what happened last week (whlw) | Subscribe

whlw: no. 240

October 12 – 18, 2020

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

Akkitham Achuthan Namboothiri passed away last week. No idea who that is? Oh, just one of India's most important poets. You can honor him by getting to know him. As Mexico's senate is thinking about legalizing cannabis in the next two weeks, Armenia and Azerbaijan struggle to stop fighting one another (and more and more civilians die). Also, have you checked out The Mole on BBC yet? It's an undercover thriller/documentary about two guys who go to North Korea and pretend to be interested in buying weapons and drugs there. 

No time to read today? Click here and I'm happy to read it out loud for you. It will take around 20 minutes. Do you think this is a good idea? I will be testing it for a while to see if this is something some of you really appreciate. If yes, feel free to support me on Patreon (like 165 others!) or via PayPal. If no, why? Reply to this mail and let me know.

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

what happened last week

We now have the gayest parliament in New Zealand
There was an election in New Zealand (4.8 million people live there) and 11 LGBTQ+ politicians have been elected to the 120-seat parliament.
  • Are you on Twitter? Follow some of the new politicians there – like Ayesha Verrall (who is passionate about preventive medecine), Elizabeth Kerekere (who is all about trans health) or Ricardo Menéndez (who wants to end poverty and fight climate change).
  • Fun fact: About 40 percent of all the members of parliament from the country's Green Party are from the rainbow community.
Why this matters: Sometimes (not always) LGBTQ+ members of parliaments will be the reason why a country introduces new LGBTQ+-friendly laws like when New Zealand's finance minister Grant Robertson and a member of parliament Louisa Wall pushed for same-sex marriage in 2012 (it passed in 2013 ;). Or "just" make sure those laws stay in place.

Who had the gayest parliament before?
United Kingdom. 45 openly gay members in their 650-seat House of Commons.

Any other election-related news?
Ah, yes. Prime minister Jacinda Ardern's Labour party won 64 of 120 seats in parliament, meaning an outright f*cking majority. No politicial party has managed to do that since 1996. Also, almost 2 million people voted – the most on record. *United States, are you reading this?*
We are fighting against police brutality and a bad government in Nigeria
For two weeks now, people have been protesting police brutality aka the special police unit called SARS in different cities in Nigeria and worldwide. Why? 'SARS police officers torture and murder people,' say many Nigerians. The government has promised 'ok, we'll break up that police unit' but the (mostly young) protesters want more: 'Just govern this country right for once. We are tired.'

Why this matters: Black lives matter everywhere. Around 196 million people live in Nigeria. The fact that people have been protesting for more than two weeks now is new, to say the least. 'Normally, they last two or three days.' The country's youth is protesting for a better future – with more jobs and opportunities in life. Some say it is a Nigerian version of the Arab spring. Plus, the country is Africa's biggest oil producer. What happened last week? 
Things are getting heated. More and more people take to the streets;
they even pray there togetherMore and more celebrities join the #EndSARS campaign online – like Twitter founder Jack Dorsey. Now, #EndBadGovernance and #FixNigeria are making the rounds, too. Last week, a governor was shot ('not by protestors', officials say) and almost died.
  • Are you on Instagram? Follow this, this and this photographer in Nigeria for pictures of the protests. They are so powerful.
We are trying out a new digital currency in China 
China has been giving out a brand new digital currency in cities like Shenzhen and Chengdu as well as at sites for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

Why this matters: 1.4 billion people will probably learn how to live with a digital currency before everyone else in the world. It's important that the rest of us watch closely what happens in the second-largest economy in the world.

What is digital currency?
Digital currency is digitally created. It is still cash, but another type of cash. Imagine yourself living in a virtual world or a video game; digital currency is just like the coins you earn and spend in the game. It has real monetary value; you just can't touch it.

So... like bitcoin?

No, no, no. China's central bank makes this currency – which means it is debt which also means the central bank will need to make sure that it survives.

But China is pretty much cashless already, isn't it?
Yeah. And it has been for years. Millions of people use Tencent's WeChat Pay or Alibaba's Alipay every day – $49.27 trillion in 2019, 25 percent more than 2018.

But why make currencies digital?
Well, people then don't have to link their bank accounts with online payment systems like WeChat Pay or Alipay. And China's government can look into real-time transactions and doesn't have to rely on the Western banking system when making transactions outside of China. Also, 'we want to be more independent of the US dollar in trade'.

What about other countries?
They're still talking about it.

In the meantime, China is also (that's how it looks like) preparing to invade Taiwan because it basically got too popular internationally... and got better military equipment from the United States.
We are openly doubting the monarchy in Thailand – a usually very forbidden thing to do

For five days in a row (actually since March but the coronavirus... well, you know), thousands of people in Thailand have been coming together on the streets of the capital Bangkok and many other cities to demand that 'the prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha must lose his job! we want a more democratic political system and the monarchy needs an update!!' 

Why this matters: 66 million people are talking about their political system. To change or not to change? That is the question. Thai people are even thinking about whether having a king (who normally spends most of his time in Germany but came back last week) is even worth it (the Twitter hashtag #WhyDoWeNeedAKing is trending) – something that a lot of people could go to prison for for a long, long time.

Why are Thai people so fed up?
Two main reasons. First, military people took over the government in 2014 and rewrote the constitution. A sh*t show that the king did not stop 'but should have,' say protesters. And then, there were elections last year that many people in Thailand think were rigged. Why? The (pro-democracy) Future Forward Party should have won but then a court this February said, '
you did something illegal. we have put back the old military ruler'.  Second, basically, the country's economy is in a lot of trouble and when I say that I mean a lot of trouble. There have never been this many unemployed people (seven in 10 people get half as much money per month as they used to). The World Bank is like, 'we have reason to believe that 9.7 million of the country's 69 million people are financially insecure.' 

I heard Thursday was a pretty difficult day.
Oh yeah. The protests were so loud that the Thai government on Thursday was like, 'that's it. we no longer allow more than five people to come together.' To which protesters said 'cool story bro but we're still doing this.' The government then brought in the
water cannon and police force. More than 40 people were arrested. Human rights organizations were particularly disappointed.

We are, once again, thinking about how to best protect human rights
Last Tuesday, Bolivia, China, Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, France, Gabon, Malawi, Mexico, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Senegal, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and the U.K.  were 'elected' to the United Nations Human Rights Council, starting 2021 until 2023. (I put elected in ' because it really isn't an election but that's for another time.) 

What's the Human Rights Council?
47 countries are part of this international promise to make sure everybody has heard of human rights and protects them, too. They employ independent experts who then on behalf of the member countries go and monitor human rights in different countries, they talk to victims or officials from other governments, they ask questions and then they bring them to the world forum aka the Human Rights Council and make suggestions on how to protect human rights better.

Why this matters: A lot of the countries elected have not been the biggest fans of human rights themselves. This raises the question once again: wtf do we need this Council for?

  • Fun fact: Since 2018, the United States has no longer been part of the Council. 'We think y'all are too harsh with Israel and why do human rights enemies become United Nations judges? We're out. Nah.' The UN Watch (an independent group that watches what the United Nations does) agrees. Oh, and Hillel Neuer's Twitter feed is on fire, to say the least.
Okay. So, why do we need this Council then?
Some say, 'yeah, nobody is perfect and nobody will ever try to become perfect any time soon if we don't pay attention'.
Reliefweb is like, 'the Council could also play an essential role in providing early warning of the risk factors that can lead to crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and genocide.' Ted Piccone says that 'actually most countries do things better if the Human Rights Council tells them to. That's better than nothing.'
We now know how to stalk every tree in the world

Scientists found out that there are more than 1.8 billion trees in West Africa's deserts

Why it matters: Before, we didn't know this (our satellite images were just too crappy) and that's why we weren't able to say just how important trees (outside of forests) are for the planet. With deep learning algorithms, we were now able to really zoom in. Also, this new method could be used to give the Great Green Wall of Africa the big push it needs.

So, what did we learn from this?
That it will soon be possible to map the location and size of every tree worldwide. Read the entire paper here.

In other science-related news, we also built a fuel cell out of spinach (the idea is to fuel electric cars with spinach), a spacecraft took epic selfies with Venus, we actually built a lightsaber that can cut metal (and yes, you need to subscribe to The Hacksmith YouTube channel) and we managed to store and transport light itself. What experiments did you do last week?

On a funny note

Finland will put men in jail if they send d*ck pics (hint: not duck pics) to people who did not ask for it. Why? It's basically digital flashing.

*browsing through my phone for the many d*ck pics I've received over the years to now start sueing men for them*
The end,

If you're reading this, you obviously didn't need this audio version, right? Let me know if it's a good idea for me to read it out loud. You're my reader and my co-founder, OK? Feel free to support me on Patreon (like 165 others!) or via PayPal.
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