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President Biden getting vaccinated on Dec. 21
President Biden getting vaccinated on Dec. 21

Welcome to Tuesday, where the UK's isolation deepens, Rio's mayor gets arrested and a baby elephant gets CPR. And if you're late on your Christmas shopping, Die Welt tells you not to worry: kids have too many toys anyway.


As the sudden arrival of harsh new lockdown restrictions and the closing of borders in European countries coincides with down-to-the-wire Brexit talks, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing an all-time low in public confidence, argues Daniel Fortin in French daily Les Echos.

For nearly a year now, we have been cautious — even indulgent — when it comes to criticizing the way political leaders are handling this exceptional pandemic with the malicious whims that come with a novel virus. But whether we like it or not, the scale of this crisis also serves as an incomparable tool for measuring the leadership skills of any given head of state or government.

Most observers now agree that Donald Trump's casual handling of the pandemic probably cost him his reelection. And now, another prominent leader is coming under fire for adding chaos upon the chaos. We will remember for a long time the pictures of British or foreign travelers rushing this weekend to the stations to try to escape London where a new lockdown was introduced without warning on Saturday night. Only a few, including in his own party, still defend Prime Minister Boris Johnson who seems once again to be indecisive and inconsistent.

If it turns out that his country's health services have been truly aware of the new strain of the virus for a week, then it will be very difficult for Johnson to justify the measures to loosen restrictions that he initially wanted to authorize for the Christmas holidays.

The accusations mounting against the prime minister, including within his Conservative party, include the worst charges that can be brought against a politician: nonchalance. We saw evidence of it when he advised British citizens last March to "sing Happy Birthday twice while washing your hands' to protect from the virus before deciding, belatedly, to implement a lockdown like virtually every other Western country.

We saw the same kind of nonchalance last Wednesday when he told Parliament that it would be "inhuman" to cancel Christmas, even though he had no alternative solution. Finally, Johnson's casual leadership style is on display just as he is called on to lead his country out of the Europe Union at the very moment when — like those same European neighbors — a health crisis is deepening yet again.

The short-circuiting between two major events, Brexit and the pandemic, is probably what will come with the steepest political price. Driven by opportunism rather than conviction ever since he was put in charge of the country, Johnson has benefited from a good dose of indulgence from the general public that had perhaps fallen under the spell of his eccentric leadership style.

But times are changing. Today, amateurism and a blatant inability to face the job of making unpopular decisions are all that is left.

— Daniel Fortin / Les Echos


COVID-19 latest: More than 40 countries have banned arrivals from the UK because of new, reportedly highly contagious strain of the coronavirus spreading in the country. The British government warns of a devastating effect on food supply chains of the bans. Meanwhile, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, whose distribution could begin in some EU states as early as Sunday.

Convicted for migrant truck deaths: Two men have been found guilty of manslaughter as part of a larger human trafficking investigation after 39 Vietnamese migrants were found dead in Oct. 2019 in a sealed truck truck in Essex, UK, en route from Belgium.

Kurdish politician gets 22 years: Turkey has sentenced Kurdish opposition politician Leyla Güven to 22 years in prison for her membership in a "terror group" and disseminating "terror propaganda" for outlawed Kurdish armed groups.

Rio mayor arrested: Rio's pastor-turned-mayor Marcelo Crivella has been arrested for alleged involvement in a bribing and corruption scheme

Navalny's trick call: Bellingcat has published a recording of a call between Putin critic Alexei Navalny and a Kremlin agent he reportedly tricked into confessing to poisoning him in August by way of Navalny's underwear.

Vatican vaccine approval: The Vatican says that it is "morally acceptable" to get the COVID-19 vaccine, even if its research or production involves using cell lines derived from aborted fetuses.

Thai man saves elephant with CPR: Off-duty rescue worker Mana Srivate managed to save a baby elephant by using CPR following a road collision.

"So close, so far," titles Colombian daily El Espectador, writing about Jupiter and Saturn which came within 0.1 degrees of each other (though in reality still 456 million miles apart) in the night sky, forming a "double planet." Such a rare great conjunction of the Solar System's two largest planets hadn't occurred in nearly 800 years.


Play is a fundamental part of childhood development. But when it comes to toys, as one nursery in Bavaria has shown, there's something to be said for moderation, writes Judith Blage in German daily Die Welt.

Once every three years, a state-run nursery in the Bavarian town of Penzberg has three months without toys. It's a tradition that goes back 30 years. No clutter. No model railways, no toy trucks, no dolls, not even crayons. Every morning, the kids, aged 3-6, come in and find tables, chairs, cushions and plates laid out. Outside there's a garden. Except for the other boys and girls, there's nothing else.

Three months without toys is a very unusual prospect for a modern, Central European child. Ten years ago, British researchers found that the average child has 238 toys. It seems reasonable to assume that the number is even higher today. But what effect does this huge number of toys have on children?

Researchers across a wide variety of disciplines agree that play is essential to children's development, and that it's a biological constant. It's not only humans who play; this behavior has also been observed in animals such as elephants, dolphins, dogs, wolves, cats and crows.

The problem, however, is that in this case, more is not better. Studies show that having too many toys has a negative effect. If children are presented with too much choice, they find it harder to concentrate. And as a result, their games are less creative.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com here.

6.2 seconds

Soccer player Rafael Leao scored the fastest goal in the history of Italy's Serie A and of Europe's top five leagues, cutting through the opposition defense after 6.2 seconds.

It certainly appears to be the Russians but I am not going to discuss it beyond that.

— U.S. Attorney General and Trump loyalist Bill Barr broke ranks with the outgoing president as he commented on the recent hacking of dozens of U.S. Treasury Department email accounts.

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War In Ukraine, Day 279: New Kherson Horrors More Than Two Weeks After Russian Withdrawal

Shelling in Kherson

Anna Akage, Bertrand Hauger and Emma Albright

While retreating from Kherson, Russian troops forcibly removed more than 2,500 Ukrainians from prison colonies and pre-trial detention centers in the southern region. Those removed included prisoners as well as a large number of civilians who had been held in prisons during the occupation, according to the Ukrainian human rights organization Alliance of Ukrainian Unity.

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The NGO said it has evidence that these Ukrainians were first transferred to Crimea and then distributed to different prisons in Russia. During the transfer of the prisoners, Russian soldiers also reportedly stole valuables and food and mined the building of colony #61.

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