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In The News

Omicron Restrictions, Iran Nuclear Talks Resume, Thai Monkey Festival

Photo of a leaning Christmas tree next to a barricaded house in deserted Mayschoss, Germany, a village hit by a flood disaster in July

In deserted Mayschoss, Germany, a village hit by a flood disaster in July

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

👋 Kaixo!*

Welcome to Monday, where the Omicron variant prompts new restrictions and border closures, talks on Iran’s nuclear deal resume in Vienna and Thailand’s monkey festival is back. We also take you on an international journey into the wonderfully weird world of microstates.

[*Kie-sho, Basque]


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COVID-19 update:Israel and Japan have both closed their borders to non-citizens to curb the spread of the new Omicron variant. Meanwhile, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said he was "deeply disappointed" by the travel bans targeting his country over the variant. G7 health ministers are holding an emergency meeting today to discuss Omicron, after several European countries have reported their first cases, which the WHO warns poses “very high” global risk.

Iran nuclear talks restart today: Iran will recommence negotiations in Vienna with the United States and other parties. American allies are not optimistic about a resolution, given the steps Tehran’s new government has recently taken toward potential nuclear armament, including announcing more advances in uranium enrichment.

Ethiopia denies attack near Sudan border: Ethiopia has said it’s not responsible for a weekend attack on an army post that resulted in the deaths of six Sudanese soldiers. Authorities instead placed blame on unrest by rebels in the contested Tigray region.

Honduras woman claims election win: Leftist opposition candidate Xiomara Castro of the Liberty and Refundation Party (LIBRE) has declared victory in Sunday’s elections, which would make her Honduras's first female president. Preliminary results show Castro is in the lead with more than 53% support, but the incumbent National Party, led by Nasry Asfura, is also claiming victory.

Ghislaine Maxwell trial to begin today: The high-profile trial of UK socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, who is facing charges including sex trafficking for her role in aiding deceased financier Jeffrey Epstein in abusing underage girls, opens today in New York. It is expected to last six weeks.

Virgil Abloh dies: American fashion designer Virgil Abloh died on Sunday at the age of 41 of a rare cancer. A pioneer in bringing streetwear into high fashion through his luxury brand Off-White, Abloh made history in 2018 when he was named Louis Vuitton’s menswear designer, becoming the first African-American to head a major European fashion house.

Thai monkey festival returns: With tourism back in Thailand, monkey business is also returning after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, with thousands of macaques gathering in Lopburi to feast on fruit and vegetables. The annual “Monkey Buffet Festival” was originally created to thank the monkeys for bringing in visitors to the town, northeast of Bangkok.


“The world shields itself from Omicron,” Spanish daily ABC titles, as the discovery of the new fast-spreading COVID-19 variant prompts several countries like Israel, Japan and Morocco to close their borders for foreign travelers.


Großer Zapfenstreich

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose successor will be sworn in next week, will be given a customary farewell military ceremony known as Großer Zapfenstreich (“Grand Tattoo”) this Thursday. In keeping with tradition, the outgoing leader has been allowed to choose three songs to be played during the ceremony — and one in particular was unexpected: Punk rocker Nina Hagen’s “Du hast den Farbfilm vergessen” (“You Forgot the Color Film”), a 1974 hit in East Germany, where Merkel grew up, which was understood at the time as a veiled criticism of the socialist German Democratic Republic (GDR).


Micronations, a world tour of 8 bizzaro spots barely on the map

Micronations have sprung up over the decades as a solution for everything — from protesting your government to wanting to issue your own banknotes to even simply being able to sing your very own self-acclaiming national anthem. Worldcrunch takes you on a tour around some of the world's most peculiar mini-states.

🎣 Republic of Parva Domus, fishing for pleasure: The self-proclaimed micronation is easy to miss: with a territory of just 0.2 km² nestled in a Punta Carretas neighborhood of the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo. The Republic of Parva Domus was established 140 years ago by amateur Uruguayan fishermen who wanted to have their own, handy storage unit for their fishing rods. The nation's mission is "pleasure and happiness," as proclaimed in their national anthem.

😆 La République du Saugeais, born from a joke: In the département of Doubs, in eastern France, the Republic of 128 km² extends for 11 municipalities. In 1947, the prefect of the department of Doubs came to Montbenoît and had lunch in the Hôtel de l'Abbaye, owned by Georges Pourchet. Jokingly, Pourchet asked the prefect if he had a permit to enter the Republic of Saugeais. After inventing details about the fantasy republic, the prefect responded by naming Pourchet president of the Free Republic of Saugeais.

🏳️🌈 Gay & Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands: In 2004, a group of gay rights activists from Australia established the micronation as a symbolic political protest, after the government of Australia's refusal to recognize same-sex marriages. On June 14, 2004, the activists arrived at Cato island on the Gayflower ship, raised the rainbow pride flag and declared the Coral Sea Islands an independent gay and lesbian state. The Kingdom was dissolved in November 2017 after Australia legalized gay marriage.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


She wanted a better life but she ended up in the sea.

— Nuri Hama Amin, father of Maryam Nuri Hama Amin, said just days after his daughter died with 26 other migrants in the English Channel while attempting to make the journey from France to England. The 24-year-old Kurdish woman from northern Iraq, who was the first victim to be identified, was reportedly trying to join her fiancee who had settled in the UK.

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

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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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