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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• COVID update: China is on high alert as travel begins for Lunar New Year celebrations; travels now have to report their planned trips before arrival. France’s parliament has voted to turn its health pass into a vaccination pass, meaning vaccination (and not a negative COVID test) are required to go to restaurants, cultural and sports venues as well as for long-distance travel. And the chairman of Credit Suisse, Antonio Horta-Osorio, has been forced to resign after it was revealed he twice broke COVID quarantine protocol.
• Suspected Houthi drone attack in Abu Dhabi: A drone strike by Yemen's Iranian-backed Houthi rebels is suspected to have killed three near the airport of the United Arab Emirates capital. The attack also included three tanker trucks carrying fuel.
• Ukraine’s Poroshenko returns to face treason charges: Former president Petro Poroshenko was greeted by thousands of supporters after returning to Ukraine to face treason charges in a criminal case he blames on his successor, Volodymyr Zelensky. The clash comes as Ukraine faces the threat of a Russian invasion after a week of failed talks between Moscow and Washington.
• Texas synagogue taker was British citizen, 2 arrested in UK: Malik Faisal Akram, a 44-year-old British national, was identified as the hostage-taker in an 11-hour stand-off at a synagogue in Texas. Akram was killed, and the four hostages released unharmed.
• Tonga damaged following underwater volcano eruption: The Pacific Island nation of Tonga was hit by massive eruptions that started last week from the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai volcano that triggered tsunami waves. The amount of damage is unclear, as Australia and New Zealand have sent planes to assess the situation.
• Djokovic’s Australia visa ban: Unvaccinated Serbian tennis star Djokovic was deported from Australia on Sunday after a long battle over whether he could compete in the Australian Open. But Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that under the right circumstances, the three-year ban could be shortened. Meanwhile, he’ll have a hard time participating in the French Open this spring, as the country just announced that all athletes competing in the country have to be vaccinated.
• UK island looks for a new “monarch”: It may be true that no man is an island, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be in charge of one. Piel Island, off the coast of Cumbria, is looking for a new “monarch” to manage its 300-year-old pub and the 50 acres of land, including a camping area and 14th-century castle for a 10-year lease. Of course, the position comes with a unique coronation ceremony: Alcohol is poured over the new royal’s head.
Dutch daily De Volkskrant reports on the findings of a team of investigators, led by a veteran FBI agent, about the 1944 arrest of Anne Frank and her family who had been hiding in Amsterdam for two years during World War II. Using new technologies and artificial intelligence, the team determined there was a high probability that a Jewish notary named Arnold van den Bergh was the one who gave away the Frank family’s hiding place to the Nazis. The Diary of Anne Frank remains one of the world’s most widely-read books.
China's birth rate dropped for a fifth consecutive year to hit a new record low in 2021 in spite of the government’s efforts to encourage couples to have more children in the face of a looming demographic crisis. The world’s most populous country reported 10.62 million births in 2021, in comparison to 12 million in 2020, with a birth rate of 7.52 births per 1,000 people according to the National Statistics Bureau — marking the lowest level since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
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, write Vladimir Soloviev and Alexander Konstantinov in Russian daily Kommersant.
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan’s 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 in 2019. 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. What will happen is still uncertain, but this much is clear: strongman rulers are able to keep power in Kazakhstan, but they can't ensure its peaceful transfer.
💰 On Jan. 11, Tokayev declared an almost revolutionary slogan: to build a "new Kazakhstan." The wording alone indicates an intention to do away with the former Kazakhstan built by Nazarbayev. The protests that have rocked the country were ostensibly about an increase in gas prices, but they illustrate Kazakhs' frustration at a rising cost of living and massive inequality. Under Nazarbayev, a small elite accumulated huge wealth while the economy stagnated. Tokayev announced a policy of economic reforms.
❌ Tokayev's speech draws a firm line under the Nazarbayev era. He said directly that the old social contract, including the intra-elite contract, is over and that the groups that enriched themselves under the first president should accept the new rules of the game. To begin, they have to pay their dues to the people's fund. Apparently, this should be seen as an offer to the old elite — pay or we will deal with you.
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“Confrontation does not solve problems, it only invites catastrophic consequences.”
— Chinese leader Xi Jinping said in a speech at an all-virtual Davos Forum, warning world leaders against the "fanning of ideological antagonism and the politicizing of economic, scientific, and technological issues."
✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger