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​High school graduates from Chernihiv are dancing before the destroyed Hotel Ukraine.

High school graduates from Chernihiv are dancing before the destroyed Hotel Ukraine.

Lisa Berdet, Lila Paulou and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 Halo!*

Welcome to Friday, where Kyiv gets EU candidate status in Brussels, while Ukrainian forces retreat from Severodonetsk, there’s good and bad news in the U.S. for gun control advocates, and scientists discover one big bacterium. Meanwhile, Persian-language news website Kayhan-London looks at the reasons behind the harsher tone the West has adopted toward Iran in recent weeks.

[*Sundanese, Indonesia]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Ukraine’s EU candidate status, Severodonetsk set to fall: EU leaders granted Ukraine and Moldova official candidate status to join the bloc, a major diplomatic victory for Kyiv that also sends a clear message of European unity to Russia four months after invading Ukraine. Meanwhile, Severodonetsk appears set to fall under full control of Russian forces, after the governor of the Luhansk region said Ukrainian forces will have to withdraw from the strategic city.

• U.S. Senate gun safety bill follows Supreme Court gun rights decision: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Americans have the right to carry guns in public, on the same day the Senate approved a bipartisan gun control bill, the first in nearly three decades. This comes at a time when mass shootings are surging across the country.

• Xi Jinping’s potential visit to Hong Kong: Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Hong Kong is on hold after two top officials have been tested positive to COVID-19. Xi Jinping's visit was expected for the 25th anniversary of the city’s handover next week.

• Afghanistan lacks medical supplies for earthquake survivors: Two days after the magnitude 6.1 earthquake that killed over 1,000 people and injured 2,000, Afghanistan authorities have announced that the health ministry is running short of medical supplies. Pakistan, Japan, South Korea, India, Taiwan and the United Arab Emirates have all replied to the call for assistance.

• UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson under pressure after election defeats: The UK’s Conservative party lost two major seats during parliamentary elections, a new setback for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson who refuses to hand his resignation.

• German transgender athletes can choose their team: The German football federation has passed a regulation allowing gender-noncomforming football players to choose whether they want to play in men’s or women’s teams, starting the coming season. The rule concerns transgender, intersex and non-binary players for youth, futsal and amateur football.

• Largest bacterium ever discovered by scientists: The world’s biggest bacterium has been discovered by scientists in the French Caribbean. Thiomargarita magnifica measures up to 1 centimeter, looks like an eyelash and is visible to the naked eye.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Today’s frontpage of Russian daily Kommersant addresses the technical challenges encountered by BRICS leaders during a visioconference meeting as part of their 14th summit. Russian President Vladimir Putin had to suggest Indian President Narendra Modi to use earphones as he could not hear nor be heard.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

142.9 million

Senegalese comedian Khaby Lame has dethroned American teen dancer Charli D'Amelio to become the most-followed person on TikTok with 142.9 million fans — all without uttering a word. After losing his job during the early days of the pandemic in 2020, the 22-year-old who currently lives in Italy started posting videos in which he makes fun of life-hacks videos wordlessly, rapidly gaining success on the platform.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Why the West is finally taking a harder line on Iran

After years of ignoring or downplaying domestic protests in Iran, Western states and media have begun to imagine — and even prepare for — the still slim but growing possibility of a regime change in Tehran, writes Persian-language Kayhan-London.

🇮🇷☢️ In past weeks, European countries and the United States have adopted a harsher tone against Iran, with criticisms going beyond the issue of stalled talks to revive the 2015 multilateral pact on Iran's nuclear program. While the European Union and United States are still reluctant to declare the pact dead, they know the negotiations are at death's door. That is because the Iran has shown it has no intention of ending nuclear activities with the aim of developing a bomb. Many of the regime's think tanks believe possessing nuclear weapons is its guarantee against foreign attempts to bring about regime change.

🗞️ Broadly ignoring the various protests in Iran over the past year, the Biden administration seems to have shifted a little at least in recent weeks through its statements in support of ordinary Iranians. On June 16, the State Department spokesman Ned Price condemned the use of force against peaceful protests. This shift is more evident in Western media, which have finally decided to report on the repression of protests in Iran. The mainstream media line of past years was to view self-declared reformists inside the Iranian regime as the only proper opposition to itself. But no longer.

✊ These changing nuances among Western states and media are a symptom of the Iranian regime's weakness. Every day it is challenged by people who have lost all hope of it meeting their basic needs, and rightly concluded that the only way to clear the nation's horizon is to sweep away a failed polity. Belatedly, the West has seen this utter disenchantment. That said, until it can see a clear alternative to a 40-year-old regime entrenched in power, it is unlikely to take further, or bolder, steps backing Iran's democratization.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

You are a mess, guys.

— Western Balkan countries’ representatives met with European leaders on Thursday to discuss their adhesion to the bloc. Tensions have been rising amid Bulgaria’s veto of launching talks for North Macedonia’s accession, which is in turn delaying negotiations for Albania. Albanese Prime Minister Edi Rama called out EU leaders for the delay: “You are a mess guys, you are a big mess and you are a disgrace.” European Council President Charles Michel replied that starting negotiations with both Albania and North Macedonia was a “top priority.”

✍️ Newsletter by Lisa Berdet, Lila Paulou and Anne-Sophie Goninet


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Society

Holy Mess! Spain's Disfigured Christ Mural Remains A Hit With Tourists

The clumsy restoration of a mural of Christ in a Spanish chapel 10 years ago shocked, then amused Spaniards and millions more abroad, and gave the local town a level of publicity, and tourist revenues, it never had nor could have hoped for. Here's how it looks 10 years later.

Man in front of the notorious disfigured Christ mural inside a Borja chapel

Marina Artusa

BORJA — Among the countless pictures and images of Christ around the world, it might not be outlandish to imagine that one of them might seek revenge — using humidity as the instrument of its vengeance.

One might say this of a by-now notorious mural of Christ inside a chapel in Borja in the province of Aragón, northern Spain.

Painted in 1930 by a painter and academic, the image was smothered in 2012 by Cecilia Giménez Zueca, a local resident and amateur painter. She wanted to help no doubt, but her "unfinished" restoration turned a venerable image of the suffering Christ — an Ecce Homo — into a bloated, indefinable cartoon.

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