Stories of the Week
David Bowie departs for the stars. In spectacularly devastating news that has deservedly upset large swathes of the world, iconic musician, actor, and fashionista David Bowie has died at age 69 due to complications from a cancer diagnosis. More on Bowie's incredible life is here. (Also, as this is a space for all and our idols should be taken off their pedestals even if we continue to love them, here is a pretty to-the-point take-down of Bowie's unacceptable sexual antics, several of which were straight-up statutory rape.) There was also another tragic death that came later in this news cycle, but hit no less severely -- see below for a few words on the loss of Alan Rickman, another 69 year-old Brit who should absolutely still be with us.
El Chapo is recaptured. Famed criminal 'El Chapo' (Joaquin Guzman) has been apprehended in Mexico. For the Mexican government, this is a much-needed win, though it remains to be seen just how much of a win it actually is. The US is applying pressure to have Guzman transported to its jurisdiction. Meanwhile, in a bizarre turn of events, American actor Sean Penn apparently met with Guzman prior to his arrest. This has angered A LOT of people, including Mexican journalists, many of whom feel Penn;s 'journalism' is belittling the very real dangers they face from individuals like Guzman every day.
Bombing in Istanbul (& Jakarta). A suicide bomber in Istanbul killed at least ten people in the midst of a crowded area known for tourism, near such iconic buildings as the Blue Mosque. While Istanbul has been hit with terror before, the incident struck a nerve across the globe, namely because it killed numerous tourists (the majority of them German) and because the city itself straddles both Asia and Europe, making it more of an appealing location for Westerners. The bombing is believed to be connected to the Islamic State, and an accomplice to the bomber is in custody. Update: Mid-week, Jakarta, Indonesia was also hit with an attack. Several people died during a bombing in the city, with the Islamic State also presumed to be a culprit.
Starving in Syria. Syrians (who are on the whole facing horrors from the government of Bashar al-Assad, the Islamic State, Russian bombings, and virtually every other party imaginable in the conflict) are starving to death in the city of Madaya. As of the middle of the week, food convoys were finally granted entry. But it's unclear just how much of an effect they'll have, and whether or not Madaya's population hasn't already suffered an impossible amount of damage. Many residents had resorted to eating grass and cats in an effort to stay alive, in a chilling reality that has still failed to resonate with the international community.
- When can women stop trying to look perfect?
- The 2016 National Magazine Awards Finalists.
- In another tragedy, Alan Rickman, beloved British actor and all-around adored human, ALSO died of cancer at age 69 this week. Here's one tribute to an irreplaceable person. And another.
- Barack Obama's final State of the Union address was sweeping, full of rhetoric, at times inaccurate, and chock-full of American exceptionalism. Full transcript here. (Nikki Haley gave the Republican response, and regardless of how you feel about Haley or the response, which certainly contained some overt racism, she arguably did better at it than many predecessors. Most notably, she called out Donald Trump. Interesting choice.)
- The Academy Award nominations are out, and to the shock of no one they are very white and cater towards male-fronted and dominated films. Of note: the critically acclaimed movie Carol, about a lesbian romance, was shut out from the Best Picture category. Here's a pretty good explainer on that one.
- On that note, of the top grossing 200 films over the past 20 years, here are some unsurprising numbers: 53% written by men fail the Bechdel test, and 100% written by women pass.
- Al Jazeera America has shut down.
- A refugee who fled Sarajevo as a child penned a touching letter to Syrian refugees.
- Playing Powerball.
- Four countries (the US, China, Pakistan, and Afghanistan) are all working to revive peace talks with the Taliban.
- The US carried out a drone strike in Nangarhar province in Afghanistan.
- UNICEF says 40% of Afghan children are out of school.
- A Canadian man held hostage by the Taliban for five years has been released.
- Despite staying out of the current Iran-Saudi conflict, Pakistan has indicated it will move to defend Saudi should the need arise.
- Pakistan has arrested the head of Jaish-e-Mohammed, the group presumed to be behind the January 2 Pathankot base attack in India.
- A suicide bombing outside of a polio vaccination clinic in Quetta has killed at least 16 people.
- The Sri Lankan government is moving to create a new constitution.
- 45 beached whales died in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu after efforts to return the whales to sea were unsuccessful. Update: The count was as high as 73 on Thursday.
Southeast & East Asia:
- Thousands of people have been protesting in Hong Kong over the disappearance of several booksellers.
- China has allegedly detained a Swedish human rights worker.
- North Korea alleges that it has detained an American spy.
- South Korea fired upwards of 20 warning shots after a North Korean drone crossed its border.
Europe & Eurasia:
- The brother of Pope Benedict XVI led a choir where over 200 boys were reportedly abused .
- Clashes between Kurds and Turkish forces have been growing in number rapidly.
- A Spanish princess is standing trial for tax fraud.
- Austria has accused Germany of 'returning' asylum seekers.
Middle East & North Africa:
- The Egyptian parliament met for the first time in three years.
- Two Iraqi journalists were killed while returning to Baghdad after covering a story elsewhere. It is believed Shia militamen may be responsible.
- Another hospital operated by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has been struck with a bomb by an unnamed group in Yemen.
- Iran has neutralized its plutonium reactor at Arak, a crucial step in its deal to lift sanctions. Update: Iran is walking back reports regarding the reactor.
- Two US Navy boats strayed into Iranian waters mid-week, causing some alarm. The ships were released with minimal tension.
- A Saudi woman, Samar Badawi, has been detained following Twitter comments made advocating for the release of her ex-husband (or husband; reports have varied) from prison. Her brother, a blogger, is also in prison.
- Peacekeepers in the CAR reportedly paid 13 year-olds for sex.
- Hama Amadou, a candidate for president in Niger, has been denied release from prison.
- At least 12 people were killed in Cameroon after a suicide bomber targeted a mosque.
- Liberia has been declared Ebola-free by the WHO.
- Ecuador has been asked by Sweden for permission to question Julian Assange, who is wanted on rape charges. Assange is hiding out in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
- US Peace Corps volunteers have been pulled out of El Salvador over security concerns. El Salvador has an incredibly high crime rate and level of violence, much of which is linked to gang warfare.
- In college football updates, Alabama defeated Clemson.
- General Motors is being taken to court.
- Teachers unions are freaking out about a pending Supreme Court case, which could rule that employees do not have to pay fees to cover bargaining costs even if they themselves are not union members.
- The National Guard is preparing to help Flint, Michigan, deal with its water crisis. For two years the city has been consuming lead-tainted water, which may well have harmed its children.
- There was another Republican debate this week, FYI.
- Police cleared crowds from in front of the Sydney Opera House on Thursday in what appears to have been a counter-terrorism operation.
Blue Out: They.