🗺️ Picks of the Week — Feb. 19
Ebola Returns to Africa, WHO Member Says China Withheld Covid Data, Monogamy in Lemurs, Brazil’s Ghost Carnival, Honduran Femicides Soar, Australia Bushfires Destroyed 400+ Plant Species
Hello folks! Happy Friday and welcome to Picks of the Week! We have another bumper edition for you today, as we jet around the world to dissect the most interesting and important news from the past week.
Today we’ll visit West Africa where another Ebola epidemic has been declared in a frightening situation that threatens to overlap with the Covid-19 pandemic; China where a WHO investigator claimed the Chinese government failed to give access to key Covid-19 data; Madagascar where new research might help us better understand monogamy in humans; an empty Brazil who’d normally be playing host to the world’s largest carnival; Honduras and its alarming rise in femicides; and Australia where devastating results on the damage from last year’s bushfire season have been released.
Be sure to check out Monday’s job board update where we now have more than 1,600 total jobs, and Wednesday’s Inside The Middle East where we looked at the explosive footage that allegedly shows Dubai’s Princess Latifa being kept in solitary confinement by her own father.
Okay, let’s get to this week’s global round up!
Job Corner ✍️
New jobs this week include at the likes of ABC News, Barrons, the Center for Public Integrity, Channel 4 (UK), ESPN, MSNBC, Sky News, The Guardian, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and TIME.
Due to a limit on the number of people that can be added to a Google Spreadsheet, I’ve made two versions listing exactly the same jobs, so no need to have access to both. If you’re a paying member, you’ll have access to one of the two below links/buttons… 👇
Preview of the 1,600+ vacancies currently on the job board 👇
Data Corner 🧮
A few datasets we used today…
Ebola: Historic Ebola case and death data, from the CDC
Covid Origin: World Health Organization Covid-19 origin report
Bushfires: Data for Australia’s 2019-20 bushfire season, from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment
Carnival: Stats on Brazil’s annual carnival, from Statista
Femicides: Data on violence against women, from the UN
Ebola Epidemic Returns
We start this week in Guinea, where doctors declared another Ebola epidemic after three people died and four others fell seriously ill after attending the burial of a nurse. The news brings back dreadful memories of the 2013-2016 epidemic that saw more than 11,000 people die from the disease, which also started in Guinea. The World Health Organization alerted several other countries in West Africa, with Sierra Leone and Liberia, two of the worst-hit countries last time, declaring a state of high alert.
Symptoms include diarrhoea, vomiting, and bleeding from the virus, which is transferred to humans by infected animals and then transmitted by infected bodily fluids. The Democratic Republic of Congo also reported new cases, though it said its infections were related to a previous outbreak. Officials from the Red Cross noted the terrible timing of the epidemic, where many implicated nations are struggling with the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic. Just a terrible situation and one we’ll follow in the coming weeks. Below is how the last epidemic developed…
WHO Investigator: China Withheld Key Covid Data
To China next where a member of the World Health Organization’s investigation team, which traveled to Wuhan to research the origin of Covid-19, has said the Chinese government failed to provide key data. Instead, the WHO team received only summaries, due to claims by Chinese officials that they didn’t have enough time to compile detailed patient data.
The WHO investigator who spoke out is Dominic Dwyer, who said that providing raw data is “standard practice for an outbreak investigation,” and access to it is an important part of fully understanding how the outbreak began and preventing it from happening again. But Dwyer was contradicted his own team member, Peter Daszak, who tweeted that they did in fact have access to critical data throughout. While the virus’ origin remains unclear, the WHO team concluded that it’s “extremely unlikely” it leaked from a lab in China, and is more likely to have jumped from animals to humans.
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Australia Bushfires Destroyed 400+ Plant Species
We head to Australia next, where scientists have calculated the biodiversity loss caused by the devastating 2019–2020 ‘Black Summer’ bushfires. The season was Australia’s worst ever recorded on multiple fronts, having burned at least eight million hectares of land, destroyed almost 2,500 homes, and cost 26 lives. A recent study calculated that more than 400 plant species spanning 17 major native vegetation groups were severely burned, and although most are adapted to recover from bushfires, several have been left at risk of “regeneration failure.”
Aside from the shocking visual destruction, the research is critical as it shows how rapid changes in vegetation could be incredibly disruptive to the ecosystem. The research indicates that the fires burned up to 83 percent of the Gondwana Rainforests in south east Australia, putting rare and endangered plants at grave risk of not growing back. The scientist behind the research, Dr. Bob Godfree, said the unprecedented fires “impacted more plant species in a single fire season since anything that’s happened since European settlement, possibly longer.”
Living Through Australia’s Black Summer
Brazil’s Ghost Carnival
Next up we hit Brazil, where mid-February is usually the busiest, liveliest, and noisiest time of the year, and means only one thing: Carnival. But Rio de Janeiro, where the largest carnival in the world is held, was forced to cancel the official samba parade for the first time since its creation in 1932, due to Covid-19. Instead, the city has turned the Sambadrome — the designated parade area — into a drive-thru vaccination center. Brazil has one of the highest per capita case and death rates in the world, but just 2.5 percent of its population have received a first vaccine dose.
Jorge Mariano, director of The Academics of Rocinha samba school, said there was sorrow and emptiness in the city that was longing for the joy of carnival festivities. And it’s not just the dancers who will be affected. The carnival creates much-needed work for countless street vendors and store workers selling costume supplies and accessories, but who are now being laid off to survive the pandemic’s economic impacts.
Previous Picks of the Week 👀
🔎 Picks of the Week — Feb. 12
🔎 Picks of the Week — Jan. 29
🔎 Picks of the Week — Jan. 22
🔎 Picks of the Week — Jan. 15
Honduran Femicides Soar
Staying in Latin America we move north to Honduras, where human rights groups are demanding answers after an alarming increase in violence against women. One recent victim was 26-year-old Keyla Martínez, who died in police custody after being arrested for breaking a Covid-related curfew. Police officers claimed she took her own life, but an autopsy revealed Martínez had been beaten and asphyxiated. Amnesty International’s Americas director Erika Guevara-Rosas said that Martínez’ death had all the hallmarks of an extrajudicial execution, and is a byproduct of high levels of impunity and widespread abuse by Honduran security forces.
Honduras is the most dangerous country for women in Latin America, registering a total of 278 femicides in 2020. Alarmingly, 95 percent of femicides in the country go unpunished. Activists say the problem is rising under the leadership of President Juan Orlando Hernández, who the U.S. is currently investigating for alleged involvement in the illegal drugs trade, and who many accuse of running a narco-dictatorship. When it comes to women’s rights, Honduras is also one of the most restrictive countries in the world. Last month it changed the constitution to make it virtually impossible for abortion to ever be legal for women.
Could Humans Follow Same Lemur Monogamy Traits?
We finish with new research on monogamy in lemurs, which are native to Madagascar, home of the world’s new smallest reptile which we covered last week. Lemurs, along with humans, are among only 3-5 percent of 4,000 mammalian species who engage in monogamy. Previous research has shown there are many complex reasons for staying with just one soulmate, the presence of two chemicals play a central role: oxytocin (aka the “cuddle hormone”) and vasopressin, which conserves body water.
However, a new study on monogamy in our distant primate cousins lemurs by Duke University, revealed that these two chemicals in fact act on different parts of the brain in different lemurs, which is not the case for other mammals such as rodents, for whom the simple presence of the hormone is enough to form a stronger bond with their partner.
So, what’s the takeaway here? Well, the new research serves as a warning against drawing simple conclusions about monogamy in other mammals such as humans, when in fact there is so much more to discover. For example, could it be that humans follow the same trend? Lots more to cover here in the future…
That’s all for this week! See ya’ll on Monday for more jobs and even more fun 👋