Welcome to Thursday, where Russia gives up the key city of Kherson, Biden basks in the U.S. midterms and a late Microsoft billionaire’s art auction pulls in $1.5 billion. We also take a closer look at how Sharm el-Sheikh, the Egyptian coastal resort, has been reinvented (again) to host world leaders for the COP27, and it’s come at the expense of the local ecosystem.
• Russia pulls out of Kherson in major victory for Ukraine’s counteroffensive: Moscow announced the withdrawal of Russian troops from the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, a major victory for Kyiv two months into its fall counteroffensive. Kherson, a key port city, was occupied by Russia just days after the Feb. 24 invasion.
• Midterms muddle: While the U.S. states of Nevada and Arizona tally votes in neck-and-neck races that could determine which party controls the Senate, the House of Representatives increasingly likely to switch to a Republican majority, though with a slimmer margin than pollsters had forecast. President Joe Biden declared the election a “good day for American democracy.”
• COP27 reparation moves: With world leaders gathered in Sharm el-Sheikh for the COP27 summit, Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon pledged $5.7 million to compensate developing countries for efforts at addressing climate change. French President Emmanuel Macron said Europe was helping poorer countries and that other Western nations like the United States needed to do more.
• Crypto world rocked: Binance, the world's biggest cryptocurrency exchange, said it would not go through with its planned deal to buyout crypto exchange company FTX after reports of "mishandled customer funds and alleged U.S. agency investigations" had swayed its decision to withdraw from the deal. Cryptocurrency markets are facing heavy losses, as investors grapple with the fallout of FTX and its FTT token down 90%.
• Tiananmen dissident Boa Tong dies: Bao Tong, the former top aide of reformist leader Zhao Ziyang, and latest top Chinese Communist party official to be jailed over the Tiananmen pro-democracy movement, died on Wednesday.
• Australian abortion data leaked: Hackers who stole customer data from Australia's largest health insurer Medibank have released a list of abortions following the company’s refusal to pay a ransom to recuperate the data, a move supported by the Australian government.
• Iranian star actress takes off headscarf: Taraneh Alidoosti, an Iranian actress best known for her role in Oscar-winning film, The Salesman, posted an image of herself without a headscarf, in solidarity with those protesting the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of Iranian police. In the photo, she holds a sign that says "Woman, Life, Freedom" in Kurdish, the slogan used among protesters.
Brazilian daily Correio pays tribute to Gal Costa’s “immortal voice” after the iconic singer, a leading figure in the country’s “tropicalia” genre beginning in the late 1960s, died in São Paulo on Wednesday at the age of 77.
Paintings and sculptures belonging to late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen have been sold for a whopping $1.5 billion, in what Christie’s calls the largest art auction in history. Works by Vincent van Gogh, Georges Seurat, Paul Gauguin, Paul Cezanne and Gustav Klimt sold for record-breaking prices for each artist, and proceeds from the sale will be donated to charities supported by Allen before his death in 2018.
Sharm El-Sheikh, what's lurking behind COP27 shine
The Egyptian coastal resort has been reinvented (again) to host world leaders for the COP27, as it aims to cast a climate-financing-hungry Egypt in a favorable light. But the cosmetic changes hide years of harm to the region's ecosystem, report Mohamed Ezz and Nada Arafat in independent Egyptian media Mada Masr.
🏜️ For thousands of years, the deserts of South Sinai remained largely unsettled, with their only population being nomadic. Israel established the first diving center in the region, along with a few primitive tourist camps in the 1960s. Visiting tourists from Israel and Europe were captivated by the unique marine and terrestrial ecosystems. As Egypt slowly and gradually began to regain control of Sinai after the 1973 war, Sharm el-Sheikh was returned to the Egyptian government in 1982. Building on the nascent tourist industry, the government placed the region at the heart of its development plans.
🐠🏨 With the local economy so tied to tourism, efforts to rein in the environmental damage have proved hard to implement. South Sinai’s protectorates administration banned diving training for non-professionals in 2019 as a result of the extensive damage to the coral reefs and marine ecology. But as hundreds lost jobs and dozens of diving centers closed, the administration soon overturned its decision. Now, around 200,000 people visit Ras Muhamad National Park each year, well beyond the globally recommended cap for diving sites of just 7,000–15,000 people per year.
🏗️ After these decades of environmental deterioration, the government embarked this year upon plans to green the city, as Egypt was delegated to host COP27 during the 2021 edition of the climate summit in Glasgow, UK. But Sharm el-Sheikh’s rebrand for COP27 is only skin deep. Rather than “greening” the city for COP27, “they are preparing for the climate change summit with asphalt,” says Amgad, an Egyptian national who first moved to Sharm after it was reclaimed from Israel. Sheikh has begun to increase the width of several roads up to as many as 12 lanes, while the size of bicycle lanes has been reduced to make way for the expansion.
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I think I was given the wrong speech!
— There was a brief moment of levity among meetings-packed days at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, as UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres realized he was reading from a speech that was meant for a later session, eliciting laughter from the audience.
✍️ Newsletter by Bertrand Hauger, Laure Gautherin, Sophia Constantino
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