The World Today for September 07, 2018

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Whose Fault

Indian authorities recently arrested five activists on charges of inciting “caste-based” violence.

The activists, who included a poet, civil-rights campaigners and a law professor who is also a trade union organizer, were accused of spurring a public rally of Dalits, once known as “untouchables,” to turn into a riot that resulted in one death earlier this year.

But the allegations – which many saw as an exercise in distraction or false equivalency amid a more serious prosecution of far-right Hindus accused of murdering a journalist who crusaded against superstition – carried a hint of what British author George Orwell would call a “thought crime.”

“You know Maoist activities…the intellectual push that translates into violence,” a senior police official told the BBC.

The Indian Supreme Court was skeptical, ordering that the activists be placed under house arrest rather than jail and formally asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party to explain why people were being locked up for speaking their minds.

“Dissent is the safety valve of democracy,” said Justice Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud, according to Al Jazeera. “If you don’t allow the safety valve, the pressure cooker will burst.”

Officials told the press that the activists were planning to assassinate Modi, the Times of India reported.

The case illustrates the ironies surfacing in India.

The world’s largest democracy is slated to overtake China as the biggest source of growth for oil demand by 2024, CNBC reported, a sign of how its economy is catching up with its mammoth population, the world’s second-largest. It’s planning its first manned space mission, the Times of India wrote. That will make India the fourth nation in the world to put a human in space. Not shabby. American tech giants Google and Amazon and Chinese tech giant Alibaba are competing for slices of the Indian retail market, the Economic Times reported. And this week, New Delhi inked a deal that strengthens its military partnership with the US, according to the New York Times.

Amid the heady climate, Modi recently told the World Economic Forum that climate change, terrorism (not only Islamists but also Maoists) and the backlash against globalization were the greatest threats to civilization.

But the arrested activists might point to other problems in India.

The central bank recently assessed Modi’s 2016 surprise “demonetization” – in which 500 and 1,000 rupee notes were removed from circulation in a bid to crack down on crime and corruption – in its annual report. It didn’t achieve its original goals, India’s Mint newspaper reported. And the economic chaos that resulted may have caused more than 1 million Indians to lose their jobs, Quartz reported.

India is also the most dangerous country for sexual violence against women, the Conversation said. A pattern of lynching – Hindu crowds have attacked and killed Muslims and Dalits suspected of eating beef, the product of cows that Hindus consider sacred – has also tarnished the country’s image, Tourism Minister K.J. Alphons said recently.

The fault lines that emerge in a changing society are hard to manage. But blaming someone for them doesn’t make them go away.



Law and Order Candidate

Brazil’s far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro is in serious but stable condition after he was attacked and stabbed at a campaign rally on Thursday.

The controversial Congressman, who’s running a law and order campaign, is currently leading the race, Reuters reported.

Local police in Juiz de Fora said they had apprehended the suspect, 40-year-old Adelio Bispo de Oliveira, and he appeared to be mentally disturbed. Though he was affiliated with the leftwing Socialism and Liberty Party from 2007 to 2014, the party repudiated the attack, which a video depicted Oliveira saying was ordered by God.

The incident might spark sympathy for Bolsonaro and bolster support for his calls to encourage police to gun down criminals. But if his injuries prevent him from making public appearances that could prove especially detrimental to his campaign, as election rules grant his tiny coalition almost no campaign time on TV and radio, the agency said.


Another Mass Grave

Using drones and ground-penetrating radar, Mexican authorities discovered a mass grave in the state of Veracruz that contains the skulls of at least 166 people following a tip last month, officials said Thursday.

Veracruz Attorney General Jorge Winckler Ortiz said the mass grave yielded 200 pieces of clothing, 144 IDs and personal belongings. Evidence indicated the deaths may have occurred a couple of years ago, but the authorities declined to provide further information about why or how the deaths might have occurred or where the mass grave was discovered, CNN reported.

Veracruz is among several states where drug cartels hold sway – though the authorities didn’t attribute the mass grave to cartel activity. More than a year ago, in Colinas de Santa Fe, Veracruz, police found nearly 300 corpses in another mass grave, CNN said.

Non-governmental groups and Mexican federal authorities say there are more than 30,000 people reported missing in the country.


Cross-Border Crime

In an unprecedented decision, the International Criminal Court ruled it can prosecute Myanmar for alleged crimes against humanity even though the country is not a signatory to the Rome statute that governs the court.

Based on the prosecutors’ argument that the alleged crimes that caused the Rohingya to flee their homes were not completed until the refugees crossed into Bangladesh – which is a signatory to the court – the ruling could expose Myanmar’s politicians and military leaders to charges of deportation and possibly genocide, the UK’s Guardian newspaper reported.

Chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda argued that deportation is like “a cross-border shooting,” which “is not completed until the bullet (fired in one state) strikes and kills the victim (standing in another state),” the paper said.

Prosecutors are now attempting to gather enough evidence to convince the court to open a formal investigation, which could take at least five years before any charges are filed.


Flamboyant Investors

Known for imitating human speech, parrots can be quite sassy when firefighters try to rescue them.

But researchers from Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Ornithology recently discovered that the colorful birds are capable of making solid financial decisions, too, the Telegraph reported.

In an experiment involving 33 parrots of four different species, scientists taught the birds to recognize the value of tokens in exchange for food rewards, allowing them to choose between receiving an immediate reward or “investing” in higher returns later.

It turned out that the exotic avians were good strategists. They rejected immediate rewards in favor of tokens as long as their frugality led to better food.

“They are capable of making surprisingly subtle decisions to maximize their payoff while minimizing their effort,” said lead researcher Auguste von Bayern.

The results were published in the journal Scientific Reports.

According to the researchers, the parrots’ decision-making process could explain their behavior in the wild.

“We know little about the ecological challenges most parrots encounter in their habitats in the wild, such as deciding where to go and how long to stay in a given feeding site,” said von Bayern.

Stock trading could be more interesting and profitable if these flamboyant consultants took over.

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