As we wrap up another hectic week in the news cycle, it’s time for us to give you the breakdown of media stories you might’ve missed.
There was some history-making in countries across the world, with Australia becoming the first nation to legalise the use of MDMA for mental health treatment and Nepal legalising gay marriage as the first South Asian country to do so. Aussies are also getting temporary relief from inflation as the RBA announced holding off on another interest rate increase for July. There’s a new Twitter rival on the scene called Threads, and it’s launched just as Elon Musk made a super controversial move for his bird-related app. Over in the entertainment biz, Barbie has been banned in Vietnam for a small detail on a map shown in the trailer, and the tennis world is feeling mixed emotions about Nick Kyrgios pulling out of Wimbledon a day before his match due to a wrist injury. As always, we’re leaving the crazy stuff for last with a tale about how an itsy bitsy microscopic bag sold for over $60000 USD.
1. Australia becomes the first country to legalise psychedelic drugs for mental health treatment
In a controversial move, Australia has become the first nation to legalise the therapeutic use of psychedelics in the treatment of certain mental health conditions. Authorised psychiatrists are now able to prescribe psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms) for depression and MDMA for post-traumatic stress disorder. Psychiatrists will need to provide a clinical justification for why these substances are appropriate for treatment, and patients will only be able to access them in supervised clinical settings.
Whilst these substances aren’t ‘cures,’ they have been suggested to create breakthroughs in treatment. MDMA can assist psychotherapy by reducing anxiety when recalling traumatic experiences, helping to increase insight and memory without re-traumatising the patient. With depression, brain activity can become fixed and rigid, locking patients into negative thinking patterns. Psilocybin has been shown to make the brain more flexible, acting almost as a “reset” to disrupt this cycle and create a window of opportunity for therapy.
The legislation has, however, been met with resistance. A commentary has been published in the Australian New Zealand of Psychiatry in which neuropsychologists and neuroscientists emphasise that these treatments are still experimental and don’t have sufficient levels of evidence for broad-scale implementation to be justified. Concerns include the long-term safety of the drugs for patients, what care needs to come with the dosing, and how to tell which patients may suffer detrimental consequences. Both the Australian Medical Association and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists share these concerns, warning of the unknown risks that may not be justified against potentially limited benefits.
2. Inflation rates on hold…for now
The RBA has hiked interest rates 12 times since May last year, with the exception of April, and now Australians have been granted another relief with the announcement that the rates will pause for July. The news came on Tuesday afternoon following the RBA’s monthly meeting.
RBA governor Philip Lowe says the pause takes place to further assess the economy, but the board doesn’t rule out future interest rate rises. The statement claims that “higher interest rates are working to establish a more sustainable balance between supply and demand in the economy and will continue to do so,” going on to warn that “inflation is still too high and will remain for some time yet.” So while households can definitely appreciate the reprieve, we’re not out of the woods yet.
The decision arrives after inflation saw a decrease to 5.6% in May down from 6.8% in April – a significant fall although still well above the Reserve Bank of Australia’s target of 2-3%.
3. Nepal is the first South Asian country to legalise gay marriage
A huge win has happened in Nepal, which has become the first South Asian country register same sex marriages. It’s a landmark verdict that’s paved the way for marriage equality. Currently, Nepal’s civil code recognises marriage as being between a man and a woman, however Justice Til Pradad Shrestha made the call to begin temporarily registering same-sex marriages while legislation is prepared to revise the law.
This news is a long time coming after a 2007 court ruling to form a government committee dedicated to preparing a law legalising same-sex marriage. Successive government’s failure to bring change has caused significant delays, however the court and LGBTQIA+ activists have said enough is enough. The decision comes after a case in May where the Supreme Court ruled in favour of recognising the union of a same-sex couple who were married in Germany.
The country is flushed with celebration with about 200 same-sex couples expected to register their marriages. It’s a big step towards equality for the LGBTQIA+ community, but it remains to be seen when the Supreme Court will reach its final verdict on the matter.
4. Elon Musk stirs up Twitter trouble before the launch of Meta’s “Threads”
It wouldn’t be Twitter without Elon Musk stirring the pot, but his latest move is one for the books. It was a day of chaos when Twitter set a policy that required web users to log in to view tweets, when it’s always been free game to browse the platform, and then proceeded to announce limits to how many tweets users could view a day. The limits are supposedly meant to deter data scraping on the platform as part of Musk’s crusade against AI companies using Twitter’s data to train their models. Paid users have a higher limit of 10,000 tweets whereas unverified accounts see 1000 and new unverified accounts can only access 500. The billionaire has said that this will be a “temporary measure,” but it was still met with an outcry from users.
The timing couldn’t be worse for the increasingly unpopular Elon Musk, with Meta’s new app “Threads” launching yesterday as Twitter’s leading competitor.
Made by Meta’s Instagram team and described by Forbes as Facebook’s “Twitter Killer,” Threads is a text-based conversation app that’s a near-clone to Twitter. It allows short posts or updates up to 500 characters, as well as links, photos and videos up to 5 minutes long. You can login with your Instagram credentials and transfer your username, bio, followers and verification status. Your feed features accounts you follow on Instagram or Threads, plus some other recommended content.
The app’s arrival was a resounding success, with 2 million users downloading the app within the first two hours of it hitting the app store. Will this be the beginning of the end for social media giant Twitter? Or can the two co-exist, even with the unpredictable Musk at the helm?
5. Vietnam bans new Barbie movie ahead of release
Greta Gerwig’s upcoming star-studded “Barbie” movie is arguably the most anticipated release of the year, but it’s managed to stumble into some tricky political waters that have led to it being banned in Vietnam.
You might have missed it, what with all the pink and spray tans, but there’s a world map that appears in the movie’s trailer right when Margot Robbie’s Barbie meets Kate McKinnon’s Barbie in a big mansion. Between several doodles scribbled across the map, you can barely spot the culprit “nine-dash line.” This marker is on Chinese maps to illustrate its claims to the world’s most contested waters off the South China Sea. The claim has been rejected by the United Nations and many affected countries, including Vietnam and the Philippines.
The ban has caused cinemas to remove the film from lists of upcoming movies, and means that Barbie joins Dreamworks animation Abominable (2019) and Mark Wahlberg’s Uncharted (2022) which were also banned for similar reasons.
There’s no word from the Barbie team yet, but it’s a hard one for them to get out of. By changing the map, they could face backlash from Chinese consumers which generate 2 billion dollars a month in the box office.
This might be a situation even our beloved blonde Barbie can’t fix.
6. Nick Kyrgios withdraws from Wimbledon
In sports news, Aussie tennis star Nick Kyrgios has made a last-minute withdrawal from Wimbleton thanks to a torn wrist ligament. The sportsman, who missed the entire start of the season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in January, expressed his disappointment at having to withdraw on Instagram.
“I tried my hardest to be ready after my surgery and to be able to step on the Wimbledon courts again,” he wrote.
The decision to withdraw a day before his first-round match has been hit with criticism, with popular commentator Chris Goldsmith telling Kyrgios “don’t come back to,” to the Wimbleton competition. Kyrgios is no stranger to controversy, proudly wearing the “bad boy” badge since the start of his career, and a fair amount of the backlash refers to a trend of questionable behaviour. But there’s still plenty of voices supporting the elite athlete to prioritise his health regardless of timing.
7. Louis Vuitton branded bag sells for USD $63,750… but you need a microscope to see it
Now for a story that’s sure to make you squint.
A microscopic handbag “smaller than a grain of salt” and featuring Louis Vuitton branding has been sold for a whopping USD $63,750 at Pharrell Williams’ online auction house Joopiter. The bag is neon green and, more importantly, less than 0.03 inches wide. It was made with a 3D printer using 2-photon polymerisation printing methods by New York-based art collective MSCHF.
“As a once-functional object like a handbag becomes smaller and smaller its object status becomes steadily more abstracted until it is purely a brand signifier,” the MSCHF explained in post on the auction site where the bag was sold. “Previous small leather handbags have still required a hand to carry them – they become dysfunctional, inconveniences to their ‘wearer’. Microscopic Handbag takes this to its full logical conclusion.”
Yeah, we don’t get it either.
And if you’re wondering about how they got the go-ahead from Louis Vutton, they didn’t. MSCHF’s chief creative officer, Kevin Wiesner, told the New York Times earlier this month that, “we are big in the ‘ask forgiveness, not permission’ school.”
At least the new bag’s owner gets a microscope with a digital display included in the purchase to look at their teeny, tiny purchase.