Welcome to Friday, where an Israeli-Hamas ceasefire is holding, we find out what Obama really thinks of Trump and cows help Thailand's vaccination drive. Also, Les Echos takes an inside visit to the remote "mines' turning out bitcoin cryptocurrency in China.
• Israel-Gaza ceasefire holding: An Egyptian-mediated truce between Israel and Hamas began late Friday after 11 days of the worst violence in years, which killed 232 Palestinians and 12 Israelis. By early afternoon local time in the Middle East, there were no reports of violations of the ceasefire.
• Biden signs bill to stop Asian hate: U.S. President Joe Biden signs a bill aimed at stemming the rising number of anti-Asian crimes, increasingly related to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to associations, more than 6,600 cases of anti-Asian violence were reported within the past year.
• African Union demands "democratic transition" in Chad: The African Union has called for a "democratic transition" within 18 months in Chad, where a military government has been in power after former President Idriss Deby was killed by rebels on the frontline in April.
• Prince William accuses BBC over controversial interview: Britain's Duke of Cambridge has blamed the BBC for deceiving his late mother, Princess Diana, and poisoning her relationship with Prince Charles.
• Europe wants to build GPS-like system for the Moon: The European Space Agency has proposed that the same type of navigation system used on Earth be deployed at the Moon, to enable astronauts and spacecraft to precisely know where they are and where to land.
• Farewell to Internet Explorer: Microsoft's Internet Explorer will be retired next year after more than 26 years of service. It will be replaced by the newer, faster and more secure Microsoft Edge browser.
• Cattle for raffle to boost Thai vaccination: In a northern district of Thailand, a raffle campaign for vaccinated residents to win a live cow per week for the rest of the year to boost COVID-19 vaccination drive.
Weekly magazine India Today is asking "when will the devastation end?" as the country set a grim global record for daily coronavirus deaths this week, driving the overall death toll to more than 283,000.
Inside the Himalayan hideaway of Chinese bitcoin mines
In remote — sometimes unmapped — regions of China, thousands of computers are "mining" Bitcoin, the queen of virtual currencies. The country may boast all the right conditions to dominate the cryptocurrency market today, but will its mining boom last? asks Frédéric Schaeffer in French daily Les Echos.
While any individual in the world can theoretically participate in this vast global mining operation, China has turned it into an industry. Just by itself, the country accounts for two thirds of mining activity. Its recipe: one of the cheapest electricity systems in the world combined with low taxes, a crucial asset for extremely energy-intensive "mining." Another advantage is that Chinese miners have close relationships with the world's leading mining equipment manufacturers, who are also Chinese: Bitmain, Canaan Creative and Ebang.
Four years ago, Jin Xilai, who ran an internet cafe for video game fans, noticed that graphics cards were becoming increasingly scarce. "When it was explained to me that they were being used to create cryptocurrency, I became interested in the subject and wanted to get started! " he says. At 28, he then gathered 5 million yuan (650,000 euros) with other investors to open the mine. "I didn't receive any public support, but I found the land through my connections," he says.
For years, China has had an ambiguous relationship with Bitcoin, and Chinese miners are not immune to changes in regulations. Beijing initially allowed the industry to grow. But the tide turned in 2017 when the government increased regulations, banning, for example, all cryptocurrency fundraising activity — an operation labeled as an "illegal and unauthorized public funding channel" — and tightening the monitoring of transactions. The new rules banned bitcoin trading but not possession, and mining was encouraged by some local authorities who saw it as a way to attract investment and create jobs in less hospitable areas.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
وقف إطلاق النار
Arabic for "ceasefire" (waqf "iitlaq alnnar) as an Egyptian-mediated truce between Israel and Hamas began on Friday night, ending 11 days of deadly violence.
U.S. Federal officials have seized 68 big cats belonging to Jeff and Lauren Lowe, stars of the 2020 hit Netflix show Tiger King. The owners of the Tiger King Park in Oklahoma were repeatedly cited for failing to properly take care of the exotic animals and were both accused of violating U.S. laws on endangering species and animal welfare.
A racist, sexist pig.
— According to an upcoming book by The Atlantic writer Edward-Isaac Dovere, Barack Obama didn't mince words when referring to then-President Donald Trump in conversations with donors and advisors. He also reportedly called Trump a "madman", a "f***ing lunatic" and a "corrupt motherf***er."
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Emma Flacard & Bertrand Hauger
Welcome to Wednesday, where chaos hits Syria, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is accused of crimes against humanity and a social media giant plans to rebrand itself. For Spanish daily La Razon, reporter Paco Rodríguez takes us to the devastated town of Belchite, where visitors are reporting paranormal phenomenons.
🌎 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
• Syrian violence erupts: Army shelling on residential areas of the rebel-held region of northwestern Syria killed 13 people, with school children among the victims. The attack occurred shortly after a bombing killed at least 14 military personnel in Damascus. In central Syria, a blast inside an ammunition depot kills five soldiers.
• Renewed Ethiopia air raids on capital of embattled Tigray region: Ethiopian federal government forces have launched its second air strike this week on the capital of the northern Tigray. The air raids mark a sharp escalation in the near-year-old conflict between the government forces and the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) that killed thousands and displaced over 2 million people.
• Bolsonaro accused of crimes against humanity: A leaked draft government report concludes that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro should be charged with crimes against humanity, forging documents and incitement to crime, following his handling of the country's COVID-19 pandemic. The report blames Bolsonaro's administration for more than half of Brazil's 600,000 coronavirus deaths.
• Kidnappers in Haiti demand $17 million to free a missionary group: A Haitian gang that kidnapped 17 members of a Christian aid group, including five children, demanded $1million ransom per person. Most of those being held are Americans; one is Canadian.
• Putin bows out of COP26 in Glasgow: Russian President Vladimir Putin will not fly to Glasgow to attend the COP26 climate summit. A setback for host Britain's hopes of getting support from major powers for a more radical plan to tackle climate change.
• Queen Elizabeth II cancels trip over health concerns: The 95-year-old British monarch has cancelled a visit to Northern Ireland after she was advised by her doctors to rest for the next few days. Buckingham Palace assured the queen, who attended public events yesterday, was "in good spirits."• A new name for Facebook? According to a report by The Verge website, Mark Zuckerberg's social media giant is planning on changing the company's name next week, to reflect its focus on building the "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet.
🗞️ FRONT PAGE
"Oil price rise causes earthquake," titles Portuguese daily Jornal I as surging demand coupled with supply shortage have driven oil prices to seven-year highs at more than $80 per barrel.
#️⃣ BY THE NUMBERS
For the first time women judges have been appointed to Egypt's State Council, one of the country's main judicial bodies. The council's chief judge, Mohammed Hossam el-Din, welcomed the 98 new judges in a celebratory event in Cairo. Since its inception in 1946, the State Council has been exclusively male and until now actively rejected female applicants.
📰 STORY OF THE DAY
Spanish civil war town now a paranormal attraction
Ghosts from Spain's murderous 1930s civil war are said to roam the ruins of Belchite outside Zaragoza. Tourists are intrigued and can book a special visit to the town, reports Paco Rodríguez in Madrid-based daily La Razon.
🏚️ Between August 24 and September 6, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, more than 5,000 people died in 14 days of intense fighting in Belchite in north-eastern Spain, and the town was flattened. The fighting began on the outskirts and ended in house-to-house fighting. Almost half the town's 3,100 residents died in the struggle. The war annihilated centuries of village history. The town was never rebuilt, though a Pueblo Nuevo (or new town) was built by the old one.
😱 Belchite became an open-air museum of the horror of the civil war of 1936-39, which left 300,000 dead and wounds that have yet to heal or, for some today, mustn't. For many locals, the battle of Belchite has yet to end, judging by reports of paranormal incidents. Some insist they have heard the screams of falling soldiers, while others say the Count of Belchite wanders the streets, unable to find a resting place after his corpse was exhumed.
🎟️ Ordinary visitors have encountered unusual situations. Currently, you can only visit Belchite at set times every day, with prior booking. More daring visitors can also visit at 10 p.m. on weekends. Your ticket does not include a guaranteed paranormal experience, but many visitors insist strange things have happened to them. These include sudden changes of temperature or the strange feeling of being observed from a street corner or a window. Furthermore, such phenomena increase as evening falls, as if night brought the devastated town to life.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
We still cling to the past because back then we had security, which is the main thing that's missing in Libya today.
— Fethi al-Ahmar, an engineer living in the Libyan desert town Bani Walid, told AFP, as the country today marks the 10-year anniversary of the death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The leader who had reigned for 42 years over Libya was toppled in a revolt inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings and later killed by rebels. Some hope the presidential elections set in December can help the country turn the page on a decade of chaos and instability.
🇮🇷🎓 IN OTHER NEWS
Iran to offer Master's and PhD in morality enforcement
Iran will create new "master's and doctorate" programs to train state morality agents checking on people's public conduct and attire, according to several Persian-language news sources.
Mehran Samadi, a senior official of the Headquarters to Enjoin Virtues and Proscribe Vices (Amr-e be ma'ruf va nahy az monkar) said "anyone who wants to enjoin virtues must have the knowledge," the London-based broadcaster Iran International reported, citing reports from Iran.
The morality patrols, in force since the 1979 revolution, tend to focus mostly on young people and women, particularly the public appearance for the latter. Loose headscarves will send women straight to a police station, often in humiliating conditions. Five years ago, the regime announced a new force of some 7,000 additional agents checking on women's hijabs and other standards of dress and behavior.
Last week, for example, Tehran police revealed that they had "disciplined" agents who had been filmed forcefully shoving a girl into a van. Such incidents may increase under the new, conservative president, Ibrahim Raisi.
Speaking about the new academic discipline, Samadi said morals go "much further than headscarves and modesty," and those earning graduate degrees would teach agents "what the priorities are."
Iran's Islamic regime, under the guidance of Shia jurists, continuously fine tunes notions of "proper" conduct — and calibrates its own, interventionist authority. More recently the traffic police chief said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes, and "would be stopped," Prague-based Radio Farda reported.Days before, a cleric in the holy city of Qom in central Iran insisted that people must be vaccinated by a medic of the same sex "as often as possible," and if not, there should be no pictures of mixed-sex vaccinations.
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger
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