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Controversial Olympic Kick Off, Ukraine Attack Plot, Message In A Bogey

Controversial Olympic Kick Off, Ukraine Attack Plot, Message In A Bogey

A freestyle snowboarder in training in Zhangjiakou’s snow park, as the Beijing Winter Olympics kick off today in China

Jane Herbelin and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 你好*

Welcome to Friday, where Xi and Putin meet as the Beijing Winter Olympics kick off, South Africa develops its own Moderna vaccine, and a 95-year-old message in a bottle is found on a Scottish golf course. We also look at what is making Latin America change its mind regarding coworking.

[*Néih hóu - Cantonese]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Troubled Winter Olympics kick off: The 2022 Winter Olympics begin with the Opening Ceremony in Beijing in spite of the ongoing pandemic, and rising diplomatic tensions over allegations of human rights abuse and boycotts.

• Xi and Putin united amid increasing tensions with the West: Coinciding with the Olympics, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing, unveiling a new gas deal and voicing the countries’ alliance on a raft of issues including: the status of Taiwan, joint accusations of NATO advocating for a Cold War ideology, and share concerns over the Aukus security pact between Australia, the U.S. and the UK.

• U.S. says it has proof of Russian fake attack plot: The United States has accused Moscow of planning to stage a fake attack by the Ukraine military or intelligence forces "against Russian sovereign territory, or against Russian speaking people." Pentagon spokesman John Kirby claimed Washington has evidence Moscow was likely to release a graphic showing the attack on Russians, as a pretext for an invasion.

• COVID update: South African scientists came up with their own version of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, hoping it will help boost vaccination rates across the continent. Africa currently has the lowest rates of COVID-19 shots in the world. India's official death toll from COVID-19 crossed 500,000, even as some data analysts believe the real figure is likely much higher. Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday that sending in the army to end an anti-vaccine and anti-government protest, whose convoy of big trucks are clogging Ottawa's downtown, was “not in the cards right now.”

• EU oil facilities targeted by cyberattacks: Multiple major oil transport and storage companies in some of Western Europe’s biggest ports have been hit by cyberattacks. The hack began over the weekend and has disrupted operations at oil terminals, preventing tankers from delivering energy supplies, at a time when energy prices are already soaring.

• Morocco rescuers in race to save 5 year old trapped in well: Rescue workers in northern Morocco are racing against the clock to save a five-year-old who’s been stuck in a 32-meter (105ft) deep well for the last three days, in a drama being followed across the nation.

• Hole in one (century): Workers doing renovations on a Scottish golf course in Elie, north of Edinburgh, have discovered a 95-year-old message in a bottle that had been buried for nearly a century. The message, written on the back of a cigarette pack, is dated Nov.18, 1926 and reads: “We are here today but where we will be when this is found we do not know. Good luck.”

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

“Will there be war?,” asks Slovak daily Dennik as Russian President Vladimir Putin took a “break” to travel to China for the Winter Olympics while U.S. President Joe Biden is sending troops to Eastern Europe.

📣 VERBATIM

We’re not the best of friends.

— Ukrainian bobsledder Lidiia Hunko said of her Russian competitors, as the Beijing Winter Olympics kick off amid geopolitical tensions between Ukraine and Russia. While some athletes feel they are affected by the situation, others argue they’re here to represent their country and not score political points.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

The pandemic changed how Latin Americans work — and where

Once dismissed as being for millennials and hard-up freelancers, coworking firms now occupy Latin America's prestigious corporate towers that have more and more spaces to fill, reports Laura Villahermosa in business magazine America Economia.

💼🖥️ In Latin America, use of corporate office space had already been changing before the pandemic, with the demand for shared offices taking off in 2015-2018. The U.S.-based firm WeWork was one of the beneficiaries. "We had 70% occupation levels before the pandemic," says Claudio Hidalgo, head of WeWork in Latin America. Other brands joined the rush to profit off the interest in open-plan, attractive offices for shared use, with shared amenities. Real estate specialist Ricardo Cabrera says that "there was a boom in flexible spaces with the appearance of WeWork.

🗓️ For Álvaro Rocafort, regional head of the IWG group, coworking is not just about "the community" but offering "a better, and cheaper service" to business people. These, he said, can move into shared offices immediately, without costly refurbishments or "a forced 10-year contract. Clearly this makes the model attractive." Claudio Hidalgo says that "right now, it's impossible to decide on signing for a physical space for 15 years, if you don't even know how many people will come back. That uncertainty kind of worked in our favor."

🏨 Facing expansive prospects, some coworking firms like IWG are also exploring the franchise option. IWG may use franchisees to triple its presence in Colombia, and some, usefully, will be former coworking brands that went under in the pandemic. Real estate specialist Ricardo Cabrera says coworking firms would like to operate a little like hotels — managing a space for the building owner, and paying them a limited rent that is nevertheless assured.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

$29 billion

Mark Zuckerberg was pushed outside the list of the world’s top 10 wealthiest people after losing $29 billion in net worth on Thursday when the share price of Meta saw a record one-day plunge. The 26% collapse erased more than $200 billion from Meta’s market capitalization, the biggest single-day drop in value for a U.S. company. On the other hand, Amazon founder Jeff Beros is in line for a $20 billion increase in net worth after the company’s blockbuster earnings.

✍️ Newsletter by Jane Herbelin and Anne-Sophie Goninet

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Geopolitics

Utter Pessimism, What Israelis And Palestinians Share In Common

Right now, according to a joint survey of Israelis and Palestinians, hopes for a peaceful solution of coexistence simply don't exist. The recent spate of violence is confirmation of the deepest kind of pessimism on both sides for any solution other than domination of the other.

An old Palestinian protester waves Palestinian flag while he confronts the Israeli soldiers during the demonstration against Israeli settlements in the village of Beit Dajan near the West Bank city of Nablus.

A Palestinian protester confronts Israeli soldiers during the demonstration against Israeli settlements in the West Bank village of Beit Dajan on Jan. 6.

Pierre Haski

-Analysis-

PARIS — Just before the latest outbreak of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, a survey of public opinion among the two peoples provided a key to understanding the current situation unfolding before our eyes.

It was a joint study, entitled "Palestinian-Israeli Pulse", carried out by two research centers, one Israeli, the other Palestinian, which for years have been regularly asking the same questions to both sides.

The result is disastrous: not only is the support for the two-state solution — Israel and Palestine side by side — at its lowest point in two decades, but there is now a significant share of opinion on both sides that favors a "non-democratic" solution, i.e., a single state controlled by either the Israelis or Palestinians.

This captures the absolute sense of pessimism commonly felt regarding the chances of the two-state option ever being realized, which currently appears to be our grim reality today. But the results are also an expression of the growing acceptance on both sides that it is inconceivable for either state to live without dominating the other — and therefore impossible to live in peace.

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