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In The News

Le Weekend: STEM Barbie Dolls, Hijab Trolling In Iran, Holy ChatGPT

Le Weekend: STEM Barbie Dolls, Hijab Trolling In Iran, Holy ChatGPT

Mattel has unveiled a Barbie doll modeled after British scientist Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock on International Women's Day.


March 11-12

  • Bakhmut diary
  • AI art or straight up theft?
  • Oscars v. oligarchs
  • … and much more.


What do you remember from the news this week?

1. What footage from social media has Ukraine asked the International Criminal Court to investigate?

2. Which country saw mass protests that led to the withdrawal of a controversial “foreign agents” draft law?

3. What update has Apple announced about its iPhone 14?

4. What did archeologists find in an ancient temple in southern Egypt? A crocodile-shaped sarcophagus / A smiling sphinx / A diamond-encrusted amulet

[Answers at the bottom of this newsletter]


In Italy, AI-powered chatbot ChatGPT has been used to create the website prega.org (“pray.org”), which allows users to converse with various Catholic saints. The website does specify that people "won’t be talking with the real Saint but with an artificial intelligence that has studied their writings and responds with their words and thoughts."


• Academy Awards v. Russian oligarchs: The NGO Ukrainian World Congress has urged the Academy Awards organizers to reject films that were directly or indirectly financed by “Russian oligarchs or other enablers of Russia’s genocidal war on Ukraine,” and thus to “review the eligibility” of Top Gun Maverick, an Oscar favorite. This comes after a report by the Los Angeles Times detailed the movie’s alleged funding ties to Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev.

• Barbie honors British scientist for International Women’s Day: Mattel has unveiled a Barbie doll modeled after British scientist Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock, in recognition of her work in making space and science accessible to girls as presenter of BBC One's The Sky At Night. The toy maker also used International Women’s Day, on March 8, to honor six other women recognized as trailblazers in STEM fields — including German marine researcher and microbiologist Prof Dr Antje Boetius and Mexican electrical engineer and Science Show host Katya Echazarret.

• Ethiopian-born photographer’s work displayed in U.S. cities: Aida Muluneh, an Ethiopian-born photographer based in Ivory Coast, discusses how her African roots influence her work with The New York Times, as the Public Art Fund displays some of her photographs in several cities across the U.S. this month — the first time the fund has presented artwork from the African continent.

In memoriam: The culture world is mourning the loss of Bollywood actor and director Satish Kaushik, who died at 66 from a heart attack, leading Israeli actor Chaim Topol, best known for his role as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, who passed away aged 87, as well American musician Gary Rossington, Lynyrd Skynyrd's last surviving original member, who died at 71.

• Good and bad news for Star Wars lovers: Two new movies in the Star Wars franchise by Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige and Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins have been permanently shelved, according to Variety. Meanwhile, Thor: Love and Thunder filmmaker Taika Waititi is reportedly working on a new Star Wars feature, in which he is also rumored to star.

🇺🇦 Up close with the battalion fighting on Ukraine’s frontlines

A 39-year-old fighter codenamed "Alaska," a member of the Ukrainian Battalion 243, has decided to share his story in the battles of Bakhmut and other key frontline positions in eastern Ukraine over the past six months. Oleksandr Solonko recounts for Ukrainian media Livy Bereg, what it has been like every day for Ukrainian soldiers fighting for their country.

Read the full story: Bakhmut Diary: Death And Life From Inside Ukraine's 243rd Battalion

🇮🇹  Facing the inhumane treatment of Italy’s shipwreck survivors

After a visit to a holding facility, a group of lawyers and human rights activists have accused the Italian government of mistreating nearly 100 survivors of the tragic shipwreck on Feb. 27. Giuseppe Legato reveals in Italian daily La Stampa the horrible conditions the survivors are dealing with and puts into question European laws on immigration.

Read the full story: Why Are Survivors Of Italy's Shipwreck Being Held In Squalid Conditions?

🤖 AI progress adds a layer to the question: Is it art, or theft?

Like it was with photography, new forms of artistic expression arise in every age. Now, it’s artificial intelligence that is making it possible to create incredible images in an instant — but it opens up an ethical and philosophical debate. Vanni Santoni raises questions surrounding the possible dangers of AI in Italian media Internazionale.

Read the full story: Cool New Tool Or Flat-Out Theft? Artists Split Over AI Revolution


French inventor Laurent Cadillat has developed a device called "H2Ouse" that aims at reducing water consumption in households by up to 80%. The funnel-like device recirculates shower and bath water, after cleaning it through a three-step filtration system. The water is then used to flush toilets or water plants, reducing the unnecessary amount of fresh water needed for these tasks. The invention, which has won several awards, is being tested in dozens of homes in France.


After Iran’s Food and Drug Administration recently ordered female pharmacists to wear black hijabs at work, a number of Iranian men have started mocking the decision by donning the veil themselves. The trend was reported by Iranian journalist and activist Mashih Alinejad in a tweet that went viral. “Together we will bring this wall down,” Alinejad wrote, referring the directive.


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

A woman’s work is never done

“In the morning I get up at 5:30 a.m. I clean the house, then I wake up the children at 7. I get them ready, make them breakfast, then at 7:30, we leave for school. At 8:30, I start work. I clean two offices, then at 11, I go to a lady's house to clean until 3.30 p.m.

At 4 p.m. I pick up the children. I take them home and help them with their homework. Three days a week, I take my youngest to a physiotherapist at 5.30 p.m. The other days, there’s my daughter's catechism classes and my other daughter’s gym lessons. By 7:30 p.m. it's dinner time, because at 8 p.m. I have to go clean offices when they close. Then by 10 p.m. I come back and put them to bed.

I tidy up and at midnight, I go to sleep too. Since my husband’s gone, this is my life. I don’t want much, but a half an hour to myself every now and then would be nice.”

“Sure, think of yourself as free.”*

*This is a reference to Pensati libera ("Think of yourself as free”), the inscription on a Dior dress worn by influencer Chiara Ferragni at the 2023 Sanremo Music Festival.

➡️ Read more from our Dottoré! series on Worldcrunch.com


• South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol will visit Japan from March 16 to 17 to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, as the two countries try to ease longstanding diplomatic strains over Tokyo’s colonial rule of the Korean peninsula.

• Deputy foreign ministers from Turkey, Syria, Russia and Iran will gather in Moscow next week for “technical talks” as part of efforts to continue political dialogue between the Turkish and Syrian governments.

• The 95th Academy Awards will be held on March 12 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, presented by late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel.

News quiz answers:

1. Ukraine has demanded the International Criminal Court investigate footage circulating on social media allegedly showing Russian troops executing a Ukrainian prisoner of war.

2. In the face of mass protests and widespread international criticism, Georgia's ruling party has said it will withdraw a controversial draft law that would have labeled NGOs and media taking over 20% of funding from abroad as “foreign agents.”

3. Apple has announced that its iPhone 14 is now available in yellow — an announcement that was met with mild enthusiasm online.

4. Archaeologists have unearthed a sphinx-like statue with an enigmatic smile in an ancient temple in southern Egypt.

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*Photo: Mattel

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Bibi Blinked: How The Ceasefire Deal Could Flip Israel's Whole Gaza War Logic

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pushed ahead a deal negotiated via Qatar, for a four-day truce and an exchange of 50 hostages for 150 Palestinian prisoners. Though the humanitarian and political pressure was mounting, Israel's all-out assault is suddenly halted, with unforeseen consequences for the future.

photo of someone holding a poster of a hostage

Families of Israeli hostages rally in Jerusalem

Nir Alon/ZUMA
Pierre Haski

Updated Nov. 22, 2023 at 8:55 p.m.


PARIS — It's the first piece of good news in 46 days of war. In the early hours of Wednesday, Israel agreed to a deal that included a four-day ceasefire and the release of some of the hostages held by Hamas — 30 children and 20 women — in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners, again women and children. The real question is what happens next.

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But first, this agreement, negotiated through the intermediary of Qatar, whose role is essential in this phase, must be implemented right away. This is a complex negotiation, because unlike the previous hostage-for-prisoner exchanges, it is taking place in the midst of a major war.

On the Palestinian side, although Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh is present in Doha, he does not make the decision alone — he must have the agreement of the leaders of the military wing, who are hiding somewhere in Gaza. It takes 24 hours to send a message back and forth. As you can imagine, it's not as simple as a phone call.

And on the Israeli side, a consensus had to be built around the agreement. Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right allies were opposed to the deal — in line with their eradication logic — even at the cost of Israeli lives. But the opposition of these discredited parties was ignored, and that will leave its mark.

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