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In The News

Evacuating Mariupol, Lavrov’s “Jewish Hitler”, Bored Ape Metaverse

👋 გამარჯობა!*

Welcome to Monday, where civilians are being evacuated from Mariupol as Europe looks for a way out of its Russian energy reliance, Spain’s government is hit by the Pegasus spyware and New Zealand reopens for the first time in two years. We also look at the real reasons behind Elon Musk’s interest in Twitter.

[*Gamarjoba - Georgian]

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We Can't Choose Our Refugees Or Enemies — What Racists Don't Understand About War

The European far-right's sympathies for "white and Christian" Ukrainians shows its devotion to the idea of the "clash of civilizations." But it fails to see the basic paradoxes of war, where you may be fighting those who most resemble you and be forced to welcome those who look different.

-OpEd-

In a recent tweet, Hermann Tertsch, a far-right member of European Parliament, clarified what his ilk understood refugees to be. The member of Spain's populist Vox party wrote that "in Ukraine, they are real refugees. Christian, white refugees."

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He was supposedly listing criteria relevant only to the state of Ukrainians, while ignoring the fact that the Russian soldiers who have brutally turned them into refugees are just as white and Christian.

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Will COVID's Boost For Labor Unions Last? Check The Swedish Model

The pandemic has spurred a resurgence in labor unions around the world. But their return to prominence also raises the question of whether they’re the best way to protect workers in a globalized world.

Unions around the world have been on a steady decline over the last half-century: crippled by globalized economics and confounded by the accelerating changes in our work culture, average trade union membership in OECD countries has fallen from 30% in 1985 to 16% today. In the U.S., one-third of workers belonged to a labor union in the 1950s — a far cry from today’s 10.7%, including a meager 6.4% of private-sector workers.

A pandemic was bound to shake the status quo for the world of labor: from a newfound appreciation for what we’ve come to call “essential” workers to a series of layoffs in other sectors to the Great Resignation, which saw individuals reassess what they really want from their career.

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Work → In Progress: Why 'Financial Wellness' Is Not Just About A Raise

The workplace wellness trend now includes the very practical questions about how, when and how much we get paid, and is shaping up to be the next step in blurring the lines between personal and professional that were once so neatly divided.

We’re approaching the end of Q1 of 2022 and the “wellness” trend that’s usually reserved for millennials’ yoga mats has officially made its way into the professional world. After two years of realizing that job setups don’t always favor employees’ health, the call for sweeping workplace changes — ranging from more medical access to an HR focus on mental well-being — is in full swing.

But wouldn't you know: the latest professional self-care trend carries a notably practical air: financial wellness.

Bank of America’s 2021 Workplace Benefits Report mentioned “financial wellness” 43 times, which it defined as “the type of support employers are offering to address financial needs.” But is making money not the point of work? It seems this new rebranding of how work relates to cash is indicative of how differently we now view employment.

The financial wellness movement doesn’t want companies to just fairly compensate employees but instead to teach them how to manage their salaries, be it saving for retirement, navigating debt or budgeting.

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Future
Rozena Crossman

K-Pop To Catalonia: How The Metaverse Can Turn Local Culture Global

Glitchy online museum tours are a thing of the past. From Barcelona to Bollywood, the metaverse is bringing immersive cultural experiences right into our homes.

Between environmental costs, COVID and criticisms of digital nomads hurting local economies, the world is questioning the magic of travel — and increasing the time spent in front of screens. Although the meager form the metaverse has taken today can’t replace the smells, tastes, or exact luminescence that make discovering new corners of the world so thrilling, it may soon be dropping local adventures from far away lands into our living rooms.

While the guided tours of museums and online concerts that we all tested out during lockdowns were often glitchy and underwhelming, the beginning of 2022 has seen regional cultural initiatives from around the world flocking to the metaverse, a virtual reality world where people can interact and have experiences as they do in the real world.

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Geopolitics

Russia-Ukraine War Begins: 24 Newspaper Front Pages

Tensions culminated this week with Russian President Vladimir Putin launching a large-scale invasion of Ukraine, a move widely opposed by world leaders that made virtually every front page around the world.

"THIS IS WAR," reads the front page ofGazeta Wyborcza. Alongside the terse, all-caps headline, the Polish daily features a photo of Olena Kurilo, a teacher from Chuguev whose blood-covered face has become one of the striking images of the beginning of the Ukraine invasion.

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A day after simultaneous attacks were launched from the south, east and north of the country, by land and by air, some press outlets chose to feature images of tanks, explosions, death and destruction that hit multiple cities across Ukraine, while others focused on the man behind the so-called "special military operation": Putin.

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Coronavirus
Irene Caselli

How Courts Around The World Are Stripping No-Vaxxers Of Parental Rights

The question of who gets to decide questions around a child's health when vaccines are at play is complicated, and keeps popping up from Italy to Costa Rica to France and the U.S.

It is a parent’s worst nightmare to find out their child needs heart surgery. When it happened to the parents of a two-year-old child in the central Italian city of Modena, there was something extra to worry about: The blood transfusion required for the operation could include traces of the COVID-19 vaccine, which they opposed for religious reasons.

The parents asked the Sant'Orsola clinic in Bologna if they could vet the blood for the transfusion to make sure it hadn’t come from vaccinated donors. When the hospital refused, the parents took it to court, putting their child’s surgery on hold.

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Geopolitics

Send In The Tanks — 28 Newspaper Front Pages As Putin Moves On Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin's move to order troops into two rebel-held regions in eastern Ukraine, after recognizing them as independent states, is front-page news all around the world.

After weeks of escalating rhetoric, diplomatic roller coasters and wondering “what will Putin do,” Russian President Vladimir Putin took a decisive first step toward what some fear may be the worst military conflict in Europe since World War II.

During a televised speech late Monday night from the Kremlin — and just hours after rising hopes of a potential Biden-Putin summit — the Russian president formally recognized the independence of two separatist regions in eastern Ukraine and ordered Russian troops to move in, officially for "peacekeeping" purposes.

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Society
Laure Gautherin

Where Witch Hunts Are Not A Metaphor — And Women Are Still Getting Killed

Catalonia has recently pardoned up to 1,000 people, mostly women, who were accused of "witchcraft" as late as the eighteenth century. But as some countries atone for their past, "witch hunts" are still common in other parts of the world.

The Catalan Parliament has recently passed a resolution to apologize for the centuries-long witch hunt that took place in the region over 400 years ago, clearing the name of some 1,000 innocents — mostly women — condemned for witchcraft. Catalonia was one of the most active regions in Europe for witch hunting. Europe’s oldest law against the crime of witchcraft was passed in Lleida, a city in the north-west of Spain, back in 1424. Witch hunts lasted in the region up to the eighteenth century.

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Coronavirus
Irene Caselli and Carl-Johan Karlsson

COVID School Chaos, Snapshots From 10 Countries Around The World

Teachers, students, parents and society as a whole have suffered through the various attempts at educating through the pandemic. Here’s how it looks now: from teacher strikes in France to rising drop-out rates in Argentina to Uganda finally ending the world’s longest shutdown.

School, they say, is where the future is built. The next generation’s classroom learning is crucial, but schools also represent an opportunity for children to socialize, get help for special needs … and in some villages and neighborhoods, get their one decent meal a day.

COVID-19 has of course put all of that at risk. At the peak of the pandemic, classrooms were closed for 1.6 billion schoolchildren worldwide, with the crisis forcing many to experiment on the fly for the first time in remote learning, and shutting down learning completely for many millions more — exacerbating worldwide inequality in education.

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Ideas
Alidad Vassigh

In COVID Times, Diary Of A Noted Hypochondriac

Every pang or cough could be the virus, or something worse.

-Essay-

MADRIDI had a slight pain recently on the left-hand side of my torso, just above my hip. Appendicitis, I thought. Or maybe a still undiscovered COVID symptom? The nagging mind chatter that has accompanied me for as long as I can remember continued its monologue: What, you thought you'd be healthy forever? Millions have died over the past two years while you were sitting pretty. That's over! You'll die alone, in a foreign land...

Or was the pain on the right-hand side? Where does appendicitis strike? I cannot recall, but the pain of sorts came and went. Like a warning shot!

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Work In Progress
Rozena Crossman

Work → In Progress: The Working World In 2022

Will the Great Resignation of the past year lead to a Great Reskilling the next...?

Like the year before, 2021 was filled with Zoom meetings, travel bans, shaky economics and supply chain disruptions. At the same time, it was a singular year, defined by strikes, international labor shortages and vaccine mandates in many workplaces. As Q4 comes to an end, things are ramping up, and the work challenges of 2022 are becoming very clear.

All over the world, unemployment is high — and so is the lack of available labor. What will see a bigger increase, inflation or salary bumps? Will the Great Resignation lead to a Great Reskilling? What we do know is that white-collar workers are shifting from overtime to flexible schedules, from cogs in the wheel to drivers in the front seat, from struggling independent contractors to employees with full benefits.

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Green
Dani Dominguez

Academic Washing? How Spain's Energy Sector Cleans Its Image At Universities

The big Spanish electricity and oil companies sponsor numerous research chairs at top universities: Is this cynical 'greenwashing' or innovative collaboration for the energy transition?

MADRID — Spain's major energy companies have found a first-rate partner in universities.

At Comillas University, for example, the companies sponsor the Module of Energy and Innovation, financed by Iberdrola; the Module of Family and Disability and the Module of Social Impact, in which the Repsol Foundation participates, as well as the Module of Energy and Poverty, run by Naturgy and Endesa.

In other words, the four big electricity companies on Spain's IBEX 35 leading stock index pay for some type of studies at this private university, which also hosts the Chair of Connected Industry; whose board of trustees includes Repsol, Endesa and Enagás, among others; and the Chair of Energy and Sustainability, which is paid for by British Petroleum (BP).

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food / travel
Héctor Abad Faciolince

The Madrid Neighborhood Where The Spanish Literary Giants Live On

There is a charming little sector of central Madrid where towering figures of Spanish literature lived, loved, wrote ... and mocked each other.

-Essay-

MADRID — Many people think that in contrast with politics (where it's all daggers drawn, spite and calumny), the denizens of the Republic of Letters — novelists, intellectuals and poets — get on very well. If they were ever to quarrel, they would do it with elegance and arguments devoid of envy or calculations.

In fact, the opposite has long been the case, at least since the Greek playwright Aristophanes mocked Socrates, possibly contributing to his execution by the city of Athens. Envy, hate, backbiting and rivalries are commonplace in the Republic of Letters. It is, literally, a republic of missives, as its luminaries exchanged letters wherein they condemned certain peers and praised others. Alliances were made in those letters, and groups and currents founded in opposition to other schools or literary cliques.

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Weird
Laure Gautherin

Public Sector Trolls? 7 "Institutional" Social Media Accounts That Let It Rip

The Ukraine government’s official Twitter account is using memes and GIFs to poke Moscow and draw attention to the risk of a Russian invasion. It is one of just a few institutional accounts that has decided not to be careful

From good humor to hate speech, you can find just about anything on social media. And it’s not just entertainers, or the anonymously angry: Our would-be public servants of the world have long since jumped into the fray, with provocateur presidents from Donald Trump to Jair Bolsonaro to Rodrigo Duterte.

But Twitter and Facebook and Instagram are also full of plenty of painfully careful (though sometimes very useful) accounts of public institutions, from offices of the prime minister to national weather services to local police stations.

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Society
Laure Gautherin

A Kindergarten Student Reignites Spain’s Eternal Battle Over Languages

Language is an ultra sensitive subject in Spain , especially in Catalonia, where a schoolboy and his family found themselves at the center of online hate campaign and a constitutional storm.

In Spain, language is politics.

Historical and regional differences and claims of autonomy are often expressed through demands about what language to use. Yet the latest public battle was sparked by a simple request by a kindergarten student in Canet de Mar, in Catalonia, a region that has long fought for the preeminence of the Catalan language. Instead, this time, the five-year-old schoolboy in question (and his family) had asked to have more lessons that are taught in Spanish, which set off many others similar requests for more bilingualism throughout the region around the city of Barcelona.

The debate has unleashed both solidarity and strong opposition directed at the family, reports Spanish daily La Rázon. Catalan, spoken by about nine million people, has been the region’s official language since the Catalan parliament passed a law in 1983. This came after the language had been banned for four decades under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

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