Welcome to Friday, where several European countries see record daily COVID cases, South Korea pardons Park Geun-hye, and Taste-the-TV is a thing. We also look at a familiar story unfolding in Ukraine, where former president Petro Poroshenko has been accused of being in cahoots with Russia.
As mentioned yesterday, the Worldcrunch Today crew is taking a short break, and will be back on Jan. 3, 2022. As always, we’ll continue publishing new stories through the holidays on Worldcrunch! Happy end of the year to all 🥳
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🌎 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
• COVID update: As Omicron spreads across the world, daily COVID-19 cases are hitting records: After the UK registered 100,000 cases in a day for the first time, France recorded 91,608 cases and Italy reached a daily record of nearly 44,600, as well as 168 deaths. United Airlines joined Delta Air Lines in canceling dozens of Christmas Eve flights, amid growing concerns over the new variant. Meanwhile Ecuador became the first country in the world to make coronavirus vaccines mandatory for children as young as five.
• U.S. bans Xinjiang imports over Uyghur abuse: Amid worsening relations between Beijing and the White House, U.S. President Joe Biden has signed a law banning imports from China's Xinjiang region over Beijing’s oppression of its Muslim Uyghur population. The law passed unanimously in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
• Joan Didion dies at 87: American essayist and novelist Joan Didion, who rose to prominence as a leading figure of the New Journalism movement in the 1960s and 1970s, died on Thursday at her home in Manhattan. She was 87.
• West condemns “Russian mercenaries in Mali”: Fifteen countries, including France, Canada and Germany, have formally condemned the deployment of Russian Wagner mercenaries in Mali saying the move threatens stability in the conflict-hit region and accusing Moscow of providing material backing for the fighters. Earlier this week, the EU imposed sanctions on the Wagner Group, accused of committing human rights abuses in the Central African Republic and elsewhere.
• Dozens killed in Bangladesh ferry fire: A fire swept through a packed ferry on a river in a southern region of Bangladesh, killing at least 37 people.
• South Korea to pardon ex-president Park Geun-hye, jailed for corruption: South Korea announced it will grant a special pardon to former President Park Geun-hye, who is serving a 20-year prison term for a series of corruption charges. The decision aims to promote national unity in the face of difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic, amid a tight presidential race.
• Japan introduces the TV screen you can taste: Taste the TV (TTTV), a lickable screen prototype which can imitate food flavors. Wait, is this how going out to dinner will be in the metaverse?
🗞️ FRONT PAGE
With an updated Nativity scene on its cover, German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel explores what the future of technology might look like “the day after tomorrow,” adding, with a touch of irony, that “our children’s future will be so exciting.”
#️⃣ BY THE NUMBERS
The Japanese cabinet approved its annual budget today, a record high number for the 10th straight year in a row. Under recently re-elected Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Japan is hoping to recover from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and promote economic growth and wealth distribution.
📰 STORY OF THE DAY
Ukraine charges its former leaders with the ultimate crime: helping Russia
Ukraine's former president Petro Poroshenko has taken refuge in Poland after being accused of treason and cooperation with Russia. It’s a film we’ve seen before in Kyiv, as Anna Akage writes for Worldcrunch, looking at Ukrainian daily Livy Bereg and Russia’s Kommersant:
🇷🇺 Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who came to power in 2014 against the backdrop of an emerging war with Russia, has now been accused by Ukrainian authorities of treason — in the service of Russian interests. The accusations (blocking plans to buy coal from South Africa, thus reinforcing Russia's energy dependence during the difficult first months of the war) sound fantastic, as Poroshenko was known for his nationalist stance and tough line against Moscow.
Poroshenko, of course, has been in the opposition since losing his bid for reelection in 2019 to television star Volodymyr Zelensky. And Now Zelensky’s government is going after Poroshenko: It seems to be a pattern in Ukrainian politics — not simply accusing one’s predecessor of wrongdoing, but specifically crimes related to coal deals and Russia. Before Poroshenko, it was Yulia Tymoshenko, his main political opponent, who was prosecuted for similar accusations.
✈️ Poroshenko, who has for the moment taken refuge in Poland, is also not the only ex-president of Ukraine on the run. At the beginning of the war with Russia, the fourth Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovich, fled the country.
🔁 All of this is playing out as the risk looms of another military conflict with Moscow. Russian daily Kommersant reports that the Kremlin will not pull back its troops from the border as long as NATO continues to bolster its presence in Ukraine. In this part of the world, history has a tendency to repeat itself.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
"No country can boost its way out of the pandemic."
— World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus restated his belief that ending the pandemic will require providing vaccinations to vulnerable populations around the world, and not just continuing to boost those who are already vaccinated in the world’s richest countries.
No Healing Here, But Maybe A Miracle
Here’s the third installment of Dottoré, a new weekly Worldcrunch column by Mariateresa Fichele, a psychiatrist and writer in Naples, Italy:
In Naples you will often hear people exclaim: “Maronna ro Carmine!"
To understand the meaning of that expression, here’s a true story from my childhood.
Although everyone called her Maria, my grandmother's real name was Maria Carmela, taken from the Madonna to whom she was devoted. And if you’re not from Naples, you wouldn’t know that Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Maronna ro Carmine in Neapolitan) has been distributing bonafide miracles since the 1400s.
So when I was six years old and the ophthalmologist diagnosed that I suffered from astigmatism and hypermetropia, my grandmother turned to her. No, she wouldn’t have any of it. It was not acceptable that her granddaughter, like her two short-sighted daughters, would be "condemned" to wear glasses.
So began our Wednesday pilgrimages to the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine in downtown Naples, where I quickly became familiar with the world of the sick, the miraculously healed and the voting offerings. And it wouldn’t last long. After six months, my mom took me for a new check-up. The miracle was complete.
"Signora, I don't know how it's possible, but the child is perfectly healed.”
I remember as if it were yesterday my grandmother in tears: "Miracle! miracle! It was Maronna ro Carmine!”
I cried too because the first thing they did was take away my glasses to bring them as an offering to the church. I really liked those pink glasses, and I really liked my Wednesday visits to that brown Madonna, cheek-to-cheek with her child.
I often wonder if the way I have narrated these events to myself and others has had an influence in my professional choices.
Psychiatrists rarely heal; our objective is to alleviate suffering.
Sometimes, however, "healing" does occur. For the doctor, there is of course a sense of joy, but also questions. Was it the drugs, or my work, or the events... or maybe things were just supposed to happen this way?
For me, another thought also flashes in my mind: "He’s cured! Maronna ro Carmine!"
Learn more about Worldcrunch's exclusive Dottoré! series here.
✍️ Newsletter by Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger
What would Worldcrunch taste like? 🤔 (Don’t lick your screen just yet, though…) Let us know what’s happening in your corner of the world!
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