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In The News

Xi To Meet Putin, Paris Pensions Protests, 40 Hours Surfin’

Xi To Meet Putin, Paris Pensions Protests, 40 Hours Surfin’

French riot police faced off with protesters in Paris, as the French government decided to force through pension reforms by decree, raising the retirement age from 62 to 64.

Emma Albright, Inès Mermat and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 Dia dhuit!*

Welcome to Friday, where Xi Jinping has confirmed his meeting with Putin next week, protests rock France after the government forces through pension reforms, and duuuude, that’s a long surf session. Meanwhile, Jan Schulte in Berlin-based daily Die Welt focuses on a sustainable solution to the shortage of building materials: “urban mining.”



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• Wagner Group advances in Bakhmut: Russia’s paramilitary Wagner Group stepped up attacks against the Ukrainian forces defending the city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region. Yet this also comes amid signs that Russia’s offensive may be abating elsewhere across Ukraine’s eastern front. Ukrainian Colonel Oleksiy Dmytrashkivskyi said Russian ground attacks had decreased over the past week from around 100 per day to below 30.

• Xi Jinping will travel to Moscow on Monday: Chinese President Xi Jinping has confirmed he will visit Russia next week to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two-day trip begins Monday as China tries to position itself as a peacemaker, though the West is skeptical of Beijing’s role.

• Violent clashes after French government pushes through pension reform: Police in Paris have clashed with protesters following the French government’s decision to force through pension reforms by decree, raising the retirement age from 62 to 64. Supported by French President Emmanuel Macron, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne invoked article 49:3 of the constitution which allows the government to avoid a vote in the Assembly.

• Stocks rise after banks rescue First Republic: Stock markets in Europe have risen after a group of 11 U.S. banks stepped in with $30 billion to rescue a small regional lender, First Republic. In France and Germany stocks were up by about 0.6%, and Japan's Nikkei index had closed 1.2% higher.

• Gang attacks in Brazil: Cities in northeast Brazil have been rocked by gang-related violence in recent nights. For the third night, gang members set buses on fire and carried out gun attacks on buildings in urban areas in Rio Grande do Norte state. The attacks are thought to have been sparked by conditions in jails holding gang members.

• China’s Baidu unveils ChatGPT rival Ernie: Chinese search engine giant Baidu has revealed its artificial intelligence-powered chatbot Ernie, the latest rival to OpenAI’s GPT system. Ernie, known as Weixin in Chinese, was the result of “decades of Baidu’s hard work and efforts” and was presented at a live streamed press conference held to show off the technology’s capabilities.

• Remains of an ancient glacier spotted on Mars: The remains of a glacier have been found near the Martian equator, meaning that some form of water could still exist in a region on the red planet. The ice mass is no longer there, but scientists spotted remains among other mineral deposits near Mars’ equatorial region.


South Korean daily The JoongAng devotes its front page to the fence-mending summit between Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol in Tokyo — the first such meeting in 12 years. Both leaders said they have agreed to resume bilateral security talks to confront threats from North Korea.


40 hours

Australian surfer Blake Johnston broke South African Josh Enslin’s world record for the longest surfing session of 30 hours and 11 minutes, by clocking in more than 40 hours riding waves. Johnson’s effort was part of a fundraiser for mental health awareness, garnering A$335,000 ($225,000) in donations.


Urban mining: How sustainable cities are recycling buildings down to the bone

As material costs skyrocket, an old practice is becoming popular again: reusing building materials. In Germany, the first projects are already underway — and so far, results are promising as a model for sustainable cities, reports Jan Schulte in Berlin-based daily Die Welt.

🏗️ The German Federal Environment Agency defines urban mining as “managing anthropogenic sites with the aim of obtaining durable goods and stores of secondary raw materials.” Or, in simpler terms: before a partial renovation begins, the construction company checks which raw materials in the building could be reused. That information is recorded for future generations, and as much material as possible is reused.

⛏️ Germany and the European Union are seeing a shortage of raw materials, including sand and gravel. Authoritarian states like China are unreliable suppliers. “Urban mining will help us to become more independent,” says Hannes Giese, who is responsible for the renovation of a building at Bayerische Hausbau. “What’s more, the materials are in a much more usable state. I don’t have to process the ore from a mine.”

💡 Architect Ute Dechantsreiter is working on the plans for a new office block for the municipal department of works. She used 300-meter high dividing walls taken from an old tower block in Hamburg. The wooden façade was made from old oak beams. “Not only did we avoid creating 8 tons of waste, and using 60,000 kilowatt-hours of energy to construct new dividing walls, but we also significantly reduced the costs for the newbuild project,” wrote Dechantsreiter.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


“War is a time when you have to make a choice. And every choice has been recorded.”

— In an interview with the BBC, Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba warned that countries that “misbehaved in the course of this war and mistreated Ukraine” would be held accountable once the conflict is over. Kuleba added that “Every war ends at the negotiating table [...] But my goal as a foreign minister is to make sure that Ukraine reaches the table after a defining success on the battlefield."

✍️ Newsletter by Emma Albright, Inès Mermat and Anne-Sophie Goninet

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Wagner Group 2.0: Why Russia's Mercenary System Is Here To Stay

Many had predicted that the death last month of Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin meant the demise of the mercenary outfit. Yet signs in recent days say the private military outfit is active again in Ukraine, a reminder of the Kremlin's interest in continuing a private fighting formula that has worked all around the world.

Photograph of a Wagner soldier in the city of Artyomovsk, holding a rifle.

Ukraine, Donetsk Region - March 24, 2023: A Wagner Group soldier guards an area in the city of Artyomovsk (Bakhmut).

Cameron Manley


“Let’s not forget that there is no Wagner Group anymore,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had declared. “Such an organization, in our eyes, does not exist.”

The August 25 statement from came less than two days after the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the infamous Russian mercenary outfit, as questions swirled about Wagner's fate after its crucial role in the war in Ukraine and other Russian military missions around the world.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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How could an independent military outfit survive after its charismatic founder's death? It seemed highly unlikely that President Vladimir Putin would allow the survival of a group after had launched a short-lived coup attempt in late June that most outside observers believe led to Prigozhin's private airplane being shot down by Russian forces on August 23.

"Wagner is over,” said the Kremlin critic and Russian political commentator Maksim Katz. “The group can’t keep going. There’s the possibility that they could continue in parts or with Defense Ministry contracts, but the group only worked with an unofficial agreement between Putin and Prigozhin.”

Yet barely a month later, and there are already multiple signs that the Wagner phoenix is rising from the ashes.

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