Catalan Leader Arrested, Kim Jong-Un’s Peacemaking Sister, Kindergarten Thief

Pro-independence activists gathered in Barcelona, Spain, to protest the arrest of Carles Puigdemont

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Hannah Steinkopf-Frank & Bertrand Hauger

👋 Բարև Ձեզ!*

Welcome to Friday, where Kim Jong-un's sister extends an olive branch to South Korea, top Catalan separatist leader is arrested in Italy, and a kindergarten thief gets busted by technology. Meanwhile, we bid an international auf wiedersehen to Angela Merkel's through iconic front pages that featured the German chancellor over the years.

[*Barev dzez, Armenian]

💡  SPOTLIGHT

As hopes for Iran nuclear deal fade, uranium enrichment accelerates

The Institute for Science and International Security concludes that Iran is enriching uranium at a 60% level, with new centrifuges meaning that Tehran is a month away from obtaining arms-grade material to move toward its first nuclear weapon.

The U.S.-based Institute for Science and International Security, which includes independent nuclear power experts, concludes from information issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Iran is enriching uranium at a 60% level — and thanks to new types of centrifuges, Tehran is barely a month away from obtaining weapons-grade material. The specialists caution that weapons-grade uranium is not the same as a nuclear bomb, for which delivery weapons and assemblage are needed. That would require another two years.

The Institute's experts believe Iran could produce material for a second bomb within a three-month time frame and that unless its activities are slowed, it may have enough enriched uranium for three bombs in the next five months.

Yet European states have shown unjustified optimism after a recent trip to Tehran by IAEA chief Rafael Grossi, and his meeting with Mohammad Eslami, the new head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization. Grossi achieved very little in terms of reducing Iran's enrichment activities, merely ensuring the IAEA's renewed access to its cameras in installations there. Their recordings remain in Iranian hands.

Instead, the visit helped Iran to halt at the last minute a threat by Britain, France and Germany to present the IAEA board of governors with a draft resolution to resend Iran's dossier to the UN Security Council for violating its non-proliferation obligations.

The IAEA had made further concessions. In past months, it kept quiet about reports of abusive conduct in Iran toward female IAEA inspectors, protesting only once the incidents were reported in The Wall Street Journal.

The Institute for Science and International Security also believes the acts of sabotage and cyberattacks of past months reportedly carried out by Israel and the United States, have failed to significantly interrupt Iran's program, merely slowing activities at certain locations. Tehran managed to rapidly repair the damage done, and resume its activities. The report concludes that Iran is as close today as it has ever been to accessing a bomb.

It is not currently clear when Iran and the West will resume talks on Tehran's program. With the rise of hardline officials in Iran — from President Ibrahim Raisi to his foreign minister, Hossein Amir'abdollahian and the country's new nuclear chief, Mohammad Eslami — it seems unlikely the West will get the same terms as the 2015 pact that included the United States.

Western states are particularly concerned by Iran's new negotiator, Ali Baqeri-Kani, who replaces Abbas Araqchi. Baqeri's father heads some of the regime's powerful financial and cultural foundations and his brother, Mesbahulhuda, is a son-in-law to the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. He has several times voiced his opposition to any type of compromise with the West.

From 2007 to 2013, he was in the negotiation team led by Sa'id Jalili, when talks with the West yielded nothing for Iran but more and tougher sanctions. Today, the prospects of reviving the 2015 pact have dimmed. Its moribund state may even have cheered Israel into recently softening its vociferous opposition to a pact with Tehran.

Observers suspect more concessions to Iran may be afoot, to prevent the pact's demise. Some believe the Islamic Republic may be changing its entire nuclear policy, and its refusal to return to Vienna has little to do with a new president but with a firm belief that it must return with its "hands full." Dangling its considerable advances toward a nuclear weapon, Iran could then stop its activities at the last minute, in return for major concessions, like the lifting of most sanctions and foregoing any talks about its ballistic program or regional interventions.

Ahmad Ra'fat / Kayhan-London

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• North Korean olive branch: Amidst growing military actions between the two Koreas, Kim Yo-jong, the influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, says Pyongyang is willing to resume diplomatic talks. Yo-jong later clarified this is on the condition that South Korea stopped its "hostile policies."

• Catalan seperatist leader arrested: Former Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemon was detained in Italy in connection to the failed 2017 referendum for Catalonian independence. Puigdemont, serving in the European Parliament, has been in exile in Brussels since 2017 to avoid allegations of sedition from Spain, though the warrant for his arrest was suspended in 2019.

• U.S. House approves $1 billion for Israeli Iron Dome defense system: The U.S. approved $1 billion in new funding for Israel's "Iron Dome" aerial defense system, designed to intercept rockets midair and protect citizens from attack. The funding is meant to help replace rockets that were used during this year's conflict with Hamas.

• Countdown to German election: Candidates are making a final push before Sunday's election, with center-left Social Democrats (SPD) candidate Olaf Scholz sparring with his Christian Democratic Union opponent Armin Laschet. The two are separated by just 2% in polls in the race to replace Chancellor Angela Merkel.

• British vows to fix oil shortage: An increase in natural gas prices and shortage of truck drivers has resulted in gas station closures and raised fears of food supply shortages. The government has promised more COVID-19 tests to ease health regulations as well as issuing special visas to increase the driver pool.

• Twitter will allow crypto "tips" from one user to another: The social media platform announced a slew of new innovations including using Bitcoin for its "Tip Jar" function, supporting NFT authentication and a new "Heads Up" feature. "Heads Up," which is a response to harassment on Twitter, will allow the platform to monitor conversations to warn users before they engage with potentially offensive content.

• An elementary theft: German police had been unable to solve an April burglary at a kindergarten in western town of Halver that included stolen food, laptops and picture books. But the thief also knapped a Toniebox speaker, a device used to play children's stories. When the criminal later attempted to download new stories onto the Toniebox, his location was sent to the manufacturers, who informed authorities. Now, the 44-year-old remains in custody and the speaker has been returned. As the police report states, "And if its circuits don't burn out, the box will tell many other stories. But rarely is one as beautiful as this one."

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"The world is still hungry," titles Italian weekly magazine Internazionale, reporting that one in ten people suffers from malnutrition around the world, as food prices continue to rise and the coronavirus pandemic has stalled progress to provide universal access to food.

💬  LEXICON

𒀭𒄑𒉋𒂵𒈨𒌋𒌋𒌋


The Dream of Gilgamesh (in extinct Sumerian cuneiform inscription above), a 35,000-year-old clay tablet has been returned to Iraq, as part of a U.S. effort to return tens of thousands of antiquities that were looted and smuggled out after its 2003 invasion of the country. The ancient tablet, one of the world's oldest religious texts, features parts of an epic poem about demigod King Gilgamesh of Uruk. It was bought in 2014 by retail company Hobby Lobby for $1.67 million to be displayed at the Museum of the Bible in Washington.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Angela Merkel: Germany's global cover story for 16 years

As Angela Merkel makes her final preparations to leave the world stage, it's hard to imagine what politician could fill the shoes of the woman Germans came to call "Mutti": the mother of the nation. Having spent most of the first 35 years of her life in the former East Germany, trained as a quantum chemist, this unassuming daughter of a Lutheran pastor had an unlikely rise to lead Europe's largest country for a generation.

⏩ Fast forward to today, and Germany's first female leader is heralded both at home and abroad as a supreme tactician, skillful problem-solver and guarantor of European stability.

💭 Sweden's Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeld summed up Merkel's achievements in an interview with Swedish broadcaster SVT: "She is well-read, she is calm, she thinks ahead in a world where everyone is nervous, moody and short-sighted."

💥 That world the leaders were facing, of course has been riddled through Merkel's time in office with one crisis on top of another: from the 2008 financial crash and the conflicts in Libya and Syria, to Russia's annexation of Crimea and the migration wave to Europe in 2015 to the global pandemic.

In the final days of a near 16-year chancellorship — becoming the country's first premier to leave power of her own volition — we take a look back on four key chapters of Merkel's time in office, and how it all looked on the covers of 23 German and international magazines and newspapers over the years:

➡️ See the full story, covers and front pages on Worldcrunch.com

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

30

Grunge band Nirvana's seminal album Nevermind, which was released 30 years ago today, sold over 30 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling albums in history (*never mind the recent lawsuit by the now-grown-up naked baby on its iconic cover…)

📣 VERBATIM

"We have been through eleven different countries to get here."

— Haitian migrant Fiterson Janvier describes his harrowing journey through the Andes and the Amazonian Basin, on foot and by bus, to reach the U.S. border. Haiti is at a tipping point. The president was assassinated this July, gang violence is shooting up and the country is battling with the effects of climate change and economic ruin. "Haiti is like hell for me now," he told a BBC reporter.

📸  PHOTO DU JOUR

Pro-independence activists gathered in Barcelona, Spain, to protest the arrest of Carles Puigdemont, former president of the Catalan Government, who was apprehended on the Italian island of Sardinia — Photo: Matthias Oesterle/ZUMA

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Hannah Steinkopf-Frank & Bertrand Hauger

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Pro-life and Pro-abortion Rights Protests in Washington

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Håfa adai!*

Welcome to Thursday, where new Omicron findings arrive from South Africa, abortion rights are at risk at the U.S. Supreme Court and Tyrannosaurus rex has got some new competition. From Germany, we share the story of a landmark pharmacy turned sex toy museum.

[*Chamorro - Guam]

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This is our daily newsletter Worldcrunch Today, a rapid tour of the news of the day from the world's best journalism sources, regardless of language or geography.

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• COVID update: South Africa reports a higher rate of reinfections from the Omicron variant than has been registered with the Beta and Delta variants, though researchers await further findings on the effects of the new strain. Meanwhile, the UK approves the use of a monoclonal therapy, known as sotrovimab, to treat those at high risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.The approval comes as the British pharmaceutical company, GSK, separately announced the treatment has shown to “retain activity” against the Omicron variant. Down under, New Zealand’s reopening, slated for tomorrow is being criticized as posing risks to its under-vaccinated indigenous Maori.

• Supreme Court poised to gut abortion rights: The U.S. Supreme Court signaled a willingness to accept a Republican-backed Mississippi law that would bar abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, even in cases of rape or incest. A ruling, expected in June, may see millions of women lose abortion access, 50 years after it was recognized as a constitutional right in the landmark Roe v. Wade case.

• Macri charged in Argentine spying case: Argentina’s former president Mauricio Macri has been charged with ordering the secret services to spy on the family members of 44 sailors who died in a navy submarine sinking in 2017. The charge carries a sentence of three to ten years in prison. Macri, now an opposition leader, says the charges are politically motivated.

• WTA suspends China tournaments over Peng Shuai: The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) announced the immediate suspension of all tournaments in China due to concerns about the well-being of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, and the safety of other players. Peng disappeared from public view after accusing a top Chinese official of sexual assault.

• Michigan school shooting suspect to be charged as an adult: The 15-year-old student accused of killing four of his classmates and wounding seven other people in a Michigan High School will face charges of terrorism and first-degree murder. Authorities say the suspect had described wanting to attack the school in cellphone videos and a journal.

• Turkey replaces finance minister amid economic turmoil: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan appointed a strong supporter of his low-interest rate drive, Nureddin Nebati, as Turkey’s new finance minister.

• A battle axe for a tail: Chilean researchers announced the discovery of a newly identified dinosaur species with a completely unique feature from any other creatures that lived at that time: a flat, weaponized tail resembling a battle axe.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

South Korean daily Joong-ang Ilbo reports on the discovery of five Omicron cases in South Korea. The Asian nation has broken its daily record for overall coronavirus infections for a second day in a row with more than 5,200 new cases. The variant cases were linked to arrivals from Nigeria and prompted the government to tighten border controls.


#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

¥10,000

In the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin, a reward of 10,000 yuan ($1,570) will be given to anyone who volunteers to take a COVID-19 test and get a positive result, local authorities announced on Thursday on the social network app WeChat.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Why an iconic pharmacy is turning into a sex toy museum

The "New Pharmacy" was famous throughout the St. Pauli district of Hamburg for its history and its long-serving owner. Now the owner’s daughter is transforming it into a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys, linking it with the past "curing" purpose of the shop, reports Eva Eusterhus in German daily Die Welt.

💊 The story begins in autumn 2018, when 83-year-old Regis Genger stood at the counter of her pharmacy and realized that the time had come for her to retire. At least that is the first thing her daughter Anna Genger tells us when we meet, describing the turning point that has also shaped her life and that of her business partner Bianca Müllner. The two women want to create something new here, something that reflects the pharmacy's history and Hamburg's eclectic St. Pauli quarter (it houses both a red light district and the iconic Reeperbahn entertainment area) as well as their own interests.

🚨 Over the last few months, the pharmacy has been transformed into L'Apotheque, a venture that brings together art and business in St. Pauli's red light district. The back rooms will be used for art exhibitions, while the old pharmacy space will house a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys. Genger and Müllner want to show that desire has always existed and that people have always found inventive ways of maximizing pleasure, even in times when self-gratification was seen as unnatural and immoral, as a cause of deformities.

🏩 Genger and Müllner want the museum to show how the history of desire has changed over time. The art exhibitions, which will also center on the themes of physicality and sexuality, are intended to complement the exhibits. They are planning to put on window displays to give passers-by a taste of what is to come, for example, British artist Bronwen Parker-Rhodes's film Lovers, which offers a portrait of sex workers during lockdown.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them. Never."

— U.S. actor Alec Baldwin spoke to ABC News, his first interview since the accident that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie Rust last October. The actor said that although he was holding the gun he didn’t pull the trigger, adding that the bullet “wasn't even supposed to be on the property.”

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

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