Le Weekend ➡️ I Choose To Believe My Eyes, From Primo Levi To The Photos Of Bucha
- Inside Ukraine war’s eastward shift
- Putin’s Arctic ambitions
- Risking a French election "accident"
- … and much more.
🎲 BUT FIRST, OUR WEEKLY NEWS QUIZ
What do you remember from the news this week?
1.New projections show that 65% of Africans have been infected with COVID-19 in the past two year, surpassing previous estimations by how many times?
2. Which European strongman was reelected for a fourth consecutive term?
3. Who became Twitter’s largest shareholder this week? And what proposed new Twitter feature is being debated (on Twitter)?
4. The leg fossil of a Thescelosaurus was found in North Dakota. What was so special about the way that dinosaur died
[Answers at the bottom of this newsletter]
I Choose To Believe My Eyes, From Primo Levi To The Photos Of Bucha
We the survivors are not the true witnesses. The true witnesses, those in possession of the unspeakable truth are the drowned, the dead, the disappeared.
Those lines are from Primo Levi, who came as close as anyone to articulating the horrors of the 20th century, the desolation when absolute evil takes control.
For those of us in the daily news media, when the story of the moment is the return of such unspeakable truths, we must face the limits of our craft and our own relative fortune, and set out to see with our eyes and hear from the survivors.
That’s what La Stampa reporter Francesca Mannocchi did on a day trip Sunday to Bucha, speaking with a 70-year-old woman named Nelya, who described the four-week reign of Russian terror:
“They would enter the buildings, ask everyone to hand over their phones, destroy the SIM cards, then separate the women and children from the men. The women and children were forced into cellars and shelters and the men into the houses. If it went well they were used as human shields, if it went badly they were executed. Eight men were shot in her building, Nelya saw their bodies when she finally got out of the shelter.”
It is chilling, yes, even if we can understand Levi’s point, trying to conjure the unspoken words of those eight men.
Photographers sometimes manage to use the means of a still image to get nearer to the horror. Here’s one in Mariupol, and another from Bucha. Yet there too, so much will be left unseen.
The missiles that killed dozens more innocent Ukrainians on Friday — and other revelations from recently liberated towns like Bucha — add to a story that becomes harder to witness each day.
Still, as the evidence and images accumulate, there are some who choose not to see. The bald denials of responsibility from the Kremlin are not even worth our time. But there are also others — people whose good will I work hard not to question — who instinctively relativize through the prism of their politics. Noting the eternal contradictions of power. Preferring the intellectual exercise and false equivalencies as a shield from the crimes before us.
In their eyes, the news media is part of those power structures or too busy selling our stories by playing off the emotions of the masses. One commentator in my social media feed complained that the coverage amounted to a good v. evil “fable for children.”
Editors, admittedly, do sometimes favor the color of a strong story line to the grays of nuance. And yet in normal times, our instinct is to challenge the existing plot line, search for contradictions, provide wider context. The past six weeks have not been normal. Sometimes reality is simple.
Ukraine is not a perfect nation. Ukrainians are not a perfect people. Neither are the nations that stand behind them, beginning with my own. Yet I choose to believe my eyes. And all of us, in the professional press and otherwise, must work to make sense of what we see — and remember history, as Primo Levi’s witness requires of us.
Russia’s is an unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation, launched by a ruler committed to extinguishing democracy and accumulating power wherever he can. Vladimir Putin’s orders are being carried out by an army that, again, is proving to be consistently at the very outer limits of military cruelty.
So we, news editors, from our awkwardly comfortable distance, will try to find stories that provide context from the past and understand where this all may be heading. But we will also shine a light on what is hard to look at.
This past week in particular will be remembered for the voices of the survivors and images of victims, gathered from brave reporters and photographers working in harm’s way. And may the true witnesses, with their unspeakable truths, rest in peace.
— Jeff Israely
🎭 5 CULTURE THINGS TO KNOW
• 53 cultural sites damaged in Ukraine: UNESCO says at least 53 cultural sites have been damaged in Ukraine since the start of the Russian offensive: 29 religious sites, 16 historic buildings, four monuments and four museums.
• Teen art prodigy: Vietnamese artist Xeo Chu, 14, who has been compared to Jackson Pollock, closes his first solo exhibition in London this week. “Xeo Chu: Big World Seen from Little Eyes” at the D Contemporary gallery showcased his first 10 years as an artist.
• Pink Floyd releases first song in 28 years: Pink Floyd released “Hey Hey Rise Up” to benefit humanitarian relief in Ukraine. Recorded by guitarist David Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason (sans Roger Waters), this makes it the band’s first song since The Division Bell in 1994.
• World’s skinniest skyscraper: Steinway Tower in New York City, the world’s most narrow skyscraper, has finally been completed. The skyscraper in midtown Manhattan is 84 stories-high, 1,428 feet tall (435,2544 meters) and includes 60 apartments.
• First Indigenous fashion show in Brazil: Indigenous communities from the Brazilian Amazon held their first fashion show in the city of Manaus. The entirety of the show was staged, run, and designed by Indigenous groups.
🧭 Why The War In Ukraine Is Headed East
Vladimir Putin’s tactics to conquer Ukraine have not changed. Pulling the Russian troops out of Kyiv was just a way for him to reorganize and buy time for a longer war. The Kremlin was taken by surprise by the harsh Western sanctions or tough resistance from the Ukrainian army. Now Putin needs a win to show the public back home, which in this case would mean seizing the Donbas region.
Read the full story: Blitzkrieg To Salami Tactics: A Closer Look At Russia's Pivot To The East
🗳😑 The Risks Of An Odd Presidential Election In France
It had appeared that French President Emmanuel Macron was going to cruise to reelection. But the first round of voting happening this Sunday is shaping up to be a tight contest after five years of “yellow vest” economic protests, COVID-19 and now the Ukraine war.
This peculiar election, Cécile Cornudet writes in Paris-based economic daily Les Echos, brings many questions to the front: Will Marine Le Pen, the perennial far-right candidate, wind up winning? Has the general indifference of the French population after the pandemic, and in the cloud of the Ukraine crisis prompt an “accident” of history? The stakes are high for France, and other democracies in the West will be watching closely.
Read the full story: How France's Presidential Election Could Trigger A "Democratic Accident"
❄️ Putin’s Frozen Dreams Of Conquering The Arctic
Vladimir Putin has had his eye on the Arctic for a while. As the glaciers are melting away, resources such as oil, gas and minerals are going to become accessible. But now, Moscow and Russian scientists are finding themselves locked out of negotiations due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Carl Karlsson dissects how climate risks are now colliding with geopolitical ones, as Norway scrambles to keep the Arctic out of a wider conflict.
Read the full story: How Putin's Arctic Dreams May Crack Under The Weight Of Ukraine War
When popular Indian singer Chinmayi Sripada shared a picture of her in-laws’ rooftop solar panels on Twitter, her 1+ million followers were quick to bombard her with questions on how to set it up for their own houses. Amid the hottest March in India in more than 100 years, people are eager to find solutions for both the environment and their wallet. Organizations and public figures alike are urging the government to provide more information about renewable sources to allow as many people as possible to switch to green energy.
🐝📃 BRIGHT IDEA
Researchers from the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have discovered a new way to make paper that’s the bee’s knees: Their pollen-based paper can be reused indefinitely thanks to “unprinting” laser technology.
👑 SMILE OF THE WEEK
Minnesota’s TV station WCCO uncovered some footage recorded in 1970 in Minneapolis, showing an 11-year-old boy being asked about a teacher strike. If he looks familiar, it’s because he grew up to be a music legend. Can you guess who it is? (Answer here)
👉 OTHERWISE ...
Really, The Nerve Of These Women
Here’s the latest Dottoré! piece from the notebook of Neapolitan psychiatrist and writer Mariateresa Fichele:
If I were running a company I would never hire women.
At least once a month they are sick, and in the days leading up to it, there are endless complaints.
If they’re nearing their thirties, they want to find a husband and have children. Then when they do, the real disaster begins.
First maternity leave, breastfeeding; and when they finally go back to work, they’re constantly out because of the children. Then they go through menopause, and I can't tell you how hysterical and impossible they become.
And all of them, no matter what age, are likely to start complaining at some point because they earn less than their male colleagues.
But what exactly do these women want?
Just because they are stronger, more clear-headed and determined than us men, do they think they can take over?
Why don't they just relax and stay in their place?
What do they think, that we're going to open up daycare centers for them? That we’re going to support them as parents? As working mothers?
Women should accept their condition and listen to the Word of the Lord.
After all, it is written in the Bible: "You will give birth in pain!"
But they ask for anesthesia.
They can’t even accept having to suffer …
⏩ LOOKING AHEAD
• On Sunday, French voters will cast their ballots for the first round of the presidential elections. President Emmanuel Macron will run against 11 other candidates, with the top two candidates facing off in a decisive second round in two weeks.
• Next week will mark the entry into the new year for many South and Southeast Asian nations. Starting between April 13 and 15, the beginning of the solar year is known as Aluth Avurudda in Sri Lanka, Choul Chnam Thmey in Cambodia, Pi Mai in Lao or Songkran in Thailand, Vaisakhi in Punjab …
• The Coachella music festival in Indio, California. With Billie Eillish, Megan Thee Stallion and Harry Styles among its headliners, the festival will take place on April 15 -17 and 22-24. The Weeknd and Swedish House Mafia will replace Kanye West, who withdrew from the lineup with less than two weeks’ notice.
News quiz answers:
1. According to World Health Organization data, more than 800 million people in Africa have had COVID-19 since the beginning of the outbreak — that is 100 times more than previously thought.
2. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán won a fourth successive and overall fifth term by a landslide.
3. Twitter has confirmed it is working on an edit button, though denied the idea came from Elon Musk after the Tesla and SpaceX CEO held a poll on it following his investment in the social media platform that makes him the company’s largest shareholder.
4. The fossilized leg of the small herbivorous dinosaur was found between layers of sediment of the asteroid that is said to have killed it and wiped out most species living on Earth, some 66 million years ago.
✍️ Newsletter by Worldcrunch
Sign up here to receive our free daily Newsletter to your inbox (now six days/week!)
*Photo: Daniel Ceng Shou-Yi/ZUMA