Welcome to Tuesday, where Myanmar files new charges against Suu Kyi, Guinea reports an Ebola outbreak and bitcoin value is about to cross a major threshold. We also look at a new business booming in China during the pandemic: student ghostwriting.
• COVID-19 latest: The World Health Organization has authorized the AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use around the world. A snowstorm in Athens halts vaccine rollout while a syringe shortage is slowing South Korea's efforts. China has reported 16 new cases, so far largely avoiding outbreak fears related to Lunar New Year homecomings.
• Myanmar military targets Suu Kyi: Military police file a new charge against pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, for breaking coronavirus restrictions. The junta, which last week allowed for detention without court, may try to hold her indefinitely. Meanwhile labor strikes take aim at the regime, while Buddhist monks have begun demonstrating outside of UN offices.
• Congress to probe Capitol assault: Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has announced plans to launch an independent commission to investigate the Capitol Hill riots on January 6, including a review of security infrastructure.
• Ebola outbreak in Guinea: At least seven cases, including four deaths, have been reported in the West African country, as officials rush to trace contacts and has asked international health organizations to acquire vaccines.
• North Korean hackers: Despite the country's leader claiming it has no Covid cases, South Korean Intelligence Services report that North Korean hackers tried to break into Pfizer computer systems to steal information related to vaccine technology.
• Attack on U.S. base in Iraq: One person was killed and another eight wounded in a rocket attack near an airport in northern Iraq. The Shiite militant group called "Guardians of Blood Brigade" have claimed responsibility.
• Larry the cat, a decade of service: The "Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office" has celebrated 10 years of service at 10 Downing Street, London, never missing an opportunity to appear in a news segment or catch invading pigeons.
French daily Libération devotes its front page to the debate around so-called "vaccine passports," which are supported by professionals in the tourism industry but criticized by others as further infringement on citizens' freedom.
Cheaters gonna cheat! The student ghostwriting boom in China
What's an enterprising idea born out of lockdown? Get paid to take online courses for other people, as no teacher can actually see who is taking their course, report Xue Xiaodong and Liu Yuelin in Hong-kong based media The Initium.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of millions of students in the world have been forced into online courses, including international students. Meanwhile, according to iiMedia Consulting, China's overseas student population grew from 414,000 to over 700,000 between 2013 to 2019. "One nasty side-effect of this boom has been the surge in contract cheating services, as revealed in several reports over recent years', said MacroBusiness, an Australian web media.
As Turntin, a web-based plagiarism and originality checking toolkit explained, contract cheating involves a student hiring a third party to complete academic work for him or her. As long as the student pays a fee, a service agency will find a ghostwriter to take charge of all school assignments, and even pretend to be the student in email exchanges with their professors. With constant contacts between the agency, the ghostwriter and the student, as long as the student can appear on time when requested for a visual online class or for face to face online tests, it's incredibly easy to cheat for the rest of the course.
Thanks to flyers stuck in toilets, social media and even open online ads, businesses like this are booming at an unprecedented speed, and this has created a viable business model in China over recent years. And as Chinese lawyer Ruan Aiqian explained, at present China has no clear regulations prohibiting misconduct in online courses and the supervision of the matter is relatively weak.
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Italy's COVID Gaffeur-in-Chief: "No Rush" To Vaccinate Those Over 80
In the Italian region of Lombardy, hit particularly hard by the pandemic, Leitizia Moratti serves as chief of welfare policy. She's also fast becoming queen of the COVID gaffe.
Moratti, 71, who had a successful business career and married an oil baron before entering politics, made headlines last month when she said that Italy's criteria for vaccine distribution should include which regions have higher GDPs. In other words, rich regions (like Lombardy) should get vaccinated sooner because that would help the economy overall.
The statement made in a private meeting of her party allies was vilified in her own region and around Italy, with one prominent economist saying the idea was a form of eugenics. Moratti, a former mayor of Milan, says her comment was taken out of context — though there is a tape recording.
Now, according to La Repubblica, Moratti has suggested another unlikely approach to vaccine distribution. As the Lombardy region was launching its campaign to get all those over 80 years vaccinated, Moratti responded to concerns about the efficiency of the system. "People need to stay calm," she said. "All those over 80 will be vaccinated. There's no need to rush."
Twitter, well, didn't have to wait. One resident suggested that the head of welfare should say the exact opposite: "we need to rush." Another tweet read: "This morning I booked the vaccine for my 86 year-old mother-in-law, Now Moratti says there's no rush! What have I done wrong?"
➡️ Keep up with all the planet's police reports and plot twists on Worldcrunch.com
Bitcoin's spectacular two-month rally brought the cryptocurrency near the $50,000 threshold for the first time late Monday. As Reuters reports, bitcoin was virtually worthless a decade ago (software developer Laszlo Hanyecz famously paid 10,000 bitcoins for two pizzas), and surpassed $20,000 only in mid-December on its way to its current value.
An educated man won't rape.
— South African Education Minister Angie Motshekga came under fire for her comment while addressing students in Pretoria about why the government was prioritizing education. The country's largest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, said her comment was "utterly inappropriate and careless' as South Africa is struggling with a scourge of violence against women. Official statistics show that the police receive 110 accusations of rape every day.
The role of the nuclear pact
It's unlikely Ali Khamenei will tolerate the Saudi kingdom's rising power in the region.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020commons.wikimedia.org
Riyadh's warming relations with Israel
If nuclear talks break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive.
- Arab-Israeli Rapprochement: Is Saudi Arabia Next? - Worldcrunch ›
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- Iran-Azerbaijan Tensions: How Khamenei Overplayed Islamic Ties ... ›