🗺️ Picks of the Week — May 7

Uganda Criminalizes Catcalling, Mealworms Approved in EU, Colombian Police Brutality, Mexico Metro Collapse, Modi Election Setback, Wartime Treasures Found in Alps

Happy Friday folks! Welcome to Picks of the Week where we dissect the world's most interesting and important news.

Today we'll visit Uganda who criminalized catcalling and various other sexual offences; India where Prime Minister Modi suffered a big election setback amid soaring Covid cases and deaths; Colombia where anti-government protests have turned very ugly and very deadly; Mexico City where a metro train derailed and fell onto civilians; the Italian Alps where melting ice unearthed WW1 relics; and the EU who approved worms as safe to eat.

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Colombian Protests Get Ugly

We start this week in Colombia, where anti-government protests swept the country, but were met with brutal, militarized police. The excess force has led to dozens of deaths. Triggered by conservative President Iván Duque's deeply unpopular proposed tax reform (now withdrawn), the protests have continued around general government resentment.

People are angry over police brutality, an economy destroyed by more than a year of pandemic restrictions, rising poverty levels that disproportionately affect marginalized groups, and deadly violence against social and human rights leaders. The U.S., EU and UN all condemned the violence, and Human Rights Watch director Jose Vivanco called for urgent discussions around police reform.

Uganda Bans Catcalling

Next up we head to Uganda, whose parliament passed new sexual offence legislation. The law will criminalize demanding sexual favors, indecent public exposure, sharing explicit digital content, child sex work and tourism, and — for the first time — sexual harassment including catcalling. However, in addition to the progressive developments, the law will also criminalize sex work in general, as well as homosexual relationships, threatening prison sentences of up to a decade. Lawmakers defended the legislation in favor of upholding “societal values.”

Human Rights Watch Africa Director Mausi Segun appealed to President Yoweri Museveni to reject the law, which she said criminalizes consensual sexual acts and doesn’t protect survivors enough. In Africa, rights for women and the LGBT+ community are scarce. Same sex relationships are legal in less than half the continent. Those who identify as women face disproportionately high rates of rape, forced marriage, genital mutilation, and sexual harassment.

Mexico City Metro Collapse 

To Mexico City next, where a metro overpass collapsed and fell five meters onto a road below, leaving at least 24 people dead and more than 70 injured. The accident is one of the subway system’s deadliest, and left carriages dangling in mid-air with passengers trapped inside. Mexico City’s metro is among the busiest in the world, transporting more than four million people a day, second in the Americas only to New York City. Line 12, the newest in the metro system where the accident happened, was inaugurated in 2012 to transport passengers to the suburbs in the south-east of the capital.

Corruption allegations have been made ever since the track’s construction, and concerns over structural failures led to several stations being closed for line repairs in 2014. After a major earthquake in 2017, the line’s support columns were left damaged. Local residents even said they could feel the overpass shaking when the trains rumble through in the morning. In response, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador ordered an inquiry into the accident, claiming “nothing will be hidden.”

Modi Election Setback Amid Covid Surge

To India next, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi failed to win control of the Legislative Assembly in West Bengal in state elections, amid a spiralling Covid outbreak. The battleground is one of the few states where Modi’s nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has never been in power, having been under communist governance for more than three decades. It remains held by incumbent Modi critic Mamata Banerjee. While this is a notable setback for Modi, who’s been in power since 2014, the BJP did become the state's main opposition party.

Modi has been fiercely criticized for caring more about the elections than the second wave of the pandemic, which is responsible for the country’s shocking recent tally of more than 400,000 new Covid-19 cases in 24 hours. Patients continue to die at appalling rates, oxygen tanks have run out and the country faces vaccine shortages, but Modi has ignored warnings and attended unmasked election rallies, which have been accused of accelerating the spread of the virus.

Wartime Treasures Found in Alps

To Europe, where melting glaciers at the top of Mount Scorluzzo in Italy have revealed a bit of the past. Underground barracks inhabited by Austro-Hungarian soldiers fighting Italian soldiers during a period of WW1 known as the ‘White War’ have been found.

The freezing barracks were abandoned in 1918, and researchers discovered the bodies of soldiers, and remnants of daily life, preserved by the ice. Relics from the excavated cave will now go on display next year at a museum in Bormio, a town in the Italian alpine region of Lombardy.

Wartime relics aren’t the only things melting glaciers have revealed in the region over the years. Corpses of soldiers are found every two-to-three years, as well as ancient mummies. Climate change has had a profound effect on the Alps, where there are now approximately half the number of glaciers there were a century ago. Despite giving way to historic archeological discoveries, the Alps could be left with no ice by 2100 if carbon emissions aren’t slowed.

EU Approves Mealworms

We finish in Europe for some food news after the EU's food safety agency approved mealworms as safe to eat. The agency said that they’re a nutritious source of protein, vitamins, fibers and minerals. Using them to replace environmentally-damaging sources of protein (red meat) in your diet could even help the environment. 

However, it seems the EU is somewhat late to the party on its recent regulation change. Eating bugs and worms has been a part of global gastronomy for thousands of years. In Mexico it’s traditional to drink some types of Mezcal with a worm at the bottom to enhance the flavor of the agave-based liquor. At markets in the Mexican city of Oaxaca, protein-rich grasshoppers are sold by the bag. And in Colombia, ants are roasted, salted and sold as a roadside snack. Eating insects is also common in many African countries, and scientists have vocalized their edible benefits since the 1980s.

That's all for this week. See you all Monday! 👋