Weekly Roundup: August 22, 2016

Kuwait ∙ Cameroon ∙ Ukraine ∙ North Korea∙ Guinea ∙ Swaziland ∙ Slovenia ∙ Djibouti ∙ Burkina Faso ∙ Gabon

Once weekly I share the top stories from ten countries based on a simple random sample from the U.S. Department of State’s list of countries, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. If you like what you read, please subscribe to receive these Roundups weekly in your mailbox: http://eepurl.com/b-SrOb.


Kuwaitis are taking their rage to social media over the recent sale of a pigeon — yes a pigeon — for the equivalent of $76,000 USD. The pigeon, a roller sub-species known as a Gallabi, is apparently well known for being among the most expensive aerial acrobatic performers. The anger, then, comes not from exotic or performing animal trade, but rather from it having been a horrible deal. “Such a figure would make sense only if the pigeon had gold wings,” said one Kuwaiti. Perhaps had the owner taken a class at Trump University, he would be able to make the best deals instead of having his own brain compared in size to that of the bird he just bought.


Some music industry news out of Cameroon this week: American guitar manufacturer Bob Taylor became interested in ebony sourcing several years ago, and when Cameroon became the last country on Earth to legally permit ebony logging, Taylor co-purchased a logging company to ensure its sustainability. While his sustainable wood sourcing and manufacturing is not new, the industry’s recent efforts in the realm of sustainable forestry is. One-thousand ebony trees are now planted annually, and ebony harvesting efficiency has simultaneously increased ten-fold.


Europe’s breadbasket is in dire need of a total rail renovation, says CEO of Ukraine’s rail network monopoly Ukrzaliznytsya, Wojciech Balczun. “The locomotives and passenger carriages are 80 percent worn-out.” The world’s 14th most extensive rail network will draw up new policies and investment plans, though Balczun admitted that battling corruption within his company will be a major obstacle. “If we can limit the extent of this corruption, and I don’t see what else we can do, Ukrzaliznytsia will be one of the best and richest companies in Ukraine.”

North Korea

I love news from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK); I really, really do. North Korean news stories are almost always accompanied by photos and videos of the 32-year-old supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, looking like he just won a lifetime pass to Disney World. His recent praising of a “successful” test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile launch is no different. Kim considers the missile, which, to its credit, did fly about 300 miles before failure, “the greatest success and victory” according to state-run media [Read: propaganda machine] KCNA.


The Guinean government is expected to announce the results of what amounts to a massive job fair medical screening that will fill 2,000 new health industry jobs. This news will come only days after the government announced the filing of 4,000 needed teaching positions in the Ebola-ravaged country. Though these are great numbers indeed, the acceptance rate for either position was low; 55,000 applied to teach, and 40,000 to work in healthcare. These additions to both teams will greatly help to mitigate the skilled labor deficit plagueing much of the country’s infrastructure in both industries.


The unmarried and childless women of Swaziland (and Swazis abroad) are currently participating in the eight-day-long Umhlanga ceremony. During this “purifying” event, the BoMake (young women) meet at the Queen Mother’s Royal Village, and, led by the young princesses of the Royal Family, cut and carry bundles of tall reeds to repair any structural damages in the reed walls. This symbolizes the woman’s role as protector of the nation. For an academic anecdote, read this article.


Shooting sprees are commonplace in the United States, but far less so in most other wealthy countries. That’s why news of an otherwise minor shooting in the Adriatic coastal town of Izola was such a big deal. The shooter was a cancer patient who had been planning his funeral with his friends for a while. He blamed his doctor for delaying his treatments, and, while at the hospital on Monday, shot his doctor — a few times, and continued on a haphazard and poorly-planned shooting spree through the hospital and into the town. The doctor, a police officer, and the soon-to-be-dead-anyway shooter died. The whole article is worth the read.


Our Djibouti news comes from Beijing as much as Djibouti, as China prepares to build its first overseas military base in the Horn-of-Africa country that seems to really enjoy this business (Djibouti already has bases from France, Italy, Japan, and the United States.). This shouldn’t surprise anyone who has been paying attention to China’s desire for more military presence globally. The 90-acre coastal site should be completed sometime next year.

Burkina Faso

Though I have yet to see evidence of this in my own neighborhood grocery store, it would appear the Burkinabé donkey population has felt the weight of a “massive surge in sales of meat and skins to Asia,” mostly in China. To counter this and keep maintain a sustainable population of donkeys, the country has straight-up banned the export of donkey (and horse and camel) meat. C’est la vie.


The upcoming presidential election (August 27) has been dominating Gabonese news for weeks even before the official campaign period began on August 13. [Can we all just take a moment and appreciate the fact that other countries have explicit campaign periods as short as two weeks? Ugh, an American dream right there.] Current president Ali Bongo Ondimba, who has been in office since 2009 for one seven-year term, is seeking reelection, and, after whittling down a field of 14, Jean Ping has emerged as the strongest and most unified opposition candidate. There is one round of voting, and the winner is whomever has the most votes — no majority necessary.

A single golf clap? Or a long standing ovation?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.