- Fake news of a coup in China
- Up close with Russian deserters
- Sheep taking over London Bridge
- … and much more.
Celebrating our beloved drug for the ages: coffee ☕️
There’s Ukraine and Russia. There’s Iran. In some places COVID cases are rising again. There’s plenty to keep up with around the world, and millions do it with an extra kick from a good ol’ cup of Joe.
As Oct. 1 marks International Coffee Day, we explore what is indeed a stimulant substance, and was once considered an addictive menace straight from the world’s best-known source of the stuff: Colombia. Here’s a piece published this week by Julián López de Mesa Samudio of Bogotá-based daily El Espectador:
For almost a century now we have largely tied our national destiny, culture and image abroad to this drink. Indeed it isn't just Colombia's star product, it became through the course of the 20th century the world's favorite beverage — and the most commonly used drug to boost work output.
Precisely for its stimulating qualities — and for being a mild drug — coffee was not always celebrated, and its history is peppered with the kinds of bans, restrictions and penalties imposed on the 'evil' drugs of today.
The first solid evidence of coffee consumption was in the early 15th century, when Islamic mystics (also known as dervishes or Sufis) imported its grains from Harar in Abyssinia (Ethiopia) into the port of Mukha (or Mocha) in Yemen.
The plant is native to Ethiopia, where coffee was used to keep people awake in night rituals and ceremonies. More than awake in fact: it sent them into a state of intoxication that compounded the chants and litanies that would carry them closer to God.
Through the Sufis, coffee spread from southern Arabia to the rest of the Islamic world: Egypt and North Africa, the Ottoman Empire and Safavid Persia. But already in 1511, it faced its first ban, in Mecca, for its stimulating effects on its consumers.
In Cairo, it became illegal in 1532 to possess or consume coffee grains, as many jurists and teachers concluded coffee had the same, inebriating effects as alcoholic drinks. Islam prohibits alcohol consumption for its altering of the mind, creating dependence and degrading people to bestial levels.
The ban reached a peak under the Ottoman Sultan Murad IV (1623-40), when drinking coffee was outlawed, and banished in society, across the empire. Texts referred to coffee then in terms reserved for narcotic substances, and drinking it became punishable by death.
The ban on coffee in the 16th and 17th centuries even arrived back to its original home in Ethiopia, where the Church proscribed it in the late 17th century until well into the 19th century. Like Islam, the Ethiopian Church deplored its overstimulating effects and addictive quality.
Many countries like Colombia have profited from its production and trade, while countries that were not traditional growers, like Indonesia and Vietnam, have successfully entered this vast business.
— Julián López de Mesa Samudio / El Espectador
What do you remember from the news this week?
1. What was the top percentage claimed by pro-Russian forces to have voted in favor of annexation in the referendums in the four occupied regions of Ukraine?
2. Giorgia Meloni will become Italy's first female prime minister. What is the name of her far-right party?
3. Eliud Kipchoge broke his own marathon record by 30 seconds in Berlin, finishing in 2:01:09. What country does Kipchoge hail from?
4. Liverpool and Glasgow are vying to host what cultural event next year: The World’s Fair / The first Spring Olympics / The Eurovision song contest / The 60th International Art Exhibition?
[Answers at the bottom of this newsletter]
As a testament to how quickly false information can spread online, rumors surrounding China’s president Xi Jinping began popping up on Twitter for the past week with the hashtag #Chinacoup, saying the leader had been overthrown and put under house arrest. The speculation, originally posted by an exiled Chinese journalist, gained even more traction after a Beijing correspondent for a German news outlet tweeted a thread sarcastically covering the faux-coup as real news, which was then picked up by a major TV news channel in India.
• Roger Waters & Ukraine/Russia war: Concerts of Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters were canceled by venues in Krakow, Poland, following comments he made about the war in Ukraine. Waters criticized the supply of weapons by the West in an open letter to Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska. The artist, who was declared “persona non grata” in Poland for only addressing one side of the conflict, responded by writing another open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin urging him to bring an end to the war through a ceasefire and peace talks.
• Chess world in turmoil: Two scandals have rocked checkered chess boards this week. First, Norwegian grandmaster Magnus Carlsen, who had abruptly resigned from a game against U.S. player Hans Niemann, accused him of cheating on Monday. Niemann denied it, although he admitted to having cheated in the past. Then on Tuesday, Israeli grandmaster and chess commentator Ilya Smirin was sacked by the International Chess Federation for making sexist comments during the Women's Grand Prix in Kazakhstan. Smirin admitted he had privately suggested that chess is “maybe not for women” and praised a woman for “playing like a man.”
• "AI am your father”: James Earl Jones, 91, has officially retired as Darth Vader’s iconic breathy voice, which he last interpreted for a voice cameo back in 2019. His job will be taken over by Ukrainian startup Respeecher thanks to an AI program that will be able to recreate his voice for further Star Wars projects.
• Myanmar OnlyFans model sentenced to six years in jail: Former doctor and model Nang Mwe San has been sentenced to six years in jail by a military court in Myanmar for “harming culture and dignity” after she posted pictures on adult subscription site OnlyFans. As the first person in Myanmar to have been jailed for OnlyFans content, it has been noted that Nang Mwe San has taken part in protests against the military.
• K-pop sweeps into Saudi Arabia: The Middle East, like other parts of the world, has been hit by the K-pop craze. Saudi Arabia will be holding the annual Korean culture convention KCON for the first time from Sept. 30 to Oct. 1. A dozen K-pop acts also took place in Abu Dhabi earlier this month, while Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Culture visited Seoul in June to discuss collaboration in the cultural field with a major K-pop producer.
After Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “partial mobilization” of the country to fight in the war in Ukraine, thousands of people are fleeing the country. Important Stories, an independent Russian-language news site, spoke to three of the many thousands who have chosen to leave their country. These testimonies convey the dilemma of leaving one’s country or fighting in a way they don’t believe in.
Read the full story: Why I Fled: Meet The Russian Men Choosing Exile Over Putin's War
In December 2016, with the arrival of Donald Trump to power in the U.S., Spanish independent magazine La Marea organized a debate with prominent analysts to collect the responses the left was devising in the face of this wave that threatens the basic principles of a democracy. Six years later, their insights are more urgent and insightful than ever, especially after Giorgia Meloni was just elected Italy’s president.
“Fascism is going to be a reality in the whole of Europe in less than five years. And it is a complicated fascism because it is much more subtle. It does not have a face as familiar and it’s harder to distinguish when it’s coming.” That was the prediction back then by prominent Spanish politician Pablo Iglesias, who has since retired from politics.
Read the full story: We Still Don't Know How To Fight Fascism — 2016 Warnings Coming To Life
In West and North Africa, families of migrants who've vanished have come together to support each other and pay tribute to their family members. On Sept. 6, 2022 in the town of Zarzis, in the south of Tunisia, families of people who went missing during migration marched with sympathetic activists, holding banners and slogans in hopes of someday finding out the truth and getting justice for their loved ones.
Read the full story: Across Africa, Families Of Migrants Lost At Sea Join Forces For Comfort And Justice
Air conditioners are commonly singled out for their harmful environmental impact and greenhouse gas emissions. But their use is predicted to increase significantly as temperatures rise across the world. As an answer to this issue, a research team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has developed a passive cooling systemwhich relies on evaporation and radiation, but not electricity, to produce cooler air. The device can provide up to 9.3 °C of cooling from the ambient temperature.
The London Sheep Drive and Livery Fair celebrated its 10th anniversary last Sunday, gathering more than 1,000 Freemen of London for a tradition that dates back to the 12th century. Freemen were originally members of the city craft guilds and allowed to bring their sheep into the city without a bridge toll to sell them at the market. When cars started taking over the roads in the 20th century, the tradition disappeared — but the Worshipful Company of Woolmen revived it a decade years ago. A fab-ewe-lous event for passersby and tourists who were able to snap woolesome photos of sheep trotting across London Bridge.
Here’s the latest Dottoré! piece from the notebook of Neapolitan psychiatrist and writer Mariateresa Fichele:
Sowing The Seeds Of Paranoia
"Dottoré, I know a lot of flags, and let me tell you why. I grew up in the province of Caserta, and — like everybody in those days — my parents owned a piece of land, and they would take me with them to farm it.
I remember there were other kids in the fields around us. But then, slowly, we were the only ones left because everybody was selling the land, making a lot of money off of it too.
Papà wouldn't listen to reason and he kept the land. But in the meantime, instead of farmers, trucks began to arrive. Many many trucks, unloading thousands of barrels and burying them into the ground.
I would look at the trucks' license plates: They had flags on them, all of them different, from all over the world. So I bought a book and learned them, one by one. My parents and I didn't speak any of those languages so we couldn't ask these people what they were doing, but one day I heard my father say :
'They must be dumping garbage — good, it makes for good fertilizer!’
Yet, Dottoré, Mamma and Papà died young from cancer, and I was diagnosed with schizophrenia at 18. Now, you may think this is another persecution I suffer from. But that garbage, in my opinion, was not manure — it was poison!"
Giovanni, 56, died a week ago. Unfortunately, on this point, he probably wasn't paranoid at all.
➡️ Read more from our Dottoré! series on Worldcrunch.com
• Brazil is set to have its first round of presidential elections on Oct. 2. Candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is leading over current President Jair Bolsonaro according to a poll released by IPEC. Lula reached 48% of voters' support against 31% for Bolsonaro a week before Election Day. If no candidate reaches more than 50% in the first round, a run-off between the top two finishers will take place Oct. 30.
• A delegation from Sweden’s Ministry of Justice will arrive in Turkey on Oct. 5. Scheduled talks involving senior officials will deal with Sweden’s NATO application as well as the extradition of “criminal terrorists” from Sweden to Turkey.
• Cambodia Culture Week in Vietnam 2022 is taking place until Oct. 2 in Ho Chi Minh city and the Mekong Delta province. The event is organized in honor of the 55th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two nations.
• Paris Fashion Week will last until Oct. 5, with the world’s top designers showcasing their Spring/Summer 2023 collections. Leathers and monochromes will be taking the main stage, with furs and feathers expected to make a comeback.
News quiz answers:
1. According to Russian officials, 93% of votes cast in the Zaporizhzhya region were in favor of being annexed by Moscow, 87% in the Kherson region, 98% in Luhansk and 99% in Donetsk.
2. Far-right Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni is poised to become the country’s first ever female Prime Minister as she vowed to “govern for all Italians.”
3. Eliud Kipchoge set a new world record at the Berlin marathon, breaking his own previous record by 30 seconds. The Kenyan double Olympic champion has won 15 out of the 17 marathons he has run through his career.
4. Liverpool and Glasgow are the two cities vying to host the 2023 Eurovision song contest, organized by the United Kingdom on behalf of Ukraine, which can’t host the event because of the war.
✍️ Newsletter by Worldcrunch
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*Photo: Peter Gercke/dpa/ZUMA