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Griner Lands In U.S., Castillo Seeks Asylum In Mexico, Japan’s Dish Of The Year

Griner Lands In U.S., Castillo Seeks Asylum In Mexico, Japan’s Dish Of The Year

American basketball star Brittney Griner after her release from Russia following a prisoner swap

Emma Albright, Renate Mattar and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 Grüss Gott!*

Welcome to Friday, where basketball star Brittney Griner lands in Texas after a U.S. prisoner swap with Russia, the EU votes to accept Croatia into the Schengen zone but bars Romania and Bulgaria, and Japan crowns a surprise dish of the year. Meanwhile, independent website Vazhnyye Istorii/Important Stories talk to Mariupol residents who try to survive in a destroyed city as winter falls.

[*Swabian - Germany]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Griner lands in the U.S. after release from Russia: Following the high-profile prisoner swap between Russia and the U. S., WNBA star Brittney Griner has landed in Texas, after being jailed in Russia for ten months (out of a nine-year sentence) on a minor drug charge. She was exchanged for notorious Russian arms dealer, Viktor Bout, who had been in U.S. custody since 2010.

• Mexico considers asylum for Peru’s Castillo: Peru’s impeached former president, Pedro Castillo, is seeking asylum in Mexico after a judge ordered Castillo to be detained for seven days on allegations of “rebellion and conspiracy.”

• Croatia is Schengen’s newest member: Croatia, which has been part of the European Union since 2013, will officially join the EU's border-free zone known as Schengen on January 1, the same day as it joins the euro. Meanwhile, Romania and Bulgaria, EU members since 2007, were shut out of Schengen membership because of opposition from Austria and the Netherlands over concerns on illegal immigration.

• Russian shopping malls attacked: Fire engulfed one of Russia's largest shopping mall this Friday, in Khimi, in Moscow’s suburbs. According to Russian authorities, one person has died and the mall’s structure collapsed.

• Japan, UK and Italy building joint jet fighter: Italy, Japan, and the UK are merging their fighter jet development project to put a new craft into operation by 2035. The project is Japan’s first major defense collaboration beyond the United States since World War II.

• Celine Dion reveals neurological condition, cancels European tour: Céline Dion has revealed that she is suffering from stiff-syndrome, a rare neurological condition that affects one out of a million, forcing her to postpone European tour dates and putting her future career in question.

• Japan’s “dish of the year” is frozen: The Gurunavi Research Institute, which crowns a new dish every year in Japan to highlight evolving food trends, has declared that the new winner this year is frozen food. According to the Institute, with the pandemic and increasing take-out-orders, a large number of restaurants have started to freeze their dishes.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Saudi business daily Al Eqtisadiah features a front page Friday on the visit to Saudi Arabia by Chinese President Xi Jinping to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud. The daily calls relations between the two countries a “strategic partnership.”

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

$858 billion

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill for for the defense budget to hit a record $858 billion next year, $45 billion more than proposed by President Joe Biden.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Frozen in time: a rare look at life in Mariupol under Russian occupation

Russian occupation authorities promised to rebuild housing in Mariupol by winter, but in reality, thousands of people face the cold in largely destroyed houses and apartments. Mariupol residents told Vazhnyye Istorii about how they are surviving as winter falls.

🏙️💥 Russian troops shelled Mariupol for more than two months straight, and fully occupied it by May. It is still unknown how many people have died in the city of approximately half a million people in peacetime. Up to 90% of high-rise buildings and 60% of private homes have been damaged or destroyed. Nevertheless, there are still about 100,000 people in the occupied city. Many of them have no electricity, heat, water, or sewage. People live without utilities, with tape covering broken windows, and are freezing in their homes in the absence of promised aid that Russia has failed to deliver.

❄️ Andrei Zonder is the head of House 66 apartment block on Morsky Boulevard, where 50 people now live: “The apartments are all frozen, the water is icy, and it is hard to wash hands in it. Today my neighbor showed me that the skin on her hands is cracking. Before June, we were given humanitarian kits from the ‘United Russia’ (political party), sugar, pasta. But since June, they've only been giving these kits to children from 0 to 3 years old. I survive on subsistence food. Sometimes the residents share some food. You don't know what you will eat tomorrow.”

🇷🇺🇺🇦 “Nobody cares what happens in politics. They don't watch the news, and they don't follow the fighting. They don't see who is advancing or retreating. They want to survive, and they want to restore at least a normal livelihood. Right now, it's inhuman. The city is destroyed, and people are doomed to extinction. I'm sitting at home; my feet and hands are freezing cold. That is why such questions are irrelevant here. If you ask about Ukraine or Russia on the street, people will say, ‘Does it matter now’”

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

“Death is a natural part of life.”

— After reports were confirmed of the death of a migrant worker at a World Cup facility, Nasser Al Khater, chief executive of the 2022 World Cup in Doha, seemed to brush off ongoing concerns about worker safety. When asked about the death by Reuters, he said: “We’re in the middle of a World Cup. And we have a successful World Cup. And this is something you want to talk about right now?” Al Khater said. “I mean, death is a natural part of life, whether it’s at work, whether it’s in your sleep. Of course, a worker died. Our condolences go to his family. However, I mean, it is strange that this is something you want to focus on as your first question.” The conditions of foreign workers in preparation for the World Cup has been one of the main criticisms of the Qatari organizers.

✍️ Newsletter by Emma Albright, Renate Mattar and Anne-Sophie Goninet


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Geopolitics

Smaller Allies Matter: Afghanistan Offers Hard Lessons For Ukraine's Future

Despite controversies at home, Nordic countries were heavily involved in the NATO-led war in Afghanistan. As the Ukraine war grinds on, lessons from that conflict are more relevant than ever.

Photo of Finnish Defence Forces in Afghanistan

Finnish Defence Forces in Afghanistan

Johannes Jauhiainen

-Analysis-

HELSINKI — In May 2021, the Taliban took back power in Afghanistan after 20 years of international presence, astronomical sums of development aid and casualties on all warring sides.

As Kabul fell, a chaotic evacuation prompted comparisons to the fall of Saigon — and most of the attention was on the U.S., which had led the original war to unseat the Taliban after 9/11 and remained by far the largest foreign force on the ground. Yet, the fall of Kabul was also a tumultuous and troubling experience for a number of other smaller foreign countries who had been presented for years in Afghanistan.

In an interview at the time, Antti Kaikkonen, the Finnish Minister of Defense, tried to explain what went wrong during the evacuation.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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“Originally we anticipated that the smaller countries would withdraw before the Americans. Then it became clear that getting people to the airport had become more difficult," Kaikkonen said. "So we decided last night to bring home our last soldiers who were helping with the evacuation.”

During the 20-year-long Afghan war, the foreign troop presence included many countries:Finland committed around 2,500 soldiers,Sweden 8,000,Denmark 12,000 and Norway 9,000. And in the nearly two years since the end of the war, Finland,Belgium and theNetherlands have commissioned investigations into their engagements in Afghanistan.

As the number of fragile or failed states around the world increases, it’s important to understand how to best organize international development aid and the security of such countries. Twenty years of international engagement in Afghanistan offers valuable lessons.

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