what happened last week (whlw) | Subscribe

whlw: no. 232

August 3 – 9, 2020

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

We had to say goodbye to an amazing human being last week: Somali human rights activist Dr. Hawa Abdi Dhiblawe. Why you should know her? After she became the country's first gynecologist, "Mama Hawa" opened up a clinic for women in need – for free. Later when the war in Somalia broke out in 1992, she took care of around 90,000 people. This is why.

I put in a lot of hours and my heart into every issue of whlw. You're welcome to support me on Patreon (like 139 others!) or via PayPal.

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

what happened last week

We donated millions to help rebuild Lebanon after an apocalypse-like explosion shocked the entire world
Last week, over 2,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate exploded in the port of Beirut, Lebanon's capital. The explosion looked like something of an apocalypse. More than 160 people died, more than 5,000 injured. Around 300,000 families have become homeless.

Why did this happen?
The government had left an insane amount of ammonium nitrate in the nation's capital for six years – even though they knew it was dangerous to do so.
  • Fast Fact: Ammonium nitrate is a crystal-like white solid which is made in large industrial quantities. Its biggest use is as a source of nitrogen for fertiliser, but it is also used to create explosives for mining. Storing it can be a problem. On its own, ammonium nitrate is relatively safe to handle. However, if you have a large amount of material lying around for a long time it begins to decay.
How are the Lebanese people coping with this situation?
Not well. The country itself is dealing with its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war. The people are angry and have since taken to the streets again. More and more ministers are resigning from their jobs.

What is the international community doing?
A lot. Around 250 million euros have so far been promised by some countries. Emmanuel Macron was the first world leader to visit Beirut in the days after the blast. (France is the former colonial power.) The international community now is like, 'we need to investigate what happened. Transparently.' But Lebanese president Michel Aoun has already said 'nope' to an international investigation.

How can I help?
Just click here. If you want more specific causes to donate to, try my friend Anna Fleischer's and Ginan Osman's betterplace campaign (they need 8,000 euros still) or donate to rebuild the school I learned Arabic at, the Saifi Institute in Gemmayze, which was destroyed during the explosion.
  • By the way, if you haven't seen this act of bravery by this African migrant worker yet, don't miss it.
We protested election results in Belarus – and it doesn't look good for president Alexander Lukashenko
Belarus' president Alexander Lukashenko (also nicknamed 'Europe's last dictator') won last night's election – or so he says. '80% of the country wanted me to stay president – even after 26 years in power.' But a lot of people don't believe him. Belarus' main opposition candidate, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, was like, 'most people's voices were stolen. The election results are not real.' Her 'official' result: 9.9%.

What's the mood like in Belarus right now?
Thousands of people took to the streets last night, angry and frustrated... and were injured and arrested by police. Look here and look here, too. 'We did not vote for Lukashenko. We want a recount'. The internet has been shut down in most parts of the country. Monitoring organization Golos said it counted more than a million ballots and, well, 'Tikhanovskaya won 80% of the vote.' Tikhanovskaya now is like, 'I'm ready to peacefully discuss a change of power with the president.' The country's Central Election Commission said that more complete results would be coming today, according to Politico.
  • Did you know that around 63,000 people went to Tikhanovskaya's campaign rally in Minsk last month? That was the biggest demonstration in the past ten years in Belarus.
What is the international community saying about all of this?
France, Germany and Poland are worried – or so their foreign ministers said. 'We saw some stuff that happened in the beginning of the election that wasn't right.' The three countries said the European Council was also not allowed to oversee the election. Which is code for, 'something was fishy.'
We arrested the former president of Colombia – for the very first time
Colombia's highest court decided last week that former president Álvar Uribe get arrested. He was president from 2002-2010.
  • Why this matters: Uribe is not only the most beloved and most hated politician in Colombia. He's also the most powerful politician in the country. Many of the country’s powerful people have not had to answer to the justice system... yet. 
  • Did you know that writer Gabriel Garciá Márquez is from Colombia? They call him Gabo there and he is a Colombian hero. In 1982, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Tell me more about him
Many people in Colombia believe, 'he was the man who made us feel safe in this country again, after that long, cruel civil war.' Reminder:
He fought against the country's largest rebel group, known as the FARC. The country now has a made a peace deal with the group. Others say, 'eh. You forgot that he killed thousands of people in this country.' Another reminder: While Mr. Uribe was president, Colombian soldiers killed thousands of innocent people, many of them peasants, according to years of investigation by prosecutors and human rights groups. Soldiers often tried to pretend that the dead were actually FARC fighters to show they were winning the war.

When news broke that Uribe was going to get arrested, both 'fan' groups took to the streets to show how angry or happy they were about the decision.
Why was he arrested now?
The country's highest court is
investigating him right now. They want to find out if Uribe actually did do all the bad things people claim he did. He hasn't been charged officially yet. If guilty, though, he might have to spend six to eight years in prison.

This bit on Colombia was written while listening to this Fruko Y Sus Tesos playlist on Spotify. When it comes to the all-time pioneers of Colombian salsa music, Fruko y Sus Tesos is the undisputed king.
We found more evidence that shows what's happening to the Uighurs in China's 'camps' – this time from the inside
As of last week, there is more and more evidence that documents what China is doing to its Muslim minority, the Uighurs. This time, it's sent directly from inside the so-called 're-education camps' or de-facto prisons where around one million Uighurs and other minorities are being held.

What's the latest evidence?

This video (and long text messages) from someone 'inside'. It's an extremely rare first-hand perspective of what China is trying to keep a secret: how it treats many Uighur people. Experts say, 'the video doesn't seem fake. We think it's real.'
  • "Holding the camera with his right hand, he reveals his dirty clothes, his swollen ankles, and a set of handcuffs fixing his left wrist to the metal frame of the bed – the only piece of furniture in the room."
Who sent it? 
The family of a man named Merdan Ghappar, a 31-year-old Uighur model. They sent it video to the BBC directly, hoping that it will have the 'George Floyd' effect on the international community.
  • "The entire Uighur people are just like George Floyd now," his uncle said. "We can't breathe."
The Chinese government went all silent when BBC journalists asked them, 'eh wth is this?'. Remind me: What's China's problem with the Uighur minority again?
In short, the Chinese government fear that they want their own country too bad.
The BBC has got a good explainer.
We remembered the genocide of the Roma and Sinti during WWII
  • Catch up: Germany's Nazi party and its 'friends' killed millions of people, especially European Jews, during World War II. There were other groups that became victims, too – like Roma and Sinti, Black people, Poles and other Slavic peoples, Soviet prisoners of war, persons with disabilities, political prisoners, trade union leaders, "subversive" artists, those Catholic and Lutheran clergy who were seen as opponents of the regime, resisters, Jehovah's Witnesses, male homosexuals, and criminal offenders, among others.
Today, we will specifically talk about the genocide of the Roma and Sinti in Europe. Every year, on August 2, we remember what happened on Roma Holocaust Memorial Day.
  • Why it matters: A lot of the things that Germany's Nazi party did are not talked about. The mass killing of the Roma and Sinti is one of them. To make matters worse, to this day, people in Europe and around the world discriminate against Roma and Sinti communities. 
Why August 2 though?
On that day, in 1944, 2,897 Roma women, old men and children from the so-called 'Gypsy' camp at Auschwitz were murdered in the gas chambers. The Nazis and their allies tortured and killed many more. (I don't want to get into details here
but if you insist.)

How many?
It is difficult to estimate, so there are
some educated guesses. Some say 220,000, others 500,000 (which is between 25% and 50% of the entire Roma population before WWII). Some authors even say, 'we actually think around 1.5 million Roma and Sinti were murdered.'

I've heard the names Porajmos and Samudaripen. What do they mean?
These are names in the Romani language for what happened. Porajmos means 'devouring', Samudaripen 'mass murder'. Balkan Romani activists prefer the latter.

For my German speakers: Max Czollek wrote about why we absolutely need to talk about what happened to the Roma and Sinti back then.
We remembered the genocide of the Yezidi minority in 2014 in Iraq
  • Catch up: Six years ago, in 2014, the terrorist group ISIS killed and tortured thousands of people from the Yezidi religious minority in Iraq. Thousands of Yezidi women were forced to become 'sex slaves'. ISIS has now (mostly) moved elsewhere but for those who survived the violence, it's a very fresh wound.
Last week, on August 3, we all remembered the day ISIS attacked Sinjar in Iraq. On that day, around 3,000 to 5,000 Yezidis were murdered that day. Close to 6,000 (most of them women, young girls and boys) were taken as prisoners so they could be sold as slaves, raped or beaten. Young boys had to become part of ISIS – even if they were seven years old. Tens of thousands escaped and became refugees.
  • Why this matters: Yezidi survivors are still looking for some sense of justice. The international community set up tribunals for genocides in Germany, Bosnia and Rwanda, while the International Criminal Court is currently investigating crimes against the Rohingya in Myanmar. The Yezidis deserve the same thing.
How are the Yezidis in Iraq doing now?
Around 100,000 of them have gone back home but they need doctors and schools. Close to 3,000 women and girls are still missing. And people are still uncovering mass graves. The Iraqi government along with the Kurdish Regional Government in the north of the country are coming up with ways to better support the Yezidis. Think more stable governance and much better security structures.

How can I be a support system for the Yezidis?
Listen to them when they talk about what happened to them. For example, listen to or read this Yezidi woman's conversation with NPR's Jane Arraf. You can then raise awareness to your friends and family, especially on August 3, and/or donate to Nadia Murad's Initiative.
We are becoming more and more aware of how dangerous sugar is to our health
Last week Oaxaca, a state in Mexico, banned the sale of junk food and sugary drinks to children. 'We want our kids to stop becoming obese and getting diabetes.'
  • Why this matters: Mexico has one of the world's highest rates of childhood obesity. And about 73% of the Mexican population (around 128 million live there!) is overweight.
Who is behind this law?
Lawmaker Magaly López Domínguez.

How do Mexicans feel about this new law?
Pretty good – except for shop owners and street sellers. However, lawmakers are like, 'chill, you can still sell your stuff but... just don't give it to children.'
  • Did you know that Mexico had already made all sugary drinks and junk food more expensive in 2014?
This news from Mexico broke in the same week when a new study found out that the Coca-Cola, the maker of our unfortunately-favorite sugary drink, paid scientists to say that 'sugar does not make fat'. Reminds me of the fossil fuel companies and global warming.

On a funny note

Scientists last week gave human genes new names because Microsoft Excel kept misreading them as dates and there was no option to turn off the auto-formatting.
  • "When a user inputs a gene’s alphanumeric symbol into a spreadsheet, like MARCH1 — short for “Membrane Associated Ring-CH-Type Finger 1” — Excel converts that into a date: 1-Mar."
When it's faster for science to make a change than asking Microsoft to change the code.
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 139 others!) or via PayPal. I actually do this full-time.
Support this newsletter
Copyright © 2020 what happened last week?, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can
update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp