🗺️ Picks of the Week — March 19

Vatican Refuses to Bless Gay Unions, Spain to Trial Four-Day Work Week, Bolivia’s Ex-President Arrested, Kashmir Students Return to School After Two Years, Self-Decapitating Sea Slugs

Hello folks! We’re a little late this week because Daniel had to fill out his NCAA Tournament bracket 🙄. He also said if anyone wants to join his bracket pool they should reply to this email 🙄🙄. Anyway, we’re here now to round up the most interesting news from around the globe.

Today we’ll visit the Vatican, where Pope Francis approved the refusal to bless gay unions; Spain who is trialling a nationwide four-day working week; Bolivia whose ex-interim president was arrested and sent to jail; Kashmir where students finally returned to the classroom after two years; and to the ocean where new research shows how sea slugs are the first species able to cut off their own heads and grow an entire new body!

And be sure to check out Aina’s awesome summary of the 10th anniversary of the start of the Syrian Civil War from yesterday.

Okay, let’s get to the news!

Job Corner ✍️

First time appearance for Apple News who has partnered with The National Association of Black Journalists to offer a news fellowship! Other newsrooms this week include ABC News, CBC, CNN, CTV, ESPN, Forbes, New York Magazine, Politico, Sky News, The Guardian and The Information!

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Preview of the 303 new jobs added to the board this weekend 👇

Spain to Trial Four-Day Work Week

We start this week in Spain, whose government has accepted a proposal to trial a four-day working week over a three-year period for interested companies. The pilot project is being pioneered by the small leftwing political party Más País, with one congressman claiming “working more hours does not mean working better.” Approximately 200 companies are set to participate in the trial, who will receive help from the government to cover transitional costs.

According to a study by BBVA, Spanish professionals work among the longest days in Europe, yet its economy continues to suffer from chronic weaknesses. Although many individual companies have trialled the four-day week before, Spain is the first country to commit to it nationwide. Politicians and EU officials have previously suggested that a four-day week could help mitigate the economic fallout of the pandemic, a proposal supported by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden. Other research points to environmental, mental, and productivity benefits.

Pope Francis Approves Vatican Refusal to Bless Gay Unions

Staying in Europe with news from the Vatican, which refused to bless same-sex unions in a formal statement written by the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith (CDF) approved by Pope Francis. Gay unions, the Catholic Church says, are not intended to be part of God’s plan to create new life, and therefore can’t be blessed. God “does not and cannot bless sin,” read the statement, which distinguished between the Church’s respect for gay people, and its inability to approve unions between them.

The Vatican’s statement comes after a 2020 documentary revealed Pope Francis’ support to legally protect same-sex civil unions, and has been credited for advocating to integrate gay people into society, which led some churches in Germany and the U.S. to consider blessing them. But the CDF claims the Pope’s beliefs were in reference to the civil sphere, not the Church.

Previous Picks of the Week 👀

🔎 Picks of the Week — March 12

🔎 Picks of the Week — March 5

🔎 Picks of the Week — Feb. 26

🔎 Picks of the Week — Feb. 19

Bolivia’s Ex-President Arrested

To Bolivia now where former right-wing interim President Jeanine Áñez has been arrested, and will serve six months of pre-trial detention. The arrest followed months of allegations from the recently-elected left-wing government that Áñez participated in a coup in 2019 to oust the country’s socialist ex-president Evo Morales.

In a court hearing, Áñez and two former ministers were accused of terrorism, sedition, and conspiracy. Morales, who served as Bolivia’s first indigenous president for 13 years, resigned in 2019 after protesters disputed his campaign to be re-elected for a fourth term.

The country’s current president, Luis Arce, belongs to Movement Towards Socialism, the same political party as Morales. Despite promising to unite the divided country, Americas Quarterly writes that Arce’s doing the opposite to consolidate power. Áñez claims her arrest was political persecution, a claim echoed by Human Rights Watch director Jose Vivanco, who observed no evidence of terrorism in the warrant used to detain her.

Video: Bolivia ex-president Jeanine Anez behind bars over alleged coup

Kashmir Students Return to School After Two Years

Next up we travel to the Indian-administered territory of Kashmir, where school students are returning to in-person education after two years of homeschooling, which began well before the Covid-19 pandemic. School closures have affected the region since 2019, when lockdowns were enforced after widespread protests over India’s revocation of the region’s special partial autonomy status. While active Covid cases in the region hover around the 1,000 mark, parents of returning students have reportedly signed “no objection” certificates to absolve the schools of responsibility if any child falls sick.

Kashmir, which is now divided into the federal territories of Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh, is the northernmost region of the Indian subcontinent. The region is claimed by both India and Pakistan, who have been at war over Kashmir for decades. Political conflict has historically caused communication blackouts restricting internet use in the region, where already only one in four children have access, making remote schooling extremely difficult.

Self-Decapitating Sea Slugs Grow New Bodies

We finish this week with a weird and wonderful discovery about sea slugs, the first animal capable of cutting off its own head and regenerating an entire new body. The practice of dissolving neck tissue and severing heads is called ‘Autonomy’, and ensures survival while also expelling internal parasites. Other species that partake in similar behaviour include salamanders, sea cucumbers and starfish, but the ability to regenerate an entire new body is unique to the sea slug.

Sayaka Mitoh, a Ph.D. candidate at Nara Women's University in Japan who led the investigation, suspects photosynthesis is what keeps the severed body parts alive. Sea slugs eat algae, which contains chloroplasts, of which photosynthesis is taking place inside. Sea slugs then incorporate the chloroplasts into their own body tissue instead of digesting them, and the chloroplasts then continue photosynthesizing for months using energy from the sun. Oh to be a sea slug…

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