The World Today for October 20, 2021

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Life and Death

COLOMBIA

Suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Martha Sepúlveda opted to die. She scheduled the procedure that would kill her known as euthanasia for Oct. 10 at the Colombian Pain Institute. A few days before, however,  the Institute canceled the procedure, telling the 51-year-old devout Catholic woman that her condition had improved, USA Today reported. Sepúlveda has filed a lawsuit against the Institute, arguing its decision is wrong.

The entire case has become a major public controversy in Colombia.

As the Washington Post wrote, Colombia recognizes the right to euthanasia for terminal patients and those experiencing intense suffering due to “bodily injury or serious and incurable disease,” a rare right that few countries have extended to patients.

ALS is a disease of the nervous system that is incurable, degenerative and eventually fatal but is not classified in Colombia as terminal. Sepúlveda’s legs are now paralyzed from the disease, but her condition is expected to worsen, NBC News explained.

“I may be a coward but I don’t want to suffer anymore, I’m tired,” Sepúlveda told Caracol TV, according to Agence France-Presse. “I have been very peaceful in my mind since I received the authorization for euthanasia. I laugh, I sleep better. God doesn’t want me to suffer like this.”

Sepúlveda’s son sat next to her during the interview. “Mom is going to die Sunday morning and she is happy,” he said.

Many Colombians, however, follow the teachings of Catholic Church leaders who view euthanasia as an offense against the dignity of human life. Bishop Francisco Ceballos of Riohacha called on Sepúlveda to reconsider her choice.

“Her affliction can find a transcendent meaning if it becomes a call to the love that heals, to the love that renews, to the love that forgives,” said the bishop in a public video message quoted in the Catholic News Agency.

As the debate rages, others around the world are working through similar issues.

French lawmakers are discussing legislation to allow for doctor-assisted suicide. Conservatives are seeking to torpedo the proposed law. Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Spain already have similar laws. Italy is also edging closer to allowing the practice, Euronews reported. Five Australian states have okayed voluntary euthanasia, the Associated Press wrote. The sixth state, New South Wales, almost adopted the same measure recently.

Meanwhile, the March for Life against abortion and euthanasia is still one of the largest annual rallies in Germany, as Deutsche Welles noted.

Life itself and one’s role in it is rarely so squarely the topic.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

Simmer, Boil

BANGLADESH

Bangladeshi police arrested 450 people Tuesday following a wave of violence against Hindus last week, considered one of the worst outbreaks of unrest in more than a decade in the Muslim-majority country, Reuters reported.

At least six people died and more than 20 Hindu homes have been burned when violence erupted over an image posted on social media of the Muslim holy book, the Quran, at the foot of a statue at a Hindu temple in the eastern district of Cumilla.

Many Muslims protested the image and accused Hindus of blasphemy. Multiple Hindu religious sites were also vandalized during the clashes.

Authorities have been trying to curb the violence that broke out during the Hindu festival of Durga Puja, the Associated Press noted.

The unrest prompted demonstrations from Hindu groups against the violence. On Monday, followers of the Hindu group, International Society for Krishna Consciousness, and students and staff from Dhaka University blocked a major intersection in the capital to demand justice.

United Nations officials and foreign governments have also denounced the violence against Hindus, which make up about nine percent of Bangladesh’s 160 million people.

Bangladesh’s constitution designates Islam as the official religion but it also upholds principles of secularism. Even so, communal tensions continue to simmer in the South Asian country.

A Large Bandage

ECUADOR

Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso declared a state of emergency this week amid a spike in drug-related violence and prison riots in the Latin American country, Agence France-Presse reported.

The right-wing president said that drug trafficking is the “only one enemy” in Ecuador, adding that the country “has gone from being a drug trafficking country to one that also consumes drugs” in recent years.

The move will allow thousands of soldiers and police to patrol the country’s streets, as well as 65 prisons nationwide. It is expected to last for 60 days.

Lasso’s decision comes as the country grapples with escalating violence in recent months: Since January, Ecuador has registered nearly 1,900 homicides – a significant rise over 2020, which registered 1,400 for the entire year.

The country’s prison system has also been plagued with riots: More than 230 prisoners have died during clashes with authorities in 2021.

Two weeks ago, prisoners linked to Mexican and Colombian cartels exchanged fire with authorities in a penitentiary in the southwestern city of Guayaquil. The riot left 119 inmates dead and was considered one of the worst prison massacres in the history of Latin America.

The state of emergency also came on the eve of an official visit by United States Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to Ecuador and Colombia in an effort to boost economic and security ties with Latin American democracies.

Naughty Parents

CHINA

China introduced a bill this week that would punish parents for their children’s misbehavior, the latest effort by the government to reshape childhood development in the country, USA Today reported.

The proposed legislation would shift the blame to the parents of children who act up or – worse – commit a crime. Parents would be required to attend family education programs and could face punishment if their children committed a crime below the legal age, which is 16 for most offenses.

Failure to comply could result in warnings, fines of up to $156, or imprisonment for up to five days.

Named “Family Education Promotion Law,” the bill also urges parents to develop good study habits in children, as well as support their mental and physical wellbeing.

Officials said that the lack of family education is a “major cause” of teenage misbehavior and delinquency. They added that the bill aims to promote parental skills, morality and China’s core values of socialism.

The move marks another example of China’s hands-on approach in monitoring and promoting change in its youth.

In August, the government issued a rule that children under 18 cannot play more than three hours of video games per week. The new measure allows for only one hour a night of gaming on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.

DISCOVERIES

Mission: Asteroid

NASA will launch a novel spacecraft next month to test Earth’s “planetary defense” capabilities, Insider reported.

The agency’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test – short for DART – will launch on Nov. 23 and is set on a collision course with a 525-foot long asteroid that is millions of miles away from Earth.

Scientists said the spacecraft’s goal is to alter the orbit of Dimorphos, a moonlet asteroid orbiting a larger one known as Didymos.

Both celestial bodies are expected to approach within roughly 6.8 million miles of Earth in September 2022. The spacecraft is expected to smash into Dimorphos by then.

Researchers at NASA calculate that the speeding spacecraft will move at nearly 14,783 miles per hour and will reduce Dimorphos’ speed by one percent. Although it’s not much, the team noted that it is enough to shift the asteroid’s orbit.

The DART mission will use a “low-cost” spacecraft equipped with cameras and a satellite cube that will detach from the craft before impact and take pictures of the crash.

The purpose of the mission is to learn more about how space organizations can develop defensive methods to protect the planet from deadly asteroids in the future.

This is not the first time NASA has conducted missions to hit asteroids.

In 2005, the Deep Impact mission hurled a spacecraft toward the Tempel 1 comet. The mission ended in 2013 after the agency lost contact with the craft.

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 241,607,788

Total Deaths Worldwide: 4,914,205

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 6,675,207,527

Countries with the highest number of confirmed cases worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET*

  1. US: 45,139,100 (+0.20%)
  2. India: 34,108,996 (+0.04%)
  3. Brazil: 21,664,879 (+0.06%)
  4. UK: 8,581,288 (+0.51%)
  5. Russia: 7,936,798 (+0.42%)
  6. Turkey: 7,714,349 (+0.40%)
  7. France: 7,196,754 (+0.08%)
  8. Iran: 5,809,967 (+0.23%)
  9. Argentina: 5,274,766 (+0.02%)
  10. Spain: 4,990,767 (+0.04%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

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