Keeping up with the news is hard, so hard that most of us miss all but the biggest stories. In our new feature, we save you the hassle by rounding up the most mind-blowing events each month. Events that shocked us all and shook the established order to its core. Events that somehow changed the world. Events like . . .
10Britain Voted To Commit Economic Suicide, Immediately Regretted It
The day June 23, 2016, will go down as the date the British took one look at their reputation for stability and rational thinking and decided: “Forget it.” In a nationwide referendum, the country voted by 51.9 percent to 48.1 percent to leave the EU, tearing up 40 years of political consensus and redefining Europe.
The shockwaves of the vote caused the pound to hit a 31-year low against the dollar. The FTSE 100 (the British version of the Dow Jones) plunged, before stabilizing, plunging some more, and then shooting upward. Over $3 trillion was wiped off global markets in the biggest two day-rout in history. And that was just the economic impact.
Politically, the UK imploded. Prime Minister David Cameron resigned, only a year after enjoying one of the biggest surprise wins in British electoral history. Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of Scotland, called for a new independence referendum, her nation having overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU. The leader of Plaid Cymru in Wales called for an independence referendum, despite Wales voting to leave. Sinn Fein called for a referendum on reuniting Ireland and Northern Ireland, and Spain gleefully floated the prospect of taking back Gibraltar (something they were unable to do as long as both Spain and the UK were EU nations).
Unsurprisingly, many Brits are now having second thoughts about their decision. Polling by firm Opinium has found as many as 1.2 million leavers would now vote to remain. This leaves the country split almost exactly 50/50 on whether to follow through with their referendum or not.
9The British Parliament Turned Into A House Of Cards Episode
After David Cameron stepped down, the UK political scene turned into the craziest-ever episode of House of Cards.
The Conservative Party showed how ruthless they were by doing what the Republicans secretly want to do and toppling their own frontrunner. Leave campaigner Boris Johnson was considered the presumptive PM-in-waiting until his deputy, Michael Gove, knifed him in the back. Since Gove had already knifed his old friend Cameron in the back by campaigning with Boris in the referendum, people began comparing him to House of Cards’ Frank Underwood. Until, that is, The Daily Mail, where Gove’s wife works, knifed HIM in the back, leaving a pile of corpses on the British right.
Good news for the country’s Democrats equivalent, the Labour Party, right? Guess again. The party used the referendum to try and launch a coup against its own hardline socialist leader, Jeremy Corbyn, with 20-odd ministers resigning. But Corbyn refused to go. Instead, his office organized mass demonstrations outside parliament, where thousands of young people chanted “Jez we can” and made threats against the resigned MPs. At time of writing, Corbyn is still there but with the support of fewer than 40 of his 229 MPs.
Britain is now without a prime minister, without a functioning ruling party, without an opposition, and with three parts threatening to secede. Expect this to drag on for a long, long time.
8Colombia Ended One Of The World’s Longest Wars
Everyone heard about Brexit, but know what should have been front page news on June 24? The Colombia peace deal. On June 23, Marxist rebel group FARC signed an accord with the Colombian government, ending over 51 years of continuous warfare.
The Colombian civil war is something we’ve covered before on Listverse. A five-decade insurgency, it claimed the lives of over 250,000 Colombians and turned around eight million people into refugees—the highest number of anywhere on Earth outside the maelstrom that is Syria and Iraq.
A lot of this is down to FARC being one of the best-funded, most terrifying terror groups on Earth. At their height in 2000, they controlled an area of Colombia the size of Germany. In the 1990s, they were kidnapping 3,000 people a year. They assassinated Colombian leaders, indiscriminately bombed the civilian population, recruited child soldiers . . . and have now laid down their arms for good. To call this a historic achievement would be like calling Muhammed Ali a “good” boxer. For Colombia, this is an epoch-defining event.
Yet many Colombians are unhappy. The peace deal is considered by some to be too lenient on FARC, whose members will serve light sentences for atrocities committed. There’s also the fact that FARC’s smaller rebel cousins ELN are still active, meaning the war is still technically ongoing. But however you slice it, getting one of the largest terror groups in the world to voluntarily disarm can only be a good thing.
7Austria Decided To Redo Their Most Divisive Election Ever
Have you ever wanted to press a gigantic reset button and redo an entire month of your life? That’s exactly what Austria decided to do, at least in the political sense. In May, a presidential showdown between far-right Norbert Hofer and green leftist Alexander Van der Bellen resulted in Van der Bellen winning a knife-edge victory of 50.3 percent to 49.7 percent.
The election was one of the most divisive in living memory. Hofer posed with Nazi-era symbols and attacked refugees. Van der Bellen begged people who didn’t like him to vote for him just to keep the far-right out. It exposed deep divisions in Austria among the rural and urban populations and stoked fierce resentment. Now, an Austrian court has ordered them to do it all over again.
Voting irregularities showed up in several constituencies. Although there is no evidence of foul play, the winning margin was so narrow that any mistakes could affect the outcome. Rather than order a recount, a court has forced Austria to go through the whole sorry charade all over again. That means another long, bitter campaign that will likely make life hell for ordinary Austrians and may end in an EU country electing its first neo-Nazi leader.
6Nature Got Even Scarier
Discovering a whole new species should make for an exciting time. In the case of Scolopendra cataracta, discovered in June, excitement quickly gave way to mind-numbing terror. See, S. Cataracta is a gigantic, highly venomous centipede with a gruesome difference. Unlike every other centipede we’ve ever discovered, this one can swim.
From a scientific point of view, the discovery of an aquatic centipede is a biological game-changer. All Scolopendra have previously been found in dry places, making this one a unique insight into how different species develop. From a dreamer’s point of view, though, it’s the stuff of screaming nightmares.
Found in Laos and Thailand, Scolopendra cataracta (named for the Latin for “waterfall,” where it’s often found) can grow to 20 centimeters (7.9 in). Its venom is so nasty that a single bite to the finger can make your whole arm feel like it’s on fire for 2–3 days. And its favorite habitat is exactly the sort of beautiful, secluded streams and sheltered pools that backpackers and honeymooners love to take drunken midnight dips in. In short, it’s no longer just Australia that’s home to the creatures from your nightmares.
5We Nearly Had Two Major Assassinations
On 30 July 1990, British politician Ian Gow got in his car, started the engine, and was engulfed in a gigantic fireball. A victim of the IRA, he was the last sitting British MP to be assassinated . . . until June 2016. Over 25 years after Gow’s death, Labour MP Jo Cox was shot and stabbed to death by an English nationalist who shouted “Britain first!” as he butchered her.
The senseless killing was attributed to the febrile atmosphere surrounding the EU referendum (Cox was a pro-EU campaigner; in court, her killer gave his name as “death to traitors, freedom for Britain”). It was the first time a female MP had been assassinated in the UK and marked the return of political killings to a country that thought they had vanished with the Irish Troubles. The attack was so despicable that global politicians from Hillary Clinton to Mexican President Felipe Calderon paid tribute to Cox, turning her death into a major news event.
Yet Cox’s killing was very nearly overshadowed by another political assassination, once again involving a British killer. Only a couple of days later, a 19-year-old Englishman at a Trump rally in Vegas tried to grab an officer’s gun and shoot the Republican candidate. He was arrested without firing a shot. Yet it’s interesting to think that, had things gone slightly the other way, June 2016 would have seen two major political killings carried out by English assassins.
4One Of The Arab World’s Last Jewish Communities Began To Fade
Only a few decades ago, the Arab world was home to some of the biggest and most vibrant Jewish communities on Earth. Then came decades of economic insecurity, dictatorship, and sectarian strife. Today, places like Iraq are thought to have as few as five Jewish citizens, while only Tunisia and Morocco have Jewish populations above 100. At least, for now. Last month saw Radio Free Europe visit Tunisia’s ancient Jewish community on the island of Djerba. What they found was a community on its last legs.
Although the Tunisian government protects its Jews, Islamic terror attacks since the 2011 revolution have devastated the tourist-orientated economy. As a result, more and more of Djerba’s Jews are packing up and heading to Israel. Those who are left now number fewer than 1,500 and seem to be fading fast. From a vibrant community as recently as 2010, Djerba’s Jews are now vanishing, taking with them centuries of history.
If the community does ultimately fade away, it will be a sad day. Morocco’s Jewish population of 2,000 is mostly elderly and will likely soon disappear. At that point, the last two outposts of Islamic-Jewish cooperation in the Arab world will vanish forever.
3ISIS Got Their Butts Kicked
On June 12, an ISIS-inspired gunman entered Pulse nightclub in Orlando and mowed down 49 innocent people. It was America’s worst modern mass shooting. About two weeks later, ISIS bombers attacked Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, killing 41 and injuring over 230. This was followed immediately by staggering attacks in Dhaka and Baghdad. To anyone glancing at the news, it must have seemed like the jihadist group were on a terrible roll. But these attacks disguised a much more fundamental truth: ISIS spent June 2016 suffering sound defeats.
On June 26, the ISIS city of Fallujah fell to Iraqi security forces. Around the same time, Kurdish troops advanced on the city of Manbij, in an operation still ongoing. If Manbij falls, it will leave the Caliphate holding only four of the 10 cities they originally took. While that’s still four too many, it shows the tide may have finally turned against the world’s worst terror threat. Following the Fallujah operation, ISIS are almost certainly finished in Iraq. Syria may be trickier, but it’s starting to look like the Caliphate is doomed to collapse.
The downside is that ISIS responds to territorial losses by staging massive attacks. The Istanbul Airport attack was a show of strength, just as the Paris Attacks in November 2015 were a response to the group losing the key city of Sinjar. We may see more horrifying attacks on our soil in the near future, but it’s important we recognize them for what they are: the last gasps of a diseased ideology that’s thankfully dying.
2US Scientists Played God (with Pigs)
It sounds like the plot to a 1950s B-movie. A group of scientists defy conventions to begin growing human organs inside pigs, with terrifying consequences. The only difference is this is happening in real life, and the consequences will hopefully be far from terrifying. In fact, they may one day save hundreds of thousands of lives.
Right now, the world is going through a global organ shortage. That means you could get a treatable disease but still have to die because there’s no spare to replace your affected organ. On June 6, scientists at University of California, Davis, spoke with the BBC about their plan to treat this by having pigs grow human organs inside them. Their research will mark the first time a pig-human chimera has been allowed to fully develop.
Similar experiments have been done in the past, but none so far have let the fetus develop. The hopes are that the team will succeed in creating healthy pigs that contain a single human organ each, all available for transplant. While it could save lives, their work remains super controversial, not least because some are worried the chimeras may become somehow human in spirit or soul. The scientists say there’s very little chance of this happening.
1Coral Die-Out Reached Apocalyptic Proportions
For the last three years, something terrible has been happening beneath our oceans. Vast tracts of coral covering thousands of kilometers have been bleaching—turning bone white, a sure sign of acute stress on the environment. Up to 93 percent of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has so far been affected. June 20 marked the point where this current bout became officially the worst bleaching event on record.
Coral can survive bleaching but dies when not enough time passes between bleaching events. This is now the longest bleaching event on record, lasting over three years and affecting everywhere from Australia, to Micronesia, to Hawaii, to the Maldives. As a direct result, over one-quarter of the Great Barrier Reef has died, and many more corals are in critical danger. According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, things will only get worse until the end of 2016.
In practice, this means we’re stumbling toward a coral apocalypse. On June 7, the Guardian reported that the Great Barrier Reef may die out for good within the next 20 years. Globally, up to half a billion people who rely on coral reefs for food or tourism income could be badly affected if this bleaching event continues. And once coral is gone, it doesn’t always come back. Our oceans may be on the cusp of dramatic change, and our species may be on the brink of losing one of its great natural wonders. Here’s to hoping we have something more positive to report in our July news roundup.