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In The News

Anna's Visit, From Avignon To Kyiv And Back

Shadow of a person smoking a cigarette in Paris^

Smoking a cigarette in Paris

July 2-3

  • Defending Ukraine’s “hero city”
  • Anti-abortion momentum spreads
  • Bunk-bed flights
  • … and much more.


A Visit From Anna, From Avignon To Kyiv And Back

So Anna came by the office this week.

It was a warm and sunny Wednesday, and the first time we’d seen her in person since the war began. Anna had taken the train up from Avignon, where she’d told us it was much warmer than Paris. Summer, we’d all seen on TV, has also arrived in Kyiv.

Six months ago, back in the dead of winter, Anna was in touch nearly every day from Avignon — the southern city where she and her French husband had moved two years earlier — to recount and write stories about her native country. Among other things, she was deep into the psychological-profiling parlor game that the whole world was playing: What was going through Vladimir Putin’s mind? Would he do the unthinkable? Here’s an excerpt from a Jan. 12 piece she wrote for Worldcrunch:

Of course, no one knows what Putin will do. Maybe he simply hasn't made up his mind yet. But I can tell you what Ukraine would do. My countrymen have already decided.

When I look back, I realize that this happened almost unconsciously when my generation was growing up. We, who were born at the end of the Soviet era and never lived with its shackles, witnessed the birth of this new history and the idea that Ukraine can never return to the Soviet past, that the Russian flag over Kyiv is worse than death.

Such statements are steeped in growing populism, if only they were not true. And I personally have sadly embraced this new patriotism.

The idea of freedom was born out of fear of returning to the Kremlin's blind machine.

It seems to me that this idea of freedom has nothing to do at all with the long history, the former glory of Kievan Rus', before the Russian Empire even began to exist. The idea of freedom was born out of fear of returning to the blind machine of the Kremlin shuffling people around in prisons, mental hospitals and gulags. Fear of becoming part of a system where oligarchs, cops, priests, journalists and bureaucrats would become untouchable, invincible, superhuman.

Return to such a reign would again make any and every Ukrainian lesser, second-rate, mute, powerless. We recognize Putin's new Russia looks too much like Stalin's regime. And the fear of it, by now, is built into our DNA.

To me, at the time, Anna’s words were abstract, perhaps even a bit overwrought. I clearly didn’t understand how true they were. And it is what Putin himself failed to factor in most of all with his evil and arrogant invasion. The response of the Ukrainians, to defend both their national sovereignty and democratic self-determination, is still the single most potent factor in the war that conditions all others: the West’s unity, the Russian doubts, the moral clarity for so many both inside and outside of Ukraine.

Still, on the day the war began, Anna was thinking of only one thing: getting Sofiia, her teenaged daughter, her nephew and aging mother out of Kyiv.

After a failed attempt to meet up with them near the Polish border, a subsequent trip would be a bittersweet success to bring them all safely back to Avignon. Two weeks later, with Anna’s help, Sofiia, fleeing home halfway through her final year in high school, would share the story of her escape from Ukraine, closing with this image:

If you believe in the theory of parallel worlds, there must be a place somewhere where I graduate high school. Where the weather in Kyiv starts to warm and the days get longer. My school is flooded again with sunlight, winter is finally over and I am wearing the skirt I’d bought in January to wear to school when spring arrives.

After discussing the latest piece Anna was working on, we walked downstairs so she could catch her train back to Avignon. The late afternoon sun was strong in our faces, as we smoked a cigarette on the Parisian sidewalk.

It had been a tough few days. The Russians had bombed Kyiv for the first time in weeks, and the temptations her mother was feeling about moving back home were squashed, permanently perhaps, until the war is over.

And Sofiia? I asked.

Not great.

Her teacher back in Kyiv had recently sent around a video of the impromptu graduation ceremony for the students who had remained. It triggered plenty of tears, plenty of questions that have no answers.

And those questions circle back to the parlor game about Putin: what he’ll do next, what he’ll accept, what Zelensky and Ukrainians will accept. More questions without answers. I told Anna to come back soon to visit the crew again. She smiled and nodded, and said next time she’d bring Sofiia along.

—Jeff Israely


What do you remember from the news this week?

1. Finland and Sweden moved closer to integrating NATO this week after which country lifted its veto?

2. “Bongbong,” as he is nicknamed, was sworn in as the 17th president of the Philippines. Who was his father?

3. What occasion prompted Xi Jinping to leave the Chinese mainland for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic?

4. An 8-year-old German boy was found alive, after he’d been missing for a week. Where was he found: on top of a water tower, in a sewer, or in Switzerland?

[Answers at the bottom of this newsletter]


Journalists were surprised to discover that the venue hosting the NATO summit in Madrid this week topped its menu with a “Russian Salad.” The summit named Russia as the primary security threat to Western nations, while its invasion of Ukraine justified a number of expansions by the international organization. Although its inclusion may have been in poor taste, the salad reportedly sold out within hours.


U.S. artists condemn Roe v. Wade overturn: Prominent U.S. artists and entertainers have used their platforms, both physical and virtual, to protest against the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court. Singers Phoebe Bridgers, Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo and Kendrick Lamar, who were performing at the Glastonbury music festival in England, all sent strongly-worded messages to the conservative Supreme Court judges. Rock band Green Day’s frontman Billie Joe Armstrong announced that he would renounce his U.S. citizenship during a show in London. At the BET Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday, host Taraji P Henson and singers Janelle Monae and Jazmine Sullivan all used their time on stage to speak out in favor of women’s rights.

• Germany to return looted artifacts: The German government announced this week it would give back 1,130 Benin Bronzes that were looted during the colonial era to Nigeria. The artifacts were stolen in 1897 by British forces from the Benin Palace, now southwestern Nigeria, and were ultimately shared between 20 German museums.

• “Big Eyes” painter dies: American painter Margaret Keane, who was famous for her portraits of people with haunting “Big Eyes,” has died at the age of 94. Her ordeal to have her artworks legally recognized as her own, after her husband took credit for them, was adapted in a Tim Burton movie starring Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in 2014.

• Controversial Hong Kong museum opens: The Hong Kong Palace Museum is opening to the public Saturday, just as Chinese President Xi Jinping celebrates the 25th anniversary of Britain’s handover of the territory to China. But the museum is sparking controversy as it borrows multiple items from the Beijing Palace Museum, which pro-democracy advocates fear is another example of China’s growing assimilation of Hong Kong.

• A Space Odditoy: Mattel has released a Barbie doll inspired by British singer David Bowie’s look in the music video for the song “Life On Mars”. The collectible, available for $50, marks the 50th anniversary of Bowie’s fourth studio album, Hunky Dory.

🇺🇸 The Fading American Dream And Soft Power

What happens when both the U.S., and its two main rivals Russia and China, renounce the power to convince in favor of the power to coerce? As Russia flexes its military muscle in Ukraine, tensions in the South China Sea flare and the U.S. strips abortion rights, Dominique Moïsi of Les Echos asks: Is soft power dead?

Read the full story: Is Soft Power Dead?

🚫🌎 An International Look At Anti-Abortion Movements

When Roe v. Wade was overturned last week, it sent shockwaves around the world. For the anti-abortion movement, it was a chance to celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision and look to the American Pro-Life movement a model to follow. From the turning tides in Latin America to the possibility of debate against the taboo of political correctness in France, we take an 360° look at the anti-abortion momentum around the world.

Read the full story: End Of Roe v. Wade: Will It Spark Anti-Abortion Momentum Around The World?

🇺🇦💥 Defending Kharkiv, The “Gateway” To Ukraine

Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city has pushed back Russian invaders before. But the Russian army is putting more and more pressure on this “gateway to Ukraine,” as it is referred to, with missile and infantry attacks over the past two weeks — pushing for a clear path to Kyiv and the Donbas. Follow Ukraine’s “hero city” as German newspaper Die Welt reports from the frontline.

Read the full story: Kharkiv Revisited: Inside Russia's New Assault On The "Hero City" Of Ukraine


Air New Zealand recently announced plans to remove five of its economy seats to make room for six bunk bed-style sleeping pods, called “Skynest”, across eight of the airplanes it expects to receive by 2024. Premium and regular economy passengers will be able to book four-hour sessions in the pods in addition to their seats, though the company is still working on a booking system. The airline hopes the new feature will bring more passengers to its ultra-long, 17-hour haul flights.


Two policemen escorted a female duck and its ducklings in the streets of Paris, helping them cross a busy road, stopping traffic before leading them to the nearest park. The moment was captured by a passerby who then posted the video on social media.


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

A Sound Mind In A Sanitized Body?

Now with COVID, everyone thinks they’re experts in antibodies — even my patients.

Dottoré, I've been taking drugs for 20 years because you say I'm sick, but couldn’t it be that maybe I'm cured, that now I have the antibodies, and you don't know?

"Gennà, unfortunately your disease is not caused by a virus, so you can't develop antibodies to fight it."

"But Dottoré, are you really sure?"

"Quite sure — that's where research stands at the moment."

"But could it be that one day, if they start looking for a virus as a cause for my disease, they might actually find one and also find a vaccine?"

"Why not! Maybe, who knows?"

"Then there’s hope, Dottoré! I am old, but for young people it could be a great thing! Three doses, you wash your hands well, use sanitizer, and you’re no longer schizophrenic!"

Read more from Dottoré!’s notebook here


• Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will participate in the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting that will take place in Bali, Indonesia, on July 7-8.

• Monday marks the 4th of July, or U.S. Independence Day. As celebrations continue to return to in-person events, they aren’t safe from inflation, with figures placing the cost for barbecue 10 to 11% up this year, while firework prices have skyrocketed 35%.

• The University for the Creative Arts in England announced that mysterious street artist Banksy will be made an honorary professor. Although the artist acknowledged the university’s intention to grant the award, through his representatives, Banksy will not attend.

• According to former AS Roma midfielder Angelo Di Livio, the soccer club is trying to sign Cristiano Ronaldo and could announce a deal next week. If true, Ronaldo could be reunited with longtime coach Jose Mourinho.

News quiz answers:

1. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lifted a veto on Finland and Sweden joining NATO at the alliance’s summit in Madrid after the three countries agreed on a series of security measures. States members’ parliaments will then have to approve their membership, a move prompted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

2. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. was sworn in as Philippines president, replacing Rodrigo Duterte after winning a landslide election on May 9. During his inauguration speech, the new president praised his late father, dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled over the country from 1965 to 1986.

3. Chinese President Xi Jinping made his first trip to Hong Kong in two years to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Britain returning the city to China. This was the occasion for the president to defend China’s “one country two systems” principle and increased control over Hong Kong.

4. An 8-year-old boy was found alive in sewers eight days after he went missing — on June 17 — in the German city of Oldenburg. The boy was rescued by a passerby who heard noise coming from the sewer system and called the emergency services.

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

After Abbas: Here Are The Three Frontrunners To Be The Next Palestinian Leader

Israel and the West have often asked: Where is the Palestinian Mandela? The divided regimes between Gaza and the West Bank continues to make it difficult to imagine the future Palestinian leader. Still, these three names are worth considering.

Photo of Mahmoud Abbas speaking into microphone

Abbas is 88, and has been the leading Palestinian political figure since 2005

Thaer Ganaim/APA Images via ZUMA
Elias Kassem

Updated Dec. 5, 2023 at 12:05 a.m.

Israel has set two goals for its Gaza war: destroying Hamas and releasing hostages.

But it has no answer to, nor is even asking the question: What comes next?

The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected the return of the current Palestinian Authority to govern post-war Gaza. That stance seems opposed to the U.S. Administration’s call to revitalize the Palestinian Authority (PA) to assume power in the coastal enclave.

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

But neither Israel nor the U.S. put a detailed plan for a governing body in post-war Gaza, let alone offering a vision for a bonafide Palestinian state that would also encompass the West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority, which administers much of the occupied West Bank, was created in1994 as part of the Oslo Accords peace agreement. It’s now led by President Mahmoud Abbas, who succeeded Yasser Arafat in 2005. Over the past few years, the question of who would succeed Abbas, now 88 years old, has largely dominated internal Palestinian politics.

But that question has gained new urgency — and was fundamentally altered — with the war in Gaza.

Keep reading...Show less

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