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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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With The Chechen War Veterans Fighting For Ukraine — And For Revenge

They came to fight Russia, and to avenge the deaths of their loved ones and friends killed in Chechnya. Not wanting to sit in the trenches, they've found work in intelligence and sabotage.

Photo of members of the pro-Ukrainian Chechen group "Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion" posing with weapons

Members of the pro-Ukrainian Chechen group "Dzhokhar Dudayev Battalion"

Lydia Mikhalchenko

At least five Chechen units are fighting for Ukraine, with more than 1,000 troops in each unit — and their number is growing.

Most of these Chechen fighters took part in the first and second Chechen wars with Russia, and were forced to flee to Ukraine or elsewhere in Europe after their defeat. Vazhnyye Istorii correspondent Lydia Mikhalchenko met with some of these fighters.

Four of the five Chechen battalions are part of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and are paid the standard wages (about €4,000 per month for those on the front line) and receive equipment and supplies.

Chechen fighters say they appreciate that Ukrainian commanders don't order them to take unnecessary risks and attack objectives just to line up with an unrealistic schedule or important dates — something Russian generals are fond of doing.

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The experienced Chechen fighters have taken fewer losses than many other units. Unhappy sitting in trenches, they mostly engage in reconnaissance and sabotage, moving along the front lines. "The Russians wake up, and the commander is gone. Or he's dead," one of the fighters explains.

Some of the fighters say that the Ukrainian war is easier than their previous battles in Chechnya, when they had to sit in the mountains for weeks without supplies and make do with small stocks of arms and ammunition. Some call this a "five-star war."

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