what happened last week (whlw) | Subscribe

whlw: no. 227

June 29 – July 5, 2020

This is Sham, your very own news curator. I stopped reading the news yesterday at 9pm.

There was no whlw last week – apologies. I moved apartments on my own and while moving, my bag was stolen. So, imagine the kind of personal hell I entered. However, I'm back with good news from
Malawi and Scotland and a long explainer on what's happening in Venezuela and the latest 'security law' in Hong Kong.

This issue was written using sources such as The New York Times, United Nations, Berliner Stadtreinigung, MIT Technology Review, Webtoons, The Guardian, BBC, Gay Times, Al Jazeera, Vox, Economics Explained and Associated Press.

If you like what I do every week, yay! I put in a lot of hours and my heart into every issue. You're welcome to support me on Patreon (like 125 others!) or via PayPal. I actually do this full-time.

Now without further ado, here's what happened last week,

what happened last week

We need to talk about the millions of people fleeing Venezuela – and why
Venezuela is and has been in crisis for some time now. Right now, it is struggling with the C-word, an economic and a political crisis that has seen about 5 million Venezuelans flee since 2015.
  • Why this matters: This is the refugee ‘crisis’ most of us don’t hear or read about on the regular. The country’s money isn’t worth much, if anything. And 5,000 people are still fleeing to Colombia each day (as of 2019).
Why is Venezuela in crisis?
Well, it hasn’t always been like this. The South American nation (around 29 million people live here) was the richest country in South America not too long ago. Why? It has the largest oil reserves in the world. Plus, its democratic government was the coolest thing the world had seen – in the 1970ies. But today, things are different.

The economy and the country’s democratic institutions are having a very, very hard time right now – with the country having the world’s highest inflation rate (which is Economic for ‘most people in Venezuela cannot afford to pay for food or for medicine’; plus there’s the water shortage).

Why? Well, since Nicolás Maduro became president, things have gotten worse. ‘He’s mismanaged this country.’ With more than 80% of people living in poverty, many blame him. And when Maduro ‘won’ a second term in 2018, a lot of Venezuelans started protesting, ‘nope.’ And this is when opposition leader Juan Guaidó was like, ‘okay, you know what, f*ck the official election results, I am the president now.’ What did the international community think about this?
Some 60 countries today are OK with Guaidó being the president – including important players such as the United Kingdom and the United States.

What about Maduro?
Well, he won’t step down. Ever since, the country kind of has had two presidents who are both busy trying to convince everyone ‘no, I AM the president!’.

Okay, f*ck. What’s happening in Venezuela now?
Yeah, every country needs some type of leadership – especially in times of a global pandemic. Think money for food and medicine.

Last week, two things happened that you should know about.
  • First, Nicolás Maduro wanted to take out $1 billion in gold reserves from the Bank of England last week to tackle the C-word crisis – and was denied. “We think Guaidó is the president. It is impossible to recognize both men as president,” said the United Kingdom's highest court.
  • Then, in the same week, the Maduro government announced: 'There will be elections in December… to renew the country’s parliament'. ‘We already know this is not going to be a fair election,’ says the Juan Guaidó-group.
    • Good to know: The National Assembly's power is largely symbolic.
To be continued.
We have to design products that last or else our children will keep dying from it
The United Nations published their latest Global E-waste Monitor report. I summarized it for you: We f*cked up.

Every year, we throw away 54 million tonnes of so-called e-waste made of gold, platinum and other precious metals. This is like burning $10 billion every year. In 2019, we threw away 21% more than usual.
  • Why it matters: Yes, phones and refrigerators make our lives better but the way we make and dump them is also really, really bad for the planet’s and our own health. One in four children die from from pollution, including e-waste.
Wait, what’s “e-waste”?
Electronic and electrical goods, from phones and computers to refrigerators and kettles.
  • Fun fact: People in northern Europe throw away the most electronic products – 22.4kg per person in 2019. Averages across Asia and Africa were much lower, at 5.6kg and 2.5kg per person respectively.
  • Personal tip for Berliners: There are 15 places for you to recycle your electronic goods. There's no excuse. Find out the closest one to you.
What can we do about it?
Put some rules on it. Make electronic good last longer. Make them easy to repair. Force the companies behind these products to think about what we should do with them at the end of their lives. “We shouldn’t have had this problem in the first place. This is totally preventable.”

The optimist spin: If we do this right, we can actually create a new economy and new jobs. There would be a huge income for many people. Recycling would also cut the environmental impact of mining for new metal: “One gram of gold has a massive footprint.”
We are becoming creative protesters in Hong Kong
There’s a new law in Hong Kong that basically paints everyone as a criminal who wants Hong Kong to be more independent of the Chinese government.

Who’s behind the law?
The Chinese government. Duh.

How worried should I be?
Very. Hong Kong was always meant to have a security law, but could never pass one because it was so unpopular. It gives the Chinese government powers to shape life in Hong Kong it has never had before. Critics say 'this just kills protest and freedom of speech".
China has said it will "return stability". BBC has a good rundown on what this new law is all about.

What did the international community say?
China's Foreign Ministry and state media were like, 'yep we won' after 53 countries (like Saudi Arabia, Syria and North Korea) showed support for their plans. Just 27 (countries from Europe, Australia, Japan, Canada) criticized the law. 

How are people in Hong Kong dealing with it?
Oh, they’re really mad but have become creative, too.
They’re now using wordplay and hidden language to express their frustration.

Here are my favorite tricks:
  1. Use existing language but make it mean something different. The first line of the Chinese national anthem starts with, “Arise, ye who refuse to be slaves.” Last week, a fresh graffiti in a busy shopping district in Hong Kong said the same thing.
  2. Hide language by creating your own codes. Since police started arresting anyone shouting protest slogans such as ‘Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times’ for example, people are writing the now forbidden political slogan as “GFHG, SDGM” – in English letters from the transliterated phrase “gwong fuk heung gong, si doi gak ming”. Another more complex example uses the numbers “3219 0246” in Cantonese for tone and rhythm.
  3. Write the same thing but add a small “no” to it. That’s what someone did last week. He had written “Hong Kong independence” on a huge flag, the police arrested him until they later found out that he had added a small “no” before the much larger phrase.
  4. Quote unpolitical stuff. One cafe replaced its wall with blank memos. “What is essential is invisible to the eyes,” the shop wrote on its Facebook page, citing children’s book Le Petit Prince.
To be continued.
We will start teaching LGBTQ+ history at school in Scotland
In 2021, Scotland will be the first country in the world to teach LGBTQ+ history at school.

All public schools.
Why this matters: “We owe it to the next generation to ensure our schools are a place where all children and young people can be themselves.“

What’s considered LGBTQ+ history though?
Everything related to same-sex marriage, same-sex parenting, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and the HIV and AIDS epidemic.⁠

Why is this necessary?
For so many reasons.
  • First, around 40% of LGBT+ students in Scotland said they hadn’t been taught about sexuality issues and just 22% had learned of safe sex in same-sex relationships.
  • Second, and most importantly, 9 in 10 people from the LGBTQ+ community in Scotland faced homophobia at school and 27% said they had attempted suicide after facing bullying.
  • Also, kids ‘didn’t have much of an understanding about intersex bodies and sex characteristics.‘ 
Fun fact: Scotland is already a pretty good place for the LGBTQ+ community. Here, same-sex civil partnership has been legal since 2005, and same-sex marriage from 2014. Same-sex couples can adopt and foster kids legally from 2009. And, discrimination on the basis of gender and sexuality has been banned as per law since 2010.
We lost a young musician in Ethiopia and 88 other people died because of his murder

At least 88 people died in protests and clashes in Ethiopia last week. Why? Because Haacaaluu Hundeessaa, a popular musician from the Oromo ethnic group, was murdered. 

Wait, tell me more about the Oromo
It's the country's biggest ethnic group that has kind of always felt a bit left out of political power in Ethiopia – even though the prime minister is Oromo. But: 'Ethnonationalism is still very much a problem in this country,' they say.

Wait, didn't the Ethiopian prime minister won the Nobel Prize last year?
Yeah, for making peace with Eritrea. But he still had problems at home to solve.

What now?
The situation is tense. The Oromo opposition leader, Bekele Gerba, and the media mogul Jawar Mohammed were arrested. And the internet was shut off. People are worried and angry. And... elections (that should have taken place next month) have been postponed. To be continued.

We saved democracy in Malawi
Lazarus Chakwera is now president of Malawi. He's the country's sixth one. 
  • Why this matters: Chakwera, the southern African country's opposition leader, actually lost the first round of elections in 2019. Then the country's court in February was like, 'nope, the elections were not fair. We need new ones.' and then, he won the second time around.
  • Do you know where Malawi is on a world map? Don't worry. Most people don't but you can strengthen your geography skills with this online game
Is Chakwera... cool?
We'll see. But his speech at his inauguration ceremony today was beautiful.
  • Here's my favorite part:  "With your help we will restore faith in having a government that serves; not a government that rules, a government that inspires, not a government that infuriates, a government that listens, not a government that shouts but a government that fights for you and not against you."
The bigger context: This is a huge win for democracy in Africa. Other countries in Africa have had elections annulled – it happened in Kenya in 2017 – but for the opposition candidate to then go on and win a rerun? That's never happened before.
  • Read this piece by Stephen Marche on MIT Technology Review about Stephen's experience with letting AI write him a story. 
    • "It’s been two years since Google’s voice technology, Google Duplex, passed the Turing test. Whether we want it or not, the machines are coming. The question is how literature will respond."
  • Admire the artwork by Alaa Musa, a Sudanese doctor who also draws sometimes. Her comic tells the adventurous story of a "junior doctor in a third-world country" and you can find it here to read. Follow her on Twitter or on Instagram

On a funny note

Dr. Clare Wenham was giving an interview to the BBC News Channel on local lockdowns when her young daughter came in to check who her mother was speaking to.
The end,

If you like what I do every week, yay! I put in a lot of hours and my heart into every issue. You're welcome to support me on Patreon (like 125 others!) or via PayPal. I actually do this full-time.
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