May 04, 2016

May 4, 2016

NEED TO KNOW

India's Stubborn Rape Culture


In India, it's unfortunately an all-too-common scenario: A brutal rape. A gruesome killing. A slow response by authorities.

And for the past few years, many have wondered why India is having so much trouble stamping out its horrifyingly stubborn rape culture.

On Tuesday, demonstrators took to the streets of Kochi in the southern Indian province of Kerala after news broke that a rapist was on the loose: He is the latest accused of assaulting, stabbing and at least partially disemboweling a 30-year-old woman.

The victim was a Dalit, or untouchable, the lowest rank of India's caste system. She lived in a part of the city with a heavy migrant population with her mother, who found her after returning from work, the Times of India reported. The rape and murder took place on April 28.

The woman was studying law.

Even the police drew comparisons between the assault and the 2012 gang rape in Delhi. In that incident, a group of men savagely raped and tortured a student in a manner that doesn’t need repeating. She died soon after.

In response to that attack, thousands took to the streets. Indian lawmakers strengthened anti-rape laws, including lowering the age when alleged rapists can face prosecution to 16. They created special courts to quickly address rape claims.

But despite those measures, India’s rape culture persists.

Critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi have blamed him for perpetuating the problem. A Hindu nationalist whose allies have expressed the belief that India has strayed from its traditional cultural moorings, he was silent on the high number of rape incidents until 2014 and has expressed skepticism about legislation to outlaw marital rape.

The prevalence of Dalit victims suggests a deep disregard for humanity plays a role in India’s rape culture – some victims in the past few years have been found hanging from trees in what harkens back to lynchings. The slow, corrupt nature of the country’s notoriously dysfunctional judicial system is also likely to blame.

To India’s credit, however, officials at the country’s National Human Rights Commission who are keeping tabs on the police investigation into the Kochi incident understand and have publicly articulated the problem in plain-speak that comes as a relief to anyone who has deep respect for one of the greatest civilizations on Earth.

“The crime is so spine-chilling and gruesome that words fall short and expressing anguish and shock appear meaningless and mere ritualistic,” the Commission reportedly said in a statement.

“It is a matter of utmost concern that women's security is facing grave threat in spite of several measures taken in the recent times.”

The protesters in Kochi noted, however, that it took a long time for the police to take the crime seriously. Police did not admit to having leads in the case until Tuesday – even though they told Reuters that neighbors reported seeing someone the victim knew leaving her house during the timeframe in which the incident probably occurred.

“No one cared until it hit the headlines five days later,” J. Devika of the Centre for Development Studies, an Indian research institute, told Reuters.

Modi has work to do.

WANT TO KNOW

The SEALS Are Still There


The United States isn’t fighting in Iraq anymore, right?

Wrong.

Islamic State fighters killed a US Navy SEAL Tuesday morning after the militants broke through a line of Kurdish Peshmerga troops around 20 miles north of Mosul that were protecting a largely Christian town, the Pentagon said.

Three American service members have died in Iraq since the US launched a campaign two years ago to help Iraq beat back the Islamic State – the group that at one point controlled as much as a third of the country.

The death of the SEAL shows how the US is still involved in Iraq. But it also shows how Iraqi forces, including the Kurds, are getting closer to Mosul, the country’s second-largest city and an Islamic State stronghold that must be reclaimed if the militants are ever to be defeated.

Rotten to the Core


Operation Carwash, the wide-ranging investigation into Brazilian officials and Petrobras, the national oil company, has shined a light on the endemic corruption in South America’s largest country. Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is among those implicated.

Now, even officials who aren’t in power have been caught up, the BBC reported.

On Tuesday, Brazilian investigators asked the country’s Supreme Court to allow them to open an investigation against Senator Aecio Neves, leader of the opposition. Based on comments from another senator who turned state’s witness as part of a plea bargain, prosecutors say Neves received bribes from executives at Furnas, the state-owned electricity company. He denies the charges.

It's just another day in Brazilian politics.

Meanwhile, the impending impeachment proceedings against Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, which are not connected directly to Operation Carwash, are due to start this month.

Refugees: Escalating Desperation 


On Tuesday a 21-year old-woman set herself on fire on the Micronesian island of Nauru.

Somali refugee Hodan Yasin, now critically ill in a Brisbane hospital, torched herself in protest against Australia’s policy of sending refugees to the island as well as Papua New Guinea rather than letting them set foot for processing on Australian soil.

Yasin reportedly became despondent when she returned to Nauru after receiving medical treatment in Australia.

It’s the second time that a self-immolation has occurred in Nauru. Last week, a 23-year-old Iranian asylum seeker fatally torched himself there in protest.

Critics in Australia and beyond have said the country’s refugee policies are unfair. Papua New Guinea is now moving to close its refugee camp. But defenders of the policy said refugee advocates have encouraged refugees to hurt themselves to convince Australian officials to change their minds.

It’s not clear if the advocates gave the refugees that encouragement. But if they did, the incidents are certainly drawing attention to the plight of the hundreds of people on these remote islands.

DISCOVERIES

Captain Cook: A Lingering Mystery


His name alone – Captain James Cook – ushers in images of adventures past. And yet, the location of his ship has been a lingering mystery through the ages. But now, archaeologists in Rhode Island believe they are close to finding the vessel of one of the first Europeans to explore the island-continent.

Cook’s ship, the Endeavour, arrived in Botany Bay in Eastern Australia in 1770, in an area that would become Sydney. Later, the British refitted the ship into a troop carrier called the Lord Sandwich and took over Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay during the Revolutionary War in a bid to prevent a French naval invasion.

“The American army was assembled on the mainland and the French sent a fleet to help,” Kathy Abbass, the executive director of the nonprofit Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project, told CNN. “The British knew they were at great risk so they ordered 13 ships out to be scuttled in a line to blockade the city. They were sunk in fairly shallow waters.”

It might be too soon to speculate. But like other great finds, locating the Cook ship might tell us more about the man and his great adventures.

jbhatti
Wed, 05/04/2016 – 06:13