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Zelensky Goes To Washington, Taliban New Women Ban, Santa Swims In Bangkok

Photo of ​a diver dressed as Santa Claus waving to children at Bangkok's Sea Life aquarium.

A diver dressed as Santa Claus at Bangkok's Sea Life aquarium.

Renate Mattar, Laure Gautherin and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 Haia!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrives in Washington on his first trip abroad since the Russian invasion, Taliban ban female students from university, and Lionel Messi becomes an Instagram world champion. Meanwhile, Russian-language independent website Vazhnyye Istorii/Important Stories reports on the situation in Chechnya, where strongman Ramzan Kadyrov’s strong pro-Russian rhetoric is at odds with the country’s real commitment to Moscow.



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• Zelensky in Washington: Ukraine’s President Vladimir Zelensky will be in Washington today for his first foreign trip abroad since Russia’s invasion 10 months ago. Zelensky will meet his American counterpart Joe Biden today and is expected to speak to Congress. The White House also confirmed that the U.S. will supply Ukraine with a Patriot missile battery.

• Taliban bar women from universities: Afghanistan’s Taliban government has issued a new ban on female students attending university. Young girls have already been forbidden from returning to secondary schools since March 2021. On the same day, Talibans also released two detained Americans in a “goodwill gesture.”

• Trump tax returns to be made public: A committee in the U.S. House of Representative has voted to make public six years of former President Donald Trump’s tax returns. The panel’s vote comes just one day after the House Committee issued a recommendation for criminal charges against Trump for his alleged role in the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol.

• Peru orders Mexican ambassador to leave: Peru has ordered the Mexican ambassador to leave within the next 72 hours, after Mexico has granted asylum to former Peruvian President Pedro Castillo’s family. The deposed president remains in jail.

• Fiji elects first new prime minister in 16 years: Sitiveni Rabuka becomes Fiji’s new Prime Minister, putting an end to Frank Bainimarama’s 16-year mandate. It will be the second time that Rabuka will hold this position, as he already accessed power through a coup in 1987, remaining in power until 1999.

• Musk says he’ll quit Twitter when “foolish” remplacement found: After a majority of Twitter poll respondents voted for Twitter owner Elon Musk to step down as CEO of the social network, the tech billionaire replied that he will resign as soon as he finds “someone foolish enough” to replace him.

• Messi’s World Cup post becomes most-liked Instagram photo ever: Lionel Messi breaks yet another record! A new photo gallery he posted on Instagram celebrating Argentina’s World Cup victory just became the most-liked Instagram post ever, with 67 millions likes.


“Out!” Peruvian daily Correo relays the expelling order for Mexico’s ambassador to Lima Pablo Monroy Conesa, issued by Peru’s foreign minister on Tuesday. The diplomat has been declared “persona non grata” on the ground of “unacceptable interference in internal affairs.” The decision follows his announcement that his country had granted asylum to the family of removed president Pedro Castillo. The ambassador was given 72 hours to leave.


379 million

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced it has seized 379 million potentially deadly fentanyl doses this year — enough “to kill every American,” its administrator said. This includes the interception of 50.6 million pills laced with the potent synthetic opioid, which is more than double the amount seized by the DEA in 2021. The agency described fentanyl, mostly trafficked into the U.S. from Mexico, as the deadliest drug threat facing the country.


Kadyrov's bully tactics won't help Russia recruit more soldiers in Chechnya

A skirmish between two law enforcement officers in Chechnya turned deadly last month, and ultimately led to a widespread crackdown by authorities. Strongman Ramzan Kadyrov taking sides in the dispute raises deeper questions about the lack of Chechen soldiers showing up for the war in Ukraine, reports Russian-language independent website Vazhnyye Istorii/Important Stories.

💥 A small dispute recently broke out between a Rosguardian soldier of the National Guard of Russia and a local traffic police officer in the Chechen town of Urus-Martan. What appeared to be just a minor skirmish quickly escalated, turning into an all-out attack on citizens who don't support the regime of Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya's longtime strongman ruler. It is yet another attempt by Kadyrov to show that he keeps complete control over Chechnya. But it's also clear that the situation is aggravated by the fact that many Chechens refuse to go to war in Ukraine.

🛑 Kadyrov is taking this story further to show that he has Chechnya under control. Urus-Martan, like other mountainous regions, has always been one of the most opposed to the central authorities in the capital of Grozny. People here have always resisted the Kadyrovites [Kadyrov's followers] most fiercely, and Kadyrov wanted to show people that he will terrorize anyone who is critical of anything — for example, even the actions of a local traffic officer.

🇷🇺 Kadyrov uses the topic of the war in Ukraine as both scaremongering and another method of fighting any dissent and legalizing the killing of opponents. “We will send you to war, to the front, to the front line, and there you will die...” Since the beginning of the war, there has been an issue with the fact that both Kadyrov and Vladimir Putin expected Chechnya to go to war, but Chechnya had not forgotten its recent history: Russia had bombed Chechnya in the 1990s to crush an independence movement. The pain from this is still very much alive throughout the republic.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


We must act quickly.

— Wang Guangfa, a respiratory expert from Peking University First Hospital, told China’s state-run Global Times that the country has to prepare “prepare fever clinics, emergency and severe treatment resources” and expand ICU beds as he warns Beijing could face a severe jump in COVID-19 infections, following the recent easing of restrictions. China has officially reported only five COVID-related deaths this week.

✍️ Newsletter by Renate Mattar, Laure Gautherin and Anne-Sophie Goninet

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My Wife, My Boyfriend — And Grandkids: A Careful Coming Out For China's Gay Seniors

A series of interviews in Wuhan with aging gay men — all currently or formerly married to women — reveals a hidden story of how Chinese LGBTQ culture is gradually emerging from the shadows.

Image of two senior men playing chinese Checkers.

A friendly game of Checkers in Dongcheng, Beijing, China.

Wang Er

WUHAN — " What do you think of that guy sitting there, across from us? He's good looking."

" Then you should go and talk to him."

“ Too bad that I am old..."

Grandpa Shen was born in 1933. He says that for the past 40 years, he's been "repackaged," a Chinese expression for having come out as gay. Before his wife died when he was 50, Grandpa Shen says he was was a "standard" straight Chinese man. After serving in the army, he began working in a factory, and dated many women and evenutually got married.

"Becoming gay is nothing special, I found it very natural." Grandpa Shen says he discovered his homosexuality at the Martyrs' Square in Wuhan, a well-known gay men's gathering place.

✉️ You can receive our LGBTQ+ International roundup every week directly in your inbox. Subscribe here.

Wuhan used to have different such ways for LGBTQ+ to meet: newspaper columns, riversides, public toilets, bridges and baths to name but a few. With urbanization, many of these locations have disappeared. The transformation of Martyrs' Square into a park has gradually become a place frequented by middle-aged and older gay people in Wuhan, where they play cards and chat and make friends. There are also "comrades" (Chinese slang for gay) from outside the city who come to visit.

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