The World Today for June 28, 2017

NEED TO KNOW

BRAZIL

A Telenovela

Brazil is on track to lose its second president in a year to corruption allegations.

On Tuesday, the South American country’s top prosecutors filed charges against President Michel Temer for arranging millions of dollars in bribes and approving hush money. More charges like racketeering and obstruction of justice were expected, Reuters reported.

Temer replaced ex-President Dilma Rousseff, who was impeached in late 2016 on charges ranging from flouting budget rules to criminal irresponsibility for corruption at the state-oil company Petrobras when she was president of its board of directors.

Brazil’s Operation Car Wash investigation has implicated scores of other politicians in the corruption ring, including the powerful ex-house speaker Eduardo Cunha, who engineered Rousseff’s ouster. “Operation Car Wash: Is this the biggest corruption scandal in history?” asked a recent Guardian headline.

Rousseff’s mentor, the once-popular ex-President Lula da Silva is now in court on charges of accepting bribes in the Car Wash scandal, too. Barred from running for a consecutive term, Lula has expressed interest in running again now that he is eligible. He is leading in the polls, reported Bloomberg, citing Brazilian media.

The corruption charges against Temer spell potential instability throughout Brazil because they will likely trigger another grueling impeachment process, NPR explained. A two-thirds majority in the lower house of Congress could suspend Temer for as long as 180 days as he faced charges in Brazil’s Supreme Court.

Temer has vowed to fight, the Associated Press wrote. “I say without fear of being wrong that the accusation is fiction,” he said, labelling the prosecutor’s case “a soap opera plot.”

But Temer was already under investigation for allegedly giving the thumbs up to obstructing a criminal investigation at the behest of Joesley Batista, scion of a mega-rich food conglomerate. His approval rating stands at a dismal 7 percent.

It’s not clear if the Brazilian government can operate while withstanding numerous impeachment votes on different criminal charges, the New York Times noted.

But then again, many members of Congress are also under investigation, so everyone is in the same boat. Counter-intuitively, that situation could help Temer push through an austerity plan that he says is vital to jumpstarting Brazil’s economy, Brazilian Political Scientist Marcus Melo told the Times.

“He is a lame duck, but incredible as it sounds, he can count on this base because they, too, are implicated in many things,” said Melo.

[siteshare]A Telenovela[/siteshare]

WANT TO KNOW

VENEZUELA

On Alert

A Venezuelan police officer stole a helicopter and dropped as many as four grenades on the country’s Supreme Court on Tuesday in what embattled President Nicolas Maduro called “a terrorist attack.”

A Venezuelan police officer stole a helicopter and dropped as many as four grenades on the country’s Supreme Court on Tuesday in what embattled President Nicolas Maduro called “a terrorist attack.”

The police officer who allegedly piloted the helicopter issued a statement denouncing the “criminal government,” the BBC reported.

The aircraft fired 15 shots at a social event being held at the Interior Ministry and dropped four grenades on the court, where judges were meeting, but no injuries were reported.

The police officer identified himself as Oscar Pérez in video statements posted on Instagram. Dressed in military fatigues and flanked by masked men in uniform that he said represented a coalition of military employees, policemen and civilians, he asked Venezuelans to oppose “tyranny,” the news channel said.

As the death toll from continuing protests against Maduro’s presidency exceeded 70, the beleaguered leader accused the US of attempting to orchestrate a coup against him and arrested five alleged plotters on Monday. Maduro reiterated those accusations on Tuesday, but it’s not yet clear whether the helicopter attack was part of a coup attempt.

Maduro said the pilot had previously worked for former Interior and Justice Minister Miguel Rodriguez, and noted that the country’s “entire armed forces” had been placed on alert.

[siteshare]On Alert[/siteshare]

UKRAINE

Hacked Again

A second major cyber attack like the WannaCry incident last month hit the Ukrainian government and a number of European countries on Tuesday before the assault spiraled outward to hit computers worldwide.

The assault appears to have been aimed first and foremost at Ukraine, as it was timed to coincide with a holiday marking its adoption of its first constitution after its break from the Soviet Union, the New York Times reported. Though nobody has yet claimed responsibility, that timing also prompted Ukraine to blame Russian hackers for the attack.

As with the May WannaCry attack, the hackers took control of computers and demanded a ransom to restore access to their owners. It also used the same National Security Agency hacking tool, Eternal Blue, as well as two other methods to spread the ransomware.

Along with Ukrainian government ministries, banks and metro systems, the attack hit companies, hospitals and other institutions from the US to Australia, as well as shutting down automated radiation monitoring at the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

[siteshare]Hacked Again[/siteshare]

EUROPEAN UNION

Too Big to Regulate?

The European Union’s decision to classify Google a monopoly on Tuesday will open the door for new antitrust suits against the company and ease the standard of proof for its rivals.

EU antitrust regulators issued a $2.7 billion fine against the web giant on Tuesday for anti-competitive practices in its shopping search application, Reuters reported.

Perhaps more importantly, however, they also placed the burden of solving the problem on Google itself, asking the company to show its competitors making significant inroads into its business before it will be freed from regulatory oversight. As one expert notes, normally an antitrust judgment asks a company to stop doing something specific. But the complexity of Google’s algorithm-based business compelled the regulators to demand Google makes its system fair, without specifying how to do that.

The move could well mean further regulatory actions against other parts of the company’s business, such as mobile phones and online ad buying, Reuters said. In particular, it could presage rulings against the company in ongoing suits involving its Android operating system and Adsense for Search platform.

[siteshare] Too Big to Regulate? [/siteshare]

DISCOVERIES

The Color of Nutrition

Chinese scientists have developed a new technique in genetic engineering that allows them to create antioxidant-rich purple rice.

In research published recently in Molecular Plant, the South China Agricultural University biologists show how they created “Zijingmi” – Chinese for “purple endosperm rice.”

The new rice is from the traditional Japonica and Indica varieties but contains an antioxidant pigment found in black rice, wine and purplish berries like blueberries.

Importantly, the pigment is in the endosperm, the light fluffy part of the grain that remains when one strips away the bran, husk and germ to turn brown rice into white.

Anthocyanin helps prevent certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other ailments, reported Seeker.com.

The new technique in genetic engineering has also been used to create so-called “golden rice” that is rich in vitamin A to prevent childhood blindness and other disorders.

“If we could promote this bio-refined, nutritionally enhanced food, it might benefit kids who suffer from vitamin deviancies,” said Yao-Guang Liu, the study’s senior author.
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