March 9 – March 15
The Week in Review is a weekly column that highlights some interesting, depressing, and heartwarming events and stories that took place or were published in the past week. Its ambition is not to be exhaustive or to recap major political events; it’s more of a personal take on news or stories that made the author strongly react.
Picture of the week
Serena Williams is back to the Indian Wells tennis tournament after 14 years. That year, in 2001, Williams had won the final against Kim Clijsters, but alleged racial abuse against Serena’s father, Richard Williams, and the public raucous behavior directed towards Serena convinced both the Williams sisters not to come back to Indian Wells-until Serena made an emotional comeback this year.
Discovery of the week
Hubble’s Space Telescope gave evidence that Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon, possesses a 100km-wide salty ocean under its icy crust. Yes, you’ve read correctly, there’s just a little ocean that contains more water than all the Earth’s water on a moon that’s about a 1/5th of the Earth’s size. It’s an important validation of an old theory because it could mean that there are forms of life on Ganymede (we’re talking about bacteria or primitive forms of shrimps, not about dolphins and whales). Another moon of Jupiter, Europa, is already known for having an ocean lying under kilometers of ice. That also means that other moons of the Solar System, not to speak of other moons and planets of other galaxies, could bear life.
Outraging news of the week
On March 7th, the Chinese government decided to detain around 10 Chinese activists who were planning to campaign against sexual harassment on International Women’s Day, according to the Chinese Human Rights Defenders. As of March 12, 5 activists were still illegally detained.
Detaining activists “preventively” is far from being uncommon in China, but what is more worrying is that this trend seems to be increasing since Xi Jinping became the new General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (which is the highest position in the Chinese government’s hierarchy) in November 2012. Mr Xi was Initially presented as a reformer who could be instrumental in defending human rights in China; his own father had been a prominent communist revolutionary figure until he was purged and later sent to prison during the Cultural Revolution. But it quickly turned out that Mr Xi’s reign would be focused on strengthening the legitimacy and unity of the CCP and concurrently on quelling dissension. The insistence on economic liberalization thus continues to overshadow potential progress when it comes to Chinese citizens’ rights and to the implementation of the rule of law.
More on this topic: read Human Rights Watch 2014 report on China available here http://www.hrw.org/world-report/2014/country-chapters/china
Heartwarming news of the week
The beautiful people at Animals Asia are doing amazing work trying to save bears from bear bile farms (yes that’s a thing, you can learn more about it in the Notes), and offering them a sanctuary where they can live and learn to be free again. This week, Animals Asia reported that its vet team, led by orthopedic surgeon Dr Alane Cahalane, had performed a ground-breaking surgery to attempt making lame bear Claudia walk again. The bear suffers from a rare condition that led to the fracturing of her weight bearing elbows, but doctors are hopeful that following the next round of surgery she will be able to walk again.
You can read the whole story here: https://www.animalsasia.org/us/media/news/news-archive/world-first-surgery-means-hope-that-lame-bear-can-walk.html
Eyebrow-raising news of the week
A French study found that around 20 chemical substances capable of interfering with the hormonal system were present in women’s hair. The study was conducted in Paris and its suburbs and highlighted how many everyday products (cosmetics, food containers and wrappers as well as food itself) contain dangerous molecules that are largely left unchecked. That is just confirming that regulations are needed to control what manufacturers put in their products, but it is also for consumers to be wary of what they buy.
As a general rule, avoid buying products that have parabens, phthalates, Sodium Laureth/Laurel Sulfate (SLS), PEG-3, artificial colors and artificial fragrances. You can also download Justbeautiful’s very useful mini-guide of substances to avoid: http://environmentaldefence.ca/reports/just-beautiful-personal-care-products-pocket-shopping-guide
Non-personal matter that made me cry this week
The scene in which Alice burst into tears as she tells her husband she is scared after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in Still Alice (Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland, 2014). This beautiful although rather conventional film is about a successful professor who discovers she has an early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Julianne Moore is magnificent as Alice, who struggles with remembering who she is as her brain starts letting her down. It’s a sensitive film that also ponders how much one’s identity is defined by memories and by the continuity of life experience.
Video of the week
An insightful mini-portrait of Casey Legler, former French Olympic swimmer, artist, and men’s clothes model.
 According to estimations there were around 7000 bears kept caged to extract their bile in China at the beginning of the 2000s. The bear bile is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as an anti-inflammatory and a cure for hemorrhoids, epilepsy, sores, etc. The use of animal products in TCM is particularly problematic to my mind since it involves many cruel practices towards animals without any proven effects; herbal remedies are also central to TCM and can be substituted to animal products.
 The report’s press release in English: http://www.generations-futures.fr/2011generations/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/HEAL-PR-GF120315EXPPERT4en-FINAL.pdf