DEUTSCHE WELLE
German public international broadcaster
Coronavirus
Anne Sophie Goninet

What COVID-19 Means For Worldwide Push To Legalize Marijuana

New Zealand's referendum last month to legalize recreational marijuana use was the first time a country put the controversial topic to a popular vote. Initial results point to a narrow defeat of the measure, which would still leave Uruguay and Canada as the only countries to fully legalize cannabis at a national level.

Still, in normal times, such a vote would have made worldwide headlines. But with COVID-19 dominating the news, it's mostly wafted under the radar.

• And yet ... In other countries, the pandemic is itself leading to an increase in demand, creating new (and old) questions about the burgeoning cannabis industry as well as the question of its legalization.

Locked down and lighting up: Recreational use of cannabis is banned in all European countries, though some have legalized it for medical use. But according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, cannabis is Europe's most commonly used illicit drug, with an estimated 24.7 million users in 2019.

• The EMCDDA issued a report this summer that found that during the lockdown, occasional cannabis users had reduced their consumption but frequent users had increased it, citing reasons such as "boredom" and "anxiety."

• During the lockdown, users faced a shortage as the availability of marijuana "significantly decreased" because of the pandemic, leading to an increase of home growing of cannabis as well an increase in online searches for terms relating to domestic cultivation in various European countries.

A worker harvests cannabis in the U.S. — Photo: Jim West/ZUMA

In Germany, where the use of marijuana has been legal for treating diseases since 2017, the number of patients applying for cannabis-based treatments has been growing steadily.

• Total sales increased to €120 million in 2019, compared with €73 million the previous year, and more than 50 companies now own an import permit, Deutsche Welle reports.

• And while the country relies mostly on imports from the Netherlands and Canada, it is now looking towards ensuring domestic supply via its first local cannabis harvest at the end of 2020 — a crucial question especially since the lockdowns in Europe have taken a toll on Germany's logistics operations.

Boon for the lawyers: It's been two years since Canada legalized recreational marijuana, but the pandemic has provided an unexpected opportunity for the industry to thrive and truly compete against the black market for the first time.

• Compared with the same period last year, Canadians spent 74% more money on licensed cannabis from April to June, while spending on the black market has decreased by 5%, according to data from Statistics Canada.

• Legal sales have also generated more than $231 in July, a 15% increase compared with the previous month and the biggest monthly increase since the country legalized cannabis, Le Journal de Québec reports.

• "There's been a downturn in the black market because people are much more reluctant to go out and meet their regular cannabis dealer in the way that they were prior to the pandemic," retail marketing expert David Soberman told Global News.

An employee arranging cannabis products at the HOBO Cannabis Company during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto — Photo: Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press/ZUMA

Pushing for legalization: In the United States, 11 states have already legalized recreational marijuana and the pandemic seems to be pushing others to follow their lead, whether it be for economic reasons or to curb the anxiety caused by the lockdown.

• Cannabis in Hawaii is only authorized for medical use, but a new law was signed on Aug. 27 to legalize the growth of hemp in the state through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Domestic Hemp Production Program.

• For former State Senator Will Espero, talking to local network KITV, if the state was hesitant to legalize recreational marijuana until then, the pandemic and its impact on unemployment and the state's economy have "changed the game." Marijuana tax revenue could indeed help diversify Hawaii's tourism-heavy economy.

With New Jersey set to vote in a state-wide referendum to legalize recreational marijuana for those over 21, the pandemic seems to have changed the mind of some.

• A recent poll from Brach Eichler's Cannabis Law Practice showed that 13.5% of those surveyed said the pandemic caused them to now favor legalization and that in total, 65% of the state's residents strongly supported or somewhat supported the ballot question.

• Some may have realized that cannabis could be used to treat anxiety, something many experienced during the lockdown, as the state also allowed medical cannabis dispensaries to remain open.

• For Charles Gormally, co-chair of the firm's Cannabis Law Practice, talking to local news website NJ.com, people are beginning to "accept the concept that cannabis isn't harmful ... and that it actually has a positive impact in many circumstances."

Geopolitics
Carl-Johan Karlsson

QAnon Worldwide: A Fringe Spreads To 7 Countries, And Beyond

What began as a small U.S.-based conspiracy theory on the fringes of the internet is shaping up to become a global movement. QAnon today boasts adherents in more than 70 countries around the world, according to research from Canada's Concordia University. In some of these, the movement is estimated to have tens of thousands of followers; in France and Italy, QAnon content is spreading rapidly online in local languages, while in London and Berlin, QAnon protests have already moved from the internet to the streets.


American roots: QAnon got its start in October 2017, when an anonymous user called Q began spreading false theories on virtual messaging boards about Hillary Clinton and a child sex ring operating out of a Washington D.C. pizza parlor. Today, while paedophilia and a shadow government remains at the core of the theory, it has grown to become an amorphous idea that is affecting the ongoing U.S. election campaign — while spreading rapidly around the world.

  • QAnon supporters believe that US President Donald Trump is fighting an international pedophile elite that has been secretly abducting and sexually abusing children, and harvesting their blood to make a youth serum.
  • As outlandish as these ideas sound, a fresh poll shows that 6% of Americans believe them to be true.
  • Now, as the coronavirus has created the perfect storm of fear, uncertainty and increased screen time, the movement is growing rapidly, both in numbers and geographically.


Adaptable narratives: Most QAnon content continues to be shared in the US, but studies show that the movement is gaining international traction. Part of what makes this rapid spread possible is the adaptability of the QAnon conspiracy theory.


Global spread: Britain is currently the country where the second-largest amount of sharing takes place, followed by Canada, Australia and Germany. While the main tenets center on a pedophile elite attempting to control the world, the theory is being applied to local narratives, including those related to pandemic.

  • QAnon supporters joined anti-restriction protesters in the streets of Berlin in late August to manifest against Germany's coronavirus rules, Deutsche Welle reported. Protesters carried signs reading "Stop the corona lies' and "End the pandemic immediately," suggesting that COVID-19 was an artificial event.
  • In Australia, QAnon has mixed with other global conspiracy theorists, including those claiming 5G towers spreading coronavirus. In an especially local twist, some QAnon posts claim that Melbourne's coronavirus lockdown was a smokescreen for a rescue operation involving child sex-trafficking victims in the city's storm drain tunnels, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.
  • In Brazil, one of the South American countries where QAnon content is spreading the fastest, national VIPs have been baked into the theory and pointed out as culprits, including TV host Luciano Huck, YouTuber Felipe Neto, a range of left-wing politicians as well as Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro. QAnon content has also been given an unexpected distribution boost by New Age groups adopting the theory. These spiritual and pseudoscientific communities, with practises ranging from shamanism and crystal healing to yoga and numerology, are playing a prominent role in introducing and domesticating QAnon narratives in Brazil.

Holding a flag with half an American flag and half for the QAnon conspiracy theory — Photo: Stephanie Keith/ZUMA

Platform virus: Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have stepped up efforts to try to combat the proliferation of Q conspiracy theories, with Twitter announcing in July to have removed over 7,000 QAnon accounts from the platform. But new accounts seem destined to pop up and gain even more followers. According to Newsguard, there were 450,000 known followers of QAnon sites in France, Italy, Germany and Britain in July.


More global hotspots:

  • In March 2020, Qanon-fr.com was created. It states that it was founded by "a group of French, anti-globalization patriots, who campaign for the waking up of Nations." French daily Le Monde reports that French-language YouTube videos promoting the movement routinely exceed 150,000 views, and the main French-speaking QAnon Facebook group, "17FR," has had 30,000 members before Facebook banned all QAnon-related pages on October 6.
  • In Italy, the site Qanon.it was registered in February, publishing QAnon content in Italian and other languages, and providing links to the main national and international QAnon resources online. In February 2020, the YouTube channel Dentro la Notizia (recommended source by Qanon.it) posted a video named" Trump, Putin and Salvini united against EU elites will liberate Italy." Wired Italia reported that the video had reached 22,000 views in early August. Several Facebook pages were also created during the lockdown, including Qanon Italia in March and The Q Italian Patriot in May — both getting thousands of likes before eventually being shut down by Facebook.
  • In the UK, similar Facebook groups appeared starting in April, including The Great Awakening – the History of Everything (Cabal. Q. QAnon), a group that reached 18,000 members before being shut down. A frequent debate in these groups is whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been "installed" by Q, and is working together with US President Donald Trump to advance "the Plan."
  • A German-language YouTube account, Qlobal-Change, recently reached 100,000 subscribers.
Geopolitics

Trump Or Biden: 15 World Leaders, Who They Are Rooting For

Every U.S. election carries consequences beyond America's borders. But Nov. 3 stands out for multiple reasons: a lethal pandemic has killed more than one million people across the world, once thriving economies are in tatters, U.S. isolationism has created an international power vacuum that is allowing right-wing autocrats to thrive across continents. And then, there's Trump.

What's at stake: Having become a de facto leader for many of the world's populists, Trump has recently signalled that after the election on Nov. 3, an eventual transition of power in the case of his defeat might not be peaceful. Yes, democracy itself is on the line. For this and many other reasons, the world's eyes have focused on the U.S. campaign — and that includes presidents and prime ministers everywhere.

Clues and confessions: Of course definitive conclusions about whether a world leader favors Joe Biden or Donald Trump are hard to come by: diplomacy and the sheer fact that they will have to be prepared to work with either man induces many to hide their cards. Still, some have left breadcrumbs (or explicit statements) behind, and others we can quite easily surmise. We followed them to bring you our best bet about whether top world leaders are leaning more to Team Trump or Team Biden.

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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: 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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Economy
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

Crisis Innovation: Business Exceptions That Prove The Rule

Throwback ideas and the next big thing are working for some, even as many other parts of the economy slide into recession.

The coronavirus pandemic is the largest economic disruption in memory, with millions of job losses and rising rates of poverty striking virtually everywhere. Still, the changes to the way we live and work have also been the spark for many innovative entrepreneurs, who are taking the unprecedented health crisis and its side-effects as an opportunity to offer new products and services.

Rise of the Work-cation: Tourist hotspots around the world have been hit particularly hard by the near total shutdown of leisure travel. What's the next best thing? Business travel for leisure.

  • Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley has announced a 12-month Barbados Welcome Stamp for visitors to work remotely on the Carribean Island. "You don't need to work in Europe, or the U.S. or Latin America if you can come here and work for a couple months at a time; go back and come back," Mottley said.

  • French vacation chain Pierre & Vacances is offering a similar package: to "work from home" at one of their resorts. Twenty locations in France and Spain will offer a package that includes Wi-Fi and 4G. "This crisis has taught us to be ever more agile, to find business opportunities and teleworking is clearly one of the best examples," said Grégory Sion, the director of the brand wrote in a press release. "One of the challenges for Pierre & Vacances is to conquer new targets with new uses for tourism, and we are counting on this new service to achieve this."

  • Others in France are turning their extra space into guest bedrooms, hoping to make cash from regional travelers. While many are using new platforms like Airbnb to rent their rooms, Réjane Mortreux, who has spent almost 20 years providing guest houses, told Les Echos, "This love for one's neighbor is the very foundation of longevity in this profession."

Bicycle boom: With fewer people willing to get into a stranger's car, ride-hailing apps like Uber have seen their profits shrink dramatically during the pandemic. But some are switching focus.

  • Estonia star transportation platform company Bolt is launching an electric program in Paris, with plans to expand to other European cities.

  • Shared bike programs have skyrocketed in popularity. Public bicycle sharing service Vélib measured twice as many daily trips in Paris during June as the same period last year. Rides are also getting longer, meaning more money per minute of travel.

  • In Latin America, Cosmic Go has cornered the bike and scooter market and also provides shared cars and motorcycles. The Colombian-based firm has expanded to 15 countries and more than 70,000 users. During quarantine, it recorded around 1,000 trips a day.

Shared bike programs have skyrocketed in popularity — Photo: Aurelien Morissard/Xinhua/ZUMA

Return of the drive-in (So vintage!): Globally drive-in movie theaters (and other car-driven activities) have seen a resurgence as a safer alternative to enjoy (sort of) being together.

  • In Germany, drive-ins have become popular not only for films but also concerts and church services, with 30 new outdoor theaters popping up around the country since the beginning of the pandemic. Many shows are selling out in advance, with some spaces able to hold hundreds of cars.

  • In South Africa, locals in Cape Town will soon be able to go to a drive-in theater featuring an LED screen allowing for daytime viewing. While some have faced government setbacks, other drive-in businesses are thinking about expanding to film, including a mall in Johannesburg that built a restaurant where diners can order from a variety of restaurants and eat in their cars. The Drive in Diner hopes to add films to the meal experience.

India's startup surge: Despite being one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, in India, many startups across industries are thriving, particularly those that make life in quarantine just a little bit easier.

  • E-pharmacies like Medlife and PharmEasy have grown to provide contactless delivery of medicines as well as online prescription services supported by doctors. Many of these services also allow users to keep track of their health data and receive reminders about renewing prescriptions.

  • E-learning businesses including Unacademy and Vedantu are also finding a larger audience, filling in education gaps with schools closed. Engagement by students and professionals on these platforms increased 8.5% during India's lockdown period, with heightened use by both current and new users.

  • E-grocers such as Grofers and Big Basket have seen their daily orders doubled, with many having their delivery spots completely booked. During a time of rising unemployment, both companies are increasing their workforces and developing partnerships with manufacturing partners and brands.
Geopolitics

The Latest: Biden And Putin Punt, Iran’s Unpopular Elections, Heavenly Harmony

Welcome to Thursday, where Biden-Putin talks reinstate ambassadors but achieve little else, Japan lifts some COVID restrictions ahead of the Olympics and boy is the Rhine river filthy. We also turn to Berlin-based daily Die Welt to understand why hackers (from Turkey and Russia alike) keep targeting Germany's Green Party.

• Biden-Putin summit talks: U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Geneva to discuss cybersecurity and arms control. Most notably, the two leaders agreed to resume nuclear talks and reinstate their respective ambassadors. However, the summit did not result in any major breakthroughs, though the American president said he was "not confident" Putin would "change his behavior."

• Hong Kong police arrest Apple Daily executives: Hong Kong's National Security department raided the Apple Daily, a pro-democracy newspaper. Five high-level executives were arrested on charges of violating the national security law. Last December, Apple Daily's founder, Jimmy Lai, was detained under similar circumstances.

• Iran urges citizens not to boycott Friday's election: Iran's eighth presidential election, slated for tomorrow, is expected to have very low voter turnout, as many dissatisfied citizens plan to boycott the vote. After years of economic hardship, censorship, and the recent disqualification of would-be candidates, polls suggest that only 41% of Iranians may vote.

• Japan to lift some COVID restrictions ahead of Olympics: The Japanese government will ease the State of Emergency in several prefectures, including Tokyo, this Monday in anticipation of the Olympic Games which begin on July 23. The government is also considering placing a 10,000-person cap on large spectator events.

• Construction deficiencies behind deadly Mexico City subway collapse: A new report has found that construction flaws and "structural failure" were the causes of the subway collapse in Mexico city that caused 26 deaths on May 4. According to the report carried out by a Norwegian risk management firm, metal studs that connected the rails were deficient — one of the major issues responsible for the accident.

• South Africa: Remains of 20 suspected illegal miners found: South African police are investigating the discovery of 20 bodies near an abandoned gold mine outside of Johannesburg. Authorities believe the victims were illegal miners, and police are still determining the cause of death, as many were found "wrapped in white plastic bags" with "severe body burns."

• More than 500 e-scooters found (and left) in the Rhine: Divers discovered hundreds of e-scooters in Cologne, Germany at the bottom of the Rhine river. Sadly, the discarded scooters will remain sunk, as the local e-scooter provider decided their recovery was too costly.

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Geopolitics

The Latest: Sinovac Greenlight, Belarus Court Drama, Comrade Seagal

Welcome to Wednesday, where a second Chinese vaccine gets WHO's greenlight, Sri Lanka faces its worst maritime disaster ever and an asparagus recipe makes its way into a Belgian legal decree. Meanwhile, our latest edition of Work → In Progress takes the pulse of the work-life balance in a fully-vaccinated future.

• COVID travel system begins in EU: Seven European countries have started issuing COVID-19 passports for their citizens and accepting them for visitors who have been fully vaccinated. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization approves the Sinovac vaccine for emergency use, the second Chinese vaccine to receive the green light.

• First human bird flu case in China: A 41-year old man in Eastern China is the first human to have contracted the rare bird flu strain, H10N3. Health officials believe it was a case of "accidental cross-species transmission", and assure the public that the risk for community transmission remains low.

• Cyber attack targets world's largest meat supplier: A serious cyber attack has hit JBS, halting production at several U.S. based meat processing plants. JBS reported to the Biden Administration that the attack is likely attributable to a Russian criminal group.

• African Union suspends Mali: Following a second military coup in nine months, the African Union has suspended Mali's membership and warned of possible sanctions if "normal constitutional order" isn't restored. Meanwhile, the country's coup leaders have appointed Choguel Kokalla Maïga as new prime minister.

• Belarus opposition activist stabs himself in court: Stepan Latypov, a critic and outspoken activist against the Lukashenko regime, attempted to slit his own throat during a court hearing. The apparent suicide attempt came directly after Latypov alleged he had been tortured and that his family and neighbors faced prosecution if he refused to plead guilty.

• Ecological disaster off Sri Lanka: The Singapore-registered cargo ship, MV X-Press Pearl, carrying containers, chemicals, and cosmetics, is now sinking off Sri Lanka's west coast after first catching fire two weeks ago.

• Steven Seagal joins pro-Kremlin party: A longtime friend of Vladimir Putin, the Hollywood actor has now officially joined the political party: "A Just Russia – Patriots – For Truth."

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Geopolitics

The Latest: Biden’s Vision, Navalny Appearance, 5,000-Year-Old Tombs

Welcome to Thursday, where Biden lays out his vision for America, Northern Ireland leader quits over Brexit and a Navalny mural appears in Saint Petersburg (as he appears gaunt in a remote court hearing). We also turn to Germany, where Die Welt sounds the alarm about the male infertility crisis afflicting the Western world.

• Biden's address to Congress: To mark 100 days in office, U.S. President Joe Biden gave his first address to the nation Wednesday night, unveiling huge investments for jobs, education and care plans, while addressing white supremacy and systemic racism.

• Two Myanmar air bases attacked: Attacks have been launched against two Myanmar air bases on Thursday, as blasts and rocket fires have been reported. No attackers have been identified yet.

• A gaunt Navalny makes first appearance since hunger strike: Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny appeared in court via video link for an appeals hearing, criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government in his first public appearance since he went on hunger strike.

• India maintains state elections despite COVID surge: Residents of the Indian state of West Bengal are voting in the last phase of elections amid a deadly second wave of coronavirus.

• Northern Ireland first minister resigns: Northern Ireland First Minister and majority party leader Arlene Foster has announced her resignation, following protests over post-Brexit borders.

• First step for China's new space station: China has launched a module of a new space station, amid hopes that Beijing will have the new station operational by 2022.

• 5,000-year-old tombs discovered in Egypt: Some 110 pre-Pharaonic tombs have been discovered in the Nile Delta by Egyptian archaeologists, shedding light on major transitional periods in ancient Egypt.

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Geopolitics

The Latest: Risky COVID Trial, Nigeria Kidnapping, NZ Period Products

Welcome to Thursday, where a new UK study will deliberately infect young people with COVID, Texas continues to battle a snowstorm and New Zealand vows to provide all schools with free menstruation products. America Economia also asks why Mexico has done so poorly in fighting the pandemic.

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