BoJo Under Pressure, Landmark Syria Trial, Gruyère Row
Welcome to Thursday, where Boris Johnson faces rising calls to resign, an ex Syrian colonel is convicted in a landmark torture trial, and the U.S. finds loopholes in the Gruyère cheese label. We also mark 10 years since the Costa Concordia disaster off the coast of Tuscany.
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🌎 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
• COVID update: South Korea will begin treating coronavirus patients with Paxlovid, Pfizer’s antiviral pills, the first Asian country to do so, while the Africa Centres for Disease Control is seeking to work with Pfizer to import its treatment pill to the continent, where less of 15% of the population has received at least one vaccine dose. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of French teachers are on strike to protest the government’s handling of COVID-19 school measures.
• Boris Johnson faces call to resign: Following his apology for attending a “bring your own booze” party at Downing Street during the first coronavirus lockdown, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s future looks uncertain as several Tory politicians, and leaders of all the main opposition parties are calling for his resignation. A minimum of 54 Conservative MPs are needed to trigger a leadership challenge.
• German court sentences ex Syrian colonel to life in prison: A German court has sentenced Anwar Raslan, a former Syrian colonel who was linked to the torture of more than 4,000 people during Syria’s civil war, to life in prison for crimes against humanity. The landmark trial in Koblenz is the world’s first criminal case brought over state-led torture in Syria.
• Joe Biden imposes first sanctions on North Korea: The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has imposed its first new sanctions on North Korea’s weapons programs, following a series of missile tests despite the UN resolutions banning North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear tests.
• Nigeria to lift Twitter ban after 7 months: Nigeria’s government will reverse its ban on Twitter from midnight, seven months after clamping down on the social media platform. Last June, the social media company, which had deleted a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari about punishing regional secessionists, was accused of siding with the secessionists.
• Australia matches hottest day on record: Australia has equaled its hottest day on record after the Western coastal town of Onslow reported temperatures of 50.7 °C (123.26 °F). The 50 °C-mark had only been crossed three times in early 1960.
• Gruyère is still gruyère even if produced elsewhere: A U.S. federal judge sided with American cheese producers who say gruyère can be produced anywhere, not just in the region around Gruyères in Switzerland. A consortium of Swiss and French cheesemakers from this region had launched proceedings in Virginia after it was denied an application for trademark protections.
🗞️ FRONT PAGE
Scottish daily The Herald features reactions to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s apologies for attending a party at Downing Street during the first coronavirus lockdown in May 2020. The leader is now facing calls to resign, even from MPs from his own Conservative party.
📰 STORY OF THE DAY
Why COVID-19 has made China stronger
The COVID-19 outbreak has reshaped the world's emerging superpower both at home and abroad, making China a more efficient power and helping Chinese overcome their inferiority complex vis-a-vis the West., writes Deng Yuwen in Hong Kong-based digital media The Initium.
🚨 The consequences of the epidemic in China are particularly complex and multi-faceted. However, we can still observe changes that have taken place so far. The first direct change brought about by the pandemic is the arrival in China of a semi-militarized system of lifestyle and social control. It can also be called a "wartime control." The Chinese government had never before found an opportunity to rehearse the control measures it would use were social unrest or a situation similar to that of war to occur. From this perspective, the COVID-19 is an unexpected "win" for the Chinese government.
🇨🇳🇺🇸 The second substantive change is the intensified confrontation between China and the United States. This has led to a deterioration in China’s relations with the West and its moral damage, which in turn makes China's geopolitical environment grimmer than ever. During Biden's first year in office, Sino-U.S. relations did not get better, instead, the two countries have moved closer to a new Cold War.
💪 Another change is in people's mentality. The pandemic has altered the Chinese public’s long-term inferiority complex vis-a-vis the West and has made them more confident, especially in relations with the United States. It has also resulted in the Chinese government’s estimation that "The East is rising while the West is descending," and to regard the U.S. on an equal footing with confidence. The pitifulness of the West’s handling of the pandemic has made the Chinese government and its people suddenly realize that the Western powers’ strength and governmental efficiency are nothing but a legend.
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Derived from the Latin “calends”, meaning “the first day of the month,” calenning is a New Year's Day tradition that is celebrated in Wales, on the 13th of January. They are not two weeks late, in fact, they are still running according to the old Julian Calendar. On this day, the children go from door to door singing and are given “Calenning” in return, sweets or money or both!
🇮🇹 🛳️ IN OTHER NEWS
Watch This Happened - January 13
The Costa Concordia Disaster, 10 years later
Thursday marks 10 years since the Costa Concordia luxury cruise ship deviated from its planned itinerary to get closer to the island Isola del Giglio, before hitting rocks on the seafloor in shallow water and starting to sink. Over the course of six excruciating hours, a rescue effort team worked to evacuate the 4,252 people on board. Sadly, in the end, 33 people died.
“It is a tragedy of unimaginable dimensions, grotesque and frightening,” writes Davide Bartoccini in il Giornale, in an article to mark the disaster’s 10-year anniversary.
The journalist recalls that the ship was so close to the coast that the passengers and crew could have easily swam to safety, but several conditions made it impossible: aboard the Costa Concordia, a giant 56-ton ship, with 13 decks, were many children and elderly passengers, and the accident happened during the night, and during a cold winter.
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“In 30 years in this business, I have never seen anything like it.”
— Mondher Kebaier, coach of the Tunisian national soccer team, reacted after his team’s Africa Cup of Nations match against Mali ended in chaos, as the Zambian referee blew the final whistle prematurely twice, at 85 and 89 minutes — in addition to controversial penalties and red cards. Mali won the game 1-0.
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Bertrand Hauger and Jane Herbelin
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