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In The News

Israel-U.A.E Historic Meeting, Omicron Emergency, Putin Taxi Driver

 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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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.


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.



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.


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


"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.


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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In Northern Kenya, Where Climate Change Is Measured In Starving Children

The worst drought in 40 years, which has deepened from the effects of climate change, is hitting the young the hardest around the Horn of Africa. A close-up look at the victims, and attempts to save lives and limit lasting effects on an already fragile region in Kenya.

Photo of five mothers holding their malnourished children

At feeding time, nurses and aides encourage mothers to socialize their children and stimulate them to eat.

Georgina Gustin

KAKUMA — The words "Stabilization Ward" are painted in uneven black letters above the entrance, but everyone in this massive refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, calls it ya maziwa: The place of milk.

Rescue workers and doctors, mothers and fathers, have carried hundreds of starving children through the doors of this one-room hospital wing, which is sometimes so crowded that babies and toddlers have to share beds. A pediatric unit is only a few steps away, but malnourished children don’t go there. They need special care, and even that doesn’t always save them.

In an office of the International Rescue Committee nearby, Vincent Opinya sits behind a desk with figures on dry-erase boards and a map of the camp on the walls around him. “We’ve lost 45 children this year due to malnutrition,” he says, juggling emergencies, phone calls, and texts. “We’re seeing a significant increase in malnutrition cases as a result of the drought — the worst we’ve faced in 40 years.”

From January to June, the ward experienced an 800 percent rise in admissions of children under 5 who needed treatment for malnourishment — a surge that aid groups blame mostly on a climate change-fueled drought that has turned the region into a parched barren.

Opinya, the nutrition manager for the IRC here, has had to rattle off these statistics many times, but the reality of the numbers is starting to crack his professional armor. “It’s a very sad situation,” he says, wearily. And he believes it will only get worse. A third year of drought is likely on the way.

More children may die. But millions will survive malnutrition and hunger only to live through a compromised future, researchers say. The longer-term health effects of this drought — weakened immune systems, developmental problems — will persist for a generation or more, with consequences that will cascade into communities and societies for decades.

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