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In The News

Johannesburg Blaze Kills Dozens, North Korea’s Mock Nuclear Strike, Tomatina Extravaganza

A group of people walking on tomatoes.

Annual “Tomatina” festival in the Spanish village of Buñol, near Valencia.

Yannick Champion-Osselin, Valeria Berghinz and Marine Béguin.

👋 ሰላም ሃለው*!*

Welcome to Thursday, where at least 73 are killed in a Johannesburg building blaze, North Korea simulates a “tactical nuclear strike,” and Spain’s yearly tomato debauchery yields striking images. Meanwhile, Giulia Zonca for Italian daily La Stampa reports on the controversy caused after a Turin gym installed urinals shaped like a woman's open mouth.

[*Selam halewi - Tigrinya, Eritrea and Ethiopia]

💡SPOTLIGHT

How Western technology is keeping Russian stocked with drones

In spite of commonly-held beliefs that the Russian military is fighting with outdated weaponry and uncoordinated assaults, Moscow still has plenty of access to complex weaponry, even in spite of technology sanctions from the West. Ukrainska Pravda looks deeper into the gray area that is keeping Russia’s war machine running:

How many times have we heard about how Russia is forced to fight with Soviet weapons and capture cities exclusively with barbaric, uncoordinated assaults?

This is only partly true.

Russia has numerous weapons that create serious problems for the Ukrainian Armed Forces. One prime example is the Lancet kamikaze drone. It sneaks beneath radars, its electric motor does not make loud noises, and the mass of the warhead is often sufficient enough to damage heavy machinery.

Since the war began, the Russians have used some 850 Lancets. Not all of them hit their targets, but the Ukrainian military considers these drones one of the biggest causes for concern on the front line.

Back in July, Kyiv's military commanders stated that Russia had only 50 Lancets left, but the truth is that these drones are by no means running out. Dozens of kamikaze UAVs are still flying, because the Russians are still managing to produce them. And they are not doing it alone.

"Lancets" are packed with complex electronics, which are not produced in the Russian Federation. There are components that are produced in the West, which still get to Russian military factories without any problems. The flows are so large-scale that Russia can not only maintain the old rates of production of these drones, but also increase them.

While it may seem that technological sanctions are having an impact, there are still many obvious gaps in them.

The world began discussing the Lancet drones a month ago, after a video detailing the production of the drones appeared on Russian state TV. In it, the audience was shown the site of a former shopping center, which was left abandoned by the exodus of Western brands, and which had been converted into a drone factory.

The clip indicated that Russia had increased production of the Lancet UAV 50 fold since 2022. Even if Kremlin propagandists have a tendency to overestimate production figures, the video, which shows a room with dozens of "Lancet" cases, raises a logical question about technology sanctions against Moscow: How are these drones still being produced in such large quantities?

These drones are produced by the Russian company Zala Aero. Neither the manufacturers of Lancet nor its owner Oleksandr Zakharov, whose family owns a luxury apartment in London, have yet come under Western sanctions. [...]

— Read the fullUkrainska Pravda article, translated into English by Worldcrunch.

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• At least 73 killed in Johannesburg fire: An early morning fire in a multi-story building in Johannesburg, South Africa has killed at least 73 people. Dozens of others are reported injured, as a search continues for survivors. The building was said to have been previously abandoned, but was inhabited at the time of the fire, the cause of which remains unclear.

• Ukraine drone strikes continue, Russia arms deal with North Korea: Another round of Ukrainian drone strikes targeted at least six regions in Russia, including Moscow, and damaged planes by hitting an airport near Russia’s Estonia-Latvia border, while a “massive, combined” drone attack on Kyiv killed two people overnight. Meanwhile, new reports reveal Russia deepening its military ties with North Korea through an arms deal.

• Gabon coup members choose General as leader: The army officers who seized power in Wednesday's coup in Gabon have selected General Brice Oligui Nguema as their provisional leader. The former head of the presidential guard was put into power after the coup deposed President Ali Bongo, who has called for the international community to "make noise" on his behalf. The UN, the African Union have condemned the coup alongside France, which had close ties to the Bongo family during its 55-year reign.

• North Korea simulates “tactical nuclear strike” on South Korea: In what it says is a response to U.S.-South Korean military drills, North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles in a drill simulating a “tactical nuclear strike” on South Korea. Officials in Seoul called the move “a grave provocation”. The overnight launch came hours after the U.S. performed drills using B1-B bombers, as a part of the yearly Ulchi Freedom Shield exercises, which Pyongyang claims are a rehearsal for invasion.

• Chile launches search for Pinochet’s victims: Fifty years after Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship began, Chile has announced a “national search plan” for those forcibly disappeared and executed under the 1973–1990 regime. Chilean President Gabriel Boric’s announcement is the first time that the Chilean state has assumed responsibility for the search for the 1,092 known victims listed as forcibly disappeared and the other 377 killed by political executions. Read more about recovering Chile’s disappeared on Worldcrunch.

• Train kills 5 rail workers in Italy: Five rail workers were killed around midnight while performing works on a railway near Turin, in northern Italy. The victims were struck by a train going 160 kph (100 mph) while they were moving empty carriages from Alessandria towards Turin. Two nearby workers managed to escape the accident.

• Five million bees on the loose: In Ontario, Canada, a truck spilled crates carrying five million bees onto a road, setting them loose. Local police warned drivers to keep their car windows closed as “swarms of bees were flying around.” Beekeepers have now rounded up most of the pollinators safely, leaving behind a few crates for the stragglers to return to on their own. Read at Worldcrunch about how Spain wants to bring in one bee for every Spaniard in a massive re-pollination program.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

French daily Libération features yesterday’s military coup d’état in Gabon, an attack which saw longtime President Omar Bongo deposed. The front page features a close-up photograph of Bongo, whose re-election had been announced shortly prior to the coup. “The military put an end to the family reign begun by his father”, they write — a lineage of power which had been reigning over Gabon since 1967.

#️⃣ BY THE NUMBERS

$52.67 billion

Japan's defense ministry on Thursday asked for a record 7.7 trillion yen ($52.67 billion) in spending for 2024, the latest step of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's plan to boost military spending by 43 trillion yen over five years.

📰 STORY OF THE DAY

A gym's urinal shaped like a woman’s mouth: extreme sexism or upside-down art?

In the Italian city of Turin, a gym has installed urinals that appear to be shaped like a woman's open mouth. From Duchamp to Warhol to Mick Jagger, everything we see is in the eyes of the beholder, writes Giulia Zonca for Italian daily La Stampa.

🚽 A photo posted online last week has sparked outrage and debate in Italy. The now infamous image from inside the men's bathrooms of the McFit gym in Turin shows urinals that are shaped like a woman's open mouth. While some are denouncing it as sexist, others are calling it art, or simply a joke — posing the broader question of why it's so important to discuss objectification?

👄The problem lies in the starting point, in the gaze that conditions all what we see, every perception we have of this country, every single prejudice. Who said that large red lips, with a hint of teeth from a toothpaste commercial's perfect smile, are inherently feminine? Yes, there's lipstick, the heart-shaped line, but they are objects of fantasy, a creative design that doesn't belong to a specific gender: in this case, urinals that a chain of gyms has hung in its bathrooms in an attempt to use art for an easy laugh.

🧠 There is better art with far more refined ideas, but in the face of this obvious descent into the vulgar, it's better to step forward and restore a more dignified sense to a debatable endeavor. Faced with a cartoon mouth, it's not obligatory to think of a submissive woman unless one has very little imagination and a terribly sad existence. The kind of imagination that envisions transgressive sex at the gym and spends evenings in masturbatory solitude at home, forever in search of compensating for having such a small ... brain.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

“Make our message reach to Elon Musk: 'Open Starlink in Sudan'.”

— Hacker group Anonymous Sudan took down X (formerly Twitter) for two hours in more than a dozen countries to pressure Elon Musk to launch his Starlink service in their country. The Sudan-based group has been accused of having links to Russia, but has confirmed its location in Sudan and that its principal aim is to show the world the range of skills of the Sudanese people.

📸 PHOTO DU JOUR

Spanish village Buñol, near Valencia, celebrated its annual “Tomatina” festival on Wednesday. Some 15,000 people attended this traditional street battle during which participants throw overripe tomatoes at each other, leaving the streets and themselves drenched in red pulp. Over 120 tons of fruit were used as ammunition this year. — Photo: Jorge Gil/Contacto/ZUMA

✍️ Newsletter by Yannick Champion-Osselin, Valeria Berghinz and Marine Béguin.


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Geopolitics

Lebanon On The Brink: Where External And Internal Threats Collide

A ghost state, an economy in ruins ... Lebanon has still not recovered from the explosion at the port of Beirut a little over three years ago. With war looming on its southern border, the country teeters near total collapse.

Photo of protesters during a rally organized by family members of victims killed in the 2020 blast in Beirut port, in front of the Justice Palace earlier this year.

Demonstration organized by family members of victims killed in the 2020 blast in Beirut port, in front of the Justice Palace earlier this year.

Nicolas Barré

BEIRUT — “Go to Place de l’Etoile, you'll find me there.” At the appointed time that morning, the square where the Lebanese Parliament is located is deserted. The silence of an abandoned city reigns, like in a Hitchcock scene, broken only by the raspy meows of two furious cats. Since the explosion at the port of Beirut on August 8, 2020, the surroundings of the building have been the image of a ghostly power. Vacant.

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On the facades of elegant buildings reminiscent of a Lebanon glowing with activity, the windows without panes are like open vents revealing only darkness inside, with electricity long cut off. On the corner, the Häagen-Dazs window is a pile of glass. A mess of overturned chairs suggests the hasty departure of customers, who haven't returned for three years.

“Look, there’s no one here! Our political class is barricading itself, it is afraid of the people!," declares Melhem Khalaf. This member of Parliament from Beirut receives people seated at a small table that he set up himself on the sidewalk, a stone's throw from the steps of Parliament.

It looks like another movie scene. At the end of the lifeless artery, one of the Lebanese army's roadblocks filters the rare entries into this protected enclave in the heart of the capital.

Khalaf is one of the dozen deputies elected during the May 2022 legislative elections without being affiliated with one of the religious communities that have long hung over Lebanese political life. With a group of lawyers, this president of the national bar association is fighting so that the investigation into the port explosion, so disturbing for Hezbollah, the militia party in control of the area, will one day be properly carried out.

Who still believes in justice, in politics, in the rule of law in this Lebanon shattered by decades of civil war and crisis?

Keep reading...Show less

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