The Latest: Israel Stampede, Brazil COVID Deaths, Instagrammable Bird

At the Lag B'Omer festival on Mount Meron, Israel, just before a stampede killed at least 44
At the Lag B'Omer festival on Mount Meron, Israel, just before a stampede killed at least 44

Welcome to Friday, where dozens die in a stampede at a religious festival in Israel, Brazil's COVID death toll surpasses 400,000 and an owl-like bird is crowned Instagram influencer. We also look at how a Taiwanese oenologist is working to turn his country into a tropical wine terroir.

• Dozens killed at Israeli religious festival stampede: At least 44 people were crushed to death and hundreds more injured in a stampede at an over-crowded religious festival in northeastern Israel.

• As Brazil death toll tops 400,000, warnings for Latin America: The number of COVID deaths has risen to 400,000, the second highest in the world after the United States. Experts warn that the death toll could continue to grow in the coming months in Brazil, and elsewhere in Latin America, due to the slow vaccination campaign and the early loosening of restrictions.

• Deadly clashes at Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border: At least 13 people were killed and dozens injured after disputes over water surveillance equipment erupted in gunfire on Thursday. Poor demarcation of the Kyrgyz-Tajik border has already led to several clashes over the three decades since the countries became independent.

• Myanmar civilians look to flee to Thailand: If conflicts intensify between the Myanmar army and ethnic minority Karen fighters, thousands of Karen villagers are likely to seek refuge in Thailand. Around 2,000 villagers have already fled to Thailand, according to Thai foreign ministry.

• Zulu queen dies: Zulu Queen Mantfombi Dlamini has died from an unspecified illness aged 65, only a month after becoming interim leader of South Africa's largest ethnic group after her husband, King Goodwill Zwelithini, died from diabetes-related complications.

• EU vs. Apple: The EU's antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager has accused Apple's App Store rules of breaking European antitrust law by undermining developers the U.S. giant competes with.

• The most "Instagrammable" bird: Researchers have singled out frogmouth, a bird species often mistaken for an owl, in a study about how social media users interacted with some of the most popular bird photography accounts on Instagram.

Brazilian daily Extra mourns its dead on its front page, filling a map of the country with examples of people lost to COVID: "My mother", "my doctor", "my son", "my friend." Now with more than 400,000 deaths, Brazil has the world's second highest toll after the U.S.

Tropical terroir: the man turning Taiwan into wine country

On this subtropical island, Chien-hao Chen fought typhoons and monsoons to develop his vineyards — and to produce wines admired by some of the most important oenologists, reports Alice Hérait in French daily Le Monde.

The island of Taiwan is much more famous for its tea and street food than for its vineyards. Producing wine is certainly possible, but producing very good wine is another story. Yet Vino Formosa, a sweet white wine, and Vino Formosa Rosso, its red equivalent — developed in this very tough environment by the eccentric Chien-hao Chen — are two notable exceptions. We meet the 53-year-old winemaker at the end of Oct. 2020, under a blazing sun. The winery, Shu-sheng, is located on the outskirts of Taichung, Taiwan's second largest city with 2.8 million inhabitants.

After studying and working in Switzerland and France, Chien-hao Chen returned to Taiwan, ready to develop a vineyard in a country where everything remained to be done. His chief ambition was to make a great win but this meant dealing with the climate, which tempered his expectations. This is the main challenge to the development of wine production in Taiwan. Chen first had to overcome the heat. He shows us a strain of Riesling grape variety, which grows very poorly. "The root suffers; It's too hot." He also had to adapt to the four meters of annual rainfall, which is significant.

But the hard work and persistence paid off. In 2014, the white Vino Formosa received a gold medal at the prestigious International Vinalies competition. In 2019, it was the red wine's turn to be awarded the prize. Chen is proud to see that he can play in the big league. We ask him to describe his sweet red: "There is a very good concentration in the nose. In the taste, we find all the exotic fruits, red fruits, a bit of candied fruit, chocolate, caramel... It is very complex, with a good freshness and acidity."

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Love at first swab, romance at a French COVID testing center

In the middle of a global pandemic and its neverending curfews, social interactions are rare and the dating game is on hold almost everywhere. But then there's France, where romance can strike where you least expect it.

Back in November 2020 in the eastern city of Belfort, Julie Bongiovanni, 21, became a COVID contact-case and had to get herself tested, reports local French newspaper L'Est Républicain.

Having been tested once before, she knew of the pain the nasal swab caused, so wasn't exactly looking forward to it. But as medical staff worker Mickaël Peter, 21, approached with the dreaded q-tip, she looked into his eyes and … l'amour.

Despite his facemask, protective glasses, hairnet and nurse's blouse, one gaze was all it took for the two of them to fall head over heels in love.

After a few nasal-passage-triggered tears, a long conversation ensued — so long, that one of Mickaël's colleagues came to check if everything was alright. Cupid's cotton swab had struck, they kept in touch via social media, agreeing to a date the week after her negative results — this time without masks. ("I hadn't even noticed he had a beard!")

Now, five months later, Julie has moved into Mickaël's place in the eastern city of Alsace. Leave it to the French, we might say, to discover the opposite of social distancing.

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

64 million

Economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting women more than men: according to an Oxfam study, women around the world lost more than 64 million jobs in 2020, a 5% loss compared to 3.9% for men. This represents at least $800 billion in lost income for women, the equivalent to more than the combined GDP of 98 countries.

Rudy, I told you so.

— Donald Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen tells CNN what went through his mind upon learning about the FBI raid on the home and office of Rudy Giuliani earlier this week.

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The Olympic torch is lit at the Archaeological site of Olympia in Greece.

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Asham!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Pyongyang test fires a suspected submarine-launched missile, Colin Powell is remembered, Poland-EU tensions rise, and yay (or yeesh): it's officially Ye. Meanwhile, our latest edition of Work → In Progress takes the pulse of the new professional demands in a recovering economy.

[*Oromo - Ethiopia and Kenya]


• North Korea fires missile off Japan coast: South Korea military reports that North Korea has fired a ballistic missile into the waters off the coast of Japan. The rocket, thought to have been launched from a submarine, is the latest test in a series of provocations in recent weeks.

• Poland/EU tensions: Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has accused the EU of "blackmail" and said the European Union is overstepping its powers, in a heated debate with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen over the rule of law. The escalation comes in the wake of a controversial ruling by Poland's Constitutional Tribunal that puts national laws over EU principles.

• Colin Powell remembered: Tributes are pouring for former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, after his death yesterday at age 84. Although fully vaccinated, Powell died from complications from COVID-19 as he was battling blood cancer. A trailblazing soldier, he then helped shape U.S. foreign policy, as national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and served as the nation's top diplomat for George W. Bush. Powell's legacy is, by his own admission, "blotted" by his faulty claims of weapons of mass destruction to justify the U.S. war in Iraq.

• Russia to suspend NATO diplomatic mission amid tension: Russia is suspending its diplomatic mission to NATO and closing the alliance's offices in Moscow as relations with the Western military block have plunged to a new low. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced the move after NATO expelled eight diplomats from Russia's mission for alleged spying. Relations between NATO and Russia have been strained since Moscow annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

• Ecuador state of emergency to battle drug crime: President Guillermo Lasso declared a state of emergency amid Ecuador's surge in drug-related violence. He announced the mobilization of police and the military to patrol the streets, provide security, and confront drug trafficking and other crimes.

• Taliban agrees to house-to-house polio vaccine drive: The WHO and Unicef campaign will resume nationwide polio vaccinations after more than three years, as the new Taliban government agreed to support the campaign and to allow women to participate as frontline health workers. Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan are the last countries in the world with endemic polio, an incurable and infectious disease

• Kanye West officially changes name: Some say yay, some say yeesh, but it's official: The-artist-formerly-known-as-Kanye-West has legally changed his name to Ye, citing "personal reasons."


The Washington Post pays tribute to Colin Powell, the first Black U.S. Secretary of State, who died at 84 years old from complications from COVID-19.


Jashn-e Riwaaz

Indian retailer Fabindia's naming its new collection Jashn-e Riwaaz, an Urdu term meaning "celebration of tradition," has been met with severe backlash and calls for boycott from right-wing Hindu groups. They are accusing the brand of false appropriation by promoting a collection of clothes designed for Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, but giving it a name in Urdu, a language spoken by many Muslims.


Work → In Progress: Where have all the workers gone?

After the economic slowdown brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, companies all over the world are taking advantage of loosened lockdowns and progress on the vaccine front to ramp up operations and make up for lost productivity. But the frenetic spurts of the recovery are getting serious pushback. This edition of Work → In Progress looks not only at the coming changes in our post-COVID economy, but also the ways our world is re-evaluating professional obligations.

🗓️ Hail the 4-day week Across the planet, the shorter work week trend is spreading like wildfire. Four is the new five. Spain began experimenting with the concept earlier this year. New Zealand launched a similar trial run in 2020. And in Iceland, efforts to curb working hours date all the way back to 2015, with significant results: 86% of the country's workforce gained the right to reduce work hours with no change in pay.

🚚 Empty seats In the United States, meanwhile, a severe lack of truck drivers has the country's transportation industry looking to hire from abroad. The only problem is … the shortage is happening worldwide, in part because of the e-commerce boom in the wake of worldwide quarantines. The Italian daily Il Fatto Quotidiano reports that companies will be scrambling to fill the jobs of 17,000 truck drivers in the next two years. The article blames low wages and the dangerous nature of the job, stating that Italian companies are making moves to employ foreign workers.

💼 Key help wanted It's all well and good to question current working conditions. But what about 20 years from now? Will we be working at all? A recent article in the French daily Les Echos posed just that question, and posits that by 2041 — and with the exception of a few select jobs — automation and digitalization will decimate employment. The piece refers to the lucky few as "essential workers," a concept that originated with COVID lockdowns when almost all labor halted and only a minority of workers capable of performing society's most crucial in-person tasks were allowed to carry on.

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I'm worried for my Afghan sisters.

— Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai Nobel Prize tells the BBC that despite the Taliban's announcement that they would soon lift the ban on girls' education in Afghanistan, she worries it "might last for years."

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Are you more yay or yeesh about the artist currently known as Ye? Let us know how the news look in your corner of the world — drop us a note at!

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