Welcome to Thursday, where the WHO has given the green light to the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for all ages, U.S. imposes sanctions on Myanmar and we go to France for a big parenting fail. We also explore the troubled relationship between oil and politics in Venezuela.
• COVID-19 latest: The World Health Organization has backed the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for adults of all ages, even in people aged over 65, which some countries have advised against. The UK variant is likely to "sweep the world," says the head of genetic surveillance programme, as the strain, first identified in September 2020, has already been detected in 86 countries.
• Biden's Myanmar sanctions: U.S. President Joe Biden has signed an executive order to impose sanctions on the leaders of Myanmar's coup as well as to block access to $1 billion of government funds.
• Trump's trial: Prosecutors to wrap up their opening arguments on the third day of Donald Trump's impeachment trial. Day 2 was marked by the presentation of new, violent footage of the Jan. 6 Capitol riots which the former U.S. president stands accused of inciting.
• China-India breakthrough: India and China have begun pulling back troops from part of their disputed Himalayan border in what is seen as a breakthrough nine months after the deadly clash in Ladakh.
• Belarus' "People's Assembly": Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has launched an "All-Belarusian People's Assembly" of 2,700 delegates to ostensibly discuss constitutional reforms. Opponents say its a smokescreen for Lukashenko to consolidate power.
• Tokyo Olympics chief to step down: Tokyo Olympics chief Yoshiro Mori is set to resign following "inappropriate" sexist comments about women, which sparked public debate in Japan about gender equality.
• Geeky piggys: Scientists in the U.S. have found that pigs can play video games with their snouts.
Today's edition of The Hindu, the Indian daily based in the southern city of Chennai, leads with coverage of the China-India border dispute, as well as the latest in the ongoing standoff between the Indian government and Twitter over content removal and freedom of expression.
Venezuela's PDVSA, mixing big oil and leftist politics
Venezuela's Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), once among the world's most powerful oil firms, was transformed and largely gutted under Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro. But the story is more complicated than it may seem, writes Gustavo Bazzan in Argentinian daily Clarin.
Amid anxiety in Argentina over the state of the country's main oil firm, YPF — with problems of debt, management and an uncertain future under a socialist government — people are inevitably making comparisons with Venezuela's PDVSA another South American energy giant that was a victim of politicized mismanagement. Still, the Argentinian firm's fate so far is not comparable with the havoc wreaked on PDVSA under the governments of presidents Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro.
With Venezuela sitting, in nominal terms at least, on the world's biggest oil reserves, PDVSA would inevitably become a cash cow, as it generated some 90% of the country's foreign currency earnings, before and after Chávez. It would have been naïve to think it could be free of political influence. Yet experts in the sector widely agree that since its creation on Jan. 1, 1976, PDVSA has largely worked as a "state within a state."
PDVSA went bankrupt after Chávez was elected president in Feb. 1999. Seven years before he had tried and failed to take power through a coup against President Pérez. The firm went bankrupt a second time after an oil strike in 2002. After the strike, Chávez decided on a management overhaul, dismissing top directors and firing 18,000 technicians who constituted 40% of the firm's staff. In other words: He removed the brains behind the firm.
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Weak parenting, cops called in
Parenting can be a tricky thing.
Who can safely say they've never, in the heat of the moment, brandished over-the-top threats to try to get unruly offspring to comply? And who ever follows through?
Well the scene earlier this week inside a family home in Limoges, France, was looking familiar, as reported by local radio station France Bleu Limousin: Facing their 15-year-old son's refusal to clear the table after dinner, Papa and Maman launched the not-so-credible We'll-call-the-cops ultimatum. But this time, they followed through and dialed #17, the emergency police number in France, to report a "big family dispute."
When officers arrived, after making sure that everyone was fine, they had a lecture for the parents, that the situation "was more a matter of lack of authority than a police concern."
All clear then — that is, except for the table.
➡️ Keep up with all the planet's police reports and plot twists on Worldcrunch.com
That's the hourly price that cinemas in South Korea are charging individual gamers to rent out their screens. Renting out the "giant-screen" video game experience is a new attempt for movie houses to compensate for the loss of revenue during lockdown rules.
We're not still where we want to be.
— European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has acknowledged the shortcomings of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Europe, admitting to the European Parliament that "we were late to authorize. We were too optimistic when it came to massive production." The rates of vaccination in EU countries are a fraction of those in the U.S., UK and Israel.
Gas stations in many Iranian cities had trouble supplying fuel earlier in the week in what was a suspected cyberattack on the fuel distribution system. One Tehran daily on Thursday blamed Israel, which may have carried out similar acts in past years, to weaken Iran's hostile regime.
The incident reportedly disrupted the credit and debit card payments system this time, forcing users to pay cash and higher prices, the London-based broadcaster Iran International reported.
Though state officials didn't publicly accuse anyone specific, they did say perhaps this and other attacks had been planned for October, to "anger people" on the anniversary of the anti-government protests of 2019.
Khamenei, where's our gas?
Cheeky slogans were spotted Tuesday in different places in Iran, including electronic panels over motorways. One of them read "Khamenei, where's our gas?"
Iran International reported that Tehran-based news agency ISNA posted, then deleted, a report on drivers also seeing the message "cyberattack 64411" on screens at gas stations, purported to be the telephone number of the office of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
A member of parliament's National Security Committee, Vahid Jalalzadeh, said the attack had been planned months ahead, and had inflicted "grave losses," Iran International and domestic agencies reported Thursday. The conservative Tehran newspaper Kayhan named "America, the Zionist regime and their goons" as the "chief suspects" in the attack.
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