Myanmar military’s foreign minister participates in ASEAN meeting

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YANGON, Myanmar — The foreign minister of Myanmar’s military participated virtually in an ASEAN ministerial meeting on March 3, in which he lobbied for a political road map for Myanmar that would be implemented during the first year after the coup.

At the meeting, ASEAN countries discussed the ongoing situation in Myanmar, but they could not make a common decision on it because each country had its own proposal for how to proceed.

By Htay Win
Photo credit: Shine

Systematic, institutionalized torture found in Brazilian ‘Old Rust’ prison

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Widespread injuries and scars among prisoners at the “Old Rust” penitentiary in Brazil were caused by punches, kicks, blows, collective beatings, prods with pitchforks, and institutionalized torture, according to a report by the Mato Grosso state’s internal affairs department that concluded prisoners were being subject to institutionalized routine bodily injury by prison officials.

There was virtually no external supervision of what was happening inside Osvaldo Florentino Leite Ferreira Penitentiary, which provides an environment of impunity and stimulates the cycle of endless torture, said the report.

Prisoners were tied to an iron bar and suspended by their ankles and wrists and left in that position until blood no longer circulated, making the body swell and breathing difficult, the report detailed. These acts were carried out by several prison guards and the prison’s director of discipline and detailed by a committee composed of judges, auxiliaries, and public defenders. It was based on a surprise visit that took place between December 14 and 16, 2020. The report and medical examinations were only finalized in late February.

These acts were carried out by several prison guards and the prison’s director of discipline and detailed by a committee composed of judges, auxiliaries, and public defenders. It was based on a surprise visit that took place between December 14 and 16, 2020. The report and medical examinations were only finalized in late February.

“It is important to mention that several prison system officials presented testimony before the magistrates, confirming the assaults on prisoners which, together with the footage of the testimonies, photos and examinations of the body of crime, indicate the occurrence of systemic torture in the unit,” said the report. “It was like an establishment policy, something institutionalized indeed.”

Severe overcrowding, lack of hygiene, water rationing, humidity, mold, lack of ventilation, vermin, pests, plus untreated yeast and skin infections contributed to an environment of disease and violence, the report also concluded.

After the inspection, the Secretary of State for Public Security removed 12 guards from the prison, including the director, the deputy director, the head of discipline and other agents accused of mistreatment. However, they have not lost their jobs, and they are working at other prisons, according to advocates for the prisoners.

By Milan Sime Martinic

Curbing planned obsolescence: March brings new rules to EU that will make electronics last longer, easier to repair

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Consumers in the 27-nation bloc now will have the right to expect that their consumer electronics will have parts available and be able to be repaired for up to 10 years. New rules take effect this month following legislation passed last November by the European Parliament aiming to reduce electronic waste, monitor energy use, and protect consumers means.

“To be sustainable, products must be repairable, so that they can remain on the market for as long as possible. It is time to stamp out practices which prevent or hinder product repairs,” says the legislation in addressing premature obsolescence.

Europeans can now rely on their Ecological Design Directive’s “Right to Repair Rules” that require manufacturers include repair manuals with their products, and that standard tools can be used for repair and dismantling, including easier battery replacement and easier recycling. The directive also requires consumers have easier access to how much electricity household devices consume.

By Milan Sime Martinic

At least 7 dead in confrontation after 4 story fall at university in Bolivia

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Packed tightly and fighting, hundreds of students at the Public University of El Alto pressed and shoved against a railing that collapsed as the balcony appeared to crumble at the base, dropping 11, leaving a mounting death toll, and at least 4 young people in intensive care. The dead range in age from 19 to 27.

The tragedy came after a call to an extraordinary general student assembly which bucked biosecurity regulations and agglomerated protesting young people on a high hallway protected by a balustrade that gave way.

One woman can be seen in video footage lunging toward another young woman who is pressed into the railing as it gives way, dropping her from a height of over 50 feet. Various videos shows her in a pile of bodies at the bottom, and the lounging woman trapped by the weight of other students on her feet while she hangs precariously upside-down and is pulled to safety.

Investigations are under way into the decision to congregate so many people, the nature of the confrontation, and structural faults in construction.

By Milan Sime Martinic

New GOP narrative emerges it was Antifa and not Trump supporters that stormed the Capitol, FBI classifies act ‘domestic terrorism’

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Pro-Trump politicians and right-wing media figures Sarah Palin, Laura Ingraham, Matt Gaetz, Sean Hannity, Wisc. Sen. Ron Johnson, MyPillow chief Mike Lindell, and a growing chorus of Republicans magnified by right-wing media are repeating the claim that it was Antifa and “fake Trump protesters” that stormed the Capitol.

Meanwhile, FBI chief Christopher Wray has classified the assault as “domestic terrorism.”

“This attack, this siege was criminal behavior, plain and simple. And this behavior, which we, the FBI, see as domestic terrorism, has no place in our democracy,” said Wray Tuesday at a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Despite denials from pro-Trump participants in the Capitol siege that there were Antifa supporters in their midst, Rep. Gaetz, who stood on the ransacked House floor and claimed that many rioters “were members of the violent terrorist group Antifa,” repeated the claim again at CPAC this past weekend.

The repetition of the new narrative reaches audiences that have been told for months by Trump that Antifa is a dangerous terror group, providing an alternative that could be easier to accept than that of MAGA fans as domestic terrorists.

By Milan Sime Martinic

Brazil lost 75k stores, 26k jobs in 2020

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SAO PAOLO – Despite a weak increase in sales of 1.2%, retail trade in Latin America’s largest economy suffered its biggest pullback since 2016 — when the country was in the midst of the worst recession in memory — according to data from the National Confederation of Trade in Goods, Services and Tourism of Brazil. The figure reflects the net loss taking into account new store openings and new jobs versus closings and job losses.

Dividing the past year in two, however, the report noted a trend showing that losses in the first 6 months were of 62k stores and that the second half lost only 13k stores, fueling speculation that a recovery is under way, awaiting the figures for the first half of 2021.

By Milan Sime Martinic

270k forcibly sterilized women in Peru get day in court

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Women and men from Quechua indigenous communities and low-income families of the Andean country were sterilized between 1996 and 2001, according to information provided by Peru’s Ministry of Health when it announced a case that is now reaching the courts for the first time.

Peruvian prosecutors say it was all part of former President Alberto Fujimori’s family planning program. Despite three previous investigations that were closed for lack of evidence, he and his cabinet are accused of developing and forcibly implementing a sterilization program.

Officially, the state birth control program –  known as Voluntary Surgical Contraception  – was instituted to combat poverty by reducing birth rates in resource-poor sectors, so says Fujimori-government documents. The procedures were performed with the consent of patients, according to literature about the program as it was presented to the Peruvian public at that time.

Not so, charge thousands who claim they were forcibly or unknowingly sterilized. Others claim they were blackmailed, deceived, or harassed into letting themselves undergo the tubal ligation procedures. The Association of Peruvian Women Affected by Forced Sterilizations has compiled testimonies to present their case and now, courts will hear the evidence to consider whether they can proceed in their claims and seek compensation.

By Milan Sime Martinic

World’s largest democracy now only ‘partly free’ says new Freedom House rating

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Freedom House downgrades the “world’s largest democracy” from free to partly free

Citing politicization of the Indian judiciary, deterioration of political rights and civil liberties, intimidation of journalists and academics, internet censorship, undue pressure on human rights groups, scapegoating, stigmatization, and harm to Muslims and other religious minorities and an overall decline in democratic values under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, FW explained its decision, “India appears to have abandoned its potential to serve as a global democratic leader, elevating narrow Hindu nationalist interests at the expense of its founding values of inclusion and equal rights for all.”

The “Democracy Under Siege” 2020 report of the democracy watchdog said that India’s decline from “the upper ranks of free nations” could have an outsize global effect. “Rather than serving as a champion of democratic practice and a counterweight to authoritarian influence from countries such as China, Modi and his party are tragically driving India itself toward authoritarianism,” it concluded.

By Milan Sime Martinic

Brazil will monitor forest threats with first nationally-developed satellite

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SAO PAOLO – Brazil’s new Earth observation satellite is the first one to be 100% conceptualized, designed, integrated, tested, and operated by Brazil.

Amazonia-1 was put into orbit from from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India at dawn Sunday after 13 years of development. It will sense, observe, and track deforestation in the Amazon region.

By Milan Sime Martinic

Massive prison break in Haiti leaves dozens dead, 200 high-security inmates on the run

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Around 400 inmates broke out of the maximum security prison in Croix-des-Bouquets near the capital Port-au-Prince, killing the warden and several civilians. Six of the fleeing prisoners died, half of them have been arrested again, others are still handcuffed but still on the loose, according to a government spokesman.

By Milan Sime Martinic

Myanmar Update: Security forces crack down on protesters in Yangon, deaths

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YANGON – Myanmar security forces cracked down on protesters again this week, causing four dead and five wounded.

The protesters have been calling on the military to release detainees including the state counselor, Aung San Suu Kyi, and the president, Win Myint. Security forces arrested many peaceful protesters and reporters during the crackdown.

This week, the Canadian embassy condemned the use of force by the military and called for full restoration of internet access and the lifting social media restrictions.

By Htay Win
Photo credit Amwe Sein