Welcome to Tuesday, where Omicron now looms over the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics, Philippine strongman Duterte unexpectedly quits his Senate race, and the NFT world witnesses a very costly slip of the keyboard. In French economic daily Les Echos, Adrien Lelièvre wonders whether the jig is up for the “gig economy.”
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• COVID update: China has reported its first two Omicron cases in the northern city of Tianjin and in the southern province of Guangzhou, posing a new challenge to the country’s zero-COVID strategy a few months before the Winter Olympics begin in Beijing. South Korea marks its deadliest day since the start of the pandemic with 94 COVID-related deaths in the past 24 hours, as the country reports a record number of COVID-19 patients in critical condition. Meanwhile, Nigeria announces plans to destroy around one million expired coronavirus vaccines.
• Putin-Xi plan talks about “aggressive” U.S. rhetoric: Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are planning a video call tomorrow to discuss “between allies” the tensions in Europe and the “aggressive rhetoric” from the United States and NATO. China is under pressure following a diplomatic boycott by several Western countries of the Winter Olympics over human rights abuse, while Russia has been warned by the U.S. against invading Ukraine following its build-troops near the border with the eastern country.
• Duterte withdraws from Senate race: Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte has formally backed out from the 2022 Senate race, without providing any official reason for his sudden withdrawal. His run for the Senate was seen as an attempt to remain in politics, as Duterte is constitutionally barred from seeking a second term as president.
• Gun battle erupts in Indian Kashmir after militant attack: Indian troops have killed a suspected rebel during a gun battle in the disputed territory of Kashmir, which erupted after an attack on a bus by militants killed three Indian policemen and injured 11. Local authorities said the attack was carried out by rebels from a Pakistan-based group.
• U.S. gymnast victims to receive $380m settlement: Hundreds of women who were abused by former U.S. national gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar reached a settlement that requires the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, USA Gymnastics and their insurers to pay them $380 million. The settlement is among the largest ever for a sexual abuse case.
• 7.3 magnitude earthquake hits Indonesia: A powerful 7.3 magnitude struck eastern Indonesia, triggering a tsunami alert but no deaths or major damage have been reported.
• Typing error causes NFT to be sold for $3,000 instead of $300,000: The owner of the “Bored Ape Yacht Club,” an in-demand non-fungible token, made a “fat fingered” typing error when listing the item for sale online, accidentally selling it for a little more than $3,000, one-hundreth of its market price.
In compensation for indigenous children and families who suffered discrimination in state-provided foster care, the Canadian government is setting aside enough funds to offer a C$40,000 ($31,350) payout to each child who attended the on-reserve welfare system after 2006.
De-Uberization? Food delivery apps opt for employees over gig economy
Startups that offer to deliver groceries in less than 15 minutes have learned from the past and are hiring full-time employees, even if they need temporary workers to meet demand, reports Adrien Lelièvre in French daily Les Echos.
🥡 In recent years, couriers working for meal delivery startups generously financed by investment funds have become one of the symbols of the "uberization of work." While mostly their freelance status remains widespread worldwide, the standard is shifting. In February 2021, the British meal delivery specialist Just Eat struck a chord by announcing the recruitment of 4,500 permanent staff in France, a country known for its strong worker protections and powerful unions.
👔 This choice is a response to the growing criticism of the "gig economy” and also a precaution for the future. In several European countries, the courts are threatening to reclassify delivery workers using bikes, motorcycles or cars as employees. In France, the creation of a third status — alongside that of employee and self-employed — is being debated. By taking the gamble of hiring their employees, startups allow delivery personnel to have a fixed salary, paid vacations and full equipment to work. The workers also benefit from rooms where they can wait between orders and have access to bathrooms.
💸 Unlike meal delivery platforms, most grocery delivery companies have chosen to integrate all operations. However, the actual delivery of goods represents a high cost for them, with the customer only paying two euros on average. With three trips per hour per delivery person, startups in the sector are losing about four euros per delivery, according to estimates by Olivier Dauvers, a specialist in food distribution. To pave the road to profitability, grocers 2.0 will also have to find solutions upstream of the value chain.
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This vulnerability is one of the most serious that I’ve seen in my entire career, if not the most serious.
— Jen Easterly, director of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) warned executives from major U.S. industries that they need to take action to address "one of the most serious" flaws she has seen in her career. On Monday, the Biden administration revealed a new software vulnerability and warned that hundreds of millions of devices are at risk.
"We're an Islamic republic" - Iran bans foreign sunglasses and musical instruments
Iran's customs are clamping down on imports of musical instruments and sunglasses, which are on a list of foreign "luxury goods" the country has banned. Reports were not entirely clear whether the ban relates more to religious or economic concerns. The country is currently under Western sanctions and short of foreign exchange.
Beyond the financial crisis, Iran's clerical regime also has fraught relations with music and the arts, and broadly opposes modern, Western or "vulgar" music that leads to "indecency."
It has likewise never hidden its disdain for Western clothing or styles, which can include sunglasses, T-shirts and neckties, discouraging youngsters from attempting to look fashionable.
On November 28, the local ISNA news agency reported on the confiscation in the southern port of Bushehr, of 11 containers including Yamaha musical instruments. The ban, it stated, was in place since 2019-20, and it cited the head of state customs, Mehdi Mirashrafi, as saying that the law clearly did not allow imports of instruments.
A deputy head of parliament's Economic Committee, Kazem Musavi, has said separately that "Importing musical instruments is not in the country's interests, because we are an Islamic Republic. Why should anyone import musical instruments into the country when we have so many martyrs and theologians?" By martyrs, he was referring to hundreds of thousands of Iranians who died in the 1980-88 war against Iraq.
Musavi told the Iranian website Dideban-e Iran, "Musical instruments and similar objects aren't worth spending any time on them... My colleagues and I, as servants of the people, are concerned day and night with people's livelihoods, and that's it."
Nor, he added, are sunglasses, "essential goods we need to import. It makes no difference to people's lives whether or not we have sunglasses and instruments. Those who want musical instruments, or personal satisfaction, can leave Iran."
The law, he said, can add a provision for people who need sunglasses for medical reasons, but even there, he added, given the country's conditions, "provided their importation doesn't use up foreign exchange."
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin
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