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COVID patients in a temporary hospital in a warehouse in St. Petersburg, Russia
COVID patients in a temporary hospital in a warehouse in St. Petersburg, Russia

Welcome to Friday, where Joe Biden announces a huge COVID relief package, North Korea boasts "the world's most powerful weapon" and Wikipedia turns 20. Les Echos also explains how the pandemic response is quietly helping us prepare for the next big bad thing.

SPOTLIGHT: TRUMP DIDN'T INVENT THE SPREADING PLAGUE OF NARCISSISM

When I was a kid — 12,13 — my dad had a shrink friend who used to come around our house. His usual business on these visits was to review the degenerating state of the world for us, and list the ways it all made his profession difficult.

"Wanna catch a glimpse of the future?" he asked, raising an eyebrow. "Just visit the waiting room of a psychologist!" Then he raised a finger: "I'll tell you, they're no neurotics left, just narcissists!"

I remember that night because the word narcissist entered my vocabulary directly from the mouth of a professional in the field. And inside my still-growing cortex, a terrifying image of what that might mean for a person, the world, as well as for Dr. Jansson's blood pressure.

The term accompanied me through 2016, as Donald Trump lied and boasted and driveled his way to the pole position in the GOP primary, and on to the White House. What eventually was even more terrifying about the election of a narcissist was the subsequent consensus in the psychological community that Trump appealed most of all to fellow narcissists.

So ... as with Donald, as with us, the people. We the people, who almost twice elected a high-end bingo caller as leader of the Free World. There's solid data coming from my priest dad — Gunnar — that narcissism's rise to the status of a folk illness dates back decades.

Yes, it predates that virtual litter box for the worst that humans can verbally discharge. Twitter and other social media no doubt play their part, but at the time of the dinner conversation at my house, Zuckerberg had yet to invent his algorithm and people were still playing Snake II on Nokias.

Dr. Jansson's theory, Gunnar recalled on the phone the other day, was rather that our self-absorbed tendencies were the result of the widespread distrust in any kind of overarching idea. We contemporary humans prefer to cherry-pick our ideas — often fragmented, incoherent and simplified — that best validate some feeling of self-worth.

That's what Gunnar saw last week on his television set in southern Sweden as a mob of narcissists launched their assault on the U.S. Capitol. They are not believers in any ideology, per se, but rather a fleeting series of (conspiracy) theories: that Trump leads a covert battle against a blood-sucking child-trafficking conglomerate featuring Hillary Clinton and Tom Hanks; that the 2020 election was stolen through Hugo Chavez-designed voting machines hacked by Venezuelan children; that who knows what next ...

... well, you get it. The farcical madness that played out in Washington suggests something deeper than just political polarization, or the disillusionment of under-educated white voters, or social media going haywire. The lesson of these last four years that (let us hope) culminated last week is that our collective sanity, like democracy, requires constant support from professionals in the field.

— Carl-Johan Karlsson​

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Society

End Of Roe v. Wade: Will It Spark Anti-Abortion Momentum Around The World?

Pro-life activists celebrated the end of the U.S. right to abortion, hoping it will trigger a new debate on a topic that in some places had largely been settled: in favor a woman’s right to choose. But it could also boomerang.

Thousands of people demonstrate against abortion in Madrid

Lisa Berdet, Lila Paulou and Shaun Lavelle

The Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling establishing a constitutional right to abortion put the United States at the forefront of abortion rights in the world.

Other countries would follow suit in the succeeding years, with France legalizing abortion in 1975, Italy in 1978, and Ireland finally joining most of the rest of Europe with a landslide 2018 referendum victory for women’s right to choose. Elsewhere, parts of Asia and Africa have made incremental steps toward legalizing abortion, while a growing number of Latin American countries have joined what has now been a decades-long worldwide shift toward more access to abortion rights.

But now, 49 years later, with last Friday’s landmark overturning of Roe v. Wade, will the U.S. once again prove to be ahead of the curve? Will American cultural and political influence carry across borders on the abortion issue, reversing the momentum of recent years?

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