Welcome to Friday, where Biden toughens U.S. investment ban on China, the Belarus journalist forced to confess and a parking space sells for more than a million. We've also produced a short photographic video that tells the story of the pandemic in Italy — one closed (and open) storefront at a time.
• Biden to ban Americans from investing in Chinese firms: As of August 2, Americans will no longer be able to invest in 59 Chinese tech and defense companies, including telecom giant Huawei. This executive order will build on the Trump administration's previous banning of 31 surveillance companies.
• Apparent forced confession of Belarusian journalist on state TV: In an interview aired Thursday night, dissident journalist Roman Protasevich admitted to partaking in anti-government activity and retracted former criticisms of President Alexander Lukashenko. His family and human rights activists responded to the video, saying it was filmed under duress, following his brazen capture from a Ryanair flight last month.
• Tiananmen Square vigil organizer arrested: Hong Kong authorities arrest Ms Chow, a prominent pro-Democracy activist and leader of the Hong Kong Alliance, for attempting to organize a vigil for the 32nd anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
• New Denmark law to deport asylum seekers outside EU: Denmark passes a law that will allow for the transfer of asylum seekers to partner countries, many of which are outside of Europe, while their applications are being processed. The law intends to limit the number of asylum seekers setting foot on Danish soil and has been decried by the United Nations as undermining "the rights of those seeking safety and protection."
• France suspends military operations with Mali: Following last week's coup d"état in Mali, the second in nine months, France announced it will temporarily suspend joint military operations with its West African ally. The decision, which affects the battle against jihadists, is intended to pressure the Colonel Goita to reinstate the civilian-led government.
• Syria likely used chemical weapons 17 times: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) reported to the UN Security Council that they have confirmed 17 cases where the Syrian government "likely or definitely used chemical weapons." Russia has opposed the findings, claiming the organization used unreliable sources.
• Koala "facial recognition": Griffith University on Australia's Gold Coast will use artificial intelligence to begin studying koalas' facial expressions. The goal of the study is to gain insight into the marsupials behavior, particularly with hopes of enticing the animals to use "koala bridges' so that they can safely cross major roads.
The weekly magazine 北京 (Beijing) publishes the latest data from China's 7th demographic census, showing that the resident population in the capital is 21.89 million, of which 35% weren't born in Beijing. Not mentioned in the coverage of the census was the news this week that China is changing its two-child-per-family policy to three children to try to boost the nation's birth rate. Accompanying the report, is a photo series showing the early-summer scenery that includes a recent proliferation of Western architecture.
Taiwan counting on "self-discipline" to stop COVID spread
After having just a handful of cases, the virus is suddenly spreading on the island nation. Despite a relatively loose lockdown, residents boast that they know how to shut COVID down on their own, write Byun Chung Pei and Li Ka Ho in Hong Kong-based digital media The Initium.
Since May 15, when Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center announced that Taipei and New Taipei City were on "Level 3 Epidemic Alert," photos and videos of street scenes of Taipei's "empty city" have filled social media. The posts often refer to Taiwan's "self-discipline," with one boasting "Watch out world, Taiwan will only demonstrate once how it will lift the level 3 (alert) within two weeks."
Despite Taiwan's proximity to Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus first broke out, the island nation has been largely spared. It held a record of 252 consecutive days of zero confirmed cases this past year. With confirmed cases mostly kept to a single digit, Taiwan was considered a "model student of epidemic prevention" by outsiders. However, the myth is now destroyed. With loosening adherence to protocols, lowered quarantine requirements for flight crews and vaccine shortfall, cluster affections in late April soon led to the spike in cases during May, resulting the announcement of Level 3 Alert.
As the epidemic has escalated, there have been calls for the government to further "harden" the measures. However, according to international studies, if we look at nine countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Germany, we will eventually find that the key to an effective lockdown policy is not to take harsh measures, but to "start early and gradually unblock" the cities. This could be the reason why strong closures have failed to contain the epidemic. After all, it's not just about strict closures; it's also about how well people accept and abide by the policy, and how much they can tolerate.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
A 135 square-foot parking space has been sold for a record $1.3 million at a luxury apartment complex in Hong Kong. With breathtaking views over Victoria Harbour, The Peak residential area includes some of the world's most expensive real estate. The previous record price for a parking space had also been set in Hong Kong in 2019, when a spot was sold for $980,000.
Florence storefront photos: a sign of our COVID times
In March 2020, Italy became the first country in the West to be hit by the coronavirus. During the worst month, the mortality rate in Italy doubled, and today the country still mourns the more than 126,000 people killed by the pandemic, the sixth highest death count in the world.
Beyond the immediate health impact, Italy was also the first country in Europe to impose a strict nationwide lockdown to counter the spread of the virus. The quarantine forced schools, businesses and shops to close their doors.
About a month after restrictions were imposed, Italian photographer Simone Donati ventured outside to begin documenting his home city of Florence. Long known as a center of commerce, including the receipts from some 16 million tourists per year, Florence was virtually deserted. After a few days of shooting, Donati began to focus on simple images of closed storefronts — the series eventually was featured on the cover of Italian weekly magazine, L'Espresso.
One year later, as Florence and Italy slowly return to normal, Donati went back to the same shops he'd photographed shuttered down to see what he would find ...
I never want to get involved in politics again.
— Belarusian dissident and journalist Roman Protasevich said tearfully on state TV, in a confession his family and opposition activists say was coerced. In Protasevich's third appearance since his Ryanair plane was forced to land in Belarus on May 23, the 26-year-old pleaded guilty to organizing protests while also praising President Alexander Lukashenko's "balls of steel" for not bowing to international pressure.
✍️ Newsletter by Genevieve Mansfield, Anne-Sophie Goninet & Bertrand Hauger