🗺️ Picks of the Week — March 26

14-Year Washed-Up-Feet Mystery Solved, Deadly Fire Rips Through Rohingya Refugee Camp, the West Sanctions China, Flooding Endangers Australian Wildlife, Big Banks Defy Climate Pledges

Hello folks, it’s that time of the week again where we dissect the most interesting and important news from around the world.

Today we’ll visit a remote Canadian island where scientists solved a 14-year mystery involving a series of feet washing up on the shores near Vancouver; Bangladesh where a third fire ripped through the same refugee camp in just four days; China who retaliated to sanctions from the West with sanctions of its own; Australia whose floods have caused further ecological concerns after last year’s devastating wildfire season; and big banks, who are failing to follow even their own commitments as it pertains to deforestation and the climate emergency.

Be sure to check out Aina’s excellent roundup of the latest from the Middle East, including the news that iconic Egyptian writer, doctor and activist Nawal El Saadawi has passed.

And a quick update to the group of African activists we covered last month, on a mission to return artefacts housed in European museums back to the countries they believe they were looted from. Well, the city of Berlin is in negotiations to return hundreds of artefacts, including many from the Benin Bronzes. All eyes now turn to the UK and other countries to follow suit.

Okay, Job Corner and Data Corner below, let’s get to it… Happy Friday!

Job Corner ✍️

Another set of deadlines heading into the weekend and end of March, including at newsrooms such as CBC, CTV, the BBC, Disney, Hearst, Houston Chronicle, The American Prospect and The Times of London. 👇

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Data Corner 🧮

A few datasets referenced in today’s edition…

  1. China Cables: Leaked report on China’s Uyghar internment camps, from ICIJ

  2. Food Production: Data on food and agriculture production and deforestation, from Our World In Data

  3. Global Sanctions: Dataset of all global sanctions, from GSDB

  4. Flooding: Real-time imagery, from NASA

Deadly Fire Rips Through Rohingya Refugee Camp

We start this week’s roundup in Bangladesh, where a deadly blaze at a refugee camp has killed at least 15 people, injured approximately 560 and displaced around 45,000. The camp is the largest refugee settlement in the world according to UNHCR, and is inhabited by mostly Rohingya Muslims who fled genocide in neighboring Buddhist Myanmar in 2017. Barbed-wire fences recently erected for “security” purposes prevented many from escaping, and delayed rescue efforts.

The Rohingya are Myanmar’s largest community of Muslims, with their own culture and language. Almost 750,000 have fled to Bangladesh in recent years, whose government is relocating them to a remote island off the Bay of Bengal, prone to cyclones and floods. The blaze was the third to hit the refugee camp in just four days, following a huge fire in January that destroyed more than 500 makeshift tarpaulin and bamboo shelters. An investigation into the cause of this most recent blaze is ongoing…

West Issues Sanctions On China 

To China next, who was on the receiving end of coordinated sanctions from several nations including the UK, U.S., Canada, and the EU. The intention of the penalties was to send “a clear message about the human rights abuses in Xinjiang,” the autonomous province in Northwest China where around a million Uyghur Muslims are being detained in “re-education” camps, because of their religious beliefs.

The move marks the first time the EU has imposed sanctions on China since the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. In retaliation, China slapped its own sanctions on various EU and UK officials, including former UK Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith, who called them a "badge of honor." Russia also joined the party and denounced the move by the West.

Having originally denied the existence of the Uyghur camps, China now defends them, claiming they’re needed for “vocational education.” Female detainees claim to have been tortured, sexually abused, systematically raped, and forcibly sterilized inside the camps.

Video: A Secret Look Inside a Chinese Labor Program for Uighurs

Previous Picks of the Week 👀

🔎 Picks of the Week — March 19

🔎 Picks of the Week — March 12

🔎 Picks of the Week — March 5

🔎 Picks of the Week — Feb. 26

Big Banks Defy Climate Commitments

Some climate news next involving the biggest banks in the U.S., including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Bank of America, which all publicly committed to align their portfolios with the Paris Agreement. But now many of them are investing in food and farming corporations linked to deforestation, such as Brazilian meat trader JBS

Food production is responsible for a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and the worst culprits are meat and dairy. If unchanged, the livestock sector could consume almost half the global carbon budget by 2030. With the world’s population not expected to plateau for multiple decades, the growth in number of mouths to feed could come at the expense of a total climate collapse.

Severe Flooding Endangers Australian Wildlife

We visit Australia next, where torrential rainfall linked to La Niña has caused the heaviest floods in almost 20 years, so far evacuating some 40,000 people in New South Wales, and killing two people. In the state’s capital Sydney, the Warragamba Dam (the city’s main water source) also began to spill over for the first time in five years, enough to inundate entire towns and villages. More rainfall is forecast in the coming days and severe weather warnings, along with more evacuation orders, have been issued.

The flooding is a stark contrast to last year’s devastating wildfires, which destroyed more than 400 plant species and countless numbers of lives. Wildlife groups are now concerned about the impact the recent floods could have on ground-dwelling animals such as wombats and echidnas, and marine species such as sea turtles. Also of concern is the mental toll such extreme conditions have had on civilians, having lived on tenterhooks because of the extreme weather for the past two years.

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Canadian Washed-Up-Feet Mystery Solved

We finish this week with another tribute to the wonders of science, this time on the remote Jedediah Island near Vancouver, where scientists have solved why human feet have washed up on the shores of the island since 2007. The decomposed, sneaker-wearing feet spooked local residents and stunned people around the world, prompting a host of theories behind the washed-up remains — serial killers, drowned migrants and even aliens. The mystery perplexed police and scientists alike, until now

Graphic: The feet found around Canada 👇

Given that cadavers are more likely to sink than float, scientists were confused about how just the feet managed to float to the surface. They dropped dead pigs into the water, noting how they would sink and their carcasses would quickly be eaten by underwater wildlife, who avoid bones and socket joints and prefer ligaments and soft tissue areas such as ankles.

Forensic anthropologist Laura Yazedjian then worked out that the feet must have been separated by scavengers and floated to the surface because of the sneakers. A perfect combination of inland water, westerly winds, cold deep waters, scavenger populations and sneaker-wearing hikers who walk on slippery sea rocks explain the geographic concentration of the mysterious feet.

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