WORLDCRUNCH
Premium stories from Worldcrunch's own network of multi-lingual journalists in over 30 countries.
Green
Carl Karlsson

Can Oil-Producing Nations Move To Renewables? Grading 7 Petrol States

The possibility of transitioning to a greener energy future varies among economies that are fossil fuel-dependent , which represent nearly one-third of the world's population and one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions. For some, the question is purely financial; for others, political factors are slowing the shift.

In Norway, a left-wing landslide election win last week is calling into question the future of the country's oil production. Two weeks earlier, Iraq's finance minister made an unprecedented call to fellow OPEC countries to move away from fossil-fuel dependency.

The two recent headlines are emblematic of the challenges facing major oil-producing nations around the world. Last year's crash in oil prices coincided with unprecedented public demands for a commitment to a cleaner energy future, while the pandemic exposed the fragility of economies heavily dependent on a single commodity.

And yet, the ability to adapt to a greener energy future varies drastically among fossil fuel-dependent countries, which represent nearly one-third of the world's population and one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions. For some, the question is purely financial; for others, political factors are slowing the shift.

"We are basically undoing over a century of interdependence between these nations and the global economy," says Deborah Gordon, leader of oil and gas solutions at global energy and climate think tank RMI. "Unwinding this tightly integrated, global market needs to be surgical."

The position an individual oil-producing country faces is somewhere between weaning a child off of her mother's milk or checking your speed as you race into a brick wall. "[It] represents an existential threat for many of these countries," according to Thijs Van de Graaf, professor of International Politics at Ghent University in Belgium. "Some of the poorest oil-dependent countries are in complete turmoil. Look at Libya, Venezuela, Nigeria or Iraq. This pattern may spread to other petrostates."

Here's a quick tour of some the world's top oil producers, and an on-the-fly grade to gauge how each is facing the energy transition:

NORWAY: An Oil-Driven Election May (Or May Not) Break The Cycle

Jonas Gahr Støre | Arbeiderpartiet — Photo: Flickr

Norway's Labour Party won a landslide victory over the Conservatives last Tuesday in an election heavily focused on the climate crisis and the future of the country's oil industry. The United Nations' ominous August 9 climate report prompted both the country's Red Party, The Greens and The Socialist Left Party to call for an end to gas and oil exploration, while environmental organizations made the same demand in a joint statement, reports Oslo-based daily Dagsavisen.

However, the anti-oil Greens — the only party to have delivered an ultimatum of no-cooperation to the government should exploration continue — failed to win enough seats to become a potential kingmaker. Labour leader Jonas Gahr Støre, generally seen as a pro-oil figure, campaigned on the promise of a more fair and equitable Norway following eight years of conservative free-market rule, and has dismissed the idea to put curbs on oil production.

While climate policy is likely to be tightened, the focus of the new government will be job growth and continued resource diversification. The oil sector accounts for 14% of GDP today, but Norway is also offering generous subsidies for electric cars and investing heavily into clean energy sources. In April, the country's 1.2 trillion euro sovereign wealth fund – the largest in the world – made its first investment in renewable energy infrastructure when acquiring a 50% stake in the Borssele offshore wind farm in the Netherlands for 1.375 billion euro.

➡️ Grade: B

​SAUDI ARABIA: Big Plans From MBS Go Only So Far

Oil refinery in Saudi Arabia — Photo: pixabay

Earlier this year, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the launch of the Green Saudi and Green Middle East initiatives that will apply a number of ambitious programs to reduce the region's carbon emissions by 60%, and plant 50 billion trees in the world's biggest afforestation project to date.

Arab News cites the crown prince: "As a leading global oil producer, we are fully aware of our responsibility in advancing the fight against the climate crisis, and that just as we played a leading role in stabilizing energy markets during the oil and gas era, we will work to lead the coming green era."

Still, the sincerity of Saudi Arabia's climate commitment was called into question last month as the country sought to whitewash the language in the UN's landmark climate-change report — attempting to replace references to "carbon emissions" with "greenhouse gas emissions."

➡️ Grade: C+

IRAQ: Groundbreaking Words From An OPEC Founder

U.S. soldiers securing an oil pipeline in Iraq in 2006 — Photo: af.mil

In a Sep. 1 article published in London-based The Guardian daily, Iraqi Finance Minister Ali Allawi co-wrote an unprecedented call to fellow oil producers to move away from fossil fuel dependency and into renewable energy. Allawi, who is also one of the founding members of the global oil cartel OPEC, said ahead of a key OPEC meeting that the climate crisis will require a move away from oil, and the impact of global warming will have particularly devastating effects on the Middle East and North Africa.

However, Iraq — which has 145 billion barrels of proven crude reserves — still reels from decades of conflict and political instability, and remains heavily dependent on oil exports. The government's plan is to almost double the current oil output by 2027, while also diversifying its portfolio. Still, it is notable that in 2021 Iraq has announced several agreements with international oil and gas players for the development of renewable projects.

➡️ Grade: B-

​UNITED STATES: Biden's Campaign Vows And Infrastructure Reality

Photo: pixabay.com

While U.S. President Joe Biden made bold promises on the campaign trail to ban oil and gas permits on federally owned land, his administration announced the opening in August of millions of acres for oil and gas exploration following a federal court order requiring the government to resume lease auctions.

The forced end of Biden's federal leasing moratorium is a setback for his Administration's apparent good-faith plans to fight climate change: some 80 million acres of water in the Gulf of Mexico may be tapped for exploration along with potentially hundreds of thousands more onshore. Earthjustice, a non-profit public interest organization, has filed a lawsuit on behalf of four environmental groups in Washington D.C. federal court challenging the move.

Only weeks prior, Biden was criticized by climate activists when calling on OPEC and its oil-producing allies to boost production in an effort to combat climbing gasoline prices. The unexpected request came just one day after the U.S. Senate approved a massive $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill loaded up with incentives, mandates and subsidies to stimulate the buildout of electric vehicles and renewable energy projects.

➡️ Grade: B

​NIGERIA: Africa's Biggest Petrol Producer Lags Behind

Gates of an oil refinery in Port Harcourt, Nigeria — Photo: Wikimedia Commons

For Africa's top petroleum producer, even before talking about the current urgency to prepare for the energy transition, the country has wrestled for decades with what Michael L. Ross dubbed: "The Oil Curse;" Like other oil-producing countries, the aggregated wealth Nigeria has created has been accompanied by the stunting of both political and economic progress by being so dependent on oil revenues.

As Caleb Adebayo noted last month in the Vanguard newspaper, Nigeria is trailing other petrol states in diversifying, only now focused on natural gas, and still unable to provide reliable energy to vast parts of its own territories. In the move towards renewables, especially in light of the vast potential for solar in the sub-Saharan nation:

"We must not make that mistake with the next stage of the transition to renewable energy. Indeed, there has been some increased commitment from government over the last few months in renewables, but the unenergized population still looms large. We cannot wait for gas to saturate the market before we heavily invest in and strengthen the framework for renewables. We need to boost gas and renewable energy all at once, side by side; encourage hybrids and make the painful separation from oil with an aim to boost clean energy access for all- rural, semi-urban, urban."

➡️ Grade: C-

CHINA: Import-Reliant Producer Bets On Energy Transition

A coal-fired power station in China — Photo: Pixabay

On Sep. 24, for the first time in its history, China will sell some of the oil it keeps in its strategic reserves in a bid to decrease ballooning prices. The move signals just how dire a situation rising prices is for the country: China is still heavily reliant on oil — and most than that: foreign oil. The world's largest oil importer and second-largest consumer after the U.S.: as of 2020, fossil fuels accounted for more than 84% of China's energy mix.

In fact, China has embarked on a mission to make renewables the backbone of its economy and break its addiction to foreign oil. In March 2021, according to China Dialogue, the country's ruling Communist Party vowed to "build a power system with new energy at the center", with sources like hydropower, renewables and nuclear making up more than half of its energy matrix. It pledged to decarbonize its economy, committing to reach peak carbon emissions in 2030 and carbon neutrality in 2060.

The problem is just how much work remains to be done. China has spent decades investing in oil and coal infrastructure (coal alone, a heavily polluting source already left behind by some Western countries, still accounts for about half of China's power generation capacity), and some estimate that the country now needs to invest some $21.3 trillion to reach net zero in 2060. Fossil fuels will certainly lose their leading role to cleaner forms of energy, but the transition is poised to be costly.

➡️ Grade: B+

VENEZUELA: Failed State And Missed Opportunities

Oil extracting in Venezuela — Photo: Flickr

Another blatant example of the Oil Curse. After years of mismanagement and the more recent U.S. sanctions, Venezuela's oil sector is in collapse. While the South American country has one of the world's largest oil reserves and — until the last two years — was a main supplier to North American. refineries, the disputed president Nicolas Maduro's attempts at creating economic growth have failed.

With oil accounting for some 99% of the value of Venezuela's exports, opposition leaders have identified the oil industry as the country's best chance for funding the massive infrastructure projects needed to repair the economy — should they manage to remove Maduro from power. But this strategy would also coincide with the global attempts at burning less fossil fuel. Earlier this year, Norway's Equinor and France's TotalEnergies agreed to sell their stakes in Venezuela's Petrocedeno project, citing carbon intensity as the principal reason for the move.

Some hope was rekindled in early September, as representatives of President Nicolas Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido met in Mexico City to search for a path out of the country's political crisis. The meeting, mediated by Norway, resulted in the signing of two "partial agreements" on matters of social protection as well as Venezuela's stance on a disputed border area controlled by Guyana. Talks will resume September 24, with the key issues of elections and sanctions still to be resolved, reports Voz de América. Cutting oil production is notably not on the agenda.

➡️ Grade: D-

Society
Bertrand Hauger

Russia University Attack: School Shootings Spread Beyond The U.S.

After a gunman kills at least six and wounds dozens at Perm State University in Russia, we take a look around the world at other countries that have faced similar shooting sprees on school grounds outside of the United States.

We think of school shootings as a uniquely American malady. Statistics seem to overwhelmingly support this view: a 2018 CNN report estimated that the U.S. had 57 times as many school shootings as the other G7 nations combined, with an average of one attack a week. And though the past two years have seen a drop in massacres on school grounds, as the pandemic forced the education world to move online, a recent Washington Post article notes that as classrooms reopen, gun violence is again soaring at the nation's primary and secondary schools. According to the Everytown for Gun Safety nonprofit, there were at least 43 incidents of gunfire on school grounds, resulting in 12 deaths and 19 injuries nationally since the beginning of the year.

Still, the rest of the world is not immune to the phenomenon, as we are reminded by the developing story in Russia (where a gunman, said to be a former student, opened fire at a university in the city of Perm, killing at least eight people). Is this global spread of these senseless shootings associated with the influence of American culture, media coverage and social media, inspiring copycats to commit similar crimes? Are school shootings linkable to places with lax gun-control laws? While research on this phenomenon continues, we take a look at places around the world that have grappled with comparable tragedies in recent years.

RUSSIA

Memorial in honor of the victims of the May 11, 2021 Kazan school shooting — Photo: Yegor Aleyev/TASS/ZUMA

Where: Gymnasia No. 175 in Kazan, east of Moscow

When: May 11, 2021

Casualties: 9

Earlier this year, Russia already mourned the killing of seven children and two adults, when Ilnaz Galyaviev, a 19-year-old former student, opened fire and detonated an explosive device at a school in Kazan before being apprehended by police forces. According to Russian daily Kommersant, the shooter was motivated by a desire to demonstrate his "superiority," having posted on the Telegram platform on the morning of the attack: "Today I will kill a huge amount of biowaste." On May 12, he pleaded guilty to multiple murder. Although this type of attack is relatively rare in Russia, owing to strict gun ownership regulations, the shooting prompted President Vladimir Putin to order a revision of the country's gun control laws.

BRAZIL

Entrance to the Professor Raul Brasil State School in Suzano — Photo: Julien Pereira/Fotoarena/ZUMA

Where: Professor Raul Brasil State School in Suzano, near São Paulo

When: March 13, 2019

Casualties: 10, including the two perpetrators

Using a short-frame revolver, a composite bow, crossbow, hatchet and molotov cocktail, 17-year-old Guilherme Taucci Monteiro and 25-year-old Luiz Henrique de Castro, both former students at the Suzano school, killed five students and two school employees before committing suicide. As reported by O Globo daily, prior to the attack, the duo had also killed Monteiro's uncle. According to Reuters, the pair had been inspired by the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in the U.S. state of Colorado, in which Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold murdered 12 fellow students and one teacher.

CANADA

Flowers in front of the La Loche community school on Feb. 2, 2016 — Photo: Kayoty

Where: La Loche Community School in Canada's Sakatchewan province

When: January 22, 2016

Casualties: 4

Canada has a lot of guns — an estimated 35 per 100 residents, according to Bloomberg numbers, but the U.S.'s northern neighbor also has a lot of rules and regulations in place, including a strict gun-license process. Still, the country is no stranger to shootings on school grounds, the deadliest of which happened at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal in 1989 when a man who failed to qualify for entry at the university opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle, targeting female students. All 14 of the victims killed were women. More recently, western Canada was left in shock after a 17-year-old identified as Randan Dakota Fontaine, went on a shooting spree in La Loche — killing two people at their home, before targeting the La Loche Community School where he killed a teacher and an educational assistant. He was later apprehended and placed in custody. According to the Toronto Star, Fontaine had been bullied at school for his appearance. The Saskatoon Star Phoenix also reported on the following exchange on social media before the shooter entered the school grounds: "Just killed 2 ppl. Bout to shoot up the school."

CHINA

Still from CCTV footage of the Chenpeng Village Primary School attack — Source: CNN

Where: Chenpeng Village Primary School

When: December 14, 2012

Casualties: 24 injured

Gun control laws in China rank among the strictest in the world, making firearms extremely hard to come by — which leads perpetrators to turn to other weapons. In the past two decades, the country has been struggling to stem a spate of mass stabbings and knife attacks targeting schools.

In 2012, 36-year-old Min Yongjun stabbed 24 people with a kitchen knife, including 23 children and an elderly woman, at the Chenpeng Village Primary School in the Henan Province, according to the South China Morning Post.

The Chenpeng school attack was followed, only hours later, by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in the U.S., drawing comparisons between the two — particularly when it comes to the disparity in casualties in light of the two countries' respective stance on gun control: All victims in the Chenpeng attack survived, while the deadliest mass shooting at an elementary school in U.S. history left 28 dead.

As the New York Times noted, analysts have blamed the epidemic of stabbings in China on mental health problems caused by a rapidly changing society, in a country where the stigma surrounding mental illnesses is still strong, and mental health care is harder to access in small villages. In June, British medical journal BMC Psychiatry estimated that 91% of China's 173 million Chinese adults suffering from mental problems never received professional help.

In The News
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

Submarine Backlash, Toughest Vaccine Mandate, Prince Philip’s Secret Will

👋 Сайн уу*

Welcome to Friday, where the new U.S.-UK-Australia security pact is under fire, Italy becomes the first country to make COVID-19 "green pass" mandatory for all workers, and Prince Philip's will is to be kept secret for 90 years. From Russia, we also look at the government censorship faced by brands that recently tried to promote multiculturalism and inclusiveness in their ads.

[*Sain uu - Mongolian]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• U.S. facing multiple waves of migrants, refugees: The temporary camp, located between Mexico's Ciudad Acuña and Del Rio in Texas, is housing some 10,000 people, largely from Haiti. With few resources, they are forced to wait in squalid conditions and scorching temperatures amidst a surge of migrants attempting to cross into the U.S. Meanwhile, thousands of recently evacuated Afghan refugees wait in limbo at U.S. military bases, both domestic and abroad.

• COVID update: Italy is now the first European country to require vaccination for all public and private sector workers from Oct. 15. The Netherlands will also implement a "corona pass" in the following weeks for restaurants, bars and cultural spaces. When he gives an opening speech at the United Nations General Assembly next week, unvaccinated Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro will defy New York City authorities, who are requiring jabs for all leaders and diplomats.

• U.S. and UK face global backlash over Australian deal: The U.S. is attempting to diffuse the backlash over the new security pact signed with Australia and the UK, which excludes the European Union. The move has angered France, prompting diplomats to cancel a gala to celebrate ties between the country and the U.S.

• Russian elections: Half of the 450 seats in Duma are will be determined in today's parliamentary race. Despite persistent protests led by imprisoned opposition leader Alexey Navalny, many international monitors and Western governments fear rigged voting will result in President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party maintaining its large majority.

• Somali president halts prime minister's authority: The decision by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed marks the latest escalation in tensions with Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble concerning a murder investigation. The move comes as the Horn of Africa country has fallen into a political crisis driven by militant violence and clashes between clans.

• Astronauts return to Earth after China's longest space mission: Three astronauts spent 90 days at the Tianhe module and arrived safely in the Gobi desert in Inner Mongolia. The Shenzhou-12 mission is the first of crewed missions China has planned for 2021-2022 as it completes its first permanent space station.

• Prince Philip's will to be kept secret for 90 years: A British court has ruled that the will of Prince Philip, the late husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth who passed away in April at 99 years old, will remain private for at least 90 years to preserve the monarch's "dignity and standing."

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

With a memorable front-page photo, Argentine daily La Voz reports on the open fight between the country's president Alberto Fernández and vice-president Cristina Kirchner which is paralyzing the government. Kirchner published a letter criticizing the president's administration after several ministers resigned and the government suffered a major defeat in last week's midterm primary election.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

€150

An Italian investigation uncovered a series of offers on encrypted "dark web" websites offering to sell fake EU COVID vaccine travel documents. Italy's financial police say its units have seized control of 10 channels on the messaging service Telegram linked to anonymous accounts that were offering the vaccine certificates for up to €150. "Through the internet and through these channels, you can sell things everywhere in the world," finance police officer Gianluca Berruti told Euronews.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

In Russia, brands advertising diversity are under attack

Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple, reports Moscow-based daily Kommersant.

❌ "On behalf of the entire company, we want to apologize for offending the public with our photos..." reads a recent statement by Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi after publishing an advertisement that included a photograph of a Black man. Shortly after, the company's co-founder, Konstantin Zimen, said people on social media were accusing Yobidoyobi of promoting multiculturalism. Another recent case involved grocery store chain VkusVill, which released advertising material featuring a lesbian couple. The company soon began to receive threats and quickly apologized and removed the text and apologized.

🏳️🌈 For the real life family featured in the ad, they have taken refuge in Spain, after their emails and cell phone numbers were leaked. "We were happy to express ourselves as a family because LGBTQ people are often alone and abandoned by their families in Russia," Mila, one of the daughters in the ad, explained in a recent interview with El Pais.

🇷🇺 It is already common in Russia to talk about "spiritual bonds," a common designation for the spiritual foundations that unite modern Russian society, harkening back to the Old Empire as the last Orthodox frontier. The expression has been mocked as an internet meme and is widely used in public rhetoric. For opponents, this meme is a reason for irony and ridicule. Patriots take spiritual bonds very seriously: The government has decided to focus on strengthening these links and the mission has become more important than protecting basic human rights.Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple, reports Moscow-based daily Kommersant.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"Ask the rich countries: Where are Africa's vaccines?"

— During an online conference, Dr. Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakija, of the African Vaccine Delivery Alliance, implored the international community to do more to inoculate people against COVID-19 in Africa and other developing regions. The World Health Organization estimates that only 3.6% of people living in Africa have been fully vaccinated. The continent is home to 17% of the world population, but only 2% of the nearly six billion shots administered so far have been given in Africa, according to the W.H.O.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

WORLDCRUNCH
Alidad Vassigh

Columbus Statue In Mexico City Is Coming Back — Quietly

Target of vandalism and anti-colonial protests, the Christopher Columbus statue in the emblematic Plaza Colón (Columbus Place) lost its place to an indigenous woman statue. But now officials have voted to put it back up in a quiet and chic district called Polanco.

MEXICO CITY — Christopher Columbus, the 15th century "discoverer" of the Americas, has recently been having a bad run in the Western Hemisphere, among the European conquerors getting a bitter anti-colonial reassessment of their supposed heroic role in history. In Mexico City, authorities recently decided not to restore the prominent Columbus statue to the spot it had occupied since the 19th century, after it was taken down for repairs in October 2020.

Now, Mexico's Council of Monuments, a state body, decided unanimously to move Columbus from the emblematic Plaza Colón (Columbus Place) along the city's most prestigious avenue, to a quieter, residential district called Polanco, the Heraldo de México daily reported.

The statue, which was made in Paris and had become the target of sometimes political graffiti and vandalism in the 1990s, became a touchstone as part of the worldwide Black Lives Matter last year. Now officials have sought to keep Columbus in a public space, but take away much of his spotlight: the spot in Parque América was chosen over 20 other possibilities, in part as this area has the capital's lowest vandalism figure — at least so far. Polanco is a wealthy residential zone that includes embassies, and it may be no coincidence here that it has a greater proportion of residents of Spanish or European origins.

For the Plaza Colón, the city wants instead a monument to commemorate native Mexican women, though that has proved as divisive as Columbus's removal. A sculpture initially chosen, named Tlali, is being shelved, as critics said it was the work of a white, male artist with a Spanish name, Pedro Reyes, and chosen without consultations. Reyes recently insisted the principal challenge in this project was in fact aesthetic, not political. That may be the hardest case of all to make.

In The News
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger

Worldcrunch Today: Checking China, Blow To ISIS In Africa, Prison Romance Ban

👋 ¡Buenos días!*

Welcome to Thursday, where the U.S., UK and Australia form a new pact to check China, a top ISIS leader in Africa is killed and a heroic Dutch goat doesn't chicken out. Meanwhile, French business daily Les Echos shows us how the future of NFTs is also in the (trading) cards.

[*Spanish]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• UK, U.S. and Australia form security pact to counter China: The Aukus pact will allow Australia to build nuclear-powered submarines for the first time using American technology. The defense partnership, which also covers AI and other cyber capabilities, is being viewed by China as aligning with a "Cold War mentality." But the pact is also in response to the Asian superpower's rapid armament and rising tensions in disputed areas like the South China Sea.

• Islamic State leader killed in Sahara: Adnan Abou Walid al Sahraoui, the leader of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISIS-GS), was killed by French forces. French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted, "This is another major success in our fight against terrorist groups in the Sahel."

• COVID update: New Moderna vaccine trial suggests its protection declines over time, leading the U.S. pharmaceutical company to advocate booster doses. In France, 3,000 health workers are suspended without pay for failing to get vaccinated.

• Indonesian president charged with neglecting air pollution: A district court ruled that President Joko Widodo and other top officials have failed to improve conditions in Jakarta, which has been ranked the city with the worst air-pollution. Monitoring stations will be implemented to measure emissions by coal-fired power plants and traffic.

• Denmark to ban romantic relationships for prisoners serving life sentences: The Danish government introduced the bill after it was revealed a 17-year-old entered a relationship with Peter Madsen, an entrepreneur who killed journalist Kim Wall in 2017. The goal is to discourage criminal "groupies" by limiting prisoners' contact to those who already knew them for the first 10 years of incarceration.

• Inspiration4 successfully launched: Four amateur astronauts are currently trying to become the first orbital spaceflight with only private citizens aboard. Netflix live streamed the launch, which is also a fundraiser for a children's research hospital; items brought on board (from a ukulele to original artwork to mission jackets) will be auctioned for charity.

• I goat your back: CCTV footage from a farm in Gelderland, in the Netherlands, captures the moment a goat rescues a chicken from a hawk attack.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Slovak daily Dennik reports on Pope Francis wrapping up his four-day trip in Hungary and Slovakia, where he urged the predominantly Catholic countries to be more open, and warned against exploiting religion for politics.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Pokémon, Magic as NFTs: How tech fuels trading cards market

The heroic fantasy universes of the 1990s have become a new focus of investment. One card in the mega-popular Magic series recently sold for more than $500,000, and with the introduction of blockchain technology, the market looks to expand even more, reports Paul Molga in French daily Les Echos.

🃏 Playing cards illustrated by the greatest science fiction and "heroic fantasy" artists of the moment, the blockchain to make them unique digital works, and a series of novels to accompany the story… Welcome to the fairytale universe of Cross the Ages. Conceived by the young Marseille-based startupper Sami Chlagou, who is already behind a video game distribution and production company, this project aims to turn a generation's passion for trading cards and role-playing games into a business as disruptive and speculative as the cryptocurrency market.

📈 The eBay platform, where much of the trading card business is done, has seen a 142% growth in transactions in 2020 with 4 million more cards sold. Pokémon topped the list with a record 574% increase in trading in one year, followed by basketball and baseball sports cards. Magic: The Gathering is in fourth place. "New collectors are entering the card space as another investment avenue to diversify their investment portfolio. We expect this trajectory to follow suit in 2021," says Nicole Colombo, general manager of collectibles and trading cards at eBay.

🔗 With the blockchain, this industry could take on another new speculative momentum. The technology now makes it possible to attribute an unfalsifiable serial number, called a non-fungible token (NFT), to a digital object. Even virtually, a work can thus be authenticated as unique, like a certificate guaranteeing the signature of a great master, with the value exploding. French startup Sorare is one of the first to enter this segment by allowing soccer fans to buy and sell NFT digital cards of their favorite players, and compete in a global championship.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

$40 billion

The United States, Australia and the UK announced they were forming a security pact in the Indo-Pacific to help Australia acquire U.S. nuclear-powered submarines, scrapping the country's $40 billion deal with France. The angry French government accused the U.S. of stabbing it in the back and said it was "a break in trust."

💥  IN OTHER NEWS

France's killing of top ISIS leader in Africa shows shift in war on terror

The hastened withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan has effectively handed the country back to the Islamic regime of the Taliban. But elsewhere, the West's two-decades war on Islamic terrorism carries on.

One key place to watch is Africa's troubled northwestern Sahel region, where France announced overnight that it had killed the region's top ISIS leader, Adnan Abou Walid al-Sahraoui. He is just the latest in a series of high-ranking officials who have been taken out or captured by French forces in recent months, reports Jeune Afrique magazine.

France had announced in June that it was ending its longstanding Operation Barkhane, which has been criticized for not curbing extremists groups despite the significant military investment.

The French military is shifting to a smaller, more agile presence focused on anti-terrorism operations like those carried out in the months since.

Still, as Le Monde reports, the choices across the world's military map are interconnected. Macron doesn't want the end of Operation Barkhane to be considered a withdrawal from the region, and compared to Washington's pullout from Afghanistan. "We need to keep a robust operation in the region," one presidential advisor said.

Indeed, international coordination is also happening between the extremists. As Yvan Guichaoua, a researcher at the School of International Studies at the University of Kent in Brussels, told Le Monde earlier this month: "They [Taliban and Sahelian fighters] share on-the-ground insurgency know-how, which is a byproduct of the al-Qaeda matrix. They also have the same ultimate goal: the application of Sharia law."

Al-Sahraoui represented these intersecting interests. He was a former member of the Polisario Front — the liberation movement of the Sahrawi people laying claim to sovereignty of the Western Sahara — and later part of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. He created ISIS-GS in 2015 and was labeled a "priority enemy" by France for being in charge of the majority of attacks in the "three borders" region, which covers Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

This impoverished area is regularly subjected to attacks by ISIS-GS as well as the Group for Support of Islam and Muslims, which is affiliated with al-Qaeda. These violent actions have targeted both civilians and military forces, including the October 2017 Tongo Tongo ambush, in which five Nigerian and four American soldiers were killed while returning to base. In 2020, al-Sahraoui personally ordered the assignation of six French aid workers and their Nigerien guide and driver.

Since 2013, France has combated anti-insurgent movements in the region through Operation Serval and its successor Operation Barkhane (named after the crescent-shaped dune in the Sahara desert). Operation Barkhane has faced criticism both in the Sahel and in France, particularly as a form of so-called "Françafrique", with France continuing an exploitative presence in its former African colonies.

📣 VERBATIM

"How much is a little girl worth?"

— Along with fellow U.S. gymnasts, Olympic champion Simone Biles delivered emotional testimony during a Senate hearing on the FBI's corruption investigation into former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, who molested hundreds of girls. Biles also blamed USA Gymnastics (USAG) and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) for failing to do their jobs in protecting the 150+ survivors of Nassar's abuse.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger

WHAT THE WORLD
Bertrand Hauger

French Master Forger Dies After Being Mugged For His (Fake) Luxury Watch

Eric Piedoie, a French master forger known as "the art pirate," has died after being mugged in Cannes over his luxury watch — which (like his own work) was a fake. French daily Le Parisien highlighted the irony, calling his death Sunday from heart failure after the attack "one last snub" from a man who spent his life copying other people's work.

Miro, Giacometti, Niki de Saint Phalle, Yves Klein, Toulouse-Lautrec, Chagall: Beginning in the 1980s Eric Piedoie made a (devilish) name for himself by masterfully forging and selling works by the world's greatest artists, deceiving gallery owners and specialists alike.

Local daily Nice-Matin estimates that this colorful dandy had earned between 15 and 20 million euros from his imitations — a fortune he is believed to have squandered, mostly by gambling. In 2009, Piedoie was sentenced to 4 years in prison for forgery, and had since given up his illicit forgery activity.

In The News
Clémence Guimier, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

Norway Votes Against Its Oil, Putin Self-Isolating, Potty-Training Cows

👋 Ia Orana!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Norway veers left, Putin is self-quarantining, and German scientists try to potty-train cows. Meanwhile, Delhi-based news website The Wire applauds India's recent Olympic gold medals but asks why it can't win Nobel Prizes?

[*Tahitian]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Taliban deny death of top leader: The Taliban have denied that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of their top leaders, has been killed in a shootout with rivals, following rumors of possible rivalries and internal divisions in the movement.

• COVID update: New cases have more than doubled in China's southeastern province of Fujian following an outbreak of the Delta variant, which is thought to have started in a primary school. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin is self-isolating after members of his entourage tested positive to COVID-19.

• Norway center-left opposition wins elections: Norway's left-wing opposition has won the general election in a landslide following a campaign dominated by tensions between the future of the country's lucrative oil industry and climate change.

• South Korea fines Google for antitrust: South Korea's antitrust regulator has fined Alphabet Inc.'s Google $177 million for hampering the development of rivals to its Android operating system.

• Apple's emergency update to block spyware: Apple issued an urgent iPhone software update after security researchers found that the Israeli company NSO Group exploited a flaw in the Messages app to infect devices with the spyware Pegasus, even without a click from the user.

• Hurricane Nicholas hits Texas and Louisiana: Heavy rains fell on Texas and Louisiana as tropical storm Nicholas strengthened into a hurricane before making landfall, raising fears of potential life-threatening flash floods in the coming hours and days.

• Moo to the loo: Researchers in Germany are potty-training cows in a process they call "MooLoo training" to try and find a solution to the environmental damage caused by livestock waste.

A MESSAGE FROM INTERNATIONS

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Norwegian daily Stavanger Aftenblad reports on the country's general elections yesterday, which saw left-wing millionaire Jonas Gahr Støre come out on top. WIth a campaign centered on the future of the oil industry, the results put an end to the conservative government's eight-year rule under Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Why can't India win more Nobel Prizes?

Winning a Nobel Prize can't be the only criterion by which we measure a nation's scientific achievement — but it is a matter of pride, like winning a gold at the Olympics. Lower funding on R&D alone doesn't explain India's abysmal show at the Nobel Prizes, writes Suprakash Chandra Roy in Indian news website The Wire.

🏅 According to the Research and Development Statistics published in 2019 by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), science workers in India numbered 2.78 million in 2018, being the sixth largest scientific workforce worldwide. The number of athletes according to the Athletics Federation of India was a little more than 30,000. Mathematically, we have a higher chance of winning a Nobel Prize than a gold at the Olympics. But history hasn't borne this out.

💰 Indian sportspersons have won 35 medals of the 18,876 medals awarded thus far. The first and only Nobel Prize for an Indian scientist — C.V. Raman — was awarded in 1930. Many commentators have said that one major reason for our poor show at the Nobel Prizes has been the inadequate expenditure on scientific work. It is true that, in general, countries that spend more on R&D have won more Nobel Prizes in the sciences. However, India has spent 0.81% of its GDP on R&D and produced only one Nobel laureate in the sciences — while 11 countries that have spent less than India have produced 22 laureates.

🤔 The data suggests that we can improve if we spend more on R&D — but it also says that more money won't guarantee the outcome we seek. The Union Ministry of Science and Technology has been allocated around Rs 147 million for 2021-2022 — an increase of around Rs 95 million from 2015. But India's sports budget is about 10-times lower than that spent on science. In conclusion, some key elements seem to be missing, beyond funding and infrastructure. Is it a fire in the belly that's missing? Do we have a leadership vacuum that fails to motivate scholars to think out of the box?

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

💬  LEXICON

Aotearoa

New Zealand's Māori party launched a petition to officially rename the country Aotearoa ("the land of the long white cloud" in Māori), its original Indigenous name before Dutch explorers named it after the Dutch province of Zeeland in 1642. Since 1987, the island nation has recognized both English and Te Reo Māori as official languages, but has been recently divided over the question of changing the names of organizations and localities to promote the Maori language.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

26

The world now averages 26 days a year where temperatures exceed 50 °C (122 °F), as compared with only 14 days in the 1980s. According Dr Friederike Otto, associate director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, "the increase can be 100% attributed to the burning of fossil fuels."

✍️ Newsletter by Clémence Guimier, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

Society
Rozena Crossman

Spiderman To Jewish Stars: Global Vaccine Protests Get Ugly

More protests are bound to spread after President Biden announced that vaccinations will become mandatory for millions of U.S. workers in certain categories of employment, including those who work for the federal government and large corporations.

Vaccines used to be a quiet thing: someone getting a flu shot or UNICEF shipping off jabs to children in a faraway country. No longer. COVID-19 has put vaccinations at the center of both global health policy and national partisan politics — and plenty of noise has ensued.

After some initial demonstrations earlier this year critical of slow vaccination rollouts, protests are now firmly focused on local and national policies that require vaccines, including obligatory jabs for medical workers and the so-called "green pass" vaccine-required access to certain locations and activities. No doubt more protests are bound to spread in the United States after last week's announcement by U.S. President Joe Biden that vaccinations will become mandatory for millions of workers in certain categories of employment, including those who work for the federal government and large corporations.

Still, the protests have been nearly as global as the pandemic itself. Throughout much of the summer, France has had a weekly rendezvous on Saturday to protest against vaccine requirements. In Berlin, thousands took to the streets last month chanting, "Hands off our children!" In New York City, a smattering of nurses, doctors and other medical professionals protested compulsory vaccination, chanting "I am not a lab rat!"

Here are some of the typical and atypical ways the anti-required-vax protesters are being seen and heard:

CANADA: Upside down flags + stars of David + hazmat suits

World Wide Walkout Protest, Sept 1, 2021 — Photo: GoToVan

Canada has witnessed steady, and often offbeat or controversial, forms of protest against the vaccine requirements in provinces and cities for those who want to enter restaurants, theaters and workout classes. On Sept.1 a large crowd in the northwest city of Vancouver expressed their displeasure with vaccine requirements by marching on City Hall carrying their nation flag upside down, which according to the Canadian government, is a "signal of distress in instances of extreme danger to life," the Vancouver Sun reports.

Meanwhile in Montreal, protesters compared governmental health rules to the Holocaust by wearing yellow Jewish Star of David patches; while in Toronto, Fairwiew Mall regulars would have spotted protesters in hazmat suits and white masks entering the premises. They carried a loudspeaker that blurted out a deep voice uttering eerie slogans: "Questioning masks is murder," "Big business is essential," and "Everyone loves pharmaceutical companies."

FRANCE: ‘Spiderman" scales office tower

Alain Robert and others climbers scaling up a tower in Paris — Photo: Midi Libre

As much of France was returning to work after summer vacation, one of the nation's tallest office skyscrapers was the sight of an unexpected protest against the country's stringent vaccine requirements. Alain Robert, dubbed the "French Spiderman" for his free solo climbing of urban landmarks, led the way up the 187-meter (614 foot) headquarters of energy giant TotalEnergies to protest the health passports currently required to enter bars and restaurants. "It's an attack on fundamental liberties," said the 60-year-old, who was subsequently arrested for endangering the lives of others.

ITALY: Anti-vaxxers arrested

Police car in Rome — Photo: Wikimedia Commons

"If they find out what I have at home, they'll arrest me for terrorism," an Italian man named Stefano boasted on Telegram, the encrypted instant messaging platform. He was one of about 200 Italian anti-vaxxers preparing for a violent demonstration in Rome, where they were talking about using Molotov cocktails against TV trucks and attacking parliament with a drone.

Police not only found what Stefano packed at home — a katana sword, several pepper sprays and a nightstick among other things — but also what the others allegedly hoarded: brass knuckles, guns, as well as smaller weapons, such as razor blades to be hidden between fingers. ("They're not visible, but cut throats open," a Telegram user said.)

Alas, Stefano was right: he and seven other anti-vaxxers were arrested on Sept. 9, La Stampa reported.

POLAND: Anti-vax terrorism attack at vaccine point

Photo: notesfrompoland.com

An Aug. 2 arson attack on a COVID vaccine point in the Polish city of Zamość, which follows other acts of aggression by opponents of vaccination in Poland, has been condemned by the health minister, Adam Niedzielski, as an "act of terror." During the night, both a mobile vaccination point in the central square of Zamość, a city of 65,000 in southeast Poland, as well as the local headquarters of the health authorities, which are responsible for enforcing coronavirus restrictions, were set alight.

Marek Nowak, a sociologist at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, told Gazeta Wyborcza that the pandemic has "intensified the formation of radical movements" and led "anti-vaccination movements to use terror to convince others to share their views."

U.S.: Pro-Trump group piggybacks COVID protests

Proud Boys confrontation — Photo: Flickr

A growing number of mask and vaccine mandates in some U.S. states are being met with protests, which have occasionally turned violent. This is in part due to the reappearance of some far-right groups behind the Capitol Hill insurrection in January like the Proud Boys gang, who after lying low for a few months have begun attending rallies, according to USA Today.

Some of the starkest scenes were observed in Los Angeles in August: Proud Boys members and other agitators attacked counter-protesters and journalists, sending a veteran reporter to the hospital. But some non gang-affiliated civilians are also responsible for the violence: in northern California, a parent fuming after seeing his daughter come out of school with a mask barged into the building and assaulted a teacher.

NEW ZEALAND: Down Under, one is the loneliest number

Plenty of sheep show up in New Zealand

Photo: Pixabay

Other nations have seen anti-vaccine protesters gather by the thousands, and the police in Auckland, New Zealand were ready when posts on social media alerted them about a potential gathering. They successfully managed to engage in talks with the protesters and shut down the demonstration — or, rather, the protester, as only one person showed up.

Society
Meike Eijsberg

Foreign Students At Dutch Universities Are “Homeless” - Blame Brexit

Brexit has doubled the cost of studying in the UK for Europeans, which means many more students are heading to Dutch universities, which offer multiple programs in English. That's caused hundreds to arrive at universities in the Netherlands this month without promised housing.

With their sleeping bags in hand, dozens of students occupied the main administration building of the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen in the Netherlands this week to protest the lack of housing for international students. The situation is dire according to local organisation Shelter Our Students (SOS), as more than 600 international students at Groningen have started their studies this September homeless, Dutch daily NRC reports.

The Netherlands was already an increasingly popular destination for international students as it offers a wide variety of English-taught degrees. But this year, Dutch campuses are particularly overflowing with foreign students for two other reasons: Brexit, which has made UK universities suddenly very expensive for European Union residents looking to study in English; and the end of COVID-19 restrictions is bringing students back to class.

As a result, there are now 344,000 university students nationwide (last year it was 327,000) of which 72,400 (21%) come from abroad, writes het NRC. But some universities had a larger increase than others. The Rijksuniversiteit Groningen in the north, for instance, saw a 25% increase in registrations.

And yes, all of these students need accommodation, especially now that universities are switching back to in-person lectures after a year of online classes. A Romanian student named Paul told the Dutch broadcaster NOS that he's been trying to find a place to stay since he first heard he was accepted back in the spring of 2021. "It's like finding a needle in a haystack," he said. "Of the dozens of website ads, only a few are open to international students. Most student houses don't want foreigners."

Paul has been able to find temporary accommodation with the help of Shelter Our Students, but he's one of the few. Most international students are sleeping on air mattresses in the already tiny dorm rooms of their friends, writes De Volkskrant. Others are staying in hostels or hotels: clean and safe, but not cheap.

Society

9/11 Front Pages: World Newspapers Coverage Of The Attack

History happened instantly before our eyes 20 years ago on September 11, 2001 — and the global press was there to offer a first view on a day that continues to live in infamy. Here are 31 newspaper front pages and magazine covers.

By the time United Airlines Flight 175 sliced into the second tower, news reporters and editors around the world knew they were facing the most monumental story of their lifetime. The Sep. 11 attacks forever changed the world, and put the powers of modern journalism, from real-time video coverage to deep news analysis (on deadline), to the test like never before.

With events unfolding on that Tuesday morning in New York and Washington, newspapers around the world could go to print that evening with special editions for Sep. 12 that offered the proverbial "first draft of history" on their respective front pages. News magazines followed suit with tragically iconic covers. TIME magazine's lead writer Nancy Gibbs recently recalled the unique pressure of producing a special issue in 24 hours.

TIME front cover from September 14, 2001 - ©TIME

"It was a test of speed as much as anything else," Gibbs recalled. "It was a complete all-hands. Normally we would have a formal system whereby people sent files into a central information management system; everyone just emailed me. I probably had a thousand emails. It was the writing equivalent of putting a jigsaw puzzle together. Everyone had a different piece of the puzzle."

In France, Le Monde's top editor Jean-Marie Colombani penned a front-page editorial echoing JFK at the Berlin Wall, which declared that in the face of such a heinous attack: Nous sommes tous américains. ("We are all Americans.")

Le Monde front page from September 13, 2001 - ©Le Monde

For a left-leaning, U.S.-skeptic French daily, it captured the spirit connecting the whole world that fateful day. Here below are images of front pages and magazine covers around the world that carries us back to that collective moment of horror turned to grief, newfound wells of courage mixed with a deep and sudden vulnerability:

U.S. - The New York Times

The New York Times - 12/09/2001

The Washington Post

The Washington Post - 12/09/2001

USA Today

USA Today - 09/12/2011

The San Francisco Examiner

San Francisco The Examiner - 09/12/2001

The Post-Crescent

The Post-Crescent - 09/12/2001

TIME Magazine

TIME - 09/14/2001

The New Yorker

The New Yorker - 09/24/2001

France - Le Monde

"America struck, the world terrified" Le Monde - 09/13/2001

Le Parisien

Le Parisien - 09/12/2001

Libération

Libération - 09/12/2001

Charlie Hebdo

09/19/2001

Canada - The Globe and Mail

The Globe and Mail - 09/12/2001

United Kingdom - The Guardian

The Guardian - 09/12/2001

The Daily Telegraph

The Daily Telegraph - 09/12/2001

Spain - El País

El País - 09/12/2001

El Mundo

El Mundo - 09/12/2001

Italy - Il Mattino

Il Mattino - 09/12/2001

Sweden - Aftonbladet

Aftonbladet - 09/12/2001

Finland - Tucun Sanomat

Tucun Sanomat - 09/12/2001

Israel - Maariv

Maariv 9/12/2001

Turkey - Hürriyet

Hürriyet - 09/12/2001

UK, Pan-Arab - Al Hayat

Al Hayat - 09/12/2001

Lebanon - An Nahar

An Nahar - 09/12/2001

Japan - Asahi Shimbun

Asahi Shimbun - 09/12/2001

Korea - Chosun Ilbo

Chosun Ilbo - 09/12/2001

Argentina - Clarín

Clarín (special edition) - 09/11/2001

Germany - Die Welt

Die Welt - 09/12/2001

Germany - Der Spiegel

Der Spiegel - 09/15/2001

Bulgaria - 24 Chasa

24 Chasa - 09/12/2001

Brazil - Folha de São Paulo

Folha de São Paulo - 09/12/2001

Australia - The Sydney Morning Herald

The Sydney Morning Herald - 09/12/2001

WORLDCRUNCH

Internship Offer: Editorial and Social Media

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Editorial interns are involved in the daily operations, which may include reading the press, selecting articles, writing, translating, photo search & video production. At Worldcrunch, you also learn about the media and communication business working directly on projects with senior team members, other journalists and major institutional and corporate entities.

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