Week in Review

9 September 2018



DECRIMINALIZING HOMOSEXUALITY FOR 1.3 BILLION PEOPLE. A previous law banning homosexuality in India was from the pre-colonial-era criminalized “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal”. Now the supreme court, which had previously upheld the law, has struck it down and the decision is final. While this will be music to Indian liberals’ ears, much of India is still conservative, including the ruling party. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been quite silent, but parts of his party have been disseminating anti-homosexual ideology. Besides improving the rights of minorities, this also signals greater independence for the courts. Chief Justice Misra stated that “majoritarian views and popular morality cannot dictate constitutional rights”.

MAKING FREE TRADE ISOLATIONIST. Last week President Trump came to an agreement with Mexico for NAFTA. Many of the changes from the original agreement are meant to benefit American workers, but this may only been seen as helpful through an isolationist’s eyes. A key change mandates a higher percentage of automobiles to be made in North America and for nearly half of the components to be made by workers making $16 USD an hour or more. Meaning more parts will have to be made in the United States. At first this seems like an incentive for job creation in the United States, but it could likely lead to companies moving their manufacturing outside of North America. Furthermore, isolating Canada adds to the risk of the agreement falling apart entirely.

BRAZIL’S NATIONAL MUSEUM IS NOW HISTORY. On September 2nd, Brazil’s national museum was set ablaze from causes not completely known, but likely due to poor maintenance. Firefighters tried to contain it, but other than the main structure, it was largely burnt to the ground. Brazilians are outraged due to the long-known woeful state of the building. Dating back to 2004, inspectors have warned of poor safety standards and electrical hazards. The government has neglected the degradation, while building new universities and museums. It even blocked private investment to repair some of the most decrepit issues. Now, President Michel Temer has vowed to immediately begin reconstruction, but many are skeptical of such a promise. The government also failed to clean up Rio’s Guanabara Bay for the Olympics in 2016.

MYANMAR HAS NOT IMPROVED SINCE THE END OF DICTATORSHIP. Last week several Myanmar generals were accused of committing genocide by the United Nations. Now two Reuters’ journalists have been imprisoned on trumped-up charges. Just a few years ago Myanmar appeared to be consolidating democratic institutions as Aung San Suu Kyi took power, ending a decades’ long dictatorship and remonstrated the military Junta. Yet, she kept silent while the military has killed and raped the Rohingya population, forcing them out of the country. Continuing that trend, she has done nothing to prevent the rule of law from being destroyed.

CEASEFIRE IN LIBYA HAS NOT WORKED. A ceasefire signed by factions in Libya was aimed at stopping the fighting, which has increased to levels not seen since the fall of dictator Gaddafi. The factions promptly violated the ceasefire, a sign that they are increasingly dissatisfied with the political instability. While French President Macron has attempted to achieve elections prior to the end of the year, it appears highly unlikely. This dissatisfaction has led to increased warring and violence. The more unlikely stability is, the more likely violence will continue and the farther away peace will be.

KOREAN SUMMIT MAY HELP PROGRESS. There has been little progress made since President Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on denuclearization, but there is now a joint Korea meeting that does not include Trump. This has implications for the future of denuclearization and cooperation between North Korea, South Korea, and the United States. Chairman Kim wants greater concessions from the United States, but is unlikely to see the States give in, until denuclearization is well under way. Economic promises by South Korean President Moon may help initiate this process.

VANILLA DRIVING CRIME AND WEALTH IN MADAGASCAR. Since last year the price of vanilla in the Sava region of Madagascar has skyrocketed to more than $600 a kilogram. This region provides the world with 80% of its vanilla. The price increased has been compounded by a rising demand and a cyclone that destroyed much of the crop from last year. This has created an influx of wealth into a small region of Madagascar. Its weak institutions have allowed crime and corruption to soar. Now farmers are having to hire security guards to watch their crops night and day. Many factors have precipitated this food insecurity, but climate change and politics play a large role.