Dec 28, 2022 Episode 131
A look back at 2022’s big news from Russia-Ukraine war to unusual protests in Iran and China and the end of an epic royal reign!
LEELA: As we get ready to say goodbye to 2022… it’s time to look back at the BIG news stories of the year.
OPENING STING – LEELA: “Hey, hey, hey. Listen up. New, new, newsy – Newsy Pooloozi!”
LEELA: Hello and welcome to Newsy Pooloozi – the news pool for curious kids and adults! I’m your host Leela Sivasankar Prickitt and, as ever, I’m joined by the big story explainer and sound effects finder – otherwise known as my… mama!
MAMA: Hello, hello. I’m Lyndee Prickitt.
LEELA: In the last of our holiday “Best of” series, we’re now gonna look back at the big news that shook the world this year.
MAMA: From the war in Ukraine to those unusual and important protests in both Iran and China.
LEELA: And how can we forget the end of an epic royal reign in the UK?
MAMA: All that and more this week.
LEELA: So, let’s dive on in to the Newsy Pooloozi before we change out the water for the New Year.
SFX OF BELLS AND WHISTLES
MAMA: I know we’ve all been hearing a lot about Ukraine-Ukraine-little bit about Russia too-but mostly: Ukraine, right?
LEELA: Oh, yeah, I know – like, you are a crane?
MAMA: (Laughs) You’re a “pain,” Leela! OK – let’s get on with the basics – do you know where the country of Ukraine is?!
LEELA: Uhhhh… Somewhere next to Russia. No, I mean Europe.
MAMA: Actually, both! And right there lies the problem.
MAMA: Like so many places, its geography is everything.
MAMA: It’s life, Leela. OK – you wanna talk cats, alright let’s talk cats. You look after some of the neighborhood strays, right?
MAMA: Some hang out on the left side of the house – and some on the other side, right?
LEELA: Yep. They’re two different families and they don’t always get along either.
MAMA: Yeah exactly. Well, which do you love more?
LEELA: Mama! I couldn’t choose.
MAMA: It’s hard, right? You have ties with both sides.
MAMA: Well, so does Ukraine. For decades it was linked to the Russian Empire and then it was part of the Soviet Union. Which is?
LEELA: Ummm… That was the group of communist countries ruled by Russia, most of last century, right?
MAMA: Well, in practical terms, yes. Though technically it stood for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, it was ruled by the communist party based in Moscow, Russia. So, you’re right. And communism is?
LEELA: When the government owns everything.
MAMA: Right. So, when the USSR broke up in 1991, many of the countries started to find more in common with the free markets of Europe.
LEELA: Ah, like when the cats on the left had kittens and I started spending more time with them.
MAMA: Yep, they were prospering, and you wanted to be a part of that. And the cats on the right had started to become a little sullen and –
LEELA: A little grouchy, jealous, and aggressive, actually!
MAMA: Hmmm, maybe they were missing you. And the amount of food and resources you used to give them?
MAMA: Well, that’s kinda what’s happening in Ukraine. They were part of the Russian Empire and the USSR, but kinda favor Europe now and want to join a club called NATO – the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which includes most of western Europe, the US and Canada.
LEELA: Doesn’t sound like a very fun club to me.
MAMA: It’s not. It’s a defensive club of armies, what’s called a military alliance.
LEELA: Is Russia part of it?
MAMA: No ma’am. In fact, NATO was formed in 1949, specifically to provide protection against the USSR.
LEELA: Dun-dun-duuuuun. The plot thickens! No wonder Russia’s so mad at Ukraine! Then again, Ukraine is a free country, right? They should be able to do what they want.
MAMA: Yep. But some people in Ukraine do have old ties with Russia, so
LEELA: The country’s pulled in both directions?
MAMA: A little bit. Mostly Ukraine is scared Russia is going to invade, like they did 8 years ago when they took over a region called Crimea.
LEELA: What?! And now they want to take over all of Ukraine?
MAMA: Well, Russia says no. But right now, there are well over a hundred-thousand soldiers, along with helicopters and tanks, lined up on its border with Ukraine.
LEELA: That’s kinda bullyish behavior.
MAMA: Big time. That’s why you keep hearing about it in the news. Everyone is wondering what’s gonna happen next. People are also worried that if Russia does invade, those NATO countries – like the US – might decide to join in the fight.
LEELA: What?! That would be silly – why would they want war?
MAMA: They don’t. But they also don’t want a big country thinking it can overtake a smaller one.
LEELA: But it’d turn into World War3!
MAMA: Hold your horses. Most experts think this is just, as you say, bullying behavior from Russia. Just for show.
LEELA: Ah, kinda like when the big tom cat prances around and hisses a bit.
MAMA: Bingo. There you go. The big news of the week was about cats after all!
SFX OF BELLS AND WHISTLES
MAMA: Now to Eastern Europe and the big news and what’s happening with Ukraine.
LEELA: It’s a BIG deal – but it’s hard to follow because it keeps changing every day!
MAMA: That’s true – this is the kind of story that changes by the hour.
LEELA: Some say that fighting has already started in some of the small border towns.
MAMA: Right – and before we get into the latest details – let’s remind everyone that we did a deep-dive explainer –
LEELA: Giving all the background information about the relationship between these two countries and why there’s tension –
MAMA: Uha – in our episode three weeks ago, Episode 84: Ukraine Crisis.
LEELA: We even gave some helpful analogies – you know, like a comparison – with my neighborhood cats
SFX OF CAT
LEELA: to help you understand the situation better.
MAMA: Analogies rock. And now – for the latest… Russia has deployed – or sent – it’s troops across its border into eastern Ukraine. The US is calling it an invasion. But Russian President Vladimir Putin says it’s a peacekeeping mission and that the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk are not part of Ukraine, but independent, something the Ukrainian government denies. This is what US President Joe Biden has to say.
US PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Who in the Lord’s name does Putin think gives him the right to declare new so-called “countries” on territory that belonged to his neighbors. This is a flagrant violation of international law and demands a firm response from the international community.
MAMA: And what will that response be? Sanctions. You know what sanctions are, right?
LEELA: It’s a ban, right? Kinda like when you say, “You won’t be able to spend any of your allowance if you don’t do your homework.”
MAMA: Yeah, kinda. But it’s a bit broader. More like you saying to all your friends not to trade toys or gadgets with a certain friend because you’re mad at them.
MAMA: So Biden laid out what he said would be the first tranche, or set, of US sanctions against anyone doing business with two major financial institutions in Russia, the Russian government and rich Russian business people. He’s hoping this will “cut off Russia’s government from Western finance” – as in Western money. He also said additional troops and equipment were being sent to “strengthen” US allies in that region. Though he made it clear they would not be there to “fight Russia.”
LEELA: Well, I’m sad for the people in that region. It’s gotta be scary for them right now.
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MAMA: So, if the news has been on in your house, you’ve no doubt heard a lot about NATO and the potential of new Nordic members joining the club and Russia being madder than before and now something about Turkey too, right?
LEELA: Yes, and my head is spinning (sighs).
MAMA: No kidding. Alright – let’s start at the beginning. Do you remember what NATO is? It also stands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
LEELA: Ah, yes. It’s a club. But not like a fun club.
SFX OF KIDS PLAYING
LEELA: It is a defense club. And I don’t mean you get to hang around, practicing taekwondo either.
SFX OF KICKING
LEELA: It’s a club of 30 countries forming a military alliance.
MAMA: Correct. And is Russia part of it?
LEELA: Oh, no.
MAMA: Right. In fact, NATO was formed in 1949 with the purpose of providing protection against the USSR.
LEELA: As in the Soviet Union – the group of communist countries that used to be run by… Russia! So why NATO is still around if the Soviet Union isn’t?
MAMA: Good question. When it collapsed in 1991 the powers that be – by that, I mean primarily the US, which holds the most power in NATO – decided to keep it going.
MAMA: Well, power is power, I suppose. NATO wanted to support countries with the same world view of its own countries – like being free-market democracies.
LEELA: Hmmm. Then why not Russia? They’re not communist anymore and their people vote in elections.
MAMA: Hmmm. Well, there was something called the Russia-NATO Council twenty years ago. But when Russia invaded Ukraine 8 years ago and took over part of Ukraine called Crimea, all relations were suspended.
LEELA: Oh, yeah, I forgot the Ukraine-Russian war started in 2014. Man!
MAMA: I know… So, Russia doesn’t like NATO and sees it as Western countries – that is, most of Europe, the US and Canada – trying to reduce Russia’s influence.
LEELA: Most of Europe, but not Ukraine, right?
MAMA: Correct. It wanted to join and that’s one of the reasons Russia invaded again in February of this year.
LEELA: But the plot is thickening, right, with the Nordic countries of Sweden and Finland “Russia’s” “neighbor” also wanting to join. And, again, Russia’s not happy. Scary.
MAMA: Totally. Both countries had always prided themselves on not being members of NATO, handling their own security themselves, but now… they want that protection.
MAMA: Oh, yeah, remember, the idea of a military alliance like NATO is all the countries defend each other if someone outside the club attacks.
LEELA: Right. That’s why NATO countries aren’t fighting with Ukraine, because Ukraine’s not part of the club.
LEELA: But if Finland and Sweden join…
MAMA: The plot does thicken. But there’s a twist… Turkey, which is also a NATO member, says they’re gonna block the entry of Sweden and Norway
LEELA: Why? And how?
MAMA: Well, you can’t join unless all the members say yes.
MAMA: And Turkey is holding a grudge against both countries for giving sanctuary to militants from Kurdistan, which it views as terrorists.
LEELA: Eyy-yii-yii! This is as complicated as a sixth-grade playground!
MAMA: Yeah… I think you just about summed it up.
SFX OF BELLS AND WHISTLES
MAMA: OK and now we have a difficult story to report on.
LEELA: What’s happening in Iran.
MAMA: That’s right. First of all, do you know where Iran is?
LEELA: In the Middle East.
MAMA: Right. And why are we hearing about it a lot lately?
LEELA: Because there are dangerous protests against wearing the hijab.
MAMA: Which is?
LEELA: A headscarf. Just for women to cover their heads.
MAMA: That’s right. Now some women like wearing it because they feel it is part of their Islamic tradition. But many others feel it’s restrictive that only women should be made to cover their heads when out in public. And in some conservative countries, like Iran, it’s against the law not to wear it in public.
LEELA: And when you say law – that’s set- in-stone there, because Iran isn’t a democracy, right?
MAMA: That’s right. It’s what’s known as a theocracy – that’s a type of government in which the religious clerics rule in the name of God.
LEELA: There are also people called the Morality Police – which arrested that young woman a few weeks ago for not wearing her hijab properly, right?
MAMA: That’s right – supposedly her hair was coming free from the hijab, and she later died in police custody.
LEELA: And that’s why people are protesting.
MAMA: Yes. And what’s extraordinary – in nondemocratic countries with authoritarian regimes, it’s super dangerous to protest.
LEELA: Like people can get arrested and get hurt?
MAMA: Yes, and worse, Leela. Human rights group said at least 185 people have been killed in demonstrations so far. But that’s the extraordinary thing and why it’s super important we do this story because this could be a turning point in Iran. In the past the police have scared previous generations into submission.
LEELA: Submission? Like submitting to something?
MAMA: Well, yes, accepting someone else’s power or control over you. But not this time.
SFX OF PROTEST
MAMA: They’re shouting here, “Neither headscarf, nor humiliation.” And they seem unlikely to stop shouting anytime soon.
LEELA: I have a feeling we’ll be doing this story some more.
MAMA: I think you’re right. But let’s hope it’s good news next time.
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MAMA: At the age of 96 the Queen of the United Kingdom died, and the country is in mourning.
LEELA: Queen Elizabeth II spent 70 years on the throne. Well, not literally sitting on the… thrown – but she was queen for over seven decades.
MAMA: She’s the second longest service monarch in the history of the world in fact. She was queen so long she worked with 15 Prime Ministers of Britain and meet hundreds of other world leaders, including 13 US presidents.
LEELA: Meowozers! But when you say she worked with 15 UK Prime Ministers, she didn’t get to tell them what to do or anything, right?
MAMA: That’s right. Like most royalty these days, the British royal family are really just symbolic. But she was a much-loved figurehead for the most part. Some say her real job was keeping Britain together.
LEELA: Yeah, TONS of people are paying their respects to her. There’s a National Day of Mourning declared where kids get the day off school and all!
MAMA: But I’m curious what the mood in the UK is right now.
LEELA: Me too!
MAMA: Well, let’s cut across to our UK correspondent Jackson Hosking then to tell us more.
LEELA: Good idea. Hey, Jackson – thanks for joining us. I hear you get to take a day off school to honor the queen?
JACKSON: We sure do, Leela! This is all part of what’s being called the “period of national mourning for Queen Elizabeth the Second.”
LEELA: How long does that last?
JACKSON: Until her state funeral – which is Monday the 19th of September.
LEELA: Wow – that’s 11 days of mourning! So is it really sad and somber in the UK now?
JACKSON: Well, it’s not like everyone is walking around crying or dragging their feet in a somber way. But, sure, some people – who are real big royalists (as in they LOVE the royal family) are shedding a few tears.
Most people really loved her being their queen. Including me. You might’ve even seen the thousands of people leaving flowers outside the queen’s six palaces.
And in Scotland people packed out the streets to see her casket going from her favorite home – Balmoral Castle, where she died – to the Scottish capital, Edinburgh.
The casket will be on display there and then in London for hundreds of thousands of people to pay their respects.
LEELA: So, who will attend the state funeral, do we know yet? I guess it’s gonna be a huge event!
JACKSON: Oh, yeah, I’m sure it will be. But the guest list hasn’t been published yet. Though US President Joe Biden has already said he’ll attend. I’m sure most big world leaders will too.
LEELA: No word on India’s PM going yet though… India was colonized by Britain for around 200 years after all…
So, Jackson, when I was in London this summer, I was seeing ER everywhere – as in Elizabeth Regina. Regina means reigning, or ruling, queen, right?
JACKSON: That’s right. And ‘rex’ is for king.
LEELA: Well that royal symbol is every were! It’s on the mail (or post) boxes, on gates and bollards outside official buildings, on documents even – that’s all gonna have to go, right?
JACKSON: You said it, Leela. Not to mention all the money – coins and bills! They’ll all have to change to CR – Charles Rex.
LEELA: Oh, wow – that’ll be a massive undertaking!
JACKSON: Tell me about it. But it will happen gradually, and the old money will still be legal for a long, long time.
LEELA: Well, that’s good. So, when will her son, King Charles III, be crowned, as in the coronation.
JACKSON: That’s called his coronation and no date has been set yet, because of the planning required. Because, yes, it will be full of British pomp and ceremony.
LEELA: But he’s now officially the king, right?
JACKSON: Yes, a couple days ago King Charles III was proclaimed the United Kingdom’s monarch in an ancient ceremony.
SFX OF THE CEREMONY PROCLAIMING KING CHARLESS III UK MONARCH (not transcribed)
LEELA: I hear one of his first acts as monarch was to approve a national holiday on the day of the Queen’s funeral. Meaning… you get to miss school!
JACKSON: Indeed, I do!
LEELA: So, what will you be doing to mark the occasion, Jackson? Dressing up in your finest clothes with a bowl of popcorn sitting, or should I say standing to attention, in front of the television, or should I say, “telly?”
JACKSON: Yeah… right… How did you know, Leela?
SFX OF THE CEREMONY PROCLAIMING KING CHARLESS III UK MONARCH: Three cheers for his majesty the king – hip-hip-hooray, hip-hip-hooray.
SFX OF BELLS AND WHISTLES
SFX OF BABY CRYING
MAMA: Ah! The sound of another baby being born, entering this world, populating our planet.
LEELA: Ahhhh… Eww-yai-yai – they’re noisy little things though!
MAMA: Sure are! And just how many babies do you think are being born on average every minute of every day all over the world?
LEELA: Uhh – 120!
MAMA: Not bad. But wrong. According to the United Nations, 267 babies are born EVERY MINUTE! That’s – 385,000 babies a day.
LEELA: Meowzawozars! That’s a lot of crying.
MAMA: Sure is. It’s a lot of mouths to feed too… And well on Tuesday Earth hit a monumental milestone, as in a marker, of our planet’s history, the world’s population reached 8 billion people.
LEELA: That’s a LOT of people. And 1.4 billion of them live right here in India.
MAMA: Sure do – a place the third of the size of America but with four times the people.
LEELA: It’s crowded here.
MAMA: Yep. And right now, China is the most populous country, but India is likely to surpass or go past by next year.
LEELA: You mean it’s going to get more crowded?
MAMA: Ah-huh. Not just us but the whole planet. And, get this, the United Nations say 1 billion people – have been born just in the last 12 years like, you, Leela!
LEELA: But why these 12 years?
MAMA: Well, improvements in public health, nutrition, even personal hygiene, and medicine mean people are living longer. The good news is those things also mean people – over time – begin to have fewer children. So – get this – some countries actually have a declining population rate.
LEELA: Oh, like Japan and Italy.
MAMA: Yes, we heard a lot about that in the pandemic, didn’t we? But it’s also happening a lot in Eastern European countries too, according to the World Population Review. So even though the global population is reaching new highs, the growth rate is steadily falling.
SFX OF BELLS AND WHISTLES
MAMA: So, you’ve maybe been hearing a lot of adults talk about China this week or seeing pictures or videos of people there protesting and may then be thinking
LEELA: What’s the deal with the white paper?
LEELA: Why are some people holding up signs of some math’s equation too?
MAMA: Or just…
LEELA: What’s the big deal about a few small protests anyway? Someone is always protesting about something, somewhere in the world!
MAMA: Right. Let’s start with that one first. you’re right, people protest all the time in democracies. What’s democracy again?
LEELA: Power of the people: a form of government where everyone has a say as in… everyone gets a vote.
MAMA: And an authoritarian regime on the other hand is what…?
LEELA: The opposite. Only the person at the top – like a dictator or a panel of rulers – has power. So, people aren’t free.
MAMA: Bingo. And do those authoritarian governments like it when people take to the streets to voice their anger over how they’re being ruled.
LEELA: No way.
MAMA: Well, just like the protests for women’s freedom in Iran which are still going on, lest we forget that’s why protests in China a BIG deal is. Last time people took to the streets in large numbers in the Chinese capital Beijing in Tiananmen Square, it was 1989. Troops armed with guns and tanks crushed the pro-democracy rally, killing hundreds, or maybe even thousands of protests. No one knows for sure.
LEELA: So, like in Iran these protestors are super brave.
MAMA: They are.
LEELA: How did it all start anyway?
MAMA: Well, some say the Chinese people couldn’t believe the pictures coming out of the World Cup – where it’s clear the pandemic is over and very few people are bothering to wear a mask. But in China, they’re still under tough COVID measures.
LEELA: What? They still have to wear masks?
MAMA: And where they go is restricted. But then, sadly, there was a fire in a high-rise apartment block in western China, where some ten people died. It’s thought they couldn’t escape the blaze because of the Covid restrictions, though local authorities deny this.
MAMA: So, at candle vigils and memorials for the victims many came clutching a white sheet of paper.
LEELA: But why?
MAMA: Well, some say the white paper symbolizes their silent blank voice. But others say it’s a direct challenge to authority by holding up a blank piece of paper, they say they surely can’t be arrested because they are saying nothing.
LEELA: Whoaaa… so the white paper is like this big silent but powerful message.
LEELA: But aren’t there some people who have some mathematical equation on their paper.
MAMA: A few braver ones, yes. At Tsinghua University. Again, it’s code, right. They can’t come out and say something outright.
LEELA: What’s the formula mean, I mean what’s its code for?
MAMA: Well, it’s the formula that’s important, it’s that the equations are from a guy called Friedmann.
MAMA: Go on, say his name slowly.
LEELA: Freidman. Freeeeed-maaaan. Oooooh! Freeman! Whoa… That’s pretty cool. But, I mean, I guess it’s not cool they can’t just say what they want.
MAMA: No… It’s not. Though there are some increasingly finding their voice, the police are moving in to deter them and the government is trying to take the words: protests, white paper, Friedman off social media.
MAMA: This is a wait and watch situation. So far world leaders are staying quiet.
LEELA: Like with Iran.
SFX OF BELLS AND WHISTLES
MAMA: Yes – the biggest sporting event in the world has just kicked off.
LEELA: Well, after the Olympics.
MAMA: That’s debatable. Still, according to FIFA – the football federation – the last World Cup was watched by 3.6 billion people – that was half the world! And, like the Olympics, it happens once every four years.
LEELA: And uhhh, doesn’t it usually happen in summer?
MAMA: You are so right. Except… this time the Middle Eastern country of Qatar is hosting the competition and, well –
LEELA: That’s a desert! They’re playing football – or soccer to our US listeners – in the desert! That’s crazy!
MAMA: That’s what many people felt a decade ago when Qatar won the bid. They had built seven stadiums too, in fact, there were lots of allegations of bribery and corruption at the time they got the bid.
LEELA: Well, no wonder they’ve had to hold off playing until November when it gets a little cooler, I guess? But wait isn’t it in the middle of professional league football?
MAMA: The European club season, which most of the best players around the world play for, yes.
LEELA: Hmmm – that’s gonna be tiring.
MAMA: Yep. And, sadly for Qatar, that’s not the only bit of controversy.
MAMA: This event was supposed to be Qatar’s big moment to enter the international arena as a major cultural and political player. But instead, it’s getting a LOT of attention for its abusive of immigrants or migrant workers, which by the way make up 85 percent of the country, would you believe!
LEELA: What? You mean for every 10 people 8 of them are immigrants?
MAMA: Most of them are there for work and allegedly many are not treated very well. Plus – Qatar even decided at the last minute to ban the sale of beer from the matches, keeping in line with its Muslim, conservative values. Just by the fact despite the fact that many people like to go to a match and drink beer.
MAMA: So, lots of controversy. Oh, and most recently, the Iranian team boldly decided to not sing their national anthem, in protest to the violent crackdown on protesters in their country.
LEELA: That’s brave.
MAMA: True. Most recently fans wearing rainbow shirts and hats representing LGBTQ pride were told to remove them, exposing the country’s intolerance. Even more remarkably, the British Broadcasting Corporation, the BBC, chose not to air Sunday’s opening ceremony.
LEELA: Well, I bet they’ll change their tune if England starts playing well and makes it into the finals.
MAMA: You got it. At the end of the day sports will probably triumph as people will want to watch their teams play. Regardless the politics behind the matches
LEELA: And that brings us to the end of not just this episode.
MAMA: And not just our holiday season specials, looking at the best nature, oddball and big new stories on Newsy Pooloozi
LEELA: But, also, the end of a big year!
MAMA: Goodbye 2022.
LEELA: We’ll see you next week – or should I say, next year – when we’re back with all the important and wacky news making headlines around the world. Alrighty, over and out for 2022!