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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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• 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.


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.”


$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.


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


“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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Idlib Nightmare: How Syria's Lingering Civil War Is Blocking Earthquake Aid

Across the border from the epicenter in Turkey, the Syrian region of Idlib is home to millions of people displaced by the 12-year-long civil war. The victims there risk not getting assistance because of the interests of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, reminding the world of one of the great unresolved conflicts of our times.

Photo of Syrian civilians inspecting a destroyed residential building in Idlib after the earthquake

A destroyed residential building in Idlib after the earthquake

Pierre Haski


Faced with a disaster of the magnitude of the earthquakes that struck Turkey and Syria, one imagines a world mobilized to bring relief to the victims, where all barriers and borders disappear. Unfortunately, this is only an illusion in such a complex and scarred corner of the world.

Yes, there's been an instant international outpouring of countries offering assistance and rescue teams converging on the disaster zones affected by the earthquakes. It is a race against time to save lives.

But even in such dramatic circumstances, conflict, hatred and competing interests do not somehow vanish by magic.

Sometimes, victims of natural disasters face a double price. This is the case for the 4.5 million inhabitants of Idlib, a region located in northwestern Syria, which was directly hit by the earthquake. So far, the toll there has reached at least 900 people killed, thousands injured and countless others left homeless in the harsh winter.

The inhabitants of Idlib, two-thirds of whom are displaced from other regions of Syria, live in an area that is still beyond the control of Bashar al-Assad, and they've been 90% dependent on international aid... which has not been arriving.

To put maximum pressure on these millions of people, the Syrian government and its Russian ally have gradually restricted the ability to get humanitarian aid to them.

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