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Worldcrunch Today, Dec. 17: Macron Gets COVID, Pollution Murder, Cookie Monster

The Soviet-style Cookie Monster
The Soviet-style Cookie Monster

Welcome to Thursday, where Emmanuel Macron has COVID, air pollution is guilty in the death of a 9-year old, and couscous is culture. Meanwhile we look at how "cancel culture" in India is a very different thing.


When Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in December 2010, it first triggered a wave of revolts, then hopes of a historic liberalization in Arab countries. But the doors of democracy, barely half-opened, have been shut ever since, writes Dominique Moïsi in French daily Les Echos.

Exactly 10 years ago, on December 17, 2010, a low-key Tunisian fruit and vegetable seller felt so harassed and abused by public officials that he set himself on fire. Bouazizi's fatal act of desperation and revolt would mark the beginning of a wave of uprisings in the Arab world, that spread from Tunisia to Egypt, and then on to Libya and Syria.

A decade later, what remains of this immense flame of hope? It was of course very quickly followed — with the notable exception of Tunisia — by a wave of repression, sometimes fierce, as in Syria. How did we go from the Arab Spring to the Islamic winter? And then on to the deepening of the infernal dialectic between authoritarianism and corruption? It's as if the doors of democracy, barely ajar, had been summarily closed by those of the kleptocracy.

Was the hope unfounded, nothing more than a product of a far too Western reading of a culture that we did not understand, of images that we did not know how to interpret?

It is of course easier to destroy than to rebuild. The young people of Tahrir Square in Cairo were able to bring down President Mubarak, but they were unable to create a democratic, strong and stable Egypt. They were caught between a security apparatus — dependent for the maintenance of its wealth on its presence in power — and the Muslim Brotherhood, who would soon prove their mixture of incompetence and intolerance.

Over time, the Arab Spring has exposed the dangerous limits of Islamists and political Islam, but has not strengthened civil society and the cause of democracy. The direct, almost mathematical link between the extent of Egypt's debt and the wealth of the "Egyptian generals' was strengthened at a time when the voices that remained of freedom were being fiercely muzzled.

Was the expression "Arab Spring" – a reference to the 1848 revolution known as the "Springtime of the Peoples' – a deceptive illusion from the outset? Or is it still too early to judge whether it is true or not?

If the comparison between that revolutionary European Spring of 1848-1849 and the Arab Spring of 2010-2011 is to remain legitimate, is it not because of their respective failures In Europe. It was not the Frankfurt Parliament that unified Germany, but Bismarck's Prussia. And, in France, it was Louis Napoleon Bonaparte who was able to reap the benefits of revolutionary unrest.

In the traditional heart of the Arab world, in Egypt, after the very inconclusive experience of the Muslim Brotherhood in power, the army regained control of the country, even more brutally than in Mubarak's time. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi knows that he can count on the mixture of fear of radical Islam and the mercenary appetites of many Western countries to weld friendships that ethics should condemn, but that politics encourages. Read the full article.

Dominique Moïsi / Les Echos


Tunisian daily Assabah features a cartoon on its front page showing the declining protest movement since the Arab Spring was sparked 10 years today, when Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in Ben Arous.


Hindu nationalist groups want to force the cancellation of Netflix shows that celebrate inter-religious romance with Muslims — it's both censorship and ethnic prejudice, writes Debangana Chatterjee on Indian news website The Wire.

Richie Mehta's original Netflix series Delhi Crime, based on the 2012 Delhi gang-rape, sparked an outcry for banning Netflix India — and a #BanNetflix campaign was launched. What set the furor off though was an episode of another Netflix show, A Suitable Boy, and the "inappropriate" on-screen kiss between a Hindu (Lata) and a Muslim (Kabir) character in the backdrop of a temple. Members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took no time to demand the all-out ban of Netflix India.

In the West, "Cancel Culture" first arose in a much different context, notably around the #MeToo movement that sought to shame and shut down alleged perpetrators of sexual harassment and violence. The dynamic has expanded to publicly shame and silence a wide range of public figures whose ideas or words have clashed with the young generation's progressive "woke" culture.

Unfortunately, unlike its Western counterpart (which itself raises eyebrows), India's cancel culture coupled with the dogma of Hindu nationalism has taken a malicious turn. Under this precarious political climate, anything that antagonizes the Hindutva ideology faces indelible wrath.

This goes hand-in-glove with the government's new-found interests in OTT (Over-the-Top platforms) regulations. Last year in October the government made its intentions clear on promulgating a set of "not to do" lists for the streaming platforms that include Netflix, Hotstar, Amazon Prime, as well as the digital news media.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com here.


According to a new investigation led Brazilian daily Folha de S. Paulo, police in the country have shot dead 2,215 children and adolescents between 2017 and 2019.

We'd hoped that the dead of Bergamo could have protected the rest of Italy. Instead our sacrifice has been in vain.

Luca Fusco, who heads a group of survivors of the record numbers of people killed by COVID-19 in in the northern Italian city of Bergamo, speaking with weekly magazine L'Espresso. The group, which wants to hold government officials accountable for mismanagement of the crisis, has denounced continued bad policy that has led to a deadly second wave in Italy.


See top photo

A mystery man tricked U.S. artist Joshua Hawkins by paying him to paint an enormous Soviet-style mural of Sesame Street creature Cookie Monster, with three Russian words spelling "Peace Land Cookies!," on a commercial building in Peoria, Illinois. It turned out that the man had impersonated the building's owner, who was furious to see the "Soviet Muppet," and had the mural painted over white. The apparent prankster with a taste for the absurd — who paid the artist in full for the work — has not been identified. Meanwhile the real owner of the wall is holding a contest to decide a new design for the wall.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

War, Corruption And The Overdue Demise Of Ukrainian Oligarchs

The invasion of Russia has forced Ukraine to confront a domestic enemy: corruption and economic control by an insular and unethical elite.

Photograph of three masked demonstrators holding black smoke lights.

May 21, 2021, Ukraine: Demonstrators hold smoke bombs outside the Appeal Court of Kyiv.

Olena Khudiakova/ZUMA
Guillaume Ptak


KYIV — Since Russia’s invasion, Ukraine's all-powerful oligarchs have lost a significant chunk of their wealth and political influence. However, the fight against the corruption that plagues the country is only just beginning.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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On the morning of September 2, several men wearing balaclavas and bullet-proof waistcoats bearing the initials "SBU" arrived at the door of an opulent mansion in Dnipro, Ukraine's fourth largest city. Facing them, his countenance frowning behind thin-rimmed glasses, was the owner of the house, the oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky.

Officers from the Ukrainian security services had come to hand him a "suspicion notice" as part of an investigation into "fraud" and "money laundering". His home was searched, and shortly afterwards he was remanded in custody, with bail set at 509 million hryvnias, or more than €1.3 million. A photo of the operation published that very morning by the security services was widely shared on social networks and then picked up by various media outlets.

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