Ah, the January project period. A time in Maastricht when the streets are a little emptier than usual with some students not yet returned and some choosing not to venture out in the cold. I don’t know about you, but this weather makes me dream of sunnier days and warmer far-off places. I’m envious of those of you that will be studying abroad in Spain this semester or going on a trip to a sunny isle during carnival.
Maybe it’s also cold in your flats or houses, due to the increased costs of electricity and gas and thus an aversion to turning on your thermostats. Thankfully, the Dutch government is providing assistance in the form of price ceilings, capping the maximum consumption of gas at 1200 m3 at a maximum of 1.45 m3 euros and the consumption of electricity at 2900 kWh at a maximum price of 0.40 euros per m3. I don’t know what any of those numbers mean, but I’m guessing the scheme could be cost-effective for many.
Gas prices are not the only thing that has gone up recently. Inflation is estimated to be 10 percent in the Netherlands, making it one of the countries with the highest inflation rates in Europe as well as the highest inflation in the country since 1975. Maybe you’ve noticed this in Jumbo or Albert Heijn. I for one, was shocked when I saw that extra 25 cents on the hummus label.
The United Kingdom is also suffering a cost of living crisis, with many families struggling to make ends meet. To make matters worse, last year 22 million pounds of fruits and vegetables in the UK went unharvested, due to a lack of migrants working in the agricultural sector. Since Brexit, many migrant workers have left the country and few have replaced them. There is a gap of roughly 330,000 migrant workers that would have ordinarily done jobs that Britons tend to avoid such as jobs in transportation or hospitality. Even though Britain’s economy needs an influx of migrant workers, the kingdom has adopted a “hostile environment” policy for the past decade, which makes migrants unable to access the labor market, housing, healthcare, or other support.
Speaking of the UK, there has been some breaking news coming out of some of its former colonies this week: New Zealand’s new prime minister, Chris Hipkins was sworn in this week, as Jacinda Ardern resigned because she didn’t “have enough in the tank” to continue her duties as prime minister. Hipkins had been the Minister that handled New Zealand's Covid-19 policies. While New Zealand was internationally applauded for closing its borders and keeping the virus out early on in the pandemic, its constituents soon grew tired of the strict policies. Hipkins, part of the progressive Labour Party, will have to fight to be elected in October, as the more conservative National Party is leading in the polls.
Over out West in California, there have been two deadly mass shootings in the headlines, one in Monterey Park and the other in Half Moon Bay. There were also shootings in Yakima, Washington, and Des Moines, Iowa. In total, these shootings left 24 dead and others injured. So far this year, the US has had more mass shootings than days. Ironically, the supreme court has recently expanded the scope of the second amendment, which will make it even harder for states to pass gun control legislation or keep existing restrictions. I guess the conservative justices on the Supreme court don’t seem to realize that when the right to bear arms was established in the constitution, the typical gun was a musket that could only shoot three rounds in a minute, not a modern-day AR-15 that can shoot 45 rounds a minute.
So, another string of shootings has come and gone, and we all know that nothing will be done to stop more from occurring in the near future. But hey! At least we are sticking by our beloved tried and true over 200-year-old document that was written by a bunch of old dead white men.
Also in the US, Protests have sparked around the country following the death of Tyre Nichols, who was beaten and killed by the Memphis police. In a video and police body camera footage that the Memphis police released on Friday, Nicholas was held down, kicked, and punched by the police officers that have since been charged with second-degree murder. The police officers involved in the incident were also black, complicating the discourse around race and police brutality. Many police reform advocates are pointing to the culture of police brutality, force, and power, that contributed to Nichols’s death, saying the incident had less to do about race but more to do with the law enforcement system. Others say that systemic racism still plays a role in black-on-black crimes and instances of police brutality in general.
Overall, this week has been pretty dark and grim, both weather and news-wise. If you need a distraction from the dreary skies and your upcoming exams, it might be nice to stay in tonight, brew a cup of tea, and catch up on the Oscar-nominated movies you didn’t watch this year, since the nominations came out last week. “Everything Everywhere all at once” received 11 nominations, and Michelle Yeoh has received a nomination for Best Actress, the first Asian woman to be nominated for that category!
Or, instead of binging the best movie nominees, you could also study for those aforementioned exams. Your choice! I know what I’ll be doing…
Thanks so much for tuning in to this Sunday’s Summary! Good luck this exam week and we hope you enjoyed the project period. To sunnier days and good news ahead!