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Biden Prediction, Austria’s Vaccine Lottery, Googly Eyes Down Under

Biden Prediction, Austria’s Vaccine Lottery, Googly Eyes Down Under

Extreme Winter Weather at Syrian Refugee Camps

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Bertrand Hauger and Jane Herbelin

đź‘‹ GrĂĽss Gott!*

Welcome to Thursday, where Ukraine lashed out at Biden’s prediction about Russian intentions, Austria is betting on a new incentive for the unvaccinated, and the Australian city of Adelaide is baffled by a mysterious spate of googly eyes. We also look at Russia’s latest efforts to dismantle the REvil hacking group, at Washington’s request, and what this means in the context of U.S.-Russia tensions over Ukraine.

[*Swabian - Germany]


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• Biden’s ambiguous comment on Western response over Russia: U.S. President Joe Biden said he thinks Russia will “move in” on Ukraine during a news conference, warning Russian President Vladimir Putin would pay a “serious and dear price” for invading, while acknowledging there would be a lower cost for a “minor incursion.” The comment sparked outcry in Kyiv, where officials have been meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken as Russian troops amass on Ukraine’s border. This Thursday marks one year since Joe Biden was inaugurated as president of the United States.

• COVID update: The UK will gradually lift COVID-19 measures including mandatory face masks in public places and coronavirus passports for large events, as infections level off in most parts of the country. Meanwhile, Austria’s government announced the launch of a national lottery to encourage unvaccinated citizens to get the jab, as the country is set on passing a bill introducing a national vaccine mandate.

• North Korea hints at restart of nuclear, missile tests: North Korea is considering resuming nuclear and long-range weapons tests as it prepares for “confrontation” with Washington, state news agency KCNA reported.

• Pakistani woman sentenced to death for WhatsApp “blasphemy”: A Pakistani court has sentenced a 26-year-old Muslim woman to death for sharing images on WhatsApp considered to be insulting to Islam’s Prophet Muhammad and one his wives. Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws include a mandatory death penalty for insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

• First relief flights land in Tonga: The first foreign aid planes have arrived in Tonga, with much needed humanitarian supplies, five days after the South Pacific nation was devastated by a volcanic eruption and subsequent tsunami. A state of emergency has been declared and international communications have been restored.

• France mourns death of actor Gaspard Ulliel: French actor Gaspard Ulliel, who gained international attention for his performances in Hannibal Rising and Saint Laurent, was killed in a skiing accident at the age of 37.

• Adelaide’s googly eyes bandit: Oversized googly eyes have been mysteriously appearing for days across the Australian southern city of Adelaide, on the faces of various mascots and of a colonial monument.


Peruvian daily El Comercio reports on the oil spill off the coast near Lima, caused by waves linked to Tonga’s eruption and tsunami. Authorities sealed three beaches near the capital and are demanding compensation to Spanish oil giant Repsol, which operates the refinery that leaked 6,000 barrels of oil, for what could be the worst ecological disaster to hit the country in recent history.



A new study revealed that a monster iceberg, also known as A68, was dumping more than 152 billion tons of freshwater in the ocean, every single day at the height of its melting. The A68 “megaberg” (when an entire mass of a glacier breaks off to form a gigantic iceberg) detached from Antarctica in 2017 and began an epic three-and-a-half year 4000-kilometer journey across the Southern Ocean. The ice mass received attention by Christmas 2020 as it approached the warmer climes of the British Overseas Territory of South Georgia, and by early 2021 what was once the world’s biggest iceberg had vanished.


REvil bust: Is Russian cybercrime crackdown just a decoy from Ukraine?

This past weekend’s unprecedented operation to dismantle the cybercriminal REvil network in Russia was carried out on a request and information from Washington. Occurring just as the two countries face off over the Russian threat to invade Ukraine raises more questions than it answers.

🇷🇺 🇺🇸 Russian security forces raided 25 addresses in St. Petersburg, Moscow and several other regions south of the capital in an operation to dismantle the notorious REvil group, accused of some of the worst cyberattacks in recent years to hit targets in the U.S. and elsewhere in the West. Russian online media Interfax revealed that this was initiated from a request and information coming directly from Washington. What does it mean that this development came just on the heels of the breakdown in talks between Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin?

đź’» Talks in prior months between Biden and Putin have previously touched on the topic of cyber security, with the former accusing his Russian counterpart of doing little to address the problem within his own borders. He called on Putin to take all necessary measures to stem these issues following the attack last July, otherwise, the U.S. would be prepared to shoulder the responsibility itself. So was this operation on REvil a sign that Moscow is ready to crack down on cybercriminals inside Russia? Or is its acting now linked to the showdown over NATO and the Ukraine border?

⚠️ The hope among Western law enforcement officials is that the move is ultimately not linked to the current geopolitical standoff. Yet there is the risk that the operation is ultimately a decoy in the larger battle brewing with the West. The timing, following the failed Biden-Putin negotiations, seems aimed at reminding Washington that such potential cooperation would cease if the United States and its allies impose new harsher sanctions in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


There is now a demonstrable effort to make peace.

— The United Nations chief, Antonio Guterres expressed hope Wednesday there could be an opening to resolve the 14 months of conflict in northern Ethiopia, between government and Tigrayan forces. Though he offered no details, Guterres’ statement came after a call with former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, who is the African Union’s chief envoy to the Horn of Africa.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Bertrand Hauger and Jane Herbelin

Look out for those googly eyes, and let us know what’s happening in your corner of the world!


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Urban Indigenous: How Peru's Shipibo-Conibo Keep Amazon Culture Alive In The City

For four years, indigenous photographer David DĂ­az Gonzales has documented the lives and movements of his Shipibo-Conibo community, as many of them migrated from their native Peruvian Amazon to the city. A work of remembrance and resistance.

For Shipibo-Conibo women, sporting a fringe is usually a sign of celebration or ceremony.

Rosa Chávez Yacila

YARINACOCHA — It was decades ago when the Shipibo-Conibo left their settlements along the banks of the Ucayali River, in eastern Peru, to begin a great migration to the cities. Still among the largest Amazonian communities in Peru — 32,964 according to the Ministry of Culture — though most Shipibo-Conibo now live in the urban district of Yarinacocha.

For four years, Shipibo-Conibo photographer David DĂ­az Gonzales has documented the lives of his relatives and neighbors from Yarinacocha, in the Ucayali area, to show how they strive to keep their culture alive and share their vision of the world.

Traditions in the city

Shipibo-Conibo professor Eli Sánchez Rodríguez, an expert in the history and customs of his people, says that the indigenous group's migration to Yarinacocha began in the 1960s, when the European Adventist missions began to send members of the Shipibo-Conibo people from Paoyhan (the main settlement on the banks of the Ucayali) to the city, to join their churches.

"The first Shipibo-Conibo family to arrive in Yarinacocha were the Rojas," says Sánchez Rodríguez. "In the following years we continued migrating due to the creation of the Amazon Hospital, where they brought us to be treated; and later, we also moved there to receive education.”

David Díaz Gonzales, a Shipibo-Conibo photographer who grew up and lives in the Nueva Era settlement, made it its mission four years ago to document and pay homage to the transitory group. He began photographing his relatives and neighbors from Yarinacocha, in central Peru, to show how his people try to preserve their culture nowadays — but also how it has been transformed.

“We who are living in urban neighborhoods, and not in our native rural communities, continue to practice our customs, despite being far away from our ancestors. Those customs have survived extreme hardships and are still being kept alive,” says Díaz Gonzales, whose name in Shipibo-Conibo is Isa Rono: "It means 'little bird' and 'snake' — my grandfather on my dad's side gave me that name," he says.

A woman prepares cotton for weaving.

A woman prepares cotton to turn it into thread for weaving.

David DĂ­az Gonzales

Transformed indigenous heritage

In the Shipibo-Conibo language, the name of the community is related to the words "monkey" and "fish". According to their mythology, people transit through different worlds: the world we inhabit, "Non Nete", and the world of water, "Jene Nete".

While some Shipibo-Conibo traditions are still intact, others have been changing and adapting. Take hairstyling, for instance: A woman with a fringe is usually taking part in a ceremony or celebration. In the Besteti Xeati, or "haircut festival" adolescent girls' fringes were cut to present them to society.

A haircut as weapon of protection.
A haircut was also a farewell and a weapon of protection. When a man died, the widow would cut off all her hair as a sign of mourning, and to protect the family from another death or tragedy. "It was not just a haircut, but also a ceremony where the family of the widow and the deceased participated," professor Sánchez Rodríguez points out.

Formerly, that same ritual included clitoridectomies, or removing the girls' clitoris to "purify" them. Such female genital mutilation stopped being practiced between the 1950s and 1960s.

A woman painting ken\u00e9.

The kené design is drawn or embroidered by Shipibo-Conibo women to express various aspects of their culture, from traditional song to medicine and aesthetics.

David DĂ­az Gonzales

More than clothes

Clothing is also very characteristic of the Shipibo-Conibo people. The women wear colorful blouses and skirts with geometric designs; the men, a kind of long tunic, adorned with designs of geometric figures. Currently, says Sánchez Rodríguez, not all Shipibo-Conibo men and women wear their traditional costumes on a daily basis — this is mostly done by older people — but rather for special occasions.

The elaboration of the garments is a laborious task, especially when it comes to men's kushmas, long and ornate tunics. These are woven by hand, from the fabric on. The women prepare the cotton, then turn it into thread and then into clothes.

The women wear the koton, the blouse, and the chitonti, the skirt. Both the chitonti and the kushma are embroidered or painted with the kené ― embroidered motif. The kené design, which made it into the country's official Cultural Patrimony in 2008, is done by women and decorates not only clothing but also other fabrics, as well as ceramics, weapons, shaman crowns — and even serves as body adornment.

But the kené is not just an ornament in the form of geometric figures: It expresses the worldview, knowledge, aesthetics and traditional medicine of the Shipibo-Conibo people, as anthropologist Luisa Elvira Belaunde explains. During Ayahuasca or Piri Piri hallucinatory-plant ceremonies, men and women are said to have visions of the kené, although only the latter are the ones who execute it. The kené is also the basis for traditional songs.

During his photographic journey, Díaz Gonzáles did a lot of research. He also got to make aluminum necklaces and earrings that some of his models wore. The necklaces are usually made of plastic beads or aluminum circles, and evoke how, when merchants from the city started reaching the Shipibo-Conibo by canoe in the 1960s, they would pay members of the indigenous communities in coins. As they did not know what to do with them, having never seen coins before — they started making jewelry instead.

Previously, the Shipibo-Conibo pierced their nose and chin to hang earrings shaped like circles, leaves or even Christianity-inspired crosses.

"I remember that my grandmother had a hole in her chin, but the one in her nose had already closed," says photographer Díaz Gonzáles. "I also remember the story of an aunt who had a chin earring in the shape of a cross, but the priest in her town would not let her wear it and threw it into the river because he said that was wrong."

Shaman Ruperto Fasabi

Ruperto Fasabi is a shaman: a mediator between the worlds.

David DĂ­az Gonzales

Ancient knowledge

David Díaz Gonzáles also spoke to the wisest among his people, like Shipibo-Conibo professor Eli Sánchez Rodríguez ― or "Pakan Meni" in his language― who has helped to systematize and spread the knowledge and folklore of this indigenous people. The expert has helped create school material for the teaching of Intercultural Bilingual Education (EIB), in addition to writing books about the culture of his people and even translating foreign literature, such as The Little Prince, into Shipibo-Conibo.

The national curriculum has never been designed to preserve our cultural identity.

The photographer also met with shamans, such as the renowned Ruperto Fasabi who is highly respected among the Shipibo-Conibo and who also happens to be the father of the rapper Wihtner Fasabi Gonzales or “Wihtner FaGo”. The shaman is the community's highest sage and acts as a kind of mediator between the worlds.

Díaz Gonzáles also photographed members of the "Comando Matico": people who, in the toughest times of COVID-19, turned to the benefits of the matico plant. Richard Soria, a member of this group, says that they discovered the properties of the matico while trying to alleviate the pain of COVID-hit patients with the plants that were growing in their gardens.

The Comando Matico also served to worked toward raising awareness around the alarming state of the hospitals in the region, about which the government does very little.

According to Soria, neglect starts at the education level: “The national curriculum has never been designed to preserve our cultural identity. Only one perspective has prevailed. In schools there has never been the desire to give importance to our culture. For this reason, we have formed indigenous organizations to make sure that the community, its culture and language, continue to exist. This is how we exist, as a resistance.”

Photographer David Díaz Gonzáles has moments of introspection and anxiety. During them, he thinks that someone like him, an indigenous artist in a world where indigenous knowledge is not valued, has to do something to right that wrong. Picking up his camera, he adds, "Whatever I do will remain as an example and incentive for my people, it is my responsibility."

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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