One million Brazilians participate in anti-government protests

June 21, 2013

Protests escalate in Brazil, Chinese dissident’s spat with NYU now involves spyware, and ethnic rifts deepen in Syria. Today is Friday, June 21, the longest day of the year for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. Here’s the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.

Demonstrators participate in one of many protests around Brazil’s major cities in Curitiba, June 20, 2013. REUTERS/Rodolfo Buhrer

Bigger than a bus fare blunder. Around one million people took to the streets in Brazil last night, despite government efforts to appease the protesters. The demonstrations were the largest in a series of the most significant protests the country has seen in nearly 20 years:

Undeterred by the reversal of transport fare hikes that sparked the protests, and promises of better public services, demonstrators marched around two international soccer matches and in locales as diverse as the Amazon capital of Manaus and the prosperous southern city of Florianopolis. While the protests remained mostly peaceful, the growing number of participants led to occasional outbursts of violence and vandalism in some cities. In central Rio de Janeiro, where 300,000 people marched, police afterwards chased looters and dispersed people crowding into surrounding areas.

The group responsible for starting the protests is comprised of activists seeking free public transportation, however the demonstrations now have grown beyond the ‘Free Fare’ group’s expectations or control. Disparate groups are protesting a wide range of issues including high taxes, inflation, government corruption and poor public services. The protesters are using the backdrop of Brazil’s Confederations Cup, an international soccer tournament considered a test run for next year’s World Cup, to highlight the government’s extravagant spending. Brazilian officials are set to meet today to discuss ways to respond to the protests, which have left one dead and hundreds injured so far. Check out photographs of protesters tearing down a traffic light and facing off with riot police.

Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng speaks to journalists following an appearance in New York, May 3, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

“Like a 007 thing.” The latest in an opaque controversy surrounding Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng’s upcoming departure from New York University’s law school involves some high-tech gifts given to Chen upon his arrival in the United States last year:

At least two of the gadgets presented to Chen as gifts may not have been quite what they seemed: They included software intended to spy on the blind dissident, according to Jerome Cohen, an NYU professor who has been Chen’s mentor, and another source familiar with the episode. Like nearly everything surrounding Chen these days, the existence of the spyware is in dispute, and only adds to the public recriminations there have been between NYU and Chen’s supporters over events surrounding the end of his fellowship.

Last weekend, Chen accused the university of bowing to Chinese pressure to end his fellowship. Supporters suggest that NYU is trying to maintain ties with China so as not to jeopardize construction of a Shanghai campus. NYU has denied both claims, saying that the plan was always for Chen to spend one year at the school before figuring out his next steps. It is unclear how the spyware would have ended up on the devices given to Chen by friends.

Rebels walk at the courtyard of Ammar bin Yassir mosque in Raqqa, June 3, 2013. REUTERS/Alex Dziadosz

Peaceful coexistence unravels. A Reuters special report looks at the sectarian strife that has overtaken Syria and spilled into neighboring regions over the past two years, a stark change from historically peaceful relations between different Syrian communities:

During a 10-day journey through rebel-held territory, Reuters saw first-hand how the sectarian divisions are transforming the country. Those splits, and the risk of large-scale communal retribution, are one reason Western powers have hesitated to intervene. Now, as the United States prepares to arm the rebels, it risks getting entangled in an intricate conflict that often pits neighbor against neighbor. As in Yugoslavia or in neighboring Iraq, where conflicts were marked by sectarianism and ethnic cleansing, Syria is unlikely to go back to the way it was. Even when the war ends, the reordering of villages and towns will leave behind a very different country, a change which could reverberate through the region.

This report is the third and final installment of a series on Syria – click through for the first and second articles.

Nota Bene: David Beckham’s arrival in Shanghai sparks a stampede.


Female sterilization camps – India’s birth control method is as disturbing as it sounds. (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Ivory bust – The Philippines crushes millions of dollars worth of illegal ivory in an attempt to discourage trade. (BBC)

Sharing is caring – Ads ask Parisians to be nice to the tourists. (The Atlantic Cities)

Too much pop, not enough motherland – Uzbekistan cracks down on performances that aren’t sufficiently patriotic. (The Guardian)

Cattle crime – Japanese businessmen are in big trouble for selling cows that don’t exist. (The Wall Street Journal)

From the File:

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