Biden v. Democrats, Australia To Lift Travel Ban, Beery Japan

Bangladesh: Rohingya people attend the funeral of Rohingya leader Mohibullah

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Szia!*

Welcome to Friday, where President Biden suffers a blow as the vote on his trillion-dollar agenda gets delayed, Australia and South Africa are set to ease COVID restrictions, and a wild encounter leaves Shakira shaking. For Russian daily Kommersant, Anna Geroeva reports on how Lake Baikal, the world's largest and oldest lake, is silently being crippled by plastic pollution.

[*Hungarian]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

Biden avoids shutdown but sees agenda delayed: U.S. President Joe Biden signed a bill to keep the government funded through Dec. 3, thus avoiding a partial federal shutdown and, but delaying a vote on his $1 trillion infrastructure plan — a setback caused by divisions within the Democratic Party.

COVID update: Australia will lift its international travel ban in November, a month ahead of schedule while South Africa eases restrictions to the country's lowest level alert. Japanese pharmaceutical company Takeda said "human error" caused the contamination of Moderna vaccines with metal particles, which led to a recall last summer.

EU postpones trade talks with Australia amid AUKUS row: A long-planned round of free trade talks between the European Union and Australia has been delayed for a month in the wake of a dispute over Canberra's decision to cancel a major submarine contract with France.

Ethiopia to expel UN officials: Ethiopia is expelling seven senior United Nations officials, accusing them of "meddling in the internal affairs of the country." Pressure is growing on the government over its humanitarian aid blockade of the Tigray region, where thousands of people are facing famine conditions.

UK police urge citizens to challenge plain-clothes officers: The British Metropolitan Police has issued advice to citizens and especially women to call 999 or shout for help if they don't trust an officer or challenge their legitimacy if the officer is wearing plain-clothes. Pressure on the police is mounting after the murder of Sarah Everard by an officer who used his warrant card and handcuffs to kidnap her.

Japan princess to marry a commoner: The Imperial Household Agency, in charge of Japan's royal family affairs, announced that Princess Mako, niece of Emperor Naruhito, would marry her fiancé, a commoner named Kei Komuro, on Oct. 26 — a controversial union that requires her to give up her royal status.

• Shakira vs. wild boars: Colombian singer Shakira says she was recently attacked by wild boars while in a park in Barcelona, with the aggressive hogs proceeding to snatch and destroy her purse. The attack is not a rare occurrence, with an increasing number of wild boars roaming the city centers of European capitals.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"Who with whom?," asks German weekly magazine Der Spiegel, as the country's parties face tough negotiations ahead to form a coalition government following the federal election last weekend and the narrow victory of the Social democrats.


#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

230%

As Japan's government lifts the latest COVID-19 state of emergency that prevailed for the last six months, orders for beer kegs and bottles were up by 230% in the run-up to Friday's reopening, compared to the previous week.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Microplastics in Lake Baikal, world's largest freshwater lake at risk

Fishing nets, industry and other human-caused dumping are poisoning Russia's Lake Baikal, the world's largest, deepest (and oldest) lake. Bigger than all the North American Great Lakes combined, it's at risk after 25 million years of life, reports Anna Geroeva in Russian daily Kommersant.

💧🧪 A new study looking at microplastics was conducted on the southeastern coast of the lake and the Small Sea in Southern Siberia. These places are not the most populated on the Baikal shore but the water sampling areas were chosen not by chance: all of them are touristic areas, so they are considered to have a significant human impact. Olesya Ilyina, head of the expedition to Baikal, says, "In terms of water surface area, the concentration of particles corresponds to a high level of plastic pollution and is comparable to their content in man-made freshwater bodies, such as the North American Great Lakes."

🗑️ Lake Baikal is filled with polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene, the decay products of various household packaging materials. Dr. Maxim Timofeev, director of the Research Institute of Biology at Irkutsk State University, says that microplastic particles get into Baikal waters in different ways: Plastic is largely carried by the Selenga River that goes from Mongolia to Russia and flows into the lake. The second source of pollution is spontaneous garbage dumps and the third is the sewage treatment plants. Another way for plastic to get into Baikal waters is through cheap Chinese-made polymer fishing nets.

🌍 The ratio of plastic particle size groups in Baikal is not significantly different from the Pacific garbage patch. According to biologists, in Baikal, microplastic particles make up 34.3%; in the North Ocean garbage patch it's 52.5% and in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans it's 34.9%. At the same time, larger-sized pollutants — from 1.01 to 4.75 mm — in the waters of Lake Baikal make up 56.2% of particles, almost as much as was found in the three oceans: 57.5%.


➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"I risked my life and my freedom to return."

— Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili is back from his Ukraine exile, despite threats to arrest him should he set foot on his home soil. Saakashvili, who stands accused of abuse of power during his time in office (2004-2013), is calling for protests as the country is set to hold local elections this weekend.

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

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Pro-life and Pro-abortion Rights Protests in Washington

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Håfa adai!*

Welcome to Thursday, where new Omicron findings arrive from South Africa, abortion rights are at risk at the U.S. Supreme Court and Tyrannosaurus rex has got some new competition. From Germany, we share the story of a landmark pharmacy turned sex toy museum.

[*Chamorro - Guam]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• COVID update: South Africa reports a higher rate of reinfections from the Omicron variant than has been registered with the Beta and Delta variants, though researchers await further findings on the effects of the new strain. Meanwhile, the UK approves the use of a monoclonal therapy, known as sotrovimab, to treat those at high risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.The approval comes as the British pharmaceutical company, GSK, separately announced the treatment has shown to “retain activity” against the Omicron variant. Down under, New Zealand’s reopening, slated for tomorrow is being criticized as posing risks to its under-vaccinated indigenous Maori.

• Supreme Court poised to gut abortion rights: The U.S. Supreme Court signaled a willingness to accept a Republican-backed Mississippi law that would bar abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, even in cases of rape or incest. A ruling, expected in June, may see millions of women lose abortion access, 50 years after it was recognized as a constitutional right in the landmark Roe v. Wade case.

• Macri charged in Argentine spying case: Argentina’s former president Mauricio Macri has been charged with ordering the secret services to spy on the family members of 44 sailors who died in a navy submarine sinking in 2017. The charge carries a sentence of three to ten years in prison. Macri, now an opposition leader, says the charges are politically motivated.

• WTA suspends China tournaments over Peng Shuai: The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) announced the immediate suspension of all tournaments in China due to concerns about the well-being of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, and the safety of other players. Peng disappeared from public view after accusing a top Chinese official of sexual assault.

• Michigan school shooting suspect to be charged as an adult: The 15-year-old student accused of killing four of his classmates and wounding seven other people in a Michigan High School will face charges of terrorism and first-degree murder. Authorities say the suspect had described wanting to attack the school in cellphone videos and a journal.

• Turkey replaces finance minister amid economic turmoil: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan appointed a strong supporter of his low-interest rate drive, Nureddin Nebati, as Turkey’s new finance minister.

• A battle axe for a tail: Chilean researchers announced the discovery of a newly identified dinosaur species with a completely unique feature from any other creatures that lived at that time: a flat, weaponized tail resembling a battle axe.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

South Korean daily Joong-ang Ilbo reports on the discovery of five Omicron cases in South Korea. The Asian nation has broken its daily record for overall coronavirus infections for a second day in a row with more than 5,200 new cases. The variant cases were linked to arrivals from Nigeria and prompted the government to tighten border controls.


#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

¥10,000

In the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin, a reward of 10,000 yuan ($1,570) will be given to anyone who volunteers to take a COVID-19 test and get a positive result, local authorities announced on Thursday on the social network app WeChat.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Why an iconic pharmacy is turning into a sex toy museum

The "New Pharmacy" was famous throughout the St. Pauli district of Hamburg for its history and its long-serving owner. Now the owner’s daughter is transforming it into a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys, linking it with the past "curing" purpose of the shop, reports Eva Eusterhus in German daily Die Welt.

💊 The story begins in autumn 2018, when 83-year-old Regis Genger stood at the counter of her pharmacy and realized that the time had come for her to retire. At least that is the first thing her daughter Anna Genger tells us when we meet, describing the turning point that has also shaped her life and that of her business partner Bianca Müllner. The two women want to create something new here, something that reflects the pharmacy's history and Hamburg's eclectic St. Pauli quarter (it houses both a red light district and the iconic Reeperbahn entertainment area) as well as their own interests.

🚨 Over the last few months, the pharmacy has been transformed into L'Apotheque, a venture that brings together art and business in St. Pauli's red light district. The back rooms will be used for art exhibitions, while the old pharmacy space will house a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys. Genger and Müllner want to show that desire has always existed and that people have always found inventive ways of maximizing pleasure, even in times when self-gratification was seen as unnatural and immoral, as a cause of deformities.

🏩 Genger and Müllner want the museum to show how the history of desire has changed over time. The art exhibitions, which will also center on the themes of physicality and sexuality, are intended to complement the exhibits. They are planning to put on window displays to give passers-by a taste of what is to come, for example, British artist Bronwen Parker-Rhodes's film Lovers, which offers a portrait of sex workers during lockdown.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them. Never."

— U.S. actor Alec Baldwin spoke to ABC News, his first interview since the accident that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie Rust last October. The actor said that although he was holding the gun he didn’t pull the trigger, adding that the bullet “wasn't even supposed to be on the property.”

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

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