🗺️ Picks of the Week — Feb. 12

World's Smallest Reptile Found, Pandemic Sends Birth Rates Down, Myanmar Coup Crisis, Attempted Haiti Coup, Ecuador Election Runoff, African Activists Want National Treasures From Europe Returned

Happy Friday folks! It’s that time of the week again as we dissect the most interesting and important news from around the world. Before we get to it, be sure to check out my assignment debrief from last week, where I detailed my journey to the Colombia-Panama border to document the story of how 700 migrants headed for the U.S. are stranded on a beach for VICE World News. And also check out Monday’s job board update and Wednesday’s Inside The Middle East!

This week we’ll travel to Madagascar where the world’s smallest reptile the size of a human fingertip has been discovered; to Myanmar who woke up to political crisis amid a successful military coup; to Haiti where confusion surrounds when the president’s term actually ends; to China whose birth rates have plummeted because of the Covid pandemic in a sign of things to come in other parts of the world; to Ecuador whose presidential election is set for a runoff after no candidate secured a majority; and to Europe’s museums where a group of African activists are willing to go to jail to reclaim what is theirs.

Okay, new jobs and data are below, let’s do this thing!

Job Corner ✍️

A number of deadlines coming up this weekend, including at the Associated Press, CBC, Disney, ITV and Post Media. Check them out below!

Due to a limit on the number of people that can be added to a Google Spreadsheet, we’ve made two versions listing exactly the same jobs, so no need to have access to both. If you’re a paying member, you’ll have access to one of the two below links/buttons… 👇

Job Board: w/c Feb. 8

Job Board: w/c February 8

Preview of some deadlines this weekend 👇

Data Corner 🧮 

A few datasets we used to put today’s newsletter together…

  1. Birth Rates: Swarms of relevant data, from the UN

  2. Threatened Species: List of all endangered species, from IUCN

  3. Kenyan Artefacts: Dataset of Kenyan objects held in cultural institutions across the globe, The International Inventories Programme

Myanmar Coup Crisis

We start this week in Myanmar, where hundreds of thousands of citizens have taken to the streets to protest last week’s successful military coup that saw leader Aung San Suu Kyi detained. The protestors have been met with lethal force including water cannons, live ammunition and rubber bullets that have left many injured, some critically. The first moments of the coup, carried out by arguably Myanmar’s most powerful institution, were unbelievably captured live on camera, thanks to a fitness instructor who was filming a live workout outside the country’s parliament.

Myanmar fitness instructor accidentally captures coup unfolding

Tension in Myanmar heightened back in November when Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy beat the military-backed opposition party in the country’s general election. But the NLD declared victory well before official results were released, which didn’t sit well with the army. As several other members of the NLD were also arrested over alleged election fraud, cell phone signal and the state television network were both interrupted. Myanmar is no stranger to military rule, having experienced almost 50 years of it prior to 2011, 15 of which Aung San Suu Kyi spent in detention.

Confusion Over When Haitian President Term Ends

More political unrest this time in Haiti, where President Jovenel Moïse claimed a coup had taken place to try to kill him and overthrow his government. In response, the former banana producer and auto parts salesman ordered the arrest of 23 people, including a top judge and a senior police officer. The disarray stems from a disagreement over when Moïse’s term ends, with the president saying it lasts until February of next year, but the opposition claiming it should have ended this past weekend.

Moïse, who is currently ruling the country by decree after parliament was dissolved last year and no new elections were called, insists he’s not a dictator, and that his presidency is legitimate. His refusal to step down has been the subject of violent and deadly anti-government protests across Haiti in recent years. The population’s anti-government sentiment is compounded by Haiti’s spiralling economic crisis, which has led to food, oil, and power shortages. With unemployment rates at almost 15 percent, kidnappings for ransom have become the norm. While the U.S. — Haiti’s largest donor — recognizes that Moïse has one year left in power, analysts told VICE World News the more time he spends in power, the more living conditions will worsen.

Haiti protestors demand President Moïse step down

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Pandemic Sends Birth Rates Down

Next we move to China, whose birth rate dropped 15 per cent from last year, with the country’s Ministry of Public Security pinning the decline on the economic insecurity caused by the pandemic. And it’s not just China who’s expected to feel the effects: the Brookings Institute predicted a large decrease of births this year around the world. In the U.S., for example, fertility rates are historically low, partly due to research suggesting people having less sex.

In lower income countries, however, the pandemic is having the opposite effect on birth rates, as women have been left without access to contraception. Between January to May last year, more than 150,000 teenage girls became pregnant in Kenya, after economic insecurities forced them to turn to sex work in order to buy essential items such as sanitary pads. In low- and middle-income countries, the pandemic also increased female exposure to FGM, child marriage, and domestic violence. Here are some charts Daniel put together for WSJ on the overall population situation…

Ecuador Election Heads to Runoff

Heading to South America now, where the first round of Ecuador’s presidential election will go to a runoff after no candidate secured a majority in Sunday’s vote. If left-wing economist front runner Andrés Arauz wins, he’ll become the country’s youngest ever president at just 36 years of age. Endorsed by populist former President Rafael Correa, who was sentenced to eight years jail in absentia last year for corruption, Arauz secured 32.19 percent of the vote.

But all eyes are on the surprisingly strong showing by Indigenous activist Yaku Pérez, who is neck-and-neck with conservative ex-banker Guillermo Lasso for second place, with the runner up advancing to face Arauz in April’s second round. With 98.9 percent of the votes counted, Lasso leads Pérez 19.7 to 19.46 percent.

Ecuador’s incoming president will face a slew of challenges in a country hit incredibly hard by the pandemic, and whose healthcare system collapse left corpses lying in the streets. While new Covid cases have plateaued, Ecuador’s economy is still reeling. The economic downturn, which began after a drop in oil prices in 2015, dramatically accelerated because of Covid, with an 11 percent drop in GDP predicted for 2020. If he becomes president, Arauz promised to end austerity and restore the heavy social spending reminiscent of Correa’s presidency.

African Activists Reclaim National Treasures from Europe’s Museums

Several African activists are on a mission to intervene in Europe’s museums and take back treasures they claim were looted from their home countries by colonists. Congolese activist Mwazulu Diyabanza and other members of the Pan-African group Unity, Dignity, and Courage have been fined and jailed for removing artefacts from multiple museums. Diyabanza estimates there are around 116,000 African objects housed in different museums across France alone. The activist said he now has his sights on the British Museum to recover a particularly famous treasure known as the Benin Bronzes, which features around a thousand brass and bronze sculptures.

During the European conquests of Africa in the 19th Century, not only did colonists steal riches to take back to Europe, they also enslaved millions of African families. On its website, the British Museum admits that some of the artefacts on display in its exhibition have been acquired through “contested” means such as military action, and claims it is “actively engaged” in re-examining their acquisition in close dialogue with African partners.

The Benin Bronzes 👇

World’s Smallest Reptile Discovered

We finish this week in Madagascar, where a group of scientists discovered a new Chameleon species smaller than an adult human fingertip, making it the world’s new smallest reptile. The male chameleon has a body length of just 1.35cm (0.53in), which makes it the smallest of more than 11,000 species of reptiles. The female is more than double its size at 2.9cm (1.14in), and the difference in size has led to reproductive problems for the males, contributing to the species facing extinction.

Frank Glaw, one of the leading scientists on the Madagascan-German expedition, said the species was spotted on a mountainside in 2012. The chameleons were so small and camouflaged that scientists had to get down onto their hands and knees to find them. The new species, native to northern Madagascar, aren’t alone in their battle with extinction, as 36 percent of all chameleons faced the same prospect in 2014.

That’s all for this week! See ya’ll on Monday for more jobs and even more fun 👋