When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.


The Latest: Trillion Dollar Relief, North Korea Flex, Wikipedia Birthday

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.


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​


• COVID-19 latest: U.S. President-elect Joe Biden announces a $1.9 trillion relief package which includes $1,400 per person, additional unemployment benefits, food stamps, and rental assistance. As cases hit 30 million across Europe, France announces a 6 pm curfew, and the UK bans all flights from South America.

• Capitol riot aftermath: The Pentagon launches investigation into White Nationalism extremists in the military noting that "numerous people" have been identified as military veterans or active-duty service members. Meanwhile, the Army agrees to bring 21,000 National Guard members to D.C. and the city's mayor asks people not to come to the inauguration.

• North Korea flexes military: Kim Jong-un boasts Pyongyang's submarine launched missile as "world's most powerful weapon," and calls the U.S. his "principal enemy."

• Algerian roadside bomb: Five civilians have been killed and three wounded in a homemade bomb in eastern Algeria.

• Earthquake in Indonesia: A 6.2-magnitude quake has shaken the island of Sulawesi, killing at least 34.

• Dakar rally news: France's Pierre Cherpin has died from a head injury he sustained during a motorsport crash. Fellow countryman Stéphane Peterhansel has won the rally for the 14th time, a new record.

• Tintin painting breaks record: The original cover for Tintin's The Blue Lotus volume from 1936 was bought by a private collector for a record €3.2 million at a Paris auction. It breaks the 2014 record for the most expensive comic book art sale of €2.65 million.

"Without oxygen, Manaus sees deaths from asphyxiation in hospitals," titles daily O Globo as hospitals in the Brazilian city reach breaking point with reports of severe oxygen shortages and desperate staff. Brazil records more than 205,000 deaths, the world's second highest tally.


Before it even began, the pandemic was already on the radar of big risks — and yet we were unprepared. Will it be the same for cyber security and environmental threats? asks Jean-Marc Vittori in French daily Les Echos.

If this health crisis is causing so much suffering, it's because we refused to seriously prepare for it. The time has therefore come to think about the next global catastrophes — the less predictable ones. "If you want peace, prepare for war" goes the old Latin adage. Luckily a major conflict among allied nations, seen in the last century, doesn't seem as likely today.

The major perils — the ones that could create worldwide catastrophes — are of a different nature. Except for infectious diseases and weapons of mass destruction, they all fit into two categories: digital and natural. And what happened with the pandemic can help us prepare for both.

The digital world has two dangers: system malfunctions and cyber attacks. Google's worldwide shutdown on December 14th after a problem with its identification system gave a glimpse of what this kind of massive outage could look like, and the consequences weren't just a missing search bar. The lesson here is clear: resilience requires diversification. It's similar to the old maxim, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket."

The other genre of catastrophic events is environmental: extreme weather, water shortages, natural disasters… "Climate: the next threat?" proclaimed the Toulouse School of Economics in their latest review. "In the long term, no challenge is greater or more urgently requires evidence-based action than climate change," declared Christian Gollier, the school's director.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com here.


"COVID-19 pandemic" was Wikipedia's most-read page in 2020 with more than 83 million visits, followed by Donald Trump and "Deaths in 2020." The collaborative internet encyclopedia is celebrating its 20th birthday today and has now become the seventh-most popular website in the world.

It is the State that is charged with safeguarding the welfare of its most vulnerable citizens, and it is the State that must bear primary responsibility.

Irish President Michael D Higgins responds to a government report this week that found an "appalling level of infant mortality" and abuse of women and children at the Catholic Church-run homes that cared for mothers and children.


You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


What's Spoiling The Kids: The Big Tech v. Bad Parenting Debate

Without an extended family network, modern parents have sought to raise happy kids in a "hostile" world. It's a tall order, when youngsters absorb the fears (and devices) around them like a sponge.

Image of a kid wearing a blue striped sweater, using an ipad.

Children exposed to technology at a very young age are prominent today.

Julián de Zubiría Samper


BOGOTÁ — A 2021 report from the United States (the Youth Risk Behavior Survey) found that 42% of the country's high-school students persistently felt sad and 22% had thought about suicide. In other words, almost half of the country's young people are living in despair and a fifth of them have thought about killing themselves.

Such chilling figures are unprecedented in history. Many have suggested that this might be the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but sadly, we can see depression has deeper causes, and the pandemic merely illustrated its complexity.

I have written before on possible links between severe depression and the time young people spend on social media. But this is just one aspect of the problem. Today, young people suffer frequent and intense emotional crises, and not just for all the hours spent staring at a screen. Another, possibly more important cause may lie in changes to the family composition and authority patterns at home.

Firstly: Families today have fewer members, who communicate less among themselves.

Young people marry at a later age, have fewer children and many opt for personal projects and pets instead of having children. Families are more diverse and flexible. In many countries, the number of children per woman is close to or less than one (Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong among others).

In Colombia, women have on average 1.9 children, compared to 7.6 in 1970. Worldwide, women aged 15 to 49 years have on average 2.4 children, or half the average figure for 1970. The changes are much more pronounced in cities and among middle and upper-income groups.

Of further concern today is the decline in communication time at home, notably between parents and children. This is difficult to quantify, but reasons may include fewer household members, pervasive use of screens, mothers going to work, microwave ovens that have eliminated family cooking and meals and, thanks to new technologies, an increase in time spent on work, even at home. Our society is addicted to work and devotes little time to minors.

Keep reading...Show less

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

The latest