The Worldcrunch Today & Le Weekend crew is taking a short break, and will be back on Jan. 2, 2023. As always, we’ll continue publishing new stories through the holidays on Worldcrunch! Happy end of the year to all 🥳
What do you remember from the news this week?
1. What did Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky present Congress with during his landmark speech in Washington?
2. What neighboring country has instituted new measures to guard against the spread of COVID in response to rising infection rates in China, after Beijing loosened restrictions two weeks ago?
3. What peculiar item did New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and opposition leader David Seymour auction for charity?
4. Who broke the record for most-liked Instagram post ever, with 67 millions likes? Ariana Grande / Lionel Messi / Kanye West / Cristiano Ronaldo
[Answers at the bottom of this newsletter]
Amid a COVID-19 surge in neighboring China, India is stepping up surveillance of coronavirus cases, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging people to start wearing masks again and calling for increased testing. This had led to increased concerns in the country, but also a spread of misinformation. On Twitter, the government’s Ministry of Health had to publish a statement to debunk a fake message that was widely circulating on WhatsApp and which was warning that the XBB subvariant of the Omicron strain was deadlier than the Delta variant.
• Nigerian and Greek artworks returned: Pope Francis has ordered the return to Greece of three 2,500-year-old pieces of the Parthenon that have been in the papal collections of the Vatican Museum for two centuries, as a “donation” to Archbishop Ieronymos II, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church. Meanwhile, Germany has handed back to Nigeria 20 Benin bronzes, believed to have been looted by England in the 19th century.
• Vandals destroy Australia Aboriginal cave art: The Nullarbor Plain art, sacred artwork carved in South Australia’s Koonalda Cave that is believed to be about 30,000 years old, has been destroyed by vandals who used their fingers to draw over the indigenous designs. “It's abuse to our country and it's abuse to our history,” said a member of the region's Aboriginal Mirning people.
• Israel Philharmonic Orchestra performs in Abu Dhabi: The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra played its first show in the United Arab Emirates at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, marking also the ensemble’s first performance in the Arab World since its concert at the Cairo Opera House in 1945.
• South Korea's first museum of photography changes name and location: To celebrate the upcoming 20th anniversary of its creation, Seoul’s Museum of Photography has been relocated to the central neighborhood of Samcheong-dong and renamed Museum Hanmi, after the name of the organization which founded it in 2003. The museum was the first institute dedicated to the art of photography to open in South Korea.
• Robert E. Lee statue to be replaced by Henrietta Lacks: Officials of Roanoke, Virginia, the hometown of Henrietta Lacks, announced a statue will be erected of the African-American woman, whose cells were taken without consent in the 1950s and have helped save millions of lives. The statue will be located in a spot previously occupied by a monument to the Confederate general Robert E. Lee. The latter was removed during Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.
A series of five videos of dubious quality appeared this week on Vkontakte, Russia’s most popular social network. The videos used soap opera-like scenarios to urge Russian men to enlist in the army. But instead of relying on the army’s usual tropes (calls to patriotism or neo-Nazi accusations against Ukraine), the odd recruitment videos all focus on one incentive to join in the war effort: money.
Who exactly is behind the (now-deleted) video campaign? What was its ultimate objective? Independent Russian outlet Vazhnyye Istorii managed to get in touch with a few of the actors who took part in the production.
Read the full story: Do It For The Money! What's Behind A Strange New Series Of Russian Propaganda Videos
After more than two years of self-imposed confinement, China’s President Xi Jinping has started to travel more around the world, from Riyadh in Saudi Arabia to the G20 summit in Bali.
“Is Xi Jinping trying to reinforce his image abroad? An image that has been scorned within his own country, after the defeat of the war he led against COVID?,” wonders Dominique Moisi in French daily Les Echos. Indeed, China is now facing a solid risk of seeing the pandemic spread due to the debacle of its “Zero-COVID” strategy on the pandemic, but also a growing distrust of its population.
Read the full story: Why Xi Jinping Can't Escape His Failures On COVID
Colombian mathematician Guillermo Sánchez Trujillo claims that The Trial, Franz Kafka's celebrated 1915 depiction of a nonsensical trial for an unspecified crime, is actually a “hidden rewriting” of Fyodor Dostoevsky's classic Crime and Punishment and that the latter could even be the source of other works by Kafka.
Could the Medellín-born teacher have solved one of the great literary mysteries of modern times, both in identifying the source of The Trial and the order of its chapters?
Read the full story: Kafka And Dostoevsky: Was “The Trial” A Hidden Rewriting Of “Crime And Punishment”?
Cambridge graduate Josie Hughes is a mechanical engineer and one of the youngest tenure-track professors in her department at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne — and she’s just built an AI-powered robot capable of harvesting raspberries. This innovation could make farming more cost-effective and efficient and help solve the recent labor shortage crisis in farms.
Texas-born Charles Graves works as a professional sign language Santa in Maryland, bringing Christmas cheer to children who are hearing impaired. What’s the sign for “ho, ho, ho!” again?
➡️ Watch the video: THIS HAPPENED
Here’s the latest Dottoré! piece from the notebook of Neapolitan psychiatrist and writer Mariateresa Fichele:
A Christmas invitation lost in translation
La signora Ernestina is a lovely old lady who lives in a basso near my house. Just outside that tiny street-level studio, she keeps a small altar with the photos of her deceased loved ones, and of those of almost all the neighborhood. When Christmas comes, she adorns it with a thousand lights, baubles and ornaments — enough to compete with any Chinese wholesaler.
The effect is quite picturesque, and in fact yesterday a couple of tourists were standing outside her house to admire the lights.
When Ernestina noticed them, she immediately walked out of her house.
"Good morning! Would you like some coffee? Trasite!"
"Thank you, madam, you are very kind!"
"Thank you, with pleasure!
But the couple just stood there. At that point, I knew I had to intervene.
"Good morning," I tell the couple. "Mrs. Ernestina is offering you coffee. Would you like some?"
"Yes, thank you!"
"Go in then!"
"But the lady is saying something else. She’s saying ‘trasite’. What does that mean? We don't understand!"
And thus was the mystery revealed …
"Signora Ernestina. These people are not from here. They don't understand Neapolitan. That's why they’re not coming in!"
"Ah! I thought they were stupid! I'll explain it to them in Italian now.”
“Good morning. If you would like some coffee, you can't just stand there on the door, all stiff like that. I have to put it in the cups, because I can't exactly pour it into your hands. So, I'm telling you in Italian because otherwise I'm going to lose it: Would you like to come in, o no?!"
➡️ Read more from our Dottoré! series on Worldcrunch.com
• Ukraine to mark 10 months since Russia started its full-scale invasion of the country.
• Netflix & lift? Starting Dec. 30, the streaming platform is adding fitness programs to its catalog, courtesy of sportswear brand Nike.
• On Thursday, the state of New York officially will officially start the legal sale of recreational cannabis.
News quiz answers:
1. During his historic address to U.S. Congress, part of his first trip abroad since the start of the Russian invasion, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky unveiled a Ukrainian flag signed by fighters on the Bakhmut frontline.
3. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was recently caught on a hot mic, calling opposition leader David Seymour "an arrogant prick" as he was criticizing her in a speech. Arden quickly apologized, and Seymour quickly accepted the apology … then the pair decided to auction off a signed copy of the official parliamentary record of the crude transcript, raising $63,200 for charity to be auctioned off for charity.
4. Argentine soccer superstar Lionel Messi broke yet another record: A new photo gallery he posted on Instagram celebrating Argentina’s recent World Cup victory just became the most-liked Instagram post ever, with 67 millions likes.
Sign up here to receive our free daily Newsletter in your inbox