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The Latest: G7 & COVID, Colombian Protests, Nonuplets

Protests continue in Bogota and across Colombia despite the withdrawal of the tax reform which sparked the demonstrations at the end of last week.
Protests continue in Bogota and across Colombia despite the withdrawal of the tax reform which sparked the demonstrations at the end of last week.

Welcome to Wednesday, where India's COVID surge interrupts the G7 summit, George Floyd's killer asks for a new trial and a woman in Mali gives birth to five girls … and four boys. Argentine daily Clarín also has a look at what Joe Biden's arrival means for Cuba and Venezuela.

• Derek Chauvin asks for new trial: The lawyer of the ex-Minneapolis police officer convicted of George Floyd's murder has asked for a new trial, denouncing jury misconduct.

• Indian delegates test positive at G7: The entire Indian delegation to the Group of Seven summit in London has been asked to self-isolate after two of its members tested positive for COVID-19. This comes amid the worst outbreak of the virus in India, with a record 382,315 new cases on Wednesday.

• Machete attack at Brazil nursery kills five: A 18-year-old man killed five people at a nursery school in Santa Catarina state, in southern Brazil. The victims include three young children and two staff members. Three days of mourning have been declared in the state.

• French journalist kidnaped in Mali appears in video: A French journalist kidnapped by Islamist militants in the northern city of Gao, in Mali, last month, has appeared in a video urging French authorities to help free him.

• EU & UN condemn Colombian deaths: With the death toll now at 19, the European Union has called on Colombian's security forces to avoid violence in response to street protests over a controversial tax reform, while the United Nation's human rights office has also expressed "deep alarm" over Colombian police opening fire on demonstrators.

• Conservative opposition wins in Madrid regional elections: Spain's right-wing Popular Party (PP) has won the Madrid regional elections, securing 65 out of 136 seats in the regional assembly. Pablo Iglesias, the leader of anti-austerity leftist party Podemos, announced he was leaving politics for good following the vote.

• Malian mother of nonuplets: A Malian woman gave birth to nine babies on Tuesday, after doctors had detected (only) seven inside her womb. The five girls, four boys and their mother are all reportedly doing well.

Spanish daily El Periodico reports on the victory of the country's right-wing Popular Party (PP) at Madrid's regional elections, with incumbent regional president Isabel Díaz Ayuso winning a second term. The conservative leader has gained popularity for her opposition to lockdown restrictions and her decision to keep bars and shops open in the Spanish capital city.

Dhabihu ya binadamu

Swahili for "human sacrifice", as Uganda's parliament has just passed a bill providing death penalty or life sentence for any person involved in human sacrifice.

Raul Castro's exit, Biden's arrival and the future of Venezuela

With Donald Trump now out of the picture, Cuba and Venezuela — both in economic shambles — are once more toying with piecemeal liberalization, Argentine daily Clarín"s international affairs chief Marcelo Cantelmi explains.

When Venezuela stopped sending it money, Cuba sought out historic negotiations with the administration of President Barack Obama, to break decades of isolation and attract vital investments. This détente, later dashed by Donald Trump's erratic geopolitics, is now back on the table. Castro's retirement and the handover of powers to his political godson Miguel Díaz-Canel point in that direction. Castro has also taken with him some old party hands opposed to any glasnost. One is Ramiro Valdés, who designed Venezuela's repressive apparatus of recent years.

Today, Cuba's "Fatherland or Death" motto may well morph into "Open Up or Die," as a columnist in the Spanish paper El País recently observed. Like Venezuela, the island nation is suffering an aggravation of inflationary trends that is fueling discontent, protests and repression. In 2020, the price of clothes and foodstuffs doubled or even tripled, while services like electricity quadrupled. The decision last January to have a single exchange rate contributed to this inflation.

Cuba's ally and pupil Venezuela is also shifting its positions, beginning with its economy. Last year, on the advice of the Russian Economy ministry, a state commission discussed opening the oil sector to private investments. The government of President Nicolás Maduro is preparing legislation to end the state's monopoly on oil through the firm PDVSA. And in January, the state began talking to concessionary firms on how to broaden participation in exploiting the country's pharaonic crude reserves.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

200 years

France commemorates the bicentenary today of the death of Napoleon Bonaparte, the emblematic yet complicated historical figure. Recently, Napoleon's decision to re-establish slavery in 1802 has prompted growing questions about his legacy, especially in the French West Indies.

What is happening in India right now is a horrifying preview of Nepal's future if we cannot contain this latest COVID surge.

— Netra Prasad Timsina, chair of the Nepal Red Cross, told Reutersas India's outbreak spreads across South Asia, causing a surge in coronavirus cases in neighbouring Nepal.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet & Emma Flacard

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Life On "Mars": With The Teams Simulating Space Missions Under A Dome

A niche research community plays out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another planet.

Photo of a person in a space suit walking toward the ​Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

At the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

Sarah Scoles

In November 2022, Tara Sweeney’s plane landed on Thwaites Glacier, a 74,000-square-mile mass of frozen water in West Antarctica. She arrived with an international research team to study the glacier’s geology and ice fabric, and how its ice melt might contribute to sea level rise. But while near Earth’s southernmost point, Sweeney kept thinking about the moon.

“It felt every bit of what I think it will feel like being a space explorer,” said Sweeney, a former Air Force officer who’s now working on a doctorate in lunar geology at the University of Texas at El Paso. “You have all of these resources, and you get to be the one to go out and do the exploring and do the science. And that was really spectacular.”

That similarity is why space scientists study the physiology and psychology of people living in Antarctic and other remote outposts: For around 25 years, people have played out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another world. Polar explorers are, in a way, analogous to astronauts who land on alien planets. And while Sweeney wasn’t technically on an “analog astronaut” mission — her primary objective being the geological exploration of Earth — her days played out much the same as a space explorer’s might.

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