Photo of a boat set on fire as part of the Wangye Worshiping Ceremony, also known as the Donggang King Boat Ceremony, a triennial festival in Donggang, western Taiwan.

Donggang King Boat Ceremony in western Taiwan

Daniel Ceng Shou-Yi/ZUMA
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank and Bertrand Hauger

👋 გამარჯობა!*

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]


This is our daily newsletter Worldcrunch Today, a rapid tour of the news of the day from the world's best journalism sources, regardless of language or geography.

It's easy (and free!) to sign up to receive it each day in your inbox: 👉 Sign up here


• 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 Kommersant writes 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.

➡️


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

Send us tiramisu recipes and COP26 predictions, and let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world!

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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]


This is our daily newsletter Worldcrunch Today, a rapid tour of the news of the day from the world's best journalism sources, regardless of language or geography.

It's easy (and free!) to sign up to receive it each day in your inbox: 👉 Sign up here


• 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.


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.



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.


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.

➡️


"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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