As the private sector innovates aid and financing, seeking holistic solutions to neighborhood challenges is the cornerstone of the approach.
Businesses, which rely on healthy communities for their own prosperity, must play a big part in driving solutions.
On Wednesday the Supreme Court began hearing arguments on an issue that has had Americans fighting — and in some cases killing — each other for 50 years: abortion.
The court must decide whether a recent Mississippi state law that prohibits abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy is legal and, more broadly, whether it runs counter to the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision of 1973.
That decision legalized abortion nationally up until fetal viability — which is now around 23 weeks of pregnancy — on the grounds that women enjoy a constitutional right to privacy.
Early indications on Wednesday were that the conservative-dominated court would uphold the Mississippi law, but we won’t know if a majority will move to explicitly overturn Roe v Wade until a final ruling is issued next summer.
If Roe is struck down, almost half of American states would immediately outlaw most abortions. Passions are, as ever, running high.
Why is this issue so intense in the US?
Viewed from abroad, the battles over abortion in the US can sometimes seem strange. While other countries have struggled with the issue, the ferocity and violence surrounding the question in the US stands out.
One big reason is that in addition to arguing about abortion itself, Americans are often arguing about the way the issue was decided.
Opponents of abortion often argue that a moral issue like this should be left to elected state legislatures, which reflect the preferences of their constituents better than the unelected justices of the Supreme Court in far-off Washington, DC.
Supporters of choice, meanwhile, say an issue this fundamental is precisely one in which universal rights have to be identified and then upheld by the highest court in the land. If we’d left Jim Crow up to local legislatures, they point out, that injustice might have persisted for decades longer.
This tug-of-war between states’ rights and national prerogatives has defined America from the earliest days. It once plunged the country into war. And it’s still an electric issue in the US on everything from healthcare, to guns, to voting rights, to vaccine mandates. Abortion is no exception.
A problem with Roe v Wade. Even some supporters of the right to abortion see faults in Roe v Wade that have left it open to attack.
The late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, for example, felt the Court had perhaps moved too fast, issuing a sweeping decision before a broad majority of citizens and states were in line with it. She also argued that by focusing on privacy rather than the more universal concept of gender equality, the Supreme Court had left abortion on shakier ground legally.
When the Court enshrined a constitutional right to same-sex marriage in 2015, by contrast, it was already behind the popular curve — 30 states had already done so. At the time of Roe, only 20 states had legalized abortion.
Other countries have handled it differently, putting legislatures or popular referenda in the driver’s seat.
Majority-Catholic Italy, for example, legalized abortion in the late 1970s through a law backed by two referendums. Ireland also made the move in 2018 through a referendum, while Argentina did it last year through a legislative process.
Not everyone in these countries agrees with those moves, but supporters of the right to choose can still point to democratic and legislative legitimacy in a way that is harder to do in the United States.
So what do Americans actually think about abortion today? About 60 percent say it should be legal in most or all cases, according to a recent Pew poll.
But there’s a caveat: a recent AP/NORC poll showed that while 61 percent of Americans support that right within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, that figure falls by thirty points when it comes to the second trimester. The Mississippi law applies just two weeks into the beginning of the second trimester.
What happens next? This court’s view on Roe won’t come out until next summer — that is, just 2-3 months before midterm elections. No matter which way it goes, the decision will be a(nother) culture war bomb ahead of that vote.
While the debate over fetal rights vs a woman’s right to choose is particularly ferocious in the US, it’s also a divisive issue in many parts of the world, particularly in countries where the Catholic Church holds influence. We take a look at abortion laws globally, as well as countries with the highest and lowest official abortion rates.
The small Central American nation of Honduras is in many ways a full blown narco-state. President Juan Orlando Hernandez – who’s governed the country for close to a decade – has been linked to the country’s booming drug trafficking trade. His brother Tony, a former congressman who is buds with Mexican drug lord El-Chapo, was sentenced to life-in prison this year for smuggling cocaine into the US. Narco-trafficking gangs run riot in the country, fueling one of the world’s highest murder rates, while corruption and poverty abound.
In a sign of the hunger for change, Hondurans have overwhelmingly selected an avowed socialist to be the next president, rather than see the conservative Hernandez’s preferred successor take power. It’s a big moment for a country in crisis. What happens now?
First, who’s won? With most of the votes counted, Xiomara Castro of the leftist Libre party currently holds a whopping 20-point lead over Nasry Asfura of Hernandez’s ruling National Party. That means Castro is now all but certain to become Honduras' first female president. She is in fact no stranger to Honduran politics: her husband José Manuel Zelaya served as president for three years until he was ousted in a military coup in 2009.
Hernandez and his cronies won’t be missed by many Hondurans whose lives are plagued by poverty and gang violence while the political elite gets rich off drug money. In Honduras, one of Central America’s poorest countries, lack of economic opportunity and high murder rates continue to drive high levels of emigration, most notably during the pandemic. The emigration rate from Honduras has increased 530 percent over the past three decades.
Will this development change things? In many ways Castro’s win is a triumph for democracy. The elections appear to have been free and fair, a stark contrast to the post-election violence that resulted after claims of election fraud in 2017.
The 62-year old Castro, who represents a coalition of opposition parties, has said she wants to open dialogue with all sectors of Honduran society to bridge the country’s deep divides. She has positioned herself as a change candidate, vowing to root out graft by establishing a UN-backed anti-corruption commission and to reduce poverty. And although her policy details are scarce, her message has resonated with a deeply disillusioned Honduran electorate that feels it has everything to lose by keeping the ruling Nationals in power.
However, Castro’s wings might be clipped by Congress, if the Nationals and its political allies hold solid ground in the 128-seat chamber.
Who’s watching? The United States, for starters. The Biden administration has made combating corruption a key part of its broader Central America policy, which aims to stabilize the region in order to reduce northward migration. And Honduras is a key piece of this: during the surge in illegal border crossings over the past year, Hondurans were second only to Mexicans among nationalities stopped at the border.
Castro, for her part, says she wants to maintain solid ties with the US, though it is unclear whether Washington and Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital, will find common ground on a range of issues including relations with China, migration, and security.
Mexico also has a keen interest in seeing a more stable Honduras. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has come under strong pressure – first from Trump, now from Biden – to stop migration flows at his own borders.
Looking ahead. Castro’s job will be to turn stump speech rhetoric into meaningful change that people can feel. Hondurans are desperate for change. The neighbors are watching closely. Can she deliver?
Will the Taliban be able to maintain control over the entire country of Afghanistan if the ongoing hunger and economic crisis worsens?
Civil disobedience is likely to expand from women's protests to widespread unrest, said journalist Ahmed Rashid, especially if humanitarian aid only reaches the hands of Taliban loyalists and the country’s urban elites.
“It's going to be much more easy for the opposition to organize unrest in the cities demanding food and services," said Rashid, author of “Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil & Fundamentalism in Central Asia.”
"The Taliban are going to use probably harsher and harsher methods to deal with that, and that, of course, will create its own snowballing crisis.”
Watch this clip from his interview with Ian Bremmer on the upcoming episode of GZERO World.
What We’re Watching: Global Gateways vs Belt and Road, US-Russia tit-for-tat, Germany’s COVID challenge
The EU rivals China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The European Commission has unveiled its Global Gateways plan, which aims to invest €300 billion globally in infrastructure projects by 2027. Indeed, Brussels is positioning its plan as a better alternative to China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative. This announcement comes as Beijing has been steadily upping its investment in the Global South, including a pledge this week to supply Africa with an additional 1 billion COVID vaccine doses over the next three years, as well as doling out $10 billion of trade finance to support African exports. But European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen points to several advantages for the European plan. One, Global Gateway focuses both on physical infrastructure – like fiber-optic cables, transportation, healthcare and clean energy resources – as well as investment in research and education. And unlike Beijing’s plan, which saddles recipient countries with debt, the EU will provide cash “under fair and favorable terms.” Its plan will also include buy-in from Europe’s robust private sector. Beijing has not commented on the development, but the Chinese foreign minister’s visit to Ethiopia on Wednesday was likely intended to signal Beijing’s enduring commitment to the region.
US and Russia’s tit-for-tat expulsions. Just days after Washington ordered 27 Russian diplomats and their families to leave the US over security concerns, Moscow has hit back, expelling a host of US diplomats from Moscow. This move is a big deal considering that the US Embassy in Moscow has shrunk considerably in recent years and now has around 120 staff members, down from 1,200 in 2017. This tit-for-tat move comes as Russia’s relations with the West are approaching rock bottom: Ukraine urged Washington and NATO this week to hit Moscow with new sanctions in response to the buildup of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border. Kyiv says the mobilization of 125,000 Russian troops in the Donbas region is proof that Russia plans to invade Ukraine – very soon. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet Thursday with Sergey Lavrov, his Russian counterpart, to discuss the escalating situation, but Moscow has warned that any deployment of missiles in Ukraine by NATO forces would be “crossing a red line.” Indeed, a NATO miscalculation could accidentally provoke the wider conflict everyone wants to avoid.Scholz’ COVID challenge in Germany. Germany’s Chancellor-designate Olaf Scholz is set to take over the nation’s top job at a perilous time. The COVID situation is spiraling, with the country recording 446 deaths on Wednesday. That’s the highest daily death toll in Germany in 10 months. New cases are at record high levels, too, and doctors are warning of an influx of intensive care admissions that could dwarf numbers seen during last year’s winter peak – before vaccines were rolled out. As the public health situation deteriorates, Scholz says he’d support a vaccine mandate as soon as February, vowing to put the issue before parliament. But it’s not going to be easy for Scholz to sell the idea of a vaccine mandate in a country with a complicated history surrounding forced medical treatment and experimentation. Around 68 percent of Germany are fully vaccinated, and a robust booster campaign is now underway.
Hard Numbers: Restricting Afghan women costs the economy, the world’s most expensive city, Michigan school shooting, Ugandan troops in the DRC
1 billion: In restricting women from working, the Taliban could cost Afghanistan’s economy $1 billion, according to a UN report. That’s 5 percent of the country’s total GDP. Banning women – who make up 20 percent of the Afghan workforce – from many aspects of social life is risky business as the country faces a humanitarian and economic crisis.
4: Four students were killed and eight people were injured Tuesday when a gunman opened fire at a high school in the US state of Michigan. The 15-year old shooter reportedly used a gun bought by his father recently on Black Friday. The incident has put the issue of lax gun laws in the US back into focus.
4: Ugandan troops have entered the Democratic Republic of Congo in a joint effort to crack down on the Allied Democratic Forces, an Islamic insurgency group linked to ISIS and responsible for a string of attacks on civilians. This move comes weeks after twin suicide attacks by those affiliated with ADF in Kampala, the Ugandan capital, killed 4 people and injured dozens.1: Inflation and an economic downturn caused by the pandemic have increased the cost of living in many places. But Tel Aviv now takes the cake as the world’s most expensive city, up from fifth place last year, according to the Economist’s Cost of Living Index. Property prices are astronomical in Tel Aviv, which is followed on the list by Paris and Singapore.
Despite a recent dip, migrant arrivals at the US-Mexico border have surged over the past 10 months, driven by economic hardship, violence, and the perception that President Biden would be more welcoming to migrants than his predecessor. Most of those coming to the US from the South hail from Mexico, but a large number have also fled violence and poverty in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. We take a look at migration patterns from Central America in 2021 compared to 2020.