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Photo of Santas in training at the annual Santa School, held at the Ministry of Fun, an entertainment company in London.

Santas in training at London's annual Santa School, held at the Ministry of Fun entertainment company.

Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

👋 Ellohay!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where the Omicron variant triggers toughened travel restrictions, Putin warns NATO of Ukraine “red line,” and school’s in for Santa. For Amsterdam-based daily De Volkskrant, Daphne van Paassen also reports on how some Dutch hairdressers are being trained to recognize signs of domestic violence among their customers.

[*Pig Latin]


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• Putin warns NATO against crossing “red lines” in Ukraine: President Vladimir Putin has warned NATO countries that deploying weapons or soldiers to Ukraine would cross a “red line” for Moscow, and trigger a strong response, including the potential deployment of Russian missiles targeting Europe. Meanwhile, Ukraine urged NATO to prepare economic sanctions on Russia to dissuade a possible invasion by tens of thousands of Russian troops concentrated within reach of its border. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said direct negotiations with Moscow were essential to end war in eastern Ukraine.

• COVID update: Amid uncertainty around the virulence of the Omicron variant, U.S. President Joe Biden will announce tighter COVID restrictions for people flying into the United States. Malaysia has temporarily banned travelers from countries deemed at risk, while Japan and Hong Kong said they would expand travel curbs. South Korea reported a new daily record of 5,123 new coronavirus cases, as it battles to contain a sharp rise in patients with severe symptoms. Meanwhile, Fiji will reopen its borders to fully vaccinated tourists on Wednesday.

• Michigan school shooting: A 15-year-old opened fire with a semi-automatic pistol his father had bought days earlier, killing three fellow students and injuring eight others including a teacher, in a high school shooting in the U.S. state of Michigan.

• China “hunts” Taiwan nationals through forced deportation: A new report by human rights group Safeguard Defenders revealed that over 600 Taiwanese arrested overseas have been deported to China in recent years. The report accused China of "hunting" down the people, and said the practice was being “used as a tool to undermine Taiwan’s sovereignty and bolster Beijing’s influence abroad”.

• UN pushes financial support to advert mass poverty in Afghanistan: The United Nations announced on Wednesday that a program to pay $300 million a year in cash to Afghan families with children, elderly or people with disabilities is “the best shot at halting a this massive collapse into near universal poverty,” which could affect more than 90% of the country’s 39 million people by mid 2022.

• Google to ban political ads ahead of Philippines election: U.S. tech giant Google announced political advertising will be banned on all its platforms, in the run-up to next year’s elections in the Philippines to choose a successor to President Rodrigo Duterte.

• Tel Aviv named as world’s most expensive city to live in: Overtaking Paris, Hong Kong and Singapore, Israel’s capital Tel Aviv becomes the world’s most expensive city to live in, as soaring inflation has pushed up living costs globally, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.


Dec. 1 front page of the Oakland Press newspaper reading "Terrifying display of violence" in wake of the school shooting that left three students dead and eight injured in Oxford, Michigan

Michigan-based daily The Oakland Press reports on a school shooting which left three students dead and eight injured in Oxford. The suspected attacker, a 15-year-old pupil, used a handgun bought by his father last week.



NASA satellite data shows there were 90,984 fires from crop stubble burning in three Indian states between October 1 and November 28 — which is believed to be one of the main causes behind New Delhi’s record air pollution last month. The Indian capital city saw its worst levels of air pollution this November in at least six years.


Face in the mirror: Dutch hairdressers trained to recognize domestic violence

Early detection and accessible help are essential in the fight against domestic violence. Hairdressers in the Dutch province of North Brabant are now being trained to identify when their customers are facing abuse at home, reports Daphne van Paassen in Amsterdam-based daily De Volkskrant.

💇 According to Irma Geraerts, 45, who has her own salon in Reusel, a village in the North Brabant region, they're part-time psychologists. "A therapist whose hair I cut explained to me that we have an advantage because we touch people. We are literally close" That intimate contact is one of the reasons why The Netherland's Child Abuse Taskforce and the Sterk Huis (Strong Home) aid organization want to make use of hairdressers to detect domestic violence. People often go to the same hairdresser for years, exchange remarkably intimate stories, and feel a strong bond of trust.

💬 Nowadays, those who have lived experience of abuse are the new experts who are sitting at the table and contributing. "They told us over and over again: the baker, the teacher, the neighbor, they all knew, but nobody ever asked if they could do anything," says Teun Haans, cluster manager at Sterk Huis. That is why in the southern region of North Brabant they are aiming for a broad approach: domestic violence should not be an issue that only professionals deal with, but one for society as a whole.

📉 Does this broad approach help to bring down the figures? Based on a 2020 report (The long-winded issue: can domestic violence and child abuse really be stopped?), one could make a cautiously optimistic prediction. Researcher Katinka Lünnemann and her colleagues at the Verwey-Jonker Institute followed over the course of three years 576 families who had been reported to Veilig Thuis. In one third of the families that received help, the violence eventually stopped.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


Don't freak out.

— BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, reassuring vaccinated people who are worried about the Omicron variant that they will likely remain protected against severe illness. “The plan remains the same: Speed up the administration of a third booster shot,” he added.


Ho ho ho! The annual Santa School, held at the Ministry of Fun, an entertainment company in London, has resumed in-person training after being forced to move online last year due to the pandemic. The school offers training to wannabe Santas, covering different aspects of the role, from costume to voice and make-up. — Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire/ZUMA

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

Are you “freaking out” about the new variant? Or maybe the cost of living in your city? Let us know what’s happening in your corner of the world: info@worldcrunch.com

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Olaf Scholz: Trying To Crack The Code Of Germany's Enigmatic Chancellor

Olaf Scholz took over for Angela Merkel a year ago, but for many he remains a mysterious figure through a series of tumultuous events, including his wavering on the war in Ukraine.

man boarding a plane

Olaf Scholz boading an Air Force Special Air Mission Wing plane, on his way to the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Tirana.

Michael Kappeler / dpa via ZUMA Press
Peter Huth


BERLIN — When I told my wife that I was planning to write an article about “a year of Scholz,” she said, “Who’s that?” To be fair, she misheard me, and over the last 12 months the German Chancellor has mainly been referred to by his first name, Olaf.

Still, it’s a reasonable question. Who is Olaf Scholz, really? Or perhaps we should ask: how many versions of Olaf Scholz are there? A year after taking over from Angela Merkel, we still don’t know.

Chancellors from Germany’s Social Democrat Party (SPD) have always been easy to characterize. First there was Willy Brandt – he suffered from depression and had an intriguing private life. His affected public speaking style is still the gold standard for anyone who wants to get ahead in the center-left party. Then came Helmut Schmidt. He lived off his reputation for handling any crisis, smoked like a chimney and eventually won over the public.

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