Some big news that many people already know is at hand:
After nearly two years (woah) of chugging along on this blog, it’s time for a change. The Blues & the News is moving over to a new website, where there will be an actual Blues section (offering your blogger a creative space and outlet), while the News will remain much the same. Kinks are still being evened out, but if you’re still interested in receiving the News every Friday, you can subscribe here. For the website in general, you can find the updated version in all its glory at the link below. Thanks for the support!
Islamophobia gets even scarier. Donald Trump, an American Republican candidate for president, suggested this week that Muslims be banned from entering the US. The legality of this is being contested but more importantly, Trump’s statement terrifyingly echoed dark chapters in global history when religious minorities have been singled out. Worse yet: none of the other Republican candidates for president have really disagreed with him.
Elections, elections. In France, the far right-wing National Front party is slowly rising, having scored big in regional elections. In Venezuela, President Maduro’s party were recently crushed, a sign that the country has tired of his administration. Brazil, meanwhile, may be heading for elections: the country might be impeaching its president (though, as of Wednesday, impeachment proceedings were suspended.) Rwanda’s Paul Kegame is also clearing the way for his third term, while a similar move in Burundi (where the situation is more extreme) has sparked riots so violent people are worried about what would essentially be genocide on the basis of political affiliation.
Affirmative action in the US may be on the chopping block. A white woman named Abigail Fisher is fighting a war against affirmative action, claiming it cost her a spot at the University of Texas at Austin. (However, it is highly unlikely that she would have gotten in even if she were a person of color.) Regardless, her case, which has previously gone to the Supreme Court, been kicked back, and is now being taken up again, may determine the future of affirmative action. A lot of people are worried, which seems valid.
Terrorism hits Planned Parenthood, again. In the US, abortion clinics are regularly under attack and clinics are the perpetual target of violence. Last Friday, a gunman struck a Planned Parenthood in Colorado, killing one police officer and two civilians. An additional nine people were wounded. In the days since the attack, numerous Republican politicians have refused to fully condemn the murders. Both leading Democratic candidates for president, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, have re-issued their support for Planned Parenthood and abortion providers.
Paris climate talks (#COP21). Many of the world’s nations are in the midst of an intense series of climate negotiations in the French capital. The ideal outcome is an agreement-come-treaty promising to reduce carbon emissions globally. The US, however, has asserted that the final document will not be a treaty…which would essentially render it pointless.
Yet another mass shooting. In California, two (potentially three) shooters opened fire on a facility for individuals with disabilities. The two known shooters were a couple, who left the facility following a Christmas holiday party dispute and returned with weapons. Fourteen people were killed and another twenty-one (by most counts) were injured. This is unlikely to change the country’s gun laws, although the US has seen more deaths via guns in 2015 than it has days in the year.
Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan welcomed their daughter, Max, with the announcement that they will be giving away 99% of their fortune in the name of advancing technology for the good of the world. Caveat: he’s putting it into his own organization.
Mali targeted. Once one of West Africa’s most secure democracies, Mali has experienced instability every since its democratically-elected government was overthrown in a coup. Ever since, terrorism has plagued the country, and in a spurt of violence militants took over a hotel late last week. An Al Qaeda affiliate is believed to be responsible. Dozens of people were killed, and the attack came at a dark time. The world is on high alert following attacks across the Middle East and Europe, and Sub-Saharan Africa’s inclusion indicates the end of 2015 will be a bloody one.
Brussels shutdown. With much of Europe and the Middle East on high alert, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Belgium city of Brussels, where a great deal of terror activity appears to be sourced, has been under scrutiny. Last weekend, however, it was on complete lockdown. Its residents took to Twitter with cat memes, which should please all who find the government’s antics a bit over-the-top.
Worldwide travel alert…for Americans. As a response to numerous threats the world over, the State Department cautioned all Americans regarding any travel this week. That didn’t stop your blogger, but it might well have encouraged others to reign in their potential forays into the outside world.
Black lives still matter. A horrific video detailing the execution of a black teenager by a white cop has been released by the Chicago police department. The shooting occurred over a year ago but the video was never released until a journalist pushed for it following a tip from a whistleblower. The officer responsible is being charged with murder, but that hasn’t stopped mass protests from erupting. The incident coincided with the shooting of several #BlackLivesMatter activists, who were targeted by (presumably) white supremacists.
Tragedy across the globe. Last week ended on a horrifying note, after bombs hit a Shia-dominated neighborhood in Beirut. A day later, a series of deadly attacks killed over 120 people in Paris, less than a year after the Charlie Hebdo killings. A bombing also struck Baghdad, while Japan was hit with an earthquake. As numerous people have noted, mourning over the incident in Paris seemed to take over social media, leaving many wondering why terrible attacks so often go ignored in non-Western nations.
Spotlight on Paris. In Lebanon, authorities have been seeking the culprits behind the Beirut bombings, with some success. Most eyes have been focused on France, however, where media covered the week-long hunt for the perpetrators of the attacks in Paris. In the Parisian suburb of Saint-Denis, which was one of the areas hit late last Friday night, a series of raids unfolded on Wednesday, as police hunted various suspects (as of the publication of this round-up, the leader of the attacks is presumed dead, after DNA testing indicated he had been killed.) A state of emergency has been declared in France; the debate now is how long it will extend for — the country’s president is pushing for three more months. (Of note: in France, states of emergency target public gatherings and the media. This rightfully has many members of the press concerned.)
Boko Haram strikes again. Lest we forget, the world’s deadliest terror group is actually based in Nigeria, and carrying out attacks in Chad, Niger, and Cameroon. Mid-week they struck again, carrying out numerous suicide bombings that killed dozens of people and injured over 100. Another bombing the day after also caused multiple casualties.
Mizzou, Yale, and the year it boiled over. If this has been the year we ‘obsessed over identity’ (per a recent article), it has also been the year race issues, and, more specifically, race issues in academia, finally exploded. At the University of Missouri, one student’s hunger strike was soon echoed by the school’s football team, a move that led to an immediate series of high-profile resignations. Students are now mounting similar protests around the country. At Yale University, which has a minuscule percentage of black students, a debate over tone policing and cultural sensitivity has exploded, with the university now the center of a debate on whether students are asking to be ‘coddled’ or merely demanding a measure of respect in an environment that at times threatens them in numerous ways. (A notable example: one of Yale’s residential houses is Calhoun, named for notorious racist John C. Calhoun. This means that more than a few black Yalies live in a location named for a man who supported the enslavement of their ancestors.)
Still worried about that plane. Despite nothing officially conclusive, most governments analyzing the case of a Russian plane’s crash in Egypt’s Sinai desert say the plane was downed by terrorism. An airport insider is suspected, and as Daesh/ISIS has claimed responsibility, the group could well be the mastermind. Russia has canceled its flights to Egypt, and Britain is also taking action. For the precarious Sisi regime, this could be a severe blow; Egypt depends on tourism, and the country is in the throes of a deep recession.
Burundi spirals. Burundi hasn’t been in good shape for awhile now, ever since its president announced he would be running for a third term (which isn’t legal.) Tensions between the president, Pierre Nkurunziza, and the opposition have spiraled to such an extent that crisis groups are comparing the potential outcome to the Rwandan genocide. That’s really, really not good.
Lebanon bombings. Yesterday the Beirut area was knocked by the worst bombings Lebanon has seen in 25 years. Dozens of people have been killed (last count was near 50) with more than 200 people wounded. Daesh/ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred in a Hezbollah stronghold. Hezbollah is a Shia organization, and many fear the attack will inflame Sunni-Shia tensions.
Plane down. A Russian plane crashed in Egypt’s Sinai desert at the beginning of the week, killing all 224 people (the vast majority of whom were Russian) on board. What caused the crash, however, remains a mystery. The Islamic State (also known as Daesh/ISIS) has an affiliate in the region who has claimed responsibility. The Russian and Egyptian governments both dispute this claim, but the US has noted that terrorism cannot be ruled out. In the meantime, many airlines are re-routing their flight paths to avoid the area.
Conservative revolt. In the US a series of ballot measures and elections yielded the same results: a sweep for conservatives. An LGBTQ rights bill failed in Houston, Texas, while Kentucky ushered in a Tea Party Republican. The main takeaway: pollsters got this round very, very wrong, and many are concerned their models are off.
Earthquake. A devastating earthquake ripped through South Asia early Monday, originating in Afghanistan but causing multiple casualties in Pakistan. It was also felt in India. The final casualty count is unknown at present, but it isn’t looking good, and even the Taliban have promised they won’t target aid groups headed into the mountains to search for people.
Don’t ever body-slam a high school student, please. A police officer in a high school took it upon himself to personally tackle and seriously attack a young female student after she reportedly mouthed off to him. Though accounts of the incident differ, the physical footage of the encounter was filmed (and is linked lower down). It is pretty horrifying. That the student was African-American adds an additional layer of “oh no” to this.
Paul Ryan ascends the throne. Conservative (though apparently not-conservative-enough for many rank-and-file Republicans) Paul Ryan will be the next Speaker of the House, in all likelihood. This means no immigration bill, probably.
Pope Francis has signaled the Catholic Church will be working to ease its opposition to divorce, despite some rancor from elements within the Church. This may be easier said than done, however, and the pontiff faces serious backlash.
Canadian elections! A country that doesn’t generate a lot of buzz globally had its elections this week. Stephen Harper’s Conservatives battled the New Democrats and the Liberal party, with Justin Trudeau (described broadly as “not an intellectual heavyweight”) at the helm of the latter. As of Tuesday morning, the Liberals had swept the election, and Trudeau stands set to make good on several campaign promises. Most notably, Canadian airstrikes in Iraq and Syria have ceased.
Bibi has probably never read a history book. Israeli Prime Minister (and overall questionable human) Binyamin “Bibi” Netanyahu made an interesting claim this week that a Palestinian mufti gave Hitler the idea for the Holocaust. That is a claim that is 1) not going over well with everyone from Palestinians to Germans to Jewish Israelis, and 2) categorically 110% untrue.
Speaker for the (unmanageable) masses. A seemingly reluctant Paul Ryan has agreed to be Speaker of the House for the American House of Representatives. But, he has conditions. Ryan has conceded bringing comprehensive immigration reform to the House floor, but is also demanding Republicans get in line behind his candidacy. The tumultuous Freedom Caucus has signaled it is willing to get behind Ryan, and Thursday night he formally announced his candidacy.
Dems Debate. Hillary Clinton dominated the debate, which most viewers seemed to agree was much more policy-oriented and engaging than expected. Though leading rival Bernie Sanders got in a few moments, the debate was ultimately Clinton’s to lose, and she didn’t.
Boots on the ground in Cameroon. You probably did not hear about this, but the US casually decided to send 300 troops to Sub-Saharan Africa to fight Boko Haram. American President Obama informed Congress that he is sending them under the War Powers Act. Congress now theoretically has under 90 days to make a decision, but Obama hasn’t really lived by the Act’s rules in the past.
The longest long war. American troops will be in Afghanistan into 2017, despite President Obama’s promise to bring them home before his term ended. The news, while unshocking, indicates the current struggle that has played out across the country, with little to no sign of stopping soon. The war is among the longest the US has been engaged in, beat out only by varying measurements of its involvement in Vietnam.