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Geopolitics
Pierre Haski

The Rush For Africa Is Getting Crowded — Who Will Be Shut Out?

African countries have shown through the Ukrainian war that their support should not be taken for granted. Chinese, Americans, Europeans and others are competing for influence on a continent that has become a global prize.

-Analysis-

PARIS — There was a time when the great powers of the world would compete against each other to conquer vast territories of the African continent. Today, they are instead vying to seduce, convince, and sometimes buy the support of countries that have never been so eagerly courted.

The 55 African States carry real value (no matter the criterion — be it economic, political, security, demographic) that leaves no one indifferent. Within two decades, China has become the lead partner of the continent, supplanting the former colonial powers; Russia is regaining its areas of influence from the old Soviet days, spearheaded by the Wagner paramilitary group; the Americans are back too; Turkey, India, Japan, and Brazil also have a dog in the fight.

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Society
Aline Suárez del Real Islas and Mar García

In Mexico, Influencers Make Castoff Clothing Cool

Young consumers around the world increasingly seek out secondhand and alternative clothing markets — making Mexico City’s flea markets, or tianguis, suddenly and surprisingly popular.

MEXICO CITY — The shouts of vendors mingle at the hodgepodge of stalls selling food, fruit and household items at the tianguis Las Torres, a flea market in eastern Mexico City. Beneath the tents, heaps of clothing are mounded on containers, planks and tubes. People examine garment after garment, holding them up to judge their size and draping their choices over their forearms and shoulders. The vendors watch from above, yelling prices and watching for occasional theft.

Bale clothing, or secondhand clothes, often called “ropa americana” (American clothing) here, is widely available at stalls in the open-air markets, or tianguis, of Mexico City and the State of Mexico. These garments, often illegally smuggled from the United States, used to be an affordable apparel option for Mexican families.

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Dottoré!
Mariateresa Fichele

A Woman’s Work Is Never Done

... unless she's a famous influencer?

“In the morning I get up at 5:30 a.m. I clean the house, then I wake up the children at 7. I get them ready, make them breakfast, then at 7:30, we leave for school. At 8:30, I start work. I clean two offices, then at 11, I go to a lady's house to clean until 3.30 p.m.

At 4 p.m. I pick up the children. I take them home and help them with their homework. Three days a week, I take my youngest to a physiotherapist at 5.30 p.m. The other days, there’s my daughter's catechism classes and my other daughter’s gym lessons. By 7:30 p.m. it's dinner time, because at 8 p.m. I have to go clean offices when they close. Then by 10 p.m. I come back and put them to bed.

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eyes on the U.S.
Alex Hurst

Eyes On U.S. — Thanksgiving Gone Global, Black Friday Bad Influence

PARIS — The city of lights is littered with advertisements for “Black Friday” deals. Of course, virtually none of the city’s residents will celebrate Thanksgiving — and few probably even know that the traditional Friday shopping day is linked to the uniquely American (always-on-Thursday) holiday.

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In The News
Cameron Manley, Bertrand Hauger and Emma Albright

Top European Leader Pushes Xi Jinping To Use His Influence On Putin

European Council Chief Charles Michel used much of his face-to-face meeting Thursday in Beijing with Xi Jinping to urge the Chinese President to use his sway over Russian President Vladimir Putin “to end the war and to respect the sovereignty of Ukraine.”

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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Michel’s visit was the first official trip to Beijing by a top EU leader since the pandemic. The three-hour sit down (considered quite long for Xi) also included discussion of human rights, Taiwan, trade relations and climate change.

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Society
Julián López de Mesa Samudio

Time To End The Western Witch Hunt Around Food

Social media hype and the "obsessive-compulsive" tendencies of younger generations are demonizing some basic foods, like bread, that have fed humanity for some 8,000 years.

-Essay-

BOGOTÁ — We largely owe our triumph as a species to gluten (a composite protein found in cereals like wheat). The domestication of the big, gluten-filled, cereals, paved the way for the rise of ancient civilizations, from Mesopotamia to Iran and the Mediterranean cultures of Egypt, Greece and Rome.

Wheat, barley and rye made large-scale agriculture possible, which fueled steady population growth through better nutrition. The rise of complex agricultural systems in turn led to the division of labor, consolidation of political systems and the state concept itself. So for more than 8,000 years, a great part of humanity has grown with the help of foods that contain gluten.

Yet today, these foods have become unspeakable villains to a growing number of 'foodies,' health enthusiasts and devotees of gastro-political and spiritual causes.

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Geopolitics
Pierre Haski

Russia, U.S. And China All Know: Ukraine's Fate Will Define The World Of Tomorrow

One year since Russia's invasion, the global stakes of the war in Ukraine have come more fully into focus. It's a battle over fundamental questions of sovereignty and democracy, but also the very meaning of power.

-Analysis-

PARIS — When we talk about the state of the world during the time of war in Ukraine, the word that comes up most often is "fragmented." This is of course a euphemism, as we have seen in the deep divisions on display this past week.

As if they had consulted each other, Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden have doubled down on their rivalry: Putin, by brutally attacking the West, the root of all evil – and Biden, by showing his total commitment to Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression.

But the world is not as bipolar as it was during the Cold War. China has burst onto the scene this anniversary week, with the visit of head Chinese diplomat Wang Yi to Munich and Moscow. On Wednesday, standing beside Putin, he spoke of a “rock solid” relationship between the two countries, without crossing the line into support of the Russian war.

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Economy
Christian Putsch and Christina zur Nedden

First Signs The China-Africa Love Affair Is Growing Cold

China has invested billions in multiple African countries in order to expand its influence. But both sides have been quietly scaling back the relationship, as Africans resent one-sided deals and China fears defaults on debt.

-Analysis-

JOHANNESBURG — In December, Kenya's new president, William Ruto, broke a taboo that pertains to pretty much every Chinese loan agreement with African governments: the secrecy clause.

Ruto's predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta had refused to publish contracts for billion-dollar projects, citing clauses to that effect. But that caused so much public anger that Ruto made disclosure a campaign promise.

The ominous details relate to the construction of an entirely overpriced rail line from Nairobi to the coastal city of Mombasa worth $3.6 billion. The case explains why Beijing is so keen to keep such contracts confidential.

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Geopolitics
Yann Rousseau

Yes, Xi Jinping Is Now More Powerful Than Mao Zedong Ever Was

After being re-elected as head of the Communist Party last year, the Chinese leader has been unanimously re-elected to another five-year term as head of state. Now, wielding more power than any other past Chinese communist leader, he wants to accelerate the rise of Chinese influence around the world.

-Analysis-

BEIJING — Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping has been re-elected to a third five-year term at the head of the world's second largest economic power. Nobody was surprised.

The vote took place during a legislative assembly convened to rubber stamp decisions of the authoritarian power, during which 2,952 parliamentarians unanimously approved Xi's re-election before rising, in perfect choreography, to offer a prolonged standing ovation to their leader. As usual, Xi remained completely neutral in the face of the enthusiasm.

His victory was a mere formality after his re-election last fall as the head of the all-powerful party, which controls all of the country's political institutions, and after legislative amendments to erase term limits that would have forced him out.

Xi Jinping, who took over the presidency in 2013, "is now the most powerful leader in the history of the People's Republic, since its founding in 1949. Institutionally, he holds even more power than Mao Zedong," says Suisheng Zhao, a professor and Chinese foreign policy expert at the University of Denver.

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Economy
Pierre Haski

Lithium Mines In Europe? A New World Of Supply-Chain Sovereignty

The European Union has a new plan that challenges the long-established dogmas of globalization, with its just-in-time supply chains and outsourcing the "dirty" work to the developing world.

-Analysis-

PARIS — It is one of the great paradoxes of our time: in order to overcome some of our dependencies and vulnerabilities — revealed in crises like COVID and the war in Ukraine — we risk falling into other dependencies that are no less toxic. The ecological transition, the digitalization of our economy, or increased defense needs, all pose risks to our supply of strategic minerals.

The European Commission published a plan this week to escape this fate by setting realistic objectives within a relatively short time frame, by the end of this decade.

This plan goes against the dogmas of globalization of the past 30 or 40 years, which relied on just-in-time supply chains from one end of the planet to the other — and, if we're being honest, outsourced the least "clean" tasks, such as mining or refining minerals, to countries in the developing world.

But the pendulum is now swinging in the other direction, if possible under better environmental and social conditions. Will Europe be able to achieve these objectives while remaining within the bounds of both the ecological and digital transitions? That is the challenge.

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In The News
Worldcrunch

Le Weekend: Earthquake Hits Ancient Sites, Locust Robot, Croissant Cereal

February 11-12

  • Cartoonish fashion
  • Double pride of gay Mayans
  • Paid for clubbing in Berlin
  • … and much more.
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Geopolitics
Alexander Gillespie

North Korea And Nukes: Why The World Is Obliged To Try To Negotiate

How to handle a nuclear armed pariah state is not a simple question.

The recent claim by Kim Jong Un that North Korea plans to develop the world’s most powerful nuclear force may well have been more bravado than credible threat. But that doesn’t mean it can be ignored.

The best guess is that North Korea now has sufficient fissile material to build 45 to 55 nuclear weapons, three decades after beginning its program. The warheads would mostly have yields of around 10 to 20 kilotons, similar to the 15 kiloton bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945.

But North Korea has the capacity to make devices ten times bigger. Its missile delivery systems are also advancing in leaps and bounds. The technological advance is matched in rhetoric and increasingly reckless acts, including test-firing missiles over Japan in violation of all international norms, provoking terror and risking accidental war.

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