Welcome to Thursday, where former U.S. President Donald Trump is set to appear in court on charges of plotting to overturn his 2020 election defeat, Niger’s coup leader remains defiant as ECOWAS leaders meet in Nigeria to discuss the crisis and there’s a new candidate for the heaviest ever animal on Earth. Meanwhile, Persian-language media Kayhan-London reports on how the leak of an Iranian senior official's gay sex tape may be a deliberate, albeit obscure bid to disgrace the Islamic Republic itself.
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• Security ramped up ahead of Donald Trump court appearance: Former U.S. President Donald Trump will be formally charged at a court hearing today for plotting to overturn his 2020 election defeat. Trump already faces two other criminal cases as he keeps campaigning for the White House next year. Security is being ramped up in Washington, D.C. ahead of the hearing.
• Russia downs more drones: Russia said it has downed seven Ukrainian drones near Moscow, the latest in a string of attacks blamed on Ukraine. Meanwhile, Russian shelling damaged a landmark church in the Ukrainian city of Kherson and injured eight people.
• North Korea confirms custody of U.S. soldier: North Korea has confirmed custody of Travis King in its first response to requests for information on the U.S. soldier's whereabouts. The 23-year-old private crossed the border from South Korea on July 18 while on a guided tour, as he was due to be flown home to the United States following disciplinary action.
• Niger coup leader intensifies standoff with ECOWAS: Niger’s coup leader General Abdourahamane Tchiani has declared that he will not yield to pressure to reinstate deposed President Mohamed Bazoum, criticizing sanctions imposed by West African leaders as “illegal” and “inhumane.” Tchiani‘s comments, issued in a televised address, come as the defense chiefs of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) meet in neighboring Nigeria to discuss the situation in Niger.
• Thai prime minister vote postponed: Thailand’s parliament has postponed a vote to select the country’s next prime minister, over a petition seeking a ruling on the rejected renomination of Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat. The move prolongs a political deadlock that has raised questions about stability in the Southeast Asian nation, which has seen two coups and waves of street protests over the past two decades.
• China wants to limit minors’ phone use to two hours a day: China has proposed new measures aimed at tackling the amount of time that kids and teens can spend on their phones. A proposal released by the Cyberspace Administration of China, the country’s top internet regulator, would require all mobile devices, apps and app stores to have a built-in “minor mode” that would restrict daily screen time to a maximum of two hours, depending on the age group.
• Weighty whale: Scientists may have identified the heaviest animal to ever live on Earth, after digging up fossilized bones of a long-extinct species of whale in the desert of southern Peru. Perucetus colossus is estimated to have weighed close to 200 tons — that’s about twice the weight of the heaviest dinosaur.
“Operation Rock leaves 10 dead,” reads the front page of the Rio de Janeiro-based daily O Dia, reporting on the violent police raid against gang leaders that have rocked the city’s favela neighborhoods. The raid brings the total number of people killed in similar operations to 42 over the past six days. While Brazil’s police forces have said they are locked in a deadly battle with powerful criminal organizations, they have also been accused of corruption and human rights abuses.
21.81 secondsSomalia broke one unexpected record at the FISU World University Games in Chengdu, China: It took Nasra Abukar Ali, the country’s contestant for the 100-meter dash race, 21.81 seconds to complete the sprint. After Ali’s performance (which has been dubbed “the slowest-ever time” taken to complete the race) went viral, the Somali Sports Minister declared that upon investigation, it was found that Ali had “no background in running or any sport” and called the incident a display of the country’s corruption and nepotism. Somalia’s head of athletics has since then been suspended.
The gay sex tape that makes Iran question its own morality
Iranian state agents may have had a hand in leaking a senior official's gay sex tape, and revealing the extramarital and sometimes homosexual affairs of several regime officials. Could this be a deliberate, albeit obscure bid to disgrace the Islamic Republic itself? asks Persian-language media Kayhan-London.
🇮🇷 Videos recently emerged in the Islamic Republic of Iran apparently showing a senior provincial official in situations of homosexual intimacy. Naturally, they caused a furor in a country run by a religious regime that threatens extreme penalties for extramarital sex, and particularly same-sex acts. The videos have helped uncover the barely Islamic lifestyle of the Gilan province's director-general for Culture and Islamic Guidance (or the Guidance ministry's provincial boss), Reza Saqati, and prompted similar revelations about other officials.
🔍 Some observers in Iran suspect the involvement of security officials in the revelations, though nobody is quite clear on the motives. These may include rivalries over positions, while some see in the revelations another sign of dissension inside the state following the 2022 revolt. Even regime hands are not in agreement over what to make of it all.
➗ Sex-related revelations have emerged about other regime hands, notably a member of the Anzali municipal council in northern Iran, and a singer of propaganda hymns, Abuzar Ruhi. On July 31, Radio Gilan accused another provincial official and cleric of having had sex with a male relative. The revelations and their timing may point to divisions inside the regime, but in any case, could they possibly embarrass a regime whose record of killings shows it has neither shame nor scruples?
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“The scandals [...] call us to a humble and ongoing purification, starting with the anguished cry of the victims, who must always be accepted and listened to.”
— In Lisbon to attend the World Youth Day Catholic festival, Pope Francis commented on the country’s child sex abuse scandal faced by the Portuguese Catholic Church. In February, a report accused priests and other Church personnel of having abused as many as 4,815 boys and girls since 1950 in the country, despite Church officials previously admitting to only a handful of cases. During a vigil service at the capital’s iconic Jeronimos Monastery, the pontiff demanded that bishops better respond to abuse cases by accepting victims and listening to them. Pope Francis also met in private with 13 victims of child abuse by Catholic clergy in Portugal.
• The HIV-Positive Pastor Breaking Down AIDS Stigma In Zimbabwe — RELIGION UNPLUGGED
✍️ Newsletter by Emma Albright, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Valeria Berghinz and Laure Gautherin
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