There’s nothing quite as unpredictable as a week in the news cycle, and just when you think you’ve seen it all, something surprising always pops up from around the corner. Once you fall behind, everything just gets far more confusing (what do you mean Twitter is now called ‘X?’)
That’s why we’re catching you up on what’s happened around the world this week.
Thursday morning brought news of the passing of renowned singer-songwriter Sinead O’Connor, an Irish music icon and fierce advocate. As hinted earlier, Elon Musk has given Twitter a controversial rebrand, and a missing Chinese Foreign Minister has been sacked without explanation. “Barbenheimer” has broken records in its debut weekend, marking the post-pandemic movie revival, and a mass stranding of whales in Western Australia could lead researchers to understanding this tragic phenomenon. As for our WTF story, let’s just say it’s pretty egg-stravagant.
Sinead O’Connor passes away
Irish singer and activist Sinead O’Connor, popular for her 1990 cover of “Nothing Compares 2 U”, has died at age 56.
Her family released a brief statement on Wednesday evening, saying “It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved Sinead. Her family and friends are devastated and have requested privacy at this very difficult time.”
It comes only 18 months after her 17-year-old son died by suicide.
Along with a groundbreaking music career and raw voice of “cracked stone,” as said by musician Alison Moyet, Sinead O’Connor is remembered for her profound social and cultural impact. Refusing for her career to be bound to the desired sexualised femininity, she first shaved her head at age 20. The shorn, shadowed skull became an emblem of 90s rebellion, and a punchy expression of the fierceness she emanated. A perpetual pot stirrer, in 1992 she famously ripped up a photo of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live in protest against child sexual abuse in the Catholic church. NBC was consequently hit with 4,400 complaint calls.
O’Connor’s former manager, Fachtna Ó Ceallaigh, has said, “her willingness to speak what she believed to be the truth forged a new path for women in the music industry to be as close to their true selves as they could possibly be.”
More recently, Sinead O’Connor has openly expressed wrestling with her mental health, particularly following the passing of her son Shane who she described as “the love of my life, the lamp of my soul.”
Twitter gets rebranded to ‘X’
The latest, and probably craziest, move by Musk on the bird-based app is a total rebrand transforming Twitter to a new name – “X.” It’s the next step in Elon Musk’s master plan of creating a super-app akin to China’s WeChat.
Musk possesses a curious fascination with the letter X after dubbing his first startup X.com, which eventually became Paypal, and buying the domain name back 6 years ago. Just before snagging Twitter, Musk had said buying the company would speed up his aspiration of creating “an everything app” called “X.” He also recently launched his artificial intelligence start-up – xAI. And let’s not forget that his first child is named X Æ A-12 but referred to by Musk as, you guessed it, “X”.
That’s a lot of exes.
Outside of his obsession, there’s not much sense to this curveball. Twitter’s brand name has become essential to internet-speak. It’s reached the rare tier of becoming so ingrained in everyday conversation that we use it as a verb (to “tweet” or “retweet.”)
The rebrand is predicted by analysts to have wiped out anywhere from $US 4 billion and $US 20 billion in value.
And so, the blue bird bids farewell as the new black and white X logo tries hard to impress it’s resistant users.
Mass stranding of whales in Western Australia end in tragedy
Tuesday afternoon turned cold and bleak at Western Australia’s Cheynes Beach after around 100 whales became stranded.
The pod had been spotted swimming in shallow waters by morning, and by 4pm they had beached themselves along the shoreline. Over 50 of the whales died overnight, and by Wednesday there was a record turnout of rescuers and volunteers trying to refloat the remaining animals.
Painstaking efforts were made to herd the whales back into deeper water, but they kept forming a huddle and drifting back to shore. Volunteers poured buckets of water over them to keep them wet, but could only do so much. The cold weather was cruel and sharks lurk in the shallow waters. Ambulance workers say they had to treat three volunteers for hypothermia.
By late Wednesday afternoon, crowds were parted as veterinarians prepared to euthanise the remaining 40 creatures.
It’s not known why whales beach themselves, but scientists suspect it’s connected to their tight-knit social groups. If one whale becomes sick and swims to shallow water, the others may follow as though they’re “piloted” (hence why they’re called pilot whales). They also regularly rely on sound to communicate, and human-made noises in the water disrupt these systems.
Five years ago, over 130 pilot whales passed in a mass stranding in Hamelin Bay south of Perth. The year 1996 saw the largest beaching in WA when 320 whales beached themselves in Dunsborough.
Marine experts are hoping that the footage from this week’s mass stranding could be pivotal to fleshing out a clearer understanding of the phenomenon.
Movie buzz is back after “Barbenheimer” smashes the box office
After three years of brutal lockdown, it felt like the star-studded movies with tightly packed cinemas were a faraway, foggy dream. But it seems like cinema hype has made its return with the highly anticipated “Barbenheimer” weekend triumphing at the global box office.
Greta Gerwig’s fantastically pink and unexpectedly tender take on gender politics had the biggest opening in Australian cinemas this year. It sold out previews with speed and hit a whopping $501 million worldwide. It also happened to be the biggest opening weekend for a solo female director. Ever.
But even more surprisingly, Christopher Nolan’s dimly-lit and slightly explicit three-hour, atomic bomb biopic managed to rake in $260 million worldwide. It’s a landmark debut for Nolan, with ticket sales 56% higher than the director’s highly acclaimed movie Dunkirk.
Audiences were seen swapping from their bright and sparkly Barbie gear to somber black t-shirts for back-to-back viewing, with one girl on TikTok even making a transforming dress. Despite being starkly opposite in tone, the two films became a double feature for audiences, being dubbed “Barbenheimer.” In an industry so prone to pitting premiering movies against each other, the pair seemed to propel each other to a record-breaking debut. The extensive (and totally glamorous) Barbie marketing no doubt ushered the avid buzz, with a meme-ridden press tour that dominated social media.
I could probably go on about some grander moral of the story, but at the end of the day it’s just really cool to see people get excited about the movies again.
Indigenous Football Australia criticises FIFA for lack of funding for Indigenous program
FIFA has come under fire during the Women’s World Cup after an open letter was released by the council of Indigenous Football Australia that accuses the association of “empty symbolism” and a lack of funding towards Indigenous programs in their “Legacy ‘23” plan.
The letter argues that despite the leveraging of Indigenous symbolism, culture, and ceremony in the soccer tournament, “not a single dollar from the legacy program has been committed to organisations that are Indigenous-led, managed and have long carried the burden for First Nations in the Australian game.”
It’s been signed by the likes of AFL legend Adam Goodes, ABC journalists Stan Grant and Tracey Holmes, and the Australian Professional Leagues chief Danny Townsend.
Legacy ‘23 is a strategic plan dedicated to the growth of women’s football in Australia so as to secure it as the “first community sport to reach gender parity in participation.” It’s achieved investment from Federal and State Governments, but continues to search for more support. First Nations football groups are accusing the initiative of lacking focus towards Indigenous programs.
Football Australia and FIFA have rejected this claim, making a point of highlighting a list of programmes and initiatives targeting the Indigenous community, such as the Naidoc Cup in NSW which brought together 120 First Nations players, coaches and referees. FIFA chief women’s football officer Sarai Bareman has also promised that more specific investment is on its way.
Earlier this month, FIFA was commended for the flying of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flags at Australian match venues and the Maori flag in New Zealand. A First Nations and Maori advisory panel has also been established for the event. But Indigenous Football Australia is calling for an enduring commitment with intentional resources.
China’s missing foreign minister gets sacked
The Chinese Communist Party has cryptically removed its missing foreign minister without an explanation, only a year since he’s been appointed. The announcement was brutally brief, made up of a few sentences on the state news agency Xinhua.
About a month ago, the (now former) foreign minister Qin Gang vanished, and whilst the government claimed it was for health reasons, there are suspicions of something politically suspect. Social media was rife with rumours of an affair with a female television presenter who also “disappeared” despite being previously active on social media. This relationship wouldn’t have been illegal, but could be seen as a breach of Party discipline. .
An hour after announcing the dismissal, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs erased everything about him, from his profile to his speeches. Some experts say this suggests he had a fall from grace, and that the move is a political purge.
The country has a history of disappearing elites who later resurface seemingly subdued. It’s part of the fabric of a murky and mysterious power structure that bolts its secrets safe inside.
Qing Gang has yet to reappear.
Ecuador declares prison emergency amid fatal attacks and guards held hostage
The most dangerous prison in Ecuador, infamous for deadly violence and gang battles, has caused a 60-day state of emergency to be declared throughout the country. Clashes have been happening between organised criminal gangs in the prison since Saturday, with rampant gunfire and explosions leading to a death toll of 31 inmates..
Nearly 100 guards are being held hostage at the Guayas 1 prison, and there are reports that around 120 prison officers have been freed after being captured in six jails across the country.
Military intervention is currently underway, with thousands of soldiers storming the prison in an attempt to retake control.
Concern from officials and human rights groups has been raised over the conditions in Ecuador’s prisons for some time now, and some of the current riots are rumoured to protest the sanitary conditions and food in the prisons. The Quayas 1 prison, home of the worst riots, exceeded its capacity by 3,000 inmates earlier this year.
Whilst the government explains the violence as criminal groups fighting for control of and drug trafficking routes, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights argues that it’s fuelled by overpopulation and reduced budgets for rehabilitation. Census data, for instance, has shown that one-sixth of Ecuador’s prison inmates haven’t even been sentenced.
A peace committee organised by President Gulleirmo Lasso last year called Ecuador’s prisons, “warehouses of human beings and torture centers.”
Since 2021, riots in the country’s prisons have claimed at least 420 lives.
Man dubbed the “Easter Bunny” steals 200,000 Cadbury Eggs
It’s time for our WTF story of the week, where we find you the wackiest, out of left field event in the news cycle (because the world is a strange, strange place).
And this one’s dedicated to all you sweet tooths out there.
A British man has been sentenced to 18 months in prison after he stole 200,000, almost $60,000 worth, Cadbury Creme Eggs from an industrial complex in central England. They’re the ones filled with a “yolk” of yellow and white fondant, which are totally inferior to the hollow chocolate eggs, if you ask me. But somehow, Britain sells about 220 million of them every year.
The man allegedly used a grinder to break through the gate and used a stolen truck with false plates to tow away a trailer filled with the goodies. So definitely not an impulse decision.
But the man was caught not too long afterwards (it wasn’t the most subtle of crimes) and quickly confessed to officers.
The local police tweeted at the time that they “helped save Easter” after recovering all the eggs from a man “presumably purporting to be the easter bunny.”
And, most importantly, all the eggs were in perfect condition.