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In The News

Russians Take Soledar, Brazil Crackdown, California Floods

a man is riding his surfboard pulled by a car in a middle of street in California after heavy rains flooded the State

Heavy rain is expected to continue Wednesday and Thursday in many parts of California where severe flooding and mudslides have prompted flood alerts that affect more than 20 million people. Stormy weather patterns have been battering the state over the past several weeks, with the death toll rising to 17.

Emma Albright & Ginevra Falciani,

👋 မင်္ဂလာပါ*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Russian forces claim control of Soledar, Brazil’s Supreme Court orders the arrest of two top security officials and a new “optimistic” planet has been discovered. Meanwhile, Nike Heinen in German daily Die Welt worries about the danger posed by China’s secrecy surrounding its COVID-19 situation.

[*Mingalaba - Burmese, Myanmar]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Russian forces claim control of Soledar: The Russian mercenary group Wagner claimed to have taken control of the salt-mining town of Soledar in eastern Ukraine, pursuing Putin’s plan to capture the entire Donbas region. Fighting is ongoing and the Kyiv government said its troops were still holding out.

• Brazil update: A Brazilian Supreme Court judge ordered the arrest of the country’s public security chief, Anderson Torres, after supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro stormed the Supreme Court, Congress and presidential offices. The judge also requested the arrest of Fabio Augusto Vieira, the head of Brasilia's military police.

• Peru president faces genocide inquiry after deadly protests: Peru’s top prosecutor has launched an inquiry into President Dina Boluarte and other key ministers, with investigation into charges of "genocide, qualified homicide and serious injuries" after weeks of clashes has left dozens of people dead. Violence erupted in the country after ex-President Pedro Castillo was arrested in December for trying to dissolve Congress.

• Tigray rebels start handing over weapons: Tigrayan rebels have begun handing in their heavy weapons, a key part of an agreement signed more than two months ago in an attempt to end a longstanding conflict in northern Ethiopia.

• Andrew Tate loses bid to end detention in Romania: A Romanian court rejected Andrew Tate’s appeal of his 30-day detention on charges of human trafficking, organized crime and rape on Tuesday. This comes just weeks after the arrest of the former professional kickboxer and influencer in Romania and his viral Twitter bout with Greta Thunberg.

• Controversial Catholic Cardinal George Pell dies: Cardinal George Pell has died at 81 from heart complications following hip surgery. A jury in 2018 found the controversial Catholic cleric, who’d once served as the Vatican’s finance chief, had abused two boys while Archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s. Pell spent 13 months in prison before the High Court of Australia quashed the verdict in 2020.

• Golden Globes 2023: The 80th Golden Globe Awards aired on Tuesday night. Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans and The Banshees of Inisherin won top film awards while Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon scooped best TV show.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne presented the country’s highly-anticipated pension reform bill at a press conference yesterday, announcing a gradual increase in the retirement age from 62 currently to 64 by 2030. The announcement immediately led unions to call for strikes and protests on Jan. 19, as French daily La Dépêche du Midi notes on its front page.

💬  LEXICON

TOI 700 e

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite mission (TESS) has spotted a potentially habitable Earth-size exoplanet orbiting M-class red dwarf star TOI 700, some 100 light-years away. The newly discovered celestial body, which is 95% the size of our planet and likely rocky, was named TOI 700 e (short for “Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite Object of Interest”). It is located in the “optimistic” habitable zone of the system, meaning liquid water might potentially exist on its surface and it could actually be already inhabited. The planet is the fourth detected orbiting TOI 700 and the second to be considered a good candidate for hosting life after TOI 700 d, found in 2020 by the same mission.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Why China's COVID coverup raises the risk that new variants will spread

No one knows the true number of coronavirus infections in China, but it could be up to 4 million a day. Experts fear that new variants could emerge undetected that may prove dangerous for the rest of the world. Time is ticking, warns Nike Heinen in German daily Die Welt.

🦠 Over the past four weeks, only 388 coronavirus genome sequences have been entered into the international data bank GISAID from “mainland China”. If there had really been only a few thousand new infections per day in China, as officials claim, that would be a useful data set from which to draw conclusions. But that is not the case.

😷 China – a country with a population of 1.4 billion – is clearly hiding the true figures: since Christmas, no new figures have been reported. The most recent was around 4,500 new infections per day, whereas eyewitnesses in all provinces report that half the population is ill. English health analytics firm Airfinity estimates the true infection rate to be a thousand times the one reported: 4 million new infections per day.

🇨🇳🌍 China is not the only country where the COVID situation is unclear. Most parts of the world don’t do enough sequencing. Ravindra Gupta, an internationally recognized coronavirus expert from Cambridge, says that poorer countries don’t have the necessary labs. But what makes the situation in China especially dangerous is the sheer size of the country, and its links to the rest of the world. “What emerges in China can quickly spread to the rest of the world.”

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

“I don’t know what’s in the documents.”

— Asked during the North American Leaders’ Summit in Mexico about the confidential documents found at a former private office of his in Washington, D.C., U.S. President Joe Biden said “I was briefed about this discovery and surprised to learn that there were any government records that were taken there to that office.” The documents are said to include U.S. intelligence memos and briefing materials concerning Ukraine, Iran and the UK with classified markings appearing to be from Biden’s time as Barack Obama’s vice president. “My lawyers have not suggested I ask what documents they were,” Biden added.

✍️ Newsletter by Emma Albright, Ginevra Falciani, Hugo Perrin, Laure Gautherin and Anne-Sophie Goninet


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Society

"Splendid" Colonialism? Time To Change How We Talk About Fashion And Culture

A lavish book to celebrate Cartagena, Colombia's most prized travel destination, will perpetuate clichéd views of a city inextricably linked with European exploitation.

Photo of women in traditional clothes at a market in Cartagena, Colombia

At a market iIn Cartagena, Colombia

Vanessa Rosales

-Analysis-

BOGOTÁ — The Colombian designer Johanna Ortiz is celebrating the historic port of Cartagena de Indias, in Colombia, in a new book, Cartagena Grace, published by Assouline. The European publisher specializes in luxury art and travel books, or those weighty, costly coffee table books filled with dreamy pictures. If you never opened the book, you could still admire it as a beautiful object in a lobby or on a center table.

Ortiz produced the book in collaboration with Lauren Santo Domingo, an American model (née Davis, in Connecticut) who married into one of Colombia's wealthiest families. Assouline is promoting it as a celebration of the city's "colonial splendor, Caribbean soul and unfaltering pride," while the Bogotá weekly Semana has welcomed an international publisher's focus on one of the country's emblematic cities and tourist spots.

And yet, use of terms like colonial "splendor" is not just inappropriate, but unacceptable.

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