The World Today for August 10, 2018

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NEED TO KNOW

BRAZIL

The Wages of Disillusionment

The Brazilian Supreme Court’s hearing on the South American country’s abortion laws kicked off intense controversy.

Few expected the court to overturn Brazil’s tight restrictions against the procedure. But abortion-rights activists hoped the hearings would ignite further discussions and set the stage for reforms later. One in five women in Brazil has terminated a pregnancy, according to the New York Times.

But the backlash against the activists’ goals was intense.

University of Brasília anthropologist Debora Diniz, who helped spur the legal case at issue in the recent hearings, went into hiding after she received death threats. “We are in a new moment,” Diniz told the Guardian. “It could change the criminalization of abortion in the country, and that is why it is so important.”

Abortion has become a symbol of the divisions riddling Brazil today.

In recent years – including in 2016 when lawmakers removed ex-President Dilma Rousseff from office – the country has faced a sharp divide between those who want to reform the government and those who want to reform the economy.

“Citizens on the political right had coalesced around the issue of corruption,” wrote Pablo Ortellado and Márcio Moretto Ribeiro, both professors at Universidade de São Paulo, in the Conversation. “Those on the political left had honed in on social programs and public services. As political parties began putting these issues front and center of their platforms, left and right pulled apart, both politically and socially.”

Bloomberg argues the presidential election on Oct. 7 will be a clash between the two sides amid widespread disillusionment with the political class.

Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is in jail on corruption charges and probably won’t be allowed to stand for office again. But he has vowed that his left-leaning Workers’ Party will undo the privatizations pushed through by incumbent conservative President Michel Temer, who is not running for re-election, the Associated Press reported.

Meanwhile, a mix of government failure and economic hardship has caused crime rates and street violence to soar. Many prominent people, like Brazilian soap opera star, Thiago Lacerda, want to leave: He is thinking about emigrating to Europe.

“I’m totally freaked out by what’s been happening, especially here in Rio,” Lacerda, 40, said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. “In several years, (my children) are going to want to go out, to start dating, without worrying about getting shot.”

In 2017, Brazil saw a record high 63,880 people murdered, a 3 percent increase over the previous year, while the number of rapes reported rose 8 percent to 60,018, the UK’s Independent newspaper cited a new report by the Brazilian Forum of Public Security (BFPS) as saying.

Right-wing populist candidate Jair Bolsonaro claims he’ll be able to find solutions in Brazil’s authoritarian past and attracts voters by disparaging women and minorities, Reuters said. Angry once at a fellow female member of Congress, he told her, “I won’t rape you because you do not deserve it.”

Such are the wages of disillusionment.

WANT TO KNOW

ARGENTINA

A Watershed Defeat?

Argentina’s Senate voted down a bill that would have legalized abortion up to 14 weeks of pregnancy but abortion-rights activists say there’s now “unstoppable” momentum for loosening the country’s stringent restrictions.

Legislators in the staunchly Catholic country’s Senate debated for more than 15 hours before voting 38-31 against the motion, the UK’s Independent newspaper reported. In June, the lower House had passed the measure, raising activists’ hopes of an end to prohibitions that allow abortion only in cases of rape and risks to a woman’s health.

Jessie Clyde of the International Women’s Health Coalition said Argentina’s women’s movement is now “unstoppable,” according to the paper. She vowed to push for another vote in 2019.

The home country of Pope Francis, Argentina has seen six such bills over the past 13 years. But this was the first to pass in the lower House. Its eventual defeat could echo across the region, where several countries are also deeply divided over the issue.

YEMEN

Enough Is Enough

A Saudi-led coalition airstrike hit a school bus in northern Yemen on Thursday, killing dozens of children on a school field trip, according to the Houthi-controlled health ministry.

CNN cited the ministry as saying that 50 people were killed and 77 injured when the airstrike hit the bus at its first stop of the day, a local market. The International Committee for the Red Cross confirmed that one of the hospitals it supports had received 29 bodies of “mainly children” younger than 15, and 40 injured, including 30 children.

The Saudi coalition defended the strike as a legitimate military operation and said it came in response to a Houthi missile that also killed civilians in the Jizan province of Saudi Arabia.

Lise Grande, United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, called for the warring factions to “negotiate an end to this terrible war.”

“There’s no justification for the number of people killed and injured. That’s why humanitarians everywhere are saying ‘enough is enough,’” she said.

SOUTH AFRICA

Total Shutdown

The suicide of a 23-year-old South African woman after she was allegedly raped by a fellow student at the Rhodes University in Grahamstown has galvanized the country’s movement against sexual assault.

But there’s a long way to go before women will feel safe in what some have labeled “the rape capital of the world” according to the national statistical service of South Africa, CNN reported.

Buried in Johannesburg on Thursday, Khensani Maseko told university officials in July that she had been raped by another student in May. Her parents were informed and she returned home pending an investigation, while the accused was suspended. But a few days before Maseko was to return to campus she took her own life.

Her death spurred thousands of women to march against gender violence last week in what organizers dubbed the TotalShutDown protest – delivering a list of demands to the parliament and other top governmental bodies.

Violence against women is now a “priority crime” in South Africa. But the situation remains dire: statisticians estimate there are 138 rapes for every 100,000 women, compared with 6.4 per 100,000 in Switzerland, for instance.

DISCOVERIES

Reckless Hoppers

Kangaroos bouncing around cities are a common sight in Australia. But people in Canberra, the country’s capital, have been witnessing more of the hungry hoppers than usual recently.

Tens of thousands of kangaroos have been raiding green patches of land in the city due to food scarcity in their natural habitats, CNN reported.

“Sports ovals, suburban yards, schoolyards and roadsides are the few places offering any green grass at all in Canberra at the moment,” said Daniel Iglesias, director of the Australian Capital Territory Parks and Conservation Service. “They act as magnets for kangaroos.”

Meanwhile, the leaping marsupials are at risk of becoming roadkill because their feeding times coincide with rush hours.

Authorities have advised drivers to slow down during peak hours or avoid routes where kangaroos are known to hang out.

Many Australians also equip their vehicles with “roo bars” on the front to protect them from collisions with the reckless mammal.

With the animals considered pests in most areas, kangaroo culling is legal in Australia. The latest cull removed more than 3,250 from the Canberra region.

This week, the state government of New South Wales declared the entire state to be facing drought conditions and loosened restrictions on shooting kangaroos, USA Today reported. “If we don’t manage this situation, we will start to see tens of thousands of kangaroos starving and suffering, ultimately leading to a major animal welfare crisis,” the paper quoted Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair as saying.

In Australia, the number of kangaroos is nearly twice the number of humans – 44 million roos versus 24 million Aussies.

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