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Brazil Students Occupy Over 1,000 Schools to Protest Neoliberalism
(27 October 2016, teleSUR English)
Students protesting the neoliberal educational reforms of Brazil's unelected President Michel Temer have expanded their nationwide occupation to at least 1,108 public schools and universities across 19 states, as well as the federal district that contains the capital, Brasilia.
The protests are led by the Brazilian Union of Secondary Students, known as Ubes, and other local organizations critical of the Temer administration's revisions to the high-school system and the so-called PEC reform, which among other things will end public subsidies to students older than 20 years.
In the state of Paraná alone, students have occupied 851 schools, another 66 in Minas, 13 in Rio Grande do Sul and 10 in Rio Grande do Norte, and Goias. In the Federal District, and Rio, there are seven occupied schools apiece and in the largest state of Sao Paulo, five schools.
The Brazilian constitution stipulates that 18 percent of the country’s total federal tax budget be allocated to education. But the Senate is trying to reduce that figure.
If approved, PEC 241 would cut government expenditures over the next two decades, reducing it as a percentage of national GDP, which critics argue would translate into an onerous burden on the poor.
Michel Temer, who led the parliamentary coup against President Dilma Rousseff, has introduced a series of sweeping privatization proposals and cuts in education health and other social programs, since he was sworn in last August.
(24 October 2016, teleSUR English)
Women Take to Streets Again as Poland Proposes New Abortion Ban
Only weeks after thousands of protesters poured into the streets of Poland to reverse a bill banning abortion, fresh massive protests were held again to stare down the latest challenge to women's reproductive rights.
While Poland’s MPs rejected a near-total ban on abortions on October 6 following a nationwide general strike organized by women, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the governing ultra right wing Law and Justice Party (PiS), said his socially conservative party is working on a new bill.
"We will strive to ensure that even in pregnancies which are very difficult, when a child is sure to die, or strongly deformed, women end up giving birth so that the child can be baptized, buried, and have a name," he said last week.
As an overwhelmingly Catholic country with one of the most restrictive abortion laws in all of Europe, the only procedure that is legal is when there is severe and irreversible damage to the fetus, a serious threat to the mother's health, or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
Prior to the Oct. 6 ruling and the protests that spurred it, the draft law proposed in early October sought to punish women who had abortions to 5-year prison terms. It would also jail doctors who had performed the abortions.
Monday October 17 protests saw thousands of women gather in major cities to protest the continued curtailing of reproductive rights. In Warsaw, demonstrators brandished banners saying, “We have brains as well as a uterus.”
In Iceland, Women Leave Work at 2:38pm to Protest Gender Wage Gap
(25 October 2016, Common Dreams)
Thousands of women across Iceland walked out of work at 2:38pm local time Monday to protest the country's gender wage gap, arguing that their lower wages mean they effectively work without pay after that point.
"No woman chooses to be oppressed," said one activist filmed in Reykjavík during the protest by the U.K.'s Channel 4 News. "No women chooses to get paid less than men."
The walk-out occurred on the 41st anniversary of Iceland's famous Women's Day Off, when 90 percent of women in Iceland stopped working—at home and on the job—to raise awareness of the role women's work plays in society.
Women in Iceland still earn 14 percent less than their male counterparts. (In the U.S., women working full-time earn 20 percent less than men.) On October 24th each year, women in Iceland leave work once again and rally during what's now known as Women's Day for Equal Pay.
"Gylfi Arnbjörnsson, president of the Icelandic Confederation of Labor, told the country's official national broadcaster RÚV, that for 60 years it has been illegal in Iceland to discriminate on the basis of gender," the Independent writes. "Wage contracts can take into account education level and type of job, but not whether someone is male or female."
"No one puts up with waiting 50 years to reach a goal," Arnbjörnsson told the British newspaper. "It doesn't matter whether it's a gender pay gap or any other pay gap. It's just unacceptable to say we'll correct this in 50 years. That's a lifetime."
A mass rally was held in downtown Reykjavík on Monday October 17. Participants shared photos and videos of the demonstration under the hashtag #kvennafrí ("Women's Day Off").
Venezuela and Cuba Show Solidarity with Haiti After the Hurricane
(8 October 2016, teleSUR English)
The governments of Cuba and Venezuela have shown their solidarity with Haiti by sending specialized personnel and humanitarian aid to alleviate the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people affected by Hurricane Matthew that left over 870 killed, 350,000 in need and ravaged the country.
Cuba sent a group of 38 health professionals from the Henry Reeve Brigade who are trained in disaster medicine and infectious disease containment. The volunteer team was outfitted with essential medicines and equipment and has already arrived in the Haitian capital of Port au Prince.
For its part the Venezuelan government has already sent two shipments with humanitarian aid, the first was an airplane with 20 tons of non-perishable food, water, blankets, kitchen utensils, disposable materials, tents, ponchos and medicines.
Meanwhile, the death toll from the Category 4 hurricane, which has devastated the impoverished Caribbean nation, continues to climb, with scores of people still missing since last Tuesday when it landed with howling winds measuring 145 miles per hour.
Matthew, which has been downgraded to Category 1 storm, also hit the United States, Jamaica, Cuba and the Bahamas.
Haiti was particularly affected because it is the poorest country in the Americas, has not yet fully recovered from a devastating 2010 earthquake which decimated its infrastructure, while political stability remains evasive.
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