Welcome to Monday, where China is on high COVID alert as Lunar New Year celebrations kick off, Tonga reels from a massive underwater eruption, and a veteran FBI agent may have found out who betrayed Anne Frank to the Nazis. Meanwhile, Russian daily Kommersant recounts how Kazakhstan has passed from one strongman to another.
[*Sundanese - Indonesia]
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🌎 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
• COVID update: China is on high alert as travel begins for Lunar New Year celebrations; travels now have to report their planned trips before arrival. France’s parliament has voted to turn its health pass into a vaccination pass, meaning vaccination (and not a negative COVID test) are required to go to restaurants, cultural and sports venues as well as for long-distance travel. And the chairman of Credit Suisse, Antonio Horta-Osorio, has been forced to resign after it was revealed he twice broke COVID quarantine protocol.
• Suspected Houthi drone attack in Abu Dhabi: A drone strike by Yemen's Iranian-backed Houthi rebels is suspected to have killed three near the airport of the United Arab Emirates capital. The attack also included three tanker trucks carrying fuel.
• Ukraine’s Poroshenko returns to face treason charges: Former president Petro Poroshenko was greeted by thousands of supporters after returning to Ukraine to face treason charges in a criminal case he blames on his successor, Volodymyr Zelensky. The clash comes as Ukraine faces the threat of a Russian invasion after a week of failed talks between Moscow and Washington.
• Texas synagogue taker was British citizen, 2 arrested in UK: Malik Faisal Akram, a 44-year-old British national, was identified as the hostage-taker in an 11-hour stand-off at a synagogue in Texas. Akram was killed, and the four hostages released unharmed.
• Tonga damaged following underwater volcano eruption: The Pacific Island nation of Tonga was hit by massive eruptions that started last week from the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai volcano that triggered tsunami waves. The amount of damage is unclear, as Australia and New Zealand have sent planes to assess the situation.
• Djokovic’s Australia visa ban: Unvaccinated Serbian tennis star Djokovic was deported from Australia on Sunday after a long battle over whether he could compete in the Australian Open. But Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that under the right circumstances, the three-year ban could be shortened. Meanwhile, he’ll have a hard time participating in the French Open this spring, as the country just announced that all athletes competing in the country have to be vaccinated.
• UK island looks for a new “monarch”: It may be true that no man is an island, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be in charge of one. Piel Island, off the coast of Cumbria, is looking for a new “monarch” to manage its 300-year-old pub and the 50 acres of land, including a camping area and 14th-century castle for a 10-year lease. Of course, the position comes with a unique coronation ceremony: Alcohol is poured over the new royal’s head.
🗞️ FRONT PAGE
Dutch daily De Volkskrant reports on the findings of a team of investigators, led by a veteran FBI agent, about the 1944 arrest of Anne Frank and her family who had been hiding in Amsterdam for two years during World War II. Using new technologies and artificial intelligence, the team determined there was a high probability that a Jewish notary named Arnold van den Bergh was the one who gave away the Frank family’s hiding place to the Nazis. The Diary of Anne Frank remains one of the world’s most widely-read books.
#️⃣ BY THE NUMBERS
China's birth rate dropped for a fifth consecutive year to hit a new record low in 2021 in spite of the government’s efforts to encourage couples to have more children in the face of a looming demographic crisis. The world’s most populous country reported 10.62 million births in 2021, in comparison to 12 million in 2020, with a birth rate of 7.52 births per 1,000 people according to the National Statistics Bureau — marking the lowest level since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
📰 STORY OF THE DAY
Kazakhstan, when one strongman replaces another
Violent unrest in Kazakhstan has resulted in a new authoritarian leader finally assuming proper power in the country. Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev promises a new way of doing things, but his methods are strikingly similar to his predecessor, write Vladimir Soloviev and Alexander Konstantinov in Russian daily Kommersant.
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan’s former president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who had ruled the former Soviet Republic with an iron first since its independence in 1991, finally stepped aside to allow his successor, Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev, to take power in 2019. However, Nazarbayev retained enormous influence behind the scenes. The real transfer of power is in fact happening only now, following large-scale unrest and protests around the country. What will happen is still uncertain, but this much is clear: strongman rulers are able to keep power in Kazakhstan, but they can't ensure its peaceful transfer.
💰 On Jan. 11, Tokayev declared an almost revolutionary slogan: to build a "new Kazakhstan." The wording alone indicates an intention to do away with the former Kazakhstan built by Nazarbayev. The protests that have rocked the country were ostensibly about an increase in gas prices, but they illustrate Kazakhs' frustration at a rising cost of living and massive inequality. Under Nazarbayev, a small elite accumulated huge wealth while the economy stagnated. Tokayev announced a policy of economic reforms.
❌ Tokayev's speech draws a firm line under the Nazarbayev era. He said directly that the old social contract, including the intra-elite contract, is over and that the groups that enriched themselves under the first president should accept the new rules of the game. To begin, they have to pay their dues to the people's fund. Apparently, this should be seen as an offer to the old elite — pay or we will deal with you.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
“Confrontation does not solve problems, it only invites catastrophic consequences.”
— Chinese leader Xi Jinping said in a speech at an all-virtual Davos Forum, warning world leaders against the "fanning of ideological antagonism and the politicizing of economic, scientific, and technological issues."
✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger
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Do We Need Our Parents When We Grow Up? Doubts Of A Young Father
As his son grows older, Argentine journalist Ignacio Pereyra wonders when a father is no longer necessary.
It’s 2am, on a Wednesday. I am trying to write about anything but Lorenzo (my eldest son), who at four years old is one of the exclusive protagonists of this newsletter.
You see, I have a whole folder full of drafts — all written and ready to go, but not yet published. There’s 30 of them, alternatively titled: “Women who take on tasks because they think they can do them better than men”; “As a father, you’ll always be doing something wrong”; “Friendship between men”; “Impressing everyone”; “Wanderlust, or the crisis of monogamy”, “We do it like this because daddy say so”.
I read some of these texts but something tells me now is not the time to work on them. It’s as if they need some air, and of course, some more time in the oven, baking away. Out of nowhere, the question comes to me, and once it’s formulated in my mind, it seems obvious.
Why wouldn’t I be writing about what happens with Lorenzo and me if he’s the person with whom I have spent the most time with in the last four years? I’ve even spent more time with him than with my partner, Irene. They might be experiences which are very close to me, but what’s sure is that it’s the material I can count on every day.
Small issues vs big issues
I read an interview with Andrés Neuman on EldiarioAR, where the Spanish-Argentine writer writes about telling his son all of these things that we know he won’t remember. He explains why he wrote Umbilical, his most recent book, dedicated to his first child. He was surprised by the gap there was in literature of fathers talking about being fathers.
A birth is just as obvious and mysterious as a death.
“Having children is the most natural thing in the world, but it is also the strangest thing in the world — like sex or love, or death. So yes, a birth is just as obvious and mysterious as a death. So it’s very important and worth writing about, just as everything we take for granted is the most urgent thing we have to rethink."
Another gem from Neuman: “Why as a writer would I talk about nappies or poo when I could be thinking about Kant's categorical imperative? What interest is it of mine that my child’s nails need cutting, when I could be thinking about the nation-state and whether it has become an outdated model in global capitalism? It transforms itself into the big issue versus the small issue. And this fallacy of the small and the big has a lot to do with our education, not only as men, but as writers who pick some topics and steer a wide berth from others.”
"Having children is the most natural thing in the world, but it is also the strangest thing in the world."
What being a father feels like
So, I’ll give in: I’ll write about Lorenzo once more.
(Hi son, will you be reading this one day? Where will these digital archives end up in 10 or 15 years, when you might maybe be interested in checking these newsletters out? How are you and León, all grown? Is it boring reading this? I like reading my parents; sometimes, I’ll re-read the only two letters I have from them, yes, from them, because they're signed, “your parents”.)
In reality, now that I have considered this more, it’s not that I talk about Lorenzo or his little brother León, but of what their lives mean in mine.
In the end, what I write about is what I feel about being a father (like this irrational fear I had a few days ago, when Lorenzo had an almost 40 degree fever). I write about my interpretations with respect to what they say and/or do. Or also, where my mind ends up drifting when I digest some of the things Lorenzo comes out with.
Take our return to Greece after four weeks in Argentina, where emotions overcame him: Lorenzo had discovered a world of love and belonging which he had never experienced before. Cousins, uncles, aunties, friends and the children of these friends: everyone playing together and hugging each other every single day. And the icing on the cake: for four weeks, Lorenzo was by my side — for two of those weeks there was also his mother, Irene, who had been travelling for work with our youngest. And, it had been four weeks without going to the kindergarten (our holiday crossed over with the break afforded by Greek Easter).
Eating watermelon together
The morning we returned to Athens, Lorenzo came with me to get the car, which had been left by a friend parked at the airport. Irene waited back with León and the luggage. As we walked to the car, at 4am, Lorenzo broke the silence of the dead of night
— Is it true that when I am older I won’t need a papá?
I asked him to repeat himself, not because I hadn’t understood him the first time around, but because I needed a moment to think about what I needed to answer. Lorenzo obliged, and repeated the question. He emphasised: is it true, or not? 🥺🥺
I switched to as neutral a tone as I could manage, and told him it depended on what… to drive, for example, he was not going to need his papá. For other things, while he might not necessarily need his papá, he might want him there anyway.
I stopped there. He did too. I don’t know what he was thinking about. He followed up, eventually, by saying he would like to eat watermelon, seeing as it was already summer in Greece. Or not? He asked. It’s not quite summer yet, I replied, but we can still go looking for some watermelon.
It’s left me thinking about how relationships are interwoven so that tomorrow, or the day after, Lorenzo and León will actually be choosing to have me near them, not because they really need me, but because they will still want me to be there, to share their worlds with me.
Or, at the very least, to eat a good watermelon together.
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- Papá, Papá, On Repeat: Are We Men Ready For Fatherhood To Change Our Lives? ›