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Nastassia Dobremez

See more by Nastassia Dobremez

The old town of Monaco
food / travel

24 Hours In Monaco, But Away From The Garish And Gaudy

It's possible to spend an entire day in Monaco, on the French Riviera, off the tourist trail, far from ostentatious jewelry and pampered princesses.

MONTE CARLO — Few places in the world are as marked by clichés as Monaco, with its casinos, Ferraris, gleaming "60s-era high-rises and glitzy royal family, a mainstay of the world's tabloids since American actress Grace Kelly became princess of the sovereign city-state in 1956.

At first glance, the place seems to be every bit as kitsch as the glossy magazines make it out to be. But an all-day stroll through some of its main wards (Monaco Ville, Monte Carlo, Moneghetti, La Condamine and Fontvieille) offers a more nuanced view of the microstate, revealing its timelessness and unexpectedly originality.

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Chimpanzees sharing a very human hug

Empathy, The Emotion Humans And Animals Share

Humans aren't the only living beings able to perceive the emotions of others and respond to them. When it comes to empathy, animals and people are more alike than not.

NEUCHATEL — To understand what others are feeling, to identify with their emotions and adapt our behavior to their needs is a critical aspect of our humanity. But where does empathy come from? Is it inherent or acquired? New research on animals and children over the last few years has advanced our scientific knowledge about what stems from nature and what is instilled by culture, suggesting that we are indeed programmed to take care of each other.

It's only been two decades since empathy emerged as a research topic in biology and psychology. For a long time, conventional wisdom held that competition rules the relationships between living beings. According to this idea, inspired by Darwin's theory of "natural selection," each of us acts on their own behalf, leaving only the strongest to survive and reproduce.

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Screenshot from skin whitening Zyada ad

India's Disturbing Obsession With Fair Skin

India's entertainment industry casts people with dark skin as cursed and low class, an idea the culture has strongly, if sadly, embraced. The only winner is the cosmetics industry.

MUMBAI — Nina is sitting at a table in Coffee Day, a popular café with Mumbai students. As her friends arrive, they join her and order iced coffee drinks and donuts. Nearby, the cinema Eros is screening a current hit movie called R... Rajkumar, aBollywood film directed by Prabhu Dheva and featuring two rising stars: Shahid Kapoor and Sonakshi Sinha. Both are beautiful, merry, in love and … fair-skinned.

Nina's skin is rather dark. "I have an aunt who could not stop offering me some whitening cream," she says. "One day I told her that I had seen her applying this cream on her skin for 20 years and that there were no significant changes." Painful memories come to her. "I always knew I was dark-colored. At school, white little girls were chosen to represent the class. One of my teachers even said to me that I was good but too black."

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Taxis in Bogota, Colombia

Uber-Appalling Bogota Taxis Bring Competition On Themselves

Arguments for blocking the car service Uber are based exclusively on the fact that it brings unwelcome competition to cab drivers, and not at all on the welfare of drivers and passengers.


BOGOTÁ — Some debates ultimately get us all involved, and the one about whether Colombia should block that most populist of transportation options, the Uber car service, is one of them.

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Til Schweiger facing the media hubbub

How Racist Trolls Led A German Star To Build A Refugee Home

Til Schweiger may be Germany's most popular actor-director, but right now he's flat in the middle of the real-life, hot-button political issue of the day: immigration.

BERLIN It all started quite innocently: A 12-year-old girl asks a well-known actor/director to share an appeal for donations on his Facebook page. She asked, he delivered.

But because the campaign was for a polarizing subject, immigration, and the man in question is named Til Schweiger and has 1.3 million followers on Facebook, it didn't take long for things to escalate. A racist debate unfolded on Schweiger's Facebook page and the star was forced to "shoot down" the racist trolls with unambiguous responses such as: "piss off of my page" and "you shouldn't unload all that hatred and stupidity on my page."

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Vodafone billboards in Egypt.

The Sorry State Of Egypt's Slow-Growth Telecom Sector

CAIRO — Etisalat, the smallest of Egypt's three telecom companies, has gone no-holds-barred in its latest challenge to Vodaphone, "borrowing" one of the latter's former mascots, a genie, to take several not-so-subtle jabs at the market leader's star-studded, sing-songy Ramadan ad.

In the Etisalat spot, a narrator asks the genie (who's all decked out in Vodaphone's signature red) some pointed questions: "They left you out of this cool song, huh? Do you plan on telling us how much they spent on that commercial? A respectable amount, huh? Shouldn't they have given this money to the people? That would've made them happier."

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A quiet street in Concepcion

The Small Colombian Town That Stopped Using Cash

Concepcion is the first place in Colombia where the vast majority of transactions involve electronic banking via mobile phones, staying well ahead of even northern Europe.

CONCEPCION — Concepción in northern Colombia has become the country's first town to practically say goodbye to bank notes, instead embracing online payments for even the most ordinary transaction. When the town's 4,500 residents make purchases, they pay using their mobile phones. They are local pioneers of an expanding global trend, and apparently ahead of even countries such as Denmark, which is considering banning cash transactions in some shops and businesses starting next year.

Concepción calls itself a "welcoming land where nobody is an outsider," and that seems especially true when you can visit without any cash. It all started as part of a pilot program intended to bring "ordinary folk" and small businesses into the official economy and banking system. The initiative is backed and financed by the public sector Banco del Comercio Exterior, banking syndicate Asobancaria and the private bank Davivienda.

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Cultural Collateral Effects Of Greek Debt Crisis

Cultural Collateral Effects Of Greek Debt Crisis

Banks are back, the stock market has reopened and all economic signs (including the banks and stock market) are disastrous. Normalcy has returned to Greece! The more serious truth is that the deal signed last month by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras — which includes new austerity measures in exchange for a third bailout to stay in the Eurozone — will have real effects on people's lives. The downside of the debt drama can be measured not only in its economic but also cultural and social consequences. Here are some signs of the times.


The crisis doesn't only affect the present and future of Greece, but also its past, as the country's 270 public museums have seen their budgets considerably trimmed in response to the mounting public debt. The annual allocation to Athens' National Archaeological Museum dropped 27% between 2010 and 2012 according to French newspaperLe Monde. The State Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki is also struggling with the lack of state funding. "It only has enough funds to pay staff salaries. It cannot fund running costs and exhibitions, cover utility bills and pay for internet usage," independent curator Katerina Gregos told The Art Newspaper. As for the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art, it was momentarily closed on July 1. "The cost of keeping it open will bankrupt the institution, making 20 staff redundant," said the museum's artistic director Denys Zacharopoulos.

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At a supermarket in Moscow

Russia Crackdown On Banned Western Goods Hits Stores

MOSCOW — A new crackdown has begun on food illegally imported from Western countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia. But rather than just targeting goods brought in across the border, Russian officials now have the go-ahead to raid shops, warehouses and grocery chains throughout the country.

Although most prohibited goods are stopped at the border as transit cargo and destroyed there or sent back, the difficulty of returning products to their place of origin has led to the new proposal by the Ministry of Agriculture late last month, backed by President Vladimir Putin, to seize and destroy banned products on the spot.

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Blood donation in Egypt

Why Blood Donation Is In Such Short Supply In Egypt

CAIRO — A woman carried her son as she pleaded with the doctor in charge of Nasser Institute Hospital's blood bank for a few bags of blood to save his life after a serious car accident. The doctor turned her away, saying that the boy's rare blood type was not available.

Salma Khattab, whose father was undergoing heart surgery at the same hospital witnessed the incident, and watched the grieving mother leave the hospital in despair. Khattab's father was also in a need of the same rare blood type. "We donated a lot of blood so that we could exchange them for the blood type that my father needs," she said. After a few phone calls to well-connected people, the same doctor was ordered to give Khattab's father the blood he needs.

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A Turkish army investigator looks over the Syrian border last October.

Turkey Forced To Finally See ISIS Reality Through U.S. Eyes

After last month's border attack, some hard Syrian lessons for Ankara, which has finally opened a key air base for attacks against ISIS positions.


ANKARA — When ISIS launched its Suruc assault by that killed 32 near the Syrian border last month, it was the clearest sign that the Islamist terror group poses a much greater threat to Turkey than it does to the West.

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Money And Faith, A Match Made In Heaven?

Money And Faith, A Match Made In Heaven?

A German exodus from the church may be chalked up to a small bookkeeping change to federal tax rules. It begs some big questions.

BERLIN — Money and faith are two sides of the same coin. If you don't believe it, have a look at the newest figures of people leaving the Catholic Church. The real reason as to why 218,000 German Catholics left the Church in 2014, and probably nearly as many Protestants, can only be explained by the changed direct debiting of church tax, as part of the capital gains taxing procedure. Quickly after having been informed by their bank of this new process, people realized that they would have to hand over part of their profits from their financial investments.

Although this is not a new policy per se, and the amounts due are relatively low, the automatic changes in reporting seem to have prompted many to leave the Church — their religiosity being apparently decided by their bank statement. It isn't much different than 2013, when the spending sprees of Catholic Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst came to light, and a wave of faithful left the Church.

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