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Funeral for Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died in Jan. 6 riots
Funeral for Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died in Jan. 6 riots

Welcome to Thursday, where the UK has begun a trial of mixing vaccines, Facebook is blocked in Myanmar and German singles try to find love in the local supermarket. We also hear from a Belgian bioengineer working against the tech consensus of "smart cities."

• COVID-19 latest:Germany flies in doctors, ventilators, and beds to Portugal, which is battling a recent surge in cases and shortage of medical care. In Africa, the regional CDC finds that the death rate on the continent is 0.4% higher than the global average. COVAX, the UN-backed vaccine equity project has announced that it will be distributing 337.2 million vaccine doses globally by June. The UK has launched a trial to see if mixing different COVID vaccines could improve immune responses.

• Myanmar blocks Facebook: Attempting to quell organization of further protests against its coup this week, the military government blocked Facebook and other social media networks.

• U.S. and Russia renew nuclear arms treaty: New START, the nuclear arms reduction treaty between the U.S. and Russia set to expire this week, has been extended for five more years.

• Uyghur report: The BBC has released numerous first-hand accounts of alleged crimes against humanity targeting the Muslim minority Uyghur people in the Xinjiang region.

• Iran diplomat sentenced to prison: A Vienna-based Iranian envoy has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for planning to bomb a meeting of an exiled opposition group near Paris. It was the first trial of an Iranian official for suspected terrorism in the European Union since 1979.

• Ethiopia foils UAE embassy attack plot: Authorities in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, have seized weapons and explosives and arrested 15 people over a plot to attack the United Arab Emirates' embassy.

• Find love at the supermarket: A German grocery store is dedicating Friday evenings to "singles shopping" for those struggling to find love behind masks and curfews.

"There are those who say No," titles Italian daily La Sicilia as former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi attempts to form a coalition technical government. Several political parties have indicated they will not support the government despite growing consensus that the 73-year-old is the best option to lead Italy through the health and economic crisis.

Smart cities won't save the planet: we need low-tech cities

The concept of smart cities is a kind of received wisdom among planners and technologists, but our digital world of today is not sustainable, writes bioengineer Jean-Philippe Lens in Belgian daily Le Soir.

The idea behind the concept of smart cities is to think about digital technology as vital to all the challenges posed by global warming, road congestion, air quality improvement or even biodiversity loss. The result? A multitude of sensors, screens and wifi hotspots colonize cities, connecting everything that can be connected. All kinds of objects from swimming pool boilers to war memorial spotlights, road traffic flows or the level of glass shards in recycling bins, and even trees.

The founding argument by the concept's advocates is that 70% of the world's population will live in cities by 2050. Yet such a vision is likely to have a colossal impact on the environment. While the connected city can certainly provide answers to future challenges, the low-tech city — a concept that's still largely absent in urban planning debates — can offer a range of solutions and technical innovations that are just as effective and much less energy-intensive.

For instance, rather than building an underground network of pipelines and stormwater basins equipped with sensors to monitor the level of runoff water at all times and manage its flow, the low-tech city only needs an overhead network of infiltration basins and temporary immersions basins. Not only is this solution cheaper and less energy-intensive, but it also helps to develop biodiversity and reinfiltrate rainwater into the water tables.

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Society

End Of Roe v. Wade, The World Is Watching

As the Supreme Court decides to overturn the 1973 decision that guaranteed abortion rights, many fear an imminent threat to abortion rights in the U.S. But in other countries, the global fight for sexual and reproductive rights is going in different directions.

"Don't abort my right" At 2019 pro-choice march In Toulouse, France.

Alain Pitton/NurPhoto via ZUMA
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank and Sophia Constantino

PARIS — Nearly 50 years after it ensured the right to abortion to Americans, the United States Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade case, meaning that millions of women in the U.S. may lose their constitutional right to abortion.

The groundbreaking decision is likely to set off a range of restrictions on abortion access in multiple states in the U.S., half of which are expected to implement new bans on the procedure. Thirteen have already passed "trigger laws" that will automatically make abortion illegal.

U.S. President Joe Biden called the ruling "a tragic error" and urged individual states to enact laws to allow the procedure.

In a country divided on such a polarizing topic, the decision is likely to cause major shifts in American law and undoubtedly spark outrage among the country’s pro-choice groups. Yet the impact of such a momentous shift, like others in the United States, is also likely to reverberate around the world — and perhaps, eventually, back again in the 50 States.

Keep reading...Show less

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