Four things to know for the week ahead


It's Monday, it's a new week, and while we won't pretend to know everything that's going to happen over the next seven days, we have some sense of what's coming up.

Here's your briefing on some of the most important and interesting stories happening in the week ahead.

1) Gay marriage in Asia?

Image source, EPA

What's happening?

On Saturday, people in Taiwan will vote on whether same-sex marriage should be recognised there.

Why does it matter?

Taiwan would become the first place in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage if the proposal in the referendum is approved by a majority of voters.

Taiwan's highest court has already ruled in favour of gay marriage, but a public vote will now decide whether laws should be changed.

There are actually five referenda on LGBT rights at the same time, including on whether gay rights should be taught in schools.

But despite Taiwan being known for its relatively progressive attitudes towards LGBT matters, the issue is on the ballot on Saturday because influential conservative groups have demanded it go to a public referendum.

2) A look inside Mars

Image source, NASA
Image caption,
Mars - more of a dusty brown rather than red, if we're being honest

What's happening?

In a week's time, on Monday 26 November, Nasa's InSight lander will touch down on Mars. It has a fascinating job to do.

Why does it matter?

Once it is up and running on Mars, the lander will study the interior of the Red Planet. This will be the first time the interior of any planet apart from Earth will have been examined.

Nasa say Mars will be given "its first thorough checkup since it formed 4.5 billion years ago", looking at tectonic activity, how the planet formed and what effect meteorites have had on its surface. It may even give us some clues about how our own planet was formed.

Landing it will be a challenge though - because the atmosphere is so much thinner than our own, there will be very little resistance to help slow it down as it descends.

3) Brexit, Brexit and more Brexit

What's happening?

The UK is leaving the European Union in four months. You may have heard about it. This past week has seen political turmoil on a new scale as the British government scrabbles to strike a deal on how to leave.

Why does it matter?

The uncertainty over whether the UK would be able to reach a Brexit deal with the EU, as well as a number of resignations from PM Theresa May's cabinet, caused the pound to suffer its worst day in two years on Thursday.

Speculation continues over whether enough of Mrs May's Conservative Party MPs will submit letters of no-confidence to trigger a vote on her leadership.

Mrs May will head to Brussels later in the week to meet European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, but says the talks will be about the future relationship with the EU rather than the draft Brexit withdrawal agreement.

The EU is itself holding a number of meetings before Sunday, when it expects to announce its final backing for the withdrawal agreement.

Are you struggling to understand what Brexit is actually all about? Don't worry, we've tried to answer your questions here.

What is in the Brexit deal the UK hopes to strike? Our experts have summed it all up in one place here.

What's happening right now with Brexit? What comes next? We've got that covered as well.

4) Black Friday

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Black Friday - great fun, if you like standing in queues in the cold

What's happening?

It's Thanksgiving in the US on Thursday, which for many people means only one thing: it's Black Friday the day after in several countries. Prepare for shopping hysteria and retailers keen to convince you to buy, buy, buy.

Why does it matter?

It traditionally marks the beginning of the crazy Christmas shopping period, but also tends to give an interesting glimpse into people's shopping habits (for a start, you're less and less likely to see the long queues of the sort in the picture above).

But it's also important for shoppers to be careful and bear in mind they may not necessarily be getting the best deals after all.