The World Today for May 25, 2018



A New Country

Today Irish voters decide whether they keep the eighth amendment of their constitution, which bans abortion in most cases.

The referendum has triggered soul-searching discussions about the country’s origins and future, wrote Mashable. Many women shared heart-rending stories of traveling to Britain, for example, to terminate a pregnancy.

But the vote underscores an ongoing social revolution in Ireland, the Guardian explained.

Consider this: The Irish prime minister, or Taoiseach, is gay and of Indian heritage. Three years ago, Irish voters opted to permit same-sex marriage.

The debate over legal abortion also illustrates how Ireland has become a new country in recent years, wrote Ross Douthat in the New York Times. Ireland has retained some of its arch-Catholic traditions, but now also has European social democratic policies like subsidies for new families. The result is a high quality of life and a remarkably open society.

“With its restrictive abortion laws, generous family policy and otherwise modern economy, Ireland seems to have achieved or maintained some notable pro-life and pro-family goals without compromising women’s health or female opportunities,” wrote Douthat.

But the vote exposed how changes in Ireland have created a rural-urban divide that has widened in recent years as the Irish economy has grown, a BBC video showed.

Years ago, Ireland had dropped taxes in order to lure in big multinational companies, who needed well-educated workers, with a solid rule of law and access to Europe. Those policies helped turn Ireland into the so-called “Celtic Tiger.”

But they also got the country into trouble, like the European Union’s recent determination that Apple owes Ireland $15.3 billion in back taxes, a decision Apple and Ireland are disputing. The US government sought to become involved but was rebuffed, prompting American officials to grouse that the EU was becoming a “supra-national tax authority,” Bloomberg reported.

That’s not the only major international question Ireland is facing.

Upon Brexit next year, something must happen with the border between EU-member Ireland and the British territory of Northern Ireland. Irish leaders have threatened to scuttle Britain’s Brexit agreement unless the border issue is resolved, an odd position for tiny Ireland vis-à-vis its former colonial master, reported Politico.

Irish politicians want to keep commerce humming over the border, as has occurred under the status quo. A majority of voters in Northern Ireland don’t support Brexit either, wrote the Independent. Brexit has, in a way, united two sides that long opposed each other, a great harbinger for the future.

On Friday, the Irish will decide on one question. But many choices loom.

And while questions might divide the Irish, for now, they all inherit the same new country.



No Pressure

A spokesman for Mexico’s president said the country won’t be bullied into ending the long-delayed renegotiation of NAFTA by President Donald Trump’s threats of new tariffs on automotive imports.

But it may nevertheless have offered some new concessions.

Following Trump’s statement that the US would explore whether imports are hurting American carmakers on Wednesday, a spokesman for Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said, “Mexico is not going to negotiate on the basis of pressure, Mexico is very clear about what works and what doesn’t work for us,” Reuters reported.

However, the agency cited an unnamed source as saying that Mexico made a new offer on automotive policies “showing some flexibility” on Thursday.

Earlier, Mexico suggested an agreement that 20 percent of any auto made in North America would be produced in high-wage areas, while the US had asked for 40 percent of auto content to come from areas paying at least $16 hour.

Reuters didn’t offer any information about what additional concessions Mexico may have offered Thursday.


No Safety in Succor

Amnesty International claimed that Nigerian soldiers raped women and girls who fled Boko Haram, sometimes extorting sex in exchange for food.

Nigeria’s military, which has repeatedly been accused of carrying out atrocities during the fight against the Islamist militants, denied the allegations, the BBC reported.

“These false reports, which are capable of derailing the good work being done by our patriotic and selfless soldiers, must stop,” the military said in a statement.

Based on more than 250 in-depth interviews conducted over two years, the Amnesty report cited “scores of women (and some men)” as saying soldiers and Civilian Joint Task Force members commonly used force and threats to rape women and girls or took advantage of their plight to coerce them into sex.

Nine women reported cases of rape to Amnesty International and 10 others reported that they had been coerced to become the “girlfriend” to a soldier or the Civilian JTF, the rights agency said. The report also detailed other abuses.


Equality Amid Chaos

Pakistan’s lower house of Parliament passed a constitutional amendment promising equality to the people of the country’s northwestern tribal areas, a region that has long been a haven for militant groups including the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

Offering widespread political, administrative and human rights reforms, the amendment would merge the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, Al-Jazeera reported. The upper house of Parliament and KP assembly are expected to approve it without much opposition, finally removing draconian colonial-era regulations in the tribal region.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi suggested that the measure is a positive step in establishing order in the area. However, he cautioned that “trust will not come just through words” but from giving the region schools, hospitals and roads as good as those in the rest of the country.

While Pakistan’s army has fought to root out Al Qaeda and the Pakistan Taliban from the tribal region, the US and Afghanistan claim Islamabad still provides sanctuary to armed groups such as the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani Network.


The ‘Golden Arm’ Rests

He’s made over 1,100 blood donations across six decades, saving the lives of 2.4 million babies in the process.

But a few weeks ago, at the age of 81, Australian James Harrison, known as “the man with the golden arm,” officially made his last donation, Newsweek reported.

Nicknamed for his charitable contributions to the medical field, Harrison unwillingly retired when doctors advised him to stop donating for his own health.

But it’s not just his selflessness that makes Harrison special: Harrison’s plasma contains a rare antibody combination that can be harnessed to create a powerful treatment against rhesus D hemolytic disease of the newborn.

It’s a disorder in which a mother’s body perceives her fetus’s blood cells as an invading threat due to differing blood types and produces antibodies to kill off the invader. The disease can result in stillbirths and miscarriages, or deformities such as deafness, blindness or brain damage.

“Every ampule of anti-D ever made in Australia has James in it” since 1967, Robyn Barlow, the treatment program coordinator who recruited Harrison, told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Given all he’s accomplished and his altruism, Harrison said his last donation was bittersweet.

“It’s a sad day for me,” he told the Sydney newspaper. “The end of a long run.”

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