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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Men Convicted in Fatal India Gang Rape

Four men were found guilty of the gang-rape and murder of a young woman on a bus in New Dehli last year, in a case that sparked widespread national and global outrage. The case prompted the government to introduce harsh new laws to punish sexual offenses. All four will be sentenced Wednesday, and India’s home minister stated publicly that the death sentence is inevitable.  India has only executed three people in the past nine years: a man who raped a 14-year-old girl and two Islamic militants.  Lawyers for three of the men said they would appeal the verdict, claiming their clients had been tortured and coerced into confessions that they later retracted.

In a stark reminder of how pervasive a problem rape is, a groundbreaking study covering six Asian countries reported that 1 in 10 men admitted to raping a woman who was not their partner. When their wife or girlfriend was included in the question, the figure rose to about a quarter. In most places, scientists have concluded that 6-8% of men have raped a woman who was not their partner; when the partner is included, the number rises to 30-50%. Nearly half of the respondents who said they had raped someone went on to rape multiple others.

Civilians Used as ‘Human Shields’ in Philippines

The stand-off between Philippine armed forces and Muslim rebels from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) has continued into its second day. At least 170 people are still being held hostage in houses and a mosque in four coastal villages, which are now ringed by troops. Sporadic exchanges of fire throughout the day caused some houses to go up in flames and more residents to flee.

Local media has reported that the fighters have issued two demands: to walk to Zamboanga City’s City hall and hoist the MNLF flag and to be able to keep their hostages. Zamboanga City’s mayor has rejected both demands. No clear resolution to the crisis is in sight.

Over the past few decades, the insurgency by Muslim fighters in the south has killed about 150,000 people.

Pakistan May Free Taliban Commander to Facilitate Peace Talks

Pakistan’s foreign minister has agreed ‘in principle’ to release Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s deputy leader and one of its four founders. Baradar had been arrested in a joint raid by the CIA in 2010. While his arrest was initially hailed as a rare example of Pakistan pursuing insurgent leaders in Afghanistan, it soon became clear that he’d been arrested for holding peace talks with the Karzai government without Pakistan’s military intelligence service.  Afghanistan has been asking for Baradar’s release for years, in the hopes that he can bring other Taliban commanders into negotiations.

Pakistan has released 33 Taliban prisoners so far this year in an effort jumpstart peace talks, but these don’t seem to have brought the two sides closer to negotiations. In fact, some of the prisoners have likely returned to fight against the Afghan government. Whether or not Pakistan will actually release Baradar remains uncertain.

Kenya’s Deputy President Charged with Crimes against Humanity

Accused of orchestrating widespread violence after Kenya 2007 elections, William Ruto pled not guilty to three charges of crimes against humanity in his trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC). He had been running against President Uhuru Kenyatta and both are accused of orchestrating attacks against each other’s ethnic groups. 1,200 people were killed during the ensuing violence and more than 600,000 displaced. Over 40,000 are still living in camps five yaers later.

Ruto and Kenyatta have since formed an alliance ahead of elections in March. Kenya’s parliament has voted to withdraw from the ICC to protest what it sees as foreign interference in the country’s domestic affairs, but the government has not yet acted on the resolution.  Ruto is the first serving official to appear at the ICC.

Mexico’s President Introduces Major Tax Reform

President Enrique Pena Nieto has introduced his long-awaited  tax reform, hoping that raising taxes on the wealthy and increasing social spending will quell the left’s anger over his proposal to open up Mexico’s state-owned oil company to private investment.

The plan surprised both supporters and detractors: it is less aggressive than many had anticipated (it did not include a sales tax on food and medicine) and it introduced Mexico’s first national pension and unemployment insurance plans. It will also scrap about two-thirds of the country’s tax breaks and exemptions, and many of the measures are aimed at increasing Mexico’s tax collection rate, which is one of the lowest in the developed world.

It remains to be seen whether the bill sufficiently placates his allies on the left while also assuaging the skepticism of the right to pass Congress.

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