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Welcome to Friday, where a new fast-spreading coronavirus variant has been identified in South Africa, Amazon is hit by global protests on Black Friday and IKEA is renting a tiny apartment for a tiny rent in Japan. Meanwhile, boars, jaguars, pumas and bears invade our newsletter as we look at how wildlife is moving into cities around the world.
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• South Africa identifies new coronavirus variant: Scientists in South Africa have identified a new coronavirus variant, called B.1.1.529, with mutations that appear to be spreading rapidly in parts of the country. Health Minister, Joe Phaahla said the variant was of "serious concern" and behind an "exponential" increase in reported cases, making it "a major threat." Within hours, the U.K, Israel and Singapore had restricted travel from South Africa and some neighboring countries, with the European Union and India among those announcing stricter border controls. The World Health Organization is scheduling an experts meeting on Friday to assess the new variant, and what it may mean for vaccines and treatments amid growing concern.
• Rio Olympics chief sentenced to 30 years in prison: Carlos Arthur Nuzman, head of the Brazilian Olympic Committee for over two decades, has been sentenced to 30 years and 11 months in prison for allegedly buying votes for Rio de Janeiro to host the 2016 Olympics. The 79-year-old was found guilty of corruption, criminal organisation, money laundering and tax evasion.
• Amazon faces protests and strikes on Black Friday: Protests organized by an international coalition of unions and environmental groups called "Make Amazon Pay" are being staged in Amazon buildings in Europe and the U.S. on Black Friday, one of the company's busiest sales days. The coalition's demands include a raise of warehouse workers' pay and an end to worker "surveillance."
• Libya gunmen storm court before Gaddafi's son appeal: An attack of armed men on a court in the southern town of Sebha prevented Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of Libya's slain former ruler Muammar Gaddafi, from lodging an appeal against his disqualification from next month's presidential election.
• Death toll of Russian mine blast soars to 52: A gas leak in a Siberian mine has killed at least 52 people, including six rescuers trying to recover missing miners, in Russia's worst mining disaster in a decade.
• Italy gives safe haven to National Geographic "Afghan girl": Sharbat Gula, who was made famous after National Geographic featured her on its 1985 magazine cover when she was just 12 years old, has been granted refugee status by Italy amid efforts to evacuate Afghans after the Taliban took over the country three months ago.
• The twist of Thailand's cannabis pizza: A restaurant chain has been successfully promoting "Crazy Happy Pizza" which is topped with a cannabis leaf. Despite Thailand's strict drug laws, the pizza is perfectly legal. The only "crazy, happy" high it provides is, well, eating pizza.
South African daily The Citizen reports on the discovery of a new coronavirus variant in the country which scientists believed to be the most heavily mutated version yet, meaning that vaccines may not be as effective.
Swedish retailer IKEA is renting a tiny 10-square-meter apartment in the Shinjuku district in Tokyo for just 99 yen ($0.86) per month. The company will provide the unit with its own furniture and accessories and will accept applications from potential tenants until Dec. 3. The trend of micro apartments has been surging in Tokyo, which is one of the world's most densely populated cities with more than 14 million residents.
📰 STORY OF THE DAY
Urban jungles? See wildlife moving into 7 cities around the world
In recent decades, deforestation, changing agriculture and livestock practices, global warming and the rapid expansion of urban areas into the natural habitats of animals have forced a growing number of species to adapt to life in the city. From New York to Berlin to Manizales, here's how cities around the world are affected by urban wildlife — and vice-versa.
🐗 Boars roam streets of Rome: In Rome, wild boars are increasingly seen strutting around the gardens and busy streets of the city. As late as last month, a dozen boars were filmed walking alongside the traffic on Via Trionfale, a busy road in the northern suburb of Monte Mario. While boars have been invading Roman suburbs for some time, they're recently becoming more brazen, moving deeper into urban areas where they rummage through piles of rubbish. Residents of Italy's capital see the multiplying herds as another sign of their city's decay — from the rubbish-riddled streets to the unkempt parks and graffitied houses.
🐆 Jaguars and pumas in Colombia: In Colombia, where the expansion of urban areas into the countryside is encroaching on the traditional habitats of animals, wildcat sightings are becoming more common in cities. Last week, a puma entered a residential complex in Manizales at night. According to the regional director of the Panthera South America organization, Dr. Esteban Payán, these encounters will become more even more regular as jungles, forests, moors, mangroves and plains are being cut down and the food supply of great cats like jaguars and pumas are diminished.
🐻❄️ Climate change changes bear habitats in Canada and Russia: In the 900-strong Canadian town of Churchill, located some 1,600 kilometers north of Winnipeg, polar bears in search of food are becoming more frequent visitors. Every year, some 900 bears in the western Hudson Bay area must be airlifted out of the town. As temperatures increase, the sea ice sometimes melts away as soon as July and takes longer to freeze back during the autumn and winter. The result is that the polar bears have less time on the ice to hunt the food needed to build up fat reserves for the warmer season.
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We must not look the other way.
— Pope Francis tweeted on the 22nd International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, emphasizing that "women victims of violence must be protected by society." Thousands of protesters hit the streets of Europe and Latin America on Thursday to demand an end to violence against women. This year has been marked by the continued consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused a spike in domestic violence, which the United Nations Secretary-General described as a "shadow pandemic."
"She asked for it" — Rape culture in spotlight at Miss Senegal beauty contest
As a defense mechanism, Amina Badiane could not have done worse. It was last Thursday, Nov. 18, when the chairwoman of the Miss Senegal organizing committee spoke with Dakarbuzz, a website based in the capital.
The interview was an opportunity to respond to the revelations of Ndèye Fatima Dione, Miss Senegal 2020, who had revealed publicly the violence she'd suffered during her time as the nation's No. 1 beauty queen. Her mother had also revealed that Dione's pregnancy was the consequence of rape, committed during a trip organized by the committee.
"Rape is between two people, isn't it? It's not just about one individual," Badiane told reporters. "If she was raped, she must file a complaint." The contest organizer added that during the pageant's sponsored travels, the conditions of entry into young women's bedrooms are subject to very strict instructions.
"No one is allowed in, not even friends. The girls receive a very strict education," Badiane said. Then after asking confirmation of her words from another Miss Senegal contestant, added in the regional Wolof language, without anyone around her objecting: "Kougnou violer, yaw la nekh". This translates to "If she was raped, it's because she asked for it." After making the outrageous remark, Badiane chuckled, and added: "After all, she is an adult."
It quickly set social media alight across Senegal, where the hashtags #JusticeforFatima proliferated. A petition from the platform "Ladies Club Senegal," demanded "the immediate withdrawal of the operating license of this committee and its dissolution." Within three days, it had already accumulated more than 50,000 signatures, while calls spread for Badiane's resignation.
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✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger
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