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In The News

Pandora Papers, Japan’s New PM, Spicy Medicine Nobel

Pandora Papers, Japan’s New PM, Spicy Medicine Nobel

Face-to-Face Madrasah school in Central Sulawesi

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Bom dia!*

Welcome to Monday, where the financial secrets of the rich and powerful are exposed in a massive data leak, the two Koreas get on the phone for the first time in months, Japan has a new prime minister and there's a spicy Nobel prize winner for medicine. For Paris-based daily Les Echos, we have Anna Rousseau reporting on how fashion-famous France is finally starting to catch up with the plus-size market.



Iran-Azerbaijan tensions: How Khamenei overplayed Islamic ties

Azerbaijan's flourishing ties with Turkey and Israel threaten Iran's regional trade and strategic security after Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei overestimated his ability to woo Azerbaijan leader, Ilham Aliev, because both nations are predominantly Shia Muslim.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards have sent armored and artillery units for maneuvers Friday close to the Islamic Republic's northern border with the Republic of Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan deplored the move and reportedly prevented Iranian trucks from driving on Azeri roads into Armenia. Iran says the movements were a matter of internal security.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier this week that Tehran would not tolerate the presence of "the Zionist regime near its frontiers and will take any measure needed for its national security."

In the northwestern Iranian city of Ardabil, with a population dominated by Iranian Azeris, the congregational prayer leader (and local representative of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei), Ayatollah Hasan Amoli, has said that "Israel has come to Azerbaijan to threaten Iran, and the Sepah (Revolutionary guards) are in maneuvers... sending the message, don't overstep the mark!"

When Armenia and Azerbaijan went to war in 2020 over the Karabakh enclave, Supreme Leader Khamenei ditched all neutrality and declared that "the lands of the Republic of Azerbaijan occupied by Armenia must be freed." Ayatollah Amoli dutifully echoed him then, saying the leader's "fatwa to free Karabakh has been of great help!"

While some reports suggested the Revolutionary guards were secretly sending arms to Armenia, Khamenei believed he should publicly defend "the Islamic geography" and back Azerbaijan, which like Iran is a majority Shia Muslim nation. Perhaps Khamenei thought he could impede Azerbaijan's blossoming ties with Israel, nemesis to Iran's revolutionary regime.

He also thought he had close ties with the Azeri leader, Ilham Aliev. He must have felt it when he bantered with him in Azeri — which Khamenei speaks, being an Iranian Azeri himself — on Aliev's visit to Tehran in early 2014. But in this regard, Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan has had far greater success.

At a meeting in February 2017, Khamenei warned Aliev that "the malicious Zionist regime is working harder than other enemies to weaken the brotherly ties between Iran and Azerbaijan." His recipe for Aliev was to pump the Shia ideology and ride the people's religious sentiments.

Aliev evidently wasn't moved. If this were a recipe for success and popularity, why did Iranians intermittently pour onto the streets and risk their lives to denounce the Islamic Republic?

Khamenei's diplomacy hasn't stopped Azerbaijan from repeatedly obstructing Iranian lorries driving toward Russia in recent years and hiking customs and passage fees.

Azerbaijan has meanwhile forged warm relations with Israel, expanding commercial, security and military ties since 2011. Tehran consequently feels threatened, as Israel has installed communications and satellite systems near Iran's 600-kilometer frontier with Azerbaijan, and is helping develop Azerbaijan's defensive and drone capabilities. Azerbaijan has bought billions of dollars worth of Israeli armaments.

Iran sent troops to the frontier after the tripartite exercises involving Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Turkey, set to continue to the end of September. The three countries say they are strengthening the security of routes set to be linked to China's Belt and Road system.

Some observers in Tehran suspect that in return for backing Azerbaijan's efforts to regain the Nagorno-Karabakh territory, Turkey and Israel, and more discreetly, Britain and the United States, have extracted commitments from Aliev, effectively to act against Iranian interests in fields including defense, the economy and even ethnic separatism.

A member of the Iranian parliament's National Security Committee, Fadahussein Maleki, has deplored the tripartite maneuvers, saying Iran "expected more of its Azeri neighbor." Other legislators have warned Azerbaijan to mind the "childish" positions taken by some of its legislators or ministers, whom they accuse of feeding "discord" between neighbors.

These tensions are likely to have economic, rather than military consequences, and to benefit Turkey, which already boasts a thriving trade with Baku. And the principal loser is Khamenei, who thought the Azeri language and Shia Islam were enough to bring the two states closer. Yet in geopolitical and economic calculations, and in the basic function between states, such assumptions should never be overestimated.



Pandora Papers leak point fingers at 35 world leaders: Millions of documents leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists have revealed offshore deals and assets of billionaires, current and former world leaders, politicians and public officials, as well as celebrities and business leaders. The so-called "Pandora Papers" expose, among others, the offshore dealings of the King of Jordan, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, the current Prime Minister of the Czech Republic and the presidents of Ukraine, Kenya and Ecuador.

North Korea reopens hotline with South: North and South Korea exchanged their first phone call since August after North Korea restored communication and military lines to help reduce tensions on the peninsula.

Fumio Kishida takes office as Japan's new prime minister: Japan's parliament voted to approve Fumio Kishida, leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and a former minister, as the country's 100th Prime Minister. Former PM Yoshihide Suga submitted his resignation after just one year in office.

Muhammad cartoonist dies in car crash: Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who was living under police protection after he sketched the Prophet Muhammad's head on a dog's body in 2007, has died in a traffic accident in southern Sweden.

China's Evergrande suspends Hong Kong market trading: Heavily indebted property giant Evergrande has suspended trading in its shares on the Hong Kong stock exchange as the firm faces default after missing a second key bond interest payment.

Plane crash near Milan kills eight: A small private airplane crashed into an empty building outside of Italy's Milan, killing the crew of two and six passengers, including real estate tycoon Dan Petrescu, one of Romania's richest men, his wife and their son.

Red Hot Nobel Pepper: Kicking off this year's Nobel Prize season, U.S. scientists David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian were awarded the Nobel Prize 2021 in Medicine for their discoveries of receptors for temperature and touch. They used capsaicin, the active component in chile peppers, to identify the nerve sensors that allow the skin to respond to heat.


Madrid-based daily El Pais is one 151 media outlets that are part of the massive Pandora Papers probe after millions of confidential documents were leaked about "shady dealings" of hundreds of heads, politicians, business leaders and celebrities. Coordinated by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), it is considered to be the biggest journalistic collaboration in history, also involving journalists from Le Monde, The Guardian, The Washington Post, L'Espresso, La Nación, etc.



The Indian Supreme Court has approved the government's decision to pay 50,000 rupees ($674) as compensation for every death due to COVID-19. Some states such as Karnataka have already announced a higher compensation of 100,000 rupees for every family below the poverty line that has suffered a fatality. India has officially recorded more than 448,000 deaths thus far, the third-highest in the world behind the United States and Brazil.


The XXL saga of French fashion and inclusive sizing

Clothing companies in France have a habit of simply ignoring larger-sized women. But led by a new generation of designers, some of them inspired by first-hand frustrations, the sector is finally showing signs of change, reports Anna Rousseau in Paris-based daily Les Echos.

👗 In France, from size large up, it is extremely difficult to find clothes in stores. The demand is there, but not the supply. Indeed, roughly a quarter of French women wear large sizes, if we are to believe the last national measurement campaign, from 2006. And yet, the ultra-competitive fashion industry seems bent on ignoring this whole segment of the market. Most stores stop at 44/46 (medium to large). The only solution? Order on the internet. "It makes me want to cry," says DJ and feminist activist Leslie Barbara Butch. "I can't go shopping with friends."

🧵 Generations of designers have been trained in the idea that a size small is the limit. Déborah Neuberg is the founder of De Bonne Facture, a brand of men's clothing that offers its retailers sizes ranging from XXS to XXXL. "The first time I saw a Stockman [a dressmaker mannequin] that was 'fat' — that is to say with a little belly and breasts — I'd already been in the business for three years," she says. "This made me react. I realized that I had only been taught to dress slim bodies."

✊ Now, though, this long-shamed clientele is finally taking the fashion industry to task. Women, especially younger ones, are much more comfortable in their skin than their elders. Singers Yseult and Lizzo, whose body positivity is central to their image, are prime examples. A few years before them, musician Beth Ditto walked for Jean Paul Gaultier. These women want to feel beautifully dressed the way they choose, whether in loose dresses or leggings and crop tops. And they are numerous enough to make their demands loud and clear.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


"It is Sara-Go."

— Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte confirmed late Sunday that his daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, will run for president in the 2022 election. Duterte-Carpio, who currently serves as mayor of Davao, the country's third-largest city, has still not made an official announcement. The 76-year-old father, who cannot run for reelection because of term limits, also indicated that he will not run as his daughter's vice-presidential running mate, but that his long-time aide will fill that role. Legendary boxer Manny Pacquiao, who currently serves in the Philippines senate, has already announced he is a candidate for president.


Students in a madrasa school in Palu, Indonesia resume face-to-face studying on a limited basis amid the coronavirus pandemic - Adi Pranata/ZUMA

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

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Is Disney's "Wish" Spreading A Subtle Anti-Christian Message To Kids?

Disney's new movie "Wish" is being touted as a new children's blockbuster to celebrate the company's 100th anniversary. But some Christians may see the portrayal of the villain as God-like and turning wishes into prayers as the ultimate denial of the true message of Christmas.

photo of a kid running out of a church

For the Christmas holiday season?

Joseph Holmes

Christians have always had a love-hate relationship with Disney since I can remember. Growing up in the Christian culture of the 1990s and early 2000s, all the Christian parents I knew loved watching Disney movies with their kids – but have always had an uncomfortable relationship with some of its messages. It was due to the constant Disney tropes of “follow your heart philosophy” and “junior knows best” disdain for authority figures like parents that angered so many. Even so, most Christians felt the benefits had outweighed the costs.

That all seems to have changed as of late, with Disney being hit more and more by claims from conservatives (including Christian conservatives) that Disney is pushing more and more radical progressive social agendas, This has coincided with a steep drop at the box office for Disney.

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