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In The News

Putin’s Hypersonic Missiles, Pope Benedict’s Funeral, Will & Harry’s Brawl

The coffin of the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is carried into St. Peter’s Basilica, where he will be laid to rest in the former tomb of Pope St. John Paul II underneath the basilica.
Renate Mattar, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 ¡Ola!*

Welcome to Thursday, where Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly deploys hypersonic missiles, the funeral for Pope Benedict is held in Rome, and Prince Harry accuses his brother William of a physical attack. Meanwhile, Stephane Frachet in business daily Les Echos has everything you knead to know about France’s baguette battle.

[*Galician, Spain]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Putin deploys hypersonic missiles: According to state news agency TASS, Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered one of Russia’s most modern warships to sail through the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. The ship is reportedly equipped with cutting-edge hypersonic missiles — weapons that travel five times the speed of sound and are particularly hard to detect.

• Pope Benedict funeral: Pope Francis opened the funeral ceremony for his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI, who died on Dec. 31, at the age of 95. An estimated 50,000 mourners are currently gathered at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City to pay their respects to the first pontiff in almost 600 years to resign from his position.

• U.S. House still without a speaker: Republican leader Kevin McCarthy failed to secure enough support to win the U.S. House speakership. As a result, the House is still without a speaker after six votes over two days, which paralyzes Congress and intensifies dissensions without the Republican party.

• China to reopen border with Hong Kong: After three years of tight control due to the pandemic, borders between mainland China and Hong Kong will reopen on Sunday. Additionally, travelers won’t have to quarantine anymore when going from Hong Kong to the mainland. This change comes as Beijing is lifting its severe Covid preventive measures.

• Israel frees longest-serving Palestinian prisoner: Israeli authorities released Palestinian prisoner Karim Younis, 66, who finished serving his 40-year jail sentence. Younis was arrested in 1983 for the killing of an Israeli soldier.

• Amazon to cut 18,000 jobs: Amazon chief executive Andy Jassy announced on Wednesday that job cuts will exceed 18,000 roles, a number that currently represents 6% of the company’s corporate workforce. Mr Jassy also stated that this decision will hit hardest in the company’s e-commerce and human-resources departments.

• Amateur archeologist cracks Ice Age enigma: Ben Bacon, a London furniture conservator and cave paintings enthusiast, helped specialists understand the meaning of 20,000-year-old markings that had stumped them thus far by suggesting they were a form of "proto-writing" system used by hunter-gatherers to record animal life-cycles.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

“Bigger basket of essential products to calm panic,” titles Croatian business daily Poslovni dnevnik, after Croatia’s government announced it was adding new items to a list of essential products with fixed prices, as the country battles soaring inflation and rising prices led by its adoption of the euro currency at the start of the year. The government had established a first package last September containing basic products such as sunflower oil, milk, flour, sugar and meat.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

-30.4%

Ukraine Economy Minister Yulia Svyrydenko said in a statement that the country’s war with Russia caused its gross domestic product to fall by 30.4% in 2022 — the largest annual fall since Ukraine won its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Svyrydenko noted however that the fall was less than initially expected, thanks in part to “systemic financial support from international donors.”

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Let them bake bread! France's independent bakeries struggle to survive

The baguette is now on UNESCO’s cultural heritage list. But France's independent bakeries are struggling to survive amid rising energy costs and competition from larger chains, reports Stephane Frachet in business daily Les Echos.

🥖 Six billion baguettes are made in France every year. But one question remains: will there still be independent bakeries in three to four decades? The French National Confederation of Bakery and Pastry (CNBPF), which represents 35,000 artisan bakeries, is trying to stand out amid a boom in bakery and pastry chains. In 1970, there were around 50,000 independent bakeries. Now, 33,000 are still in operation, but that means that every year, 400 bakeries disappear in France according to the CNBPF.

💸 UNESCO’s recognition arrives just in time for independent and artisan bakeries. In 2020, the CNBPF launched a baker certification, but it requires an audit that only a handful of bakers can afford. And on top of that, energy bills keep rising. The chains manage to overcome these difficulties because of bulk purchases on bigger volumes.

🌾 Another thing that works in the chains' favor: Their shops attract entrepreneurs who will be able to learn the job within the company and then open their own franchise. On the other hand, independents must already be certified bakers to open a store.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

“He grabbed me by the collar, ripping my necklace, and he knocked me to the floor.”

— In his upcoming memoir, Spare, of which The Guardian says it obtained an early copy, Prince Harry reportedly accused his brother William of physically assaulting him during an argument about Harry's wife Meghan Markle.

✍️ Newsletter by Renate Mattar, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet


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Geopolitics

Idlib Nightmare: How Syria's Lingering Civil War Is Blocking Earthquake Aid

Across the border from the epicenter in Turkey, the Syrian region of Idlib is home to millions of people displaced by the 12-year-long civil war. The victims there risk not getting assistance because of the interests of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, reminding the world of one of the great unresolved conflicts of our times.

Photo of Syrian civilians inspecting a destroyed residential building in Idlib after the earthquake

A destroyed residential building in Idlib after the earthquake

Pierre Haski

-Analysis-

Faced with a disaster of the magnitude of the earthquakes that struck Turkey and Syria, one imagines a world mobilized to bring relief to the victims, where all barriers and borders disappear. Unfortunately, this is only an illusion in such a complex and scarred corner of the world.

Yes, there's been an instant international outpouring of countries offering assistance and rescue teams converging on the disaster zones affected by the earthquakes. It is a race against time to save lives.

But even in such dramatic circumstances, conflict, hatred and competing interests do not somehow vanish by magic.

Sometimes, victims of natural disasters face a double price. This is the case for the 4.5 million inhabitants of Idlib, a region located in northwestern Syria, which was directly hit by the earthquake. So far, the toll there has reached at least 900 people killed, thousands injured and countless others left homeless in the harsh winter.

The inhabitants of Idlib, two-thirds of whom are displaced from other regions of Syria, live in an area that is still beyond the control of Bashar al-Assad, and they've been 90% dependent on international aid... which has not been arriving.

To put maximum pressure on these millions of people, the Syrian government and its Russian ally have gradually restricted the ability to get humanitarian aid to them.

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