Welcome to 2016, everyone. Here’s how the first week of the new year has gone:
North Korea says that it tested a hydrogen bomb, a technology that it totally, definitely, absolutely has. Other things North Korea claims to have include: a cure for Ebola, unicorns, and a functioning economy.
Ben Carson, who is somehow still a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, despite his militant ignorance of policy, politics, and interior design, humiliated a small child at a campaign event yesterday. If you don’t know that when you ask a roomful of 5th graders who the dumbest kid in the class is, they’re all going to point to the same kid, you’re probably not equipped to govern.
And in Gambia, perennial spouter-of-ridiculous-nonsense (and president) Yahya Jammeh has ordered all female civil servants to cover up their hair. The directive is presumably pursuant to his unilateral announcement last month that Gambia is now an Islamic republic. Because I guess that’s a thing the president can do.
I can’t even with this thing about Denmark trying to seize asylum seekers’ valuables. So instead, let’s talk about the patriarchy.
Japan’s highest court ruled that spouses must have the same last name, effectively requiring women to either give up their maiden names, or forgo the legal benefits of marriage.
The UN Working Group on Discrimination Against Women in Law and Practice paid a visit to the U.S. and did NOT like what they found here. In what may or may not be news to anyone, they concluded that the U.S. is failing to uphold the human rights of women, and that the situation is particularly dire for poor women, ethnic minorities, migrants, LBTQ women, women with disabilities, and the elderly.
And 46 year old millionaire Ehsan Abdulaziz was acquitted of rape charges by a London jury, which apparently accepted his story that he tripped and landed with his penis inside of a sleeping teenage girl. (Seriously, I am not exaggerating this one AT ALL.)
So things are looking pretty good for the ladies.
A few weeks back, Gawker ran a piece reporting that the U.S. State Department ignored a letter from Joseph Kony, in which the LRA leader “express[ed] interest in a ‘peace process'”.
At the time, many of us thought “hmm, that sounds… incorrect.” Well, Ledio Cakaj has the story on just how incorrect it was. Basically, Gawker got pranked hard, and probably should have spotted the hoax. If only because Kony would almost certainly spell the name of his rebel movement correctly…
*Image screengrabbed from the Gawker post in question.
Here are this week’s highlights:
Robert Mugabe, 3,112 year old dictator of Zimbabwe, just won the Confucius Peace Prize, a.k.a. “China’s Nobel Peace Prize”, for his contributions to “African peace”. Because “peace” is definitely the thing you get from 28 years of systematic repression, political violence, and torture. (h/t: Milli. Thanks Milli!)
Jina Moore, a.k.a. “Lady Issues Reporter Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary”, found clear evidence that refugee women and children are being sexually assaulted and exploited as they journey across Europe, despite official denials. (Today the UN High Commission for Refugees changed its tune, admitting that refugee children face “heightened risk of violence and abuse, including sexual violence”.)
And the New York Times, a.k.a. “Somehow Still the Paper of Record”, decided to survey its readers on whether they would go back in time and murder baby Hitler. (42% said yes.)
So it’s pretty much been business as usual.
I had so much saved up for today. Uzbekistan outlawing political science, Chad executing 10 people one day after a trial in which they may not have been afforded access to counsel, that photojournalist kicking a refugee child.
But then I learned that presidential candidate Mike Huckabee thinks the 1857 Dred Scott decision, which denied citizenship to black Americans, is still “the law of the land” and I. Just. Cannot. Even.
This means one of two things: Either Huckabee does not have the basic knowledge of our system of government necessary to understand that a subsequent Constitutional Amendment can overturn a Supreme Court decision, or he doesn’t know about the 14th Amendment. In either case, I feel comfortable concluding that he does not meet the minimum qualifications necessary to be president. Yeesh.
Walk me through this one.
A man is arrested for stabbing three marchers in Jerusalem’s 2005 Gay Pride Parade. He is convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison. His sentence is reduced to 10 years and he is released JUST IN TIME for the 2015 Gay Pride Parade. Where he promptly stabs six people.
All I’m saying is, maybe someone could have seen this coming? (And also: ugh, why are people continually the worst?)
Hey, remember that time Sri Lanka shocked the world by booting Mahinda Rajapaksa out of office just as he was fixing to settle into the presidency for life? (I was there, it was pretty major.)
The new president, Maithripala Sirisena, was celebrated for his bravery in defecting from the regime, and for his principles in his campaign against the abuses of Rajapaksa rule. After the election, investigations of Rajapaksa and his family were announced on allegations of massive corruption, extrajudicial killings of journalists, and attempts to stage an election-night coup.
But six months later, things have gotten weird.
Sirisena’s coalition, the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) said today that Rajapaksa will run on their ticket in next month’s parliamentary polls. Rumor has it he may even be the pick for prime minister.
If that sounds like an unbelievably speedy rehabilitation of someone whose ousting was met with global cries of “Ding Dong, the Witch Is Dead”, remember that the January election was close. Rajapaksa remains very popular with the majority Sinhalese community and their representatives in Parliament. And, in the absence of clear evidence that he tried to overturn the election results, the fact that he gracefully exited office allowed him to preserve the option of a comeback.
At the moment, it’s not clear whether Sirisena actually signed off on Rajapaksa’s return. Over the last couple of days, he’d sounded adamantly opposed to the idea. If he changed his mind, it would indicate a major split in the (always tenuous) big tent movement that brought him to power. If he didn’t, he may have lost control of elements of the UPFA.
And either way, looks like the lead up to the August 17 election is going to be another bumpy ride for Sri Lanka.
You GUYS. Marriage equality is now U.S. law.
A five justice majority of the Supreme Court made human rights history by ruling that the states cannot ban gay marriage. The other four justices continued to insist that allowing gay people to form stable family units will ruin marriage, democracy, pizza, and the American way of life.
Predictably, a bunch of horrified bigots have announced that they are moving to Canada. Since marriage equality has been the law in Canada for the last ten years, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt that they just misspelled “Gambia“. They’ll love it there. None of this pesky human-rights-for-everyone crap, stable (one billion year term) government, plenty of capital punishment, good bridges.
Maybe Scalia will decide to go too?
Somehow it’s Friday again. And:
A Sri Lankan MP has called for legal action against the country’s Foreign Minister for his unacceptably friendliness to gays. FM Samaraweera betrayed his country by voting against a resolution that called for the withdrawal of marriage benefits to UN employees in same-sex relationships. In previous fits of pique against the UN, the MP in question, Wimal Weerawansa, has attempted a hunger strike and threatened to stop using Gmail.
A large population of Ukrainian prisoners is stuck in the war zone “in legal limbo“. With no one to judge their cases, thousands of inmates remain in prisons in the east, facing water and electricity shut-downs as well as artillery attacks. The kicker? The court system has no centralized database, so no one actually knows how many people are affected. (h/t goes to Lev, thanks Lev!)
Barbie’s finally getting a pair of flats.
Yes, it’s technically Saturday, and we’re in the final stages of dissertation writing here at KCF HQ, but I couldn’t resist a very special tunnel-themed WTF Friday.
Item 1: The Egyptian military has discovered and destroyed 521 tunnels between Egypt and Gaza in the last six months. The use of tunnels to smuggle goods (most famously, buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken) in and out of the Gaza Strip became common after the 2007 imposition of the blockade. The World Bank reports that the closure of the tunnels has had a significant negative impact on Gaza’s economy: together with the 2014 summer war accounting for “a 15 percent contraction of its GDP” (USD 460 million).
Item 2: Syrian rebels are using tunnels, built following the instructions in a helpful “how to” video from Gaza, where tunnels have also been used for years for military purposes, to attack regime positions. Meanwhile, back in Gaza, a tunnel collapsed yesterday, killing one Hamas fighter and injuring others.
And finally, Item 3, as reported by the WSJ: Rich people like houses with unnecessary tunnels in them. The article explains: “tunnels have emerged as a unique amenity with handsome décor, as high-end builders seek to set themselves apart at a time when every house seems to have a wine cellar and media room.”
Yes, tunnels are the answer to a whole host of problems, including restrictions on freedom of movement, military inferiority, and the mortifying possibility that your home might have the same number of wine cellars and media rooms as your neighbors’. Happy weekend, everyone.