Welcome to Friday, where a "terrorist attack" in New Zealand leaves at least six dead, the New York flooding toll multiplies and an iconic Swedish 70s disco band is making a comeback. Italian daily La Stampa also looks at the unlikely rise in China of gray-haired influencers trending on social media.
• New Zealand terror stabbings: A man believed to be linked to ISIS has stabbed and wounded six people in a supermarket in Auckland, New Zealand. The attacker, who was known to the authorities, was shot and killed by police. Three of the wounded are in critical condition. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described it as a "terrorist attack" and said the man was "a supporter of ISIS ideology."
• Japan's Prime Minister Suga to step down: Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has announced he will not run for re-election as party leader this month thereby signalling the end of his tenure. His decision comes only a year after replacing longtime Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who stepped down for health reasons. Suga's popularity plummeted amid Japan's most recent wave of COVID cases and the fallout from the decision to go ahead with the Summer Olympics during the pandemic.
• Kabul airport reopens, fighting in holdout Afghan province: According to Afghanistan's Ariana Airlines, domestic flights from Kabul airport are set to resume Friday. There have been no flights to or from the airport since the Aug. 15 takeover by Taliban Islamist group. Meanwhile, heavy fighting has been reported between Taliban and thousands of opposition fighters in the Panjshir Valley, the last province to resist the takeover.
• New York flash floods: The death toll has risen to 45 in the flash floods that have hit the U.S. northeast, in the wake of Hurricane Ida. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called the record rainfall "historic" and declared a state of emergency in the city, urging people to stay off the subway and roads.
• COVID-19 update: The EU and coronavirus vaccine-maker AstraZeneca have reached a deal, settling a row over a shortfall in vaccines that had affected the rollout in Europe earlier this year. North Korea has refused 2.97 million doses of the Sinovac coronavirus vaccine, saying they should be sent to countries with worst outbreaks.
• NASA's Mars rover 2nd drill attempt: NASA's Perseverance rover has retrieved a rock sample on Mars after a previous attempt last month saw the sample crumble to dust. This time, a rock core was securely picked up; and if it is successfully delivered back to Earth, would be the first ever rock collection from another planet.
• New ABBA songs: They're still the dancing queens and kings, though far from being only seventeen … Iconic Swedish 70s disco band ABBA are making a surprise comeback with their first new songs in nearly 40 years. A new album and a virtual concert will follow.
"How India should deal with the Taliban," titles weekly magazine India Today, writing that it is "wise to negotiate with the new government of Afghanistan rather than boycott it."
Aging influencers, Chinese grandmas are social media hit
Imagine a 70-year-old Chinese version of Chiara Ferragni. Now multiply these "senior" Asian influencers by a dozen and you will have a snapshot of the new phenomenon that has hit social media in China. Grey is the new blond, a wise man once said, and old age is turning into a modern trend, with Chinese characteristics, writes Carlo Pizzati in Italian daily La Stampa.
👵 The aging divas are the stars of the feed dedicated to "Fashion Grandmothers" on the Chinese social network Douyin, the national version of Tik Tok. They call themselves "fashion_grannies" or "Glamma Beijing," playing on the Chinese pronunciation of the English words grandma and glamor. And they are quite something to see, wrapped up in traditional damask cheongsam, buttoned all the way up their neck or hopping in casual clothes of the latest fashion brands.
💄 What do glamor grandmothers do? Just like elderly Barbies, they are dressed, stylized and dolled up by squads of young designers, aestheticians and makeup artists before walking the catwalk in slow-motion videos, with sudden speed-ups to further show off the charisma of these trendy grandmas. "When I was young, I never wore makeup," says Sang Xiuzhan, a 75-year-old who spent 50 years living in Beijing. "My dream as a girl was to work in show business, but I had to become an engineer in the 1960s. We had to contribute to economic growth, not spending any time on the superfluous."
🤩 This reality is full of surprises that paint the picture of a strange return to the past, made possible precisely thanks to the latest technology. "These videos of seniors disrupt stereotypes of old age. Retirees used to be seen as passive, unsophisticated and coarse," says Xiao Lijuan, the CEO of Letuizu, a digital platform that turned five grandfathers and five grandmothers into lifestyle icons. "Now these opinionated senior citizens are demonstrating the possibility that people over 60 can be beautiful and graceful people, albeit in a different way than young people."
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Duped by North Korean propaganda, Japanese expats are suing Kim Jong-un
Kim Jong-Un, Supreme Leader of North Korea, has been summoned to appear in a Japanese courthouse. Five people who moved to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) between 1959 and 1984 are seeking 500 million yen (3.8 million euros) in damages from the North Korean government for deceiving them with promises of a prosperous life they never found in the totalitarian state, South Korean daily Segye Ilbo reports.
The plaintiffs, four women and one man, are among the estimated 93,000 Japanese-Koreans and other Japanese who moved to North Korea in the latter half of the previous century, often persuaded by a propaganda project (Zainichi Chosenjin no Kikan Jigyo) to attract immigrant workers. The targeted campaign was carried out through the General Association of Koreans in Japan (Chongryon), the de facto representative of North Korea in Japan, touting life in the Northern peninsula as "paradise on Earth."
At the time, it wasn't so far-fetched, with the DPRK's economy developing faster than that of South Korea and Japan. The idea was especially attractive to Koreans who had arrived in Japan during its colonisation (1910-1945) and remained after the war. Whether forced laborers or volunteering immigrants, many were living in dire poverty and were drawn into the prospect of Communist North Korea guaranteeing their basic needs.
The arrivals from Japan soon discovered a far more grim reality, without the promised housing, education, food and clothing, and forced to work under dire conditions. One of the plaintiffs, Eiko Kawasaki, who went to North Korea at the age of 17 in 1960, explained: "North Korea wanted to attract Koreans, skilled workers and technicians, to cope with its labor shortage," French daily Le Monde writes.
Once the individuals arrived, they were not allowed to leave. Eiko only managed to flee in 2003. According to a 2013 UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights report, many of the Japanese expats "ended up in political prison camps and other places of detention in the DPRK."
Kim Jong-un, the grandson of the leader at the time, Kim Il-sung, is named in the suit as legal representative of the North Korean state. It is unclear if he is aware of his court date, scheduled for October 14, as South Korean daily Chosun Ilbo reports. In Japan, court summons are usually delivered directly to the person, but if there is no response, then the notice is publicly posted outside the courthouse. According to Japan Today, if he doesn't show up, it is likely the judge will rule in favor of the plaintiffs and order Kim Jong-un to pay the sought-after amount.
Facebook's messaging service WhatsApp was hit by a record 225-million euro fine by Ireland's data protection regulator, for failing to conform with EU data rules about transparency in 2018. The company disputed the decision, declaring the "penalties are entirely disproportionate."
Resign? I don't even think about it.
— Pope Francis said in a radio interview, asserting that he has no intention of stepping down despite the major intestine surgery he underwent last July and rumors about his worsening health. "I lead a totally normal life," he added.