*** (July 2022)
by Kevin Mercurio
Welcome to my monthly blog series. As a way to catalogue the happenings of the world, this blog will serve as a memento for its state at the time of publication. What I hope is that by clearly writing out top personal, local and global news, along with resources that can help us to develop skills, we can sift through the noise together. Let’s grow into our greatest potential.
Top Personal News
Yet another incredibly rapid month in this year of constant fast-forward. Are we inclined now to blend all days into weeks, weeks into full months? Already half a year gone... What a time. Let’s summarize the fantastic summer month of June. Firstly, Happy Father’s Day to all the great dads out there. Reflecting on recent events, it is incredibly important to cherish every moment you have with your parents and those you love. I had the opportunity to present my work in two different scenarios: 1) poster presentation for the first ever DU Microbiological Focused Meeting on Microbiomes and Human Health, and 2) oral presentation for the first ever TCD School of Genetics and Microbiology Early Career Researcher (ECR) Seminar Series. For the focused meeting, this gave me my first real experience presenting the work I’ve done in my PhD thus far to people outside of my department (along with helping run the event, and winning €100 for an infographic contest). For the ECR seminar, I had the chance to informally discuss my research with like-minded individuals and help connect the two departments together over science, pizza and beer. This month, our group also established a fun journal club that will allow more discussion on our hiccups in research and help run the lab more smoothly. Outside of the lab, I went to the cinema for the first time, in god knows how long, to watch the thriller “Men” and the down-to-earth cinematic masterpiece “Everything Everywhere All At Once”. I would suggest to watch both with an emphasis on the latter. I was also fortunate enough to attend the RTE Orchestra performance of Beatles music with my partner, as well as attend the immersive Van Goph exhibit hosted in Dublin this summer. I believe this month was jam packed with activities, and so looking forward to the massive plans coming up over the next few months!
First showing of my PhD work!
Top Local News
Dublin held its annual LGBTIQ+ Pride Parade this month! From their organization website: “We’d like to thank everyone who took part in our 2022 Dublin Pride March and Parade. Our parade included over 13,000 people from 215 organisations and approximately 50,000 joined our march.”
Top Global News
Still excluding the current war happening in Ukraine (latest updates can be found on the BBC), where Russian forces are likely going to retreat from the prized Snake Island, the global news story that shocked the world was the US Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, which was a decision set by the judicial branch that, stated on its Wikipedia page, “the Constitution of the United States generally protects a pregnant woman's liberty to choose to have an abortion”. This was something that has been in place for around 50 years, with precedents in the legal system utilizing this decision as case knowledge and greatly cited. This meant that, when it was overturned on June 24th, that women within states that had “trigger” laws banning abortion once this overruling was made, are now legally accountable for the act of having an abortion. What was this court case that led to granting women this meaningful right? According to the BBC, “In 1969, a 25-year-old single woman, Norma McCorvey using the pseudonym "Jane Roe", challenged the criminal abortion laws in Texas. The state forbade abortion as unconstitutional, except in cases where the mother's life was in danger. Defending the anti-abortion law was Henry Wade - the district attorney for Dallas County - hence Roe v Wade. […] By a vote of seven to two, the court justices ruled that governments lacked the power to prohibit abortions. They judged that a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy was protected by the US constitution". This was one of the most controversial cases in US Supreme Court history, leading to an ongoing discussion about when exactly life begins, whether this policy should be a federal or state issue, and whether it can be achieved safely (ie. through education and financial support via pro-choice organizations and health institutes). Planned Parenthood, a non-profit organization in the US that provides sexual health care, was almost bombed in 1996 by opposers. In Justice Alito’s lengthy opinion piece about spearheading the overturn, he notes, “...states are entitled to regulate abortion to eliminate "gruesome and barbaric" medical procedures; to "preserve the integrity of the medical profession"; and to prevent discrimination on the basis of race, sex, or disability, including barring abortion in cases of fetal abnormality". It will be some time before states that have the ability to change laws around abortion are actually able to implement those laws, so until then, we can only bear witness to the heartbreak of a country so backwards in its social trajectory.
Most Interesting Article of the Month
“Absolute Power” published in the Atlantic by Graeme Wood. If you live in a Westernized society, there’s no question that you’ve heard about human rights issues in Saudi Arabia. Whether that be the restricted lifestyle of women, all the way to allegations of the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordering the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia is an oasis with almost 35 million people. There are many Saudis in my institute who are incredible researchers and generally kind people. In this article, Wood and the Editor in Chief of the Atlantic Jeffrey Goldberg, talk with the Crown Prince about Saudi history, his own past, his perspective on the present political and cultural climate, and his thoughts on the future of Saudi Arabia. It’s a remarkable conversation with tangent stories by Wood during his experience reporting on Saudi Arabia over the last three years. For a more thorough read, and trust me it's a long yet worthwhile experience, check out the full article here.
Most Interesting Video of the Month
I became aware of this channel more in the meme realm, but Channel 5 with Andrew Callaghan (name of his YouTube channel) is absolutely phenomenal. It has the grace of taking the journalistic trope used by every comedic content creator (from late night hosts to impromptu public interviews) and highlights all sides of an issue fairly. The greatest thing I found was that in every video, despite agreeing with the moral direction in which Callaghan instills in his content, he demonstrates how disgustingly aggressive those on each side of a major societal issue is, whether that be those who believe guns are a given right to those advocating for gun restrictions. To see what I mean, hear the language of pro-choice advocates and the language of pro-life religious citizens in this video.
Monthly Book Club
“Milkman” by Anna Burns. I will be honest and say I had very little time and energy this month to getting into this prize-winning story. Instead of taking the next two months off from the Scalene Writing Book Club, I will finish this book. This is my promise!
Movie/TV Show of the Month
As soon as I saw the movie, I knew this was going to be the movie highlight of the month. The movie in question is "Everything Everywhere All At Once". Starring Michelle Yeoh and directed by Daniel Kwan, this incredible story takes the multiverse structure and somehow brings novelty to the now overused idea. It’s beautiful, sad, funny, wholesome, graphic, philosophical and shockingly relevant to all people.You can’t help but see yourself or those you love represented somewhere in the film, probably getting karate chopped or slapped by sausage fingers. Check out the trailer here.
This month, I’m highlighting a SciComm podcast that I was lucky to be a part of, "Clarified". I must say the podcast graphic is absolutely genius. Hosted by Clara Marx, it’s part of a SciComm 101 course out of the University of Bayreuth where every week she gets some insight about science communication from multiple perspectives. Guests include principle investigators, professional science communicators, and upcomers like me. Do check it out!
Obtained from Spotify.
“Yesterday” by Paul McCartney. Watch his 1965 live debut of the song here.
Quote of the Month
“You believe that you are helping women, but in fact you are killing them by taking away their right to do this safely”.
- Pro-Choice Advocate