G20 & COP26, Facebook Becomes Meta, Moscow On Lockdown

A woman crosses the deserted Red Square in Moscow, where lockdown measures were reintroduced

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Mhoroi!*

Welcome to Friday, where world leaders meet in Rome for the G20 (before meeting again in Glasgow for the COP26 on Sunday), Facebook rebrands itself as Meta and following Texas' recent near-total ban on abortion, we also look at the mixed landscape of abortion rights across the globe. Then we unpack the Japanese dog breed name now attached to a $30 billion cryptocurrency.

[*Shona - Zimbabwe]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Leaders make rounds from G-20 to COP26: The Saturday-Sunday G-20 gathering in Rome marks the first in-person meeting of the world's biggest economies in two years, with some key leaders including Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin and new Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida joining virtually. Many of the same world leaders will then travel to Glasgow, Scotland to kick off the COP26, the two-week United Nations' climate summit.

• Biden meets Pope: On his way to the two summits, Joe Biden, the second Catholic president in U.S. history (after JFK), is meeting with Pope Francis today at the Vatican, with plans to discuss both their faith as well as global issues including climate change, migration and income inequality.

• Facebook's new name: The tech giant has rebranded itself as Meta as part of its ambition to be a pioneer in the so-called metaverse, a new digital frontier incorporating virtual reality and other immersive technology. The change comes as Facebook faces global criticism for spreading misinformation and condoning hate speech and anti-democracy activity on its platform.

• Immigration to wealthy countries dropped in 2020: According to a new OECD report, the number of people moving to the 38 leading developed and emerging economies was at its lowest level since 2003. All migration categories experienced drops last year amidst global border closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic; the number of asylum seekers fell by 31%, the largest drop since the 1990s Balkan wars.

• NASA reveals new Jupiter findings: Scientists revealed the latest discoveries on Jupiter, including surprising findings about the planet's Great Red Spot and the cyclonic storms swirling at the poles. The findings, just published in a scientific paper, come thanks to the February and July 2019 flights over the Great Red Spot by NASA's Juno spacecraft.

• Tedros on track for second WHO term: Current head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of Ethiopia, is on course to serve a second five-year term. Sources tell Reuters that Tedros, who has helped lead the global fight against COVID-19, was the only candidate nominated by 28 countries in secret balloting. The final vote is slated for May.

• Roman sculptures found abandoned in UK medieval church: Archeologists uncovered two intact Roman sculptures of a man and a woman as well as the head of a child at St Mary's Church in Buckinghamshire. Such a discovery is incredibly rare and researchers hope the artifacts will lead to greater understanding of the site.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"No more excuses," titles Italian weekly magazine Internazionale, reporting on the upcoming COP26 Climate Change Conference this Sunday, which will need to bring "radical change to avoid a catastrophe."

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

55 million

Police officers intercepted a truck carrying some 55 million methamphetamine tablets and more than 1.5 tons of crystal meth, making it the biggest single drug seizure ever recorded in Asia, according to the United Nations. The drugs were seized near the border with Thailand and Myanmar, a significant drug producing area known as the "Golden Triangle."

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Roe v. Wade and beyond: The battle for abortion rights around the world

As many look to an imminent threat to abortion rights in the U.S., there are changes afoot around the world, from strict new bans and more subtle means for limiting access to surprising progress elsewhere for women's right to choose.

🤰 China: Women's bodies as economic instruments While China has long been known for its family planning through its One-Child Policy to limit population growth, recent efforts to reduce abortions are raising concerns. In September, the State Council, China's cabinet, announced its intention to curb "medically unnecessary" abortions, but with few details on how this would be achieved. The plan also included increased access to birth control. While the government issued a similar proposal in 2011, some are more concerned now given increased government intervention in promoting childbirth amidst an aging population.

Latin America: Choice on the rise Latin America has some of the world's strictest abortion laws, partially because of the influence of the Catholic Church. But this might be changing, with large-scale protests by feminist groups influencing the policies of legislatures across the region. Perhaps most notably, Mexico's Supreme Court delivered a landmark decision in September when the majority of judges voted to decriminalize abortions. Women around Mexico held up green bandanas — an abortion rights symbol that began in Argentina — to honor a shift that clearly is having ripple effects in their country and beyond.

🛑 North Africa and Middle East: de facto bans Close to 80% of women in the Middle East, North Africa region have restricted access to abortion. Sites like Women on Web help facilitate sending abortion pills to areas where they are difficult or impossible to acquire, but these platforms have been banned in Saudi Arabia, where abortions are authorized only in rare circumstances. Tunisia and Turkey are the only two MENA countries that allow elective abortions; most governments in the region only permit them when they are medically necessary.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

Just give us our own money.

— Taliban spokesman Ahmad Wali Haqmal made the plea in an interview with Reuters, as Afghanistan's Taliban government urges the U.S. Federal Reserve and central banks to Europe to release billions of dollars in assets that have been frozen since the Taliban retook power last August. The country is currently facing the risk of mass starvation and a new migration crisis.

🇳🇱🌊 IN OTHER NEWS

New climate alert: "Low country" Netherlands facing major sea-level rise

In its native Dutch language, the Netherlands is called Nederland, which means "low countries" and for good reason: approximately one-quarter of the coastal nation is below sea level, and more than half is susceptible to flooding.

This makes, even more, alarming a new report of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) that sea levels off the Dutch coast will rise between 1.2 and 2.0 meters by the end of this century if the planet does not succeed in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Dutch national broadcaster NOS reported this week.

The expected sea level rise is an upward revision, as the institute had previously concluded that the maximum sea level rise would be one meter. The updated findings, released just days before the opening of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, are based on the latest report by the UN climate panel IPCC, which came out this summer.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

💬  LEXICON

柴犬

The meme-able Japanese dog breed Shiba Inu gave its name to the cryptocurrency SHIB. With an approximately $30 billion market value, SHIB has overtaken the similarly themed Dogecoin. But the love of man's best friend? Priceless.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, 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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