🗺️ Picks of the Week — June 25

George Floyd-Style Murder in Czech Republic, Pandemic Poverty Millionaires, Jail For Philippines Anti-Vaxxers, Oil Exploration Threatens Elephants, NASA Space Laundry

Hello folks, happy Friday! You know what time it is…

Today we’ll visit the Czech Republic where a Romani man died after police executed a similar restraining technique to the one Minneapolis police performed on the late George Floyd; the Philippines where President Duterte threatened those who don’t want to get a Covid vaccine with jail; Africa where a Canadian oil company could threaten 130,000 elephants; and space where NASA is developing a space washing machine and detergent.

Job deadlines and new datasets below, let’s do this thing!

Job Corner ✍️

Deadlines in the next week include at the likes of Aesthetica Magazine, the BBC, Breast Cancer Now, the British Museum, CBC, Corus, CTV, Immediate Media, ITN, ITV and The New York Times. 

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Data Corner 🧮

A few datasets referenced in today’s edition…

  1. Pandemic Poverty: Annual change in number of people in extreme poverty, from the World Bank

  2. Global Wealth: Annual global wealth report, from Credit Suisse

  3. Covid Beds: Number of people in hospital per country, from IHME

Pandemic Poverty, Millionaires

We start this week with research from Credit Suisse, which found that the number of millionaires across the world increased by more than five million last year, despite the pandemic. Though GDP in the U.S. and Canada shrunk nine and 11 percent respectively, and unemployment rose sharply, individuals fell back on relief payments, business loans, low interest rates and record-setting stock markets. Slashed household spending and consumption also contributed to more than one percent of adults worldwide becoming millionaires for the first time.

In many countries, however, public debt increased significantly. According to the World Bank, between 119 and 124 million people entered extreme poverty, which is defined as living on less than $1.90 a day — the World Bank predicted an eight percent fall in 2020 before the pandemic hit. The report's author said the figures reflect the prosperity of emerging economies and middle class expansion in the developing world. Researchers added that wealth creation in 2020 was “completely detached from the economic hardships of the pandemic.”

Philippines President Threatens Jail For Anti-Vaxxers

Staying with the pandemic, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is threatening those refusing a Covid-19 vaccine with jail. Low turnouts at several vaccination sites in Manila prompted Duterte to tell his nation “If you don't want to get vaccinated, I'll have you arrested and I'll inject the vaccine in your butt”. The alternative? Leave the Philippines. But his Justice Secretary, Menardo Guevarra, reminded citizens that vaccinations remained voluntary and no laws prevented citizens opting out.

Approximately two percent of the 111 million population is fully vaccinated against Covid, in a country where around 24,000 deaths have been confirmed. The islands experienced strict lockdowns including school closures during the pandemic. Its health system has also struggled as a result, which has left thousands struggling to access the care they need. Strict restrictions also left low-income and marginalized communities unable to work and, up until April, those same citizens faced arrest and police repression for quarantine violations.

Previous Picks of the Week 👀

🔎 Picks of the Week — June 18

🔎 Picks of the Week — June 11

🔎 Picks of the Week — June 4

🔎 Picks of the Week — May 28

George Floyd-Style Murder in Czech Republic 

Next we travel to the Czech Republic, where human rights groups are protesting the violent arrest of a Romany man named Stanislav Tomáš, after which he died in an ambulance. Bystanders say Tomáš attempted to stop a car being vandalized, after which police officers pinned him to the ground with one kneeling on his neck. Local activists drew parallels between with the murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, who knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds last year. 

During Floyd’s murder trial, a police trainer concluded that the knee-on-neck restraint technique isn't permitted in Minnesota if a suspect is handcuffed or already subdued. Amnesty International labelled Tomáš’ arrest “reckless, unnecessary and disproportionate, and therefore unlawful,” and is calling for an immediate and impartial investigation into it. Czech police insist there are no parallels with the Floyd murder case, claiming an autopsy of Tomáš’ death indicated a drug overdose was the preliminary cause.

Oil Exploration Threatens African Elephants’ Habitat

Moving to Africa where an oil field has left 130,000 elephants at risk of losing the water supplies they need to survive. And elephants won’t be the only animals to suffer — entire ecosystems and local communities who depend on them for fishing could be affected. Canadian gas and oil company ReconAfrica is responsible, which is conducting seismic exploration for fossil fuels in the Kavango Basin covering most of Zimbabwe and Namibia. Namibia’s government denies approving any licenses for production, yet the company hopes to be able to extract between 60 and 120 million barrels of oil, which could be worth billions.

The news is the latest in a line of threats to the life of African elephants, where last year a microscopic algae was found to be behind 330 mysterious elephant deaths in Botswana. Scientists predict that climate change was responsible for the toxic algae blooms, which tend to occur in warmer waters that elephants drink from. Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency recently issued a warning discouraging any new oil, gas or coal development if the world is to reach the goal of net zero emissions by 2050. “Searching for new oil wells at this time simply means searching for trouble for our nations and for the planet,” conservationists told The Guardian.

NASA Space Laundry

We'll finish this week looking at how NASA is working out how astronauts can wash their clothes in space. While away for months at a time in the International Space Station (ISS), astronauts exercise for two hours daily to prevent bone density and muscle loss from microgravity, which quickly fills their laundry baskets. Clothes are usually deemed toxic and burned in the atmosphere and, because an astronaut needs about 68kg of clothes a year, a huge amount of waste is created and expensive to dispose of.

A consumer washing machine isn't viable, given that water doesn’t flow in microgravity. That makes going to the bathroom, taking a shower and washing hands equally as tricky. NASA is thus working with Procter & Gamble to develop a washing machine and dryer combo that uses minimal water and custom-made detergent. The challenge, the team says, will be working out what other daily tasks the washer-dryer can be used for, such as drinking and cooking.

That's all for this week. We'll speak again next week! 🌊