April 6 – April 12 2015
The Week in Review is a weekly column that highlights some interesting, outraging, and heartwarming events and stories of the past week. Its ambition is not to be exhaustive or to recap major political events; it’s more of a personal take on news or stories that made the author react strongly.
Picture of the Week
Chances are Facebook users were quite surprised when they discovered French TV network TV5Monde’s new cover and profile picture last Wednesday: the francophone network had just been hacked by terrorist group Daesh, whose taste for early 21st century Microsoft WordArt is dubious, to say the least. The so-called “Islamic State” (which is precisely neither of these two things) took control of TV5Monde’s eleven TV stations, website and social media accounts. The Daesh hackers also uploaded what appears to be photos of ID cards allegedly belonging to family members of French soldiers currently fighting IS. On the station’s Facebook page, a message read: “The CyberCaliphate continues its cyberjihad against the enemies of Islamic State.” The TV network was unable to broadcast for a certain amount of time, as its system had been severely damaged by the attack. Yves Bigot, TV5 Monde’s Director General, called this cyberattack “extremely powerful”.
Read more on BBC.
Discovery of the Week
While you may have heard that humans are becoming taller from one generation to the next, you may be annoyed to learn that we are all growing less slowly than the Dutch. In fact, this general growth spurt has, over the long haul, slowed down or even completely stopped in all European countries – except the Netherlands, as the Dutch have grown 20 centimeters on average in the past two centuries. On April 8, a team of scientists published an article in “Proceedings B” of the Royal Society, explaining that this peculiarity is due to reproductive advantage, an “association between height and making babies” (Science News). To quote the study itself:
“Across three decades (1935–1967), height was consistently related to reproductive output (number of children born and number of surviving children), favouring taller men and average height women. This was despite a later age at first birth for taller individuals. Furthermore, even in this low-mortality population, taller women experienced higher child survival, which contributed positively to their increased reproductive success. Thus, natural selection in addition to good environmental conditions may help explain why the Dutch are so tall.”
As Science News reports, this discovery seems to show that “natural selection can drive human evolution in just a few hundred years”.
Outraging News of the Week
In the latest episode of what has become the most enraging and depressing trend of the past couple of years, another Black man was senselessly murdered by a police officer in the United States this week.
On 4 April, Michael T. Slager, a white police officer, shot and killed Walter Scott, a 50 year-old Black man who had fled after he was stopped by the police regarding a broken taillight in North Charleston, South Carolina.
Thankfully, Slager has since been charged with murder, unlike Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD officer who put 43 year-old African American man Eric Garner in a chokehold and ignored his desperate pleas (“I can’t breathe”), leaving him dead on the sidewalk in July 2014. The grand jury had refused to indict Pantaleo.
Twitter has erupted with anger over last week’s tragedy, with many users wondering whether Slager would have been charged if it weren’t for the fortunate presence of Feidin Santana, the bystander who filmed the entire episode on his cell phone and uploaded it a few days later.
In 1985 case Tennessee v. Garner, the US Supreme Court laid out, clearly and unambiguously, the precise circumstances under which a police officer is allowed to kill: the suspect must pose “a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others”. Slager’s claims that Scott had grabbed his stun gun, and that killing him was thus legitimate, came crashing down as Santana’s images showed Scott running, seemingly unarmed, far ahead of Slager, who proceeded to shoot him five times in the back.
Unlike what the police report claimed, the video shows neither Slager nor the other police officers present at the scene ever bothered to attempt CPR on Scott, a father of four.
Weird News of the Week
This week, the Huffington Post reports that the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and Ikea, the popular Swedish furniture store, have worked together to produce 10,000 mobile shelter for refugees (notably, from my understanding, for the 4 million Syrians forced to flee their home country).
The 188 square-foot shelters, which can accommodate up to 5 persons, come with four windows, a ventilation system, and a solar panel which, during the day, charges a lamp for nighttime use, a prized commodity lots of the shelters currently in use don’t provide.
These new shelters will be assembled and installed in June, certainly adequate timing now that the harsh temperatures of winter have passed and killed droves of Syrian refugees, including many children forced to camp out in Lebanon’s snowy mountains. Further, while the initiative may seem commendable, it is worth noting that one need only disburse 1,150$ to acquire such a such shelter, which only makes it twice the price of regular shelters. Does it also come with a puzzling instruction manual and a quirky Swedish name?
One can’t help but feel slightly ill-at-ease upon reading this awkwardly-phrased statement by a member of the Ikea Foundation, as quoted by the Huffington Post: “Refugee families and children can have a safer place to call home.” Home is not an overpriced portable Ikea shelter – home is a place these refugees have left behind under horrifying, traumatizing conditions, a place they have lost hope of ever seeing again as their normal lives have been put on hiatus, with no end in sight.
Long Read of the Week
This week, the New Yorker tells the incredible story of man-made earthquakes, or how fracking, hailed by some as a godsent solution to the United States’ energy dependence problem, is causing the earth to tremble in Oklahoma.
The first cases of earthquakes resulting from fluid injection date back to the 60s (the article cites Commerce City Colorado, where fluid injection for the disposal of waste fluids from a chemical weapons factory cased over 1,000 earthquakes). This phenomenon has continued into the 21st century: recently, the little town of Jones experienced 75 earthquakes in one year.
A disheartening, scary read that provides further, unnecessary evidence of the carelessness, nonchalance and deliberate ignorance we affect as we continue to thoroughly destroy our natural habitat: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/04/13/weather-underground
 “Hydraulic fracturing (also hydrofracturing, hydrofracking, fracking or fraccing), is a well-stimulation technique in which rock is fractured by a hydraulically pressurized liquid made of water, sand, and chemicals. Some hydraulic fractures form naturally—certain veins or dikes are examples. A high-pressure fluid (usually chemicals and sand suspended in water) is injected into a wellbore to create cracks in the deep-rock formations through which natural gas, petroleum, and brine will flow more freely. When the hydraulic pressure is removed from the well, small grains of hydraulic fracturing proppants (either sand or aluminium oxide) hold the fractures open” (Wikipedia).