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In The News

“Less Severe” Omicron, Suu Kyi Sentenced, Buried By Volcano

“Less Severe” Omicron, Suu Kyi Sentenced, Buried By Volcano

Mount Semeru Eruption Indonesia 2021

Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

👋 Xin chào!*

Welcome to Monday, where Aung San Suu Kyi gets sentenced to four years, there’s some positive news about the Omicron variant and a one-time Bill Clinton rival dies at the age of 98. We also explore the growing battles between parents and teachers in Tunisia, once hailed for its “golden age of education” in North Africa.



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• Aung San Suu Kyi sentenced: A court in Myanmar has sentenced ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi to four years in prison, the first in a series of verdicts that could imprison her for life. A spokesman for Myanmar’s military, which led a coup in February, said the 76-year-old leader was found guilty of incitement to cause public alarm and of violating COVID-19 rules.

• COVID update: A new report published on Monday said that Africa is unlikey to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic unless 70% of its population was to be vaccinated by end-2022, but warned that "extreme vaccine discrimination" is leaving the continent behind. A preliminary study from South Africa suggests that Omicron may cause less severe illness than its predecessors. In India, cases of the Omicron variant have risen up to 21 over the weekend. Officials announced on Monday that people must step up for vaccination, as tens of millions of people are overdue for their second dose. Meanwhile, South Korea imposed stricter virus prevention measures amid a spike in cases on Monday, leaving foreigners residents vaccinated overseas in limbo, effectively barred from places such as restaurants, cafes and cinemas.

• Killing of Sri Lankan in Pakistan sparks protests:Priyantha Diyawadanage, 48, a Sri Lankan factory manager accused of blasphemy in Pakistan was beaten to death and set ablaze on Friday. The brutal mob killing sparked protests in both countries, with Pakistan’s leader condemning the violence. Police officials said up to 120 people were arrested, including one of the main suspects, with raids still continuing.

• Solomon Islands PM survives no-confidence vote: Embattled Solomon Islands Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, survived a no-confidence motion in parliament on Monday, after accusing the Pacific island nation's most populous province of being "Taiwan's agent" and anti-government protesters of attempting a coup.The pro-Beijing leader won the support of 32 legislators while 15 voted against him.

• Bob Dole tributes: Republicans and Democrats alike shared tributes for U.S. politician Bob Dole, who died Sunday at age 98. A World War II veteran who nearly died on the battlefield in Italy, Dole became a long-time Kansas senator before running for president as the Republican party's nominee in 1996, eventually losing to Bill Clinton.

• Former top FARC killed in Venezuela:Hernan Dario Velasquez, a top commander belonging to a group of former Colombia’s FARC rebels, was shot dead by rival guerrillas in Venezuela, Colombian media reported on Sunday.

• Biden brings Kennedy Center Honors back: U.S. President Joe Biden attended the 44th Kennedy Center Honors on Sunday, after four years of the ceremony being snubbed by Donald Trump and disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. Singers Bette Midler and Joni Mitchell, and Motown founder Berry Gordy and Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels, were among the honorees of the annual gala celebrating creative excellence.


“Seeking dialogue,” titles Ukrainian daily Vesti, wondering why President Volodymyr Zelensky “is insisting on a bilateral meeting with Putin” amid tensions and fears of open war between Ukraine and Russia, which has reportedly massed troops on the Crimean peninsula.


"I don’t expect anything out of this broken justice system."

Maw Htun Aung, a deputy minister of Myanmar’s exiled opposition national unity government reacted to news of the judgment against Nobel Prize winner and Myanmar’s former leader Aung San Suu Kyi, after she was sentenced to four years in jail. In the first verdict to be handed down since the junta seized power in February, the ousted leader was found guilty of incitement and of violating COVID-19 rules. Former President Win Myint was also jailed for four years under the same charges.


Teachers v. parents: The end of Tunisia's “golden age” of education

Violence against teachers, poorly received educational reforms, conflicts with parents: In Tunisia, the entire education sector is in crisis, reports Frida Dahmani in weekly news magazine Jeune Afrique.

🏫💥 In Sousse, a city in eastern Tunisia, students tried to burn down their school with Molotov cocktails. In Mahdia, a coastal city, an English teacher was dragged before the courts after having given an F to a student. These are only some of the most salient incidents in Tunisia's schools over the past few weeks. In reality, the malaise of the education system has been widespread for years. But the authorities are in denial. They are stuck in a golden age of education that, after independence, has allowed several generations to climb the social ladder.

🚸 One parent says, "Every year, we know that we will face strikes and that the students will be the first to suffer from the tug of war between the unions and the government." This parent adds that the situation has become even worse with the pandemic. The chaotic organization of exams and unfinished programs against a backdrop of union demands have contributed to widening the gap between the school and the students. The figure of 120,000 school dropouts per year out of two million students speaks louder than any attempt at explanation.

🧑🏫 Saloua, a teacher in Kef, notes a rapid deterioration in relations between educators and students: "Since the revolution, we have been on the front line and have been taken to task by parents who deny us the role of educator and who believe that their children are victims of the teaching staff; they encourage disrespect and do not put any brakes on violence." Suffering is beginning to define the profession and it eventually turns into disillusioned indifference: The functioning of the education system even demotivates those who saw teaching as a vocation. This explains the figure of 1.5 million absences among teachers every year.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


Mare mortuum

Pope Francis, on his second visit to a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, has denounced Europe’s indifference to the suffering of migrants and called for efforts to prevent the Mediterranean, “our sea” (mare nostrum in Latin), from being turned into a “sea of death”.

✍️Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Wagner Group 2.0: Why Russia's Mercenary System Is Here To Stay

Many had predicted that the death last month of Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin meant the demise of the mercenary outfit. Yet signs in recent days say the private military outfit is active again in Ukraine, a reminder of the Kremlin's interest in continuing a private fighting formula that has worked all around the world.

Photograph of a Wagner soldier in the city of Artyomovsk, holding a rifle.

Ukraine, Donetsk Region - March 24, 2023: A Wagner Group soldier guards an area in the city of Artyomovsk (Bakhmut).

Cameron Manley


“Let’s not forget that there is no Wagner Group anymore,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had declared. “Such an organization, in our eyes, does not exist.”

The August 25 statement from came less than two days after the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the infamous Russian mercenary outfit, as questions swirled about Wagner's fate after its crucial role in the war in Ukraine and other Russian military missions around the world.

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How could an independent military outfit survive after its charismatic founder's death? It seemed highly unlikely that President Vladimir Putin would allow the survival of a group after had launched a short-lived coup attempt in late June that most outside observers believe led to Prigozhin's private airplane being shot down by Russian forces on August 23.

"Wagner is over,” said the Kremlin critic and Russian political commentator Maksim Katz. “The group can’t keep going. There’s the possibility that they could continue in parts or with Defense Ministry contracts, but the group only worked with an unofficial agreement between Putin and Prigozhin.”

Yet barely a month later, and there are already multiple signs that the Wagner phoenix is rising from the ashes.

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