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Celebrations in Tunis after the firing of Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi
Celebrations in Tunis after the firing of Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi

Welcome to Monday, where Tunisia's prime minister is sacked over handling of pandemic, U.S.-China talks are off to a rocky start and a 13-year-old skateboarder wins the first Olympic gold medal. German daily Die Welt also looks at the geopolitics behind the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline deal between Russia and Germany.

• Tunisia PM gets sacked: After violent protests broke out over the government's handling of the pandemic and the economy, Tunisian President Kais Saied has suspended parliament and sacked Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi. The move has been condemned as an attack on democracy by his rivals but was greeted by celebrations on the street.

• Beijing accuses U.S. of treating China like imaginary enemy: The U.S.-China talks between top diplomats got off to a tense start when Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng was quoted as saying that the breakdown in U.S.-China relations is due to certain people in Washington treating China as an "imaginary enemy." The U.S. side, represented by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, has yet to release a statement on the meeting.

• COVID-19 update: China has reported the highest number of confirmed COVID cases since January, a total of 76. Indonesia has loosened some of its restrictions despite record deaths. The government now allows small businesses and shopping malls to reopen even though they have been warned it could spark another wave. Meanwhile, the French parliament has voted to make vaccine passports required, starting in August, for entering restaurants, bars, trains and planes.

• Protests in Iran over water shortages: At least three people were killed during violent protests over water shortages in Iran. People have been demonstrating for more than a week over the supply problems during Iran's worst drought in half a century.

• New Zealand accepts return of Islamic State-linked citizen: A woman suspected of being an Islamic State (IS) member will be allowed to return to New Zealand from Turkey. The 26-year-old mother and her children are citizens of the island nation, whose prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said the decision to allow their return was not "taken lightly."

• Flooding in London after heavy rain: Parts of London were left waterlogged after heavy downpours on Sunday. Services were severely disrupted after vehicles became stranded and underground lines were flooded. Officials issued an amber weather alert and are advising people not to travel.

• First skateboard Olympic gold won by 13-year-old girl: Momiji Nisiya, a young school girl from Japan, has won gold in the first ever Olympic street skateboarding competition. At 13 years and 330 days, she is the second youngest champion in summer Olympics history.


Portuguese daily Jornal I dedicates its front page to the death of Otelo Saravai de Carvalho, architect of Portugal's 1974 revolution (also known as the Carnation Revolution) which resulted in the country's transition to democracy. The army captain passed away at 84 in Lisbon.


Nord Stream 2: Merkel's farewell gift to Putin is a slap to Biden

Germany and the U.S. have agreed on a compromise to complete the Baltic Sea gas pipeline that will deliver Russian natural gas to Germany and the EU, bypassing Ukraine and Poland — or rather, the Americans have submitted to Angela Merkel, who in turn had a farewell gift for Russia, writes Robin Alexander in German daily Die Welt.

American politicians across party lines have regularly criticized the pipeline as a devious Russian influence project that would entrench Europe's energy dependence, provide billions of dollars to the Kremlin, and make Ukraine more vulnerable to Russian aggression. Unlike other European politicians and her predecessor Gerhard Schröder, who has sat on the board of Russian energy companies after his term, Merkel is unlikely to benefit financially from her good contacts with the Kremlin. But this fact makes the Nord Stream 2 deal all the more irritating.

Merkel has demonstrated her negotiating skills: taking advantage of the plight of the new U.S. President Joe Biden, who needs Germany for its "Alliance of Democracies' against China, the new authoritarian world power. Observers on both sides of the Atlantic have been wondering for months why Merkel had delayed dealing with Biden for so long. She probably wanted to build up bargaining power: China is more important than Russia to Biden, and Nord Stream 2 became a powerful bargaining chip as time went by.

Remarkably, Washington agreed to end its opposition to the project without any recognizable benefit in exchange: Merkel has neither promised increased engagement for NATO nor more clarity about China. The compromise between Biden and Merkel is not a compromise at all, but an American capitulation. This will get Biden into big trouble in Congress, where the issue has allowed Democrats and Republicans to find common ground.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


Coffee on the road? French motorists loot capsules after Nespresso truck spills over

Weary motorists between Basel and Mulhouse, in eastern France, were treated to something of a jolt last week when a truck transporting a load of Nespresso coffee pods crashed, sending hundreds of capsules into the road.

The accident took place on the eastern A35 highway during a traffic jam caused by the Tour d'Alsace cycling event, the local daily L'Est Républicain reports. Unaware, apparently, of the vehicles backed up ahead of him, the Nespresso driver slammed into two trucks, sending hundreds of coffee capsules flying across the highway. Perhaps he'd been running latté?

By the time police arrived on the scene, several drivers had already gotten out of their vehicles and begun helping themselves to the brand-name (and relatively expensive) coffee doses.

"People were stopping to pick up the capsules from the road," a local gendarmerie officer told reporters. "I think they saw that they were Nespresso capsules, and with the usual price per capsule, they thought: Let's help ourselves."

A video published on the Twitter account "Info Trafic Alsace" shows drivers stopped on the side of the road, collecting scattered pods, some even scoring several boxes worth. Luckily, no injuries were reported, and police opted against booking any of the coffee scavengers. No mug shots, in other words.


5,171

For the first time, the Vatican has offered a glimpse into its real estate holdings, disclosing that it owns 5,171 properties. In one of the city state's most detailed financial disclosures, the Vatican revealed more than 50 pages worth of material, showing that the majority of the properties are located in Italy (4,051), with the remaining 1,120 to be found abroad.



We are capable of detecting any underwater, above-water, airborne enemy and, if required, carry out an unpreventable strike against it.

— Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the country's Navy Day parade in St. Petersburg on Sunday. Putin's comments come after Russia fired warning shots at British vessel that had allegedly crossed into Russian territorial waters in the Crimea peninsula last month. The United Kingdom, along with several other members of the international community, consider this part of the Black Sea to be Ukrainian waters, rather than Russian.

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Coronavirus

Chinese Students' "Absurd" Protest Against COVID Lockdowns: Public Crawling

While street demonstrations have spread in China to protest the strict Zero-COVID regulations, some Chinese university students have taken up public acts of crawling to show what extended harsh lockdowns are doing to their mental state.

​Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling on a soccer pitch

Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling

Shuyue Chen

Since last Friday, the world has watched a wave of street protests have taken place across China as frustration against extended lockdowns reached a boiling point. But even before protesters took to the streets, Chinese university students had begun a public demonstration that challenges and shames the state's zero-COVID rules in a different way: public displays of crawling, as a kind of absurdist expression of their repressed anger under three years of strict pandemic control.

Xin’s heart was beating fast as her knees reached the ground. It was her first time joining the strange scene at the university sports field, so she put on her hat and face mask to cover her identity.

Kneeling down, with her forearms supporting her body from the ground, Xin started crawling with three other girls as a group, within a larger demonstration of other small groups. As they crawled on, she felt the sense of fear and embarrassment start to disappear. It was replaced by a liberating sense of joy, which had been absent in her life as a university student in lockdown for so long.

Yes, crawling in public has become a popular activity among Chinese university students recently. There have been posters and videos of "volunteer crawling" across universities in China. At first, it was for the sake of "fun." Xin, like many who participated, thought it was a "cult-like ritual" in the beginning, but she changed her mind. "You don't care about anything when crawling, not thinking about the reason why, what the consequences are. You just enjoy it."

The reality out there for Chinese university students has been grim. For Xin, her university started daily COVID-19 testing in November, and deliveries, including food, are banned. Apart from the school gate, all exits have been padlock sealed.

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