Welcome to Thursday, where Washington calls for suspension of COVID vaccine patents, Philippines President regrets getting a Chinese jab and Europe's biggest bear is dead. Germany daily Die Welt, meanwhile, looks at the perils of cops who want to be internet famous.
• U.S. to support vaccine patent waiver: The Biden administration has come out in support of suspending intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines, backing international efforts to speed up production, especially in developing countries.
• Colombian president calls for dialogue: Colombian President Ivan Duque has called for national dialogue after days of protests that led to at least 24 deaths and concern about police violence.
• Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Wong sentenced: Hong Kong's best-known pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong has been sentenced to ten months in jail for participating in an unauthorised march marking the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.
• UK Navy ships patrol near Jersey over fishing tension with France: Two Royal Navy ships are patrolling around the British island of Jersey as French fishermen protest post-Brexit fishing rules. France has also threatened to cut off electricity to the island.
• Facebook maintains Trump ban (for now): Facebook's oversight board has upheld former U.S President Donald Trump's removal from Facebook, but gave the company six months to give a permanent response. Trump was banned from Facebook and Twitter last January following the Capitol attack by his supporters.
• Safe landing for SpaceX: SpaceX's Starship rocket prototype achieved its first clean landing, after four previous attempts ended up in explosions. NASA has recently chosen this prototype to land astronauts on the Moon in the coming years.
• Royal blamed for killing Europe's largest bear: Preservationists suspect a Liechtenstein prince of having shot dead the biggest bear alive in Europe as part of a hunting expedition in Romania last March.
"The country will not stop screaming until they listen," titles daily Publimetro, reporting on the widespread protests against poverty and inequality intensifying across Colombia. At least 24 people have been killed since the demonstrations started a week ago.
Germany's #Instacops, the perils of police as influencers
Some police officers have used their toned bodies, selfies in uniform, and professional insights into social media notoriety. But all that attention can also lead to problems on the job, writes Anna Kröning in German daily Die Welt.
Mia Dagbok, a 24-year-old police officer, has over 36,000 followers on Instagram, where she posts photos of herself at work. The policewoman has been on the job for around five years, and for the past three she has been one of a growing number of Instacops, influencers in uniform who are building a public profile through social media, podcasts and blogs. As they attract attention, they've also triggered a heated debate around how much police officers should reveal about themselves and their work.
Many police trainees don't realize that even posting a selfie where they're identifiable can have significant consequences: It can make it almost impossible for them to serve as undercover officers at a later date. Police officers who post about their love for shoot-"em-up games in the evening and then shoot a gun as part of their work the next day have to understand that this may come back to bite them. Benjamin Jendro, from Berlin's police union, generally warns them against mixing their personal and professional lives. He runs seminars to educate them about the pitfalls of social media.
Posting work-related photos is always a tricky balance. For police officers it's particularly delicate — but very popular. Julian Kawohl, who researches the phenomenon at Berlin's University of Applied Sciences, says the officers post because social media answers a need for approval and validation. Their work is often hard and they have to face a lot of criticism and conflict on a day-to-day basis. As online influencers, it's comparatively easy to get positive feedback. "A uniform makes people look sexy, whether it's a pilot or a police officer," says Kawohl.
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A bottle of Bordeaux wine that was aged for 14 months in space could be auctioned at an estimated price of 830,000 euros ($1 million). The bottle of Pétrus 2000 was part of a batch of 12 which was sent to the International Space Station, for a research study on food and agriculture.
In Alsace, a town name too long for e-commerce
Along the border with Germany, the French region of Alsace is known for its white wine, Christmas markets and … ridiculously long town names. So long, in fact, that one resident of the little town of Niederschaeffolsheim was unable to buy a pair of sneakers.
Here's how this unusual online clash played out recently between the old Alsatian language and modern word counts, as reported in local daily Dernières Nouvelles d'Alsace. A 16-year-old named Justine was wrapping up her purchase on Foot Locker's website when she was prompted to insert her address. The box, however, had a limit of 15 letters, and Niederschaeffolsheim adds up to 20. "I thought it was surely an error, so I re-tried but it didn't work," she told the newspaper. "I can't do anything about the name of my village."
Justine decided to tweet a screenshot of the ordeal, hoping to give Foot Locker a gentle nudge. She didn't expect over 5,000 shares and 45,000 likes, or comments such as "Your tweet is more efficient than a geography class' and "the name of your town is a Scrabble winner." Justine was thrilled to introduce her compatriots to "one of the longest town names in Alsace."
The French often poke fun at long Alsatian names, but these denominations are relics of singular dialects unique to the region. For centuries, the area's ownership has been hotly disputed between France and Germany; As a result, Alsatian dialects are a hodgepodge of the two languages, inheriting German's long-winded word construction. Multiple times throughout history, Alsatian dialects were banned in schools by the French government as a way to eradicate German influence.
As a result, these regional languages are dwindling. A 2013 report from the French Minister of Culture found only 42% of Alsatian citizens could converse in its dialects, whereas 62% were considered "fluent" in 1999. Geography is perhaps the last bastion of these rarefied tongues, harboring magnificent mouthfuls like Mittelschaeffolsheim, Pfulgriesheim and Breuschwickersheim.
Alsatians are not alone in their linguistic lengthiness: The longest town name in France, Saint-Remy-en-Bouzemont-Saint-Genest-et-Isson, is located further west in the Marne region.
Foot Locker claimed to have never had any previous issues with their 15-letter town-name limit. "Time will tell if this Tweet will convince brands to adapt their websites to our dear Alsatian communities," concluded Dernières Nouvelles d'Alsace.
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Don't follow my footsteps.
— Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has asked citizens not to follow his lead after receiving the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine, produced by China but not yet approved in the Philippines. "It's dangerous because there are no studies, it might not be good for the body. Just let me be the sole person to receive it," the usually unapologetic strongman added, while asking the Chinese Embassy to take back the 1,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines it had donated.
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet & Emma Flacard
With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.
CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.
Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.
It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.
Abundant sunshine, low temperatures
The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.
Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.
It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.
Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park
Chinese want to expand
The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.
The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.
The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.
The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.
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