‘Joujou’ is another name for hope in the Brazilian wetlands

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A male jaguar named Joujou has returned to his home sweet home in the wild.

In Brazil he has become a symbol of the efforts of environmentalists, volunteers and firefighters to protect and restore a much affected strip of the Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetland area, which was ravaged by the fires last year.

Little by little, vegetation returning to the Serra do Amolar, a chain of mountains considered an environmental treasure because of the large number of species it houses.

Before the fires, 62 jaguars had been monitored in the region. Today, researchers are unable to say how many have survived and how many have returned to their habitat, which was scorched in the worst sequence of fires in 14 years. Between January and September of 2020, 2.3 million acres have been on fire, an area which is two times as big as the city of Rio de Janeiro.

Joujou the catJoujou has become a symbol of hope because he was shown on national TV with his paws burned. Some Brazilians said they cried in front of the screen when they saw the big cat suffering so much. In November, two jaguars were rescued. They could barely move. One of them didn’t make it. Joujou was taken to a center for housing and treatment of wild animals in the city of Campo Grande, capital of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul.

After months of intensive care, this example of the Americas’ biggest feline has recovered entirely and was flown back to Pantanal. Joujou now has a tracking collar and will be monitored for a year. He reached the hospital weighing just a hundred pounds. He now weighs almost 180 pounds.

Many other animals – including anteaters, armadillos, snakes, alligators and other jaguars – did not survive the blaze. However, Joujou, beautiful and strong, has been returned home safe and sound.

By Jorge Valente

The priest who left no sharp stones

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SAO PAOLO, Brazil – One of the most iconic figures in the fight for the homeless in the city of São Paulo has been in the spotlight since the beginning of February.

Father Julio Lancelotti learned that the City Hall’s authorities had decided to cover the ground under a bridge with pointed stones, a move to prevent the homeless from sleeping underneath.

A reputed advocate of human rights, father Lancelotti had no second thoughts about the line of action he was about to take.

With a sledgehammer in hand, he took to the streets and positioned himself right below the bridge. And then attacked and destroyed furiously what he considered another serious breach of human rights in a city already plagued by many other violations.

On social media he later posted a picture showing the result of his action and wrote, “Outrage against oppression”.

São Paulo is believed to have more than 24,000 homeless living below the poverty line, according to a 2019 survey. But Human Rights Watch groups say this number skyrocketed during the pandemic.

City Hall authorities said that the decision to put the stones under the bridge was an “isolated action” and had already fired the employee who was in charge of the task.

Father Lancelotti, however, was skeptical about this take on things, and said another similar action had already been done, commenting, “It’s inhuman, looks like a concentration camp.”

By Jorge Valente

Tourists damage 1500-year-old Gate of the Sun and rock monoliths in Bolivia’s ancient city of Tiwanaku

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Four women and one man from the eastern city of Santa Cruz were charged with damaging the carved stone relics of the civilization that flourished for five centuries on the site, forerunner of the Inca empire. The pre-Columbian ruins are part of the country’s most important archaeological treasures.

After seeing what they described as “suspicious activity,” caretakers said the group splashed the structures with an oily substance that stained surfaces and that experts say would attract gases into the stone, causing internal changes and deterioration.

By Milan Sime Martinic

Myanmar university students rally near Chinese embassy, protest SEAFOOD

Myanmar military protest
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YANGON, Myanmar – University students in Yangon rallied near the Chinese embassy Feb. 27 and called for the Chinese government not to cooperate with the Myanmar military.

Protesters in Myanmar suspect that China is transporting hardware devices to build a firewall for controlling the internet in Myanmar. When the protesters asked the question, the embassy told them that China was sending SEAFOOD to Myanmar. “SEAFOOD” is defines as Software Engineering Approaches for Offshore and Outsourced Development.

There are three main telecommunication companies in Myanmar: MPT, Ooredo and Telenor have provided faster internet connections since 2014.

At present, there is an internet blackout between 1am to 9am daily throughout Myanmar, and when it is available, internet connections are slower than before the military grabbed power from the democratically-elected government.

By Htay Win
Featured image credit: Sit Htet Aung

Japan’s ruling party to allow women to watch its board meetings, but no talking

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Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party will invite up to five of its female members of parliament to board meetings, but they should not speak. This was announced by the party as it took what it said was a step toward equality.

“It’s important to fully understand what kind of discussions are going on,” said Toshihiro Nikai, the LDP general secretary. “Look. That’s what it’s about.” Nakai added that women should not have a say in the proceedings but can submit suggestions in writing after the meetings have concluded.

The party’s action has sparked criticism from the opposition, which charges male chauvinism and discrimination against women is ingrained in the LDP, which depends on the voices of Japan’s strong nationalist circles with their traditional role models. They are tentative in grappling with women-friendly ideas, according to women’s groups, and progress is slow. The party’s make-up is 40% female, but women only hold 10% of its parliamentary seats, a figure far below the 25% global average.

According to the World Economic Forum 2020 report, Japan ranks 121 out of 153 countries in its gender parity global ranking.

By Milan Sime Martinic

China charging Uighurs with “looking for an argument”

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Uighurs in China’s mostly Muslim Xinjiang province are receiving long prison terms for charges like “looking for an argument,” according to Human Rights Watch, with is claiming the legal attitude amounts to systematic persecution.

Claiming a ned to impose quick and severe sentences in the name of counter-terrorism, Chinese police and prosecutors are arresting and sentencing people who have not committed any real offense, according to the human rights organization. “Despite appearances of legality, many of the people in Xinjiang prisons are ordinary people who have been sentenced for going about their lives and practicing their religion,” said HRW Researcher Maya Wang in a statement.

More than 250,000 people in the northwestern region have been formally imprisoned since 2016, reported HRW, adding it has noted a dramatic increase in the lengths of prison sentences. Since 2017 the number of sentences for 5 years or more has risen from 11% to 87%. There are also an estimated one million Uighurs in “political education” camps in Xinjiang, according to HRW.

By Milan Sime Martinic

Myanmar: Union Election Commission revokes 2020 election results

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YANGON, Myanmar – The UEC revoked election results when it met with political parties in Naypyiday Feb. 26. The current election commission was established by the military after it took power in early February, replacing the previous election commission which had validated the presidency of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Among 91 political parties in Myanmar, 53 political parties attended the meeting. “We have to abolish the 2020 election result because of election fraud,” the chairman of the UEC explained.

In the 2020 election, the National League for Democracy party (NLD) won by a landslide, but the military complained that the NLD had committed fraud.

Under the leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi, the NLD was the most popular and famous political party in mainland Myanmar.

By Htay Win
Featured image photo credit: Wutyi Ma

Brazilian rainforest land for sale on Facebook’s Marketplace

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Plots as large as 2000 acres are being sold on the hyperlocal Marketplace section of the platform.

The Bolsonaro administration has taken criticism for looking the other way on encroachment into protected areas and deforestation, and indigenous groups have told the BBC that it is unwilling to stop these sales. “A common strategy is to deforest the land and then plead with politicians to abolish its protected status, on the basis it no longer serves its original purpose,” said the BBC report.

Illegal deforestation for timber often clears the land for cattle grazing, increasing its value as much as three-fold, and the practice is creating a growing land rush investment opportunity with Marketplace as its platform.

Facebook, for its part, says that its policies require users to follow the law, and reportedly said it is “willing to work with authorities,” but that it would not take unilateral action to take down the ads.

By Milan Sime Martinic

Mitch McConnell would ‘absolutely’ support Trump if he wins Republican nomination for 2024, ignoring insulting criticism and taking a long view

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Only weeks after appearing to lead the GOP away from Trump and a blistering condemnation of the ex-president as “morally responsible” for for what McConnell described as a “failed insurrection,” the minority leader this week told Fox News he would support Trump as the nominee of the GOP.

Trump, for his part recently called McConnell a “dour, sullen and unsmiling political hack.”

The difficult political equilibrium did not go unnoticed by Democrats, who see it as yet another example of a Republican following Kevin McCarthy and Michael Pence in a re-approachment they say compromises values to capture Trump support for future elections.

By Milan Sime Martinic

China says it lifted 99 million people out of hardship in the last 8 years  -  and 770 million in 40 years -  eradicating poverty from the world’s largest country

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Armed with World Bank data that says China has contributed to more than 70% of global poverty reduction since the late 70’s, President Xi Jinping declared a complete victory against poverty and called it a miracle that will go down in history.

Xi Jinping poverty miracle“Shaking off poverty is not the finish line, but the starting point of a new life and new endeavor,” Xi noted on his Feb. 25 address that his country’s $246b investment into poverty alleviation over the past eight years has helped impoverished rural residents who lived below the current poverty line in 128,000 villages.

Complete eradication of poverty in China was one of Xi’s main goals when he came to power in 2012, a time when 100m people lived in extreme poverty in remote rural areas. China has a population of around 1.4 billion.

By Milan Sime Martinic