It’s been a year since World Stories You May Have Missed (WSYMHM) was first launched, shining a light then on such stories as Papua New Guinea’s electoral commissioner Patilias Gamato’s injunction against a satirical journalist calling him ‘Mr. Tomato’. Here are some of the lesser known stories from around the world which may have passed you by this July.
New Zealand Transport Minister breaks New Zealand’s own aviation rules…
Sydney Morning Herald reported early in the month that New Zealand’s Transport Minister, Phil Twyford (pictured above), was to be fined NZ$500 (c.£260) by the country’s Civil Aviation Authority. His misdemeanor, which only came to light thanks to an opposition MP, was to make a mobile call from a plane in May.
Because the call was made before take off, the Civil Aviation Authority said it didn’t pose a significant risk to the flight’s safety. Even so, Twyford was forced to temporarily stand down as the individual in charge of overseeing aviation safety while an investigation into the incident took place. He also issued an unreserved apology’, admitting that it was ‘particularly inappropriate given that I’m the transport minister’.
Ireland moves to remove school ‘baptism barrier’
The Irish lower house of parliament, the Dáil, voted on 10 July to approve a bill which will remove school enrolment prioritisation to baptised children from September.
According to the Irish Times, just over 90% of schools in Ireland are of a Catholic ethos and 20% are over-subscribed. The School Admissions Bill prohibits schools from giving enrolment priority to baptised children when oversubscribed, although minority faith schools will still, for now, be able to prioritise members of their own religion. Instead, all-Irish primary and secondary schools will be able to prioritise the enrolment of Irish Gaelic-speaking children.
Minister for Education, Richard Bruton, said that ‘parents should not feel pressured to baptise their child to get access to their local school’, while main opposition party, Fianna Fáil education spokesman Thomas Byrne described the bill as a ‘genuinely collaborative effort’.
If enacted, the baptism bill would be the latest in a range of legislative change marking a shift in Ireland from being a Catholic state to more secular, beginning with the same-sex marriage referendum vote in May 2015.
Air China flight mystery 6,500 metre sudden air drop explained…
China’s Civil Aviation Administration announced that a co-pilot smoking an e-cigarette caused the rapid emergency descent of an Air China flight from Hong Kong to Dalian on 10 July. The authority says that the co-pilot tried to turn off a fan so the smoke did not reach the passenger cabin but accidentally turned off the air conditioning unit instead.
The Captain was blissfully unaware and the crew had to perform emergency measures, including passengers having to wear oxygen masks for 20 minutes and making a rapid descent in the level of altitude while they ascertained what the problem was.
Both pilots have had their licenses revoked, while Air China was punished severely – fined 50,000 yuan (£6,400) and forced to both cuts by 10% the number of Boeing 737 flights and take a three-month safety review.
Japan cracks down on the smuggling of… sea cucumbers
At the beginning of the month, The Telegraph reported on the Japanese authorities increasing efforts to prevent the poaching and smuggling by Japan’s infamous Yakuza gangs of sea cucumbers. A number of Yakuza gangs are ‘diversifying’ from drug smuggling and prostitution activities to tap into the lucrative sea cucumber market, considered a culinary delicacy in Asia.
Japan’s Fisheries Agency has recently announced plans for, by 2020, the first catch certification system of its kind to regulate domestically-caught sea cucumbers. Meanwhile, the boss of Japan’s largest yakuza organisation was apparently fined last year £686,000 for possessing 60 tonnes of sea cucumbers.
Japan’s total sea cucumber exports value last year was estimated at £143.8mn and some gangs are reportedly making as much revenue from sea cucumbers as amphetamine trafficking, creating an intriguing prospect for any possible Japanese spin-off of the hit Netflix series, ‘Breaking Bad’.
And finally, a double dose of French farce…
France’s President Emmanuel Macron was rocked this month by the revelation that his Security Officer pretended to be a policeman during protests and violently hit members of the public.
The French daily Le Monde exposed how Security Officer Alexandre Benalla (pictured above, left of the centre figure of President Macron) had masqueraded as a police officer and violently assaulted a young man and woman at a Paris demonstration on 1 May to mark labour day, video evidence documenting all.
The Élysée Palace, the French President’s official residence, only finally sacked Benalla when it came to light that Benalla had tried to steal state surveillance footage of the incident. Opposition politicians demanded to know more and it since emerged that France’s interior ministry was aware of the incident on 2 May, but chose only to suspend Benalla for 15 days.
Mr Benalla has been formally charged by the police for violence and prohibited possession of a weapon, while President Macron stated in a gathering of his La République En Marche! party MPs that it was ‘a betrayal’ and he took full responsibility.
Meanwhile, France’s spectacular military parade to mark Bastille Day, the day when in 1789 the people of Paris stormed the gates of Bastille prison effectively starting the French Revolution, saw some unfortunate mishaps occur…
All in all, an eventful month on the other side of the English Channel.