🗺️ Picks of the Week — March 5

Facebook and Google to Pay for News, Nigerian Schoolgirls Released, Rooster Kills Owner in India, Spain Pulls Last Public Franco Statue, New Glow-in-the-Dark Sharks Found, El Salvador Election Results

Hello folks! Happy Friday and welcome to another Picks of the Week, where we round up the most interesting and important news around the world from the past week.

Be sure to check out Monday’s job board update, and yesterday’s Inside The Middle East, as we dissected the explosive new U.S. report that essentially confirmed that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

In today’s newsletter we’ll visit Australia where new legislation will force the likes of Facebook and Google to pay for news; Nigeria where almost 300 kidnapped schoolgirls have been released; to India where a rooster killed its illegal cockfighting owner; Northwest Africa where the last public statue of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco was removed; El Salvador who had its parliamentary election this week; and the bottom of the ocean, where new glow-in-the-dark sharks have been discovered.

Jobs and data below, let’s get to it! ✊

Job Corner ✍️

Lots of deadlines coming up in the next week at the likes of ABC News, Bell Media, CBC, the BBC, ITV News, Springer Nature and The Times of London.

If you’re a paying member, your jobs sheet link will remain the same. If you’re interested in a free week’s trial, reply to this email and we’ll hook you up!

Some of the deadlines heading into this weekend… 👇

Data Corner 🧮

A few datasets referenced in today’s newsletter…

  1. Homicides: Murder rates per country, from World Population Review

  2. Kidnappings: Kidnapping rate per country, from Knoema

  3. Sharks: List of shark species, from the Shark Research Institute

El Salvador President Tightens Political Grip

We’ll start this week with some election news from El Salvador, where President Nayib Bukele has tightened his grip over the country’s political system, after securing the largest congressional majority in Salvadoran history. After a campaign tainted by corruption scandals, initial results show Bukele’s right-wing New Ideas party will win 70 percent of the vote, or 61 of 84 available seats, ending the dominance of the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front and the opposing Nationalist Republican Alliance, which have traded control since the end of the 12-year civil war in 1992.

Bukele became Latin America’s youngest president in 2019 and, at just 39 years old, remains one of the world’s most youthful leaders. After portraying himself as the candidate of El Salvador’s youth, Bukele's popularity has hovered around 90 percent, the highest such rating in the region, in part because of his $300 handouts and distribution of 2.7 million food baskets for the poor during the pandemic. During his tenure, the country has also seen its homicide rates fall to their lowest in almost two decades. However, some think this is due to a pact with the country’s most powerful gangs, and analysts worry his newfound majority will put democracy at risk.

Naib Bukele 👇

Kidnapped Nigerian Schoolgirls Released

We’ll swing to Nigeria next where 279 schoolgirls have been released from captivity, after armed gangs stormed their boarding school in the middle of the night. Having been held for five days, the girls aged between 12 and 17 were released without ransom, thanks to a negotiated “peace accord” from the Governor of Zamfara State where the kidnapping took place.

The school is located in a remote village in the northwest of the country, where it’s common for armed gangs to take advantage of the lack of security and kidnap prisoners for ransom. According to a report from SB Morgen, around $18 million has been paid out in ransom money in the past nine years.

One schoolgirl said most of her peers were injured in the attack, after walking long distances through rivers and forests and told they’d be shot if they refused to comply. The attack is the country’s third in as many months, after Boko Haram kidnapped more than 300 male students at the end of last year, and another group kidnapped 42 school children in February, who are yet to be released.

Nigeria's School Abduction Problem

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Spain Tumbles Last Public Statue of Dictator Franco

Moving to the northwest coast of Africa next, home of the Spanish autonomous city of Melilla, where the last remaining public statue of former Spanish dictator Francisco Franco has been pulled down. The statue was erected three years after Franco’s death in 1978, to commemorate his role in the Rif war, Spain’s conflict with the Berber tribes of Morocco’s Rif region. The removal was solicited by the local assembly, a decision contested only by Spain’s far-right Vox party, who claimed the monument depicted Franco’s military role and not his dictatorship.

In line with Spain’s 2007 Historical Memory Law — the law recognizes victims on both sides of the country’s 1936-39 civil war, grants rights to victims and their descendants, and formally condemns the Franco regime — all symbols of Francoism must be removed. That includes street names, building names and statues. Franco’s fascist dictatorship oversaw the execution, mass burial, and imprisonment of tens of thousands of his political enemies. Spain’s current socialist government recently announced almost a million euros in funding for the exhumation of mass graves created during the Franco era, of which there are still around 1,200 left.

Video: Inside Spain’s Fascism Fandom

Cockfighting Rooster Kills Owner in India

Heading to India next, where a rooster fitted with a knife for an illegal cockfight has killed its owner by stabbing him in the groin as it attempted to escape. The owner died on his way to hospital from severe blood loss and a manhunt for the event’s other 15 organizers is now underway. The rooster was briefly held at a local police station before being transferred to a poultry farm, but might need to appear before court when the trial starts.

Despite being outlawed in India since 1960, cockfighting is still relatively common in rural areas, and it’s customary for fighters to attach metal spurs and knives to roosters, which are specially bred for fighting. While animal rights groups have denounced the illegal fights for years, thousands of roosters still die each year. Fatal rooster attacks are also not uncommon — last year another Indian man died after his rooster, fitted with a blade, stabbed him in the neck while trying to escape on the way to a fight. The activity dates back to between 524–460 BC, and despite being prohibited in the majority of countries, it’s also popular in Latin America and Southeast Asia.

Video: Cockfighting — A Deadly Billion Dollar Industry

Previous Picks of the Week 👀

🔎 Picks of the Week — Feb. 26

🔎 Picks of the Week — Feb. 19

🔎 Picks of the Week — Feb. 12

🔎 Picks of the Week — Jan. 29

Tech Firms to Pay for News in Australia

To Australia next where new legislation will force tech platforms such as Google and Facebook to pay for the news content they publish. The law will “ensure that news media businesses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate,” according to the government, but was fiercely opposed by the tech giants, with Facebook going as far as blocking Australians from viewing news on its platform altogether.

In a blog post, Facebook’s VP of Global Affairs and former UK deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, strongly defended the platform’s relationship with journalism. He claimed that “the assertions ... that Facebook steals or takes original journalism for its own benefit always were and remain false.” Google on the other hand, opted to negotiate deals with multiple large media organizations, but it’s unclear at this point whether the new code will benefit smaller independent outlets. The new legislation will set the bar for similar legal changes in other countries, with the Canadian government vowing to be next.

Researchers Discover Glow-in-the-Dark Sharks 

We finish this week with some science news, as researchers have discovered new sharks that glow in the dark off the coast of New Zealand. The three species of deepwater shark glow in the dark thanks to their own bioluminescence, which enables living organisms to produce and emit light through a chemical reaction. The sharks, which live in what's known as the ocean twilight zone between 200 and 900 meters below the ocean’s surface, use their light-producing abilities to search the ocean floor for food or disguise themselves from predators.

One of the co-authors of the study said that 57 out of 540 known shark species are able to produce light, and now more research needs to be done on the newly-discovered bioluminescent sharks to find out what they eat and whether they’re hunted, as well as on their deep sea habitat, which he fears is being contaminated by pollution.

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