Stories of the Week
(This blog's personal survival story of the week: Northeastern American blizzard.)
Burkina Faso erupts. Last weekend a group of militants descended upon the town of Ouagadougou, killing almost 30 people and leaving almost 60 wounded after a 15-hour siege. An Al Qaeda affiliate is believed to be responsible, and the government is still gathering intelligence. Burkina Faso has been notably at peace in recent years, and the incident has jarred the country severely.
Sanctions imposed on Iran are lifted, and prisoners are freed. After years of crushing sanctions against Iran, which wrought havoc on its economy and severely impacted its citizens, the country is finally seeing relief. Last weekend Implementation Day went into full effect, with many Iranians and people of Iranian ethnicity celebrating all over the world. Meanwhile, key prisoners were released on both sides, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian. Several publications weighed in on their decision to keep quiet despite knowing the prisoners were being prepared for release, sparking an interesting conversation throughout the journalism world. Update: the US helpfully announced new sanctions on 11 Iranian individuals shortly after American prisoners were flown home.
Taiwan elects its first female president. Tsai Ing-wen made history this weekend when she became Taiwan's first female president. A member of the Democratic Progressive Party, Tsai seems to have one largely on economic issues. While her party has traditionally asserted Taiwanese independence in defiance of mainland China, Tsai seems to be softening her tone towards the larger country, and analysts are indicating that she is expected to tread carefully when discussing the issue.
- 2015 was the hottest year on record, i.e. since 1880, which means we have COOKED THE PLANET, Y'ALL. Related: by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the world's oceans.
- The end of small talk.
- The only female director nominated for an Oscar is up for her work on the critically-acclaimed film Mustang, and everyone should learn more about her ASAP.
- MLK Day (honoring the life and work of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) was last Monday, but fewer than half of working Americans had a paid day off.
- With everyone around you listening to Serial and watching Making A Murderer, take some time to ponder when and why other people's tragedies became entertainment fodder.
- The World Economic Forum is in full swing, if you're into that.
- Overhauling college admissions.
- Ninth planet alert! If discovered, Pluto has a friend spinning beyond its orbit. This potential new planet is being referred to as a "real" ninth planet, reminding us all that Pluto is a dwarf planet. Alas, poor Pluto.
- Excellences & Imperfections.
- Were humans ever peaceful?
- The government of the Maldives has demanded a replacement as a term of condition for allowing former President Mohamed Nasheed to undergo surgery in the UK. A relative of Nasheed's has been suggested, in order to incentivize the former president (who is under arrest in the island nation) to return.
- Nine Afghan police were killed in an insider attack in Uruzgan. Later in the week, seven employees with Tolo News were killed in Kabul.
- Reza Gul, an Afghan woman, made headlines this week after her husband cut off her nose. He had reportedly been abusive for years, and her family hopes she will be flown to Turkey to receive treatment.
- A young man accused of blasphemy (which is condemned by controversial laws in Pakistan) cut his hand off as an act of contrition in Punjab, sparking a conversation about the dangers of powerful religious figures in the country.
- At Bacha Khan University in Peshawar, a terror attack claimed by a Taliban affiliate killed over 20 people, leaving dozens more wounded.
- A suicide bomber in Peshawar killed 11 people on Tuesday.
- Pakistan has offered to host Saudi-Iranian reconciliation talks.
- A university in India shut down this week following protests over the suicide of a Dalit student, who had been expelled from the university's housing system.
Southeast & East Asia:
- China's economic growth rate is at its lowest in 25 years.
- Taiwan elected its first female prime minister. See Stories of the Week for additional information.
Europe & Eurasia:
- The UK will *not* ban Donald Trump from visiting, despite a very heated debate in parliament and a hefty petition calling for the American presidential candidate to be barred. Trump has become notorious for his comments targeting Muslims, Hispanics, immigrants, and other minorities in the US, and is of Scottish descent.
- Turkey's crackdown on Kurds is extending to local mayors.
- A UK investigation has determined that Vladimir Putin (via the FSB) likely ordered ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko poisoned. Litvinenko died in 2006 from radioactive poisoning.
Middle East & North Africa:
- Three American contractors have been kidnapped in Baghdad. They are believed to be held by Shia militiamen.
- Large groups of people were reportedly killed as the Islamic State stormed a Syrian city. News has conflicted, however, regarding number of casualties and severity level.
- Heavy bombing in Yemen has killed numerous people, including a journalist who had worked for Voice of America.
- Israel continues to grab land from Palestinians.
- Ebola has resurfaced in Sierra Leone. A second case was reported later in the week.
- Apple, Samsung, and Sony are facing child labor claims, indicating that the companies have not done enough to ensure that their phones do not contain minerals mined by children in countries like the DRC.
- The equivalent of US$6.8 billion in public funds has been stolen from the Nigerian government over the past seven years.
- The 101 year-old king of Ibadan, Nigeria has died.
- The UN will scale back the number of troops it has in place in the Ivory Coast.
- Peru is coming under fire for firing its top anti-logging official, indicating the timber industry may have played a role in the decision.
- Brazil is downplaying the effects of the Zika virus on tourists, but advising pregnant women to seek medical consultations before they travel to the country.
- In the US, the Iowa caucus cometh. Also, Sarah Palin endorsed Donald Trump. Waiting to hear if this means Tina Fey will be back on Saturday Night Live anytime soon. Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders does not support reparations, and Ta-Nehisi Coates weighed in re that. Sanders also thinks organizations like Planned Parenthood are "the establishment" which has not gone over very well with said organizations.
- Public health officials are finally responding to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Flint's residents have been consuming water contaminated with lead for the past two years, and here's an explainer. Of note: lead poisoning is actually a problem in MANY American cities.
- The fate of President Obama's executive order on immigration is set to be decided by the Supreme Court.
- Two elderly Australians, Jocelyn and Ken Eliot, are believed to have been kidnapped in Burkina Faso. Ken Eliot is a surgeon, and he and his wife (both in their 80s) have worked in the region for over four decades. Likely kidnapped by an Al Qaeda affiliate in the region, it is possible they are now across the border in Mali. The Australian government has been working to learn more information regarding their whereabouts.
- A mobile game that rewarded players for killing indigenous Australians has been unsurprisingly pulled from app stores.
Blue Out: Mirror universe?