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In The News

Le Weekend: Iran Bans Film Festival Over Hijab, Auto-Tuned Toddler, Sinéad Tributes

Le Weekend: Iran Bans Film Festival Over Hijab, Auto-Tuned Toddler, Sinéad Tributes

Irish singer and political activist Sinéad O'Connor, best remembered for her 1990 cover of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U”, has died at her home in London


July 29-30

  • The environmental cost of the Ukraine war
  • Shankari Chandran scores top Aussie award
  • A bit of Elon/X-bashing
  • … and much more.


What do you remember from the news this week?

1. From what position was China’s Qin Gang officially removed, after weeks of going missing?

2. Which European country is facing tricky coalition talks following inconclusive election results?

3. Which Olympic star saw their long-standing world record broken?

4. What mistake did eagle-eyed Oppenheimer spectators catch? An incorrect world map / Oppenheimer misspelled “Oppinheimer” / Erroneous U.S. flags

[Answers at the bottom of this newsletter]


As part of a rebrand for the message-based social media platform, eccentric billionaire Elon Musk has officially revealed the new 𝕏 logo for Twitter, bidding goodbye to the famous blue bird. Users were quick to share their thoughts on the big change — with some comparing it to a “close” button and others wondering what tweets should be called now (Xeets? Xchanges? Xs?).


• Iranian film festival banned over hijab-less poster: The 13th edition of the Iranian Short Film Association (ISFA) Film Festival has been banned after a poster featuring the image of an actress without a hijab surfaced. The culture minister canceled the festival, due to start in September, as the poster was in violation of the law. Since September 2022, Iranian women have protested the state imposition of hijab, and Iran’s morality police has renewed its crackdown on the dress code.

• Barbenheimer update: The movies Barbie and Oppenheimer continue to dominate both the box office and zeitgeist. Both films have shattered box office expectations, with Greta Gerwig’s Barbiebreaking the box office record for a female director. They are also making headlines for other reasons. Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer has angered the Hindu right wing in India for featuring a sacred text in a sex scene. Meanwhile, protesters in Lima have appropriated the Barbie aesthetic with a violent twist in order to criticize their government.

• Malaysian LGBTQ+ community fears backlash after The 1975’s “white savior stunt”: After British singer Matty Healy's protest stunt at a concert in Malaysia, the country's LGBTQ+ community say his “performative activism” could have done more harm than good. The 1975’s frontman kissed his male bassist after an expletive-filled rant against the Malaysian government, leading the band to cancel other shows in Asia and end their performance early after being “banned from Kuala Lumpur.” LGBTQ+ activists denounced his behavior, saying it could lead to further discrimination and political attacks on the community in a country where homosexuality is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

• Shankari Chandran wins Australia’s biggest literary prize: Sydney-based lawyer of Tamil heritage Shankari Chandran has just won Australia’s biggest literary prize for her novel Chai Time at Cinnamon Gardens. The 2023 Miles Franklin literary award has a $60,000 pay out, going this year to Chandran’s third novel, an intergenerational epic set in an aged care facility. Chandran never thought her novel would be published in Australia, as it confronts the country’s uneasy relationship with multiculturalism and postcolonial trauma.

• Sinéad O'Connor tributes: At age 56, Irish singer and political activist Sinéad O'Connor, best remembered for her 1990 cover of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U”, has died at her home in London. Social media is awash with tributes to the Grammy winner, who was also famous for her political activism and personal candor. Former collaborators paid their respects to the singer, including Massive Attack and Irish band Aslan, who both lost their own lead singers recently. There was an outpouring of love from other Irish personalities, including comedian Dara O’Briain who tweeted “I hope she realized how much love there was for her.” Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (Ireland’s prime minister) also paid his respects to a “talent unmatched and beyond compare”.

💥 🌳 CO2 emissions and toxic pollution — the ecological disasters caused by the Ukraine war

The consequences of the war in Ukraine have not been limited to the usual damage associated with wartime, Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza reveals. The environmental consequences of Russia’s invasion could have long lasting effects on both Ukraine and its neighbors, with oil spills and fires contributing massively to greenhouse gas emissions as energy infrastructure continues to be a prime target. The war has generated emissions equivalent to the Netherlands’ in a year, and animals' migratory patterns have been knocked off path as toxic pollutants spoil the waters. The only upside: nations are leaning into green energy as the fossil fuel market destabilizes.

Read the full story: Environmental Damage Of Russia's War Is Massive — And Extends Far Beyond Ukraine

🌈🇭🇰 The Christian mission forcing Hong Kong’s LGBTQ+ “out of the gay life”

In Singapore-based media outlet The Initium, members of Hong Kong's LGBTQ+ community speak up about the region's ongoing conversion therapy practices. Christian organization “New Creation” is one of many initiatives that continue to harm and traumatize the LGBTQ+ individuals who volunteer for their services. The article looks into why gay people would sign up to this unscientific practice, and how LGBTQ+ and religious groups are fighting back against it.

Read the full story: A Dark Journey Into Hong Kong's World Of LGBTQ Conversion Therapy

📈 🌸 Takashi Murakami paints the economy

World-renowned Japanese artist Murakami has inaugurated an exhibition questioning economics and its history, as French business daily Les Echos reports. Through a fresco made up of ten gigantic portraits “painted with huge dots” he questions the greats of economic history and today's digitized market. Murakami believes “being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art,” playing with and parodying Japanese, American and pop culture with great success. This piece is on display as part of the exhibition, “Understanding the New Cognitive Domain" at the Gagosian in Le Bourget, France until December this year.

Read the full story: The Eternal Whims Of Economics, As Seen By Japanese Artist Murakami


With record temperatures hitting the world, a video showing a civic employee in Japan wearing a special shirt designed to counter heat has gone viral. Developed by Ichigaya Hiroshi, a former Sony engineer and the founder of Kuchofuku Co., Ltd., the shirt incorporates a fan that draws air out, evaporates sweat, and effectively cools the wearer's body.


Step 1: Give your kid an auto-tune microphone. Step 2: Grab your guitar. Step 3: Start recording on TikTok. Step 4: Share the result with the world and enjoy the comments (some call it “a triumph of composition and lyricism”). Definitely worth a listen here.


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

Calling for the end of call centers

Dear Companies that rely on call centers,

I am writing this post for you, not for my poor friends, because I feel it is my responsibility to tell you that you've got your marketing and communication strategy all wrong.

First you used to call us from strange numbers on our landlines and cell phones. Over time, we learned to identify and block most of them. Only a few of us, like my grandmother, would answer every unknown number that called. If I tried to stop her from doing that, she'd get upset and say, "Who knows, sure it could be a telesales call, but what if it's my cousin calling me from America?" Just for the record, that cousin has not been seen or heard from in years, and is most likely deceased.

Then came the calls from Italian numbers. Many from Milan, then Bari, or Rome, but paradoxically, all made by operators from Eastern Europe. One of my friends got tricked into thinking it was his father's caregiver because he couldn't believe she was calling from a landline in Mondoví instead of Naples. Let's be honest, who doesn't have friends all over Italy? At first, we'd answer naively, but then we got smart and stopped. Strangely, all the calls would come in a concentrated burst of five minutes, like a barrage that took us on a national tour of Italy.

Today, I got calls at 13:16 from Brescia, 13:18 from Padova, and 13:20 from Rimini. I wonder if these are different call centers competing with each other or if it's the same call center with numbers from all over Italy, changing cities with each call to confuse us into thinking we're stupid enough to answer. [...]

➡️ Read the full article on Worldcrunch.com


• Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to visit Iraq next week. The Turkish president’s visit will involve the discussion of critical security and economic issues, in particular the resumption of crude exports from the Iraqi Kurdistan region through the Turkish port of Ceyhan.

• Thailand’s Parliament has announced that a vote to elect a new Prime Minister would take place on Aug. 4, after two unsuccessful attempts. The country has been mired in political uncertainty for more than two months.

• Look up on Aug. 1: a supermoon is on the cards. And don’t worry: if you miss it, another rare “blue moon” is expected on Aug. 30.

News quiz answers:

1. The Chinese government has officially removed Qin Gang as foreign minister, instead reappointing his predecessor Wang Yi. Qin Gang had not been seen in public since June, fuelling rumors about his situation.

2. In the wake of inconclusive election results, with Alberto Núñez Feijóo’s conservative Popular Party falling short of a majority in parliament, Spain faces tricky coalition deals in the coming months.

3. At the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, Frenchman Leon Marchand, 21, broke swimming icon Michael Phelp’s long-standing world record by completing the 400-meter individual medley in 4 minutes 2.50 seconds.

4. Oppenheimer viewers spotted an anachronistic mistake in a scene of Christopher Nolan's biopic that shows erroneous U.S. flags with 50 stars while the movie is set before Alaska and Hawaii got their own stars.

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Migrant Lives

A Train Journey With Bengal Migrants Looking For A Living Far Away

Finding a seat on the Karmabhoomi Express is close to impossible. A closer look at why so many migrant workers travel on it, and out of Bengal, offers a grim picture.

image of a train

The Karmabhoomi Express runs from Kamakhya to Mumbai in a 3 day journey.

India Rail Info
Joydeep Sarkar

WEST BENGAL — Welcome aboard the 22512 Kamakhya-LTT Karmabhoomi Express — a metaphor, if any, of the acuteness of Bengal’s unemployment problem.

It is 10.28 pm at north Bengal’s Alipurduar Junction and the crowd has swollen to its peak. This is when the Karmabhoomi Express appears at the station. It is bound for Mumbai. Finding a seat on it is close to impossible. It is always chock full and there are always hundreds struggling to get a spot in the unreserved general compartment.

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