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.
🌎 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
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
"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.
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