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LE SOIR
Le Soir ("The Evening") is one of the best selling French-language daily newspapers in Belgium. Founded in 1887 and is headquartered in Brussels, it is seen as liberal and progressive with politically federalist leanings.
Photo of a woman walking in Kyiv next to a disused Russian tank
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

World Front Pages As Ukraine Marks Independence Day & 6 Months Of War

Ukraine is marking a somber independence day that coincides with the six-month milestone of the Russian invasion. Here’s how newspapers around the world are covering the event.

Every year on August 24, Ukraine celebrates its 1991 independence from the Soviet Union. The anniversary of the peaceful transition is traditionally marked by military parades and other displays of patriotic pride across the country.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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But this year, celebrations will be subdued, as the event coincides with the grim milestone of six months since Russia launched its large-scale invasion of the country.

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The Fall Of Severodonetsk
In The News
Cameron Manley and Emma Albright

The Fall Of Severodonetsk

After weeks of raging battles, it appears Severodonetsk is set to fall under full control of Russian forces. The governor of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Haidai wrote on Telegram that Ukrainian forces will have to withdraw from the strategic city in southeastern Ukraine.

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The decision to retreat was made in order to save Ukrainian soldiers: “Nobody abandons our guys, nobody allows the encirclement (of our troops). The situation right now is as such that staying at these destroyed positions just for the sake of being there doesn't make sense,” Haidai said. At least 90% of the city's infrastructure has been destroyed.

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A man holds male contraception device Andro-Switch
Society
Daniel Murillo and Caroline Watillon

His Pill? We're Long Overdue For Male Contraceptive Alternatives

Male contraception, both pharmaceuticals and procedures, is gaining increasing interest. Yet to date, there is no male contraceptive drug authorized on the market.

If contraception has been a woman's business since the 1960s, it was in the 1990s that international bodies began to take an interest in the idea of sharing the burden of contraception. After the United Nations International Conference on Population and Development (Cairo, 1994) and the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995), calls emerged for sharing the responsibility for birth control with men.

By affirming gender equality in all spheres of life — societal, familial, sexual and reproductive — men are challenged to take personal and social responsibility for their sexual behavior and fertility.

A selection of reproductive health supplies for women

Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition

A possible improvement

Here in Belgium, despite having the best contraceptive coverage in Europe, there still is undoubtedly room for improvement. There are still 20,000 abortions per year, and 45% of them occur following contraceptive failure caused by improper use, or by the inefficiency of the contraceptive method.

It is regrettable that the contraceptive burden rests primarily on women, who are the ones suffering the consequences of contraceptive failure. Moreover, the choice of male contraception should always go hand in hand with the empowerment of men, which involves, among other things, the generalization of emotional and sexual education in schools and other settings, but also by strengthening access to female contraceptive methods.

However, male contraception today remains limited to inefficient techniques or methods such as the withdrawal method or condoms. The latter, which is often described as restrictive, nonetheless remains the only contraception that also protects against STDs and HIV-AIDS. Another option is a vasectomy, which is effective but difficult to reverse. Although many hormonal and non-hormonal contraceptive options for men have been explored and proven to be effective, there continues to be poor uptake in comparison to female contraceptive options.

Today in Belgium, the younger generations are questioning female hormonal contraceptive methods, with demands for "natural" methods increasing and those of vasectomies even more, as some men want to be able to manage their contraception.

Finally, the third and fourth generation pill crisis and the #MeToo movement have led to a demand for the rebalancing of the contraceptive load within heterosexual couples. Other voices such as renowned researchers have also been vocal in their call for access to reliable, reversible and affordable male contraceptive methods. It is undeniable that male contraception is gaining increasing interest. In addition, improving access to it would improve birth control and couples' reproductive health as well as allow men to control their fertility and reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies. Yet to date, there is no male contraceptive drug with marketing authorization.

A public health issue

For 30 years it has been said: The male contraceptive pill is for tomorrow! Despite countless Phase 2 studies that have proven the effectiveness of hormonal male contraception, and although a few doctors prescribe it in France, its development remains blocked. Uncomfortable routes of administration (injections, implants, etc.), institutional obstacles, gender stereotypes about virility and the reluctance of the pharmaceutical industry that claims it won't be profitable, prevent Phase 3 studies that would lead to commercialization.

Non-hormonal alternatives exist, including male thermal contraception which was developed in the 1990s by a French team. It is based on artificial cryptorchidism, in other words, the artificial raising of the testicles to the base of the groin. It is a simple, non-drug required, reversible and effective method, but like other forms of male contraception, it is sorely lacking in evaluation studies. Recently, this experimental technique has been adopted by groups of men concerned with controlling their fertility, but also eager to share the contraceptive burden with their partners.

Encouraging contraceptive diversity 

In Belgium, the internet, social networks, the media, and committed men and women have shed light on this technique, which has contributed to a regular increase in requests for information and use in young men between 20 and 35 years old. However, although protocols for the medical management of thermal contraception have been published and training exists in France, our health professionals are not educated in this method and the staff in this sector are not equipped to direct the public effectively.

Faced with this growing increase in demands, whose leitmotif is mainly that of sharing the contraceptive onus, we caregivers believe that these are legitimate and take responsibility in responding to them. The information available on the internet must be medically supervised (side effects, precautions for use, monitoring, etc.); to leave these couples and men to cope with what they find would be irresponsible.

In view of these observations and in agreement with first and second-line organizations in lifelong education and health promotion, we ask for active public policies in favor of male contraception and contraceptive diversity: political support and academic research and evaluation of methods, training of caregivers in contraceptive diversity, generalization of EVRAS and teaching of a comprehensive approach to sexual and reproductive health, accessibility of vasectomy in the first line of health care (family planning center, medical centers, etc.), promotion of new male contraceptive methods and the involvement of the pharmaceutical sector in their marketing.

Society evolves, and history has repeatedly shown that civil society can be the driver of significant change in the way we live our lives.

*Dr Daniel Murillo is the deputy head of gynecology at the CHU Saint-Pierre in Brussels and Caroline Watillon is a coordinator in the access to global health sector.

**This article was translated with permission from its authors.

Kabul Airport Explosion, Navalny Speaks, Exoplanet Excitement
In The News
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Meike Eijsberg and Bertrand Hauger

Kabul Airport Explosion, Navalny Speaks, Exoplanet Excitement

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.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com




71.1%

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

Not All Frites and Beer: Does Eating Belgian Make Sense?
food / travel
Vincent Delhomme and Benjamin Jan*

Not All Frites and Beer: Does Eating Belgian Make Sense?

When it comes to food, the fears linked to globalization must be put into perspective. They must also be weighed against the negative effects that Belgian protectionism could have on our economy.

BELGIUM — "Eating local" has become a global trend. Both the political world and the private sector are riding the "ethical consumption" wave and trying to take advantage of it by catering to the patriotic feelings of the "consumer voter." Whether it's a regional food relocation plan or the "BELhaize" campaign, through which the famous chain stop promotes "local products," the aim is to encourage people to buy "Belgian." However, this is neither in the interest of Belgium, nor the planet's.

Distrust in food imports was already palpable before the pandemic, as was the reaction caused by the free trade agreement between the EU and Canada. But these sentiments have been amplified by the health-crisis related supply problems for strategic products. While it's essential to be resilient with regard to products (e.g. semi-conductors or active pharmaceutical ingredients), Belgium would not benefit from a protectionist retreat with regard to food. It's not often pointed out that Belgium is one of the EU member states that benefits the most from the free movement of goods within the single market. Erecting economic barriers to food by favorably discriminating between Belgian products and those produced elsewhere — especially European products — is potentially dangerous. Such protectionist barriers against Belgian products, if extended to all goods, could result in the loss of up to 15% of Belgian GDP.

A man shops the bio (organic) section at a Carrefour in Brussels — Photo: Isopix/ZUMA

The Belgian food industry boasts exports worth 27 billion euros and contributes to a positive trade balance of several billion. Our biggest trading partners, both for imports and exports, are the EU member states and in particular our neighbors: Germany, France and the Netherlands account for 55% of our exports. The question arises as to whether, in a small country like Belgium, it is reasonable to encourage a consumer in Liège to prefer a vegetable produced in Visé instead of Maastricht. What would happen to our economy and our jobs if we pushed other European citizens to turn away from Belgian products? Promoting the know-how of our Belgian producers should involve the creation of a favorable economic environment that allows them to keep or gain market shares, in Belgium or elsewhere.

What would happen to our economy and our jobs if we pushed other European citizens to turn away from Belgian products?

First of all, it is strange to present the purchase of Belgian products as particularly "local" even though 56% of the country's population lives less than 25km from a national border, 65% when it comes to the Walloons. Thus for the inhabitants of Bastogne, eating products from Flanders is less local than eating French, Dutch, Luxembourgish or German goods.

It's appropriate, then, to question the widespread idea that eating locally is better for the planet. The assertion must, at best, be strongly nuanced; at worst, it's completely false. To understand why, we must first demystify the impact of transportation on the environmental cost of our plates. It is minimal: less than 10%. In reality, most of the greenhouse gas emissions come from the production of our food itself. Animal proteins have the greatest environmental impact. The "geographical" characteristics of the countries where our food is produced are also parameters that must be seriously taken into account.

Mussel farmer Peter Cooleman with his Belgian North Sea mussels. — Photo: Kurt Desplenter/Belga/ZUMA

Due to a favorable climate, produce such as strawberries or tomatoes from Spain, for example, have a much lower carbon footprint than those grown in greenhouses in northern Europe. Thus, for consumers concerned about their environmental footprint, it is much more useful to refuse their consumption of meat, even if it is Belgian, than to stop buying Italian tomatoes. Since the environmental impact of the origin of most products is insignificant compared to the impact of meat, eggs and dairy products, discriminating products according to their "nationality" is useless.

Fears of globalization must be put into perspective when it comes to food and weighed against the negative effects of protectionism on the Belgian economy. The economic opportunities that the single market offers to our small country are immense. As for the fight against climate change, it should not be used as an instrument to feed inward-looking attitudes and to support protectionist measures. On the contrary, we could seize the opportunity, on a European scale, to be part of the single market that has different climates in order, for example, to produce where the environment allows optimal production from an ecological point of view.

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In Monaco, Four-Year-Old Runs Over Man With Dad's Bentley
WHAT THE WORLD
Bertrand Hauger

In Monaco, Four-Year-Old Runs Over Man With Dad's Bentley

The idea that the streets of Monaco are lined with luxury vehicles isn't an overstatement. The recently crowned "supercar capital of the world" also comes with risks, as stretch limousines and sports cars must navigate the tiny city-state's meandering streets and narrow squares.

Yet last Friday, when a Bentley crashed into a Belgian man outside the Place du Casino, the driver at fault turned out to be quite a wildcard: a four-year-old boy.

Police report that the child slid into the driver's seat when his father, an Armenian visiting from Prague, stepped out of the vehicle to give the car keys to the hotel valet. The boy then managed to hit the gas pedal, making the big British car lurch forward a dozen meters, where it ran over the unfortunate pedestrian.

The 53-year-old victim had to undergo emergency surgery in nearby Nice after being trapped under the wheels of the 2-ton Bentley, but is now out of danger, reports local dailyNice-Matin.

Belgian daily Le Soir writes that the ongoing investigation by the Monaco police will determine how the boy was able to drive forward if the father had brought the keys to the valet. First-world problems, Monaco-style.

A COVAX sign indicating a vaccine facility
Coronavirus
*Charline Burton and Allassane Drabo

Vaccinating The World Requires More Than Just Doses

It's imperative that people everywhere also have access to COVID-19 vaccines. But shipping and sharing the vaccine doses is only half the battle.

-OpEd-

BRUSSELS / CONARKY — Chances are that your social media feed already features plenty of freshly #vaxxed friends and family proudly showing off Band-Aids on their biceps or signed certificates indicating that they're now protected against COVID-19.

Throughout Europe, the vaccination campaign has indeed begun to take off. And yet, the sad reality is that in the rest of the world, one in four people will likely have to wait until at least 2023 for access to a vaccine.

Because of this disparity, many are demanding solutions: Either vaccine patents must be lifted or more contributions made to the COVAX program, the international vaccine-access campaign being co-led by the World Health Organization.

Should we be fighting for greater vaccination equity? Absolutely. It goes without saying that everyone should have access to vaccines. But we also need to make sure people are willing to get vaccinated. For that to happen, there's a crucially important factor that has unfortunately been neglected in fragile and conflict-affected countries: how much — or how little — citizens tend to trust their governments.

Our organization, Search for Common Ground, is dedicated to peacebuilding in conflict-affected countries, and we have conducted several surveys on the links between coronavirus and conflict in places where we work. We have found that only 36% of respondents responded "satisfied" when asked about their government's handling of the pandemic. Even more telling is that 50% rated their government as employing a "discriminatory approach" (i.e. failing to consider the needs of various segments of the population equally) in their coronavirus response.

For persecuted minorities or those living under authoritarianism and corruption, distrust in government is to be expected. But during a global pandemic, when trust in the state, particularly in its vaccination plan, is absolutely essential, this can be deadly.

This distrust is already unfolding with troubling ramifications. While the media celebrates the delivery of vaccines to certain parts of the Global South, the coverage of this trust factor is lacking. A case in point is the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has just returned 75% of its COVAX vaccines — the equivalent of 1.3 million unused doses.

Meanwhile, health authorities in Ivory Coast worry that 500,000 doses of vaccine will expire because there are not enough people on the vaccination lists. What links these two countries? A history of conflict and low trust in the government.

Getting vaccinated in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo — Photo: UNICEF in RDC.

Skeptics might argue that fear of the vaccine is widespread, that wild rumors are spreading even in Europe. While this is a valid observation, it is a false comparison. When distrust in government has been built from years of war, persecution and discrimination, citizens are left feeling that at best their government does not care for them, at worst it wants them dead. Such a level of distrust will surely influence national vaccination plans.

In order to end the pandemic and ensure that citizens in post-conflict societies benefit from the vaccine, we must focus, therefore, on building trust.

Our teams of mediators and analysts work in some of the most challenging areas of the world. We know that there are two key variables for ensuring trust in a vaccination campaign. The first is how the information is communicated and the second is who is communicating that information.

This is why it is essential to carefully consider who will be the face of the vaccination campaign, and how this must be adapted to different communities. Everything must be thought out, down to the radio stations chosen to broadcast messages, the locations of vaccination centers and the ethnicity or religion of the nurses who will administer vaccines. Every detail is crucial for ensuring that various communities feel respected, safe and understood. These are issues that should be central to the planning process, not an afterthought.

While the COVID-19 pandemic remains first and foremost a public health challenge, it goes without saying that there will be no sustainable global progress without seriously considering these complex social dynamics. Yes, vaccine distribution is essential. But let's face it: Investments in the COVAX program will only yield real results if we put the issue of trust at the center of immunization efforts. People in post-conflict countries deserve to see the light at the end of the tunnel too.

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