Less than a fortnight into January and many are feeling it’s a case of new year, same existential dread. From lockdown and homeschooling to the ever-present pandemic threat – not to mention insurrection in the USA – doom and gloom never feels far away at the moment.
But while staying on top of the headlines might still feel like a thankless task in early 2021, amidst the dread there remain some brilliant nuggets of joy and optimism – and every Tuesday, we’ll endeavour to find them.
So, without further ado, here are the stories giving us fresh hope this week…
Donald Trump facing historic second impeachment
Donald Trump looks set to make history as the first US president ever to be impeached twice.
It’s after Democrats in the House of Representatives last night formally charged him with one count of “incitement of insurrection” over last week’s storming of the capitol.
An initial resolution had called on vice-president Mike Pence to support the removal of Trump under the 25th amendment, after speaker Nancy Pelosi branded Trump “deranged, unhinged and dangerous.”
That move was blocked by House Republicans – but the Democrats say they have enough votes to pass an impeachment article on Wednesday.
It comes as prominent Republicans continue to desert Trump, with a slew of resignations of key administration figures over the past five days.
Vaccine tests prove jab can take on mutant strains
New tests reveal the Pfizer-Biontech coronavirus vaccine is effective against current mutations increasing transmission in the UK and South Africa.
The results of a series of laboratory tests have eased concerns that the vaccine might be ineffective against newly-discovered, faster spreading strains.
It comes as the UK pledges to vaccinate every adult in the top four risk groups by February 15.
Ministers say 2.3 million people have so far received at least one dose of the vaccine, insisting the programme is on track to reach tens of millions of people by spring.
Pakistani court outlaws virginity tests for rape survivors
The practice of subjecting female rape survivors to a virginity test has been outlawed in an unprecedented move by a Pakistani court.
The ruling states that virginity tests have no legal basis and “offend the personal dignity of the female victim”.
Speaking at Lahore’s High Court, Justice Ayesha Malik said virginity testing is “a humiliating practice, which is used to cast suspicion on the victim, as opposed to focusing on the accused and the incident of sexual violence.”
Pre-marital sex remains a criminal offence in Pakistan, carrying a five-year prison sentence.
Prior to the ruling, the UN had warned that dubious virginity tests remain in use in 20 countries, putting female victims at risk of criminalisation if they come forward to report a sexual offence.
Right-wing social media site Parler forced offline
The social media site Parler was forced offline yesterday, after Amazon cut off its hosting services.
The conservative platform had been expected to receive a boost in numbers following Twitter and Facebook’s banning of Donald Trump.
But after both Apple and Google removed Parler from their app stores, Amazon Web Services stepped in to effectively force it offline.
The site yesterday launched a legal case against the ban, describing the de-platforming as a “death blow”.
More than 50 countries vow to protect a third of the planet
A coalition of more than 50 nations has pledged to protect almost a third of the planet by 2030 to prevent mass species extinctions.
The High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for Nature and People made the pledge to protect at least 30 per cent of the planet’s lands and seas before the One Planet Summit in Paris yesterday.
The pledge has so far been signed by countries from six continents, including the UK, Colombia, Costa Rica, Nigeria, Pakistan, Japan and Canada.
It is now likely to become the headline target of the Paris Agreement for Nature, to be negotiated at the Cop15 summit in China this year.