The global public reveal their priorities

A groundbreaking survey by the 33 million-strong social activism group Avaaz of 116,000 members of the public from 194 countries has found that “fighting political corruption, including corporate capture of our governments” is a top priority for 49% of the world’s people. Other priorities included tackling climate change and ensuring that there is universal access to education. The survey, likened to “taking the world’s pulse” is noteworthy for being much larger in scope than other “worldwide” polls- indeed it is considered the largest poll to ever take place across the entire globe. Avaaz has responded that it will spend the next year seeking to promote anti-corruption legislation through media campaigns and protests.

Paris restricts car travel in pollution crisis

Unusual weather conditions in northern France have resulted in particulates released by diesel engines becoming “trapped” in the Paris area. Consequently, air pollution has reached dangerous levels, with young children and the elderly being warned not to leave their houses at all during the day, whilst others are told to avoid strenuous exercise. The government’s attention has now turned to minimising additional pollution: bus travel and bicycle hire have become free-of-charge temporarily, whilst cars and motorcycles may only be used on alternating days, with the day determined whether the vehicle’s registration plate ends in and odd or even digit. There is little hope, however, that this emergency will prompt concrete action on reducing air pollution: similar emergencies have not led to a change in behaviour before.

Buzzfeed blogger hits out at RT news channel

In a blistering attack on RT, an international broadcaster that is funded by the Russian state, a writer working for Buzzfeed has alleged that there is heavy political interference in the channel’s content. Former employees of the broadcaster, formerly known as Russia Today, alleged that scripts were rewritten to have an anti-American slant, whilst entire news features were dropped on several occasions where they were critical of Russia or its allies. This follows the on-air resignation of Liz Wahl, who said “I cannot be part of a network funded by the Russian government that whitewashes the actions of Putin”. Pressure has been mounting on RT since it adopted a pro-Putin bias in reports on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

New South Wales to vote on personhood law

Can a foetus be considered a person? If proponents of a bill put to the Australian state of New South Wales, have their way, the answer will be “yes”. A coalition, including senior figures in the Australian church, has backed the bill, which by granting the legal status of a person to a foetus over 20 weeks old or 400g in weight would make harming a foetus a criminal offence. Legal experts have warned that the exemption in the bill for actions taken with the mother’s consent would be insufficient to prevent the legislation being used to block abortions. However, the bill currently looks unlikely to be passed.

Victims of forced sterilisation programme fight for justice

Peruvian women who were sterilised without their consent as part of a programme to reduce the country’s fertility rate have threatened to bring their cases to judicial review in response to government inaction. It is thought that over 2,000 women, mostly from impoverished rural backgrounds, were forcibly sterilised between 1995 and 2000 by staff who were paid about US$10 for each procedure they carried out. In certain Peruvian communities, infertility has a terrible stigma attached to it, reinforcing the victims’ determination to receive compensation and punish medical staff and officials who were complicit in the policy.

One in five Syrian refugee girls “forced to marry”

UNICEF has warned governments that 20% of female refugees from Syria under the age of 16 are being forced into marriage by parents, many of whom believe it is the only way to protect the girls from sexual violence. There is the added issue that the cultural practice of paying a dowry for brides is proving too attractive for parents who cannot afford to feed their children. The British government has been tasked with co-ordinating efforts to end this tragedy, which it plans to do by funding training programmes to help Syrian fathers find employment.

BY: JACK DARRANT