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In The News

Le Weekend ➡️ The Cruel Truth About Bush's "Iraq – I Mean, Ukraine" Gaffe

Screenshot of former U.S. President George W. Bush delivering his speech in Dallas on Wednesday

"Er ..."

YouTube screenshot

May 21-22

  • A liberated Ukrainian village
  • Long COVID limbo
  • TikToker under fire
  • … and much more.


What do you remember from the news this week?

1. The surrender of the last Ukrainian soldiers from the Azovstal factory marked the end of the siege of Mariupol. How many days did it last: 75, 79, or 82?

2. Who has North Korean leader Kim Jong-un blamed for his country’s first COVID-19 outbreak?

3. Which country recorded the hottest temperature so far this year?

4. A 1955 car broke the record for most expensive ever sold. Was it a Ferrari, a Bugatti, a Mercedes or a Cadillac?

[Answers at the bottom of this newsletter]


The Cruel Truth About Bush’s “Iraq – I Mean, Ukraine” Gaffe

It’s one of the better traditions of American democracy: When a president leaves office, he typically, well … just leaves. Donald Trump aside, departing commanders-in-chief not only mostly keep off the public stage, they don’t even bother trying to pull strings in the backrooms of Congress or their political parties.

In other relatively healthy democracies, there is the bad habit of former leaders mounting multiple comebacks to the highest office and wielding power in all its forms and forums until the bitter end. It’s almost always bad for the country, bad for progress.

So it’s a good thing that Barack Obama (though still making celebrity appearances and writing books) isn’t whispering in Joe Biden’s ear, and we Americans (and the rest of the world) can count on one hand the number of times George W. Bush has blipped across the radar in the 14 years since he’s left office.

Well, the latest blip, from a speech Wednesday night in Dallas, burned so bright it may have broken the radar. And the internet.

Lambasting Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine, Bush denounced “the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq.” He caught himself (not) quickly enough, tilted his head and added: “Er, I mean, of Ukraine … Anyway.”

Anyway?! Anyway … the war in Iraq caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and more than a decade of destabilization across much of the world. And of course the “one man to launch” that war, which history has roundly considered “wholly unjustified” (weapons of mass destruction?) and “brutal” (remember Abu Ghraib?) was you, Mr. former President.

The Iraq War is part of a larger tendency of U.S. foreign policy to take monumental decisions with a wide-eyed righteousness that mixes ignorance and arrogance. And impatience. The other infamous public moment linked to the war that Bush will be remembered for, alongside this week’s gaffe, captures it all: the “Mission Accomplished” speech in May 2003 aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier to claim victory for a war that would never be won.

Yet, looking back to that same period, there was another less obvious U.S. foreign policy failure that was gathering momentum. The Russia question, or more precisely the Vladimir Putin question, was in the process of being seriously mishandled and misunderstood. And even if we’re still debating the question of whether Bush’s accelerating the expansion of NATO went too far or not far enough, Putin (who indeed deserves virtually all the blame for the war in Ukraine) was an increasingly dangerous puzzle that was never solved by U.S. foreign policy.

In statecraft, there are failures of judgment and execution, and there are moral wrongs. Both tend to be driven by arrogance — and both can lead to extraordinary suffering. Washington’s Russia-NATO policy was a failure of judgment and execution. Putin’s war in Ukraine is a moral wrong. And Bush’s war in Iraq? Hmmm, maybe that’s what had Mr. former President all mixed up Wednesday night in Dallas.

— Jeff Israely


Zelensky asks Cannes not to be silent: In a surprise video speech during the opening ceremony of the Cannes Film Festival, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said “cinema must not be silent” regarding Putin’s invasion of his country. Celebrated Russian dissident filmmaker Kirill Serebrennikov the only Russian contestant this year — voiced his disapproval of the war. In an edition marked by the weighty geopolitical context, U.S. actresses Anne Hathaway and Julia Roberts were the stars of the red carpet’s montée des marches, while Top Gun’s long-awaited sequel made a lot of high-flying noise.

Longest paper plane throw:South Korea’s Kim Kyu Tae broke the Guinness World Record for the “farthest flight by paper aircraft” with 252 feet and 7 inches (77 meters).

Greek film composer Vangelis dies: Greek composer Evángelos Odysséas Papathanassíou, better known as Vangelis, died Tuesday at the age of 79 in a hospital in France where he was treated for an undisclosed illness. Growing up in Athens, he first rose to prominence in the 1960s as part of the prog rock quartet Aphrodite’s Child with fellow Greek musician Demis Roussos. Vangelis then gained international recognition for his iconic movie soundtracks, like that of Blade Runner or The Chariots of Fire, for which he won an Academy Award in 1981.

• NYU Class of 2022 (Taylor’s Version): This Wednesday, U.S. pop star Taylor Swift received an honorary doctorate of fine arts from New York University for her significant contribution to the music industry. She also delivered the commencement speech for NYU’s class of 2022, making the Swifties in the audience’s “Wildest Dreams” come true.

• Italy picks opera over coffee:Ti amo, opera! Italy selected opera over coffee as its candidate for UNESCO’s list of the world’s intangible cultural heritage next year. The country already features many entries on the list, including the art of the Neapolitan Pizza, truffle hunting and the Mediterranean diet.

🏗🏚  Trying to rebuild a life after two months under Russian occupation

The town of Tsyrkuny, near Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city, was under Russian occupation for two months. Yet Andriy Kluchikov, 94, slept in his own bed every night, even if his house was one of the few left standing. Now that Ukrainian forces liberated the area, he and his neighbors can finally venture out to see the real damage.

German daily Die Welt reports from the town on the 30 young men who have disappeared and the hard work that residents have ahead of them to rebuild.

Read the full story: The Dead And Disappeared: A Village Emerges From 72 Days Of Russian Occupation

😷⏳  While doctors learn to deal with long COVID, patients are left in limbo

As vaccines and emergency treatments are helping bring down the death rate of COVID, what the medical world is now most worried about are the long-lasting effects of the viral infection. What is known as long COVID includes some 200 lingering symptoms, some of which can be extremely debilitating.

France’s Les Echos visits the country’s clinics dealing with long COVID and talks to patients who are frustrated with being misdiagnosed.

Read the full story: The Main COVID Risk Now: Long COVID

👨✍🏻  Tracing García Márquez’s literary style in his early journalistic work

Before becoming well-known as a fiction writer, Colombia’s Nobel laureate Gabriel Gárcia Márquez worked as a journalist. This piece in Colombia’s daily El Espectador, for which Gárcia Márquez worked as a columnist and correspondent, looks at some of his early journalistic work and how it influenced his magical realism in his most acclaimed work.

Read the full story: García Márquez And Truth: How Journalism Fed The Novelist's Fantasy


Pakistani TikToker Humaira Asghar has faced considerable backlash after filming a glamorous clip in front of a burning forest, as Pakistan is facing an unprecedented heatwave. She posted the video online with the caption “Fire erupts wherever I am.”


Israeli startup X-trodes has developed a band-aid-like sleep tracker to help you understand why you’re not getting a good night’s rest — from the comfort of your own bed, rather than by being monitored at a hospital. Sleep disorders have intensified during the pandemic, with a third of adults globally reportedly suffering from insomnia or restless leg syndrome.


A bullet struck the silhouette of Johnny Cash on a water tower in the late artist’s hometown of Kingsland in Arkansas, right in the bladder area — thus making it look as if the country legend was in the middle of a different kind of “leak.” While the vandal who took the shot certainly thought a High-wee-man would be a funny sight, the town’s mayor was considerably less amused: the leak cost Kingsland about $200 a day, with an estimated daily loss of 300,000 gallons of water.


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

Don't Anger The Patron Saints Of Calcio

"Dottoré, I know you’re going to say I’m superstitious and strange, you always give rational answers ... but I have to ask you a question: Is it true that ever since our stadium was renamed after Maradona, Napoli doesn't win at home anymore?"


"Could it be that Saint Paul, to whom the stadium was initially dedicated, got offended and is making us lose now?"

"And what if instead, it was Maradona who got offended?"

"What are you saying!? Then things are worse than I thought! Maradona was said to be a Saint Paul devotee, so they must have both got offended and made a deal ... Listen, Dottoré, they must be seeking revenge together, and sold the Scudetto to Sant'Ambrogio, the patron saint of Milan!"

Read more from Dottoré!’s notebook here


Australia is holding a national election, in which the conservative Liberal-National coalition is seeking a fourth straight term while the Labor Party hopes to return to power after nine years.

• U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner, Robert Califf, will testify before Congress on Thursday to address the current nationwide baby formula shortage. This comes after The House of Representatives passed two bills with the aim of making more formula available to families.

• The inaugural UEFA Europa Conference League final will be played at the Arena Kombëtare in Tirana, Albania between Italian club Roma and Dutch team Feyenoord on May 25. This will be the first UEFA final to be played in Albania.

• The “ABBA Voyage” starts next Friday! Avatar versions of the Swedish pop icons will appear on stage in London at the brand new ABBA arena, with a VIP premiere taking place the day before. Take a look here at the glam costumes made especially for the occasion by fashion house designers including Dolce & Gabbana.

News quiz answers:

1. After 82 days, Russia announced it had taken full control of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, effectively marking the fall of the strategic southern port city for Ukraine. Hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians, who had been trapped in dire conditions in the complex since early March, have reportedly been sent to a prisoner camp in Russian-controlled territory in Donbas, where Moscow may try some for war crimes.

2. Kim Jong-un has blamed North Korea’s COVID outbreak on “lazy” officials, condemning their negligence for failing to contain the spread of the pandemic. Despite reporting more than 2.2 million cases in a week, Pyongyang has not responded to offers of help by the U.S., South Korea and UNICEF.

3. According to Pakistan’s Meteorological Department, temperatures rose to 51 °C (123,8 °F) in Jacobabad, central Pakistan. This is the hottest temperature recorded anywhere on Earth so far in 2022, as South Asia is being hit by an extreme heat wave.

4. German carmaker Mercedes-Benz announced it had sold a rare 1955 SLR Coupe to a private owner for 135 million euros ($142 million) at auction, making it the most expensive car ever sold. The record was previously held by a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, which sold for 45 million euros in 2018.

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Geert Wilders, The Europe Union's Biggest Problem Since Brexit

The victory of Geert Wilders' far-right party in this week's elections in the Netherlands shows that politics in Europe, at both the national and European Union level, has fundamentally failed to overcome its contradictions.

Geert Wilders, The Europe Union's Biggest Problem Since Brexit

A campaign poster of Geert Wilders, who leads the Party for Freedom (PVV) taken in the Hague, Netherlands

Pierre Haski

Updated Nov. 28, 2023 at 6:15 p.m.


PARIS — For a long time, Geert Wilders, recognizable by his peroxide hair, was an eccentric, disconcerting and yet mostly marginal figure in Dutch politics. He was known for his public outbursts against Muslims, particularly Moroccans who are prevalent in the Netherlands, which once led to a court convicting him for the collective insulting of a nationality.

Consistently ranking third or fourth in poll results, this time he emerged as the leader in Wednesday's national elections. The shock is commensurate with his success: 37 seats out of 150, twice as many as in the previous legislature.

For the latest news & views from every corner of the world, Worldcrunch Today is the only truly international newsletter. Sign up here.

The recipe is the same everywhere: a robustly anti-immigration agenda that capitalizes on fears. Wilders' victory in the Netherlands reflects a prevailing trend across the continent, from Sweden to Portugal, Italy and France.

We must first see if Wilders manages to put together the coalition needed to govern. Already the first roadblock came this week with the loss of one of his top allies scouting for coalition partners from other parties: Gom van Strien, a senator in Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) was forced to resign from his role after accusations of fraud resurfaced in Dutch media.

Nonetheless, at least three lessons can be drawn from Wilders' far-right breakthrough in one of the founding countries of the European Union.

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