Welcome to Tuesday, where Iraq's hardline Shia cleric claims election victory, the UK confronts its historic COVID failure and Superman comes out as bisexual. We also look at "silent" Chinese investment in Latin America's railway sector.
[*Inuktitut - Inuit]
🌎 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
• COVID update: Thailand will reopen next month for fully vaccinated travellers from at least 10 low-risk countries. In the U.S., Texas governor Greg Abbot has issued an executive order banning mandatory vaccination for employees, including in private companies, in the state. Meanwhile in the UK, a new report says that the British government's early response to the coronavirus pandemic last year and its failure to act quickly was "one of the most important public health failures" in the country's history.
• Shia cleric wins Iraq elections: Shia Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's party won 73 seats in parliament, the biggest gains in Iraq's elections after a record low turnout.
• North Korea accuses U.S. of threatening peace: Kim Jong-un, speaking beside the country's largest missiles during an exhibition, said the U.S. was the "root cause" of instability on the peninsula and that North Korea's weapons development was necessary in the face of the U.S. hostile policies.
• Interpreter who helped rescue Biden leaves Afghanistan: After a personal plea to the U.S. president, Aman Khalili, an Afghan interpreter who had sheltered then-Senator Joe Biden from a snowstorm in 2008, has been evacuated from his country along with his family.
• Beirut blast investigation paused again: The probe into the Beirut port explosion that killed more than 200 people last year has been suspended for a second time in less than three weeks, after two politicians summoned for questioning filed a new complaint against the judge leading the investigation.
• At least 15 dead in China floods: Heavy rain and flooding are battering China's northern province of Shanxi, leaving at least 15 people dead and forcing more than 120,000 to evacuate. The floods also forced some of the country's key mines to shut down, driving the price of coal to a new record high.
• France to ban plastic packaging for fruits & veggies: In a bid to reduce plastic waste, France has published a list of some 30 fruits and vegetables that will have to be sold without plastic packaging from January 2022.
🗞️ FRONT PAGE
Brazilian daily O Globo celebrates the 90th anniversary of Christ the Redeemer, a "symbol" of the country and one of Rio de Janeiro's most visited sites.
📰 STORY OF THE DAY
China, the silent conductor in Latin America's big rail projects
China's global investment tentacles have reached South American railways, where Chinese firms are "silent" partners in expanding rail networks, through financing or sale of rolling stock, reports Gwendolyn Ledger in Latin American business magazine America Economia.
🚆⚠️ Chinese investment in Latin America's railway sector has gotten off to a shaky start. Over the past decade, the Asian superpower may have suffered from its unfamiliarity with regional and domestic policies, but it's going full steam ahead on investment in an industry where there is much to gain, but also much to risk. Francisco Urdinez, a politics professor, cites the aborted Mexico City to Querétaro railway project as a cautionary tale: The deal was canceled for corruption, and public opinion singled out the Chinese firm in the scandal, even though it was part of a multi-company consortium.
💰 Diego Leiva, a Ph.D. student at Australia's Griffith University, says, "I think they're starting to learn quite a bit and starting to have more success." Leiva points out that Chinese investments abroad are changing as they have grown at a slower rate, lost money and experienced problems in their own economy. He says that authorities are asking firms to be more considerate of risks before investing. For example, they "won't do the entire project anymore, but come in, let's say, through procurement — selling train cars, assorted inputs."
🏗️ In May 2021, the Chinese were successful bidders to build the first leg of the Mayan Train project from Palenque to Escárcega, in the eastern state of Campeche. Their proposal amounted to $781 million and was put together as part of a consortium. In Brazil, they are processing the Ferrogrão project (also known as the EF-170 railway), designed to link the Mato Grosso state with the northern state of Pará. Another Brazilian project is the Pará railway, a joint enterprise between CCCC and Vale mining.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
"The idea of replacing Clark Kent with another straight white savior felt like a missed opportunity."
— In an interview with the New York Times, DC Comics writer Tom Taylor commented on the upcoming issue of his Superman: Son of Kal-El series in which Jon Kent (son of Clark Kent and Lois Lane, and the franchise's current Superman) comes out as bisexual.
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger