Saturday, the 14th of October
Whether due to our societal view of innocence or a more existential and innate sense of self-preservation, violence directed at children is particularly abhorrent to us all. But disgust doesn't change the world.

Amidst our world of choices it would be easy (and even tempting) to avert one's eyes from the billion children who continue to live in poverty; and from the 22,000 who die every day because of it. But we ought not to. We should instead look directly at them and learn about them so that we may find avenues to help them. This week we explore four major stories involving children around the world.
Childhood at the juncture of ethnic cleansing, famine and dispossession.
The Rohingya - That a full-scale operation of ethnic cleansing is underway in Myanmar is well understood. Marauding bands of Buddhists, incited by firebrand monks and armed by their patrons in the military, have been efficaciously erasing the Rohingya from Rakhine State. And as is par for the course in moments of great strife, women and children have suffered the most grievously. Of the 520,000 people who have fled to overcrowded Bangladeshi refugee camps, 290,000 are children. Some have been orphaned and many more will be separated from their families.

It is also well understood that the young are more susceptible to trauma than adults - by several orders of magnitude. With this in mind, consider the report from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights that describes the intent and effect of the pogrom, "[to] instil deep and widespread fear and trauma – physical, emotional and psychological" on the Rohingya. The stories emerging from Rakhine State are truly barbaric and included one this week about soldiers gang-raping a young woman after throwing her baby in a fire. The scale of psychic rupture and trauma experienced by the surviving children is impossible to even imagine.

In the camps at Cox's Bazaar, there is little help for children coming across the border; aid agencies are having a difficult enough time feeding, let alone counselling the arrivals. The only respite comes from UNICEF's makeshift schools where children are encouraged to sing, dance and draw.

Child brides - In marginally better news, across the Western Bangladeshi border the Indian supreme court this week took the extraordinary and long-awaited step of criminalising sex with underage brides. Activists had for years petitioned to close a loophole that allowed for men to have sex with girls between the ages of 15 and 18 if they married them. Critics of the law argued that it contradicted other longstanding statutes which placed the age of consent at 18 years. The ruling comes in the same week as the story of a Rajasthani woman who successfully had her marriage annulled after she proved that it occurred and was consummated while she was a child.

This move is the latest in a long standing push to end the practice of child marriages in India. Data shows that in 2005 47.4% of married women between the ages of 18 and 29 had been wedded before they turned 18. The court also noted that there may be as many as 23 million child brides in India today. Experts believe the new legislation will also help curb the recent increase in child sex trafficking. An advocate from one anti-trafficking group said that 20,000 girls were trafficked for sex just last year, many under the guise of child marriage. 

Cholera - The poorest nation in the Middle East, Yemen, is in the grips of the worst cholera outbreak in human history. It is both the fastest spreading and the largest. Aid workers are completely overwhelmed and most of the country's hospitals have been levelled by British and American bombs dropped from Saudi and Emirati aircraft. It is expected that there will be one million sufferers of the disease by the end of the year, of which 600,000 will be children. But that is two and a half months away.

Right now there are 815,000 confirmed cases and children under the age of 5 make up a quarter of them. Doctors say they are also seeing cases of the disease claiming the lives of babies in-utero. While cholera can be treated easily with oral rehydration techniques, there is no way to address the root cause. Most of the country is without sanitation. Garbage is piled up in the street, sewerage facilities have been ruined and most people, impoverished even before the war, cannot afford money to boil infected water. There is no end in sight.

Malala - This is the story of a single young woman going to school. It is, compared to the events described above, manifestly unimportant. But, sadly, tragedies described through horrifying statistics fail to capture human imagination quite like symbols do. And Malala Yousafzai is nothing if not symbolic. Five years after being shot in the head and neck by Taliban fighters in the Swat Valley of her native Pakistan, Malala attended her first class at the prestigious Oxford University this week. 

After her failed execution, Malala's family moved to Britain, where her profile has grown from strength to strength. At the helm of her eponymous charitable foundation, Malala has continued to advocate for the education of girls across the developing world; a continuation of the same effort that saw her targeted by the Taliban in the first place. Now, she has the opportunity for herself that she has sought for so many others like her.
IMF chief Christine Lagarde.
Funds and banks - Economists and bankers (central or otherwise) gathered in Washington this week for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) summit. The annual IMF conference produced a nuanced snapshot of the global economy: recovery has been brittle but is strengthening. However, a stern warning was also issued that G20 nations need to rein in ballooning debt which endangers their growth. IMF boss Christine Lagarde returned to a frustratingly familiar theme: the clearest path to growth is to close the income gap between men and women.

Since 1944 the IMF has been both an exemplar and advocate of the capitalistic fiscal dogma that underpins globalisation. As such, it was surprising to hear that the organisation is encouraging higher taxes for the wealthy. In a ringing blow to the current orthodoxy of trickle-down economics, the IMF audit department released modelling that demonstrated taxing the rich at higher rates would not impinge on growth. 

Lagarde also shared some choice words about the 'unimaginable' possibility of Britain leaving the European Union without a deal. In an attempt to spur on negotiations, she pointed out that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, reverting World Trade Organisation rules would not effectively stave off disaster. Meanwhile, UK Brexit Secretary David Davis and EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier gave updates on their talks this week - the outlook isn't rosy.
Compromised: the Shinkansen travels as fast as 320kmph.
Kobe Steel scandal - Kobe Steel CEO Hiroya Kawasaki cut a humble figure when he fronted the media this week, tasked with outlining the extent of fraudulent activity at Japan's third-largest steel manufacturer. The 100-year-old company has been hammered all week over revelations that it had systemically falsified information concerning the durability of some products. The fudged numbers for Kobe's aluminium set off alarm bells worldwide: it's used in planes, trains and cars. It appears as though records had been falsified for up to a decade at all four of its aluminium smelters.

The list of Kobe's infuriated clients is long: Mitsubish Heavy Industries, Boeing, Toyota, Nissan, Hitachi, Honda, Ford and more. The operators of Japan's Shinkansen (bullet train) network found faults in wheel fittings, although they do not pose immediate safety concerns. As their leader admitted this week, Kobe's credibility is at 'zero'. This scandal comes amidst a recent spate of corporate bungles among the colossi of Japan Inc. Shinzo Abe (who appears headed for a sizeable victory at the polling booths) has battled for years to improve corporate accountability.
"I'm not quitting, i'm not getting fired"
  1. The US left UNESCO again over its anti-Israel bias
  2. A diplomatic stoush broke out with Turkey
  3. Trump signed an EO to undermine Obamacare
  4. He bartered immigration reform for DACA protections
  5. He was sued for allowing contraception restrictions
  6. The EPA moved to scrap climate protections
  7. Trump threatened to revoke NBC's broadcast license
  8. Kelly denied rumours that he is being shown the door
  9. Trump continued his attack on Puerto Rico
  10. And unloaded on a former ally, Bob Corker
Mean girls? Says who!
Women are nicer than men - We've all got anecdotal evidence to back up that claim, but now neuroscientists have proven it to be true. A deep study of the brain's reward system shows that women have a stronger chemical reaction to 'prosocial' behaviours than men. The researchers stopped short, however, of saying whether this is a result of genetic disposition or of learned societal behaviours. Here's to the better half!

Conservationist pledge - This weekend the Chinese billionaire He Qiaonv will pledge one third of her fortune, some $1.5b to wildlife conservation. The money will be diverted amongst hundreds of projects (like rehabilitating wetlands or preserving snow leopard populations).  
Visit sooner rather than later.
Super volcano - In bad news for people hoping to inhabit Wyoming in the future: the super volcano under Yellowstone national park is going to erupt sooner than expected. Lucky for those living there now, we'll know decades in advance of when it decides to cover America in ash and lava.

Harvey Weinstein is awful - The disgraced and disgraceful film mogul has displayed the traits of a serial predator for decades, mostly unperturbed. Now as more and more women come forward with tales of sexual harassment, we hope the industry will find ways for power to be redistributed more fairly among men and women.
Your weekend long read... This is a riveting read that follows life in Taliban captivity and the eventual rescue of a Canadian-American family. The couple had three children during their five years in a secret Pakistani jail. Extraordinary.

Lastly, if you found this issue of The Weekly Wrap interesting, please do share it with your friends and family. It helps.