In The News

North Korea Fires Missiles, R. Kelly Guilty, New John Lennon Song

North Korea Fires Missiles, R. Kelly Guilty, New John Lennon Song

At a march in Baku to pay tribute to the soldiers, officers and civilians killed in action as Azerbaijan marks the one-year anniversary of the Nagorno-Karabakh campaign against Armenia

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin & Bertrand Hauger

👋 Hyvää huomenta!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where North Korea conducts its third weapon tests in just over two weeks, R&B singer R. Kelly is found guilty of sex trafficking, and an unearthed John Lennon tape is up for auction in Denmark. Meanwhile, we take a look at why despite being an oil- and gas-rich country, Iran has been marred by widespread blackouts in recent years.



• North Korea fires missile into the sea: North Korea has launched a short-range missile into the Sea of Japan, officials in South Korea and Japan say, Pyongyang's third weapon tests in just over two weeks. The launch came just before the country's ambassador to the United Nations urged the U.S. to scrap its "double standards" on weapons programs.

• China lets American siblings return home after 3 years: U.S. citizens Cynthia and Victor Liu, whose father Liu Changming is one of China's most wanted fugitives, have returned to the U.S. after being prevented from leaving China since 2018. The move coincides with a U.S. deal that led to the high-profile release from Canada of top Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou last weekend.

• UK puts military on standby to ease fuel pressures: After a fourth day of panic buying that left fuel pumps dry, the UK is training military drivers to deliver fuel supply to stations if necessary. The surge in demand came after a driver shortage led to empty supermarket shelves and raised fears about fuel deliveries.

• COVID update: U.S. president Joe Biden received a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, just days after booster doses were approved by federal health authorities. Meanwhile, the Philippines approves coronavirus vaccines for children as young as 12 as the country battles a surge in cases linked to the Delta variant, as Japan is set to lift its state of emergency in all regions at the end of this week.

• Three Polish regions repeal anti-LGBT declarations: Following the lead of the Swietokryskie region, three other regions in Poland voted to scrap resolutions that declared them free of "LGBT ideology." The EU had threatened to withdraw funding earlier this month.

• R. Kelly found guilty of sex trafficking: American R&B star R. Kelly was convicted of racketeering and sex trafficking after running a scheme to sexually abuse women and children for two decades. The singer could face decades in prison at sentencing, due in May.

• Never released John Lennon song up for auction: A long-lost tape containing an interview and an unheard song by John Lennon, which was recorded in 1970 in Denmark by a group of schoolboys, will be auctioned in Copenhagen this Tuesday.


Greek daily Nea Kriti reports on the magnitude 6 "deadly earthquake" which struck the island of Crete yesterday, killing one man, injuring 20 and destroying several old buildings.


Why the power keeps getting cut in oil-rich Iran

Iran has no shortage of oil and gas. And yet, its people and industries are having to contend right now with regular power cuts. The question, then, is why, and what — if anything — the Iranian government can hope to do about it, writes Roshanak Astaraki in Persian-language daily Kayhan-London.

⚡ Power cuts began in mid to late 2020, for some evident reasons such as the use of outdated gas power plants, reduced rainfall that has severely cut hydroelectric output, and lagging plans to boost solar power production. Their effects have included interruption of basic services, including in hospitals, and in production, which has led to layoffs. These are fueling dissatisfaction among a population already exasperated with state mismanagement in various areas.

🔋 For 50 years now, countries have focused on the need to replace fossil fuels with alternative energy sources. The UN held a conference on new energy sources as early as 1961. Iran engaged in those debates at the time, but its diversification plans were forgotten after the 1979 revolution. This neglect has turned a country once tipped to play a decisive role in energy markets into a fuel beggar. The regime's sixth development plan (2016-2021) envisaged a 5% share for renewables in Iran's energy production mix, but as of now, it's barely 1%.

🛢️ Iran has the world's second largest natural gas reserves and is fourth with regards to oil reserves. Nevertheless, it cannot meet domestic fuel needs. In the winter of 2020-21, many gas-powered plants had to use mazout as fuel, which reduced their output and caused severe pollution in cities. Shortages are expected this winter too, as demand is set to rise. The government is at an advanced stage in talks with Turkmenistan to import gas.

➡️



Move over, Quattro Formaggi: At the Sirha gastronomic in Lyon, Parisian chef Julien Serri, cheesemaker François Robin and YouTuber Morgan VS broke the world record for the most cheese varieties on one pizza. According to Robin, the resulting taste was "surprising."


"Islam first."

— As the Taliban toughen up their restrictions on women, the new chancellor for Kabul University, Mohammed Ashraf Ghairat, tweeted that "as long as real Islamic environment is not provided for all, women would be barred from teaching or studying at the institution". Such policy reflects the Taliban's first time in power in the 1990s, when women were banned from school, beaten up for transgressing the rules, and were only allowed to go out in public in the presence of a male relative.

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

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
food / travel

Town Annihilated In Spanish Civil War Now A Paranormal Attraction

Ghosts from Spain's murderous 1930s civil war are said to roam the ruins of Belchite. A growing number of tourists are intrigued and can book a special visit to the town.

A famous old village in Spain, this place was witness of a bloody fight in the Spanish civil war.
Paco Rodríguez

BELCHITE – Between August 24 and September 6, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, the town of Belchite in northeastern Spain became a strategic objective for the forces of the Republican government, before their assault on the nearby city of Zaragoza. Belchite seemed a simple target, but its capture took longer than expected. More than 5,000 people died in 14 days of intense fighting, and the town was decimated, with almost half the town's 3,100 residents dying in the struggle.

The war annihilated centuries of village history. The town was never rebuilt, though a Pueblo Nuevo (or new town) was built by the old one. The streets remained deserted. Stray dogs were the only ones to venture into the weed-covered, pockmarked ruins. A sign written on one wall reads, "Old town, historic ruins." Graffitis scrawled on the doors of the Church of San Martín recall better times: "Old town of Belchite, youngsters no longer stroll your streets. The sound of the jotas our parents sang is gone."

Belchite became an open-air museum of the horror of the civil war of 1936-39, which left 300,000 dead and wounds that have yet to heal or, for some today, must remain exposed.

For many locals, the battle of Belchite has yet to end, judging by reports of paranormal incidents. Some insist they have heard the screams of falling soldiers, while others say the Count of Belchite wanders the streets, unable to find a resting place after his corpse was exhumed.

Haunting the filming of Baron Munchausen 

The journalist and researcher Carlos Bogdanich decided to find out whether such claims made any sense, and visited Belchite on a cold October evening in 1986. He went with a crew from the television program Cuarta Dimensión (Fourth Dimension). Toward dawn, he related, a force seemed to pull and control them for several hours. They moved as if someone were guiding them, unaware of what they were doing. He recalled later, "We went up the Clock Tower. We thought we'd go right to the top. The next day, when we saw what we had done, we couldn't believe it. We could have gotten ourselves killed, and still, something enticed us to do this."

The true sounds of war reappeared.

They didn't see anything strange. But listening back to the recordings, they discovered sounds that could be easily identified with the war: planes, bombs, tanks, shots or army songs. The mysterious recordings made a big noise at the time, in Spain and around the world.

The legend began to take off then and has yet to subside today. Another example of paranormal events took place in the town during the filming of Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1989). Some members of the film crew saw two women dressed in traditional clothes who vanished when approached.

Belchite's mysterious ambiance also inspired the Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, who shot parts of Pan's Labyrinth here; and Spain's Albert Boadella, who had his grotesque version of General Francisco Franco in Have a Good Trip, Your Excellency returns to Belchite.

Ruins of the village of Belchite, in Zaragoza, Spain


Tourists drawn to unexplainable phenomena 

Ordinary visitors have also encountered unusual situations. Currently, you can only visit Belchite at set times every day, with prior booking. More daring visitors can also visit at 10 p.m. on weekends.

Your ticket does not include a guaranteed paranormal experience, but many visitors insist strange things have happened to them. These include sudden changes of temperature or the strange feeling of being observed from a street corner or a window. Furthermore, such phenomena increase as evening falls, as if night brought the devastated town to life.

There are four zones where the experiences have been more intense: the Plaza de la Cruz, the mass grave, and the town's two churches. In fact, there are mass graves in all four spots, both from the Civil War and the plague epidemic that hit the area in the Middle Ages.

Whatever the truth of the accounts, Belchite has become one of the most visited sites in the province of Zaragoza in recent years. And regardless of ghosts, its streets were the setting of horrible acts and a history that should not be repeated. The streets of Belchite are the open wounds of a town that had to reinvent itself to go on living.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!