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This Year Of Misery Ends Today
It’s Saturday morning, children. More importantly, it’s the last day of 2016. We’re finally getting this year out of our way and praying that next year isn’t actually worse, as some are predicting. Temps are on the warm side this morning in Indianapolis, but it’s incredibly windy so it still feels cold. You’ll definitely want to bundle up if you are among those daring to go out this evening.
We’re walking right past the continuing talk about Russia and hacking, even though it now appears they hacked a Vermont utility. We’re also watching but not commenting on a North Carolina judge blocking the state legislature’s attempt to strip power from the incoming Governor. We’ll save those for next year. Instead, we have 5 things you really should know.
China Is Shutting Down Its Ivory Trade
Ivory comes from one primary source: the tusks of bull elephants. As the elephants have been hunted into near extinction, most Western countries, including all of Europe and both American continents, have banned the trade of ivory. While that ban has been in place for several years, one lone holdout has created an incredibly large black market: China. Now, that is all changing as China announced yesterday that they are banning the trade of ivory by the end if 20171.
You should know that China had previously announced plans to shut down its commercial market this year, but what makes yesterday’s announcement so important is that they will now stop processing ivory so that it can even be used in the commercial market. All processing of ivory in the country ends in March of this coming year. This is a huge deal for the safety and longevity of African elephants who have continued to be poached despite bans on hunting them across the African continent.
Of course, there’s always a dark side to changes like this. The ban will almost certainly fuel an even stronger black market for existing ivory pieces. Laws for trading existing ivory are much more spotty and differ dramatically from country to country. There are also some exceptions to China’s ban. Still, this is ultimately a good move toward a more sustainable planet.
A Different Kind Of Police Shooting
We have been watching this story with some curiosity as it has grown over the week. On Monday, the Greek Ambassador to Brazil, Kyriakos Amiridis, went missing. On Wednesday, his wife finally reported him as missing. On Thursday, the ambassador’s body was found in a burned-out car. Then yesterday, a police officer admitted to killing the ambassador and by the end of the day it was discovered that the police officer was having an affair with the ambassador’s wife. Both the wife and the police officer are now in custody2.
I know, it really sounds like the plot of a best-selling mystery book, doesn’t it? I’m sure the tale will get even more interesting as the entire story unravels. What you should know is that the ambassador’s wife is a native Brazilian, so she likely won’t be able to hide under diplomatic immunity laws in the country. A cousin of the police officer is also being held on charges that he helped move the ambassador’s body. Police say that blood stains on the sofa indicate that the ambassador was stabbed several times before being moved to the car in an attempt to cover the crime.
Officially, the Greek government has not commented on the event at all, which seems a bit strange. Brazil’s Prime Minister apologized, which is standard protocol for incidents such as this. It doesn’t seem likely that anyone with direct government ties was involved, though. This does give Rio another black eye, however, and is likely to further hurt an already struggling tourist business.
When Your Birth Certificate Is Wrong
Mistakes happen just about everywhere, but when they happen on a birth certificate getting them fixed can be challenging, and that’s when the error is something simple. On Tuesday, however, 55-year-old Sara Kelly Keenan finally got her corrected birth certificate in the mail and it’s one for the record books. In the “gender” field, instead of saying male or female, Keenan’s gender is listed as “intersex,” the first time that designation has been made on a birth certificate in the United States3.
Understand, this isn’t a matter of Keenan preferring to identify one way or another. She was born with male genes, female genitalia, and mixed internal reproductive organs. Intersex. Keenan uses female pronouns when referring to herself, but even that comes after no small amount of confusion. When she was born, her parents and doctors agreed to keep her intersex status a secret. Back in the 1960s, intersex people were referred to as “hermaphrodites,” a term that carries a lot of social bias. For three weeks, she was listed as a boy, and then issued a new birth certificate that said she was female.
When did everything change? Her father finally confessed in 2012 that they had hidden the information from her. This comes after years of hormone replacement therapy and confusion. The new birth certificate is important not only for Keenan, however, but for thousands of intersex people for whom neither the male or female gender fits. Given the importance of birth certificates for things such as which bathroom one uses in North Carolina, this is a tremendous step forward that will affect a lot of people from here on out.
Recognizing The Right To Learn
Speaking of gender, A huge step forward in transgender rights came in India this week where a school exclusively for transgender students opened, admitting 10 students who had previously dropped out of school4. India has a transgender population of over two million people. In 2014, transgender people there were given equal rights under the law, including the right to marry and inherit land. That doesn’t mean that they are quickly welcomed into society, however, and still face a tremendous amount of bias and sometimes violence. Transgender people are often thrown out of their homes and can have tremendous difficulty finding jobs.
The school in the city of Kochi aims to help reduce some of the problems by helping transgender adults sit for exams necessary to graduate high school. The program is very similar to the GED in the United States. The school has admitted six students so far, with more waiting to be admitted. The students all have a sponsor covering the cost of the education as well as food and housing. The centre also pays for gender reassignment surgery at government hospitals.
Opening the school hasn’t been easy. The school’s founder, who is also transgender, says she approached over 700 property owners before finding a suitable location. Most, she said, didn’t understand what she was trying to do, thinking that she wanted the space for prostitution. While the school is starting small, organizers hope to create a model that can be used across all of India. Approximately 56% of transgender people in India dropped out of high school, so this could be a dramatic turning point for all of them.
And Finally …
Normally, when you think of older people collecting things, one thinks of memorabilia such as pottery or antique furniture and the like. No one ever expects them to be hoarding a fortune in artwork, especially not in their garage. Yet, that is exactly what an elderly French couple was convicted of doing yesterday5. The court found Pierre Le Guennec and his wife Danielle guilty of illegally procuring the artwork of Pablo Picasso from the Picasso home and handed down a two-year suspended sentence.
This has not been an easy case to decide, however. The couple didn’t exactly sneak into the Picasso home and steal the art in the dead of night. Pierre was an electrician who was working in the Picasso home at the time of the artist’s death in 1973. The argument has been that the couple was given the artworks by Jacqueline Picasso, who may or may not have had a right to give the artwork away. A feud as to who holds the rights to Picasso’s work lasted until Jacqueline’s death in 1986. Claude Picasso is now generally considered to be the rightful heir of the Picasso estate.
What you should know is that no one knew the couple had the more than 180 paintings and a book with more than 91 sketches until Pierre took them to have them appraised about seven years ago. The artwork is supposedly in good condition despite having been in the garage the past 40 years. The current appraisal stands at about $105 million but could likely go quite a bit higher.
And that’s it. We are done for the year. We are taking a break tomorrow so that we can consider possibly trying to stay awake to see in the New Year. We’ll hopefully be back bright and early Monday morning. Until then, we hope you have a good day. Happy New Year!