Welcome to Thursday, where an explosion rocks Kabul airport, Alexei Navalny gives his first interview since his March arrest, and the search for life beyond our Solar System gets a potential big boost. Meanwhile, French economic daily Les Echos offers a deep dive in the world of TikTok's finance gurus — the so-called "finfluencers".
• Kabul airport blast: *Developing* An explosion hit Kabul airport, where thousands of Afghans are trying to flee the Taliban regime. No immediate word on casualties. Earlier today, the U.S. and its allies had urged people to move away from the airport due to a threat of a terrorist attack by the Islamic State (ISIS). Western troops are hurrying to evacuate as many people as possible before the Aug. 31 deadline.
• China's halts trade with Lithuania over Taiwan: China has halted direct freight trains to Lithuania due to the Baltic nation's pursuit of closer relations with Taiwan — a decision political observers say sends a warning to the rest of Europe.
• COVID-19 update: Japan, still under a state of emergency, has suspended 1.63 million doses of the Moderna COVID vaccine, more than a week after the domestic distributor received reports of contaminants in some vials. Australia's new daily cases of COVID exceeded 1,000 for the first time since the pandemic began. Two major hospitals in Sydney have set up emergency outdoor tents to help and deal with this rise of patients. Meanwhile, according to New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, the country's strict lockdown is helping curb the spread of the delta variant.
• HK police investigates Tiananmen Square vigil: The national security police of Hong Kong are investigating the organisers of a vigil commemorating the Tiananmen Square massacre for alleged foreign collusion offences. The longstanding group is accused of being an 'agent of foreign forces' and is asked to provide information about its membership.
• Alexei Navalny forced to watch state TV: In his first interview since he was arrested in March, Russian opposition leader and Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny says he has been forced to watch eight hours of state TV a day. Despite the "psychological violence" Navalny remains optimistic that Putin's regime will end "sooner or later."
• Ron Jeremy indicted on sexual assault: A grand jury has indicted adult film actor Ron Jeremy, 68, on more than 30 counts of sexual assault, involving 21 women and girls across more than two decades. Jeremy pleads not guilty to all charges.
• New class of habitable exoplanets found: Signs of life beyond our Solar System may be detectable in the next two to three years, experts have said after Cambridge astronomers have identified a new class of habitable planets, called Hycean planets — hot and ocean-covered — which are more likely to host life.
Colombian daily el Colombiano breathes a sigh of relief as the country records its lowest number of daily COVID deaths (73) in 14 months, although fears of a new peak in October remain, leading the government to extend its state of health emergency until Nov. 30.
Finance under influence? Why TikTok business gurus are not to be trusted
For French economic daily Les Echos, Anne-Claire Bennevault, founder of consulting firm BNVLT and think tank SPAK.fr, weighs in on the rise of "finfluencers", who use online platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok to help people manage their personal finances and sometimes even teach investing techniques.
Some 15 or 20 years ago, if you were looking to get into finance, you would read the Wall Street Journal, pay attention to Henry Kaufman's analyses and closely follow both Ray Dalio's speeches and Warren Buffet's masterclasses. These traditional financial gurus do continue to have very large audiences, but now they are rivaled by tech-savvy newcomers who understand the power of social media.
The rise of the finfluencers is theoretically good news. They are helping to democratize personal finance issues and are making complex topics — such as blockchain and crypto-assets — accessible to all. While major financial institutions struggle to reach out to 18-35 year olds, finfluencers have succeeded in capturing their attention by offering perfectly tailored content in the form of short, dynamic videos and other posts that avoids financial jargon and reaches them via the channels they use most: social media.
The finfluencers are often talented, with many being self-taught, sometimes not having had any previous experience in finance at all. They are also very good at monetizing their audience. However, not all finfluencers are reliable. Some fail to warn their audiences about the inherent dangers involved with financial investments. One of these risks is related to leverage, which functions similarly to credit and allows you to invest more than you have in the stock market, but can also lead to massive losses in the event of a market downturn.
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The UN children's agency warns that over 70% of Lebanese people are facing critical, highly critical or extremely critical water shortages. As the country's power grids falter, amid compounding economic and political crises, the water supply system is on the edge of collapse. If drastic actions aren't taken, the UN report states, four million people — largely vulnerable families and children — risk having little or no access to clean water.
You need to imagine something like a Chinese labor camp.
— Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny gave his first interview since being arrested in March for violating the terms of his probation. Navalny told the New York Times about life in prison, including being forced to watch state television for over eight hours a day, and why he thinks President Putin's regime will fail.
Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Meike Eijsberg and Bertrand Hauger