The World Today for April 03, 2018

NEED TO KNOW

CARRIBEAN

A New Breeze

Residents of Barbados should follow the example of pop star and fellow islander Rihanna and support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people’s rights, Human Rights Watch argued recently.

In Barbados, the activist group wrote in a dispatch, “same-sex activity between consenting adults is a crime – punishable by life imprisonment.”

Those comments came on the heels of a report by the group that found LGBT people face discrimination, violence and abuse in the eastern Caribbean.

The report noted that laws dating back to British colonial times outlaw supposedly indecent conduct in the region. While authorities rarely uphold the laws, they give homophobes license to mistreat people with little recourse for legal protection.

Steven D. Blackett, Barbados’ minister of social care, constituency empowerment and community development, told online news outlet Barbados Today that he felt offended by the New York-based organization’s intrusion into local politics.

“They have been so insistent and persistent that I, as a straight person, you as a straight person, we’re beginning to feel marginalized, harassed and stigmatized by them,” he said.

The back-and-forth might surprise Americans who associate the Caribbean with colorful cocktails, white sandy beaches and an easygoing lifestyle. In truth, Caribbean culture, rooted in church and family, is deeply conservative once one leaves the coastal resort districts.

In Jamaica, for example, 70 percent of LGBT people have considered leaving the country, claimed civil-rights activist Jaevion Nelson in the Gleaner, a daily newspaper.

“They have grown weary, hopeless and discontented about the lack of opportunities afforded to them to live their fullest potential,” wrote Nelson.

Citing a report that he helped produce and imploring Jamaicans to be more open-minded, Nelson asked what would happen to the island’s economy if every LGBT Jamaican up and left in disgust.

Over a thousand miles away, another island is facing a similar question.

Last year, Bermuda’s Supreme Court legalized gay-marriage. But in February, the Guardian explained, lawmakers and the governor of the British overseas territory enacted a law reversing that decision. The law reaffirms that marriage can only occur between a man and woman. It allows same-sex couples to form “domestic partnerships.”

LGBT advocates were disappointed.

Meanwhile, in a classic case of unintended consequences, concern also arose among cruise lines with ships registered on the island. Some of the companies had planned on selling same-sex wedding packages to customers, whose money carries no stigma, the New York Times reported.

But ships registered in Bermuda must follow Bermudian law

The island’s Supreme Court is now slated to hear a challenge to the new law in May, the Caribbean Media Corporation said.

A new breeze could be blowing in the Caribbean, but not everyone is feeling it.

WANT TO KNOW

INDIA

Blind Justice

Eight people were killed during massive protests by India’s erstwhile untouchables on Monday.

Now known as Dalits, or the oppressed, tens of thousands of low-caste Indians took to the streets to protest against a Supreme Court order they say weakens the law prohibiting atrocities against the so-called Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST), the BBC reported.

The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 calls for the instant arrest of those accused and makes it very difficult to obtain bail – which is especially significant in a country where trials can go on for decades.

Last month, the Supreme Court said the act had been “rampantly misused” and called for an end to automatic arrests in favor of a mandatory preliminary inquiry by police. But atrocities like the killing of a Dalit man for daring to ride a horse last week remain common, and many Dalits believe the court’s ruling reflects its own upper caste bias.

MALAYSIA

Keeping It Real

A ban on fake news sounds great, but the devil is in the details.

The lower house of the Malaysian parliament passed a bill on Monday prohibiting fake news , but many fear it may be used to quash dissent in the lead-up to elections.

The bill, expected to stand a vote in the senate today, originally proposed a 10-year jail term and a fine of up to 500,000 ringgit ($128,000), but the final version set the maximum prison sentence at six years, the Associated Press reported. But an associated statement from the government has raised concerns about its true purpose.

Accusing the opposition coalition of using fake news to win votes, government officials warned that any news about the indebted 1MDB state fund that has not been verified by the government is fake, the agency said. The multibillion-dollar financial scandal involves Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is widely expected to call for national elections in the next few days.

Critics say the new law may also be applied to silence debate over controversial new constituency boundaries for the elections, which they say amount to gerrymandering.

ISRAEL

Let My People Stay

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suspended a decision to send thousands of African migrants to foreign shores on Monday, just hours after he’d announced the plan.

Under the plan, made with the United Nations Refugee Agency, Israel was to send at least 16,250 African migrants to Canada, Italy and Germany, CNN reported. But the scheme had come under heavy criticism from members of Netanyahu’s coalition.

CNN cited the Population and Immigration Authority as saying there are approximately 37,000 illegal immigrants in Israel, the majority from Eritrea or Sudan. Earlier, Netanyahu had faced flak for a plan to offer such residents $3,500 and an airplane ticket to leave for a sub-Saharan African country.

Human rights groups successfully challenged that plan in court.

While accepting refugees is controversial around the world, Israel has accepted only 33 asylum requests out of some 54,600 over the past decade, compared with an acceptance rate of nearly 90% in the European Union through the first three quarters of 2017.

DISCOVERIES

Duck Down

According to a study conducted by American and Swiss scientists, toy ducks used at bath time for millions of children may be breeding grounds for a host of harmful bacteria and microbes, the New York Times reported.

Children often use the ducks to soak up bathwater and spray it at an unsuspecting sibling or parent. But the recent study, published in the journal NPJ Biofilms and Microbiomes, showed that the water released from 80 percent of the toy ducks tested contained bacteria normally associated with infections acquired in hospitals.

The ducks’ downfall lies in the polymer material from which they’re made, the study’s authors wrote. It easily releases carbon, providing food for bacteria that embed in the ducks’ nooks and crannies.

“In addition to the nutrient supply, dirty bath water also serves as a further source of microbial seeding for the bath toys,” the researchers wrote.

The shattered innocence of using a rubber ducky at bath time is just the latest in a string of inconvenient truths about household items, the New York Times reported.

Last year, a German study of kitchen sponges from private households found they contained the same density of bacteria as one would find in a human stool sample.

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