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Photo of a woman standing by her water jerrycans during free community water services, amid a clean water shortage in Nairobi's Kibera slum, Kenya.

A woman standing by her water jerrycans during free community water services, amid a clean water shortage in Nairobi's Kibera slum, Kenya.

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Lasso fyafulla!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Quebec will tax the unvaccinated, North Korea says it tested hypersonic missile, and we salute you Magawa, Cambodia’s landmine-sniffing “hero rat.” La Stampa also visits the outskirts of Rome to see how the coronavirus pandemic has amplified longstanding social divides and inequalities in the Italian capital.

[*Tamang - Nepal]


🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• COVID update: Quebec announces plans to charge a health tax to unvaccinated residents, who represent 12.8% of the Canadian province but make up nearly half of hospital cases. Meanwhile, the WHO warned that half of Europe will be infected with the Omicron variant within the next six to eight weeks. Germany has registered 80,430 new COVID-19 cases, the highest recorded in a single day since the start of the pandemic, while Austria, Bulgaria and Saudi Arabia’s daily infections also hit new records.

• Boris Johnson admits attending lockdown party: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologized in parliament and admitted he attended a party at Downing Street during the first coronavirus lockdown, believing at the time it was “a work event.” An inquiry has been launched and Johnson said he was ready to “take responsibility.” This follows revelations late last year of other 10 Downing Street violations of COVID restrictions.

• Joe Biden calls for historic change to Senate rules: In a speech expressing his frustration at Republicans blocking legislation on voting rights, U.S. President Joe Biden called on the Senate to change its filibuster rules to accommodate the bills’ passage as he seeks to overhaul the country’s election laws. Analysts say the bill is unlikely to garner the Senate support necessary to pass.

• Djokovic confirms entry error on visa form: Tennis star Novak Djokovic published a statement to clarify “ongoing misinformation” about mistakes on his Australian immigration forms. The Serb athlete also admitted meeting a journalist despite testing positive for coronavirus last December, calling it “an error of judgment.” For the moment the World’s No. 1 player is slated to defend his Australian Open title, though the government could still rule to block him for violations of COVID protocols.

• North Korea claims successful hypersonic missile test: North Korea said it had successfully test-fired a hypersonic missile, making it the third test of such a weapon by the regime of Kim Jong-un, who attended the launch.

• Several killed in Somalia car bombing: At least eight people were killed and several wounded in a car bomb that targeted a convoy in the Somali capital Mogadishu. It is unclear who is responsible for the bombing at this point.

• Cambodia’s landmine-sniffing “hero rat” dies: Magawa, an African giant pouched rat who had won a medal for life-saving bravery for helping find more than 100 landmines and other explosives in Cambodia, has died at the age of 8 after having retired from his job.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

“Half of Europe will be infected in the next few weeks,” titles Spanish daily ABC, reporting on the World Health Organization’s warning about the rapid spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant on the continent. Experts are predicting the peak of infections is yet to come.


#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

41.5 °C

Argentina's capital Buenos Aires was hit by a lengthy power outage on Tuesday, that left approximately 700,000 people without electricity amidst a heat wave that scorched the city bringing temperatures to 41.5 °C, (106.7 °F). The heatwave is expected to continue throughout the week.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

The streets of Rome, how COVID has deepened an eternal wealth divide

The pandemic has exposed longstanding inequalities and brought more people into a cycle of hunger and precariousness, reports Francesca Mannocchi in Italian daily La Stampa.

🏙️ "In Rome, the neighborhood you're born in determines who you are," says Salvatore Monni, associate professor at the Department of Economics of the University of Roma Tre. Together with Keti Lelo and Federico Tomassi, he has written Le Sette Rome (The Seven Romes), a book that describes the inequalities of the Italian capital in 29 maps. More than an essay, it shows the social geography of how the city has changed, of how deeply the inequalities that run through it have crystallized.

💸 The pandemic has plunged millions of families into a state of destitution across Italy; when the schools and therefore the canteens closed during the lockdowns, millions of parents knocked on the doors of Caritas, the Catholic charitable organization, to ask for food to feed their children. "Poverty today in Rome is structural and pervasive, like an octopus," says don Benoni Ambarus, an auxiliary bishop with the delegation to Charity.

➗ Those who suffer the most are the elderly who live alone, and children. "School kids in affluent neighborhoods call public transportation 'spostapoveri' (poor people movers)," says Don Ambaru. "The social inequalities that have been running through Rome for years are creating urban classism." The maps drawn by Monni, Lelo and Tomassi show how the pandemic has simply helped bring to light and amplify long standing social divides. "With the end of COVID, poverty will not end," Monni says.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

YouTube has become one of the major conduits of online disinformation and misinformation.

— In an open letter to YouTube’s CEO Susan Wojcicki, more than 80 professional fact-checking organizations from 40 countries are urging the video sharing platform to do more to tackle disinformation and are offering to help it debunk false statements.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Any other acts of heroism from the animal kingdom to report? Let us know what’s happening in your corner of the world!

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Geopolitics

Has Lebanese Politics Finally Freed Itself Of Iran's Influence?

Lebanon's recent elections have shrunk the legislative block led by national power-brokers Hezbollah. But will a precarious new majority be able to rid the government of the long shadow of Tehran?

Supporters of pro-Iranian Hezbollah sit in a street decorated with picture of the party chief Hassan Nasrallah

Ahmad Ra'fat

-Analysis-

The results of parliamentary elections in Lebanon, have put an end to the majority block led by Hezbollah, the paramilitary group concocted by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Hezbollah and its Christian allies, the Free Patriotic Movement, led by President Michel Aoun, lost their 71 seats and will now have 62 (of a total 128 seats).

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