This Week in the World | 02.20.2018
By Rachel Elliott
While Carnival is a time of celebration and dance, this year, Brazilians used the parade to tackle injustice, corruption, and inequality. The festivities kicked off with a harsh criticism of President Michel Temer, whose approval rating is now in the single digits, and Rio de Janiero Mayor Marcelo Crivella. The mayor is a staunch evangelical and former bishop who is known for cutting funding for the world-famous samba dance schools that Carnival depends on. One float featured a butt with his name written across it.
But Brazilian politicians were not the only subjects highlighted. Another samba school chose to have famous Brazilian drag queen Beija-Flor de Nilopolis headline their performance. Considering that Brazil has one of the highest rates of violence against transgender and gay people in Latin America, this is undoubtedly a statement. Other social groups tackled sexual harassment, Donald Trump, and Kim Jong-Un.
By Alice Hakvaag
A few weeks ago, Poland passed a new law which made it illegal for anyone to implicate Poland in any Holocaust-related crimes, and Israel immediately spoke out against it. Last Sunday, this argument escalated when a swastika was found graffitied on the Polish embassy in Tel-Aviv. Local police are investigating this and other graffiti that said “murder” along with other profanities.
Historians largely agree that some Polish citizens actively participated in the Holocaust, which has led critics of this law to call it an erasure of history. Some were informants, betraying Jewish neighbors to occupying German soldiers. One well-known extreme case is the town of Jedwabne, where over 300 Jews were burned alive in a barn by their Polish neighbors.
The law itself says that anyone who “accuses, publicly and against the facts, the Polish nation, or the Polish state, of being responsible or complicit in the Nazi crimes committed by the Third German Reich… shall be subject to a fine or a penalty of imprisonment of up to three years.” Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Moraweiki went on to say on Saturday that any Polish collaborators from the Holocaust would not be punished under this new law. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would speak to Moraweiki on the phone about the comments the next day. A spokeswoman later clarified that this was not a claim that the Holocaust didn’t happen, but simply removes blame from victims from what was squarely the fault of the Third Reich. Israel has pledged to cover any legal costs from anyone charged under this bill.
By Alex Voisine
In a bombshell indictment issued last week by FBI special prosecutor Robert Mueller, the Russian efforts to meddle in the United States presidential elections became strikingly clear. The indictment named 13 Russian officials and three entities as actively complicit in a concerted strategy to mislead American voters, particularly to sway them towards voting for Donald Trump, or at the least, refuse to vote for then presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The Russians who orchestrated the misinformation campaign used a variety of methods, in what can only be described as a truly creative approach to election meddling. Their methods including setting up fake social media accounts, encouraging voters to vote against Hillary Clinton, and spreading controversial messages in an effort to divide the electorate. The success of the campaign was partially due to the inability of the American public to discern “fake” from “real” news, as many pundits have argued, but also partially due to the inability of U.S. intelligence to identify and put an end to the misinformation campaign. According to the indictment, the campaign had been launched in 2014, years before the election of Donald Trump, and followed a similar pattern of Russian election interference in Ukraine and a number of other countries.
The gravity of the discovery of the Russian “information warfare” campaign is noteworthy; technically, intervening in another country’s elections is illegal, despite the fact that both the United States and Russia (along with a number of other countries) have been accused themselves of influencing elections abroad. Even more important is the possibility that Americans were aware of the misinformation campaign but did not report it. The indictment clearly stated that according to the information currently available, no Americans were aware of the election interference strategy. Taking this as a statement of exoneration, President Donald Trump tweeted up a storm on Sunday, asserting that there was no evidence that the misinformation campaign affected the results of the election, and that there was no collusion between members of his campaign and Russians. In fact, the FBI is still investigating both of those possibilities, and given the breadth of the Russian misinformation campaign, the chances are high that some voters were swayed by aggressive false advertising. Until the Mueller investigation is over, the possibility of collusion and impact on voters remains up in the air.
President Trump also attacked the “Fake News Media” for inaccurately covering the indictment in a tweet on Sunday: “Funny how the Fake News Media doesn’t want to say that the Russian group was formed in 2014, long before my run for President. Maybe they knew I was going to run even though I didn’t!” In fact, all of the news agencies that Trump has referred to as “fake news,” like CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington, reported on the revelation that the campaign was originally launched in 2014.
By Alex Voisine
On January 9th, 7-year-old Zainab Ansari was found dead on a trash heap, in the Pakistani city of Kasur, near Lahore. Her death was met with outrage in Pakistan and around the world, especially when it was discovered that Zainab had also been raped.
On Saturday, a local man by the name of Mohammad Imran, pleaded guilty to the rape and murder of Zainab. His DNA was also linked to the deaths of at least seven other children, and during the investigation Imran admitted to killing several children. Imran was sentenced to death “four times over.”
Widespread protests broke out in Kasur following Zainab’s death in January, calling for justice for Zainab’s murder, in addition to the disappearance rape, and murder of 13 other children in the relatively small city in Pakistan’s Punjab state. But violence and abuse against children in Pakistan has a long history; in 2015, police uncovered a pedophilia ring that they estimate is responsible for the abuse of hundreds of children in Kasur, according to a report by NPR. Though a veritable tragedy, some have argued that the recent attention towards sexual abuse in Kasur has opened a dialogue about a topic that was previously avoided: “In Pakistan, it had been seen as shameful to talk about sex abuse. But after Zainab’s disappearance, some prominent Pakistani women spoke publicly about what they endured as children. A few dozen families across Pakistan also came forward to report that their children were abused, according to Sahil,” writes Diaa Haddid, an international correspondent for NPR located in Pakistan.
By Alice Hakvaag
Last week Iranian and Israeli forces had their first direct conflict, ending with Israel launching raids after allegedly intercepting an Iranian drone. During the conflict, an Israeli F-16 fighter jet was shot down. This led Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to strongly speak out against Iran in Munich, calling it the “greatest threat to our world,” while also criticizing the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. He also stated that Iran could have a nuclear bomb within a decade, which former Secretary of State John Kerry has called “fundamentally not accurate.”
In response, Iran has called for new security arrangements for the whole region. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that in regards to claims that Iran was trying to take over the region, “we don’t believe that’s in our interest or even possible. So we need to start talking instead.” He dodged a question about recognizing Israel as a country.
During his speech, Netanyahu held up what he said was a piece of an Iranian drone, saying that Israel would “not allow Iran’s regime to put a noose of terror around our neck.” Diplomatic correspondents say that these theatrics a tactic that Netanyahu has used before, especially since he faces corruption charges at home. His speech was most likely directed at Israeli citizens in an effort to convince them that he is the right, stable person to stay in charge in the face of Iran.
By Rachel Elliott
Black Panther opened Friday to record presales. By the end of the weekend, the film had made over $380 million worldwide. Critics and fans alike praised the black directors and largely black cast. The success marks a significant achievement since Hollywood has never before produced a superhero film like it– not only is it the first solo movie for a black superhero in the Marvel universe, but it is the highest earning non-sequential film (others of the kind include Ant-Man and Dr. Strange). Reception was high in countries such as the UK, Ukraine, South Korea, Belgium, Mexico, and Brazil. Disney, who owns Marvel franchises, expects sales to continue to rise in the next month since no competitive films are opening.
By Rachel Elliott
The global charity organization, Oxfam, is facing a scandal that could permanently damage it. The New York Times broke a story on the 9th that two top officials in Haiti paid survivors of the earthquake for sex, some of which were underaged. Since then, it has only gotten worse publicly for Oxfam. Allegations of a cover-up have arisen. The organization claims to have conducted an internal investigation, but the accused were allowed to leave before it was complete. One of the four men accused was employed later by Oxfam in a different location.
Since the story broke, around seven thousand people have cancelled their donations and 26 new cases of sexual abuse have come to the surface. Oxfam has denied trying to cover up the scandal in Haiti. Mark Goldring, head of the charitable organization, apologized to the people of Haiti at the International Development Committee for the damage done as well as any done to efforts for aid and development.