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The Maastricht Diplomat

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Going non-nuclear as Rutte steps down.

First and foremost, welcome back to period 3 of Maastricht University! As we get acclimatized to project work and our elective modules, here are some interesting articles we have found this week. So, get comfortable; don’t worry if you’re not, because it’s about to get uncomfortable.

In local news, lessons from period 4 will be offered online as lockdown in The Netherlands has yet again been extended to the 9th of February. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing since the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals and intensive care units have reduced. The extension should be seen in a positive light that the implementation of a lockdown works, as such the government continues to urge everyone to stay indoors and limit contact with others.

On the topic of governments, the Rutte III Cabinet (Dutch Government) had resigned collectively over a child benefits scandal; where about 10,000 families were falsely accused of defrauding the state, forcing them to repay the money owed and having their benefits stopped. On the bright-side of things, an election is coming up in March.

Indonesia, which although had one of the fastest growing airline industries in the world, has a dire safety record when it comes to air accidents. Just last week, an Indonesian airline, Sriwijaya Air flight SJ 182 had crashed into the sea off Jarkata just 4 minutes after taking off. 62 Indonesians were on board the Boeing 737-524 bound for West Kalimantan. The crash was attributed to the heavy rains and the failure of the pilot to follow directions from the Air Traffic Controller where the plane disappeared from the radar within seconds.

Back to more COVID-19 news, the United Kingdom officially has the most COVID cases per capita than any other country in the world; with new daily coronavirus cases topped at 60,000 this week. This is nearly 4 times the per capita rate of Italy, Spain and France. This estimate boils down to 1-in-50 people in the UK currently having the virus, almost 10-times the new infection rate in April 2020.

A new COVID virus strain distinct from UK and Africa types, has been discovered in Japan. The carriers were 4 Brazilians, ranging from their teens to their 40s. 3 of which showed symptoms such as difficulty breathing, fever and sore throat. The strains transmissibility is still unknown, while the UK and South Africa variant have been determined to spread more easily than the strains detected earlier in the pandemic. In the midst of Japan’s worst coronavirus waves, it is unlikely we would see Tokyo 2021 Olympics this year given the growing fears of another mass outbreak.

As an interim from dire news, the Hibakusha association, an organization formed by survivors of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, has garnered a whopping 13.7 million signatures, drawing support from prefectural governors and mayors from Japan, as well as numerous people from other countries! Their goal: an urge to all nations to sign the United Nations treaty banning nuclear weapons. The petition has been submitted to the UN and will go into effect on the 22nd of January.

WhatsApp has updated their terms of services. While it may not sound like much; it allows Facebook, WhatsApp’s owner, to gain access to personal information such as contact lists, location, financial information and usage data. Have you ever wondered why you receive advertisements on Facebooks catered to your preferences? That’s all based on Facebook’s analytics that specifically has information on your buying and browsing habits. Imagine the extent of data they could extract from your daily conversations. Asians in particular, have switched to other chat applications such as Telegram and Signal, which amassed more than 25 million new users within 3 days. Despite reassurances from WhatsApp that the company does not, and cannot, access private conversations as they are automatically encrypted end-to-end; awareness for data privacy and security is a growing concern as the Asian market begins losing trust in WhatsApp, and Facebook, more specifically. Due to widespread concerns over this move, the controversial change has since been postponed to May.

Finally, on the topic of climate, major cities across Turkey face running out of water in the next few months due to poor rainfall. Turkey is a “water stressed” country, with just 1,346 cubic metres of water per capita per year, and has faced several droughts since the 1980s due to a combination of population growth, industrialisation, urban sprawl and climate change. This might be one of the worse ones with warnings issued to Istanbul that they could run out of water within 45 days. The acute lack of rainfall has led the religious directorate to instruct imams and their congregation to pray for rain last month. The municipality now has urged residents to begin rationing water and minimize its usage whenever possible.

That about sums up this week’s Sunday Summary. Stay safe everyone!

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