The Latest: Delta Variant Hits Russia, Tigray Ceasefire, Facebook’s Trillion
Welcome to Tuesday, where Russia sees record deaths from the Delta variant, former South African President Jacob Zuma gets 15 months and Facebook becomes a $1 trillion company. Meanwhile, ahead of the Chinese Communist Party's 100th anniversary, The Initium takes us to the "red village" where it all began.
• Ethiopia declares unilateral Tigray ceasefire: After eight months of war between the government army and rebels in Ethiopia, a unilateral cease-fire was declared on Monday night after Mekelle the capital of the northern Tigray region was retaken by rebels. While celebrations in the streets of the capital have been reported, Tigrayan rebels have vowed to continue fighting in spite of the ceasefire.
• COVID update - spike in Russia, more vaccine good news: Moscow and Saint Petersburg have reported record numbers of COVID-related deaths, as Russia faces a third wave of coronavirus by the Delta variant. Meanwhile, a Nature study suggests that Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines could provide COVID protection for years. In Brazil, a scandal is breaking out over the irregular purchase by the state of overpriced vaccines.
• South Africa's top court sentences ex-President Jacob Zuma: The former South African president has been sentenced to 15 months in prison for contempt of court, related to corruption allegations. Zuma was charged with corruption and his presidential career ended in 2018, but he refused to show up in court for inquiries after an initial appearance.
• Italy region bans farm work during hot hours after death of migrant worker: The southern Italy region of Puglia has banned farm labor during the hottest hours of the day, from 12.30 to 4 pm, after the death of a migrant worker last Thursday. The deceased 27-year-old, a native of Mali, was picking tomatoes under the heat that reached 40 C and collapsed on his way home.
• Mexico decriminalizes cannabis: Mexico's Supreme Court has decriminalized the private recreational use of cannabis by adults, announcing the current prohibition unconstitutional. The bill does not mention the commercialisation of cannabis, while smoking in public and in front of children is still banned.
• UK Secret defense documents found at bus stop: An almost 50-page classified "secret defense" document containing details about a British warship and Russia's possible reaction towards its passage in the Black Sea has been found in Kent, in a "soggy heap behind a bus stop" by an anonymous citizen.
• Is there life on Venus? Nope: A UK study finds that the amount of water contained in the atmosphere of Venus is too low for the planet to sustain life. Jupiter, on the other hand ...
Greek daily I Kathimerini reports that two paintings by Pablo Picasso and Piet Mondrian have finally been recovered, nearly a decade after they were stolen during a heist at the Athens National Gallery.
As China's Communist party turns 100, "red tourism" booms
The city of Zunyi, in the mountainous province of Guizhou, is chock full of communist-themed museums and memorials, and is attracting especially large crowds this year with the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, reports Jinyan Yang in Hong Kong-based digital media The Initium.
In early January 1935, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), founded just 14 years earlier, led the Red Army across the Wu River, that runs near Zunyi, and won its first victory on the Long March, breaking through the Kuomintang (Nationalist Government) blockade and setting the stage for the crucial conference where Mao Zedong would be chosen as the party leader. The fateful battle for the CCP was immortalized as part of a memorial park which cost roughly $23 million, a huge investment for this remote, mountainous county.
For the communist regime, Zunyi is a significant "red city." Its core is filled with memorials and museums. There are endless crowds of visitors, most of them party members or employees from government agencies and state-owned enterprises from all over the country. These are official business trips that are allowed, despite the strict anti-corruption policy implemented by Xi Jinping, for the sake of team building. And this year, which marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, Zunyi is in a particularly lively mood.
To celebrate the anniversary, the CCP has planned an intensive and rich commemorative program. In Nanjing, officials are offering an extra benefit to residents eager to show their love for the party before its centennial: a free mass wedding (with hotel, makeup and wedding attire all included) for 100 couples in June, with priority given to China's more than 91 million party members. The official in charge said the project was inspired by another party slogan: "Always remember your original mission. Love follows."
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Facebook has surpassed $1 trillion in market value for the first time. This puts Mark Zuckerberg's social networking service in the same exclusive club as Apple, Alphabet (Google's parent company), Microsoft and Amazon. Facebook's share prices shot up after a court decision yesterday dismissing a government antitrust case against the tech giant linked to its purchases of Instagram and Whatsapp.