The World Today for June 15, 2018

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Me, Too

Censors delete references to #metoo on social media in China. So people recently started posting emojis of a rice bowl and a rabbit.

“If you translate the English words ‘rice’ and ‘bunny’ into Chinese, you get something that kind of sounds like ‘me too,’” wrote WBUR, a public radio station in Boston. The station also noted that folks were using blockchain technology to exchange #metoo-related messages online.

Chinese officials have ignored #metoo issues for years, but the pictographic code is a sign that the worldwide movement won’t go away.

Foreign Affairs estimated that women in 85 different countries have been using the hashtag to draw attention to violence and harassment in the workplace and elsewhere. It’s even hitting unlikely places such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

The movement’s successes – defined narrowly, say, as the punishment or at least the outing of accused serial predators – have yet to be fully tallied.

Americans have Harvey Weinstein, the former film producer arrested on rape charges last month.

Swedes have the Stockholm “cultural impresario” Jean-Claude Arnault, who allegedly harassed women in the Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel Prize in literature, NPR explained. He’s also suspected of groping Swedish Crown Princess Victoria. The scandal led officials to cancel the awarding of the 2018 prize in recognition of the need to investigate and clean house.

In France, Tariq Ramadan, an Islam scholar at Oxford University, remains in police custody. He was charged in February with raping two women. A French court recently dismissed a third woman’s allegations against Ramadan, and he – like Arnault and Weinstein – denies the specific accusations against him.

Ramadan’s case reflects a big shift in the Muslim world, wrote the Atlantic.

“Muslim women are speaking up about Islamic scholars and clergymen who have allegedly preyed on their piety, and their stories are forcing a reckoning about the fallibility of these outsized personalities,” the magazine said.

Many women still live under repressive regimes, too, of course.

“When will the minorities in Pakistan and Bangladesh also get to take part in the MeToo movement?” asked analyst Rachel Avraham in an opinion piece in the Hill. “Numerous Hindu and Christian girls in Pakistan have been abducted, compelled to convert to Islam and then subsequently forced to marry their captors.”

Meanwhile, though even female citizens in repressive Saudi Arabia have made gains in the #metoo era, winning the right to drive cars, activists who fought for the privilege were jailed for speaking out, the Washington Post noted.

Writing in openDemocracy, labor activist Cathy Feingold argued for action on a mass scale. “The time is right for a new International Labor Organization global standard aimed at ending violence and sexual harassment at work,” she wrote.

That may or may not happen. But something almost certainly will.



Keeping Score

US President Donald Trump is set to formally announce tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods later Friday, while the European Union, Canada and Mexico stepped up responses to earlier US tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Citing insiders familiar with the matter, Bloomberg first reported the story late Thursday, reporting that President Trump was set to release an updated list of some 1,300 goods targeted by the tariffs first released in April, despite previous worries that the move could derail denuclearization talks with the North Korean regime.

Meanwhile, EU members unanimously endorsed a plan to impose import duties on $3.3 billion worth of US products, Al-Jazeera reported, saying the “hit-list … reads like a catalog of emblematic American exports – from blue jeans to motorbikes and whiskey.”

Canadians have begun a grassroots boycott of American goods over Trump’s tariffs and insults directed at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, CTV reported, while Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland says she is not ruling out potential retaliatory sanctions against the Trump Organization rather than America as a whole in an interview with Maclean’s. And Mexico is mulling tariffs on $4 billion in annual imports of US corn and soybeans, Reuters said.


Irish Wake

In the wake of the Irish referendum overturning the nation’s strict ban on abortion, Argentina’s lower house of Congress on Thursday narrowly approved a bill that would legalize abortion before 14 weeks of pregnancy.

The bill may well be rejected by the Senate, which most likely will vote on it in September, NPR reported. But if it passes there, President Mauricio Macri has said he will sign it into law, despite his own reservations.

A massive crowd outside the Congress erupted in cheers when the passage of the bill by a narrow 129-125 vote was announced. Currently, abortion is illegal in Argentina except in cases of rape or danger to the woman’s health, a prohibition similar to Ireland’s Eighth Amendment, which voters there overturned last month.

Chile and Uruguay, which, like Argentina, are also staunchly Catholic, have recently rolled back their bans on abortion. But the issue remains intensely divisive in Argentina, where petitions against relaxing the ban have gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures.


Broad Consensus

America’s ambassador to the United Nations decried a resolution condemning Israel and not Hamas for the recent escalation of violence in Gaza as “grossly one-sided,” a phrase that could well define how Israelis and Palestinians alike see the global perception of the thorny territorial conflict.

On Wednesday, the UN General Assembly approved a Palestinian-backed resolution that condemned Israel for violence associated with mass protests along its border with Gaza, where 120 Palestinians have been killed and over 3,800 wounded by Israeli army fire since the end of March, the Associated Press reported.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley had pushed for an amendment recognizing that Hamas has fired more than 100 rockets into Israel, too – a nod to Israel’s claim that Hamas uses the protests as cover for attacks on the border fence. Curiously, the motion was initially carried, then failed in a second vote after it was determined that a two-thirds majority was not required.

After that, the original resolution sailed through 120-8 with 45 abstentions.


Toxic Treatments, Goodbye

According to the results of a groundbreaking new study, about 70 percent of breast cancer patients who’d be prescribed chemotherapy under current standards don’t actually need the toxic treatment, the New York Times reported.

Linked to hair loss, nausea and nerve damage, chemotherapy has become standard in treatment for moderate and severe cancer.

But using gene tests on breast cancer tumors, scientists found that a large group of women could skip chemotherapy without incurring extra risks. In principle, all they really need is endocrine, or hormone therapy.

The breakthrough is based on a gene test of breast cancer tumors that can identify the sweet spot in which women won’t need chemo. On a scale ranging from 0 to 100, scores under 10 don’t need the treatment, and scores over 25 do.

In a longitudinal study beginning in 2006, scientists tracked 10,000 women through the course of their treatment, 70 percent of whom scored between 11 and 25 on the gene test. Studying this group in particular, doctors noticed no marked differences in recurrence, regardless of whether women were given chemo.

“I’ll be able to look people in the eye and say, ‘We analyzed your tumor, you have a really good prognosis and you actually don’t need chemotherapy.’ That’s a nice thing to be able to say to somebody,” said Dr. Larry Norton of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

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