Police forces in central Strasbourg on Dec. 12
Ronen Steinke


MUNICH — At first glance, the video footage looks like a harmless Advent promotional clip. It showed cheerful people walking between decorated stalls, tinsels, Christmas trees, Santa hats. But back in 2000, the Strasbourg Christmas Market was already a prime target for terrorists, and this video was the most important piece of evidence against those suspected of plotting the attack. A man comments on the video in Arabic: "There we see the enemies of God strolling around," the voice says. "You will go to Hell, God willing."

In December 2000, four Algerians were arrested in Frankfurt, following a tip from Israel's secret service, the Mossad. German and French judges later ascertained that, a few months before the 9/11 attacks, this "Frankfurt cell" had planned to blow up a pressure cooker bomb. Two of the men had tried to defend themselves in court by saying the planned attack had in fact been intended to hit the Strasbourg synagogue, thus endangering the lives of fewer people than at the Christmas market.

There we see the enemies of God strolling around.

But time and time again, Christmas markets are targeted by terrorists. In Germany, the news from Strasbourg — where on Tuesday evening a man killed three and wounded 13 — has brought back bad memories. "In view of what happened, we in Berlin immediately think of the brutal terrorist attack on the Christmas market at Breitscheidplatz on December 19, two years ago," Berlin mayor Michael Müller said on Wednesday. A Tunisian Islamist had driven a truck into the crowd in the Berlin market, killing 12 people.

Berlin's Christmas market, a day after the Dec. 19, 2016 attack — Photo: Andreas Trojak

In November 2016, a planned attack on the Strasbourg Christmas market was feared, and police arrested seven men in Strasbourg and Marseille. And in December 2016, the Christmas market in Ludwigshafen, in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, was also targeted by a 12-year-old boy who had built an explosive device. Initially, he had planned to detonate it in a church, but an 18-year-old pulling the strings recommended, via the Telegram messenger service, that he hit the Christmas market instead. There, he told him, would be "many more people."

The only goal, as far as they're concerned, is to hit "infidels."

Ultimately, this is probably the main driving factor. In the cold European winter, there aren't many places where so many people gather in the open air. The many instructions to wannabe terrorists out there on the Internet contain cynical tips, with groups like ISIS recommending certain weapons and targets. You won't necessarily find special preferences for places with a religious Christian connotation. Neither the killer from Breitscheidplatz in Berlin nor the "Frankfurt cell" from the year 2000 were determined from the beginning that the target should necessarily be a Christmas market. The only goal, as far as they're concerned, is to hit "infidels' wherever there is an opportunity.

Since the attack from Breitscheidplatz could have inspired copycats, many Christmas markets in Germany have since been protected with concrete barriers and armed policemen. Now that Strasbourg has joined the list of victims, other cities will no doubt look to further tighten security at their open-air markets.

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A tribute to the 30,000 Iranian political prisoners murdered in Iran in 1988

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Hannah Steinkopf-Frank and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Laba diena!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Afghanistan's Taliban demand to speak at the United Nations, China takes a bold ecological stand and we find out why monkeys kept their tails and humans didn't. Business magazine America Economia also looks at how Latin American countries are looking to attract a new generation of freelancers known as "digital nomads" in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.



• Taliban ask to speak at UN: With global leaders gathered in New York for the 76th meeting of the UN General Assembly, Afghanistan's new rulers say their country's previously accredited United Nations ambassador no longer represents the country, and have demanded a new Taliban envoy speak instead. Afghanistan is scheduled to give the final intervention next Monday to the General Assembly, and a UN committee must now rule who can speak.

• Four corpses found on Belarus border with Poland: The discovery of bodies of four people on Belarus-Poland border who appear to have died from hypothermia are raising new accusations that Belarus is pushing migrants to the eastern border of the European Union, possibly in retaliation over Western sanctions following the contested reelection of the country's strongman Alexander Lukashenko. The discovery comes amid a surge of largely Afghani and Iraqi migrants attempting to enter Poland in recent weeks.

• China to stop building coal-burning power plants abroad: Under pressure to limit emissions to meet Paris climate agreement goals, China announces an end to funding future projects in Indonesia, Vietnam and other countries through its Belt and Road initiative.

• Turkey ratifies Paris climate agreement: Following a year of wildfires and flash floods, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced at the UN that Turkey will become the last G-20 country to ratify the emissions-limiting accords. Turkey already signed the agreement in 2016, but has yet to hold a vote in parliament.

• Mass evacuations following Canary Islands volcano: More than 6,000 people have fled the Spanish archipelago as heavy flows of lava have buried hundreds of homes. Four earthquakes have also hit the Canaries since the Sunday eruption, which could also cause other explosions and the release of toxic gas.

• Rare earthquake hits Melbourne: The 5.9 magnitude quake struck near Melbourne in southern Australia, with aftershocks going as far Adelaide, Canberra and Launceston. Videos shared on social media show at least one damaged building, with power lines disrupted in Australia's second largest city. No injuries have been reported.

• The evolutionary tale of tails: Charles Darwin first discovered that humans evolved to lose this biological trait. But only now are New York scientists showing that it was a single genetic tweak that could have caused this shift, while our monkey relatives kept their backside appendages.


"The roof of Barcelona" — El Periodico daily reports on the latest delay from what may be the longest-running construction project in the world. Work on the iconic Barcelona church La Sagrada Familia, which began all the way back in 1882 as the vision of master architect Antoni Gaudí, was slated to be completed in 2026. The Barcelona-based daily reports that a press conference Tuesday confirmed that the deadline won't be met, in part because of delays related to COVID-19. Officials also provided new details about the impending completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin), the first tower of the temple to be completed in 44 years. Although it is currently the second tallest spire of the complex, it will become the highest point of the Sagrada Familia, reaching 172.5 meters thanks to an illuminated "great cross."


Latin America, the next mecca for digital nomads

Latin American countries want to cash in on the post-pandemic changes to the fundamental ways we work and live, in particular by capitalizing on a growing demand from the new wave of remote workers and "youngish" professional freelancers with money to spend, reports Natalia Vera Ramírez in business magazine America Economia.

💻🏖️ Niels Olson, Ecuador's tourism minister, is working hard to bring "digital nomads" to his country. He believes that attracting this new generation of freelancers who can work from anywhere for extended visits is a unique opportunity for all. Living in a town like Puerto López, he wrote on Twitter, the expat freelancer could "work by the sea, live with a mostly vaccinated population, in the same time zone, (enjoy) an excellent climate, and eat fresh seafood." For Ecuador, the new influx of visitors with money to spend would help boost the country's economy.

🧳 While online-based freelancers already hopped from country to country before COVID-19, the pandemic has boosted their current numbers to around 100 million worldwide. The Inter-American Development Bank estimates there could be a billion roaming, digital workers by 2050. Some European countries already issue visas for digital nomads. They include Germany, Portugal, Iceland, Croatia, Estonia and the Czech Republic, but in the Americas, only four countries make the list, namely Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Panama and Costa Rica.

💰 In August 2021, Costa Rica approved a law for remote workers and international service providers, intended to attract digital nomads and make its travel sector more competitive. The law provides legal guarantees and specific tax exemptions for remote workers choosing to make the country their place of work. It allows foreign nationals earning more than $3,000 a month to stay for up to a year in the country, with the ability to renew their visa for an additional year. If applicants are a family, the income requisite rises to $5,000.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


$2.1 billion

Google announced yesterday it will spend $2.1 billion to buy a sprawling Manhattan office building, in one of the largest sales of a building in U.S. history. The tech giant plans on growing its New York workforce to more than 14,000 people.


It is sickening and shameful to see this kind of president give such a lie-filled speech on the international stage.

— Opposition Brazilian congresswoman Vivi Reis in response to President Jair Bolsonaro's inflammatory 12-minute speech at the UN General Assembly. The unvaccinated head of state touted untested COVID-19 cures, criticized public health measures and boasted that the South American country's environmental protections were the best in the world.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Hannah Steinkopf-Frank & Bertrand Hauger

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