Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Monday, June 18, 2018
Revising the Future
Right-wing candidate Iván Duque trounced his leftist rival to win the runoff vote in Colombia’s presidential election on Sunday.
Colombia’s election authority said Duque won 54 percent of the popular vote, while former Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro won 41.8 percent, NBC News reported. Another 4.2 percent of voters cast blank ballots, a popular form of political protest in Colombia.
In an election that pitted hard-right against hard-left, Duque had campaigned on a pro-business platform promising lower taxes and a stronger military – and vowed to amend the peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that won his predecessor the Nobel Peace Prize.
With the support of many Colombians, Duque argued that the peace deal wrongly allows the former rebels to avoid prosecution for alleged war crimes. Others say tampering with the deal, which has already shown signs of fraying, could result in a resumption of fighting.
Though he won’t become president, Petro was the first leftist candidate to reach the runoff stage in Colombia’s modern history, NBC noted.
Saturday, June 16, 2018
In the wake of the Irish referendum overturning the nation’s strict ban on abortion, Argentina’s lower house of Congress on Thursday narrowly approved a bill that would legalize abortion before 14 weeks of pregnancy.
The bill may well be rejected by the Senate, which most likely will vote on it in September, NPR reported. But if it passes there, President Mauricio Macri has said he will sign it into law, despite his own reservations.
A massive crowd outside the Congress erupted in cheers when the passage of the bill by a narrow 129-125 vote was announced. Currently, abortion is illegal in Argentina except in cases of rape or danger to the woman’s health, a prohibition similar to Ireland’s Eighth Amendment, which voters there overturned last month.
Chile and Uruguay, which, like Argentina, are also staunchly Catholic, have recently rolled back their bans on abortion. But the issue remains intensely divisive in Argentina, where petitions against relaxing the ban have gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures.
Thursday, June 14, 2018
Today, soccer fans around the globe will be glued to their seats to watch the start of this year’s World Cup tournament in Russia.
It’s an especially important event for Brazilians. Brazil may have suffered a 7-1 defeat by Germany in 2014’s tournament, but Brazilian electronic manufacturers and retailers stand to make huge profits from this year’s contest, Reuters reported.
“We’re seeing sales get stronger week after week as we get closer to the Cup,” Fabio Gabaldo, commercial director of one Brazilian appliance chain, told the news agency.
Production by manufacturers such as LG Corp and Panasonic Corp have risen 25 percent by some measures, while many stores and retailers are coming up with ingenious ideas to sell TV sets – like offering discounts for those trading in their old sets, playing on consumers’ superstitions.
“Are you really going to watch Brazil on the same TV as the 7-1 match?” an ad from a local chain asked.
Brazil isn’t the only country consumed with soccer fever.
In neighboring Peru, first-quarter TV sales jumped 25 percent compared to last year – though legislators landed in hot water recently for planning to purchase 60 televisions and several mini-fridges, which they denied had anything to do with the World Cup.
But there’s reason to bend the rules in Peru, considering that it’s the country’s first appearance in the tournament in 36 years.
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Former Panama President Ricardo Martinelli left a prison in Miami for another one in the Central American nation, where he will stand trial on charges that he used public money to spy on more than 150 political rivals during his 2009-2014 term.
Martinelli has been in US custody since June 2017, when Panama requested his extradition, Al-Jazeera reported. He has denied any wrongdoing and claims that the charges are politically motivated.
The supermarket tycoon presided over an infrastructure boom and Latin America’s fastest economic growth in recent years. But he is also under investigation in about 20 other cases of corruption. Under the terms of his extradition, he theoretically cannot be tried in those cases.
He fled to the US in 2015, shortly after Panama’s Supreme Court launched a corruption probe into his activities. Upon arrival in Panama, Martinelli was taken to a “kind of chalet” in the El Renacer prison, which once held ex-dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega, reported Panama Today.
Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, the famed islet over 2,000 miles off the coast of Chile, is known for its hundreds of giant stone figures, or moai.
The island’s iconic sculptures have become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but historians still question how the statues, weighing several tons each, were moved about the island without modern machinery.
More perplexing still: How did those heavy stone hats end up atop the statues?
In a study published recently in the Journal of Archaeological Science, researchers posit that islanders relied on a technique called “parbuckling,” a simple maneuver of using ropes and ramps to move the massive stone hats known as pukao, some weighing as much as 25,000 pounds, miles and miles to don the moai’s heads.
“Parbuckling was a simple and elegant solution that required minimum resources and effort,” said Carl Lipo, an anthropology professor at Binghamton University.
Researchers believe the parbuckling theory matches the physics of the feat, as well as the archaeological record, Popular Science reported.
And with a simpler theory in play as to how islanders raised the statues – parbuckling requires fewer than 15 people – scientists believe they played a social or even economic role in society, dispelling some theories that they were used for war.