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what happened last week (whlw) | Subscribe


whlw: no. 280

September 6 – 12, 2021

Hey, this is Sham, your very own news curator. Simi also says hi. In this issue, we'll talk about
  • Guinea's first democratically elected president kicked out
  • Protecting LGBTQ+ in Africa: What to do?
  • Free birth control for women in France
  • Abortions are no longer a crime in Mexico anymore
  • New report: 227 people murdered for protecting the planet
  • Silicon Valley: The trial of Elizabeth Holmes begins
Are you listening to our Spotify playlist Decolonize Weekly yet? I know summer is almost over but Kurdish pop star Navid Zardi teamed up with another pop star GIMS (France) and created this hit, 'POZ'. It's on repeat while I'm preparing to put on scarfs and jackets, followed by Mejja's 'Tabia Za Wakenya' (Kenya) and C. Tangana's 'Demasiadas Mujeres' (Spain).

Btw, do you like this newsletter? On September 15, on Wednesday, this newsletter turns seven years old. As of now, 256 (+7 since last week) people support this newsletter on Patreon. Can we bring that number to 270 this week? :)

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

what happened last week

AFRICA
We kicked out Guinea's first democratically elected president by force because 'he wouldn't have left otherwise'
On September 5, Guinea's special forces ousted 83-year-old Alpha Condé, the country's first democratically elected president. The country's new leader is Colonel Mamady Doumbouya (41 years old; the second-youngest African leader now). 'Don't worry, we plan on transitioning to civilian rule,' he said on state radio.

Why this matters: The country only got out of authoritarian rule eleven years ago. Now, there is the fear that democracy's days in Guinea are over. Some 13 million people live here. Plus, the country is the world's biggest producer of bauxite, a mineral used to make aluminium. 

Tell me more
All of West Africa was like, 'eh wtf?! we condemn this. Release Condé ASAP'. It was such a shock that the price of aluminium last week was at its most expensive in more than ten years. The Africa Union was like, '
you're out'. The country also got kicked out of ECOWAS (short for Economic Community of West African States).

Zoom out: The coup in Guinea is the fourth successful one this year after Myanmar, Chad and Mali.

Did you know that
Thailand has experienced more coups than any other country (since 1946)? 22 in total, of which 13 were successful.

Why oust Condé though?
'It was necessary,' said Doumbouya in his radio announcement and went on to blame his leadership for Guinea’s poverty, corruption, misrule and a lack of development. As a matter of fact, Condé became
more and more unpopular over the years because he kept hitting 'refresh' on his presidency – even though he wasn't allowed to.

Is the president OK?
He's now in the custody of Guinea's new military leadership... and
a meme that's going viral in West Africa at the moment. Have you come across the hashtag #alphacondechallenge yet? People all across the region are making and sharing hilarious parodies of that one image that showed the president at a probably-very-dangerous setting: during the coup.

How did people react?
People are happy Condé is gone. But they also want fresh elections and reforms. So, time will tell if the new leadership really hands over power, as they have promised.
We are looking for solutions to fight anti-LGBTQ+ hate in Africa
A group of LGBTQ+ activists held a forum in Kigali, Rwanda last week and brought together people with different sexual orientations and gender identities from across the region to discuss 'what else can we do to protect the LGBTQ+ community in Africa?'.

Why this matters: People with different sexual orientations, gender expressions and gender identities worldwide get discriminated against a lot – sometimes by law, sometimes by cultural biases. Many times, this discrimination ends pretty violently, and sometimes even deadly. We have to talk about this because, well, every month is Pride Month.

What came out of this forum? 
A status update of what it means to be part of the LGBTQ+ community in Africa. Plus, the forum also urged the governments of
Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi and Kenya to decriminalize homosexulity and to protect the minority.
  • Did you know that in Kenya, gay sex is illegal and punishable by up to 14 years in prison? 
What did they talk about?
A lot of things. Most worry about:
  • Not being able to come out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans or nonbinary without fear of verbal and physical abuse – either by police or by people who they know personally 
  • Not being able to officially register their LGBTQ+ friendly organizations in some African states (because it's illegal to be gay in some places still)
  • The fear of being a public ally for the LGBTQ+ community
  • Not having enough protection in refugee camps, 'protection officers in refugee camps are extremely hostile to the LGBTQ+ community'
Which organizations are there to support?
Oh, so many, like
LGBTQ+ Rights GhanaBut I'd recommend you start following some of the most vocal activists first: Matthew BlaiseUyaiedu Ikpe-EtimKevin Mwachiro (he wrote this amazing book about the queer community in Kenya) or Bandy Kiki.

Zoom out: Even if you live in South Africa (where it's relatively safer to not be heterosexual or a cisgender person in Africa), it's still pretty dangerous to come out. Listen to trans woman Jasmine Rose Juicy. Last year, she talked to Dylan Bush from Bhekisisa about the very real danger of being who she is openly. 

To end this very depressing status update with on a higher note, like Aldrin Sampear (famous radio host in South Africa), I am obsessed with
this picture of two South African men getting married and the video that comes along with it.
TECH / CULTURE
We know it’s harder for women in tech now because one woman lied — but we don’t know if her trial will change anything
If you haven’t been paying attention, one of the biggest fraud trials in U.S. tech history is happening right now: the trial of Elizabeth Holmes in the United States.

Who is Elizabeth Holmes?
She was the founder of a tech company called ‘Theranos,’ promising to change health care by creating a device that would test for every kind of disease with just one drop of blood. Big deal because blood tests usually involve lots of vials of blood drawn from the vein, and sent to a lab for results. 

How did she become famous?
Well, the idea itself but also a pretty ‘romantic’ back story aka ‘19-year-old Stanford dropout’. As such, she was able to convince some really
high-up white men in the U.S. and the media to buy into her idea, and people believed because these men believed in her. At the company’s peak in 2013, Holmes was the star of Silicon Valley. She was called the ‘next Steve Jobs’, a feminist icon, was on the cover of magazines. At one point, her company was valued at US$9 billion. 

Where did it all go wrong? 
Thanks to Wall Street Journal journalist
John Carreyou. He basically exposed the truth about Theranos. ‘It was all a lie.’ A few years after that, in 2018, Theranos shut down, Holmes got charged with 12 counts of fraud for lying to investors and patients for years. Her ex-business partner (and ex-boyfriend) Sunny Balwani is facing the same charges but he won’t get tried til next year. 
  • Want to dive deeper? Read Carreyou’s book on the investigation, Bad Blood. It’s wild. 
Why this matters: Many reasons but mainly, the ‘Elizabeth Holmes’ story is a cautionary tale for anyone who thinks that the ‘break the rules’ or ‘fake-it-til-you-make-it’ culture (a long-time norm in Silicon Valley’s tech culture) is a good way to approach entrepreneurship. Plus, this trial is shedding some light on tech companies that have a lot of power (a lot of it, unchecked) and influence every corner of the world. 

What do other women think about Holmes?
Female tech-entrepreneurs say ‘it was already hard for VCs to invest in us. Now, Elizabeth Holmes has
made it even harder.’ 
  • Did you know male entrepreneurs raise more funding than women? In 2018, only 3% of venture capital went to female CEO-led companies in the U.S. Pssst: It’s a worldwide problem, too.
HUMAN RIGHTS
We made birth control free for women up to age 25 in France – trans and non-binary people are excluded, however
Starting next year, France will offer free birth control to all women up to age 25 (it was already free for girls up to 18), including IUDs, the pill and doctor visits.

Why this matters: This is a good but small step to helping everyone in France (and hopefully worldwide someday) avoid unwanted pregnancies – not just teens or young women. 

Why now?
Apparently, young women don't use contraception as much as they used to. 'We think it's because it's too expensive,' said the government. France's state health care system covers some birth control costs but not all of them. The measure will cost the government about 21 million euros (nearly US$25 million) per year.

What about trans and nonbinary people?
Unclear. Olivier Véran, the country's health minister didn't mention anything in the announcement on TV. Maybe you can
send him a tweet, 'hey, don't forget about trans and nonbinary people :) thanks'.

What about men?
No word there either. 

Did you know that abortions in France are free for all women and girls?

Zoom out: In 
Britain, contraceptive methods are free. Spain offers free birth control pills and subsidizes other forms of contraception. Several other European countries offer free or subsidized contraception. In the United States, things look super sad (again): Around 19 million women live in so-called "contraceptive deserts". 

In other France-related news, the
trial against those accused of the Paris attacks in November 2015 has begun. It's the biggest trial in the history of the country.
We decided to stop punishing people for having abortions in all of Mexico
Last week, Mexico's highest court said, 'having an abortion is not a crime' and the world (plus, these women) skipped a beat (I think). Starting now, all states (four out of 32 had already legalized it) in Mexico will work on changing their laws so that abortions become widely available to whoever wants/needs it. And, everyone who is in prison for abortion can use this ruling as a free get-out-of-jail card.

Did you know that there are
more than one million abortions in Mexico each year? Most of them are performed in unsafe conditions.

Why this matters: Mexico is one of the world's most religious (Catholic) countries. But the women's movement there is super strong. "Today is a watershed in the history of the rights of women and pregnant people, above all the most vulnerable," said one of the judges. Plus, it's also a huge 'f*ck you, we're more progressive haha' to the United States and other (or, most) countries of South America. *looks disgusted at Texas and the seven Republican leaders who want to copy the abortion ban in at least seven states.*

Any pushback? 
Yes. There was a small protest outside the court, the Catholic Church tried to guilt-shame the judges a day before the verdict, too (in their own magazine Desde la Fe, they were like, 'don't do this out of peer pressure'). And, one of the country's political (conservative) parties, the National Action Party, was like, '
no, we reject this.'
  • Btw, even if all of the country's politicians were against making abortions legal, Mexican law says, 'supreme court rulings are best <3333 and you have nothing to say.'
Zoom out: Carlos Ballesteros, reporter at Injustice Watch, made an interesting observation: "I suspect that providers will pop up along the border to service US residents who can't access or afford procedures here, just like dentists/ophthalmologists/other medical providers already do now."

On a funny note, Jack Posobiec (conservative/alt-right white dude from the U.S. with more than one million followers) threw shade the only way he knew how: by using God's rage. (Beware, if you plan on tweeting about this, don't give him any more reach: Don't retweet his tweet, take a screenshot instead.)

In other Mexico-related news, Mexico City (the country's capital) will
replace a statue of Italian 'explorer' Christopher Columbus by one of an Indigenous woman from the Olmec civilisation.
 ENVIRONMENT
We are literally risking our lives to save the planet – an environmental status update 
A new report shows that 227 people worldwide were murdered in 2020 (twice the number of 2013) while trying to protect forests, rivers and other ecosystems in South America, Asia and Africa.

Who were these people? 
Environment and land defenders mostly from the so-called Global South. Why? 'Environment-related conflict is, like the climate crisis, disproportionately affecting lower-income nations' and 'Indigenous communities suffered more than a third of the killings, despite accounting for only 5% of the world population.'
Colombia topped the list with 65 deaths, Mexico came in second (30).

Did you know that, on average, 
four people defending the climate have been killed every week since the signing of the Paris climate agreement in 2016?

Oof. Any good news?
Yes. To name a few:
  • The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association and conservation groups stopped two Chinese companies from building a coalmine in the Hwange national park.
  • Activists from the United States and Canada are somewhat successful in lobbying against tar sands extraction and pressuring banks to stop financing exploration in the Arctic.
  • In South Africa, a high court cancelled a coal-fired power plant in Limpopo province.
  • In Brazil, the Asháninka indigenous community won compensation because a logging company had illegally cut off all the trees in their territory.
OTHER NEWS YOU MIGHT FIND INTERESTING

Lebanon: The country has a new government and an old prime minister. His name: Najib Mikati. He's done this job three times now.

Hong Kong: Police arrested another four pro-democracy supporters.

El Salvador: The Bitcoin Law has now officially come into effect

Egypt: Human Rights Watch said that 'security forces in Egypt killed around 755 people between 2015 and 2020 without a trial or nothing'. Most of the people killed were members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Greece: The country decided it will create a climate crisis ministry.

Afghanistan: Unfortunately, the Taliban did what most of us thought they would: they set up a government that's not really inclusive and rules that are not inclusive at all. Protests began, journalists got beaten, it's bad.
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On a funny note
A bishop in Spain known for his exorcisms resigned after (apparently) falling in love with an author of erotic satanic fiction. His former Catholic colleagues now believe he is possessed by the devil. 

It reads like a cheesy Nicholas Sparks movie plot but it's true: the devil works in mysterious ways.
What are you currently listening to? Send your suggestions in for the Decolonize Weekly playlist.

If you enjoy this newsletter, you have this newsletter's patrons to thank at least in part. Patreon makes an important contribution to helping me stay freelancing and scour the internet for underrepresented news and perspectives. So, thank you so much to everyone supporting me there.


That's it. 'See' you next week. And again, thank you for your patience,
Sham
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