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In The News

Le Weekend ➡️ Ghibli Park Opens, New Zulu King, World Ballet Day

Le Weekend ➡️ Ghibli Park Opens, New Zulu King, World Ballet Day

Fans of Studio Ghibli have begun flocking to the new long-awaited theme park that opened on Nov. 1 near Kyoto, in Japan

November 5-6

  • Welcome to Listenbourg
  • Peru’s Avengers police
  • France’s funeral cargo bike
  • … and much more.


What do you remember from the news this week?

1. Defeated Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro urged his supporters to stop what kind of public protest against the election result?

2. What facility, the biggest of its kind in the world, did China lock down amid a new COVID outbreak?

3. What (fake) news event was the subject of Elon Musk’s first deleted tweet since acquiring Twitter?

4. What was Switzerland crowned for this week: Purest air / Best cheese / Handsomest cows / Most neutral politicians?

[Answers at the bottom of this newsletter]


Ever heard of a country named Listenbourg? That’s probably because this land purportedly located in the vicinity of Portugal and Spain only exists on Twitter. A French user invented a new map with the imaginary land of Listenbourg and the caption “I bet Americans don’t even know the name of this country,” to poke fun at Americans’ notoriously bad grasp of geography. The joke went viral on the social media platform, with other users inventing a history and a national anthem for the fake nation, and the official account of the 2024 Paris Olympic Games welcoming Listenbourg among the national delegations.


• Just Stop Oil activists jailed for targeting Vermeer painting: Two Belgian members of the Just Stop Oil Belgium organization have been each sentenced to two months in prison, after one of them glued his head to the glass covering Johannes Vermeer’s painting Girl with a Pearl Earring at the Mauritshuis museum.

• Japan's Ghibli Park opens: Fans of Studio Ghibli have begun flocking to the new long-awaited theme park dedicated to the popular animation company’s anime that opened on Nov. 1 near Kyoto, in Japan. The park has no rollercoasters or other rides but immerses visitors into the various worlds created by the studio’s co-founder and director, Hayao Miyazaki.

• A peek into a dancer’s life on World Ballet Day: As part of the ninth edition of the World Ballet Day on Nov. 2, more than 50 of the world’s top ballet companies virtually opened their doors with live streaming events featuring dancers’ classes, rehearsals and training sessions.

In memoriam: The culture world mourned this week the deaths of U.S. rapper Takeoff, who was shot dead at 28 in Houston, American author Julie Powell, who had inspired the film Julie & Julia, and South Korean actor and K-pop singer Lee Ji-Han, who was among the victims of the crush that left more than 150 people dead in Seoul.

• New Zulu king crowned in South Africa: Misuzulu ka Zwelithini was crowned as the new Zulu king in South Africa's coastal city of Durban, and formally acknowledged as monarch by the country’s president Cyril Ramaphosa. The ceremony marked the first Zulu coronation since South Africa became a democracy in 1994, after King Goodwill Zwelithini, who reigned for almost 50 years, died last year.

🇳🇴🇷🇺 Tense standoff between small Norwegian town and Russian neighbor

The showdown between the West and Russia isn’t just playing out in the halls of international diplomacy, it is also live in more local settings. In Norway's remote northeastern region of Finnmark, Russian Consul General Nikolai Konygin, who was set to give a speech in Kirkenes, was met with Norwegian protesters who turned their back on him and began waving Ukrainian flags. The protests came against a backdrop of a heated debate in the small town where the mayor had previously expressed reservations about displaying acts of solidarity with Ukraine. According to local journalist Skjalg Fjellheim, this kind of division over relations with Russia is exactly what the Kremlin is hoping for.

Read the full story: Tensions In Norway Border Town, A Perfect Kremlin Recipe To Divide The West

🇮🇷 Fifty days into Iran protests: the blame game has begun

After six weeks of anti-government protests, which have persisted in spite of repression, the first signs of discord are appearing among Tehran's top officials about what has gone wrong. Some political leaders have pointed fingers at police personnel and commanders, who have shown undoubted zeal in castigating protesters, and are calling for moderation while others have demanded the harshest response. Meanwhile, the police have filed complaints against four legislators for commenting on their handling of the demonstrations. “Neither strategy is likely to save the Islamic Republic,” writes Persian-language media Kayhan-London.

Read the full story: Cracks In Iran Regime? Politicians Begin To Blame Police For Protests

🇨🇳👀 China, a security camera nation

Of the nearly one billion security cameras in public spaces in the world today, more than half are believed to be Chinese. China has become a surveillance state, with government purchases accounting for 60% of the nearly trillion dollar Chinese market. In 2016, the government began a new round of large-scale video camera construction known as the “Sharp Eyes Project,” which it packaged as “welfare” because “safety” itself is the greatest benefit to the people. And the monitoring system seems to have gained the approval of a fair share of the population: “Surveys have shown that many people actually hold a fairly supportive attitude towards surveillance programs, believing that sacrificing freedom for ‘safety’ is a pretty good deal,” writes You Ka in Chinese-language media The Initium.

Read the full story: Inside China's Surveillance State, Built On High Tech And A Billion Spies


Isabelle Plumeau, the runner of a funeral home in Paris, is launching France’s first funeral cargo bike which she baptized "Corbicyclette" (combination of the French words for bicycle and hearse). Plumeau says that with her invention, she hopes to make the processions “quieter, slower” as she accompanies families to the cemetery. It is also aimed at reducing the ecological impact of burials.


Officers from the Peruvian National Police wore costumes of comic-book superheroes Spider-Man, Captain America, Thor and Batman to carry out a drug raid in Peru’s capital city Lima. This surprising disguise was part of the “Operation Marvel” mission, which sought to make the agents appear as performers entertaining children at a nearby school.


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

A deaf child's struggle, a taste for simple things

When Pasquale was told that his newborn son was deaf, his world fell apart.

He held that long-awaited and longed-for baby in his arms and cried, not even daring to look him in the eye.

He could not feel joy, but only anxiety at the thought of how difficult life was going to be for his child.

Why couldn't Niccolò be like everyone else? How was Pasquale going to instill confidence and courage in his boy if he himself, the father, could only see a future fraught with trouble and obstacles?

Pasquale and I spent a lot of time talking about his son: the considerable difficulties of the early years, but also those small but monumental achievements, the cochlear implant, rehabilitation, school.

Then the other day, Pasquale tells me that Niccolò had danced a few steps to the rhythm of music.

"I am so proud of my son."

"Yes, Pasquale, Niccolò is quite an extraordinary child."

"No Dottoré. My son is not extraordinary. It’s just that all the hardships he has faced have made him more appreciative of the simple things — he’s happier than us.

He is like men in primitive times. They would wake up in the morning, already knowing they would have to struggle to eat and survive. But if in the evening they had found themselves at home with a steak served on a plate with forks, they would have thrown it all out, except for the meat. Yes, you can be sure that they would have kept the meat and eaten it — but they would have used their hands, Dottoré, and enjoyed it much more than we ever could."


• The U.S. will hold its midterm elections on Tuesday, which will see all 435 House seats, and 35 of the 100 Senate seats on the ballot, as well as gubernatorial elections in 36 out of 50 states. Republicans have a strong chance of taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives, while Democrats are holding out hope of retaining their slim majority in the Senate.

• COP27, the UN’s climate conference, takes place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, from Nov. 6-18. More than 200 countries will be in attendance, seeking to “act on a range of issues critical to addressing the climate emergency,” the United Nations said.

• Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s forecasted new leader, is expected to form a government and assemble a majority coalition.

• As early as next week, Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk says he will start charging users $8 per month for its new “Blue Service,” which will include the coveted blue check mark indicating verified accounts, in an attempt to rely less on advertising revenue.

News quiz answers:

1. Outgoing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro made an appeal to truck drivers to stop blocking roads in protest of his election loss to leftist Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva, suggesting they choose other ways to demonstrate.

2. Foxconn, one of Apple’s largest suppliers, is facing panic among workers at its biggest iPhone assembly factory in China, after a COVID-19 outbreak. With Zero-COVID policy still in place in China, authorities imposed a seven-day lockdown of the area that houses the Foxconn plant in the central city of Zhengzhou.

3. Just days after buying the social media platform, eccentric billionaire Elon Musk tweeted (then deleted) a conspiracy theory claiming Nancy Pelosi’s husband Paul Pelosi had been attacked by a man he’d met in a gay bar.

4. The 2022 edition of the World Cheese Awards has elected the best cheese in the world: a gruyère from Switzerland, chosen by a panel of top judges and beating out the competition of 4,434 other cheeses from 42 other countries.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Zelensky Should Cancel His Visit To Israel Right Now

After the postponement of Ukrainian president Zelensky's planned trip to Israel, there are voices now saying it should be cancelled outright. What's the price of Ukraine publicly declaring its support for the current actions of the Israeli government and military?

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrives for a ceremony to present the families of military heroes the Golden Star Order during a ceremony at the Mariinsky Palace, October 27, 2023 in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the Mariinsky Palace, October 27, 2023 in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Ukraine Presidency/Planet Pix/ZUMA
Serhii Sydorenko


KYIV — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's planned visit to Israel on Tuesday was postponed after a weekend leak that revealed details of his arrival. Reports suggest that Zelensky remains eager to travel to Tel Aviv to express support for the Jewish state amidst the ongoing conflict.

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This risks becoming the President's most significant foreign policy blunder since the start of the Russian invasion.

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