In The News

Texas Abortion Ban, Double Jab & Long COVID, Brussels Doctor’s Orders

Welcome to Thursday, where double vaccination is found to halve the chances of long COVID, a near-total abortion ban comes into effect in Texas and Brussels doctors know what's good for you (it's not sprouts). French daily Les Echos also *dives* deep to see if the miraculous powers of algae can save our lives and the planet.

Texas Abortion Ban, Double Jab & Long COVID, Brussels Doctor’s Orders

Streets flooded by the monsoon In Palembang, Indonesia.

Adam Rachman/Pacific Press/ZUMA
Meike Eijsberg, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger


• COVID-19 update: Full vaccination nearly halves chance of long COVID, a new study conducted in the UK finds. Meanwhile, Taiwan receives its first shipment of Pfizer vaccines organized by two tech giants and a charity following diplomatic pressure from China, and Australian doctors warn the country's hospitals are not ready to cope with the government's reopening plans.

• Texas abortion ban comes into effect: The U.S. Supreme Court has denied a last-minute motion to block a law in Texas that bans women from aborting after six weeks of pregnancy. The decision means that a near-total ban on the procedure has come into effect in Texas on Wednesday — a first in the country since the landmark 1972 Roe v. Wade ruling.

• New York & New Jersey floods kill at least 9: The governors of New York and New Jersey have declared a state of emergency following record-breaking rains from tropical storm Ida which have killed at least 9 people.

• Taliban to reveal new government: Two weeks after capturing Kabul and just days after the last U.S. troops left Afghanistan after 20 years of military presence, Taliban forces are preparing to announce the composition of its new government. The Islamist group's Supreme Leader Haibatullah Akhundzada will likely hold ultimate power.

• Danish ex-immigration minister faces historic impeachment trial: Danish former immigration minister Inger Stojberg goes on trial on charges of illegally separating asylum-seeking couples where one partner was a minor in 2016. A rare impeachment court will decide whether the ex minister violated the European Convention on Human Rights.

Zorba the Greek composer dies at 96: Renowned Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis, also a leading figure of resistance to Greece's military junta of the 1970s, has died at the age of 96.

• Brussels doctors to prescribe museum visits: Patients treated for stress in one the largest hospitals in the Belgian capital will be offered free visits to public museums as part of a trial study to rebuild mental health amid the COVID-19 pandemic.



Texan daily San Antonio Express News reports on the near-total ban on abortion which has taken effect in the U.S. state after the Supreme Court refused to block the new law. The Heartbeat Act would only allow terminations in the first six weeks of pregnancy, which abortion rights activists point out is a period during which the majority of women do not even know they are pregnant.



Seeing green: How algae can change our diets, health and the climate

Algae could bring solutions to major challenges such as carbon sequestration and world hunger, provided we succeed in building an industrial sector, reports Stefano Lupieri in Paris-based daily Les Echos.

💄 The potential of algae is not new. After having extracted sodium bicarbonate and iodine for a long time, France's coastal Brittany region has used algae since the 1960s for their alginates, the complex sugars that form their extracellular membrane. Alginates are used as texturizers or gelling agents in the food and hygiene-beauty industries. In the 1970s and '80s, the sector experienced a first boom in cosmetic uses. But it is mainly as biofuels that these marine plants rich in oils have raised the most hopes.

🏭 Today, it is estimated that there are several tens of thousands of species of macroalgae present in nature and several hundred thousand species of microalgae in fresh or saltwater. But only a very small number of them have been studied. And we exploit even less. One of the first challenges to go to an industrial scale is to be able to cultivate them. In Asia, where they are consumed fresh, we know how to produce them in mass. In fact, 96% of the 36 million tons cultivated each year are grown on this continent.

🥚 A number of start-ups are increasingly betting on specialized applications, both in macro and microalgae. The company Eranova has set its sights on the packaging plastics market for the food and cosmetics industry while Algama, for its part, is digging into the food sector. Until now, seaweed was consumed either as a condiment for salads or pasta, as a powder in chips or bread or as a texturizer, for example in ham. But this start-up has found a way to make a microalgae-based powder that can replace eggs in the manufacturing of mayonnaise, buns or cookies.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


51 million euros

Germany's central bank offices have received an unusually messy deposit after the floods that plagued the country in July. The Bundesbank, the central government bank, announced that it had been inundated with citizens who provided bank notes soaked in floodwater and contaminated with oil, sewage and mud. People can exchange these damaged notes for fresh ones without charge.




I'm not closing the count just yet.

— Portugal's soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo hinted that he has no intention of retiring in the near future, after he broke the all-time record for goals scored in men's international football by hitting his 110th and 111th goals for Portugal in a World Cup qualifying win against the Republic of Ireland. With this year's Euro 2020, the 36-year-old striker became the first player to feature in five European Championships.

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A check operation in Indian-administered Kashmir, following a spate of targeted attacks on the region's Hindu minority

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Здраво!*

Welcome to Friday, where Joe Biden vows to protect Taiwan from China, Alec Baldwin accidentally kills a cinematographer, and can you guess what day it is TODAY? We also have a report from a researcher in San Diego, USA on the sociological dark side of food trucks.

[*Zdravo - Macedonian]

💡  SPOTLIGHT

Iran-Saudi Arabia rivalry may be set to ease, or get much worse

The Saudis may be awaiting the outcome of Iran's nuclear talks with the West, to see whether Tehran will moderate its regional policies, or lash out like never before, writes Persian-language media Kayhan-London:

The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier this month that Iranian and Saudi negotiators had so far had four rounds of "continuous" talks, though both sides had agreed to keep them private. The talks are to ease fraught relations between Iran's radical Shia regime and the Saudi kingdom, a key Western ally in the Middle East.

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that the talks were going in the right direction, while an Iranian trade official was recently hopeful these might even allow trade opportunities for Iranian businessmen in Saudi Arabia. As the broadcaster France 24 observed separately, it will take more than positive signals to heal a five-year-rift and decades of mutual suspicions.

Agence France-Presse news agency, meanwhile, has cited an unnamed French diplomat as saying that Saudi Arabia wants to end its costly discord with Tehran. The sides may already have agreed to reopen consular offices. For Saudi Arabia, the costs include its war on Iran-backed Houthis rebels fighting an UN-recognized government in next-door Yemen.

Bilateral relations were severed in January 2016, after regime militiamen stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Amirabdollahian was then the deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs. In 2019, he told the website Iranian Diplomacy that Saudi Arabia had taken measures vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear pact with the world powers.

He said "the Saudis' insane conduct toward [the pact] led them to conclude that they must prevent [its implementation] in a peaceful environment ... I think the Saudis are quite deluded, and their delusion consists in thinking that Trump is an opportunity for them to place themselves on the path of conflict with the Islamic Republic while relying on Trump." He meant the administration led by the U.S. President Donald J.Trump, which was hostile to Iran's regime. This, he said, "is not how we view Saudi Arabia. I think Yemen should have been a big lesson for the Saudis."

The minister was effectively admitting the Houthis were the Islamic Republic's tool for getting back at Saudi Arabia.

Yet in the past two years, both sides have taken steps to improve relations, without firm results as yet. Nor is the situation likely to change this time.

Iran's former ambassador in Lebanon, Ahmad Dastmalchian, told the ILNA news agency in Tehran that Saudi Arabia is doing Israel's bidding in the region, and has "entrusted its national security, and life and death to Tel Aviv." Riyadh, he said, had been financing a good many "security and political projects in the region," or acting as a "logistical supplier."

The United States, said Dastmalchian, has "in turn tried to provide intelligence and security backing, while Israel has simply followed its own interests in all this."

Furthermore, it seems unlikely Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will tolerate, even in this weak period of his leadership, the kingdom's rising power in the region and beyond, and especially its financial clout. He is usually disparaging when he speaks of Riyadh's princely rulers. In 2017, he compared them to "dairy cows," saying, "the idiots think that by giving money and aid, they can attract the goodwill of Islam's enemies."

Iranian regime officials are hopeful of moving toward better diplomatic ties and a reopening of embassies. Yet the balance of power between the sides began to change in Riyadh's favor years ago. For the kingdom's power has shifted from relying mostly on arms, to economic and political clout. The countries might have had peaceful relations before in considerably quieter, and more equitable, conditions than today's acute clash of interests.

Beyond this, the Abraham Accord or reconciliation of Arab states and Israel has been possible thanks to the green light that the Saudis gave their regional partners, and it is a considerable political and ideological defeat for the Islamic Republic.

Assuming all Houthis follow Tehran's instructions — and they may not — improved ties may curb attacks on Saudi interests and aid its economy. Tehran will also benefit from no longer having to support them. Unlike Iran's regime, the Saudis are not pressed for cash or resources and could even offer the Houthis a better deal. Presently, they may consider it more convenient to keep the softer approach toward Tehran.

For if nuclear talks with the West break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive, and as experience has shown, tensions often prompt a renewal of missile or drone attacks on the Saudis, on tankers and on foreign shipping. Riyadh must have a way of keeping the Tehran regime quiet, in a distinctly unquiet time.

Kayhan-London

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Biden vows to defend Taiwan: U.S. President Joe Biden said the United States would come to Taiwan's defense if it were attacked and had a commitment to defend the island nation that China claims as its own. The White House clarified for the second time in three months that U.S. policy on the subject has not changed, and declined further comment when asked if Biden had misspoken.

• Call on China to respect Uyghurs: A statement from 43 countries denounced China's human rights record at the United Nations over the reported torture and repression of the mostly Muslim Uyghurs, as well as the existence of "re-education camps" in Xinjiang. The declaration calls on Beijing to allow independent observers immediate access. In response, Cuba issued a rival statement shortly afterwards on behalf of 62 other countries claiming "disinformation".

• Alec Baldwin fires prop gun, kills cinematographer: U.S. actor Alec Baldwin fatally shot cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza after discharging a prop gun on the set of his new movie, near Santa Fe. The accident is being investigated.

• Berlusconi acquitted: Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was acquitted of judicial corruption charges. The 85-year-old media mogul had been accused of seeking to bribe guests present at his infamous "Bunga Bunga" parties to lie about the evenings as part of an underage prostitution case.

• COVID health workers death toll: A new WHO working report estimates that between 80,000 and 180,000 health and care workers may have died from COVID-19 between January 2020 and May 2021. The same report also noted that fewer than 1 in 10 healthcare workers were fully vaccinated in Africa, compared with 9 in 10 in high-income countries, and less than 5% of Africa's population have been vaccinated.

• Seven killed in Russian gunpowder factory blast: An explosion at the Elastik gunpowder and chemicals plant southeast of Moscow killed at least seven people, while nine are still missing.

• Aye aye, CAP'n: HAPPY CAPS LOCK DAY, FOLKS!

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Dutch daily De Volkskrant pays tribute to "sound master" and renowned classical conductor Bernard Haitink, who died at 92. Born in Amsterdam, Haitink made more than 450 records and led some of the world's top orchestras in the span of his 65-year career.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

The food truck, a sign that the white and wealthy are moving in

In San Diego, California, researcher Pascale Joassart-Marcelli tracked how in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked dining options, when interesting eateries arrive the gentrification of white, affluent and college-educated people has begun. In The Conversation she writes:

🥡 In 2016 in City Heights, a large multi-ethnic San Diego neighborhood, a dusty vacant lot on the busiest boulevard was converted into an outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44. There, food vendors gather in semi-permanent stalls to sell pupusas, lechon (roasted pig), single-sourced cold-brewed coffee, cupcakes and tamarind raspado (crushed ice). Just a few blocks outside the gates, informal street vendors — who have long sold goods such as fruit, tamales and ice cream to residents who can't easily access supermarkets — now face heightened harassment.

🤑 Cities and neighborhoods have long sought to attract educated and affluent residents – people whom sociologist Richard Florida dubbed "the creative class." The thinking goes that these newcomers will spend their dollars and presumably contribute to economic growth and job creation. Food, it seems, has become the perfect lure. It's uncontroversial and has broad appeal. It taps into the American Dream and appeals to the multicultural values of many educated, wealthy foodies.

🏙️ My analysis of real estate ads for properties listed in City Heights and other gentrifying San Diego neighborhoods found that access to restaurants, cafés, farmers markets and outdoor dining is a common selling point. San Diego Magazine's home buyer guide for the same year identified City Heights as an "up-and-coming neighborhood," attributing its appeal to its diverse population and eclectic "culinary landscape," including several restaurants and Fair@44. When I see that City Heights' home prices rose 58% over the past three years, I'm not surprised.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

€6.65 million

The remains of "Big John," the world's largest triceratops skeleton ever found, were sold at auction for a European record price of 6.65 millions euros in Paris to a private anonymous collector from the U.S. The 200 pieces of the skeleton were unearthed in 2014 in South Dakota and reassembled by specialists in Italy.

👮🎮  IN OTHER NEWS

Police bust Mexican drug gang recruiting boys via online video games

Police in Mexico have intervened to rescue three minors, aged 11 to 14, from recruitment into a drug gang that had enticed them through online gaming.

A top Mexican police agency official Ricardo Mejía Berdeja, said the gang had contacted the youths in the south-central city of Oaxaca, chatting through a free-to-download game called Free Fire, which involves shooting at rivals with virtual firearms.

Calling himself "Rafael," another player of the same age, the suspected gang member offered one of the youths work "checking radio frequencies and watching out for police presence" in Monterrey, northern Mexico, reported national daily El Heraldo de México. The pay was unusually good — 8,000 pesos (almost $400) every two weeks — and the youth called two friends who also wanted to get in.

The three boys were set to take the bait, but an anonymous Mexican intelligence agent following the exchange while also posing as youth playing Free Fire, ultimately led police to a safe house in Santa Lucía del Camino, outside Oaxaca.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"I just want to make China understand that we are not going to step back."

— U.S. President Joe Biden vowed to defend Taiwan if it came under attack from China, an assertion that seems to move away from the U.S. stated policy of "strategic ambiguity." His administration is now facing calls to clarify this stance on the island.

📸  PHOTO DU JOUR

Paramilitary soldiers are conducting a check operation in Indian-administered Kashmir, following a spate of targeted attacks on the region's Hindu minority that have left at least 33 dead since early October. The region, claimed in full by both India and Pakistan, has been the site of a bloody armed rebellion against India since the 1990s — Photo: Adil Abbas/ZUMA

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

DO YOU FIND PEOPLE WHO WRITE IN ALL CAPS PARTICULARLY ANNOYING? Feel free to COMPLAIN, or otherwise let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world!
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