👋 Hæ hæ!*
Welcome to Friday, where reports say Sweden could follow Finland’s lead to join NATO, Elon Musk puts buying Twitter on hold, and we catch a first glimpse of a black hole that’s living next door. Meanwhile, French economic daily Les Echos shines a light on the dubious working and sourcing practices of Shein, the Chinese fast-fashion superstar retailer.
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• Will Sweden follow Finland’s lead on NATO membership? Unconfirmed reports in the Swedish press say Stockholm is set to submit on Monday a formal application to join NATO. All eyes are on Sweden’s decision on joining the military bloc after Finland committed to pursuing membership on Thursday, sparking threats from Russia.
• Ukraine reveals cost of war for first time: Ukraine has been forced to spend $8.3 billion on its war with Russia. Revealed in a Reuters interview with Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko, it is the first time the Ukrainian government has disclosed the cost of the war. European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Friday the bloc would provide a further 500 millions euros in military assistance.
— Read all the latest at War in Ukraine, Day 79 —
• Sri Lanka gets new Prime Minister: Sri Lanka president Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed politician Ranil Wickremesinghe as the new prime minister, after the resignation of his older brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa.
• Musk-Twitter deal on hold: Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced on Friday morning that his deal to buy Twitter is “temporarily on hold” until he gets more data on the number of spam and fake accounts. The billionaire intended to buy the social media platform for $44 billion.
• North Korea announces first deaths from COVID-19: North Korea announced the first COVID-19 deaths in the country, one day after authorities said they detected the first cases in the country. Six people are said to have died so far, according to the North’s Korean Central News Agency, with the virus spreading “explosively” nationwide.
• International migrant smuggling group taken apart: Austrian police says it has dismantled a massive international group — smuggling adults and children Syrian migrants. Several arrests were made and vehicles were seized across Central and Eastern European countries.
• First picture of black hole in our galaxy: The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) unveiled the first picture of Sagittarius A*, a supermassive black hole living in our galaxy. It is four million times more massive than the Sun and is about 26 light-years away from our Earth.
Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat’s weekly news magazine HS Viikko devotes its front page to Finland leaders’ decision to apply to join the NATO military alliance — a major policy shift triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia warned it will be forced to take “retaliatory steps” over Finland’s decision.
According to Forbes, Argentine soccer player Lionel Messi is reported to have earned $130 million between his on-field and off-field contracts in 2022, which currently makes him the highest-paid athlete, followed by LeBron James ($121,2 million) and Cristiano Ronaldo ($115 million).
Shein IRL? China's online fashion giant has a major worker exploitation problem
In the fast fashion race, Shein, a Chinese retailer, has rapidly risen to compete with the likes of H&M and Zara — and even Amazon. But a deep look inside the company reveals questionable working and sourcing practices. Writing for French business daily Les Echos, reporter Frédéric Schaeffer visited a workshop in Guangzhou, southern China.
👗📈 Barely known a year ago, Shein has conquered the wardrobes of young fashionistas across Europe and the United States at lightning speed. It's been enough to make "fast fashion" giants like Zara and H&M shake. Last May, Shein overtook Amazon to become the most downloaded shopping app in the United States. The brand is even leading the American fast fashion sector with over a quarter of the market, as much as H&M and Zara combined.
⏰ The lunch break is an opportunity to talk to several workers in the canteen or the eateries adjoining the workshop buildings. They all tell us about their extended working hours: “I work from 8 a.m. until noon, then from 1:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. and, after dinner, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.,” a seamstress says. The evening is free once a week. That's a total of 74 hours of work per week. Under Chinese Labor Law, weekly working hours are limited to a maximum of 44 hours, with 36 additional hours allowed per month. What about holidays at Shein? One Sunday per month.
🔍 On its U.S. website, the retailer briefly addressed modern slavery in a short statement and published a code of conduct reminding suppliers of their obligation to comply with all applicable laws, including child labor laws. But it is not uncommon in the textile industry for suppliers to subcontract part of the orders to small workshops with no direct link to the retailer, which makes controls difficult. It takes a simple visit to the residential area of Nancun, where many small workshops are located, to confirm this.
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We want to return the nation to a position where our people will once again have three meals a day.
— Veteran opposition politician Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was appointed Sri Lanka’s new prime minister by president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, called for international assistance as the country faces its worst economic crisis since it became independent in 1948. Wickremesinghe’s appointment has failed to appease protesters who have been asking for the resignation of the president for weeks, leading to violent clashes that left at least nine dead.
✍️ Newsletter by Lisa Berdet, Lila Paulou, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger
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