Keeping up with the news is hard—so hard, in fact, that we’ve decided to save you the hassle by rounding up the most mind-blowing events each week. (We’re currently planning to do so every Friday.) And what a week to start with. After an eventful April, May kicked off with a swirl of stories that were odd, unusual, and—just occasionally—perhaps of epoch-defining importance . . .
10 The Search For Kony Was Finally Called Off
The star of super-viral hit Kony 2012 is an African warlord who heads the insane Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a kind of Christian ISIS that wants to put Uganda under strict Old Testament law. At their height, they caused mayhem in Uganda, the DRC, CAR, and what is now South Sudan, killing some 100,000 civilians. Their modus operandi was to level whole villages, rape and mutilate the women, and then abduct their children and force them to become soldiers.
In short, Kony is one bad dude—so bad that in 2011, President Obama pledged a US task force to help Uganda track him down. Fast-forward six years, and the operation is now being called off. Kony, depressingly, is still free.
There are worries the end of the search will give the LRA a chance to regroup. They still have over 120 armed soldiers and have carried out some 150 abductions in 2017 alone. If we’re unlucky, the LRA could use this space to reemerge as a real threat to Central Africa.
9 Macedonia Teetered On The Brink
In 2001, Macedonia became the latest ex-Yugoslav republic to teeter on the brink of civil war. Around 200 were killed when an ethnic Albanian insurgency broke out. War was ultimately averted, but tensions remained simmering away between the Macedonian and Albanian communities. Last week, they may have reached boiling point.
On the night of April 28–29, masked protesters stormed the Macedonian parliament and violently beat opposition MPs while police looked on. A few days later, it was revealed that state security forces may have colluded in or even organized the assault.
Things have been tense since the ruling Macedonian party VMRO lost elections in December to the largely Albanian SDSM. VMRO refused to step down. Since then, there have been signs the party has been using the police to intimidate opponents and illegally cling to power. This being the former Yugoslavia, such acts have the real potential to explode into violence, especially when you consider that Serbia, Russia, the US, and the EU all have vested interests in Macedonia.
8 Eminem Sued The New Zealand Government
Here’s something you don’t ever expect to hear. On May 1, rapper Eminem (aka Marshall Mathers) announced his intention to sue the governing right-wing party of New Zealand. The reason? They played one of his tracks without asking.
OK, so the reality is a little more complicated than that—but not by much. In 2014, the National Party released a political ad featuring music that sounded a whole lot like “Lose Yourself.” In reality, it was a track called “Eminem-esque” by Beatbox, a company that specializes in producing tracks that sound close enough to famous songs to fool most people but not close enough to get sued. Lawyers for Mathers disagreed with that last part.
It’s actually quite common for businesses and political parties to use copyright-skirting tracks like “Eminem-esque.” A successful suit by Mathers could turn the whole licensing business on its head as well as cause one of the oddest political scandals we’ve ever had to write about.
7 Indonesia Released Crazy Plans To Relocate Its Entire Capital
Jakarta is one of the biggest, craziest cities on Earth. Its 13 million inhabitants are crammed into a relatively tiny area, leading to near-eternal gridlock and Beijing levels of pollution. It’s also sinking, with north Jakarta heading downward at a rate of 25 centimeters (10 in) each year. Faced with all this chaos, Indonesia’s government has come up with an ingenious solution: They plan to move the entire capital.
Such crazily ambitious schemes have worked before. Brazil built itself a whole new capital in the 1960s, and Kazakhstan’s oddball dictator once turned a random desert village into his new, hi-tech capital on a whim. But Jakarta is something else. The plan isn’t just big; it’s crazy. Moving all Jakarta’s institutions, big businesses, parliament, and so on would be one of the largest relocation operations Asia has ever seen.
Plans are still in the early stages, but don’t expect this story to go away entirely. With the city slowly sliding into the sea, it’s clear that something needs to be done as soon as possible.
6 An Indian State Fought Domestic Abuse With . . . More Domestic Abuse
India has one of the highest rates of domestic violence on Earth. Millions of women are beaten by their husbands, and reporting rates remain abysmally low. Some states, such as Bihar and Kerala, have tied efforts to combat this abuse to bans on alcohol sales. Madhya Pradesh has taken a different route. On April 30, State Minister Gopal Bhargava announced plans to protect women from their drunken husbands . . . by giving the wives free bats to beat their husbands with.
Over 700 brides have already received them at a mass wedding ceremony, and 10,000 more bats are ready to be distributed. These bats are hefty things and could easily do some serious damage. More importantly, they come inscribed with the words “the police won’t intervene,” a promise that the minister apparently intends to keep.
It’s difficult to know what side to take with a story like this. On the one hand, abused women definitely need to be able to protect themselves. On the other hand, promising to keep the police out of violent altercations in the home sounds like a slippery path to go down.
5 Hamas Grew Marginally Less Radical
Terror group-cum-Gaza governing party Hamas really, really does not like Israel. Their charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state, and it has long been a stated aim of theirs to “liberate” all of Palestine—a polite way of saying they want to drive out all Jews in an orgy of ethnic cleansing. Or rather, it had been their aim. Last week, Hamas presented a new guiding document with one surprising concession: The group now claims it will accept the 1967 borders between Palestine and Israel.
For a fundamentalist Sunni group, this is kind of a big deal. By accepting the 1967 borders, Hamas is signaling that they’re prepared to accept another state occupying part of what they consider Palestinian land. However, the document stops short of saying that “other state” would be Israel, presumably because that would be too bitter a pill to swallow.
For most observers, this is still absurd. The 1967 war added a ton of territory to Israel that Hamas is calling illegitimate. But for a terror group that has repeatedly smashed Israel with rockets, it at least signals a step in a more moderate direction.
4 Britain’s Prince Philip Announced His Retirement
The husband of Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip has been at the center of British life for nearly seven decades. Possibly the least politically correct man on Earth (who once told a group of British students in China, “If you stay here much longer, you’ll all be slitty-eyed,”), the prince has a unique status in the UK: somewhere between the love you feel for an elderly uncle and the embarrassment you feel for that elderly uncle when he gets blind drunk and starts insulting foreigners. Well, not for much longer. On May 4, Prince Philip announced his retirement.
He won’t retire from being a prince, we should hasten to add. But he will retire from public life, all speaking engagements, and even informal meetings with heads of state. It’s an absence that will make British political life immeasurably duller, but it’ll also act as an overture to Prince Philip’s final disappearance from the headlines. At the age of 95 and reportedly in ill health, the prince likely doesn’t have much longer left. When he finally passes on, it will mark the end of an era that has spanned some 70 years.
3 Nigeria’s President Went Missing
Nigeria’s president is officially MIA. That’s been the word coming out of Africa’s most populous nation this week, as President Muhammadu Buhari missed his third-straight cabinet meeting, Friday prayers, and an important Labor Day speech. While his actual location is known (holed up at home), his absence from public life has Nigerians terrified about a potential power vacuum opening up and causing chaos.
President Buhari has been more or less constantly ill since the year began. He took seven weeks’ medical leave in the UK and then returned to Nigeria only to vanish inside his official residence. The timing is especially unfortunate. Nigeria’s economy contracted last year for the first time in a quarter of a century, tipping the nation into recession. Boko Haram is causing chaos in the north. The country’s energy infrastructure is crumbling. The perception of a power vacuum could cause investors to hightail it, leading to a death spiral.
On top of that, Nigeria has a history of coups and power grabs, the last one in 1999. While democracy seems fairly stable today, it would seem even more stable if the president managed to come out of hiding.
2 Republicans May Have Finally Repealed Obamacare
As political lightning rods go, they don’t come much bigger or more highly charged than the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). For seven straight years, the Republican Party has made repealing it one of their raisons d’etre. An attempt to push through a replacement bill in March—the American Health Care Act (AHCA)—collapsed in ignominious defeat. But that may soon change. The House Republicans have passed a new bill.
The bill will still have to pass the Senate, where the concerns of moderate Republicans make its torpedoing a real possibility. But still, clearing the House represents a major victory for a bill badly in need of a major victory.
Outside the rarefied world of Capitol Hill, the bill would have an enormous impact on Americans’ lives. Critics claim it would increase both the uninsured rate and the deficit. Supporters say it will lower costs for younger insurance buyers and that savings will lower taxes for all. If this bill does indeed become law, we’ll soon be finding out who was right.
1 Venezuela’s Crisis Reached The Tipping Point
In the past month, 34 people have been killed in the protests sweeping Venezuela. The country has been in crisis for years, with malnutrition, lack of basic essentials, and rampant inflation destroying lives for millions. Already this year, the socialist government of President Maduro launched a power grab that effectively neutered the country’s opposition-controlled parliament and placed the judiciary under his control.
Regional allies of Venezuela claimed that the government was “pouring gasoline on the fire” of the protests. With the greatest respect, they were already doing that. There have been reports of security forces handing out weapons in pro-government neighborhoods while banning firearms for the rest of the country. It seems almost as if Maduro is itching for an insurgency to crush—or even a full-blown civil war. If he keeps on acting like he is, he may, sadly, get his way.
+ French Presidential Candidate, Macron, May Be Hiding Tax Evasion
News breaking right now suggests that investment banker Emmanuel Macron who is running in the French presidential election this weekend may be hiding funds in a Cayman Islands account for the purposes of tax evasion.
A pseudonymous writer for GotNews was asked to verify the authenticity of the documents and this was her conclusion: “In my opinion, there is no reason to assume these documents are fake. If I was hired by the French government to inspect these documents, I would recommend that government investigators obtain a warrant to carry out further investigation into Emmanuel Macrons[sic] personal papers and correspondences, both written and digital.”
Mr Macron has responded to the allegations of tax evasion by starting a number of lawsuits against anyone who speaks of them (including Mrs Le Pen) and the French Police have begun sending requests to online hosts of the documents to ask for information that could lead to the original leaker. This is likely to be fruitless, however, as only French residents must comply with their requests.
Whether Mr Macron did it or not remains to be seen. More importantly, however, is whether this will have an impact on Mr Macron’s presidential bid.