Welcome to Thursday, where President Biden has begun his first foreign trip, Aung San Suu Kyi faces new corruption charges and a South African woman gives birth to what may be a record number of babies. We also scrutinize how facial recognition is being used around the world, not just as a surveillance tool.
• Biden arrives in Europe: U.S. President Joe Biden has begun his first foreign trip as President, after his late-night arrival in the UK. Biden will attend the G7 summit in Cornwall, visit NATO in Brussels and have a much anticipated meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva.
• New charges against Aung San Suu Kyi: The deposed leader of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, and other former officials from her government, are accused of a range of corruption charges, adding to previous accusations by the military regime that overthrew the democratically elected government in a February 1 coup that has plunged the country into chaos.
• Biden revokes TikTok and WeChat bans: After the Trump administration had attempted to block new users from downloading the Chinese-owned apps, TikTok and WeChat, President Joe Biden has withdrawn these executive orders but has ordered a review of the security concerns.
• Russian court outlaws groups linked to opposition leader Navalny: The Moscow ruling has labeled Alexei Navalny's organizations as extremist, preventing people associated with them from seeking public office and carrying lengthy prison sentences for anyone who donates to them.
• El Salvador became the first country to make Bitcoin legal currency: Congress approved President Nayib Bukele's proposal, with 62 out of 84 possible votes. According to the President, the cryptocurrency will make it easier for Salvadorians living abroad to send money home.
• EU COVID passport gets final green light: The European Parliament has approved COVID vaccine certificates intended to recover restriction-free travel within the bloc. The agreement also obliges the Member States from refraining to impose additional entry restrictions, like quarantine or more testing.
• South African woman gives birth to 10 babies: Gosiame Thamara Sithole became a mother of seven boys and three girls. Mother and children are in good health, while the Guinness World Records investigates the case.
British daily The Independent reports on the arrival of U.S. President Joe Biden in the UK for the G7 Summit, and his demand that the country settles its Brexit row with Northern Ireland. The White House warned that the Good Friday Agreement should not be undermined or put at risk.
Facial recognition expands around the globe, for good and evil
Much has been said about China's use of biometric technology for mass civilian surveillance. But facial recognition is being used elsewhere too — and not always as a tool for crime prevention.
Biometric technology raises obvious concerns about mass surveillance and the extensive gathering of private information. In China, where facial recognition technology has been used for many years now, and especially in provinces that are said to house separatists, the BBC has just revealed that artificial intelligence and facial recognition intended to reveal states of emotion has been tested on Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
The technology is being put to use in Europe too. In southeastern France, the seaside city of Nice has also become a testing ground for high-tech surveillance tools. Starting a dozen years ago, the then mayor, right-winger Christian Estrosi, implemented a vast surveillance system that has gotten increasingly high-tech as time goes on. More recently, starting in 2018, Nice began experimenting with facial recognition and has even tested biometric technology in high schools.
Elsewhere, though, the technology is being used not to fight crime, but to keep people healthy. In East Africa's Tanzania, developers are employing it to fight against rabies, with an application that can determine immediately — with just a cellphone camera image — whether a dog has been vaccinated against the illness. Facial recognition technology also has the advantage of being hands-free, and can thus be a tool in the fight against COVID-19.
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मुझ से दूर रहो
In Niwari, India, a rural district in the Madhya Pradesh state, unvaccinated people have been given signs to wear that feature a skull and crossbones with the phrase मुझ से दूर रहो (Mujhse dur rahein, meaning "Stay away from me"). Meanwhile, vaccinated people are being given badges with a patriotic message and the national colors of India. The measures are intended to combat vaccine hesitancy, but they have sparked controversy as vaccine supplies remain low.
In skinny Japan, new company offers to rent a plus-sized person
It's an economic dictum that virtually anything that is rare is bound to create a valuable market: diamonds, limited edition clothing and, in Japan, obese people.
In a country where the obesity rate is among the world's lowest — only 3.6% of the population is fat, compared to 27% in Australia — a Japanese company now offers the opportunity to rent one of these scarce specimens.
In need of plus-sized people for an advertisement, an overweight model for the promotion of a diet or — according to the company's own words — of someone chubbier than you to make you feel better? If you live in Tokyo, Osaka or Aichi, this is now possible: For 2,000 yen ($18), the Debucari company lets you rent a person certified to weigh over 100 kilograms, as reported by Ouest France.
Behind the new one-of-a-kind service, Mr Bliss, an entrepreneur who came up with the idea after struggling himself to find plus-size models for his own fashion brand, Qzilla. And as specified on its website, Debucari's offer is all about "body positivity".
Unlike other countries who see obesity as a result of bad eating habits, Japan links plus-size people to the sacred discipline of 相撲 "Sumō," the famous centuries-old wrestling sport. Sumos wrestlers, who weigh as much as 150 kilograms, are revered by the Japanese public, almost to the point of being considered half-gods.
However odd — or even offensive — it might sound to "rent" any kind of person, this type of service is rather common in Japan, with many companies already offering a wide range of offers. From hiring a friend, a girlfriend or even a middle-aged man to keep you company for a day, there are plenty of people to choose from ... in all shapes and sizes.
➡️ Keep up with all the planet's police reports and plot twists on Worldcrunch.com
Child labor has increased for the first time in two decades, standing at 160 million at the beginning of 2020 — an 8.4 million increase in four years, according to UNICEF. While the upward trend had already started before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the crisis risks worsening the situation with many families plunging into poverty, the agency warns.
Mexicans came from the Indians, Brazilians from the jungle, but we Argentines came from boats.
— Argentine president Alberto Fernandez had to apologize after his comment made during a visit to Spain sparked controversy in Brazil. The leader was seeking to play up Argentina's ties with Europe.
✍️ Newsletter by Genevieve Mansfield, Meike Eijsberg, Bertrand Hauger & Anne-Sophie Goninet
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