Catch up on all the news you might have missed with our handy summary of the week’s top stories.
As Russia threatens to invade Ukraine, the United States and NATO prepare a response
Russia has been escalating tensions with neighboring Ukraine, with President Joe Biden saying last week that Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely to invade.
According to CNN, “Russia has now deployed more than 127,000 troops” near the Russia-Ukraine border. An intelligence assessment from the Ukrainian Defense Ministry reported that Russia’s military build-up is “aimed at limiting the capabilities of the United States to ensure security on the European continent.”
The U.S. State Department has already encouraged Americans in Ukraine to leave and ordered diplomats’ families out of the country. “The security conditions, particularly along Ukraine’s borders, in Russia-occupied Crimea, and in Russia-controlled eastern Ukraine, are unpredictable and can deteriorate with little notice,” the department said in a statement.
To the American people and allies abroad, Biden has had to walk back comments perceived as too soft on Russia. In the case of “a minor incursion,” he said last week, “then we end up having a fight about what to do and not do.” This prompted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to tweet, “We want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations. Just as there are no minor casualties and little grief from the loss of loved ones.”
Then Biden took a stronger stance, saying, “Let there be no doubt at all that if Putin makes this choice, Russia will pay a heavy price.” —Madeline Fry Schultz
The European Parliament has elected its youngest president ever—a mom of four who's anti-abortion
Roberta Metsola is a Maltese politician, mother of four, and now the youngest president of the European Parliament in history. At age 43, she’s the first woman to lead the governing body in a generation, since France’s Nicole Fontaine left the post in 2002.
Metsola takes over for David Sassoli, who died in January after his immune system reportedly broke down. Her election was in some ways a no-brainer, because she was already serving as vice president, and her candidacy to succeed Sassoli had been announced last fall. But Metsola’s promotion did occasion raised eyebrows in some European forums because she has made clear she is against abortion. In 2015 she joined other Maltese representatives in signing a statement declaring they were “categorically opposed” to abortion, and in 2020 she voted against a COVID-19 related resolution that referred to abortion as a human right.
Nevertheless, Metsola insists she is committed to respecting the decisions of the Parliament, which overwhelmingly takes a pro-choice position. Her new position puts her in a role roughly equivalent to the U.S. Speaker of the House. —Margaret Brady
First female grandmaster sues Netflix for misrepresentation on 'Queen's Gambit'
Nona Gaprindashvili, 80, a former Soviet chess champion who became the first woman to be named a chess grandmaster, sued Netflix in federal court in September; this week a judge refused to toss the suit, causing the streaming service to face a $5 million defamation lawsuit.
Gaprindashvili, who now lives in Georgia, takes issue with a line from The Queen’s Gambit, in which a character incorrectly states that she Gaprindashvili “never faced men,” calling it “grossly sexist and belittling.” Having played against 59 male competitors by 1968, the year the show is set, Gaprindashvili is seeking damages for what the suit describes as “devastating falsehood, undermining and degrading her accomplishments before an audience of many millions.”
“They were trying to do this fictional character who was blazing the trail for other women, when in reality I had already blazed the trail and inspired generations,” Gaprindashvili said in an interview with the New York Times. “That’s the irony.” —Mary Rose Somarriba
Amid transgender controversy, Michael Phelps calls for ‘even playing field’ in swimming
On CNN earlier this month, Olympic legend Michael Phelps was asked about Lia Thomas, a transgender swimmer on the University of Pennsylvania women’s team. Thomas competed as a man for three years before switching to the women’s team, where the swimmer, despite taking testosterone suppressants, has dominated.
Addressing the controversy surrounding Thomas’ advantage over teammates, Phelps said, “I believe that we all should feel comfortable with who we are in our own skin, but I think sports should all be played on an even playing field. I don’t know what it looks like in the future. It’s hard. It’s very complicated and this is my sport, this has been my sport my whole entire career, and honestly the one thing I would love is everybody being able to compete on an even playing field.”
Amid this and similar controversies over transgender participation in women’s sports, the NCAA changed its policy last week to allow decisions on who plays where to be made on a sport-by-sport basis. The NCAA argued that the policy update “preserves opportunity for transgender student-athletes while balancing fairness, inclusion and safety for all who compete.” However, some athletes still feel that the odds are stacked against them.
This week, the anonymous father of a female UPenn swimmer told Fox News that his daughter and her teammates know they “will never make it” to first place while Thomas is on their team. “Yes, your daughter can still participate in athletics and reap a lot of the benefits of athletics,” he said, “but she'll never be on the podium.” —MFS
New documentary exposes allegations Marilyn Manson raped and tortured women
Actress Evan Rachel Wood and documentary filmmaker Amy Berg premiered Phoenix Rising this week at the Sundance Festival, later set to run as a two-part series on HBO. The documentary chronicles the stories of a few of the women who have publicly accused controversial singer Marilyn Manson (legally named Brian Warner) of disturbing abuse, rape, and torture.
The 34-year-old Wood, who first came forth with her story of abuse and rape via an Instagram post in 2021, now shares more of her story, detailing how the self-styled “Prince of Darkness” drugged and then publicly raped her in the filming of one of his music videos.
Also documented in the series are the multiple lawsuits against the singer, including one filed by Game of Thrones actress Esme Bianco, who claimed that Manson sex-trafficked her, flying her from Europe to California under the pretext of a music video that never occurred. Instead, according to allegations in the lawsuit cited, Manson detained, beat, and sexually assaulted Bianco while recording his own video footage.
Yet another lawsuit highlighted in the documentary alleges that the plaintiff witnessed Manson invite a young teenage fan into his home, tie her to a chair, berate, and humiliate her, and coerce her into disgusting acts.
The shocking and disturbing allegations broadcasted in Amy Berg's documentary have led Berg, Wood, and other production members to suffer online stalking and harassment from Manson and his fans. Manson, for his part, vehemently denies the allegations against him. —Mariel Lindsay
Good News of the Week
Encanto song "Surface Pressure" breaks Top Ten on music charts
The recent Disney+ film Encanto surprised many this past month when songs from the animated film broke onto mainstream music charts. Which all sounds a bit fantastical until you learn the songs were written by Lin Manuel-Miranda.
The first Encanto song to hit the charts was "We Don't Talk About Bruno," an especially catchy tune about an estranged family member in the film. Now, a second has joined the charts, a song called "Surface Pressure." In it, Luisa (Jessica Darrow) vents about the pressure she feels to do everything perfectly for her family, as if to earn their love ("I'm starting to think I'm worthless if I can't be of service," she belts in one line). Here's to songs combatting unrealistic standards of perfection hitting the charts! —MRS
Watch of the Week
Chanel debuted its Spring-Summer haute couture show in Paris this week. The program opened with a surprise: Charlotte Casiraghi, Princess Grace’s granddaughter, galloped down the catwalk on a horse, wearing a sequined jacket. And of course, as always, the show ended with Chanel’s interpretation of wedding attire. This time, the bride wore an understated, 1920s-inspired slip dress and carried a tiny blue bouquet.