YEAR OF THE WOMAN?

The underreported story of Mexico’s July 1 elections is a huge political victory for the country’s women. A look at the facts:


  • In the next congress, women will make up 47.8 percent of the lower house, 49.2 percent of the senate, and at least 50 percent of most state legislatures.
  • The former job of newly elected President Andrés Manuel López Obrador—Mexico City mayor—will be held by a woman (Claudia Sheinbaum, pictured above).
  • Mexico’s lower house will have the world’s fourth-largest female legislative representation.
  • Mexico’s Senate will have the world’s second-largest female representation after Belgium.

This breakthrough has been a long time coming. For 15 years, Mexico has had mandatory quotas that require each political party to include a set percentage of women among its candidates for office. The required percentage has increased over time, but Mexican women have long complained that female candidates lacked critical support from their parties. Pressure for change has now produced a positive result.

But that’s not true in Brazil, where female participation in politics remains a source of national embarrassment. That might surprise you, given that Brazil’s most recent president was a woman. (Dilma Rousseff was impeached as part of the still-growing Lava Jato corruption scandal.) A look at the facts:

  • Women make up a little over 10 percent of the lower house and just under 15 percent of the Senate.
  • Just one of 29 members of President Michel Temer’s cabinet is a woman.
  • Of 16,131 candidates who won zero votes in Brazil’s 2016 municipal elections, 14,417 were women.
  • The country ranks 154th in world in female representation in the national legislature.

It’s not enough for a political party to put a woman’s name on the ballot. She must have the same financial and political backing from the party that male candidates receive. She must be allowed to compete in a district her party can win. At a minimum, she must be informed in advance that she’s a candidate. There have been multiple cases where Brazilian women have discovered their names on a ballot without having agreed to run.

The bottom line: No one knows how female lawmakers will change politics and policy, but only in countries where political parties genuinely want women to participate are we likely to find out.​​

When Donald Trump first started talking about buying Greenland last week, we figured it was a weird story with less legs than a Harp seal.

Signal readers, we were wrong. President Trump was so serious about purchasing the autonomous Danish territory that this week he abruptly cancelled a trip to Denmark after the country's prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, labelled the idea "absurd."

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The Amazon in flames – More than 70,000 forest fires are burning in Brazil right now, most of them in the Amazon. That's up 84% over the same period last year, and it's the highest number on record. This is the dry season when farmers burn certain amounts of forest legally to clear farmland. But critics say Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro's efforts to loosen conservation rules have encouraged farmers, loggers, and miners to set more fires, many of them illegally. Bolsonaro – a science skeptic who recently fired the head of the agency that tracks deforestation – says, without proof, that NGOs are setting the fires to embarrass his government. Meanwhile, the EU is holding up a major trade deal with Brazil unless Bolsonaro commits to higher environmental protection standards, including those that affect the Amazon.

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Over the past fifty years, the Amazon rainforest has shrunk by an area equal to the size of Turkey. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Brazilian government supported settlement of the sparsely populated region for security reasons. Since then, huge swaths of the forest -- which is crucial for limiting the world's greenhouse gasses -- have been cleared for farmland used to feed Brazil's population and support its massive agricultural exports. Greater awareness of the environmental impacts in the 1990s produced tighter conservation regulations, though plenty of illegal clearing continues. In recent years, the annual deforestation rate has begun to rise again, and Brazil's new president Jair Bolsonaro has pledged to weaken regulations further in order to support businesses.

3: The US has recruited Australia to join its nascent mission of protecting ships in the critical Strait of Hormuz. Along with Britain and Bahrain, Australia is now the third country to join the US-led maritime mission, as high seas brinksmanship with the Iranians continues.

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