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Deadly Japan Fire, France Blocks UK Travelers, Mars’ Grand Canyon Water

Deadly Japan Fire, France Blocks UK Travelers, Mars’ Grand Canyon Water

Members of the Philippine Coast Guard rescue locals from the flood triggered by Super Typhoon Rai

Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

👋 Zdravo!*

Welcome to Friday, where Purdue Pharma’s $4.5 billion opioid settlement is overturned, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un celebrates his 10th year in office and water is found in Mars’ Grand Canyon. Weekly news magazine Jeune Afrique also looks at the reasons behind the Muslim Brotherhood’s failure to properly run national governments.



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• Arson suspected in Japan clinic blaze: At least 27 people are feared to have died after a fire swept through a psychiatry clinic in the Japanese city of Osaka on Friday. Police are investigating possible arson.

• COVID update:France announced it will block entry to UK tourists, tightening its border restrictions in an effort to slow the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant. Australian authorities on Friday rushed to track down hundreds who attended a Taylor Swift album party in Sydney that has become a super-spreader event as cases in the country hit a new pandemic surge for the second day in a row. In North America major sports leagues are on alert as a rise of COVID-19 cases leaves dozens of players sidelined, prompting teams to shutter facilities and forcing the postponement of a growing number of games.

• Meta bans “cyber-mercenaries” that targeted 50,000 people: Meta, Facebook’s parent company, has banned a series of “cyber-mercenary” groups linked to seven private surveillance companies that spied on some 50,000 dissidents, activists and journalists across the globe.

• U.S. judge overturns $4.5 billion opioid settlement: Federal judge Colleen McMahon unraveled a roughly $4.5 billion negotiated settlement between Purdue Pharma and thousands of U.S. state, local and tribal governments that had sued the maker of the prescription painkiller OxyContin for the company’s role in the opioid epidemic.

• North Korea marks a decade of Kim Jong-un: North Korea’s current leader Kim Jong-un is celebrating his 10th year in power. In his decade at the helm of the country, the dictator has secured the same absolute power enjoyed by his predecessors: Kim Jong Il, the current leader's father and Kim Il Sung, his grandfather and state founder.

• “Sex and the City” actor Chris Noth accused of sexually assaulting two women: Two women have accused “Sex And The City” actor, Chris Noth, of sexually assaulting them in 2004 and 2015. The actor denies allegations.

• Spacecraft discovers “hidden water” in Mars’ Grand Canyon: The European Space Agency announced that an orbiter had found “significant amounts of water,” likely in the form of ice, in Mars' massive version of the Grand Canyon.


Chilean daily El Mercurio devotes its front page to candidates José Antonio Kast, a far-right conservative, and progressive social democrat Gabriel Boric who are “closing their campaigns” two days before Chile’s runoff general election. The results are expected to be very close, as former Congressman Kast garnered more votes in the first-round election but Boric, a former student activist, has edged ahead in the most recent polls.


1.3 million

This latest wave of the coronavirus is also hitting Spain, where the sale of home-testing antigen kits has skyrocketed with more than 1.3 million tests sold by the country’s pharmacies in November — that’s 115% more than the previous month, according to data compiled by health consultancy Iqvia.


Autopsy of the Muslim Brotherhood's failed political project

A decade after the Arab Spring, the Islamist political movement driven by the Muslim Brotherhood, from Egypt to Morocco and beyond, continues to flirt with more extreme Salafist elements to build popular support — and continues to show its utter incapacity to properly run a national government, reports Mohamed Tozy in weekly news magazine Jeune Afrique.

🗳️ Why are political movements associated with the Muslim Brotherhood matrix ― or with the same doctrinal frame of reference ― unable to remain in power once the elections have been won? What explains their inability to evolve and shape their respective countries' political environment? Too often, these parties wind up quickly overtaken by competitors, which almost always come from their own ranks, able to challenge them on religious grounds by exploiting the Salafist niche — promoted by a Wahhabism backed by the anti-Arab Spring agenda that comes from Saudi Arabia.

➗ Political Islam, we must remember, is a very broad concept. It contains an often overlooked complexity that encompasses very different sociological realities, sometimes urban, sometimes rural, and very contrasting doctrinal roots. Political Islam can refer to either the doctrinal product of a Muslim Brother like Hassan al-Banna, or a Salafist’s like Albani, or even a Wahhabi’s like Ibn al-Baz. Scrutinizing the differences gives us the key to better understand the proximity between the Shia Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas, as well as the incompatibilities between the Sunni Talibans and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

❌ The arrival to power by the ballot in the aftermath of the Arab Spring subjected the Muslim Brotherhood to the test of the management of public affairs, faced with a plurality of interests and necessary compromises. In a situation of hegemony, Brotherhood-affiliated parties refused or were unable to change their doctrinal foundation and the content of their central values: On the contrary, they chose to align with the Salafist fringes of society. They thought they would find in the conservatism of society a fertile environment for the development of a very strict puritanism.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


We are probably facing the most dangerous situation in the last 30 years.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda issued the warning after EU leaders held a summit with Ukraine and four other ex-Soviet republics in Brussels and agreed that further economic sanctions would be imposed on Russia, in cooperation with the U.S. and the UK, if Moscow’s military invaded Ukraine. Tensions have been high since Russia was reported to have amassed more than 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s border.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

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AI As God? How Artificial Intelligence Could Spark Religious Devotion

We may be about to see the emergence of a new kind of religion, where flocks worship — literally — at the altar of Artificial Intelligence.

Image of artificial intelligence as an artificial being

Artificial intelligence generated picture of AI as a god

Neil McArthur

The latest generation of AI-powered chatbots, trained on large language models, have left their early users awestruck —and sometimes terrified — by their power. These are the same sublime emotions that lie at the heart of our experience of the divine.

People already seek religious meaning from very diverse sources. There are, for instance, multiple religions that worship extra-terrestrials or their teachings.

As these chatbots come to be used by billions of people, it is inevitable that some of these users will see the AIs as higher beings. We must prepare for the implications.

There are several pathways by which AI religions will emerge. First, some people will come to see AI as a higher power.

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