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Photo of a bottle of Sriracha sauce on a restaurant table

You know what they call it in Paris?

June 25-26

  • A foreigner’s view on U.S. gun culture
  • Scholz, at home and abroad
  • A environmentally-minded robo-fish
  • … and much more.

⬇️ STARTER 

Special Sauce To Sriracha, Globalization Is Thriving And Terribly Broken

For some, it is the most memorable Hollywood dialogue of the late 20th century. Two hitmen driving through Los Angeles (on the way to their next job) are discussing what one calls the “little differences” between the U.S. and Europe after his visit to Amsterdam and Paris.

You know what they call a Quarter-Pounder with cheese in Paris?

They don’t call it a Quarter-Pounder with cheese?

No, they got the metric system there, they wouldn’t know what the f*ck a Quarter-Pounder is.

Then what do they call it?

They call it a Royale with cheese

Royale with cheese [smiles]. What do they call a Big Mac?

Big Mac’s a Big Mac, but they call it Le Big Mac.

Le Big Mac. [laughs] What do they call a Whopper?

I don’t know. I didn’t go to Burger King.

The exchange in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction gives us a singular je-ne-sais-quoi cool from John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson, as genuine curiosity in that which is foreign meets the utterly mundane.

The movie came out in 1994, at a moment when some believed the Pax Americana was bound to last forever as the Cold War had given way to the global dominance of U.S. culture, commerce … and fast food chains. The opening in 1990 of the first McDonald’s in Moscow was hailed as bonafide geopolitical history: The Iron Curtain had come down and the special sauce was flowing.

The same Golden Arches metaphor has been hauled back out in recent weeks — in the inverse — by commentators and politicians alike, as McDonald’s closed up all its Russia-based restaurants last month, in response to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Putin has insisted on a knock-off Russian burger brand taking over the shuttered McDonald’s locations, with stories shared about the similar menu, subbing in a new logo and customers barely noticing the difference in the products. Had the Kremlin gotten hold of the secret sauce recipe?

For the Russian president, the rebranded burgers would be proof on the domestic front (as pumped-up energy sales in Asia were abroad) that Moscow could withstand any economic sanctions the West had to present.

As with many other aspects of the Russian war in Ukraine, it is an odd twist to events: counterfeiting American fast food as evidence of standing up to the power of the American economy.

But it’s also worth remembering that around the same time that Tarantino’s hitmen were pondering the Royale with cheese, celebrated New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman had proposed what he called the “Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention.” As global capitalism expanded, he explained, conflict would eventually dissipate because countries had too much to lose in their economic and commercial relationships. “No two countries that both have a McDonald’s have ever fought a war against each other,” Friedman declared.

Of course, the theory has long since been proven far too optimistic — and as one commentator put it, “lazy” at its origin.

I have neither the foresight nor energy myself to come up with an alternative. Still, we know that food always gives us something to chew on. The war in Ukraine has set off economic disaster that extends well beyond Russia or McDonald’s, and we’re currently seeing factors from climate change to blockades to supply chain breakdowns combine to create serious food shortages — risking famine in some places, and elsewhere leaving shoppers without some of their favorite staple goods and consumer products.

That brings us to Sriracha, Thailand’s own brand of (spicy) special sauce, which by now is a beloved condiment for a variety of foods around the world. In recent months, a series of circumstances, including drought in Mexico, have caused a shortage of the chili peppers needed to produce Sriracha, and the global supply is expected to remain severely limited for months to come.

It’s a missing squirt of spice in the lives of diners around a world where globalized cuisine has long since spread well beyond multilingual McDonald’s. It no doubt has the makings of a new theory on where our messy world is heading. Hmmm…?

In the meantime, you know what they call it in Paris: La Sriracha.

— Jeff Israely

🎲 OUR WEEKLY NEWS QUIZ

What do you remember from the news this week?

1. The BRICS summit was held this week, gathering the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China — and…?

2. Which country just voted to dissolve its parliament and move toward a new election, for the fifth time in less than four years?

3. Twitter is testing a new “notes” feature that would let its users write how many words: 500 / 1,500 / 2,500?

4. What was caught in Cambodia, at a record 13 feet (4 meters) and weighing 660 pounds (300 kg)?

[Answers at the bottom of this newsletter]

🎭  5 CULTURE THINGS TO KNOW

More than 150 cultural sites destroyed in Ukraine: UNESCO has released a new assessment of the damage inflicted on cultural landmarks during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. An estimated 152 sites have been destroyed so far, most of them in the Donetsk, Kharkiv and Kyiv regions.

• Controversial mural taken down at German art fair: A mural depicting soldiers with antisemitic attributes has been criticized by German and Israeli authorities after it was exhibited at the documenta contemporary art fair in Germany. Taring Padi, the Indonesian collective behind the artwork, denied the allegations but the mural was subsequently taken down.

• Rupert Murdoch & Jerry Hall split: Australian-born U.S. media mogul Rupert Murdoch, 91, and American actress and model Jerry Hall, 65, are getting a divorce after six years of marriage. This is Murdoch’s fourth divorce and Hall’s second — she was previously married to the Rolling Stones’ frontman Mick Jagger from 1990 to 1999.

• “Lucy” paleontologist Yves Coppens dies: French paleontologist Yves Coppens, who was part of the team who discovered 3.2-million-year-old female Australopithecus fossil nicknamed “Lucy” in Ethiopia in 1974, has died aged 87 after a long illness.

Kate and Will’s first official portrait: The first official joint portrait of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Kate and William, has been unveiled at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England. The portrait was painted by British artist Jamie Coreth and will be loaned to the National Portrait Gallery in London in 2023 to celebrate its reopening.

🇩🇪 Can German Chancellor Olaf Scholz cope with the pressure?


German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has had a trial by fire since taking over for Angela Merkel, writes Claus Christian Malzahn for German daily Die Welt. With European leadership in high demand, Scholz has claimed that Germany bears “a very special responsibility.”

Read the full story: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz: A Very Special Responsibility

🇺🇸 Trying to understand U.S. "gun culture"


Understanding the unique nature of U.S. gun culture and the politics surrounding the issue can be confusing for Americans, let alone for foreigners who live there. In this essay for independent magazine La Marea, Spanish writer Azahara Palomeque, who just left the U.S. after living there for 12 years, recounts her thoughts and experiences living in a country so riddled with gun violence that she was close to panicking every time she walked out the door.

Between gun violence and the most expensive healthcare system in the world, the U.S. is governed by “necropolitics,” she says: the ruling class gets to decide who lives and who dies.

Read the full story: Real Fear, Fake Politics: How U.S. Gun Culture Looks To A Foreigner Living There

🇭🇰 The struggle to return for Hong Kong 2019 protesters


About 4,000 students have been arrested since the 2019 democracy protests in Hong Kong, and of those arrested, 1,150 have been prosecuted. Now three years later, some of those students are attempting to reintegrate into society. They may, at long last, be out of prison, but a new set of struggles await them, from finishing school to job hunting.

This piece by Hye-kwan Lee and Stanley Leung for Chinese-language media The Initium details the bitter road back for some of those arrested.

Read the full story: A Bitter Road Back For Hong Kong Students Arrested During 2019 Protests

#️⃣  TRENDING


A vintage, home-grown fast food chain in the Philippines called Tropical Hunt soared in popularity this week after a customer posted a picture showing an empty restaurant in Manila, prompting fans of the chain to post about their memories of the chain on social media. Tropical Hunt opened in 1965 and has become so popular now that some branches had to turn away dine-in customers to prioritize delivery orders. Hiring ads for the chain have also begun popping up on Twitter, so the restaurants can keep up with the increased demand.

🤖🌊 BRIGHT IDEA

Researchers at the Sichuan University in China have unveiled a tiny, self-propelled bionic fish robot capable of removing harmful microplastics from seas and oceans. The fish-bot absorbs the polluting particles through its soft body so that they can later be analyzed by scientists. It can also fix itself if it gets damaged thanks to the material it is made of — inspired by nacre, the interior of shell clams.

🐘🐘🐘  SMILE OF THE WEEK


An officer from the Indian Forest Office captured a cute video showing a herd of elephants walking on a road in southern India in a very tight way to protect a calf in the middle. “Nobody on Earth can provide better security than an elephant herd to the cute newborn baby,” tweeted the man along with the viral video.

⏩  LOOKING AHEAD

• The 2022 NATO summit will take place June 29-30, with a dozen leaders of the alliance attending the event in Madrid, Spain, and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenski virtually addressing the G7 and NATO summits.

• The 109th edition of the Tour de France kicks off on July 1 in the streets of Copenhagen, Denmark. The Tour will end in Paris on July 24.

• Starting July 1, Australian pet owners will be required to keep their cats indoors or contain them in enclosures 24/7 to prevent them from killing or hunting other animals in the wild.

• Wimbledon is set to open next week — and for the first time in over two decades, without Swiss tennis icon and eight-time winner Roger Federer who will undergo a third operation on his right knee.

News quiz answers:

1. China was the host of the 14th BRICS summit with the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa connecting virtually to discuss global economic recovery, climate action and public health.

2. Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced the dissolution of his weakened coalition and called for new elections, which will be the fifth in three years. Foreign Affairs Minister Yair Lapid will take over from Bennett as early as next week until a new government is sworn in.

3. Chatty people will be delighted to learn that Twitter is testing a new “notes” feature allowing users to write up to 2,500 words, in addition to its posts limited to 280 characters.

4. A giant stingray caught in the Mekong river in Cambodia has been recorded as the largest known freshwater fish.


✍️ Newsletter by Worldcrunch

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*Photo: Hiroko Nishimura

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Confronting The Dangers Of A War Reporter

Of the some 9,000 journalists believed to have arrived in Ukraine to report on the war, many were under-prepared. A course in France is now training them on how to face the harsh realities of conflict and teaching them essential survival techniques.

The objective of the training is not for journalists to learn how to face dangers but mainly how to avoid them.

Marina Alcaraz

BEAUVAIS — The ground is soaked with blood. A young man screams, struggling to make himself heard amid the gunfire. The bullet-proof vest with the word "PRESS" emblazoned on it seems insignificant in this moment of horror. Under Russian fire, his colleague has to extract him before he bleeds to death. He only has a few seconds to decide how to transport the injured man, who is weighed down by his equipment. Just a few more seconds to evaluate the severity of the wounds. Two serious injuries, a wounded eye… There are only a few minutes to save his life by applying a tourniquet and taking his pulse before calling emergency services, which will in any case only arrive two hours later.

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

The crackling of the bullets, the adrenaline, the fear and the silence that follows… the whole scene is utter chaos. Except this is not Ukraine, where the war is still raging. It's a shooting range about 75 kilometers north of Paris.

Emergency training

This simulation is the result of a course organized for journalists and technicians who work in danger zones. In May, a dozen employees of the French public broadcaster — some with experience, others without — spent a week in immersive training. This meant a few days of preparation before leaving for or returning to Ukraine.

In order to cover the war, which takes place just a few hours' flight from Paris, media organizations sent a huge amount of reporters — some 9,000 accredited journalists, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Young freelancers also went of their own accord, sometimes without even the most basic survival knowledge.

"Ukraine has created a sort of training emergency," says Jean-Christophe Gérard, security director of media company France Médias Monde. "The 'press' vest or badge no longer offers the protection it used to.”

Yan Kadouch, an editor and participant in the course, says: "I have been on several fronts, but often behind the army. In Ukraine, I really felt unsafe. With the artillery fire, it's a lottery."

In danger zones, every decision can lead to death

In Ukraine, eight journalists have lost their lives since the start of the war and 16 have been wounded, according to numbers by RSF. The death of French journalist Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff a few weeks ago has left its mark. "He had not even taken any irresponsible risks. This tragedy reminded us how dangerous this war is," says Omar Ouahmane, a senior reporter at Radio France, who has been doing this job for years.

Patrick Chauvel, a veteran photo journalist, agrees. "Unfortunately, you don’t have to go to the front to be killed. In Ukraine, the military uses very heavy weapons, which are rarely seen elsewhere." This training was actually born out of a tragedy: the kidnapping and murder of two French journalists working in 2013 in Mali. Since 2015, this course has welcomed a total of 460 journalists and technicians from audiovisual and print media.

What war preparation involves

Participants are trained by former members of the military. The objective is not to learn how to face dangers but mainly how to avoid them. A bullet-proof vest or even a chemical suit is not enough in Ukraine. It is important to “always be vigilant,” says Michael Illouz, a security expert. “Knowing how to react in certain situation is already a good start.”

For example, in the heat of the first aid exercise, none of the trainees remembered how many shots were fired, and none thought to put on gloves before touching their colleague's wounds. A lot of the advice given is common sense: do not carry your backpack behind you in a minefield to prevent something falling out, do not step too far away from your car to relieve yourself, do not stand next to the armed forces.

To confront them with other possible situations, the journalists are placed in a messy room: an overturned table, chairs on the floor and a pack of cigarettes with a file still intact, in broad daylight. “Everything that seems incoherent should alarm you: there could be explosives,” warns Stéphane Ulhen, a former army mine expert, now a security consultant.

“In danger zones, every decision can lead to death,” he emphasizes. In 2017, three journalists working for a French television program were killed during a mine explosion in Mosul, Iraq. A big part of the training is also focused on gestures that can save a life, following the acronym MARCHE (M = Massive bleeding, A = Airway, R = Respiration, C = Circulation, H = Head & Hypothermia, E = Everything else).

“Bleeding out is the number one cause of preventable death," says Fabrice Simon-Chautemps, a former army paramedic and now a trainer. And the training is quite rigorous: the participants are, for example, capable of treating an evisceration or a thoracic wound affecting the lungs as a first aid measure.

Journalists as targets

Shortly before the terrorist attacks hit Paris on Nov. 13, 2015, a production manager had taken the course. That evening, because she lived in the neighborhood, she went to get her first aid kit and was able to save lives by applying tourniquets.

“It is essential to have first aid skills. Journalists have died because people around them did not know what to do. For example, thanks to this knowledge, I was able to compress a wound on my stomach I had gotten in Panama, with a piece of my shirt and my belt, while waiting for the paramedics that only arrived a few hours later,” says Chauvel.

Even without traveling across the world, the trainees learn how to stay safe in a large crowd. Many journalists were targeted during anti-vaccination protests in France. “A journalist has become a target in certain cases,” says Jean-Christophe Gérard. “Some media outlets assign security guards to them, but I don't think that's the solution: the job is all about going out into the field, being in contact with people, whereas the bodyguard is more likely to try to get in the way. In any case, he wouldn’t be able to do much against an angry crowd.”

But the training is also intended to make people aware of their limits. One of the participants admits never having worn a bullet-proof vest and says they are “extremely heavy” (20-26 lb). Another one is afraid of not having the physical strength to carry someone on their shoulder in case of a real injury.

“I realize that I have been lucky in the past,” says journalist Marie-Pierre Vérot, who decided to take the course. “I have already found myself in complicated situations, for example in the middle of gunfire in a house in Indonesia. My first reflex was to hide under a table, which does not really protect from bullets. I will now take further precautions and think more about possible outcomes.”

A journalist taking pictures in the village of Komyshuvakha, southern Ukraine, after it was bombarded by Russian forces

Dmytro Smoliyenko/Ukrinform/ZUMA

The fixer's role 

Many of the journalists think that the course (marketed at $4,300) should also be followed by their managers, who do not necessarily realize the potential threats, whether those are physical or digital. "Journalists often leave with their personal phones and computers full of documents. If they are captured, there is a risk of finding their sources, for example," says Guillaume Barcelo, an expert in information systems security.

In conflict zones, teams of two or three people are usually tracked by their editors, who help them manage logistics. The journalists must then follow precise protocols with prohibitions and missions. But, in the end, they are the ones who are best able to perceive the danger on the ground, along with the fixer. The fixer is a key component in war reporting. They translate, give guidance on the ground, and bring their network of contacts. In some cases, they even drive and find witnesses. In fact, they take the same risks as their Western colleagues and even risk more reprisals. A fixer in Ukraine generally costs between 250 and 350 dollars a day, but the rate can go up depending on the danger.

Some have become addicted to the field

Some of them are journalists in their own countries, while others come from civil society organizations, “but they all have a sense of resourcefulness,” says Charles Villa, a reporter who has just made a documentary on the profession. In Ukraine, Villa was "surprised to see many fixers taking up arms... Now, with the influx of foreign journalists, some of them who had never done this before are participating.” Especially women. Given the difficulty of finding the right people, some American television stations used specialized protection companies like Chiron, with bodyguards who accompanied the journalists.

If the profession of war reporter is accompanied by a hint of heroism, these journalists are not at all reckless. "Fear is our life insurance," says Omar Ouahmane, who has covered several conflicts.

“We are not looking for adrenaline," says Charles Villa, who attended a training course organized by the army in the south of France a few years ago. "War reporters are mostly reasonable and rational. They seek to emerge in terms of their career, while living extraordinary situations. Some have become addicted to the field," adds Denis Ruellan, a researcher in information and communication sciences and an author of books on war reporters.

A cellar in Chechnya

War reporters know about anxiety. Journalists or technicians in dangerous areas have all come close to serious trouble or even death. Charles Villa has risked his own life on several occasions, in Yemen, or in the Congo when he came face to face with a local warlord. Each one of them recounts with humility the moment when everything changed. Omar Ouahmane remembers a report in Sirte (a city in Libya) where the experienced Dutch photographer, Jeroen Oerlemans, was shot in front of him while crossing a street. "What saved me was that I took some time to observe before I went to follow him."

Patrick Chauvel spent a few hours in a cellar in Chechnya, sure that he was going to stay there and managed to get out by running at the right moment. Not everyone was so lucky.

So what drives war reporters to do their jobs? “I love adventure, the physical side, meeting extraordinary people, living history," answers Patrick Chauvel.

”It is in conflict zones that humanity stands out the most," adds Omar Ouahmane.That’s where we belong as journalists."

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