what happened last week (whlw) | Subscribe

whlw: no. 272

July 12 – July 18, 2021

Hallo, this is Sham, your very own news curator. Simi also says Guten Tag. In this issue, we'll talk about
  • How climate change caused extreme weather across the world, from Western Europe, Africa to South America
  • Lebanon's political crisis just got crisis-ier
  • South Africa hasn't been this violent since the end of apartheid
  • Jamaica is, once again, asking for reparations from Britain for slavery
  • The biggest anti-government protest in the last 25 years in Cuba
Last week was intense. I'm a sucker for good news at times like these; like the good news that four people were actually arrested because they had made racist comments online against England's three Black players — Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka. 

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

what happened last week

We saw extreme floods, wildfires, heatwaves and droughts worldwide because of climate change
Flooding in Western Europe, especially Germany and Belgium, is really, really bad right now. Two months of rain fell in just two days. At least 170 people have died so far. People living there say ‘this is the worst flooding we’ve ever seen.’ And scientists are like ‘this is why we should start paying attention to climate change.’ 
  • Zoom out: It’s also raining heavily in Turkey right now. Heavy rains in the northern province of Rize have killed at least six people so far.  
Is this because of climate change?
‘Kind of yes,’ say climate scientists. They have been saying this over and over again for the past few decades, ‘we will cause more floods, heatwaves, droughts, storms and other forms of extreme weather if we continue to heat up the planet.’ Scientists say, ‘this is just going to get worse. We
won’t be able to predict them either anymore.’ Plus, there’s also the extremely-terrifying news of the ‘wobbling’ moon that will make flooding worse in the coming years.

What about the rest of the world?
Oh, buckle up. 
  • North America: A heat dome is hanging over the United States and Canada – and it’s extremely dangerous. In just one week, it killed 808 people in western Canada. Plus, there are wildfires, too.
  • Africa: The worst droughts since 1981 are killing crops in Madagascar and 1.14 million people are ‘food insecure’ and 400,000 are starving. The East African island country is now asking the world for help.
  • South America: And there’s the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. Each year, more and more trees are cut down. In just the first half of this year, the rainforest has lost an area four times the size of New York City (3,610 square km). Last week, a study in Nature was like, ‘the rainforest now actually releases more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than it absorbs.’
Is there any good news?
Yes. There were some new promises and innovative approaches to fight climate change. For example: 
  • Greenland will stop searching for oil off the coast of their island anymore.
  • Gabon stopped cutting down trees altogether and became the first African country to get paid (US$17 million by the Central African Forest Initiative) for reducing their carbon emissions.
  • Wales said it is going to plant 86 million trees in the near future. 
  • Mozambique also just planted over 825,000 seedlings to bring back some of their more rare plant species. 
    • Dig deeper: But will planting trees actually be enough to combat climate change or will it be a little too late? That’s a bigger discussion that’s happening right now. And also, what if climate change itself is stopping these trees from actually growing (think extreme heat, drought). This is what forestry expert El Hadj Goudiaby told Time Magazine after spending nine years leading tree-planting projects in Senegal: “The rain used to come in June. Here we are in August, and still there is no rain…How is it possible to grow trees to combat climate change if climate change is making it impossible to grow trees?
We are going through a huge political crisis in Lebanon – and we can’t afford it
Last Thursday, after ten months, Prime Minister(-designate) Saad Hariri aka the guy that was supposed to form a government just said ‘I quit’. Apparently, he and President Michel Aoun couldn’t agree on who should run Lebanon alongside Hariri.

Refresher: After the Beirut explosion in August 2020 that killed
at least 200 people, then-prime-minister Hassan Diab resigned and, two months later, Hariri stepped up to the task. He wasn’t a complete stranger to Lebanese politics; he did (and failed at) that job before in 2019. 

How did the country react?
It took many by surprise. Later that Thursday, Hariri’s supporters and people from his political party, the Future Movement party,
protested across the country because they’re angry at Aoun. Soldiers, too. The Lebanese currency hit a new all-time low and has now lost 90 percent of its value. Internationally, United States and France are like, ‘you need to set party politics aside ASAP. Take care of the people.’

Btw: There was also
another protest in Beirut last week, by people whose families died in the Beirut blast. They’re now waiting for an investigation into what happened. But with the government still not getting anything done, they’re getting really angry. Police even fired tear gas at the crowd.

Did you know that the country is run by a special power-sharing system? The country is home to 18 different religious communities. Because of this, it came up with a unique government-structure, whereby the prime minister, president and speaker of the house must come from the country’s three largest religious groups: Sunni, Maronite Christian and Shiite, respectively.

What’s next?
To be determined. At this point in time, there are
no alternatives to fill Hariri’s position. 

Why this matters: This small Mediterranean country of some seven million people (1.5 million refugees live here, too) hasn’t had a functioning government for ten months now. A political deadlock is never a good idea, especially when your economy is doing sh*t (World Bank: ‘It’s super bad. It’s one of the worst economic crises in the last 150 years.’) and at least half of your population have less money to afford food, medicine, fuel and electricity. Plus, the pandemic hasn’t helped.
We are witnessing the worst violence in South Africa since the end of apartheid
Last week, people in South Africa were upset that former president Jacob Zuma was put behind bars for 15 months. Across different cities, his ‘fans’ held protests that became violent. More than 200 people have died so far.

Refresher: Who is Jacob Zuma? The 79-year-old former president (was) resigned in 2018 and is currently being investigated for corruption during his nine years in office and while he was deputy president before that. His supporters (especially in KwaZulu-Natal province) to this day believe he is innocent and say ‘come on, he was an anti-apartheid fighter so let’s treat him with respect. They also say ‘this is all a ‘political hunt’. After all, the architects of apartheid remain free, and one, FW de Klerk,
even has a Nobel Peace Prize. (Check this parliament session in South Africa where some politicians call him a murderer.’)
  • Btw, I used ‘political hunt’ because I don’t think we should be saying ‘witch-hunt’ anymore. Erin Cassese (her Twitter) for Vox wrote about the political history of the term in 2018. Here’s a highlight: “...the witch hunt is still a tool used to shore up gendered notions of authority, power, and legitimacy.”
Why did he get arrested?
missed a court date. Very unspectacular, I know.

Tell me more about the protests
They started in the eastern part of the country, in KwaZulu-Natal province. Then they spread to Johannesburg (the money capital of the country) and other parts of Gauteng province. 800+ shops were looted (between
US$400 million and US$1 billion have been stolen or destroyed) railways, roads, even clinics were damaged etc. ‘It’s kind of like they’re trying to make the country ungovernable.’ More than 10,000 soldiers are on the streets to help out police. The president Cyril Ramaphosa is like, ‘this is just to stir up some bullsh*t. They want me to pardon Zuma or step down. They’re enemies of democracy.’ 

But is this really all about Zuma?
Not likely. One of the reasons behind the frustration is the high unemployment rate in South Africa.
75 percent of those under 24 are unemployed. The pandemic hasn’t helped. 

What now?
Zuma can ask for freedom from the court again in four months. But his supporters
don’t want to wait that long.

Why this matters: It hasn’t been this violent in South Africa since the end of the apartheid regime in 1994. Plus, this is super damaging to the country’s economy, too. Plus, with the Delta variant of the coronavirus, scientists are like, ‘the worst is yet to come in Africa. Only about 1% of Africa’s population is fully vaccinated and this violence needs to stop ASAP.’

In neighboring country
Eswatini, people are still (and have been for months) calling for political reforms aka democracy, asking for justice for the death of 25-year-old law student Thabani Nkomonye by police and are showing their frustration with King Mswati III (and his 15 wives). At least 40 people have died so far. The president calls the protests ‘satanic’ and has probably fled. This country is Africa’s last absolute monarchy. Some 1.2 million people live there.
  • Fun fact: Jacob Zuma once asked King Mswati III’s sister to be his wife. Never happened.
We are, once again, asking for reparations from Britain for slavery in Jamaica
Last week, Jamaica said that it plans to ask Britain for a lot of $$$ (more than US$10 billion) via a petition because way back and today, slavery really took a toll on them. 

Tell me more
Quick history lesson:
Some 600,000 Africans were taken to Jamaica between 1533 and 1807. They were forced to work on plantations of sugar cane, bananas and other crops. Officially, slavery in the Caribbean ended in 1834 after the famous ‘slave rebellion’ of 1831. Now, in 2021, the Jamaican government is opening up that chapter once again, demanding reparations. ‘It’s time that Jamaica gets justice from injustices,’ says Olivia Grange, minister of culture, gender, entertainment and sports. 

Did you know that Jamaica was a British colony for hundreds of years? First came
Spain (Christopher Columbus ugh), then the United Kingdom in 1655; they stayed until 1962. It was an extremely violent chapter in the country’s history because many of the indigenous Taíno peoples either were killed or died of new diseases that the Spanish brought. Then, both Spain and Britain thought slavery was a ‘good idea’ to deal with that. Today, this island country still speaks English and is formally ruled by Queen Elizabeth II, like many other countries who were once part of the British Empire.

Where does this reparations idea come from?
Oh, it’s a movement in the Caribbean that has become bigger and bigger. This reparations-talk in Jamaica, however, is all thanks to a man named Mike Henry, lawmaker in Jamaica and member of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party. ‘Honestly, I just want Britain to pay the people who were enslaved the same amount they paid the slave owners.’

Britain paid ‘slave owners’?
Oh, yes. To compensate those who would be losing ‘property’ (ew) if human trafficking and slavery was made illegal, the British government took out a huge £20 million loan and British taxpayers finished paying off the ensuing interest payments in 2015. However, this isn’t the first time that Jamaica is asking for reparations from the United Kingdom.

Oh really?
Yeah, the country has been super pissed at Britain for the longest time now. In December, another lawmaker Mikael Phillips even suggested that the Queen be
removed as head of state formally.

Why this matters: Britain’s colonial past is a hot topic… again. More and more governments and groups in the Caribbean (also known as CRC; most member states in that group are former British colonies) are voicing the opinion that slavery and the indigenous genocide played a big role in making Britain wealthy and because of that, they want to be compensated. After all, Britain forcefully ‘employed’ aka kidnapped and enslaved some 20 million people from the African continent to help build stronger business in mostly former colonies. And meanwhile, people of African descent, enslaved Africans and their descendants have continued to suffer the consequences of underdevelopment, of unemployment, of trauma. 

Zoom out:
Haiti is also pushing for compensation from France. Namibia is in talks with Germany, too. Speaking of Germany, Nigeria called last week, and they want their 1,130 Benin Bronzes back.
We are protesting against bad governance in Cuba in the biggest demonstration in 25 years
Last week, thousands of (mostly young) people took to the streets across Cuba, protesting against the government and calling for President Miguel Díaz-Canel to step down. Over 200 people and some journalists have been arrested, one person has died and the internet sometimes gets cut off by the government. 

Tell me more
‘There’s not enough food, medicine, electricity and the coronavirus pandemic is killing too many of us,’ say people.
This became worse during the pandemic because money from tourism completely stopped. Some have also called for political change in a country that has been under one-party rule for the past 60 years. In the same week, a big pro-government rally also took place in the capital Havana and other cities.

How did the government react?
Yes, we did a lot of things wrong,’ said the president, and, as a first step, now allows travellers arriving in Cuba to bring in food, medicine and other essential items without having to pay a customs fee. However, his government has also blamed the United States and social media for the protests in his country. ‘The US sanctions are killing us slowly. Plus, they are running a social media campaign against us.’

Tell me more about those sanctions
Since 1960, the United States has stopped trade with the island in the hope that Cuba's communist leadership resigns. For a hot minute, some sanctions were ‘loosened’ when
Barack Obama was president, letting in more (U.S.) American tourism into the country. But then they were reversed under Donald Trump. Unfortunately, the U.S. sanctions have made life for citizens in Cuba harder. As a result, there is always not enough medicine, food and all sorts of other goods. The international community (minus the United States and Israel) agrees, ‘stop the sanctions. Right now.’ In the meantime, now-U.S. President Joe Biden called Cuba a "failed state." But he hasn’t lifted sanctions (or hinted at a plan that he might do it soon). 

Is it really a ‘failed state’?
The Cuban government hasn’t done everything wrong. They are one of the few countries that developed their own
COVID-19 vaccines. They have been known to have a pretty good health care system. The fact that cases keep rising and there isn’t enough medicine, supplies in hospitals right now is one of the biggest reasons people are mad.

Why this matters: The country of some 11 million people is facing the worst food shortage since the 1990s. It’s also the largest anti-government protest in 25 years in Cuba, where protests are kind of rare (one of the many reasons could be that ‘dissent’ is quickly shut down by the government).
  • Thailand: Starting August 24, it will be legal to cultivate and export Kratom. It's illegal in some countries, like the United States. 'It's like an opiate.' But what's it like to be high on kratom? Euphoria... and nausea.
  • China: The United States might ban products that have been made in China's Xinjiang region. 'We don't know if you forced Uyghurs to make them.' The Senate said yes to this ban. Next up the House, then the president. 'We will take revenge if you do this,' said China.
  • Canada: The Penelakut Tribe in the Southern Gulf Islands (British Columbia) found more than 160 unmarked graves where there was once the Kuper Island Residential School.
  • Haiti: There's still a political crisis. The country's prime minister stepped down. New man in charge: Ariel Henry.

On a good note

Last week, South Korea's vice-foreign minister Choi Jong-kun was like, 'hey, Japan's ambadassador Koichi Aiboshi, come over. We need to talk.'

The reason being, well, Aiboshi's employee, his deputy-ambassador Hirohisa Soma, had made fun of South Korean president Moon Jae-in in an interview on South Korean TV, saying that 'he wants to with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga so bad, it's like he's masturbating with himself.'
Here's these two sitting awkwardly to discuss this comment.

Why this (actually) matters: South Korea and Japan are working on their relationship. Remember when Japan colonized Korea in the beginning of the 20th century? Yeah, South Korea remembers that very well and has been asking for compensation.
Please send us your recommendations for our Decolonize Weekly playlist. We add new songs every week. We'll stop deleting the old songs.  

Ok, that's it from Sham and Simi. 
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