The World Today for January 24, 2019

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Shots Heard Round the World

Brazil leads the world in homicides.

Newly elected President Jair Bolsonaro believes making it easier for Brazilians to own guns would help address the problem.

Recently, he signed legislation that loosened restrictions on gun ownership, though would-be buyers of firearms still must be at least 25 years old, sport a clean criminal record, and pass a psychological exam and a gun club course. The new rules will let people defend themselves, said Bolsonaro.

It’s not clear if Brazilians agree. Polls show that more than 60 percent of them believe firearms should be prohibited, the Associated Press reported. But the South American country’s voters also rejected a ban on making and selling guns in a 2005 referendum.

Brazilians aren’t the only ones who share Americans’ stance about self-defense and the role of guns in violent crime.

Civilian ownership of firearms worldwide increased by almost a third between 2007 and 2017, according to Small Arms Survey, a Geneva-based research group.

Berlin student Carolin Matthie, 26, applied for a gun permit after she heard about North African or Arab migrants allegedly assaulting hundreds of German women in Cologne and other cities on New Year’s Eve three years ago. “If I don’t do it now, I will have to wait maybe another half year,” Matthie told the Wall Street Journal.

She represented a trend. Europeans are buying more guns amid a spike in terror attacks, fears over immigration and a rise in gun-toting criminals. Germany’s strict gun control laws might delay Matthie’s purchase. But they haven’t stopped a black market in deadly weapons from thriving on the continent, the Journal added.

American firearms companies have capitalized on the trend, exporting 64 percent more handguns, rifles and shotguns for civilians between 2010 and 2016, according to Small Arms Analytics, another research firm.

Those commercial connections have led the National Rifle Association (NRA) to take positions “that are hard to square with its all-American persona,” wrote Bloomberg. The NRA supported Iran, North Korea, and Syria’s objections to an arms trade treaty and criticized the US government for slapping sanctions on the Russian maker of the AK-47 over the issue of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

Still, the pushback against gun violence is also strong. After a spate of shootings in Toronto last year, Canadians are debating stricter gun control, reported the Atlantic. South Africans are sick and tired of the shootings that mar their daily lives, according to Forbes.

It’s a cycle of violence that seems impossible to stop without at least the threat of more violence. And in Brazil, and elsewhere, scholars say that’s what’s to come.



A Vote Against Democracy

The US, Canada and various Latin American nations have backed Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido in his bid to oust controversial President Nicolas Maduro after Guaido declared himself interim president on Wednesday.

Guaido declared himself the country’s interim leader before a crowd of tens of thousands of supporters in the capital of Caracas on Wednesday, the anniversary of the end of the dictatorship of Marcos Perez Jimenez on Jan. 23, 1958, Al Jazeera reported.

After the US expressed its support for the move and hinted of a possible military action to back that up, Canada, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Chile, Peru and Argentina and the leader of the Organization of American States (OAS) also recognized Guaido as the acting president. 

Although by assuming power he’d be nominally circumventing the democratic process, Guaido has promised to hold fresh elections amid the widespread belief that Maduro’s election to a second term was a farce.

So far, Maduro appears to have the backing of the military, however, and he has announced he would give US diplomatic personnel 72 hours to leave the country, CNBC said.


And Now, Mrs. Gandhi

Long in decline, India’s Congress Party stunned the country Wednesday with the announcement that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, a popular figure often compared to her grandmother Indira, would finally take an official position in the party after many years of refusals.

The younger sister of the party president, Rahul Gandhi, 47-year-old Priyanka has often been touted as a more natural politician, and her entry into the fray has rekindled hope that the Congress can defeat Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in national elections this year, the Washington Post reported.

Intriguingly, Priyanka will head the Congress’ operations in eastern Uttar Pradesh. As India’s most populous state, it accounts for more parliamentary seats than any other, and is home to the Gandhis’ home constituency of Amethi. The BJP dominated the last parliamentary polls in the state in 2014, however, and for years prior elections there had been dominated by two regional, caste-based parties – the Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party – which recently forged a surprising alliance. Meanwhile, the eastern part of the state is home to both Modi’s constituency of Varanasi and the stronghold of BJP state chief minister Yogi Adityanath.


After a While, Crocodile

Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s crackdown on dissent over the country’s disastrous economic plight has raised fears that his regime will be no less authoritarian than that of his long-serving predecessor, Robert Mugabe.

This week, Mnangagwa shut down the Internet and sent in the army to quell protests in Harare, resulting in as many as a dozen deaths, the New York Times reported. The response suggested to many residents and would-be investors that he’s still working from Mugabe’s playbook, as he had taken similar actions to crush protests following his July election.

That’s a practical problem as well as a moral one: The July violence was a major reason Mnangagwa has been unable to convince foreign investors and international lenders that things have changed in Zimbabwe, and that failure has, in turn, contributed to the current economic turmoil – which has featured a crippling shortage of hard currency and a 150 percent spike in fuel prices.

“Mugabe used to unleash the violent police on protesters and now Mnangagwa is doing worse,” a local resident told the Times.


Throw a Javelin, Save a Lion

Young Maasai warriors in Kenya need to kill lions in order to gain respect in their tribes.

It’s a brave task for humans, but a problem for lions in Africa, whose numbers are dwindling.

Kenyan Olympic champion David Rudisha, a Maasai, is trying to change traditions and encourage conservation efforts through the Maasai Olympic Games.

“We are trying to engage these young Moran (warriors) to participate in sports and try to distract them from the rite of passage,” he told BBC News. “Two-thousand lions in Kenya is a worrying figure because if you go back five or six years you find that the figure has reduced by more than 50 percent,” Rudisha added.

Since 2012, young Maasai have been practicing track and field in what Rudisha hopes will help bring change.

“These days I just focus on training to throw a javelin and not a spear to hunt lions,” said Leshan Ita, a young Olympian trying to convince his peers to leave the hunts.

Rudisha hopes that the activities will inspire others to pursue sports professionally and represent Kenya in international athletic events.

Click here to see the new rites of passage.

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