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Worldcrunch Today, Dec. 15: Dutch Lockdown, Barr Resigns, Jakarta Burials

Watching the solar eclipse on the shores of Lake Villarrica, Chile.
Watching the solar eclipse on the shores of Lake Villarrica, Chile.

Welcome to Tuesday, where Trump's Attorney General resigns, Somalia cuts diplomatic ties with Kenya and we meet one weird-looking dinosaur. Meanwhile, t'is the season to look at how the world is getting ready for a very special kind of Christmas.


Europe is moving forward in a united front to force Big Tech that could lead to a historic showdown on the future of how the digital economy functions. This, writes David Barroux in French daily Les Echos, is a good thing:

Facing the rise of Big Tech, which by now has crossed the line far too many times, European states had forgotten the three basic requirements that make any police force effective: political will and backing; the right laws to give it the means to take action; and, finally, it needs to be armed.

But now, the European Commission has finally decided to act by presenting the Digital Market Act and the Digital Service Act — two texts with historic significance.

For the first time, Europe is declaring that Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and the other digital giants of today and tomorrow aren't players like the others. Twenty years after the emergence of the Big Four, big tech companies are no longer children who can be left unattended, but adults who must be supervised. These acts aren't about preventing them from continuing to grow or cutting them into pieces, but rather a way to make sure that they don't abuse their dominant position and accept that they have special responsibilities.

No one can deny it: Big tech companies have achieved unparalleled economic and technological power. They are everywhere in our daily lives and have become essential for consumers, citizens, companies and states — up to the point that they are now platforms which, by making the best use of billions of pieces of personal data, can slow down the emergence of competition, promote their own services or wield viral influence on the democratic debate. They are both systemic and specific players.

For years, these digital players have tried to make us believe that the online and offline worlds aren't the same, that it's impossible to enforce the same rules in a real and physical world as in a virtual and digital world. But this argument is no longer relevant: Just as banks contribute to the fight against dirty money or the media battles against fake news, big tech companies are rich and innovative enough to be subjected to an obligation of both means and result.

No single state in Europe could alone face such giants, supported by the United States government, which retaliates as soon as the question of the Tech Giants' power is challenged. Europe is right to go on the offensive by combining its members' forces. While it is arming itself on the legal level now, it will also have to create a specific police force to take concrete actions to monitor and, potentially, to sanction.

— David Barroux / Les Echos


New Zealand daily The Dominion Post dedicates its front page to the news that the country's cabinet has agreed to allow quarantine-free travel with Australia in the first three months of 2021.


After a year that's been as trying as it is troubling, the holidays are finally upon us, and for many there's a temptation to treat the upcoming festivities as a welcome catharsis. But for governments, this "most wonderful time of the year" represents a real conundrum: How to allow for some much-needed Yuletide joy while at the same time, taking steps to keep the New Year from beginning with a new surge of coronavirus cases.

Christmas bubbles: The UK will also allow people to gather, but only for five days, between Dec. 23-27, with a larger window for Northern Ireland to give more time to people to travel between the nations.

  • This "Christmas bubble" should not include people from more than three different households, the government guidelines read, adding that one person can only be in one such group and cannot change afterwards.

  • "A fixed bubble is a sensible and proportionate way to balance the desire to spend time with others over the Christmas period, while limiting the risk of spreading infection," the government says.

  • The guidelines also recommend that UK citizens celebrate Christmas in other ways — digitally, for instance, or by meeting outdoors.

Santa's out-of-work helpers: Finland, world famous for its Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, Lapland, has imposed strict travel restrictions for foreigners.

  • Citizens from all European destinations other than the Vatican are currently subjected to a 10-day self-quarantine when entering the country. Either that, or they have to submit a negative coronavirus test certificate that is less than 72 hours old at the time of arrival, but which will only allow them to stay for a maximum of three days if they don't self-isolate.

  • Clearly, though, the restrictions are a blow to the country's winter tourism industry, which relies heavily on overseas visitors. "For the period mid-March 2020 to March 2021 we estimate around 700 million euros in tourism revenue loss and 5,000 fewer tourism-related jobs in Lapland," Sanna Kärkkäinen, CEO of Visit Rovaniemi, toldYle. The region is trying to attract domestic tourists, but tourism promoters believe this will not be enough to compensate for the huge losses.

  • The Finnish Parliament's Constitutional Law Committee has recently rejected a proposed testing-based model to allow visitors to enter the country for non-essential purposes, frustrating winter tourism businesses even more.

Prudence in Palestine: For obvious reasons, Bethlehem — Jesus Christ's birthplace — is usually buzzing with activity at this time of year. But with international pilgrims banned, and restaurants, hotels and souvenir shops closed, Christmas celebrations in the Palestine city will be noticeably subdued this time around.

  • The famed Christmas tree lighting service will be limited to just 15 guests, while the Midnight Mass, normally attended by religious leaders and hundreds of pilgrims, will be scaled back. The event will be broadcast live for the general public.

  • The Palestinian Authority has imposed a new nighttime lockdown from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., which could be extended through Christmas if the number of infections continue to surge.

Silent nights: Catholic church officials in Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, have announced Christmas carol activities will be banned, The Philippine News Agency reports.

  • Churches were asked not to organize carolings in order to "protect the public and the choir members' as according to experts, the virus could easily spread through singing, officials say.

  • Christmas carols are an important part of the holiday traditions in the Philippines, a predominantly Catholic country which celebrates the world's longest Christmas season, from Sept. 1 to New Year's Eve.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com here.


There were 61% more burials in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta in the first 10 months of 2020 than in the past five years, a new study reveals, which suggests that the metropolis' real coronavirus death toll is far higher than the official 2,963 casualties recorded.

And so, now it is time to turn the page. To unite. To heal.

— President-elect Joe Biden says after the Electoral College confirms his victory over Donald Trump in the Nov. 3 presidential election.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Putin's "Pig-Like" Latvia Threat Is A Chilling Reminder Of What's At Stake In Ukraine

In the Ukraine war, Russia's military spending is as high as ever. Now the West is alarmed because the Kremlin leader is indirectly hinting at a possible attack on Latvia, a NATO member. It is a reminder of a growing danger to Europe.

Photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Pavel Lokshin


BERLIN — Russian President Vladimir Putin sometimes chooses downright bizarre occasions to launch his threats against the West. It was at Monday's meeting of the Russian Human Rights Council, where Putin expressed a new, deep concern. It was not of course about the human rights of the thousands of political prisoners in his own country, but about the Russian population living in neighboring Latvia, which happens to be a NATO member, having to take language tests.

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