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In The News

China On High COVID Alert, Tonga Eruption Aftermath, Anne Frank’s Traitor

👋 Halo!*

Welcome to Monday, where China is on high COVID alert as Lunar New Year celebrations kick off, Tonga reels from a massive underwater eruption, and a veteran FBI agent may have found out who betrayed Anne Frank to the Nazis. Meanwhile, Russian daily Kommersant recounts how Kazakhstan has passed from one strongman to another.

[*Sundanese - Indonesia]

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Kazakhstan: When One Strongman Replaces Another

Violent unrest in Kazakhstan has resulted in a new authoritarian leader finally assuming proper power in the country. Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev promises a new way of doing things, but his methods are strikingly similar to his predecessor.

The real transition of power in Kazakhstan was supposed to have taken place in 2019. Former president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who had ruled the former Soviet Republic with an iron first since its independence in 1991, finally stepped aside to allow his successor, Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev, to take power.

However, Nazarbayev retained enormous influence behind the scenes. The real transfer of power is in fact happening only now, following large-scale unrest and protests around the country.

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Kazakhstan's Turn: Putin Having His Way With Former Soviet Republics

As with Ukraine and Belarus, Kazakhstan is falling under the grip of Moscow as a response to disorder and threats to align with the West.


Add Kazakhstan to the list of former Soviet republics whose independence is now being threatened by Russia. Russian leader Vladimir Putin is using a similar playbook in Kazakhstan to one that he has used over almost a decade to threaten the sovereignty of Ukraine.

What began as protests over rising fuel prices on Jan. 2, 2021, quickly escalated into violent clashes on the streets of Kazakhstan. On Jan. 5, Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, a firm ally of Putin’s, requested support from the Collective Security Treaty Organization, of which Putin’s Russian Federation is the leading member. Russia has responded decisively by sending paratroopers, special operations troops and equipment as part of a nearly 3,000-strong force to Kazakhstan.

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Djokovic Win, Kazakhstan Toll, Gates Of Hell

👋 Moni!*

Welcome to Monday, where unvaccinated Novak Djokovic wins court battle allowing him to stay in Australia to play in upcoming Australian Open, the death toll in Kazakhstan continues to rise and a natural attraction could get literally extinguished in Turkmenistan. We also look at how the surge in Omicron cases is threatening live events around the world. Again...

[*Chewa - Malawi and Zambia]

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

Kazakhstan Order, India COVID Spike, Multilingual Dogs

👋 Saluton!*

Welcome to Friday, where order has been restored in Kazakhstan, with a very heavy hand and help from Russia, North Korea bows out of the Beijing Olympics because of COVID and a new study shows dogs have multilingual skills. Meanwhile, Negar Jokar writes in Persian-language media Kayhan-London about the ways that Iran hounds refugees who have fled to Turkey.

*Keep your eye out 😉 tomorrow for the first edition of our Weekend newsletter, which will be a variation (not variant!) on what we deliver with Worldcrunch Today every Monday through Friday. We’ll let you discover demain the special name we’ve given our new weekly edition!

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Anna Akage

What Is Really Driving Kazakhstan’s Explosion Of Violence

Rising fuel costs were the initial spark for rare public protests in Kazakhstan. But the violent unrest reveals widespread dissatisfaction with the authoritarian regime that has ruled the country since its independence.

Less than a week into 2022, and It has already been a tumultuous — and deadly — year in Kazakhstan, the former Soviet Republic. Initial protests over rising gasoline prices that began in the west of the country have spread to the largest city, Almaty, and turned violent, with government buildings set ablaze and Kazakh police opening fire on protesters. By Thursday morning, dozens of protesters and 12 police were dead, with one officer found beheaded.

It was an extraordinary explosion of violence over what was reported to be economic unrest. Yet in the oil-producing regime, which has been effectively run since its 1991 independence by strongman Nursultan Nazarbayev, observers note that much deeper political, and geopolitical, questions are also at play. In the pre-dawn hours Thursday, the country’s prime minister Askar Mamin had resigned and Russia had dispatched paratroopers to the country.

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

Deadly Kazakh Protests, Australia v. Djokovic, Judge Kisses Cop Killer

👋 Hallo!*

Welcome to Thursday, where Kazakhstan police kill dozens of protesters, Australia revokes No-Vax Djokovic’s visa and an Argentine judge gets caught on camera kissing an inmate. We also look at the measures countries around the world are implementing to force the hands of unvaccinated citizens to get the jabs.


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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Rio Carnival Canceled, No Vax Djokovic, Macron & La Merde

👋 Muraho!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where the Omicron variant keeps breaking daily infection records around the world, violent protests lead Kazakhstan to declare state of emergency, and France’s Macron is in la merde for his vulgar warning to unvaccinated people. Meanwhile, we look at Denmark’s plans to rent prison cells abroad, and what this could mean for the future of imprisonment and law enforcement around the world.

[*Kinyarwanda - Rwanda]

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New Monday, New World: Russia Is In Charge

Well that was quite a first weekend. After Donald Trump's inauguration on Friday, an estimated two million people took to the streets worldwide to protest against the controversial new president, who continued his open warfare with the American press — and some would say, with the truth itself. Now, he faces a first work week at the Oval Office that promises to be no less hectic, as he starts rolling out his plan for his first 100 days, before welcoming British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday.

But even for the man who promised to put "America first," the most important event of his first Monday in office, which could shape his whole presidency, is taking place halfway across the world, in the capital of Kazakhstan.

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Nataliya Nehlebova

At Former Soviet Nuclear Test Site, "Best Not To Take Souvenirs"

Hundreds of atomic bombs were detonated at the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in eastern Kazakhstan during the Soviet regime. Scientists are now conducting research on the site, which was shuttered 25 years ago, to evaluate how radiation affected the reg

THE POLYGON — At first, it's hard to tell where the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site begins as the scorched steppe stretches to the horizon. But turning onto a dusty road signals that we've reached the site, also known as the Polygon. Fallen telegraph poles lie on yellowed grass. You can see broken pillars and bridges torn in half. Concrete pillars mark the borders of the Polygon, which at 18,500 square kilometers is more than half the size of Belgium.

Inside the Polygon, strange four-story constructions, called gusaki, or "geese", loom like dark giants. They do resemble colossal birds, with their long, charred necks stretched toward the sky. They were built in the 1950s to house nuclear equipment and armored long-range cameras that were capable of filming explosions at seven frames per second.

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Trump v. Hillary?, Bin Laden Will, Livestream Eclipse


Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton moved closer to a presidential face-to-face, with each winning seven of the 11 states holding primaries on the so-called Super Tuesday. Trump took home Republican primary wins in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia, while Clinton won Democratic contests in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

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Aiding Ukraine, Two Cops Shot In Ferguson, Ancient Lobster

The United States will send more “non-lethal” military equipment to Ukrainian forces, including Humvees, drones and night-vision goggles, $75 million worth, a senior administration official said yesterday. Washington also extended its sanctions on Russia by adding a bank and eight Ukrainian rebels to the list of targets, Reuters reports. The decisions come after the West accused Russia of having violated the Minsk ceasefire agreement signed Feb. 12 and of sending forces and tanks across the border despite reports that the rebels had pulled their heavy weaponry from the front. The Kremlin has rejected the accusations.

  • The International Monetary Fund has approved a $17.5 billion loan to Ukraine that the authorities hope will help stabilize the country’s economy.
  • Uncertainty over the motive behind the murder of Russia opposition politician Boris Nemtsov continues. Speaking to the BBC, one of Nemtsov’s daughters said Putin was “politically” responsible.

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On March 12, 1945, Holocaust diarist Anne Frank died at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Get your 57-second shot of history.

A group of 21 aid agencies is pointing the finger at the United Nations Security Council, saying that its failure to implement three resolutions seeking to boost humanitarian aid have contributed to 2014 being Syria’s worst year since the war erupted in early 2011. The report, entitled “Failing Syria,” also notes that just 57% of the money needed to support Syrian civilians and refugees was provided in 2014, down from 71% the previous year. Ongoing fighting and the rise of ISIS have made 2014 the conflict’s deadliest year so far, with an estimated 76,000 casualties. Another report shows that 83% of Syria’s lights visible from space have gone out since March 2011. Read more from the BBC.

China convicted and sentenced 712 people for terrorism, separatism and related crimes last year, the country's top court said, explaining that such offenses were its top priority for 2015 after the Xinjiang region’s recent surge in violence.

Photo above: NASA/Bill Ingals
The Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft returned to Earth late Wednesday, landing near Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, with Expedition 42 Commander Barry Wilmore of NASA, Alexander Samokutyaev of the Russian Federal Space Agency and Elena Serova of Roscosmos on board. The crew is back from their 167-day mission on the International Space Station.

Even as negotiations between the West and Iran over Tehran’s controversial nuclear program continue, Saudi Arabia, one of Iran’s arch enemies in the region and a known supporter of terrorism, has just quietly signed its own nuclear-cooperation agreement with South Korea, The Wall Street Journal reports. The deal is seen by some in the U.S. as a sign that a nuclear arms race may be starting in the Middle East.

As La Stampa’s Domenico Quirico reports, ISIS has thoroughly overtaken a Bosnian village that is but a one-hour plane flight from Vienna. “What the people have been deprived of here is not just a united country,” the journalist writes. “A year ago, people took to the streets, burning town halls and ministries, demonstrating their rage against chronic hunger and frustration about the country's paralysis and corruption. One year later, nothing has happened — civic committees have entirely disappeared or have been absorbed by political parties. In the small town of Gornja Maoca, the ISIS flag has been raised and the people live as if they were in lands conquered by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's men.”
Read the full article, In The Bosnian Village Seduced By ISIS.

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Suspected al-Shabaab fighters have launched an attack against a government building in the central Somali town of Baidoa, leaving at least seven people dead, according to AP. “They are Shabaab disguised in Somali military uniforms. That's how they managed to enter” the city’s fortified area which also contains a UN compound, a police official told AFP. Attacks from militants with the al-Qaeda-affiliated group have become more regular, and they often target government headquarters and Somali lawmakers. The humanitarian situation in areas controlled by the Islamist group are deteriorating fast as al-Shabab fighters have banned businesses from supplying food and medicine to the town of Buloburde.

“Mankind will remain a major geological force for many millennia, maybe millions of years to come,” unless volcanic activity or a meteor crushes human domination, geologists wrote in an analysis published in Nature. Read more from Bloomberg.

Two police officers were shot outside police headquarters in Ferguson, Missouri, overnight amid protests that came hours after the Police Chief Thomas Jackson’s resignation, USA Today reports. Jackson had been accused in a federal report of conducting racially biased policing. One of the police officers was shot in the face and left seriously wounded, and the other was hit in the shoulder.

Scientists have discovered a 480-million-year-old fossil of a lobster-like creature that they say “would have dwarfed anything else at the time.” The seven-foot-long prehistoric creature is an early ancestor of modern crustaceans, insects and spiders. Read more from The Verge.

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food / travel
Olga Filina

The True Cost Of Russia's Food Patriotism

The Kremlin is spinning domestic protectionism and anti-West food sanctions as a way to help Russia's farmer. But it's really just a recipe of pure politics - and bad economics.

MOSCOW — People usually associate Russian conservatism with its citizens' political tastes, but marketing professionals have long ago seen another connection — literally, in consumer tastes.

There's the ice cream wrapped in paper — "tastes just like you remember!" And there's sausage with a label saying it was "made according to the standards of the Soviet Union."

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Mirosław Czech

Belarus: Even Allies Start To Fear Moscow's Ambitions

Though Belarus is part of a Customs Union with Russia and Kazakhstan, it is cooling toward Moscow. As Minsk hosts Russia-Ukraine talks, much is at stake in the old Soviet orbit.

MINSK — Amid growing tension between the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian separatists, presidents Petro Poroshenko and Vladimir Putin are meeting for a summit today in Minsk, Belarus, where top leaders from the European Union, the host country and Kazakhstan will mediate the talks.

As Poland's influence has waned since the beginning of the Ukrainian conflict, new regional players have stepped up on the political scene. Belarus and Kazakhstan, both in the Eurasian Customs Union with Russia, intend to weigh in on efforts to de-escalate the conflict in Eastern Europe.

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