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The Latest: Congress Clears COVID Bill, Ivory Coast PM Dies, Trump Buddha

Nepalese devotees celebrating the Maha Shivaratri Hindu festival in Kathmandu on March 11
Nepalese devotees celebrating the Maha Shivaratri Hindu festival in Kathmandu on March 11

Welcome to Thursday, where the world marks 10 years since the Fukushima disaster, Ivory Coast's prime minister dies, and we meet one irate Paraguayan grandma. Le Monde reports on French terrorism victims who are now facing online abuse.

• Biden historic COVID relief: The $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill has passed through Congress, and will include $1,400 payments to all taxpayers, and tax credits for children and low-income workers, helping fund children's return to school.

• Myanmar coup: At least eight more people were killed in today's protests, as former leader Aung San Suu Kyi, already under house arrest, is formally accused of taking bribes.

• New blow for Hong Kong democracy:China imposes a new election law to reduce democratic freedoms in the former British colony of Hong Kong.

• Ivory Coast PM dies: Ivory Coast Prime Minister Hamed Bakayoko has died from cancer in a hospital in Freiburg, Germany. He was 56.

• Cop arrested in UK missing woman case: Senior Met police officer Wayne Couzens has been taken into custody following the disappearance of Sarah Everard in south London, sparking outrage and fear among women. Investigators confirm today that human remains have been found in an area of woodland reportedly belonging to the Couzens family.

• Mexico legalizes cannabis: Lawmakers in Mexico approve a bill to legalize recreational, medical and scientific uses of marijuana, helping to combat the country's powerful drug cartels.

• Trump Buddha: Chinese website Taobao is selling life-size Trump Buddha statues for the onetime low price of $614.67.

French weekly news magazine Le Point features French President Emmanuel Macron riding a snail, as a symbol of the country's slow vaccination process.

French survivors of terrorism now battle harassment on Twitter

Three survivors of terrorism in France are now being targeted online for the compassion they have shown towards the children of Islamic militants. They are taking the power in their own hands and suing the social media giant for non-action, reports Damien Leloup and Samuel Laurent in Paris-based daily Le Monde.

Journalist Nicolas Hénin was taken hostage by ISIS for 10 months. Harassed with death threats on social media in 2019 because he reported a tweet calling for the murder of the children of jihadists, he filed a complaint and an investigation was opened. Twitter — which had acknowledged the receipt of the police's requests — asked for clarification and delayed action for months, leading to the police's dismissal of the complaint due to the perpetrator being "unknown."

The platform is regularly singled out for its inefficiency to moderate content and their very long delays in suppressing messages. In June 2020, the annual barometer conducted by the European Commission on the effectiveness of moderation systems had particularly severe results for Twitter. Over the past year, it deleted only 35.9% of messages reported by European associations, whereas Facebook deleted more than 87% of reported content.

"Facebook has no problem responding to judicial warrants. But this is not the case with Twitter," Eric Morain, one of the lawyers of the three victims, explains. In Sept. 2020, an internet user who posted a video on Facebook threatening to kill Mila, a young woman harassed for her hostile attitude towards Islam, was condemned to three years in prison with 18 months imposed serving time and his sentence was upheld during an appeal on Jan. 28.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

Potty-mouthed grandma strikes a chord in Paraguay

Amid a wave of protests against the Paraguayan government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, one unlikely voice — that of a sharp-tongued, silver-haired abuelita (grandmother) — has stood out above the chorus of discontent.

One of countless people taking to the streets in the capital Asunción in recent days, the elderly woman has yet to be publicly identified. But her opinion of the country's president, Mario Abdo Benítez of the conservative Colorado Party, is now widely known following an impromptu interview Sunday with a reporter from the Paraguayan news outlet ABC TV.

"We're here resisting until that cabrón hijo de puta (‘bastard son of a bitch") falls," the bespectacled woman, wearing a Paraguayan flag as a cape, said of the president.

Abdo Benítez, elected in 2018, faces widespread criticism over what many people see as an inadequate response to the coronavirus epidemic. Barely anyone in the country of roughly 7 million people has been vaccinated, according to news reports, and with deaths and infection numbers on the rise, Paraguay"s available hospital beds are quickly filling up.

Nevertheless, the government decided recently to reopen schools after eight months of lockdown. This move prompted demonstrations by teachers, who were soon joined by healthcare workers and everyday citizens.

The Abdo Benítez administration responded by sacking several key cabinet officials, including the health and education ministers. The protests, in the meantime, have continued.

"Don't think we're satisfied with three ministers being fired," the now famous grandmother said. "What we want is the president's head. Your head, little Mario. It's your head we want ... You're worthless, you son of a bitch."

➡️ Keep up with all the planet's police reports and plot twists on Worldcrunch.com

34 million

The New York Times reports that the European Union has exported 34 million doses of coronavirus vaccines in recent weeks to dozens of countries, despite facing shortages at home.

I have been the victim of the biggest judicial lie in 500 years.

— Former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva made his return to politics in Sao Paulo yesterday, in his first press conference since being cleared of corruption charges earlier this week.

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Wealthy Russians Are Back To Buying Real Estate In Europe — Sanctions Be Damned

After the start of the war in Ukraine, Russian oligarchs and other rich individuals turned to the real estate markets in Dubai and Turkey. Now Russian buyers are back in Europe. Three EU countries in particular are attracting buyers for their controversial "golden visa" program.

Photo of a sunset on villas on a hillside in Benahavis, Spain

Villas in Benahavis, Spain, a country that has enticed Russians with a so-called "golden visa" program.

Eduard Steiner

BERLINWestern sanctions imposed after the start of Russia's war against Ukraine have made financial outflows from Russia much more difficult — and paradoxically have also helped to strengthen Russia's economy, as the renowned economist Ruben Enikolopov recently noted in an interview for the online media "The Bell".

So while sanctions have not completely prevented these financial flows, they played a role in changing their direction.

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It was notable in real estate purchases during the first year of the war: as Russian buyers moved away from the previously coveted European market to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as well as to Turkey or the South Caucasus and even Southeast Asia.

Instead of "Londongrad", where the high- to middle-income earners from Vladimir Putin's empire turned for the previous two decades, people suddenly started talking about "Dubaigrad."

But this trend now seems to have peaked, with unexpected signs that Russians are back on the European real estate market.

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