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 A man walks through the wrecked remains of houses in a neighborhood off Russellville Road after a tornado swept through Friday night

A man walks through the wrecked remains of houses, Kentucky

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 ສະບາຍດີ*

Welcome to Monday, where the first ever meeting took place between leaders of Israel and the United Arab Emirates, BoJo declares an “Omicron emergency” and Vladimir Putin shares a side hustle from his past. And for the insomniac and the lonely, we tune in to Taiwan’s new app that connects you to a “sleep buddy” who’ll virtually tuck you in with some late-night talking.

[*Suh-bye-dee, Lao]


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🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Dutch daily De Volkskrant celebrates the “narrow but big win” of Formula 1 driver Max Verstappen who became the first world champion from The Netherlands after snatching a record eighth title away from Lewis Hamilton in the last lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Two protests lodged by Mercedes following the controversial end of the race were dismissed but Hamilton’s team intends to file appeals.

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

Bennett becomes first Israeli leader to visit UAE: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has met with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed in the first official visit of an Israeli leader to the United Arab Emirates. Iran will be on the agenda of their talks, which follow the normalization agreement signed by the two countries last year.

COVID update: Nicaragua has received one million COVID vaccines from China, days after it broke off diplomatic ties with Taiwan to switch allegiance in favor of Beijing. Meanwhile, South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa is being treated for coronavirus after he tested positive, but is reported to have “mild symptoms.” The UK will offer boosters to all adults who want one by the end of the month after Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared an “Omicron emergency,” as the variant now accounts for about 40% of infections in London. The variant is also spreading in the U.S., which has crossed the 50 million mark in COVID cases.

More than 100 feared dead in U.S. tornadoes: Rescue efforts are underway to find survivors after powerful tornadoes devastated towns in Kentucky and struck at least seven other states in central and southern U.S. At least 80 people have been confirmed dead in Kentucky, but the death toll is likely to pass 100, the governor said.

Jimmy Lai and HK activists sentenced to prison: Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai and seven other pro-democracy activists have been sentenced to up to 14 months in prison for organizing and taking part in a banned vigil last year to honor the victims of China’s 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Two missing after cargo ships collide in Baltic Sea: A rescue operation is underway after two cargo ships collided off the coast of Sweden, causing one to overturn. Two people are missing following the incident.

Verstappen becomes first Dutch F1 world champion: Max Verstappen claimed his first Formula 1 world championship title by overtaking rival Lewis Hamilton on the very last lap of the controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The 24-year-old pilot became the first Dutch champion in F1 history.

Japan PM says no spooky sights in “haunted” official residence: Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his family have recently moved to a formal residence in central Tokyo which had been vacant for nine years and was long rumored to be haunted as the site of a deadly attempted coup in 1936. Kishida reported that he “slept soundly” the first night.

💬  LEXICON

бомбила

In a new documentary called Russia, Latest History that aired on Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin confesses that after the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, he would moonlight as an unlicensed taxi driver — a job referred to as бомбила (bombila, “bomber”) in Russian slang — to make ends meet.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Taiwan's virtual "tuck-me-in" platform shows COVID impact on dating apps

Do you long for bedtime stories told remotely? Or miss the companionship a voice provides? There's an app for that, which also responds to special COVID-19 needs of dating apps that allows for more direct online communication, reports Hong Kong-based digital media The Initium.

📱😴 PlayOne is a popular app in Taiwan that provides online partners for streaming video gaming and other chat functionality. But recently the app began to offer online companionship with a new option: “Calling to sleep.” On this particular platform, a user can select the characteristics of their ideal companion to be nearby, virtually, when bedtime arrives. A range of features can be selected, including the go-to-sleep voice and appearance of the person who is there with you remotely as you drift off to sleep. The price? One sleep buddy says that he charges about $13 per hour.

💑 As online relationships are becoming an ever bigger reality in the digital age, other dating apps in Taiwan have started developing similar functions. Ken-Han Huang, the founder of the dating app Goodnight, pointed out that “Calling to sleep” services are becoming a trend, which is reflected in the growing number of minutes spent on the platform: from 40 million to at least 60 million. “People are no longer just chatting randomly, but talking until they fall asleep, keeping each other company,” he says.

💌 The outbreak of a global pandemic is seen as a watershed moment for dating apps and new online industries, as one needs to constantly maintain physical distance with others, making it more essential than ever to socialize digitally. The long-term effect could be that these boundaries remain, and ultimately rise further. Data from Future Commerce shows that the rate of dating app users turning to the audio-visual call function has increased significantly, from 6% to 69%.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"We are neighbors and cousins. We are the grandchildren of Prophet Abraham."

— Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaking during his visit Monday to the residence of United Arab Emirates’ leader Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in the first meeting ever of leaders of the two countries.

🇪🇸🗯️  IN OTHER NEWS

A kindergarten student reignites Spain’s eternal battle over languages

In Spain, language is politics.

Historical and regional differences and claims of autonomy are often expressed through demands about what language to use. Yet the latest public battle was sparked by a simple request by a kindergarten student in Canet de Mar, in Catalonia, a region that has long fought for the preeminence of the Catalan language. Instead, this time, the five-year-old schoolboy in question (and his family) had asked to have more lessons that are taught in Spanish, which set off many other similar requests for more bilingualism throughout the region around the city of Barcelona.

The debate has unleashed both solidarity and strong opposition directed at the family, reports Spanish daily La Rázon. Catalan, spoken by about nine million people, has been the region’s official language since the Catalan parliament passed a law in 1983. This came after the language had been banned for four decades under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

Since then, the Catalan educational system, unique in Europe, has been based on a linguistic immersion model granting Catalan language the status of “vehicular language,” meaning it is the primary language of instruction for all subjects. Spanish is a curriculum option and is taught like other foreign languages. Yet in reality, the Catalan education department does not impose a quota for each language, and each school has a certain amount of freedom to organize their linguistic programs as they see fit.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

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

More scared of Japanese haunted houses or ex-KGB taxi drivers? Let us know what’s happening in your corner of the world!

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Geopolitics

Has Lebanese Politics Finally Freed Itself Of Iran's Influence?

Lebanon's recent elections have shrunk the legislative block led by national power-brokers Hezbollah. But will a precarious new majority be able to rid the government of the long shadow of Tehran?

Supporters of pro-Iranian Hezbollah sit in a street decorated with picture of the party chief Hassan Nasrallah

Ahmad Ra'fat

-Analysis-

The results of parliamentary elections in Lebanon, have put an end to the majority block led by Hezbollah, the paramilitary group concocted by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Hezbollah and its Christian allies, the Free Patriotic Movement, led by President Michel Aoun, lost their 71 seats and will now have 62 (of a total 128 seats).

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When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

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