Welcome to Friday, where Russia denounces the “calculations” of Joe Biden’s speech, a Pentagon report shows that China has considerably expanded its nuclear arsenal, and a Polish shoplifter experiments with a novel technique (and gets caught). Meanwhile, Paul Turban for French daily Les Echos marks the 400th anniversary of France’s palace of Versailles with a look at its never-ending and ever pricey renovation.
[*Halēā - Malayalam, India]
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• Biden links Ukraine and Gaza wars as a single struggle, Russia responds: U.S. President Joe Biden made a rare prime-time televised speech seeking billions in aid to both Israel and Ukraine, aiming to connect the two conflicts as a single global struggle against terrorism and dictatorship. Russia blasted the speech as “calculations” masked as “values.” Meanwhile Gaza’s oldest active church was struck with an explosion, leading to a still unknown number of deaths and injuries for the hundreds of displaced Palestinians who had been taking shelter there. Read the latest updates on the war in the Middle East.
• China expands nuclear arsenal: Within the past year, according to the Pentagon, China has greatly expanded its nuclear stockpile, now owning around 500 operational warheads. The U.S. military believes that Beijing also hopes to double this arsenal to over 1,000 warheads by 2030.
• Niger junta foils escape attempt from ousted President Bazoum: Niger’s former President Mohamed Bazoum, who has been under house arrest since being deposed by a coup in late July, attempted to escape with his family, cooks and security in the middle of the night. The ruling military government has declared that the group had planned to leave the country through helicopters, but this escape plan was foiled. For more on Niger’s current turmoil, we offer this recent analysis by Pierre Haski for France Inter.
• Private Travis King charged with desertion by U.S. Army: U.S. soldier Travis King is facing eight charges following his release from a two-month detention in North Korea, the most serious of which is military desertion for crossing the border into North Korea in July. The 23-year old’s other charges involve soliciting child pornography and assault of fellow soldiers.
• Canada withdraws 41 of its diplomats from India: Canada has withdrawn 41 diplomats and their families from India following New Delhi’s threat of revoking their diplomatic immunity. This is part of an escalating series of diplomatic rifts between the two countries which began when Canadian citizen and prominent Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar was shot dead in June. More on the Canada-India diplomatic spat: The Modi-Trudeau Clash, Lessons From How Erdogan And MBS Handled The West.
• Mozambique kills 45,000 hens over bird flu: More than 45,000 hens have been burned, slaughtered or buried in Mozambique in order to prevent the spread of bird flu. The hens had been imported from neighboring country South Africa, which has experienced an outbreak of the disease.
• 8-billion-year-old space noise: Astronomers have confirmed that a radio burst, picked up by a massive telescope in Australia in June, took some 8 billion years to reach Earth — making it the most distant and energetic signal ever observed.
Danish daily Jyllands-Posten warns about “the worst storm surge in over 100 years” that is headed for Denmark, as authorities have asked the population in parts of the Jutland peninsula to evacuate temporarily on Friday and Saturday. The UK’s weather forecaster has also issued a rare red alert for parts of Scotland predicting “exceptional rainfall.”
Silvio Berlusconi's huge art collection of about 25,000 paintings has been described as being largely “croste” (Italian for “crust,” meaning “poor quality works of little to no value”), by Italian art critic and historian Vittorio Sgarbi. The late Italian prime minister’s purchases, many of which were bought from late-night telemarketing programs, are stored in a 34,400-square-feet warehouse close to his mansion near Milan, and are estimated to be worth around €20 million in total (that’s about €800 per piece). However, the collection is proven to be a cumbersome burden to manage for Berlusconi’s heirs, with large expenses to run the warehouse.
The palace of Versailles, a 400-year-old construction site
The emblematic palace of King Louis XIV, born from the will of his father Louis XIII, is celebrating its 400th anniversary. Throughout its adaptation to different eras and restoration, the work has (almost) never stopped, reports Paul Turban in French daily Les Echos.
🏗️🏰 Versailles is under construction, once again. Or rather, as usual. This “permanent work site” has been going on for 400 years. Records put the formation of the second greatest French palace after the Louvre. But on Sept. 15, 1623, it was not a palace, but a simple hunting lodge that Louis XIII ordered — a place where he could stay during his outings in the surrounding, abundant-in-game forests he had roamed since his earliest childhood. The “modest house” quickly became too small. As Louis XIII was still reigning, it was replaced by a first castle, which was later greatly enlarged by Louis XIV.
🛠️ Currently, there are 15 projects underway on the estate, which includes the Palace of Versailles, but also the vast gardens and the Petit and Grand Trianon. And many more are on the waiting list. According to Catherine Pégard, President of the Public Establishment of the Palace, Museum and National Estate of Versailles: “The castle is in good general condition, but some works are becoming urgent.” Like the renovation of large sections of roof, while work has started on the roofs of the North wing and the Grand Trianon.
💰 In 2022, the castle's own revenues, excluding sponsorship, represented €72 million, including €57 million from ticketing, or a little less than half of the expenses (€149 million). The state obviously contributes, with the castle benefiting from €102 million in public funds. But the Palace’s needs are so great that the intervention of patrons is essential. “We try to convince companies and individuals on a case-by-case basis, with projects related to their activity or passion,” says Pégard. Last year, the castle received €14.5 million in patronage, donations and legacy donations.
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“Hamas and Putin represent different threats but they share this in common: They both want to annihilate a neighboring democracy.”
— In an impassioned speech asking Congress for more money to support Israel and Ukraine, U.S. President Joe Biden made a link between the actions of Hamas in Israel to Russian president Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Biden added that stopping such aggression was crucial not only for the security of the U.S. but also internationally, saying that “American leadership is what holds the world together.” Biden’s 10-minute address from the Oval Office comes just hours after his return from a whirlwind trip to Tel Aviv, where he reiterated U.S. support for Israel. Russia was quick to respond, blasting Biden’s speech as “calculations” to serve U.S. interests.
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