11 – 17 May 2015
This week, we celebrate the 10th edition of the Week in Review. For this special event, we’d like to take you on a tour of some of the most interesting news we have brought you in the past 9 weeks.
But before we kick off, here’s a rare video of legendary French actress Delphine Seyrig reciting the words of her good friend and groundbreaking writer Marguerite Duras. (You can find the English transcription below the video).
“I could deceive myself, believe that I am beautiful like beautiful women, like women that are looked at, because I really am looked at a lot. But I for one know that it is not about beauty, but about something else, for example, yes, something else, for example about the mind. What I want to look like, I look like it. I can look beautiful too if that is what one wants me to be, beautiful, or pretty, for example pretty for the family, not more.
Everything that one wants from me, I can embody it, and believe it. Believe that I am charming just as well. As soon as I believe it, that it also becomes true to the person who sees me and who wants me to be according to his taste, I know it too. I am already aware. I know something.
I know that clothes are not what make women more or less beautiful, neither are the beauty treatments or the prices of ointments, nor the rarity or price of garments. I know that the problem lies elsewhere. I don’t know where. I only know that it does not lie where women think it does.”
An Indonesian surfer, Dede Surinaya, surfs in trash-filled water in Java (Indonesia), as shown in the Guardian’s photo series on overpopulation and overconsumption.
Read issue 4 of the Week in Review here.
After an extensive search for extraterrestrial civilizations, a team of astronomers reported that there was no sign of alien presence in 100 000 nearby galaxies. While previously the search for alien life was mostly focused on potential radio and TV signals, this time the researchers led by Jason Wright, from the Pennsylvania State University, analyzed infrared signals.
This unusual approach was inspired by famous physicist Freeman Dyson, who has theorized in the 1960s that alien civilizations would need an ever-increasing amount of energy, to the extent that they would end up having to reap the energy directly from their star, or in more advanced civilizations from more than one star and even from an entire galaxy. Such power-hungry civilizations would need to build structures that became known as Dyson spheres (see above picture), and these structures would in turn generate major thermodynamic releases – which would be seen in the infrared.
So it seems that no alien super civilization is yet in sight; but in somehow related news, astronomers discovered that the largest known structure of the universe is a massive supervoid: in other words, a giant zone of the universe in which the density of matter is unusually low. Scientists are still perplexed as to how such a massive void can be formed.
Read issue 6 of The Week in Review here.
Most Sexist News
Let’s be honest, I could come up with dozens of examples every week of how sexism –and to be precise misogyny- pervades society. To clarify, that does not mean that every man is a sexist, far from that. But it does mean that both men and women have internalized centuries of degrading women for the sole reason of their being born female, and that women continue to face a differential treatment based on their sex.
This week, a great science blogger for Le Monde, Passeur de Sciences, highlighted one such example of sexism which took place in the rather elitist world of science research. The case itself is not what particularly interests me here, but the readers’ comments are what really caught my attention.
To quickly recap the article, a British evolutionary geneticist, Fiona Ingleby, brought to the spotlight the fact that one of her articles had been reviewed by a peer who suggested to reject the article: one of the central reasons he/she evoked (reviewers are anonymous) stated that since the article was about the different treatment received by men and women in the transition period from thesis to post-doctorate, “one or two male biologists” should have worked on the paper alongside with Ms. Ingleby and her (female) colleague “in order to serve as a possible check against interpretations that may be sometimes drifting too far away from empirical evidence into ideologically based assumptions”.
There are two major problems in this review (regardless of the actual quality of the article): first, it is really fascinating that a reviewer can think that a woman writing on the differential treatment received by men and women cannot stick to empirical evidence but must necessarily be writing from an “ideological” point of view. Secondly, it’s equally flabbergasting that someone would suggest adding a man in the research team to make it less biased; I have never heard a man being told that to make his research less biased he needs to work with a woman, and there are lots of male scientists writing on topics involving women, or how women are treated. Similarly, I don’t think that it’s common practice to tell a Chinese person that if they write about the Opium Wars they need to be working with a white scientist to make sure they are doing their work properly.
Let’s remember that we’re talking about a qualified researcher who knows what science involves, but suddenly since said scientist is a woman she must surely have her hormones going crazy when she studies a topic related to women, and so she must most probably have been ideologically biased (let’s also note that Ms. Ingleby made it clear that her paper had been previously reviewed internally by other colleagues, including men who had nothing to object to the article).
But maybe this reviewer is just an isolated case, you could tell me, and he/she is simply in total denial about the reality of sexism on this planet and could not handle reading a paper that highlighted it?
Let’s admit that it’s the case; then what is amazing is to read all the comments that started to flood Passeur de Sciences’ post: at the time I’m speaking, there are already more than 260 comments on the post about Fiona Ingleby, whereas in average there are from 10 to 50 comments on his posts. And what does the majority of the commenters tell us? That the reviewer was totally right to ask that a man should have co-signed the study, because on this sensitive topic it is probably correct to assume that two distinguished (female) researchers could not manage to do their job properly, without “ideological” bias! There were also the type of comments that are always so dear to my heart, such as “I (a man) have worked in an American lab for decades and have never encountered any discrimination against women”!!! It provokes the same type of reaction in me than when white people tell you that racism does not exist because they have never witnessed it…
Read issue 8 of The Week in Review here.
Best moon bear related news
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
Read issue 1 of The Week in Review here.
Most Outraging News
March is barely over and Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram has already taken over 1,000 civilian lives in 2015, in the midst of generalized indifference.
On March 26, Human Rights Watch published a report finding an increase in the pace of attacks carried out in comparison with last year. In this report, HRW mentions no less than seven suicide bombings involving the use of women and children since the beginning of the year. The report states that “Boko Haram fighters have deliberately attacked villages and committed mass killings and abductions as their attacks have spread from northeast Nigeria into Cameroon, Chad, and Niger since February”, while 1 million people have been forced to leave their homes since the beginning of Boko Haram’s uprising almost six years ago. The male survivors of the massacres perpetrated by the Islamist group are often conscripted, while women are regularly raped or forced into marriage.
March 28 marked the Nigerian general election, pitting incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan against 13 other candidates, with the other main contender being Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress, who has promised to “stop corruption and make the ordinary people, the weak and the vulnerable our top priority”. Elections have been extended until March 29 due to logistical issues.
Read the full story on PBS Frontline: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/foreign-affairs-defense/hunting-boko-haram/report-boko-haram-has-claimed-more-than-1000-lives-in-2015/
Read HRW’s full report here: https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/03/26/nigeria-least-1000-civilians-dead-january-0
Read issue 3 of The Week in Review here.
Most Inspiring Words
Jean Vanier, philosopher, theologian and humanitarian, was awarded the prestigious Templeton Prize in recognition of “his advocacy of belonging and social justice, […] and [his] efforts across the globe to nurture dialogue and unity among Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and other faiths […].”
Jean Vanier is the founder of L’Arche (The Arc), an association which provides residential accommodation, support and community services to people with disabilities. It all started in 1964 when Mr Vanier, a Canadian living in France, welcomed two disabled men into his home after discovering the lack of structures and the despair in which many people with disabilities lived. From that moment on, the structure kept growing, and now L’Arche comprises 147 communities in 35 countries.
Beyond his practical work, Jean Vanier’s theoretical contribution to thinking about disabilities and more generally to accept life in its diversity, including its “weaknesses”, is quite remarkable.
Here is a short video of him answering the question “What does it mean to be fully human?”:
I think a few passages are well worth quoting:
“To discover who I am is also to discover a unity between my head and my heart. The head we are called to grow, to understand, and to work through things. But the heart is something else. It is about concern by others. We are born into a relationship. And that relationship that we all lived is a relationship with our mom. We were so small. So weak. So fragile. And we heard the words which are the most important, and maybe the words we need to hear all our life: I love you as you are. You are my beloved son or my beloved daughter. And this is what gives consistency to people. They know they are loved. And that’s what they’re seeking, maybe for the rest of their lives.
And terribly fragile in the little child. If the little child is not loved at the moment of his birth or the few months after there’s a deep, deep inner wound. And from that wound comes up anguish, from anguish comes fighting and wanting to win, and to prove that I am someone.
The problem today is that many people are filled with fear. They are frightened of people, frightened of losing. And because people are filled with fear they can no longer be open to others. They’re protecting themselves, protecting their class, protecting their group, protecting their religion. We’re all in a state of protection. To become fully human is to let down the barriers, to open up. And to discover that every person is beautiful. Under all the jobs they’re doing, their responsibilities, there is you. And you, at the heart of who you are, you’re somebody also crying out, “Does somebody love me not just for what I can do, but for who I am?””
Read issue 2 of The Week in Review here.
Most Perplexing News
This week, the Huffington Post reports that the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and Ikea, the popular Swedish furniture store, have worked together to produce 10,000 mobile shelter for refugees (notably, from my understanding, for the 4 million Syrians forced to flee their home country).
The 188 square-foot shelters, which can accommodate up to 5 persons, come with four windows, a ventilation system, and a solar panel which, during the day, charges a lamp for nighttime use, a prized commodity lots of the shelters currently in use don’t provide.
These new shelters will be assembled and installed in June, certainly adequate timing now that the harsh temperatures of winter have passed and killed droves of Syrian refugees, including many children forced to camp out in Lebanon’s snowy mountains. Further, while the initiative may seem commendable, it is worth noting that one need only disburse 1,150$ to acquire such a such shelter, which only makes it twice the price of regular shelters. Does it also come with a puzzling instruction manual and a quirky Swedish name?
One can’t help but feel slightly ill-at-ease upon reading this awkwardly-phrased statement by a member of the Ikea Foundation, as quoted by the Huffington Post: “Refugee families and children can have a safer place to call home.” Home is not an overpriced portable Ikea shelter – home is a place these refugees have left behind under horrifying, traumatizing conditions, a place they have lost hope of ever seeing again as their normal lives have been put on hiatus, with no end in sight.
Read issue 5 of The Week in Review here.
Best Long Read
The recommended read of the week is brought to us by ESPN’s Kate Fagan: “Split Image” recounts the life and death of Madison Holleran, a 19 year-old star athlete and student at the University of Pennsylvania who jumped off the ninth floor of a parking garage in January 2014, after a long, hidden battle with depression.
The article criticizes a culture in which young people are made to present a perfect, happy life on social media (in Madison’s case, Instagram), disconnected from their internal doubts, fears and preoccupations. Curating a gallery of inspirational images and presenting an image of perfect bliss have become requisites for Gen Y-ers. It is no secret that there is an intense pressure on younger generations to be happy and, accordingly, show the world just how happy they are on Facebook, Instagram, and the like.
Additionally, there is a stigma on people who appear to have it all (like Madison, a star runner, beautiful young woman, and Ivy League student with a loving family), yet struggle with depression, as if depression might only be justified by harrowing life events. But depression is also largely a product of brain chemistry and strikes indiscriminately. For this reason, depressive individuals are often made to feel shame over their ailment and sometimes choose to hide their distress from even their closest friends and family.
Fagan shows the way in which Madison’s suicide came as a surprise to many of her friends. Her father, though, knew that Madison had been struggling after she began attending UPenn. A star track runner, she turned away from her passion and from the hobbies she used to love. When her father asked her to see a therapist, Madison said she would, but never did. The article portrays the tragic story of a lovable young person whose fear of failure and of disappointing others caused her to become unable to seek help and ultimately caused her demise. In so doing, it warns us to the dangers of social media and the psychological and social pressure it puts on the youngest among us.
Read issue 9 of The Week in Review here.
Best Teary Eyed Moment
April 13, 2015 marked the tragic 40-year anniversary of the 1975 Lebanese Civil War, which claimed 120,000 lives and devastated the country to no end. In the past two weeks, many Lebanese have shared memories and images of this terrible era. In this context, Lebanese blog Hummus for Thought shared poignant images taken from “Lebanon shot twice”, a photography exhibition and book by Zaven Kouyoumdjian. The project features portraits taken during the devastating fifteen year long civil war alongside portraits of the same individuals taken in the 2000s or 2010s.
During his childhood, Zaven Kouyoumdjian cut out pictures of the war he found in newspapers and magazines. Years later, after the end of the conflict, he wondered where the persons appearing in those images were, and what their lives were now like. He set out to find and photograph them, a door-to-door quest of two years only complicated by the anonymity of the pictures.
Forty years later, reminders of the conflict are still visible throughout the Lebanese capital and in other cities, where shelled walls and destroyed buildings are only the visible part of the iceberg: much of the political strife has remained, as Lebanon is still struggling with profound political, confessional and governmental issues, in a regional context more complex than ever.
You can view more photos and purchase the book here.
Read issue 7 of the Week in Review here.