- That Russian casualty of war
- France hunting oligarchs
- A skateboarding bulldog
- … and much more.
What do you remember from the news this week?
1. Which Russian newspaper was forced by the Kremlin to halt publication, just six months after its editor won the Nobel Peace Prize?
2. You may know every detail about the Will Smith “Slapgate,” but what movie won best picture at the 94th Academy Awards?
3. Which South American president has just survived his second impeachment vote in eight months?
4. What did scientists find on Pluto that hints at the presence of underground water on the dwarf planet?
[Answers at the bottom of this newsletter]
Should Ukrainian Refugee Kids Have Separate Classrooms?
Dimitri and Victoria, 8 and 10 years old, approach the entrance of a school in the outskirts of Naples, Italy. Hundreds of children clap and wave hand-made blue-and-yellow flags to welcome the Ukrainian children, who’d recently escaped the war with their grandmother. Two Italian children take Dimitri and Victoria by the hand and walk them to their classes.
The scene was captured in a video, which went viral, and offered a glimpse at how some Italian public schools are welcoming Ukrainian children (many part of the so-called Operazione Abbraccio or “Operation Embrace”), with a budget of 1 million euros allocated for the integration.
Throughout Europe, the estimated two million children who have fled Ukraine have had the chance to join public schools. Some countries, like Germany, offer special reception classes with teachers for German as a foreign language. Others, like Latvia and the Czech Republic, are collaborating with Ukraine’s Ministry of Education to provide distance learning of the Ukrainian curriculum in foreign schools.
This is the preferred way for many Ukrainian officials, reports Berlin-based Die Welt. “The so-called inclusive classes would mean a wall of misunderstanding for Ukrainian children, the feeling of inferiority and little social protection,” Consul General of Ukraine to Germany Iryna Tybinka told Germany’s education officials. “We beg you: Find other ways to provide these children with a Ukrainian education.”
Inside Ukraine, authorities have launched online classes but there are major obstacles, as The Globe and Mail reports. Internally displaced children often don’t have access to the Internet. Teachers too often can’t connect online, while others have joined the Territorial Defense Forces.
Ukrainian officials fear the refugee emergency will wind up as a long-term brain drain of young Ukrainians, with Minister of Education and Science Serhiy Shkarlet declaring that the nation’s children should “return home and build a new Ukraine.”
But what is best for these children right now? They have escaped the war in often traumatic circumstances, left their homes behind, seen their fathers sent away as soldiers. Should they stick to a Ukrainian education, or try to integrate as fast as possible in their host country?
The answer, of course, depends largely on what happens on the front lines and negotiation tables. Will this war last days or months? Or years? It’s an awful question that everyone is asking, starting with Dimitri and Victoria.
— Irene Caselli
• Seoul museum refuses to return Russian artworks: The Sejong Center For Performance Arts in Seoul won’t return works of art it had loaned from four Russian museums. The 75 pieces in question, by 49 major Russian and Soviet artists, include art by Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, Alexander Rodchenko and Natalia Goncharova. Similar requests have been sent to other countries like France and Italy, currently holding prized Russian artworks.
• Bruce Willis retires for medical reasons: U.S. action star Bruce Willis is stepping away from his acting career at age 67 after being diagnosed with aphasia. Check out this video gathering his best moments on camera. Yippee-ki-yay, [...]!
• Up close and personal with Angélique Kidjo: Check out this great read on Angélique Kidjo, the Beninese songwriter and singer currently working with Burna Boy and Yo-Yo Ma, as she discusses the amazing diversity of African musical styles, the elevation of her continent to the world stage and the tricky label of "global music."
• Koons on the Moon: U.S artist Jeff Koons has announced the release of a series of sculptures that are scheduled to land on the Moon, and remain there forever. This is the first time artworks have been approved for landing on the Moon's surface.
• Foo Fighters cancel tour: Following the death of their drummer and vocalist Taylor Hawkins last week at age 50 in Bogotá, U.S. rock band Foo Fighters has announced they are cancelling “all upcoming tour dates in light of the staggering loss of our brother Taylor Hawkins.”
Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Russia has reported fewer than 4,000 deaths among its troops, far from the U.S. estimates of 7,000 Russian soldiers killed in mid-March. Separate confirmed data indicate that military losses of the Russian army are always much higher than the government claims. But what are the reasons behind the Russian Defense Ministry’s decision to hide data on military deaths? For Worldcrunch’s Anna Akage, “the ultimate explanation is about the concept of victory at any cost. Victory, in the psyche of the Kremlin, is more important than its price in millions of human lives.”
Read the full story: An Old, Ugly Russian Habit: Hiding Its War Dead
As soon as Europe announced sanctions against Russian oligarchs, France’s Ministry of Economy was quick to set up a law enforcement task force to identify all assets belonging to the blacklisted billionaires. While 850 million euros have been frozen on French territory and several yachts have been seized, tracking down the assets and their real owners through a maze of intermediary companies, trusts, foundations and use of false names — plus armies of lawyers — makes it often a losing battle, writes French business daily Les Echos.
Read the full story: Inside The French Hunt For Russian Oligarchs And Their Riches
Recognition of the LGBTQ community in China still has a long way to go. The word "transgender", for instance, does not appear in any legal provisions in China, in a country that counts more than four million transgender people.
The situation was highlighted a few weeks ago, after a trans woman was murdered in a men’s public bathroom in a Wuhan shopping mall, in central China. Real-life issues such as the use of gender-neutral public bathrooms are forcing the country to face its lack of awareness and understanding about transgender, and more generally LGBTQ rights.
Read the full story: Wuhan Restroom Murder Sparks Debate Over Transgender Rights In China
Soccer fans of Algeria’s national team had a hard time accepting the Fennec Foxes’ defeat this week against Cameroon in a Qatar 2022 World Cup qualification playoff, blaming the referee for the loss. A campaign on social media calling for the game to be replayed using the hashtag #Replay_Algeria_Cameroon has gained serious traction, and led the Algerian Football Association to lodge an official complaint with FIFA, soccer’s world governing body.
Checking in on the progress of Chowder, the skateboarding bulldog who had taken to the joys of riding, back in 2018. As his owner wrote on Chowder’s now 146,000-follower-strong Instagram account: “We are so thankful that he found his joy through skateboarding.” So are we, Chowder. So are we.
Dyson has introduced this week the Dyson Zone, Bluetooth noise canceling headphones that are fitted with an air purifying system — the first wearable product for the British tech company which has made air purification one of its areas of expertise. Aimed at city dwellers who want to avoid breathing polluted air, the device is made of a mask-type contraption equipped with a compressor fan and filters. Faced with surprised and incredulous reactions to the headphones’ unusual sci-fi design, the company had to deny that the announcement was not an April Fools’ prank.
Uganda Postcard: When People’s Lives Are Cleared Away In The Name Of Progress
Officials want to revitalize the country's ailing railway system. But it comes at a cost for the people who live in the way, reports Patricia Lindrio in Global Press Journal.
Moses Musafili moved from his rural hometown of Masaka in search of more opportunities and higher wages in Uganda’ capital, Kampala, in 2005. Two years later, a friend told him about an irresistible land deal southeast of the city in Kiswa parish and Musafili used all of his savings to buy a plot.
Musafili says he bought land from Uganda Railways Corporation (URC), a government-owned company, and built a house believing the sale was legitimate. Seven years later, Musafili, his pregnant wife and their three children were among thousands of families told they were illegally living on the railway corporation’s land. They were evicted so the company could carry out improvement work on the East African country’s rail network and not offered any compensation as they couldn’t prove they owned the land. Their plight underscores the persisting tensions between economic development and basic rights.
“During the 2014 evictions, police raided our home at around 2 a.m.,” Musafili says. “My home was demolished. My wife, who has high blood pressure and was pregnant at the time, had to be hospitalized. I know these evictions emotionally drained her and led her to miscarry.” Musafili says their 6-year-old son also died from a stray bullet during the eviction.
The improvements are needed due to the over century-old Uganda Railway, now owned and operated by the government company, falling into disrepair with only 330 kilometers (205 miles) of the 1,266 kilometers (787 miles) of the network’s lines operational as of 2019. But without the land next to the rail network cleared of people who have set up home, many of the planned upgrades can’t go ahead.
So far, the government has made upgrades to major rail lines that connect Uganda’s capital and the northwest of the country with the border of Kenya through the Ugandan city of Tororo. The colonial-era rail network extends into neighboring Kenya and Tanzania, where railway corporation workers are making sizable upgrades that include train ferry routes over Lake Victoria.
Stephen Wakasenza, chief commercial and concession officer for the railway corporation, says Uganda is already seeing the benefits of Kenya’s improvements.
“We are currently moving cargo at a faster rate after the development of the standard gauge railway in Kenya,” he says. “Our rail network is transporting more freight than trucks, and this is reducing emissions and causing relief on the roads because we are reducing the number of trucks.”
In 2014, officials scheduled improvement work on the rail network, but it couldn’t be carried out until residents vacated the land — something thousands of people living on the railway corporation’s land refused to do unless they were properly compensated for losing land they believed they legally owned. Many were evicted or fled.
“This is my home,” Musafili says. “I should have been stronger and stayed, but I feared I was going to be shot. We were treated like criminals. I needed to leave for the safety and health of my family.”
Read the full story on Worldcrunch.com
• On Sunday, Serbian citizens are going to the polls to vote in presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections. The same day, Hungarian voters will elect the country’s National Assembly. Incumbent rulers President Aleksandar Vucic and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán are respectively in the lead. Both incumbents are among Europe’s closest allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
• A North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) meeting of foreign ministers will take place on April 7 in Brussels. The event, due to discuss sanctions on Russia and further support for Ukraine, will include non-NATO attendees South Korea and Japan joining for the first time in history.
• The 64th Annual Grammy Awards will be held in Las Vegas on April 3. Jon Batiste leads the nominations board with 11 nods, followed by Justin Bieber, Doja Cat and H.E.R. with eight, and seven for Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo.
News quiz answers:
1. Russia’s investigative daily Novaya Gazeta, whose editor Dmitry Muratov won last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, announced it was suspending its online and print activities “until the end of the 'special operation on Ukraine's territory.” The independent newspaper said it received several warnings from state communications regulator Roskomnadzor about its reports.
2. Coming-of-age comedy-drama CODA was the surprise winner in the Best Picture category at the 94th Academy Awards. The movie, based on French film La Famille Bélier (2014), tells the story of the only hearing member of a deaf family. It is the first film starring predominantly deaf actors to win Best Picture.
3. Peruvian President Pedro Castillo survived an impeachment push (the second in eight months) from opposition lawmakers in Congress, after they failed to secure enough votes to oust the leftist leader. The lawmakers have accused Castillo of “moral incapacity” as he faces “three preliminary investigations into possible corruption.”
4. Scientists believe that they have seen evidence of ice volcanoes on Pluto, suggesting the presence of an underground ocean on the dwarf planet.
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*Photo: Marcus Brandt/dpa/ZUMA