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El Toque
ElTOQUE is an independent multimedia platform focused on the storytelling of Cuba
Severodonetsk Cut Off, Extreme EU Heat, BoJo Croissant
In The News
McKenna Johnson, Joel Silvestri, Lisa Berdet and Lila Paulou

Severodonetsk Cut Off, Extreme EU Heat, BoJo Croissant

👋 Aloha*

Welcome to Tuesday, where the Russian army destroys the three bridges connecting Severodonetsk, Spain and France are hit by record temperatures and the WHO says clean air could extend life expectancy by years. Meanwhile, Ukrainian daily Livy Bereg takes us on a tour of the pro-Ukrainian street art that has been flourishing on walls around the world.

[*Hawaiian]

✅  SIGN UP

This is our daily newsletter Worldcrunch Today, a rapid tour of the news of the day from the world's best journalism sources, regardless of language or geography.

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Severodonetsk cut off after Russia destroys bridges: The city of Severodonetsk has become impassable for vehicles after the three bridges connecting it to its twin city Lysychansk were destroyed by the Russian army. Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk region military administration, says Russian forces now control 70% to 80% of the city.

• EU threatens legal action after UK plans to alter Northern Ireland Protocol: The European Union has threatened to take legal action after the UK unveiled a legislation to unilaterally alter the North Ireland Protocol, which was part of the Brexit deal. EU and Irish officials said the new plan would be damaging to all parties involved. A majority of members of the Northern Ireland Assembly have also rejected the new legislation.

• Israeli prime minister says government has “week or two” to avoid collapse: Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned his government coalition that they had a week or two to solve their internal problems after losing a majority in the national parliament, the Knesset. The divergences between the eight parties composing the coalition might lead to Israel’s fifth elections in three years.

• Sri Lankan civil servants asked to take holiday to grow food: The Sri Lankan government has told civil servants to take an extra day off each week to engage in agricultural activities in their backyards amid food shortages caused by the ongoing economic crisis. The move also aims to save on fuel consumption by limiting workers’ commutes.

• Cuba anti-government protesters sentenced to jail: Cuban courts have convicted 381 people for taking part in anti-government protests which gathered thousands in Cuba last summer amid a severe economic crisis. Of those, 297 were issued jail time, including some of up to 25 years.

• Abnormally high temperatures in Spain and southern France: For the second time this year, Spain and the south of France are being hit by an extreme heat event. Experts have deemed the temperatures as abnormal this early in June, with a peak expected between Thursday and Saturday.

A cup of tea to go with your BoJo croissant?: A café in Kyiv has released a pastry in tribute to Boris Johnson’s support to Ukraine. The British Prime Minister’s disheveled blond hair has inspired a croissant topped with wavy meringue and vanilla ice cream, which is now a best-selling delicacy.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Dutch daily de Volkskrant focuses on how the Netherlands is planning to be less dependent on Russian natural gas and wants to import liquid gas to its ports amid the energy crisis.

💬  LEXICON

First Peoples Mountain

The U.S. government is changing the name of Mount Doane in Yellowstone national park to First Peoples Mountain after a 15-0 vote by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. Its original namesake Gustavus Doane was responsible for the Marias massacre in 1870, killing at least 173 members of the Piegan Blackfeet tribe.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

2.2 years

Average global life expectancy would rise 2.2 years if global air pollution was permanently reduced to meet the WHO’s guidelines, researchers reported Tuesday in an Air Quality Life Index report. The microscopic air pollution in question, called PM2.5, is caused mostly by burning fossil fuels, and penetrates the lungs and enters the bloodstream.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Icons Of Ukraine: Street Art Marks World's Support For A People And A Cause

In the last 100 days, street art murals supporting Ukrainian resistance have appeared everywhere from Kyiv to Syria. Here's a look at the most moving and powerful murals, writes Andriy Darkovich for Ukrainian daily Livy Bereg.

🎨 "Art is our weapon. Culture is a form of resistance.” These words belong to Shirin Neshat, an Iranian political refugee, photo artist and film director living and working in exile in the United States. Art forms the context and culture that decides how society will perceive certain historical events, and, as a result, which society will be the winner of the war.

🧱 The CHESNO movement (from the Ukrainian word "honestly") decided to make a selection of street art about the war as part of the exhibition "Information Front: Boards, Murals, Graffiti." They want to preserve these cultural and artistic voices.

🇺🇦 Street art in Ukraine often takes place against the backdrop of air raids in shelling. But in the safer streets of cities around the world, murals have also appeared in the last 100 days. In addition to the heroic fate of Ukrainians, artists pay great attention to the symbols of spirit and struggle.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

✍️ Newsletter by McKenna Johnson, Joel Silvestri, Lisa Berdet and Lila Paulou


Let us know what’s happening in your corner of the world!

info@worldcrunch.com

Photo of a person under an umbrella looking over the Los Angeles cityscape
Geopolitics
Ángel Alonso Arroba*

Summit Of The Americas: Why Washington Needs To Tend To Its Own Backyard

With Washington's attention fixed on Russia, Ukraine and China, the upcoming Summit of the Americas will likely not be the "breakthrough" gathering to forge the equal ties Latin America has long sought from the United States. But Washington would be wise to invest in stronger unity in its own hemisphere.

-Analysis-

SANTIAGO — As we approach the next Summit of the Americas, the only meeting of leaders from the countries of North and South America, slated to begin in Los Angeles on June 6 , it will no doubt be hailed yet again as a unique opportunity for the United States to reboot its relations with the region.

It is a cliché that has taken on new weight since the darker period of the Trump administration, when Latin America kept falling as a priority for Washington. Yet that administration, with its less-than-cordial discourse toward Latin nations, merely exacerbated a trend that was already well underway.

Watch VideoShow less
End Of Mariupol Siege, Tripoli Clashes, Looking For Mars Life
In The News
Lisa Berdet, Lila Paulou, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger

End Of Mariupol Siege, Tripoli Clashes, Looking For Mars Life

👋 Bonjour!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Russia declares victory in Mariupol as the 82-day siege ends, Biden’s administration lifts some Trump-era restrictions on Cuba and NASA’s rover starts digging around for life on Mars. Meanwhile, America Economia explains how blockchain technology could take the cannabis business to an all-time high.

[*French]

​💡 SPOTLIGHT

Inside Russia’s revival of Stalinist “filtration camps”

Though different than concentration camps constructed by Nazis, the “filtration” facilities nevertheless are a return to another brutal history, reopened under Putin, and ramped up since the invasion of Ukraine, writes Ukrainian journalist Anna Akage.

"It was like a true concentration camp."

This is how Oleksandr, a 49-year-old man from Mariupol, described where he and his wife Olena were taken in by Russian security officers. Speaking to a reporter for the BBC, the couple was fingerprinted, photographed and interrogated for hours, and their phones searched for material that could somehow identify them as “Nazis.”

But there is another name given to these locations and the process that have been set up to handle Ukrainians taken into custody in areas occupied by pro-Russian separatists: They’re called: “filtration camps.”

Since February 24, more than one million people have passed through these facilities, facing brutal conditions, passports stripped and sometimes tortured, according to Ukrainian authorities.

Michael Carpenter, U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said "at least several thousand" Ukrainians have been abducted and processed in the camps.

They are called filtration camps because Russian security officers use them to screen civilians, and those who do not pass the filtering process are reportedly taken to Russia or to occupied territories of Donetsk. Witnesses have told Die Welt that they saw people blindfolded and handcuffed, put on buses and driven away.

Like concentration camps constructed by Nazis, and others, the “filtration” facilities recalls a brutal history. First established by Joseph Stalin in the USSR at the end of World War II, filtration camps received all prisoners of war, prisoners of German concentration camps, all men of conscription age who during the war simply lived in the occupied territories or representatives of local authorities were sent to the camps.

Though there were some good-faith efforts to identify individuals in the immediate post-War chaos, the filtration camps would eventually include brutal interrogations, torture, years of imprisonment, and hard labor in the Gulag camps — that's what awaited those who did not prove their loyalty to the Soviet authorities.

Even before the conflict with Ukraine, there have been other revivals of filtration camps in post-Soviet times. In Chechnya, according to Russia-born human rights group Memorial, at least 200,000 people, one-sixth of Chechnya's entire population, passed through the camps, subjected to beatings, torture, and summary executions.

In Ukraine, the methodology of Soviet filtration camps began as early as 2014 in the Donbas: from the very moment of the occupation, "suspicious" citizens were summoned for interrogations, and there are many known cases where they were held for months and years in captivity, too often dying of torture and disease.

Thanks to the testimonies of people like Oleksandr and Olena who managed to break free, journalists know the details of life in these camps. Civilians are taken from bombed-out cities, after weeks in hiding, with the promise of being evacuated.

They are forced to sleep on the floor in unheated rooms, sometimes in such tight quarters that it is impossible to lie down. There is very little food and water, and no access to medical care. They are regularly tortured psychologically and physically, facing threats of reprisals against their relatives and demands to turn in their friends. Some have their passports confiscated. Families have been separated.

The filtration camps acquired a massive, organized character after the invasion of Ukraine on February 24. The existence of several camps is known in the area of the besieged port city of Mariupol, with satellite images showing that a camp with at least 30 tents was set up within a week, as well as in several cities in Donbas and Crimea.

Filtration camps are also the place from which Ukrainian citizens can voluntarily evacuate into Russian territory — though most times they are forcibly pushed to do so, with no options to evacuate to Ukrainian territories given.

Anna Voevodina, a Mariupol-born lawyer now living in Barcelona, is helping her compatriots who were brought to Russia using a Telegram group called “Deportation to Russia”, which now has around 900 members, Die Welt reports.

Those who have not proven their loyalty to the Russian authorities are at best sent to forced settlements in remote regions of Russia, while those who remain in Ukraine are forced to work on debris removal, collecting corpses, bagging them, and digging graves.

Such work is often the only opportunity for residents of the occupied territories to receive humanitarian aid for themselves and their families. Also, only after successfully passing the filtration camp can Ukrainians receive passes that allow them to move around the city or region, reports Ukraine’s daily Livy Bereg.

Fear is spreading for those “judged to have an allegiance” to Ukraine, said U.S. Ambassador Carpenter referring to reports indicating that people were transferred to Russian-occupied territories in Donbas, and their traces often lost.

Russia under Putin looks more and more like the Soviet Union under Stalin, and one might be horrified, but not necessarily surprised. The manual for persecution and human control was always right on the shelf.

Anna Akage

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

Mariupol siege is over: After 82 days of siege, Russia announces it has taken full control of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, effectively marking the fall of the strategic southern port city for Ukraine. Hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians had been trapped in dire conditions in the complex since early March, with troops loyal to Kyiv refusing to surrender or abandon the last piece of territory under their control.

Finland & Sweden in NATO? It gets complicated: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a longstanding NATO member, came out strongly against Sweden and Finland joining NATO, while Russian President Vladimir Putin now says he’s OK with it.

— Read all the latest at War in Ukraine, Day 83

Tripoli clashes: The Libyan government, led by Prime Minister Fathi Bashagha and appointed by the eastern Parliament, announced it retreated from the capital city Tripoli. Earlier this day, clashes erupted in the city center, triggered by their arrival in the capital, where a rival administration refuses to step down.

Cuba sanctions eased: U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration announced it would lift sanctions on Cuba imposed during the Trump era, making it easier for people to travel, families to reunite and for Cubans to get U.S. visas faster.

France gets first female Prime Minister in decades: Cabinet minister Elizabeth Borne has been appointed as the new French prime minister by President Emmanuel Macron. An engineer, Borne previously served as Macron’s Minister for Transport, then Environment and finally Labor. It is only the second time a woman will hold this position in the country since Edith Cresson, 31 years ago. Upcoming parliamentary elections could force Macron to appoint an opposition politician to the prime minister post.

Spate of Belgrade bomb threats: Serbia’s capital city Belgrade was targetted by hundreds of bomb threats yesterday, mainly sent to schools, restaurants and shopping centers. No explosive devices were found and the origin of the threats is still unknown. First Deputy Prime Minister Branko Ružić said the issue “should not be taken lightly.”

Cannes film festival kicks off: The 75th Cannes Film Festival opens today and will run until May 28. American actor Forest Whitaker is expected to receive an honorary Palme d'Or at the opening ceremony.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Danish tabloid Ekstrabladet pays tribute to Sydney Lee, one of Denmark’s first and most famous reality TV stars, who died at age 43 from undisclosed causes. Recognizable for his signature bandana and tan, Lee held the Danish National Record for most appearances on reality TV shows.


💬  LEXICON

Jezero

NASA's Perseverance rover will begin today its key mission of exploring the Mars crater where it landed in February last year. Named Jezero (meaning “lake” in Slavic languages), the crater features a delta-like formation that is thought to have held water billions of years ago, and is most likely to contain evidence of past life on the red planet.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Crypto and cannabis, best buds at last

As cannabis is legalized in more places, investors are taking note. One Luxembourg-based, Uruguayan-led fund has found an innovative way to bypass banking obstacles and raise capital, reports Natalia Vera Ramírez in business magazine America Economia.

🔗 It will soon be possible to buy shares in a fund that invests in the nascent cannabis industry, on Ethereum, a blockchain portal. The fund is Global Cannabis Capital (GCC), formed in Luxembourg and soon to offer shares as tokens (digital value units representing the value of a stock), instead of the traditional initial public offering (IPO). GCC's founder is the Uruguayan Andrés Israel, also CEO and founder of Cannabis Company Builder, an incubator that helps Latin American startups devise a business strategy for the cannabis sector.

💸 The first sale, scheduled for early June, is a private placement, so GCC could not reveal the price of a token or the sums expected to be raised. But investors were showing keen interest. "Before this we held a pre-sale in which all our tokens were sold in 10 days. This is highly auspicious, as we expected to end the pre-sale in June," Israel said. Some 50 investors bought all available tokens and for 80% of them, this was their first investment in a cryptocurrency or in digital assets.

📈 Using tokens or crypto-assets is an increasingly common way of raising capital in the cannabis sector. In addition to legal restrictions on cannabis in many countries, which hinders public listings or more traditional fundraising, many actors in the sector see blockchain technology as a faster financing instrument. For buyers, says Israel, tokens also open the way to a secondary market for resale, giving their assets liquidity.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

“The next couple of months will be the most difficult ones of our lives.”

— Sri Lanka’s new prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe addressed the population amid the country’s worst economic crisis in more than 70 years. The COVID-19 pandemic, rising fuel prices and a foreign currency default have caused shortages of essential products including food, fuel and medicines on the island. "At the moment, we only have petrol stocks for a single day,” Wickremesinghe said during his speech on national television.

📸  PHOTO DU JOUR

People walk by a mall destroyed by Russian shelling in Irpin, Ukraine. More than 300 civilians died in this city close to Kyiv. A month after the Russian troops’ withdrawal, its inhabitants are gradually returning to their devastated homes. — Photo: Sergei Chuzavkov/SOPA Images/ZUMA

✍️ Newsletter by Lisa Berdet, Lila Paulou, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger


Let us know what’s happening in your corner of the world!

info@worldcrunch.com

Meet Félix, Havana's Gender-Fluid Diva Opening Cuban Eyes And Minds
LGBTQ Plus
Ernesto J. Gómez Figueredo

Meet Félix, Havana's Gender-Fluid Diva Opening Cuban Eyes And Minds

There is little understanding of gender fluidity worldwide, and in Cuba there is no legal recognition of their identity. Journalist Ernesto J. Gómez Figueredo meets Félix and tries to explain the world from the point of view of gender fluidity.

HAVANA — She is the diva of Havana nights. Félix, owner of Pazillo bar. Félix, the homegirl. Félix, a young fighter.

"My family is small. My mom, my grandmother and me. There is also an occasional stepfather.”

Félix was born in a poor neighborhood called Santa Amalia, in the Arroyo Naranjo municipality of Havana. He comes from a black family with which he has had some disagreements.

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A woman buys medicine in a pharmacy with almost no products amid COVID19 pandemic , in Cuba
Coronavirus
Glenda Boza Ibarra and Sabrina López Camaraza

Where Are My Meds? Cubans Facing Mental Illness In COVID Times

While Cuba has historically been praised for its health care system, the pandemic has struck the population hard, even those not infected. Among the victims are those suffering from psychological ailments whose prescriptions couldn't be filled because of closed borders and economic crises.

Chavely was raised with strict discipline: she couldn't bring friends home or go out to play for long periods of time, and her television and reading consumption was closely monitored.

The pressure grew in the preparation courses for university entrance exams. Chavely began to get low marks in math, physics, and chemistry. They changed her to a different classroom, then to a new school. She had extracurricular studying time and meeting up with friends became strictly forbidden. At home, she faced continuous scolding. The most difficult moment of her life was while preparing for the university entrance tests.

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A photo of Brazilian Presiden Jair Bolsonaro
Geopolitics
Pedro Silva Barros

Latin American Pariah, The Cost Of Brazil's Isolationism

By turning its back on regional integration, the conservative government of Jair Bolsonaro is putting ideology above the country's long-term economic and political interests.

-Analysis-

After two decades of leading the process of Latin American integration, Brazil's absence at the recent summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) underscores a dramatic change, of course, that is costing the regional giant both politically and economically.

Brazil's isolation isn't, of course, without precedent. Asked once if the Portuguese language would be part of a future "Hispanic" identity, the Mexican author Carlos Fuentes replied that Brazil was a continent unto itself. He saw the country as being a case apart in Latin America given its imperial history, and the circumstances under which it gained independence, nearly 200 years ago.

Indeed, for at least a century after its independence, in 1822, Brazil wasn't even considered to be part of Latin America. The first general history of Latin America that included Brazil was written in 1922 by Scotsman William Spence Robertson, a professor at the University of Illinois.

As time went on, however, Brazil very much earned its place in Latin America and became a champion, furthermore, of integration — both regionally and beyond, as noted by Ernesto Samper, a former president of Colombia (1994-1998) who later served as secretary-general of UNASUR (Union of South American Nations).

Samper once qualified Brazil as a transatlantic generator of agreements between different regional positions. He too sees Brazil as having abandoned its regional vocation.

Brazil's sinking trade with the rest of Latin America

Its absence at the recent CELAC summit, which began Sept. 18 in Mexico City, is glaring in that regard. By far the region's largest country, Brazil was the only one not represented at the event. This was a summit, furthermore, that was meant to renew multilateral presidential diplomacy, which was faltering before the pandemic.

The absence contrasts sharply with the leadership role Brazil, under then president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva (2003-2011), displayed in 2008 when, for the first time in history, the heads of 33 Latin American and the Caribbean States met without the presence of the United States, Canada or another outside power.

Ten years on, Brazil is in self-isolation

That summit took place in the Brazilian city of Bahía and established a common agenda for integration and development. Two years later, through a fusion with the Rio Group, that same alignment of regional governments became the CELAC. And at the time of the 2011 CELAC summit, a communiqué issued by the then government of Dilma Rousseff, president from 2011 to 2016, noted that Brazil had embassies in all states represented at the summit and that its regional trade had quadrupled between 2002 and 2010 to reach $78 billion.

Ten years on, Brazil is in self-isolation, and this will have both political and economic costs — for the region as a whole. The absence of multilateral agreements has made Latin America more polarized and fragmented politically, and more disintegrated commercially. And by not participating in integrative efforts, Brazil is giving up its political leadership and facing economic losses.

Its trade with Latin America has plummeted, dropping from $70 billion in 2017 to $52 billion in late 2020. That included a sharp drop in the trade balance in its favor. Brazil's total trade with the region's 32 countries was 33% less in 2020 than in 2010, at the height of its regional political leadership.

A photo of then President Donald Trump with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro shaking hands at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach.

President Donald Trump with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach.

Allen Eyestone/TNS/ZUMA

Is the Bolsonaro government right?

In January 2020, Brazil suspended its participation in CELAC, stating that the conditions weren't right for the group's "activity in the current context of regional crisis." More specifically, the rightist Bolsonaro government was dissatisfied with the prospect of attending any gathering with the communist regimes of Cuba and Venezuela. Its response was simply to withdraw.

Unlike most Latin American countries, Brazil has kept its embassy and consulates closed in Venezuela since April 2020. The following month, it closed five embassies in the Caribbean. Not surprisingly, its exports to all those countries fell in 2020. The average year-on-year fall was 13%, and in the case of the Dominican Republic, exports dropped 38%.

Is the Bolsonaro government right? Is CELAC just a leftist association?

Unlike other regional groupings like MERCOSUR or UNASUR, it does not even have a charter approved by regional parliaments or its administration. And yet, CELAC summits worked fairly well between 2008 and 2016. Agreements were reached despite ideological differences, and the region managed to speak as a block to the EU and China.

It wouldn't be sensible to hold such summits with either power merely through the Organization of American States (OAS) and without the backing of a regional grouping.

CELAC's diversity is shown in the fact that in the last decade, its rotating presidents have had different political backgrounds. In 2013 it was Chile's Sebastián Piñera, a conservative. The next year the centrist Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica was in charge, and in 2016, the presidency went to the leftist Rafael Correa of Ecuador.

The Trump effect on Latin America

The group's gatherings had never attracted fewer than 20 leaders, at least not until January 2017, when only four leaders attended the Punta Cana summit, in the Dominican Republic. Donald Trump had just become president of the United States, and talks of détente with Cuba, dating from the Obama administration, were at a standstill.

Critics took the line that CELAC and UNASUR were "Bolivarian" clubs to back Cuba and Venezuela's Nicolás Maduro. And yet, Argentina's then president, the conservative Mauricio Macri (2015-2019), had become the rotating president of UNASUR that year and presented a candidate for its secretary-general while defending the group's original ideas.

All of that led, in August 2017, to the formation of the Lima Group, involving 12 American states including Canada. In its first declaration — in a bid to isolate Venezuela — the group urged the suspension of the next CELAC-EU summit scheduled for October 2017.

In January 2019, the Lima Group recognized Juan Guaidó as Venezuela's acting president. It was a move to strip Maduro of legitimacy. But Mexico then withdrew from the Lima Group, followed by Argentina and now Peru. It seems now that the 12 member states had more impact on the Venezuelan crisis before the Lima Group was formed. Their last declaration was from January 2021, days before the end of the Trump presidency.

A mirror and some light

In the meantime, Mexico, under the socialist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has successfully filled the vacuum left by Brazil. The summit of 16 presidents recently held in Mexico City, with the presence of three center-right presidents from Ecuador, Paraguay and Uruguay, crowns its diplomacy and shows that the policy of isolating Venezuela is exhausted.

Mexico has also been hosting talks between the Venezuelan opposition and government, with Norwegian mediation, and committed itself to different CELAC activities in the past year. The agenda includes plans to create a Latin American space agency and to donate vaccines to countries like Belize, Bolivia and Paraguay.

By sticking, in contrast, to the position of not speaking to Cuba or Venezuela, Brazil has shown its inability to present regional states with a positive agenda. It's now isolated, as a result, on its own continent. The Latin American country that benefited most from integration is now suffering the most from isolation.

What Brazil needs more than anything, perhaps, is a mirror and some light — to give it some clarity on both its past and on where it might go from here.

*Pedro Silva Barros (PhD, University of Sao Paulo) is an economist and researcher at the Applied Economics Research Institute in Brasilia.

North Korea Fires Missiles, R. Kelly Guilty, New John Lennon Song
In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin & Bertrand Hauger

North Korea Fires Missiles, R. Kelly Guilty, New John Lennon Song

👋 Hyvää huomenta!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where North Korea conducts its third weapon tests in just over two weeks, R&B singer R. Kelly is found guilty of sex trafficking, and an unearthed John Lennon tape is up for auction in Denmark. Meanwhile, we take a look at why despite being an oil- and gas-rich country, Iran has been marred by widespread blackouts in recent years.

[*Finnish]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• North Korea fires missile into the sea: North Korea has launched a short-range missile into the Sea of Japan, officials in South Korea and Japan say, Pyongyang's third weapon tests in just over two weeks. The launch came just before the country's ambassador to the United Nations urged the U.S. to scrap its "double standards" on weapons programs.

• China lets American siblings return home after 3 years: U.S. citizens Cynthia and Victor Liu, whose father Liu Changming is one of China's most wanted fugitives, have returned to the U.S. after being prevented from leaving China since 2018. The move coincides with a U.S. deal that led to the high-profile release from Canada of top Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou last weekend.

• UK puts military on standby to ease fuel pressures: After a fourth day of panic buying that left fuel pumps dry, the UK is training military drivers to deliver fuel supply to stations if necessary. The surge in demand came after a driver shortage led to empty supermarket shelves and raised fears about fuel deliveries.

• COVID update: U.S. president Joe Biden received a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, just days after booster doses were approved by federal health authorities. Meanwhile, the Philippines approves coronavirus vaccines for children as young as 12 as the country battles a surge in cases linked to the Delta variant, as Japan is set to lift its state of emergency in all regions at the end of this week.

• Three Polish regions repeal anti-LGBT declarations: Following the lead of the Swietokryskie region, three other regions in Poland voted to scrap resolutions that declared them free of "LGBT ideology." The EU had threatened to withdraw funding earlier this month.

• R. Kelly found guilty of sex trafficking: American R&B star R. Kelly was convicted of racketeering and sex trafficking after running a scheme to sexually abuse women and children for two decades. The singer could face decades in prison at sentencing, due in May.

• Never released John Lennon song up for auction: A long-lost tape containing an interview and an unheard song by John Lennon, which was recorded in 1970 in Denmark by a group of schoolboys, will be auctioned in Copenhagen this Tuesday.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Greek daily Nea Kriti reports on the magnitude 6 "deadly earthquake" which struck the island of Crete yesterday, killing one man, injuring 20 and destroying several old buildings.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Why the power keeps getting cut in oil-rich Iran

Iran has no shortage of oil and gas. And yet, its people and industries are having to contend right now with regular power cuts. The question, then, is why, and what — if anything — the Iranian government can hope to do about it, writes Roshanak Astaraki in Persian-language daily Kayhan-London.

⚡ Power cuts began in mid to late 2020, for some evident reasons such as the use of outdated gas power plants, reduced rainfall that has severely cut hydroelectric output, and lagging plans to boost solar power production. Their effects have included interruption of basic services, including in hospitals, and in production, which has led to layoffs. These are fueling dissatisfaction among a population already exasperated with state mismanagement in various areas.

🔋 For 50 years now, countries have focused on the need to replace fossil fuels with alternative energy sources. The UN held a conference on new energy sources as early as 1961. Iran engaged in those debates at the time, but its diversification plans were forgotten after the 1979 revolution. This neglect has turned a country once tipped to play a decisive role in energy markets into a fuel beggar. The regime's sixth development plan (2016-2021) envisaged a 5% share for renewables in Iran's energy production mix, but as of now, it's barely 1%.

🛢️ Iran has the world's second largest natural gas reserves and is fourth with regards to oil reserves. Nevertheless, it cannot meet domestic fuel needs. In the winter of 2020-21, many gas-powered plants had to use mazout as fuel, which reduced their output and caused severe pollution in cities. Shortages are expected this winter too, as demand is set to rise. The government is at an advanced stage in talks with Turkmenistan to import gas.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

834

Move over, Quattro Formaggi: At the Sirha gastronomic in Lyon, Parisian chef Julien Serri, cheesemaker François Robin and YouTuber Morgan VS broke the world record for the most cheese varieties on one pizza. According to Robin, the resulting taste was "surprising."

📣 VERBATIM

"Islam first."

— As the Taliban toughen up their restrictions on women, the new chancellor for Kabul University, Mohammed Ashraf Ghairat, tweeted that "as long as real Islamic environment is not provided for all, women would be barred from teaching or studying at the institution". Such policy reflects the Taliban's first time in power in the 1990s, when women were banned from school, beaten up for transgressing the rules, and were only allowed to go out in public in the presence of a male relative.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin & Bertrand Hauger

Cuba: Growing Internet Access Is About Money Not Freedom
Geopolitics
Farid Kahhat

Cuba: Growing Internet Access Is About Money Not Freedom

People used social media to help organize the large, anti-government protests that took place on the island last July. And yet, unlike their counterparts in China, Cuban authorities are loath to prohibit access to such sites. Do the math.

-Analysis-

Mobile phones, as the former Facebook executive Antonio García Martínez writes in his blog The Pull Request, were illegal in Cuba until 2008. Even after that, it took another decade before people were allowed to connect those phones to the internet. And more recently, on July 11 — when people held large protests (organized in large part online) — Cuban authorities blocked the internet for several hours.

Overall, however, internet access is finally available in Cuba, albeit with some limitations — for two reasons. The first is the expensive. An Amnesty International report titled Cuba's Internet Paradoxreveals that the connection cost, as of 2017, was $1.50 per hour, a tremendous amount for people where the average monthly wage is roughly $25.

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