Geopolitics

The Latest: Navalny In Court, Pfizer Profits, Canadian Candyologist

A major winter storm is hitting New York City where 13 inches of snow have fallen, the biggest winter storm in five years
A major winter storm is hitting New York City where 13 inches of snow have fallen, the biggest winter storm in five years

Welcome to Tuesday, where global calls are issued for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, Navalny shows up in court and there's real-life drama at the French opera. Le Monde also goes to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky's hometown to report on the disillusions, two years into his term.

• COVID-19 latest: Japan set to extend its state of emergency for another month as Tokyo Olympics loom. The U.S. administered more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine yesterday for the first time than those who have tested positive. Both Italy and South Africa have eased restrictions as the rate of infection eases to a more manageable level.

• Myanmar military coup: The party of democratically elected Aung San Suu Kyi has called for her release as the list of countries and international organizations denouncing the military coup is growing.

• Navalny makes court appearance: As protesters demand his release and riot police block off the court entrance and surrounding streets, Vladimir Putin's prime critic Alexy Navalny appeared in court for alleged parole violations.

• Biden to sign executive orders on immigration: President Joe Biden is set to sign three executive orders, one of which will help reunite the children who were separated from their parents at the border.

• Marilyn Manson abuse accusations: U.S. actress Evan Rachel Wood took to Instagram to accuse singer Marilyn Manson of abuse. At least four other women have also come forward with allegations of abuse.

• Two-million euro "thank you:" The village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon in south-central France whose residents risked their lives to shelter Jews during World War II has received a two-million euro inheritance from an Austrian man who fled the Nazis with his family and hid in a school for seven years.

• Sweet job offer: A Canadian company is seeking workers to try and rate their candy, a position they call "candyologist."



Yangon-based Daily Myanmar Times devotes its front page to the one-year state of emergency implemented by the army which seized power in a coup in Myanmar, detaining leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other senior government officials.

In Ukraine, the Zelensky Revolution crashes into reality

The consummate political outsider, Volodymyr Zelensky, went from playing a president on Ukrainian television to being elected to the role in real life. He was elected on a platform of fighting corruption and the country's powerful oligarchs, but the honeymoon of what is nearly two years in office is long over.

Le Monde correspondent Faustine Vincent visited the president's hometown, Kryvyi Rih, an industrial city of 630,000 inhabitants, where protesters had gathered. "We've been betrayed! We thought he would be close to the people and rid us of corruption, but he has done nothing," says Irina Oumanska, a 33-year-old worker. "I want him to leave!"

The first few months of Zelensky's tenure looked promising, but now he's showing signs he's running out of steam. His flagship promise – the eradication of corruption – may now never come to fruition, which would jeopardize not only the vital support of international donors but also the efforts undertaken in the aftermath of the 2014 pro-European revolution in Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square).

It is not so much the will of the president that is at issue as his inexperience. "He's a good guy, but he just doesn't get it," says Oleksandr Danylyuk, his former director of the National Security and Defense Council, who resigned after four months.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


Drama at French opera: real-life sabotage winds up in court

A near fatal act of sabotage at a French opera house wound up in a courtroom last week, after a feud between stage hands offered an unsuspecting audience a moment of true drama six years ago. Let's rewind back to January 28, 2015, at the Théâtre du Capitole, in the southern French city of Toulouse, where Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, a five-hour tale of fated lovers, was building toward a dramatic finale. But on this particular night, the audience had no idea just how dramatic the ending would be.

Isolde sings a lament for her now dead lover, Tristan, who is lying beside her as a giant rock is lowered to hover just above him. Powered by steel ropes, the rock is set to stop precisely 60 centimeters (2 ft.) above the body of the tenor Robert Dean Smith, playing the part of Tristan. Only this rock, weighing more than 200 kilograms (440 pounds), didn't stop. Smith managed to deftly roll out just in time as a stagehand applied the emergency brake.

The audience lets out a gleeful gasp at this deliciously thrilling climax, unaware of how close it came to witnessing a true tragedy, as investigators believe that it was no technical glitch, but one of the stage hands who had deliberately changed the settings of the props the previous day.

French daily Le Parisien reports that six years later to the day, last Thursday, a judge in Toulouse ordered Nicolas S., the suspected technician from the Capitole, back to court to face charges for this Machiavellian act of sabotage. According to the allegation, Nicolas S. was not attempting to harm the tenor Smith but wanted to damage the reputation of a rival technician Richard R, who had been in charge of the sets that evening.

An internal investigation showed that the computer system had been hacked at 6.19 p.m. on the Jan. 27, 2015 and that, among the handful of stagehands capable of such a manipulation, only one of them was registered as being at the theater at the time: Nicolas S. Lawyers for the accused deny any wrongdoing, or motive of rivalry, on their client's part.

If convicted of the charge of manipulating an automatic safety system, the suspect could face five years in prison and a 150,000 euro fine. For Toulouse Opera lovers, it may finally be time to see how this plot ends.

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



$15 billion

Drugmaker Pfizer has announced it expects to make $15 billion this year from the two billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine it aims to deliver.

I thought I was going to die.


— U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez talked about what went through her mind as she was hiding during the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol.

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Society

Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.


The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.

Hollandse-Hoogte/ZUMA

Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

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