The Latest: A Man-Made Famine, Confucius Institute Probe, First National Fur Ban

A solar eclipse shines over the skyline of Toronto, Canada
A solar eclipse shines over the skyline of Toronto, Canada

Welcome to Friday, where an Amnesty International report accuses China of "crimes against humanity," Israel's government makes PETA animal activists happy and the Euro 2020 soccer competition kicks off after a one-year delay. Business daily Les Echos also reports on how hackers manage to use fake news to threaten big businesses and influence the stock markets.

• Report alleges Uyghurs victims of "Crimes Against Humanity": Amnesty International has released a new, detailed report with personal accounts of systematic internment, torture and persecution of Uyghurs and Kazakhs in China's northwestern Xinjiang province. Over 50 former detainees provided testimony — all referenced torture and mistreatment in the camps set up by Beijing for the Muslim minorities.

• Over 350,000 suffering from famine in Ethiopia: The United Nations reports that at least 350,000 people in Ethiopia's northern Tigray region are experiencing famine, describing it as the worst since the 2011 Somali famine. As violence between the government and Tigrayan rebels continues, this famine is primarily attributable to man-made conflict.

• Pope rejects Cardinal's resignation over church's role in child sex abuse: Pope Francis has denied the request to resign of German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, in an effort to take personal responsiblity for the Catholic Church's mismanagement and failure to stop generations of child sex abuse. Francis explained his opposition to the attempt to resign by Germany's leading cardinal, stating that every bishop should take responsibility for the abuse crisis.

• Biden and Johnson sign new Atlantic Charter: President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Boris Johnson have signed a revised "Atlantic Charter." The original document, signed 80 years ago by Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt, affirmed Western commitment to democracy.

• France ends Sahel military operation: President Emmanuel Macron announced that Operation Barkhane, France's counterterrorism military mission in the northwestern African region of the Sahel will be replaced by joint military efforts with international partners. The decision comes in light of a second Malian coup, which led the French to temporarily suspend French-Malian military operations.

• Japan to investigate China-funded Confucius institutes: Amid security alerts from allies, Japan will begin investigating Chinese-led Confucius institutes in 14 private universities across the country. Tokyo fears the hardly-regulated cultural centers could be hotbeds for propaganda and espionage, following similar warnings earlier this year in the U.S. and Europe.

• Israel bans sale of fur: Israel has become the first country in the world to ban the selling of fur in fashion commerce, citing concerns over animal rights. The decision was widely supported by the Israeli public, as well as animal rights groups like PETA.

"We are all blue!," titles Milan-based sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport as Italy's national soccer team, la squadra azzurra, faces Turkey in the first match of the Euro 2020 competition that kicks off today.

Fake news: a threat to democracy, but also to big business

Bogus press reports are a growing threat — not just for politicians, but also for top CEOs of major multinational companies. These big shots may dominate the stock market, but they're struggling to limit the spread of fake news that can swiftly undermine their entire businesses. Laurence Boisseau of French business daily Les Echos explains how and why these stories end up in otherwise legitimate press outlets:

On April 1 2021, a phony press release claimed that the Portuguese oil group Galp was giving up its involvement in northern Mozambique to pursue a "100% sustainable future." In 2019, BlackRock and its leader Larry Fink were also victims of identity fraud. A false letter, supposedly written by the asset manager, stated he would sell his shares to companies that would not meet the targets of the Paris Climate Agreement. This simple email managed to fool several leading media outlets, including the Financial Times.

The hackers behind these scams are pursuing two different kinds of goals. The first is stock market gain: They seek to influence the stock markets after having positioned themselves to capitalize on the market fluctuations provoked by their fake news. The second goal is to undermine the company's reputation. In this scenario, the perpetrators are political activists, environmentalists and anti-liberals.

These operations are costly to companies, both in terms of stock market impact and reputation. In 2019, a study from the American University of Baltimore estimated the cost of these scams at $17 billion in the United States. French corporations are also taking the situation very seriously. For the past two years, a dozen listed companies from the CAC 40 — a French benchmark stock market index — such as AXA, BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole, Engie, Air Liquide, Schneider, L'Oréal, Renault and Bouygues have purchased a tool that allows them to fight against fake news.

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Apparently the NFT boom is not over ... CryptoPunk #7523, a pixelated virtual artwork, sold for $11,754,000 as an NFT (or "non-fungible token": a digital, blockchain-authenticated item) at an online Sotheby's auction. The buyer of the artwork, one in a series of nine "alien punk" images, is an Israeli entrepreneur.

South Korean military under fire after suicide of officer who was raped

The suicide of a female officer in the South Korean Air Force who had been sexually assaulted has sent shock waves through the country, finally prompting the government to initiate a reform of the military, The Dong-a Ilbo daily reported this week.

As French daily Le Monde reported, President Moon Jae-in took advantage of the June 6 Memorial Day holiday, which commemorates all the men and women who have died during military services, to remind people that "patriotism also implies protecting those who commit themselves to defend the nation." He also apologized for what he called "the backward culture in the barracks." Mr Moon promised reform, the outline of which is expected to be unveiled in August.

In the meantime, the investigation continues following the suicide of Ms. Lee (only her surname has been revealed), as reported by Korean outlet Edaily. The young woman was assaulted by a colleague after a dinner on March 3. The next day, her superiors did everything they could to prevent her from filing a complaint. She requested a transfer instead, but her re-assignment in early May only worsened the situation, ending in her suicide on May 22. Lee's lawyer says bullying and assaults increase when the suspects realize that the victim could not press charges.

In response to these revelations, a petition was launched on May 31 calling for a full accounting of the tragedy, gathering more than 350,000 signatures. The suspect of the assault was arrested on June 2 and the chief of staff of the air force, General Lee Seong-yong, resigned two days later. The Ministry of Defense also opened a special hotline to hear testimonies about sexual harassment cases fearing that "Ms Lee's case is just the tip of the iceberg."

You can call it the ‘deep and meaningful relationship", whatever you want, the ‘indestructible relationship".

— After meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden ahead of the G7 summit that opens in Cornwall today, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the UK-U.S. relations as "indestructible," avoiding the more commonly used "special relationship" phrase that Johnson had once said made Britain look "needy and weak." During their face-to-face meeting Thursday, the two leaders discussed topics like Brexit and Northern Ireland, which are also expected to be on the G7 summit's agenda.

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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