EURONEWS
Euronews is a European pay television news network, headquartered in Lyon, France.
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Alessio Perrone

Balkan Scars And A Secret Plan To Redraw The Borders Of Bosnia

The colored tattoo of a fortified bridge towering high over troubled waters takes up almost all of my friend Ivan's shoulder. In his early 30s, Ivan has a footballer's build and flawless cockney accent. He's been a British citizen almost all his life, but was born in Mostar, in present-day Bosnia, in the late 1980s — a bad time to be born in Bosnia..

He says he remembers the din of the bombs falling on his town when he was a kid and the Yugoslav Wars broke out, in 1992. Ethno-nationalist groups seceded from Yugoslavia and turned on each other. They fought prolonged, bloody conflicts that killed at least 140,000, and committed genocide on at least one occasion. In Srebrenica, Bosnia in 1995, pro-Serbian forces executed at least 8,000 Muslim Bosnian civilians. Ivan's family, ethnic Croatians, fled Mostar as refugees, resettling first in Germany, then in London.

His closest Croatian relatives live elsewhere in the Balkans, but Ivan chose to put Mostar's towering Old Bridge on his shoulder. Not much is known about the bridge's construction by the Ottoman empire in 1566. What is clear is that it came to symbolize the city's multiculturalism: It united Mostar's blend of Croats, Serbs and Muslims living on both banks of the river.

Heavy shelling by Croat paramilitary forces destroyed the bridge in 1993, and the river gobbled the crumbled blocks of limestone. It was rebuilt in the early 2000s, when engineers coordinated the lifting of the old blocks from the river and used some of them in the reconstruction, a powerful image of the scars bore by the very fabric of Bosnia.

Now, it seems, some are setting their eyes on those scars again. In the last couple of weeks, an explosive memo has emerged in which Slovenian authorities suggest the redrawing of Bosnia's borders along ethnic lines. Serbia would gobble up the Republika Srpska, one of Bosnia's two regions with a large ethnic Serb population. The Croatian-majority cantons would join Croatia, while Albania would annex Kosovo and swathes of present-day Northern Macedonia.

The plan would push the region back into the nightmares it went through 25 years ago.

The design resembles closely that of the massacres of the 1990s, when military forces attempted to create ethnically homogenous countries. The document even suggests it merely seeks to continue where the Yugoslav wars stopped.

There is much that we don't know about the document. It's an unofficial memo or "non-paper," as it's called in European diplomacy — a way for officials to share ideas confidentially. It's unsigned, so it's difficult to understand who wrote it, although journalists spotted the fingerprints of Slovenian government officials on the original document. But so far, one of the only people to confirm its existence is Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, according to Euronews.

Slovenia's PM Janez Jansa, widely believed to have drafted and leaked the document to destabilize both the Balkans and the EU, has declined to confirm nor deny any rumors, as have EU officials.

As the Italian newsweekly L'Espresso says, the plan would push the region back into the nightmares it went through 25 years ago. "There would be only one consequence: war," the publication writes. And although this kind of behind-closed-doors partition of Bosnia may seem impossible, the article does on say, "impossible things often become true in the former Yugoslavia, where ghosts, once they are evoked, take shape quickly."

Many Europeans might be too young to remember the bloodshed of those wars or too far removed from them, but the continent — like the Mostar bridge and my friend Ivan — still bears the scars on their skin.

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: 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: Hacking Macron, Endangered Olympics, UK’s “Pingdemic”

Welcome to Wednesday, where heads of state find out they were Pegasus spyware targets, floods in central China kill trapped subway riders and not everyone is happy to see Jeff Bezos safely back from space. Just two days before the opening ceremony of Tokyo Games are set to begin, Olympics chief, Toshiro Muto, won't rule out an 11th-hour cancellation. Still, most expect the Games to go on, and Le Monde explains what's at stake for Japan.

• Macron, other heads of state targeted by Pegasus spyware: French newspaper Le Monde revealed that President Emmanuel Macron and several members of his government were among the thousands of phone numbers targeted for hacking via the Israeli spyware, Pegasus. Other high profile names on the list of leaked phone numbers include King Mohammed VI of Morocco and the prime ministers of Pakistan, Egypt and Morocco.

• Olympics chief won't rule out cancelling Games: As more athletes continue to test positive for the coronavirus, Tokyo 2020 Olympics chief, Toshiro Muto, says that should cases spike, he will not rule out a last-minute cancellation of the Games.

• COVID update: As cases continue to rise in Australia, another state, South Australia, has entered lockdown, leaving about half of the overall Australian population under lockdown once again. In France, the country's new "health pass' has officially gone into effect, requiring either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to enter cultural venues, such as cinemas and museums. Meanwhile, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned the world may be in the early stages of another wave.

• 100 kidnapped Nigerian mothers and children rescued: Nigerian authorities were able to secure the release of 100 women and children who were abducted on June 8 in the Zamfara state. This group is among 1,000 people who have been kidnapped in Nigeria since December 2020.

• China floods kill subway riders: Severe flooding in the central Chinese province, Henan, has left at least 16 people dead, at least 12 of whom were trapped in a flooded subway line, and forced thousands to be evacuated. The heavy rainfall has "shattered records," dumping what the region would normally receive in one year over the last three days, and follows deadly floods in Western Europe and India.

• Hungary to hold referendum on anti-LGBT law: In a live Facebook video, Hungarian President Viktor Orban announced the government would hold a referendum on its controversial anti-LGBT law, which has been widely criticized across the European Union.

• Thousands sign petition to keep Bezos in space: Over 180,000 people have signed the Change.org petition "Do not allow Jeff Bezos to return to Earth." Should the petition reach 200,000, it will become one of the "top signed" on the Change.org website.

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Geopolitics

The Latest: Deadly Floods In Europe, Bolsonaro Surgery, Lego Guns

Welcome to Thursday, where severe flooding in Germany and Belgium has left dozens dead, Brazil's Bolsonaro is in the hospital and a gun that looks like a children's toy sparks backlash. Independent Egyptian media Mada Masr also tells us about a high-end supermarket that's transforming Egypt's grocery lists.

• Dozens feared dead in European floods: After days of heavy rain, intense flooding in Germany and Belgium has left dozens of people dead and several others missing. The worst of the deluge has taken place in Germany's western Rhineland-Palatinate state, while the Liège province of Belgium has also reported two casualties.

• Cuba lifts import duties following unrest: Starting Monday, there will be no limits or custom duties on food, medicine and other essentials visitors bring into the country. The measure is an attempt to quell the public anger that led to recent protests, the largest Cuba has seen in decades.

• Bolsonaro hospitalized for chronic hiccups: After experiencing chronic hiccups for ten days, President Bolsonaro was transferred to a hospital in São Paulo to undergo tests for an obstructed intestine. The president, who blames the issue on a 2018 assassination attempt that severely wounded him, may need to undergo emergency surgery.

• New EU climate plan announced: The European Union will continue efforts toward becoming carbon neutral by 2050, namely via several draft proposals announced Wednesday that intend to tax aviation and maritime fuel, as well as effectively ban the sale of petrol and diesel powered cars within 20 years. Car manufacturers and airlines have already responded, warning the proposals will "imperil innovation."

• US to evacuate endangered Afghani translators: As US forces withdraw from Afghanistan well ahead of the original September 11 target, several Afghanis who offered assistance to the US military fear retaliation as the Taliban gains territory throughout the country. "Operation Allies Refuge" will begin the final week of July to evacuate those deemed at-risk.

• Amazon rainforest emits more CO2 than it absorbs: Known as a ‘carbon sink," the Amazon rainforest was previously reputed for its important role in absorbing harmful emissions. However, deforestation and forest fires have now made the Amazon a source of carbon dioxide rather than a relief, with the forest emitting 1.5bn tonnes of CO2 a year.

• Backlash over ‘Lego" themed weapon: The Danish toymaker, Lego, has sent a cease and desist letter to US gun company, Culper Precision, after it created a custom glock weapon, which appears to be covered in colorful Lego bricks. Both the toymaker and gun control activists have highlighted the danger of producing a pistol that strongly resembles a children's toy.

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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: U.S. Strikes Iraq & Syria, Czech Transphobia, Tour De France Crash

Welcome to Monday, where U.S. airstrikes hit Iran-backed militia in Iraq and Syria, Sweden's prime minister resigns and a pet lion is rescued from TikTok fame. Die Welt also looks at the growing influence of a Russian mercenary group in several African countries.

• U.S. airstrikes in Iraq & Syria: The United States military says it carried out air strikes on "targeted operational and weapons storage facilities" linked to Iran-backed militia groups. The strikes late Sunday local time marks the second time the Biden administration has ordered strikes against armed groups. The UK-based NGO, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, reported at least five fighters killed and several others wounded.Syria's state-run news agency reports the death of a child.

• New COVID restrictions in Australia: With just over 3% of the population fully vaccinated, Australia has seen a rise in coronavirus infections connected to the highly infectious Delta variant. Prime Minister Scott Morrisson met with state and territory leaders to discuss renewed restrictions, such as locking down Sydney.

• Swedish Prime Minister resigns: After losing a historic no-confidence vote, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has opted to resign rather than calling a snap election. This decision leaves the parliament's speaker with the task of finding a new premier.

• CNN reports incriminating video of Ethiopian soldiers: CNN has uncovered new footage of Ethiopian soldiers passing around a phone "to document their executions of unarmed men." The video comes as a new update to the broadcaster's ongoing investigation into the January mass execution of at least 11 unarmed men in the Tigray region.

• Death toll rises to nine in Florida building collapse: Rescuers are continuing to search for survivors, as more than 150 people remain missing at the collapsed condo building near Miami. Over the weekend, the death toll rose to nine, but authorities fear that number will multiply.

• Police search for fan who caused Tour de France crash: A spectator holding up a large sign caused a crash at the Tour de France, involving German rider Tony Martin and several others, on Saturday. Now, police are searching for the fan and hope to charge her with "deliberately violating safety regulations." One rider was obligated to pull out of the Tour completely, while another eight are being treated for injuries.

• Cambodian officials confiscate TikTok-famous pet lion: Cambodian authorities confiscated a pet lion after discovering it was being used in a number of TikTok videos. The lion had reportedly been imported by a Chinese national and was being raised at a villa in the capital Phnom Penh.

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Geopolitics

The Latest: Miami Building Collapse, Calling Out Orban, Ancient Shark Attack

Welcome to Friday, where dozens are still missing in the Florida building collapse, Dutch and Hungarian prime ministers clash, and tourists are confused about Mexico City. We also turn to Les Echos for an analysis of the Sudan-Egypt tensions generated by Ethiopia's Great Renaissance Dam.

• Dozens missing after Florida building collapse: A 12-story oceanfront residential building collapsed in Surfside, near Miami, Florida, killing at least three people. Rescue missions are underway to find survivors in the rubble, with an estimated 99 people still missing, many of whom are Latin American migrants.

• Belarus journalist Roman Protasevich moved to house arrest: The 26-year-old Belarusian dissident who was captured from a Ryanair jet on May 23 has now been moved to house arrest, alongside with his girlfriend, a Russian citizen. Protasevich was charged with organising mass unrest, and could face up to 15 years in prison. Belarus fighter jets forced the plane Protasevich was on to land in Minsk.

• Chauvin to be sentenced for George Floyd murder: Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis policeman, will be sentenced today for murdering George Floyd in May 2020, with prosecutors seeking a 30-year sentence. The other three police officers involved in Floyd's death will be facing trial next year with the charge of "aiding and abetting murder."

• Outrage after Pakistan prime minister blames rape crisis on women: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is facing criticism after blaming rape victims for wearing "very few clothes." Khan was questioned about the "ongoing rape epidemic" in Pakistan, where most women wear conservative national clothings. Various women's rights groups in the country demanded Khan apologize for a statement that "reinforces the perception that women are ‘knowing" victims and men ‘helpless' aggressors."

• Deadly tornado in Czech Republic: A tornado moving 218 km/h swept across several villages in southeastern Czech, killing four and injuring more than 100 more.

• COVID update: After a rise in COVID cases likely due to the Delta variant, the Israeli health ministry reimposed indoor mask requirement in public places. The country has witnessed four days of more than 100 daily new cases. In Australia, where low rates of COVID transmission has been maintained, Sydney, the country's biggest city, goes into its first lockdown since December, after a cluster of 65 cases.

• Shark bites man (3,000 years ago): Oxford researchers have found the earliest evidence of a shark attack on a human, on a 3,000 year-old-skeleton discovered in Japan that bears no fewer than 790 shark teeth marks.

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Geopolitics

The Latest: Vaccine Record, Catalans Pardoned, NFL Coming Out

Welcome to Tuesday, where India sets a daily vaccination record, Spain's prime minister seeks reconciliation with Catalonia and Australia's Great Barrier Reef could join the list of endangered World Heritage sites. Les Echos also takes us to Japan, where the business model of its notorious yakuza crime syndicate is crumbling because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Global vaccination, good news & bad: Cuba reports its Abdala shot is 92.28% effective, China has administered its one billionth dose of its own vaccine, and India is also setting records, after campaigning to make vaccinations free for all adults, more 8.3 million doses were administered on Monday. However, shortages remain, namely in Venezuela where people are seeing second-dose appointments cancelled.

• Spain to pardon jailed Catalonian leaders: Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez will pardon nine jailed Catalonian separatist leaders who were involved in the region's attempted secession in 2017. Sánchez hopes the move will inspire reconciliation with the Catalan region.

• Renewed tension in Jerusalem neighborhood: Tensions have reignited in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood after a night where Palestinians and Jewish settlers threw stones, chairs and fireworks at each other. Forced evictions of Palestinians in the contested East Jerusalem neighborhood ignited the protests and 11-day war last month, which killed hundreds and left more than 100,000 civilians displaced. The Red Crescent reports that it is treating 20 Palestinians for injuries in the latest clashes.

• Myanmar military and resistance group clash: The Myanmar military and an anti-junta resistance force clashed in the country's second largest city, Mandalay. This is the first time direct fighting between the junta and breakaway security forces has occurred outside of small towns and villages.

• Rights group calls on UN to increase pressure for Ortega regime: After a series of politically motivated arrests in Nicaragua, including that of a fifth presidential candidate and the former first lady, Human Rights Watch will release a report calling on the United Nations to condemn the regime of President Daniel Ortega.

• UNESCO: Great Barrier Reef "in danger": The UN cultural and preservationist body has recommended that the Great Barrier Reef be added to the list of world heritage sites that are "in danger," as the reef has seen mass bleaching due to climate change. The Australian government is "strongly opposed" the recommendation.

• First NFL player comes out as gay: Carl Nassib, a defensive lineman for the Las Vegas Raiders, shared a video on social media publically declaring that he is gay, making him the first active player to do so in the league's 101-year history.

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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: New Gaza Flare-Up, Biden-Putin Meeting, Unmasking Spain

Welcome to Wednesday, where Israel carries out first airstrikes on Gaza since the ceasefire in May, Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin meet for the first time since Biden's election and Ronaldo changes Coke into water. Chinese daily Economic Observer also advocates for more open discussion about the real reason why China's couples are not having more children.

• Israel air strikes in Gaza after Hamas incendiary balloon attacks: Early Wednesday morning, Israel carried out air strikes in Gaza in response to fire balloons launched by Hamas from the territory. This is the first major flare-up since last month's ceasefire following a brief but deadly war. It is not known whether the latest strikes have caused any injuries or death.

• Biden-Putin Summit in Geneva: U.S. President Joe Biden and Russia's President Vladimir Putin have a highly anticipated bilateral meeting in Geneva today. On the agenda: regional conflicts, climate, COVID and cybersecurity. No major breakthroughs are expected but there are hopes that the leaders will find some common ground after trading invectives from afar in recent months.

• Taiwan reports largest incursion by Chinese air force: According to Taiwan's government, 28 Chinese air force aircrafts entered the island's air defense identification zone (ADIZ) yesterday. Over the last few months, multiple missions of the Chinese air force have taken place near the self-ruled island, but this was the largest incursion since the Taiwanese ministry began regularly reporting the activities last year.

• Car bomb explosion at Colombia military base injures 36: In the Colombian border city of Cucuta, two men drove a white Toyota truck into the military base after passing themselves off as officials. According to the Defence Minister Diego Molano, the hypothesis is that the National Liberation Army guerrillas are to blame but the attack is still being investigated.

• Leftist Castillo wins popular vote in Peru's presidential race: With all ballots counted, and a turnout of nearly 75%, leftist candidate Pedro Castillo has just over 50% of the votes. But he cannot be declared the winner until electoral authorities have finished processing legal challenges brought by right-wing contender Keiko Fujimori. It could take weeks before a winner is formally announced.

• China to send astronauts to new space station: On Thursday, three veteran astronauts will become the first Chinese astronauts to land on the initial stages of China's orbiting space station module, Tiangong or Heavenly Palace, which is still under construction. The mission, called Shenzhou-12 or Divine Vessel, is the first of four planned and marks a significant milestone in China's expanding space program.

• Greenpeace parachuting protesters lands on soccer fans: Several spectators were treated for injuries caused by a Greenpeace protester who parachuted into the Munich stadium before France played Germany at the European Championship. The parachutist seemed to lose control and had a brush with the supporters before landing on the field. Greenpeace has apologized for putting people in harm's way.

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food / travel

Dining With Distance: Restaurant Innovation Adapts To COVID-19

For many, getting back to "normal life" means going out to eat. But people also want to be safe, which is why eateries — from Amsterdam to Australia — are experimenting with distancing innovations that might soon become the new normal in the field of gastronomy. So how will dining out look like in the post-pandemic world? Here are few glimpses:

• In Saxony-Anhalt, Robin Pietsch, the German state's only starred chef, is thinking about setting up small "greenhouses' in an open space at Wernigerode Castle, the German daily Die Welt reports. Each glass cubicle would accommodate two guests and protect them from other diners, and yet still allow them to appreciate the surrounding scenery.

• Pietsch says he was inspired by the "separated greenhouses' that a vegan restaurant in Amsterdam set up on the waterfront and tested earlier this month. The restaurant should reopen for the public in the beginning of June with other Dutch restaurants and terraces hosting up to 30 guests, reported NH Nieuws.

• Unlike its European neighbors, Sweden never enforced a lockdown, and bars, restaurants and cafés continue to serve seated customers, albeit with certain precautions in place. Many establishments decided, for example, to rope off every other table to make social distancing easier. But that's nothing compared to the approach taken by a new restaurant called Bord för En (Table for One), which opened two weeks ago serves just one customer per day, seated at a table in the middle of... a field! Not only that, but food is served in a basket attached to a rope. Offering seasonal and locally farmed food and drinks, the restaurant's owners also have a novel approach when it comes to the bill: It's up to the guests to decide how much they're willing to pay. "We're all facing difficult times," the restaurateurs​ told the Insider.

• The proprietor of a seafood pub in Ocean City, in the U.S. state of Maryland, have also found a creative way to keep business afloat while maintaining social distancing. Customers at Fish Tales, which is reopening its dine-in services, will once again be allowed to mix, mingle and much, but with one condition: They have to wear giant inflatable inner tubes on wheels. These "bumper tables' are six feet wide, and according to UJ City News, the owner intends to fit 40 to 60 of them inside her restaurant.

Photo: Fish Tales

• A café in northeast Germany came up with a similar idea, only instead of inner tubes, customers use swimming pool floats (water noodles) to maintain social distancing. The 1.5-meter-long noodles are attached to hats that customers at Rothe in Schwerin, as the café is known, don while dining, Euronews reports.

• In Spain and Italy, some restaurants plan to reopen with plexiglass screens separating tables or even individual diners. One restaurant in the town of Leganés has already installed the prototype screens to test the design, reports The Local. As part of a pilot test, it has also set up thermal cameras that detect the temperature of diners.

• In New South Wales, Australia, in the meantime, restaurants are back in operation, but with strict limits on the number of diners allowed. Eateries can serve no more than 10 people at a time. Concerned that some clients might find the relative emptiness a bit off putting, the owner of one Sydney restaurant came up with a crafty solution: Why not fill the empty chairs with cardboard cutouts? And because the faux customers can't, of course, talk, the proprietor also outfitted his establishment with recorded background noise that simulates the chatter of clients, 7 News reports.

•A restaurant in Bangkok, Thailand had a similar idea, but instead of cardboard customers, decided to go with stuffed panda dolls. Different strokes, as they say, for different folks.

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