🗺️ Picks of the Week — March 12

China’s Vegan Revolution, Fukushima 10th Anniversary, UK to Slash Foreign Aid, Deadly Dynamite Explosion in Equatorial Guinea, Brazilian Judge Frees Former President

Happy Friday folks, it’s that time! Welcome to another Picks of the Week, where we’ll dissect the most important and interesting news around the world from the past week.

Today we’ll visit China who’s undergoing a meat-free revolution; Japan who’s marking the 10th anniversary of the Fukushima triple disaster that killed 18,500 people; the UK where leaked reports show the government is planning major cuts to international aid; Equatorial Guinea where dynamite explosions rocked the country; and Brazil whose Supreme Court announced a groundbreaking ruling that sets up a showdown between current right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro and former left-wing President Lula da Silva.

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

Job Corner ✍️

There’s another bunch of deadlines today and over the weekend, including at the likes of the Associated Press, the BBC, Bell Media, CBC, The 19th, Philadelphia Magazine and The Times of London!

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Preview of some of the deadlines heading into this weekend 👇

Data Corner 🧮

A few datasets referenced in today’s newsletter…

  1. Nucelar Energy: Consumption per capita, from Our World In Data

  2. Approval Ratings: Global Leader Approval Rating Tracker, from Morning Consult

  3. Meat Eaters: Meat consumption rates by country and year, from the OECD

  4. Plant-Based Alternatives: Plant-based meat market forecast values, from Grand View Research

  5. Earthquakes: Troves of earthquake data, from USGS

  6. UK Aid: Aid budget per country, from DevTracker

Brazilian Judge Drops Charges Against Former President 

We start with a political bombshell from Brazil, whose Supreme Court announced a momentous decision to annul former President Lula da Silva’s prison sentence, paving the way for him to run in next year’s presidential election. Lula was sentenced to almost ten years in prison for corruption in 2017, and was handed another 13 years in 2019 for a similar case. But Justice Edson Fachin said the federal court in the southern city of Curitiba, where both sentences were issued, didn’t have the jurisdiction to try Lula, and both cases must be relaunched at a federal court in the capital, Brasilia.

Lula, who co-founded Brazil’s Worker’s Party and served as the country’s president from 2003 to 2010, claimed the charges were politically motivated. As a result, the left-wing leader was unable to run in the 2018 presidential election, which he was tipped to be a front runner against current far-right President Jair Bolsonaro. Lula is credited for the country’s economic growth and social welfare programs under his two terms of leadership that helped expand the middle class.

The news comes amid Bolsonaro’s plummeting popularity, which fell from more than 41 percent in October to 33 percent in February, largely due to his handling of the pandemic. Brazil has one of the world’s highest death tolls, yet Bolsonaro last week told Brazilians to stop whining. A recent poll found that 50 percent of those interviewed would vote for Lula in next year’s election.

China’s Vegan Revolution

Next up is China, who consumes more pork than any country other than Vietnam per capita, and 28 percent of meat overall. But the country’s meat obsession is slowly being eroded by plant-based substitutes, thanks to younger, more ethically conscious consumers. The country’s plant-based industry, which is worth 6.1 billion yuan (£675 million or $940 million), is now growing between 20 and 25 percent per year, according to the Good Food Institute.

In a country where meat consumption is historically linked to wealth and status, the move is supported by politicians pushing for increased investment in plant-based meat alternatives, and a 2016 government plan to reduce meat consumption by half by 2030. But obstacles to the plan include the price of plant-based protein, which is higher than meat itself, and skeptical consumers over the taste of plant-based meat.

Previous Picks of the Week 👀

🔎 Picks of the Week — March 5

🔎 Picks of the Week — Feb. 26

🔎 Picks of the Week — Feb. 19

🔎 Picks of the Week — Feb. 12

Deadly Dynamite Explosion in Equatorial Guinea 

Next we head to Spanish-speaking Equatorial Guinea, where a series of explosions in the port city of Bata killed 98 people and injured 615. President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who’s been in power for more than 40 years and repeatedly accused of human rights abuses, blamed badly stored dynamite at a military base, located near where farmers were burning land. The explosion, which bystanders likened to an atomic bomb, caused severe damage to all homes and buildings in the area. 

The country’s only opposition party with parliamentary representation, the Convergence for Social Democracy, described the explosion as “the greatest humanitarian catastrophe in the history of Equatorial Guinea”. Speaking to CNN, a human rights lawyer called for an investigation, questioning why dynamite was left in a military base in the middle of a large city instead of a remote location.

Video: Explosions at barracks rock city of Bata

UK to Slash International Aid

To the UK, where leaked reports of recent Foreign Office discussions have revealed plans to cut international aid for poverty-stricken and conflict-ridden countries by more than half. We covered last week how the UK’s Yemen budget will be cut by 54 percent, and now leaked figures show Somalia’s will be slashed by 60 percent, Libya’s by 63 percent and Syria’s by 67 percent.

UN secretary general, António Guterres, described the overall cut in the UN’s aid programme this year as “a death sentence”, while five former British Prime Ministers — Theresa May, David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and Sir John Major — urged current Prime Minister Boris Johnson to rethink his plan and reconsider the impact the cuts will have.

UK Aid Budget by Country, 2020/21

Fukushima 10-Year Anniversary

We finish this week in Japan, who are remembering the 10th anniversary of the triple disaster that hit Fukushima, when a magnitude 9 earthquake struck off Japan’s northeastern coast, followed by a devastating tsunami that destroyed entire towns, and caused three nuclear reactor meltdowns. The disasters killed 18,500 people and forced around 160,000 residents to evacuate the area, 40,000 of whom have still been unable to return home. Despite experts believing radiation levels remain “uncomfortably high”, the Japanese government has pushed to reopen the reactors.

Despite popular opposition, Japan is still heavily reliant on the fossil fuel, and owns one of the highest consumption rates in the world. The country’s reliance on nuclear is predicted to continue, even though the country is falling short of meeting its carbon neutrality goals by 2050 by approximately 40 percent.

Video: Photographing the Nuclear Disaster in Fukushima

That’s all for this week! See you on Monday for another job board update! 👋