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In The News

400 Arrested In Brasilia Riots, Resilient Bakhmut, COVID Grand Slam

Photo of supporters of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro clashing with police officers in Brasilia.Photo of

Supporters of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro clash with police officers in Brasilia.

Ginevra Falciani, Emma Albright, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 Salamalekum!*

Welcome to Monday, where calm is restored in Brasilia after opposition supporters stormed key government sites yesterday, Ukraine forces repel “constant attacks” in Bakhmut, and the Australian Open will allow COVID-19 positive players to compete. And as the world bid adieu to Benedict XVI, Friedrich Wilhelm Graf in German daily Die Welt looks at the German-born pope’s very Protestant legacy.

[*Wolof, West Africa]


Hard lessons from Brazil’s attack on democracy

What do we make of the echoes from the U.S. Capitol assault on Jan. 6? Will Lula be able to heal Brazil's democratic institutions? On French radio France Inter, Pierre Haski highlights the common traits and differences between the two assaults on governments sites.

Brazil’s democracy has survived. But just like the U.S. after the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, two years ago almost to this day, Brazil will have to overcome a political crisis that targets the foundations of its democratic system.

This dark Sunday for Brazilian democracy looks like the chronicle of a political catastrophe foretold. All of the elements that we saw during the wake of Donald Trump's presidency in the U.S. can be found in Brazil. And just like in Washington, a state that is finally more resilient than the insurgents thought — and above all, a military that did not respond to their calls.

But, yes, it was all there: the undermining of democratic rules, the insidious questioning of electoral processes without any evidence, the disregard for the confirmation of the election results by independent control institutions. Along with a permanent discrediting of news outlets, which also led yesterday to physical attacks against at least six journalists.

And finally, a rejection of democracy itself, whose symbols are ransacked for the benefit of a sublimated army.

First, we need to understand in detail what happened. It was clear from the beginning that there was nothing spontaneous about the simultaneous invasion of the Presidential palace, the Parliament and the Supreme Court.

But was it an extreme move of Bolsonaro supporters engaged in a last stand, or a more elaborate plot with political ramifications, financial means, and complicity within the state apparatus? Only a thorough investigation will tell.

Sunday evening, Anderson Torres, the security chief of Brasilia and former Minister of Justice under ex President Jair Bolsonaro, was dismissed. Authorities have also identified the buses that transported the demonstrators from the rest of the country, and are trying to find out who paid for them.

And of course another important question, just like in the U.S., the personal role of the former president, currently holed up in Orlando, Florida. The same doubts regarding Trump two years ago also exist for Bolsonaro even though he has briefly condemned the events.

But unlike the events in the Capitol, that happened before the results of the presidential election, Lula was sworn in eight days ago. He is now Brazil’s president and that is undeniable. He nevertheless finds himself at the head of a country in shock, polarized, where part of the electorate disputes his legitimacy.

His ability to fully govern will also depend on the attitude of Bolsonaro supporters who hold important positions such as regional governors or legislators. Will they play the democratic game or will they be swayed by the extreme fringe of the Bolsonaro supporters, like the elected Trumpists we have seen at work the last few days in Congress?

A fundamental question remains: how to repair a democratic fabric damaged by populist discourse, but also by a public disenchantment that comes when basic values are not respected. This is ultimately the most difficult question. Much of the hate expressed on Sunday was focused on one name: Lula. The new president will have to show that he can begin to make those repairs. It will not be easy.

Pierre Haski / France Inter


• Brazil forces regain control of Congress, attack condemned globally: Brazilian police have arrested at least 400 people and have cleared the country’s congressional building, Supreme Court and presidential palace of protesters, after thousands of supporters of former president Jair Bolsonaro broke into the key government sites in Brasilia on Sunday. World leaders have condemned the riots, denouncing them as an attack against democracy. Recently elected president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has traveled to the site to inspect the damage and has vowed to punish the protesters.

• Bakhmut holding on: The city of Bakhmut in Donbas, eastern Ukraine, is “holding on” despite repelling constant Russian attacks, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. This comes a day after Kyiv denied that a Russian missile strike had killed 600 Ukrainian soldiers in Kramatorsk, northwest of Bakhmut.

• Clashes at COVID test factory in China: Workers at a major COVID-19 test kit factory in Chongqing, southwestern China, have clashed with police after layoffs were suddenly announced and amid disputes over wages. Demand for testing kits and drugs is soaring in China, as coronavirus infections are on the rise after Beijing shifted from its stringent zero-COVID approach to the pandemic.

• El Paso protests ahead of Biden’s first visit to U.S.-Mexico border: U.S. President Joe Biden visited the U.S.-Mexico on Sunday for the first time since he took office as the immigration issue continues to divide the White House. Meanwhile, ahead of Biden’s visit, protests erupted in El Paso, Texas. Demonstrators spoke out against new restrictions aimed at cracking down on illegal border crossings. Biden announced last week that Cubans, Nicaraguans, Haitians and Venezuelans would be sent to Mexico if they enter the U.S. illegally.

• Dozens of Nigerian commuters kidnapped: According to emerging reports, at least 32 people were kidnapped at a train station in Igueben, southern Nigeria, many of whom were passengers waiting for a train. On Saturday, unidentified gunmen are said to have stormed the station before abducting travelers and members of staff, taking them to a nearby forest.

• Israel orders police to remove Palestine flags from public spaces: Israel’s new far-right Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, has instructed police to remove Palestinian flags from public spaces. He called the Palestinian national symbol an act of “terrorism.” His orders came after a mass anti-government protest in Tel Aviv on Saturday, where some demonstrators waved the Palestinian flag.

• Australian Open players able to play with COVID-19: Players at the Australian Open, which starts on Jan. 16, will not be required to take coronavirus tests and will be allowed to play even if they have COVID-19, the tennis tournament director said. Last year nine-time champion Novak Djokovic was deported because of his stance on vaccines.


Extra’s front page conveys the shock felt around the world after thousands of anti-Lula protesters stormed key government sites in Brazil’s capital Brasilia. Head to worldcrunch.com to see how other newspapers covered the “attack on democracy.”



Nearly 90% of people in Henan, China's third most populous province, have now been infected with COVID — about 88.5 million people. Local health official Kan Quancheng, who revealed the figure at a press conference, did not specify when these infections happened. However, given China’s recent relaxing of its strict zero-COVID policy, it is likely that the vast majority occurred in the past few weeks. Meanwhile, official data still report that just 120,000 people in the country of 1.4 billion have been infected, and 30 have died since the shift in COVID policy.


The Protestant twist to Pope Benedict's theological legacy

In his Spiritual Testament, Pope Benedict XVI only cited Protestant theologians — not a single Catholic thinker. Were the Catholics not interesting enough for him? And what do Joseph Ratzinger’s pre-modern understanding of the concept of reason and inaccurate Kant quotes have to do with it? asks Friedrich Wilhelm Graf in German daily Die Welt.

📖 Joseph Ratzinger first became known to an educated readership in 1968 when he published Introduction to Christianity. The book was widely read, selling 45,000 copies in its first year of publication. However, in the small, elite world of German-speaking theology professors, the book came in for heavy criticism. In 1969 Walter Kasper, who was then Professor of Dogmatics at the University of Tübingen, wrote a scathing review in which he accused his colleague of having a false, overly subjective understanding of Christian theology.

⚠️ That was serious criticism. Kasper, who decades later moved to Rome when he was made a Cardinal of the Roman Curia, was accusing Ratzinger of being too heavily influenced by Protestant thought. Ratzinger’s theology displays an unusually strong continuity in its interpretative patterns and ways of thinking. From the earliest days of his theological career, he was fixated on Protestantism, whether critically or positively.

⛪ Ratzinger’s conception of the Church includes strong criticism of a bourgeois, secularized “people’s Church,” a Church made up of nominal Christians that has a place for unbelievers. In contrast, he emphasized the importance of a practicing, believing community. The “truths of the faith” must be lived out by individuals in “truthfulness.”

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


“Turkey both confirms that we have done what we said we would do, but they also say that they want things that we cannot or do not want to give them.”

— Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson told a security conference that Turkey was asking too much to overcome its objection to Sweden and Finland’s application to NATO. In a three-way agreement signed in 2022, Ankara had requested that Swedish and Finnish authorities strengthen their efforts in the fight against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), despite Sweden’s robust ties with the Kurdish diaspora.

✍️ Newsletter by Ginevra Falciani, Emma Albright, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

On The Donetsk Frontline, Where Kamikaze Drones Are Everyone's Weapon-Of-Choice

In Ukraine, kamikaze drones have gradually overtaken artillery as the main threat to soldiers — on both sides of the frontline. Meanwhile, a bitter winter is taking over life in the trenches.

On The Donetsk Frontline, Where Kamikaze Drones Are Everyone's Weapon-Of-Choice

Ukrainian soldiers on the frontline.

Guillaume Ptak

DONETSK — In the chilly pre-dawn hours, a mud-stained pickup truck drives along a potholed road in Ukraine's eastern region of Donetsk. Despite the darkness and the ice, the vehicle travels with its lights off, its interior illuminated only by the reddish glow of a lit cigarette.

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Throughout the early morning last Monday, the cracking sound of artillery can be heard echoing intermittently in the distance, followed by the bright trail of a projectile soaring into the cloudy sky.

Inside the truck, four soldiers from the 28th brigade of the Ukrainian army have just left the relative comfort of a small country house to go to the frontline, towards Bakhmut. After a short journey through overgrown fields and devastated villages, the car stops at the edge of a forest.

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