The World Today for September 14, 2022

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NEED TO KNOW

The Time To Choose

BRAZIL

Tanks rolled and soldiers marched through the streets of the Brazilian capital of Brasilia recently. They were ostensibly celebrating the 200th anniversary of the South American country’s independence from Portugal.

But the military parades on Sept. 7 had a different tone this year. In July, while he was accepting the conservative Liberal Party’s nomination for president ahead of a general election that runs from early to late October, President Jair Bolsonaro suggested that he wanted the country’s bicentennial celebrations to become a political rally.

“I call on all of you, on Sept. 7, to take to the streets for the last time … All of you here have sworn to give your life for your freedom,” Bolsonaro said in July, according to CNN. “Repeat with me: I swear to give my life for freedom.”

The bicentennial celebrations did resemble a political rally but no violence occurred, reported the Associated Press.

Still, the rhetoric parroted other leaders with authoritarian tendencies or outright dictators. And borrowing from a movement in the US, pro-Bolsonaro groups on social media platforms have been seeking to grow a “Stop the Steal” movement in Brazil.

Bolsonaro is currently trailing in the polls against former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a left-wing progressive who was sentenced to 12 years in jail on corruption charges but was released on technicalities after serving 18 months. For his part, Lula called for thoughts of “love and union” on Sept. 7.

As his chances of winning appear to be dimming, the Brazilian president seems to be activating his supporters to pull off a revolution with the explicit goal of dismantling the democratic state that Brazil has constructed since the end of the military junta that ran the country until the mid-1980s, argued Miguel Lago, a health policy expert at Columbia University, in the New York Times.

In the meantime, others are working to gain what advantages they can in case Bolsonaro fails to be re-elected and Lula inaugurates a new wave of left-wing reforms resembling his policies when he ran the country from 2003 to 2010.

For example, farmers are rushing to raze as much of the Amazonian jungle as they can under the president’s pro-business policies, the Guardian reported. Indigenous activists who fight against illegal deforestation were recently killed, too, suggesting what’s at stake as some Brazilians seek to exploit their country’s resources. Lula, incidentally, has vowed to crack down on deforestation.

The election is coming. The future of Brazil is in the balance.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

Bubbling Over

ARMENIA/ AZERBAIJAN

Clashes erupted along the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan on Tuesday, raising fears that the latest outbreak of hostilities could ignite another war between the neighboring south Caucasus countries, Sky News reported.

Armenian officials said at least 49 of its soldiers were killed during the skirmishes, adding that Azerbaijan had been shelling a number of towns near the border.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan accused Azerbaijan of initiating the attack because it did not want to negotiate over the status of the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave inside Azerbaijan which is mainly populated by ethnic Armenians.

Azerbaijan countered that Armenian forces had been engaged in intelligence activity on its border, and had been moving weapons and planting mines. It added that it lost 50 soldiers in the clashes.

Russia, which has previously intervened between the former Soviet republics, announced later Tuesday that it had succeeded in bringing the fighting to a halt. Even so, there have been reports of continuing skirmishes, according to the Guardian.

The recent hostilities come nearly two years after the two nations fought a six-week war over Nagorno-Karabakh. Conflict over the region had begun in the 1980s and resulted in a 1994 ceasefire that saw ethnic Armenian forces take control of the territory – with backing from the Armenian government.

Following the 2020 war, Azerbaijan retook partial control of Nagorno-Karabakh following a Russian-brokered truce. Despite its brevity, over 6,600 people were killed during the war.

Living in Chains

WORLD

Nearly 50 million people around the world were living in some form of slavery last year, according to a recent United Nations study which highlighted how the problem has been growing in recent years, The Hill reported.

The new report found that in 2021, roughly 28 million people were in forced labor while almost 22 million were part of forced marriages. The figures translate to about one person for every 150 people worldwide and mark an increase of 10 million over 2016.

Researchers said about one-third of people in forced labor were engaged in the trade, transport or hospitality sectors. The individuals are coerced into slavery because of debt, threats or withheld wages.

The numbers also include more than three million children, with more than half being sexually exploited.

In terms of forced marriage, nearly 15 million were girls and women, half of whom were coerced into marriage by verbal or physical abuse.

The findings showed that the Asian-Pacific region was the largest contributor to forced labor and one of the highest ranking concerning forced marriages.

According to the UN, the percentage has risen in part due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has aggravated economic and social issues while also expanding the potential for exploitation.

It added that much of modern slavery revolves around migration and the exploitation of migrant workers – about 15 percent of all people in forced labor were migrants, according to the report.

Migration is certain to increase as climate change causes major disruptions throughout the world and forces people to leave their homes.

Collective Punishment

SPAIN

Spanish sex workers and brothel owners protested in front of the country’s parliament this week in opposition to a proposed law that would penalize the customers of prostitutes and also their enablers, such as pimps or sex club owners, the Associated Press reported.

The bill, backed by the ruling left-wing Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party, proposes expanding the definition of pimping so that a simple transactional relationship is sufficient grounds to prosecute. Previously, it was necessary to prove the exploitation of a prostitute.

It would also penalize customers, a first in Spain, with these individuals facing up to four years in prison.

Demonstrators demanded the bill be killed, saying it “implies an actual abolition of prostitution and condemns us to work underground.”

Spain is believed to have one of the loosest legal frameworks for prostitution in Europe, which only punishes individuals when exploitation or abuse can be proven.

Many feminist groups oppose normalizing prostitution as a regulated trade. They welcomed the draft legislation but cautioned that it should include provisions to give vulnerable women better access to jobs or subsidies.

Spanish government data says that 90 percent of sex work in Spain is forced – but many sex business owners and the country’s sex worker union, Otras, deny that claim.

According to the police, 491 victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking were rescued in Spain in 2021.

DISCOVERIES

Tools and Toys

Some animal species are able to use stones and sticks as tools for their own survival.

For example, chimpanzees use sticks to collect termites, while sea otters use rocks to smash snails.

Researcher Camilla Cenni and her colleagues discovered that long-tailed macaque monkeys in Bali, Indonesia, have figured out a novel use of their stone tools, namely self-gratification, the New York Times reported.

The macaques are known to handle stones for a number of tasks but previous records have shown that they also sometimes use them without any particular purpose or function – a phenomena scientists describe as “playful manipulation.”

Cenni’s team closely observed the stone-handling actions of 173 monkeys. They noted in a new study that young males would frequently rub or tap the stones around their genitals, more than the adult males.

This “tool-assisted masturbation” was more common during sexually charged situations, such as when they or another macaque nearby was soliciting a mate or showing signs of sexual arousal.

Although using rocks sounds extremely uncomfortable, researchers countered that the animals didn’t display any sign of pain or distress.

They theorized that the monkeys accidentally engaged in this self-gratifying behavior while using stones. If confirmed, that would support the hypothesis that the use of tools may have originated from the playful manipulation of objects.

“There might be a transformational effect from play to tool use,” Cenni explained.

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