A massive investigation by more than a dozen media outlets has revealed authoritarian regimes are using spyware to hack the phones of activists and journalists. The software from Israeli surveillance company NSO Group is called Pegasus and can secretly activate smartphones’ microphones, record calls and extract messages. A leaked list of 50,000 phone numbers that may have been targeted included reporters from the New York Times and a murdered Mexican journalist. Data also suggest the malware was used to target those close to Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi after his death. More revelations are set to be published in the coming days. (Sources: The Guardian, Washington Post)
2. Scores Dead as Major Flooding Continues in Europe
Germany is reeling after floods that Chancellor Angela Merkel said caused “surreal” devastation. At least 157 people have been killed in Germany alone in the country's worst natural disaster in over half a century, while Belgium has confirmed 27 deaths. “The German language can barely describe the devastation that’s taken place,” Merkel said yesterday, while visiting one of the affected areas in the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate. She also said the deluge underscored the necessity of tackling climate change. The focus is now turning to southern Germany and Austria, which are on high alert for heavy rains.(Sources: Al Jazeera, BBC, NYT)
3. Britons Have Mixed Feelings on ‘Freedom Day’
It’s been billed as “Freedom Day” in Britain, with coronavirus restrictions ending today. But others are labeling it “disaster day,” and “plague island” was trending on British Twitter. As restrictions were lifted and young people flocked to clubs and parties at midnight, Health Secretary Sajid Javid had tested positive for COVID and Prime Minister Boris Johnson — who has already had it — was isolating. There are rising cases, more than 48,000 yesterday, and hospitalizations due to the delta variant. Johnson’s government has been heavily criticized for bungling the pandemic, and even before the rules were lifted last night Downing Street was warning they could return. (Sources: Daily Mail, The Guardian, BBC)
What do you think? Is the world opening up too early? Vote here.
4. Zooming to Success: Zoom Purchases Five9
After more than a year of the pandemic, you may have Zoom fatigue — but the California-based teleconferencing company isn’t slowing down. It’s just announced a $14.7 billion deal to buy cloud-based call-centre operator Five9, its biggest acquisition. Zoom usage rose 45% over the past year as people around the world shifted to online working and remote learning. Cisco Systems’ Webex and Microsoft Teams have also seen increases in use since the pandemic. In order to stay relevant post-COVID, Zoom’s now shifting its focus to Zoom Rooms for video conferencing, and Zoom Phone, its cloud-calling product. (Sources: Reuters, WSJ (sub))
5. Also Important …
A United States Army Special Forces veteran and his son were sentenced to prison by a Tokyo court today for helping former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn flee Japan. A Confederate statue was removed from outside a city hall in southern Louisiana over the weekend. And Kurt Westergaard, the Danish cartoonist whose 2005 depiction of the Prophet Muhammed outraged many Muslims and sparked riots, has died aged 86.
Coronavirus Update: Two South African soccer players and an analyst have tested positive for coronavirus at the Tokyo Olympic Village. Yesterday Los Angeles County ordered people to again wear masks indoors and in public places as the delta variant continues to spread.
Today on ‘The Carlos Watson Show’ we are joined by Airbnb CEO and Founder Brian Chesky. The billionaire entrepreneur shares his personal path from “lost kid” to powerful CEO and opens up about Airbnb’s “near death” experience during COVID. Hear him share how people’s kindness around the world has encouraged him to take on issues of race and what the best advice he’s received from Warren Buffett is. Don’t miss this special episode.
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A preemptive ... spike? Director Spike Lee accidentally announced the winner of the Palme d’Or at the beginning of the Cannes film festival yesterday, apologizing for the spoiler which took a lot of mystery out of the ceremony. The winning film was Titane, a French serial killer movie whose director Julia Ducournau is only the second woman to win the honor. Jane Campion was the first, winning the Palme d’Or for The Piano in 1993. Titane is a gender-bending film with graphic violence that saw some walk-outs at screenings. The Grand Prix was split between the Iranian drama A Hero and Finnish film Compartment No. 6. (Sources: France 24, IndieWire)
2. Portlandia: Innovative Oregon Pizza Best in the US
When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie it’s ... Oregon. That’s where the authors of a new tome on all things pizza say the best slice in the U.S. can be found. The West Coast state beats New York and Chicago according to authors Nathan Myhrvold and Francisco Migoya due to “innovation and passion.” Restaurants Lovely’s Fifty Fifty, Apizza Scholls and Handsome Pizza in Portland were among those singled out. The book, Modernist Pizza, is a massive three volumes that include recipes, the history of pizza, tips on where to get the best ones and is out in October. (Sources: CNN)
3. Black Hawk Down: Heatwave Seeing Birds Jump From Nests
The heatwave in Oregon and California is causing baby birds to jump from their nests to try and escape it, according to wildlife organizations which have treated scores of baby hawks recently. Some have been so injured they had to be put down, with one Northern Californian wildlife center declaring a “hawkpocalypse.” Sally Compton, from nonprofit Think Wild in Oregon said the hawk phenomenon shows how climate change is affecting animals. “We can definitely say that these really intense events and wildfires and heat waves. … The wildlife can’t keep up with it,” she explained. Experts are unsure if the heat-related deaths could now affect hawk numbers. (Sources: Washington Post, The Sacramento Bee)
4. Tokyo Officials Battle Olympic Oyster Plague
As far as plagues go, an oyster one sounds pretty good. But not to Japanese Olympic officials who’ve spent more than $1 million trying to rid Tokyo Bay of the molluscs, which have attached themselves to floats in the waterway where the Olympic canoeing and rowing events are to be held. Fourteen tons of the purported aphrodisiac have now been removed — though sadly officials said no one got to eat them as that would have entailed safety checks. The magaki oysters, a delicacy, could have been worth tens of thousands of dollars. Canoeing races start on July 25. (Sources: BBC, Olympics)
5. Controversy, Racism After Hamilton Grand Prix Victory
Formula One’s seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton won the British Grand Prix again yesterday, though his victory was not without controversy. A collision in the first lap between the Mercedes driver and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen saw the latter taken to hospital. The Brit was given a penalty with Verstappen criticizing him for “unsportsmanlike behavior” and Red Bull team boss Christian Horner accusing Hamilton of putting the Dutchman’s life at risk. Hamilton, F1’s only Black driver and vocal champion of the Black Lives matter movement, received racist abuse online after the win, British media reported, with Facebook saying it will investigate. (Sources: SuperSport, SkySports)
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