South Korea Nuclear Safety, NYPD Division, Freed Orangutan

Pakistani Christians in Lahore praying for the victims of the Peshawar school massacre.
Pakistani Christians in Lahore praying for the victims of the Peshawar school massacre.

Monday, December 22, 2014

South Korea’s nuclear plant operator has launched a two-day drill to check the safety of the country’s four power plants after a hacker leaked non-critical data and threatened further leaks yesterday, news agency Yonhap reports. It’s unclear whether it was connected to North Korea and the Sony Pictures hacking.

North Korea, meanwhile, reacted angrily to accusations that it was behind the Sony hacking and to President Barack Obama’s vow to “respond proportionally” to it. A long statement published by the official Korean Central News Agency once more denied responsibility for the cyber attacks and threatened unspecified attacks against “the White House, the Pentagon and the whole U.S. mainland,” describing it as “the cesspool of terrorism.”

Commenting on the attacks and the movie The Interview, a Chinese official said the country condemned cyber attacks but that was no proof North Korea is to blame.

Pakistan officials targeting Taliban militants have arrested five more people, including a key commander, Dawn reports. This comes after the country resumed executions of convicted terrorists by lifting a 2008 moratorium in the aftermath of last week’s massacre that killed 141 people, 132 of them children. Six people have already been hanged, but a senior government official told AFP this morning that Pakistan is planning to execute about 500 militants in the coming weeks.

New details of the Saturday murders of two New York police officers indicate that the gunman told onlookers moments before the attack to “watch what I'm going to do,” the police department's chief of detectives, Robert Boyce, said. The shooter, 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley, had a lengthy rap sheet, with at least 19 arrests, and said on social media that the attack was in retaliation for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of the police. He turned the gun on himself moments after killing the policemen. “There is no more important job ahead for Mayor de Blasio than to lead and unite the city,” The New York Times wrote in an editorial. “He cannot allow it to fracture into opposing camps of those who support outraged protesters and those who stand with aggrieved cops. Never has his ‘one city’ promise been so urgently and so sorely tested.” Meanwhile, the president of the officers’ union accused City Hall of having “blood on their hands.”

As Die Welt’s Julia Friese writes, so-called “mermaiding” is now something very real for enchanted girls and women who can don tails and dive in. But some are better at it than others. “This is no time for second thoughts,” Friese writes. “So I keep that monofin going, sending water splashing everywhere, getting wetter and wetter. In the pool's aluminum-covered ceiling I can see blurry images of us mermaids. Pushing off with our hands from the pool rim, we plunge below water, colorful, graceful (in theory), our hair flowing. The fascination with mermaids — aside from the fact that they are half fish, half human — is that they are bewitchingly beautiful but unable to engage in any sort of heavy eroticism. They are teases personified.”
Read the full article, Yes, Mermaiding Is A Thing.

Police officers shot and killed a 20-year-old man Saturday in the French town of Joué-lès-Tours after he attacked a police station with a large knife while shouting “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great”). Three police officers were injured, two of them seriously, but their lives are no longer in danger, La Nouvelle République reports. The man, a French national born in Burundi who recently converted to Islam before turning to radicalism, was known to the police for common law crimes but was not on the radar of French intelligence services. His Facebook page apparently displayed an Islamic State flag before the attack.

There was another attack Sunday evening in the city of Dijon when a man in his forties deliberately ran down pedestrians in his car, injuring 11 people, two seriously. Some witnesses say he also shouted “Allahu Akbar,” although others say they simply heard a shout. The man, said to be unbalanced and to have been placed in mental health hospitals, including very recently, was arrested after targeting pedestrians in five different parts of the city. His motives remain unclear for now, but a source told Le Monde he mentioned the “Islamic war” and the “children of Palestine.”


Cristina de Borbon, the sister of Spain’s monarch Felipe VI, will stand trial for tax fraud as part of an investigation into her husband’s business dealings, El País reports. A former Olympic handball player, Inaki Urdangarin is accused of embezzling millions of euros in public funds through his non-profit organization. The pair have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. It will be the first time in the country’s history for a member of the royal family to face trial. Read more in English from the BBC.

The two candidates in the second round of Tunisia’s first free presidential election have both claimed victory ahead of today’s release of official results, Le Monde reports. Beji Caid Essebsi and his secular alliance, which also won the country’s general election in October, announced his victory minutes after the polling stations closed. His opponent, incumbent President Moncef Marzouki, rejected the claim. On its front page, newspaper La Presse de Tunisie writes that yesterday’s vote was one for “pride, ambition and hope” as the country makes its last step towards full democracy four years after an uprising that ousted authoritarian leader Ben Ali and paved the way for the “Arab Spring”.

An Argentine court has ruled that a 20-year-old orangutan held in a zoo can be freed and transferred to a sanctuary, recognizing it as a “non-human person” with the right to freedom.

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Preparing a COVID-19 vaccine booster in Huzhou, China.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Ciao!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Brazil's senate backs "crimes against humanity" charges against Jair Bolsonaro, the UN has a grim new climate report and Dune gets a sequel. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt explores "Xi Jinping Thought," which is now being made part of Chinese schools' curriculum.



• Senators back Bolsonaro criminal charges: A Brazilian Senate panel has backed a report that supports charging President Jair Bolsonaro with crimes against humanity, for his alleged responsibility in the country's 600,000-plus COVID-19 deaths.

• Gas crisis in Moldova following Russian retaliation: Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, has for the first time challenged Russia's Gazprom following a price increase and failed contract negotiations, purchasing instead from Poland. In response, Russia has threatened to halt sales to the Eastern European country, which has previously acquired all of its gas from Gazprom.

• New UN climate report finds planned emission cuts fall short: The Emissions Gap Report 2021 concludes that country pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions aren't large enough to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 °C degrees this century. The UN Environment Program predicts a 2.7 °C increase, with significant environmental impacts, but there is still hope that longer term net-zero goals will curtail some temperature rise.

• COVID update: As part of its long-awaited reopening, Australia will officially allow its citizens to travel abroad without a government waiver for the first time in more than 18 months. Bulgaria, meanwhile, hits record daily high COVID-19 cases as the Eastern European's hotel and restaurant association is planning protests over the implementation of the vaccination "green pass." In the U.S., a panel of government medical advisors backed the use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for five to 11-year-olds.

• U.S. appeals decision to block Julian Assange extradition: The United States said it was "extremely disappointed" in a UK judge's ruling that Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, would be a suicide risk of he traveled across the Atlantic. In the U.S., he faces 18 charges related to the 2010 release of 500,000 secret files related to U.S. military activity.

• Deposed Sudan prime minister released: Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has been released from custody, though remains under heavy guard after Sudan's military coup. Protests against the coup have continued in the capital Khartoum, as Hamdok has called for the release of other detained governmental officials.

Dune Part 2 confirmed: The world will get to see Timothée Chalamet ride a sandworm: The second installment of the sci-fi epic and global box office hit has officially been greenlit, set to hit the screens in 2023.


Front page of the National Post's October 27 front page

Canadian daily National Post reports on the nomination of Steven Guilbeault, a former Greenpeace activist, as the country's new Environment minister. He had been arrested in 2001 for scaling Toronto's CN Tower to unfurl a banner for Greenpeace, which he left in 2008.


Chinese students now required to learn to think like Xi Jinping

"Xi Jinping Thought" ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university, reports Maximilian Kalkhof in German daily Die Welt.

🇨🇳 It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education. The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader. Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself.

📚 Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

⚠️ But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation? The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.

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"I'm a footballer and I'm gay."

— Australian soccer player Josh Cavallo said in a video accompanying a tweet in which he revealed his homosexuality, becoming the first top-flight male professional player in the world to do so. The 21-year-old said he was tired of living "this double life" and hoped his decision to come out would help other "players living in silence."


Why this Sudan coup d'état is different

Three days since the military coup was set in motion in Sudan, the situation on the ground continues to be fluid. Reuters reports this morning that workers at the state petroleum company Sudapet are joining a nationwide civil disobedience movement called by trade unions in response to the generals' overthrow of the government. Doctors have also announced a strike.

Generals in suits At the same time, the military appears firmly in control, with deposed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok allowed to return home today after being held by the coup leaders. How did we get here? That's the question that David E. Kiwuwa, a professor of international relations at the University of Nottingham, takes on in The Conversation:

"Since the revolution that deposed Omar el-Bashir in 2019, the military have fancied themselves as generals in suits. They have continued to wield enough power to almost run a parallel government in tension with the prime minister. This was evident when the military continued to have the say on security and foreign affairs.

Economy as alibi For their part, civilian officials concentrated on rejuvenating the economy and mobilizing international support for the transitional council. This didn't stop the military from accusing the civilian leadership of failing to resuscitate the country's ailing economy.

True, the economy has continued to struggle from high inflation, low industrial output and dwindling foreign direct investment. As in all economies, conditions have been exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19. Sudan's weakened economy is, however, not sufficient reason for the military intervention. Clearly this is merely an excuse."

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471 million euros

Rome's Casino di Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi, better known as Villa Aurora, will be put up for auction in January for 471 million euros ($547 million). The over-the-top price tag is thanks to the villa having the only known ceiling painting by Renaissance master Caravaggio.

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

Who wants to start the bidding on the Caravaggio villa? Otherwise, let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world!!

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