What do you remember from the news this week?
1. Which country that shares an 800-mile border with Russia is expected to join NATO?
2. How is Mahinda Rajapaksa, who resigned on Monday as Sri Lanka’s prime minister amid weeks of unrest, related to the country’s president?
3. Saudi Arabia’s Aramco became the world’s most profitable company on Thursday. Who did it the oil and gas giant dethrone?
4. An iconic silkscreen by Andy Warhol set a new auction record this week. Who or what is depicted in the work: Marilyn Monroe, Campbell's Soup Cans, or Andy Warhol?
[Answers at the bottom of this newsletter]
Crypto Is Dead, Long Live Crypto
They say a week is a long time in politics. For investors in the cryptocurrency markets, this past week must have felt like an eternity.
A staggering one trillion dollars was wiped off crypto value, with Bitcoin nosediving 30% to $30,000 before recovering slightly. The Terra Luna token fell from $118 to just $0.09 on Thursday.
But of course, crypto bust cycles are nothing new, and so far have been followed each time by a new (and bigger) boom. What is different this time round is the potential knock-on effect on the global economy. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned a Senate committee meeting of the risk to “financial stability” and the need for regulation in the digital currency markets. China already banned cryptocurrencies last year.
Yellen is right to speak up. In 2018 and 2019, crypto had little correlation to the stock market, sometimes even moving in the opposite direction. But an uptake of traditional hedge funds investing in crypto has meant that digital currency is no longer the gangster of the finance world. It’s very much mainstream, a point underlined by global interest rate hikes adding to crypto’s woes. One recent study found that 21% of Americans have owned or traded in cryptocurrency.
So even if this is the loudest crash of crypto so far, it’s hard to imagine that the experiment fizzles here. The apocalypse indeed had already been predicted following major drops in value in June 2011, April 2013, Dec. 2013, Dec. 2017… and well, you get the idea.
But this is different. Even the President of El Salvador tweeted on Monday that the country was “buying the dip,” purchasing 500 Bitcoin.
The crypto crash will also be watched closely by Russia and Ukraine. Following Vladimir Putin’s invasion, millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrencies have flowed into Kyiv to support Ukraine’s military and the general population, with the government establishing an official website for crypto donations.
Russia, meanwhile, happens to be the world’s third-largest Bitcoin miner and home to a disproportionate number of crypto-linked cybercrimes. There were concerns in the West that oligarchs close to the Kremlin would use digital currencies to evade sanctions. Last month, Russia even floated the idea of accepting crypto from “friendly” countries for oil and gas.
For better or worse, crypto is by now a part of a wide array of financial activities around the world. That helps explain all the noise around its plummeting value on markets, and why the obituaries being written for it this time are actually the sign of a long life to come.
— Shaun Lavelle
• Ukraine through to Eurovision final: Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra qualified for the finals of the 2022 Eurovision popular music contest, and is among the favorites to win the kitsch event Saturday night with their patriotic song “Stefania”. And though the contest is supposed to be apolitical, Ukraine is no stranger to strong statements, having won the 2016 edition with their “1944” song about the Crimean Tatars deported by Stalin during World War II.
• A new Bob Dylan museum in Tulsa & sculpture in French vineyard: A museum dedicated to the life and work of the legendary musician Bob Dylan opened this past week in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The master crafter of words is also showing off his blacksmithing skills at a sculpture garden in Provence, France, with “Rail Car,” his largest ironwork to date that was built in Los Angeles, before being disassembled and shipped … across that lonesome ocean.
• Avatar 2 first official teaser trailer released: After 13 years of waiting, James Cameron released the trailer for the sequel to his sci-fi blockbuster Avatar’s sequel: The Way of Water. The movie is set for release toward the end of this year and three more are planned before 2028.
• Major Turkish music festival canceled last minute: This Thursday, the Anadolu Fest was supposed to kick off in Eskişehir province in Turkey, featuring some of the country’s most famous artists during a four-day music festival for which 10,000 tickets had been sold. But just three days before it started, the local government prohibited all events between May 10-25 to “ensure public order and public security, prevent crime, protect others’ rights and freedoms and prevent the spread of violence,” provoking a public outcry from audience and artists alike.
• Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, class of 2022: On Wednesday, the annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony picked an eclectic list of artists whom it considers have significantly contributed to, or influenced, rock and roll. This year’s inductees included Dolly Parton, Pat Benatar, Lionel Richie, rapper Eminem, Carly Simon, Harry Belafonte, Duran Duran, Eurythmics and heavy metal band Judas Priest.
Russian forces have destroyed thousands of Ukrainian houses and buildings since the invasion began, and it is far from over. For Iryna Matsevko and Oleg Drozdov, heads of the Kharkiv School of Architecture, now is the time to plan for the rebuilding of cities for those who are left without a house. But this is also an opportunity to restore Ukrainian society as a whole, by giving a voice to residents, who had been left with an “unrefined Soviet legacy,” in the rebuilding process. “We think that architecture could be a project to unite society,” the architects write in Ukrainian news website Livy Bereg.
Read the full story: Beyond Post-Soviet? Ukraine's Architectural Opportunity From The Rubble Of War
This March was the hottest on record in India, with temperatures reaching 44 °C in New Delhi, and nearly 46 °C in places like Kanpur and Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh. The rest of the world is also affected, from South America where wildfires are burning in Argentina, Paraguay, Columbia, and Venezuela to Canada’s province of British Columbia which saw devastating and deadly heat reaching nearly 50 °C.
Writer Ranjani Iyer Mohanty is worried reality is increasingly resembling Kim Stanley Robinson’s fiction book "The Ministry of the Future," in which a heatwave leaves 20 million people dead. “It’s starting to look more like non-fiction and alarmingly nearer-future” Mohanty writes.
Read the full story: From India To Canada, Tracking The Killer Wave Of Global Warming
Italy’s conservative political parties are trying to pass legislation that would completely ban surrogacy, even if practiced abroad, with the argument that the practice has become a business that endangers women’s lives. In a country which faces low fertility rates as well as the historical weight of the Catholic Church, the debate surrounding surrogacy “was bound to be complicated,” writes Irene Caselli.
For the Italian journalist, while concerns over the commercial exploitation of surrogacy is understandable, an outright ban may not be the best solution to this issue. “Shouldn’t we instead legislate better to make sure that if surrogacy takes place in a way that is dignified for the woman that carries the pregnancy?"
Read the full story: How Italy’s New Draconian Bill On Surrogacy Twists The Meaning Of "Women's Dignity"
Move over, dog-ears filters: The new Snapchat Lens craze going viral on TikTok and Instagram right now is the sad face filter.
This year’s winner of France’s Concours Lépine invention contest is a connected defibrillator. Created by Frédéric Leybold, “Geocoeur” is linked via a server to emergency services: When a cardiac arrest occurs, the server tracks the nearest defibrillator and makes it blink to warn people in the vicinity.
Meet little Luan Figueiró, who was born during a Metallica concert in Curitiba, Brazil, just as the heavy metal band played their iconic song “Enter Sandman.” Though an early surprise, delivery went well and a couple of days later, frontman James Hetfield even phoned to congratulate the new parents, who are delighted that their son will forever share a connection with one of their favorite bands. They are considering giving him a middle name in homage to Metallica (no, it won’t be “Sandman”).
How Rihanna Ripped Apart The Bland Victorian Rules Of Maternity Clothing
Barbadian singer and businesswoman Rihanna has proudly celebrated her pregnant belly in fun and revealing clothes. By doing so, she is breaking away from the unspoken rule that pregnant women should hide their baby bumps, writes Serena Dyer in The Conversation.
There is a stage in pregnancy where many women have to start thinking about switching out their clothes for maternity wear. Let’s be honest, the choices out there aren’t all too inspiring and women are often expected to give up on their sense of style in favour of comfort. Not singer Rihanna, though, whose refreshing approach to maternity fashion has rocked the world.
Since she announced in January 2022 that she was expecting her first child, she has shunned the stretchy pants and tent dresses of traditional maternity wear. Instead, she’s used fashion to embrace, display and celebrate her changing body. She has not covered up her bump but showed it off in belly exposing garments and tight form-fitting fashions.
From crop tops and low-rise jeans to removing the lining from a Dior cocktail dress to transform it into a belly-celebrating outfit Rihanna has radicalised maternity fashion and how a pregnant body should be viewed.
From corsets to baggy sweatshirts, women’s waistlines have always been heavily monitored by society, and never more so than during pregnancy.
Often, women’s maternity wear does its best to conceal and accommodate pregnancy. Today, advice for expectant mothers can focus on techniques for disguising pregnancy or how to make the most of pretty dull options.
Society has framed pregnancy as a liminal time for women – a moment of conversion from sexual appealing womanhood to matronly motherhood. Fashion is central to how young women construct their identities, yet maternity fashions, arguably, lack creativity. With their drab designs that accommodate a growing body rather than celebrate it, maternity wear robs women of quirks, style and individuality, and instead confines them to the role of mother. To be a sexy mother, let alone a sexy pregnant woman like Rihanna, challenges this binary status of womanhood.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
• Australians will choose their political representatives during the May 21st federal election. Scott Morrison, current Prime Minister leading the Liberal-National Coalition, intends to be re-elected for the fourth time, facing Labor candidate Anthony Albanese.
• From next week, COVID-19 restrictions will be eased within the European Union, with travelers no longer needing masks in the air and in airports. Meanwhile, Spain and Morocco agree to gradually reopen land borders of Ceuta and Melilla from May 17, two years after the closure due to the pandemic.
• This coming Tuesday — May 17 — is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia. This day aims at respecting, protecting and promoting diversity and LGBTQIA+ rights worldwide.
News quiz answers:
1. Finland is expected to formally announce its decision to join NATO after the country’s president and prime minister released a joint statement saying they are in favor of joining the military alliance in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. NATO leaders indicated that the application would be approved rapidly. Sweden is expected to announce a similar decision on the same day.
2. Mahinda Rajapaksa, brother of Sri Lanka president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, resigned as the country’s prime minister amid violent unrest caused by an economic and political crisis. In an effort to de-escalate the situation, in which at least nine people were killed, five-time former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was appointed at the position on Thursday.
3. Saudi Aramco overtook U.S. tech giant Appleas the world’s most valuable company thanks to rising oil prices and tech stocks taking a dip this week.
4. Andy Warhol’s iconic 1964 pop art portrait of Marilyn Monroe, Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, has been auctioned for $195 million at Christie’s in New York. This is the highest sum ever paid for a 20th century work of art. All proceeds of the sale will go to the Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation Zurich, which aims to improve the health and education of children around the world.
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*Photo: Camilo Freedman/dpa via ZUMA