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Anti-government protesters in Sao Paulo on June 20
Anti-government protesters in Sao Paulo on June 20

Watching from abroad as Brazil's anti-corruption probe rumbles into its fourth year, you can't help but think: "Well, I guess they're all corrupt..." "How could it get any worse?" No doubt, many Brazilians are thinking the same. The latest episode in this seemingly unending series of accusations and counter-accusations, rising and falling political fortunes, is President Michel Temer being charged with corruption late yesterday.

Temer now formally accused of accepting bribes that, in total, could amount to 38 million reais ($11.5 million). Temer, 76, denies the charges — just as his predecessor Dilma Rousseff did before being impeached last year over accusations of illegally manipulating the budget to boost her chances of being reelected.

Temer's legitimacy appears as slim as his chances of winning an election.

In the meantime, Brazil's political quagmire deepens further, and faith in the democratic process fades. The noose has been tightening around Temer ever since he took over the presidency without a popular vote. His successive governments have been marred by scandals related to the anti-corruption operation Car Wash ("Lava Jato") with several ministers forced to resign. Still, it looks as if Temer has enough support in the lower house of parliament to block a two-third majority vote on whether he should be tried and, potentially, impeached. For now.

As the judicial and executive branches square off again, Brazilian democracy may only find its footing again by returning to hear what the people say. The opposition didn't miss the opportunity to call for early elections as soon as the allegations against Temer first surfaced several weeks ago. With an approval rating of just 7% (the lowest in three decades) according to a poll published last week, Temer's legitimacy appears as slim as his chances of winning an election.

The same can't be said of former President Lula, even though he too is accused of corruption. He is leading current polls for the presidential election planned for next year with 30%. But in a warning that sounds like a threat, one leader of Lula's Workers' Party said yesterday that should the ex-president be sentenced by the judge, there would be "no more democratic compromise" and "open fighting in the streets." Yes, after all, it could get worse.

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Future

Injecting Feminism Into Science Is A Good Thing — For Science

Feminists have generated a set of tools to make science less biased and more robust. Why don’t more scientists use it?

As objective as any man

Anto Magzan/ZUMA
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-Essay-

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, a mystery played out across news headlines: Men, it seemed, were dying of infection at twice the rate of women. To explain this alarming disparity, researchers looked to innate biological differences between the sexes — for instance, protective levels of sex hormones, or distinct male-female immune responses. Some even went so far as to test the possibility of treating infected men with estrogen injections.

This focus on biological sex differences turned out to be woefully inadequate, as a group of Harvard-affiliated researchers pointed out earlier this year. By analyzing more than a year of sex-disaggregated COVID-19 data, they showed that the gender gap was more fully explained by social factors like mask-wearing and distancing behaviors (less common among men) and testing rates (higher among pregnant women and health workers, who were largely female).

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