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In The News

Le Weekend: Māori Punk, Rescue Puppy Gift, Black Cleopatra Row Part II

Le Weekend: Māori Punk, Rescue Puppy Gift, Black Cleopatra Row Part II

The New Zealand group called Half/Time, which sings in Māori and in English, will perform alongside artists singing in Cymraeg, a Celtic language, during their tour of Wales.


May 6-7

  • Russia betting on protracted war
  • French Economy minister’s steamy novel
  • Nigeria’s waste-based solar innovation
  • … and much more.


What do you remember from the news this week?

1. What two countries has Moscow accused of orchestrating the drone attack on the Kremlin?

2. Which news outlet launched an emergency radio service to help civilians in war-torn Sudan?

3. Why is soccer superstar Lionel Messi in trouble with his Paris Saint Germain club? He skipped training / He got into a fight with the club’s mascot / He sold his jersey online

4. Which cast member of the original Star Wars saga received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame?

[Answers at the bottom of this newsletter]


French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire has gone viral in recent days after an erotic excerpt from his latest book — a steamy novel about Russian pianist Vladimir Horowitz — made the rounds on social media. Le Maire tweeted in response that “Everyone has their form of escapism, mine is writing. I defend my freedom to do so, as it gives me inner balance.” Beyond the minister’s questionable style (“Have you seen how big [my breasts] are today?”), the French have been wondering where Le Maire finds the time (the novel being his fifth published work in four years) to moonlight as a writer, given the country’s current political turmoil …


• Egypt announces the production of a new documentary on Cleopatra: Al-Watha’eqeya, an Egyptian TV channel, has announced that it will produce its own big-budget documentary entitled Cleopatra, in response to the recent casting of a black actress in the role of Cleopatra in a docu-series produced by Netflix. The U.S. streaming platform’s actress choice had sparked public outrage in Egypt, with Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Egyptian Archaeology, calling it a “blatant historical misconception.”

In memoriam: The world of culture has mourned this week the deaths of Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot, 84, famous for his folk-pop hits like "If You Could Read My Mind"; and of Sudanese actress Asia Abdelmajid, who died at age 80 in a crossfire in the north of the Sudanese capital where fighting continues to rage. She was considered the country’s first professional stage actress.

• New Paris exhibition pays tribute to acting pioneer Sarah Bernhardt: A new exhibition in the Parisian museum Petit Palais showcases the creative talents of the belle epoque theater star with 400 exhibits, from photographs to costumes the actress wore on stage. Sarah Bernhardt, known as "La Divine," was recognized worldwide as one of the most prominent women of her time, thanks to her acting prowess and her creative use of the media to promote her image.

• Māori punk band’s tour of Wales promotes native languages: The New Zealand group called Half/Time, which sings in Māori and in English, will perform alongside artists singing in Cymraeg, a Celtic language, during their tour of Wales. This event is part of a cultural exchange organized by the universities of Cardiff and Waikato, to highlight what it means to create pop songs in “minority” languages.

• Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announces new inductees: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has revealed the names in its Class of 2023 inductees: the list includes Kate Bush, George Michael and Don Cornelius. The 13 honorees will be celebrated in an induction ceremony with a concert scheduled Nov. 3 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

🇺🇦 Reasons why Russia is dragging out the war

After its initial blitzkrieg failed, and with Ukraine gearing up for a counteroffensive, Russia sees its best hope in holding out for a protracted conflict. Viktor Kevlyuk writes for Ukrainian media Livy Bereg about how Kyiv is trying to convince its Western allies that achieving victory as soon as possible is the only path forward.

Read the full story: Why Russia Is Now Betting On A Long War In Ukraine

🇹🇷 Is this the end for Erdogan?

The result of Turkey's May 14 election is still very uncertain, but President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's significant failures put his leadership under threat for the first time in 20 years. In French daily Les Echos, political scientist Dominique Moïsi explains that this may spell the end of authoritarianism for Turkey and the possible start of democracy.

Read the full story: End Game For Erdogan? Millions In Turkey — And Beyond — Can Taste It

🍼 Everything you need to know about surrogacy

Contributing biologically to a child's creation no longer directly implies parenthood. Surrogacy has shaken up traditional ideas and beliefs about sexuality, reproduction and filiation. For Spanish media Ethic, Loola Pérez poses key questions that must be answered to ensure that surrogacy is driven by both science and ethics.

Read the full story: Parenthood, Redefined: 11 Hard Questions About Surrogacy


Nigerian startup QuadLoop has unveiled its “Idunnu” lamp, a solar lamp built from locally-sourced materials recycled from electronic waste and which aims to address Nigeria's ongoing issues with power outages in rural areas. The innovation, whose name means “joy” in Yoruba, was picked as one of Africa’s 10 most innovative projects by the Netexplo Observatory.


The Turkish government has sent Mexico’s canine unit a search puppy as a gesture of gratitude for the help provided by the country’s rescue dogs during the earthquake last February — and particularly by Proteo, a German Shepherd who died during the search for survivors. The new puppy, a three-month-old German Shepherd named Arkadas (meaning “friend” in Turkish), will be trained by the same team that cared for Proteo.


Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Russian mercenary Wagner Group announced that his paramilitary forces would pull out of the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut starting May 10. This comes amid confrontation between Prigozhin and Russian defense officials, after the Wagner Group asked for more supplies.

• Israel’s foreign minister Eli Cohen is scheduled to visit India next week, paving the way for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to New Delhi later this year.

• The U.S. will stop its COVID-19 vaccination mandates for all federal workers and international travelers, starting May 11. Meanwhile, Japan will ease most of its COVID-19 border restrictions for foreign tourists. The WHO declared on Friday that COVID-19 was no longer a global emergency.

News quiz answers:

1. Moscow claimed that the United States and Ukraine orchestrated an attempt to assassinate Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, when two drones flew towards the roof of the Kremlin before being shot down by Russian air defenses. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denied responsibility for any attack on Putin or Moscow.

2. The BBC has launched an Arabic emergency radio service for Sudan, aiming to provide news to the civilians as fighting rages in the country. This news service will broadcast live from London twice daily for three months, and will feature eyewitness accounts, analyses and coverage of the conflicts.

3. Soccer superstar Lionel Messi got suspended for two weeks by his Paris Saint Germain team, following the Argentine’s trip to Saudi Arabia. Messimissed the team’s Monday training session to attend promotional events, without the club’s permission. According to daily newspaper L’Equipe, Paris Saint Germain doesn’t intend to renew the 35-year-old’s contract with the player, which expires this summer.

4. Star Wars actress Carrie Fisherreceived a posthumous star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The plaque, featured alongside those of co-stars Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford, commemorates her role as the franchise’s iconic Princess Leia.

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Photo: Half/Time

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

A Russian Nuclear Bluff Or The Very Dangerous End Of "Mutually Assured Destruction"?

Retired Major-General Alexander Vladimirov wrote the Russian “war bible.” His words have weight. Now he has declared that the use of nuclear weapons in the war in Ukraine is inevitable, citing a justification that consigns the principle of deterrence to the history books.

Photograph of a Russian Yars intercontinental ballistic missile system showcased during the annual Victory Day military parade.

May 9, 2023, Moscow: A Russian Yars intercontinental ballistic missile system during the annual Victory Day military parade.

Gavriil Grigorov/Kremlin Pool/ZUMA
Slavoj Žižek


LJUBLJANANuclear war is the “inevitable” conclusion of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. That's the opinion of retired Major-General Alexander Vladimirov, from an interview he gave last week to the journalist Vladislav Shurygin, and reported by the British tabloid The Daily Mail.

The retired general and author of the General Theory of War, which is seen in Moscow as the nation's "war bible," warned: “For the transition to the use of weapons of mass destruction, only one thing is needed – a political decision by the Supreme Commander-in-Chief [Vladimir Putin].” According to Vladimirov, “the goals of Russia and the goals of the West are their survival and historical eternity.”

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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That means, he concludes, that they will use all methods at their disposal in this conflict, including nuclear weapons. “I am sure that nuclear weapons will be used in this war – inevitably, and from this, neither we nor the enemy have anywhere to go.”

Recently, Christopher Nolan’s film Oppenheimer sparked outrage in India because it contained an intimate scene that made reference to the Bhagavad Gita. Many people took to Twitter to ask how the censor board could have approved this scene. A press release from the Save Culture, Save India Foundation read: “We do not know the motivation and logic behind this unnecessary scene on life of a scientist. A scene in the movie shows a woman making a man read Bhagwad Geeta aloud (during) sexual intercourse.”

My response to this scene is precisely the opposite: the Bhagavad Gita portrays cruel acts of military slaughter as a sacred duty, so instead we should be protesting that a tender act of bodily passion has been sullied by associating it with a spiritual obscenity. We should be outraged at the evil of “spiritualizing” physical desire.

Isn’t Vladimirov doing something similar in this interview? He is seeking to somehow elevate a (self-destructive, murderous) passion by couching it in obtuse terms such as “historical eternity.”

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