what happened last week (whlw) | Subscribe

whlw: no. 262

May 3 – 9, 2021

This is Sham, your very own news curator. Simi also says hi. 

I'm... back. I tested positive for coronavirus two weeks ago and oof, it was a very, very difficult two weeks. I'm still not fully recovered but whlw team member and awesome journalist Simi Bassi, as always, lent her support and well, here we are. Please stay safe if you can. 

Have you listened to Nepalese hiphop or Colombian ballads? I have. Peep this newsletter's Decolonize Weekly Spotify playlist. Whenever this newsletter is in your inbox, I curate it with music by artists coming from the countries mentioned (marked like this) in each whlw issue. Follow and shake your boo-tay.
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Now without further ado, here's what happened last week,

what happened last week

We shouldn’t commemorate Napoleon Bonaparte in 2021 – right?
Some 200 years ago, a military general named Napoleon Bonaparte died. To commemorate him or not, that was the question in France last week.

Why is that the question?
Well, some want to celebrate his death-versary ‘because he is important to France’s history’ and others are like, ‘ehm… why would you want to celebrate a man like him?’ In the words of French journalist
Rokhaya Diallo in The Washington Post: “The debate raises questions about what history France and its leadership choose to honor — and what they choose to bury.”

What about the French government?
French president Emmanuel Macron took flowers to his tomb. He even held a speech, ‘
Bonaparte is one of us.’

Tell me why France shouldn’t commemorate Bonaparte
Here are a few good reasons: 
  • He killed a lot of people. Mainly Black people.
    • “Les guerres coloniales aux Antilles, entre 1802 et 1804, ont fait 100 000 morts, dont 70 % de Noirs.” (translated: The colonial wars in the West Indies cost the lives of 100,000 people, 70 percent of whom were Black.) 
  • He brought back slavery in 1802 – eight years after France had abolished it. 
  • He created laws that were even more racist than what existed before.
    • Black and white people weren’t allowed to get married to one another.
    • People who weren’t white weren’t allowed to come to France’s mainland.
    • He also discriminated against Jews
    • He also said white-supremacist-kind-of-things in 1799: “I am for White people because I am White, I have no other reason and this one is the good one. How can we grant freedom to Africans, men that did not have any civilization?”
  • He took away rights from women. 
    • Some historians write that Napoleon modernized the law by creating the so-called Civil Code. The same Code forbade married women to study, travel or sign a contract if their husbands didn’t allow them to. Husbands were also allowed to rape them without legal consequences.
But he’s part of history!
So? “No one denies the fact that he had a major impact on French history. But he belongs to the history books, not modern commemorations. There is a difference between teaching and glorifying,” writes Diallo.
We just had a ‘breakthrough’ in the global fight against malaria
Last week, a malaria vaccine made by researchers in Burkina Faso and the United Kingdom was tested on 450 kids (aged 5 to 17 months) in Nanoro, Burkina Faso and was found to be super safe and effective against the disease. 

Malaria is a mosquito disease. It usually makes people experience “flu-like” symptoms, like fever, joint pain, vomiting, etc. 

Tell me more
The new vaccine is called R21/Matrix-M and researchers said, ‘
it’s 77% effective against the deadly mosquito disease.’ And 77% – for those outside of the medicine industry – is considered ‘omg, it’s highly effective!!!!’ It still has to go through another round of testing (next up: 4,800 kids aged five to three years) before it can actually get into arms. 

Why this mattersMalaria is one of the deadliest diseases worldwide, killing more than 400,000 people a year, mostly children in Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique and Uganda, among other sub-Saharan countries.

Researchers have been fighting this disease since... like, forever but with
little to no success (it’s much more complicated than finding a vaccine for the coronavirus for example). 
We are having a really hard time with the coronavirus in India right now – more than 4,000 people are dying every day
Right now, India is having a really, really hard time dealing with a few new variants of the coronavirus right now. The country’s healthcare system is overloaded. Think missing oxygen tanks, hospital beds, ventilators and key medicine. The country’s prime minister Narendra Modi is like, ‘this second wave has hit us like a storm.’

Why this matters: Almost 1.4 billion people live in India. The more it spreads there, the more it could spread to other countries, too. Also, the virus can mutate (this is a normal thing, it happens a lot) but it could turn into more deadly, more infectious variants. Plus, this is Asia’s third-largest economy. 

Tell me more
One of the (
771! Indian) variants of the virus is called B1617 and it’s spreading extremely fast. Last weekend, there were at least 401,078 new cases and 4,187 deaths in just 24 hours. However, ‘there isn’t much information on this variant still,’ says professor Giridhar Babu (follow him on Twitter) of Public Health Foundation of India. Plus, there are other variants of the virus, like B1618, circulating right now – some of them might (we don’t know yet) be even more dangerous. 

How did things get so bad? 
Basically, ‘people (including ruling politicians) let their guard down’. They believed that the worst of the pandemic was behind them. Experts also say that the government
missed its chance – when the cases went down for 30 weeks straight – to work on its healthcare infrastructure (they need oxygen and critical care beds really badly) and vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate. ‘We just didn’t prepare well enough,’ says virologist Shahid Jameel in The Times of India. As of April 25, only some 140 million vaccines have been given out – in a country where almost 1.4 billion people live. ‘We’re doing all we can,’ says the government.
  • Recommended read: Want to get a feeling how life’s like for a doctor in the Indian capital right now? Follow 37-year-old Aftabuddin Ahmed around for a day in British Punjabi journalist Minreet Kaur’s feature for Al Jazeera. He’s a surgeon at a government hospital in Delhi. “I can’t forget the desperate sound of people trying to breathe.”
  • Recommended for your news feed: The Caravan (Twitter), an Indian English-language, long-form narrative journalism magazine.
What now?
Entire cities and states in India are going into lockdown. Lots of countries are stepping in to help, including the
United States, Canada, Germany, France, Pakistan and the United Kingdom, and sent supplies asap. Some scientists believe things are expected to get worse by the end of the month, others are like, ‘I think we just need to hold on until mid-May.’

However, it
might be too late for Nepal right now as the neighbouring country is dealing with more and more coronavirus cases these days.
We, the people of Colombia, are fighting against corruption, poverty, violence and more right now
Thousands of people across the country have been protesting since April 28 against the government in Colombia. At least 37 protesters have been killed.

Why this matters: In 2020, 2.8 million more people were living in extreme poverty in Colombia. Last year, they were so hungry, they hung red rags outside their houses to let local officials know they needed help. 

Why are they protesting?
The government said they were going to raise taxes and the country’s people, especially the Indigenous and Afro Latino people, were like, ‘nope, we really can’t. Also, are you serious?!’  

I feel like there’s more to this…
And you’re right. It’s turned into a
bigger fight against corruption, the murder of social leaders, inequality, and outright anger at the government. The coronavirus pandemic has just made everything worse.

How has the government responded?
They are holding ‘talks’ to find a solution but many
people are skeptical and like ‘hm, this is what happened in 2019,’ the last time there were protests and our demands were not met. 

Meanwhile on the continentLast week, an international agreement called ‘
the Escazú Agreement’ was finally put together (they’ve been working on this since 2012) to protect environmental defenders on the Latin American continent. Of the 46 Latin countries, only 24 have signed and only 12 have ratified their participation. 
  • Why this matters: This is the first agreement of its kind in Latin America and the first in the world that also specifically focuses on the protection of environmental activists. This is extremely important because Latin America is an especially dangerous place for them. But there’s a big problem: countries like Brazil, Colombia (where most activists get killed) and Chile are not involved. 
We are still talking about Indigenous people’s rights to hunt animals in Taiwan
Taiwan is talking about who is allowed to hunt animals and how. Last Friday, the country’s most important court made the decision to relax some hunting restrictions, specifically for its Indigenous people.

Why this matters: Taiwan’s Indigenous people have long felt discriminated against by the Han Chinese majority (they arrived in the 17th century). Since then, the Han Chinese population has created laws that dictate how Indigenous people are supposed to live… ehm, hunt. To them, hunting is a cultural right. 

Did you know that some 16 (at least that’s how many the country has recognised today) Indigenous tribes have lived in Taiwan for thousands of years before immigrants first began arriving and settling from
China? Today, they make up only 2.5 percent of Taiwan's 23 million population. President Tsai Ing-wen is the country’s first leader with some Indigenous background. Indigenous people in Taiwan get paid less (if they manage to find a job) but mostly they’re unemployed and deal with poor health

Tell me more
Before, Indigenous people were only allowed to hunt animals with homemade guns and traps during certain festival days and only if the government said it’s OK. ‘But this is BS. We want to hunt on our own terms – just like we have been doing so for centuries,’ Indigenous activists said.
Now, no permission is needed anymore. And they can hunt as many animals as they want to. But: protected animals are off the book and no rifles either.  What do the Indigenous people say?
‘Na, this is BS,
we keep telling you. We should be able to use good guns. Plus, we won’t be hunting away all protected animals. We only hunt for ourselves.’
  • Zimbabwe is thinking about mass killing its elephants to control the population (right now, there are 100,000). It’s happened before (between 1965 and 1988). 
  • Latvia and the United States have officially recognized the Armenian Genocide. 
  • New Zealand’s entire parliament agreed that ‘severe human rights abuses’ are happening against the Uighurs (a Muslim minority) in Xinjiang, China
  • South Africa is done putting lions in cages with a new law (not yet official) that would stop the sale of big cats, petting zoos, and even end the legal lion bone trade. 

On a funny note

A farmer in Belgium accidentally moved the border of France by removing a stone from his tractor’s path in the wrong direction. In other words, ‘he made Belgium bigger and France smaller… I mean, I was happy my town was bigger. But the mayor of Bousignies-sur-Roc didn't agree,’ said the mayor of the Belgian village of Erquelinnes. 

What now?
‘We’ll contact the farmer and see if he can just move back the stone. If not,
he might face criminal charges for this.’
  • Btw, the border between France and what is now Belgium was decided upon under the Treaty of Kortrijk, signed by no other than Napoleon Bonaparte in 1820. *cough*
That's it from Sham and Simi. This issue was written with our Decolonize Weekly Spotify playlist running in the background. Bye for now and stay safe.
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