- The Balkans, next on Putin’s list?
- Double standard for a trans soldier in Germany
- La crème de la Mona Lisa
- … and much more.
What do you remember from the news this week?
1. The European Union approved a sixth package of sanctions against Russia. Which measure disappointed Ukrainian officials?
2. In the wake of the Uvalde school shooting, which country announced the implementation of a strict ban on handguns?
3. Who won the Palme d’Or at the 2022 Cannes festival?
4. Which car, made famous by a 1985 hit movie, is making a comeback with an electric model?
[Answers at the bottom of this newsletter]
Trial By Social Media: Trying (And Failing) To Scroll Past Depp v. Heard
There are no cameras in France’s courtrooms. The general public sees no photos of defendants, no video clips of witnesses. The only available visual representation of what goes down behind French tribunal doors comes from the talented roster of sketch artists who would make Renoir proud.
Such a 19th-century way of doing things, chiefly on privacy grounds and to avoid distractions, seems diametrically opposed to the frenzied, overabundant, free-for-all coverage of the recent Depp v. Heard defamation trial, and helps explain the deep cultural rift I felt during the six weeks of what is already qualified under the “Trial of the century” entry on Wikipedia. Indeed, between instant images, video clips, Reels, GIFs, etc., etc. — anyone with a social media account would have been hard-pressed to escape the endless feed of ruthless memes and cruel jokes that the feuding Hollywood stars gave rise to inside and outside that Virginia courtroom.
But why, I asked myself, should I let myself be bombarded with cheap shots at their love-hate relationship when I’m trying to mind my own social media business? What does the immediacy and glibness of Instagram posts have to do with the administration of justice, which requires seriousness, reflection and the proper passage of time? Is domestic violence really TikTok material?
See, I’d like to be able to form my own opinion about the complex Johnny-Amber narrative of mutual abuse: in my own time, using relevant sources … and only if I decide to care about the fate of a washed-out actor (last watchable movie: Public Enemies, 2009) and his former flame who, I confess, I knew virtually nothing about.
Rather than being force fed the vitriol of competing “stans,” I turn to my social media feeds to marvel at photos of old #typewriters and #brutalist architecture, drool over vintage #RogerFederer reels and stay hip with the kids that check @aoc and @TheAmandaGorman’s tweets.
But scroll as I might, Depp and Heard’s ugly stories — and their seemingly instantaneous, meme-ification — were not to be avoided.
“Fine,” I thought.
Heck, we’ve even been integrating social media content at Worldcrunch into our daily coverage of a much more critical topic — the war in Ukraine — so why don’t I go ahead and give that scroll a shot, instead of turning to my go-to publications and their in-depth pieces. Who knows, I may not be such a complete boomer after all?!
And sure enough, among the awful, narrow-minded and mostly pro-Depp content, I quickly stumbled upon well-articulated instant analyses, cool-looking explainers, sliders providing relevant context and other welcome refreshers on a variety of legal and social implications I had failed to fully consider.
Scrolling some more, I started to form some sort of social-media educated opinion of the case: The scope of the trial, I realized, went well beyond the mere fate of a washed-out actor and his former flame: Could it be that I misjudged the journalistic relevance of social media? Should I maybe see it more as a bonafide trove of… — yup, nope, we’re back to #AmberHeardIsAPsycho and a photoshop of Depp’s head on a stick.
Now, where’s that thoughtful long read I had set aside for after the verdict…?
— Bertrand Hauger
• Indian music industry in mourning, twice: Influential Punjabi rapper Sidhu Moose Wala and iconic Bollywood singer Krishnakumar Kunnath (known as KK) both died this week, just two days apart. Sidhu Moose Wala, 28, was shot dead on May 29 by unknown assailants, in an attack thought to be gang-related; just two days later, KK died of a heart attack after a performance at age 53.
• Depp v. Heard verdict: The six-week televised defamation trial pitting U.S. actor Johnny Depp against his ex-wife Amber Heard reached a verdict. Heard was found guilty and condemned to pay $15 million for portraying herself as a domestic abuse victim in a Washington Post column in 2018, which Depp says was detrimental to his career. The jury also found the Pirates of the Caribbean actor liable for defamation and ordered him to pay Heard $2 million in damages after his lawyer called her allegations a “hoax”. Heard said she would appeal the decision.
• Glastonbury lineup: The full lineup for this year’s Glastonbury festival has been revealed, with more than 3,000 performances scheduled between June 22-26 in Somerset, England. Headliners include Billie Eilish, Paul McCartney, Noel Gallagher, Lorde and Kendrick Lamar.
• Let Mona Lisa eat cake: A 36-year-old man wearing a wig and using a wheelchair threw cake at the Mona Lisa in Paris’ Louvre Museum. The perpetrator, who justified his act by saying he wanted people to “think of the planet”, was detained and sent to a psychiatric unit. The iconic 16th-century painting by Leonardo da Vinci was left undamaged, thanks to its protective glass.
• “Viva Las Vegas” no more: The licensing company in charge of Elvis Presley’s name and image has requested Las Vegas chapels to stop Elvis-themed weddings, threatening a significant part of Sin City’s wedding industry.
Russia is quietly trying to destabilize the Balkans, with Bosnia and Herzegovina as its current target. The country, founded after the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1992, is now on the brink of a breakup. Alexander Demchenko, writing for Ukrainian news website Livy Bereg, notes that foreign minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina has been warning that Vladimir Putin has an interest in stirring trouble in the Balkans.
Read the full story: In The Balkans, Russia Is Already Busy Rekindling The Ugly Past
Hong Kong expats are leaving China in droves, due to the strict zero-COVID policies the country put into place at the start of the pandemic. Big companies are losing their foreign employees from the pandemic side-effects, which follows unrest from the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement of 2014, explains Liang Yue and Yuan Huiyan in The Initium.
Read the full story: Hong Kong's Strict COVID Rules Are Sparking An Exodus Of Foreigners
After completing two foreign missions in Afghanistan, and being the first trans woman commander of a battalion of the Bundeswehr, Germany's national armed forces, Anastasia Biefang is being reprimanded because of an online dating profile.
This piece by Frédéric Schwilden for German daily Die Welt explains the double standards of The Bundeswehr, claiming “equality and democracy” but denying a female soldier her freedom.
Read the full story: A Trans Soldier Fighting Abroad For Freedom Is Denied Her Own Back Home
The video of an Indian woman risking her life to fetch water in the central state of Madhya Pradesh has gone viral on social media. The woman is shown going to the bottom of a dried well, without protection of any kind, to collect whatever little water is left. India is currently facing a devastating nationwide water crisis. The situation is likely to worsen due to climate change, with 30 major Indian cities projected to belong to high-risk regions by 2050.
U.S. sportswear giant Nike has unveiled Brabot, a soft tissue robot “designed to mimic the tender tissue of breasts.” Brabot is not the only robot developed by the company: Hayley, a “thermoregulation mannequin” recreates human sweat, helping the brand better understand the human body so that it can offer more than 70 cup sizes ranging from the XS to 4X and conceive more inclusive bras.
Prince Louis stole the show during the celebrations of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in London. The four-year-old youngest son of Prince William and Kate Middleton, was caught making funny faces, waving at the crowds and covering his ears to block the Royal Air Force jets’ deafening noise during the royal fly-past.
Iran Caught In Persian Gulf's Record Rise In Illegal Shark Hunting
The Persian Gulf has become lucrative fishing territory. Sharks, a threatened species, are being hunted to be used in cooking and medicines. Local fishermen are being arrested, but the operation involves people much higher up the food chain, reports Persian-language media.
Iranians were informed in mid-May of another piece of endemic lawlessness in their country: illegal, and possibly massive, fishing of sharks in the Persian Gulf, which are destined for unspecified markets.
Authorities found a haul of 8,000 dead shark and shark fins in the port of Chabahar in south-east Iran, and 2,500 shark fins on the island of Kish, in the south-west of the country, in less than a week earlier in May. The chief environmental officer of the Sistan-and-Baluchestan province described the consignments, found in cold storage facilities, as the biggest so far.
Six fishermen were reported as arrested in Kish for the shark fins, and an unspecified number of suspects were separately identified in Chabahar, according to local media.
But with such figures, it seems unlikely the arrests of a dozen or so people will end illegal fishing in the Persian Gulf when it is a big business worldwide. The daily Payam-e ma recently cited a former marine environments officer at the state fishing organization, Hamidreza Bargahi, as qualifying shark fishing as "a huge trade, with the participation of big, global firms and organizations. But all we hear is about the arrests of a few fishermen."
The sharks are used for purposes that go beyond making soup, including medicine, or in the production of pet foods or even snacks. Shark fishing in the past 50 years is said to have reduced shark numbers worldwide by 70%. Unofficial reports put the retail price of a kilogram of shark fin in Persian Gulf coastal states at U.S. $400, which somewhat explains the interest.
The IUCN, an alliance of conservation groups, has categorized several shark species as threatened or gravely threatened with extinction, because of overfishing. Today, we can add another threat, shark fishing for tourism. While big fish caught this way are usually released back into the water, the ecological effects of the practice remain uncertain.
Shark fishing is banned in Iran, and the practice is liable to big fines. It is thus thought to be done at night. The main regional countries identified with the trade are India, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates. In Iran's case, it is not clear if fished sharks are destined for those countries, and just how much shark fishing is even discovered or reported.
• Tomorrow marks World Environment Day, held since 1973 by the United Nations Environment Program. This year’s theme, “Only one Earth,” focuses on “Living Sustainably in Harmony with Nature”.
• The French Open finals will be taking place this weekend.
• The Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), the information technology conference held by Apple, kicks off on Monday. Still organized online due to the pandemic, it is expected to introduce a range of new tech and features, including the latest iOS, iPad and macOS.
• As part of Pride Month, Boston is organizing a day party “We outside”, while Philadelphia is having a pride march “PHL Pride 50: Our Community, Our Joy”, both on Sunday. In Florida there will be an audience singalong Queer-E-Okee on June 11 and an evening at the Museum of Fine Arts on June 28 celebrating transgender and nonbinary people.
News quiz answers:
1. European Union countries agreed to an embargo on 90% of Russia’s oil by the end of the year while Ukrainian officials had hoped for a complete, and more immediate shutdown of Russian oil imports.
2. In response to the recent U.S. mass shootings south of the border, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the implementation of a law freezing sales, transfers and imports of handguns in the country.
3. The 2022 Palme d’Or was won by Ruben Östlund for Triangle of Sadness, a satire about wealthy people — the second time the Swedish filmmaker has been awarded the prestigious prize.
4. The DMC DeLorean, which became iconic thanks to Back to the Future, is back as an electric vehicle under the name Alpha5 (but it will still feature its signature gull-wing doors).
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*Photo: Cliff Owen/CNP/ZUMA