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In The News

Battered Bakhmut, Overwhelmed Aleppo Hospitals, Ottawa’s Ice Shortage

Ukrainian soldiers loading up artillery shells into a truck near Bakhmut as they defend the city against renewed Russian strikes.

Ukrainian soldiers loading up artillery shells into a truck near Bakhmut as they defend the city against renewed Russian strikes.

Ginevra Falciani & Renate Mattar

👋 Kamusta!*

Welcome to Thursday, where Russian troops double down in the battle for Bakhmut, hospitals in Syria’s capital city of Aleppo are overwhelmed by victims of the Feb. 6 earthquake, and Canadian ice-skaters are left disappointed. Meanwhile, as debates and protests continue in France over increasing the pension age, business daily Les Echos looks at the reasons why some companies are seeking to recruit senior employees.



This is our daily newsletter Worldcrunch Today, a rapid tour of the news of the day from the world's best journalism sources, regardless of language or geography.

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• Ukraine update: Russia battered Ukraine with multiple missile strikes as troops seek to advance to the east. Kyiv said it shot down 16 of 32 Russian missiles. Meanwhile, the BBC was given access to a prisoner-of-war facility housing hundreds of captured Russian soldiers, conscripts, and mercenaries in western Ukraine that are likely to be used in prisoner exchanges. Last November, a UN human rights report documented abuses by both sides, based on interviews with prisoners who spoke of cases of torture and ill-treatment.

• Aleppo hospitals overwhelmed by quake victims: Hospitals in Aleppo do not have enough room for new patients in the wake of last week's devastating earthquake. At the Al-Razi Hospital there are too many beds to fit into the wards, reaching end-to-end through corridors and into the chilly courtyard. More than 4,400 deaths and 7,600 injuries have been reported in north-western Syria since a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck neighboring southern Turkey on Feb. 6.

China and Iran call for Iran sanctions to be lifted: China's President Xi Jinping and his Iranian counterpart, Ebrahim Raisi, called on Thursday for the lifting of sanctions on Iran as an integral part of the stalled international Iran nuclear agreement. Xi also accepted an invitation from Raisi to visit Iran and would do so at his convenience, the two leaders said in a joint statement on the last day of a three-day state visit to China by Raisi.

• Shooting at El Paso shopping mall: One person died and three more were injured in a shooting at a shopping mall in El Paso, Texas. Two men have been taken into custody. Police have not commented on possible motives. So far this year, there have been more than 70 mass shootings across the United States, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

• Rail firm pulls out of meeting with residents after Ohio train derailment: Representatives of the Norfolk Southern railway company failed to show up at a public meeting meant to ease fears about a toxic chemical spill in an Ohio town after one of their trains carrying the chemicals derailed 13 days ago causing a huge fire. The railway company cited security concerns as the motive not to attend. Despite assurances from officials, many residents continue to be frightened of the potential damage, saying the spill has impacted humans and wildlife alike.

• Retirees protest in China: Crowds of retirees in China have again taken to the streets to protest against cuts to their medical benefits, putting pressure on President Xi Jinping's administration just weeks before the annual National People's Congress. Protests first took place in Wuhan on Feb. 8 after provincial authorities said they were cutting the level of medical expenses which retirees can claim back from the government. Although such health insurance matters are handled at a provincial level, protests have spread to different parts of the country.

• World’s largest ice rink lacks just one tiny little thing: Ottawa’s Rideau Canal Skateway, the world’s largest naturally frozen ice rink, is yet to open this year. As Canada experiences one of its warmest winters to date, there just isn’t enough ice in the rink.


Edinburgh-based daily The Scotsman devotes its front page to the surprise announcement of the resignation of Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon, after more than eight years in the role. The figurehead of the Scottish independence movement and Scotland’s longest-serving first minister said she would remain in office until her successor was elected. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak paid tribute to Sturgeon’s “long-standing public service.”


37 million

A new investigation by Clean Up Kenya and investigative NGO Wildlight has just revealed that European countries dump up to 37 million items of plastic clothing in Kenya every year. The pieces of clothing are too dirty and damaged to be reused, and now present a serious pollution and health threat to the region.


Lost in France's retirement age battle: Making space for older workers

As debates and protests continue in France over increasing the pension age, many seniors are already voluntarily returning to work. Some do so to keep busy, but many are forced to by the cost-of-living crisis, reports Sarah Dumeau in French business daily Les Echos.

🧓 France has plans to require companies with more than 300 employees to make public the proportion of seniors in their workforce, with possible financial penalties. But some companies, such as the Elior group that manages the Bercy Lumière restaurant, have already made their numbers public. In 2022, of the 2,500 people they recruited on average on permanent contracts, 18% are over 50 and 30% are over 45. And they are far from being isolated cases.

💼 The first reason given by employers is the lack of labor. "We have great difficulties recruiting drivers for school transport," says Jean-Sébastien Barrault, president of the Fédération Nationale du Transport de Voyageurs (National Federation of Passenger Transport). To fill this gap, these companies massively employ seniors at the end of their careers or retirees.

🧑🍳 The Elior group ensures that older employees are recruited for their experience. "To fill certain gaps, we really need seniors," says Olga Boulay, director of the Bercy Lumière restaurant. The more experienced chefs help the youngest to stay calm, like “Chef David”, 64 years old. He doesn't want to stop, however: “I'm less tired than the young people,” he laughs.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


“I'm afraid we're going to see this war going on for another year.”

— In an interview with Euronews, the European Union’s Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell shared his thoughts on the unprecedented sanctions the bloc has taken over the past year against Russia, as a 10th package of retaliatory measures is being discussed. Borrell admitted that although it “has not always been easy” to maintain political unity among the 27 members of the EU, as the war is likely to continue, “we, Europeans, have to keep doing more of the same thing.”

✍️ Newsletter by Ginevra Falciani, Renate Mattar and Anne-Sophie Goninet

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food / travel

Inside The Search For Record-Breaking Sapphires In A Remote Indian Valley

A vast stretch of mountains in India's Padder Valley is believed to house sapphire reserves worth $1.2 billion, which could change the fate of one of the poorest districts of Jammu and Kashmir.

Photo of sapphire miners at work in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kishtwar district

Sapphire mining in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kishtwar district

Jehangir Ali

GULABGARH — Mohammad Abbas recalls with excitement the old days when he joined the hunt in the mountains of Jammu and Kashmir’s Kishtwar district to search the world’s most precious sapphires.

Kishtwar’s sapphire mines are hidden in the inaccessible mountains towering at an altitude of nearly 16,000 feet, around Sumchan and Bilakoth areas of Padder Valley in Machail – which is one of the most remote regions of Jammu and Kashmir.

“Up there, the weather is harsh and very unpredictable,” Abbas, a farmer, said. “One moment the high altitude sun is peeling off your skin and the next you could get frostbite. Many labourers couldn’t stand those tough conditions and fled.”

Abbas, 56, added with a smile: “But those who stayed earned their reward, too.”

A vast stretch of mountains in Padder Valley nestled along Kishtwar district’s border with Ladakh is believed to house sapphire reserves worth $1.2 billion, according to one estimate. A 19.88-carat Kishtwar sapphire broke records in 2013 when it was sold for nearly $2.4 million.

In India, the price of sapphire with a velvety texture and true-blue peacock colour, which is found only in Kishtwar, can reach $6,000 per carat. The precious stone could change the socio-economic landscape of Kishtwar, which is one of the economically most underdeveloped districts of Jammu and Kashmir.

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