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In The News

Le Weekend ➡️ A Social Media Journey, From Tunisia To Ukraine To The Ego Of Elon Musk

Photo of a hand holding a smartphone displaying Twitter's blue bird logo

Feeling blue?

April 30-May 1

  • A different kind of disaster near Chernobyl
  • Russian cartoon propaganda
  • Progressive fashion
  • … and much more.


What do you remember from the news this week?

1. Who was criticized this week for going to Moscow before Kyiv?

2. What was the price Elon Musk is set to pay for Twitter: $22 billion, $33 billion, $44 billion or $55 billion?

3. How old was Japan’s Kane Tanaka, certified as the world’s oldest person, when she died this week?

4. What was celebrated for the very first time in Antarctica this week?

[Answers at the bottom of this newsletter]


A Social Media Journey, From Tunisia To Ukraine To The Ego Of Elon Musk

We shouldn’t underestimate Elon Musk.

Elon Musk shouldn’t underestimate us.

This two-way reminder (which applies for the good and the bad, in both cases) was the spirit of a recent exchange between Peter Kafka and Charlie Warzel, two smart American tech and media writers, after Musk submitted his bid this week to buy Twitter for $44 billion.

Musk of course has silenced the doubters multiple times in his serial entrepreneur past and present, all but inventing the electric vehicles market with Tesla, and redirecting the future of space travel with SpaceX. Yet he’s also a serial provocateur who dabbles in contradictory political theory and rides a steamroller of an ego with little regard for what casualties are left in his path.

So while he may have a better chance than anyone at reinventing Twitter, as a platform and a business, Kafka and Warzel warn that it won’t be pretty.

And as for what Musk may be underestimating about this particular tech challenge — the “us” part — poses ultimately much more pertinent questions to consider. Warzel made the comparison between “getting a rocket to specifications” and trying to figure out how to manage a platform that is essentially fueled by all the worst and best of all of us, when we’re drawn to the same public square.

“There’s really nothing more messy than the human nature of democratizing speech while preserving healthy conversations,” Warzel said. “It’s like a fundamental issue of humanity … being alive.”

Of course, the relatively young history of social media has clearly not gotten to specifications — and is not limited to either the U.S. or democracies. Back when Twitter and Facebook were exploding a decade ago, they were credited with helping the Arab Spring overthrow tyrannical rulers without firing a shot, riding the power of the platforms to instantaneously gather protests beyond the reach of secret police.

But it didn’t take too long to see that these new, amazingly accessible, global communication and broadcast tools were indeed just that: tools. They have offered space and voice for the most noble of purposes, and been used by repressive regimes, and anyone else, for malevolent purposes to track down, monitor, harass and disrupt the most basic functioning of democracy.

Yet we have recently seen a new twist on the regime-vs.-people power narrative of social media. It was a Feb. 25 video that quickly went viral around the world the evening after the Russian invasion. It was a head of state in the role of underdog standing up to oppression: President Volodomyr Zelensky is seen filming himself in the center of Kyiv surrounded by four of Ukraine’s top government officials, saying simply that each was “here” … “We are all here.”

In those 33 seconds, Zelensky gives new meaning to “democratizing speech,” using his online presence to defend his nation’s sovereignty and undermine Russia’s plans to roll through Ukraine without resistance.

The message “I am here” (in the good and the bad) could also fairly well stand in for everything ever posted on social media — and the only real specification that comes with the new toy our favorite ego-fueled engineer is ready to buy for $44 billion. Tinker with care, Mr. Musk.

— Jeff Israely


Kyiv destroys monument symbolizing Russia-Ukraine friendship: Kyiv authorities dismantled a statue of two workers representing the reunification of Ukraine and Russia, two months after the beginning of Vladimir Putin’s invasion. Kyiv’s mayor Vitali Klitschko said that in the capital city alone, 60 other monuments related to Russia would be demolished and that a number of streets would also be renamed.

• Saudi Arabia wants LGBTQ scene cut from Doctor Strange 2: Saudi officials have asked Disney to delete a scene of upcoming Doctor Strange 2 in which a lesbian character makes reference to having two moms. Disney has refused the request. In November, Saudi Arabia required a similar edit for The Eternals and banned the movie from cinemas when their demand was rejected.

• Pompeii’s steamy exhibition: The Pompeii Archaeological Park is dedicating a new exhibition to the Ancient Roman city’s erotic art. The exhibition, which lasts until Jan. 15, 2023, features 70 archeological finds from murals to medallions, including the famous “Leda and the Swan” fresco.

• New Metallica whiskey:Metallica is introducing “Rye The Lightning”, a limited-edition whiskey named after the band’s 1984 album Ride The Lightning. The vibrations of a live performance of the full album were used to literally rock the whiskey barrels. Drink (and listen to heavy metal) responsibly.

• Cannes festival jury announced: The composition of the jury for the 2022 Cannes film festival was announced: French actor Vincent Lindon will preside over the 75th edition, which will be held from May 17-28. He will be joined by eight jury members: British actor-director-writer Rebecca Hall, Swedish actress Noomi Rapace, U.S. director-screenwriter Jeff Nichols, Iranian director-writer Asghar Farhadi, Indian actress and producer Deepika Padukone, Italian actor-director Jasmine Trinca, French director-writer-actor Ladj Ly and Norwegian helmer Joachim Trier.

🇺🇦  Ivankiv, Coming Back To Life After Heavy Battles

Reporting for Ukrainian news website Livy Bereg, journalist Katerina Petrenko traveled in a convoy to the city of Ivankiv, north of Kyiv, which was attacked early in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The area, close to the Chernobyl zone, was liberated on April 1 after heavy battles with Russian troops, which left houses destroyed and locals traumatized. “The Russians looted our entire village. They went to people's homes and took away everything,” a man tells the journalist. But with the help of volunteers, the city is slowly recovering.

Read the full story: In The Shadow Of Chernobyl, Ivankiv Now Recovers From Russian Army Disaster

🧒🐻  A Parent’s Reflections On A Russian Children’s Cartoon

Masha and the Bear, a very popular Russian children cartoon series featuring the adventures of a bear and a mischievous little girl, has become a cultural export, with the program shown in 150 countries and more than 40 languages. Recently, though, some have raised concerns about the series’ political overtones and accused it of propaganda.

But as Elmar Krekeler writes in German daily Die Welt: “If we treat everything that originates from Russia as propaganda, simply because it comes from Russia, we are diluting the meaning of the word.”

Read the full story: Is Masha And The Bear Russian Propaganda, Cartoon-Style?

🤵‍♂️👔 Adiós To The Era Of White Men In Suits

The Latin political world has long been dominated by white men in suits. But now a new generation of women are taking over the political and fashion scene. For independent Latin American investigative journal Volcánicas, Lux Lancheros retraces the history of fashion through politics with examples ranging from Hilary Clinton’s famous pantsuits to Ingrid Bettancourt’s sober wardrobe.

This article is a reflection on the impact of how women dress and their ability to be taken seriously especially in politics. In Latin America, the era of white men in suits is coming to an end with the rise not only of women joining politics, but of dressing as they please.

Read the full story: Political Fashion In Latin America Leaves White Men In Suits Behind


After the movie industry was recently deprived of public funding in Algeria, cinema lovers have been using the phrase Tahia ya cinéma (“Viva cinema”) on social media in support of the struggling sector — a reference to the cult 1971 Algerian movie Tahia Ya Didou by Mohamed Zinet.


Plantalicious is putting its own twist on the age-old question, “Which came first: the chicken or the egg?” The Portuguese-based company is asking instead: “Which should come first: our consumption of animal products, or the planet?” Their vegan alternative to traditional poultry eggs, made from soy and other plant-based ingredients, boasts the same runny yolk texture, color and aspect, and is hoping to hit the (farmers’) market soon.


On April 28, 1945, hungry American soldiers unintendedly stole then 13-year-old Meri Mion’s birthday cake from a windowsill as they entered the village of San Pietro to fight one of the final battles of World War II in Italy. Some 77 years later, soldiers from U.S. Army Garrison Italy righted that wrong, offering now 90-year-old Mion a birthday cake during a ceremony in Vicenza, singing “happy birthday” in Italian and English as she wiped tears away.


Here’s the latest Dottoré! piece from the notebook of Neapolitan psychiatrist and writer Mariateresa Fichele:

The scenes of the welcoming of Ukrainian refugees in Italy have been deeply moving.

I was particularly struck by the choral embrace in a Naples elementary school classroom of a beautiful child, happy but also embarrassed because he did not speak Italian.

It brought me back to a story that Chiara, a young patient of mind born in Naples to Nigerian parents, once told me:

"On the first day of school, the mothers of the other children looked at me strangely. One of them said to her son, ‘If she's in your class, make sure you sit far away and don't bring any illnesses home, because these must be people who just got off the boats.’

“That child ended up in my class. I remember approaching him and saying: ‘Hi, I'm Chiara and I have never set foot on a boat’. The child looked at me. ‘How’s this possible? You're black and you can even speak Italian?’

“I've seen that look on many other faces since then, but I'll never forget that very first time — the first time I wished I was blonde and had white skin."

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


• In his first international trip this year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Germany, Denmark and France to focus on diplomatic relationships and strategic partnerships.

• Starting Monday, South Korea will lift its outdoor face mask mandate, while New Zealand will welcome back international visitors.

Lady Gaga’s new song “Hold My Hand”, part of the new Top Gun movie soundtrack, is expected to drop on May 3.

• ¡Hola, Cinco de Mayo! Why has this date (which marks the Mexican army’s May 5, 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla) become such a big deal in the U.S. — while not nearly as much in Mexico?

News quiz answers:

1. In his first attempt at in-person negotiations since the Russian invasion began in late February, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres met with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, with whom he reportedly agreed on Mariupol humanitarian evacuations. Guterres then met the day after with Ukraine President Zelensky, who had previously criticized him for first meeting with Putin.

2. Twitter’s board accepted Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s offer to purchase the social media platform for $44 billion, after weeks of negotiations. With the money, as franceinfo notes, Musk could have bought himself 11 aircraft carriers, or bought every human on the planet a baguette every day for a week.

3. Born on January 2, 1903 in Fukuoka, southern Japan, Kane Tanaka died at the age of 119. French nun Lucile Randon, 118, is now reported to be the oldest person alive.

4. Stephen Carpenter and Eric Bourne, British members of a polar research ship crew, got married in British Antarctic Territory: This is the first gay wedding celebrated on the icy continent.

✍️ Newsletter by Worldcrunch

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

How Russia's Wartime Manipulation Of Energy Prices Could Doom Its Economy

A complex compensation mechanism for fuel companies, currency devaluation, increased demand due to the war, logistics disruptions, and stuttering production growth have combined to trigger price rises and deepening shortages in the Russian energy market.

Photograph of Novatek's gravity-based structure platform for production of liquefied natural gas, floating on a body of water.

Russia, Murmansk Region - July 21, 2023: A view of Novatek's gravity-based structure platform for production of liquefied natural gas.

Ekaterina Mereminskaya

In Russia, reports of gasoline and diesel shortages have been making headlines in the country for several months, raising concerns about energy supply. The situation escalated in September when a major diesel shortage hit annexed Crimea. Even before that, farmers in the southern regions of Russia had raised concerns regarding fuel shortages for their combines.

“We’ll have to stop the harvest! It will be a total catastrophe!” agriculture minister Dmitry Patrushev had warned at the time. “We should temporarily halt the export of petroleum products now until we have stabilized the situation on the domestic market.”

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

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

As the crisis deepens, experts are highlighting the unintended consequences of government intervention in fuel pricing and distribution.

The Russian government has long sought to control the prices of essential commodities, including gasoline and diesel. These commodities are considered "signalling products", according to Sergei Vakulenko, an oil and gas expert and fellow at the Carnegie Endowment. Entrepreneurs often interpret rising gasoline prices as a signal to adjust their pricing strategies, reasoning that if even gasoline, a staple, is becoming more expensive, they too should raise their prices.

The specter of the 2018 fuel crisis, where gasoline prices in Russia surged at twice the rate of other commodities, haunts the authorities. As a result, they implemented a mechanism to control these prices and ensure a steady supply. Known as the "fuel damper," this mechanism seeks to balance the profitability of selling fuel in both domestic and foreign markets.

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