Welcome to Wednesday, where the toll of Canada's record heatwave is multiplying, Tigray rebels dismiss a government ceasefire and a British rock legend gets to keep his railroad jingle. As Pride Month draws to an end, we also look at how LGBTQ+ activists in several African countries confront the challenge of overcoming conservative attitudes and the legacy of colonialism.
• Dozens dead in Canada heatwave: In Canada's western province, British Columbia, where few households have access to air conditioning, temperatures continue to shatter previous records, going as high as 49.6 °C (121.3 °F) in the city of Lytton. Since Friday, police in the Vancouver area have reported more than 130 sudden deaths where heat was a contributing factor, with most among the elderly or those with underlying health conditions.
• COVID update: A lab study has shown that the Moderna vaccine produces neutralizing antibodies against the Delta variant, though it remains most effective against the original strain of the virus. Meanwhile, Singapore hopes to stop tracking daily COVID numbers, as the country gears up to have at least two-thirds of its population fully vaccinated by Aug. 9.
• Letter warned Florida Condo residents of structural damage: Residents of the Surfside Champlain Towers South building, which partially collapsed last week, reportedly received a letter in April warning them of "worsening structural damage" to the building. The letter is further evidence that the building's structural issues were known prior to the collapse, which thus far 12 dead bodies have been reported and 149 people are still unaccounted for.
• Tigray rebels call ceasefire a "joke": The Tigray People's Liberation Front's (TPLF) referred to the government's unilaterally declared ceasefire as a "joke", saying that fighting has continued on the border with the Afar region. The TPLF spokesman said that the rebels would not stop fighting until the entire region was under their control.
• U.S. army to complete Afghanistan pull-out within days: United States military officials told Reuters that the complete withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan could occur within days, even though September 11 had been set as the expected date of departure. Though some troops will remain to protect the U.S. embassy and Kabul airport, as many as more than 4,000 troops may depart by mid-July. The announcement came shortly after the U.N. Afghan envoy warned of "dire scenarios' should Taliban fighters gain more ground.
• Dutch ship harassed by Russian fighter jets in Black Sea: The Dutch Defense Minister reports that armed Russian fighter jets harassed a Dutch navy frigate in the Black Sea last week, shortly after a similar incident occurred between Russian forces and a British warship. Russia responded to the allegation, claiming it scrambled fighter jets and bombers to prevent the Dutch ship from sailing into Russian waters.
• 5,000 year old plague "Patient Zero" discovered: Researchers have gained new insight into the pandemic … the one that terrorized our ancestors during the Middle Ages. The remains of a 5,000-year-old hunter-gatherer in Latvia confirm that he is the first known person to have died from the plague, adding credence to the theory that the disease emerged around 7,000 years ago, alongside the rise of agriculture in Europe.
The front page of Canadian daily The Province features the deadly heatwave that hit British Columbia in recent days, with record temperatures as high as 49.6 °C (121.3 °F) linked to 130 deaths since Friday.
African LGBTQ activists fight to undo colonial legacy
Ten years after Tunisia's pro-democracy revolution, activists are continuing to fight for the rights of all … and that increasingly also includes members of the LGBTQ community. Like Tunisia, other African countries are confronting the challenge of overcoming conservative attitudes and the legacy of colonialism that too often still stands in the way of providing equal protection and dignity to gay, lesbian and transgender citizens.
Homosexual sex became illegal in Tunisia in 1913, with the passing of Article 230 while the country was under French proctorate. Since then, LGBTQ people have been subject to invasive anal probes used for "evidence" for arrests and eventual imprisonment. Yet several civil societies have emerged since the revolution to push for LGBTQ rights in the country. Their first goal: getting rid of the colonial era law, Article 230. The organization Mawjoudin - We Exist, which began in 2014 is among the leaders in the battle.
Tunisian activists are not alone in their fight to repeal colonial-era legislation and show how African communities are reclaiming their histories. Some 3,000 miles south of Tunisia, LGBTQ activists in Angola celebrated earlier this year when the portion of the 1886 Penal Code that outlawed "vices against nature" was officially repealed. Carlos Fernandes, an LGBTQ activist, told Híbrida magazine that the decision this year "removed barriers," and has given their organization a greater ability to dialogue with the government.
Activists in Ghana, another former British colony, are still struggling to see homosexuality decriminalized. Same-sex relations have been outlawed since the colonial era, and the current criminal law uses similar wording to that which was enacted during the 19th century. LGBTQ activists in Ghana have made international news multiple times this past year, notably when law enforcement shut down the office of a rights group in February, and when 21 activists were arrested in June for "unlawful gathering."
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Data from some 700 million LinkedIn users — roughly 92% of its user base — is reportedly now being sold online. A spokesperson for the professional social media platform, which is now owned by Microsoft, has disputed reports that a security breach was what allowed the unidentified seller to obtain the data, which includes full names, address and personal professional information. LinkedIn says that the data put online was "scraped" from other internet sites.
End of the track: Pink Floyd singer finally wins feud over French train station jingle
C / G / A flat / E flat … Any French traveler hearing these instantly-recognizable four notes would know to listen up and pay attention, as the official jingle for the country's SNCF railway company typically precedes announcements of trains leaving or arriving, platform changes, and all too often ... delays.
But back in 2013, when David Gilmour — the legendary singer and guitarist of Pink Floyd fame — heard the audio alert in the train station of the southern French city of Aix-en-Provence, he wanted to take it home. As local daily Ouest France recalls, the British songwriter promptly got his phone out to record the tune; later on, he tracked down the jingle's composer, French sound designer Michaël Boumendil, to discuss the sampling of the jingle in a future song.
At the time, Boumendil told French radio station RTL of his surprise at receiving a phone call from Gilmour, who introduced himself by saying, "I'm a guitarist, from the band Pink Floyd..."
Arrangements were made, a contract was signed: The Frenchman would be listed as co-author of the song and get a 12.5% cut of revenue generated. Meanwhile, the SNCF also gave its thumbs up — and in 2015 Gilmour released his fourth solo album, Rattle That Lock, whose title song incorporated the catchy SNCF riff.
But then, the story began to turn sour. Shortly before the song hit the airwaves, Boumendil gave several interviews, boasting about the prestigious collaboration. This, according to the musician's team, was a breach of a confidentiality clause, as the song had not yet come out — so much so that they decided to exclude the sound designer from the promotion campaign of the album.
Things escalated quickly, Boumendil sued Gilmour on plagiarism grounds, a claim that was rejected by a Paris court in 2019. Boumnedil appealed, again to no avail — and the legal battle ran its full course last week, as French economics and business magazine Capital reports, with the Paris Court of Appeal condemning the Frenchman to pay 10,000 euros in legal fees. And since it's not all about the Money, Gilmour was also granted the right to keep using the four-note jingle.
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The officials in charge have caused a grave incident that created a huge crisis for the safety of the country and its people.
— North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sacked several senior party officials over lapses that he blames for some unspecified coronavirus-related incident. The statement was a rare sign of the pandemic's severity in the country, which previously claimed it had no coronavirus cases.
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