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Macron Meets Putin, Peng Interview, Fight Club Backlash

Civilian self defense training for the Territorial Defense Forces continued on the outskirts of Kyiv on Saturday, amid fears of a Russian invasion.

Civilian self defense training for the Territorial Defense Forces continued on the outskirts of Kyiv on Saturday, amid fears of a Russian invasion.

Celestino Arce Lavin/ZUMA
Anne-Sophie Goninet, Bertrand Hauger and Jane Herbelin

👋 Merhaba!*

Welcome to Monday, where French President Macron is on diplomatic blitz to Moscow and Kyiv, Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai gives her first Western media interview and China’s controversial editing of Fight Club gets undone. Die Welt also looks at Africa’s first vaccine factory and its attempt to counterbalance the unfair global distribution of vaccines.



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French president in Moscow for diplomatic mission: French President Emmanuel Macron, who currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, flies to Moscow today to meet with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in an effort to ease tensions with Ukraine. Macron will follow up on Tuesday with a visit to Kyiv in a political gamble for the French president, who faces a re-election challenge in April. On the other side of the Atlantic, German chancellor Olaf Scholz is meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington.

COVID update: Ottawa mayor Jim Watson has declared a state of emergency as protesters opposed to COVID-19 restrictions continue to paralyze the Canadian capital’s city center for a 10th day in a row. Meanwhile, Australia has announced the reopening of its borders to vaccinated visa holders from Feb. 21, for the first time in almost two years.

Iran nuclear talks to resume: The eighth round of negotiations in Vienna between Iran and the United States on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal will resume Tuesday, the European Union, which acts as coordinator, confirmed.

Costa Rica’s ex-president Figueres takes early election lead: Costa Rica’s former president Jose Maria Figueres is leading the preliminary vote count in the country’s presidential election with 27% of the vote, ahead of economist Rodrigo Chavez and conservative evangelical preacher Fabricio Alvarado Munoz.

Senegal wins Africa Cup of Nations for the first time:Senegal defeated Egypt on penalty kicks in the Africa Cup of Nations soccer championship final game Sunday, winning the continental competition for the first time. The country’s president declared a national holiday today to celebrate the team’s victory.

Queen Elizabeth II backs Camilla to be Queen Consort: In a message to mark the 70th anniversary of her reign, Queen Elizabeth II said she wishes Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, to be known as Queen Consort when Camilla’s husband and Elizabeth’s son, Prince Charles, becomes King. The celebration of the Platinum Jubilee officially made the Queen the longest-serving British monarch.

China restores Fight Club original ending after backlash: The Chinese streaming platform Tencent has restored the original ending of the 1999 cult film Fight Club, after it had suppressed the iconic final scene and amended the Chinese edition to tell viewers the police had “arrested all criminals,” sparking a widespread backlash.


Moroccan daily Assahra Al Maghribiya devotes its front page to the death of Rayan Oram, after the nation had been consumed by the attempt to rescue the five-year-old boy who had fallen down a dry well. After a nearly week-long operation, rescuers had managed to get to Oram on Saturday, but he did not survive.


भारत कोकिला

Lata Mangeshkar, one of India’s most influential singers, died from pneumonia and COVID-19 on Sunday in Mumbai, at 92. In a career spanning seven decades, Mangeshkar recorded thousands of songs in dozens of Indian and foreign languages, earning her nicknames like the Nightingale of India (Hindi: भारत कोकिला, Bharat kokila) and the “Queen of Melody.”


Inside the launch of Africa's first COVID vaccine plant

As the West hoards vaccines, less than 10% of Africans are vaccinated. But now, the continent's first vaccine factory has opened in South Africa. And behind it is Patrick Soon-Shionga pharmaceutical billionaire with a mission to change the African continent, reports Christian Putsch in German daily Die Welt.

💉 Patrick Soon-Shiong can certainly be described as a go-getter. The 69-year-old pharmaceutical entrepreneur became rich in the U.S. by selling cancer drugs. Bloomberg estimates his fortune at $11 billion. At the opening of the NantSA factory and research facility in Cape Town, the entrepreneur said he will produce vaccines in South Africa – “for Africa and for export to the world.” The equivalent of at least 170 million euros has been pledged by Soon-Shiong, through his company NantWorks, for his new plant.

🏭 The goal is ambitious: within a year, the first second-generation mRNA vaccine, produced entirely and independently in Africa, will be ready. This vaccine, he promises, will provide much better protection against coronavirus infection than previous vaccines. After three years, annual capacity is expected to reach one billion vaccine doses. But there are still many question marks behind the venture, such as the approval of the vaccine. A clinical trial with South African healthcare workers is currently underway, and other trials are planned in the U.S., Australia and Europe.

⚖️ In Africa, at least, expectations are huge because the unfair global distribution of vaccines in the pandemic has made vaccine production a political issue – and not just for the coronavirus. Within 20 years, according to plans of the African Union, 60% of all vaccines for Africans should be produced on the continent. Currently, it is only 1%. Not even 10% of the population in Africa has been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. This shameful figure says a lot about the lack of solidarity of industrialized countries during this pandemic. The continent wants to make itself independent from future hoarding by industrialized countries.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


"I never said anyone sexually assaulted me."

— Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai told French sports newspaper L’Equipe, in her first interview with a Western media, that was a “huge misunderstanding” after she publicly accused a former Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli of rape. Peng had made the explicit accusation on a social media post, which was subsequently deleted, and she disappeared for several weeks. Like with a previous statement made in Chinese media, the interview with L’Equipe has raised eyebrows, seeming to be part of an attempt to pressure Peng to reverse her version of events.

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

Listen to Lata Mangeshkar songs, watch Fight Club again … and let us know what’s happening in your corner of the world!


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The Trumpian Virus Undermining Democracy Is Now Spreading Through South America

Taking inspiration from events in the United States over the past four years, rejection of election results and established state institutions is on the rise in Latin America.

Two supporters of far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro dressed in Brazilian flags during a demonstration in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Bolsonaro supporters dressed in national colours with flags in a demonstration in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, on November 4, 2022.

Ivan Abreu / ZUMA
Carlos Ruckauf*


BUENOS AIRES — South Africa's Nelson Mandela used to say it was "so easy to break down and destroy. The heroes are those who make peace and build."

Intolerance toward those who think differently, even inside the same political space, is corroding the bases of representative democracy, which is the only system we know that allows us to live and grow in freedom, in spite of its flaws.

Recent events in South America and elsewhere are precisely alerting us to that danger. The most explosive example was in Brazil, where a crowd of thousands managed to storm key institutional premises like the presidential palace, parliament and the Supreme Court.

In Peru, the country's Marxist (now former) president, Pedro Castillo, sought to use the armed and security forces to shut down parliament and halt the Supreme Court and state prosecutors from investigating corruption allegations against him.

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