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COP26 Last Day, COVID Boom In Europe, Lost Penguin

As the COP26 summit in Glasgow, UK, draws to a close, activists dressed as shrouded bodies standing for the victims of climate change, as part of a protest on Nov. 11.

Climate activists protest in Glasgow as the COP26 draws to a close.

Bertrand Hauger and Jeff Israely

👋 Kamusta!*

Welcome to Friday, where COP26 negotiations near crunch time, two iconic multinationals are split up and a very lost penguin arrives in New Zealand. We also sit back and ask the eternal, though not-necessarily-easy, question: What makes a comfortable chair?

[*Tagalog - Philippines]


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• New watered-down COP26 draft: The latest draft of the COP26 deal uses less drastic wording regarding its climate change commitments, referring to "inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels" while the previous version pledged to simply end the subsidies. The text is still open to changes, as the summit enters its final day today.

• UN, Russia weigh in on Belarus migrant crisis: Eight UN member states have issued a strongly-worded joint statement denouncing the migrant crisis at the Belarus-Poland border, and accusing Belarus of putting migrants' lives in danger "for political purposes". Meanwhile a top Russian official mocked Europe in response for having "masochist inclinations because to raise this topic, which is a total shame for the EU, in front of us would be very brave."

• Myanmar sentences U.S. journalist to 11 years in jail: A Myanmar court has sentenced American journalist Danny Fenster to 11 years in prison for incitement and breaches of immigration laws and unlawful associations laws. Fenster, 37, has been detained since May, one of more than 100 journalists detained in Myanmar since the military junta took power on Feb. 1.

• COVID update: Europe has become the pandemic's epicenter again, accounting for half of the world's latest infections and deaths. As cases soar, a three-week, partial lockdown is expected to be announced tonight in the Netherlands while Austria is reportedly days away from imposing a lockdown for unvaccinated people.

• New UK migrant crossing record: An estimated 1,000 people tried to cross the English Channel by boat to reach the UK on Thursday, a new record for the number of crossings in a single day. Three people are feared to be lost at sea. Since the beginning of the year, more than 23,000 people have attempted to cross from France into the UK by boat.

• Toshiba to split in 3, Johnson & Johnson in 2: Japanese software and electronics giant Toshiba has confirmed plans to split into three separate businesses. The country's oldest conglomerate has been under pressure from shareholders to rehaul its structure since its 2015 accounting scandal. Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson, the U.S. multinational health product company will be divided into two public companies, one for consumer products and the other pharmaceuticals and medical devices.

• Just going for a swim: A rare Adélie penguin was found looking lost on the shores of New Zealand — some 3,000 kilometers away from its Antarctica home. According to specialists, the bird's journey (the third of its kind) can be blamed on warming waters.


German weekly magazine Der Spiegel devotes its cover to Donald Trump's "perfidious plan" that could "lead him back to the White House" — a plan that hinges on preventing the committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riots from accessing key documents from the former U.S. president's tenure.


What makes a comfortable chair? Ergonomics isn't everything

A highly subjective concept, the notion of comfort has evolved over time and place — but what does it mean today? Sit back and read this analysis by Christian Simenc for French daily Les Echos.

🛋️ If there is one factor that's difficult to pinpoint in the furniture department, it's comfort. It's a highly fluctuating concept that's much more based on subjectivity than reason. It's a challenge, therefore, for designers to be able to predict our future well-being by tackling the mysterious experience of "feeling at ease."

🤔 Some have tried to list factors that could contribute to this comfort. One is Soizick Berthelot, an ergonomist and manager of the Ergonomics Studio in Paris: "Defining comfort is not easy," she says. "In order to quantify this notion, we have to bear in mind around 10 criteria, besides functionality." These include: contact, which refers to the firmness or flexibility of the product; the posture of the body; the thermal traits of temperature exchange between the product and the individual; the materials, bearing in mind they are non-allergenic; the sensorial experience like touch and the surrounding environment, which means light, temperature, noise and air humidity.

⚖️ But the right balance can be hard to find, because comfort also varies according to time and space. Thus, some seats from the Bauhaus era are not deemed comfortable nowadays, although they may have been so at the beginning of last century. Just as a seat made with a metal tube or molded in fiberglass would certainly have seemed out of place in an 18th-century home with padded furniture. Conversely, a "soft" armchair — one thinks of the famous P100 baseball glove style of the Lomazzi-D'Urbino-De Pas trio for Poltronova — would have seemed strange to previous generations. The same goes for current examples of furniture which, for sure, will appear curious, even uncomfortable in a few decades.

🧘 Each period cultivates its own idea of comfort that also varies depending on where you live: Westerners still raise an eyebrow at the sight of wooden headrests from sub-Saharan Africa, or have a hard time adopting the Japanese way of sitting cross-legged on a tatami mat.
In the end, could comfort be simply a construct of the mind? How does an aesthetically remarkable but uncomfortable seat, like the red and blue chair by Gerrit Rietveld, compare to a fundamentally ugly yet highly comfortable armchair? It's impossible to say.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


$84.5 billion

In a key bell-weather of the Chinese economy, e-commerce giant Alibaba reported total gross merchandise volume reached 540.3 billion yuan ($84.5 billion) in the 11-day Singles Day shopping period. Though an overall sales increase of 8.5% from last year, it is far slower growth rate than previous year (26%) and well below forecasts.


And what if we halt natural gas supplies?

— Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko has responded to potential renewed EU sanctions over its handling of the migrant crisis at its border with Poland, threatening to cut gas supply to Europe by turning off its Russian-owned pipeline.

✍️ Newsletter by Bertrand Hauger and Jeff Israely

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Minerals And Violence: A Papal Condemnation Of African Exploitation, Circa 2023

Before heading to South Sudan to continue his highly anticipated trip to Africa, the pontiff was in the Democratic Republic of Congo where he delivered a powerful speech, in a country where 40 million Catholics live.

Minerals And Violence: A Papal Condemnation Of African Exploitation, Circa 2023
Pierre Haski


PARIS — You may know the famous Joseph Stalin quote: “The Pope? How many divisions has he got?” Pope Francis still has no military divisions to his name, but he uses his voice, and he does so wisely — sometimes speaking up when no one else would dare.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (the former Belgian Congo, a region plundered and martyred, before and after its independence in 1960), Francis has chosen to speak loudly. Congo is a country with 110 million inhabitants, immensely rich in minerals, but populated by poor people and victims of brutal wars.

That land is essential to the planetary ecosystem, and yet for too long, the world has not seen it for its true value.

The words of this 86-year-old pope, who now moves around in a wheelchair, deserve our attention. He undoubtedly said what a billion Africans are thinking: "Hands off the Democratic Republic of the Congo! Hands off Africa! Stop choking Africa: It is not a mine to be stripped or a terrain to be plundered!"

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