Geopolitics

The Latest: Cuban Protests, Jordanian Coup Arrests, Racist Reaction To England Loss

Thousands of Cubans took to the streets of Havana yesterday in a rare anti-government protest
Thousands of Cubans took to the streets of Havana yesterday in a rare anti-government protest

Welcome to Monday, where thousands of Cubans join rare protests against the government, Jordan arrests suspected coup organizers and it's a full-blown festa in Italy after the national soccer team's Euro win, as racists make loss even worse for England. With the Cannes Festival red carpet out, Les Echos looks at how Netflix and other platforms are helping French actors and filmmakers make their way in Hollywood.


• Thousands protest in Cuba: For the first time in decades, thousands of Cubans took to the streets in anti-government protests, expressing frustration over the ongoing economic crisis that led to a shortage of essential goods on the island. The government's handling of the coronavirus has also sparked anger, with some chanting that current President, Miguel Diaz-Canel, must step down.

• Police in Haiti arrest key suspect: A 63-year-old Haitian national and doctor, Christian Emmanuel Sanon, has been arrested in connection to the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Sanon, who arrived in Haiti via private jet in June, is alleged to be a "key suspect" in having organized the murder.

• Ethiopian leader officially wins contested election: Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed will remain in power after his party won an overwhelming majority of parliamentary seats. The results, which have been criticized by members of the international community, come after the jailing of opposition leaders throughout the campaign process and amid the Tigray conflict, where large swaths of the country were unable to vote.

• Jordanian monarchy officials sentenced over coup attempt: A Jordanian court has sentenced two officials, Bassem Awadallah, a former top aide to the royal family, and Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, a minor royal, to 15 years in prison on charges of sedition and incitement. The two allegedly attempted to push former heir, Prince Hamzah, to the throne in order to undermine current leader, King Abdullah II.

• 11 killed in India lightning strike: A lightning strike at the popular Indian tourist attraction, Amer Fort, in the Rajasthan state, is responsible for the deaths of at least 11 people. The lightning hit a tower, causing a wall to collapse and bury at least 11 people. Another 11 people were rescued and remain in stable condition, as the search for other survivors continues.

• Billionaire blasts off: Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic, successfully launched into space, making him the first person to do so on a rocket he helped to fund. Branson's flight, which also included three other Virgin Galactic employees, comes just nine days before Jeff Bezos is set to take off into space in his own company's spacecraft.

• Wandering elephant finds its way home: One of the elephants in a herd that trekked over 500 km across China has found its way back to its home reserve. However, the rest of the herd continues to press on in what seems to be a never ending journey. The elephants became popular last month after escaping their nature reserve and beginning a long, inexplicable migration, marked by several group naps, which were conveniently captured by nearby drones.


Milan-based sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport celebrates the victory of Italy's national soccer team at the Euro championship. The azzurri beat England in penalty kicks in their first win since 1968. British newspapers on the other hand featured their "heartbroken" team, even as the country's leaders, including Prince William, were forced to react to a flood of racist vitriol on social media in the wake of the defeat.

To Cannes and back: The subtle French infiltration in Hollywood

Since Agnès Varda, Louis Malle and Michel Gondry, trying one's luck in Hollywood has become an obsession for some French filmmakers. But Netflix and friends are changing the formula, writes Pierre de Gasquet in French daily Les Echos.

The executive producer of the French film festival CoLCoA in Los Angeles, François Truffart, notes that some top European filmmakers like Jean-Luc Godard always refused to shoot in Hollywood where the director does not have the "final cut" in the studio system. "Netflix, on the other hand, gives freedom to independent producers and big-name filmmakers to attract talent," Truffart says. More and more French filmmakers today are following in the footsteps of Louis Malle or Agnès Varda, using the California dream factory as a laboratory or springboard.

"The platforms represent a real opportunity and an opening for those who do not benefit from the automatic aid and funding of the French system," says filmmaker Julie Delpy, who has been based in Los Angeles for 28 years. Are we witnessing a paradigm shift? "With the rise of streaming platforms, films travel more and travel better. This represents a breath of fresh air and fresh money for French cinema," says Lucie Carette, director of the Office of Cultural and Creative Industries in Los Angeles.

French producer Saïd Ben Saïd, whose film Benedetta (directed by Paul Verhoeven) is competing at Cannes, is a frequent visitor to Los Angeles. Though a fervent supporter of international co-productions, he's also wary about the big platforms. "They've gotten a lot richer during the pandemic. I look at all this with a lot of skepticism because the interests of the platforms are not aligned with those of French cinema."

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


In Honduras, it's raining fish, hallelujah!

"Sunny with a chance of fish..." In one area of northern Honduras, weather forecasters await the unlikely arrival of a kind of "fish storm" in the summer months, which allows locals to feast on small silver pesces. It's a phenomenon with no clear scientific explanation. Sound fishy?

The most recent "Lluvia de Peces' ("Fish Rain") happened in Yoro, the department along the country's Caribbean coast, as the Honduran daily El Heraldo reports. Locals say it has been observed in parts of Yoro since the 19th century. After a strong rainstorm subsides, they go out with buckets to collect the fish — experts have compared them to sardines — and enjoy them collectively; in many places the bounty is distributed equally and it's looked down on to profit from the harvest. Indeed, many in this religiously devout region see the bizarre event as a blessing.

The sardine showers occur after particularly intense storms in the rainy months from May to October. Some have suggested that a powerful, coastal gust must carry and drop the little creatures onto some lucky district. The problem is that some Fish Rain hotspots are not near water: the village of Centro Poblado is 200 kilometers from the coast. La Tribuna, another local paper, reports that Honduran weather officials and U.S. experts who investigated the fish in 1970 found them to be freshwater, not sea fish. The observations that clarified little — they were still alive when rainfall had ceased and not endemic to the region.

Another theory posits that the fish do not fall from the heavens but rise to the surface with underground waters during heavy rains. This is why they come back to the same places year after year. This explanation has been used for other animal showers, which are rare but maybe not as much as you would think: Spiders, frogs and worms have reportedly fallen from the sky in places ranging from Singapore to Australia to Ethiopia.

In Honduras, many locals prefer another explanation, that the fish began to appear after Catholic missionary Manuel de Jesús Subirana prayed to God to alleviate the poverty he saw in Yoro when he arrived in 1858. It seems he got his loaves and fish, and then some.


196 feet

Dubai has just opened the world's deepest pool, which goes 196 feet down (60 meters). The pool, which is 15 meters deeper than the current Guinness World Record holder, contains 3.8 million gallons (14.6 million liters) of freshwater. Equipped with a "sunken city" to explore, the pool will open to the public soon.

The result would mark the end of the reign of thieves in Moldova...

— Moldovan President Maia Sandu, whose party appears to have won an absolute majority of parliamentary seats, allowing her to move forward with her reformist agenda. Sandu's pro-Europe party has reportedly won 48% of the vote with 94% of ballots counted, successfully deplatforming Moscow-backed incumbent, Igor Dodon's Socialist Party.

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Society

Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.


The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.

Hollandse-Hoogte/ZUMA

Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

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