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In The News

Russians Digging In, Greek Election, Trevi Fountain Turns Black

Russians Digging In, Greek Election, Trevi Fountain Turns Black

Ultima Generazione activists protest the government's support to fossil fuel in the Trevi foutain in Rome.

Sophie Jacquier, Yannick Champion-Osselin, Marine Béguin, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 Ki kati!*

Welcome to Monday, where satellite images reveal Russian trenches and fortifications as it prepares for Ukraine’s counteroffensive, anti-fossil-fuel activists turn Rome’s Trevi Fountain black, and a Minnesota man gets charged for the theft of Judy Garland’s Wizard of Oz ruby slippers. Meanwhile, Giuseppe Legato reports in Italian daily La Stampa about the renewed, and deadly, alliance of mob families in Calabria.

[*Luganda, Uganda]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Ukraine update: Analysis of satellite images by BBC reveal the extent of Russian defenses ahead of an expected large-scale counteroffensive by Ukraine. Meanwhile Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky countered Russian claims of a complete takeover of the long contested city of Bakhmut. Senior Russian diplomats also warn of “colossal risks” if NATO supplies F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.

• Greece’s conservative party wins, but short of majority: The incumbent New Democracy party scored a 20-point victory over left-wing Syriza in national elections, but Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis looks to a new poll to assure his complete majority.

• U.S. signs defense contract in the Pacific Islands: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has signed a defense agreement with Papua New Guinea, and is set to meet with other leaders in the Pacific islands. India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also pledged his support for the Pacific Islands, amidst rising tensions surrounding China and Taiwan.

• China bans major U.S. memory chipmaker: Beijing has barred U.S. company Micron Technology, Inc. from selling memory chips to certain Chinese industries amid heightened trade tensions. China's cyberspace regulator said that Micron had failed a security review and thus would block operators from purchasing their products.

• Guyana school fire kills 20: At least 20 secondary school students died in a dormitory fire in the central Guyanese mining town of Mahdia on Monday. Emergency services are struggling to fight the fire in bad weather.

• Saudi astronauts, including first Arab woman, heading to space: A private rocket has launched on a mission to the International Space Station (ISS) carrying a former NASA astronaut and three paying customers: two Saudi astronauts and a Tennessee businessman. Breast cancer researcher Rayyanah Barnawi becomes the first Arab woman astronaut in space, sponsored by the Saudi government.

• Minnesota man charged for ruby slipper theft: Almost 20 years after they were stolen, a man has been indicted for stealing Judy Garland’s iconic ruby slippers from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. Terry Jon Martin stole the $100,000 slippers from a museum in Minnesota in 2005. They were recovered in 2018 by the FBI.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Athens-based Kathimerinireports on the results of Greece's general elections on Sunday: “Mitsotakis’s triumph, Tsipras’s crash.” The country’s conservative prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis won big, with his incumbent center-right New Democracy party getting more than 40% of the vote — just short of obtaining an outright majority. Although Mitsotakis is expected to set another election for a decisive result, the results already come as a blow for opposition leader Alexis Tsipras, of center-left Syriza party, with the former prime minister (2015-2019) only garnering 20% of the vote.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

2 hours, 37 minutes and 15 seconds

Spanish athlete Maria Perez broke the world record for women's 35-km race after crossing the finish line in two hours, 37 minutes and 15 seconds in Podebrady, Czech Republic, more than eight minutes ahead of her rival, Raquel Gonzales. She beat the record set by the Peruvian Kimberly Garcia in March by an impressive 29 seconds.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

A new Calabrian mob alliance sparks shocking violence — and more women victims

United to colonize the region’s north, two allied mob families from Calabria's 'Ndrangheta crime syndicate have resumed methods to establish themselves that have been abandoned for years. The result is as bloody as the Italian mob has been in memory, reports Giuseppe Legato in Italian daily La Stampa.

🤝 The ‘ndrina Abruzzese and the ‘ndrina Forastefano, two opposing cosche mob families, who had been at war with each other in the early 2000s, have now allied to take over what remains of northern Calabria up to the border with the Basilicata region. Cruel, cynical, archaic, harsh: this new hybrid Calabrian mob is back to shooting people in the streets, and it doesn’t spare women. In one year, two have died, bringing the number of victims in the past 24 months to 15.

💥 Those who kill almost always shoot with Kalashnikov assault rifles, and they don’t skimp on bullets: 18 from a Russian-made AK-47 rifle and 14 from a 9mm gun hit Antonella Lopardo, 49, in the beginning of May. Her hands, abdomen and face were riddled. The killers were after her husband Salvatore Maritato, who was the real (missed) target of the execution.

♀️ It is not common for women to be killed during mafia clan wars. The last time this happened in Calabria was nine years ago, when Ibisse Taoussa was murdered and burned along with convicted criminal Giuseppe Iannicelli and his grandson “Cocò” Campolongo, who was three years old. For this reason, investigators probing the case fear an escalation. On this stretch of the Calabrian coast, few things go unpunished, especially with murders like these.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

“We don't want to be on the outskirts of Europe anymore.”

— Moldovan President Maia Sandu addressed the crowd during a large-scale rally in the country’s capital Chisinau which gathered an estimated 75,000 people in support of the country joining the European Union by 2030. The demonstration comes amid tension between Moldova and Russia, whom Sandu has accused of meddling in the country's affairs.

✍️ Newsletter by Sophie Jacquier, Yannick Champion-Osselin, Marine Béguin, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

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Society

Maestro Messi: Soccer As A True Art Form

The Argentine Lionel Messi is the personification of soccer sublime . He has come to move fans in ways that art lovers are moved by a painting.

photo of messi making a move

Messi makes his move during a MLS match, September 3, 2023, at the BMO Stadium, in Los Angeles, CA. Inter Miami FC defeated LAFC 3-1

Jon Endow/Image of Sports/Newscom via ZUMA
Luis Vinker

This article was updated on Sep. 8, 2023 at 4:35 p.m.

-Essay-

BUENOS AIRES — Lionel Messi, that giant of soccer, is entering the twilight of his career by joining an American team, Inter Miami. He has received all the praise and glory anyone could in the world of sports, not to mention an ocean of publicity, online and offline, and all the money you could hope to earn. A while back, Marius Serra, a journalist with Barcelona paper La Vanguardia, counted 564 press articles on Messi in Spanish alone.

One is reminded of the "perfect beauty" evoked in one of Shakespeare's plays, mentioned in the novelist Stendhal's (1829) travel diary, Promenades dans Rome. Indeed, beside Messi's status as an icon for soccer fans from Buenos Aires to Bangladesh, is there an artistic dimension to this personage? His followers speak of him in superlative terms that suggest inspiration bordering on dizziness. That is how Stendhal felt viewing works of art in Florence.

One of his biggest fans is the Englishman Roy Hudson, a former footballer now based in Fort Lauderdale close to Miami. Recently he compared the exhilaration of watching Messi live to watching a Shakespeare play with the writer himself or watching Rembrandt paint. Millions of people living in Florida could now watch the greatest soccer player of all time, he said. In 2016, when Messi was in Barcelona, he compared him to the magician Houdini.

He has been a subject for at least two contemporary artists, Damien Hirst and Takashi Murakami. Hirst's triptych, Beautiful Messi Spin Painting for One in Eleven, sold for €448,000 for charity a decade ago. Though still young, he already boasts several biographies. One writer, Jordi Puntí, the author of Todo Messi, sees in him the concepts of lightness, speed, precision, visibility and multiplicity, which the Italian author Italo Calvino foresaw decades ago as shaping art and literature this century.

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