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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."

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

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 Worldcrunch.com

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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Parenthood And The Pressure Of Always Having To Be Doing Better

As a father myself, I'm now better able to understand the pressures my own dad faced. It's helped me face my own internal demands to constantly be more productive and do better.

Photo of a father with a son on his shoulders

Father and son in the streets of Madrid, Spain

Ignacio Pereyra*


When I was a child — I must have been around eight or so — whenever we headed with my mom and grandma to my aunt's country house in Don Torcuato, outside of Buenos Aires, there was the joy of summer plans. Spending the day outdoors, playing soccer in the field, being in the swimming pool and eating delicious food.

But when I focus on the moment, something like a painful thorn appears in the background: from the back window of the car I see my dad standing on the sidewalk waving us goodbye. Sometimes he would stay at home. “I have to work” was the line he used.

Maybe one of my older siblings would also stay behind with him, but I'm sure there were no children left around because we were all enthusiastic about going to my aunt’s. For a long time in his life, for my old man, those summer days must have been the closest he came to being alone, in silence (which he liked so much) and in calm, considering that he was the father of seven. But I can only see this and say it out loud today.

Over the years, the scene repeated itself: the destination changed — it could be a birthday or a family reunion. The thorn was no longer invisible but began to be uncomfortable as, being older, my interpretation of the events changed. When words were absent, I started to guess what might be happening — and we know how random guessing can be.

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