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In The News

UK COVID record, Super Typhoon Rai, Birds’ Hit Album

UK COVID record, Super Typhoon Rai, Birds’ Hit Album

A health worker gives a dose of China's Sinovac vaccine to a boy

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

👋 སྐུ་གཟུགས་བཟང་པོ།!*

Welcome to Thursday, where the UK reports highest daily COVID cases, one of the biggest storms of 2021 hits the Philippines and Australia’s new musical hit makers are… birds. And for German daily Die Welt, writer and historian Karl-Heinz Göttert looks at how the Nazis attempted to use Christmas for their own ends.

[*Kuzu zangpo la, Dzongkha - Bhutan]


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• COVID update: The UK hits record high of 78,610 daily cases, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson warning against socializing before Christmas, but not yet closing down restaurants and pubs. France is banning nonessential travel from the UK as the omicron variant takes hold across Europe and many other parts of the world. Meanwhile, tens of millions of migrants might be denied access to COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX program, as several major manufacturers are worried about being sued due to potential side effects.

Super Typhoon Rai hits Philippines: Mass evacuations are underway as what is being described as one of the biggest storms of 2021 makes landfall in the Philippines. Known locally as Odette, the typhoon has already brought torrential rain and flooding on the eastern coast of the island nation.

Nigerian police get pay raise to curb bribery: Nigeria’s government approved a 20% pay raise for police in order to fight against the widespread corruption that fueled last year’s #EndSars protests. The police’s Special Anti-robbery Squad unit, known as Sars, was accused of extortion as well as extrajudicial killings and torture. The demonstrations, which began in 2017 and gained momentum in 2020, have already resulted in the unit being disbanded and panels of inquiry being set up.

Kennedy assassination documents released: U.S. authorities have released thousands of documents relating to the 1963 murder of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, an event that has been ripe with conspiracy theories. The files show the extensive effort by the CIA and FBI to chase down potential leads ranging from African communist groups to the Soviet Union to the Italian mafia.

Australia bouncy castle freak accident causes four child deaths: In Tasmania, four children died and five were injured when a bouncy house flew into the air due to a wind gust. The five and sixth graders fell from a height of about 32 feet.

Clashes in Cameroon create refugee crisis: More than 80,000 Cameroonians have taken refuge in bordering Chad in the week since violence has broken out in the northern tip of Cameroon. The fighting began over a critical water shortage crisis following a mediocre rainy season.

Birds soar to the top of the Australian music chart: Get out of the way Abba and the Weeknd: “Songs of Disappearance,” which appeared in the top five of Australia’s Aria music charts, features the birdsongs of 53 of Australia's most threatened species, with record sale proceeds going toward conservation efforts. Well, as they say: To everything there is a season


China’s People’s Daily reports on the video call between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, who said relations between the two countries were “a proper example of interstate cooperation.” The Russian leader also said he plans to attend the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in person, in response to the diplomatic boycott initiated by the U.S.



Palestinian embroidery, a centuries-old tradition known as tatreez, has been added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said the designation was important to protect “Palestinian identity, heritage and narrative, in the face of the occupation’s attempts to steal what it does not own.”


When the Nazis stole Christmas

Both the Nazis and East German Communist Party tried to use Christmas for their own ends, and distance it from its Christian meaning. In Berlin-based daily Die Welt, writer and historian Karl-Heinz Göttert looks at the attempts to hijack Christmas throughout German history, and why it matters today.

🎄 As far back as the Romantic era, there has been an abundance of theories about the Germanic precursor to Christmas, Yuletide. After the First World War, when Germany was searching for a new sense of identity, these ideas were hijacked by youth organizations and reform movements with nationalist leanings. They sought to replace Christmas with solstice celebrations or combine the Christian festival with the Germanic festival of light, sometimes as an attack on Christianity, sometimes as an attempt at symbiosis.

🎵 There was a lot of questionable research into folklore at the time, which the Nazis then exploited to further their racist agenda. They rewrote the lyrics to the best-known German Christmas carol "Silent Night," changing them to: “Silent night, solemn night” and referring to Yuletide rather than Christmas. In 1933, the German Faith Movement claimed, “Christmas belongs to us, not to Christians! Because it is older than churches and testaments.” They could hardly outlaw Christmas trees, so they renamed them “light trees” and crowned them with a “sun wheel” — in other words, a swastika.

🛑 Even after the Second World War, political leaders saw Christmas as a cause for concern, as we can see from events in East Germany. In 1945, the first “peacetime Christmas” was celebrated “after the dark night of Nazism” and the festival’s Christian roots were either downplayed or changed so that instead of celebrating “blessed promises,” the focus was on work and socialism. The German communists were following the example of Soviet Russia, which had done away with Christmas trees in 1919 when Stalin replaced them with Jolka trees for the New Year’s festival.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


$500 million

Bruce Springsteen has sold his entire song catalogue and publishing rights to Sony Music for a reported $500 million, anonymous sources told the New York Times and Billboard. The sale will give Sony ownership of one of the most admired bodies of work in pop and rock: over 300 songs spanning 20 studio albums, plus other releases. Numerous other artists have sold off the rights to their work in recent years including Bob Dylan, Tina Turner and three members of Fleetwood Mac.


"The moment we choose to love we begin to move towards freedom, to act in ways that liberate ourselves and others."

— American feminist author bell hooks, who has died at the age of 69, wrote in her book Outlaw Culture: Resisting Representations. A prolific author, who chose to lowercase her name, published some 40 books, hooks was considered a trailblazer the intersectional feminism movement.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

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Migrant Lives

Why The "Captains" Of Migrant Trafficking Boats Are Often The First Victims

Since 2015, Europe's strategy to stop irregular migration has focused on arresting so-called smugglers. But those steering the vessels are usually desperate migrants themselves, forced to take the helm.

Photo of Migrants Rescued in Mediterranean Sea

First approach of the rescue boat of the Spanish vessel ''Aita Mari'' to a precarious metal boat carrying 40 sub-Saharan migrants.

Annalisa Camilli

ROME — For the past two years, Mohammed has been living in Antwerp, Belgium. He works as a dockworker, although he does not have a contract. Originally from Freetown, Sierra Leone, he arrived in Italy from Libya in May 2016 on a fishing boat.

“The sea was bad, and everyone was vomiting,” he recalls.

Then, salvation: the Italian coast guard rescued them and brought them to Sicily. But when they arrived in port, Mohammed discovered Italian authorities were accusing him of a crime: aiding and abetting illegal immigration.

He was the boat’s cabin boy, and migrants on the boat identified him as a smuggler. He was arrested and sent to prison, where he remained for three years as the trial took place.

“I could only call home after a year and a half. That’s when I learned that my father had died. He had been sick, but I hadn’t even known,” Mohammed says. “My family was sure I had died at sea because they had not heard from me.”

He speaks slowly on the phone, struggling to remember. This was the most difficult time of his life.

“I had gone to Libya to work, but the situation in the country was terrible, so I decided to leave. I paid Libyan traffickers,” he recalls.

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