The World Today for August 02, 2017

NEED TO KNOW

GUYANA

The Curse of Black Gold

The discovery of massive oil reserves off the coast of the tiny English-speaking country of Guyana in South America has many wondering whether those riches will be a blessing or a curse.

Exxon recently announced the discovery of around 500 million barrels more than initial estimates of the offshore black gold, bringing the total to as much as 2.75 billion barrels of oil and gas, the Houston Chronicle reported.

At oil’s current low price of around $47 per barrel, Guyana stands to gain more than $129 billion from that motherlode in the coming years. Pumping is due to start in 2020.

The country’s gross domestic product is around $6 billion. In addition to routine needs like new schools and roads, oil could address some of the ex-British colony’s other dire problems.

Poverty and drug abuse, for example, have contributed to Guyana’s dubious distinction of having the fourth-highest suicide rate in the world, according to the World Health Organization.

These and other concerns are tempering the celebrations over the new wealth.

“Will oil corrupt a small Caribbean state?” read the headline in the Economist.

Former Guyana President Bharrat Jagdeo of the opposition People’s Progressive Party recently called incumbent President David Granger a “threat to democracy” in remarks in New York City, arguing that Granger has been trying to control the judiciary to eliminate checks on his power.

Granger’s ruling People’s National Congress, which ran the country via vote rigging between 1964 and 1992, is fighting the People’s Progressive Party over Granger’s appointee to head the respected election commission that helped keep more recent elections fair. Opponents of the nominee fear he will be partial to the government.

Diamonds, gold, sugar and other industries haven’t turned Guyana around, the Economist noted. Political corruption is rampant. The state sector is bloated. A crackdown on money laundering, graft and drug sales has resulted in a slumping commercial sector because they were the most efficient forms of economic activity.

It would be a tragedy if millions of petrodollars went poof before they could help the Guyanese people. But unless folks like Granger and Jagdeo can come to a meeting of the minds, the country’s oil wealth might not change a thing.

[siteshare]The Curse of Black Gold[/siteshare]

WANT TO KNOW

JORDAN

Righting a Wrong

Jordan became the latest country to move toward abolishing a law that allows rapists to escape punishment by marrying their victims, Reuters reported Tuesday.

Campaigners across the Middle East have targeted the “marry your rapist” law, managing to get it struck down in Morocco, Egypt and, last week, in Tunisia.  Jordan’s lower house of parliament voted to do away with the archaic legislation on Tuesday, and rights groups hope Lebanon and Bahrain will soon follow, the Independent reported.

A holdover from interpretations of shariah, or religious law, the statute, which still must be stricken by Jordan’s upper house, provides a loophole in the prosecution of rape cases if the two people involved get married for a minimum of three years.

Jordanian lawmaker Wafa Bani Mustafa, an opponent of the law, told Reuters that parents often agreed to such marriages to minimize “family shame.”

According to Jordan’s Ministry of Justice, 159 rapists avoided punishment by marrying their victims between 2010-2013, the Independent reported.

Such laws still exist in several Latin American countries, the Philippines and Tajikstan, the newspaper said.

[siteshare]Righting a Wrong[/siteshare]

NEW ZEALAND

The Fountain of Youth

With falling poll numbers and seven weeks to go before elections, New Zealand’s opposition leader stepped aside Tuesday to make way for the party’s youngest leader ever in hopes of turning the campaign around, the New Zealand Herald reported.

Andrew Little stepped down Tuesday in favor of his deputy Jacinda Ardern, 37, who is expected to bring charisma and a connection to younger voters, according to the Associated Press.

But with the clock ticking and lots of ground to make up –  a recent survey said the Labour Party had the backing of only 24 percent of voters – Ardern is unlikely to unseat incumbent Prime Minister Bill English, whose conservative National Party has won the previous three elections.

Still, Ardern says she will try to dispel voter skepticism about the leadership qualities of a party that has seen its own leadership change five times in nine years, the Herald noted.

[siteshare]The Fountain of Youth[/siteshare]

TURKEY

Trials and Tribulations

Some 500 people accused of leading a coup attempt in Turkey were put on trial in Ankara on Tuesday, just over a year since the failed plot that has prompted a widespread government crackdown, Reuters reported.

A total of 461 handcuffed suspects were brought to the courthouse, but a group 41 were marched before protesters, including families of those killed or wounded during the coup, who shouted for revenge, some throwing hangman’s nooses and demanding that the government reinstate the death penalty.

US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, the main defendant, is blamed for the coup attempt by the Turkish government and will be tried in absentia. He has denied his involvement. The plot resulted in 249 deaths – some 30 coup-plotters were also killed, the government said.

Following the coup, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched a crackdown on Gulen’s network and other opponents, arresting more than 50,000 people and purging over 150,000 people from public sector jobs, Reuters wrote.

Alarmed by the extent of the crackdown, Germany wants to implement measures to put financial pressure on Turkey to respect the rule of law, the news agency said.

[siteshare]Trials and Tribulations[/siteshare]

DISCOVERIES

Fresh Ink

While being tatted has become a mainstay of personal expression in recent years, all that ink may have an adverse effect on the way you sweat, according to a new study published recently in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Tattoos can be memorable or regrettable, but they’re always injurious to your skin: To create the body artwork, tattoo artists puncture the skin with ink-filled needles at rates of up to 3,000 times per minute, the New York Times reports. The dye rests in the skin’s dermal layer, where sweat glands are found.

Using a small sample of 10 men with their fair share of ink, researchers first isolated a patch of tattooed skin and matched it with a corresponding, ink-free patch. They then applied a sweat-inducing chemical to both patches and compared.

Not only did the tattooed skin barely produce half as much sweat as the ink-free patch, but the composition of the sweat from tattooed regions was also different – it contained almost twice as much sodium as the unscathed skin.

While this study isn’t enough to suggest that tattoos could lead to overheating, it suggests that appearance isn’t the only thing permanently altered by your fresh ink.

[siteshare]Fresh Ink[/siteshare]

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