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Dozens of couples participate in a collective wedding in San Salvador, El Salvador, on Valentine’s Day
Dozens of couples participate in a collective wedding in San Salvador, El Salvador, on Valentine’s Day

Welcome to Monday, where the Myanmar generals are tightening their grip, new COVID variants are identified and a very ancient watering hole is discovered in Egypt. We also have a Die Welt piece on the dark side of the dream of moving out to the countryside.

• COVID-19 latest: Researchers have identified seven new variants circulating in the United States, with similar genetic mutation to the more contagious strains found in the UK and South Africa. WHO investigators in China have discovered signs that the initial outbreak in Wuhan in December 2019 was much wider than previously thought.

• Myanmar military coup tightens: As armoured vehicles appear in several cities, Myanmar's military junta rushes through a series of changes to its penal code, warning anti-coup protesters they could face 20 years in prison if they obstruct armed force. Meanwhile, Aung San Suu Kyi's lawyer has announced the pro-democracy leader will be detained for a further two days before a trial via video link this week.

• Trump acquitted: Bipartisan support is growing for the creation of an independent commission to investigate the Capitol riots after former U.S. President Donald Trump was acquitted on Saturday of inciting an insurrection. Seven Republicans joined all 50 Democratic Senators in voting guilty, but fell short of the two-thirds majority required to convict.

• Indian climate activist arrested: Disha Ravi, 22, has been arrested on charges of sedition and criminal conspiracy for sharing online "toolkit" with information on the farmers' protests, which had been tweeted by climate activist Greta Thunberg.

• WTO's new director: Nigerian economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is set to be named director general of the World Trade Organization, the first African and woman to lead the WTO.

• Argentina mourns Menem: Argentina has declared three days of national mourning in honor of former president Carlos Menem, who has died at the age of 90. The charismatic leader served from 1989-1999.

• World's oldest brewery: Archeologists in Egypt discover what could be the world's oldest beer factory dating back about 5,000 years in Abydos, an ancient burial ground in the desert.


"Symbol of an era," titles Argentine daily La Gaceta, honoring former president Carlos Menem, who died at the age of 90.

How the dream of moving out to the countryside can backfire

Many urban dwellers fantasize about a rural lifestyle, especially in the middle of the pandemic. But leaving city life behind is easier said than done, writes Freia Peters in German daily Die Welt.

Between the two lockdowns, Bianca Berlin and her family moved to the German countryside, to a village of 400 people in the Uckermark region, around 100 kilometers north of Berlin. Having access to nature, especially during the pandemic, has been priceless, the 34-year-old mother of two explains. "The girls can build dens and climb trees without fear of coming into contact with other people," Berlin says. "During the first lockdown, in the city, I only went to the park at eight in the morning."

Many families would envy the Berlins. According to a survey of 2,700 city dwellers carried out last November by the polling institute Civey, around a third dream of a life in the country. For 25%, this is a long-standing wish, while for 10% it has been sparked or strengthened by the coronavirus pandemic. Home-working is opening up new possibilities, and during the pandemic, life in the cities can feel a bit grim.

But whether the moves will prove to be long-term is another question. Anne Dirfad from Hamburg fantasized for years about moving to the countryside, and when her husband, who works in advertising, got offered a new job in 2019, they finally took the leap. But things didn't turn out the way they'd hoped and expected. "It wasn't meant to be," she now says. "We had a lot of trouble making friends. Families there kept to themselves, and children in the neighborhood often went to their grandparents' in the afternoon."

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


Iranian woman suspected of 700k theft after her "arranged" marriage

A 26-year-old woman in Tehran suspected of more than a dozen thefts began by befriending wealthy female targets. But the plot for her big payday would require setting the trap for a man.

Iranian newspaper Sharq reports that the woman, arrested last week for allegedly stealing 700,000 euros in cash and property, confessed to previous more modest thefts from the homes of 15 women in Tehran. Police identified the suspect as "Roxana," who admitted to befriending women in affluent neighborhoods and stealing items from their bedrooms, telling them she needed to "freshen up."

But her plans to target one particular well-to-do family would take a bit more time — and a much bigger lie. She aimed to seduce the family's son, and trick him into proposing marriage. The young man, Amirhossein, admitted to police that he "fell for her" fast.

Presumably to assuage concerns that she was after the family's money, the suspect rented an apartment in Farmanieh, an expensive district in northern Tehran, where the marriage proposal eventually took place, with unnamed accomplices posing as her family.

One day, she asked Amirhossein to wait for her outside the same rented flat for her to come outside. He waited for three hours while, according to police, she had slipped out of the building, gone to his family home and broken into the safe with keys she had stolen. She emptied almost 700,000 euros (3.5 billion tomans) worth of cash and valuables before being arrested. Amirhossein told police that Roxana had been "quiet and kind" right until the end.

➡️ Keep up with all the planet's police reports and plot twists on Worldcrunch.com

-4.8%

Monday's end-of-year tally in Japan showed that the country's economy shrank for the first time since 2009 due to the pandemic. Still, the Nikkei stock market closed above 30,000 yen mark for the first time since 1990 as figures showed that the recovery in the second half of the year was better than expected.

The world is watching.

— A jointly signed statement from Western ambassadors in Myanmar condemns the actions of the military and urges them to restrain from violence against protesters following the coup that overthrew the democratically elected government in the southeast Asian nation.

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AL JAZEERA
Al Jazeera is a state-funded broadcaster in Doha, Qatar, owned by the Al Jazeera Media Network. Initially launched as an Arabic news and current-affairs satellite TV channel, Al Jazeera has since expanded into a network with several outlets, including the Internet and specialty television channels in multiple languages.
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REUTERS
Reuters is an international news agency headquartered in London, UK. It was founded in 1851 and is now a division of Thomson Reuters. It transmits news in English, French, Arabic, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese, Korean, Urdu, and Chinese.
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SHARGH
The daily Shargh ("East") is considered to be aligned with the reformist-moderate forces in Iran, and has been shut down periodically in the past by government authorities. It is published in Tehran, where it was founded in 2003.
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BBC
The BBC is the British public service broadcaster, and the world's oldest national broadcasting organization. It broadcasts in up to 28 different languages.
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THE GUARDIAN
Founded as a local Manchester newspaper in 1821, The Guardian has gone on to become one of the most influential dailies in Britain. The left-leaning newspaper is most recently known for its coverage of the Edward Snowden leaks.
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WORLDCRUNCH
Premium stories from Worldcrunch's own network of multi-lingual journalists in over 30 countries.
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DIE WELT
Die Welt ("The World") is a German daily founded in Hamburg in 1946, and currently owned by the Axel Springer AG company, Europe's largest publishing house. Now based in Berlin, Die Welt is sold in more than 130 countries. A Sunday edition called Welt am Sonntag has been published since 1948.

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Ideas

Absolute Free Speech Is A Recipe For Violence: Notes From Paris For Monsieur Musk

Elon Musk bought Twitter in the name of absolute freedom. But numerous research shows that social media hate speech leads to actual violence. Musk and others running social networks need to strike a balance.

Absolute Free Speech Is A Recipe For Violence: Notes From Paris For Monsieur Musk

Freedom on social networks can result in insults and defamation

Jean-Marc Vittori

-Analysis-

PARIS — Elon Musk is the world's leading reckless driver. The ever unpredictable CEO of Tesla and SpaceX is now behind a very different wheel as the new head of Twitter.

He began by banning remote work before slightly backtracking and authorizing it for the company’s “significant contributors.” Now he’s opened the door to Donald Trump to return to Twitter, while at the same time vaunting a decrease in the number of hate-messages that appear on the social network…all while firing Twitter’s content moderation teams.

But this time, the world’s richest man will have to make choices. He’ll have to limit his otherwise unconditional love of free speech. “Freedom consists of being able to do everything that does not harm others,” proclaimed the French-born Declaration of the Rights of Man in 1789.

Yet freedom on social networks results not only in insults and defamation, but sometimes also in physical aggression.

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