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G7 Meet On Ukraine, Polio In Africa, Giant Strawberry

A couple of tourists pose for photos near St Mark's Square during the Venice Carnival 2022, which will end on March 1

Lorraine Olaya, Jane Herbelin and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 안녕*

Welcome to Friday, where G7 leaders meet for crunch talks on Ukraine, Africa sees its first case of polio in five years and wow that’s one big strawberry. We also take a look at the way some countries around the world are dealing with witch hunts (the literal kind) both past and present.

[*Annyeong - Korean]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Ukraine update: G7 leaders meet today for a virtual summit to discuss the Russian military presence at Ukraine’s borders and decide on possible sanctions against Russia in the event of invasion. The G7 have agreed to continue making efforts towards a de-escalation of the tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

• First case of polio detected in Africa in over five years: A polio outbreak in Malawi seems to be linked to a strain that has been circulating in Pakistan. Africa had been poliovirus-free since 2016, leading the World Health Organization to declare its eradication in Africa in August 2020.

• 38 sentenced to death in India after decade-long trial: An India court has sentenced 38 people to death and 11 to life in prison for their role in the July, 26, 2008 series of bomb attacks in Ahmedabad that killed 56 and wounded 200. The group “Indian Mujahideen” had claimed responsibility for the blasts.

• String of legal defeats for Trump continues: A New York judge ruled that former President Donald Trump and his children, Ivanka and Donald Jr., must sit for depositions as a New York attorney general investigates their business practices.

• Storm Eunice hits the UK: The UK’s national weather service issues threat-to-life warnings as the 92 mph (148 km/h) winds and heavy snow of Storm Eunice hits the country. Described as one of the UK’s worst storms in 30 years, the storm has disrupted transportation, forced school closures and caused power outages.

• Winter Olympics: Chinese-American Eileen Gu, 18, is the first freestyle skier to win medals in three different disciplines at the same Olympics. Meanwhile, 15-year-old Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva places fourth place after falling multiple times during her routine.

• Is Wordle getting harder? A growing number of Wordle aficionados are complaining that the hit online word game, which requires guessing a single five-letter word, has gotten significantly more difficult since it was bought last month by the New York Times. The publication has denied this was the case — so, just a F-L-U-K-E?

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

“Kamila Valieva’s nerves could not stand it,” writes Russian daily Komsomolskaïa Pravda, about the 15-year-old figure skater who ended up fourth in the women’s single event, falling on multiple times, despite her top finish after the women’s short program at the Winter Olympics. The Russian athlete has been at the center of a doping controversy after she was cleared to compete despite testing positive for banned heart drugs. Russia still scored the gold and silver medals with Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

289 grams

Israeli farmer Chahi Ariel was awarded a Guinness World Record after a supersized strawberry he grew was declared the world's heaviest strawberry. At 289 grams (10.2 oz), the giant fruit was about five times the average weight of a regular berry of the local Ilan variety.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Where witch hunts are not a metaphor — and women are still getting killed

Catalonia has recently pardoned up to 1,000 people, mostly women, who were accused of "witchcraft" as late as the 18th century. But as some countries atone for their past, "witch hunts" are still common in other parts of the world.

⚖️ The Catalan Parliament has recently passed a resolution to apologize for the centuries-long witch hunt that took place in the region over 400 years ago, clearing the name of some 1,000 innocents — mostly women — condemned for witchcraft. Very similar campaigns have been held across Europe, where about 50,000 people were condemned to death for witchcraft between 1580 and 1630. The Catalan initiative was inspired by the movement Witches of Scotland. For two years, the group has fought for pardons and official apologies for the estimated 3,837 people.

⚠️ But as Europe and U.S. (which went through its own witch hunt in the seventeenth century) reflect on their past to better understand their present, murders motivated by suspicions of witchcraft are still being committed in other countries. A report from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs has identified 41 African and Asian countries where witchcraft accusations were used to justify extreme violence. Older women, and especially older widows, were the most at risk.

👉 Viruses such as COVID-19 and Ebola have driven up “witch hunts,” but these are just one aggravating factor. Other contributors include superstitions, miseducation or even jealousy and the need to find a tangible culprit when an uncontrollable problem arises. “It is not only in our villages and very rural parts that we see played out in everyday life this belief in witchcraft and labeling of old women as witches,” writes Elizabeth Akua Ohene in Graphic Online. “Every time anyone is going through a difficult phase, witches are the reason.”

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

We have to accept the shameful facts.

— Netherlands’ Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, has apologized on behalf of the nation to Indonesia after a four and a half year investigation found the Dutch state condoned the systematic use of extrajudicial executions and torture during the 1945-49 Indonesian War of Independence.

✍️ Newsletter by Lorraine Olaya, Jane Herbelin and Anne-Sophie Goninet

A weekend ahead of giant strawberries and five-letter words. Let us know what’s happening in your corner of the world!

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Coronavirus

Chinese Students' "Absurd" Protest Against COVID Lockdowns: Public Crawling

While street demonstrations have spread in China to protest the strict Zero-COVID regulations, some Chinese university students have taken up public acts of crawling to show what extended harsh lockdowns are doing to their mental state.

​Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling on a soccer pitch

Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling

Shuyue Chen

Since last Friday, the world has watched a wave of street protests have taken place across China as frustration against extended lockdowns reached a boiling point. But even before protesters took to the streets, Chinese university students had begun a public demonstration that challenges and shames the state's zero-COVID rules in a different way: public displays of crawling, as a kind of absurdist expression of their repressed anger under three years of strict pandemic control.

Xin’s heart was beating fast as her knees reached the ground. It was her first time joining the strange scene at the university sports field, so she put on her hat and face mask to cover her identity.

Kneeling down, with her forearms supporting her body from the ground, Xin started crawling with three other girls as a group, within a larger demonstration of other small groups. As they crawled on, she felt the sense of fear and embarrassment start to disappear. It was replaced by a liberating sense of joy, which had been absent in her life as a university student in lockdown for so long.

Yes, crawling in public has become a popular activity among Chinese university students recently. There have been posters and videos of "volunteer crawling" across universities in China. At first, it was for the sake of "fun." Xin, like many who participated, thought it was a "cult-like ritual" in the beginning, but she changed her mind. "You don't care about anything when crawling, not thinking about the reason why, what the consequences are. You just enjoy it."

The reality out there for Chinese university students has been grim. For Xin, her university started daily COVID-19 testing in November, and deliveries, including food, are banned. Apart from the school gate, all exits have been padlock sealed.

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