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Geopolitics

The Latest: Taliban Advance, Iran’s New President Speaks, Biles Bounces Back

Welcome to Tuesday, where the Taliban have launched an attack on a strategic city in southern Afghanistan, Iran's new leader vows to fight U.S. sanctions and a world record is shattered in Tokyo. In Switzerland, there's also an odd story of a man fond of his fondue fork for criminal purposes.

• Taliban attack key Afghan city: Heavy fighting is underway in the strategic city of Lashkar Gah, in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province, as the Taliban move to take control of a number of key strongholds. This comes as the U.S. and Afghanistan have ramped up airstrikes in an effort to push back on the militant group's rapid advances. Meanwhile, the U.S. and the UK are accusing the Taliban of massacring at least 40 civilians in Spin Boldak, south Afghanistan.

• Missing Belarus activist found dead in Ukraine: The body of Vitaly Shishov, who led the Belarusian House in Ukraine to help Belarusians fleeing persecution, was found hanged in a park in Kyiv. A murder inquiry has been opened to determine whether the activist was killed and his death made to look like suicide.

• COVID-19 update: Authorities in Wuhan will test the central Chinese city's 11 million residents for coronavirus after the first local infections in more than a year were reported. Meanwhile, the U.S. reached the milestone of 70% of adults who received at least one shot of COVID vaccine, about a month behind President Joe Biden's Fourth of July goal.

• Iran's new president sworn in: Ebrahim Raisi, who won Iran's presidential election with 62% of the votes in June, officially took office, vowing to save the Islamic Republic from the severe economic crisis as well as take steps to lift the harsh sanctions imposed by the U.S.

• Capitol riots officers suicides: The District of Columbia's police department reports that two more police officers who were guarding the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riots have died by suicide in recent weeks. This brings to four the number of suicides by police officers who were on duty that day.

• Qantas to furlough 2,500 workers: Australia's Qantas and its budget carrier Jetstar will stand down around 2,500 workers for at least two months, in response to the extended COVID-19 lockdown in Sydney. The company has lost about 60% of its domestic business from May to July.

• Olympics: Simone Biles bounces back, world record for Norway: American gymnast Simone Biles won bronze during the balance beam final in the Tokyo Olympics, after withdrawing from several other events to focus on her mental health. Norwegian athlete Karsten Warholm smashed the 400 meter hurdles world record, becoming the first man to complete the race in less than 46 seconds.

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Geopolitics

The Latest: Worst Outbreak Since Wuhan, Out-Of-Control ISS, Rickroll Record

Welcome to Friday, where China sees its largest COVID-19 outbreak since Wuhan, the International Space Station is (briefly) thrown out of control, and a meme-related 80s hit passes the 1-billion-views mark. Meanwhile, pan-African weekly news magazine Jeune Afrique looks at the hurdles in the way of vaccination across the continent.

• Hong Kong conviction, crowd boos China: Tong Ying-kit becomes the first person to be convicted under Hong Kong's national security law. The former waiter has been sentenced to nine years in prison for "terrorist activities and inciting secession." Meanwhile, Hong Kong police are also investigating complaints that a crowd of Olympics-viewers publicly booed China as its national anthem played, a punishable offense under Hong Kong law.

• COVID update: China has recorded its largest coronavirus outbreak since Wuhan, with almost 200 people becoming infected in the city of Nanjing. Meanwhile, India is reporting the largest increase in new COVID cases in the last three weeks. Australia is sending in the military to enforce its lockdown, and Japan is extending its state of emergency. As the Delta variant spreads, U.S. President Joe Biden also announced that federal workers will be required to either be vaccinated or follow stringent sanitary measures.

• Philippines restores key military agreement with U.S.: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has reversed his promise to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which facilitates U.S. military operations in the country. Instead, the country has announced it will restore the agreement, signaling closer U.S.-Philippine relations.

• Air France/KLM suffer big loss: Airline group Air France-KLM is reporting a second-quarter net loss of almost 1.5 billion euros ($1.8 billion), although the group remains hopeful that "signs of recovery" are on the horizon.

• U.S. evacuates 221 Afghan interpreters: The United States has begun evacuating Afghani interpreters who assisted American armed forces out of concern that reprisal attacks will begin once U.S. and allied forces have fully exited the country at the end of August. This group of 221 people is the first of about 2,500 Afghans who are set to be relocated to the United States.

• International Space Station thrown out of control: After Russia's Nauka laboratory module accidentally fired its thrusters, the International Space Station's (ISS) position was briefly destabilized, causing an 11-minute break in communications between NASA and the ISS astronauts.

• ScarJo vs. Disney: Black Widow lead actress Scarlett Johansson is suing Disney, alleging a breach in contract. Johansson claims that Disney's decision to simultaneously release Black Widow in theaters and on the Disney+ streaming service has gone against previous agreements, particularly as her salary is largely based on box office success.

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Geopolitics

The Latest: China-Taliban Meeting, Alaska Tsunami Alert, Earth Overshoot Day

Welcome to Thursday, where a Chinese official meets with Taliban leaders, an earthquake triggers a tsunami alert in Alaska, and rock fans mourn the death of a bearded icon. With the Tokyo Olympics finally underway, Hong Kong-based digital media The Initium also asks a tough question: Do we even still need this sporting event?

• Chinese official publicly meets with Taliban: China's foreign minister, Wang Yi, began two days of talks with Taliban leaders on Wednesday in the Chinese city of Tianjin. After the withdrawal of U.S. and allied troops, Afghanistan has seen significant fighting between the Afghan security forces and the Taliban. China hopes to use the meetings to assist in this peace process, as well as to warm ties with the Islamist group.

• Earthquake in Alaska triggers tsunami alert: After an 8.2 magnitude earthquake struck the Alaskan peninsula on Wednesday, U.S. officials have released tsunami warnings for the surrounding area and encouraged increased monitoring across the Pacific. So far there have not been any reports of loss of life or serious property damage.

• Vocal Chinese billionaire sentenced to 18 years in prison: Sun Dawu, a billionaire pig farmer and outspoken critic of the Chinese government, has been sentenced to 18 years in prison on charges that include "picking quarrels and provoking troubles." He has also been fined 3.11 million yuan ($480,000).

• COVID update: Australia's largest city, Sydney, has seen a record daily rise in cases, leading the government to seek military assistance in enforcing the ongoing lockdown. In contrast, the United Kingdom announced that fully vaccinated travelers coming from the EU or the U.S. no longer need to quarantine when entering England, Scotland and Wales. Meanwhile, Google has mandated that employees be vaccinated to return to in-person work in October.

• Macron sues billboard owner for depicting him as Hitler: French President Emmanuel Macron is suing a billboard owner for depicting him on a sign as Adolf Hitler. The poster shows Macron in Nazi garb with a Hitler-esque mustache and the phrase "Obey, get vaccinated." This comes after several protesters who see France's new health-pass system as government overreach invoked the yellow star that Nazi Germany forced Jewish people to wear during WWII.

• ZZ Top bassist dead at 72: Dusty Hill, the bassist for the Texas blues-rock trio ZZ Top, died in his sleep on Tuesday at the age of 72. Hill, known for his trademark long beard, played with the band for over 50 years.

• Earth Overshoot Day: Today marks the day that humanity has exceeded its yearly allotment of the planet's biological resources. Last year, Overshoot Day fell on August 22, after carbon emissions dropped during COVID-related lockdowns. But this year carbon emissions and consumption rose again, and Overshoot Day moved forward by almost one month.

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Geopolitics

The Latest: North-South Korea Rapprochement, Capitol Riots Emotion, Fiji Twitter Rookie

Welcome to Wednesday, where North-South Korea ties keep improving, the investigation on U.S. Capitol riots is off to an emotional start and a Fiji politician is delighting Twitter users. Meanwhile from Germany, Die Welt"s Marlen Hobrack helps us deconstruct the twisted logic behind the feminist defense of prostitution.

• North-South Korea rapprochement continues: A day after restoring hotlines South and North Korea, the two countries are discussing reopening a joint liaison office that was demolished by Pyongyang last year. According to South Korea government sources, a summit to restore relations is also being discussed.

• First day of Capitol riot inquiry: Four police officers gave their emotional, first-hand accounts of the Capitol riots, at the opening hearing of the congressional panel investigating the violent Jan. 6 insurrection. The committee also shared never-before-seen footage of protesters storming onto the Senate floor.

• Ecuador revokes Julian Assange citizenship: An Ecuadorian court ruled in favor of revoking the citizenship of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The decision nullifies Assange's status as a naturalized citizen of Ecuador, which was granted to him in 2017 by then President Lenín Moreno. Assange's lawyer said he would appeal the ruling.

• COVID-19 update: With the Delta variant surging, U.S. President Joe Biden said plans requiring all federal workers to get vaccinated are "under consideration." Meanwhile in the UK, plans to end the quarantine requirement for fully vaccinated arrivals coming from the U.S. or amber-listed EU countries are to be announced later. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, has said it will impose a three-year travel ban on citizens who travel to countries listed as "red" by the Kingdom.

• At least 18 die in India bus crash: At least 18 migrant workers were killed after a truck crashed into their bus early Wednesday morning. The bus, which was "overloaded beyond its capacity," was being fixed after its engine broke down in the Barabanki district in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

• Simone Biles withdraws from Olympics: ​​U.S. gymnast Simone Biles has pulled out from the individual all-around final at the Tokyo Games. The four-time Olympic gold medallist said she wanted to focus on her mental wellbeing, a decision praised by fellow athletes. It is unclear whether Biles will participate in next week's gymnastics events.

• Fiji politician discovers Twitter: Pio Tikoduadua, a leading opposition MP from Fiji, is gaining online fame after his awkward start on Twitter. Among other things, he had to be told what "OG" means (he assumed it was short for "Old Girl").

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Geopolitics

The Latest: Tunisia PM Sacked, U.S.-China Tense Talks, Skateboard Gold

Welcome to Monday, where Tunisia's prime minister is sacked over handling of pandemic, U.S.-China talks are off to a rocky start and a 13-year-old skateboarder wins the first Olympic gold medal. German daily Die Welt also looks at the geopolitics behind the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline deal between Russia and Germany.

• Tunisia PM gets sacked: After violent protests broke out over the government's handling of the pandemic and the economy, Tunisian President Kais Saied has suspended parliament and sacked Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi. The move has been condemned as an attack on democracy by his rivals but was greeted by celebrations on the street.

• Beijing accuses U.S. of treating China like imaginary enemy: The U.S.-China talks between top diplomats got off to a tense start when Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng was quoted as saying that the breakdown in U.S.-China relations is due to certain people in Washington treating China as an "imaginary enemy." The U.S. side, represented by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, has yet to release a statement on the meeting.

• COVID-19 update: China has reported the highest number of confirmed COVID cases since January, a total of 76. Indonesia has loosened some of its restrictions despite record deaths. The government now allows small businesses and shopping malls to reopen even though they have been warned it could spark another wave. Meanwhile, the French parliament has voted to make vaccine passports required, starting in August, for entering restaurants, bars, trains and planes.

• Protests in Iran over water shortages: At least three people were killed during violent protests over water shortages in Iran. People have been demonstrating for more than a week over the supply problems during Iran's worst drought in half a century.

• New Zealand accepts return of Islamic State-linked citizen: A woman suspected of being an Islamic State (IS) member will be allowed to return to New Zealand from Turkey. The 26-year-old mother and her children are citizens of the island nation, whose prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said the decision to allow their return was not "taken lightly."

• Flooding in London after heavy rain: Parts of London were left waterlogged after heavy downpours on Sunday. Services were severely disrupted after vehicles became stranded and underground lines were flooded. Officials issued an amber weather alert and are advising people not to travel.

• First skateboard Olympic gold won by 13-year-old girl: Momiji Nisiya, a young school girl from Japan, has won gold in the first ever Olympic street skateboarding competition. At 13 years and 330 days, she is the second youngest champion in summer Olympics history.

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Geopolitics

The Latest: Olympics Kick Off, Xi’s Tibet Trip, Spanish Beef

Welcome to Friday, where the 2020 Olympic Games finally kick off, Xi Jinping makes a historic trip to Tibet, and there's some beef (or rather, chuletón) between Spain and the EU. We also take an exclusive look at how the so-called "salvage grocery stores' popping up around the world are finding commercially viable ways to combat food waste.

• COVID-delayed Olympics start today: The Tokyo Summer Olympics begin today, kicking off with an opening ceremony — but no spectators in attendance.

• U.S. sanctions Cuba: In the wake of large-scale anti-government protests in Cuba, the Biden Administration has announced it would sanction individuals "responsible for the oppression of the Cuban people." The sanctions targeted key government official Alvaro Lopez Miera and the Cuban special forces unit, the Boinas Negras, over claims of human rights abuses.

• COVID update: Indonesia has surpassed India and Brazil as the country with the highest count of new daily infections, with 49,500 new cases reported on Thursday. Meanwhile, New Zealand has suspended travel from Australia as the country grapples with the Delta variant despite lockdowns.

• 22 dead, several injured in Ecuador prison riots: Ecuador is declaring a state of emergency in its penitentiary system in light of the deadly riots that have left 22 dead and 57 wounded in two prisons. The riots, reportedly sparked by clashes between rival gangs, were also fuelled by severe prison overcrowding.

• Xi Jinping visits Tibet: For the first time in his presidency, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the Tibet Autonomous region, once home to the now-exiled Dalai Lama. Though Xi has been to the region twice before, it is his first time as Chinese leader. Some have called the trip an effort from Xi to reinforce Chinese sovereignty over the area, as well as the disputed border with India.

• Macron switches phones: Emmanuel Macron has reportedly changed his phone and number after investigations showed the French president was among the many heads of state targeted by the Pegasus spyware.

• Google Doodle Olympic game: Today's Google "Doodle" celebrates the start of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics with a full 8-bit game. Sayōnara, productivity.

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Geopolitics

The Latest: WHO And Wuhan, Nord Stream 2 Deal, Argentine Non-Binary Option

Welcome to Thursday, where China rejects WHO's plans to look into its "Wuhan lab leak" theory, U.S. & Germany reach a deal on Nord Stream 2 and two Swedish hostage takers have the weirdest ransom demand. Hong-Kong based media The Initium also explains why young people in China are still drawn to the prospect of joining the Communist Party.

• Vaccines v. Delta variant: A study has shown that full vaccination (two doses) from the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine is nearly as effective against the Delta variant as against the original Alpha variant. Meanwhile, China has rejected a WHO proposal to investigate the origins of the coronavirus because it also included plans to look into Wuhan lab leak theory, which the country views as "not scientific."

• U.S. & Germany reach Nord Stream 2 deal: The United States and Germany have come to an agreement in order to ensure that the controversial gas pipeline, Nord Stream 2, will not be used by Russia to exert political pressure on Europe. The pipeline, which is close to becoming operational, will likely double Russian gas exports to Germany.

• Death toll in China floods rises to 33: The death count after torrential rains and flooding in China's Henan province has risen to 33 people, with an additional eight people missing. The public has questioned authorities' preparedness for disaster, as experts have linked the downpour to the worsening climate crisis.

• Madagascar arrests six in assassination plot: After months of investigation, Madagascan authorities have arrested six people, including a foreign national, suspected of planning to kill President Andry Rajoelina.

• Olympics opening ceremony director fired: Kentaro Kobayashi, director of the Olympics' opening ceremony scheduled for tomorrow, has been fired after a Holocaust joke surfaced from a 1998 comedy set. The organizing committee president issued a public apology.

• Argentina adds non-binary option to ID cards: Argentina has become the first Latin American country to add a non-binary option to identification cards. Citizens who do not identify as male or female will now have the option to mark the gender neutral ‘X" instead.

• Swedish hostage takers demand kebab pizzas: Two inmates in Sweden's Hallby high security prison took two guards hostage for nine hours on Wednesday, demanding a helicopter and 20 kebab pizzas as ransom. The pizzas were indeed delivered, and the guards were released unharmed.

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Geopolitics

The Latest: German ‘Todesflut’ Toll, COVID In Africa, Teen In Space

Welcome to Friday, where the European flood death toll tops 100, Lebanon's prime minister steps down and a teenager gets a seat on Jeff Bezos' trip to space. We also get a look from Kommersant on the rising hopes of the reformist revolution in the post-Soviet state of Moldova.

• Germany death toll rises to at least 103, hundreds missing: "Once-in-a-century" flooding in Western Europe has left at least 103 people dead in Germany, and at least nine dead in neighboring Belgium. Hundreds remain missing as search teams continue to look for survivors. The scale of destruction has surprised even climate change experts.

• Merkel's White House farewell: In an otherwise warm final visit to the White House as Chancellor, Angela Merkel and U.S. President Joe Biden disagreed on the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline that the United States fears will increase European reliance on Russian gas. Biden was the fourth occupant of the White House since Merkel took office in 2005.

• COVID spreading in Asia and Africa: As Indonesia becomes Asia's new COVID epicenter, nearby countries are planning new restrictions with Singapore"s announcement it will limit social gatherings, a move that South Korea is also considering. Across Africa, cases have "surged by 43 percent in the space of a week." There is concern that the Delta variant could mutate into more dangerous variants as it sweeps through largely unvaccinated regions.

• Lebanese prime minister steps down: Prime Minister Saad Hariri of Lebanon has decided to step down after nine months of attempting in vain to form a functioning coalition of cabinet members. Hariri was designated prime minister in the wake of the Beirut port explosion and the ongoing economic crisis, and his exit will likely delay any international aid packages.

• Dutch crime reporter dies: Peter R. de Vries, the acclaimed Dutch crime reporter known for his investigations into mobsters and drug lords, died Thursday from injuries sustained when shot at close range in central Amsterdam last week.

• Pacific Rim leaders discuss post-pandemic economic recovery: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will chair a virtual meeting for members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum to discuss post-COVID economic recovery plans. Presidents Joe Biden, Xi Jinping, and Vladimir Putin, as well as Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga are among the other leaders to be included in today's special meeting.

• Teen to fly to space with Bezos: Oliver Daemen will become the youngest person to enter space after the anonymous public auction winner who was slated to go stepped down due to scheduling conflicts. Bezos' "Blue Origin" flight will also include Wally Funk, 82, who is set to be the oldest person to enter space.

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Geopolitics

The Latest: Olympics Spectators Banned, Haitian Probe, Lobster Pain

Welcome to Friday, where Tokyo bans Olympic spectators, at least 28 people are thought to be behind Haiti President assassination and a 14-year-old girl makes Spelling Bee history. Worldcrunch also takes you on a world tour of dying languages that are being rescued by the very tech that puts them at risk.

• Tokyo Olympics will have no spectators: With the Summer Games set to begin in two weeks, the Japanese government has reversed its decision to allow spectators, deciding that there will be no live audience in Tokyo-area stadiums and arenas during the Olympic games due to coronavirus concerns. The city of Tokyo has also been placed under ‘State of Emergency" which will last until August 22.

• Colombians, Americans detained for killing Haitian President: A total of 17 suspects are currently being held in connection with the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, including two holding dual American-Haitian citizenship and the remainder are Colombian. Officials allege the attack was carried out by "a highly trained and heavily armed group" and that the team was made up of at least 28 people.

• COVID-19 vaccines: Pfizer has sought authorization from the U.S. government to develop a booster shot as highly contagious variants continue to spread and undermine the efficacy of the vaccine toward mild, break-through infection. Meanwhile, Cuba reports a 91.2% effectiveness rate for its Soberana 2 vaccine in last-stage clinical trials.

• Biafra separatist leader allegedly kidnapped: The family of British-Nigerian citizen and separatist leader, Nnamdi Kanu, claims he was kidnapped by the Nigerian state while in Kenya. Kanu is the leader of the organization the Indigenous People of Biafra, and had been in hiding since 2017.

• Swedish Prime Minister reappointed after no-confidence vote: Sweden's parliament voted to reappoint Stefan Löfven as prime minister when the parties responsible for ousting him in a historic no-confidence vote failed to form a coalition. Löfven has the backing of the Social Democratic party and the Greens.

• Police officer suspected of killing Sarah Everard pleads guilty: Wayne Couzens, the police officer who was the main suspect in the killing of Sarah Everard, a 33-year old British woman whose disappearance and subsequent death sparked a nationwide debate about women's safety, has pleaded guilty murder.

• UK considers banning boiling lobsters alive: As part of a proposed animal welfare bill, the United Kingdom may officially recognize crustaceans and mollusks as sentient beings capable of feeling pain, making it illegal to boil lobsters alive. Chefs aren't opposed either, because whether the lobster is boiled alive or killed shortly beforehand, the taste remains just as good.

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Geopolitics

The Latest: Haiti President Murder Aftermath, Tokyo COVID Emergency, Sandcastle Record

Welcome to Thursday, where four suspects are killed following the assassination of Haiti's president, Tokyo is placed under a state of emergency two weeks before the Olympics and a sandcastle breaks a record in Denmark. Persian-language magazine Kayhan-London takes a close look at how Iran has changed its mind on the Taliban, following the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

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Geopolitics

The Latest: Russian Plane Crash, Spanish Murder Of Gay Man, Escaping Quarantine

Welcome to Tuesday, where Belarus hands down harsh sentence, protests erupt in Spain over the murder of a gay man and a Japanese woman tries to extinguish the Olympic flame with a squirt gun. Writing from Sarajevo for French daily Le Monde, Rémy Ourdan introduces us to Benjamina Karic, the youngest mayor in the history of the iconic Balkan capital.

• Belarus: 14-year prison sentence for Lukashenko opponent: A court in Belarus has convicted Viktor Babariko, a former presidential candidate and opponent of strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko, on corruption charges. Several Western leaders criticized the conviction and 14-year sentence, with the U.S. Embassy calling the trial a "sham."

• Debris from missing Russian plane found: Debris from the Antonov An-26 plane carrying 28 people that went missing in Russia's far east region has been found. The plane had been attempting to land in the village of Palana when it reportedly lost contact with air traffic control. Authorities say it is unlikely that anyone survived the crash.

• Controversial Israeli citizenship law defeated: Israel's Citizenship Law, which was first passed in 2003 during the Second Intifada and prevents Arab-Israelis from extending citizenship rights to Palestinian spouses living in the West Bank and Gaza, failed to be renewed by the Knesset this year. The law has been consistently renewed since its inception, but is set to expire this Wednesday at midnight after being narrowly defeated in a 59-59 vote.

• Protests in Spain after murder of gay man: LGBTQ rights groups across Spain have organized protests to demand justice for Samuel Luiz, a 24-year-old gay man who was beaten to death in the city of A Coruña during Pride weekend. As investigators search for the perpetrators, Luiz" friends allege he was murdered because of his sexual orientation.

• Vaccine update: In Thailand, a leaked health ministry document has called into question the efficacy of the China Sinovac Biotech's vaccine. The memo recommended that medical staff be given a booster shot of an mRNA vaccine in order to increase protection. Meanwhile, Israel has reported a decrease in Pfizer vaccine protection against infections, though the vaccine remains highly effective in preventing serious illness and death.

• Luxembourg leader hospitalized with COVID-19: Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, who tested positive for COVID-19 about a week ago, was hospitalized for the virus on Sunday. The Luxembourg government reported Monday that the 48-year-old is in "serious, but stable" condition.

• The Great Escape: An Australian woman has been fined $2,500 after kicking down a door and scaling two hotel balconies in order to get out of quarantine. Claiming she simply wanted to go to her mother's house in Cairns, the 22-year-old pleaded guilty before a Queensland court for failing to comply with the public health mandate.

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Geopolitics

The Latest: COVID Crisis In Indonesia, Pope Surgery, Russian Champagne Troll

Welcome to Monday, where the Pope is recovering from surgery, an indigenous woman helps Chile move past its Pinochet legacy, and the world record for competitive hot dog eating is broken. From Gaziantep, French daily Les Echos' Catherine Chatignoux looks at the difficult integration of the four million Syrians living in Turkey.

• COVID update: In Indonesia, hospitals have almost exhausted their oxygen supplies as the country is facing the worst outbreak in Southeast Asia, with about 2.3 million cases and more than 60,000 deaths so far. Meanwhile, in England masks will become optional, as part of the transition into a period without legal restrictions where the public will have to exercise "personal responsibility."

• Philippines military plane crash death toll rises to 50: A Philippine Air Force plane, carrying 96 military personnel and crew, crashed in the southern Philippines on Sunday after missing the runway and crashing into a nearby village. The death toll of 50 includes several people on the ground.

• Pope Francis "reacted well" to surgery: Pope Francis has "reacted well" after undergoing a planned surgery Sunday for colon diverticulitis, according to the Vatican. Francis, 84, had general anaesthesia during the surgery, the Argentine pope's first known treatment in hospital since he was elected to the papacy in 2013.

• 80 missing in central Japan mudslide: Two days after a devastating mudslide swept through a coastal city in Japan, rescue workers continue to search for survivors. At least three victims bodies have been recovered, and 80 are still missing.

• Miami building demolished: The partially collapsed apartment building in Miami, where 24 people are confirmed dead, was demolished on Sunday night ahead of the arrival of tropical storm Elsa. Search-and-rescue efforts for 121 people still missing have been temporarily suspended.

• Indian dowries still common despite being illegal: A new World Bank study has found that dowry payments in India's villages have not decreased over the past few decades even though the practice was made illegal in 1961. The researchers found that in 95% of the 40,000 marriages that took place in rural India between 1960 and 2008, dowry was still paid.

• Putin sparks sparkling war: New Russian legislation stipulates that the name "champagne" can only be used for Russian sparkling wine. French fizz from the Champagne region, which is widely considered the only to merit the label, must now be referred to in Russia as "sparkling wine." Top champagne brand Moet Hennessy has threatened to ban all sales to Russia.

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