Zuck’s Big Loss, Taiwan On Alert, Kirk In Space

The Arc de Triomphe is being "unpacked," as the curtain falls on Christo and Jeanne-Claude's posthumous exhibit

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Na ngeen def!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where much of the world gets back online after a six-hour outage of Facebook-linked apps, the rich and powerful try to close the Pandora Papers box, and a Star Trek icon will boldly go where few have gone before. And remember that polluted Argentine lake that turned pink in July? Well, it's not pink anymore ...

[*Wolof - Senegal, Gambia, Mauritania]

💡  SPOTLIGHT

What is freedom? Surviving the Facebook outage in Bulgaria

"Do you get how big this is? It's been two hours now…"

No, I didn't get how big it was. Mostly, I was amazed that Daniel was both speaking in full sentences and making eye contact — I'd only ever seen him muted and bent over his computer screen scrolling through graphs and columns. But now he was reclining and spinning his office chair in the freshly remodeled common area of the co-working space I've called "the office" for the past four weeks.

"If Facebook stays down, some of my clients will lose six-figures," he said, looking half-amused, half-panicked.

Daniel (who turned out to be quite the talker during social media outages) had quit his day job after getting "almost rich" on bitcoin, and now divided his time between crypto trading, PR consultancy and freelance "growth hacking."

His isn't a particularly original story here at the shared office in central Sofia, Bulgaria. Many I've spoken to since arriving in September do something IT-Crypto related — mostly expats, some having moved here for the corporate tax flat rate of 10%, others just passing through before the next nomadic destination.

No matter what their gig or angle or life hack, every single person gives the same reason as Daniel for moving their lives online and on the road: more freedom.

"Have you checked bitcoin? … Way up. Decentralization, man," Daniel went on. More people had dropped into the common room, unable to either work or waste time in the usual ways on Facebook or Instagram or WhatsApp. Suddenly, there was far more social interaction in this kitsch four-story building than I'd seen ever since arriving.

A full-fledged debate was on about what this all meant: "If they built Facebook on a blockchain, this wouldn't have happened," an Estonian web designer from the top floor weighed in. "How safe is our data if they can't even keep their platforms up and running?"

The discussion went on as the evening arrived. Sitting there, listening to the tech-heavy analysis I couldn't fully understand — and philosophical riffs nobody could understand — I realized how hooked the world is on our battery of alerts and likes and digital noise. My only (unshared) thought was: This couldn't possibly be "more freedom."

After all, who really did understand any of this? Who actually knows where blockchain will take us? Who has actually read Facebook's privacy policy?

We will be assured that some simple glitch took down the Facebook empire, and now all is back online — and Mark Zuckerberg will even recoup his lost billions. But the forces behind our economy are more complex than ever, and any person governed by forces beyond comprehension can never be considered truly free. And we digital nomads of Bulgaria jonesing for Facebook and Whatsapp to come back online are the final, self-deluded proof.

Carl-Johan Karlsson

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp back after outage: Facebook-operated platforms are back online after an unusually long outage Monday, affecting more than 3.5 billion people. Downdetector reported it to be the largest outage they had ever seen, with 10.6 million reports of problems from across the globe. Following the outage, along with new revelations of unethical business practices, Facebook shares plummeted 4.8%, zapping away $5.9 billion from Mark Zuckerberg's fortune.

• Pandora Papers, Day 2: Russian President Vladimir Putin, the King of Jordan and the chairman of a top Indian conglomerate were among global figures denying wrongdoing, after Monday's revelations of the Pandora Papers journalism probe featuring in a huge leak of 12 million financial documents from offshore companies.

• COVID update: New Zealand has dropped its long-standing strategy of eliminating COVID-19, amid a persistent delta outbreak, easing some lockdown restrictions in its biggest city, Auckland. Authorities announced they will focus on increasing vaccination rates and learning to live with the virus.

• Taiwan "on alert" over China: The island nation claimed that Beijing flew a total of 148 military jets into its air defense zone since China celebrated its National Day on October 1. Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu warned that "China is going to launch a war against Taiwan at some point, even though the threat may not be imminent."

• Report: 216,000 children abused since 1950 by French priests: A major investigation into sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in France reported that the French clergy sexually abused an estimated 216,000 cihldren since 1950. Its authors accused the Catholic Church leadership of turning a blind eye for too long, and urged major reform.

• Joint Physics Nobel Prize: A century after Albert Einstein, the Nobel Prize in Physics has jointly awarded to U.S.'s Syukuro Manabe and Germany's Klaus Hasselmann "for the physical modelling of Earth's climate, quantifying variability and reliably predicting global warming," as well as to Italy's Giorgio Parisi "for the discovery of the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems from atomic to planetary scales."

• Beam me up, Jeff! Star Trek icon William Shatner has confirmed that he will go to space this month, on the second launch staged by the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' space travel company, Blue Origin, making him the oldest person to reach space.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter features a photograph of police officers mourning the death of their two colleagues who were killed along with artist Lars Vilks in a traffic accident. Vilks was under police protection since 2007 after he received death threats following his drawing of Prophet Muhammad with a dog's body.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

How far the no-vaxxers will go to dodge vaccine mandates

Countries are rolling out increasingly aggressive campaigns in an international effort to vaccinate the world out of the COVID-19 pandemic. But with the increased pressure comes increased resistance: From anti-vaxxer dating to fake vaccine passports, skeptics are finding new — and sometimes creative — ways to dodge mandates and organize against their governments. Here's how people around the world are getting around vaccination rules:

🤧 In Italy, where the government recently approved a new measure to make digital vaccine certificates compulsory for all employees, strategies to circumvent the signing of a consent form are multiplying. According to Italian daily La Stampa, skeptics are bringing lawyers to vaccination appointments, demanding the doctor to sign off on guarantees that the vaccine is safe, or demanding that the meeting be videotaped. Others are claiming to be allergic to vaccines, undergoing immunosuppressive therapies or suggesting they've had previous vaccine reactions like anaphylactic shock.

📄 A recent study by Check Point Research shows that fake COVID-19 vaccination certificates as well as test results of 29 different countries are being sold on Telegram. In India, the largest market for the popular messaging app, a fake vaccination certificate sells for $75, with prices having dropped by half since March 2021, India's Economic Times reports.

📲 In Indonesia, one of the first countries to instate a blanket mandate for vaccination, anti-vaxxers are taking to social media to undermine government authority. According to Nikkei Asia, Indonesian authorities have removed 2,000 vaccine-related hoaxes from social media platforms. For example, a TV report with manipulated captions had a scientist saying "our people will be killed by Chinese vaccines" and that jabs "make the virus more savage" — receiving 182,000 shares before Facebook took it down.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

14%

Global warming is responsible for destroying 14% of the world's coral reefs between 2009 and 2018, according to a report by Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, with corals in South Asia and the Pacific, around the Arabian Peninsula, and off the coast of Australia, being the hardest hit.

🇦🇷💧 IN OTHER NEWS

Polluted pink lake in Argentina has now turned red

Back in July, Argentine authorities had told people in Trelew, in the coastal province of Chubut, not to worry — a local lake that had turned pink, likely by chemicals, would soon be fine again. But instead, it has now turned red — or a kind of red-to-purple violet — as the daily Jornada de Chubut reported.

And again, locals don't know why.

The chief suspect is the effluents from a nearby fish firm, RASA, according to the Buenos Aires newspaper Clarín. In July residents of Trelew denounced the stench of the effluents entering the lake over two years, and the insects and vermin they attracted, and were evidently dissatisfied when Juan Michelou, a senior provincial environmental officer, said "it'll pass, the lake will recover its normal color within days." But instead, it appears to have gotten worse.

➡️ Read more and see images of the lake turned pink and red on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

Taiwan must be on alert. China is more and more over the top.

— Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang told reporters in Taipei, after a record 56 Chinese aircraft flew into the country's air defense zone on Monday. He added the country needed to "strengthen itself" to defend its freedoms and democracy against China, which views Taiwan as its own territory.

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

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China

Peng Shuai, A Reckoning China's Communist Party Can't Afford To Face

The mysterious disappearance – and brief reappearance – of the Chinese tennis star after her #metoo accusation against a party leader shows Beijing is prepared to do whatever is necessary to quash any challenge from its absolute rule.

Fears are growing about the safety and whereabouts of Peng Shuai

Yan Bennett and John Garrick

Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai's apparent disappearance may have ended with a smattering of public events, which were carefully curated by state-run media and circulated in online clips. But many questions remain about the three weeks in which she was missing, and concerns linger over her well-being.

Peng, a former Wimbledon and French Open doubles champion, had been out of the public eye since Nov. 2. 2021 when she penned a since-deleted social media post accusing former Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual misconduct.

In the U.S. and Europe, such moments of courage from high-profile women have built momentum to out perpetrators of sexual harassment and assault and give a voice to those wronged. But in the political context of today's People's Republic of China (PRC) – a country that tightly controls political narratives within and outside its borders – something else happened. Peng was seemingly silenced; her #MeToo allegation was censored almost as soon as it was made.

Keep reading... Show less
Support Worldcrunch
We are grateful for reader support to continue our unique mission of delivering in English the best international journalism, regardless of language or geography. Click here to contribute whatever you can. Merci!
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