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On Cover Boys, Obituaries And Putin Getting The Last Word  ​

Photo of ​Italy's Berlusconi and Russia's Putin in Rome in 2003

Berlusconi and Putin in Rome in 2003

September 3-4

  • EU v. Russia visa fight
  • Argentina righting Trans wrong
  • A penguin’s flip-flops
  • … and much more.


On Cover Boys, Obituaries And Putin Getting The Last Word

There was a time in the not-too-distant past when the choice of who or what was on the cover of a weekly print magazine could be worth the equivalent of seven days of today’s internet #trending topics.

And so it was back in 2004, I was eagerly finalizing what would be that week’s cover story after an exclusive interview (over lunch!) with the trendingest of world leaders: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Just a few hours from our final Saturday night deadline, a news flash arrived: Ronald Reagan dead at 93. Stop the presses, people. Sorry, Jeff. Sorry, Silvio. Cover goes to Ronnie.

Eighteen years later, another news flash: Mikhail Gorbachev dead at 91. The passing of Reagan’s partner-in-arms in ending the Cold War would be displayed prominently the next day on the front pages of daily newspapers around the world, and our computer screens filled with obituaries, reflections, hot takes and tweets. Still, Gorby’s passing was trending online for no more than 18 to 24 hours — and will be featured on few if any major magazine covers.

The relatively muted reaction to the death of such a consequential historical figure may be explained by the simple passage of time (we are now 33 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall), and perhaps the internet age has only so much space for old people dying.

And yet the difference in coverage is also certainly linked to the way Gorbachev’s legacy looks right now in light of the current occupant of the Kremlin. With his invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin is busy attempting to take every “end of the Cold War” magazine cover and rosy “East-meets-West” editorial and toss it in the bin of posterity. Within Russia, Gorbachev himself had long since become a source of both scorn and mockery.

Putin’s propaganda is to blame, but it’s not alone. The journalism in our democracies, it’s been said, is the “first draft of history.” A less generous take is that our industry has, as the parent of a six-year-old boy might say, attention-span issues.

Here’s another episode from back in the day: an April 2008 press conference in the seaside town of Porto Rotondo on the Italian island of Sardinia, following a bilateral meeting between two world leaders, Vladimir Putin and Silvio Berlusconi.

After several policy questions, a reporter named Natalia Melikova of the Russian independent daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta stands up and asks Putin about multiple recent reports that he is dating a former gymnast-turned-politician. As Melikova is speaking, saying the public has the right to know if the married Russian president was getting a divorce, Berlusconi flashes his Cheshire-cat smile and then turns in mock anger and makes the gesture of firing a machine gun toward the reporter. Putin chuckles, and nods his head.

With a long list of journalists killed in Putin’s Russia, it was no doubt one of the lowest of the many low moments for Berlusconi, who was always eager to butter up to the bully of Saint Petersburg.

But it is also an emblematic moment for the rest of the West: a nervous acknowledgement that Putin was the most dangerous man in the room, and nobody really knew what to do with him. You can only hold the presses so long.

— Jeff Israely


What do you remember from the news this week?

  1. Argentina’s Vice-President Cristina Kirchner survived an assassination attempt this week. What saved her life?
  2. Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who died Monday at 91, is remembered for ushering in an era of “opening” (Glasnost) and “restructuring,” which was called? Matryochka / Perestroika / Sputnik
  3. What did Serena Williams respond when asked whether she was surprised at her current good form?
  4. A 60-year-old U.S. man broke a world record by paddling 38 miles down the Missouri river on what kind of embarkation? A giant pumpkin / A toilet / An inflatable bed

[Answers at the bottom of this newsletter]


Saudi Arabia has opened an investigation after a video of women being attacked by men, some in police uniform, went viral on social media Wednesday. The leaked footage, reportedly shot at an orphanage in the southwest of the country, shows a group of women being dragged and beaten by men using sticks and belts.

The online outrage (trending under the hashtag #KhamisMushaitOrphans) led the governor of the province to order the creation of a special committee tasked with investigating the incident and “refer the case to the competent authority.” In the meantime, Saudi human rights advocates have described the video as additional proof of the Saudi government’s abysmal track record vis-à-vis women’s rights under the rule of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.


  • Venice Film Festival dives into the Metaverse: This year’s edition of the Venice International Film Festival is offering a brand new experience to its visitors: Venice Immersive, which runs from Sept. 1-10. Festival-goers will be able to frolic in different worlds (beaches, forests, science fiction places), play games, dress in costumes and meet historical figures such as Coco Chanel.
  • New Madam C.J. Walker Barbie: In the early 20th century, hair care magnate Madam C.J. Walker became the first woman self-made millionaire. She has now become the latest addition to Mattel’s Barbie Inspiring Women Series to celebrate how “she created opportunities for herself, and uplifted other Black women” alongside other icons such as Ida B. Wells, Maya Angelou or Dr. Jane Goodall.
  • Camilo Guevara dies at 60: Marxist revolutionary leader Che Gevara’s son Camilo Guevara died on Monday at the age of 60 while on a visit to Caracas, Venezuela. He had dedicated much of his life to documenting his father’s life and led the Center of Che Guevara Studies in Havana, where his father fought for the Cuban revolution.
  • “La Tomatina” catchup: The world’s largest food fight, “La Tomatina” festival, was back for its 75th edition in Buñol, Spain, after the past two editions were canceled due the COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of people splattered each other with tomato pulp from 130 tons of over-ripe tomatoes.
  • Doggy Parton woofing 9 to 5: U.S. iconic singer Dolly Parton is launching a line of fabulous pet apparel and accessories called Doggy Parton, with items ranging from pink cowgirl dresses, to squeaky toys, to a curly blonde wig inspired by the country star. A part of the proceeds will be donated to rescue organization Willa B. Farms.

✈️  Is A Russian Visa Ban The True Priority?

At a summit meeting in Prague, the European Union’s foreign ministers were deeply divided over the possibility of enforcing a total visa ban on Russian citizens. While many countries in the East and the North were in favor of it, Germany and France called for a compromise.

The issue raises many ethical and economic questions, among which the risk of penalizing students and poorer Russians, but it’s also a distraction from the real suffering that Ukrainians are going through every single day. Attention should be focused on sanctions that will have a truly significant impact, and on providing Ukraine with the weapons the country so desperately needs, Anna Akage writes for Worldcrunch.

Read the full story: Fight Over Tourist Visa Ban For Russians Is Taking Everyone For A Ride

🏳️‍🌈🇦🇷  Portrait Of An Argentine Transgender Pioneer

Argentine transgender poet and activist Karina Pintarelli is one of the few transvestites and transgender people to publicly recount what they experienced during the country’s dictatorship in the 1970s-1980s. She became the first trans victim of the regime to be granted monetary reparations for the persecution she endured.

Agustina Ramos writes an in-depth portrait in Buenos-Aires based Agencia Presentes.

Read the full story: Meet Karina Pintarelli: The First Recognized Trans Survivor Of Argentina’s Dictatorship

🇩🇪☢️  Why Young Generations Are In Favor Of Nuclear Power

The younger generations are more worried than their elders about the effects of climate change on the planet. That is leading an increasing number of them to support nuclear power as a better option for the environment, reversing decades of anti-nuke activism of progressives.

Diana Pieper explains in German daily Die Welt why Green Party politicians are calling for nuclear power plants to remain open and the move to phase out fossil fuels in order to promote the expansion of renewable energy sources.

Read the full story: Why Young People Are Now Nuclear Power's Most Potent Supporters


France’s tax authorities discovered more than 20,000 undeclared swimming pools across the country, thanks to a new AI technology. Developed by Google and French company Capgemini, the software spotted pools using aerial imagery. This led to the state being able to collect some 10 million euros in tax revenues from owners who had failed to declare their pools.


Meet Lucas, a four-year-old penguin from San Diego's Zoo, who’s just received a brand new tailor-made orthopedic webbed-footwear. Lucas suffers from bumblefoot, a chronic avian condition that creates lesions on his feet. The zoo partnered with Thera-Paw organization, which specializes in rehabilitative products for special needs animals. Thanks to his neoprene and rubber flip-flops, Lucas can now stand, walk and play with his peers. Happy feet indeed!


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

Social Media Envy Is More Than Just Your Imagination

Some of my female patients are struggling with the way life is exposed on social media. It is becoming extremely problematic not only in relation to the beauty standards exhibited online, but also the family models that are exposed.

Some women — who struggle with their role as working women and mothers or housewives — have difficulty in understanding that behind a bright young entrepreneur who constantly shows herself on social media as a loving mother and wife, immersed in an opulent and perfect reality, there is a hidden world of waiters, nannies, makeup artists, hairdressers, drivers, airplane pilots and photographers, who certainly do not appear in videos and Instagram stories.

My job, in dealing with these patients, is to relieve them of the sense of frustration and inadequacy that arises from the comparison, trying to bring them back to the level of reality. And yet it may be reality itself that is the biggest obstacle in any of my therapeutic efforts.

For it is looking ever more true what one of my patients, Gennaro, once told me: "Dottoré, this story that money doesn’t buy happiness is bullshit. It was invented by the rich to comfort and trick those who have nothing…”

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


  • UN Secretary General António Guterres will be in Pakistan on Friday for a “solidarity visit” as the country struggles with devastating floods.

News quiz answers:

1. Argentina’s former President and current Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner survived an assassination attempt as she was greeting a crowd outside her home in Buenos Aires on Thursday. Her assailant, a Brazilian national whose gun jammed, has been taken into custody.

2. After rising through the ranks of the Communist party, Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms ushered in a period of perestroika (“restructuring”) that contributed to the mostly peaceful end to the Cold War and eventually, the fall of the USSR. Here’s how international newspapers marked Gorby’s passing on Tuesday, at age 91.

3. After reaching the third round of the U.S. Open by defeating world No. 2 Anett Kontaveit, tennis legend Serena Williams was asked by an interviewer if she surprised herself with her level. Williams replied confidently: “I’m just Serena.”

4. Duane Hansen, 60, broke a Guinness World Record by paddling 38 miles (61km) down the Missouri river inside a giant 384-kg pumpkin.

✍️ Newsletter by Worldcrunch

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*Photo: Mauro Scrobogna/LaPresse/ZUMA

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