Welcome to Monday, where COP21 kicked off and G20 fizzled out, COVID toll tops 5 million, and Italy mourns the "father of tiramisu." Looking at both Russian and Ukrainian papers, we also analyze the drone arms race raging between the two countries.
[*Gamarjoba - Georgian]
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• COP21 begins: The United Nations 12-day environmental summit has begun in Glasgow, with negotiators pushing nations to curb rising global temperatures. Alok Sharma, a British government minister who is chairing the event, described it as "our last, best hope to keep 1.5 [°C] in reach."
• G20 ends: The Rome meeting of the leaders of the world's top 20 economies ended with a formal agreement to endorse a minimum 15% tax rate for companies with annual revenue above $865 million. There were also (non-binding) agreements on ending coal financing by the end of 2021 and containing global temperature rising to 1.5 °C, as well as vaccinating 70% of the world against COVID-19 by mid-2022.
• Japan elections, no surprise: Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has won with his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Despite criticism for its handling of the pandemic and the Olympic Games, the LDP has kept its long hold on the Japanese government, with 276 of the 465 lower house seats, meaning PM Kishida can rule without forming a coalition.
• COVID toll tops 5 million: The global death toll from COVID-19 tops five million, some 20 months into the pandemic. After 18 months of travel restrictions, Thailand reopens to tourists from 60+ "low-risk" nations, with tens of thousands expected to arrive today. And Tonga — one of the last countries to have no recorded COVID-19 infections — recorded its first case as the Pacific island nation rushes to vaccinate its population.
• Tokyo train Joker attack: A 24-year-old dressed on Halloween as the Joker comic book character attacked passengers on a Tokyo train line, injuring 17 people, including one critically. Witnesses say the suspect first brandished a knife before sprayed a clear liquid in the carriage and setting it on fire.
• U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments over Texas abortion law: The highest U.S. court will hear arguments around whether the second largest state can allow private citizens to enforce its strict abortion ban. Since 1973, the Roe v. Wade case has cemented a constitution right to abortion up to about 24 weeks, while the Texas law limits it to six. It is unclear whether this case could lead to the reversal of Roe v. Wade.
• Tiramissyou already: Ado Campeol, known as "the father of tiramisu," died over the weekend at age 93. Together with his wife Alba di Pillo, Campeol is credited with inventing the rich dessert (dipped in coffee, layered with a mixture of eggs, sugar, and mascarpone and a touch of powdered cocoa) in Treviso, northeastern Italy, in the 1970s.
Tokyo-based daily Mainichi Shimbun reports on Japan's national elections, as Prime Minister Fumio Kishida headed for a clear victory, as his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) defied expectations by securing enough seats to govern without having to form a coalition.
The stakes of a Ukrainian-Russian drone arms race
A recent unmanned attack could heighten tensions in the conflict zone and have broader geopolitical consequences. This drone competition is a reminder that even as peace talks between Ukraine and Russia continue to stall, the local arms race isn't slowing down. Looking at both Ukrainian and Russian sources on the matter, Worldcrunch's Anna Akage writes:
💥 Recently, Vladimir Putin complained that even without accepting Kyiv into its ranks, NATO could place missiles in Ukraine near Russia's borders. Russian media was quick to help prove Putin's point, writing about Washington's current military aid to Kyiv, Ukraine's talks with London on obtaining British Brimstone missiles and Turkish drones in Donbas, which has been a disputed site of conflict since 2014. Just days later, the Ukrainian military for the first time used the Turkish Bayraktar TB-2 drone in Donbas. The incident could seriously change the situation in the conflict zone and have consequences for both Russian-Ukrainian and Russian-Turkish relations.
🇷🇺 Russian daily Kommersantwrites that the main threat now is the military friendship between Ukraine and Turkey. "We have a really special and good relationship with Turkey, but in this case, unfortunately, our fears are confirmed that the supply of such weapons to the Ukrainian military could potentially destabilize the situation on the line of contact," says Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Russian president. Russian expert Vasily Kashin believes that the use of drones in Ukraine "will necessitate a radical strengthening of the air defenses of both Ukraine and the Donetsk People's Republic. The balance will require either radical rearmament of the republic's air defense forces or direct participation in their air defense against the Russian armed forces."
🇺🇦 But the evidence on the ground might be more mixed: The Ukrainian magazine Livy Bereg took a closer look at the number of Russian drones. Originally, Russia was far ahead of Ukraine in military technological progress. Almost simultaneously, the two countries purchased a tactical drone in Israel. However, while Ukrainian procurement was gathering dust in warehouses, the Russians had already established production by 2011. But then Moscow unexpectedly fell behind.
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I don't think. I know.
— French President Emmanuel Macron, asked by a Sydney Morning Herald reporter whether he thought Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had lied to him about the scrapped $37-billion AUKUS submarine deal.
Polish hideout? Zambian shave? Translating the "Meta" meanings of Facebook's new name
Mark Zuckerberg's unveiling of the new name for his company last week was a global event. And the choice has an international (ancient) ring: Meta, a word that tends to be used today to mean self-referencing, though the Greek prefix μετα refers to "after" or "beyond." But the word has many different (and sometimes unpleasant) meanings in different languages and cultures around the world. Here's a quick sampling:
🎣 Something fishy in Sweden In Sweden, a country of 100,000 lakes, "meta" is the word for angle fishing. While meta is the preferred method for catching perch, the Swedish Association for Sport Fishing notes that with the proper technique and bait, this primitive approach can in fact be used to catch all the common fish found in the northern country.
🐎💩 From Italy: chariot races and poop It all started in the Roman circuses, where the word "meta" meant the cone-shaped columns in the middle of the arena that marked the turning points for carriages — it was the most exciting and dangerous part of the chariot races. From its Latin origins, the word meta turned into "objective" or "final destination" in Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. But searching further, Italians may find a more archaic meaning of the word that is still used in agriculture: Meta is the name given to the pyramid-shaped piles of straw, hay, manure and excrement rising in the fields. And as a consequence, it also means "excrement of a large animal, emitted at once".
🧔 Hairy in Malawi In Chichewa, a language common to the African nations of Malawi and Zambia, Meta means "to shave." That shouldn't be much of a problem for Mark Zuckerberg ... but what's Chichewa for nice haircut?
🥃 Speakeasy notes from Poland In Polish, one formal meaning of the word is similar to the Italian one linking to destination, or finish line. But as a Facebook commenter noted, it's also used in Poland to mean a hiding place for criminals or somewhere to buy illegal alcohol. How do you say that in Palo Alto? Safe House? Speakeasy? Bootlegger den?!
➡️ Check out other awkward Meta meanings here.
Oxford English Dictionary lexicographers have chosen "vax" (also spelled vaxx) as word of the year. Although coined in the 1980s, the usage of this abbreviation of the word "vaccine" skyrocketed this past year due to the pandemic, spawning other derived terms like anti-vaxxer, vax-a-thon, double vaxxed, etc.
✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank and Bertrand Hauger
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