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In The News

Le Weekend: Italy V. Vandalism, Punching Winnie, Super Mario In Congress

Le Weekend: Italy V. Vandalism, Punching Winnie, Super Mario In Congress

The original 1985 theme from Super Mario Bros. has become the first music from a video game to enter the U.S. national recording registry.


April 15-16

  • Gazprom, Russia’s greatest weapon
  • Insulin implant innovation
  • Dwight Schrute IRL
  • … and much more.


What do you remember from the news this week?

1. Which world leader is visiting Xi Jinping in China this week?

2. What anniversary did U.S. President Joe Biden mark in Belfast?

3. Iconic fashion designer Mary Quant has died at age 93. What garment is she associated with?

4. Archaeologists in Mexico discovered a stone scoreboard for an ancient Mayan game of…? Basketball / Soccer / Billiards / Water polo

[Answers at the bottom of this newsletter]


Patriotic badges showing Winnie the Pooh being punched in the face by a Taiwanese black bear have gone viral across Taiwan. The iron-on patches, worn by some of Taiwan's air force pilots, are meant as a defiant message to China's leader Xi Jinping, who is often caricatured as A. A. Milne’s honey-loving cartoon bear.


• Italy to impose five-figure fines for art vandalism: The Italian government has approved proposed legislation from the culture minister to impose fines as high as €60,000 on vandals who damage monuments or other cultural sites, to cover the costs or repairs and clean-up. This comes after the 15th-century Palazzo Madama in Rome was vandalized by climate activists, costing the government €40,000.

• Super Mario Bros. theme makes it into U.S. Library of Congress: The original 1985 theme from Super Mario Bros., written by the young Nintendo composer Koji Kondo, has become the first music from a video game to enter the U.S. national recording registry to be preserved for history. The theme is one of 25 new inductees announced by the U.S. Library of Congress, which also includes Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.”

• An iconic Maria Callas outfit and other “diva” clothes to star in new exhibition: Famous outfits worn by various performers and artists including Marilyn Monroe, Maria Callas, Tina Turner and Elton John will go on display as part of the Diva exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum starting in June. The collection of more than 250 objects will explore how the meaning of “diva” has been subverted, and later embraced.

• Top Indian dance academy rocked by sexual harassment allegations: Kalakshetra, one of India’s most prominent arts and cultural academies, has been embroiled in a row over sexual harassment claims made by students against staff members and protests from students accusing the administration of ignoring their complaints. After the scandal made headlines, the institution announced a three-member panel to investigate the allegations and has suspended an assistant professor, who has later been arrested.

• World’s largest floating book fair docks in the UAE: Logos Hope, the world’s largest floating book fair with more than 5,000 titles on board, has started an eight-week journey around the United Arab Emirates, with a first stop this week at Ras Al Khaimah Port. The book fair, which was launched in 1970 and is operated by a German non-profit group, has traveled to 480 different ports in more than 150 countries.

🇷🇺⛽ Here’s looking at you, Gazprom 

Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom has lost access to the European market and is rife with inefficiencies. And yet isn't going anywhere soon. The engine of Russia's vast resources are fed into Vladimir Putin's system for maintaining power, as Ekaterina Mereminsky explains in Vazhnye Istorii/Important Stories.

Read the full story: Why Gazprom Is Still Russia's Single Greatest Weapon

🍷🤖 AI and wine, an unexpected blend

Journalist Dario d'Elia for Italian daily La Stampa went to The Viberti Barolo winery, in the northwestern region of Piemonte, Italy, where they now employ cutting-edge solutions to preserve tradition and craftsmanship regardless of severe climate change. The winery uses steel cylinders that make it possible to control winemaking with computerized management — even remotely!

Read the full story: Barolo 4.0? How Artificial Intelligence Is Making The Best Wines Better

📺🎭 Previously, on Syria’s comedies …

In Syria, a decade of conflict has taken its toll on once-popular comedies, dampening their appeal. Despite efforts to revive the golden era of TV with new shows, journalist Omar Bakbook from Daraj explains that the challenge of winning over audiences to comedy remains daunting in a nation that continues to endure the harsh rule of a dictatorial regime.

Read the full story: Syria's TV Industry Takes Another Crack At Comedy — Is That A Joke?


A team of Swiss researchers has developed an implant to treat diabetes. The implant, the size of a teabag, was designed to release insulin autonomously and adapts to the patient's blood sugar level. And that’s not all: the implant uses excess blood sugar in tissues to generate electrical energy, which can then be used to power biomedical devices such as insulin devices or pacemakers.


U.S. actor Rainn Wilson shared a video of a fellow traveler on a plane who happened to watch The Office without realizing that the was sitting right next to the one and only Dwight Schrute.


• Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu and his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu are scheduled to meet in Russia to discuss matters pertaining to global and regional security.

Ghana's creditors are expected to hold crucial talks to help shape a debt restructuring that could lead to a $3bn aid package from the International Monetary Fund by the end of June.

• Apple will open its first physical stores in India on Tuesday, in Mumbai, with plans for a second one in the Indian capital Delhi — a way for CEO Tim Cook to showcase his optimistic outlook on the country.

News quiz answers:

1. Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was in China this week, for meetings with President Xi Jinping. Lula is seeking to elevate Brazil's role in international diplomacy after the years of isolation Brazil had to undercome during Jair Bolsonaro's term.

2. President Joe Biden traveled to Northern Ireland to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, a historic agreement that brought an end to years of sectarian violence in the region with the assistance of the United States.

3. British fashion designer Mary Quant died Thursday at age 93. She is credited with popularizing the miniskirt that helped define the Swinging '60s and became a staple in popular culture.

4. Archeologists discovered a stone scoreboard used in an ancient soccer-like ball game at the famed Mayan site of Chichen Itza in Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. The circular piece, measuring just over 32 centimeters (12.6 inches) in diameter, displays hieroglyphic writing surrounding two players standing next to a ball.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Why Poland's Break With Ukraine Weakens All Enemies Of Russia — Starting With Poland

Poland’s decision to stop sending weapons to Ukraine is being driven by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party's short-term electoral calculus. Yet the long-term effects on the world stage could deeply undermine the united NATO front against Russia, and the entire Western coalition.

Photo of ​Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Lutsk, Ukraine, on July 9

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Lutsk, Ukraine, on July 9

Bartosz T. Wieliński


WARSAW — Poland has now moved from being the country that was most loudly demanding that arms be sent to Ukraine, to a country that has suddenly announced it was withholding military aid. Even if Poland's actions won't match Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s words, the government has damaged the standing of our country in the region, and in NATO.

“We are no longer providing arms to Ukraine, because we are now arming Poland,” the prime minister declared on Polsat news on Wednesday evening. He didn’t specify which type of arms he was referring to, but his statement was quickly spread on social media by leading figures of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party.

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

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When news that Poland would be withholding arms to Ukraine made their way to the headlines of the most important international media outlets, no politician from PiS stepped in to refute the prime minister’s statement. Which means that Morawiecki said exactly what he meant to say.

The era of tight Polish-Ukrainian collaboration, militarily and politically, has thus come to an end.

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