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In The News

Putin’s War Troubles, China’s COVID Scramble, Argentina’s Campeones Come Home

Putin’s War Troubles, China’s COVID Scramble, Argentina’s Campeones Come Home

People wearing masks in Hong Kong, as Beijing is reportedly struggling with a new wave of COVID-19.

Emma Albright, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Bertrand Hauger and Hugo Perrin

👋 नमस्ते*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Russian President Vladimir Putin makes a rare admission that the situation in Ukraine is "extremely complicated," China is scrambling to install hospital beds amid a COVID surge and Argentina welcomes its soccer champions home. Meanwhile, we look at how Sweden’s unusual national voucher education system has led to a severe teacher shortage.

[*Namaste - Nepali]


This is our daily newsletter Worldcrunch Today, a rapid tour of the news of the day from the world's best journalism sources, regardless of language or geography.

It's easy (and free!) to sign up to receive it each day in your inbox: 👉 Sign up here


• Putin’s rare admission, Zelensky in Bakhmut: Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that the situation in the four annexed territories in Ukraine is "extremely complicated," a rare admission into the challenges that Moscow continues to face. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has made an unannounced visit to the frontline city of Bakhmut, where Ukrainian and Russian forces are fighting a crucial battle.

• China scrambles to bolster health systems as COVID spreads: China is scrambling to install hospital beds and build fever screening clinics on Tuesday after authorities reported five more deaths. This comes after China started to dismantle its “zero-COVID” policy. International concern is growing after Beijing decided to let the virus run free.

• Jan. 6 committee’s final public meeting: In its final public meeting, the U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol asked federal prosecutors on Monday to charge Donald Trump with four crimes for his role in sparking the deadly riot. After more than 1,000 witness interviews, it marked the first time in history that Congress has referred a former president for criminal prosecution.

• Weinstein found guilty in second sex crimes trial: Harvey Weinstein has been found guilty of rape by a Los Angeles jury. The 70-year-old movie producer, already serving 23 years in jail after he was convicted of rape and sexual assault at his first trial in New York two years ago, is now facing up to 24 more years added to his sentence.

• Ex-concentration camp secretary convicted in Holocaust trial: A German court on Tuesday gave a two-year suspended sentence to a 97-year-old former Nazi camp secretary over complicity in the murder of more than 10,000 people. Irmgard Furchner is the first woman to be tried in Germany for Nazi-era crimes in decades.

• Terry Hall dies: Terry Hall, the singer of British ska band The Specials, has died after “a brief illness” at age 63.

• Argentina World Cup winners arrive home: Argentina’s winning World Cup team arrived home to a cheerful Buenos Aires on Tuesday morning. Massive crowds lined the streets and cheered the champions. The Argentinian government declared that Tuesday would be a bank holiday so that the entire country "can express their deepest joy for the national team."


Canadian daily The Toronto Star devotes its front page to the shooting that killed five and injured one at a condo in Vaughan, Ontario. The shooter, identified as Francesco Villi, had reportedly been in a years-long dispute with the building's board of directors and was about to be evicted from the condo.


$520 million

American video game company Epic Games, which developed the hit online game Fortnite, will pay a total of $520 million in penalties and refunds to settle allegations from the Federal Trade Commission that the firm violated a landmark federal children’s privacy law and tricked players into making unintended purchases. It is the largest fine ever imposed by the FTC for a rule it enforces.


What Sweden's teacher shortage says about privatizing education

Sweden prides itself on being a knowledge economy, but its education system is at a breaking point because of a lack of teachers. The problem may trace back to the decision a generation ago to move to a free-choice voucher system.

🇸🇪🧑🏫 The northern city of Kiruna shows, unlike any other, the growing teacher shortage Sweden is confronted with and all its consequences. In October, more than 200 middle school students within the municipality were required to stay home, a preventive measure the authorities were forced to implement because they had been unable to recruit qualified teaching staff. The situation there might seem extreme, but teacher shortage has been a structural issue within the Swedish school system for years — and rural areas of northern Sweden are the hardest hit.

🏫 Back in 1991, a left-wing coalition led by the Social Democrats abolished the state-run schooling system, while a “free choice” voucher system was introduced by a new right-wing government a year later. These two policies combined led to a complete overhaul of the Swedish school system. Each student’s family was allowed to freely choose which school to attend, including both public or private options. Municipalities started financing private schools with public funding, which made them highly profitable.

💸 The Swedish experience over the last 30 years reveals the limits of this policy: While free choice was supposed to set the students and their families free, it has in reality created two parallel school systems within the same country that are competing against each other. This trend also reveals underlying socio-economic and geographic gaps in Sweden, and creates a vicious circle that benefits the most privileged layers of Swedish society and leaves many behind.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


“Today I apologize.”

— In a 20-minute speech at the National Archive in The Hague, the Netherlands’ Prime Minister Mark Rutte has offered a formal apology on behalf of his government for the country’s historical involvement in slavery and the slave trade, saying that “successive Dutch governments after 1863 failed to adequately see and acknowledge that our slavery past continued to have negative effects and still does.” The Netherlands won’t offer individual compensation to descendant, but will establish a €200 million educational fund to help address slavery’s legacy in the country.

✍️ Newsletter by Emma Albright, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Bertrand Hauger and Hugo Perrin

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food / travel

Inside The Search For Record-Breaking Sapphires In A Remote Indian Valley

A vast stretch of mountains in India's Padder Valley is believed to house sapphire reserves worth $1.2 billion, which could change the fate of one of the poorest districts of Jammu and Kashmir.

Photo of sapphire miners at work in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kishtwar district

Sapphire mining in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kishtwar district

Jehangir Ali

GULABGARH — Mohammad Abbas recalls with excitement the old days when he joined the hunt in the mountains of Jammu and Kashmir’s Kishtwar district to search the world’s most precious sapphires.

Kishtwar’s sapphire mines are hidden in the inaccessible mountains towering at an altitude of nearly 16,000 feet, around Sumchan and Bilakoth areas of Padder Valley in Machail – which is one of the most remote regions of Jammu and Kashmir.

“Up there, the weather is harsh and very unpredictable,” Abbas, a farmer, said. “One moment the high altitude sun is peeling off your skin and the next you could get frostbite. Many labourers couldn’t stand those tough conditions and fled.”

Abbas, 56, added with a smile: “But those who stayed earned their reward, too.”

A vast stretch of mountains in Padder Valley nestled along Kishtwar district’s border with Ladakh is believed to house sapphire reserves worth $1.2 billion, according to one estimate. A 19.88-carat Kishtwar sapphire broke records in 2013 when it was sold for nearly $2.4 million.

In India, the price of sapphire with a velvety texture and true-blue peacock colour, which is found only in Kishtwar, can reach $6,000 per carat. The precious stone could change the socio-economic landscape of Kishtwar, which is one of the economically most underdeveloped districts of Jammu and Kashmir.

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