May may go: British Prime Minister Theresa May faces a crucial vote of confidence

In a gamble to oust May from her position, some members of the Prime Minister’s own party (The Conservative Party also sometimes known as ‘tories’) have prompted a confidence vote to take place Wednesday evening (GMT). May will have to receive votes re-affirming votes of confidence from just over half the members of the party, equalling out to be about 158 votes. With promises of a quick release, the results of the vote could be announced the same night. 

How did Theresa May end up here? Discontent amongst her May’s fellow colleagues over her Brexit negotiations has reportedly festered, losing the faith of some within the party. In order to stimulate such a vote, the Conservative Party requires at least 15% of members to an express interest, indicating that over 47 members had sent such letters. 

What happens next? If May receives the confidence votes she needs, the conservative leader legally cannot be challenged again for 12 months. If she loses the vote and does not receive enough votes of confidence May will be required to step down as the leader, and a contest to elect a new leader will be undertaken. May will act as leader until that is completed. 

This vote will place the Brexit deadline (otherwise known as article 50) scheduled for the 29th of March next year in jeopardy. 

For more information and on-going updates on this topic visit:  The Guardian or The BBC

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Breaking down ‘reef toxic’ sunscreen

From a country with a giant ozone hole above it, I know the importance of sunscreen. However, it appears that some sunscreens are proving hazardous to the world around us. As some islands are now discovering, the very lotion we have been using to protect ourselves may be harming the underwater worlds we visit.

A tiny nation in Micronesia has recently brought this environmental issue back into the limelight. The Republic of Palau, situated in the Pacific ocean, has announced it will ban ‘reef toxic’ sunscreen from 2020 in a bold step to protect the nation’s reefs and corals.

This follows a vote from Hawaii in May to also ban harmful sunscreens, however, it is not expected to be enacted until a year after in 2021.

Oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene and some parabens are key harmful ingredients found in many of today’s sunscreens that may cause harm to the reefs as they wash off and cause a bleaching effect that can be explained far better by LiveScience. For these islands who have become tourist havens with hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, this can cause consistent strain on the reefs and coral that may create both lifestyle and tourism issues in the future.

So as a tourist or environmentally concerned individual what are the options?

If water-resistant options have crossed your mind unfortunately even many of them do not make the cut. Oxybenzone, octinoxate and octocrylene still make up over 20% of the active ingredients in Neutrogena’s wet skin products and are also likely in many other worldwide brands.

Fortunately, there are other options that can keep both user and reef safe such as mineral sunblocks. These mineral sunblocks containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide provide UV protection are less absorbent than other sunscreens but have found to have no effect on coral or reefs.

So whilst more islands are taking a stand for their underwater environment and surroundings, more pressure will soon fall on brands and companies to think outside the box and away from ‘reef toxic’ chemicals and formulas if they wish to remain key actors in the industry.

 

Image: Pexels License

The election of Jair Bolsonaro

With almost all of the vote reported, Jair Messias Bolsonaro from The Social Liberal Party will almost certainly be Brazil’s next president.

But who is this new world leader? And why has the gaze of the entire world (particularly western nations) fallen upon Brazil?

The man himself

Jair Messias Bolsonaro born in 1955 is a politician and former military officer. Overtly conservative and controversial, Bolsonaro has drawn both criticism and praise nationally and internationally.

As a campaign, he promoted pro-market and liberal economic policy which would allow individuals more say in decisions rather than having them made by the government and other organisations. As well as calling for greater relationships with the United States and Israel.

However, Bolsonaro has not escaped controversy. In the #MeToo era Bolsonaro once told congresswomen Maria do Rosario “I wouldn’t rape you because you don’t deserve it,” going on to call her ugly. Bolsonaro has also made controversial negative comments regarding homosexuality (which is now accepted in over 70 countries worldwide), as well as both the treatment of political opponents and suspected criminals.

The country 

Brazil recently endured an economic crisis from 2014 to 2016 which resulted in the loss of 72,000 truckers’ jobs and the impeachment of their president at the time. Since then Brazil has struggled with petrol shortages having a domino effect upon the production and exports industries.

This has left a stain of political mistrust within Brazil, visible as the out-going Brazilian president (Michel Temer) produced an approval rating of 5%.

To a country emerging from crisis, national-minded Bolsonaro may appear as a light in the darkness.

The Western world

The 2018 Brazilian election and Bolsonaro as a candidate have not escaped the eye of the western world. His ideology and behaviour have drawn comparisons to United States President, Donald Trump,  labels of ‘far-right’ given, and fears of fascism voiced.

For the Western world, the election of Jair Bolsonaro may develop feelings of fear and uncertainty for the future as right-wing ideology and conservatism appears to be on the rise in western nations. However, in contrast, over 50% of Brazil hopes that Jair Bolsonaro will lead them out of the lingering uncertainty and crisis.

 

Useful sources: 

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/27/gay-relationships-still-criminalised-countries-report

https://theslot.jezebel.com/far-right-candidate-who-once-said-a-congresswoman-was-t-1830060394

https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/poder/2017/10/1925458-bolsonaro-diz-que-e-liberal-e-adota-discurso-que-agrada-investidores.shtml

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=12065391

https://www.americasquarterly.org/content/brazils-crisis-two-sentences-or-less

 

Image labeled for reuse from Wikimedia Commons

‘My life matters more than a piece of paper.’

On any given day many students may try to avoid going to class. But on April the 20th this year bunking will correspond with a youth movement aiming to draw attention to gun law reforms.

On the anniversary of the Columbine school shooting in 1999, a number of both teachers and students plan to boycott the classrooms hoping to send a clear message to Congress.

Social media such as Twitter has helped to develop and coordinate the movement by connecting like-minded individuals and draw national and international attention.

On Change.org a petition started has had over 56,000 signatures (as of this piece being written) calling for legal change from Congress to prevent further school shooting deaths.

“There has been too much complacency on the part of politicians when it comes to gun violence. The time to act is now!” –  Lane Murdock (petition starter)

In regard to the movement itself, the origin is unclear. A separate school walkout is planned for the 14th of March in honour of the students lost in the Parkland shooting supported by Women’s March on Twitter.

Taking matters into their own hands as well, government inactiveness and fear has driven a number of parents to invest in bulletproof backpacks for their children. American company Bullet Blocker reported a 30% sales increase since the Wednesday shooting.

When put to the test, the backpack managed to stop pellets and rounds from handguns but still was not able to stop full metal jacket bullets from the AR-15 used last week.

 

With warming political relations, is Korean reunification possible?

As North Korean athletes arrive in South Korea for the winter Olympics, discussion about co-operation and reunification has been prompted.

North Korea appears supportive and positive about such discussions, urging “all Koreans at home and abroad” to “promote contact (and) cooperation between North and South Korea”

In the South, however, protests met the North Korean hockey team as they arrived and a poll suggested that 70% of South Koreans were opposed to the joint hockey team, concerned that their players would, in consequence, get less playing time.

Across the sea, reports have come out suggesting that China would support a unified Korea if it meant peace in the region.

The Chinese ambassador to the United States stated: “China would support reunification if it is the will of the Korean people. “As long as it’s peaceful, it’s independent (and) by the Korean people, China will support it,”

The big question though remains, Is reunification ultimately possible? And how? 

According to Statistics by Seoul National University’s Institute for Peace and Unification Studies in 2017 (and reported by Smithsonian.com), just under 25% of respondents did not believe reunification was possible. However, the same poll found that almost 54% of South Koreas felt it was necessary.

And discussions about what sort of system a reunified Korea would adopt is also a point of disagreement.  Whilst just under half would like to keep the same democratic system, other suggestions include a hybrid of the two or the continuation of both systems.

The 1990’s and early 2000’s saw some positive discussion and progress between the two nations, however, that appeared to stall when North Korea began nuclear and missile tests, as well as provoking behaviour.

And whilst communication and dialogue have improved between the two Koreas in recent months, the idea of reunification is still abstract. However, with both countries appearing to take steps in the right direction, only time will tell.

“The two Koreas fundamental ideological difference make it difficult to conceive a credible reunification strategy,”  – Anwita Basu, analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit (CNN)

 

 

Uk forewarns aid cuts

The United Kingdom has announced they will begin to cut foreign aid to developing countries failing to invest in their own citizens.

The country who now provides £13 billion each year overseas is calling for governments to take more responsibility and step up. Failing to do so would influence the UK’s economic support.

This new approach was developed after fears that foreign aid provides no incentive for countries to invest their own money and resources into things such as healthcare.

However, some have raised concerns of suddenly stripping aid from countries who really need it, and believe that even with taking self-supporting steps, there still a significant need for aid.

As reported by the BBC,  the UK government is legally required to spend 0.7% of their gross national income on overseas aid.

The announcement coincides with the United States decision to withhold 65 million dollars in aid to Palestine

Mexico’s war on media

Whilst driving through the Mexican border town of Nuevo Laredo, on a Sunday afternoon independent reporter Carlos Domínguez, aged 77, became the latest victim in a string of attacks against journalists.

According to CPJ (Committee to Protect Journalists), in 2017 6 journalists with journalistic motive killed, and another 3 unconfirmed.  They reported in their annual findings that:

“…Away from conflict zones, Mexico was the deadliest country…making it the third worst nation for killings worldwide.”  -CPJ

Of at least 95 journalists killed since 1992, CPJ determined journalism as the motive of 43.

The drug war gripping parts of the country has developed “silenced zones” where stories on crime or the Cartels are deliberately left alone or blurry in order to protect staff.

In light of this, authorities and government are unable to offer much help, and corruption is not uncommon either.

Despite this, many media workers continue to report, write, blog regardless of the risk. They know that any piece could be their last, but are determined to stand up to those oppressing both them and others.

They are Mexico’s last defenders of press freedom.