Stories of the Week
Star Wars mania. If you're a human on planet Earth with access to the internet or television, you have likely observed the resurgence of the beloved Star Wars franchise. Star Wars: The Force Awakens pulled in hundreds upon hundreds of millions of dollars, and reviews have been relatively positive. (TBTN endorsement: Your blogger, a fan of the original trilogy who loathes the prequels, recommends The Force Awakens, and, after you have seen it, advises you to read this great take on the reboot's feminist undertones.)
Christmas mania. For those not observing the West's favorite Christian-inspired pastime, here's a strong rebuttal on Christian privilege. For those observing, here's some Grinch-esque talk about the commercialization of the holiday. And in due deference to those outside of the West, here's a good reminder of the struggles of Christians in other parts of the world, where they are oftentimes marginalized. (And a moment for refugees, many of whom are having a terrible holiday.)
Modi mania. It was quite the week for India's prime minister. First, he jetted off to Russia to put the finishing touches on a coveted defense deal with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Then, in a moment that shocked much of the Subcontinent, he swung by Pakistan to visit Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Lahore. (It was Sharif's birthday, something social media enjoyed playing with.) Shortly thereafter, he returned to India to celebrate the birthday of former Prime Minister Vajpayee. Jetsetter.
- This article has a terribly condescending title but offers an insight into how Norway is working to adjust refugees and new arrivals to its cultural norms, many of which cut along gendered lines.
- American women can take comfort in the knowledge that the most powerful woman in the country is still being asked about flower arrangements at a presidential debate.
- On the note of women, if you are one you have likely noticed that the "pink tax" is alive and well. This article essentially sums up what we knew to be true: men's products are cheaper, higher quality, and further proof of sexism.
- A London theater production of a Harry Potter follow-up will feature an actress of African heritage playing the well-known role of Hermione, a character of ambiguous race who has nonetheless always been portrayed as white in canonical imaginings.
- The garment industry has wrought horrors on the world, but Bangladesh has been hurt disproportionately.
- Women and gender non-conforming individuals (specifically femmes): if you've ever asked yourself if your "beauty" routine is about your preferences or the influence of patriarchy, there's an article for you.
- Western cinema and action games have gone a long way to inspire militants.
- The Gandhi family, who hold much of the power in India's Congress party, are fighting corruption charges pushed forward by the rival BJP party (which currently rules the country.)
- Indians are mass-protesting the release of a rapist who was tried as a juvenile. The man was one of a group responsible for the brutal gang rape and murder of a young woman several years ago; the crime led to protests across the country and garnered global attention.
- Narendra Modi, India's prime minister, visited Moscow this week to ink a major defense deal with Russia.
- The US State Department has issued warnings for the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, observing that people may be targeted during the Christian holiday of Christmas, as well as New Year's Eve.
- A Taliban attack killed six US soldiers in Afghanistan at the beginning of the week.
- The Taliban are also making a play for Sangin, which is notably a leading source of poppy -- through which opium is produced.
Southeast & East Asia:
- A human-caused landslide in southern China left many missing over the weekend. Bodies were recovered throughout the week, and the incident has been cited as a testament to the perils of rapid growth and industrialization.
- China and South Korea are meeting to discuss territory issues in the Yellow Sea.
- Japan is investigating the disappearance of a Japanese journalist who entered Syria last July, and who is believed to be held by an unknown militant group.
Europe & Eurasia:
- More than one million refugees entered Europe in 2015.
- Spain's election saw some surprises, with newcomers challenging the country's long-running two-party format. The anti-austerity Podemos party is generating a great deal of buzz in particular.
- An Air France flight en route to Paris was forced to divert to Kenya after a bomb scare. The incident turned out to be a hoax, and several people have been arrested.
- A French man who beheaded his employer has been found dead in prison.
- Following the US and Australia, the UK is preparing to put women on the front lines of combat.
- Sepp Blatter, former FIFA head, has been banned from football/soccer for eight years.
- A referendum on same-sex marriage in Slovenia dealt activists a big setback.
Middle East & North Africa:
- American officials have admitted that a recent strike killed Iraqi soldiers by accident.
- Iraqi forces moved to retake the city of Ramadi, which is held by the Islamic State (IS).
- Efforts to resolve Yemen's war have failed to see a real breakthrough, despite renewed efforts. Parties are likely to meet again in the near future, however.
- A Hezbollah commander, formerly freed by Israel, was killed in Syria.
- Israeli Vice Prime Minister (and Minister of the Interior) Silvan Shalom has resigned following sexual harassment claims.
- Bethlehem has suffered a severe downtick in tourism following violence between Israelis and Palestinians. The area is usually a popular attraction around the Christmas holiday.
- The US has reportedly overlooked Oman's human rights record in exchange for other favors.
- Reports indicate that US support for LGBTQ rights in Sub-Saharan Africa may have done more harm than good.
- The US now classifies African lions as an endangered species. The move comes after a beloved lion in Zimbabwe, Cecil, was killed by a trophy hunter.
- Colombia will not meet its March deadline for a peace deal with FARC rebels.
- An arrest warrant has been issued for Panama's former leader. He is accused of using public funds for spying.
- A Ecuadorian couple are set to become the first transgender parents in South America.
- It is VERY WARM in the American northeast.
- American presidential race updates: Lindsey Graham (R - SC) has suspended his campaign, and Donald Trump (R) is apparently into Yiddish.
- Arabic calligraphy led to school closures in Virginia, for reasons that are a bit confusing and unclear.
- Gay and bisexual men can now donate blood in the US...IF they abstain from sex for a year beforehand.
- Elon Musk's SpaceX has achieved an historic takeoff and landing, following a more disastrous attempt last spring. The rocket's successful cycle indicates that privatized space research is likely to receive a boost in the coming year.
- A grand jury declined to indict anyone in the death of Sandra Bland, a Black woman who died in police custody in Texas earlier this year.
- A British Muslim family attempting to visit Disneyland were stopped by US authorities at Gatwick airport in London amidst fears of terrorism (there is little to no indicator the family posed any threat.)
- NASA has delayed its next Mars mission by years due to an unfortunate glitch.
- The Mall of America tried to take out a restraining order to stop Black Lives Matter protesters from staging a protest. They failed.
- The Australian state of Tasmania has raised the legal age to purchase cigarettes to 25.
- Australia has detained three people it suspects of terrorism.
Blue Out: Miss Universe mess-up.