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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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The Endless War

Inside Israel's Plans To Transfer Palestinians From Gaza To Egypt's Sinai

Dubbed by some as the 'Eiland plan,' after a retired Israel general, Egypt is vehemently opposed to any attempt to transfer Palestinian refugees from Gaza, which could turn Sinai into a launch pad for operations against Israel, and ultimately redraw the map of the Middle East again.

Inside Israel's Plans To Transfer Palestinians From Gaza To Egypt's Sinai

Palestinians at the Rafah border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip.

Lina Attalah


CAIRO — On October 24, a document leaked from Israeli Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel detailed that a durable post-war solution for Gaza has to include the transfer of Palestinians to Sinai, Egypt. According to the document obtained by the Israeli Calcalist news website, the move would include three steps: Establishing tent cities in Sinai, creating a humanitarian corridor, and constructing cities in North Sinai for the new refugees. In addition, “a sterile zone” several kilometers wide would be established in Egypt south of the border with Israel to prevent Palestinians from returning.

The ministry, according to observers, doesn’t have a strong weight in government, with intelligence apparatuses operating outside its framework. “The existence of the document and the formal idea is not a surprise. But that it is leaked and the proof it is out there, is interesting,” says Daniel Levy, president of the London-based Middle East Project and former peace negotiator with Israeli Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Yitzhak Rabin.

Shortly before that, on October 18, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi delivered an improvised speech about the ongoing Israeli military assault against the Gaza Strip that followed Hamas’ incursion into Israel nearly two weeks earlier.

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“Transferring [Palestinian] refugees from the Gaza Strip to Sinai would simply amount to relocating their resistance… turning Sinai into a launch pad for operations against Israel and granting Israel the right to defend itself and its national security by conducting strikes on Egyptian land in retaliation.”

Sisi’s vehement rejection of a “second nakba,” especially after U.S.-led diplomatic efforts to pressure Egypt to create a humanitarian corridor, was turned into a quest to elicit public support for his government. With less than a month to go before a presidential election that was hastily announced amid a crippling economic crisis, Sisi then called for popular demonstrations to support his position. His appeal resulted in a few thousand people turning out for protests on October 20, primarily in Cairo.

Sisi’s position is also consistent with a stance long held by previous Egyptian rulers who have historically rejected any Israeli attempts to displace Palestinians into Sinai. Whether or not Israel’s current military campaign against Gaza succeeds in making the relocation plan a fait accompli is yet to be determined.

Against this backdrop, Egyptian media outlets, owned by security apparatuses close to Sisi, have been publishing and airing detailed reports about an earlier Israeli blueprint to relocate Palestinians from Gaza to the Sinai Peninsula. Most of them claim to have revealed what they call the “Eiland plan,” named after a retired major general, Giora Eiland, who served as the head of the Israeli National Security Council between 2004 and 2006. State-aligned media have made sure to highlight Sisi’s uncompromising opposition to the plan, even if it includes offers for debt relief or financial aid packages from the Joe Biden administration.

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