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The Maastricht Diplomat

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A weekly roundup of things that didn't suck

Updated: May 16, 2023

In recent years the news has been flooded with negative news relating to politics, the pandemic, and crime. This type of news coverage has been proven to affect viewers' general outlook on life through the “Hardwired effect", commonly called “negativity bias”, a psychological phenomenon that makes people focus on the worst things happening around them. The concept was defined by Paul Rozin and Edward B. Royzman from the University of Pennsylvania. At its core, the effect is based on the fact that humans respond more strongly to negative stimuli and negative stories dwell in our minds a lot longer. This warped sense of reality can shape our whole belief system towards an overall bleak outlook. So regardless of how your week has been, I am sure that we can all agree that some hopeful and optimistic news can do us no harm. This week’s Sunday summary will summarise a couple of good things that happened this week.

First and foremost, let me give you a little dog story that might brighten your day. This week, a Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen called Buddy Holly won best show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show this Tuesday. Why is this special you might ask? The dog, whose full name is CH Soletrader Buddy Holly has attempted his luck at Westminster three times so far. His owner, Janice Hayes has dreamed of winning at Westminster since she was nine years old. In addition, Buddy is the first dog of his breed to win in a show at a prestigious competition. A couple of years ago the competition was dominated by terriers, but in recent years the variety of winning dog breeds has expanded. We can see Buddy’s win not only as a childhood dream come true but also as a step towards breed diversity at Westminster.

On a more serious note, a civil court found Donald Trump liable for the sexual abuse and defamation against E. Jean Carrol. Whilst this jury did not find Trump guilty of rape, this verdict is the first time that a court has proven Trump guilty of sexual misconduct after years of credible allegations have been brought up against the former president of America. E Jean Carroll, a writer and advice columnist went public with her accusations as a reaction to the #MeToo movement. The journalist, whilst previously discouraged from speaking out against Trump, was encouraged by the movement to speak up against her abuser. Despite the fact that the statute of limitations had expired, Carroll was able to take her case to a civil court after the Adult Survivors Act allowed victims to file a lawsuit over older cases. Whilst Trump faces only a financial sanction of $5m, the brave and unwavering action of E. Jean Carroll was able to validate Trump's predatory actions. This verdict is a big win for victims of abuse and harassment.

This week, the US Food and Drug Administration (hereafter FDA) has eased their restrictions excluding men that have sex with men from donating blood. This ban has been in place since the 1980s but has repeatedly been criticized as the restriction is not based on evidence. The reulation was created out of fear during the AIDS crisis when the FDA banned donations from social groups that showed higher rates of HIV. Since then, the understanding of epidemiology, as well as the availability of safe and reliable blood screenings, has drastically increased. In 1885 the restriction was created as a lifetime ban and in 2015 the constraint was already lifted to only ban male donors that had intercourse with another man within the past year. Globally, still many countries continue the lifelong bans on blood donation, whilst at least 17 have no restrictions. An ever-increasing number of countries are moving towards risk behaviour-based screening. Meaning, all individuals that have recently engaged in a risky manner that increase their risk of HIV or other pathogens get restricted, regardless of sexual orientation. Such behaviors include getting a tattoo, drug use, and unprotected sex. Whilst the USA still does not use this screening method, the current change in restrictions is a step in the right direction that allows more people to donate blood.

And coming back to Europe, this Wednesday the European Investment Fund (hereafter EIF) and UniCredit, a pan-European commercial bank, signed an agreement “InvestEU” that finances around one billion euros of investments in seven European countries. This will enable UniCredit to provide loans to businesses, which will then in return mobilise boost investments by a small and medium-sized business in Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. In addition, these loans will also provide useful funding for housing associations and renters to invest in renewable energy and improve the overall energy efficiency in residential buildings. This long-term funding program leverages private and public funds in hopes of creating new jobs in Eastern Europe.

Overall, we should never forget that sensational headlines get more attention from viewers and disaster headlines are oftentimes more lucrative than positive news. So in this world where bad news dominate the headlines, it is important to also focus on the good amidst the chaos. This week's events were not able to change the world, but surely a step in the right direction.

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