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Finland, Sweden Near NATO Membership, Capitol Riot Witness, Serena’s Defeat

U.S. tennis star Serena Williams was eliminated in the first round at Wimbledon by France’s Harmony Tan

Joel Silvestri, McKenna Johnson, Lila Paulou and Lisa Berdet

👋 Moni moni onse!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Turkey lifts its veto on Finland and Sweden joining NATO, there’s stunning new testimony in the Jan. 6 hearings and Airbnb bans parties forever. Meanwhile, the latest edition of our “Work → In Progress” series zooms in on changes at play in the world of work, from the emergence of digital nomad visas to asynchronous work schedules.

[*Chewa, Malawi and Zambia]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Finland and Sweden on course to join NATO: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lifted a veto on Finland and Sweden joining NATO at the alliance’s summit in Madrid after the three countries agreed on a series of security measures. States members’ parliaments will then have to approve their membership, a move prompted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

• Capitol riot hearings update: White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified as part of the January 6 insurrection hearing that former President Donald Trump knew that some of his supporters carried weapons and still urged them to march on the U.S. Capitol, and reportedly tried to join them but was not allowed to by his security team. She said he also threw his dinner plate against a White House wall when he got bad news about the election results.

• Two arrested in migrants Texas tragedy: Two Mexican men living in the U.S. illegally have been charged in connection with the death of 51 migrants in the sweltering back of a semi truck in San Antonio, Texas. The suspects are thought to own the truck in which the migrants were smuggled.

• Philippines shuts down Maria Ressa’s news site: The Philippines government has ordered the shuttering of the independent news website Rappler for “violating restrictions on foreign ownership in mass media.” Its owner Maria Ressa, who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 2021 for her journalistic work, pledged that she would keep the website running.

• Fear of religious violence in India: Police in the northwestern Indian state of Rajasthan have banned public gatherings and blocked Internet access in fear of religious violence after two Muslims posted a video in which they claimed they killed a Hindu tailor, whom they accused of insulting Prophet Mohammad.

• Ghislaine Maxwell sentenced to 20 years in prison: British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years in jail for her involvement in the sex trafficking of underage girls alongside Jeffrey Epstein. Maxwell did not take responsibility but said she hoped her conviction would bring “closure” to the victims.

• Airbnb party’s over: Airbnb has permanently banned parties and events in homes rented through their platform. A temporary party ban was first implemented as a COVID safety measure two years ago. Non-complying guests will be banned from the website.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

French daily Libération reports on the last day of the trial for the November 13 attacks in Paris. The photo featured on the front page was taken in the immediate aftermath of the terror attacks that killed 130, back in 2015. Judges are expected to hand their verdict today. The daily front page reads: “Humanity has won,” highlighting the strength displayed by witnesses during the nine month trial.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

450,664

A report by Colombia’s Truth Commission has announced that the long-lasting civil conflict in the country killed more than 450,000 people over nearly six decades. The commission is calling for significant changes to Colombia’s drug policies, which it says played a role in prolonging the war and contributed to the loss of life.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Work → In Progress: The ripples of Ukraine war on the world of work

The war (like the pandemic) is another reminder that the future of work is bound to ever more be a global thing, no matter how local your market or employer may be. This edition of Work → In Progress also zooms in on the emergence of digital nomad visas, asynchronous work schedules and other notable stories from the world of work.

🇷🇺🏫 Mastering the Russian language may give children a leg up on the job market, reports German daily Die Welt. Once prominent in Germany’s eastern federal states, Russian language studies for schoolchildren in Germany have been declining for decades — the number of German students studying Russian was down 83% in the 2020/2021 school year compared to 1992/1993 — and replaced by romance languages. With the war against Ukraine, teaching Russian is at a turning point.

🏖️ Digital nomads, people who work remotely while globetrotting in a “nomadic” fashion, may have a new location to stream from on the beaches of Bali. Indonesia recently announced plans to attract high-spending visitors by developing a “digital nomad” visa. Yet Bali already has its fair share of digital nomads, operating in what Fortune calls “a legal gray area at best,” with some using tourist visas or temporary work permits. The new visa would be valid for five years and wouldn’t tax income from outside the country — and would streamline what some nomads are already getting away with.

🗓️ As employers explore options to reduce the hours workers have to spend in the office in the wake of the pandemic, and the resulting rise of remote work, many European countries are testing out the four-day work week. The idea is that the shorter work week will reduce burnout without sacrificing productivity and pay. Some have already been testing the idea, including Iceland which has begun a four-year study on reduced workplace hours in 2015.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

I grabbed a towel and started wiping the ketchup off the wall.

— In her testimony at the January 6 hearing, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson revealed that former U.S. President Donald Trump became furious when then-Attorney General William Barr denied there was any evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election. She recalled hearing noise in the White House’s dining room and found the president’s valet changing the tablecloth as a porcelain plate laid shattered on the floor: "The president was extremely angry at the attorney general's [...] interview and had thrown his lunch against the wall,” Hutchinson said. The episode was one of many disturbing anecdotes about Trump in the wake of his 2020 election defeat, leading up to the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol.

✍️ Newsletter by Joel Silvestri, McKenna Johnson, Lila Paulou and Lisa Berdet


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Geopolitics

Inside Putin's Deal For Iranian Drones

Outgunned by Ukraine's Turkish-made Bayraktar drones, Russia has reportedly started importing armed drones from Iran, which may have explained Vladimir Putin's recent visit to Tehran, which is looking to flex its muscles internationally. But it could prove to be a dangerous turning point in the war.

At an underground drone base, in an unknown location in Iran

Christine Kensche

The satellite images show a hangar. The rough outlines of two geometric shapes are visible — a triangle and an elongated object with wide wings. According to intelligence information from the United States, this is the Kashan airfield south of Tehran, where Iran is training its regional militias.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

The geometric objects are drones: the Shahed-191 and the Shahed-129, both considered capable of carrying weapons. Their name translates to martyr. According to U.S. information, the picture also shows a transport vehicle for visitors from Russia. If what the White House recently said is true, the "martyr" drones could soon be circling Ukraine, controlled remotely by Russian soldiers.

Tehran's drone army

According to national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Iran wants to deliver "several hundred" drones to Russia and train Russian soldiers on the devices. Training may have already begun, Sullivan said. In June, Russian delegations traveled to the Iranian airfield twice. Russian President Vladimir Putin was in Tehran in person on Tuesday.

It's a turning point for Iran as an international arms dealer.

"This is a significant turning point for Iran as an international arms dealer," says Israeli drone expert Seth Frantzman, who has published a book on the subject (Drone Wars). So far, outside the circle of its allies in the region, Tehran has only sold its technology to Venezuela and built a drone factory in Tajikistan. "The deal with the world power Russia finally makes Iran an international player in the drone business, with its influence reaching as far as Europe."

In terms of technology and trade, the world's drone powers are the U.S., Israel, China and, by some margin, Turkey. Indeed, the Turkish-designed Bayraktar drones are deployed by Ukraine against Russia, which initially gave Kyiv important strategic successes.

There are two key reasons why Russia is now apparently buying from Iran: its own drones cannot keep up. And Iran's drones are technically less sophisticated than those of Western competitors. But they do the job – and are quicker and cheaper to make. Even Iran's nemesis Israel recognizes the powerful potential of Tehran's drone army.

"Iran has massively upgraded its drone program in recent years," says Frantzman. The Shiite regime introduces new types of drones almost every week. According to information from the Israeli army, Iran has a complete production chain, from missiles to navigation systems. The parts are often copied — for example, from U.S. drones that Iran shot down in the past. It now has a variety of different series and types — from unarmed reconnaissance devices to combat drones and those called kamikaze drones (small unmanned aerial vehicles with explosive charges that ram their target). The damage Iranian technology can do has been demonstrated by the regime's devastating attacks in recent years.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei receiving Russian President Vladimir Putin in the presence of his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi (right) in Tehran

Iranian Supreme Leader's Office/ZUMA

Attacks by Iranian drones

Iran's arsenal of remotely piloted aircraft stretches from Lebanon, Syria and Iraq to the Gulf and Yemen. The technology is used by Iranian allies — by Hezbollah and Hamas against Israel, by Yemen's Huthis against Saudi Arabia, by Shiite militias against the U.S. Army. Or, indeed, by Iran itself.

The "Pearl Harbor" of the drone war happened three years ago: Iran used drones and rockets to attack the Abqaiq refinery of the world's largest oil company Aramco in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi air defenses were powerless. The attack shut down Saudi Arabia's oil exports for several months. Global oil production collapsed by six percent.

Iranian drones were used in the last Gaza war.

Since then, Iran has systematically relied on weapons. Drones are said to be responsible for at least five attacks on U.S. bases in Syria and Iraq in May and June last year. Iranian drone technology also played a role in the last Gaza war. Hamas not only fired 4,000 rockets at Israel last May. It also deployed a new explosive-laden drone.

Last year, Iranian drone attacks claimed human lives for the first time: Kamikaze drones attacked the Mercer Street oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world's most strategically important choke points between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Two crew members died, including the captain. Then, in the spring, drones attacked tankers and Abu Dhabi airport. Three people lost their lives. The Houthi rebels in Yemen, who are supplied with weapons and technology by Iran, said they were responsible for the attack on the U.A.E.

A military unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV or drone) launched from an Iranian navy vessel in the Indian ocean

Iranian Army Office/ZUMA

No war is won by drones alone

There is no precise information on exactly which drones Russia could acquire. The types shown by the U.S. on the satellite images are among Iran's most important reconnaissance and combat drones. The Shahed-129 is the country's oldest combat drone. It can stay in the air for up to 24 hours and can be armed with eight guided missiles. Also known as the Saegheh (Thunderbolt), the Shahed-191 is a combat drone whose specialty is great mobility. It can be mounted on the back of a truck and launched while the vehicle is in motion.

Kamikaze drones are easier and cheaper to produce.

This combat drone, which can be equipped with two remote-controlled anti-tank missiles, is therefore extremely flexible. However, it is doubtful that Iran can actually deliver hundreds of these types in a hurry. A deal with Russia is therefore likely to include kamikaze drones, which are easier and cheaper to produce.

If Russia were to use Iranian drones in the near future, it would not be a turning point in the Ukraine war, says expert Frantzman: "You don't win a war with drones." However, Russia could use them to damage Ukraine's strategic infrastructure comparatively cheaply, without having to put expensive war equipment at risk.

And another target could become the focus of Iranian drones — Western war equipment, such as the HIMARS multiple rocket launchers, which the U.S. supplied to Ukraine and which play a central role in defense against Russia.

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