Over the last few days, Brazil has been witness to its biggest, most widespread protest in two decades against the government’s fiscal priorities, deep-rooted corruption and inadequate provision of public goods
What started out as a localized protest on 2nd June in Sao Paolo against a bus fare hike from 3 real to 3.20 real has grown into the largest, most widespread protest against the Brazilian government since 1992, when the nation demanded the impeachment of president Fernando Collor de Mello. Close to 250 lakh protesters across Brazil, including Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo took to the streets over the last two days, protesting against widespread corruption and utterly inadequate provision of public goods such as education and healthcare.
Representatives of the government at Sao Paolo have argued that the price hike (6.67%) is well under the inflation rate of about 15%, but have agreed to a roll back of the price hike once an alternate source of revenue is identified. When the police reacted to peaceful protests in Sao Paolo with tear gas and rubber bullets, leaving over a 100 people injured, the protests began to gain phenomenal momentum through social media.
A significant part of public anger and resentment stems from the perception that Brazil’s grand plans for the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the 2016 Olympic Games, with countless millions of dollars being spent on upgrading stadia, airports and hotels have been made at the cost of public goods provision for the common man. This is despite the fact that according to the Brazilian Tax Planning Institute’s think tank, Brazil’s tax burden in 2011 stood at a very high 36%, making it the 12th highest in the world. Some protesters are reported to have hacked into the FIFA World Cup 2014’s official website and replaced it temporarily with videos of police violence against protesters.
Deputy sports minister Luis Fernandes is reported to have said, “There is absolutely nothing contradictory between organizing a World Cup and investing in health and education.” Evidently, the citizens of Brazil beg to differ.
Yesterday, president Dilma Rousseff assured her people that their voices were being heard. “Brazil has woken up a stronger country… The size of yesterday’s marches is evidence of the strength of our democracy,” she said in a nationally televised speech.
One cannot help but notice the striking similarities between the Anna Hazare movement that India witnessed two years ago and the protests in Brazil. India was ranked 87th in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index in 2010, with Brazil only a few ranks above at 69th position. Like India’s anti-corruption movement, Brazil’s too has its urban, educated, middle-class youth giving the protests their momentum. Both BRICS nations have had enormous economic successes in the past decades, contributing in part to a constantly increasing educated middle-class that is aware of its rights and calls strongly for better public services.
Extensive, innovative and highly effective use of social media has been made in both countries to fan the flames of protest. Reactions to police violence against protesters have furthered incensed people into joining the protests. This was also seen a few months ago in India, when the police came down heavily on youngsters protest against the Delhi gang-rape in December 2012. Photographs on Instagram, shot by protesters on their smart phones have gone viral.
One significant difference between the two movements is that while India’s protests had a clear leader, a figurehead with a set of highly specific demands, Brazil’s protests have largely been amorphous in nature, with a general dissatisfaction with poor governance and corruption unifying the protesters. Whether this lack of direction and specificity will weaken the protesters’ stance against the government or help avoid the eventual politicization of a cause that is spearheaded by individuals remains to be seen.
Hand washing is the single most effective step to reduce the spread of infectious diseases, but Michigan State University researchers found that only 5% of people who used the bathroom washed their hands long enough to kill the germs that can cause infections
According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, it takes 15 to 20 seconds of vigorous hand washing with soap and water to effectively kill the germs. But yet the study which was based on the observations of 3,749 people in public restrooms showed that people were washing their hands for only six seconds on an average. “These findings were surprising to us because past research suggested that proper hand washing is occurring at a much higher rate,” said Carl Borchgrevink, the lead investigator. Borchgrevink and colleagues had trained a dozen college students and made them observe hand washing in restrooms at bars, restaurants and other public establishments.
The study also found out that 15% of the men and 7% of the women didn’t wash their hands and among those who washed their hands, only half of the men used soap, compared to 78% of women. Where there were dirty sinks, people were less likely to wash their hands and hand washing was more prevalent during the day. The researcher reasoned that maybe because in the evening the restaurant-goers are more relaxed. Also people were more likely to wash hands if there was a sign encouraging it. The study, published in the Journal of Environmental Health is one of the first to take into account factors such as duration of the hand washing and whether people used soap.
Borchgrevink, who worked as a chef and restaurant manager before becoming a researcher, said that the findings have implications for both consumers and restaurant and hotel operators. “Imagine you’re a business owner and people come to your establishment and get food-borne illness through the fecal-oral route —because people didn’t wash their hands—and then your reputation is on the line,” he said. “You could lose your business.” Hand washing is the single most effective step to reduce the spread of infectious diseases, according to the CDC, and failing to do it properly contributes to nearly half of food-borne illness outbreaks.
The auto manufacturer stated that the vehicles had met all the safety regulations at the time of its manufacturing. However, critics had pointed out that because the gas tanks were placed behind the rear axle of the SUVs, the chances of the cars catching fire in rear-end collisions were high
Chrysler Group of the US has agreed to inspect 2.7 million older-model Jeep Grand Cherokee and Liberty SUVs which the critics say is prone to bursting into flames after rear-end impacts. Chrysler had earlier refused the safety regulator’s request to recall the jeeps, but now has agreed to check the vehicles, thus ending their differences with the regulator. The refusal was quite a shock to the automobile industry as they usually do what the Government asks them to do.
In a brief statement, the automaker said "Chrysler Group recognizes that this matter has raised concerns for its customers and wants to take further steps, in coordination with NHTSA, to provide additional measures to supplement the safety of its vehicles. Chrysler Group regards safety as a paramount concern and does not compromise on the safety of our customers and their families." He also said that if necessary, they will install a trailer hitch assembly along the rear of the vehicle which will help to manage the crash force in low speed impacts and will also deflect damage to the gas tank.
Critics had pointed out that because the gas tanks were placed behind the rear axle of the SUVs, the chances of the cars catching fire in rear-end collisions were high. But Chrysler argued that the vehicles had met all the safety regulations at the time of its manufacturing and they have also changed the design of the new models which have the gas tanks ahead of the rear axel.
In its agreement with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Chrysler is not admitting that the vehicles were defective because if he did, he would have to face many lawsuits filed by accident victims and their survivors. "Chrysler Group’s analysis of the data confirms that these vehicles are not defective and are among the safest in the peer group," the company said. "Nonetheless, Chrysler Group recognizes that this matter has raised concerns for its customers and wants to take further steps, in coordination with NHTSA, to provide additional measures to supplement the safety of its vehicles."
The dispute related to the SUVs is not new. It’s been dragging on since years. In 2011, a Jeep Grand Cherokee exploded into flames after being rear-ended by a pick-up truck at a stop light. A family of four died in the accident. The parents, Mark and Amanda Roe burned to death while their sons Caleb, 11 and Tyler, 4 were killed by the impact. Consumer crusader Ralph Nader called on the company to recall the vehicles, calling them "a modern day Pinto for soccer moms with a fuel tank located dangerously behind the rear axle in the crush zone of an impact."
In 2013, again two people burned to death in their Jeep Grand Cherokee. Jenelle Embrey of Linden, VA was riding with her father on Interstate 81 in the Shenandoah Valley when the traffic slowed to a halt on the chronically-congested highway. Suddenly, they were hit from the rear by a Jeep that in turn had been rear-ended by a tractor-trailer truck that failed to stop. Immediately the back of the jeep caught fire. Embrey's father smashed the window and rescued a teen-aged boy but was driven back by flames before he could rescue another teen and their mother. "Dad and I stood in front of the Jeep and watched in horror as the mom and teen burned to death. The saved teen watched the burning Jeep too as he tearfully screamed, 'Mom! Mom!” Embrey said. She had launched an online petition, hoping to motivate federal safety officials to order a recall. The petition has gathered nearly 1,28,000 signatures. She had also purchased space on several billboards in the Winchester area urging consumers to sign her petition.
There has also been a debate on the number of accident that has taken place. Embrey says the current count is 287 deaths in 202 fiery crashes. But Chrysler and NHTSA cited lower figures and claim that the Jeeps have a safety record comparable to similar vehicles of the same age. Moreover NHTSA issued a statement saying that it was "pleased that Chrysler has agreed to take action to protect its customers and the driving public" but said it would continue their investigation into this issue, pending the agency’s review of the documents provided by Chrysler in its recall action. NHSTA also added that the consumers affected by the safety recall and customer satisfaction campaign should immediately have their vehicles serviced once they receive a notification from Chrysler.