetta Rossi, the "social cook" who attracts fans with her recipes. How does the patriarchy affect social media? What is certain, according to a study by Columbia University in New York, is that algorithms used by social media platforms can discriminate against women.
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“There’s a strong consensus, overwhelming consensus.”
— Tesla CEO Elon Musk told reporters there was “overwhelming consensus” for regulation on artificial intelligence after tech leaders, civil rights advocates and U.S. lawmakers held a meeting behind closed doors in Washington to discuss AI. The meeting was organized by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer who said the goal was to build “a foundation for bipartisan AI policy that Congress can pass,” as the rapidly-evolving technology comes under increasing scrutiny for the number of risks it poses, including spreading misinformation and displacing jobs. For more on Elon Musk, we offer this analysis by Pierre Haski for France Inter: Is There Any Way To Rein In The Power Of Big Tech?
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