This week it’s been a struggle to find a single news story that I can really get into on this blog. Events are either continuing that I’ve written plenty on, or are once off events that are hard to come up with much background for. So this Wednesday, here are some events or articles from across the world that I simply found interesting.
Fiji’s Prime Minister decided this week to drop the British Union Jack from the corner of the country’s flag. This leaves Australia, New Zealand and the tiny state of Tuvalu as the only countries left with the British emblem still on their flag, and New Zealand is planning to change theirs. While I’m not particularly bothered by Australia still having a colonial flag, the argument against changing it which always pops up is quite ridiculous – “our soldiers fought and died under that flag”. A flag isn’t just a design, it’s a symbol of the nation. What exactly is on it doesn’t change what they fought for.
This investigation by the Daily Beast, looking at how an innocent student was accused of rape, shows a number of strange aspects of the problem of sexual assault at US universities. The first is that allegations of sexual assault on campus are handled by the university, rather than the police. I’m not quite sure why the location of a crime should make any difference. The second is that poor journalism in a media storm can lead to someone’s life being ruined without the damage ever being made right. The accused student was cleared by the university, which as the investigation shows was most likely a correct decision, but is still seen as a rapist by many. Finally, the risk when these stories of wrong allegations come to light is that they are used to deny that there is a problem. Rape victims already have tremendous issues getting people to take them seriously. When the media and universities make these sort of mistakes, it only makes it harder for the real victims.
The leader of the Donetsk rebels in Eastern Ukraine said this week that he wants to mobilise an army of 100 000 men to form tank, artillery and motorised brigades. These men will apparently be volunteers. The problem with this is that the rebel held territory only has around 4.5 million people, and that was before a third of the population fled. So where exactly are these men going to come from? There are two possibility. The first is that Zakharchenko is either bluffing or simply making threats. The second is that the announcement is covering for a sudden increase in Russian soldiers coming across the border. With peace looking very far away, it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s the second.
This beautiful series of photos taken by Paola Nunez Solorio and published on the BBC show the unique life of Vietnamese families living within centimeters of the railway in Hanoi. I travelled parts this railway from Saigon to Hanoi in 2013, and coming into the centre of Hanoi I was amazed by the fact that the doorways of the houses on either side were within arms reach. It’s a fantastic way to enter a city.