There’s no doubt that 2017 has been a bumper year for world news, but with so much happening you might have missed some of the stranger news stories throughout the year. In this edition of World Stories You May Have Missed, we round up some of the strangest and most overlooked happenings of 2017 from across the globe.
A Culinary Debate
In February, the President of Iceland, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, was forced to clarify his views on using pineapple as a pizza topping after he told a group of secondary school students in the city of Akureyri that he was ‘fundamentally opposed’ to pineapple on pizza and would ban it as a pizza topping if he had the power.
Jóhannesson’s outspoken views sparked both domestic and international outrage on social media, to the extent that he had to publish a statement on his Facebook page (in both English and Icelandic) to further clarify his stance and powers regarding such an important issue:
I like pineapples, just not on pizza. I do not have the power to make laws which forbid people to put pineapples on their pizza. I am glad that I do not hold such power… I would not want to hold this position if I could pass laws forbidding that which I don’t like… For pizzas, I recommend seafood.
Since his election in June 2016, President Jóhannesson has enjoyed high approval ratings from the Icelandic public, perhaps partly due to his decision to refuse a 20% pay rise. He’s also been seen stopping to pick up takeaway pizza on his way home from work.
The inventor of the controversial Hawaiian pizza, Sam Panopoulos, died in June this year – clearly his legacy will remain hotly debated (no pun intended) for years to come.
An accidental invasion
Lord West, the former First Sea Lord, revealed in April that the UK had once accidentally invaded Spain in 2002, when a group of Royal Marines got lost during a training exercise meant to end in Gibraltar. Instead of landing on ‘The Rock’, they landed on the beach at La Linea – a nearby town on the Spanish side of the border.
‘They all scrambled back in their boats and went away again. So I immediately had to get on to the Foreign Office and the governor of Gibraltar’, West told the Independent.
Hair-raising (or removing) politics
In the run-up to Turkey’s controversial constitutional referendum in April, the country’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, pulled out all the stops in attempting to convince voters to approve his proposed changes. One of the strangest moves he made was signing an emergency decree into law allowing those working in the beauty industry the ‘right to operate certain tools to perform laser hair removal’. Only medical staff were previously permitted to operate such machinery due to the safety risks which can be posed by improper use.
The decree was signed into law during a rally broadcast live from the country’s presidential palace, entitled ‘For a beautiful Turkey, of course, yes’. Although welcomed by representatives of the beauty industry, and having the potential to increase employment, the measure put Erdoğan at odds with some religious elements of his conservative support base.
China says no to ivory
Throughout 2017, China introduced measures to limit trade in ivory, ending with a complete ban on ivory trading by the year’s end. China announced that it was planning to ban the ivory trade after it reached an agreement with the US in 2015. The country had become the largest market for both legal and illegal ivory in the world, with some analyses suggesting that as much as 70% of all ivory ended up in the country.
Save the Elephants found that over 71% of the Chinese population supported ending the ivory trade, suggesting that public opinion was generally supportive of the move. Trading itself has also fallen in recent years – according to the Good News Network, since 2012 there’s been an 85% decrease in ivory purchases in China and ivory prices have decreased by around half.
What’s a Kwaussie again?!
Kwaussie, a portmanteau of ‘Kiwi’ and ‘Aussie’ and describing a person who is both an Australian and a New Zealander, was chosen as this year’s Australian word of the year by the Australian National Dictionary Centre (ANDC). The word came to prominence as the Australian Parliament was embroiled in a nationality crisis when a number of MPs who were unaware they had a second citizenship they had not renounced, including the Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce (himself a Kwaussie), had to resign.
Under section 44 of Australia’s constitution, anyone deemed to hold allegiance to a ‘foreign power’ is barred from holding office in the federal parliament. All politicians were eventually told that they had to prove their citizenship status in what one commentator dubbed the ‘world’s most ridiculous constitutional crisis’.
One 19 year-old US college student successfully changed the constitution, and it all started with a bad grade on a paper in 1982.
As NPR reports, when tasked with writing an essay on US governmental process, Gregory Watson began researching the US constitution. In doing so, he discovered that the 27th amendment to the US constitution remained unratified as it hadn’t been approved by a sufficient number of state legislatures. Also having no states deadline, he argued in his paper that the amendment was still alive and could potentially be ratified. When the paper received a C grade, he made it his mission to get it ratified.
In 1992 Watson finally succeeded in getting the required number of state approvals (38) to ratify the amendment. This remains the most recent modification to the US constitution, as the process is deliberately designed to be difficult to do. Upon hearing about the impact Watson had made after his C-graded paper, Sharon Waite, his tutor at UT Austin in the 1980s, agreed that Watson deserved a much higher grade than the C she awarded him.
On 1st March this year, his grade was officially changed from a C to an A. Proof that persistence does pay off!