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In The News

Le Weekend: Rema’s One Billion, Libya Before/After, Butterfly Cooling

Le Weekend: Rema’s One Billion, Libya Before/After, Butterfly Cooling

Rema's "Calm Down" is the first African artist-led track to join the Billions Club on Spotify.

Sept. 16-17

  • Ukrainian refugees’ tough choices
  • A rugby-cycling uphill adventure
  • *NSYNC’s back
  • … and much more.


What do you remember from the news this week?

1. Beyond record rainfall, what infrastructure is being blamed for the extreme death toll in Libya's floods?

2. How did North Korean leader Kim Jong-un travel to his meeting with Vladimir Putin in eastern Russia?

3. New details have emerged on what highly debated event in 20th-century U.S. history?

4. What happened in the Portuguese town of São Lourenço do Bairro? It rained frogs / Red wine flowed down the streets / Half the town got hiccups

[Answers at the bottom of this newsletter]


As the death toll continues to rise in Libya, before-and-after satellite photos of the city of Derna and its surrounding areas have gone viral on X (formerly Twitter). In a post published on Sept. 13 by Europe’s Copernicus Institute, pictures show the destructive effects of the flooding from Storm Daniel in the Libyan desert.


• Saudi Arabia hosts first UNESCO World Heritage Committee session: The 45th extended session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee has kicked off in Riyadh — a first for Saudi Arabia which was voted committee chair earlier this year. Representatives from 21 countries will assess proposals from states that wish to add their sites to the World Heritage List during the session which will last until Sept. 24.

• Family of late U.S. billionaire to return looted artifacts to Cambodia: The family of the late George Lindemann, an American billionaire businessman and collector, has agreed to return 33 ancient artifacts to the Cambodian government after investigators determined that the treasures had been looted. The objects include statues and artwork belonging to the Khmer people, with some dating back at least 1,200 years.

• Rema becomes first African lead artist to reach 1 billion Spotify streams: Nigerian singer Rema’s “Calm Down” remix, featuring Selena Gomez, has crossed one billion streams on Spotify one year after it was released. It is the first African artist-led track to join the Billions Club on the audio streaming platform.

• Blackface backlash on Polish TV: Twoja Twarz Brzmi Znajomo, the Polish version of long-running franchise Your Face Sounds Familiar, has sparked outrage after contestants darkened their skins to impersonate U.S. singers Kendrick Lamar and Beyoncé, and singer Kuba Szmajkowski used the N-word. The French parent company of Endemol Shine Poland, which produces the show, condemned the use of blackface and said an “internal investigation” had been opened.

• *NSYNC announces first new song in over 20 years: One day after the U.S. boys band reunion at the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards, *NSYNC has announced it would release “Better Place,” its first new song in over 20 years, as part of the upcoming animated movie Trolls Band Together.

🇺🇦 Ukraine, after the war: what if no one comes home?

The war isn't the only thing that stands in the way of the homecoming of Ukrainian refugees. A lot depends on the efficiency of post-war economic recovery. Yaroslav Vinokurov writes for Ukrainian media Ukrainska Pravda about a new study that warns that up to 3.3 million won't be coming back after the fighting stops.

Read the full story: If 3.3 Million Ukrainian Refugees Never Come Home? The Economics Of Post-War Life Choices

🇹🇷 Imprisoned for 31 years and finally freed

Mehmet Aytunç Altay was finally released last month after being arrested in Istanbul for his political activity in 1993. The world around has changed, even if his convictions stand firm. Gökçer Tahincioğlu met up with the newly freed man for Turkish media Oksijen.

Read the full story: What's Changed, What Hasn't: A Turkish Political Prisoner Walks Free After 31 Years

🔌🚗 My journey across Europe in an electric car

The author set off on a three-week vacation trip across Europe in an electric car. Would the charging infrastructure be enough to make it all the way, or would he end up stranded far from home? Nando Sommerfeldt recounts his experience for German daily Die Welt.

Read the full story: Crossing Europe, Sans Gas? My Summer Vacation 'Stress Test' For Electric Cars


Researchers at the Chinese University of Shenzhen have developed a butterfly-inspired colored coating which allows surfaces to stay cool by reducing the amount of heat they absorb. The researchers took inspiration from the color and structure of butterfly wings, and it could be used for a variety of everyday items, such as roofs, cars and even clothing. In experiments, this coating was able to reduce temperatures to 2 °C (35.6 °F) below room temperature.


Despite losing to France during their 2023 Rugby World Cup opening match, two members of New Zealand’s team demonstrated they’d kept their joie de vivre. A video released on X (formerly Twitter) shows George Bower and Andy Ellis cycling through the French city of Lyon, where the All Blacks are based during the tournament. Their uphill race using Lyon’s public bicycle sharing system earned high fives from the locals.


• Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is set to visit Washington next week and is expected to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday, as part of efforts to make the case for ongoing aid to his country.

• Apple will release its iOS 17 update for iPhones and iPads on Sep. 18, introducing new features such as a built-in journaling app, live voicemail and better auto-correct.

North Korea’s national soccer team is set to play its first international match in four years, by taking part in the Hangzhou Asian Games in China. The nation had shut its borders since the COVID-19 pandemic and withdrew from all competitions.

News quiz answers:

1. After heavy flooding caused by Storm Daniel swept away entire neighborhoods in several coastal towns in Eastern Libya, two dams in Derna collapsed from the water pressure, which led to thousands of more deaths in addition to those from the flooding.

2. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok to discuss relations and mutual support. Kim traveled by train to the Eastern Russian city. The green train is a special bulletproof and incredibly powerful one that Kim, his father and grandfather had used to visit China, Russia or the former Soviet Union.

3. Sixty years later, new details are emerging about the assassination of President John F Kennedy. Paul Landis, an 88-year-old former Secret Service agent who witnessed the president's death at close range, says in an upcoming memoir that he picked up a bullet from the car after Kennedy was shot, and then left it on the former president's stretcher at the hospital.

4. About 2.2 million liters of red wine flowed through the streets of the small Portuguese town after two tanks from the local distillery burst, forcing the local fire department to divert the flood away into a nearby field.

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*Photo: Przewodnik TV screenshot

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

How A Russian Mercenary Company Is Recruiting Women In Eastern Ukraine

As Russian casualties in Ukraine mount, a Ministry of Defense-supervised mercenary company is recruiting women for combat roles, for the first time ever.

How A Russian Mercenary Company Is Recruiting Women In Eastern Ukraine

A member of the Borz battalion

Anastasiya Korotkova

A pro-Russian battalion in the Eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk has announced a recruitment drive targeting women for combat positions. The "Borz" battalion is led by the "Redut" private military company (PMС), which operates under the supervision of the Russian Ministry of Defense.

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

The recruitment announcement was posted on VKontakte, the Russian equivalent of Facebook. It signals a departure from the traditionally male-dominated composition of military forces and seeks to establish a female sniper unit and a female unit for operating unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

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