World Stories You May Have Missed: January 2018

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Welcome to 2018’s first instalment of World Stories You May Have Missed (WSYMHM), the aim of which is to bring the more obscure and unheard of stories from the last month to your attention. So, be prepared to read some bizarre and intriguing stories from across the globe.

VAT comes to Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has announced that they will be introducing VAT, a move which came as quite the surprise due to the country’s positive attitude towards providing a tax-free system. This is the latest decision in a series of changes over the last two years in an attempt to increase revenues whilst cutting overall spending. The new 5% sales tax is applied to the majority of goods and services, and is predicted to result in raising around $21 billion by the end of 2018.

Save our donkeys 

More on tax changes across the globe, China has announced a reduction in the tax on donkey skin despite concerns over the species population dying out. The tax has changed from 5% to 2%, which many campaigners disapprove of following recent years which have seen donkey skin purchases soar due to demand.

The reason for such a high demand in China is because of the production of gelatine from the skin, which is used as a form of medical treatment for ailments such as anaemia. The meat is also popular a choice for consumption in China; however, due to the drop in population and slow reproductive rates, the supply must now be found overseas. Africa is the main supplier for China’s demand, although many countries, such as Uganda, Tanzania, Botswana, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Senegal, have now banned donkey exports to China.

Should baguettes have heritage status?

French President, Emmanuel Macron, has joined the rally of bakers who believe baguettes should be given a UNESCO heritage status. Support behind adding the traditional French baguette to the list of UNESCO’s intangible heritage has emerged after the art of Naples’ dough-twirling pizza makers was approved by the UN cultural body’s World Heritage Committee at the end of last year.

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Macron commented on the importance of the French baguette:

The baguette is envied around the world. We must preserve its excellence and our expertise, and it is for this reason that it should be heritage-listed.

Haaaaaaave you met my cutout? 

The Prime Minister of Thailand, Prayuth Chan-ocha, came up with probably one of the most creative ways to dodge the press during a press conference in Bangkok. Initially Prayuth Chan-ocha walked towards the podium as if to take the journalist’s questions. Yet, accompanying him was a life size cardboard cutout of himself which he then told the journalists to direct their questions towards. The Prime Minister had answered some of the media’s questions earlier in the day, but he used the cardboard cutout before anyone could ask him questions surrounding hard-pressing political issues.

This isn’t the first time Prayuth has used more non-conventional methods of distracting the media during a conference. For example, he has previously thrown a banana peel at a cameraman and touched the ear of a sound technician.

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Fake news fighters assemble!

The EU has commissioned a group of experts to investigate the impact of fake news and ways in which it can be stopped. A team of 39 experts, consisting of journalists and academics, has been tasked with the responsibility of unravelling how big a problem fake news really is and what methods can be used to combat it.

Mariya Gabriel, The European Commissioner responsible for digital affairs commented on the necessity of tackling the problem:

Fake news is spreading at a worrying rate. It threatens the reputation of the media and the well-being of our democracies.

The team are expected to submit their recommendations to the European Commission before the end of April this year. This decision follows French President Emmanuel Macron’s backing of a law which aims to stop false information being spread during electoral campaigns. Opponents suggest a move such as this may impose on freedom of speech.

Women still banned from buying alcohol in Sri Lanka 

A movement which aimed to change the laws to allow women the same rights as men when it comes to buying alcohol in Sri Lanka was rejected. President Maithripala Sirisena ordered the government to withdraw the reform which would have allowed women to also work in bars.

Many have since accused the President of not taking gender equality seriously by having decided to uphold a law from 1955. Although the law is not always strictly adhered to, many Sri Lankan women welcome the change as they see it as a positive step forward towards improving equality.

Grump Cat wins a lawsuit 

The famous grumpy cat that flooded social media in 2012 has won $710,000 in a case against US coffee company, Grenade. The company was given permission to use the cat’s signature grumpy face to sell their ‘Grumppuccino’ iced drink.

However, they then also sold other products in association with the cat which was not agreed upon. The disputes started in 2015 when Grumpy Cat Limited sued Grenade for breaching their contract and copyright, after selling roasted coffee and Grumppuncino t-shirts. The coffee chain then counter-sued on the grounds that the owners had not adhered to their contact and mentioned the coffee brand enough across social media and TV appearances.

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Former English Student | Travel Editor 2016-17 |Current MSc. International Politics | Editor at Wessex Scene for 2017-18.

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