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Photo of a couple taking a selfie to celebrate Chilean lawmakers’ decision to approve same-sex marriage, a landmark victory for gay rights activists in the historically Catholic country.

Celebrating Chilean lawmakers’ decision to approve same-sex marriage.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Rozena Crossman, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

👋 Dydh da!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Merkel makes way for Scholz, Biden threatens Putin and a Botox scandal has hit Saudi Arabia’s camel beauty pageant. We also tune in to London-based Kayhan, which unpacks the geopolitics of last week’s reported clashes on the border of Iran and Afghanistan.

[*Cornish, UK]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Olaf Scholz becomes Germany’s chancellor: Social Democrat Olaf Scholz has become the country’s 9th post-World War II chancellor, ending 16 years of conservative rule under Angela Merkel. After being sworn in later today, the 63-year-old former mayor of Hamburg will be at the head of a SPD-Greens-FDP coalition that pledged “a new beginning for Germany."

• Biden-Putin call follow-up: During the highly anticipated two-hour conversation, U.S. President Joe Biden told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that the United States is prepared to take strong economic sanctions against Russia if it chooses to invade Ukraine. He clarified these measures would be more severe than those taken in 2014 that failed to stop Russia occupying Crimea.

• COVID update: The World Health Organization says that existing vaccines should work against the new Omicron variant, despite some lab tests showing decreased efficacy for the Pfizer jab. As it attempts to curb the fourth wave of the pandemic, Germany records its highest daily deaths from COVID since February.

• Australia diplomatic boycott of Olympics: Australia has joined the United States in boycotting the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that "human rights abuses" were concerns to his country’s governments, but Australian athletes will still compete.

• Arrest of Khashoggi murder suspect in France: A suspected member of the Saudi Arabian hit squad that killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 was detained at the Charles de Gaulle Airport, based on an arrest warrent issued by Turkey. Khashoggi, who wrote critically about his home country, was murdered at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul.

• Japanese billionaire shoots for the stars: Entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa has become the latest in a list of the world’s super-rich choosing to spend their money on space travel, blasting off today to the International Space Station (ISS). Maezawa — a former punk drummer who made his fortune in e-commerce — will conduct 100 tasks over his 12-day trip at the ISS, including playing golf. He also plans to travel to the Moon in 2023.

• Botox scandal at Saudi Arabia’s camel beauty pageant: Saudi Arabia has hosted six editions of a competition to determine the best-looking dromedary. But at this year’s event, it was revealed that 43 candidates broke the rules with Botox, gel implants and rubber band enhancements.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Dec. 8 front page of German daily Der Tagesspiegel featuring close ups of Merkel and Scholz's respective hand gestures.

“Power change,” titles German daily Der Tagesspiegel as Social Democrat Olaf Scholz was officially chosen by German lawmakers as the country’s new chancellor, replacing Angela Merkel after her 16-year tenure (with her iconic hand pose).


📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Taliban and Iran: The impossible alliance may already be crumbling

The clashes reported last week along the border between Iran and Afghanistan were, perhaps, inevitable, writes Persian-language, London-based Kayhan.

💥 What happened: There are so far scant details on what triggered the flare up on Wednesday between Iranian border forces and Taliban fighters, near the district of Hirmand in Iran's Sistan-Baluchestan province. Still, footage posted on social media indicated the exchange of fire was fairly intense, with troops on both sides using both light and heavy weaponry.

🤝 Context: It was less than five months ago, in July, that Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said he hoped "we shall have good relations with the Islamic Republic." And so far, the Islamic Republic of Iran has enjoyed warm relations with the Taliban. Iran's previous foreign minister, Mohammadjavad Zarif, had hosted them in Tehran before they took power. Once the Taliban had conquered Kabul, the conservative Tehran newspaper Kayhan insisted this lot differed "from the Taliban we knew, who chopped heads off."

Whitewashing: The Fars news agency, which is close to Iran's Revolutionary Guards, has meanwhile whitewashed the Taliban altogether by reporting attacks on "Iranian farmers" by unspecified armed men coming from "areas where bandits and traffickers were active." The Iranian foreign ministry has said the "border disagreement" was resolved on December 1, with the efforts of "border guardsmen on both sides," with no mention of any Taliban involved. But Kayhan-London asks how much longer the facade can hold.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

The impeachment motion failed, fascism failed, the parliamentary blow to democracy failed.

— Vladimir Cerron, leader of Peruvian president Pedro Castillo’s party Peru Libre, said on Twitter after a vote in Congress prevented an impeachment process against Castillo from moving forward. Castillo was elected Peru’s president by a razor-thin margin last July but his popularity has plummeted since, amid corruption allegations.

❗❓  WHAT THE WORLD

Fed-up French mayor bans snow from falling

Icy roads, electricity outages … There's only one solution to ending winter chaos.

No one’s dreaming of a white Christmas in the town of Cerdon, in eastern France. Marc Chavent, mayor of this municipality tucked into the Jura mountains, apparently has a very different dream: so frustrated by the difficulties his community faced due to snowfall that earlier this week, he banned the chilly precipitation altogether.

While the sarcastic decree was naturally a symbolic move, it drew attention to very real issues: As French news website actuLyon reports, the town’s electricity often gets cut as soon as it begins to snow, and a few weeks ago Cerdon’s snow removal tractor broke down.

“It’s difficult to invest 150,000 euros in new snow removal material,” Chavent wrote in the mandate, blaming the larger French government’s endless red tape for hampering the financial autonomy of small cities and towns.

The mayor also took a swipe at a new part of Cerdon’s population — “neo-rurals who, despite having made the choice to live in a mountainous region during winter, believe themselves to be in downtown Lyon” — who apparently find that snow is cold, wet and slippery. Ban it, indeed!

➡️ Keep up with all the planet’s police reports and plot twists on Worldcrunch.com

💬  LEXICON

Cheugy

Pronounced choo-gee, the trendy term used to mock an outdated and unfashionable aesthetic typically associated with Millennials went viral on TikTok earlier this year. Examples of “cheugy” trends includes skinny jeans and “Live, Laugh, Love” signs. Alongside "Omicron'' or the pop singer Billie Eilish’s last name, “cheugy” has been identified as one of trickiest word to pronounce by newsreaders and people on TV this year. The list was compiled by the U.S. Captioning Company, which provides subtitles for live events on TV and in courtrooms.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Rozena Crossman, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

Is Olaf Scholz cheugy? Let us know what’s happening in your corner of the world!
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Geopolitics

Far Out, Far East: Meet North Korea's Biggest Booster In Taiwan

"Taiwanese would laugh at the leader worship of the North Koreans, but wasn't that what we did in the days of Chiang Kai-shek?"

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the Inter-Korean Summit in Pyongyang in 2018

Lee Yee On

TAIPEI — On the evening of April 15, a crowd of nearly 100 people eagerly swarmed inside an ordinary building in Taipei's Ximending neighborhood. The occasion? The "Sun Festival", which commemorates the birthday of the first leader of North Korea, Kim Il Sung, and one of the most important holidays each year.

The venue was decorated in a North Korean style, with DPRK flags and photos of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il visible all around, while the tables displayed North Korean-made noodles, biscuits, tins, soaps, cigarettes and toy rifles.

Most attendees were in their 20s and 30s, with males outnumbering females by about 2-to-1. There were couples, friends and even a family with children. Everyone who attended received a small North Korean flag, two slices of Korean fried green bean cake on a paper plate and a portion of Korean seaweed rice rolls.

In addition to the 'North Korean Lifestyle Exhibition' as a selling point, the event also featured a speaker recounting his travels to the country. And just before the talk began, the speaker invited all participants to stand up, played the North Korean national anthem and then led them in a bow to the statue of Kim Il Sung.

Hung Hao, the organizer for this event, is also the manager of the Facebook page "DPRK Business News." The page now has more than 33,000 followers, but Hung's business is more than that: on his bilingual business cards, he details the other services that include investment opportunities in the DPRK, business missions and contacts, business information and consultation, the import and export of DPRK goods from Taiwan.

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