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First Ukraine Evacuations, Taliban In Oslo, Navratilova v. Australian Open

A protester throws a flare towards Lebanon’s central Bank in Beirut during a demonstration against the country's worsening economic crisis

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Салом!*

Welcome to Monday, where the U.S. and UK have started advising their nationals to leave Ukraine, the Taliban are in Oslo for first talks with the West since returning to power and Martina Navratilova is outraged at Australian Open organizers for a certain T-shirt ban. Meanwhile, Les Echos’ Yann Rousseau spoke with Masahiro Hara, the creator of the ubiquitous QR code.

[*Salom - Uzbek]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Foreign officials leave Ukraine: The U.S. State Department has told diplomats’ families to leave Ukraine and the UK has withdrawn some embassy staff from Kyiv, as Russia continues to build up its military presence on the border. Kyiv says the decision to remove personnel is “premature” and an example of “excessive caution.”

• Taliban talks with Western officials in Oslo: In their first visit to Europe since returning to power in Afghanistan last August, Taliban officials are meeting with European and North American envoys to discuss the country’s humanitarian crisis. The three-day talks are expected to cover human rights and the humanitarian crisis, as poverty and hunger deepen around the country.

• COVID update: Beijing announces six new positive cases among personnel for the upcoming Winter Olympic games. Russia continues to break its record for daily new COVID-19 infections, reporting 63,205 cases. Meanwhile, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern canceled her upcoming wedding due to new restrictions to curb the spread of the Omicron variant.

• Burkina Faso coup, president detained: Roch Kaboré, the president of Burkina Faso, has been apprehended by mutinying soldiers. In the West African country, some members of the military have been asking for more resources to combat Islamist militants and for certain military chiefs to lose their jobs.

• UK court rules Julian Assange can appeal extradition: In a win for Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder can appeal a decision that he be extradited to the United States to face charges under the Espionage Act. Assange has claimed American prison conditions would be too harsh on his mental health.

• Designer Thierry Mugler dies: French couturier, perfumer and designer Thierry Mugler, behind daring looks for the likes of Beyoncé, David Bowie or Kim Kardashian, has died at age 73, of natural causes.

Stowaway survives 11-hour flight in plane wheel: An unidentified man was found alive in a cargo plane nose wheel after flying from Johannesburg to Amsterdam. The man, who is only identified as being between 16-35 years old, had a very low body temperature after the 6,000-mile trip.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

“They came from all over Europe,” titles Belgium’s daily De Standaard, reporting on anti-vaccine protests which gathered an estimated 50,000 demonstrators in Brussels. Clashes erupted as police used water cannons and tear gas on stone-throwing protesters.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

13.7 billion years

That’s how far back the James Webb telescope, the successor to NASA’s Hubble telescope, will be able to look. When it reaches its final destination today, some one million miles (1.6 million kilometers) away from Earth, the $10 billion telescope developed jointly by NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency will be able to scan light that goes back to the beginning of our Universe.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Masahiro Hara takes aim: The QR code inventor builds post-pandemic applications

Conceived in the early 1990s, the QR code has found a second life during the pandemic. French daily Les Echos’ reporter Yann Rousseau met its creator, Masahiro Hara, who’s one of the many continuing to innovate his most famous invention, which has changed everything from medicine to how we dine.

🈺 At the end of 1993, Masahiro Hara, a 64-year-old engineer working for the Denso Wave company, presented the "Quick Response Code" solution to his management. There was little reaction; it was too revolutionary. He then turned to his customers. Several manufacturers were ready to try it out. They quickly understood the advantages of the new system, which can encapsulate up to 7,089 characters in its most detailed version. A key advantage for Japanese companies was that the new code accepted not only the letters of the alphabet, numbers and dozens of symbols, but also the various Japanese characters.

📱 The general public in Japan slowly converted in the mid-2000s with the release of the first cell phones equipped with dedicated QR code readers. Abroad, it was the arrival of smartphones that allowed the use of the small black and white stickers to be more widely spread. They first blossomed in magazines, on advertising posters and on local authority billboards, mainly to lead to a website or a platform offering discount coupons. QR codes later became part of everyday life in several Asian countries.

✋ In our pandemic times, the QR code is seen as an ideal solution to limit contact and touching. As in the West, physical airplane, museum and movie tickets as well as marketing flyers and business cards are gradually vanishing. The presentation of a QR code is now enough to access the website of one's company or a personal email account. In the Shinjuku district of Tokyo, the restaurant "Kichiri" quickly did away with paper menus, suspected of transmitting the coronavirus, in favor of digital versions.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

That’s just pathetic.

— Retired tennis legend Martina Navratilova criticized on Twitter Australian Open organizers’ decision to ban T-shirts saying “Where is Peng Shuai?,” in support of the Chinese player who had disappeared from the public eyes after accusing a Chinese top official of sexual misconduct. Tennis Australia, the organizing body behind the tournament, justified the ban by saying they were concerned with Peng Shuai’s safety.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger

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Ideas

Artificial Satellite Pollution, Perils For Biodiversity In Space And On Earth

Exploiting space resources and littering it with satellite and other anthropogenic objects is endangering the ecosystem of space, which also damages the earth and its creatures below.

Image of the small satellite NanoRacks-Remove Debris satellite deployed into space by the ISS

Thomas Lewton

Outer space isn’t what most people would think of as an ecosystem. Its barren and frigid void isn’t exactly akin to the verdant canopies of a rainforest or to the iridescent shoals that swim among coral cities. But if we are to become better stewards of the increasingly frenzied band of orbital space above our atmosphere, a shift to thinking of it as an ecosystem — as part of an interconnected system of living things interacting with their physical environment — may be just what we need.

Last month, in the journal Nature Astronomy, a collective of 11 astrophysicists and space scientists proposed we do just that, citing the proliferation of anthropogenic space objects. Thousands of satellites currently orbit the Earth, with commercial internet providers such as SpaceX’s Starlink launching new ones at a dizzying pace. Based on proposals for projects in the future, the authors note, the number could reach more than a hundred thousand within the decade. Artificial satellites, long a vital part of the space ecosystem, have arguably become an invasive species.

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